Sunday, July 29, 2007


My beloved and I just returned from our long weekend away. We had a great time.

Wednesday night we drove to Hood River, which claims to be the Wind Surfing capital of the world, but to me will always be my old stomping grounds from my fruit tramp days back in the '70's.

THURSDAY - The husband person went fishing, exploring both Lost Lake and Lawrence Lake, while I was in meetings for the American Association of Women in Community Colleges.
He caught some fish, saw signs of bear and generally had a good time. I got to meet with some great women from all across the state and discuss Big Ideas, some which I'm still pondering mightily and may blog on a bit later. That evening we did a bit of geocaching and had a couple really nice finds.

FRIDAY - we went white water rafting near Maupin. It was a blast. We only did class three rapids so there was never anything dangerous or scary - just a fun ride down the river on a beautiful day. Again, at the end we did a geo search, nice end to a long day in the sun. Then we drove on to Redmond for the night.

SATURDAY - we did MORE geocaching, found several and got stumped on a few. Then we went to hear Terri Jentz talk about her book "Strange Piece of Paradise" at the Paulina Springs bookstore. Afterwards we went out to dinner with Terri and a few of the folks from the Bend/Sisters area that she knows. We had a fabulous time getting acquainted and sharing our thoughts about social responsibility, apathy, crime, and reclaiming life after trauma.

SUNDAY - we headed home going the long back way along Hwy 218. We went through lots of tiny little towns like Antelope, Clarno, Fossil, Spray, Heppner, Lexington and Echo. I couldn't help but wonder why people live in some of those spots...what took them there? What holds them? I'd love to go back sometime and interview a few of the locals.

Along the way we stopped at the John Day Fossil Beds and did a nice little hike to see some intriguing geology.

Then we stopped along the John Day River for a picnic lunch. Larry did some fishing (mostly caught TINY small mouth bass that looked like bait, but I guess it was fun for him) and I got to lay under a ponderosa pine tree reading a good book. Finally it was time to call it a day and head on home.

All in all it was a really good trip.

Monday, July 23, 2007

On a High Wire Without a Net

After months of battling raging insomnia I finally decided to cry uncle. I've tried long hot baths, herbal tea, lavender candles & body lotion, soothing music... all that sort of stuff. But it's no good. I manage to get to sleep just fine. But then somewhere between 2-4 AM my eyes pop open, my mind is racing and there is NO WAY I'm getting back to sleep. I go for days upon days utterly sleep deprived until I'm goofy. I keep saying when I get tired enough I will sleep. No. When I can no longer stand it I just crash - not sleep - but collapse in a twitching pile of goofiness that makes no sense. Not good.

I've been extremely resistent to taking any sort of sleep meds. But after this last most ferocious bout of the big eye, I finally decided to cry uncle. So I called up my primary care provider to see if I could get a referral to the local sleep clinic for a full evaluation and possibly a short term prescription.

I was told she no longer works there - moved on to the VA some months ago. Didn't I get a letter? NO. I did not.

So now, not only do I not have anyone to help me with the sleep ickies, I have no one to do my annual exam or to turn to in the event I get sick. I'm back at square one with no medical professional that I know or trust.

I have HUGE issues about picking doctors. I've had horrendously bad experiences in the past with a doctor who spent the whole time she was examining me talking in detail about OTHER patients (not using names, but hey - we live in a small town and I'm not stupid, so it's not all that hard to figure out...). I wrote a letter of complaint for which I was labelled as a "problem patient".

After a long, long time with no doctor at all my pal Juliana took me to see a Nurse Practitioner she trusted. I was delighted to find a good match. I am seldom sick so I did not go in often. But it was very comforting to know that Eileen would be there any time I needed care.

Now she's gone.

I'm feeling frustrated, disappointed, nervous and scared. I do NOT want to go get poked and prodded and asked questions by somone new I don't trust.

Besides which, most the good doctors in this underserved rural areas are no longer taking any new patients. So I'm stuck. Do I play Russian Roulette with my healthcare by relying only on the walk in clinic? Yikes, that feels too creepy for words. What to do? Go back to the yellow pages and throw darts?

If I were looking for a therapist - which I most definitely am not - I would have the option of calling several, having a brief phone call to get a feel for what sort of services they offered, and then do screening interviews to find the right fit. But MD / DO doctors tend to say "take it or leave it" and consider their time too precious for that.

I really hate having to start over. This stinks.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Place to Call Home

My beloved an I have lived in our current house for just slightly over five years now. Both our house and our community suit us in many ways. Still, lately I've noticed myself getting a case of itchy feet.

I've always said that folks have a choice between two main alternatives in life: Either you can pick WHERE you want to live, and then make your best deal you can find there in terms of what sort of work to do and what your living circumstances will be. OR, you can pick WHAT you want to do and then go where ever that dream happens to take you.

In the early days of my marriage, my man and I chose the latter. In an economy which makes many believe it takes two incomes to support one family, we had the challenge of supporting two families on one income. My husband had four children from his previous marriage that we would be financially responsible for as well as the family we raised together. On top of that, when my boys were young we were determined that I would stay home to raise them rather than have them grow up in day care. So it was important my husband land a well paying job. When he found a position that seemed to suit him that also paid a decent wage, we decided we'd stick with it, where ever it might take us. However, that WHERE kept changing every few years.

My husband's career has been in agricultural chemical research. (ok all you organic Nature Nazi's, I've heard it don't bother.) He is an educated farmer with a master's degree in entomology. He worked developing insecticides for many years. Now he works on chemicals to kill weeds insead of bugs, but it's still similar stuff. Anyway, he took a job with a little company called Zoecon back in 1982, just a few months after we married. That job necessitated a move from Arizona to Ohio. Talk about culture shock! It was a big adjustment that took more than a little getting used to.

