This project's goal is to give each family member and myself just 10 minutes of unconditional positive regard every day. All attention is focused on the other person for those 10 minutes and only positive comments or thoughts are allowed. Just 10 minutes often becomes much more. Try it and see. You'll find the Just 10 guidelines on the right side of this blog.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Chicken of Depression

This Far Side comic by Gary Larson makes me want to get the coffee mug.  It's been a favorite for years and my anthem the last week or so.  I've gotten so sick of my "chicken of depression" this week, I'm going to kill them all and replace them with ducks.  At least ducks are more suited to the climate, i.e. all the bloomin' rain.

It's been really difficult to put a positive spin on things.  "You can cover a cow pie with frosting but underneath it's still  manure."  (I know it may sound like Annie Oakley but I think it's me.  And then, again, I may have heard it some where and now hi-jack it as my own.)   As a tot, I used dried cow pies for Frisbees.  A fine Frisbee do they make.  Looks like reality is asking me to return to my roots, pick up a few cow patties and toss them about the pasture of life.  Some times, it's the only sensible option left.

As often as I sail upon the river of Denial, my chickens always follow me.  They never let me get away with much.  That stupid loud rooster will be the first to go.  Stupid chickens.    Their infernal clucking has made it hard to write.  Who can be creative with all that idiotic noise? 

Today, I'm kicking them out, thinking about ducks and the pretty pond they'll sail on.  The chickens of depression will be replaced with the ducks.  These ducks are a definite upgrade.

 "Chickens, you are tomorrow's soup. Make way for the ducks of derring-do."

Saturday, March 26, 2011


My husband and I awoke to the sound of our children frolicking about the house like a couple of cartoon characters.  I'm thinking Spridel and Chim Chim.  We blocked out the noise and turned our attention to other things before joining them.  The most difficult thing about being an older parent is the difference in our energy levels.  I would have been content to lounge all day.  Spridel and Chim Chim's antics made that bloody unlikely.

Anxious to wash away the last 24 hours, I step into the shower.  In between the stages of my daily showering ritual . . . wash face first, shampoo hair, add conditioner. . . I thought of yesterday's sharing of the poem to the freshman English class.  At the time, it didn't phase me.  I enjoyed my "surprise."  This morning I felt very naked.

The teacher hadn't said a word.  Did that mean she thought it stunk?  Did she understand that the "I am" in the poem was not really me?  Did she think I had delusions of grandeur? 

For years, the fear of rejection or criticism kept me from putting my writing out there for others to see.  Recently, the mechanism holding back the words malfunctioned.  Part of me really doesn't care if I stink or not.  The words themselves seem to demand a life of their own.  I let them spill through my fingers on to the page. 

I have moments when I think I must be nuts.  Occasionally, I feel a twinge of embarrassment at being so open and risking criticism.  Sometimes, I must stink.  The law of averages demands it.  Yet, still I write.  More accurately, still I feel compelled to write.

It's been great therapy for me.  Writing forces me to impose a structure, an organization, a theme on the chaos of my day, of my life, of all the pieces within.  It allows me the pleasure of an occasional transcendence.  It demands that I be better than I was yesterday.  It pulls me forward.   My words, whether good, bad or horribly mediocre pull me into a better version of myself.  I share them because I can.  The words seem to demand it.  I just try and stay out of their way.

I sit in the library now.  A clean man with shaven head is dressed in neat robes.  He appears to be the quintessential Buddhist engaged in a walking meditation among the noise of young children, the snippets of adult conversations, the pieces of forbidden phone calls that seem to have no respect for the sanctity of library rules.  The library pulses with life, not always the best of life but life nonetheless.  He walks smoothly.  His gaze is focused just a few steps in front of him.  He walks among the living as if he is apparition.  When he walks by, he leaves a trail of peace that feels good against the ragged edges of my life.

I want to be like this simple man.  I want to walk among the living and leave just a little piece of the best parts of myself behind.  Maybe one of the most important things I can share is my fallible humanity.  Maybe, just once in a while, I can touch someone else with my words. After all, we're all works in progress.  In any case, with or without literary merit of any kind, my writing helps me.  Feeling compelled to share it is something I can live with.  In the end, it won't really matter.  In my mind, I begin to follow my Buddhist friend as he walks the world in peaceful reflection.  To try or not to try may be the same thing.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Poetry Challenge

An unusual thing happened today.  I was sitting in a freshman English class.  They were wrapping up their section on poetry and each student was reading an original poem or a piece of a poem they had written.  The teacher read her poem first and then went around the room.    I'd actually written one when it was assigned just for the fun of it and I thought to myself,  I'd like to read my poem too.

All the students were finished and one young man said, "What about Carol?  I'm sure she wrote one."  A second voice added to the first and the teacher turned to me and said, "You don't have to.  It's up to you. I don't want to let them put you on the spot." 
They probably were trying to put me on the spot.  I was prepared and savored the moment.
I said, "I  did write one for the I Am poem assignment and I don't mind reading it.  And, I did.  The room was pretty quiet for a few moments.  One kid gave me a fist bump. A nice way to end a Friday.
I'm letting this be my entry for today.

I Am

I am the wind
howling at the top of the world.

I am the soft rain
falling in the desert.

I am the lone bell
tolling in the night.

I am laughter
and the song it sings.

I am the Alpha and Omega
of all longing.

I am nothing
and everything.

I am.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Don't Worry Be Crabby

Did the recent extra large full moon rain down crabby moonbeams of lunacy?  Is someone putting crabby pills in our water supply?  Are the rainy days of winter drowning the last crumbs of remaining happiness?  Are people spontaneously exploding in crabby balls of whack due to some tragic celestial alignment?  Maybe, I'm just the last to know that today, March 24 is National Crabby Day.

This day began rather well for me.  I left for work knowing I was forgetting something.  Didn't remember what until I reached for my lunch in the passenger seat and found it wasn't there.  No worries.  I quickly call home and request a lunch delivery from my husband.   Plan B is on the ready if he isn't available.   "Good problem solving," I say to myself.   

Suddenly, during third period, my cell phone silently vibrates in my pocket.  This is a rare occurrence and reserved for emergencies.  I inconspicuously check the number.  It isn't one I recognize.  I let it go.  The caller is insistent.  When she calls again, I jump and make a slight gasping noise.    I blush now to think of how it might have looked to others.  My jeans pocket doesn't vibrate often. 

