Friday, January 31, 2014

Confessions on the Eclectic is moving to WordPress. My older posts will continue to be available on Blogger, but you can expect a new post on WordPress in the next few days, at which time I will take the new blog off the "private" setting and make it available for public viewing. The URL will be http://confessionsontheeclectic.com.

I hope that those of you who have followed the blog here also sign on as followers at the new site. I would love for you to join me!

I will graduate from Gonzaga University in May of this year. While I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life after graduation (other than get a job and pay back those student loans!), I concluded that regardless of where I ended up working, writing is my first passion. Confessions is part of my overall professional writing plan, which is one reason for moving to WordPress.

See you there!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Are Anti-Bullying Programs Having An Opposite Effect? « CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

Interestingly, a study from UT Arlington suggests that all the time, energy, and money being poured into anti-bullying campaigns in schools may actually be creating the opposite effect...
Are Anti-Bullying Programs Having An Opposite Effect? « CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Making Room for Serendipity

I recently read a great article on LinkedIn by Jeff Selingo about making room for serendipity in your life. It was called "Class of 2013: Stop Putting Guardrails on Your Future." In a world where the advice is all about planning your life to the nth degree, it was refreshing to see someone who recognizes the way that life refuses to be planned and scheduled and controlled...and how that might just be okay.

I know that my own academic journey has been one not of planning and goal setting, but rather one of exploration and unexpected turns. I ask you to bear with me as I show the winding road followed in my own life, because I do have a point.

I started out with a goal to "launder" my eclectic set of college credits into an associate's degree, just to be able to tie up loose ends and get finished. I love history, so I opted for a history degree from Blinn College, since I wasn't doing this to get a job (don't get my husband started on careers for history majors!). I had no concrete plan to go back to school after that...but my discontent with my current situation changed all that. Enter serendipity.

I found myself six months later seeking a Christian counseling degree through Liberty University because I recognized that I really like helping people and I was already doing a lot of informal counseling. That was the plan, which promptly did not survive as I realized two things: 1) I was not emotionally cut out to deal with people in constant crisis, unless I wanted to join them, and 2) I actually enjoyed the straight psychology courses more than the counseling courses. 

Additionally, the counseling field (like the medical field) is focusing more on "outcomes-based" treatment. While having a solid treatment goal in mind rather than years of unstructured therapy can be useful, it can also be limiting. But of course insurance companies love it and are pushing for it. Finally, there are very strict limitations on how you relate to patients, for their protection as well as yours. While I can agree with a lot of those limitations in a professional setting, they don't suit how I work with people.

I swapped to a straight psychology degree and finished my bachelor's degree (to my father's great delight). But I was still looking for how to use that degree. At work, they started a staff development program, which I joined since I figured it was good experience for a psych major. At one point they brought in a speaker from Texas A&M who talked about mentoring. The idea completely captured my attention. Not only did I join their mentoring program (I am currently working with my second mentee), but I also researched the speaker's educational background and found out that she had degrees in organizational leadership. Enter serendipity. 

I started looking at graduate schools that offered organizational leadership and found a wonderful master's degree program at Gonzaga University. This is the end of my second year, with a scheduled graduation date for next May. It has been a great experience, even better than my undergraduate experience. 

Along the way, I kept asking the question "what do I want to do after this?" I've looked at multiple options, but nothing seemed quite right. The other night I pondered this topic on my way home from work. I asked myself "What am I passionate about?" I realized that the one thing that I spend a lot of time naturally focusing on is learning and education.

Not only am I life-long learner myself, but I also have a strong interest in seeing other people learn. I hold a deep concern for the current state of education, as well as its potential. More than that, my husband and I both have a LOT of background experience with educational issues gleaned from all the work we've done ourselves and with our various kids. That experience meshes with coursework in human development, child development, and learning. I realized the other night while revisiting my personal statement for my graduate school application that there were hints even in it, they just went unrecognized at the time.

Two roads diverged (one of my favorite poems), and there lay my track after graduation...enter serendipity.

I share this personal tale to show how those unexpected twists and turns in life can lead you down a path you might not have foreseen when you started, but that you can then look back and recognize as the right one after you get farther along. Coursework all the way back to my early days at Texas A&M (whoop!) complements what I am doing now, as do later classes, a hitherto unrecognized passion, and a lot of unexpected experience.

The problem lies with staying open for course corrections, for a certain amount of exploration, for curiosity and unusual options. Goal setting and planning have their place, but life also has a way of laughing at us when we get too carried away with our lists, our plans and our schemes. If we will make room for that unexpected detour - or detours - we might just find ourselves in a place we never expected, but one that was the right place all along. Enter serendipity...if you leave the window open just a crack.

