Sunday, December 30, 2007

Alphabet Soup - Letter "Q"

QUILTS to keep me warm on cold winter nights

QUART jars filled with my yummy home canned peaches

QUILL pens that signed the Declaration of Independence, helping to establish my freedom

QUESTIONS that keep me searching, thinking big thoughts and pondering deep

QUIET times to calm my chaos in this crazy old world

Alphabet Soup - Letter "P"

Prunes * Pomegranates * Playdough * Pirate Movies * Prayer * Pies in the face * Playmates * Pajamas * Pansies * Peonies * Parakeets * Parties * Passport * Penicillin * Pets * Pickles....and then there's more: Photographs * Physicans * Phone * Pinecones * Pick-up Trucks * Pineapple * Piranha Fish! Most of all PEACE, which I seek with all my heart.

Alphabet Soup - In Search of the big O

A series of things have piled up in the Piranha household over the last week or so which left me feeling more than a little glum. If ever there was a time when I needed to Count My Blessings, it would be now. I have SO MUCH abundance in so many areas of my, spirit, family, friends. But alas, over the last few days all I could see was the bad news. Three different doses of disappointment came one on top of the other - first I learned I didn't make the cut for the job back in Michigan that had seemed so perfect for me. (Rotten timing to get my "no thank you" letter on Christmas Eve.) Then came two more rather big reverses right on top of that which caught me completely off guard. One has to do with a close family member and the other a financial situation we got stuck with unfairly. Adversity with a capital A seemed ready to camp out for a good long spell just to see how I would react.

I've had my Eeyore moments, moping about with a pessimistic face. But I KNOW that in the big picture of life there is still plenty to be grateful for no matter what challenges may come.

So onward and upward to list the O blessings that enrich my life!

I'll start off with OYSTERS - to remind me that how we respond to the things that irritate or trouble us can make all the difference. The creation of pearls teach me that painful experiences can lead to beauty over time. So rather than moan or whine or wail about the injustice of life's disappointments I can truly ask myself "where is the blessing in this?" If I look hard enough, I WILL Find it.

OXYGEN - so easy to take for granted. But spend a day in the company of a person with serious breathing difficulty and you will be reminded how precious it is simply to take in a lung full of easy air. I am also reminded of the time I spent in Cairo, Egypt where the air pollution is truly atrocious. I'm so grateful to live in a place where I see blue skies instead of brown haze. I am thankful indeed for good air to breath and good lungs to suck it all up with.

OHIO - is a place that will always be dear to me. My beloved and I moved to the Buckeye State just three months after we married and lived there from 1982-1986. Some of my dearest friends to this day are those I met back then. Some are still there, some have moved away like me. But I still count them all as my Ohio buddies and they add sweet richness to my life.

OREGON - is where I have called home for the past six years. I don't know that we will stay a whole lot longer. I'm actively looking for a job now and most of my applications have been in other states. But I've had many wonderful adventures here and found some good friends during our time here. I'll always remember this place fondly. And who knows? We could end up staying ...just depends what cards we get dealt. I'm coming to understand and accept that the universe has plans and I'm just along for the ride!

OATMEAL - true comfort food for me. Besides being yummy its good for you.

OCEANS - It took me a long time to overcome my mistrust of the sea and general fear of water after a near drowning in Florida many years ago. But finally I've come to view the ocean as my ally once more. Being married to a serious scuba diver has taken me to several gorgeous beaches over the years - most recently at Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The Ocean there was so beautiful & soothing. Had a great time!

ORIGAMI - just plain old pieces of paper folded in elaborate patterns to make things of beauty. I have some Origami butterflies on my refrigerator door. Good reminders that out of small and simple things can come treasures!

And there are other things to be all the other letters of the alphabet, the Letter O brings me plenty to smile about, even when the world brings an OUCH!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Alphabet Soup - Letter "N"

Rather than write a little bit about a whole list of words for this letter, I want to focus on just one:

- One of my goals recently has been to learn to live more consistently in the present moment. It's so easy to obsess over the past, replaying things that are done and gone, continually second guessing myself. If only I had... If only I had not... Regrets for what has come before have their purpose if taken in small doses. They can instruct by showing us how to take a different path next time. But getting stuck in continual replays of old business is counterproductive.

The other trap is to get stuck longing for what is yet to come forfeiting the present by constantly putting off today's chance for happiness with "...when I get done with this project" or "when the kids are older" or "after I graduate" or "when I have time" as if somewhere in the future there would be some sort of magical different reality. OR the flip side is worrying about the future, all the what ifs that MIGHT happen, that COULD happen...most of which never will, yet I have put myself through all the angst worrying about it as if it already had.

Whether it is being overly focused on the past, or tangled up in the future, I want that pattern of time warp focus to end. I want to live in the present moment. I want to live in the NOW.

It makes sense to pay attention to, remember, and learn from the past. But I need to acknowledge it is past. It makes sense to think about and plan for the future. But ultimately, the future is unknown. I can only truly experience THIS moment.

One of my favorite reminders of this important lesson is the story The Precious Present by Spencer Johnson.

I choose to be awake and present NOW.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Alphabet Soup - Letter "M"

MARRIAGE - this is the bedrock of the peace and happiness I have in my life. My husband is truly my best pal, a man I adore and trust with all my heart. My life has been deeply blessed in this marriage! We've been united for 26 yrs and yet he still makes me feel 16 with a silly crush when he looks at me and smiles.

MUSIC - whether it is Christmas songs that waft through my home this time of year, the pulsing back-beat rhythms of reggae that I swing to while doing my housework, praise & worship songs that lift my spirit or the old cowboy ballads like "El Paso" that my husband likes to is a tremendous blessing in my life!

MARIGOLDS - I love flowers of just about every kind. Marigolds are easy to grow and have the side benefit of warding off bugs. Just thinking of their cheerful faces brightens my spirit on this cold winter evening.

MONEY - We are not rich in dollars and cents. But we have sufficient for our needs and then some to spare. We are rich in so many other ways, but I am very mindful that we DO have more money that at least half the population of this planet and I am deeply grateful that we don't have to fret about how we are going to get through each month.

MATH - Who would have thought I would ever say that was a blessing?? There was a time when I HATED mathematics. I would get a cold shiver down my spine at the very mention of polynomials or quadratic equations! I was one of those stereotypical females that believed I just could not learn to manipulate numbers no matter how hard I tried. But due to the patience of a great Algebra teacher many years ago I learned to overcome my aversion for mathematics. Fred Toxopaus, where ever you are, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for teaching me that I could master algebra and maybe even learn to like it. I was not an easy pupil, but you hung in there with me until I got it right. The skills you helped me establish have served me well over the years AND have given me courage to tackle other challenging things that at first seemed insurmountable. I'll never forget you!

Alphabet Soup - Letter "L"

Continuing on with my list of blessings from A to Z I come to the letter L...

