Sunday, October 31, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
“Tools” have become very important to me recently. The dictionary defines a “tool” in this way … “a device for doing work; a means to an end; something used for a job…” All of those definitions have taken on new importance in my life since I fell and broke my arm.
There are thousands of moments each day when I find myself frustrated or at least temporarily inconvenienced because I only have the full use of one arm and hand. (Thank God it is my dominant hand that lives outside the sling!) But the gift, in these days of recovery, is the chance to re-discover creative problem-solving. Even simple tasks like brushing my teeth, washing dishes, walking the dog, typing this article require me to slow down, think a little, and improvise. Sometimes I find there is a tool that can extend my dexterity or control. It may be a stepstool placed beneath a cupboard to hold the stereo in place while I detach it and remove the screws (okay, that was probably my most ambitious one-handed project to date). Sometimes the best “tool” for the job might just be another part of my body (legs are handy tools for holding jars while opening them … and teeth!...it’s amazing what teeth can do!)
Don’t get me wrong. I would be thrilled to turn back time and recapture the moment just before the dog tripped me and avoid all this experiential learning. But since that is not the way of this world, I might as well learn a little bit in this moment. I might as well find the blessing in creativity born out of necessity.
I think the same might be true for most of us in one way or another. While we may not have been tripped up, we certainly have experienced frustration, or at least inconvenience as the world around us has changed...as economies struggle and communities turn inward, as globalization brings the world closer while fear pushes us further apart. For some the challenges have felt almost overwhelming, while others have managed to find some new tools to empower dynamic, vital expressions of life. What is the difference? Why is it that some individuals and communities flourish while others give in to decline and despair?
I think it goes back to finding the blessing in creativity born out of necessity. This is a time for every one of us to re-discover creative problem-solving. It is a time to slow down, to think a little and pray a lot, and to improvise. That may mean finding new ways or times or places to work. It may mean finding new means to the end of building real relationships of care for those beyond our closest circle of family or friends. It may mean developing new structures and empowering new leaders to get the most important jobs accomplished.
And the good news is, we can do this. The apostle Paul encourages us to risk learning in this very moment, when he writes: “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints. I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of God, having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which God has called you…” (Ephesians 1:15-18a)
That we may know the HOPE to which God has called us… that may be the best reason yet to learn to use a few new tools!
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
"You might think that "Rock, Paper, Scissors" is just a kid's game, but the fact is that some people take it very seriously. Too seriously, I'm starting to think. As is the case with most games that are primarily played by children, the exact time and place when the game was invented are unknown. There are theories, however. Geez, are there theories.
First, for the three people in the country who may be unfamiliar with the game, a short description:
"Rock, Paper, Scissors," also known as roshambo (I'll get to the reason for this presently), has been around for a long time, and most civilized people have at least a passing knowledge of the game. It is most often used to decide small matters between two people--who'll drive to the burger joint, who has to take out the garbage, etc.--but it can also be played to decide larger matters, as part of a tournament, or simply as a diversion.
The basics of the game consist of each player shaking a fist a number of times ("priming") and then extending the same hand in a fist ("rock"), out flat ("paper"), or with the index and middle fingers extended ("scissors"). Each of these is referred to as a throw, and which one wins is dependent upon the opponent's throw--paper wins against rock ("paper covers rock"), rock wins against scissors ("rock crushes, or dulls, scissors"), and scissors wins against paper ("scissors cut paper"). If each player makes the same throw, the round is a stalemate, and must be replayed.
Back in January of this year, someone in the Edmonton area had the same question as you've posed, Scott. The woman apparently was unfamiliar with our illustrious Unca Cecil, so instead of coming to the Straight Dope, she called local radio station CBC 740 AM, where morning host Ron Wilson runs a segment called "The Good Question" each morning. Mr. Wilson went to the same source that I went to for information, namely the World Rock Paper Scissors Society (hard to believe, ain't it?). The telephone interview that he conducted with a Society member by the name of Doug Walker, which I'll summarize here, can be found in its entirety at edmonton.cbc.ca/radio1/edm-am/goodques.html.
Mr. Walker claims that the earliest known written record of the game is from around 200 BC in Japan, where the game was (and is) referred to as "Jan-Ken." I found the existence of the Japanese version of the game corroborated elsewhere, although I have yet to find any corroboration for the 200 BC claim. Mr. Walker goes on to suggest that the game migrated to Europe in or by the mid-1700s, where it for some reason came to be associated with one Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau. If this name brings back unsettling memories of high school history, it is because Jean Baptiste was none other than the French general who was sent to command an army in support of George Washington during the American Revolution. Why this game came to be associated with the "Count of Rochambeau" is a mystery, but it certainly calls into question the means by which Washington secured Cornwallis's surrender in Yorktown. In any case, it does explain the name often used for the game, namely "rochambeau," or, more commonly, "roshambo."
