Friday, May 03, 2013

I've Moved

I'm not sure if anyone is still reading this particular blog, but I thought I should make it clear that I've moved.  Finally broke down and bought my own domain name.  Surprisingly, it was still available!  Check it out!

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Conversation with My Mother-in-Law

So, I had the most hilarious conversation via text message with my mother-in-law before.  She has taken to using Siri to dictate text messages recently and apparently with her German accent Siri gets confused because they turn out quite hilarious.  I had read a few of these interactions that my wife shared in the past but had never experienced it myself.  That all changed this morning.

She texted me to let me know that someone had tried calling her number to get in touch with my brother.

Necessary information to understand this conversation: I call her Mutti (german for mother) and she has deemed me with the endearing nickname Colti.

Her: Hi Coontie, they called for Zachary again.  They just want him to check in if he needs anything.  I did not get their number.  Love, Mike T.  

Me: Your transcribed texts are hilarious.  Thanks for the info.  Love you Mutti.  Or Mike T, according to Siri.  

Her: Thank you Galty.  Love you.  More tea.  

Me: Keeps getting better.  Galty and more tea.  Make sure you read all these later.  Too funny.

Her: I know, that's done Siri just not understand me cold tea.  I am so glad this is kind of funny.  Love woodteak.  

We should publish a book called Siri isms. 

Me: That's the funniest one yet.  You've brought humor to my day.  

Her: Maybe it would sell and we would make a lot of money.  Have to go to work.  Give my love to Dunny.  Would T.  

Me: Will do.  

Her: That's good, quality.  Anytime you need I love just text me and I will dictate Siri an email.  Perhaps we can catch "laugh out of it.  Period.  More tea

Seriously.  You can't make this shit up.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Let's Talk

It has long bothered me that the two conversations topics that have become taboo around the dinner table are religion and politics.  These are topics that literally touch every one of us in some way, are at the heart of most of the conflicts we see, and could each have the resources and ideas needed to solve some of our biggest challenges.  And yet we can't talk about them because emotions run too high.

How on earth do we ever expect our elected officials to get anything done if we can't even have civil conversations ourselves?

I've been talking a lot about this with friends and family lately and I think a big part of the problem is that we tend to adopt the idea that we have the corner on truth and people who think differently than us are either crazy, misinformed, or just plain ignorant.  I have to confess that I have been part of the problem.  I am ashamed to admit that I once told a friend of mine that I believed conservatives were simply not as intellectually advanced as more moderate to liberal voices.  That is exactly what lies at the heart of the great political divide with which we are currently faced.  I don't want to be part of the problem any more.

I grew up fairly conservative.  I attended pro-life rallies, I thought that homosexuals and people who got abortions were some kind of evil that I would never understand.  But then something happened.  I found out my best friend was gay.  Talk about having your thinking challenged.  And then I spent two years in social work where I was forced to face the reality that issues like abortion may not be quite as simple as I once believed.  I began to understand that these types of issues may be more shades of grey (likely fifty of them, to be precise) than black and white.  It's more complicated than drawing a line in the sand.

And I don't think Jesus really drew lines in the sand.

So, in trying to get to a point where more civil conversations are possible, I started analyzing why I had such a hard time with conservative thinking.  I believe it stems from the fact that being raised in an Evangelical Christian tradition indoctrinated me with this idea that we had the truth and the only way the world would be saved is for everyone else to accept the same truth we did.  The question I always had is, how do we know we're right?  And I think this is the crux of the issue.  Everyone is absolutely convinced that they have it right.  At least that's how I felt for a long time.

There's something within our nature that propels us not toward people who are different from us, but people who are similar.  I used to use this argument as a reason that being conservative didn't make any sense.  My conservative friends and family simply hadn't had the necessary experience to bring them to a more moderate and liberal mindset.  What a prideful crock of shit.  I just exchanged one for the other; in my reaction against judgmental conservative Christianity, I became my own form of judgmental liberal.  What I really think we need is more moderates on both sides.

Take, for example, my father and I.  I have had a somewhat incendiary relationship with my father over the years, as is the case in most father and son relationships.  There were times that it seemed easier to simply not talk about certain things with my dad because it only led to both of us being upset.  But we didn't quit.  And I'm so glad we didn't.  As we continued to dialogue over the years, something happened.  It turns out we have a lot more in common than would initially appear and I think we've both come back closer to the center because of our conversations.  And that's what it's really all about, balance.

To my liberal friends, I understand that sometimes more conservative viewpoints can be very hard to stomach.  I get it.  When you are talking to someone who clearly believes that you are wrong and possibly even going to hell because of your beliefs, it can be difficult to maintain objectivity.  But don't become guilty of the same ignorance often attributed to conservatives by not allowing them to think differently than you.

