All posts by JollyLibrarian

Monday Motivator: Don’t Be Your Own Lawyer

I am an avid fan of advice columns. I love the tough love approach that the writers deal out to those who are hoping against hope that common sense will not prevail and they’ll be told to continue on the path of self-delusion and (sometimes) selfishness. Here are some of my favorites from the past few weeks:

  • I happened upon my boyfriend’s license and found out that he’d told me a wrong last name. What should I do?
  • We live with our mother. Our grand-niece, who is allergic to cats, just had a baby and wants us to put the cats away when she brings the baby over. We’ve refused and now our mother hasn’t seen the baby. Why is everyone mad at us? Our cats are our babies and shouldn’t be penalized.
  • Is it acceptable to put on an invitation, “if you did not RSVP but come anyway, please do not eat or drink anything”?
  • My in-laws live in another country. Sometimes when I visit, they speak their language instead of English, which I think is rude. How can I convince them not to do that?

The answers are much as you would expect:

  • Run away.
  • Put your cats up.
  • No.
  • You’re mad because your relatives sometimes want to speak their own language in their home in their own country? How about taking some lessons in their language so you can  join in?

Even assuming that some of these questions are just invented for the fun of it, there are some patterns that come through. We do obnoxious or thoughtless or stupid things. People get mad at us. We don’t want to admit or change. We seek out others to validate our choices.

There is an old saying that any lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. And sometimes when we do something and everyone is against us, we’re not a martyr. We’re just wrong. And we all need a person in our lives who will be that tough-love advice columnist.


Monday Motivator: Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight

There is always something inspirational happening at the Olympics. This week it was during the skiathlon. Simen Krueger, a skier from Norway, fell at the beginning of the race. Not only fell, but broke a pole, and had someone else’s ski through his bib. By the time he got up and was handed a new pole, he had lost around 40 seconds, about a century in Olympic terms. No one gave him much hope for doing anything but finishing the race. Not the audience. Not the commentators. Probably, momentarily, not even Krueger. (His name is spelled different ways online.) “I thought it was going to be the worst day of my life with the start I had, when I was lying on the ground with a broken pole and a ski through my bib number,” he said in an interview.

But he started again. And he focused on one thing: Catching up with the last team of skiers. Once he did that, he set another manageable goal, all the way until winning the gold.

Everyone will focus on the gold medal, and that certainly was amazing. But it would be just as amazing if he’d won silver or bronze. Or no medal at all.

He could have quit. He could have wasted energy being angry at others or himself for falling down. He could have thought only of the time he’d lost and how hard it would be now to earn a medal. (This is a big deal in Norway, where the goal is not individual gold but sweeping the medals.) Instead he focused on the one reachable goal (catching up) and did his best to do that.

And that is why he’s my Olympic hero so far.




Monday Motivator: When in Doubt, Jump In!

When I was in high school, I had the biggest crush on Elton John. I listened to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 every week to see how songs like “Rocket Man” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” were faring on the charts. When he appeared on the Cher show, I skipped flag corps practice to see him (with devastating effects on my performance). I did not think it out of the realm of possibility that we would somehow meet and marry.

As I got older, my crush dissipated, but I still liked Elton. I saw him in concert three times. And although I am not as big a fan as I once was, I was definitely interested when he announced his retirement tour and one of the locations was Nashville.

The presale tickets were expensive, and I wasn’t sure I could find anyone who would want to go with me. (We’re talking eight months in advance here.) So while I dillydallied, tickets were sold. Finally, when I revisited the website, there were no sets of two tickets left.

But there was a ticket for one seat. I started to grab it when doubt struck me again. Would I be comfortable sitting by myself? What should I do?

I decided to buy it, but in the minutes that I spent wondering, someone else with more decisiveness grabbed the ticket. I won’t be seeing Elton.

The lesson here is simple. Say yes to opportunities.

Monday Motivator: Get Ready for February

I always get a little sad as January comes to an end. There is something in me that loves a new beginning. So I start the year anticipating doing new things, accomplishing new goals, making changes.

And then at the end of the month, I come to the sad realization that I have made few, if any, steps towards the new me that seemed so possible on January 1.

