Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rick Astley, DIY, and relationships...

Shout out to my friend Kevin for Rick Astley being stuck in my head for a week. It's a corny song by a one (or maybe two) hit wonder...but some of the lyrics are thought provoking. We'll get back to that.

I am building a shelving unit. From scratch, with no design sheet. I saw it in Crate and Barrel magazine and said, "PSSSHTTT. I can MAKE that."

Uh huh.

I have put together my share of build-it-yourself furniture from a box. And I helped my uncle make my entertainment center last year. Clearly, those activities qualify me to start with a sheet of birch wood and make a bookcase.

Uh huh.

The first challenge is my lack of appropriate tools. The circular saw with an 18 tooth blade wasn't effective, nor was the SawzAll. The jigsaw would have worked, except for challenge #2 - lack of appropriate workspace. It is hard to cut small pieces on a straight line while balancing the wood on the edge of a sawhorse. In the driveway. While it is sprinkling on the electric tools.

Having pushed through those obstacles, I started construction yesterday. Again, the unsuitable workspace problem arose. How does one attach shelves to a board without a large table or workbench, without clamps, with only two hands? I started in the garage, then moved to the basement where there is a chest freezer. Right now the unit is on the basement floor. All the shelves are attached but the whole thing is very crooked. It turns out not all the pieces are exactly the right length. Who knew 1/4 inch could make such a difference? ? After this break , where I vent to you, I will go back with the tape measure and level, and the revision process will start.

I could take it apart and put the pieces in the scrap wood pile. Just give up and try to find an easier solution. Maybe overextend my budget and order from Crate and Barrel. Or go a local store and find something which I may or may not like but which will be "good enough."

It's a choice we face pretty often, isn't it? We start something - a job, a bookcase, a new business, a friendship, a diet, a marriage - and we have so much enthusiasm.

Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down...

Some time goes by and the initial enthusiasm wanes. We face situations for which we don't have the proper tools. Maybe we don't even recognize that insufficiency, and wouldn't begin to know how to fix it if we did. Where would we possibly get different tools?

Or the workspace is inadequate. We need a better job, a bigger house, a faster-working diet, a spouse or friend who knows more/has more/listens better/acquiesces more readily.

I just wanna tell you how I'm feeling...Gotta make you understand...

That's the problem, isn't it? I want to tell you how I'm feeling. I want you to understand me. I don't want the expense of new tools, don't want to bother with revisions. If we have a problem, you need to fix it. If this boss doesn't treat me right, I will keep finding new jobs until I am happy. If this diet doesn't work, I will keep buying new books, subscribing to new services, acquiring new equipment until I find a diet that requires no lifestyle change and no effort.

Does this sound like anyone you know? Look in your garage, basement, closet, heart. The evidence of broken commitments is in all these places. You remember - the project/equipment/idea/person that started out as the "greatest" and became an annoyance because the details were more complicated than expected and you simply couldn't be bothered.

What we fail to recognize is the toll that kind of behavior takes on us. Sure, I could go out today and buy a bookcase. But I would know that I gave up as soon as the build-my-own project hit a snag. I would remember that for a long time.

Never gonna run around and desert you...never gonna make you cry, never gonna say goodbye...

We fail to recognize that every time we give up on someone, every time we break a commitment to marriage or friendship, every time we block someone from our life, we leave a mark on our own heart.

It is a difficult paradox to navigate. We live in a throw-away society. And yet, we are created to be pack animals, to help each other, to love each other. So while some of us believe it is easier to throw away and start again, in all areas of life, that is a fallacy. Only hard work yields a treasure. "Good enough" never really is.

Think about it.

Back to the basement I go. There will be a follow-up report!

A full commitment's what I'm thinking of....

Tee hee...you know you will be singing it for days!




Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Regional planning, Rick Springfield...more perspective

My dear friend Barb shared her thoughts on yesterday's blog. Here are her words:

I am more inclined to encourage dialogue that would force examination of our biased perspective out in the open where it looks foolish. I try to get my students to engage, to challenge, to exchange.

I fully agree with that. And I love her for taking the time to sharing.

Yesterday I was reacquainted with the incredible annoyance known as State Route 228 in southern Butler County. The occasion was dinner with great friends then an interesting class- well worth the irritation.

I don't know the history of PA SR 228 and Interstate 79. I do know that when the two-lane SR228 was designed, there was no plan for insane growth of two communities adjacent to the road. That is very obvious. It's not important that you know exactly where Cranberry Twp and Seven Fields are located, only that their populations have doubled in the past twenty years, and their median family incomes far exceed the state average. Which equals a lot of stores and service businesses and cars. Imagine the burden such growth puts on a two lane road and the regional planners who work with it. Along much of the corridor, there appears to be no room for the road to expand. There are businesses and homes and schools that would seem reluctant to give up property. And yet, people keep coming, businesses keep building.

