Tag Archives: Gratitude

Gratitude 1 – February 6, 2015

Carol A. Hand

I volunteered to help a dear friend, Skywalker Payne, with her newest project, described in one of her recent posts (link here).

“O.K. No beating around the bush and trying to be subtle. I need your help. I need at least 100 of you, who follow and read this blog, to join me in the practice of Gratitude 100 – A Simple Practice for Fulfillment, Balance, and Happiness. As I began working on writing this book, I realized I need more than just my experience to show Gratitude 100 works.” (Skywalker)

I am sharing my first reflection with her blessing to help spread the word about her project and her efforts to recruit volunteers. I hope you will check out her post and consider participating.

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Good morning, Skywalker! I decided to write before the question for the day arrives. Today I awoke grateful that I have my house to myself again. This may sound like a strange thing to celebrate, but for two weeks I have lived in messy chaos as a contractor came to repair the damage from last year’s winter. The five feet of snow on my roof remained until spring. An ice dam formed along the edge when the snow began to melt, sending the water into the house wherever it could find a spot in the roof to leak through. It took until mid-December for the insurance company to send a check, and for me to find a contractor who would do a “small job” for a reasonable price. It’s not an easy service to find here.

DSC00324

Photo Credit: March 9, 2014

The first day, the contractor called me to let me know what time he would arrive so I could make sure my little dog, Pinto, was safely out of the way in my other downstairs office. (Pinto doesn’t like many people and as a little 12-pound dog who’s been abused and abandoned by an unknown number of people, he’s fiercely protective of his new home and territory.) The contractor was pleasant and agreed to do the necessary jobs in the upstairs bathroom and downstairs bedroom, and began his work by tearing off the “wainscoting” in the upstairs bath – bright pink faux tile printed on tarpaper-backed contact paper. I do wish I would remember to take “before” pictures. Words can’t quite convey the mess that years of cob-job repairs left in the upstairs bath – an obviously patched wall and floor under and behind the toilet. Dark water-damaged sub-flooring was visible between the patches of linoleum

The next day the contractor once again called before he came at the pre-scheduled time and we went together to choose materials for the floor and walls. When we returned, the contractor announced he was just going to put the new flooring on top of the old (rippling, cracked, and patched) linoleum. “That’s what the leveling compound you bought is for.” “Do you think that makes sense?,” I asked, as I gazed at the water-stained subfloor clearly visible for all to see. It seems our relationship shifted at that point and became a power struggle. He spent the rest of the day removing trim and tearing off the “tile.” I didn’t say anything at the time, but resolved to pull up the old floor myself when he left for the day.

I don’t have the carpentry skills to do these jobs well, but I do have a sense of what it means to do things in the right way. (And I was paying for this!) It’s quite obvious to me that one shouldn’t just cover up old problems – be they floors or disagreements. It requires going to the source to see how deep the repairs need to be. I’m often reminded of Kahlil Gibran’s words “Work is love made visible.” I can only surmise that my silence and gently-framed questions were interpreted as an insult and resulted in a battle of wills.

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Photo Credit: Pinto at Peace Guarding His Territory

So the next morning, the contractor arrived unannounced. Little Pinto was in a frenzy, barking furiously. He would not go willingly into the room where he spent “contractor days,” and because he’s a biter when he’s upset, I had to grab my special soft leather gloves, chase him around the house, and carry him into his sanctuary. The contractor seemed to enjoy the chaos his  unannounced appearance had caused, and he seemed to be sneering happily when he walked in the door. (Maybe it was just my imagination. But the scene repeated itself the next morning, so I can only think it was deliberate. Pinto is not friendly to many people – he’s learned to protect himself. Some people just can’t understand that “being good with dogs” just doesn’t work with him. It seems to bother people who can’t accept that’s just how Pinto is  – his barking isn’t an assessment of their trustworthiness – not always, anyway. It’s why I put him in his own protected space when others visit.)

I didn’t need to be overtly confrontational about Pinto or the jobs. When the contractor left the second day after announcing his plans for the floor, I decided to see what was underneath the old linoleum, so I pulled up the flooring and swept and bleached what I discovered. Clearly the toilet had overflowed more than once in seventy years, leaving behind a well-dried smelly, disgusting mess. The next night, I finished the job. I could go on whining about the other slights that were small, but nonetheless felt mean-spirited. Was it something about me that made the contractor feel he needed to assert his power to feel superior? I don’t understand how someone could find it amusing to upset a little dog with a long history of abuse and abandonment. The plumber who helped with the job has never behaved disrespectfully. I’ve known him since I moved here – old houses have lots of plumbing issues! He always calls before he comes, takes off his boots just inside the door, and walks around in his socks. He doesn’t mind Pinto’s barking, and he does his job with care – with finishing touches that tell me he takes pride in his work. And he’s always professional and kind.

