Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Searching for Perspective

We had people over for dinner last night for a lovely Christmas Eve feast which was fun. Great meal, lots of good visiting and my beloved got out his guitar to play for us to sing a few Christmas carols. It was nice. Today we are planning on just hanging out and enjoying a mellow day. We'll play scrabble and watch movies and nibble on goodies. Right now my man is enjoying sleeping in with no little kids to get us up at Oh-dark-thirty to open presents. Of course I woke up around 5AM and couldn't get back to sleep...so here I sit.

I got my no thank you letter in the mail yesterday from Grand Rapids Community College. So we will NOT be moving to Michigan.

My emotions have been bouncing some in response to that...

there is disappointment, relief, sadness, anxiety, confusion

Part of me is actually quite glad I don't have to give up my home here and all that is familiar.

Part of me was really counting on this move and feels terrible about the loss.

Part of me is nervous and scared about finding ANY kind of decent job and worried about being at loose ends when my current position ends.

So my feelings have been doing lots of flip flops.

I KNEW it was a long shot when I applied for this position, but the job just seemed so perfect for me. Beyond that, I honestly felt like this was God's way of getting me back close to my family. I have two sons and eight grandkids living in Michigan. I miss them something awful. I was so longing to be able to be there to participate in their lives in a more direct way rather than being the grandma who visits once a year and sends cool care packages.

I try to tell myself that things are unfolding as they are meant to, that there is some other purpose for my staying here.

But then I just get jaded and cynical and believe life is all random and nothing matters anyway.

I have no plan B at this point. Sometime in the next 6 months I need to find a job. Maybe it will be here. Maybe it will be someplace else. I want to trust that something will appear on the horizon when it needs to. But trust is in short supply just now.

So it goes...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Blogger Readability

Well, I'm not sure what to think. I ran my URL through the Blogger Readability test and it came back saying the writing was college level. Then, just for comparison I scanned Jaquandor's blog and his came up saying Elementary School level. What's up with that? Maybe it's his frequent use of words like "weirdness" or perhaps it is the Bart & Homer Simpson references?? But then I ran Mimi's Bigger Than a Breadbox and she also ranked Elementary School level - and for the life of me I can't figure out what would make that possible. She uses generally short, easy to read sentences (a GOOD thing in a blog), but her vocabulary is NOT elementary school in my opinion.Papa Herman's comes in at a Jr. High level as does Jen over at Lords of the Manner.

So now I'm wondering A) how does this thing determine reading level and B) do I come off as a word snob? Granted, I work for a college, I am surrounded by college educated people most the time and I probably do use some phrases that are not typical of lower reading levels. But I've never made any particular attempt to write for a higher level audience. I just write the way I think/talk.

What does that say about me?

Christmas Music

Merry Christmas, everybody.

And for your listening pleasure, a few tunes of the season. These songs are performed by the group Celtic Woman from a peformance at Helix Center in Dublin, Ireland. Depending on your computer/internet speed it may take some time to buffer, but for me it was well worth the wait.

Oh Holy Night

Carol of the Bells

Christmas Pipes


Little Drummer Boy


In the Bleak Midwinter/The First Noel


Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring

Friday, December 21, 2007

A warm fire & a good book...

Today is my last day of work until Jan 2. There are many perks to my job, and one of them just happens to be I get this delicious week off when the school shuts down - like an extra paid vacation that doesn't burn any of my vacation days. YIPPEE!

I have several plans for things I want to do during this time off. On Christmas eve we'll have several people over for dinner, sing Christmas songs and read the scripture account of the the birth of Christ. Then on the 27th and 29th I'll be helping a friend with her daughter's two wedding receptions - one here and one in Portland. I hope to finish typing the rest of my father-in-law's journals that I've been posting over at Remembering Fred. I've got some closets to clean and want to get some work done on a stained glass project. Of course, there are also my two online classes that I need to tweak a bit for Winter term. So I will have plenty to do.

But one thing I definitely plan to do is take a couple days to do absolutely NOTHING besides curl up next to a warm fire wrapped up in my favorite blanket and just read. I've just started Tristi Pinkston's historical novel Strength to Endure. Right from the very first chapter it hooked my interest. I'm looking forward to seeing how the story unfolds.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Who said that??

I love a good quote.

I especially like the ones by that really smart guy, Anonymous. He said all sorts of neat stuff.

At my job I've been helping my boss work on a report that defines student success. What is it? How do you measure it? How do you develop it?

That reminded me of the quote I've had on my desk for many a year that has been oft repeated, (in various versions with a few words shifting here and there) which is usually attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. It says:

"To laugh often and love much;
to win the respect of intelligent persons
and the affection of children;
to earn the approbation of honest citizens
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to give of one's self;
to leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
to have played and laughed with enthusiasm
and sung with exultation;
to know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived -
this is to have succeeded."

They are truly great words. However, there are two problems here. First, they don't much help us with the current assignment regarding student success. Secondly, it appears that Emerson never said them. Alas...it seems this is yet another case of misattribution.

There's a lot of that going around.

Christmas Meme / Christmas Funk

This will NOT be the meme I had intended.

My blogger pal Jaquandor is always good for a meme. He put up a fun Christmas meme on his blog and I thought I'd post my own version here. After all, he says he tags EVERYBODY and that includes me, right?

I made several attempts at putting in my answers. However, each time I tried, it would just complicate my already swirling funk.

First question: Favorite traditional Christmas song:Sure, I could just name off a few songs. I DO like some of 'em. "Do You See What I See" comes to mind. But the very thought of Christmas music also brings me precariously close to the mental / emotional turmoil I've been avoiding.

Dec 16 was the anniversary of my father's death. In a few days (Dec 21) will be the anniversary of my mother's. They both died suddenly and unexpectedly (him of heart failure while asleep in bed, her during a heart bypass surgery that was supposed to be serious but routine) in 1983. Granted, that was a long time ago. But as anyone who has lost people close to them knows, the years can telescope on you in a heartbeat, bringing distant losses rushing back to feel like present wounds.

My parents had divorced when I was about 13, lived in different towns, both had remarried and hadn't spoken to each other for several years. But they dropped dead with no warning in the very same week when I was just 26. Their deaths collided with the Christmas season, wrapping all the emotions of grief and loss around every tinsel, every cookie, every tune.

Mostly I've dealt with the bereavement as much as can be expected. Face it, true grief is not like a cold that you can get over. It's more like an amputation - something that changes you forever. You accommodate it and learn to move forward in the new reality, but it never goes back to how it used to be. So, in that sense, I have come to terms with it. But every Christmas season there are so many reminders of the wound...the sights, the sounds, the smells all haunt me. Every fa la la la la brings up images of my mother's dead face in her casket. Every freaking time I hear a Salvation Army bell ringer I get mini-flashes of my father - pictures in my brain I DO NOT WANT.

This is all the more crazy making because I did NOT have good relations with my parents. So much anger and guilt, hurt feelings and trapped love were tangled up with shame and longing in those relationships. Somehow I used to believe that EVENTUALLY we'd resolve some of the ugliness and learn to be more honest and supportive of one another, the way I believed families were SUPPOSED to be. Truth is, had they lived to be the age of Methuselah I doubt we ever could have repaired the breach. Our family was so fractured by so many things...all the kings horses and all the kings men could never have put those relationships together again. But as long as they were alive I still had the hope that someday MAYBE it could be made right. Now it never can.

So all I am left with is something like the smell of a campfire that has been doused with water...burned out, muddy mess...cold, offering no solace.

Christmas can be a tough time for me. I have my good days where I get pretty close to being able to feel the joy of the season. And I have my bad days where it is all one excruciating nightmare. Paying focused attention to the specific triggers of Christmas just doesn't seem in my best interest right now. So I think I'll pass.

Over on Waters of Mormon, one of the other blogs I contribute to, Starfoxy came up with this to say about the Christmas season:

"In the past I've taken cues from my parents and bemoaned the commercialization of Christmas. I've lamented how quickly the birth of Christ is forgotten among the gifts and festivities.

