From “Turning” to “Turned”
January 1, 2004
Two years ago I used the metaphor of “crossing rivers” as a theme for relating the events of my life during 2001. That year was all about change. I mentioned the story about the frustrated little girl, her pennies, and a turned piggy bank. I included the quote from Wendell Johnson, author of People In Quandaries: “If we are ever to become what we might have been, we must cease being what we’ve become.”
I think that’s important enough to highlight: “If we are ever to become what we might have been, we must cease being what we’ve become.”
By the end of 2001, I felt I had made significant strides toward ceasing what I had become (pre-2001). In these past two years, I feel I’ve progressed beyond just ceasing. If you will allow me some immodesty, I’ll go so far as to say that I now find myself confidently jogging down the road to what I might become (2004 and beyond).
To recap my own vanities for the years 2002 and 2003, I choose a similar, but different, navigational metaphor as theme:
From “Turning” (2002) to “Turned” (2003)January 2003
- While idly surfing the Internet, stumbled upon a website for a local neighborhood association; saw a picture of my great-grandparent’s house that dated back to the early 1900s and sent them an email stating my limited knowledge of the house. Received a reply from the association’s webmaster that showed he knew more about my grandparents that I did. He put me in contact with some of my distant-and-unknown-to-me-relatives, thus beginning a period of genealogical interest and investigation into my Eitelman family background on the south side of Fort Worth in the Fairmount neighborhood.
- Submitted a proposal to the NCTE 2004 annual convention to present a 75-minute panel session on “General Semantics and Critical Literacy: Interdisciplinary Approaches That Enable Students to Become Better Problem-Solvers and Critical Thinkers,” (pdf file) included the participation of three colleagues — Gregg Hoffmann, Andrea Johnson and Katherine Liepe-Levinson.
- “Untangle the Tangled Webs You (verbally) Weave” classes at UTA and TCC canceled due to lack of enrollment.
- “Untangle the Tangled Webs You (verbally) Weave” class at SMU class canceled due to lack of enrollment.
- Notified that our proposal for the NCTE convention program was canceled due to lack of enrollment. NO! NO! — it was actually accepted!
- Obtained Institute Board authorization and budget to prepare for attending the NCTE convention in San Francisco in November, to include buying exhibit space for a booth during the 3-day convention, preparing exhibit materials, brochures, etc.
- Drove to Clovis, New Mexico, to meet my uncle and cousin for Mom’s internment service.
- Thanks to my inside-the-Beltway source and former Humperdink’s beer-drinking-trivia-playing buddy Katybeth, established contact with Amelia Murdoch, President of the National Museum for Language (NML) in the D.C. area. On the way to New York City, stopped by to meet with Amelia, another NML officer (Whitney Reed), and an IGS trustee to discuss donating a sizeable collection of Allen Walker Read’s linguistics library to NML. (Allen had died in November 2002 and left his estate to the Institute.)
- Rented a large cargo van and drove to New York City to pack up and bring back to the library about 400 books and archive materials from the Read’s apartment across from Columbia University. Met Whitney Reed there and assisted him in selecting approximately 300 books for the NML collection.
- Invited to give a presentation on dating as an adult to the DFW Single Gourmet organization at the Tower Club in downtown Dallas; over 100 people attended.
- Attended Stacy’s “Sing Song” program at McMurry University, which ended her social club pledging period with the pre-eminent club on campus (of course!) – T.I.P. (Ahoy, Stace!)
- Delivered over 30,000 pages containing the entire 60-year catalog of the journal ETC: A Review of General Semantics and the General Semantics Bulletin to a high-speed scanning company in San Antonio; six weeks later we had over 300 individual issues scanned into PDF format on three CDs.
- On the way back from New York City, deviated north to spend a night with IGS trustees in Ridgefield, CT, and West Cornwall, CT. We drove the short distance from West Cornwall to Lime Rock, where the Institute called home from 1946 until the early 1980s. I got to visit inside the 19th century mansion that has been carefully restored by the current owners. Driving home and reflecting back on the visit, I had the strong sense that the Institute really needed a ‘home’ with a sense of permanent and physical place.
- Attended Game Seven of the Dallas Mavericks/Sacramento Kings (hiss!) Western Conference semi-finals with Stacy; best spectating experience of my life.
- Hosted the Institute’s quarterly Board meeting at the Center in Fort Worth, which resulted in several momentous decisions for the organization:
- to pursue merger with the International Society for GS in California;
- to consolidate Institute operations by moving the business office function from Brooklyn to Fort Worth;
- to have me assume leadership of the organization after the consolidation and merger;
- to begin a search for appropriate property in Fort Worth to purchase as a ‘permanent’ home for the Institute.
- My maternal grandmother (“Grandmother Stockdale”) and ancestral link to the Eitelman family died just short of her 96th birthday.
- Sent a letter to the Mayor of Fort Worth advising him of the very positive experiences of our Trustees who visited Fort Worth in June and our decision to move here; copied the letter to my contact at the Chamber of Commerce; she contacted the Tarrant County editor for the Dallas Business Journal, and a week later there was a nice profile in the DBJ about the Institute and me.
- Flew to Concord, California to begin merger discussions with the International Society and resolved the major issues related to their two employees employment.
- Began working with a graphic artist at The Color Place on the graphics needed for the NCTE convention.
