·         Wednesday, 31 October 2007 – HALLOWEEN! 

 > ^ <  …MEOW!

The Grandma Gathering…

Mark is happily home from the impromptu Grandma-Gathering in KC.


Getting family together is almost always a good thing and this gathering was a very good thing.  His grandma is weak, but still full of ideas and drive.  She rejoiced in seeing all the grandbabies and grown grandkids and her daughters, et al.


Grandma is a role model for making hard choices – and for living life while she can.  Dealing with death and dying should not be so hard and the way Grandma is orchestrating hers is consistent with the grace and dignity with which she lives her life.


When the time comes, we will choose a fine summer day and meet in the Black Hills to scatter her ashes.  A picnic under the pines will follow. 


I’ll bring the soap bubbles.


The Train Ride…

In Ukraine we regularly spent 24-hours (each way) cramped up in the train on our rather frequent trips to and from Kiev and Kerch.  The trip from KC to Santa Fe via AMTRAK isn’t so primitive or colorful, but there were long delays. 


And the AMTRAK train does not service the capital city.  There is no reliable transportation to and from the tiny fly-speck of a town where the depot is, so a drive is involved.  The train was delayed several hours (both ways) so I spent time playing with the dog, reading a novel and writing correspondence waiting for my spouse to arrive home from his pilgrimage.


Ticket prices in Ukraine are cheap - $10 and that gives you a fold down bed in a compartment for 4.  You can curl up in relative privacy on that 24-hour rail ride. 


AMTRAK gets a loooooot of cash for a basic coach seat.  Not very comfortable on a 17 hour (plus a 3-hour delay on the returne trip) trip nor is it private. 


And no free hot tea either!


·         Tuesday, 30 October 2007

The true meaning of life is to

plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.

- Nelson Henderson, author


NanoWriMo (Google it) on my Mind

Will I really do it?  Should I really do it?


I have done little to no creative writing for several months.  If I love to write, why am I not writing?  Should I force the writing?  Am I just uncommitted?  (Should I be committed? Ha!) 



Probing Question of the Day (for Me)

“Is there anything that you are feeling rebellious or ungrateful about?  Will you allow your heavenly Father-Mother’s Love to heal all your rebellion and ingratitude so they won’t keep troubling you?” (From the CedarS weekly newsletter)


This is the question I needed to ask/answer when we had the unexpected guests!  Better late than never!


I have so much to be grateful for and I am grateful.  But maybe a bit rebellious.  8-)


35 Days without Complaint…

Christine Kane (Google her delightful blog) is taking a 35 day (5 weeks) challenge to lick the bad habits of complaining, criticizing, whining and gossiping. 


Sounds good to me. We can live more abundantly when we live consciously.


Do right and fear not. (Mary Baker Eddy had that saying posted above the doorway in her home.)


·         Monday, 29 October 2007

“I rehabilitate dogs. I train people.” Says Ceasar Milan

I need to be the leader of the pack, or so says dog expert Cesar Milan., the Dog Whisperer.  Sweet Zia is usually pretty well behaved, but on the leash, it is clear that I am merely the tail on a kite.  I bounce along behind this 3-legged marvel as she charges up and down the high desert. 


I guess she has me almost trained!  Well, now it is my turn to work with her.


This morning, I spend an hour following the routine outlined on the Dog Whisperer’s website. ( http://www.cesarmillaninc.com/ )   Zia is responsive to the exercise; a quick study. 


As we work, I frequently provide her with irresistible nibbles.  She is delicate, taking the offer between gentle lips.  We walk side-by-side for most of the walk.  When she pulls, I change direction and stride off.  She catches on and the walk is quite a pleasure.


It is an hour well spent.


·         Sunday, 28 October 2007

Moonlight Under the Aspens

Zia woke me at about 2AM.  She seemed concerned about something.  Maybe because Mark is nowhere to be found.  I heard her scrambling up the stairs to the loft, her toenails clattering across the bare floors up there. 


I got up to see why my usually complacent dog was so active in the night.  As I emerged into the kitchen area, I was rewarded with the sight of the aspen tree outside the window, awash in the stark, shimmering light of the harvest moon.  Maybe it was the moonlight that engaged Zia’s attention.


I meandered out to the hammock and reclined in it for a few minutes, gazing up at the night sky.  The yard was as bright as a theater set.  Miss Zia, sniffed around, happily investigating and finding meaning in the new scents. 


After a few minutes in the cold night air, we drifted back into the dome-home.  I headed back to my lonely bed and curled up under the cozy red and black flannel sheets and the comforters.  Zia gave me a few air licks from the edge of the bed and then settled in for the rest of the night.


This I Believe (NPR Program) Personal Philosophies of Men and Women

I love to linger over Sunday morning coffee and listen to the wonderful programs aired on NPR stations.  “This I Believe” is a particular favorite of mine. 


I listened with delight as today’s audio essay unfolded.  (See it in print below).  I like the word pictures and can easily imagine the man doing a daily dance of joy in his dining room – another kind of feast; one for the soul rather than the body.  I like to think abut the “scary pleasure of beginning something new”  Maybe because I am still in the midst of beginning something new. 


I am grateful for this program. 


(The essay that follows is excerpted from the NPR website and includes a link at the bottom)


Dancing All the Dances as Long as I Can



Robert FulghumRobert Fulghum has written seven bestsellers including All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. A native of Waco, Texas, he was a Unitarian minister for 22 years and taught painting and philosophy. Fulghum lives in Seattle and Crete.

“My passion for tango disguises a fearfulness. I fear the shrinking of life that goes with aging.”

·                     Contact This I Believe

Weekend Edition Sunday, October 28, 2007 · I believe in dancing.

I believe it is in my nature to dance by virtue of the beat of my heart, the pulse of my blood and the music in my mind. So I dance daily.

The seldom-used dining room of my house is now an often-used ballroom — an open space with a hardwood floor, stereo and a disco ball. The CD-changer has six discs at the ready: waltz, swing, country, rock 'n' roll, salsa and tango.

Each morning when I walk through the house on the way to make coffee, I turn on the music, hit the "shuffle" button and it's Dance Time! I dance alone to whatever is playing. It's a form of existential aerobics, a moving meditation.

Tango is a recent enthusiasm. It's a complex and difficult dance, so I'm up to three lessons a week, three nights out dancing, and I'm off to Buenos Aires for three months of immersion in tango culture.

The first time I went tango dancing I was too intimidated to get out on the floor. I remembered another time I had stayed on the sidelines, when the dancing began after a village wedding on the Greek island of Crete. The fancy footwork confused me. "Don't make a fool of yourself," I thought. "Just watch."

Reading my mind, an older woman dropped out of the dance, sat down beside me, and said, "If you join the dancing, you will feel foolish. If you do not, you will also feel foolish. So, why not dance?"

And, she said she had a secret for me. She whispered, "If you do not dance, we will know you are a fool. But if you dance, we will think well of you for trying."

