Monday Motivator: Life Lessons

Last Friday, the college held a memorial service for Lance Woodard, the registrar, who died in February. It was an opportunity for his colleagues to share with his family and with each other what he meant to us at Nashville State.

As I listened to his friends tell stories about him, I noticed several themes that might serve as useful life lessons:

  1. Use your time. Lance was only 37 when he died, but he had done so much in those few years. He made a mark in every office he worked, as the guy who was punctual, smart, and willing to learn. At every level, he made it his business to be the smartest person in the room. He was not only the go-to person at the college but also for the whole TBR system when it came to the intricacies of Banner. While working full-time, he continued his education, never letting his classes or his work slide.
  2. Have fun. Almost every member of the Records department had a story about how much fun it was to work with Lance. Everyone at Nashville State knew not to even try to compete with the Records office when it came to Halloween. They had a theme, they decorated the office, they dressed up. It was a production. (Once I sent him an email stating the library was ready to compete with Records for Halloween. His response: “No, you’re not. But it’s cute you think so.”
  3. Enjoy your life now. People recounted Lance’s love for fancy cars and fancy clothes. They mentioned brands of shoes I’ve never even heard of. I would not call him a materialistic person by any means, but he knew what added value to his life and did not wait until some future some day to enjoy them.
  4. Be loyal to your friends. Story after story told of Lance’s devotion to his friends. He showed up at lunches, weddings, funerals, and hospitals. He saved a place for a colleague who wasn’t as punctual as he for meetings. When he read about a defect on a car, he texted a friend to roll down her window so she wouldn’t be asphyxiated on her drive in to work. As one of his colleagues in Records said, “He saw something in me when I interviewed. And he continued to see something in me.”

As I listened to all the stories about Lance, I wondered if perhaps he had some subconscious inkling that his time on this planet might be short and that’s why he packed so much in. And I’m sure I was not the only one who made a promise to make better use of my own time now. So that’s why when there was an invitation for everyone to come down and dance the “Cupid Shuffle” (a dance that Lance had apparently perfected), I dragged my uncoordinated body down to the stage and danced my heart out.


Monday Motivator: Be Kind (Even on Facebook)

There was a horrible event here in Middle Tennessee this past week. A father reported his son missing. After days of searching, the father admitted that he had killed his son. Now the search teams are looking for a body.

The community was understandably outraged and horrified. According to a friend of mine who lives in the area, the community Facebook page and listservs were filled with hatred towards the father with suggestions of lynching, etc.

Disturbing but understandable. But then some folks found the Facebook page of the man’s mother and started filling her page with hatred and vitriol.

In many schools, you can see posters like the one below:


Obviously, the folks posting this weekend never saw the poster. They were understandably angry and let that anger lead them to some questionable behavior.

Social media can be a blessing. It can bring us together. It can provide support for movements that need publicity. But there is a dark side. Because there may not be an immediate response, we feel that we can write without consequence. And we post without thinking, letting pure emotion carry the day.

But there are always consequences.

I am pretty sure that the last thing that grandmother is doing at the moment is checking her Facebook page. But I hope she has a good friend who can go in and delete those posts.



Monday Motivator: Take the Long Way

On Saturday, after trying on every dress I own, I came to the sad conclusion that I would have to make a visit to the mall to purchase a frock for an upcoming wedding.

Now malls might be dying in general, but this one is always busy. At least, its parking lot is. The previous time I’d visited, we drivers resembled a bizarro amusement ride, going up and down the same lanes again and again in the futile hope that someone would choose to leave the mall. That time, I was the one who chose to leave–without setting foot inside.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. I drove there, drove through the full parking lot, and back out on the street. Maybe I wouldn’t go to the wedding after all.

In its never-ending expansion, right now one store is totally cut off from the rest of the mall. I pulled into its parking garage, and there were parking spaces. Not a few, but hundreds. In fact, there were so many that, at first, I couldn’t believe I had found open parking and thought that they had to be reserved for some purpose. And, let’s face it, the only thing worse than having to buy a dress the day before Easter would be having to buy a dress AND having my car towed.

Luckily, as I was wondering what to do, an employee walked by. She assured me that the parking lot was for everyone. “It’s just that if you want to get into the mall itself, you’re going to have to walk around the building.”

