Thursday, April 25, 2013

This Dove Flew the Coop: Reflections on Self Image

I do like this picture of me.  I think I was kinda cute.

Like many people, I have been fascinated recently by the Dove ad campaign that shows women who have two portraits sketched by a police artist who never actually sees them.   One sketch is based on self-description and the other on a description given by a person the woman has just met.   In each case, the sketch based on the other person's description is prettier, friendlier, better... while the pictures based on women's descriptions of themselves highlight their own perceptions of their flaws, rather then their beauty. I get it. Women are prisoners of poor self image.  My Facebook feed was filled with Dove re-posts, as women I knew were captivated by the videos.  Several of the blogs I regularly read, including this one on Inside Higher Education,  took up the discussion as well. 

First I have to say, "Go Dove creative team!"  Dove doesn't even have to spend money to place the ads because they are referenced everywhere in blogs, web forums, and television outlets. Not only did their targeted demographic, women like me, respond by posting and commenting on the videos, but discussions of the campaign and its merits have reached large national forums, such as David Brooks' column in the New York Times.  Parodies have appeared, lampooning the idea that men seem to think they are more attractive than they really are, making this a discussion about how gender informs self-image.  Wow-- from publicity to postmodern discourse with one ad campaign! The team deserves a bonus for all that buzz.

Since I was coincidentally writing something about how I hate to see pictures of myself, and how I therefore go to great lengths to avoid having them taken, and how this has gotten more difficult, now that everyone constantly carries a phone that is also a camera, I was especially interested in the Dove talk.   My real problem with having my picture taken, of course, is that I am always horrified by the results.  Mainly because I don't think they look like me.  That is, they look awful, and that can't be me, right?  I look like I have been the victim of some fun-house mirror filter, which grossly accentuates all the flaws I can usually forget about when I think about myself. 

This image found here
Clearly, something is wrong with me.  Do I actually walk around thinking I'm better looking than I really am?     Or, as the Dove people would have me believe, do I just judge my pictures harshly because I am a typically self-critical woman?  As with any choice that offers two possibilities, I actually think it's a little bit of both.  I don't have an accurate self-image, and apparently, though I am mentally kind to myself,  I am hyper-critical when I see myself in photographs.  Specifically, I am always surprised that my teeth look the way they do, and hey, what's with my hair, and I look so tired, and so fat, and so, you know, different than thought I looked.

And we don't take pictures to throw them away, do we?
I realize that my problem stems from my belief that my photos will persist in perpetuity.  So, yeah, not only are pictures worth a thousand words, but generations from now, they may be all that is left to record my existence and those thousand words will say that I look incredibly hideous.

We take pictures to keep, to remind us of a moment in time, to look back on, ponder, pore over and yes, critique.  Has anyone ever met a women, even a professional fashion model, who was able to look at a picture of herself without cringing at some element she saw?  And here is this difference between women and men. Some men are self-critical, but as a group, and I'm making a gigantic unsupported generalization here, men have less of their self-image hanging on what they look like.  They'd like to look good, they'd like to be captured for posterity in the best possible way, but they seem to allow for overarching conditions like age and weight and how long it's been since they've had their hair cut and how much they might have had to drink, whatever...  None of them want to look like idiots, but "hey, I look how I look," seems to be an acceptable male idea.  The Dove parodies may be onto something here, but I don't think it is going to help me, because it makes me feel even more ridiculous for caring about something like this in the first place.

This is clearly something I need to work on.

I don't think of myself as particularly concerned about my looks either-- I've never thought that was what I mainly had to offer-- I mean I'm not the Elephant Man or anything.  I'm average, but I've always figured that my sense of humor, my intellect, who I really am, counted more.  I grew up in the generation when kids were being told that what was inside counted most, and we were all beautiful inside.  (Yeah, it was the seventies.)   I know that I am not as unattractive as I think I look in pictures, and also, not exactly what I look like in my own mind either, where the notion of inner beauty apparently quiets my personal image anxiety. 

I have been horrified many times when someone has told me that a picture I found woefully unflattering "looked exactly like" me. Ouch! There are two, maybe three, pictures taken during my lifetime that I approved for viewing by a general audience. The best of them, shown above, was taken before my second birthday.   Another, from my wedding, was the one I finally deemed acceptable to use as my Facebook profile pic.  That's two good pictures in the space of about forty-five years.  There might be a decent one to come when I'm sixty or so.  And I remember feeling this way about my photographed image as early as junior high, when I looked at pictures of myself in my first yearbook. That I eventually worked on my high school yearbook staff was not completely uninfluenced by the chance it offered me to edit my own pictures.   (That, and the chance to roam the school "doing yearbook stuff.")

