Saturday, December 15, 2012

Out of Our Way

Children are at the center of this tragedy in Connecticut. Yesterday I could barely think about it, the horror is so large. I had to keep it in my peripheral vision.

We had our Shabbat Rocks service for the children last night, and I couldn't go. I just couldn't. Likewise I missed the regular evening service. I had to stay home with my little family, rest, recoup. Not think too much about the hearts that are shattered, all over the world. In heaven and earth.

 Today I've decided to write instead of go pray with my tribe. To me it is a form of prayer. Or maybe I will go to services. There is true comfort in ritual, in prayers together, in praising G-d when the unthinkable happens. Our Mourners Kaddish was created, it is said, for just that reason. To exalt G-d when we may be tempted to curse G-d in our grief. And it must be said in community, among those who love us, those who support us.

Some other thoughts are slowly becoming clear to me.

Our children need us - and it takes a village to raise a child. If you aren't exhausted by parenting, you aren't doing it right. Parents need us. We have to help each other. The children too need us. Especially children with odd parents.

Pretending like it is not our problem is not good enough. Not doing anything is contributing to the kind of tragedy that we see now in a nice, small town of regular people. Under "normal" veneers, we all have our local quirks, and the dangerous among us ask for help long long before they act.

The mentally ill are always with us. What we can do to help is NOT ignore it. Stay involved. Yes, keep informed.

I once lived on a street where a very bipolar mom lost custody of her 3 children. We neighbors were all so relieved. It was sad. We liked her (sometimes). But we loved the kids. Even the "bad" one (who is doing much better now). I made a point to talk to those in authority to help make sure accurate information was being conveyed. I knew when to alert the professionals. I pray for them all still.

Think about how alone children feel who are being raised by parents who are harsh, angry, punishing. Think about how lonely neglected children are. These are our children too. A kind word, an encouraging smile, a willingness to listen. These matter. Children all deserve our love and attention. Offer to help the single parent who is over worked and over stressed, and be kind to the kid who is suspicious of you. Get involved in some way. Let's go out of our way for them.

Schools need us more than ever. Teachers have so many children, so many challenges. They are there to help support parents, but also have to make up for parents who don't know how to be loving and kind, or who never show up for conferences, or are absent all together. Show up in school, help out. Tutor a child, or join Big Brother or Big Sister. We can go out of our way to help.

Comforting those who are in mourning is Jewish law. It's a commandment, a mitzvah. It also allows us to DO something in times of tragedy. I volunteer on the Consolation Committee here in my town; we simply help serve and clean up at Shiva (service of mourning) in the bereaved family's homes.

Anyone who suffers needs someone to reach out. And if their suffering is prolonged, then so too should our support be steadfast. It gives hope to those who are in despair.

Every time we take time to be involved with our schools, with our churches, mosques and temples, with our communities, we strengthen all of us. It takes going out of our way, out of our own lives and out into the circles of people you know. It takes tracking down who needs help.
The Helpers: Mental health professionals and fire and police professionals also need our support. Don't forget our clergy.

If the loss of so many lives is horrific to us, imagine the challenge to those first responders. Imagine the medical personnel, the professionals who will work around the clock to help the families, friends, the entire town, the family and friends far-flung, the county. Those who provide comfort on a daily basis, social workers, counselors, pastors, rabbis, medics, all of them. They need our appreciation - not just in times of outstanding grief, but in times of City Council meetings, and when we are voting local officials into office. Local budgets support our helping professionals. Make a point to get involved.

On a state and national level, remember we have cut funding for years from mental health programs. We now have more mentally ill people on the streets (I see them all the time) than ever before. It's not easy to get treatment for a huge part of the population that are not covered under insurance, but don't qualify for free care. We can bring some pressure on our representatives to keep funding reasonable.

National organizations set the standards and are charged with distributing grants and making sure local programs are effective. Check out this excellent site, NIMH. Remember they help with programs for victims of violence, disaster relief, and soldiers coming home from war, only to fight their own battles at home, as they learn to reintegrate into society and their loving families.

It's clear why people chose to live in small towns. They know one another, they love each others children, they celebrate together and they mourn together. They share values, they agree to treat each other well. They help each other daily. Regularly. It is a part of their lives. They almost always know who is disturbed, and the police force knows, and the mental health professionals know. The shelters know.

Yes, people get lost in larger towns, in cities, but it doesn't have to happen. Many large cities still have their street, their building, their neighborhood. They still have families and friends and all the places we connect as people, raising our children, caring for our elderly.

Knowing is not enough. There has to be action. Caring, loving, but action that keeps people safe - from themselves. It keeps us all safe. We must go out of our way.

If we want to slow down the insanity that breaks our hearts and terrifies our children, we must value and strengthen community more. There is much independence in this country, and that is good. But it can only work as a society with the loving and sure ties of those we live among.

