Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I heard a new word coined today ... "Administrivia". It was presented as a way of describing the many minute detail-oriented tasks which managers and other bureaucrats often spend whole days doing. And it was discussed in the context of a team focusing on the most effective ways to manage transition, or "How to make friends with CHANGE", if you will.

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

Post-Op Pep Talk

Today is a big day. Today I visit with the surgeon who performed my gastric bypass, to get the definitive word on healing and directions for the way forward. But yesterday was the day I received my "post-operative pep talk", from a rather unexpected source.

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

Observations and Judgments

I just returned from Sunday morning worship and the first opportunity to let others see my changing body. Standing in the narthex, greeting fellow believers, I found myself doing a lot of self-talk. As their eyes travelled down my body and back up again, I had to work hard to recognize that "observing" change is not the same as "judging" it.

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


Synergy is a law of nature. The word means “combined effort being greater than the parts”, and it has often been used to describe the functions of an effective team. In leadership parlance “synergy” is one of those golden conditions which propel a group forward in whatever task is at hand.

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

"Heel While Healing"

Well, it turns out that changing the size and shape of my stomach and rearranging my intestinal tract has done nothing to alter my "All or Nothing" personality. Now that I am into day 3 of feeling great (thank you, Jesus!), I am in danger of running away with myself. I am probably more like my puppy, Reggie, than I want to admit.

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

Another Day in Paradise

For a second day (in a row!!) .... no nausea, no pain! Hallelujah! The morning began with a visit to my general practice doc, just checking in after surgery, which was a surprise to him. It was really quite touching, when he got tears in his eyes and told me, "You just made my whole day... because now I know you're going to be all right". Of course, that was punctuated by the news that I'm down 30 pounds from the last time I visited him (in December). Cool.

"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


Paying attention to each moment gives one plenty of reasons to celebrate. Like this morning, when I awoke and even got out of bed without any pain or nausea! Hooray! Perhaps one corner has been turned.

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


It is interesting to me how many people have praised me lately for my courage. It is true that the experience of gastric bypass surgery is a big deal (hence, no blog post yesterday since I never got over the desire to hurl all day)... but I'm not sure it is a mark of any sort of courage. In fact, before I went into the hospital, I would have said it was more a sign of weakness than of strength. You know, if I was "normal", I would have been able to keep the weight off each time I've lost it, and wouldn't have needed this major step. But, since I've been affirmed for courage, perhaps there is a way for me to embrace it.

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

First Day of Spring (Break)

Living with new life of any kind is not necessarily restful. Our puppy (just barely a year old now) is proof enough of that, barking from his kennel at 7:00 am on the first day of spring vacation. (Doesn't he know the one thing a teenager really wants to do on break is sleep?!) I took the morning watch so Kate could luxuriate in the freedom of no school, and found myself after a couple of hours searching the cookbooks for a special "First Day of Spring Break-fast".

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?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Transforming the Body

The primary "re-birthing" experience I am engaged in today actually began over a year ago, when I went to the first informational meeting to learn about Bariatric Surgery at the Riverbend Hospital.  My daughter Kate went along with me (it's always helpful to have more than one pair of ears when it comes to medical mumbo-jumbo).  We left that meeting with piqued interest, and I began a year-long process to qualify for weight loss surgery.  Early on I contacted everyone I know who had already been through surgery, and my friend Janet gave the best advice when she said, "I've discovered the most critical thing you need for this surgery is patience."

She was not kidding!  Between satisfying health insurance requirements and completing all the classes, testing, lab work and weight loss on my own (20 pounds before I even entered the hospital), I learned how to jump through hoops with patience and grace.  So much so that it came as a great surprise to me when the nutritionist told me the last week of January that they could schedule me as early as February or March!

March 15 turned out to be a much better day for me than for Julius Caesar.  After 2 hours on the operating table and a couple in recovery, my friends and family found me at home in my room - still breathing (thank God!), and beginning the process of recovery.  Because I am blessed with many friends and family members who truly care about me, I keep getting questioned about what exactly happened, and what life is like for me now... (yes, Dr. Kate, I am happy to report, I am NOT circling the drain!)  So, read on if you have one of those inquiring minds that just wants to know (skip this part if you really don't need the details)...

The surgery I had is called a Laproscopic Roux-en-y gastric bypass, the "gold standard" treatment for severe obesity (this sounds better than the medical term, "morbid obesity" - yikes!), because of its low complication rate and long term success in not only losing weight but keeping it off.  In this procedure, a small pouch is separated from the top of the stomach and is then sealed with staples (and, I'm told, a little bit of crazy glue).  The small intestine is then divided and attached to the new stomach pouch.  The section of small intestine that descends from  the bypassed stomach is reconnected to the small intestine descending from the new pouch, creating a "y" shape.  After dividing the upper stomach, the surgeon divides the small intestine in the upper jejunum and connects it to the small stomach pouch with an opening approximately the size of a dime.  The other end of the jejunum is reconnected, creating another "y" shape.  Food does not begin to be absorbed into the body until the point where the two pieces of jejunum come together. -- See?  I told you there was a lot of medical mumbo-jumbo involved!

