Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Think Before Speaking - And Tow Trucks -

I was taught, a long time ago, to keep my mouth shut. Phrases such as, "You know what you meant," "Is it really worth the 'effort'," "Is it going to change things?" "What can you add to what's already been said," and others have kept me in the "measure twice, cut once," mode - "think twice, speak once." And moreso - "Don't hit "send" until you've walked away and returned," "Don't say something you can't take back," "He's just the messenger," are all thoughts that go through my mind when I'm about to "confront" someone. "You catch more flies with honey" was a favorite saying of my grandmother's, and it has stayed with me. Although - I've also learned that honesty is the best policy, and honest honey is better than corn syrup.

Today I had a touchy conversation with someone in my church congregation. I was frank, but empathetic and kind. She told me she wished she had more conversations such as ours. I said, "Oh, you mean frank and honest?" She replied, "Absolutely. How will I know if someone doesn't tell me?" And I walked away feeling fine, like we both had won - and winning wasn't even a part of the conversation. I guess - I walked away knowing that if, and when, we meet, I can look her in the eyes rather than ditching around a corner and hiding from her.

I'm not saying I'm in any way a Pollyanna or a Crucial Conversation'er, more a, "If I were the receiver, what would I like to know/hear," and I try to deliver that way.

Well - on our way from the Provo LDS Temple Tour, to an early birthday lunch, we parked in a parking spot that was a little unclear. And walking back to our car, 40 minutes later, we did not find our car. It had been towed! Instead of a car, we walked a block, saw this sign,

Oh shit! Expensive lunch. Scott called the company, and with no way to get to our car, we were told to call a taxi! Instead I called a friend, who quickly arrived to take us the .5 miles to our car. Where, we waited 30 minutes, in the cold, for the tow truck driver to arrive, unlock the gate, and after paying nearly $200, let us take our car.

And in this 45 minute period from not finding to finding, Scott was having a grand time thinking about all the horrible things he was going to say to the tow truck driver. And I talked him down, and he promised he wouldn't, but he did. And the hole got bigger and bigger, and unkind words were tossed between Scott and the driver, and I finally pulled Scott away. We got into the car, I questioned Scott, he got out to apologize, which didn't go too well, and we drove away.

And now Scott feels like shit, because he said what he shouldn't have - insulting the tow truck driver, me, and most importantly, himself.

Maybe there is something to the "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything," mantra. Because in the end, no one wins - and it wasn't even about winning to begin with.

PS - These tow truck guys were predators like I've never seen before. And the fees were stacked one on top of the other. And there was no generosity in travel to the tow truck yard, and I stood in front of a locked gate, in my skirt and tights, for a half hour before the guy came to unlock the gate. THAT was unnecessary. And you can bet I'll be pissing (amber honey) at the and very soon.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Gods and Fathers -

In a recent worship service, a young man, probably 23 years old, gave the sermon. He introduced it by saying that his father was a strict man, this father was probably "a little" abusive to his two sons, but "I'm sure I deserved it." The young man then announced that his sermon would be about God and justice. "I'm not going to talk about mercy or grace today, I want my emphasis to be on God's justice." I sat, politely, and tried to swallow what he was sharing. He spoke about our sins, God's punishments, and that if we sinned, we would be punished. Bottom line. And for 25 minutes I heard about God's infinite heavens (200 billion stars, 200 billion universes), and how God will punish us when we are/do wrong.

Oh goodness. I finally turned to Scott and said, "He's not talking about my God. My God is a merciful God, not a vengeful God."

My God works within the realms of the world He created. And in this world there are natural consequences for actions - just as in physics - for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I can handle this. You step into a road and a car comes zooming by - squash. You base jump off Angels Landing and your parachute doesn't open, oops. You sleep around and catch a crab or two - itchy itch. You cheat on a test (or not), and your teacher catches you - well, there's the price paid for your "mistake." But no - my God is not setting me up for failing. In the world I live in, divorce happens. Cancer happens. But it's not God's punishment! Bad things happen, and not at the expense of mercy. My cancer is not a product of a loving or vengeful God, but because I live on this earth where natural things happen - that are out of anyone's control. "How could there be a law save there was a punishment?" Because this natural world, this physical space is about consequences - natural consequences.

This caused me to think about where thoughts on Higher Powers come from. My parents are loving parents. I was spanked as a child, I remember my parents swearing once or twice, but hitting, locking up, laughing at a mistake, nope. Nada. Not even. My parents are still loving parents, who will do almost anything so that we are not punished for our sins. They show mercy.