And this may get to the root of my discomfort. At my core, I am an editor. I write, but that is only to have something to edit, to polish, to perfect. I know that my first draft isn't quite right, that I could do better.  I don't know if this is a "feminine" trait, or just something about me.  In pictures, I always see where I could have improved.  I could stand up straighter, comb my hair, smile less oddly, and make a mental note to burn those jeans, or at least never appear in them publicly again.

This crazy self-editing actually coincides with one of the things I find interesting about the Dove discussion, which has gone beyond the talk of women and beauty and moved to talk of women and criticism, particularly self-criticism. David Brooks, at least, has brought up the idea that this might not be so bad. Let's just say it gals, we've gotten into a lot of trouble throughout history because men with some weight to throw around have thought they were better than they actually were. I think most wars really start that way, and this comes around to Brooks' thought that perhaps "feminine" self-criticism isn't an altogether bad thing in the world, because it cuts through some of the hubris that leads to all kinds of bad decisions based on over estimations of self-worth. Maybe one good thing about the specter of self-criticism is that it forces us to constantly assess whether we are giving our best. In life, and in pictures.  So we edit, we polish, we entertain alternatives, until we're more certain that we're really expressing the best of what we have to offer.  We try to stand up straighter. 

I know that inner beauty is what Dove was trying to get at, and I get it.  I just wish more of my inner beauty showed in photographs.  I can't wait to see the ad for the Dove product that makes that happen. That, I will definitely buy. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

This Awful Week

I've had ideas for new pieces rolling around in my head this week, but everything seemed pretty trivial compared to what happened at Monday's Boston Marathon. While we lived in Boston, we took the girls to the race every year, watching near Heartbreak Hill at Boston College.  The race was on our minds, and we had talked with the girls about it Sunday night, lightly lamenting the fact that Patriot Day isn't a holiday in Arizona, like it is in New England. 

And then we saw the news. 

We have been riveted by the updates that have flowed this week, watching the press conferences and the vigils, and following the progress of the investigation.  We lived in Boston-- well Brighton, a town "within" Boston-- for only three years, but they were the years that the girls were forming their earliest memories, so even though they have little patience for the news, this has caught their attention, because they recognize the scenes they are seeing on TV.

Have the runners gone by yet-- could you pass the snacks? 
"Watching" the marathon a couple of years ago.

When I sat down this morning, I thought I would finally get this piece completed, but there have been new developments overnight.  The police action has moved into to our old neighborhood, so my attention has been drawn back to Boston, currently under lock down, with all public transit shut down as a law enforcement army conducts a manhunt for suspects identified on security film footage from, of all places, Lord & Taylor in Copley Square. 

It has been hard to process all of this, because it seems surreal in a way.  But the girls are asking questions, so there has to be a way to answer.  Delia stood watching the evening news as she undressed and redressed a Superstar Barbie, and asked, "Is that little boy they're showing dead?"  When I said that he was killed by the bomb at the Marathon, she looked alarmed, and asked how old he was, and if this had happened close to where we used to live.  She seemed slightly relieved when I showed her that the bombings had taken place downtown, not in our old neighborhood.  I added that rescuers had been able to save Martin's sister.  "But his parents must still be crying," she said after a minute, only leaving the room with Barbie when the commercial interrupted the news. 

Fiona was caught off guard by another detail, which was the explanation of how the bomb was made out of an ordinary pressure cooker.  She was sitting on my lap when she asked, "Is that a cooking pot?" 

When I said that it was, she said that " a evil guy or mad scientist must have made that plan to hurt a lot of people." I tried to follow Mr. Rogers' good advice and point out that many of the people who got hurt got lots of help from others around them, but she said, "but one evil guy can cause a lot of damage."

