Friday, February 29, 2008

Sticking With It

I have a sign sitting on my desk that says, 'Most things are difficult before they are easy."

Sometimes I think we expect things to be instantly easy. We want to master skills and demonstrate prowess instantly without going through a learning curve. In most endeavors in life, this simply isn't realistic.

I think of many things that I've learned about. Rarely do I do something perfectly (or even well) right out of the gate. Some learning processes go quickly, but others are slower more cumulative processes.

My knowledge of plants, trees and gardening has developed over the past 18 years that I have been a home owner. In the past, I watched gardening shows on television quite frequently. I also have often read gardening books and magazines. I go through seasons with this hobby/interest. Some years I don't do much with it and other years I spend more time adding to my knowledge base.

My knowledge of finance and investing has followed a similar path, and I continue pouring several hours a week into expanding and refniing my skill set.

Sometimes I get frustrated with how little I still know about the many interests that I have. Then I remind myself that even putting in a little effort over time results in cumulative knowledge gained over the long haul. I also remember that the time is going to pass anyway, so I might as well be studying things that interest me and expanding my wisdom!

Lots of us get into 'all or nothing' thinking about our interests. We want mastery (quickly) or we just give up or postpone our efforts to learn about something.

I am a believer in the 'slow drip' process of learning new things or getting things done. Set aside small amounts of time to devote to something and let the learning build on itself over time. Be patient, don't demand instant mastery, and keep reminding yourself that the time will pass anyway, and all those small amounts of time will eventually transform into deep levels of learning!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Jerusalem Peacemakers

My friend Eliyahu McLean sent out this update on the work of the organization, the Jerusalem Peacemakers. If you are not familiar with this organization, it's worth looking at. They break down barriers every single day. This is particularly exciting to me:

Jerusalem Peacemakers recently hosted an event about work being done to help build bridges between Syria and the West.

January 9th

At the same moment that the Prime Minister of Israel was hosting a dinner for President George Bush and Israel's top politicians just a few blocks away, we hosted over 40 Israelis and Palestinians for a peace gathering and discussion with Rabbi Prof. Marc Gopin. Marc Gopin is the James Laue Professor of World's Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University. Marc Gopin shared about his mission of reconciliation and recent journeys to Syria.

Invited by the Syrian government, Marc Gopin has been the only American rabbi to address the Syrian nation. Marc Gopin reported: "we have in the last three years set up over five conferences and press conferences in Damascus, as well as at some universities on the issues of interfaith tolerance and interfaith cooperation in building civil society. All were broadcast on Syrian television and sometimes Al Jazeerah."

On a journey to Aleppo in 2006, Marc Gopin was invited to be a guest of honor in the central mosque in Aleppo by his friend the mufti of Syria. After the mufti gave the Friday speech at the mosque he pointed out one man in the audience, an Iraqi refugee who had been tortured by American soldiers in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In front of 2000 people, Marc Gopin made a gesture of apology as a religious leader from America, to this man. The mufti asked his followers to record this moment. It was recorded on people's cell phones and broadcast all over Syria. The leader of Syria responded that was more important as a gesture of reconciliation than any speech by the US president.

After Marc Gopin's talk, Ahmahlya from the African Hebrew Israelite community in Dimona spoke about the connection between health, diet and peacemaking.

Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari shared a Sufi approach peacemaking in the Mid-East and Michael sang a song about 'shalom'. Jeff Goldstein closed the evening with an energy circle, directing us to focus our prayer to the well being of the people of Syria. Marc Gopin traveled the next day to Damascus, sharing with Syrians he met about this prayer.

After this recent journey to Syria, Marc reported: "the conference on combatting violence that we set up in the days after I left Jerusalem this winter was broadcast over and over by satellite stations in the Middle East and was seen by a million people, according to my Syrian partners. I also met again with the Mufti in his offices. We discussed paths forward to peace, and especially the importance of religion being a help to peace not a hindrance. The mufti feels strongly and has said so to the European Parliament after we met, that religion should not abuse power or be in control of countries."

See pictures from this gathering at this website:

See also this video clip of a prayer gathering of Jews and Muslims we held in 2004 at the entrance to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron:

Jerusalem Peacemakers (JP) supports and connects a network of religious and grassroots Israeli and Palestinian peacebuilders. Some of our current projects:

- monthly peace gatherings bringing together Israelis, Palestinians and internationals in the both the West Jerusalem center and the East Jerusalem center, the home of Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari, the Naqshabandi Sufi Center in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City

-the Abrahamic Reunion: a group of Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze religious and women leaders working together to re-claim religion as a force for peace

- humanitarian projects- helping the moderate religious leaders to implement humanitarian/social welfare projects that benefit their home community

JP is currently providing organizational support for these projects:

- Heartbeat Jerusalem- a project bringing together Arab and Jewish youth musicians from East and West Jerusalem for shared musical collaboration

- Arab Women's Empowerment- a project by Ibtisam Mahamid in the Arab town of Faradis to train Arab Muslim women in job training, skills building and empowerment

Salaam, Shalom, Peace,
Eliyahu McLean
Jerusalem Peacemakers, co-director

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Talk Nice to Yourself

We all have certain 'personal' tasks that we must do every day. For example, we bathe, brush our teeth and put on our clothing. I want to propose a powerful way to work on self acceptance and building a positive self image while we engage in these repetitive 'self maintenance' procedures.

The process I'm about to explain is one that I've used for many many years. I am a believer in working with self talk as a tool to reshape our self image. Using positive statements about oneself is a powerful way to do this.

When I wash my face, for example, I say all sorts of positive things to myself about my complexion:

My face is youthful, glowing, radiant and bright!
My skin is clear, bright and healthy.
My face is blemish free, dark circle free, wrinkle free.
My skin is soft, supple and elastic.
My skin is supported by firm, toned musculature.

When I'm in the shower, I say positive things to myself about my hair, when washing and conditioning it:

My hair is shiny and healthy.
My hair is thick, full and lush.
My scalp is healthy.
My hair is beatiful and soft.

When I'm getting dressed, I say positive things to myself about my body:

My legs are toned and strong.
My muscles get stronger every day.
My skin is healthy and soft.
My body is flexible and limber.

In other words, I use the opportunity while I engage with various aspects of my physcial being to sing the praises of those parts! We have to do those things anyway, so rather than ruminating on some problem, or replaying a past conversation/event in our minds, why not do something constructive? We can bring increased presence and attention to what we are actually doing, and cultivate a healthier, more balanced self image. What a deal!

When we are working with a physical aspect of our form, it is doubly powerful to focus on it mentally in a positive and constructive manner. When we lift weights, a good trainer will encourage us to visualize the muscle(s) that we are working. It makes the lift more effective when we focus on the area of the body that is being exercised. This practice I'm advocating is based on the same premise. When we bring conscious awareness to what we are doing and use that opportunity to improve our relationship ourselves, we benefit immensely.