This time, I decide I must respond.  I step outside the classroom to take the call.  From the first few words, I know that this caller is not happy.  It's Kaiser calling about an appointment reminder.  She called home first and reached my husband.  She launched in about how rude he was.  I took a deep breath and held my tongue.  I wanted to say, "Well, if you started talking to him in the tone you're using when talking to me, I'd say you lit that fuse." 
I think about what it means to be assertive and if it's worth the heartache in this case.  I decide to keep my thoughts to myself.  My diplomatic customer service professional comes to the scene and apologizes for the unpleasantness she experienced and say, "He must just be having a bad day.  I'm really sorry."  I listen to her vent until she starts to calm down and then redirect her to the reason for her phone call.  All the while, I  think to myself, that Kaiser really needs to do a little more customer service training.  She ends up exhaling, laughing slightly and thanking me for being so understanding.  I coo soft words back but think that I did all the work here.  Maybe I should submit a bill for therapeutic services rendered.

I go back in the classroom wondering what story my husband will need to get off his chest when I next catch up with him.  The bell rings and I get to find out.  Husband is in parking lot with my forgotten lunch.  I tell him I got a call from an upset Kaiser employee.  "Wow", he says.  "You wouldn't believe how rude she was to me, first!" 
I think to myself, "Your fuse is rather easily lit but . . ."  I say out loud,  "Yeah, I figured she wasn't the most diplomatic.  She started off kind of rough with me.  Don't let it bother you.  She must have been having a bad day." 
He turns down my invitation to join me for lunch in the staff lounge.  I'm secretly relieved.  I need some space to recharge my battery.  Being a therapist is hard work. 

Once I get to the lounge, my lunch buddy is reading the newspaper.  I'm fine with a low key, non-talkative lunch.  When you work in noisy classrooms filled with mindless chatter, not talking becomes more appealing.  Even more appealing is not having to listen.  One of the regular substitutes sits within my peripheral vision.  I dread what I know will come, Words!  His words!  He can supply an almost endless stream of them.  Part of me doesn't want to be rude or cruel but honestly, buddy,  I don't want to talk politics or newspaper articles right now.  I just want to eat lunch and find a safe haven from those who seem to be suffering from  bad case of crabby.  Fortunately, I don't sit facing him.  I use this as an excuse to face forward, nod obliquely and keep on eating and focusing on newspaper articles that I'm not really reading.  Yes, I know it probably telegraphed some form of rudeness but this is my lunch too, people!  When he doesn't successfully engage either of us in lunch-time discussion, he leaves and I enjoy the remaining 5 minutes of lunch time in a more relaxed frame of mind.

Wait, the day wasn't done with me yet.  I had to be called, "stupid" first.   The young man behind those words wasn't really frustrated with me as much as he was with himself.  He just didn't know that yet.  He got very short with me when I came to bring him back to English class.  When I reminded him that his tone was unpleasant and he needed to think about how he was sounding, he called me, "Stupid."  Now, I know I'm not stupid.  I know he was frustrated and I was an easy target but I had to take a mental break, give the "Stupid" remark some space and think about my response.  I just wanted to clobber him.  I'm starting to really understand why some people snap and "GO POSTAL."

I gave this incident a bit of time.  When I next see the young man behind the "stupid", I tell him simply,  "I'm happy to help you but when you speak disrespectfully to me, I will not.   Your behavior was inappropriate."
 He slunk back to his desk, muttering things under his breath. I didn't listen.  I didn't want to know what more he might have to say about me or my character.  How could he know how much I hate being the grown up, the authority figure?  I hate it almost as much as I hate being called, "STUPID!"  Fortunately, that hatred is my problem, since I may be many things, some not-so-good, but stupid. . . is rarely one of them.

Staying after school, I send an e-mail to the teacher who oversees myself and this student.  I'm clear about my need for respect.  Thinking this may warrant a personal touch as well, I hurry to catch the teacher before he rides his bike into the sunset at the end of another day.  (Personally, I think this guy deserves a medal.  He is amazing and really has to deal with some truely difficult situations.)  In an ironic goodbye, I find myself complaining about all the crabby people in my life.  Instantly, I see that this is calling the proverbial kettle, "black." 

Cranking up the happy tunes, I take the long way home and do some deep breathing.  I entered the house, heavily ladened by the day and proclaim,  "No crabby people are allowed near me.  I will tolerate no complaining this evening.  No one is allowed to crap on my happy."  Inhaling a slice of peanut butter toast, I channel my frustration with all the crabby people into writing this entry.   Now, that it comes to a close, I will join my son in "killing enemy agents" in a James Bond video game.  I will have my revenge after all.  Death to all you, evil villians.  Death to National Crabby Day!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It Is What It Is

Stepping out of the shower this morning, I experienced a few moments of overwhelming dread.  I stood dripping on the floor with a towel over my head and face.  Moving forward wasn't an option.  I was crushed under the weight of my so-called life.

Fortunately, my inner Buddha started a chant.  "It's OK.  It's OK.  It will be OK."
Since I doubted that the inner Buddha would ever chose those words, I found myself replacing the chant with a line from the movie Raising Arizona.  Nicholas Cage plays a lovable, petty-criminal named, Hi.  Hi says to his angry wife, Ed, (played by Holly Hunter) after a hilarious chase scene,  "It is what it is, Honey."
Just thinking about this line, helped me unlock my catatonic self and initiate the launch sequence.

Throwing on some clothes, I hurried to the kitchen to start a steaming pot of warm, delicious oatmeal.  Wheaties may have been called "the breakfast of champions" but it can't hold a candle to the Holy Roman Emperor of breakfast "OATMEAL."  My thoughts spin a robe of royal words exalting oatmeal's sanctity as I put away last night's dishes and pull together a lunch for myself.  Since I'm up and moving, and not still dripping on the bathroom floor, I indulge my random flights of fancy. Soon, these flights are stopped in mid-air.  The simplicity of  "It is what it is, honey" pierces the flowery mental rhetoric and brings me back to earth.

I savor my oatmeal and sweetly creamed coffee with one eye on the news.  Weather forecasts flash across the screen in a busy display of blue covered with rain clouds.  The bright rain clouds lighten up a dark corner of the room and provide a little eye candy early this morning.  I crawl into the oatmeal for comfort.  For a while, I find it there.  "It is what it is."  Comfort can be that simple, that sweet.

The day continues much as the average day does.  Minute follow minute in a steady progression.  I am carried forward in a stream of time.  Lunch is reheated leftovers in the staff lounge.  Two co-workers and I talk of a silly reality show and one episode in particular.  A woman spends outrageous amounts of money on her spoiled young daughter's birthday party.  We each take turns being horrified, then amused and back to horrified, always feeling superior to the poor mother oblivious to what children really need.  Time catches me again and carries me into the afternoon.

Suddenly, I find myself in a place I don't want to be.  I think of my early morning reluctance to greet the day.  A towel over the head is not a good look for me.  Yet, as afternoon winds up its pitch, it tossed me in the middle of a rambunctious class.  An elderly male substitute stands in front of the class.  The air around me offers me a sample of the trouble ahead.  I rethink the towel.  Where is my towel of safety now?

