Unpretentious

“I’m impressed by people who use vocabulary in a way that is interesting but not pretentious,” my husband said to me tonight.  I was happy to hear that, he deals with lots of A players but some B players in many markets around the country.

Steve is President of a huge mortgage lending company, and was in Portland, Oregon to visit with his regional manager out there.  He wants to debrief all of his trips and actually his entire work life with me.  I love it and I help him a lot and always have.

“What more detail about his communication skills impressed you?” I asked.

“He chose the right words at the right time and tempered the entire conversation so there was truth and honestly but no drama.”

“Wow,” I replied, “that is something. So many people are dramatic, manipulative and misdirected so it’s great you have that guy in Portland.”

“Yes,” he said, “he’s one of the good ones. I might promote him soon.”  We then talked in depth about how and where he could be promoted and when that might happen, who he would replace, who would replace him, etc.

“Steve,” I said, “do you think you have impressive and excellent communication skills?”

“No,” he said, “I think mine are adequate and they get the job done, but yours are impressive, excellent and exceptional.”

 

 

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My Hero

The below photo is, of course, Jane Goodall probably in the sixties. She lived alone in a hut in Africa studying chimpanzees. She is the first person on the planet to observe/discover that any animal other than humans use tools; a gigantic discovery and disconcerting to say the least to the very conservative christians.  We now know that all the other great apes are also tool discoverers and tool users.  That includes Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Bonobos, Orangutans, and of course humans.  Yes, we are one of the great apes.  Probably not the best one because we are the number one problem for the rest of them in terms of endangered numbers.  These guys, chimps and gorillas are SO highly endangered that if things go on the way they are they will be GONE in the wild in 20 to 30 years.

Please recycle your electronics.  Cell phones, lap tops, etc. have a mineral in them called Coltrane which they mine in Africa where these apes live.  Their habitat is being destroyed and their areas to live diminishing because of this mining.  Not the only problem but one of the the big ones.

Jane is in her 80’s and still working tirelessly for the great apes. I saw a speaker at the zoo where I volunteer as an amateur expert on the Western Lowland Gorilla and the Chimpanzee and Jane is his boss.  He was UNBELIEVABLE.  His commitment to this effort was so complete and his guts were even more impressive. He lives in Africa working against extinction.  This guy is doing scary stuff.  AND he said sometimes he’s very scared. He said it’s worth it. I get that, if my life ever changed radically, I could see myself going and doing something that scared me to death, might be good. When I shook his hand and made eye contact all I said was “Wow,” and he locked eyes with me.

Look at Jane making contact with that baby Chimp!  She is the first person EVER to give animals NAMES while studying them. Before her it was xj2 and x78 and completely not allowable to designate them personally.  With Jane it was Flo, Fifi, Fin and Freud and many more adorable names. She shook up the scientific community like you can’t believe which I utterly love. Chimps can be very aggressive and everyone knows that the worst comes out in any mother animal when they feel their offspring is threatened.  I would estimate the baby in this photo is about 6 months old which means his mother was very nearby watching this and trusted Jane implicitly. Look at this photo and allow yourself to cry!

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Pacemaker

 

“I tried to get through your text without crying but it didn’t work,” George’s daughter Melissa texted me.

Pickle ball has changed my life. After back surgery for a herniated disk, my husband was worried I’d not be able to play tennis again and he found this new sport for me. Pickle ball is played in a gym on a badminton size court with a whiffle ball and a paddle and it’s a game of mixed doubles. Men and women of all shapes, sizes and ages all play together. It is a fast, aggressive game combining tennis with badminton and some people say Ping-Pong. I don’t see the Ping-Pong part of it. It’s an incredible work out but also an amazingly fun and addictive sport. I now play between 5 and 6 days a week for between 2 to 3 hours. It’s like my job, that and speaking about Gorillas and Chimps at the Dallas zoo 2 days a week. Lucky me. My recovery from the surgery was so excellent, I could easily play tennis, but I have no desire! My new love is Pickle ball.

I have met so many people and I have many very close friends in Texas as a result of Pickle ball. I am in awe at the support and camaraderie this PB community provides.

Not long ago, several of our Dallas police officers were shot and killed in a race relation issue. The next day at Pickle ball, one of the players called us all together and asked that we bow our heads in a minute of silence for the men who died. You could have heard a pin drop in that gym. It was powerful.

A couple months later right before we began play, a woman asked us to gather as she had a sad announcement. One of our dear Pickle ball friends Sarah, we were told, just lost her 48-year old daughter a day or two before. Again, we gathered, bowed our heads in silence and surely a lot of prayer for one of our own. Then the coach, Dave, went to get a bereavement card, which we all signed and he sent it. Sarah is not back yet but our community is there for her when she is.