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Photo Credit: Upstairs Bath – February 6, 2015

So today, I awoke grateful that my house is mine again and peaceful. I am grateful the contractor finished most of the heavy and skilled work I can’t do myself. He did an amazing job on the woodwork in the bath. But I’m also grateful he’s done with the jobs that he was willing to do. Most of the jobs left unfinished are things I can do – polyurethaning, nailing, caulking, and painting. I am grateful that I have the ability to do the small jobs that are left, grateful for the simple tools I have, grateful for the knowledge and ability to use them, and grateful for enough sight, physical strength, and physical well-being to be able to climb ladders, kneel, and do “deep-knee bends” for hours as I work.

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Photo Credit: Downstairs Office – February 6, 2015

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Photo Credit Downstairs Office – February 6, 2015 – Finished Work?

But mostly, I am grateful for shelter and for a space where my friends and family feel safe and welcome – a place where I can breathe love into the work that I do. I wish this for others in the world. And as I work, I think of the families in Palestine whose homes were demolished, whose olive trees were bulldozed and uprooted. I think of the refugees of war and climate change who have little in the way of shelter, food, or comfort. I think of the many people without shelter in the world. I wish I could do more to help them. My gratitude for the privileges I have is always tinged with deep sadness for those who are suffering…

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Just Be Who You Are

Carol A. Hand

Today, I just want to share one of my favorite songs. I wish I could find a free recording to share, or record my own version, but alas, I can’t. What I love most about the song, though, are the lyrics. I hope they touch your heart as they do mine.

chickadee w

Photo Credit: Black-Capped Chickadee

Little Chickadee
(by Cheryl Dawdy)

She is only a little chickadee
Just a common backyard bird
And she knows no care or worry
She is happy in this world

Just a simple little chickadee
With a simple song to sing
She’s not a peacock or a toucan
Not some fancy colored thing

But she can fly
She can fly
Anywhere she’d care to roam
And call anywhere her home

Then I said, “Tell me, little chickadee
Don’t you wish sometimes to be
Someone bigger, someone more beautiful?”
And this is what she said to me

“If I were bigger or more beautiful
If I had fancy colored wings
It would not make me someone better
‘Cause these are not important things

‘Cause I can fly
I can fly
Anywhere I care to roam
And call anywhere my home”

Now she is only a little chickadee
Not the boldest bird to see
But she knows that she’s most fortunate
There’s no one else she’d rather be

‘Cause she can fly
She can fly
Anywhere she’d care to roam
And call anywhere her home

She is only a little Chickadee

 Recorded by The Chenille Sisters on their album, Teaching Hippopotami to Fly

chickadee flying

Photo Credit: Chickadee Flying

If you’re lucky, as I was when I first heard Little Chickadee on a children’s radio show, here’s a link to the show

If you’re able to connect to the show, whatever you hear may touch your heart, surprise you with people’s creativity, or make you laugh.

May you all have a wonderful day ❤

Reflections on Winters Past

Carol A. Hand

New Year’s Day, 2015. I know there’s much work ahead of me as I embark on the serious business of finishing books I began last year. But today, I remembered past winters while I took time to refurbish my old Sorel boots with oil and new liners for yet another winter. My boots date back to 1990, the first winter I spent in the northwoods of Wisconsin. I had accepted a position as deputy director of health and human services for an inter-tribal agency, but the clothes I brought with me were meant for a different climate. I needed more practical, warmer, clothes.

sorel boots

Photo Credit: January 1, 2015

My first winter was spent in a tiny hotel room above a bar that often had live performers belting out off-tune country and western songs until the wee hours of the morning. I could walk the two blocks to my office in downtown Lac du Flambeau, but the days I had to drive were challenging. My old car, with 190,000 plus miles, didn’t like to start or keep moving in the winter cold when I first started out. The pack of stray dogs that called the downtown their home loved to chase cars, but they quickly learned that chasing me was not a contest worthy of their time and effort. As my car sputtered and bucked and stalled down the road, they grew bored. Eventually, they didn’t even look up when I chugged by. But that car, like my boots, lasted many more years. I was sad when I was finally forced to replace my car, but my boots lasted despite the many miles they’ve seen and the many places they’ve traveled.

But of all the places we’ve traveled together, these boots and I, there is one place that remains golden in my memories. It’s the cabin I moved to after that first winter above the bar. Before the winter even began, I knew that I couldn’t live there forever, so I decided to see if I could find somewhere to move that was affordable. You’d think that would be easy in the northwoods, but that’s not so. Long ago, it became a favorite spot for wealthy urbanites who were able to buy up the lakefront properties that were lost to the Ojibwe people despite a series of treaties that guaranteed tribal ownership of land within reservation boundaries in exchange for ceding the northern third of Wisconsin to the federal government.

