I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Studying for Future Generations

“Do you need a right-handed or a left-handed door?”

“Let’s go with right-handed.”

“Do you need shims?”


“To help secure the door frame.”

“Well, I have a guy who is hanging it for me.”

“He’ll probably need them. If he doesn’t get it aligned properly, ask for your money back and come back to the store to get some shims.”

“I’ll just take the shims right now.”

“How about door hangers?”

“Door hangers?”

“They help align the door.”

At this point, the Menards employee knew he was dealing with a guy who had no earthly idea what he was doing. He placed the door hangers (which look like brackets) on the door frame and tried to explain how to use them. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I took the door hangers anyway.

“How about paint?”

“Isn’t the door already painted?”

“It’s primed.”

“No paint. A primed door is good enough.”

On my way home, I couldn’t help but wonder how my grandfather, who lived through the Great Depression and could fix anything, would have reacted to my lack of hardware knowledge. Then I remembered a quote from the John Adams HBO miniseries.

When Adams (portrayed by Paul Giamatti) arrived in Paris to ask the French for naval support of the American cause, he found a culture he’s unfamiliar with – one much slower and engaged in the arts. Over a meal, he is asked about music and his response is thought-provoking.

“I must study politics and war, you see, so that my sons will have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons must study navigation, commerce and agriculture so that their children will have the right to study painting and poetry and music.”

My grandfather was on the front end of this spectrum in my family. He studied finance and repair, so his sons would have the liberty to study genealogy and photography. His sons studied sales and management so their sons, including me, would have the right to study literature and writing.

This is not lost on me.

When a generation stops thinking about, appreciating and building on the sacrifices of the previous generation, we become self-absorbed. But when we build on the sacrifices of previous generations, it gives us a chance to live beyond ourselves.

I have a feeling my grandfather wouldn’t be disappointed in my visit to Mendards. Instead, he would smile about the fact that his sacrifices allowed me to become a writer. But he would also want to make sure I’m not taking my liberty for granted, and he would want to make sure I’m studying something for the next generation so they will have the freedom to pursue something they love.

He’s been gone for nearly 30 years, but I can still hear the question he might ask me: What are you studying that will benefit and allow the next generation to pursue what they love?

I would tell him technology. I’m not crazy about learning new technology. In fact, sometimes I find it maddening. But in the same manner in which he was able to teach himself how to repair lawnmower and dryer engines so he could fix appliances in my family when they went out, I have a knack for learning technology and then passing that information along to loved ones, which I hope empowers them in some small way.

How about you? I would love to hear about the sacrifices the people made in your family which allowed you the freedom to pursue what you love. And then tell me what you are doing for the generation behind you.

Friday, February 01, 2013

How to Care for Introverts

When I see photos with quotes or sayings on Facebook I scroll past them. I guess it’s part of my personality. I’d rather hear what the person who is posting the photo has to say. 

But one particular graphic continues to make its way into my newsfeed and I eventually read it. It’s entitled “How to Care for Introverts.” As an introvert, I want to talk about this.

1. Respect their need for privacy.

I don’t think my introversion makes me need anybody to respect my privacy any more than the average person. In fact, once I get to know you, I’m probably more open regarding my privacy than the average person. Maybe those who know me would disagree. If so, I’d be interested in hearing their take.

2. Never embarrass them in public.

Does anybody like to be embarrassed in public?

3. Let them observe first in new situations.

Totally agree. Don’t ask me to participate in something I don’t fully understand.

4. Give them time to think, don’t demand instant answers.

While I have an instant opinion, I don’t always trust it. I need time to process before I can give you a real answer.

5. Don’t interrupt them.

This doesn’t bother me. People interrupt each other in conversation.

6. Give them advance notice of expected changes in their lives.

Seems like a common courtesy.

7. Give them 15 minute warnings to finish whatever they are doing.

This is why I’m an email person, or at least a text before you call person. I charge clients by the hour, which means I track everything I do with a timer. Unexpected phone calls require me to clock out of the job I’m working on so I can pick up the phone. The problem with that is, it’s hard for me to pick up where I left off after the phone call. My flow is gone and I have to try to find it. So yeah, a 15-minute warning is nice.

8. Reprimand them privately.

Does anybody like to be reprimanded publicly?

9. Teach them new skills privately.

Not true for me. I’d rather learn a new skill in a classroom environment. I don’t feel like I’m on the spot as much, and it gives me more time to process what I’m learning.