As for my parenting - I spanked a time or two, I yelled a few times, yes. In fact, one of my more memorable parenting moments was yelling at the kids, "Damn it, you two are both in time out. Go to your rooms." And then I heard Jenna, with her Barbies, singing, "Damn it, damn it, damn it." Just as happy as could be. Choice and consequences! I do remember once telling Tyler, when he complained about not getting what he wanted on his sandwich, to return to the counter and ask for the proper order, that I wouldn't do this for him. And watching him walk up to the counter, sticking up for his order, was one of the hardest parenting moments I've had. Oh yeah, that and telling Jenna she needed to "stick it out," when she was in North Carolina for the summer, and homesick. But I didn't do either to hurt them, only to teach them. Mercy. Punishment? Opportunity to teach? Proverbs 3:11-12 teaches, "For whom the Lord loveth He correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth."

I've written about this theme of justice, mercy, grace, a few times, and I keep coming back to it. And I'm finding that every time I entertain the idea of a punishing Higher Power I want to walk away and never go back.

I'd like to talk with this guy in about twenty years. Or not.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Shaken by Beauty -

Poet (and physician) William Carlos Williams has always touched my heart and my senses. His Red Wheelbarrow and This is Just to Say are two of his more well-known pieces. The imagery is stunning, and his pieces can be read on so many different levels. 
This is a relatively new piece, to me, and again, he does not fail: 
You lethargic, waiting upon me, 
waiting for the fire and I
attendant upon you, shaken by your beauty
Shaken by your beauty
On an occasional morning I sit by my window with my cup of tea, warm air coming from the heat vent, and I look out and up. Often the morning is just beginning, so I'm fortunate enough to see the clouds fade from Timpanogos, the sun lift up over the mountain. I see the sky turn from grey to blue, or to grey, I listen to the screech of foraging blue jays, and I am at peace.
I am struck by the beauty beaming in, the beauty of my world, this world, and the strength and fragility of life, of us, as we make our way in this space. 
I'm shaken. I try not to listen to, or read, the news until I have had this morning meditation. The anger, sadness, pain, frustration, fear, even cravings and irritations that I/we will experience today, that may have already happened between sleep and awakening - what do I do with the ugly, when such beauty surrounds me? I do my best to let them go. See, they will pop into my life as good and bad always does, but if I stay in the moment - in the moment I will see beauty. 
In the moment I see steam arising from my cup; I see a hot shower, a full meal, a gentle kiss, a closet full of clothes, comfortable shoes; my frailties, my failures, and the goodness that accompanies this. And if I focus on "what next," or emptiness, then woe is me for not seizing the moment to be shaken by the peace. 
This world is a morning poem, and I have but to see it to be shaken by its beauty, over and over. And I am grateful WCW had the words to express this.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Writing Research Papers -

Over the years of teaching I have learned that my writing students gravitate toward big world topics for their research papers - expository or argumentative. The problem with this is students then take half of the semester trying to figure out what their topic is, then the last half putting off their research and writing! Eventually their papers end up to be cut-and-paste papers, because, face it, they cannot add anything new to, nor filter through, topics such as these:

Gun control
Alternative fuels
Capital punishment
Sports (amateur, collegiate, professional)
Death Sentence
Mountain biking
College vs. Career
Affirmative Action
In-vitro fertilization
Health and Exercise

So, I've learned to assign my first semester writing students their topic - they are assigned to write about their name/s. And after giving them the correct writing tools, 90% of the students delight in this topic.

And then comes second semester writing - argumentative, and I'm faced with the issue of, "What should I write about?" I introduce the semester by asking my students what they're passionate about, what they think about during their free brain-time. What is it they care about. And then I encourage them to write about something they know something about but want to learn more. I want them to be enough of an expert in the area that they don't spend their time writing a cut and paste paper, but rather, they can do real research in this area. And then they struggle finding topics! I tell them this writing is not black and write or binary thinking, so they can't write a list on pros and cons of . . . but they need to explore their topic, all sides, and present all aspects of their topic, and then pick an angle.

