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.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Star Trek and the Vision Book

Soothing Sunday

Making this a soothing Sunday was a bit of a challenge.  I kept reminding myself of all the things I "should" be doing.  After some resistance, I decided to work on a "Vision Board."   At first the idea sounded a little but stupid even to me but I decided to get with the spirit of it.  I turned it into a "Vision Scrap Book".  The idea is to assemble pictures from magazines, etc. that speak to who you are, what you want from life, etc. 

I made no attempt to be artistic and paid no attention to detail.  I just had fun.  This is one of my favorite pages.  Even in photographing the page, I paid no attention to art.  It was all about the spirit of the thing.

Working on a Vision Book was soothing.  By afternoon I was ready for fun and joined my friend, Emily for Star Trek in the Park.  How awesome is that!    Thanks, Emily!  I had a wonderful time.    Star date: Summer 2012!  Beam me up NOW!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Under the Waterfall

Free Friday

For a cool, free and refreshing wallpaper for your computer go to: Bing Images.  You'll find this photo there.

Sitting in a cool peaceful library, the sound of the air conditioning reminds me of a waterfall.  It forms a refreshing white noise.  I feel cool and calm.  On this free summer Friday, find something cool and refreshing and dive in.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Trying Not to Think

Always do what you are afraid to do. --- Emerson

I spent all day trying to run from myself.  It was Thinking Thursday and I was afraid of my own thoughts.  Wordy Wednesday evening found me verbally assaulting a loved one.  Words are not always good tools.   Obviously something was bothering me and I was doing my best to dump the problem on someone else.

As I spent the day avoiding the soul searching I was sure I needed, the truth came to me anyway.  I saw that I had projected my own fears and I knew why.  I was afraid of change.  I was afraid of action.  I was afraid of trying something new.  I wanted to follow my dreams.  I was now in uncharted territory and I was terrified.

How I got to this place, this age in life, without really following them is a bit of a wonder to me.  I've done a really good job ignoring them for years.  When I was younger, I tried to adopt the dreams of the significant others in my life.   I didn't feel good enough to have dreams of my own much less go after them.

Now, at mid-life, time ticks like a bomb.   Over half my life is over.  I can not afford to waste any moment that is left and this reality weighs heavily.  Sometimes, it's so heavy I feel panic. As I grapple with this fear, with this panic, with unfulfilled dreams and desires, a few simple words of Emerson fall into my day.  "Always do what you're afraid to do." 
"Yes, Mr. Emerson!" I reply as I contemplate the leap.  Terror grips me.  I've never felt more alive.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Walk into the Word

Wordy Wednesday

"Get up and walk!", my spirit yelled at my body.

I force myself out the door.  My body just wants to lay down on the conveyor of life and let life stamp me as I pass by.  The spirit is having none of it.  It pushes my body out the door and down the sidewalk.  My legs do an odd jitterbug while my arms and torso hustle toward the trail.

I look to the trail to give me a word for the day.  Instead many words fill my head.  They swirl and flutter around my mind like a playful breeze.  I can not hold on to any of them. 

Today, the trail is filled with activity.  Joggers, walkers, bicyclists greet me in gentle waves.  The lulls between the swells are filled with thoughts, not all of them pleasant.  Panic and fear want to crawl into my head and set up camp.  I walk faster to escape them.  My mind reaches for words to comfort it. 

As I round a bend in the trail, I see, under a familiar tree, the man I met the other day.  This time he sits cross-legged and just off the trail.  The familiar can is in his hand.  His face wears the familiar leer.  His eyes the familiar stupor.  Is this sighting an omen or a sign pointing me to something I need to know?

Quickly, I wrap him in a prayer of comforting hope and hurry on my way.  From behind me, I hear the sweet tinkle of a bell and a small pod of bicycling women, all seniors, pass by.  Their gentle conversation makes music as it passes.  I think about the beauty within the voices of women.  For a moment, I feel my separation and isolation keenly.  I want to make music with them.  Instead, I sink back into the comfort of my own solitude and rest easily.  I'm not alone.  I have words and the world around me.  I walk into the word.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Cost of Apathy

Topical Tuesday

The deadlock in Congress regarding raising the federal debt ceiling is the current hot topic.  What I find even more distressing than the issue itself, is the conduct of our elected officials.   I often feel that government is failing me, that my needs, my concerns as an average or below-average citizen are ignored or just not important.   Are politicians really concerned about serving the best interests of the majority of citizens?

The majority of citizens. . .I began to wonder just how many people bother to vote.  Dissatisfaction with the way things are run seems to run rampant but are people exercising their right to have a voice in who is elected to represent them?   Here's what I found out.

Voter turnoutTurnout of voting-age
population (percent)
*Source 2008 election results:
n.a. = not available. NOTE: Presidential election years are in boldface.
1. Registrations from Iowa not included.
2. Registrations from Iowa and Mo. not included.
3. Registrations from Iowa, Kans., Miss., Mo., Nebr., and Wyo. not included. D.C. did not have independent status.
4. Registrations from Ala., Alaska, D.C., Iowa, Kans., Ky., Miss., Mo., Nebr., N.C., N.D., Okla., S.D., Wis., and Wyo. not included.
5. Registrations from Ala., Alaska, D.C., Iowa, Kans., Ky., Miss., Mo., Nebr., N.M., N.C., N.D., Okla., S.D., Wis., and Wyo. not included.
Source: Federal Election Commission. Data drawn from Congressional Research Service reports, Election Data Services Inc., and State Election Offices.

