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.

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