A New Beginning

That seems like such a cheesy title.  A New Beginning. But, as cheesy as it may sound, that’s what this feels like for me.  The start of something transformational, long-term, and incredibly challenging.

Context: If you are reading this and you aren’t in my Optavia “Be Well and Do Good” community, then a little explanation is in order.

31 days ago I decided to start a program that is designed to reorient my relationship with food, help me lose weight, and find a healthier me.  Now.  Let’s be clear about a few things.  Fat people (and I am a proud fat people) do not need to lose weight to fit into society’s mold of “beauty”, “attractiveness”, and “health”. A skinny body does not equate health. Fat people can be healthy.  And fat people should never be shamed for their weight.  A lot of fat shaming comes from the idea that slender is healthy.  I worked my emotional booty off to learn to love my body the way it is – rolls, dimples, cellulite and all.  And when I reach the goal weight my doctor and I set for myself, I will still have rolls, dimples, and cellulite.  And I’m still going to love me.  Even though I had done the hard work of learning to love my body, I didn’t love the way I felt. I was tired all the time, my blood sugars yo-yoed from the high 40s to the high 180s, I had no energy, and on weekends I would go from my bed to the couch for a three hour nap because I thought that is what I needed to be healthier…more sleep.  I didn’t know what I really needed, but I knew I needed a change.

My dear friend from Grad School Round One, Beth Dittman, had been posting for some time on Facebook about her journey with Optavia and her role as a health coach to others.  I’d tracked her posts, but Beth has always been slender, healthy (based on my former assessment of health as being slender – you’d have to talk to her about her health journey), and gorgeous. What could she possible know about being 278 pounds and struggling all my life with society’s scathing hatred of the space I take up? How could she really help me move forward?  Would she understand that I don’t desire to look like her – that I will have to be dead and decomposing for at least a year before I weigh what she does?  These started out as legitimate and fair questions, but soon morphed into excuses-posing-as-questions to not reach out.  Then one day, boom! Beth sends a message and asks if we can take time to reconnect.  Over the course of a couple of conversations, I got brave enough to ask about Optavia.  And she shared.  The real decision point was seeing a Facebook before and after of Josh, the husband of another Grad School Round One friend.  I could tell he had lost weight, but it was the look on this face that captured my attention.  He had this look of deep, abiding joy and satisfaction in his “after” picture that was not present in his “before” picture.  And even though I still didn’t know what I needed to make that look happen, I knew that look was what I wanted.

I also researched Isagenix.  And because I am not a lover of shakes and I adore Beth and trust her without reservation (we did group projects in grad school where our grade depended on each other, and I didn’t flinch when partnered with Beth – that’s how much I trust her, people), I selected Optavia to help me reorient my relationship with food and see if I could find the change I needed.

Beth’s Challenge and the purpose of this post:

On August 5th, Beth asked her Optavia Community Facebook Group, Be Well and Do Good, to finish the following statement – “As a result of this group I have been able to or I am…”

So here, 12 days later, I am answering that challenge.

As a result of this group I have been able to or I am: 