So what option do the planners have? Throw up their hands and do nothing? Pretend the unexpected didn't happen?

I thought about this today while watching Rick Springfield on GMA. Yes, that's right - "Jessie's Girl" and "General Hospital". He was promoting his new book and spoke of how amazing his wife Barbara is. They have been together for 30 years, and, he says, both know they are better together than apart. Still, he admitted, she has pushed through difficulty... his depression, drug use, infidelity. Unexpected. Not part of the original plan.

Life is like that, isn't it?

We think we are the regional planners for our corner of the world. We think if we build an infrastructure, make a plan for maintenance and growth, life will be smooth.

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Why do we ever believe that?

We don't get to choose what lousy stuff is going to come into our lives. We only get to choose our response. We get to choose whether we see only from our own perspective or are willing to open ourselves to others.

And you are saying, "Hey Beth...tell me something I DON'T know."

Do we really know? Do we really believe that a new road can't be built every time something unexpected happens. The current road might need to be widened or rerouted. But, it is not feasible or possible or wise to always start over.

Look at the divorce rate, not only for first marriages, but for second and third. 50%, 67%,74%.

Think about the friends or family member you know who have at least one person to whom they refuse to speak.

Do we really know? Are we really willing to open our minds to the perspective of another, even when that person has hurt us.

Are we really willing to listen to what others say about our point of view? Or do we cling to the two-lane road that is no longer sufficient? Do we throw up our hands and run every time the unexpected happens?

We give up on people so easily, don't we? Don't want to hold on through their mess, don't want to help widen the road because it's hard and we might get dirty. We refuse to see that we helped make the mess, that reconfiguring and widening the current road will take us to wonderful new places, places a new road would never find.

Valuable lessons from unusual sources like regional planners and Mrs. Rick Springfield.

I am heading to the garage to work on a 4-shelf stand I am building. It doesn't look like I had planned, but it will work! I am reconfiguring...




Monday, October 11, 2010

Christopher Columbus and the Strike Zone...it's all about Perspective

I just walked to the mailbox, was puzzled by its emptiness, then remembered today is Columbus Day. We learned in elementary school that Christopher Columbus discovered America? Funny, isn't it...such a matter of perspective.

More fall softball yesterday. It was a glorious day to watch a couple games. And even though the games did not affect any standings, didn't really mean anything as far as win/loss records, fans were still very involved, and somewhat rabid.

The rulebook succinctly defines the strike zone as the area between the forward armpit and the top of the knees, over the plate. But those words don't always play out as clearly as one would think. And from outside of the fence, balls and strikes are a matter of perspective.

So Christopher Columbus believed the world was round while everyone else said it was flat. That's what we were taught in elementary school. And it's not true.

When Christoffa Corombo (in his native Genoese language) set sail for Asia, it was already widely accepted by scientists and astrologists that the world was round. The question was how large the world was? There were two prominent theories, and Columbus chose the wrong one. Which is why he thought he landed in Asia, when it was really what we know today as the Dominican Republic.

He made three voyages, but none of them ever brought him to the place now called the United States. And rather than promoting the false belief that he proved the world wasn't flat, why don't we praise him for his vast knowledge of the trade winds which made it possible for him to return to Europe by a relatively easy path? He didn't find Asia, but he made great strides for trade ships by navigating the easterly and westerly trade winds in the Atlantic Ocean.

The first European to land in the United States was actually Juan Ponce de Leon. Why don't we have a day for him?

And why do we promote the idea that either of these men "discovered" a land, when that land already had inhabits? Because Columbus was the first European (read real/cultured person)? Because we never took the time to understand native American culture? Interesting perspective.

In softball (or baseball), there are only two people who have the necessary perspective to determine balls and strikes - the catcher and the home plate umpire. Not the people in either dugout, or the bleachers. Not the pitcher's parents or the batter's parents.

This is not to say umpires are infallable. They are human, imperfect, and sometimes inconsistent. Sometimes fans sitting directly behind home plate can identify those inconsistencies. But even the clearest view from the stands still has two people between the fan and the pitch. And for the rest of us, it's still a matter of perspective.

We make decisions and tell stories based on our flawed perspective, don't we? We choose the perspective of having a national holiday to honor the first European to touch North America, pretending Native Americans weren't already here.

We argue balls and strikes when we can't even see the entire plate.