These days, however, I'm seriously considering cutting my losses and completely separating my recognition of Christ's birth from the midwinter celebrations.

December is an intense month. There are various holidays, traditions, and parties to attend to. For the students there are midterms, or final exams. For the employed there are year end reports, filings, and meetings. There are preparations for next year to take into account. The weather frequently turns difficult. Most people travel to spend time with family. At the end of the month many find themselves physically and emotionally exhausted. And amongst all of that we're supposed to find time for meaningful reflection on Christ's birth, life and resurrection. I can't muster up and surprise that it all too frequently just doesn't happen.

So why not just buckle down and make it happen? Why not make time for that meaningful reflection. Why can't I ditch the parties? Why shouldn't I spend hours training my kids to understand that Santa and rudolf weren't at the stable? Why can't I just push, shove, pull, wrangle, wrestle and cajole my family into feeling the peace, joy and comfort of contemplating the Condescension of God?

Here's my reasoning- Santa, Rudolf, Christmas Trees, gifts, and parties are going hold my kid's attention no matter what I do. They're going to hear it at school, from their friends, in the stores, and on TV. People will demand my attention work and service whether they should or not. I will feel stress, and fatigue. My children will probably be like me- itching to open presents so bad that they can barely sit still long enough to listen to the first half of Luke 2. Why even try to pair the love of Christ with the clamor of modern day Christmases and hope that I can shout louder than everyone else?

Instead I plan for Christmas becomes a time for parties, togetherness, gifts, service, and sharing. And then on the 12th day of Christmas, January 6th, or the day of Epiphany I will, quietly, peacefully and deliberately celebrate the birth and childhood of Christ. After the decorations are put away, the presents have lost some of their sparkle, and just before things get back to normal I will put aside time to teach my children about the miracle of Christ's birth."


As I responded to her there, I have misgivings about capitulating to the mayhem.
The only thing that I can hang on to that is GOOD about Christmas is my focus on the Savior. That part still sustains me. It's all the rest of it that I want to hide my head in the sand and run away from.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mortality

Singer and songwriter Dan Fogleberg died on Sunday. His music was a major part of my world during the 70's & 80's.

As I get older it is becoming increasingly frequent that people I know, or know of, are crossing over to the other side.

George Bernard Shaw once said: "Life does not cease to be serious when people laugh. Neither does it cease to be funny when people die." I suppose that's true. But I cannot help but feel a bit sad at the loss of this lyricist whose words touched my heart over the years. Go swiftly Dan. May your memory be eternal.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Question of Risk

Got up VERY early this morning (around oh-dark-thirty as my friend Wanda would say)and got busy cleaning my desk. I've had a pile of papers accumulating there for far to long. Since I couldn't sleep anyway, I decided to begin making order out of the chaos.

One of the papers I came across was the release form I signed when I went white water rafting this summer.

Among other things it says:

"The risk of injury from activities involved in this program is significant, including the potential for permanent paralysis and death, and while particular skills, equipment and personal discipline may reduce this risk, the risk of serious injury does exist; and, I knowingly and freely assume all such risks, both known and unknown, even if arising from the negligence of the releasees or others, and assume full responsibility for my participation..."

Fortunately for us, my beloved and I had a fantastic time on the Deschutes River and nothing ugly happened. But it could have.

I'm a firm believer in deliberately seeking adventure. That's why I like international travel, exploring wilderness, and doing things in my life that are sometimes unconventional. However, when it comes to my personal safety, I can at times be a big weenie. I tried scuba lessons twice. I panicked both times. I just cannot handle the claustrophobic out of control feeling I have under water with all that equipment determining if I live or die. I've passed up opportunities to sky dive. Why would I choose to jump out of a perfectly good plane?

I'm just wondering a bit about what makes some things seem adventurous and fun and other things seem too dangerous? Also, the statistician in me is curious whether there is any correlation between those who seek out adrenaline junkie rush activities and how much risk they are or are not willing to take with intimacy and interpersonal vulnerability? HMMM. Just wondering.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Congratulations Kiva Partners!


Two more of the individuals I have supported with microfinance loans through KIVA have successfully paid off their loans completely - one from Senegal and another from Cambodia. So now I am able to redirect the monies I had loaned to those two over to a couple new folks in need. This time I will be supporting Fuzuli Gurbonov who lives in the Ashigli village of Beylagan - a small city in Southwestern Azerbaijan. He needs the funds to purchase some sheep. My other loan will go to Makhmadsaid Allovaddinov who lives in the J.Rasulovsky district of Tajikstan to help him buy some livestock.

It's really amazing to me that for just $25 - the price of one dinner in a moderately priced resturaunt, I can help touch someone's life across the globe.

If you haven't checked out KIVA before, I encourage you to learn more. I have a couple people on my Christmas List this year who will be getting KIVA gift certificates. The folks I know certainly don't need more STUFF. So rather than a gift card for some department store, I will be giving them the opportunity to pick whomever they choose to help with a KIVA loan. THAT feels like the spirit of Christmas to me.

Balancing Sacred Nativity with Ho Ho Christmas

I am trying to keep the true meaning of the Christmas season in my heart and mind this year, reflecting on the birth of Christ and what His Atonement means to me. But I couldn't help but smile when I saw this picture from Japan of Santa Clause dolphins. Whatever the upcoming festivities may mean to you - have a happy, safe Christmas season!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

God Bless Carla

I had a great conversation on the phone with my oldest son last night. He was telling me about his two year old learning how to pray. Little Bennett has learned the concept of being thankful. So in his prayers one night as he knelt before his bed with closed eyes and folded hands he said:

"Dear Heavenly Father, thankful for the cow's moo, thankful for the pig's oink, thankful for the donkey's hee-haw, thankful for the duck's quack...." and on and on and on till he listed ever animal he knew. He was utterly sincere. He loves animals. He was truly thankful for their sounds.

Which of course reminded me of my own son's prayers as a little boy. I recalled to him the time when he was in first grade, back when we lived in Phoenix when he prayed: "Dear God, thank you for this day. But next time could you make it not be quite so hot? Cause today my eyeballs about melted and rolled right out of my head! But it was still a good day, so thanks anyway."

There is something incredibly endearing about a child's heartfelt prayers. As we mature we learn what is "appropriate" to say when addressing deity. But little kids can approach God with such trusting innocence to fully express whatever is in their heart.

My son also told me a prayer story I had not been aware of. When we moved to Ohio in 1982 it took us clear across the country from my husband's children from his first marriage. It was a very difficult separation, but one we managed as best as we could. Every single day in our family prayers we included the phrase "please bless the kids in Arizona..." and in our private, individual prayers my beloved and I poured out out hearts with entreaties to the Lord for each of his kids' individual needs.

But to my son who was six years old at the time the reality of WHO we were praying for wasn't very clear. He thought that because we were from Arizona we had a sense of loyalty and concern for ALL THE CHILDREN in Arizona. So whenever we said "please bless the kids in Arizona" he interpreted that in the global sense. In most respects he was fine with that. Except there had been this one girl named Carla in his first grade class who had been rather snotty and mean to him. He did not like Carla one bit. He didn't mind blessing all the other kids in Arizona. But he had not yet learned the concept of praying for one's enemies. He had no intention of blessing Carla too. So every time we said that in our family prayers, silently in his mind he would say "but not Carla, she's mean so don't bless her!"

It was only some time later that he figured out that while we do have a general sense of concern for all people, our family prayers were focused very specifically on my husband's four kids. After that he was far more comfortable giving his full support to the phrase in every family prayer.

In our phone conversation we laughed about this and went on to share more stories of his son's antics and compare them to things I remembered from his own growing up years. But through it all I kept thinking of Carla, and wondering if I hold back any of my own wish for blessings of others based on negative experiences I've had with them.

When I pray for the people I know, am I able to also ask God to bless the person who cut me off in traffic, someone who took credit for my work, or someone who deliberately took advantage of my trust in a dishonest way? Can I honestly ask God to bless and protect those whose behavior or beliefs are totally counter to everything I value? That's not something I've given much thought to before. But perhaps it's something I can work on.

