Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs...

As I was driving to work this morning I saw a bus that was turning left in front of me. A large sign on it said “”. At first I was shamed that I had indeed taken my attention off of driving and read it and then I started to feel a sense of outrage over it.

Much like the old ‘70’s song by the Five Man Electrical Band says,:

Signs Signs everywhere a sign
Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign

Most of the signs seem to be aimed at selling us something. They come in small portable signs setting out in front of businesses to billboards to huge flashing electronic LCD signs advertising everything from which hospital is best to radio stations.

I feel as if I’m bombarded with messages, 24/7. At night those electronic monstrosities flash and swirl, keeping beat to some unknown rhythm all of their own. They draw our attention when we are at stop lights, saying read me, over and over. They are almost hypnotic sometimes and as I watch I find even my heart often beats with their flashes as I am drawn in to them.

Then the light changes and we’re all off, racing on to the next light, the next sign. Do we shake off the old sign before we are in front of the next? Do we even shake them off period? Those flashing images have a way of imprinting on our brains; sort of like watching TV and then closing your eyes. You can still see the image of the TV screen when you do that. So what does the flashing of the sign do? Does it imprint itself into your brain, your memory? That’s what they are designed to do folks, to make you remember them and the messages they try to sell us.

Is it safe? Do you feel competent to drive around with all of these signs flashing at you? Do you have the ability to shake them off? I’ve heard arguments from the sign companies saying that the signs are meant for the passengers to read. But as I said above, I caught the sign on the side of the bus so can we successfully block out the messages?

How many things do you try to focus on when you are driving? We have enough on our minds already; families, work, what we need to grab at the store. Messaging systems follow us everywhere we go now. The age of electronics ensures that our phone calls, e-mails and text messages are never out of our reach. Now we add signs that are doing their best to imprint into our already over-taxed brains, almost impossible to over look.

But I do try…

I like the last verse from the song:

And the sign said everybody welcome, come in, kneel down and pray
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all,
I didn't have a penny to pay,
So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign.
I said thank you Lord for thinking about me, I'm alive and doing fine

Friday, June 29, 2007

New Attitudes - Part Two

I think sometimes that we women are our own worst enemies. Again, it goes back to the internalization thing. It’s hard, if not all but impossible for us to just ‘Let It Be’, as a good friend of mine often tells me I need to do.

No, I lie in bed at night endlessly thinking of my day and trying to figure out how I could have done it better or different. I think about the phone calls I need to return or the e-mails; I think of the bills I need to pay. You know what I’m talking about because you probably do it too. Not to say that men don’t as well, but I’ve yet to meet a man who obsesses nocturnally as much as we women do. Most of them seem to have some internal switch they can flip which enables them to just move on.

I try, I really do and sometimes I almost, just barely succeed. I’m so close to the secret of letting it all go that I can feel it and then poof!, its gone. Back to lying there in bed, tossing and turning and trying to shut my furiously clicking brain off. Ticking items off that I didn’t do, items that I have the best intentions of doing the next day, all the time beating myself up for what I perceive as my serious shortcomings.

Why does everything seem so much more ‘vivid’ at night? You can sort of push it all aside during the day and yet at night, there it is, dancing emphatically before your tired and weary brain, demanding attention.

Another attention getter for me at night is my work. I love my job and the people I work with for the most part. No one could be more fortunate than I am in that I don’t think. I work with mostly women, a situation that can sometimes be problematic in many situations but which goes pretty smoothly at my job.

Our Associate Director is an amazing woman, especially in a business world that often does not often appreciate women. No, she isn’t paid near her worth or recognized either, but she still gives her best and makes this an amazing place for other women to work. She is a mentor of the highest caliber and shares her knowledge freely and enthusiastically. I have learned the most important of things from her – how to help others succeed.

As I watch and read about the business world around me I am constantly amazed to find women who submarine other women. They’ve managed to climb the ladder in the business world and many of them are kicking at the people below them, afraid to share any of the ways that got them there. Truly, they may not be methods we would want to embody anyway, but still, the women have made it and are there and undoubtedly they could help others.

Why are we so territorial in the business world? Where is our sense of solidarity? How many women climb the ladder, traipsing through murky and treacherous waters only to bang their heads against a glass ceiling? We see the other side and it is so close we can practically taste it and yet there we are, unable to touch it for real. There is not only safety in numbers, but strength as well ladies. What may be an impossible task for only a few will surely easily fall for many.

Take a stand. Reach out and help another woman, whether it’s at work or home or school or anywhere else in the world. Let her know she isn’t alone, that there is someone else there who knows her struggles and appreciates them and the road that has been followed to get there.

I promise you it won’t hurt a bit. Success isn’t better when experienced alone; it is much sweeter when shared.

Friday, June 22, 2007

New Attitudes

**NOTE: I have a strong Sociology background and what makes us tick as human beings endlessly fascinates me. There is a certain person in my life who often tells me I have a bleeding heart, but I hope he will forgive me for this one…

I often found during my sociological studies that I felt a great deal of anger towards men. Not any men in particular, but at the social and emotional aspect of men roles in society as opposed to women’s roles in society. Granted, as women we have come a long way, but sometimes we still sabotage ourselves.

For instance, I watch Survivor and have since the first season. Okay, its reality TV at its worst sometimes, I’ll admit, but I still like it. Let’s face it though, it’s a Sociologist’s nightmare.

Whether the tribes are set up in the beginning as men vs. women, it always seems to come down to that. Several times I’ve seen strong female teams and alliances go to pot just because a few men join the group. It’s like, suddenly the men infiltrate the women’s minds and all that testosterone over-rides common sense. The women have to know that the men use their superior physical strength to their advantage, so the women must use their wits. And a few do manage, but then they are looked at as bitches by the men because they are strong, or as threats by the other women. Time after time strong female alliances crumple as men get in the way of them.

