Living Life Through a Lens

My family enjoyed watching the movie Big over the weekend. With my son the same age as the main character, it brought an interesting angle to an old movie we enjoy. “Old” movie…as in 27 years old.

Obviously, a lot has changed in those years, and Continue reading “Living Life Through a Lens”

A Question of Honor

While teaching years ago, I had an interesting exchange with a group of students in my sophomore English class. They were working together on a project, and I overheard one of them say, “Did you see how Mr. So-and-So (another teacher) left the room during our test? He deserves for us to cheat.”

This totally caught my ear, and I inserted myself in their conversation. “What do you mean he deserves for you to cheat?” and the girl replied, “Hey, if he’s going to leave the room and basically invite us to cheat on the test, then I’m going to take him up on it! He deserves it for being so stupid.”




This, of course, did not sit well with me. “So any teacher that doesn’t keep watch over you like a hawk is stupid and basically giving you the right to cheat?” The students chimed in in agreement.

I asked them if they considered themselves to be honorable people, and they all kind of looked at each other like I was speaking Cantonese. I rephrased my question: “How do you know you have honor if you never get the chance to be honorable?” I explained that if they are always treated as untrustworthy and ready to do the wrong thing, they would never learn whether or not if—left solely up to them—they would do the right thing.

We talked some more about it, but ultimately I did not change their minds—at least no one let on that I might have. As far as they were concerned, it was the teacher’s responsibility to make sure they did not cheat—not theirs.

External factors, not internal ones, decided their behavior. It was one of those days as a teacher that put a ding in my armor of hope.




I’m a worrier. It’s in my DNA, unfortunately, though I desperately try to let it go as I know I should. But I just find too many things to worry about, and one of them is the state of honor in our world.

How we behave when “no one is looking” is taking new paths with our growing technological world. And, sadly, as far as I see it, too many of those paths are scary and mean—and sometimes terribly destructive.

As I’ve written before, the way people feel entitled to make hurtful, nasty comments online really hurts my heart. It seems that the ability to write anything you want with little recourse has emboldened an awful lot of people to say an awful lot of awful.

Recently in the news there’s been coverage on an app called Yik Yak that allows people to post completely anonymously, and it has become so brutal that schools are asking the developers to block it in the radius of all schools.

Certainly we have had bullies and jerks since the dawn of time, and many a bathroom wall has been scrawled with malicious comments, but with the ability to reach entire schools and beyond with the touch of a “send,” the ability to be scathingly cruel is reaching new—and powerful—lows.


bathroom wall


When did this become the norm? It’s not okay that our world is increasingly more tolerant of snipe and snark.

Even sites like Yelp have created a culture of the haughty know-it-alls who are ready to rip any business they feel “deserves” it. Don’t get me wrong—I believe in the concept of community reviews—but there is a way to go about it that shares your opinion without trying to take down whatever business is in your sites.




Would these “reviewers” say this to the business owner in person?

Personally, I think that’s a pretty good gauge about whether or not most comments should be made. If you’re not willing to say it right to the person’s face, then don’t blast it for everyone else in the world to take in. People’s livelihoods are at stake, and while it might feed someone’s ego to make snipey comments about the meal they had at a local restaurant or customer service they received at the dry cleaners, I ask that we keep honor in mind as we make those comments.




I’m not saying we need to only leave positive reviews or comments. I have let several companies know when I have been unhappy with their service or products. (For instance, there was the time I told the hotel rep directly that our stay was really poor and they told me to take it up with corporate, and when I did, corporate’s remedy was to give me 30% off of my next stay at the very hotel I was complaining about. Sigh.)

But we can be more honorable, can’t we? Can’t we comment as though there is an actual human being on the receiving end of our words….because…there is.

Anonymity shouldn’t breed cruelty. It shouldn’t be a shield behind which we can throw stones to hurt others. It shouldn’t be a way to “get even” in a world where there’s already plenty of hurt to go around.

