Friday, December 15, 2006

CLOSING DOWN SHOP

Well, I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't make much sense to maintain BOTH this blog and my other one over at Mind-Muffins. I write in the other one much more consistently.

For a while I tended to use the other blog for annonymous world conversations about big ideas and kept this one primarily for friends and family ... a place to post the comings and goings of my regular life and my spiritual ponderings.

Lately though, I've been more inclined to just integrate it all together at the other site...

So I'm probably not going to be posting much here anymore. From time to time I may show up, but then again maybe not.

I've appreciated all those who chose to read my ramblings and make comments. If you care to catch up with any more of what I have to say, I'll meet you over on Mind-Muffins.

Cheers,

LJB

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Growing up Fast


On Thanksgiving day my beautiful young grand-daughter, Kaylie Sierra, turned 12 years old. I am amazed by what a lovely young woman she is growing up to be.

Because I live many hundreds of miles away from Kaylie, I do not get to visit her near as often as I would like to. But I have pictures of her and her siblings all over my house and in my office at work to help me remember them each and every day. They are never far from my thoughts.

Kaylie has had some big challenges in her 12 years. Her parents split up when she was just a baby and it has been difficult going back and forth between mom's house and dad's house, trying to figure out what was truly "home". Also, she has had to move more times than I can count, between Michigan, Oregon, North Carolina...too often having to say goodbye to special friends. Looks like there may still be more moves yet to come. I know that is hard for her.

Recently she faced the challenge of new family dynamics as she gained a step-mom and four new siblings with her dad's recent marriage. That can't have been easy.

But through it all, Kaylie has developed a wonderful personality, has lots of talents and is genuinely one of the nicest people I know. (of course, proud grandma that I am, I'm not one bit biased!) Honestly, even if she were not my grand daughter, I would be proud to know her just because of the fine person she is. She's smart as a whip, has a wonderfully curious mind about the world, and is just plain fun to be with.

So happy birthday to you my dear Kaylie. Know that even though I'm far away, not a day goes by that I don't think of you and that I love you very, very much!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Giving Thanks


As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I am feeling very grateful for so many things. Blessings that come to mind in no particular order include:

Clean running water that is safe to drink.

A husband who is kind, gentle and generous, and supremely patient with my unconventional ways that sometimes go beyond his comfort zone.

High speed internet .

A refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom - I honestly don't know why they are made any other way!

Rich relationships with siblings, cousins, friends, children, grandchildren.

The gift of literacy.

Fresh tomatoes from our garden, picked green before the frost that were wrapped carefully in newspaper and stowed away in the basement. LOVELY to have such yummies just now getting ripe in chilly November!

The new PalmPilot I got for my birthday from my brother. Thanks Wayne!

But most of all, of course, is the knowledge that I am a child of God and that He has a plan for me. I'm still trying to figure out what that plan is, but I've learned to trust that ALL things will ultlimately work out for good as I trust in Him.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Miracle of Manna


Ever since I was a little kid I’ve heard the stories of Moses leading the children of Israel through the wilderness and how they lived on something called Manna. More recently, I’ve studied the life of St. Mary of Egypt and pondered long and hard the lessons she had to teach me. But all of that was done with the mindset of the word “desert” or “wilderness” being interpreted from my own cultural experience. I grew up in Arizona where we have desert that is lush with cactus, wildflowers and other plants. A variety of birds, reptiles and mammals roam the land. I could well imagine someone surviving there. Granted, it would be difficult and painful at times. But it seemed possible to me.

Now that I’ve seen the Sinai, the whole concept of wandering in the wilderness takes on a whole new meaning for me. I am in awe that anyone could stay alive in that land. The miracle of manna holds a whole new sense of the miraculous. For miles and miles there is nothing but sand and rock. On first impression it seems like utter wasteland not even a lizard would claim. But after being there a while, I truly could sense why it would be the perfect place to let the soul grow quiet and learn to put absolute trust on the Lord.

Choosing the Sacred

One of the places we visited in Egypt was St. Katherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai. It was an amazing experience that touched my soul in ways difficult to express.

One of the things that was reaffirmed to me there was the importance of choosing to acknowledge the sacred in all of life, and to give special reverence to those places I know to be holy.

Bus loads of tourists come to see this place. In a few areas it was quite crowded with people from all over the world pointing, gawking, aiming video cameras and the like.

As I approached the chapel of the Burning Bush, I had to very willfully put out of my mind the crush of people all around talking and taking pictures so that I could go quiet inside to pray in this sacred place. I closed my eyes and opened up my heart as I repeated the Jesus Prayer for each of my Orthodox friends back home and then turned my spirit to more open communion with my Heavenly Father to seek repentance, to seek council of the Holy Spirit, to lift my face to the sky as a daughter of God.

In that moment it really didn't matter how many tourists were there. All that mattered was that I knew some powerful truths were being revealed to my mind if I were willing to accept them.

So it is each day - even here in my small town in Oregon. I can allow myself to get caught up in the busy events of daily life and focus on the problems of the world. Or I can choose to keep an eternal perspective, allowing myself to be open to the teachings of the Spirit day by day. The choice is mine. I don't have to go half way around the world to seek inspiration. While it was indeed a significant privilege to visit this holy site, I know that God can come to me in all times, in all places, if I will but go quiet inside and seek him.

Foods of Egypt


One of the standard foods in Egypt is Pita bread. Every few blocks we would see street vendors like this one selling bread from their carts. Sometimes we'd see veiled women walking with huge platters stacked high with bread carried on their heads.

There were also lots of fruits and vegetables. We passed by fields where they grew the most giant cabbages I've ever seen. The land around the Nile delta is very fertile, and much valued for the agriculture possible there, which is important since so much of the country is harsh desert where nothing grows at all.

In the suburbs of "New Cairo" there are shopping malls with supermarkets very much like what you would find in the United States, but in the old city most everything is sold by street vendors or small shops specializing in one thing - meat or fruit or bread or what have you.

Most of the meat we ate was beef, chicken or lamb. I was told that camel is quite tasty and would have been willing to try it, but alas I never had the opportunity.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Back in the USA


My husband and I have just returned from a 10 day trip to Egypt. It was an amazing journey. For me, this was a true spiritual pilgrimage. While I enjoyed seeing the ancient monuments and the museums, the most significant experiences of this trip were the times we spent in holy places. I spent much time in prayer and pondering. I read my scriptures. I considered all the things I have been taught as I looked into the faces of my brothers and sisters who are the children of Egypt. I asked my heart many questions about what I know to be true. I had some truly sacred experiences during this journey. I will be forever grateful to the Egyptian people for the sincere welcome they offered. In the coming weeks I hope to find time to post more of the pictures and thoughts I had about this trip. I'm thinking long and hard about what it means to me to be an American, a woman, and a Christian in light of the things I saw and felt in the Middle East. I am so deeply grateful for the experiences I was blessed with. At the same time, it feels awfully good to be home.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Madly, Crazy, Wildly in LOVE!

One of the online courses I teach is Sociology of the Family. In the discussion area for that class the students have been debating whether or not it is possible for a single monogamous relationship to meet a couple's emotional needs throughout the life course and if it is realistic to expect such a relationship to remain passionate over many years. The opinions expressed have been all over the map. Some have said YES, that by making the right choices a relationship can continue to grow in power and intimacy. Others have insisted NO, that familiarity will wear the passion out over time.

This was my response:

After a quarter century of marriage I am madly, passionately, crazy in love with my husband. I look at him and I get weak in the knees. Yes, we have the comfortable security of a long term relationship. But we also have that catch in your throat, heat in the loins PASSION raging strong. I know it's possible. I'm living proof.
I know all too well that long term monogamous marriage is a huge challenge that can get derailed by a million and one things if you let it. But if both partners are willing to do the work it takes, the pay off is well worth it. This is a second marriage for both of us so we both know all too well what happens when the relationship is taken for granted or if either partner is more concerned with self than with the union.
Our happiness together is NOT a product of exclusively shiny circumstances. Our marriage has definitely had some big challenges - merging kids from both our first marriages into one family, dealing with the death of a child, an extended period of unemployment, moving eight different times due to corporate mergers, health crisis, you name it! We aren't blissful because it has been easy. We are best friends savoring our lives together because we have learned to operate as a supportive team during the tough times as well as the celebrations.
Life is messy and families are complicated. But YES, marital satisfaction is possible over the long haul. It's one of the greatest blessings of my life.

LJB

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Fish Liberation


Frodo and Sam have gone on a new journey. Not the ones in the Tolkein tale. The ones from my pond.

I have a small pond in my front yard with a bubbling, gurgling waterfall that I love to listen to while sitting out on my porch. Generally I've kept the thing running all winter long by putting a small stock tank heater in it to keep it from icing over.

