Running Wild

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I was talking to a friend today, and he was telling me that he met a man that hiked the Appalachian Trail. Pretty cool, huh? What if I told you that he did this when he was twelve years old? With no adult supervision… just a bunch of Boy Scouts on their own, hiking the Appalachian Trail.

It got me talking about my childhood. We all tend to romanticize about the “good old days”. And, maybe that’s just what I’m doing. We lived in a house in upstate New York. I lived there from age six to age eleven. We had a big tree with a tire swing and a big side yard that my parents made into an ice rink in the Winter. On the other side of the house was a hill that was perfect for sledding.

In the more temperate seasons, my friends and I would leave our houses in the morning, and go off on adventures. Sometimes we would come home for lunch, and sometimes not until dinner. If our parents ever worried about us, they never let on.

We would play in the apple orchard, climbing trees and throwing apples at each other. We might decide to go to the pond, and see what creatures we could find. When we got tired of that, we would go to the farmers field, up to the place where there was a bunch of old tires. Sometimes we saw snakes there. It was scary, alright. But worth the risk to climb on those tires.

Some days, we would stick closer to home and stomp down the field of high grass into a “fort”. This was a maze of rooms and we would sometimes accessorize them with treasures from home. We were always building forts and off on general explorations all summer long.

My husband grew up in Scotland. He was taking the tube (subway) around London when he was twelve. When he was seven, he would take the bus into Glasgow and go to the cinema… by himself. Can you imagine allowing something like that with your kids or grandchildren?

The point is, these days we have to watch kids like a hawk, it seems. I was strict about where my kids played when they were little, and wanted them to stick close to home. Now, people might say that they did not have proper supervision. I wouldn’t let them go off to a pond, or across a field out of view. It’s a different time.

 
Or is it? Do we have more danger and treachery in the world these days? Is it possible that the people that prey on children have expanded in number exponentially? Or do we just hear about it more? Does the internet that makes it easier for evil people to commit crimes against children? Or, does the internet just keep reporting these crimes so much that we become desensitized at some point?

When we recall these childhood days, are we longing for a place… or a time when catching a frog was the highlight of the day? If I had to pick the happiest time in my childhood, it was when we were running wild.

– Cat

My New Curriculum

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So, we are going to stop teaching cursive handwriting in public school. In New York, we are not going to require a literacy test for teachers, because it’s racist. We don’t teach Civics anymore, so students become adults that don’t really understand how government works. No Home Economics, No Shop Class… Sexist, and besides, who needs to cook or make stuff?

 
I’m not saying that everything was perfect with the education we got in high school in the seventies, but what are we replacing these courses with? Are we improving the courses that are offered? Or are we just removing stuff that might offend people?

 
Well, I’ve got some ideas about courses that should be offered front and center for kids. I haven’t decided whether we should wait until high school for some of these topics, but it’s a start.

 
1. Time Management
How useful would it be to teach kids this life skill? You need this training, whether you’re college bound, or entering the work force. Some people don’t get the whole “come to work on time” thing. I’m much better at time management than I used to be. But imagine what a star I would be if I had time management training in high school. I would have used that every day, unlike those advanced math classes.

 
2. Personal Finance
This class should run for at least two semesters, because… bullet points

 
• Saving and Investing
• How to Buy a Car
• Managing Your Credit Score
• Renting vs Buying a Home
• How to Start a Business
• Building a Budget
• Taxes

 
I wish I learned all this in high school, as opposed to the school of hard knocks.

 
3. Civility
If we can’t have Civics, can we have Civility? If you don’t understand the government, can you be polite about it? If you do have an understanding of how government works, can you be gracious? If you don’t understand the constitution, can you quit going on about “your” free speech, while denying other people a voice? Yes, we should either bring back Civics, or substitute Civility. Maybe half and half.