To my conservative friends, this country was founded on the idea that people could have the freedom to be who they are without too much government interference.  I understand that you have issues with things like gun control and mandatory health insurance because that seems like government interference into private affairs.  But please keep in mind that many liberals feel that legislation around social issues like abortion and gay marriage are also government interference into private affairs.  Also, we're not all baby-killers and sexual miscreants.    

I hope that at some point we can begin to trust that none of us wants bad things for this country.  We simply have different ideas on the best path to take.  But we don't need to be threatened by ideas that our different from ours.  We can learn from them.  Let's stop waiting for something to happen and just do it ourselves.  Rather than waiting for congress to figure their shit out, let's model for them what civil conversation can look like.

Seriously, let's talk.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

My Brand, My Plan

2012 was a bit of a rough year.  On a large-scale perspective, we saw another extremely politically divisive election season, continued unrest in many parts of the world, disturbing acts of violence, and endless fear and uncertainty about the future.  On a personal level, I struggled extensively with depression, spent a week in the hospital, lost my house, and went through several career transitions.  As I wrote briefly about in my last post, there are plenty of ways in which I could look over the last few years and talk about what a failure they were.  In many ways, I'm sure that I have yet to fully deal with the emotional, spiritual, and psychological baggage resulting from the last couple years.  As I was telling some friends last night, I feel like I've been working so hard just to keep my head above water.  I described to my Psychologist last week the image of transitioning from drowning to treading water to slowly making my way to shore.  I have been feeling like I can see the shoreline in the distance and it looks so warm and comforting.  But it's been difficult to muster the strength to actually start swimming toward it.  Just keeping your head above water can take all the strength you can muster. 

I have an uncle who works for a Justice on the Ohio Supreme Court and he writes a weekly column for the paper.  His last column for 2012 did a fantastic job of painting the dismal picture we have all felt recently while still highlighting the small slivers of hope we see beginning to develop as people realize the power they have to do good.  We don't have to wait on large institutions to figure shit out.  We can actually start living the change we want to see in small ways in our daily lives.  That can give hope.  I feel confident that we will continue to see the icy walls we've constructed that so often divide us begin to melt as our hearts warm to the idea that we all want very similar things and have similar goals, we just have to talk about the best way to get there. 

But I digress.  The point is, I've been trying to maintain hope as I enter 2013.  I'm tired of feeling like the victim of circumstances and I want to take more control of my life, while recognizing the things that are simply out of my control. 

So, I'm working on a plan.  In light of my last post, I know that this plan may or may not work out according to my current understandings.  Things change, and I've learned from past mistakes that it can be extremely dangerous to completely invest your hopes and dreams into one possibility, putting all your eggs into one basket as it were.  I want my plan to work, but I'm also trying to diversify my efforts so there is a greater chance of at least part of the plan working out. 

Anyway, I want to share this plan with whoever is interested enough to read about it and then share some ways in which I could use the support of my close friends and family. 

The Plan (in 3 parts)

Part 1: Business
During my brief stint working in sales, I discovered some skill-sets I didn't really know I had and started getting lots of ideas on potential business ventures I could pursue in the future.  I decided very quickly that I was good at sales and there were parts of it I enjoyed but if I were ever to make a career out of it, I'd want to be in business for myself.  I have some ideas that I'd still like to pursue in the future, but as a start and a good way to hopefully help fund my studies, I've decided to work as an Independent Associate for Legal Shield, a company that offers access to consultation and other services from top-quality law firms for a low monthly fee.  The idea functions in a similar manner to what you might call legal insurance, but it's geared more at giving greater access to preventative legal measures, like consulting with an attorney, having a letter written or phone call made on your behalf to resolve issues like traffic tickets, getting documents reviewed to make sure you aren't being taken advantage of, and the list goes on.  I think it's a great idea with a lot of potential and something I think many people could use, so I've decided to get on board and try to sell memberships.  This works out great because I can work my own hours, be totally in control of my own schedule, and potentially set up some great residual income for down the road. 

There are other ideas I want to pursue in the future, but I think this is a good and logical place to start. 

Part 2: Art
Naturally the greatest focus here is going to be on my writing.  I want to get in a solid routine of blogging 2-3 times a week and begin working on the book idea that I've had floating around in my head for ages (more to come on this later).  I have so many other writing projects I'm anxious to work on but I'm trying to take it a step at a time. 

I also want to work on my music more, as well as start getting into photography.  For now, this is just jamming out with friends and posting stuff on Instagram but we'll see where it goes.  I also have this crazy pipe dream of getting into acting so we'll see whether or not something happens with that at some point. 

