Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hang on, it's about to get a little heady

I'm taking a PhD class at OSU this quarter. I'll be done with my MA in about two and a half quarters and I couldn't be more excited. Except, now I want to go back and get my PhD. But we'll save that saga for another day...

I mention it because since the quarter has started, I haven't been able to turn my brain off. Ever. I analyze almost every thought that goes through my head, I question my motivation to do half the things I do every day (why do I go to starbucks? why do I think I like gray's anatomy? Does glee perpetuate more stereotypes?). It's not a sustainable model, and I know that, but I also think it's a worthwhile exercise as long as it doesn't become all consuming.

On the heals of yesterday's election, though, my brain is spinning virtually out of control. What is most frustrating is that I don't know what we (and I mean we on both sides of the aisle) can do about the state of politics. I am of course frustrated that the democrats lost so many seats to the republicans, but not because I think they present the best form of politics out there, it's just because I agree with them more. Our political system is profoundly broken and it's broken in a way that is not easily remedied.

There is this concept in education (and elsewhere) that talks about the locus of control. If a student feels like they have control over certain things in their life they are more likely to be successful students, to work harder, and to have fewer emotional problems. But once they perceive that locus of control to be outside of them, they give up more easily, don't work nearly as hard, and tend to act out in class. So, if they judge their teacher to be unfair and and the coursework to be "rigged" (whether or not that is actually the case), if they do poorly on a test, their response will be "whatever, I wasn't going to pass anyway, the teacher hates me and there's nothing I can do about it." But, if they think the class and teacher are fair, they are more likely to respond along the lines of "I will have to work harder or study harder next time and maybe I can get a better grade."

So for this reason, I'm choosing to believe that there is something that we can do about the political climate in this country. If I let myself believe that there's nothing we can do, that the locus of control is well beyond our reach, it all feels pretty futile. People are frustrated. The economy is bad; there is still a double-digit unemployment rate, and I understand that people want to fix it. But neither electing a bunch of republicans or continuing to let the people in power stay in power is going to fix the problem long term. Have you listened to the news lately? Did you watch the political ads? Have you listened to a political debate? We have turned into consumers of media that are ok with being told part of the story, with being present with information that only touches the surface of any issue and most importantly WE STOPPED ASKING QUESTIONS!

It became democrats versus republicans. And they both want us to believe that the other one is evil and doesn't care. It can't stay this way or we will continue to live in grid-lock indefinitely. I've got news for you--if either platform thinks they have all the answers, they are just wrong. And if you think that your elected official should support his or her party line at all costs, should fillibuster when they don't get their way on every issue, and that you "win" only if your agenda is moved forward, then you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

It is our responsibility to be informed, educated, thoughtful consumers of media. That means the news, the paper, magazines, books, political ads, political speeches, debates. Everything. It means asking questions. I means thinking about the source of the information and what agenda that source might have. And it means telling the people we elect that we aren't ok with any of this rhetoric. Want to talk about health care? Great. Then if you oppose it, stop throwing around "Obamacare" and "Socialism." Talk to me about facts. And it goes both ways--if you want to be mad about the election, be mad that WE are not demanding more. Until we collectively change the dialogue and demand to be treated as if we are intelligent people, capable of understanding and participating in the actual debate, we are getting nothing less than what we are asking for (and consuming).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It's not the destination, it's the journey

In 2005, in a coffee shop I frequented on my way to work, I saw a flier for Team in Training .  I had seen them in places all over town, but for some reason, this time, I picked one up and stuck it in my purse as I edged out the door in my pre-coffee haze. 

I was 26, wandering around aimlessly without much motivation, was in a dead-end (receptionist) job, and partying a little too much for someone four years removed from college.  I wasn't in great shape, I maybe ran a couple of miles a couple of times a week and maybe jumped on the elliptical every now and then.  The gym was definitely on the winning end of my membership package.  But when I was in college, desperately trying to fight the freshman 15, struggling with self-image, and running 3 miles a day religiously, I had always been intrigued with the idea of one day doing a triathlon.  So I pulled it out of my purse later that day and read it.

