Sunday, November 30, 2008

Feeling Festive

Between our many trips into Walla Walla over the past several days to haul the dozens of boxes from the major donation I've been working on, somehow I found time to dig out our Christmas stuff and get our place decorated.

In addition to putting up the tree, I put out several of the many manger scenes I have collected over the years and have got a few favorite house decorations that have become a tradition for us over the years.

However, this place is a lot smaller than our old house in Athena, so there simply is not room for a lot of the things I used to enjoy displaying for the holiday. No matter. I've learned to adapt and improvise.

A Man Out Standing in his Field

One more post about the man I love...

My beloved is a field researcher. He has spent the past 37 years doing experiments of one sort or another on various agricultural chemicals.

Here in this picture he is out working on his variety tolerance test. Basically what he does is stick all those little stakes that you see in the ground to mark off plots that are about 6 foot by 30 feet. Each plot gets a different code number. The ground has been planted with six different kinds of wheat. Each variety gets four different treatments of herbicides. Then my handsome man goes out to gaze at this field two or three times throughout the season to rate whether or not there was any damage to the wheat from any of the different rates of the various types of chemicals. He rates any damage on a percentage scale and compares that to the untreated controls. This particular test has 96 sticks in the ground separating out the various treatment rates, and the one next to it has 168 sticks. There's another behind it that has 200. And that's only about half of the test plots he has out. So he is using that fancy pants scientific graduate degree of his to put sticks in the ground much of the time!

Other tests he is currently working on include weed control in grass grown for seed, and weed control with several different chemicals in wheat.

Over the years he has worked with insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, plant growth regulators and just about any kind of pest control you can imagine. He has done tests in cotton fields, citrus and vegetables in Arizona, corn, soybeans and fruit in the Midwest, tree fruits in Washington and now he works with wheat and grass here in Oregon. I tease him sometimes that working with all those chemicals is going to make his belly button glow in the dark. But he's careful and he's smart. He does important work that helps farmers understand what chemicals work and what do not, what rates are safe and how to maximize crops.

Many people think we'd be way better off to quit using chemicals all together and go back to the "natural" ways of farming. But it simply isn't realistic for us to be able to feed the world without relying on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Manure has its place (they use it here at the farm where we live), but it also has its limitations. With the agribusiness industry farming hundreds of thousands of acres there is no way to deal with weeds and bugs by hand. So if they are going to use chemical interventions to increase productivity, I'm glad there are people like my husband who do the research and development work to make sure what chemicals are safest under what conditions rather than just willy nilly pouring out poisons like people used to do with DDT.

Part of the time he is a farmer, out on a tractor planting crops. Part of the time he is a scientist compiling and analyzing data to measure the results of his tests. Part of the time he is a business man meeting with growers to give presentations and answer questions about what works and what doesn't.

Having grown up on a farm in Millard County, Utah he learned from a very early age the value of hard work and over the years has developed a work ethic with more integrity than anyone else I know. He works hard when there's work to be done. When the job is done he won't stand around trying to look busy. He either moves on to the next task or goes fishing. He's extremely responsible and dependable.

Can ya tell yet that I really, REALLY admire this guy?

I love his sense of humor and his sense of adventure. But I truly respect what a hard worker he is and all the things he has done to support our family over the years.

Tomorrow he turns 63. So I baked him a pineapple upside down cake from scratch and we'll spend the evening playing board games and visiting with friends.

Happy Birthday sweetie...wishing you many, many more.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Another Meme

I picked this one up over at Booklogged's blog, and since I'm procrastinating cleaning my kitchen I thought I'd post this instead:

7 things I've done before
1. Ridden as a passenger in an old Plymouth going 90 miles an hour down a small town airport runway in the middle of the night .
2. Eaten moose, cobra, chinchilla, and Vegemite. I'd repeat any of them EXCEPT the Vegemite. NASTY STUFF!
3. Gotten into the wrong car leaving the video store and spent several minutes of utter confusion as to why my keys would not go in the ignition. (Hey, it was dark!)
4. Won an art contest on the Wallace and Ladmo show (old kid's TV show in Arizona.) Don't be impressed. I started a picture but messed up, so I sort of scribbled over it and then did my masterpiece on the other side of the paper. They held the WRONG SIDE up on TV and it was upside down besides. Oh well, I still got my prize.
5. Gone skinny dipping with friends in a remote canyon only to be intruded upon by a hiking band of boy scouts.
6. Walked on stilts.
7. Walked into the boys bathroom at my high school by mistake.

