Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Learning from rationalizations

Well, here's a follow-up post that I'm not proud to write. I recently wrote about a situation at an overly crowded workplace parking garage in which a car that was over the line, basically taking up two spaces (including the last available one), got hit when another car tried to squeeze in. The driver of the car that tried to squeeze in didn't leave a note for the driver of the car that was hit.

Among other things, I wrote that I felt the driver who parked over the line was at fault, so I didn't blame the second driver for not leaving a note. But I also wrote that I know two wrongs don't make a right, and not leaving a note certainly seemed to fit the description of a second wrong. And I wrote that, when discussing this with a friend and asked how I would feel if my car was the one that was hit, I said I wouldn't have parked over the line in the first place.

Well, I guess I was wrong about that. Yesterday, when I pulled into a parking space at the uncrowded garage, I remember thinking that the pickup facing me must have been pretty far outside its space. Because I was parked right in line with the cars on my side. But when I got out of my car, I saw that the truck was within the lines, and I was over the line. For some reason, all of the cars on my side had bunched up, and I just followed the pattern without knowing it.

But the thing is, once I realized it, I didn't move my car! All the way from the parking garage to my desk, which is no small distance, I thought about this. Sure, if all of those cars stay where they are, there's no problem. But if one leaves and another comes to take its place, the situation might look exactly like the one described last week (except the garage likely would not be filled).

It would have been so easy to do the right thing -- move my car within the lines -- but I didn't do it. And I had so many excuses!!!! The main one was that someone was moving things from a company car to his personal car in the row where I'd parked, and I thought it would look stupid to move my car. (I did also remind myself that, if I did get hit, I could follow through with what I wrote last week, and accept that it was my fault!)

I guess the thing that still amazes me is how easy it is to think I'd always do the right thing, but when the opportunity comes, I don't. In this case, it really wasn't a big deal, mainly because parking spaces weren't at a premium (and I didn't get hit). But I'm so aware that the little rationalizations, whether they involve speeding or sleeping in on weekend mornings instead of going to help with Angel Food or attend Sunday school, make it easier to rationalize bigger wrongs or lapses.

The reason I write about it is because I'm trying to be more aware and honest. I write about the positive steps. It seems only fair to write about obvious examples of where I fall short, too, even when they may seem insignificant. That's not to say this is the worst stuff I do; far from it, and some shortcomings involve areas I can't imagine ever writing about -- at least not until they are corrected. And maybe someday they will be, as I continue to take prayerful steps toward accountability, disclosure and responsibility.

Friday, June 25, 2010

How could I not know that?

Psalmcat 51:6.25.10

I try so hard. On some level, I suppose I try to be perfect. I mean, who wants to be wrong? I spent a lot of years and missed opportunities, being afraid my lack of skill, knowledge or confidence would be revealed if I tried something and faltered or failed.

In recent years, I've been gaining or regaining some confidence. I'm far from fearless, but I've grown bolder in taking measured risks to follow through on my heart's desires, whether it's to express something in writing, sing a song in public, make a commitment or get involved with a cause I care about.

So, when my Mom kindly pointed out that my heartfelt Father's Day blog had a a big old factual error, some old feelings surfaced. Shame. Embarrassment. And a tinge of sadness.

"Why did you not know that your Daddy graduated from high school?" was her question. In the past, I would have stayed stuck on shame and embarrassment. How, indeed, could I not have known? But this time, I responded with possible reasons. I couldn't remember hearing it talked about. I thought he went to a community school through the eighth-grade. It's still hard for me to think of him going almost 20 miles to Gainesville High School in the 1940s. Over the years, my mind filled in a gap by assuming he didn't go to or graduate from high school.

The neat thing is, I'm glad to have the record set straight; better late than never. Since I learned of my error last Sunday, I've found myself wondering what else I don't know -- and realizing I'll probably never fill in all the gaps. I've never been that good at history and remembering details. In fact, it's possible I knew this detail about Daddy, but just forgot -- completely!