Recalling her wise words, I took up the challenge of tango.

A friend asked me if my tango-mania wasn't a little ambitious. "Tango? At your age? You must be out of your mind!"

On the contrary: It's a deeply pondered decision. My passion for tango disguises a fearfulness. I fear the shrinking of life that goes with aging. I fear the boredom that comes with not learning and not taking chances. I fear the dying that goes on inside you when you leave the game of life to wait in the final checkout line.

I seek the sharp, scary pleasure that comes from beginning something new — that calls on all my resources and challenges my mind, my body and my spirit, all at once.

My goal now is to dance all the dances as long as I can, and then to sit down contented after the last elegant tango some sweet night and pass on because there wasn't another dance left in me.

So, when people say, "Tango? At your age? Have lost your mind?" I answer,

"No, and I don't intend to."

Independently produced for Weekend Edition Sunday by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick.

Dogs as teacher

Please, just one more example of “This I Believe”!  The essay below, which I listened to as I drove to church one fine September Sunday morning in Santa Fe, is what pushed me over the edge.  My heart sang and I knew I needed a dog in my life! 


Read on…(or visit the website and hear it read by the charming author…FYI: months after this bad dog learned new tricks, he got married!)


Duncan, a chocolate Labrador, sits on top of his owner, David Buetow.Teaching a Bad Dog New Tricks

Listen to this story...by  

Before he met his chocolate Labrador, Duncan, trial attorney David Buetow was a lifelong bachelor. Buetow is now engaged to his girlfriend, Carrie. The three of them live together on Chicago's north side, where Buetow and Duncan frequently run. Photo Courtesy of David Buetow

 Weekend Edition Sunday, September 16, 2007 · I believe in my dog.

I believe in the way he lives his life, and I try to emulate him. I strive to gain his level of happiness in the simplest of things. Like the way he approaches each meal with endless appreciation and even joy. While I struggle to decide what to eat from full cupboards and lament what I don't have, he circles the floor, excitedly anticipating the very same meal, in the very same portion, at the very same time every day.

I believe in how he lives in the present. As my day fills with stress, crowded commutes and endless deadlines, I think of Duncan home alone. His day was probably boring, but he's ready to move right past it once we're together.

I believe in his egalitarian treatment of everyone despite race, creed or appearance. He never pre-judges. Before I had him, I considered myself "street smart," avoiding eye contact with people I didn't know or didn't think I wanted to know. Running through Chicago neighborhoods with Duncan has changed all that. Now when people smile at us, I smile back, and if Duncan stops to say hello I stop and greet them, too.

I never had a dog before; I got Duncan at the urging of a friend who had probably grown as tired of my bachelor behavior as I had. My long work nights and weekends always ended with a lonely run, a bourbon or two, or a phone call to someone I didn't really listen to. All I talked about was me and what was wrong with my life. My friends stopped asking me out because I was always either at work or talking about work.

I had dates with women who would mistakenly think I was loyal to them but I never returned their calls or thanked them for the cookies they left on my doorstep. I was what some people would call "a dog" — a bad dog. Not one person depended on me, nor I upon them. One Sunday I woke up at noon, and I suddenly noticed how silent my house and my life was. I realized I couldn't expect any valued relationship until I created one first. So I got Duncan.

All of a sudden, where no one depended on me, he did. It was extreme detox from selfishness: Let me out. Feed me. Clean up after me. Watch me sleep. I found that I actually liked being relied upon. When I realized that I could meet his needs, I also realized he met mine.

I believe in the nobility of Duncan's loyalty, and his enthusiasm. Every time I come in the door, he's waiting to greet me with glee.

Now, when my girlfriend comes over, I get up and run to the door to greet her like I learned to do from my dog.

Independently produced for Weekend Edition Sunday by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick.


·         Saturday, 27 October 2007

The House-Sitters Become Couch-Sitters…

The first yard sale we go to on this fine Fall day results in a surprising arrangement. 


I am eager to find a couch.  But I am low on cash and know that at the end of our AmeriCorps/VISTA programs next Fall (or when the dome-home sells) we are likely to abandon many of our possessions.  I am looking for a one year couch.


Several yard sales advertise couches, so I set out with high hopes of finding something suitable.


We arrive at yard sale #1 and begin perusing the enticing collection of possessions spread across the lawn.  I try on a beat up cowboy hat, strike a pose and receive a sweet smile of encouragement from my spouse. 


One can never have too many hats and in Santa Fe, people wear them.  I add it to my small pile of treasures.


Finally I approach the woman who is having the sale to inquire about the sofa advertised for sale.  It is indoors.  We will have to wait a few minutes till her spouse return and then she will show it to us.  While I wait, I continue to poke through the merchandise.  I overhear the woman explaining to another person why they are selling their things.  I learn they are heading ff on an adventure in South America.  Anything not sold will b carted off to her sister’s crowded home for safe keeping while they are abroad.


Soon she takes us inside to see the sofa.  It is a bit run down, but in my price range.  I explain to her that this couch will probably only be ours for a year. 


Before I could make an offer, the woman surprises me with one herself. 


“Why not take our good couch and love seat for a year?”  she queried.  “We will be gone a year.” 


I look at her with wide eyes and l then laugh a gentle laugh.  “I have a good feeling about you,” she said.


And so it is.  We will be couch-sitters for a year.


The Universe certainly has a sense of humor and always finds delightful ways to meet our needs, if we are open to the offers that spill out!


I walk away from yard sale #1 with my new-old cowboy hat parked jauntily on my head, smiling and saying a little prayer of thanks.


Yard Sale #2

Yard sale #2 yields a few more treasures.  We find a bag-o’balls - 50 old tennis balls just right for a happy ball-chasing dog like Miss Zia and I find a 50-cent copy of a like-new hardback book that has long been on my personal to-read list. 


At another sale, Miss Zia commands the attention and we engage in a long and pleasant conversation with several locals.  At another sale, we snag some very “tasteful” holiday lights, well suited for any Santa Fe home -  the string of lights looks like tiny red peppers.  There are a few more books in my bag before the yardsale excursion ends for the day.


Off to the Train Station

Our original plans for a long, lazy weekend changed once we decided Mark needed to be with his family in KC for Christmas in October. 


I drive Mark to the AMTRAK station.  Though Santa Fe is the capital, the train does not come through here.  The engineering logistics of bringing the railroad to Santa Fe made the tiny dust-covered town of Lamy, NM a better location for the depot.  I kiss Mark goodbye at the depot and head home.  He will be in KC in time for breakfast.


·         Friday, 26 October 2007

Saturday is Make a Difference Day –

America’s largest day of doing good is on the 4th Saturday of October each year.  The AmeriCorps set Mark works with each made arrangements to participate in a local community volunteer activity.


Mark arranged to wok with an underserved after-school program a few miles south of town.  He spent much of the day reworking their neglected computer systems and then interacting with the kids. 


Mark is a kid magnet.


