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Leave the eyelash girl alone!

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Dear friends,

Here’s what I’m pondering today:  I recently saw a post on social media where the writer was asking for advice on how to handle a situation at work.  The receptionist in her office (who is a coworker, not a subordinate), tends to wear heavy false eyelashes that look very “fake,” and in the eyes of the writer, are most unflattering.  The writer was asking, how do I tell her that she looks bad, without hurting her feelings too much?

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My advice was:  Don’t say anything.  It’s not your place to correct this woman.  She’s not hurting anyone.  The lashes make her feel pretty.  The end.

This situation has stayed with me.  We sometimes think we are correcting someone “for their own good” – but is it really “good?”  If someone feels confident wearing something, if it makes them feel important and beautiful, who am I to tell them they’re wrong?  I might not choose the bohemian shawls and beads a friend wears, or the odd eyeglasses a coworker has chosen, but those are their choices, so who am I to criticize?

I think we need to extend this to people who like to put their Christmas decorations up early, or fill their homes with knick-knacks, or wear nothing but green … who are they hurting?  If it makes them happy, that’s enough.  Put up your Santas in July, be your bad self.  Fill your world with joy, in whatever form it takes for you.

And leave the eyelash girl alone.

Blessings,

Annette

 

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Anachronistic feminism

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Dear friends,

Welcome back to school / work / life after Labor Day.  Time to buckle down again!  I have lots of ideas (listed on my phone) that I want to blog about in the coming weeks.  Here’s what I’m thinking about at the moment.

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We’re quick to judge historical figures by today’s cultural standards.  Many of us struggle with the “founding fathers'” attitudes toward slavery, the role of women, and other aspects of social life – but we must remember, they were men of their time.  Similarly, we like to think of literary figures such as Lizzie Bennet or Jo March as early “feminists.”  While these characters pushed against the societal constraints imposed on women, they were still limited to operating within the social mores of the time.  We see early glimpses of feminism, but not feminism as we understand it today.

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It’s important to consider this idea of “person of their time” when reflecting on the behaviors and accomplishments of those who came before us, especially when they’re family members.  Let’s be especially careful not to blame our mothers and grandmothers for not “breaking out” of traditional roles, when they were living under social constraints that are hard for us to understand today.

If you’ve watched “Mad Men,” that was the era when I grew up.  Single women couldn’t apply for credit cards, and married women couldn’t apply without their husband’s permission.  Career choices were limited to roles like nurse, secretary, teacher – and you were expected to give up your job when you married.  A married man was shamed if his wife “had to” work.  It wasn’t that long ago.

We’ve made great strides, and there’s more work to do.  Let’s honor the challenges faced by those who came before us.  We stand on their shoulders when we enjoy our rights and privileges today.

Blessings,

Annette

Life update 8/26/19

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Hello everyone,

Classes start Wednesday.  It’s Monday.  I have a boatload of stuff to accomplish in the next 48 hours – praying for calm and clarity.

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{{Brown-eyed Susans, the WMU flower (brown & gold) are blooming all over campus.}}

I’m working from home today, getting syllabi and lessons ready, organizing thoughts and papers and files.  I’m working around a snoozing kitty in my lap.  I’m working around laundry and housework.  I’m listening to an audiobook.
I’m thinking about my students, all the new people I’ll meet in a few days, and wondering what they’re doing.  I hope they’re excited for more than just the social aspects of college.  I imagine they think all their professors have been enjoying a “summer off,” rather than working hard to make their learning experience a good one.
I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything (even the anxiety).  This is where I belong, and the classroom is my sacred space.
Cheers –
Annette

Book recommendation: Year of Yes

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Dear friends,

I read this book some time ago, and just revisited it on audiobook:

Before we get to the book, I wanted to discuss how I listened to it – not on Audible, but on the Libby app.  If you have a public library card, you can download the Libby app to your phone or tablet, connect your library card, and borrow Kindle or audio versions of books for free.  I kept hearing about this app and it’s amazing – you should try it.  You can also reserve books if no copies are available, and get a notification when they are added to your electronic shelf.

About the book:  You may be familiar with Shonda Rhimes as the creator, writer, and showrunner of Gray’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder.  At one time all three of these shows were on television simultaneously (Thursday night was “Shondaland,” with the shows airing one after another).  How does one human being keep up that pace?

She describes it as laying track in front of an oncoming train, and I really like that metaphor.

