Friday, April 29, 2011

A Hard Love

This is last week's "Five Minute Friday" assignment from here. In my first attempt, I learned that I am a hopeless editor at the keyboard. The instructions say, just write, don't edit. I'm not sure anyone would understand what I type without editing, let alone enjoy it. I type faster than my thoughts can gel and have to go back and fix things. However, I do much writing with pen and paper which doesn't lend itself to editing. I decided to try that approach. The next step of publishing those inky words has taken a little longer. But here we go:


He needs money. Again. He always needs money. He has no job. What he has is a temper that interferes with steady employment. I think I understand the source of the temper. Life has never given him a fair shake. I wish I could fix it for him. I love him. I want better things for him. But charity isn't the answer. I've helped him out financially in the past, until every encounter started revolving around money and I said I wouldn't give him any more.

Now he's here again with his live-in girlfriend. Her dogs were turned in to the town by her mother as part of a fight between them. Unneutered dogs. $100 needed for registration to get them back. Can I please, pretty please, pay the $100 so they can have registered, unneutered dogs in their impoverished home? They can pay me back next month when her disability check comes in.

Love is hard.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

On writing -- again

The days are full. I consider the idea of writing here much more than I actually do it. It seems that when the ideas come there is no time. When I finally grab some time, the ideas are gone. If I write them down as they come they grow stale. The things I pondered yesterday seem uninteresting to me today. How can I return to yesterday's mindset?

I think I have a lot to learn about writing.

Friday, April 15, 2011

On Distance

Five minutes to write about distance for this contest. I have already messed up the logistics of one entry -- no writing, only stumbling through the entry process. And now for the actual writing.
She's married now. Four hundred miles from home. Not many from around here could make it. Her father and I (her mother) and brother and sister were there. My mother and two of my brothers were there along with a sister-in-law and two nephews. We closed the geographical distance that generally separates us and came together for a day -- from Indiana, Florida, and Virginia to Missouri by plane and minivan. We sat together and, amidst the joy, were aware of those not there. Yet, it was good.

And that's how much I can write in five minutes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On writing

As I am subscribing to more blogs, I run across posts directed toward wannabe writers. One such post talked about the hard work that goes into being a published author. I believe it. Even a blog is work. I could put much more time into my posts. Pictures and links would make them more attractive but would also add to the time required. So I just have text. Joining blogging networks would bring me readers, but that would require more time investment than I want to make. So I settle for those who happen by. It's obvious that I need some sort of theme and consistency, an identity for my blog. But I don't have one and just drift from subject to subject.

As I pondered the post about writing being hard work, I realized that I can probably add being published to the list of dreams that aren't likely to be realized in this life. The desire simply isn't strong enough to trump other demands on my hours.

And so, dear reader, I think you will not have any difficulty fighting off the crowds to make comments here. Like much of my life, this place is a low-traffic area, off the beaten path where few find it.

Yet, I upgraded my counter yesterday so I can see more than a small snapshot of the traffic going by. Even out here in the sticks, it's nice to see people stop by now and then and it's tempting to look for ways to attract a few more this week than last week. I'm pretty sure I'm not headed for the big time, but I think I'll at least keep posting now and then.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Strengths and Weaknesses

Someone asked recently in a forum I read if I know my strengths based on the Clifton StrengthsFinder [tm] assessment from Gallup. I do not. I have had my "spiritual gifts" assessed several times. (My "spiritual gifts" have an uncanny resemblance to my natural talents.) I have also done personality assessments. But I had nothing to contribute to a discussion about StrengthsFinder[tm] results.

It turns out there is a book associated with the StrengthsFinder[tm] assessment. No problem. I am a librarian. I'll simply borrow the book and discover my strengths. But, no, the Gallup people are way ahead of me. Each book comes with a single-use access code for the online assessment. There will be no free results for this exercise. If you want results you have to buy a copy of the book.

Still, I have a used library copy of the book and have read the part up to where I'm supposed to take the assessment. There is angst in this book. The author describes a world that sniffs out and treats weaknesses rather than recognizing and capitalizing on strengths. In the view of those behind the book, this approach is far too common, almost universal.