WE are the safety net.
ps. and yes, guns and gun laws play a part. However, in a strong community this isn't the issue. People who own guns, in my opinion, have one of three reasons. Either they do so for practical reasons, like they live in the country, (where yes, there are animals and sometimes they hunt) or 2. because they are afraid and feel like they need protection/defense. Or 3. because they are up to no good - illegal use, mass murder etc. Or some combination of these three. (I'm sure some would say there is a "cool" factor or "because I can" factor but I'm not going there.)

There is only one group that needs no guns. Others may need oversight. Cops will tell us, beg us not to let everyone own or carry. It's a tough topic, and there are not easy answers. Just like the abortion debate, we need better thinking. All abortions shouldn't be legal, nor should all abortions be illegal. That's stupid. All guns shouldn't be legal. Nor should NO guns be legal.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Relationships are like Leggos

My first big class - as a trainer - was in I guess early 1990. I'd taught before, so could handle a large group. Maybe 50 people were in this Excel class. First level spreadsheets, and desktops had only been out for a few years, laptops even less. People needed knowledge, guidance. I had been on spreadsheets for 4 years! An old pro.

Still that was a lot of people for my 27 year old self to handle.

A few days ago I looked at the building where it took place, on Roswell Road in ATL. Next door to one of my favorite stores. I like to pause and just remember where all my training work started, how new and nervous I was, how the world looked to me back then.

The class started well enough, me explaining that a cell is the intersection of a row and a column. Then I talked about cell addresses, A1, A2, B1, B2. Fairly smoothly I chattered along. I wasn't great (that would come later ;) but I had most of the class following along.

But there was one spot of disruption. Someone was getting help from those next to her. When I finally stopped long enough to help, I quickly realized that she didn't get the most fundamental concept. A cell. I asked her to press the spacebar, on the keyboard, and she couldn't find it.

It was a moment of complete melt down.

She was totally overwhelmed, slammed against the wall of her greatest fears, unable to follow the most simple command. She ended up fleeing at the first break. I felt bad for her but we had to muster thru the day.

What's interesting about her and that experience for me was how much I got out of it.

I still identify with that sense of being lost. It gave me a chance to become a great trainer and a much better teacher. I began to make sure everyone in my classes got the fundamental concepts. I refused to teach large classes where I couldn't make eye contact with everyone in those few seconds between sentences, after I'd made an important point.

I learned to start class with some basics: here is what we are going to learn, here is the order of things, here is a question box, where I will put your question if we are not to that topic yet or I need to fit it in somewhere else.

Most important, I learned to describe the learning curve, the way a class (and learning curves) could make you panic, or lost or both. I made it clear that breathing was important. And stopping. Here is the list I refined, in the early 90s. Rules for when you were lost:

1. Don't panic.
2. Stop.
3. Breathe.
4. Ask for help.

Later I added "Listen." before Ask for Help, since I usually repeated myself several times on each step.

Yesterday I realized that in relationships I had missed a fundamental piece many many years ago, much like the woman who didn't understand a cell in spreadsheets. It's very simple, but crucial to the entire fabric, the flow and the understanding of relationships with humans.

I hadn't learned that people connect and disconnect and reconnect.

That's it.

I knew it intellectually, I got it cerebrally. But I hadn't got it at gut level, AND I had suffered a trauma around disconnecting. My biological dad had limited relationship skills, so he and Mom split when I was like 3 or so. Common story. But a child's interpretation of events colored my view. Disconnecting meant Dad went away and didn't come back.

It could happen again. Various deaths reinforced this idea/world view.

Swear, I was in my 40s. Fortys. before someone explained one of the most fundamental concepts of relationships to me, the flow: connect, disconnect, reconnect. Natural, normal.

As I considered this, I slowly realized how BIG this was for me! It was REALLY helpful! I'd been doing it, connecting and disconnecting; after all, you are in relationships all your life. But I had such bad anxiety sometimes I hated myself. I sometimes loved shoving people away, so I didn't have to miss them. But often even that would make me freaky after a while.

So just knowing this ONE thing - simple but so important, helped me relax a little. To find the space bar. (smile). Now it helps me relax a lot.

This last week, 10 days I spent in Georgia and TN. It was good to see everyone, tho I spent most of my time with family, helping out around the house, rescuing cats, normal stuff.  Dad's* cancer is treatable, with better radiation than they had a few years ago. So we are hopeful. Cautiously optimistic. Loving him very much.

We also got to see Mama, my sister, my brother, nieces, friends, etc. All this time was full of connecting moments and disconnecting. And reconnecting.

At the end, as we are parting, sometimes we disconnect gracefully, lovingly. Sometimes with tension and internal growling. But we all kind of trust the process a little more. Yeah, I miss them, miss my college kids - and that longing too comes and goes. (Well, not so much with the college kids, but it mainly just simmers :)

My home is peaceful and beautiful. I know, pretty much, where stuff is. I have work that is worthwhile, that requires my attention. And two cats who are wonderful company, whether I like it or not. There are good friends here too. A daughter who needs me. I love my life.

