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.)

Sunday, October 22, 2006


I’ve been thinking of an old friend who I have not had any contact with for some time. I’ve been mulling over why I have not called or otherwise gotten in touch. For several years, this friend of mine and I had wonderful times together. We shared in grand adventures. We laughed often and pondered deeply. But somewhere along the line, it started to bug me that I was always the one who initiated these get togethers. I consistently was the one who called her to suggest some outing or just to meet for pizza and conversation.

Every single time we met, my friend appeared genuinely happy to see me. She and I mutually shared information about our respective families, jobs, and life details. Our time BEING together felt balanced with a soothing give and take. But PLANNING thoses get togethers was always up to me. If I did not reach out to her, we would go weeks without even speaking. After a while I got it in my head that if she really wanted to spend time with me, or cared about what was going on in my life, she’d pick up a phone. So I decided to wait for her to call me for a change. Much to my chagrin, it was a rather long wait. I’m still waiting.

So now I have mixed feelings. Because there has been such a long lapse since my friend and I had any contact, I’m wondering what that means. Granted, the phone does work both ways and she COULD call me. But she hasn’t. At this point I’m guessing she probably will not. Does that in and of itself mean she does not value the friendship? Maybe. But I’m not so sure. Every indication I had back when we used to spend more time together was that she enjoyed the bond every bit as much as I did. She simply does not, for whatever reason, initiate the contact. I used to say to her from time to time – “give me a call, ok?” She would just smile and say she would, but I honestly can’t count a time that she did.

In my mind, that puts me in the position of choosing between a friendship where I do all the intitiating or not having the friendship at all. Honestly, I don’t like either alternative. But as it sits, I’m leaning toward the latter. I’m not exactly sure why – but that’s where I’m at. I’m reasonably sure I could call her up even now, after all these months, and she would be genuinely happy to hear from me. But I want a pal that will reach out to me sometimes to. Is that so unreasonable?

So I’m giving some thought to what it is I expect from my various friendships and what I am willing to contribute. I’m wondering if I have sufficiently expressed my appreciation for the people I care about and let them know without question the value they are in my life. .Friendship doesn’t have to be a tit for tat ping-pong game of social obligaltion with the participants scrupulously tallying up who owes who. But I think the strongest relationships which endear trust and deep sense of connection DO have a sense of reciprocity, with both parties extending themselves in the other person’s behalf.

Believing that, I’m doing a bit of soul searching as to how well I’m holding up my half of the bargain in my various relationships. When did I last call my sister in Colorado? What about my old college friends? It’s so easy to get caught up with busy lives… I think today I will spend much of the afternoon writing a few notes and making some calls. I have some people that are precious to me. It is high time I let them know.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Activity and Spacial Cognition

I'm working on mastering several different theories of human development. Right now I'm focusing on the Environmental / Ecological Theories. One of the ones I've found pretty interesting is the whole idea that "an individual's mobilty affects the type of his or her experiences by modifying the frequency, expansiveness, pleasure, and purpose of the activity" (Cohen & Cohen, 1985 as quoted in R. Murray Thomas's "Recent Theories of Human Development, p. 87) Basically what this is saying is that if I WALK someplace I will notice things that are different than if I DRIVE there, and if I drive I will notice things different than if I ride as a passenger. If I ride a horse or a motorcycle or rollerskate someplace I will have an entirely different sort of experience. Then the theory goes on to explain things about how and why people perceive the connection between models or maps of territories and the actual places that those symbolic representations depict. It also addresses how people think and behave differently in settings experienced as crowded versus empty, quiet versus noisy, constricted versus expansive, and public versus personal. There is all this detailed technical stuff about how we all make sense of our environments, and then some discussion about whether or not reality is something tangible and concrete that can be deciphered by its component parts or the alternate view that reality is socially constructed...created by the definitions, interpretations and behavior-setting programs that are the patterns of action routinely performed within an environment.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, OH MY! Lots of stuff. My brain is full. I think I need a break for a hot cup of herbal tea and a toasted slice of zuccini bread.

Hide -N-Seek

Today was a GORGEOUS fall day - just perfect for geocaching. Alas, I had much to do in other realms, so I was not able to get out hunting. But I still felt like I was in the game because I got several e-mails notifying me of folks who had found some of the cache sites I've placed. I've really enjoyed trying to come up with some creative ways to hide or how to do the clues to keep things interesting. I just put out a new hide last Thursday, this time on Whitman College campus, involving a bit of a puzzle.

