Hellish or Heavenly?

January 12, 2010

Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part that chooses, into something a little different than what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature. -C.S. Lewis

A friend of mine shared this quote with me a short time ago.  I had to ponder it a bit.  In some respects, I find it extraordinarily true.  In other respects, a little too black and white, a little too simplistic.  But mostly true.

I don’t necessarily know about the heavenly vs hellish dichotomy, but I absolutely, 100%’ly believe that our choices help form us, closing off some pathways that might have been present before.  Opportunity cost, I think I recall learning in high school accounting or freshman college economics.  The notion that there is a cost to choosing one thing over another, and that some choices close off other possibilities, maybe temporarily, maybe permanently.  Of course circumstances beyond our control can have these effects, too, but the important thing to take away from the pondering of this quote, I think, is that we have some degree of self-determination in forming that central thing inside us, for better or worse.  We have that responsibility and that power.

How am I choosing this day?

These Days?

Heavenly, hellish, or some delightful intoxicating combo of saved and sinner?  Hmm.

I’ve curtailed my church involvement quite a bit from say, the past 2-3 years ago.  Part of it was God-led for a sabbath season of sorts from that particular type of ministry involvement.  (Heavenly, you might say, and saying so with purity of heart, not a twinge of irony or sarcasm.  Really, prayed over that decision, and it felt “right.”)  Part of it was self-protective, and not just the innocent and beneficial stewardship of one’s time and energy.  Nope, the unvarnished truth was some of it was defensive and walling myself away from hurt, whether actual or imagined…the heart doesn’t necessarily care sometimes about factuality and objective reality.   (Hellish  <sigh>)  One ought to try though, I think, to be open to love and possibility and keep our walls to a minimum to live life to its fullest.  Hmm.

I don’t feel the same naivete and optimism I once felt about the Church, and even life in general the way I used to.  That’s disappointing to me, because I’ve always felt myself to be an optimist.  I’m not sure I like that change to my central thing…it feels like a shift is happening.  I think I should watch my choices a little more closely and with a sense of detached wonder and interest so I don’t find myself getting sucked into automatic reflexive decisions, instead of thoughtful choices.

How am I spending my opportunity costs now?  I’m “wasting time” (in a certain sense!) and “playing” in an adult sense that works for me.  Hellish or heavenly?  Time will tell, but I happen to think more the latter than the former.

I’m playing video games.   Yeah, video games!

I recently accepted an invitation from my elementary aged daughter to be part of a three-generation girl sleepover.  Yup, my daughter, myself, and my mom all slept in the living room after making truffles, other snacks, and playing on the Wii.

I got Dance Dance Revolution to play and exercise. (it really is fun!!!)

I’m taking piano lessons.  Yeah, me!  I had a few when I was younger, so I’m not a complete beginner, and I was a pretty good trombonist in high school, but I LOVE the piano.  It’s the kind of thing I can lose track of time while I’m at it. (in a good and holy way.)  Oh, is this ever FUN!!!  I’ve missed music and the tugs it makes on my soul…  It feels good and right to be back at it.

This playfulness and wasting time is heavenly and hellish at differing times.  And it’s changing my inner self.  My central “thing.”

I believe God’s going to use it for good, who knows how.  Let’s see how the next leg of this ol’ journey goes?  ;)


Dog Advice?

April 20, 2009

We had a great visit with my mother-in-law and her 3 generation of female descendants this weekend.  And another female tagged along for the ride:  an elderly rescue chiuhuaua. (sp?)  The visit was a lot of fun, but spurred fresh sadness in my almost-8-year-old daughter, missing our own doggie who died almost two years ago.

Hubby and I have been thinking it might be time to get another dog anyway.  This pushed that pondering process further to the front of my wonders.

Do you have strong opinions, advice about a family dog?  We did not do the greatest job of getting Betsy out for frequent walks.  She was a Springer Spaniel mix and probably would have liked them a great deal.  She was a VERY happy dog, being mistaken for a puppy until nearly her last few years.  I remember he tail wag would involve her entire back hip section, in joy to see me come home from work.  I was the “alpha dog” in the family, despite my husband’s more ongoing continuous presence, Betsy seemed to prefer me.  Oh, that expression/prayer, “God let me be half the man my dog believes me to be” – that was sure the truth with me and Betsy!!!