However, I also have several giant, near 100 year old maple trees that are blanketing the yard (and therefore the pond) with many grand piles of leaves. It's a bit of a battle to keep it clear this time of year.

After giving it some thought, I decided to drain the pond and give the pump a rest for the winter this year. That will allow me to scrub the thing out good, get some new filter material and start fresh in the spring - with the added bonus of not having to keep scooping cold gooey leaves out of the water every few days all autumn long.

However, shutting down the pond for the first time in four years meant I had to find a new home for Frodo and Sam, the two giant Shubunkin fish who made kingdom there. So I scooped them into gallon sized zip log bags of water, put them in a bucket and carted them off to a new pond that happens to be at the college where I work. I walk from my office up to the pond just about every day on my lunch hour just to get some fresh air and exercise. So I'll get to visit my pals and watch them grow in the deeper, larger, more versatile environment. They also now have a whole host of new friends to get acquainted with.

The fish in the college pond are mostly just plain gold fish. I don't know if Shubunkin and goldfish are closely enough related to make babies together...I kinda hope so. My fish are beautiful mottled calico colors of black and white and gold with large, sweeping fins and extra fancy tails. The goldfish are just ordinary, run of the mill goldfish. I think it would be kind of cool if next summer I start to seem some multi-colored babies with long tails show up during my walks there.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Good Old Days

I was fretting over how hectic my life seems to be these days. Here we are living in this modern age full of miracle drugs, amazing technology, high speed travel and all sorts of conveniences, yet our lives seem to be more frazzled and frantic than our pioneer parents. I was thinking that it might have been nice to live in a time when there were fewer demands and not so many choices to make. I sometimes bemoan the sad state of the world and all the ugliness it holds...yeah, I know there is fabulous stuff to celebrate. But sometimes I see the war and greed and disasters of today and I long for simpler times.

And then I came across this scripture verse:

"Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem, and that I could have joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord-- Yea, if my days could have been in those days, then would my soul have had joy in the righteousness of my brethren. But behold, I am consigned that these are my days..." (Helaman 7:7-9)

It seems people have been longing for "the good old days" since way back when. Yet we each must live out whatever days we are given.

I am reminded of the exchange between Frodo and Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring:

Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. ..."

So I take a deep breath and keep plugging along, mastering my challenges as best as I can. I shine some. I fail some. But as long as I keep gettin' back up, I guess that's all that matters.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Refiners Fire

I have no idea who the original author is of the following...it's one of those things that has been traveling around the internet for a while. But I liked it enough to post it here.

*******

Malachi 3:3 says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."

This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.

That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver." She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it could be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith,"How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy -- when I see my image in it."

If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.

Facing Adversity


I've been watching the progress of the Herrin twins since their separation surgery. This family's courage and faith have been truly inspiring. I know the pain and struggle I've had over difficult things that have come up in my own children's lives. I can't even imagine what it would be like to face a challenge like this.

When our children suffer, we suffer. How God holds us, His spirit children, all in His infinite love I will never understand. Sometimes he must shake his head in exasperation at all the knucklehead things we do and situations we get ourselves into. Other times I am sure He weeps with sorry at our pain. Yet, because of His infinite wisdom, He knows that pain is an essential part of this mortal life. So much we cannot comprehend.

Why do terrible things happen to innocents? What purpose is served? What meaning could we / should we give the pain in our lives?

I've been working really hard at developing more of a "thy will be done" attitude in my prayers. I beg the Lord to take away a hurtful situation that is happening for a family member, but in the same prayer I acknowledge that He knows what will ultimately be best for all concerned and that I do understand this fallen, mortal world is a time of suffering for a reason. I can't always see what that reason is. Of course I want painful things to be removed. Even the Savior would have had the bitter cup he faced removed had it been possible...but in the end He said "thy will be done" so that is the path I am trying to take.

I want the things that hurt me or hurt my loved ones to be taken away. You bet I do! Beyond that, when I see the pain and suffering of so many throughout the world, I want to alleviate that hurting in any way I can. I think we MUST try to make the world a better place. Yet we also must acknowledge that pain and suffering will continue, and that part of the lesson of this life is to learn from it.

I'm afraid I still have a long, long way to go....

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Mental illness

Reading a recent post by Matthew triggered a whole bunch of questions in my mind...

In the Sociology course I teach we address the issue that statistically there are way more psychotic people among the "lower class" strata of our society than in other segments. There are two basic theories why this is the case:

1) SOCIAL IMPACT says that the stress of living in poverty, possibly experiencing homelessness, and generally living in more dangerous / unhealthy environments creates pressure that causes some people with a predisposition to mental illness to have a major break that they might not have had if they had experienced a more supportive environment. Meanwhile, according to this theory, there are plenty of people in the middle and upper classes that are more mentally fragile, but because they have reasonably comfortable lives with access to resources, they never fully break out into what we would consider psychosis.

2) SOCIAL DRIFT theory, on the other hand, says that ALL socio-economic groups have an equal occurrence of originally becoming mentally ill, but those that do from the higher classes are more likely to "drift down" in social mobility to the lower classes due to their illness interfering with their ability to cope with life's responsibilities and the healthy folk born into lower classes have the chance to "drift up" through hard work & education, leaving behind those who were ill equipped to make that transition. End result of both sorts of social mobility is more psychotics at the bottom of the ladder.

I suspect there is some of each of these factors at play...

Still others say that there is no such thing as mental illness at all, that it's all a social construct based on certain norms being acceptable and others not but who is to really say what "normal" is?? What is considered flaming crazy in one society may be very acceptable in another. Or, different times in history within the same society will name different types of behavior as "sick" or "ok".

At what point do we think of someone as "sorta quirky" and when do they cross the line into "mental illness"? To what degree should "bad behavior" or criminal acts be excused due to a diagnosed mental illness? How much mental anguish and difficulty should we expect simply because we live in a fallen, mortal world full of adversity and when does personal angst and misery cross over to "clinical depression"?

Lots of question...no clear answers. There is such a trend to medicalize behavior these days in order for individuals to qualify for "help". Things like "adolescent oppositional defiant disorder" used to be called being an out of control kid that needed some discipline. Alcoholism has run the gambit from being viewed as sin or weakness to being a disease. Homosexuality used to be viewed as a form of mental illness. Norms change, those in power take a new vote and suddenly it isn't anymore. Multiple Personality Disorder (now named Disocciative Identity Disorder) was once thought of as a very strange and rare thing.... the diagnostic criteria changed, a few workshops and organizations got popular and suddenly there were hundreds of cases being discovered all across the nation. Specialized units were opened in hospitals and a whole new subspecialty in treatment modalities was born. To what extent do we CREATE conceptions of mental illness in order to generate jobs/industry?

The DSM manual in all it's many incarnations tries to spell everything out clearly and tie it up with a bow....life, in my mind, is more complicated than that.

Power of Love

A dear friend of mine in Arizona sent me this story - AMAZING...just had to share it.

*****
I try to be a good parent. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots. But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.

Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day. Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike.

Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

And what has Rick done for his father? Not much--except save his life. This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs. "He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life;" Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. "Put him in an institution." But the Hoyts weren't buying it.

They noticed the way Rick's eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. "No way," Dick says he was told. "There's nothing going on in his brain." Tell him a joke," Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain.

Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? "Go Bruins!" And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, "Dad, I want to do that." Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described "porker" who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles?

Still, he tried. "Then it was me who was handicapped," Dick says. "I was sore for two weeks." That day changed Rick's life. "Dad," he typed, "when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!" And that sentence changed Dick's life.

He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon. "No way," Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren't quite a single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year. Then somebody said, "Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?" How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried. Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii.

It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don't you think?

Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own? "No way," he says. Dick does it purely for "the awesome feeling" he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together. This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time'? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992--only 35 minutes off the world record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.

"No question about it," Rick types. "My dad is the Father of the Century." And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. "If you hadn't been in such great shape," one doctor told him, "you probably would've died 15 years ago." So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's Day. That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy. "The thing I'd most like, " Rick types, "is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once."

Here's the video.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjPrL3n63yg

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Just a Bit of Nonsense

Here is a silly little video that my daughter-in-law, Shanoa, sent today.
It made me laugh, so I figured I'd share it.

PERFECT MAN AND WOMAN

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Ink Mouth


Morgan Dog, the incorrigible Basset Hound, has struck again. She is usually quite a well behaved beast. Now that she's over a year old, most of her early puppy impulse to chew is behind her. When she was little (about the size pictured here) she would chew up anything she could get to. She destroyed a scarecrow out of our garden. She ruined some nice plants I'd gotten for our pond. (She tossed the parrot feather and lilies into the yard, but really went to town with chewing up the plastic pots they were in.) She's made a mess of plastic spatulas left out by the barbecue. She even used to like to chew up aluminum pop cans. As she got older she has responded fairly well to training and is now hardly a problem at all in the area of destruction. However, she does still consider anything left on the front porch as fair game. That is clearly her turf, and she delights in chewing up any item she finds there.

