When Optimism Becomes Dishonesty

InsideOutI just saw the new Pixar movie, Inside Out. As to be expected of any Pixar venture, the lesson of the movie was poignant. Joy, who spends most of the movie being an unintentional (yet enthusiastic) bully to Sadness, ultimately learns a mix of emotions are important for leading a balanced life.

That’s all well and good for the fictional world of Pixar, but out here in reality there is a different set of expectations. Our culture expects Joy to be in the driver’s seat. The other emotions are only allowed to drive under extreme circumstances, and to let them take over, especially when you’re a female in public, often leads to dire social consequences.

The movie aptly demonstrates the unfortunate results of this expectation. When Joy and Sadness are attempting to return to “Headquarters,” we see Joy steamroll Sadness multiple times. Any time Sadness recommended a solution or gave Joy a warning, Joy would ignore it in favor of optimism. Her denial delayed their return to headquarters to the point where a solvable problem ballooned into a dire crisis.

Much like Joy was fixated on keeping her charge, an 11-year-old named Riley, happy all of the time, American culture is fixated on relentless optimism. From the way we run our businesses to the way we run our government, we have effectively removed constructive anger, worry, and fear to the point where the only voices we’ll listen to are the ones who have positive things to say.

Yet we don’t live in a world where only good things happen. By embracing positivity to this degree, we are effectively lying to ourselves and each other.

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“Car”ma

mycar

Unfortunately, a hard-to-avoid rock on a mountain road removed my front bumper from my car a couple months ago.

Fortunately, I have experienced random plastic parts coming off cars before and kept a supply of wire in my car kit.

Unfortunately, my car was too low to the ground and I couldn’t remove the damaged plastic on the bottom.

Fortunately, the part banging against my wheel was reachable and could be ducktaped out of the way.

Unfortunately, that part came loose many times and mucked up my front tires.

Fortunately, I was due for new tires and a state inspection anyway.

Unfortunately, the money I would have had to spend on my car went to fixing a cavity instead.

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Taking Down A Flag Won’t Be Enough

confederateflag

Photo by Jason Eppink

Symbols have power. I won’t deny that. But removing a nail doesn’t remove the hole. Filling holes, healing wounds, takes more time and effort.

Still, after yet another terrible mass shooting, we search for a quick fix– a bandaid we can slap on to make people feel better.

So we call for a flag to be removed from a government building. We suggest roads be renamed and that we relegate Confederate leaders to the trash heap of history. Our leaders hear us. They join the cause. Because they believe it’s the right thing to do and because it lets them off easy.

We’re not asking for dialogue. We’re not asking for reform. We’re not asking for frank conversations.

We’re asking for a piece of fabric to be moved.

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Girl Scouting Ain’t What It Used to Be

A picture of the author with her fellow campers in the arts and crafts shed right after everyone painted their faces and legs.

I just learned today that the Girl Scout camps I went to as a child are being sold. Camp Tohikanee has been shut down for a while–so long that the grass is nearly a foot high by the dining hall. Camp Tweedale held its last flag ceremony this past weekend.

There were songs sung, games played, and adventures had in the night. There were fires, s’mores, banana boats, and a grill cheese sandwich fire that forced the counselors to order out for pizza. There were letters written, crafts made, and early morning icy-cold polar bear swims.

There were pranks. Oh boy were there pranks.

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Will the Real Chocolate Tea Please Stand Up?

A hand holding a navy blue mug that reads I heart NPR and has dark brown cocoa tea inside it.

I have tried an assortment of chocolate-flavored teas over the years and trust me when I say they never came close to the real thing. Most reminded me of those sugar-free chocolates that have the consistency of chewing gum.

Now I’ve discovered the secret to low-calorie chocolate awesome–brewing cocoa nibs.

I don’t know how it never occurred to me to just brew the nibs straight. Humans have discovered all manner of tasty drinks by steeping plant pieces in hot water. It really should be no surprise that cocoa nibs make a smashing tea.

