Why not? Motivation for the Faint of Heart

Spinning discs at WJMU circa 1984-85

Spinning discs at WJMU circa 1984-85

I’ve always identified with the Cowardly Lion. Courage does not come naturally to me. I cannot recall a time when I was truly fearless. Everything from meeting someone for the first time to standing on a ladder can send me into a nervous refrain, “I can’t do this. Something horrible will happen. I will make a fool of myself.”

In high school I had a teacher write me a note and tell me that he thought my naturally sweet disposition was keeping me from achieving my goals. Not exactly, Teach. Anyone who knows me, knows I can be just as *itchy as the best of them. No, there’s only one thing that keeps me from my goals:


Sometimes, it’s paralyzing.

Those meet-n-greet dinners at the beginning of a conference? I avoid them at all costs, and when I can’t, I spend an inordinate amount of time in the restroom and leave completely exhausted. It’s taken me three days to work up the nerve to call HughesNet to advocate for a bill reduction. Even at the-job-that-pays, getting up in front of a classroom of college students on the first day of a semester is both exhilarating and terrifying.

Introversion, social anxiety, timidness, it’s probably a mix of the three. So how have I managed to accomplish anything without an arsenal of pharmaceutical assistance? Strong friendships with courageous people have certainly helped. Turning off my people-pleasing instincts and smothering the associated guilt works to some extent. Easing back on perfectionism, check. Routines, meditation, visualization help too. However, in college I hit upon one question that propels me forward:

If I do XYZ “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and its follow-up question, “Can I live with that?”

It’s worked something like this…Freshman year in college, I hear my Resident Assistant on the college radio station and I think to myself, that sounds like a lot of fun. I would like to do that too. Then the anxious voice takes over and says, what are you kidding? You will be horrible, people won’t listen, you will lose listeners and embarrass yourself and the station. But after thinking about it for a while, I realize is embarrassment the worst thing that could happen? And if it is, can I live with that?

Yes, I can live with that.

So I took the broadcaster course and passed my FCC test and got my broadcasting license. After a semester on the air I was running the morning drive program. After two semesters I was helping to run the station in the summer. After a year I received the station’s best new DJ award.

And yes, I embarrassed myself.

But this new mantra helps me move forward. Sometimes it’s all that gets me out of the house. It’s what keeps me employed. It’s what keeps me writing and submitting and self-publishing. It’s what I tell my students to do when they’re considering a life change.  It’s what I tell my children when they want to try something new.

Millikin University Homecoming Court 1986. Me, first row, far left, maiden name, big hair. It was the 80s, what can I say? Absolutely terrified but so glad I did this for myself.

Millikin University Homecoming Court 1986. Me, first row, far left, maiden name, big hair. It was the 80s, what can I say? Absolutely terrified but so glad I did this for myself.

My mantra has motivated me all the way to Russia, Singapore, and Finland. It’s given me the guts to put myself out there singing, speaking, and writing. It’s not easy yet, and it probably never will be, but it’s working for me.

Millikin University graduating class of 1987. Uh oh, now you can figure out how old I am...

Millikin University graduating class of 1987. Uh oh, now you can figure out how old I am…

How about you? What gives you courage?

Do not judge this book by its cover…

pinkhungergamescoverMy daughter brought The Hunger Games home from school this month. I told her she could read it since she was “almost thirteen” and I couldn’t locate my own copy for her to borrow. We’ve talked about the kid-on-kid violence in the book and the love triangle cliché. But there are themes and issues I think she’ll gain insight from: heroism in the face of oppression, the non-violent resistance expressed by characters like Cinna and Peeta, Haymitch’s PTSD. Besides, it’s a great read, written well.

No, the book’s not the problem.

The problem is the cover of the edition she brought home. This picture does not do it justice.

It’s pink and sparkly!?!

The Hunger Games is not a pink and sparkly tale. It does not warrant a fairy-tale princess cover with Dr. Seuss lettering. What are these publisher’s thinking? It’s a “girl’s” book so it needs a “girl’s” cover? Every twelve-year old girl in America has read this book so now we need to open up the market to six-year-olds? Call me crazy, but a pink cover with sparkly green lettering and the title The Hunger Games makes me think the book is a spin on Cupcake Wars.

I suppose they could use this technique on all sorts of “dark” books to trick readers into thinking they’re in for a lighter read. Word War Z with zebra stripes? The Kite Runner with a smiley face on the kite? The Shining featuring Frosty the Snowman? Too bad Amazon previews don’t take a sample from the middle of the books…

You’re off to the Hunger Games…”Today is your day…” to kill off some kids…”So…get on your way!”

Quote extremely modified without permission from Oh, the Place You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.


Where’d she go?


She got summoned for jury duty and never came back . . . well, it felt like that for a while at least. I got called in for jury selection on the morning of September 18 and wasn’t released until the afternoon of October 3rd. Would you believe I was juror 46 out of 51 and I still ended up sitting as an alternate for the trial? I think by the time they got to me, they were desperate.

And what a trial. 1st degree murder. I won’t go into the details because honestly, the people involved don’t need any more publicity. AND the sooner this event fades from my own memory the better. Let’s just say I know more about deciphering blood splatter evidence than your average citizen. For all you fans of trigonometry, this is your field!

So, I’m back going through the motions of my normal routine, thirteen dollars a day richer, with the thanks of the county, worn out and weepy, trying to catch up on the mountains of grading that piled up unattended while I was attending to my civic duty.

You see, substitute teachers teach, they don’t grade, so tests, reports and assignments waited patiently for me to get back and NOW THEY ALL NEED TO GET DONE. Yikes! 112 hours got sucked out of my life; it’s already two weeks later, and still I haven’t figured out how to squeeze them back in.

Photo © Aleksandar Radovanovic