Prayer is an interesting thing. I have had MANY experiences where I have felt my prayers were heard and answered, some in powerfully dramatic ways. Yet I don't even begin to understand the extent to which God may or may not change outcomes or manipulate events based on what we ask for in faithful prayer. Part of me believes I need to use prayer to align my will with whatever God intends rather than asking for specific blessing XYZ. God knows my needs and my desires, so I don't really understand the role my asking for this or that has in the big equation of how the world is run. Yet I ask all the time.

Over at the LDS blog I contribute to, Waters of Mormon, The Baron has started an interesting discussion under the heading of Destiny and Divine Micromanagement that has led to much pondering on whether God has a set plan that will unfold in the world in a pre-established way or if coming events are subject to change depending on what we ask for and how we live our lives.

Whatever the case, I am so pleased my youngest grandchild is learning about being thankful and learning how to pray. Through his example perhaps I can be more sincere in my own expressions of gratitude. And where ever she is, God, please bless Carla. We all need your grace and love.

Hope

After a wonderfully relaxing, romantic getaway week in Mexico we are now home in the land of ice and snow. So far, re-entry to our regular life has gone fairly well. Our vacation truly did rejuvenate us both, re-establish our commitment to each other in the face of whatever may come, and helped us get focused on what matters most.

So now rather than merely putting one foot in front of the other in frantic survival mode dashing through each day, we are trying to stay mindful of the big picture of what is truly important. We are striving to be more present-oriented, noticing our blessings each moment of every day, focusing on all we have to be grateful for even as we take on the various challenges and responsibilities that loom in our path.

At the same time that we are working hard to stay connected to the NOW, we are also looking ahead to get clear on the life we are creating - so we can more mindfully take steps to move foreward into the direction that seems best. As part of that, we are prayerfully hoping with all our might that I will get the job I have applied for back in Michigan. We are feeling a strong sense that it MAY happen, but it certainly could go either way.

We actually have a pretty cozy life where we are now. We have a nice house. We have some good friends. We enjoy our church congregation and are comfortable in this small, rural community. But our family is all many miles away. It feels very important to us both to get closer to them, and this job would make that possible. The job itself sounds like a very good match for my skills & background. It is a position I think I could be good at and would enjoy. But above all, the lure for me is definitely the fact that it would put me back in the region where my sons and grandchildren live. That, I believe, could be hugely significant.

Instead of being the grandparents who send cool packages and come to visit once a year, we could take an active role in our grandchildren’s lives. We could be there to offer support to our single-parent son who has had some mighty struggles in the past year and also an influence of righteousness to the whole tribe.

So I hope. I pray. I wait to see what happens. Around Dec 18 the college where I have applied is supposed to have sorted through all the initial applications to make the first cut between who they will consider further and who will get an immediate no thank you. Please, please God, let me make it into the to-be-considered pile.

I’ve been dancing in a state of hope and anticipation. I want this really, really bad.

If I don’t get it, I will be disappointed but not devastated. Clearly, I know I can continue to craft a good life for myself right where I am. I have plenty to be grateful for and look forward to living where I do. I don't know what kind of job I would get here next year when my current position ends. But I have trust that when the grant runs out on the job I have now, something suitable would turn up when I needed it to. So if this hoped for job I want so much back in Michigan falls through, I have a soft place to land.

Still….I see in my mind the faces of those children that I so long to love with more direct communication and contact. I think of my boys and the men they have become and how much I would like to be near them to share in their triumphs and struggles. I think of the job that I would be doing and the things it would allow me to accomplish. EVERY SINGLE LINE in the job description is something I have demonstrated strengths in. In one way or another, it seems the past four jobs I have had have been preparing me for this moment. It just FEELS like the right fit for me.
So I am hoping…

Hope is such an interesting thing. On the one hand, I fear hope. It makes me vulnerable to disappointment. If I did not hope, I could never be let down. If I could somehow manage to let go of all expectation, to remain utterly neutral and willing to accept any outcome with equal understanding that the universe is unfolding just the way it should be-- that would shield me from the volatile emotions of anxious anticipation and potential sorrow when things don’t pan out the way that I want. Yet on the other hand, I embrace hope. Hope gives me the vision of what is possible and leads me to reach further, strive harder, believe stronger rather than merely sit back and take whatever may come like one big life of pot luck. Hope gives me a positive sense of possibility rather than fatalistic predeterminism. Hope buoys up my spirit in a way I can't even begin to explain. So I’ll take my lumps of disappointment along with my reveling victories. I am pragmatic enough to recognize that many things I hope for will never come to pass. But I will deal with that each time it happens. I am still holding hard onto hope.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Last Day





Today was our final day of adventures here in Mexico. We spent the day at Xcaret Ecological park and had a fabulous time. My mind is a whirl of images from the day - snorkeling the underwater river through twisting caves and cenotes, the butterfly house, the acquarium, the jungle trails, the animals, the ocean, and of course the show. I've been to all manner of rock concerts, plays, pagaents and other shows of one fashion or another. This one topped them all. It was phenomenal - the music, the dancing, the costumes and the sheer spectacle of it all was quite a site to behold.

We befriended a couple from Tennessee who happened to be on the same bus taking us to the park and ended up spending the day with them. Shep & Sue, thanks for making the day even better by sharing it with us!

By the time the day was over we were all exhausted, but happy.

Tomorrow it's time to bring our vacation to a close. Our flight out is around 3:00 PM so we won't get home until the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Fortunately I can simply collapse into my own sweet bed and don't need to be back at work until Thursday.

Home. I've had a great time these past several days, but I am ready to return. Getting away has been wonderful. But every time I leave the country I am reminded how much I do appreciate living in the United States. I am grateful for water pure enough to drink right from the tap. I am grateful for my home, my job, my life back in the states. I'm grateful for my family, my friends, and even my dog that are all waiting for me back there. Despite the cold weather and the pile of work waiting in my office, I'm ready to get back to it.

So goodbye Mexico. Thank you for your kindness, your beauty, your welcome. This trip will stay in my heart for many years to come. It has been romantic, exciting, rejuvenating. But now it's time to bring it to an end. I wish I could just click my heels like Dorothy and zoom back...but instead I'll spend a day of travel tomorrow back to the land of work and winter. I welcome both. This break has been good for me. But now I'm ready to return to my regular life, refreshed, rested and ready to take on whatever may be waiting for me there. Ready or not, here I come.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Scenes from Chichen Itza

Temple of Kukulcan

The Nunnery

Temple of the Warriors

The Observatory

The wall of skulls - this one is for Papa Herman!

And of couse, one for that sports fiend Jaquandor - The Ball Court!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Happy Birthday Beloved!

Today is my husband's birthday. We've had a great day - went into the interior of the Yucatan peninsula to visit Chichen Itza. It was AMAZING. But nothing is more amazing that the sacred bond that my beloved and I share. We've been married 26 years and he still makes me feel weak in the knees with his smile. The past few days here have been a truly magical, romantic time of reconnecting for he and I. We've both been burning our candle and both ends lately with work, church, family and other obligations. While we have had no specific conflicts, sometimes we seem to get almost oblivious of one another as we both get too immersed in our respective responsibilities. This trip has given us the chance to remind ourselves and each other of the power of our union and to recommit to keeping it strong. I am so grateful for the blessing of this marriage. He makes me laugh. He makes me feel safe. He teaches me stuff. He listens to me. We share something very special indeed. He's a good man. Besides loving him like crazy, I truly respect this guy and trust him with all my heart. So happy birthday to you my love - and may you have many, many more!

Belladonna in Braids


We had quite a fun time going into Cancun. I know just enough survival Spanish to be able to get by. We felt ever so resourceful to figure out the bus system. The tourists taking excursions pay $50 each way in a cab or else go on the big tour buses. We walked a few blocks to a bank and asked there how to find a local bus. It cost us less than $4.00 each for the trip. We wandered all over, had lunch, then found our way back. I've had enough of Cancun for a lifetime. Too commercial for my tastes. Had many of the same businesses I'd see at home - Blockbuster, GNC, Sears, McDonalds. Playa del Carmen is quite developed in terms of the number of resorts, but at least it feels and looks more like Mexico.