Which is a problem when I have packages delivered by UPS. She has eaten college text books sent by publishers. This time, she got the package that had 3 ink cartridges from Dell which cost me $75. YIKES!

I don't know whether to be more mad at the dog, the UPS man or at Dell. I was very clear with Dell that I wanted my package sent to my PO box and I was willing to pay extra shipping fees to accomplish this. They refused, saying they ONLY ship via UPS. To me, this is just plain silly. If I want it in my box why is that a problem?? As for the UPS guy - I have a small table right by my front door expressly for that purpose - so packages can be placed there. Anything on the table is safe. But no. The UPS delivery people continue to put boxes on the floor in front of the door. As for Morgan... she's a good dog, as far as dogs go. But this is pretty frustrating.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Food storage gone seriously wrong...

I spent the afternoon helping a dear elderly sister clean out her freezer. It had gotten so iced over inside that the door would not unlock. The door had to be removed entirely and serious work undertaken to put all items into ice chests (about a dozen of them!) for safe keeping so the freezer could be thawed and cleaned. That all happened before I got there. Once everything got taken out, my friend became quite overwhelmed by the project and called me, her trusty VT, for reinforcements.

Little did I know that a simple act of service for a lady I dearly love would become such an ethical dilemma.

The freezer had been tightly packed with boxes and bags and containers of every kind you might imagine. A LARGE portion of those items were dated prior to 2004. A SIGNFICANT portion were dated around 1986 and then on up through the 90's.

And my friend insisted it was all perfectly good.

These jars and bags and boxes were totally encased in thick layers of ice. She was picking them up and whacking each one with a hammer to knock the ice of, taking a peek to try to figure out what it might be, then carefully re-labeling to put each thing back in her freezer. She had finally realized that process would take her all day long and stuff would start to melt, so that's why she called me. She wanted help in the process.

I tried to reason with this dear lady that any food more than two years old really should be thrown away. She was insistent that she wanted it all. I tried to be kind about it, but was very firm that we must at least throw away anything dated from the past century. Anything that bore a date of 1999 or before I would put in a box and cart off to my dumpster for her. She did NOT like that. But grudgingly went along with it, and then questioned each and every thing I started to throw away - saying "oh this one looks pretty good!"

I started giving her tasks to remove her from the work area ("could you please get me another towel to wipe these?" or "I think this marking pen is going dry - would you mind going to get another?" and then I would quickly toss out as much as I could before her return. My husband was there also, a party to my "crime." As soon as I could get a full box ready to go I'd have him load it into our car out of her view. We filled then entire back of our SUV with very old, very freezer burned, very dead nasty looking food for disposal. But we did it in a pretty sneaky way.

So I'm wondering about this... was it my place to do that? Darn right! or was it?

Which leads to the larger issues of how we deal with people we love who lose their judgment as they grow older. At what point do we "younguns" have the right to impose our values and wishes over what they may prefer? How do we say "You really should not drive any more" or "it's not safe for you to live alone" to someone who very much wants to maintain independence, but in our eyes seems to be a danger to themselves or others?

This dear lady is increasingly showing signs of not being able to care for herself or her property. Her family are all totally flumoxed about what to do about it, because any time they make suggestions for other arrangments "grandma" will have no part of it. At what point do they insist?

I am a firm advocate of honoring our elders. And I'll be the first to admit there are plenty of people in their 2o's, 30's, 40's or 50's who have shown poor judgment in a variety of ways that I would never consider putting into an assisted living facility. But when someone is 80 and had previously been sharp yet now is frequently confused or forgetful it seems to be an entirely different playing field.

I have no fear of death, but I am terrified of being left alone as a fragile, dependent person in my senior years. I wonder and worry at times about whether I will live with chronic illness or if I will lose my lucid mind. One thing I do know for sure. If I ever get to the point that I'm keeping 20 yr old food in my freezer and refusing to get rid of anything so much so that my house becomes a wild, haphazard warren of newspapers, special TV offers and old ice cream containers, I'd very much appreciate it if SOMEONE would step up and intervene rather than worrying they might hurt my feelings.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Good Grief!

I usually look forward to Sabbath days as a time of reflection and renewal. Today, however, I came home form church frazzled and exhausted.

I teach a class of 5, 6 & 7 year old children in Primary. Although they can certainly get silly at times, for the most part they are great kids. I enjoy teaching them the stories about Jesus and helping them to understand how very much their Father in Heaven loves them.

Today there were three new kids in my class. Two of them are from families who just moved in to the area and one was the grandson of an investigator. I was trying to make a point of really helping these children to feel welcome and go out of my way to be sure they had a positive experience coming to church. The two move ins were great and went away happy. The third child was a bit more of a challenge.

Obviously this kid was not used to being in church, so I tried to be patient with his wiggles, his chair tipping, his talking out of turn, his general distracting behavior. I kept reinforcing what was expected and trying to gently remind him how we were supposed to act in Primary. He did reasonably well during class time. But by the time we gathered with the other age groups for the singing & sharing time, the kid had all the sitting still he could stand. He started squirming all over the place , kicking the chair, playing with a toy he wasn't supposed to have, and generally being disruptive. I took him out into the hall, got down close to his eye level and spoke very firmly to him about the rules for church. I told him he could choose if he wanted his toy to stay in his pocket or in my pocket, that it was entirely up to him - but it WOULD be in somebody's pocket until the end of class. I showed him again how we fold our arms and explained why we do not kick chairs. He got very serious and solemn, promising to behave.

When we went back in he let out a big sigh and just went all limp, sliding down his chair till he was laying on it with his feet stuck out in the aisle, and somehow he managed to get his head stuck in the hole in the back of the chair. Yep. SERIOUSLY stuck. It took three teachers several minutes to get him unwedged and left a bit of a mark across his forehead.

We have these molded plastic stacking chairs for the little kids that have never appeared to me to be any particular hazard. The opening in the back really isn't very big at all - just makes it easy to lift and stack them. Just how he managed to get his head through that small hole I honestly don't know. He had to have is head tipped in just a certain way to squeeze through it, which is what made it so hard to get him back out.

All in all, I don't think I was his favorite person today and he probably thought the whole scene was a big drag that turned into a nightmare. I guess the event appeared pretty funny to some of the others in the room, but I can only imagine how awful and embarrassing it must have felt for him. Ah, the adventures of Primary.... no matter how hard we try as leaders to provide a strong spiritual base for these kids there's always SOMETHING to add a bit of drama.

Monday, July 17, 2006

St. Katherine's


We are starting to pin down the specifics of our itinerary for our trip to Egypt. Of course we are going to do all the usual things... take a camel ride near the pyramids, see the great Sphynx and go down the Nile river visiting various temples from the time of the Pharos.

But there is one other stop that I am really looking forward to . I plan to spend some time at St. Katherine's monastery.

This is what the Lonely Planet guide to Egypt says about it:

"Tucked into a barren valley at the foot of Mt. Sinai, the ancient St Katherine's Monastery has been a place of pilgrimage since the 4th century. It traces its founding to about 330 AD, when the Roman empress Helena had a small chapel and a fortified refuge for local hermits built beside what was believed to be the burning bush from which God spoke to Moses. In the 6th century Emperor Justinian ordered a fortress to be constructed around the original chapel, together with a basilica and a monastery, to provide a secure home for the monastic community that had grown here and as a refuge for the Christians of southern Sinai. Since then the monastery has been visited by pilgrims from throughout the world, many of whom braved extraordinarily difficult and dangerous journeys to reach the remote and isolated site. Today St. Katherine's is considered one of the oldest continually functioning monastic communities in the world, and its chapel is one of early Christianity's only surviving churches.

The monastery, which together with the surround area, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, is named after St. Katherine, the legendary martyr of Alexandria, who was tortured on a spiked wheel and then beheaded for her faith. Tradition holds that her body was transported by angels away from the torture device (which spun out of control and killed the pagan onlookers) and onto the slopes of Egypt's highest mountain peak. The peak, which lies about 6km south of Mt Sinai, subsequently became known as Gebel Katarina. Katherine's body was subsequently "found" about 300 years later by monks from the monastery in a state of perfect preservation.

Today a Tarmac access road has removed the hazards that used to accompany a trip to the monastery. Although much of the monastery is closed to the public it is possible to enter the ornately decorated 6th century church of the Transfiguration, with its nave flanked by massive marble columns and walls covered in richly gilded icons and paintings. At the church's eastern end, a gilded 17th century iconastasis separates the nave from the sanctuary and the apse, where St Katherine's remained are interred (off limits to most visitors). High in the apse above the alter is one of the monastery's most stunning artistic treasures, a 6th century mosaic of the biblical account of the transfiguration of Christ. To the left of and below the altar is the monastery's holiest area, the chapel of the Burning Bush....

