Fleeting Thoughts Friday 11.4.16 – Civics and Civil Duties

There’s no getting around it, and who would want to? Without a doubt, the biggest news this week is that the CHICAGO CUBS ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS!! GO CUBS GO!!!

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A true Cinderella story – fraught with falling two games behind, fighting tooth and nail to get back into the running all the way to game 7,  losing the lead in what was thought to be an in-the-bag win,  a rain delay in the 9th and a victory in extra innings – it was the most significant and extraordinary series I believe many will ever witness in their lifetimes. I will certainly never forget where I was and how loud I cheered with elation the day the Cubs cinched the world championship for the first time in 108 years.

Naturally, with how close we live to Grant Park, my husband and I decided that it was mandatory to attend the championship parade. A gorgeous day for a well-deserved celebration, so many fans were out and about, the city was buzzing with the electricity of the winners’ high…

And speaking of being high, it was on the way to this parade that we found ourselves surrounded by a group of young adults, approximately college-aged, with signs calling for the legalization of marijuana. These vivacious activists were out to encourage everyone to go vote on the 8th so that we can get pot legalized in Illinois.

WHAT?!!

I was immediately torn. I feel very proud that there are young people out encouraging the masses to get to the polls on the 8th. On the other hand, touting an issue that’s not on the ballot and not up for a vote next week was genuinely confusing and concerning to me. I feel this is yet again another example of a much larger issue that I’ve been mulling over in recent seasons: there are a significant amount of people who are uninformed.

Why? It’s been a disconcerting thought for me to contend with, but the more I mull it over, the more frustrated I get at the setup of our educational system here in America. This is not meant to harp on teachers in any way and it’s not a post about the dumbing-down of the nation – I’m sure there are several things that are going well within our system. But in a land founded on democracy that prides itself on being the land of the free and the home of the brave, I really do wonder at the status of our civics education in America. I find it fascinating that in a relatively young nation that survives solely on the participation of the population for government to function, that we spend so little time teaching our students how to participate and the importance of their involvement.

When I was in school I think I was given maybe two years’ worth of government & civics education throughout the entirety of my years. I remember being taught what the three branches of government were and being tested on the basics of the constitution, but that’s about it. Is it really so baffling that Americans ages 18-25 have historically been the least represented in the voting population? We get our panties in a twist when they don’t show up to the polls, and call them lazy and apathetic. But honestly, why would they care more? They’ve just gone through the last 18 years of their lives being told that literally everything is more important than civic knowledge.

We live in a nation where our students take years and years of math courses, science courses, language courses, etc. Students spend hours upon hours practicing and participating in sports day in and day out. And I’m not saying that these aren’t worthwhile things to learn, but so is learning how to affect government decisions at a local level. Sure, people may (MAYBE) know the three branches of government, but if you ask the average american who their congressman is, what their platform was, when the next local election is, what an alderman or a comptroller does, you will likely get a much larger number of blank stares than should make anyone comfortable. And this is a problem because it’s at this specific level, the local level, that people can make a difference.

We haven’t put the time into teaching young people how vitally important it is for them to be informed, and to participate in government & civil affairs. As I mentioned above, I’m not trying to criticize the civics education we are currently offering, but I do think it’s time to take a long hard look and admit that it’s not enough. In a nation where our liberties are being decided every day by our elected officials, why would we not require our children to be constantly enrolled in a current studies course every semester that requires them to know who their representatives are, what the debates are and to wrestle with the issues at hand. How can we be expected to hold our elected officials accountable when we don’t know who they are and what they even do? I’ve heard people argue before that there’s not enough material or information to justify a yearly civic studies curriculum. Hello!! It’s current affairs! By definition it supplies its own material! There will always be someone running for office, there will always be news on TV. And students are not only missing out on important information, but we’re robbing our students of the opportunity to learn how to discuss and debate important matters among one another with respect and open-mindedness. Instead of learning to respect people as human beings first and foremost and learning how to listen to someone else’s view and take into consideration where they are coming from, we’ve taught our kids that their comfort is more important than hearing, seeing and learning new things, more important perhaps than the truth. We’ve traded healthy knowledge and respectful debate for trigger warnings and safety closets.