I have somehow missed this anxiety-producing part of life. Or maybe I'm blocking painful memories. I can't remember a single instance where someone said, "Marsha, you are not good at this. You need to undergo training to boost your skills in this area. You can do anything if you set your mind to it!"

A few samples of the many areas where I am weak:

1. Art -- drawing, painting, sketching. I took general art in school and was required to draw so many sketches a week. I did. They came out better than I expected. I guess I learned something in art class. But they were never good. Still, I got an 'A' for effort and was allowed to move on without notice. No one pressured me to become an art major so I could develop my stunted talents in this area.

2. Cooking. I can bring my scientific, mathematical skills to this task and follow a recipe, but I lack all sorts of basic skills for cooking. The most basic of those skills is interest. When I am stuck cooking, I turn on the kitchen television. This serves two purposes: First, it combines two tasks I would never choose so I at least feel like I'm multitasking and not wasting my time on just one of them. Second, when I lose my focus and start to wander away from the kitchen, the need to turn off the television before leaving the room serves as a reminder of why I'm there, that perhaps I'm supposed to be stirring constantly, not wandering off. Yes, there has been pressure over the years to be a normal wife and mother who can whip up delicious meals for her family and for sharing, but the food industry has offset that pressure by offering an increasing variety of alternatives to cooking.

3. Sports. My lowest grades in school were in physical education. Besides have very little spirit of competitiveness, I also have no natural athletic talent. Other than in PhysEd in school, I have never been pressured to develop athletic skills. When we play slow-pitch softball at church, I suggest that I would be an excellent choice for either team. I throw like a girl with no athletic ability, can't catch, and don't run very fast, but I have a glove for the proper hand and can almost always hit the ball -- usually straight to first base thanks to a poorly-timed left-handed swing.

4. Asking others for help. I used to be very bad at this. I lived by the philosophy that if you want something done right, you need to do it yourself. I'm sure people noticed, but no one ever pressured me to take classes on delegation. I had to figure out for myself that there is value in sharing tasks with others -- multiplying the resources available while perhaps saving on the time invested.

5. Making telephone calls, particularly to ask others for help. This is the stuff of nightmares for me. I can't imagine a worse job than telemarketing. It has about the same attraction as dying and going to hell. I turned down many requests when my children were in school to accept a calling list to recruit parental involvement for various projects. Now, I try to include a disclaimer every time I accept the task of making a phone call. It goes, "Never believe me when I say I'll make a phone call. The chances of this call being made are almost zero." I don't remember anyone ever suggesting that I focus on strengthening my calling skills. Usually, they just take their chances because I'm the obvious candidate to make the call. And I guess I actually make those calls often enough to keep getting the assignments, but it's still a definite area of weakness.

I'm left-handed. Back in the dark ages of internet communication, I once subscribed to a "newsgroup" for left-handed people and discovered all sorts of scars among those who had encountered the "hand police" when young. They experienced various levels of persuasion to use their right hands.

There were no "hand police" in my life. Rather there was accommodation. My mother bought an iron with the cord out the back instead of on the side. My utensils were always on the left side of my plate at the dinner table. I'm the one who got piano lessons because I started picking out melodies on the piano with my left hand. I have always experienced left-handedness as something that makes me just a little bit special, never as a handicap that needed remedial action.

The StrengthsFinders[tm] author and associates with their wounds from those trying to fix their weaknesses remind me of those wounded left-handed people. I find their stories interesting but can't identify with them. I was one of the lucky ones. I was given piano lessons so I could develop my natural talents rather than signed up for tennis clinics where I had no hope of success.

I still don't have an official list of strengths to share. I could come up with a list similar to the list of weaknesses I have shared above. My list wouldn't correspond with the terms used by StrengthsFinders[tm]. The descriptors would be more concrete. For example, I am analytical, logical, detail-oriented, and have a natural talent for music. I tend to step into leadership vacuums, leading most easily when people offer to follow. And in this, my sixth, decade I find myself spending substantial time in that sort of environment and voluntarily working on my ability to delegate tasks I'm tempted to do myself.

Still, my analytical nature finds the StrengthsFinder[tm] assessment attractive. Maybe even attractive enough to buy the book just to get an access code. We'll see.