Chemistry

No, I am not going to take us all back to the days of high school and talk about carbon compounds or soil diversity.  I have a different spin.

They say in relationships that “opposites attract”.  That is certainly the case in many ways with Rose and I.

Rose is very extroverted.  She loves to go to parties and talk with people.  I am much more introverted.  If I am around people I do not have much in common with, I really struggle.  Rose does not have that trouble at all.

Rose has a fantastic memory for names and faces.  I can’t tell you the number of times that she has said “look over there, isn’t that so-and-so who we met once?”.  And if she sees someone she knows, however little bit, she will go talk to them.  I am way more reserved than that.  I don’t remember people very well.

Rose is (how should I say this?) somewhat “mercurial” in personality.  And by that I mean the definition that says “animated; lively; sprightly; quick-witted“.   It does not take much to get Rose excited about something and for her to express that emotion.  She generally leaves very little doubt about where she stands on a subject.  I tend to follow my sign, Libra, the Balance.  I don’t get too excited or too down.  I hold back my emotions quite often.  In fact, when I show an emotion like anger, disdain or passion, people are thrown off (just ask any of my former students or my kids).

I am very organized.  I know where things are supposed to be put and I am really good at finding those things when we need them.  Rose?  She “loses” or cant find stuff all of the time.  She is notorious for not putting stuff away.

You get the point.  We are different in many ways.  However, we have a great “Chemistry” (“the interaction of one personality with another; usually, an affection between two”) .  Our differences absolutely complement each other and make us better as a partnership.  If you are around us enough when we are together, we are laughing about something.  When one of us wants to try something or do something, the first reaction of the other gives is something like “that’s a good idea” or “go ahead, you will probably like that”.  We are supportive of each other’s individuality.

Here is a specific example.  We have been taking ballroom dancing lessons for nearly three years.  I don’t think we are that good, but we are not bad.  When a lot of people see us dancing, especially other dancers, they tell us how good we are.  I believe that is mainly due to our chemistry.  There are times when we will actually flow in a dance for a little while.  But then we will mess up.  Happens all of the time.  What people see are the (occasional) good moves, the joy in our faces, our body language that says we are connected, and the laughs we share.  It is not necessarily skill (for instance, I still don’t have the skill to feel the beat of the music very well), it is chemistry.

Like any chemical “compounds”, we have some fundamental areas of agreement that are at the core of our existence.  Family is important.  We are equals, with great respect for each other.  Both of us have good ideas that are worthy of kind consideration every time.  We recognize the good in each other.  We (try to) listen with an open mind and an open heart.

So what does this all mean?  Yep, opposites attract.  You need to have some differences to complete each other.  But I believe a relationship that only has differences is doomed to failure.  I believe the key to a great relationship is chemistry.

I feel blessed I have such a relationship.  Few people get them.

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A Little Learning for this old guy

One of the advantages to not working this summer (and there are a lot of them) is that I have had the chance to read a lot of books.  I was close to averaging reading one book a week.  I read a lot of history books because I want to know more about where we came from.  It is also helpful to understand that the present is so similar to the past in so many ways (more to come in a later blog post about that).

I also like to read non-fiction books.  Two books lately struck me with some profound thoughts.  I highly recommend each of them.

The first was “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell.  Gladwell is awesome at talking about social science concepts, explaining them and then giving you insights.  The basis of this book is for the strong, “the same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness,” whereas for the weak, “the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.” He provides a really unique interpretation of the Biblical David and Goliath story that causes you to really ponder what we think we know.  I am one who tends to size up a situation and jump to a conclusion that “this one will win” or “this person has no chance”.  Gladwell helps you understand better that this type of thinking is too narrow.

The second book is “How to fail at almost everything and still win big” by Scott Adams. Adams is the creator of Dilbert.  He has a very sarcastic and self deprecating style.  Hidden amongst the humor is a lot of insight.  I find his style easy to read.  In this book, he talks about some of his innumerable failures.  But the gist of what he is getting at is that every one of those failures – big and small – has framed his successes.  If you have read much about success, that is a fairly common theme – “you need to fail in order to succeed”.  What I like about Adams is he points out how his failures directly led to his self improvement.

Another gem I got from Adams’ book is the idea that – As he says – “To put it bluntly, goals are for losers. That’s literally true most of the time. For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds, you will spend every moment until you reach the goal—if you reach it at all—feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary. ”

Reading and comprehending Adams’ point was hard for me.  I am a very goal-oriented person.  I write lists of things I want to accomplish today.  I have financial goals.  All of my running leads to time goals for races.  Reading Adams, he helps me see a different perspective on goals.  Yes they are useful.  But if they are the focus, you will be disappointed too often.