It makes me want to scream. Do there have to be female only alliances? No, but if that’s where your original loyalty lies, why let some guy come sliding in and get between you and your alliance?

Why? Because we are taught from our youngest ages as women that we submit to the superiority of males. My mother taught me to be strong and stand on my own two feet, that I was as good as any male out there. And my dad reinforced that through my ball playing years when he fought tirelessly for new equipment for us instead of the cast-offs of the boys.

But often times those messages of subjugation come from within us. I think it has something to do with sex. We are the female – the part of the sexual equation that is ‘entered’ during the process. We are taught that there can be pain, but we must endure because that’s just how it is. We do it because we love the man, we want the babies, and we take joy and pleasure in the act. None of those are bad reasons at all and it isn’t a bad thing, that’s not what I’m saying. But who told us those aspects of sex?

We internalize everything. All the major things happen to us internally, sex, babies, and menstruation. It’s how we were designed, how our bodies function, but growing up with our bodies how can we not internalize everything emotionally as well?

Most men tell us we think too much. Is it any wonder?

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Music in Me

One of the many sociological things I ponder is music and society. I grew up in a house that always had music going in it. Yes, we had a TV but mom did her housework with the radio going and listened at night.

When I was a child my mom often listened to Wolfman Jack at night and it was so much fun to sing and dance with the music. But mom’s music tastes were very eclectic and I learned from her to enjoy music – all types of music.

Many people boast smell as being their strongest sense to ‘put them back into a place’ but to me, music does it. I can hear a song and usually tell you how old I was when it was out, or when I first remember hearing it. It brings recall of events and people, places and emotions. It touches my heart because of these recalls and I cherish them.

I can remember that my first slow dance was in 7th grade, at TARP with Mark R. and we danced to ‘Something’ by the Beatles. Not so much dancing actually, sort of holding onto one another and swaying a bit. I felt perfect, so happy. I think he was just happy feeling my breasts pressed up against him, but that is a different story!

But hearing that song puts me right back there, to a darkened gymnasium, arms around his neck, feeling both of our heartbeats skip along. Of the first stirrings of something I didn’t yet understand.

And music made it all acceptable. If I were to get that close to a boy in other situations, someone (an adult) would have pulled us apart, told us that wasn’t ‘acceptable behavior’. But because we were dancing, it was all cool – go ahead, get as close as possible, rub adolescent body parts up against each other. It’s dancing, socially acceptable; in fact it was and still is a socially favored behavior.

We teach our babies to listen to lullabies in attempts to quiet them at night, we teach our children the joys of playing an instrument or singing as an outlet for certain desires, needs or behaviors. Music fills our hearts, our heads and our souls; tames the savage and not so savage beasts.

The alphabet song teaches us our ABC’s, other songs teach us about our history as human beings, such as ‘The Erie Canal’. They give us a brief peek at what a society was, how the people thought, how they interacted with one another. Yet we often fail to acknowledge their significance.

And songs themselves change and evolve through the years as well, new versions, new singers. Take one of my favorite songs: ‘Since I Fell For You’. It was done in 1962 by Lenny Welsh (if it was done earlier I am not aware of that version). That song speaks of love in a relatively innocent way. Not the words so much – it was after all a song about a relationship breaking up, but the tone, the way it is sang. When I listen to it I see a couple perhaps necking in the backseat of a car, stolen kisses and a few illicit caresses. A song for the times, because that was a lot of what 1962 was about.

Another version came out in the ‘80’s by jazz artist David Sanborn with lyrics by Al Jareau. Same song, same tune, but a little edgier, hipper. It’s no longer quite so innocent; its melody sort of invades your body, urging you to move with it.

And finally, Michael Bolton’s version in the early ‘90’s. Again, same song and melody but this one takes on a whole new feeling. Its way past edgy, it doesn’t just invade your body it permeates it, and you know exactly what it is urging you to do – run out and find that certain someone and have your way with them - NOW!

So here is the question I put to you all: Has music changed because of society, or has society changed because of music?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Note to Self

While driving to work this morning I looked around as I sat at a major traffic intersection, waiting for what seemed like eons for the light to change. Everything looked muddy. I mean, not just the roads and stuff, but we have had a lot of rain lately and lots of areas of Kansas have been thoroughly flooded.

No, it was more than that, the repercussions of the weather. Everything just seemed so brown and bleak. Which was surprising to me. The weather this morning said storms would likely move in this afternoon but that this morning was clear and sunny. I looked up and saw big puffy clouds in the sky and I saw the sun as well, shining brightly from the east. It glinted sharply off traffic windows, another reminder that it was sunny.

I thought about it on the rest of the ride to work. So what is the matter with me that I’m seeing everything in such a drab and unappealing shade of brown? Life is pretty hectic right now. Work is sort of kicking my butt and I am consumed by a new story I’m writing for the website. But still, things didn’t seem so bad really. There have been lots of times when I was more bummed out than this.

I sighed, it seems so sad, that I’m looking at the world this way. Very little color, not able to see the beauty around me. Well hell, it looked beautiful if it just wasn’t so darn brown…

I got to work and pulled into the parking lot and turned the car off. I sat there for a moment, taking a few breaths before I went in to work. My whole day seemed spoiled somehow, my normally perky outlook clouded. Reluctantly I pulled the keys out of the ignition and tossed them into my purse and then reached to grab my lunch. As an after thought I pulled my sunglasses off and laid them in the console and then winced as I looked out the windshield. The sun was blaring in through the window, and the sky was vivid blue!

NOTE TO SELF: Don’t wear such dark brown tinted sunglasses again!