Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Patience: A Generational Gap

I recently had a conversation with a summer intern where we discussed her internship thus far and what her field experience would entail. Throughout our conversation I caught myself thinking:
Why doesn’t she seem nervous?
Why aren’t her hands sweating?
Why hasn’t she asked a stupid question yet?
Why doesn’t she appear to have gained the freshman 15 like I did?
So many questions floated across my mind during that one-hour meeting. I learned that the gal is twelve – twwwwwwellllllvvvvve - years younger than I.
With that realization, my questions were all suddenly answered: 
We’re basically living on a different planet.

Our age/experience/life-in-general gap made me think back to last week’s blog regarding the ancient need for people my age to wait at least an hour (more like a minimum of three once you drove to Wal-Mart, ran errands and waited for film to be developed) to see any photos that had been taken using a fim camera.
That’s how my generation learned patience!
That’s how we lived through an entire school day without taking a photo of ourselves in the bathroom mirror!
That’s why thousands of us are still holding on to these boxes

which are full of these!

My brief meeting with the intern left me wondering: What else?
What else has today’s younger generation not experienced, leaving them – in many ways – less patient than my generation?
(Which, of course, is much less patience that our parents' generation.)

Let me count the ways:

They didn’t get to play Oregon Trail. I say “get” like it was a treat. It wasn’t a treat, it was a chore. One minute you're in computer class pressing the space bar and the next thing you know Nicole has died of dysentery (there’s one in every crowd). Then, the meat goes bad because Matt couldn’t pull his weight when fording the Mississippi River (always won the spelling bee, never was athletic). My generation didn’t have to read The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team and apply it in the workplace because we had to learn about teamwork the hard way: Figuring out how to survive computer class without an axle breaking.

And another thing.

Today’s youth don’t understand the magnitude of multitasking because they didn't have to sit through an entire seventh-grade social studies class, trying to memorize the fifty-four countries in Africa and also keep a Giga Pet alive in their locker. You want to talk about pressure? Try to focus on a creative way to remember where Djibouti is while wondering if your Giga got enough love to last until Algebra 1. 


I never had one of these but my friend Marissa had three and she let me take care of one for a day. I killed it before lunch. It was a quick - I like you but I don't trust you with my kids - lesson in friendship and I went back to learning about Congo in no time. 

And finally.

The younger generation doesn't have to wait for mom to get off the phone with the PTA President before they can switch out the phone jacks and pray to the Internet gods that the connection goes through so they can chat with friends they haven't seen in three hours. 

They can’t identify with the association of anxiety that comes with these sounds:

They don’t understand the planning and patience that goes into trying to download ten songs overnight (because surely no one will try to call the home phone between 10:00 PM and 5:00 AM, right?) only to wake up to find that seven had errors occur shortly after you dozed off into dreams of Pacey and Joey.

We can talk all day about working with Millennials, compensation, benefits, work styles, praise and cluster offices. But the root of the patience problem comes down to the newest generation in the workplace having little to no experience with film cameras, The Oregon Trail, Giga Pets and dial-up Internet.

As for the freshman fifteen: 
As long as cheese bread still exists, 
the freshman fifteen will span lifetimes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

24 Frames

Prom season just passed and I’ve never seen so many beautiful young people in sparkling dresses dotting the rural landscape posing in front of cleaned up cars.
At least, not since last year’s prom.

The saturation of prom photos on Facebook (this is not a complaint, I truly enjoy seeing the photos) had me reminiscing just a bit about the days of old when I was one of those young kids in a sparkly dress moving more with the likeness of a newborn calf walking on ice than a beauty queen. The good old days…of which I have no desire to go back.

Something has disappeared since I was young and impressionable (ha!) and I believe the disappearance of this fundamental venture has created a generation that is missing out on a lesson in patience. Today we demand:
Faster connections
Promised promotions
Instant success and gratification

What did we have to do that today’s young adults know nothing about?

Wait at least an hour 
to get film developed into photos.

I remember Wal-Mart being the first morning-after stop following any dance, event or special occasion. We would gather the cameras – disposable or not – and take them to the back of the megastore for development.
Then we would wait.
Wait to see how many turned out.
Wait to see if the dress fit like you hoped.
Wait to see if the photo with so-and-so is a keeper.
Wait to see how that little glimpse of your life unfolded, in 24 frames. 

There were a few benefits to film development that go far beyond having proof for your grandkids that you did exist:

Momma always kept film in the second kitchen drawer. Each time she loaded a new roll into the camera, she’d stand in the kitchen, face south, and click a couple photos until she was sure the film was loaded properly. Inevitably, after waiting at the very least an hour to flip through the stack of hot-off-the-press photos, the first two (four if we got doubles) would be of the oven. There were always 24 frames on a role of film; 22 after Momma took her obligatory oven pictures. Can life be remembered in 24 frames? Definitely, if you make your days count.
Lesson: Days are not disposable. They are to be built upon, used with purpose and enjoyed. Do not squander them thinking you have another roll in the second drawer. The older you get, the faster the roll ticks down: 5-4-3… You can’t re-shoot and film over the bad parts. What you “shoot” today, you’ll have to view tomorrow. Or, whenever Wal-Mart says your photos are ready.

