Saturday, September 16, 2006

Back to School

In spring, there is a quickening that results in bursting forth when the changes can no longer contain themselves. In fall, despite the clues that do exist, it seems that everything is going along pretty much as it was until the day when suddenly it's not - like stepping out of cut-off shorts into dressier clothes for the classroom or the leaves suddenly dropping off the trees after an October storm. Going back to school is part of that hard cut-over and it can mean so many things.

With school comes so many endings... End of warm summer weather. End of unstructured time. End of baseball season. And there are beginnings too. The beginning of cooler nights, soccer in the rain (at least around here), football, and time with friends after a summer full of family... payoff perhaps for the added discipline that comes with getting back into learning mode.

We're seeing all these transitions and more around our house. Summer was definitely an unstructured time for small person and me. We went swimming. He practiced his bike-riding skills. We spent time at the ocean as a family a couple of times and went hiking.

I worked too, though I didn't exactly do much blog writing over the summer. I managed a Judy's Book review from time to time and that was about it for writing, although I did also sign up with Associated Content and finally got around to sending in submissions a couple of weeks ago. I must have felt that fall discipline coming on early.

Now that small person is back in school, I am looking forward to devoting some more time to my latest writing project - an interfaith study guide for families. I spent a good chunk of the summer thinking about the need there is today for us to expose our kids to different ways of thinking and believing beyond what we might teach them ourselves and it galvanized me to finally get started on a project that's been on my mind for quite a while now.

I started some of the work of laying a foundation for how an interfaith study guide centered around families with kids might be organized and what sort of information would have to go into it to make it a helpful resource. Now I'm ready to dive in on the real work. If I were to feel that there was one thing for which I was uniquely qualified, this would probably be it. At least that's how it's felt the past couple of months. This is a good thing; I intend to use that energy to draw me into the work when everything else is trying to pull me out of it. Now, if I could just remember to quit once in a while so that I can remember to do other things too, like housework and catching up with friends.

I'm excited about another horizon-stretching writing project that isn't even mine. It's my 'friend' John Moe's, and it's called Conservatize Me and we're rapidly approaching release date. The quotes aren't meant as any kind of a jab; they're just there as a lame way of hedging my bets, kind of like how lots of reporters think they've kept themselves out of trouble simply by tacking on the word "alledged".

The reason I'm hedging my bets is because I have zero clue if John actually considers me any kind of friend or not. In fact, it's quite possible he might not recognize me when I show up to one of his booksigning appearances. It's not like we talk. He did interview me. Twice even. The first time was on the radio and someone I knew heard me without me telling them in advance, which is, of course, totally beside the point but cool from my perspective nonetheless. That there was a second time presumably has something to do with the fact that he too felt at least some rapport between us.

Anyway, John and I have exchanged emails a couple of times too. And I read his blog, which I totally love, probably at least partly because with our small person nearly ten, it's fun to be reminded of what five was like. I wonder if I should warn John about eight?

But here's the thing - and I know this already from television - you can't just meet someone a couple of times and read or hear them out there in the ether somewhere and then think you're friends. You might have some ideas about what they're like and you might even be right about at least part of it. In fact, you might even be right when you suspect that you have enough in common to become friends. The thing I have to keep reminding myself though is that friendships require time and attention - nurturing. This is a skill at which I've never exactly excelled.

Someday, they'll perfect a method of sending "Thinking of You" cards directly from the brain. When that happens, I'll have it made and my friends will hear from me on a much more regular basis. Until then, those who consider me a friend do so at their peril. My friends all know this so that part is not news. Mostly they seem to overlook it though occasionally they are honest enough to point out where I'm falling down on the my end of the implied bargain.

I am helped somewhat by the crazed circumstances in which most everyone finds themselves these days. It seems everyone's busy enough that my own lack of social graces is not quite as noticeable as it once was. Of course it also means that with neither side doing good job of keeping in contact, we'll quite regularly go months without seeing or even talking to one another. On the good side, we usually pick up about where we left off - friendships in slow motion.

I do my best to compensate by sending electronic birthday cards when I remember to find out a birthday and make note of it and by reminding myself in my calendar to reach out to folks from time to time. That helps - at least until I get so far behind that I don't follow my directives to myself any longer to send an email or make a phone call. Usually it's the phone calls that get me. See, this is where being at school or at work together can really make a difference. When we're in the same physical location together, it's so much easier.

If you have tips on how to stay in touch with people, send them to - we're not too proud to ask for suggestions and I for one am always more than happy to learn something new, even when it means having to give up old ideas to make room for the new ones.

What [skills/projects/ways of thinking/relationships/etc] are you cultivating?

Kimm Viebrock is an ICF-credentialed Associate Certified Coach who helps technology professionals and service-oriented technology groups develop and use their skills more effectively and increase their value within the larger organization, allowing them to do more, do it better and have more fun doing it. Kimm is devoted to finding the connectedness in life.