Who is your person?

If you spend as much time as I do in the car, you probably have a best friend named Spotify or iTunes. I know I do. But recently I have found myself listening, or perhaps forcing myself to listen, to less music and more podcasts, audiobooks, and motivational CDs on those venues. I am committing myself to continually learn and train and receive coaching throughout the day. It has been, contrary to my initial outlook, a very easy and enjoyable habit to maintain. 

One of the first CDs I listened through was about conquering self-doubt. And one of the most important ideas in it was the concept of developing your ideal self image. Basically, it’s this: whatever you picture as the ideal person, every character trait you admire, none of the flaws you don’t, with all of the lifestyle, health habits, attitudes, skills, everything you could  want a person to be. If we have a strong, clear concept of what that person would be like, our subconscious will constantly work toward developing those traits within ourselves.

I love that idea, and hearing it inspired me in a way I really needed to experience. I tend to latch onto different personalities and admire them almost beyond recognition, if that makes sense. I don’t think that’s a problem on its own, but it can be dangerous if you choose to make an actual person the model of your ideal person. You run the risk of either adopting or glossing over that person’s weaknesses (or both). But you also risk becoming a macaw. 
Some of the most important character traits I admire and hope to embody are individuality, originality, creativity, and genuineness. If you make another person the mold into which you want yourself to fit, you can’t be any of those things.

And no, you can’t just say, my ideal person is Jesus. I mean, obviously you can say that, but doing so would fall short of completing this exercise in a meaningful way.

So I am trying to assemble my ideal human being. I’ll just make a running list:

  • Loving
  • Thoughtful
  • Understanding 
  • Hilarious 
  • Creative
  • Compassionate 
  • Insightful
  • Wise
  • Teachable 
  • Organized
  • Athletic 
  • Sensitive 
  • Emotional
  • Passionate
  • Sensible 
  • Generous 
  • Fun
  • Good cook 
  • Industrious 
  • Strong
  • Good with kids
  • Musical
  • Bartender 
  • Smart
  • Responsible 
  • Trustworthy
  • Genuine
  • Independent 
  • Confident 
  • Original 
  • Brave 
  • Honest
  • Loyal
  • Tenacious 

I don’t know. It’s a lot of things to be, but I want to be all of those, in my own way. And maybe the happiest people are the ones who become exactly what they picture in their minds. 

What about you? Who is your ideal person?

Trump executive disorder places ban on comfort zones

A man who says leaks are both illegally obtained and falsely fabricated is lost in panicked insanity. No one feels comfortable with that man leading the country, and that’s a great thing.

If necessity is the mother of  invention, then comfort is its birth control. Whatever level of greatness we can boast, America has enjoyed a great deal of comfort over the last few decades (at least the prevailing majority of us have). Lethargy, complacency, and, at worst, relatively quiet dissatisfaction have sprung from our collective comfort. Unlimited wifi, mobile everything (including coffee), limitless entertainment options, and mentally stable leaders have appointed our spacious, cozy bubbles quite conveniently. All of this is good, nice, and awful. 

When we’re feeling so comfortable, there isn’t always an irrepressible desire combusting within the engines of our souls’ most productive chambers. We’ve needed very little to keep us comfortable, so we’ve cared very little about changing the minor imperfections in our world. 

And then Trump happened. It’s hard to feel comfortable when the leader of the free world comes unhinged every day at dawn. He puts us all on edge. It doesn’t really matter where you stand politically, you really can’t feel comfortable. Maybe he compels you to protest. Maybe he gives you nightmares. Maybe he merely turns up the volume on the voices you find most irritating/frightening. But the constant unrest, drama, lies, and buffoonery surrounding Trump and everyone associated with him leaves absolutely no one feeling comfortable. 

And that’s the only redeeming quality of this presidency. Because people care about politics again. People care about news again. People care about truth and discussion and true apolitical justice again. 

Some people care enough to protest. Some care enough to speak up, call their congresspeople, even listen better to what others are saying. Others are just motivated to change things themselves. 

What I’m seeing, though, is a major drop in apathy. No matter how crazy, argumentative, disheartening, and scary things have gotten, people care. Trump has robbed us of our cultural comfort, and it’s waking us up to our personal responsibilities to play a role in progress. 

Thanks, Donald. Bigly.  

