Category Archives: Personal Journeys

Stemming the Tide

I am rather fond of the Facebook page, Celtic Christian Tradition. They usually have some bit or other that reminds me of how to be a kinder influence in the world. Today they posted something I have seen before, a quote by Henri Nouwen. It is a quote I appreciate and one I try to live by; this morning it struck me with a different thought, and I chose to share.

One of the most difficult things to sort out in today’s atmosphere is when to take on an issue like a hurricane and when to be the gentle breeze. Some would argue we have no more time for gentleness; too many people are being impacted by the public display of what can only be described as hatred, distrust, and intransigence against discussion of any kind that may lead to resolutions outside of a perceived world view. The voices may be many, or few, it is difficult to be certain, but they are certainly loud. One thing I am sure of, screaming into the hurricane does little to change its course.

I also find myself setting filter standards for almost anything I read or watch. Through the past many months, I have developed a kind of radar that tells me when it is not productive to engage someone on a topic, and when they may, possibly, at least listen to what I say. I’ve managed to keep several friends in social media that way, while in some cases I am forced to disengage for my own sense of peace. Sometimes, I type what I believe to be a perfect response – then delete it before it’s even posted. I like to pick what bonfires I start.

That brings me to this morning when this quote popped up in my newsfeed. The quandary of when to say what and how forcibly it should be made became clearer. The hard work to is stop talking past each other, to stop screaming in the wind when no one can hear or understand. The important part is the moment by moment effort to be a presence for the better. To forever seek the moment when you can be part of turning the tide of hatred, of division, of prejudice.

While writing this piece I ran across this clip by Nadia Bolz-Weber. She is a pastor in the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. She felt called to be a shepherd to those who had none; to be a voice for those who didn’t fit anywhere else. Her approach to defining how we handle the evil in our life is something that I have experienced. Sometimes we have to step away or we become that which we detest the most. In that process, however, we dare not leave a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum. So, when we refuse to feed the fire, we must add something else to the mix – we must be what we want others to be. If we want a kinder, more inclusive, more socially conscious, society – then that is what we must be on a personal level, in all our interactions and in every way possible.

https://www.facebook.com/makerswomen/videos/1547119412063044/?t=18

Push back against the tide, one deed, one thought, one word at a time.

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Remembering the Dead ~ All of Them

As we go into the full focus of Memorial Day weekend I would like us to think on more than time off and nice memes about military service shared across social media. I would like us to think about what that “service” we keep thanking people for really means, to us and to them. You see, I’ve known a few. Some who came back broken physically, mentally, and all kinds of other ways. I’ve known those who chose to serve when their only reason was because they were called, whether they understood the reasons we chose this particular battle to or not. I’ve known those who in their heart of hearts just couldn’t do it because their faith or their ideals would not allow them. I’ve had at least five decades of accumulated experience to know the heart-wrenching choices made each and every time this country chooses to leave our homes and go do battle.

I am here to say something I feel is critical. Freedom may be won in the battlefield, but it is maintained, nurtured, and protected at home. It is done through the support of those who served and those left behind. It is done by being involved in the day to day operations of a country by voting, by serving, by fighting every minute for truth — and understanding. If this country is ever going to reach a time when the vision of the people points in the same general direction? We have to learn to communicate. A house divided cannot stand.

Today I have seen a few posts that poked fun at certain teenagers who have declared their intent to do battle. They are doing so by reaching as many as they can through the vehicle of free speech – our number one and arguably most important right. And yet there are those that scoff and say they wouldn’t last a minute in a battle field. Excuse me? They did. Without boot camp, without weapons, without Kevlar, helmets or kits – they survived a point in time when the active shooter drill was a drill no longer. We have students in this country that assume that one day, some person upset about who knows what will walk through their school doors and young people, teachers, and “resource” officers will have to make split second decisions about sacrificing their lives to save others. Have you given thought about how you would respond? Really?