This can become a way of life. You start to really pay attention to what you are doing, AND to what you are saying to yourself when you are doing it. Cleaning up our self talk (removing negative, critical statements and replacing them with positive), constructive statements can transform our lives!

Give it a try? What can it hurt? You might be really suprised at how you start to look at and feel about yourself!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Embracing our Uniqueness

Ever wondered why it is that we compare ourselves incessantly to other people? I find it frustrating that I continue to do this, even though I know better!

There is nothing wrong with having role models, or learning from the successes of other people. We get in to trouble, however, when we constantly compare ourselves to others and wish that we could be more like them. Doing this actually dilutes our appreciation of the fact that we were created to be a genuine, authentic 'one of a kind.' We were never intended to be just like any other person. We were given a special set of characteristics that no other human being possesses. This was not an accident!

I believe that each of us is born with a purpose and a mission to fulfil. We are given exactly what we need in order to accomplish this mission. Nothing is missing.

Learning from others is great, but embracing what is uniquely ours is a magical part of the equation. When we can appreciate ourselves for all the things that make us different, we liberate ourselves to really shine and contribute. Comparing ourselves to others or envying the skills, talents, resources, appearance or personalities of others is a mere distraction from developing our own raw materials into the best they can possibly be. It's a diversion and a waste of precious energy. We don't feel good when we do this and it's self defeating. It leaves us feeling discouraged and as thought we will never be able to measure up.

All of us are able to do different things in life, precisely because we are so diverse. If everyone was alike, what a boring world we would live in. If everyone had the exact same skill set, we would really be in trouble. Many of our needs would go unmet.

Each of us can contribute something that no other being on earth can provide to the tapestry of life. Instead of staring at another piece of thread in the tapestry and wishing we were THAT piece, it's time to start celebrating our own authentic, essential presence.

Appreciate others for their gifts and accomplishments... and give yourself the same courtesy! You are YOU for a reason!

As my friend Gail Larsen of Real Speaking always says, "Be yourself! Everyone else is taken!"

Monday, February 25, 2008

Women for Women International

I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know about a fantastic organization that is truly changing the lives of women on our planet.

Women for Women International is a fabulous organization that supports women who live in conflict and post-conflict environments around the globe. They provide opportunities to sponsor women who are in situations that most of us would find beyond belief.

I have been working with them as a sponsor for the past 5 years. Each year I sponsor a different woman through their program (described a bit below). The sponsorship includes a monthly sponsorship fee and a monthly letter/correspondence with my 'sister.' This year, my sister is from Sudan. I have sponsored women in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Nigeria. It has been a thrilling and rewarding experience to share part of life's journey with women in such different life circumstances from my own.

As a women who is blessed to live in a country where I have tremendous freedom, rights and protection, I feel called to do something to help women who not only do not share those luxuries, but have also been exposed to extreme levels of conflict and violence.

Sponsorship costs $27 per month, which is such a small price to pay for giving a woman a chance to rebuild her life!

I encourage anyone who often feels helpless in the face of some of the world's suffering to take a look at this opportunity to expand your sense of family and include a woman in your heart from a far corner of the globe! You'll never be the same!

Here's a brief excerpt from the Women for Women International website about what this amazing organization does:

Across the globe, armed conflicts have reached an unprecedented number. There have been more than 250 major wars since the end of World War II. Ninety percent of those injured or killed in today’s conflicts are civilians, 75 percent of whom are women and children. As never before, women are forced to bear the burdens of war and civil strife.

Millions of women are targeted for rape or other violence, displaced from their own homes, lose loved ones or suddenly obliged to become the sole provider for their families. They are frequently left to rebuild their lives without the basic necessities for survival or a viable means to earn an income. Women are also commonly excluded from peace negotiations and post-conflict decision-making.

Founded in 1993, Women for Women International helps women in war-torn regions rebuild their lives by providing financial and emotional support, job skills training, rights awareness and leadership education and access to business skills, capital and markets. Through the program, women become confident, independent and productive as they embrace the importance of their roles in rebuilding their families, their communities and ultimately, their nations.

Changing Lives
We help women advance from being victims to attaining stability as survivors to becoming active citizens in their communities. By joining Women for Women International, thousands of women have:

* Found new hope
* Gained or enhanced skills relevant to their local economies
* Learned how to value the importance of their roles and rights in society
* Started businesses
* Sent their children to school
* Registered to vote

Since 1993, Women for Women International has:

* Served more than 120,000 women

* Distributed approximately $33 million in direct aid and microcredit loans

Since our inception, Women for Women International has moved 120,000 women from crisis to stability to active citizenship. Active citizenship takes many forms. For example, in Afghanistan we helped women understand the importance of voting and registered more than 2,000 women to vote in the historic presidential elections. In Nigeria, women have organized themselves to end oppressive widowhood practices and female genital cutting in their communities. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, 9,686 women are moving towards economic self-sufficiency through our microcredit program. These accomplishments are noteworthy because on both the micro and macro levels, women are making incremental yet sweeping changes in their communities and countries.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Older Perspective

Several years ago, I was mentoring a teenage girl. At the same time I was also visiting an elderly woman in a retirement facility.

THe visits with the older woman were often comprised of her telling me stories about her life and her past. I would often tell her about the details of my days. SHe was always interested (or pretended to be) and seemed amazed by how busy I was. I must admit, that a fair amount of my time was probably spent almost complaining about my burdens and my work load. Life is busy, after all, and it's all important to me. THere never seemed to be enough time to get it all done!

One day, I was just about to enter the retirement home to visit my friend when my cell phone rang. It was my teenager. She was extremely upset and was having trouble even getting whole sentences out as she tried to tell me what was wrong. SHe had a lot of homework to do... more than she could get done. She was being pressured to try out for cheerleading by her parents, but didn't really want to. There were many other burdens and responsibilities that she was struggling to juggle. It was all SO SERIOUS... and she was feeling terribly overwhelmed.

As I let her vent her frustrations and we discussed some ways to approach her current dillema, I started to wonder about something. None of her problems were actually earth shattering. From my 30-something perspective, most of what she was upset about really didn't matter. I knew that before long, the cares of this day would be forgotten. She couldn't see that in the midst of her overwhelm, but from my vantage point, having lived a bit longer, I knew this to be true.

I started to wonder if I sounded to my elderly friend the way my teenager sounded to me? How much of what I was SOOOOO CONCERNED about really was completely unimportant in the long term? Was my older, wiser, woman friend internally smiling to herself at my youthful lack of persepctive?

That day changed me. I started to carefully consider the subjects I brought up with my elderly friend. I no longer wanted to rattle on about things that really weren't important. I wanted to train myself to understand that many things simply don't matter as much as I think they do!