Read more: National Voter Turnout in Federal Elections: 1960–2008 —

I could crawl on top of a soap box and fill this page with words indicting the apathetic American public but the truth is, I am often one of those filled with apathy.  Today, on Topical Tuesday, I'm going to let the numbers speak for themselves.  After seeing this,   I realize how powerless I might be alone but I still have a right to stand up and be counted.  I can make an effort to vote, to care, to stay informed.  Some day, I hope that we reach a 90% or more voter turnout.  With that level of concern and involvement just think of what we could do.

Monday, July 25, 2011

YOU! Should Use the Crosswalk

Miscellaneous Monday

So many topics swirled around in my head this morning on my walk, that picking one to write about seemed almost impossible. As I tried to pick one out of my mental whirlpool, three boys came into view. These three daredevils were trying to cross the street by darting in and around traffic and a bushy, tree-lined median. This is not the safest way for anyone to cross especially three daredevil boys.

Without missing a step, I turned to two of the scamps and said, "Guys, that isn't the safe way to cross. Cars may not see you. You should cross at the crosswalk."
They both stared at me with mouths wide open. Several seconds later, one of the pack calls after me,
"YOU! should cross at the crosswalk."

His response was expected. I haven't worked with school-age children the last four years with my eyes closed. Smart retorts are typical. Keeping face before ones peer group is of great importance. For many students, school is less a place of learning and more of a place to socialize. Adults are often treated with suspicion and disrespect.

Don't let that suspicion and disrespect fool you. When you talk to today's children one-on-one, you'll be surprised to discover how much they want and need adults in their lives to take time to listen to them. Some are desperate for boundaries and for someone to care enough about them to say, "no."
Do not expect them to thank you for it. They may yell some snide remark after you, to win the admiration of their equally needy peers. Since, I've heard much worse than "YOU! should cross at the crosswalk." I have no regrets. I cared enough to tell them they should be safe and that what they were doing wasn't.

Before we had children, we had a guest in our home who was the mother of two. She let both her children run loose in our home. They got into everything. When the daughter was in the bathroom for a long time, my husband asked the mother if she was ok. Mom said, "Yes, she's fine. She just likes to look in people's medicine cabinets." Of course, the craziness of that remark has burned itself into both our memories. That and what happened after.

I went into the kitchen and looked out the back door to see the boy who was probably about 8 or 9-years old with my husbands axe. They had both gotten into the garage, threw things around, found the axe and the boy was now in our back yard swinging the axe at a stump that was between his feet.

At that time, I wasn't used to correcting other people's children but this, this was way beyond safe not to mention proper guest behavior. I was out that back door and grabbing that axe like greased lightening. I marched the two hooligans back into our garage and had them clean up the mess they made. As I supervised their clean-up efforts, I told them what acceptable behavior was and that they had really crossed the line. Meanwhile, mom sat in the house. When I returned, (I'm sure electric charges were crackling around my head) mom said,
"I leave all the discipline to their father."

I was speechless. If I had to do it again, I'd probably say, "How's that working for ya?"
Then, I'm sure I would have told her what I believe responsible parenting to be. Needless to say, I made sure we never opened our door to that woman and her children again. I shudder to think what they might be like now. Hopefully, they made it to adulthood without chopping off a foot or overdosing on the contents of some strangers medicine cabinet.

It isn't always difficult to figure out what it means to be a responsible parent. Sometimes parents fall short. Sometimes kids do stupid things all on their own. I didn't have to say a thing to those three daredevils this morning. I did without giving it any thought because they needed someone to notice that what they were doing wasn't safe and to tell them so. It's possible their parents would have felt my words intrusive or they might have thanked me. It doesn't really matter.

So often we get stuck playing a blame game. It's the parents fault. It's the teachers fault. It's societies fault. Blaming someone else takes the responsibility off our own shoulders. It does nothing to solve the problem. Children are the future. We all need to care enough about that to be willing to shoulder some of the responsibility.   

YOU! should use the crosswalk.    Sometimes, I just have to share what I know.    If you should ever see one of my children dashing in and out of traffic, please, tell them to use the crosswalk.  It is the safest way.  I'll be so glad you told them so.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday or Sinday?

Soothing Sunday

When I started typing Sunday, it came out "sinday".  What a difference one little letter can make.  I look down.  Two of the buttons on my blouse have come undone.  Looks like I've been getting into the spirit of "sinday"  It's a good thing I'm just sitting at the computer.

The idea of sinday is making me smile.  If I could have a day to do anything I wanted, what would it be?  Would there be any sinning involved if all consequences of such actions were wiped away?  If there is "no piper to pay" would I choose to do anything differently than I am right this instant?

Of all the seven deadly sins, the one that grasps my soul the most tightly is gluttony, or is it?  I decide to check out the "magnificient seven" and discover that there is a web site devoted to them.

Here's what the site says about gluttony.

Sinopsis (sic)
What it is: Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.
Why you do it: Because you were weaned improperly as an infant.
Your punishment in Hell will be: You'll be force-fed rats, toads, and snakes.
Associated symbols & suchlike: Gluttony is linked with the pig and the color orange.

My punishment in Hell is starting to scare me.  I'd better pick another sin to indulge on sinday.