I love this country with all my heart. I know that there have been sacrifices beyond imagination to keep me safe in my privilege. But I also know there are unsung heroes among us, people who cared about those around them, who did not hesitate when the moment came to choose between their own safety and that of others.

This Memorial Day I want to think about all of those who have given their lives in pursuit of a dream. A dream that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

The Wall

Courtesy of “Living in Washington D.C.”

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Reflections ~ All the way home

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My new commute.

This past April has been a monster roller-coaster ride in my life. A ride that was, at times, rather unsettling in the deep, dark corners of my bi-polar brain. I have cried, I have danced, I have laughed, and somehow made it through to a quiet moment before I begin a new chapter in my life.

Two years ago, in April, I moved forward with plans to purchase a home in Aberdeen. With my beloved gone, I made the move without him. One weekend was spent getting my office/library painted and carpeted. The following week, two trucks pulled into the driveway with the detritus of two lives lived in books and research. I still have a bit more to sort, but I have made substantial progress.

During the past two years, I have fallen in love with my home, the town, and the people I have met. Except that I wasn’t all the way home just yet. Me and my various adventures were scattered half way across the continent and all the way into Canada. My dream was to work and sleep in the same time zone; to center my life in the community I had chosen as my “forever home.”

The past two years have not been easy. Trying to adjust budgets, keep things moving along with commitments I had made, and dealing with an “uncomfortable” exchange rate — but, I managed to keep my boat afloat. Last fall, I decided to make the move to take on hours after 5 and on weekends. With a bit of an adjustment to my resume, I was able to secure work as a cashier on some nights and weekends; and, when the time came, I locked on to some hours with a local tax service. For a number of months, I was working up to three jobs at a time (plus all those extracurricular activities). I never left my desk during office hours with my day job (other than for job interviews and doctor things), but I also had to ensure that whatever was necessary to meet deadlines was worked into my expanded work schedule. I’m an accountant – deadlines are part of my DNA.

This exercise was something I chose to do for more than a bit more financial security – it got me back out in public, face to face with real people. While, for the most part, communication with my co-workers in Canada was very good, it is oh so much easier when you are fully present and engaged. It also yanked me out of my fast-hardening shell and revived my need to learn how to learn again. It has always been my belief that you “fill the job you are in,” doing your best at what is required without making yourself a pain about what you should or could be doing. I found the whole experience rather invigorating, even while it could get exhausting. As it happens, it was a chance meeting at one of those moonlighting spots that may have helped secure the path to my new adventure.

I have been searching for a position with varying levels of intensity and hope since I arrived here in Aberdeen. My direct supervisor at Strategic knew of my search, and was supportive in every way as I stumbled through a process I had not engaged in for many years. Although I found a number of positions that were of interest, and a few I am told I missed by a hairsbreadth, somehow I couldn’t find that right combination of me needing the job as much as the job needed me.

One day in February, my neighbor (as he was prone to do) knocked on my door with a job ad he thought I might be interested in. Thoroughly intrigued I applied — and heard nothing. Then, after a particularly stressful day, I drug myself to my cashier job and bumped into one of the staff who worked in the agency where I had applied. She was delighted to meet me and announced to anyone that was near that she would love to have me as her boss. You have to laugh, considering I was standing behind a cash register.

I kept in touch a couple of times, emailing the HR department with a note that I was still interested in the position, and I managed to get another interview or two. One interviewer with the State called me and told me how close I had come to getting a job I had applied for in Olympia, and she offered to provide some advice. Feedback! Of course, I’d like feedback! I feel that this, too, was a contributing factor in making my presentation more polished, more specific to the position.

In mid-April, I received a call for a “meet and greet” with the staff as a preliminary to an interview with the council. It was on Good Friday (a Canadian holiday) and I was clear from trying to fit it in to my duties at “my day job.” The whole staff was there, from the interim director to the maintenance crew. I found an incredible group of folks dedicated to their jobs, their culture, and their agency…and coveted the position even more. Early the next week, I received the call for an interview that Wednesday. My day was brightened as I received calls and emails from everywhere as my friends, clients, and business connections reported hearing from a very nice lady seeking recommendations.