I had a childhood friend that had a hard time keeping her eyes open once the disposable flash fired. Without fail, the bright lights made her squint, squirm and blink. It was obviously a natural reaction. Do you know what we did with this friend during field trips, dances, special events and last-day-of-school photos shoots? We included her. With the understanding that she would look like a smiley sleeping person standing up, we included her in every one of our photos. It was her trademark move, though she wanted so desperately to not be that person.
Lesson: Include others and recognize all of the uniqueness they bring to your circle.
And let it be known: Blinky went on to have the most beautiful senior photos of our entire class. Gorgeous, really.

I have a friend who lost a dear family member unexpectedly just weeks ago. In an effort to preserve the man’s memory, my friend has begun sorting through film negatives to make prints of photos of years gone by. The man left behind a 10-year-old son; the photos will help preserve a legacy that perhaps the son doesn’t yet understand. Thank God they kept the negatives. Today we keep photos around just long enough to 1) post online or 2) delete when digital storage gets low. But we forget about the power that lies in the negatives. The negatives – thin strips of exposed film - can be used over and over again, like life’s teachable moments.
Lesson: When we view the negatives as lessons, we can gain multiple uses from one frame: learn from it, keep it around, and come back to them when needed.

We live in a time where everyone wants a quick turn-around.  
Instant results.
Fast changes.
The ability to know if things “turn out”.
The digital age has done that to us.

While these things are signs of the time, proof of advancements and forward-thinking, there is also great value in thinking back to the things that taught us lessons while we actually waited in line with great anticipation.

Sometimes, even, with bobbypins still in our hair.

This is part one of two. 
Come visit next Wednesday to get the rest of the story, would ya?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ode to the Farm Mom

This is for the farm mom.
The mom who can miraculously stretch one pound of hamburger into 6-quarter pounders, one 9 x 9 recipe for brownies into two 9 x 13 pans and bake a dozen potatoes in minutes when help accepts the offer to stay for dinner.

This is for the farm mom.
The mom who knows that cleaning out the bottom of the washer is like cleaning out a time machine from the previous week: kernels of corn, nuts and bolts, bobby pins, and diesel receipts. She’s never felt that bad about keeping the loose change and soggy bills she finds; there is a very good chance they originally belonged to her, anyhow.

This is for the farm mom.
The mom who can take her daughters back-to-school shopping and even manage to buy a little something for herself: a can of hair mousse that will last her two years.

This is for the farm mom.
The mom who can save anything:
A science fair project that now contains twice the amount of vinegar than the instructions called for.
A once-brilliant-white baseball uniform that forgot to find its way to the laundry after last Tuesday’s game.
A dismal PTO fundraiser that lacks motivation, input and action.
A decorated cake once certain to win the county fair. People change name tattoos into creative art all the time; surely she can help can change this icing into something beautiful, right?

What can’t she save?
A bad haircut.
“It’s just hair, it will grow back” she’ll empathetically say in support while watching the daughter try to fix the big mistake.
Four hours later she doesn’t feel bad for closing her prayers with: “For the sanity of everyone in this household, please let her hair grow back as soon as possible…”

This is for the farm mom.
The mom who – every once in a while – tries a new beauty product, even though her exhausted nightly regimen typically only consists of drug store face lotion, corn husker’s lotion on her cracking hands and chap stick. One day she’ll finish those jars of anti-aging crème she’s invested in over the years. Probably when the kids go to college and she is past the point of no return.  But she’ll use every drop, no doubt: She’s embarrassed to even think about how much she spent on the little jars.

Reality vs. Really Good Intentions

This is for the farm mom.
The mom who keeps stashes all over the farmhouse.
A stash of chocolate she only eats after the kids go to bed.
A stash of greeting cards that arrived in her mailbox when she needed them most. On her bad days, she still reads them. They’re like talking to old friends she’s lost touch with. 
A stash of Christmas presents she bought in April that she won’t find in time for Christmas. In fact, she won’t find them until August….16 months later.

This is for the farm mom.
The mom who doesn’t have much use for manicures, expensive coffee or flip-flops.
But she rarely goes a day without using a nail brush and lava soap, putting her coffee in the microwave two or more times before finishing it around 11:00 AM (that’s after misplacing it twice) and Muck Boots with plastic Wal-Mart bags lining the inside.

This is for the farm mom.
The mom who will buy a new blouse for the women’s luncheon, only to miss the event because she sees cows in the hayfield. But don’t worry, she’ll take the tags off for the next time she gets to go to town: the day she is room-mother for her middle child’s class. In true fashion, it’s finger paint day and it takes only minutes for her to question why she’d buy a new blouse for herself, anyhow?

This is for the farm mom.
The mom who recognizes, but never fully accepts, the fact that vacuum lines are fleeting but muddy boot prints in the carpet will last forever.

And special wishes for a relaxing day 
for the farm moms who sacrifice so much 
time, energy, emotion 
and good hair days that no one 
but the semen delivery guy 
gets to see.

You deserve it.