Just because it is, doesn't mean it should be.

~Lady Sarah Ashley portrayed by Nicole Kidman in the movie "Australia" . 

Sometimes I have to remind myself that just because things are so, doesn't mean it has to stay that way.  It is so easy to get discouraged and settle for how situations are.  When we do that it becomes a vicious circle: we are not happy with ourselves for passively allowing things to be. We then get more discouraged so we become more passive and don't even feel like trying which gets us even more discouraged.  We don't have to do that.  We don't have to live in that cycle.

For change to happen, a person, government or ideology has to be uncomfortable: the uncomfortableness of being where you are, makes you move.  Our two Jack Russells are examples of how this works with their daily "discussion" of finding the best physical spot to lie down.  Generally our male, Marley will be all settled in a spot.  It is in that exact location that Millie, the female decides she needs to be.   In order to make Marley move, Millie will sit in front of Marley and bark continually in his face.  He will just turn his head away and pretend she is not there.  Unfortunately, Millie can keep it up indefinitely with the result that Marley will eventually leave and she can move into the now unoccupied spot.  Marley gets to the point that his litter mate is making life too uncomfortable for him to enjoy his nap so he will leave and find a new location. 

Personally, we may not have someone barking in our face, but we may become so uncomfortable with a bad habit, a difficult job, or an unhealthy relationship that we decide to change our current position and have to move figuratively or literally.  

Politically, I think we are in the same type of spot.  I am concerned that terrible policies are being written and that no one is speaking out against injustice or speaking up for those who do not have a voice.  It seems that we (I am in that collective too) are complacent with what is going on in our government.  If we are vocal,  we are not being heard.  Where or how can we speak to be heard over the incessant barking of our leaders?    Are we uncomfortable with what is going on politically?  Are we ready  to "move" in order to be heard or at least to speak up for others? 

Spiritually we can be in a wallowing place of inertia. Places where we are just stuck in muck- feeling bad about ourselves and allowing that feeling to draw us under.   We tell ourselves that the Creator isn't happy or interested in us.  The father of lies likes us to think that way. He wants us to be settled with that "reality".  Just because we are in that place doesn't mean that is it is so.  God wants us to be out of that place, to move towards Him where He can tell us the truth: He loves each one of us and wants the best for us. He has created you and me for a purpose and with a plan.  Somedays I have to begin my way out of this funk by renewing my mind through scripture.  One of my favorite verses is Philippians 4:8: "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."   The other day I was wallowing in the muck of self-pity and was getting tired of my own barking thoughts.  I had convinced myself that I was an outsider to every group in which I am involved and that I had nothing to offer. I had to change my attitude and the only way I could do it was to repeat these verses.  I had to tell myself that my mucky thoughts were not true- that God was present in my life, I have purpose and that I did belong to a community of friends. 

What about you?  Do you find yourself stuck?  Uncomfortable?  Ready to move?  If not, what would it take?  Do you live in the reality of what is, is how it will always be?  Or do you believe that just because it is, it doesn't mean it should be?  How do you go about moving into that reality? 

Bullet Head

Back in the 1970's during the running craze, a twenty something young man was running a marathon in Wisconsin with the hope to finish under 3 hours in order to qualify for the Boston marathon.   He was running fine, meeting his time goals when around mile 16 he felt something hit the top of his head.  He thought it might be a stone or something and when he felt the top of his head, he felt an "egg" type swollen area.  He didn't give it too much thought but just kept plugging along.   As he advanced along the course, he felt like he was running slower and slower and just didn't feel right but he plugged along and finally finished.  When his wife saw him at the finish line she was concerned because he didn't finish in the time they had thought.  Only when she questioned him did he mention the thing that hit him on the head.  She convinced him to see the race doctor who said that he saw something shiny in his skull and needed to go to the local ER.  While there, the doctors determined that he had a bullet in his brain and very carefully dislodged it. It was in a position that was just right for removal- any other place- either deeper or shallower would've created considerable health problems. 

It was only a couple days later that he received a call from a gentleman who wanted to know what the he, the runner looked like.  The caller was supposed to run in that Wisconsin marathon but didn't since he knew that "bad people" were after him.  Turns out the runner was shot in a misidentification mishap. 

What struck me was the humor and fortitude of this guy.  He eventually did run in the Boston marathon as well as many other marathons and extreme marathons.  For a time he even wore a running shirt with his nick name "Bullet Man" on it and was once on the show "To Tell the Truth".

Dennis Rainer was shot in the head while running a marathon in Michigan. He kept running, finishing the race in just over three hours. (Courtesy of Dennis Rainear)

Dennis Rainer was shot in the head while running a marathon in Michigan. He kept running, finishing the race in just over three hours. (Courtesy of Dennis Rainear)


He said that having the bullet in his head was a blessing and curse.  Of course, no one wants to be shot- the curse. But, he said anything after that incident pales by comparison:  at times when he wanted to give up running he would think, "I ran and finished a race with a bullet in my head.  How can I stop this time just because I am tired?"  He applied that fortitude to other areas in his life. 

