Friday, March 26, 2010


What would you do if there was no one to stop you? If there was no one to point their finger or raise their voice? In our day to day lives we often assume that what's right and wrong is obvious. Our social conventions keep us in check when it comes to the basics.

Kicking the dog? Wrong.
Returning the wallet? Right.
Cutting in line? Wrong.

Acting unethically on a large scale is usually pretty noticeable. Human rights violations by world leaders fall into this category. Ethics on a small scale, however, is a different beast. Little breaches in the moral code can slip by unnoticed and often do no damage to your outward persona.

Take something a little more abstract than puppy kicking:

Let's say that you are a door-to-door salesman selling candy as a fundraiser for children with cancer. You are incredibly good at what you do and you've raised a lot of money to save children's lives. You also need this job because your family depends on you. One day, you discover that the candy you've been selling is manufactured in a factory that uses child labor and has miserable conditions. What do you do? Assuming that there is no other way to raise the money, is it wrong for you to continue selling the candy? Knowing that your own family would suffer without your job, is it wrong for you to quit? Moreover, are you responsible for taking action because you are now aware of the problem?

My ethical problem isn't that intense, but it still weighs on my mind.

Last weekend I ran a local race called Rapid Rabbit. I was attempting to qualify for second seeding at Bloomsday but missed it by a little over a minute. The required time for women was 37 minutes, I came in at 38:15.

Dwelling isn't my thing, so I forgot all about being bummed out until Thursday when Tony sent me the results from the St. Paddy's Day run. My time for that run ended up a little faster than I'd thought and got me wondering if I had actually gotten a faster time without realizing. So I popped over to their website and saw this:

Holy crap! I got 2nd place. 5 miles in 33:14!!!!! I'm gonna go buy my second seed singlet package right now. I can't wait to run Bloomsday without having to trip over people who are going to take more than an hour to complete it.

Best. Running. Year. Ever.

But wait...

My excitement slowly gave way to dismay when the tiny man in my head who does math asked, "Isn't that a 6.5 minute mile?"

Uh oh.

I currently top out at 7.5 minute miles for any distance over 2 miles. My heart sank, I knew it couldn't be right. But more importantly, I knew it was wrong.

I knew that I wouldn't accept a second seed position based on those race results. If I ever run a 6.5 minute mile, it will be because I worked for it, not because of a clerical error.

As Tony pointed out, not correcting the error could lead to someone else not qualifying if their time had been switched with mine. Believe it or not, that makes me feel sick to my stomach. I don't want to win like that. And I don't want to cause someone else to lose like that.

I sent an email to the race coordinator asking for the results to be corrected. Hopefully that will clear up any misunderstanding.

Why does any of this matter? No one would be forever damaged if I moved up a group at Bloomsday.

It matters because I didn't earn it, and it isn't mine.

My sense of right and wrong is strongly ingrained. The ideas that I have about ethics and morality are rooted in the Buddhist teachings of Right Speech, Right Conduct, and Right Livelihood. These tenets are usually defined as follows:

  • Right Speech - Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter.
  • Right Conduct - Training oneself to be morally upright in one's activities, not acting in ways that would be corrupt or bring harm to oneself or to others.
  • Right Livelihood - Not engaging in trades or occupations which, either directly or indirectly, result in harm for other living beings.

When I believe that I have a reason to question a situation, I consider those three things.

Ethical concerns sometimes crop up in the advertising/marketing world. Examples of this could be marketing a product you know to be harmful, or editing a photo to make an item look flawless when you know that it isn't.

Fortunately, my workplace ethics have not been put to any kind of harsh test. I like to think that if they are, I'll know what to do.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Think Tink

The time has come to hide your true identity...or perhaps to reveal the real you.

Well, it's not quite time yet, but it is less than three months away. Costume planning time is definitely upon us. Every year I throw an over-the-top, costumed, theme party for my friends (using my birthday as an excuse). The theme for my birthday blow-out this year is "Ever Neverland ~ Never Grow Up." I generally get a good mix of costumed, partially costumed, and non-costumed guests. Plus, I can rely on everyone to bring food and drinks so I can focus all of my energies on the decorations.

After the Alice in Wonderland party, the bar has been set pretty high. Worry about not being able to out-do last year is beginning to creep into my head.