So even when I am stuck home cramming for a psychopathology exam and working on a research paper, it's nice to know others are out and about looking for my hides.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Pie Guy

I recently received an e-mail from Kelly Sedinger, the guy from New York State who linked Mind Muffins to the Pie in the Face Forum. Turns out the guy has a blog of his own over at Byzantium’s Shores. I’ve spent a little time lurking his pages and have checked out his online novel a bit. I’m intrigued enough to return, I’m sure.

Of course, my own version of Jiminy Cricket conscience is telling me “Now, Belladonna, you have a full time research job at one college. You teach two online classes for another college. You are enrolled in three graduate courses at yet another college. You honestly do not have time to be reading yet another blog.”

That’s probably true. But isn’t that the beauty of the Internet? There are no library due dates. I have no obligation for how often, how long or how much I read. I can dance in and sample whatever I may choose in small nibbles or delicious long reads and then disappear for however long I may find needful to take care of my various duties and obligations. Granted, there are a few I check on an almost daily basis. They have become part of my routine throughout the day. But most I pop in an out of, lurking sporadically when mood and opportunity coincide. Admittedly, there are one or two I wrap around me with a sweet sense of belonging and familiarity, like wearing my favorite fuzzy corduroy bathrobe. But most are like blind dates, approached with wistful apprehension mixed with a healthy dose of cynicism.

This whole blog community thing is something I find rather fascinating. I’ve thought of proposing a new course at one of my colleges on the “sociology of community” which would address the various social functions of community, the way norms are established and enforced, then comparing and contrasting how different communities are similar or different. Of course one major aspect of this would be exploring how cyber communities have evolved – what needs they meet, what shortcomings they have, and how they are perceived and utilized by various subcultures.

Then, just for fun, it would be great to offer that class as one piece of a three course “Learning Community” – something many colleges are doing these days, including my own. In a learning community the same group of students take multiple courses together so they develop into a common cohort of learners. In some the curriculum has cross over and others it doesn’t. Here’s my idea for mine:

COURSE 1 – Geography of Oregon
COURSE 2 – “Hand Held technology” (dealing with PDA’s, iPods, digital cameras and of course, GPS receivers.
COURSE 3 – Sociology of Community

Then, one day a week all of us would meet together – students and faculty of the three courses – for a collegium of geocaching and talking about how the three courses are inter-related.

Yeah, that would be a blast to do.

But who has the time to design yet another class to teach when I’m out chasing geocache and reading yet another blog? Sigh. Maybe someday.

Anyway, nice to meet you Mr. Sedinger. If we ever do happen to have opportunity to say hello in the real world rather than cyberspace, shall we agree that rather than the standard introductory handshake we will greet one another with a pie in the face? I prefer Boston cream. What would be your choice?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Family ties

My youngest son and his family are making plans to move to Spokane in the Spring. He is going to school for a degree in Physical Therapy and hopes to complete his studies at Eastern Washington University. Beyond that, it is important to Aaron to have my husband and I involved in the lives of his tribe, which I very much appreciate.

During my kids' growing up years we were chasing my husband's career. We moved from Arizona to Ohio to Florida, back to Ohio, to Michigan, to Washington all at the bequest of corporate mergers. Every time we would begin to feel settled and a part of a community, the powers that be would say once more: "We have good news and bad news. The good news is, you still have a job. The bad news is it's not where you live." And then off we would go again.

It was hard to keep enduring those disruptions, particularly since none of the transitions were of our own choosing. As much as we tried to face each move with an optimistic sense of adventure, too often we felt scared and vulnerable to have our lives bandied about like so many pieces on a corporate game board. There was a time or two when we balked, thinking we'd dig in our heels and stay put - find some different kind of job that wouldn't keep shifting us from place to place. But in an economy that increasingly seemed to require two incomes to support one family, it was important to us to hold on to work that allowed my husband to support two families on one income. He had been married once before and had four children from that relationship. Between his responsibilities to take care of those kids, and the cost of supporting us, not just any job was going to keep us afloat.

We made the choice early on that while our kids were little I would stay home to raise them. They had the advantage of not growing up latch key kids or being shuttled from one babysitter to the next. I read to them every day and took them for picnics in the park. We went to museums and family outings that all of us remember quite fondly. But we had NO money for anything extra, even with Larry's very good job. In order for him to earn enough to keep up with the housing and shoes and school fees and all the rest, he needed a darned good job. So we stuck it out on the coprorate goose chase. We had some great experiences and met fine folks all across the country. But we also made some sacrifices along the way.