10. Enable them to find one best friend who has similar interests and abilities.

I don’t understand this one. How does one “enable” someone else to find a best friend? Don’t we naturally gravitate toward people of similar interests? And my best friend doesn’t need to have similar abilities.

11. Don’t push them to make lots of friends.

I don’t understand this one either. If it simply said, “Don’t push them,” I would get it. I hate being pushed. But why would anybody push someone to make lots, or fewer, friends?

12. Respect their introversion, don’t try to remake them into extroverts.

A good rule of thumb for any personality type.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What Happened to the Last 20 Years?

Photo: Dicemanic
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had multiple conversations with people my age about how quickly time flies. I’m 46 years old, but it seems like I should be 26.

I say that because I have so many unmet expectations – ones that are typical of a twenty-something, including marriage, children, an established career, and financial security.

Marriage has eluded me, which means having children has too. One friend says it may be the result of me having a high sense of duty. He’s probably right. Whenever I see a need in my family, I try to meet it – from caregiving to stepping into the gap when someone else leaves. And I’ll be honest, more than once I’ve wondered if my turn would ever come. I don’t say that as a victim – at least I don’t think I do. It’s just an honest question.

Over the years, some have told me I deserve my turn – my shot at a family and children and that I can’t always be expected to play a supporting role. I agree with them. And if the right woman had come along, I would be married by now. But since she hasn’t, I do what I believe I’m supposed to do. I step into the gap, and I do so without any regret.

My career isn’t where I thought, or hoped it would be. In my twenties I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I did what most people do. I filled out applications and took a job. When I got tired of one, I took another one. I didn’t stumble into the possibility of writing professionally until I attended a writer’s conference in 1998. I was 32 years old then, and still had a lot to learn. It was seven years before my first book was published.

Six books and hundreds of articles later, I have a pretty good handle about the type of writing I enjoy most. Nothing satisfies me more professionally than telling an athlete’s story. I don’t care about his statistics or awards. I care about his journey. One editor tells me I gravitate toward the blue collar athlete and I think he’s right.

Last summer, I interviewed Kansas City Royals’ outfielder Mitch Maier about his journey through the minor leagues, hoping to eventually land in the big leagues for good. I wrote the story as a freelancer for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and a couple of thousand people read it. Neither the piece, nor the traffic it attained, was earth-shattering, but I hope it accurately portrayed Maier’s heart and maybe gave fans a glimpse into his struggle.

During the 2012 College World Series, I wrote a story about a father and son who caught a home run ball during a 1998 CWS game and for years they wanted to return it to the player who hit it. After the story ran, I was curious to see if I could find the player. It didn’t take me long. He called the boy, who is no longer a boy, and that led to the player getting his ball back. And of course, it led to another article that was a blast to write.

Once I learned what I wanted to write, I started looking for a position as a sports feature writer with local and national publications. So far, every door I’ve knocked on has been closed. I’ll keep knocking, but I wonder if it’s too late.

It seems like I should have figured out this, and so much more, twenty years ago.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Laughing at Yourself

Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself.

During the Australian Open women’s final this weekend, No. 6 seed Li Na was locked in a tight battle during the second set with world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka when Azarenka pushed her wide to her backhand side, which happens to be Li’s best shot. Only this time, her left ankle rolled over and she plummeted to the ground in pain. She landed awkwardly, slamming the back of her head against the court.

Earlier in the match, she rolled that same ankle and a trainer taped it so she could continue. So when she rolled it a second time, the crowd gasped. For the next 30 seconds, everybody was quiet as medical personnel checked on her. After the match she said she was worried because she couldn’t see anything for two seconds after bumping her head.

Medical personnel checked her for a concussion. The doctor moved his finger back and forth and asked her to follow it with her eyes. During the test, while still sitting on the court, she burst out laughing. She continued to laugh as they examined her. She wasn’t laughing because possible concussions are comical, but rather, she was laughing about her clumsiness.

It lightened the mood in the stadium. And it also made me think.

I don’t laugh at myself often enough. I think it’s because I’ve heard my share of fat jokes in my lifetime, so I’m sensitive to people joking about me. Somehow, I’ve allowed that to squash my personality, which really is more jovial than I let on in groups. But it is time to let my guard down.

On Sunday, a friend sent me a text asking if I was going to watch the Pro Bowl. He knows I’m not a huge football fan. I told him I was going to watch Ally McBeal on Netflix instead. Here is our brief exchange after that:

Him: Turn in your man card ... geesh

Me: You are gonna make me cry.

