Epic Day!

Not only is this the first Saturday of Summer (unofficially, I guess) and it was suitably hot and sunny, but today was the culmination of a 6+ month long labor of love that ended in an incredibly awesome experience. 

This year marks my brother and sister-in-law’s 40th wedding anniversary. They are two of the most amazing people I know. Generous, kind and hard-working are words that only describe some of their best qualities. They’re not perfect, but they work hard at being good people and loving of their family and friends. 

Because they’re so dear to us all, our family (our older brother and his wife, my nephew and his wife and daughter, my niece and her son, and me)  surprised them with the gift of a motorhome. It’s been a dream of theirs for decades. We thought this a fitting gift for commemorating their forty years together and honoring their loving kindness to all of us. And it’s just in time for their summer road trip to see the grandkids.

The surprise was epic! At first they thought the RV with a bow on it parked next to our house was part of the massive graduation party going on next door. But when my brother asked if it was mine, and I said “Nope, it’s yours”, the stunned surprise on their faces was priceless! It was so fun to watch them explore it, exclaiming over all the fun little features and neat gadgets it contains. Though it is not brand new and will likely take effort to learn to operate it well, they love it!

I’m bursting with happiness that we were able to do something so delightful for people who have worked so hard and loved us all so well. 
Be happy, my friends! 

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Quick + from a big ol’ –

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I tasked myself with finding at least one good thing whenever I found myself grumbling or focusing on the negatives in any day. Holding myself accountable to that with this quick post. 

Today was a very Monday-ish Monday with many things, big and small, filling up the negative column. One large, hairy, noisy and unpleasant negative was kicked off from a coworker’s I’ll-considered broadcast email that put my team squarely in the crosshairs of a potentially devastating executive team backlash. She has apologized and assured me that that was not in any way her intention. I believe she’s sincere, but her intent is not the actual outcome.  My team and I have to deal with the consequences and I spent way too much time today undoing those consequences. That sucks big time. 

But, there is at least one positive outcome: I exercised an amazing number of diplomacy muscles and have mostly reversed the damage. Also, I had a fairly direct chat with my coworker and shared the consequences with her. She now knows to come to me first before broadcasting something about my team that can be easily misunderstood. So, there’s a positive in the ashes of the negativity bomb. 

Positivity for the win…

Flat out 

I had hoped to write something substantive and post earlier in the week. It just didn’t happen. I’ve been working flat out and just haven’t been able to pull it together. But I’m not going to let my posting goal fall to a busy schedule. 

Here’s a list of good things from this week. Although they are not terribly original, they made me happy and kept my positivity going:

  1. Sunshine! I wore my sunglasses on my drive to work every day this week and three of my drives home. It’s finally, truly Spring and I’m grateful. 
  2. I’m enjoying my work. I’ve done some really difficult, executive-level lawyering this last couple of weeks. And in the middle of it, both my boss and outside counsel have been very complimentary of my work and the logic of my theories and deductions. It’s extremely gratifying when those you respect and admire show equal respect and admiration for you and your work. 
  3. Very glad to be able to celebrate the good fortunes of a couple of friends. One has recently been able to visit her new girlfriend and visit old friends and home places for the first time in ages. Another has a new puppy. It’s really nice to have good news for once, and pleasant to share the happiness with my friends. 
  4. My sister-in-law received some lovely flowers from her kids for Mother’s Day and has shared them with the family. Irises are some of the most lovely blooms of Spring. 
  5. I have been reading for fun again, for the first time in ages. Just silly, fluff novels. Cozy mysteries, mostly. I particularly enjoy the weird and wonderful Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton. They demand very little mentally, yet are delightfully quirky and engaging. 

There are five good things for this week. I hope your week has been just as full of beauty and blessings. 

Grateful 

I’ve written several times about my job. They’ve been mostly positive posts, because my work life is mostly positive. Like all people and all jobs, there are good and bad days, good and not so good people, good and less than good experiences. But, taken as a whole, it’s a positive work life. I know how blessed I am in this respect, because I’ve had really bad jobs, horrible bosses and coworkers, and experiences so negative that I was forced to quit. 

But that’s not this job. This job, at which I’ve spent the last 18 years, is satisfying, challenging, and important. I have a great boss who appreciates me and values my skill and contributions. My team is an engaged, high-performing, cheerful group of skilled professionals. The work we do matters to the success of a good company that provides good products and services. Our solutions provide valuable functionality to people all over the world. And the work my team does is a vital component to making it all work. How satisfying it is to know that the hard, frustrating, crazy-making work and the fun, intriguing, fascinating work has meaning and value in something so important to so many. 