 
4. Coping Skills
Ok, this one’s a little vague. You know, what to do when you like someone but they don’t like you back. How to cope with disappointment when you don’t get selected for the team, or the job. It’s okay to be less than 100% all the time. How to replace negativity with positive self-talk. What to do if someone is picking on you, or bullying you. How do you break up with someone without breaking their heart?

 
5. Writing
This is a double-edged sword for me. As a writer, I don’t want the market to go away. On the other hand, people need to know how to write. I guess it’s possible that we can get AI to write for us once the skill has disappeared completely.

 
So, there are my top five recommendations for improved curriculum. I’d love to know if you have any suggestions. What would you like to see added to the curriculum?

 
– Cat

The Confidence Game

Warning! Self-contemplation ahead!

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When you hear the words “con man” or “con artist”, you feel a certain negative “connotation”. A con man earns his reputation, and his living, by taking people into his confidence. He tricks them into believing something that is not true. He swindles others when he plays a confidence game.

Pretty nasty business, huh? But, do we ever need to play a confidence game to get by in life? For as negative as the terms sound here, I’m going out on a limb to say that we need a good old fashioned con game on a regular basis. And, that it can sometimes be the most positive thing we can do in the moment.

What is “acting as if”? Or, how about “fake it until you make it”? These are bits of wisdom and advice that will come from many motivational sources. They are not proposing that we be brutally honest with ourselves. Are we conning ourselves, or is this coping mechanism a necessary part of finding our best self?

We all agree that positive self-talk is critical to our happiness. Negativity gets in the way of every beautiful thing. Positivity is being proactive in our inner game. The inner game is what lies below the surface, as opposed to our outer game. The outer game is what we show other people. They are not always the same.

So, self-confidence is so important to your success in business, and in life. Without self-confidence, you lack the will to move forward on the things you must do to reach your goals. People that are lacking in self-confidence can be paralyzed into inaction.

The con game that is necessary for us to play with ourselves can save us from drowning in a sea of hopelessness. Who doesn’t have self-doubt from time to time? What do we call on to banish self-doubt? That’s right… self-confidence. Believing in ourselves, even when we are unsure. Being kind and forgiving to ourselves, even if we may not feel that we deserve it in the moment. Being brave and pushing on, even when we feel terrified. Allowing ourselves to be flawed, even as we strive for excellence.

How do you build confidence in yourself? If you struggle with it, I think you’re in good company.

– Cat

My Muse

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So, if you look up the definition of the word “muse” as a noun, it will tell you that a muse refers to “a person- especially a woman- who is a source of artistic inspiration”. If you look at the word “muse” as a verb, it means to “consider something thoughtfully”.

 
Thank goodness, we’ve thrown gender roles out the window, since my muse is a man. At the risk of sounding sappy, he is my verb and my noun.

 
Anybody that knows him would tell you that he’s not always the easiest person to get along with. Heck, he’ll tell you that himself. But, he’s usually right, and he is definitely the yin to my yang.

 
He is supportive of my choice to be a writer. In fact, he rarely reads anything I write. It’s not because he’s not interested. He doesn’t want his opinions to taint my writing style. He has confidence in my ability to get my point across, and will not proofread my work. My muse challenges me to get better every day, and that encourages me to work towards doing so.

 
He will help me with the organization of my business and my production schedules, which is so helpful to me. He is supportive as I navigate through the learning curves that are inevitable with any business. Although he has been dreaming of retirement, he has delayed that dream while I establish my career.

 
So, while other writers, artists, painters, and musicians may be inspired by whimsy and beauty, I am inspired by a strong and steady muse. And, I am ever so grateful.