This isn't the only theory about the origins of the game. A guy who goes by the handle "Master Roshambollah" on the bulletin board of the World RPS Society website (www.worldrps.com) lists two common theories about the origins of the game besides "the Asian theory": "the African theory," which relies on the creation of tools by early man in much the same way as the Asian theory, and "the European theory," in which RPS was either an early Scandinavian pastime which spread to Europe, or a traditional Celtic game that spread to Portugal and then to Europe. The European theory is advanced by another poster on the board who calls himself "Joao V de Portugal": "Current research undertaken at the University of Lisbon by Baltasar Rui Delfim, soon to be published in Nature and Time, has shown that the origins of the game of Paper, Scissors and Rock (Pihedra, Papelsh e Tijhera) can be attributed to Celtic settlers in the northern regions of Portugal, near the Portuguese/Spanish border, around the 6th century BC. . . . It is believed that the game spread to the rest of Portugal in the 3rd century BC and to the rest of the Spanish peninsula over the next 50 years. Roman invasion of Hispania in the 1st century AD made the game popular in Gallia and Italia. However, the Romans did not introduce the game to the UK because they believed that the game could make the UK colonies rebel against the Senate and it was not until the Portuguese armada of 350 AD came to England that the game was properly introduced in Britannia."
Friday, September 10, 2010
AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN FIVE SHORT CHAPTERS
by Portia Nelson
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place
but, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Soon my attention was centered on the neighbors to our right, who appeared to be enjoying a family reunion. There were about 6 or 7 adults and an equal number of children between the ages of 5 and 12, all boys. While the adults chatted, sharing morning coffee and family memories, the boys ran into the water. They splashed and wrestled, laughed and swam with abandon. And all the while, they were watched.
One by one the adults in that family took turns providing safety and security for the children. They took about 20 minute shifts, and everyone - aunts, uncles, moms, dads, grandparents even - took their turn. If the wrestling got a little too wild or the teasing too intense, the guardian would shift the play. If someone ventured a little too far from shore or became a little too oblivious to their surroundings, again the guardian would caution and correct.
As I watched I got to thinking: "Every child should be so loved and protected." It is true - every child deserves the kind of safety and security - the kind of love - which those boys undoubtedly took for granted. It was a wonder to watch.
Later that same day the surf grew and the current intensified. The boys were still in the water, and it was time for a guardian shift change, when the youngest child fell off his boogie board and was hit by a wave. First he was smashed into the sand and then the current picked him up and dragged him out to the line of the next cresting wave. You could see the panic in his eyes as he struggled against the surf. I was just about on my feet when another neighbor - a stranger to the family - reached the boy, scooped him up and brought him back to safety on the sand.
Of course everyone was a little shaken, and grateful for the quickness of the neighbor. And I thought to myself: "Maybe it is possible for every child to be loved and protected. It is possible if we remember we all are neigbors." What a wonder that would be - in Wailea, in the whole wide world.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
- I have learned that moving on (even a little) in the direction of God's desires for me is like Jesus walking on the water! It is good to recognize progress made and to rejoice in every success we achieve.
- I have (finally) realized that an "All or Nothing" approach to life is counter-productive. Perfection is highly over-rated and focusing on it robs us of so much of life's wonder.
- I have come to reject the lock-step, one-size-fits-all approach to transformation. If change is to be lasting it must be personal.
- I have learned that observation is not the same as judgment, and that nobody can observe themselves objectively. That is why we need community!
- I have begun to recognize the intertwining threads of my life - especially when it comes to emotions and fears. You cannot pull one without affecting the others.
- I have seen how limiting my own judgments can become. I can be an artist (or anything else) if I decide to see the beauty of my creativity, and if I believe that anything is possible.
- I have learned to practice prioritizing. It is a waste of time to major in the minors.
- I have improved my ability to stay fully present to the presence of God in the present. This requires hanging in with myself and then letting God be God.
- I have realized the folly of trying to run from change. The best response is to rejoice in the opportunities change presents.
- I have found that every beginning begins with an ending. Life is all about saying "goodbye" in order to say "hello".
- I have recognized the crazy-making patterns of thought. No more "what ifs", "if onlys", or "comparisons" for me!
- I have affirmed the importance of Sabbath and the practice of agility. We all need to take time to remember what time is for.
- I have discovered that to follow my desire for re-birth is to keep that star in my sight. It requires me to follow to places I cannot even yet imagine.