Within minutes, it's obvious that the sub has played into the classes' evil clutches.  They aren't going to listen to anyone.  I make a feeble attempt at some crowd control.  It's too late.  The sub has pulled the pin on this grenade.  I'm not going to sacrifice myself by throwing my body on top of it.  I throw an invisible towel of protection over my head and mentally retreat until it's safe to come out.
"It is what it is."  Chaos among teens can be this unpleasant.

The torture is short-lived.  Time hurtles me forward.  The school day ends pleasantly.  On my way home, I think of my children.  My thoughts are happy ones.  They will never have ridiculously expensive birthday parties nor will they expect them from me.  What they need most from me is my time, my attention, my better self.  I'm not always very good about giving them these things.  It's very easy for me to throw a towel over my head.  I can run for cover while standing still before you.  Some times that towel comes in handy but there are times when it really gets in my way.  Hi, comes crawling out from below and says again, "It is what it is."
"Yes, it is."   I smiled to myself and open the door.  I'm home again.

Monday, March 21, 2011


"Empty" was the word this Monday morning.  At first I resisted it.  "Being empty can't be good," I thought.
But it is Monday.  I have a cold.  I'm tired and just want to be in a warm bed.  "Is empty really that bad?  Could being empty be better than being full?"  I rode this thought all the way to work.  "Yes," I say quietly to myself.  "Being empty means there is always room for more."

Fighting against emptiness has been a futile battle.  How often I have waged this senseless war, looking for things, people and situations to fill a chasm within.  This chilly, sleepy morning, I decide to rest on the shore of this emptiness.  It laps gently at the edges of my awareness.  As much as I want to sit and rest on the shore, stray thoughts pull me away.  Maybe not thoughts. . . but feelings.  Feelings come spinning out of the dark center of emptiness.  They wash over me.  "What are they trying to tell me?"  Pulling myself closer to the emptiness, I gaze within it.  A warm, soft darkness envelopes me.  This emptiness is no stranger.  Exhaling slowly, I float on a sea of nothing.

Outside, a soft mist sent from a leaden sky covers my windshield.  Glancing at the speedometer, I note that I'm going the speed limit.  A car behind me doesn't ride my bumper.  Its speed matches my own.  Lost in empty thoughts, time stood still.  I was glad to discover that I had not.  The rain stops.  My wiper blades have nothing to sweep away.  "Yes.  Some times empty is a good thing."

Once again, I'm back on emptys shore.  I remember the anxious ripples from a morning memory.  An anxious father fumed over his son's ample use of maple syrup.  I think he tries to control too much of what refuses to be contained.  I think of the father and son, not the syrup.  I left the house, chanting "Relax, relax."
I spoke more to myself than anyone else.  Relaxing is hard in the company of the chronically anxious. 

Inhaling, I image my anxiety flowing out of me and drifting away lost in the battleship sky.  Enjoying its absence, I remember how much life has taught me about letting go.  My enjoyment is fleeting as all enjoyment is.  I focus on the memory of an anxious partner.  I worry that he makes life harder than it already is.  How did it happen that I became the more easy-going of our pairing?  I never expected to be the more lenient, more playful, more flexible.  Hadn't life tried to make me the authoritarian figure? 

At times, I feebly try to live this role, to be the authority figure.  It doesn't fit me.  I tired easily, never forgetting what it feels like to be on the receiving end.   I flashback to a feeling of oppression when I hear tirades about abandoned socks, stray legos, forgotten homework and lights left on.  Some times, I rage too.  It's really a waste of precious energy.  Briefly, I tango with my frustration about the morning's maple syrup.  In that anger, I must confront my own inability to "let go."

Heavy thoughts fill the once empty void I was trying to enjoy.  These thoughts, I release into the gun metal sky.  They float heavenward like a sacrificial offering to a better self.  The emptiness returns.  I sink into its soft warmth and turn on a neon "DO NOT DISTURB" sign.  It mentally flashes across my mind for all the world to see.  If, only the world could see it. 

The day does not.  It comes knocking.  "Go away!", I yell.
It doesn't listen.  The students around me now are either too active or not active enough.  I do what I can to encourage or squelch their behavior and then let it go.  Some days, I feel almost invisible.  Maybe, I am an apparition, floating in and out of the physical world.  Maybe, one foot is trapped in another dimension.  I think of the transmutation of energy.  The thought captures me and carries me away.  It appeals to my Monday frame of mind.  Is this another way to fill the emptiness or is it what rushes in when one clears the space?  I may never know.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fandango Friday

On my way to work this morning, I crawled inside a cozy daydream.  I imagined a life in which I possessed a ridiculous amount of money.  Everyone who ever helped me would be repaid three-fold.  In my dream, I buy a chunk of land and create a retreat for writers, artists and the world-weary.  There would be wonderful vegetable gardens, farm animals and a big red barn.  The barn wouldn't be for the animals, it would be a center for classes and lectures on self-sufficiency, arts and crafts, music and more.  My own private Eden where freed from financial constraints, I would live a life focused on family and the act of enriching and nourishing a tiny corner of the world.  Just as I got around to the business of setting up scholarships for poor white kids and establishing trusts for family members, I was at work.  Reality bit me with a cold wet chill.

Reluctantly, I pulled myself from my warm morning daydream into a cold Friday.  My daydream had been even more comfortable than the warm bed I'd crawled from at 6 a.m.  My Friday needed a boost.  In between the luxurious strands of my daydream, the radio announcer had proclaimed, "It's Fandango Friday!"
"Ah" I think, "This may be exactly what my Friday needs, a little fandango!"

Fandango?  It's the name of some local movie theatres.  Isn't it also the name of a steamy hot movement of body and soul arising from sensual Latin America?  A little steam might help me warm up this cold Friday.

Let's face it.  My inner flame has been reduced to a few faintly glowing embers.  I've been stumbling through life like a hopeless tenderfoot hopping across a bed of hot coals.  This is grown tiresome and painful.  It's time to dance.  I'm very tired of trying to reframe the vicissitudes of life in a positive light.  There are many times when the effort to look on the bright side, to vanquish the foe of internal self-doubt, feels too hard.  I just want to throw myself down on the path of life, kicking and screaming like a spoiled toddler.  See, I'm not really as "advanced" as some people may believe.

The Grumpy Me of Yesterday proves this.  After spending several days of being annoyed at a grumpy husband,  I slipped on a big pair of "crabby pants."  Snapping at the kids about unrinsed dishes and the pieces of mismatched ephemera that marks the edges of their lives, I indulged Grumpy Me.  In mid-snap, I realized how silly I was.  My limited energy was being poorly directed.  I decided to throw Grumpy Me out of the house.

