Go Ahead…Surprise Me

Tonight I drove home in what felt like nature’s version of a flash mob. If you are unfamiliar with the term, imagine everyone suddenly busting out their Thriller moves once that song is played at a wedding reception.

Out of nowhere came this flash blizzard, with flakes falling fast and furiously.  It seemed as if they were under the imperative that if they could reach the ground before we could wrap our heads around the fact that is was snowing again, they would be allowed to accumulate once more.

By the time I got home, snow covered the side of our hill. Jake, the ball chasing brown lab, didn’t seem to mind.  All the more reason for a rousing game of fetch.

My snow boots (note I did not say sandals) instantly became skis as I slid down the hill to retrieve the ball.  Yes, you read that right.  I was retrieving the ball, not the dog who insists I throw it 852 times a day.  He sat up top of the hill and snickered.  Then before I could reach him, he bolted through the invisible fence with a yelp and headed for the boat ramp.

Abbey (my yellow lab) and I had no choice but to follow.  And I thought our walks in the snow were over.

My reaction to surprises is better at the start of the day than at the end. Even then it’s questionable. By the end of the day I often have one nerve left. I’m ashamed to admit what might happen if someone gets on it.

This is why the impromptu snow walk was probably best for all concerned.  Nature has a way of revealing the silliness of my own seriousness.  The snow had stopped but not before blanketing the trail with just enough white stuff to make things seem especially scent-worthy to the dogs and illuminating my path.

Because the rest of the week promises to be filled with even more end of the day adventures, this may be my last post until the weekend.  Those pesky tax preparations persist and I have a conference to attend at a neighboring college.

So for now I will leave you with this six word summary for March… In like a lion, out like …  

You’re guess is as good as mine.  I’m sure it will be a surprise.

If Numbers Were Words

Every year I vow to set up a system so all I have to do is run a few reports on Quicken and my tax information will be ready for the preparer.

Unfortunately, I spent so much time thinking about taxes last year because of the dreaded audit, I couldn’t bring myself to embrace anything to do with accounting for a good six months, although I suppose that was the point of it all.

By declaring I wasn’t a writer and could not claim any expenses related to writing, the auditor incited in me what can only be called “revenge writing.” This is different than being a writer for the TV show Revenge.  Then, perhaps, I’d be legit.  But since this was not the case, “I’ll show them!” became my battle cry.

I started writing like my life depended on it.  As it turns out, it does.  Everything has changed since I’ve made writing a public priority.  So maybe that was the point of it all.  And maybe one day I’ll see the auditor as someone with a “noble agenda” instead of a self-serving one.

Today I attempted to summon the scattered receipts that supposedly tell the story of my life and line them up in some sort of numerical order.  I wanted to be happier about it.  I wanted to feel some sense of joy in placing all the numbers in the right column and having them all add up to something meaningful. 

But I must admit, I felt better about raking up my front yard and cleaning out my kitchen drawers and doing the kind of outer accounting that prepares me for the inner accounting.  Some may call this stalling, but the physical act of moving things around and seeing the immediate effects of my actions warmed me up for the mental lifting of crunching numbers.

In the end it could be that numbers, like actions, speak louder than words. Or I may learn to wield them like words.  When that time comes, my taxes will be ready by the end of January and I might possibly be good at math.

In the meantime, I’ll let life add up as it will.  I’ll just need a receipt for that.

Six word summary:  Taxes ready if numbers were words. 

Land of Plenty … of Decisions

Maybe it’s because I have different expectations for Saturday than I do the rest of the week, but Saturday is like the wild card day of the week, when just about anything can and will happen.

It’s kind of like a surprise party, that later you wish someone would have clued you in on, just so you would have looked as nice as everyone who knew they were going to a party, instead of showing up in that ratty t-shirt and socks with sandals.

Life with a fireman means the best laid plans can change on a dime (or on Penny, in this case).  Consequently, I keep several items on my to-do list to fall back on when the siren sounds.

Okay, the real reason several items are on my to-do list is because I don’t want to do them. The truth is, Bob could easily put out a fire and be back before I even got around to the first item on my list. I’d still be sitting at my computer, blogging, pinning, or selecting shoes to put in my online shopping cart.

I shop predominantly online because I can find stuff fast and it gets delivered to my house. And I love getting packages, except from the IRS. 

I always think shopping in real stores is going to be fun until I get there.  Unless it’s Artworks, my favorite art shop in Le Claire I visited this afternoon, I get overwhelmed in the parking lot before I even get out of my car. 

I wanted to go to Lowe’s (I’m boycotting Home Depot because of the dishwasher debacle) to get knobs and pulls for the new kitchen cabinets.  Unfortunately the number of choices required to make an informed decision lead to my undoing.  I’ve made several choices up to this point without waffling that turned out remarkably well.  But today, something snapped and no snap decisions could be made. I did, however, decide to go to Cold Stone Creamery instead, where an entirely new set of decisions awaited.

Maybe I was in an ice cream induced altered state but I’m pretty sure I saw something like twenty eagles having a (surprise to me) party along the back waters of the Wapsipinicon.  I’ve never seen so many eagles in one place.  Kind of like the number and variety of knobs and pulls for kitchen cabinets.

In any case, I decided to rest my case and my brain.  Marvel at the mundane as well as the miraculous, I like to say.  I live in an abundant universe and here’s proof, I also like to say.  I really shouldn’t eat this much ice cream, I probably should say more often.

The best way to sum up this Saturday is in these six words:  What I can say, it’s Saturday?


A Moment of Zen & Pen

Recently I opened a Twitter account.  Tonight I’m going to pretend I know how to use it and try a practice tweet, which could be tricky.  “Trick or Tweet?” you may be wondering.  I know I am.