  • I SURVIVED DAY FOUR!  Seriously, day four was awful.  I wanted Cheez-Its and Diet Pepsi so bad I could have ripped the doors off Safeway to get to them.  Thanks to Beth’s hourly text messages and support from Optavia folks who had survived their own day four, I made it through.  And that is my constant encouragement not to cheat.  God knows, I don’t want to go through day four again.
  • Make it through four weeks with only one headache (it was Gramma induced) and without needing to lay down in my office at work just to get through the day.
  • Stabilize my blood sugars. For real. They are often the exact same thing when I go to bed as they are when I get up.  I am actually excited for my next A1C.  There’s a sentence I never thought I’d say.
  • Keep my house clean because I still have energy when I get home from work.  This is a big deal.  A big, big deal people.
  • Garden.  I am gardening again.  I pull weeds, and talk to my flowers, and enjoy my herbs.  I had no energy before, so my garden looked overgrown and unloved. Rather than being my place of joy, it was a sign of one more failure.  Now it is a mark of hope.
  • Energy.  I don’t want anyone to think I am an energizer bunny. I have never felt that way. But I have enough energy to get through the day without feeling like death warmed over. I can go home and do things other than lay on the couch and wish I felt better. I’m tired when I go to bed, but not unnaturally tired.  Just I-put-in-a-day’s-work tired.  My energy is sustained and consistent.
  • Found support with my Mom.  Mom is always supportive, but she has been such an ally in this.  It has been awesome.
  • I sleep better at night and wake up feeling rested. I still hate mornings and hate getting up.  This stuff doesn’t work that kind of miracle.
  • I fit in clothes I haven’t worn in six months to a year.
  • In four weeks I lost 21.2 pounds and 17.5 inches.

One day I will have my own “after” picture (I forgot to take a “before” picture) in which I will see the deep, abiding joy and satisfaction radiating back at me that I saw in Josh’s picture.  I can already feel it now.  And it feels like exactly what I needed.


“I just don’t care about politics…”

If we are friends on Facebook, you know what happened in my COM class yesterday.  If you aren’t, here’s a recap.

I start the class with a vocal warm-up – usually a question the students answer to practice sharing pathos and ethos.  The questions have been things like:”Who is your hero?”, “What are you most scared of?”, “What do you regret most?”  Not easy questions per se, but also not questions that really drive the students to think outside their world or past experiences.  That’s fine.  It serves a purpose.

Yesterday, I didn’t have a planned question so I asked one off the top of my head, “What do you think of the political climate in the US?”

The first student articulated his views on the polarity of our country and said that he was scared only a Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump could break the business as usual in Washington when it comes to big money lobbyists electing the next president.  He’s hoping if that is true, it is Sanders, not Trump.

The next three students said they don’t follow politics/don’t care about politics/don’t watch the news.

The fourth student said she didn’t understand the question.  Upon further exploration on my part, I realized that my use of the word “climate” threw her – she was thinking temperature, environment etc.  Don’t laugh.  This gal is anything but stupid.  She’s very smart, but if you don’t read a broad range of things, your vocabulary will be limited.

Side note: Damn it, people, read stuff!  All kinds of stuff.  Reading a diversity of books, magazines, and articles increases your vocabulary, exposes you to new ideas, and, hopefully, reduces your prejudice.

A total of two people in my class of 24 could articulate an answer to this question.  20 students said they didn’t care about politics/it doesn’t matter to them, and two said anyone put Trump for President.  And while I almost agree (because, eeew, Cruz!), that’s not really an answer to the question.

I asked by a show of hands who knew who Antonin Scalia was.


I asked by a show of hands what color Taylor Swift’s red-carpet skirt was at the Grammy’s – magenta/berry or orange.


And I lectured them.  Raised-my-voice-until-their-eyes-bugged-out lectured them about their apathy.  I lectured them about their responsibility to be informed.  And I lectured them about being the problem.  Not being part of the problem, but being the actual problem.

That experience stuck with me the entire day.  I went home and talked to a good friend last night hoping for something that would make the sense of doom and failure in the pit of my stomach go away.  Well, he talked; I blubbered.  The conversation  was via Facebook Messenger so he couldn’t see that I was crying most of the conversation.

I was crying over the sheer wasted talent I saw that day in class.  The waste that was each student who refused to engage outside of their own narrow world.  Or maybe they don’t refuse to engage outside their own world – maybe they’ve never been expected to do so.  Maybe they don’t know how.

I was crying because I felt helpless to fix whatever the problem is.  I felt like I didn’t have enough time, didn’t have enough energy, and sure has hell didn’t have enough talent to reach them.  To inspire them.  To give them the tools to develop their talents so they can change the problems we have oozing across our planet.