Happy Tuesday

Tuesday is the most boring day. It is the day of the week when reality sets in. Reality may smack you in the head on Monday, but by Tuesday the initial shock and stupor have worn off, and that’s when you really feel it. 

So it’s always a little off-putting when a Tuesday tries to pass itself off as a special day. Today is Valentine’s Day, but who are we kidding? It’s still damn Tuesday. Who out there is hitting the town for a wild and crazy Tuesday night? Nobody. I’ll end my anti-Tuesday rant here, because that’s really not my point of this post. 

What I really want to say is: happy Valentine’s Day. Here’s a poem. It’s not brand-new, but it is part of a book that will be this year. For the past year, I’ve been working on a book of poetry for children. Children maybe on the mature side of childhood. Children of this era. The poems are sometimes weighty, sometimes completely fun and frivolous, but always genuine.

Basically, I wanted my kids, all kids for that matter, to have a book of poetry that helps them laugh, helps them feel good about who they are, and helps them approach other people with kind hearts and understanding… all with a healthy dose of humor. When the Kickstarter campaign is ready to launch, I’ll be sure to post about it here (and everywhere). 

For now, I give you You. This poem is one of my favorites, and I think it’s fitting for Valentine’s Day. And Tuesday. 

YOU
You are brown. You are taupe. You are opal.

You are good.

You are nice. You are mean. You are hopeful.

You are good.

You believe in God. You believe in love. You believe you fell from the stars above. You believe Mohammed, Buddha, Christ.

You are good.

You have messed up. You have done well. You will find heaven. You’ll feel like hell. You are, from all that I can tell,

Quite good.

Valentine’s Day Poems, made to order

‘Tis the season to wax poetic. It’s Valentine’s Day TOMORROW, and if you were looking for a way to make the gift you give, the flowers you send, or the card you write extra special, nothing does that better than a personalized poem. Except maybe diamonds. Or gold. Or a new puppy, I don’t know. But I do know that whatever level of gift or romanticism you’re planning, a poem is, if it’s good, the perfect way to take Valentine’s Day to another level.

But if you are stuck at “What rhymes with ‘violets are blue,’ ” I can help. It is not too late to take advantage of my custom poetry writing service. At least, it won’t be too late if you order by 3 o’clock central time today, February 13.

Just fill out the contact form, give me the details of what you want the poem to be, and I’ll take it from there. And don’t worry about the fee. Whatever you choose to pay is absolutely fine.I will except donations anywhere from zero dollars to infinity bitcoin.

Again, to ensure you get your custom written poem by midnight, just fill out the contact form before 3 PM CT. Thank you and happy Valentine’s Day.

Shmanguage

I don’t understand it. (You should know that sometimes when I say “I don’t understand,” I mean that I do understand, but I’m just not particularly happy about the conclusion.) All too frequently, I see people acting as the grammar police of the universe; they scour worlds real, social, and virtual for every misspelling, usage error, and made up word and publicize their findings to the fullest extent of their broadcast reach. Whether they (or you, I don’t know) do this as a service to the general intellectual health of the public or as punishment to those who dare trample on the sacred ground of the English language or as a self-pleasuring stroke to their own egos, I really do not know or care. (Okay, maybe I have a pretty good idea, and I obviously care enough to write about it, but to the latter point, you should know I did start writing this in 2011 . . . so I don’t care that much.)

What I do know is it’s annoying as hell. As someone who has made a living correcting errors and improving the condition of the collections of words that crossed my gaze (and who reads The Chicago Manual of Style for pleasure), I notice and dislike grammatical and spelling errors quite a lot. I am also guilty of making them. But I rarely call attention to the mistakes of anyone who is not me. I mean I. Quite frankly, it isn’t my place to do so. I dislike flaws in grammar far less than I despise arrogance and treating people like Less Thans over the way they spell or speak or write.

The point of usage, grammar, spelling, whatever is to communicate effectively. That’s it. Using the objective case in the subject of one’s (or is it ones?) sentences is no sin. It’s a simple mistake which has not once in the history of mankind caused the least bit of confusion in communication. So what, in the name of the Associated Press and their unholy abandonment of the Oxford Comma, is the point of correcting people’s grammar when you understand perfectly what they’re trying to say? Hmm. Let’s examine the possible answers.