This chocolate tea is good, angels sing as hot water hits the nibs. Your tongue does the samba in anticipation of the glorious taste party that is about to happen. All the other chocolate teas in the world look on with jealousy and realize they have lost the battle of style vs. substance and even their fancy filigreed packaging can’t save them now.

It’s either nibs or go home. All other chocolate teasers are just fakers.

Okay. Done now. I promise.

I’m so glad one of my coworkers shared her nibs with me. Now I can squash my chocolate cravings with tea.

One side note: This is NOT a caffeine free tea. Steer clear of this tea if caffeine is a migraine trigger or otherwise makes living in your own body unpleasant…

If Talk Is Cheap, Stop Giving It So Much Value

talk

I’m beyond tired of talking being the only parameter people use to measure my worth as a human being. Most people know talking is a terrible measuring stick for a person’s character. “I value substance over style!” they declare, and then they pull out the talking stick and hold it up next to you.

Somewhere along the line, we as a society have established that talking = interest, talking = intelligence, and even that talking = love. If we accept these equations as truth, then people who don’t talk must not be interested, dumber than a monogamist at a swingers party, and incapable of love.

As usual, there is some truth to this perception. Communication deepens relationships. Discussions breed ideas and inventions. Sharing intimate thoughts and feelings brings people closer together. But here’s where most people get it wrong.

Talk is not scalable.

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Life on the Honors Track

A picture of a pair of glasses resting on an open book.

I spent my entire academic career on the Honors track. Aside from math, which seems to be the one subject my brain processes at the speed of paint drying, I took the Honors and AP courses available in every subject. Yet I never really thought of the implications of separating out the smart kids until I read this editorial by Judy Jones.

The advantage of Honors courses was we could drive dragsters while everyone else puttered about in sedans. We could blow through material faster than the regular classes. When teachers knew everyone in the class could absorb material quickly, they could cover more ground and still fit in time for the students to explore their own interests.

At the same time, I recall being in those classes with a lot of the same people. The “gifted” students stuck together because, let’s admit it, it’s very fun to hang out with people who are at the same geek level you are. It’s great to be able to crack jokes about math or physics and have people laugh so hard that soda rockets out of their nose. Everyone else would just give you a look that asked “so what Star Trek dimension are you from?”

But that environment doesn’t reflect the working world.

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Mad Max: The Feminist Action Flick No One Saw Coming

Mad_Max

There be some tiny spoilers past this paragraph. Those who prefer a pure unspoilerified movie-going experience should stay far away from this post.

Few franchises are as testosterone-soaked as Mad Max. With supercharged car chases, tricked-out vehicles, and bone-cracking-flesh-ripping violence, the target viewer for the series is undoubtedly the same 20-30-something year-old guy who spends far too many hours playing Grand Theft Auto.

Which is why it is so damn surprising that Mad MaxFury Road has taken one of the biggest leaps to showcase women on the big screen.

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Dear Customer, You Can Help Us Stay Open Late

opensign

Dear Customer,

We at Local Business Inc. appreciate receiving the feedback you have so graciously shared with several of our cashiers, the shift manager, and the delightful homeless veteran who plays the banjo across the street from our establishment. We have also enjoyed receiving your emails and Facebook posts. They are a daily dose of joy for all of our staff.

We understand you’re a working American with a 9 to 5 job, and that you cannot frequent our establishment as much as you would like because we close our doors promptly at 6:00 PM on weekdays and traffic just sucks. We are sorry these hours inconvenience you, and we know how enthusiastic you are to patronize our business. So we have put together some suggested steps you could take to assist us in keeping our doors open late like the Walmarts and the Targets.

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Living Tweetless and Loving It

By now, most of the Internet has likely seen the music video for Stromae’s “Carmen.” The singer doesn’t mince words when it comes to his perspective on social media culture. He aptly captures the affect of the pull of social media and how it encourages us to consume information to the point at which we are consumed by social media itself.

Watching the video reminded me of the mostly empty Twitter feed I have sitting on the side of my blog. Other than some appeals I’ve made to support some worthy fundraisers, I haven’t paid attention to Twitter for more than a year. Stromae’s video definitely hits on why I’ve allowed my Twitter account to stagnate.

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