Six Weeks of Everything

My mom often jokingly tells people I’ve taken “six weeks of everything.” For years I’ve wondered if that was a bad or good thing, like maybe it indicates I can never really work long enough to get good at anything. I’m pretty sure my mom never meant it that way. She likely just thinks it is a funny quirk of my personality that I have an insatiable desire to try things I find intriguing—not necessarily learn them to the point of mastery.

Just a few of the things I can or could get by doing:

  • Sign language
  • Writing children’s books
  • Twirling a baton
  • Speaking German
  • Swing/Salsa/Ballroom dancing
  • Taekwondo
  • Speaking Greek
  • Administering first aid to dogs/cats
  • Archery
  • Juggling
  • Film editing
  • Playing guitar
  • Doing CPR
  • Speaking Spanish
  • Sewing
  • Rock climbing
  • Directing live TV
  • Trapping and stuffing small mammals
  • Playing piano

….and I won’t even bother listing the long list of sports I’ve played or software programs I’ve learned. You get the picture.

Tonight I finished yet another six weeks of something. I can now write code in Ruby, a programming language. Before class, I watched a graduation of students from the coding academy who have spent the last seven grueling months building a marketable skill set. It was inspiring.

I, on the other hand, drove home quietly to no fanfare and without a marketable skill set…just six more weeks of something else behind my yellow Taekwondo belt.

But I’m thrilled.

I love tasting the world and broadening my lens. In fact, I’ve already signed up for my next six weeks…. JavaScript here I come! Then possibly oil painting or scuba diving….hmmmm….there are just so many things to try. I’ve decided that my life anthem must be “Try Everything” by Shikira from the movie Zootopia. It just fits. And it makes me happy when I hear it. It celebrates the trying, not the failing. It celebrates life the way I love to live it.

Seeing Thestrals

candle

Seeing something there that wasn’t there before.

As I’ve watched my friends grieve the death of those closest to them over the last several years, and more recently just this week, the idea of seeing Thestrals (Harry Potter-inspired magical creatures) suddenly became a lot more “real” to me.  According to the “wizarding world,” Thestrals (scary-looking flying horses) can only be seen by those who have been touched by death.

So is that a good thing or a bad thing? An honor, a blessing, a badge, or a curse?

Definition of a Thestral, according to J.K. Rowling: Manifesting as black, skeletal, bat-winged horses, but invisible to all who have never been truly touched by death, Thestrals have a somewhat macabre reputation. In centuries past the sight of them was regarded as unlucky; they have been hunted and ill-treated for many years, their true nature (which is kindly and gentle) being widely misunderstood. Thestrals are not marks of ill omen, nor (their spooky appearance notwithstanding) are they in any way threatening to humans, always allowing for the fright that the first sight of them tends to give the observer.

Today, a friend of mine preached a sermon on love where he told about the seasons of loss in his life (past, immediate, and future). Those losses were, are, and will be painful, yes, but they can also be an opportunity…an opportunity to give, recognize, and receive love in a deeper way than ever before. The more pain we experience, just maybe, translates to the more love we have the opportunity to experience as well. Strangely true.

Isn’t that just like a Thestral? The fear we have of pain and loss tends to give the pain a bad reputation–a reputation that it has nothing to offer but something evil or scary. Yet something kind and gentle is hidden beneath that scary exterior. And it isn’t until we experience great pain or loss that we are able to see something we’ve never seen before. When we open our eyes and hearts to it, we just might get the opportunity to deeply understand some of the greatest love of all and, in turn, be that kind of love to the world.

Oven-Killing Flaming Meatloaf and Sabbath Mode

oven

This is bad…but not as bad as the meatloaf.

A flaming meatloaf blew up my oven. At least that’s how I like to tell the story. However, the truth is the meatloaf was an innocent bystander and the oven decided to self-destruct all on its own.  Flames grew from the element and when the fire department arrived the oven temperature topped at 1000 degrees.

