Throw A Snowball At Poe [on Two Artists Tuesday]

With apologies to Edgar…

Read the real thing, THE RAVEN by Edgar Allan Poe

read Kerri’s blog post about THE SNOW CHAIR

Say “Look” [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“Look” is the new “um.” It now lives among the tribe of words used as placeholders, thought-launching-pads, or mental-composition-vocables.

I had a professor that cleared his throat when composing his thoughts. That semester nearly killed me. I lost all contact with the content of his lectures in the cacophony of throat-clearing. I spent entire lectures either writhing in my seat or wondering what happened in his life to develop such an odd vocal tick. I’m certain Sarah Jessica Parker based her throat-clearing-character in The Family Stone on my professor. Each week I sat in the lecture hall and wondered if he was terrified when speaking in public or perhaps he was fearful of not expressing thoughts clearly. That odd-socks-thought-train sent me down a rabbit hole of pondering weird karma. It’s a wonder I passed his class (or any class, for that matter).

“Look” is significantly different than “um” or throat clearing. There’s a very important nuance to note: it assumes authority. It’s a directive. “Take note!” “Consider this!” It’s a placeholder with a purpose. It’s as if everyone on the public stage secretly doubts their credibility or must demonstrate their sway.

Perhaps it’s the cabin fever that comes with believing in the pandemic, perhaps it is the state of politics and pundits in these media-cleaved-united-states, but we’ve become fascinated by the ubiquitous “Look.” It regularly launches politician replies and reporters’ reports. At first we merely glanced at each other, “Did you hear it, too?” Then we counted. We passed through the cheering phase. We even considered making it a drinking game – take a sip every time we hear “Look” – but decided against it for obvious reasons.

Instead of a drinking game we’ve lapsed into mimicry. “What do you want for dinner?” Kerri might ask. My reply, “Look, I’ve surveyed my belly and 85% of tummy-grumbling prefers pasta over all other candidates.”

Without missing a beat, she counters, “Look, your data is clearly partisan since the people are voting for chicken soup.”

“Look,” I say, gathering my thought for a response, “I’m willing to work with you here. My caucus will support your chicken soup if you’ll guarantee chocolate sometime before bedtime.”

She stares her best stare of thoughtful consideration. “Well, look,” she replies, extending her pause, “I think we can make that happen.”

read Kerri’s blog post about LOOK

Chase Out The Spirit [on DR Thursday]

Let’s just call it intentional superstition. With apologies to DogDog and BabyCat, at midnight tonight, we will fling open the back door and bang big pots and chase all of those bad 2020 spirits away. And then, we will rush to front door and open it to let in the new good spirits of 2021. It makes no difference whether the good spirits or bad spirits actually exist, whether the ritual is ridiculous or not. It makes no difference. We want 2020 out of the house. We want to invite some positive change into our lives. We’ll do whatever it takes.

2020 made me feel like Lieutenant Dan strapped to the mast of the shrimping boat shouting at the storm. Bring it on. It’s you and me! 2020 was a violent storm. It was a reckoning. It is a reckoning.

We know there will be a new day. Calm waters. Peace. This storm will pass. Perhaps with banging our pots and flinging open our doors we can speed it up a bit.

Years ago I had a student who was about to boil over. I bought a box of ceramic plates for him at the thrift store. We took them out back and he hurled them at the brick wall. At first he was timid. And then the storm took him and he smashed plates and screamed at the universe and wept. And then he laughed and laughed and laughed.

We are at the laughing stage of things. Thus, intentional superstition. Imagined causation. 2020 has been utterly irrational so why can’t we meet it on its own ground? Play by its rules? Fear the big pot, 2020!

We just changed our menu. Kerri read a list of Irish folk wisdom for the new year. It recommends pork. Pork it is. Black-eyed peas. Great! Also, if you have red hair, we will not let you over the threshold until someone with dark hair enters. Sorry about that. Our Celtic magic must be honored. There’s a good-and-ancient-story in there somewhere but we don’t really care what it is.

Goodbye 2020. See ya’. So long.

read Kerri’s blog post about 2020-BE-GONE

Lead And Follow [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

And now, a few days beyond the solstice, we baby step our way back into the light. Yesterday on the trail, for a few moments, the sun broke through an otherwise dreary day. I was immediately heartened. The warmth went all the way to my bones. And then, it was gone.

“This will define me or I will overcome it.” Sue’s quote is a re-statement of Viktor Frankl: this experience will give meaning to me or I will give meaning to it. This morning, while pondering this quote, it occurred to me that almost every coaching/consulting relationship I ever had could be boiled down to this meaning-seeking or meaning-making distinction. Will it define me or will I define it?

In some ways – well, in all ways – it is a false choice. It is not an either/or world. Our experiences inform us and we define our experiences. The sun emerges and my spirits lift. The sun disappears and I shove my hands back into my pockets, hunch my shoulders, look at the ground. It’s a dance.

