On a Lighter Note

BOSTON - DECEMBER 01:  Andre Miller #24 of the...
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Tonight, we were able to go to a Blazer Game, in a catered suite. My friend Kate, who went with me, warned me that once I experience this type of game-viewing, I won’t ever want to go back. She is right.

So, besides the awesome catering, the TVs allowing you a great view when you’re not in the great seats looking at the floor, it was a good reminder for me of the importance of Game Night. I’ve spent a lot of years chastising sports, our beer and circus culture, more anti-establishment than anything. (I’m working on another post titled Marketing & I Love Big Brother to give you a hint.) I grew up with my step-dad who constantly watched ESPN. I might not know all the rules of the game, but there was a time when I had all major baseball teams memorized and collected their cards. I could follow and pair most sports with the correct teams, and I can still follow a game with little to no problems. And really, I know how to boo the opposing team. Although, my tennis years chide me from that behavior as it really is not polite.

Things I enjoyed about tonight.

The bit that entertains me the most is the booing, and how much I don’t mind that. My mother always raised us that was poor sportsmanship, and she hated watching the evolution of back-talk, always convinced one year is worse than the year before. Now, I think of it as more just part of the game culture. We all know sports players are paid obscene amounts of money, the seats are obscene in their pricing, the food is obscene in its cost. But, we go for the environment. We go for the show. So, why not get caught up in it?

I also really appreciated the National Anthem. Attending a liberal arts school, reading a People’s History of the United States and getting caught up in Utah Phillips sometimes encourages my anti-establishment mode of thought. But, I love our constitution, and pride is an important thing to have. So, when we all sit quietly, hands behind our backs or over our hearts, and listen to those words describing a fight for freedom and the joy seen when the flag was still there over the rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air and the flag was still there. A society who enjoys its symbols overjoyed when the new symbol of freedom stands tall. And more than 200 years later, we try to honor that tradition – right or wrong – at our new Colosseum events: Basketball (and baseball and football).

So, not only do I now have an appreciate for big brother, I also want me some beer and circus.

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Daily Affirmations

business,accounts,accountant,office,boss,manag...
I'm including this because it's funny. Image via Wikipedia

I really want to do a good job at work. Whenever the boss calls me into her office though, my first thought is always, “Uh, oh, I hope I didn’t do anything wrong.” In previous jobs, that request might have been to correct some thing I did, but in this new job, it’s more often to communicate what’s going on. My boss(es) also tell me, frequently, how they appreciate my professionalism, discretion, accountability, implied memory. Certainly more than any other job I’ve had.

I used to tell my mother that it doesn’t matter how much you make, what matters is that you like where you work.

I’m glad to say, I like where I work.

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Life: Not a Competition

Playing at the Park with Grandma
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

This too shall pass. This phrase is one of my favorite. Why? Simply because it’s true. It doesn’t matter what is happening at any given moment at any time at any event: This too shall pass. Good, bad, horrible, indifferent, great, exciting, fascinating – it all passes into history, awaiting a new day with new adventures. Finally ending in our own deaths where in a certain regard, it doesn’t matter because what’s done is done. In that sense, life is not a competition.

I believe in God for a few reasons. One is because it simply sounds like a good idea. There is so much in this world I cannot and do not understand. My feeble little human brain cannot wrap itself around all the crap we are dealt with in our lifetime. Life is not fair, and I have to have faith that there is something else better awaiting us just for my own simple sanity.

I came to this realization one night when I was in third grade.

I still had my own room. It, I recall, had a big bed. I was laying in bed, tucked in snuggly with the sheets and blankets pulled taught with their tight hospital corners.

Michigan's Upper Peninsula
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I couldn’t sleep. We had moved again. Still no return of my father (he had left us 3 times, the last being for good). We were away from the place I knew as home: my grandparents farm. We moved downstate into my aunt and uncle’s apartment first. Downstate was like another country as far as I was concerned having lived only in the Upper Peninsula. The most recent move moved us out of my aunt and uncle’s apartment (yes, that was a tight fit – two bedroom apartment, 3 adults and 3 kids) into a (public housing) townhouse, across town, to another school. All those comforts of home were gone. I had gone to yet another school. I was, yet again, the new girl who couldn’t make any friends. At that point, I had lived in more than 5 different towns/cities and had gone to maybe 4 or 5 different schools.

I was in third grade. I was 8 years old.

That means one or two different schools per grade, at that critical age when you’re trying to fit in, figure out life outside of Mom, and get to know all these new “friends”, your peers in your community.

