Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ever Want a "Redo"?

Do you ever have one of those days...or moments...when you wish you could turn back time?  I would love to say that I never felt that way.  But, the truth is, there are definitely moments when, if I could, I would turn the clock back and call a redo. 

The funny thing about these redo moments, however, is that I would almost never choose to turn back time very far.  Most often...dare I say nearly always...my time travel would consist of setting the clock back by mere minutes.  I suppose there are the occasional times when I would like to jump through a time spanning wormhole that would deliver me back a few hours or days in the past, but not often.  Nope.  Mostly, I would chose to set my time traveling Delorian dials back 5 or 10 minutes.

Stepping without looking.  Sitting up too quickly when tucking my son in his lower bunk.  An unkind word.  A raised voice.  An unwise impulsive decision.  A selfish action.  Speaking before thinking.  An impatient response.  Ignoring a dog's signal that he needs to pee (ummmm...yeah....that just happened a couple nights ago).  Ignoring that little voice inside my head urging me to do or not do something in the moment.  Responding out of frustration.  Not saying "hello".  Saying "goodbye" too soon.  You get the idea.

The way I feel when I think I need a redo.
While I occasionally long for a redo when something inconvenient or undesirable happens - cutting my foot, bumping my head, missing a great photo opportunity, etc. - I most often desire a chance to turn back time when the result is hurt feelings, interrupted relationships, a veering from integrity, or simply, but significantly, a yuck in the gut feeling.  Sometimes, a simple pause...a catch of the breath...a cooling of temper...a count to 5...a focus on the Spirit...a consideration of feelings...a self reminder of who I am...or a quick prayer for clarity can make the difference between feeling "okay" (or even great) about the moment or wishing I could press life's rewind button.  Usually, the difference is made by simply shifting the focus from myself to the other person involved and by remembering who it is I'd like to be more like.

I read a line somewhere on-line recently that caught my attention.  As someone was signing off of a letter, they wrote the following: "Striving to be proud of everything I do today."  What a great tag-line for life when used in humility.  What a great line to keep the "I wish I would-uvs" at bay.  If I consistently strive to be proud of everything I do, while keeping God and others at the forefront of my thinking, I bet I would have very few want-to-redo moments. 

Before it gets any later and I end up wishing I could turn back time to get more sleep, I am going to head to bed.  As always, thanks for reading.  I hope it's been relevant, easy to relate to, and somehow encouraging to read.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Positively Phototactic!

http://ecoglitz.com/wp-content/gallery/moth/attacus-atlas-female.jpgThe other night, I put the backyard flood light on so I could take my new pooch out for a final 'go' before bed.  When I came back in, I was amazed by the number of bugs hovering around the light and on the window screens.  My first thought was "gross!" and my second thought was, "so why do insects go to the light the way they do?" I figured that I must have learned that at one time along the way, but I couldn't remember.  So, being the geek that I am, I had to look it up.

Phototaxis.  Phototaxis is the movement of a cell or an organism toward or away from a source of light.  If an organism is positively phototactic, it is drawn toward a light source, like a moth.  If an organism is negatively phototactic, it is repelled by the light, like a cockroach or a worm.  Okay.  I like that - phototaxis.  But, why are so many bugs positively phototactic?  Again, the geek in me had to find out.

A number of sights suggested that bugs use the moon as a navigational tool.  One theory is that bugs keep the moon light on one side or the other to keep flying in a straight line, similar to navigating a boat by a stationary point along the shoreline.  When the bug sees a flashlight, floodlight, or front porch light, it gets confused and thinks that bright light is the moon.  They head toward it thinking they are reaching their destination (although, I am not sure how much actual thinking is involved here) or are still on the correct flight path.  When bugs endlessly circle the light, it may be an attempt to keep the "moon" to one side of their body in order to fly a straight path.  Poor little guys get mislead and confused, resulting in a failed journey or (sniff sniff) death.

I, like a moth, am positively phototactic.  I am drawn to light.  On most days, if there is a sunny spot on the floor, from light streaming in through the window, I eventually spend a moment in that place and soak it up - the warmth and the light.  And, while I tend to be a night owl as opposed to an early bird, there is something reassuring about the break of dawn...the light of a new day. 

