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.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kitchen Stewardship

You don't have to share this blog author's faith to find a lot of good basic information on this blog called Kitchen Stewardship.

Thursday Thoughts

It's Thursday and I'm convinced that thinking is overrated.  My feelings are interfering with thought transmissions.  Maybe something will break loose on Free Friday and the mental static will simmer down enough so that I can generate some coherent or relatively coherent thoughts.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Topical Tuesday

Topical Tuesday focus on the topics that are catching people's attention.  To simply use the news as a basis of deciding what's important seems wrong.  The news seems to have sold its soul to the gods of entertainment.  I'm always more interested in what isn't reported or what isn't said, than I am in what I hear.

News shows often do a great job of grabbing my attention but I seriously doubt they are doing an adequate job in reporting what is really happening.

I've stopped listening to the reports on the state of the economy.   When news media quotes the unemployment rate they are using the number of people receiving unemployment assistance from the state governments.  This figure does not count any of the people who have not found work and have run out of benefits.  It doesn't count the homeless, temporary workers whose employment has ended, the underemployed, or people who haven't applied or didn't qualify.  To use this as "The" statistic to reflect unemployment seems ridiculous.  Neither myself or my husband are counted and neither are most of the people I know who are struggling to find work.

Recently, the news spent a lot of air time focusing on Charlie Sheen.  Meanwhile, we are fighting a war on several fronts.  Gas prices are soaring.   People everywhere are struggling to find work and hold on to their houses.  The media pull Charlie out on stage and avoid talking about the news that really impacts most of our lives.  Why?  I worry that we are allowing ourselves be lulled into a false sense of security.  We see the rich and famous make horrible decisions and we feel superior.  All the while, we complacently ride in a "hand basket to hell."

I suspect the old Roman "bread and circuses (from Latin: panem et circenses)" game.  Rome realized that placating the populace by giving them free wheat for bread and free entertainment made them easier to rule.  The Ancient Roman satirist, Juvenal wrote:

"… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses" (Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81)

The proliferation of reality shows currently on TV give testament that this strategy is still very much alive and well.  Some of them are so like the violent gladiator games, it isn't funny.  They aren't always crashing chariots and bludgeoning others physically but there is a whole lot of emotional damage done right before our eyes.  Sadly, I have often watched the antics and felt deliciously superior.  Meanwhile, these emotionally handicapped-buffoons laugh all the way to the bank.  Our interest in them has made them rich.  What has it done for us?

Before accepting what I hear on the news as fact, I try and ask a few questions.

Why is this making the news or a form of entertainment?
What aren't they telling?
What do I really need to know so that I can make good informed decisions about my life?
How does this news or entertainment serve me best?

Today, I'm going to work at not accepting what I see and what I'm told at face value.  The future may well depend on a few people who ask the right questions at the right time.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday


Miscellaneous finds me with a bad case of the "mopes."  I feel like I stand on the edge of a new life, a new way of being but can't quite make the plunge.  This new life isn't all that different from the present one in circumstance.  It's radically different in the state of mind that I bring to it.  I want to be filled with hope, positive energy, drive, love and charisma.  Instead,  I'm stuck in "Mopeville."  At least, I've got a lot of company.  This town is a city full of fellow "mopettes."

Today, I'm going to share part of a post from the blog, Dumb Little Man.  This article was written by Nate Klemp, a psychology professor at Pepperdine (which is in beautiful Malibu, CA.).  The title of the article is "4 Ways to Shift from Work to Effortless Creation."  While I suspect he makes it easier than it really is, I'm going to apply these principles to dealing with my Monday.  Instead of fighting the mopes, I'm just going to go with them and see where they might take me.  I'll let you know how it goes.

  • "Do Nothing
    This may also sound crazy. But, some of the latest discoveries in the field of neuroscience show that when we experience states like boredom, the brain shifts to a “default state.” In this state, our perception changes. Time slows down, we daydream more, and, most important, we open ourselves to new and more creative ways of thinking. This doesn’t mean that you should sit on your couch all day. But you might plan short periods for walking alone, sitting outside, or meditating to give yourself space for creative ideas to emerge.
  • Slow Down
    Pace has a huge impact on the chances of creative moments arising. Our tendency is to go fast. We drive fast, rush through meals, and prize the idea of efficiency in the workplace. But the faster you go, the more you enter into the mental state of “hard work.” All this rush drowns out creative new solutions and ideas playing in the sub-conscious background. So one of the best ways to tap into “effortless creation” is simply to slow down. Eat more slowly, write more slowly, and email more slowly. The more you slow down the flow of life, the more you open yourself to unexpected new ideas and insights.
  • Record Your Genius
    When your next great idea comes, go all out. Remember that you are experiencing a special state of consciousness. So allow yourself to follow the flow of inspiration. Write down everything that comes to mind. Be sure to capture the contents of your mind in this altered state of effortless creation. In a day, or even an hour, it may be gone.Dumb Little Man"
The except above is taken from Dumb Little Man".  Nate Klemp "4 Ways to Shift From Work to Effortless Creation. June 26, 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Soothing Sunday

In a hectic world, it's nice to reserve at least one day a week for things that soothe the soul.When I was young, Saturday was the busy, "get-everything-done" day.  While Sunday was the day to relax.  We took lots of family drives on those childhood Sundays and explored lots of the backroads around home. 