LAUGHTER - to giggle in bursts of silly amusement, to full out belly laugh, to laugh through tears - recognizing the joy that sometimes comes all tangled up with difficulty, to laugh with wild abandon in moments of all its many forms I love a good laugh. Beyond that, I love the sound of laughter from those I care about. I have a priceless memory of my youngest grandchild laughing with gusto as we played peek-a-boo about this time last year...he lives clear across the country now, but that memory still burns bright. I remember driving across Blewett pass with my beloved on the way home from a trip to Sequim. We were listening to a book on tape that had a hilariously funny passage. My love and I got laughing so hard we almost veered off the road! I remember sharing a laugh with one of my best friends, a woman from my church, as we talked about the antics of our respective families. I love laughter! It is healing magic indeed.

LENT - My own religion does not practice Lent or have any traditions associated with it. However, through my association with some pals of the Eastern Orthodox faith I have been introduced to the concept of Lent. They fast for 40 days (eating minimal food and totally avoiding all meat, dairy and a few other thing) and observe various prayers and rituals that carry them through a spiritual journey. I have learned to have a deep respect for this and have practiced a modified version of it for myself that have challenged and enriched my own spiritual understanding.

LOVE is the power pack of my life. It's what gives me the juice to face each new day. It is what brings me hope and courage. Love rocks! I am blessed to be in a marriage where I feel deeply loved every single day. I also have a handful of dear friends who I know without question love me very much. Beyond how good it feels to know I am loved, my life is made richer because of how it feels for me to love them - my family, my pals, and to have a general love of life.

There's plenty of others I could mention - lentils and lima beans, liver & onions and life jackets, larynx that lets me talk, loofah that scrubs me clean. The whole point of doing this blessing list is to push myself beyond the obvious and help me acknowledge my gratitude for lots of things in my life I generally overlook.

I can sum it all up with LIFE...I appreciate the quote by Agatha Christie who said: “I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing. ”

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Alphabet Soup - Letter "K"

KITES - I love kites. I have at least a dozen different ones. I almost always take one with me when I travel (Usually my parasail because it packs easy and has no breakable sticks.) Blustery spring days are just perfect for kite flying.

KALEIDOSCOPES - I have a collection of toys that I keep on or near my desk - some are wind up things that do silly things, and there are jacks, my juggle balls and a few other odd things I've collected over the years. Among these is my Kaleidoscope, just something fun to look in now and then to see pretty patterns. I spend a lot of time staring at the computer screen because of the nature of my work. Sometimes it is nice to give myself a few minutes of diversion.

KOOL AID - I almost never drink the stuff anymore, but I am a sucker for buying a cup from the local kids when they put out a kool aid stand in summer. It just seems like the neighborly thing to do.

KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE - I've long loved the epic tales of Sir Lancelot and Guinevere, King Aurthur and his court.

And last but not least by any means KAYLIE - my 13 yr old grand daughter who I adore. She is the light of my heart. Love you Kayliebug!

Alphabet Soup - Letter "J"

Continuing on with the challenge to list blessings that I appreciate for every letter of the alphabet I will name these:

JUGGLING - this is something I am determined to learn. I have been practicing a off and on but still am not very good at it yet. No matter - I'll keep trying until I master the art. It just seems like it would be a fun way to add a little levity to life!

JET PLANES - I love to travel and have been fortunate enough to see various parts of the world: Egypt, Costa Rica, Fiji, Mexico to name just a few. I am ever so grateful for the ability to travel far and wide made possible by modern transportation.

JOINT CHECKING & SAVINGS - Every couple must find their own balance for how they will handle their finances. I know a few families in which husbands and wives clearly delineate "HIS" money from "HER" money. While I respect that may work for some, I am so thankful that in my marriage we have a different way. We throw all our resources into one pot and mutually share whatever bounty may come. Early on my husband was the only one working for a wage outside the home. Then little by little I started to contribute as I worked my way up the career ladder. These days I make a bit more than him. But it doesn't really matter. It's all OURS and we manage it together with no greediness or secrets. I like that.

JOB - I like my work. The past couple days have been horrendous as my boss and I have teamed together to compile a big, complicated end-of-year report. The reporting required for federal grants is truly excruciating. But even with tedious tasks like that in the mix, over all I am very pleased to be working where I do, and mindful that having a good job of any kind is something not to take for granted.

JELLO - Just because there's ALWAYS room for Jello! I especially like Jello brand instant tapioca pudding. YUM YUM!

JESUS CHRIST - and of course no "J" list would be complete without including the Savior. It is through the atonement of Jesus Christ that I can be forgiven of my sins to return one day to live in the presence of the Father. That is something for which I will always be especially grateful.

Alphabet Soup - Letter "I"

INTIMACY is a special blessing - one I am ever so grateful for. This word means different things to different people. To me, it is the ability to connect with trusted others on a deep and authentic level that warms my soul.

- My husband is a scuba diver so we have gone to several tropical places on vacations that have taught me to appreciate island life. Whether it be Hawaii, Fiji or the Bahamas, there's nothing quite like squishing my toes in the sand as I walk on the beach with sun kissing my skin. I don't think I'd care to live long term on a small piece of land surrounded by the sea, but for a get away week I'll take islands any day!

= I'm Possible - Back in Aug 2001 I participated in the Avon 3 day walk for Breast Cancer. Over a period of 3 days I walked approximately 60 miles, from Enumclaw, WA to Seattle. It was a gruelling journey of body and spirit and taught me many important things. One of the lessons that has remained with me since that event is the message that Pallota Teamworks kept reaffirming - that with just a little re-defining the impossible could be shifted to the belief that I'm Possible.
I learned that it was indeed very possible for me to do some big and important things. The whole thing was a very powerful experience I hope I never forget.

INDIAN SUMMER - these are those lovely warm days after the chill of fall has come. They offer a last hurrah of playing outdoors before the bleak cold of winter begins. Often coming in late October, I love going for walks to see the trees decked out in autumn colors on a mild Indian Summer Afternoon.

Alphabet Soup - Letter "H"

I am going to cheat on this one and simply link to the things that Morning Glory said on her post about H because I so agree with ALL of her words!!!!

Alphabet Soup - Letter "G"

Number one on this list is easy - GRANDKIDS I have four grandchildren who are my blood relations and and four more inherited through my son's marriage. Each and every one of them is special to me.

is a big part of my life. At various points I've had different beliefs about who or what God really is or what my relationship to Him could be. Over the years my spiritual understanding has evolved considerably. There is much I still don't understand. But I believe that God is very real and is mindful of my life.

GARDEN - I'm not a great gardener, but I do enjoy getting out to dig in the dirt and watch things grow. I usually am very ambitious about it in the spring but by late July or early August when it is getting hot I've lost the heart for weeding. Still, I manage to raise some lovely blooms and a respectable pile of veggies each year.

GUESTS - I enjoy having people over for dinner or to stay at our house for a long weekend. I'm not a fancy entertainer, but having chances to connect with family or friends in my home is something I really like.

GUITAR - I don't play at all, actually haven't got a musical bone in my body. But my husband strums and sings quite often and I've always been so grateful he has music in his life. It has blessed our home. Also, my older brother is a serious player. I love listening to either of them pick out a song.

