Are you sitting down? 5 ideas for breaking a bad habit…

For this blog episode, I decided to experiment with breaking an unhealthy habit and to write about the experience because I hope that what I learn will help you when you try to break a bad habit.

When it comes to bad habits, I have many to pick from: when making decisions, I second guess myself–a lot. When I’m reading books, I fold down page corners to mark my place. When grading papers, I’m the Queen of procrastination. In fact, if a title more emphatic than Queen exists, I’m that. I’m Queen x ten of procrastination. I could write a 300 page manual on how to procrastinate. And then I could go through it and dog ear the best pages–anything to put off grading papers.

And, of course, there are other bad habits that I won’t divulge. You can ask Steve.

For this experiment, I decided to try to break an unhealthy eating habit. Continue reading “Are you sitting down? 5 ideas for breaking a bad habit…”

Thoughts on changing our university’s culture of excessive drinking…

When we were young teens and my sister broke the family rules, I told her, “If mom and dad ask, I’m not going to lie for you.”

I was a rule-follower and when she broke the rules, I worried.

I wanted her to believe there was a limit to the degree I was willing to compromise my sense of responsibility, but I didn’t want her to get caught and have to face the consequences, so I didn’t tell on her.

And maybe I worried that I’d be in trouble, too. As the older sister, I had been left in charge. She broke the rules on my watch. Continue reading “Thoughts on changing our university’s culture of excessive drinking…”

The day a request for books, a clump of dirt, and hungry man’s actions changed my heart…

I thought I shared generously. I thought I valudirted books. Then, one day, I met a hungry man whose actions jolted my perspective. That day, a stone heart was removed from my soul, and a new heart—one that’s aware and concerned that my neighbors are starving—was put in its place.

For months after, I couldn’t go to Starbucks for coffee without wondering if my money wouldn’t be better spent on buying food for a hungry person. I’m telling you this story because I want to challenge you to give up this month’s lattes (or something similar) and use the money you save to provide meals for hungry people. So, if you love your lattes (or another luxury you enjoy on a regular basis), I don’t blame you if you don’t read any further.

But first, let me tell you about my search last Saturday. Continue reading “The day a request for books, a clump of dirt, and hungry man’s actions changed my heart…”

Teaching…it’s like selling air

Read this if you know a teacher who has earned your gratitude:

“I sell air,” silver dollara man once told me.

Since the time, as an infant, I inhaled to let loose my first wail, I’ve used air. Daily. And never paid a penny. So I was curious as to how he could sell a resource that’s available to everyone for free, and I asked, “Successfully?”

He launched into a detailed account of the process that air is forced through, so it becomes a product that sells for a lucrative amount.

When he began to describe manipulation of the N2s and the O2s and the CO2s , he lost me.

My thoughts strayed to the ways my task, as a teacher, is like his. Continue reading “Teaching…it’s like selling air”

Living on the fringes of sorrow…remembering Columbine…

bouquet of dandelionsI stood in the shower with water streaming over my suds-filled hair when the garbage cans that line our home’s outside wall pinged and rattled. The noise sounded like a clattering tambourine and lasted a few seconds. I thought a bold creature was rummaging through our trash–in daylight. With my fist, I banged on the wall and shouted, “Get out of those cans.”

The clatter stopped. My stern command had sent the creature fleeing.

A few minutes later, equipped with rubber gloves, I checked the cans. I was prepared to pick up strewn trash and look for signs of the scavenger. Bear? Cat? Skunk?

No mess. No signs of a creature.

Eventually, my daughter messaged, “Did you feel the earthquake?” Continue reading “Living on the fringes of sorrow…remembering Columbine…”

Celebrating National Grilled Cheese Day and creating memories for people we love

Grilled cheese sandwich

Tomorrow (April 12), on National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, you may wonder: when is Dill Pickle Day? (November 14) And where do I get a decent dill pickle anyway?

Or, to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day, like I did this week, you may pull out and relive your first grilled-cheese-sandwich related memory. Continue reading “Celebrating National Grilled Cheese Day and creating memories for people we love”

A secret to aging well

My Great Gram–who taught me a secret to aging well long before I needed it. I was forty before I realized I needed it, and, just recently, I’ve learned to practice it.  