It made me think of things that have happened to me that, at the time I found were a pain (literally or figuratively) and could be seen as a curse.  Yet, because I could press on through the incident and "survived", I can use that milestone as a reminder to keep going:  If I could get through in the past, I can get through in the present. 

What about you?  Any "bullets in your head"? What did you learn from that experience?  Are you still learning?  How can you reframe your bad experience into one that has shaped you in a better way? 

"He has a real job..."

This past week I was meeting some folks, and as the usual first time greetings go, was asked, "What do you do?"  Sometimes when people ask me that, depending upon the tone of their voice I really am tempted to say in a snarky voice, "precious little.

I really shouldn't feel so defensive about it.  He was just asking.   In this conversation, I explained that I was a writer, which then prompter him to ask what I have published?  And then he proceeded to tell me about his son who writes, but he has a "real job" doing "xyz" (something lucrative and other than writing).   

Oy vey.  Here we go.  I cannot tell you how many people over the last two and a half years who just don't get the creative life.  Sure, there is not a weekly paycheck but there are still set hours each day that are spent writing, creating or doing research.  It is a sit down job. I have heard back from people who say that (in no particular order) I am, "retired, ill, or moving", that it "must be nice to be a lady of leisure", or imply that I have "loads of time to do....." (you fill in the blank).  I want to counter- what is a fake job? Working for no pay?  Is a real job one that only exchanges money? (Then by that logic you can see there is a problem between the difference of prostitution and monogamous married sex?  Which is "real love"?) 

To be fair and if I am honest I have also been judgmental over someone's work.  I am ashamed to say that in my younger working years, I would think, "Gosh.  Must be nice to have a cushy (fill in the blank) job" where it seemed as if the person didn't have too many responsibilities, too many hours or too many physical demands.  Boy was I naive and stupid.

The thing is- work is work.  Regardless.  It doesn't matter what the type of work it is. If it is satisfying a calling, producing a good or service, helping another, providing an outlet for creativity and beauty for others in the world, it is all work. I like the google definition: work is an "activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result."

While I may bristle about the "real job", I am pragmatic enough to understand the whole concept of "starving artist" and "real jobs".  At the end of the day, you cannot eat your artwork or prose.

It is just that so many jobs nowadays are not "real" or regular in the sense of the nine-to-five jobs of yesteryear.  The way we do jobs have changed.  No longer do people have to have face to face meetings; you can conference anyone, anytime, anywhere around the world without having to leave the comfort of your home.  There is medical technology where the doctor can be on one continent and control a surgical robot performing on a surgical patient in another continent.  Money can be transferred from one bank account to another with the swish of a finger. 

I know I need to chill out over this issue. I guess after this latest encounter I am becoming a little less antagonistic.  When people make comments, they don't really think about others' sensitivity and the comments are generally made for conversation not for any harm.   I also am getting more comfortable to say that I am a writer.  (Although I haven't gotten to the point where I truly believe it- I will need a little more professional recognition for that.) I guess I am defensive because I would like to say, "Yes, by gum. I am a very successful writer.  I have name recognition, speaking engagements, and lucrative advancements."  Falling short of that,  I need to comfortable with my current situation and my sense of calling.  Like so many things in life, if we feel self-assured then we are more likely to be open and gracious to others regardless of what they may or may not say to us. 

What about you?  What is your job?  Have you ever switched careers?  How did that work out?  Did you feel that you had to justify it to others? Do you feel that you have a conventional job?  Does what you do involve a mental or physical effort to produce a result or achieve a purpose?  Do you pre-judge people based on their work?  Do you feel comfortable with your calling and your work?  How did you get to that place?  


Putting Off...

There is a comedian, Tom Papa who does a regular routine on Live From Here, called "Out. In. America."  Part of his spiel is that he tells a story of meeting different individuals across the country and then poses questions,  "Have you ever....?"  which moves along the preposterous story he is telling by his replying with a deep pause and resignation,  "I have." 

In the tone of Tom Papa, "Have you ever put off doing certain projects or activities?   I can certainly say, " I have."  

Sometimes I wonder, "why?".  I know all the right techniques, thoughts and attitudes to jump on things and get things done: do the hardest thing first thing, break it down into smaller details,  reward yourself upon completion.  Try as I might,  procrastination is still my default.

Lately, I have a couple of big projects that I need to do yet I am finding that I am having difficulty either starting, or in the case of some of them, difficulty in the finishing.

Have you ever felt that way- stuck in the not-yet or frozen in the not-done?

I have.

It seems as if I am paralyzed with the not-yet.  Part of it stems from the not-knowing.  Projects that I have to do are not fully formed in my mind; I cannot see its entirety- start, middle, end. I am not quite sure how to start much less what it will look like as I go through it and finish it.   I get paralyzed with that blurry unknown.  I don't want to start lest I do something that needs redoing. 