7 things I do now
1. Walk the dog
2. Commute
3. Daydream
4. Play way too much spider solitaire when I can't sleep
5. Frequently lose my keys
6. fly kites
7. ponder big ideas

7 things I want to do
1. Get my whole office clean - not just move it all around and hide stuff, but really once and for all deal with all those papers and pictures and stuff that's never been unpacked since July and ORGANIZE IT.
2. Find shoes that are BOTH cute AND comfortable. Buy 10 pair.
3. Get back into doing stained glass again
4. Travel to New Zealand
5. Figure out Isaiah
6. Find more time for play
7. Get comfortable working with Angel

7 things that attract me to the opposite sex
1. Someone who makes me laugh
2. Confidence without cockiness
3. Ability and willingness to maintain prolonged eye contact (a rare thing!)
4. Definitely prefer beards to clean shaven on MOST guys
5. Ability & willingness to listen to me vent without trying to fix the problem or otherwise offer advice
6. Sincerity
7. Clean smell - no cologne, just man & soap.

7 Favorite Foods
1. Fresh pineapple
2. my brother's green chili
3. baklava
4. funeral potatoes with Ritz cracker crumb crust
5. Shanoa's pot roast
6. a good salad
7. almost any soup

7 things I Say Most Often:
1. It is what it is.
2. Where are my keys?
3. Did you water the plants?
4. Outstanding!
5. How can I support you right now?
6. I appreciate that.
7. I've got your back.

Ok - enough already. Now I've REALLY gotta finish that kitchen!

As Seen on TV...

As I said in my last posting, I truly do adore my husband. But one of his characteristics that I tease him about endlessly is that he is a total sucker for gadgets and gizmos sold on TV. Give that man a remote and a credit card and he can be dangerous~!

His latest find. SHAM WOW! He's been wanting this for months. I have discouraged him, telling him we just plain don't need it. But his birthday is Monday. And what he wanted more than anything else was a silly old Sham Wow. Good grief! So we went to Shopko, one of his favorite stores because they have a whole aisle of "As Seen on TV" products. He's pretty tickled to get it.

He also picked up a Food Saver vacuum sealer. My man loves his gadgets.

SOME of the things that he's purchased on TV have actually been great. My absolute favorite is the set of plastic food containers he got. They come in 3 sizes, all using the same blue lids and the whole set stacks together into a lazy susan type holder that keeps 'em all organized in the cupboard. Very handy!

I also have appreciated the Green Bags. Those things actually work!

TOTAL waste: Pedi Paws, (Morgan won't stand for it), all sorts of fishing stuff, (not just my bias - the man himself admits those lures that were supposed to wiggle backwards were no darn good), battery-free flashlights (you have to shake them till your arm is ready to fall off to get even a glimmer of light) and swivel sweepers. (they do NOT pick up well at all, just give me a darn broom.)

He's bought fishing poles, a beard trimmer, fancy razor he no longer uses,and who knows what all else. The guy just can't pass this stuff up.

YES, I roll my eyes and chuckle ever time he falls for another one. MOST of it I am quite certain is going to be a waste. But what the heck. He does not smoke, does not drink, does not gamble, does not chase other women, would never raise his voice at me let alone a fist. If his one vice is to be a total sucker for "As Seen on TV" gizmos and gadgets, I can live with that.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Anniversary

Today was my husband and my 27th anniversary. We didn't go out to dinner or do anything especially romantic. We worked together most the day moving furniture and boxes of household stuff that a family in Walla Walla was donating to my agency.

