Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mother Monster!

I love Lady Gaga. Most people who know me think this is inconsistent with my personality. So here, in my birthday post, since her birthday was yesterday, I’m going to explain one small aspect of her appeal.
Lady Gaga claims to be a Master of the Art of Fame. What is so compelling about this is that in most circumstances fame is
1)    a tool used to establish a platform
2)    a by-product of a high-visibility career such as acting or politics, or
3)    a fleeting occupation for freaks and criminals.
But fame, as celebrity or popularity, is neither mastered nor art. At least, not by any of the famous people we have known.
Fame as Exposure
Some celebs lament the burden of fame – paparazzi and the invasion of privacy – and others crave the spotlight of it via reality show or public appearances. They lead us to believe fame is not controllable.
As a tool for promotion, fame may lead to a higher income or more opportunity. This is true of sports stars in the Olympics or college vying for professional careers. But the recipients of such advantages are usually also victims of the invading and fleeting nature of fame.

A Birthday Juxtaposition

On the day before my 35th birthday, my primary task was to develop an ROI model. How do we determine the total cost of doing what we’re doing?
While thinking about this I read this article which suggests embracing chaos. It describes the current business world as being in flux.
Then I thought of Lady Gaga. The day before my 35th birthday, was Mother Monster’s 26th birthday.
What do ROI, Generation Flux, and Lady Gaga have in common? Hard to say.
Visualize It
There is a very talented writing coach I have been following for years who suggests mind mapping. For everything. Mind mapping generates ideas by locating connections and overlaps. So I mind map.
The links I find are between
Lady Gaga “learn, ask, see,” and ROI “proof, data, confidence.”
Then Lady Gaga “brave” and Generation Flux “courage.”
Then ROI “value, participation, contribution,” and Generation Flux “willing, available, opportunity.”
For a tutorial on mind mapping, proprietary of course and meant for reference purposes only, leave a comment and I'll send it.
Find Commonality
This mind map, with its three very foreign subjects, might put “Kasie” right in the middle. At 35, I find I am at times fierce and proud, willing to take risks, but preoccupied with evidence and security.
For example, I think lotteries are voluntary taxes. But Tuesday when Adam Levine re-tweeted a Milton Berle quote, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door,” I bought a Mega Millions ticket. I very rarely play, as evidenced when I needed help picking my numbers.
I did not offer to split my winnings with the clerk who helped me, just so everyone knows. Get in line, dude.
I am at once change junky and curmudgeon, social network surfer and paperback buyer.
What sort of profound life lesson has the juxtaposition of Lady Gaga, ROI models, and Generation Flux provided? Perhaps only this: I know Pandora has a station to match that.
And, we’ll need three more posts to tease out each subject and a fourth one to complete the analysis.
Later today I’ll post the Lady Gaga one. After all, it’s my birthday and I get to do whatever I want. Now off to work!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Unfamiliar Journeys

The ice cream took effect the minute we entered the hospital. Ignoring the odd looks, we led a jumping, hopping, running HB out of an ancient parking garage, up an elevator, through a breezeway over the street, into a long corridor, up another elevator, and down a long, severe hallway.
Like airlines, hospitals have those personnel for whom the environment is regular, stable, and expected. One of them declined taking the elevator with us after glancing sidelong at HB. Most of these people are meant to comfort and instruct those persons for whom the environment is foreign, difficult, or frightening.
I struggle with hospital visitations. I don’t really know what the etiquette is. I can count on one hand the times I have been to a hospital, one of which I stayed for a week when HB was born.
I fly frequently, usually solo, and have an airport routine, despite my general loathing of such predictability.
Prepare for departure
Today, after crisscrossing Clemson Road looking for temporary housing, we made good on the ice cream promise and then took HB to Providence heart center to see Grandaddy.
As we visited with Mr. Charles the flight attendants arrived to check his blood sugar.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Pirate Perspective

This morning I put HB on a pirate ship headed for Australia. She happily waved goodbye as I walked away.
We’ve talked about my affinity for pirates twice before. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that when she told me over and over she didn’t want to go to school today, I found this as an alternative for her.
I suppose it’s natural that in a time of change I should experience some shifts in perspective. Yesterday I wrote about my newly acquired courage for a much bigger pond. A couple of weeks ago I confessed I needed to exorcise the voice of dissension.
As a researcher I have an endless list of questions to uncover new perspectives. The process analyst in me uses an arsenal of tools to develop these new perspectives. I have a trunk full of exercises that help explore and learn new perspectives, left over from various educator roles. My deepest me, the writer, can narrate myself through these shifts like a navigator charting stars.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Don't Bother Toweling Off