- Drove to Milwaukee with Stacy to attend the Alverno advanced general semantics class taught by Andrea; I helped teach and Stacy attended as a student for 3 hours of credit toward her Communications degree; Stacy flew back to DFW by herself, changing planes in Atlanta to get back for a John Mayer concert. (I’m sorry, that should be THE John Mayer concert.)
- Notified by my inside-the-Beltway source and former Humperdink’s beer-drinking-trivia-playing buddy Katy Beth Miller (who doubles as William Safire’s research assistant – yes, THAT William Safire) that his forthcoming book on language will include his April 9, 2000, New York Times Magazine column in which he mentioned my website. The book is due out in June 2004.
- Presented two continuing education classes at TCU — “Become the Webmaster of Your Own Domain” (6 attendees) and “How to Be a Non-Conformist While Looking Perfectly Normal” (5 attendees).
- Presented my continuing education class at SMU — “Lucid Dating for Adults” (23 attendees); a reporter from the Dallas Morning News attended the class and wrote an article about it. Anticipating its publication, the SMU curriculum director and I decided to expand the number of class sessions and offer it twice in the spring semester.
- The Institute’s Board of Trustees formally approved details for the strategic changes discussed in Fort Worth in June, which included authorization for me to hire a full-time assistant and for me to become Executive Director effective January 1st.
- An IGS trustee came to Fort Worth to look at several properties we might consider purchasing. When he left, we expected to purchase the Newkirk Building, built in 1926 and extensively remodeled and updated six years ago.
- Had second thoughts about the Newkirk Building due to location, neighborhood, etc., and shifted our attention to another property we had looked at, 2260 College Avenue in the Fairmount historic district on the south side of Fort Worth. This 4,500 sq ft building was built in 1932 as a neighborhood Safeway, and is only five blocks down the street from my great-grandparents house, in which my father was born in 1933.
- Two more trustees came to Fort Worth to look over the College Avenue property and negotiate terms. The deal was done and the contract signed, although it took several days to iron out a few details like the closing date.
- The Board of Directors of the International Society for General Semantics and the Board of Trustees for the Institute of General Semantics formally approved the merger plan.
- Spent two weeks on the road to/from Las Vegas; coordinated and taught at the Institutes’ seminar-workshop, then played master of ceremonies during the 3-day International Conference in Las Vegas.
- Unveiled the booth graphic and a new brochure developed for presentation and marketing purposes.
- Drove back out west to California; spent three days in Concord going over merger details then three days in San Francisco for the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) convention; Gregg, Andrea, Kathy and I did a fine job representing the Institute and general semantics both in our presentations and the booth; I was almost picked up by an attractive blond in a downtown San Francisco bar/bistro, but she apparently mistook me for somebody else. (Seriously, just ask Andrea.)
- Completed the acquisition of the College Avenue property on November 25th.
- All required paperwork submitted by our attorney to the states of Illinois and Connecticut to effect the merger of the Institute and the International Society, effective January 1st.
- Retained Mark Gunderson, architect, to help us remodel the building with hopes of moving in prior to the expiration of our current office lease in May.
- On December 29, without any notice, the Dallas Morning News published the article about my “Lucid Dating” class at SMU. The first section that begins in January filled up in less than two days, which caused the SMU to change room assignments in order to register more students. Here’s the article.
- Received four outstanding resumes in response to the job description prepared for the assistant position. After selecting the top two for phone interviews with a few other Trustees, we reached a consensus on Jennifer C. I extended an offer to her yesterday and she accepted on the spot.
Peering into 2004, I can anticipate the following:
- I’ll complete the continuing education classes at SMU (“Lucid Dating”) and TCU (“Lucid Dating” and “How to Think for Yourself in an Election Year”).
- I’ll celebrate the beginning of my second 50 years.
- Stacy turns 21 in June and we’re already planning a trip to Las Vegas to celebrate, possibly in conjunction with b) above.
- Merger transition activities will begin immediately and be completed by April 30th.
- We’ll move into the new building by May/June.
- We have four seminars scheduled – three in Fort Worth and one in Milwaukee – plus a student conference tentatively planned for the fall in Chicago.
- We’ll support at least two national conventions in San Antonio (March) and Indianapolis (November).
- We’ll continue to become a part of the local Fort Worth educational and not-for-profit communities, and we’ll pursue relationships with other national organizations with similar interests, such as the Alliance for a Media Literate America (AMLA).
- Lots of stuff will happen that I cannot possibly anticipate.
I’d like to close with a few lessons I’ve learned throughout the past 2-3 years. I’ve already summarized the lessons I learned in 2000, but of course, I have had the opportunity to re-learn many of them since … in some cases, I’ve had to re-learn them over, and over, and over. But particularly over the past year, I’ve learned the following:
- If you want to learn how to do something, you have to be willing to do it poorly in order to learn how to do it better. (GK Chesterton’s quote that’s on my website: “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.”)
- Once you’ve won the war you can quit planning the battles.
- Momentum not maintained is momentum that won’t be regained. (Or, “It’s easier to turn a moving car than one that’s parked.”)
- The difference between humans and monkeys is that humans fight even when there are no bananas. (Thanks, Vanessa.)
Best regards for the coming year, whether you’re turning, turned … or parked. May you live at the ‘height of the times.’