There are letters to write, to send love, to connect. Gifts to think about and forage for, or make.Small stuff. Good stuff. All of it.

It's good to be home.
*Dear Old Dad/ Daddy (not my biological dad, but the Man who Raised me)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Peaceful and Polarized

Yesterday it was this song on my mind, in my house, taking up my space before I left for work.

Today it is this song, about cold hearts. Actually it's the entire album. Warm, full, soothing and matches my very happy, peaceful self  :-)

I may play the album for a few days, because I love Norah Jones, because I like the songs, and mostly, because I am still staying away from The News.

It occurs to me that elections are tools, just like cell phones. Depends on how you use them. Lots of info is out there. Maybe it's not how we use it but how we approach it.

This morning someone had a sweet crawl-in-bed greeting for me, curling up at my feet, petting the cats. She came back quietly a few minutes later with a folded note card, which she placed on my bedside table. On the outside: "Open if you want to know who won the election   p.s. good morning". It was sealed with tape.

Last night she followed the election online at low volume. I was out most of the evening. Without my asking she gave me space on the issue; I assumed she saw my post ("I want to be the last person on the planet to find out the results of the election").

Later we talked about the idea a bit, when I said goodnight. I described my goal to stay away from the fray, the excitement, the agony and over-dramatization of the entire process. I explained it was an exercise for me to create this separation from the world, for a time. It was a good chance to practice detachment, both from the process and the outcome. I suggested she look up Luddite.

This morning she just couldn't stand my not knowing. So we hung out for a few moments in that tension, noticing that she wanted me to get clued in, and that I was happy with my bubble of Not Knowing. I asked how important was it to her that I get clued in? She wasn't sure. In good relationships, you notice that sort of stuff, work with it. How important was our position to each of us?  Why? I heard her internal struggle of wanting to talk about the results with me, and yet honor my request. She heard that this is my way of not just creating space, but concentrating, honoring the other big things in my life, in fact the only things that mean much: my family, my job. Our home.*

I had some idea of what happened with the election. Saw a hint last night that Obama won Ohio. Still, the not knowing was really nice. Strengthened my resolve to just enjoy my day. To notice how cool it is to not be sucked in.

Just like going without a "smart" phone for a few weeks. What was it, .... wait, it was over 3 months. That's cool. After I lost my 'droid, I used no cell phone at all for a couple few weeks, then went to a flip phone. Loved the release of no calls to make when I was without the device. Just driving. "Check it out.", I thought. How cool.

Then I noticed I was ok not being constantly on the internet, or NOT playing with a phone while I took G out for brunch (we goofed off and it was awesome), and soon I didn't care much about texting.

Now with the re-integration of a new Android into my life, I have a nice, easy balance with it. It's not a new toy, it's a tool. It's useful, and yeah I check various things on it. Go online, whatever. Key word being "whatever".

Elections come and go. So do phones, presidents, laws, houses, people. Elections are tools, just like cell phones. They tell you stuff. Maybe too much.  Sometimes you have to turn them off.

It's still a bit weird to live where I am right now. To truly inhabit my home, my body, my life. Even weirder to just enjoy it. To enjoy the spaces I move thru without a lot of worry.

Speaking of being comfortable. There is a dark side (of course!). For instance, what about the big trends? The routing of the middle class? The economy? Balancing the power of government and regulating big businesses? 

I thought Progressives were supposed to be leading the way these last few decades. Somehow we lost our way. We thought we would just enjoy the prosperity of the 90s without consequences.

And we forgot our fellow citizens. We left behind an entire generation of people who could not work their way out of being born to less education, less opportunity, or the color of their skin, or their accents. We thought it was ok to be a little bit superior because, after all, we did care deeply and did go to school, made a success of our lives. Nice cars, nice house. Retirement. Good shoes.

We really did care about the less fortunate. We gave to charity. Dropped dollars in the red kettle at Christmas. Sometimes a $5 or a $10. It redeemed us from those other excesses and inattention that we didn't want to talk about.

So we paid with 8 years of Bush and two unwinnable wars. We watched our neighbors and friends send their children into battle, and bring them home in the devastation of shattered hearts.

We paid for our arrogance. And we still like to pretend we aren't all that bad.

But we are.

We have easily earned the right to watch the American political process go deeper into high drama, negligible results, and ultimate demise.

But we also have the inalienable right to get our shit together.

How easy it was for us to hate the wars, and pretend we just hate all the stupidity, without considering the alternative. Many of us just wanted the wars to end, but tried to be practical and save face by being mad and sad about them. But would we really have been ok with not going after the terrorists?

We wanted to be all indignant about the stupidity of No Child Left Behind, partly because we hated Bush and were sure he couldn't execute his puppet ass out of a wet paper bag. So we railed against the barbarian standardized testing and came up with nada as an alternative.

