Archive for category Observations

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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Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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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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Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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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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Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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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?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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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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Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Reconciling with the Ruler

Do you spend time reflecting on your personality? Do you take inventory of your values and how they align with your life?

As I continue my quest for passion, I find myself pondering these questions. I want my personality to be well suited to my next career path. Finding out who I am is a big part of figuring out what direction I should pursue.

As one of my friends’ noted, perhaps my passion is the quest for passion–the search for career happiness. I’ve read and listened to various people talk about their career paths online. I’ve even talked with real people in real life (strange, I know!) like Marcia Call. Marcia suggested that I take the Professional Values & Story Index (PVSI) to learn my story type.

According to the Storybranding Group,

…story typing can help us discover a path that seems most worth living to us—and the surest path to success and fulfillment is living the story we were born to tell.

This seemed right up my alley! I was very excited to find my archetype and let it help me shape a path. Perhaps this would be another clue on my journey.

Ruler

Rulers come in various forms (flickr.com/Alan Alfaro)

So I took the test and got my result. Apparently, I’m a Ruler.

I was so disappointed. There are lots of cool archetypes, but I got the one that brings to mind medieval kings and draconian measures. I realize it’s possible to be a benevolent ruler like a leader, role model, or peacemaker. But that’s not my first impression.

I actually think my story type is quite accurate. I definitely had ruler tendencies as a kid. I started clubs; I was bossy; I didn’t trust other people to do our group work. But I don’t think I’ve been a ruler as an adult (…except with Mr. HalfFull, but he needs a ruler in his life!).

So if my story type is accurate, why am I so disappointed? I think it’s because I don’t admire the vision of a ruler I have in my head. Even the word sounds ominous to me. It seems undemocratic. It reminds me of a dictator.

But I think the real reason I’m disappointed is because I aspire to be something else. Even my parents have cool story types–one is an explorer and the other is an explorer/revolutionary. So how did they create a ruler? (In fact, they created two rulers!)

I wish I was a creator, explorer, revolutionary, or sage. Those seem cool to me. But instead, I’m a ruler.

Maybe that’s why my career transition is so difficult. Perhaps I’m searching for something that’s really not me. Perhaps I need to reconcile with the ruler in me, and instead seek to work with the archetypes I admire.

  • Which archetype are you?
  • Do you enjoy personality tests? Do you put much stock in them?
  • Do I seem like a ruler to you?
  • What do you think is a natural path for a ruler?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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The Benefits of Marriage

Mr. HalfFull and Ms. HalfEmpty enjoy the sunset on their first day of marriage

Mr. HalfFull and Ms. HalfEmpty enjoy the sunset on their first day of marriage

As you’ve been watching various tax forms appear in your mailbox, perhaps the marriage penalty has come to mind. But even this half empty thinker knows there are some benefits to marriage!

One of those benefits is sharing food. (Of course it’s not the only or best benefit, but stick with me…)

I don’t cook. Of course, I could cook. But I don’t enjoy it. Perhaps it has to do with my affinity for order and cleanliness. Cooking seems awfully messy for my taste!

gourmet foods paper

It looks like I learned something about cooking at some point in the 90s.

That isn’t to say that I never cooked. In high school, I got an A in Gourmet Foods. (I got A’s in everything, but that’s not the point!) We cooked and baked all sorts of things that I would never dream of making now. We made pumpkin pies from real pumpkins with crusts from scratch…ridiculous!

We even separated whole chickens. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a whole chicken in my life. I realize it’s cheaper, but it seems impractical for a single person, especially one who doesn’t like dark meat.

Recipe binder title

Mr. HalfFull’s mockery of my high school Gourmet Foods binder

I’m lucky to have found a partner who enjoys cooking and grocery shopping. Knowing my dislike for the kitchen, he finds it terribly amusing that I still have my Gourmet Foods recipe binder from high school. He even made a label for the binder reading, “Ms. HalfEmpty’s A+ Recipe Binder, Circa 1995” and constantly ribs me for my scores over 100% inside.

binder tab

The first tab of my “A+ Recipe Binder” for Quick Breads showcases my more than perfect score. Ha!

Last weekend, Mr. HalfFull commented that I’m becoming quite the “microwave chef.” You may think that’s an oxymoron, but my usual microwave cooking involves a bag or a box that goes in the microwave, followed by me pushing a few buttons. Sometimes I even have to uncover and stir in the middle of cooking. What a process!

But when I was lauded as a microwave chef, it was far more complex and a creation of my own. Mr. HalfFull bought a plastic egg cooking container for the microwave. Some of you (like my mother) may be freaking out about plastic leaching chemicals in the microwave. But most of my self-prepared meals are in far less sturdy plastic containers, so it doesn’t phase me.

