Monday, April 9, 2012

Follow the Yellow Chick Road

Oh My God Easter! 
 How I love Easter!!  It is the Christian commentary on renewal, rebirth, and reinvention. I am all for all of these things. Every good novelist knows that these are consistent topics of fascination for people.  We all want to be different people sometimes.
 And, the best part is it happens every year.  You don’t like something?  Change it.  You can do anything for a year to try it out.  Can’t make your New Year’s resolutions? Try again on Easter.
The bright spring flowers and the sunshine colors all argue for coming out of the darkness into the daytime full of surprises and decisions to do things differently.  I love this day. 
About fifteen years ago, my roommate Amy and I, both desolate about being in graduate school so far away from our families and home churches, decided to have a Easter for each other and the other women we had come to befriend who were also alone and away from their families.  Thus was born the first Easter Chick afternoon, wherein my girlfriends and I have a potluck meal of some kind, and bring treats for each other’s baskets.  If you bring chocolate, it has to be the good kind, not the eggs that you buy in the grocery store.  We gave each other lip smackers and nail polishes and erasers, things that children would be delighted by.  And we were too.  We each lead one of the others on a scavenger hunt to find the baskets, and then ate brunch while giggling and playing with our toys.
I still hold the tradition, and the only other original member flew down that first weekend to visit me.  She has come every year since (except last year when she was sick as a dog) and I hope comes every year that I hold it.  Another woman has come for thirteen years, since I met her, and the fourth and fifth women have interchanged throughout the years.  If you get invited once you are always invited back.  But people move on, get married, have children, or whatever, and so, it is me, Kdub (who has been married but returns still), Floryfae (who is both married and has two children but makes it work anyway), and whoever else comes.  We spend as much time in whatever garden I have created that we can.  I have to have my hands in the dirt and have created some truly amazing gardens in the places I have lived.
This year we held it later in the afternoon with gin and tonics, strawberry wine and finger sandwiches.  We were a group of tired, slightly older women all of whom have some serious shit going on right now.  And it was a warm afternoon, a mellow atmosphere, and good company.  Somehow each year, it morphs into what we need it to be  It was a relief this year to be able to finish puttering between church and when my girl came.
I used to think by now that I would be married and have a child or two wandering around and send my family off to the movies while the girls came.  It hasn’t worked out like that.  I haven’t found my life partner yet, and may never have children, I am trying to finish my novel, and have finally learned not to count on much because God always has a slightly different plan.
But Chick Easter?  I can count on my girlfriends and their love on this sacred day.  And you know what?  That ain’t bad.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Try Grace

In the world of Women in technology, the most recent discussion has been about how to be nice while still getting ahead.  This is courtesy of Sheryl Sandberg, and I am a big fan of this idea.  I think she is right.  And so do many other people.  Suddenly there are a ton of books with titles like “Nice Girls Can Finish First.”  “Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It,”  “How to be a Lady in Business,” and “Too Nice for Your Own Good.”  All implying that to “win” or to “get it” you have to be something resembling a warthog.
I don’t think this is quite what Sheryl Sandberg means.  I don’t mean to speak for her, and I am not good at the tag lines or “up speak questioning” cadence in my speech patterns.  But I can’t help but think about my mother who has always said that you can be as rude about things as you like as long as you are polite about it.   I do not do well with rude on purpose for any reason, and i do not simper.  I am instead straightforward and I need to learn to tone it down.
This does not mean to be vapid, or to say those three little words women are taught to quickly say whenever there is a conflict: “Oh, that’s okay.”  Because, very often, it isn’t.  It isn’t okay that someone just walked over your idea or talked over you or discounted what your education and skills show you know.  It isn’t okay when someone comments on your looks instead of your words.  It isn’t okay.  Instead, say “Thank you” when someone says they are sorry.  I learned this when someone did not rsvp to a baby shower I threw, and instead called the honoree three hours before the party to let HER know of attendance.  Tacky.
So when this woman brought it up to me at the shower by saying something off the cuff like “Ohmigosh, I have just been so busy and mommies have such limited time and I am so sorry that I did not respond earlier . . .” I simply replied “Thank you.  I am glad you could make it out since you are so busy,” and smiled at her.  Her eyes got big, and she scurried past me. 
I think she got it because I did not say it was okay.  I did not tell her that her rudeness was okay.  I responded graciously, and she still got the message.  So I think this is the way to do it.  Everything I have heard about Sandberg leads to one conclusion, she is gracious.  As hard as it is not to point out someone else’s rudeness, I think a better point is to move around it as if it didn’t happen.  When something is acknowledged it becomes true.  If you ignore it, then you can pretend that the person who has behaved badly gets another chance.  This is, to people who are self aware, a blessed thing.  It puts them in your debt.  To the un-self-aware, not acknowledging their behavior gives them no reward.  It is called negative reinforcement.
Either way, you win.  And you were nice.
I thing Sheryl's meaning is to always be gracious, and since most people don't know what that truly means, the closest thing she had to communicate the idea was "nice."
  Try Grace