I was contacted by a man who said he and his brother were both flying in from out of town (one back east and one coming from Alaska) to clear out his parents house which was in the process of being sold. Since neither of them were local and they didn't want to pay to ship stuff home they decided to donate most of it to a worthy cause. So, they are giving it all to the non profit organization that I run...which will be LOTS of work for me, but great for the clients my agency serves. Since they only had short time before both of them were scheduled to fly back home again it was important that we get everything out of the house over the last few days.

I took 2 loads on Wednesday with my SUV filled to the brim. Then Thursday after stuffing ourselves with Turkey, pie and all the trimmings my husband and I hauled a load in his pickup with a borrowed trailer filled as well. We did another load today and have one more to pick up tomorrow. It will be weeks of sorting to figure out what is in all those boxes and figuring out how to put it to best use. Much of it we will have no need for and will simply pass on to partnering organizations - but in order to get the parts we DID want I agreed to take it all.

I had equal parts of feeling gratitude and being overwhelmed by the sheer bulk of it all. But most of all I really appreciated my husband's willingness to spend a big chunk of his holiday weekend helping me with this project.

Afterwards we came home to eat turkey leftovers. Then we curled up on the couch and watched Spiderwick Chronicles together. We kept the celebrating fairly low key. Still all in all, it was a pretty good day.

We've done a lot of exciting, exotic things over the years, my man and me. We've taken trips to Egypt, to Costa Rica, to Fiji, and other places all over this country. Many of our anniversaries have been marked by sparkles and fun. This time around we felt satisfied just sticking close to home and taking care of what needed to get done.

Marriage is a complicated endeavor. I've been richly blessed by the union I share with this guy. We are nearly a generation apart in age and VERY different in our interests, opinions, tastes and attitudes. We cancel each other out at most elections and our preferences in music, books, food and many other parts of life are about as far apart as the north and south poles. Yet somehow we manage to merge into a partnership of trust, intimacy, humor, strength and spirit that rocks my world.

There is something about a long term union like we have that is incredibly comforting, even during those times when one or the other or both of us must make sacrifices or forgo our own interests for the sake of the team. We truly are partners, he and I, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

So happy anniversary to you, my beloved. (he's not a blog reader and has only looked at this one once or twice when I specifically asked his input on something I'd written, so I don't expect him to ever see this...but still, I will say it to him anyway. Love ya babe. Lets go build another 20 yrs. Hopefully there will be many more years, many more pictures as we keep building adventures and memories together. I am so richly blessed to be with this man!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I've been screening some different movies for possible inclusion on a list of films for one of the project options my Sociology students have to choose from. (Currently there are five options. The topics are quite varied, but the methodology for all of them is the same - to do structured interviews and then write a paper about it. I decided to throw in one alternative that centered on media analysis rather than interview.)

The movie I saw tonight was Disfigured - a movie about women and weight. I figured it might be appropriate during the unit we do on the Looking Glass Self - Charles H. Cooley's term for how our social environment influences the way we view ourselves.

On the back of the video it says: "Lydia is a fat, graceful woman struggling to maintain her identity in fashionable Venice Beach, California. Though she is a member of a Fat Acceptance Group (a movement dedicated to fighting prejudice against fat people) she still struggles with complex feelings about her body and its place in the world. Darcy, a recovering-anorexic real estate agent, is struggling with the same issues from a very different perspective. Her attempt to join the Fat Acceptance Group (since she sees herself as fat) is quickly rejected--but it introduces her to Lydia. Though they seem at first to be each others worst nightmare, Lydia and Darcy begin to confide in each other. Meeting warily in the social minefield's of hunger and satisfaction, anger and femininity, sexuality and fashion, trust and fear...they become friends."

I'm not sure what I think of this film. It had no rating, but had it gone through that process would certainly have earned an R for language and nudity. (There is one sex scene that starts out tastefully cut to give the sense of it without revealing too much and then all of a sudden goes across the line, at least for my tastes).

Still, there is much of value in the film - disturbingly so.

