Tag Archives: learning

Define the problem, find the solution.

A couple of years ago I was the director of a housing agency serving a Native American nation. It was a learning experience I shall always cherish. During my stay I often found that we were so busy putting out fires that we often had no time to find the ignition point. So, I created a mantra to give us a different focus, and a hope of solving things – define the problem, find the solution.

From Facebook post by REALfarmacy.com

This meme snagged from Facebook is an excellent example of what can happen when we focus on the immediate problem and lose sight of the contributing factors. Just now my beloved country is in turmoil. I understand that there are many nations facing the same type of issues. Growing trends toward violence, misogyny, homophobia, racism, intolerance of all shapes and sizes against anything or anyone that is not “us.” But I am here to tell you that whatever our leaders do, or whatever their motivations may be, they are only the symptoms, not the disease. Many of them live in a different universe, perceiving the world around them as a tool to achieve their goals, not as people to lead, support, protect and defend. They are a substantial number of us writ large. After all, by desire or by apathy, we put them there. But they are not the problem. They are the distraction.

I will grant you that we have some very serious problems in the governing chambers of our world. We have leaders that utterly refuse to accept the evidence in front of them that something not very good is happening to our global climate. That we are very nearly, if not past, the point of doing something effective in the short term to maintain a climate that will support us in any way recognizable. We have those who acknowledge wrong doing but somehow believe that it’s okay because, after all, it protects my team, gets what I want (but may not need), gives me a sense of getting back at the world for untold and unknown sins. How’s that working out?

There are so many other issues that are bubbling and boiling and agitated by people who have no understanding of the situation, the causes, or the results. We are like married folk, screaming at the top of our lungs because someone didn’t do the laundry right when the real issue is that there isn’t enough money to fill the tank and get to work. We have optical illusion of the mind and it is time, very much past time, that we stop and find a way to see the picture differently. To define the problem.

I know there are people that are going to respond that they, surely they, have their head on straight and understand the dire situation we are in. That’s nice. Really it is. I would ask you, how well are you doing at conveying those convictions to others? Do you and your hoped-for convert communicate, or do you talk past each other? Facts are not always useful in a conversation requiring reason. Yes, that is what I meant. Sometimes facts must be wrapped up in something more powerful. Sometimes the facts need to be converted into a language the other person understands. While you are showing how smart you are, they are hearing that you don’t understand their life, their needs, their fears. Sometimes direct communication doesn’t go anywhere. Sometimes you need to look somewhere other than the door in front of you.

As I approach the publication of my project on Job, I hope to convey something of the message I believe that book holds in smaller bits, and in ways that are pertinent to today’s issues. That was, after all, the point of writing the thing. I believe that the Book of Job is a call to learn. To seek out the creation in order to understand the Creator, if only a bit better. So, lets walk together and consider…and maybe learn something along the way that will help us out of this spiraling path to mutual destruction.

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Coddiwomple – the choice to move toward the unknown.

So, here we are on the first day of the year 2020. An arbitrary point in time defined in a thousand ways since recorded history began and measured with a metric we know to be flexible. Yet, we are drawn to a place we can say, “going forward I shall.” Last year about this time I published a blog about ditching the concept of New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I took my inspiration from Melinda Gates and chose a word to carry me through the coming months. That word was Season. It served me well.

I believe I found that when I wanted things to move faster, I remembered to slow down. As hard as it was there were times when frustration would set in, then the peace of timing would settle in. I sincerely believe that attitude of waiting “to the fullness of time” is what supported me to the moment I received an offer to publish my work. The timing was exquisite. That sense of waiting-with-hurried-anticipation has prepared me for the work required to execute a substantial change coming in my day job.

I think I also worked harder to be the seasoning, the influence that took away a bitter sting, or made the ordinary more interesting. Although not always successful, I worked at remembering the things I learned while working on the reservation about waiting until others were finished before I hopped in. Still working on that. I get very passionate about things at times.

With all the lessons I learned, and hope to continue learning, this year needs a different focus. Life is not all about waiting, about being the seasoned influence. At some point we need to find the way to move forward, even if we are uncertain of where the journey will take us. For this year I have chosen a wonderful old English slang word: coddiwomple. It is defined as travel in a purposeful manner toward a vague destination. What a wonderful word; a call into the unknown with confident strides and willing wonder.

Shi Shi Beach – 2019 Personal Collection

I see this word as a natural match to the process of becoming seasoned. A way to take the lessons learned from all the bits and pieces of what it means to flavor, to wait, to grow mature, to feel the perfect moment—and move forward.