So, that night instead of sleeping, I prayed. I remember thanking God for what I did have. A house. My mom. My sister and brother. Food to eat. Clothes to wear. Church friends. I also remember thinking, if my real father couldn’t be there, at least there was someone I could call Father.

That, in essence, explains my spiritual beliefs. When we cannot get comfort from those around us, let us get comfort from something outside our being. I was raised Catholic, so I continue to use the label of God because this is what makes sense to me.

With my belief in God (and selling books door-to-door), I also believe that no one is dealt a hand with which they cannot deal. That is, you aren’t given something out of your means. Death, life, success, failure – it is all within our capabilities to handle the situation, and to survive.

Sometimes someone is dealt a very shitty hand. And, sometimes a person isn’t (to our eyes) – they might be born with what we deem to be a silver spoon. However, we all have terrible moments; and we all have good. I believe, I hope, that we are all given crap relative to which we can handle it, hopefully gracefully. (And sometimes not.) But, in the end, I believe we are given the ability to come out smelling like roses.

So, in effect, I believe that no hand is shittier than another. Just because someone only lost a loved one late in life, this doesn’t mean their trials and tribulations are less worthy of note than another if they were dealt with loss their entire life. Why? Because in this sense, life is not a competition. This part of life is where we need to lean on each other for support.

Regarding my own personal sob story, I can see the lessons and some of the reasons now, nearly 30 years later.

Naptime
My step-father, Chris, and Levi. Michigan, September 2009. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

It was actually a very good thing my dad wasn’t a full part of my growing up years. Sure, it sucked pickles while growing up, but it allowed my mother to remarry and for me to have a great role-model in my stoic, even-handed, kind, generous step-father. It grew my family, so we were five siblings growing up together instead of 3. We had enough for the starting line up in basketball. Nearly enough to fill all the bases in baseball (or softball). It broadened my awareness of what family is, now being a blended family with all these “STEPS”. It showed me a different culture from the Polish heritage I had only known. Stability reigned through to my step-father’s hometown, where we spent the rest of my growing up years, and now consider my hometown. I even began my college career at his (nearly) alma-mater, Michigan State University. I have my Aunt Betsy because of this sequence of events, the one who introduced me to 50 Ways We Can Save the Earth, the book I consider the fire that ignited my environmental-sustainable passions, what I feel is my purpose in life.

Life is not a competition because everything happens for a reason. Sure, argue that I tell myself this for comfort, a religious crutch. I won’t defend the point because with this comfort, I can sleep at night.

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Daily Post: How Cristi’s Tombstone Made Me Think about Mine

Suggested topic: What do you want to be remembered for?

Cristi’s death forced my hand on this question. Sure, I’ve had a few grandparents pass away, but when your peer, your sister dies “before her time” it makes you think about this topic a little bit more.

??????????????????? HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche reading at Sakya Ward St Center Seattle Washington USA 1976
HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche reading at Sakya Ward St Center Seattle Washington USA 1976

I’ve blogged about it enough that if you’ve been keeping up, you know that it’s been quite a process getting over my step-sisters very untimely death. I’m sorry if you, dear reader, think this topic is old and trite, but it’s something I think about often, so please bear with me.

Cristi’s eulogy focused on the all-around gal she was. She was a special ed teacher, volleyball coach, softball coach, basketball player (and sometimes coach), daughter, sister, aunt, a friend. She played many leadership roles, especially as a teacher. She coached teenagers through true teenage crises, convincing them there is a reason to have a will to live. So, how is this complex individual remembered? We remember people through stories, through books, and through tombstones.

Cristi’s tombstone reminds me of the Russian tombstones here in Portland. It is a collage of photos overlaying the polished granite surrounded by other stones bearing epitaphs to her life. I’ve been to her grave twice now. Once at her funeral, before the stone was put in place. The second time was in September 2009, more than two years after her death. It was full of fresh flowers, jersey’s sporting her number, four, in the Byron Center colors of orange and black. I was glad no one else was around.

It seems odd to me that Cristi is remembered so largely for the sports part of her life. Sure, it was a big part of her life, but she was so much more than a sports player and a coach. Although the gravestone looks fine, and it is loved by many of my family members, I can’t help but think that it doesn’t quite do the Cristi I knew justice. It’s like it’s missing something. I’m not sure what, but the feeling I get is the compassionate side of her. Cristi loved and valued other people more than herself, and that is not showcased on her gravestone.

Cristi's Grave
Cristi's grave as seen early September 2009. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

So, knowing that with all the interactions we have in life, no one person will ever know all of you. Husbands see certain sides, friends see another, and sisters and brothers see yet another. Mothers, fathers, and grandparents offer a completely different perspective on our personalities. I only hope they see what I hope shows that I am striving to be.

