A Year of Cats Out of the Box

My blog “Cats Out of the Box” is a year old today.  I thought it would be amusing to have the featured picture be of the cat “Angus” (who inspired the title) in a box.  I had wanted to write a blog for years and was really afraid to take that leap.  And now a year and 37 posts later, I am still working on my blog.  It felt like the appropriate time to say thank you to those who have inspired, supported and encouraged me through this process.  So here goes…..

  • Joe thank you for encouraging me, holding me accountable to my dreams, and not letting me quit when I am scared.  This blog exists because of you.
  • To my friend, Sue, who is a blogger and whose blog I follow, I want to say thank you for inspiring me and letting me call and read my early posts to you.  Your positive reinforcement keeps me going.
  • To my friend, Eric, thank you for letting me use your poetry in my posts.  Your poems are heart-felt and deeply beautiful, they enhance my life and creative work.
  • To my family, thank you.  You provide much in the way of stories and experiences for me to write about.  You are also some of my most vocal critics, strongest supporters, and loudest cheerleaders.  I couldn’t do the creative work without all of you.
  • To my friends and family who have become accustomed to me asking random questions about random topics (honesty, adult coloring books, do you believe in signs, entitlement, etc.), thank you for answering my questions and providing insights to complicated subjects.  You help me see the bigger picture and the smallest detail.
  • To everyone who has posted a comment, thank you.  Your comments enhance my creative work, keep me excited and inspire me to continue.
  • To those who follow my blog, thank you.  You are the reason I keep writing.
  • To everyone who has liked one of my blogs, thank you.  I appreciate the positive support.

I am looking forward to another year of writing about the experiences of creative living. Thank you for joining me on this journey.

I Want! I Want! I Want!

The Home and Garden Channel has a television show called “House Hunters” and “House Hunters International.”  I really enjoy watching the international version of the show because I like to see homes in different parts of the world.

If you have not seen this program, there is always a segment where they interview the people moving or going to the foreign country, usually at the place they are currently living.  Then in the country they are moving to they look at three options with a real estate agent who is helping them.  Finally they choose one place and the show ends with the person or people being interviewed a couple of months later after they have moved into the home they have chosen.

One night on the international version of the program there was a young woman who was going to be attending university in Scotland.  I was excited to watch the program because I have been interested in traveling to Scotland myself.

So the program begins.  This young woman has lists of things she doesn’t want or doesn’t like.  Then there were the things that she has to have.  I get that there are things that appeal to us and other things that do not.  For some the kitchen is the most important room in the house and for others it doesn’t matter because they don’t cook.  I also understand the idea of some things that just make the living experience better.  Some people prefer showers and others a bathtub is a must have.

So it goes on that she is going to this school and her mother is paying for it.  Even her rent.  She just has to go to school.  (To me that is a pretty sweet deal.  I took out loans, got scholarships and worked my way through university.)  So the mother had some requests because she was paying for everything.

From the beginning, I was abhorred by this girls behavior of “I want!” or entitlement and the way she treated other people in the program.  She would whine and complain.  I am sure that some of her behavior was based in part on how young and immature she is, and some of it was obviously enabled by her mother…. I couldn’t help but to think of the character Veruca Salt from the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”  You remember, the character that wanted it all and daddy always got it for her.  She was judged as a “Bad Egg.”  Veruca was an extreme character to drive home the point of entitlement in the film.

This attitude of entitlement.  How is it affecting society?  What is entitled behavior and how does it appear to others?  I emailed and talked to a couple of friends to help me get a broad perspective of the entitlement issue.  The response I got was amazing.  I admit that I was surprised by the amount and range of material I was given.  There is enough material to write several blogs.  So if you sent me something and you don’t see it here…. well, it will probably show up in another post at another time.  It is very clear that I am not the only person disturbed by the behavior of entitlement.

My friend in Japan takes a Japanese cooking class.  The teacher, who is Japanese, has told my friend that people not showing up to the class after reserving a space has become a serious problem.  The teacher has to purchase the food for the class ahead of time and makes her purchases based on the number of students signed up for the class.  My friend stated that the “offenders are Japanese ladies, which is out of character for common etiquette.”  Even though the teacher is very clear with her description in English and Japanese, there are still individuals who sign up, don’t cancel, and/or do not pay.

In my yoga class, I have noticed a similar behavior.  (I do, however, know that all of the people who have signed up paid for the class.  You cannot reserve a space without paying in advance.)  The class will start out with about eighteen people.  As the class continues, the number of people attending gets smaller and smaller until there is the dedicated eight or so students who always attend.  My teacher said that there were a couple of people who had signed up and paid for the class but never attended.  She also said that was sad because there were other people who wanted to take the class but were not able to because it was full.