Soothing Sundays are about regrouping and spending time with family and loved ones.  That's exactly what we did today.   We took a leisurely Sunday drive and enjoyed the scenery and each other's company.    We drove up the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge and crossed the river at Cascade Locks.  There we patiently stood in line for a huge, small ice cream cone with "frosty swirl" flavoring at the Eastwind Drive-In.  It was worth the wait.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Shimmering Saturday

When I left for my Just 10 walk this morning, I puzzled over how to explain "Shimmering Saturday." "What a stupid thing to call it", I said to myself. 
"You've carried alliteration too far this time, Carol."
"Chill." said a much wiser self.

"Remember what shimmering means?"  She asks.  The smarter self is full of questions.  Look up the word and you'll find your direction." 
So I did. says this:
–verb (used without object)
to shine with or reflect a subdued, tremulous light; gleam faintly.
to appear to quiver or vibrate in faint light or while reflecting heat waves.
The wiser self says, "Shimmering Saturdays are a chance to peak behind the shimmering curtain that separates the ordinary from the extraordinary."
I remember how young children live in a world full of impossible possibilities.  Santa Claus, fairy tales and imaginary friends are all quite real.  Then, we grow up.  In order to function within our culture, we have to let go of these beliefs.  Magic flees our world.  We get caught up in the day-to-day struggle.  We live for the weekend or vacation.  We feel like we're missing something as the years fly by.  We look to fill our emptiness with people or things, often too excess.  Our emptiness remains.  In our struggle to fill it, we fail to accept it.  This emptiness is the place where magic plays.
On my walk, I struggle to reconcile this emptiness with contentment.  I left the house desperate to fill the hole inside myself.  I wanted to cast off my life and slip into a new one.  I am wishing my life away while all around me beauty and joy await discovery. 
The sun feels good on my face.    Alongside the trail an explosion of pink delicate flowers bloom.  The scent of wild roses teases the air. 
"It's OK to feel empty," my wise self says. 
"Everyone does from time to time.  It's part of being human.  Come,look behind the curtain."
A shimmering curtain opens in my head.  I slowly walk up to it and peak behind it.  I like what I see.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Free Friday

One of the blogs I follow is called Kind over Matter.  Here's a link to take you there.  Kind over Matter.

The author offers a page of Freebies that are all about sharing the love.

I'm not exactly sure what Free Fridays will be. Friday is one of my favorite days of the week. It usually signals the end of a work week and carries me to the threshold of freedom.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thinking Thursday

"Thursday's child has far to go. . ."

Thinking Thursday is a day for reflection.  As I left for my Just 10 walk  (Last summer, I spent a lot of quality time with myself by walking on a nearby trail.  I'm trying to resume my Just 10 walks this summer.)  I wanted to think about how my words may have hurt another.  Recently, I've been painfully aware that by sharing my opinions and feelings freely there may be occasions when those words may hurt others.  This, I regret.  The words written here only reflect my feelings and opinions, nothing more, nothing less. 

It is important for me to bring an authenticity to my writing.  This is achieved by being honest about how I feel.  Feelings aren't reality.  My criticism and cynicism says more about myself that any one I may paint in a less than flattering light.  Being critical is a defense mechanism.  It allows me to create an external enemy.    In the end, I know my worst enemy is myself.

This morning  I took that enemy for a walk.  I did not what to shake it's hand and "make nice."  I wanted to be angry to be indignant.  I wanted to find enemies outside of myself and to justify my dislike of them.  The walk and the morning wouldn't let me.

I began to remember what I used to do when faced with someone I had problems with or some one who I felt had done me wrong.  I'd imagine that person, calm and smiling and I'd send them love or if love was too great a stretch, I'd wish them happiness.  I know it's all rather too "new age" and I don't know if I believe in the ability to transmit positive energy to another person and have them receive it but it helped me see my "enemy" in a new light.  They were just fallible, flawed human beings like myself, doing the best they could under the circumstances.

Deep within a positive thought bubble, a bicyclist shot past me.  A middle-aged woman on a retro-look bike was dressed impeccably.  Her pants matched her socks and her shoes.  Her burgundy fleece vest was a perfect fit.  A smart, small leather handbag was jauntily slung across her shoulders.  Her hair was short and smartly cut.  On the end of her bicycle seat, she had hung a small personalized bike plate which read, "Girls Rule."