GOULASH - is a spicy dish, originally from Hungary, usually made of beef, onions, red peppers, and paprika powder. HMMM I'm getting hungry...think I will GO now!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Alphabet Soup - Leter "F"

I wrote about this one previously over HERE.

Alphabet Soup - The letter "E"

Moving right along through the alphabet I come to the letter "E".

First and formost for this letter for me would have to be Eternal Marriage.

Because I am active LDS I believe in the concept of being married for "time and all eternity" rather than "till death do us part." Being sealed in the Temple by one who holds authority to perform such does NOT give us any guarentees - but rather opens the door to sacred potential of continuing together througout forever, if we make the right choices along the way. That is incredibly comforting to me.

EARS give me the capacity to hear music, the laughter of children, the sound of rain falling in the trees. Hearing is a wonderful sense that blesses me in so many ways. I know I take it for granted too much.

ENDIVE - who doesn't love a good salad?? Seriously, I am tremendously grateful to live in a time and place where I can go to my local market and get all kinds of fresh veggies year round. Just a couple generations ago that was unheard of - our pioneer forfathers ate what they grew, found or killed and not much else. I love the produce department!

Other e-blessings are described in my earlie post HERE, as that was written when I first discovered alphabet soup.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Alphabet Soup - My Letter "D" Blessings

On delightful dog days I dreamily dangle my toes into dangerous waters.
Determined to decipher my destiny I demand dungeons of duty desist from their decadent drills of doom in my brain and damn them to dark corners - liberating my thoughts and will to dance new steps of delicious delirium in freedom.

Yeah, D is a fun letter to play with.

For blessings...

DOG - my trusty basset hound, Morgan dog brings sweet friendship.

DREAMS - not the night time kind - for me those range from weird to creepy. But I have many dreams of things I hope to do one day; some become specific goals with an action plan for reaching them. Some remain fantasy of how I'd like things to be but will probably never follow up on. Nonetheless, I enjoy dreaming. Whether it is conjuring up images of walking on the great wall of China, learning to paint, getting serious about social activism or running away with the's fun to dream!

Dandelion Memories
- I have this incredibly powerful image in my mind of my first born son sitting in a field of dandelions, giggling and grinning with complete enthusiasm and glee; I had no camera at the time, but took a picture with my heart. That moment is carved in my soul with such sweetness and wonder. He was about two at the time - so it was 30 years ago. He is all grown up now, doing his best to face life's challenges. I honor the man he has become. But in my heart, he is still my dandelion baby.

Daffodils - I just love their cheerful faces announcing spring has finally arrived. I have several different varieties planted around my yard.

Dining Table - Last night we had three other couples come to dinner. We laughed together about inane aspects of life, pondered some over weightier matters, and thoroughly enjoyed one another's company. I love having a sturdy oak table with many leaves that I can put in to change the size from little to big in just a shake so I can accommodate gatherings of this sort. Many a meal has been savored at this table. I've also used it for game nights with friends, sorting out glass, wrapping gifts, and all sorts of things. It's the heart of our home in many ways.

Decorations - Right now that dining table mentioned above is decorated with baby pumpkins and a garland of fake autumn leaves. It feels festive to commemorate the coming of autumn with these things. At all the major holidays I will put out a few treasures collected over the years - my Easter Egg tree, a leprechaun wreath, and of course go out full tilt with lights and garland and bows galore come Christmas. It's fun to mark the seasons and special days with decorations, some of which I've had handed down to me from my mother and grandmother.

Dancing - I am not much of a dancer. I simply don't have the grace. But I am married to a man who doesn't seem to mind that I flunked waltz when we took a ballroom dance class a couple years ago. He dances with me anyway...holding me close and spinning me through the room with tenderness in his eyes. Whether it is is in union with my beloved or simply times when I boogie to blasting music by myself while cleaning house - I firmly believe in the adage that says "Dance Like No One is Watching." It feels good to just let my body move and celebrate life!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Alphabet Soup - My Letter "C" Blessings

While the obvious answer for "C" would be Christ, for my spiritual blessing for this letter I choose to focus on COVENANTS. Covenants are two way promises - and those I make with God are the most sacred agreements of my life. I have baptismal covenants. I have temple covenants. I hold these to be holy and they strengthen and direct my live in more ways than I can name.

Computer is key blessing for me. Because I teach online classes for it is part of my livelihood. Beyond that, it is my way to stay connected with a myriad of friends and family scattered over the earth. It is a tool for finding information. It provides entertainment. It keeps me organized. I would be lost without it.

College is a huge part of my life. Getting an education had a lot to do with making it possible for me to turn my life around from the mess that it was to the stable and satisfying path I'm on today. Beyond that, I have taught college classes for the last dozen years. I've worked in many different capacities over the years, but when I am teaching it truly feels as if the planets have all lined up and the angels are singing in the heavens...I'm in the ZONE. I love it! I'm sure I'll still do lots of other things as years come and go, but college life will always hold a special magic for me.

Crayons - I love to color with my grand kids - or anyone else for that matter.

Cinnamon - whether in pumpkin pies or sprinkled with sugar on toast, I love the taste and the smell of this yummy spice. Scent is a powerful sensory experience for me and I adore walking into the house when it is filled with good smells!

Capillaries - just to remind myself to be grateful for the small unseen things in my life that give me strength. It is easy to recognize the big, shiny, impressive blessings that call attention to themselves. But I know there are a million and one tiny and unseen factors that make my life so sweet. Capillaries to do their job of spreading my blood all throughout my body in tiny little pockets to be sure oxygen and nutrients get to every spot. So thank you to capillaries and all the rest of the wonderful C words in my life!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Alphabet Soup - Letter B

I have many blessings that begin with the letter B

Baptism - I was eight years old when I was baptized. I scarcely remember it and doubt that I fully understood the sacred nature of the covenants I was making with God at the time. But in the 40+ years since then I've had many occasions to ponder the significance of that event it my life. I am ever so grateful that I can renew those promises each week when I partake of the holy sacrament.

Blogging - Yes, I love the blogosphere. Some days I just wander at random to see what I can discover. Other times I stick with the tried and true - visiting "friends" I will most likely never meet in real time, but whom I have come to know and enjoy all the same. I'm sole author to five different blogs and contributing writer on another two. It's something that soothes me, inspires me, makes me think. I love to blog!

Brain - I am so grateful for the brain God gave me. I grew up as the middle of five kids in a home that put the D in dysfunctional. My siblings and I are only half kidding we say to each other that we were raised by wolves. But every one of us scrambled our way out of poverty and madness to earn graduate degrees, build strong relationships and create saner families in this generation. I am grateful my clan was given a healthy dose of good grey matter!

Bulbs - I am a flower fanatic. I just love to see my crocuses pop up out of the ground at the first sign of spring - sometimes making their way through the last vestiges of snow. Then come the daffodils, grape hyacinths and tulips. I have allium and peonies, hostas and bleeding heart. The edges of my yard are a wild riot of color from May til July as my bulbs transition through various stages. I love walking the yard when I get home each evening after work to see what new surprise I may find blooming there.