I was fortunate to find a local realtor who knew how to find the best deals and we spent many fall days exploring such interesting fixer-uppers. We became friends. One day in mid-November, she called me at work and asked if I could take some time off in the afternoon to see another property. I said, “Sure.” (It was interesting to see so many houses in need of loving care.) She picked me up and we drove, first down the highway, then down a narrow winding country road, and then on a dirt road. We turned about a mile later onto what I can only call a rough rutted path that could just accommodate a car, again, winding down a little hill and into a forest. When we emerged in a clearing, I saw the small brown cabin, but what caught my eye and made my heart sing was a vista of the lake and wetlands glowing in the afternoon sunlight. I knew I was home. I had no idea how I would be able to afford it, and I had no idea what it meant to live without electricity, or heat with wood. I had no idea how I would be able to get in and out during the winter, especially with my car, but I did have my boots (and later, snowshoes to attach to them.)

Amik Lake 1

Photo Credit: Amik Lake Lane

Living down a series of country roads, some of which were unpaved, presented both benefits and challenges. I had an opportunity to witness nature up close – the bear, deer, beaver, otters, rabbits and porcupine. I heard the powerful rhythmic pounding of eagles’ wings as they flew just over my head, the hauntingly lovely song of the loon echoing over still waters, and the howls of coyotes in the quiet winter night. Winter was my favorite time, even though it was often cold and snowy, and even though it meant a mile hike to my car when I had to make the trip to some distant city to go to work, attend class or travel for a speaking engagement or consulting job. The hike was easier in the winter. The path through the snow was easy to follow, even at night, and the mosquitoes, sand flies, deer flies, horse flies and ticks were nowhere to be seen as they bided their time for the spring thaw. Spring – mud season – also meant hiking. But I was younger then and used to the grueling physical labor living in the woods required.

Amik Lake 2

Photo Credit: Amik Lake Lane

Of course, living in the woods meant warm clothing in the winter, and a bug suit during most other seasons if you wanted to do serious work outdoors. I don’t have a picture of the bug suit my daughter gave me as a gift, although given the ubiquitous northwoods’ mosquitoes and sand files, I often wish I still had it. I still have the coat in the picture below. It’s the only thing I ever purchased from Victoria’s Secrets – it was incredibly cheap in their annual clearance sale. (I don’t think it’s any mystery why it hadn’t sold for full price.) The coat is a few year’s newer than my boots, but it got me through the polar vortex last year and with new loops for the buttons in lieu of the zipper that finally gave out, it will continue for many winters more.

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Photo Credit: Amik Lake – Winter 1994

As I unclutter, some things will remain because they are still useful. Who needs the latest fashions when old things were built to last and carry such rich memories? These old clothes remind me of quiet, starry winter nights, of the sanctuary where my grandson spent many of his childhood days.

aadi and toys

Photo Credit: Aadi’s Christmas – 2001

Aadi & bubbles

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Aadi (my grandson) and me, blowing bubbles – 2001

They were simpler days of hiking, hauling wood, and clearing the beaver-culled trees from the road. Living in an urban neighborhood now, watching the plumes of toxic exhaust from the factories that block the sunlight on the few winter days without clouds, I feel the loss of times past. Not just my past, but the past of my ancestors. Strange though it may sound, as deep as the grief of those lost times often is for me to face, it’s what motivates me to do what I can to touch people’s hearts for the sake of this wondrous earth and future generations. And now, my boots and I are ready for the challenges ahead.

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What Is the Best You Can Imagine?

Carol A. Hand

I remember being challenged by a faculty member about one of the topics I wanted to study when I was attending a university. I didn’t sense any intentions on his part to discredit my proposal. Rather, I saw his question as a query designed to encourage critical thought. I wanted to know what Ojibwe community members would like to see their communities be in the future. “What is the best you can imagine for children, families, and the community as a whole in the future?” The question was intentionally vague in order to allow people to respond according to their own values and perspectives, rather than mine.

The faculty member’s challenge did make me stop and think about stories community members had already shared with me. It made me realize how important the very first interview of my study really was. An elder, Uncle Raymond (not his real name), shared a story of a somewhat romanticized account of his Ojibwe community in the past.

