Thursday, July 28, 2016

words for wednesday ...

The Tortoise Trainer by Osman Hamdi Bey (1842-1910)
he had realized as a young boy how soothing it was to just stop what he was doing in the middle of the day and watch the tortoises. their slow, deliberate movements made him slow down and think about the things that were important. as he got older, and his life more hectic and chaotic, the lesson of the tortoises stayed with him. his students thought that his passion for tortoises was one of his eccentric tendencies, but they, in turn, learned how the observation of them calmed them before exams. tortoises don't do anything rash, they think about their movements and choices because it takes so much effort to move with the weight of their shells. that pause before decisions makes them more likely to make the right decision rather than one based on emotions.
Osman often found himself talking over decisions with the tortoises, as if they could understand what he was saying, or even speak themselves. but he found that when he voiced his thoughts to them, often beginning a conversation with "I was just wondering if you could solve a little argument?"and the pros and cons of any decision he had to make, he would make better choices. he attributed it to the wisdom of the tortoises, but deep inside he knew that just stopping to think allowed him to make wiser choices.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

forced to reconsider ...

Alfred Stevens "Cat"
the box had arrived the week before, but her sorrow was so deep, the fog of grief tiptoeing into her heart like little cat's feet, that she couldn't bring herself to open it. seeing his handwriting on the label brought back the memories of the times they had shared together ... times they would never share again. 
finally, she had walked in the garden that he had planted for her, and when she saw that he had planted her favorite blue pansies in the shape of a heart, she knew it was time.  
he had sent the box his last morning, enclosing a note telling her how much he loved and cherished her, and that he couldn't wait to see again. he told her that the gift enclosed reminded him of her. small but fierce. independent but holding a part of his heart that made him realize how much he needed her.  he had found it in a little shop, and the old Chinese woman who had sold it to him told him that it was the year of the tiger and an auspicious gift for his fiancĂ©e who had been born in a tiger year and under the water sign. 
of course, he hadn't believed in any of that, being a Christian missionary, but he knew of her fondness for cats. he told her he would be arriving back in San Francisco in a month's time and that since he would soon need to return to the church he was planting, he asked if she would marry him sooner than they had planned because he never wanted to be that far away from her again.
the telegram had arrived two days after he had sent the box, telling her of the fever that had taken hold of him and robbed her of the life they had planned together.
his body had been buried in China, almost immediately after he had died.  so strong was the fear of the fever, that the ship's captain with whom he had arranged his passage back to her had refused to allow the plain box casket that carried his body on board.
as she held the blue pansy close to her heart, and his last letter to her fell to the floor amidst her tears, she knew that the life she had imagined was still possible and that she would continue his work in China. 

i've been reading"The One Year Book of Hope Devotional" by Nancy Guthrie. it is "daily readings to give you hope when life has let you down." her story is a heartbreaking one of back-to-back deaths of two babies from a rare disorder called Zellweg Syndrome. reading her words, and the strength and faith she has had humbles me, and while my own losses are nothing compared to hers, it does not minimize mine. they are exactly the same, but completely different.
in her book, it was the following passage that made me connect with this picture, and with my own life story ... [see Losing Your Life pg 100-101]
"He has given you the gift of being forced to reconsider the very purpose of your life.  Those who are sailing through a comfortable life at this point have not yet been forced to carefully consider their lives and surrender their dreams.  but because you have been shaken to the core, you see clearly that if you cling to your own plans and desires, you will never discover the freedom and joy found in losing your life for Jesus."