To improve the way they communicate? A) That’s not your job (if it is, please, go right ahead). B) They can obviously communicate just fine. You understood not only what they were saying but also the so-called proper way to say it.

To make them better people? Yes, because the true measure of a woman or a man is adherence to a style guide.

To put an end to the evils of bad usage and poor spelling? I’m so glad you chose to replace those evils with bad manners and poor taste.

Please stop.

There are some instances when public (or even one-on-one) grammar/spelling correction is called for. If you’re a grammar teacher, for instance. Or an editor in the act of editing something, NOT just having a conversation with someone. If you are a parent, it is perfectly acceptable to correct your children’s grammar. It is your job to teach them. If you are working with someone who is about to enter a social or professional situation in which a blunder would cause embarrassment, please do feel free to gently and kindly alert said someone to the mistake. But come on. In most instances, this is not what any of you grammar correctionistas are doing, and you know it.

Oh, and that reminds me: let people make up words. Every word in every language was made up by someone at some point. There is absolutely no reason to stop now. Language is living, and it should grow accordingly. Don’t ever stop making up words. Don’t ever discourage others from making up word. Look what happened to Latin.

Now, I understand I must sound hypocritical (or hypercritical) as I publicly correct your manners for publicly correcting someone’s grammar. And, yeah, I can see that. I suppose it’s not my place to tell you how to live any more than it’s your place to tell other people how to communicate. But I will say this: the people who say supposably instead of supposedly aren’t hurting anyone. They’re getting their points across. They aren’t hurting you, you’re just being overly critical, which is your fault not theirs. But what you’re doing? You’re making people feel stupid to make yourself feel smart (or one of the other reasons, I don’t really know). That’s a bigger offense in my book.

But I’ll make you a deal. I’ll never bring this up again. I don’t make it a habit to correct people for correcting other people’s grammar. Typically, the only time I say anything to the grammar Nazis is when they are wrong. People who incorrectly correct other people’s grammar are just too (or two) wrong to allow. For instance: “You’re not nauseous, you’re nauseated.” They’re synonyms, jackwad. If you count yourself more authoritative than Merriam-Webster, I find your arrogance nauseating. Use nauseous or nauseated or nauseating according to your preference. Don’t correct people for preferring another perfectly acceptable and common way to express the same idea. Or people who say things like, “Can you have an apple? I don’t know, can you? Say ‘may I’ next time.” Guess what? Can and may are interchangeable in that context. And someone can feel good, not just feel well. If you correct someone for using good in place of well in that case because an adverb is needed to modify the verb well, you should be slapped and slapped well. Well and good modify the subject in such a sentence, not the verb as feel is a linking verb. Either will suffice. See? Look what you made me do. Now I’m correcting people’s grammar, too. Kind of.

Anyway. Consider this a brief timeout from my general preference to silence such objections. I’ll stop correcting you. Now please, for the love of Webster, stop correcting everyone else.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (YouTube Version)

Gold, Frankincense, and Ham

I’ve posted this a couple of times in different ways, but instead of the mp3 version, here’s a YouTube version of my performance of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, if that makes viewing easier. If that doesn’t make enjoying it easier, forget this ever happened.

Carry on. And enjoy. Merry Christmas.

Happy Birthday, Maya

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Oh, Maya. How can you possibly be one year old?

This year has been a rough one for some of us, but I think you enjoyed it more than anyone. And you have brought more joy to more people than you could possibly know. You have no idea how much you are loved. You have only a glimpse of how much I love you, and I’m just one little person.

Maya
Photo by Beth Fletcher Photography

 

From the moment you were just a sparkly thought in my mind, I have loved you. And there has never been, nor will there ever be, a moment in which my heart is not warmed by the thought of your precious, beautiful soul.

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I adore you, Maya. I can’t believe you have red hair, but it’s gorgeous, as is the rest of you. Your smile melts me every time I see it, and I can’t wait to see you grow to enjoy and understand your role in this family of ours that you help to make absolutely amazing.

May your every dream and wish come true, baby girl.

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stumped

The remains of a noble tree
The remains of a noble tree
I’m still standing. The tree, notsomuch.

A tree fell on my car.