Books - I am an avid, eclectic reader. Some of my best friends as I was growing up were the characters in my books. I used to sit up in the crotch of a mulberry tree lost in reading for hours. Today my life is much too busy for that, and my bones are too old for climbing trees - but I still read as much as I can and then augment that with books on CD for when I commute. I love a good read!

What I Am Grateful For - the Letter A

Over at my other blog I describe a new project I am now working on.

For the gifts I will make for my family I will put in 26 index cards, one for each letter of the alphabet to challenge each one of them to make lists of things they consider blessings in their lives.

What I am doing for myself will be a little bit different. Because writing comes naturally to me, I have more words to share for each letter than what would fit on just one card. So I will put together 26 GROUPS of index cards, with each group of 3-5 cards attached with a small ring. Each group is designated a letter. Then on each card within that group I write a word that begins with that letter, followed by a detailed description of WHY I am grateful for that thing. (For example, right now my "A" group has 3 cards, designated "Atonement", "Airplanes" and Autumn". But because I have them connected by an O ring that clips open rather easily I can ADD to those cards with new words any time I like. Over the years I hope to keep pondering my blessings untill I make each of these gatherings of cards fat with gratitude.

Right now I have this:

On the "Atonement" card it says:
"I believe in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I know that He personally took on the sins of the world, but more important to me, I have faith in the reality that He took on MY sins, every one of them, so that I might be forgiven and be able to live in the presence of God again. But He did not just atone for the SINS of the word. He also took on every sorrow, every grief, every despairing moment of loneliness, every pain that could possibly be part of this mortal existence. My finite mind does not understand how that was possible. But I know that it was real. This is not just some Sunday School lesson to me. It is a true miracle that makes it possible for me to cope with any struggle I may have. When it feels as if no one in this world understands what I may be going through, I know that my Savior absolutely does understand in a very deep and personal way what it is I am feeling. Because of the atonement, I can go to my Father in Heaven in prayer with every moment of shame, every self doubt, every hurt feeling and be renewed through the Savior's love for me."

On the "Airplane" card it says:
I am so grateful for the chance to see distant places. Through the technology of airplanes I've been able to travel to Fiji, to Costa Rica, to Egypt and all over the United States. I've eaten red beans and rice while listening to great blues tunes in New Orleans. I've gone white water rafting near Denali in the wilderness of Alaska. I've seen volcanoes and been to a luau in Hawaii. I've seen petraglyphs on the walls of Indian ruins in New Mexico and flown a kite on the beach in Key Largo, Florida. I've stood at the top of the arch in St. Louis and eaten Amish pie in Wooster, Ohio. I've seen the laser light show on Freemont Steet in Las Vegas and looked out at the stars during a wonderful meteor shower in Tucson. I've camped out in the woods of Mt. Pilot, North Carolina and gone exploring deep caves in Tennessee. These trips and oh so many more were all made possible to me due to the wonderful blessing of the Airplane. I need to remember that when I am grousing about delays or missed connections. I need to remember that when I feel crowed in coach or anytime I start to complain about the futility of having all passengers take of their shoes going through security. There may be problems and inconveniences along the way, but I am still very, very grateful for airplanes."

My "Autumn" card says this:
"I love the feel of nubby sweaters that keep me warm from Autumn's chill. I love the harvest season when the earth gives up fat pumpkins and apples and and other produce. I love the sound of crunching leaves and the rich colors of the fall. I love the smell of smoke in the air as wood stoves kick in for the first time of the season. I love seeing V's of geese flying south and knowing there is a cycle of seasons to this earth."

Some of the words will be serious and some will be silly. But by giving myself a whole card to explain WHY each thing is a blessing in my life, it takes on deeper meaning. So when I get it all done I will have a "box of blessings" that I can turn to any time I get feeling blue, discouraged or overwhelmed.

I am grateful for all my A blessings, and all the rest of the alphabet - soon to be posted here.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Embroiderer

I do not know the original source for this story, but it has been floating around the internet for a while. I think it has a good message, so I figured it was something worthy of including here...

"Once there was a little boy who used to watch his mother sitting in a chair by the window, sewing on a piece of cloth held tight in a wooden hoop. He would sit at her knee and look up from the floor and ask what she was doing. She informed him that she was embroidering.

He didn't understand what that was. From the underside as he watched her work within the boundaries of the little round hoop that she held in her hand, all he could see was knots and dangling thread ends. It looked like a big mess.

The boy's mother would smile at her boy, look down and gently say, "My son, you go about your playing for a while, and when I am finished with my embroidering, I will put you on my knee and let you see it from my side."

The boy would wonder why she was using some dark threads along with the bright ones and why they seemed so jumbled from his view. But he decided to just play with his blocks and let her do whatever it was that seemed so interesting to her.

Some time later the mother called to her son and said: "I'm finished with my work now, come and sit on my knee to see."

When the little boy climbed up into his mother's lap he was surprised and thrilled to see a beautiful flower or a sunset. He could not believe it, because from underneath it looked so messy.

Then his Mother would explain: "My son, from underneath it did look messy and jumbled, but you did not realize that there was a pre-drawn plan on the top. It was a design. I was only following it. Now looking at it from my side and you can see what I was doing all along."

Many times through the years I have looked up to my Heavenly Father and said, "Father, what are You doing?" He has answered, "I am embroidering your life." I say, "But it looks like a mess to me. It seems so jumbled. The threads seem so dark. Why can't they all be bright?"

The Father seems to tell me, "'My child, you go about your business of doing My business, and one day I will bring you to Heaven and put you on My knee and you will see the plan from My side."

When God Paints

We live in an awesome world people. Make it an awesome day.

Peace To All and May God Bless You. Live simply. Love generously.

Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Chicken Wire Theory

Far too many people seem to live according to the "chicken wire theory." By this I mean they only can feel good if they are putting others down. In its most benign form are the people who always want to be first, best, out in front - taking their pleasure in having things bigger, better, shinier, newer, more abundant, more "cutting edge" than anyone else. They are so ruled by the law of comparing themselves to others that it seems only in outdoing someone else can they ever be satisfied. In its more malevolent form are those people who are habitually critical or condescending, forever finding fault with other people's choices, opinions or ideas.

I call this "chicken wire theory" because if you take a piece of wire mesh commonly used in chicken pens and stretch one of the hexagon segments as large as you can get it, the way it grows is by smashing all the segments around it down flat. Sadly, far too many people have fallen into the trap of thinking that it is primrily by making others small they will get to shine big.

Sometimes it's done in jest - belittling or disrespecting in such an "aw shucks" joking manner with a wink of the eye and a slap on the back that it doesn't seem outright mean. But like a wolf in sheep's clothing, those mocking comments at someone else's expense still have sharp teeth that can bite deep.

Other times it is more blatant - in the way individuals justify climbing over others to get to the top. From exploitive business practices to manipulative interpersonal relations, it has become far too acceptable to look out for number one at the expense of someone else.

