Good Morning Beautiful!

12733505_10153260834997541_4899769578013394154_nThere are places in my life where I look for motivation. Church, for instance. I expect church to be motivating and inspiring. I expect to be challenged to be better than I am.

I also expect my family to motivate me: The dog greets me at the door, prancing on her toes, saying “Yeah, yeah, time for a walk. Time for a walk. You know you’re the greatest person in the world. Yes you do. Yes you do.”

My daughter motivates me to get off the couch or leave the computer keyboard behind:  “Come downstairs and play with me Mom. You know you’ll have fun.”

Or even my sister, “Come on, do it. You’ll never know if you don’t try. When is that book going to be published, by the way?”

I even expect motivation at work. Colleagues proofread and edit pieces I write, “Geez Michele, could that sentence be any longer?”  “Do you think you could find a new word for ‘robust’?” “That’s good, but could you make it 50 characters shorter?”

And I have a few college friends who write blogs and articles that inspire and motivate me.

I do not, however, look to paper towels for the one thing that will get my day moving in the right direction.

That is why I was so surprised on Monday morning, when after stepping out sock-footed, before the coffee had finished brewing, onto the cold, cold, cold garage floor at 5:30am to put food into the dog’s bowl (yes the same dog who is continually motivating me to be a great person)— I found, on the paper towel roll that I had purchased for the bargain basement price of $0.97, motivational quotes.

“Wake up and be AMAZING!”  The roll yelled at me in a multicolored, teenage-girl font. Seriously?!

I stood there in my oversized comfy pajamas, with my husband’s T-shirt poking out from underneath the top, and looked at the inspirational quotes on the roll. “Good Morning Beautiful” (complete with eighth notes), “Here’s to a Great Start” (written in the shape of an apple), and “Time to Shine” (complete with little yellow and red rays of sun).

My sarcastic mind immediately went to work as I ripped a towel from the roll to serve as my workspace for making the day’s lunches.

How about “Wake up and be Medusa?”  or “Time to pull the blanket over your head and sleep in”  or “Let’s get rolling” in the shape of a chocolate iced donut?

Perhaps the people who designed these motivational paper towels had the best of intentions, thinking that if people saw positive messages on their paper towels they would have a better day.

Now, if the paper towels had really good knock-knock jokes, or one-liners from Robin Williams, or Yogi Berra quotes, they would be truly awesome. That would indeed get my day off to a great start.

© 2016 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

We May Even Become Friends

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. —Maya Angelou

This week my day job involves interacting with my colleagues from 19 branch offices from around the globe. These people, some scientists, some marketers, some journalists, some younger, some older, have flown to Madison from PacAsia, South America and Europe. We meet in Madison, WI, in January to talk about aligning our efforts as we work to support the work of scientists around the globe.

When we sit down around a common table, we treat each other differently.
When we sit down around a common table, we treat each other differently.

We could have these meetings using video conferencing technology, and indeed throughout the year, we often do have such meetings. Emails and instant messages fly across cyberspace from continent to continent on a daily basis, but the yearly meeting where we all get together and interact face-to-face lends a whole new dimension to the work we do and how we do it.

Meeting one another and spending the afternoon at a painting bar sharing a meal, a blank canvas and acrylic paints brings out the humanity in all of us. We learn that our colleagues in France and in Switzerland also have young daughters who dress up like Elsa and sing “Let It Go” over and over and over and over and …well, you get the picture. Continue reading “We May Even Become Friends”

The Dog Ate My Christmas Present

Our silly tomten.
Our silly tomten.

We have four gifts under our tree right now. All of them were purchased by our daughter for Grandpa, Grandma, Mom (me) and Dad. That’s it, four gifts. And the dog ate mine.

Okay, perhaps that is just a bit of an exaggeration. The dog opened mine. My daughter and her sitter arrived home first, and they were able to rewrap the present.

It’s been that kind of Christmas season. Continue reading “The Dog Ate My Christmas Present”

Practically a Teenager

“I’ll be 9, which is almost 10, which is practically a teenager…so don’t call me little…”

That is how some of the conversation at our house has gone recently.

“Whoa! Slow down there partner, you’re still 8 right now, and you will never have the chance to be 8 years old again, so make sure you REALLY enjoy these next couple of days. And when you turn 9, don’t rush into teenager. Enjoy being 9; it only comes around once in a lifetime.”

As I rapidly approach my collision course with the half-century mark, I truly understand the quote “Youth is wasted on the young.” Continue reading “Practically a Teenager”

November Quiet

IMGP6083My daughter’s birthday month got off to an early start when she received her birthday card from the Green Bay Packers on October 31. Finally, an organization that appreciates November with the same enthusiasm as my daughter!

Typically we don’t get excited about November. It’s that brown month between the captivating color change and crisp fall air of October and the lights, tinsel and snow of December. The harvest is in. The fields are barren; the birds have migrated, and the snow has not yet covered the earth in its white winter blanket.

November is the month of naked trees, early nightfall, and frosty mornings. It’s monochromatic. In the United States, the even the major holiday in November, Thanksgiving, is primarily black, white and brown—harkening to pilgrims, turkeys, and a harvest brought in.

At first glance it is a plain month, a quiet month, a slow month.

And in our society we are not comfortable with plain, quiet and slow. Continue reading “November Quiet”

Autumn Preparations

laughing witchBack in September when I ordered my daughter’s Halloween costume, the end of October seemed an eternity away, but it’s here now. Crop dust fills the air now, creating orange, pinks, and purple-greys at twilight against which the newly naked trees find themselves silhouetted. No longer do colorful songbirds hide among leafy branches, instead giant ravens perch on spindly branches cawing their “Nevermore” warning. The wind blows in change.

October that time of frozen mornings, deliciously warm afternoons, and chilly eves. Continue reading “Autumn Preparations”

A Good Question to Ask

The_birds_(552854009)The gray clouds lay low in the sky, completely saturated, as if they might burst any minute, with wisps of tattered scud torn from them, grazing the clay roofs of the university buildings. It was fall in Austin, Texas. Hordes of grackles swarmed from tree to tree along the sidewalk, cackling and calling—turning the sky from gray to black as they moved, like something from Hitchcock’s The Birds.

On a corner, perched atop an overturned crate, the spindly, unshaven form of an itinerant street preacher stood incongruous against the backdrop bicycles, backpacks and jeans and t-shirts that passed around him. Perhaps he had been ostracized from a Puritan community and blown into the late 20th century with the somber weather. He held a well-worn black book up toward the sky in one hand, his tattered jacket flapped in the almost-wet wind. His thin voice carried above of the cawing grackles to anyone who would listen.

We condemn in others that which we hate most about ourselves.

Now, I’ve had a lot of school, and church, and church-school since that day. While I was finishing up my PhD in Biochemistry and Cell Biology, I crossed the railroad tracks on campus and studied at the theology school. I taught in a pilot high school ethics course in inner city Atlanta. I participated in a clinical pastoral education experience for laity at the university hospital, and I studied enough New Testament Greek to be able to poorly translate something about thousands of demented pigs running down a hill. And, as a college professor, I teamed up with the chair of our religious studies department to teach a capstone seminar course in science and religion.

Perhaps it was the atmosphere of the day. Perhaps I was in my 20s, away from home for the first time in any significant way and homesick and impressionable. Perhaps it was street preacher’s 1741 Johnathan Edwards delivery style. I don’t know, but that line has stuck with me, and as our society becomes more polarized and more judgmental, it continues to stick.

We condemn in others that which we hate most about ourselves. Continue reading “A Good Question to Ask”