He came home from his day with happy plans to provide ten computer workshops for these kids.  He will have fun and so will the kids.


The facility needs so many things, but most of all, they need committed, caring people.


·         Thursday, 25 October 2007

Flat Tires and Realtors…

Mark burst through the back door.  His arrival is unexpected.  He left in the Jeep just as Miss Zia and I set off for our morning walk.  Now, less than an hour later, he is home. 


The Jeep has a flat tire. 


The jack and the spare are here at the “estate”.  So, Mark got a morning walk too.  He got the tire and jack, returned to the Jeep in Dakota Jack and has arrived home again.


I am to drive him back to the Jeep, but first we must wait for the realtor who is scheduled to visit this morning.


The realtor is late.  Mark and I sip coffee and look at the Koi. 


Mark tries not to think about the Jeep (with out of state plates) disappearing.


The realtor is late.


Flat tires are going around.  Earlier this week one of the other AmeriCorps volunteers did not make it to Culture Day.  He called (from out of state where he was visiting his girlfriend) and said he had a flat tire.  Too bad, he would have to miss the museum field trip.  His call provided fuel for gossip.


So, today Mark must call in and say, “I have a flat tire.  No really….”  8-)


AmeriCorps is not VISTA

Mark is working in AmeriCorps not VISTA.  VISTA has been around since the 1960’s and there is much focus on the war on poverty, a phrase that seems an anachronism in this day and age.


What is AmeriCorps? 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:


AmeriCorps is an American network of more than 3,000 non-profit organizations, public agencies, and faith-based organizations. It was created in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. More than 70,000 individuals join AmeriCorps each year. There have been more than 400,000 members since 1994. The work done by these groups ranges from public education to environmental clean-up.[1]

AmeriCorps is a division of the Corporation For National and Community Service, which also oversees the Senior Corps and Learn and Serve America. Collectively, these three programs represent a total of more than 2 million members in service each year. AmeriCorps itself is split into three main divisions, including AmeriCorps State and National, VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), and NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps).

AmeriCorps dates to the early 1990s.[2] Research has illustrated that AmeriCorps programs have a variety of effects on civic education, education, and public service.[3]


·         Wednesday, 24 October 2007

VISTA: the War on Poverty Continues…

AmeriCorps/VISTA LogoI tap away at my computer trying to complete the “administrivia” demanded by the bureaucratic organization I will be part of for the next year.  I laugh softly when I see the efforts to explain why we must accomplish this wok online.  “To save paper” it says.  Perhaps, but after each section I complete there is a note that advises me to print the form and submit it at training. 


So much for saving paper.


I am off to VISTA training soon and, like my Peace Corps and Air Force adventures, I find that people have many questions about just what is I will be doing and why I am doing it.


A quick Google directs me to Wikapedia where a brief, dry description spells out the rudiments of this organization which has been around almost as long as Peace Corps.


So, what is VISTA?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:


VISTA or Volunteers in Service to America was created by Lyndon Johnson's Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 as the domestic version of the Peace Corps. Initially, the program increased employment opportunities for conscientious people who felt they could contribute tangibly to the War on Poverty. Volunteers served in communities throughout the U.S., focusing on enriching educational programs and vocational training for the nation's underprivileged classes.


VISTA’s legislative purpose, as defined under the Domestic Volunteer Service Act (DVSA) of 1973, is to supplement efforts to fight poverty in low-income communities by engaging Americans from all walks of life in a year of full time service. VISTA members support the program’s purpose through three primary objectives: 1) encouraging volunteer service at the local level, 2) generating the commitment of private sector resources, and 3) strengthening local agencies and organizations that serve low-income communities. There are currently over 5,000 VISTA members serving in over 1,000 projects throughout the nation.


During the Clinton Administration, VISTA was brought under the newly created Corporation for National and Community Service. It was also made part of the new AmeriCorps program, and was renamed "AmeriCorps*VISTA." VISTA members sign up with a host agency to a full-time term of service, 365 days over the year. In return for their service, members are provided with orientation and training, a living stipend calculated at no less than 95% of the poverty line, settling in and transportation costs, child care benefits and a basic health care plan. Upon completion of their one-year term, VISTA members have the option of receiving $1,200 or an education award of $4,725.


A Vow of Poverty…Sort of!

No, not a vow of poverty, but a really close up view of poverty.


The next year, I will learn first hand what it is like to live at the poverty level right here in the USA.  Yes, in my earlier career in the Air Force, I was briefly on WIC, a food program for mothers of young children, but most of my adult life I have been able to survive happily and even save money - even during our Peace Corps experiences. 


I am not St Francis of Assisi, taking a vow of poverty, but my living stipend amounts to $900 a month.  Not much in a community like Santa Fe where the rich and beautiful rub elbows with the very poor.


Living at poverty level, even for a controlled period, can have an eye-opening effect on people.  When dollar signs haunt your dreams, your dreams can become shortsighted or even disappear. 


Of course my orchestrated experience with poverty is not as toxic as living and breathing poverty day in and day out.  But it will be, is, an opportunity to see how much of America lives in a country where there are many very rich people who have no clue what it is like.


Of course one year of living this way is not the same as the life sentence that creates poverty – limited resources, limited education, disease, childcare and medical challenges, prejudices, lack of skills or a network, etc…


I come to this year with experience, support systems, and education, options, resources.  I will be stretched thin, but I will survive.


My Work?

I will use my skills (at the NMCL) to recruit volunteers to tutor students in basic literacy or English as a second language. 


We forget there are many people in the USA who can barely read and/or cannot write.  They are adept at hiding this.  We like to think Americans can read – so many of us graduate from high school, and you cannot graduate from high school without learning to read.  Ha!  Sadly, you can.


English as a Second Language (ESL) opportunities abound these days and these are great for people who read and write in another native language, but my passion is those for whom the system has failed.  We need Adult Basic Language (ABL) programs and we need people who will spend 2-3 hours a week working with individuals to help them meet their own literacy goals: being able to read to a grandchild, to write a check of to compete a job application or get a driver’s license or a GED or a better job.


Many Americans live in such a way that they never meet these people face to face.  They do not know they exist among us. 


This VISTA year will help me meet these people and look them in the eye.


In a year, I will move on, but during this year I will learn and grow and maybe make a difference or at least plant a seed. 


I am so grateful for this opportunity…


·         Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Culture Day - Four Museums/Eight Hours!

I am not sure I can keep up with the agenda.  I am not sure I WANT to keep up.


The art of visiting a museum, in my opinion, involves a leisurely stroll, not a death march!  I hope there is no test at the end!  I better pay attention!


I am actually just tagging along on Mark’s workday.  AmeriCorps has some kind of Culture-Day policy that requires members to regularly take a day to visit local museums.  Santa Fe has marvelous museums – this should be a joy. 


But four museums in one short day?