Near the burning bush is the Well of Moses, a natural spring that is supposed to give marital happiness to those who drink from it. Above the well is the superb Monastery Museum, also known as the Sacred Sacristy, which has recently been magnificently restored. It has displays (labeled in Arabic and English) of many of the monastery's artistic treasures, including some of the spectacular Byzantine-era icons from world famous collections, numerous precious chalices and gold and silver crosses, and a priceless collection of ancient manuscripts and illuminated Bibles from the monastery's library.

There are trails up Mt. Sinai for either hiking or camel route. They say the camel route is the easier way, and takes about two hours to ascend, going at a steady pace. The alternative path to the summit, the taxing 3750 Steps of Repentance, was laid by one monk as a form of penance. The steps, 3000 up to Elijah's basin, and then the final 750 to the summit, are made of roughly hewn rock and are steep and uneven in many places, requiring strong knees and concentration in placing your feet.

I'm thinking I'll do the camel route...

Such a privilege to visit this holy ground.

Although I am active LDS and deeply committed to my faith, my Orthodox friends have taught me much about the ancient faith. That has a lot to do with why I am interested in seeing this sacred site. But apart from any of that, just to be in a place with so much history - even if I didn't believe in all that I do about the reality of God, this would be an amazing experience.

Learning about Orthodoxy has been quite the spiritual adventure for me. I had the opportunity to visit St. Anthony's Monastery in Arizona (where I had the privilege of being in the presence of Elder Ephraim) and I've also been to St. John the Forerunner Monastery in Goldendale, WA.

I've learned about the fasts and feasts, the icons, the saints, the liturgies and the prayers. I've read several books about the history and teachings of the early monastics.

While my core spiritual beliefs have some very key differences from Orthodoxy, my spiritual life has been deeply enriched by pondering repentance as I've studied the life of St. Mary of Egypt and following my own version of observing Lent. I praised and celebrated with my pals as we each cried out "Christ is Risen" on Pascha morning. I was deeply honored to be invited to attend the baptism of young Milos, even though my church's position is quite opposed to infant baptism. It wasn't about who was right or who was wrong in what we each hold sacred - it was about every one of us honoring the Lord our God as we understand him to be and standing in holy places together to share that.

I do not expect that I will ever convert to Orthodoxy and I have absolutely no illusions than any of my Orthodox friends will consider investigation the doctrines of my faith. But we are able to set our differences aside to embrace each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and all of us have been enriched by it.

That is a mighty blessing indeed!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

8 Cow Woman


I had some work to do around the house today - playing my "domestic godess" routine. So of course I dressed suitably for the occassion.... loose comfortable pants and my 8 cow woman T shirt. I always get strange looks from people when they see me wearing this shirt.

It is symbolic of the story of the Legend of Johnny Lingo. BYU produced a very cheesy movie depicting this story in back 1969. It's a classic in LDS culture, even though the original story the movie is based on had nothing to do with the church. There is a newer version of the movie out now, an expanded full feature film that adds way more production and backstory . Personally, I like the old 20 minute classic myself.

It is such a solid reminder of the power of social influence and labeling.

I have a lot in common with Mahana (called Sarita in original story). I grew up convinced I had no value. I lived in shadows, shame and fear. But I have this amazing man who came into my life, who treated me like I was worth more than any other woman he had ever known. His love and honoring of me, even when I have not been at my best, have made me want to be a better person. I am so blessed to have him as my life partner.

Hard to believe we will have been married for 25 years this November.

When I am with Larry, I truly feel like an 8 cow woman.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

MAD LIBS

Do you remember playing mad libs when you were a kid....those crazy stories where you put in your choice of nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc to create your own individualized tale? I used some of these when I was teaching GED.

You can build your own fun story by going HERE.

Thanks to Naddin J over on "What On Earth Is That Smell" blog for posting this!

Humanitarian Aid

Last night I gathered with a group of women from my church to tie quilts and put together school supply kits to be sent all over the world where ever they may be needed for humanitarian aid. It felt good to share companionship as we busied our hands to help others.

In her book Take Two Chocolates and Call Me In the Morning, Emily Lytle writes about the importance of spending time together and fostering connection in the chapter called "Recapture Some Pea Shelling Time." Like her, I too am very grateful for the modern conveniences that make it possible for me to whip up a meal or get through my duties without having to hand shell my peas or beat rugs or manufacture my own soap. But, also like her, I think in the rush to acquire modern conveniences like washers and dryers and vacuum cleaners and food processors and the like that freed us of much of the drudgery of pioneer life, we've also lost a degree of the connection people used to have when they relied on each other to get things done. My grandmother's generation met together often to raise barns or birth babies or pickle something or sew quilts. We rush around from one appointment to the next text messaging or leaving voice mails or dashing off a few lines of quick e-mail, but too often have precious little time to truly sit in one another's company and share sorrows, share joys, share wisdom, share matters of spirit.

I enjoyed having this opportunity to get together in an informal setting where we could just chat, yet not feel like we are being frivolous or wasting the time because our hands are producing things that will fill an important need. I'm glad I belong to a group that does actively support doing good for others and that I've been taught to view giving service like breathing or eating lunch.... it's not a one time do-good project, but rather an ongoing part of my life.

There were young women with new babies, there were older sisters who had been at literally hundreds of these gatherings over the years, and many like me who were someplace inbetween the two. Some were single. Some were married. Some had careers. Some stayed home to contribute to family. Some were highly educated. Some never completed high school. Some were talented in many ways that show in the world : being gifted in music or writing or the arts. Others had skills in less acknowledged areas - the ability to listen well, a compassionate heart, a great smile. There were many differences between the women who came together for the evening, and yet the sense of unity as a group was palatable. We were all there united for a common purpose. Bookending the meeting at the beginning and end with prayer was the only outward sign that religion had anything to do with bringing us together....the rest of the time was simply laughter and conversation and work. But in my mind, that's some of the best religious practice.... learning to serve and to love is good worship in my book.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Wedding Bells

My youngest son has recently announced that he is getting married. I am excited, apprehensive, and amazed by the turns his life is taking.

Aaron has been a single dad raising three kids on his own for quite a few years now. (The youngest, who is now six, was not quite two when their mom left the family.) Aaron did he best he could on his own, facing life struggles with varying degrees of success. As any single parent can tell you, balancing work and family and other obligations with no one there to back you up is a very tough job indeed.

This past January he re-met Stephanie, a woman he had liked when they were teenagers (they once got in trouble when they were fifteen for getting caught kissing behind the church when they were supposed to be in Sunday School!) But they grew up different ways, lost touch with each other, married other people, had families, went through messy divorces, and have both been struggling on their own for some time. Now they have come together again and are ready to blend their families. She has four children ages two to twelve - essentially one counterpart kid for each of Aaron's brood with an extra little girl thrown in as a bonus.

Raising seven children on a struggling college student's part time work salary is not going to be easy. But Aaron never has worried about if something was easy or not. And eventually his schooling should pay off in a career that will take care of the whole tribe, if they can just get through a few lean years.

So come August I will be off to Michigan to meet this new brood of children and re-meet the girl who told me 15 years ago she wanted to marry my son.

And as of the day of their wedding, I will become grandma figure to the whole bunch.

To celebrate this union Larry and I will take the entire clan to Michigan Adventure Amusement park and then we will stay at their house to babysit the wild brood for a week while Aaron & Stephanie take off for a honeymoon. I look forward to having time with them, but a whole week of 24/7 responsibility for this tribe of kids - half of whom we've never even met, has me more than a little intimidated! We are arranging out time off from our jobs so we'll have a few days of R & R to recuperate here when we return before heading back to work. I suspect we'll need it!

Moving Day

It seems half the college where I work is moving offices - I'm losing some space but gaining better temperature control which I suppose is an equitable trade off. I've got all my files boxed up and am trying to figure out what will go where.

I've talked to a couple folks who have worked here long term and they warn me the college does this just about every summer - some say that's the only way they can get faculty to clean out their offices. I don't mind the move just so long as nobody expects me to be able to actually get anything DONE for othe next day or so. It's a friendly chaos here as we share hand trucks and tape, encouraging one another through the transition.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Caledonia Games

This weekend is the annual Caledonia Games festival in Athena. Larry and I went down to the park for a while to listen to the bagpipe players, watch some of the dance competitions, amble around through the clan tent displays and watch the sheep dog trials. And of course we saw many a kilt of one style or another worn over many a knobby knee. It was a fun diversion for a couple hours.