It’s not about saying “yes” to every request that comes along, but rather, saying “yes” to the right things – the things that will contribute to your health and well-being.  This means saying “yes” to things that are hard.  It may mean saying “yes” to a breakup.  It may mean saying “yes” to working on your physical health, rather than saying “yes” to a pint of ice cream every night.  It’s not about saying “no,” necessarily, but rather about making positive choices.

Sometimes we say “yes” to a social event when we really don’t want to go, but it’s ok if in doing so, we’re saying “yes” to our careers or some other higher goal.  It’s not ok if we’re saying “yes” in order to please someone else.  It’s all about discernment and being clear about what we prioritize.

Going into a new school year, I found these ideas very helpful.  I recommend the audiobook as it’s read by Shonda.  If you are looking for some inspiration in getting your life sorted out, I think you will enjoy this book.

Blessings,

Annette

Positive news: “I will be your friend”

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Dear friends,

A little boy from Georgia chose to wear a shirt on the first day of elementary school proclaiming “I will be your friend.”  The story has since gone viral, and other kids are wearing similar shirts in an effort to combat bullying.

Click on the picture of this sweet kid in order to read the story:

friend shirt

Blessings,

Annette

Focus on the negative

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Dear friends,

If I gave you ninety-nine compliments, and one criticism, would you focus on the criticism?  Many of us would (I know I would).

I always hold off on reading my teaching evaluations each semester, because I know those negative comments will crush me, no matter how many positive comments I get.  You’d think they’d offset each other, but no.

So the next question is, why do we make the negative stuff bigger than it is?

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I think it boils down to two main reasons:

One:  As humans, we’re hard-wired this way.  We live in community with others, and the approval of the community is essential to our survival – at some base, animal level, we fear being abandoned by our tribe.  Negativity feels like attack, and triggers a mental and physical reaction.  We won’t overcome it unless we learn to recognize it and realize this is what’s happening.

And two:  Criticism can make us hearken back to childhood insecurities, and the child inside us reacts with hurt.  If we were told we weren’t good enough, or would never amount to anything, critics can take us back there and make us wonder if those things were really true after all.  Again, I think the key to breaking this cycle is to recognize when this is happening to us.

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Our tendency to notice the negative is part of the self-protective instinct, but many of us allow it to overtake us.  Let’s strive to notice it without feeling defeated, to realize we’re not going to succeed 100% of the time – and that’s okay.  Let’s remember there are 7.5 billion people on planet earth, and they’re not all going to like or appreciate us.

Let’s value ourselves enough to take criticism for what it’s worth, and not a penny more.

Blessings,

Annette

 

(Don’t) top this!

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Dear friends,

Earlier today, I was listening to a young woman reflect on the feeling of turning 30 years old.  She spoke about the shock of reaching such a “milestone” birthday, and how it made her more aware of her limitations – how she wasn’t a young kid anymore, how her metabolism was slowing down, how she was starting to find wrinkles on her face.

I’ve heard 20 year olds say the same kinds of things.  And 50 year olds.  And those in their 90s.

When you hear these things, and you’re older than the person saying them, it’s so easy to think/say, “But you’re still just a kid!  You’re young!  You think it’s bad now, wait till you’re my age!”  I had those very thoughts this morning … but then I realized, that kind of response is not helpful at all.

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We all know people who try to “top” us when we complain.  Your toe hurts?  Their whole foot hurts.  You had surgery?  Theirs was bigger, and better, and worse.  You’re overtired?  They haven’t had a full night’s sleep since 1972 … etc.

We miss the point entirely.

The person who says “I’m turning 30, and feeling old” is reflecting on her mortality, and recognizing the ways in which her life is changing with time.  Surely that’s something we all can relate to.  Rather than saying “You just wait till you’re 50!” I can say, “These milestone birthdays can be hard, huh?  They really prompt us to reflect on the ways we are changing.”  We can find a place to relate, to come together.

When I’m in pain, you can tell me that your pain is “worse,” but that doesn’t accomplish anything.  These things aren’t a matter of degree, but of the common human experience.  Let’s recognize the humanity in one another, and acknowledge that life can be tough sometimes, for all of us.

May the rest of your life be the best of your life.

Blessings,

Annette

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Positive news: Turtle crossing!

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Dear friends,

In my search for positive news, I came across this story about a second-grader in Indiana who wrote a letter to his mayor to express his concern about … turtles!  Jack was concerned about helping turtles cross the road safely, so he took action.

It’s so easy to forget that we can make a difference, or to despair of making a positive change.  Let’s take a lesson from this kid, and from the mayor of his town.

Click on the picture to read the article.

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Blessings,

Annette