“Work the kid into your life, don’t change your life to be the kid’s,” said my friend Tom between laps at Westside Aquatic Center. It was 2008, I was very pregnant, and struggling to keep any kind of pace beyond simple flotation.
Not knowing any better, I took Tom seriously.
I’m what is referred to, politely, as a non-traditional mom. I take HB to a big girl lunch every Saturday; on St. Patty’s Day we actually bar hopped. She has her own season ticket for Clemson football. She sings Lady Gaga. She’s three and four on her birthday so she has three tutus, four pairs of sparkly shoes, and two princess dresses, all of which I allow her to wear to school whenever she wants.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Green

Mrs. Bailey, who lives next door, has been married to her husband for 65 years. She said he’s been five different men since they met. This most recent one is much easier, she said. He’s senile and now she’s finally running the show.
A friend of mine who has been married 10 years, like me, said she’s already on the second version of her husband. He went to war in the second year of their marriage and Jessica wondered, given this pace, how many husbands she’ll have if they make it 65 years.
I married a rock-n-roll drummer.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Head Coach Mommy and a Rogue HB

I benched HB this morning. When she doesn’t do what she’s told to do, she gets benched. It’s our version of time-out. We’re a sports family so “time-out” was too benign. Quarterbacks call time out when the defense shows blitz. It’s a chance to regroup, but it’s a voluntary break, not a punishment.
What we’ve done by employing the bench and time out is that HB can choose time out, she can decide she wants to regroup. And she does, occasionally, when things aren't going her way. She removes herself to her room think and then returns to the field.
The bench is punishment.
Shanahan and Beck, Redskins 2011,
So, back to this morning.
Me: Get dressed.
HB: (lays on floor in child’s pose)
Me: Get dressed.
HB: (still on the floor, begins to whine)
Me: Get dressed. I don’t want to tell you again.
HB: (still on the floor, moans)
Me: If you’re going to sit and moan you can do that on the bench.
I’ll spare you the rest of the details and save you a call to DSS. Suffice it to say we ended up with her on the bench, whine progressing to a wail.
I said, “You may get off the bench at any time. You just have to go to your room to get dressed.”
Understand what's at stake
When HB doesn’t do what I ask her to do, I tell her she can do it nicely, or I will force her to do it. I tell her if I have to force her I will not be gentle. This morning I followed through on my threat to force her and not be gentle. I pulled the shirt over her upstretched arms and wrestled her into the skirt. To her credit, she did not kick or fight as she’s done in the past.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

With a Nod to Yakko, Wacko, and Dot

The Animaniacs used to have a bit they called Good Idea, Bad Idea. Good idea: dressing up like a pirate for Halloween. Bad idea: dressing up like a piƱata.
Aside from my previously-mentioned fondness for pirates, I like the dichotomy this recurring Animaniacs bit created.  The second part, the Bad Idea, was always unexpected; thus the humor, of course.
Good idea: white water rafting on the Chattooga river; bad idea: bringing your cat.
Writers can usually make a pretty good point by showing extremes.  Yesterday, after a brief nod to the Transcendentalists, I presented the train metaphor for a process map.
Good idea: questioning common materialism by pursuing absolute Truth through examination of the natural world; bad idea: using a train to get to nature.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Next Stop: Clarity

Transcendentalism can be outgrown. Yet, right after junior literature class extols the virtues of nature and before it shifts to boring readers with the pastoral poets, American college kids begin to romance a summer traveling through Europe.
Not to be confused with McCandlessian adventures, Europe offers a higher level of enlightenment than domestic countryside. And better shopping. It therefore requires several weeks of hostels, backpacking, journaling, and collecting oddities like McDonald’s ash trays.
My friend Matthew ended up in Austria on one such journey and boarded a train in Vienna seeking an authentic Austrian experience. Unable to make sense of the map, Matt asked assistance from a friendly Viennese youth and was directed outbound, toward Salzburg, the destination lingering at the end of a long orange line.
Map It Out
Many train map designs derive from London’s Underground: its large colored tubes snake from one side to the other intersected by bloated circles demarcating stations. The Washington, D.C. Metro map is similar. Its orange line carried us from Vienna, Virginia into the heart of the capital for parades and museum tours when I was a child. I had often heard the map’s cities on traffic reports but didn’t really know where they were: Franconia, Ballston, Dupont Circle, Clarendon.
Our CIO has been in Japan recently and is particularly fond of the subway map. He suggested such a diagram could provide clarity to the end-to-end nature of the processes our enterprise resource planning (ERP) system currently runs.
Out of necessity a metro map must be very clear to see, require little to no instruction to read, and be translatable into any language. Its concept is at once complex: how to leave one place and arrive some other place intentionally; and simple: travel without confusion.
This weekend I considered the subway map as an alternative to flow charts for process documentation. How can we map the ERP software we maintain and develop? What purpose would such a map fulfill? What kind of clarity would it provide?

Friday, March 9, 2012

To Fear or Not to Fear?

