Be Gentle / Be Tough

It I get my toes stepped on, I figure I’ve got them sticking out too far. But sometimes I can’t help it. There are times when I have invested so much effort and emotion into something that it makes me vulnerable.

Right now I’m taking organic chemistry. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to learn. I’ve spent far more time on this one class than on all my others combined. I even worked on it for two to three hours every day during Christmas, between semesters. And because I’ve worked so hard on it, I’m trying too hard in class. Yesterday I answered a question — wrong. The professor laughed. I almost cried. Yep, got my toes stepped on.

Pull those toes back. Get tough. Suck it up.

This is MYproblem., not the professor’s problem. Yes, it’s easy for her, she’s been doing this for 30 years and she’s a genius (seriously, she is, I asked her, her IQ is over 150). But, her ability does not make my inability become her problem. And if I’ve got too much emotion invested in it and I’m trying too hard and I say something stupid, she has a right to laugh.

On the other hand, having the right to do something doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do.

The next time someone says something that, to me, sounds blatantly stupid… well, maybe I should stop and think. They might have their toes stuck out. Maybe they’re trying too hard. Maybe they’ve worked too hard, too long, and it’s hard for them. I can try to be gentle with others instead of putting on my big, heavy clod-clomper boots and stomping all over their toes.

Lessons for me: be gentle / be tough.

The Old Lady

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Get Over It

Sometimes things don’t turn out like you expected them to turn out. Things happen. Plans fall through. You find out things that you didn’t know and everything falls apart. When that happens, what do you do?

You pick yourself up and move forward.

And you get over it.

It’s easy to say, “it’s not fair” or to dwell on the bad things. You can mope and sob and be grumpy and feel sorry for yourself. You can moan about how you missed out on things and that you don’t deserve this. You can cry that you worked hard to make things turn out well and they didn’t. You can be angry or sad or resentful.

But don’t.

These feelings will eat you up. Slap youself upside the head and spend your time thinking about what you are going to do now. Move forward. Decisions that have been made can’t be changed. Paths that you walked can’t be unwalked. Remind yourself that you made choices based on the best information you had at the time and you’ve learned. No matter how bad things are, you have received some benefits. If nothing else, you’ve learned and you’ve become a better, smarter, stronger person.

Yeah, I hear you. I’ve said it too. “So what if I don’t WANT to be a better, smarter, stronger person?”

What choice do you have?

Go ahead, if you insist, mope the rest of your life away. Or put a smile on your face and get yourself moving forward.

The Old Lady

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The Computer Doesn’t Care if You’re Upset

It really doesn’t.

You really could throw it through the window and it won’t get mad at you. Of course, it also doesn’t feel other emotions. It doesn’t like you. It won’t wag its tail. It won’t bite you unless you don’t have it grounded and you do something dumb like pouring water in it then sticking bare wires into places you should stick them. Even then, that wouldn’t be done with rancour or animosity. Totally unfeeling.

On the other hand, if you are human, at times your computer causes you a wide variety of emotions. Anger. Frustration. And most commonly, bafflement and confusion.

Sometimes I think that the machines all come attached with critical need sensors. Devices that know how much you need the machine to work this time, right now and they have a reverse response built in. So when you really, really, really need it NOW, they are most likely to break. And along with the critial need sensor is a tech proximity sensor. That one funcitons under the logic that an issue will always totally disappear when there is someone standing there who could fix the problem. Then, when the tech or other SMART PERSON is gone, the problem magically reappears.

There’s no help for it. We just have to continue to wade through the botheration and confundication. Throwing the computer out the window won’t upset it, and also won’t solve the problem. (Well, it will prevent the problem from recurring on that computer, but it won’t solve your problem.)

Good luck. Let me know if you find a way around this particular yuckiness because even the Old Lady is powerless against technological inscrutability.

The Old Lady

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Never Use the “D” Word

Sometimes it gets really rough. Sometimes you are hurt and want to use the “D” word just to hurt him/her back. Sometimes you think you actually might need to DO the “D” word. And sometimes, you’re right, you do need to DO the “D” word.

