Perspective

I achieved my undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky (a long time ago). I came to UK as a transfer student, so I didn’t get to partake in all the freshman stuff. But still it was a great experience. The shear size of UK overwhelmed me, coming from a small

town as I did. I vividly recall walking from my dorm on the edge of campus (Blanding Tower, if you know UK) to central campus, where most of my classes were.  That walk was long, took forever, especially in the winter. The expanse between buildings was wide and the buildings were all huge.

That was how I remember it, anyway.

Then, this week, I had the time and opportunity to walk that same route again. The memories that came flowing out were rich and rewarding.  But the revelations about all the time that has passed since those daily walks were even better. Here are some of the more significant of those revelations:

  1. What seemed huge at 20, now seems rather normally sized. Those huge buildings with wide lawns separating them? They now seem rather small. It is experience that changed my perspective. Growing up in a small town, my world experience at 20 was of small buildings and small spaces. Everything seemed big and scary as I headed to the big university. Now, having visited many of the world’s largest cities with its large buildings and expansive lawns, UK’s central campus seems very quaint and welcoming.
  2. I felt a certain kinship with all the students I passed on my trip through campus. I was a bit embarrassed as I realized I expected to see someone I knew. I became a 20 year old student again during that walk, remembering my days on campus, the classes I took (and skipped), the friends, the football games, the weekend parties. All of a sudden I was transported to that time in my life, but with the perspective of a 50 something professional, and I liked what I saw.
  3. The things that seem scary will soon become familiar, even comfortable. Experience teaches us to lose the fear and embrace the adventure. I am still not a particularly adventurous soul, but I am less afraid of the unknown than I ever have been.  Perhaps I know I will survive, despite my fears. And perhaps I have begun to appreciate the rush that comes with fear conquered.
  4. We should stop and appreciate our experiences more often. I had meant to walk through that campus for many years, but just never found the time. Why is that?  A half hour out of my life is a small thing, but that half hour brought me much pleasure.  I won’t wait another 35 years, and I will be more likely to “waste” time with other simple pleasures, too.

What have you been meaning to do and have just not “had the time” for?  Is now the time?

Does envy keep you from achieving success?

We are all guilty of that deadly sin, Envy. We all want what others have, or or at least to have some of it. Why is it that we find it so hard to celebrate our friends’ and colleagues’ successes fully? In my case, I am ever so slightly envious of their success. Ok, very envious. Wish it was me. Why wasn’t it me? How could they choose her?

These are not the thoughts of a healthy person. Yet, I suspect they are more common than we like to admit.

Envy, to be turned into a positive, needs to be used for self improvement. I envy Olympic athletes, for example – their hard bodies, the accolades they get, the dedication they show. Yet, I am unlikely to emulate them and start training for Rio in 2016.

So how, then, do we turn envy into a positive emotion? Say, achievement. Or admiration. Here are three ideas to ponder.

1. When you find yourself experiencing envy, try to dissect the emotion. Is it envy or is it regret for a missed opportunity from your past? If it is regret, then can you change something today to achieve or do what you missed out on before?

2. Can you use your envy to become better at something? Instead of spending time on such a negative response, can you study what led to the success you admire in order to emulate it? What can you learn from them that can help you become more successful?

3. This one is hard, but can you learn to truly celebrate others’ successes? Congratulate them. Tell others about their achievements. Nominate others for awards and recognitions. Just maybe the very act of celebration will make the envy disappear so that true joy for others’ accomplishments can emerge.

Until we can turn envy into a more positive response, we will never achieve the success we are capable of.

Leisurely Drives

There is a man in our neighborhood who drives very slowly. More slowly than your typical slow, too.  I just HATE to get behind him, and I am sure my neighbors do, too.  You basically have to stop and creep. He knows he is slow, I think, because often he will pull into a driveway to let you pass.  But if you come behind such an act of kindness on his part, then you get to wait an exasperating amount of time for him to get moving again. Back up – brake – find Drive on steering column – find gas – engage gas – brake again, “just to be sure”  – engage gas again, but not too much gas – proceed at about 10 miles per hour. Maybe slower.

I know the roads of my neighborhood like the back of my hand, so it always frustrates me when I get behind Mr. Creeper. “Oh, no,” I say to myself. “Not again!”  Not that I drive particularly fast either. Once my daughter’s friend commented that he hates to get behind me in our neighborhood, because I drive too slow.  Not true, of course, but it is all relative, I suppose. Back to Mr. Creeper. Waiting for him to get out of my way always gives me a chance to think, something many of us forget to do on a regular basis.  Today, my thoughts turned to my frustration, and why I am always in such a hurry. Why does he – or whatever else slows me down – frustrate me?

Then I started thinking about Mr. Creeper. He is old. Farmed all his life. Saw this neighborhood change from farmland with the occasional house to houses with the occasional farm. Rural to suburban. Very different worlds, then and now. He, and those like him, created a good quality of life here. I, and those like me, are benefiting from it. He probably hates speed demons more than I hate slow pokes.  He is probably right.