We love unions, but we don't hold people accountable - you know, the teachers, the post office, the administrations, those elected officials. We defended teachers blindly without stopping to consider how to turn around those schools where children were not getting the skills they needed, and were dropping out by as much as 43% (black kids; hispanic kids are at 42%; Am Indian kids at 46%).

How many of us actually wrote to or called even one elected official in the last 10, 12 years? I think I have once or twice. A few letters to Obama.

How many school board meetings have you attended? How many city council meetings? Watched them on TV? How many movies?

I'm just too busy. We all are.

We think somehow our small, mostly good lives will be ok even if we don't really listen to the Other Side.

Why listen deeply? It's so much work. They might change our minds on something. We might have to rethink our firmly embedded opinions. We might even have to consider voting for someone from - well, no, that's going too far. (Did you think "Dark side"? have you demonized your political opponents and their followers?)

Being polarized comes from not doing the work of respecting, listening with intent to understand (not find weaknesses), struggling thru to our common values, then working together to try various things until a solution is found. It's hard hard work. Like a marriage. Like a strong, healthy family.

I'm curious to see if the Left will begin to notice how our elected representatives do just that: they represent our entirety. They are a reflection of our inability to work together, put aside differences to solve real problems. No wonder Congress is deadlocked, and makes us nuts, the president less than effective. We hate the dysfunction in government and yet it is created out of our big American family - you know, the extended weird family that has infighting, avoids each other until the holidays, talks over each other, gossips, belittles and gloats.

So yeah, I did finally open the card. Why? Because my need to be apart from the world was trumped by my daughter's need to talk with me about something important to her. I didn't have to say "I love you" in words.

But I did anyway.

And she was off happily to school.

Now, going to inhabit my day, listening to a new song. Hoping we can love America the way she really needs to be loved. Within a strong, healthy, basically happy family.

*Madeleine once commented she thought I would eventually become Amish. Too authoritarian but yes, a very attractive lifestyle. As long as I could watch movies, dance, read voraciously, widely, and of course enjoy wine and football (generally not at the same time). Oh yeah, there is that driving thing. I could rock a buggy ;)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

little hands

Like most of what my kids have taught me - it seemed small, and turns out it was huge.

Looking back, one of the most important lessons for me in raising kids was to not take things out of their hands.

I don't know how or why exactly but my first instinct, or my "default setting" was to just take it away from them. And it worked fine when they were little, really small.

As they got older I watched a few other Wise Moms not take things, and give the toddler a chance to give it to them, whatever needed taking.

Fascinated, I watched.

The Mom was so patient, holding out her hand and asking for the toy then, if the child didn't give it over, Mom would wait, silently. Then, if still not successful, she would go to "I need you to give me the truck." Sometimes she would give a reason. Simple and short sentences.

After some more time would pass, (maybe 30 seconds, maybe more, maybe less) she might have to take the toy. And the kid would predictably fall apart. And she would often say something like "I know it's hard to give the toy back to Tommy." or "I know it's hard to leave when you are having fun." The moment would pass, the day go on.

Sometimes though, often even, the kid gave the toy up.

For me, at first, I remember it was a monumental battle, inside of me, to do this. The waiting could seem like torture. The being quiet was unnatural...

I figured out it was important to be calm and kind if I could.

As I got better at it I found that the kid would usually comply. I started never taking something if I could help it. I let them give it to me.

So what did I learn?

First, it made me stop. This was key. For this "method" / approach to work I had to recognize/remember this child as a Person. I had a person who deserved my respect. Not just some addition to my life, to be watched over, corralled, bustled, cleaned, fed, hugged, etc. This was a small Person.

It forced me to be patient - a muscle that was NOT very strong when I began having kids. I had to work at it. This was good work for me, and began to prepare me for the lifelong patience the job would require - both of me and for them. (eventually I would even learn to be patient with myself :)

It let the child retain control. Even if just for a few minutes. Not taking recognized them as a person AND gave them control of their universe. It was recognition AND action based on this recognition. Well, inaction actually. I didn't take the toy (or whatever) and they got to consider what they wanted to do.

I gave them a concrete way to control their world. In essense I gave away some of my power so they could start feeling a new kind of power. Not just "feed me and I'll cry until you do" but "Mom let's me hold this and gives me a little space to think about what I want to do. Do I feel like giving it up?"

They got a chance to be thoughtful.

I can't claim I understood the value in this at the time. It took me another 10 or 15 years to really understand the importance of being thoughtful.

And then the next part was crucial. I became a Good Authority. Not taking didn't mean they didn't have to give it up. We all knew at the start that the Mom would win. But she gave some power to the kid, and withdrew a bit, pulling back to allow the kid to have and hold NOT just the toy but the power too.  This is what Good Authority does.

I was teaching them to hold power, to wield it, and to feel how nice it was to be respected. Trust me many people just took things from them. Me included. If it was dangerous, I took it. If it was mildly dangerous, and the potential damage was slight, I gave them a chance to give it to me.

