Sunday, December 31, 2006

Welcome 2007

This will be my last posting for 2006.

Nothing too profound in store. I do tend to get rather reflective at the start of a new year. I am NOT, however, a maker of resolutions. There have been too many broken promises to myself in the past. All the hype for self improvement that starts on January 1 and usually peters out before Valentine's Day holds little allure for me. It feels too contrived. So I won't be making any "let's all be lemmings and run this way" sort of commitments to lose weight or keep up my journal or any of that other stuff.

However... that being said, there IS one new habit I am trying to instill, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the New Year.

I am making an effort to begin every day by taking just a few moments to stop and ask myself the following questions:

1) What am I grateful for?
2) What am I passionate about?
3) What can I learn that will be of value to me today?
4) What am I willing to do to both feel joy and bring it to others more abundantly?
5) What am I willing to no longer do to create that level of joy?
6) How can I deepen my relationship with my creator?
7) How can I strengthen my relationships with my family members?
8) What can I let go of today that is holding me back?
9) How can I experience and/or express love more fully with others?
10) How can I be more present to the current moment and appreciate it more fully?

I figure if I can work on answering those each day I'll be headed in the right direction.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Kitty Glamour Shots, Take THREE

This one is for Marie who has an appreciation for cat photos. Did you ever settle on a name for the creature formerly known as Sophie? My personal favorite from the list so far was The Baroness von FuzzyBuns. Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but it suits.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Employment Angst

Click HERE to hear a catchy little song about worker alienation, a ballad about being stuck in a job you hate. This is something I've always vowed I'd never do. For the most part, I've been pretty lucky with the jobs I've taken. There were a couple times I had to put up with some abominable situations for a few months while scouting for something better. But fortunately for me, I've always pretty much landed on my feet. So far that is.

I've thrown my hat into the ring for a new job that I may or may not get to interview for come mid January. As the date for the initial screening for that post approaches, I am doing a lot of considering about what I want from a job and what I am willing to give in return. I've got two more years before my grant runs out on my current position. Sometime between now and then I will need to find another job. So as I approach my 50th birthday I find myself trying to figure out what the heck it is I want to do with myself.

I've been thinking some of late about how and why people get locked into work that they hate. Others don't despise their jobs, but feel rather futile there - it's merely a means to pay the bills. Precious few people I know are blessed with the opportunity to make a living at something they are truly passionate about.

I'm trying to figure out what I think is a reasonable balance between my ideals of the perfect job and "settling" for what is available in the area where I live. I honestly do want my job to be something I can pour a lot of passion into, something I can be proud of, something I can build a sense of mastery in. Yet I also want my job to be something I can turn off when I go home at night - NOT something with stakes so high that it consumes me. So it will be interesting to see what sort of deal I'm able to make.

Why do you do the work that you do? On a scale of 1-10, with one being HATE the job and 10 being LOVE the job, where would you rank yourself most days?

Our Christmas Tradition

So what was the most fun gift you gave this year? (Whether or not the gift itself was fun is not important here, but what was fun for you to give to someone else?)

I honestly don’t remember many of the presents I have received over the years, but I can remember a few I have given. I vividly recall the year I was fourteen when I had my first “real job” working in a restaurant . For Christmas that year I had earned enough money to get my whole family more upscale gifts than my former babysitting wages had allowed, so I was ever so excited about that. I got my mother a blender, one brother a lava lamp and another a black light. (I know there were other presents that have slipped my mind, but those three things really stand out.) I was so proud to give those gifts!

These days, however, trying to find just the right present for my beloved can be one ornerous chore. In the first place, he has so much stuff already, that it’s just about impossible to find something that he will truly appreciate. In the second place, his birthday is in December so by the time I have THAT figured out, Christmas shopping for him is just more than I can face. Furthermore, because our tastes and interests are very, VERY different, he has a tough time figuring out what to get me.

So we’ve worked out a deal that fits us perfectly.

We set a dollar amount limit – usually quite small. I then go out and buy a present to MYSELF that will be FROM him. I don’t tell him what it is. I wrap it up and put it under the tree about a week before Christmas (sometimes in very deceiving shaped box.) He goes out to buy a present to HIMSELF that will be FROM me and does the same thing. I get to spend that whole week being curious, pinching, shaking, wondering what thoughtful thing I got for my husband. He gets to be curious (although he is not a pincher/shaker) about what he got for me. On Christmas morning I get to unwrap the present HE will keep (the one he chose for himself under the guise of being FROM me) and He gets to open up the present I will keep which I picked for myself from HIM.
We both get EXACTLY what we want. We both get anticipation. We both get the fun of magic and surprise on Christmas morning. It’s so fun to say “Wow! Look what I got YOU!!!”

This is WAY better than all those years when we picked things out for each other, sincerely trying to find something good, but usually getting the wrong thing. Or the years when we just told each other what we wanted for Christmas and opened up presents we liked with no surprise at all. I also like this better than the years when we both insisted “Christmas is for kids – lets focus on all the little ones. We don’t need to get anything for us.”

This allows us to do something fun for the kid in each of us. It gives us something to look forward to and a surprise on Christmas morning. Still, we both can be assured the money isn’t wasted, because we each get EXACTLY what we want.

My present this year? A bird feeder with deluxe seed. Isn’t he THOUGHTFUL??? You bet!

His gift: An underwater housing for a digital camera. (for a type of camera we don’t currently own, I might add….but what the heck, he was excited to find a great deal on this housing since there is not one available for the camera we do have. For our next tropical trip he wants to take just ONE camera that he will use on both land and underwater, rather than packing all the underwater stuff AND taking our digital. So one of our kids will probably inherit the digital we have now and somebody else will get the film camera he now uses underwater. We’ll keep the goodies passing around to someone who appreciates ‘em!. Some time in the next year he’ll buy the Olympus C-500 to fit his new underwater casing and still have a pretty good deal! When we get it, maybe we’ll take pictures of lovely birdies eating at my new birdfeeder.

So that’s what we do for presents at our house.

But of course, Christmas is about so much more than gathering loot, no matter what method of procurement is utilized.

So no matter what it is you believe about Christmas-- or Kwanzaa or Hanukah or Saturnalia, or to my atheist friends who are just looking for a good excuse for a feast with spiked eggnog….

Many blessing to you all. As for me, I’m just looking for one more piece of pie and then a long nap!

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Our good friend, Chuck Butcherite, will be celebrating a birthday on Dec 30. Here’s hoping he has a fantastic day and knows he is much loved by friends and family alike. (Photo here if of he and his wife along with my beloved and I when we went white water rafting together on one of the glacier rivers up by Denali on our trip together to Alaska….we had a WONDERFUL time.)

I was thinking some about what it would be like to have a birthday so close to Christmas. While presents and parties are not the main point of either birth anniversaries or Christmas in my book – both do signify the way we celebrate, especially to little kids. I suspect many who are born close to Dec 25 get them lumped together as often as not.

Or, for those born right on any major holiday, I suppose it COULD seem like all the excitement and preparation were just for them.

I dunno… birthdays mean different things to different people. As long as I get my pie in the face, I’m happy.

This year I won’t be able to celebrate directly with dear Chuck, because he and Pat are serving a mission as temple workers in Atlanta, GA. I both miss and envy them.

Many blessings to you both. Know we are thrilled for you to have this opportunity, but we are anxious to have our favorite traveling companions back so we can plan some new trips together! Have a great birthday Chuck. How about a proxy pie? I’d be happy to do the honors.

A Christmas Letter

I've been exploring a few different blogs I hadn't seen before. Came across something I rather liked, so I figured I'd share it here. Seemed fitting for the day.


Dear Children,

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you’ve forgotten that I wasn’t actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of you’re predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival; although, I do appreciate being remembered anytime.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own; I don’t care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth just, GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER; Now, having said that let Me go on.

If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn’t allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn’t be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree; It was I who made all trees. You can and may remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching that explains who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks are. If you have forgot that one, look at John 15:1-8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it.

Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

Visit someone in a nursing home. You don’t have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

Instead of writing George complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don’t you write and tell him that you’ll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.

Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can’t afford and they don’t need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don’t know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile—it could make the difference. Also, you might consider supporting the local Hot-Line: they talk with people like that every day.

Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren’t allowed to wish you a “Merry Christmas” that doesn’t keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn’t make so much money on that day they’d close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families.

If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary, especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name. You may already know someone like that.

Here’s a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no “Christmas” tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don’t know them (and I suspect you don’t) buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Marines, the Salvation Army or some other charity that believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

Finally if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don’t do things in secret that you wouldn’t do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

P.S. Don’t forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I’ll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short.

I’ll help you, but the ball is now in your court.

And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those you love and, remember, I LOVE YOU.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Best Buy Bans "Merry Christmas"

So what are you giving for Christmas? I know what I WON'T be giving or getting. There will be no gadgets or toys in my stocking from Best Buy this year and I won't be purchasing any presents from there.

As you may have heard, the elecronics store chain has banned the expression "Merry Christmas" in all of their stores. It's one thing to make a corporate decision to choose to use "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" in all advertising and signage. Its another thing to say you will fire any employee who is heard to wish someone a "Merry Christmas". In my mind that is NOT being sensitive to the fact that there are many people of many faiths who may not observe Christmas. Being that hard line against Christmas just smacks of bashing Christ.

So, no matter how good the deals are, we won't be doing business there this year. I'm off to Tri-Cities for the day, and ordinarily that might have included a wander through the store to see what goodies they had to offer. However, based on this, I'll be going elsewhere this year.

Based on this I am beginning to think I understand a bit better why someone would avoid going to a Dixie Chicks concert based soley on political statements the singers made or why they might avoid Michael Crichton novels due to disapproval of his retaliatory behavior. We vote every time we spend our dollars. Who we vote for really does matter. It's one thing to recognize we all have differences and tolerate disagreements. But supporting individuals or businesses who contradict my core values is something I just don't want to do. That's why in our retirement accounts I will not own any funds that carry shares of Phillip Morris (even though they have a higher rate of return) and back in the nasty days of Apartheid I did some careful research of our retirement accounts to be sure I wasn't funding that monstrostity in any way.

Yeah, I can do business with people who think, believe and live different from me. But there comes a point where it is important to me to stand up and be counted for what I know to be true.

So where is your line in the sand?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Do I Care???

I'm intrigued by the argument going on about Michael Crichton over HERE. The short and not so sweet of it is that it appears the man wrote a character into one of his novels for the express purpose of saying mean things about someone he was mad at. Because of this, a whole bunch of people are dissing his work and rattling sabers about what a scumbag the writer is. They also take great offense at the fact that Crichton has a different take on the issue of global warming that they do.

So, what I'm wondering is this: Michael Crichton aside, in general if some sort of entertainer or artist (or for that matter car salesman or grocery store owner) has views or habits or behavior I don't like or disapprove of, what bearing should that have on how I evaluate the merits of his or her work?

If someone is a good musician should I avoid their music if I have evidence that person is cruel to cats? Or if I disagree with their politics? I never was a Dixie Chicks fan...but I gotta say I was baffled by the huge controversy over their political comments. What the heck did that have to do with whether or not you like their records?

We live in a pluralistic society where we all have the right to hold and express differing views. I just don't think it's all that important for me to agree with someone in order to appreciate the work the do.

On the other hand, I would have reservations about doing business with someone I found truly reprehensible. The questions is, where do I draw the line??

I totally disapprove of Larry Flynt and everything the man represents. I would never in a million years purchase any of the pornography he has produced. However, should my contempt for that part of his values and business block me from doing any sort of commerce with him if he were to open up some OTHER kind of enterprise that offered something good I did value? I honestly don't know.

I very much enjoyed some of Crichton's early work... others I found contrived. He could be a saint and it would not make his crappy books any better. He could be a contemptible villain and that would not change the fact that I was very much entertained and intrigued by some of his writing.

Recognizing that ALL human beings are flawed creatures who at times do stupid things, at what point to I take my ball and go home, refusing to do any sort of business with someone based on their badness, their stupidity, or their "wrong" views?

Kelly, you've definitely got me thinking with this one.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Solstice

With the official first day of winter (also known as Solstice), we cross over to having our daylight hours beginning to increase again instead of continuing to get shorter. The extra few minutes of sunshine won't really be noticeable for a while, but just knowing they are there gives me hope for tulips and daffodils and that bright green of brand new leaves popping out on trees. Granted, for those of us in the northland springtime is still months away. But it doesn't seem that long ago I was raking leaves and carving pumpkins. Now I'm sprinkling salt on sidewalks and navigating ice. Soon enough I'll be tilling the garden and beginning the whole cycle over again.

So as the season of Saturnalia comes and goes, I'm reflecting on how it feels as if we are living in accelerated times. Weeks morph into months into years and holy cow, where does the time go? Seasons spill into one another faster and faster. Was it really so long ago we watched the world go into wacko phobia over Y2K? Now we are already six years into this brand new century. Has it been what you expected?

Perceptions of time are fickle things...

As for me, after months of frantic Type A over-scheduling, I am very much looking forward to have the next week to do pretty much what I want. I plan to lie in a lavender bubble bath reading my printed out chapters of The Promised King, to put together a couple jigsaw puzzles, and take several well deserved naps. I may bundle up and go do a bit of geocaching. With the new year I am sure I will find plenty of new "to do" lists and make commitments for all manner of activities. But for now...I will gaze at seed catalogs and sort through a closet or two NOT in effort to get it all tidy, but rather to just enjoy the pile of old letters, concert ticket stubs, travel maps and other junk I have stashed there. I'm officially off duty for being busy and responsible for the next little while. It's time for me to stretch out and relax.

Frozen Winter

My kid sister lives in frozen Colorado. Airport is shut down, roads are closed, things are pretty much at a stand still. It reminded me of the above picture...

Billions and Billions and Billions

Yesterday my overall clad pal, Jaquandor, posted about Carl Sagan, commemorating the 10th anniversary of Sagan's death.

Has some very cool pictures of the universe....

It got me to thinking some about what famous people's deaths had the most impact on me as I was growing up.

I was just a little kid with Kennedy was assassinated. Janice Joplin died on my 13th birthday. Probably the first one I remember being very impacted by was the murder of Anwar Sadat. I had always admired him tremendously.

I remember exactly where I was and who I was with when I heard that John Lennon had been killed.

Then, on a more personal note, I definitely greived the loss my old English Professor - Dr. John Hardaway. To him I was probably one of many. But to me, the brief time we knew each other was very special indeed. I still have several books that he gave me, along with a stack of letters. He was a great correspondant. He had a wicked sense of humor.

How about you? Who do you miss? Whether famous or family - what shining stars that have snuffed out had impact on your life?

Lost years of Pop Culture

I was checking out Mimi's blog this morning and found something sort of interesting. She suggests people go to Popculture maddness to find the top 75 songs from the year you turned 18. You can then identify which songs you really liked, which ones you hated. It's a bit of a walk down memory lane to reflect on the soundtrack that was playing during a key time in your life.

Cool idea. I have just one problem with that. I was 18 in 1975. Music SUCKED in the 70's. That whole dacade of pop culture was pretty much a waste, in my humble opinion. No wonder I kept listening to the classic rock from my brothers generation and skipped over this rot entirely.

See What I See

This is a picture taken by RACHEL of a bush covered with ice that caught her fancy. In her posting on the topic she tells of first appreciating the beauty of this ice-covered bush, then going back into the church to tell her friends they should come see it.

To this I responded:

"Very cool image. We have frozen fog here this morning so EVERYTHING looks really magical...(except the roads which are downright scary dangerous.)

What intrigued me most about your posting though is the example you give of feeling compelled to tell other people about what you saw.

Since I teach Sociology I'm always looking at ways we interact...I once did a small study on this topic on the day that the Challenger exploded. I sat in a college library where there was a TV monitor set up showing newscasts of the tragedy. I had a grid to record the responses of the people who came in and saw this. The initial reactions were all over the map. Some laughed, some cried, some swore, some remained silent. But nearly EVERY person went and found someone to tell within 8-14 seconds.

Heavenly Father created us to be social critters... no matter how amazing or horrible our experiences may be, it is only in telling /showing those things to others that we can fully make meaning of them in our lives.

I think we all hunger to connect with others, to have them see what we see."

I've been thinking about that concept a bit more...