How about you? Are you comfortable leaving room in your life for those unexpected detours, or do you feel like you have to plan every step of your way? Are you open to new possibilities and new paths, or do you prefer to stay within the guardrails?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Celebrating Baby...and Community

This constitutes a follow up to my previous post "Just in Time for Christmas" because in March we celebrated another baby shower, this one for my grandson who was due in mid-April. This get together would not have been possible without the wonderful help of my daughter's "adopted" older sister, Jessica. I provided the place and food while she provided all the talented decorating ideas, games, etc. She and her husband are treasured members of our family - and not just because she throws a great party!

Day of, we were gratified to have a living room full of women of all ages to share the joy of the mom-to-be. A few more were not able to attend, but graciously provided gifts for the occasion. While my daughter received many wonderful items that are coming in very handy now that our "little man" is here, there was far more to the occasion than just the very appreciated baby gadgets.

What made this occasion so meaningful was the presence of so many women who had taken time from their busy schedules to join us. Neither my daughter nor I have ever been very good at collecting large numbers of "girlfriends." I can count on two fingers the number of good friends I have from childhood, and still not use up the rest of my fingers for the ones I've been blessed with as an adult. My daughter is the same way. I honestly don't know if we are the exception to womanhood, or if we are actually more common and the ones with a large circle of female friends are the aberrations. Either way, having a living room full of female friends and family members was a really pleasant surprise.

Their support did not stop at just showing up for the baby shower, either. My grandson was born on April 10 and since then, I've been wonderfully surprised by their continuing interest, support, and love for him and for us. We adore this little boy and I'm so happy to see how many people who are not even related love him, too. He has not only his immediate family but a slew of honorary "aunts" and even "grandparents." This child has more family than he'll know what to do with! I consider that a good thing.

Once I would not have understood all this fuss and group affection. Now I bask in it and thank God for all the people who share with us on a daily basis as he grows. Family and community may sometimes be "all up in your business" (especially in the South!) but the world would be a very lonely place without them.

You ladies - and you know who you are - are a precious part of our lives and we love you. I just thought you should know!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Just in Time for Christmas

Holidays and special occasions have always secretly perplexed me. I distinctly remember one of my early birthday parties, possibly my 5th. My mother (being a dutiful mom) put together the usual kid's bash at some pizza place, I think. What kid would not like a party with a few friends at a pizza place? Me. I started crying. Too much noise and confusion and too many people. After that, Mom gladly set aside the "kid" parties and we just had them at home among family the rest of the time. I was fine with that.

The trend continued throughout my life, with me secretly (or not so secretly I am ashamed to admit) expressing "bah humbug" about everything from Christmas to birthdays. I could not for the life of me understand why everyone went to so much trouble for these occasions. There was all the planning, the running around purchasing things, the decorating, the hostessing, and then the cleanup. You had to spend time socializing, and on occasion you even played silly games.

All of this took place in addition to your usual full schedule. It involved spending a lot of your limited personal time scurrying about getting ready for something you would gladly skip in the first place if it did not mark you as a complete Scrooge. And by the time you got to the event, you were generally too exhausted to even enjoy it.

A few days ago, however, I joined others in my office to celebrate a baby shower for two of our co-workers. When it came to this shower, part of me had exhibited at least a mild case of my usual "do we really have to do this" attitude. I had to drive over an hour to get to our primary office, help decorate, clean up, etc. However, this particular couple are both near and dear to all our hearts and I could not really begrudge the time spent to mark such a wonderful  occasion in their lives. There were no games, given that it was at work, but we did have a great time visiting and sharing their joy at the upcoming birth of their little girl.

I was thinking about this shower and holidays in general on my way back from Houston the day after the event. I do my best thinking when I am driving by myself, because it is one of the few quiet times I get. Somewhere in the middle of my ruminations, neural connections apparently shifted in my brain and everything abruptly gelled and made sense. I had one of those moments when things become crystal clear and your whole outlook changes.

I am sure that this altered state of mind was at least partially spurred on by what I've been studying in class about culture, community, and human interactions. Perhaps an additional ingredient was maturity and my growing sense of connection and relatedness. Whatever the final ingredients might have been that came together in my brain to make a finished product, for the first time in my life I "got" the whole concept of special occasions.

As human beings, we are wired to need other people (my husband's curmudgeonly protestations not withstanding). We are built to exist and relate in community. Our occasions bring us together in a way that helps define this shared communal space, whether we are marking individual accomplishments or a more general cultural holiday. These events are memory markers and meaning makers in the lives of individuals, families, communities, and nations.

Look at all the recent excitement over Johnny Manziel's Heismann trophy win. Even those of us who are not avid football fans recognized the special nature of this event - not only in Johnny's life but also in the life of Texas A&M as a whole. And that was the key to the excitement and celebrations - for a moment in time, even if we didn't know Johnny Manziel, we connected into the larger Aggie community impacted by his award. For Aggies everywhere, this became a shared memory and shared meaning. (There are other reasons, of course, for people being drawn to "celebrities," but that is beyond the scope of this blog post.)

Whenever we share these moments, special foods, special decorations, and special activities define the parameters of our communal space and time. In a sense, they sanctify it - setting it apart both in the moment and later in our memories. These celebrations belong to a special realm and our preparations mark the edges of that realm. When we participate, we step out of our normal lives and enter that peculiar point where community is shaped and defined.

