Friday Thoughts: Late Afternoon…

I missed blogging this morning due to sheer, unadulterated sloth. Just didn’t feel like moving off the couch. This has happened before and in the same time frame. The closer it gets to the start of the semester, whether fall or spring, the less inclined I am to do the work that’s required of me. Every semester I swear I’ll get an earlier start so I’m not hammering along as the semester starts. And, like clockwork, every year, two weeks before the start of the semester, I’m doing any but prepping classes. At this point in my career, I’m just going along with it.

I’ve been avoiding the news, aside from skimming headlines to make sure we’re not involved in yet another war, or that California hasn’t fallen off the continent after the “Big One” earthquake. I’m a much happier person if I just keep up with news and information versus dwelling on it and getting into meaningless Facebook arguments. And, I find that I like the happier me much better than I do the deeply involved and “very concerned” me.

This may seem like a “no duh” sort of statement, but actually recognizing that I feel happier is something of a revelation. It’s a lighter feeling; I have more energy to pour into other aspects of my life.(even class prep!). I pay more attention to what’s going on in my immediate surroundings and more attention to the people in those surroundings. I sat on the bus this afternoon on my way home and just watched the neighborhood go by, looked at the people on the bus and tried to guess where they were going and from where did they start (the family of tourists was pretty easy since son was holding a map and checking it as the bus made stops). Just idle speculation with no real purpose, but enjoyable nonetheless. And, bonus: I didn’t wind up with a crick in my neck from staring down at my phone. Win!

Home, doing laundry and looking forward to a quiet evening with Mike. Enjoy the weekend, all!

Heading out into 2019

Well, OK then. It’s 2019. Still no flying cars; bummer. But, then, given the way people tend to drive (or pilot shopping carts for that matter), that may be a good thing. As I sit at my computer supposedly prepping my spring courses (but, obviously, writing this post), I am forced to think about the year ahead. Academic calendars run about a year ahead of the current time. For example, I already know what I am supposed to be teaching this time next year. That forces one to plan out a year at a time. Right now, I’m not sure I’m enjoying planning that far ahead. Tends to lock you in and remove flexibility. But, once the prep for this semester is done, I should be facing a relatively easy-going semester which will leave more room for personal pursuits.

On a less confused note, I’m looking forward to this year as I know it will bring new and exciting changes. Not sure what exactly those will be, but for about eight months now, I’ve been trying to face the world in a positive way, expressing gratitude for everything, large and small. One thing I’ve certainly noticed is that I am less frustrated with situations and more inclined to examine what I can take away from any given issue for future learning. It really does help. In addition to noticing what I can change in terms of my reactions or actions, I’m noticing that it is becoming easier to put stressful, annoying, or frustrating situations and issues behind me. This does not mean ignoring things as they come up, but rather, taking care of it and then letting it go. I’m also getting better about dealing with things that come up in a timely manner, rather than putting them off and letting them fester. And, I’ve become better about doing silly things and enjoying small moments in the day. I got a small BB-8 droid for Christmas. It’s powered by an app and I am having a lot of fun rolling it around the house to the great interest and consternation of the cats. They’re not really sure what to make of it!

So, it turns out, you can teach an old dragon new tricks. I’m writing more, learning German, about to revisit Spanish, and generally having a good time. Classes start in a couple of weeks, so I will get into the rhythm of the semester soon enough. For now, I’m off to take a walk and then more prep. Happy New Year! Here’s to an interesting and joy-filled 2019.

*Image from Pixabay

Winding down the year

We got back from California this morning after a red-eye flight from San Francisco. It was a direct flight, so not as bad as previous trips. I think I actually managed to sleep on this flight and I’m grateful for that.

There are a number of things I’m grateful for as this year winds down. I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal; trying to make sure each day I write down 10 things I’m grateful for. There are a couple things that appear every day. I’m always and forever grateful for my husband. I totally won the lottery in that category. I’m always grateful for the purrs and snuggles of our cats. I’m grateful for my health (cliched I know, but I am). My point here is that I did not keep the journal while we were traveling. So, this post is a sort of catch up on gratitude for the last 10 days.