To my knowledge, Cristi didn’t have the chance to say, “Remember me this way!” If you overlook that we all have that chance in our daily lives, most assume we’ll live until our generic life expectancy in our 70s or 80s. We don’t often think, what would this world look like or remember me by if I were to die tomorrow? We don’t often think that tragedy will hit us in that way. Most of us aren’t afflicted with terminal illness or in domestic violence situations or living in war zones where the constant threat of death is at our doorsteps.

So, thank you Cristi at least for the wake up call that we need to be on our best behavior because life is too short. If we consider what we want others to think of us as, perhaps it will serve as goal setting. So, now I am writing it down in this blog for all the world to see.

I want to be remembered as someone who took judicious action, picking up where there is a social need, and taking the ball and running with it. I want to be known for my compassion, my understanding, being forthright, honest, friendly. I want to be known as a good person.

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Writing

Art !
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I never considered myself a writer growing up. I considered myself an amateur artist. When I drew something, people would ask me if I’m an artist, and I would deny it. I’ve never been quite comfortable with these types of labels: writer, artist, whatever – but for tonight, I’ll consider myself a writing artist.

I love art. Always have. My mother has said that I have drawn since I got a pen in my hand. I can confidently say Levi is the same way. I wanted to draw everything, anything. I learned how to draw people, the sky, some nature, mostly people though. I explored ways for me to learn how to be a better artist, all the while not considering myself one. Some people took foreign language all through high school, I took art. I stopped my first round of university, but took at least one art class when I transferred to PSU. Then, I added Art History as a focus. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel there was time to take other art classes – especially with the pre-requisites.

So, I never considered myself an artist, and I always wanted to write, and so?on, the writing took over as the more regular task. I’ve heard for years the adage, “If you want to write, you need to practice, so do it every day.” I’d toy with the idea, but never really stuck to it. I write regularly through the year …. well, you can look at the archive for the past three years and see the regularity!

I write to explore ideas.

Several months ago this author was being interviewed on NPR. I think she might have worked in publishing. Maybe she was a publisher? Or an English teacher. She wrote. For a living, and corrected other people’s writing. She told the interviewer that she didn’t consder people who wrote for ideas to be writers. But, if someone wrote because they liked words, it was okay.

Well, that’s my interpretation of her rant.

I am a writer. I love lilting alliteration lying languid on my tongue, tripping over tantalizing syllables as they salsa surrounding serious thoughts. I somtimes find myself rhyming silly rhymes, not as sensible and thought provoking as Dorothy Parker or Emily Dickinson, and certainly not as weighty as Robert Frost – but fun, for me, nonetheless.

Words do fascinate me. Life is like a game of telephone. You try to convey an idea, and you think you’re clear, but someone always has a question. So, how can we use these written symbols to better convey our ideas? And, why do we want to convey ideas? Some people want to convey ideas for change. They want to change schedules, change routines, change lives, change society. So, on one hand, you can argue, quite successfully that words are used to convey ideas … ultimately for a better society. So, what’s so wrong with that?

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Disney v. Other

A drawing of the Simba character from The Lion...
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Cinderella. Snow White. Bambi. Peter Pan. The Little Mermaid. Aladdin. Sleeping Beauty.

The list, it seems, goes on. I don’t recall any cartoon-movies from my youth that were not from Disney.

I love to draw. Always have. The art displayed in our home is mostly art I’ve done, Levi’s created, or photos we’ve taken. I studied art, created art, and I’ve studied art history. This is the lens in which I approach animated films. And, Disney has always seemed to make the movie come a live more than other producers.

I saw a few “behind the scenes” Disney blurbs for the Lion King and Pocahontas. They showed how the artists would sketch the live objects talking, acting, doing what they would do before they committed the drawings to the final film. So, when you watch Jasmine sing in Aladdin, it’s clear her hand gestures match up with that of an actual person. It has always seemed that something was off in these non-Disney films – normal hand gestures and lip movement don’t really match up with how the character should be talking. Sure, they have good grasp of line or decent rendering or another concept of art – but the overall look is missing something.

Kind of like Toy Story I. (I haven’t seen the other two.) Having a three year old kind of throws me into the realm of Pixar and family friendly movies. Watching Toy Story compared to later Pixar films, it’s neat to see the evolution. In the first Toy Story, they captured the rendering that was from a single light source only. When you look at an object, there is a light shadow, usually, underneath the entire bottom – along with appropriate reflections if on a wood surface, for example. These renderings were missing from the first Toy Story – and often from these non-Disney animations.