So in this effort, I gave them a taste of Good Authority, which respects them and Bad Authority or Power - which does not.  Many many years later they are still working with and under both. But they know the difference. It's hard wired into them. It may take a few encounters to decide if someone, a boss, a professor, a cop, is Good or Bad, or a mixture. Now, they are old enough to see the shades of grey.

But back then, all they knew was, Mommy lets me decide. I bet it felt good :)

And I was beginning the work of letting go with intention, and pulling back so they could grow into the amazing people they are.
(See midrash for Jewish stories of G-d's creating the universe, first by pulling the Godself back to allow for something other thatn G-d to exist.)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Here?! Now?

Dusk in my bedroom. That strange light. Tempted to flip a switch, but I don't.

Quiet house.

Long day of too much firing - cerebral. Also some peaceful empty mind. This helped.

After a movie, overcome by the need to write, I grabbed big index cards from the door pocket of my car, across the passenger seat. Hebrew transliterations would be subsumed for the Muse.

She hadn't been over in a while. It was like a lover, demanding, "Now!"

So I wrote as I drove, and thought about how I could feed her more often, if she would be descending on me with such appetite. But like many things passionate, it was fun and engaging and well, tempered by common sense (just enough) and that lovely familiarity of knowing each other well.

The cornfield I hastily sought out was actually both corn and beans. It took me a couple of hours to notice the distinction. I didn't actually look much. I was busy. Tending her. Just had to be out there in the middle. Not even bothered by cars going by, or one runner, who thumped by, bare chested, red shorts.
if you do take this road, go slow :)

I just needed the sun and some wind, the embrace of soil and farm smells. I think there were 5 cards. Filled them up. Found leaking (tears) came along at one card, one thought - accompanied by that sense of Grace.

Sitting still was good. As was losing my dependence on bodies of water for thoughtful meandering and romantic interludes. (Used to be my M.O.)

Muse stayed for a long time. Lingering. Even the rain drops and phone call didn't chase her right away.

Maybe that's what's nice about dusk. It reminds me of her. Also of the perks - the essentialness even - of time without distractions.

Thinking of setting a begging bowl out. Full with offering? Or empty with potential? Both?

Can a bowl be both empty and full?

Well look there - my very own koan. How nice. See? She is hanging around. "Ha!" she says. "You thought I had gone for - " Well, yes, maybe for a long time.

Contemplating field of dreams. And sleeping outside. Under the full moon.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Big Beautiful Bugs

Wow. Just Wow.  I LOVE stories like this! And now, yes, I'm in love with this amazing insect. (I really could have been a happy entomologist.)

And yes, I'm ready to plan a trip to Lord Howe Island, if they get rid of the rats and re-introduce the bugs :D

I'll stop by New Zealand and pick up my long-coveted wheel while I'm down there.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Old theory - no one likes getting anything shoved on them (ideas, ideology, politics, religion, sexual orientation, learning, etc. etc.) (clearly there are some exceptions). anyway insomnia seems to be trapped energy wanting out somehow. brain cells swim around, knock into each other, wake the others up, like a bunch of kids in barracks. once enough get shoved onto the floor, i'm up. wth.

Lately, martial arts has been a group of cells kicking around in the cerebellum. Like East Side Story, snapping their fingers, looking for a fight.

Tai chi has been great the last few weeks - remembering an old love, and discovering a new "form". i still can't really tolerate yoga - for one it's too slow for me, monkey mind being what it is. Remember i didn't even see the value in sitting still until a few years ago. Meditation was like another planet.

Since tai chi is an "internal form" and there are "external" forms, (read: violent - at least in movement if not intent), I could use the balance of adding a form. I've always thought it would be fun, engaging, interesting to try, so going to start looking into where i can learn.

There is something that is pissing me off about getting into the workout routine again. First, I had to accept that I can't do normal gym workouts. My mind devours me. The sociologist, the academic, the "omg am i really going to walk in one f-cking spot for half an hour and lift these stationary sliding weights when i could be building a house!?" self just wins too often.

Second, I'm pissed that I can't just throw myself into it. I have to start in a rational fashion, building endurance, stretching, etc. The good news is I didn't throttle the ballet teacher who wasn't prepared to teach adults. (she was sweet, and cute, and young, so that saved her. Plus I don't know karate yet.)

But other workouts do work for me:  swimming is meditational, like tai chi, moving meditation. I can do that.  Good at it. Less likelihood of sudden injury :)

Walking practice is slowly taking root; not easy - it's cold and monkey mind is way too strong, but making progress. Dance : restarting this is freakin great and also hard to fit in, esp when i love West Coast Swing, and have not my Main Man to dance with regularly; but tried 2 different styles of class, have a third in mind.

Plans to hit biking this Spring. Starting to thaw out a bit and get a little psyched. May have found a biking partner.

Biking is sheer fun even here in IL with no hills (who woulda thought I'd ever miss them??) and no half-assed teachers. (ok there was another dance class with a mediocre teacher - I've done too much of this to tolerate lazy instruction).  Should be some good local rides when the earth gets tilted back to "warm". SO looking forward to that!