- And... I have learned to celebrate every step along the way. Every dream, vision, and goal deserves a life of joy at the moment of its conception and throughout its path to completion.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
In the movie "City Slickers", Jack Parlance plays a crusty old cowboy who lives by his own code of ethics, what might be called "Curly's Law", summed up in this little bit:
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
Curly: This. [holds up one finger]
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean shit.
Mitch: But what is the "one thing?"
Curly: [smiles] That's what you have to find out.
Curly's Law, Do One Thing... It's a variation on Lucy's prescription and my own intuition. In order for me to find out what my "one thing" is, I have to go through a continual process of prioritization. I have to find out what is major and what is minor, each and every day. And then I have to surround myself with people who will support my majoring in the majors and letting go of the minors. Because I don't want to put off until tomorrow what I can easily put off until the day after (or the week after, the month after, the year after, the decade after...) tomorrow.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
- Please God... help her to find a job
- A good job
- A meaningful job
- A living wage job
- And, how great, if it could be located on the west (I like to say, the "correct") coast!
- Oh, and of course... help her to find great co-workers
- And good friends
- And a supportive, healthy community
- And... and... and...
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Friday, July 2, 2010
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
College has ended for one, and it is about to begin for the other. Jobs are ending, friendships are changing, homes are moving, dreams are shifting. Endings are tricky things when one is 18, or 23, or 55! And endings are essential for beginnings. I am hard pressed to come up with any "beginning" in this life which does not at first demand an "ending" of one kind or another. Certainly this is true for the process of birth, and re-birth.
In this season of "beginnings", let me embrace "endings" ... and let me be wise enough to recognize the difference between them!
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. echoed that sentiment with his words: "I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it - but we must SAIL, and not drift, nor lie at anchor."
Too often it seems I have not noticed which direction I am sailing, nor have I given the "wind" - those people, experiences, circumstances, culture which make up my life - much attention at all. Re-birthing requires me to sail against the prevailing winds that have pushed me into this particular patch of sea. Sometimes that is frightening work. Sometimes it feels almost impossible. Until I am reminded of another truth about sailing: When going against the wind, you cannot expect to travel one seamless, straight line. Rather, the wise sailor knows how to tack to and fro, skirting the edges of the wind until eventually progress becomes clear and the direction is changed.
This seems to be what is called for at this stage of recovery from surgery... that nimble ability to tack to and fro and the patience to wait for progress to be revealed. While my body is still changing I find food has become a tricky thing. It is hard to know definitively which foods will end up stuck and which ones will easily slip through that pouch. Yesterday it may have been the shredded chicken? Or perhaps the 2 teaspoons of rice? It's hard to know exactly why the pain persists and the pouch pouts. So I will back off the wind, tack a little to the side, and stick to liquids again.
And I will remind myself that progress may only be seen in the long view of life. Samuel Butler described the human condition in this way: "Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on." Maybe the same can be said of re-birthing.
Well, here's to life! Today, tomorrow... and all along the sail.
Monday, April 12, 2010
1. Listen deeply (you have to be able to hear what is going on in order to respond)
2. Listen with respect, without judgment
3. Be willing to let go of your own agenda (it is not possible to control the action when it is unscripted and spontaneous)
All good things to remember when you are acting - but also when you are living in the midst of transformation, even in the process of re-birth!
I have been absent from the blog for two weeks, in part because I was struggling with the improvisation of my days. After about a week of pain and setback (those doggone cooked green peas got stuck in the pouch!), things have finally returned to a steady progression of healing. It was fun to stop by Goodwill recently and discover I am now 2 sizes smaller than I was a month ago. And I know I will need to make a daily commitment to the improvisation of re-birth...listening deeply, with respect and no judgment, while letting go of my agenda for healing, for change, for life.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Years ago when my youngest daughter was only 6 or 7, she developed some sort of food intolerance. We were never quite sure if it was lactose, or roughage, or something entirely different. There didn't seem to be much of a pattern, but for 2 or 3 years poor Kate would suffer stomach aches after eating. While I tried to be sympathetic, and certainly did what I could to help her feel better, I have to admit a part of me thought she was just a bit of a wimp. After all, how bad is a stomach ache?
BAD. It is really bad. If only I could have become more empathetic without the first hand experience! This newborn pouch of mine is angry, and not shy about letting me know it. Even heavy-duty, post-operative painkillers only begin to touch the edge of the pain. So, instead of being at my office first thing this morning, I am waiting to call the surgeon's office, hoping they will tell me I'm just a bit of a wimp. Because I liked being the poster child.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Administrivia. All of us have found ourselves lost in it, maybe even overwhelmed by it from time to time. In our work lives, in our homes, our families... even in the realm of personal care it is not hard to give in to the demands of the little details, the trivia of our days. Administrivia has its rewards, as we check off another item from that "to do" list, as we are applauded for our organizational skill, as we hide in the safety of the everyday mundane. It feels good.