On the way home last night we wandered all over 5th street, the shopping district that is blocked off so it is restricted to pedestrians. I had one of the vendors there do my hair all in braids. Larry says I look like Bo Derek in the movie "10". Um. No. But it was fun and will keep my hair out of my face as I go hiking, swimming, etc. I will DEFINITELY be taking it out as soon as I get home.

Today we go to Chichen Itza and then on Monday we go to Xceret. We are having a fabulous time. I hear it is snowing at home. Do I really have to go back??

Chicken Trees

I have come to the conclusion that Edward Scissor Hands is alive and well in Playa de Carmen. Yesterday we took a bus into Cancun to do some exploring and have lunch. I had to smile at the trees shaped like chickens all along the median next to the road. This photo is rather blurry since I snapped it through the bus window as we moved rather fast, but I just couldn't resist.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mexico Bound

My bags are all packed and I'm about ready to head out the door. We'll rest for a few hours and then around 3AM head off for the airport in Pasco. This time tomorrow we'll be in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I'm EXCITED! I'm very much looking forward to seeing the Mayan ruins at Tulum and Chichen Itza. My beloved is looking forward to some scuba diving while I lay on a beach reading a couple good books. We'll explore the jungle and possible take a day over to the litte fishing village of Isla Mujeres. This should be a good trip. We'll celebrate our anniversary and beloved's birthday. We'll hopefully have a nice mix of adventure and relaxation. I'm ready to go be WARM next to azure blue waters.
I should have some nice pictures to post when I get back. Adios for now!

BEOWULF

No - I'm not talking about Angelina Jolie in Gold Paint with a tail to die for. (Although I DID go see the 3-D digital movie currently playing...)

I'm talking about the epic poem.

I read it years ago - can't say I much understood it at the time. However, the new movie has got me anxious to give it another try. Click HERE for a reason for why to read Beowulf.

As for the movie...it's quite a spectacle. I went on the recommendation from my 11 year old grandson. He loved it. Obviously his daddy is far more lenient in what sort of media his children see than I ever was, or am.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Blessed Nativity

Today we got rid of all the pumpkins that had been carefully arranged on our front porch and began stringing Christmas lights. We put up the long, sweeping garland and dug out bows and wreaths. Best of all, I unpacked my collection of nativity sets and put eight or nine of them on tables and shelves around the house. I have a lot. Every year our church has a nativity display - over 400 nativity sets of every type imaginable: wood, metal, ceramic, crystal, paper mache, fabric, from the fancy to the home-made, big ones, little ones, old ones new ones. So over the years I have gotten several sets to share for that event. Then of course I've had lots of them given to me as Christmas gifts by friends and family who know I collect them. So I have several big plastic tubs in the basement where I keep them carefully packed away all year just waiting for the Christmas season. Having my house filled with these lovely reminders of the sacred birth of the Savior goes a long way to helping me remember what Christmas is truly supposed to be about. Granted, Christ was not born on December 25. Scheduling the celebration then was just the Roman's way of incorporating Christian beliefs into pagan practice. But I don't care if the date has more to do with winter solstice or Saturnalia. The meaning I hold in my heart remains. Other people may decorate with snowmen or Santa clause or reindeer or glittery gifts. For me, it will be images of the Nativity.

There are a multitude of traditions about sacred births. Some say those other stories are proof that the idea of a virgin birth is a bunch of hooey that is made up by people. Others say they are evidence that something spectacular did happen, even though the telling of it got warped and twisted down through generations.

I don't need a rational explanation. I accept the Jesus Christ is real. I accept that he was born to Mary, the biological as well as spiritual son of God the Father. HOW that happened is not important to me. But it happened. And because of that event, my life, and the whole world, will forever be changed.

So I begin celebrating the days leading up to the sacred Nativity. Hopefully this year I will be able to keep things in perspective, show more love, feel less stress, and care about the things that really matter. That goals is what looking at all these nativity scenes helps me to remember.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday

Today was a first. Ever since my one experience of working as a clerk in a retail store in Florida the day after Thanksgiving way back in 1984 I have vowed NEVER to go to any store on Black Friday. But early this morning my beloved and I decided to join the melee, so on a lark we got out of bed at Oh-dark-thirty and drove into town in time to be there at 5AM. OH MY. We got some good deals, but I think it may well be another 20 years before I ever do any such silliness again!

I talked to my younger son who lives in Grandville, MI. He went to Best Buy at 3 AM and waited in line for two hours for doors to open...there were already 100 people ahead of him, some having camped out since the night before. He picked up a Gateway laptop for $400 and a Cannon all-in-one printer/scanner/copier for $35. But, like his mom, he too vows not to repeat the madness.

It's a bizarre tradition, this combat shopping. I think I went as much for the spectacle of it all as for the deals. Larry got wrangler jeans for $7.50 and I bought 2 gig flash drives for $12. We picked up a few Christmas gifts and an assortment of things we'd been wanting for the house. It was interesting. Now I'm done with all malls and big box stores until Jan 3. From here on out it will be internet shopping for everything but groceries for this girl.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Scarborough Fair Gravy


" Are you going to Scarborough Fair:
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there.
She once was a true love of mine."

These words were playing in my head as I was preparing our dinner today...so I figured, why not? I added a dash of parsley, two of sage, one of rosemary and one of thyme to my gravy. It was DELICIOIUS. Thank you, Simon and Garfunkel.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Thanksgiving means different things to different people. Some of you will be spending the day surrounded by family, food and football. Some will spend it alone, pondering what they have to be grateful about. Some will spend it in hospitals, in funeral homes, or on battle fields. For some, it is a day much the same as any other.

I will be home with my beloved, getting ready for our trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We take off early Tuesday morning, so we opted not to go anywhere or make too big a deal out of turkey day. We'll cook a bird and make a pie. But mostly it will be a quiet day at home getting things ready for us to go out of town.

I have a neighbor who is a member of my church whose husband died last night. For her family, Thanksgiving will go by in a blur of tears and heartache as they make arrangements for a funeral to be held this weekend. I will do what I can to be of support to them.

I do indeed have a great deal to be thankful for this holiday. Sometimes I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the abundance of life that is at my disposal. I have good health, a comfortable home, a decent job, a man who loves me. I have a lot.

Two jobs ago I was doing poverty work, running a food bank and providing homeless case management in nearby Walla Walla. That experience forever shifted the way I would view my blessings and those who do not have the security and comfort I do. So part of what I will do this thanksgiving is to sit down and reflect on how I can be a better steward of all the Lord has blessed me with, and how I might share some of that abundance with others.

Then of course, there's always the traditional post turkey nap.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

LOCKDOWN

Today my college participated in an emergency drill with our local police force and SWAT team. The college staged a hostage situation so the entire campus got put into lockdown. We had bomb squad, SWAT and various others dealing with the situation as if it were the real thing. The board room became the media center with folks from local TV/radio there getting press releases as the situation unfolded. The administrative office became the command post where the hostage negotiator and others operated from. We had snipers in camo on the roof and all sorts of interesting things playing out. We all knew the drill was coming as a first test run of our emergency plan. In Spring term we will have one that we won't know is scheduled. Overall it went reasonably well, considering the amount of ground and number of buildings and people that had to be secured. At one point a UPS truck somehow got on campus and was trying to deliver packages (apparently the cops who were securing the entrance to campus had been released to take care of regular calls once their part of the drill had been demonstrated.) I can just imagine how odd it must have seemed to the poor delivery person to see NO ONE moving, all doors locked and armed cops that really looked sorta like terrorists lurking around the buildings. But for the most part it was a good thing. We found out which parts of the campus are problematic for walkie talkie communication, who needs different access to certain keys, and got to field test the emergency message system set to send warnings or information to people's cell phones. Hopefully we will never have to deal with an actual situation like the tragedy at Virginia Tech. But whether it be that, a fire, chemical spill, extreme storm or any other sort of emergency it just makes sense to have a plan in place.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Clearing Ground

I've seen some interesting tats over the years, but this one sort of took me by surprise.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Six Degrees of Separation

You are probably familiar with the silly social game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. It's based on the small world phenomena, the idea that everybody knows somebody who knows somebody else, and that in this way we are all connected.

