Just Because


What is the power of your name?

I know that some names are very powerful indeed.   Think of Genghis, Benedict,  Kermit, Hilary, Gilda, Wilma.  Each name brings a notion of the person colored by history or experience.   You might picture someone ruthless, traitorous, pious, green, traveling, making jokes, tempting men or keeping house B.C.  It all depends on who the name leads your mind to.

People often think I was named for the French orphan in the Ludwig Bemelmans‘s children’s books.  My mother tells me I am actually named for a Swedish opera singer she admired when she was young.  I’m not an orphan and although I like to sing, no one could confuse me with a professional.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

No matter how you got your name, most folks have a story to go with it.   Expectant parents in our culture try very hard to find the “perfect”,  “just right” name for their soon to be child.  Whole books are devoted to the topic.

What is your story?

Some people don’t like their given name, or feel it doesn’t suit them.  This can pose a problem since our primary identifier is our name.  We hear it, write it, see it all the time.  History and experience can color our ideas of suitability.

If your name were different, what kind of person would you be?

If you could choose your own name, what would you choose?

What is the power of your name?


Just Because

Taking the Learning Curve….

When I took drivers education there was a lot interest in how fast you could take a curve.  The muscle cars of  my youth certainly allowed for plenty of power and speed.  Trouble is if you put on too much speed, you can spin-out which puts you in the ditch, hospital or even a pine box.  In college there was a lot of laughing about the learning curve and how fast you could take it.  Like the traffic sign that has a black curve in the caution triangle with the miles/per hour posted below it.  We thought it was funny trying to learn faster and faster–like seeing how fast you could take the curve without a spin-out.

Curves ahead

I started a new job in a new area of business and boy oh boy there are S turns galore.  I have spun-out a couple of times…..

Like most adults, I think I should be able to learn new things fairly easily.  After all, I have survived several decades of life experience as well as formal learning in school.  Too bad my brain hasn’t gotten the memo.  I find myself frustrated and wishing I could go faster, faster, faster!

In reality, I am well within the learning curve with the 60% in the middle of the bell with 20% on the down side and 20% on the ahead side.  I just wanted to be on the ahead side of the bell curve.  I need to pause to remind myself that speed can contribute to the spin-out.  Taking it steady and keeping my eyes on the way ahead is the most reliable way to go.

Reliable, while not always fast or fun, definitely gets the job done.   Later as I  build-up speed I’ll take the curve faster.  Starting over in a new area of business can be daunting at times.  Each new venture is punctuated with curves and more learning.  Keeping focus and a clear head can help avoid a nasty spin-out.

There really is a ton of exhilaration in the new thing–what ever it is!  It feels great to know that you have this untapped capacity.   This is encouraging to me and I hope it is for anyone else who is “re-inventing” themselves.

Bring on the curves!

Just Because, Reason to Believe, Uncategorized

With Hearts and Hands and Voices!

We all know what to do.  For many children these are among the first words. Mommy taught us when we were barely able to talk:

“Say Please.”


“What do you say?”

Thank You!”

These fundamental sentences are very often accompanied by the directive:  “Share!”

As big, grown up, sophisticated adults, we go about our business not thinking most of the time to employ these fundamentals.  We seem to think that it takes too much time or that it really doesn’t fit with the OMG, WTF, LOL world.  As we move about we leave a trail of dust and resentment and a crumbling civilization in our wake.

I am not here today to play Ms Manners.  I just want to suggest that we engage our hearts, our hands and our voices to do what we know is right.  To ask instead of take, to share instead of grasp, to thank instead of  ignore.  Basic acknowledgement of others as fellow human beings together right here, right now.

When I was a manager of people I distributed paychecks and thanked each person for their work.  The reaction was mildly suspicious surprise.  Guess that everyone wanted to be sure I was sincere.  They kind of waited for a “punchline”.   When they realized that it was real, you should have seen their faces!  Everyone got a sense of pride and smiled.  Sure, just payment for service rendered is a transaction.  Saying “Thank you for your work!” is like putting the cherry on top of the sundae.