Here's a closer look at "Selina's 25 Birthday Adventures in Wonderland":

The Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit

Another take on the Mad Hatter

The Red Queen
The March Hare

Tweedle Dee

A group pic during the croquet game

The Cheshire Cat

The Caterpillar

Another group pic during croquet

Alice and the Cheshire Cat

The Red Queen, March Hare, Mad Hatter, Alice, and "Eat Me" Cake :-D

My "birthday tree"

The backyard, note the "beer tent" with the swimming pool. I've found it much easier to have everyone throw their bottles and cans into a kiddie pool filled with ice rather than have them try to fit it all in the fridge and go wandering though the house when they need another drink.

I made these fake trees using garden fencing and the pots that my real trees came in

Another shot of the backyard. We have a fire pit and a propane heater to keep guests toasty.

Hanging out around the fire

Opening presents under the birthday tree

For this years' Peter Pan themed party, I am planning to go as Tinkerbell. You've probably noticed from the photos that we don't strictly adhere to previous conceptions of the characters. The idea is put your own spin on the story and the costuming, to take the character you identify with and make it even more "you."

My plan for Tinkerbell is to make a gauzy, ethereal looking mini dress in a brownish-greenish shade. I'd like to figure out how to attach foliage to it without causing it to look cheezy.

My sewing machine is a Brother Festival 461 from the early 1960's. It's distinguished brown exterior hides its sinister nature. At it's core, it is evil. This machine has decided to stop working in the finishing stages of many projects, in addition to having sewn through my finger on one occasion, and sending a needle shard flying into a nearby wall on another. It is weighty and bulky and temperamental; but I have yet to send anything through it that makes it take pause (including a finger). It is the sewing equivalent of crushing soda cans by smashing freight trains together. Overkill to the max. I'm not sure how it's going to handle lightweight fabrics.

I'm also a little unsure about wings for the costume. I realize that fairies fly, but party hostesses run around a lot and become easily entangled.

I want so many things! Flamingos, a pirate ship, a tree house, a lagoon, skull island, tiki torches, clouds to sit on, the ability to fly, a shadow puppet station, a Wendy house, a giant crocodile, and a reef full of sirens...I may have to compromise on a few of those things.

Friday, March 12, 2010


As I write this I am lying on the couch with my head filled with fluid, hugging a box of kleenex. I've felt this coming on for about a week but ignored it, thinking I could power through it.

I train hard and I play to win, sickness is for weaklings. The St. Paddy's Day 5-miler is this weekend and I'll be damned if I get anything less than the top 20 for women.

This is the fallacy of my life.

At the beginning of this year, I was excited by the possibility of selling my jewelry at a store in the mall. After months of trying to plan a meeting with owner, I finally got my chance today. When I woke up this morning, my face was burning and I had lost my voice, but I refused the miss the meeting that it had taken so long to get. I put on some of my nicer clothes and took my carefully arranged items to the store.

And got denied.

What happened? Isn't this the same store that was excited about my items a few months earlier?

She told me that she already something similar to my items that she bought last week (last week!) at a trade show. But the look on her face told me that she wouldn't have bought anything regardless. Maybe it was my sniffles and haggard look, my presentation, who knows. What I do know is that I regret pushing so hard for this when I should have stepped back to see the big picture.

The big picture is this: That place is not a good fit for my items, neon day-glo and hand-turned wooden bowls can never be friends. I should have been working toward something else.

The big picture for running is that I'm training for the Windemere 1/2 marathon in May. If I'm over-training to meet a goal for a minor race, I will be too tired or injured to do the work when it really counts.

The million-dollar question is figuring out when it's really going to count. I haven't discovered the answer to that yet, so if you have, please let me in on it.

But even without the ability to see the future, we can at least think about our real goals. What are your goals? Do you want to lose weight, spend more time with your family, go to Europe? By themselves, your goals might look sensible, but if you break them down, you could discover that what you are doing is contrary to your desired outcome.

For example: Two of my current goals are to take a trip to Ireland and to build my business. Sounds reasonable right? I work hard and a vacation would revitalize me. Selling my stuff would earn me money and help pay for the trip. After my vacation, I could really focus on the business and be more aggressive about promoting.

I'm saving money for the trip by not going out to eat or buying fancy coffees. I'm publicizing my business on Etsy, opening a Google Adwords account, building inventory and doing craft fairs...wait a minute...I'm concurrently saving money for one thing and spending the same amount (if not more) on the other.

I'm moving neither forward nor backward. I'm relying on one thing to cause the other. I'll sell lots of things and use the money to take a trip; I'll take a trip and use my renewed energy to sell lots of things. CRAP.

Are your goals canceling each-other out? Are you working super-hard so you can take a break and not be so tired from working super-hard?

What do you really want? Do you want to run yourself into a brick wall over and over, or would you rather slow down and make the turn?