Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My PEDFRON report card

This is a report card I'd hide from Mom

The post-every-day-for-the-rest-of-November (I've decided to call it PEDFRON) project wasn't a complete failure, but it also wasn't a rousing success. I'm able to see the glass as half full...and half empty. It's a blessing...and a curse.

Setting the goal did have the desired effect of making me post more often for awhile. There's the half full.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Us against Them

You are part of an us. In fact, everyone is part of some us. Even if you consider yourself a solitary being in the world, you are part of an us. In that case, you're your own us - a small us, but an us nonetheless.

Every us has an associated them. By definition, them is not us. There is no better descriptor for them than not us. It says all we need it to say.

We live our lives in the tension between us and them.

At some point in your life you will draw the distinction between us and them. It may be a conscious decision or it may be surprisingly subconscious.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Home again

It's always interesting to sit outside the circle and watch a different family dynamic. It makes you ponder your own.

Some things hold true regardless of the group situation. For example, the most difficult part of genuine communication is being genuine.

Tired, happy to be home, counting this as a post, and considering the post-a-day initiative a success so far ...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday?

No! It's the season of light.

Christmas lights in Granbury

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year, more than any I can remember, the Christmas decorations hit stores early. At one of the 271 neighborhood Walgreen's, I watched sales clerks unloading battery-operated Santas and artificial trees while Halloween pumpkins and faux-wicked witches were still on the shelves. I saw my first unnaturally jolly Christmas sale commercial on TV in October.

I became strangely committed to establishing a "fall tableau" on my front step - a decorative display of miniature straw bale, pumpkins, and ornamental gourds - to set a fall harvest atmosphere. I even picked up a half-priced scarecrow in an after-Halloween sale to keep watch over the tableau and draw a seasonal line in the sand between summer heat and winter cold.  It seemed important.

The scarecrow has been named Wendy. Wendy has a perpetually sunny smile on her face and keeps toppling over. I found her face down (but still smiling) in a pile of autumn leaves the other day. I have a sneaking suspicion Wendy drinks. She's probably exhausted. Watching over the harvest must be hard work.

Why has the cultural leap from Halloween straight into Christmas vexed me so? How has my sweet little drunken scarecrow fall tableau come to occupy such an emotionally important place in my mind?

I think it's because that leap from Halloween directly into Christmas is a leap from asking for candy to getting and giving more "stuff." It's a straight line of acquisition without any pause to be thankful for what we already have. Thanksgiving is a pause that whispers "enough" between blustery shouts of "MORE."

I'm thankful today for all the many blessings in my life. I'm thankful for people who want to spend the day with me. I'm thankful for the stamina and the resources to travel. I'm thankful for safe travels, even if I miss my family. I'm  thankful for the rich character of my family. They're people who can turn even the ordinary and routine into a memory.

I'm thankful for Wendy, the sweetly smiling drunken discount scarecrow, who reminds me that I have enough.

Wendy in a sober and upright moment

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Health on the road?

On the road for the Thanksgiving holiday and giving travel health the old college try - As I sit waiting for my flight to Dallas to board, I feel a little guilty about the barbecue sandwich and mac and cheese I ate for lunch. But I have to say that it was pretty darn tasty, especially for airport food.

I've had a glass of iced tea, but don't want to drink water on top of the tea because I hate the tiny bathrooms on airplanes. Water would surely push me over the urinary cliff. My last act before boarding is usually hitting the restroom one last time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What's the difference between fantasy and dream?

Reminds me of an old joke...

Question: What's the difference between sexy and kinky?
Answer: Sexy is tickling your lover with a feather. Kinky is using the whole chicken.

A feather? Or the whole chicken?

A fantasy is the imagining of something impossible or improbable, while a dream is something strongly desired. Some say that the difference between the two is that we're consciously aware of our imagination when we fantasize but not so when we dream.

They're both important for a healthy psyche, but be careful. Don't let hyperactive fantasies squeeze out malnourished dreams.

Yippee-yi-yay cow patty!

Interweb gremlin - actual size

This post was originally scheduled to run yesterday, and then interweb gremlins interceded.