Anger, will see me dismembered alive in Hell.  (Since I assume that I've had to die to go to hell, this might be difficult to pull off.)

For envy, I'll be put in freezing water.  (This too would be difficult since Hell is supposed to be full of the flames of eternal perdition.  How would you keep things cold?

For pride, I'll be broken on the wheel.  Not exactly sure what this form of torture is but I'm betting I'm not going to like it.

Let's tackle the juiciest of the seven deadly sins, lust.  This will result in my being smothered by fire and brimstone, not kisses.  This seems to undermine the freezing water hypothesis even further.  Who is in charge of this place any way?

Let me try greed.  Ah, greed will result in being boiled alive in oil.  Once again I face the dilemma of being alive after I'm dead.

Finally, I've got to look at the reward in Hell for the sin of sloth.  That will find me thrown into a pit of snakes.  I bet they picked snakes because it starts with the same letter as sloth.  Snakes are also pretty creepy and sometimes associated with the devil but I'm not exactly sure of the arbitrator of this system of supernatural justice.   The theology seems a little iffy. 

There is a gallery of images and several pages listed here and the warning: "Please drop me a line before ripping anything off. Email seven at deadlysins dot com."

I'm not going to rip off anything.  The site and the author of the site is getting all the credit he deserves.  Do you think his name is really, Seven?  I wonder if the number, Three is taken. 

After reading this list of possibilities, I'd like to align my aura with the idea of trinity, trifecta, tribunal, triple and triple sec.  I'm no longer interested in exploring sinday or even the idea of sinning on this soothing Sunday.  A little bit of reading has me scared straight, well at least for the next few minutes.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Good-Enough or Just Plain Awful?

Shimmering Saturday

Today, the line separating myself from good-enough mom and an awful mom is only a slender, hair-like fiber.  It's not even three p.m. and I've yelled at my son several times.  Earlier this morning, we started the day like we start most days.  I remind him of what needs to be done as part of his morning routine.  He says, "Ok" and then does nothing.  We play this ritual out almost every morning.  This morning, I was very tired of the sound of my own nagging.  What I'm doing isn't working and I'm not too happy with myself.  After all, I've got a lot of years, water under the bridge and "the turbo witch" advantage on my side.  I should be able to outfox an 11-year-old boy.

Unfortunately, the better mom in me must be "out of the building".  After he finally dresses, (I don't think I ever got him to brush his teeth.) he tells me he has to run down to the culdesac.  He left his wallet there yesterday.  This news was like gasoline on the simmering fires of frustration.  Inside, I'm panicking.  How am I going to prepare this kid for the real world?  His survival skills stink.  His coping skills aren't any better and his inability to focus on the hundreds of important details that fill each day is driving his parents more than a little crazy.

I haven't given up the struggle without a fight.  I've done charts, picture charts, social stories, flash cards, laminated lists, prayer and occasional cussing under my breath.  The chaos in his bedroom alone makes me want to race to the local tavern for happy hour where I hang out all evening.  Well, a girl can dream can't she?  Walking on a layer of Legos, assorted DVD's, clothing and God-knows-what sends nightmarish shivers up and down my spine.

I've labeled drawers, containers, bins.  I'm made charts of where things go.  I've provided incentive in the form of good-choice quarters.   I've made compliance and cooperation a necessary component in earning the right to play video games or go to some desired place.  Despite all these "good mom" strategies, despite all I know about child psychology (mostly from personal experience) when he told me he left his wallet out all night, the words that fall out of my mouth are:
"A. . .that's probably one of the stupidest things you've done in a long time."
Lines like that won't earn me any parenting excellence prizes.  His face falls.  He looks at me and with a quavering voice says, "I don't know why you have to be so mean?"

He has nailed it.  I was pretty mean.  Now, in my defense, my calm and cool exterior had taken a beating.  This mornings nag fest really did some damage.  I started thinking about the last time I had a real break.  I thought about how difficult it can be to raise a "special needs kid."  He is definitely special needs no matter how often I try to pretend otherwise.   For over 15 years, my husband and I have never had more than several hours to ourselves.  Now, with money absent from our lives, we couldn't afford to go any where any way.  But again, I can dream can't I?

The Good-Enough mom loves her children for who they are.  I wouldn't trade my quirky boy for a handful of "normal" ones but there are days when "it hits the fan" and I have very little "good-enough" mom left in me.  When the storm passed, I stepped up to do some damage control.  I apologized for being mean and told him what really motivated my words.  I am afraid.  I'm afraid I'm not doing a good job preparing him for the real world.  I'm afraid that it will be hard for him to take care of himself without someone like me constantly watching out for him.  I'm frustrated that I haven't been able to figure out a good way to really help him. 

I kept the biggest fear to myself.  I'm afraid that his "specialness" will get in the way of his leading as normal a life as possible.  All this fear, all this frustration came out as anger.  He was the unfortunate target.  As soon as the words, came out I knew they were not helpful.  I knew they could do some damage.  I hated my own faults more than I hated those I spent all morning battling in my son.

