Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hot Potato

A pesky side effect of doing a Bible study of any kind is that it can get ALL UP IN YOUR BUSINESS. And last night the Beth Moore study of James that I'm working through did just that. 

Drat. It. All.

I was moving along just zippity fine until I got to this:

"My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger." (James 1:19)


Of course, to soothe my immediate unpleasant feelings of conviction,  I did a little self pep talk concerning that last  part:

"At least", I assured myself, "I don't have a problem with anger." "No sir-ee that is not at all an issue for me, thank God!"

Really. I know.

And to be perfectly honest, it's not. In my list of failings, anger is significantly far down the list... which of course, beautifully points out the fact that there are a heck of a lot of failings in line before it. 


So although feelings of anger rarely plague me, that's not to say that I might not need to take a better look at (and maybe a magnifying glass to)  those other two hot coals that Brother James had the audacity throw in there with the anger thing.

Quick to hear and slow to speak. They go hand in hand. Do I really listen to someone and think about what they've shared before responding? 

Could it be, as Beth Moore points out, that what  appears at times to be intent listening on my part, is actually just me being politely quiet as you talk while, sadly, I'm actually rehearsing in my mind what I'm going to say as soon as you PLEASE STOP WITH ALL THE YAMMERING?

Um, maybe.

And also could it be that even if I listen to your story/problem/worry without interrupting and then tell a similar story/problem/worry of my own in order to HELP YOU that I am, in fact, just hoping that my story/problem/worry will be more interesting/entertaining than yours?

Um, also maybe.

And might it also be true that this terrible habit reeks of narcissism and needs some definite work.

Yes, yes, it does.

Like I said, drat. And guilty as charged.

And although I think mine most often manifests itself in person-to person conversations, don't we also see this in social media contexts? It's not at all unusual for us to seem overly eager to pounce on and correct other's facts or grammar,  or to sometimes hijack a person's post or comment to divert the attention away from the post and onto ourselves. 

And while it's always easy to try to "hang this message around someone else's neck", I know without a doubt that it's first and sharpest arrow targeted my very own heart. 



Keeping in mind then how we are made and loved by God himself who gave us these mouths and thoughts, we should remember that the point clearly is not always to remain silent, but perhaps to "measure our speech with a yardstick, not a 50 foot industrial tape measure."

So, my memorization verse for this week? 

"A man of knowledge uses words with restraint and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent and discerning if he holds his tongue."
(Proverbs 17:27-28)

Forever a work in progress...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Here an Expert, There an Expert

On a campus as large and diverse as Texas A&M there is a boatload of experts.

Really. Think about it. There are world famous physicists and mathematicians, trend-setting medical professors, authors of all kinds, historians, psychologists and  award-winning educators. There are more PhD's than you can shake a stick at, and enough brain power to fuel multiple think tanks. Top athletes and coaches walk side-by-side with aerospace engineers and some of our country's most highly respected researchers. The campus is a veritable breeding ground for new ideas.

I try to impress upon my students how fortunate they are for these four (or five?)(maybe 6!!) years to have access to so many potential mentors and teachers. I encourage them to observe and identify one or two faculty or staff members each semester that impress them for one reason or another. Whether it be for their knowledge of a certain subject area or perhaps they have a passionate instructor with an uncannily positive way with their students. I challenge them then to ask those people for a few minutes of their time just to "pick their brain".

It can turn into a regular mentoring relationship or just be a pleasant 30 minute conversation allowing the student to glean all manner of knowledge or life lessons while the mentor is encouraged and validated just by being asked.

It's a win-win.

So why does this process have to be limited to young college students at big universities? Aren't we all open to learning a few new or better things? Do you know of someone in your church, school, office, or neighborhood who does something especially well?

Young or old, there's no age limit for a mentor or mentee(?)

Instead of looking on-line or buying another self -help book, let's utilize the experts we already know.

Have you noticed or admired someone for:

-how they parent their children?
-how they handle their finances?
-love their spouse?
-decorate their home?
-plan a party and entertain effortlessly?
-handle themselves with grace under pressure?
-dress fabulously on a budget?
-care for their elderly parents?
-treat everyone with respect?
-know the right thing to say in difficult situations?
-or just generally seem to live a happy and satisfied life?

They don't need to have authored any publications or carry a fancy title. They don't need to be older or more educated than you. They don't need an office, a secretary, or a website.

Just the fact that they stand out to you as exceptional is enough.

And I can guarantee that if you ask for just a minute of their time, it will very likely just make their day!

Consider yourself challenged!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Not My Type

At the end of the semester my students filled out a survey-type form with their answers to questions such as:

What was your favorite class activity this semester?
What changes/suggestions/modifications would you suggest to the syllabus?
Would you recommend this course to another student?

The responses were fun and informative to read,  and certain trends became evident immediately.

With the exception of a handful of responses like this one:

"My favorite class activity was when you would stand up in front of class and talk and then you would get off subject and end up talking about your sons or food or Corgis and then you'd realize you were way off the subject and somehow tie it all together with the weirdest philosophical sounding statement that seemed in the strangest way to make sense."

Perfect. The line forms here for the Stellar Teaching Awards

But let's go on. With the exception of a few other responses that may or may not also have included the words "weird" and "strange" (Really? I have absolutely no recollection of telling a story about a rabbit) the overwhelmingly favorite activity of my students was the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) .