As miraculous as our lives are (and I do believe they are miraculous!) we are all here by the grace and care of others.  God, family, friends, community.  Today at dinner–no matter what you’re eating and who you are eating it with–make sure to remember what Mommy taught us.  Love the folks that surround you, help those who need it without being asked, say thank you for the sheer miraculous nature of life.  Put that cherry on top of the sundae, be grateful, live grateful and sing!

Now Thank We All Our God   Martin Rinkart 1586-1649

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And guard us through all ills in this world, till the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, Whom earth and Heav’n adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore

Current Events, Just Because

Balance the Register–Balance the Life

On my kitchen table
Image by HnyBny1969 (Regina) via Flickr

What do you do when there’s more month left at the end of the money?

There’s a lot of attention to budgets these days.  Some is in Washington DC and some is at my house.  How about you?

 The questions are many.  What can we give up?  What ways can we save?  Do we have to liquidate any assets?  Should we scrap the disappearing 401K?  What charity needs our donation the most this year?  How will we afford the Christmas we are accustomed to?  Haircut this week or next month? 

The decisions are painful.  Reduce.  Reuse. Relinquish. Reopen. Relive. Repent.  Recover. Relieve. Repeat.

Attack what we spend with vigor and reduce it–permanently.  Reuse everything we can.  Relinquish the “need” for a particular lifestyle and realize you are not in control of the world.  Reopen the discussion after the anger and accusations to reason and problem-solving.  Relive the old days when you were very young and had nothing but joy.  Repent the waste, blame and shame.  Recover what is really important–laughing, family, friends, quiet evenings, hot soup, board games and companionship.  Relieve the stress with planning, action, evaluation and small forward movement you can see.  Repeat it all again and again! 

Not pretty, not easy, but healthy.  More healthy than trying to pretend it can’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t be done.  And, it’s REAL.   I don’t think that Washington is there yet, but the journey has begun–even politicians have to recognize reality once in a while!  We aren’t all the way there, but we are in the middle of the journey.  Where are you?

Where are you on the road to balance?  What ways are you finding to focus on what really matters?  How do you think you can avoid being back here again next month, next year, next decade…..?

Just Because


I hate to clean!

I am using the word hate here!  Strong emotion.  Why?

Image via Wikipedia

As important and even healthy as it is, it is also usually frustrating.  If you have a family that includes small children, then you know what I mean.  I could clean the bathroom 100 times every day and it would still look like the worst off-brand, no locks on the doors, gas station “restroom”!  Nothing restful about that.

Perhaps I should be happy about that–it means that the space is getting the use for which it is intended.  I just can’t work up the enthusiasm for it.

Seems to me that life is like that “restroom” too.  We usually don’t clean-up until we’re totally disgusted, fed up and have no alternative.   Then, in typical human form, we wait two more years before we start.  How in the world did we ever survive to 2011?

What makes change so difficult for everyone? 

My dad used to say that growing up is a lot harder than anyone tells you.  He was right–and it never stops being harder than anyone tells you!  Change is the unknown.  We think we figured out a way to survive the familiar, so we cling to it like a life raft.  We are all caught up in that mess that won’t be tidy, clinging to the life raft.  In my social service work, I regularly encountered people for whom life resembled the never tidy restroom.  Addiction, loss, isolation and fear are the mess that won’t be tidy.

It is messy in my life sometimes.  What are the untidy parts of your life?

The last couple of years have been filled with change.  Change in living situations, change in employment, change in family structure, change in economics, change in politics…….. Even the earth itself is shaking and changing, quaking and erupting!  We cling to the life raft tighter and tighter.  Nothing restful about all that.

One of the things that I have learned (the hard way!) is that the cleaning part helps.  As much as I hate to admit it, it does!

I have done some renovations to this blog site and will continue to make more.  I want to thank my friend Richard Kraneis for pointing out the most obvious issue yesterday.  He’s been around the blog block a few times and knows what he is talking about!  Thanks Richard!           I am inching my way towards tidy!   