Other times I am paralyzed with the not-done.  Part of this stems from a lack of excitement over the project.  Many times a project has been long and drawn out and I am just tired in thinking about it, much less wanting to actually work on it and complete it.  There is a loss of "newness" in the project and subsequently a contempt of the familiar.  It is only when the balance is tipped in that I am more "fed up" with something hanging on my to-do list then not, will I finally complete it. 

To get myself engaged, either with new or old projects, sometimes I just have to trick myself into doing it. 

Kind of like my approach to entering the water.  When I was a kid, I was one of the first ones in the water (whether it was the pool, sound or ocean) and one of the last ones out. As I have aged, I am ridiculous in my avoidance of getting wet.  It is not that I do not enjoy the water.  I do.  I love to swim and dive in and out of the waves.  Once in, I am fine. It is just the inertia to get into the water.  I feel quite comfortable being dry, warm and sun-kissed as I sit on the sand and don't have any desire to move. 

But there will come a moment in our beach attendance when I need to go into the water. (e.g. All the other family members are going in, I am getting way too hot on the sand, or I just need to move and get up from sitting/lying down.) I approach the waters edge, stick my toes in, look out into the dark, vast ocean and think, "Ahh, not today. I am going to sit back down."   Then I think, "Don't be ridiculous. You do not have that much time or opportunity at the beach.  Take advantage of this beautiful day.  Just go in.  Once you are in, you know you will enjoy it."  I am paralyzed in the overthinking of the dark, vast and reflective expanse of water in front of me. All sorts of silly ideas float in my head along with the Jaws soundtrack.  The water before me seems so ominous.

Yet, I know that when I exit the water, all that water between me and the land looks so inviting and warm. It is green, clear and seems so familiar.  Not at all like the dangerous seas I imagined as I first looked out in the distance. It is just my perspective.  The water hasn't changed. 

So, in order for me to first enter the water, I will walk in, turn backwards looking at the beach and the "pleasant" water in front of me,  lean back into the water and voila.  I am finally in.  Gone are the days when I would immediately run and jump in.  I have had to try another method to achieve the same thing. 

When I cannot get my act together for a project or activity, I have to trick myself into thinking that I am either in the middle of that project or almost finished with it.  If I don't worry about the start, but just go right to the middle, I can get over my paralysis of the not-yet.  Many writing experts give the suggestion of just jump right in the middle  when you feel stuck in starting a writing project.  For instance, if one is starting a novel, one might get overwhelmed to have the perfect opening line.  Sometimes it is better to begin writing a "middle" chapter and then go back.  We trick our minds so that we do not get paralyzed in perfection and in having to know how it will all work out from the get-go.  Sometimes a different approach keeps things interesting. It gives us a little mystery and unfamiliarity which helps keep things fresh. 

What about you? What are your "have you ever..." experiences?   Have you ever had to change your method or approach to looking or doing something?  What was it?  

Do you feel currently stuck in the not-yet or paralyzed by the not-done?  What can you do to freshen up your approach to it? 

Have you ever wondered why you put off a task?





Coincidence? I Think Not.

 On the news they were talking about the opiate crisis and the call from public health professionals for the government to step in and monitor/regulate the distribution of Naloxone. Naloxone (aka Narcan) is an opiate receptor antagonist- eliminates all signs of opioid intoxication and can reverse an opioid overdose.  By making it universally affordable and available, everyone will have (theoretically) access to the anti-opiate drug and we can potentially save those who might otherwise die from overdose.

They told the story of a woman who was driving and passed a group of people standing around a car on the side of the road.  She pulled over and asked if they needed any help.  A man next to her said that there was nothing she could do- the two people were dead.  Overdosed.  The woman went to assess the slumped individuals, pulled some Naloxone from her purse, squirted it up their noses and by the time the paramedics had arrived, the two individuals were stirring.  

Now the story was placed in the report to emphasis the importance and need of Naloxone to be available to all people.   I wonder what those two addicts in the story thought about this woman who just happened to be passing by, just happened to know all about drug overdose, just happened to have Naloxone in her purse and just happened to work for a non-profit devoted to distributing Naloxone to the public.  Did they think it was all a coincidence and that there are no connections?  

I hear it and think, "Thank God that woman was there at the scene. Don't they know how fortunate they are?.  Don't they know that there must be a reason they didn't die?  Don't they want to take advantage of having a second chance on life?"  All those combinations of facts should register that this was no accident: they have been rescued for a reason. 

But, things don't have to be that dramatic to understand that there are no coincidences in life.  There are times when things happen and there is no other logical explanation than "it was a God thing."  We have been witness to it over the years: a check appears in the mail just when we are low on food funds, a stranger out of nowhere helps push our stalled car out of a busy intersection, that same car doesn't stop in the middle of a barreling traffic turnpike with no pull off (we would have been crushed and killed) but limps along until we can exit, the third class mailing for a summer program which intrigues our son, which has him attend the program, then apply to the school, be accepted into the internship program, make connections, life long friends and a successful business, an out of the blue call to an almost forgotten job application which leads to a promising career at a time when the prior job is drying up.  

