Who Loves Fall?

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October 2018 Calendar

Welcome Fall

I know I’m not alone when it comes to enjoying the season of autumn. Days become shorter. Sunsets seem more stunning. Temperatures start to cool off. Well, around here, there is no real guarantee of that, unless we are in the mountains. But you know what I mean. For me, fall means we are heading into some holidays that I really enjoy, too.

Fall Flavors & Cooking

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Pumpkin Pie with Peanut Brittle Topping

Do you have favorite recipes that come to mind and start your cravings when your calendar turns to October? Perhaps something with butternut squash or a pork loin roasted with sage? I have to give a nod to all things pumpkin, too. Although I’m not a pumpkin latte fan, I accept that many of you are. But slice up a homemade pumpkin pie, add a little fresh whip cream, and I’m ready with my fork. My mom always sprinkled the whip cream with small chunks of peanut brittle. Delicious! I continue that tradition in our home, though not everyone is as interested in that as I am.

Fall Color & Decor

I live in Southern California, so we have to create our own fall. Some trees near our home are changing color. Pink. They have large pink blossoms during this season. What? That always makes me laugh.

Pink Trees

The trees along one street in our neighborhood all bloom in bright pink blossoms in the fall. I took this photo at sunset. Though they kind of look orange, I assure you they are pink! Not a fall color in my mind.

The Japanese maples in our town will turn to beautiful fall colors, more orange and red, but not until December. That’s OK. I still like to see the bright colors. This year, I purchased a maple leaf garland that reminds me of Midwest leaves floating in the breeze to the ground. It’s a colorful addition to our den.

I recently purchased some table runners for our large dining table to set a fall mood. This is part of simplifying seasonal decorations, to have simpler storage when not in use. It is fun at add simple visual hints of the season or holiday. Table runners are perfect to fold and put away until next time.

In addition, I create some focal points, like many of you do as well, with tiny pumpkins from Trader Joe’s around the house for a pop of fall color. Those can be tossed at the end of the season. No storage needed. Sometimes I toss them in a field to feed some critters. I like to fill a small glass vase with candy corn. That decoration seems to disappear by the time trick-or-treating is over. And, of course, faux candles with timers warm the home with light. Candles can be used all year.

 

Fall Books & Ideas

The beautiful books and magazines that feature fall photography, recipes, and decor ideas are fun to read. That helps get in the fall spirit out here in California. I grew up in the Midwest, so I’ve experienced the full fall tree colors, authentic hay rides, a reason to own sweaters, and chili suppers that do not include jalapenos. Here are two of my favorite seasonal books: Autumn, by Susan Branch, and Seasons of the Heartland, by Midwest Living.

 

Home for the Holiday

Although the leaves will have fallen to the ground by late November, I’m looking forward to a Thanksgiving visit to my hometown in northeastern Ohio to get a sense of autumn, similar to my growing up years. It will be cool weather, and we may even see some light snow.

Closing Thoughts

Two additional notes. Ironically, orange is my least favorite color. Unless it is September, October, and November. And, ironically, fall has other meanings, especially for me this year. I’m not sure any literal fall is happy, unless you fall in love, fall into bed, or fall into a big pile of leaves. See last week’s post for details on a recent fall that was NOT a favorite season. So, happy autumn and enjoy your fall…in the seasonal sense.

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What are the ways you enjoy the fall season? I hope you, too, find joy in the season. Join family or friends for soup and apple crisp sometime soon, or your fall food of choice!

Stay charming, my friends!

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Ankle Reflections

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I twisted my ankle on the evening of June 25, 2018. On June 26th, my birthday, I was informed it was broken, put in a temporary cast, and handed a pair of crutches. (Add moving around on crutches to my description of Hell.)

Ankle Cast & Crutches

On June 27th, I visited my foot doctor and got the temporary cast removed in exchange for a boot, much more tolerable. Next stop was to pick up a knee scooter, the best thing ever invented for staying off your foot, ankle, and leg to comply with your doctor’s “no weight-bearing for four to six weeks” instructions. I settled in for a long summer’s rest.

Ankle Scooter

My scooter…with my companions, the stuffed toy flamingo, Scarlet, and our dog, Samson the 2nd. The flamingo, a.k.a. Gladys, as Glen called her, was my inspiration animal. Flamingos are brilliant at life on one leg. The shoe for my working leg rests on my fluffy knee pad, ready to go when I get up.

In early August, we determined that the ankle did not heal well after six-weeks, so surgery followed on August 15, the day after our wedding anniversary.

Ankle Surgery Drawing

The surgeon trimmed the fragment at the base of the fibula and reattached ligaments.

My housebound scooting life was extended for another five weeks non-weight bearing to heal. I elevated my foot above my head, as directed, for weeks.

Ankle Post-Surgery Boot Elevation

Propped up in the bedroom, looking out to the living room.

And heal I did! [Insert applause and cheers.] I advanced to walking with a walker on September 19, 2018. I was able to retire the walker twelve days later.

On October 1, 2018, I took my first steps on my own. As I write, I’m still in a boot and walking is challenging, but progress is mine! This has been a long journey with many ups and downs.