Whenever I would start to 'spin up' on something, I would remember how my teenager sounded when she described her life and the utter hopelessness of it all. I encouraged myself to look at my own situation through the lens of awareness that I had about hers. Not to take anything away from the agony that my young friend was experiencing. I know she truly 'felt' that her life was out of control. The truth is, however, that it wasn't really out of control. Nor was mine.

I've had many 'teenage' moments since then, but I'm quicker to recover from them now. I can often 'catch myself' and remind myself that when I'm in my 80's or 90's, I'll look back fondly on the crazy days of my 40's... so busy and stressful.

I might as well enjoy them for all they are worth... instead of lamenting the burden of them.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thinking Makes It So

I wanted to talk today about an idea expressed in Hamlet by William Shakespeare,

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

This is a powerful concept that can improve the quality of our lives dramatically, if we can embrace and practice it's wisdom.

Another way to state this principle is that what happens to us isn't nearly as important as our attitude and perspective towards what happens to us.

We can radically alter our experience of life if we take control of our reactions to the events in our lives. In many cases, we can't control what is happening in our life. The ONLY thing that we can control is our reaction and our response to it.

Labeling something as hopeless and negative restricts our capacity to constructively deal with it. Labeling something 'bad' and 'hopeless' causes our creativity and possibility thinking to shut down.

Looking for the possibility in any situation is what liberates our creative and innovative spirit.

The truth is, we can't possibly know when things happen, what the ultimate outcome will be. Some things that look very bad could turn out to be the best thing to ever happen to us! Some things that look very good could turn out to be big problems.

I believe our job is to not jump to conclusions when things happen to us. We are to accept what happens and do the best we can to constructively respond to whatever crosses our path!

Here's a little teaching story that illuminates this principle:

Good luck, bad luck

A father and his son owned a farm. They did not have many animals, but they did own a horse. One day the horse ran away.

“How terrible, what bad luck,” said the neighbors.

“Good luck, bad luck, who knows?” replied the farmer.

Several weeks later the horse returned, bringing with him four wild mares.

“What marvelous luck,” said the neighbors.

“Good luck, bad luck, who knows?” replied the farmer.

The son began to learn to ride the wild horses, but one day he was thrown and broke his leg.

“What bad luck,” said the neighbors.

“Good luck, bad luck, who knows?” replied the farmer.

The next week the army came to the village to take all the young men to war. The farmer’s son was still disabled with his broken leg, so he was spared. “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”

Fighting and struggling against things that happen to us is not going to get us very far. WE have to adopt a more open approach to what happens to us. Then when really challenging things come upon us, we have all of our resources at our disposal to constructively respond.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Non-violent Resistance is Misunderstood

I had a discussion with a friend today that got me to thinking about the issue of non-violence as a means to change unjust situations.

Many people think that what Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught and stood for was passivity in the face of attack.

What Gandhi and King stood for, taught and practiced was "Non-violent RESTISTANCE to Evil." This is anything but passive.

What these great men demonstrated was that you MUST stand against injustice, oppression and violent attacks. You must STAND up. You must refuse to obey with unjust rules and laws. They taught that you must refuse to go along with acts that support and sustain discrimination or racism.

There is nothing passive about resistance. These acts - to refuse to comply with injustice and evil motives of the powerful - require more courage than picking up a stick and fighting back with violence.

The beauty of the non-violent resistance approach is that the abused/oppressed resistor is clean in the struggle. It is easier to expose the dastardly deeds of the aggressor and the oppressor, when the victim STANDS AGAINST the propagator, and does not use violence to fight back.

When an oppressed person or group responds to their oppression with violence, it is easier for the oppressor to justify their acts. They can turn the tables and try to make it look like the victim gives them no choice but to be violent and abusive. Look at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for a good example of this.

Non-violent resistance is not about just sitting down, doing nothing, and allowing others to beat on you. It is about standing up to them when they come, taking the beating, and letting the inhumanity and the bestiality of their behavior convict them in the eyes of all decent human beings.

That is how India gained its Independence from British Colonial rule. The Indians, under Gandhi's leadership, burned their ID cards, refused to honor laws making Indian's second class citizens in their own country, making salt when it was prohibited for Indians to do so. They took ACTIONS that defied the British colonial rule of their country. They were arrested, beaten, imprisoned... and ultimately, they prevailed.

Apartheid is no more in South Africa, for the same reason.

When the world finally wakes us to unprovoked and hideous injustice, they finally end it. But when there is blame to be shared by both sides, it takes longer to reveal the true villian.

That is the way we change the world.

Not by warring. Not by doing nothing.

There is nothing PASSIVE about Non-violent resistance to evil.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Intention is All Important!!!!

I had a conversation with a friend today, who decided the time had come to make a list of all the qualities that she was looking for in a life partner. She wants her intention to be sent out in to the universe.

Without clear, declared intention we are a lot less likely to get what we want in life!!

It is interesting that my friend shared this plan with me today, because I had been having a similar thought process in my mind about the kind of life that I want to live. I was feeling strongly pulled to put down on paper the type of life I intended to live: how much time I wanted to spend working, playing, the quality of energy I wanted to have, etc. I was feeling that I might have been too vague in how I was approaching my days.

I believe the universe speaks to me in a variety of ways. My friend sharing her interest in and commitment to setting her intention around relationship, affirms in me that I'm on the right path with my desire to set clear intentions for my life overall.

I will do this before the week is out! When we feel inspired to do something I believe we should follow the old saying and "strike while the iron is hot!!"

Setting our intentions gives validity and clarity to what we are looking for. In a universe where our thoughts are powerful in affecting and/or determining our reality... it is critically important to be CLEAR in what we are seeking!

It is powerful to set intentions for any and all situations in which we find ourselves in. Whether it is a business meeting, a doctor's appointment, a date... or overall life quality... setting our intentions can only help us!

Be clear about what you are seeking! Set intentions as often as possible!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Making Peace WIth Our Bodies

I had the privilege of being a guest on a radio show today, "Chat With Women" here in Seattle. We were discussing body image and how challenging it can be for women to appreciate and like their bodies, just as they are TODAY! They will have a downloadable MP3 file posted soon on their website if you missed the live broadcast on the radio or internet. Look under Archived shows for the Feb 18th broadcast. I'm the last guest on the show, about 35 minutes into the hour. Chat With Women Website

In fact, I was so excited about the show I forgot to post a blog article for this morning! Oops! Sorry about that! :)

My dream for every woman is that she look in the mirror and absolutely ADORE the person she sees there. As is… TODAY…. Assets as well as perceived ‘flaws.’

I have a goal on my personal goal list every year to “Adore and adorn THIS body AS IT IS TODAY.” This was also a theme for an entire year of my life. (I declare a theme every year, in addition to comprehensive goal setting)

As a former bulimic and someone who has struggled with body image issues and food addiction for most of my life, I have covered a lot of ground in my own recovery and healing, and I have helped countless counseling clients and teenagers with this challenge.