The MBTI is a self-assessment designed to help you better understand your (and others) natural preferences and personality characteristics. It is not a test. I strongly believe that personality cannot be tested. Just the word connotes right and wrong, good and bad, and I think it's perfectly clear to EVERYONE ON THE PLANET that simply telling a story about a rabbit without even knowing it does not make you a bad person.

Or even necessarily wrong.

First, I tell my students that they are all unique and can never be categorized or fit into a perfect descriptive box that represents a particular personality type. 

The benefits of taking the inventory are two-fold:

In order to understand yourself better, it's critical to know where your personality tendencies fall in the wide and varied range of types, and even more importantly, to understand others better, it's necessary to recognize that although people may be vastly different from you it doesn't mean they are wrong, or bad or ahem... weird.

Although the MBTI categorizes personalities into a neat 16 types, I make it clear to the students that although their individual analysis may fall squarely into one particular "box" they can also possess traits or tendencies of any the other types. We are nothing if not all gloriously different.

Kind of like back in the 80's when the whole "color analysis" thing was all the rage. You remember how some trained color analysis person (also known as anyone...) told you what colors would look best on you and you were categorized as either a Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter? Personally I really wanted to be a Summer and wear fun! and bright! colors (and be blonde and tall and tan) (because all the Summers on the little pamphlet were tall and blonde and tan) but I was a Fall (these people were definitely not tan), and supposedly I looked best in dull moss green and muted shades of orange? Didn't they know I was an Aggie?

And while some of this was indeed accurate, I was also assured that I might not look absolutely hideous in other colors that did not appear on my Fall Color Chart. 
So really, even if you turned out to be a non-Summer like me, with kind of blah-brown hair and you were short and very un-tan, it was still theoretically possible for you to wear shades of aqua on occasion without offending passersby. 

This was good to know.

The students love it. (The MBTI, not the color thing.) It helps them recognize their strengths.  And what college-age student doesn't need to have their strengths confirmed and celebrated as often as possible? It helps them navigate how best to deal with professors, roommates, classmates and even family members. And that's a very good thing.

Honestly, I encourage everyone to take the assessment. College student or not. Who doesn't occasionally wonder why everyone doesn't see things exactly the same way we do? Who doesn't get frustrated with a spouse or child and would like some insight into how they think or feel? Who doesn't sometimes believe they must be the only strange one in the bunch?

For goodness sake, we all need to know that there are perfectly normal people out there who occasionally tell entertaining stories of little woodland creatures to large numbers of students in lecture halls without being aware they are doing it. And they're not weird at all.

So please. Take it for me.

Have a great day!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Santa Fe Favs

Hope this finds all of you well and right in the thick of new beginnings in 2016.

We had quite an interesting Christmas break, and despite those few hours driving right smack in the middle of the Goliath Blizzard (when I actually doubted our bodies would ever be found), it was a great time!

We had a wonderful visit with family in Santa Fe and Albuquerque and are already planning our next trip.

And if it so happens that any of you are planning a trip to Santa Fe in the near future I highly recommend that you try our favorite hotel, Old Santa Fe Inn.

We've stayed there now multiple times and are always treated so well. It's just a short walk from the Plaza, all kinds of great restaurants, and some of our favorite shops. They have a complimentary breakfast that is TO DIE FOR which by itself is worth the trip! You just won't find a better breakfast anywhere.

In the winter I'd suggest one of their King rooms with a Kiva fireplace, and in the summer there are some great rooms on the 2nd floor boasting fabulous mountain views that you can enjoy from a private patio or balcony.

Speaking of our favorite shops:

We always have to visit Sequoia Pawan Madan at his eponymous furniture store- Sequoia is filled with all kinds of gorgeous and unique pieces, and even if you're not in the market for any home furnishings it's fun just to look.

I found this old picture of our buffet piece on their website! We found it over a year ago and just love the unique finish and rustic look.

 Make sure to say hello to delightful salesperson "L" (yes, her name is a letter!)

This time I became enamored of a new place, Savory Spice Shop, which has a huge selection of fresh spices, specializing of course, in New Mexican flavors. The shopkeepers are knowledgeable and friendly and made great recommendations. I came home with a nice selection (and by that I mean: more than I needed) and am very anxious to try them out.

We like to always grab at least one meal at Blue Corn Café, and this time the scenery outside changed from this...

to this...

just during the course of our lunch!

We ate there one time in April when it snowed too! Remember girls?!

(By the way, that's Sequoia just across the street.)

Such a pretty winter view!

On the opposite corner in the picture above is a great bookstore called Collected Works.  This place has a wonderful, cozy atmosphere and coffee shop which can practically draw you in for hours.  Add watching it snow through the window and you're stuck. Be prepared to find all kinds of irresistible and unusual reads here, I always seem to get lost in their expansive collection of New Mexico inspired cookbooks.

And last but not least for today's tour: Cheesemongers !  Oh my goodness, this place!

I promise you it will make you re-think what you know about cheese. If you know anything. Or even care. (Can one really have true feelings about cheese?) It is honestly like having a cheese epiphany. This has even got me on the fence now about Velveeta! Incredible selection, even more incredible tastes. It's fairly new to town and an absolute must-visit.

So those are just a few of my favorites (maybe we'll do restaurants next!)

What are your favorite Santa Fe destinations? I'd love to know!