I have a short list of lessons learned to share with you. I think the list applies to most struggles, so perhaps you will relate to it. Perhaps it will help us find courage together when hard days come. For those of you who express your spirituality differently than I do, thank you for accepting my references to God and my connection to him in this post.

Ankle Reflections

  1. Work toward a healthier weight through healthy eating. When you depend on your upper body to support you in times like this, extra pounds make that harder.
  2. Work toward physical strength, flexibility, and endurance. Take good care of your body so you are better equipped in physical struggles.
  3. Focus on the present and what’s true. When times are hard, it is easy to be negative and fill with fear. Counteract that by staying in the moment and thinking through what is true, shutting down discouraging “what if…” thoughts.
  4. Enjoy the fact that God is with you and goes before you. He loves you.
  5. Priorities can include slow living, developing your gifts, investing in your passions while you are sidelined. Be creative in doing that. Enjoy good people, good moments, good movies, and good meals.
  6. Time with people you love is life-giving. Be grateful for the time you have to visit while you wait to rejoin the hectic life you knew before.
  7. Togetherness with friends and family in your home is meaningful and rich. They do not care what you look like, nor how the house is not as clean as you’d like. Get over it and enjoy the company.
  8. Busy is often a choice that short circuits peace.
  9. Guard against personal idols – things you counted on for happiness that do not keep that promise in hard circumstances.
  10. Be grateful that God meets our needs, even when so much of normal life or how you had it pictured gets stripped away. You still have what you need in the moment, though you may not recognize it until later.
  11. Clutter around the house is a burden when you are limited physically. Clear it out to make moving around the house, reaching what you need, and enjoying your space easier. Having less to take care of when you can’t get around, or even in good health, is a benefit, too.
  12. Combat fear and the desire to control or it will eat you alive.
  13. Watch fear in medical situations dissipate with trusting God in new ways, and having friends or family accompany you to appointments and procedures.
  14. Waiting is an easy difficult practice of high value. Learn to do it well.
  15. Results are often beyond our control, as is timing. Watch for God’s intimate involvement in both, and just do the very next thing you have to do. Don’t think ahead.
  16. Friendship is wealth to the soul. Connection with a local church brings support in ways that melt the scared heart. A hard-working husband and best friend is an amazing gift, and such a loving, caring support in times of physical limits. Let people help and give you time to rest and recover. It’s good for everyone. Lose your desire to pay them back, and commit to helping others when you are able instead.
  17. Develop a living space that is one-level without steps to manage for times when your legs are not doing what they were designed to do.
  18. Slow mornings are a luxury. If you can rest comfortably, don’t wish that away.
  19. If you are comfortable, you will find time to do things you want to do, but never had the time to sit still long enough to do them. Embrace that, but understand that healing sometimes demands all your creative energy, so be patient with yourself when you feel too depleted to be creative with projects and interests.
  20. A lovely view from your resting room is a gift to your soul. Bird feeders, flowers, plants, trees, the sky, if included in your view, are calming to the soul. The activity of birds and butterflies, moving clouds and the breeze, and noises in the neighborhood all help you realize you are not alone.
Ankle London Pastry

A sweet friend sent favorite cinnamon buns from London Pastry, Redmond, Washington to encourage me during this time. Fun friends make hard times better.

Ankle Get Well Flowers

Another friend saw Glen at the grocery store and handed him a big note and a bunch of flowers. This was another of many moments that made this difficult time easier.

Stay charming, friends! In good days, and also, with special blessings, in rough seasons.

New Dishes – A Fun Change

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We got new dishes last week. We are taking the older dishes out to make room. We’ll donate those. I like the new dishes, but moving out the old ones triggered thoughts and emotions, like highlights on a timeline.

Changing Times

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In the late 1970’s, my parents purchased a set of dishes for me when I first moved into my own place after college. The entire J.C. Penney dish set cost about $35 then, and I was thrilled. My mom promised I’d never get tired of these plates because there was no pattern on them. She was right. As usual.

They served me well for years and years. In fact, when we moved into our current home in 1996, I donated most of the set that remained to create space in our cupboards. I have saved one plate, pictured above, for the sweet memory of that early part of my adult story.

This first set of plates reflected a change in status. I had finished college and was going to set up an apartment with a great friend in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. That adventure in independence involved a move eight-hour west, leaving my childhood home, my parents, and life in Akron, Ohio.


 

In 1992, I married Glen. We picked out a set of dishes. Our marriage has lasted twenty-six years, but our plates have not. We have two remaining dinner plates. One is pictured below. It is time to replace them. I remember picking them out when we were engaged and registering for wedding gifts at a local department store, the name I cannot recall, that no longer exists.

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These plates also show a change in status. I was thirty-seven and we were starting our married life. After years of being single, I stepped into sharing life with my husband, learning to love him, and choosing to care every day. We’ve shared many meals and memories with friends and family over the years with these dishes.

Changing Tastes

Through the years, I collected random plates with the common color of blue. I liked the eclectic look of those plates. For me, they reflected diversity and unity around the table. The plates did not match, but they were each beautiful to me. That was a metaphor for those gathered around our table through the years. Each person is unique, yet beautiful. The shared meal represented a sense of unity in that time spent together with good food. This collection will now be donated to make room for the new dishes. They have served us so well, and even started conversations as people asked why they are different and don’t match.