I think there is a far better way. Getting back to the chicken wire analogy, if I take a pair of wire cutters and snip out the dividing lines between two or more segment they ALL get bigger into one huge gaping hole in the mesh. NOT a good idea if your goal is to fence in chickens! But when it comes to human relationships, if we can break down the barriers that separate us we can ALL grow together, enlarging our understanding in significant ways without ever being at the expense of someone else.

When I become willing to be more authentic with others - fully listening and sharing at a deeper, more honest level rather than falling back on prescribed social roles, it does this. That's my way of cutting out the walls that divide us.

I hurt both myself and others any time I allow my words or conduct to imply that someone else is less worthy or important than me. By the same token, I hurt both myself and others any time I fall into the trap of thinking I am less worthy or important than those I come in contact with.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission."

I want to be more mindful of this intricate dance of how we honor or dishonor one another with our speech, our willingness to listen, our gift or non-gift of eye-contact. It's so easy to not notice small, seemingly insignificant habits that can take me too close to playing the chicken wire game.

My time and attention have limits. I can't always be available to every single person who may want something from me. Beyond that, I do have the right to choose to associate with people whose company I enjoy and to avoid those I don't. But that doesn't mean I have to be dismissive, arrogant or rude in choosing to re-direct my focus someplace else.

I do not have to ever make others feel small. I do not have to take it personally when someone else disregards me. I can keep reaching for those emotional wire cutters to do all I can to reach out in ways that will allow us ALL to get big together with unity and mutual support. And when there are others in my path who do want to play the chicken wire game I can recognize that pattern and remove myself. I do not have to play.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Count Your Blessings

A favorite hymn I often sing is "Count Your Blessings."
You can hear it and many others by going to Cyberhymnal.

The words are:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings.
Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened,
God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.


I have found that it is almost impossible to be miserable and grateful at the same time.

I can experience tremendous pain, sorrow or grief and remain grateful. But so long as I keep gratitude present in my consciousness, I do not perceive the pain in the same miserable way that I do when I let gratitude slip from my grasp.

I choose what energy happening around me I will focus on. At any given moment on any given day there are horrible things happening all over the world. At many points there may be specifically difficult or worrisome things effecting me directly. Choosing not to FOCUS on those is not the same as ignoring, minimizing, denying or rationalizing. It's merely accepting that the world and my life include a multitude of things and I get to pick which things I give the most brightness and volume.

At any given moment on any given day there are also amazing, wonderful, awe-inspiring things occurring in the world. At many points throughout my day there are very specific things I have to be grateful for which I can choose to be mindful of. Or not.

It really is up to me.

Pigs are Not Llamas

Perception is such a slippery thing.

We see what we look for. We see what we believe. We see what we expect.

The famous sociologist W. I. Thomas has said that situations defined as real become real in their consequences. If I believe there is a God, I will behave accordingly. If I believe there is no God, my life choices will take on a very different flavor. What I believe or don't believe cannot change the reality of deity or the lack there of. But it will change very dramatically how I allow it to influence my life.

If I believe that people are basically good and kind my internal reactions to life and my outward behavior will be very different than if I believe people are usually self-serving and not to be trusted.

If I believe I have worth I will create a very different reality than if I assume I do not.

There is tremendous power in how I define my reality.

Still, I do not believe in the simple "mind over matter" approach to living. As Tony Robbins teaches in his Personal Power program, if you stand next to your garden and say "There are no weeds! There are no weeds!" the weeds will take your garden. On the other hand, it make no sense to bemoan the sad state of your garden, wondering why on earth weeds had to come, wallowing in sorrow over the purslane and pigweed. Instead, the only action that makes sense is to roll up your sleeves and get in there and pull the weeds out. Then you can have a beautiful garden.

If I put on rose colored glasses when I look at the world, refusing to admit there are problems I may initially change how I feel about life, wrapping myself in a sweet cocoon of denial. But like the weeds in my tomato patch, problems left unchecked just keep getting all the more problematic. On the other hand, there is no point of borrowing trouble by going looking for danger and harm behind every corner. I can create crisis by believing it is going to be there.

The trick, for me, is to find balance and keep striving for the most realistic view that I can. I do that by gaining experience, by seeking sound feedback, and by being willing to admit to myself when I'm making mountains out of molehills or if I'm ignoring the elephant in the room.

I am best served by facing each situation that comes up face on, in it's own terms NOT with all the baggage of everything it reminds me of. I can translate coping skills from one situation to the next. But every new day, every new moment is a new opportunity. The past does not equal the future. So I will keep defining each situation as optimistically as I can muster, with a dose of willingness to accept that things aren't always going to turn out as I expect or would like.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Ostrich Lessons

"In popular mythology, the Ostrich is famous for hiding its head in the sand at the first sign of danger. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder is noted for his descriptions of the ostrich in his Naturalis Historia, where he describes the Ostrich and the fact that it hides its head in a bush.
There have been no recorded observations of this behavior. A common counter-argument is that a species that displayed this behavior would not survive very long. Ostriches do deliberately swallow sand and pebbles to help grind up their food; seeing this from a distance may have caused some early observers to believe that their heads were buried in sand. Also, ostriches that are threatened but unable to run away may fall to the ground and stretch out their necks in an attempt to become less visible. The coloring of an ostrich's neck is similar to sand and could give the illusion that the neck and head have been completely buried." (from Wikipedia)

Why do I include this here? Because I think I've recognized a pattern in my own thinking and behavior that is very much like hiding my head in the sand.

If I am feeling at all vulnerable or unsure of myself, at times I find it almost impossible to say what it is I want or need. This can be little stuff, such as expressing a preference in which restaurant to go to or what movie to see. Or it can be big stuff - such as seeking medical attention when ill or admitting I need help on a major project.

For a number of reasons, I learned early on not to ask directly for what I needed. This became crystal clear for me recently when a wise friend said: "For me, asking for what I wanted, or even admitting what I valued, cost me as a child, opened a potential point of manipulation. Even though that dynamic hasn't been in my life for over 30 years, I can still feel it's power sometimes." Oh yeah. Those words ring so absolutely true for me as well.

So I am trying to pay a bit closer attention to this and do some work around what it means to me to say to myself, let alone others, that I need help, or that I want a particular thing. There are people in my life today whose love and support are worth gold. But they are not mind readers. If I do not TELL them what it is I need, the chances of them being able to help me find it are pretty slim.

I remember the first time I encountered gift registries that allowed engaged couples or expectant parents to go into stores and specifically pick out what things they would most appreciate as gifts. I was appalled. It seemed unquestionably greedy to me for someone to say "this is what I expect you to get me." But over the years I've learned to look at it completely differently, and now I appreciate those registries every bit as much as I used to abhor them.