However, just when we were feeling pretty settled there, we got sent to Florida. (There's not a lot of farming happening in Ohio in the winter time.) Later we were transferred to Michigan. Every few years the company would go through yet another corporate merger. Each time that happened, he'd get the news that would go something like this: "The good news is you still have a job. Not everybody does. The bad news is, it's not where you live. So start packing buddy!" We never questioned the moves or even looked at other possibilities. We just said our goodbyes and then re-invented ourselves in whatever new place they put us.

We had some tremendous experiences as a direct blessing of that job. They paid all the expenses for my son's foreign exchange to Denmark. The provided a company vehicle with an allowance for personal use so we got to travel all over the USA at a time when otherwise we never could have afforded it. There were many perks that I'll always be grateful for. But we also sacrificed a lot being corporate nomads.

My kids grew up never really knowing grandparents, aunts, uncles or other extended family. Outside of a few sporadic visits, they were strangers to them. Also our hearts got broken each time we had to leave behind neighborhoods where we had built tight social connections. Not to mention we lost our shirts in more than a few real estate deals because we had to sell our homes quick in order to have the money to get a place in the new location, not willing to endure months separation.

But perhaps the biggest cost was a more or less permanent disconnect in my mind with any sense of belonging. I would enjoy every place that we lived (albeit some more than others.) But I always knew that any day the company could pick us up and plunk us down somewhere new. That made me wary of getting too connected. After five or six moves it got to the point that no place ever really felt like "home." They were each just the place where we happened to be living for a while.

After several more corporate restructurings my husband finally became a casualty of the reorganizations. He lost his big buck job in 1998. After that he started working for the university system which was a whole new ballpark. He made about half as much money with none of the fancy perks, but at least he was home more and didn't have all the crazy pressure. Also, by then our kids were raised and I had started working again, so we were able to live on less income from him. Still, after about five years with Washington State University he got cut again when grants went away. That's why we moved to Oregon, so he could take a job at one of the university research stations here.

The whims of fate have tossed us like tumbleweeds. Now we have lived in this place for what seems like our average stay in a community. Out of sheer habit, I'm feeling like it's time to move again.

Except this time there is no reason to. Larry is at his last job. He will be 62 this coming December. He can work at his current position as long as he likes, it seems. But if there were any big shake ups, he'd just retire.

So that means momma bear gets to become primary wage earner. Whether it's next year or the year after, or whenever it will be - he WILL retire eventually. Some days we think sooner, some days later. But we both acknowledge that day is coming, so we are trying to get prepared for it both emotionally and financially.

Once he leaves his current employment it will be on me to be the one to be sure there are medical benefits and a paycheck coming in. I have a whole set of issues about that. I have worked full time for about ten years now. I am no stranger to work. Still, I've always known that any time I didn't like what I was doing or if I found a better opportunity I had the freedom to jump ship because the daddy of the house provided a cozy safety net. I never had to worry about losing insurance or the wolf at the door if I just opted out of a job, regardless what the reason. Even though I've seldom been out of work, it's now scary for me to think I'll HAVE to work, stuck in a job whether I like it or not.

This is especially crazy making for me because the grant funding for my current position goes away in one more year. What will I do next? I haven't got a clue. I've applied for several different things in the last year and had a couple of interviews. But so far, no brass ring has made itself available to my grasp. There's no reason to panic. I have plenty of time to keep looking to find something more permanent. But with that search comes some choices that I just don't have the answers to.

Some days I think I should just trust that when the time comes that I really need a new job something will turn up here. There may not be a whole lot of good jobs in this region, but I don't need a job market. I just need one solitary job. So I tell myself to be patient and continue to learn the lessons my current post has to offer me.

But other times I get edgy and nervous, believing I better scramble for a more permanent position as soon as I can find one. Particularly in light of my 50th birthday looming closer and closer, I worry about being considered "too old" for a lot of jobs, or that some window of opportunity will close up tight as a clam shell if I don't grab it now.

So through all this we've talked some about whether or not we will stay here or if we would be willing to move if I found a job I liked someplace far away. We have no family close by and nothing permanent to hold us. Sure, I love my house. But it's just a house. We've got lots of history in leaving houses before. We know the drill.

But what about the people? Are we willing to do that all over again?

Part of me hungers to put down roots, to trust PLACE, to build this into a location of belonging. Yet part of me says my home will be the crook of my man's arm, and where ever we are together, that is where we'll be home. As I cruise through the job posting of various colleges all over the western United States I wonder whether it makes sense to keep blowing from pillar to post or if I want to dig in my heels and find some way to keep this our home.

I was so proud of Mimi and her family recently when they had a choice to make....move to follow a job that is changing locations or stay put in a community they cherish. They chose to stay. It means they don't know right now what they will do in terms of income. But they are trusting it will work out somehow, and they recognize the value of close friends, congregation, and sense of familiarity. Oh, how I envy that.

But then I start to question the loyalty I have for this place. We moved here by happenstance of a job, not willful choice of selecting the area. Sometimes I think this might be the time for us to mindfully pick where we would most like to live and that I could then concentrate my efforts there. But honestly, I haven't a clue where that would be. I've learned there are pros and cons in every location. I know how to bloom where I am planted. I just don't know if it makes sense to stay in my current pot or look for more fertile ground in another field.