Of course, I’m not the only one. The gyms return to normal numbers. Folks who decided bringing their lunch would allow them to pay off thousands of dollars of credit card debt are conveniently forgetting to pack those lunches and are heading to restaurants. And some of my dieting friends are buying candy again.

I think there are several lessons here:

  1. We need to know ourselves and not make resolutions and goals that we know in our heart of hearts we simply won’t keep.
  2. We need to be aware of competing goals. Sure, we might save a bunch of money by bringing our lunch. But what if the socializing in eating with friends makes us happy on a daily basis? That’s not saying we shouldn’t save money, but we should realize that maybe this is not the way to do it. Maybe all your colleagues could bring their lunches on certain days and eat together. Or go out to eat at lunch and cut some other expense.
  3. If we still really want to change, we need to realize that we don’t have to wait until January 1. We can declare any day a new beginning. But for those of us who need something more official, a new month is right around the corner.

Monday Motivator: Follow the 24-Hour Rule

According to Carmine Gallo, in an article, Nick Saban gave his Alabama team a break after they won the 2018 national championship in football. He gave them 24 hours to celebrate before they were to get back to work. Saban says, “Move on because there’s another challenge.”

I like that idea and not just because I’m a Bama graduate. There is a fine line between celebrating a victory and resting on your laurels. And having a set time frame before getting back to work and setting a new goal helps you not to let a victory make you lazy.

As usual, I am a cautionary tale. After finishing my doctorate, I decided I deserved a break: read mystery novels, watch bad television, pass on hard projects that came my way. I gave myself a vacation. It wasn’t until months (maybe years) later that I realized my vacation had become a lifestyle. And it has been a struggle to get myself back in intellectual fighting shape even as I mourn the wasted time.

So even if you are an Auburn fan, give Saban’s advice some thought.

Monday Motivator: Let’s Get These Resolutions Started

Let me admit that I’m not always as supportive of other people’s resolutions as I should be. Mainly people who resolve to go the gym (MY GYM). For the first few weeks of each year, I have to deal with the newbies who:

  • walk in groups on the track, making it impossible for the rest of us to get around them,
  • check their phones constantly (perhaps to see how long they still have to exercise) so that they wobble from one lane to another, and
  • take up all the good parking places AND the lockers AND the coat hangers.

As much as I tell myself that I should support their goals, I find myself instead wanting to knock them over as they block my way around the track. (Which probably tells you what my resolution should be each year.)

Still, sadly, most of these folks will be gone by February, the track will be manageable again, and there will be places to park.

It is easy to come up with resolutions. It is even sometimes easy to find motivation for the first couple of weeks of the year. Then life seems to get in the way.

So if you have resolutions, good for you! Get started. But also put into place a plan that will keep you going once the newness of the year wears off.

By the way, here are mine:

  1. Get 100 rejections from literary journals. (It is not hard to get the rejection. But never sending anything doesn’t count.)
  2. Revive a couple of social activities that I let die a few years ago.

Happy New Year!


Monday Motivator: Celebrate Your Way. Let Others Do the Same

This story appeared on my Facebook feed yesterday. I’m not sure how factual it is, but it’s one of those stories that should be true if it isn’t:

A mom bought a Christmas stocking for the family’s cat. Her daughter said, “Mom. Why did you buy that? We’re Muslim.”

The mother said, “But we don’t know what religion the cat is.”

It seems every year that there are holiday wars over some of the weirdest things. People argue about when to put up decorations, when to put to take them down, and even how much decorating is too much.

Here is my take: Do what you like as long as you’re  not hurting anyone else.

So if you want to put up your decorations on Halloween and keep them up until February, go ahead. If you want to take your tree down on Christmas afternoon, go ahead. If you want to put up five hundred inflatable Santa Clauses in your yard, go ahead. If you are a traditionalist and don’t observe Christmas until Advent is over, go ahead. And if you don’t celebrate at all, go ahead.

I have a fairly laissez-faire approach to the holidays. I sing Christmas and Hanukkah songs with equal abandon. And everything from the ritziest to the tackiest decorations make me smile. To many of our students, I say, “Have a great break,” because they are actually gone longer than the holiday period. If someone says “Merry Christmas,” I say it back. If someone says “Happy Hanukkah,” I say it back. If they say “Happy Holidays,” I say it back.

I have no desire to extinguish someone else’s joy.