Thank you, Mr. Creeper, for making me slow down. These are your roads, really.  You take all the time you need.

Lust

The Sandusky trial and verdict (GUILTY!) got me thinking about the deadly sin of LUST.  Now there are hundreds of adjectives and emotions that come to mind when I think of the whole Sandusky mess, but in terms of my “seven deadlies” theme, lust is the one.

I find that words escape me when trying to describe my reaction to what Sandusky did, what he got by with for so many years, what Penn State ignored, what they rationalized, and most significantly, what he did to those poor, vulnerable victims. What altered state of mind allowed Sandusky to think that what he was doing was okay?  And in what state of mind did the Penn State administrators who looked the other way not stop to think about the victims.

Back to Lust.

Lust was the deadly sin that was committed, but there were lots of omissions, too. Where was the empathy? What about the awareness, kindness, even chastity?  And shame – where was the shame?

From Sandusky’s horrible crimes must eventually come healing. Penn State will certainly need to take a leadership role in that, but so should the other systems which allowed this to happen for so long. And Penn State may be the one getting all the attention these days, but there have been so many others – even in that safest of places, the church.  How can we protect our children from the predators that are among us?  One way is for all of us to take responsibility for others. We must all be alert to things that just don’t seem right. And we must all speak up for those who can’t – or won’t – speak for themselves.  That won’t rid the world of the Sanduskys among us, but it will definitely keep them from exacting the harm that this most evil and famous Sandusky has done.

The bottom line is that our acts and our in-actions have consequences. When we act, or when we fail to act, we must ask ourselves who or what is affected. If we ALWAYS consider the consequences before the act, our decisions will be ones that we can be proud of. And the world will be a much better place.

The Seven Deadly Sins

I was on my way to work this week, listening to NPR, as is my practice every morning. The local portion of the news came on, announcing yet another development in the Fen-Phen Case that has been captivating Kentucky for years. For the uninitiated, this was a class action suit brought by people who were harmed by the drug combination, fenfluramine/phentermine, usually called fen-phen. Fen-phen was an anti-obesity treatment that was popular for a time in the 1980s. At the time, many thought that this was the great magic cure for obesity. Trouble was, it was soon linked to heart problems and some people got sick, so a bunch of people sued.

Why has this case captivated Kentucky? Well, three Lexington attorneys joined together for a class action law suit, representing hundreds of victims, and achieved some humongous verdict on behalf of their clients. Trouble was, they decided not to tell the victims the magnitude of the settlement, and devised a plan to keep the money for themselves. Nice, huh? Well, they got caught, and a bunch of other folks were implicated, too, including a judge and a prominent attorney in Cincinnati. Two of the attorneys are now in jail, one is facing disbarment, the judge resigned, and maybe is in jail, too, I can’t remember.

Back to the radio story, though. The two attorneys are being required to turn over their homes to be sold to compensate the victims. They already had to sell their race horse (yeah, I know, right!), but now the court is seizing SOME of their other property in payment of an amazing $127 MILLION they owe in restitution. The list of property: six homes (who needs six houses?); seven (!) vehicles, and a dozen financial accounts. Hard to say whether this will satisfy the debt, but since they are in jail for a bunch of years, they certainly don’t need this stuff (nor deserve it, BTW). Presumably the victims do, since it was supposed to be theirs in the first place.

This whole piece, and the hundreds of stories I have heard in the five years this case has been proceeding through the courts, got me thinking about the Seven Deadly Sins. You remember them, don’t you: Lust, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride, Gluttony.

At least half the items on this list figured into the Fen-Phen saga. Greed, obviously. (Six extra houses. Really?) Gluttony, of course, which created the demand for Fen-Phen in the first place. The victims, most of them anyway, simply could not stop eating and get moving to lose that weight, so they sought the easy, take-a-pill, route. Kinda relates to Sloth, too, doesn’t it. Envy certainly played a role, wanting what others had – houses, money, a thin body. That’s four of the seven.

So, I am going to look for the “seven deadlies” in my news browsing over the next several weeks. I bet I will find at least a couple in most news stories. I imagine if I look, I will find some version of them in misbehavin’ I witness, too. Do management problems have their root in the top seven? What about our nation’s political problems? Or our current economic mess? Worth exploring, so stay tuned.

Where are the statesmen?

This debt crisis thing has the Democrats and Republicans playing a very dangerous game of chicken with our economy and the future of our country. Neither wants to be the first to give in, and both think they can hold out the longest. That does not seem to be very sound thinking, when so much is at stake.

Apparently they have reached a deal, finally. In my experience, an eleventh hour decision is usually full of mistakes. That remains to be seen in this situation, but it does seem to be full of distrust for the other side. How have we descended to such depths!

What happened to civility? What happened to doing the right thing? What happened to compromise?

Where are the statesmen?