Part 3: School and Career
I'm returning this semester (finally!) to finish my Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology.  After spending some time analyzing what I want my future career to look like and what things would need to be included in order for me to feel fulfilled, this path makes the most sense.  I can counsel people, which I love to do.  I can teach, which I love to do and am still wrestling with the fact that I was not strong enough to make it teaching in the city.  And I can write, which is clearly something that I enjoy. 

While I'm going to school, I'll also be working for a tutoring company part-time and perhaps trying to get an online teaching gig to help supplement. 

So, that's my plan, in three simple parts.  In many ways, I'm sure I'm not doing some of this in the most responsible manner but it's how I've chosen to proceed for now.  I have no idea what's going to happen over the next little while, but I invite you along for the journey if you're up for an adventure. 

How you can help (if you so desire):

1.     Check out my Legal Shield website:  Watch the video, do a little reading, if it sounds interesting and you'd like to find out more for yourself, let me know and we'll talk.  If it's not interesting to you but you think someone else you know could benefit from the service, tell them about it.  If you're not interested at all, we'll never talk about it again. 
2.    Read my blog!  And tell your friends! 
3.    Follow me on Twitter (@colterdiehl) and Instagram (colterdiehl).  I'll keep my different channels apprised of new developments as they arise. 

I'm trying to build something here.  Help me spread the word!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Planning Perspective

I've been doing a lot of planning lately.  And making a lot of changes.  I think I've started to think about planning quite differently.  I used to be afraid of making any kind of concrete plan for my life beyond the relatively immediate future because I was afraid of locking myself into something that I may have wound up being very unhappy with.  I was laboring under the pretense that talking about the destination, or what I wanted my life to look like, would somehow make me willing to sacrifice anything in order to get there.  I was afraid of being corrupted by the process and getting myself locked in to a lifestyle or career that made me feel trapped. 

I have started to think a lot more about responsibility lately, about the sort of life I envision for the future.  And that doesn't necessarily mean that I want a lot of things in my future, nice as that may be. I'm more thinking about the type of life that I want to leave for my children.  I want to leave a legacy.  I don't want my children to have to struggle.  And I want to help other people who are struggling, who are born into situations that offer less access to resources than others.  I've always wanted this but until recently just sort of thought that as long as I do what feels right all the time then somehow, maybe, someday I'll magically get there. 

I guess I've been living in a fairy tale. 

I understand now that I have to plan and work hard for the type of future I want for my children.  So I've been making some plans.  But that's been a little bit scary.  Those of you who know me well are aware that my wife and I have had a difficult last two years, much of that difficulty stemming from my unwillingness to make a plan for the future, my fear of getting trapped.  It also had to do with some of the plans I did make not turning out how either of us expected.  It has been a hard road but we are stronger for it. 

Growth can be a prolonged and arduous process. 

Anyway, all this planning has me thinking a lot about what it means for a plan to be successful.  How do we come to a determination of whether or not things went "according to plan".  After all, a plan is really only our best judgement of how things will work based on our knowledge and understanding at any given time.  Sometimes circumstances arise that we could never possibly have predicted and the plan needs to be adjusted.  Given that, I'm not certain that comparing how things turned out to the original plan and using that as a metric of success is the best method for determining whether or not a plan "worked out".   That is not an even comparison, it's apples to oranges.  The plan was made when you were a different person, living under different circumstances, with a different perspective of the world.  Things change.  People change.  Plans must change. 

So what then is a body to do?  Perhaps it is not about the details of the plan but the underlying goals and motivations that drive the plan.  And don't get me wrong, I'm no longer an advocate for just not having a plan.  That's irresponsible.  I should plan.  I should budget.  I should think ahead, beyond the gratification of the moment.  But I also know that I'm not trapped by the specifics of that plan because things will likely change and I will need to adjust my thinking and my plan. 

But I hold on to my goal.  I hold on to the thing that tells me what is important.  For many, that thing is faith.  For others, it is a certain set of principles that they hold on to.  A set of rules that guide their decisions. 

I have goals.  I don't want my children to feel the crushing burden of debt in order to pursue their educational goals.  I want to work less and serve more.  I want to leave a legacy.  I want to make a difference. 

What exactly my future will look like I don't yet know.  I'm working on several plans right now and we'll see how they all pan out.  But I know that I get to be in charge of telling my story and determining what type of legacy I want to leave for myself. 

And I'm excited.  I feel hopeful.  I feel alive. 