Chili, Hot Apple Cider and Toasted Marshmallows…

The plan for this evening is to bring the AmeriCorps volunteers and the staff home with us.  We will circle around the firepit on the patio and share some chili and Mark’s delicious jalapeño pie, sip steamy cider and toast the mandatory marshmallows.  Maybe we will sing a few verses of kumbaya under the almost full moon.


·         Sunday, 21 October 2007

The First Snow of the Season…

Snow flurries around us, dances in the wind, as we unload the many brown bags of groceries from the pickup truck.  I feel as if I am inside a snow globe and someone has given it a god shake.


The snow is unexpected.  Wind was predicted and so were the bitter winds, but snow?  No. 


Snow is so magical and even more so when it is the first snow of the season.  Unexpected bounty.


Climbing back up to 7,000 feet from Albuquerque, the panorama of sky and mountains spread out ahead of us is painted in shades of gray, purple, black, blue.  In the distance, what would turned out to be snow flurries, resembles fog or clouds.  White drifts around the shoulders of the mountains like a cashmere scarf.


Tumbleweeds scoot across the highway.  I laugh, remembering old westerns and the Roadrunner cartoons which often showed tumbling tumbleweeds, tumbling along.  When the snow begins to swirl around us, I take delight in the idea of cactus and snowfall.  I am a Midwesterner at heart and easily amused!


We settle in for the evening.  Visions of lighting the fireplace, sipping hot cocoa and sharing big bowls of popcorn fill my head.  Of course before the little fantasy could play out, the flurries stopped, almost as unexpectedly as they began.  


I stood at the window a few moments, waiting for act two to begin. 


Finally I returned to the mundane chore of putting away our month’s-supply of groceries.


·         Saturday, 20 October 2007

Mark’s Grandmother is an Amazing Woman.

Grandma H. is in her nineties, but still so strong, independent and filled with great ideas and humor.  (Her own sister still rides horses!)  She has been battling, with grace, some significant physical challenges.  The time has come when she decided that the treatment may be worse than the condition.


She called the hospice facility and discussed her decisions with a gentle nurse.


When my own mother entered hospice, I was naïve (or ignorant, o maybe in denial) about what this step means.  She died before I could get to her side.


Grandma H. will celebrate a joyous family Christmas in October.  That is fairly certain.  Next weekend the family will gather to share memories and stories and photos.


It is wonderful to watch.


It is sad too.


·         Friday, 19 October 2007

Dawn Patrol and Doggie Duty

I am out before the crack of dawn trekking in my combat gear – my old cammie field jacket and combat boots make fine dog-walking apparel.  The wind whips and my fingers wonder why I do not have my gloves on.


Today I have a full day at work.  Dog will have to stay home alone.  How will she fare?  I have been quite spoiled, spending time with her almost 24/7 since Zia became part of our home.


I too have my issues.  Not separation anxiety, but others.  It has been years since I have had to report to an office at a specified time, day in and day out.  I have had considerable autonomy since 2002.


My real office hours do not officially start till after Veteran’s Day.  But today and tomorrow, I will be in a workshop and dog will be home alone, amusing herself. 


Next week I have several day-long activities away from home and the following week I go out of town for several days of training.  Mark will be the one on Dawn Patrol on those days…


·         Thursday, 18 October 2007 – Chip’s Happy B’Day!  8-)

My Personal Trainer Will Not Pee in the Yard!

Miss Zia refuses to go out into the dog run.  She thinks she will have to stay there I guess. 


She does not get far away from her people.


This means I must faithfully don my dog walking clothes and take a morning hike each day.  Miss Zia does a doggie dance when she sees me settle into a chair to pull on my boots. 


She is no slouch.  When we set off, she sniffs the air and takes off like the lead sled dog in the Iditarod!  She may be a skinny girl with three legs, but she can pull and she can set a challenging pace.


I am breathing hard after as we crest the hill about a mile away in the deserted fields Zia has claimed as her “office”.  She sniffs around, checking shrubs and cactus for “messages” from other dogs and finally “does her business.” 


She “downloads” and is quickly off and running for joy again.  I trail behind, hanging onto her leash for dear life.


I am breathing hard and I can feel my stomach muscles getting taunt and firm.  Thanks to my trainer who will not pee in the yard!


A Happy E-Mail…

I love to open my e-mail each day – there are always delightful and wonderful surprises.  The one reprinted below has kept me smiling all day.  People are good!  8-)

Posted by: "CLEO L" (My wonderful cousin in Chicago)

Wed Oct 17, 2007 6:00 pm (PST)

….Recently the Chicago Tribune ran a story about the enormous cost to send m-bags of books to out of the way libraries, like the Caleb Library in Malawi. I am packing many of the books I have purchased and used in my classroom over the last twenty odd years to ship there, and the article decried my concern over postage. How many books could I really afford to ship out?

I went to my mail box at school this morning and noted a letter in it. Did not recognize the name on the return address, but the suburb is about twenty minutes away. I opened it and found a check for fifty dollars from a former school teacher/avid reader who wants to be a part in sending books to Malawi, the Caleb Library. I have a box almost ready, so will use this money to send the first box; I almost cried, holding the check and realizing how much God wants these little kids to have books and read. Aren't perfect strangers wonderful? Or are they angels in disguise?

Anxious to get my first box of books to the Caleb Library, Cleo

PS A Thousand Books, which ships to Romania by a RPCV has offered to ship any books that are European and not suitable for Malawi. This offer is great for many books that may not be of interest to the children in Mawingo's school.


The Chicago Tribune Article Follows….

Postal rate change has impact around globe
By Mary Owen | Tribune staff reporter & RPCV Philippines October 10, 2007

Cleo Lampos has a classroom full of books. On the eve of retirement, she had planned to ship her materials -- accumulated from 26 years of teaching -- to a school library housed in a mud hut with a tin roof in rural southern Africa. (CALEB Library Project: www.pulverpages.com ) 

Over the last six years, the 4th-grade teacher from Oak Lawn has sent hundreds of books to that school in Malawi, where 30 students share one English language textbook, the Internet doesn't exist and electricity is a part-time service.

But last spring, the U.S. Postal Service eliminated some of its international boat mail services, which included an option to send books for a dollar a pound to any country.
Hundreds of grass-roots efforts in the Chicago area and across the U.S., many of them through individuals like Lampos, are unsure whether they can continue supporting libraries and other English-language programs around the world. Some say their efforts will be virtually shut down.

"It's going to be a small fortune for me," said Lampos, 61, who teaches at Nathan Hale Intermediate School in Crestwood. "I'm not sure if I can continue sending books."

On May 14, the Postal Service cut international surface mail, which moved packages via ships, to save money, said Yvonne Yoerger, spokeswoman for the Postal Service. Before the change, materials could be mailed in 66-pound-capacity bags, called M-bags, for the special rate of $1 per pound. Now, M-bags can go only via air mail. The domestic book rate also increased in May.

Lampos said she has been sending about 100 pounds of books, ranging in topics from insects to poetry, to Malawi once or twice a year. Now, shipping 100 pounds of books will cost her at least $395 -- or $43.45 for the first 11 pounds and $3.95 for each additional pound.