The six word summaries surely have prepared me for the brevity required to tweet, but in my opinion, context is everything.  A little warm up is usually required.  At least this first go round.

Walk with me in your mind’s eye along the Maquoketa River.  It’s Friday night and we are indeed fried.  The wind hasn’t yet picked up and dropped the temperatures twenty degrees so we are actually comfortable, and I have not yet realized I dropped Jake’s leash along the way because…..

We are so caught up in the sunset we are almost weeping.  Nothing in us can resist the sheer power of beauty to wipe out a winter of weariness.  The ice has melted.  The snow is gone.  Just orange, pink, gold slipping into the water and flowing towards us.  (And just in case you’re getting very sleepy, here comes the six word summary.)

Sunset pours into river like lava. 

Or like someone tipped a gigantic bottle of liquid gold into the water causing the reflection to light up the sky in a kaleidoscope of colors.  Kind of like turning the Chicago River green on St. Patty’s Day, but much more impressive.  Because I don’t know about you, but green water doesn’t do much for me.

Okay, Grasshopper.  That’s your moment of Zen & Pen.

And you can tweet that.  Since I’m not sure how!

Spring Is In the Air

Has there ever been a more anticipated spring than this one?

After months of consistently cold and snowy weather, spring has sprung. In my zealousness to celebrate the first day of spring, I did what I can only describe as an inner adolescent thing, and wore sandals to work.  Until my toes got too cold.  I’d prefer not to discuss what happened next.

This premature wearing of sandals came about largely because of another fashion faux pas. The wearing of what at one time we called petal pushers – and by “we” I mean Gidget and That Girl.  This, too, was a hasty decision since my ankles have not seen the sunlight since I was in Arizona. 

I bought these “ankle pants” in Arizona under the assumption they’d be fine to wear in Iowa.  Especially on such an auspicious occasion as the first day of spring.

I’ve traveled enough to know some things just get lost in translation. If only that knowledge would stop me from buying “souvenirs”!

Like the groundhog who sees his shadow and declares six more weeks of winter, today I saw my toes and declared six more weeks of socks.  At least in public places… unless I’m at the beach and have had a pedicure.

So today my six word summary is simply this:  Editing required for words and wardrobe.

How are you celebrating spring?  Share if you dare below.

The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts

It used to be my job was fairly free of politics.  Now, not so much.

I was telling my friend Tami over lunch that I’m not sure I could have handled this job at an earlier point in my career.  It seems to require all the Zen training and forty years wandering the desert looking for the Promised Land type of patience to negotiate the ever shifting terrain.

Despite my grand intention of saving the world one student at a time, the truth is I am the one who has been saved by students, staff, business partners, and the necessary evils of structure, limitations, and political correctness.  Essentially everything I thought would destroy me.

Yet each day I get to practice compassion, time management, improv, assertiveness, decision making, and failing or succeeding spectacularly.  Each day I get to learn how I might communicate more effectively, how my actions impact others, and how daring to risk public humiliation, admit I am wrong, or contribute to a meeting instead of suffer through it might change things, or at least me.

In other words, I have a constant source of writing material.  Not to mention an ever deepening source of spiritual practice.

I remember when I used to call myself the Queen of Calm and offer tension tackling tips and stress less living strategies to companies from the luxury of my adobe home in Santa Fe.  While I was indeed practicing what I was preaching, I was not experiencing what the average stressed out worker bee was experiencing.  Once I stepped back into this world, the epiphany hit.
This is why these people are stressed!

Just about everyone has more on their plate than they can possibly handle on any given Wednesday.  Consequently I keep a plaque close by that reminds me to “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Easier said than done.

But today instead of being the judge, jury, and executioner, I granted everyone immunity. (Perhaps the result of last week’s jury duty experience?) I’d start with the premise that everyone was doing their best. We were all striving for the same thing. We were all equally brilliant and flawed.  And the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Six word summary:  Save the drama for your mama. 

Or all’s we are saying is :  Give peace (or peas) a chance.

Or on a completely different note, should you forget your dentist appointment in the midst of managing meetings and coordinating complex communications, be warned:  The dentist will hunt you down.

Art Appreciation

Even though war movies are right up there with horror movies on my list to avoid, tonight I saw  “The Monuments Men” and gained a whole new appreciation for art.

I am certain there are angels among us, working tirelessly to protect what’s good, beautiful, and important every day. Most times their work goes undetected.  Often times it goes unappreciated.  It does my heart good to hear their stories finally told, their praises finally sung, and their good deeds lasting for lifetimes.

Let’s face it.  Life can be hard.  Work can be intolerable.  The money can run out.  We can get sick or injured.  We can lose loved ones or our livelihoods.  People can be difficult, to put it mildly.  And things don’t always go our way.

So it’s important to remind ourselves in the midst of all the negativity there is always, always, always something to be grateful for.  Just as “money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy marshmallows…which is pretty much the same thing,” most of us have something that can instantly brighten our day.

I recommend you keep it close by.

Whether it’s turning on the radio and hearing a Bee Gees song right after reading the Jury Duty: The Musical post, or making hilarious Jib Jab cards to send to unsuspecting friends, or remembering it’s  a friend’s birthday as well as St. Patrick’s Day so it’s absolutely acceptable to eat green cupcakes instead of drink green beer, any small thing can potentially turn a frown upside down.

I’m not saying you don’t have reason to feel down.  I am not standing in your shoes.  I’m just saying when you shift your focus to your shoes (which I imagine are spectacular) from where they happen to be standing in this moment, that becomes your ticket out of funky town. This is why I definitely recommend having really fun and/or funky shoes.

So wrapping up the day in six words, I shall leave you with this:  Be an original work of art.