I smiled out loud. 
"Yes, Girls Rule."  I thought to myself.  Here I walk with stains on both checks of the men's shorts I am wearing.  My socks are struggling to find their way out of the tops of my tennis shoes.  I'm sure that on my chest I'm sporting a greasy stain or two. 
"I'm such a lady."  I think and laugh to myself.  I'm delighted in the spectrum that can be defined by the word, "girl."

A little farther on the trail and I meet an old friend.  My enthusiastic, exercising acquaintance is gliding toward me astride a sleek bike.  He sees and recognizes me, smiles broadly and stretches his arms out wide, like the risen Messiah.  With a loud yet melodious voice, he shouts, "Long time no see!" 
His smile cracks open my heart and I toss back my head with a laugh and say, "Yes, Yes, it is!"
Just as quickly, he is past.  Maybe we'll meet again, tomorrow.

Suddenly, I'm aware that I've reached my walking goal.  I have made it to the intersection, the turning point from last summer's walks.  Across the intersection, people mill around a make shift yard sale.  Across the traffic, heads bob and weave under a canopy, inspecting furniture, keeping track of small children, bartering for a bargain.  I hesitate, tempted by the activity but turn and begin my walk home. Again, my thoughts return to  the people I may have portrayed unfairly.  I think of myself and how I am sometimes unfairly portrayed.  I think of the perfectly dressed lady and with the "Girls Rule" license plate. I think of the bargain shoppers under a canopy.  I think of my eager exercising friend, a welcoming Messiah.  His embrace took in the world.  He had much to teach me this thinking Thursday morning. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New Focus

On this wonderful hazy summer Wednesday, I went for a walk.  As I walked, I pondered how to focus my energy and thoughts in a meaningful way.  I wanted my words to be pithy and cogent.  Since every new idea or inspiration is a pretty butterfly begging to be chased, focusing and keeping on task is a skill I often do not possess.

And so, on this wonderful Wednesday walk, I decided to dedicate each day of the week to a specific topic or idea.  All these topics and ideas will be guided by the Just 10 guidelines (outlined on the right of this entry.)

Miscellaneous Monday
Topical Tuesday
Wordy Wednesday
Thinking Thursday (a shout out to cousins, Kim, Kamala and Kara for this theme. Great idea, cousins!)
Free Friday
Shimmering Saturday
Soothing Sunday.

As the week unfolds, I'll explain the theme for that day.

Today, Wordy Wednesday, is a day for sharing words.  Sometimes, I'll pick a couple of fun words that people may or may not know and provide a link to their definition.  Sometimes, I'll share some of my own creative word play and hopefully I'll be able to keep it within the shadow of the Just 10 idea.  

I'm notorious for not choosing my words wisely.  I also have moments when the right words find their way.  Finding the right words demands a certain openness and flexibility.   Most of the words we say in a day communicate information or instructions.  Words, while always limited can also be one of the most meaningful ways to connect with others.  Using words to build connection, celebrating words and having fun with them is the focus of my Wednesday entries. 

Wish me luck on this wild, wonderful Wednesday!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Slowing to the Speed of Life

This is my latest read.  The focus of this book fits perfectly within the focus of Just 10.   Since I typically approach life at full gallop, slowing down isn't easy for me.  I am convinced it's necessary and this book helped reinforce that idea.

It is co-written by Joseph Bailey and Richard Carlson.  Richard Carlson was the author of  Don't Sweat the Small Stuff books.  Carlson died suddenly at the age of 45 of a pulmonary embolism.   Awareness of his sudden death makes his words more meaningful.

While there are simply too many self-help books earning money off our own neurotic desires to "fix ourselves" there is an occasional book that makes sense.    Much of the book (if not all) can be downloaded for free at this site:

There is a lot to digest.  The idea is a simple one.  The practice is not.  Yesterday, I did my best to slow down.  I was surprised by how much more I accomplished and with much less stress.  Today, I'm giving it another shot.  They say, "practice makes perfect." 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

100 Days of Real Food

I've been struggling to eat well for years.   I'm not without a plan or knowledge of what constitutes healthy eating.  Fatigue and laziness finds me justifying some pretty bad habits.  This body I inhabit doesn't feel like my own and it's time to do something about it.

I stumbled across the blog 100 Days of Real Food several months ago. Anything that has a list of ingredients with names I can't pronounce contains things I don't want to be eating.  This is a simple and smart idea.

I'm beginning Day One today.  Wish me luck.

Directly from 100 Days of Real Food,  here are the guidelines:

Real Food Defined (The Rules)

Below are the rules we followed during our original 100 Days of Real Food pledge. If you are taking the 10-Day pledge you will follow these same rules.