Microwave Egg Cooker

Don’t worry, I cracked the egg before I cooked it!

The egg container allows me to cook a fresh egg without additional oil or butter and without creating splatter on the stove! After cooking the egg with spices, I added it to bread and various cheeses, and stuck the concoction in the panini machine. Thus, earning the title microwave chef (even though I used two kitchen appliances)! Yes, it was delicious.

Since my cooking skills and desire are in the low to non-existent range, Mr. HalfFull and I enjoy eating out. This gives us the opportunity experience a benefit of marriage — being cute and sharing meals. It also affords us the chance to take more risks when ordering because we know we’ll have a fallback. When done correctly, it can also help us save money and eat appropriately sized portions (instead of restaurant-size portions) with variety.

But sometimes, we go all out. Like on New Year’s Eve, we went to one of our favorite local restaurants and each ordered the prix fixe tasting menu with a small plate, main plate, and sweet plate for each of us. So instead of a 3-course meal, we each got a 6-mini-course meal!

If you’re thinking about eating healthier and have a partner (married or not) to split with, check out the ideas in my meal sharing post for Northern Virginia Magazine.

  • Do you enjoy cooking? Did you always or did you grow into or out of it?
  • Does cooking an egg in the microwave make one a chef? =)
  • Do you share meals?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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I DO Have a Passion!

No, I didn’t wake up to discover that I have a passion for knitting. Actually, I tried knitting…when I was 8. But I certainly don’t love it.

In fact, my first (and only) knitting project was a total failure. I started an aqua colored scarf. Each twist of the needle was a slow process made so much more painful when observing my babysitter effortlessly knit row after row with speed and ease. Amazingly, she never even looked at her hands!

I felt some measure of accomplishment once I had a foot of my scarf done. I had earned that length with hard labor! I thought my scarf in progress was safe in the family room closest, but I was mistaken. Later, I found my scarf unraveled into a tangle of yarn with nary a stitch in sight. And so ended my foray into knitting.

Knitting by the Fire

Mr. HalfFull’s sister shows off her knitting project!

I was once again reminded of knitting during our Christmas travel. My 9-year-old niece was teaching my sister-in-law to knit. She was toiling away on her flat scarf, while my niece had moved onto a more complex pattern of knitting in a circle. I guess knitting is reserved for Mr. HalfFull’s side of the family.

Wow, that was a long tangent! But this post isn’t about knitting. It’s about passion. And as we’ve established, knitting is not my passion. Oh, if only it were that easy.

But apparently, I DO have a passion. I know that many of you have been following me on my Quest for Passion around the world. I was as disappointed as you not to find a path of certainly. All I found was a lifelong quest!

So perhaps you are wondering what this newfound passion could be.  Even I am a bit incredulous typing those words, so let me explain.

I had lunch with a friend who suggested that my passion is seeking out my passion. At first, I stared back with a quizzical look as if to say, “How can THAT be a passion?” He pointed out that it’s the thing I think, write, and read about most. It’s the thing that I willingly explore and am excited to uncover. Isn’t that the definition of a passion?

It’s a new way of framing the idea. Apparently, my passion can’t be a single, simple, easy to understand thing like knitting. My passion is a quest; it’s the journey itself.

This passion led me to quit my job, and enter a place of insecurity and uncertainty. It’s not a comfortable place, but something drove me to it. My passion, perhaps?

I am excited and apprehensive about the exploration ahead. I love reading articles about career happiness. I love stories of how others successfully changed paths. And I have the same hopes for myself.

Spin Class

Ms. HalfEmpty sweats as she contemplates the deep lyrics of “Rhythm is a Dancer.”

As I was spinning away on my bike in RPM™ class, the song “Rhythm is a Dancer” was playing through the speakers with this persistent refrain:  “Oooohhhh it’s a passion.” And it got me to thinking about my passion. Perhaps I should take a cue from the song and…

Let it control you hold you mold you

Not the old, the new, touch it, taste it

Free your soul let it invade you

Gotta to be what you wanna

Can one really be passionate about finding a passion?

  • Have you tried knitting? Was your attempt successful?
  • Has a friend helped you frame something differently?
  • Is this passion just semantics or helpful?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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It Will Come

Bethlehem University

Bethlehem University in the Holy Land

Recently, I attend a viewing of a documentary called “Across the Divide.”  The film tells the story of students attending Bethlehem University in the Middle East.  It’s a Catholic school run by the De La Salle Christian brothers in a place where Christians are a minority and their movement is restricted.

The film project began when Salt + Light offered to create a promotional video for Bethlehem University.  But while the film crew was on campus for a 3 or 4 day shoot, university administrators got a call informing them that one of their female students had been detained at an Israeli checkpoint.  The tense situation turned a promo video into a filmmaker’s dream, and a documentary was born.