For a few moments, I indulged in a bit of self-loathing.  I wasn't happy with myself.  "I'd let the "dog" out.   Still, I understood.  I felt for the snarling canine that strained against its leash.  This me had been chasing after "a carload of crap" all day.  Barking, sputtering with rage and frustration, I see the dog bite at the tires of a passing car. . . my car.  My car barely slips away as it raises clouds of dust bouncing down a rutted dirt road. 

This image is so vivid that for a moment, it carries me away.  I can taste the grit from the dirt road between my teeth as the dust filters in my car.  Dust wants to settle on the dash before me, the seat beside me, the floor at my feet but another rut in the road sends it all airborne.  "Thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return." But, first, that dust is going to fly.

It's summer inside a hot car.  I'm dirty from working in the fields.  The only way out or in is down this dirty road.  Summer insects whine and buzz in the heat.  I want a bath, a complete cleansing, body and soul.  Tired and hungry, I try not to think of the dirt, the grime.  I melt into the moment.  Everything is now.  Nothing is as bad as it seems.

In the distance, the barking of the dog grows faint.  I roll down the window and stick my face into the wind.  If I had a tail, I'd wag it.  The wind and sun feel good on my dirty face and I laugh at the dust billowing around me.  The car is headed home and so am I.

Summer dreams, dog and dog days fall away.  I am left in front of Fandango Friday.  There is reason to celebrate.  Another week has come and gone.  I've plowed through it, leaving furrows filled with daydreams of hope and disaster.  I've been nipped at by the desperate dogs of despair, but I've slipped away.   I begin the Fandango.  Awkwardly, I move, stomping and clapping my way into a delicious frenzy of release.  The dream dogs of summer begin to howl.  They pay soulful tribute to Fandango Friday.  They join me in the dance.  We are dust and to dust we will return but first we want to kick up the dirt, roll around it it, bite at the tires of trouble, feel the wind in our faces.  In between the claps and stomps weave the dirty dogs of summer on a cold Fandango Friday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Don't Stop Believing

A singular idea has been simmering in my head for the last few days.  It has allowed me the opportunity to step outside myself and take a larger view of the world.  At the same time, I keep running into Journey's "Don't Stop Believing."  So today, I decided to stop fighting against Journey and my singular idea. 

I've been playing the role of kindly curmudgeon (or more gender appropriate, kindly crone.) But the veneer on this identity is starting to crack.  Life and everything that happens, good and the bad, isn't about me.  I've been acting like it is.  I've been wrong.

Yesterday, I enjoyed a lively conversation about education with one of the teachers at work.  He opened my mind to things, I had not considered.  As our conversation drew to a close, he confessed that he chooses the best case scenario as his focus. 
" I chose to believe that most people have good intentions, whether it's true or not.  It just makes my life and my job so much easier."
I've heard that before.  I've even thought it before but I don't think it really sunk in until yesterday.

The gears of my mind were busy processing this all day.  The idea came home with me.  But, first came the test.  Within 30 seconds of entering the house, my dear husband met me and said,
"Well, I've got a hole in my exhaust today.  Suddenly just happened.  I can drive it but you can hear me coming from a mile away."

The gloomy voice inside my head really started going to town.  It immediately starts hosting a "pity party".
I groan inside and say only to myself, "God, more bad news?  Why can't it be good news for a change?
Great!   Now in addition to looking like white trash, we're going to sound like it too." 
(The negative voice inside my head is hopelessly politically incorrect and a bit of a snooty bigot.  She isn't the nice person I try to be.)

While listening to her tirade, I heard another, wiser voice grow louder.  "That is a negative way to interpret a neutral event.  How is it helping you?  From where I sit, it looks like it's hurting you more than helping."
To which I replied, "Yes, it is hurting me to indulge this line of thought.  There is another way.

At first, crone-me, tries to protest.  This new way is a threat.  It doesn't feel quite right.  The wiser me spots traps easily and helps me step around this one.  "You just need more practice.  You've actually been practicing more than you realize."  To this, I also said, "Yes, I have."

I've devised the "just flush it" and the slightly tamer, "just change the channel" for use with my children, in particular one, often gloomy, son.  When they start to engage in negative or obsessive thinking, I encourage them to "just flush it."  Of course, this comes complete with the appropriate flushing motion beside the head and accompanying sound effects.  All this gesturing and drama, add a bit of levity to an impending nose dive and often pulls us back into a safer more helpful frame of mind.

"Just change the channel conjures up a softer image but can also be quite effective.  I use this allusion when decorum dictates.

Surprisingly, these strategies have been very helpful.  I think they've been more helpful to me than to my children.  I find myself using "just flush it" all the time.  I even imagine the hand gesture and sound effects when just thinking about the use of the concept in washing my mind.  It often makes the inner me smile.  Once employed, I can focus on what needs to be done and trust that any attempt to mask real problems and issues will definitely make itself known down the road.  I won't be able to run from it but I can shelf it for a better time.  This lets me choose how and when to "respond".  I don't have to "react" or let myself get sidetracked.

Last night, I began to realize that so much of my life has been a knee-jerk reaction, not a response.  Misfortune seems to increase the likelihood of this.  There are times and circumstances that conspire to make responding very difficult but it doesn't mean it's impossible.  I do like a good challenge.  This realization did not come with negative self-talk or guilt for wasted years.  It simply was.  I knew that I had been given an insight with great potential. 

I could see with new eyes that I often nurture and encourage a negative view point.  The power to be my own agent of change was coming back to me.  I stopped reading my library book, one of many that point out what's wrong with modern society.  I thought about what I was reading.  The authors of this book and many like it have some valid points and often many rational arguments.  What they say is often true or at least part of the truth.  I had to ask, "Is reading this helping me or encouraging a negative mindset?"  I knew that this was a mindset that had suddenly gotten too expensive to maintain.

I began to think of the positive and the not-so-positive people in my life.    How were those relationships helping or hindering me?  I also thought about how my negative thinking may hinder others.  With this awareness came responsibility but also power.  I chose to believe that the knowledge that I have something big to work on-- turning around the negative thinking-- is a comforting thing.  It is not the burden I have felt from the imperfections of self and others.

While my kindly crone-like tendencies may have some comedic value at times, choosing to "just flush it" and to "not stop believing" really is in my best interests at this time.    Crone me, will never be Pollyanna.   I don't want her to be.  I feel protective of my inner crone.  Believing in myself and my abilities, to rise to the occasion, to find the good in negative situations and people these are things I wish to explore deeply.  It makes life much more pleasant especially when it's already hard enough.  I'm not going to stop believing in my ability to just flush it.

Monday, March 14, 2011


A lovely and exciting little squall of a storm blew in yesterday.  It arrived with a surprising fury.  Watching it from inside the house was fun.  Being out in it would not have been.  This desire to be safe from the storm dominated the weekend.