I was pondering the whole "Clan" phenomena as we saw people proudly displaying their specific tartans and insignias. What is it about this that can give a pipe fitter in Ohio or a wheat farmer in Oregon so much of a sense of connection and belonging?

All in all it was a fun celebration - the big event for the year for our sleepy little town.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Freedom of Speech

As I have continued to read and research for my trip, I was struck by an article about two journalists who have been sentenced to a year in prison in Egypt for disparaging President Hosni Mubarak in a newspaper article published last year. Oh my.

There are so many freedoms we have in this country that I totally take for granted. Freedom of speech is a big one. It seems just crazy to me that there are places that lock you up for expressing a dissenting opinion.

Living in a land where I can worship as I wish is another.

The more I study about the details of other parts of the world, the deeper my gratitude is for living where I live. Yeah, I whine plenty about things about our culture or our political environment that I don't agree with. But the very fact that I CAN whine and complain in absolute safety is a blessing I seldom give thanks for. It's high time I did.

Taking Risks


I've had a few different people question my choice to visit Egypt, saying they would not feel safe traveling in that part of the world. So I've been giving some thought to the whole issue of what makes a reasonable risk and what is just plain foolish.

I know a few adrenaline junkies who enjoy doing things like parasailing, flying ultralight airplanes, climbing very high mountains or exploring deep caves. I think any of those are fine, if that's your interest and you take reasonable precautions. But not my style. I like staying firmly planted on good ole' terra firma, thank you very much.

Larry is an avid scuba diver. I was willing to at least give that a try. I signed up for lessons twice. I flunked both times. I just felt too panicky, claustrophobic and vulnerable in the gear. I'm perfectly happy sticking to snorkeling. There's just too much that can go wrong at 60 - 100 feet deep and the stakes are too high for my comfort level.

But travel is something I will never give up. I love seeing other parts of the world, and getting acquainted with other cultures.

However, that does not mean I go out blindly not taking heed of the risks involved. There ARE certain precautions that just plain make sense when getting away from familiar turf where the rules and social norms will be very different.

When I go to Egypt, I will have put in lots of prep time to learn all I can to make the most of my travels there and to familiarize myself with the culture and laws.

Are there risks for a fair skin, light haired American woman to be abroad in an Islamic country? You bet. But there are risks crossing the street.

This is a risk I am more than willing to take.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Egypt bound

Larry and I are making plans for a trip to Egypt this fall/winter. This evening we have been pouring over the travel agency brochures and trying to sort out which itinerary we will choose. We plan to take a camel ride in the shadow of the pyramids, see the mighty Sphinx, visit the Valley of the Kings and go for a cruise along the Nile. Then we will hop over to the coast so that Larry can go scuba diving in the Red Sea, where some of the best world class dive sites are to be found. We expect to leave sometime late November so we will be over there for both our 25th anniversary and for Larry’s birthday. I’ve been truly blessed to get to visit some exciting places with this man of mine, but without question this trip has the potential to top the list. So between now and then I hope to do some reading about the history, the culture, the archeology and such so that I will be able to fully appreciate it when I’m there. Should be quite an adventure.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Fruit Salad for 185

I'm not sure where I got this recipe from, but tonight as I was deleting a bunch of old files out of my various e-mail folders I ran across it again...

For those of you who may be up for some serious feedage, enjoy:

FRUITED TURKEY SALAD
25 quarts cubed cooked turkey or chicken
20 (20 oz) cans pineapple chunks, drained
20 (15 oz) cans mandarin oranges, drained
20 (2-1/4 oz) cans sliced ripe olives, drained
5 bunches celery, thinly sliced
10 large green peppers, chopped
5 to 6 quarts mayonnaise or salad dressing
3 large onions, grated
1-1/2 cups prepared mustard
5 tablespoons salt
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon-pepper seasoning; optional
8 (5 oz) cans chow mein noodles
In several large bowls (or one VERY LARGE bowl), combine the first six ingredients. In another large bowl combine the mayonnaise, onions, mustard, salt and lemon-pepper if desired. Cover and refrigerate chicken mixture for at least 2 hours before tossing. Sprinkle with chow mein noodles. Serve immediately.
Yield: 185 (1-cup) servings

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Monkey Golf


One of my favorite stories is "Play the Ball Where the MonkeyDrops It." This was first relayed to me by my eldest brother several years ago. I recently found it again HERE

It goes like this:

"The story is told of a golf course in India. Apparently, once the English had colonized the country and established their businesses, they yearned for recreation and decided to build a golf course in Calcutta. Golf in Calcutta presented a unique obstacle. Monkeys would drop out of the trees, scurry across the course, and seize the golf balls. The monkeys would play with the balls, tossing them here and there.

At first, the golfers tried to control the monkeys. Their first strategy was to build high fences around the fairways and greens. This approach, which seemed initially to hold much promise, was abandoned when the golfers discovered that a fence is no challenge to an ambitious monkey. Next, the golfers tried luring the monkeys away from the course. But the monkeys found nothing as amusing as watching humans go wild whenever their little white balls were disturbed. In desperation, the British began trapping the monkeys. But for every monkey they carted off, another would appear. Finally, the golfers gave in to reality and developed a rather novel ground rule: Play the ball where the monkey drops it.

As you can imagine, playing this unique way could be maddening. A beautiful drive down the center of the fairway might be picked up by a monkey and then dropped in the rough. Or the opposite could happen. A hook or slice that had produced a miserable lie might be flung onto the fairway. It did not take long before the golfers realized that golf on this particular course was very similar to our experience of life. There are good breaks, and there are bad breaks. We cannot entirely control the outcome of the game. "

I've been thinking about this a lot lately in regards to my job search, events going on in my family, and a few other things over which I have utterly no control. I'm trying to remind myself to trust the universe to open the doors that will ultimately bless my life and keep tightly shut those doors that would open before me the wrong path. I'm practicing allowing myself to feel at peace with whatever happens rather that take on my traditional M.O. of stewing and storming and giving myself all sorts of grief.

That doesn't mean I don't care about the outcome. I do! And it also does not mean I don't have to try my best or prepare or plan. Those golfers in India still sought out just the right kinds of clubs, took lessons to perfect their swing and did all they could to master their game. But in the final analysis, the learned to accept that no matter WHAT they could do to be the best golfers they knew how to be, in the end we all have to play the ball wherever the monkey happens to drop it. And that's ok.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Psychobabble

An awful lot of people I know are either currently in some form of therapy, counseling or recovery group or else they have been in the past.

I don't know if it's a matter of what sort of people I tend to flock with or if it has merely become pervasive in our culture to hire specialists to deal with our emotional angst. That's got me to thinking, What constitutes being emotionally healthy? What does it mean to be "mentally ill"? How much emotional pain should a person try to cope with on his or her own and when is it appropriate to seek help? When is a behavior or manner of perceiving just a bit quirky or uncomfortable and when does it cross the line into being a symptom of something to get treatment for?

In my Principles of Sociology textbook (Sociology, a Down-to-Earth Approach by James M. Henslin, 7th edition) the author describes a South American tribe in which the skin condition you see on the child pictured here is so common that the few individuals who AREN'T spotted are defined as having something wrong with them. What might the impact on our society be if seeing a shrink is viewed as the "normal" thing to do and dealing with one's problems on your own is considered "unhealthy"? Would we be better off if MORE people sought support for coping with life issues or would that take us down a dangerous path?

Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications are currently the most prescribed of all pharmaceutical agents in this country. Are they helping? Are they harming?

I keep thinking of a line from that great song by Matchbox 20 - UNWELL:

When I was working in community mental health back in Michigan, I used to say only half jokingly that we needed a score card to keep track of who were the professionals with the keys and who were the clients there to receive treatment.

There were an awful lot of very strange people among the helping professionals that I met. Why do you suppose that is? Does working with mentally ill people cause the professionals who serve them to develop new quirks or does that sort of profession simply attract people with deep issues of their own? Some of both perhaps?

I really do believe it is a false division to think we can separate out who the "well" people are from those who are "emotionally unstable". Granted, someone with full blown psychosis is in a different category, but in general I think MOST people have problems and pains that trouble them, some very deeply. How we define what it is appropriate to do about that and what meaning we give to our distress is what I am really curious about.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Question of Tolerance

A while back I had a discussion with one of my Sociology classes about the degree to which tolerance does or does not dilute one’s own beliefs. The questions went something like this: If you have strong commitment to your own beliefs, does that mean you will automatically assume that any contradictory beliefs held by others are not just different; they are inaccurate, flawed, incomplete or otherwise WRONG? Is it possible to hold fast to ones own beliefs, values, faith, opinions or whatever without assuming superiority over others who are different? How can we be firm in our own values without becoming judgmental, condescending, or arrogant toward others? Where do we draw the line between “relative” truth – meaning what can be true for me may be different from what is “true” for you, or what is “true” for me right now may be different from what will be “true” for me at some other time or in some other circumstance…And ABSOLUTE truth – meaning principles that are intrinsic and real no matter what people believe or don’t believe about them?