The documentary does a good job of representing the views of both Palestinians and Israelis.  But it left me feeling less than hopeful about peace for the Middle East.

Brother Peter Bray

Brother Peter Bray, Vice Chancellor and CEO of Bethlehem University

Brother Peter Bray, the Vice Chancellor and CEO of Bethlehem University who spoke throughout the film, was also present at the Washington, DC viewing.  He’s from New Zealand and has a charming Kiwi accent that I fell in love with while training for BodyFlow and traveling around his homeland last year.

After viewing “Across the Divide,” Peter Bray addressed the crowd.  Even though I was named after a saint, I’m not religious.  But I’ve heard my fair share of sermons, and this guy was compelling.

His moving message was that peace between the Palestinians and Israelis will come.  He can’t visualize how peace can happen or how to get there, but he knows it will come.  On its own, that message sounds like hokey misdirected hope and faith.

But he went on to cite the examples of Ireland, South Africa, and Germany — other countries with massive conflicts in the past that have peace today.  At the times of the conflicts in those countries, peace didn’t seem possible.  And yet, it arrived.

These concrete examples appealed to me as a person of fact and reason, rather than faith.  His speech also made me think about my situation and how I can’t visualize my future.  I’m still waiting for my vision.  But if Peter Bray, who lives and works amidst the violence and chaos in the Middle East, is sure that peace will come, shouldn’t I have some hope that my path will come?

  • Have the words of an inspirational speaker convinced you of something that seems farfetched?
  • Do you think peace in the Middle East is possible?
  • Are you a person of faith or reason?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Feedback Nourishes the Blogger’s Soul

skier in midair

Ms. HalfEmpty has found that jumping on skis gives you pretty quick feedback!

Bloggers love feedback.  We’ve even been called comment whores.  If a post appears in the blogosphere and no one is around to read it, was it even there?

Writing about my personal life in a public space is scary.  I wonder what people will think of me and how they’ll react to my decisions.  Will people think my trip around the world was extravagant and unnecessary?  Will I be criticized for quitting my job?

By putting it all out there, I make myself vulnerable to feedback of all kinds.  Fortunately, I’ve never received a nasty comment. But sometimes the lack of comments gives me pause.  I wonder if anyone is reading.  I wonder if I wrote a bad post.  I wonder if I’m a bad writer.

I realize there are all sorts of benign reasons not to comment, but of course my mind loves to jump to the worst possible conclusions.  So it’s been especially heartening when people email me privately about my posts.  Here are a couple that made my heart sing:

AMAZING!  Wow, that was insightful, enjoyable, and provided an awesome perspective.

Your latest blog entry was your best so far in my opinion.  It was more of you…  It gave and encouraged perspective…

Since I started writing about my life away from the corporate world, I’ve also gotten emails from others who echo my feelings and frustration with the work world.  One was from a high school friend, who I lost touch with years ago after we went to different colleges.

I’ve been reading your blog, and just wanted to tell you that I’m in awe of your courage to stop working and pursue your passion. Your latest post particularly hit home for me…

It is so awesome to hear that my writing reaches people and resonates with them (and of course, I love knowing that I inspire awe).  This email got me thinking about our shared high school background.  We both took the hardest classes (Gifted & Talented or Advanced Placement) and did well.  We were taught to excel.  We were attached to outcomes.  We were ambitious.  This competitive culture often led to long hours of homework and a school/life imbalance.  My friend is finding that same imbalance in her current work/life situation.

I certainly don’t have the answers, but I have tried to restore balance in my life.  It’s a significant change from my academic days when I pushed through, worked harder, and willed things to happen.  Now, I’ve taken a step back and am open to new possibilities.  I’m trying to let things come to me, but it’s difficult after a life of planning and striving.

Perhaps I’m looking for something that doesn’t exist.  I’ve been a perfectionist all my life, so I’m used to seeking the unattainable.  Mr. HalfFull often reminds me that even though he loves his job as a teacher, most of it isn’t fun.  But he endures it to get to those moments of bliss.

Maybe the experience of working at work we love is like marriage. We are enamored at first and then settle in. We become committed to the commitment we have made: most days average, some good, and a few that take us back to the beginning, reminding us of the inspiration that brought us to the point to be lucky enough to call most days average.

Committed to the Commitment

Thank you dear readers for commenting, emailing, and just reading.  I love your suggestions, insights, perspectives, and conversations.  You feed my soul.

  • How much of your personal life do you share in public?
  • Do you seek out feedback? 
  • Have you gotten feedback out of the blue that made your heart sing?
  • Do you believe that work is generally not fun?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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