Well, I've just learned of an online service that helps promote people's ability to build just those sorts of connections. It's called LinkedIn. You can use this service to make contacts for job searches, to find old classmates, or to simply build alliances with like minded others. According to the website, more people have joined LinkedIn than currently live in Sweden.

I admit to being a bit skeptical about whether or not this service will really pay off in my future job searches. But it is interesting to see how in just one or two layers of connection I can connect to many hundreds of people.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Woman - to - Woman: Infertility

This will be the last Woman to Woman writing challenge for a while. Life's chaos is robbing the blogger coordinators of this every-other-Tuesday tradition of time and energy to keep it going. I WELL understand. I've run hot and cold myself with maintaining regular postings. So I wish many blessings to Lei as she moves forward with her house building project and resolving issues with her family> I say "wish you well" to Morning Glory as she fills her days with other pursuits. I may actually go back and write some posts on W2W topics that I missed when they passed through the first time. It has been a healthy thing for me to stretch my reflecting to articulate my thoughts, feelings and experiences on subjects I might not have otherwise taken on.

But as far as the "official" W2W goes, this wraps it up.

I'm hesitant to even begin writing on this subject, because my own infertility was a matter of deliberate choice, and therefore seems to have no legitimacy. We may feel compassion for those who seem to have been robbed by fate or the universe from having the sacred ability to bring forth life, but my experience has been there is not much understanding to be had for those who feel sad about it after they threw it away.

I had a tubal ligation when I was 21. My entire adult life has been one of seeing the moon season come and go with no chance possible for pollination. I have been alternately grateful and regretful about that. MOSTLY grateful. But there have been moments when I've wondered how the shape of our family might be if I had left things in God's hands rather than submitting to the surgeon's tools.

I well remember the day I met with the doctor to request sterilization.

It wasn't because I adamantly wanted no more babies. It was because I very much did, in a most irrational way.

Some women get cramps, headaches or mood swings during their cycle of menses. Not me. My body was built for birth and joyously went through the motions of preparing for a fertilized egg each month without a hiccough. My MIND however became a creature possessed. I ACHED for the smell of talcum powder and vomit. I craved the soft fullness of a gestating belly. I WANTED to be pregnant with a ferocious longing each and every month for about four days before every single period.

Keep in mind, I had two babies by the time I was just 19. I was in a disastrous marriage that was collapsing around me. I had no marketable skills and no clue how I was going to support the babies I already had. Getting pregnant again at that point in my life would have been sheer madness.

But I WOULD have. Oh, I had tried every form of birth control known to God. I'd hoped IUD would be a temporary solution - but both kinds I tried caused me to seriously hemorrhage. I tried pills and diaphragms and condoms and counting of days.

But the reality was that instead of getting PMS I became an absolute MANIAC on a mission to make a baby for those few days with all rational thought flying away with the wind. That scared the crap out of me. No matter how much I would convince myself the rest of the month that this was not the right time, I felt as out of control when I came into my season as a were-wolf at a full moon.

I could well imagine myself having child after child after child without the mental, physical, or financial resources to care for them.

Or, worse yet, I could not stand the idea of finding myself pregnant and regretting or resenting it - which I surely would have once the hormonal shift danced forward a day or two.

So I put an end to the madness. I allowed the doctor to cut my fallopian tubes and cauterize them - making darn sure there was no way any future egg of mine would find it's way to a soft uterine home.

I recognize this seems callous to those women who wish with all their might that they could conceive and/or carry a baby to term, that I had that ability and tossed it away so willingly. My heart goes out to the men I know and care about whose hearts have been broken by babies lost.

But being compelled to conceive can be every bit as heart wrenching as not being able to, I think. I opted for a saner, safer path for me. Have I regretted it? Sure. For four days every single month. All through my twenties, thirties and forties, I'd weep and wail and gnash my teeth that I couldn't have my heart's desire - a new little heartbeat keeping time beneath my own. I actually started dreaming of being a surrogate, carrying some other woman's fertilized egg, since my body adapted to pregnancy so well. I didn't really want to raise any more children, I just DESPERATELY hungered to be pregnant. Those were some weird dreams. But most days I KNEW, that for me sterilization was the right choice.

Babies deserve to come into a family where they are truly wanted and welcomed. I would have been like the old woman who lived in a shoe had I not taken matters into my own hands. I would have been bewildered, exhausted and out of all personal and practical resources long before I hit 30. So I made a choice.

Next week I will regret it again. Today, I am so glad I did what I did.

My heart goes out to the men and women I know who mourn for children never born, and I grieve with them for the babies in small boxes that could not stay alive.

I've known more than a few close friends who have walked this lonely road. I've seen emotions from heartache to resentment in their faces when they would see me with my own kids, so blissfully able to do what they could not. It's hard to know how to best be of support to them. But at least infertility is recognized as a painful, difficult trial in life. Hormonal addiction to conception is just too bizarre for words and most people find it laughable. It was never funny for me. I might have liked to have three or four kids spaced several years apart. But I could never take the risk of what my own mind/body response might bring.

As with all other W2W topics - links to what others have said on this same subject can be found at My Many Colored Days and Seeds From My Garden.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Melting Momma

For the past couple months I have been very deliberately focusing on dropping some weight and getting in better physical condition. My motives have been mixed. Part of it was spurred on by hitting my 50th birthday. My mother died at 53 an my father died at 55, both of heart related illness. So I have a genetically stacked deck for a weak ticker. The ONLY things I can control are how much I move, what I put in my mouth and what sort of attitude I hold in my heart. I have way too many things I still want to accomplish, so I decided it was high time to start being a better steward of the body God gave me.

Another piece was that I had a medical exam which revealed that I had extremely high bad cholesterol. The doc put me on meds to bring it down, but also said that diet and exercise were the main things to focus on to get it under control.

Then there was the vanity factor... when we were planning our trip to AZ we made reservations for the hot air balloon ride that ended up getting cancelled due to high winds. At the time I made the reservation I had to tell the company exactly what I weighed so they could calculate how many other people they could allow in the balloon, how much gas they needed, etc. Now, I'm not stupid. I do have mirrors and a scale in my house. I KNEW how much I weighed. I had just never said that number out loud to another living person. YIKES!

I was certainly not morbidly obese. But over the past 10 years I've probably gained 3-5 lbs each year that I did not need. Because it went on so gradually, and because I remained reasonably active with a fair amount of hiking and other fun things, I never really thought about it as being an extreme problem. I just bought bigger clothes.

But saying the number to the balloon people was a wake up call even more than getting my cholesterol results. Holy Cow - I thought to myself, how in the world did I ever get to THIS point???

So I've started to do something about it. I am not a big exercise maven. I am more than willing to walk or swim, but dancing around with calisthenics is just not my thing. I'm doing what I can. The main change I have made is in what I eat.

I love food. I love the look of it, the texture, the temperature, as well as the taste. Food is a social connector, it is a comforter, it is a reward, it is a distraction, it is so many things.

I'm trying to reformat how I use food so it becomes something that NOURISHES me, not a means of self indulgence. I have stayed really faithful to the plan so far, and have managed to lose 20 lbs. I've got another 25 or 30 to go.

Because I've taken the weight off very, very slowly - the same way it went on - I don't really notice a change. My pants are loser now. There are some clothes I will no longer wear. But I don't feel like I LOOK any different. I guess when you are as big as I have been, 20 lbs is just not that much. But when I was talking to my son during a period of discouragement about this he said: "are you kidding? You just lost a toddler. Well, maybe not the whole toddler. Let's put it this way - the weight you have lost represents Chesilee's legs. Keep it up Mom! You'll be up to her waist in no time!" The image of that just cracked me up.