What you CAN eat:

  1. Whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry
  2. Lots of fruits and vegetables (we recommend that you shop for these at your local farmers’ market)
  3. Dairy products like milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and cheese
  4. 100% whole-wheat and whole-grains (find a local bakery for approved sandwich bread and check the Understanding Grains post for more info)
  5. Seafood (wild caught is the optimal choice over farm-raised)
  6. Only locally raised meats such as pork, beef, and chicken (preferably in moderation)
  7. Beverages limited to water, milk, all natural juices, naturally sweetened coffee & tea, and, to help the adults keep their sanity, wine and beer!
  8. Snacks like dried fruit, seeds, nuts and popcorn
  9. All natural sweeteners including honey, 100% maple syrup, and fruit juice concentrates are acceptable in moderation
  10. Also check out the Recipes & Resources page for a more detailed list of meal options including links to recipes

What you CANNOT eat:

  1. No refined grains such as white flour or white rice (items containing wheat must say WHOLE wheat…not just “wheat”)
  2. No refined sweeteners such as sugar, any form of corn syrup, cane juice, or the artificial stuff like Splenda
  3. Nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package that has more than 5 ingredients listed on the label
  4. No deep fried foods
  5. No “fast foods”
Please leave a reply below if you have any questions about what is okay to eat during your pledge.

How to Avoid Processed Food in General

If you feel that you have the will, but not the skill to do the 10 Days of Real Food pledge then here are some general lifestyle changes to consider instead…
  1. Read the ingredients label before buying anything. For years, if I even looked at food labels, I was reviewing items such as fat grams, calorie count and sugar content. While this may be important to some, the best indicator of how highly processed a food is can actually be found in the list of ingredients. If what you are buying contains more than 5 ingredients and includes a lot of unfamiliar, unpronounceable items you may want to reconsider before buying.
  2. Increase your consumption of whole foods especially vegetables and fruits. I am sure you’ve heard similar advice a thousand times, and I hate to tell you that it couldn’t be more true. This will help to displace the processed foods in your diet, and will actually make your food selections in general very simple. No more counting calories, fat grams, or carbs when your only concern is selecting whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry.
  3. Buy your bread from a local bakery. I actually used to eat white bread, but what I bought for my husband from the grocery store was what I thought was whole-wheat bread. When we finally checked the ingredients and found 40 different items on the list, including white flour and sugar, we decided it was time for a change. Why would there be so many on the list if it only takes a handful of ingredients to make bread? We since started buying our bread from Great Harvest Bread Company. Not only do they grind their own wheat every morning, but their honey whole-wheat loaf only has five ingredients – whole-wheat flour, water, yeast, salt and honey.
  4. In addition to your bread choice, when selecting foods like pastas, cereals, rice, and crackers always go for the whole-grain option. And don’t just believe the health claims on the outside of the box. Read the ingredients to make sure the product is truly made with only 100% whole grains – not a combination of whole grains and refined grains which is unfortunately how a lot of “whole grain” products are made. The white flour or other refined grain alternative is simply high in calories and low in nutrition.
  5. Avoid store-bought products containing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and those “that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients” according to Michael Pollan. Despite the mixed research on if HFCS is really worse for you than good ol’ white sugar, it just happens to be “a reliable marker for a food product that has been highly processed”.
  6. Don’t order off the kids’ menu. The next time your family is out to dinner try to avoid the kids menu. Those selections are most often things like pre-made chicken nuggets, fries, and pasta made with white flour, among other things. Instead try assembling some sort of side item plate (like baked potatoes and whatever else your kid will tolerate) and/or try sharing some of your meal.
  7. Visit your local farmers’ market the next time you need to restock your fridge. According to Michael Pollan not only will you find “food that is in season, which is usually when it is most nutritious”, but you will also find a selection of pesticide-free produce and properly fed meat products. It is also better for our environment to purchase locally grown products as opposed to the supermarket produce, which travels on average 1500 miles from the farm to your plate.
  8. Lastly, to once again quote Michael Pollan, he says to “eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.” If you had to peel, chop and deep fry potatoes every time you wanted French fries then you might not eat them very often. Only eating “junk food” such as cakes, sweets, and fried foods as often as you are willing to make them yourself will automatically ensure the frequency is appropriate.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Fireworks of Panic

Please note:  I've got a confession.  Lately I feel especially ridiculous when it comes to writing this blog.  I find typos, grammatical errors.  I need to be a much better editor than I am.  Worse yet, is the vulnerability I seem to shamelessly expose.  All that isn't stopping me. In an attack of insecurity,  I embarrassed myself by fishing for a compliment the other day.  I didn't get the desired result and yet. . .

Despite all this, I've decided that it's good practice to just keep going.  Part of me wants to fill pages with words.  Sometimes the quality sucks.  Once in a while, it does not.  So I'll persevere,  like the crazy old fool I'm probably turning into for no other reason that I want to write.  Why not?  What do I have to lose?  Read at your own risk.  I won't promise to be good.  I will promise to enjoy the process.

In my head, the fireworks of panic begin.  I try and run for cover but some days there is no place to hide.  A shower of sparks rain down on me.  The sky explodes.  I throw back my head and open my arms. 
"Come and get me!"  I shout.

