Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Big Picture Thinking

My job, of late, seems to be filled with lots and lots of details... lots and lots of details... and while I'm very good at detail work, I despise it. It's probably the main reason I hate grading so much. Yet to be good at grading, you have to look at the details and how it fits in the big picture... which is often why my assignments take so long to grade. I don't like doing anything that is pointless, and I don't like asking my students to do pointless work, either. They deserve feedback, and so do I - that's how we grow.

Now, big picture thinking - I love that. I love thinking about how the big picture ought to be, and given my preference would let someone else hammer out the details. Yet, truth be told, you can't think big picture if you don't also think about the details, because each one impacts the whole.

Much like this picture above - it's made of a lot of other little pictures. Independently, they are complete, but together, they provide a view of something completely different. 

I've been fascinated by my collective friends on social media the past few weeks. The presidential election concluded yesterday, and I have a number of friends cheering loudly their candidate won, and a number of friends acting as if it is the end of the world. 

Yet - if one looks at the big picture, one can see that the world is ever changing, with lots of different stories, needs, wants, and desires coming into play. In USA political terms - there are Republican ideals that help or hurt people and there are Democrat ideals that help or hurt people - no matter who "wins," someone "loses." As I see friends of mine exhorting loudly, "am I wrong?" or with equal measure friends trumpeting, "See! I'm right!" I want to answer, "no, you're not - and yes, you are," because, truth is - the answer is not black or white. It falls somewhere on a spectrum, looking more gray than it seems most want to admit.

I think as I get older, I recognize more that the spectrum of opposites is what life is really about. One can't have joy without despair, winning without losing, power without struggle, life without death - yet very rarely is anything clear cut one or the other... it falls on a scale. Even death in its seeming finality is not a complete death because of the pieces of those who came before us making us who we are. Simply put, life and all of its processes - including an election process - is just a big picture with many details that make it interesting. Change one, even by just a fraction, and you change the picture. Hopefully, we adjust to the new picture. 

For me, to live a truly ethical life, I have to weigh many facts and act with decisions based on what seems to be the greater good, knowing that in some way my decision has both helped and hurt because I'm sure I've missed some details. That's what I did when I cast my vote yesterday. What's most important in all of this is that I act, and reflect on that action so I learn something along the way and can start attending to additional details that I uncovered because of the learning process. 

My opinion: we all won yesterday. We also all lost. That's something you only recognize if you look at the details you can see clearly in the big picture, and also start looking at details that may or may not become more clear over time - like those details that pertain to someone else's lived existence that don't match your experience or knowledge base. Any way you slice it, change, and the continual struggle of existence filled with lots of details that causes us not to always see eye to eye remains. For all of this, I am somewhere on the spectrum between thankful and sad. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Things My Youngest Has Taught Me

  • Grazing all day is better for you.
  • A child's laughter is the sweetest sound on earth.
  • Music shapes our lives more than many realize.
  • There is such a thing as love at first sight. Again.
  • Hold on to your childhood as long as possible. Or revisit it, if you can't.
  • Kids really are adaptable - but sometimes it takes longer than you want. 
  • Messy rooms are genetic. 
  • Perms really were a bad idea [haven't had one since before I was pregnant with her].
  • Hair color is fixable. 
  • Forgiveness is easy when you love someone.
  • Love really isn't finite.
Happy 12th birthday to my baby... who really isn't a baby any more!

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Toughest Job...

No, I haven't written in awhile. No, I'm not going to apologize. Yes, I've been overwhelmed in my new space. Will I write more on that later? Maybe.

I need to process a moment. And if anyone who reads this can offer any words of comfort or wisdom, I'd greatly appreciate it. In the meantime, I'm going to just write.

There used to be an ad about the army - something like "The toughest job you'll ever love." I think they were wrong. Raising children is the toughest job you'll ever love. Although right now, I'm not sure I love it.

Why? It's simple. My children. Are killing me. Emotionally, right now, more than anything. How much of it is because they are teen/tweenagers? How much is because of the move? How much is because of the estrogen running amuck in our house? How much is because I am not strict enough? Too strict? How much of it is because I'm in a relationship and they feel threatened by it? What, if anything, am I missing?

I wonder if I just need to accept that we aren't going to see eye to eye on anything for the next 10 years or so.

I know I've given few details about the ins and outs, but I'm tired, need sleep, and am in many ways treating this as a prayer. I need the peace that passeth all understanding on this one, because clearly I'm not going to understand, and I'm going to be wrong - at least in their eyes - for awhile.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Steve Jobs' death has somewhat hit me, and this quote from his commencement speech has hit home:
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. source

Monday, September 5, 2011

Settlng, Part II

I love my new house. Isn't it charming? As odd as this may sound, I think the previous owner wanted us to have this house. 

