Random thoughts from an animal-loving French prof / mom of three on things she finds beautiful, funny, sad, or strange.

Friday, August 28, 2015

More questions to which you might not want an answer...

It is the first week of classes here at the University, and overwhelmed is the understatement for how I feel. So in honor of that, I'm going to share a random series of questions that have cropped up in the past week. After all, it'd be no fun if I kept the surreality to myself! For an extra dose of fun, I've posted the answers, in a different order, below.  Up to you to match each question with its answer.


Did I turn off the grill?

Have you ever seen a bug that looks exactly like a leaf?

How can a physically healthy, fully sighted person literally walk into a car?

How can the password you used less than a minute ago become invalid without you actually changing it?

How much coffee do you drink every morning?

Is this classroom really big enough for 15 students?

Wait, is this a habanero?

What on earth is the cat licking?

What is that smell?

Where is the dog?


ADD. It's a real thing, people. I'm just glad he's ok.

Dinner. Mine. Not his.

Enough so that I don't smack you when you ask silly questions.


Nope, sure didn't. Glad I remembered before I actually left the driveway.

Not before today I haven't!

Probably not. Thank God for AC on a hot day!

Rolling. Don't ask the follow-up question. You don't want to know in what.

Why oh why do I keep asking this? I've never liked the answer before!

Yep, sure is. May have to take a fire extinguisher to my hands.

Friday, August 21, 2015

There's Knowing, Then There's Knowing...

A few weeks ago, I read this article:

How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain

I totally get it. Walking, nature, they are definitely good for body and soul. When workplace drama gets me down, I lace up my running shoes and get the heck out of Dodge. When writer's block is sitting on my brain like an obese bull elephant, I grab those shoes and walk, often to a quiet place where I can just sit and quiet my mind. (The Cumberland riverbank, just above the Falls, is a particular favorite.) When my son is off the deep end and my nerves have been frayed to scorched tips? You guessed it. I lace up my Nikes and go, and go, and go.  Does this mean my problems go away? Nope. Not at all. Melodramatic colleagues and students, writer's block, a mentally ill child, you name it, it's still waiting when I get back. Yet somehow, it's different. It's different because I'm different. I recognize myself again and with that kind of grounding, I can take on the world at least one more time.

Yet something about this article has been bugging me for a while, namely this. Why, in today's world, do we not believe what we know to be true until science "proves" it?  How is a brain scan more valid than the deep-seated knowledge that my time outdoors has saved my sanity more times than I can count? Don't get me wrong. I love science. It has given the world so much. Brain science in particular is making it possible as never before to help troubled people like my son. Yet science isn't everything. Sometimes you just have to listen to your soul to find all you need to know.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Internet of People

There has been a lot of talk lately about the Internet of Things. It's an intriguing concept. But I've been thinking more about what I wanted to call the Internet of People until I found out that this, rather perplexingly, does not refer to human beings but rather to the technological devices they might wear. Silly me. Here I was thinking people and their electronic accessories were entirely different entities. I for one have never confused a person for his Apple Watch...

Anyway. When I think "Internet of people," I am reflecting on what the Web can...and can't...do for human relationships. Note that I said "for" and not "to"– the latter is a subject for another day. Also note that I am not just talking about romantic relationships– those are yet another subject for yet another day. I mean all relationships.

Case in point: I logged onto social media for a few minutes the other day, something I hardly ever do any more. One of my Facebook friends had an entertaining post about his (mis)adventures in the kitchen. I smiled, read a few more posts from other friends, then logged off and went about my day. It was only later that I realized that my smile wasn't so much about the post as about the fact that this is someone from my real, day-to-day life. I know that kitchen, those pots and pans, that home. And thinking about all that is what made me click "like."

At the same time, I have online friends I've never met in real life, yet with whom I also share a lot. I'm thinking especially of my sister warrior moms. We may not have that extra layer created by meeting in person, yet I feel such a strong sense of connection with these women. Are those ties any less valuable just because they were made and might always remain in cyberspace?

And what about this blog? I have no idea how many people actually read it, though I see the page views are climbing. Does it reach people? Do they feel connected? A friend pointed out blogs can feel one-sided. She's right. Not to mention that it's hard to remain true to my voice when there's no dialogue. Maybe people will start commenting here and then the spirit of exchange will come to life. Meanwhile, I'll keep reading every post aloud to be sure I still sound like me.

This brings me to what I see as the biggest Internet relationship conundrum: one's relationship with oneself. As the mother of three teenagers, I am acutely aware of online promises and pitfalls when it comes to self-image. I see people, especially young women, post countless "selfies" in a desperate attempt to establish a sense of, well, self. Sometimes these posts annoy me, but more often, they just make me sad. I want to hug these kids, tell them to look in a mirror instead of a cell phone, and stop setting themselves up to be objects of others' derision or desire. I know they won't listen, but I want to do it all the same.

I guess all my rambling boils down to this: relationships can be built and sustained online. But if, along the way, you lose touch with your truest, best self, then in the end there is no relationship at all.

Friday, August 7, 2015

When The Muffins Win, Everyone Wins

The final horseman of the Apocalypse has arrived: I have been promoted to department chair, and of a brand-new department at that. I am honored, flattered, and... overwhelmed. My main problem? The number of non-spam emails a person can actually receive in one day. They are breeding like rabbits every time I walk away from my computer or phone!

And don't get me started on the pile of paper or the ten thousand other things that seem as though they should have been done yesterday. As for the meetings, I'm still playing ostrich about those. They'll be here soon enough.

Did I say overwhelmed? Feels more like drowning.

Thankfully, I have learned a thing or two over the years. One is that the solution to drowning is not to keep swimming out to deeper water. Instead, find the shore, regain footing if you can, then make a plan. Translated into yesterday, that meant enjoy my coffee first, then meditate and go for a run, all while leaving the phone behind. On purpose.

That done, I performed triage on the electronic rabbit colony and jumped in the shower. Following another round of triage on the only-slightly-less-alarming mountain of paper, I headed out to do a few errands.  As I drove, the cleansing effects of exercise and water began to wear off, replaced by a Pigpenesque cloud of impending doom...I mean email. 

(Huh. Just checked my thesaurus. Apparently "doom" and "email" are not synonyms. Who knew?)

Anyway. When I made my final stop, my friend Jane said, "do you want to come in for a minute? There's muffins." Part of me said, "Muffins? Seriously? No time for baked goods. Not today! Not unless they can occupy my right hand while I write or type with my left."  But a bigger, wiser, and more vocal part could smell muffiny glory and spoke up with an enthusiastic "sure!" The next two hours found us curled up on a couch to share coffee, muffins, and a good old-fashioned chat.

And guess what? After that, it was all good. Yes, the paper and the e-mails were still right where I'd left them. In fact, they'd gone forth and multiplied. Again. But it was fine. I needed to run, to meditate, to shower. And yes, I needed to do the work (which did get done, by the way). But most of all I needed the connection that only a muffin, coffee, and friend can bring. With that, you can take on the world, doomsday rabbits and all.