We got several Pixar movies from the library – including the Pixar shorts. The shorts collection allows you to monitor the artistic evolution of Pixar, beginning with rudimentary experiments in moving shapes with a computer, to highly entertaining, beautifully drawn and rendered stories about courage (Bounding) and shame (For the Birds).

Cars is, for me, the epitome of beautiful, near perfect story telling and artistic designs. The car reflections, the rendering, the story – all move quickly, vibrantly – a perfect cacophony of talent. If you accept that Disney has mastered animated film, then it’s no wonder they acquired them in 2006.

So all that rambling is really about watching Despicable Me tonight. I laughed. It was cute. It touched my heart. There was some super fantastic animation and it was a cute, quirky story – but it was off. The hand gestures didn’t match, the faces were too round, the mouths didn’t move with actual words.

It seems sad to me to consider that Disney may take the cake, and every time someone makes an animated film – more times than not, it comes off as trying to lamely copy a master and get money out of it instead of practice to improve.

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Responsibility

… Is drifting away! With my beloved food club that is. 11 months straight of volunteering more than 20 hours a month, and it’s been relieved from me.

I feel relieved.

I feel sad.

I feel a little fearful.

I feel relaxed.

Thank you Jacquelyn. Thank you Ana. Thank you Olivia. Thank you Kristina. Thank you Kimberly. Thank you Jenna.

Daily Post: Talk or Text?

Talking on the phone and using a computer.
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Suggested topic: Do you prefer to talk, text message, or a different communication method?

Today’s topic suggestion brings us full-frontal into modernity. How do we prefer to communicate: via talk or text? Being back in the “work force” I find this an interesting question, as I can track changes through school and work.

1995 – I was in high school and my good friend got email and Internet for the first time. Also that year, my boyfriend at the time signed up for Hotmail and the aversions against Microsoft continued and capitalized with their acquisition of hotmail, one of the first free email programs.

1996 – I got my first email through Michigan State University: pilot email. It was a text-based email emulator. We could either log into Windows at the computer login, or log into our email.

2000 – I went back to school and every third person had a mobile phone.

2001 – I realize I don’t want to have a home without Internet: must have email access.

2002 – I learned how to do Mail Merges and became an expert at various versions of Microsoft Office, Outlook, Lotus Notes

2004 – I went back to school again and every third person had a laptop, in class.

2005 – I finally got my first mobile phone.

2007 – Probably half of the students in any given class used a laptop for notes, in class, for whatever.

2009 – I added a text messaging plan to my mobile.

So, now I just about max my alotted 250 texts per months. I use fewer than the allowed 450 minutes (although that’s just out of network and prime hours). But, what do I prefer?

It depends on the context.

Are we arranging a quick meet up? Text.

Do I need to explain something, and ITAP (my Verizon auto-fill-text) doesn’t do it? Phone call.

Do I need to explain something but don’t really want a text or a phone call? Email.

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Daily Post: Best 2010 Accomplishment

Levi & Peter admiring the view.
This is one of my favorite pictures of my husband and my son. Just look at them! Adorable! And, we're participating in a trash-pick-up to boot! Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Topic suggestion: What’s the single most important thing you accomplished in 2010?

After this topic, I will be caught up with the challenge, and lest I get behind, I will be posting once a day under this “Daily Post” / #postaday2011 tag.

I haven’t often reflected specifically on the previous year to analyze my accomplishments, and from them, pick the most important. So, let’s take a look at the highlights?

  • Continued to raise a beautiful, kind, energetic boy named Levi.
  • Continued to work on this crazy, myriad thing called marriage – enjoyable companionship and frustrating differences of opinion abound!
  • Finally the food club started and have played an integral role in its set up, even being named president.
  • Continued to volunteer at the Church as reader, {new} Eucharistic minister, and religious ed (Sunday school) teacher.
  • Got a Paying Job.

My gut says, “Say the job, it’s what they want to hear.” You know, because that’s how we value things, generally, in our society – by the pocketbook. So, if we are earning money to value our worth and our daily tasks, then that must be more important than the other things.

Food - 2
Levi helping me make bread. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

But, my gut also says, “Value Levi first!” I value Levi first, but is he my greatest accomplishment in 2010? He’s his own person now. And, seriously, what thought went into his creation on my part and my husband’s? Honestly, not a lot. Kids sometimes happen, and they are beautiful, wonderful gifts and surprises, but if a lot of planning DID NOT go into their creation – how can they be called a great accomplishment by the parents? Whatever Levi goes onto accomplish, and he’s had some super milestones this year on his own, will be his, and his alone. As his parent, it is my job to coach him along, help him figure out what values, morals, etc are important and explain to him why I think x, y, and z are the most important. But, is his being my greatest accomplishment? I have to give a resounding no.