However, if you are one of the people who has put up five hundred inflatable Santas, please reinflate them after a cold night. Right now (and you know who you are ), it looks like a giant Christmas massacre took place in your yard.

Monday Motivator: Give Someone the Benefit of the Doubt

St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote that we “ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbor’s statement than to condemn it.” It seems like an obvious idea to me: You give someone benefit of the doubt until there is no doubt left.

But it seems to be a hard skill to put into practice.

On a group Facebook page, I’m always reading someone’s complaints about a rude employee at various stores and restaurants. (Fast food places are a particular target.) Now no one wants to be treated rudely, )although the fact that someone is upset enough to post on Facebook might be a good topic for the future). But what if we applied Ignatius’s advice?

  • This person seems rude. But maybe it’s her first day, and she’s simply overwhelmed.
  • This person seems rude. But what if the guy before me was a real jerk and upset her? And now she’s about two seconds from crying?
  • This person seems rude. But what if he just got a phone call from his kid’s school and he’s now got to make arrangements for child care?
  • This person seems rude. But maybe she’s just heard the 500th Christmas carol over the restaurant’s loudspeaker and she can’t take any more.

You get the picture. Who knows which interpretation is the right one? But why do we jump so quickly that the person before us is rude, obnoxious, and needs to be put in his/her place?

I’ve tried to take Ignatius’s advice for years now. And some people will say that I don’t stand up for myself and get disrespected. But this is my response: I get to treat such interactions lightly. When my order comes, I’m thinking about my food and not how I was treated. So I enjoy my food.  And then I move on. Which frees up my mind and heart for the rest of the day. And I have no need to vent on Facebook and get other people riled up.

And that, as the commercials say, is priceless.

Monday Motivator: Make a Gratitude List

Here, in no particular order, are the things I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving week:

  • a short work week
  • a chance to see my family
  • colleagues who both inspire and challenge me
  • a boss with humor, kindness, and vision
  • health
  • Dr. Jeff: Rocky Mountain Vet for a weekly reminder that people will go out of their way to help others (and cute kittens).
  • all the books on my to-read list
  • the fact that Jane Austen existed and wrote books (and that people made good movies out of her stories)
  • that someone came up with the idea of mixing raspberries with chocolate
  • the daily chance to help students achieve their goals

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday Motivator: Use the ‘Edit’ Mode

On October 28, one of our college’s beloved colleagues and one of my best friends passed away. Although Pam had retired several years ago, many faculty and staff had fond memories to share with each other. Stories of her generosity, kindness, and humor abounded.

One of my earliest memories of Pam is from my third year at the college. I was going on a trip to England to visit my grandmother. I had saved up a hundred dollars in coins, wrapped them, and planned to take them to the credit union to swap them out for travelers’ checks after work. Unfortunately, someone came in my office while I was in class and stole them. A few hours later, Pam appeared at my door with a personal check: “I can’t let some horrible person ruin your trip.” No amount of protest would dissuade her. She had made it her personal mission to right that particular wrong.

Of course, in a thirty-year friendship, things did not always run smooth. She was constantly running late, and I would sit smoldering in a restaurant because “something had popped up at the last minute.” Or she would cancel some activity because work had piled up.

In an episode of “Everyone Loves Raymond,” the title character gives a speech at his brother’s wedding reception after his mother ruined the wedding. He talks about the ability to edit out the bad stuff. And that is a skill worth cultivating. For there will always be bad stuff as long we keep hanging out with other humans.

Yes, her running late was part of who she was. But only one part. The laughter far outweighed the annoyances:

  • After dinner before a concert, we’d both gone to the bathroom. When I came out of my stall, I was stunned to see her head, with its perfectly coiffed hair and flawless makeup, sticking out of the bottom of her stall. Always prone to claustrophobia, she had not been able to get the door open and was trying to escape. After I helped her out, she made me promise not to tell anyone. I did. When I got to work the next Monday, I found she had already told everyone.
  • In her car, she told me about this new band she loved and was playing their new CD for me. After about thirty minutes of talking with the music in the background, I realized something:

“Pam, all these songs sound very much alike.”

“Oh, it’s the same song. I have it on repeat.”

“How are the other songs?”

“I haven’t listened to them yet.”

Pam was a wonderful colleague. She was a great friend. I miss her terribly.