Whether or not you believe in God or think that there is a cosmic coincidence going on, you must admit that it is important to see things in context.  We are quick to say "I am so unlucky" and look at all the ways the universe conspires against us.  But if we were to make a tally sheet:  universe versus advantages, I think that we would find that there are just as many positives (probably more) than negatives.  It is just our human nature to notice the negative, or the lack rather than the positive. 

My perspective is that it is God orchestrated.  There are events that happen in our lives that cannot be attributed to random happenings: they are too specific and coordinated.  I truly believe that God wants the best for each one of us.  I also believe that when things work out for our benefit, it is another opportunity for God to show us how much He cares for us and for the things about which we care.  It is also an opportunity for us to trust Him with our life details. While we trust God completely with our future,  we are not just puppets in a play. We do have some choice in what we do, how we live our lives and how we engage or disengage in life responsibilities.  It is just when we start looking for God's hand in our lives, we will see how much He is involved, how much He cares for us, how much He loves us and how things are not just coincidences.  And if you think about it- if things are orchestrated and not just random, then what happens in our lives matters and is important. All events have purpose and all people and all relationships have purpose.  

If you feel that the world is against you, take this week to notice and write it all down:  negative and positive, what went "right" and what went "wrong".   What did you discover?  Are there connections among the happenings in your life?  If so, what are they?   If you start to see connection, what does that tell you about your role in it all?  How does that make you feel? 

In the immortal quotes from one of my favorite films, "The Incredibles":

"Coincidence.  I think not."

It's the Little Things...

Graduation season is upon us.  This year we will have a graduate from graduate school. Funny, the more schooling one gets, the less hoopla around the accomplishment.  I think of all the kindergarten graduates with the too cute, too big caps and gowns, too expensive "professional" photographs.  For our grad school son, he doesn't even want to attend the commencement services.  One reason- their finishing up dates don't correspond to the dates of the undergraduates and he will still be having finals, etc. during the commencement exercises.  And two (the real reason), he knows how long and drawn out these events are.  The only way he would attend is if his brother would attend in the audience.  [A typical sibling tit-for-tat: the current graduate "suffered" through his brother's college graduation while his brother could not attend the current graduate's, undergraduate service.  His brother's school was small enough to read everyone's (undergraduate, graduate and doctoral candidates) name as he/she walked across the stage but large enough for the service to take hours in a sub-zero freezing arena.]

One of the best commencement speeches I have heard was given by Admiral William McRaven, ninth commander of the Special Operations Command to the University of Texas class of 2014. He had some simple but universals truths to impart.  His big advice to the class of 2014: 

Make your bed every morning. 

It seems like a little thing.  It seems like something an adult who is tired of seeing his children's unmade beds might say but there is more to it than that.  

Making one's bed, every day gives one a sense of accomplishment.  You start off the day with something already done and it doesn't take much effort to do.  When you feel that you have accomplished something, it is easier to continue getting things done. 

It reminds me of a friend's discussion we had long ago.  She was saying that, besides the education and information that you might learn, getting a college degree is another one of those, "Yup, whatever else happens in my life, I have accomplished something."  One might never "use" the degree per se but it still impacts a person on what they do and how they feel for the rest of their lives.  In 2016 The College Board released a comprehensive report regarding the benefits of a college education.  There are more benefits than just economic gain: life satisfaction, healthier behavior, civic involvement, and voting to name a few. 

I am reminded of stories of successful individuals who go back to college and finish their degree.  Not because they need the degree for potential income, but rather for a sense of accomplishment: Steven Spielberg- Bachelor's Cal State Long Beach in 2001, Shaquille O'Neal- Bachelor's Louisville State in 2000, Oprah Winfrey- Bachelor's Tennessee State in 1987,  Mayim Bialik- Bachelor's in 2000 and PhD in 2007, James Franco- list is too long of his educational accomplishments, Natalie Portman- Bachelor's Harvard 2003. 

It reminds me too the practice of physical discipline, i.e. regular exercise tends to help one in the realm of emotional, mental or spiritual discipline.  Actually, any discipline helps in discipline in other areas.  One can make the claim that "If I can run for a couple of miles, two times a week, I can certainly accomplish my goal of completing the house project.  And if I can accomplish the goal of the house project, I can discipline myself to not eat too many desserts each week.  And if...."  The discipline trickles down to so many other things.

It all starts with making one's bed in the morning.

What about you?  What is one thing that you accomplish each day?  How does that make you feel? Do you have unfulfilled goals?  What little discipline can you do that might trickle into another little discipline? 

Below are the take-aways from Admiral McCraven's speech: 

  • Start each day with a task completed. 
  • Find someone to help you through life. 
  • Respect everyone.
  • Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often.
  • But if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up — if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today.

Click here to hear the entire speech. 