I am told the interview with the council went well; however, the deciding factor by the hiring committee was the support I was receiving from the interim director and the staff. That support was evident in the welcoming email I received from the president of the council after I accepted the offer. I have arrived fully home. I am the new Executive Director of the Quinault Housing Authority. I am dancing on air.

I am terribly sad to leave Strategic Group; they have been an amazing company to work for the past nine years. While in-country, my supervisors kept me engaged with new challenges, and moved me to wherever I could contribute the most. When it became necessary for me to focus on caregiving, they supported me in-country with a program that allowed me to work from home part of the day – and, when I moved us back to the States, they kept me on as a remote, contract employee. They waited patiently (at least as far as I could tell) as I searched for a local position. They are a company with a compassionate heart and it shows in the support they give to every community they touch.

Threaded into the bits and pieces of a transition from a long-held position to a demanding and rewarding new spot, my computer blew up (one hour after I received the offer of employment). That caused all kinds of snap decisions to keep me functional as I completed open projects for Strategic before my previously scheduled vacation began. I also had to keep an eye forward to make sure I was prepared to step into the new position. My transition became an international negotiation as the end date in Canada was synchronized with the Tribal start date. My poor night job was caught in the gears and it took a bit of dancing to cover the two weeks’ notice I felt obliged to offer.

Then, not the least of my adventures, there was a book signing. An event I will describe elsewhere, but certainly another landmark in my writing career. I had been preparing for the event for a month, but suddenly things were re-prioritized to handle this major change. It’s a good thing I’m well practiced at handling multiple jobs, eh?

Now, I must go about the business of adjusting my schedule to a whole new world. Although the new position may be a demanding master that ignores the limits of an 8-5 job (not exactly something new), I am certain I will find a new rhythm of life that includes writing, management of a few “extracurricular” activities, and caring for my home. Besides, how could I possibly turn down a commute through Pacific Northwest forests and along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean?

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Reflections ~ Thoughts on a Holiday in Transition

This has been a rough year on a several levels for myself, and the world around me. Icons that we looked up to have left us. Emotional and heart-rending votes were taking place in a number of countries, and violence continues to take so many in circumstances few of us really understand, or stop to figure out. When the world is jumbled up around us, we sometimes seek peace in the smaller things, the smaller world, that we know. All the hubbub of this year drove me back to basic ideas, places where I knew compromise was not an option. It also walked me through the morning after. These are my vaguely connected thoughts on a Christmas in transition.

This blog started with a desire to explain something of why Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah means so much to me; what it says to me that touches me so. Leonard Cohen, a Canadian musician, song writer, and novelist, acquired several prestigious awards. He is one of those we lost this past year. One of the magical things about this piece is the flexibility it provides. Cohen provided a framework with references to King Saul, King David, and Sampson, and led us through one of life’s mysteries: how can love be so precious and yet, sometimes, so painful. There have been dozens of lyrics added to the framework and the melody, some by Cohen himself, some by others. It is a melody and a theme that touches many, perhaps even with some understanding. My favorite line (if a favorite is possible): “Love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and broken Hallelujah.”

Why? I don’t see it as a bleak condemnation of genuine relationships, I see it as an honest admission that however passionate we may be, however perfect our union may be, life can and does interfere, and yet we find the joy of a hallelujah, and when things are not as hoped, we find a way to move on.

The final scene in the play J. B. by Archibald MacLeish has the characters picking up the tossed stage props and beginning to restore order. The play is a free-verse modernized interpretation of the Biblical book of Job. After all the devastation J. B. and his family face, the near loss of his wife, and the heart-rending self-examination of “where did I go wrong,” J. B. and his wife pick up the pieces and begin to rebuild. That’s who we are as human beings, when everything is taken from us, we begin again. It is only when we are honest with ourselves that we can admit, whatever praise we offer is a broken hallelujah.