I can’t see how being able to get away with things—be it cheating on a test or making mean-spirited comments—makes anyone walk taller or feel better about themselves. But honor sure does.




There’s a wonderful quote from To Kill a Mockingbird about the character Atticus Finch from his neighbor Miss Maudie. She says he’s “the same in his house as he is on the public streets.” A high compliment on the value of being true to yourself and acting honorably.

As far as I’m concerned, I think the world needs a LOT more Atticus Finches.


Meet Mr. Google

I love reference librarians. From the time I was a kid, I would go up to the reference desk of my local library, ask a question…and get an answer. How awesome is that? Sometimes the answer was, “Let’s go see if it’s in such-and-such book,” but there was always the thirst for knowledge and the desire to help.

As a teacher, I tried to communicate to my students that being smart didn’t necessarily mean you had all the answers, but that you knew how to find them.

And then along came Google.

Google is like a reference librarian on giNORmous steroids.

If you know me, you know that I might have a teensy issue with whipping out my smartphone and Googling something that I am wondering about. I get taken to task for it…until someone else wants to know the answer to something. Then Mr. Google is cool.

And what if there really was a Mr. Google?

It might look something like this:

Poor guy. So many crazy searches to deal with.

And what exactly happens to all that “stuff” floating out there? What if Mr. Google was really…Big Brother? …watching you?

Maybe you should Google that.

[Email subscribers: please remember you will have to click through to my blog to view the clip.]

My Year in Review…Social Media Style

Reflecting back... (This was a pic I posted on FB.)
Reflecting back…
(This was a pic I posted on FB.)

It’s that time of year where we reflect on the previous 12 months and decide what changes we would like to make for the coming year. According to Facebook, which now has a feature that shows your “year in review,” my 2013 has been a happy year with various milestones to celebrate.

This amuses me. It looks like the way Facebook creates your year is by taking a random assemblage of your posts with the highest number of likes. Makes sense—in a Facebookian way. Likes = validation, and validation = reality in the social media world.

This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy Facebook, though. I do. Social media, when kept in context, can be wonderful. Out of context…it can be ridiculous or even painful.

I have a few friends who do not “do” Facebook—for various reasons, including “stupid,” “I don’t have time for that crap,” “I don’t want to be a slave to it,” and “I don’t need people snooping around in my personal stuff.” Of course, they have every right to choose not to be on the site, but my response to them is almost always “it is what you make of it.”

Your social world is up to you. And I guess that is precisely what can be the good and bad of it. While some people do post the minute details of their days, most of my FB friends are judicious with what they post, and I get a peek into their lives that I wouldn’t have in an otherwise busy world.

And what is it we are peeking at? Many times when a person chooses what they deem to be “Facebook-worthy,” it’s that they are having fun somewhere or perhaps sharing a slice of life that made them smile. The good stuff.

Another pic I posted that was well "liked." A nice night out downtown.
Another pic I posted that was well “liked.” A nice night out downtown.

But there have also been many times where people have posted something where they needed support—maybe moral support or prayers—for a trouble on their heart and in their lives. This can be the very good stuff of Facebook. It gives me a chance to listen and offer compassion. To let someone know that I “heard” them when they were calling out. It may not be much, but it’s something.

When my mother was rehabilitating from a serious health issue and I asked people to send her cards…Voilà. Cards appeared. How cool is that?

I don’t often post that kind of thing, though, and my Year in Review reflects that. While my mom needing cards to brighten her day made the cut, many other harsh realities did not. And that’s okay. My Facebook 2013 will not accurately reflect all of my 2013 because I get to choose. Simple as that.

And if we remember that most people post with a filter, then perhaps we can reduce the statistics that show that people often feel worse after being on social media. Who needs or wants that?

We ought to be able to share in each other’s joys without it taking anything away from us. But, of course, it always helps to be considerate in what you’re posting, too. (It’s never fun to see photos of a big party where you wonder why you weren’t invited to it.) A little “golden rule” can go a long way.