-Cat

 

 

In Mysterious Ways

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My friend lost a child yesterday. Suddenly, unexpectedly, and sadly, gone. He would have turned two years old in a couple weeks. He was loved by his Mom and Dad, and his two sisters. He brought immeasurable joy into this world when he was born. He will leave a desperate sorrow with his passing.
As a writer, I pride myself on being good with words. When I saw the post on Facebook, I was stunned… at a total loss. I had nothing to say in response to the family, and the many others who had commented on this sad tragedy. Every response I can think of seems inadequate.
How can I say something comforting? I just cannot imagine or construct the proper response. Really… is there one? Is there the “right thing” to say to someone when their 2-year-old, the light of their life, has suddenly left this world?
We place so much importance on such ridiculous stuff in our daily lives. Road rage, sports, jobs, video games, new cars, sneakers, politics, organized religion, the latest technology, and fashion. We live like we will never die. We focus on achieving goals. Long term goals, short term goals, financial goals, college goals, retirement goals, career goals. We yearn for materialistic things.
This won’t change. It’s how we get through it all. We keep putting one foot in front of the other… walking through this world until our number is up.
Sometimes it doesn’t happen suddenly, or so we think. We know someone is older, and they are ill. It crosses our mind that they might not make it. It may be obvious that they are at the end of their journey. Why does it still shock us when they actually die? Is it our eternal hope that we can somehow escape this fate?
In the end, what’s important?  We each have a chance to make a difference while we’re here. Never underestimate that. What you do with the time you’re given can make all the difference to the lives of others. We can be a positive influence and encourage people to do their best.
I have to admit, I’m one of those people that has great faith in the resilience of the human body and spirit. It always shocks me when someone actually dies. I guess I’m the one that thinks on some level that we’ll all live forever in one form or another.
Some of you believe in God, mother nature, or some form of higher power. I do. I believe that we are under God’s care. We may not understand how events like these fit into the grand plan. The fact is, we are not privileged to know the big picture. We cannot possibly be granted foresight and volition. Because we get to choose our actions, we can only guess the outcomes. Some things are obvious, and some are hidden.
So, while we may not know tomorrow, we can live today. Hold your loved ones close. Call someone that you haven’t talked to in a while. Smile at a stranger. Take your chance while you have it.   If you’re the praying kind, please pray for my friend and his family tonight.

-Cat

Working Without a Net

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As many of you know, I’ve been wearing two hats in my work life since the first of the year.  By day, I’ve been working for a large corporation.  In the evenings, and on my days off, I’ve been pursuing my passion as a writer.  I’ve built my business to the extent that time allowed.
The full-time job that I’ve worked at for almost 11 years ended today when my position was eliminated.  I was one of many that were affected.  I’m a firm believer that everything always works out the way it’s supposed to.  I’ve been through some stuff in my life that wasn’t fun and didn’t feel good.  But, I’ve always seemed to make a comeback.  That whole phoenix thing.
So… I now have more time to promote and work my business.  50 hours a week more.  I called this blog “Working Without a Net” because that’s how it feels.  Exhilarating and scary in equal parts.  There are a lot of things I couldn’t do to grow and work my business.  Now I will.
I’ve met a lot of good people at my job, and will keep a lot of friends in my new life.  I’ve learned so much in the past 10 years, and the experience has helped prepare me for this moment.
I don’t have any hard feelings.  I’m feeling bad tonight for all the people who depended on their job to house and feed their family.  It’s a shame that this had to happen today.
It’s amazing how your life can change in one day…
– Cat

 

Paradigm Shifts

Some of those “aha” moments are pretty strange.  They say that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  I must be insane.  It seems my thinking gets lodged in a crevice.  It gets encouraged by my emotions and there it sits.

Until… BOOM!  Hello paradigm shift!

This phrase was coined by Thomas Kuhn.  He was an American physicist and philosopher… that’s interesting as a stand alone.  Anyway, it’s a deep and fundamental change in the way you view or understand something.

Maybe it’s God saying “enough already”.  Maybe it’s a self-preservation measure initiated by our subconscious.  When I think of some of the major paradigm shifts I’ve experienced in my life, I can’t really pinpoint the catalyst.  I guess that’s not the point, but it sure would be nice to conjure one up when you feel in need of one.

