Who Wants More Snow?

Snow Covered Trees

Snow delicately outlining the tree limbs (Philip Halling/commons.wikimedia.org)

Did you groan as you read that title? If you experienced a long winter with the polar vortex and repeated snow days, perhaps you did. I’ve heard nothing but complaints about this winter in the DC area.

But I may be one of the few people who wasn’t bothered. I actually found the snowfall beautiful. I love to see the winter wonderland effect of snow outlining each tree limb and tiny branch. Ah, the delicate elegance.

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The End of an Unlikely Friendship

At 4:28 AM, I awoke to the sound of my cellphone in the other room. It sounded, “Message from Dawn…” I was sick and not sleeping well, so I got up to check the text message and learned that Dawn died at 3:22 that morning.

I’ve known older relatives who died. As a kid, I attended the funeral of a friend’s mom. I’ve attended the funerals of three grandparents, including one just last fall. But this is the first time a friend died.

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The Long Haul

We celebrate those who persevere for the long haul. We admire marathon runners and Ironman triathletes for their athletic perseverance. We respect PhDs and medical doctors for their academic perseverance. But sometimes staying in it for the long haul isn’t so commendable.

Television

For example, I still watch Grey’s Anatomy. I used to love this show. The characters took me on a roller coaster of emotions and left me craving the next episode. But after 1o seasons, it’s just not that compelling. As I was watching the two-hour season premiere, it felt like forever.

So why am I still watching? For some reason, I’m in it for the long haul. I feel like I’m invested in the characters and want to see how it ends.

Read

Since my husband is the poster boy for reading, I guess it’s good that I finish books!

Books

I do the same thing with books.  I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally not finished a book. (Although, I left one in the seat pocket on an airplane once, which made finishing it difficult.)

Even though I’m supposed to be reading for pleasure, I keep reading despite a lack of pleasure. I suffer through until the end.

Maybe it will get better. Maybe the end pulls everything together. Generally, it doesn’t. But I still feel compelled to finish.

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The Season of Cake

blowing out candles on birthday cake

Ms. HalfEmpty blows out the candles on her double-batch carrot cake. Sorry if you’re blinded by all the candles; her age is accelerating rapidly.

September is a busy month of birthdays in my family. I start out the season with my birthday, followed by my older brother’s, and then Mr. HalfFull’s at the end of the month. After that, we have three more fall birthdays. Thus, September starts the season of cake!

Traditionally, my dad is the baker of all birthday cakes. You can choose your cake flavor, but he only makes one size — double batch. According to him, if a single cake is good, a double cake must be even better.

So no matter how many people come over to celebrate a birthday, there is always leftover cake. That would be amazing if we didn’t have a new birthday every week. But everyone gets their own double batch cake. It’s just so much cake!

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Baby, I’m Back!

Did you miss me? I missed you too. Yes, both of you!

Fantasy Football Draft

My brother and Mr. HalfFull drafted a San Diego Chargers player, so of course the jerseys came out for additional shenanigans. Too bad you can’t see Mr. HalfFull’s ridiculous championship ring in this photo. The commissioner wears three massive rings, so don’t start a fight with him during the draft!

Realistically, I knew I hadn’t blogged here in quite a while. But it really hit home last weekend before Mr. HalfFull’s Fantasy Football Draft.

He and his crazy friends do a live draft every year. One year, three of the guys (and some wives, including me) flew to Indiana for the draft!

But this year, the draft was at our house. Before the appointed draft time, I went out to dinner with the guys (and then disappeared until the following morning to spare my sensibilities). As we were chatting and catching up over dinner, my husband’s friend said that he reads my blog…or rather, he used to read it when I posted. Woah!

Two things struck me during this conversation. First, on the half full side, it’s awesome to have a third reader! Now I can address my readers as “all of you” instead of “both of you.” The second overwhelming feeling was embarrassment at my dearth of blog posts.

Posting Apathy

Why haven’t I posted more regularly? Well, there are lots of reasons.

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Exception to the Rule(r)

It’s been established that I’m a Ruler. I believe in rules, I follow them, and I think other people should too. But generally, they don’t.

Paths

Bicycle Path

Bicycles on the path, as they should be. (Richard Masoner/flickr.com)

The other day, Mr. HalfFull and I were riding our coasting bicycles into town when he veered off the path. We weren’t on a bicycle trail, but we were following a narrow connecting path from one neighborhood to the next. It was possible to stay on the sidewalk and enter one end of the path, but this required a tight, awkward turn that wasn’t meant for bicycles. So Mr. HalfFull traversed the nearby mulch to enter the tiny path on a better angle.

After catching up to him post-detour, I commented on him riding through the mulch, and he told me about desire paths.

In Finland planners are known to visit their parks immediately after the first snowfall, when the existing paths are not visible. People naturally choose desire lines, which are then clearly indicated by their footprints and can be used to guide the routing of paths.

-Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

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The Pursuit of Happiness

The Declaration of Independence has instilled in the American culture a belief that we have the right to the pursuit of happiness. But actually pursuing happiness can be a struggle for some. Defining happiness and the process to get there isn’t so clear-cut.

Happiness is a topic of immense interest to humans in our own personal searches. There are blogs and books like The Happiness Project that try to define strategies for happiness. There are TED Talks about happiness. There are quotes about happiness. And there are endless studies about happiness.

Professional Happiness Study

Time

The perception of time

I heard about one such study at the University of Maryland on the radio. The study measured how people perceive their time — how rushed they feel and how often they have time on their hands. It’s pretty common to think that if we had more time, we’d be happier. But the study showed just the opposite. The people who reported being the happiness almost never feel rushed and don’t have time on their hands that they don’t know what to do with.