Yoerger said federal law requires that postal products and services pay for their costs, and international service mail was not. Route limitations of the shipping companies that contracted with the Postal Service often resulted in packages having to be sent via airplane, even though the sender paid the cheaper rate.

"It's not a judgment by the Postal Service on whether these efforts are worthwhile or not," Yoerger said. "We are required to meet our legal mandates."

More than 6,000 people have signed an online petition to restore the service, and activists nationwide have formed the Coalition to Restore Low Rate Shipping for Humanitarian Purposes to lobby for its return, including non-profit groups such as Friends of Malawi Book Project and Books for Israel.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago), who is chairman of the Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service and District of Columbia, said he has received calls and e-mails from more than a dozen groups nationwide. Davis said restoring the $1-a-pound book rate is unlikely because the service simply cannot pay for itself.

"I'm personally very empathetic, but I'm saying we're not in a position to make any promises," Davis said Tuesday. "I think it's very noble, but you also have to have a way to pay for the nobility."

Shipped packages comprised only 2.7 percent of all international mailing from the U.S. in 2006, due in part to unreliability, Yoerger said. Packages can take two to four months to arrive. There was an 18.4 percent drop in international surface mailing from 2005 to 2006, and demand has dropped steadily in the last decade, she said.

The Kiwanis Club of Lombard sends a set of encyclopedias annually to schools in developing countries, but with the rate increase, it will likely be able to send the books only every three to four years, said Kiwanis member David Gorman. The club's set of roughly 20 encyclopedias and some other reference materials have helped start libraries in Ethiopia, Dominica, Albania and Lesotho, he said.

"The advantages you can give these kids with a good library can start them off on a good path and create a lot of opportunity not only for them, but for their family and village," said Gorman, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho.

Gorman of Downers Grove said books are a valuable commodity for teachers in developing countries where populations are struggling to improve their English-language skills and compete in a global economy. And reference materials about health, science and geography curtail a frighteningly common practice of rural teachers -- teaching inaccurate information because they don't know the answers.

Sidney Fey of Rogers Park is one of hundreds of Peace Corps volunteers who have built libraries during their service with the help of their families, friends and the special M-bag rate. Fey, who served in Mongolia from 2004 to 2006, received about 200 books and magazines from his family and high school in Avon in central Illinois. The donations built a library at his high school in Mongolia, where they didn't have an English-Mongolian dictionary.

"They basically had nothing when I arrived," said Fey, a Loyola University graduate student. "There was no way that I would have been able to purchase those resources where I was stationed."

Aside from promoting English-speaking skills in developing countries, many see their packages as declarations of international friendship.

For the last 17 years, Ramune Kubilius of Evanston has carefully selected books and magazines for a more private library. While visiting Europe in 1990, the Northwestern University librarian watched as Vilija Arlauskiene, an English teacher working in a rural Lithuanian village, pored over some of her magazines. When she returned to Chicago, Kubilius started sending Arlauskiene used Reader's Digest magazines and other leisure reading, including romance novels.

"Every parcel brought a real joy to my home," Arlauskiene said via e-mail. "I can still remember the great pleasure I felt reading novels by Danielle Steel. I doubt if I have ever read anything better than 'Now and Forever.' This way I could improve my bookish English, I could feel the real everyday language."

Arlauskiene has built a sizable library and has shared many books, which also included mysteries, cowboy adventures and children's books, with her students. She said books in Lithuania are expensive and not accessible to the masses.

Kubilius previously spent about $60 a year shipping books. Now, it could cost her at least $234 a year to continue shipping her roughly 20-pound shoe boxes three times a year. It's unclear whether the several dozen books stacked in her home will make it to Lithuania.
"Now I have to look at other options that aren't going to break the bank," Kubilius said.
The problem is that she enjoys finding new homes for old books. "I think it's a common trait for librarians," she said.

Pat Plonski, executive director of Minnesota-based Books for Africa, said he has received several phone calls and e-mails from people looking for alternatives for getting books to Africa, especially in the last month, possibly because people were cleaning out and preparing for the start of the school year.

Unfortunately, Books for Africa and other organizations that deal with large volume shipments are not the best alternatives for people trying to get a few hundred books to a specific place, Plonski said. Books for Africa does not use M-bag. Instead, it ships about 35,000 books monthly in 40-foot containers -- about the size of a semitrailer truck -- to universities, government agencies and non-profits, which usually distribute the materials themselves.

Still, Plonski sympathizes with groups trying to help stock a faraway library with specially selected books, such as gently used Harry Potter books from a personal collection or an easy-to-use picture dictionary picked up at a neighborhood garage sale.

"Those M-bags don't have a lot of volume, but they are still very critical," Plonski said. "It's all about getting the right book to the right place."
PLEASE Sign the Petition and Visit the M-Bag Website:
Website:  http://mbags.wikispaces.com/Background+and+Mission

Petition:  http://www.petitiononline.com/zikomo/petition.html

CALEB Library Project: www.pulverpages.com

CALEB Library Project logo and description

Find out more:  www.pulverpages.com


·         Wednesday, 17 October 2007

A Friend of My Brother’s is Going to Call

The gingersnaps are in a pretty blue bowl and my coffee is made. The orange cat tea-cozy is tucked around the pot to keep it hot.  A pen and paper are conveniently near by.  There is a fire in the fireplace to take off the chill that is in the air.  Zia is stretched out by the fireside on her cheery yellow and blue rag rug.


The stage is set for my guest.


Actually, I am happily waiting for the phone to ring.


I do not know the caller, but this delightful stranger and I plan to have a lovely chat.  She is a friend of my brother and plans to visit him (in Malawi) sometime soon.  I am intrigued by her adventurous nature and eager to share what I can to make the trip a success.


·         Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Zia Meets the Koi


·         Monday, 15 October 2007

The Adrenaline Rush of the Morning Dog-Walk

The morning dog walk leaves me exhilarated.  


I return from the cold, crisp, bright morning trek feeling joyful, capable, eager to begin my day.  On these walks, no matter where I am, I absorb the natural beauty around me (I look past the refuse and deleterious people leave behind – it is there, but it does not merit my attention nor should I let it mire me down and ruin my day – a metaphor for other aspects of life perhaps.)  On these walks I commune with friends and family, dead or alive. 


Walking the dog, which can feel like a chore when I am groggy, rubbing sleep from my eyes and more interested in sipping coffee and reading my e-mail.  But it leads to a rush of joy that comes when a decision is right.  The feeling of free-falling with no worries, only the consciousness of the feelings – the adrenaline rush, all this is accomplished during what to some would be a routine dog-walk.


The dog knows.  She dances around as I tug at my socks and lace up my old Air Force combat boots.  Deep in her throat she makes the muted, happy-dog sounds.  Sometimes and exuberant bark leaks out. 


The Red Puzzle from Hell…

The past two weeks, I have often felt like I am assembling a 5,000 piece, all red puzzle.  I try to force pieces into place rather than finding the correct piece. 


