Category: Thoughts (page 3 of 6)

To duck or not to duck challenging viewpoints

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It seems like the whole rest of the world is weighing in on the whole Phil Robertson/A&E controversy. I had intended to just duck it (arrrrgh) therefore. But it just keeps coming up, and I just. have. to. say. something.

A few things, in fact. Continue reading

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Books (people) are always more interesting than their covers

books

I have not posted here in a long time, and honestly I still don’t have the time today, but I know I will miss the opportunity unless I talk about this now.

We are in the middle of the capstone speech round for my classes, the speech to actuate. Several students have impressed me, but a couple stood out today. I offer these stories because of their implications for communication on several levels. Continue reading

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There’s always a story between two dates

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I’m sitting in the Intensive Care Unit of Children’s Hospital in Knoxville with my daughter as she sleeps, finally resting after three or four days of what must have felt like drowning for her. It turns out she has double pneumonia. Under the tender ministrations of the medical staff, she is getting better, and although Hannah has taught us that we never know the future, even two minutes from now, the prognosis is good, and we expect to take her home early next week.

As I look at the ceiling, though, I see graphic reminders that many parents who have waited agonizing hours in this room have not been so fortunate.

Instead of empty industrial ceiling tiles, patients see a colorful collage of artwork done mostly by children who have stayed here, whiling away the time and contributing to later patients by relieving visual monotony. It is a nice touch.

But a few of them come from parents leaving behind a memorial. You can easily spot these tiles; they’re the ones with two dates.

They strike me the same way 19th century cemeteries do. Have you ever strolled through an old graveyard and noticed how many tombstones commemorate a child? Some have only single dates for a child who died the same day he or she was born. Many have tiny statues of lambs on top. In some older cemeteries fully half the graves hold the remains of a child, with dates only a few years or a few months apart.

This is a room of hope, not a cemetery, but it is a room that has witnessed countless dramas and struggles, the stuff of movies and stories. Maybe these stories aren’t spectacular enough for the big screen, but for the real individuals involved they held all the impact that a Gone with the Wind or a Titanic did for those characters.

At this moment, two nurses are working on Hannah, and alarms are going off. I am writing because I can’t really do anything else. I can do little for my daughter right now beyond simply being present, and so I turn to writing, a tool that has always helped me make sense of the world.

I don’t know how much time I will have with Hannah. It may be a day; it may be that she will far outlive me. I hold out hope that gene editing may allow her to escape the chains that bind her in this life. (I’m not delusional. I realize it’s a long shot, but a slim chance is better than none.) But I do know that I don’t want to risk one day looking at a tile with two dates and regret that the space in between was so filled with trying to make a living that there was no room to just hold her hand.

I’ve tried to post at least twice a week, and I’ve kept that up regularly for 19 months, except for two periods when I took a week or two off. But I need to turn my attention to other things. I’m not leaving, but I’m setting the conscious intention of cutting back to posting only two to four times per month for at least awhile. Effective communication is my passion, but only because it connects us to each other, and I have some connecting of my own I need to do.

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Ideas are dangerous, and so must be communicated

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America is the embodiment of an idea communicated.

Tomorrow is July 4, a day that Americans celebrate the Declaration of Independence. We call it Independence Day, but the reality is there were five years of war yet to come before a treaty was signed granting independence. Stop and think about that: it means we celebrate not the achievement of independence, but its declaration. Continue reading

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Communication and kids: When is it worth all the effort?

dad_n_me_19_days

My dad getting acquainted with me. He’s 38; I’m 19 days old.

Effective communication can take a lot of time!

Preparing a speech takes much more time than most people realize. Research. Organization. Interviews. Writing. Rewriting. Rehearsal. More rehearsal. Checking venue. Checking tech equipment. Getting decent graphics. Slideware. Travel. And on and on and on. Some experts say you need to devote an hour for every minute you will speak. Even when you’re speaking about a familiar topic, one you’ve spoken on dozens of times before, it takes more prep time than the average person realizes.

It’s like a child, in a way. When my first came along, people told us that a baby would take a lot more time than you realized. Smugly, we thought we were prepared. We were wrong. Life completely changed. Continue reading

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A difficult holiday? Make your own meaning!

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Warning: I’m going to get personal with you a bit.

Communication happens in funny ways. Meaning comes from people, not from circumstances, but people inevitably create meaning around circumstances. Depression around Christmas is well-known. For me, Father’s Day is a very mixed holiday.

Part of it is something I share with lots and lots of people: my own dad died in 2002. I miss him a lot. So Father’s Day calls up both his absence and my gratitude for his presence for as long as I had him. Continue reading

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Creativity comes from the spaces

Mountain_path_pagoda_for_relaxation_and_viewing

Earlier today, my computer was acting weird, so I decided to reboot it. Rather than simply restarting it, though, I shut it all the way down.

This is probably the first time it has been completely shut down in a month. I’m one of those folks who tends to just shut the lid and let it hibernate so that it’s instantly available when I need it, and since it’s a Macbook, it can be weeks before some software glitch causes enough of a problem to make me reboot compared to having to do that two or three times a day sometimes on a Windows machine (although I’m not really trying to restart that debate).

The sense of relief and relaxation I felt was remarkable mainly because I hadn’t noticed how tense I felt until then. Continue reading

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Appreciation is not a political statement

vet_cemetery_smaller

My dad was a paratrooper in World War II, who spent most of the last months of the war languishing in a German POW camp. (I told part of his story in The Greatest Story Never Told.) I remember him being disturbed at the way soldiers returning from Vietnam were treated. I don’t remember his opinions on whether that war was “justified” or not. I just know he thought it shameful that people would disrespect those people, who had already gone through so much hell, and that he was determined I not have to go.

Several recent conflicts have been compared to Vietnam, mostly in terms of quagmire. I tend to agree that our political leaders have involved us in the kind of foreign entanglements George Washington warned us against, a warning we have pretty much ignored. But I am glad that, as a country, we have seemed to recognize the difference between protesting a given war and marginalizing those who simply serve the nation.

You don’t have to agree with the politicians to support the troops. Continue reading

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“But I worked so hard!”

body_builder

Here’s one reality of preparing a speech: there is no necessary relationship between how much effort you put into preparing for a speech and how well it turns out.

It is true that most people (in my opinion) underestimate the effort required to do a good speech, in terms of research, organization, rehearsal, and delivery. Nevertheless, it is also true that you can spend months preparing for a speech and spend joules of energy, and still have a bad speech. Continue reading

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Little differences in words make big differences

lightning

Mark Twain once said in a letter to George Bainton, in 1888, “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

As we’ve said here numerous times, it’s not what happens to you but what you think about what happens to you that determines your experience. The different flavors of words shapes the way we think about our world, and therefore shapes our experience.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between being humbled and being humiliated. Continue reading

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