This is a good job and I’m happy to be a part of such a great team. 

So today, I took my entire local team out for lunch to celebrate the milestone anniversaries that will occur this year among them. We cheered for our longest-term colleague who is celebrating her 30th year, and our newest member who has been with us two months today, and everyone in between. Collectively, we have over 150 years of legal experience, which is nothing to sneeze at. 

In the middle of it all it struck me how lucky we are to have built such a great team and how grateful I am for each of them. And I told them so. I thanked them for all their great work and for being such a great team. We laughed and ate and had a great time. Then I gave them all the afternoon off as a treat. It felt really great to be able to do that. 

Just wanted to share that gratitude with all of you. I hope you have abundant reasons to feel grateful today. Have a great weekend, my friends!

Spring!

It’s finally here! There have been three straight days of sunshine and warm breezes. My grass is all green and had it’s first cutting of the season. My pear trees are in bloom and the tulips have begun to open. I’m so happy!

Deep Philosophy in a Fist Fight Among Comic Book Heroes

So I read this article the other day. It’s a fluff piece by an otherwise fairly serious, business-oriented online publication. The premise is that two authors are opining on which of Captain America or Iron Man is right in their conflict over the Sokovia Accords in the Captain America: Civil War movie. Bottom line is that the Accords require the super-powered Avengers to register with the government and become government employees, or face arrest. Naturally, some of them (Cap’s team) object, where some (Iron Man’s group) capitulate. The movie is essentially a huge fight among the factions. (There’s also quite an extensive body of work in the comic books on this topic, but the article focuses only on the movie.) The contributing writers to this article are glib and humor-focused and it’s a quick, fun read. 

But after reading it, I spent a lot more time thinking about the subject and some of the proffered arguments than I expected to from such a topic. The writers assume a lot about their readers, expecting them to know a lot of the details that the article glosses over or leaves out altogether. And they reduce the topic, essentially, to a question of logic vs. emotion, heart vs. ego. 

I think it deserves a bit more than that, though. 

Travis Clark takes up the argument for Iron Man’s point of view. Basically, Iron Man/Tony Stark is pro Accords, saying regulation is inevitable and the Avengers’ activities need government oversight and sanction. Clark’s apologistic premise is that the Accords are essentially gun control: the Avengers’ powers are weapons that require government regulation, especially given that the Avengers are as much a menace to public safety as they are a help to the victims of the super villains they oppose. 

In my opinion, this view oversimplifies the Avengers’ abilities to “weapons” while at the same time overemphasizing non-powered individuals’ safety interests, sacrificing the Avengers’ individual agency to a romanticized vision of public safety. 

Imagine: what would happen if the super-powered heroes didn’t exist or weren’t there when a super villain attacked? All the public safety concerns (deaths, injuries, destruction) feared from super-powered fights would come to pass, only more devastating because of the added tyranny and evil that goes unopposed. 

In other words, it is unfair and illogical to equate the hero with the villain, and specious to claim that damage done in the course of fighting evil is solely the fault of the heroes. Had the evil-doer not attacked, acting out of evil intent, none of that damage would have been wrought. Blaming those who bear a burden to oppose evil for the damage evil causes is repugnant and wrong. 

That’s not to say recklessly endangering lives and property in order to “save” them isn’t equally wrong. But what is reckless or not in the situations the Avengers face can’t be measured on the same scale a parent uses to adjudge the recklessness of a new teenaged driver’s first fender-bender. Blindly submitting the use (or not) of their super human powers to the will of a government body on which they have no effective representation, and which is peopled entirely by non-powered bureaucrats, would be reckless. Engaging in a fight of evil only when a partisan interest is threatened would be reckless disregard of duty. But fighting evil when it threatens in equal measure and with equal prejudice (violence) is not, of itself, reckless. 

Carrie Wittmer, the other author in this article, advances Captain America’s argument. Cap’s take is that human governments have proven to be too vulnerable and unreliable and those who bear the burden of wielding these powers must also bear the burden of deciding how and when to wield them. He thinks the Avengers can’t afford to ignore threats the way partisan governments do. Wittmer agrees, arguing that as people (super-human, alien, Demi-god, what have you) the Avengers are individuals with will and agency. They can’t be fairly compared to guns, access to which needs to be controlled. 

And she argues that Cap’s distrust in government is well placed. Both the situation in Cap’s own origin story movie and in the events in Age of Ultron that lead to the Sokovia Accords being proffered are proof enough of that. Had Cap not acted of his own accord and saved both Buckey and the soldiers being held prisoner, Hydra and the Red Skull would have had free run and destroyed all the world cities identified on the bomb ships carrying the Tesseract Weapons. Had the Avengers not acted to blow up the Sokovia city before it could fall back to Earth, the resultant blast would have wiped out exponentially more of the world than that doomed city (which they evacuated before destroying it). 