When we finally got assembled and took off to do errands, I enacted the "do-over plan".  When we'd get off to a bad start when the kids were young, I'd pick a moment and announce that "we're starting over.  We are leaving the bad moods and morning unpleasantness behind and we're going to begin again."  Sometimes, it worked wonders.  Today, it was the attempt that was most important.  Things are still a little rocky.  Some days are just like that.  Today, my dark side had me saying the wrong thing while the good side did her best to acknowledge my error, apologize and try again.  I guess I'm not as awful as I feel.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Kind Over Matter

Free Friday

Kind Over Matter is one of the blogs I follow.  I need uplifting things in my life.  A recent entry began with this quote:

The way to express our gratitude for life is by being truly alive, not hiding from life in a corner, or watching life pass us by. The biggest fear we have is not the fear of dying, but the fear to be alive, to be ourselves, to say what we feel, to ask for what we want, to say yes when we want to say yes, and no when we want to say no. To express what is in our hearts is to be truly alive. If we pretend to be what we are not, how can we be truly alive?

Don Miguel Ruiz

The guest post that follows this quote is equally inspiring and fits perfectly with the theme of Free Friday.  The author, Julia Fehrenbacher writes about the idea of good and shoulds that can stand in the way of self-espression.    Here is one of my favorite paragraphs:
"How liberating would it be if we could just let go of this trying to be good? If, despite the perceived obstacles in our way, we just did it anyway? If the only indication of whether or not something was good was how it makes us feel? Instead of asking, is it good? We could ask:

Is it kind? Does it make me feel Alive, excited, invigorated, nurtured, loved, inspired, FREE, like more of my beautiful Self?"

Friday is a great day to be beautiful and free.  Thanks, Julia!

You can read more by Julia and check out her creative side at her blog:  Painted Path.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Parsimony Isn't Bad

Wordy Wednesday

From: DISNEY’S A CHRISTMAS CAROL. ©2009 ImageMovers Digital LLC.

"I, see you Mr. Scrooge."

He brings us the word for the day, which is parsimony.  For a long time, I pronounced it "par sim o nee".  It sounded like an herb. defines parsimony: 

parsimony (ˈpɑːsɪmənɪ) [Click for IPA pronunciation guide]
extreme care or reluctance in spending; frugality; niggardliness
[C15: from Latin parcimōnia, from parcere to spare]

Once upon a time I would have thought this word only had negative connotations.  It seemed to epitomize the grumpy, shrivelled, old miser.  It loomed large like a crotchety Dicken's character.  But is it really that bad? 

Quickly, thing back to your most recent purchase.  Did you really need it? 
Thing back to the last thing you really wanted.  Once possessed did it lose some of it's charm?  Did a new thing, a new object of desire take its place?

Your Money or Your Life, Vicki Robin and Joe Domenguez, co-wrote a very insightful book that tackles our misconceptions about money and success.  I suspect we've been giving parsimony a lot of bad press over the years.

"Goodbye, Mr. Scrooge.  Hello, Life!"

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mortgage Crisis

Topical Tuesday

Image credit and accompanying article can be found here.

As a struggling homeowner, staring foreclosure in the eye, I'm appalled that we don't see more media coverage regarding the mortgage crisis.  Doesn't anyone find it odd that with so many people struggling to deal with unaffordable mortgages, etc. there is so little news about this problem?  When I went on line to do some background research, I hoped to find some statistics and some good solid facts.   It wasn't easy.  There are so many articles full of political posturing that one wonders what happens to the facts.

More than half the people I know have been directly affected by this crisis.  At first, I was very ashamed to admit that we were struggling and losing the battle.  As my frustration grew and talking about it became a way to relieve some of the stress and worry, I discovered how common a problem it is.

We tried working with our lender.  After months of dealing with them, we were worse off then when we started.  The level of incompetence found in bank customer service personnel seems to know no bounds.  It became very obvious that the bank wasn't on the same page we were.  Logic was of no use and honesty. . . representatives of the bank lied to us on numerous occasions in an attempt to collect whatever money they could.    When it became obvious that we had to look out for our own survival and it was either pay the mortgage or the water bill, light bill, gas bill . . . etc. we stopped paying the mortgage.  The bank had kept upping the ante.  We had to fold.  They held all the cards.

At first I thought we were one of the few.    When the bank modified the loan, our payments increased.  They told us that this was to help us.  Hadn't they forgiven a couple of months of late charges?   This makes no sense when you're already struggling.  Then, they took it upon themselves to protect their investment and pay our property taxes.  We always paid these taxes with our tax return.  They set up an escrow account and increased our payments another $200 plus a month.

I wrote to my senators, representatives and the Federal Government Dept. that oversees Housing.  I called the county to find out why they allowed the bank to pay our taxes.  The local county treasurer actually called me back and took time to explain to me what really happened.  The bank never could or would.  I heard from one of my state senators.  It was a general form letter.  At least it was that much.  (Thanks, Maria Cantwell!)   No one else bothered to respond.  I was a shutter banging in the wind.  Soon, I'll have no home to bang against.
In a last ditch effort to save our house and avoid life in a cardboard box under a bridge, we've turned to NACA. (The acronym is pronounced Knack-A.)  They are a HUD-approved entity that works as an intermediary between the homeowner and their bank to work toward an affordable mortgage. 
I've got to be honest.  It seems too good to be true especially after trying to work with the bank and appealing to politicians with deaf ears.  So far, we've attended a NACA workshop, filled out forms on their site and had two phone conversations.  We have not paid them a dime and will not.  There are parts about their approach that echo a sense of mission.  The look of the web site gives me a bit of concern.  It doesn't look "non-profitee" enough.  That being said, I have no reason to suspect less than honorable motives based on my interactions so far.  They are paid by the government and they seem to actually be helping homeowners.  The man behind NACA, Bruce Marks, isn't very popular with the banking industry and is a bit of a confrontive showman.  As such, he receives some bad press which I've read.  So far, I still think he's one of the "good guys."  NACA is our last shot and I'm taking it. 
Struggling homeowners can feel pretty isolated.  They feel shame of failing to make ends meet.  They feel the shame of not providing for their families.  They feel the embarrassment of being in a position of needing help.  All this just gets in the way.  We don't need to carry unnecessary shame.  There is strength in numbers.  Individually, we are powerless but collectively. . .  We all need to make our voices heard.  We are not alone.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Broken #1