I think it has to do with the engagement of a different part of the human brain.  By doing the mundane things that cleaning requires, you burn calories, release endorphins, focus on manual tasks and then the other processes of the brain have a chance to “reboot”, “resort” and “rework” the problems that can preoccupy us.  The end result is that not only will the cleaning give some satisfaction in the measurable change, you may be able to get some of the answers when you give the brain a chance to do it’s thing in the background.  Bonus!

We can let go of the life raft and find rescue and rest, even if it only lasts until the next kid rushes into the house.  Bonus!

What is the cleaning you need to do bring that “Bonus!”?

Article:  http://stress.about.com/od/tensiontamers/a/cleaning.htm

Just Because

Ready for the boneyard?

Rain on the windscreen of an automobile with w...
Image via Wikipedia

How do you know when an old car is ready for the bone yard?

I think it is a matter of determining the cost-benefit analysis.  However, that is neither my forte nor my inclination.  To me it is much more emotional and lots less analytical.  To me the important things a car must have are these:

  1. Driver‘s door works:  that is it opens and locks regardless of the weather
  2. Driver’s window opens and closes
  3. Car is capable of starting and running regardless of the weather
  4. “Shotgun” passenger window opens and closes
  5. Windshield defrost works sufficiently to allow for visibility (it is ok if there is some fog around the edges.
  6. Windshield wipers allow for visibility

All other parts are wonderful if they work, but not strictly necessary.  But the most critical feature of an old car is that the car has to feel right.  Not sure how else to describe this purely subjective and very personal evaluation element.

We had a gray van that was a great deal.  My husband was very pleased with the find.  I on the other hand disliked the vehicle from the first moment I climbed inside.  It just never felt right.  The ride was a bit more bouncy than I like, the seats were worn and dusty but my sense went way beyond aesthetics. Not sure what triggered the reaction from me, but fortunately this deal did not last more than 3 years.  We had repaired the differential when it broke but then when the transmission also decided to revolt, we called it quits. Off to the boneyard (junkyard) it went.  I was actually relieved.

We intentionally buy vehicles near the end of their useful life as a matter of principle.  We believe that if the car is capable of going where we need to go and meets the basic safety needs (working lights and brakes for example), then sending the machine to the bone yard prematurely is wasteful.  Not only is it wasteful of the machine itself, our transportation method has saved us money over time.

This outlook is unusual. Most people who know us typically find it vaguely amusing.  Some police officers find our habit one that requires attention or correction.  Traffic stops or tickets issued under this circumstance we call DWB–that is Driving While Broke.

But I digress…. The evaluation process is one of the gut, not of the brain,  Then in very human fashion, I assign some logic to that decision.  I suspect that this means I should look at most of my decisions to see how much is real evaluation and how much is my guts.  Despite the idea that I should be more objective in my process, I like the fact that over-all most decisions have turned out alright.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

How do you arrive at important decisions?  Lots of brain and little guts?  Little guts and lots of brain?  All brain?  All guts?  How did your end results work out for you?  Let’s discuss!

Just Because

In Praise of the Sunday Nap!

Today we again honored the tradition begun before my father’s generation and continued into my grandson’s.  The Sunday Nap!

Some would say that this tradition was instituted by God in Genesis when after working six days to create the heavens and the earth and all that is in them God decided to rest on the seventh day.  Regardless of how the tradition began, I am grateful for it and heartily endorse it.  Rest is good.

Not only is it refreshing to get an hour of shut-eye, it helps to reset the mind and prepare us for another grueling week of same old, same old. Let me say that I just took a pole and 2 of the 7 poll subjects were still taking a nap!  Not sure that this proves anything other than we are a family bound by tradition.

Sleep is important.  Just like we learned in school we should each sleep 8-9 hours each night.  Few of us do.  Sleep deprivation can cause loss of productivity, accidents,

Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See ...
Image via Wikipedia

disrupt hormone production and the proper metabolic processing of carbohydrates.  Severe sleep deprivation can cause symptoms that resemble drunkenness, including lack of coordination and poor judgement.  Even if one does not sleep, the quiet rest in a calm space can do a lot for us.  There is so much general noise in our lives that any excuse for quiet is a refreshing change. That is as far as we will go with sleep study information–don’t want to put you to sleep!