We got Betsy at a no-kill animal shelter as a puppy.  I want to adopt from a shelter again, but I’m not determined to get a puppy this time.  I’m more interested in taking my time to get the right breed (i.e. adult size is hard to predict in mixed breed puppies sometimes!)  Well, anyway, let me spell out some of our family preferences, and see if you can give me your two cents worth?

  • Want to adopt from a shelter.  I don’t care if adult or puppy.  Kids would prefer puppy.  Kids will not be part of selection process til some serious (practical-minded) narrowing down by me.  Probably will leave hubby out of process for same reason!
  • Would prefer low-shedding dog.
  • Would prefer dog with low exercise requirements, but big enough and energetic enough for games of fetch in our reasonably sized city back yard.  We didn’t do the greatest job of walking Betsy as regularly as she would have enjoyed, but boy did that dog love to play fetch, especially with a fleece frisbee or old ratty tennis ball!
  • Would be unhappy with a yappy dog.  NO BEAGLES!!!!!!!!  I don’t know what it is about our family attracting beagles for neighbors…  Let me say it again, no beagles.  Period.
  • We enjoy cuddling a lap dog, or barring that due to size, hugging and petting a medium sized dog.  Betsy was a medium sized dog, who still enjoyed getting up in our laps.  She shed a LOT though.  Lap dogs that shed little would be preferable – and my definition of a lap dog is pretty liberal…just needs to enjoy being cuddled, and (mostly!) fit in a lap.  A little overlap is okay…  <smile>
  • Daughter would prefer a “cute” dog, but since her participation in the selection process will be limited to the end of the process, my preferences above would override cuteness.  And low-maintenance grooming, please!  Poodles or those bichon frise?  Not so much, even though they’re otherwise quite cute.  Some kind of low-shedding short hair breed that will be a lover – that’s the family dog of my dreams!

Thanks for your input!


March 22, 2009

In a recent comment by Suzanne Simonovich, she asked me my opinion on multitasking, and why it could be bad for you.

(hmm, karla thoughtfully intones as she scratches her head in curious pondering while the wheels inside her head creak their way out of the recent mental inertia they’ve been in lately.)

Multitasking is quite the sought after skill, and arguably the second most widely used descriptor on hopeful resumes, right? a la the “skilled effective multi-tasker;”

(#1 being, of course “great people skills” or its variant “I’m a people person.” Woe be to the unfortunate fool who doesn’t claim outstanding people skills after all! )

It’s funny Suzanne would ask this right now. I was with my daughter at the library recently, and while glancing about, there was a display on books about improving one’s memory. I’ve been sort of feeling like I could stand to improve my short term memory. I’ve come up with several crutches, most of which are perfectly useful and justifiable, and frankly come highly recommended by places like the book, Getting Things Done. Why, after all, should I hold lots of unneccessary stuff in my short term memory, keeping me from giving my full thought processes on higher thought patterns? Makes perfect sense, I thought to myself. And what I hadn’t already intuitively picked up for myself over the years, I added to my crutch toolkit, with delight.

And yet, that darned multitasking thing really does call for some better short term memory.

Who’s waiting in the pharmacy? Which order needs to get completed, waiters or not, to be ready for the delivery driver’s next stop? When will I get back to this question? Will I remember to make that phone call…sometime today? And any number of other priority making decisions large and small. What can I afford to hold in short term memory when I have to stop the thing I’m doing in that moment to do the next high priority thing, and what must get written down? Most of these decisions are quite obvious, but once in a while, something that should have gotten written down doesn’t, discovered after my short term memory has let me down, and a customer service misadventure ensues. Or sometimes I’ll write it down and then feel silly because it was so easy to remember and wonder if I wasted time by pausing to write myself the needless note?

Well, anyway, what I’m trying to get to, is that multitasking, for me anyway, is an increasingly humbling experience as I continue to get older and the world around me gets increasingly complex. The books I checked out on memory improvement brought a little expert opinion to that observation, that indeed, as we get older we lose our ability to learn things as rapidly, including holding things reliably in the short term memory, and to multitask while learning. The author related an anecdote which reminded me of myself as an adolescent, describing his teen studying calculus while having his ipod plugged in. The author went on to joke that he couldn’t imagine studying calculus in anything other than a soundproofed padded cell, and here was his son, successfully absorbing and learning while, in a sense, multi-tasking. I can remember that ability to study to music as a youth and college student, but I sure wouldn’t try it now!