In the Psychopathology course I just finished up at WWC we talked about the difference between mentally ill people who seek treatment for specific disorders and relatively "normal" folks (whatever that means) who go to therapy because they are unhappy or in some sort of emotional pain. We talked about the role of validation in mental health treatment...helping people feel fully heard and known and how that in and of itself can provide a considerable relief from personal suffering.

When I did Spectrum training in Boise we talked about the concept of Intimacy being best understood by the phrase "In To Me You See". We both long for and fear that sort of be understood, to be heard, to be seen for who we really are behind the social bravado.

Last night I was flipping TV channels while working on a jigsaw puzzle...I caught the very last few minutes of CSI. Don't know what the story had been about, but one of the CSI techs was asking Gil Grissom what he found attractive/exciting in a person. Grissom answered "Someone who doesn't judge me"....which was the closing line of the show.

Isn't that what we all want? Someone who will listen to us, see us, know us fully and not judge?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Gout Boy's Amazing Recovery

Monday morning my beloved woke up with terrible pain and swelling in his right foot. He was quite baffled by this, as both feet had been in full working order the night before when he had gone to bed. Could he have some mysterious "turned-over-too-many-times-in-his-sleep" injury? He is a strong, stoic stud-muffin type of guy with a generally high tolerance to pain but this was really bad. He could barely walk. So off to the doctor he went. There he was told he had gout.

I've known a few people who have had gout in the past. It is a form of arthritis that comes on quite suddenly, most often overnight and most often in the foot. However, it can affect just about any joint in the body. It can linger quite some time and be very debilitating.

I'm not one to put much stock in doctors and pills, so I did a little research to see if there might be some natural remedies which could be helpful for him. I came up with THIS website that offers an extensive report about Gout, along with several different home remedies.

At first it did sound a bit far fetched. While it had lots of good information, the idea that a simple thing like taking two teaspoons of baking soda in a glass of water every two hours could cure the problem sounded too good to be true.

However, hubby decided to give it a try, figuring he could fall back on traditional medicine if this did not work. He followed the directions and I'll be the VERY NEXT DAY he was feeling MUCH better. He still had a little tenderness, but he was vastly improved and was able to walk with almost no discomfort. By Wednesday he was absolutely fine. Anyone who knows gout knows that's just plain amazing.

Score one for the natural home remedies - wahoo! I'm glad he's feeling better AND glad that he did it without more meds with all their nasty side effects.

So I've been doing some reading about various "home remedies" for all sorts of ailments. Interesting stuff! Do you have any favorites?

I'm gathering a collection of them which I want to put together in a report I will print here on this blog under the title "Old Husband's Tales...folk widsom and health." It will have two categories - the most wild, absurd, dangerous or silly things that people think will help them get well when they are ailing AND things that have been shown to actually work.

Then I plan to do some exploring about the whole idea of sickness and health. How do we decide when we are just "under the weather" and when we are seriously ill?? Why are some sorts of sicknesses viewed as trivial and others as significant, even when the symptoms are not all that different?

So if you know about any old remedies, whether it's something you or your family actually tried, or something you've just heard about, please let me know.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Nacula Island, Fiji

I've had several people comment in e-mails about the underwater pictures from Egypt. So I decided to go ahead and share some of the shots from our trip to Fiji five years ago. I must say that was some of the best snorkeling I've ever done. The coral was breathtaking and the fish so exotic. I especially liked the indigo starfish that were all over the reef. They looked like some sort of strange underwater Muppet creature - yet they were very much real and alive.

Beyond the beauty of the beach and the reefs where we spent most of our time (when I wasn't in a hammock reading) - we really had an opportunity to get to know some of the local village people. They invited us into their home. We sat on the floor and ate octopus with them. The younger children spoke fairly good English and were able to translate for us, which was a big help. We also went to church there--not sure of the denomination. Since it was all in Fijian we couldn't understand a word of it, but it sounded like a Hellfire & Brimstone sermon. But what I will remember most from that service will be the choir - a capella, of course, with voices like angels. It was soul stirring. We truly felt the spirit as they sang.

The whole trip was an amazing journey. VERY different from our Egypt trip in that we were on a remote island in the Yasawa chain. Two very tiny villages on the whole island. No roads. No cars. No electricity. No stores. Just beach and beauty, lots of peace.

Comparing that to visiting a city of 22 million is impossible. Our time in Cairo was an entirely different sort of experience. Yet both trips have enriched me. These times, along with travel to Costa Rica and a few other places have shaped my values in so many ways. I am deeply grateful for the opportunities I've had to get to see some different places in the world. Hopefully there will be more adventures yet to come. I want to go to India, to China and to Haiti. Depending on governmental issues I'd like to go to Cuba and more of the middle east. It is indeed an amazing world we live in. Travel helps me discard all my western ideas of entitlement as I more fully experience the way that other people live. I've learned much from my brothers and sisters in other parts of the planet. I may never see these people again, but I will always carry them in my heat.

To see the slideshow of pictures, click HERE.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Revenge of the Chick Peas

That last post sparked some other food related memories...

When I was a kid, my family very rarely ate in restaurants. However, on a few scattered occasions we went to visit my maternal grandparents (the only sane adults I knew) in Flagstaff, Arizona. Those visits were like sweet islands of peace amid the chaos. (Well, peaceful once we got past the Oak Creek Canyon switchbacks that always made my brother, Andy, get carsick. It was so gross to see him puke!)

Anyway, when we went to my grandparents' home, they would often take our family out to dinner at a Chinese Food place there in Flagstaff for Chicken Fried Steak. Apparently they were good friends with the owners. My grandparents were very proud to be able to buy us all a steak dinner - something we could never afford.

However, this was a CHINESE FOOD restaurant. I didn't want steak. I wanted something exotic sounding like Moo Goo Gui Pan. I resented it bitterly that I was never given a choice of what to order when we went out. But I knew better than to make a fuss. So I'd sulk my way into the red naugahyde booth and dutitfully choke down my chicken fried steak, never appreciating it for a minute. I got so angry about it I used to surrepticiously stuff the chick peas (otherwise known as garbanzo beans) that came with the dinner into a nearby potted pant while the grown ups were busy talking.

Boy, did I show them! Yeah, that was the beginning of my serious rebel days. Who knows? If I'd been allowed chopsticks and stir fry I might have saved myself and a lot of other people whole lot of grief!

Tastes Like Chicken!

I was cruising a few blogs this morning and found a comment by Stacy that struck me as funny. Apparently at a party she ate some cactus thinking it was green beans. So that sent me off on a whole tangent of thoughts about odd things I've eaten, or things my kids refused to eat, etc.

What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?

I've eaten a variety of meats including moose, chinchilla, and cobra.

I remember once I roasted a beef heart. This was many moons ago when I was living in a migrant fruit pickers cabin in Parkdale, Oregon with my first husband. It was just a small two room cabin with a wood stove, table and a bed. Apple crates nailed to the wall for cupboards.... actually I have MANY tales from those days, but I digress.

On this particular occasion I had pulled the roast beef heart out of the wood stove and set it on the table to cool. Then I walked down to the community spigot to haul some water. When I got back, one of my neighbors who I knew very well had stopped in to see us - he'd found the door open and walked right in. He saw this lovely looking roast on the table and just couldn't help himself, so he had sliced off a piece and was savoring it. He was very sheepish to get caught snitching a piece of our dinner. But the hilarious part was the look on his face when I said - "So Michael, how's the beef heart?" He positively turned green.

I'm not sure why eating organs is considered taboo by some even thought they do eat animal flesh. I love liver and onions. My husband, on the other hand, says liver is only good for catfish bait.

But then...he won't eat olives or cucumbers either. Some people just don't know what they are missing.

When my kids were little we had a tradition at Christmas time that every year we would get them some type of food they had never tried before. That wasn't too hard the first 10 years of their lives...we went through anchovies and pomegranate, canned clams and matza balls. But by the time they got into their teens I was running out of things they hadn't tasted. The year Forest, my oldest, was sixteen I gave him pickled pigs feet. At that point he rebelled and said, "Mom, this tradition has got to STOP!" Apparently they were pretty disgusting. Who knew?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Diving the Red Sea

I've talked some about sites we saw while travelling in Egypt. What I haven't really mentioned is the time my husband spent scuba diving in the Red Sea. I did do a bit of snorkeling and saw amazing things. But I'm not a diver, so I didn't go out on the two days of diving he did. Here are a few of the pictures from his trip.