The electric range/oven now sits alone and sad in my garage and a gaping hole still remains, almost a month later, in my kitchen. Researching ovens has taken a backseat to work travel, work projects, volunteer commitments, and family. But today is the day! I am tired of cooking eggs on my barbecue grill and eating cold pizza.

While researching ovens, I discovered an amazing thing –they come with a Sabbath mode. I never knew appliances had Sabbath modes! I kind of thought that’s the mode I have been in since the fire—a break from my oven and range —Sabbath mode.

Turns out Sabbath mode is a feature in many modern home appliances, which is intended to allow the equipment to be used (subject to various constraints) by Shabbat-observant Jews on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays.

So how does Sabbath mode work?

Orthodox Jews believe you shouldn’t work on the Sabbath. That includes cooking raw meat by turning on an oven. You can, however, warm up something that is already cooked. In the olden days, starting a fire and doing all the prep for cooking was a lot of work.  So, on the Sabbath, the fire was just kept burning so warming of food could occur without “working” to make a new fire. So, in Sabbath mode on modern ovens, the automatic 12-hour safety shutoff is disabled…thereby keeping the “fire” hot so you don’t have to physically turn the oven on once the Sabbath starts..

So technically (according to Jewish law), I haven’t been working (with my oven) for 25 days. That’s a long Sabbath. Funny thing is…I don’t feel rested. For me modern appliances take away work, not create work. My mom always told me when housework and the world seems overwhelming, start by getting all the machines working for you. It is how I start most weekends. Get something cooking, turn on the washing machine, run the dishwasher and…voila! Within minutes I feel like Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice with an army of brooms.

I am happy to report the electric range and oven arrives on Monday. I have a new appreciation for this appliance. For me, I’ll now consider EVERY mode it has a Sabbath mode.

Stopping Time…or Not

earth

How on Earth can I get more time?

Today I woke up and wished time would stop. I need more time. Time for important things…like family and friends and healing and hiking and cycling and skiing and fixing things at home and petting puppies. Help! Can’t time just stop for a minute!

That led my mind immediately to the Earth’s rotation. What if the Earth stopped rotating and I, in turn, was gifted with a very, very long day. Wiping the sleep from my eyes I acknowledged this would change how we measure time, but it wouldn’t actually stop time. Darn. Plus I soon realized that if the Earth stopped rotating, I’d be dead. Like really dead. Like immediately dead. Like really immediately dead. Let me explain.

If the Earth suddenly stopped rotating and the day froze in place, everything that was not part of the Earth’s core would go flying off the Earth–trees, dogs, cats, buildings…oh and people. Whoosh! Like when your bicycle hits a curb and the force of the abrupt stop sends you over the handlebars. And that’s not all. Once we were all whisked into the atmosphere, we couldn’t even enjoy the fact that all the water would go toward the poles–two Arctic Oceans and one big swatch of land now ringing the equator like a belt. And just like that we kiss the concept of sea level goodbye.

As I turned off the alarm going off in my ear, I had another foggy thought. What if we just reversed the rotation of the Earth (magically, of course, to avoid the flinging of all things from the surface)? What would happen then? For starters, I guess the sun would set in the East and rise in the West. My back porch would be too hot in the summer. Bummer. And the climate would change. Florida might be more like California and vice versa. And all the storms would reverse direction.  Plus, it wouldn’t really make time go backward. And 99.9% of physicists agree, you can’t unscramble an egg once it is broken. There’s no going back. Darn. Foiled again.

I drug my tired, sore body out of bed and began to plan again how to use what time I have. Time I think I have, that is. We really don’t know the end of our timelines, do we? Time is  something I needed to ponder another day…too complicated. Feels like an infographic I need to create. Maybe tomorrow…if there’s time.

On Cavities and Puppies

teddy

Fluffy filling or cuddly painkiller? Serves both purposes sometimes.

Today my mouth was tainted with the cruel sting of artificial sealant. The dentist filled two cavities—my first two cavities—ever.

noun: cavity; plural noun: cavities

  1. an empty space within a solid object, in particular the human body.