When I was a boy, there were only about twenty-eight families that lived in the village here. All of the families were poor, but we hunted and shared what we gathered. Deer were divided among all of the families, and my friend and I snared rabbits as young boys and would share what we caught with everyone. [Laughing] I remember one time when I was a young boy, it was winter time, and all of us were really cold: we didn’t have any fire wood. So I had gone off to find some wood, and there was little to be seen. It was cold, and it was getting dark when I came up to a white farmer’s fenced in land. I thought “those fence posts would burn nicely.” So, I cut them and brought them home. We had a fire that night. The farmer was really mad when he saw that his posts were gone and wanted to have the thief arrested. [Ogema ] found out about it and figured out who had taken the posts. He came to wake me up early the next morning, and he took me out to the woods to gather cedar trees and he taught me how to make posts. When we were finished, we brought the posts to the farmer and helped him repair the fence. I apologized for taking the posts. [Ogema] persuaded the farmer not to report me since I realized what I had done was wrong and worked hard to make up for my mistake. The farmer agreed. After that, [Ogema] knew families in the village were cold, so from then on he made sure that the community worked together so there was enough wood for everyone in the village (Uncle Raymond, August 28, 2001). 

Like Uncle Raymond, I find myself also romanticizing some of the past eras of my life. As I shared Uncle Raymond’s story with the faculty member who posed the question about future visions, I pointed out that romanticized versions of the past can tell us a lot about the future we would like to see. Thankfully, he agreed.

This morning, when I saw the sunshine for the first time in what seems like eternity, I remembered the importance of having a vision of the best we can imagine. And I thought of Richie Havens’ version of the Beatle’s song “Here Comes the Sunand Joni Michell’s song,Woodstock.”

sun and rosePhoto Credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art 

Woodstock (by Joni Mitchell)

I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me
I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm
I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free
We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who l am
But you know life is for learning
We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation
We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

(Lyrics submitted by mrrubery
“Woodstock” as written by Joni Mitchell
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Joni Mitchell/Crazy Crow Music/Siquomb Music
Lyrics powered by LyricFind)

I realize I’m both an Ojibwe romantic and an aging Hippie. Yet I believe that imagining a better future for all is healthy – a necessary foundation to continue the work ahead. I wish you all a new year of light that brings smiles to all the faces and helps us all remember that we are made of stardust, we’re golden, and we’re part of a wondrous, mysterious universe.

Note: Ogema is not the name of the person described in the account. Ogema, which means leader in the Ojibwe language, is used in place of a name to maintain the confidentiality of individuals and to mask the specific location of the community.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Memories and Deciphering Symbols

Carol A. Hand

I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers. (Kahlil Gibran)

Yesterday’s Reiki session was intriguing. The Reiki Master told me she sometimes sees images, but yesterday she saw more than usual during our session, while I remembered two teachers from my past – the kind Gibran refers to. One I have mentioned in a previous post – The Clicker, and another who inspired my research on Indian child welfare. The second teacher I shall refer to as Makwa – the bear. Perhaps these two came to mind because I have begun working on rereading and editing the preface and first two chapters of a book on Indian child welfare I began last winter. Or perhaps the memory of the lessons is important as I face the challenge of sharing the stories entrusted to me by those who hoped that their accounts of suffering and resilience would help others.

Although these two teachers never met, the lesson they taught was the same – why it is essential to be kind and why it is not only compassionate and ethical, but also effective, to look for the strengths and gifts of individuals and communities rather than focus on their deficiencies. Both insisted that others accept and adopt their worldview and the only “right way” (theirs) to deal with clients (the Clicker) or communities (Makwa). Both occupied positions of power and used it skillfully to vanquish any questions or threats to their positions or points of view. The Clicker was a skilled public speaker and used his gift to publicly ridicule others and undermine the confidence and credibility of anyone who disagreed with him. Makwa was a large, forceful woman whose presence and volume easily dwarfed and drowned out any critics. As I look back on these encounters now, I can’t help feeling they were preordained. Neither knew how to deal with the small, introverted, but tenacious woman who stood in their way.

Makwa recruited me aggressively to work with tribes on child welfare. Initially I resisted because I had never worked in child welfare – I was educated as a gerontologist and had primarily worked in policy development and administration, but I finally agreed knowing I faced a steep learning curve. The task involved designing a curriculum for tribal child welfare workers, but first, tribes had to agree to partner with a university on the project. My first task was to build those partnerships. I decided to visit the child welfare staff for all of the tribes in the state to get a better idea about the issues they faced and the types of skills and information they felt would be helpful. After each visit, I would feel an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. “Training” for tribal staff would do nothing to address the challenges they faced in a state and federal child welfare system that gave them little power or funding to address serious multidimensional issues.

