Busy, Busy, Busy

Busy, Busy, Busy

I’d like to start a movement to strike the word ‘busy’ from our conversations, in particular at work, but also in our conversations with our loved ones.  I’m guilty of it too.  I always say “busy…but a good kind of busy”!  What does that mean?  I have the vision of a miniature fuzzy Tracy on her hamster wheel pedaling rapidly around and around but going nowhere but back to where I began.  And I sound exhausted and overwhelmed.  That is not a truthful picture of how I feel…ok, occasionally I do arrive home from work pretty dizzy and disoriented but usually only after a late night school board meeting.  We are making real progress on a lot of neat projects at work but it is so easy to use the acceptable crutch of how busy we are to prove to ourselves and others that we are valued and secure in our jobs.  I don’t think I am being paid to be just busy.   I think I am getting paid to see projects through to completion with some very special outcomes for kids and families.

Let’s vow to not let the response pass through our lips at networking events, business meetings, and especially in front of our friends and family.  I have come to believe this strongly – not for the definition of the word, but for the usage.  I think it is my crutch or just a bad habit.  Just like swearing (although there are times that situations demand the use of one of the 7 dirty, but fitting,  words made infamous by comedian George Carlin).  If you rely on the busy blow-off word to express yourself, then you aren’t as informative or perhaps with this particular response – truthful. It is especially counterproductive when you have a meeting cancelled at the last minute because someone else is “too busy”.   Or in other words, what they are working on or meeting with is more important than what you are planning to discuss.   I too am guilty of the overuse of ‘busy’, but here’s my plan for quitting.

  • Make a list of five things I’ve done recently to replace the usual response of “oh, I’m so busy”.
  • Rather than asking someone about how they are, I’m going to ask them specifically if they are working on anything new or something I should know about.
  • When I catch b-u-s-y coming out my mouth, I am going to follow up with a sentence or two and explain what exactly I’ve been doing.
  • I am going to try really hard not to give my colleagues and friends the busy treatment.

Now, do you want to discuss the overuse of the word ‘stress’?  Same problem with that word as with ‘busy’.  What other words drive you over the top or have unintended consequences to you or to your workmates and loved ones?  Well, I better go get busy.

http://vimeo.com/25845008

Watch this cute short vimeo called Bob about a hamster on a wheel  — watch all the way to the end (after the credits) for a good belly laugh.

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25 Modern Day Influencers

25 Modern Day Influencers

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I read a news article recently that listed the top 10 innovators of our time and it made me think about individuals who have made a tremendous impact on my perceptions beyond my circle of family, friends and colleagues.  I pondered what made them important to me and if there were some common characteristics across them that made them so influential and meaningful to me.  Here is a short list of individuals that popped into my frontal lobe.  I wrote the list in less than 10 minutes of brainstorming and stopped at 25.  They are listed in no particular order of priority and I am sure if I thought about it more, I would add and subtract from it.  But I have to get a pot of chili on the stove so this list below – is my list as of Friday, October 25th.

  1. Anne Frank
  2. Martin Luther King
  3. The Beatles
  4. Willie Morris
  5. Truman Capote
  6. Julia Child
  7. Frida Kahlo
  8. James Taylor
  9. Bill Clinton
  10. Corey Booker
  11. Jon Stewart
  12. Steven Spielberg
  13. Malala Yousafza
  14. Indira Gandhi
  15. Willa Cather
  16. Erma Bombeck
  17. Mark Twain
  18. Thomas Friedman
  19. Bill Bryson
  20. Billy Jean King
  21. Michelle Obama
  22. Jimmy Stewart
  23. Gary Larson
  24. Walter Cronkite
  25. Jacques Cousteau

What are the commonalities?  They are fantastic communicators.   They communicate ideas and make them stick.  They have the ability to make the mundane – intensifying.  They have exceptional interpersonal skills and have more passion for their interests than others.  These influencers find the positive in things and have the confidence to act.  They are intensely focused, but flexible and have remarkable networks.  Many are multi-taskers and have a keen sense of timing that works for them.  Many know how to leverage the technology of their time to benefit their passion.  Obviously, many more than this short list of 25 has influenced my life and my sense of reality.  How does your list compare to mine?  Why do they differ?  Our life experiences most assuredly.  While some of the individuals on my list might be considered eccentric by some, most of these individuals looked for common ground and the common good that makes us more similar to one another than different.