Fighting only makes it worse.  This is my destiny.   The smell of sulphur fills the air.  If I'm in hell, than hell has one heck of a fire show.  Sinking into the burning grass, I look up and watch.  My mind opens and I find a way out.  Suddenly, I'm on a soft, grassy knoll and the fireworks are in the distance.  I look at the sky and witness a fatal beauty. 
"No one is getting out alive," I say. 
There is no one to hear.  The moment swallows me whole.  I sit in the belly of time.  I am a stone it can not digest.  Life casts me back in the game in a violent act of purgation.

"It could be so much worse," I say to the exploding sky.
The sky answers, "You take yourself much too seriously."
This makes me laugh.  The sky is right.  I can tell it wasn't listening to my words.  The sky is smart that way.

Again, I look up.  A cacophony of pure color punches holes in the night.  The sparks fade and disappear only to be replaced by a new display of fire and color.  The world smells like a battlefield.  The line between light and dark or war and peace is a very thin one.  I dance my name across it in big bold stokes.

No Kilroy.  No tagger with spray-paint fingers.  Just me.  I ride the loops and arches.  I can live with this, this life of fatal beauty, this horribly, wonderful life.  Under fire and darkness, the smell of smoke everywhere, life goes on for a while longer. 
"No one is getting out alive."  I whisper.  The whisper becomes a shout.
"I'm not going to take you too seriously, you, demon angels of fire.  You're going to remember that I was here.  The game's not over yet," but I'm talking to myself, again.  The sky isn't paying attention.  The sky is smart that way.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Shopping with St. Theresa and the Cheshire Cat

And, now for a break from confessional prose.  Once in a while I find myself writing poetry or at least that's what I call it.  I found this poem in an old notebook.  Once in a while I'll come across an old bookmark with a picture like this one of St. Theresa.  We used to earn these in Catholic grade school for giving the "right" answer to a question.  One day these two things collided.

Shopping with St. Theresa and the Cheshire Cat

A halo doesn't match anything I own
Sainthood is something I have denied myself.
It is too expensive.
Sack cloth and ashes are the clothing of the masses.
I shop off the rack.

A splinter of sunlight pierces my reflection
in the fitting room mirror.
St. Theresa and the Cheshire Cat have come looking for a bargain.
We try on each other's shoes.
We wear wide smiles.
For a moment, we shop in heaven.
We see ourselves in each other's eyes as we say our goodbyes.

I forfeit my Cheshire grin.
I am not worthy to wear it.
I hug the memory--- a thousand shards of broken glass
cut my soul to ribbons.
I weep bloody tears.  I am todays clearance special

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Future of Education

A big shout out to friend, Joy L. for sharing this video.  It inspired me.  It made me glad to be a nerd, an old Trekkie (the term prior to Trekker.)  It also summed up my thoughts on education in a beautiful way.  There is a belief or idea that's crossed my path several times in my life.   The idea is this:  when the time is right, an idea or invention or shift in thinking will occur in many minds simultaneously around the world (or maybe even universe for those more "liberated" thinkers.)  It's this idea that seems to be behind the statement, "It's an idea whose time has come."  I have nothing more to add.

Who's Minding the Children?

Into each day a little humor must fall or it just isn't worth it.  Some days it's a difficult hunt for anything laughable.  On other days, the "fickled finger of fate" lights up and points its heart out.  Today (this was actually written on May 27th) was such a day.

Please note:  I am well aware that the following situations will not be funny to many readers.  This may be an indictment of my warped sense of humor.  There are many aspects of these situations that are not funny even to me but in a world gone mad, taking time out to see something funny has often been the only thing saving my sanity.  Please allow me to indulge in a few moments of levity.  Laughter often keeps the tears at bay.   My body and soul often demand it.

Recently, I squawked about the annoyance of being invisible and not considered worthy in some elaborate employee hierarchy whose caste system often mystifies and irritates me.  When I had asked the front office about whether or not my student would be involved in the testing and I suffered the burn of the invisible death ray shooting out of the secretary's eyes, I slunk away.  Then I came home took aim and wrote a stinging entry as an outlet for my frustration.

Today, I was delighted to find that I am not the only one and not the only caste that is out of the loop.  Even the math teachers had not been included in the vital communication that conveyed the very 'when, why and whos' of the upcoming math test.  With less than 1/2 hour to go on the Friday before the test, confusion was confounding all of the people who actually work with the students in the classrooms.  The mass confusion only angered those who had failed to communicate.  They continue to labor under the false assumption that there is no reason for confusion.  Yet, these geniuses managed to change the lists, etc. several times and thereby insured the confusion that resulted.  Nothing like a good game of "Blame the Victim."   To borrow a phrase from one of my favorite students, "Morons!"

I imagined myself giving the "suits" (this is the term used to described the powers making the decisions) a grade.  The grade I'd give them hasn't been invented yet but it's very close to XYZ.  Now if they'd only have enough sense to "examine their zippers" and realize their inability to communicate is showing big time.  The idea of suits, men and women alike standing in front of us with all their zippers down amuses me.  It may amuse me too much and my amusement is probably based on my feelings of inferiority but let me have my laugh.