When I shared these observations with Makwa, I was told two things. First, the project really wasn’t designed to work with all of the tribes in the state, but only those in a particular region. My response was honest. I didn’t appreciate not being told this at the beginning. I told her that I would never have agreed to be part of a university’s attempt to divide and conquer. She relented and promised to make sure this change was approved by state and federal funders. And she did follow through. The second concern about developing a relevant curriculum for tribal workers would come a year later, after I had an opportunity to learn more about the child welfare system imposed on tribes. Although tribes in the U.S. and Canada had developed innovative culturally appropriate alternatives to help families heal rather than merely remove children, I was told that the trainings would focus on teaching about child welfare legislation and professional (Euro-American) evidence-based skills. We could make a few minor changes for tribes – put a few “eagle feathers” on the county curriculum – and call it done.

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Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

I couldn’t agree with this, of course. From my perspective, the project offered an invaluable opportunity to bring tribal staff together to dialogue about the systems they would like to see in place for their respective (sovereign) communities. Workshops could then be built around helping staff gain the skills that they would need to create these systems. Makwa and I parted ways on this disagreement, but I wrote a lengthy letter to tribal staff outlining the issues they had mentioned during our time together, listing the strengths and innovations they shared, and ending with suggestions of things they might want to hold the state and university accountable for in the future of the project.

I don’t mean to imply at all that it was easy to stand my ground before a forceful, intimidating, and politically powerful adversary. It made me physically ill. I questioned whether my observations, conclusions, and actions were appropriate. But I felt I had an obligation to represent the voices of people who trusted me with their stories, their challenges, and their dreams for a better future – an obligation to speak the truth from my perspective. The opportunity did exist to begin to correct a brutally repressive history and integrity demanded that I present that perspective as forcefully as I could.

I didn’t encounter the Clicker until many years later to again learn the lesson of respecting the strengths and dignity of people without power. During those intervening years, I had developed more nuanced skills as an advocate. A good thing, because the Clicker had more sophisticated skills than Makwa to discredit anyone who threated his privilege. He was skilled as a behind-the-scenes puppet master. At first, he presented himself as my mentor, letting me know he watched me in my interactions with others on campus and talked to my students in private to check on my ability to teach. It seemed creepy to me, so I began avoiding him and just tried to do my job. Then, he orchestrated an opportunity for me to co-teach his organization and management class. The texts and assignments were his choice, and poorly conceptualized from my perspective, but I kept those views to myself and merely added what I was asked to contribute. After one lecture (“History, Hierarchy and Hegemony”) and one facilitated discussion that excited students, I was told there was no need for me to show up for class again.

I was able to retreat and just do my own teaching and research until I was asked to serve as an advocate by a Native American student who was being discriminated against by the Clicker. It was a legitimate and serious claim that impugned not only the student’s academic ability but also his character. It was then that I discovered the intractability of anti-Native prejudice among my tenured colleagues. They closed ranks despite my best efforts. I was willing to take the issues outside the department, but the student chose to withdraw – a tragic loss of a young man who had overcome many challenges in his life in order to be able to help youth on his reservation. Still, I was able to successfully buffer other students who were targeted because of their differences. The price for my success would mean the loss of my job, and like the students I advocated for, I had to deal with assaults on my competence and character. Yet I learned to neither fight nor flee. Through agonizing self-reflection, I learned how to speak my truth with clarity and kindness, standing my ground and refuting each untruth with empirical evidence. The Clicker and those he influenced could only have power over me if I wanted what they controlled – a tenured position in an institution that was demeaning and oppressive to those with the least power. It was an easy choice for me, although a painful time to live through. During my Reiki session yesterday, I saw these two teachers so clearly, and I saw how these experiences and the choices I made played out in both positive and negative ways during the years that followed.

I wonder what the symbols my Reiki Master might add to my understanding of these past lessons. Below is my rendition based on the sketches she drew.

symbols 2

Photo Credit: What might these symbols mean?

The only sense I can make of the lower symbol is that I’m the dot, protected on three sides from Makwa’s forcefulness without being totally closed off from the world. I wasn’t able to find anything like it when I googled hieroglyphics. The upper symbol does include the two wavy lines that stand for water in Egyptian hieroglyphics and the astrological sign for Aquarius, but I have no idea what the curved addition above the line might mean. I do remember often contemplating the Tao verse about water to help me deal with the Clicker and his colleagues.

“The best people are like water.
They benefit all things,
And do not compete with them.
They settle in low places,
One with nature, one with Tao.”

(as cited in Dreher, 1991, p. 139)

The passage did help me stay focused. But what about the image of the “bearded man in the rainbow colored hat” my Reiki Master saw? The first thing that came to mind when she mentioned the image was the trickster (or Wavy Gravy). Perhaps the trickster protected me although I was unaware of it at the time, granting me the fluidity, humor, quickness of wit, and tenacity to deal with adversity.

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Photo Credit: The Man in the Rainbow Colored Hat – the Trickster?

I may never know what these symbols and image mean. And truly, I welcome your ideas on their meaning.