This is not a good strategy. (Nor is it a conscious one, usually.) In my panic over how I will ever get the puzzle assembled, I miss out on the joys of the process.  The whole point of putting together a jigsaw puzzle is the process, the moving forward, the feelings associated with finding the key pieces and placing tem.  Completing the puzzle is secondary.  (Some would argue otherwise, but the old saying, it is the journey, no the destination, comes to mind.)


In the month ahead, I have many interesting and challenging tasks to accomplish.  I need to fit all the pieces together, but the important thing really is that I move forward with joy and gratitude for the abundance.


Mud Puddles and Mindfulness

If I am not mindful of the small joys of each day, the opportunities to stretch, to try new things or take a different path, then I may fight it. 


I come upon a mud puddle and all I can do is complain.  I could become irritated because I will have to navigate around the puddle and I will be late for my next activity and will likely get a bit of mud on my clothes which will leave me looking less than professional.


Actually, I could take off my shoes, roll up my pant legs, and wade in.  The cool mud oozing between my toes may delight me and make me laugh.  I could sit down and just make mud pies.


Of course I could just walk around that mud puddle and continue happily on my way.


There are always choices in life.  And, as A. Lincoln puts it (and I have quoted often): people are about as happy as they choose to be.


You Really Cannot Outline how Life will Unfold – Who Wants to?

I find myself awed by how wonderful life has been.  Our needs are filled in the most unexpected ways and often in ways that are more wonderful than we would have dared to plan.


My personal goals pale compared to what seems to be the grand plan the Universe (Father-Mother-God) has for my life.


Sometimes it is really great to not be in charge, to just let life unfold. 


My own expectations can seem so limited when I look back at them.


It is nice to just take each chapter a page at a time and relish the word pictures spelled out n the page. 



·         Sunday, 14 October 2007

The Late Afternoon Sun Falls Across the Stones in the Labyrinth.

One of our recent houseguests (R.) spent some time digging up the overgrowth in the labyrinth just outside the potting shed.  Now most of the paths are clear and the stones engraved with sage advice are visible. 


I consider how important it is to keep paths clear: while I may not be the builder or the architect of these paths, I can make them clear. 


I can make the path easier for others.

Labrynth by our Home

I think about R as I stand in the afternoon sun.  Soon he will have an operation.  He is in his 70’s, feeling vulnerable, a little afraid.  He is the one who cleared these paths.


It is only in recent years that R. has returned to my husband’s life.  The struggles of life took him on another path. 


It is good to see him with his son. 


It is good that the path can be lovingly cleared so we can see the writing on the stones of our hearts.


·         Saturday, 13 October 2007

The Clutch Goes Out…

Our first free weekend in about a month and what happens?  The clutch goes out on the pick-em-up-truck – right in the middle of a busy intersection!


Thank goodness for Triple-A, cell phones, and credit cards.  It could have been far worse! 


Mark, our dog and I stand around for about an hour waiting for the tow truck.  The tow truck driver finally arrives and happily hooks up his gear to the back of our Dodge.  We pile into the cab of his truck and he entertains us with stories of how he acquired his sweet pug-dog.  He gives us all the details as we bounce along the road to the repair shop.  I feel like we are old friends.


$700 and a Long Day of Waiting….

While the experts have the truck up on jacks, we wander around the run-down strip-malls that are within walking distance.  We take turns staying outside minding the dog while the other checks out what wonders are available in each store.  We explore other people’s junk at a couple yard sales where the hosts are very interested in our sweet 3-legged dog.  We visit the Salvation Army and chat with the employees.  We find an outdoor café for lunch and Miss Zia engages the other patrons by being the sweet, well-behaved dog she is. 


After about 4 hours, we discover that the part cannot be reconditioned today.  The truck will be held hostage until late Monday or maybe Tuesday AM. 


Mark calls a taxi to come and get us.  The man behind the desk, mindful that we are AmeriCorps/VISTA volunteers, kindly offers to drive us home himself.  He commutes 120 miles each day, to and from Albuquerque to work in Santa Fe.  Like the tow truck driver, he has stories to share.  We are grateful for the ride and we listen to his stories about his life and his children.


He drops us off at the corner and we walk the rest of the way home, mindful of all the friendly, warm people we have met today. 


So our Saturday plans went awry, but we still have much to be grateful for. 

The clutch could have gone out during my upcoming trip to Albuquerque or on our sightseeing adventures with our recent houseguests.  We might not have had Triple-coverage or we might not have had the money to pay for the repairs since we only recently began working again after our 27-months in Peace Corps.


We have the Jeep of course, but “The Hair Dryer” does not have doors or windows, so it is like an amusement park ride – and to me, more stressful than amusing, but available none-the-less.


Though the day did not go as planned, we enjoyed just hanging out with one another.  And we met good people.


Life is good!


·         Friday, 12 October 2007 – Dia de la Raza

Today has many names around the globe (Columbus Day, Dia de la Raza, etc) but here in the USA we opted to organize our holidays, so we miss out on the general events going on today.  We already marked this day on the appropriate Monday. 


Of course much of the world does not look at Columbus as positive kind of guy, especially those who suffered under the Spanish or whose contributions to history are ignored or overshadowed by them.  There was life and culture here long before the Spanish guys floated in on their big boats.


Today is also National Coming Out Day.  A time to consider the rights and choices of our GLBTQ friends, family, and community...here’s a link:



October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  A noble cause no doubt (I prefer not to let a disease define who I am, but I digress.)  October is also National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month (been there done that too – sweet Zia is resting her warm muzzle on my feet as I tap away on this post!)  The month of October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month – I am aware that domestic violence is an issue, and grateful that it does not personally touch my life.


But let’s jump ahead to November.


The Motto - No Plot? No Problem!

That’s the motto for NaNoWriMo Month! (That’s short for, National Novel Writing Month) Yes, in November, wanna-be writers sit down and knock out a 50,000 word novel.  They also ingest vast quantities of caffeine and become sleep-deprived zombies…


The idea is if a writer averages about 16700 words each day in November, they will have a complete (draft) novel by 30 November!  Last year almost 80,000 people participated in this annual event and about 13,000 finished the metaphorical race!


No, I am not making this up.


Check out the website for details.  www.nanowrimo.org


The website says, and I quote, of course “you will write a lot of crap!”


The idea is sound though.  Writers really do have to get in the habit of writing and must learn to let their muse have free reign.  Too many people start editing before their fingers can tap out a sentence!


Writers can sign up now (it’s FREE), but the writing cannot begin until 1 November.


Gearing up for this 50K writing event!


·         Thursday, 11 October 2007

Tomorrow I get my home back!  8-)

According to the local weather-folks, there may be high winds and cold days ahead.  This is good news for us since it means our extended-stay houseguests are turning tail and heading back to their home.


On the positive side, while we sat around watching innumerable mind-numbing game shows on TV with them, I managed to knit a beautiful 40” X 57” afghan!