To peace in the world

To peace in our own backyard

To peace in our minds

Bath for the Birds

Bath for the Birds

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I woke up to a chilly Saturday morning and a surprise in my garden.  A beautiful new (re-purposed) bird bath sitting pretty in my weedy garden out back.  Maybe it will inspire me to get out there today and pull up all of the tiny grass shoots that are quickly appearing all around the garden.  The recent rain is such a blessing but not only do the birds, flowers and plants love it, so do the weeds.

Renaissance Man assembled the bird bath from a beautiful pot that we had purchased together in Mexico years ago on a trip to the Guanajuato area of central, colonial Mexico.  I carefully hauled the Mexican pottery back on the airplane (along with several other pieces that I treasure) with the intent of making a bird bath out of this one.  But we never did as we became consumed with the day-to-day.  We had a nice bird bath  in this same spot but it came to a speedy demise when RM “pruned” the red tip Photinia.  The pretty bush had taken a direct hit, as did the prior bird bath, by the excessive heat and drought Texas has experienced over the last several summers – it has been like living in a blast furnace here for months.  But this morning, we woke up to temperatures below 40 degrees and the fresh, clean air after yesterday’s showers and warm sunshine streaming down on our beautiful new bath for the birds living on Ashland.

RM neatly placed the pot inside a used tomato cage and voila!…instant bird bath.  The old cage is now the base of the bath and I don’t have to keep tripping over it in the garage.  RM and I gave up growing tomatoes several summers ago – just to damn hot.

Remember? 10 Things I Wish We Still Routinely Did

Remember? 10 Things I Wish We Still Routinely Did

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I miss this too — it is called grass sledding?   Tom, Tracy (in diapers?) and Mike.  Not sure what is going on but we sure are cute.  Love the buzz cuts.

  1. Inviting neighbors over to share our homemade ice cream churned by hand – I remember my job was to sit on top of the churn when it was hard to turn so my dad got good leverage on it to finish it off.  My rear end would burn from the cold of the ice and salt combo.  The ice cream was made from cream we had purchased directly from a local dairy. Yummy.
  2. Writing letters to family members and friends with lots of details and illustrations and in our own handwriting – I miss seeing handwriting and their creative expression and the secrets they reveal.  Remember when you first dotted an “i” with an open circle or heart?  Remember how PERFECT your Mom’s script was or is?
  3. Scavenger Hunts – we would knock on stranger’s doors and ask them for random items like a piece of gum, a straight pin or a book of matches to complete our required list and then all race towards home on foot to win the game.  Nearly everyone in the community was willing to help out in the hunt.
  4. Halloween Night when we would knock on any door (even Mrs. Sprigg’s house) to trick-or-treat without the fear of poison or evil-doers.  Remember getting home-made treats from neighbors like popcorn balls and caramel apples?
  5. Playing Bridge – my parents played this game usually when my grandparents came for an extended visit.  I learned it from my former business partner in my 30’s and it is a game that you never really master.  I loved the rituals of the game, the partnership, the bidding and the snacks!  I have an old musty bridge book and little pencil that makes me happy whenever I stumble onto it in the cupboard.  When she moved away, we stopped playing because we would not find another partner as perfect as her.
  6. More front porches – I live in a neighborhood with a lot of front porches but they are in decline in many communities replaced by gates, back driveway entrances and expansive outdoor kitchens and decks.  These are nice but I love seeing more people in their front yards and porches so I can yell “Good evening”, “hot enough?” and “Did you hear about…” when I take my evening stroll.
  7.  Fireworks.  I loved launching bottle rockets with red hot punks, setting snakes on fire and running around like a crazed child with my beloved sparkler.  When you live in the city these activities are verboten and dangerous but I still hanker for it every 4th of July.  Of course, one of us Hauck kids always got injured this time of year as Main Street turned into a war zone for independence.
  8. Playing in non-chlorinated water – either in the gutter after a rain, in the tiny Medicine River muddy with the local red dirt or private ponds or springs.  We swam with the fishes, the snakes and all of nature’s critters.  We swam and splashed wherever we could slip our way onto a property.  We swam sometimes in our street clothes or sometimes in our birthday suits.  No one thought anything about it because it was so darn fun.  Today, we worry the water is too dirty or someone will get hurt and there will be a lawsuit. In Texas, you are likely to get shot trying these tricks since we love to fire our guns so much.
  9. Sharing perennial plants and flowers with our neighbors, friends and strangers.  My parents rarely bought plants from a commercial nursery.  They would offer to help a neighbor prune a garden and then if there happened to be  an overabundance of lilies, iris or other prolific plantings they simply dug them up, put them in a brown sack or in a wheelbarrow and brought them back to our house for planting.  They remembered where they had picked up each plant and always updated the donor of the status of the transplant.  These updates usually occurred at church in the fellowship hall.
  10. When “calling on friends” actually meant stopping by for a personal visit in our private homes for a cup of coffee, some cookies or other special treat.  These visits often happened unannounced and homes were always stocked in anticipation of a couple of visits a week.  If you called on a friend, it was expected that you returned the invitation at least once.  My parents were great at hosting friends, workmates, neighbors and new residents in our home.  My mother always took a small token of appreciation to the host and I still carry on this tradition in her memory.