Five years later and I'm still swimming, biking, and running.  Without knowing it, I think I began my triathlon journey to (re)find myself.  But the person I found was stronger, so so so much stronger than I ever knew.  Triathlon has become the norm for me, although often to my social life's detriment; it can be an incredibly selfish sport--you hear all the time about "ironman widows" who have lost their partners to ironman training.  Even if you're not sacrificing time with loved ones, spending that much time doing something that in the long run doesn't benefit others is a rather selfish endeavor.  So I try to do charity rides, fundraisers, and coaching for Team in Training (it's amazing how things can come full circle), and I hope to one day start a training program with inner-city kids.  Through all this, I don't know if I'll ever be able to articulate all the things that triathlon and everything and everyone associated with it has given back to me.

Successes are great; setting a new PR or racing a new (longer) distance is an amazing feeling.  But, I've learned as much, or more, in my failures.  When you're fifty miles into a century ride and realize you haven't taken enough calories or water in, you have no choice but to struggle through and claw your way home.  Talking myself down from the brink of tears on multiple occasions, getting back on the bike, and finishing has taught me that I can do things my brain tells me I can't.  5:00 am swims on four hours of sleep, scorching hot runs and rides, racing under-trained, racing over-trained, have all taught me how to be smarter next time, and more importantly to remember that it's not always about shaving five minutes off your race time.  Sometimes it's the simple fact that this is something we choose to do, a choice that most people across the globe, for many reasons, don't have.

Watching the sun rise over a lake, the morning of a race, is the most centering, calming experience I've ever had; this feeling alone might be enough to keep me coming back, but I know there is so much more.  I'm sure one day my priorities will shift and I'll step back from racing, but what an amazing ride it's been, and will continue to be, and I'm so thankful that I had the choice and made it.

Monday, July 12, 2010


A friend of mine posted this link earlier, and in an effort to avoid work for a few more minutes, I started short, the post is telling other guys to man up and, assuming they are dating the right girl, to do the right thing and ask for her hand in marriage.  It wasn't really the marriage thing that caught my eye (all things in good time, right?), it was the whole idea that threw me into a spiral of thought/emotion/reflection:

"The reason we ask for her hand is marriage is because you can’t bullshit a bullshitter. When you’re sitting across the table from a woman’s father, he knows you, he knows your tricks, and he’s been you. Asking for a hand in marriage is the ultimate litmus test of predator vs. good man, worthy of my daughter vs. worthy of my Remington, husband vs. con-man."

I was raised to be a feminist, a strong woman, an I-can-take-care-of-myself-thank-you-very-much girl.  And so I'm conflicted by my feelings.  Because having someone ask my father for my hand in marriage?  Yeah, I want that.  Having my dad walk me down the aisle?  That, too, but not because he would be giving me away to another man like a piece of property, but because I was daddy's little girl and I want him to be there for one of the most important days of my life.  I don't have a choice in the matter, so maybe that makes me want it more; maybe that's why I don't feel like having someone ask him for my hand and having him give me away flies in the face of everything feminist.  Maybe simply making that choice is what would make it less sexist.  But I don't have the choice.

In this small way, I drew the short straw.  In general, I'll shrug off the inevitable "I'm sorries" that follow when I tell someone my dad died when I was 14.  I shrug them off because I'm a lucky person and I've never doubted that.  I had 14 years with an amazing father who had a huge hand in making me the person that I am today.  There are plenty of people who aren't that fortunate.  But there are times when there is just no denying that it's just plain unfair.

What I can choose is whether or not to wallow in self-pity, or try to do something in my father's honor.  I choose the latter. 

Last year, I rode in the inaugural event of Pelotonia, a bike ride with the purpose of raising money and awareness to one day find a cure for cancer.  This year I'm riding again.  Many of my friends and co-workers, I'm sure, are tired of me begging for money; this will be the fourth time I've come to them asking for donations in five years.  I know I'm asking a lot.  But I'm only asking for a few dollars from each person.  I'm asking for a few dollars so that one less daughter will have to figure out how to define herself as father-less. 