My view is aligned with Captain America and Wittmer: personal agency, the right to choose, individual liberty and the right to be free from servitude, and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of innate characteristics, these are much more meaningful, substantive and supportable reasons than the comparatively weak public safety argument made by the Iron Man camp. For me, the argument is that slavery in the guise of employment regulation is no means to the ostensible end of public safety. Rather, it’s creating property out of the in-born, accidentally produced, or purchased (Iron Man) abilities of individual persons. People aren’t property. And imprisonment as the only alternative is no choice at all. 

So what’s the solution? I don’t know, given certain outcomes shown in the Avengers: Infinity War movie that opened last weekend. (It’s awesome, by the way, go see it!) But here’s one, admittedly flimsy and un-detailed, idea:  why can’t Dr. Strange (the Watcher and wielded of the arcane arts) be a broker between the UN and the Avengers? He’s smart and has the power to control time, so he could test the possible outcomes of proposed deals. He could help them find an arrangement that balances public safety with the supers’ freedom and agency, so that they don’t have to choose between becoming property or prisoners, and the world gets a say in how it is defended or protected by those who have these powers. Each camp is represented and no one is enslaved. That’s a win-win. 

And that’s some pretty deep philosophy in all that comic book nonsense. 

That was fun. I hope you have a great week and find something fun and challenging to keep your mind working. 

Never destroyed 

Had a tough day today. Work was hard. Lots of demands, little advancement in areas I’d hoped to be resolved soon, and disappointing outcome on a big presentation I’ve been busting my buns over for a long time. Add some personal disappointments and you have a recipe for a rough day. 

But I’m keeping my commitment to positivity, despite it all, with these three good things:

  1. It’s sunny, with song birds and crabapple blossom buds in the trees. There’s even a little warmth from the sunshine!
  2. I got a haircut after work. The place I get it cut washes after the cut (so it’s not itchy after) and gives a massage with the wash. They use a really good tea tree shampoo and pomade that smells really nice. I always feel better after a good haircut. 
  3. This quote helped me put the day in perspective: “Disappointment to the noble soul is is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” ~ Eliza Tabor 

Have a great evening, friends. I hope you are not disappointed, but if you are, I wish you well in your tempering and hope you find balm for the sting. 

This Post Instead

I have, completely unintentionally, been ‘teasing’ a gender identity-based post for a couple of weeks. Starting with some righteous (maybe self-righteous, I don’t know) indignation over some comments in a friend’s blog, I’ve been thinking about identity a lot lately. There’s a lot of emotion and complication wrapped up in that concept. Gender, in particular, is fraught for me because I’ve been outside the accepted framework of what gender is for all of my life. But as I’ve spent time inside my head stirring the concepts and thoughts around and around, something occurred to me: I am more than the individual parts of my identity and it does everyone a disservice by focusing on one aspect to the exclusion of the others.

Now, don’t misunderstand: looking closely at one topic is an important investigative technique and allows a writer to explore detail that would otherwise get lost when examined among other topics of equal weight. And I do intend to write that other piece. But this is the one that’s fighting to get out of my head, so I’m writing this post instead.

What is it? What am I writing about if not a piece focused on gender? I’m having a hard time articulating that. As I said, gender is but one of many facets that comprise the whole of a person’s identity. But “who am I” is an existential conundrum that can’t be captured in a blog post. And it doesn’t lend itself to a tidy, memorable essay subject line.

I think that what I want to convey is really a simple, timeless concept that every person has to come to terms with in their lifetime: we each define ourselves.

The cacophony of “it’s not a choice!” being screamed at me through the internet is deafening. Hold on. That’s not what I said and that’s not my message.

I am fully aware that certain aspects of our identities are innate and not the subject of personal choice. There are some things that are in-born. Sometimes those innate characteristics have to be discovered, much as a sculpture within the marble needs to be discovered by the artist. Socialization is a powerful tool to enforce specific mores and values, some of which are at odds with certain specific identity characteristics. So, those of us born with those characteristics that are targeted by those mores often have a hard time discovering our full or true identities, When we do discover them, living them is no more ‘choosing’ an identity than being born is a choice to exist.

However, the ultimate identity comprised of those various individual characteristics (whether they are innate, or the product of life experience or direct choice), is our own definition. We get to define ourselves. Those pieces of who we are that we’re born with are the baseline. They don’t have to define who we become. Just because there are innate factors that were chosen for us by nature or genetics or environment does not mean that that’s all we are, or that we can’t rise above or add to them to become who we wish to be.