No woman born and raised in this culture emerges unscathed when it comes to body image challenges. We all have distortions in how we look at ourselves - especially our bodies. Many of us have challenges around food that manifest in conditions of overeating or other food related problems. We often equate our appearance with our worth as people. We must work to disconnect this erroneous and dangerous association. The rise of teenagers seeking plastic surgery to ‘fix’ their ‘flaws’ is a major reminder that this sort of inner war on the body is accelerating in our culture and affecting us at younger and younger ages. The way to freedom (and paradoxically the way to the bodies and physical appearances we yearn for) is through radical self acceptance of our bodies just as they are in this moment. From that place of respect and acceptance, we can actually change. We are often taught to hate ourselves for our flaws, and use that energy to whip ourselves into shape. This doesn’t work!! When we hate and fight against our bodies, we can never be free… even if we temporarily achieve the body or appearance of our dreams.

I know many thin, beautiful women who are still trying to ‘fix’ their physical appearance because they aren’t happy with what they see in the mirror. The inner landscape must be tended to and healed in order for us to be able to be free of the ongoing war with our sacred, magnificent bodies. I once heard a speaker (at a conference put on by Shape Magazine on Body Image) who said, “No woman ever criticized the size of her thighs after she climbed a mountain!”

I love to help women embrace their bodies, and their physical form as a precious and miraculous gift to be cherished. From THAT place… real change, for the right reasons… is not only possible… it is inevitable!

Check out my resource list on my website for some great ideas on how to work with body image and eating challenges: Making Peace With Our Bodies - Resource List

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Wisdom of Yoda

I love to search for spiritual truths in all of the great wisdom traditions of history. I also am known to turn to philosophy, psychology and... movies for spiritual teaching.

Yoda is one of my spiritual teachers. Several years ago, I was given a poster with the "Wisdom of Yoga" on it. It hangs in my office as one of the inspirational messages I offer my counseling clients and visitors.

Here is the poster. Below it, I have pulled out some of my favorite lines to share with you.

The Wisdom of Yoda

Wars not make one great

You must unlearn what you have learned

Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try

Luminous beings are we... not this crude matter

That is the way of things... the way of the Force

A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind

Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will

Beware of the dark side. Anger... fear... aggression

You must feel the Force around you

Size matters not

If you choose the quick and easy path... you will become an agent of evil

Mind what you have learned. Save you it can.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Obama vs Hillary

I have a pet peeve to share with you. I was taught a long time ago that to be respectful to someone you use their last name and their title when you address them.

Mr. Smith
Dr. Davis
Mrs. Jones
Miss Tate
Ms. Marple

You get the picture. In my generation, for example, one would never call a friend's parent by their first name. It simply wasn't done.

Kids could call kids by their first names. Adults could call kids by their first name. Kids were not supposed to call adults by their first names. It was not considered to be respectful.

There is something interesting happening in the democratic presidential race. Have you noticed? People often talk about the race between Obama and Hillary. Why is that? I think it is significant. I have even caught myself doing it. The stunner for me last night was to hear a young, female, African American reporter on CNN speak about "Hillary" and "Obama."

Sexism is so ingrained in our society, at very subtle levels, that it is easy to miss. I'm not saying people are doing this intentionally with Senator Clinton's name. It is simply 'comfortable' and 'normal' to refer to women by their first names, when men are referred to by their last names.

I've had a debate with a few people about which of the democratic candidates would be most viciously attacked by the opposition in the general election. I personally believe that both racism and sexism are deeply imbedded in our society. I do, however, believe that sexism is easier to conceal. It is just so normal to most of us and even those affected by it can't often spot it in action.

The Clinton campaign is even trying to use this phenomenon. I saw a campaign sign today that said, "Hillary for President." Now in all fairness, I'm not sure if this is directly from her campaign, or some local part of her team. It is either part of the same undercurrent of ingrained informality when it comes to women, or it might be intentional. If it's intentional, the theory might be that there is only one Hillary and no one would be confused. Maybe there is a belief that it makes her more personable (to combat many people's discomfort with a strong, aggressive woman being out in public.) Whatever it is, I don't like it. You certainly wouldn't have seen "John for President" (for either Edwards or McCain) signs. You might see a "Barack for President" but you know, I haven't seen a campaign sign like that.

It is interesting to me that we all seem comfortable calling Senator Clinton "Hillary" in conversation, but I've never heard anyone talk about "Barack" in casual conversation. So the argument that the uniqueness of the name is what causes "Hillary" to be acceptable washes out as well. There aren't any other Baracks in the race either.

Some might try to justify the Hillary issue by saying that referring to her as "Clinton" might cause confusion with her husband, Bill, who previously served as president. Using that logic, we wouldn't have used "Bush" to refer to our current president during his campaigns, because of the possible confusion with his father, who had also served as president. That dog don't hunt.

It might be an interesting exercise to watch your language around this question. Are you referring to Senator Clinton as "Hillary" or as "Clinton." Observe to see if you are consistent or not. Do you always refer to her the same way? Do you use both? Let it be a little experiment. A couple of people I've brought this up with have been a little surprised that they were consistently using her first name. It just seemed normal to them. As I said, I have caught myself doing it as well.

I'm just asking you to ponder this question and maybe raise your awareness about it. Not only in this particular situation, but in others also. It may seem like a small thing, but small things add up to be big things. This is a relatively simple undertaking we can all participate in to raise our awareness about an 'invisible' issue... and potentially change the world!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Blazing Trails Politically

I have a lot of opinions (strong ones) about politics in this country. I have even more opinions about the foreign policy of the United States with regards to the Middle East... but I'll save that for another day.

What I want to address at this moment, however, is the historic race that we have for the democratic presidential nominee. Regardless of the outcome in the nominating process for the democrats, or the eventual outcome of the presidential race, something important is happening.

There was a time in this country when it would have been impossible for a woman, or an African American man to mount a viable presidential campaign. That time was not so long ago. It simply wouldn't have happened.

We owe a debt of gratitude to these two people regardless of party affiliation or personal opinions about who would make the best president. They are literally blazing a trail in consciousness. They are changing, forever, the political landscape in America. They are rendering possible, something that has never been possible before.

They stand on the shoulders of others who have gone before them blazing various parts of the path that they now stand upon. There have been other African Americans who have entered presidential primaries. There have been women as candidates at other levels of government, including Geraldine Ferraro's Vice Presidential candidacy in 1984. All of these prior events have made possible what we see today.

Obama and Clinton are blazing an entirely new trail in American Politics. It will change our future, regardless of the outcome of this particular contest.