My kids pretty much grew up without ever knowing their grandparents or aunt, uncles and cousins. They met them a time or two. I can remember one vacation we took travelling by Greyhound bus from Cleveland, Ohio to Salt Lake City to spend time with my husband's family. Now THAT was an adventure. But despite our best efforts, those long distance treks every year or two just weren't enough for our kids to develop any close relationships with their kin. That was one of the prices we paid by being such corporate nomads.

Now my 30 yr old son is married for the second time and trying to sort out and define what sort of family he will build. Between he and his wife they have a combined tribe of seven children. Don't imagine the Brady Bunch. Think more of a wild aborigine nation. They are great kids. But their household can be far more chaotic and the life issues that come up carry more grit and drama than that silly seventies sitcom ever knew.

Aaron and I are quite close, talking on the phone and/or e-mailing each other pretty much every week. But with his family in Michigan and us in Oregon, it's nearly impossible for me to develop any relationship of substance with his brood. Annual visits just don't cut it. I have been relegated to being the grandma that sends cool care packages. That's not good enough.

My husband and I want to take the kids fishing and camping and geocaching. We want to share holidays, birthdays, school plays and sports. We want to be part of the lives of this next generation. Fortunately for me, my son wants that to happen too. So after many a family council, they've decided to begin planning for the grand migration to the Northwest come spring. They are understandably nervous since they have no idea where they will live. They have a modest income and not great credit, so finding someone to rent a house big eough for their brood at a price range they can afford may be a challelnge. Also, they don't know a soul in Spokane and everything will be strange for them for a while. But all the homework they've done tells them that Spokane looks to be a great town, and they are starting to get excited about reinventing themselves there. Most importantly though, living in Spokane will put them just a little over three hours away from us.

That's a near perfect distance. We'll be close enough to see each other quite often, but have enough buffer distance to allow our visits to be special and planned rather than spilling over into the mundane. So I'm counting the days till they come, looking forward to having a new tribe to read to and take on picnics. Also I've already infected the kids with my love of geocaching. I took them out in the woods of Michigan to find cache there when we went for our time with them this past August. It will be a treat to take them out looking again once we get them to Spokane. A quick search with a Spokane zipcode tells me there are currently 480 hides within 20 miles. That should keep us busy for a while.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Adventures of Flat Chip

This weekend I put out a new Geocache and did some checking on one of my other ones - the Athena Travel Bug Hotel to make sure it was still in place and see what things had been left in it by folks who has found it so far. The thing had five different travel bugs in it which was really fun to see.

In the wild and wonderful world of geocaching, there is a tradition of "releasing" a travel bug, which means placing something that looks sort of like a military dogtag into a cache site for others to find. Each of these dogtags has a unique number engraved on it which can be tracked. The people who find them log on to the website and type in that code so they can record where they found it and leave a message if they care to. Then, they take that travel bug and leave it in a DIFFERENT cache someplace else. The people who originally released the things get to watch the record of all the places it goes. Sometimes the people who find them take pictures of the bug in whatever place where they found it or where they may take it to and post those pictures on the website as well.

Some travel bugs have a specific destination in mind. For instance, I found a Disney bug that wanted to get to Disneyland. Others just want to see how many different places they can go and how many miles they can cover.

The tags can be attached to anything. I've seen them on various toys or small items of interest. The one I picked up yesterday was one of the more creative I have found.

Apparently there is an after-school program going at a school in Maine where the kids have released a bunch of travel bugs and are watching to see where they go. They are learning geography and comparing distances to see whose bug goes the furthest. This one says: "My name is Flat Chip and I am learning about geocaching at Kennebunk Elementary School in Kennebunk, Maine! I hope to go all around the world! Thank you for helping me in my travels. I would love to see any pictures you might take of my journey too!"

When I logged on to the site for that travel bug I got to see pictures people had taken of it placed on a cannon at Gettysburg and a few other cool places it had been.

I personally think this is a fabulous idea. I'm already thinking of several young friends I have who might enjoy designing a travel bug and then being able to watch where it goes.

I went online and read a bit more about the group that is doing this project. Each year they get a new group apparently and start all over with a new set of bugs to release. Once the bugs are out in the world, they can keep tracking them for however long they remain in circulation. I can just imagine these kids growing up, going through high school and maybe even college, occassionally logging on to their website and seeing where their childhood travel bug has been.

I am planning to take this travel bug with me to Egypt when I go there next month. I intend to do a bit of geocaching around Sharm el Sheikh and hopefully will find a suitable spot to leave him there. Before leaving him, however, I will try to get some photos of the kid's bug at the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Then, maybe we'll take one of him on a camel going up Mt. Sinai. Once I drop him off in Egypt, it will be anybody's guess where he will travel to next.