Miscellaneous Monday

Image Credit: S. Sturgeon

Two things stood out on my Just 10 walk this morning.   First, a broken trinket found in a quiet intersection.  Three plastic silver beads were unevenly divided by a round medallion the size of a quarter.  Embossed in the center of the medallion was the "# 1".  I bent to pick it up and wanted to take it home but only for a few seconds.   What could I use this for?

Was this medallion part of some prize or trophy?  Was it part of a gimcracks purchased at the dollar store?  Was it broken and dropped here on purpose?  Does it have an interesting story behind it or just a boring collection of nothing?

It was definitely a broken thing.  There was another broken thing on the trail today.  Nearing my turning point, I spotted a man standing in the shade of a small tree.  On the ground beside him, a bright yellow sweatshirt lay in a heap alongside a plastic grocery bag.    The man swayed slightly, like tall grass does in a light breeze.  I wondered if might be sick and needed help.  When I got closer, I saw a large inexpensive brand of beer in a can clutched tightly in his fist.  The grocery sack at his feet contained more of the same.  His lazy smile spoke volumes.

I said hello, made eye contact and as I walked away, I listened more keenly for the sound of feet following me.  Living alone and without a car for 14 years in Northwest Portland taught me a thing or two.  I assessed the situation and decided that given his state of inebriation, I'd probably have the edge in a physical confrontation.  His lazy smile had told me to be careful.  Fortunately, there were few bushes at this spot on the trail and we were in full view of the passing traffic.

 He was in full view.  Part of me remained careful and aware but there was a small part of me that felt nothing but pity for this man.  I looked at him, drunk so early on a Monday morning and I wondered what pain he must feel to crawl in a cheap can so early in the day.  Was his pain, while much more transparent than any I carry, really that different from my own?  I could not judge him.  His brokenness was visible but too much like the brokenness we all carry.

I may not seek comfort in a can or a bottle but I can crawl into a bag of chips or a batch of cookies in a futile attempt to hide my own misery and to drown my own pain.  I'd started out on my walk thinking what a difficult time my husband and I were having "cleaning up" our bad eating habits.  I thought about how easily I enabled us both and how co-dependent our behavior is.  I thought about addressing my husband publicly in an open letter.  I thought about airing our bad habits in a confessional act of written atonement. . . as if that would really change anything.

And, then I saw a broken man and discovered a broken #1 and knew that I was discovering something about myself.  I am broken.  I can begin again.  I will fail again.  It's all part of trail or the trial that is life.  Those two words must be similar on purpose because life is both.  None of us are getting out alive.  We're all broken #1.  We can say hello to each other as we pass.  Sometimes we can help each other.  Sometimes we need to keep our eyes on each other. Always we can learn from each other.  We walk alone and we walk together.  Trail, trial, broken #1, broken men, broken women.  There is comfort in our numbers that is much greater than the comfort of the can or bottle or cupcake.  I have only to open my heart to see it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Soothing Sunday Pics

My daughter is a great photographer.  Her pictures are worth a thousand words.  She spent a weekend with her aunt in Bend recently and came back with some great pictures.  Here are just a few.  Just looking at them relaxes me on this soothing Sunday.

Maddie, the nature dog.

The Deschutes


Deschutes in Bend
(This was an Easter sunset as seen from our front yard.  Beautiful sunsets are free!)
Free Friday

One of the best things about our Friday garage sale was the free zone. I know it's bad business to give too much away for free. What is bad business is often good for the soul. Just think what the world would be like if corporations subscribed to this mentality. Ah, but back to our sale. . .

Books have become harder to sell. They are still considered treasures when free. An older rice cooker without a cord was a welcome find to one of our customers. An assorted collection of odd ephemera provided customers a place to hunt for a treasure known only to themselves. Many found it. Watching them provided priceless entertainment.

Seeing the happy faces when they discovered our expansive free zone was worth a great deal. We still made money but it was the free zone that made the day most productive. The best things in life are free.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Walking Together

Thinking Thursday

Today, I did not walk alone.  My daughter accompanied me.  After a warm-up, she wanted to try running.  She ran ahead of me, her thick ponytail swinging rhythmically as she disappeared around a bend. This is how it should be.  We raise our children so they may go off on their own.  It's not yet time for my "little bird" to fly and I am very glad.  She brings an extra dose of sunshine to my life and always will.

Later, when she got tired, she rejoined me.  We walked together.  I shared the names of some of the flowers and plants, passing on a knowledge that was passed on to me.  Then, we talked of happiness and parenting.  We talked about how easy it is repeat the things you hated to hear as a child when you become a parent.  We talked about separating ourselves from the unhappiness of others particularly a parent.  We talked about self-blame and redemption.  We talked about the philosophy of reincarnation and what we'd want to come back as.  We talked of schools and friends and little dead mice. 