I hear about college students having their laptops open for note taking and surfing the net, and getting criticized for their inattentiveness. And yet, they learn.

My elementary-aged kids doodle during the service at church, and yet they’re picking up on the essentials, and frequently the particulars of a bible story, or an accessible joke in a sermon. Indeed, they can seem to multitask fairly well.

So does this mean we who are no longer fresh college graduates are a lost cause? That we cannot compete with younger, multitasking, quick learning young adults? I don’t think so, and I don’t think the experts do either. We need to pull out our crutches and our compensations that we’ve collected over our years. But that’s what the older generations have always done, even in low-tech times. This is just another way to put our experience and dare I say it, wisdom, to work for us. I probably write myself more notes than some of my coworkers. Oh well. Maybe it takes me a little longer to take back up where I left off. Oh well.

(Easy to say “oh well” now, with no work-related pressures bearing down on me.)

Do I think multitasking decreases our efficiency at a given task? Oh, sure! Without a doubt. If I can choose between timing my work for my more challenging tasks when I have my best energies and could have the option of single-minded concentration at them, you’d better believe I do so! In my line of work, multitasking has always been the name of the game. Some of our patients call their orders days ahead of time and that allows us to distribute our work flow, best matching our staffing and energy levels. We work on their orders in between our non-planning patients and our acutely ill ones. And the telephone calls. And the questions by my coworkers, and the quite pleasant social chit-chat of patients who have completed their business transactions with us. Oh, wait a sec… when’s the last time someone checked the email and voicemail? … “Karla, there’s two messages on the doctor line.” “Dang, I was so close to FINALLY finishing this large order…”

You can probably see where this is going. I get interrupted. A lot. They say on those sentimental customer service plaques that a customer is never an interruption. Of course that’s true, but when your work isn’t linear and orderly and prescribed, if it’s not a state of being interrupted, it sure is “stopping and starting” a lot. That can be maddening. It adds to my stress level undoubtedly. A “negative spiral” perhaps? It takes a whole lot longer to complete a given patient’s order when I have to stop and start it multiple times. Much like what Suzanne says about focusing on the task at hand and “getting it right the first time” there’s a great deal of pressure to be perfect. You don’t want to get the mortgage or the bottle of pills that wasn’t right the first time, do you?

Keeps me humble and saying my prayers, what can I say! <smile>

Anyway, that’s one reason mail order outfits that lack a storefront can do so much greater volume. Or look at the difference in efficiency between a well-run assembly line and one person assembling the same item start to finish? That’s single-tasking taken to a finely-honed engineered level! You can do a single task, single-mindedly, repetitively much more efficiently that starting and stopping. But it takes more employees to cover all those single task jobs, if you’re not at a certain cut-off point volume-wise.

And there’s the rub, isn’t it – in these times of cutbacks and greater expectations and pressures to do the same amount of work with fewer resources and/or staff.

Multitasking’s effect on us has much more to do with the expectations and pressures put upon us from outside and within than the mere juggling of several divergent and competing tasks. Given enough time, I actually thrive on the variety and ability to make choices about my work and its variety. It’s the removal of choice and control that leads to anxiety. I could go on and on, but I’ll quit for a time.

Questions to consider and comment on: What kind of work do you do? If you could choose would you choose to do more or less multitasking?

Would love to hear from you! Peace, Karla

A Balanced Diet

March 21, 2009

I’m enjoying an unusual bowl of cereal! Uncle Sam’s cereal (the original, you know the one with the whole flax seeds and the “ironed out” steamed wheat berries?) garnished with a small portion of Lucky Charms. You’d be surprised how good that is! (and my husband is so delighted I’m finally working on that box of Uncle Sam’s that no one else in my family will touch.)

I like to call this a balanced diet…I don’t eat all fake foods, but I enjoy some. I don’t eat all organic foods, but I enjoy some. The example with arguably the most irony of my balanced diet cuisine? I bag a lunch, right? Well, I was in one of my organic, highly nutritive kicks, and I was even home-sprouting organic sprouts in my kitchen.

I made my (delicious!) sandwich with whole wheat bread, organic leafy sprouts, commercially prepared yellow mustard, and that mystery meat we like to call bologna! My coworkers got rather the raised eyebrow/chuckle out of it. My lunch bag was rounded off by a baggie of raw carrots and a candy bar.

