Friday, April 26, 2013

Help, I need Inspiration

There are times when I am intimidated by this space. I run out of ideas and inspiration. It is at times like these I turn to my family for help. I asked Beloved what I should write about and she responded, “I don’t know.” This is of no help, I am the one who really doesn’t know and really should.

This not knowing is unacceptable in the connected age we live in, and led me to do what every Internet junkie would do. I Googled “What should I blog about today?” I was less than impressed at the results. In the top ten results there were advertisements to purchase a system from Empower Network for driving traffic to my blog, so I can make more money from my blog. I don’t make any money in the first place, and in the second, I can fool the most fool proof of anything, even if it is only “Simple, 3-step Formula.”

I want inspiration, not a sales pitch.

The next result was a blog post from someone named Social Pro, who told me my problem was I hadn’t done my homework. Like I haven’t heard that before, from all my teachers, throughout my entire educational career.

Social Pro’s idea of homework was to take one or two days a month and dedicate them exclusively to brainstorming blog ideas. Not going to happen; I actually have to work too much  to pay the bills to take two days a month to sit around waiting for inspiration.

I need inspiration and I need it now.

Littlest, who is very supportive, said, “Daddy, you can do it. Just write about whatever you want; I believe in you.”

I need inspiration, not affirmation.

Middlest is my go to daughter for inspirational humor. This is the girl who, at the dinner table, said, “If I cried as much as I actually say I do, my tear ducts would pack their bags in disgust and exhaustion and move to my kidneys.”

When I asked her what I should write about she said, “Dad, I have trig homework, AP World homework (that is the class where they watch movies during class and do the learning at home on their own) and a synchronized swim show this weekend. I need to get my homework done. Do YOU know how to do infinite geometric series?”

I need inspiration and a mathematician.

Eldest, when I asked her what I should write about, threw her hands in the air and said, “Write about...ME!”

Finally, something to inspire me. Unfortunately, I have run out of my weekly allotment of words. I will have to write about her another time.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Finding Balance Part Two

In last week’s blog, I wrote about balance and pointed out Middlest’s enormous amount of homework during the week of break, all while they were watching movies during class time. Nature is designed to operate in balance; balance will happen.

One of my dad’s favorite phrases was, “Now the pendulum is swinging the other way.” He used this to illustrate how one group of people on one side of the center would hold power, until the power shifted to another group of people on the other side of the center. Even as a child, thinking concretely about this large pendulum swinging back and forth, I would think, “Why don’t we just stop the pendulum from swinging and stay right dead center?”

Staying right dead center will never work. Firstly, it will not work because it is boring. As people we crave stimulation. We thrive on new experiences. We demand difference. And so we are back to that pendulum swinging back and forth, or to the large playground teeter-totter trying to find balance.

Secondly, it will not work because different times and different situations require different approaches. Which brings us back to balance.

My kids, with Eldest setting the example, have seemed to innately master this concept of balance. I was frustrated with Eldest during her senior year in High School when I would see her supposedly doing homework at the computer, yet the computer seemed to always be on Facebook, where she read what her friends were doing, or on Tumblr, where she would look at pictures of kittens with inane captions, or viewing Youtube videos of people singing about some furry guy who made clay pots.

Then I watched her closely, and she did indeed visit these sites, but she would space those visits out with working on homework. Doing research on Google, writing a paper, even reading a text book, before going off into the world of social media to see what her friends were doing. She easily recognized balancing calculus equations with giggling over pictures of grumpy felines with silly captions.

That is how each of the three girls do their homework. Which I cannot fathom. Excuse me for a moment while I go check Twitter.

Littlest understood balance from a very young age, especially balance in diet. Not a diet of all one thing, but enjoying the rich variety of foods in creation. She demonstrated this as a tiny thing helping to carry in groceries. She was bringing in two bags from the van. She was so small the bottoms of the bags were dragging on the ground, (one bag in each hand, and if I may add, she was adorable.) She looked up at me and with her amazing grin she announced, “Look dad! A balanced diet.”

Friday, April 12, 2013

Finding Balance

When I was in college I knew a well balanced young man. He could walk down a three inch diameter hand rail like a genuine tight rope walker. He would leap into the air and perch sideways on the rail. After he was steady, he would turn ninety degrees, facing the length of the rail, and he would walk the 20 foot length, hands outstretched to keep his balance.

