Too much schutting up…

There is an expression that I find myself using more and more often: “there’s too much shutting up in that job!” As I reflect on the opportunities that I’ve had, I recognize that there is a distinct reason why things have not worked out. You see, as confident as I think I am, not everything works out the way I’d like to think it will. Isn’t that the story of our lives?
career opportunities… Relationships… Major purchases…

I applied for a new job recently. Don’t be surprised! I’ve got… Like five! It’s a job that I’m certainly qualified for-probably overqualified for! But the timing is not right. I don’t know when the timing will be right. What I do know, is that I still need to find a balance between passion and responsibility. The job that I want is not a job that I need. And the job that I need is not the job that I want. Oh I’m good at a lot of things. I just haven’t managed the ability to know when the job is done. Passion will keep you at work until the wee hours of the morning. Responsibility will keep you working beyond the traditional obligation. That balance that I seek is where I falter.

With a hobby, you can start and finish whenever your heart desires. With a career, the job is not over until the boss says it is. Oh how wonderful would it be to be the boss over both your career and your hobby? Entrepreneurship!

I am Learning that educational advocacy (or advocacy of any kind) requires a great deal of discretion, cooperation, and knowledge. The discretion comes in knowing when to stop. The cooperation comes when understanding the importance of working with your team. The knowledge comes from experience. But when you are the voice for someone else, you have to know when to shut up! 
Kenny Rogers once said, “you Gotta know when to hold them…” The balance between career and hobby should not be a gamble. It should be a precise calibration, or even a collaboration, between what is right and what is practical. Advocacy is not just speaking on behalf of someone else, but in developing strong leadership. A boss tells others what to do; but a leader demonstrates how to effectively get the job done. So many people want to be a boss. What we really need are more effective leaders.

While out walking around the mall amongst the hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers, I ran into my boss. As the conversation ensued I revealed to him that I had recently applied for a job elsewhere. Not the smartest thing to do. But in the spirit of the holiday and my desire to keep it 100%, I thought I would share it with him.  When he asked me why I didn’t take the other job, my response was “there was too much shutting up in that job!”  He didn’t flinch. He wasn’t concerned. Perhaps he knew that I was the type who would have a difficult time shutting up. I had to chuckle at my own revelation. As if he needed an explanation, I explained that to be effective as an advocate, I had to be a team player and work towards the team objective. Did I just explain to my boss that I was reluctant to work towards the team objective? I’m not sure how to answer my own question.  Either way, I demonstrated to him that I was embracing (a newfound loyalty)… to my current job. I suppose I ought to demonstrate how I’m going to channel that passion at work on Monday morning. That is to be determined.

When working for some one else, one must be mindful of what he can and cannot say. I must be pretty full of myself or pretty darned confident that my job is secure. Now that is what you call false confidence! There is too much Schutten up in this job! Are there any jobs out there where you don’t have to shut up? 

Even those people who get paid to speak, must follow a script.

Contradiction in terms

(This brief excerpt was scripted entirely by dictation)

A few days ago I shared the above meme to my Facebook page because I thought it was a neat idea. But as with most things that I post to social media, I have an opportunity to reflect each and every time I get a notification. And the conclusion that I came to on this weekend of  “thanks” is that being a decent human being costs everything! 

There’s so many good people in the world. There are so many bad people in the world. The most humble good people don’t realize the enormity of their goodness. The worst people in the world are proud of their badness. But then there’s the rest of us who fall in that gray area. We try to be good and do the best that we can. We make mistakes just like everybody else. And when we mess up we try to correct our ways. We are a breed of people. 

However there is another breed of people:  The kind of people who believe that they are doing the right thing but in fact do not realize the error of their ways. No matter what you tell them; no matter what they see; no matter what they read; they hold their own truths to be self-evident. And these people don’t care what I think. They don’t care what you think. They only care about what they believe is right.

We perceive these people as dangerous. We ponder, “if only they would use their powers for good and not evil…” But how could they? They believe their way is right. They believe their way is the only way. They justify their behavior. They want us to see the error of our ways. To them, we are ignorant, self-righteous, and naïve. Those are fighting words. Fighting words? Is this why we are fighting now?

And so to say that it cost zero cents to be a decent human being is in itself questionable. It cost us everything! It cost us money. It cost us fame. It cost us our sanity. It cost us our family. It cost us our relationships. It cost us our faith. It cost us so much…

You can’t put a dollar amount on those expenses. It’s immeasurable
It’s quite a hypocrisy when we are thankful on Thursday but rushed out to buy things that we don’t have on Friday (pretending as if those things we are buying or for someone else).
And so we have conflict hours after we fill our bellies. As we watch the game or try to refrain from having controversial conversations at the dinner table, we will slip away and at least glimpse  at the sales ads and think of the next 23 days ahead. We will drive home tomorrow warm houses or apartments. We will talk our children in and cuddle up with a good book, a Facebook Feed, or more likely a blockbuster movie. We will escape our worries for a few hours more before we are bombarded with the conflict in the world. Tomorrow is a new day. Embrace it…

not wrong, just write

What if there were no wrong in the world?  I mean beyond what you and I may perceive as wrong (or right), what if all of this is the way it’s supposed to be?  A perfect balance between good and evil that is perpetuated to prevent either from destroying the world.  Too much good would result in a heaven fit for everyone, and too much evil would transform this world into a living hell!