I’m grateful:

  • that we got to visit our families
  • that we got to peek behind the metaphorical curtain that is covering some of the family tension (it was enlightening and for that I’m grateful).
  • we got to walk on the beach on Saturday
  • we had easy travel days
  • we got to eat a lot of good food.
  • that we spent quality time with my cousin and his wife
  • that I got to spend time with my favorite cousin who is a sister and best friend to me.
  • I got to have lunch with my best friend from college.
  • And, maybe most of all, I’m grateful that I get to sit here on my own couch, surrounded by snoozing cats, while I write this.

So, a very happy, healthy, and enlightening new year to everybody. May 2019 bring you much joy and fun living.

Image ©Rebecca Jones, 2018

Friday Morning Thoughts: Good-bye 2018

To paraphrase the opening line of Anna Karenina, happy families are all alike. Unhappy families are unique in their unhappiness; or as is sometimes the case, in their weirdness. Here we sit at the end of 2018. I’m currently sitting in my father-in-law’s house while his wife cooks breakfast. So far for the last four days we’ve done a lot of eating and a lot of driving between father-in-law and mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Always an interesting balance.

This year, FiL’s wife had several different families over (she has four children); daughter and family live in the house behind this one, and one son and his family were up from LA until the day after Christmas. Another son and his kids came down from Sonoma for a visit yesterday. Mike and I have only met most of these people once, maybe twice. We ended up going for a walk for an hour or so to get away from the chaos and our feeling awkward and out of place. Somehow, that never happens with my family. Or at least I don’t feel like it does. Even Mike says it feels different. Maybe it’s because we are now the elders of the family and therefore we are keeping things together. But, I don’t see the significant others/partners sitting apart from the rest and it seems that Mike and I do at some of his side of the family gathering.

That feeling got me thinking. How out of place do people feel in blended families? In this case, my FiL has been with his wife for 25 years; he’s seen these grandkids, and now great-grandkids grow up. They call him Grampa Jim. Mike & I are not really a part of this family as much as my FiL would like it. Sometimes it’s almost as if people want my MiL to just disappear. Which, of course, is not going to happen, especially not for my husband, her eldest child. I don’t know. I’m rambling, but it’s been a weird week.

Today will be a day of hanging out. I will try to get some writing done and maybe we will go for a walk. Tomorrow, we head down to Santa Cruz to visit with Mike’s other sister and her family. And, meet up with mother-in-law and first sister-in-law (are you confused yet? I know I am). As usual, I’m just along for the ride. We head home this weekend and back to our comfortable routine. We’ll shake that up soon enough.

Friday Morning Thoughts: Family & Christmas*

It’s the Friday before Christmas, which this year falls on a Tuesday. We are in California visiting family. Between the two of us we have several visits to make. In my case, my family does a big pre-Christmas Christmas the weekend before the actual day. This means that everybody gets together at one house and we eat, hang out, and exchange gifts and generally raise a ruckus. In other words, a lot of fun.

My husband’s family is our other crew. This is a bit more complex and jigsaw puzzle-like. We have to juggle my father-in-law, his wife, my mother-in-law, two sisters-in-law, and brother-in-law and wife. This usually entails Christmas Eve in one place, Christmas breakfast in another, and Christmas dinner in yet another. We drive around the Sacramento area A LOT.

It’s always nice to be back in California for the holidays. I have to admit, I don’t require a white Christmas in order to get into the spirit. A warm Christmas works just fine. What makes Christmas a bit more challenging out here is the amount of planning and re-planning that goes into each visit. I know that we’re not alone in dealing with this; plenty of other people travel back and forth between parents. Hell, there was even a movie, Four Christmases, that took on that challenge. We only have three and one of those is not on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, so I feel lucky. We get to spend time with family, eat good food, and be back in California.

We even braved a mall today. And, made it out alive! At least we’re not flying to Portland on Tuesday.

*OK, so it’s Friday afternoon. Whatever.