Shannon Faulkner was the first woman to be admitted to the Citadel in 1995. She achieved this by mounting a legal challenge to the prohibition against the admission of female cadets. She won that battle and was admitted. She went through 4 hours of introductory indoctrination, and then spent the rest of her first week in the infirmary, before resigning. The treatment she received at the hands of her male classmates was more than she could take.

Shannon Faulkner, however, deserves the credit for breaking a formidable barrier and blazing a trail that other women have been able to follow with less pain and difficulty. Nancy Mace was the first woman to graduate from the Citadel in 1999. She too, is another trail blazer who took it to the next level. Both women were essential in changing the face of the Citadel. By 2005, 6% of the Citadel’s cadets were women. In 10 years time the landscape has totally changed. It all started with Shannon Faulkner. She was on the very front line of making the change possible. Although she herself did not achieve the goal she set out to attain, she made it possible for every single woman who has come after her to have a shot at that goal. She is a hero, for breaking the 'impossibility barrier.'

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are breaking their own impossibility barriers in American politics. It is an exciting and future forming event that we are witnessing.

Hopefully, we will all witness the day when sex or race are not important considerations in the electability of political candidates. At the present moment, Obama and Clinton are laying the ground work so that day can come sooner, rather than later!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Lost Claw

My dad used to take me to dig for clams near Garibaldi in Oregon. We would get up at the crack of dawn, load our tools into the back of his Ford pickup truck and set off on our journey. This is how I learned to drink coffee in a moving vehicle without spilling it! We always stopped and had breakfast in some little road side diner along the way. We timed our arrival using the tide books.

The place where we went clamming was a huge boulder filled beach. One always had to move lots of large rocks out of the way to reach the sand where the clam digging was possible.

My father and I did this same routine many times. We had buckets filled with tools, and of course, we each had a normal shovel. Some of our tools were hand tools. Small shovels, picks and claws were among the collection.

Dad always brought this one tool that unbeknownst to me was an antique that might have belonged to his father. I didn't know there was anything special about this particular claw.

On one of our clamming expeditions, that claw ended up in my tool bucket. I was using it as I excavated and extracted my limit of clams. That particular day, we were clamming right up until the moment our holes were swamped by the incoming tide. We collected our belongs and headed up the boulder covered embankment to our truck.

When we arrived home, we washed all our tools to remove the salt before tending to the clams. As we rinsed and inventoried the tools we made an unpleasant discovery. The ancient claw was missing. Somehow I hadn't gotten it back in the tool bucket.

My father was quite upset over this loss. I felt extremely bad when I saw how upset he was. I didn't mean to be careless and I certainly didn't know how important this tool was to my dad. It bothered me every time we went clamming.

About three years after that fateful trip, we were clamming once again on the rocky Garibaldi beach. We got set up and an hour or so later I was working in a particularly fruitful clam hole, pulling one clam out after another. The hole I was working with was filled with murky sea water. As I reached in to the water with my bare hands, I felt something long and skinny. I thought it was probably a stick. I pulled the item out of the hole, and much to my amazement, three was the CLAW! Three years later, and I somehow returned to the exact spot where I had left it. It was rusty and weather beaten, but it was there.

I carried it over to my dad and said, "Here. I don't want to hear any more about this dang claw!"

He was as shocked as I was! We both started laughing and shaking our heads in amazement.

This beach was not small. The possible spots to dig for clams on that beach were unlimited! Yet, somehow, I found my way back to the very spot where I had lost the coveted item.

It was a great reminder to me that miracles do happen, and that even things long lost... can be found and recovered.

There is always hope!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Dad's Driving School

Freedom is the single most important word in my personal vocabulary. In my teenage years, I got my initial taste of significant freedom when I purchased my first car. Bright orange would not have been my preference for the ideal color of my ride, but being a sixteen year old restaurant worker, I was operating on a meager budget. In 1980 the colors of the seventies dominated the used car market. Orange had been all the rage in the disco decade. I had to suffer the consequences.

I had saved $1,000 to put towards a car. My father had agreed to loan me the rest of what I would need to solidify the liberation that came with my recently acquired driver’s license. So the shopping began.

Early on a Saturday morning, my dad and I went to look at the 1975, orange, Datsun B210 hatchback. The newspaper ad showed the asking price at $2,300. When we arrived at the seller's home, my father looked over the car, decided that the tires needed to be replaced and asked the owner to knock $50 off the price. He, of course, jumped at the offer and with that, I had purchased my first car.

The only drawback, in my mind, besides the hideous orange color, was the fact that this car had a standard transmission, and I didn’t know how to drive one. My father assured me that this wasn’t a problem and he could teach me quickly how to drive this type of vehicle. I shuddered inside as I thought about the coming ordeal to learn to drive a more complex vehicle than our 1973 Ford Thunderbird with its power steering and automatic transmission.

After completing the transaction with the car’s previous owner, my father drove my car home and I followed him in the T-bird. I parked our family car in the driveway and dad pulled my new car in behind me. I jumped into the passenger seat of my new car. I knew it was time for my first driving lesson in my new car. My dad wasn’t one for wasting time. When something needed to be done, you just did it, no questions asked.

Dad drove the car out to the junior high school parking lot and we traded seats. My father was a no nonsense kind of guy. He wasn’t very patient and he demanded immediate competency when he set out to teach me something new. I felt extremely nervous as he started to explain how to work the clutch and the gas in concert with each other. I did my best to follow his instructions and I fumbled around with the new driving landscape that included the strange extra peddle.

After fifteen minutes of lurching and jerking around the empty parking lot, dad told me I was ready to head out on the open highway and head to my uncle’s farm 30 miles away. Was he joking? I argued with him a little, but to be honest, I knew better than to try that. This was his way of teaching me everything: he provided a few basic instructions and then threw me into the deep end. He expected me to swim immediately, and not whine about it either!

As I maneuvered out of the parking lot and onto a real road I could feel my heart beating wildly in my chest. I really didn’t know what I was doing. The first red light was more than traumatic. I killed the engine, with several cars lined up behind me, of course, and it took several attempts before I finally had us moving again. Thankfully, we lived in a small, friendly town and no one honked to further traumatize me.

I was relieved as I drove out of our little town and headed into the countryside. Thank God there were no more stop lights to contend with until we reached the next hick town along our route. As we approached the next town, I started feeling anxiety about whether I would get stopped at the one traffic light that existed there. The light was green as I approached and I was feeling a little more confident. That is, until my dad told me to turn off onto a side street and pull over. The unexpected stop proved challenging. As I rounded the corner, per my instructions, I found myself heading up a giant hill! I pulled the car to the curb, wondering what my dad was up to, and my watched him jump out of the car. He ran into the corner market leaving me to wonder what the heck was going on. It became obvious when he emerged from the store with a six pack of Bud light beer in his hands!

“I need this if I’m gonna make it through this drive!”

I started wondering what the cops would do to a new driver who was caught with an open container of alcohol in her car. Dad had more pressing concerns and evidently was willing to take the risk on my behalf!

