Saturday, November 1, 2008

What’s the problem?

“My brain is so dumb!” exclaimed an exasperated co-worker, and I laughed.

“That’s a new one,” I said. “I’ve never hear someone blaming an errant body part for their own mistakes. Stupid brain!”

She smiled, realizing how silly her statement was.

Later that day I saw more silliness in a news headline from Associated Press: “Obesity blamed for doubling rate of diabetes cases.”

Stupid obesity!

So often we play what I call “the blame game.” Jimmy Buffet illustrated some breakthrough logic in Margaritaville in 1977. He subtlety changes the chorus through three verses. Notice his progression:

Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
But I know, It’s nobody’s fault

Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
Now I think
Hell, it could be my fault

Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
But I know it’s my own damn fault

Go Jimmy!

What’s the solution?

By way of contrast I remembered reading another headline, this time from the Washington Post: Vigorous Exercise Can Cut Breast Cancer Risk

The solution must be vigorous exercise! I want to meet this miracle worker!

According to one Thesaurus, the opposite of blame is applause. Perhaps we can find solutions by looking for what’s applaudable instead of what’s to blame. This may get us closer to workable solutions, but I still think we’re a bit off.

Where’s the problem?

Just as Jimmy discovered, maybe the problem isn’t out there, maybe it’s in me. And maybe the solution isn’t out there either. Maybe it’s in me.

I’ve found that the six most powerful words for maintaining a relationship are, “I was wrong. Please forgive me.” Problems in my relationships are often solved by taking ownership of my actions.

So what about those two articles? Maybe the lessons are…

If you act in ways that lead to obesity, you increase your risk of illness.

If you act in ways that lead to vigorous exercising, you increase the likelihood of wellness.

Obesity is not the problem, and exercise is not the solution. The problem is how I act. The solution is how I act.

How can I change the way I act? How can I improve my habits?

I think asking these questions are better than playing the “blame game.” I think these questions can lead to breakthrough solutions that improve who we are and who we become.

Ponder that.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Who's your dog?

My dog is a German Shepherd.

Heide’s her name, sweetness her game.

My dog has ruined wires, plants, and screens, but she’s not to blame.

She’s a German Shepherd.

She was a homeless one year old.

Now she’s a homey, who is less bold

Because she's gotten older.

She’s big, loyal, silly, and not a little scary.

I can put my arm in her mouth, and she doesn’t hurt me,

But my arm comes out wet and hairy.

My dog is a German Shepherd.

Heide’s her name, sweetness her game.

She’s sleeping now at my feet. Being cute. Being quiet.

I sleep well at night. I have a German Shepherd.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween, Snicker-doodles, and Love

I was leaving work today when I ran into two co-workers talking. Nothing too unusual about that. One of the co-workers had been a long-term substitute teacher from last year. Nothing too unusual there, except she was a long-term sub for her cousin, a teacher, who had died suddenly the year before of pneumonia. It was a devastating year for the school, both students and staff. The deceased teacher, Margie, is sorely missed by many. Especially at Halloween.

Turns out that Halloween was a special time for Margie, and one of my fellow teachers was really missing Margie. What could I say?

Snicker-doodles! That’s what I’d say.

Earlier in the day I had noticed that someone had brought in some store-bought cookies to share. They were Snicker-doodles. Snicker-doodles are an old-time kind of cookie. Out of the blue, when I saw the cookies, I was reminded of my first wife, Patti. She had been a baker of Snicker-doodles. It was an old family recipe that my kids still use, but their mom doesn’t: she died. It’s been over 12 years, but there in the snack room, I was reminded again of the loss.

So I told my co-workers about Snicker-doodles and what I call the Fraternity of the Brokenhearted. They were wondering about the hurt and loss they felt. I explained, “That’s called being brokenhearted. At least that’s what I call it.”

And then I told them about today’s Snicker-doodles.

The pain and loss never really goes away, but it lessens. And those of us who have been brokenhearted understand each other. We are generally more compassionate with others, and we tend to appreciate the moment much more than others.

Reminders come, like Halloween, or Snicker-doodles, or seeing that your grown son’s FaceBook quote is the same quote that’s on his mom’s gravestone. Poignant? Heart-rending? Perhaps, or maybe just a reminder of a loved-one lost, but still loved.

The words helped my friends. And I thought of an idea for tomorrow.

Perhaps we can make a “Happy Halloween” card for Margie’s grave signed by a few of her work friends. And the inscription inside the card? My suggestion is, “Margie, You are missed, and we will always love you!”

Loved ones may pass, but our love for them lives on.

Footnote: A second chance

Sometimes, new loves come. Ten years ago I remarried: I married a widow, Leslie. It often takes a widow to understand a widower, and vice versa. We both have fond memories of past loves, and we both are so blessed that we have, by the grace of God, a second chance at love.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fear not! God is love...

I wrote this in response to a blog by my daughter. It's also posted on her blog ( "Scared of what He might do to me..." )

Here are my thoughts...

Can God be trusted to consistently do me good? Yes.

Do I always trust God to consistently do me good? No.

He’s trust-worthy, but I’m not always trusting. My bad, not His.

There’s a song that goes, “Doubts and fears? They come from down below…”

When I doubt God, I’m not listening to truth. Who is God?

God is love. (I’ve looked up all the verses that say, “God is…” They’re awesome.)

God is good. (I’ve looked up all the verses I could find that say, “God, who…” Those appositives reveal who God is.)

Why is all this important? Because the image we have of who God is often determines how we interpret our world, and often determines who we are willing to trust.

Psychologists often speak of the role of self-image and who we become. I’d suggest that the role of God-image does the same.

The Apostle John wrote, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love…” Have I known and believed that love?