Friday, December 15, 2006


For a while now I've been bopping back and forth between my two blogs. I tended to use this one to discuss social issues or "big ideas" of one sort or another (although I admit some of the postings were just pure nonsense). The OTHER blog I had for my personal stuff, family news, Spirituality, etc.

But lately I've chosen to quit flipping back and forth and just stick with this one.

There is the danger that the people who were reading my old blog who were only interested in my family/faith posting will be put off by my urgent pleas for social justice. There is an equal possibility that my readers who came for more serious fare here will be put off by my fluff comments about my dog or my angst about my hair. But the bottom line for me was to figure out why I was blogging to begin with. I did a little musing to figure out whether I wanted to continue at all and what sort of purpose it served for me.

I've never held out any pretense that this was fine writing. It's the babbling of a middle aged lady about what I think, what I am curious about, what feels important to me, or just what happens to catch my fancy on a particular day. I'm not really expecting to achieve some grand audience. And that's ok.

I have a faithful few who check in from time to time. And then there are the teaming masses who find a link on things like pie-in-the face forum or LDS women bloggers or some other such thing. Most of those come by once and then disappear.

But that's ok too. Because in the end, I am not writing to woo an audience. I am writing to discover my own voice. Many times it is only by expressing things into words that I become really certain of how all the feelings fit inside.

This blogging thing creates an odd community out of us complete strangers. I've enjoyed exploring, learning things from others like Spoke & PJ, Pondering Pig & Patrushka, my overall clad friend jaquandor, along with others I regularly read.
But the bottom line is that I know MYSELF better as a result of the writing, because I expose myself to myself right along exposing my thoughts, opinions, ideas and emotions to all of you.

So, for me, I think it makes sense to begin to take a more integrated approach to this blog - rather than continuing to speak with different voices between BelladonnaPiranha and Lynda B. I really am one and the same. So I'm closing up shop over at Apprentice Human, my very first blog.

I'm ready to admit I've got all sorts of contradictions and uncertainties, so this most certainly will not come off as cohesive, consistent or whole. It will go right on being a little scattered, sometimes downright fractured, sorta like me.

I'll bore some and maybe offend some. I don't doubt that some will stray away. But for those that stay... know I appreciate your comments; Thank you for walking with me a ways on this blogger journey. And for those with blogs of your own, you can trust that I will continue to peek in from time to time there.

Even though I'm keeping THIS blog under THIS title, just because it's the one with all the links already set up that I refer to on a regular basis, I am still an Apprentice Human, just trying my best to learn how to make my way in this crazy old world.


I was checking out my blogger stats again to see where people are logging in from, what sort of things bring them here and how long they remain.

I came to two conclusions

1) Some people have WAY too much free time


2) I have got to believe that some people click on, go to make themselves a sandwich or answer the phone or whatever, and then just leave it open unattended.

I mean really, there is just NO WAY I can believe anyone has looked at this blog for over nine hours.

However, another thing I noticed was that I have several people who are logging on from Utah. That makes sense as I know there is a link posted on a couple different LDS women bloggers forums.

So - for all you blog buddies from Utah, or those who know people in Utah,
THIS is for you.

Christmas Puzzles

Season's Greetings to all my blogger pals. I hold the season of the Holy Nativity to be a sacred time, but I do not believe that Jesus Christ was born in December. I believe he was born in the Spring. The whole idea of celebrating the birth of the Savior of the world on December 25 is a carry over from the fourth century as a way to accomodate an ancient Pagan festival of the winter solstice.

Nevertheless, it's nice to enjoy this special time of year with all it's rich symbolism.

So for those of you who enjoy puzzles and play during this festive season, here are a couple puzzles that we had fun with at a recent High Council Christmas Party.

Can you unscramble the Christmas songs below?

1. Od uoy reah thaw I erah

2. Slegan ew veah dreha no hgih

3. Astan slaucu si gocmin ot wont

4. Fra raf yawa no aseduj' lanips

5. Het stom fredownul mite fo the reya

6. Ceno ni loray viddas' yitc

7. Yoljl dol stani solhonic

8. teltil merdmur ybo

Next - answer these Christmas trivia Questions:

1. Name the movie where "every time a bell rings, an agel gets its wings"

2. Electric lights were first used for Christmas in 1910, 1895, 1922 or 1934?

3. Stockings are hung in the U.S. The Dutch children use which of the following?
Hats, Mugs, Stocking, Shoes, cloth sacks

4. the Poinsettia flower originallly grew in:
Canada, Spain, China, Mexico, Egypt, Peru

5. Name the girl that asked if there was a Santa, and was answered in a newspaper editorial.

6. The Christmas tree is a custom from what country?

7. "Miracle on 34th Street" is set in which department store?

8. In "The Polar Express" what does it mean if you hear the bell ring?

ANSWERS are given in the COMMENT below - so if you want to really test your knowledge on this DON'T peek till you give it a shot. If you do decide to cheat by looking - well, hey, I think there is something about a fat man in a red suit who is making a list and checking it twice who may determine that to be "naughty" rather than "Nice", but I personally don't really care.

Last but not least, - Click on THIS LINK for an animated Christmas jigsaw puzzle.

Playing with Photobucket

I've stumbled across a new web tool that seems to be pretty useful. It is called Photobucket, and is a cool way to share photos. I've still got to learn all the tricks to using the darned thing, but as a preliminary experiment I've tossed in some of the photos we took in Egypt to present as a slide show. I like having a simple way I can share these with friends and family at a distance just by e-mailing them the link. (VERY few of my family ever read this blog, so most of them have not seen these images...) Next I plan to put one together of my grandkids which I may post over at my other site.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Testing the Null Hypotheses

This week I took my final exams for the graduate courses I have been taking at a nearby university. For the past 11 weeks I have been deeply immersed in Psychopathology, Advanced Human Development and Probability and Statistics. My brain is SOOOO ready to be done with all that serious reading for a while. Right now all I want to do is pick up some fluff brain candy novel and go soak in a bubble bath.

In the classes that I teach, at the end of every term I talk about the concept of "Intellectual Bulimia"-- referring to the all too common practice of students cramming all the information they can into their brains and then regurgitating it back out for their instructors on final exams. With all the elegance of momma birds yacking up a meal into the beaks of their waiting offspring, these students dump their load in research papers and presentation portfolios, never to think on any of it again. I certainly saw some of that going on with my peers.

For me, however, there were several key concepts that were learned that will be kept and savored. One of those is the whole idea of “testing the Null Hypotheses”. When evaluating data, many times in comparing various averages or trends of numbers, it may APPEAR that there is a particular relationship between different variables. Yet when running the appropriate statistic (whether it be Z scores or T tests or Chi Squares or Anovas) it is possible to show if there is no significant relationship within a certain confidence level. I like that. It’s a way of saying “Liar, Liar Pants on Fire!” to sensational looking numbers that would lead us down the garden path of wrong assumptions.

I’ve heard it said that statistics can be sneaky and misleading. They are sort of like a bikini. What they reveal may be interesting, but what they cover up can be crucial.

So I liked learning more about statistics, how to read them, how to interpret them, etc so that I can assess information that I am exposed to with more critical thought and understanding than before. I had taken stats when I got my master’s degree in Sociology many moons ago. That time I was pretty much jumping through hoops for a grade. This time I was able to apply myself more and study it for real to get a firmer grasp on what it all meant. For a person who used to be downright phobic of anything involving math, I consider it a great achievement that I got as comfortable with the formulas as I did.

I just wish there were some clear statistics for knowing when things matter or don’t matter in LIFE.

For example: This afternoon on my lunch hour I ran to the store to pick up some pictures I had developed and get something to eat. When I came out, I discovered a note on my windshield saying “The wind blew my door open and hit your car. Call me if there are any damages.” Huh? So I got out to take a look. Sure enough, there is a rather noticeable dent in the right side panel. This is not some little pit door ding. This is a bona fide DENT. Ouch.