My tastes have changed. Those plates were fun for a season. Currently, I am drawn to certain colors that reflect the earth, sky, and colors of water. I want those echoed in our home as we refresh this 100-year old house for the season ahead.

The dishes below caught my eye online at one of my favorite stores, Crate & Barrel. They came in the colors I wanted. Rather impulsively, I ordered them. The first shipment arrived last week. I love simple design. We washed them and arranged them in our cupboards. And our old plates got bumped out.

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Did you notice they still don’t all match?

Shared Opportunity

It is time to box up and donate the old plates. It surprised me, however, when the moment came to do that, I felt sentimental. Plates and table settings are a form of self-expression and art in the home, as much as they are a practical tool.

I wonder who we will share meals with using the new plates. I look forward to seeing the good food presented on the plates to nourish us, slow us down for conversation, and share time with others. Our small group* met at our house for pizza and encouraging, thoughtful conversation last week. They were the first guests to use the new dishes.

I’ll schedule a pick-up with the Salvation Army. They will drive to my home and get the box of old dishes from my front porch. They can then sell them in their thrift store, support their community efforts, or give them to help others rebuild their lives. I feel happy about that opportunity as I send the dishes off. If someone else will enjoy them in their own home, it is time to share. When more people benefit, everyone wins.

Soothing Colors

The plates I selected are the pale green, dark blue, light blue, and white colors in the Hue Dinnerware Collection. These are calming colors to me, from the cool color palette. These colors reflect the sky, grass and trees, and the variant hues in the water found in rivers, oceans, and lakes. I love being outdoors. These colors are one way of bringing the outdoors inside.

We’ve got two each of four colors to mix and a match. I couldn’t decide which color I liked best. So problem solved!

Crate & Barrel dishes

From the Crate & Barrel web page…

Sacred Moments

Meals with loved ones can be sacred moments. For me, it makes me think of God’s provision in my life. The soil, wind, air, water, and sun all contribute to good foods. I Farmers and ranchers work to bring food to market. Having enough to eat is a basic need and I cannot provide all that alone. That turns my heart toward God, who I believe sustains me and food is a gift.

Slowing down around a table to eat, taste, share stories, and connect with another — these are essential moments in the day to sustain our spirits. A good meal engages all the senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, and we feel textures on our tongues. Shared meals are important to love, to community, to acknowledge there is enough, and see how we depend on one another to get food to the table.

For those of you who spend time reading the Bible, you may have noticed how many stories and images center around the table. Even communion with bread and wine, happens at a table with a group gathered for a celebratory meal. I love those images.

So dishes are practical tools, but the life that happens around dishes and meals is not to be missed. It’s time for new dishes and more memories in our home! May your meals be meaningful and enjoyed throughout the days to come!

Stay charming, my friends!


*A small group in this context is a group of eight friends that commit to meet together most weeks for support, friendship, and accountability as we learn to live as better people for a better world using Christ’s example and the story of restoration found in Scripture as our model. Our small group eats dinner together as part of our rhythm of sharing life. We have met together since 2008. This is a high priority for me as I navigate life with others who offer a safe space to talk, question, and grow. And eat!

Life & Logic: Part 2 – Avoiding the Question

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It just bugs me when officials in an interview on something important dodge the question with their answer.* In a time when facts and the truth are not always completely obvious, what do we do to stay sane and alert? Who has time to research everything to find accurate information? That may be why more and more voters vanish on election days from pure exhaustion. So let’s stay in it, and take steps to fight for logic in our political discourse!

*Note: I do understand when leaders are unable to comment due to ethical, legal, or sensitivity limitations. Sometimes we are legitimately not entitled to all the information in the moment. I accept that.

As we continue the series on strengthening our logic skills to recognize and respond to faulty logic, we equip ourselves to better understand facts, truth, and how they relate in reasonable ways. Today’s post looks at ways people avoid a question. These may not be new to you, but I find them interesting. It encourages me to be a careful and savvy listener when it comes to debate on important issues in our society.

Red Herring Fallacy

Saying things that sound like they answer the question, but they don’t. Saying things that are true, at least partially, but they do not answer the actual question. We’ve heard this happen in conversations and interviews. At times it is masterful how some people introduce something unrelated in a way that is hard to detect. Anytime this happens, that is one way of avoiding the question. This is called a red herring.

I recently read that a red herring is called that because it starts to smell like a dead fish. In the book, The Fallacy Detective, the authors tell how dog trainers would create a scent trail of whatever they wanted a dog to follow, say a racoon. Then the trail would become old. That is when the trainers would drag a smelly, old red herring across the trail and off in another direction to throw the dog off the original trail. They work with the dog to stay on the original trail and not get distracted. As defined in the book, here’s how this goes:

  1. A red herring, or irrelevant point, is introduced into an argument or in answer to a question.
  2. The speaker thinks or hopes that listeners will think this proves the point being made, and answers the question.
  3. But it does not.
  4. However, if someone responds simply with saying they do not know the answer, that is not a red herring. It is not irrelevant and is still on topic.

How to Recognize Red Herrings

Responses are often true, yet irrelevant. They can be good arguments, but just do not address the point of the question being asked.