Karate or Kung Fu or Tae Kwon Do or Whatever the flavor is - looks like fun. Part of the energy that threw me out of bed was Pissed Off Mojo. So maybe good to give that gal something to do. Keep her away from the keyboard, you know?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Enjoyed reading this release from Dahlai Lama on religious harmony.

"I always say that every person on this earth has the freedom to practice or not practice religion. It is all right to do either. But once you accept religion, it is extremely important to be able to focus your mind on it and sincerely practice the teachings in your daily life. All of us can see that we tend to indulge in religious favouritism by saying, "I belong to this or that religion", rather than making effort to control our agitated minds. This misuse of religion, due to our disturbed minds, also sometimes creates problems. 
I know a physicist from Chile who told me that it is not appropriate for a scientist to be biased towards science because of his love and passion for it. I am a Buddhist practitioner and have a lot of faith and respect in the teachings of the Buddha. However, if I mix up my love for and attachment to Buddhism, then my mind shall be biased towards it. A biased mind, which never sees the complete picture, cannot grasp the reality. And any action that results from such a state of mind will not be in tune with reality. As such it causes a lot of problems. "

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Crossed Stars?

Watched the movie Bright Star the other night. Very well done. Made me look up a bit more on the history of Keats and Fanny.  Not surprised that she was blamed for his emotional state. Of course they imposed bleeding and starvation diets on tuberculosis patients too... ugh. Such a lovely romance and barbaric period of history. Don't let the quaint fool you. But the poetry is outstanding.

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Internet Protection

My sincere hope is that the internet can push forward a new age of public service and accountability and common sense (of the people, by the People and for the PEOPLE) in our government and democracy around the world. It's a tool we cannot afford to lose.

The danger, however, is not past.

Read this article about SOPA/PIPA and international agreements that loom.

Swings, Ebbs and Flows

Heard something on This American Life the other week about how, once someone is convinced that global warming is a theory, that it is very, very difficult to change their minds, even with widely accepted facts (Act Two. Climate Changes. People Don't). The show was fascinating and vaguely horrifying. 

The most interesting sociological moment was the exchange between a scientist, trained to teach kids about global warming, and a teenager who knew her own mind. Somehow the producers managed to convey the chasm that opened, seemingly before our eyes, between the two. The science did seem to become misty, ideological, while the teen stood firmly, arms metaphorically crossed, on ground we have hallowed as a nation: Question Authority.

So we are left with an impasse. Deep and threatening, no matter how far back we would like to stay from the edge.

What do you do when falsehoods, repeated over and over, seem to erode fact? How DO you reach people once they have decided your, or the entire scientific community's, or the government's, or the church's, or the parent's credibility is shot?

It doesn't escape my attention that growing up includes being able to see the world from more and more various points of perspective. Like a cool camera trick where the videographer spins in place, providing a 360 degree view, then suddenly the image shifts to circling something - the room, the "person" whose view started us. Surely it always makes us dizzy to do that shift, from "helio" or earth or personal-centric to spinning from the outside looking in.

I imagine this is why growing up is so damn difficult - not to mention that those frontal lobes (or whatever part of the brain it is) aren't fully developed yet. 

But just like women's brains are different from men's and our hormones deeply affect how we see things and how we think about them, so do children and kids have a great deal to offer in how we grapple with an essential (imnsho) question:

How do we "grow up" as a society without gutting all the staid, safe, reasonable institutions that we have carefully constructed over millenia? How do we not get caught up too much in the "old order" and outdated modes of thinking, while not cutting our collective nose off to spite our face(book)? lol.

There is still plenty of confusion promoted, I think, by persistent internet rumours and "urban legendesqe" (read: misleading) emails. There is also the far right's - oops, no, edit that. There is the radical's blatant interest in a misinformation 

Enter the Age of the Moderate. 

My new theory is that societies and humankind have to go thru these strange periods of vicious, vitriolic, vituperative battles of ideology - an epic clash of Beliefs.  It's Jews and Pagans, it's Greeks and Jews, it's Christians and everyone, it's Inquisitions and Renaissance, it's science and religion, it's industrial and agrarian, it's government and religion, it's communism and socialism and democracy, it's science and religion, it's conservatives and liberals, it's institutions and upstarts, it's radicals and moderates.