That’s a long way around to say that we can choose the best version of ourselves.

I touched on that thought or one near it in a prior post about some things I’d newly learned or learned in a new way. Essentially, I said we have agency to choose how we react, whether to momentary stimuli or to ingrained socialization. Guess I’m reminding myself of that lesson.

Although there are a number of ways I describe myself to others, even to myself, those shorthand labels don’t define me. I’m more than a list of characteristics. I’m more than the labels that I wear. That’s obvious. But the fact remains that labels and descriptions are useful tools to identify ourselves, to guide personal development and enhance discourse. It’s helpful to know that a person identifies in a certain way. It makes conversation easier, makes interacting with others easier, makes it easier to be respectful and makes it easier to avoid offending and being offended.

Bottom line, I guess, is that the parts are not the whole, but knowing what the pieces are helps you to know when the puzzle is finally together.

For now, I think it’s enough for me to know that all of the pieces of me that I know and recognize today, all the pieces I’ve discovered, those I always knew, and those I’m still working on, are a present and valid picture of me. They are as much “me” as the me I’ll be when I’ve added new pieces, whether through intentional work or life experience. And, that I can contemplate the possibility of a “me” different from the one I know today is win enough for now.

Thar’s a lot of philosophy and introspection for a Sunday evening. Thanks for bearing with me. I hope you have a great week, full of certainty and free from existential uncertainty. Be well, my friends.

Accountability Quickie

Earlier this week I challenged myself to find at least two positive/good/happy thoughts or things whenever I found myself grumbling or thinking negatively. Well, it’s April 18th and still freezing and snowing. Snowing! So, yes, I’m definitely grumbling. 

But I’m committed to positivity and follow-through, so here are three positive, mildly happy things to balance it out:

  1. I’m late to the party, but I’ve recently discovered the joys of almond butter. What a great snack! Quick, easy for on the go, good protein and gives me an energy boost, deliciously tasty, and guilt-free! 
  2. Professional respect from your counterparts in negotiations is so validating. It goes a long way to resolving disputes and costs nothing. I’m always glad to give respect where it’s due, and very glad to receive it in return. Had the pleasure of having a mediator in a dispute I’m managing compliment my professionalism and acknowledge my patience, giving me a lot of hope that we’re going to be able to resolve this soon. Satisfying. 
  3. It’s been a few weeks since I started my bullet journal and I’ve been successful at keeping it up. I’m still not sure that I’m using it to it’s full potential, but I’m doing it. That’s a win for now. 

Ok, there’s my attempt at re-framing from negative to positive. I’m still not liking the snow swirling against my office window, but I do feel better about consciously choosing positivity. 

I hope your day is full of good things to keep your spirits hopeful. 

Enough Already!!

Writing meaningful, substantive things about topics that are close to my heart and mind takes a lot of energy. I have been doing some thinking and some reading and some more thinking. And the post that I want to write, that the topic deserves, is still working through my mental process that is sometimes opaque even to me. But I have confidence that it will come together. 

So, what to post this week? 

Well, the answer is disappointing. I’ve been wracking my brain for two days on that question. And every time I start to think, my mind is filled with a persistent, nearly impenetrable, buzz of white noise. All thought is drowned in it, leaving me feeling dumb.

Looking around me, trying to find something to comment on, the only thought that occurs to me is: enough already! 

I’m frustrated at the writers block. I’m frustrated with slow progress on some projects at work. Im frustrated with a creative dry spell that has me puzzled and unable to finish a new art endeavor that I’m working on. And I’m frustrated with the weather. 

That last one is absurd, I know. No one controls weather, so it’s futile to be frustrated. Still, it’s the middle of April and there’s snow on the ground again. All last week it was beautiful, starting to get warm, starting to get green, birds returning, flowers coming up…it was all a tease! As soon as the weekend rolled around, the temperature plummeted and it rained then snowed. Again. I’m so over winter it’s not even funny. Enough! 

Here’s a picture of my backyard yesterday afternoon:


But I’m not going to let the frustration ruin my outlook on life, nor my happiness. 

Time for a new goal. This week I’m challenging myself to focus on the good things, the things I can do something about, and the things that have meaning. For every grumbling, frustrated, negative thought, I’m going to actively look for at least two good, positive, or happy things to refocus my energy and reframe my mind. 

If you’re having the same problem, I hope you’ll find a way to reframe your outlook. Happiness is too valuable to squander in frustration. 

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