I taught on a Native American reservation last week. What a beautiful drive to work----along the red faced mesas, or do I call them buttes....or maybe they are plateaus? I adored the sights but wanted to know what to call what I saw. During a break, I asked one of the participants. She kindly answered, "We call them mesas." I asked if she could tell me why they didn't call them buttes, and her reply, couched in a sly smile, was "I teach fifth grade". I get it---when talking about the Navy to my 4th and 5th grade students years ago, I avoided the word "seamen" like the plague.
I had the blessing to have a weekend after that training with two very dear friends. We stayed in a cabin in the mountains of North Georgia, hiked about four miles of the Appalachian Trail, tubed in the Chattahoochee River, and went whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River. Great fun, all of it, particularly bonding with Jil and Angelle.
As we drove to the trailhead to hike the AT (laden only with water and a granola bar---no huge packs like the "through" hikers have), we drove through Scorpion Hollow. That area is a valley between two mountains in the forest. Why do we call it a hollow? Inquiring minds want to know....
Later that day, we cooled off in the river while tubing with 2000 of our closest friends. The goal of this adventure is to stick to the middle of the river (where at least 1500 of your closest friends are also trying to tube) so you don't get out of the fast lane (since we were in Georgia, Angelle called it the Peach Pass Lane). My tube and I disagreed at one point about where we should float, and we ended up in a pool on the side of the river.....in a not-just-slow-moving-pool, a NO-moving pool. As Jil waved as she floated past like her tube had an engine attached to it, I yelled, "I'm stuck in an eddy!" Her cackling laughter resonated all along the river. For the next two days, she mocked my use of the word, and it would send all three of us into fits of laughter.
Once we got on the Ocoee river to whitewater raft, the real thrills began. Lest you think you could possibly experience this adventure without getting wet, wonder no more. Not an inch of our bodies or clothes remained dry ..... and that was after only 5 minutes on the river. Our group leader for the 50 people on the bus had told us the basics like "your raft guide will say 'Get down' if you need to all get inside the boat." A mile or so into the trip, our fearless and educational guide named Ken called out, "Hit the deck!" Jil, Angelle, and I looked at each other with quizzical looks while everyone else is crouched in the belly of the raft already. "I guess it means the same thing as 'Get down!'" we surmised.
Loads of water and laughter later, we concluded that no matter what you call the experience, it makes us laugh.
Ken also advised that lily-dipping wouldn't be tolerated. Angelle looked at me with a "what the heck?" look on her face, as Ken said, "Get those paddles deeper in the water!" I giggled again because I love the imagery of "lily dipping".
We had a fabulous three days of fun-filled adventure and we all have war wounds and sore....... what do you call those? oh yes.....muscles.
Just for today, consider that when you use terms like "buggy", "pop", or "hot dish", you might stymie your audience if they aren't from the same area as you.
I asked Dave if he would like to do plumbing work when he retires from Raytheon in a couple of years. He is so good at Mr. Fix-It types of projects. His reply was, "I wouldn't mind. It is pretty simple, really. There aren't that many parts to a sink, after all. In other words, there are only so many things that need to be fixed."
This conversation was instigated yesterday morning when Dave glanced into my sink as I brushed my teeth. "Why is your sink filling up?" he asked. "Hmmmm...." I replied, having just realized it was doing that. "It has not been draining completely for a few days." He gave me the same look he gives me when I put a dish in the dishwasher "backwards" or forget to put the cap on the milk, completely. "Really?" is what he wants to say, but he loves me and is a patient man (incredibly, angel-halo patient).
He got under the sink and began to unscrew the pipes, remembering (as I would NOT remember) to put a pan underneath to catch the water. I would hesitate to call what came out of those pipes "water". Let me preface this to say I have done some pretty dirty jobs in my life---I've laid sod, I've camped for two days without a shower, I've cleaned the campout equipment after said camping trip, I pick up dog poop and vomit. None of these jobs, even if done at the same time, could prepare me for the nastiness that was under my sink and in the pipes. Dave cleared all that out and put everything back together (which baffled me and prompted me to ask, "How do you know how to put it back together?" to which he just gave me the "good grief" eye roll). He directed me to turn on the water but still......the sink began to fill up.