Truth is, this latest episode of administrative insanity leaves me feeling quite good about myself.  Little can boost ones' spirit the way that a big snafu on the evil puppet overlord's part can. 
"Morons!"  I shake my head and laugh until I almost cry.

The "Fickled Finger of Fate" was not through with me yet.  There in the lunch room two equally unusual and eccentric substitutes found each other.  The combination was magical. . .I'm talking nightmare and not happily ever after.  I've had the dubious pleasure of being in attendance on several unpleasant occasions when these gentlemen were given the job of substituting for the regular teachers.  Current law requires that substitutes for teachers have current and valid teaching certification.  God, if they only knew.

There are a few wonderful substitutes.  Please note the use of the word, "few."  For the most part these two guys could be the frightening poster children for weird substitutes.  Both like to talk, almost constantly.  Sadly, neither has much to say.  They are both terrible listeners.   For purposes of my scathing attack, I am going to refer to them as Sub 1 and Sub 2. 

Sub 1 is an older gentlemen who always wears the same corduroy slacks and blue sleeved vest over a long-sleeved white shirt.  The last class I saw him in, he had the students play Pictionary on the overhead the entire time.    I have learned to avoid eye contact.  If you are foolish enough to make it, you are trapped by a flood of words about absolutely everything and nothing.  Getting away from him requires nerves of steel.  Yes, I know he must be lonely, insecure and dying for human contact but let's face it school is school.  He's there for the kids and not the other way around. 

He often appears in the lunch room and interjects himself into any conversation he can.  I feel for the guy but I really don't want to sacrifice my lunch to his constant chatter.  At the start of lunch, he sits in the table behind us.  After heating up his lunch, he loudly interrupts the conversation and says,
"Wow, that microwave sure heats hot.  I put my frozen dinner in for 5 minutes.  That's what it says on the box.  Well, I heated it for 5 minutes and now it sure seems hot!"
I try to smile politely but avoid any body language that would encourage further proclamations.

As fate would have it,  (The Fickled Finger is have a busy day) in walks Sub 2.    Sadly, Sub 2 has spooked every staff assistant that's ever worked near him.  Spontaneously, we've developed an underground railroad of communication.  When one notices he is on campus, they spread the word among the others.  Not only does this guy need constant adult supervision, he is down right creepy. This was a unanimous response before any collaboration occurred.  He seems determined to act oddly and say inappropriate things but it's hard to tell what he really means.  Initially, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt but he keeps digging a bigger hole.

The students take one look at Sub 2 in the classroom and say, "Oh, no, not that guy again.  He's nuts."
I rarely think like a teen but in this I totally agree with them.  The first time I encountered him, I make the mistake of introducing myself.   He spent the entire class period trying to convert me to Islam.   I don't have any problems with Islam.    Too many Americans falsely believe that the religion itself is militant etc.  They couldn't be more wrong.  Ignorance would seem to be an equal opportunity malady.  I admire many within the Muslim faith and do not feel fearful or threatened by their religion.  Mohammad was actually a very good and peaceful man and so are most within the Islamic religion.  Extremists exist within any group.  It's extremist thinking that we need to fear not a religion or culture or race.  The problem I had with Sub 2 was that he didn't seem to realize that trying to convert me to Islam isn't what the district was paying him for.  The kids were noisy and could have been hanging from the ceiling for all he knew.

Sub 1 and Sub 2 meet and greet each other like friends.  I'm sure to Sub 1, Sub 2 was a friendly face in a sea of indifference.  Since they both love to talk and neither seem to have any listening skills, I knew this would be a good pairing.  They sit and begin to carry on almost two separate conversations.  At first talk of the microwave and lunch is enough to want to send me screaming.  "Do they have to be so loud when they talk about the hot microwave?" I wonder. 
"Isn't this test debacle enough irritant for a perfectly good Friday?"
It's raining.  Morale stinks.  Now I have to hear about how hot lunch gets again at decibels the human ear shouldn't be subjected to during LUNCH!!!!"

All these things I say only in my head.  And then, humor comes to roost.  I begin to find this whole interchange delightfully amusing.  Now, lest you think I'm just a horrible and cruel person, please know that my back was to both of them.  I sat watching the faces of the two women at my table go through a lot of expressions.  None of which were happy or relaxed.  I started to grin.  My dimples threatened to create huge craters in my face.  The faces of my companions eased and they too smiled as secretly as they could.

Meanwhile Sub 1 and Sub 2 where deep in odd conversation.  Sub 1 suddenly launches into a lengthy monologue about the death of Osama bin Laden and what the Pakistanis' knew or didn't know.  I'm not really sure which.  All I knew was that the topic was controversial at best and that Sub 2 is Pakistani.  When Sub 2 revealed this to Sub 1, Sub 1 was genuinely surprised.  Sub 1 would only have had to really listen and clue in to the possibility that Sub 2 was from the region of the world that he was badmouthing.  There is nothing like leaving a trail of explosives and then dropping a match.