I don't think I was very effective with either of these exchanges.  The question for me has been how to talk about evil in a serious way that isn't going to worry the girls too much.  Even the word "evil" sounds so melodramatic or, worse, cartoonish, when you're talking to kids.  Studying philosophy, particularly ethics, I had several occasions to closely examine theodicy, the discussion of how we can reconcile evil around us with a belief in G-d or in some intrinsic human goodness.  The answer always seems to come down to faith that the world is unfolding as it should, albeit, in a way that we can't always understand.  It reminds me of talks I've had with Fiona about how some kitchen appliances work.  I was able to sensibly explain the toaster, but when we talked about the microwave recently, she threw up her hands and said, "I guess you don't know exactly, you just know it works." 

This is a lot like that, I think.  This week has been full of evil-- this bombing, a huge explosion in Texas, a poisoned letter sent to the president, the revelation that a justice of the peace and his wife are responsible for the execution-style slayings of prosecutors in Texas, the failure of our government to agree on gun control measures... And there's more, including war and unrest in progress all over the world, just the average awful stuff.

Meanwhile, I'm going to watch Boston catch the pressure cookers guys. That could be some evidence that good is just as powerful a force as evil.  I'm going to have to trust that eventually things work out as they should-- because if I don't believe it, I can't say it to the girls with a straight face.  They don't have to know how it happens, they just have to know that it works.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Marriage Rules for Little Girls

Future Mrs. Rich Guy?

The other night, as Delia rearranged the peas and chicken on her dinner plate to make it appear that she was actually eating, she announced that she "wanted to marry a rich husband."  Swallowing my chicken and the jolt of fear that arose because she is already contemplating marriage, I asked her why she thought that was a good idea.  She was very matter of fact, noting that if she married someone rich, she could have a big house, go on vacations, and get lots of clothes and her own car and anything else she might need.  This is the first year she has seemed concerned about our family's comparative lack of stuff, and apparently it is shaping her ideas about a lot of things.  Because she has visited the houses of school friends, she is less satisfied with our apartment, and as every girl who has had to share a room with her sister is bound to do, she is lobbying for her own room. "We could all have our own rooms if we had a house," she says, though she graciously allows, "you and Daddy could still share, if you wanted to..."  We do.  Thanks.  

But before we could turn the discussion away from lifetime commitments to talk about how having a lot of stuff isn't always so important, Fiona chimed in, "M used to have a lot of money, but he doesn't anymore and I love him anyway."

Fiona is in an imaginary committed relationship with a three foot tall plastic display version of a yellow peanut M&M.  He was gifted to her before we left Boston by my CVS manager, who not only wanted to get it off his sales floor, but who was also touched by the true love of a girl and her candy pal.  She can call him just "M" as a nickname, because he's her boyfriend.  All of her dolls and stuffed animals are their children and she tells us often what he thinks about situations that arise with 'their kids' at school and about stuff happening on television.  M has a lot of strong opinions, and I don't agree with all of them, but at least I know he's from a good home and he doesn't have a motorcycle that I have to worry about Fiona riding on the back of.  We hope they're very happy together until she's about thirty, which is the age Mike has decided the girls will be allowed to date.

Fiona's main squeeze.  A model boyfriend.
The discussion of marriage continued when I asked Delia, "Don't you think love is more important than money when you decide who to marry?"  Mike was also interested in the answer to that one.  Again, she was matter of fact, "Well, if he was rich, he could buy me lots of presents and then I would love him." She paused for a minute, pretending to chew some peas, and possibly because she realized that this might be kind of shallow, she added, "I'm sure I could find someone who is nice and rich, and I would love him because he was nice, and he would still be rich.  Then I would have the best of both."  There it was, the admonishment of parents through the centuries:  It's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one. Out of the mouths of babes, right?
We were at the table for a while, because Delia never did really did make any progress on her dinner, so we discussed the possibility of her becoming rich herself.  She had taken this for granted, assuming she would have a career (as a rock star or an astronaut or a professor) and her own money, but she was clear that her future partner should have his own too, because then they would not have to worry about money for sure.  "And I might want to take time off to stay home with babies, or he might, so we both need to have money." 

It all seems so simple when a six year old explains it to you. 

Later, I found myself wondering why I hadn't thought of all of this when I was her age, because I certainly don't remember thinking about it then.  My sons are now old enough to be in real committed relationships, but I don't remember either of them thinking about who they were going to marry, let alone specifying that money was important, when they were Delia's age.  We certainly lacked stuff when they were growing up too, but neither of them seemed to think that marrying money was the way to get it, even when they were old enough to make those choices for real.  My marriage to their dad had been such a disaster-- the stuff of Lifetime movies, really, complete with a final escape with the kids' toys and clothes loaded into black trash bags-- that I used to worry the boys would have trouble with their relationships.  I can happily say this has not been the case.  They are both good men with good women in their lives.  I don't offer advice, unless I'm asked. And I'm usually not, which is okay.