I thought I saw a little something under the drain in the sink (which is one of those kind that doesn't pull all the way out, making it difficult to clean), so I took a Q-tip and swiped it under there. Oh my....... This seemed to be a uniquely disgusting combination of hair and hair products. SINK JUNK! I gagged a little bit, and Dave did the eye roll again. "You used to change diapers for young and old folks with disabilities, right? This cannot be that bad", he chastised. "I just have a really good gag reflex," I added.
I took three more Q-tips and cleared out all the junk from the drain, ran more water, and VOILA! the sink drained completely.
Dave high-fived me and made an observation: "I guess I didn't need to take apart the entire plumbing system. I should have started with the simple fix like you did."
I started laughing, and not because it might be a first for him to admit I had the answer to a household problem. I laughed because all I could think was: this is the way it is with a miscommunication or relationship conflict.
Stick with me:
Over time, stuff builds up. Whether it is frustration, little irritations, misunderstandings, they build up like the hair product in the sink. Throw in some hairy mess --- a good conflict, perhaps--- and you have a situation that brings the flow of the relationship to a standstill.
But, just like Dave realized, sometimes we don't need to do a massive overhaul or huge fix. Maybe we don't need couples counseling, medication, or hard-core therapy. Maybe the answer is as simple as finessing the fix with a Q-tip. Maybe we just need to air things out.
Here are some of my favorite starters to a cleansing such as this:
*Tell me more about what you are thinking about __________________
*I'm sensing some frustration. Let's talk more about that.
*What are your thoughts about ______________
Just a little airing out can go a long way to getting the "flow" going again, without having to jump to the assumption that the world as we know it is over.
Just for today, maybe it is time to clear the air with someone you love or care about. Perhaps it is time to start with a Q-tip sized fix rather than a full-blown "open up the pipes" repair.
My new book published by Corwin Press will be coming out next month. The book is based on the research I did on my dissertation, in which over 500 teachers responded to a questionnaire on what builds and breaks down trust in their administrator.
I am currently booking dates for the late summer and early fall to come to districts and universities and teach about trust builders in the teacher evaluation process.
The Appalachian Trail is the great equalizer in comfort level. While people may be totally reluctant to carry on a conversation (or even say "hello") to a stranger in any other situation, people act like they are all old friends and close family on the Appalachian Trail.
Today, I had the privilege of being able to hike a bit of the AT in Pennsylvania while traveling between two jobs this week. What a glorious day for a walk in the woods. I packed two bottles of water in my backpack, found the trail easily, parked the car and hopped out to go hike.
"Where are you headed?" I heard a deep voice ask as soon as I locked the car. I looked up to see a guy with a huge pack on the ground in front of him, munching on an apple.
"South on the trail to Wolf Rocks", I replied, before I realized I would normally tell someone "None of your business" who was asking my destination. I looked at the trail and he laughed and pointed the opposite direction, "South is that way", he said without a trace of judgment. I asked him about his travels and he said he had been on the trail for almost 3 months, originating at Springer Mountain in Georgia. I could have spent an hour asking him about his adventures but I was itching to get on the trail. He waved his apple-free hand and said, "Happy hiking---watch out for the rocks. They're all over in Pennsylvania." I wished him luck with beginning college, which he had shared he would be doing in two weeks, and then I headed out.
For about a quarter of a mile, the only communication I had was with the wildlife: two stunningly beautiful fawns leaping synchronously through the forest, a couple of chipmunks telling me they were not interested in me getting too close and a larger-than-life doe who ran across the trail 10 feet in front of me, crashing through the underbrush on either side.
But after that....it became rush hour on the Appalachian Trail----I counted no less than 14 people (in 1s, 2s, and 3s), who without exception and without hesitation, greeted me with hearty "Good mornings" or "Howdy" or "Hey there!" and big smiles on their faces. Rush hour on the AT is a bit different than rush hour in major cities, that is certain.
Even though they also mostly greeted me with a slight earthy smell emanating from their "A shower is way overdue" bodies, I could easily forgive that because everyone was so friendly. After all, I don't have to sniff their armpits- I just want to feel safe and comfortable when I am in new territory.
Perhaps we could learn something from the AT culture: smile at others, greet them in a friendly fashion, and why not be interested in where they're coming from and where they are going?