Now, here is my problem. Part of me thinks, “so what?” After all, it makes no difference whatsoever in the drivability of the vehicle. Caring about that dent feels awfully superficial. I cringe at the idea of spending a chunk of resources on getting it fixed, even if they are not my resources. There are so many better ways for resources to be spent in this world. It feels vain and shallow to have them directed to repairing a cosmetic problem on my car. So what if it is someone else who may have to pay. Is it even worth worrying about it??

Except I sort of do care. It’s my car and I don’t want it to be damaged. After many years of driving around in old beaters, I’m finally driving a car that I like and I try to take very good care of it. It’s not a FANCY car. But it is barely over a year old and is a good looking car. Now it is a good looking car with a dent. Also there is the whole consideration of re-sale value should I ever decide to move on to something else. So I’m pretty sure I’ll take it in and see about getting it fixed.

Yet I’ve been second guessing myself all afternoon about whether I’m ok with my own values on this… playing devil’s advocate till the cows come home.

In talking to other people here at work about it I’ve gotten the whole gambit of opinions, ranging from ABSOLUTELY get it fixed to who cares, it’s not all that bad. I don’t know what I think. I wish there was a simple statistic I could run that would tell me if this matters. Sadly, life is not that simple.

Making a Difference

For some time now one of the ways I have been working to fight poverty has been to make monthly contribution to the Humanitarian Aid and the Perpetual Education Fund of the LDS Church. I happen to be active LDS. As such, I routinely give back 10% of my net income in "tithing". I believe that to be a basic commandment. Beyond that, however, I have the option to donate to other funds if and when I choose. Both the Humanitarian Aid Fund and the Perpetual Education funds have been important ways for me to help my brothers and sisters in need throughout the world.

That's all well and good, but the more I think about it, the more I've come to believe that chronic poverty is much about ATTITUDES as it is about lack of resources. The feelings and beliefs people have about what it means to have "enough" contribute to the social structures and policies we create.

It helps when I share my money. But I think it may be even more important to be willing to examine my values, behavior, and interactions with others at all levels of the economic spectrum in terms of what I have, what I use, what I share in order to come to terms in new ways with what it means to be a brother and a sister in this world.

For nearly three years I worked as the Executive Director of an organization called HELPLINE, an emergency intervention non-profit agency in Walla Walla WA. The mission of that organization is to: Affirm the Worth of Every Person, Address the Needs of Individuals, Families & our community; and Advocate for Positive Life Transformation.

I helped craft that mission statement and design the programs that carried it out. I've changed jobs twice since then. That doesn't mean I've changed my desire to make a difference in the world.

While reading Christina's Blog (one of Pappa Herman's links)I found info on the ONE campaign to end poverty.

I was appalled by my initial mind closed down at the idea of ENDING poverty - wishing longingly that were possible, but mostly believing "for the poor always ye have with you" (John 12:8)

I think that when we start with the assumption that poverty is an inevitable part of life, like gravity, it serves to get us off the hook for taking any serious action. We may talk about it, act concerned, do some little project here and there to make ourselves feel better. But to really step out of our comfort zones and get SERIOUS about ENDING POVERTY we have to begin with the belief that it is possible to do so.

So today I'm doing lots of thinking about my assumptions, opinions and attitudes regarding poverty. I am considering ways that I can change my heart and my mind to become more ready to be used as a catalyst for positive change.

This isn't about donating to charity. Charities do a lot of good work. But this is about working to shake up the social structure as we know it. This is about pouring out more DIGNITY to my homeless brothers and sisters and reshaping what meaning we give to having a lot or having less.

I don't think ENDING POVERTY means everyone has the same kind of house or equal amounts of money in the bank. I think ending poverty means NO ONE is treated with derision or contempt for having less and EVERYONE has access to clean water, sufficient food, and a safe place to sleep. There will still be differences. But I believe we CAN change what it means and in so doing how we act towards others.

I will get involved in causes, to be sure. But I start with me. I start with my own heart. That may take the biggest leap of all.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cairo Memories

My only regret about supporting KIVA loans is that there are not currently any businesses in Egypt which I could choose to fund. It has been a few weeks now since we returned, and I find I am STILL processing the experience emotionally and spiritually. The monuments and museums were fantastic. But it was the PEOPLE of Egypt that stole my heart. Beyond that, the exposure to extreme poverty of a developing nation really forced me to re-evaluate my own views on abundance and how I can more responsibly live in a state of stewardship over all I have been blessed with.

By American standards I am far from rich. But I also am not poor. There are things that I have wished for that are beyond my reach economically...but all my needs are most definitely met along with a whole heck of a lot of my mere wants.

In a culture that puts so much emphasis on material goods and consumerism it is a definite challenge to remain in a state of gratitude rather than keep reaching for one more thing that media says is good to have, especially when friends/family/neighbors get those things and extoll how wonderful they are. However, choosing to live simply is such a powerful way to experience GREATER abundance. I hope with all my heart that I will continue to remember these lessons in the weeks, months and years to come... I hope I will always carry a taste of Cairo in my heart.

Some bandwagons are worth jumping on

I have been interested in the development of micro-credit ever since I first learned about the principle over a year ago, watching the documentary "Small Fortunes" on BYU TV. The concept seemed deceptively simple. By providing small, unsecured loans to people living in poverty, individuals and families could improve their circumstances through sound business ventures. The ripple effect was felt throughout the communities as goods and services were made available, children were able to go to school, and industry and thrift were modeled as positive ways to live. I supported the idea whole heartedly in principle, but up until now did not know how I could get involved personally. Now I do.

KIVA lets you connect with and loan money to unique businesses in the developing world. For as little as $25 up to as much as you want, you can help provide an individual or group of your choice the funds needed to advance their dreams. There are all sorts of businesses from many different countries to choose from. I decided to support the following: AGRICULTURE in SENEGAL - a motorized irrigation pump will allow a group of people there to expand their farming interests. TEXTILES in KENYA - a woman there embroiders seat covers and tablecloths for sale, her loan will help her move her business to a better location and to buy needed supplies; CLOTHING SALES in TANZANIA - Loan for the purchase of materials for making Batik.

For the price of a nice dinner out with friends I am able to participate in helping these individuals improve their lives. Also, since this is a loan rather than a handout, it will be repaid over time so. My plan is to continue to re-loan this money over and over again to help as many people as I can.

Why do this? As I stated on my Loaner Page: I believe in the words of Edward Everett Hale who said: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Many thanks to the Pondering Pig for his own efforts at supporting this good cause and providing the information and challenge for others to share the blessings.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Corporate Conglomerates

I was out doing some Christmas shopping yesterday. Found some cool stuff. But along the way I had a conversation with my sweetie about why I would prefer to do business at store A even if it cost me a bit more for the same merchandise available at store B. One of the considerations I listed was the way employees were treated and another was whether or not products came from "third world sweatshops".

Now, I'm very confused about this, as I recently toured a place I would consider to be one of those "third world sweatshops"... a carpet factory in Egypt that people were PROUD to have available to give children from poverty striken families meaningful work. I thought of those young kids sitting at their looms day after day after day and it gave me the shudders, so much so that I could not bring myself to buy any of their very nice carpets. But if that carpet factory was not there, these kids would NOT necesarily be better off...they might just be hungry. So am I right or wrong to pass judgement on their child labor practices??


And there is the whole issue of local vs. large corporate.... is local inherently better?

We vote everytime we spend our dollars, saying what is important to us. I'm questioning some of my spending lately, wondering if I am happy with my vote.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Toilets of the World

I was reading one of Pondering Pig's recent posts on microcredit - something I am a STRONG supporter of...but was intrigued by the title: "Do You have a Sanitary Latrine?" My first thought was to wonder how clean my bathroom, let's not go there. My next thought was to remember the porcelain squat toilet I saw in Egypt. I was routinely directed to bathrooms with traditional western toilets. But the public restrooms in the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities had both kinds, with the western stalls being more recent additions. These would not encourage magazine reading, eh? Also, the hotels I stayed in had bidets which was rather interesting.

When I taught an online class on sociology of race & ethnicity I had a unit on cross cultural toilets just to get the students recognizing our way is not the only way that things are done. Don't know what I ever did with that file of photos...surely they are on a disk around here SOMEWHERE. In the mean time I did a bit of a Google search on "Toilets of the world" and came up with some interesting examples... I wish I'd taken a picture of the tree stump toilet we used in Fiji...that one was truly a classic.