I thought it was an accomplishment to walk down a telephone pole sized traffic barrier in the parking lot of the local park. This friend topped that. I think he was a distant relative of the Wallendas.

He had what we all need -- balance.

Lately I seem to be able to stumble across any floor. But it isn’t that kind of balance we really need. It is that fine line between two extremes in ideals or actions. That is why the two party political system works so well. The polar opposites of liberal and conservative thoughts balance each other. Neither is right, neither is wrong. One is just as far from the truth as the other, and thus, they balance each other.

Let me use me and my wife as an example. She is drop dead gorgeous, I am ugly. She is a genius, I am not. I have an amazing sense of humor that she doesn’t appreciate. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

Now someone is going to say, “But aren’t you alike too?” Well of course we are. There are certain moral absolutes that we both hold to, and in that way we are similar. If balance were required in all areas of the human condition then medical doctors would all be married to serial killers, police officers would wed bank robbers and drug dealers, dentists would marry soft-drink executives, and the Robertson boys (from Duck Dynasty) would all be married to vegetarians.

Let me challenge you to look for examples of balance in your neck of the woods and let me share one more example of balance with you. Last week was break from school here in our neck of the woods. Middlest came home with a huge packet of homework to do for her AP History class. Middlest had twenty-five hand-written pages to turn in, and she didn’t think she had completed the entire assignment. Two of her classmates, twin sisters, spent thirty hours on the same assignment.

I was flabbergasted and frustrated at the amount of work she was expected to do while on break. I fumed and asked, “What have you been doing in class?”

Middlest replied with that wry droll smile and wit she is famous for, “Watching movies.”

Yes folks, balance at work.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Middlest Learns to Drive

This past January, Middlest took her written test for her learner’s permit. I wrote about that experience here. Throughout the past three months, she has diligently been practicing her driving skills. This amazing young woman’s driving has gone from sending me into panic attacks to being able to sit back and relax while she drives; and by relax I mean not grip the seat with white knuckles.

This is not to say she is ready to take her driver’s test; she still has trouble with lane changes. I can understand her concern with changing lanes. Using the mirrors to see where vehicles are behind you takes a little getting used to and so we work on changing lanes.

“Dad, can I change lanes now?”

“Signal your intention, check your mirrors, check your blind spot,” is my stock reply. “Do you think you can maneuver safely?”

“I think so; do you think it is safe?”

I squirm and twist in my seat and see she has plenty of room to move over, but I do not hear that familiar clicking of the signal light as it turns on and off. “Signal....Signal!...SIGNAL!!” I repeat myself, louder and more urgently each time. As I speak, I continue to twist and turn and notice on the dashboard that she has, indeed, been signaling.

At the same moment I realize she signaled her intention appropriately, she matches my tone of voice, and with her sharp wit, which she has often directed at her poor father, “Dad, I have been signaling for so long it is growing a beard!”

After running a few errands, with Middlest driving, and trying to find a parking spot in a crowded parking lot, where the lines had faded to nothing, she had had enough driving. As we left the last store she said, “Dad, I don’t want to drive home, I have had enough.”

I tried everything I could to coax and convince her to drive home. She refused and since she still had the keys, she unlocked the door, and sat defiantly in the passenger seat.

Something about sitting in the right hand side of the car seems to make everyone a better driver. On the short drive home she expressed concern over my following distance, my speed, my proximity to vehicles on either side of me, and how I almost missed our drive way.

In my defense, I drive large yellow vehicles for my part-time job. In those vehicles, a wide turn is the only way to maneuver around corners. Sometimes, when I am in my car, I forget it is only a Toyota Corolla and does not need such a large area to turn. At times, I also forget I can turn right on red. I deeply apologize to the impatient mini-van at the red light, who repeatedly blew its horn at me. Until I realized I could actually make a legal right on red.

I do find it interesting that those people who sit on the right hand side of the vehicle can always seem to drive better than the person sitting on the left. Perhaps our British friends have it right and we should move all our driving positions to the right hand side of the vehicle. Since sitting on the right hand side of the vehicle imparts instant expertness to driving, this should reduce accidents by a significant amount.