What’s the “D” word?


I’ve been through a divorce. It wasn’t fun. But I made the mistake of using the “D” word and not getting the divorce. That made things worse. It hung in the air like the cheshire cat’s grin, only instead of being a huge smile, it was a huge, ugly, growl, with green slime dripping off rotting teeth. It hung there, threatening us both. That’s what the “D” word does, it threatens you both. Once it has been spoken into existence, that growl just hangs there. And it stinks. It flavors every argument and every potential argument. It changes the times that are “all right” into “not so good.”

Sweetie, if you want to recover from this argument, and go on to have a strong, long, good marriage, don’t, oh please don’t use the “D” word. A good marriage is worth working at. It’s worth sacrifices and effort. But it’s also difficult. Don’t make it harder by using the “D” word. 

But if you need the “D” word, only say it once. Say it as you are walking out the door to go see the attorney. Or say it as you hand him/her the divorce paper. But don’t say it until you are ready to do it.

The Old Lady

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How Many Perfect Leaves Are There?

I was walking across a parking lot a few years ago, on a depressing cold day, with too much work and too little time. A leaf blew almost into my hands. No other leaves were nearby, no trees. I looked at the leaf and it had one little place on the edge where a bug had eaten it. I remember thinking, “It’s almost perfect.” And then immediately thought, no, it’s totally perfect. Every leaf is totally perfectly, exactly what it is supposed to be – food for insects, food factories for trees, shade providers, oxygen producers, sources of beauty, a priceless piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is the totality of reality. Each little piece works together. Wow.

The Old Lady

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16 Steps to the Best Grades You Can Get

There really are just a few tricks that you need to know to make the best grades possible. Well, maybe 16 is not “just a few,” but it’s not that bad.

1. Attend class. Every class. Don’t skip classes. Most professors lecture on the things they think are important. These are the things that are most likely to be on tests. You might be able to skip reading the book, don’t skip class.

2. Sit center front (or as close as possible). This makes it easier to see what is being written on the board. It makes it easier to hear. It also makes it easier to interact with the professor. AND, it means you will be less likely to be distracted.

3. Pay attention. Put the cell phone on vibrate and leave it in your backpack. The world will not stop if you don’t answer that text until after class. (Besides, even if the professor doesn’t say anything, they are really pissed by people texting during class. And yes, they can easily see exactly what you’re doing. Having it in your lap does not hide it.)

4. Take good notes. If you don’t know how to take good notes, you definitely need to learn.

5. Ask questions. Ask questions during the class. Show up early and ask the professor about anything you have questions about in your notes. (Even the best note-takers don’t get everything.)

6. Every night (or at most, every 3 nights), review your notes and put everything on flash cards.EVERYTHING.Complicated things may take several cards taped together.

Some “super cards” and a page of notes with questions to ask the professor.

On the front of my cards, top left corner, I put a letter-number combination that tells me what class and either unit or chapter number. For example, C14 meant Chemistry chapter 14, and B3 meant Biology 3rd unit. I keep all my cards in one big stack, all shuffled together, and rotate out the cards after the test on that unit.

7. Go through your cards EVERY DAY. Preferably several times a day. At first, just read them. Then, you will need to start really working on memorizing certain cards.

8. For large amounts of material that can be put into table form, make 2 copies of the table and cut one apart into separate squares. Then study by trying to put the pieces together to make the table (without looking). I used this method when I had to memorize all the physical specifications for all the different types of computer communication protocols (what type cable, maximum lenth, connector type, etc.)

9. A few days before the exam, without your notes or cards, try to type everythingthat you remember. The whole unit. Then compare it to your original notes and fill in anything that you missed and correct anything you had wrong — in a different color type.

10. Don’t study extra the night before a test or the day of the test. This just creates nerves. Get a good night’s sleep. Eat a balanced, nutritious breakfast. Relax and know that you’ve got this one covered.

11. If there is one or two cards that are extremely critical and hard to keep in your mind, review them right before the test and then, the instant you get your test, turn it over and do a “brain dump” — write the content from the cards on the back of the test. That way it will be there, ready to refer to if/when you need it.