While getting my Bachelor’s degree, I was talking a class in Political Science.  There was a young woman who was from a specific cultural, ethnic group in the class.  I learned a lot about this person on the rare occasions that she attended class because she would whine and complain loudly about the inequities of her life.  One time she came in very angry because she couldn’t buy 10 steaks for a barbecue, she could only afford seven with her “check.”  Yet she was unemployed.  She then went on about how she hated this school because they were going to take away her funding if she didn’t start attending classes on a regular basis.  Instead of having sympathy towards this person, I felt that she was very entitled and had never worked for any of the “benefits” she was receiving.

Entitlement does not just affect educational opportunities.  It causes an erosion of respect between people.  Instead of being aware of others and helpful, entitled individuals see only themselves and their needs.  Have you seen someone so into their phone that they are not paying attention to the world around them?  Or have you seen the videos where individuals are texting or using their phones while walking down the street?  They do not watch out for themselves they expect you to watch out for them.  In these videos they walk into other people, walk out into traffic, walk right into fountains, etc.  Their inability to be aware of the world around them and the expectation for others to watch out for them, actually causes their own lives to be in danger.

Erosion of respect is not limited to American culture.  My friend in Japan (and apparently Queen Elizabeth) share the opinion that the Chinese can be quite rude.  China became communist in 1949.  Mainland China got rid of Confucian teachings and ideals during this time.  The one child rule was instituted in 1979.  Between the removal of the Confucian teachings which included respect for elders and the institution of the one child rule, Chinese children grew up extremely spoiled  without the respect for their ancestors or elders.  This may explain in part some of the reasons why the Chinese tourists and students, my friend in Japan is dealing with, are so obnoxious in public.

Entitlement affects ones attitude about work.  Another friend who I asked about entitlement said the following, “Good things happen to those who work their asses off and never give up.”  He believes that you have to work hard to get what you want in life.  What he noted about entitlement is that entitled individuals are often expecting results without putting in the time or energy to earn the results that they are expecting.

He went on to tell me a story about a basketball coach he had many years ago.  His coach told him, “Right now you have good shooting days and bad shooting days. Put in the time, dedicate yourself to your goals and be tireless in your development and you will have good shooting days and great shooting days.”  It is only through hard work and perseverance that we can truly succeed.  My friends strong work ethic is what has shaped him in being successful in his professional and personal life.

Entitlement is an epidemic that cannot be treated with medication.  It is a behavior that can chosen, enabled and/or learned.  Entitlement seems to be an unconscious choice by some and a lifestyle choice for others.

I myself believe in hard work, dedication and being a positive voice in the universe.  I don’t know what can be done to enlighten individuals or change the attitude of entitlement.  I find this behavior so abhorrent that I tend to avoid people who behave this way.  What are your thoughts on entitlement?  What behaviors have you witnessed?  Do you have any ideas for a solution to the entitlement problem?



Tesla Illuminates Creativity

“I am not an inventor.  I am a discoverer of new scientific principles.”  Nikola Tesla

Recently I watched a documentary from PBS (Public Broadcasting System) on Nikola Tesla.  It is an excellent documentary and I highly recommend it for two reasons: First, it is fascinating how much of our technology and the conveniences of the modern world are based on the inventions, ideas, and creations of this man; and Second, to learn about the creative process that Tesla worked through.

Here are a few of products that are the results of Tesla’s creativity and inventiveness: Alternating Current; Induction Motor; X-rays; Radio; Three-Phase Electric Power; Tesla Valve; Tesla Coil; Wireless Telegraphy; Vacuum Variable Capacitor; Neon Lamp; Remote Control (yep, just like the one you use for your TV); Robotics and Lasers.

“Invention is the most important product of man’s creative brain.”  -Nikola Tesla

When Tesla was a child he saw pictures of Niagara Falls and thought that there had to be a way in which to capture the energy produced by the waterfall.  He had an idea and as he studied in school the traditional thought of the time viewed him as a charlatan.  Instead of being discouraged Tesla continued studying, inventing and working towards his dreams.  As an adult, he figured out exactly how to capture the energy of Niagara Falls creating the first hydro-electric power plant using a poly-phase alternating current to produce electricity.  A large part of the inventiveness and creativity of Tesla was based on on his ability to look at the world different, to see possibility and have the courage to try things that others said wouldn’t work.

One person on the documentary stated that if the human race wants to create, invent, and produce great advancements in science and technology in the way that Tesla did, then we are going to have to learn to be creative like him.