So I was thinking of those big cut out thermometers that fund raising campaigns so often use that show the mercury rising as they work toward achieving a certain goal. My thermometer is an image of my 3 year old granddaughter....I am little by little stripping of weight equivalent to her body mass. Thinking of it that way instead of just in abstract numbers, I see I really am making a difference.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Peace Corps Dreams

My dear pal of many years, Patty Valentine, is serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the country of Ghana. I miss her terribly but have been very excited for her to have the chance to experience this grand adventure. I just learned that one of her fellow volunteers has a blog going to describe the experience. Although they aren't doing exactly the same things, they ARE in the same general region so reading this blog helps me feel closer to Patty somehow in between the letters we share.

I once had dreams of doing Peace Corps myself. When my beloved and I both found our full time jobs coming to close in 2000 we filed applications, got fingerprinted and had our preliminary interviews to go. Then my dear husband was offered a job with Oregon State University and he opted for security over adventure and service. I had a hard time letting the dream go.

I tried to tell myself at the time that perhaps we could go at a later date...but it's looking less likely all the time. So now I just live my dream vicariously through my dear friend. What an amazing woman she is!

Patty, I don't know if or when you might ever get Internet access to read this - but if you do know you have a whole network of people back here in the states who are rooting for you and holding you tight in our hearts until you are safely home with us again. Stay Well!

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns


I just finished listening to the audio book version of A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - the author of Kite Runner. This is a positively stunning book.

I was impressed by Kite Runner. But THIS book is one of the best I've read/heard in years. MANY THANKS to Mimi for turning me on to this author.

The description of Many Splendid Suns says: "Set in Afghanistan, it is the story of two generations of characters brought together by the tragic sweep of war, with some thirty years of tumultuous recent Afghan history as a backdrop. It is a story about devotion, courage, hope, self-sacrifice, and love."

I read A LOT. I've been exposed to all sorts of tales from all sorts of writers. But this novel truly shook me to the core. It is a powerful, powerful book.

It made me consider so many issues - shame, forgiveness, facing adversity, passion, family ties, national pride - you name it, it's in there. The story is so well crafted that I couldn't help but bond with the characters in a meaningful way so that when they hurt, I hurt. When they rejoiced, I rejoiced. Truly an amazing book. Don't pass this one up!

Click HERE for a YouTube interview of the author discussing the book.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Really??

This afternoon I picked up the letter of reference my boss has promised to write for me in support of the job application I am submitting to go work at a different school. I was absolutely floored when I read it. I fully expected that he would write something nice. You don't generally agree to write a reference letter unless you have something positive you can say. Still, I did not expect what I got. He wrote a very detailed two page letter giving specific examples of how my skills and experience are a direct match to the job description for the position I want and describing my work here in far more glowing terms than I ever would have dreamed.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Half the time I feel like a big faker, certain sure that any day now I will be exposed and everyone will see what a big fraud I really am. So when he went on and on describing me like some big shot expert, all I could think at first was: "Who is he kidding? Was he just being nice? Did he just write that stuff so some other poor sap will hire me and then he'd have me out of his hair?"

Nope. Apparently not. When we talked about it later he reaffirmed that I really have done all those things and that they show what a good match I would be for this other job I am shooting for.

Why is it sometimes so hard for me to hear, much less believe, positive things? When I get critical feedback I have no problem taking THAT to heart. Why is it I continue to be my own worst critic - seeing every flaw in BOLD FACE TYPE while my accomplishments I discount. I need to work on that. I don't want to get all prideful and arrogant or think I'm better than anyone else, but darn it all I AM good at a few things and wish I didn't struggle so with giving myself credit for that.

I don't know if I will even get an interview - much less get hired for this other job I am applying for. It is very, very common for many work sites to post jobs to meet legal requirements for being "equal opportunity employers" even when they know in advance exactly who they plan to hire. But I'll give it my best shot and see what happens.

But whether or not that door opens for me, it gave me a moment to consider my own self perception of my work performance and how that does or does not match what other people see. No one has ever thrown tomatoes yet. Maybe it is time to turn off (or at least reduce the volume) on that critic in my head.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Omelets at Elk Camp

My beloved has been out tromping through the hills for the past couple days trying to murder an elk. He saw some in the distance, but was never able to get close enough to shoot one. But it sounds like he and his three buddies that were hunting together had a pretty good time just hangin' out in nature shooting stories. Besides, he came back with a great new recipe. Who would have guessed?

Put eggbeaters, (or whipped real eggs if you are a purist), cheese, cut up ham and whatever else you like in omelets (tomatoes? peppers? onion? Whatever!) all into a heavy duty zip lock bag. Put bag in pan of boiling water ....cook however long it takes to get to the consistency you like - soft and mushy or hard as rubber.

Pour out of zip lock onto plate and yummy yummy - elk camp omelets! Sounds good enough to try at home. No mess, no fuss, and don't have to do a dance turning the thing.

The other thing zip locks are good for is mixing up the egg yolks and mayonnaise for Deviled Eggs. Squeeze till sufficiently mushy then cut of the tip of the bag and squirt into the eggs. No pan to wash and it makes pretty good looking eggs.

Yeah - I know, using all that petroleum based plastic just to toss it out is wasteful and bad for the planet. I admit it, I'm a lazy American blissfully sucking resources for my own convenience. I make no excuses. I pick and choose the areas where I conserve and do try to use things responsibly, but I'm a sucker for the many uses of good old zip locks!

Using Citations

THUMP. THUMP. THUMP.

That is the sound of me banging my head on my desk.

I have spent the past two hours grading papers for my online Sociology class. It has been PAINFUL to see how many of these students are missing a key piece - properly using citations.

How is it that people can get all the way through high school and never have to learn this stuff?? MANY have said "well, I never had to do that before so I wasn't sure what you wanted." I understand and accept that. So the very first week of class I go over this again and again. I give them a specific assignment with very explicit directions and examples to show them what a citation is and explain when and why to use it. I give them all sorts of resources to refer back to. Still, here we are in the 5th week of class and they just aren't getting it. SIGH.

For anyone out there who is not clear on how to use a citation - I offer up the following resources:

"You Quote It, You Note It" - Vaughn Memorial Library

Research & Documentation Online by Diana Hackerman

The Owl at Purdue

Now I have to go back and figure out how I will respond to my student who wrote in her comments "I did not use a citation because I was quoting myself." or the one who said "Nothing I wrote was related to the chapters in our book."

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Podcasting Made Simple - AKA - Michael Pollock is My New Hero!!

Many of you know that my day job is as "Learning Specialist" at a small community college in Oregon. One of the things I do in that role is encourage the Luddites on campus to experiment with new technology. I coordinate a weekly seminar called "Technology Tuesday" and am in the process of putting together a series of online modules to give them tips and tutorials for using the various tools we have here (Everything from starboards to clickers to Elmo to who knows what.)

My latest project has been to focus on Podcasting - keeping in mind some of the folks I am working with are so leery of technology they won't use a mechanical pencil. So I began wading through DOZENS of websites and read way more stuff about podcasting than I ever wanted to. I looked at or listened to a phenomenal amount of information until my eyes were going glassy and I just wanted to go sit in a quiet room. Just when I was ready to run shrieking down the hallways and join the ranks of the Luddites out of sheer self preservation, I stumbled upon Michael Pollocks work: The Podsnapper Beginner's Guide to Podcasting.

This is a CLEAR, CONCISE, very easy to understand overview of what podcasting is, what tools are required, and just enough depth to walk the balance between not overwhelming the newbie while still offering some meat for those who are already a bit more familiar. It's visually appealing - nice bright pics, plenty of white space and manageable chunks of text. Pollock NEVER gets condescending or overly technical but he also doesn't write as if he's speaking to idiots. His tone is engaging and informative, with enough personal examples of his own experience learning how to do podcasting to make it seem vey genuine. Honestly - this little guide is PERFECT for what I am trying to accomplish.