That leads me to my Christmas, which I spent alone, in my own cocoon. Due to the fortunate convergence of a Christmas bonus and a radically priced clearance desk, I decided to restructure my office. First of all, I am not very good with change, especially in my workplace. This was a major deal for me. Second, the desk that was going away had been a birthday present from my husband. It is old, it was battered, it needed to move on – however difficult that might be. As I assembled the new desk, I found that a few screws for knobs and handles were missing. That means a few pieces of the old desk are with me still. I also made the choice to begin using my husband’s office chair. It took me three days to complete the transition and it was a journey of fond, and painful memories, of moving forward, of broken hallelujahs.

before

To me, the thought I wish most to hold on to from this brief reflective time is that we can learn from where we are, and then move forward. We cannot surrender simply because things didn’t work out as we hoped, we re-visit who we are and stay true to that image, picking up the pieces, and moving forward.

after

I have no idea why the picture is tilted – perfectly square on the wall. 🙂

Fair journey, my friends. Know that the universe does not revolve around our own special views, wishes, or even needs, and that is okay. Because we are human, with reason, logic, and passion, we can pick up the pieces and begin again.

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Reflections ~ On the Season

The sentiments expressed in Max Ermann’s timeless words never cease to touch me – may your holiday season bring some ray of light, some moment of peace, while we prepare ourselves for what the new year brings.

Victoria Adams' Reading Alcove

Each holiday season I tend to spend a bit more time than usual reflecting on our world.  Where we are, where we appear to be going, things mankind might strive to do, if only…  It is a time when I experience joy, and sadness.  It is a time when I wish for our world a true sense of brotherhood for all our differences.  For whatever creed, nation, tribe, geographic location, gender (of whatever persuasion) or station in life; we all, each one, contribute something miraculous to the universe.  The existence of the human spirit.

I want to challenge you this season to look at one thing – just one – that bugs you.  Something that you don’t like.  A person, a place, a thing, an idea, a group of people.  Find a way to see that “thing” in a different light.  Not necessarily to change your mind or your convictions…

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Refection’s ~ Communications in an Age of Dissent – Part the First

This post is an effort to “talk through” a recent conversation I had with a very dear friend regarding the outcome of the election. Because I sincerely respect this person, and his sources, it was necessary for me to re-examine some of my assumptions; to seek some point of view that would allow me to see “the other side.” This was heavy lifting, folks, but if I wanted my friend to see my point of view, I felt it incumbent on me to try to see his. We agreed, in the end, to sit down with a bottle of something or other in four years’ time and sort through our expectations to see what was learned. Yes, we are still friends. For now, here is my perspective on where we are in our country’s history. This first part is my internal conversation to struggle through some understanding of the other side.

George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

waves-circles

Communicating can only occur when we break out of the circles of our own thoughts and accept that an opposing view may have merit – may even at its root share something of our own vision.

As this country, and the world, has struggled through the past year or two, many believed that if we just spoke louder, longer, and with more passion, the other side would understand. They would “get it.” Consequently, the rhetoric escalated, and in a drunken rampage we said things to each other we would have never considered appropriate or truthful in years past. For some overwhelming reason, many supported the winner because he “said it like it is.” But did he? Are we really a nation of people who vehemently hate our neighbors, or, for that matter, anyone who is not white, heterosexual, in perfect mental and physical health, Christian, and English speaking? Really?

There were also many who just walked away, and while denouncing what the machinery of democracy had become, pushed the process of deterioration further by refusing to participate. As mentioned in my previous blog, as a nation we started and ended in a no-win contest. That is where the communication thing comes in. We didn’t. From the very start, we just didn’t.

When I view our current situation from this perspective I see why we are not communicating – we are not speaking the same language. At all. First there is the issue of cascade thinking. This is a process by which a person believes the content of a story because it fits with the person’s preconceived notions. No matter how bizarre or off the charts a “news article” might appear; if it said something horrible about the opposing side, it must be true. I saw one post on social media that said, even the fake news shows she’s evil. If it’s fake news then how can it contribute to an honest opinion? Where is the logic in that?