I understand now that gift registries are all about giving people a way to say "these are my tastes in color, in style, etc" in a way that in no way implies any guest is OBLIGATED to get those item. Instead, it is merely a way of giving family and friends a tool for gauging what the person already may have and what they still need. It's not bad or wrong or selfish to say "here are things I would like to have." That's not demanding. It's giving information. That can be a very good thing, particularly when getting something for someone whose home you have never seen or who you want very much to support but have no ideas of where to begin.

So I'm considering the concept of shifting my attitudes and behavior around how I relate to my own needs, desires and preferences. When asked what is I want to do or given an opportunity to express a need I hope I can quit perceiving those moments as exposing me to potential harm, manipulation, rejection, or mocking. Instead, I can think of it as a chance to open up my own personal gift registry. I may get what I ask for (help with a project, lunch with a friend, willingness to spend time together or deepen a relationship.) I may not. But either way, the more clearly I manage to articulate what it is I need, the more likely it is that I will find a way to fill that up, whether by my own efforts or with the help of others. Hiding from my own preferences and desires and ignoring my true needs out of fear is simply not useful.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Light and Dark, Laughter & Tears

I do not believe in accidents.
Things happen that seem random, chance, coincidental. But I believe it is simply the universe delivering up lessons when we are ready to receive them.
The trick is for me to be open to what is laid before me, ready to learn the lessons placed in my path. I recently had a seemingly "chance" encounter with a woman who has offered up just such a lesson. I'm trying to let it sink in deep.
I was at a social event where I crossed paths with a delightful lady who I had heard much about from a mutual friend. Because the friend we both know had said so many nice things about the woman, I was immediately drawn to her and pleased to have the chance to get to meet her for myself. We spent the evening talking about many things - books, work, love, life. It was a great evening.
At some point I asked her: "What makes you laugh?" She gave a light hearted response at the time. But later, sent the following e-mail message:
"I've given more thought to your question about laughter. Surprisingly for me, I hadn't really reflected on how I moved from a fairly serious and unfun period into having capacity for much more joy. I've concluded that my increased ability to laugh from the heart has something to do with learning not to run away from the darker side of things. Counter intuitive, I know.
I really have made an effort to notice things about myself and my life that I used to turn away from. For me, it was a difficult thing to just look at something like feeling lonely and accept it as it is. If I forced myself to stay with that sort of experience, then the next urge was to rush in and try to immediately change it. I feel much more at peace now that I can just notice it and spend time giving what I used to see as the darker stuff it's fair air play, so to speak. For example, to say to myself "w ow, I'm really very sad right now". Sometimes I think about why the feelings have come, sometimes I just accept it as is and sit with that experience until it runs it's course.
When I was young, I couldn't do that since I was afraid of engulfment, but now I have the experience to know my feelings and experiences can't consume me.
Anyway, I think as I've been more willing to embrace my sadness, anxiety, shame, and so on, my ability to be joyful has really grown. I laugh more because I cry more...I feel more authentic and at peace for letting the whole range of emotions surface."
I've thought much about these words. I think they were exactly what I needed to hear.
I have a long history of trying to FIX IT when I feel sad/lonely/upset or anything painful. I either distract myself or willfully manipulate myself back into a sunnier state. At times I've been known to pummel my more vulnerable emotions with punitive blame- insisting they change and change right now any time the dark side comes calling. I get tangled up in my belief system about how "we create our own reality and I can choose to be happy and at peace right now". Allowing myself to stay in anything negative feels like doing something weak or bad or wrong.
While I DO believe we create our own reality, I think it's high time I get over assuming it's going to be like magic ' Abracadabra, presto chango! ' and accept it's more like baking a cake. If I put in the right ingredients and go through the PROCESS of baking, then out comes a lovely cake....but if I take it out of the oven before it has time to fully cook all I get is gooey dough.
Maybe dealing with difficult feeling states is much the same way. Yes, I CAN relinquish pain and choose peace. But sometimes I need to allow for a healthy dose of patience to let the emotions run their course of making the transition. Too often I've tried to zoom from zero to sixty in making it all better immediately, not giving myself permission to feel what it is my heart needs to feel.
Perhaps it's time to find a new pattern, and to quit being so punitive with myself when dark days come. Feeling sad or out of sorts is NOT "getting it wrong". It's just life lessons dressed up in a different color. There is much I can learn from being willing to be open and present to the full spectrum of what my heart has to offer.
Clearly, for some folks there is a time and place where interceding in a prolonged blue state is appropriate. But I'm not talking here about clinical depresson. I'm simply referring to the habit I've had of wanting to pick and choose which emotions were allowable and considered worthy and which ones I have tried to keep locked permanently away from my heart.
It's a package deal. The extent to which I shut down my capacity for lonliness, grief or sorrow I also diminish by ability to reach for wonder and joy. I don't need to let myself get stuck in the negative or painful feelings. But I need to be able to fully feel them and acknowledge them in order to move on. Keeping them gagged and squashed silent merely makes them bigger, not less.
"as I've been more willing to embrace my sadness, anxiety, shame, and so on, my ability to be joyful has really grown. I laugh more because I cry more...I feel more authentic and at peace for letting the whole range of emotions surface."
YES - that is the lesson. Now my job is to open up to let myself learn.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Parable

I learned many important life lessons from my big brother. He was both my idol and my nemesis as I was growing up. As adults, we’ve developed a friendship that I truly treasure. This weekend I will be travelling to New Mexico to celebrate his marriage to a fine lady whose love has brought him much joy. I couldn’t be more delighted. So, in honor of my big brother’s impending nuptials, I thought it would be appropriate to record one of the stories he taught me many years ago…. I’m sure I won’t get the details all quite the way he told it almost 40 yrs ago. Still, I have always remembered the main themes of the story and it has helped me more than he knows.

The parable of the bird, the cow and the cat.

Once upon a time there was a Robin named Ralph. Ralph lived in a farmer’s field, hanging out with the other birds. He enjoyed finding fat juicy worms to eat and preening before the lady robins. Life was good.

However, every fall, it came time to fly south for the winter. That was a lot of work! It took many days to reach the winter nesting grounds. It was just plain exhausting to make that long trip. One year as all the birds were preparing for the annual journey; Ralph started complaining some about what lay before him. “Man, every year it’s the same old thing. Fly south. What for?? All that work just to have to turn around and come back again in the spring. That’s a lot of wing flapping! It makes me tired just thinking about it.”

Jake, one of the crows, heard Ralph’s lament. With great sympathy he said to Ralph: “Hey buddy, I know what you mean. What do those old birds know who keep insisting that we do this year after year? They are locked in senseless tradition. I tell you, I’ve had it with all this back and forth – go south, go north business. I’m a bird, not a lemming. I’m sick of mindlessly following the crowd. I say we DON’T go off with everybody else this year. How about it Ralph? You and Me! Let’s team up and just stay here this winter. Sure, I hear it gets a bit cold during the winter months. But Farmer Brown has that nice big barn where the cows sleep. We can go make nests in the rafters. We’ll be safe and warm and dry. Just think of what a great time we can have relaxing and having fun here all winter instead of chasing the crowd back and forth on those foolish migratory patterns.”