I don’t think he picked up on my attempt to laugh at myself, so I still have some work to do. We’re all a work in progress though, right?

By the way, the doctor cleared Li to continue playing. She fought through her injuries and ended up finishing the final against Azarenka, losing in three sets. But I have a feeling she gained many new fans.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

‘Parenthood’ Season Finale Satisfying; Is it the End?

Ray Romano plays Hank
Photo: Tom Caltabiano,
Wikimedia Commons
I wrote an article for Yahoo! Voices about the season four finale of NBC’s Parenthood that aired last night. If you are interested, here’s the beginning of the article, followed by a link.

The season four finale of NBC’s Parenthood felt like a series finale.

Kristina got an all-clear on her cancer, at least for now, and she ended up on a beach in Hawaii with Adam. Drew was accepted into Berkeley, severing ties with Amy, who is bound for Tufts in Boston. Joel and Julia officially adopted Victor. Jasmine tells Crosby she’s pregnant. And Amber and Ryan got back together. Ryan even got his job back.

Sarah’s storyline is a bit of a loose end. She rejected Mark in favor of Hank and then learns Hank is moving to Minnesota to be near his daughter. Even though he asks Sarah to join him there, you get the feeling she won’t. So, maybe her storyline isn’t really a loose end.

The beauty of Parenthood is its humanity. It’s not as much about whether the characters will make the right decisions as it is about how the Braverman family rallies around each other, even when they don’t agree. The overriding theme of the series is that their love for one another conquers their disagreements and heartaches and they find great security in that – so much so that they reach out to others in their own brokenness and pain.

The season finale contained several such moments.

Keep reading

Saturday, January 12, 2013

How Do People In Your Life Express Themselves?

I’m reading a nonfiction book called Homer’s Odyssey. It’s about a woman named Gwen Cooper who adopted an eyeless stray cat nobody else wanted. It’s a beautiful love story.

When Cooper adopted Homer, she was single, living with a friend, working at a nonprofit, never had more than fifty dollars in the bank at the end of the month – and she had two other cats. She had a lot of perfectly good reasons to pass on Homer. And she almost did. Before meeting him for the first time, she makes this observation:

“I should note that, prior to this, I had never taken an I’ll meet him and we’ll see attitude when it came to pet adoption. It never occurred to me to meet the pet in question first, to see if he was ‘special’ or whether there was some sort of unique bond between us. My philosophy when it came to pets was much like that of having children: You got what you got, and you loved them unconditionally regardless of whatever their personalities or flaws turned out to be.”

As a result, she says she felt dishonest driving to the vet’s office that day. But she couldn’t help but wonder how a cat without any eyes could convey expression. Homer answered that question for her.

As she interacted with him, he responded to her voice and cuddled against her shoulder. Then she realized something. “It isn’t the eyes that tell you how someone is feeling or what they’re thinking. It’s the muscles around the eyes, which pull the corners up or push them down, crinkle them at the edges to convey amusement or narrow them into slits indicating anger ... And I could tell, from the shape the muscles were taking, that if he’d had eyelids they would have been half closed in an expression ... of utter contentment.”

Homer found a home that day.

A few years ago, I adopted a cat named Latte. She can be wild as all get out sometimes and I wondered early on if I made a mistake in choosing her. Reading between the lines, the woman at the shelter told me Latte had already been returned once and I got the feeling that she was close to becoming unadoptable, which meant certain death. Maybe that’s what made her so adoptable in my eyes. Well, that, and the snow job she put on the day we met. She was the picture of tranquility.

I only learned about her wild side after we got home. But she has a loving side as well. Right away, she developed a habit of curling up in my lap while I’m watching TV at night. She rubs her head against my cheek as we drift off to sleep. She begs for attention whenever I get home. And she loves to be around people so much that she prefers not to eat unless someone is in the room with her. That means her food and water bowls are next to my recliner in the living room.

Cooper’s philosophy about pets, and children, rings true to me. You got what you got, and you love them unconditionally.

In fact, I think her philosophy applies to all personal relationships.

No doubt, that’s easier said than done. But maybe our relationships would be a little stronger if we took the time to find each other’s way of expressing ourselves and then met each other there. Some speak with their eyes (or eye muscles). Some speak through their passion for music, art or literature. And others speak by the choices they make.

How do people in your life express themselves?


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