Another tendency I've had in the past is to get frustrated and bogged down in regret over things I don't know or didn't do. Why haven't I gone to graduate school? Why am I not more organized? Why have I not accomplished more professionally? How can I not know so many things that everyone else seems to know, from popular quotes from current and classic movies, literature and songs to what part of their state various cities are in. One of my biggest vulnerabilities is all the stuff I think I should know that either I've forgotten, never learned or just didn't pay enough attention to realize. I can get depressed thinking of all the things I could do if I didn't waste time watching sports on TV or surfing the Internet or whatever my latest distraction is.

I'm not proud of my lack of focus in setting goals and making the most of my life and opportunties, but I'm no longer ashamed, either. As I get older, I'm trying to pay more attention, again thinking it's better late than never, but also realizing my memory's probably not going to be as good at keeping track as it might have been if I'd been more disciplined when I was younger. Most days, I accept who I am, even as I strive to improve. Daily Bible reading and prayer help immensely, reminding me my life is in God's hands. I'm trying to trust that as I continue to seek God, all the other things will add up, to His glory, and I'll know what I need to know and do what I need to do.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Psalmcat 51:6.20.10

Daddy's gonna get his card and Applebee's gift card late, because I didn't get it mailed until mid-morning Friday, but I loved the message and wanted to share it, with Mom's help. (I'm counting on her to read this to him.)

What caught my attention was that the card had a cartoon cat on the front. Most cards for dads don't have cats unless they are from a very young daughter. When I opened this one, I couldn't resist sending it.

I wanna thank you for teaching me so many valuable lessons, like ..... "Money doesn't grow on chickens before they're hatched," "The early bird gets a job worth doing well," and "Two wrongs don't make a penny earned." ..... And you thought everything you said went in one ear and walked a mile in their shoes! Enjoy your day!

I thought this was a cute card. I don't see it being as much about what parents say or teach as what kids hear and learn. And I don't think of Daddy as someone who butchers sayings such as these, although he does have his own way of saying things sometimes. What I like about the card is how it messes with the familiar adages -- and gives them whole new meanings!

My Dad didn't graduate from high school or go to college. (Editor's note: After I posted this and my mom read it, she asked me why I thought my Daddy didn't graduate from high school. I have ideas about why I thought that, but I won't go into it here; I guess he raised a dummy! Interesting -- and I'm sure I'll never make that mistake again!) But I know he's a smart man who values knowledge. He reads the Sunday newspaper more faithfully than I do -- and he asks me questions about current events, as well as history. I like that he keeps me on my toes. He's also always worked hard and tried to do what's right. Those are values that are instilled in me.

And because of him, I can make a special claim as a daughter of the psalmist's son, which is something dear to me as a singer, writer and one who strives to be a woman after God's own heart.

I love you, Daddy, and hope to see you again soon!





Friday, June 18, 2010

Straddling a line between right and wrong

I'm aware of a situation in which, on a day of a special event, the only parking place available in a company garage was partially filled by a car straddling the line. So the driver of another car in need of a space tried to squeeze in. And that second car bumped up against the first car, leaving more of a paint mark than the driver would have expected. The driver quickly backed out and went to find a space outside the garage. The driver didn't leave a note for the car that was hit.

The driver claims he/she normally would have left a note and has left notes accepting responsibility in similar cases. But he/she was adamant against doing so this time, because he/she contends it never would have happened if the first car had been parked within the lines. What this made me realize is that I totally agree with the driver who tried to squeeze in. Spaces were at a premium, and that car shouldn't have been over the line. At the same time, I also know that two wrongs don't make a right. And that certainly seems to fit the description of two wrongs.

I discussed this with a friend, who asked how I would feel if I owned the car that was hit? My quick reply is that I wouldn't have been parked over the line, so it wouldn't have happened. But if I did park over the line and it happened, I'd realize and accept my fault.

I guess I keep thinking about it because it could so easily be me. I'm definitely one who has tried to work my way into a crowded parking space, sometimes successfully, and sometimes giving up when I could tell it was impossible.