So the flip side is to really try to sink in deep and make this a permanent home. What a switch that would be. Oddly, I feel like I could continue to live here another 40 years till they carry me away in a pine box and I'd always feel just one U-haul away from being someplace else.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Marzipan Babies

I was amazed to find these Marzipan Babies - made out of that moldable paste used for cake decorating. Marzipan is “almond paste: a sweet paste made of ground almonds
and sugar, often with egg whites or yolks, used as a layer in cakes or molded
into ornamental shapes.”

Who thinks up this stuff? Sort of reminds me of my earlier post about Jim Victor, the guy who does all the food sculptures in cheese, chocolate, etc.

Friday, July 20, 2007

An Ethical Dilema

Morgan Dog has been a very bad basset hound. Although normally good natured and very well behaved, she has recently gone through a phase of chewing up things that matter to me. Well past her puppy days, she moved beyond her chew everything in sight stage some time ago. But in the last few weeks she has had several episodes of reverting to this unacceptable behavior.

Morgan is usually friendly, docile and easy to love. She plays fetch, goes for walks with me, and in many ways is a great canine companion. But then she ate my favorite shoes. Next she ate my scriptures. (I know we are commanded to "feast upon the word" but this is rediculous!) Last night, she ate my cell phone. She is now banished from the house and we are not speaking to one another.

I understand that as a person in relationship with an animal I have certain responsibilities for her care and training. In many respects I consider this beast to be a member of my family and I truly do cherish her. But this has got to stop. At what point do I say "ENOUGH! I will not put up with a dog that continues to destroy my property!"

I can't even imagine permanently exiling Morgan Dog. She brings so much laughter and joy into our house. But right now I'm not feeling very forgiving and the thought has crossed my mind that there are limits to how much of this I will tolerate.

So what does that say about me?

I am a sap to put up with dumb dog who tears up my stuff?
I am a lousy dog owner for not training her better?
I am a selfish meanie who only loves when all is well?

Frankly, I've never understood people who spend thousands of dollars and elaborate care on pets.

While I don't have much affinity for cats, I love dogs. But even the best of dogs ever there was, my trusty old Bojangles who I had for over a dozen years, got put down when he got old and infirm and became incontinent.

So what all this has brought up for me is the whole issue of what behaviors I will or won't tolerate not just from the animals in my life, but also the PEOPLE. What things do I overlook without saying anything? What things do I call someone out on? What things do I lay down the law over? What things are deal breakers that cause me to cut off all contact?

Which things that occur in relationships are worthy of forgiveness and which are not?

There's a lot of talk about "unconditional love." I've never experienced that. I never got it and I don't think I'm capable of giving it. I don't know if any human being is. My faith tells me that's the way God loves us, but it is a concept beyond my comprehension. To me, all loving has limits.

Some would argue that it can be a very loving thing to set limits. In most cases, I would agree. Where I struggle is in the more extreme cases. I've heard it said that a person can even choose to continue to hold love in their heart for someone who has caused them great pain, even if they must remove themselves from that individual for safety sake. But I know from experience that when I've been harmed or betrayed by people I trusted, my heart grows cold to them.

It's one thing to recognize that a relationship is not healthy and to remove myself from it, as I did when I left my first marriage. But what about how I interact with family or friends who become boring, annoying, hurt my feelings or simply have personalities I don't like despite having done no great crime? How loving am I letting myself be with them?

This silly dog of mine has got me thinking about issues of family, friends and forgiveness. The fury I felt over the tattered, mangled remains of the things she has destroyed has reminded me of the hurt and outrage I've felt over things various people have done, from a snide, thoughtless remark to social snubbing to more insidious harms. What is the appropriate response to those who cross the line?

I will put up with more from a sibling, a parent, a son or daughter than I will from a neighbor or chosen friend. I'll keep going back and back and back to try to repair the rift for family long after I would have cut all ties with someone I did not share blood. Why is that? Does this pattern make sense? Should I be extending myself further with unrelated people? Should I be extending myself less with those I am related to? What makes sense?

While I will generally tolerate disappointments, hurts and conflict from family that might cause me to cool a friendship, even with kin and clan there are limits.

I have family members now with whom I have little or no contact. I don't hate or rage against or resent them. I just no longer include them in my thoughts or actions.

Also, I do have "chosen family" that I've had some tough conflicts with, but have been able to get over big breaches to move on to renewed trust and caring. I don't just turn my back on someone the first time there are rough spots. But I recognize that I have been willing to let some relationships cool or fade away entirely because of something that was said or done, or not said or not done, that caused me to define the bond as not worth the cost. I'm taking a long hard look at that to see if I am satisfied with my role in what I've kept hold of and what I've let go.

One by one I've been sorting out what it means to me to have a connection to a person or pet - examining what I will put up with and what I will not. How much of myself am I willing to extend in each of these relationships and how much do I hold back? Where do I draw my lines? In some cases I can see where I need to lighten up and give people more grace. In other cases it is all too evident that it's high time I gave up expecting someone to be there for me in ways they've shown they can't or won't. So I'm looking at what all that means to my heart.

Today I will go buy some rawhide chews for the Basset Hound. We will begin again at teaching appropriate dog behavior in our household. The beast in definitely in big trouble. But she's my dog. I love her. And with or without a cell phone, my life would be diminished without my dog.

As for some of the people in my life - maybe I have some repair work to do there too.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Power of Intention

This just in from The Bleeping Harold, an article titled "The Thought Heard Round the World" by Lynn McTaggart who details a report on "the first-ever, long-distance double-blind group intention experiment in history which occurred March 10-11, 2007. Participants included 400 attendees of the first Intention Experiment Conference in London and consciousness researcher Dr. Gary Schwartz and his team at the Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health at the University of Arizona in Tucson."