I am spiritually positively phototactic, as well.  Wow - that was a mouthful!  From an early age, I was introduced to and drawn to the Light.  Jesus is called (and calls himself) the light of the world.  In John 1:5, it says that the light shines in darkness and darkness cannot overcome it (or extinguish it).  I am drawn to that light and everything it stands for, desperately wanting to be in the Light.

And yet, there are times when I get distracted by shiny objects.  Like a raccoon who gets his little mitts stuck in a jar while trying to pull out a shiny pop tab, I can sometimes get caught by the shimmery lights of something attractive - popularity, money, Facebook time,  a TV show that may or may not be good for my mind and heart, the lure of doing nothing at all, a prestigious job, a decadent dessert, being "right", looking good, sounding smart, whatever it may be.  It's not that any of those things are necessarily bad on their own: I'd much rather be an enjoyable chic who has a bit of knowledge than an annoying and ignorant hag-lady.  I certainly savour a good sweet treat, especially in the company of friends.  And, money is a necessary need and something I should deal with wisely.  But when those things set me off course of the true Light and keep me from fulfilling the stuff I should be doing in the Light (namely being a benefit to others for the glory of God - in whatever shape or form that may take), I am like a confused bug in the night.  When pride, focus on self, or focus on the "stuff" of the world become my guiding system, I am at serious risk for being mislead and failing in my life journey.  Even good intentions can lead to destruction when they are not guided with integrity, honesty, and accountability (you know the saying about roads paved with good intentions).   And, for me, my human attempts at integrity, honesty, and accountability fall short without the Light to illuminate.

I love the way creation points again and again to the Creator.  Phototaxis points to the Creator.  I am thankful for my positive phototaxis.  I'd rather be like a moth than a cockroach any day.  Hopefully, I will keep the right light in focus, however, and not get distracted by a shiny piece of jewelry, or worse yet, a bug zapper!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What's Your Passion?

The other day I read a blog posting from an old friend of mine.  We were "co-stars" in Tom Sawyer back in the day when Farrah Fawcett locks were en vogue.  Apparently, patterned turtle necks under 3/4 sleeve t-shirts were also quite the fashion statement!
At any rate, Steve wrote about how he admired those who had "nerdy" obsessions or passions.  He indicated that he was more of a Renaissance man with a wide scope of interests rather than a man with a passion about any one thing.  As a result, he wondered whether or not this lack of a passion was healthy.  This got me thinking.

Lately, my kids have hooked into a T.V. show that is filled with passion and obsession.  Thanks (or not) to my dear sister Sue and her daughter, Jessica, my kids love to watch the show Whale Wars.  I admit it,  I too have found myself sucked in from time to time as we watch the Sea Shepherds try anything they can think of to rid the seas of the evils of whaling in protected waters.  If you haven't seen the show, it is worth a gander if you want to see people driven to extremes for something they believe in.  I admire their passion.  I dig their gumption.

The "funny" thing about this show, however, is the number of times that passion and zeal turn into costly mistakes.  Granted, the show would not be what it is without torn up inflatables, broken props, leaks in fresh water tanks, failing helicopter rotors, stranded team members, and so on.  But it leaves me to wonder whether their passionate obsession is at times blind to reasonable forethought, planning, preparation, and carry through.  Is the impulse to live out their passion in the moment of "engagement" with the whaling vessels short circuiting their common sense?  As a viewer I hear myself shouting, "let go of the rope - you're gonna get hurt!" and wondering why in the attempt to "prop fowl" there isn't a smidge more mother wit amongst the Shepherds.  And, isn't it true that we have all heard of people so passionately obsessed with something that they are so to the detriment of their relationships, their livelihoods, and to their own well beings?

Passion is absolutely necessary to get the hard work of the world done.  I think most of the advancements of man - whether technological, scientific, human rights related, medical, spiritual, whatever - would not have occurred without a good dose of passionate obsession. Yet the passion, I believe, in order to be most effective must be tempered, to some degree, with practical perspective and sound problem solving.  Reckless abandon can become quite wreck-full without some solid forethought and planning.  An amazing spark of an idea ignited by passion can burn out quickly if there is not willful determination for patience, perseverance, and, perhaps, even long term "suffering".   While I do believe that a person with fiery passion can also possess gifts and talents required for the long haul and perspective keeping, I also believe that some of the Renaissance men and women of the world (along with those even-keeled- but-really-good-at-what-they-do people) are necessary to keep a balance along the way - within a particular cause or generally within the world.  A world full of passionately obsessive people lacking some Renaissance-like skills would surely cause some sort of chaos.