Recently, one of our wonderful friends, George found out his heart rate was way too low. George is very athletic and otherwise a very healthy 72 year old, but his doctor was insistent on a pacemaker. He was going back and forth, stressing out about the decision because he felt so good and was playing Pickle ball several days a week aggressively. He was finally convinced it was what he needed to do.

George had the surgery to install the pacemaker on a Monday morning. Most everyone in our Pickle ball community knew. Shockingly, on Tuesday afternoon George sauntered in to the gym. He didn’t have his paddle with him and he didn’t intend on playing but he felt great and wanted to see us. Here is what I texted his daughter later, of whom I am very fond even though I don’t know her well.

Hi Melissa!  I wish you could have seen the scene when your father walked into the gym today.  The only word I can think of, and I don’t think I have ever used this word before, is “Fellowship”.  Several women jumped up to embrace him.  Our coach then went over to give him a hug and handshake and brought him a cushioned chair so he wouldn’t have to sit on the hard bleachers.  Then as games ended, men began walking up putting their hands on his shoulder or shaking his hand asking about his procedure and how he was doing.  He was the prince of the ball and everyone was quietly rejoicing in how well things went and how fabulous he looked.  Then a much older man than George took the padded seat and your father, of course, didn’t say a word and sat on the hard bleachers. He’s a special man and I know losing his wife was devastating as it was for you losing your mother.  But as a family, you have each other, and now know you can take comfort in that your father is a beloved member of a huge Fellowship of Pickle ball people.  Love, Andie

Here is Melissa’s response:

I tried to get through your text without crying but it didn’t work. What a wonderful thing to read. Thank you. Thank you again and the Fellowship of PB’s for caring about him so much. I’m so glad you’ve all gotten to know the awesome man I’m lucky to call “Dad”.

I’m kinda starting to like Texas….


Human Silverbacks

“There are a lot of alpha personalities in the room!” he said.

A normal gorilla troop in the wild consists of a silverback male, several females (called a Harem, sorry gals) and all of their offspring. The silverback calls the shots. He dictates when to feed, when to nest, when to move on, etc. He also breaks up bickering between his females and patrols his territory for his family’s safety. It’s a stressful job and silverbacks are notorious for heart disease. But he is, without a doubt, the boss.

I know our DNA is 98.5 percent the same as gorillas. But we are human and I have noticed in racquet sports if women and men are playing together, certain men revert to gorilla behavior.

I am an amateur expert on the Western Lowland Gorilla and the Chimpanzee and I work as a Gorilla and Chimp Ambassador at the Dallas zoo speaking to zoo guests about their behaviors and personalities. We are desperately trying to save these animals from extinction.  I know each individual chimp and gorilla intimately and I love every one of them with my heart and soul.

Eight months ago I switched from years of tennis to a game called pickle ball. It originally was for slightly older to very old people but young people are swooping in because it is so much fun (addicting actually) and such great exercise. It is very fast, can be played very aggressively and it’s a mix of women and men of all ages.

The behavior that concerns me in pickle ball is certain men thinking they are in charge like a Silverback!  They force unsolicited advice onto women, try to dominate how the rotation works, try to monopolize courts for themselves and other men, and sometimes even try cruel tactics to get the weaker women off the courts by slamming them with balls on an overhead smash, often 0n very old women. Let me be clear, most of the men do not fall into this category, many I would describe as officers and gentlemen, but something like 15% act like they can call the shots.

Breaking News: I am an assertive person.

Assertiveness is my nature and the school I attended of very hard knocks ( In addition to getting my degree in biz mgt at a U, so as to not sell myself short) has reinforced it. I try very hard to be self-aware enough to not let it slip over into obnoxiousness. But I am definitely not going to be a door-mat to anyone. I am also a very good pickle ball player. I have told many, many men in the last eight months that I do not want or need their coaching. I have had male partners tell me where to stand, when to come to the net, how to serve, etc. all of which I completely ignore. I withhold eye contact with those guys and freeze ‘em out. I pretend I’m playing alone. They can go to hell. The game will be over soon and I’ll have a different partner who is not so insecure or whatever the problem with this one is.

When summer arrives our pickle ball venues become inundated with children at summer day camps and the availability of gym time is at a premium. Translation: there are not as many places and times to play so the ones where we can get very, very crowded. This is when we have to figure out systems for rotations for use of pickle ball courts.