Forty-eight and a half years. A good streak, but it’s over. I’m crushed.

No Novocain for me. I had to feel it physically just as I was feeling it mentally. I don’t have many claims to fame. In fact, now I have none. Having teeth without cavities was as close to amazing as I’ve ever come.

I sat in the chair and heard the shrill of the drill over my head. My eyes darted around the room. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Puppy photo on the front wall. Zzzzzzzzeeeeeeeee. Puppy business card holder on the desk. Zzzzzzzzzrrrrrrrrr. Puppy painting at my right. My feet jumped off the chair as the drill hit a nerve.

Once the torture ceased and the less painful work continued, I relaxed and closed my eyes and thought about puppies. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could have a puppy on your lap during a dentist appointment? You could pet the puppy and it could lick your wounded soul (and maybe even bite the dentist).

Now I’m all set. Good to go. The sealant should fill the empty spaces, but like with most artificial sealants, it never really makes it whole again. I’m different. I’m holey.

I suppose there are other empty spaces inside my human body–now there’s just two more. Maybe the world doesn’t see them—when I fill them with other things, like amalgam and puppies. But they are there. We all have them— cavities. What are you filling yours with?

trishandpuppy

I try to fill my “cavities” with puppies whenever I get a chance.

 

Project Managing Myself

sock

Sometimes big changes start small. This sock drawer will look different tomorrow.

I manage projects every day—my family’s projects, my volunteer projects, and most of the time, work projects. I am a project manager—it’s what I do.

My Keys to Successful Project Management

  1. Prepare well. Understand the needs of the clients and what problem you are solving. Then prepare the requirements and strategy up front so your team can begin well and join you in the quest to solve the problem.
  2. Set deadlines and keep them. Even if your clients don’t give you specific deadlines, make them. And hold people to them. When you relax deadlines, you end up with wasted time, wasted money, and frivolous features on products that don’t need them.
  3. Be nice, but be honest. Deliver praise and feedback to your team with care, but don’t hold back on the truth. Quality and awesome customer service are the measures. Nothing else is acceptable.
  4. Give away the praise. Managing a project is important, but it takes a team to make something great. The skills and talents of your team need to be encouraged and applauded.

What I’ve come to realize this week is that I manage everything and everyone, but myself. And I need to. I need to be one of my projects and give myself the same level of detail, perfectionism, and care I give to every other project in my life. If I can’t do that, I won’t ever be able to achieve my personal goals. Instead I’ll continue to suck what life I can vicariously through the projects I manage for others.

So, I’m going to swipe a chapter from my own rule book and begin by preparing. I have some really big changes in mind and I’ve got some significant preparing to do. It all starts with cleaning out my refrigerator and sock drawer. No, my plans are not to become the Barefoot Contessa…but if those who know me don’t see a pretty big change by June 30, I will not have managed the Trish project well.

Why Should You Care About 2017?

future

What’s out there, 2017? Why should I care?

Happy New Year! 2017. I have no idea why one day makes such a big difference to me, but it does. Yesterday is a closed door–a year I can forget about. There might have been some good or interesting things that happened last year, but I can’t really recall them right now. And why would I want to? I’ve got 365 brand new days staring me in the face. What will I do with them? So exciting!

Just as December makes me crazy, January makes me hopeful. January is a cold, dark month where you can dig your heals in and work really hard. Not hibernate. Work hard. Build something. Do something new. Move in a new direction or in a new way.

I have a “fortune” from a cookie taped to my computer monitor at work. It has been there for about seven years. It says, “It is better to try something great and fail, then to do nothing and succeed.” That’s what January 1 is all about. Heck, that’s what life is about. A new year just helps bring this philosophy into focus.

I love hearing people’s ideas about New Year’s resolutions. I’ve had people tell me resolutions are dumb because it just sets you up for failure. To that I say, see the fortune on my computer monitor above. Others like to make broad sweeping resolutions, like “I’m going to work on being healthier.”  Still others make very specific lists. I’ve done both. And both work as long as the “why” is important enough to you.