Sub 1 then assumed that since Sub 2 was from Pakistan that he was an expert on the geography of the entire country.  Sub 1 continued to bury himself with his ignorant prattle as Sub 2 tried to tell him that he had never traveled to the region that was of such great interest to Sub 1.  Sub 1's diatribe ended their pleasant conversation about overheating microwaves.

Meanwhile, during this whole conversational faux pas, the faces, particularly the eyebrows of my  table mates were crackling with activity.  They registered annoyance and complete disbelief.    At this point, my wicked sense of the absurd kicked in and I started to grin.  When the verbal fumbling of Sub 1 brought camaraderie to a sudden halt, Sub 1 and Sub 2 quickly parted the lunch room each through a different door.  Nothing like watching a social train wreck that could have so easily been avoided by common sense and the ability to think before speaking.

Since Sub 1 and Sub 2 have cornered  me once too often and trapped me in bizarre or potentially explosive politically charged conversation, listening to matter and anti-matter meet and explode so quickly was perversely entertaining.  The nice person in me feels a little sorry for each of them.  The not-so-nice person feels that they got what they deserved.  Funny, how the fumbling of another form the basis of amusement.  Some days it's either laugh or cry.  Some days it's both.  Now I've got to find out what's really happening with the blasted math test.  It's not only that microwave that over heats.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Forest Before the Universe

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness-- John Muir

The forest presses in.  I’m a droideka, a Star Wars droid, instrument of destruction, an enemy of the Republic.  I’m a well-armed,  evil, metallic potato bug.  I can roll my metal-insect self into a ball and cover ground quickly in a rapid dust-generating roll.  Unlike a potato bug, I’m well armed and have the benefit of a self-generating shield.  I am a most excellent monster. 

My son, plays along side me.  We wage a war.  The prize is universal domination.  If I could only be a droideka in real life.  I’d roll everywhere and over everything.  I’d howl at the moon with a metallic war cry and shake a thin metal leg at the gods that be.  “I am the vindicator.” is what I’d say if I could talk.

“Mom?” A small voice breaks through the battle in my head.
“You’re actually doing pretty well.  You’ve got one more kill than I do!”
He is surprised.  I haven’t been paying attention.
“Mom?” The voice asks.
“Yes?” I reply.
“Are you thinking about what you’re doing or are you just doing it?
Without hesitation, I reply, “Just doing it.”
“That’s the secret,” my son says.
“You’ve got to get out of your own way and not think too much.”

This was a profound statement.  My son has no idea just how profound it is.   He was only referring to the world of the game but what he said spilled into all my other worlds as well.  He resumed protecting the galaxy from an enemy is some other corner of the game universe.  I went back to Mr. Potato Bug and rolled toward my enemies with dizzying speed.

I stop and slowly unfold my metal body and take aim.  With a quick push of the “L” button, I’m surrounded by a shimmering force field that is capable of casting off blue lightening bolts when I’m hit by enemy fire.  When I die, I die in a blaze of glory but not before making a nice dent in my enemies numbers and fire power.    I am a most magnificent monster.  In the distance, through the forest, the Universe awaits.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Camp Fear

Fear is the theme for the week.  It might be said that it's been the focus of an odd personal devotional.  I chant a litany of "Life is not for the faint of heart" while I tremble.
I'm afraid of just about everything.  Pretending I'm not is something I often do very well.
And yet, fear often fills me.  One recent night fear slapped me in the face with a dream so profound that the memory of it follows me still.

In the dream, I am running, running from fear, myself, from life.  Trapped in a corner, I'm left to face that which I fear most.  I must look my two greatest fears in the eye.  My heart is in my throat as I see what has been chasing me through the years:

the fear of being alone
the fear of being unhappy.

Irony swells up in my chest and forces itself out in a mind-shattering scream.  These fears have twisted themselves into a tangle of wretched self-fulfillment.  Despair opens before me like a giant black hole.  I fight the urge to jump and form an uneasy truce with fear.  I sit on the edge of the darkness and dangle my feet in the gaping hole.

Fear has been a most cunning opponent.  She has a ravenous hunger that is only satisfied by more fear, more of the same.  I have often over fed her.  Suddenly, I remember Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  Flying monkey fear has been menacing me.  Might I possess the power to return home just as Dorothy had? 

The black hole starts to close beneath my feet.  I hurry to pull my feet to safety just as the second fear leaps from the heart of the darkness and sits beside me.  The fear of being unhappy drapes a cold, bony arm over my shoulders.  It leers at me through a smile of broken teeth. 

I meet its gaze with my own.  The smile starts to crumble and it turns to dust.  With a smooth and graceful motion, I sweep it into the black hole. 
"Good riddance," I say softly.  It is a prayer of remembering.  I note the heartache this fear has brought to me and drop the memories one-by-one into the black pit.  They turn to rose petals as the darkness swallows them.