Putting aside our tendency to remain within our own thought-circle (scientifically, it is very hard work for our brains to do otherwise), if we are going to become one nation again, we need to learn how to communicate. How to express concerns in clear, well supported logic, to reach that place where we can emotionally agree, and find some middle path to success. We can no longer assume that our deepest passions are foregone conclusions that everyone should understand and support. Here, then, is my take on this past election cycle. Remember, the next one began on November 9. Choose well your forward path.

Putting aside the angry, protesting, and outright Supremacist voters, what would make a thinking, logical, being vote for what half of us saw as a misogynistic, racist, anti-LBGT, demeaning, lying, bombastic, ultra-privileged, and uber-rich white guy? (This is a small collection of sentiments I have seen in the past several months, I’ll try to be as direct when we get to “the other side”). Understanding that provides a rather interesting framework in which to see the events of the past month or so, and why none of it seems to phase those who contributed to putting this person in the Oval Office. Here is something of what I learned by doing my best to listen.

There are a number of people in the country who are quite tired of “business as usual.” I think that is actually something we can all agree on. Whoever we supported, we were looking for change. Even if we wanted to see more work in the social services, quality of life, and equal protection under the law departments, we knew that some changes were very necessary. Having Congress at war with the White House was just not getting the job done however that was defined. This was one of the driving forces behind the outsider run Mr. Trump made. He was not Beltway material. He did not care (at least that is the notion he has projected) what agreements may or may not be in place – in his opinion, American business was the single most important criteria by which we should develop both internal and external rules and relationships. Well, in some ways we all feel that way. The health of our economy, whatever our end goals, is an important factor. How we get there is where we diverge in opinion.

Then there is the businessman thing. Long ago I learned that the only calculation that really counts in the business arena is that what comes in is greater than that which goes out, no matter how many zeros are attached. I find it difficult to conceive that a person who lost nearly a billion (at least on paper), and has a record of stiffing his vendors, could be considered successful. But, well, I’ve lost (for me) substantial sums in an effort to achieve goals, some of which might still pay out. I have an issue with stiffing people – whatever the reason. I have been informed, however, that the Trump organization does indeed hire persons of multi-cultural and multi-sexual identity and persuasion, and treats them well. The fact remains, he has built an empire that supports a privileged life-style, so when it comes to cash flow, he has it down.

We have a love-hate relationship with such success. Depending on our social status we may resent those who have amassed fortunes. There are successful people who devote large amounts of their fortunes to programs that support a better, more humane world. We seem to be more kind to the rich when they give something away. This does not appear to be the modus operandi of our current president-elect. Which is, again, one of the reasons so many voted for him. America was built on the Protestant work ethic, an ethic that demanded much of us, one that morphed into a “if you don’t work, you don’t eat” mind set. Except, that’s what happens in a communal setting as well. The cold reality is, if we insist that those who cannot contribute, or those who are doing their best for the very least, shouldn’t share something of the wealth of a nation, then we abandon the compassion that makes us human. No society can survive if it does not find a way to support those who are in need, or to ensure that those who are working do so at a rate that provides for the barest of necessities. If you are a Christian, you might check out some of the writings of the prophets from the Old Testament.

That leads us to the reason that all of the appointments, videos, tweats, and blusterings that half of us deem so offensive seem not to even phase our fellow countrymen. They wanted to break the back of “business as usual.” They want to see people who would think outside of the box, to look at foreign policy with a different eye, one that would see the nation as a producer of wealth and not a distributor of wealth. They see this man as someone who seeks advice from people who have experience from the outside of government – remember, they wanted an outsider and they expect him to find outsiders to advise him. These are people who have built successful empires here and abroad. Whatever we sort out about conflicts of interest over the next several months, or years, those who voted for him see a person who has experience in the world developing profitable relationships – not necessarily diplomat ones. When viewed from this perspective, I can almost see why they are complacent on so many other issues. They just see a different “bigger picture.”