Recently three men and I were having a discussion about how that rotation should work. Seems everyone has a different opinion. I play at so many different venues (and most people don’t) so I’ve learned several different ways to do the rotation and I participated in the conversation wholeheartedly. The younger men are used to strong women in these kinds of situations, of course, but apparently the older ones are not.

After that dialogue we came to an agreement on some rotation systems to experiment with. Half an hour later I was sitting on the bleachers next to a 78 year old man who had been part of the rotation discussion.

“There are a lot of alpha personalities in the room,” he said.

“Yes there are,” I agreed, “maybe because this is a competitive sport.”

He leaned into me. “There are a lot of FEMALE alpha personalities in here,” he said.

“Yes,” I said, “and I know I’m one of them if that is what you are trying to say .”

“Well,” he said, “some men don’t like to argue with women.”

I’m positive my jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. To me this implied there are “people” and there are “women”.  I was flabbergasted.

I turned my head slowly and looked him in the eyes.

“That is too damn bad,” I said quietly.

He has treated me like a queen every time I’ve see him since that day.

 

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Prostate Lecture, fun huh?

As I have gotten older I have become an amateur expert on illnesses I have had or people I love have had. I could tell you all about Atrial Septal Defect, a heart disorder that is congenital that is usually found days after a baby is born but mine wasn’t found until I was 36 years old. It is unfathomable to me that all those doctors over all those years missed it. The one who found it was pissed off at all the others. She was a feisty bitch and I didn’t like her, but bless her heart, (no pun intended) she found it. I had it fixed. Not easy. Open heart surgery.  A lot of pain. A lot of drugs. A lot of scars. I could have dropped dead and I didn’t. I’m grateful to the feisty bitch.

Now, someone I care a lot about is having a prostate cancer recurrence. This man asked his primary care physician if he could get him in for a physical at the end of 2013. Of course, every one in the world is trying to get in for their physical while their deductible is satisfied at the end of the year. This man’s physician said no, he couldn’t squeeze him in. My friend said, “Can we at least do blood work?” This request saved my friends life.

You guys, prostate cancer is the number one cancer for men and one in six men will be diagnosed with it sometime in their lifetime. There are no symptoms in the first 2 to 3 stages of the disease and by the 4rth stage you might be toast. Yes, I’m trying to scare you. Like any other cancer the trick is to catch it early. Stage one prostate cancer is relatively easy to treat and has a huge success rate. Stage two, a little trickier but still very treatable with a radical prostatectomy. (Surgical removal of the prostate or other options depending on your situation). Stage three means cancer cells have gone beyond the initial site, maybe into lymph nodes, etc. and that gets into really serious cancer treatment which has serious quality of life implications.  Stage 4 I don’t even want to talk about.

The reason I’m writing this, is that there is this new idea circulating around that maybe a yearly PSA test is not that important. There are organizations that say it leads to false positives and unnecessary biopsies.   If my friend did not get a PSA test in 2013 it could easily be over by now, if you know what I mean. A PSA test will tell you if your PSA is elevated and if you might have cancer! It’s an easy and cheap test! A little blood test!

Men, I warn you, do not assume when your doctor says your blood work was fine that she /he tested you for PSA. You must know what your PSA is, guys!  I have men friends who say their doctors do the blood work but don’t include PSA! WHAT? It’s the number one cancer of men! Why would that not be obviously in every blood work up! I just don’t get it.  But it’s true.  Take control of your health by being positive your doctor is checking PSA.   Have I made my point? One in six! Get your PSA test no matter what anyone says!

Whew, I’m exhausted…..


How Can I Get Some Sleep?

There are some very strange and wonderful sleep techniques in the animal kingdom.  Here are some of my favorites!

The albatross is a sea bird that spends much of its life soaring around hunting. Its lifestyle doesn’t leave a lot of time for sleeping, so it’s believed the albatross sleeps while flying taking hundreds of little power naps lasting only a few seconds each.  Sounds exhasting.

Koalas (They are not bears, they are marsupials and it’s incorrect to call them koala bears. Just koalas) sleep on average 20 to 22 hours a day. Most of their time is spent sleeping because they require a lot of energy to digest their toxic, fibrous, low-nutrition diet and sleeping is the best way to conserve energy.

A bottlenose dolphin sleeps by shutting down half of its brain, and the eye opposite the snoozing hemisphere. The other half of the brain (and opposite eye) stays turned on to watch out for other dolphins or predators. It also tells the dolphin when to come up for air. After two hours or so, the sides switch, so both eyes and brain hemispheres get their sleep. This process isn’t unique to dolphins. Fruit bats, porpoises, iguanas, seals, birds, and ducks do it too. Who woulda thought?

