Last weekend, my school participated in The Big Event, a community-wide service project. Students and staff volunteered at various sites and completed tasks to better the community. I worked with a team of high schoolers at the Giving Garden where we prepared beds for new plants, spread fresh mulch on the paths, and pulled grass and weeds. It was this last activity that provided me with a mini-epiphany: It’s easier to weed someone else’s garden than it is to weed your own. And when you think about weeds as metaphors for problems–well, the parallel is even more clear.

What appeared to be an insurmountable task at first became much more manageable as 6 or 7 of us dug in to hack and pull at stubborn grass and weeds. We labored as a team to tackle those weeds, and because we worked together, it was easier to see the progress, and the job didn’t seem quite as difficult.

The same goes for problems in our personal and work lives. When we talk out issues with a friend or coworker, we often come to solutions that we may have never even considered. Just verbalizing what’s bothering you or talking through an idea with someone else can lessen your burden and bring you to a point where you feel like you can put your plans into action.

Once the weeds are cleared away, things always look a little brighter.




Sheep and Chickens and Roosters! Oh My!

One of the many hats that I wear involves serving on the city of Irving Animal Services Advisory Committee. In the 4 years that I’ve worked with this amazing group of animal lovers, we’ve dealt with very little controversy. Recently, we were asked to draw up a new ordinance to address chicken and rooster ownership in the city. I’m not sure any of us were prepared for the squawking that resulted. But first, some history.

When I was a kid, we lived in a small house on an acre of land. My brother was involved in FFA (Future Farmers of America). We certainly didn’t have a farm, though. I think he joined because they had cool jackets, but I digress.

*not Jon’s actual jacket

While we didn’t have a working farm, per se, we did have sheep for a period of time. Jon fed them and regularly cleaned their stalls. I would visit them and bring them treats. In return, they nibbled at my t-shirt hem through the low chain-link fence. They were fun little critters, and I was sad when they left. Our neighbors also had large properties, and some of them kept chickens and roosters. At least I think they did: I have memories of waking up to a rooster’s crow. In small-town Kansas in the 80s, this wasn’t uncommon.

Fast-forward to the year 2016 in the big city of Irving, TX. I currently live in a gated condo community that has a fairly restrictive HOA (no sheep allowed). I have just enough yard for my dogs to do their business in, and tall board-on-board fences divide each unit. The rest of the city isn’t like this, though, especially the southern part, and this is where the chickens and roosters come in.

As a committee, we worked with the information provided to us. Based on that, I truly believed that chickens and roosters were a massive problem in the city–the odors, noise, and chaos they created when they got loose–ruffling residents’ feathers to such an extent that people were constantly calling city hall to do something about the birds. And so we approved the plan. The plan went to another committee to determine whether a public hearing should be held on the matter. That committee chose to send it straight to the council for a vote.

Once word got around that roosters would no longer be welcome in the city, people began to organize. They started an online petition asking the city council not to adopt the new ordinance. They like things the way they currently are: restriction-free. As it stands right now, Irving residents can have as many chickens and roosters as they want in whatever size yard they might have (as long as they’re not prohibited by an HOA).

City council members listened and decided not to vote on the ordinance. Instead, they’ve called for two public input meetings to be held next month. Residents are invited to attend and share their thoughts and solutions on the matter. I’ll be there, and I’m looking forward to hearing from all sides.

While we approved the initial plan, I’m glad that council has chosen to listen to the citizens. All voices should be heard on decisions like this that impact a community. I hope that everyone involved attends the meetings with an open mind so we can hatch ideas and come to some sort of compromise. It won’t be easy, but I just hope it doesn’t turn into a game of chicken.

Observations on Modern Romance

Goodreads tells me that I’m 2 books behind on my goal of 60 books for the year. I’m not worried–I know I’ll catch up this summer. Continuing my journey outside my usual reads, I started yet another nonfiction book, Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. (Note: I cannot in good conscience recommend this book to my students. It’s definitely adult-themed, but I’m an adult, so…)

I’m surprised that this book is so well-researched. I only know Ansari from Parks and Recreation, and while he’s quite witty, I certainly didn’t expect the book to be as fact-based and informative as it is. He could have easily drawn on personal anecdotes from his own dating experience to fill all of the pages, but these stories sit mostly in the margins of the book.

I wonder how much more relationships will change in the future. The book does a great job of comparing and contrasting dating through the ages, showing how people in the 1950s ended up marrying those who live nearby while people in the 2000s seek out partners in places far from home. The way people meet has also changed drastically. In the past, it was more organic: you would meet a mate through a friend or family member. As technology advanced and the Internet emerged, people discovered online dating to meet new people. What’s next? Virtual relationships where people live in entirely different countries yet still carry on affairs through Skype and texting? Actually, I’m pretty sure this is already happening.

Finally, I noticed that Ansari mentions his current girlfriend. I haven’t read far enough to know if he tells the story of how they met and if it fits in with all of the advice that he’s giving. I think it gives his book more credibility in that he’s writing as someone who has endured the world of dating and found success in a relationship. It gives a little hope to those who may think they’ll be forever alone.