It was a very good Thinking Thursday.  My daughter and I spent Just 10 time while getting much needed exercise.  In between the words, we did lots of thinking and feeling.   It was time very well spent.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I Can

Wordy Wednesday

The first word I wanted to feature was: Antidisestablishmentarianism. 

(I'd skip over the explanation if I were you.)

Wikipedia says the word means:  (listen to British sample , American sample ) is a political position that originated in 19th-century Britain in opposition to proposals for the disestablishment of the Church of England, that is, to remove the Anglican Church's status as the state church of England, Ireland, and Wales.

The establishment was maintained in England, but in Ireland the Church of Ireland (Anglican) was disestablished in 1871. In Wales, four Church of England dioceses were disestablished in 1920, subsequently becoming the Church in Wales.
The question of disestablishment of the Church of England is still current, often tied with the position of the English monarch as "Supreme Governor" of the Church (see Act of Settlement 1701). Those who wish to continue the establishment of the Church of England are referred to as Antidisestablishmentarians.[1]

The only fun thing about this word is it's length and the fact that cutting and pasting the definition has changed my text into superscript.  Curses on you, Blogger!

The word for today is actually two words,  two short, sweet words:  I can.

I didn't start out saying them this morning.  On my Just 10 walk, I came to a curve in the trail and wanted nothing more than to sit down on the asphalt and await rescue.  This time my body was screaming, "Enough,  I don't want to go any further."

Fortunately, my spirit said two short, sweet words, "You, can!"  (Don't let the change of the pronoun or the font size fool you.  Just internalize it and make it your own.  You can transform it.)

Of course, me being me, I wanted to argue.  I started making a list of all the things I can't do. 

I can't do gymnastics.
I can't be 5' 11 and have blue eyes.
I can't walk on the moon.
I can't sing on key.
I can't possess a super power or a even a super cape.
I can't have a jet pack.  (The jet pack that flies over water and uses water to hover just isn't the same.)
I can't be the Queen of England.  (They've already got one and I'm not British.)

After playing with my silly list for a few minutes, I started to make a list of what I can do.  (I like this list much better even if it isn't as funny.)

I can reach the intersection and walk all the way back home.
I can breathe deeply and enjoy this morning walk, (in spite of the dead mouse and dog poop on the trail this morning.)
I can focus on what I have and not on what I don't.
I can say I love you to the people I love.
I can take time to listen to them, to just be with them and I can let myself enjoy them.

Today, instead of thinking about what you can't do or can't have, take time to find out what you can.

Turning it Off

Topical Tuesday

Yesterday, I wanted to take on the media for Topical Tuesday.  News  (I use that word loosely) about the Casey Anthony trial was everywhere.     The media was hell bent on capitalizing on all the emotions this case incites in the public.  The news has been doing this for years.   When one of the news shows featured a segment on what Casey Anthony's favorite TV shows are I'd had enough.   Or did I?

Sadly, I continued to watch.  Forming my own strong opinion about the case, the media handling of it, and the legal system, I'd played right into the advertisers hands.  It's really all about the advertisers.   All these shows compete to win the most viewers and the highest ratings.  The most viewers and highest ratings allow the networks to charge the highest costs to their advertisers.  The advertisers want the most bang for their buck.  This uneasy partnership influences what and how "news" is presented.  Don't discount the entertainment value of the news.  The facts are used to serve it.  If you doubt me ask yourself this: 

How does knowing Casey Anthony's favorite TV shows have anything to do with the loss of a little girl?  Did the grandfather have an affair with a woman during the search for Caley?  Is the grandmother brokering a deal with the media that will earn her a lot of money?  Are any of these things our business?  Do they really matter?

All these things serve to ignite an emotionally volatile public who is being manipulated by how the news is presented and what the "news" decides to present.  Educating the public about the laws regarding reasonable doubt, and the general legal process that while flawed is what keeps us from anarchy and protects all of us from vigilante justice, is startlingly absent from the reporting.

While I was preparing to take aim and climb on top of a soap box, I realized that I was neglecting the one thing I could do that would make an impact.  I was still watching.  I needed to turn it off or at least turn the channel.   There is an unusual, white-robed guy on cable access who sits cross legged and speaks of peace.  He is worth watching, at least for a minute or two.

By watching the mess even to criticize the coverage that is being passed off as news, I was compliant.  Only by refusing to watch, to exercise my right to change the channel in my mind and my life, could I discover the power I possess.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Wild Monday

Image source:

On my Just 10 morning walk, I looked for a topic for Miscellaneous Monday.  As I stepped off the yards and miles, I became very interested in identifying the flora in the landscape.  When the walking trail first opened, the sides were planted with many native bushes and trees.  At first, it was carefully tended but over time, the wild has stepped in.   Now almost ten years later, the landscape is a profusion of growth, weeds grow among the planted bushes.  At first, I thought about how neglected the trail side had become but I couldn't help but enjoy some of the pretty weeds and wild flowers.  It was time to strip to the bone and acknowledge the wild side.