Okay, okay - it was user error on my part. I admit it. I'm posting it now and, with any luck, there will be another post later on this evening to fulfill the spirit (if not the letter) of the law of posting every day for the rest of November. Today's a two-fer - you're welcome!

Tiptoe through the cow pies

When I was a kid, I'd sometimes go target shooting with my older brother. We'd walk deep down into the pasture and take aim with his .22 pistol at any number of targets - maybe empty cans, maybe makeshift paper targets - carefully avoiding the cows, of course. The most satisfying target was a cow patty. If you've not had the pastoral shooting experience, you probably do not realize how satisfying it is to shoot a fresh cow patty. Cow patties, cow pies, manure piles... call them what you will, but they explode in a spray of impressive splendor when they're hit spot-on with a .22. Ya know what it is? It's manure majesty! The Imagineers at Disney World should try adding something like that to their synchronised fountain displays.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How can you cement a healthy habit?

Yesterday I talked about breaking an overwhelming plan into smaller "bite-sized" chunks and then making those smaller chunks into habits to increase chances of success. That sounds pretty simple. I mean, if biting my nails comes so effortlessly then I should easily be able to form a healthy habit, right?

You may have even heard a general rule of thumb that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Only 21 days - that's three short weeks - piece of cake! Why don't more people latch onto this brilliantly simple way to enforce positive behavior?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Eat your sandwich one bite at a time

The whole "create a strategic life plan so life will sing more than stink" idea isn't really a new one. In fact, tips and tools to guide you in creating a lifeplan are available all around you. With so much available information free for the taking, you'd think people would be actively charting a course for intentional happiness left and right.

But no matter how much you think about planning (it's been lurking in the back of my mind even when I'm not giving it full frontal attention) or read about planning, the whole process seems harder than it's supposed to be. Maybe even harder than it's worth?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Posting every day for the rest of November

I've resolved to post every day for the rest of November. I can't promise the content will be top notch, but it will be regular.

I wish I could promise the written equivalent of oatmeal, a stick-to-your-ribs kind of blog experience. The best I can do is promise that I'll write regularly and that I hope it will not be the written equivalent of a cheap frozen burrito nuked in a wimpy breakroom microwave.

You know what I'm talking about - you eat it quickly, the inside is kind of cold and mushy, it doesn't really fill you up, you wonder if that communal microwave is harboring harmful bacteria because no one ever really cleans it and everyone just gets stubborn when they read those passive aggressive notes the admins leave about the mess in the breakroom, and then you regret having eaten the burrito in the first place.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Standing neck deep in water - lessons from a hurricane

I've been following the situation in U.S. states impacted by Hurricane Sandy last month. I feel a personal connection because I work with several clients in the area, including state agencies and research universities.

But I also feel a connection because Hurricane Sandy brought back personal memories of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which hit Gulf Coast states in 2005. My memories are not those of a Katrina survivor, but they're powerful nonetheless.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Recipe redux - Cream of mushroom soup

What do you call a mushroom that picks up the bar tab? A fun-guy to be with!

Get it? Fun-guy to be with? Fungi to be with? I slay me!

Anywho.... The test drive of my soup recipe as a cream of mushroom was a smashing success.

I made the soup with two kinds of mushrooms. Probably not strictly necessary. And since I'm not a 'shroom expert, I can't say with certainty that the two kinds of mushrooms I used are the optimal mushroom mix. But it was good. Lick the bowl good. Trust me.

This would be a primo recipe to use when you find a mushroom markdown. (A mushroom markdown is like a ballroom blitz, only different.)

By the way, what happens to mushrooms beyond their expiration date? Do they get moldy? A fungus pileup?

But I digress. Here's the recipe.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

This is me!

I'd forgotten my sister wrote this: Correspondence From My Sister.

Is this a smarmy way to get out of writing a new article - pointing to words I've already written that are floating around the ancient interwebs? Yeah, probably. Come to think of it, my sister was probably trying to get out of writing a new column when she used my emails in the first place. Must run in the family.

But I did write the words, even though the words are old words written in old emails and not originally intended to be shared with the world (all two of you who seem to have stumbled upon this almost-blog).