Both the obese woman and the frighteningly thin woman in this movie are struggling with feelings of disgust and loathing for their bodies. They are trying to break through and conquer that self hatred, to learn to appreciate and embrace who they are as they are. Why is that so hard?

There is so much in our culture that teaches us to feel inadequate, that we do not fit, do not measure up.

Jen has been addressing some of these issues over on her blog Lords of the Manner, and is hosting a Self Esteem Carnival on Dec 2.

I'll be very interested to read what others have to say on this topic, and if I have time to pull something coherent together may contribute a piece as well.

I encourage any of you other bloggers who stop by here to consider posting something on the subject and linking it in to Jen's carnival.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What is Success?

In the principles of sociology class I teach online we do a unit where we discuss the impact of various groups on our perceptions and behavior. One of my favorites to teach about is "Reference Groups" which are those whose opinions and standards we use to evaluate ourselves.

How successful I feel in any given endeavor will depend on who I look to as a reference group. If I consider other fat middle aged ladies as my reference group for my skill at basketball or bowling or any kind of physical sport I can honestly say I can do reasonably well. (OK, maybe not at bowling - I am one who definitely benefits from gutter guards.) But if I looked to members of the NBA or Olympic athletes to measure my expertise I would look very bad indeed.

Who I define as my reference group is going to determine what standards I adopt for what "good enough" or "great" means in just about every thing I do or am. Every term I have students who say "I just go by my own standards, I don't compare myself to anyone else." I don't buy it. Our own standards are things we have internalized by observing others.

During our current economic free fall I have heard different people comparing notes about what percentage of their assets they have lost in the stock market, or at what point they jumped ship, took the hit and got out of the market. Is it BETTER to ride the wave and hope it comes back or to bail when you can to preserve what you have left? That all depends on who your reference groups are. What seems terribly foolhardy to some is considered gutsy by others.

What makes me feel "successful"? How do I define it? How do I measure it?
There have been a lot of good quotes about success... One of my favorites lately is from Winstin Churchill who said:
"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm"

Friday, November 21, 2008

What Type Are You?

My dear pal Jaquandor did a link dump of various things of interest he picked up during his recent hiatus (which thank GOD is finally OVER!)

One of the things he shared with Typealyzer - a gizmo that analyzes a blog to spit out a Myers-Briggs personality type based on content of postings.

Accoding to Mind-Muffins, here's how I rate:

ISTP - The Mechanics
The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

But when I put in my Life-by-Design blog it comes up with:

ISFP - The Artists
The gentle and compassionate type. They are especially attuned their inner values and what other people need. They are not friends of many words and tend to take the worries of the world on their shoulders. They tend to follow the path of least resistance and have to look out not to be taken advantage of.

They often prefer working quietly, behind the scene as a part of a team. They tend to value their friends and family above what they do for a living.

Then I put in my Apprentice Human blog and I get:

ESFP - The Performers
The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

Last of all I put in my private blog that is restricted for my eyes only and came up with :

INTP - The Thinkers
The logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

Uh, ok. So what do I think of this little gizmo? Not sure. But interesting to consider.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Learning New Things

BlackBoard,the platform that I've used to teach my two online classes for the past six years, is going away. The Washington State community college system has opted to switch to a different system called Angel. According to the promo information "Colleges and universities worldwide choose ANGEL to deliver powerful online teaching and learning experiences. ANGEL provides a simple and easy to use system, a powerful and rich feature set, and an openness that integrates into today's diverse educational environment."

It's very possible that Angel MIGHT be better. It's also possible that it is not better, but is simply more cost effective for the schools. Either way, for me it means learning a whole new way of doing things and rebuilding my courses from the ground up. With everything else I've got going on in my life right now, I have felt rather overwhelmed about digging into this completely unfamiliar terrain.

My reticince to start working with the tutorials made me recognize something.

Sometimes I stick with something familiar even when there is something way better within my grasp simply because I like the comfort of what I know.

Even when that "comfort" is not so comfortable.

I think many of us form habits of things we do, how we think and/or emotions we typically default to long after they clearly no longer make sense simply because they are FAMILIAR.