As I contemplate His love, I find myself convinced of His goodness and love for me. And it changes how I see Him and the world around me. I am converted into an “informed naïveté” where I become simple and childlike. I love, I trust, I act in faith.

If I find myself fearful, I remind myself that “Perfect love casts out all fear…” And I remind myself that “We love Him because He first loved us.”

Want to live more fearlessly? Contemplate His love. Let Him assuage your fears and doubts. Let Him convert you. Hear Him say, “Fear not…” He’s not surprised by our fear, doubt, and unbelief. He doesn’t reject us. He accepts and improves us. He adopts us.”

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God. And it does not yet appear what we shall be.” God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Always has. Always will.

The funniest thing that happened today...

It's always surprised me how I often find what I'm looking for. (As a result, I'm careful what I look for, because I know I might find it.)

Today I went looking for something funny. This fall I started teaching at a new school. At my previous school, a junior high, I would consistently come home with the-funniest-thing-Cathy-said-today. Cathy worked as an aide in my classroom. She stayed at the junior high and I miss her comedy. So... I went hunting for comedy at my new school today, and I found some.

The funniest thing that happened today happened while I was talking to my principal. We were standing on a sidewalk, and there was a group of students behind her. In the middle of our conversation, she says, "Ew. Did you hear that student behind us sneeze? Something wet and warm just hit me on the ankle." A new occupational hazard: snot projectiles.

Now granted this is not a Jay-Leno-joke type of funny. This is a still-makes-me-grin eight hours later type of funny. It was the funniest thing that happened today.

Tomorrow, I'm going "hunting" again. Wonder what I'll find?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What's so funny?

I was musing today about my musings so far. How amusing.

And I thought, "Maybe I should lighten up and just try writing something a bit more humorous."

But I talk to myself, even in my thoughts, so I countered, "But all your pieces are humorous. It's all interwoven."

A friend in high school had a poster in his room that read, "Life is a comedy for those who feel and a tragedy for those who think." My twist for years was that life was a tragic comedy for those who do either. But then I lightened up.

Life is funny but not tragic. Jimmy Buffet sings, "If we weren't all crazy, we'd all go insane." One of the best secrets I learned was to periodically look in the mirror and have a good laugh at myself. It helps.

So I've learned not to take myself too seriously, but that doesn't mean I can't reflect on life. One of my affirmations is "My life is an enjoyable POOGI." A POOGI is a Process Of On Going Improvement, a phrase coined by an Israeli author.

So this is just another one of my humorous pieces with some reflection thrown in. Nothing funny here. Just a bit of humor.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Faith, hope, and love...

Where faith and hope are future-oriented, love seems to transcend time and live in the moment.

Instead of looking mournfully at a past which is gone, never to return, I find that I can bring the past into the present as I remember the people that I love, and will always love.

Dwelling in the past robs me of participating in the present.

Dwelling on the future can fill me with faith and hope, but again removes me from present participation.

Love alone seems to bring the memories of past experiences and the dreams of future hopes all into the focus of the present.

Living in love, the past is treasured, the present is appreciated, and the future good acknowledged.

These were some musings after viewing pictures of my grandchildren and visiting their very sick great-grandpa.

Warm fuzzies for the Evans offspring...

Joanna asked a good question... and I answered...

"What pleases you about your kids?" - one or two things about each of us, if the thought strikes you!

Overall: The quality of character each has demonstrated.

Joanna: Her ability to excel in multiple fields (academics and sports), yet she has consistently demonstrated a care for others (family and friends), and a strong moral compass which enables her to swim against the tide of society (in her faith and family-first stance).

Joel: His ability to set a course in life and to face difficulties without complaint. His strong sense of loyalty to friends and family, and his continued decision to stretch himself to improve and contribute.

Danielle: Her tenacity, work-ethic, and strong sense of self that has been demonstrated in her personal achievements in Florida, Fullerton, Santa Cruz, and beyond. She continues to please and amaze me as she continues to develop the care and character that would make any father proud.

One of my greatest pleasures in life is to contemplate the people my kids have become. They have all surpassed me and at a younger age. I am so proud of who they are.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

"New" Use for Memory Tag System

Sometime in the night my mind came up with an idea for using a memory tag system I've been learning.


A memory tag system is a system of memorizing a certain number of items like 0 to 9 as images, places in a well-remembered house, or images associated with each letter of the alphabet. Then when you need to (or want to) memorize some list of things, you have a ready-made set of tags that you can use to associate with the new list.

Those who complain of poor memory are usually complaining about the ability to recall something they know they know. They just can't recall it quickly enough. I've discovered that the key to recalling information (finding what you're "looking" for) is to put it away carefully. This concept works for car keys and key ideas. For example, this summer I used the 0 to 9 images to memorize the 43 US presidents in order.

Many have used word mnemonics before like PEMDAS (order of operations), HOMES (the Great Lakes), or Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (reading music). A tag system is taking all that to another level.


I began a month or so ago creating a visual association for each letter of the alphabet (A is for Ape, B is for Bike, etc.) Now I've added a visual number (One is a Candle, two is a Swan, etc.) to each letter.

Just before I went to bed, I was testing myself on the letter/number connection by writing some words and seeing if I could come up with the picture and number of each word: I did (after a bit of practice).


In the night I thought, "Why not use a letter/number scheme to learn how to spell words that are difficult, like camaraderie?" I did it this morning, and it works. Using the letter/number connection (tag) as I look at the word I'm trying to learn makes it memorable, and thus more recall-able. I'm on my way to becoming a better speller! So what?

Well, I really didn't do all this memory work for my sake... I teach kids with special needs (Special Education) many of whom qualify because of lack of academic success due to memory deficits. Hmmm... (They ALL know their ABCs. You can figure out the rest...)

Ponder on!