Is it different with girls, though?  It already seems that it is.  It is also a new generation of girls, with lots of options that weren't on the table when I was growing up.  Maybe I wouldn't have messed up so badly the first time if I'd had Delia's confidently pragmatic attitude.  On the other hand, maybe I wouldn't appreciate Mike the way I do now if I hadn't been through something so awful.  Nah, he's great-- I would've loved him no matter what. 

Still, as we finally cleared the plates, after Mike and Fiona had gone in to muck out the girls' room in preparation for bedtime, I told Delia that even though it does really kinda suck to be poor, the real trick to marriage is finding the person you want to be with, no matter what else happens. "Yeah," she said, "like they say on a wedding, for better and worse, for richer and poorer, and then they both say I do and they kiss." 

"Yeah, just like that, " I said.  And she giggled, because she's six.   


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Why You'll See Me in H-E-Double-Toothpicks

No one's perfect, right?  Maybe someone is, but if that perfect person tells us about it, that could be indulging in the sin of pride, and then, poof,  no more perfection.  No one we know for sure then, but if there is, she's keeping it to herself, because that's the kind of perfect person she is.  This little bit of inane logic makes me feel better when I think about my own universe of faults, and I have to think about them, or I couldn't even begin to try to fix them.  Of course, the way of a Jewish girl like myself isn't private confession and devout penance, but public complaint and sarcastic self-deprecation, so here is a partial outline of the character elements I should be improving.  Any plans to improve or progress toward such improvement will certainly appear in another post.

First, I'm lazy-- as in, I avoid work. As I write this, rumpled beds lay unmade, dirty dishes soak unwashed, and please, don't even get me started on what's dusty and sits undusted. And I can't let myself off the hook because I'm getting some writing done, because if there was a blog deadline, this baby would be on the back burner too, with the phone calls I have to make and closets I should clean.  This is because my will to get something done varies in inverse proportion to the urgency and magnitude of what I have to do. Wow, that was almost like math and it made me tired, but I mean the more I have to do, and the more quickly I should attend to it, the less I actually do
Is she contemplating her slothfulness?  I would be, just to avoid getting to work.
Those of you with a taste for the classics will want to identify this as the deadly sin Sloth, which sounds much more glamorous because it also somehow sounds more evil. Miss Lazy wears sweatpants and drinks juice from the carton, but Sloth is all dressed up in an evening gown, reclining on a chaise lounge with a cigarette holder and a cocktail, dismissing all the stuff that isn't getting done with a wave of her manicured fingernails.  Since I procrastinate by wasting time or doing one thing instead of another, I don't think I qualify for the tawdry glamour of sloth.   See, even my laziness is lazy.

This is because another of my big problems is that I am eminently distractable.  I just wandered away from here for a minute because I heard the blip-blip-blip of the Words with Friends game on my Facebook page, alerting me that it was my turn.  I mean seriously, I was in the middle of a sentence and I clicked away without even trying to finish it.  Sadly, there is no glamorous, classical name for such spineless attention deficit.  Further proof of this bad habit is confirmed by a quick walk through our apartment at about 4:30 on any given afternoon. Every room holds the beginning of a project--something I started with good intentions, then abandoned because I started something else, also with the intention of finishing, until the laziness and distraction washed over me.

You know where this is going-- those are good intentions...

And we all know what the road to hell is paved with don't we? In my case those good intentions often cause me to curse, even in front of my children.  Aw hell, I swear in front of other people's children too.  On Delia's class trip to the aquarium this week, one strapping young man ran through the ambient darkness of the dimly lit exhibits, crunching my toe and throwing me off balance toward a tank full of eels.  Of course I know the swearing has a deeper and uglier root-- my bad temper.  I wouldn't have to swear if I didn't fly off the handle.  Because I'm so cranky,  I've developed a fall-back faux-curse:"Flipping Flippers!" I wasn't able to manage that in the aquarium, though the words I chose started with the same letters.   I think only five or six people heard me though.