Do you have activities that you miss doing like me?

Fantastic Voyage (and a list of science fiction movies that marked my childhood)

Fantastic Voyage (and a list of science fiction movies that marked my childhood)

I was listening to the radio while driving between meetings this week and the host was discussing the merits of the 1966 science fiction movie, Fantastic Voyage, which perked my interest greatly and reminded me quite uncomfortably why I get so tense watching sci-fi flicks to this day.  Fantastic Voyage made such an early and lasting impression on me.  No wonder.  When I did the math, I calculated  I was only five when my brothers drug me (they should have drugged me) to the Saturday matinée to watch this cold war tale of technology that can miniaturize matter by shrinking individual atoms – but only for a very limited time.  The plot goes like this.  A brilliant scientist working behind the Iron Curtain is the mastermind behind the incredible shrinking powers.  He escapes to the United States but due to a botched assassination attempt he is left near death with a blood clot.  To save his precious life, scientists, surgeons and the beautiful Raquel Welch are put into Proteus – a submarine-designed and built at the Combined Miniaturized Deterrent Forces (CMDF) facility.  They are then all shrunk to one micrometer with the mission to enter the body of the injured scientist and in less than one hour remove the clot.  If they don’t get in and out in time, Proteus will revert to normal size and kill the scientist.  There are many tense obstacles along the way involving various human organs and disgusting human functions on the big screen.  Several crew members are killed and one of the team members is really an evil doer and it gets down to just a few minutes left in the film when the survivors swim desperately to one of the scientist’s eyes where they escape via a teardrop.  Hence, the basis for the movie poster artwork displayed below. They then return to normal size.

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Thank goodness Cora/Raquel survived as the only female crew member or I would not have made it out of the dark theater without a quick stop at the local child psychologist’s office. Instead I calmed myself on foamy Mr. Pibb, sticky ju-ju’s and buttery, salty popcorn.  This pattern of my brothers taking me regularly to science fiction movies and an occasional horror movie at an early age continued on through the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. They loved these movies and many were quite good but I longed for movies with Kurt Russel as the lead but I rarely won out in the end. Did I tell you I grew up with three older brothers and one of them was a sci-fi nerd in the same league as those young scientists in the sit-com Big Bang Theory?  He went on to design computer parts for the emerging telecommunication and electronics market as well as design a device called the Transmogrifier.  The inspiration for all of this later work was first imagined at the movie theatre and in science fiction writing that he consumed daily. When preparing a list of science fiction movies that marked my childhood it is quite impressive.  However, much to my surprise,  Kurt Russel did star in one of the movies that made this list.  To cope, I often left the theatre and wandered alone to the restroom or to the snack bar during particularly poignant moments (death and dying parts for sure).  Or I sat in the broken and sticky theatre seat and covered my eyes and ears.  I stared at my shoes and tried to imagine myself in a quiet place where bunnies hopped and birdies twittered.  Yes, I loved Bambi except for the Mamma Deer dying part.  Yes, my mom took me to this one too but at least she warned me before we entered the theatre that day – and she held my hand.  When you go to movies with brothers they never hold your hand as their hands are busy covering their own eyes.  They aren’t as tough as they act on the surface.

Here is a list of movies I vividly remember making an impact on me from 1966 to 1979.  Many I watched at the local drive-in theater with the entire family in the old family wagon (including mandatory brown grocery bag full of popcorn prepared the old fashion way – on the stove top) or during Saturday trips to Wichita for a matinée while our parents did shopping or took dance lessons.  Some of these we drove 30 miles to Pratt in the 1960’s or to Topeka in the 1970’s when they were not released in our small town theaters.

  • Fantastic Voyage, 1966
  • 2001:  A Space Odyssey, 1968
  • Planet of the Apes, 1968
  • The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, 1969 – starring Kurt Russel
  • Beneath the Planet of the Apes, 1970
  • The Andromeda Strain, 1971 – particularly creepy!
  • Escape from the Planet of the Apes, 1971
  • The Omega Man, 1971
  • Beware! The Blob, 1972 – sent me over the edge for days
  • Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, 1972
  • Battle for the Planet of the Apes, 1973
  • Soylent Green, 1973 – Gross out!
  • Westworld, 1973
  • The Terminal Man, 1973
  • The Stepford Wives, 1975
  • Logan’s Run, 1976
  • Close Encounter of the Third Kind, 1977 
  • Star Wars – all of them
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978
  • Alien, 1979 – really!  Well I was 18.