I was trying to get the students to make clear distinctions between ethnocentrism and cultural relativity. I got lots of good comments and some very engaging discussion. It also prompted me to do some serious re-evaluating of my own beliefs and the way I view the beliefs of others. Regardless of how respectful I may be toward someone else in my outward behavior, if in my private attitudes I consider my beliefs / ideas / practices to be RIGHT and those of the other person to be WRONG, how will that flavor our interaction?

I’m doing some exploration to see which areas I am totally open to others, which ones I am open with reservations, and where I have my doors completely closed.

EXAMPLE: food choices – recently went for Pizza with Juliana. I tried a slice of pizza that had artichokes on it. I had never had artichoke pizza before and did not know if I would like it or not. But I was happy to give it a try, and as it turned out it was really YUMMY! Had she suggested I try pizza with crickets or grubs on it I would have been more reluctant. I know in some parts of the world theses things are generally considered to be food-worthy items and undoubtedly they provide valuable protein. But my cultural conditioning just makes me think YUCK! I do not think it is “bad” or “wrong” to eat bugs. I just think it is something I am not ready to try.

However, I also once read an article about “Placenta Stew”. Yep. People making stew from the afterbirth following the arrival of a child. It was supposed to be some bonding ritual for the whole family to partake of this. Now, this is beyond disgusting to me. I don't just have a personal aversion to the idea. I think it is totally horrible to consider ANYONE doing this. If someone I knew were engaging in this practice I would definitely judge them as rather nuts.

Still, that is not the most extreme. In the most extreme case would be something I viewed as so wrong that I felt compelled to speak out against it and would most likely choose not to associate with any person who did this. It's hard to come up with an example of that for food - but you get the idea.

That’s pretty straightforward when all I’m talking about is food. But what about when we get into other areas, like parenting practices, sexual behavior or religious beliefs?

At what point am I willing to say: "HMMM….I’m willing to consider that." At what point am I going to say, "Not for me, thanks, but you go right ahead." At what point do I say "That Is Just Plain WRONG! " What do I base my different responses on?

I’m recognizing that a lot of the areas I make these distinctions in are not values I ever carefully thought out and DECIDED to adopt – rather they are attitudes or beliefs I incorporated from my collective life experiences and social influence. Some fit. Some really don't. So now I am examining some of those beliefs and trying to decide which ones serve me well and which ones could stand a little adjustment, if not to be discarded completely.

Who knows, maybe I’ll give anchovies a new try. Or not. But what it means for the things I oppose I still have to figure out.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Kite Day


Today I went kite flying with my friends, Tansy and Becket. We had a blast. We went out to the field by Walla Walla Community College where we had plenty of room with no threatening trees or wires. Granted, we had a few string & tail tangle adventures. But we got several different kites up, some clear to the very end of their strings. Afterwards we went for ice cream and conversation and just generally enjoyed the mellow afternoon. It was a fun day.

Pondering


The other night I watched the movie "What the Bleep Do We Know?", a quirky little hybrid piece, part drama, part documentary, part special effects wonder. It has me thinking some on just what it is I believe is "true" and what is "real" and what I base that on. Quantum Physics certainly opens up more possibilities for questions that giving any concrete answers.

What is the role of human existence in the universe? Does anything we do, think or feel really matter in the grand scheme of things or are we just a temporary blip of inconsequential protoplasm on the evolutionary map?

How much is life random and beyond our control? How much is it shaped by my choices and intentions?

What is the relationship of past/present/future to what I experience? I can REMEMBER the past, I can ANTICIPATE the future. In many ways, I allow those realities I am creating in my mind/awareness to become more vivid and real than what is going on around me in the present. In what ways does that habit serve me and in what ways does it limit me?

In what way can my INTENTION influence the outcome of events?

How does what I notice and focus on shift what I will manifest / experience?

One of the people interviewed in the movie is "Ramtha" a 35,000 year-old spirit-warrior from Atlantis who is supposedly "channeled" through the person of J.Z. Knight. My cynical mind rejects that immediately. What other things do I reject out of hand, just like people who KNEW the world was flat rejected the outlandish idea that is was a sphere or that the earth revolved around the sun. Perposterous! How do my assumptions about what is true or what is possible shape what I allow myself to learn?

How does my understanding of what is "credible" cause me to turn away from or fail to notice things that might be of value?

What ships on the horizon do I fail to see because they are so beyond my understanding and experience?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cheesesaurus Rex


I just had to share Jim Victor's website of amazing food sculptures. Yep. Sculptures from edibles - things like cheese, chocolate, butter, pizza dough, you name it.

The example here is VERY "cheesy" in more ways than one, but to see some really fine artistry check out THIS website.

Apparently when he was told to stop playing with his food, this guy didn't listen. He's even done a LIFE SIZE sculpture of Mr. Milton Hershey (in chocolate, of course). There are motorcycles, buildings, all sorts of stuff. Now, I don't know about you, but when I look at a block of butter I just don't think things like "Zowie, I could carve a cow outta that!"

Saturday, May 06, 2006

All in a Day's Work...

As a counter point to my passion for teaching, I’ve also been giving some thought to some of the dumb jobs I have had.

For example, I once was paid to stand outside a health spa with a sign that said “Free Month Pass” on a busy road in Phoenix, AZ and wave at all the cars that went by.

I was one of those annoying phone solicitors for a photography studio.

I washed beakers, separatory funnels and other scientific type glassware in a laboratory and kept inventory of all their chemical reagents.

I de-veined shrimp for a restaurant. (Ok, I was actually the dishwasher, but the grossest part of that job were the hours upon hours I spent with my hands in the shrimp bucket).

I sold jewelry to spoiled brats with visa cards in West Palm Beach.

I worked in a factory that made CB antennas….that was perhaps the worst. (Yes, even worse than the shrimp bucket!) Can you imagine sitting at your work station repetitively counting out four nuts, four bolts and four screws to put into their little compartments of packaging for eight hours a day? I almost cried with gratitude when I was finally fired from that job for constantly perusing the Help Wanted ads during my shift.

Of course – all those less than inspiring positions were the things I did before I got the magic ticket of a college degree. POST education jobs included things like Crisis Intervention Specialist in a mental health facility, Prevention Coordinator for an agency doing HIV/AIDS intervention, Research Assistant at a university survey facility, Consultant in a women’s prison running groups with the incarcerated moms and their kids, Caregiver Training Coordinator for an Area Agency on Aging, Marketing Director at a retirement community, and Chief Cook & Bottle Washer for a Walla Walla based charity (yeah, the “official title” of executive director sounded impressive. But, in reality, in addition to managing the food bank and doing homeless case management, I did everything from writing the grants to cleaning the toilets.)

There were things I liked about almost every job (EXCEPT the CB antennae factory.) There were things that I despised about almost every job. Even my first love of teaching has its ups and downs.

What I am most curious about these days is WHY we work in the areas we work in, and what meaning we give to our jobs. Some people I known do not take their jobs seriously at all, while others sacrifice everything to be “successful” in their chosen fields. I’ve met a few people who truly love their jobs. But those tend to be the exception more than the rule. Why is that?

How much of my “regular life” does it make sense to sacrifice to do well at my job? To what degree do I define myself by whatever it is I may do for a living? Would I prefer a job that paid well but was boring or one that paid less, yet challenged me and seemed the right fit? How much of my best efforts will I bring to the workplace and how much do I do just whatever is necessary to get by? What do I expect in return?

Yeah, these are some of the places my brain rambles at 2:00 AM when I’m up with insomnia….

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Chasing My Passion

Tonight I held my final session with my GED class. The five weeks went by so fast!

I learned many things from this experience. Perhaps most important of all, I reawakened to how much teaching is my passion.

I've held a lot of different kinds of jobs over the years and have developed varied skill sets that have proven useful. I know I am capable of doing many different sorts of things. But when I am in the groove with a classroom of students, it really does feel like all the planets have lined up and I am doing what I was born to do.

I had an amazing group of students. Oh sure, some were more serious about it than others. There was one who was quiet and surly. There was one who was cocky and rude. There were a few who never came back after the first session when they realized I was going to expect them to work rather than just show up to take up space. But all that aside, I had a core group of students who consistently showed up ready to learn. They were willing to work hard, ask questions, be actively engaged, and for the most part followed through on assignments. Isn't that kind of class every teacher dreams of?

We all worked hard together to get through the material at hand, but I also got to share lots of stories about the power of education in general. I encouraged them not to stop at the GED level, but to commit themselves to being life long learners - whether it be in formal academic settings or merely by engaging their curiosity and newly strengthened literacy. I watched some of them truly blossom with increased confidence as they began to recognize that all sorts of options would be open to them once they got past this hurdle of no diploma. Being part of their process was very rewarding.