The timing of my new understanding could not have been better, since this past weekend my husband and I participated in two community events with the Brazos Heritage Society - the Downtown Bryan Christmas Parade and the Heritage Society's annual Christmas Stroll in the Eastside Historic District. Additionally, our family just finished celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas is rapidly approaching.

For once, there is no "bah humbug." I am enjoying the preparations and looking forward to gathering our family together...of stepping out of the ordinary for just a while and enjoying that sanctified space and time that is the holiday. Another memory will be created and family will be tied a little tighter together because of it.

How about you? Do you start tuning up your "bah, humbug" attitude when someone mentions celebrating a holiday, or are you more inclined to dive in and start tying ribbons and putting up balloons?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Looking at Life through an EOS 60D Lens

Because I certainly don't have enough things to do in my life with a job and a gig as a full-time graduate student, I recently decided I wanted to learn photography. I've always loved good photographs, but I'm a rank amateur when it comes to actually taking them. Because I know I don't have time to enroll in a formal class, I opted to do some general reading on the Internet, with the thought in mind that I'll pick this new skill up a little bit at a time. It isn't like I have a deadline in mind or that I expect to be working for National Geographic. I just want to develop, however slowly, the ability to take those shots that make other people stop for a moment in time and really look at the world again.

Any of you who are friends of mine on Facebook have probably noticed I've started posting photography-related posts on occasion. Some of those images are too amazing not to share, but I promise 'll try to keep it reasonable. Additionally, I periodically go to a site called Deviant Art for my daily fix of awesome artwork and photos. Deviant Art is one my "happy places" that just makes the day a little better. Besides, one of unofficially adopted sons who is also a photographer posts new images on there from time to time. Keep an eye out for Ryan Pramik's work (he posts as TattedMotorhead) - I think he's going to go far. Recently, I joined Flickr as well, and was excited to find out that another great photographer and friend - Nico Nordstrom - has her own photostream on the site.

Of course, I have my favorite professionals, too, like Ansel Adams, Sandra Bronstein, and Russ Bishop, but I'm not aspiring to that level just yet!

I was originally going to start with a decent point-n-shoot camera to work out the basics, and worry about working my way up from there. However, to get what I really wanted in terms of features, I realized I wasn't going to be able to afford to buy one. However, we have a couple of nice semi-pro digitals at home, particularly the Canon EOS 60D that my husband bought a few months ago. He's been our family photographer for years. He swears he just takes the pictures so he doesn't have to be in them, but I know he actually aspires to more than that!

Yesterday, I screwed up my courage, grabbed the camera and the husband and headed out to catch the last of the beautiful afternoon light. I've had some ideas in mind for several weeks of shots that I wanted to take. I have a tendency to procrastinate, though, when it comes to trying new things because I'm always a little afraid I won't be able to do it. For that very reason, I made myself get out of the house and go after the shots. After all, if they turn out like garbage, no one has to know but me (and the hubby).

That's when I discovered the hazards of trying to capture the shots you can see in your head. First of all, most of the shots I "captured" with my mental lens were taken from a pickup truck. Which means a) I'm too short on foot, and b) the shots I really wanted would have had to be taken standing in the middle of the road! Even on a Sunday afternoon, standing in the middle of University Drive would probably be a bad idea. So I stomped around, muttering to myself in several different locations. Even Aggies will avoid middle-aged ladies who look like they are in a bad mood, talking to themselves, and armed with a camera.

I did follow my husband's suggestion and take some shots standing up in the bed of the truck, but I doubt that I really captured the essence of what I wanted. We'll see when I get a chance to look at the images. Finally, my husband willingly paid a dollar to get into a nearby parking garage whose rooftop offered some really beautiful views of the campus and the surrounding areas. I'll likely be happiest with some of those shots. If any of them come out decent, I'll have them up on my Flickr photostream and some other art sites.

But I discovered one other hazard of being bitten by the photography bug. You start to go through life like you are framing it with a camera lens. Everything is a potential shot. I haven't decided if this is a problem, to always go through life like you were trying to capture it with a camera, or if it teaches you to see more deeply because you are looking beyond the surface at the angles, the lines, the light, the images, and the possibilities. My daughter, who is an artist, says now I know how she sees the world.

Some time ago, I wrote a post called "Seeing in Color." In it I discussed how I had suddenly stumbled across the way we limit ourselves even when we think we aren't because we believe that no longer seeing things in "black and white" is enough. In reality, the world is a palette full of hues and we need to remove the barriers to seeing and using all of those colors. Perhaps my new found interest in photography is just another step in that process for me.

Do you have a creative hobby that is a lens through which you see the world? Do you find yourself framing things based on your creative medium? It doesn't have to be a camera lens, it can be just about anything that takes you out of the ordinary way we tend to view the world around us. As for me, I will be looking at the world through an EOS 60D lens...