He gave me great encouragement and some background he sees in the K-12 system in his role working in schools.  He also reminded me I might not reach them all.  And he reminded me, it isn’t all on me.  They have to want to change, too.   So with that reality check under my belt,  I stayed up brainstorming how I can engage students differently.

I sent this email to my students this morning.

I wish you all could see what I see in you. I see an unlimited set of talents and opportunities. I see phenomenal intelligence and compassion. I see great strength and personal conviction. I see a bright group of people who have limitless possibilities to change the world. But. You can’t change the world without being informed about the world.
So, to give you practice engaging with information outside your immediate knowledge-base (and to help prepare you for your persuasive speech), starting Tuesday and for all future classes, our vocal warm-up is going to be you bringing in a news story on a current event happening in our world. Here are the rules:
  • You will find, read, and summarize a news article. You don’t have to formally write out your summary, but you do need to be able to 1) tell us who wrote the article, 2) where it was published, 3) convey the meaning and intent of the article 4) discuss any bias you detected, 5) share your opinion on the piece if appropriate and 6) answer questions from other students. This should all be able to happen in the space of a minute or two – it’s not a huge scary thing, so no one freak out.
  • You may bring the article on an electronic device or print it out if you like.
  • This has to be a current news event. For the purpose of this exercise, sensational/popular news (review your Academic Source Checklist) are excluded. These need to be four or five star sources. In this case, you will likely use more four star sources than five star sources.
I shared with you yesterday my Twitter account is only for news and my 20 minute Twitter morning routine. This is what I found out about our world in 18 minutes on Twitter this morning:
  1. Canadian Broadcast Company: Harper Lee passed away. (If you don’t know who she is, look it up and read about her.)
  2. BBC News (World): The Pope is calling out Donald Trump’s behavior towards Mexico and Mexicans as unChristian.
  3. PEW Research Center: A breakdown of the eligible Hispanic electorate in every state, including data on languages spoken, marital status, and level of education.
  4. Oregonian: The Grant County Sheriff is under investigation by the state licensing board regarding his actions/interactions with the armed occupiers of the Malhuer wildlife refuge.
  5. Al Jazeera English:  China’s economic growth rate
  6. New York Times: Pros and Cons of Apple denying the FBI access to the phones of the San Bernadino attackers.
  7. BBC Newsbeat: Discussing the two schools of thought regarding if the UK should stay in the European Union or leave.
  8. The Washington Post: An article about the funeral of Justice Scalia.
All of these have significant impact on your lives – know it or not/believe it or not. And all of them have strong potential roots as persuasive speech.
I’m excited to see what you all bring in – text me any questions you have. I’m in town this weekend.
Miss J
If you are a prayer, pray; if you are a good thought sender, send good thoughts.  I hope to give them the tools to be engaged.  I hope to inspire them to be engaged.  I hope to show them all they need to know to be an engaged citizen will not be taught in their collegiate courses.  I hope I give them the tools to think.  I hope I inspire them to think, and disagree, and change their minds.  I hope I give them permission to fail, but encourage them to keep trying.  
I have a lot of hopes.
But this is the next generation – shouldn’t we all?

Rule #5

If you watch NCIS, you know the Gibbs Rules.   Let me introduce you to one of J’s Rules.  And trust me, the very patriarchal, hyper-masculine, “Never apologize.  It’s a sign of weakness” crap doesn’t rate a spot in J’s Rules.       

Rule #5 is a rule that has put me in some disgusting and uncomfortable situations in the past, but it’s a rule upon which I stand firm.  

J’s Rule #5: Don’t ask anyone (employees and students specifically) to do that which you are not willing to do yourself.  

Because I had never been a Resident Assistant in undergrad, when I became a Resident Director in grad school, I wouldn’t make my RAs clean up vomit until I had done it myself a couple of times.  My RAs thought I was a little unhinged when I told them regardless of the time or situation, they were to call me and only me for puke patrol.  But the little dears had a perverse side and complied with a fair amount of glee.  