I thought about that as I did start my walk around the building. Were people not aware of all the parking spaces? Or did they prefer to drive around a full parking lot, risking their emotional equanimity and their bumpers, hoping to get a close parking spot?

After my walk to the mall (which was less than 10 minutes and added some steps on my Fitbit), I walked into a store, found three dresses, tried them on, and bought two. Then I walked back to my car (more Fitbit steps) and went home.

And, unlike during most of my trips to the mall, I was in a good mood. Taking the long way is sometimes the best way.


Monday Motivator: Meet People Where They Are

Last week, my mother called her cable company. She had just had a DVR installed and when the guy showed her how to work it, she thought, “This is easy. I can do this.” But when it came to actually watching a program a few days later, she had forgotten the directions. She called the service department, and Steve, the service rep, finally said in frustration, “You just scroll, like on a computer or your phone!”

The only problem is that my mother doesn’t own a computer or a smart phone. So scrolling is as foreign to her as if he’d told her to tear open the machine and fix some circuits on the mother board.

In the library,  we know that, if students are going to feel comfortable asking for help, we have to meet them where they are and not judge them. In fact, at the beginning of the semester, I remind my colleagues, “Okay, by 3 p.m., it will be the hundredth time that you have helped someone print.  But it’s that student’s first time. So treat the student accordingly.”

It probably doesn’t hurt that we are constantly reminded how much we don’t know. Computers and printers stop working, and we don’t know what to do. There are changes to the course management system, and we have to learn a new procedure, which doesn’t seem intuitive. So we are kept eternally humble.

Humility is a good watch word when people are asking us for help. We should remember the times that we couldn’t do something and the kind people along the way who helped us. Or if they weren’t kind, the awful feeling of being thought stupid.

And then act accordingly.



Monday Motivator: Attend to the Evidence

On Saturday, the skirt I ordered arrived. I couldn’t wait to wear it. In most ways, it was a perfect skirt. It had vertical stripes in blue and white. It had pockets. And it fit perfectly, no nipping at the waist at all.

I was overjoyed. Until I looked in the mirror. To say that the skirt was unflattering is an understatement. From the waist down, I looked like a whale wearing a mattress.

I decided the result was the fault of the top I’d chosen.  So I took out several tops and tried each one with the skirt. Some, if I walked far enough away from the mirror, seemed to work. Then I took pictures on my iPhone. (Here it’s important to note that I have an old, very small phone.) And it appeared that some combinations weren’t so bad.

Later, downstairs, I took up my iPad and looked at the photos again. As the pictures filled up the 5X8 screen, I could no longer deny the truth: It was not the tops. It was the skirt. It was a beautiful skirt. But it was not to be mine.

I learned two lessons this week:

  1. There is no deception like self-deception.
  2. Try on a skirt before falling in love with it.


Monday Motivator: Let It Snow!

As I look out my window, the sun is shining on the dogwood trees and daffodils,  and it’s hard to believe that earlier this morning, snow covered the grass. Local schools started two hours late. And people worried about their morning commute.

People have been saying that winter just doesn’t want to leave, but the season still has a week left, according to the calendar. So maybe it’s more accurate to say that we’re trying to push winter aside before its time. There is a general impatience for spring to arrive with all its warmth, blossoms, and promise of vacations to come.

But maybe instead of pushing away winter, we should celebrate its last days: Take photos of the snow sugarcoating the flowers. Enjoy an extra few days of boots and cardigans. Feel the cold air on our faces during our afternoon walks.

After all, soon it will be a hundred degrees, and we’ll be complaining about that. So for today, let it snow!


Monday Motivator: Keep a pile of unsent letters

When Abraham Lincoln was angry at one of his colleagues, he would write a letter,  what he called a “hot letter.” Then he would put it away until he calmed down. And he usually ended up not sending it at all.

This strikes me as a wise practice. Almost any time I’ve reacted in anger and sent out an scorching letter, email, or comment on someone’s feed, I’ve regretted it. And it resulted in nothing more than angry and hurt feelings.

Anger can be a useful emotion. It can let us know when something’s wrong in our lives or in our society. But to be used wisely, there has to be a cooling off  period, as we decide what we are going to do next and how we’re going to do it. Only then should we take action.

I admire Lincoln’s ability to put a hold on his anger. And I think more of us would be happier right now if we had a growing pile of unsent letters in our desk, unsent emails in our outbox, and unshared comments in our feeds.

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.