Starting that car on the immense hill proved to be impossible for me. After more than a few attempts, my dad had me put the car in neutral and let it roll backwards down the hill and around the corner, so that I could pull forward on a flat surface.

We took off with me focused on the laborious mechanics of letting out the clutch, giving it the gas, driving a little ways and doing it again when the next gear was needed. With no more towns in our path, we lurched and jerked our way to my uncle’s farm, twenty miles and 3 beers away.

My father was immensely proud of me as we pulled in to my uncle’s driveway. His empty beer cans on the floor and a grin on his face from ear to ear let me know his feelings. Words weren’t needed.

My uncle came running out to congratulate me on my new car and my grand achievement of driving a stick shift for the first time! I felt a special kind of pride in my accomplishment as these two important men in my life oohed and awed over my car… and my successful virgin voyage as the captain of my own ship.

I recall that experience often when I am facing a new challenge in my life. I remind myself that I can do anything if I try hard enough. My dad taught me that it just takes willingness and perseverance to attain any goal. My entry to driving a standard transmission vehicle could have been gentler and more gradual, but that wasn’t my dad’s style. Although there are times in my life when I might have wished for a bit more hand holding and coddling from him, I’m actually quite grateful that my father taught me things the way he did. I’m strong and resilient partly because of the way he approached my education in the school called life. I don’t know who I would be if he’d done it any differently.

Friday, February 08, 2008

A Blob of Rice Saves the Day

Yesterday was a really busy, flustered day for me. I had several appointments and a variety of tasks to accomplish. I had the oil in my car changed the day before, and discovered that the oil change technicians had left a piece hanging from the bottom of my vehicle! The unexpected return to the oil change place threw another monkey wrench into my schedule.

I found myself picking up dinner to go, which I ate in my car on my way to my financial planning/stock market class. I settled on Japanese stir fried vegetables and steamed rice. It is one of my favorite meals and I don't get to eat it nearly enough!

Eating stir fried vegetables and rice as you drive down the freeway is not something that happens effortlessly. As you might imagine, it is tricky at best, stupid (and dangerous) most likely! I tend to be stubborn about such things, however, and I really wanted that particular meal after my trying day.

I tucked my napkin into my shirt, so that I could shovel the bits in without dumping residue down the front of my blouse. That worked pretty well. I was careful as I ate, and usually waited until I was stopped in traffic to take each bite.

I actually managed quite nicely, until one particular lump of steamed rice slipped off my plastic fork, bounced off my leg and slid down between my seat and the center console. Dang it! I thought about the fate of this rice blob. I tried to reach down and grab it, but each time I touched it I felt it slide further towards the inaccessible zone. Would it still be there when I next have my car detailed, to gross out the poor soul vacuuming under the seats? As if driving and eating wasn't dangerous enough, now I was contemplating a complicated extraction of this non-solid, slippery object! I decided to let it go until I was safely parked somewhere.

I arrived at class, and had just enough time to run in and get settled before it started. The rice blob would have to wait.

After class, I drove home and pulled in to the dark garage. The light over my car is burnt out, so I knew that I wouldn't be able to see what I was doing if I attempted to solve my problem at that moment. The rice blob would have to wait.

This morning, when I pulled the car out of my garage, I knew my moment had arrived. It was time to try and get the rice blob out. I hoped it would have hardened up a bit overnight, so that it wouldn't break into a bunch of little pieces and scatter under my seat.

As I peered down into the crack between my seat and the console, I could see where the rice blog was lodged. I started feeling like this endeavor would be successful.

At that moment, something caught my eye. A few glints of metal just to the right of the rice blob, right behind the seat belt receptacle caught the light. My heart leaped a bit. I reached down and there was my 'Jawbone' blue tooth headset that I lost back in November! It is mostly black, and it was lodged between the seat belt receptacle/seat and the console. It was standing on end, so it was very small. The only thing that made it visible were the little metal spots that connect to the charger!

I have been looking for that since November! I absolutely hate losing things. Beyond that, these little suckers are expensive! $125 - $150 each! I have two of them because, well, I talk on the phone a lot... especially when I'm driving! Having two allows me always have one fully charged. When I lost that headset, it totally disrupted my routine. I was too upset to go buy another one. It is a serious indulgence to have two. I simply couldn't justify buying another one because of my carelessness!

I had looked between the seat and console no less than 15 times searching for that thing! I don't have any idea why I couldn't see it before this morning. Perhaps I moved it when I was poking around trying to find the rice blob. Or, maybe I had never looked as deep into the void before that moment.

All I know is that I am now eternally grateful that I dropped that blob of rice down there! It saved me $150!! When I first made the mistake, I was upset with myself. I felt foolish and was unhappy with my decision to try to eat and drive at the same time.

As is so often the case, however, my 'mistake' and the inconvenience that resulted from it created the conditions for something good to happen to me! That 'mistake' solved a problem that I had been living with for 3 months! Suddenly, what had been a foolish, careless mistake, turned in to the solution of a longer standing challenge!

This is often the case in life. We never know what is going to be 'the answer' or where that answer might come from. I do believe that everything happens for a reason. We often can't see it immediately. This is where faith comes in. I often try to remember this when I'm driving and get delayed somehow. Who knows, maybe that delay is preventing me from being in an accident. Or maybe the delay is going to put me in exactly the right place at exactly the right time for something wonderful to happen!

I am now very happy that I dropped the blob of rice in my car. Partly because it helped me find my headset and partly because it reminded me that even things that seem silly and insignificant can be quite profound!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Back to Bags

I recently did an article on the wonderful trend in the emergence of reusable bags for shopping. This movement seems to be gaining momentum.

This, as I mentioned, is a very important issue. We humans generate an immense amount of garbage, especially in this country.

As conscious as I try to be about the issue of using reusable bags, I'm amazed at how fast I amass piles of plastic bags.

Ireland made a brilliant move that has reduced their plastic bag usage by 94%! 94%!! That is AWESOME!

They implemented a 33 cent tax on plastic bags in 2002. That means that if you want a plastic bag in a store, you pay for it. BRILLIANT!

People got on the bandwagon very quickly! Think about how much we would spend if we had a tax like that. I think we'd all get some canvas bags for our shopping! Those of us who already have them would stop forgetting them when we go shopping.

I hope our nation will someday get to the level of conscientiousness that Ireland has now achieved.

It is impressive! It is also the type of action that will be necessary to save our
planet from the destruction of overconsumption and ultra-disposability.

Here is a link to the article in the International Herald Tribune (republished in the NY Times). Motivated by a Tax, Irish Spurn Plastic Bags. You may be required to register to read the article. I have included the text here as well:

Motivated by a Tax, Irish Spurn Plastic Bags
Derek Speirs for The International Herald Tribune
Published: February 2, 2008

DUBLIN — There is something missing from this otherwise typical bustling cityscape. There are taxis and buses. There are hip bars and pollution. Every other person is talking into a cell phone. But there are no plastic shopping bags, the ubiquitous symbol of urban life.