This also meant I was first on the scene for cleaning blood and other bodily fluids.  You haven’t lived until you have cleaned the feces – the exceptionally loose feces – of a person too drunk to know he didn’t have control of his bowels…up three flights of stairs.

Side note: corn truly doesn’t digest in everyone’s system.  


So when I was reworking the readings and think card questions for this term’s COM 115 Intercultural Communication class, I knew there was going to be a project in which I would participate.  Between week’s three and five students must seek out a co-culture they know nothing or little about and engage in learning (e.g. if someone knows nothing about GLBTQ culture, seek out someone from PFLAG or attend a PFLAG learning event, if someone knows nothing about a religion, make an appointment with an elder/pastor/priest/religious leader or attend a service), or do something that makes them feel uncomfortable based on one or more of their identities.  Then they must write a reflection on their learning, feelings, and experience.

This clearly isn’t an exercise about stepping outside of personal values and moral principles or putting oneself in danger, this is just meant for students to learn more – about themselves,  about media impact on identity development, and media impact on perceptions of other cultures/co-cultures.

And because this is an activity I find great value in as a periodic personal exercise, I’m jumping on board.  I’ve already determined what my activity is going to be: I’m running my Saturday errands and doing shopping without makeup or my hair being done.  

UPDATE: I will actually be spending a day at work, a day that includes teaching two classes, without makeup or my hair being done.  I realized last night as I was telling my students about this activity that the thought of teaching and spending a day at work without makeup was far more personally horrifying than running errands where I have a good chance of not running into anyone I know.  

Now.  If you are like my mother, then your first reactions was – “So what?  Big deal.  I go everywhere without makeup!”


I do not.

I’ve lived in Hermiston just shy of six years and I have gone out without make-up once.  Just once.  Back when I was a resident director and didn’t have a choice but to answer my door when someone knocked, I would wear makeup to bed.  I’m probably the only RD to ever empty a building at 2:00am with a full face of makeup and a fresh swipe of Berry Bliss lipstick.  

Don’t judge.  If I’m going to run up and down the stairs of a seven story building making sure no one decided to ignore the alarm and stay in bed, then I deserve some creature comforts in the process.  

My attachment to make-up is deeply rooted in my own personal feelings of inadequacy about my body.  Make-up, shoes, scarves, and big, gaudy jewelry all started as a way to cover or deflect attention from a body I have always found lacking.  

Those things have  gradually morphed into a part of my identity.  Truly.  Former and current students send me pictures or tag me in facebook posts about shoes.  This is something everyone, including myself, identify with me.  But not everyone knows why or how this love of shoes and accesories started.  And while I truly do love them and embrace them now for different reasons, I have never forgotten why I started wearing and embracing these things.  

As I write that, it is exceptionally odd to verbalize (I talk to my computer while I blog) the fact that something which started as a way to cover who I am has become who I am.  

I wonder if this will be a freeing or freaky experience.  I wonder if I will feel anxiety or nerves.  I wonder if this will change how I see myself or how I see anything else.  I wonder a lot.

Biggest fear at this point in time: Someone is going to ask me “What’s wrong with you?  Are you sick?”  Answer?  “No.  I’m just a damned good teacher.  Thank you Rule #5.”

Grief Sucks

I know.  I could have used a more glamorous word.  A more polite word – Mom has never liked it when I use the word “sucks”.  But I probably couldn’t use a more descriptive word.  Grief sucks super stinky swamp water.

On December 4th my fur baby and companion of seven and a half years passed away.

All the descriptors in every dictionary and thesaurus in every language in the world can’t describe how much I miss him.

How much, one month and nine days later, I still miss him.

I don’t really know how to process his loss.  I’ve tried laying my head in his kennel, on the last blanket he curled up in, and sobbing until I had no tears left in my body.  I’ve tried holding his favorite toys and sobbing.  I watched while the water in his water bowl evaporated – hoping the ache in my heart would dissapate right along with it.  I’ve tried reminding myself that people have lost their children, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers, wives and that I just lost my dog.