MANY organizations I've been affiliated with have policies or practices based on "that's the way we've always done it" even if it makes no sense.

Far too many of the people I've known, MYSELF INCLUDED, have allowed themseves to fall into the trap of staying stuck in relationships or work paths or value systems long after they have proven to be more harm than good.

Why is change so intimidating? Why is it we so often believe that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't?

It can be very unsettling to step off into the abyss of the unknown - striking out toward a new way of thinking, doing or being. Whether it means converting to a new religion, changing your college major, ending an unhealthy relationship and starting a new one (or learning to be solo for the first time), changing jobs, beginning retirement, or any other way we embrace change... It's hard sometimes to give up our native language way of relating to the world, to others, to ourselves, even when we know that the old system does not serve us. But CHANGE is inevitable. It's high time I started being a bit more welcoming of the transitions that come, even the bumpy ones, rather than naming them my foes.

I know one thing that clearly holds me back from trying new things. I LOVE mastery and avoid doing badly at things whenever I can. But for MOST new skills you have to tolerate mediocrity for an extended period before mastery emerges. While logically I recognize that I limit myself if I allow my fear of failure to hold me back from trying someting new, history tells me I've done it a lot. The reason I don't speak Spanish or play the piano is because I hated the practice required that repeatedly exposed me to my incompetence, so I bailed out before I gave myself a chance to develop real competence.

One of the members of my board of directors said to me recently: "A lot of people say if a thing is worth doing it is worth doing well. That's all well and good. But they need to recognize that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing BADLY until you CAN do it well. Rome wasn't built in a day and developing new abilities sometimes takes time."

There is wisdom in those words.

So I'll jump in and do the best I can to learn Angel. I will also try to be more open in other areas of my life, to understand that change does not have to be my enemy. There are SOME things that are very much worth holding on to come hell or high water. But there are other things that can be appreciated and savored for a time, and then let go of without lessening the value they once held.

The trick is sorting out which is which.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Deciding What We Want to Be When We Grow Up

This morning I got a message from a guy over on Facebook asking for input on whether or not to change his major to Sociology.

As I crafted my answer to him I pondered some about the circuitous route many of us take in finding our life path.

When I was a kid playing imaginary games I NEVER thought "I want to be a Sociologist when I grow up!" It just sort of happened. Like many in the field, I was seduced into the study by the influence of a very charismatic instructor who made me feel like understanding SOC was akin to having a secret de-coder ring. Every situation I looked at took on new implications of meaning when viewed from the sociological perspective.

Then, when work started coming my way as a result of my SOC contacts that reaffirmed for me that I was on the right path.

But how do we really CHOOSE what area of study is the best fit?

As I told George, NO MATTER WHAT we major in, it is possible to get stuck in a dead end job or not be able to find a job, and NO MATTER WHAT we study it is possible to find a niche that fits. My kid brother got a heavy duty degree in materials engineering from MIT and then went into banking. Go figure.

It is an illusion to think that any certain certificate from any certain college will lead to "the good life." But the networking with professors and others in the field can sure help to open some doors.

I'm curious. For those of you who read this who have the blessing of a college education, how did you decide what to study? For those who never went to college - if it were handed to you on a silver platter, what would you LIKE to study?

How much do you think it makes sense to plan and design your life's work and how much of it is getting out of your own way and watching it unfold?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bond DUD

On Saturday my husband and brother and I went to go see Quantum of Solace, the new James Bond film.

NOT my kind of movie. chase chase, boom boom, kiss kiss, more boom boom - NO DISCERNABLE PLOT, shoddy editing, Has a few nice shots of Austria, Italy and South America. But I was not particularly entertained.

I like movies where special effects and elaborate stunts are strategically placed to ENHANCE the film rather than becoming the whole point.

This movie COULD HAVE tapped into some complex things.... loyalty, revenge, betrayal, redemption. But the pace did not allow for much development of any of that. Consequently, I never got invested enough in the outcome to build suspense. I just watched it play out, knowing that no matter how many explosions or harrowing battles there were our 007 hero would come out with barely having his hair mussed.