On Saturday, I took several eager children to the main library.  When it came time to leave, a suddenly teary little boy told me he had something to tell me.  He started to cry when he relayed that he'd seen a man looking at inappropriate sites on the internet.  I could see it was necessary for me to remain calm but that this needed to be reported.  I told Andrew to come with me and we intercepted one of the libary staff.  I told her what had happened.  One look at my son and she could see how disturbing it was to him. She hurried over the to computer bank to investigate.   I just wished I could erase the image from his mind.  Not being able to do so made me feel rather helpless.  We all have loved the library.  Now, it's painfully obvious that we need to remain vigilant and aware in a place that had only positive feelings associated with it. 

I also knew that there was more to his reaction that what he had just seen.  I waited until the next day to talk with him about it.  I tried to explain that sex itself was good and why.  I also tried to explain how easily something good can be twisted into something else.  He told me,
"I don't think I'll ever get married or live with someone.  It's too much work.  I don't want to be hurt.  I'd rather be single and have a nice golden retriever for a companion."
I reassured him that he may change his mind as he gets older.  Inside, I'm not so sure.  In many ways, his new disclosure was worse than the library incident.  I had to question what really formed the basis of his belief.  I didn't want to look at what his parents might be modeling.

His father and I don't have a perfect relationship but we really don't fight often.  When we do it can be quite the storm.  We're both oldest children.  We like to take charge.  There is a "right" way to do things and the other way is often wrong.   We do our best to compromise and dance the elaborate dance of give and take but once in a while, when the stars are aligned just so, we clash like a couple of thundering Titans.  Our children occasionally witness pieces of this conflict.  These incidents are rather rare but even so, I can't help but wonder how my son understands our relationship.  I reassured him that despite our faults we love each other and we love our children.  It's hard to explain that one's parents aren't perfect to a child not ready to really see that.

While our sunny daughter acts as if "all is right with the world" almost all the time, our son is a different story.  He has a fragility and innocence that is not common in many ten-year-old boys.  He perceives storms everywhere.  He is afraid of many things.  He looks at life and often sees the worst case scenario.  This morning he refused to go to school.  Reminding him of the penalties of not doing so finally got him out the door.  I doubt it's going to be a good day for him and anyone near him.  I'll have to deal with the fall-out later, the notes from the teachers, the possible phone calls, the negative reports.

Words can not describe the love I have for both my children.  They also fail to describe how difficult it can be to effectively parent a child like my son.  His perception is usually his own worst enemy.  How do I prepare this child to cope with the world?  How do support and guide him without protecting him too much?  How do I show him how to respond to life's challenges by making my own best choices? 

I struggle to do what sometimes seems almost impossible.  I try to model good coping skills.  I try and look for the positive.  Dwelling on what we don't have is a luxury, I can't afford.  Some days, I feel like I'm desparately running around putting out fires.  There is little time to anticipate and prepare for the next fire.

At times, like these, I need my life to be touched with faith.  Hope and love must surely follow, if I can only believe that like all the other's "this storm too shall pass."  Maybe this believe is the best attitude to model for this young boy.  Sometimes life blows up in a storm of confusion and despair but the storms always come to an end.  There are bright days with warm sun and happy experiences waiting for us.  We just have to keep walking toward them, believing they are out there past the storm.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dog Days

What are "dog days?" 

Here are two definitions.

1 : the period between early July and early September when the hot sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere

2 : a period of stagnation or inactivity

The first definition I actually love, the second, not so much.    While this period of our lives isn't really stagnation or inactivity, I sometimes feel a certain stagnation of the soul.  

Dogs, I love but you've got to admit that not every reference to dogs is a positive one. 
"I worked like a dog." 
"She's a dog"
"You, dog."
"Son-of-a b*^&*h"
and just plain, "b*&%h."

Some times, I feel a special kinship to our canine companions.  When life is hard, and I feel like I've been working like a dog.   At  those times, life feels like a cruel master.   He beats his mongrel curs because they make him feel weak.  He kicks them because he desperately wants to feel strong.  I am one with the dogs.  I look at the cruel master with my big sad dog-eyes and for a split second we see each other as we really are.  I crawl off into a corner to hide.  He gently places a bone outside his door for me to find and turns out the light.

My children have often wished they were dogs.  Lately, I've heard some of the teens at work wish they were dogs.  There isn't anything negative here.  They want the freedom, love and affection given a good pet.  They also love the idea of no homework.  I bet they want to be the dog that eats homework.  Many children look at dogs and see a life of love and freedom.  They don't worry about gaining seven years to humans every one.  Not being able to talk doesn't seem a problem.  I can't help but wonder if they don't feel heard now. 

I'm probably over thinking it.  A very good dog, I would not make.  Not being able to talk would make for one nervous pooch.  I would enjoy a good game of fetch now and again, though.  Oh, and pets, lots of pets.  Wait!  Chasing my tail just for the pure joy of it is something I would enjoy.  Waking up my owners with sloppy wet dog licks. . . that sounds dog-gone-good too!

I think I dismissed this dog fantasy too quickly.  Maybe being a dog isn't as bad as I first thought.  Maybe, I'm not ready for the dog days to be over just yet.  Maybe, I feel like I'm working my tail off but maybe that's the point.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Go A Mile

"Sometimes you have to go a mile to gain an inch."  Out of the mouths of babes, well, my babe, Shannon via dream Charlie Sheen.
At breakfast, on this fine Thursday, my daughter shared her memorable dream of the previous night. She found herself in one of three school buses full of students on a field trip to Government Island in the nearby Columbia River.  The driver of her bus was Charlie Sheen.  Gweneth Paltrow drove another bus.  A third was driven by a nameless and unknown "regular" person. 

Instead of taking an easy trip over the I-205 bridge, just a short distance away, they first had to go to California.  When dream daughter questioned the logic, bus driver, Charlie said with his distinct style of emphasis, "Sometimes you have to go a mile to gain an inch."

Once they finally arrive on the shores of Government Island, Shannon discovered that the beach sand was made from sugar cookie dough.  Again, curious daughter questions driver, Charlie who answers, "Try it and see."
Just before tasting the sand, Charlie changes his tune and gesturing like a wobbly windmill says, "Stop!  It could be poisonous!!"

Once his warning is delivered, he is distracted by a collection of beautiful wandering blonds plus ex-wife, Denise Richards.  He abandons his young charges and vanishes with a bus load of blonds and one ex-wife.

The abandoned children take this in stride and ask Gweneth Paltrow, "May we ride your bus?"  A happy Gweneth agrees and leaves the island with a bus load of singing children. 