Five experiments were run, " one with German physicist Fritz-Albert Popp and his colleague Dutch psychologist Eduard Van Wijk at the International Institute of Biophysics, and four with psychologist Dr. Gary Schwartz and his team at the University of Arizona’s Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness Research."

The scientist in me has some questions about some of the methodolgy. But the spiritual part of me trusts that there is power in intenton.

Dr. Rachna Jain over at MaximalHappiness writes of the importance of aligning our actions with our intention. Listing a four step process, Jain challenges readers to invite the universe to help them realize their desires through focused intention.

Joan Borysenko, author of "Inner Peace For Busy People" wrote an article for Prevention magazine that morphs the idea of focused intention with setting and accomplishing key goals.

We've all heard it said that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Why is it that so often our behavior does NOT match our true intention?

In conflicts with others, so often we tend to judge others on their behavior and ourselves on our intent - we say something that wounds but refute the damage to their soul with "but that's not what I meant!" But when WE get hurt we insist "But YOU SAID...."

Years ago I wrote a research paper on the Insanity Defense in which I included the quote "even a dog can tell the difference between being tripped over and being kicked." Yet sometimes I do wonder about the value of intentions that are not acted on.

So I've been giving some thought to my relationship with a few different people in my life. I'm examining a bit closer what my INTENT truly is for them and how close or how far my BEHAVIOR reflects that. I am also looking at the direction my own life is going, seeing which areas are ruled my mindfulness and which operate on default. Deliberate unleashing of focused intent is powerful stuff, in my book. But when it is double harnessed with action, that's when the true magic happens.

What are your intentions?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Myth vs. Reality

I have just finished listening to the audiobook “Mayflower: A story of Courage, Community and War” by Nathaniel Philbrik. It was a powerful, well told tale that gave credit where credit was due to those early settlers we know as the pilgrims However, with impeccable research, similar to that in his earlier work "In the Heart of the Sea" about the whale ship Essex - the true story upon which Moby Dick is based - Philbrick takes painstaking care to reveal as much as records (rather than legend) can show up about who those early Pilgrims were and what the legacy was they left behind.

Like literally thousands of others, I can trace my lineage directly back to William Brewster, one of the spiritual leaders of the Pilgrims, so I've always felt a bit of bond with that boat that brought him to this country. One of my cousins still has a plate that has been carefully handed down in our family which is said to have come over on the Mayflower.

However, the tale that Philbrick unfolds has more to do with genocide of the native peoples than it does of friendly folks standing around celebrating the first thanksgiving.

While I am more than a little impressed by the powerful words of the Mayflower Compact which my ancestor signed and may very well have helped originate, I cannot help but be troubled by the repeating cycle of war and mayhem, blatant genocide and arrogant exploiting that were part and parcel of the Anglo takeover of this country.

Whether we are talking about the mass extermination of groups of native peoples in this land, the legacy of Pol Pot's killing fields in Cambodia, the horrors of Rwanda, or current events in Darfur, misery and killing seem to be a reoccurring pattern of human history.

I think of how we have this romanticized notion of who the pilgrims were and what their relationship with the Native peoples were like. Reality is far from myth we want to believe.

It isn't just national histories that we twist to shed a better light on our forbearers. I think of how I have at times created my own myths - like what my first marriage was about, the pictures I hold in my head about my college years, or the meaning I give to other significant events or relationships I have been a part of. No one likes to think of themselves as lazy, unkind, petty or cruel. So we mute our memories of our misdeeds and shed the spotlight of recall on our more honorable moments. We build up stories and legends in our head that can take on the power of myth that Joseph Campbell speaks about.

Lately I've been trying to sort out some of those distortions in my own world...piece by piece looking at what things I believe about myself, the world, and my place in it. What things have I made up because it was more comfortable to believe them? What truths have I avoided? What have I exaggerated? What can I hold on to for keeps?

Philbrick did his research by going through historic documents. My task is a bit more complex than that since most of my "records" are memories...which are by their very nature slippery, elusive things.

When I get together with my siblings we often talk of past events from our growing up years. Rarely do we recall those happenings in the same way. So is truth relative? Is MY truth valid because it impacted me the way I imprinted it even if it may or may not be historically accurate? Or what of cases where I have heard a certain family (or national) story so often it FEELS like a memory even if there is no possible way I could have been there?

I think that what we believe about our history - both personal and political DOES matter. Only by being willing to wrestle with truth and self deception can we ever fully come to terms with making sounder choices for our future, in our families and in the world.

(prints of the above painting of the Mayflower by Mike Haywood can be purchased HERE)

Thursday, July 12, 2007


One of the classes I am teaching this summer is "Academic Success", using the textbook "Becoming a Master Student" by Dave Ellis.

According to Ellis, "A master is a person who has attained a level of skill that goes beyond technique. for a master, methods and procedures are automatic responses to the needs of the task. Work is effortless; struggle evaporates. The master carpenter is so familiar with her tools, they are a part of her." (p 43)

Some of us are born with raw talent in some areas. But even then it is usually a matter of POTENTIAL mastery, not the mastery itself. If I have learned anything at all, it is that we have to be able to stand stinking at a task for a while as we practice and refine our method before mastery will come. The novice work is by definition rough and lacking in some ways. But over time, if a person keeps at it, he or she generally develops skill sets than enable mastery.