Chris, I know this is not the direction you were headed, but it's where reading your post happened to take me.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Remembering Joy

My beloved aunt, Joyce Pendley Odell died quietly this morning, after a two year battle with cancer. There are no words to express how deeply her loss will be felt. Known to all who knew and loved her as “Joy”, she truly did bring much joy into our lives.

Born 3 January 1939 in Oak Creek, Arizona Joy was the eighth of nine children born to Frank and Jane Pendley. Born and raised on the historic Pendley homestead which has since become Slide Rock State Park, Joy’s family taught her values of honesty, hard work, appreciation for humor and kindness to others. She had a deep love of nature and was an excellent cook.

On 3 Sep 1955 Joy married Roy Odell. After a long and productive career in Seattle, Roy and Joy retired to Sequim, WA where they made many dear friends. They were the parents of three daughters: Leslie Gay (wife of Randy Wood) of Renton, WA; Colleen (wife of Pat Mace) of Bothell, WA and Brenda (wife of Tim Puryear) of Kent, WA. They had seven grandchildren: Aaron, Eric and Kristin Wood, Jack and William Mace, and Benjamin and Victoria Puryear.

On a personal note, my Aunt Joy was a hugely significant influence in my life. My own parents both died while I was in my early 20’s. Joy became the touch stone for me to tell me things about my family’s history and to teach me lessons of how to be a wife, mother and grandmother. Our visits were rich with laughter as she generously shared of her wisdom, her kitchen and her closets. She gave me more love and acceptance than any other woman I’ve ever known.

Joy was a loyal friend to many and took all her relationships seriously - whether being neighbor, mother, daughter, sister, cousin or aunt. She went out of her way to do special things for people. She was never pretentious. She was warm and funny, and in the words of her older brother Tom, "a class act".

I've gathered together a few family photos of Joy with those she loved. You can access the slideshow by clicking HERE.

Obviously there are many, many people who were important in Joy's life that I do not have the pictures of... but you all know who you are. Whether on film or simply in our hearts, our memories of Joy will be sweet.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Happy Pie In The Face Day

I just had to share this e-card that I received this morning. Thanks so much Kelly. You definitely brought a smile to my face. I've got some pudding and graham crackers in the pantry. Maybe I'll whip up some yummy coconut cream to celebrate.

My pal Beckett

A friend of mine and I are making plans to get to get together to talk all about Egypt. As I've written here previously, I just got back from a trip there. My friend, Beckett, has been studying about Egypt in school. He is seriously interested to hear more about the monuments and the mummies, the culture and climate, along with all else that I experienced there. So we are going to go out one day soon and immerse ourselves in talk of pharos and hieroglyphics, Nile Delta flood patterns, rock formations, and tomb jewelry. I'm looking forward to it.

It just so happens that this friend of mine is quite a bit younger than me. Like about 40 years younger. Some would argue that the differences in our age (not to mention being different genders, different faiths, and having entirely different goals for our lives) would be barriers to having a meaningul friendship. But that is not an issue to me. Beckett is smart, and funny and has a powerful faith in Christ. Those are the qualities most important to me in a friend, not how old they happen to be, where they live or what their hobbies are. He likes my company and I enjoy his. So I am very much looking forward to spending some time with him.

I find it interesting so that so many folks look for others they have something in common with as a chief criteria for building new relationships. I'm not opposed to hanging out with people who think and live more as I do. It just seldom plays out that way in my world. I tend to gather folks around me who I appreciate all the more for their diversity that opens my eyes to other paths rather than those who mirror my own.

So, dear Beckett, you bet I am every bit as excited as you are to get together and share stories of Egypt. Let me get through my final exams first, ok kiddo? After that, we will definitely set a date. You can count on it!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pilgrims in the eyes of a child

Today I got a Thanksgiving letter from my bank which included excerpts of things school children had written about the pilgrims and the first thanksgiving for a class assignment. My ancestor William Brewster would be turning over in his toolbox if he could read these! The source these are attributed to is I looked there but didn't find this... I suspect it was downloaded at some point in the past and has been reproduced over and over. These are truly great.

Stories of the First Thanksgiving and Why We Have It:

STORY 1 (no name given) Once up on a time there was these bunch of people that came across the ocean. It took them a couple of days. They were getting away from someone and came here. After they got here it was a bad winter. They didn't have no idea why they came but knew they couldn't live without friends. They tried to make friends with the Indians. Not many of them liked them because they dressed funny. One Indian helped them learn how to grow food like turkeys and corn. He helped them plant them in the ground. After some of the Pilgrims lived through the cold winter they were glad. They invited some Indians to come eat. They thought it would be one or two but a whole bunch came to eat and they stayed forever. All the Indians scared the Pilgrims but finally they came out to eat because they stayed a long time. The end.

STORY 2 (by Maria) The Pilgrims came across the water. I think it was a big lake or something. After they got here they made friends with the Indians because there wasn't anyone else to make friends with. One day they wanted to have a big dinner. They asked the Indians to come too. A big bunch of them came. The Pilgrims had to fix a lot more food. The Indians didn't know they needed to go home right away. The Pilgrims didn't want to make them mad so the Indians stayed a long time. The Pilgrims went out and chased several turkeys and hams. They cooked corn and beans too. For dessert they cooked a pumpkin in a pie. I don't know why I am writing about the Pilgrims. I am from Mexico and don't think we have Thanksgiving with Pilgrims or Indians. The only thing I don't like about Thanksgiivng is we can't come to school. I like school. Mostly recess and lunch.

STORY 3 (by Joel) The Pilgrims came over on the Plumflower. They came a long way on the ocean. I think the ocean is a big piece of water. They left so they could get away from mean people. The Indians became friends and they asked them to come eat. One or two were suppose to come to eat but several more came with them. The Pilgrim mothers had to go to the store and get more turkeys and corn. They cooked it and the Indians ate it even though they didn't know what it was. We now have turkey every Thanksgiving because the store was out of ham. I wished they had ham instead because I don't like turkey or pumpkins. The End.

Hat's off to Ya'lla Tours!

I must commend the excellent service we received every step of the way from all our friends at Ya'lla Tours. There are many, many tour companies throughout Egypt as tourism is their primary industry. I feel very blessed that we had opportunity to work with one of the best. From the day we booked our trip their communication with us was superb. The information they provided us with ahead of time made planning for this journey far easier and helped us look forward to it all with excitement rather than overwhelm or doubt. At every step of our journey we were given just the right balance between courteous service and autonomy to wander a bit on our own, always reassured that these impeccable professionals has every detail taken care of. Yes, I was VERY impressed. For anyone who may be considering a trip to Egypt in the future, I can strongly recommend this company as great folks to work with. They are very responsive to whatever the client wants - in my case specifically asking for a spiritual tour with time for reflection and prayer. I was treated with such total respect and graciousness I can never thank them enough. They welcomed me to their country and allowed me to see not just the typical tourist sites, but also took us on a great back-roads exploration of ancient Cairo, allowing me to experience a glimpse into the true daily life of the people. We saw old men smoking hooka pipes in doorways, children guiding donkeys and huge waterbuffalo laden with wares. We saw the garbage in the streets and dusty, crumbling buildings but did not focus on ugliness. My own country has plenty ugliness of its own. Instead we focused on the spirit of the land, the quiet courage of the people, the wonder of the history and the sensory delights of the music, the food, and everything else we found there. Thank you, Ya'lla tours for a job well done. I hope to be back!

My brother, Ossama

No description of our journey to Egypt would be complete without acknowledging a very special man, Ossama Sharaf. He was our private guide for our whole time in Cairo. He escorted us to Giza, Memphis and Sakara for our first full day of touring to show us all the ancient wonders. His knowledge of Egyptology was impressive and his fluency in English much appreciated. But what I valued most about dear Ossama was his kindness, his humility, and his openness for questions about the culture. So long as I live I will never forget the sparkle in his eye when he would smilingly say to me, "No matter what people believe, Lady, we are ONE!" The picture you see of him here was taken at the site of the Burning Bush at St. Katherine's Monastery. This devout Muslim man prayed with me, a Latter-day Saint Christian woman and both of us were deeply edified. Then after our restful time at Sharm el Sheikh, when we returned to Cairo, Ossama again took up his role as our guide to show us the mosque, synagogue and Coptic church. We sat together on the floor of the mosque and had a powerful discussion about faith and the role it has in our lives.