Hope these titles jar some childhood memories for you or inspire you to watch a view of these films – they are probably all on streaming by now.  Maybe these flicks will get us through the government shutdown.  These movie plots can’t be any more terrifying than what is playing out in Washington.

Don’t Cry Over Spilled Paint

Don’t Cry Over Spilled Paint

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A clipping from my father’s files marked “Peace Treaty” (about 1968-1969)

I was born in a tiny rural town in south-central Kansas named Medicine Lodge.  The town population hovers around 2,000 as it has for decades and it is located in the Red Hills region of the Great Plains. Temperance activist Carrie Nation launched her war against alcohol from Medicine Lodge in the early 1900’s.  You can tour her home if you are ever lucky enough to drive through this rather remote area of Kansas.  Triennially, Medicine Lodge holds a pageant to commemorate the 1867 Medicine Lodge Treaty, signed between the United States government and the Kiowa, Plains Apache, Southern Cheyenne and Southern Arapaho, near the city’s present-day location. The city first held the pageant in 1927 and has held it every three years since 1961.  Most of the actors in the pageant are locals who volunteer their time, talent, horses, wagons, and other western gear to put on the event and associated parade and jamboree.

My family was cast as part of the Lewis and Clark expedition in the pageant when we lived there in the 1960’s.  Dad, Mom, Tom and I rode in on a black buggy pulled by horses, my brothers Ed and Mike followed carrying a canoe, and then we collectively stood out in the vast prairie field in the appropriate attire of this unique time of western exploration while the narrator shared the pageant story. I have vivid memories of my childhood girlfriends preparing for the traditional Prairie Flower dance, the introductory spirit of the prairie scene, and struggling with my childish jealousy of their chance to wear gauzy, purple, blue, green, pink, lavender, yellow and orange gowns while moving in circular motions on the prairie floor while I was adorned in a rather, in comparison, buttoned-down silk knickers and a bonnet seated beside my family unit.  I can image what my brothers thought.  I don’t think Tom smiled once through the performance because for goodness gracious, they made him wear baby blue silk short pants and he was a pre-teen.  The men used the pageant as an excuse not to shave their beards during the weeks leading up to the pageant so they would look more authentic for their acting roles. My dad, playing the part of Levi Lincoln, loved to rub his prickly goatee on my young and tender skin just to hear me scream and then run away in a fit of giggles.

Growing up in such a tight knit community was a delight as I was well cared for by my parents  and surrounded by a community that loved me and my family.  We lived on Main Street and I could walk the two blocks downtown to the library, to my dad and mom’s offices, to the grocery store, to the swimming pool and the lazy Medicine river, to the vacant lot out back or to my friends’ houses that lived nearby.  On our block, there were many families with children but I was one of the youngest kids on the block.  The Rheas, The Stracks, The Newsoms, and the many other families all had at least three kids so there was always someone to play with including pick-up games of basketball, touch (and often tackle) football, bike rides, constructing elaborate forts from cast-off materials, and planning for kid-directed block events like a carnival, track meet, or play.  We charged people to attend these well-organized activities and we even had our own banking account for a while.  My brother, Ed, was usually the ring leader for the block events but all of us contributed in one way or another.  Life on the block was good except when it wasn’t.  Since we had so much freedom to play outdoors and away from our parents’ supervision, “accidents” did happen from time to time.

One involved me and gallon of oil house paint.  It was a hot, summer day and I was about eight years old. I lived just a few houses from the Rhea sisters so we often walked to the library to check out books together or I hung out with them while they did chores or practiced their musical instruments.  Teresa and Jeanne were four or five years older than me.  Teresa was willing to play Barbies with me and we often took the anorexic dolls outside and built tree houses for them in the bushes. I had the only Ken doll on the block so I frequently received invitations to play Barbie especially from prepubescent neighborhood girls who were exploring ideas of how Barbie would marry Ken and live happily ever after.  Teresa also taught me a ton of card games, jacks, and jump rope tricks.  I was enamored with her and wanted to spend all the time she would give me that summer.  On the day of the accident, Teresa and her older sister had a typical sister argument about something immediate and most surely unimportant in the long scheme of things but Jeanne had a temper and she flounced off from us and went into the house.  Teresa and I continued to play an exciting series of Jacks and completely forgot about the angry older sister.  We were playing Jacks on the concrete patio (you need a good hard surface for a good game of Jacks) behind their house situated at the base of a series of exterior stairs that led upward to a tiny deck before entering the backdoor of their home.  The same door that Jeanne had flounced through previously…  On the small deck were a couple of used house paint cans piled up on top of one another, a roller and other painting supplies.