I hope they weren't judging me, but I couldn't blame them if they did, because one of the things that often diverts my attention is my own judgement of others.  Not that I really care if people swear-- they probably have good reasons.  Maybe their toes just got stepped on.  No, my special bad angel sits on my shoulder when I read because I am exceptionally critical about spelling and grammar errors.  In my own defense, I have made a living as a proofreader and editor, so my judgemental nature has provided me with some marketable skills.  I might have written a bestseller by now but for the laziness and distractability and, oh yes, the crippling agony of fear that I will make a mistake myself and therefore be a judged judger, haunted eternally by the knowledge of my own errors. At least this flaw comes with built-in punishment. I recently yanked a Facebook post that had been up for eight hours and already had comments, because I couldn't stand the idea that someone would realize I had put in an extraneous apostrophe. By the time you read this, I will have gone over it a hundred times, probably while I avoided something that urgently needed to be done.  But enough about me, back to judging the mistakes of others.

Publicly posted errors, such as a recent notice about a new group for fathers at Delia's elementary school really drive me nuts.  (There's my  bad temper again!) The flier, which was put up on walls all around the school and sent home in the backpacks of innocent children, read: 

Calling All Dad's! 

"All Dad's what?"was all I could think. 

I didn't immediately think of the awesome group of guys who wanted to get together and have some fun with their kids. No, I stood there wondering what kind of example those idiots were setting,  putting up a notice that was confusing and wrong.  Then I despaired because no one else was going to care anyway.  I only muttered to myself about that, but I am certain that a failure to keep my criticism to myself was a factor in the loss of my last job.  The boss put out long manifestos filled with errors and required everyone to read and initial them.  I left them on the counter, corrected, after reading them.  When she learned it was me, she icily asked that I go over the communiques before she put them out, since I was so smart and all, but I wasn't there long enough to really help her with her writing...

Maybe I couldn't stop myself from marking up the memos because I'm competitive.  No one will want to play with me after I post this, but I have to admit to a certain competitive streak which really reveals itself when I play Words with Friends.  I really hate to admit to being competitive, especially as it fights so hard with one of my major flaws, which I wrote about recently, always wanting to look like I have everything under control. It is hard to be nakedly, rampantly competitive while projecting an air of studied calm-- ennui, really-- about the craziness of this mad, mad world.  And you'll note that I'm too lazy to be competitive about anything requiring strenuous activity-- I already know that even Fiona can best me in a race, but only because I don't want to look like I'm working at it. 
I felt I had to include this fault though, after hearing myself growl, "Take that Wayne!" while jabbing Send Move on the keyboard for a particularly juicy word.   My friends are all intelligent, with great command of the language, so they are often ahead of me. Luckily, I really love a come-back, though I won't post those self-congratulatory messages on my Facebook wall, as that would be, you know, tacky. But seriously, I crack myself up with how happy I am to get ahead in something so simple, and I die a teensy tiny bit when I lose. 
I don't know them, but if I did, I would be envious.
I play on Facebook when I am supposed to be getting things done, as I noted above.  Thankfully, Facebook is not something that similarly inspires my competitive nature,  but does bring out another of the seven big sins--Envy.  Everyone looks like their lives are better and more fun and they do more stuff and they look so thin and their kids are so cute-- well my kids are cute too, and I'm proud of that, which could be another flaw on my list, but pride looks like a sin that takes some work, and as you can see, I've already got a lot on my plate.  And I just thought of something else I could be doing.


(Leave a comment and let me know what I've forgotten-- or let me know what flaws you're working on.  I won't tell.)

Sloth cartoon here. Myrna being slothful, here.  Cobblestones here.  Grammar laugh here. Happy family, hereSignpost image found here.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Seriouser and Seriouser

When you think you can do anything, you do a little of everything...

I've followed some of the discussion about Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In, but just so everyone knows that this isn't really another discussion of the book,  I want to be clear that haven't actually read it, and I probably won't, because reading a book from the leadership section always makes me nauseous.  I still have awkward flashbacks from mandatory Who Moved my Cheese management sessions back in the late nineties.   Also, I'm pretty sure Sandberg is talking about a kind of life I've already decided against. I have spent way too much time as a manager already, working the corporate wheeze, sending my children off in the morning and sometimes not seeing them until the next morning, thinking about my workday long before it started and far too long after it ended.   If that is the only way to lean in, I'm definitely leaning back.  But I suspect there are other ways to make use of what Sandberg is talking about when she says things like "don't leave before you leave." 