So, to recognize a red herring, follow these steps:

  1. What is the question being asked or argued about?
  2. Did the person address that issue or question and stay on topic?
  3. Is the response true, but off topic?

These critical thinking tools help us determine a red herring and know how to respectfully listen, but not get sidetracked.

Special Pleading Fallacy

Special pleading is a variation of the red herring approach that uses a double standard or an exception that is not justified. These techniques sidestep the issue.

Example: I know I shouldn’t overeat, but I am very hungry.

Special pleading often brings in something that gives an unfair advantage. There are times when an exception to a standard or rule or law is unfair. When we hear those comments that seem unfair, it may be a red herring, distracting from the bigger issue or question.

How to Recognize Special Pleading

To call out a special pleading comment, step back and ask yourself or the person speaking, if you are in the conversation:

  1. Why is this exception relevant?
  2. Is this distracting us from the issue?

Ad Hominem Attack

I think these are easy to recognize because I get a pit in my stomach when listening. If you’ve ever watched a political debate in recent years, you’ve seen this in action. Ad hominem attacks are when one participant attacks the character and/or motives of the other to get us to doubt them and see them as bad or as the enemy. This is done effectively, yet unfairly, at times, if it gets us off the topic at hand. We listen to the participants drag each other through the mud instead of defending their position on an issue being debated.

Ad hominem is Latin for “to the man.”

We must go on alert when someone’s character or motives are attacked, instead of disproving an argument.  In that situation, someone is side stepping the question.

Next time, in the Life & Logic Series: Genetic fallacy, tu quoque, and faulty appeal to authority. What? Exactly why I’m reviewing these techniques that miscommunicate. I hope this is helpful.

Stay charming and logical, my friends!

Note: This is part of a blog series on a logical thinking to strengthen skills as we filter information in coming elections. Being an involved, informed voter is strategic and becoming more vital. Plus, logic exercises the brain. That is a great benefit. I am studying faulty logic, using a book, The Fallacy Detective, by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn. You can learn more at www.fallacydetective.com. Let’s work toward more wisdom as citizens and voters together. Our democracy is strong. Let’s keep it that way together.

A Visit to La Monarca, a Local Bakery

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La Monarca Bakery Sign

I recently returned to local bakery that I enjoy, La Monarca. I want to share it with you, in case you also have an interest and find enjoyment in discovering and visiting local bakeries. If you live in Southern California, and have not tried this bakery yet, I have included a link to find the several locations nearby. You’ll see link at the end of this post.

La Monarca is a pleasant place to grab coffee and a sweet, whether meeting friends or going solo. My husband and I have even been known to come here for a hot chocolate break on a busy Saturday in the winter. But more about that later.

I did a little research on the La Monarca website to find out more about this bakery. Here’s what was said to help frame our understanding:

La Monarca Bakery’s founders grew up enjoying the rich variety of cakes, pastries and breads which are household staples in Mexico. They created La Monarca Bakery to bring The Sweet Flavor of Mexico to the U.S. Our products are made with  all-natural fresh ingredients, without the use of lard, frying or artificial preservatives.

There’s a whole lot to like about that! Bakeries with a different cultural tradition are interesting. I learn and become familiar with treats new to me, a Midwest girl. Using “fresh ingredients” appeals to me, too.

I think it is fun to go in, grab a little tray and some tongs, and find your goodness. Scan the display and pick something interesting. Then go to the cashier to order any hot food or coffee.

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Start here!

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La Monarca Pan Dulce Delights

I am exploring the different pastries, new to me, on a quest to find my favorites. This is a long term goal. Currently, my favorite in the Pan Dulce display are the tacos or Taquito de Crema, Guayaba (or guava), or Con Queso (or with cheese). I like any of those three fillings wrapped in a flaky crust. I also like anything with cinnamon.

La Monarca Cinnamon Roll

The Cinnamon Roll

Sometimes I accompany the treat with a more sensible slice of Quiche Rajas, with peppers, corn, and cheese, to balance out with a bit of protein. The peppers are mild, not spicy, at least to me. I am a light weight when it comes to heat. Top it all off with a cup of coffee, and I’m all set to take a seat.

La Monarca Quiche Close-Up

The Quiche Rajas & Salsa

But before I sit down to wait for my hot food, I always carefully peruse the beautiful cakes on display, delightful to look at and no calories! No calories in just looking, that is.

La Monarca Cake Display

Check out the fresh cakes display.

The ambiance at our local La Monarca is fresh and clean, with an exposed brick wall, wooden tables and benches, and industrial steel stools. The music is energetic to add a pleasant Latin flavor. I have not been to other locations yet to compare.

La Monarca Wide Shot

Time to find a seat to enjoy the goodies and some conversation.

La Monarca Latte

Sometimes I get a latte.

I recommend trying their specialty coffee, Cafe de Olla! This coffee is described on their menu as custom Mexican spiced coffee with a blend of spices, brown sugar and organic Oaxacan dark roast coffee. I find the flavor mild and delicious in an interesting way. I do not like flavored coffee. However, I do enjoy this coffee occasionally, since the flavor is tasty and light, complimenting the coffee, not competing.

Also, this bakery supports the Monarch butterfly. We can sign and post a flyer for $1. La Monarca sends all proceeds to their partner ECOLIFE Conservation and the Monarch Butterfly conservation program. This is an important cause since those easily recognizable and majestic butterflies are in trouble, and the numbers have really decreased in recent years.

