women, children, cats

Something I’ve noticed: women, children, and cats hate to feel cornered. Do you want their affection? Show interest from a distance; make it clear that you’re available. Then wait. Often they will draw closer to see what you’re all about, though they may not, at least at first, and you have to be able to pretend you’re okay with that. Swoop in and try to force the interaction you want and you’ve ruined your chance.

quiet

I’m craving quiet. I guess what I should say is that lately I’ve been indulging my craving for quiet. Maybe you noticed.

Compared to my friends I live a boring life. Even so, sometimes it seems too fast, too loud, too overwhelming. I blame the internet. I admit it’s not completely responsible, but it contributes more than its share to the number of thoughts racing through my mind. I’ve been thinking about politics, peace, family issues, long-distance friendships, vocation, self-discipline, and the many quirks of time: life is short; life is long; there’s not a moment to spare; I must take time to be; projects stretch to fill the timeframe I allow for them. And so on. My brain gets noisy.

A couple weeks ago, before I could talk myself out of it, I unfollowed the thirty or so blogs I’ve been following. I was spending a significant amount of time reading things that imparted no lasting value. Sure, I stashed away some helpful tips. Yes, I gained some inspiration. But I wasn’t gaining enough good to justify all the time I spent reading those blogs every day of the week. I needed more soul-deep words. I read Madeleine L’Engle, Corrie ten Boom, Brennan Manning, and Frederick Buechner. I went back to reading the Bible after a summer of mostly ignoring it.

My soul is crying out to know the living God but I can’t get to know him while my mind is frantically occupied with other things. The other things aren’t bad, but for me, right now, they are distracting. So I’m pulling, like a soft little hermit crab, into a protective shell where I’m listening for echoes of an enormous sea. When my heartbeat calms to the rhythm of its tides, maybe I’ll venture out again. For now, expect the silence to last a while longer.

it’s not that bad

I recently experienced a revelation. To some of you this will sound more “No duh!” than “Oh, wow!” but I share with confidence that someone out there can relate. Here’s the revelation: chores I tackle the moment I notice them are easier than chores I avoid for a while before addressing them. Your mind is blown, right?

Although this may seem obvious, it took a while to click for me. I fell prey to a shortsighted logic that told me, “This mess is not that bad; you can deal with it later.” That seems to make sense.

glass canister, bowl, and glasses soaking in stainless steel sink

See? Not that bad. It can wait.

But here’s another way of saying the same thing: “You should deal with this mess only when it grows to a size and severity you can’t ignore.” That’s nonsense.

I was using the fact that any given mess was small and manageable as an excuse to put off dealing with it. What I could have done instead—what I am working on doing on a daily basis now that I realized procrastination has caused me undue stress—is to recognize that small, manageable messes are far less stressful to eliminate than long-ignored, overwhelming messes.

utensils, glasses, and dishes in white dish-drying rack

Five minutes, maybe?

But I still don’t like doing dishes. What’s your dreaded chore? How do you motivate yourself to complete it?

less than we bargained for {part 1}

Get up and go; don’t wait for the world to change!” I said. Does that sound like ignorance to you? It does to those of my peers who are making our generation famous for things like technology obsession and living at Mom and Dad’s. These “under-employed” college grads complain a lot about money. They can’t afford gas, can’t pay their student loans, can’t believe the cost of rent. Because of this, I wish personal finance (without a debt mentality) were a required course in all high schools. I pity everyone who left home and school without receiving a warning about the perils of living beyond one’s means and using credit to pick up the slack.

students at commencement ceremony

image courtesy of Smithsonian Institution

Our attitude that we will always be in debt, as a country and as individuals, is a self-fulfilling prophecy in the sense that to embrace the attitude is to reject escape. Many have truly fallen prey to unscrupulous lenders. Read Matt Taibbi’s article “The College Loan Scandal…” on Rolling Stone if you’d like to raise your blood pressure. Then for balance (or to make you angrier) go to National Review Online’s “The Corner” and read Jason Richwine’s “What ‘Profits?’“, a denunciation of Taibbi’s article.