Sometimes the righteous are so convinced that their  beliefs are correct that it pains them to even consider an alternative.  Those who seek righteousness look for a model either in a higher power (God), an example in mankind (Mother Theresa), or in scriptures (Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon, etc).  A road map, if you will, is needed to see where we are and to plot a course with new discoveries along the way.  Our destination is never ReALLy predictable though.

The meek will inherit the earth.  Yes, it’s scripture to those who believe.  But to others is proverbial.  It’s an expression open to interpretation…as is everything!  This world is what we make of it.

True story:

When I was in 9th grade, I had a revelation that was struck down by the “smartest”kid in the class.  Naturally her uniqueness, flowing hair, and witty comments had my attention.  And because she was smart, she made ME her boyfriend (chuckling sarcastically).  Sitting beside her in the lunch room was her good friend and admirer whose personal circumstances were far different.  My girlfriend was very accomplished by her freshman year in high school and was on course to being the valedictorian and an IVY scholar.   Her friend however would eventually need to leave her mother’s home at age 16 just to protect her right to finish high school.  Two very different women…

I sat across from them both in lunch.  The conversations were typical of teenagers in the 80s.  MTV, Twin Peaks, and the newest rap song that our parents feigned.  One day I had an epiphany.  Before I thought it through fully, I spoke.  “What if everything that is happening is supposed to be happening?  What if we are getting what we deserve in life even if we don’t like it, even if it is unhealthy, or EVEN if it kills us…?”  My girlfriend kicked me under the table.

“Wha!?!”  I yelled in pain.

She motioned to our mutual friend sitting with us who immediately looked embarrassed.  As if I had said something wrong, I tried to clean it up, but didn’t know how.

“…er…I mean what if the things that are happening now will correct themselves is some way, without our intervention?”

My girlfriend was NOT pleased.  But our mutual friend looked on with mild interest.  I continued, “what if every good thing that is happening now will be countered by an equally unpleasant thing sometime later in life?”

The scholar put a stop to the conversation at once before my though could evolve.  Later in the day she pulled me aside and explained that type of talk is hurtful.  She warned me that I shouldn’t cast my beliefs out like that because it’s simply unfounded (yeah she spoke like that in the 9th grade).

Fast forward to the present.  The scholar attended an IVY as predicted and went on to get her PhD. Our mutual friend is a mother of five, wife, educator, and the greatest person you could ever know.  I’m glad that my girlfriend was wrong.  I suppose I’m glad that I couldn’t predict the future, but I’m more pleased that I didn’t fully abandon my theory.

I am glad for insights in my youth.  I am hopeful that things in our lives improve.  I’m mindful of the balance in life.  And I am grateful we are sharing these experiences.













Stop Hiding

originally published on October 13, 2013 at 9:20pm

after resting with the breeze blowing through my bedroom

after the whole day passing me by

after going through the Sunday motions

after praising

after shopping for the evening’s nourishment

after allowing the kids to have their private time

after I slipped into a blissful snooze

I awoke.

I decided to take the kids out to shoot some hoops in the yard for the remaining 10 minutes before dusk.

we played

we laughed

we taught our old dog some new tricks

we ran

we took some pictures

and just after I sent the kids inside to clean up for dinner

I said

let me put some things out of sight

I turned my back to the dog who was playfully laying on his back

I turned my back to the house where the lights glowed amidst the rustic back woods

I turned my back to yesterday’s worries

While my back was turned

The dog ran off

leash and all

the kids heard me calling for the dog

they came out to help

but he did not come back

I walked the yard and it’s surroundings

I took to the path that the dog knows well

but it was dark, too dark to bring others

but too dark to go alone

I could barely see

my feet knew the route

I figured that I would at least try

I had nothing to loose

each second the wooded path was more faint

branches scratching my face

wooded landmarks were all I had

those…and my faith

within minutes I reached the end of the path

a familiar place where I’d hidden my treasures

a place that no one else lurked

but a place I’d chosen to keep things safe

last week’s storm had taken out some trees

pushed over from top to root

no one would have otherwises noticed or cared

but for me it was remarkable

but for me it was mentionable

but for me it was once a place where I felt safe

crushed by the fallen tree

just like the other hiding spot was

crushed by the fallen tree

and I realized that no hiding place was safe

no hidding place was hidden enough

there’s no hidding from the world

and there’s no hiding place from Him

I walked a little bit farther

calling out for my dog

I grew weary

the night grew closer

and off in the distance I found him

I found Him

He was still

and so was I

nothing was said

we walked back together


in the dark

and I was content

the he was found

but then I realized that

he was never lost


he was hiding

just as I had been hiding

and I was glad that I had realized

that there was no reason to hide


My Life in a Peanut Shell

I just realized (in the spirit of life imitating art) that recent events in my life were merely a series of promos for the upcoming Peanuts movie.