Only in America

People in this country have a (rightfully so) strong affiliation for the many strengths of this country.  We are a place where freedoms are strong.  There is a chance for most everyone to succeed if they are willing to sacrifice and persevere.  We have a vast number of cultures and religions coexisting.

But we have a lot of crazy stuff in this country.

Only in America can a person walk into a Kroger or Wal*Mart with a gun and not be arrested or kicked out of the store.  But if the same person were to be shirtless (let’s assume it is a male for simplicity’s sake) or on a skateboard, they can be denied entry and asked to leave.  Somehow we have decided that a male without a shirt on is much more dangerous than that same person with a gun.  Now I would be the first to tell you that Wal*Mart is a very sketchy place, but knowing the people that go in there are allowed to carry a guy does not make me feel any safer or better.  The skateboarders?  Watch out for them.

Only in America do the financial pundits and the press focus on the improvements we keep seeing in the unemployment rate.  Hurray, the unemployment rate has gone down, so therefore less people are without jobs.  Oops, not necessarily true. The Labor Participation Rate has also been going down for the last few years.  That is a bas thing.  That means a smaller percentage of those people 18-55 years old are even trying to work.  Part of that is due to aging Americans.  But part of it is due to people giving up.  And we also conveniently ignore or fail to highlight the fact that a number of people are “underemployed” – working jobs lesser than they had before, are less than their education level or at less than full time.  And much of the “job creation” the last few years is in low paying jobs (retail and hospitality). Only in America do we paint a rosey picture of such a dire situation when the reality so many Americans live in paints a different picture. (some economist (JP) will probably dispute my statements but I believe they are directionally correct).

Only in America can a school teacher be allowed to go to school with a gun (concealed) and not have to tell anyone they have the gun.  Last week, a teacher in an elementary school in Utah accidently shot the toilet and was injured when the shrapnel hit her.  Again, Utah is in the Old Wild West, so everyone out there probably needs a gun. But is anyone troubled by the fact that we have armed teachers in an elementary school?

Only in America are you knowingly allowed to lie in public, even on billboards, about a political candidate’s position on an issue.  This is protected by the First Amendment, the right to free speech.  We have such a law in our own “great” state of Ohio.  Ohio’s law  “barring people from knowingly or recklessly making false statements about candidates” was struck down by the courts.  The legalese behind this ruling is to “let the voters, not the government, decide what the political truth is” (emphasis added).  I think most of agree that we want people to know the truth.  But allowing articles, ads, billboards, etc to be KNOWINGLY false makes no sense to me.  A false statement, repeated often enough, is going to convince some amount of the people some of the time.    As if our elections are not screwed up enough already.

So there is my rant (for now) about America.

Running and Training

I am running two half marathons (13.1 miles) in the next four weeks.  First, Nate and I are running the Air Force half marathon in Dayton on September 20.  This will be the third year in a row I have run this race, and the second time with Nate. Two weeks later, on October 5, six of us (mostly former NCR guys) are going to Corning, New York to run the Wineglass half or full marathon.

Going away for a fall race has been a tradition that many of these guys and I have done over the years.  Among the places we’ve been to are Chicago, Raleigh, Washington DC, Erie, and Huntsville, Alabama.  It is a reason for us to get away together and have some fun.  Or as much fun as you can have after running a full marathon and then jumping in a car for a long ride home.  There has been many times where we looked like old men getting out of the car after driving for a few hours and having our legs stiffen up.  But it is generally a lot of fun.

I am keeping to the half marathon distance for now.  It is easier to train for.  I can do multiple of them a year relatively easily.  And the recovery from them is relatively easy (from my perspective).  So, while I don’t have the “glory” of saying a finished a marathon, I have much less pain and suffering.  I’ll take that.

Speaking of training, I feel like I have overtrained this summer.  With the summer off from working, I had plenty of time on my hands. Running in the morning left time for weight lifting or a fitness class in the afternoon. I have found over the last couple weeks that I am not seeing any improvement in my running – in fact I have degraded some.  Plus I am over-tired.  All of the literature points toward too much training and not enough time to allow my body to recover.  I am cutting back quite a bit – much more than originally planned.

I think that is one of the things I like about running and competing with myself.  Having to get introspective, and reevalute my training is a challenge.  Many days I wish I had the “magic formula” for training optimally and then running personal best times every time.  But that is not going to happen.  I guess if it was easy, everyone will do it.  I will have to be happy with being lucky enough to work out and stay healthy.

So are we finally going to “throw the bums out”?