Jake’s suggestion sounded wonderful to Ralph. The robin really did not want to have to do all the work of flying south. So the two birds made a pact. When the rest of the flock left, they would stay and make their own fortunes.

The other robins were quite concerned. The elders warned Ralph not to listen to Jake. They pleaded with Ralph to come with them when it was time to go. But Ralph would not be deterred from his plan. So when the day came for all the birds to begin leaving on their trek south to warmer lands for winter, Ralph and Jake remained behind.

The first few weeks after the departure of the other birds were just great. There were still plenty of fat worms in the ground, easy picking now that there was no competition from others. Jake and Ralph flew back and forth over the fields and into the treetops having a grand old time. They laughed raucously about the foolishness of all those other birds who were no doubt flapping themselves into exhaustion while the two of them were living the high life right where they were.

However, as the days began to get shorter the temperatures dropped. It got cold. There came a big storm, and the ground froze. After that, Ralph began to wonder if he had made the right decision. Worms were no longer available. And his beak got frosted over as he sat up on his perch in the trees.

Still, not wanting to admit that maybe the other birds had been right all along, Ralph puffed himself up with bravado and insisted that he needed to go on a diet anyway. Eating all those worms had made him rather fat. He would eat some seeds and insects for a while and be just fine. He added a bit more twine and leaves to the nest for proper insulation from the cold and determined that he was going to have a grand adventure.

But then full winter hit. Late autumn had been bad enough. Winter was miserable. All the leaves came off the trees and the ground was covered with snow. There were no seeds to be found and the insects were few and far between. He was hungry much of the time. Then, as it got colder and colder, even the insulation in his nest up in the rafters of the farmer’s barn was not enough to keep Ralph warm. He shivered constantly and his beak began to chatter. He was miserable.

Worst of all, one morning when Ralph woke up, he discovered that Jake was gone. There had been no discussion or goodbye. The crow just left. How could he? After all, it had been Jake’s idea to spend the full winter there in the first place. Then, at the first sign of real difficulty, the crow up and left, abandoning young Ralph to his own devices. What a mess!

Now Ralph was left all to himself with no one to console or help him in his plight. He started to wheeze and sneeze. Little chunks of birdie snot were running out his beak. He was running a fever. He was sicker than he had ever been. What’s a bird to do in a situation like this? He thought longingly of the nice warm winter grounds where his friends were now comfortably living, with plenty of fat juicy worms for the taking. Overwhelmed by the tragedy of his plight, poor Ralph began to cry. Finally he succumbed to the cold and fell from his nest, landing in a frozen heap on the ground. As darkness began to overtake him, Ralph the Robin was feeling very sad and sorry for himself.

About that time, Bessie the cow happened to walk by. Not noticing the bird at all, she dropped a huge stinking cow pie right on top of Ralph’s head. Oh gross! Now he was not only alone, cold, and hungry he was covered in stinking cow crap. He consigned himself to an ignominious death there on the dusty floor of the barn in a pile of poop and wondered if his friends would miss him.

However, much to Ralph’s surprise, he did not die. As a matter of fact, after a few minutes he began to feel better. As it turned out, the cow pie was WARM. It thawed out Ralphs frozen feathers and melted his icy beak. Sure, it stank something awful. But this was the first time he had actually been warm in weeks. So maybe it wasn’t such a terrible thing to have happen after all. He was so relieved to feel this lovely warmth seeping through his whole bird body that he popped his head up and began to sing.

Ralph’s song attracted the attention of Chloe the cat. She was quite curious to find the robin sitting on the barn floor all covered in cow dung. After walking around him once or twice Chloe asked Ralph “Hey, what are you doing down there?” Ordinarily Ralph avoided cats. He’d heard they were not to be trusted. However, his fever made it difficult to think straight and he had been alone for such a long time that by this point he was happy just to have someone new to talk to. So he struck up a conversation with the cat. He poured out his heart, telling Chloe the whole pitiful story of how he had been misled by Jake the crow and ended up on the barn floor in December when he really should be off in the south with his friends.

Chloe smiled her barn cat smile and purred to her new friend….”oh my dear Ralph, that is a terrible tale. I am so sorry you had to have such a dreadful experience. I would love to help. How about I clean you up and get you out of that stinking mess?”

This was good news to Ralph whose head was swooning from the stink. He readily agreed and said he would very much appreciate it, if Chloe did not mind.

“Not at all” assured the cat. So Chloe began to use her paws to dig away the dung most carefully. After the worst of the mess was gone she began licking the little bird with her soft pink tongue that tickled like wet sandpaper. Together they giggled at the absurdity of the whole affair. Once each and every feather was cleaned Chloe got a sharp gleam in her eye, smacked her lips and pounced on little Ralph to eat him up.

As she pinned the bird down with her sharp claws he cried out in horror: “What are you doing? I thought you were my friend!” To which Chloe replied. “Well, yeah, but I am a cat and this is what cats do. What did you really expect?” And then she ate him up, bite by bite.


#1 – Listen to the wisdom of your elders. Often the things they are trying to teach you really are for your own good.

#2 – Be careful who you believe or trust

#3 – Not everyone who craps on you in your enemy

#4- Not everyone who gets you out of crap is your friend.

#5 – If you are warm and safe, even if it’s in a pile of crap, be grateful and keep your mouth shut!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Must Be Present To Win

There are days when I feel like I am LIVING my life and there are days when it seems I am standing off in some far removed corner, watching my life happen. All too often I can get caught up in the chaos of the hamster wheel cage, running around and around and around, expending all sorts of energy and business without ever really going anywhere.

What does it take to be fully engaged in my own skin, a human BEING instead of a human DOING?

I remember entering a drawing at a fair once where I received a little blue ticket with a number on it. On the back side of the ticket were stamped the words "Must Be Present to Win." Yep. That's true. We need to be fully present in our lives to win.

Because I am a person with a deep faith in God, I also am a powerful believer in the forces of darkness. I am convinced that one of the ways the adversary gets us is NOT by luring us into wretchedness and depravity, but rather by just keeping us so bloody DISTRACTED and BUSY that we don't stop to ponder, to pray, to sit quietly ready to listen to silent promptings of the spirit.

I think it is great that I'm smart enough and strong enough and healthy enough to accomplish all sorts of good things. I'm truly grateful for the abilities I've been blessed with. But sometimes I think I need to remind myself to just STOP all my frantic running around, no matter how worthy the projects I am involved with, so I can just be present to myself for a while.
I read somewhere recently: "Collapsing in exhaustion does NOT count as relaxation."

Multi-tasking is highly over-rated. Yes, there is always one more good thing I could be doing. But for today I think I'll toss out the to-do list and just practice BEING.

Monkey Golf

One of my favorite stories is "Play the Ball Where the Monkey Drops It." This was first relayed to me by my eldest brother several years ago. A while back I came across it again HERE It goes like this:

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

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

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

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I've heard it said that pain is merely the measuring stick between current reality and whatever it is we desire. The greater the distance, the greater the pain. But no matter how we wish things had turned out or what we hope or strive for, what IS, is. How I choose to respond to that is really the only true control I get.