A small post I made on Facebook about this exact issue a few months back drew some great insight from friends and family who brought up similar assertions. There are a lot of practical things that could and probably should be a part of our educational courses in addition to more civics classes. While years of advanced theory is key in a handful of professions, one might question how applicable all these hours of advanced algebra and french literature are in the grand scheme of life’s practical lessons.

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Sure, these courses might be enriching, but are we really preparing our students to survive on their own in the real world as contributing members of society? Is an advanced AP Lit course going to be more helpful to an adolescent than learning about credit scores, how student loans really work, understanding how a mortgage works or how to calculate their taxes? People spoke out in the past against home economics and shop classes, but are these basic skills any less important today than they were a few years ago? I mean, are we beyond needing to know how to change a diaper, a light bulb, a toilet seat?

I’ll leave you to answer these questions for yourselves. If you think of any other classes or lessons that you think might be more helpful than the ones you took in school, leave me a comment, I would love to hear about them!

PS. Here’s where you can go to read about what’s actually been happening with marijuana legalization in Illinois this year https://www.mpp.org/states/illinois/

And, if you don’t quite have all the information about who’s on the ballot in the city of Chicago and what you will be asked to vote on, here’s a sample ballot.

Happy Friday!

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Fleeting Thoughts Friday 10.28.2016 – A Blast From The Past

I think in life we have certain versions of ourselves that we wish we could be. I used to truly believe I was a spontaneous person. I associated spontaneity with an adventurous and fun free spirit. Alas, anyone close to me can vouch for the fact that I am probably the least spontaneous person there is. I do have one fun college memory of skinny dipping in the ocean in the middle of the night on a whim with some girlfriends…but those experiences for me only happen once in a blue moon – or in this case, once in an unnaturally cold, and sleep-deprived December night during senior year finals week. It’s not that there are not many opportunities to be spontaneous, but rather that my mood rarely matches up with them, it’s just not how I’m wired.

On a similar note, another example of this disconnect between who we would like to be and who we actually are is in the fact that I am not in any way, shape, or form what you would call an ‘early adopter.’ This might have something to do with the fact that my husband accuses me of actually being an eighty-year-old woman trapped in millennial’s body (I do thoroughly believe that it’s highly likely I had a very active life back in the forties, but that’s another post for another time). I would love to be the person that is cool enough to try all the newest apps and be the one introducing my friends to the latest channel where you order your green-bought underwear, but these last few weeks have really made me realize that’s just not me.

What brought on these realizations? A collection of new items recently brought into my purview:

  1. How awesome my new favorite show is: Thanks to Netflix’ ability to regurgitate material from yesteryear, I can now catch up on a show that I never would have been exposed to, and I love it. If you’ve never seen West Wing, GET ON IT! Setting aside the rumors of his massive ego, Aaron Sorkin is a genius. But I will also caveat that by saying that no one in Hollywood is an island and I am sure that by now he has teams and scores of brilliant writers developing each of his projects. Sorkin has several trademarks but he is widely known for the walk-and-talk-style fast and witty banter he made famous in West Wing. This show is largely based on his 1995 film, The American President, starring Michael Douglas and Annette Benning,  along with Martin Sheen and one of my all-time favorites, Michael J. Fox. If you haven’t had the privilege of seeing either of these masterpieces, I’m jealous because you get to experience them for the first time.
  2. I’m apparently the last person discovering podcasts, but the important part is that I’ve discovered them. I know that the concept of podcasts has been around for years, but they just seemed so newfangled to me. Not quite radio, not quite TV, where do they come from? How are they made? I couldn’t be bothered. Until now. What can I say? Sometimes we’re not ready for something until we’re ready for it. I think my continued exposure to NPR (National Public Radio) in the car has helped. There are a lot of great segments played on NPR that have turned out to be podcast series. If, like me, you had no previous exposure to podcasts and are still wondering what they are, a podcast is a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically. Here’s More Info. So I recently took the leap and clicked on a little purple app on my iPhone and I am now subscribed to a handful of podcast series that have been highly enriching because there is literally a podcast for anything that you could possibly be interested in. It’s really awesome because you can listen while working out, or doing chores, driving or whatever, so it’s really easy to take in loads of content that is meaningful to you. A few of my favorites include: The Hidden Brain, Freakonomics Radio, Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert, Write Now with Sarah Werner and RadioLab. Of course, there are a million more awesome series, so figure out what you like and jump in!
  3. This new bold world of audio information has also opened me up to other forms of listening. I’ve recently started borrowing downloadable audiobooks from the Chicago Public Library, and I am loving it. Yes, I still borrow books on a regular basis from the library – I live down the street from the Harold Washington Library Center which is the CPL’s main library, it’s huge and gorgeous and exists just to serve the community, full of stories just waiting to be consumed. OK, I won’t break out into song, but I love libraries and what they offer. CPL’s incorporation of digital content platforms like OneDrive and Hoopla have made borrowing free ebooks and audiobooks an easy and convenient way to ingest more literature, and I am taking full advantage of it. Currently, I’m finishing up David Sedaris’ When You’re Engulfed in Flames on and just started Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Mineral (which is CPL’s 2016 One Book, One Chicago pick!) both on audiobook.

Conversely, (setting aside the fact that I’m clearly a decade behind technologically) while technology has given us so many wonderful new tools and capabilities, I sometimes wonder at the cost of these conveniences. While so many positive arguments can be made for the fact that there are myriad new ways for us to instantly connect with loved ones and to obtain a plethora of information at the click of a browser icon, I would venture to say that the same tools which provide these conveniences might be rewriting our levels of connection, or even the value of our relationships.

The other night, with the swift drop in temperature announcing that Fall was here in full swing, I suddenly had a hankering for chicken and dumplings. This is a simple dish that was served at my grandpa’s house and I haven’t had it in years. I had the urge to call my mom and ask her for the recipe. But instead, it occurred to me that I could just find something that sounded similar online and save myself searching for a pen and paper and so on. But as I was cooking, it dawned on me that I had just skipped an opportunity. I honestly felt like I had just robbed my mom of a parental right. And it got me to thinking, how many other times had I done this? How many opportunities have I missed to build my relationships with loved ones by running to the internet for all my answers? Not so long ago we got our information by asking each other, talking, real conversations with stories and explanations and memories attached. Young adults used to have to call their parents for advice on every subject under the sun. How long do I bake this for? Where do I get that? Is it supposed to be that color? Should I see a doctor? What would you do?

I’m not harping on technology. As I said, there are many wonderful things we’ve gained from the internet. But I am saying that I think there’s proof that technology is changing our relationships, the way we communicate, what we communicate about, and how often. We just need to be vigilant that they are good changes, lest we exchange real connection with each other for just mere connectivity.

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P.S. I wrote the title of this post not thinking about the film, however if you haven’t seen the film of the same name, A Blast From the Past, do yourself a favor and rent it immediately! Christopher Walken, Sissy Spacek, Brendan Frasier and Alicia Silverstone (I know right?!) at their best. I love when I see casting gone right. This comedy about the values of yesterday exposed to the cynicism of today is 1990’s gold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fleeting Thoughts Friday 9.23.16 – Rock, Paper, Scissors, Gratitude.