I'll admit to laughing when I re-read the old words. I was also transported back to the place I was then when I wrote the old words. That's the power of words for those who write them. Is it the same for the people who read them?

Monday, October 22, 2012

The plan (updated format)

After sharing a fairly detailed look at my planning process and then totally wimping out on follow-up, I've guilted myself into sharing a peek at the plan itself.

Is guilt a bad thing? Maybe yes, maybe no. Looking back and beating yourself up again and again over things you cannot change is a negative exercise. But I think the little voice inside your head and heart that says "You know you can do better, don't you?" usually pushes you in the right direction. That voice can nudge you toward positive action.
So I've decided to show you what I've got so far. I even considered sharing an image of my handwritten notes, but when I looked at them again I realized the notes contain more personal information than I want to share.

I'll be honest. I haven't done a good job of committing to plan or make any changes and improvements to my life. Why you may ask?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Eat this post! Great cream of broccoli soup recipe

It's gotten a little cooler in my neck of the woods.

One of the things I like about living here in the southeast is that there are generally four distinct seasons. Sure, spring may be short-lived with a lurch right into hot weather. Or winter may seem like just a long extension of fall (especially last year, which was so unseasonably warm some people didn't even wear a coat all winter). But I can usually point to four separate seasons, each building excitement at the thought of the changes it brings.

Cooler weather calls for soup. There! I've taken a stand. My first adamant statement of the blog. Cool weather calls for soup, dammit!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Drafting a strategic life plan - my head hurts!

I've been dragging my feet on drafting the plan I alluded to in my previous post. I think I've fallen into a common trap -- getting so tangled up in the "how" and the "why" that the "when" slips farther and farther away.

If you're struggling with something like this, do what I (sometimes) do. Find someone else with a good approach and adapt it to your own purpose and your own life.

I appreciate J.D. Roth's approach to planning. Back when he was still struggling with personal debt, J.D. wrote at Get Rich Slowly about developing a spending plan rather than a specific budget. When I first read J.D.'s baseline article on the spending plan, two concepts really resonated with me.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

First steps

I've been thinking a lot about next steps - next steps for this blog and for my life. Since I started the blog to "write out loud" about my life, it makes sense that they should parallel each other.

I wouldn't go so far as to say I want to follow my bliss because happiness in life and in work is more complicated than that. But I do think some introspective planning is an important step in refining and articulating what I do want to do.

You may have heard that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Sometimes that first step is just lacing up your walking shoes.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Confabulate as well as commiserate

Welcome (belatedly, three posts in) to Confabulosity!

So why Confabulosity you may ask?

Since this is a first blog, maybe a practice blog, a training wheels blog, I didn't want to expend a lot of energy on the name. I mostly wanted something that was fun enough to say and memorable enough to bookmark.

My first thought for a name was CONFABULATE, a word I use just because I like the sound of it. If I suggest we confabulate, I mean an informal chat. So far so good for a blog. But when I looked it up to double-check the meaning, I found another most excellent use of the word I'd never known: to fill in gaps in memory by fabrication.


Friday, September 7, 2012


When last we left my new found perch in the blogosphere, I'd been cut deeply by remarks on a "360 assessment" at work. Communication was a recurring theme - full of valued information for some in my circle and too detailed for others.

My gut reaction - not necessarily a reasonable or healthy reaction - was that the people who can't assimilate the information should just step up their game. That it's their weakness, not mine.

Ahhhh, there I go again... focusing on "weakness" instead of building on "strength."

And probably dodging accountability along the way.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hard lessons from a 360 review

“We are measured not by what we are, but by the perception of what we seem to be; not by what we say, but how we are heard; not by what we do, but how we appear to do it.” – anonymous

I think I say more when I keep my mouth closed.

I had the privilege of attending a management class about six months ago. I say "privilege" in complete sincerity and with nary a hint (well, maybe a hint, but no more than a hint ... really) of sarcasm. The class included a 360 review, an assessment created with the input of people who know me from all perspectives in my work life - colleagues and collaborators, direct reports for whom I provide day-to-day supervision, my own manager and other program directors who supervise me.