I still like the old Bond movies...but this new one leaves me flat.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


My oldest brother came for a visit (he lives in Santa Fe, NM) and we have had the most delicious time visiting. I can talk to him at a level that I share with no one else.

One of the topics we have discussed has been work... what we are willing to give to it, what we expect back from it, how it impacts the rest of our lives.

EVERY job I have ever had (even the really stinky ones) have had elements that were satisfying, and EVERY job I have had (even my very favorite positions) have had parts to them that I did not like.

How we each strike a balance between how much satisfaction we need and how much distasteful parts we are willing to endure is different for everyone.

Here is what I have figured out about me in terms of work:

1) It is important to me to believe in what I do. I cannot do jobs that I think are exploitive, harmful or unethical.

2) It is important to me to feel mastery is possible. I really REALLY want to be good at what I do. I know there is always learning curve involved when I start something new, but I have to believe I will have the tools and support to eventually get proficient at whatever I am assigned to do.

3)My physical environment matters. I cannot stand working in cubicles. While I can certainly share space with others, having some degree of access to privacy matters a lot to me.

4) I need at least one ally I can trust. Recently I had an experience at work where I erred in how much I said to someone. I shared information I should have kept to myself, it got back to others in a way I did not expect it to and then reflected badly on both me and my agency. OUCH. I won't do that again. Still, I do know that I need to identify someone I CAN be open with and vent to when things are nutty. I just need to be more careful of who that is and even when I choose well, STILL need to have some caution in levels of disclosure. Once information is out of my mouth I have no control over where it goes. So I need to do a better job of recognizing how open/authentic I can be when I am in my work role.

5. I need to learn how to turn it off. I woke up at 4:30 this morning thinking about work, fretting over some of the challenges I have facing me. It's SUNDAY. I should be able to focus on a day of rest, worship, connection with my real life and my spirituality this Sabbath day - NOT worrying over what I have coming up in the next few days. There will be time enough for that as it unfolds. This is something I'm not sure how to get better at. I have this pilot light of concern about my job that seldom goes out, and at times I let it consume way too much of my energy.

I've been at my current job for 3 months now. In some ways it feels like a very good match. In some ways not. I do admit I have reservations about how long I'll be able to maintain this sort of role.

Lately I've been frustrated, discouraged and overwhelmed about some aspects of my job that I have no control over. I'm hoping I can shift that so I can focus more on the areas I do have some ability to influence and let go of railing against some of the things I simply cannot change. For now, I'm trying to regroup and commit to doing the very best job I can there. I want to stay open to the lessons it has to teach me, and to make the best contribution I can.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pondering Pain

Recently I have been giving some thought to how I relate to suffering.
(My own, that of those close to me, the hurting of people on my social periphery and that of total strangers.)

I have a very, VERY dear friend who is struggling with breast cancer. I have a cousin my age who is facing a mastectomy next week for the same thing. I have a sister-in-law whose sister has ovarian cancer. And tonight at a church function I learned of a fellow parishioner who has cancer.

The big C seems to be where ever I turn.

But cancer certainly is not the only culprit. One of my uncles died a few days ago, leaving my aunt bereft and grieving. My sister's MS is escalating in new ways that are interfering with her life.

My brother's job is highly stressful, at times completely overwhelming him.
My son's lack of a job is overwhelming him.

I know people whose relationships are fractured and furious.

I know people who are feeling deep angst over other things.

There's the crisis in the economy, the casualties in the war.
There's pain of body, pain of mind, deep sorrow of the spirit. Every way I turn it seems there is struggle and hurting.

How much of that do I let seep down into my own heart?

Back when I was working in the mental health world I attended a training about "the helper's pit." The idea was for us to learn to maintain professional boundaries, recognizing that if I jump down in a pit with someone who is hurting then my increase in empathy is directly related to my reduced ability to offer any kind of meaningful support, because now I'm in the very same boat.

In a work setting that made a certain amount of sense. But what about when the one hurting in my neighbor, my sister, my friend? Does the same rule apply?