Regardless of the meaning of the symbols though, the Reiki session helped my back continue healing and gave me an opportunity to remember and be grateful for past lessons. Although I can honestly say that I wish my teachers well, I would have preferred learning from a teacher like the one I became as a result of the lessons they taught me. It’s possible, though, that I needed to suffer to learn. I can only hope that the others who suffered from their actions can look back and be grateful as well. And maybe – just maybe – I was able to teach Makwa and the Clicker something as well…

Work Cited:

Diane Dreher (1991). The Tao of inner peace. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Honoring A Promise

Carol A. Hand

Yesterday as I was working on my many morning chores, my granddaughter, Ava, was quietly engaged writing a story and drawing. When she was done, she asked me to listen to her story and showed me the artwork that had inspired her to write. “I don’t share my stories with anyone except my teacher, my Mom, and you, Ahma.” I thanked her for sharing her lovely story and asked if she would like me to share it, along with the picture she drew. She was excited. She told me she wrote the story for her Mom because her Mom is special. I promised her I would share her story and let everyone know she wrote it because she loves her Mom.

So we used my digital camera to take a photo of her picture and I typed out her story. She couldn’t wait to share them when her mother came in the afternoon to take her home.

Blue Queen

Photo Credit: Artist – Ava Hand-Johnson

The Blue Queen

by Ava Hand-Johnson

Once upon a time there was a girl. She lived in the jungle. She loved blue. She lived with a blue cat. She was a Queen. She really, really, really, really liked blue. She lived in a cave.

Please help me congratulate a new artist on her first published work.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Reflections on the Importance of Knowing One’s Purpose: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

“I really HATE that report you’re working on!”

Imagine hearing this this every morning as you walk through the door to do your job. Delivered in a strident nasal tone, this was my supervisor’s greeting and her commentary on my efforts to develop the first-ever report on the demographics and services for elders in the state. Each morning, my response was the same. “I welcome any specific suggestions you have to improve it.” None were ever offered by my supervisor, but fortunately, the director and staff all provided assistance, ideas and support as part of a team effort to write, organize, and illustrate the final product.

AW cover

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Cover Page

The report, Aging Wisconsin: The Past Three Years: 1984-1986, was so popular that the first 6,000 copies went quickly. Even during tight budget times, the report went through a second printing and generated hand-written letters from elders thanking us for creating something to make their lives better. My supervisor never liked it, but I now realize she really wasn’t the audience, nor were legislators, administrators, or academics. The report was written to help elders learn about the range of services and supports available to improve their lives. Focusing on task completion is important, yet I also learned an equally important lesson about the value of process from my supervisor, although not the one she probably intended. Any project can be approached from a coercive power-over stance, or from a liberatory joyful stance. The staff and director, often easily divided by petty issues, joined together to produce something that was fun and gave them a sense of purpose and pride in their work.

AW nursing home

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Long Term Support

AW transportation

Photo Credit Aging Wisconsin – Transportation

AW caregivers

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Caregiver Support

AW home delivered meals

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Home Delivered Meals

AW housing

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Housing Options

As I look back on this experience, I realize how grateful I am that I had the opportunity to work on this report shortly after graduating from college. I am grateful to the director who believed that I could do it, and the staff who offered their support, assistance, ideas, and encouragement. I am grateful to the elders who penned hand-written thank you notes. And interestingly, I am grateful to the supervisor who kept spurring me on to do the best I could with what seemed like an overwhelming, impossible task at the time. Today, looking at the photos we gathered for the report so many years ago, I am grateful that I didn’t give up trying.

AW fiends 1

AW friends 2

AW volunteer

AW adult daycare

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Community Support

I left that job decades ago, but this memory resurfaced this morning as I reflected on today’s blogging 101 assignment, reviewing the About statement for Voices from the Margins.  The memory and the assignment both remind me that it’s important to be mindful of purpose. Not everyone will like what you do, and that’s as it should be. Knowing that I was hired to serve elders in the state, not the whims of my supervisor, helped me find creative ways to build a team to be successful any way. Clarifying the purpose of the blog I share with a partner helps keep us focused. Just like the team effort that resulted in a report that was helpful to elders, my partner and I have attempted to explain our blog’s purpose. It’s a space that celebrates diversity and welcomes creative team efforts to resist status quo critiques. a place to give voice to different “truths.” Like all bloggers, we hope people will read what we write and engage in dialogue, but we also try to speak about what we see as important during these challenging times. In order to let people know who we are, we added a second “about” section entitled  A Little About Us.

We are both interested in learning from others who see the world through frames that are different than ours. We welcome feedback about our explanation of purpose and our description  of who we are, and we welcome your visits, comments, and submissions.