At first I felt guilty for missing him so much.  For hurting so much.  He was just a dog.  Right?  I mean, it wasn’t like I’d lost my mom or my brother. And then a friend who recently lost her mother told me that grief is grief and hurt is hurt and there is no such thing as “just”.

It’s grief.

It’s pain.

It’s loss.

And it sucks.

That helped me stop saying just.  Spencer wasn’t just a dog.  He was my dog. My companion. My study buddy.  My friend. And I loved him.  Love him.  And while there is a difference between losing Spencer and losing my brother, or mother, or nephew, it’s okay to unapologetically feel anguish, and pain, and grief at his loss.

Grief is so difficult for people to work through there is actually a theory about how people process grief.  I love theory and thought it might be helpful to understand this process from a more academic side rather than a purely emotional perspective.

That is going to go down in history as one of my dumber moments – right next to dating that guy I knew I shouldn’t have dated in college.

Some things can’t be processed academically.  This is new for me.  Usually I find comfort and direction in my theories.  This time I just found extreme confusion and frustration.  I remember thinking, “I haven’t felt anger.  I need to find something to be angry about so I can move through this process and be done with it.”

No need to point out the obvious.  I got it.

Grief isn’t an academic exercise.  Not for me.  It is pure, raw, painful, and icky.  It’s emotion.  More emotion than even I, emotive drama-queen-in-recovery that I am, know what to do with.  And accepting that has been part of my process.

I did feel anger, by the way.  I was looking on a website at one of the dog breeds I am interested in as my next fur family member (avoidance of emotion is, incidentally, one of the stages of grief) and saw that a lady’s dog had a littler of puppies on December 4th.  A red-hot jolt of rage washed over me.  On the morning my heart was breaking, on the morning I kissed my boy goodbye, on the morning he pressed his nose into mine as his eyes closed for the last time, someone had the joy of watching her dog give birth to new life?!?!  How fricking fair is that?!?  I was feeling soul-sucking anguish and someone else got to be giddy and happy?!?

Please don’t anyone say something like, that’s the circle of life. True though it may be, I don’t want to hear it.

I don’t know what the rest of this process is going to feel like.  I wish this was something I could just get over.  I don’t know how people go on after the loss of a person they love.  I think I would find a hole in the ground and take up permanent residence.

I often talk to my students about the resiliency of human beings.  I don’t feel resilient.  I feel like shit.  I don’t remember seeing that on the stages of grief chart thingy, but I’m guessing that, too, is a part of the process.

People say that I will never stop missing him.  That for years into the future I might cry when I think about him.  I’ve been told to give myself time.  I’ve been told to get a dog right away.  I’ve been told to wait, and I’ll know when the time is right for another dog.

We all, clearly, deal with grief and loss in different ways.

To my friends who are struggling with loss of any kind, my heart hurts right along with yours.  Know that while I might not completely understand your particular loss and pain, I understand the overarching emotional onslaught.   Here’s a blog-hug for you.  ((((((((((you))))))))))

Let’s just own it – grief sucks.  But you aren’t alone.  Know that.

Solve for X

I’m relatively certain the downfall of mankind began when someone had the bright idea to mix numbers and letters.  Most people call it Algebra.  I call it a medieval torture device.

For a person who loves words, mixing numbers and letters is akin to serving Velveeta to an artisanal Fromager.  None-the-less, I endured two years of Algebra in high school because I wanted to be a nurse, and a math background was, at the time, very important.

Two years of agonizing equations and terrifying theorems.  Two years of my Dad yelling at me because I didn’t get it.  Two years of my Mom trying to teach me a subject with which she herself struggled.  Two years of tears.

A lot of tears.

I should have bought stock in Kleenex.