In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was bigger than the sum of these parts.

Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable — on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog.

“When my roommate brings one in the flat it annoys the hell out of me,” said Edel Egan, a photographer, carrying groceries last week in a red backpack.

Drowning in a sea of plastic bags, countries from China to Australia, cities from San Francisco to New York have in the past year adopted a flurry of laws and regulations to address the problem, so far with mixed success. The New York City Council, for example, in the face of stiff resistance from business interests, passed a measure requiring only that stores that hand out plastic bags take them back for recycling.

But in the parking lot of a Superquinn Market, Ireland’s largest grocery chain, it is clear that the country is well into the post-plastic-bag era. “I used to get half a dozen with every shop. Now I’d never ever buy one,” said Cathal McKeown, 40, a civil servant carrying two large black cloth bags bearing the bright green Superquinn motto. “If I forgot these, I’d just take the cart of groceries and put them loose in the boot of the car, rather than buy a bag.”

Gerry McCartney, 50, a data processor, has also switched to cloth. “The tax is not so much, but it completely changed a very bad habit,” he said. “Now you never see plastic.”

In January almost 42 billion plastic bags were used worldwide, according to; the figure increases by more than half a million bags every minute. A vast majority are not reused, ending up as waste — in landfills or as litter. Because plastic bags are light and compressible, they constitute only 2 percent of landfill, but since most are not biodegradable, they will remain there.

In a few countries, including Germany, grocers have long charged a nominal fee for plastic bags, and cloth carrier bags are common. But they are the exception.

In the past few months, several countries have announced plans to eliminate the bags. Bangladesh and some African nations have sought to ban them because they clog fragile sewerage systems, creating a health hazard. Starting this summer, China will prohibit sellers from handing out free plastic shopping bags, but the price they should charge is not specified, and there is little capacity for enforcement. Australia says it wants to end free plastic bags by the end of the year, but has not decided how.

Efforts to tax plastic bags have failed in many places because of heated opposition from manufacturers as well as from merchants, who have said a tax would be bad for business. In Britain, Los Angeles and San Francisco, proposed taxes failed to gain political approval, though San Francisco passed a ban last year. Some countries, like Italy, have settled for voluntary participation.

But there were no plastic bag makers in Ireland (most bags here came from China), and a forceful environment minister gave reluctant shopkeepers little wiggle room, making it illegal for them to pay for the bags on behalf of customers. The government collects the tax, which finances environmental enforcement and cleanup programs.

Furthermore, the environment minister told shopkeepers that if they changed from plastic to paper, he would tax those bags, too.

While paper bags, which degrade, are in some ways better for the environment, studies suggest that more greenhouse gases are released in their manufacture and transportation than in the production of plastic bags.

Today, Ireland’s retailers are great promoters of taxing the bags. “I spent many months arguing against this tax with the minister; I thought customers wouldn’t accept it,” said Senator Feargal Quinn, founder of the Superquinn chain. “But I have become a big, big enthusiast.”

Mr. Quinn is also president of EuroCommerce, a group representing six million European retailers. In that capacity, he has encouraged a plastic bag tax in other countries. But members are not buying it. “They say: ‘Oh, no, no. It wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t be acceptable in our country,’ ” Mr. Quinn said.

As nations fail to act decisively, some environmentally conscious chains have moved in with their own policies. Whole Foods Market announced in January that its stores would no longer offer disposable plastic bags, using recycled paper or cloth instead, and many chains are starting to charge customers for plastic bags.

But such ad hoc efforts are unlikely to have the impact of a national tax. Mr. Quinn said that when his Superquinn stores tried a decade ago to charge 1 cent for plastic bags, customers rebelled. He found himself standing at the cash register buying bags for customers with change from his own pocket to prevent them from going elsewhere.

After five years of the plastic bag tax, Ireland has changed the image of cloth bags, a feat advocates hope to achieve in the United States. Vincent Cobb, the president of, who founded the company four years ago to promote the issue, said: “Using cloth bags has been seen as an extreme act of a crazed environmentalist. We want it to be seen as something a smart, progressive person would carry.”

Some things worked to Ireland’s advantage. Almost all markets are part of chains that are highly computerized, with cash registers that already collect a national sales tax, so adding the bag tax involved a minimum of reprogramming, and there was little room for evasion.

The country also has a young, flexible population that has proved to be a good testing ground for innovation, from cell phone services to nonsmoking laws. Despite these favorable conditions, Ireland still ended up raising the bag tax 50 percent, after officials noted that consumption was rising slightly.

Ireland has moved on with the tax concept, proposing similar taxes on customers for A.T.M. receipts and chewing gum. (The sidewalks of Dublin are dotted with old wads.) The gum tax has been avoided for the time being because the chewing gum giant Wrigley agreed to create a public cleanup fund as an alternative. This year, the government plans to ban conventional light bulbs, making only low-energy, long-life fluorescent bulbs available.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Bucket List in Pajamas

Sometimes you just have to do things that bust you out of your comfort zone!

On a recent visit with my mother, to celebrate her 73rd birthday, we decided to go see the movie, "The Bucket List," in a theatre. I had endured a long 5 hour drive to get to her home that day, and we had already been out for dinner when we made our decision. We decided to go home first and get more comfortable before we went to the theatre.

I said that I felt like getting in my pajamas to watch the movie. My mom laughed. Then I got a brilliant idea! I suggested that we both wear pajamas to the movie! And not just any pajamas... matching pajamas! We both have a pair of chocolate brown PJs that I got us a few years ago. They are super comfortable, and if the truth be told, they look a bit like a pant suit anyway.

My mom started laughing and thought it was a silly idea, but before long we had agreed that we were going to do it!

I don't like to be too matchy matchy with my mom in public. We have been known to buy the same clothes or shoes from time to time, and I'm always a little embarrassed when we end up dressed alike (even if it's just our shoes) when we are out in public!

In this case, however, I wanted to level a direct challenge to the part of me that cares way too much about what other people think! I wanted to go out with my mother, in public on a Friday night, wearing matching pajamas! I wanted to just feel the embarrassment and/or self consciousness and let that be ok.

I suggested that we also wear our matching shoes, and matching black leather jackets, but mom wouldn't go that far! She felt the PJs were enough of a statement!

And so we went. The comfort was exquisite! I got popcorn, and a cherry slurpee (something I haven't had since I was about 12) and we settled in! We were giddy with laughter over our little secret. We were watching this movie in night clothes! :)

The Bucket List, for those of you who haven't seen it, is a sweet movie that I highly recommend. The subject matter is a little challenging, but it is hilariously funny! It is the story of the unlikely friendship between a billionaire and a working man who have each been given a short time to live. They are each facing their own mortality, and decide that they have some dreams left to pursue before they 'kick the bucket.' They co-create a list of things they want to do before they die, and set off on a series of adventures to fulfill their dreams before they run out of time.