So, what are you going to do this year? What are you going to do today? What are you going to change or build? Where are you going to go? And most importantly, WHY?

I have a challenge for you. When you write your resolutions for the New Year, write them in the form of  the “why,” not just the action you are going to take.

Examples of WHY Resolutions

I want to feel better and have more energy to share with my family, so I will eat healthier and lose 20 pounds.

I want to be able to have intellectual conversations with people about world events so we can really process and understand the world better together, so I will read three different sources of news every morning.

I want my free time to be spent doing good for the community and not wasted idly, so I will volunteer my Saturdays at the Rescue Mission.

The problem with not keeping resolutions is not because we fail in the doing, it is because we fail in our hearts. We fail in the “why.” You say you want it. But do you? Do you really? If you do, let that “why” stare you in the face. Let it motivate you and push you.  I think the specifics of resolutions can change over the course of the year. For example you may find another way to accomplish your “why”—a better way.  But the “why” never changes.

So today, as you think along with me about your next 365 days, try not to think as much about how you are going to do things, but think about why you are going to do them. Then join me and let’s go get 2017!

Stuffed Animals: What’s in a Name?

animals

Which one of these guys would you put back on the shelf? Tusky, Snugs, Buster, or Ralph?

When I was in primary school (in the mid-seventies) I had an orange bulletin board in my bedroom. The board matched my yellow and orange shag carpet and orange bedspread.  I used my bulletin board to express my deepest dreams and interests. That meant I combed through my mom’s Better Homes and Gardens and Good Housekeeping magazines for Puppy Chow ads.  I would carefully cut out the puppy pictures and add to the collage of my heart’s desire — being surrounded by cute, fluffy pups.  When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I proudly told them — a professional puppy petter.

I even hung up pictures of my dog, Patches, on my door and made every member of my family sit through Buddy Holly singing Everyday while looking at a specific picture, which I indicated with my dad’s extendable silver pocket pointer. The pictures told a story in concert with the song. This was before PowerPoint or camcorders (oh, if only I had a iPhone back then). My family endured these musical picture shows, but to me it was so much more.  I could see the feeling in my dog’s eyes and I matched the feeling to the lyrics.

My obsession with animals continued. Like a lot of kids, I collected stuffed animals. I named them all. The name gave them life and personality. The name came from looking into their eyes and into their fluffy little souls. They were my friends. We had adventures and they were part of my Animal Kingdom. My dad built shelves around the top of my room to house them all. By the time I hit high school my collection had reached about 120. Each had a special name cataloged on my roster and sometimes even placed in taxonomic order. And at night, when tucking me in, before my dad was allowed to do his bedtime routine  (quiz me on state or world capitals) I required him to walk around my room and call each animal by name.

Names give life. Knowing a name is powerful. It was true for my stuffed animals and, as I grew, I discovered it is the same for people. When you know someone’s name, a person becomes so much more than “that guy on the street corner” or “my boss” or “that cleaning lady” or “some tax accountant” or “that kid who sits behind me in church.”  The name gives life and personality and when looking into a person’s eyes you can see into his or her fluffy little soul. We all have them, you know, fluffy little souls. And we can share them by first sharing our names with one another.

Yesterday I went shopping for a big fluffy soul to offer comfort to a friend of mine recovering from surgery. I’m not sure if she wants a big fluffy animal, but it was the first thing that came to mind when I saw her recovering in bed.

At the store I looked into the animals’ eyes. I couldn’t decide. I ended up with four fluffy friends riding in my cart as I continued shopping (pictured above). Just like people they all possessed something special and each of their eyes told a different story.

If my parents are reading this right now, they are not shocked. And neither will they be shocked hearing three of the four were purchased. My shopping companion consoled me as we placed the bear back on its shelf in a prominent place and made up a story of a parent who will come along and be overjoyed to finally find the perfect toy for her toddler. Ralph went home with my friend and Tusky and Buster came home with me.