Just to clarify things - this house is the third house I made an offer on. The second, which I wrote about here I lost to another buyer. I looked at this house prior to making the second offer, and really liked it, but just wasn't sure about it, partly because it needed a good bit of updating. I came back to it a second time when both of my girls were able to join me on a house hunting venture. I forget how many houses we looked at that day... probably about 12... but when we walked into this house both of their countenances changed. They grew excited. They said it felt like home. That was the first time I had gotten that response, and it caused me to really look at the house. The second house the girls liked, but Lizzie said it felt like it belonged to someone else. 

This house was part of an estate sale. It has had one owner prior to me, and she passed away last fall. She was a single mom, and bought this house in the mid 70s. Both of her children were nearing adulthood at that time, if not already there. At the closing, it dawned on me that her children's names are "Carol" and "Lee," both of which are my names, although I dropped Carol legally years ago. In talking with others, I've learned that the owner was a character, well loved, a former real estate agent, loved her yard [I have so much to learn], fed the wildlife... I like everything I know about her. Her energy is still very much present here.

So as I started the process of moving in, I started talking to her. Told her how much I loved her house, and to forgive me, but there were some things I needed to change. I hope she liked what I planned to do.

Right after we closed on the house, the work started. And then her daughter wanted to come by. My heart caught in my chest, because this was in the driveway:
This was a stone facade in the house just the day prior. I warned her, which is a good thing, and when she came over I told her what I planned to do. Her response was what I needed to hear [I also got the response from the original owner's best friend, who came by a little later]: "Mom would want you to do this - there were so many things she wanted to do to the house but just couldn't. I'm so glad to see you making the house yours."

A month later, I can say that the work has all been worth it. I'm not quite ready for before/after pictures, because we're definitely still unpacking, but with each day I grow happier with my space.

It has so many things about it which I have craved:

LOOK at that beautiful back yard! We've sat outside a number of nights, eating dinner... or I've had a friend over and we were able to have a glass of wine... It's amazing!

Wait, there's more:

The trees! Three huge oak trees that provide shade to the entire lot! The back yard is always shady - which is why I CAN sit outside at night as the day comes to a close and just enjoy.

I love where I live, and the convenience to so many things. I love that my children can see and articulate the difference between what school was like for them and what it's like now. I love that their father came to a school Open House, and that he has been to a football game. I really love that he can pick up the kids at my house when he gets off work on Fridays, because it is not really out of the way - unlike our two hour commute of the past six years. And I love the feeling I get when I come around the curve leading up to the house and see my house sitting on the hill, just waiting for us. And how welcome I feel when I walk into my kitchen from the garage.

I definitely think the previous owner is happy. The new owner is happy, too. 

Settling can have such negative connotations - "Don't settle," I've been told. In this case, though. I think settling is exactly right. I have been unsettled all summer, living out of my trunk the last part of it. I embraced the feeling, because I knew it was temporary. It was where I was, and where I needed to be.

But now... It's good to be home. 

Now, back to unpacking some more boxes. I'm ready to be settled.

Settling, Part I

The past seven weeks have been a blur. I went from massive limbo to overdrive as things started to happen. The quick and dirty:

  • Bought a house
  • Sold my other house three days later
  • Began a home renovation project which took 3x longer than I anticipated. 
  • Shuttled a child to band camp - even though we weren't in the house yet.
  • Started a new job - even though we weren't in the house yet.
  • Kids started school - even though we weren't in the house yet.
  • House got "done enough" to move in.
  • PODS arrived 12 weeks and 2 days after I shipped them off
  • PODS were unloaded into the house
  • Birthday party for my oldest back where we used to live.
  • Boxes remain everywhere... but my kitchen is finally unpacked, and I cooked for the first time since May yesterday.
I could go on. Point is, there has been no time to think very hard about what is going on, nor really much time to unpack and get settled into the house because life started happening anyway. 

Yet through this crazy time, I have had such peace. No, things did not go the way I wanted them to. Yes, it has been manic trying to juggle all of these things. Yes, lots of decisions, like where to sleep each night, had to be made in order to facilitate the process, but none of them marked the end of the world... they were just inconveniences. And I've learned a few things, too:
  • I have the patience of Job. I have often said it is folly to pray for patience, because it will surely get tested. I learned that I don't have to pray for it - I already have it.
  • Control is overrated. We really don't have it anyway, so letting go of the process and letting it happen organically is a beautiful thing. So what that I had to reschedule PODS five times... it didn't matter. Things worked out because I was flexible in my thinking and attitude. Great life lesson, there.
I can honestly look at this entire process and see God's hand in each part. 

I am where I am supposed to be. 

I feel my heart settling. The vagabond in me is at peace, and my heart is home.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Letting Go

I have had such peace. Things have not happened in my time - definitely God's time... but I will say - now that I'm "this close" to closing on my house and things aren't moving quite the way I want them to, it's very hard to maintain my "Let Go and Let God" stance that I know is a lot of what I've needed to learn through this process.

Closing is supposed to be Wednesday. The file is still not approved. Just got off the phone with the mortgage officer.

We'll see. Letting go again.