If 2020 has taught us anything it is that no one has control over their circumstances. Pandemics rage. Wrists break. Jobs vanish. Stability collapses.

We do, however, have the capacity to choose how we engage with our circumstances. We have the capacity to choose who we are within our circumstances.

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t at some point stood under the stars, shook their fists at the sky and asked, “Why?” It’s also true that I don’t know anyone who hasn’t at some point in their journey stopped, turned and looked back on their life, and in festival of meaning-making, connected the dots. “It all makes sense,” they whisper.

Am I the captain of my ship or am I tossed about on the seas? It’s not a useful question to ask. A better question to ask: as the captain of my ship, how am I when the seas rise and throw my boat to-and-fro? Every captain is cocky in calm waters but the real story emerges when Poseidon pitches a fit, when the waves tower over your boat.

One of my mentors told me that the trick is not to eliminate your fear. That is a fool’s errand. The exercise is to to keep your focus on where you want to sail. Choose your focus. The fear will always be there, it’s a necessary part of the gig. In a storm, fear is sometimes useful when making choices. The exercise is to know that you are making choices, the best choices given your circumstances. Just don’t make fear your focus. Don’t make fear your choice.

It’s a dance. Sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow. Sometimes you lose your way. Sometimes you simply stop walking and, for a few brief moments, turn your face to the sun.

read Kerri’s blog post on DEFINING

Choose The Measure [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

I’d just like to begin by confessing my inferiority complex. In the time it’s taken me to squeeze my eyebrows together and dribble out a first thought, Kerri has finished her post. In fairness, I am a painter and an introvert [I’ll bore you to tears at a party, that is, if you can find me hiding in the bushes] and Kerri is a poet and lyricist. “Are you done yet?” she asks each day when we sit down to write our melange. Good god! I haven’t even sharpened my pencil yet!

And, so, my inferiority confession can only be salved by a headlong dive into the poles. North/South. Right/Wrong. Good/Bad. Black/White. Worth/Worthless. I could go on but Kerri would have a book written by the time I extract myself from my pole-litany.

Polarity – as understood as fixed points on a line: The state of having two opposite or contradictory tendencies, opinions, or aspects. [Definition by Oxford Languages]

Polarity – as understood as fluid movement: Everything is dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature but different in degree. Extremes meet. [The Hermetic Law of Polarity]

If nothing else, we live in a post-Heisenberg-Uncertainty-Principle-World. Perceptions, like atomic particles, can be understood as either fixed points or as fluid movement – but not both at the same time. Those in the fixed camp are mostly unwilling to see things in the fluid camp, and vice-versa, though, those in the fluid camp can’t help but intellectually reach for the possibility of the extremes meeting.

We get into trouble when all sides lapse into fixed points of view. We get lost when all sides slip into fluid points of view.

In a nutshell, it’s the challenge we are facing in these once-united-states and in many other chunks of the world. We’ve all reduced ourselves into fixed points. Survival has made it so. And, a side note: the first words Kerri ever spoke to me were these: I don’t do nutshells.

Rule-bound-folk, seers of absolute good and evil, tend to be fixed. “How can there be good in evil, evil in good?” they will ask, looking at you like you are a martian. “You’re either for us or against us!” Life is a recipe. A reduction. A simple step by step cake to bake. Reds and blues with no possibility of purple.

Relationship-driven-folk, seers of possibility, tend to be fluid. “It depends!” they will chime. “Right and wrong depends upon your point of view.” “Alliances are ever-changing.” Life is a complexity. No set of rules applies to every circumstance. Purple everywhere though, in these divided times, the fixed primary colors rule the day.

Which brings me solidly to my inferiority complex. I live in the complexity camp. I am fluid to the core. Perhaps Kerri’s speed of articulation need not be the measure of my skill. Perhaps slow, sloppy, and mostly incoherent is a valid and worthy process! Yes! I know when to put down my brushes! I know when to sign the painting!

Suddenly, I am awash in personal revisionist history. I am the turtle and she is the rabbit!

And what if there was no race to win?

It’s possible that this is a good time to put down my brushes, cease writing for the day, stop. Full stop. Except for this question: when are you fixed? When are you fluid? As atomic particles, Heisenberg suggests that we are both. Turtle and Hare. What we see depends upon what we measure.

What, exactly, at this point in time, is important for us to measure?

read Kerri’s blog post about START/STOP

Become An Experiment [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Because we walk the streets of our neighborhood almost everyday we’ve inadvertently made a study of holiday decoration practices. “It’s too soon for Halloween!” we declare. “Look at that wreath! The colors are all wrong!” We are snotty decoration critics.