Queen Anne's Lace danced in a gentle breeze.  Clover awaited bumbling bees.  Tansy Ragwort, a bane to bovines everywhere, sported smart, mustard-yellow flower clusters.  Salmon berries were heavy with fruit.  Oregon grape has begun coloring some of its leaves with a brilliant fire red.  Wild roses have faded, their long arching branches are now heavy with rose hips.  The world around me was tame and wild.  Both seemed to belong together.

The fact that I could name many of the plants before me, pleased me.  Life has not left me completely unprepared.   I knew that Queen Anne's Lace is wild carrot and edible as are the salmon berries.  I know that the dandelions with sharp-pointed leaves can be used as salad greens.  I knew I could eat clover.  I knew that even the stinging nettle can be tamed and made into greens or brewed as tea.   If  I'm every lost in the woods, I will not starve.

The fact that there were plants I could not name also pleased me.  There is much to learn.   There will always be something new.

Suddenly, I found myself very aware of the "feelings" of the people I meet on the trail.  Their bodies and movements shout at me as we pass each other.  Their moods and feelings are no secret.  In those moments, I discover how much I have shut out.  I have spent most of my life tuning out the "wildness" of the world because it felt overwhelming.  I've tried to keep my life, a well-manicured flower bed but the wilderness has always been waiting to come in.  The line between myself and others, between myself and the world seemed such a strong one.  It hasn't been.  We've always belonged together.  We've been walking side by side. Wild is everywhere.

Wild is full of passion.  It's where the zest for life has been hiding.  It's the source of great art.  It sings the music of the soul.  Welcome, Wild Monday, it's time we got to know each other. 

Serenity NOW

Soothing Sunday.

Initially, I thought that dedicating Sunday as a day of rest would require a lot of hard work and fortitude on my part.  Yesterday, Sunday surprised me by coming in gently and serenely.  I watched Rick Steves on PBS visit the tiniest countries in Europe.  I discovered there really is a Lichtenstein.

Then one of my favorite shows replayed.  I love Art Wolfe's "Travels to the Edge."   Yesterday, he journeyed to the northern islands of Japan.  He visited a monastery where the monks practice a "homemade" religion combining Shintoism and Buddhism.  I loved their creativity in devising a religious system that worked for them.  Wolfe mentions the Japanese art of mixing simplicity with serenity.  Those two concepts framed my day.  Sunday was one of the most relaxing Sunday's I've enjoyed in years.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

What Lies Beyond

Shimmering Saturday

(My sis, Janet used this as her profile pic on Facebook.  It seemed very apropos for today.  Thanks, J.)

As I started my Just 10 walk this beautiful, summer Saturday, I didn't expect the walk itself to be my topic.  Yet, the act of walking sat at the center of my thoughts.  Walking became more than walking.  This is what I discovered beneath the ordinary act of putting one foot in front of another.  I found that beyond my walk wisdom waits.

I love the idea of walking but I don't always enjoy the reality.  Along the way there are usually several points at which I just want to turn back.  My feet hurt.  My back hurts.  I'm tired.  I don't feel like walking.  Fortunately, my body is wiser than I am and it keeps going.
This morning I was doing a lot of protesting.  A back injury in my thirties left me with some nerve damage in my legs.  Many a morn my legs seem to be going a different directions than the rest of my torso.  A lovely bout of shingles this last year added a dimension of imbalance to my already wobbly legs.  Often the world spins at a dizzy rate and I struggle to hold on.  Some days I leave the house feeling that I must look like a drunken Raggedy Ann or old marionette with some evil puppet master pulling the strings.  If I got stuck thinking about what other might be thinking, I'd never leave the house.

This morning my legs were busy doing an odd sloppy lurch.  I wanted to turn back but my body was smart enough to keep moving forward.  I thought about how easy it is to take walking for granted.  It's really much more complicated than it seems.   Some times we don't appreciate something until it's taken from us.  For a moment, I wanted to indulge in self-pity.  "Why does everything have to be so hard?" I moaned.

My body replied,  "What are you talking about?  Hard?  I'm the one doing the work.  This isn't so bad.
When I feel dizzy, I pick a point on the horizon.  I focus on that and concentrate on balancing and walking.  I think I'm doing just fine.  Considering your age and what's happened to you, you're doing pretty well.  Now, stop complaining and get moving!"

I had to smile.  My body is a lot smarter than I am sometimes.  I thought about all the things that slow me down in life.  I thought about how my body has compensated for what it lacks and how it gets by.  I thought of how all the injuries, "the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune" have changed me.  It isn't always for the worse.  In fact, these slings and arrows, while painful have been valuable opportunities.  They have taught me how much I have to be grateful for and how amazing I can be.

My walk today was so much more than a walk.  It took me to a place I never expected to reach.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cape Disappointment

Image Source Page:

The word for the day is "disappointment.  This word doesn't begin to capture how I feel.  I feel like a Spartan girl child left alone on a rocky Mediterranean crag as a feast for the vultures.  I watch those that brought me here leave.  Or, maybe, I am lashed to the mast of a rudderless ship.  Across my chest hangs a necklace of rotting albatross.  The tools to free myself lie just beyond my grasp.  If the putrefaction of the rotting albatross doesn't kill me then starvation will.  I can almost smell it now.

Some day I may smile at the cock-eye optimism that brought me to this place.  Right now my lips just want to curl into a snarl.  I tried to walk away this feeling this morning on  a classic Just 10 walk
but disappointment clung to my back like sweat.    As much as I wanted to flush disappointment from my psyche, I learned I had to let it alone. We've made a truce.   It will leave when it's ready and not a moment before. 

