The Quest for Benton Harbor

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Me in Benton Harbor, circa 2001

In October of 1993, I needed a job. I was married to a sports columnist whose travel schedule was crazy, and I needed a job with flexible hours or we never saw each other. Whirlpool Corporation opened a customer service call center on Peters Road in West Knoxville. The center was 24 hours, and I had my coveted night-time and weekend shift to match my husband’s hours. The pay was good to boot, the work was interesting, and there was plenty of opportunity to grow professionally in an organization of 60,000 employees.

The Whirlpool Call Center in Knoxville

The call center was new. Most of the managers had relocated from Whirlpool’s corporate campus in Benton Harbor MI to open their newest project. It grew and grew and grew. From my first day, this southern gal was fascinated with the Michiganders who ran our office. We partied a lot in those days, and I would often corner a Yankee and quiz them about what it was like “up north.” From the very beginning, my dreams began to revolve around working in Whirlpool’s World Headquarters and learning to live in that curious land on the banks of Lake Michigan.

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I was married, of course, and there was no newspaper there big enough to support my husband’s career. Those were just a 30-something woman’s dreams. But after we divorced, my quest began in earnest. I took a job on a high-profile project which was the single biggest skill-builder of my career, and I focused on work. That landed me a sales job in Seattle, and I finally ended up in Benton Harbor in June of 2000 as a Training Specialist at the Michigan customer service call center. I will never forget the day that I drove up to the “Ad Center” (short for Administration Center) for the first time. I took a picture by the sign out front, and I took some time to soak up my accomplishment. It felt really, really good.

The Service 2000 Team

 

As a young girl I always, always dreamed of being a corporate executive. I was so thrilled when I bought my first suit. I just knew I was on my way, and I’d be running one of the world’s greatest companies. As my career progressed, I realized that I wasn’t really that ambitious. Money didn’t really motivate me. Power seemed empty. What motivated me was getting stuff done. I love the feeling of working hard for something and seeing a result. I love managing things. Over and over I am drawn to being in the hub of the wheel. I want … no I LIVE… to be in the middle of the action. And Whirlpool is where I learned how to be effective.

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The “Rent-A-Husband” Innovation Team

 

I left Whirlpool 3 years after I landed at the World Headquarters. I was distracted by a man that I married too soon. I was in a very dark period of my life spiritually, and I felt lost. Whatever I had in my life at that time felt wrong, and Whirlpool was thrown into the rubble by association. I was restless and scared and wanted something – anything – different.

I’m a lucky gal, and my scrappiness and lust for hard work always lands me in some great places. But I’m not always the most focused. Two years ago, I realized that I needed to focus more on my career “path” if I was ever going to be able to retire. Now is the sweet spot for saving money, and I had the skills and capabilities to be successful. But I had not been thrilled with my last few jobs, and I felt aimless. So I invested in a few visits with a career counselor.

Michelle and I explored my interests and inclinations with some personality testing and reviewed my resume and job experience for what worked and what didn’t. As we ripped apart each job and each organization, a common theme arose.

“Why did you leave Whirlpool?” she asked.

“I think I just felt done with it,” I said. It seemed like such  a stupid answer to a really important question. It looked like every job that I really liked was at Whirlpool. My greatest successes were in my early career at that company by the lake. And, as we reviewed companies and culture, we both looked at each other. “I have to look at Whirlpool again, don’t I?” I asked.

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So, once again, my sights were set on the appliance giant on the banks of Lake Michigan. This time, I had the disadvantage of being outside the organization, but I had the distinct advantage of having lots of friends in the fold. I knew that most jobs are filled by the time they are posted, so I had to start circulating my resume in the hopes that it would one day fall into the hands of my future manager. I also knew that I had a specific skill set that is very marketable. The doors would open for me in learning and development.

My Interview Last Year

I had an interview last year that was unsuccessful in landing the job. But I made a few contacts, and I got a look inside the company again. I knew that I wanted to be there. It felt good. A few weeks ago, I got a text from my friend Michael – another former Whirlpool employee – that I needed to send my resume immediately to our friend Sandy. There was a job, and they were looking for somebody quick with my particular brand of talent. I found myself standing in front of the Ad Center once again two weeks ago.

I sat in the parking lot of the Ad Center in my rental car awaiting my appointment with the Global HR team. The outside of what they now call the Global Headquarters (GHQ) looks very much the same as the first time I gazed upon it. I look very much the same. But the reality is that we are both very different. Whirlpool has matured, and so have I. This was the moment – and the job – that was going to bring me back. I just knew it.  And yes, Curt, I buried the lead. I accepted the position of Training Manager with the Global HR team at Whirlpool in Benton Harbor MI yesterday. My quest is complete, but the work has just begun.

I’m back, Whirlpool. Bring it on!

Don’t Push the River: Everything Belongs

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On Sunday three different people in different places brought up Richard Rohr‘s new book “Everything Belongs”. It was an appropriate reference as we were all floundering a bit in understanding why there could be all the bad in this world. And Rohr’s premise is that part of our adventure here on earth is understanding that there will always be bad and good, and “everything belongs”. HP (Higher Power) and I have a deal that when I hear about something three times in quick succession, I know it’s a message from above. Just to be sure I got it, another friend called Monday morning and told me that he had this strong feeling that I need to stop reading whatever I was reading and read “Everything Belongs”. There’s nothing more clear than that. So, I downloaded Rohr’s book to my Kindle and started reading last night.

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Jesus often taught in parables. Rohr says he did that because he needed to get us out of our own logic. We need to have the minds of little children in order to grasp spirituality. He helped us learn it by relating to story. I don’t know about you, but when somebody directly confronts me on something, I often get defensive and start making up all kinds of rationalizations about why it isn’t so. When I was a young woman and struggling with my first marriage, a friend of mine gave me a copy of the book “Women Who Love Too Much“. I thought it was sweet that she gave it to me, but I didn’t really think I had an issue, so I gave it away. Fast-forward twenty-five years to when I’m working on my codependency issues. I read a story about a woman with similar issues as mine, and she quotes this same book. All of a sudden, I realized that I needed that book – now and then. In learning, it is much better to teach people by letting them “pull” the information when they need it rather than “push” it on them when they are not ready. When I am ready to hear it, the story’s meaning will appear – even though I may have heard it 100 times.

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Rohr talks about this parable and relates it to our tendency to want to “call” out those who are sinners or who are bad or who need to be “fixed”. It even relates to both the good and bad inside each one of us. When I think of myself and my own personal growth, it is definitely the “weeds” in me that are my greatest teachers. My addiction issues, my depression and anxiety and my codependency caused me such pain. And pain is a great motivator. But, with each of these conditions, there was no way to “fix” them. I had to accept them as they were and learn to live with them. And I’m truly better off for having done so.

You don’t need to push the river because you are in it.

~~ Richard Rohr, “Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer”

My lifelong struggle is to accept what is and accept it gracefully. I wonder if that battle will ever end. When I was younger, I had no idea how to surrender and go with the flow. I fought tooth and nail for every inch of progress. It was in my 40s that I finally grasped the practice of surrender. I have yoga and a very unrelenting 12-step sponsor to thank for that. Now I long for that feeling of letting go when I’m feeling tense or scared or angry. I hang on and hang on and hang on until I finally realize what I’m doing.

Rohr says, “You don’t need to push the river because you are in it.” He says everything is inside us. It is not for us to work for progress or follow some rules or to learn more stuff. That is not the work of spirituality. The work of spirituality is to let the river take me and accept everything as it is. And I do know that when I stop relentlessly searching, it’s amazing how what I need just shows up – exactly when I need it.

Sunday Night Check-In: Pray

I went to my Sacred Circle gathering at The Red Shoes tonight, and I was so glad I went. My insides were raw, and when I rounded the corner into the space where we meet, I saw about 10 other people with their rawness scrawled all over their faces. I knew that I was in the right place.

We sat together and listened to a song from Pocahontas about our inability to look at our own prejudices and priviledge.

And then we sat in silence for less than eternity but long enough to settle in. I had an awful nightmare last night, and this dream ran through my mind as I sat in contemplation. I was at work and about to start a project meeting, but my dog was with me. She was chewing on something, and I knew it was not good for her, but I was paralyzed to take it from her. Right before I got on the call, I noticed that her hair was falling out and huge raw welts were forming on her skin. It was as if she was being eaten alive by something. I was horrified and wanted to do something but I couldn’t leave my responsibilities. I woke up in the middle of my angst over what to do.

I have felt like that all week, and today’s horrific tragedy in Baton Rouge only made it worse. I’ve wondered how people live in countries that are war zones. How do you go about your daily life knowing that almost every day something horrible is going to happen? Who will it be next? WHAT will it be next? This week was like that. I scrolled down a friend’s Facebook timeline today and the tragedies paraded down her page – Pray for Orlando, Pray for France, Pray for Peace and Pray for Baton Rouge – Pray for Our City. Like my dog’s neck, the ugly raw carnage had me paralyzed.

After our meditation, I felt calmer. I felt connected. We chatted and talked about the good we had heard today, and there is plenty of that, too. In fact, people are reaching out to each other in a way I haven’t seen in awhile. A policeman friend of mine went out for ice cream last night with some colleagues, and a group of people paid for $20 gift cards for each of them. The cops in turn gave them to the employees of the store and told them to treat people to ice cream until it was all gone. Another woman stopped to ask an officer parked on the side of the road if he was okay, and he was just cleaning the windshield of his car. She commented that he had the good window cleaner, and he offered to clean hers. Then another car stopped, and he cleaned theirs, too. Then they all held hands on the side of the road and prayed.

Here in Baton Rouge on the mighty Mississippi, we are praying. We are praying for peace in our communities, our country and our world. We are praying for the families of the officers who lost their lives today. I’m praying that those who feel unheard will find more productive outlets. I’m praying that God will “show us the way.” Please pray for our city.

 

Light Dispels Darkness

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I last posted a blog on July 4. This may be the longest break I’ve ever taken from writing. To be honest, I didn’t want to write. In fact, a part of me wanted to quit blogging forever. I wanted to detach from the world and not look at it anymore. One day after the Dallas police shootings, I took the Facebook app off my phone and quit looking at the news feed. I tightened my circle of contacts and only communicated with my friends. I wanted to hole up, forget this place and hide in a foxhole. I still kinda want to do that. It sucks.

I’m not going to write about my feelings about the last 10 days or so. Everybody that has posted anything on social media or said anything gets criticized or their words twisted. This is one of the few times when all opinions seem controversial. And I don’t think it’s fair. I think people are too hard on others who can’t find the right words. I think we are all too hard on other people who have lived and breathed different life experiences. No two of us see the world the same. And that’s normal. It’s not wrong. I’ve seen too much of everything except compassion. And I’m sick of self-righteousness.

I’m a little woo-woo and not politically savvy. I know that I tend to hide when things get tense. I don’t watch the news, and I often despise social media. I like animals and fuzzy slippers and sunsets. I avoid mud, blood and the heat. I don’t enjoy scary or violent movies because they show a side of life that I’d rather not imagine. I get overwhelmed shopping. I prefer small, quiet places with colorful art. I cringe when people get angry and bitter people make me sad. Fireworks make me nervous, and they keep playing a commercial on the radio with the sound of gunfire, and it makes me squirm every time I hear it. I like being alone in the woods, and I don’t mind sleeping out there by myself. I’m brave and squeamish and cowardly and empathic and intelligent and ignorant. I’m all those things, and so are you.

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I know that a long time ago I realized that my police officer friends were a little more cynical because they lived in a world I never saw. They see more human darkness in one day than I see in a lifetime. I know that they chose that line of work because they are made differently than me. I would probably last two hours in that line of work. And I am grateful that someone deals with that side of life so I can feel safe to walk my dog at night.

I also know that people cross the line sometimes and do things they shouldn’t. We make wrong decisions. We get crossways with the truth. We get angry and do things we regret. And we have to pay the consequences for our behavior. We reap what we sow. Karma is real. Shit happens. Life is a bitch, and then you die. It’s all true.

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I also know that we don’t give up. We do what we have to do to feel like we are doing something. We hug a cop and thank them for their service. We call a friend and rant about the wrong in the world. We post a tribute on social media. We support our African-American friends even when we feel like their finger is being pointed at us. We volunteer to serve or give out water at a protest or just let someone know that we care. We find something positive and moving and human and share it on Facebook. We make people laugh. We need to feel that there is something good in the world after all. And that’s true, too.

My friend Alayne asked me today how I was doing with all this, and I told her that I had just unplugged. She was having a hard time with it, too. I was thinking tonight that there must be many of us who are struggling with the world at this moment. I just want more loving-kindness and less hate. I want more blue skies and less rain. I crave more laughter and fewer tears. Meditation always helps me. I’ll share this loving-kindness meditation with you. It will be my contribution to the light. I hope that you’ll contribute something, too. Light dispels darkness. This is also true.

 

 

 

Dancing With the One That Brung Me: Technology

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I was studying some professional materials today in order to keep up with my field in learning and development. It’s constantly changing due to technology and the ever-changing ways we do business. Unfortunately, while businesses are often on the cutting edge, my field tends to lag behind technologically. One reason for that is that my generation – the generation who has had to adapt to technology as adults – are still in the workforce. Our brains are wired to learn one way, and technology is begging us to learn in another. It’s a slow change, and I’m still not sure if it’s for the best. But I’m part of that demographic, so, of course, I would question it.

There was a section about how learning and development will look when we have “trans-humans” in the workforce. It was scientifically way over my head, and I wasn’t the least bit interested in working with trans-humans (not to be confused with trans-gender individuals). Apparently there are scientific breakthroughs that will allow us to be genetically modified with capabilities beyond what we have now. Honestly, I hope I’m dead before that comes around, although I do have to say that I wish some people could be genetically modified to be MORE human these days. I skipped over that section but was very interested in the next on the effects of technology on workplace learning.

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I received my Psychology Today magazine this week, and there was an article in this one about how technology is affecting our relationships. I read it last night with much interest. I’ve been feeling a bit lonely this weekend, and I was talking to my sister last night (via text, of course) about how people don’t know how to make friends anymore unless it’s via Facebook. I have a handful of friends who will join me for coffee or hiking, but that whole face-to-face conversation thing and pulling away from house and family just doesn’t seem to be a high priority any more. I fell in love with coffee shops in the 90s because it was a great way to meet people. Now it’s more of a technology lab that smells like coffee. Forget meeting anybody unless you spill your coffee on their keyboard.

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And even in my professional material there was a section about how technology is changing the way we interact – both positively and negatively. As with most good educational material these days, the author pointed me to some outside multi-media to expand on the concept. (For this reason, I LOVE technology. I get to use all of my senses and a variety of sources to learn as opposed to just reading which I find horribly painful.) It’s worth watching, and she has a very balanced opinion about technology use.

Both the article and Turkle make the point – with pictures to prove it – that we are no longer “with” people when we are with them. We are often sitting side-by-side like they do in the coffee house technology labs interacting with people that are miles away. I’ve even had friends tell me they were out on dates when the guy was texting another woman – in one instance, at least, they were interrupted during a very intimate moment by another person. And I’m not going to say that I’ve never been texting one man while I was out with another because I have. It’s sort of the way we operate. I text a friend about how stupid the meeting I’m in at work has become. I get on Facebook at a campfire because I’m bored with the conversation. It’s a way of not committing fully to my life. I keep one foot in the present while the other one is exploring other opportunities. Both suffer.

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I remember when Facebook first came out. I loved it. I was newly divorced. Texting was just becoming commonplace, and I remember tapping out my texts on a flip phone on the number pad. I lived in Memphis, and I connected with friends in Memphis and some in Michigan. My little 60-person friends list felt huge at the time. One day I got a friend request from an old college friend. The name seemed really familiar but all I could remember was that I knew her from college. It had been a really long time. I had a drinking problem in college. Did I really want to go there? I was a different person, and I had put that all behind me long ago. What on earth did they think of me? Eventually I accepted it, and the rest is history. Finally my life was no longer divided into the geographical chapters where I’d lived. For awhile, my life felt whole.

As time went on, I realized that I had let most of those folks go for a reason. We no longer had anything in common. Facebook was merely a connecting point between acquaintances that were no longer in my immediate circle. I unfriended some, I unfollowed a lot of them, and I finally have grown bored with it all. It’s almost like an old habit now. It gives me a digital scrapbook, and it’s a place to share my blog if anyone is interested. The people I want to be connected to are my friends off Facebook. There’s too many ads, too much negativity and not enough real connection. But maybe there never was. Quite possibly Facebook is a place where we can state our opinion and be cheered on by those who have the exact same opinion. Or I can use it to post a selfie and get strokes for having beautiful curls. It serves a purpose, but it’s not a relationship-builder.

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I have an acquaintance who appears to be an angry, hateful conservative who posts nothing but one-sided political rants. Rarely does he ever post anything about his life. There are no pictures of adventures, children or love interests. And in some posts he actually details movies he’s watched or articles he’s read that further fuel his anger and hatred of anyone that has an opinion different than his. I am a person who has an opinion that is different from his, and I have to say that if we ever had anything in common – and we did – it just doesn’t matter anymore. I went to his page this morning to see what he was up to, and it was just more of the same. I wondered if he ever spends his free time doing fun things. Or is his life crafted around feeding his insatiable appetite for feeling superior? Before Facebook came along, did he spend his time throwing gasoline on his anger and then vomiting all over his friends when he saw them?

I struggle in my relationship with technology. I love it because it allows me to stay in contact with people more consistently, and I have a broader community of friends. And if someone interests me on Facebook, I can invest more in the friendship person-to-person. But that’s the rub. There are many people who can’t or won’t take it offline. They either don’t have the time, the courage or the interest to take the next step to a relationship. It happens in online dating, and it happens with friendships. And I would argue that some people don’t have the time because they are online all the time. Facebook FEELS like you are hanging out with your friends, but you aren’t. You are sitting on your sofa by yourself or ignoring the people you are with.

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Lately I’ve been trying to make offline time. It started when I got off Facebook altogether a couple years ago. I only made it about six weeks, but I was able to see how much Facebook had become my life. Since then, I’ve tried to limit my time on Facebook with some intentionality. But I find when I’m bored or sad or feeling anything I don’t want to feel, I pick it up and scroll. It’s a way of killing time and avoiding my feelings. This weekend I’m trying to read or go out with friends or even just nap when I have downtime. It feels a little weird and lonely, but it’s the way life used to be before technology interjected itself into my world. It’s kind of nice not to have anybody insulting me.

Our generation is lucky. We know what life was like without technology, and we get to know what life is like with it. Turkle makes the point that we feel like technology has been around for a long time, but we are really in the early stages of learning to live with it. We can set boundaries around its use just like we set boundaries around the use of everything else that lets us escape. A friend of mine blames the person who gave him his first drink for his chronic lifelong use of alcohol. We can use the same logic with technology and feel helpless or we can take responsibility and figure out what works for us. I don’t yet know where the line is for me.

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Cartoon by Tim Bolton

 

Right now I have no problem putting my phone on “Do Not Disturb” from 9 PM to 6 AM. I have no issue putting my phone in my purse on silent when I’m visiting with friends or having coffee. I mostly leave it on airplane mode when I’m hiking. I even leave my phone at home when I go to the gym or run an errand. I do have issues putting it down when I’m driving which I know is dangerous. When I’m lonely, I default to mindlessly scrolling on Facebook instead of reaching out to a real friend. And I no longer have people over for dinner or parties because I see them all the time on Facebook. I just don’t miss them anymore, but my heart feels lonely.

I want a truly more connected life rather than a virtually connected life. I continue to work on it. A friend of mine the other day apologized because she doesn’t do social media. I actually felt very jealous. I’m sort of like my friend with his alcohol habit. I just wish I’d never started. It’s be so much easier than having to moderate it.

What do you do to live with technology? Does your use bother you at all? 

 

 

My Redneck Immersion Experience Re-run

I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic this week. July 1 marks the third year anniversary of my move to Louisiana. In some ways it feels more like 10 years, and, in other ways, it feels more like 6 months. All I have to do is look at Ashok’s face in my blogs during that time to see how much she has grayed in the three years we have been here. And my hair has grown from super, super short to wild and curly. And much more has changed for both of us beneath the surface.

I thought I would re-post some of the blogs I wrote that first Fourth of July in Louisiana. I had the best of times with my old college buddies on the Amite River near Liberty MS. I called it my Redneck Immersion Experience, and I have to say it’s still one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. Most of those folks I had not seen in a very long time, and I’ve gotten to spend extended time with each of them since I’ve been down. They are salt of the earth as the saying goes, and they have been there for me every step of the way. I may not have seen them frequently, but they have always been there pulling for me as I’ve somewhat stumbled adjusting to my home state.

So, sit back and read about the start of my adventure – this time knowing how it all will turn out.

A River Runs Through It 

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Redneck Immersion Experience: Cuisine

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Redneck Immersion Experience: Business Consulting

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“You Can Fly,” He Said. – Analogies

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I pulled the Eagle card this morning. I’ve never pulled this card before. I was anxious to find out its meaning.

If you have pulled this symbol, Eagle is reminding you to take heart and gather your courage for the universe is presenting you with an opportunity to soar above the mundane levels of your life…. On some level, Eagle is telling you to seek higher ground on which to build your nest. The nest is the home of the heart and cannot remain in a swamp….

That sounds pretty promising. It does mention this “opportunity” may come as part of a spiritual test. That’s a little more ominous than I’d like. But I’d like to think that the last few years were the “test”, and the last couple of months have brought me into a new phase. I know that the relationships I’ve made and the confidence I’ve gained have me feeling like I’m in a new place. Maybe I’m out of the proverbial “swamp”… but, then again, maybe I’ve just begun.

I love my cards. They make me think of my life and my adventures in analogies. I know the power of analogies in learning. The psychology of learning depends on a very simple concept which is complex in execution. Our brains learn everything through a sort of web or scaffolding of information. That’s why flow charts and visuals are so powerful in learning. It helps us quickly see how information we already know relates to the new information we are trying to process.

When we are children, our brains are like clean hard drives. As we experience life, hardships and education, we build scaffolding in our brains. That’s why it’s so hard to change behavior when children experience abuse or loss early in life. As they get older, EVERY new relationship and experience is run through that same scaffolding. And the more often they experience abuse or loss, the more scaffolding they build. They have to experience trusting relationships and safe experiences in order to build new constructs. Otherwise, they BELIEVE every new experience will turn out the same way…. in abuse or loss. It’s also why it’s so hard for people to get out of the grip of poverty or addiction or any other type of cycle. Their internal scaffolding keeps them bound.

I, of course, have my own scaffolding that limits me. We all do. It’s part of the human experience. I have limiting scaffolding in the area of relationships. I’ve had two failed marriages. My brains says “yeah, I know how this movie ends.” I know it’s not necessarily so, but I haven’t had the opportunity to build scaffolding that says it could end up in a positive experience. I also have scaffolding that limits me as a woman professionally, as a enabler of change in my own life and in what I can afford financially. I was raised in a middle-class household with a tight budget, and, no matter how much money I earn, that scaffolding stays in place unless I let myself have the freedom to experience money in a different way.

So, analogies – and stories – are very powerful to build scaffolding that presents new ways of looking at things. That’s why I love my Medicine Cards and Native American spirituality in general. They used the animals and nature as their scaffolding on how to live life. And there’s a lot of wisdom in that. The natural order of things in nature is also very much the natural order of things in the world. And my biggest lesson – always my strongest challenge – is to trust that I am supported beyond what I naturally sense as a human.

That is Eagle’s message to me this morning. What I hear is that there is a path for me, and I need to trust that I am on it. No matter what I see or feel, I am supported by the Great Spirit. In addition, challenges are just tests for growth, so everything is good. In fact, pain can often be better even though I can’t see that at the time. It is in those times of great pain when I have grown most. In hindsight, I am always amazed at the amount of distance I have traveled personally – and the new scaffolding that I have built.

I’ve also learned that the most solid scaffolding in the brain is built when the event is emotionally charged. Divorce, abuse, addiction and trauma are powerful emotionally, and counseling and healing are important afterwards to put them into perspective. Emotion fuses impressions and memories into our psyche. If we don’t process the events,  we may build scaffolding in our brains that will keep leading us down the same path over and over again. Our brains may be powerful engines with infinite capabilities, but they are limited by our programming.

So, I’m noodling Eagle this morning. I imagine flying over the clouds with an amazing view of the world below me. “Legalize freedom,” the reading said. What would it mean for me to legalize freedom? What kind of movement and direction could that mean? What would I want it to mean? What kind of freedom do I desire, and what kind of structures do I have in place inside me that have prevented me from going there? Last fall in a meditation, Macaw came to me and said, “You feel like you are heavy like an elephant, but,” he added, “you can fly.” And he flew away with thousands of other magnificent birds just like him. I can fly. Hmmmmm …. interesting analogy.

Sunday Night Check-In: Nostalgia, Pirates and Sunshine

I’m feeling nostalgic this evening. This afternoon on Facebook, my June 26 post from 2013 popped up in news feed.

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Wow! I can’t believe three years ago today I was in the midst of moving down here to Baton Rouge. I read the blog and totally got engrossed in a trip down memory lane. I went to my blog page and selected June 2013 and read about two weeks worth of blogs leading up to my announcement of a new role with relocation and my ups and downs at the start of that journey. I had to giggle a little because I mentioned in several of them – especially the one when my AC went out – that I was afraid the Louisiana heat was going to get to me. I pegged that one for sure!

It’s interesting to go back and compare what I hoped would happen to what really did happen. I was very optimistic that I would be happy here but I also was a little worried about it. Reading my words about saying good-bye to friends and a place I’d loved for 7 years made me long for Memphis. I was so absorbed in the moving that I barely had time to feel during those weeks and months. It was a task to be completed, and I, as a single person, had to manage it myself. I had lots and lots of friends helping, and I am very grateful for that. It was a hard time for me physically and emotionally, but it was also a lot of fun. I was energized by the start of a new life.

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Me and Jadine this weekend in BSL.

Tonight I went to The Red Shoes for a spiritual circle that I’ve attended in the past. The last time I was there I was in the midst of that awful anxiety storm over a year ago. My life was a mess on every level, and I was desperately searching for jobs to try to get out of a role that did not fit for me. I was stopped at every turn, and I finally just gave up and had to trust that whatever God had planned for me was going to unfold without my doing. The topic of tonight’s meeting was “God Stories”, and several us told stories of how God showed up for us in a miraculous and sometimes uncanny way. I was very inspired, and I left in a spirit of gratitude for the journey of my life and even for the last three years. I’m still not grateful for the heat but I’m working on it.

Bay St. Louis this weekend….

This weekend I went with my friend Jadine to Bay St. Louis. She made the trek from Houston on Friday, and we stayed at the Pink Heron Cottages that I wrote about a month or so ago. It was brutally hot, but we had a blast. We stopped briefly in New Orleans on Friday to drop some Sourdough Starter off with my friend Michael, and he gave me some imported French flour. Our plan was to spend a little time in the French Quarter and then head to BSL. But it was so hot and crowded, we just made the exchange and left. We were seeking gulf breezes, and it could not wait.

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We had a blast shopping, getting pedicures, meeting people, drinking great coffee and the Mockingbird Cafe’s fabulous home-made Chai. It was Pirate’s Days in the bayside burg, and, although it wasn’t super crowded, there was lots of pirate-related fun to be had. We got to walk on the beach Saturday evening and had a lovely dinner at the Sycamore House. I’d never been there, but I will definitely be back. We had an asparagus-cucumber soup that was served cold, a vegetarian pizza and key lime pie. It was all divine, but one of the best parts of the meal was our super-interesting server Chad. He’s a bit of a gambling expert, and we enjoyed his stories about being wined and dined by the casinos.

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Most of all, Jadine and I talked. We just met last year at a women’s retreat, and we have spending time together when we can given the distance between Houston and Baton Rouge. We have a lot in common, and I’m really enjoying the budding friendship. I was sorry to see the weekend end so quickly.

Pirate’s Days!!

 

As I was reading my blogs about my relocation, I wondered how my life would be different had I said no to the job opportunity at LCTCS. Would I still be working at FedEx? Would I still be in Memphis? I know that I was feeling “done” with Memphis before I moved. Even though I loved it there, I had a longing to go somewhere else. I had a longing to get out of those corporate roles. I wanted something different. It felt like it was time to move, but I never would have anticipated moving home. It literally came out of nowhere.

Friday Festivities – Shopping at Platinum Pony Traveling Boutique …..

Had I not moved here, I would not know Jadine. I most certainly would not have met my friends Phillip and Connie in Bay St. Louis. Those friendships have been formed because I head over that way with some frequency. I have no idea what my life would be like without this move, but I know what it would NOT be like. In hindsight, I believe this move was always meant to be. I’m sure the timing was perfect because it always is. I have learned so much about taking care of myself in the past three years. Perhaps I would have learned it in Memphis, but I’ll never know for sure.

Sycamore House Dining… with the wonderful Chad!

It was here in Baton Rouge that I learned how to work with my generalized anxiety in a way that I was able to get off an anti-depressant that I was on for 20 years. I did a great deal of work with a career counselor, and I’m much clearer about what I want to do professionally and what I’m good at. (And I know I shouldn’t end a sentence with “at”.) I’ve truly learned how to be a support to myself and let go of the need to have the approval of others. It creeps up every now and again, but I have become much stronger in my ability to stand in my power and let the chips fall where they may. Ironically, my issues with feeling unlovable were formed here, and it is here where I’ve let that go. While the past three years was at times almost unbearable, they have also been very fruitful. I have a great sense of gratitude for where I am today. And I look forward to what tomorrow might bring.

Goodnight, y’all. Have a great week. Don’t let the past get you down. It’s what has moved you forward to today. It’ll all look better in hindsight.

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It’s HERE!!!

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IT’S HERE!!! I dread it all year long, and now it is upon me. The only good thing about it being here is that it’s a shorter time for it to be OVER, and it will be 365 days before summer comes back. Let me be crystal clear …. I HATE THIS SOUTHERN LOUISIANA SUMMER!!! Got it?

Hiking season has completely ground to a halt, Ashok is now relegated to short walks outside in the dark, and I’m consuming nothing but ice water, cold brew coffee, watermelon and kefir. My neck is constantly dabbed with peppermint essential oil for its cooling effect, and I smell like a candy cane dressed in wet gym clothes. The most time-consuming – and expensive – part of my day is slathering fifteen hair products on these curls to keep the frizz down to a manageable level without looking like a wet noodle. It’s a delicate balancing act, and I’m doing much better with it this year than last. I suppose I’m learning.

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I did end up investing in linen sheets. I bought them at Restoration Hardware on sale for $200 which is a steal for linen sheets. I was tired of sweating under my high-dollar cotton sheets, and the blogs on the internet told me that linen would be cooler and would last me 20 years. So, if I even that $200 out over 20 years, I’m spending $10 a year for beautiful, soft linen that is indeed much, much cooler. I couldn’t be happier in my investment. Besides, when I go to bed at night and wake up in the morning, I have at least a few minutes feeling like a rich gal who can indulge in all the comfort I want. Money isn’t everything, but there are some things that money CAN buy, and linen sheets is one of them! Even my animals seem to like them.

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I’m still playing with the thermostat to figure out what temperature is just right. The thing I hate about AC is the cycling. I’m cold when it’s running, and then 5 minutes after it cycles off, I’m too hot. I also have ceiling fans which levels it out somewhat but makes it cooler when the AC is on. I may spend the rest of my life trying to figure out how to maintain an even temperature without melting down in a pool of sweat. I suppose it gives me something to do while I’m locked indoors for July, August and September. This last two weeks in June is a bonus heat wave.

Ashok is bored out of her mind because we are not doing anything fun, but when I take her outside she pants and moans and literally stops in the middle of the road and stares at me. “WTF,” she seems to ask, “Why are we living here?” Since I’m in the same mood when I’m outside, I can’t really console her except to assure her that we can’t always be happy, and this time of year is the time we suck it up so we can enjoy a more temperate climate the rest of the year. At least that’s what I keep telling myself!

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I’m headed to Bay St. Louis over the weekend with my friend Jadine from Houston. At least there will be a breeze, good coffee, like-minded companionship and great food. She’s even going to adopt the first babies from my kefir grains. So, my grains will have a Houston branch percolating soon. I’ll focus on the perks of staying inside by catching up with friends and hanging out dressed up like a girl instead of a backpacker. It adds a little variety to my life, I guess!

Stay cool, y’all. The worst is yet to come!😦

 

 

Sunday Night Check-In: #RisingStrong

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I took to reading Brene Brown’s Book Rising Strong again this weekend. I just absolutely love that book. Her techniques for getting up from a “fall” and actually learning something from it are profound. I found myself in a “face down” moment last week, and I was able to read her insights with new eyes with some fodder that was personally meaningful. I literally couldn’t put the book down Friday night and woke up Saturday morning with a totally different outlook on transforming my mistake into an asset. If you can’t take a mistake and turn it into a learning opportunity, it’s a wasted jewel.

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My sourdough starter was ready this week. Wednesday it was bubbly and active, and I couldn’t wait to try it out. I didn’t have time to read up on baking bread, so I chose to make some sourdough waffles from the King Arthur Flour online recipe book. I combined the starter with the flour and some of my kefir to replace the buttermilk and let it percolate overnight. When I got up Thursday morning, I replaced my morning routine with a waffle-making experiment.

Round 1 didn’t go so well…..

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Neither did Round 2…..

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I realized that my waffle iron was ticked off at me because I had ignored it for over 10 years, so I cut it some slack and let it win a couple of rounds. I tried something different each time, but I decided I should spray it again with some Pam, and, voila…. Round 3 was sour, fluffy and downright amazing. I doused it in homemade cane syrup, and it was divine. Then I remembered that I had real maple syrup, so I tried that, too. Honestly, I think the cane syrup was a better complement to the tangy flavor of the sourdough, and I think I’ll use that in the future. The maple was just a bit overpowered by the flavor of the waffles.

This weekend I took some time to make sourdough bread. I had to pull the starter out of the refrigerator and feed it 3 times (at 12 hour intervals) in order to get it “rising strong”. (Pun intended) I watched the below video to get the instructions on how to make it.

In a past life – or at least it seems like a different lifetime – I baked bread all the time. I had all of the tools, regular deliveries from King Arthur Flour in Vermont, and a knack for making awesome bread … all the time. But most of my tools have been donated, I haven’t used the dough hook on my KitchenAid mixer in over a decade, and I don’t remember the tricks I used to make my bread perfectly delicious. And I don’t think I was ever really successful with sourdough. Because it’s made from wild yeast, it’s unpredictable and … well … wild.

This morning I got up to knead the dough and then set it aside to “rise strong”. I had leftover starter so I made some more waffles. The recipe I used this morning used the sourdough and the regular salt and baking powder to make it rise. Ehhhh …. this one wasn’t nearly as good as the wild yeast leavened batch during the week. I ate it with some homemade blueberry sauce, but I won’t be making that recipe again. It was nothing special.

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The bread however is excellent! One loaf is still rising. I wanted to experiment with rising times and flavor. So, I let one rise for about 8 hours, and I may let the other rise until the morning. They say it makes a difference in the flavor. I cut off a chunk of the one already cooked, slathered it in butter and honey and enjoyed the first homemade bread I’ve had in ages. My house smells like fresh-baked bread again. Ashok was so entranced that I caught her just as she pulled half the loaf off the counter. She was ready to go at it.

Everything I’ve read about sourdough tells me that making it is an art AND a science. When I made my starter, I literally “caught” wild yeast out of the air. It grows and bubbles and makes my bread rise. So, the yeasts in my air are probably different than the yeasts in your air. They will always be unique. And humidity, the temperature of my home, the amount of time I let the bread proof, the quality of my water and flour and many other variables will affect the final product. It really does remind me of the journey with my curls. It’s a relationship that will develop over time, and I can’t control the outcome. I can only learn to work with it and be surprised at how it all turns out… hopefully pleasantly!

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In Brene’s book, she talks about that “face down” moment in the arena. We are in the midst of an emotional shit-storm. We want to get up and make it go away fast … blame somebody else, minimize it, numb ourselves, stuff it down… anything that will make it go away so we can get the hell out of there. But when we do that, we learn nothing. But when we fall and let ourselves look around down there – explore the uncomfortable feelings, understand what caused them and define the core triggers – we can enable a breakthrough that can literally change our lives. This process of looking inside and feeling our feelings – like the “rising strong” of sourdough – is not a simple process. It is time-consuming and can be quite painful. Most of us would rather just go for the shortcut – buy the bread somewhere else – rather than have to go through all of that work. But when we do that, we miss learning about what motivates us, what makes us “wild” and ultimately helps us to “rise strong”. In other words, that’s the good stuff.:-)

Have a great week, y’all. Don’t take the easy road… the road less traveled makes all the difference. 

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