But it is also a particular kind of trap. When we lose ourselves in administrivia, our vision narrows down to a tunnel of trivia, while whole, expansive vistas go by us unnoticed. Abundant life gets squeezed into the leftover time, the space between the lines on the list. Poetry, art, contemplation, conversations which enrich and nourish the soul have no home within us. And what looked like competence is revealed for busyness, what seemed to be impressive importance turns out to be mere puffery. David Whyte put it this way, "Moses' revelation [at the burning bush] was not the immediate shock of hearing God's voice from the bush, but the moment he looked down and realized not only that he stood in God's presence, but that he had been standing in that presence all of his life."
So it is with all of us. We are standing on holy ground - in the very presence of the Divine - all of our lives. And the only way we will have eyes to see it, hearts to embrace it and courage to live it, is if we somehow give up the attachment to our administrivia, once and for all.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Yesterday I visited with the cardiologist to make sure that no adjustments were needed to keep me in sinus rhythm and out of Atrial Fibrillation. It was fun to hear this doctor marvel at my initial weight loss and my low blood pressure. I appreciated his comment "The only way I could lose 35 pounds would be to rip out a lung or something". As the doctor headed out the door, he delivered the pep talk that went beyond post-op and into new life.
"Remember", he said, "This is not just about the weight. It is not just about lowered blood pressure, ease of movement, looking good, because it is not just about the weight. You have to pay attention to the rest of life, to all of life, for all your life."
A wise man, that doctor. Recently I've found myself falling into the blues as the most rapid weight loss slows down a bit, and as I contemplate all there is to do at work which certainly has not stopped while I've been off for two weeks. The pep talk reminds me that health is a many-faceted thing. It involves more than my body. It requires more than my work. It needs more. It needs desire.
Poet David Whyte writes about our needed desire in this way:
"I thought of the old Latin root of the word desire, meaning de sider, of the stars. To have a desire in life
literally means to keep your star in sight, to follow a glimmer, a beacon, a disappearing will-o'-the-wisp over the
horizon into someplace you cannot yet fully imagine."
For today, I will keep my star in sight. And i will trust that place beyond the horizon where God's imagination is calling mine into re-birth.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
I wonder how many times the jump from observation to judgment stops the process of change? It is certainly a human response to put up defenses when we fear attack - even the subtleties of the quick once-over. Yet I am reminded of Eleanor Roosevelt's famous quote, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." And I suspect no one can make you feel judged... or stupid... or ugly.... or anything else, without your consent!
So in this Holy Week, as I return to work and encounter more and more of my brothers and sisters, I will not give consent. Because I will recognize the difference between observations and judgments.
PS... Puppy is SO happy and so tired right now, after accompanying me on a long (45 minute) uphill and down hill walk!
Saturday, March 27, 2010
The flight of Canadian geese has often served as an example of synergy. A flock of geese can cover great distances precisely because they work together “synergistically”, forming themselves into a “V” formation. In that formation the flock adds 71% greater flying range. And that is not just because of the aerodynamics of goose bodies! The genius of the flock in flight is that leadership is rotated – when the goose at the head of the flock gets tired, another one takes over, as leadership is shared. Meanwhile, those behind the leaders honk encouragement to keep the pace moving. And, if one goose is wounded or becomes ill, two will stay behind to help it.
Synergy… 1 + 1 = more than 2. It is true for geese, and equally true for us. At some level, we all know this. So why is it that we sometimes resist working together? Why is it that we even resist the formations we know will be most healing for us?
I suspect it is because we have not paid close enough attention to those geese. Yesterday morning I was taking a very wet walk around the high school track, which was literally surrounded by more than 200 geese. About a mile into my walk something spooked the flock and they took to the air amidst much honking and flapping. My first thought was “Oh dear, Mr. Hitchcock!” (remember “The Birds”?). But then I began to watch the geese as they all headed off in roughly the same direction, but not in one single V! Indeed, those geese formed at least 25 separate “V” formations, all honking encouragement, all making for whatever pond or saturated field was next, all sharing the power of synergy.
In this year of Re-Birth, it will be good for me to remind myself that transformation is not about falling lock-step in line with any particular fitness guru. It does not require me to fly in any one formation every moment of every day. As long as I am still traveling in the direction of health, with clarity about God's vision for my life right now, my 1 + 1 will definitely equal more than 2!