All of that agony.  All of that work.  All of those moments of feeling genuinely stupid.  All of those tears.  All wiped away as the chandelier popped, sparks flew, and the orchestra pulled me into the world of Erik (you probably know him as The Phantom, but I’ve seen the show and read the book enough, I feel like we are on a first name basis), Raoul, and Christine like a cellist glides her bow across the strings of her finely tuned, glowing instrument.

Senior year of high school, part of my graduation gift from Mom had been a trip to see Phantom in Portland.  As the music swelled and carried me along on a wave of emotion, I turned to my mom with bright eyes and said, “I don’t want to be a nurse any more.  I’m going to be…an actress!”

I’m sure this announcement came with some sort of dramatic arm motion, though I can’t remember exactly what it was.

I didn’t become an actress.  In the true sense of the word.  I learned early on that my talent was in my ability to understand the artsy world and the business world and help them work together.  I’m a far better producer/organizer than I am a performer.  But I teach.  And there is a lot of acting that happens in that profession.  Seriously.  Try answering the same question six times verbally that you have already put in the syllabus and three email announcements without transforming into a Hulk-esque lunatic.  Don’t worry, Mom; those acting classes in college were not wasted.

16 years after making the decision to pursue a career other than nursing, I have been blessed to learn why – I would have been incarcerated long ago had I pursued a career in the medical field.  A more convoluted, disjointed profession I have yet to witness.  And I work in higher education.

From nurses asking me when they put Mom’s IV in (apparently someone forgot to document this important step of the surgical process), nurses who can’t find my Mom’s pulse (they seemed confident she had one due to that whole breathing and being alive thing, but couldn’t find the pulse in her foot – I can find her pedal pulse, folks), to the insane way narcotics have to be prescribed and picked up (I hate that dishonest people make things so difficult for the rest of us), to doctors who treat you like you are stupid, and volunteer staff who assume because you have no grey hair (Clairol. Nice and Easy.  Natural tones and highlights.  Ever heard of it, folks?!?) you must be an idiot; it’s one hell of a mess.

The medical world is a frightening place to navigate.  I pity all of us who have to figure this stuff out.  And I have an extra measure of empathy for those who have to navigate this stuff on their own.  My patient has been good.  She pushes herself a little too much.  Doesn’t let me do as much as I can.  And is more resistant to meds than I would be – they scraped the inside of her knee cap and joint as well as sliced and diced her meniscus; the description alone makes me want to slam a few pain pills.

Taking care of Mom has been easy and is a privilege.  Truly. I’m grateful to be able to help her.  I’m also grateful that I had the support of my mother and was brave enough to realize the career path of high school really wasn’t a good direction for me.  I’ve found a way to serve people without wearing scrubs.  Because let’s be real – those wouldn’t do much for my figure.

And for everyone who told me that all the Algebra I took would come in handy – a pox on you.  It has not.  I’ve not used it once since I took my last math class freshman year of college.   So here’s to choosing a path and living a life that brings joy through service to others…and never having to solve for x.

Thanks for the great quote, Kathy!

Thanks for the great quote, Kathy!

The Control-Freak & The Artist

Original Art by Brandi Dayton.

Original Art by Brandi Dayton.

Markers of adulthood are weird, highly personal things.  Spa days with girlfriends.  Eating salted watermelon and Oreos for dinner in front of the TV while watching a West Wing episode…followed by a Stargate SG-1 episode.  Paying bills.  World travel.  Buying crazy shoes most folks roll their eyes at (I’m stimulating the economy, people, stop judging me!).  Staying in hotel rooms all by myself and creating pillow thrones out of the extra pillows.  These are all things that make me feel grown up.

It’s funny.  At 34 years old (yes, Mom, that’s 34…not 35…not even almost 35, just straight up 34), I am well past an age that most people consider me an adult.  Yet there are still moments in my life that make me feel like I am truly a grown up.

For about 10 or 11 years I have wanted to own an original piece of art.   It has always seemed like a very grown up thing to do – own original art.