12. Read the test questions carefully. Circle the significant words. Skip questions that seem confusing to you then go back to them at the end. If you have time, go through the whole test twice. Work math problems backwards to doublecheck. But don’t double-guess yourself. Usually, your first gut feeling is right. Especially if you’ve studied all along. Don’t worry about the occasional question that totally takes you by surprise. I’ve had professors include the strangest things on exams. Stuff fom a part of the lecture that I had thought was a totally irrelevant, random tangent. Oh well.

13. Start all assignments the day they are given. Try to get them done as soon as possible.

14. Read the book and work the chapter problems. No, this is not generally a turn-in assignment. It is practice for the test. Many teachers take their exam questions straight from the chapter questions.

15. Fall break and Spring break have the wrong names. They should be called, “Fall work on your own at home” and “Spring work on your own at home”. Professors do not expect you to take these days off. If you take these days off, you will be behind when you return.

16. Read the syllabus. If you professor puts assignments and exam dates in the syllabus, copy all of this onto one page and put it in a sheet protector and keep it in your notebook.

College is a lot more difficult than I expected. My classmates say the same thing. Whether you’re straight out of high school or gray-haired, it’s hard. You won’t make good grades if you don’t have a good plan of study and apply yourself.

The Old Lady

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Loosing Your Temper…

… just isn’t worth the bother.

According to Shannon Mongoose, when a person loses their temper, it can lead to loosing “about everything in his head. Only the wires that keeps his ears in place remains. This is what you get from losing your temper. When it falls out it makes a gap and the rest follows. Usually patience is next and then it’s like stopping water with chicken wire.” (Shannon is a very astute mongoose. Yes, she’s a real mongoose, a furry critter. She’s one of my facebook friends.)

So, unless you want to be trying to keep the stuff in your brain with a fence of chicken wire, don’t lose your temper in the first place. Just learn to stop and think first. It really isn’t that hard and saves a lot of bother.

The Old Lady

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Fat Doggies

Yes, your dog loves to receive treats. Treats are great for training a dog. But don’t make your dog fat. Just think how hard it is for a human to be overweight. Excess weight makes it hard to move and damages your health. Consider how hard we fight to lose weight and get in shape. Why would you impose this terrible burden on your dog? Especially when it’s easy to control your dog’s weight.

So let’s talk about dog food and feeding.

First, select a good dog food. Read the label. You don’t want a dog food that lists corn as the first ingredient. Just like with human food labels, the first ingredient is the one with the greatest quantity. If the first ingredient listed is corn, that means that there is more corn in there than anything else. Corn is really not an ideal dog food. Select a dog food that has a meat product as the first ingredient. Meat is high in protein which is the dog’s primary dietary need. However, you don’t want to feed your dog a diet of exclusively meat. Vegetables add important vitamins and minerals that your dog needs for health. The good dog foods are more expensive. True fact – you get what you pay for.

An adult dog should be fed once a day. Use a measuring cup to be sure you put the right amount in the dish. Put the food down, give the dog 5 to 10 minutes to eat, then pick the food up. I’ve heard of people spoiling their dogs to where a dog will only eat a certain food or people who agonize because their dog didn’t eat all the food. People, the dog will eat when it’s hungry, and going without food for a day won’t hurt a dog (or a human). When you put the food down, the dog should eat eagerly. At the end of the feeding time, pick up the dish and put it away. (Always keep fresh water available.)

Treats can be given through the day. Especially give treats when you are training a dog to go into its crate.