Cherry Blossom Memorials

Over the weekend our son invited my husband and me to visit and to bike ride into Washington DC to see the cherry blossoms.  It was a fun day.  The weather was fantastic- almost too warm too quickly - sunny, warm with a breeze. (I know, I mustn't complain after the dreary cold days that we have had.) The blossoms were full out,  leaning a little more on the other side of their peak but still full and beautiful.  

As to be expected, the tidal basin and the surrounding mall and area were mobbed.  Coming into DC through a Virginia bike trail brought us upon the FDR memorial.  I have been to many places in DC but never there.  It is across the tidal basin from the MLK memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. It was designed in the 70's but only received money from Congress to build it in 1997.  It is an open design of four "rooms"- each room depicting a term of President Roosevelt. 

According to the information about the memorial, it was built not without controversy.  The main issue was whether or not to show the President's disability (basically he was confined to a wheelchair and didn't have any use of his legs due to polio paralysis).  At the time of his presidency, it was a carefully guarded secret of his inability to walk and he was not to be photographed in any compromised state.  Doing so would show weakness on the part of the leader of the free world. 

One statue of him has him sitting in a chair with his legs covered by a cape.  Supposedly if you look at the back of the statue, the two back legs have wheels on them to depict his "wheel chair".  I guess that is one way to compromise over the "disability" controversy. 

But it makes me wonder what would've happened if his "weakness" was known during the thirties and forties.  Would people think less of him?  Would they not have voted for him?  Would other leaders not respect him? Or would he receive more support?  More votes? Certainly, his disability must have shaped him, his world view and his views of others.  We cannot separate ourselves from our experiences and situations of life.  Did it make him more compassionate and mindful of others less fortunate? Did it make him short-tempered, demanding or arrogant?  I can only think that the "weakness" helped him in ways that might not be initially obvious but subtly defining his character and his decisions. 

It was interesting to see the crowds at this memorial as well as the other parts of the National Mall. As is typical of modern society, the self-portraiture was rampant.  Almost everyone gathered at the memorial and along the tidal basin were taking selfies: pictures of a blooming branch artistically arranged behind the photo-takers head. I guess the snaps were to provide proof to Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram that 1) they were there 2) they were able to capture their visage at that moment of time. 

What about you?  What would your memorial look like?  How would you be portrayed?  Is there a "weakness" you wouldn't want mentioned?  Or, do you feel that in your weakness you have been made strong?  In addition to thinking about your memorial, what would capture your image right now?  Is it an unfinished portraiture?  A post blooming one?  A controversial one?  An image of peace and tranquility? 

I would hope my "memorial" would include my weaknesses, my strengths, my authenticity and above all my humanity. 

Scenes from the FDR Memorial...

Scenes from the FDR Memorial...



I have been reviewing and looking over my past posts with the intention of pulling together thematic ideas for a book. The thought is to try and  "work smarter" by using ideas I have already begun to explore and flesh out.  But, I have a tendency to not look back on my work.  Once created, any work is once and done.  

Through this review I am noticing duplicate themes: not only that, but also duplicate exact topics.  I am either passionate about a certain subject (which can be true) or I am a very slow learner (alas, which can also be true).  I know that what I wrote was in earnest about what I was feeling and experiencing at the time. 

By the repetition of my ramblings, it seems as if I haven't learned anything yet.  I thought that I was moving forward in my quest for becoming more of the person God has made me to be.  I thought that I had improved or completed some of my personal and professional goals.  

Apparently not. 

I am reminded of the quote by George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 

I am also reminded of the idea that  keeping one's eye on the past is like driving a car by looking in the rear view mirror.  It won't take too long before you hit something. (mangled version of a statement by Rick Warren)

What are we supposed to do?  Never look back?  Always look back?   Resign ourselves to circular travel? 

Once again (as I have previously written) it all comes down to balance.  Balancing the remembrance of the past with the expectation and hope for the future. Having just celebrated Easter, I am reminded of the nature of people.   Holy week is divided almost mid-week by the Last Supper which was the celebration of the Passover meal.  Every time Christians celebrate communion or eucharist or the new covenant they are also (maybe not so noticeably) remembering the old covenant of the Passover.  It is in looking forward to the unhindered relationship with God that we reflect on where we have been.  We remember our state of dis-grace so that we can appreciate and enjoy our new state of grace. 

What about you?  Have you ever looked at the things which worried you in the past?   If you would review your Christmas letters or past journals, would you find that you are writing about the same things?  Are the topics the same- year in and year out?  Do you feel that you are in a rut?  Are you stuck in doing the same ole, same ole?  Or are you the rolling stone gathering no moss as you keep moving forward? Are you the shark mentality- keep moving or you can perish? Either way, are you happy with that situation?   What can you do about it? 

I think reflection is good, both as individuals and as a society.  It keeps us accountable.  We have responsibilities for our actions and the remembrance of the past keeps us in check not to repeat detrimental action (or so we hope). 