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Looking through the door to the beautiful outside sky.

Did I mention the hot chocolate? I know it is 91 degrees today where i live, but cooler weather will be here again one day. We need to be ready! They offer Mexican hot chocolate with organic cocoa, brown sugar, and cinnamon, whip cream and a sprinkle of crushed peanuts. They also offer a traditional champurrado, and I have to try that some time this winter. If you know what it is, you’ll probably want to try it, too. If you do not know what that is, maybe you should try it to find out. Doesn’t talking about hot chocolate at least remind you of days with cooler temperatures, even though it has been a hot summer?

 

Do you have any local favorite bakeries to share about in the comments? Please do!

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Order Cafe de Olla here or pick up a bag at one of the La Monarca locations.

Stay charming, my friends!

Sanctuary

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For those experiencing “personal or political heartbreak,” Carrie Newcomer, an artist new to me, composed a song called Sanctuary that may speak to you. I connected with it. I am currently reading Parker Palmer’s life-giving book, On the Brink of Everything. This beautiful song,Sanctuary, is referenced in this book, and that’s how I found it and recently listened to it.

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In the notes for The Beautiful Not Yet album, Carrie wrote this about her song,

This song was written after a conversation with my friend Parker J. Palmer. I asked him, “What can we do when we are personally or politically heartbroken?” He responded, “We take sanctuary. We gather with those we love, in places like Brown Chapel. We remember, we share stories or we sit in silence until we can go on.”

I am in a season of political heartbreak right now, and some personal heartbreak. Maybe you are, too. This song brought to mind people and places that provide sanctuary for me – a good meal shared with loved ones, the beauty of nature and cathedrals, cultivating my faith quietly, the solace I find in God, moments of solitude, and connection in my local church community. I need to be more intentional about taking sanctuary in difficult times, remembering I wasn’t made to do the hard in life alone.

Here are the lyrics. I like to read lyrics. Perhaps you do, too.

Will you be my refuge

My haven in the storm

Will you keep the embers warm

When my fire’s all but gone?

Will you remember

And bring me sprigs of rosemary

Be my sanctuary

’Til I can carry on

Carry on

Carry on

 

This one knocked me to the ground

This one dropped me to my knees

I should have seen it coming

But it surprised me

 

Will you be my refuge

My haven in the storm

Will you keep the embers warm

When my fire’s all but gone?

Will you remember

And bring me sprigs of rosemary

Be my sanctuary

’Til I can carry on

Carry on

Carry on

 

In a state of true believers

On streets called us and them

Its gonna take some time

‘Til the world feels safe again

 

Will you be my refuge

My haven in the storm

Will you keep the embers warm

When my fire’s all but gone?

Will you remember

And bring me sprigs of rosemary

Be my sanctuary

‘Til I can carry on

Carry on

Carry on

 

You can rest here in Brown Chapel

Or with a circle of friends

Or quiet grove of trees

Or between two bookends

 

Will you be my refuge

My haven in the storm

Will you keep the embers warm

When my fire’s all but gone?

Will you remember

And bring me sprigs of rosemary

Be my sanctuary

‘Til I can carry on

Carry on

Carry on

 

Where do you find sanctuary, a place of refuge or safety, when you can’t do it on your own? When the heartbreak makes it tough to get up and go on alone?

If you stop to watch the song video, may it encourage you and strengthen your heart, because maybe – just maybe – you needed this today.

Stay charming, my friends! And find sanctuary on dark days.

 

For more…The Growing Edge with Carrie Newcomer and Parker Palmer

 

 

In My Opinion: Reunite Families

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We are in a moral storm. Time for me to rant.

A Prologue

This is a political post. I am defining politics, in this context, as the system a society uses to set governing principles and policies that help our nation of many people get along, use resources, and live our corporate values. For those of you who don’t like political posts, this will continue as a lifestyle blog on another day. However, I need to make some clear statements in this difficult and troubling time.

I want to first acknowledge that I am not confident in the statistics that we have been given. That is troubling. News reports had shared that slightly over 2,000 children are separated from families. Then, later this week, that count was updated to 3,000. That is upsetting for several reasons: 1) another 1,000 children are separated, 2) we cannot get accurate information, and 3) we are limited in knowing who and what we can trust.

Secondly, I have written (emailed) and called The White House, the Department of Justice, my two state senators, and my congresswoman. I have donated to World Relief, an organization I trust to care for immigrants, offer law-abiding compassionate immigration services, and to advocate for these marginalized brothers and sister. I still feel frustrated with my inability to impact change and to help.

No news in this next statement. We have a big problem here. Over 3,000 children are separated from family members. We have been told some parents have already been deported without their children. We have been told some children have been deported without parents. This is crazy and painful and wrong on so many horrific layers.

From the Lens of My Profession

I am a retired educator, still credentialed in California and a mandated reporter. A mandated reporter is legally required to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect to the relevant authorities for children encountered in my professional duties and care.

I suspect that separating children from parents qualifies as neglect. We know children are not getting the level of care and nurturing that children need developmentally. Is that not neglect? This would be unacceptable in the world of education, and I’d have to report it. It definitely has been reported. Action to investigate and correct the situation is happening. Is it? Accountability seems to be in place. Is it? One deadline expires today. We will watch and see what happens.