I know who I'll vote for :)

Anyway, this is a cool excerpt, on the topic of science and global warming:
We know that the rise in temperatures over the past five decades is abrupt and very large. We know it is consistent with models developed by other climate researchers that posit greenhouse gas emissions — the burning of fossil fuels by humans — as the cause. And now we know, thanks to Muller, that those other scientists have been both careful and honorable in their work.
Nobody’s fudging the numbers. Nobody’s manipulating data to win research grants, as Perry claims, or making an undue fuss over a “naturally occurring” warm-up, as Bachmann alleges. Contrary to what Cain says, the science is real.
from Review of the science by a skeptic who changed his mind 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Susan G Komen Foundation

letter re: SGK pulling funding from Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening, $1 mil

Dear Board of SGK - really? How incredibly short sighted. I thought better of your organization, tho I wonder if it isn't just a huge over-reaching smoke screen for thousands of advertisers - millions of dollars that *could* be spent on breast cancer research OR better yet! Breast Cancer *prevention*. But that is a letter for another day. Please reconsider a colossally bone-headed move. Don't cut out Planned Parenthood, one of the best places for all women to get healthcare, and especially low income women and families. I have used their services off and on over the last 31 years. They are always amazing. Moreover, please reconsider politicizing the SGK organization. To this day I refuse to purchase Dominoe's pizza, because 25 years ago they supported "right to life" groups. I've sadly stopped eating at Chik Fil A. And I will pull my donations and general support from SGK in a *flash* - mostly for the board's stupidity, but also because I love Planned Parenthood.
Really really really ticked off. And happy to take action against an organization that doesn't *really* have improving women's health care as their primary goal.

Monday, January 30, 2012

In My Lap

There's nothing quite like a cat in your lap.

Warm, purring.

Some would say it's better to have a sexy woman.

Or a child in your lap, maybe reading.

Others want a poodle. A standard. poodle.

Or a surprise. Landed, as it just so happens, there. In your lap!

Knitting is great - even if it is just lying there, looking pretty.

But a cat or a kitten, content for a moment...

That's the cat's meow.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Loss of Navigational Points

Seems to me that every single point of reference we have is being attacked by the Huns. And by the Huns, I mean all of us. But mostly the radicals.

Call me old-fashioned. I think there is some merit to the idea that we don't have to know everything about every candidate. I would like to know their character, it's true. But I don't want to know about every text message. I do want ethics and integrity to play a huge role in government, corporations, small organizations (who have better odds) and in the medical industry.

I'd like to remove conflicts of interest. It would be helpful to play less "follow the money" and more "applaud thems that do right".

This story reminds me of a growing, quietly nagging concern. If all our institutions are torn down, including the "fact checkers", if they lose credibility, then by what will we navigate? Will there be a renaissance of moderates after an informational wasteland? Will impartiality rise again? Could well-reasoned, thoughtful discourse begin to push back the hubris of partisanship and vitriol, and re-emerge?

Somehow this line of thought is linked to Too Big To Know (not *literally* linked, metaphorically). I'm just not sure how, yet.
Simmering :)


[love to know what I was planning to write here - this was a post that never happened... Bet the muse, er, hope she will strike again :) ]

Months later, we return to our heroine. Or is that hero-ine (are they spelled the same, the drug and the character? Can I be a writer if I don't know?)

I think this was to be a post about how coaxing people, plants, animals, art, music, craft is better than forcing.

Nudging has become a gold-plated, jew-jitsu for me :)

It occurred to me several years ago, musing with my BDNHTPATBU (beloved dear now-husband, then-paramour, about to break up), one summer night after a lovely, rare trip to a movie.*

I had been noodling over this idea for a while.  Slowly it came into focus.

(How sweet and lovely are these moments of revealing clarity. It's why focusing a camera is so much fun, to me.

If you wait for it the bread rises, the fudge sets, the child walks, the film negative transforms into an image, the sock emerges, the thought coalesces.)

We had been discussing the difficulty of radical LGBT protests and harsh insistence on their rights. I support their goals - perhaps even all of them. I'm not sure.

What I was and am sure of is that, while it seem important to force change in some instances, it is also rife with risks.

I wonder if true change can ever be forced??

After all, I've watched the gay rights movement become more and more "mainstream", over the last 30 years. Over time society does seem to figure a lot out. With any luck we don't slip back into old, messed up ideas, like slavery and genocide (no guarantees tho - see recent post on global warming).

Along the way they have pissed off a lot of people. Did the strident, arduous protests have to happen? Maybe. I won't deny that it could be that change would not have come without it, without the pushing and shoving or demands for attention.

Stan's amazing contribution, the catalyst to my swirling thoughts, was to comment that he did respect that people are entitled to their life styles and beliefs, but he hated having it, their views, shoved down his throat.**

When raising children, I've learned that it's helpful to remain dispassionate. When working toward solutions with peers, authority figures and those who look up to me, I've noticed stating "my" truth and detaching from the outcome is key. It allows space for movement toward a resolution or even a synthesis of ideas...

I wonder how much it could help to be firm to our world/national/community in our beliefs, without demanding that they accept them.

On the other hand, maybe if we didn't push hard, society wouldn't  grow up. Grin. After all, that is what siblings are for.

* movie night, for us, consisted that night of driving for 30 or 40 mins to a theater, watching something fun (I think it was the new Star Trek movie?) and driving all the way back to the farm. I had dressed up, something I had never done there, and I remember sitting on the porch at the barn (a pole barn), having a beer or wine after. Stan took my picture with his phone, or tried to. It was a sweet moment of his looking at me with "fresh eyes", as if seeing me anew.