Teresa and I were engrossed in flipping jacks and tossing the hard, red ball back and forth between us.  I remember hearing the screen door open above me. I saw Teresa look up at the landing above us. She yelled something at Jeanne.  There was a loud noise from the deck and Jeanne yelled back something I don’t remember.  The next thing I know the world around me is completely black, I can’t open my eyes and I feel something cold and wet all over my head and shoulders.  I reached up to my face and felt and then smelled wet paint all over me.  It was so thick that I couldn’t see what happened and I was disorientated and afraid.  Later I learned that Jeanne had “accidently” kicked the can of paint over the edge of the porch and it opened in mid-air showering me completely, head to toe, with paint (oil based).  My reaction was to stand up and sprint the three houses home hysterically crying for my mother.  I don’t know how I got there in the condition I was in.  I made it to the side door screaming her name.  She must have been in the kitchen, near the entry, because I remember her greeting me at the door and hugging me close to her.  She carried me into the back bathroom and calmly placed me in the bath tub.  All of the way dripping white paint onto her waxed hardwood floors. She ran the water and was able to wash much of the paint down the drain but there was a thin layer left on my skin and in my hair that adhered and would not rinse away.  It was a milky now and determined to stick as it was manufactured to do.  At least it was out of my eyes, mouth, nose and ears for the most part.

I remember she toweled me off and wrapped me up and the proceeded to the hall telephone to call Dr. Ball, one of two town physicians.  He actually got on the phone with her and walked her through the steps to get the rest of the paint out of my hair and removed from my skin.  I am sure his solution was totally toxic (gasoline?) compared to solutions today but after many hours of scrubbing, rinsing and repeating applications, I came clean.

I recall a sincere apology from Jeanne and her parents and all was forgiven and we moved on to continue to play together just like before.  No lawsuits, no screaming, no threats or mean talk.  Just an accident and a lesson to be more careful in the future and to remember what happens when we let anger and jealousy get the better of us.  Someone, innocent, usually ends up getting hurt.  A lesson we could all be reminded of today as our government goes into week two of a shut down.  I certainly won the friendship of two sister friends that must realize they went too far in their sibling rivalry and hurt an innocent bystander. My brothers were so happy they were not to blame for any part of the trauma of their little sister (they were guilty on other occasions).   I am still standing today and much wiser from the experience.

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My brothers – Tom, Mike and Ed -who also grew up with me in Medicine Lodge and were part of the Main Street gang!

State Pride Jewelry

State Pride Jewelry

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I ordered my Kansas necklace on-line and it came in this cute box, inside the glass vial.  Very clever and I treasure the necklace as it makes me feel connected to my mid-western roots.

Need a fun gift for a friend with big state pride?  You know that one I am talking about. The friend who lives far from home and misses it or the one who always roots for their big state college sports team or your workmate that consistently compares their home state to Texas in conversations or that special over-the-top buddy that insists on wearing their state name on every stitch of casual clothing they own (usually burnt orange and white). The gift of a necklace with their state name from Kris Nations might just be the perfect token of your affection for them and also support a local retailer or you may purchase on-line at: http://krisnations.com/collections/state-pride

The State Pride Studs are the perfect, understated way to show pride for your favorite state. I picked out a tiny Texas-shaped pair for C3 and she loves them.   Handmade in Half Moon Bay, CA, USA.  This jeweler also makes a lot of Chevron-shaped pieces which seems the current craze.

The artist, Kris, is from Texas and currently live in California. She thought it would be funny to wear a Texas pendant as a tribute to her home state. (Texans are PROUD!) Once she made the Texas pendant, she was asked to add California, New York, and eventually all 50 states.

The artist makes contributions and lends her financial support to an organization called About Face. They are a non-profit that holds workshops and action activities that equip young women and girls with tools to understand and resist harmful media messages that affect their self-esteem and body image. She designed a bracelet for them that reads “I heart ME” to convey the message that we are all beautiful no matter what the mainstream media might suggest. One hundred percent of the sale price of the bracelet goes to About Face.

By reading my blog, I am helping you get your holiday shopping off to a creative and fast start without leaving the comfort of your comfy couch.   Have a great week-end – I hear we are due for a cold front and it is snowing in Colorado already.  RM says he is going to lay around all week-end in his underwear.  Why do dudes always make statements like that?