Butterflies

Society as a whole doesn’t take enough responsibility for our actions. Take the environment. Couldn’t we all do a bit better about conservation? What else could you do that would make a difference, even if ever-so-small. Last night walked by my son’s room and noticed the little lights on his DVD and TV glowing in the dark. He is grown, hasn’t lived in our house for years, but still, we had the TV and DVD ready for him to walk in any minute to use. That’s small potatoes in the whole energy conservation realm, but I unplugged them. I probably won’t save enough money from those two little LEDs to buy a pack of gum, but maybe if enough of us do that, we can save a bit of the rain forest, or the coastline, or some such thing.

Not that we’ll ever know what that little action does for our planet, but wouldn’t it be cool to imagine the possibilities. They call that the butterfly effect, which essentially says that a small change in one place can have significant effects in another. The theory goes that the air displaced by the butterfly’s wings could set off a chain of events that could eventually change the path of a tornado or some such wind disturbance. Interesting thought.

Couldn’t we all be a bit more insistent that our corporations be more responsible – environmentally, socially, internationally? And how about making sure our government leaders hold them accountable? Not when it’s politically advantageous, but all the time. If enough butterflies were out there flapping like mad, just think of the effect we could have.

(I want to be a swallowtail, please.)

In times like these . . .

Just like many people around the nation, I am getting fed up with all the negativity, political one-up-manship, and – to use a phrase we have heard a lot this week – vitriol.  We don’t need people from the left blaming the right for the acts of a madman. We don’t need the right inflaming the left by labeling their agenda or leaders as job-killing, anti-American, or socialist.

What we need is a statesman – or several of them. It might seem odd to quote Mikhail Gorbachev in a post about what we need in the U.S. but he summed it up  quite well. He said, ” A statesman does what he believes is best for his country, a politician does what best gets him re-elected.”

We need our political leaders to view the country’s problems according to what is best for its citizens rather than what is best for their party or what is most likely to get them re-elected.  Sometimes leaders have to make unpopular, but wise, decisions that are simply the right thing to do.  Even if it hurts their friends (or contributors). Even if it gives their opponents good fodder for the next election cycle.

We’ve been talking a lot about corporate social responsibility in the last few years, and are doing a much better job of holding businesses responsible for being good citizens. Corporations are talking about being more environmentally friendly, more animal friendly, more socially conscious about the workers. We still need to do better with this, but we’ve come a long way.

Now if we could just get our politicians to do the same. Congress is talking about requiring all bills to have the constitutional reference included.  What about the socially conscious references?  What will their bill do to the health and well being of our citizens, our natural resources, our grandchildren?  And not just their friends, either. They need to be thinking about the people on “the other side of the track,” too.  What about them? Those invisible Americans that have no voice but who need one now more than ever.

Where are all the statesmen?

Snow!

I love snow. But I don’t like the mess it creates in my life – getting the 25 miles to and from work, dealing with canceled appointments or events, whiny babies who are afraid of a little snow on the roads. Since I live in Kentucky, people have problems with snow. People here just act stupid when it snows. Period. Predict snow and watch the crazy people clean out the grocery shelves.  Why someone needs to buy 20 cans of corn and beans for a 2 inch snow is a mystery to me.

Birds waiting their turn to devour the seed in our feeders during one of last winter's snow storms.

I like snow the most is when it snows on a Friday night, after I’ve gotten home for the weekend.  I can watch it show from the comfort of my kitchen, see the birds eat us out of house and home, and admire the beauty all while staying off the roads and out of the grocery stores.

I also like it when it is not too cold so I can go out and play in it a bit.  I love taking snow pictures, but just will not do it if it is cold and windy.  I’m a woos. But I also love to come back inside and curl up near the fire with an adult beverage of some sort.  Mighty fine.

Snow days are great for cooking, too. I love to spend the day in the kitchen cooking and eating bunches of new things that I don’t typically have time for. One snow storm a few years ago, when they actually shut down the Interstates, I cooked so many new things,. That winter, I developed an entire  bunch of new “standards” that we still enjoy regularly.

Bring on the snow! But wait till Friday night, please.

The new year

I am always so hopeful at the beginning of every year. I don’t know why, really, because things don’t ever change enough from year to year to warrant my expectations.  But still, I hope. Last year, my husband and I resolved to get more exercise and eat better. How many times has that been done at the new year?! But we stuck with it. He has lost 80 or so pounds, which is wonderful. I am so proud of him. I have lost only a dozen or so (but had fewer to lose, too). I’m down a size in my pants, though, hoping for another pant size decrease in 2011.  Please.

We’ve exercised more too. Him just walking – when I make him. Me doing exercises and some aerobic stuff (though not enough). But I told myself that if I stuck with it for a year, I would buy an exercise machine. So, we are the proud owner of a new treadmill. I want to build up to being able to run more than a few minutes at a time. We shall see.

I’ve never been able to run so I may be a bit unrealistic in this quest, but I’m gonna try. Wish me luck.