These are a few of the things that I learned by listening. It does not mean I agree, or that I am happy with the outcome. What I do have is a clearer picture of how to approach those who are willing to have a conversation, who are willing to do that thing they so wanted to see – think outside the box. Next, I’ll try to put my thoughts in order to explain what I see as the motivations of the other half of the country.

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The Morning After

It is difficult, when you are building a public face, to know how and when to respond. As an author, I do have to consider the public; but I also must remain true to my own beliefs; beliefs and positions well documented throughout this website. So, here goes my interpretation of where we are the morning after.

Perhaps this election may finally force us to look in the mirror, to see what America has become without make up, the pretty clothes, whitened teeth, and brushed out hair. It is time to look closely at what a night of drunken, unleashed anger and hatred has done to us. We have elected a golden calf. Yes, I am serious, we elected what we “perceived” to be a savior, a hypnotic rush to “something different” rarely stopping to check out anything on either candidate that did not fit in with our established worldview. We do, indeed, deserve that which we have created.

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There is, of course, the question of the popular vs. the electoral vote and the discussion has arisen for many years about the modern usefulness of the Electoral College. What is important to understand is that the Founding Fathers created a republic, a union of states, not people. Each state had its own history, personality, needs, and desires. Canada pulls this off better than we do, but then they are younger as a country. The provinces have retained their personality and commerce between them can be an interesting affair.

The point is that the founding fathers did not want the states with greater populations to overrule the states that were sparsely populated. Therefore, we have a senate based on 2 representatives for each state and a house based on population. The number of folks in the electoral college is determined by the total number of representatives and senators each state has. The rules for selection vary from state to state – but that was the point. When you vote for president, you vote for a representative of the College that usually follows the sentiment of his or her state, but not always. This is a representative form of government – not a democratic form.

As to this election, we were in a logical conundrum that had few good outcomes.  If Hilary won she had to have a Democratic (or, at the very least a sympathetic) Congress or absolutely nothing would be accomplished in the next four years. I mentioned to a Canadian friend that she may have had difficulty getting her laundry done. By the time the polls closed on the west coast last night, we knew that we were again faced with a few hundred people who take pride in NOT doing their jobs. Hillary’s battles would have been exponentially worse than anything Obama has faced in the last eight years. At last count, the Federal Judiciary has some 103 vacancies with 59 nominees pending. That’s just the Judiciary. There are also several directorates that are vacant simply because a Republican Congress didn’t choose to do their jobs. And this is only the tip of the iceberg of “things undone.” This is not a way to run a country.

Now, we have another scenario. If rumors are true and Trump the Salesman only used the theatrics to get elected and he intends to be a more moderate president than indicated, he will be a disappointment to his base. And that is a real problem. He has awakened a dragon in this country and it will not be easily subdued. His acceptance speech notwithstanding (I watched the first third or so), this campaign was all about hatred. Hatred of other races, immigrants, gays, liberals, Hillary, and women. I know that there is a large piece of his constituency that voted for him based on their own, logically supported reasons, but the loudest part of that crowd is fueled by anger. That does not bode well for us or the world.

If Trump faces real problems in his upcoming court appearances, we are no better off. We are left with Mr. Pence. Mr. Pence is one of the most dangerous creatures known to man – a true believer.  True believers are not interested in facts; they are interested in commitment to a world constructed in opposition to evidence and reason. There are no wins here.

The point is, this country is seething with hatred. We cannot survive on a diet of hatred. We just can’t. If we are to change our direction, if we are to slay the dragon within us, we must start today to create the atmosphere, and the qualified base, to take back our public institutions. We need people willing to work, to do the jobs our founding documents require of them.

We also need compassion. I no longer wish to call myself Christian in public because of what the public face of Christianity has become. I am, however, deeply committed spiritually. It is because of that commitment I will not surrender to the forces that swirl around me. My writing, my life, my voice will not be silenced. I will continue to support my fellow beings on this planet, regardless of race, religious faith (or lack thereof), or sexual orientation or identity.

Now I must prepare myself to respect the office, even if I cannot respect the man who holds it.

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