Saturday, December 24, 2011

Festivus: Airing of Grievances

This was supposed to happen last night. I'm always a day late and a dollar short. (How's that for a disappointment?!)

Seriously, thanks to my friend Bill and his tribute to a semi-famed (at least in our circle of friends!) co-worker Juan, I've been thinking about finding the good in the bad.

The one 'bad' that most people ask me about?

"How can you stand the cold and dark up there?"

First of all, it's NOT always dark up here. Erase that stereotype from your minds! Honestly, the short days and cold temperatures don't bother me THAT much. On my weekends, I do get out for walks, the pink hues on the mountains at twilight are beautiful, and, as long as I bundle up properly, I don't get too cold.

Hopefully, that topic is killed. I get that question the most, and I want to break that stereotype forever.

As for my real grievances? And can I find good in the subjects of such grievances?

I'm constantly disappointed in the younger people in our society. Attitudes of entitlement, not taking their jobs seriously (especially those who are lucky enough to have employ), not working to their full potential, laziness, and apathy all make me want to scream.

I'm one of those archaic idealistic workaholics who believes in several causes. And for those causes, I will work very hard. More and more, I find myself alone in that effort. Yet I know there are people out there who believe as me: I have a friend (she's about 5 years older than me) who gave up her citizenship in her home nation across the ocean to live in America and support a cause over here in the U.S. And I admire her very much. But I don't see that kind of spirit very often. I try to hold on tight to people like that.

Another grievance? The judgemental hypocrites who tell me I'm wrong, or stupid, or missing the point somehow. I get judged very harshly, yet I know for a fact that I hold my tongue in some situations more than I ought. Some poeple may think they know my real opinions, but in fact, they don't. If they only knew what I was really thinking, they'd probably never speak to me again.

Thankfully, I do have some very good examples to follow here too. I have some very wise friends who have taught me a lot about patience, thoughtfulness and tolerance. Tolerance without lowering your own personal standards.


Ok, so this wasn't remotely about Christmas, but my friend Bill gave me some good things to think about this morning. Even if he didn't know he did so. :) Thanks Bill!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Comfort Food for the Soul

It's the time of year. We can't help but think to favorite dishes or treats, maybe the smells of a Christmas meal, served the same way every year. Personally, I can't wait to get that care package of my mom's cookies. I look forward to her meringue cookies - the ones that the Stegmanns affectionately call "Nighty Nights" (because they 'bake' in a warmed oven as it cools overnight). Mom makes a batch of these meringues every year with white chocolate chips and orange rinds. The crunch of the meringue mixing with the softness of the white chocolate, with just a hint of orange to brighten the experience. YUM. I don't even try to make my own version of them. I just wait for mom's little bag of those cookies.

I'm sure if you think about it for a few minutes, you'll come up with some tasty treat whose memory brings you comfort.

Sometimes it's good to have these comforts around you. The world can throw some horrible punches our way. If you're like me, you'll retreat into your little world where you're comforted and everything is as it should be.

Part of that safe world, as I mentioned in my last post, are the words, the quotes of others, that have reflected the thoughts and ideas I just couldn't seem to get out. They gave me a way to get out those thoughts I just had trouble expressing.

Tonight, I found myself falling back on the one quote that I've said to myself, over and over for maybe the past 20 years. Some people, who really know me, won't be surprised that this is THE excerpt from Harold Bell Wright's The Shepherd of the Hills, written more than a century ago:

Here and there among men, there are those who pause in the hurried rush to listen to the call of a life that is more real. How often have we seen them... jostled and ridiculed by their fellows, pushed aside and forgotten as incompetent or unworthy. He who sees and hears too much is cursed for a dreamer, a fanatic, or a fool, by the mad mob, who, having eyes, see not, ears yet hear not, and refuse to understand.

We build temples and churches, but will not worship in them; we hire spiritual advisers, but refuse to heed them; we buy bibles, but will not read them; believing in God, we do not fear Him; acknowledging Christ, we neither follow nor obey Him. Only when we can no longer strive in the battle for earthly honors or material wealth, do we turn to the unseen but more enduring things of life; and, with ears deafened by the din of selfish war and cruel violence, and eyes blinded by the glare of passing pomp and folly, we strive to hear and see the things we have so long refused to consider.

This set of truths does two things for me:

1) It encourages me that I'm not alone in my perceived fight against the 'mad mob'. Sometimes, I just feel like I'm the only one who sees things as I see them. And often, I don't like what I see around me. I see problems that need fixing, yet I feel helpless - for one reason or another - to do anything, and I feel like all I can do is bide my time until I think I can do something. I really struggle to find the opportunity in the conundrum.

2) It takes me back to a place where I felt a cozy comfort that only the hand-made world can offer. It was a place where masters displayed their works with pride and often took time to pass on a skill or idea to those willing to watch, listen and learn.

As much as possible, I still try to surround and comfort myself with those things that are made slowly and deliberately. Made in a place where time, thought, skill, care and quality count. When people pause in that hurried rush, they might just find something more real.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Deep Ramblings... Quotes to Ponder

More than 10 years ago, I used to write a weekly thought column. It was in a little weekly announcements bulletin for a student group on my college campus. You see, I've always been struck by the words - or lack thereof - of other people. So I took a quote I'd heard or thought a lot about that week and printed it up with a few of my own thoughts.

I guess it was a way for me to work through and express some of my reflections and ideas in a seemingly chaotic world that wouldn't listen. One old saying goes, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." Somehow, I never seemed to squeak enough. But when I wrote things down, those thoughts somehow got out.

I still have the quote collection - and it is growing. But it's been a long time since I wrote this sort of 'column' regularly. I can't even seem to get a blog out regularly. Most of my thoughts get put into Microsoft Word documents, never to see the light of day.

It's so much easier for me to just put my nose to the proverbial grindstone and crank out project, program, or task at work than to stop and make my voice really heard.

Like every work place in the so-called 'grown-up world', I work in a VERY political environment, as many of you know. Plus, especially in this economic downturn, jobs are scarce and we must be very competitive - even for the most basic entry-level job.

So it's better to BE ineffective than to SEEM ineffective?
-President Mackenzie Allen, Commander In Chief

Although the show Commander In Chief lasted only one season, I've found some lines that grabbed me. I often wonder how effective or efficient I really am. That quote really seems applicable to my week right now. Many people at work seem to bring projects to me, so I guess I'm doing something right. And I try to prioritize work-related tasks/projects based on the greatest good for the greatest number. I want to streamline daily responsibilities without sacrificing the quality of my work. I want to make my work place run better. But it seems I always get hit in the face with the roadblocks of bureaucracy, seniority and politics.

I'm trying to grow up and face these challenges head-on. I know many folks are very frustrated right now by our elected officials and government bureaucracy. No matter what your political beliefs may be, frustration exists on all sides, especially on the INside. But the parks, in my opinion, are worth fighting for. Our national history and treasures are an amazing collection from which we all can and should learn. Believe me when I say that I've had too many happy memories in our parks to not give 100% to my job and career, no matter the daily roadblocks. I'm striving to protect our national treasures and connect everyone within reach to these amazing places and artifacts.