This particular travel bug was released in May of this year. I will definitely be keeping an eye on it to watch where it goes in the months to come.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Plug for a Pal

to perform at
Seven Stones Café

See and hear songwriter / musician Katäri Brown, and enjoy the amenities and ambience!

7:30 pm to 10:30 pm
October 20, 2006

Seven Stones Café is at 24 South Plum St., Media, PA
(610) 627-2077

Performance free of charge to café patrons.
CDs available for purchase!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Old Jerome

I’ve been crunching numbers at work most the day – trying to measure which intervention strategies are most effective in increasing student retention and promoting transition from non-credit or college prep classes into college level work. Sorta tedious, but intriguing at the same time.

As usual, I’ve got tunes playing on Pandora while I work. Many thanks to Papa Herman for turning me on to the GREAT service. Free music from your computer and you get to give feedback to customize what sort of music will be played.

Anyway…there I was just crunching away with Excel data analyzer, generating random samples of student numbers and building tables to illustrate enrollment status of various groups when a song came on I’d never heard before….

“Old Jerome” by Kate Wolf

This is a song about the little mining town clinging to the mountainside in Arizona where I went to High School. The line about Cleopatra Hill and the copper left no doubt.

So many memories of that place came tumbling back…from partying in the Spirit Room to hanging with the hippies in the Gulch. And yes, even some good times at Mingus Union High School as it slowly but surely worked it's way at sliding down the side of the mountain along with the rest of the precarious town.

From copper mining boom town, to ghost town, to hippy hang out to thriving artist community and funky place extraordinaire, Jerome, Arizona was quite a place. I haven’t been back for many, many years but I will always carry fond memories of the place.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Just out of curiosity I was taking a look at my blogger stats to see where people come from who land at Mind muffins. The world wide web in an amazing thing. I've had people log on from Australia, Russia, India, United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, Spain, Canary Islands, Puerto Rico, Japan and Canada as well as all over the USA. Greetings to one and all!

There was a big spike in interest recently because somebody linked to my Pie Face comment on some forum dedicated to pie-in-the-face humor. Go figure. I never knew such a thing existed! I ought to go through my old photo albums and post some of the classics over there.

Not sure where it is right now, but there is one that was taken in Phoenix when I was in my early 20's. I came home from work, walked in the door, and SPLAT - got hit by a double suprise - a big gooey cream pie in the face delivered by my sister from Tucson who I did not have any idea was coming up to help me celebrate.

The great thing about that picture is the reaction of my two sons. Aaron, my youngest, who is now 30 was about 2 or 3 at the time. He is looking at me in horror, wondering why I have pie all over my face. His big brother, however, has a very mischievious grin on his face as he licks cream off the wall behind me! (He had seen enough other pie faces to know I was not hurt and that it was all in good fun.)

I did give my kids pies in the face a couple times during their pre-teen years, but they said "Mom, this is just too sticky to be a tradition!" So I didn't manage to pass that particular torch. Oh well, their loss.

I'll keep pie facing through life. I'm trying to come up with something extra spectacular to do next year for my 50'th birthday. Maybe go through a gauntlet of 50 different pies? Who knows?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mission Statement

Tonight I finish up teaching the two week seminar I've been doing with a group of students on academic probation, trying to interrupt their pattern of past failures and help them develop the skills sets and motivation to follow through in the future. It has gone really well. I designed the class to be about 25% Tony Robbins personal power stuff, 25% what I learned in Spectrum training, 25% my own experiences & knowledge base and 25% stuff out of the Master Student handbook. It turned out to be a nice blend. It has been immensely gratifying to watch these students shift their thinking from viewing themselves as screw-ups to understanding they just need new strategies for success. Over and over I've hammered into them Robbins's phrase "the past does not equal the future."

Because I'm teaching this as an assignment from my college it is not appropriate for me to make the analogies I WANT to make about the power of repentance and how after we've made mistakes, even quite serious ones, we truly have the power to change and start again. But with each session I've had with these students, I've been very mindful of that principle and oh so grateful for it in my own life.

One of the assignments I gave them was for everyone to write a personal mission statement, with the premise that if we identify our true core values and get clarity on WHY we are chasing after our goals, the HOW will fall in to place.

Here is mine that I showed them as an example:

I live with passion, faith and integrity.
I contribute to my family, community and the world.
I honor my own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs.
I continually strive for life long learning and personal growth.

It's not perfect, but it's a pretty good measuring stick for me to use as a standard for any choice or decision I am about to make. If I can do the thing I want to do without violating any part of that mission, then GO FOR IT. If there is a contradiction, then I need to move in another direction. Works for me.

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