I admit I’m not as afraid of some things as I should be. In fact, I have what some other moms might consider to be an appalling lack of germ phobia. Tonight, when a kid at Target dropped his pacifier on the ground, I was tempted to tell the mom to just suck on it herself and then give it back to him.
Only after I refrained from offering this unsolicited advice did it occur to me that she might fear her own mouth buzzing with Target floor germs, let alone the baby’s.
I congratulate my lack of germ phobia for HB’s stellar immune system. I never laid a disposable mat on the restaurant table. I operated under the presumption that the table was clean enough. I didn’t sterilize her pacifier or use bottled water in her formula. Straight out of the tap. Not even filtered.
I’m also not afraid of public bathrooms, though we do take a few basic precautions before using them.
I don’t carry anti-bacterial gel or lotion or spray or wipes or suppositories.
It’s not that I don’t understand the basic science of germs or that I mean to intentionally disrespect their disease and ickiness powers. I just don’t have room in my life for that much fear. Some other things I can’t be bothered to fear include China, pro-Life activists, Satan, the apocalypse, infidelity, and aging.
All fear requires a certain amount of suspiciousness. And suspiciousness must be supported by investigation and contemplation, or in the absence of those rational behaviors, speculation and agitation can be substituted.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Collector, Storyteller, or Hoarder?

HB held tightly to two plastic curlers, four white disposable spoons, a piece of string, a pink plastic egg, and a Woodstock doll, the bird from The Peanuts. She climbed into her car seat with her fists turning white around these items. Then she looked up at me and smiled.

I told her, “you can take them in the car, but not into school.”
She repeated, “I take in the car, not in school.”

Today is not the first day she has climbed into Brando with an assortment of items to accompany us to school. I have trailed behind her with my arms full of “the buddies” (stuffed animal playmates). I’ve lugged along blankets and pillows, boxes and baskets, like she’s moving every day.  It’s a 30 minute drive.
Do all children collect such things? Items that appear random and disorganized? Items that have only the slightest things in common: some are plastic, some are brightly colored, all fit in her hands.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Put First Things First

At 5 a.m. I sat on the edge of the tub trying to talk myself out of spin class. I love spin class. Where did this voice of dissension come from? It’s the one that convinced me to quit swimming a month before the move. It’s the one that’s talked me out of spin and into late-night third and fourth glasses of wine.
This morning as I sparred with it, I heard some truth in its final plea, “I am collapsing in upon myself,” it said to me.
Enter the Analyst
Stephen Covey’s  classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People suggests one habit, putting first things first, helps effective people prioritize everything. It helps them determine where to spend their time and evaluate if their time allotment is in line with their values. I do this exercise whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed or off balance.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dancing School Drop Out

I let HB quit the first activity she's ever been in. I swore I wouldn't. I promised myself that it was a commitment and if there was one thing my mom taught me about commitments, it was that you keep them.

When HB began dance lessons in August I knew there was a chance we would move and I allowed that moving would remove her from dance. We made it through The Nutcracker in December, during which she won over the audience by calling, "Mommy! Mommy!" from the stage.

But since The Nutcracker she has whined every Monday when it was time to go. Last week she refused to enter the building and we ended up fighting in the parking lot until I gave in and took her home.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Need Change? Prove It

I needed proof. I needed proof that the couch we've had for ten years should not make the move to Clemson Road. Despite its general filth and stench, the couch had secured its place on the moving van simply because, to quote Cuk, "we already have a couch."

Cuk is a conservative guy. Getting change in our house is like getting a bill through congress.

First I have to research the plan, present a return-on-investment model, provide financing options, longevity estimates, and sometimes bring in witnesses to testify in favor of the change.

When I wanted to paint the kitchen, I had all of the necessary documentation to support the change. Even committed to doing it all by myself. But it wasn't until Cuk accidentally spilled a glass of red wine against the white wall, producing a purple stain, that I had proof.

Ultimately, I only ever need immediate proof to get change.

Yesterday morning, HB took it upon herself to provide proof. Armed with the green marker used to decorate the Melissa & Doug cupcakes she got for Valentine's Day (see right), she altered the couch in an irrevocable way.

As I laid lazily in bed reading Catching Fire, she was hard at work providing that moment which changes the trajectory of an object in motion.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Royal We

Pronouns are easily the most frequently abused part of the English language. People refer to "this" and "that" and "it" without being truly clear about what the pronoun is subbing for. I was told to "step on it" to turn on the lamp, but 'it' indicated lamp to me, so I stepped on the lamp.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Trust me, I'm a Mom

The problem with being a new parent is that you really don't know who to trust. There is so much parenting advice, so many experts, and so many people willing to offer their opinion. All of those people, mostly parents themselves, know what worked for them. And their kids. And that's a problem, because they're not you. And this isn't their kid.

As a new mommy I always assumed if anything distrssed HB it was probably my fault. I still believe that and she's three and four on her birthday.

Meeting Your Characters IRL

This post originally appeared on the Columbia II Writers Workshop blog. It's revived here because I think this audience would appreciate...