Some of the little ones don’t even know the name of their parent, beyond their chosen term for mother or father. Some infants do not have language to speak the identity of their parents. Even with the best-intentions, even if the child detention facility was highly-equipped, I find this tragically unfortunate and damaging to children. Not to mention the parents unable to even contact their children. It is an overwhelming mess.

From the Lens of a Manager

Even in the best case scenario where workers assigned to these children are compassionate, emotionally intelligent care givers, they must be overwhelmed by the number of children assigned to them and the level of need. If I was an employer or manager in these facilities, I would be so upset for my staff. There is often a language barrier. Resources and support are severely limited. Training has to be minimal. At any typical recess setting on the playground, there is rarely enough staff to do more than supervise for physical safety. This must even be worse.

Holding children in groups in a system not set up for this makes me so sad for these workers, the conscientious ones who need their jobs. This is not a summer camp set up to house and care for children in established, child-center, age appropriate programming until parents pick them up on Saturday. My heart breaks for the good workers trying to obey orders, yet sickened by the situation. Where is the leadership to support them in a healthy work environment that does not ask them to compromise what they know to be right? I pray they can feel compassion and see they make a difference in the lives of children each day.

I’ve heard the authorities are struggling to match parents and kids to reunite them. I cannot begin to fathom the daunting task this is, and it is taking too long. I cannot imagine how my heart would ache if I had a job at one of these facilities and could not get this situation resolved. Thousands of lives of employees and families as well as immigrant families will never be the same, and we will be picking up the pieces for decades. This is a colossal mess, creating a level of chaos that is inexcusable. Yet leadership has not been called to account yet, at least from what I have seen and heard. I feel helpless and annoyed.

From the Lens of Problem Solving

Who was in the room when it was decided to separate children from parents? Even with that being such a bad decision, who let that roll out without the administrative structure to set it up, implement it well, support the workers, and remedy when time to reunite? In other organizations, debacles like this would lead to firing of key organization leaders. Speedy resolution would be visible. Who was in the room when the decision was made to move children to other states? Or move the parents to other states? This is our government. I am in shock.

I can’t even begin to get into the costs involved. Some businesses are even profiting from this situation. I understand the lawful rights to ask for asylum that are being denied and violated. I have some insight into how our foreign policy has negatively impacted certain countries, creating the need to migrate. I resent our drug culture that continues to provide a market for drug cartels. That all feels complicated, and makes me sick to my stomach. It just feels harsh and evil.

Did we not learn from Japanese internment camps? Is it unclear that this kind of behavior makes other countries despise our policies and laugh at our leaders? There are ways to protect and defend the border, create a compassionate, reasonable, lawful pathway to citizenship, and keep families together. Stop blaming political parties. Stop misleading and misinformed information, like immigrants will flood the country. That is not accurate. Or “they” just want open borders. Very few people want open borders.

There are experts on these immigration issues in our country. Get those people in the room. Return kids to families. And let’s continue to work sensibly to address the complicated issues of legal immigration with dignity, reflecting our values as a nation. Let’s consider the Golden Rule I was taught and recited in elementary school, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Be kind.

Will there be a rainbow after this storm? I continue to lament the situation, and pray for hope and healthy, speedy resolution.

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9 Steps for Bathroom Use in Flight

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We did some traveling recently, and that included some long flights. As usual for me, a few hours into the flight, I needed to use the bathroom. The battle began, as I mustered up my courage to get the job done. If you’ve used the bathroom in flight, you might relate to some or all of this experience.

Here are my strategies to successfully manage the task:

#1 Time it perfectly. Don’t go too early and risk having to go again during the flight. Don’t wait too long because I can count on a line forming right about the time I sense some urgency. Anticipate a beverage cart to hurdle, nature calling many other passengers, or any other number of delays from that moment I decide it is time to go, and plan ahead.

#2 Alert those in your row that you need to get out. I love the window seat. So I’m the party pooper that will need to disturb, wake-up, use hand motions, and do almost whatever it takes to disrupt the middle seat and aisle seat people. They put up their tray tables, stand up, and move out of my way. Twice. When I leave and upon my return. I tell myself how unpopular I am in those moments. I am the potty princess and I must be obeyed, or at least that’s how I feel, and that makes me uncomfortable. They get over it. I am grateful for their cooperation. I mumble, “Sorry. Excuse me. Thank you,” as I make my way past them now standing in the aisle.

#3 Begin the casual stroll to the nearest restroom. Ironically, the bathroom I’m permitted to use is often two to three times as far from my seat as the first class restroom, but we are a land of laws that must be followed. The first class passengers pay a whole lot more to be close to the bathroom, so they deserve the privilege. I’ll take the long walk to the tail of the plane. It’s inconvenient, but more of a bargain.

#4 Dodge the obstacles. It amazes me how complicated it gets to walk down the aisle without disturbing others or feeling awkward. I am not a tiny woman, and that does not help. Here are some of the typical obstacles I’ve encountered in moving down the aisle in an airplane.