(A final note: I just couldn’t decide which photos to share so I went a bit overboard I fear 🙂 )

Work Cited:

Carol Hand (1988)(Ed.) Aging Wisconsin: The past three years – 1984-1986 progress report on the Wisconsin State Plan on Aging. Madison, WI: Bureau on Aging,  Department of Health and Social Services.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Inch by inch, row by row …”

 Carol A. Hand

 Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna to make this garden grow …
Please bless these seeds I sow
Please keep them safe below
‘Til the rain come tumbling down
(Pete Seeger)

I have been thinking about how important blogging has become to me. When I posted my first essay on June 18, 2013, it was only because of a partnership I had with a friend who knew more about technology that I did. Anyone who visits this blog now can probably see that, despite a little over a year of blogging experience, I still have many technological challenges to overcome yet. The few improvements are due largely to my new blogging partner, Cheryl.

I remember that the only one who liked my first post was my blogging partner at the time, Susan Sutphin at intersistere. Much to my surprise, someone pressed the “like” icon for my third post, and then honored me with recognition for my fourth post. Over time, we became virtual friends. Without his support, encouragement, and recognition, I am sure I would have given up many times. I know he has done the same for many other bloggers. When he announced that he was taking a hiatus from blogging for a little while, it felt a bit like the sun going out. Since then, I have been contemplating how to express how important his posts have been for me, and how crucial his support for other bloggers has been in building a network that feels like an authentic community based on honesty, creativity, inclusiveness, and critical thinking.

Because he often remembers to ask how my garden is doing, it occurred to me that the work he has done in the blogosphere is similar to gardening, and Pete Seeger provides the metaphor – “inch by inch, row by row… Jeff Nguyen, this is my way to say chi miigwetch for continuing to be part of all of our lives (Ojibwe thank you very much). As I look at the before and after pictures for my garden, I am reminded of where I began as a blogger and where I am at present. It’s still a work in progress, but you gave me the hope and support to continue.

************

Inch by inch…

I moved to Duluth in late October of 2011 to a house I bought sight-unseen. My daughter picked it out, although I had seen the following pictures that were posted on the internet.

ISbem4rd4o84v7

Photo Credit: Mesina Realty Photo September 2011

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Photo Credit: Mesina Realty Photo September 2011

I wondered about the log cabin and the windmill and the strange metal “tree” in front of the deck with its ringed branches holding flower pots filled with plastic flowers. I guess we all have different ideas of beauty. And then there was the aged greenhouse frame surrounded by raspberry bushes and little trees, and the rotting weeping willow that showed daylight halfway up its mighty trunk. Cutting trees is not something I do lightly. Yet, as I watched children walking past everyday on their way to and from the elementary school on one side and the high school on the other, I realized I would need to do something to make their passage safer.

DSC00096

Photo Credit: February 13, 2012

So the dying tree came down, leaving its partner to weather the winds and storms on its own. The next spring, I cleared the brush the old fashioned way, shovel by shovel, inch by inch, and painted the greenhouse frame – still a work in progress.

garden August 2013 (1)

Photo Credit: August 13, 2013

 

DSC00375

Photo Credit: August 11, 2014

Of course there are always challenges – critters that have been displaced by urban development, and brutal winters.

polar vortex 2014

Photo Credit: The Polar Vortex Winter – February of 2014

 A deer just ate my tomatoes

Photo Credit: A Deer Just Ate my Tomatoes – May 15, 2014

Yet gardens, like blogging, provide opportunities to help others develop knowledge, skills, and a belief in their ability to honor life and create something beautiful. This is the newest project that my granddaughter, Ava, helped to create out of salvaged lumber from the old fence that was replaced as a deer repellant.

DSC00373

Photo Credit: Ava’s Garden – August 11, 2014

Inch by inch, the garden is continuing to grow, and post by post the blogging adventure is continuing to grow as well. I wish to thank of everyone who has stopped by our modest blog to share your wisdom, kindness, and insights. And again I wish to say chi miigwetch, Jeff for helping build a community that is working to create the peace and unity your work represents.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Stories from my Father — Pilots, Pitchers, and Pigs

Stories from my Father — Pilots, Pitchers, and Pigs

By Cheryl A. Bates

Several years ago, my father threatened to buy a computer and teach himself how to use it. This was an incredibly ambitious effort for someone who grew up before color and cable TV, cell phones, and computer games. At 80 years old, finally retired from decades of the physical demands of logging in the Pacific Northwest, he has learned to connect with people from all over the world using his computer. Now with more time on his hands, he has begun writing down his memoirs and stories. He has been busy this past winter. After promising me for years that he would share his stories, he sent me his old computer’s hard drive with a collection of stories and memories he had written.