I’ve had several paradigm shifts that have forced me to take my life, or my thinking about my life, down a new path.  It’s always turned out right, although it usually involves some “going through” stuff.  It also feels like working without a net, which can be scary and exhilarating all at the same time.

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                                                                                                              Mary Engelbreit

I love this illustration by Mary Engelbreit.  Pay no attention to the date, and that I’ve kept this in my memory for about thirty years.  The image is very instructive, and cuts right to the heart of things. 

Sometimes we make a choice to walk through a door.  You may feel uncertain or scared of the door you’ve chosen.  When you try to go back through it, you find that it’s locked. One Choice… Keep it Moving!

– Cat

Where Does All That Stuff Go?

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This may seem like a weird title when the topic is metaphysical.  But it’s the question my husband had when his Dad passed.   What happens to “us” when we die?  We know that there are only a couple of options for our body once it has lost it’s usefulness.  But, that’s not what I’m talking about here.

We are preparing for the changing of the guard here in America.  There is a lot of talk about President Obama’s “legacy”.  What will he be remembered for?  What will we be remembered for when we leave this earth?  What about our legacy?

If you think about it, we are really only remembered for a few generations.  Unless you come from a lineage that has a famous, or infamous person, the memory of you only goes so far.  What can you tell me about your great-grandmother, or your great-great-grandfather?  Maybe you have some scraps of information.  But, I’ll be willing to bet that you couldn’t write a biography.

So, all the jokes we tell, the meals we share with family and friends, the knowledge we gain, the lessons we learn, our longing, our passion, our joy.  Where does that stuff go?

If you’re from a religious background, you’ll probably explain that it goes to heaven.  You might say that it gets recycled, and we’re reborn into another body.  You may think that we become ghosts, or spirits that roam the earth.  I’m not into zombies, but maybe you are.  Do we just cease to be, once people don’t remember us? Are we dispersed throughout the universe, Carl Sagan style?

That thought just makes life seem silly, the way most of us live.  Reaching for more of everything.  More love, more money, more happiness, more fame.  Whatever your “more” is, you’re probably pretty serious about it.

We worry about being late for the dentist.  We worry about paying our bills.  We worry about our health.  We worry about our job.  A hundred years from now, what will be the result of all that worrying?  It’s a pretty safe bet that it will not feature in the future landscape of life.

One minute we’re doing our makeup, cleaning our car, getting groceries… the next, dead.  There are quite a few sites, blogs, articles, etc. on living a “mindful life”.  I envy people who feel especially “mindful”, or that cultivate “mindfulness” in their lives.  I think that most of us don’t have things dialed in to that extent.  I know I don’t.

As you age, life becomes less and less like Summer vacations were when you were in elementary school.  Remember the long expanse of Summer?  You become more and more aware of the passing of time, and the value of it.  Probably because there is less of it in front of you, and more of it behind you.

I know that as a Grandmother, I tend to think “I haven’t seen Oscar in a month… a lot will have changed.”  Seeing my grandkids grow makes me more and more aware of how things tend to happen fast in life.  Ten years ago, I didn’t have any grandchildren.  Five years ago, I had two.  Today, I have six, and my seventh on the way!  Things move at the “speed of life”!

I guess that the object of the exercise is to reach the finish line with as few regrets as possible.  It’s so tricky, though, when you don’t know where the finish line is.

“We are like butterflies that flutter for a day and think it is forever.” – Carl Sagan

-Cat

Great Expectations

 

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So often in life, reality falls short of our expectations.  I think that some people marry because they are in love with the idea of marriage.  The idea of marriage, as it turns out, is a lot different from actually  being in a marriage.

I think that the biggest gap between reality and expectation comes when you have your first child.  When you are expecting… you are “expecting” something in particular.  There is the ideal of a two-way bond between mother and child.  You will know just what to do, and when to do it.  You and your child, in perfect partnership, will form a circle of unconditional love.