Refection also helps to understand new situations as they arise.  Sometimes we may be in a quandary how to respond to the new predicament and we need the context of what has gone on before. We need to view the new through the lens, and possibly the actions of the old in order to accomplish our current and future goals. 

In visiting the Nantucket Whaling museum some years ago, they had a display of old fashioned hand tools that the sailers used to carve up the whale once they harpooned and killed it.  The tools were designed to get the most out of the carcass.  The docent remarked that a few months prior to our visit a beached whale had died on the shore.  They needed to clear the beach and wanted to remove sections of the whale for scientific study.  None of the modern tools could accomplish what they wanted.  They had to come to the museum and borrow some of the display tools.  It was only through using the past could the present be helped.

I think in order to keep the balance, we do need to remember the past.  To remember and learn from it. 

However we cannot be heavy laden with that side of the balance.  We need to reflect on what is on that side of the scale and move forward, learning what we should and shouldn’t do. 

One thing that was eye opening in looking over past posts was that I could see growth and stagnation.  It has helped inform my decision of my life choices for the couple of months.  I am realizing that some of the things I haven't completed yet, need to get done.  No more mucking about. 

I think that is one of the blessings in keeping a journal.  One can look back to see answered prayers, concerns, joys, cries of the heart.  The  blog has become a journal of sorts.  I notice what I have commented upon and the date and it is a good remembrance of things done.

If you don't, I would encourage you to keep a journal.  Try it.  It doesn't have to be a lengthy epistle, just lists of what you are thinking would suffice.  It would be interesting if you could keep it for at least a year so that you can go back and see what has happened in a year's time- your thoughts and reflections.  If the journal is too daunting, why not jot a view things down each day on your calendar?  Perhaps three words to describe your day?  Three things for which you are grateful?  Or have as a goal?  

If you don't journal, do you have some record, demarcation or milestones of your past?  Do you reflect on them?  If so, does that inform how you go forward? 








W@TW: Raise A Hand

I am writing this post on the morning after the March For Our Lives event.  It is one of those movements that I feel can go either way:  either it will be the turning point in this country over the gun control issue or it will be another heartfelt but ineffective attempt.  I hope and pray that it will be the former.  Listening to those who spoke and reading the various commentaries I am impressed with the young people who organized the event. Their clear headedness in speaking the truth with simplicity, in noticing both the problem and the solution reminds me of the Hans Christian Anderson's tale "Emperor's New Clothes".  It was a child who saw that the "new clothing" was no clothing at all and that the emperor was naked.  It is the young people who point out the obvious problem with guns, having firearms in schools, and trying to solve our disputes with items other than our words.  

We spent this past weekend at our son's apartment in Alexandria Virginia.  When visiting I like to look at the local paper.  There was an interesting article talking about the town's civil right's story.   During the town's segregated past, a school cook joined a federal law suit to allow her children to attend a whites-only school.  Ms. Blois Hundley a mother of eight, attended a local PTA meeting where they asked people to raise their hand to join the lawsuit.  Ms. Hundley wasn't thinking to cause any problems for herself or anyone else.  She just raised her hand wanting black children to have equal education as their white counterparts.  Because she had joined the lawsuit, her employer the school board fired her from her job even though her performance there was exemplary.  She needed the money to support her children, but she didn't waver in her decision and was instrumental in changing the education system for Alexandria.  

After her firing, the owner of a local newspaper, a Mr. Philip Stern, knocked on her door to cover the story.  Not only was the gentleman a business man but he was also a noted philanthropist. He was outraged by her unfair treatment and so hired her as the personal cook for his family where she worked for over thirty years.  According to Ms. Hundley's daughter, their family was often included in activities with the employer's family.  She remembers being taken out with the other children to go ice-skating.  When the proprietor refused the young girl's admittance due to the color of her skin, Mr. Stern turned and said if she couldn't come in, then no one in his family would go in either. 

What I love about Ms. Hundley's story is how a simple act of raising one's hand, changed the course of public and private history.  The town finally did what was right by all its inhabitants.  Both families- the Sterns and the Hundleys were changed in how they view each other and the world around them. 

It is like the simple act of the teenagers who are speaking up against gun violence.  There is no complex agenda, no placating different sides of the issue, no wringing of hands over ineffectiveness- just simply, calmly, speaking the truth about what one is noticing.

Just like Ms. Blois Hundley.   She raised her hand in recognition that things were not right and that they could be better.

When opportunities arise like that, do we over think our reaction or do we just go with the flow? Are we willing to live with consequences of our decisions? Do we/ should we think too much about it?  

Are we willing to do the simple thing in order to do the right thing?  Are we willing to raise our hands? 


Living with Spaciousness

On Sunday's "On Being" radio program, I heard an interview with the poet Naomi Shihab Nye.  At one point she spoke about living with spaciousness- giving yourself time to exist in this world. 

I loved the image and the permission:  to have the opportunity to create space in all that we do, to allow ourselves room to breathe- physically, emotionally, spiritually.  