Oh, and if you are wondering, I did not become a professional puppy petter. I consider myself a hobbyist puppy petter and I only own one dog, Ratchet. Luckily, I didn’t need to become a professional to learn the value of a name.

Render Unto Caesar

hail

Aloha, Caesar!

When my son was in fifth grade, he asked to be excused from class to use the restroom. He grabbed the hall pass, a Hawaiian lei, and happily scampered off to avoid the impending math lesson. The class sat quietly and turned toward the front of the room as the teacher demonstrated a problem on a Smart Board. When returning from his escape, he stood regally at the back of the class, the Hawaiian lei doubled carefully around his head. With his hand outstretched, he broke the silence.

“Hail, Caesar!”

The stunned class didn’t understand his dramatics. The girls chastised him and several of the kids mumbled, “Who’s Caesar?” The teacher swallowed her giggle before administering a swift punishment.

Sitting here on election night, I find myself in shock at how close the race for the White House is turning out to be. I guess I’ve blocked out all commentary on the subject over the past month (except the loud conversations I hear over cubicle walls at work) due to my disappointment in both presidential candidates. When I turned on the television tonight and saw all the red and blue states on the map, the first thing that popped into my mind was my son shouting, “Hail, Caesar!”

There is no doubt at least fifty percent, and in reality a whole lot more, of the country will be disappointed by the outcome of this election. So, to all of you disappointed people I will remind you of another Caesar story, as accounted in not one, but three, books of the Bible (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). And whether you are Christian or not, this story says something significant about government and what’s ultimately important.

Then the Pharisees (Jewish dudes who were really good at following all the rules) went out and laid plans to trap him in his words.  They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.  Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Much of my work is funded by the government. I have payed and will continue to pay my taxes under Democrats and Republicans. Who knows? I may not even have a job under the next administration. But no matter. I’ll get by and pay taxes and slog along rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, whether I agree with how it is spent or not. So, if you must move to Canada, go ahead. But, remember, what really matters is the only thing you can control…that which God has given to you and that which you give to God…your life and the daily little choices you have control over.

I think I’ll come to work tomorrow with a Hawaiian lei wrapped around my head. Sigh.

Hail, Caesar, indeed!

Tell Your Heart to Beat Again

Say goodbye to where you’ve been. And tell your heart to beat again.

Tears were rolling down my face this afternoon as I pulled out of the office. I had to park the car on the side of the road and soak in the words of the song (above) that “just happened” to be on the radio. It was more than a song—really a prayer for my friends and loved ones who are suffering this week.

October has been a month where my heart has nearly flung out of my chest more than once watching not one, but many of my friends and family go through life-altering events.  And really most of the hardest stuff has fallen this week. This song just weaved its way into every moment.

My friends from work have a baby daughter who has been suffering from a terminal illness. I found out today she took her last breath. You’re shattered. Like you’ve never been before. The life you knew. In a thousand pieces on the floor.

I helped move my Grandma’s furniture and belongings into a new memory care facility. Yesterday’s a closing door. You don’t live there anymore. Say goodbye to where you’ve been. Tell your heart to beat again.

My mom arrived home from the hospital, settling in for a long recovery with a new knee. And words fall short in time like these. When this world drives you to your knees. You think you’re never gonna get back to the you that used to be.

I stayed with a friend during elective surgery this week, as she recovered. Beginning.
Just let that word wash over you. It’s alright now. Love’s healing hands have pulled you through.

A friend and neighbor from work had a brain tumor removed on Tuesday. So get back up, take step one. Leave the darkness, feel the sun. ‘Cause your story’s far from over. And your journey’s just begun.

This song says it all. I love songs that do that.Feelings aren’t my favorite thing. Ouch. I try to avoid them where possible.  But I’m feeling them all today. I wish I could take the pain for you, my friends. My heart’s beating…beating hard for you all.