Something Old, Something New…

Redesigning a website is like entering into a marriage. You’ve come to a crossroad and things change. You stop and reevaluate, reconfigure, and wiggle around the bits and differences until pieces fit together, the old and the new.

This photo from Ocean City is part of the old. I couldn’t part with it. Now it’s the first shot in the new slider. I like the crossroad of land and sky and water. There’s an old couple who struggled together up the dune to look. They, too, are at a crossroad. I like to imagine they have come to the ocean for years on vacation and played in the surf. Now they stand and remember.

The second photo in the slider, Prairie Nights, is from our family farm. My husband and I live in a crossroad city, Kansas City, and travel to Ocean City, where my husband spent much of his childhood, and to the farm, where I spent much of mine.

The old blog posts are still here in a new format, but the sidebar is gone, so readers will need to scroll down to the bottom banner which has links to the categories. Another old/new is the Publication Page with old images but in a new and updated style.

I’ve often stood at a crossroad. My crossroads usually read STOP on the side I can see, but the destination is written on the reverse side in ink fated to remain invisible for an unknown span of time. I stop, reconfigure, and head off somewhere, not knowing where or why I’m going, but trusting I’ll eventually understand.

Sort of like now. I’m at the crossroad between finishing a memoir and finding an agent to walk with it and me into publishing. That’ll be new—I expect I’ll keep you posted. While there is no end to advice or lists to finding an agent, the bottom line, as in all the arts professions, is who you know. So if you know or have an agent who might like a woman who wanders, let me know.

The completely new and figuring-out-how-it-works on this site are the pages for Workshops and Services. Two years ago, a stop sign ended twenty years of adjunct college teaching. Now I’m teaching through Workshops. I like teaching and I’m glad it’s evolved.

A year ago, a stop sign left us without a place to hold church services, but the Services page will offer us as presiders at weddings and memorial services. I’ve been a Spiritual Mentor/Counselor for more than twenty years. It was time to make it more public.

Please wander around in the new site. Let me know if you like it or if something doesn’t work for you. At base, we’re all in this together.

One last piece of new: in this new design, I’m working with Jen Wewers who has a great eye and knows social media. If it’s time for you to reconfigure, I highly recommend her.

 

Daily Post: Futures Past

Twenty years ago, the premier advice, from givers-of-advice on job searches, was how to prepare for the question, “What do you see yourself doing in five years?” Sometimes the time frame in a very aggressive job search put the number at ten.

I had no idea. Usually I could figure out today and even a week in advance, but five years? What would I be doing in five years? Even pondering the question made me laugh out loud. Not to a recruiter’s face, mind you, but otherwise, yes. Laugh out loud.

I was asked to ponder the question in high school. And after I began college. Again, I had no idea so I took the basics and let it go at that.

Even twenty years ago, living a professional life in Washington D.C., I had no idea. I’d already had several careers. Perhaps I should say “faux-professional.” As a contractor for the Office of Personnel Management, I was, essentially, a part-time teacher.

But today’s Daily Post question asked “As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How close or far are you from that vision?”

Oddly enough, my future really was in my past. As a kid, I wrote all the time. A diary, mostly, that I hid under my pillow and was always surprised when my mom found it. And outraged, I might add. But I never expected to be a writer. That simply wasn’t on my horizon even though my mother wrote a column for the local paper and my grandmother was a poet. But my grandmother was dead and my mother annoying. Why would I be a writer? But I am.

What I really and truly dreamed about was a home, a husband, kids, and a picket fence around it all. Truly. So in high school, I got tired of the question and left school to marry a soldier. We moved all over the place but no picket fence. No marriage after a while either. But I did have kids. I was part of the way there.

In 2003, Cliff and I bought this 1924 two-story stucco and brick house with a privacy fence around the back yard. Taller than a picket fence, but nonetheless, a fence. In 2004 we married. In 2005 we got a kid. True, oldest kid who came to live with us and go to college, nonetheless, a kid.

And that’s how we’ve lived ever since, home, fence, kid.

Oh. And writer.

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Yes, You Can Go Home Again

The Koester House Marysville, Kansas
The Koester House
Marysville, Kansas

As a child, when I passed the Koester House, either walking or riding in the car, I’d long to enter the grounds and the house and see what was there, to feel like a lady in a white Victorian mansion. But I didn’t. The house had a Never Land quality to it, a magical place with flowers and trees and small statues of animals scattered across the lawn. A three-foot tall brick and cement wall circled the property with a cement sty, steps leading up to a white gate and over into the magical land.

I never went through that gate. I only looked at the house and dreamed. Ah, the dreams with which we build our lives.