Friday Morning Thoughts: Jumping on the offensensitivity* bandwagon

Lately, it seems as if everybody is looking for reasons to be offended. The latest petty reason that’s come to my attention is the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”.  Bored Panda had a short piece that highlighted an English teacher’s discussion (maybe it could be called a reverse fisking) of the lyrics of that song. In that discussion the teacher explains that given the social mores of the day (1940s) the woman in the song is trying to figure out a socially plausible reason for spending the night with the man. He’s also working on persuading her to stay. In the end, as the teacher notes, yes, it could be seen as “rapey” (the guy is working hard to get her to stay), but it’s also a level of empowerment for the woman as she wants to stay, but has to figure out a way to do so without harming her reputation.

I posted this link on Facebook with the simple comment that this provided an interesting take on the song. The reaction was mixed, but what stood out to me the most was the response of a college friend (really not a good friend, just one of those you happen to reconnect with on FB, but who was not a close friend during college). This woman is far to the left and swallows anything coming out from the opinion arbiters on that side of the political spectrum almost without thought. And, her reaction to my post was no exception to that. Full bore “how dense can you people be?!” response. I initially responded with asking if she’d read the entire post, and copying the images of the teacher’s tweet/instagram response. A few minutes later I reconsidered and deleted my comments hoping she hadn’t seen them yet and wanting simply to ignore her comments. No such luck. Another comment along the lines of “I can’t believe you’re such an apologist for this crap!”.  This one I’m ignoring.

This friend is typical of many on the left, or those who wish to be seen as on the left, who simply do not want to engage in any kind of discourse (while loudly proclaiming that they do). I know this is not a shock to many people, but when I run across it proclaimed so blatantly, it just sticks out; and most especially sticks out when it’s an otherwise competent and intelligent person. I am getting stronger about speaking out and holding my own ground as opposed to employing a go-along/get-along strategy. Mostly I’ve grown tired of getting yelled at for holding views that differ from what is considered by the woke crowd to be wrongthink. I’m just done. You want to be offended? Fine. Be offended. Spend your energy in a useless fashion. Me? I’m gonna be over here enjoying life.

Now, I’m off to ignore Facebook. 

*I first saw the word “offensensitivity” in a Bloom County cartoon. All credit to Burke Breathed and Opus.

Friday morning thoughts: Change

Sarah Hoyt had a great post about emerging from a cocoon and being a different person than you were at 7 or 18 or last night. That got me thinking about changes in my past and changes coming up in my future.

Right now, the Center of My Being and I are figuring out when we are going to move back west of the Rockies. We want to be closer to family; his parents are aging, all but one of his siblings and closest cousins are in California, my cousins are up and down the West Coast. It makes a lot of sense to move back. It is also an absolutely crazy idea. I have tenure; an impossible-to-fire-me job. Why the hell would I think about giving that up for the insecurity of adjuncting, or working in the “real world”, or, as I will be doing, writing full time?

There are many reasons for doing something that appears to be quite crazy on the surface. For one, I can’t expect him to remain 3,000 miles from his family when he put up with my parents in close proximity for as long as he did. Secondly, I made a promise when we first left California, that after tenure, the next major move we made would be because he found the cool job. Finally, I’ve come to realize over the last two to three years what my father was talking about when he fussed that tenure was a trap of sorts. I scoffed at the time and said, how can having a guaranteed job be a trap??

Well, I found out. You get to the point where you will put up with innumerable indignities because you KNOW you can’t leave this job…you have tenure! You fight the EXACT SAME battles again and again and again. A really ugly version of “Groundhog Day.” The same colleagues react the same way to the same battles…it really never changes.

I had a sabbatical last spring (OK, so tenure has some really great bonuses…sabbaticals are one of them). As I settled in to do research (the reason for the sabbatical), I realized that this just did not make me happy or interested or anything. I started teaching myself German (you have to totally check out Gabriel Wyner’s site fluent-forever.com…no, I don’t get paid for endorsing it, it’s simply that good) and had a blast and now I’m coversationally fluent. I also read my first ever self-help-figure-yourself-out book. Rather eye-opening. Then, I added an opening line for a book to a FB comment string…then I started writing…Now, 11 months later, I’m about to finish my first ever work of fiction. I have plans for two more in this series; I’m building another world for another series; I have outlines for at least three short stories.  I’m having a blast AND with indie publishing, I can do this. This makes me very, very excited and happy.