So with an understanding that people typically choose the “good stuff” to show us, and a consideration that we shouldn’t flaunt our “good stuff,” Facebook can be a great way to stay in touch. Because of FB, I’ve been able to share in the joys and woes of friends that I couldn’t possibly have time to keep connected with in the “real” world. I am grateful for that.

Overall, if my 2013 was a student, I would be sending it to the Dean’s Office. But when I look at my 2013 on Facebook, I am reminded of some of the blessings that I have forgotten amidst the other craziness. What a nice gift.

I’d like to take a moment to say thank you for your readership. I know how hectic and full life is, so I appreciate it very much that you take some time out of your crazy day to read my words. Thank you.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year and a 2014 full of blessings, peace, and hope…because…here it comes!

I Keep Forgetting I Don’t Pay Attention

The world in a nutshell
The world in a nutshell

I can rarely hold a thought these days, and I blame Al Gore. (Okay, not really, because he never really said he invented the Internet, people.) But between the pervasiveness of easily attainable information and the ability to communicate a million different ways, I have lost my mind.

The title of this post comes out of the mouth of my son. We were traveling down a street we drive on nearly every day, and he looked up from the book he was reading and wondered where we were. When I answered him with a little bit of frustrated disbelief in my tone, he answered, “Ohh…that’s right. I keep forgetting I don’t pay attention.” And it dawned on me how perfect a statement this was not only for him, but for me, too.

Not only am I pulled and tugged in numerous ways in my world, but I let technology grab on, too, and I find myself distracted throughout the day.

I know my brain has taken a hit in the retention category because when I attempt to read, research, and learn, there is a subconscious knowledge that I will be able to find it again. This is both terrific and horrible. Apparently, my little mind knows that so much is stored “off-site” that she doesn’t really have to rise to the occasion and commit to storing the info. My mind can be a little bitch sometimes. She’s smart enough to know she can be dense.

I remember how when I was a kid, if I wanted to learn about the Roman Empire, for instance, I would start with the World Book Encyclopedia we had in our house, and if I needed to know more, I would go to the library. I would read…focus…and repeat, if needed. Today, I would Google the Roman Empire, my eyes would dart and scan over several different sites, and…and. And little would stick for long.

But the old me is battling. I’m currently reading a book that is thick with great things to ponder and remember. Sitting next to me one day, my son asked me, “What are you doing? Why are you writing in that book?” and I had the pleasure—but also challenge—of helping him to understand why a person would mark up a book and make notes in it. “It helps me digest it and refer back to it more easily, Honey. It helps me to learn it.”

Sadly, though, it’s taking me a long time to get through the book because my little mind knows I mean business when I open it up, so I often find myself too tired (or whatever) to sit down and focus. That little mind of mine is sneaky.

I find that this way of thinking (or not thinking) has gone beyond affecting how I read or research, though. It affects how I listen, too. And that is unforgivable.

I need to pay better attention. The distractions that surround me are exactly that: distractions. They are diversions from something else, and too often that something else should have my full attention. And it’s hard enough to give full attention in a world where one thought leads to another and before I know it, my remembering that I need to buy milk has resulted in my thinking about how I need to get the oil changed and sign up to chaperone my son’s field trip and send three work emails and is that a squirrel in the tree?…

And here’s the final kicker to this line of thinking…I wanted to include a quote that I’ve loved for years: We are drowning in information, but starved for knowledge (John Naisbitt), and I vaguely remembered that I might have used the quote before. Turns out I wrote an entire other post at the beginning of the year on this same struggle of mine. I can’t even remember my own writing! (Sorry for the rerun topic, but since I didn’t remember my own writing, I’m going to trust that this doesn’t feel like a repeat to you, either…but still. Yeesh.)

Paying better attention is indeed an uphill battle, but I’m not raising the white flag quite yet. Are you with me? Oh, wait…someone just texted me. Can you hold that thought for a sec? I’ll be right back with you in a blink…

PS–This post was written while I had two 10yo boys playing/fighting/laughing/swordfighting/wrestling in the next room. Can you tell?