Today, I'm going to leave disappointment wrapped around my heart.  It seems to need some comfort and nurturing before it's ready to set out on its own.  How can I deny it what I want most?

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Day of the Moon

My hatred of Mondays is common knowledge.  I decided to look behind the "veil of Monday" and find out what might lurk beneath.  Monday's name is derived from the old English for "moon day." Maybe that's why the old nursery rhyme says, "Monday's child is fair of face."  Moon beams don't leave a tan.    On this Monday, I wonder how my life looks from the moon.   Would the moon look down on the earth with envy or with pity?  Would it look down with both?  Would it foresee a happy ending or annihilation?  It's a good thing I'll never travel to the moon and find out.

Instead, I'm earthbound, at least in this life.  In my next life I want to be a particle of light streaking across the universe.  But all that will have to wait.  Today, I'm stuck here with my flaming bag of problems and few solutions.  I'd like to be that particle of light right now. 

The decision to move down to my home town was not a good one.  Sometimes finding out what won't work is the first step in finding what will.  We are messy, noisy and grossly inconvenient.  We are also a lot more but you have to get past that first list of adjectives before you can really enjoy what we are.  I can't move my family to a place where they aren't wanted.  We really were on our best behavior.  God help us all on a bad day.

Yesterday,  I understood why solitude was my favorite companion as a child.  It was were I found solace and comfort.  I understood why I spent a lot of my life trying to fade into the background.  Fading doesn't come naturally to me or to my children.   Fading is a tragic waste of human potential.

I don't know what we are going to do but I am very clear on the why of it all.   Up above the moon looks down on all of us with compassion.   Maybe I've been unfair to "Moonday."   It's not as bad as it seems.


As much as I wanted to keep the spirit of soothing Sundays alive and well, I found it very difficult to keep with the theme.   A psychologist once said that parents should never cry in front of their children. This Sunday I violated that should and cried in front of my kids.

I didn't want them to see me a teary-eyed mess.  I'm sure that it is unsettling to see a parent cry, especially one that is usually rather stoic.  My tears had a life of their own.   I couldn't stop them so I was forced to make the best out of a less than ideal situation. 

I tried to model emotional honesty.  I told them I was upset and why.  I told them that I would be fine but that I needed to cry and get my feelings out.   Tears return as I remember their reaction.      They showed me a tenderness and a strength, I don't often get to see.  They balanced my sorrow with their love.    In the midst of a great disappointment, they showed me how lucky I am. 

As much as I'd like to protect them from the sorrows and disappointments in life, I can't.  If I protect them too much, they will never learn resilence or how recognize their own strength.  I hated falling apart in front of them.  At first, they tried to cheer me up with reassurances of their love. 

Then my son tried to make me laugh.  He reminded me how I laughed at a skit on TV.  One of the characters called himself, "Turd Ferguson."   I smile through the tears and tell them,   "I just need a little time to pull myself together."

Leaving the freeway for the backroads helped.    Gliding over the old road home with the windows rolled down, my head began to clear.  A new respect for my children was born.    They comforted me and then let the van fill with an easy silence as I worked through my feelings.  We stopped and I splurged on Frappicinos.  "Are you feeling better, Mom?"
"Yes," I reply. 
"I'm going to be alright."

Today, I showed them how human I was.  They had the opportunity to soothe and comfort me and I had the opportunity to let them for just a little while.

Friday, July 1, 2011

If Only . . .

 This was posted in the comments beneath this video on

This great song was written about a Landlord who Continually Gave free Beer to the Poor and Needy In his Village.
He was asked by the Local Police to Stop his Kindness because the Excess beer was causing a Crimewave.
The local People had Unwittingly become Alcoholics and Needed to feed their Need so they Broke Into the Landlords Tavern and Stole his Beer.
On one Occasion desperation Forced the Police to Lock Up the Landlord and he was heard Crying" Why do you Hate me I Gave You Ale"
Just heard this line from a Mumford and Sons song "I gave you all"

"If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy, I could have won."

On this Free Friday, it rings true.  I've been trapped by all that I have not, all that I am not.  I have failed to see what I am and what I already have.  Since Free Friday's are all about liberation it's time to set myself free.

The only way to survive this crisis is to accept it.   I have been a bird trapped inside, bashing myself against a plate glass window.  The world always just beyond my reach.   Something transparent separates me from my life.  I am this transparent thing.    It's time I dissolve the illusion that prevents me from crossing the barrier.

Last night I had a crazy dream.  I was traveling the country with a group of seven assorted misfits in an old motor home.  One misfit appointed himself the leader.  He christened himself, "Captain.".  We accepted his leadership without question until he became unjust.  The remaining six took control of the motor home.  We opened up all the drapes and windows.  We made a pact that we were in this together and that we would help each other and discuss all decisions before acting.  I drove out of a dusty motel parking lot watching the Captain flail his arms and scream obscenities at  us.  I was afraid of driving this motor home but knew that with practice I would learn how.  I felt sad yet also free.  This freedom was so exhilarating that going back was not an option.

During my waking life, I curse the options that hover around me.  None of them seem desirable.  While there are many things I can't control, I've allowed those same things to control me.  They have clipped my wings.  I have forgotten that I know how to fly.  Friday dawned and freed me this bright summer morning.  I am free.