Whether in working with troubled clients or living in troubled times, how much of other people's pain do I own and how much distance from it do I retreat to? My capacity for compassion matters a lot. But if I completely take in every nuance of sorrow that surrounds me I am not able to function. My heart tumbles and turns with sorrow, dismay, disappointment, outrage. At some point I need to be able to back away from it. Yet how do I know how far to back away?

How much is enough? How do I find that balance? How do I find INTERNAL PEACE when being immersed in this very unpeaceful world??

I do not know the answers. I do not know what criteria to lean on.

All I know is that there is much hurting in this fallen mortal world.
And it is difficult indeed to watch people I love go through such struggle.
I pray long and hard for each of these people, and then for the countless others who are also suffering outside the reach of my understanding.

and I keep asking myself .... When and why does it matter to me what happens to another? What if I don't know them personally, but have SOME sort of connection (same faith, same town, same whatever...) that seems give us common ground.
Or does any of that matter? Can I allow the sorrow of others clear across the world who have nothing in common with me other than our shared humanity be significant?

How much does a total stranger's hurting touch my spirit?
How much does YOUR pain become mine?

Where is the middle ground between too much feeling caring and callousness?

And then I spin it and wonder... how much do I expect another to care about my hurt feelings, my worry, my grief?

What connects us? What stands us apart?

I admit there have been times when I've heard of some terrible thing that happened to someone else I've been grateful and relieved that it had not been anyone in my family that had to endure such a harmful blow. I was not happy the other person had to suffer. But if suffering had to come, I was just glad it was not me or mine.

I know from past experience that some of the painful things that have come my way have taught me a lot, given me new strength, fostered a deeper understanding of others. Still, I do not welcome adversity or thank it for the teaching it will bring. I cringe from it. I sometimes resent it. I flee from it if I can. When forced to stay and face it I grit my teeth and endure it as best I can. But I do not view hard times as blessings that help me grow, even though I know they are.

As I get older I recognize that pain is going to come more and more often...
pain in the form of losing people I love
pain in the form of sickness and physical limitation
pain in the form of heartache for others who are suffering
pain in all its many faces will be my companion in abundance
of that I am sure.

How I choose to respond to those opportunities will in many ways define me...

Will I hide my head in the sand or try to bolt the door when hurting comes calling? Or will I open the door and let it in with equanimity?
And what will that mean for me?

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Last weekend my beloved and I had a chance to go to Ohio to visit some old friends. We lived in Ohio 1982-1986, first in Cuyohoga county (Parma) and then in Lorain County (Elyria). Those were good years. I was a young stay-at-home mom raising my two rambunctious boys and my sweetie had his hands full doing agricultural research for a private chemical company. We haven't been back in over 20 years, but when we heard there was going to be a 25-year reunion of the the people from our church who were around when the congregation first started we knew we wanted to go. My husband was in the first bishopric of the newly formed Elyria ward and I was RS president for a while, so we were pretty involved.

It was so good to see people from that time in our lives and to drive around looking at places we remembered well.

Lots of changes since that time. Part of the town were barely recognizable to us. But one of our favorite spots, Cascade Park, was still pretty much the same. This is where our boys played soccer every fall, went sledding in the winters, and where we had lots of family picnics in the the summertimes.

We attempted to find a geocache hidden there but got stuck in the mud - LITERALLY. We walked off the main trail up to some rocks where the cache was supposed to be. I sank up past my ankles in deep goo. I squirmed and pulled trying to get my feet out. My right foot came out - shoe stayed behind. Then when I twisted to try to get my left foot free I lost my balance and ended up smack on the cold wet ground making mud angels. NOT good considering we were on our way to the airport to fly home and now I was totally covered in mud. We got out our suitcase and found me something presentable to wear but my shoes were a total loss. I wore my glamorous blue fuzzy slippers home looking like I had smurf feet.

So we never did find the cache.

But mud and all we had a great visit. It was a quick trip flying out Friday and coming home Monday, but it was worth every minute.

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