So, we’re leaving. Not sure exactly where to yet, but west of the Rockies or thereabouts.  And, I’m going to become a recovering Academic. And, I’m really very happy about it.

Friday morning thoughts

I just saw a comment from a friend describing another comment as “self-induced terror.” I think that hits the nail on the head regarding some of the postings and comments I am seeing in my Facebook feed (clearly non-scientific, purely anecdotal evidence).  I’ve seen otherwise reasonable people scream in fear that gay marriage, access to abortion, minority rights, etc. are all going to be limited at best and destroyed at worst, with the worst case usually winning out in terms of what “will” happen.

Teaching college students about the basics of our political system makes me aware, perhaps more than most, of the gaps in their education when they arrive as freshmen.  High schools no longer require or often even offer civics classes, so many students do not have even a basic knowledge of how the system actually functions.  They are ripe for those whose purpose is to disseminate inaccurate or misleading information.  One glaring misunderstanding concerns the role and power of the Supreme Court.  The Court is an appellate court which means that it hears cases on appeal from a lower court.  Original jurisdiction covers arguments between states, between citizens and government, and the constitutionality of laws passed by Congress and Executive Orders issued by the President.  The Court cannot simply decide to overturn previous decisions on a whim.  The cries of “Roe v. Wade is gone!” are woefully ignorant and a nasty bit of fear-mongering.  Roe v. Wade is the law of the land; even the conservative justices will tell you that (even if they also tell you that they don’t like it).

Gay marriage is also not threatened.  Like it or not, the Court ruled that same-sex marriage is protected under the 14th Amendment.  And, while the conservative justices on the Court argued that this was a broad interpretation of the due process clause, they are not primed to overturn it; the decision was five to four and the four will abide by the decision.  In addition to the 14th Amendment argument, the full faith and credit clause protects same-sex marriage as it requires states to recognize marriages performed in other states as legal and valid.  Finally, the social culture of our country has shifted enough that most people support the idea of same-sex marriage on the basis that it’s really not their problem who somebody else marries.  Those that are opposed to it on religious grounds are entitled to believe that, and the 1st Amendment guarantees them the right to their own religious beliefs.  That belief does not mean they are homophobic and calling them that serves no purpose and does not persuade anybody that you are interested in any kind of reasonable discussion of issues (nor does deliberately provoking a negative response by asking Christian-owned bakeries and pizza joints to make food for weddings knowing they will refuse).

Minority rights in general are also not threatened.  The 15th Amendment, originally aimed at insuring African-Americans had the right to vote, states the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” This covers all citizens regardless of race or ethnicity and cannot be changed by law; the 19th Amendment did the same for women.

So, remember, the Supreme Court justices cannot simply show up for work one day and say “Hey, it’s Tuesday…time to overturn rulings we don’t like!”

Yes, of course, there are individuals who are determined to make this country subservient to their twisted world views. The best course of action against those groups and individuals is to allow them to be heard (free speech is hardest when it’s speech you disagree with, but that is when the concept is the most important) and allow everybody to know exactly what they stand for; that usually significantly lowers their appeal.  The saying “sunshine is the best disinfectant” is very true; you cannot fight what you do not know about, and if you suppress ideas and thoughts, they are not noticed and worse, you make them more attractive to the disaffected in society.

In the end, name-calling is not a persuasive argument whether in politics or any other topic.  The willingness to thoughtfully engage with ideas that may be anathema to you is a sign of maturity and intelligence.  As difficult as it may be, try to engage those you do not understand.  Around the world, the arrogance and condescension of political and cultural elites towards ordinary people is becoming clearer; Brexit, the vote against the Colombian peace plan, and the US election are the response of the ordinary people.  In this country, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are both symptoms of a great disillusionment with current political elites and actors and the attitudes of those elites and actors towards the great majority of voters on both sides of the political spectrum; Trump and Sanders are not the causes of that disaffection.  We would all do well to attempt to understand the causes and then move to fix the source of them.