Everything that I needed to know I learned in kindergarten(?) or maybe in some of the cartoons that my mom relied on to babysit me.  We already know that some of the greatest childhood entertainment came from Looney Tunes, Hanna Barbera, and Peanuts.  Charles Shultz would be turning in his grave if he witnessed the evolution of children’s entertainment.

“But NO!  I had to listen to YOU…”

The above clip has had significant meaning to me in the past few years.  Take a look at the script:

“I’m glad you came back…”

“You’ll see the Great Pumpkin with your own eyes…”

“If you try to hold my hand,  I’ll slug you!”

“You look all around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy…”

“I was robbed!  I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin!”

“Halloween is over, and I MISSED IT!”

“And it was all your fault!  And I’ll sue!”

“What a fool I was…”

“You owe me restitution!”

pumpkin carving

“You’ve heard about furry and a woman scorned, haven’t you?”

“Well, that’s nothing compared to the fury of a [woman] who’s been cheated out of trick or treats.”

Each line above has meaning to me.  We could explore the nuance of each one, but it is a personal journey, no? Remember, these cartoons were created nearly 50 years ago!  Although they were not likely to be a prediction of things to come, they were certainly a reflection of the way things were at that time.  A happier time, maybe.  My naivety and genuine innocence prevented me from perceiving the full weight of what was happening in those cartoons.  But now, it’s far more than an opportunity to reminisce.  There was something there for me to see THEN.  There is something so familiar that it has awakened something in me NOW.  I’m not embarrassed that I could draw something so prolific from a childhood memory.  In fact, it lends itself to the notion that a seed was planted then that will blossom now.

Do you suppose that the most overlooked part of Trick Or Treating is the trick?  We are so focused on the treat, that we forget that there is an alternative…the silver lining, if you will. That trick is a surprise.  It jolts the system causing either alarm or uneasiness.  It’s a learning experience, and its an opportunity to avoid being tricked again.  That knowledge is far more valuable than any classroom lesson or parental warning. Ah, the silver lining…the reward on the other side of disappointment.

I come from an era when my mother was reluctant to let me engage in tradition Halloween shenanigans like “mischief night,” “beggars’night,”or the actually dressing up to go door-to-door asking for treats.  She blamed her mistrust on the Atlanta Child Murders, the Tylenol Scare, and a general mistrust of strangers.  It was never due to the evil that the holiday represented.  And for me, whatever mom decided was law!

In college I read James Baldwin’s “Evidence of Things Not Seen”baldwin This gave me healthy a perspective of the racial relations that led up to a mis-adjudication of a black man for crimes committed against young children by an “uncatchable” serial killer.  “The Tylenol Scare” referred to an urban legend about children receiving tampered candy and medicinal treats instead of the traditional Halloween spoils. The general mistrust of strangers is certainly a trait that I’ve carried into adulthood however.

My childhood was probably no different from any other child born in the early 70’s who endured the disco era, Reaganomics, or 80’s fashion.  But it was the cartoon entertainment that had the most profound impact on me.  From Peanuts, I grew excited about the holidays.  I learned mistrust from my “friends” each time I witnessed Lucy pulling the ball away from Charlie Brown (every time he began to believe in the genuine goodness of people).  I developed an enjoyment of neo-jazz from the score in each Peanut’s Holiday Special.  I witnessed gender identity develop each time “Chuck” had an encounter with Peppermint Patty.  The lone black kid, the musician Schroeder, and Pig-Pen were all characters that I could relate to because I either knew someone like that kid or I WAS that kid!  Not to mention the very first time I heard what Christmas was all about [Charlie Brown]. It was my first exposure to the biblical story according to Luke.

But the Halloween Special…  that one’s most meaningful to me now.  Have you ever considered the undertones about faith in that one?  The waiting for evidence of things unseen?  That’s Hebrew 11:1!  And only as recent as yesterday did I stumble across what some believe to be the true meaning behind the Allhallows Eve. But what I experience now adds meaning to what I already held to be true.  The caution, the waiting, the patience, the disbelief, and now the 12 steps to recovery.  Laughingly, I recognize that not everything in life requires therapy to recover.  Sometimes a few moments of silence is all that is necessary.  I wonder what the the Peanut’s Valentine’s Day Special has in store for me.