Saturday, July 9, 2016

under construction dreams...

 it has been quite a while, years perhaps, that i've had the house dreams. i may have blogged about them before, i don't remember now. but the dream has come back and i now know what it means, which for as bizarre as it is to dream of moving into old houses that are falling down for repairs and filled with amazing and beautiful antiques... it is actually comforting.

this time the house was in Alaska, on a great deal of land and we were being tasked with caretaking for a large herd of cattle (which is a new development in the dream) and we were also setting up house with friends of ours and their many children and animals (also a new development, tho not an unpleasant consideration).  but enough of that. i'm quite certain that i could finance a small country with the fees to have my dreams dissected and no one would still know what they meant.

but i babble because it has been a day that started before dawn, and an active day of learning and moving so i am tired and slightly brain-fried with all the new information i must absorb by osmosis at some point.

late last night i discovered curious pictures on my cell phone, 62 of them in fact, that i have no recollection of taking.  apart from these three (of 30) that were so overexposed, it was hard to identify what they are of, the others were clear enough to identify my jeans and the inside of my car.  but i don't know why these were so over exposed because the ones before and after them were not, and i clearly was not intentional in taking them.  the first one on the upper right seems to have the appearance of the shadow of a man (or men) in the lower portion of the picture. the one in the middle looks a little as if it could be a hummingbird in flight or the profile of someone's face. and the last one looks almost like a distant shore seen through the fog while out on the water.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

GINA ...

today i was watching some of those mandatory in-processing training videos (Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) and there was something new that surprised me in a way, but then again not.

years ago when i was teaching human resources classes at a university (2005-2008), i would show the movie "Gattaca" as an example of what kind of changes we can look forward to in the future of human resources.

that day is here.

a new anti-discrimination law was passed called GINA which stands for Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act of 2008.  it took effect on 21 November 2009.
my first thought was to wonder when the government was going to start collecting DNA samples for everyone or if they have somehow already begun collecting it in ways that we are unaware of.
then i read this, and i've highlighted sections that made me raise my eyebrows because after reading it, i wondered if they really thought their exceptions to the rule were narrow because it seems that their idea of gathering DNA could be simply based on hearsay and gossip.  the thoughts in red italics are mine, and i'm not normally a conspiracy theorist, but it just seems like the narrow exceptions are really not so narrow.

Rules Against Acquiring Genetic Information
It will usually be unlawful for a covered entity to get genetic information. There are six narrow exceptions to this prohibition:
  • Inadvertent acquisitions of genetic information do not violate GINA, such as in situations where a manager or supervisor overhears someone talking about a family member’s illness. this seems like a broad policy for "inadvertent acquisitions" and it does not seem to restrict who is doing the talking and if they are talking about their own family or someone else's family.
  • Genetic information (such as family medical history) may be obtained as part of health or genetic services, including wellness programs, offered by the employer on a voluntary basis, if certain specific requirements are met.  what are the specific requirements?  most large corporations offer wellness programs, so will they also be collecting DNA if you participate in one?
  • Family medical history may be acquired as part of the certification process for FMLA leave (or leave under similar state or local laws or pursuant to an employer policy), where an employee is asking for leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition.  to my knowledge, family medical history has never been a part of the certification process for the Family Medical Leave Act in the past.  are they going to ask just for the history of the person you would leave to care for, or will they want generations past now?
  • Genetic information may be acquired through commercially and publicly available documents like newspapers, as long as the employer is not searching those sources with the intent of finding genetic information or accessing sources from which they are likely to acquire genetic information (such as websites and on-line discussion groups that focus on issues such as genetic testing of individuals and genetic discrimination).  so... if you join an online support group for say ALS or Parkinsons or parents of autistic children or cancer or whatever ... and the employer overhears someone talking (see first bullet) can he "accidently" find said support group online and then flag an employee's file for genetic issues?  
  • Genetic information may be acquired through a genetic monitoring program that monitors the biological effects of toxic substances in the workplace where the monitoring is required by law or, under carefully defined conditions, where the program is voluntary. anyone working in a manufacturing plant with any kind of chemicals could now be required to submit DNA, which the government could potentially request for their own reasons?
  • Acquisition of genetic information of employees by employers who engage in DNA testing for law enforcement purposes as a forensic lab or for purposes of human remains identification is permitted, but the genetic information may only be used for analysis of DNA markers for quality control to detect sample contamination. under the "umbrella" of possible crime scene contamination, every law enforcement officer will now have to submit DNA.  just because they say it may only be used for quality control, doesn't mean that it won't be entered into a computer program that will be accessible to the government for other purposes.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

things i learned in June ...