On the last night some of my students brought me the beautiful bouquet of flowers you see pictured here, along with cards expressing appreciation for all I had given them. Another student brought me an apple along with a note describing how the class had impacted her...some very powerful stuff!

Yeah, the gratitude from these students was very reaffirming. Reading the notes they had written I got so choked up I had to leave the room for a bit to go compose myself. But that's not why I do it. It's less about the kudos and more about the "aha!" moments when I can see the light bulb go off over their heads when they finally understand an important point I am trying to get across. It's about all the different ways that I witness them learning to appreciate LEARNING, regardless of what the content is I am teaching. It's about helping give students confidence in themselves and their own power to take charge of their lives...THAT is what knocks my socks of about the role.

When I am teaching is when I am most AWAKE and present to my own nature and where I feel the most connection of anything I've ever done.

I never planned on being a teacher as I was growing up, or even when I went to college. I fell into it almost by mistake. But the universe knew what it was doing when I was led in that direction. This is my calling, my dream, my passion. Now, more than ever, I am certain that I want to find other teaching opportunities...whether it be in formal education settings, private workshops or some other venue. I'm not sure what the next phase will bring. But I'm ready, whatever it is.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

My Hero


This year Larry and I will have been married for 25 years. What an adventure it has been! I’ve had my share of bumps, bruises and disappointments in life – but without question one of the greatest blessings I have had has been the sweet comfort of a strong, healthy marriage to a man I honor and respect. He makes me laugh. He helps me feel safe. He gives me a reason to want to be better than I am. He is the one person on this planet who I know without reservation will always have my best interest at heart and who will love me no matter what. What a gift!

Sock in the Nose

I once had a wise teacher who told me about making balsa wood airplanes as a child. While flying them out in a field on a windy day, one of his favorite planes crashed and broke. He was sad to see the crumpled, shattered body lying in a heap. It appeared to be utterly ruined. However, after the initial disappointment, he picked up the pieces and carefully, painstakingly, glued them back together. Then he left it for a while to sit and dry. Finally, when he was confident it was ready, he took it back out to fly again.

Amazingly, that repaired plane became one of his best flyers. Although scarred and perhaps less beautiful that the unbroken planes, that one was so sturdy that even when it took an occasional tumble, it didn't break again. It had become stronger at the broken places because of the glue.

Our lives are often like that. We have heartaches and disappointments. We have circumstances that make us feel as if we have crashed into the ground. But if we can pick ourselves up and glue those crumpled pieces of our heart back together, we too can become stronger at the broken places, with newfound resiliencey to face the storms the world may bring.

During a particularly difficult time in my life, I received the card you see pictured here. As it says: "Sometimes when you least expect it, life gives you a big ol' sock in the nose." Then, on the inside it reads:

"Not to worry.
With time the pain will pass,
and from it
you will have gained experience,
which gives you information,
which gives you objectivity,
which gives you wisdom,
which gives you truth,
which gives you freedom
from having to get a sock
in the nose again."

Every now and then, when I am facing struggles in navigating the current of my world, it helps to pull out the card and to remember the story of that broken airplane.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Glasswing Butterfly

Tell Me Your Dreams....

One of the other blogs that I visit on occasion is written by Barry Moses of Spokane, WA. He has a couple different blogs, one of which is a dream journal.

My first reaction to this, of course, was that all my quirky privacy issues went a bit wacko. I am reluctant to tell people I know and trust about the things I dream. I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable putting them out on the net for anyone who happened to chance upon my pages to see. I would feel way too vulnerable, way too exposed.

I have no illusions that masses of strangers, or even that many people I know, ever look at this blog. Still, the fact that they COULD read these words definitely influences what things I will post here and what things I will not. My issues regarding what is “private” and what is “public” remain pretty guarded.

So, I got to examining that a bit closer, looking at the degree to which I live in my head and the extent to which I experience and share my heart with people in my day-to-day life. There were a few lessons there.

In 2004 I attended an experiential training for personal development called Spectrum that was held in Boise, ID. (LT61) In that training, participants were encouraged to “drop the waterline” – meaning to become more authentic with others, sharing our core selves to a greater degree rather than staying in the surface superficial that our culture so often expects. There were several exercises we did in dyads and in small groups to practice giving and receiving honest feedback and taking risks with self disclosure. It was both excruciating and hugely affirming all at the same time.

Spectrum training had three different levels that were each held a month or two apart. Because of the nature of the training, some very strong bonds of friendship and loyalty were forged among the paratipants. I only made it through level two because of the distance between where I live and Boise. The third level, which I skipped, included a ropes course and some other key exercises which brought participants even closer to each other. Several of the people involved have continued to have post-spectrum gatherings and some communicate on a regular basis. Initially I was a part of that, but became less and less so as time went by.

I’ve sometimes wondered if I had done all 3 levels if I would have stayed in contact more with the people from that class. I have attributed my lack of ties to them both to the fact that I live so far away and that I bailed out after level two. But perhaps the truth is more about the degree to which I am willing or not willing to lower my waterline, allowing myself to engage in open, authentic sharing with other folks.

I think we’ve all had the experience of being around someone who dumps WAY TOO MUCH personal information, making us very uncomfortable. Most people have also had the experience of carefully trusting someone with private info only to find out later that it was not kept in confidence. I pull back from saying too much about my emotional landscape to others for both of those reasons. But that’s just scratching the surface…. Today what I am looking at more closely is NOT why I do or do not feel willing to share private things more readily. What I am turning over for closer examination right now is how I decide what is private and what is public in the first place.

I’m more than willing to spill my IDEAS. My convoluted thinking is open, fair game for all. The teacher in me is very accustomed to batting around different theories, concepts and hypothesis. But when it gets into the area of feelings and emotions, I begin to put up some walls. I put on my game face, talk about feeling in a general, philosophical, hypothetical way. But the whole idea of telling others what it is I really feel all too often seems risky and unwise to me. Besides, most times I’m fairly sure people don’t really want to know.

So now I am looking at the assumptions I have made about that and asking myself – is it accurate? Is it valid? Is it healthy? Is it creating the sort of connections with others that I desire?

BALANCE is the trick – and not something I am particularly skilled at. I do not think it is wise or healthy to go around wearing my heart on my sleeve, giving the whole world a bird’s eye view into the dark places of my psyche. I can share the “happy” stuff fairly easily as that seldom leads to any sort of problem. But when it comes to my angst, my fears, my sorrows…that is where my boundaries of privacy begin to get fairly rigid, except for one or two very specific relationships.

But I am beginning to recognize that it’s not an all-or-nothing matter of staying in stepford-wife unreality or spilling my guts to any passing stranger. It’s more about degree, and becoming more mindful about choosing when, where and with whom I might be more candid about my interior world. .

Intimacy = IN TO ME YOU SEE. It is only when we allow others to truly see us as we experience ourselves that meaningful closeness can develop. So perhaps I can work on dropping the waterline a bit more and taking off that game face.

Chuck's Stub


Anyone who has been around fishermen much has heard tales of “the one that got away”. Many of those blatantly questionable stories remind me of a hat my husband has. It says across the front: “How can you tell when a fisherman is lying? Watch his lips. If they move, he is lying.” Stories of close calls and monster fish seem to grow exponentially with each telling.

The tale of Chuck’s Stub, however, is one I can absolutely document.

This past August, Larry and I went to Alaska to do some long dreamed of fishing on the Kenai Peninsula with our good friends from Wenatchee, Chuck & Pat Butcherite. We had a fabulous time white water rafting up by Denali and enjoyed our time exploring around Anchorage. However, the real focus of the trip was to be the fishing.

Now, keep in mind that I am not much of an angler. I’ve been on many a fishing trip with Larry where I spent most of the time with my nose in a book, just happy to be with my man in the great out of doors. But this time we were all scheduled to pull in some big ones. So we went out on our charter boat and started pulling in halibut. We caught several decent sized fish, no real monsters, but some respectable specimens that would give us many a fine dinner.

Then our captain moved the boat to take us to where the salmon were supposed to be. Because we were late in the season, the only salmon available were silvers, and none of those we caught were all that big. But we all had a good time pulling in fish, taking our turns doing battle with the rod and reel.

Then, finally, Chuck hooked into what WOULD have been the catch of the day. It was a beautiful king salmon. The fish’s body was glistening as he brought it to the surface. We were all cheering him on, thrilled that at least one of our party had finally hooked a king. Then, just as he reeled it in closer to the boat, a HUGE brown shadow came following, rose to the surface and BIT THE SALMON RIGHT OFF HIS LINE.