Techno Interruptus

mobile-technologyI’ve started to write this post about 37 times now. I keep getting interrupted for various reasons…my friends and I refer to it as the “Something Shiny Syndrome” —something shiny passes by, and off I go. Too often it is of the technological variety. Text…email…a thought that sends me Googling to find something out…

It is true: I suffer from Techno Interruptus. And you know what? I have a LOT of company.

Sometimes it just borders on the ridiculous. Like many years ago, when one of my nieces was getting confirmed at her church. My sister, who needed to sit along with her at the front of the church, handed me her purse. “Here—hold this.” Simple enough words, but I had no idea the embarrassment I was in for. Right in the middle of the (very quiet) service, my sister’s phone rang some obnoxious ringtone. I quickly dug it out of her purse to silence it, but it didn’t respond to any of the methods I knew to stop it. All eyes were on me to shut that damn thing up. Eventually, something I did succeeded. The church breathed a collective sigh, and my trauma was over, right? Nope.

You see, they called back.

At that point, I simply got up, walked down the aisle while ringing all the way, found a cabinet in the lobby and shoved my sister’s entire purse into it and shut the door. I gathered my dignity and walked with head held high back to my seat. In silent prayer, I asked God if it was a greater sin to choke my sister IN church, or wait until we were no longer on “official” turf. She, of course, thought it was hySTERical.

I bet lots of us have been in meetings where there’s at least one person who thinks it is totally fine to let all of his audible notifications go off throughout the entire meeting. I mean, the phone isn’t ringing, right? So what’s a little chirp here or there? Sometimes I wonder if they just like people to hear how “phone popular” they are…because why else would that be okay? And the simple answer to silence phones doesn’t always do the trick, either. I have a coworker whose vibration setting makes a sound loud enough that you might as well have it as a choice for an audible sound. And I love when he leaves it on the table and he gets a call…We all just stare at it with our heads cocked like it’s some sort of scientific wonder. (In many meetings it is a welcomed diversion, I must admit.)

Beyond those obvious stories of cell phones causing distractions, there is a subtler form of Techno Interruptus (TI), though. Like when I have texted someone a question that I would like to have the answer to, and then I get into a face-to-face conversation with someone else. The text notification goes off, and…there are times I am guilty of wanting to know the answer right then. In my mind, I’ll be distracted from listening to the person who is right in front of me and think “remember to get that as soon as you can.” But even if I don’t, there is that moment when the other person I’m talking to hears the sound and must wonder “is she going to answer that or not?” I know when it happens to me, I typically defer to the person’s phone. I’ll say, “Go ahead and get that if you need to…” and then…I wait.

And that is kind of a lame feeling. And it’s really lame when the other person chooses to answer the text and then goes back and forth for a bit and finally tells you, “Oh, it was something stupid…” and then they tell you what the “stupid” was (which was indeed stupid), but now not only have you been interrupted for something stupid, but then they’ve taken more time to summarize the stupidity for you…And by the time it’s all done, whatever you were saying that got interrupted has packed its bags and headed for the beach.

It is a struggle to not let technological accessibility become the updated tyranny of the urgent. Accessibility can be awesome…but also detrimental. I love being connected. As someone who works a flex schedule, it is a necessity for me. But that doesn’t mean that because I can be interrupted, I should be interrupted. TI is bad for connecting with the people for whom you should be present in the moment. The easy, obvious answer? Simply power down.

Power what?! Yeah, I know. But disconnecting guarantees that no notification will cause a distraction. And, since I am not a brain surgeon, I’m pretty sure that any work fallout will not cause anyone any bodily harm.

Oh, mother of pearl. I just lost my train of thought because I got an incoming text. And it’s not coming back to me, either. Well, I guess whatever absolutely wonderful sentence or two that I was going to close this post with has now evaporated. Ironic, huh? Yeah, I thought so, too.