Among Kerri’s greatest holiday-decoration-pet-peeves is over-extended-Christmas decorations. “Don’t they know that Christmas is over!” she raves at the colored lights adorning the eaves. “Why do they still have a tree! It’s February! Santa is gone!” she howls to (almost) no one listening. We laugh at our mock-decoration-disdain. “We’re regular killjoys!”

This year we’ve had to check our derision. We’ve somehow joined the ranks of the eternally decorated. “Look at those people,” Kerri says of our house as we pull into the driveway, “don’t they know that they should take down their lights!”

It’s hard to know exactly how it started. A fall. Two broken wrists. The year began with disruption. One day we realized that the happy lights festooning the garland on the front rail had been burning for months. In an effort to evade our obvious hypocrisy, we agreed it was no longer a decoration but had become an experiment. How long will the happy lights last if we keep them plugged in 24/7? We took bets as hard proof just in case our neighbors looked at us with decoration-scorn.

“They’re still going,” we said throughout the spring, looking up and down the street to see if anyone was listening. “Who would have thought our experiment would last this long!” I’d loudly declare. Amazement set in sometime in July. “I’m going to write a letter to the company,” Kerri said. “They should know that their lights are really good!”

In the eighth month of our experiment, coming home after dark, we saw that half the strand was burned out. The next night the strand was completely dark. We stood on our front stoop and applauded the hardy happy lights before ceremonially taking them down.

“I suspect that the snotty couple that judges everyone’s decorations will be relieved,” I said. “The holiday is finally over.”

“I think they’ll miss them,” Kerri opined. “They made our house happy and, especially this year, who doesn’t need a happy house in their neighborhood.”

read Kerri’s blog post about HAPPY LIGHTS

Clack! Strike! Ding! [on Merely A Thought Monday]

It’s true. I didn’t touch a computer until I was 25 years old. It’s not that I was deprived or grew up in a cave, the personal computer simply wasn’t a thing in the world. I hearken back to phones with cords, three stations on a black-and-white television, rabbit ears for reception, no reason not to play outside. My high school graduation present was the latest and greatest technology: a typewriter.

I had a dubious relationship with typewriters. I hated typing class. I failed every timed exercise. I couldn’t take my eyes off the keys lest disaster would strike. Once, the teacher had to free my hands from the monster machine because my big-fat-fingers slipped between the keys. I was caught, wiggling like an animal in a trap. She puckered her face and rolled her eyes before slowly moving down the aisle, making a show of releasing me from the hungry jaws of the typewriter-beast.

Kerri found this quote and I had no idea what it meant. Evidently, I was supposed to learn in typing class to double space after periods and other selected punctuation. I’m certain I was taught the rule but was too busy fighting for my life with the demon machine to learn the finer points of typing etiquette. I was doing my best to live-another-day and  was concerned only with how to increase the space between me and the dreaded class. However, this quote does explain the abundance of red pencil circles that appeared on every one of my poorly typed papers throughout college. Another mystery solved!

“YES!” Kerri just shouted in triumph. It’s not that my wife is a nerd but, take my word for it, never challenge her on a question of grammar or punctuation. Never enter a game of Scrabble with her if you don’t want to lose. She’s vicious. A moment ago she disappeared and returned with an APA manual from 1983 (she keeps EVERYTHING and remembers EVERYTHING!!!). I was doubtful about double spacing after colons [in the typewriter era – these rules do not apply in the post typewriter epoch] but guess what?

She just puckered her face and rolled her eyes at me as she slowly strutted around the room, arms raised in ancient-punctuation-triumph. All of these years later and it turns out that I’m still wiggling in the trap, my fingers inexorably stuck between the keys.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DOUBLE SPACING

 

 

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tango with me ©️ 2018 david robinson

 

 

 

Take Another Step [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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During my corporate-facilitation-of-change-and-diversity phase, I learned that the best way to warm up my always-defensive audience was to enter the space and, before saying a word, take off my shoes. People have a surprising amount of identity-investment wrapped up in what they put on their feet. Inevitably, taking off my shoes gave people permission to relax, take off their shoes – remove one layer of identity armor – and take a tiny step toward vulnerability. Tough conversations generally require all parties to step out of their fortifications. If I ruled the world, my policy makers would have to take off their shoes before debating issues. Reporters would be encouraged to step out of their leather and heels before asking questions.

My foot-identity-investment required me to wear shoes without laces. I’ve never been at peace with things tied to my feet. Quick escape from shoes is among my highest fashion priorities. Clogs. Boots. Flip flops. Crocs.

Yesterday we retired two pairs of boots. Neither had been worn in years. My contribution to the footwear release party was my drug-dealer-boots. I loved them and wore holes in them. They were very comfortable. They took me to many countries and to many trainings. I could step out of them in a snap. I met Kerri wearing my silver-tipped, well worn, out-of-character-for-me drug dealer boots.