I look forward to the quiet of the whole house on Sunday afternoon. The homeyness of the family safe and snug.  The refreshing decadence of it all–chores can wait, we have something important to do.  I cherish and protect it vigorously. I hope I have passed it on to the next generations and if my poll is any indication, I have!

Just Because

Do you watch noir in the dark?

Cover of "Double Indemnity (Universal Leg...
Cover via Amazon

Just saw Double Indemnity with Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray and Edward G Robinson.  I love old films like that.  I watch not just for the acting, Barbara is wonderfully wicked in this film, but also for the artistic play of light and dark.  The cinematographer has to know what the craft is all about to do a good black and white film.  The themes are usually pretty black and white too in film noir.  There’s good guys and there’s bad guys, but the really good films have some grey areas too.

The reluctant hero is one of those grey areas.  Sometimes, like in Double Indemnity, the hero is the guy who starts walking the straight and narrow, gets side tracked by something or in this case someone but comes ’round in the end to confess and conquer the demons.  The ones on the inside as well as the outside.

Watching this interplay in the dark is itself kind of exciting.  It helps to draw us into the divine battle.  Sometimes we root for the dark and sometimes we root for the light.  I know–most people find this pretty cheesy.  While it is a great form of escapism, our most beloved film art says a lot about us.  We are not just all good or all bad–there’s tons of grey area in there.  That is where we live most of the time.  Real life is never as simple as reel life and that gifted cinematographer is not here making us look wonderful!

Just Because

Road Trip

Have you taken a road trip lately?  I drove to Cedar Rapids, IA for the day on Sunday.  My godson and his wife are about to have a baby and I was invited to a baby shower.  Started at 9 am and we got home just before midnight.

Traveling along 88 and US 30, you can’t help but notice the flowers.  White ones, yellow ones, orange ones, purple ones and blue ones on the side of the road and in the median.  It was a riot of color from natural wildflowers.  And it is mostly due to one person’s influence.

When I was a kid, an actress named Fannie Flagg parodied the president’s wife and urged everyone to plant trees and flowers and bushes.  My dad and I mimicked her and laughed having silly wonderful fun.  It was gentle loving humor that we shared along with admiration for the one person responsible for the beautification of America.  Lady Bird Johnson was the wife of President Lyndon Johnson.  She took up the cause of beautification as her own.  She encouraged the legislative process (a pioneering First Lady!) and we are the beneficiaries of her efforts today.

The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 along with the beautification of the city of Washington DC and many of the national parks and monuments across the country gives each of us the vision of flowers, trees and indigenous plantings to admire as we travel.  Together with her friend Helen Hayes (first lady of the American Theater) Lady Bird Johnson founded the first organization devoted to wildflowers which now carries her name:  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas-Austin.  There wildflowers are studied and natural planting is promoted.

Today we refer to what Lady Bird supported as habitat conservation, biodiversity and restoration ecology.  She was committed to the idea that a beautiful environment not only enriches the human spirit, it contributes to a sustainable ecology which we all need–it was not simply a cosmetic change but a stewardship of the health of our land.

Thank you Lady Bird for making all our road trips better!

wildflower field“My heart found its home long ago in the beauty, mystery, order and disorder of the flowering earth.”

Lady Bird Johnson

Just Because

Picking Up Where You Left Off

Probably the thing I like best about good friends is that when you don’t see each other for a while–sometimes years–and you meet again it is like you just had a chat yesterday. You pick up where you left off. It is wonderful when that happens!

That happened yesterday. We had one of the kids elementary school teachers over for a BBQ. Rob, his wife Kay and their two lovely girls came for a visit. We haven’t seen them for 17 years! We went to their wedding and we really haven’t been together since.

It was a wonderful evening. We talked about everything–life, kids, work, travel and on and on and on! Daughter #1 did the cooking and Son #1 manned the grill. We sat on the lawn and let time slip away. We ended with a family photo, good-bye hugs  and invitations to see them next time we are in their sate.

What is it about friendship like this that makes it so comfortable? Is it personality? Is it just being yourself? Is it spiritual? What is it? It is a mystery.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious, it is the true source of art, science, and friendship.”
Albert Einstein