I have perspective.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Friend Hurt

It's funny how we like to hold on to things sometimes.  We never think that we would want to hold on to hurt or bitterness because what kind of life is that but it's so easy to get addicted to those emotions.  You hold on to something for so long that it becomes a sort of crutch that is comforting in a rather sickening way.  You find yourself in arguments about nothing at all that are stemming from this welled-up emotion that you just can't figure out how to explain.

We want to think we are gracious people.  We want to think we're forgiving.  We want to think we can be the "bigger person" and overlook things and just move on with life.  But some hurts are hard to let go of.  They sink their way in to the deepest parts of your subconscious and produce a chemical reaction that starts to feel good and comforting after a while.  Because you know that's the one thing you can depend on.  People may let you down and circumstances may get in your way but the one thing you know for sure is that your hurt will always be there to comfort you in the dark and stormy night.

Sometimes, things can get so dark that hurt becomes your only friend.  You protect it by creating isolation and keeping other people from being able to see it.  You become convinced that if someone sees your hurt they will try to take it away from you.  And then you'd really have nothing left.

Some of my favorite people to talk to are recovering drunks and addicts.  Have a conversation with someone who has truly hit rock bottom in their life and you will experience a level of wisdom, human understanding, and beauty that is difficult to find anywhere else.  When you have reached a point in your life where you literally don't have a leg to stand on, you start to think about what's really important and you learn to have grace with yourself.  You understand that it is not about the failures but about the many little successes that kept that failure from happening sooner.  You understand that perfection is impossible but an honest journey is beautiful.  You understand that there is more than your hurt to hold on to.  So much more.

Hurt's not a very good friend anyway.  It's mostly a one-sided relationship.  It's bound to let you down eventually.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

He Can't Do That to Himself: Why I loved Mr. Eastwood's speech at the RNC

I know, I know.  I'm really late in just now writing about this speech and if I wanted to remain relevant on this blog, I should have published this post a long time ago, back when we were still in the heat of election season.  But I think sometimes it's okay to go back and look at things after they've had some time to sit.

There were a lot of reactions to Clint Eastwood's speech at the Republican National Convention this past year.  I think the most common reaction was, "What the hell was that?"  One of my favorite reactions came from Rachel Maddow, who was so confused as to how to respond that she simply threw her arms up in the air in exasperation, scattering papers everywhere.  Anytime there is that strong of a reaction and the pundits are speechless in response, I think there must be something interesting that happened.  I saw all these reactions on the news before I actually watched the speech.  Only my reaction was quite different.  That speech gave me hope.

One of the first things that struck me was that throughout the speech, Mr. Eastwood continually referred to the candidates as Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney.  That showed a certain level of respect that is too often lacking in our current political climate.  When Jordana and I went to witness the inauguration of the 44th president, there was a stain on the day that I will forever remember.  When the 43rd president walked out on the stage, people booed.  Say what you want about George W. Bush, disagree with his policies, say that he is the one responsible for the mess we're in.  But say those things with respect.  Don't boo on his last day in office.  He was still our president for 8 years, and that's saying something.

Mr. Eastwood, I thought, displayed with ease the ability to disagree with someone while still showing respect.  Sure, he said some things that were perhaps a bit off color, but he never came across, in my view, as being blatantly disrespectful toward the man he wanted to see voted out of office.  He thought that someone else would do a better job, but he still respected the office.  The same could not be said for many of the other speeches at both the RNC and the DNC and the countless political ads we saw funded by corporations with vested interest.  I mean people.  I forgot about that change in nomenclature.  Still not sure how that one got past the Supreme Court.

Another thing that struck me about the speech was the way in which it ended.  In the height of the election season, when the core message of both parties seemed to be that the country would go to hell in a hand basket if we elected the wrong man, Mr. Eastwood reminded us of the heart of what makes our country great.  If we're not happy with the job someone is doing in a political office, we can fire them and hire someone else.  We have that right and we have that ability.  In the midst of war cries and rallying the troops of party bases and instilling fear into the hearts of voters in order to persuade their thinking, Mr. Eastwood blessed us with a light-hearted speech that made us laugh, made us wonder, point fingers and stare, and showed us how to maintain respect for those in office while remembering that we're the ones who actually hold the power.  We just have to be willing to fully exercise that power.

Just before the second half of the super bowl last year, Clint Eastwood had this incredible commercial advertising for General Motors.  While images of the last few years flashed across the screen, his haunting voice talked about how difficult things had been in this country but halftime was now over and it was our turn again.  It was really quite inspiring.  If you didn't see it, look it up.

As soon as the commercial ended, my friend Brandon said, "Someone elect that guy president".  Perhaps that's not such a crazy idea after all.