Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's Where You're Headed That Counts

I’ve been accused by at least one of my readers of taking myself too seriously. So, just for you, dear Uncle, I’ll start this month’s musings with a joke.

Did you hear about the new T-shirt for sale at the Fayetteville bookstores? The back of the cardinal red shirt reads as follows: “If you can read this, my student-athlete development coordinator has fallen off.”

My apologies to those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few weeks. That comment refers, of course, to the recent motorcycle accident that caused a coaching change in the Razorback Nation. To loosely quote the University’s athletic director, that incident by itself would not have caused a huge problem. It was after further investigation, when the matter turned from personal to personnel, that the hog pooie hit the fan. One mishap along the road of life won’t derail a career, but the direction the leader of the team seemed to be headed became a much larger issue.

A favorite show at the Carlisle house pits accomplished chefs against each other with three baskets of mystery ingredients. They might be asked to cook something delicious with such combinations as Portobello mushrooms and M&Ms candies.  The judges are very demanding, even though the participants are given no advance notice about the ingredients, and only about 30 minutes to fix each dish. After each challenge, one is eliminated, until the best two battle by fixing a gourmet dessert. The final pair is judged not just on that one last dish, but by evaluating their whole day, all three courses of the meal. This seems to be a satisfying way of choosing the overall winner in this heated competition.

Recently, I finished a book based on a similar idea. A person is judged not by the individual events of his life, but an overview of all them. Deborah Raney’s “After All”, published by Howard Books and available soon at your local bookstore, finds our heroine dealing with a disturbing revelation about her husband that becomes apparent at the time of his death. Along with the grief, she also has to come to grips with feelings of anger and betrayal. The moral of this story seems to be that she must believe that given a little more time, the man she married would have remained true to himself, and to her. It’s a story that reflects real emotions and life situations, and I think you’ll enjoy it, just as you will enjoy any book with this talented author’s byline.

None of us will make all of the right decisions as we travel life’s road. We can only try to approach each intersection, each curve with care and a little consideration of where it will all end up. Enjoy the journey, but try not to derail it with actions that don’t represent who you really are.

Or- to paraphrase a blog comment from Arkansas 360: When you don’t beat LSU, you get angry. When you get angry, you buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle, when you buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle, you ask a pretty 25-year old to ride it. When you ask a pretty 25-year old to ride your Harley, you end up in a roadside ditch. Don’t end up in a roadside ditch. Beat LSU.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Connections: Six Steps to anyone in the World

Several years ago, there was a movie based on the premise that with only six steps(degrees) of talking to someone you know and then a friend of that friend, etc. you could be introduced to anyone in the world. Crazy? With today’s instant connections on online social networks, maybe not so crazy! We’ll define a connection as one of two things: Either you can verify a blood relationship to a person, or this person is someone you know well enough to expect a hug or at least a good firm handshake when you next see them. There are also what we will call second level connections- these are people you went to school with, or lived down the street from, or worked with at the same employer. They might need to be reminded of your name, but there would be that spark; that “Oh Yeah, How Ya Doin?” moment when your buggies pass at Wal-Mart.

So think about it- How are you connected to the Pope? Or Dog the Bounty Hunter? Actually, celebrities are fairly easy. I would start with the most famous person I’ve met. The circles those people travel in connect them to other famous folks, at least on a firm handshake level. Former President Clinton would fit the bill here for many in the Ouachita region. I’ve washed my hand many times since I shook his, but I worked in a building across the street from the State Capitol when he was our young and handsome governor, and had occasion to meet him many times. Just think of all the people that man has greeted, usually with a clap-around-your-shoulders hug instead of a handshake. If he hasn’t personally met Dog the Bounty Hunter, a friend of someone he’s met certainly has.

When we incorporate blood relatives, we can even use folks who are no longer alive to establish connections. In this way, I can get to the Queen of England without using Bill Clinton. Here’s how it goes: My Mom found a letter to my Granny’s brother from a friend named Carlos who knew him well enough to address him by first name. The letter included a picture taken with the Princes of England at that time- Edward, who abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson from America, and Albert, who became King George VI. This picture provided hours of fun for me and for my sister, as we researched this early 20th century globe-trotter. He turned out to be a very famous opera singer and Latin dancer from Chile. Our uncle probably met him there, as he was quite a traveler himself, and even married a lady from South America. So if my Granny counts as my first connection, Uncle Lo (Tony) is number two, his friend Carlos, number three, King George VI number four, his daughter Queen Elizabeth II number five. Voila!

Those who aren’t celebrities are harder. Could you pick up a phone book from Kenosha, Wisconsin or Tucumcari, New Mexico and randomly point out someone, and then find your six steps? In this instance, I would turn to geography. I would find someone who has lived closer than I have to one of these places, then make connections through the church they attended, where they went to school, etc. For the Wisconsin one, I know exactly where I’d start. Yep, still doable.

So what good is all of this babble? It’s mostly just for fun, really. But, sometimes, those connections can come in handy. If you’re searching for a job, connections can literally mean money. If you’re moving to a new city, or know someone who is, connections can open doors and make life immeasurably easier.

This week, a Facebook friend had a contact who needed something translated into a language that is rather obscure for this area. I just happened to know someone who had studied that language while he served in the Army. Less than six degrees later, the connection was made!

These days, while there are more humans inhabiting the planet than ever before, we are becoming more connected all the time. With this thought, we shouldn’t feel so lonely. That stranger you pass on the street is really the friend of a friend of a friend. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can automatically trust everyone we meet. We still need to keep our guard up. But, when we share an interest, like Ouachita Life in common, we’re already a big step closer to being friends. Who are you connected to, and how? I’d love to hear about it!