Spaciousness.  To me it connotes wide expanses and openness.  I think the idea of vastness is part of our psyche or at least the American psyche.  We think of the wide open plains, the expanse of oceans or great lakes or the scale of our sky scrapers.  I think it also connotes possibility like a large blank canvas. 

I think the poet's words spoke to me because at this juncture in our lives, we are in the middle of redoing our basement.  For anyone who has ever been in the middle of a home project you know all about disruption, feeling claustrophobic with clutter and chaos that these projects create. At present all the items in our basement are currently housed in our first and second floor rooms.  I am certainly not feeling any spaciousness in our home lately.  

So, I find it incredibly appealing to think of the idea of creating and living with spaciousness both in the external, our residence and in the internal of our lifestyle choices.  I definitely see the advantage in the external.  I cannot wait to get my household back in order, straightened and de-cluttered. To have room to move around, to set out new projects, and to not be burdened by confining spaces is my wish. 

I am equally wishful for a lifestyle that gives me room to move around, to engage in new projects or ideas and to not be burdened by confining habits.  As an example of living with spaciousness the poet suggested the simple practice of arriving to an appointment a couple minutes early.  It will give you some time to settle before you move from one task to another.  You have time to observe your surroundings, take a breath and create a buffer between events.

In some ways I liken it creating petite sabbaths- time when my norm is paused for a brief time and I can reflect.  Generally I find my norm is hustling from one activity into another. When I give myself these petite pauses, I create time to be:  time to take a  deep breath, say a prayer, speak to a stranger, notice my surroundings. 

Building in time for pausing will mean that something in my schedule will have to be eliminated. It makes me vulnerable and open to the possibility that I may not accomplish that which I want or at least in my time frame.  It has taken me a long time to realize that true Sabbath keeping is not accomplishing seven days of work in six days.  It is not rushing around for those six days so that when you rest on the seventh, you are "caught" up.   

True Sabbath keeping is allowing time for God, for accomplishing things not in our normal routine and giving that time over to God for whatever He desires for us. It is knowing that while we might not have everything done in those six days, we give over that seventh day to Him regardless.  

I think living with spaciousness is Sabbath keeping on a smaller scale.  We are pausing in our lives, creating margin so that before we run into our house after work, we have time to listen to the neighbor talk about his kids, or plan to take a full lunch break in order to hear the co-worker's anxiety over her mother-in-law's health, or pause before running on the trail and sit and ponder the surrounding beauty of nature.  

Just like I need space and order in my physical living space, I need margin in my emotional and spiritual life.  I need to guard that I am not jam-packed, minute by minute in my schedule. I need to leave open space for the possibilities of whatever might occur. I need to offer back my schedule and its margins to God as gratitude for what the margins create in my life: an order, a spaciousness, an opportunity, a blessing of enjoyment of all aspects of life.  

What about you?  Do you live with spaciousness?  In your physical world?  Your emotional or spiritual world? Do you have margins in your life?  Time that isn't taken with activities?  Time to just be? What would that look like for you?  Can you create petite Sabbaths in your day?  Your week? 

Inspiring Words

Have you ever had a book really resonate with you?  Did the characters speak to your soul?  Could you identify with them?  Did they inspire you to live differently?

Mrs. Pollifax.jpg

I heard a story last week of a woman who was inspired to live her dreams- all because of an eighty-year old book character.  In the book, "The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax", the main character is in existential despair and so she decides to embark on a career that she always wanted to do- work for the CIA.  A fun and entertaining story, Mrs. Pollifax meets ageism head on and inspires one to follow one' s dreams and to make a difference at whatever stage of life.  I remember reading the book years ago and enjoying it.  However, I was surprised when I heard a woman say that book inspired her to go to medical school when she was in her late thirties/forties and raising two children.  She says that she carried that book with her all the time to inspire and encourage her. (Click here to read the Aha Moment.)

Wow.  The power of the written word.

A movie version of the beloved classic, "A Wrinkle in Time", opened in theaters on Friday. I remember reading that book as a child and loving it.  As an adult I discovered Madeleine L'Engle's other work. (Click here to see all the titles.)  In fact, she is one author who inspires me.  (My pen name is an homage to her.  Her pen name was her first and middle name as is mine.)  I am looking forward to seeing this new version.  From what I have seen of the trailers it seems that while some things may have been changed, the essence of the story has remained.

I think one of the reasons books are so powerful is that words convey truth. They inspire and plant ideas and new ways of looking at our life.  When we seen how characters respond to various situations, we can determine if that is how we want to live our life.  Madeleine L'Engle talks about truth in story. She says that while not all (of the) story is true, there is a truth in the story.   I think that is the reason we connect with certain stories; its truth speaks to a truth within us. 

What about you?  What books inspire you?  What types of characters?  What books were meaningful to you as a child?  Does it still resonate with you? Have you had a book speak to you at a certain point in your life and then years later wondered what it was all about? 