i happen to know that emily p freeman whom i joined last month on her blog has been in italy for the past 10 or so days at a writer's retreat (and i am deeply envious) so i'm not sure if there will be a link-up for the end of june, which is actually okay as long as she posts many pictures of italy when she gets back to her blog.

where may was a month of loss and grief, june was a month of disappointments when after 160 job applications since the end of january and 8 interviews (6 of them in june alone), i still was without a job until the very last two days of the month.  it is a part-time job of which i will say that beggars cannot be choosers. it was also a month for three surgeries, one almost surgery, a potentially lethal infection, and receiving good news about now cancer free sisters. there was one other major disappointment and it was in me by an 18-year-old young woman of which i am sorry

june was a month of flowers and green trees.  a month of deer without fear, as if they know hunting season isn't for several months yet. it was a month of bumblebees and honey bees. it was a month of fear fought with faith, a month of on my knees prayer.

if you could tell your 18-year-old self some advice that might change your life, what would you say? knowing full well that if you changed something in your past, you might lose something that is very precious to you now. would that change your advice to yourself? would your 18-year-old self listen to your advice?

 dear 18-year-old you;

I wanted to write you something for your 18th birthday, now that you’re an adult, now that you’re going off to college and making decisions for your life. I wanted to write something that I wish someone had told me when I was 18, something that might have made my life different. It’s pretty hard to try and fit 36 years of experiences into one letter, and equally hard to find just one or two things that I think would make a difference for you.

So this is from me. What you choose to do with it is up to you. 

You don’t understand yet what it is like to want to do something so badly that it rips your heart out when you realize that you won’t be able to do it. You’ve never had to want for anything.

I’m not saying that as a bad thing. I guess that would be one piece of advice that I might be able to give you. Don’t make assumptions about other people’s lives or experiences, especially when you’ve never had to walk in their shoes. Open your heart, and your mind, when it comes to other people. Not everyone has had a life as good as yours.

Yes, dad made mistakes when you were young, he’s not perfect. But no one is, other than Jesus. We all make mistakes. We all have regrets. We all wish we could have made some different decisions in our past. But we are stuck with the lives we have lived. There aren’t do-overs in life. You learn from your mistakes, pick up the pieces and move on. Maybe one day you will understand that, and I hope, sincerely hope, that when you do understand it that it won’t come with as much pain as some life lessons can give.

But here is the thing that sometimes is the hardest to accept about those painful mistakes and lessons … when you look back at them with regret, you have to ask yourself, honestly, if you would change them because for as painful as they are, they usually give you the most priceless things in your life. Mom might consider Dad a mistake in her life, but that mistake gave her you, and I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t trade you for anything in the universe. Dad wouldn’t trade you for anything either.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” [Romans 8:28 NLT]

God also called us to treat others as we want to be treated. That would be the other piece of advice I think might help make a difference in your life. I know it is probably the hardest also. It is hard to put aside our hurts. I know. I’ve been there. Got a t-shirt. But when we hold onto those hurts, when we treat someone coldly because of how we feel they treated us, the person who gets hurt the most, in the long run, is ourselves.

If you feel Dad puts you last in his life, ask yourself where is he in your life? I don’t think you even put him on your list, and I get that. There have been times in my life when I’ve been so hurt by people that I’ve completely written them out of my life. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t blame him for not putting you first in his life when you don’t return his phone calls or write to him, or respond to messages. Yeah, I know it sucks to have that thrown back at you, but this is what being an adult is. Taking some of the responsibility for the things that happen to us.

