Good-bye, old friend

I recently parted with my beloved Mazda Protege out of necessity. The frame was rusted through in several places and unsafe to drive. The trip from my driveway to the dealership for the trade-in was painful. It was like my car was singing "And I am telling you, I'm not going..." as I tried to drive her down the road. One of the rear wheels refused to turn as I drove down the street, laying rubber in a stream of smoke. I finally had to call a tow truck. And then I cried as I traveled along side the tow truck with the Protege on the flatbed.

Going through the trade-in process was extra painful after the experience of having to clean out the car. I found the detritus of 12 years of ownership: poems from ex-boyfriends, half-empty bottles of perfume, spilled ibuprofen, tennis balls, invitations to weddings and showers, CDs, earring backs, outdated technology cords, and pens. Lots and lots of pens. I'm not buying any more pens for the rest of my life. In truth, I can't figure out how I got so many writing instruments in my vehicle.

Yup, here are all the writing implements from the car. And before you, ask, YES, Mace Windu (far left) IS indeed a pen.

I am now driving a Pontiac Vibe. This car is a rebound relationship after my love affair with my trusty, beat-up Protege. I don't think it will last me nearly as long and when the time comes to let it go, I'll be pragmatic about its place in my life. In the meantime, thanks for the memories, Protege. You were reliable and unremarkable, but unforgettable.


Overdosing on being online

Ah, technology. Isn't it great? We have unparalleled opportunities to connect with family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, co-workers, and all manner of fellow humanity. All online! Twenty-four hours a day. Need a job? Send up your own personal bat signal on LinkedIn. Planning your kid's birthday party? Pinterest abounds with inspiration. Oooooh, I have a free moment--I think I'll check Facebook and see what's up. Technology = progress = better lives. Isn't that how the equation should be? In reality, it seems like all this "connection" feeds thoughts of pettiness, insecurity, and jealousy.

As people, we all want to feel an authentic connection to those around us. It's how we're wired. However, there's a fine line between sharing too much and not sharing enough. Have you ever scoffed to yourself about someone's too-perky status update? I've found myself thinking, "Oh, please. You're not the first person in the world to have a kid," or "You're on the beach. I'm hauling out the trash in the middle of January, wading through the snow. Thanks for rubbing it in!" And when a thought like this occurs to me, I don't like the way I feel.

Several of my close circle have decided that they need to delete their Facebook accounts. Some have come back into the fold cautiously after purging their friend lists. Is the solution unplugging from it all? I don't think so. After much introspection and some serious conversations with smart people, I have formed my own simple social media policy.
  1. I will accept friend requests only from people I know personally and to whom I want to be connected.
  2. I will not allow online pressure to govern my decisions. 
  3. I control how much time I spend on any given social network.
  4. I control how I react to others' postings.
Honestly, I think number four is key and it's the one on which I've spent the most reflection time. A recent issue of Psychology Today featured an intriguing article called What Happy People Do Differently. One of the sub-sections was titled The Unjealous Friend, where the author says, "What's precious and scarce are those people who can truly share in others' joy and gains without envy." In other words, people who are happy for others are more likely to be happy themselves.

Of course, this isn't a new concept. Take a look at Phil. 4:8: Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Even the most optimistic person in the world still has bad days. You might not talk about them, but everyone has them. No one is exempt. For some people, it may be a coping mechanism to write about the good things to get you through the bad things. Instead of assuming that your friend is trying to prop herself up, assume that she is cultivating an attitude of gratitude.
I like the saying, "Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." A little gentleness, online or face-to-face, goes a long way. So, go ahead. Share the joy in your life unabashed and rest assured: I'm rejoicing with you.


Pet peeves part 2

It's been a while since my first post about personal pet peeves. Perhaps a follow-up is in order? Your wish is my command!

Note: I started this post months ago, but was motivated to finish it after experiencing one of my pet peeves last night at dinner. I'll let you guess which one. ;)

Servers who introduce themselves with the line "I'll be taking care of you tonight"

When I go out to eat, I want to enjoy a dinner that I didn't have to cook. However, I'm not completely debilitated. (At least usually!) So when someone pops up to my table and says brightly, "Hi, I'm Susie and I'll be taking care of you tonight," I can't help but be a little befuddled. So, Susie, will you be tucking me into bed and giving me a warm glass of milk too? I know I'm probably over-thinking this, but it's the way my mind works.

Ugly mascots

I've written before about mascots, specifically the mascot of the Eau Claire Express. But in honor of the team's 10th anniversary, a companion mascot named Trix was unveiled. Anyone out there think this is attractive? {You do? Whoops, didn't mean to offend you! In a related matter, have you recently fallen and hit your head?}

I'm intrigued by mascots. I think about how hot it must be to wear the costumes. On a hot summer day, as you're sweating buckets, are you thinking about who wore the costume before you? Does it smell kind of strange? What does it look like viewing the world through a mesh screen while everyone else is looking above your head? Do you have a complex because children run away from you, terrified and afraid? So many questions.
Baseball players with mouthfuls of sunflower seeds in HD

I recently heard someone remark, "Once you see a game in HD, you won't be able to go back to watching sports in lower definition." I don't know if this is true, but I do know that HD has changed the way that I watch TV. I see things I never expected or wanted to see. For example, baseball players spitting mouthfuls of seeds, with little bits of the husk clinging to their mouth. Or worse, scratching themselves or "readjusting." You might spot someone in the crowd picking their nose. I find myself thinking that if I'm ever offered fantastic seats behind home plate or near the dugout, I'll have to decline so I don't embarrass my mother on national TV. HD also means that lip readers don't have work as hard to decipher the profanities that some players spew upon striking out. Ryan Braun, I'm talking about you.

Bowl games with stupid marketing names

I have been a sports fan my whole life. I remember watching the Rose Bowl with my father when I was 8. The next year, Michigan played in the Bluebonnet Bowl. It prompted me to ask my father for an explanation of bowl game selection and invitation process. I don't remember his explanation entirely, but I do remember that he was significantly LESS enthused about the Bluebonnet Bowl.

I became fascinated with bowl games. Now, while I enjoy the games, I am dismayed by the way that marketing has mucked around with the tradition. Look at how the Gator Bowl, started in 1945, has been tagged as the Mazda Gator Bowl, Outback Steakhouse Gator Bowl, Toyota Gator Bowl, Konica Minolta Gator Bowl, Progressive Gator Bowl, and now, the TaxSlayer Bowl. What a racket.

By the way, I'm glad I grew up when I did. I can't imagine getting an explanation of the BCS from my dad at age 8. At least now when I don't understand it, I'm an adult and it's not his fault.

Purposely misspelled business names

I'm a stickler for spelling, a fact to which many of my former students will attest. Don't tell them, but I do sympathize. The English language is confusing. On top of that, businesses try to be distinctive by "creatively" spelling their names and products. I think I'll take a quick trip to Kwik Trip to pick up some Krispy Kremes and then go home and plop in my La-Z-Boy to read the paper.

And there you have it! The 2014 edition of pet peeves. (And feel free to share yours in the comments section!)