That being said, I believe that most people, somewhere within them, have a degree of passion for something; perhaps not a passionate obsession - which in itself may not be healthy - but some underlying sense of urgency or spark toward an idea, activity, person, or event.  Maybe it is the area in which ones buttons are most easily pushed; the thing that you are most easily ruffled over.  Maybe it's the thing you can't seem to shake from the back of your mind.  Perhaps your passions are seasonal, changing over time or redefined based on experience or availability related to that passion.  If circumstances were different, just maybe the ember of passion resting among the ashes could be fanned into a full on fire producing flame.  Sometimes, we don't always know how to shape our passions into practical endeavors, however, which may make us doubt that there is any zeal or zest to begin with.  I imagine if I sat down with Steve and chatted with him for a while I would find that he has passion hidden under practicality or circumstance.  One guess, for example, is that his interest in many things is sparked by a passion (subdued perhaps) for an expanse of knowledge.  No one said a Renaissance man has to imply a lack of eager dedication or drive toward something.

The bottom line, in my mind, is that we were all created uniquely with purpose and value.  We all have our own gifts, talents, and interests.  It would be horribly boring and thoroughly ineffective if we were all created the same way.  Finding that thing or those things which make our hearts beat a little faster or our minds race a little longer is part of discovering how we were created and for what purpose.  Neither the obsessively passionate nor the 'jack of all trades' is unhealthy when working in step with divine plan for which one was created.  Either one can be a world changer...a mover and a shaker.  What is that spark within you?  Wherein does your passion lie?  Or, if you are more of a well rounded life liver, what drives those things that give you your "roundness"?   Whatever it is, it is not by chance, but by the thoughtful design of the One who made you.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Training the trainer

Yikes - it's been a long time!  One may notice...and I hope at least one does...that I haven't written for a while.  I started a few times to get my thoughts down, but have been unsuccessful at penning a complete post.  I've got a few "valid" excuses, primarily lack of time and computer troubles, but the truth is I have mostly chosen not to write.  Or, when I felt I might have a moment to write, the words just didn't seem to flow.
 It’s been a little over a month since school let out and my summer started.  While this would seem to imply that I have more time on my hands, the reality is I have been more intentional with the time I've had.  I feel, in many ways, like I have wasted fewer minutes in the last month or so than I did when my schedule was full with "work".  My goal has been to soak up the time with my kids and pour out into them, giving them structured fun and learning opportunities.