I know dad loves you but just doesn’t know how to connect with you, and that was and always will be the truth. But just because he hasn’t always been able to meet your expectations of what kind of a dad he should be, it doesn’t mean he loves you any less. That is the drawback of loving someone conditionally. It’s one-sided and it will always, always, always hurt and disappoint you.

I don’t expect you to change overnight because of what I’ve said. In truth, I don’t think my words will make any difference. Now. But maybe in 10 years or 20 years, or maybe if you have your own children, you might remember this letter and realize that what I say isn’t meant to hurt you or make you angry, but it is said with love and the hope that you won’t hurt as much as I did when I had to learn to love dad again. Maybe for you, you’ll learn faster than I did, with less resentment, and you won’t miss out on as much of his life as I missed out on with dad. Maybe he wasn’t there for you when you were growing up, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be there for you as a grown woman.

You are an amazing young woman with the entire universe at your fingertips. You are going to change lives. I hope that one of them will be dad’s life.

I don’t expect you to respond to this. I’m just asking that you don’t slam and lock that door in his face. Leave it open, be willing to accept him as he is now, changed, humbled, and regretful of the things he missed out on with you. He’s not a bad man. Don’t shut him out of your life. Even if all you ever do is occasionally send him a card or letter that says hello, just please don’t shut him out. You mean everything to him. You always have, and you always will.

Love, 54-year-old me

Monday, June 27, 2016


if you have read my book "Trooper's Run," you know that the Spirit Wolf was based on a real wolf mix that i really did rescue in a hurricane.  unlike his character in the book, Eli had a long and happy life.

i found out today that Eli passed on the 7th of March this year, 11 years after i rescued and rehomed him.  perhaps he was there to greet Trooper at Rainbow Bridge.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

father's day ...

my father has been gone nine years now.

my uncle, my father's twin brother, stepped in as a surrogate father until he passed five years ago.

my step-father has also been gone for three years.

it is odd now that i realize how much time has passed when i know that for my brother and me, my cousins, and my sisters there are times for all of us that it feels like it was just last week.

my husband is a father to three amazing people, and a step-father to two others, one of whom has already made him a grandfather once with another on the way.

his own father is now getting hospice care ... a call we expect and dread.

as a woman, whose own father was distant emotionally, sometimes even geographically so, i can relate to the emotions that my step-daughter feels for her father.  i've come to believe that the father-daughter relationship can be as difficult at times as the mother-daughter relationships can be.

we are destined for those challenges because they teach us, model for us, and sometimes scar us with the knowledge of who we want to be and who we don't.

my father taught me how to love myself.  he taught me how to love others.  he taught me how to forgive myself.  he taught me how to forgive others.

so it is with gratitude today, that i think of my father, and his father before him, and his before him.  men who set the standard for the type of father i would have.  it is with compassion and forgiveness that i think of my father's mistakes because he was not perfect, but he did not know differently.  it is with love that i think of my father because he loved me the best that he knew how.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

things i learned in May ...

i'm joining today for the first time with [emily p. freeman], author of a book that really had an impact on me  "[a million little ways]"   
May was a hard month for us; a very emotional month with three deaths, a father in hospice, a sister getting surgery for cancer, and the pain that a father felt when he unintentionally disappointed his daughter.