Despite the rocky start to the visit, we have enjoyed our recent guests. 


This weekend will just be the two of us!


And this weekend is the first one since August when one of us does NOT have to work at least one day! 


I feel like a kid right before summer vacation starts!  8-)


Ukraine’s Scary Neighbor, Mr. Putin

Election time is almost here in Russia.  Mr. Putin cannot run again, but it seems he has made arrangements to be back in the driver’s seat in a short time.  That man scares. Me. 


Ukraine's neighbor, Mr. Putin, is very clever at manipulation.  The video-clip below is 12 minutes long sand reminds me that as someone wise said: if we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat our mistakes...and all it takes is for god people to do nothing.


This NY Times video-clip tells the story of Putin Power.




·         Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Time to Sing the Mom Song!

I saw a YouTube version of the song (lyrics below) and also saw it on the local news…very funny delivery and the lyrics resonate with Mom’s everywhere.  Go ahead, try singing it – sing it REALLY loud!


"The Mom Song"

(Sung, with gusto, to the tune of the William Tell Overture!)

Get up now
Get up now
Get up out of bed
Wash your face
Brush your teeth
Comb your sleepyhead
Here's your clothes and your shoes
Hear the words I said
Get up now! Get up and make your bed
Are you hot? Are you cold?
Are you wearing that?
Where's your books and your lunch and your homework at?
Grab your coat and gloves and your scarf and hat
Don't forget! You gotta feed the cat
Eat your breakfast, the experts tell us it's the most important meal of all
Take your vitamins so you will grow up one day to be big and tall
Please remember the orthodontist will be seeing you at 3 today
Don't forget your piano lesson is this afternoon so you must play
Don't shovel
Chew slowly
But hurry
The bus is here
Be careful
Come back here
Did you wash behind your ears?
Play outside, don't play rough, will you just play fair?
Be polite, make a friend, don't forget to share
Work it out, wait your turn, never take a dare
Get along! Don't make me come down there
Clean your room, fold your clothes, put your stuff away
Make your bed, do it now, do we have all day?
Were you born in a barn? Would you like some hay?
Can you even hear a word I say?
Answer the phone! Get off the phone!
Don't sit so close, turn it down, no texting at the table
No more computer time tonight!
Your iPod's my iPod if you don't listen up
Where are you going and with whom and what time do you think you're coming home?
Saying thank you, please, excuse me makes you welcome everywhere you roam
You'll appreciate my wisdom someday when you're older and you're grown
Can't wait till you have a couple little children of your own
You'll thank me for the counsel I gave you so willingly
But right now I thank you not to roll your eyes at me
Close your mouth when you chew, would appreciate
Take a bite maybe two of the stuff you hate
Use your fork, do not burp or I'll set you straight
Eat the food I put upon your plate
Get an A, get the door, don't get smart with me
Get a grip, get in here, I'll count to three
Get a job, get a life, get a PHD
Get a dose of,
"I don't care who started it!
You're grounded until you're 36"
Get your story straight and tell the truth for once, for heaven's sake
And if all your friends jumped off a cliff would you jump, too?
If I've said it once, I've said at least a thousand times before
That you're too old to act this way
It must be your father's DNA
Look at me when I am talking
Stand up straighter when you walk
A place for everything and everything must be in place
Stop crying or I'll give you something real to cry about
Brush your teeth, wash your face, put your PJs on
Get in bed, get up here, say a prayer with mom
Don't forget, I love you
And tomorrow we will do this all again because a mom's work never ends
You don't need the reason why
Because, because, because, because
I said so, I said so, I said so, I said so
I'm the mom, the mom, the mom, the mom, the mom!!
Ta da!!!


·         Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Mark’s Dream Home! 

Mark's Dream Home - Cavco Park-Loft Home!It’s a beautiful RV (a Cavco loft park-home and yes, it really is classified as an RV!).  It is bigger than where we lived in Ukraine!


Should Mark win the lottery or if Santa Claus or the Universe think he is good enough, this (about $50,000), and some private land a few bocks from the local library is what he wants!  Ho, ho, ho!




·         Monday, 8 October 2007

Fireside Breakfast

Last night the temperatures dropped below freezing.  We sleep with our bedroom window open and pile on lots of blankets.  We woke up cozy under our bedding, but sweet Zia dog abandoned her sleeping rug by our bed for a warmer spot in the kitchen. 


We eat our breakfast warmed by the cozy fire.  I long to linger there, but Zia eyes me, cocks her head and I know it is time to face the dog walk.


The morning dog-walk finds me wearing a Cuddle-duds (thermal) shirt under my red and black plaid wool shirt.  It is 40 degrees, bright and sunny, but the wind howls so I retreat to the back room and find my old BDU jacket.  Brrrr.  Zia pulls me out the door.  I reluctantly follow.


The hardest part of the morning dog-walks simply getting out the door. 


Zia races ahead like the lead dog in a dog-sledding event.  Her enthusiasm is infectious.  As I huff and puff behind her, I am happy to be there and glad she made me come along!


The dog walk, like many other simple daily routines can transform my attitude.  I return smiling and motivated.


My house guests?  They rise early today and head off for a day at the casino.


L. delights in that environment.  She will while away the hours at a slot machine and will come home later content and happy with her day.  R. (like his wonderful son) takes good care of his wife and makes sure she is comfortable and happy.  (Update: Today R made $80 on a penny machine!)


The storm clouds I imagined last week have melted away.


Life is good.


·         Sunday 7, October 2007

A Fine Day at the Flea Market…

We rise early, walk Zia and come home to get ready for our next adventure.  I will forgo church today to take our guests to the local flea market.


Lou, Mark and RusselA local person informed us that the flea market is in the “Beverly Hills” part of Santa Fe.  My Lonely Planet Guidebook advises visitors to not expect to find a bargain-buy on a microwave at this upscale outdoor flea market.  We drive out past the beautiful Santa Fe opera house and park our truck.


On this adventure we finally get L. to use her scooter. 


Walking is such a challenge for her.  She uses a cane but moves slowly and is in pain.  It is hard to get out and about and L. used to be an active woman.  The scooter has been sitting around unused for a couple months.  L. worries that she will become fat and complacent if she uses it.  We think she would have more freedom and less pain.  We encourage her to climb on and today, she surprises us and obliges.


The gravel makes navigating a bit of a challenge, but L. toughs it out    L. is quite good at engaging strangers.  She was a cocktail waitress in an elegant San Francisco restaurant for many years and so she chats and jokes amiably with people and laughs frequently.  So she enjoys interacting with the vendors who listen to her explanations, smile and laugh.  L. is the center of attention.  This is good for her.


Later we lunch at a local eatery popular among locals and tourists alike. 


It is a good day.


·         Saturday, 6 October 2007

It is wonderful to be around people who enjoy what they do. 

Friday and Saturday I attended classes and watched a happy trainer sharing her expertise. 