“Ideas came in an uninterrupted stream and the only difficulty I had was to hold them fast…” -Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla believed in having periods of uninterrupted time in which to think, create, invent.  He was a great proponent of solitude.  I know that not everyone can work in solitude and the idea of large periods of uninterrupted time for most people is called a vacation.

Recently while on a hike with a friend, she told me about a post on the internet from some parents who do not schedule any activities for their children on the weekends.  These parents believe that their children are scheduled enough throughout the week and should be free on the weekends to do things that interest them.  If they want to spend an entire day watching TV, skateboarding, reading, playing with dolls, or doing nothing at all, they are allowed by their parents to do so.  Just to be clear, there is parental supervision.  The parents know where and what their children are doing.  (So no running a muck and wrecking havoc.) The difference is that these parents do not plan out the activities for their children on the weekend.

My friend also said that it was disturbing the amount of harassment and shaming that these parents received for not providing structure and programs for their children on the weekend.  These parents were told that they were bad and/or careless parents.  That they were not providing structure.  They were told that their children wouldn’t be able to fit in with others and would lack social or competitive skills.  Again, just for clarification, these children go to school with other children.  They participate in programs after school during the week.  However, on the weekends the children are not scheduled in any type of program.  If they wish to do something they may but the parents do not sign them up for anything.

I think those children have a rare and beautiful gift given to them by their parents.  The gift of free time.  The ability to have unscheduled time for creativity… for using their imagination…. for exploring…. for being themselves.  I think that these children will have an advantage.  They will be able to play and work on their own.  They will learn time management skills in a way that someone who is scheduled all the time never will.  They will learn how to figure stuff out.

Think about it in relation to your own life.  How many hours a week are truly your own?   We are a highly scheduled society.  We work over forty hours a week and think that is normal.  We have social obligations that we feel compelled to do.  There are the joys and challenges that come with the familial social contract.  We structure ourselves until we cannot think… cannot create… cannot invent… cannot feel… cannot function.  What would you give to have free weekends to do whatever you wanted?

I think those children are lucky. I am impressed that their parents are thoughtful in giving them the opportunity to explore, create and be children.

“The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude.” – Nikola Tesla

I challenge you to be more like Tesla: see the possibility in the world around you; don’t be discouraged by those that don’t understand or can’t see what you do; don’t give up; allow for free time for thought and creativity; and most important, love what you do.

Every Breaking Wave

“Every breaking wave on the shore

Tells the next one there’ll be one more”     -U2

Whenever I hear the entire album of a band or musician, there tends to be one song that resonates with me more than the others on that particular album.  On the Album “Songs of Innocence” by the band U2, the song that spoke to me more than any of the others is called “Every Breaking Wave.”

One reason I was drawn to this song is the imagery of the ocean it conjures up for me.  For a time, I lived in a town that was on the San Juan Strait.  One of my favorite things to do was to go wave watching.  Just sit somewhere quietly and watch the waves roll onto the beach.  There is something very calming and relaxing about watching waves.  There were times when I would watch storms rage across the Strait…. pouring rain, gusting winds, and waves big enough to crush a freighter.  There was nothing calm or relaxing about those waves.  Still you couldn’t stop watching them.

I started thinking about analogies for life using waves.  You can compare yourself to the shore and the waves are life washing over you.  Variations in experiences like high tide and low tide.  You can be eroded by the waves over time and become a jagged cliff face or a sandy beach.  But you can also compare yourself to the waves and the shore is life.  Like a wave you pound the shore with your experiences.  Sometimes you land on jagged cliff faces, these can be trials in your life.  Sometimes you land on sandy beaches, these can be periods of ease and comfort.

Waves.  Shore.  Shore.  Waves.  You can look at it another way.  That the waves on the beach show us how to “weather” the ebb and flow of our lives.  There are going to be times of difficulty and times of ease.  The key to weathering the ebb and flow depends on how strong or how flexible you need to be in any given situation.

 A cliff face made of rock appears strong and solid.  But waves have a way of finding the weak spots.  They carve caves into the stone or weaken the whole cliff face making it dangerous to stand too close to the edge.  Sand moves with waves.  Sand moves with wind.  Sand flows.  Yet it is not a safe place to build a foundation because it constantly shifts.

There are all kinds of analogies you can make using sand and stone.  Being like sand is for times when you need to be flexible.  And being like stone is for times when you must remain strong.

 Waves.  Shore.  Sand.  Beach.  Stone.  Cliffs.  What about the pebbles, sea glass, and tide pools?  The amazing thing is all of this pondering came from listening to a song.  Creativity strikes in amazing ways and at unusual times.  Sometimes we just need to be open to the possibilities.  For this blog it was the lines of song.  But a creative spark could come from anywhere.  Where will your creative musings take you?  I think mine are saying vacation….on a beach!