So I will still type up my list of other resources that I sorted out, grouping them by categories of:
Tutorials and "How To" Articles
Products and Services
General Information
Directories and Search Engines

But at the TOP of that I will have a box with the following text:

For the best overall summary of what podcasting is and how to get started, go to Podsnapper Guide by Michael Pollock. If you only read ONE resource, make sure this is the one you read. It will give you clear information to understand what podcasting is and how to get started. If you want further information after that, then you can refer to the resources below.

Thank you ever so much Michael. If you lived close I'd bring you a pan of my killer good enchiladas or bake you cookies. But since you don't, you'll just have to accept my undying appreciation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Coping With Grief


Today's Woman to Woman topic is on Coping With Grief. I have sorta dropped off the map with this writing challenge of late...too many other irons in the fire. When I knew that grief would be this week's topic I resolved to get back in the saddle and say a few things. But now that it comes time to post I find my feelings regarding more recent losses are simply too raw for public consumption. So instead I'll post a piece I wrote many years back. This was originally published in the journal Thanatos in 1996 under the title "Giving Sorrow Voice." (Fall 1996. Vol. 21/ No 3)Maybe at some point I will write of other things. But for now, this will have to do.

****
What am I supposed to do with this reawakened aching? How can I put on the expected smiles when I see my older brother taking vows with his new bride? My brother’s first wife, Donna, died two years ago. She was only thirty-four. With her death, my illusions of safety in the world were completely ripped apart.

I felt so ambivalent when we first lost her. I was relieved to finally see her set free from months of cancer’s anguish. Yet, I was simultaneously outraged that she had been taken away. Donna was more than my “sister-in-law.” She was my friend. She was maid of honor at my own wedding. She was my confidant more times than I could count. We used to joking say that her husband (my brother) was okay, but the real reason I savored my relationship with their family was because of the fun I had with her. Since we lived several states apart, we didn’t see each other often. But through letters, phone calls and occasional visits, we kept the torch of friendship burning bright.

Then she got sick. The illness took her inch by painful inch. It was excruciating. There were days of bitterness, weeks of fury, months of pain beyond words. I hated that I was so far away and could not help her. I felt helpless and impotent. Yet, beyond that, what I hated even more was that there seemed to be no clear role for those of us on the periphery of the grief. While everyone rallied around Donna and my brother, no one ever saw how much I was hurting, too. In fact, I was expected to be one of the ones being strong and kind, always available to listen. I didn’t know who to turn to when my own breaking heart needed some listening to.

So I played the role that seemed laid out for me. My sorrow bubbled quietly inside when the final call came, saying it was time. I remained “strong“ as the family converged in Idaho to say goodbye, to witness Donna’s death, and to attend the memorial. As I went through the motions of assisting with the necessary arrangements, the hurt camped out in my soul like a bewildered vagrant, having no clear clue of where to go. In the weeks after the funeral, that same hurt would catch in my throat every time someone would ask “How’s Andy doing? We were so sad to hear about Donna’s death.” No one ever asked how I was doing. No one ever seemed to realize that part of my world had been shattered too.

When time marched on, and my brother found a new love in his life, the whole family was thrilled, myself included. He had been through so much anguish. It was wonderful to see him embracing life again. And yet, when the gilt-edged announcement of his wedding came in the afternoon mail, I suddenly felt the wind knocked out of me. Granted, it had been two years. Still, holding the invitation in my hand opened up the old wound all over again. Some corner of my brain started howling when, finally, I was forced to admit all the way to my bones that Donna truly is gone. Two years worth of stuffed feelings came rushing out with a vengeance. Every scrap of my being throbbed as tears streamed down my face.

I will attend my brother’s wedding, sincerely happy that his new life is blooming with abundance. But I’ve also come to realize I need to listen to and nurture my own aching heart. I loved Donna keenly. And love, by its very nature, is savage business. It leaves our hearts open and vulnerable to pain. Just because I was not the one to lose a spouse does not minimize the very real hurt that losing a dear friend brought me. I thought I was done with grief and mourning. Now I see how much I still need to address the emotions which have festered down deep for all this time. I need to bind up those wounds, but to do so I must first give them voice and validation. Only then can I truly move on and fully heal.

I will honor my memory of my sister-in-law and cherished friend with a wreath of Queen Anne’s lace which I know she treasured. Then I will begin talking about this with folks who’ve proven their grit by supporting me over and through other serious hurts. I will never forget Donna’s musical machine-gun laugh, her love of Christmas, or her passion for her cats. But I will come to terms with the loss of her more fully by genuinely confronting the impact that loss has caused in my life. I will no longer cripple my heartache by denying its legitimacy. It does not matter how long ago her heart stopped beating. Healing seldom fits into carefully laid out timetables. I wasn’t ready before. Today I am. Finally, I begin to fully grieve.

****

To read what others have had to say on this topic, go to
My Many Colored Days and/or Seeds From My Garden.

What a difference a year makes

Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity a)has too much free time and b) knows one of my favorite blogger pals is the infamous overall clad man in Buffalo - Jaquandor over at Byzantium's Shores.

I skip over the sports nonsense and a few other things that hold no interest for me, but there is MUCH about his blog I adore. One of my favorite things he shares is called "Sentential Links". Basically, he explores the blogosphere and shares bits and pieces of posting he found worthwhile. He's honored me there more than once which is always flattering, but even better than that he has introduced me to some top notch writing.

Well anyway, all that is a long preamble to saying one of the links Kelly recently posted was THIS ONE which came at a time when I really needed to read it.

Yes indeed, what a difference a year makes. I need to remember this.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Playing Catch Up

Today I went back to work after over a week out on vacation. OH MY. There were piles upon piles of things to do, problems to solve and fires to put out. All day long felt like one crazy ride. It's going to take me a while to catch up. I guess I'll just take it one day at a time till I can dig out from under. For right now I'm off to go soak in a bubble bath and regroup for a while.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Geocache Kid Break 100!



I got to do a couple days of desert geocaching while visiting my friend Jenni Sunshine down in Tucson. With her help I found (and surpassed) my 100th find!

We had a great time, and brought home a couple traveling geocoins to place in some of the hiding places here.

Meanwhile, a few folks have started finding my latest hide, "Earth and Sky" which is a three stage multi-cache out at Walla Walla Roastery. On average it is taking most people three attempts before they find it. It's sneaky!

I've recently purchased a new GPS. This time I went with a Garmin eTrex Legend Cx. It was a bit more spendy than my old Magellan, but I really like the bright color display and it seems to pick up satellites WAY faster.

So the hunt for treasure continues. I really enjoy geocaching. It's a great way to find interesting sights and gives my hikes a bit of an intriguing purpose. So far I've found hides in Michigan, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Just 43 states left to go~!

Halloween Dogs




I have never dressed up a dog. No cute little sweaters for my pooch. I don't even tie a bandana around her neck. I also don't carry a canine in a purse. Dogs are dogs. I've never understood the point. But now I've discovered something new. I was reading Tristi Pinkston's blog and discovered the wild, wacky world of dog Halloween costumes.

Apparently all sorts of stores from PetSmart to Target are carrying them. Who knew?

I don't thing Morgan dog would stand for it. She'd be way too embarrassed.

To see more silly dog costumes - check out these links:

GlamourDog

PuppyShop.Com
SpoiledRottenDoggies

And if you MUST dress up your pet - be sure to review these 10 Safety Tips for costuming your canine.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Naming the Perpetrator

While on vacation I read the book "A Random Act" by Cindi Broddus. The story is her true account of a horrific crime - some person tossed a gallon of sulphuric acid off an overpass in the wee hours of the morning just as she and a friend were driving by on the freeway below. The bottle of acid came hurling through the windshield, splashed all over Cindi's face, arms and torso, burning her beyond recognition. She required many surgeries and years of recovery therapy and remains physically disfigured. How she coped with those events and the meaning she gave to it is the focus of her book.

I've been mentally comparing this book to Terri Jent'z account of her late night attack in an Oregon campground. For no apparent reason, an unknown assailant drove his truck up on top of the pup tent Terri and her roommate were sleeping in, then got out of the truck and proceeded to attack them both with an ax. Miraculously, both girls survived, even though their injuries were severe. Terri's book Strange Piece of Paradise tells of her years of investigation to identify the perpetrator who so brutally harmed her.