Last night I spent several hours in the glass studio working on the stained glass project I've been doing. As this is my first ever attempt at working with glass, I am still very VERY much at the novice stage. My seams aren't as tight as I would like them to be. My cuts don't always break clean. In any number of ways my work is rough, bordering on sloppy. I'm trying my very best, but even when spending many painstaking careful hours, what I am producing is pretty marginal at best.

What I am trying to remind myself is that what I am creating in that studio is NOT just a colorful piece of stained glass. I am producing skill sets. I am producing patience. I am producing creativity. I am producing a willingness to be more gentle with myself when I make mistakes. I am producing a sense of connection with other artists. I am producing any number of things that don't show up on my work table. And if I keep at it long enough, who knows? Maybe I can get closer to developing some level of mastery.

But I have to be willing to endure this stage first.

SO many times in the past I have run away from projects because I hated my bumbling efforts. I would flock back to what I was good at, because the sense of accomplishment I'd get there was so rewarding. The problem with hating failure and/or poor results is that I limit myself by being afraid to try anything new.

Blogger Paula Spurr says on her profile: "I am an artist. I am an actor. I am a musician. I am a dancer. I am a lover. I am a writer. I am not very good at any of these things yet, but I continue to do them. Why let mediocrity stop me? The things I'm good at, like rage and laziness, I'd rather stop practicing anyway."

There's a lesson there for me.

Even if I NEVER get very skilled at working with glass, if it brings me joy, connects me with good people and creates things people appreciate - if for no other reason than I made it for them with love, what does it matter if I'm not a master?

I'm trying to let go of my long pattern of perfectionism. I do want to maintain standards of striving for excellence in all that I do. Still, it's time I give up the idea that making mistakes is unacceptable. Missing the mark is just human. I'm going to make lots of mistakes. I make mistakes when I try to cut a new piece of glass and it breaks along the wrong line. I make a mistake when I don't give my best effort at a job I've committed to. I make a mistake when I'm caught up in my own thoughts when I am claiming to be present to listen to you. I make a mistake when I think my life and my problems are more important than some other person's, simply because they are my own.

Whether it's art or work or being human, I want to recognize my mistakes so I can learn from them. In so doing, I can continue to step by step build skill sets to bring me closer to the stage of mastery Ellis speaks of. However, just as important, I think, is allowing myself a bit of grace for not being there yet.

For Your Own Good...

I've been thinking some about my values around seeking comfort and tolerating / enduring pain.

I believe there are times that it can be a positive, healthy thing to simply be present to hurting and learn from it rather that run for medication or distraction to not have to experience that difficulty. But there are also PLENTY of times when being tough and enduring pain serves no useful purpose. The trick is to figure out which is which.

In my SOC class I have a lecture I give about the functionalist view of the "sick role" where in people may be excused from ordinary expectations if they are grieving, ill, or facing some major challenge. However there are some very particular rules that each culture dictates as to how long we are willing to be sympathetic of someone going through a rough time and what we expect them to do on their own behalf to get better.

In the class we talk some about the social nuances of how we respond to someone with a chronic condition that will not get better, why we react differently to people with physical conditions than we do to those with emotional/psychological ills, and how the force of profit and commercialism in western medicine has trained us to seek to avoid pain of any kind.

I've thought some about what things make me whine or seek comfort from others and what things I stoically endure in silence. I've explored some issues around what sorts of resources I'm willing to spend on self care and what seems silly, excessive and self indulgent. I'm still coming together with some thoughts on this stuff that I may write more about later. But then I came across this:

"Theravada Buddhism is often portrayed as a self- centered doctrine, the Buddha teaches that there are two types of good that we have to take into account. One's own good and the good of others. He says that there are four types of people:

1. There is the person concerned with neither his own good nor the good of others.
2. The person concerned with the good of others but not his own good.
3. The person who is concerned with his own good but not with the good of others.
4. The person who is concerned with both his own good and the good of others.

The Buddha pronounces the fourth person to be the most excellent. But he goes further to say that concern for the welfare of others has to be tempered by the recognition that we can only benefit others truly to the extent that we have benefited ourselves. A person who is himself stuck in the mud cannot help others to get out of the mud. If he tries to do so, both will sink down. Hence in order to assist others effectively we first have to establish ourselves on firm ground; that is, we have to first develop in ourselves pure spiritual qualities." (Foundations of Buddhist Social Thought.)

Maybe it was Buddha who wrote the script for airline attendants about why we should put on our own mask in the event that the cabin depressurizes before helping our traveling companion?

Where does it make sense to make personal sacrifice to help my family? My neighbors? The world? Where does it make sense to look out for number one?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Look Out River - Here We Come!

I just made reservations for my beloved and I to do a bit of white water rafting on the Deschutes River. I am ever so excited we get to go on this adventure.

I have a conference to attend in Hood River on the 26th. So husband and I will drive over Wednesday night, have a nice dinner somewhere and relax away from our many work responsibilities. (He's up to his eyeballs in wheat harvest, so getting him to commit to go was a BIG DEAL, and one I appreciate immensely!) He will go fishing while I attend the summer conference for the American Association of Women in Community Colleges.

Afterward we may do a little geocaching or just explore around Hood River.

Then on Friday we head over to Maupin where we will take a five hour guided raft trip. I can't wait! The last time I was rafting was with our good friends Pat & Chuck Butcherite when we all went to Alaska together a couple years ago. That was SO MUCH FUN that I am very much looking forward to going again.

Then on Saturday we head over to Bend to knock around antique shops, do some hiking, and maybe geocache some more. That evening we go over to Sisters, OR to hear Terri Jentz speak out about her experiences relayed in the book "Strange Piece of Paradise." After having corresponded with her via e-mail for some time it will be great to finally meet her!