(Uh-Oh — off on a tangent…) The crate should not be a place of punishment or a bad place. The dog should know that the crate is its bed and it should be a safe, comfortable, good place. At times you need to lock the dog in the crate. This should also be non-threatening. Our dog, Suzie, has 2 crates, one in our bedroom where she sleeps at night, and one in the main room of the house where she sleeps during the day. Suzie always gets a treat when she goes to bed at night, before we close the crate door. Because the crate is non-threatening to her, she eagerly enters the crate and waits for her treat. During the day, the door of the crate is rarely closed. A few days ago, our son’s dog was visiting. She is a puppy and not as well trained yet. She and Suzie were sleeping in the crate when I came home. Athena got all excited and was slow to settle down again, so I closed the door of the crate. Both dogs immediately settled down and went back to sleep. The point is, they were perfectly happy to be sleeping in the crate. The crate is not “jail” to the dogs.

Okay, back on subject.

Feeding treats. Using treats as a reward or for training is good. Sharing your lunch and dinner with you dog is not good. Sharing your popcorn while watching a movie is not good. Sharing a bown of ice cream before bed is not good. People, YOU should not be eating that many snacks. One snack/sweet/dessert a day. That’s enough. And your dog should definitely NOT be eating that type of food. Okay, you had steak for dinner and want to give the dog your bone. You can do that.AFTER you eat, in theDOG’Sdish. And then, adjust the next day’s food serving.

By the way, your dog is more impressed with how many treats, rather than how big they are. If you’re training, use many treats, but break them into smaller pieces.

Monitor your dog’s weight by observing their body. You should see an indentation where their ribs end. You should not be able to see the individual ribs. You should be able to feel the individual ribs when petting your dog. Your dog’s coat should be shiney and your dog should be energetic. If you aren’t sure about your dog’s weight, ask your vet. And, every year at their check-up, the weight should be unchanged. If they have gained weight, adjust their food. As a dog gets older, you probably will need to change to a lower calorie food. Suzie is a senior now and gets a special senior blend of the same dog food brand she has eaten since she was a puppy.

Keeping your fur-friend healthy is your responsibility. The best way to do this is to feed them correctly and make sure they have plenty of exercise, affection, and regular trips to the vet.

The Old Lady

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Lonely in a Crowd

Have you ever felt that way?

  • Walking through a crowd of people and feeling like everyone around you is laughing and living and together, and you were so … totally … alone.
  • Standing outside your home and looking at the dark, empty windows and not wanting to go in  there because it was warmer and more welcoming on the cold, dark, empty street.
  • Sitting in your living room, with the person who is supposed to be your soul mate (and sometimes actually IS) and wondering if there is any echo of what you are feeling in them.

Sweetie, I think this feeling of aloneness is one of the most common things among all humanity. We all live in isolation inside our own skin and our own days. No one can actually feel what we feel, no matter how much we care for them or they care for us. This life is sometimes lonely. For all of us.

The best advice I can give you for these times is to just take a deep breath and move forward. Stop the pitty party and realize that you are no more alone than anyone else. If you have one good friend, you have riches beyond counting. If you have a pet that loves you, you have more love than you can measure. Give yourself a good (figurative) dope slap, smile, and move forward.

And, sweetie, be certain sure of this: I understand — I know it’s hard – I’m proud of you.

The Old Lady

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I was Scared…

Last night I was scared.

What scared me? I had to lift my right foot, balance on my left foot, and put on my swim fin. With 80 pounds of scuba gear on my back.

Last week we saw a video of what happens if one of the scuba air cylinders is damaged.

I have very poor balance. I have artificial knees. At home, sitting on my sofa, putting my sneakers on and tying them is a cardiovascular exercise. And here I was, standing by a pool, with my hand on the shoulder of someone I had met a few weeks before, trying to lift my foot to put on my swim fin.

She said, “I’ve got you.” Oh yeah? You’ve got all of me if I start to fall over backwards? Really?

It took me three tries. I succeeded.

Did I feel this huge sense of victory? No. Not really. I have to do it again next week. Now I know that I can do it. Hopefully I won’t fall over and rupture the tank next week either.

The thing is Sweetie, I could have given up. I could have said, no, I’m too old for this. But then Iwouldhave felt a huge sense of defeat. I would have let myself down. Sometimes we’re scared. Sometimes things hurt. Sometimes we just gotta keep on trying. Take a deep breath and lift that foot. Try again. Try again. Then jump in over your head.

The Old Lady

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