Every now and then during our online chats, he’ll ask about the stories or he’ll say “maybe you can do something with those stories.” I always give an upbeat answer that I will do something, someday. Today, it occurred to me that with this being Father’s Day, I could show how much his sharing means to me by writing about the sharing of his stories with me.

During one of our weekly online chats, my dad was talking about something he read in an AARP magazine that inspired him to write a story about a random act of kindness he experienced as a boy. He shared his story with me by typing it into an email. A few days later, I received a regular mail letter from my dad with a copy of the inspirational story and the following note.

I thought I might

When I was a small boy, 4th or 5th grade, my folks moved to Roswell, New Mexico. During WWII, my step-father was in the Air Force stationed at the B-29 base. He was a line mechanic and could change those engines on the big planes. My mom was working also, usually as a telephone switchboard operator. They never seemed to worry about my brother and me. We amused ourselves pretty much.

I can remember wandering around and exploring many places and things. There was a municipal airport not far from where we lived at the time. One day I happened to be there when the Air Force was using the runways for touch and go landing practice for the military planes. The pilots were so young. Usually just out of college as Second Lieutenants. This day, a tall good looking military man looked at me and said, “You wanna go for ride?” “Wow – of course I would,” I replied. “Okay, wait right here and I will be right back.” Well, needless to say, I was not leaving that spot until he came back. He came back and said, “Let’s go.” Evidently he must have rented this little Piper Club airplane. We took off and circled the town and county. Oh my, I was so excited.

I have often wondered whatever happened to this young man. Sincerely, I hope he made it through the war. I never saw him again but what a nice thing he did for me just out of the blue.

Dad Douglas AZ

My dad, William Thomas Bates, Sr.

Our weekend telephone calls have been replaced by more frequent yahoo chats throughout the week and an occasional email. Throughout the many years of graduate school, my dad was my number one supporter. There was never a time after a phone call or chat when I didn’t hang up feeling uplifted, inspired, or supported. Even now, he continues to be supportive. He was the first person to comment on  my bio for the blog, “Wow…way to go sweetheart, very good. Loving you, Dad.”

In 2008, I finally finished school. Even though my dad had had a rough year with his health and wasn’t particularly comfortable traveling on airplanes, he made it to my graduation.

Graduation 2008

So proud, tears came to his eyes.

A few years ago while attending a conference in Portland, OR, I slipped out and visited my father for a couple of days. On this visit, in addition to bags of old photos and stuff, he sent me home with an old silver set. He explained that it wasn’t an expensive set but it was special because his mother, wanting to have heirlooms to pass down, managed to purchase it during the depression by making payments, 10 cents a week, until it was bought.

Creamer Pitcher

Then, a few months later, I received a small package from my father. Inside was this silver cream pitcher and a note from my dad.

Dear Doctor Cheryl,

This little cup or pitcher probably has no value except that it is filled brim full of my love for you and for its little story. When WW2 ended, we were in Roswell, New Mexico. I think I was 10 or 11 yrs. old. My step-father brought us to Oregon where we settled in Twin  Rocks, OR. His brother was in the hog raising business supplying pork for the military and other markets. In those days they fed discarded restaurant waste and had regular slop routes around Salem, OR and other places. Whenever we visited them I got to get up real early and go with cousins, nicknamed Bean and Babe, on the slop routes and they picked up barrels of this waste.

Well, in the slop there were some different items evidently tossed in either intentionally or just negligence. In those days they used a lot of real silverware and heavy duty dishes. My uncle’s wife gave all the relations some of these items after they were cleaned up of course. We had several different things from her. They all got one of these pitchers. Somehow this one found its way back to me. I used it for tooth picks. It might be an heirloom someday. Now you know “The Rest of the Story”…Loving you dearly, Dad.  (December, 2009)

pig picture

I had to substitute this picture for the one I wanted to use here. I have been looking all morning for an old picture my dad sent me of some pigs he was raising. He had written the names of the pigs on the photograph with a ball-point pen.

On this Father’s Day, I am living up to my promise to share his stories to let him know how important he is to me and how much I value his presence in my life.

Copyright Notice: © Cheryl A. Bates and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Spring Is Finally Here – And Music Is Everywhere!

Carol A. Hand

This morning I awoke to hear my parakeets singing, and my little dog, Pinto, adding his lovely voice (yes, he really does sing — he’s singing as I type).

 

pinto 2

Photo Credit: Animal Allies Adoption Photo

When I stepped outside, my yard was filled with the sound of the birds that returned after a long and silent winter.

robin

Photo Credit: ocmist-blogspot.com

chickadee

Photo Credit: kitchen garden.co.uk

This is a short post to wish you all a wonderful Sunday filled with music.

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