I also need to remember that I only see a very narrow, finite slice of the universal picture. More than once in the past I've discovered after the fact that times when I did not get something I wanted badly, or when events unfolded that SEEMED to be just plain terrible, the lessons learned were ultimately very much in my best interest. There have been some unanswered prayers (or those answered with a "no" or "not yet") that clearly proved to be major blessings in the long run.

So I'm trying to remind myself to trust the universe to open the doors that will ultimately bless my life and keep tightly shut those doors that would open before me the wrong path. I'm practicing allowing myself to feel at peace with whatever happens rather that take on my usual control-freak M.O. of stewing and storming and giving myself all sorts of grief and frustration when things turn out differently than I had planned or hoped for. That doesn't mean I have ceased to care about the outcome. I haven't! It also does not mean I will stop trying my best to pursue particular paths.

Those golfers in India didn't just give up trying to play to their best advantage. They still sought out just the right kinds of clubs, took lessons to perfect their swing and did all they could to master their game. But in the final analysis, they learned to accept that no matter WHAT they could do to be the best golfers they knew how to be, in the end we all have to play the ball wherever the monkey happens to drop it. And that's ok.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Sometimes late at night
the brain comes undone.
Sleep won't come.
Thoughts race.
Convoluted images of dreams, memory, imagination, hopes and terrors, curiosities and dreads all collide
inside my head.
I wish I could just peel back the top of my skull
and dump the junk

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Train Has Already Left the Station

Sometimes I wish life had a "do-over" button, or a "go back" like on my computer. When I do something impulsively, I want to just wipe it all away and start over again.

Other times when events play out in a pattern that is painful, I sometimes fall into the trap of obsessing over "if only" or "what might have been."

I have a picture hanging in my office with a verse that says:

"I cannot change yesterday. I can only make the most of today, and look with hope toward tomorrow."

It is useful for me to pay attention to the past, so I can learn from it. It is not useful for me to spend my energy on regret, as I can never go back.

I can say "Oops! Nevermind" when I make a mistake. I can apologize. I can repent. I can forgive. I can choose to focus on the future.

What I cannot do is change the shape of what has come before. Sometimes I wish with all my might that I could make something go away. But I don't have that sort of power.

I've already paid the tuition. I better allow myself to claim the education that all that past stuff brought me. And then I need to turn my face to a new day.

Let it go.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:

"Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations , to waste a moment on yesterdays."

Sunday, June 3, 2007


One of my teachers loves flowers.

He had planted chrysanthemums all around his house.

Those flowers brought him joy.

Sadly, there was a mix-up one day in the chemical shed.

When he intended to spray some fertilizer on the flowers, he got the weed killer instead.

His lovely mums got sprayed with herbicide. They shriveled up, turn brown and died. This made my friend very sad.

However, even though the mums appeared to be mostly dead, they did have one pathetic little scrap of green remaining.

So my friend continued to water, and tend, and talk to his beloved plants.

Sometimes he got discouraged. Sometimes he was sure it was of no use. But he decided to just be patient, and give it time. Day after day after day he kept tending to those shriveled up dead looking flowers. He did not give up.

All the rest of that season the mums looked hopeless. Other people who saw him carefully tending those brown stubs just laughed, insisting that those flowers were toast.

But when the next spring came, the mums came back again. They looked a little misshapen and funny. But they bloomed. They once more brought joy.

It's hard to know when to give up and when to be patient and keep trying. Whenever I think of quitting, I try to remember the mums.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Stronger at the Broken Places

I once had a wise teacher who told me about making balsa wood airplanes as a child.

While flying them out in a field on a windy day, one of his favorite planes crashed and broke. He was sad to see the crumpled, shattered body lying in a heap. It appeared to be utterly ruined.

However, after the initial disappointment, he picked up the pieces and carefully, painstakingly, glued them back together. Then he left it for a while to sit and dry. Finally, when he was confident it was ready, he took it back out to fly again.

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

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

During a particularly difficult time in my life, I received the card you see pictured here. As it says: "Sometimes when you least expect it, life gives you a big ol' sock in the nose." Then, on the inside it reads:"Not to worry. With time the pain will pass, and from it you will have gained experience, which gives you information, which gives you objectivity,which gives you wisdom, which gives you truth, which gives you freedom from having to get a sock in the nose again." Every now and then, when I am facing struggles in navigating the current of my world, it helps to pull out the card and to remember the story of that broken airplane.

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Unfolding Journey

Some years ago I went through a dark period of pain and chaos. Some of that pain was the result of other people's actions. Some of the pain was a consequence of random events that happened which were less than ideal. Some of that pain was the result of my own choices. Sorting out the heartaches and happenstance that caused me so much turmoil was hard work. It took a long time. It required me to look at things I did not necessarily want to see. But it was worth the effort.

For a season I felt much better. Things seemed to make sense. But somehow, over time, I began to fall back into some of the same old habits of thinking and behaving that created the chaos the first time. This time my outside world was much saner and safer than it had been in earlier days. However, my inside world felt just as volatile and scattered as it had before. I crashed. Inexplicably, for no apparent reason I could name, my brain-soul tilted once again, bringing me to my knees.

I felt very foolish to find myself right back where I had started, especially when it was quite obvious there were no monsters under the bed and no eerie things to go bump in the night.

However, on closer inspection, I recognized that I was not in exactly the same place as before. Things were different this time because when I took the time to notice, I found I still had a whole toolbox of strategies and resources, along with scattered bits of wisdom, that had helped me dig my way back into the light before. I had simply quit using them well.

Chaos was my native language. So it was easy for me to revert to that when I stopped paying attention.

When I picked myself up and brushed myself off, once I got over the embarrassment of how foolish I felt, I realized I could go back to my learned language of sanity and peace. I had some very good teachers along the way who taught me important lessons about how to do that. They provided me with valuable tools. But it remains my responsibility to use those tools and to pay attention.

The purpose of this blog is to explore some of those lessons learned from helpful teachers, strangers, lovers, fools and friends who've crossed my paths over the years. I want to try to sort out which ones still fit and which ones I may be ready to discard.

Some days I find clarity. Other days everything grows murky with uncertainty. At times I believe if I am smart enough, or insightful enough, or lucky enough, or tenacious enough to somehow catch hold of the RIGHT thread of this tangled up knot of beliefs, biases, half truths and misconceptions that runs amok in my brain, THEN life will make sense again. Other times I am convinced I am just kidding myself with that belief. The trick is to live sanely in an insane world that makes no sense.

My head and heart wage mighty civil war, each doing wild banshee shriek dances for supremacy over which side of me to listen to or believe. I remain a clueless observer on the sidelines. I am still an apprentice human, trying to master the craft of being.

Writing helps me sort out the muddled mess, to unravel the threads that feel so hopelessly tangled and knotted. By painstakingly sorting them all out I begin to discern which ones lead to peace and which to chaos.

I suspect there are lessons worthy of exploring in both directions.