The Skin We are In

The other day I heard a story on the radio that has really struck me.  It was a story about skin bleaching.  Apparently it is a common practice for certain darker skinned people groups to apply toxic substances to their skins in the hopes to make their complexion lighter.  I was stunned.  When I hear skin bleaching it brings to mind the tabloid rumors of Michael Jackson.  Skin bleaching is a billion dollar industry crossing the globe and is not just reserved for eccentric mega stars. 

As I was mulling this over, my husband and I happened to walk our dogs past the neighborhood tanning salon. The parking lot was packed. "Ah, the signs of spring (or for those who are going south- spring break)", I said to my husband.   Pity the poor person who turns up on the beach with winter white legs.  I am glaringly aware of my two slug legs every Wednesday when I play indoor tennis. Apparently I haven't gotten the memo: the use of tanning creams and lotions.   Even if I wasn't planning on using the cancer beds of the local salon, I can still "color" my legs with the helps of creams and lotions. 

Hmm.  Creams to get lighter and creams to get darker.  Sounds like an Alice in Wonderland predicament. Or, the upper/downer scenarios of a by-gone era.  Why are we not content with the skin we are in? 


I remember reading Henry Louis Gates, Jr's memoir, "Colored People".  In it, he explains how one side of the family was lighter skinned than the other. Those on the light skinned side had a tendency to "lord" it over the others at family gatherings or simple decisions: they were the ones who "knew best".   However,  when the "black is beautiful" movement gained speed in the 1960's, those fairer skinned family members lost their clout. 

To me, it all seems so silly.  Skin color and its ramifications can change so quickly.  When I was working on an oncology floor I still remember one patient- a beautiful, fair-skinned, "Irish lass".  Over the course of months with chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplantation, anti-rejection medication, and a myriad of other treatments, her liver started failing.  She became more than a little jaundiced.  Her entire body turned dark-khaki green to blackish.  She no longer looked fair skinned as her ancestors.   Any one meeting her in that current state would think that she was from a different ethnic group.  Yet she was the same person, with the same DNA and the same thoughts and feelings. 

It makes me wonder, why and when did lighter skin became the social norm of betterment?  It has been noted by sociologists that the cooler climates produced people with lighter skin tones and lighter eyes.  Conversely the hotter climates caused the skin to produce more melanin and pigmentation as protection from sun damage.   When I think of the places where mankind originated, they were hotter and sunnier. The skin tone was darker to protect it in that environment.  It was in those places that civilization was born and grew.  It was there that ideas sprung up and societies thrived. 

It just amazes me when any people group think that the look of another people group is more appealing.  By whose standards?  Is it aesthetics or something else? Where did these lighter skin folks come from and who, the heck did they think they were?  Are these the "barbarians" that overthrew Roman civilization?  Were they as sophisticated as their darker skin cousins? 

Is it a hang over from colonization?  In the case of colonization, it amazes me that one people group can come in to another's country and start telling them what to do or not to do.  It is the utmost rude guest. Yet even before the period of colonization and imperialism, there were arguments between northern (generally lighter skinned) and southern (generally darker skinned) groups in many countries.  Is skin color just an easy way to keep track of who is part of our clan and who isn't?  Skin color is a large visible description, one that can be seen from a distance.  It is an easy marker.  In the old days it was easy to group people by that glance of physical features as the genetic mixing of people groups hadn't occurred too much.

Is it a question of socioeconomics? Tanning or having the sun darken one's skin was all about economics especially among the agricultural societies. To have a tan would mean that you worked outside and not a person of leisure, i.e. wealthy.  A tan would denote that you were a common laborer. 

Yet as modern people, aren't we doing the same thing?  We are allowing a quick judgment, "you are or are not part of my tribe" by the glance at one another.  We do it with physical features:  skin color, aging- color of hair or lines on face, weight, height.  We do it with consumable goods:  cars, jewelry, handbags, shoes, clothing, houses.   We do it with accomplishments: education, neighborhoods, type of jobs.  People can make quick assessments without any thought of truly getting to know one another. 

What about you?  Have you ever thought about the skin you are in? Do you want to change it? What are the social implications of lighter or darker skin? Does it matter? Do you make judgements based on what you see? 

In all honesty, I do like a little color to my skin.  I like the feel of the warmth of the sun on my skin and even with the best sunblock, I still get tan. For me it is a natural consequence of being outside.  But the whole idea of tanning and skin color does remind me to keep an open mind in meeting people.  Someone's skin color might be the biggest thing I see about a person but it is not the only thing.  It is just the tip of the iceberg on that person's personality and soul.  When I connect to someone beyond the superficial of skin color, I am letting go my own superficiality of my skin tone.  I don't need to look lighter or darker to be connected. The person in me can feel comfortable to connect with the person in you. 

I am reminded of the old children's Sunday school song, "Red and yellow, black or white.  They are precious in His sight.  Jesus loves the little children of the world."  The descriptions may sound politically incorrect but if we can remember that all people and all people's coloring are precious to God, maybe we would be more content with our own skin.