The point is that people are signing papers without understanding the fine print. There is a reason the ancient proverb warns, “The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). As high school grads prepare to become college students this month, I hope they’re thinking long-term. It’s a high hope, I know.

Here are my thoughts on college and what it sets a person up for:

Go to college, yes! But not by all means. Guidance counselors, teachers, admissions reps, and parents have bees in their bonnets. Those bees buzz madly in your elders’ ears: “Only failures skip college.” But, um, college itself is not the maker/breaker. Don’t tell them I told you.

-College is not your birthright but it is a wonderful opportunity. It’s a semi-controlled environment where you can practice being an adult (or not). You can meet great people, have well-organized opportunities, and learn things that are harder to learn independently. I don’t know many people disciplined enough to sit down and analyze literature or practice algebra on their own.

-College can pave the way for you to get hired, but there are also “unmarked” entrances to the job market. I probably would not have landed my post-college job in a public library except by working for free for a summer. The library directors preferred to hire people with Master’s degrees, but my volunteering gave them a chance to “test drive” me as an employee, and they decided I was alright. My point is twofold: some employers will completely ignore you if your education ended after high school. Sometimes you’ll get dismissed even with your Bachelor’s degree. But there are ways around this.

You can go to college without debt. Really. I didn’t say this year. But you can. You can put off going to school until you’ve saved some money and secured some scholarships. You can complete basic courses at your community college—just make sure they’ll transfer. In hindsight I wish I had done this because the rates per credit hour were much cheaper at CC than at the private school I chose instead! Another option is to head straight for the four-year campus and work your way through. Sometimes that may hamper your social life, but…pay now or pay later, I say. After college it will be the borrowers who have to work all the time. You may even find campus activities—things you’d do for fun—that pay. I paid part of my way by editing the campus yearbook.

Only go to college if you can articulate your reasons for going. If it’s just because “all my friends are” or “my parents want me to,” see if  you can wait a while. Getting a degree simply for the sake of getting a degree could be a huge waste of money. It all depends on what you want to do. Find out if people who hire entry-level positions for your dream job value education or experience more. If everyone with whom you share your plans retorts, “What are you going to do with that?” by all means give them a sassy answer but then think about it. Do they have a point?

-That said, when you know what you want and have the financial wherewithal to accomplish it without signing your life on a dotted line, go!

Okay, anyone who’s been there, done that—or bucked expectations and not gone there, done that—what advice would you offer to high school grads with college in their sights?

equal footing on yahoo news

It may sound as if I’m picking on Yahoo but I’m only using it to illustrate a trend in news reporting and aggregating. Since I started using Yahoo email (recently) I’ve found the juxtapositions on the home page startling.

screenshot of headlines on Yahoo News August 23, 2013

We live in a world where news of wildly differing degrees of importance is presented on equal footing. Do I want to read about a “wacky hairdo” or the plight of a Syrian refugee? Developing details of the apparent murder of a WWII veteran or the first public appearance of North West? It’s fine with me if people want to read entertainment news and other “fluffy” fare. I’ll come right out and admit I’m obsessed with Kate Middleton, but it bothers me that a beautiful picture of a duchess and her family shows up above a picture of a young man receiving oxygen after a chemical weapon attack.

Maybe this is pandering: news services want to offer what people want to read. And I can definitely see the possibility that if the serious stuff were relegated to a “serious place” there’s a chance fewer people would read it. Mixing it in with things that are fun to read may actually allow it to reach a wider audience.

Something about it still troubles me, though. Would it make sense to divide an aggregate’s home page into sections–each quarter devoted to its own type of news: world headlines, celebrity gossip, nutty trends, U.S. politics…? What do you think?

Are the people who design the presentation of this information finally achieving the journalistic ideal of being fair and balanced, or are they mistakenly encouraging their readers to view all headlines as equally weighty?