It was a salmon shark, somewhere between five or six feet long, and one nasty looking critter if I do say so myself. Our captain stood there at the edge of his vessel; waving his hands in the air saying: “Shoo! Shoo! Get away!” as if that would do any good. But it was too late. The shark took the fish, leaving us standing there scratching our heads with our mouths gaping. All we had left of it was a mangled fraction we affectionately referred to from that point on as “Chuck’s Stub”.

Larry and I ate remnants of what we were able to salvaged from the stub. It was quite delicious. Too bad the shark got the rest of it. Even though we missed getting any pictures of the shark itself, we did capture an image of the stub for all posterity, and have witnesses to tell the tale. So if any of you happen to be fishing in the waters around the Kenai – beware of sharks.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Change in Direction

I started this Blog about a month ago. It has been an interesting experiment. Initially I thought I’d give it a go as a means of facilitating extended family communication. However, as no great surprise, once the initial novelty wore off, that function pretty much bit the dust. So I was going to just let the blog die and move on to other interests.

However, a few different friends have told me they like reading the stuff (although I can’t imagine why). I find I enjoy the writing and it is interesting to have it open to anyone who may care to comment or suggest new perspectives. So I’ve decided that rather than kill it off, I will simply shift away from thinking of this as the “Pendley Family Blog” and instead allow it to evolve into whatever direction it takes.

To acknowledge that shift, I want to establish a new name for the header and I will change the URL. I plan to experiment with different fonts and formats, and come up with some sort of title to give this blog a bit of a new feel. No telling how many times it will switch as I explore its metamorphosis.

Afterall, isn't change and adapting to new seasons and shifting circumstances what life is all about?

Prize Fight - Robbins vs. Shapiro

Some of you know that for many years I’ve been a big Tony Robbins fan. I’ve got his 30 day program for personal success on both CD’s and Cassettes and have been through the series several times. It includes some very specific goal setting workshops that I have incorporated into my world pretty intensively. I have long attributed several of my accomplishments and achievements to following that plan.

Working the Robbins material has trained me to set very focused goals and then to take specific actions aimed at achieving those goals.

Into that landscape enter Stephen Shapiro, author of the book “Goal Free Living”.
Mr. Shapiro calls someone like me a “goal-a-holic” and insists that being so focused on specific outcomes leads to an overly worried, stressed out life. He says that by their very nature, goals lead us to be so focused on the future that we fail to live in the moment and appreciate what we already have. He writes:

“Being goal-free does not mean having no goals. It means being free from the burden and limitation of traditional goals. Having said that, it is also about avoiding SMART goals — those that are specific, measurable, achievable, results-based, and time oriented. These types of goals limit us even further. Goal-Free Living is best described as meandering with purpose — or, as is the first secret, “Use a Compass, Not a Map.”

So I’m wrestling between thinking he is a blasphemy spouting heretic casting aspersions on my sacred cow or giving room to consider there may be something to his arguments.

One of my all time favorite books is “The Precious Present” by Spencer Johnson. That short but oh-so-profound little tale is all about living in the moment and savoring the juice of life as we live it rather than being haunted by our past or made anxious by the future.

However, does living in the moment mean throwing out my check lists and giving up on my goals?? I DON’T THINK SO!

I’ve heard it said: “today is the tomorrow that we worried about yesterday”.

The reason I am able to do many of the things I can do today is because in some of my yesterdays I was willing to delay gratification and work toward very specific goals – like getting an education, like having lasik surgery, like establishing good credit, etc. etc.

HOWEVER – I do see Shapiro’s point that if we are extremely specific about our goals we leave little room for alternate successes.


For me, the truth lies somewhere in the middle between the preachings of Robbins and Shapiro. By no means am I going to throw away my palm pilot or give up on my check lists. I am a strong advocate of crafting a life by design rather than taking the pot luck of default, accepting whatever may come along. For me, that means creating a meaningful plan and then paying attention to whether I am getting closer to that plan or further away so I can adjust my efforts accordingly.

But maybe, just MAYBE it is time that I start rethinking some of my compulsive drive for “getting it right”. Maybe I could make some room for savoring a bit more of what comes along instead of always feeding my desire for the illusion of being in control of my life. Perhaps I could learn to be more willing to trust the universe to unfold all on its own without my guidance, eh?

Or not.

Pick a Card, Any Card....

I’ve been reading the book “Something More – Excavating Your Authentic Self” by Sarah Ban Breathnach (Author of “Simple Abundance”). The basic premise of her earlier book was that we experience abundance through gratitude – focusing our intent and attention on appreciating what we have rather than longing for what we do not. In this follow up book, she makes the claim that learning how to experience joy is how we move from imitation to authenticity.

She then goes on to distinguish between happiness and joy. She writes:
“Happiness is often triggered by external events, events we usually have no control over-you get the promotion, he loves you back, they approve your mortgage application. Happiness camouflages a lot of fears. But joy is the absence of fear. Joy is your soul’s knowledge that if you don’t get their promotion, keep the relationship, or buy the house, it’s because you weren’t meant to.” (Breathnach, 10 - emphasis mine).

So I’m sitting here wondering if I believe that. And along with it, I’ve been giving a lot of thought of late to how much I believe in “destiny” or things that are “meant to be” and how much I believe in the random nature of life.

Sometimes I think that a lot of the things that FEEL “meant to be” in our lives are just events that happened that we attached meaning to. Maybe they were pleasant. Maybe they were painful. We could learn from them or ignore them or use them to rationalize our own stupidity. Either way, perhaps it was just the cards we got dealt and there is no greater purpose beyond that.

When I am making big decisions in my life, because of my belief system I often pray to try to figure out “God’s Will” so that I will align my choices accordingly. But when it comes to things like where I will live, or what kind of work I will do, does it really matter to any sort of deity? Would I do just as well to flip a coin? I certainly would never ask God if I should wear the green dress or the black skirt and top when I go to worship. Perhaps what portion of geography I land in or what occupation I pursue (while very important to ME) may seem equally trivial to one who creates universes.

Having lived in six different states I have sometimes joked that God was behind a few of the multi-national corporate mergers that caused all of Larry's job transfers in order to put us in the path of a certain person who became very dear to us, or opening up key life lessons that were specific to a particular time and place. But mostly that sounds absurd to me. If I hadn't moved to Ohio I never would have met my pal Alice and if not for Wenatchee I'd have missed out on knowing Pat. Both of these women have enriched my life immeasurably, and have shared freindships with me that felt "meant to be". However, had I lived elsewhere I simply would have formed different relationships. If I'd never lived in Michigan, chances are I might never have completed my Master's Degree and I almost certainly would not have had some of the of the critical experiences I did with certain teachers there. But who knows what other sort of life I might have built if instead we had moved to Arkansas or Nebraska or Maine?

In the grand scheme of the cosmos, would that have mattered?

When discussing this through e-mails back and forth with my pal Johnda, I got back the following reply:

“I think there are very few times when Heavenly Father cares where you physically reside and all of those times seem to revolve around survival issues, i.e. Joseph, take the baby and flee into Egypt or Brigham, take the people out west where nobody else wants the land and you all won't get yourselves murdered. Just look at how Abraham decided where he should go, "OK, Lot. You want the land on the right or the left? Pick whichever you want and I'll go the other way." Abraham was a pretty inspired guy and I don't see anguish over "where the Lord wants me" in his attitude here. For the most part, where you go matters less than how you live.
I also think that it's pretty egocentric to believe that "I am the only person in the universe who could touch that one life the way God wants it touched right now" or to believe that there is only one human that God could use to touch you at the right time and in the right way when you need it. So I agree with your statement that wherever you go, you will continue to touch lives in meaningful ways and be touched by others in ways that continue to shape you into a glorious being.

That being said, I do believe that many jobs end or open in distant geographical locations according to events the Lord set in motion on our behalf to bring us into the situation that will help develop our "glorious being" where the people who will listen and respond to His promptings are present.

It's the fine line between being controlled by God and being guided by Him, offered opportunities from Him. Like the difference between predestination and foreordination. His hand IS in all things: not as controller of our choices but as author of our best opportunities. We seek, He will bring opportunity for us to find. We ask, He will provide the answer for us to utilize or reject. He will partner with us in all our positive endeavors. "It is not meet that I should command in all things..." "You took no thought save it was to ask me...." "Men should be anxiously engaged in good works according to their own free will and choice..." (J.Smith – March 12, 2006)

So some days I feel like I'm just a bit of flotsom floating on the currents, bumping into whatever I bump. Other days I agonize over trying to figure out what is the “RIGHT” path for me to take….do I pursue door #1 or door #2?

Do I flip a coin? Do I listen to the council of others? Is it appropriate or presumptuous to take these concerns to God? Maybe whether I live in Oregon or Michigan, whether I am a teacher or a plumber, is of equally trivial concern.

How about you? How do you find your path?