I lived seventeen miles outside of town in a farmhouse built by Grandpa Albert’s father sometime in the late 1800s, about the same time as the Koester House was built in town. Our front porch we called the East Porch to differentiate it from the South Porch. The East Porch held crates of fresh eggs and the milk separator and muddy boots while the South Porch held an extra bed, the large chest freezer, and stuff there was no room for in the house. Not exactly wrap around elegant porches with carved grills. The outside of our farm house had tar paper shingles as many old farm houses did in those days.

I suppose we were poor, but then no farm family with six kids was exactly rich. We had what counted: food, clothing, shoes, school supplies, the books we wanted, and my favorite, a full set of The Child’s Book of Knowledge. But no elephant statues in the yard. No magic lands, except in our imaginations, and places in the timber that held swings made of vines and a huge fallen tree we called our elephant as we clambered up the side to straddled it and ride into far-away lands.

Last Thursday evening, I gave a reading at the Koester House and for one evening the house was mine. It was odd, stepping up those steps of the sty and over into the yard. Almost like a rite of passage into a new and different world. Last week, the lawn was filled with snow, but the fountain in front and the little, white-painted animals were still there, and the antler-shaped edging along the paths, while capped with snow, lined my journey to the front door. For that brief journey from outer sidewalk to the front door, I felt like a child.

So many things change in sixty years. Our farmhouse is gone although the farm remains. Marysville has grown into a prosperous town. I’m certainly older. But the little girl inside the lady smiled as she opened the front door.

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Practicing a New Year of Consciousness

beach 2The days leading up to New Year’s Day are usually filled with reflection: newspaper stories run the top stories of the year; web sites run the top photos of the year; most of us in one way or another reflect on the year past. When we make our resolutions for the coming year, it’s usually about giving something up, forcing ourselves to change things that seem harmful.

For most of us, the year has been a mixed bag: grief and joy, failures and celebrations, deaths and births, fierce storms and delicate sunrises. We have prayed for peace and hoped for an uplifting of consciousness in a seemingly futile gesture.

What if nothing needs to be forced to change? Forcing ourselves to change is the very thing that gets in the way. What if changing only means practice? For example, to learn how to type on a keyboard, you have to practice.

Perhaps the best thing any of us could do for the collective lifting of consciousness is to change our focus from the “collective” to self.  What if, instead of hoping the world will change, we change ourselves and the way we communicate to the world through others?

What if we were to practice bringing awareness into our communication? Anytime we use language, we have the chance to practice a different way of using it. Self-observation helps us discover what needs to change and how to go about practicing that change.

What if we were to add something to each and every communication pattern? For example, adding the practice of a quick pause before saying something. What if, in that pause, we’d practice taking a breath to give ourselves time to respond instead of immediately reacting?

If we were to practice saying, “Help me understand what you mean when you say…(fill in the blank)…” instead of assuming we know what the other person means because of our own experience, might we avoid so much of the discord in our families, loves, lives, work relationships?

Another phrase to practice might be, “This is what I heard you say…(fill in the blank). Is that what you mean?”

By acting (speaking) and therefore, being, different, can we change the world’s consciousness? What if being was about being eternally present?

Some call this “present” witnessing consciousness; others say centering prayer. The words for it aren’t important—the practice is.

Daily life with all its changes spins around like a storm circling. But we can stand in the calm center. We might not be able to avoid all the debris falling around, but we can, with practice, constantly return ourselves to a calm center, constantly lifting consciousness, one person at a time.

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Seventy Times Seven

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

Peter came up and asked Jesus, “Lord, when my brother wrongs me, how often must I forgive him? Seven times? Matthew 18

Another lesson in forgiveness. Okay. I can imagine Peter wanting a simple answer.

But Jesus replies, no, not seven times, rather seventy times seven. Now while my math isn’t all that great, that adds up to almost five hundred. Four hundred and ninety, to be precise: 490!

If the numbers are taken symbolically, 4+9+0 adds up to 13. Thirteen is the number of death and rebirth. And adding 1+3 equals 4, the number of power.

So you could say that if one were to forgive anyone seventy times seven, the repeated act of forgiveness would lead to a transformative and powerful experience.

Forgiveness equals power – not power over, but the power to forgive ourselves.

The first time I was told that forgiving myself could lead to forgiving others for hurts I had experienced, it felt as if I’d been flung against a wall of impossibility. Forgive myself? Myself? I hadn’t caused the hurt to me! Others had!

And yet, when I could finally forgive myself for carrying anger and blame towards others, I was able to put it down. I didn’t have to carry it any longer.

Like seventy times seven, forgiveness is a continuing practice. Almost every day, we can see some affront that could rile us up.

What could our world be like if we were to practice taking responsibility for the hurts we do to ourselves by our frustrations and our angers? What would our personal world be like if we were to practice forgiving ourselves and, in that process, forgiving others?

Seventy times seven.

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