I recently had a very revealing conversation while driving home with a good friend. We will both be 30 years old next year, and for whatever reason, this number seems to drive us crazy. It’s a time in which many people (especially women) are taking stock and thinking about all those boxes that they have or haven’t checked yet—as though we were given a 100-foot-long checklist when we were born of exactly what we’re supposed to accomplish by the end. And unfortunately, the two measuring instruments that we most often tend to utilize are what we feel we are supposed to have accomplished already and what our friends have managed to do by this point.

And honestly, who can blame us for falling into this trap? From a young age, almost our whole world is set up to compare our performance to everyone and everything around us. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure if there has ever been a season when I haven’t been concerned with where I am compared to the rest of my peers. High school classes, test scores, college acceptance, graduation rankings, job offers, relationship status…the list just goes on and on.

In a western world acculturated by the next newest technology, hottest vehicle, highest job title, biggest house, most successful spouse, and most angelic children, it’s difficult to escape this comparison game. I call this kind of thinking a trap because it truly is pointless. Not only does it breed terrible feelings of inadequacy, but also it engages us to play in a rigged arena, living life as though we’re in some ultimate game of Rock, Paper, Scissors trying to outdo the people next to us. If we were all given the same opportunities in life, starting from the same place with the same package, then maybe it would be fine for us to look around and judge our status based on where everyone else is, if we were all clones. But we don’t live in that world! We are born with different parents, in different households with different income levels and different talents, temperaments and attitudes in each and every one of us. So comparing ourselves to one another is about as sensible as comparing a ferret to a fish.

We spend a whole lot of time thinking that we could have more, that we should have more, and when we get it, we wonder why we don’t feel any happier, any more content. But what if we spent more time on the opposite? What if we trained ourselves to recognize that we could just as easily have a lot less? That we could be much worse off? Honestly, at any given point in time while we are thinking about how we wish we could find that perfect job/spouse/house/child, someone else is wishing they had your package.

By the culmination of our conversation, my friend and I had determined that gratitude really is the beginning of contentment. Moreover, it is the antidote to comparison, envy and inadequacy.

Gratitude breeds contentment, contentment breeds happiness, and happiness breeds health and wholeheartedness. This is important to know because, as we discussed above, it works the other way too. Comparison leads to envy and discontentment, which leads to a constant feeling of lacking, which breeds a feeling of inadequacy and overall ugliness.

But I’ve been learning that discontentment, comparison and envy are not the only things that can be squelched by practicing gratitude. The more I process this application of gratitude the more apparent it becomes that gratitude covers a multitude of garbage.

I struggle with anxiety; it’s just a part of my truth. My anxiety is pervasive. There’s not an area of my life that it doesn’t touch. My anxiety makes me a careful, cautious and concerned person, but it can also make me into a negative person if not checked. All that worry produces a mindset of constantly coming up short, feeling like I’m not enough or we don’t have enough to deal with a specific circumstance, causing me to focus on worse-case scenarios a majority of the time. But I’ve noticed a significant advantage to refocusing my mindset on what I do have that’s going right in any given situation, and not to sound all Pollyanna, but this practice has definitely helped to calm my mind and make me into a more positive person.

I’m not saying that anxiety can be simply done away with completely by thinking happy thoughts – mental health is a real struggle and should be approached like any other illness – with serious professional attention. I am saying that practicing cognitive awareness and positive reframing can be one of the tools in our arsenal to help combat the storm of worry and negativity.

We need to stop thinking of life as a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors and more like a game of Solitaire. We’re not all in a game together playing to one-up each other, we’re all playing different games at the same time, and the only people we should be competing against are ourselves. The only time we should be looking in on someone else’s game is to support each other in the process. Are we doing the best we can with what we’ve been given? Are we giving our all to make the best decisions about what’s right for our own lives? Are we acting with integrity, humility, generosity and thankfulness? To paraphrase a gem of wisdom that was recently shared with me, the only time we should be evaluating what our neighbor has is to make sure they have enough, and the only time we should be evaluating what we have is to give thanks.