So I would say we have one full weekend coming up. I am very much looking forward to it!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Keeping Marriage Alive

This week's Woman-to-Woman topic has to do with marriage.

The challenge reads thus:

"Whether you've been married for 38 years, 8 years or are a newlywed, you've probably picked up a few of the keys to a happy marriage, one which is nurturing and continues to grow. Maybe your marriage has struggled, but you've found a road back to each other and have insights for those in similar situations. What would you say are the three most key elements in your marriage that keep the romance alive and the heart aflutter? "

There are many things I could write about. I've said before HERE how I feel about the man I'm married to.

But if I have to pick just three key factors that keep our love alive, I'd list these:


Now to explain.... (warning ...not TOO graphic, but may be a bit PG13. Sorry if this is just TOO MUCH information, but it's something I think matters that is worthy of talking about.)

MINDFUL INTIMACY: When most folks hear married people (or other romantically involved partners) talk about "being intimate" they immediately think that means sex. It can. Sometimes. But I think it is very important to build deliberate intimacy into the relationship that does NOT involve intercourse. Face it, no matter how loving or generous your intent when you start making love, there comes a point when the whole universe -INCLUDING your partner- becomes secondary to the ferocious building up torrent/release of sensation in your own body. At least that is how it is for me.

So we make sure we make time for lots of pleasuring touch that is NOT foreplay, but something to savor for its own. Being able to "pinch and tickle", give lots of deep, passionate kisses, body massage and experimenting with what each of us likes with no expectation for it to be leading up to sex can be incredibly bonding.

There is so much laughter, occasional silliness, sometimes quiet wonder as we explore just sharing ourselves with each other in cuddling, time together ways. Those times make it so that when we DO choose to have sex it's all that much richer, more mindful, more chosen.

Enough said.

POWER OF WORDS - We have this silly little tradition in which I relate any mundane, routine chore to being an expression of devotion. When I'm sorting sock I'll say to my man: "And WHY am I sorting these socks?" He'll tease me at first with some ridiculous answer like "well, it's better than chasing an aardvark!" I will put on mock outrage at that and insist he come up with a better answer. Then he will get a huge grin on his face and tenderly say "Because you love me." To which I will answer some variation of this: "YES, I sort these socks because I do love you. It means a lot to me to be able to help make a home that is comfortable for you, where you can come home secure in the knowledge of having matched socks. I may not be saving the world. But I'm loving you the best way I know how."

Pure mush? Yep. But this little "game" that we play reinforces for BOTH of us that we DO love each other, and that even in all the minutia of life - taking out the trash, sorting socks, picking up dog poop in the yard, washing the car, ANYTHING that makes our home more sane, more ordered, more cozy can be done as an expression of love. There is POWER in that. (And a lot of silliness, which is ok too.)

It keeps us from getting annoyed or overwhelmed with the chores. If we have a big enough WHY, the how just falls into place. It helps us live in a more deliberate state of experiencing and expressing our love in even the most mundane moments.

DEAD PRESIDENTS - my reference to money. So many couples I know have conflicts over cash, or the lack there of. We don't. Ever. Never have in 25 years. In our early years we were poor as church mice. Now we are considerably more comfortable. But no matter where we were on the economic spectrum we have scrupulously followed these rules.

1) PAY TITHING FIRST - no matter what. It is our way of acknowledging that ALL we have comes from the Lord, and that we trust Him to provide for our needs.

2) PAY BILLS NEXT - We are far from rich, but our credit rating is "super prime". On our signature alone we could get many thousands of dollars if some emergency were ever to arise. That comes from having regularly paid our bills on time even if it meant sacrificing other things. We have learned to separate needs from wants and we know which comes first in line.

3) SAVE FOR A RAINY DAY. Even though I grew up in Arizona, I know that eventually, it WILL rain. It helps to have a little nest egg set aside for emergencies. Besides, having grown up poor and known what it felt like to live on the fringe, that nest egg does plenty to provide comfort/security/peace of mind EVERY DAY even when it is not raining. I think this comes under the category of "When ye are prepared ye shall not fear."

Now, if there was anything left after rules 1, 2 & 3 THEN we could make some choices. There were plenty of years when we joked that the reason we didn't fight over money was because we had no money to quibble about. Seriously, it was just plain GONE by the time we took care of our prime directives. So be it. At least we knew the important stuff WAS taken care of.

But in recent years we've had more disposable income than we ever dreamed we would back when we were paupers. And the way we handle that is some extrapolation of the $50 rule.

What's that you ask? From very early on when I was a stay at home mom we BOTH acknowledged that we BOTH contributed to the household in meaningful ways even though he brought in income and I didn't. So we made a pact that each month he would get $50 and I would get $50 to spend ANY WAY WE LIKED with no questions, no complaints, no criticism, no eye rolling. There were times when I thought he needed another fishing pole like he needed a hole in the head. There were days when I'm sure he questioned why I was forever buying yet ANOTHER book when I had plenty sitting on the shelf I had not yet read. But it didn't matter. We were grown ups with the right to choose what was important to us without having to ask permission or worry about censure.

Now, over the years the AMOUNT of the $50 rule has changed substantially. At one point it was closer to $5. Now it is bigger. But the amount really isn't important - that just depends on any given couple's financial means. The key principles are that we are TOTALLY honest with each other, don't "SNEAK" or hide purchases and give each other room to have preferences, desires, etc that make no sense to our spouse. (My husband is a sucker for kitchen gadgets and other wonder items sold on TV infomercials. I spend lots of money for things that never "SHOW" in the house, like getting massage or going to trainings or retreats.) We are DIFFERENT in what we value. But that's ok. He and I BOTH contribute to our family and we BOTH should be able to benefit from our means - that was true when I had no financial income, it was true when he made way more than me and it is still true when I earn more than him.