When ducks sleep, they line up in a row. The ones at each end of the line keep the eye facing away from the group open to watch out for predators, and close the other. The ducks inside close both of their eyes. The single brain hemisphere sleep in the bookending ducks keeps the whole row safe. Then the bookends switch off with ducks inside the row.

Adult giraffes sleep on average 30 minutes a day and usually in 5 minute segments. It’s the shortest sleep requirement in the entire animal kingdom! They also often sleep with one eye open to watch for predators but from what I understand it’s not the single brain hemisphere thing so I don’t quite get it. But 30 minutes!? God, I need at least 9 hours!

There are species of sharks that need to swim constantly to keep water moving over their gills. These sharks seem to have active periods and restful periods, rather than undergoing deep sleep like we do. (In particular like I do.) They “sleep” with parts of their brain less active, or “resting,” while the shark remains swimming.

Otters know that predators aren’t the only concern when they are asleep. There’s also the possibility of drifting off (no pun intended). When sea otters fall asleep, they do so while lying on their backs at the surface of the water and in groups, sometimes in seaweed forests or holding hands to keep from floating apart. Soooo cute.

Desert snails can sleep for years. One famous incident involved an Egyptian desert snail assumed dead by a British Museum staffer who affixed the snail to an identification card. Four years later, traces of slime were discovered on the card and the shell was put in water and the little guy crawled out!! OMG!

Starts sounding a little boring the way homo sapiens just get into bed and go to sleep.  (Or, worse, not go to sleep. Hehe.)

 


Young and Old

Aging is not easy but neither is being young. The challenges for each are completely different, but they are both challenging. I remember my mid to late teens and at least through my twenties feeling so unsure of myself, so self conscious, so worried about what people were thinking of me. To hide that vulnerability, I built a façade of a strong, confident young woman that I hid behind and in retrospect kinda seems to have worked. Fake it till you make it, I guess. I wonder, though, how many older people saw right through that disguise as I can see through it in young people I encounter today. It seems like the tougher the outside package, the mushier the inside reality.

I’m 57 and there are things I like about getting older. Wrinkles, achy joints and lose skin are not some of them.

I love not being self-conscious. What you think of me is none of my business. I’m very comfortable in my own skin and I don’t second-guess myself anymore. When I see an injustice directed at me, someone else or an animal, I step in without hesitation. I (usually) do it with tact and caution but I’ve seen so much of it in my life and I have a very low tolerance for it.

I love that women, now that we are older, tend to connect instead of compete. I’m not sure if that is because my attitude has changed or that all of us aging gals have changed, probably the latter, but it’s huge.

I love being at a place where I do not have to wake to an alarm. Ever.

I love the harmless flirting during mixed doubles at pickle-ball. Most of us have been married forever and it doesn’t mean a thing. It’s just fun and funny.

A couple years ago I decided that one of my jobs as an aging person is to help, whenever I can, a young person to feel really good about themselves. For example, a young man, early twenties with mild special needs who was a bagger at the grocery store was one day working as a checker.

“You got a promotion!” I said excitedly.

“I did!” he said proudly.

“That is so awesome! I don’t even know you but I am so proud of you!” I replied.

His wide smile, flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes said it all. I’d done my job.

Another time I was at the zoo and as I was passing the lions at some distance I noticed a group of oh so cool young people taunting them. If people at the zoo litter, I pick it up and throw it away. If they smoke, which they are not supposed to, I look the other way. If they taunt animals, it falls into the “injustice” category and I step in assertively with no hesitation. I made a beeline for the oh so cools but before I got to them a young, sort of nerdy guy approached the group and I could see that he was shaking slightly. He was scared.

“It’s super uncool what you are doing to the lions,” the young man said.

“Oh really?” one of the oh so’s said, “How would you know what’s uncool?”

“It’s cruel,” the twenty something said, still shaking.

“Yeah?” a young woman said. “What are you going to do about it?”

“He already did something about it!” I said loudly as I approached. “He’s educating you people who should know better what’s cruel! Move away from the lions now and if you taunt any other animals at this zoo, I will have you thrown out.” They skittered away.

I turned to the brave young man and said quietly, “What you just did took a ton of courage and I don’t even know you but I am very, very proud of you. Animals need strong, brave people like you and I thank you and the lions thank you.”

“Well, I love lions,” the young man said, “and I can tell you do too.” And then he hugged me. It took my breath away. I was not successful in suppressing my tears as I made my way back to my gorillas.

Nothing is ever cut and dry, is it? Things in life are complicated. I wish I could have a chance to make the oh so’s feel better about themselves because cruelty to animals is a clear indication of not feeling very good about ones self. Surely, I’ll never see them again.