I know that I’m not presenting any new wisdom with this post. My only aim is sharing what I’m going through presently. This week I made a new attempt at focusing my mind on gratitude above all else, and I came up with a saying; it’s silly, and it’s simple, but it’s been working for me:

Don’t complain and don’t compare
Just be thankful for what’ s there

Don’t judge or envy how others are livin’
Just be grateful for what you’re given.

I have to apologize – this thought was more full-fledged than fleeting. Sorry, it is what it is. Nonetheless, I hope you found it useful. Happy Friday!

Fleeting Thoughts Friday 9.16.16 – Let’s Get Intentional

It seems all week long, in one fashion or another, I’ve found myself in the midst of discussions about relationships. And while all of these conversations have had their own varying details, the one through-line that surfaced time and time again was the idea that relationships take work.

Now, we’ve all heard this adage repeatedly, but this week it occurred to me how basic this observation is. What exactly does it mean? What kind of work? How do you know you’re doing the right work? What work is healthy and “par for the course” and what kind of work is too much?  I’m not sure I have solutions, but it became apparent that this saying left me with more questions than answers.

Anyone who has been in a relationship for an extended period of time knows that the ‘honeymoon’ doesn’t last forever. That feeling that it’s just you two and no one else exists is temporary. If you haven’t been through this experience yet, I’m sorry to break the news, but the butterflies, the not being able to keep your hands to yourself, the belief that your schmoopie can do no wrong, the desire to write love letters that solely entail wanting to bone, that doesn’t last. For those of you that think that your love will always be like that by itself…here’s a picture of Ryan Gosling laughing at you:

 

Now that we have all had a laugh at your expense, I will offer up a caveat to say that your relationship won’t always be like this without you being intentional about it. And this is the crux of what I think is meant by “work”, the heart of what I think that idea really means.

If we think about our best friends, how do they continue to hold that status? What do we do to keep that connection alive? We intentionally schedule dinner dates where we make the effort to keep the conversation going, we text and call regularly, we share goofy moments and office craziness throughout the day, we let them in on the minutia, we carefully pick their gifts, we purposefully set aside time just to visit with them.

If you think back to the beginning of your relationship with your significant other, you intentionally did these same things while you were dating. But then something happens when we move in together. It’s easy when you see someone daily to assume that you have all the time in the world to connect with them. When someone is right next to us, we start to think we have plenty of time to communicate with this person anytime, so we choose a TV show over a conversation. We assume that because they are right next to us, they know how we feel, so we skip telling them out-loud, buying the flowers, writing the love note, making the favorite cookies. And before we know it, instead of our closest friend and lover, our partners have become nothing more than our roommates.

As we’ve already discussed above, we haven’t forgotten how to be intentional about all of our long-term relationships because we still actively give attention (and intention) to our friendships, which is what keeps them healthy and strong. We have to get back to being intentional about our interactions with our significant others. Building intimacy in relationships takes intentional action; relationships take connecting on purpose. We have to be purposeful about sharing our thoughts, setting up quality date time, prioritizing and building intimacy with each other. And this includes arguing and disagreeing fairly, too. In the beginning, there are things we would have never in a million years said to our spouses, or used that tone; but unless we are being careful, those lines are easy to cross and leave in our wake. But every time we do, that connection, the intimacy dies just a little bit too.

All in all, it’s helped me recently to focus on the idea that what you had to do to get ’em, you gotta do to keep ’em. And remember, the grass isn’t greener on the other side, my friends, it’s green where you water it.

 

 

 

 

 

Fleeting Thoughts Friday 9.9.16 – Test Yourself!

At some point I’ll have to try to get this post out before midnight…oh well, baby steps.

I give you my word – I have been working on a few other topics this week that delve a bit into some deeper thoughts, I promise to deliver something of more substance in my next few posts.