Ossama's courtesy was boundless. He kept us safe, informed us, entertained us with his stories and touch our hearts deeper than he knows. My understanding of Islam is much more complete and compassionate today than it was before I met him. Because of his graciousness, I will always feel as if I have a second home in Cairo. Ossama, you are truly loved.

Wehed, The finest driver in Cairo!

Cairo Traffic

I am very appreciative of my pal, jaquandor over at Byzantium Shores for pointing me in the direction of a blog by another guy who just returned from Egypt. I've enjoyed reviewing his impressions of the trip and comparing them with mine. Greg Burgas had this to say about Cairo traffic.

Cairo is a huge city. It's packed with 20 million or so of Egypt's 72 million people, and each one of them is either in a car every second of the day or stepping off the curb in front of those cars with absolutely no regard for the few tons of metal bearing down on them. I suppose the feeling is mutual, because the drivers have no regard for the fragile bags of flesh zipping like dragonflies among their behemoths. Of course, "behemoths" is a relative term, as most automobiles in Egypt are tiny things, the better to maneuver through tiny spaces in the traffic. The biggest vehicle I saw there was a Jeep Cherokee. The country was packed with Renaults, Fiats, Peugeots, Kias, and other small cars with maximum scooting power and minimum protection from every other car. Those quaint lines on the road that mark lanes in the United States were mere decoration to Cairene drivers: they regarded them as if some ancient pharaoh had painted them as part of his temple and had no direct bearing on their modern lives.

I can relate. However, I interepreted the same events quite differently. As I commented over on Greg's blog: The first day there I too literally felt I was taking my life in my hands to be on the roads of sheer chaos. Yet in all the time we spent there I never witnessed a single fender bender, something I can't say for an equal amount of time spent on busy US roads. I also did not see ANY "road rage". YES it es extremely congested with camels and cars and little kids hawking Kleenex all jumbled together. But it seems to occur in an intricate dance of human interaction that the local people understand well. I once took ballroom dance lessons with my husband and learned how to move here or there based on the slightest nudge of a hand at my back. Likewise, the people of Cairo have an amazing level of awareness of when to go and when to wait that is not at all based on street lights (which are practically nonexistant there) or lane lines (which are mere suggestions there). Instead they base their understanding of right-of-way on DIFFERENT (not less valid) means that we urgent Americans.

To expand on that a bit; I owe many thanks to our marvelous driver, Whed, whose calm, humble demeanor and excellent skill as he transported us not only all around Cairo, but also clear across country to the land of the Sinai, made the trip even more remarkable. Many blessings to you my brother, you shall not be forgotten!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Home Safe

Larry and I are back from our trip to Egypt. We are tired, jet lagged, and missing one suitcase (made it half way around the world and back and then went AWOL somewhere between Portland and Pasco). But we had a remarkable experience and loved every minute of it. Neither one of us are great photographers, and many of the pictures were taken through a van window while traveling so they are out of focus. But they will serve as reminders to us of what an amazing time we had. The most important pictures are the ones we took with our hearts rather than our cameras...scenes of the children, of our interactions with the local people, and especially of the time in sacred spiritual places, This experience rocked my world. Once I get caught up with all the things I must do for re-entry I'll try to capture some of it in words here...but some of the truly holy things we felt on Mt. Sinai, and within the walls the ancient mosque there simply are no words to describe. We felt very welcomed by the Egyptian people. I loved the food, the music, the sites, the culture. I have much to ponder in the days to come. I've been blessed to be able to travel several places over the years, but I can truly say on this trip I had the most memorable time of any trip I've ever taken. I am so very grateful for the opportunity and humbled by all that I learned.

Sunrise @ Sharm el Sheikh

Cairo Apartments

It doesn't really show up here, but these buildings, like many of the apartments we saw in Old Cairo, have rebar sticking out of the bricks at the roof. To our American sensibilities this seemed strange - looked messy and potentially dangerous. But when I asked why it was there I was told this makes it possible for families to add on another level for other generations when children are ready to marry. Egyptian family life is condusive to multiple generations living in close proximity. Beyond that, in a city of 22 million people there simply isn't enough land available to build individual housing units. Nor is there enough money for most families. The high income Egytians live in the new suburbs with shopping malls and more modern conveniences. Nearly everyone left residing in the old city is extremely poor. We saw people rummaging through trash heaps for what they could salvage. The disparity between the haves and the have nots was quite extreme. Realizing that whole families there live in apartments the size of my bedroom made me ponder long and hard about my relationship to resources and to consider deeply where both my obligation and my opportunity to share my abundance with others can lead.

Alabaster Sphinx

Near the remains of Memphis stands the Alabaster Sphinx. In addition to seeing the famous Sphinx that has been placed to guard the entrance to the Pyramids at Giza, we also visited this one. Very impressive! For a description and a little background on this monument, click THIS SITE

View from our window

When we first arrived in Cairo we stayed at Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel. This was the view from our window. We did see these up close and have lots of other photos of various pyramids (such as Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara (Sakkara) and the Bent Pyramid...overall there are about 110 pyramids (some seriously decayed, others in amazing condition after all these thousands of years...)

You can learn more about pyramids HERE

One for the Smelly Stories

Some of you know I have been working on writing a collection of short stories yet to be titled which I refer to as my "smelly stories", because even though each story stands alone and they are all very different in topic and tone, the theme that binds them together is scent. In one way or another smells are central pieces of every one of these tales. When I went to Cairo I hoped I might pick up some ideas for a few new stories to add to the pot. Boy did I!

There are over 100 perfume shops in Cairo. This is one of the ones we visited. If I'd had more money I would have loved to have brought home a bottle of lotus and one of papayrus perfumes, along with a collection of the beautiful hand blown bottles they had on display for giving as gifts for family and friends. did not happen. By the time we got here we had already committed our cash for other things, and I didn't want to risk fragile bottles in my suitcases. But ah, the smell of that place! It was delicious.

Veiled Women

We saw many women in full veil, although most wore merely the traditional head scarves. For more info on the issue of headcoverings and full veil check these links:

Furor over University ban on full veil

Argument Against the Veil

To Veil or Not to Veil?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

My Itinerary

Friday, November 10 - CAIRO

Arrival in Cairo about 6:30 PM. Once we clear customs we will check in to our hotel, meridian Pyramids which is 15 minutes from the center of Cairo and we will have a view of the pyramids from our room. We will probably walk around gawking like tourists, acclimating to the sounds, smells and sights of the place - find some good food, maybe take a dip in the pool and then try to get well rested for our big day to come.

Saturday, November 11

Our driver/tour guide will pick us up at 8:30 AM. We will drive to Giza and visit the pyramids. We'll see the great pyramid, a royal burial chamber, the Valley Temple, and the Sphinx. Then we go visit the Solar Boat and continue to Memphis, capital of the Pharaohs during the Old Kingdom. We'll see the recumbent statue of Ramesses II and the 80 ton Alabaster Sphinx. We'll get lunch somewhere en route. Next we go to Sakara to see the prototype of the pyramids we all are familiar with, the smaller step pyramid, built for the 3rd Dynasty Pharaoh Djoser by the exalted architect Imhotep. Continuing south, we will visit the Pyramid of Dahshour. King Senefru, father of King Cheops, built this pyramid, also known as the Red Pyramid, approximately 4,6000 years ago.

After all that we return to Cairo where we will visit a Papyrus institute then head back to our hotel.

Sunday, November 12

We will depart Cairo and drive to the Suez Canal. (about a 6 hour drive). We'll take the tunnel under the Suez and go check in to our hotel, Morgenland Village, which is nestled in the mountains of south Sinai, only 2 miles from the monastery of St. Catherine. There is a Bedouin tent hosting traditional barbecues and desert music folklore shows, a medicinal herb shop, and a few interesting things there.