We don't fight over little pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents. Our love is just too important for that.

There are plenty of other things which keep our magic going. I've mentioned a few of them in my comments to some of the other entries to this topic.

The bottom line is that keeping love alive is a CHOICE, not a matter of luck or having been exceedingly wise in choosing the perfect person. We are all married to human beings therefore, like us, they are imperfect. But we can choose to focus on what we treasure rather than what we deplore. Sure, I wish he wouldn't leave his dirty socks in the middle of the floor. But I'll keep picking them up, keep washing them and keep sorting them into pairs - NOT because there are no Aardvarks in this neck of the woods. I do it, because I really, truly DO love him.

Co hosts Lei over at My Many Colored Days and Morning Glory at Seeds From My Garden have link lists leading to what other women have written on this subject.

Lessons from Dr. Laura

Anybody who knows me AT ALL understands that I am not a big Dr. Laura fan, for many reasons. I find the woman shrill, condescending, judgemental and hypocritical to the extreme. So why on earth would I choose to listen to a book on tape from this harpie?

Well, it happened like this: I was in the library picking stuff out, and I was tired of all the murder mysteries and espionage they had on the shelves. I was hungry for something meatier. So I was cruising the non-fiction aisle and was disappointed to find very slim pickings available there on CD. My library has a bit more available on tape, but my car does not have a tape player. I commute about 40 minutes each way every work day, so I like to keep a steady stream of books to listen to during that time.

As I perused the stacks I saw I had already listened to most of the good stuff available. So, as I do in many elections, rather than picking the best choice I found myself looking for the least bad.

Then I came across the book "Bad Childhood, Good Life" by Dr. Laura.
I decided that rather than listen to something "fun" for me, I could kill two birds with one stone by giving myself something to hear during drive time and doing a bit of research for my teaching job. Right now I am in the process of putting together a list of resources on family relationships for the Sociology of the Family class I teach online. So far I've listed things like The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work by John Gottman and Nan Silver, Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge and Daughters of Madness: Growing up and Older With a Mentally Ill Mother by Susan Nathaniel. I've been wanting to broaden the list, to put a wide variety of sources for my students to choose from to write a report on, not just books that I happen to like. So I thought I'd give Dr. Laura a try to see if her stuff would be suitable for the assignment I'm planning.

Uh, yeah. That IS true. Honest. I really AM teaching a class online and I really DO need to gather a few more resources for that list... however I also heard some voice whispering in the back of my head that maybe there would be some good stuff in this book for me too.

ARE YOU NUTS? I say to that little voice. Something GOOD from DR. LAURA? Get real. The woman is (insert whatever critical expletive suits you and you get the idea of the internal dialogue I had going on.)

So the "serious sociologist" in me began listening to the book in a very evaluating way. I can't stand her voice. She IS shrill. She DOES sound condescending. ICK.

But when I get past the voice and let the WORDS sink in...I have to admit that quite a bit of what she was saying made sense. Some of it feels true. Some of it feels healing. Some of it feels very valuable. Even coming from Dr. Laura.

I still don't like the lady. I still disagree with her on many points, some of them vehemently.

But I can't just toss out this book as the product of a fame hungry nut case. There seems to be quite a bit of value here.

Which got me to thinking about the way I tend to give credit to messages from sources I like / approve of and discredit messages from sources I don't like / disapprove of before I ever really listen to or openly consider the message itself.

HMMM... I think there's a lesson for me there.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Artist's Way

Today I picked up the book The Artist's Way - A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity" by Julia Cameron. From what I understand, this is a book that is worked more than simply read. It is supposed to present a course in discovering and recovering your creative self.

At the author's website there are a variety of forums for discussion groups of people who are pursing this path. There are also many alternative Artist Way groups, such as the one that life coach Laura Young is just getting off the ground.

I'd be very interested to know if any of you who read this blog are familiar with this work and what you thought of it. If you have read it, what was your impression? If not, do you know others who have?

Do You Feel Lucky?

You are a South African bush pilot working for Blue Sky Aviation. You fly in some critical medical supplies, enjoy a quick lunch at the hospital.

It's a stifling 100 degrees in the shade and you're eager to get back up to the cool, high blue yonder. On the way back to your plane, you discover that the only bit of shade within 1 mile has become very popular.

You start calculating the distance to the plane door and wonder . . . "Do I feel lucky today?"

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Strange Piece of Paradise

Back in May I wrote a posting here about the book "Strange Piece of Paradise" by Terri Jentz.

I left it up for three or four days and then took it down, marking it as "draft" so the words were still captured for ME, but no longer available for those who read this blog. I felt way too exposed by having made references in my comments to some of my early trauma history. It creeped me out that people whose esteem I crave would know the bad nasty secrets of my past. So I made the words go away.

I've thought a lot about why I wrote it in the first place, why I took it down, and why after all these years I still have so much struggle with owning the fact that the old horrors should NOT infer any shame on me. Whether or not I ever adequately answer those questions is anybody's guess. It's something that remains deeply unresolved for me.

I've been corresponding some with the author Terri Jentz over the past months. We've been batting around a conversation about the key issue of people standing mute when evil occurs. If I can't even speak out about my own history, how can I expect anyone else to stand up when they see someone being harmed?