My fears have fought hard to live outside me.  They've really been a part of me all along.  The black hole no longer menaces.  I stand and walk across it and then back again.  It is solid.  I am not lost within it.  I look down and see my reflection gazing back up at me.  I bend down and gently touch its face.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Mirror of Fear

Despite my efforts to avoid introspective entries, such writing insists on falling out of my head and onto the page.  I've decided not to fight it.  The words seem to know something I do not.  While I often find my personal style embarrassing in its dramatic language and confessional nature, the words insist on being written.  I've decided to get out of their way. 

My mind is always subject to change as it struggles to follow my heart.

Neglecting Just 10 has become the norm. Recently, it was obvious that I was avoiding contact and introspection.  I was struggling with this issue when I suddenly realized that I was deliberating generating a lot of self-perpetuating negative energy.  I was sitting dead center in my own private pity party.  This pity party had "evasion" written all over it.

Putting problems outside myself had been a way to escape them.  Standing in the open, blinking at reality, I trembled in fear.  It was time to say hello to what I was feeling.  Self-awareness wasn't through with me.  I replayed an impassioned speech I'd recently given another in the heat of an argument.  The realization that my words were meant more for myself than the one I was addressing slapped me in the head with a vengeance.  I'd displaced my problems and fears.  They had suddenly come home to roost.

At first, I wanted to hack away at my self esteem wielding a mental machete but I couldn't allow that. Mental machetes hurt.  They do not help.  Besides, it would only be a symptom of the problem it was trying to hide.  Yet, I also knew that I couldn't coddle and protect my inner self either.  It was time to face life without the defenses.  I had criticized another for allowing a negative attitude to become an excuse for not trying.  Denial blinded me.  I'd given up.  I just didn't know that I had.  Most of all, I had criticized another for "not seizing the life he'd been given."  What I was doing was worse.  I was pretending to seize my life while waiting to be rescued from it.

This was a lot to accept.  A flood of emotion swept through me.  It carried me through the day and into sleep.  There on a sea of dreams I floated like a sailboat without a sail.  The captain had jumped overboard.  I was going nowhere. 

While I lay in my sail-less, captain-less boat, I starred at a cloudless sky.  Life was passing me by.  It lie just below me.  I was only skimming the surface.  Reminding myself that life is not for the faint of heart, I shook hands with my fear.  Acknowledging it was long past due.  Fear had gotten out of control.  It was getting in the way.  I was experiencing a growing panic that often took my breath away.  It had a vice-like grip around my heart.  It was time we sat down for a talk.

"Hello, Fear. I'm sorry I haven't noticed you.  I am noticing you now."
Fear hissed, "It's about time." 
Fear sounded a lot like Voldemort.  Fears drama made me angry.
"Ok, cut  the crap.  You don't need to get all dramatic on me.  You're just a soft, timid chicken.  We both know it."
Fear doesn't look me in the eye.  I know it feels ashamed.
"You've got me," it says.
I continue in a softer voice. "Look, you're really messing me up.  I can't think clearly because of you.  You're making everything harder than it has to be.  You've got to stop scaring me."
Fear looks up.   It's soulful eyes touch the deepest part of me.  "I'm lonely," it says.
I open my arms and fear crawls in my lap.  Fear smells steely and cold.  Its skin has a pallid, mortuary hue.  I pity it but can't make myself embrace it.  It sits rigid and still.  It catches its breath as it stifles a sob.  I want to cry with it.
"We need to start out slowly, get used to each other," I say.
Fear sighs with relief.  Softly, it speaks, "Yes.  I would like that very much.  I just want to be noticed."
I pat the top of fear's head.  It is much smaller than I am.

After our talk, the panic that I feel eased.  I could see that I needed to be more honest with myself.  It was time to acknowledge what I could do with the life I've been given.  I've been ignoring it in favor of the life I wished I had.  This "wished for" life can never be.  It was time to go home and put a candle in the window and stop cursing the darkness.  Fear walks beside me.  We're getting to know each other.  Maybe we'll even be friends some day.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dumb Little Man

I subscribe to Dumb Little Man and it often has some great and thoughtful articles.  Since In Just 10 is about listening, the entry from Dumb Little Man is spot on.

Friday, June 3, 2011


This has been a very pensive couple of weeks for me.  Finding the time to write has been difficult.  I've also been concerned about my lack of focus.  I realize that I do a lot of wheel spinning but often fail to get any where. 

I've developed a simple plan.  I'm going to get back to my original Just 10 idea and keep my writing short and sweet in this blog.  That doesn't mean I'm going to stop writing but I may stop giving so much away for free and focus on actually writing that book I keep threatening to write.

With so many things in my life and my family's life up in the air, I feel the need to anchor myself.

I will continue writing but focus on quick and simple ways to put the Just 10 idea into practice.  I'll share some links to the occasion blog or a web site that inspires me.

Thanks for reading.  Now, stop spending so much time at your computer and get out there and enjoy life!