At a restaurant in our town, birthday guests are invited to celebrate their special occasion by culminating their meal with a silly act. They are invited to sit on a saddle which is mounted on a rolling sawhorse. When the birthday person sits, servers and guests clap and shout birthday cheers.

Last spring, when my husband Steve turned sixty, because he likes their steaks, he chose this restaurant for his birthday meal. “You’ll have to sit on the saddle,” I warned.

“I won’t,” he said. Continue reading “A secret to aging well”

How I stop blaming myself

Please don’t share this confession with anyone who will agree with me, but sometimes I find myself asking, “What kind of idiot am I?”

This morning, I pulled a pair of sunglasses from the bottom of my book bag and realized that for the second time this year, my carelessness in stowing them had resulted in the costly, polarized lenses getting scratched.

I rummaged in the bag until I found the special square cloth the optometrist office provided with the glasses. I polished the lenses with intensity. I peered through them. The special cloth had not wiped away the scratches. I was forced to conclude that, yet again, the scratch is in the center of my field of vision.

Apparently, I am the kind of idiot who will make the same mistake two times in a row even though I have repeatedly determined not to.

I’d like to share a little of the blame with the companies make sunglasses. Why don’t they make scratch resistant lenses? I’m sure that with all the technology at their disposal, they could.

Speaking of blame, last week I wrote a post in which I told parents of troubled kids that they aren’t to blame for their kids’ circumstances. Some readers asked, “What helped you move past the blame?” Continue reading “How I stop blaming myself”

When kids break bad, or sad, who’s to blame?

A few years ago, our young-adult son was fighting anxiety disorder and depression, and losing big-time. My husband Steve and I knew something was wrong. But we didn’t know about the overwhelming panic or the stifling depression our son felt.

He drank so much alcohol, so often, that we considered problem drinking his main problem, and I worried that he was driving drunk.

I asked him. He denied it. He said he’d never drive drunk, but my persistent, nagging suspicion didn’t diminish. I didn’t know what to do.

One night, I heard him drive into our driveway very late—two hours after his shift at a local restaurant ended and right after bars close.

The next morning, I called a local police station and asked to speak with an officer in the alcohol and drug addiction unit. During our conversation, I squeezed back sobs. My throat felt like it was closing up, and I could barely squeeze out words that I never, ever thought I’d say, “I’m worried that my son drives drunk. What should I do?” Continue reading “When kids break bad, or sad, who’s to blame?”

Would you make this sacrifice?

Steve and I had our yearly daylight savings time disagreement Sunday morning. He thinks that when we spring the clocks ahead, we should spring our kitchen clock one hour and four minutes ahead. He claims that setting that clock a few minutes ahead of the actual time will help him get to work on-time.

I think that setting our kitchen clock ahead of the actual time by four minutes would be a nuisance and necessitate daily intricate arithmetic. For me.

Remember story problems from elementary school arithmetic? My story problem would go something like this: Faith needs to get to work at 9:00 in the morning. Driving to the parking lot takes 15 minutes. Walking from the lot to her office takes 20 – 25 minutes, depending on the weather, the beat of the music streaming to her headphones and the weight of her book bag. If she gets behind people who saunter slowly down the sidewalk, she will need even more time. (Even after all these years, she’s unsure about the etiquette of passing people while walking down the sidewalk, so she prefers to stay behind.) Add 5 minutes.

Calculate: what time does Faith need to leave home to get to work on time? What time will the kitchen clock read?

Plus, I always set my target leaving time 15 minutes earlier than my actual leaving time. To compensate for a clock set ahead, I’d have to subtract 4 from 15 to determine my target departure time.

It’s just too many numbers.

I’ve thought about ways to resolve this conflict between Steve and I. We could compromise. We could set the clock ahead by a small amount, like two minutes—I wouldn’t notice, so there’d be no need to solve the story problem. But two minutes is not enough for Steve.

We could get his and her clocks. But I like every clock in the house to be set at the same time.

Maybe we should remove all clocks from the kitchen and both use our phones as private clocks?

A few years ago, I addressed the problem by buying an atomic clock. The atomic clock used some kind of quantum science (way beyond my comprehension) to synchronize with The Main Clock that ticks out the time for our entire time zone. I really liked knowing our kitchen clock displayed accurate time. A bonus: setting the atomic clock four minutes ahead is impossible—even for mechanical wizard Steve.