Most people don’t like feeling rushed; that seems pretty self-evident. It’s nice to be in control of our own schedules. But the more surprising part is that people don’t enjoy having excess time on their hands. The interesting thing about this is that excess time is self-defined. So if you schedule time to watch TV, exercise, and hang out with friends, that’s not considered time that you don’t know what to do with. The key seems to be making time for the things you want to do, even if other people would consider that idle time. So being busy (but not rushed) seems to make people happier.

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Coach ‘Em Up

You’ve probably heard about the coaching scandals at Rutgers University. First we heard about Mike Rice, the men’s basketball coach who abused his players. After that scandal came to light with video footage on the national news, athletic director Tim Pernetti resigned. Rutgers replaced him with Julie Herman, who was accused of being an abusive women’s volleyball coach in the 90s.

I realize that the stakes are high in college, but why can’t coaches motivate with positivity? A coach’s job is more than creating a winning team. It’s about teaching life lessons and molding good humans.

Good coaches are so important to set the tone for the team. They have the power to create a fun experience or a miserable one.

I’ve never been a fan of team sports, and I’ve never joined any sports teams myself. But Mr. HalfFull LOVES them. One of his favorite parts of teaching is coaching sports after school.

Coaching JV Softball

This spring, he coached junior varsity softball. After he met the girls, he would often brag that his team had the highest GPA of any athletic team in the school.

coaching

Coach HalfFull being half full during a pre-game chat

That’s Mr. HalfFull’s positivity kicking in! Yes, these girls were smart and did well academically, but they were not the most athletic group. In fact, some girls had never played softball with an umpire.

I attended the first scrimmage, which didn’t look a whole lot like softball. After two hours, they had only played two innings because neither team was able to field outs. Sometimes there were over 20 runs per inning, but not because the batters were hitting it out of the park. Rather, the pitchers were walking most batters.

At this point, I started to think that softball was volleyball appreciation season (because that’s Mr. HalfFull’s fall sport)! But somehow Mr. HalfFull was able to mold these academically successful girls into a winning athletic team.

By the end of the season, they were fielding double plays! It actually looked like softball.

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Loss of Stories

Everyone has a story. Do you ever look at a person and wonder about his personal history? What experiences shaped this individual?

I am endlessly fascinated with personal stories, those based in reality. I’ve never been interested in fantasy or science-fiction genres. I’m quite narrow in my genre selection and prefer things that are true to life. Perhaps that’s an effect of my unimaginative ruler tendencies.

It may also be why I love StoryCorps on NPR. The audio broadcasts of just a few minutes tell stories of ordinary people interviewing each other. The tales always seem to evoke an emotional response in me from tears to awe. I realize that the broadcasts are edited versions of longer conversations, but it’s some amazing storytelling!

Ms. HalfEmpty with relative

Ms. HalfEmpty at her wedding reception in 2009 with Ms. WhiteHouse (1918-2013)

Lately, we’ve had a few deaths in the family. One was a local relative who had some hilarious stories about her professional life in the White House. I’ve heard a few at family gatherings over the years, but I wanted to learn more. My plan was to interview Ms. WhiteHouse and write an article, but she preferred to remain private and declined.

Now Ms. WhiteHouse is gone along with her stories. The loss of stories is sad, but it’s also important to respect people’s wishes for their lives and stories.

Mr. HalfFull is a great storyteller and gregarious human who puts others at ease to tell their stories. Before his mom died, they discussed her life over wine. In vino veritas! (Perhaps I’ll have to use that interview technique someday, Mr. HalfFull.) Mr. HalfFull was able to learn about how she met her husband in her own words.

But he knows less about his dad’s perspective from those early years. In fact, he just learned that his dad’s football career at Dartmouth ended due to injury after listening to his sister’s podcast. It’s interesting how different siblings have various pieces of the story.

Perhaps you’ve grown tired of that one relative retelling the same life story each time you meet. But that repetition may help the story live on with you. Not everyone is a great storyteller; sometimes it can be tiresome to sit through the extraneous details and tangents. If only we all had StoryCorps editors to weave it into a concise, moving tale!

As people pass away, stories are lost forever. Perhaps we need to spend some time asking questions and listening while we can.

  • Are you interested in personal stories?
  • What’s your preferred genre for pleasure reading?
  • Do you listen to StoryCorps? Do you have a favorite episode?
  • How much do you know about your parents as young adults?
  • Is there someone you know whose story should be preserved?

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The Power of Organization

I’m a firm believer in organization — a place for everything and everything in its place. Perhaps that need for structure is part of my ruler tendencies. But how else would you find anything?

Mr. HalfFull finds my arranging and rearranging process quite humorous. If something new comes into the house, I have to find the perfect spot for it. This involves testing it out in different locations and assessing if it’s the right home. Sometimes it’s a cascade effect of moving other items to new locations. Mr. HalfFull just watches my shell game and laughs.

Organized Chaos?

Disorganized Playroom

I’m not sure anyone could classify this playroom as organized chaos.

I realize there are different forms of organization. Some people call their messes organized chaos. They claim they know exactly where things are in the rubble, but I’m not sure I buy it.

Although Steven Johnson, the author of Where Good Ideas Come From, claims you need this sort of disorder for innovation in his TED Talk (around 7:20). “This is the kind of chaotic environment where ideas were likely to come together.” Perhaps that’s why I’m not a Creator or an Explorer.

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