But here's the good part.  In the first year, the average person loses as much as 100 pounds, or about 2/3s of their excess weight.  Because the pouch is limited in size, hunger is not the issue it used to be, and keeping the weight from coming back is much more possible.  If you still want more information (maybe a few pictures), check out bypass.

I spent two nights in the hospital and was released home on Wednesday (St. Paddy's Day).  Now I am learning about how to best care for my newborn pouch - see, there's that re-birthing theme again!  Before surgery I scoffed at the suggestion that I take two full weeks off work.  Now I'm wondering how I'll make it back after two weeks - not because of pain (which is noticeable), but because it just takes so L-O-N-G to eat or drink!  To give you a little better idea, here's what I did today:

7:45 am Got out of bed when daughter Kate left for school.  Our puppy hates to be the only one up when he knows I'm here.  But that is proving to be good incentive to get up and moving.

7:45-8:30 am Took a shower, dried, changed the dressing on my surgical wound, etc.

8:30-10:00 am Ate breakfast:  1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce, 3/4 cup protein shake,
vitamin D, multi-vitamin, calcium, plus two prescription medications

10:00-11:30 am Watched a movie ("Have you heard about the Morgans?" - an entertaining flick)

11:30-Noon Cleaned the kitchen, started the dishwasher

Noon-12:30 pm Checked email

12:30-2:00 pm Ate lunch:  1/4 cup unsweetened lowfat ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup pureed strawberries.  Also visited with a friend during this time
2:00-3:00 pm Cleaned the kitchen, unloaded the dishwasher, set up my blog

3:00-3:45 pm Rested, talked with Kate when she returned home from school

3:45-6:00 pm Went to the bank, then to the Coumadin Clinic to check blood levels

6:00-6:45 pm Rested, made dinner for Kate (it looked really good)

6:45-7:30 pm Ate dinner:  1/4 cup strained cream of chicken soup, 1/4 cup applesauce, vitamins, calcium, etc.

7:30-8:15 pm Played games with Kate... now it's off to rest again soon.

So this gives you an idea of the excitement around this house.  No wonder the puppy is bummed.  I promise I won't go into this kind of detail in future posts (how boring!), but perhaps this gives you a better idea of why I have "nothing new to report" when you call.  Oh, but there was one other highlight of the day... the weigh-in and the 4 pounds lost since Monday.  Off to a good start!
*  *  *  *  *

The Year of Rebirth!

About a month ago (February 6th to be exact), I celebrated my birthday.  I was not too keen to celebrate this particular milestone in my life, because all year long I had been at peace with being 54 years of age.  And somehow, it never occurred to me that at my next nativity celebration, I would turn "55"!  Fifty-five, that magic year when Goodwill gives you the "senior discount", when AARP really ramps up their efforts to gain your membership, when financial planners keep nagging you to clarify your retirement goals.  I wanted no part of 55.

So I wasn't too appreciative when my eldest daughter called from New York City to wish me a happy "56th".  "56th?" I incredulously cried.  "That is even worse than 55!"  I went on to tell Sarah that, no, I was born in 1955 and I was just turning 55, thank you very much.  

When I hung up the phone, the symmetry struck me... born in '55, just now 55.  That seems too good to disregard, or let go unnoticed and unattended.  Perhaps this 55th birthday could be informed by the first one - or at least I might find some lessons in that first year of life to carry me through this next one.  Which is how I came to see 2010 as the Year of my Re-Birth.

What might it mean to claim rebirthing?  What might it mean to live as a new creation all year long?  Here are the lessons of birth which speak to me about re-birth.  Here is the wisdom of the first year of life which just might prove invaluable in the current year of life:
  1. In this year of re-birth, I will demand attention without pretense.  (Think about babies and their approach to the world)
  2. In this year of re-birth, I will clearly state my own needs, without apology.
  3. In this year of re-birth, I will acknowledge that I do not know everything ... and that is okay!
  4. In this year of re-birth, I will appreciate being held in God's arms... and in others'.
  5. In this year of re-birth, I will delight in every new discovery or experience.
  6. In this year of re-birth, I will not be embarrassed when I need help.
  7. In this year of re-birth, I will celebrate my place in this world, just as I am.
  8. In this year of re-birth, I will recognize spiritual connections and guardian angels.
  9. In this year of re-birth, I will eat simply, simply to live.
  10. In this year of re-birth, I will sleep every chance I get.
  11. In this year of re-birth, I will affirm possibilities are still open for me, with options galore!
  12. In this year of re-birth, I will love and accept myself.
  13. In this year of re-birth, I will be flexible.
  14. In this year of re-birth, I will learn and grow exponentially.
  15. In this year of re-birth, I am choosing to live!
*   *   *
A Prayer for the Year of Re-Birth

You, God, have placed your Truth in my inner being;
Therefore, teach me the wisdom of my heart.
Forgive all that binds me in fear, that I might radiate love.

Cleanse me that your light might shine in me.
Fill me with gladness; 
help me to transform weakness into strength.

Look not on my past mistakes,
but on the aspirations of my heart.

(from Nan C. Merrill's PSALMS FOR PRAYING, Psalm #51)