I'm trying to draw a good lesson or conclusion from this. For one, I guess it makes me more aware of the risk of trying to squeeze into a crowded space. But I'm still not convinced I won't try it again if the opportunity presents itself.

So, for all the progress I see myself making in some areas of discipline, setting boundaries and taking responsibility, here's an area where I'm puzzled by how certain I am that the first wrong justifies the second wrong.

Maybe the lesson is that I'll never be perfect, and I can't expect others to be perfect. But two wrongs still won't make a right. I pray that I will choose to make right decisions even when a "wrong" seems justified.

(It just occurs to me this incident involved 3 wrongs: The first driver over the line; the second driver bumping the first car; and the second driver not leaving a note to let the first driver know. Hmmmm. How would I feel about that? Not too good. Maybe now I understand a little better why my friend thought it was imperative the second driver would own up to bumping the first car. But I can also see how the second driver could rationalize that it would just be opening up a potential messy situation that could be easily avoided by not saying anything. I'm still not proud of that attitude, but it's honest right now.) (Lord, if I need to change, it's up to YOU!)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Detour ahead

Construction of Norman's "long-awaited Robinson Street railroad underpass," as it was described in the Oklahoma City newspaper, has begun, and I'm looking for a new church.

For months -- actually, years now -- I've curiously followed the discussions and votes involving this step of community progress. After the project was approved, I've watched as houses and businesses have been vacated and then moved or razed. Whenever I've asked what effect this would have on the church located about two blocks east of the railroad tracks and one block south of Robinson Street, I've always been assured it shouldn't be much of a problem. But the latest newspaper article, plus all of those before it, make me think otherwise. Add to that nearly 28 years of commuting at least 20 miles to and from work and about that many years of driving across town for church, and I'm pretty sure I have reason to be concerned. Construction detours are no fun. And, living west of the tracks, I see no way around this one, unless I find a different church.

Of course, that's not what I will do. As good timing would have it, the desire to just avoid the situation arose the evening before Wednesday morning prayer. So, by time I drove to church, stayed awhile to pray and then drove home, I knew again: No excuses. Construction may be an obstacle, but it can't be an excuse. I may be late, but I won't be absent -- not because of construction detours, anyway. Even as I write this, I'm trying to make it a commitment. It's not going to be easy. I know from experience that if I'm running late and get stuck in traffic, there will be a strong desire to just head home when I finally get out of the traffic jam. And I know from experience that the chances of me leaving even five minutes earlier to partially offset the construction delay is unlikely.

Maybe the best I can hope for is to use the impending detours as another opportunity to persevere through a challenge (a relatively minor one, I have to admit) and also to remember there's no time like being stuck in traffic to count my many blessings!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Let the "Memory" live

Psalmcat 51:6.14.10

The request: Would I be willing to be on my sister's Relay for Life team and represent the team in the fundraising pageant. The instructions: Sing a song dressed like the singer. Our first thought was something from "The Sound of Music." That sounded easy and fun. But something stirred in my memory, and the next thing I knew, I was destined to be a singing cat!

You see, years ago -- maybe 20? -- I had another sister make me a furry cat costume for a Halloween party. I knew that costume -- including hood, shoe covers and mittens -- was still in my closet, although I had not worn it since then. I also knew I'd once sung "Memory" from "Cats the Musical" at a church talent show, wearing a much simpler version of a cat costume.

Something about Relay for Life -- typically a 12-hour walk to raise money for a cure for cancer, to remember those who have died and and to provide hope and support for survivors, which takes place in communities around the nation -- makes wearing a full-body, furry cat costume on a hot June evening in Perry, Oklahoma, seem like just the right thing to do. And did I mention that, since I'd be performing as a cat, I'd be speaking in meow, hiss and purr? And did I mention that I a grown woman?