I see no need to go on and on about the gorey details or to make those events the centerpiece of my life's story. But by maintaining the iron clad secrecy about it that is my usual pattern I think I do both myself and all victimized children a disservice.

So, all squeemishness aside, I'm reposting my comments about Strange Piece of Paradise, and not editing out the parts that initially made my skin crawl. There are no graphic tales or anything all that self revealing. Still, for me even saying this much felt like swollowing a coarse stone. Truth be told, I really don't care so much about the "strangers" who might read this. But those folks I know in the real world who are likely to see it...that's the part that gives me pause. I have no doubt that in the days and weeks to come I'll have plenty of opportunities to process that discomfort further and maybe learn from it some.

Terri will be coming back to central Oregon the end of this month to give a "town hall" sort of meeting to talk about the issue of why people look away or keep silent in the face of evil. She will be speaking at Paulina Springs bookstore in Sisters, Oregon, on July 28th at 6:30. Should be an interesting group there, including many who know players in the story. I'm not sure my schedule will permit me to go, but I aim to try if I can arrange it.

Whether I make it there in body or not, I'm definitely with Terri in spirit and wish her every success. Her ability to reclaim her life after an unspeakable crime that nearly killed her speaks volumes to the strength of her core self. I don't know her personally, so I can't really say how much she has actually moved on or how much her life remains intertwined with those events of over 20 years ago. But either way, it seems to me she has taken some very positive steps by fully owning what happened to her and being willing to explore the impact of those events.

While I certainly have no intention of writing a book or going on tour to talk about my own harms there is still much I can learn from her candor.

So here's the post. Hopefully, this time I'll have the guts to let it stand.


I just finished listening to a very powerful audio book, Strange Piece of Paradise by Terri Jentz.

I am both haunted and affirmed by this book.

Ms Jentz and her Yale roommate survived a horrific attack while camping near Redmond, OR in 1977. A man deliberately drove over the top of the tent they were sleeping in, then went after the both of them with an ax. It is an absolute miracle that either girl lived through it at all, let alone that they were both able to go on to have powerful, productive lives.

The book chronicles her investigation into that crime which was never solved.

The "true crime" genre generally does not appeal to me at all. However, this book is so much more than that. The word pictures Jentz paints are as breathtaking as the peaked mountains of the area where she was nearly killed. Her book is just the right mix of personal account and social commentary. Her skill with language keeps the reader engaged, maintaining a taunt story with sometimes harrowing details, yet is not overwhelming. Her training in English Literature at Yale definitely shows.

While I've never had to endure the sort of crime Jentz experienced, her depiction of disassociation in the beginning of the book is all too familiar to me. I know that sort of splitting. I also know what it's like to wake up from nightmares years after an assault and feel the creepiness of dream dancing with memory shudder through my skin.

Her tenacious determination to track down the truth of what really happened to her that night leads her to discoveries about evil that go beyond most people's imagination...yet perhaps even more disconcerting is her realization that despite the fact that dozens of people either knew or suspected who did this terrible crime the perpetrator was never arrested, never prosecuted, never punished.

This is why Jentz's story is so riveting for me. While our traumas were very, very different, I know something of the incredulity and impotent rage one feels when others stand by seeing the bad thing happen, having the power to intervene, but instead do NOTHING. Coming to terms with that is something I expect I will do battle with in one fashion or another until I am in my grave.

I get it that there is badness. But I am more harmed, and I believe our culture as a whole is more damaged, by the failure of decent people to stand up and speak out against evil than we are by the consequences of the evil itself.

While the legal outcomes are very different, there are some parallels to what went on in Bend and Redmond, Oregon in the '70s and the case of Kitty Genovese who was murdered outside her apartment in 1964 while dozens of neighbors did nothing to intervene.

At the time of the Genovese murder the press went crazy with statements about how urban living led to such a shameful and wanton lack of regard for a fellow human being. A considerable amount of research and discussion into the social phenomena of "diffusion of responsibility" and "bystander effect" was done for years afterwards. I still teach those very principles in my own sociology courses. They are key principles we social scientists cut our academic teeth on.

But Jenz's story gives clear evidence that even in small town America people can refuse to see or acknowledge danger/evil in their midst. The reasons for this are complex, and unravelling THAT has been the heart of my own journey.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Jury Duty

Today I must appear in the Umatilla County Courthouse for jury duty. I am amazed by how many people I've talked to who have offered tips for how I can get out out this obligation. Frankly, I have misgivings about a legal system where a person's fate is decided by 12 people who had nothing better to do or couldn't come up with a credible excuse.

I've served on a Grand Jury before, where I went in every week for about three months to meet with prosecuters and other jurors to review charges from various cases (usually 10-12 each week) to determine whether or not there was sufficient evidence to hold the plaintiff for trial. But the only time I've had to be on a regular jury where I helped decide innocence or guilt was many years ago and that was just traffic court.

I have no idea whether I'll be selected today to be on a seated jury or if I'll get sent home. But I'm open to participating in the process.

Granted, that could throw a monkey wrench into my plans for a long weekend holiday. I'm scheduled to have Wednesday through Friday off from work and have been looking forward to the break for months. Obviously I will have Wednesday off regardless, since that is a holiday so courts will be closed. But I could potentially end up having to go back to court Thursday and Friday. So be it. If it happens, I'll go with no whining. As stated by the Constitutional Rights Foundation: "In the American system of government, power derives from the consent of the governed. That power is expressed in two fundamental institutions: the voting booth and the jury box. " I think it's pretty important that folks take both seriously.

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