But most importantly, we judge others solely based on our own perspective. We don't try to understand, to see through their eyes. We judge their motivation based on what our motivation is, or would be in a similar situation. We make choices to build bridges or walls based on our or someone else's faulty perspective. We withhold the favor of our kindness, and folks who needed us, OR folks who would have blessed us with great friendship are pushed away.
I have even judged right after a church service, about others who attended that same service.

Maybe I am alone in that. You have probably never judged based on a faulty perspective, have you?

Please understand, I have nothing against Christopher Columbus, and certainly fans have a right to be reasonable vocal.

But those minor points aside, wouldn't the world be a better place if we considered our own biased perspective before making a judgment?

I think so. I would love to hear what you think.

Gotta run to the bank...oh wait...

Happy Columbus-lands-in theDominican-Republic Day!




Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Photosynthesis, Fall Ball, and Marky Mark

Quick... what significant event occurred on Oct 5, 1991? Think hard...we'll come back to it in a minute.

Many folks in this area have been clamoring for the end of summer, for autumn to descend. And, oh goodness, it has. Rain. High temperatures in the low 50's. Yep. Autumn is here.

I understand what people wanted. A break from heat and high humidity. Days in the 60's, nights in the 50's. Beautiful colors on the trees. I get that. Autumn surely has its own set of attractions.

Interesting thought about photosynthesis: what we appreciate about it - brightly colored leaves - is only a brief and cosmetic part of an amazing process. While the most highly developed creatures (that would be us, folks) grumble and complain about snow, cold, and ice, the trees follow the sun's direction and begin to prepare in early September. They shut down growth, drop their food supply and prepare for the storms. What we see as beautiful color is the tree's way of preservation. And while we look at the spring buds with wonder, it was the bare tree standing firm through the winter that was the real miracle. The leaves aren't just beautiful, they are also a signal. It's more than what the eye immediately sees.

Football. High school, college, professional. Do you love it like I do? Fall is also a great time to golf...and to watch softball.

I love the intricacies of fast pitch softball. Yes, home runs and strike-outs are fun. But small ball is what wins games - solid defense, smart base running, moving the runners over - this is the foundational stuff that makes a championship team. Winning is always great, but fall ball is about building and learning. Spectators cheer when runs are scored, but the process, the skills being learned, the habits being formed are the true worth. Fall ball is more than what the eye immediately sees.

Which brings us back to Oct 5, 1991. Not really a significant day, unless you are Mark Wahlberg. That's right. Good Vibrations went to #1 on the Billboard chart that day. Marky Mark: NKOTB drop-out turned petty thief turned rapper . You remember. The song had a good beat, but the kid was a fluke, right? Then he made an exercise video. Still a fluke. Now he is an Academy Award nominated actor, a successful producer and director of film and television. Marky Mark was more than what the eyes could immediately see.

We do that so often, don't we? We judge what we see - or what we THINK we see. We don't ask questions. We don't even imagine the truth might be different than our limited perspective shows. We don't consider the process, only the immediate view. We guess at people's lives and motivations.

That situation or person I judged yesterday could be completely different than what I "saw." And I may have forfeited the chance to see the whole picture, the truth.

Maybe you have never done that. Maybe it's just me.

Photosynthesis, fall ball, Markey Mark...more than what the eye immediately sees.

It's such a good vibration...it's such a sweet sensation...

Have a great day!




Monday, October 4, 2010

81 Days???

I was in a store today looking for Halloween decorations...had trouble finding them among the CHRISTMAS things!!! HELLO!!! What about Halloween and Thanksgiving?

Then the cashier reminded me that we have only 81 shopping days until Christmas.

Thanks, lady.

When I was a kid and "couldn't wait" for christmas/birthday/vacation/etc, my beloved Grandma would caution me about "wishing my life away"...and on the back side of my fiftieth year, I finally understand what she means.

Isn't it odd and confronting to think about your parents and grandparents at the age you are now? When my mom was 50, I was 29. We went to Disney and Pirates spring training camp to celebrate her 50th birthday. And now I am that age???
My grandmother was 52 when I was born. I still feel young, but I don't ever remember thinking my grandma was anything but old.
Funny how that works.

Death doesn't scare me at all, because I know what eternity holds.
Still, I have much left to do in my life...much to write, many people to touch, many ways to make a difference, many things to do for God. And the wheels spin faster each year.

It's rather counterintuitive to waste time thinking about it, so this blog will be short =)
But I believe it is something we all experience...and you know me, always wanting to share my thoughts!

Have a terrific day...make it a great one!!