  • The guy deeply asleep with his head tipping into the aisle, mouth open, who also has his one leg and large foot sticking out into aisle space.
  • The people headed back to their seats, like salmon swimming upstream.
  • The beverage cart and flight attendant.
  • The woman holding the finally sleeping baby at her chest, whose elbow is now undoubtedly breaking the plane of the seat and poking into the aisle. To bump her risks waking the baby.
  • The people on their laptops, working or watching a movie. Why is it open laptops always seem to ever so slightly protrude into the aisle? Along with usually one elbow? I desperately do not want to knock into a laptop lid. That’s an expensive bump.

I step sideways and slide cautiously, carefully, to the rear of the plane, threading the needle that is the very long aisle.

#5 Plan to wait in line. Both bathrooms were occupied on my recent flight and there were three people in front of me. The bathroom on the left emptied and in went person #1. It emptied again and person #2 went in. The bathroom on the right was still occupied. Waiting. Waiting. The bathroom on the left emptied again and person #3 took his place inside. Still no changing of the guard in the bathroom on the right. I’m not going in there after a human has been in their as long as this. Unless the person opened their Kindle book on their phone inside, settled in to read, and had lost track of time, what could possibly take that long? Don’t answer that. I pleaded silently, “Please, please, please don’t let that be the next bathroom door to open, leaving it my only choice.”

Then it happened. I might have heard the angel choir sing that one perfectly harmonized chord they sing when something great happens. Both bathroom doors opened at the same time. I grabbed the one on the left and headed in locking it behind me, as I sympathetically passed by the sweet old man who had exited the one on the right. It is challenging to be older in so many ways, but I still did not want to use that restroom right after his long stay.

#6 Prepare the seat. The lid was down. I used a paper towel to lift the lid and the seat lifted, too. I carefully grabbed the seat with my paper towel, separating it from the lid and lowered it. I was kind of disgusted by all of this touching of toilet parts. Touching most things in an airplane bathroom is disgusting and we are better off not thinking about it.

#7 Prepare yourself to be seated. Pants lowered. Bareness brushing against the wall or sink is not great. Those bathrooms are so narrow, it is highly likely others have also bumped against those same places in their own semi-bareness. Where are my travel-size Lysol wall and counter wipes? The good news is that the narrowness of the bathroom does prevent wandering about and wasting time while others wait.

#8 Manage the motion. If you fly often, it is likely you will encounter a bit of bumps or light turbulence while in the bathroom or even on the toilet. Once seated, it is easier to manage. But while standing, while lowering or pulling up one’s pants, stabilizing is a bit of an art to be practiced at a vulnerable time. I remind myself that I’ve never fallen against the door and out into the aisle, pants around my ankles, so I can relax.

#9 Exit, hold your breath, suck in your stomach, and endure the butt brush past multiple people to return to your seat. Hands washed, it is time to head back to my seat. If no one else is in the aisle, I rejoice! However, I will most likely need to slide past other strangers in that narrow little aisle. I summon my courage and just keep moving as I invade personal space along the way. I will not push by someone front to front. That is just too awkward for me. So that leaves cheek to cheek. Thankfully, the social encounter does not last long and I recover. I’ve overcome the thought that I should at least introduce myself. Even if I was thin, I think this would still be a reality. It is a great moment when I can actually slip into a row out of the aisle for the pass-by, but with full flights, I’ve not experienced that option lately.

Perhaps I’ll never drink any liquids again within 48-hours of a flight.

Stay charming, my friends! Share your wisdom and travel stories in a comment.

Notes:

  1. If you are a male reader, some of this may be easier for you. Be grateful.
  2. I cope with life through the lens of an Enneagram 9, someone who likes to keep the peace with those around her. If you are not an Enneagram 9, you respond differently, and probably easier to this scenario.

5 Steps to Good-bye Stuff

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Here in California evacuations are a real thing. Perhaps a fire in the area, rain and mudslides, or earthquakes. I watched evacuations on the news so often this fall. It made me think about what I would take and what would get left behind. That has prompted a new round of clearing the clutter in our home.

My Other Motivations

I’m in my early sixties and that’s a good time to go through our house and get rid of stuff, to simplify. It would be life-giving to live in a home with only what we enjoy and use surrounding us. It would bring peace of mind to pare down to the essentials, giving us more freedom from worry, storing stuff, cleaning, and caring about all the stuff that accumulates over the years.

We have no children. I don’t want to leave a massive project to others to come in after us and clear out our house. I don’t want to have that on my mind as I age. Someday, if we need to move into another living situation, I’d like the process to be as easy as possible.

While working little by little with my ninety-four year old mom on clearing out her apartment, I have come to the conclusion that it will never be easier to part with my precious things than it is right now. I have the energy and the ambition to work on it now. I do not want to be burdened by possessions in my later years. Also, it has been my observation that you have stronger sentimental attachment to your things as you age.

The Layers

Home Decorations: My decorating tastes and style changes over the years. Yet I hang on to decorative items that no longer bring joy or hold meaning for me. I pass through rooms throughout the week, not even noticing this or that until I have to pick it up to dust it. It’s dated and has served its purpose. Yet it continues to be stored in my home. Time to part ways.