But in an effort to stay true to my goals and on task, here’s my Fleeting Thought for the week:

I think that the Myers Briggs test is toying with me. Why is everybody that I meet an INFJ? The MBType Indicator says that Idealist INFJ’s (which stands for Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging) are the most rare, yet somehow I know more INFJ’s than any other zodiac sign! I swear every other person I meet is an INFJ.

This can mean 1 of 2 things: 1) We’re really not as rare and special of unicorns as we’ve been led to believe – maybe Myers & Briggs were trying to cater & coddle to our highly sensitive selves? Who can blame them?

OR 2) Maybe we’re just attracted to other INFJ’s by nature and we are a breed with a radar that tends to call one another out of the woodwork…in which case, ROCK ON! The more people I can relate to, the better.

If you’re a nerd like me and you like to geek out on personality studies, or if you’re at all curious about your Myers Briggs type, here’s a few free sites to help you figure it out. It might be fun to take a couple different tests just to see if they turn out with the same results. Happy self-discovering!!

http://www.my-personality-test.com/personality-type/ 

\http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp

https://www.16personalities.com/personality-types 

Fleeting Thoughts Friday 9.2.16

Hello Friends! I know It’s been a while, but I’m back…I promise I’ll delve deeper into my long absence more later – actually I don’t promise, but I probably will unpack it for you at some point. At any rate, I had a friend recently bring up the idea of doing a recurring installation of posts consisting of my collected thoughts throughout the week. So I’m going to run with that for a while for now. And though it’s late, it’s still pretty close to Friday – so welcome to my first installation of Fleeting Thoughts Friday:

 

The cost of mental healthcare is a conundrum to me. The very time that someone might need a therapist is likely to be a time when they are strapped for money, like during a job loss, a new child, a big move, etc. At the very least, mental wellness care should be available for anyone at all times, no matter the financial circumstances of the individual. Stress, grief, anxiety and depression are just as pervasive as the flu, and in some cases, can be more dangerous.


Also, you know what’s terrifying? Unexpected window washers. I’ve lived in the city for three years now, and they get me EVERY TIME!! The other day I found myself running into my hallway for coverage in defense, only to realize the only thing at my disposal was my vacuum cleaner.

*Note to self: Invest in a sword.

**Additional Note to self: The obnoxious Bears team flag covering your window is enough to warn any window washing burglar that there’s nothing of value in your house.

***Post Additional Note to self: Why are you so paranoid?? Window washers are doing something nice for you, not out to kill you.


I often catch an earful about how I never answer my phone. The truth is, I keep it on silent 95% of the time. For one thing, I’m an introvert – so a steady stream of incessant sounds coming from a small dictatorial device that’s constantly sitting next to me could easily be defined as a form of cruel and unusual punishment brought upon by the modern technological age.

Second, I have a highly sensitive nervous system and I am prone to encounters like yesterday, wherein I downloaded a new app on my phone and subsequently forgot about it, when my phone made an unfamiliar & alarming noise, causing me to jump, grab it, and instinctively have the desire to immediately destroy it in an act of self-preservation. Luckily, I caught myself before my fight or flight instincts took over completely. Again, I’m unsure why I feel threatened by the noise – on all accounts I know that MapMyRun is only trying to help me. If I could afford therapy right now I’m sure I might be able to work through some of this. As it is, I’ll just have to continue to work out my issues on this blog with you lucky people.

Share this with a friend if you know someone who can relate. Or, if the struggle is real for you, give me a shout-out in a comment below – I know I can’t be the only one…hopefully.

 

There are birds that fly, and fish that swim. And then there are fish that fly.

Never forget, you are and can be many different things. The combination of you, of who you are, is glorious. Never forget this, and never wish for otherwise.

Be not discouraged if you don’t fit the mould. There are people that say there are birds that fly and there are fish that swim and that’s all there is to it. But we know better. Those that dare to look a little further will learn that there are also fish that fly and indeed even birds that swim. And if that is the case, how many more astounding combinations in between?

 

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