I don't mean this as a guilt trip; we all pick the charities we are most comitted to and we all have a finite amount of money to spend.  Even if you can't donate, check out my page on Pelotonia's site because I think it's important to share why this is so important to me, that I'm not just blindly asking people for money.

Monday, February 8, 2010

There has to be something better

I want to be done with school. I want to be done with this job. I want to being doing something of consequence. Because this? This sucks. I spent the day making charts so someone can put state standards on a crappy textbook page. Standards that are only going on there because some board member somewhere in the state of Florida who doesn't know anything about education, textbooks, or probably even science decided that was the hoop that the textbook companies should jump through to prove that their sub-standard textbooks are somehow magically correlated to their substandard standards. And you know what? At the end of the day, NONE OF IT MATTERS. NOT ONE BIT.

Monday, January 25, 2010

This might be the first time I've actually wanted to use the tag FLM

Funny story...I was in class tonight (ok, ok, I'm still in class and writing this while I listen to a group presentation) and let's be honest, the only way I make it through class is to play on facebook, twitter, and whatever other random websites I stumble on.  So, I went to Yahoo to check my email and on the homepage was a story about how Hayden Panettiere and Madonna wore the same dress to something recently (the Golden Globes? I have no idea...I don't actually watch that stuff.  I do, however, enjoy a good old fashioned cat fight.).  Plus, I grew up in the '80's and I have a still healthy fascination with Madonna, so you can clearly understand how I *had* to click on the link.  You want to, too, don't you?  Of course you do.  Here it is.

One minor problem--it's a video.  And in one of those "oh shit, I just opened porn at work" moments, I realized the sound on my laptop wasn't muted.  In fact, it was pretty much on full blast.  I desperately tried to close the website, mute the sound, throw my computer out the window.  ANYTHING.  But of course it didn't work.  Instead, the entire class turned around and stared at me and the professor actually stopped the entire lecture until I could manually shut down my laptop.  Awesome.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Where is the restart button?

I just spilled an ENTIRE cup of coffee on my desk. And in some sort of cruel comedy of errors, the only place to get paper towels on the ENTIRE floor in my building is in the bathroom or the pantry where they have installed automatic dispensers (which, by the way, only work about half the time, so the rest of the time, when you leave the bathroom, you have to wipe your hand on your pants, but maybe they only work half the time because people insist on taking an extra paper towel to carry to the bathroom door so they can use it to GRAB THE HANDLE because OMG THE GERMS, THE GERMS, THEY'RE GOING TO KILL US ALL! How I haven't gotten swine flu yet by opening the bathroom door WITH MY BARE HANDS is beyond me) , so the only way to get a volume of paper towels is to stand in front of them and wave your hand, wait for the 6 inches of paper towel to come out, rip it off, then wave your hand again, wait, rip, and repeat LIKE 50 TIMES! And now all I can smell is a really gross mix of cleaning spray and coffee.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Things I learned this Christmas:

1. Religion can be found at the barbecue cart on the corner of Longview and High. Best BBQ I've had outside of Alabama. Go there. Immediately. (As long as it's Thursday--Sunday.)
2. Kumquat liqueur is good in mimosas.
3. Christmas should not be celebrated without alcohol. Let's be honest; holidays are a fantastic excuse to drink in the middle of the day and not be judged. Take advantage of it.
4. Julie and Julia is actually a really good movie.
5. A two person Christmas really sucks. After you get done walking the dogs, opening presents, eating, watching a movie, eating again, and staring at each other for a while, it's still only two o'clock.
6. A new door for my house does, in fact, make a good Christmas present.
7. You will get no less than 5 "Merry Christmas" mass texts, at least one of which will say "Merry CHRISTmas," just in case you forgot... A couple of the texts will come from people you don't even have programmed into your phone. But, a couple of them will make you smile.
8. I will not spend another Christmas at my mom's house unless one of the following happens: she gets cable or wireless internet.

UPDATE: 9. My mom and I can get along in the same house for approximately 36 hours. No more.