This dreamer is definitely my daughter.  I've been having movie and celebrity dreams for years.   The telling of her dream was enjoyable to hear.  Charlie Sheen had helped her avoid "cookie beach poisoning".  He also imparted some sage wisdom.  "Sometimes you have to go a mile to gain a inch."
Even though he eventually abandoned the children and left with a bus load of bimbos, he'd served her well.

I feel for the real Charlie.  He's lost his ability to make good judgments, at the very least in regards to his public image.  He plays into the media's desire for a new "dancing bear."  Seeing him unravel publicly may be amusing at times.  It is also tragically sad.  We watch him disintegrate before our eyes.  He has become a caricature of himself.

With all this in the public backdrop, it's still nice to know that my daughter is becoming a woman of substance.  I am encouraged by her ability to accept what is, to adapt gracefully to the Charlies of the world and to sing along with the Gweneths.  Even more encouraging is that part of her already knows that "Sometimes you have to go a mile to gain an inch."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


If I had this view of Northern Ireland's coast every day, I might be better about getting some exercise.  I don't.  So getting myself up off the couch or outdoors has been very difficult.  Finally, after months of inactivity, I forced myself to go to our local community center.  While it lacks the raw beauty of Ireland, it's still a nice building with beautiful windows looking out on the fields and trees outside.

It still wasn't the place I wanted to be.   What I want and what I need are often two different things.  Sometimes they are more than two different things.  After one lap around the indoor track, I wanted to quit.  Inside my head, I hear,  "I can't believe you're so out of shape!" 
Another inner voice just growls, "Grrrrrr."
"Don't listen to them", a third voice says.  "You've got to start some where.  Don't forget that you were sidelined by shingles, that insane dizziness, numerous colds, low energy."
"That's right!  I should congratulate myself for being here today." 
That seemed to end the silly inner quarrel.   The short laps got a little easier.  I walked a half mile before stopping.  That's progress.  Sometimes you have to start out small. 

While my inner arguments were taking place, I was also aware that I have favored my left side.  The muscles in my leg have been telegraphing complaints lately.  They protest that they haven't been used enough.  As I walked around the track, I reminded myself to distribute my weight as evenly as I could.  My left side didn't like this but it knows it has to be done.  Balance is a good thing.  Coddling the weaker side has only made it weaker. 

This awareness filled my heart as I walked the short distance.  Balance is a good thing.  Achieving balance requires effort.  To attain it often requires some pain but it's pain with a purpose.  This will never be achieved if I retire to my old brown recliner, my throne of isolation and comfort. 

I've devoted energy to avoiding exercise, balance, pain.  Today, my body reminded me that sometimes what's good for us in the long run might hurt in the short run.  Sometimes, this is the only way to grow. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pennies From Heaven

On the way to work, my mind was filled with no-win scenarios.  I kept bumping into the idea of how much I stink at "manifesting my destiny".  I've failed to harness the power of positive thinking.  Somehow fate felt like it was all my fault.  It didn't matter that I don't really believe this.  The feeling was there just the same.  Finding something hopeful on a rainy March morning was hard.

I park the car and open the door and step into a puddle of pennies.  These weren't ordinary pennies.  These were "pennies from heaven."

Before my children were born, I read about a cute custom practiced in some families.  They taught that random coins found in random places were signs that someone in heaven was thinking about you.  We have Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.  Why not "pennies from heaven?"  So, when my children were still very small, I taught them to look for pennies and coins in random places and to remember that love can transcend death.  Loved ones that die are still alive in our hearts and we in theirs.

At first, these pennies from heaven were just a symbol of a greater truth.  I really didn't believe that someone in heaven was putting them in our path.  The kids loved the idea.  We found an old sugar jar (This is not a small jar.  I probably can hold at least 2 quarts.) at the thrift store with a tiny chip on the rim and a smart crystal lid.  We started to collect our heaven pennies.

We still have that jar.  It's now 1/3 full.  When an unaware husband and father recently pulled the silver coins from the jar, the kids and I reacted as a united front.  The Heaven Penny Collection Society felt violated.  We regrouped, informed the errant father and accepted the fate of our silver coins with grace.  Our heaven pennies have come to mean a lot more to us than I realized.

What started out as a cute childhood myth has evolved into something more.  I've come to question the timing of the discovery of our pennies.  It would seem more than random.  In recent years, worry has often been an unwelcome companion.  Some how when I most need a reminder that "I am not alone" the day brings unexpected pennies from heaven.

Several years ago, on a trip to the Dollar Store,  I was distracted by financial worries.  As I parked the car, a desparate prayer crossed my mind.  "God help us" repeated in my head.  We got out of the car and an excited little boy said, "Mom!  Look at all the pennies.  They're heaven pennies!"
We picked up 36 pennies that day to put in our jar.  Thirty-six pennies won't buy much but they pointed to a wealth beyond money, the kind of wealth you can take with you when you die.

As I picked up the dirty, discarded pennies that day, I did so along a little boy who marvelled at his good fortune.  It was my good fortune as well.  I began to wonder if someone was putting heaven pennies in my path.  Rational me doubted it.  But hopeful, mystical me, took comfort in the idea that someone in heaven was watching out for us.  Over the months and years that followed, we find random coins that we carry home and place in the jar marked "Sugar".  It is a sweet idea.

Today, heaven pennies were not on my mind.  I struggled to weigh possible options for shelter and for work in the months ahead.  The options seem surprisingly limited.  There was no song on the radio to distract me.  The rain on my windshield matched my mood.  I stepped out of a dirty, tired van with too many miles on it.  My foot landed in the center of a pool of pennies.  There were at least two dozen copper-colored coins at my feet and those were only the ones I could see.

Stooping, I picked up as many as I could.  I was rather self-conscious.  After all, someone probably threw them out of their car on purpose.  Here was a desparate women picking them up.  Still I couldn't pass them by.  I tossed them on the dirty floor mat to dry.  A sugar jar awaited them.  Life on a rainy Tuesday morning just got a lot sweeter thanks to a pool of wet, dirty pennies.

Maybe it's naive to believe that coincidence is something more than it is.  The heaven penny concept can't be proven.  Even I doubt there is anything to it.  My desire to believe may be only wishful thinking. 

I don't really care.  It doesn't matter.  These coincidental encounters with random pennies are reminders.  They point to what is most important to me.  When I most need reminding, my day is touched by the magical inspiration of a heaven penny or two.  Coins of very little worth and of no real financial assistance to me, touch my heart and open it to a wealth that permeates the world around us.  I just have to let it in.  Money have I none (or at least almost none) but in the most important ways, I am rich beyond my dreams of avarice.