Some recent polls have shown an apparent turn in American’s feelings about Congress.  I have seen some polls that indicate 75% of the people would like to get rid of their current representative.  But I don’t think those polls are asking the right questions.  It is not “are you dissatisfied with your Congressman?”  The questions needs to be “are you dissatisfied enough with your congressman that your are willing to elect a more moderate person who would de a better job addressing the nation’s issues, even if that means your pet issue might lose?”  I believe the answer would be much different.

Are the liberal college towns and inner cities going to vote in a republican or a moderate democrat?  Are the conservative, NRA-loving western and southern counties going to say ” we need to be more moderate.  Let’s find some good, centrist candidates who will do the best for this country.  If I don’t agree with them totally on all issues, that is okay.  I know they are going to do the best for our country.”

That is Dreamland. You see, historically 90% of Congressman win reelection each year (most polls indicate less than 24 out of 435 House elections are “competitive”). That is not going to change this next election.  Why?

Let’s face it.  Our country is very divided.  Gerrymandering has made most districts safe for the more extreme candidates. I recently saw an analysis where 95% of the current Republican House districts nationwide are majority white.  Of those, over 2/3 are 70% white.  Are those candidates going to be sensitive to issues such as immigration?  Nah.  Lobbyist and special interest group money is so prevalent that the incumbents start with a huge financial advantage (some might say an overwhelming advantage).  Who is going to say “I’ll vote for the more moderate or more compromising candidate.  Everyone else will do the same and we will end up with a Congress of people who will work together.  Life will be so much better and all of my pet issues (gun control, abortion, food stamps, immigration, whatever else divides us) will win.”?  The chances of someone who is a bit more moderate succeeding in a district is very small.

So, it sure does feel good to say “throw the bums out”.  But in reality we want to throw the OTHER GUYS’ bum out and keep our philosophical brethren in power.  It is a pity the pollsters take the easy route out and don’t give us real insight.

Summer is Over – I am Back

It has been half a year since I posted anything to my blog.  Crazy how time flies by. I just needed some time to get away from writing.  Then I got really busy.  I guess it really came down to the fact that I found ways other than blogging to spend my time. 

So what has happened in the past six months?  A lot – most of which is probably really boring to most people.  Rose and I did a lot of work around the house.  We decided that it was time to re-paint two of the kids’ bedrooms.  The painting is easy.  The looking through all of the accumulation of artifacts, memories, and clothes in the room took a lot of time.  Plus, I had to get Rose’s (and the kids’) permission on what to keep and what to through out.  Let’s just say that The Goodwill was the recipient of a lot of stuff from the Waggenspacks.

Definitely the biggest news is that I decided not to go back to teaching this fall.  Last school year was very tough for me. I discovered one thing and remembered another.  The item I discovered is that my real goal in life was not to teach, but rather to help.  I got a tremendous amount of satisfaction from interacting with most of the kids.  We had a great time talking.  I believe I made a difference in their lives by caring about them.  That brought me joy.  But schools are not in place only to display adult role models.  Schools are chartered to teach subject matter to students, measure their learning  and to graduate those students.  I figured out that I am not a good enough teacher to have students learn the subject matter. It takes unbelievable skill to teach/engage a large group of people who have varying interests (usually close to zero interest!) in what you are talking about.  Classroom management, time management, people management, bureaucracy management, parent management –  a lot of balls being juggled. I decided I was not good enough to meet my standards.   

The item I remembered is something from my days in the business world.  It was this: If you are not part of the core of the organization, you need to be aware that you are going to be marginalized.  What does it mean to be “in the core”?  The core is what the business is in place to do.  For example, grocery stores sell groceries.   Car manufacturers design and market vehicles. If you are not part of the core, you don’t get to be part of the strategic and tactical decisions that are made.  Your opinions are not sought out.  Virtually no one is going to invest time and money in you.  You are always at risk of being marginalized. So in my example of the car manufacturers,  the assembly of vehicles is NOT core to the car business. So that gets outsourced.  Another easy example is keeping an office building clean.  That is not core to the business so that typically gets outsourced. 

At school, I was teaching business-related classes.  Important? Perhaps. Core to the mission of school? Not at all.  Core to the school was whatever it takes to graduate – math, English, science and social studies.  Government funds could be obtained with “STEM” (science, technology, engineering and math) classes.  Business?  Eh, that is an elective.  We use that to fill up students’ schedules.  So here I was in a situation where my objective was to help my students achieve their goals, but the classes I was teaching were usually not something they needed to graduate.  And my observations, experiences in business and in life, and my perspectives were not being used to shape the role school played in helping students move forward.  I did not have a voice in achieving my goals. So it was time to move on.

What’s next? Dean 3.0.  Not sure where that will take me.  I am only starting the journey.  My goal is to find a position where I can help “people or small businesses achieve their goals”. We’ll see where that leads. It is good to be back blogging