**I remember well the sense of various lines of thought coming together, that evening, in the moment, and talking this idea over with him. It seemed that he appreciated being a catalyst, and he knew he was, as much as I enjoyed it. He loved the exchange of ideas and synthesis of his thoughts and my own. This was somehow a key moment for us; something intangible quality shared that also came into focus, along with our ideas. We began, I think then to recognize our ability to complement each other, to both challenge and support our thinking.  Maybe it is/was just synchronicity - or maybe it's more than that.


Great radio show today - missed most of it, but the mindfulness sure would come in handy.

Friday January 27, 2012, 10:06 AM


Ellen J. Langer, Ph.D., Professor, Psychology Department, Harvard University; Artist
Ellen Langer
It’s possible to go through life carrying out a range of complex tasks without consciously paying attention to what we’re doing.  While it is possible to live that way, you end up missing a lot. We will talk with Harvard professor Ellen Langer, a scholar who has been called the mother of the psychological concept of “mindfulness.” It’s a very simple but powerful idea--that, by paying attention to what we are doing, we will better understand ourselves and others, and in the process live a more full and healthy life.

(this content belongs to

I do at least intend to listen the the entire show asap. Intrigued by her comment that all (?) human ills can be traced to lack of mindfulness. It's been a godsend in my office to have the local public radio show consist of high quality interviews. Not just Terry Gross but also the local show called Focus... no, the irony did not escape me.

Yes, I missed my Tai Chi class both days this week. No, I did not make it to Yoga. (deep Breath). Nor dance on Tuesday night. I did however lose a few pounds, ate mindfully and plan to enjoy a walk today. I have been doing epic battles with my beloved child in re-learning math. Each night, exhausted, I miss reading and movies and just find some rest. I think I did knit about 4 rows this week :)

There is something that most people don't realize about teaching. Think of your time with your children, doing anything. Now add to that a teachable moment. IF you are an extrovert, as many teachers (most?) are, then you must pull yourself back, make space for the child to learn. You have to ask questions rather than making demands. You have to wait to let their brain work. You must edit any critical or impatient thought (if you have them, usually mine are directed at me). You hold the space.

This lets the child/person think for themselves, discover answers, and reap the deep reward of having very little help from you. I've found this is also true when teaching computers, knitting, math, and dance. It doesn't matter if it's left or right brain, physical or spiritual. As a teacher you are just trying to help the process of learning gently and yet with right enthusiasm. You are staying out of the way, and guiding. You may have 30 people or 3. But you have to pay attention.  You have to figure out where to add guidance or info. You are watching how their brain is working, real time.

It's wonderful. It's intensive. Rarely is it mindless.

No wonder I'm exhausted, after working as business owner, being wife and managing my family duties, connecting with friends, helping guide Youth Group, and tutoring G for about 2 hours each night. Perhaps I should be babbling?

I saw something on Facebook today about leaders. Paraphrased: If you inspire and encourage then you are a leader. I agree. Unfortunately, leaders are human and can make mistakes.

Below is my post in reference to the suicide of Barry Bowe - principal of a great public arts school in Charlotte, NC where many of my friends have children attending. It was a really sad situation that surfaced  on Facebook a few days ago. I wrote this in response to his niece, who thought that the press revealed too many details of his death. I suggest it's time to pull back the damn cloak of shame surrounding suicide.

ok - I'm far removed from the local news, but I have an interest in what happened. I have friends who are affected and more importantly their dear beloved children are affected - it's not a small matter at all that a school leader decided to end his own life. I'm sorry for your loss Carrie, but it is completely wrong (imnsho) to say that the details of his death are not news and should be kept private. In fact every suicide should be a call to battle for all those who care for humankind. It's a loss most tragic and often avoidable.
Should we not advertise that someone died of cancer? Do you think we could get funding for research if we covered it up and pretended the illness didn't exist? Do you think people would know what early signs to look for or how to support those who suffer with it if we were all embarrassed about cancer? Diabetes? Heart disease?
Suicide is a huge problem in this country. I've experienced in my immediate family. Twice. I consider it a call to arms - for those of us who battle for the souls of those who are confused, ill, heart broken, crazed and/or depressed and need help. Make no mistake - it is a matter of life or death. I'd suggest we strategize.
Yes, mourn the dead. Damn right hold CMS accountable. But comfort the kids and explain the extreme myopia that precedes suicide. The dangers of depression. The need for accessible help. The warning signs. The preventative measures. And do remind them all that those who die by suicide were very very sick. It's preventable. But not if we pretend.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

So Many Opinions, So Little Time

Yeah, I don't have time to do much here today, but am at least thinking about freshening up the site. Did add a couple gadgets. Funny how many visits I supposedly have, but pretty sure many are from trolling virtual search engine bots or whatever they call those.

News flash: I have fewer opinions.

Suspect this is a sign of ack - aging.

There, I said it . FUTG (f- you time gods).