However, our atomic clock is now so old that the synchronizing function doesn’t work.

That’s how many years we’ve disagreed about setting the clock.

Sometimes, Steve says, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

But I’m not a fan of unspoken conflict and I say, “None of that silent treatment.”

I know that, spoken or not, conflict is conflict. And unspoken conflict gathers power and, when the harborer lets down her guard, explode.  Been there. Done that. It’s hard to regroup.

The best resolution to conflict, of course, is authentic self-sacrifice. But would you make the sacrifice?

I’m not clear on who should make the sacrifice. Do we measure the degree of self-sacrifice the act requires, compare and then designate according to degree? This act takes less sacrifice for you, so this time, you sacrifice.

Or, this act takes more sacrifice for you, so you sacrifice and get bonus points?

Speaking of sacrifice, I recently noticed on social media that people are posting sacrifice challenges for the forty-or-so days of Lent. Some people are giving up Facebook. Others are fasting from types of food. The challenge that caught my interest was de-cluttering. The goal is to get rid of one item each day during Lent.

I determined to tackle the challenge.

As I sort through my clutter, I’ve mused through my clutter-related memories and have one to share.

When I was young, our family occasionally drove from Canada to visit our New England relatives who had what they called a Fibber McGee closet. We’d ask our aunt where something was and she’d say, “It’s in the Fibber McGee closet.” The closet’s name came from an American radio comedy series. In the show, Fibber McGee’s closet overflowed with an unorganized variety of remarkable items. My aunt’s did, too.

We’d open the closet doors, hold the contents in the closet with one hand, and use the other hand to rummage and find what we wanted: Tennis racquets. Tennis balls. Chalk. Softball gloves. String.

As a kid, I so wanted a Fibber McGee closet at our house. But my mom said that we couldn’t have one because we moved a lot. And people who move have to get rid of clutter. They can’t keep it in a closet.

As an adult, I remembered the Fibber McGee closet, and realized Steve and I  have lived in the same house for two decades, and we have two Fibber McGee closets, a Fibber McGee attic and a Fibber McGee garage.

While I think every household should have one Fibber McGee closet, I believe we currently have too many Fibber McGee areas.

I’ve decided to get rid of more than one item each of the 40 days of Lent and I’m gearing up to convince Steve to declutter, too.

For us, the de-cluttering argument is like that daylight savings time disagreement. We have it periodically.

So I am preparing for it.

When I try to throw something away and Steve objects, “I might need it someday.”

I’ll say, “Yes, that’s true.”

Often, I get rid of something and later I realize I want it. On day one of my Lent de-clutter challenge, I got rid of a decade’s worth of old glasses frames. Today, I thought, “A decades worth of old glasses frames would make a cool picture for today’s blog.” Still, I’m glad they’re gone.

Plus, in our current disorganized mess, we can’t find the things we need. Better to have a few things organized than many things so haphazardly stowed that you can’t find what you need.

Sometimes, Steve objects to my throwing things out because, “Someone somewhere needs this.”

I think relinquishing the item to a thrift store so that person can find it is our responsibility.

The reason for not parting with something that is most difficult for me to counter is: this item was given to me by someone living. Or dead. I keep many items because through them I feel tied to a loved one. But sometimes the tied feeling grows stronger than the love memory.

I own a serger that a friend gave me before she died more than a decade ago. I have never used the machine. As cumbersome as a tombstone, it sits in my closet. Recently, another friend pointed out that people in heaven probably don’t care what we do with their things.

I think I can remember my friend fondly with out the serger. I’m getting rid of it (message me if you want it) and all my other clutter.

While I’m good at recognizing and congratulating myself on my sacrifices, even I realize that I’m enjoying de-cluttering way too much to consider it (as I originally intended) a Lenten sacrifice.

I’m positive that coercing Steve to de-clutter doesn’t count as self-sacrifice, for me, either.

Maybe my Lenten sacrifice should be to let Steve spring the clock ahead one hour and four minutes. Maybe I should agree to setting the the clock his way. The daily mental arithmetic can be my sacrificial act. Would you do it?

Problem is–and you can check my calculation–in 40 days, when I’ve completed my Lenten sacrifice and I re-adjust the clocks, he’ll be 8 minutes late for work.

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