The movie is getting substandard reviews, and while I agree that some things might have been done a bit better, the concept is awesome and the message is unmistakable.


Go see The Bucket List and be inspired to live your dreams without waiting for a diagnosis to propel you to do so!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Longer Days Bring Hope

This winter has been really difficult for me. The long, dark days have bothered me more this year than ever before. I think a couple of factors have made it a bit tougher for me to take.

I was in the middle east for most of December. That tends to be a critical adjustment period to the shorter days. I left when the days were still a little longer, and came back to darkness descending by 4pm each day! My jet lag is always harder to get over in the winter, partly because of the shorter daylight hours. I struggled upon my return. I wanted to go to bed every night at around 6pm!

Also, we did not have a real summer in Seattle this year. We had so much rain and so many gray days that none of us really got the 'recharge' that we need in order to coast through the dark months of winter! We literally need to be fortified to make it through all of the rainy, gray days, and limited daylight hours. I'm not the only one who felt this lack! All of us were getting really concerned in September that we didn't have a summer, and we weren't ready for what was to come!

The dark days have seemed to drag on and on this year. I was a bit surprised at just how much it was getting me down to get up in the dark and be immersed in it once again by late afternoon.

Now, however, something is happening. It was about a week ago, that I noticed that although the clock said 5:15pm, daylight was still partially present! The days are getting longer and its starting to get noticeable now!

This morning, when I woke up at 7am, it was completely light outside! This is the first time I've experienced that in several months! I felt my spirit literally leap for joy! I bounced out of bed with more vigor than I've been able to muster in quite a while!

What is it about a little bit of light that gives me such a boost? How can such a seemingly minor thing make such a difference?

I believe that the light gives us hope. The light lets us know that night and darkness does not last forever. When our days start to get brighter and longer, we are reminded that spring is coming. Warmth, light and new growth are on their way. We remember, once again, that we don't have to live our entire lives in the stark, cold, darkness of winter!

The return of the light kindles our belief in new beginnings and the ongoing process of growth and rebirth. We start to feel excited about what is to come, instead of bemoaning what has passed away, or what we are 'stuck in' now.

Let the returning light lift your spirits and buoy your heart! Spring is coming! The days will continue to get longer and longer and we will enjoy the gift of basking in the light more every day!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Cal Farley's Boys Ranch

I took a trip to Texas last spring with my mother and my uncle David. We spent over 2 weeks driving all around the state visiting sites relevant to our family's heritage and visiting many of our relatives who still call Texas home. My mom has 5 siblings. We visited all the towns where the 6 siblings were born. We visited a lot of towns where my Grandfather, Morris Russell Pike Sr. preached as a Methodist minister. It was such a powerful experience for us all. We connected deeply with our family's history and heritage.

One particularly wonderful discovery came our way during the trip. My uncle David remembered visiting a "Maverick Boys Ranch" where my Grandfather volunteered and helped build buildings back in 1939 and 1940. David remembered a really small place, very primitive. As we arrived in the area where the boy's ranch/orphanage was supposed to be, David recognized many landmarks, but the only boy's ranch in the area was "Cal Farley's Boys Ranch" which is very famous (and was even the subject of a movie). This place appeared to be a really developed, huge place.

Initially, David was pretty sure this wasn't the same place that Grandpa worked on. We decided to go and check out the visitor's center and see if we could figure out if this was 'the place' that Morris Russell Senior had volunteered. As we went through the visitor's center and then the museum, we got our answer. There were some old photos of the place when it was started, in 1939. David recognized the photos, one of which showed the "Maverick Boy's Ranch" entry gate!

It was called the Maverick Boy's Ranch back when my grandfather was helping build the initial structures there. It then became America’s First Boys Ranch and was finally renamed Cal Farley's Boys Ranch in 1954. We watched a great movie about the place and bought some books about the history of the ranch.

As we looked around at this amazing place, with an inspiring mission, we realized something that gave us goosebumps. My grandfather (and their father) had been there at the very, very beginning of this undertaking. He was there at its birth. M.R. Pike had played a role in starting a place that has helped many boys who were either orphans or who needed a more stable environment than there parents were able to provide.

We were incredibly proud that M.R. Pike had played an important role in a project that has made a difference in literally thousands of young men's (and young women's) lives. What touched me most is that my Grandfather died very young, and never knew what became of this place. None of us in the family knew until this trip, that we had a special connection to this fantastic place. My grandfather had a big heart and a passion for helping young people. His contribution to this boy's ranch, in its formative years, was an almost anonymously performed act that has lived on through the years. What a legacy!

Here is the intro for Cal Farley's Boys Ranch from their website:

Cal Farley's Boys Ranch is a modern community of boys and girls who have found "a shirttail to hang onto." In a nurturing, structured environment, boys and girls from pre-school through high school live in group homes with house parents and a supportive community.

Young people from throughout the United States enjoy a variety of academic, vocational, spiritual and extra-curricular activities to help them become responsible and resilient young people.

The Boys Ranch Independent School District (BRISD) serves as an integral part of the community with K-12 grade academic and vocational preparation.

Last year, Cal Farley's Boys Ranch cared for 354 children in residence with an average length of stay of more than four years for those finishing high school.

The Ranch, founded by Cal Farley in 1939, is located 36 miles northwest of Amarillo, Texas.

Check out Cal Farley's Boys Ranch Website. Be inspired!

Maverick Boy's Ranch 1939

Blacksmith's Shop - 1939

Cal Farley's Boy's Ranch - "A Shirttail to Hang Onto"

Friday, February 01, 2008

Eliminating Junk Mail

If you are like me, nothing seems more wasteful than the constant stream of junk mail that pours into your mailbox. I can't believe how much paper I end up recycling as a result of the unsolicited junk that is sent to me in the US Mail!

I have a rubber stamp that has a band aid over a tree. It says "First Aid for Trees: Please remove me from your mailing list!" I stamp that on pieces of paper, but mailing labels off offending junk mail and send it back to the sender.

There is also a way to let the bulk mailing houses know that you do not wish to receive catalog from vendors that you do not order from or do business with. Every couple years I renew my request to be removed from those mailing lists. That makes a huge dent in the junk mail I receive.

I wanted to pass along a website that has a lot of ways to reduce the impact of junk mail on the planet. It's important for each of us to do what we can do to reduce our impact on the environment and the planet. If each of us does a little, we can make a huge difference!

Do-it-yourself: Stop junk mail, email and phone calls

**My apologies if there are spelling errors in this article. I'm having trouble with the spell checker in blogger. Something isn't working right. This has been going on for a few days now!!