hard times are usually the teachers of hard lessons, lessons you aren't likely to forget anytime soon.  but hard times can also give us priceless memories that we wouldn't trade for anything.  May gave us both.
  • death can take someone we love from the physical world, but it will never take them out of our hearts.  we can cherish the memories we have of them, grieve over missing them, hold tight to the things that remind us of them.  they are still there with us in spirit.  love never dies.  Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.  ~ 1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT
  • even when things seem so dark you doubt there will ever be light again, know this:  there are still stars that shine behind the clouds; the reason we can see the moon in the sky is because it is reflecting the light of the sun; and no matter how much it feels like it is the end of the world ... it's already tomorrow in Australia.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.  ~ John 1:5 NLT
  • there are things in this world that we won't ever understand.  why do things happen?  why her? why him?  why us?  why me?  we can "why" and "what if" our lives away because we are so focused on the questions and not on the answers.  there are things we are not meant to know, and all we can do is keep waking up, keep stepping forward, keep moving, keep trusting, and keep believing.  What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead.  ~ Hebrews 11:1 TLB
  • family is a loose term that can include friends, ex's, fosters, and steps in addition to those related by blood.  regardless of how you define your own family unit, the one thing that will always be true is that no matter what the relationship is between you, respect, forgiveness, and love will be what holds you together when times are difficult.  when there is no respect and no forgiveness the family unit will collapse.  A family cannot last if it is divided against itself.  ~ Mark 3:25 NLV
  • that being said ... family ties, blood, marriage, or otherwise, does not give someone the right to demean, insult, or disrespect you.  one of the hardest things about self-esteem and self-care is remembering that it is not selfish or unreasonable to expect respect from those who call themselves family.  there may be times when you have to cut ties and move on without someone in your life because their presence is negative, toxic and unhealthy.  “Proud,” “Self-important” and “One who laughs at the truth” are the names of the man who acts without respect and is proud.  ~ Proverbs 21:24 NLV
  • this was the month i learned about rhubarb.  this picture is of the patch of rhubarb in the yard of our rental house.  this month i've learned how to 'harvest' and freeze rhubarb.  i got (and taste tested) a recipe for rhubarb crumble [see here] and will be pinning more to try.  the flower/seed pod coming up i will probably let come up and flower instead of cutting it back.  there are several bunches of rhubarb growing in the yard and wild across the street that i will harvest from, but i'd really like to see the flower.
  • i also learned that i have value, much more than what others think. and that it is okay for me to stick to what i believe.  it is okay to agree to disagree, and i don't have to accept less than my worth for work i believe in.

Friday, May 27, 2016

at what cost love?

last December a friend contacted us about taking in her cat
she needed to "downsize" her number of animals because
she didn't have time for them
too much drama in her life

Aragorn has a laid back personality
immediately walking into the house, brushing up against Trooper
and claiming us as his own

two months later,
his previous owner asked if she could buy him back
$50 was the price she named for his love
her life was just as hectic as before
even more
but she claimed she missed him

we told her we weren't interested in selling him
he had bonded by then, with us and with Trooper
and his funny little habits made our lives richer
far richer than money could buy
five months later he grieved for Trooper just as we did

there are changes coming for us soon
(cue willie nelson and on the road again)
we weren't sure if we would be able to move with Aragorn
and we reached out to his previous owner,
wanting to do what was best for him, we asked
was she still interested in getting him back?

we made arrangements to meet and return him
(cue whitney houston and i will always love you)
and she rescheduled because of family drama
she assured us she would be at the second set meeting
and so we arrived this afternoon,
with a highly stressed and scared cat in the car
(cue tears and gut wrenching commercials on television for animal shelters)

she wasn't there.  she wasn't even in town.

David and i discussed again moving with Aragorn
he had gotten used to being an only "child"
being lavished with time and attention
since Trooper passed,
our bond had grown even stronger

when his former owner contacted us to reschedule again
we told her that we had reconsidered and decided that
he would stay with us and we would make a move,
including him, work because we felt it was the best for him

she offered $50 again
i told her that there wasn't a price you could put on love
and she replied with the promise of "lots more money"

when i read those words
the thought of Judas Iscariot came to mind
and the 30 pieces of silver that bought his love

i told her no, that i couldn't put a price on love
she replied that if i wasn't willing to sell him back to her
for $400 then i could 'just forget it" and i could keep him
which i agreed would be the best for Aragorn

there isn't a price you can put on unconditional love
especially the unconditional love we get from our companion animals
could we have used that much money?
of course.  who couldn't?
but i never would have forgiven myself if i had sold him out
for 30 pieces of silver