Over the course of the years, I found artists whose work I liked, but none that I absolutely adored.  Until I moved to Hermiston and met one rather plucky artist, Brandi Dayton.  I was in awe of her work.  She uses fabulous, vibrant colors, and her work is larger than life.  I faithfully followed her around, watched her posts, and attended events where I knew she would be displaying her work in anticipation of that perfect piece of art jumping out, begging me to take it home.

And then she posted it.   Black background, gerbera daisies, in colors I adore.

But I didn’t respond fast enough.

And she sold it.


But that’s the fun thing about artists.  They work on commission.  She volunteered to paint me an original work along the same lines of the piece I liked.   I said yes.

And I immediately had a meltdown.

Of epic proportions.

What if I didn’t like it?  What if she didn’t use the colors I liked?  What if the picture didn’t show enough stem, or worse, it showed too much stem?

I sat on my bed and nervously typed out a Facebook message outlining, in painful detail, the things I wanted in my painting.  I couldn’t press send.

She’s the artist, Jacelyn.  Let her do her thing and stay out of her way.

I tossed my phone on the bed and went into the bathroom to wash my face.

I came back to the phone determined to press send.

In the days of old, when someone commissioned artwork they were very specific about what they wanted.  Of course in those days, artists depended on benefactors for a living so shaving 30 or 40 pounds of a marchioness was literally the difference between life or death.  Hardly the system we work under now.  Stop being such a control-freak and let her create! 

I tossed the phone back on the bed.  I paced my room for 15 minutes.  Even managed to hang up clothes…which expresses the depth of my inner struggle perhaps better than words.

I finally decided to wait.  To trust the artist I know Brandi to be, to do what she does best – paint something that brings color and joy to the world.

I’ve thought about my response a great deal since that night.  I was having what I like to call an internalized-control-freak-hissy-fit.  I really like to be in control.  And it’s…disconcerting when I’m not.  Stop rolling your eyes, all of you.  I’m not the only person that feels this way.

But here’s the deal.

When are we really in control?

When we feel in control, we feel capable and invincible.   I posit that feeling of control is nothing more than an illusion.  Loss of the illusion of control reminds us just how, well, vincible we actually are.  And that’s not always bad thing.  Because it means we are vulnerable.  And being vulnerable with other people is where the true beauty of a relationship is.

Too often we are taught to see vulnerability as a weakness.  An undesirable character trait.  And the dictionary definition doesn’t help much.


capable of being physically or emotionally wounded or hurt
open to temptation, persuasion, censure, etc
liable or exposed to disease, disaster, etc
military  liable or exposed to attack


I’m not advocating stupidity here.  I’m talking about emotional vulnerability.  The kind of vulnerability that allows us to put aside our protective candy coating.  To put aside our ego.  To put aside our need to control the situation which is typically a socially accepted way of saying, “I’m scared and I need to protect myself so I will attempt to control the situation as a method of fear management and self preservation.”

So let’s not let fear rule our lives.  Let’s take a risk and willingly (joyfully even) give up a little control.  Every time I have managed to do this (or in some cases, when control has been wrenched away from my white knuckled grip), I have found true treasures.

When we try to control every aspect of our lives, we lose out on the beauty of the trip, the new friend we might make along the way, or a really beautiful painting by a really extraordinary artist.  I’m glad I gave control to Brandi.  It was worth it.

And guess what?  My painting has just the right amount of stem.

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Memories…Light the Corners of My Mind

Misty watercolor memories, of the way we were. 

I couldn’t help but think of these words as I helped my grandparents pack and move over the weekend.  Memories are an incredible thing.  Joyful.  Painful.  Funny.  Comforting.   Disturbing.