The day flew by and I watched as the students absorbed and put into practice the techniques the trainer shared.  I came home exhilarated and pleased to be part of this effort.


This next year, I am privileged to work in an environment that emphasizes leaner-centered literacy education.  “The ability to read and write is critical to personal freedom and the maintenance of democratic society.”  That is the vision statement on the cover of the text books used in our training. 


My role is as a recruiter actually, but I feel motivated to also volunteer as a tutor.


I find myself considering how well my life experiences have prepared me to for this opportunity.  I am delighted that somehow the Universe has conspired to get me here.  I am excited about what other delights are ahead of me.


·         Thursday, 4 October 2007

Character building is a chronic exercise. 

I have been disgruntled all week, fighting with my personal demons and feeling like a victim.  I have been flirting with being petty ….


Yikes!  Who is this woman?


This morning during a delightful dog-walk under the brilliant canopy of the New Mexico sky, with the stunning views of wildflowers and purpley-mountains framing my vista in every direction, I felt some of my dark feelings dissipate. 


One definition of angels is they are God’s thoughts passing to man. 


It was not the beautiful surroundings that brought the change.  It was my mother.  Though Mother has been long gone (Jul 2004), I can almost hear her whisper, “…and Love is reflected in Love.” 


Yes, God is Love and as his reflection, can I express anything but Love?


“Trick or Treatment?”

This phrase (trick or treatment) comes from a CS lesson I read yesterday.  I smiled when I read it.  I smiled again when I remembered it this morning.


I have been tricked into believing the mortal picture.  The treat (or treatment) is to look past (or away) from the false evidence and see the harmony and joy that is truly mine.  The treatment is to acknowledge the Truth about myself (and others) as God’s expression.


Yes, I have been clinging to lies about who I really am and lies about my life and the people around me.  (We build our own prisons don’t we?)


Isn’t it odd how people often cling to ideas and thoughts that undermine them?  We actually choose to be miserable; we choose to believe misery even has a place in our lives.


Even in dire circumstances some people have learned to affirm the Truth of their spiritual existence and deny the lies, the false evidence that confronts mortal senses.  (I often think of how Elie Weisel survived the horrors of concentration camp and the loss of family and friends.  He went on to teach the world about the nature of true Love.)


Of course my own troubles are so small compared to his, but the same principle applies.


Seeing with spiritual eyes, we see the Truth.


Mary Baker Eddy (founder Christian Science) poses this question in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "What is the model before mortal mind? Is it imperfection, joy, sorrow, sin, suffering? Have you accepted the mortal model? Are you reproducing it? Then you are haunted in your work by vicious sculptors and hideous forms.... To remedy this, we must first turn our gaze in the right direction, and then walk that way" (p. 248).


“Ye shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free!”


I am free to express joy, love, peace, harmony, - I reflect the myriad qualities of Life, Truth, Love, Spirit, Mind, Soul, Principle, and nothing else.


·         Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Rules of Engagement …

Our week is into an uneasy routine.  Mark heads off to work about 8 AM, I walk the dog and then return inspired to work on my submissions for the book (due the 14th).  The walk stimulates me and I am always eager to tap on these keys while the thoughts are flowing and fresh.  So, I sip coffee, write and do research, trying not to think about our house guests who are lurking about.  They have kindly insisted they will not bother me in the mornings, but I am aware of this tip-toeing caution.


Russ and Lou's RV at our HomeThey stay holed up in their RV all morning.  He pops into the house several times throughout the morning asking questions or directions, or offering to pick up milk.  She never emerges.  She stays in the stuffy, cramped RV, watching television.


I have invited her to watch TV in the living room where she would be more comfortable, but she declines.  I encourage them to sit by the pond and enjoy the yard and the fine fall air, but they resist.


I get very little done.  I feel uncomfortable.  Guilt washes over me.  I must appear inflexible and unfriendly (and maybe I am.).  I start feeling like a victim.


The past several months I have been forced to defer and delay and accommodate so frequently. 


I feel bruised and disappointed.  I need, want, time and space to write and work, but other priorities shove their way into my life.


Now I feel trapped in my own home. 


I forge ahead, deleting, writing, deleting…my muse is gone.  She has stomped off, slammed the door and locked it.


I am a spoiled child.


I stop, get up from my desk and drop by the RV. 


I stand awkwardly in the doorway.


I do not want to enter the dark, cramped space or drink the weak coffee they proffer or eat the ancient, stale cookies while they talk unceasingly about ailments and surgery.


Of course it is the right thing to do. 


Of course I do it.


But, my offering is not very genuine.  It is obvious I am acting out of guilt.  Can they see the resentment?  No doubt.


I feel manipulated, used, like a resentful teenager.  This is me at my blackest.  I could run away from home!


I am not good company. 


This cannot go on for three weeks.


·         Tuesday, 2 October 2007

I am Dealing with Disappointment and I am not Gracious!

Surprise houseguests…a mixed blessing which I am having a hard time dealing with….


I find myself spending all my energy making necessary course corrections and making no progress.  There are many items on my to-do list, projects I want to immerse myself in, but by the time I get to them I am stymied.  My energy and inspiration is sapped.


I look at the calendar and remind myself to be kind to myself.  In four short weeks we have been through a lot.  And the summer that proceeds it has been challenging, and often exhilarating, but never routine or calm.

house guest cartoons, house guest cartoon, house guest picture,

We are ready to make a cozy nest and begin the business of living a normal life. 


I am very grateful to find a respite in church.  It has been many years since I lived within an hour of a CS church.  I find quiet joy in the services and come away with a better understanding of the Truth.  I am motivated to study and apply what I learn. 


Living with grace is not easy.  I know that I need to affirm the good and true and deny the mortal lies and false evidence that try to steal my joy or distract me from the truth. 


The Post Card Incident…

I found this link (below) in a Peace Corps Trainee’s blog and later in some remarks about Peace Corps on Wikipedia. The “post card incident” really demonstrates the power of words and the importance of discretion. 


This post card was never mailed, but fell into the wrong hands…an incident ensued.  It is interesting reading, and there are other lessons one can learn from it.



Writing about something may well be therapeutic for some people, but I think it is dangerous in other ways.  We make things seem real, they assume power.  


It is as if we paint our own reality and call these pictures the truth. And then we let them influence us.  We should paint the Truth and not the false evidence.




·         Monday, 1 October 2007

Dog Tags at Dawn…

In the dark, predawn hours, I wake to the gentle sound of Zia’s dog tags tinkling in the darkness.  I stretch my hand down beside the bed and am rewarded with sweet doggie kisses. 


Zia’s soft pink tongue feels pleasant to my skin.  I hear her sigh and settle onto her thick, red, rag rug.  I roll over, snuggle down and go back to sleep.


It is good to have a dog in the family again.







FYI: If you want to read about our

Peace Corps Ukraine adventures,

start with January 2005 - May 2007.


Now we are in AmeriCorps/VISTA adventures

Right here in the USA!

Life is good!