They have definitely had time for free fun without me hovering, but in those times, I seem to find myself working on projects or maintaining the home.  And, as of last week, we added a dog to the mix and have an out of town hubby.   Mind you, I have watched a few Netflix episodes of Monk along the way… while working on projects or sorting laundry (okay...stop laughing at my choice)...but rarely has a minute been "wasted".  And, while I do not view writing as wasted time at all, there just has not been enough time to spend at the keyboard or to spin thoughts as well as I would like.  Hence, my days away and my current attempt to write again...
In light of my new life at home full time with three kids and a dog, I have been thinking a lot about training.  Isn’t it true that, in many ways, training up a child or training a pet is less about training the child or the pet and more about training ourselves?  And, isn’t it true that picking your battles well can be half the battle? 
Since we have such a great yard and three kids that run around in it, I have a strong desire to train my dog, Smudge, to poop and pee in one particular area.  According to a number of well-intended pet owners and experts on line, this should be a relatively simple task.  Take pooch out to the same place each time he has to go.  Praise him like crazy when he does.  Be consistent and he will soon get the hang of it and eagerly go where he is supposed to go.  Huh.  I wish these experts would have a dog whispering session with my Smudge and let him know what his half of this plan is.  I cannot even begin to calculate the number of minutes – hours actually – that I have spent this past week in a particular spot behind our garage.  The mosquitos are surely laughing at the crazy lady with wonderful veins who stands there just waiting to be eaten repeating “go potty” over and over again to an oblivious dog.  For some reason, my dog – a sweet beagle spaniel mix – has a bladder of steel.  Honestly, he usually only goes twice a day.  (Yes, he has all day access to water)  One would think he would want to go first thing in the morning.  Nope – nothing, not even a trickle.  And pooping – ugh – last night I was out with him for a long time, brought him in, took my eyes off of him for one minute thinking he was with another family member, and found him starting to go in the boys’ bathroom.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  I ran him straight out to finish his business in my designated area and then praised him for “going potty OUTSIDE!”  Tonight I figured with three successes and a save within the last day and a half, I would have no problem getting him to go again in the “right” place.  Wrong.  It was not gonna happen.  So, after standing around in the same place for far too long, I broke my training plan and took Smudge for a walk/run around the block and visited with the neighbors for a few minutes.  Then, after watching Smudge pounce on a baby frog, I took him back to the spot for several minutes more.  Nothing.
It was at that moment I decided that I needed to surrender, or at least compromise, this battle for the moment.  I was driving myself crazy, feeding multiple mosquitos, feeling like I was wasting a load of time, and clearly not making headway with my puppy.  At that moment, I abandoned my post and decided to walk him around my yard for just a little more time.  Sure enough, back near the woods, he decided to do his thing.  “Good boy!!  Good potty outside!”  I was happy he got the job done within my yard, but silently mourning the lost battle.  I wonder if Smudge was silently celebrating his victory or if he was just relieved to have relieved himself in a place that fit his olfactory preferences best.  Tomorrow morning, I will need to decide how badly I want to get him to go where and when I want him to go...and whether it’s a battle I want to continue and work to train at this point. 
Consistency is so often the key to training.  When training up my kids, I am most successful when I am consistent with them.  Consistent boundaries, consistent rules, consistent expectations, and follow through.  Sometimes, in my fatigue or my busy-ness, I give up an opportunity for beneficial follow through.  On occasion, it’s not a big deal.  But sometimes, especially with particular personalities, my lack of a reliable response results in a step back in behavior or a manipulation on the part of my child.  My lack of carry-through can create the behavior I want to extinguish.  As well, when I want to be successful with fitness, I need to be consistent in my training.  My recent lack of consistency in fitness is annoyingly evident, but not enough so that I have forced myself over to the Y or onto the treadmill in my warm garage.  I will likely be bugged by the fact that I’m softer than I want to be, but have only myself to blame.  Consistency in exercise and a healthy diet, as “hard” as it may seem sometimes, is the only way to ensure that I am doing my part to shape my shape.  It is hard to be consistent sometimes, but the payoff is directly related to the time put in.
Time in prayer or in God’s word is the same way.  If I don’t…more aptly, when I don’t… consistently seek some time to spend with the One who wants to spend time with me the most, I lose headway in my “spiritual training.”  Just like it is easy to put off the gym or a guiding instruction to a child, it is far too easy for me to put off my time with God.  This avoidance or simple neglect leads to a greater gap in the relationship that I know I need to feed the most.  While I may long to be tight with God, if I don’t do my share of the work, by consistently thinking about and spending time with Him, it just won’t happen.  And, in reality, this battle is the most important one for me to choose to fight and fight well.

I wish I was more of a steady ship sometimes...that I could set my course and never waiver...that I never lacked the consistency and discipline required to be the perfect parent, the most fit 40 year old around, and the closest friend that Jesus could ever have.  And yet, I know that I likely will never be any of those things.  However,  I know that I am still growing and - if I allow myself to be - still being shaped by the One who knows me best and sees me even in my weakness.  As I've said before, He's not finished with me yet.  For that, I am consistently thankful!

Can you believe I am posting this picture?  This was last winter at my sister's cabin before some late night skiing, I think.
 I feel as if I could write more or at least edit what I’ve written to make it flow more.  But I am going to end here or this will be one more started and unfinished posts waiting to be completed.  I have been consistently going to bed too late this past week.  This is one consistent habit I need to change so that I am not too tired to soak in, pour out, and be consistent with my kids and my Smudge.  I hope to get back into the swing of things and write more often again.  We will see.  I have certainly missed it, but have been thankful for the things that have taken up the time gained by not writing.
As always, thanks for reading and feel free to share your thoughts or ideas.  It is always an encouragement.