Monday, November 13

Wake up at 3:30 AM and head up the Mountain of Moses. It lies south of St. Catherine's Monastery and rises to a height of 7,497 feet. We may make it to the top to experience the spectacular sunrise as dawn breaks over the land. We may wimp out before that and just enjoy the journey without focus on the destination. But either way...we'll be walking where holy things have happened and pondering much.

We descend the mountain and have breakfast at our hotel. Then we go visit the monastery of St. Catherine, which sits at an altitude of 4,150 feet on the reputed site of the "Burning Bush". Commissioned by emperor Justinian, the monastery was built between the years 527 and 565 in the name of the Alexandrine martyr who died in 307. The first things we will see as we approach are the gardens surrounded by cypress trees and the monastery's impressive walls. Once inside we will be able to experience the amazing icons, and feel a spirit I am sure will touch our souls.

In the afternoon, we will drive to Sharm el Sheikh on the coast of the Red Sea where we will relax and think deeply on all we have experienced.

Tues, Nov 14 - Thursday, Nov 16

Our time in Sharm is up for grabs. Here we did not plan anything specific...we have three days to allow it to unfold however it unfolds. Our hotel, the Renaissance Sharm El Sheikh, was opened in 2004 overlooking 300 meters of private landscaped beach frontage overlooking the national marine park of Ras Mohammed where some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling in the world is to be found. Larry is a diver so he is very much looking forward to that. I don't dive, but I'll be just fine laying by the pool reading a book while he gets his bubble time in. I expect we'll both go snorkeling together a time or two. We'll be able to pamper each other a bit and enjoy some exploring at our leisure. We will go geocaching at some point.

Friday, November 17

We will got to the Sharm el Sheikh airport for our early flight to Cairo. We'll check back in to our hotel and leave our luggage, then head out for a full day tour. We'll go to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities where we will see the treasures of the Tomb of Tutankhamen and the mummy room, where over ten mummies, including that of Ramesses II, are displayed in freestanding glass cases so you can see them from all angles. We will gaze into these 3000 year old faces and wonder what it would have been like to have lived in their time.

Next we go to Old Cairo and walk back in time. We'll visit the Old Coptic Church and the Ben Ezra Synagogue. Lunch en route. Next we continue to the Mohammad Ali Mosque so in the space of a few hours we will have payed homage to all of Abraham's children - touching Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Later we will go to the Khan el Khalili Bazaar where I will do a bit of Christmas shopping for my grandkids.

Finally it is back to our hotel, the Concorde El Salam, for one last night on Egyptian soil. Many prayers of thanks and much amazement will be there, no doubt! They do have a typical Egyptian night club, but I suspect by that point I may feel more like pondering than dancing. But who knows? We'll see how it goes.

Saturday - November 18

We fly out at 3:45 AM so rather than get up early I suspect we'll just stay up through the night. We have a bit of a layover in Frankfurt, Germany, but will not be leaving the airport. Maybe we'll get to walk around and get a bite to eat.

We arriving in Pasco at 3:20 in the afternoon. It's another hour and a half drive from there to home.

Only our vacation does NOT stop then. I have taken off work the whole week after our return. So I'll have a chance to really process the experience, download all the pictures we took, write notes of thanks to people we met, and just catch up with my senses before hitting the grind again. I plan to have lunch with a couple of different friends I rarely get to see and take some long walks to ponder and remember.

Of course, I WILL have to do some stuff - grade papers for my two online classes that I teach, finish writing a research paper for my Advanced Human Development course, take care of some personal business... But it will be unstructured enough to allow us to ease back into our daily lives here rather gently instead of the abrupt shift I've usually had to do.

That is Thanksgiving week, and I am sure we will have MUCH to feel very thankful for.

NO McDonalds for ME!

I've begun packing for my trip to Egypt and am taking care of some final details. I'm starting to get pretty excited. We've planned this trip for so long, it's hard to believe it's finally here.

Of course, one of the things I've done to get ready is go on the geocaching website and find some coordinates to do some cache searching while we are there.

I'm going to ride a camel. I'm going to hike up Mt. Sinai. I'm going to see the pyramids. I'm going to do all sorts of things. One of the things I am NOT going to do is eat at McDonalds while in Egypt, although as this photo shows I certainly could.

I hope to have an amazing adventure. I'm sure I'll be posting lots of pictures when I get back.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Wrinkle in Time

Here we are again at the point in the calendar where "Daylight Savings Time" requires most of the United States to recalibrate clocks. The whole concept of "Saving Time" truly baffles me. Having grown up in Arizona where there is no such thing, I've had to learn to adapt to the custom of Daylight Savings Time as an adult. So in some respects, I'm like a person who learned English as a second language later in life. No matter how fluent I get, I still have to translate time in my head every time we shift seasons. It just plain feels foreign to me. I mean really, just what was Benjamin Franklin thinking when he came up with this hair brained idea?

If you care at all about the origin of this practice, you can read more about Franklin's first notions for "saving time" in his essay "An Economical Project." HERE.

Initially I was unaware that the practice of changing clocks twice a year takes place in several countries. So, it's not just some crazy American notion to increase recreation and save electricity. Still, no matter how many people buy into this, I still find it rather silly. Every Spring and Fall I rant and rave about the practice. For days, sometimes weeks, after we switch I find myself translating time in my head...saying "ok, it's 4:00PM right now by this fake time, but the REAL time is actually..."

It's really pretty ludicrous that I balk at changing from "real" time to "false" time. Cutting up the flow of moments into 60 second minutes and 60 minute hours is completely arbitrary to begin with.

In pondering the whole notion of time, it occurs to me that while we may use the expression of "saving time", there really is no way to bank moments of our lives. We each have the same 24 hrs in every day that was allocated to Christopher Columbus, St. Barsanuphius, Michelangelo, Madame Curie, Frank Zappa, Florence Nightingale, Jack the Ripper, or Coco the Clown. How we each choose to spend that time is up to us. Whether it is in light or dark, we each choose moment by moment what meaning we give to the minutes we get. We choose whether we will spend it in "quiet desperation" or mundane pursuit, whether we will search for spiritual growth or squander it in hedonistic revelry.

Sometimes when I review how I'm using my own time, I feel altogether too much like those hamsters you see going round and round and round in that little exercise circle, being awfully darned busy but not really getting anywhere.

I've often heard the expression: "time is money". Alas, these are very different sorts of resources. If I run out of money, I can work hard and go get more. But once I run out of time, it's just plain gone. Every now and then I will find some cash I've left in a pocket, book or drawer that I had forgotten about. Coming across that found money always seems like a bonus. But I've never once opened a drawer or reached my hand into a coat pocket to find a spare half hour I'd tucked away for later. Granted, sometimes my schedule may free up some time from one expected obligation or another to give me increased choices of how I will spend my minutes, giving the illusion of some "found" time. But that's just changing how I use my minutes. I only get what I get. There is no more hiding around the corner. Unlike video games and pinball, no matter how many points I wrack up, I can't earn another go.

So I'm thinking about my time and how I'm spending it. These days instead of looking at what I am accomplishing, acquiring, or how many grand achievements I can tally up on my totem pole, I'm measuring my success in a very different fashion from when I was younger. What am I passionate about? What am I grateful for? How can I make myself more aware of both more often throughout the day? THAT, in my mind, is using my time well.

I went through a phase for a while where my mantra was to "live life by design rather than default." While I still think it is a good ideas to make mindful choices, the older I get the less I expect to be fully in control of my life. Instead, these days I seek to appreciate the time I have on this planet instead of always trying to craft it into whatever vision I may have for what is "best".

So now when I catch myself feeling overwhelmed by my obligations or limited by my circumstances, I try to interrupt that pattern and pay more attention to the blessings that are all too easy to overlook. While Light and Dark may shift from spring to fall, and back serves me well to remember that every minute of my life is precious no matter what the season or the light. It makes sense to live as many of those minutes in gratitude as I can muster, no matter what "time" the sun may set. After all, there are no guarantees how many minutes we get.

For now, I think I'll go curl up with the book "Einstein's Dreams" by Alan Lightman and lose myself in notions of the fluidity of time for a while…..

(NOTE: I originally wrote the a while back on my other blog, but I keep pulling it back out and tweaking a few words each time we shift again. It serves me well to remind myself how precious time really is.)

Enrich Your Word Power!

Word of the Day
Quote of the Day

This Day in History