Thursday, March 25, 2010
I got up at 6:30 this morning, did a load of laundry, took all my vitamins (no small task, that), and then decided "why not" take the dog for a walk? Remember, this is not an old, mature, lazy dog. Rather, Reggie is a high energy, super enthusiastic adolescent Border Collie. Kate and I think Reggie has two speeds: full out, break-neck run... and collapsed in a heap exhausted.
So, trudging up the first hill from my house I began to question my judgment, and began wondering how many times we would need to stop, put Reggie in a sit/stay position, and repeat, "Heel!" ( Just so you know, that number was close to 15 times.) After about 3/4 of a mile I was ready to collapse in a heap exhausted, and I realized that I could use somebody telling me to "heel!"
I used to think "All or Nothing" was an okay way to spend my days, and that being the classic over-achiever was meritorious. I now realize "All or Nothing" over-achieving is annoying at best, and downright self-destructive at its worst. I need to remember to "heel while healing", to pay attention to the wisdom of my body when it says slow down, and to remember my friend Janet's advice, "Bariatric Surgery requires PATIENCE more than anything else!"
Reggie and I are about to head downstairs for bed, he undoubtedly to dream about wild chases and great athleticism, and me to solidify my resolve to "Heel!". I'll go back to the track without my furry friend tomorrow.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
"I intend to live forever. So far, so good."... so said Stephen Wright.
"I intend to live forever. Or die trying." ... thank you, Groucho Marx
I like both of these statements, both of these affirmations of life. They may not make much sense until that phrase "living forever" is viewed not as a verb, but as an adjective... a description of the way any of us most wants to pass through the days. LIVING forever is far superior to simply existing. And to die trying to LIVE means more than simply staving off the grim reaper. So here's to life abundant and joy overflowing!
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Puppy doesn't quite understand why this celebration did not immediately translate into walks, runs, or rambunctious fetch at the very least. However, Kate appreciated the celebration breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and ricotta peach muffins fresh from the oven. Reggie did get his run in at the field (I even threw the ball three times) while I walked, so now all seem satisfied in the house.
After a run to the office to deliver a few of those muffins, I'm thinking a hair cut will nicely round out the day for me. So many moments... so many celebrations.
Monday, March 22, 2010
I've been listening this week to David Whyte's "Clear Mind, Wild Heart: Finding Courage and Clarity Through Poetry". In it, he quotes Antonio Machado, speaking about the calling to courage in this way, "Anyone who moves on, even a little, walks like Jesus on the water." That seems to be a good reminder for me in this year of Re-birthing and in these days of physical transformation. Moving on, (even a little) toward God's desire for my life is a small miracle, not so very much different than walking on water.
Another poem Whyte offers speaks to me as well in this journey of newness and hope. The poem "Lost" is written by David Wagner, yet it takes its heart from a wisdom story told by Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest. It is wisdom shared by the elders when a young boy or girl asks a very practical, yet also very metaphorical question: "What do I do when I'm lost in the forest?" As if to ask, what does any of us do when we are confronted with territory or situations or fears we have not yet encountered. So the poem begins with the question, in order to reveal the answer:
" What do I do when I'm lost in the forest? Stand still. Stand still.
The trees ahead and the bushes beside you are not lost.
Wherever you are, is called "here".
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger, must ask permission to know and be known.
Stand still. Stand still.
The forest knows where you are. You must let it find you."
Sometimes it takes enormous courage to stand still, and to let the forest find us. It takes courage and hope and I believe a certain amount of faith to see and hear, to feel every moment of our existence - whether we are safe at home in the midst of familiar circumstances or lost in the forest of new challenges. And I wonder what would happen if I could be completely incarnate in this moment...and the next...and the next...and...
So for tonight I will try to keep moving on, if even a little. And in so doing, I will have earned that badge, "courage".
Saturday, March 20, 2010
It may seem strange, but now that I am not able to eat a regular diet, I want to cook. I crave the creative process, the sights and smells of cooking, the feel of food in my hands, if not in my mouth. While Kate is appreciative, she is also a bit incredulous, and keeps asking "Doesn't it bother you to cook and not eat, to see me eating in front of you?"
Perhaps what I am discovering is something which real chefs understand in their bones: the visceral connection we all have to food. It carries so many emotions, memories, and meanings for us culturally and individually. But when you get beyond all that, we are touched by that which nourishes and sustains us. And we need somehow to touch back.
So the menu for the morning included granola pancakes, crispy bacon and one poached egg, fresh orange juice and hot vanilla tea. Tonight I'm thinking it will be mediterranean marinated salmon, artichoke pasta with feta and kalamata olives, and steamed asparagus. Anyone free for supper?