In BOTH cases it was a random act by a stranger that brought unimaginable damage to these women who seemed to have done nothing to bring them into harm's way more than merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In both cases, the perpetrators were never arrested or held accountable for their crimes. The similarities stop there.

Without question, Jent'z book is better written. Strange Piece of Paradise is filled with striking word images and powerful prose that give evidence to her Yale training. Broddus, on the other hand, is not a writer by profession. In fact, she parnters with someone else to get her story laid out. Evenso, at times her book comes off as too sappy. I acknowledge that from the outset the intent of the two books are entirely different. Jentz aims to speak the truth of what happened to her in the face of a social and political climate that seemed determined to look the other way and sweep all that unpleasantness under the rug. Broddus, on the other hand, deliberately sets out to be inspirational/ uplifting. Her message is of forgiveness and choosing to focus on the kindnesses of those who supported her through the nightmare rather than on the horror or the pain.

Broddus states in several passages that catching the criminal or knowing his specific identity were never a priority for her. Instead, she focuses on "pay it forward" style efforts to make something good come out of the terrible. Jentz, on the other hand, describes feeling driven to find out who did this bad thing. Naming the perpetrator takes on almost a compulsion for her and seems to be a catalyst for her healing (although she uses a pseudonym in the book for the man she is convinced did the assault, she has discussed his real identity with law enforcement officials and given information which substantially incriminates him - if not entirely proves he did the crime. They chose not to follow up because he could not be prosecuted due to expiration of statute of limitations.)

What reading both of these books has got me wondering about is what I believe is the most healthy or most appropriate response to trauma and harm.

While most people will never have to face events of this magnitude, EVERY one of us will face some bad in this world. It is the nature of our mortal existence. When the bad comes, how will I respond? What meaning will I give to the utterly wrong, unfair heartaches that come my way?

Does it matter what the context is?

In the book Too Scared to Cry by Dr. Lenore Terr comparison is made between the effects of ONE isolated terrible awful event that happens to the consequences of enduring prolonged, ongoing trauma. I heard Dr. Terr speak at a conference once shortly after the book came out. She described her research comparing a group of school children who had been kidnapped and buried in their school bus, a young girl who was attacked by a lion at a zoo, and several other "ONE time harmed kids" with a group of young people who had lived in war zones or endured years of abuse. It was a fascinating study of the long-term consequences of what happens when children are forced to live in fear.

But I can't help but wonder what different outcomes might be if we could somehow measure the variable of how individuals DEFINE the bad things that happened to them rather than how much or how long those bad things had to be endured.

The meaning we give to the events of our life has tremendous power. What meaning will I give to my blessings? What meaning will I give to my harms?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Anticipation & Ambivalence

One of my favorite things about being on vacation is having some unstructured time to do nothing more than just curl up with a good book.

Today I read a big chunk of Nothing to Regret by Tristi Pinkston. It is a historical novel having to do with a Japanese American young man caught up in world events following the Pearl Harbor attack. The part I'm at right now is taunt with suspense. Part of me wants to keep turning the pages and part of me wants to PUT IT DOWN just to prolong the time I have to be with this book. I always feel such a moment of let down when I finish a good read. So I toy with myself, savoring the pages, second guessing TP to wonder if it will have the obvious, expected ended or whether there may yet be some twists or turns that will catch me by surprise.

It took me a while to get into the story. But after the first fifty pages or so the pace really begins to pick up. I've had the feeling of being on a raft riding along on a lazy, meandering stream that suddenly transforms to quicker current. Now I'm in the rapids. Is there a drop off or dangerous rock up ahead? Can't wait to find out. I'd love to draw it out and make it last longer, but just like biting down on my hard candy instead of licking it to get to the yummy centers, I guess I'll just go for it all at once.

Home Turf



These past few days of tromping all over Arizona have been a revelation for me. I moved away from the Southwest in 1981 and pretty much never looked back. I have loved the Pacific northwest and never really thought I'd want to leave it. However, there is no denying there is a deep connection in my spirit to this arid land. It is very different from the lush green and deep woods I have savored other places. But Arizona definitely has a rich beauty all it's own.

My man and I have been having some long, serious talks about the possibility of us moving back here permanently. It may take a year or more to get all the pieces in place to make that a reality. But I strongly suspect it is the direction we will go.

Who'd have thunk it?

If we stay living where we are now we would have lots more money (keeping husband's job as well as my own.) If we move, it is highly unlikely that at age 62 my husband will be getting another professional job. But if the only thing that mattered was money, we'd all be drug dealers. Our needs are fairly simple. He supported me for a good many years while I was raising our boys. There is no reason I can't be the breadwinner for the next 15 years.

Hard to say what the future will hold. But we are talking a lot about what it means to craft a life, not just earn a living. We're talking about where we want to be as we age and what we want those years to be like. A lot will depend on where I can get a good job. But the ones I'm looking at now are southward. So we'll just throw the possibility out to the Universe, and see what unfolds.

Gigabites Are A Girl's Best Friend


Marilyn Monroe may have thought that Diamonds were a girl's best friend, but I just don't buy it.

For my recent birthday my husband wanted to buy me a gorgeous set of diamond stud earrings. The were pretty. Sparkly bling bling is a nice thing, I suppose. But I really didn't want them.

So I struggled with the ethical dilemma of just graciously accepting the pricey gift from my man to make him feel good or coming out and telling him "please don't." I opted for the latter. I explained that I really did appreciate his thoughtfulness and wanting to do something nice for me. But I did not want diamonds. What I REALLY wanted was a new portable hard drive.

He was baffled by my priorities. But thankfully he did not get offended that I was not interested in what HE thought would be a great gift. He went right out to Circuit City and got me a new
Seagate 250GB external hard drive. It just plugs in to the USB port and GOES. Now I can put all my photos and important documents in ONE place instead of having them saved to various disks and CD's, and I can EASILY transfer any file I have to any other computer by plugging in to a USB. I can preserve not only the programs that are on my home PC, but the appearance of my desk top to take with me to do work where ever I may find myself. Yeah, this is a good thing. Sparkles are nice. But I'll take extra Gigabites any day.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sputnik Baby Gets Creamed

My big brother Andy and me getting ready to do the deed with my Happy PieHere it Comes! Messy Face!

Fifty years ago today Sputnik, the first ever earth satellite, was launched into space. Fifty years ago today I was launched onto this earth. Today I celebrated with my usual tradition - by getting a pie in the face.

I have had a few different people ask me why I pie. It's sort of a long story. But it's something fun that keeps me from taking myself too seriously. My 50 year pie was particularly yummy - with a Nilla Vanilla cookie crust and fruit on top! What didn't go splat all over my face got eaten with mangos, blueberries and papaya.

As far as sharing a birthday with Sputnik goes, it has been an intriguing adventure coming of age during a time on this planet of break through science and all sorts of inventions. Communications, travel, and data processing have shifted exponentially during my lifetime. I well recall the days when a computer with equivalent processing power to what I am using right now on my trusty laptop (Dell Inspiron 9200) would take up a whole room. Tomorrow I will fly from Boise to Phoenix in just a few hours - something that these days is considered common place. I can share ideas of all this within minutes to people all over the world by posting it to this silly little blog.

I cannot help but ponder what sort of changes and shifts in the world will happen over the NEXT fifty years. What sort of planet will my grandchildren have to grow up in?

I'm pretty satisfied with my life at aged fifty. I am blessed to be in reasonably good health and have enough material abundance to not have to worry about how I will meet my needs. I live in a country that despite many problems is relatively safe and abounding in freedom. I am married to a man who even after nearly 26 years still makes me go weak in the knees with his smile. Life is good. I have just enough problems to keep me awake and paying attention, sufficient adversity to keep me from taking how good I really have it all for granted.

I've had a good birthday. Now I better go wash the whip cream out of my hair.

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