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Archive for October, 2017

Uncle Instructor

“What’s politics?” my eight-year-old asked me. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot the last week.”

Noooooo, I thought. How can I possibly explain this in a sentence or two that makes sense to him? Do not have the brain power now!

“Politics is …” I paused, searching. “… arguments over how to apportion resources.”

I waited for his inevitable follow-up questions. Instead, my brother, visiting from Oregon, called on his Social Studies education background and continued explaining. “For every dollar you spend, the government takes twenty or forty cents. You get to decide what gets done with those cents.”

Whoa, I thought. That’s a great way of explaining it to an eight-year-old.

“That’s the idea, anyway,” I said. “In reality, the government spends even more than it takes in maintaining a vast military presence in more than a hundred countries, and then its representatives say we don’t have enough money for things like school, health, or food.” I paused, waiting to see if Li’l D would have any more questions.

Nope. Satisfied (enough), he resumed reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid

And I wished, a little, my little brother could be here for more such conversations. So. Much. Easier.

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Categories: Family, politics Tags: , ,

two for two

Decades ago,
my siblings and I
did what we called
“two for two”

In theory,
we would exchange
two minutes of backrub given
for two received

I didn’t understand it then,
but this positive physical contact
may well have saved
our lives

(Loving touch
Is THAT important)

As the eldest,
I would typically exchange
two minutes given
for ten seconds
returned

So, now,
as my “little” brother
plays checkers with my
older son, who inherited his name
from my brother,
I trace my fingers
over my brother’s back
and think:

Years later,
I would wager
I still owe him
thousands of minutes

… and I am happy to,
for the moment, have the chance
to bridge the deficit

Categories: Family, Health Tags: , , , ,

Save Now, Pay Later! — No, thanks.

Did you know Exxon knew about climate change 40 years ago?

That it then poured money into promoting misinformation about climate change?

If you hadn’t yet heard about this, that’s because a small group of heavily resourced people have worked long and hard to keep you misinformed. Indeed, searching for “scientific american climate change” (for this article) yields first and foremost a corporate.exxonmobile.com ad titled, “Don’t Be Misled – Get the Facts.”

‘Cause, see, folks: You should mistrust scientists, not those with enormous financial incentives to promote divergent outcomes!*

One of my favorite authors, Gavin de Becker, aptly calls denial a “save now, pay later” scheme. As a parent, I have sub-zero interest in pay-later schemes my children and their peers will be forced to endure for the rest of their days. I would rather face terrible probabilities now, plan now, and act now as I am able, knowing my kids and their companions will someday understand I did the very best I could to ease their lot.**

When adults dismiss climate change or think “some brilliant someone else will fix it, so I don’t have to think about it,” that denial isn’t cost-free. It’s a cost deferred–to those, I’d wager, most of us least want to suffer the consequences of adults’ studied refusal to see.

* “Cui bono?” is one of the most illuminating questions you can ask yourself: “As always, the answer is in the question, ‘Cui bono?’ Who benefited from this, and is therefor likely responsible?”

** I’m not only concerned with the younger generations, to be clear. Already, there are countless evident climate migrants (aka “climate refugees”) displaced by climate change, with more lined up, figuratively, for hundreds to thousands of miles behind them.

 

 

 

Reindeers & aliens

In first grade, my class dressed up as reindeers and did aerobics for the school’s Christmas show. Dressing up was bad enough for me; I did the bare minimum workout, and totally sat out the neck rolls, despite glares from the adults in my life. 

I’d decided that getting in trouble was better than doing all that ridiculousness.

Last night, at a weekend Cub Scout event, my eight-year-old was expected to don a costume with the other members of his pack. He wailed and railed against it. He said he’d rather not have candy than gain it by wearing “the stupid costume hat.”

Even when he did finally put it on, he sulked in our tent for a full ten minutes. After he emerged from the tent, he continued to sulk–mightily–straight through photos and the beginning of trick-or-treating. 

He eventually decided that candy was worth wearing the hat, but I’m kinda glad it took him a little while to get there. His obstinacy tickled me, bringing me to imagine my mom was right there with us. 

I envisioned her laughing with my husband and saying, “I didn’t hold it against her. I told her she’d get her own taste of it someday, and here she is! Here she is.”

Thus were Christmas then and Halloween now woven together … and my mom, gone in body for more than seven years now, no less powerful a presence in her reluctant reindeer’s heart.

eat first, then reply

A work friend IM’d me with a question.

Frantically at work on something else, I asked that she please email me such questions in the future.

The moment I sent the message, I saw some of my many errors. First and foremost, the fact I felt like she was entering my cube and hollering at me for an immediate answer said more about my current state than hers.

This triggered some reflection: Why had I taken an IM as if it were a physical assault? Wait, come to think of it, when was the last time I ate? 

I immediately got up and ate lunch, a couple of hours late. Calm returned within moments.

My takeaway from this is: Next time I get the feeling ALL THE THINGS are wrong because someone sent me a question (how dare they?), I should check my hangry levels before replying. 

Better to eat first, then reply, than vice versa.

Categories: Communication, Work Tags: , ,

soul-level sighs of satisfaction

Yesterday mid-morning, my three-year-old son and I went to meet up with some friends at a family event in Newport Beach. Littler J, who usually naps in the early afternoon, was so beat that he ended up falling asleep ten minutes into our drive.

By the time he’d finished napping, our friends were on their way home. The event was nevertheless a joy. It was full of small, sweet moments, individual and collective.

Individually, I especially enjoyed watching Littler eat his pizza. First, he strips off the cheese. After he’s eaten all the cheese, he plants his face directly in the center of the triangle and begins gnawing down. As if watching him savor a piece of pizza in this way weren’t adorable enough, this inefficiency leaves him with a greasy orange beard that makes me giggle. Read more…

full and messy life

This morning, I’m thinking about a recent conversation with a friend.

In our current world, where companies and governments alike designate “citizens”  mere “consumers,” meaningfully different only in what and how they consume, people are told they are “brands” and to behave in ways that build their brands.

What kind of life is that?

I don’t want to be perfect. I refuse to limit my life to pursuit of brand-building, instead of being fully immersed in something raw, real, messy, and wonder-full. Life.

Why? The way I see it, trying to live someone else’s (whose?!) idea of a perfect, perfectly branded life is a recipe for late-life sorrow at halfway connections with people, little life-changing learning from important mistakes, countless adventures missed.

While I’d usually rather leave aphorisms than take them, I’d boil this pursuit of a full and messy life down thusly:

If you’re always careful,
you’re barely living.

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