In my home, the things that hang on the walls are pictures of my travels.  When I stand in front of the images of Trafalgar Square, I remember the spray of the water, the coo of the pigeons demanding snacks from the tourists, and the sound of the city enveloping me.  I remember that before I took the picture, I threw a coin in the fountain nearest Haymarket and wished to someday return and dance in the square with Mr. Right-for-Me.  At the second fountain, I wished that I would one day bring Mom to this, my favorite place in London.  Every time I go back to London, I visit and toss my coins in the fountains with the same wishes.  When I stand in front of my pictures, those memories are as real as if I am standing in Trafalgar Square.

Without those pictures, the memories wouldn’t be as strong.

As I watched Gramma make decisions about what she kept, what she gave away, and what went in the trash, I was struck by how difficult it must be to say goodbye to the things that have been around her almost her entire life.  To say goodbye to the things that help her remember.


The china hutch.  Grampa was in the Army.  He was stationed in Panama and because there was no room at the Army base, they were assigned Navy housing.  With the house came Navy furniture.  Gramma decided to keep the bookcase and she turned it into a china hutch.  That hutch has moved from Panama, to Ft. Lewis, to Centerpoint, ID, to Greenleaf…and now it resides with me in Hermiston.  And it is once again a bookcase.  That hutch has been in Gramma’s home for 54 years.  How many times did she open the doors to take out her best china for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter dinner?  How many times did she reach in get out the tea set for UT or DAR?  How many times did she dust it and polish the scroll work?  These are the things I will think about when I open those doors to take out a cherished book or put in a newly acquired friend.


Grammie Great’s toy basket.  When Mom brought the basket out of the closet I knew instantly what it was.  Had you asked me to describe the basket a day before, I couldn’t have told you what it looked like, but I knew what it was the second I saw it.  Almost reverently we opened the top, and I pulled from inside a rusted phone with badly chipped pink paint.  My eyes flooded with tears.  I held the phone to my chest and sobbed.

As clutched the phone and cried, missing Grammie Great so much I thought I might suffocate, I heard her screen door slam and watched my brother and I run in to her house.  She was sitting in her chair, reading her bible, the horrid little pink macramé plant holder to her right, the sunlight washing over her through the bank of windows to her left.  She smiled at me.

“Grammie, can we please get out the toy basket?”

“Yes, dears.  Just clean up after yourself.”

And lord help you if you didn’t.

All my cousins and I played with that toy basket.  So did my mom and her cousins.  Now, that basket sits in my living room waiting for Carter to come visit so Aunt J can play blocks and telephone with him.  And tell him about his Grammie Great Great.


The map wastepaper baskets.  I love maps.  Love them.  One of these wastepaper baskets sat in the TV room at Home Acres near Grampa’s desk and the other was near his chair in the living room.  He’d sit in his chair and crack peanuts, tossing the shells into this wastepaper basket.  I remember laying on my tummy looking at the map, dreaming of all the places I wanted to visit one day.  I believe that was the start of my desire to travel and learn about new cultures.   As I look over the map now, I smile – Russia, Croatia, Ukrain, Kazakhstan…they don’t exist on this map.  It’s a look at the world frozen in that moment.

Memories are a little like that.  They freeze a moment in time. Memories are triggered for each of us differently.  My mom’s memories are triggered by smells.  Mine are triggered by touch.  I can see moments of my life when I hold or caress an object from my past.  I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to watch my things, the things that trigger my most precious memories, drive away to start their lives in the home of another.  Someday, when I pass these treasures on to Carter, I’ll watch them leave knowing that the time has come for someone else to build memories with them.

Some memories bring joy.  Others sadness.  Many times, it seems to be an odd mix of joy and sadness.  Memories help us remember the way we were.  They give us perspective on who we are.  And, hopefully, they give us direction on who we should become.  I hope when I pass these things on to Carter I’ve become someone that has added love and life to these treasures.   When he pulls a book from the bookcase, or holds the pink phone, or cracks a peanut and tosses the shell into the wastepaper basket, I hope he will think of me and know that he was loved.  Completely, unconditionally, and humungo jungo loved.