Likewise, my husband and I are learning how to be married. Every year we evolve a little bit more. Every year we appreciate each other a little more, learn more about respect, about communication, about family, about love. We didn’t know many of these things when we stated our vows. No one really tells you what’s up in conversation. Can they? Could you hear? So, as a work in progress, is my marriage my greatest accomplishment? Again, while I’m glad we’ve come a long way, I can’t say that it is.

Volunteering at the church is something I do as a servant leader. I feel I must, and as I learn more about certain jobs, I want to do certain things less. Once I made the choice to reconnect with my Catholic Faith, I felt it was very important to act on it in the capacity I had. This meant, at first, reading at mass. As an over achiever, I wanted to do more, and somewhere along the way I mentioned an interest in helping with religious ed. At the church, over the last 5 years, I have helped decorate, fill in in the office when I could, read monthly or every two months at mass, now serve as a Eucharistic minister, and help with Sunday school. This is my second year helping with Sunday school, and I’m not actually enjoying it. Sure, the kids are great, but I have the hardest time explaining faith with the materials and lesson plan given to these young kids. The teenagers are a lot more fun with their questions and critical thinking. This year, none of the parents said evenings would work for them, so the time is still in the middle of the day. This means, we go to church, go home, then I go back. And now, it’s two Sundays a month, and with all the other things I’m involved with – it feels more like a committed burden than any sort of service accomplishment. So, although it could be argued it’s this noble thing I’m doing, I don’t feel like it’s a significant accomplishment.

That leaves the food club. This is where I feel we’ve actually accomplished something and where my greatest 2010 accomplishment lies.

December Frontier
Our largest club order in my living room, later to be transferred by our SUV to be sorted, and then returned to my home for pick up. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

In 2008, the idea came to start a wholesale group, buying primarily food together to cut retail overhead associated costs and make better choices with a group of close friends or neighbors. Well, things didn’t pan out like I thought they would. 2009 was a pretty dry year with buying, and it turned out that my friends weren’t the right people for a buying club. I have a limited network, so I tried to reach out where it was reasonable, and one place I reached was a local Food Coop, People’s Coop, where part of their mission is to assist new buying clubs and coops. Many coops start as buying clubs, so a network link was formed.

Still nothing really happened in 2009, we met, we heard the spiel, we made two orders. I got tired of sending out monthly emails reminding the few folks who found us through Google and Craig’s List that we’re still here, if you have an idea of a buy, let’s get it going! Then, this People’s connection did two things, only one of which I was aware at first. First, she asked me if I’d do an interview and answer five questions via email. I did this but didn’t know it got published until 6 months later. The second thing she did was suggest I become Facebook friends with another Portland Food person. This gal, at the time boasted the largest area buying club and in many ways was over capacity, so she put me in touch with another gal in my neighborhood who was already ordering.

Suddenly, I found myself within the realm of the right people. In many ways, it felt like the thing I was waiting for for so long was (like my whole life, but not really) finally coming to fruition. I was skeptical that this would work and treading lightly was very important. I hope I have accomplished that.

Those first few months were interesting. First, it was Kristina, Kimberly, and I talking, then just me and Kristina. And since no one else seemed to really want to do the talking, it ended up being me. I didn’t mind, this is the thing I wanted, so I wanted this role – this leadership role. We met monthly. Dropped Robert’s Rules as our mode of meetings and went for Consensus. We talked, implemented, and changed. I learned more about my meeting facilitation skills, and where other folks don’t have skills and how that is still similar to me.

Food - 3
Heirloom tomatoes from our 2009 garden. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I met this amazing group of women who could rule the world. And, mostly, I’ve tried really hard to make sure people’s assumptions don’t get the best of them and encourage judicious, fair thinking across the board to so we can create a sustainable community first within and then without and throughout the rest of the community. Those basic goals are common with the other members in our steering committee and the club.

The goals for the next year would be to increase club participation. We have about a 10% steering committee/buy organizer participation rate. If we could raise that to 20% (20 regular volunteering members instead of 10) we’d do a lot to increase voices and alleviate the work loads.

So, my greatest accomplishment of 2010 was realizing my facilitation skills and seizing the opportunity to practice them with a fantastic group of women who under the surface are itching to change the world.

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