If we are honest with ourselves, we know that our goals, our hopes, our dreams, are shapes of the things we wish to accomplish. Sometimes how we get there may surprise us. Sometimes the best laid plans are changed, for better or worse, and we plot a new course. I firmly believe that if we invest ourselves in one and only one outcome, we destroy our ability to deal with life’s unexpected events. If we become seasoned as the old pine with no flexibility left in its limbs winter storms can have a devastating effect while the sapling survives.

I like this concept of moving forward with confidence in a direction that could change, to a destination that might not exist. We cannot be open to opportunities if we are not attentive, flexible, ready to see something that can be rewarding if we take a slightly different path. In some cases, we may need to change everything about the journey, with purpose.

There’s a song that always touches me when I think about life’s choices. It’s about keeping your mind open, keeping your spirit free, taking chances, and in the end—choosing to dance. May 2020 bring you blessings with the challenges and a sense of purpose. Hold tight to your most treasured thoughts and hopes and venture with purpose into the unknown. Last but not least, I Hope you Dance.

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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 ~ For Mumsy

As my mother approaches her 86th birthday this February, she is faced with her second diagnosis of cancer. This time the prognosis is not good and any surgery would bear a risk far greater than any advantage gained. She has chosen a less aggressive path to managing her current attack. My mother, as she has always been in such cases, is rather stoic about the whole thing.

I can recall from an early age that she and I usually fascinated the medical professionals with our lack of drama in the face of the unknown and the ugly known. We found humor in the small things to alleviate the stress of the general situation. It is one of the gifts she bestowed on me. This piece is about another gift she gave me, one that shaped my life and led me to my soulmate.

You must first understand that in many ways my mother and I were never really close. This was not a situation that either one of us chose or nurtured. It was a fact of life that sprang from our differing relationships with the man she married. Yes, he was my biological father, but he failed miserably by any other definition. My mother was not aware of the issues I faced until I was in my 30s. She was too busy trying to hold her marriage together. I never faulted her for that. In fact for some reason I always felt very protective of her.

To understand our family dynamics you must first realize that I grew up in the 50s and 60s. Back then, you didn’t talk about “private matters,” and all those unseemly things that went on in the world just didn’t happen in “good homes.” It, quite frankly, never occurred to my mother that there was anything going on in our home that she needed to recognize and do something about, and in my own, non-child version of wisdom, I chose not to shatter that delusion. And so it was that I became the protector.

There is, however, one legacy that my mother gave me that reduces those years to background noise: an insatiable desire to read.

My mother acquired her degree from Akron University with the intent of becoming a teacher. Although she never made it into a classroom as the teacher, she spent a number of years working with church groups, Girl Scouts, and as a volunteer in the school district in Plains, Montana. She was a devoted teacher even then. For instance, in order to better help one student, she recorded the content of a text book hoping to provide some help in dealing with the English language. She even learned some Spanish to work more closely with that student. This is when she was in her 70s and 80s. In the early years of her marriage I made up her classroom of one.

By the time I was four I was reading fairly advanced material. The daily newspaper was one of my favorites (fresh meat!) and no book in my mother’s collection was off limits (or maybe she just wasn’t good at hiding things). It was the reason my parents knew I needed glasses – I stopped reading. I clearly remember coming home after I was fitted with my first pair and seeking out the newspaper. The wonder of again seeing those letters dance across the page seemed nearly miraculous. Going to the library with my own card was the best part of our weekends.

I remember that whenever I asked something, whether or not she knew the answer, my mother would send me to a book. She instilled in me the firm belief that what I didn’t know I could find in a book. If I wasn’t sure of what to believe, I could find enough information to help me decide. Reading was the door into the universe and it took me away from the place where I lived. No greater magic could be granted by any parent, knowingly or otherwise.

As I grew older I sometimes left the shelter of books, but I always returned. The more I read, the more I wanted. It was that hunger that led me to my soulmate, the man that became my husband.

I have been blessed with years of intelligent, thoughtful debate that has grown the person that is me. I have learned that I have little to fear if I first seek to understand. I now face this part of my life knowing that my days can be interrupted with moments of uncontrollable grief as I watch my husband decline. I ponder the circumstances that keep me from visiting this woman I have come to know who has been and always will be my mother. And through it all, I know that without the gift of knowledge, I would have no wisdom.

Without the magic she bestowed this would be a very lonely and frightening part of my life. Instead, I find humor. I find love. I find a way to touch the living universe and claim a piece as my own.

Galactic Center Survey: NASA, ESA, Q. D. Wang (University of Massachusetts), & S. Stolovy (Caltech)

Galactic Center Survey: NASA, ESA, Q. D. Wang (University of Massachusetts), & S. Stolovy (Caltech)

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