Sentimental Items: Then there are items that carry sentimental value. I am learning when a thing carries value in telling life’s story, it is difficult to part with that item. I have learned that the story remains, even after the item is gone. I do like taking a photo of the item before I donate or dump it. The image in the photo triggers the memory and is easier to store.

One thing that helps me, from the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is to thank an item for the joy it brought or good it provided, and then say good-bye, as I walk to the donation box. That sounded so silly when I first read it, but it has worked to give me a push to part with things.

Hidden Things: Often the most challenging things to sort through and clean out are the hidden things in files, closets, basements, and garages. The papers, clothes, and various things stored around or in a storage unit take some discipline to go through and get rid of. We had to tear down our garage recently. We had to empty it out by a deadline. That really helped us get it done. I’m so glad to have that behind us. We vowed to never have that much stuff stored in a garage that we really didn’t need or use.

The “Too Many” Category: Collections, cookbooks, books, shoes, photos, sweaters. Whatever it is, I have too many of certain things. That’s an easy way to spot a hobby, passion, or favorite. Those are hard to get rid of for me. But I’m making progress when it’s time.

5 Steps to Help Simplify Stuff

  1. Schedule: Set aside an hour a week to simplify. Perhaps 15-minutes a day on four days or whatever works, using a room-by-room schedule, and remember the goal is progress not perfection. No time scheduled? It will never happen.
  2. Story: What items hold a story for you when you see them? Take a photo. Easier to capture the story that way than by holding on to too much stuff over time.
  3. Sort: Divide things into categories – keep, dump, donate, or not sure yet. Maybe add the sell category, depending on if you want to bother.
  4. Sitting Around: Go through the broken things, mismatched things, things that are missing a part, craft to make one day, and meant-to’s – those “I meant to follow-up” things. So follow-up, fix it, or get rid of it. Some things are never going to get the attention you planned to give, so let those go.
  5. Satisfaction: There is progress and a sense of reward, a feeling of satisfaction as you move through a room, drawer by drawer. Embrace that good feeling!

Have you noticed how stuff continues to accumulate? I have to clean out yearly to stay ahead of it, but that gets easier the more we keep up with it. What are your tips for simplifying your possessions?

Stay charming, friends! Here’s to less cluttered homes!

 

Life & Logic: Part 1 – An Introduction

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As another election approaches with summer primaries around the corner, we are reminded again that smart, engaged voters are our key to a strong, healthy democracy. We often can’t agree on candidates, issues, or results. We may even be surprised by the choices good friends make. Yet we probably agree we need to do more to protect our great democracy from the campaign and issue chicanery that has clouded the process over the years.

We’ve all noticed how decorum, mutual respect, and getting along are in short supply when it comes to our nation’s politics. Yet many of us think about positions and claims, and practice courteous conversation and diplomacy along the way, in spite of the behavior of some politicians no matter the party.

One way to have more impact is to strengthen our good reasoning skills. As we filter through political speeches and promises, we can all head to the voting booth clear headed and strong. We must stay engaged in the process and vote intelligently. Let’s continue to be thoughtful, calm, and sensible citizens to bring a better future, and learn to better identify faulty reasoning used to manipulate votes.

Authors Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn, in their book Fallacy Detective, write about the importance of having an inquiring mind. I’ve been reading their book and will summarize the lessons in this blog from time to time. I know I need to sharpen my critical thinking skills to be bolder in identifying faulty communication, especially in politics.

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An Inquiring Mind

The authors suggest the value of having an inquiring mind. The most fascinating older people I’ve known have kept their inquiring minds open to new ideas. They stay interested in new ideas. I aspire to keeping an inquiring mind as I age. The book highlights these steps to activate and maintain just that:

  1. Exercise your mind. We need to continue exercising our thinking skills. Like with any exercise, thinking deeply can be tiring and hard at times. Have you ever experienced a situation you had to think through so rigorously that it seemed like your mind was stretching and felt like it even hurt? I have. That is exercising your mind muscle, important to staying flexible and strong as a thinker, though we get in the habit of staying comfortable in what we already know.
  2. Listen well. Take an interest in what others have to say. Ask questions and be respectful. Accept that others may have better ideas or know things you may not know. Be brave enough to even question your own position on an issue.
  3. Learn other points of view: The caution here is “Any side may seem logical if we only see things from that point of view,” according to the authors. I’ve experienced that for sure. Benefits of understanding other points of view include 1) the opportunity to grow either in developing our point of view with more solid thinking and awareness, or 2) the opportunity to change our perspective if we discover we are wrong, and 3) being able to better help others as we build our ability to explain our answers and improve our communication. Even with limited time to dig into different perspectives, we can do some digging.

To be good citizens, we need to recognize faulty reasoning in others and ourselves. As we dust of our logical thinking tools, I think that better prepares us all for the coming election seasons, and encourages us to model good thinking to those younger than we are.

Stay charming, friends! And logical.

For more on critical thinking, watch this video:


Note: This is part of a blog series on a logical thinking to strengthen skills as we filter information in coming elections. Being an involved, informed voter is strategic and becoming more important. Plus, logic exercises the brain. That is a great benefit. I am doing some reading on faulty logic, using a book, The Fallacy Detective, by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn. You can learn more at www.fallacydetective.com. Let’s work toward more wisdom as citizens and voters together. Our democracy is strong. Let’s keep it that way together.