I did not find favor from my private audience of cat at home as I practiced my pageant performance. Bridget just did not understand or appreciate. Oh, but she did inspire me! Even though I had no idea how an audience of people would respond, I could hardly wait to find out.

Curtain time for the pageant was 9 p.m., and I started putting on my costume about 8:50. I had not done a dress rehearsal, but it went amazing smoothly. And then it was time to take the stage. The emcee asked contestants to introduce themselves. The first was a group of performers doing a medley from "Grease." The next contestant? "Meow." And who are you representing? "Meow, meow." Somehow, this smart emcee knew that meant I was representing Orange Crush.

All of the other contestants introduced themselves (during which time the cat took a little nap), and then it was time for my question. The emcee coaxed me out of my slumber then asked a question. I think it was what's my favorite kind of ice cream? That was easy. "Meow meow!" She seemed pleased with the answer.

Soon, we all paraded off the stage, to be called back when it was our turn. I was supposed to be about fourth, but because it was a hot night for a cat, they let me go second. I immediately laid down on stage, but when the music started, I perked up. I just can't resist singing along to the music of "Memory," and so I did. I didn't really know or care what those people thought. This cat was just having fun. Too soon, the music ended, and I had to step off stage.

But as I walked down the steps, the most heartwarming thing happened: A young girl came up, half boldly and half timidly, and asked if she could have her picture made with the kitty! And thus began about 30 minutes mingling with young and old, being appreciated just for being a cat! I only saw two young children who were overly traumatized by this big furry thing, and I tried to ease away slowly.

With the help of relay team members, including my sister, we were able to collect almost enough donations to win the title! But Grizabella the Glamour Cat wannabe singing "Memory" from "Cats the Musical" won a prize that couldn't be topped: The response of those children to a silly old woman willing to dress up in a cat costume and meow musicially to her heart's content, and then to be petted and photographed with. Let the "Memory" live again and again!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Still no excuses

In the 12-step program I attend, a popular saying is that there are only two times to go to a meeting: 1, When you feel like it. 2, When you don't feel like it. As I've been striving to grow in my commitment and discipline in many areas of life, the saying has come to mind often.

There are only two times to go to church: When I feel like going, and when I don't feel like going.
There are only two times to be faithful in my marriage: When I feel like being faithful,, and when I don't feel like being faithful.
There are only two times to do the right thing: When I feel like doing the right thing, and when I don't feel like doing the right thing.

As I was driving to The Seeking Hour at church at 7 this morning, on a day in a week in which I really didn't know if I had time to do it, I thought about the relationship between commitment, feelings, reasons and excuses.

It occurs to me that there's really not a relationship between commitment and feelings unless I let there be. If I've made a commitment, how I feel at a particular moment won't affect whether or not I honor that commitment.

Now, sometimes there may be reasons not to follow through on a commitment. The car may break down at the last minute, making it impossible to get church or a meeting. Sickness is a valid reason. There may even be times where tiredness is a legitimate reason, but usually that's a matter of not having been wise and disciplined in setting priorities and using time.

More often, the "reasons" for not following through on a commitment are mere excuses: It didn't fit into my schedule. I was too tired. I had too much other stuff to do. And such excuses often are tied to feelings.

These insights help me as I seek to grow in my commitment and faith to God. In fact, these insights surely come from that journey toward stronger faith and commitment to God. I am grateful for that and so much more.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Summertime!

Being a copy editor is a challenge between Memorial Day and the official start of summer. Someone once drilled into my head that something can't be described as summer, winter, spring or fall until it really is that season. So in some silly version of jumping through hoops, I can't count how many times I changed summer to summertime or some variation thereof this week. Summertime salads. Summertime movies. Summerlike weather. I don't even know whether the rule is still in effect. We haven't gotten a reminder, but that may just be because the chief reminder has been on vacation and everyone is still overworked. Some things are getting overlooked. Many grammar and style rules I grew up with or learned along the way have fallen to the wayside.

I just know that I love summertime! So, here's to my extended summer season -- late spring to early fall. Bring it on.