This knowledge, these pennies won't forestall financial disaster but they have eased a troubled and weary mind.  A piece of heaven touched my life today.  I can walk into tomorrow.  Who knows what I may find.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Door Opens

In the middle of a sleepy math class, in the middle of an algebra problem, a door opened.  In that moment, I realized that not understanding algebra isn't a reflection of intelligence or motivation.  The problem seems to be a conflict between the way it is presented and the way most of the students in the class process information.  This class is composed of students who haven't passed the math portion of the state tests.  It covers the same ground in the same way as the regular algebra class.   The problem was obvious.  The students aren't understanding it.  I was sitting in a class of students who think "outside the box."  They require an "outside the box" explanation.  They aren't getting it.

I was once one of them.  Algebra was a hopeless mystery to me.  Now, for the first time ever, I'm beginning to understand it.  I've also been given a glimpse of a beauty and logic that lies just beyond the numbers.  The numbers are a language and are limited in the same way that all languages are.  The math beyond the numbers is the point, not the numbers themselves, just as it is with the words we speak or write.  Algebra is expressing numeric truths in the only way it knows how, in numbers.

This revelation has made math exciting even though it still largely remains a foreign language to me.  The kids in this class don't know that I once sat in a class like this.  Instead of a patient and funny teacher, I faced a mercurial nun who made Cruella de Ville look like Mother Teresa.  My fellow classmates and I were a tight group of frightened math idiots who were told we were stupid on a daily basis.  We accepted the label and played the part as we suffered together in the trenches of the hopelessly mathematically-challenged. 

Today, I understood that a different way of approaching the problems could have made a world of difference.  I'm convinced  that our "Sister Mary Nightmare" never realized this.   If she had been able to think "outside the box" and present the information in a variety of ways, her math idiots just might have surprised her.

My head was so full of this idea that I carried it with me all day.  I saw clearly how much of the day is spent in "pounding information" into the student's heads so that they can better pass the state tests they must take.  No wonder they are bored and unmotivated.  They are expected to be receptacles of certain information.  They've never been allowed to fully explore all that learning might be and how exciting it can be. 

The day is spent in providing them "vital information" but very little time is devoted to helping them learn how to solve problems.  This is the life skill I want most for my own children.  I've been expecting our public school system to fill the need.  I've been wrong.

Near the end of the day, I sat in a class in which an English teacher had to give the students some history as a background to help them better understand a poem.  History, Geography and Social Studies don't have the prominent place in the curriculum as they had in the past.   A majority of freshman students can not tell you when WWII took place.  They don't understand who the Nazis were.  They know almost nothing about the Civil War or the Civil Rights movement.  They can't tell you where most of the countries of the world are.  They know even less about current world events.  Passing the state tests have trumped learning things that are important in developing good citizens of this country and the world.  We've allowed narrow curriculum to develop whose primary goal is qualifying enough students to pass a standardized test.  We, now call this education.

The English teacher eager to give the student's background information, stated that the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1865.  This didn't seem to jibe with what I remembered of the Civil War so I looked it up.  The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863.  The date does matter in a system based on having the right answer, a teacher being wrong is a big deal.  In a system, in which teachers serve as guides, as role models for learning, and show students were to begin their search for answers, it isn't as important.  In such a system, learning how to find answers, how to reason, how to question is more important than having a bunch of facts that one can regurgitate on tests. 

The education our children receive is to prepare them for the future.  They are tomorrow's caretakers of us and of the planet.   Education matters.  It doesn't have to be the boring, drudgery it's been turned into.  There is a world beyond numbers, beyond words.  It's a world of outside-the-box-anything-goes thinking. It's vibrant and alive and waits our discovery.  Too many of us don't even know it's out there.  What students aren't learning will come back to haunt all of us.  An ignorant populace is more easily manipulated.  Ignorance sets the stage for great injustice.  What seems the "easy way" will end up costing society so much more. 

Today, a door opened.  It's time to step through it.  It's time to allow education to really reach people.  It's time to allow education to enrich all our lives.  It's time to allow the world to become a better place because we have learned the lessons our past is eager to teach us.  It's time to make education relevant and meaningful.    

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Free Citizen Speaking Out

Some people are eager to give advice.  It must make them feel like they're being helpful.  Such advise usually isn't much help.  Recently, after getting lots of advice about what to do and where to go for a job, my husband heard a third party to the phone conversation, say in the background, "tell him to "ask Obama for money."   How this comment was helpful is beyond me. 

Comments like these seem to betray a significant level of ignorance regarding the way our political system works or at least how it's supposed to work.  Would they have recommended that we ask Bush for money?  I think his pockets were deeper.

A two-party democratic system was envisioned to provide a healthy tension or dialectic between differing philosophies regarding the governance of the United States.  All too often people seem to completely miss the point and engage in a lot of nasty name calling.  The drive to discredit the opponent becomes the focus and the issue itself is often lost in a lot of emotional rhetoric.    Such arguments are primitive pleas to our baser motives.  Citizens become reactionary.  We all suffer.  Ignorance about the issues is common place.  The solid facts that would help us decide wisely are surprisingly difficult to obtain. 

Too many people want to proclaim that "they know how things should be."  They make comments based on their impressions.  Looking for the truth doesn't seem to enter into their thinking.  It's easier to allow someone else to tell them what the truth is.  Ok, so I'm going to admit this for all the world to read:  most of the time, I've got no idea what's really at stake.  Life is very complicated, especially when you layer the bureaucracy of government on social issues.  There are few easy answers.  Yet, a whole lot of folks seem to want to believe there are.  It's simpler that way.  They don't have to assume personal responsibility.  They don't have to question, read, research and listen to opposing viewpoints.  They can sit on their version of the "truth" as if truth were a silly commodity that only some people are entitled to.

Some years ago, in a minor dispute with some neighborhood "Christmas vigilantes"who wanted me to believe that if we were told we "had to decorate for Christmas" we had some legal obligation to do so used this "logic" as an argument"   "If the President of the United States told you to do something you would have to do it" 
They said this in all earnestness.    I wondered what country they lived in.  It wasn't the same one I did.  That was pre-9/11.  Citizens had more civil liberties then.  There was and usually still is, a political process that had to be followed to make something into law. . .a law like having to decorate for Christmas. 

I've heard some Catholics make the same argument for the pope's statement.  Apparently, they've never heard about the "ex cathedra" statements versus the rest of the things the pope might say or recommend.  I try to listen politely and nod my head in the right places without seeming too committed to what they are saying.  Usually, I just quickly change the subject and try to get away from the precipice of their ignorance as I teeter on its edge.  I sometimes wonder what swallowed their souls.

Over the years, I've discovered that a lot of people, sometimes the most vocal people really have no idea what they are talking about.  Knowing how things are supposed to be has gotten much more important than admitting one doesn't know.  Doesn't anyone ask for more information any more?  What is being passed off as truth or the "right way" is often just an opinion. 