Looking back, I have to admit that I haven't usually "leaned in." Not that I haven't worked and done plenty of other things, but I've been a dabbler, trying my hand at all kinds of things, rather than turning with laser-like focus to success in any one area. 

Whenever I have a chance, I like to blame my own shortcomings on the cultural zeitgeist, and I see no reason to make an exception here.  My logic goes this way:  in the seventies, when I was a kid, there was an explosion of opportunity for women, thanks to some hard-working feminists.   Those new opportunities were celebrated , as in this commercial, proving that women could do it all. (And smell great doing it!) 

The idea that an excellent job could be combined with a great relationship and a happy family made lots of possibilities seem endlessly appealing.  Have a career, have a sex life, have a kid (or two or three, if that's what you think you need to do.) The only real mistake was limiting yourself.  The message was that I (any girl) could do it all. 

An appropriately disturbing image of trying too much at once.

This cultural propaganda was amplified by the fact that there were some things I could do well without having to try very hard.  I got good grades, As and A minuses, without having to work too hard.  I am a quick learner, but of course, this doesn't instill a great work ethic.  Why try harder, when you can just do more?  I did school plays and dance shows, worked on the yearbook, did academic competitions, any activity (yeah, no sports, you know me) that seemed like it might be fun, because why not round out my college applications, where being a dabbler had some value?  It seemed better to be "fine" at a lot of things than great at just one or two. The ability and propensity to take on activities continued after graduation, and with a couple of tragic exceptions, I did okay.  It wasn't too long before I could competently sew and make jewelry and cook and crochet and and write and do research and manage a store and make schedules and work the big espresso machine at the bookstore, and-- well you get the idea-- all without having to really exert myself, which was good, because I didn't ever like to look like I was trying too hard.

And what is that about?  This fear of showing that I am making an effort. I used to joke that, because I grew up in Southern California, I felt obligated to make everything look easy--no sweat, sail through, stay loose.  Working hard just never seemed cool.
No sweat-- I can do it all from here...

I smugly, and (thank goodness!) mostly silently, chuckled at the hard-working, stressed-out antics of the grinds, the zealots, the gung ho-- what chumps!  All the way through law school in fact, I pointed and shook my head, talking about having a balanced life when I was really running a three ring circus sometimes, trying to work, study and take care of family.  Yeah, I would think, if I applied all that effort and worked my ass off on just one thing like those clowns, I might have finished in the top ten. But I had kids and I had to work, so top twenty-five is great for doing just enough, right?  Who needs to be so serious when you have natural talent to fall back on?

This, I think, gets to the real issue, and I have to admit it: I hate to look like I'm trying too hard because, then, what if I fail?  I'll look like a dumb-ass.  So yeah, if I could get a ninety without really investing myself, it seemed better than aiming for that perfect score and having to possibly face the fact that I failed.  My self esteem has been wrapped up in how well I can do without even trying, how close I can cut it, how smoothly I can skate by.   I have celebrated the narrow escape and felt that was my real skill-- doing just enough to get by and stay in the game.  But this has begun to lose its allure for me. It's tiring really, much more of an effort than making an effort.

And middle age (I'll live to be 98, right?) has clarified the idea that there are not so many new opportunities left after, say, forty five: not so many chances to scrape by and bounce back and act like I didn't really care about what I had been doing anyway.  It is past time to focus, so maybe that's what  "leaning in" will be about for me. Because it turns out that you can't do it all-- at least you can't do it all well-- and you do have to choose, because you can only dabble your life away for so long.  At some point, if you want to feel good about what you do every day, you have to get serious, and you have be willing to say that what you do matters. 

I mean I do. I have to devote my time and effort to something that matters to me.  I have to get serious.

I'm already confronting the fact that "...and she did it so young" is no longer what people will ever say about me, but if I can't give up caring what people will say, then maybe it would be nice for people to say, "...and she gave it her all."  Now I just have to choose what I'm giving it all to.  I have a couple of ideas.  This is the first year that I didn't spend most of every week doing a job I didn't like just to earn a paycheck.  I really need the paycheck, but I know that if I'm going to put in the effort, I have to be doing something I like to do. Especially if I have to work hard at it.

Of course, I still need to be cool, so if this doesn't go anywhere, I can always claim that I could have done better, if I had really really tried. 

Alice in Wonderland image found hereMulti hand image from here. Beach image from here.