Some of my best student papers over the years have been:

University parking
Science of happiness
Power of introverts
Need for first generation college students
Illegal immigrants and how they benefit the US
Working with hands
Anime and its influence on fine-art
College students as puppets
How to design a better higher education model
The science of getting married in Utah
We are what we eat
The benefit of sex surrogates
Small town celebrations and community
Polygamy and its benefits

I'll continue to add to both lists as the semester moves forward. In the meantime - if you could write an argumentative research paper, 10-12 pages, on something you were passionate about, what would your topic be? What would your argument be?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Sometimes I'm Afraid -

Sometimes I am afraid -
Afraid of sharing my story
Afraid of being authentic
Afraid of other's perceptions of me
Afraid of not being as good as I think I am
Afraid of my new self
Afraid of walking away from cancer
Afraid of cancer always being with me
Afraid of having missed my moment
Afraid of not seeing my moment
Afraid of living by rules
Afraid of pushing myself too much
Afraid of . . .

Most of the time I'm confident - I think.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Something to Laugh With - Spam

If you haven't seen the Netflix special, "Tig," do so. I laughed and I squirmed. Sometimes cancer is still uncomfortable for me. But, she's great, funny, deep.

On the other hand - if you want to laugh outloud and don't have Netflix, watch this hilarious TED talk on Spam mail. Have you ever wanted to reply? Oh my goodness -

I've had a lovely weekend; on to the 2nd week of the semester!!!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Beulah Petersen - Rest in Peace -

A dear friend of mine passed away on Sunday. Beulah Petersen, Brigham City, UT, contracted pneumonia, was hospitalized on Christmas day, and passed away 9 days later. Beulah was 94 years old. Her husband, Vern, passed away in July, 2004.

Beulah was my children's Grandma Beulah; Vern was their grandpa. Beulah was my answer to prayers (I was in a terrible depression, kneeling in my living room to pray for help. I said "amen," there was a knock on the door. It was Beulah, saying she felt prompted to stop. I needed her.).
Beulah was my higher education cheerleader ("I went to school when I was older with a family, so can you. You're never too old to get an education."). Beulah taught me how to be nice. Beulah taught me to own my story (She had married, reared a family, divorced, married Vern.). Beulah was curious (We attended a woodworking class together!). She didn't apologize or "I wish," she moved forward. Beulah taught me that friendship spans the years and knows no age. She taught me how to be strong in the face of adversity (She was a 2 time cancer survivor).

I could continue, but my heart is sad, and it's tough to write about Beulah. Although she lived a rich long life, I will miss her, deeply.

Good-bye my friend. I love you.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Hygge -

I don't take making or keeping resolutions lightly. I'm a fan of progression, being better, being more, striving harder, setting a goal, getting on the path, and making the journey happen. Last year's resolution was living well, fighting like hell, and being more self-aware without being selfish. 

This year's resolution comes from Lao Tzu - “Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” Quite the change from 2015, but I'm really ready to just be steady - stay in the moment, be happy with what I have and where I am. And believe me, this is going to take a lot of conscious work! 

While I've been studying Buddhism, Zen, Mindfulness these past few years, I realize how void my life is of emptiness - serene clear space for goodness to flow into my life. Now - goodness is abundant, but I typically acknowledge and move on. I want to absorb, be, assimilate that goodness, and wallow in its every day beauty, and not be overly anxious when routine is just that, routine. 

I'm a fan of Tiny Houses, and my fantasy is to retire to one, some day, where everything is within reach, no clutter, no extras, no need for more. And while I'm certainly not there, I study and dream and remove. I've been reading about Hygge lately. An amazing philosophy brought to me by the Danes, those people I so admire for their clarity of thought, language, and approach. For me, Hygge, represents domestic bliss and respect. And I'm not talking just about one's home - but about one's demeanor, one's environment, where satisfaction, respect, pleasure happen in the every day. I want to enjoy good simpleness in life with good simple people. And where better to start, than right here, right now, this year. 

I believe that when I focus on the routines, patterns of the daily, I can find joy in making them "tradition," and then no longer are they just routine, drudgery, or "something I do." I also believe that when life becomes complicated, I become similar, and patterns and ways are too messy to sort out or through, and relationships and self falter. 

So, come along with me this year, as I write about joy in the being while I'm on that journey. Help me be - Hygge, I'm on it! 

Yesterday I had great joy in napping in the sun, drinking tea while my honey drinks hot chocolate, and enjoying a Netflix series, "Dicte," and the house in this show. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 Resolutions -

Practice Love, Live in Gratitude, Show Respect, Nourish Life, Stay Fit. 

There you go - 2016's Resolutions. And yours? 

“Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are.  When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu