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Posts Tagged ‘living’

Jazz & The Art of Medicine

In Life in Society, Music, Nature on November 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Check out this excellent article in The Annals of Family Medicine, written by a doctor about how the symbiosis of the doctor-patient relationship can mirror the way jazz musicians create by listening to each other and then improvising.

~ HR

Photo by Doug Stutler

Go Outside

In Nature on November 5, 2011 at 11:16 am

Photo by Doug Stutler

By Bekah McNeel

I don’t know when I decided that I hated nature, and I don’t know what it was that pushed me over the edge. But I do remember thinking, “Everything out here is trying to kill me.” I was in college and I was wearing flip-flops in the West Texas desert at Big Bend National Park. Far from the wooded canyons and creeks of my Hill Country childhood–though even there cactus and cedar splinters abound–I had decided that nature was for ascetics.

So, naturally, I married an ascetic. A desert monk of sorts. A man who loves to be outside. And now we spend time outside. We run, we swim in creeks, we hike, we camp. I have discovered the state and national parks services. Maybe it’s my love for him, but more likely its that he is my very own “interpretive center.” South Texas wilderness needs an interpretive center. (For those who avoid the outdoors: an interpretive center is where they tell you what you are looking at and why it’s important and why you have to love it.)

For our first anniversary, we decided to take a trip to Yosemite. If I were to write a book called “How to Love Nature,” chapter one would be a guide to planning a trip to Yosemite. Surrounded by waterfalls, rainbows, cliffs, and sequoias I thought, “This is how people become naturalists.” Legend has it that John Muir actually cried out for joy when he discovered Yosemite Valley. He would devote his life to its preservation, founding the Sierra Club and battling against the reservoir that created the lake at Hetch Hetchy in the park’s NW corner. He explored every accessible inch of the place, even when accessing it meant that he had to build his own trail. We hiked some of those trails 130 years later. I get the obsession.

It’s a strange life change for me to sympathize with that obsession. Growing up, the Sierra Club was in a league with Planned Parenthood and Chairman Mao’s one child policy. Enemies of the faith. I didn’t know anything about it, but somehow it was synonymous with earth-worshipping paganism. Being somewhat at war with nature myself, I didn’t give it much thought. How bad would the world really be without mosquitoes and cacti?

Answer: terrible. For two reasons,

1) Mosquitoes and cacti are going to outlive us all. So if it gets to the point that they are dying off, well, the earth probably resembles Mars.

2) We need it all! When we eradicate the pests, we start messing with systems far outside our plans. Systems that include the Giant Sequoias, whales, cattle, and us! We cannot pick and choose our favorite bits of Creation. We need to work within the system, because we’re part of it. Do you eat meat or vegetables? Then you’re part of the system. Breathe oxygen? Part of the system.

Now, I’ve heard enough apocalyptic eco-scenarios to scare me into reusable shopping bags. What about conservation based on love rather than fear? If I love nature, then acting on its behalf becomes what I want to do. No longer is the Sierra Club my enemy. Now I’m glad for it to work and work hard. Not just so that we can survive, but so that we can enjoy surviving.

I work in a church office, where we are all about the head and the heart. I share a tiny office with two seminary students who drill each other in Hebrew vocabulary all day. It should not be surprising that I was having a hard time grasping the concept of “Fear God.” God was something that we scribbled on the whiteboard. He fit inside the bindings on the shelf of theology books. But when I peered into a violent whirlpool at the top of Nevada Falls, slippery granite beneath my feet, I was terrified by the same majestic cascade that had delighted me only a few hours earlier from a safe distance. I thought, “This is awe. This is fear.” That’s the closest I have come to understanding the fear of God. My heart was paralyzed but exhilarated. Free but trembling. There was something in the world that was beyond my control and comprehension, but here I was close enough to touch it. Close enough to see how beautiful it really was, but to be swept away if I ignored its power.

Photo by Doug Stutler

My husband the Nature Monk says that people need to spend time encountering things that make them feel small. Cliff faces, desert expanses, ocean horizons. We need a reminder that truth is less, “man is the measure of all things” and more, “what is man, O Lord, that you are mindful of him?” Less Enlightenment and more Psalms.

But treks through nature are not all grand perspective-taking. In an age of information barrage, where we have boundless productivity with minimal discomfort, there is something so right about going outside. About using all five senses to navigate. Out on a particularly grueling hike or trail run, a person must become consumed by their surroundings and how they are interacting with them. Each step down a slippery mountain pass in the rain quieted my mind because if I let one piece of my nerves be distracted from the vital task of searching for a foothold I would be in big trouble, and probably with an injury to show for it. That kind of singular focus resets the brain. It quiets the crowd of alerts, notifications, special offers, and expiration dates. I think its good for our brains to spend a few hours in survival mode. How can I do this unless I go outside? I’m not talking about a peaceful walk in the woods either. Yes, that’s where it starts. Walking without a cell phone. Nature is great for contemplation, a la Walden Pond.

What I’m talking about here though, is the wilderness. The wild. A place where environment and body collide and tasks are no longer options set against a backdrop of entertainment and luxuries. Where work is not a villain keeping us from relaxing. Being outside in this way demands that I turn off the noise and do the one thing that there is to do in this moment: take the right step or fail perilously.

It would be very Presbyterian of me to now say, “You can do this anywhere.” To talk about how your backyard can be your own little wilderness. Well, unless you live on the edge of the woods, desert, beach, or tundra, it probably cannot. You probably are going to need to work a little harder to love nature. Not everyone gets to take a week and explore Yosemite, Yellowstone, or Glacier National Park for a course in Loving the Great Outdoors 101. Many of us will have to settle for a prickly, buggy, humid whatever-state park. But my challenge is to find that piece of the world that helps you understand why people want to save it.

Photo by Hannah Amodeo

Gardening & Beauty

In Humor on October 23, 2011 at 11:48 am

Photo by Kent Bartlett

By Kristine Goodfellow

Let me start by admitting something.  I may be in need of a gardening intervention.  You see, last year we moved from Pennsylvania to Texas at the very end of Spring, so I didn’t get to plant any flowers before I left.

By the time we got to West Texas, settled into our house and had time to think about the landscaping outside, all the plants at the nurseries, Lowes and Wal-Mart were pretty much slim-pickin’s.  Besides, it was so hot I didn’t want to leave the sweet air-conditioning of my new home to tend to any half-dead desert plants.  I bought a couple of hanging flower baskets and called it a summer.

So, that means last year I didn’t get to garden.  And by gardening, I mean watering colorful flowers in decorative pots.  I don’t actually want to get dirty or have to kneel down and weed anything, but I want to see pretty things in my yard so…

This year, I got a $100 gift certificate for a local nursery and couldn’t wait to spend it.  I went a little crazy.  By the time the whole thing was over, said and done, I think I ended up with over $250.00 worth of flowers.  Ooops.

My front and back porches look very festive and delightful.  I’m very excited about that.  Now, if I don’t kill any of them, I’ll be happy.  I’m great with houseplants, but sometimes I have a little difficulty with the outdoor variety.  There are bugs out there!  Every year I say I’m going to conquer my fear and maintain my own garden, but some malevolent spider, slimy worm or wicked beetle scares me back into my house where I then spend the rest of the summer admiring the flowers and waving to Chewy the Yard Guy as he tends them.  This year, I will do the maintenance myself!  I will!  I am an optimist.  Optimism and the fact that Chewy lives in Pennsylvania has me determined to make this work.

Feeling very guilty about spending sooo much money on my flower obsession, I cancelled my hair appointment today.

“I’ll color my own hair and save $75.00,” I thought.

Yeah…that’ll ease that old spending guilt.

Using my fuzzy math, I figured if I did my own hair…I was halfway to coming out even on my over-expenditure at the nursery.

So, late this morning, I set my box of hair color down on my vanity in my master bathroom feeling oh so grown-up and responsible.

How hard could this be?

Reading the instructions carefully, I began to save money.  HA!

Feeling like a chemist in a lab, I set to mixing and shaking.  The box even came with rubber gloves!  I was feeling pretty damn professional.  After very carefully following the directions, I applied the mixture to my hair.

“This is not so hard,” I thought.

Suddenly, I felt a cold, wet trickle running from my temple, down my ear and continuing down my neck.

Aaah!  Don’t panic!  Not a problem.  I grabbed a towel.  The closest towel.  My strictly-for-decoration gold-fringed hand towel.

UghShould not have done that.

Well, I figured, it’s ruined, so I may as well continue to use it.  Next drip I felt was down my neck in the back.  Quick as a flash, I grabbed my newly-stained towel to sop up the mess.

Whoops!  Wrong towel.  Towel number two—ruined.

Realizing my mistake, I tossed the towel onto to the counter and knocked the whole bottle of liquid hair dye onto the vanity.  The bottle dropped to the floor, splashed against the wood cabinet and dumped out onto the gold bathmat before I managed to stop the worsening destruction.

Crap!  Who knew tile could stain?  Who knew marble countertops could stain?  Who knew black dye on gold mats could look like someone had been murdered on my bathroom floor?

At this point, I forgot about my hair—I could only contemplate what chemical neutralizes hair dye and removes it from wood and tile.

Not wanting my hubby to see the bathroom devastation I’ve created, I rolled up the towels in the bathmat and hid them in the garage (to throw out later–on Trash Day) feeling like the world’s most inept criminal.

I realized the marble countertop was still stained and I wasn’t sure what might take care of that, but I came up with a genius solution to the floor.

Throw the other bathmat over the floor stain…

Perhaps, no one will ever know—until we move out, that is.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t genius.

After I got everything under control and had adequately hidden my misdeeds, I piled up my hair on my head and set the timer for 40 minutes.

Now keep in mind, I’m still feeling guilty over the tropical jungle I have blooming on my porches. I mean it’s TEXAS–where the previous day’s temperature had reached 97-deegrees…and it’s ONLY APRIL!

What was I thinking?

I suddenly comprehended my costly little paradise would require more care than I probably know how to give.  However, I am now resolved.  I must not let them die!  Think of all that money!

While I’m waiting for the last few minutes of required hair-cooking time, I decided to water the guilt-inducing plants on my back patio since they look a little wilted from yesterday’s heat.

I CANNOT LET THEM DIE!

My backyard backs up to a golf course and walking trail—a fairly busy walking/jogging trail.

I stuck my head out on the porch and looked around.  No one was using the trail and I didn’t see any golfers.

Yes!  I have time to water my flowers and come back in to rinse the black goo off my head.

I very stealthily made it to the water spigot, keeping my eyes out for joggers and listening for golf carts.  I turned on the hose and hurried to the back porch and began watering.  Everything was going as planned until I saw a black drop fall near my feet.  Then another.

Drop.

Drop.

Drop.

“Oh, crap!”

I looked at my reflection in the window.  I had black streaks across my cheeks and a black smear across my forehead.  There’s even a black smudge over my lip from where I’d obviously rubbed my nose which made me look like I had half a Hitler mustache!

Behind me a neighbor’s dog barked making me jump.  I looked down the path and noticed someone is walking their dog and coming towards my house.

It’s okay.  I still have time to rush inside.  I dropped the hose, and turned the handle of the French doors.

Bam!  I plow face first into it.

“What the…?”  There is now a black smudge on the white paint where my forehead hit the frame.

Panicked, I tried the handle again.

“OMG! No!”

*Bark! Bark!*

The dog walker is now closer!  I tried the handle again.  No doubt about it.  It’s locked.  Someone must’ve locked the doorknob lock last night!

I rushed to the side of the house, out the gate and tried the side entrance to the garage.  Locked!  I ran to the front, horrified that someone might see me in my Tinkerbell pajama bottoms and t-shirt sans bra!

Front door?  Locked!

It’s official.  I am locked out!  And humiliated.  And it’s starting to get hot!  I wiped away the dripping black gunk with my hands and noticed my fingers were black.

Well….there goes the manicure I got a couple of days previous–totally ruined!

As I rounded the corner to hide in my backyard again, I happened to notice my cleaning lady was two doors down at my husband’s boss’s house.  The way I saw it…I had no choice at that point.  Maria has a key!

I thought of sticking my head under the garden hose before walking casually down the street so as not to cause any undue attention.  No, I better not, I thought, it might just make the mess worse and turn my entire face blackNo, better just rush over, explain the situation and rush back.

I scurried down the street—two doors down, but it felt like a mile.  Luckily, no one was out (which is highly unusual for this active neighborhood.)

This could work.

Maria’s car was in the driveway.  I know she’s there!

I rang the doorbell.

No answer.

I knocked— leaving a black knuckle mark on the white painted door of the boss’s pristine, beautiful home.

Crap!  I used my shirt to wipe it off.  Well, there goes that t-shirt anyway.  Sorry, Tinkerbell.

I waited, shifting my weight back and forth and peeking behind me to see if anyone is outside.  It is officially HOT and I have to use the bathroom now.

Still no answer.  What the heck?

Giving up, I decided to see if by some miracle my across-the-street-neighbor is home (even though I know she works Tuesdays and Thursdays).

It’s worth a shot.

Just as I crossed the street, I saw Maria step out of the house to get something from her car.

“Maria!” I yelled running back.

She did a Hollywood-worthy double-take.  “Mrs. Goodfellow?”

“Uh…yeah.  I’m locked out.  Do you have my key with you?”

“Yes,” she says looking at me with wide, confused eyes.  I’m sure she can’t fathom why I’m walking around outside looking like a squid secreted ink on my head, sporting half a mustache and wearing my pajamas near noontime.  (She already thinks I’m a little flighty being that I’m always forgetting what day she’s supposed to come or forgetting to leave a check when she does.  Or accidentally giving her my Pennsylvania phone number or forgetting to sign my check or….)

“I was watering and I….” I stammer.

“Is that water?” she asks.  I’m sure she’s wondering if something has been lost in translation from English to Spanish.

“No, no…I was dying my hair and watering my plants and…”

“At the same time?”

“No, no…um…yes, but…do you have my key?  Can I have my key?”  A car was coming up the street.  I was getting desperate.

“Yes,” she says.  “You want me to open it for you?”

I think she realized the complexities of a lock were probably beyond my capacity at that point.

Eventually, I got into my house.

However, by then my entire skull and part of my face was dyed a nice shade of Midnight Black.

So, I did what any 21-century person would do.  I got online to find out how to remove hair dye from skin.  I love the internet.  Just when you think you are the only person who would have black streaks dyed into your face, you find out there are many, many others out there who have done the same thing.

So, I pulled out my Nail Polish Remover and got to scrubbing.

It sort of worked…except…it turns out I’m allergic to it.  My skin went from black to gray with tinges of bright red!

I decided the red was better than the gray or light black, so I rubbed until it was all (or most of it was) removed.

To top it all off, I looked down and my brand new bling-y flip-flops are decorated with a black splotch across the top—oh!  And there goes the spa pedicure, too.

So,..in saving $75.00 doing my own hair, I managed to ruin a new manicure, a new pair of flip-flops,  a bathmat, two decorative hand towels and a fresh pedicure.  I’ll still wear my Tinkerbell pj’s so that’s a draw.

And none of that even comes close to the amount of mortification I endured and several moments of extreme stress, which probably gave me gray hair…that is…gray hair underneath all that Midnight Black dye.  On top of all that…the Hibiscus I bought…isn’t looking real good today.  I might have to make one more trip to the nursery…but then I swear I’m done.

***

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.  Psalm 103:15, 16

A Higher Calling

In Humor on October 23, 2011 at 1:16 am

Photo of sky above Walmart parking lot by Heila Rogers

By Kristine Goodfellow

My teenage son got his first job a couple of months ago.  He became the newest member of the Burger King team.  After his first day, he came home horrified.

“Mom!  They made me wear a hairnet!”

Yep, welcome to the real world, son.  A place where they make you wear a hairnet.

“It’s so you don’t lose hair in the food,” I explained.

“Mom!  I’m sixteen.  I’m not losing my hair!”

He truly was blown away by this new aspect of his life.

“Everyone loses hair.  Like when you comb it or find it on your pillow.”

“I didn’t plan on combing my hair over the grill.”  He rolled his eyes.  Didn’t I know anything?

“All people in foodservice are required to wear them, son.  Look at the lunch ladies.”

That was the complete wrong thing to say.  He looked mortified.  “I thought they just wore those things because they didn’t know what to do with their hair or because of the steam or something…” he mumbled.

So, Day One of being a working man did not go as planned.  I pinned my hopes on Day Two.  Perhaps, he’d have a better day and it would give his outlook a boost.

My hopes were quickly dashed.  The second day, he came back looking tired and frazzled.  “That sucked.  I hate it,” he said as soon as he walked in the door.

His father and I snickered.  “Yeah, well, you’re sixteen.  It’s what you’re qualified to do,” I said.

“You’re supposed to hate it,” his father said with a smirk.  “Just deal with it and quit complaining.  You can work fast food until you hear a higher calling,” he joked.

“Yeah…but…I have to wear a hairnet!”

Hubby walked to where our son stood leaning on the kitchen counter, arms folded, looking peeved.  He looked into the eyes of his frustrated, youngest son, ready to impart wisdom, to commiserate, to offer words of encouragement.  He leaned in and took a whiff.  “Whoa!  Take a shower.  You smell like a bag of fries and an order of onion rings to go.”

So much for paternal support.

Our young man pushed himself up from the counter, brushed past his dad with a “harrumph” and headed for the shower.

“And get your hairnet off my counter!” I shouted after him.

We soon found out there was another reason for his I-hate-this-job-attitude.  It wasn’t just certain health code hair-covering regulations.  Our poor son spent the entire four hours of his shift standing in front of the grill terrified that the girl he liked would have a craving for a Whopper and find him looking like Doris the Lunch Lady.  It’s a legitimate fear, I guess, if you’re a sixteen-year-old boy.  Having the woman of your dreams see you sweating over a grill, grease settled on your skin in puddles and wearing a hairnet—nope, it couldn’t get worse than that.  Unless, of course, she comes in with another guy while you’re looking like Doris the Lunch Lady.  Wait.  Shhhh…I’m forbidden from saying anything more about that.

“He’ll feel better when he gets his first paycheck,” his father said.

Two weeks later, he loved his money.  But…he still hated his job.

After a while, my teenage son had enough.  He wanted to put in his two-weeks notice.  He swore he’d have another job before his last day at the Kingdom of Burgers and Hairnets.

“Mom!  Will you come here?”  My young man called me into his room—something he rarely does.  I entered with caution and made a mental note to buy some new Glade Plug-Ins—maybe one for each outlet.  Anyway, I saw him sitting at his desk staring at his computer screen with intensity.  “Mom, I hit Send, but it says, ‘responding’.  What does that mean?”

I looked at the computer.  He’d been applying for a job at WalMart.  Apparently, it’s done online now.  I applauded his self-sufficiency.  However, I also felt a little pang through my heart.  I thought, “My little boy is so grown up, he doesn’t need me anymore.”  Until–

I looked at the screen and saw what he wrote under “Tell us why you want the job”.

I currently work at Burger King, but I heard a higher calling to work at WalMart.

I know you aren’t supposed to laugh at your kids, but that just floored me.  “Uh…excuse me…what in the world–?  You’ve ‘been called’ to work at WalMart, son?  Really?”

He looked confused.  “What?”

“Called to work at WalMart?  A Higher calling?”

“Yes.  A calling for higher pay, right?”  He looked at me with his big brown eyes.  He really had no idea what I found so shocking…and funny.

Just then, I saw his father walk by.  If you know either of us, you know we don’t give up an opportunity to tease our children.  They’ll go out into the world confident, knowing how to laugh at themselves and with great senses of humor…or in great need of therapy.  Only time will tell.  We’ve always been willing to take the risk, though.

“Honey!  Come here.  Your son’s heard a calling.”

Our son looked at me with wariness.

“He has?  What’s that?”  My hubby entered the room and stood next to me.  “Calling, huh?”  Because he’d been talking to this son about getting into ROTC in college, my hubby had his hopes up.  “For what?  The military?”

“No,” I said.  “WalMart.”

“What?”  He scoffed.  A smile spread across his face.

“Yep.  Look here.  He’s put it in writing.”  I pointed to the screen.

My husband leaned over my son who looked at the two of us with circumspection.

Both of us laughed for a moment.

The boy-man fidgeted in his chair and finally swiveled around to face us.  “What is so funny?  Isn’t that what you said, dad?  I only had to work at Burger King until I got a higher calling?  Like for higher pay.  Isn’t that what it means?  That you want a better job?”

“What it means is…” I said catching my breath.  “…Well, it’s an expression meaning that God has ‘called you’ to do something special.  Like when the Lord calls you to be a priest.  Or, maybe a teacher.”

“Or a military officer.”  (Hubby is really pushing that ROTC thing.)

“But not WalMart,” we said in unison.

“Oh.”  He turned around and looked at the screen.  A message now appeared.  YOUR APPLICATION HAS BEEN SENT.  “Oops.”

Well, Walmart hasn’t called him for an interview and I’m wondering if they just don’t understand how badly my son wants a new job. I mean, c’mon.  He had a calling!  What’s wrong with those people?

Now, if he doesn’t get a job at WalMart, I’m going to wonder what went wrong since it’s been my experience that our local store doesn’t hire any certified geniuses.

In fact, EVERY time I go, I bring my own reusable bags and the cashier tries to scan them–EVERY time.  I keep all of the reusable cloth bags inside a big, plastic, silver frozen-food bag with a handle.  Inevitably, I say, “These are mine.”  Sometimes they get it.  We understand each other.  Communication has been achieved.  Yet, sometimes I get a look of total confusion from the person on the other side of the counter.  Other times, they ignore me, look for a barcode on the side and slide it over the scanner, charging me for it.

For example, this last time, I put the silver bag (full of other bags) on the conveyer belt.

“Hi.” I smiled at the cashier.

“Hi.  How are you?” she asked and picked up the frozen food bag.  She immediately began looking for the scan code.

“That’s mine,” I said with a smile.

She continued to look for the correct place to scan.

“Ummm…yeah, that’s mine.”  She smiled at me and continued to look for the barcode.

“The bag is mine.”

She looked up at me.  “I know.”  She looked back down and after finding the barcode, scanned it and charged me $1.50.

“No…” I tried to stop her, but it was too late.  “That’s my bag.”

“Yes, I know.”

She looked at me like I was a complete idiot.

“But…you charged me for it.”

“OH!”  A look of total enlightenment passed over her face.  I mean you could almost hear the Hallelujah Chorus and see a shaft of light from above shine down upon her.  THAT’s how elucidated she became in that moment.  “You mean you’ve already paid for it?”

“Uh, yeah. That’s what I said.”  I am truly amused by this—every single time.  Hey, I love to interact with people.  Human nature fascinates me.

“I thought you meant it was yours…like part of your order.  You know…yours.”  She gestured to the rest of the items on the conveyer belt.

Yep, folks…it’s like that almost every time.

Another time I got the pierced teen—you know the one I’m talking about if you live here.  Bless her heart; she tried to scan the separator that was placed between my order and the one behind mine.  “What is this?” she said, turning it around—I believe looking for the price.

***

“I think most of us are looking for a calling, not a job.  Most of us, like the assembly line worker, have jobs that are too small for our spirit.  Jobs are not big enough for people.”  Studs Terkel