Then, you give birth.  It’s a little more uncomfortable than you were expecting.  Most babies cry a lot.  It’s a puzzle that you often can’t put together.  You think you will know just what the baby needs, and how to stop the tears.  Hmmm… not so much.  But, Oh!  Look at that little angel sleeping!  Nap time is indeed magical.

Will you ever sleep again?  Let’s say that your sleep habits are going to evolve for this point on.   Just as you muddle through the days feeling a bit overwhelmed, your baby smiles at you!  And so it goes, as you move through the phases of parenthood.  You are joyful, and tearful, at times.

When I started this blog, I wrote about my friend, Maryann.  She had children older than mine, and used to joke, saying, “It doesn’t get better, it just gets different”.  So true!  Every age brings it own unique challenges and moments of beauty.  It’s an amazing thing to watch your children grow.

Going into it, you think it’s an eighteen to twenty year commitment.  When do you stop worrying?  Well, my first baby is 38 now, and I haven’t stopped yet.  Even when your children are grown up, and have children of their own, you can’t help but think about them and their families.

Another thing that comes completely unexpected when you have your first child.  You finally “get” your own mother.  You understand a lot of her advice, and a lot of her worrying.  It’s definitely an “aha” moment.

I have four children.  With each one, I became a little more familiar with the process, and confident with my parenting skills.  Of course the more children you have, the more “crazy time” you have at your house.  If you have children, I don’t need to explain what that phrase means.

I’ve mentioned before that my daughter is “expecting”.  Since it’s her second child, she knows a little bit more about what to actually expect. She’s a wonderful mother to my grandson, Carl, and I know that her new son will be a blessing to our family!  I also know she will be tired and feel overwhelmed at times.

Some things remain the same, whether you have children or not.  You might be experiencing the ups and downs of marriage.  It doesn’t matter if you are single, divorced, widowed, in love, or lonely… you will have good days and bad days.  The trick is to remember the good days when you’re in the middle of a bad day.

Parenting is an adventure that I can recommend without reservation.  But watch out for those “great expectations”.

– Cat

 

 

You Got To Know When to Hold ’em

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My kids read my blog, for the most part.  Sometimes they hit me with “Oh, sorry Mom, I have to catch up”.  One of my sons told me recently that although he enjoys reading my blog, it isn’t edgy.  It’s very “safe” writing.

When he said that, I couldn’t help but think of that old Kenny Rogers song, The Gambler.  In the lyrics, he uses a poker game as a metaphor for life.  I like to think of social media the same way.  Have you ever read something on Facebook that made you cringe?  Sometimes I can’t help but say to myself, “whoa”, “ouch” or the ever popular, “TMI”!

You may think I’m being judgemental, or maybe just mental.  I’m actually empathetic and embarrassed for people who seem to live without boundaries.  You can say I’m hypocritical, since I’m writing this in a blog post.  That’s okay.  See I’ll run that risk, because I feel like this is something that needs to be said.  Maybe you think I’m old-fashioned, or maybe just old.  I’m alright with that too.

It never ceases to amaze me the things that people will post about themselves in a public forum.  It’s as if some people think it’s a form of journaling.  It’s actually the opposite.  While journaling is a private, cathartic exercise,  Facebook is a broadcast medium.  Who will see it?  Well, just about everybody!

I’m not huge on political correctness, but I don’t want to be provocative, or cause hard feelings.  I just don’t need to express myself to that extent, at the risk of hurting someone else.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t have a dark side, or that I’m not opinionated, or that I’m not “edgy” at times.  I just have some modesty and some manners.  I’m not perfect, I’m just not inclined to show off my shortcomings.

You can have a discussion or debate just about anything, without adopting a “me vs. them” attitude.  It’s okay to stick up for yourself, but not so cool to poke someone in the eye.

Like Kenny says, “You’ve got to know when to walk away, and know when to run”.

What do you think?

– Cat