When I bought them, they had taps in the heels. I took the taps off because I don’t like making sound when I walk (hmmmm, yet another revealing foot identity characteristic) though the taps were slippery and great assistance in my predilection for public pratfalls.  Falling down with great intention is also a good way to loosen up  a defensive crowd.

Kerri wanted to sing a song as we wrapped our old boots in plastic and prepared them for the dumping – but we couldn’t pull up a single appropriate song so a strange cascade of laughable lyrics sent our boots on their way.

But, here’s my bet: before the trash truck arrives, the boots will be retrieved and de-shrouded. They will have a resurrection, another life. They will sit on the edge of the deck, filled with dirt and basil plants. There is still one more road for these old boots to walk.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about OLD BOOTS

 

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a day at the beach ©️ 2017 david robinson

Know The Pet Peeve [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Kerri has a pet peeve and because she is from New York she expresses her annoyance with all of the out-sized force and bluster that comes with her east coast roots. “OH MY GOD! DO YOU SEE THAT?!!!” She gales as we drive down the road, gesturing wildly, letting go of the steering wheel. I close my eyes because I do not want to see the fiery crash that we are most certainly about to experience.

“DID YOU SEE IT?!!!” she repeats, demanding an answer. I open one eye to see if she’s regained control of the car or if she is still gesticulating with gusto. She looks at me with disdain, “YOU DIDN’T SEE IT?” I shake my head. “HOW CAN THAT NOT DRIVE YOU CRAZY?!!!” I shrug my shoulders and secretly look for a way to safely exit the car.

The offense? The horrid transgression that causes such wild arm flinging, finger pointing, and loud outdoor-voice-exclamations? A license plate renewal sticker placed on the wrong part of the plate. “DO YOU THINK THEY CAN’T READ?!!! she bellows. “DO YOU THINK IT’S TOO HARD TO FIGURE OUT WHERE THE STICKER GOES?!!! She snarls. I slide down in my seat. I practice my cloak-of-invisibility act.

Once, early in our history, before I realized this peeve was her pet, I said, “Maybe they are being creative, like trying to color out of the lines.” My perky suggestion was not welcome. It was as if I whispered the magic words that unleashed all the demons from hell. Smoke came from her nostrils. Lightning from her eyes. My perky backpedaled and disappeared leaving me all alone with no place to hide. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!! she growled. “IT’S A STICKER!!!!!!!! IT’S SUPPOSED TO GO IN THE RIGHT SPOT!!!!!! THERE’S A SPOT AND THE STICKER IS SUPPOSED TO GO THERE!!! WHAT’S SO HARD?!!!!!!”

I had no answer. Or, more to the point, I dared not have an answer. I had better run away from anything that looked remotely like an answer. Pet peeves are best left alone!

In that moment I knew only one thing for certain: the path to a happy life was predicated on one small action – I simply need to place the sticker in the right spot when it was time for the license plate renewal.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on OH MY GOD!!!

 

 

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Listen To The Hatter [on Flawed Wednesday]

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“I don’t think…”

“Then you shouldn’t talk!” said the Hatter

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The entire world is down the rabbit hole though, we citizens of the U.S.A., have fallen into a deeper darker hole. We’ve found a way-out-wacky cast of characters at the helm that challenge in strangeness the inhabitants of Wonderland. Truth, as it turns out, is much stranger than fiction.

Sometimes out of the mouth of madness comes a whisper of truth. If you do not first think, you should probably not talk. The Hatter’s advice is sage.

For kicks, I asked the mystic Google this question: What did Alice learn in Wonderland? It’s been a few years since I held her hand and went down the rabbit hole.

Alice learned that bullies are really two-dimensional and ultimately vapid. The pandemic is exposing our very own Queen of Hearts, a man who, like the Queen, gets his excitement from belittling others. Diminishing others is really the only card in a bully’s  deck. Here we are.

Alice learned that a bully is powerless without the support of minions. So, to garner support, a healthy cadre of minions must also agree to be flat and loud but remain thought-free. As it turns out, minions are powerless without a bully. It’s a loop. Well. Here we are.

The Caterpillar asks Alice, “Who are you?” She has no answer. She finds herself in a wholly strange world. The rules of life as she understands them no longer apply.  It is madness everywhere she looks. Yup. Here we are.

Her experiences with the madness expose who she is. That is my favorite of Alice’s lessons. Our madness is also exposing many things about us. It’s revealed the bully. It has called forward the courageous. It has uncovered the minions. It lays bare the deep cracks in our foundation. And, perhaps, to take some advice from the Hatter, since the bully and his crew has undermined science, morality, ethic, facts, jurisprudence, and is taking partisan bites from the constitution, it might be time for us to start thinking.

“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.

“I won’t,” said Alice.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about Mouth Shut

 

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