Still, every day, I try hard to do my job.

 

 


Pearls of Wisdom

This is my first post from long ago writings by me.   It made me chuckle when I re-visited these writings from roughly 1983 when I was in my mid 20’s that I had the audacity to call them Pearls of Wisdom.

It was hard for me to record these exactly as they were written 30 some odd years ago, I so wanted to update and edit.  But, for authenticity, I didn’t.  Here, from a 20 something year old are some guidelines for life….

–Being attached to outcomes distorts your perception of what’s happening.  You tend to ignore your intuition or gut feelings because you are absorbed with wishful thinking.  You can have a preference in the outcome but you must be able to clearly see what is happening in the present time to be able to create an action plan to get to where you want to be.

–If you wait to see what is expected of you before you perform, the level of expected performance is set by something or someone outside yourself and vey well may be lower than your own.  If you go for it and don’t put limits on yourself, no one else will either.

–The more you use your brain the better it works and the more creative it becomes,  it is resonating at a higher level and “tunes in” to higher creativity.

–You can’t be happy in a relationship until your happy with yourself.  Two halve’s don’t make a whole; it makes for a fragmented relationship with unrealistic exceptions resulting in resent.  If you are hoping for self confidence as a result of a relationship, your process will be mirrored for you and you will attract into your orbit someone who is hoping to get self confidence from you.  Self confidence is not given and recieved.  It’s way more personal than that.  (Seems a little dramatic now but when I wrote this I capitalized this next part which I will do here in honor of that young girl.)

SELF CONFIDENCE IS CREATED WITHIN YOURSELF BY A PROCESS OF TRYING/STUMBLING/FALLING/MAKING CORRECTIONS/TRYING AGAIN/AND FINALLY SUCCEEDING IN ENDEAVORS LARGE AND SMALL AND ASSERTING  WHO YOU ARE AND COMING TO BAT FOR YOUR PERSONAL BOUNDRIES ALONG THEY WAY.

–I have never seen anything healthy come as a result of an outburst of anger.  It usually only causes pain, fear and confusion.   For the person who is supposedly expressing themselves, it leads to feelings of being out of control and wounded self esteem.

–The older you get, you more you look like who you are.  So people who like themselves have an easier time aging.

–Creativity lies where there are no facades.

–We are not going to enjoy the “more” we get later if we’re not enjoying  what we have now.  Happiness comes from within, not from stuff.

— Work HARD!!

 

 

 

 


Youthful Advice

I’ve got my younger self reminding me of a few things I’ve forgotten over the years which is kinda obnoxious.  I finally decided it’s time to go through VERY old cards, letters, documents  and my own writing and get rid of some stuff.  As a young woman I was incredibly ambitious and driven and I wrote a lot.

I wrote and conducted workshops, seminars and training programs for corporations but I also wrote for myself.  Unlike today, I was very analytical back then, trying (and in many cases succeeding, hehe) to figure everything out.

I’m WAY more laid back now looking for fun, funny and how I can help animals and other people.  In fact, going through all this stuff made me feel exhausted.  I read one document from the early 1980’s about my goals for the following year and it had an entry that said “Rest from time to time.”  Which was VERY unlike me!  It should have been a SMART goal!!  Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely!  “Rest from time to time” is simply not good enough for my old self!!

Now, as my friend Tim will tell you, I wallow with coffee and the paper until 9:00 or 9:30 in the morning.  It’s heaven!  But in many ways, that other life was heaven, too.  Just so demanding.

Why am I telling you all this?!  Well, it’s because as I hold all these tattered and yellowed pages with old fashioned computer fonts in my hands, I can’t just throw them away.  I have to capture them somewhere and my blog will be the victim.  Some of the upcoming posts of writings from years gone by will be longer than my normal short stories.  As usual with any post on any blog, read what you want and move along when you are over it.  I am going to post this stuff in smallish doses and will continue to write about the zoo and other stuff also.

BTW, it’s called The Accidental Texan and my earliest posts were about how much I hate it here.  I don’t hate it anymore.  I have a full life now and there are things here I love.  Lots of things, but mostly my gorillas.

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The buddies laughing and playing.


Personal Characteristics

Ever notice no one has freckles anymore?  I guess at some point they have become considered a flaw.  There are relatively inexpensive procedures to get rid of them now.  Kinda sad. I miss them.  I always thought they were so cute.  I never had them.  Someone who did told me they are cute when they are someone else’s but not when they are your own. I get that. Maybe the same deal with really curly hair. Curly hair is a pain in the ass.

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