Balance. I’m all about it! (ha ha)

(peace, all!)

Suburbia QuoteShare

March 7, 2009

This gave me a wry smile, discovered at the header of my gmail page, one of those random quotes they throw out at you:

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.

(Bill Vaughan)

In other randomness, I don’t know whether to be delighted or annoyed.  I’m getting spam here at the blog.  Should I be delighted that maybe this is a sign that I’m getting more real readers? (doubtful, but you know how we naive optimists can be at times!)  Annoyed, well, cuz it’s spam?

In my final random moment, had the neatest deja vu experience!  My SD, a priest at a different Episcopal parish than the one I attend, started what I suppose is his own Lenten discipline, calling it an e-retreat.  He takes a scriptural passage, reflects on it, and draws out the readers in wondering and prayer along with him, and does this via an email list.

He added me to his list, and I’m rather enjoying the reflections and wondering questions.  I once did that as a spiritual discipline.  Oh, of course, it was completely amateur, but I had fun, I grew, and I tried.  It’s a long story, but I used to reflect on our weekly lectionary passages, and try to write adult-level wondering questions, in the same spirit of the wondering questions I would use with my Sunday School/Worship Center children.

But even that is not the deja vu part.  I had tried to form a community of learners and explorers around these amateur reflections.  Got a pretty good-sized percentage of my small parish to willingly sign up to get the reflections – and I think a good chunk of those actually read along, too, not merely politely giving their passive assent to get email from me.  Well, I wasn’t so successful in stimulating conversation, and I have several theories about why that was.  But the SD says that there’s someone out there who approached him about having an email dialogue around them.  I’m kind of looking forward to seeing what comes of that.  It’s so hard for me to get to small groups.  I feel guilty leaving the husband and kids behind for such things, after being at work all day.  And then there’s also just the challenge of finding the time with being a working mom of two elementary aged kids.  Email dialogue, and now blogging, seem a good compromise of what’s in the cards for me, spiritual conversation-wise.  We shall see, I guess!


Long Time, No Write

February 18, 2009

Hi there!  If I still have readers, thank you.  Haven’t written in a while.  I’m kind of mentally weary with work and a new computer system.  I’ve never been one to sit down in front of the television and just veg-out after supper, but it’s becoming a bit seductive to just let my brain sort of gellify there with butt comfortably planted in couch instead sitting at attention in a desk chair, typing away.  Someday…  Someday soon I will become efficient and be able to do my job without concentrating on the what-used-to-be-routine aspects of my job, and some of  my mental energies will be left over after work for leisurely, entertaining (& mentally engaging!) pursuits.  I hope! (ha ha!)

Unrelated to my work issues, I’ve decided to retire from teaching Sunday school in my church at the end of this school year.  And, uncharacteristically for me in recent years, I have no plans to fill that ministry hole back in with something new.  I’m taking a break.   Oh, I think I’ll be more generous in doing self-contained things, like signing up to read a scripture passage during Eucharist, or administer the chalice, or even just pull a coffee hour shift more often, but no more being “in charge”; no more being responsible for ongoing continuity of anything for a while.  Prayed over it, consulted with wise friends about it, and feeling good, blessed, and not guilty over it.  Wasn’t even that hard to make the announcement to those in my church.  What a relief.

And now, hopefully I’ll have some pondering someday soon, but if not, talk to you again one of these days!

Wii Outdoor Challenge Active Life

January 19, 2009

Just returned from our becoming annual event of Christmas in January with the stepson and family.  They got my kids the Wii game, “Outdoor Challenge” using the new Active Life Mat controller.  You jog, jump, row, & more –  you can play alone, compete with a friend, cooperate with a friend…

…you can play your children’s game and have the re-realization of what an out-of-shape couch spud you truly are!  Experiencing painful calves today after some rousing Outdoor Challenge games played yesterday…

(I gotta say though, it was genuinely fun!  No lie.)

Thinking this could become a (fun?) workout for me, the exercise-allergic?  I’ll keep you informed as I rack up my APs (Active Points)

Or not…if you’ve been with me any length of time you’ll well know not to hold your breath on THAT arena, don’t you?  (ha ha ha!!!)

(two of my personal faves are Mole Whacker and Jump Rope <smile>)