For the record,  it's really ok for some one to have a different opinion. It's a healthy thing in a system that has more than one political party.  It was intended to be the way to ensure that the differing points of view would "rub against" each other and "refine" a solution that would be in the best interests of all. 

The last time I checked we still had the freedom to make up our own minds.  I'm starting to wonder if that is still true.  There are a lot of good people who have very different political views than I do.  Some of them I even love.  I usually avoid talk of politics and religion as if it carried a deadly and highly contagious toxin but today I'm coming out of the closet.

Here goes: 

1.) I'm a democrat and a rather liberal one.  I've got a strong tree-hugger side.  I'm fond of owls and protecting their habitat.  I believe in social programs.  I believe that the way we treat the poor in our country is appalling.  Corporations, money and power control the government more and more while the actual citizens, "the huddled masses yearning to breathe free" are still yearning.

2.)  Most of the time, I don't know what the real issues are and what is true.  I am convinced that big business and the corporate power structure needs to be held accountable.  I'm even more convinced that we need to demand more information before making up our minds about anything.  I believe we have a moral obligation to take care of each other and work toward providing everyone enough food and the ability to earn a living wage.

3.)  I have a lot of strong opinions that I usually keep to myself for the sake of harmony.  But, once in a while, I just get tired.    When opinions lack substance, when they lack facts and when they are used as "personal advice meant as humor" I'll hold up a weary hand and say, "Here's a hand to tell it to!" 
You don't have to agree with me, nor I with you.  I'm a "free" human being with a mind of my own.  As I struggle to respect opposing viewpoints, I expect the same courtesy from others.

Today, I exercise my right to believe what I want, to want more information, to say enough with the cracks about Obama or Bush or Clinton. . . Those guys give us lots to talk about but they're only part of the government.  Each of us bears responsibility, as citizens of the United States and of the world.  We need to open our minds and embrace the desire to know more and then decide what's best for all.  Peace out!  I'm leaving the building.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sailing Away

There must be a lot of people looking to "sail away".  It shows up in several song lyrics.  Today, Styx version showed up on my radio.  Sailing away was a nice thought.  Escaping a sea of troubles appealed to Hamlet, so why not me?  Nah, Hamlet was a wimp, escape, a cop-out.  Better to batten down the hatches and carry on "tossed about like a ship on the ocean."  I can relate to that.

The idea of sailing away is tempting.  I haven't written much this week.  I've been busy and tired.  I've also felt a bit overwhelmed by the need to write something meaningful, if not profound.  I'm not profound or meaningful every day or at least not that I'm aware.  So today, I just went with the music and listened to the song.  It's one my husband is quite fond of.  I wondered if it was the lyrics or the music.  After listening, I'd guess it's the music.  It is rather complex.  It starts out with a very classic or traditional sound and over the song it changes, to techno and rock until it fades into silence.  Someone once said that it was the silence between the notes that makes the music.  So might it be with the silence in between my words.

Maybe my profundity lies in my silence.  Actually, this week has been a busy one outside and between my ears.  I've taken mental arms against various injustices and resolved the conflict within by hammering out a peace treaty.  I've thought about what really matters to me and what things I can let go.

This idea of "sailing away" and of "letting go" are wise things to ponder.  I tend to cling to things.  During the week, I read that the word "sin" comes from a root word that means "wrong life".  This is a concept I can live with.  Sin always seemed less of an affront to God and more of an act of short-sighted,self-destruction.  Clinging to things, to my way, to possessions, or to a version of the truth,  is self-destructive.  It blinds me to what might be, what I might be.  It blocks the achievement of my true potential, a potential that is not measured by bank accounts or worldly accomplishments.  To sin is to be less than one is.

This was a truth that I knew but had no words for when I was very young.  Years of education and outside influences had usurped this truth's place in my heart.  Over the years, as I've piloted a variety of boats over the seas of life.  I've had moments when the clouds parted and this truth sat beside me and joined me on my journey.

This last week, I sat down with this old and welcome truth and enjoyed its company in silence.  To explain it or write about it would not do it justice.  It's a truth that comes with a paradox.  While the problems of life toss trouble against my ship, I can still know peace.  I can still feel that peace.  I can sometimes share that peace with others.  Trouble is transitory.  It is possible to rest upon bedrock and still be on the sea.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It's a Bag of Mice

This morning, KPTV news featured a story about a pizzeria owner who tired to sabotage rival pizzerias by entering at least two competitor's establishments with a garbage bag full of mice.  He brought a garbage bag in, went to the restroom and then emerged minus bag.  Vigilant pizzeria owners soon discovered the mice still in the bag.

On camera, one of the pizzeria owners recounted the incident and discovery.  His exclamation, "It's a bag of mice!" replayed several times during the segment.  The kids and I found this amusing.  We kept repeating, "It's a bag of mice!" during breakfast.  Of course, my son had to get creative and a bag of mice soon became a "bag of microwaves" and then a "bag of kitchen appliances" which is rather funny when you imagine how it would have looked and how hard it would have been to drag around a bag of kitchen appliances.  For some reason, the desperate perpetrator didn't know that people entering pizzerias with garbage bags full of anything would cause owners to take notice.

"It's a bag of mice" continued to amuse me on my drive to work.  I wanted to find a topic to write about but "a bag of mice" was all that rattled in my head.  Wait! Didn't I just write about mice? Mental mice?  Looks like I might have an infestation.  The karmic cat of serendipity is bringing mice to my door, again!  I groan under the weight of the thought.  Nothing else comes to mind.  It takes energy to be annoyed.  It's just not worth it at 7:30 a.m.  So I choose the path of least resistance which I call "the path of least resistance."

Often, resistance is futile.  No where is this more obvious than in the behavior of teenagers.  I was driving to work so I could enter a living laboratory of teenage "mice".  Being argumentative and oppositional comes so easily to the adolescent of the species.  They resist just about everything, especially authority figures.  It's easy to get sucked in to this trap of resistance.  Initially, I would be pulled in and feel my own resistance rise.  Trying to be an authority figure was too hard. 

Instead, I learned to relax, to carefully chose the things and incidents that can not be ignored.  Then, instead of approaching as an authority, I learned to respect their right to make choices very different from what I might chose.  Their resistance is rarely about the object or the person they are resisting.  Empathy opens doors that my resistance can't.  I've discovered that I'm much more effective as an authority figure when I stopped trying to be one.  I can enjoy many parts of my day now that I've accepted my place as a mouse alongside a bunch of younger mice who sometimes need older mice like me to just listen to them and give them some positive attention. 

Maybe if the desperate and misguided pizzeria owner had understood that we're all a bunch of mice just trying to get along, he wouldn't have tried to sabotage some of his fellows just doing the best they can in this crazy laboratory called life.