Well, that’s a terribly self-centered way to look at what happened on Tuesday morning. The car was a 2003 Toyota Corolla. It was a machine, assembled ten years ago out of glass, metal, and plastic. It wasn’t without sentimental value; it had carried me through a journey of well over 100,000 miles and ten years of life . . . and it was pretty and comfortable and mine. But it was a car that had been a part of this world for ten years with limited expectancy for continued usefulness. It is now of lesser value than the sum of its parts, or so I’m expecting Liberty Mutual’s assessor to inform me.

But in the grand scheme of things, the car is insignificant, let alone the fact that it was mine. Here’s a better way to say what happened Tuesday morning:

A tree fell.

It was a grand, noble maple tree. A sugar maple, I think. I can’t say precisely how old it was because the high winds that tackled it to the ground ripped the core of the trunk out of its stump and left a jagged, illegible record of its life. But it was an old, old tree. Older than me, I’m sure, and probably older than my parents or even my grandparents. It was a big old tree.

So for me to link that tree’s demise with that of my car just because it’s my car . . . that just seems impossibly screwed up to me.

I can think about why the tree fell in terms of how it affects me or, worse, how I may have affected it. And isn’t that how we’re tempted to think? Why did this happen to me? What might I have done to bring this ginormous tree crashing onto my car? But it didn’t happen to me. I was there. Well, I wasn’t even there, my car was. It happened. For me to wonder for even a millisecond what role my existence played in the atmospheric struggle that brought this tree to the earth . . . or to my Toyota, ending its considerable life atop my insignificant vehicle would be nothing short of self-absorbed.

Superstition isn’t the belief in something bigger and invisible, it’s the belief that one’s own influence in the universe is bigger and more powerful than it really is.

Because my car was there in the street when the storm played Paul Bunyan, a lot of people have gazed at the wreckage and expressed their grief over my loss. I admit, I’m one of those people. But the big loss is not my Corolla. It’s not my need for a rental. It’s not the bits of glass still peppering the street.

A tree fell. A grand and noble tree that has been a part of this spot on the landscape of our world for generations has been broken, dismembered, and carted off. In the vast configuration, that’s the story. It was a beautiful thing, and I’m sad to see it die.

It’s the end of my world as I know it

Maya almost fills up an arm
4 lbs, 11 oz of beautiful.

I was a little surprised when I got the text. “They want to deliver this week.” Because, you know, Maya was supposed to be born three weeks later. I was a little more surprised when I discovered that by “this week,” they meant, “tomorrow.”

I had figured that Maya was in a hurry. But seeing it in black and white . . . or black and green, I guess. Texts can be so pretty. Anyway, confirmation of her early arrival into our sight shocked me. It shocked us. In a good way.

The next morning, I ran. I’ve been training for a hypothetical 5K for the past couple of months, I guess, and I was due for a run. The first song to pulse through my ear buds was “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. That made me laugh. It didn’t make me want to spell her name Mia, but it was close enough.

The next song was “Born to Run.” This also seemed funny. Born indeed.

And the next song made me laugh the most. “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I feel fine).” Because, you know, it is the end of the world and everything. Just ask the Mayans. See how my phone makes jokes? And, obviously, it feels like life as I’ve known it is over.

This beautiful girl has changed everything.

Maya Ryan Kellogg was born at 12:35 p.m. on Thursday, May 3, 2012. She weighed 4 lbs., 11 oz. And Heather? Holy crap, Heather. she gave birth with no pain meds. She’s a fierce woman, y’all. And she’s doing great. Seriously, as well as could possibly be expected.

And Maya? She’s small. She’s got a big heart. She’s a great eater. She’s super strong. I love her to tears.

We expect to go home tomorrow morning. So, world? Watch out. She means business.

Walk/Run

So. Tomorrow I was supposed to walk with Team James & Jake at the Valparaiso March for Babies. Ironically, poetically enough, those plans are in flux because my daughter was born three weeks early. One of two things will happen: 1) I’ll find a way to go to the walk with my team and my sons and we’ll walk like crazy (probably literally). I highly doubt this will happen. 2) I’ll run. Five miles. On my own, but not. Because I want to honor my commitment. I want to honor James and Jake Fletcher. And I want to honor the support of those who have already given.

You might not know that I’ve been running. Not very fast, not very far, but pretty consistently. Every other day, about 3 miles of running. 5 miles will probably feel like a lot, to me, but I’ll do it. I have to.

I’m hoping you’ll support me, this cause, and this family with your prayers, a gift, whatever you’d like. Thank you!