Just for today, maybe we should take a lesson (not so much about the lack of showers) from the AT and enjoy the company of others.
While whitewater rafting yesterday on the White Salmon River in Washington, there were about three times on the 3 hour ride that we were not furiously paddling, being splashed in the face by torrential waves (slight exaggeration only), or inadvertently hitting each other in the head with paddles. During those three reprieves, I took the opportunity to ask our river guide (who dubbed us all "Lily-dippers" at first, in honor of our timid paddle strokes in the water) some important questions:
1. Did you ever have any crazy whitewater rafters (ala Kevin Bacon in "River Wild")? Travis (River Guide) said he once had a rafter who must have taken LSD right before climbing into the raft. He said he started out "just a little special" and by an hour into the trip was sitting facing backwards then a bit later ended up on Travis' lap. Wowee! I'm thinking this is not an activity during which anyone should be taking drugs or imbibing in alcohol. Dave said I shouldn't be distracting Travis with all my questions, either, while we are careening down the river in an inflatable boat.
2. What is the dumbest question you ever got asked? (and I prefaced this one by saying if it was one of my questions, he should tell me the second dumbest---Dave rolled his eyes; Travis laughed). Travis was stumped because he said there had been so many, how can we limit it to one? I said, "We have a ways to go, still. Tell as many as you want." He said many people had asked if they would get wet. He answers, "These are all Class III, IV, or V rapids. Yes, it is likely you will get wet" (the water is 42 degrees, by the way). He said a lady asked him, "Will we take out in the same place we put in?" Can you imagine? Yes, this is a circular river, much like the Lazy River at a Florida resort. We'll end up right back here in three hours. :) He said he has to resist the urge to answer sarcastically. But the last one he told us was my favorite: At what altitude do deer turn into elk? Well, now there is a fine how-do-you-do. How do you even answer that one?
Dave said I shouldn't distract our guide with questions and jokes. I said, "Pooey! It made his day and besides, I am nosey.' I began thinking about my most recent encounter with a "maybe you shouldn't joke" situation.
I was driving to meet a friend for lunch in Tucson the other day. I decided not to get on the highway for one mile and instead just stayed on the frontage road which dramatically and suddenly changes from 55 mph to 35 mph. As I passed the sign, two things happened. I lifted my foot off the gas (but did not brake) and I saw a motorcycle cop hiding (very covertly) on the side of the road. I thought MAYBE it was just the sun I saw glinting off his mirror (or his huge sunglasses), but alas, on closer inspection, it was his flashing light telling me he had caught me.
He pulled out on the frontage road, got behind me and turned those special lights on full force. I pulled to the side, and began to look for my license, registration, and insurance.
He came over to my window and asked, "I stopped you for speeding. Do you know how fast you were going?" Let me be clear---I was not apt to be funny at this point in the venture, I promise. I answered honestly, "I know I was slowing down because I saw the sudden change to 35 miles per hour, but I suppose it wasn't quick enough, huh?" He told me my speed and took my info to go back to his bike to make sure I wasn't a serial killer. Moments later, he came back to the car with all my paperwork and a ticket that looked like I had just purchased something from Best Buy (have you seen their receipts???) and said those magical words, "I didn't see any violations on your driving record..." (huge sigh of relief from me) "....so I am just giving you a warning." He continued to tell me that although I would not get a fine, have to go to court, have to suck up to my husband for months on end, etc., this warning would be "in the system, so if you are stopped in Oro Valley, Marana, or anywhere you drive around here, they'll see it." He ended his warning about my warning with a big, "So......." and maybe, just maybe, since I had been holding in such nervous energy, I finished his "So......" with "I should move?" To my surprise, he did not correct me but rather laughed outloud. I corrected myself, "I mean, I should slow down. I promise I knew that was the right answer." Another laugh.
When I told Dave of my massive good fortune, his response was a massive eye roll. "Really, you thought it was a good idea to joke with the motorcycle cop?" Hey, at least I didn't ask him to tell me about his craziest person he had to pull over or the dumbest questions he's been asked. I would call that progress, right?
Just for today, perhaps we (I mean I ) can enjoy the humor in our lives while making sure it is appropriately timed and placed.