November 26th, 2015

It seems appropriate to spend a little time on this day to think about being thankful. Below is a list of things for which I’m thankful:

Being alive and healthy. Yeah, I know I could stand to lose some weight and have to take some pills at night. But lately I’ve been reminding myself of the privilege I have to live on this planet. And for that I’m thankful.

My wife. Yes, she likes war and period-piece movies, but hey, nobody’s perfect (I’m not going to Brooklyn tonight). Seriously, this woman, who has put up with me for almost 23 years, is one of the most sensitive and caring beings I know on the planet. And I love that about her.

Family. I am grateful to have the best family. All of them. Period.

My Job. Of course there are some issues plaguing the system. That said I consider myself lucky to spend most days on a campus with a good number of students who are interested in learning. I’m also thankful that I get to work in an environment where most people (students and staff) are optimistic about the future. I love the autonomy afforded me, as well as the fact that I get to talk about sociology, which still makes me giddy.

Pets. I am grateful for the 3 furry animals that scour around our home, leaving hair (not to mention drool and cat litter) and love in their wake.

Friends. I have been lucky to live in three different states over the short span of my life (yes, I’m still very young). I’ve met and become friends with some special people during this time, which has given me many special memories that I will always cherish.


This morning as I sit next to my little heater that keeps me warm (another thing I’m grateful for), the only worry I have is the thought of forgetting to be thankful.

One thing at a time…

November 18th, 2015

I’ve been reading Ethan Nichtern’s book entitled One City: A Declaration of Interdependence. As usual in the month of November, I’ve become busy at work so it’s been hard to carve out time to read. And this morning was no different. I woke up at 7AM, took a shower and prepared some breakfast. After fixing my second cup of coffee, I sat down and read Nichtern’s chapter on multi-tasking. It pains me to admit that for most of the chapter my mind wandered to other things like today’s schedule, teaching, a student event this evening, etc. You get the drift (pun intended), right? And then I read this quote from Nichtern on page 103:

“If we want to truly accomplish many things in our life, then we need to try to do one thing at a time. That might be the best five syllable mantra ever: one thing at a time. Cook soup when you’re cooking soup. Write an email when you’re writing an email. Listen to Stevie Wonder when you’re listening to Stevie Wonder. After all, Stevie Wonder deserves your undivided attention.”

Good food for the soul…

A Day of Polar Opposites

November 11th, 2015

One goal I have this year is to become more mindful. Now you may ask “What exactly does that mean, Paul?” Well, that’s a good question. Currently for me,  being mindful is an attempt to “quiet” all of the noise filling my head. An example might be helpful:

Most weekdays, I travel 24 miles from my home to my place of work. During this time,  Normally I do one of two things: (1) Talk with my parents by phone; and (2) Mentally prepare myself for work day. Oh yeah I do actually watch the road while driving as well:)

At least part of mindfulness for me involves quieting the enormous amount of thoughts that  crowd my mind during those 25-30 minutes while I’m in my car alone. Thoughts like “What lecture am I giving today,” “How many students am I meeting with this morning?,” “I need to finish that article draft by this Friday,” “Where am I eating tonight,” and/or “Man, how bad are the Dallas Cowboys this year!”

To me, being mindful assists me in quieting all that stuff and enables me to merely enjoy the drive into campus. Focusing on all the above noise tends to fill my brain with all sorts of emotions (stress, frustration, anger at the cowboys, etc.). At this point, that’s my definition of mindfulness.

I rec’d a android app last week from a friend (Thanks Cassie) called “Stop, Breathe and Think.” Briefly it contains short audio meditations that help center one’s focus on things like gratitude, joy, contentment, etc. Yesterday I spent 14 minutes in meditation and this morning 22. I love the way I feel after meditating (refreshed, content, etc.).

BUT….that was only the beginning (7am) of my day…from…hell.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon was one of the most frustrating I’ve had this year. I’m not going to rehash the scenario, as that would only result in my reliving all the anger and frustration.

The reason I bring this up is that I am now home reflecting on two things: (1) How unbelievable it is that I could feel so much peace and contentment AND utter frustration and anger within a 7-hour period; and (2) How MUCH I have to learn about mindfulness…cause folks, I failed miserably today.

Sleep well. I know I will:)

Thinking About Tolerance

November 5th, 2015

In another year we’ll be electing a new U.S. President. The political machines are in full force these days, attempting to prop up their own while slashing their opponents. My political bent has drastically changed over the years and I unfortunately struggle with understanding (or many times even listening to) divergent points of view.  I recently read a book by Lillian Daniel (2013) about being spiritual and/or religious. In it she says:

“You can be open-minded and still know what you think. You can be accepting of other people’s ideas but still be willing to articulate your own” (Daniel, p. 164).

This quote struck a chord in me, as I often catch myself dismissing others opinions that diverge from my own. Yeah, I’ll give a confirming nod and say “That’s interesting” or “Well, that’s a bit different from my own thoughts on the situation.” But inside, I’m thinking “Wow, this person is ‘off his or her rocker.'” I’m sure I’m the only one that does this;) So maybe I’m contributing to some of the polarization that seems to be stifling any decent communication in U.S. politics.

To add to my guilt, I’m currently reading a book by Dave Tomlinson (2015). He goes even further in this regard when he says:

“The essence of genuine discussion is that each person is open to the possibility of being changed by what is shared. Without this, we might as well stand in front of a mirror and talk to ourselves. So it follows that the object of interacting with people of different faith backgrounds [one could also insert politics in general] is not simply tolerance of difference, but the expectation  that our own faith [or maybe insert political beliefs] will be enlarged by the encounter” (Tomlinson, p. 105).

I’m sure some of my friends are saying “Duh, this is quite simple.” And you’d be right. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s easy for me to nod and politely disagree with another’s point of view, but maybe the harder (and can I say more beneficial) part of it is actually making a genuine effort to both learn and benefit from that dissimilar opinion.