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Monthly Archives: September 2012

“God has taught me that I need to be easily amused.”

“God has taught me that I need to be easily amused.”

This weekend I traveled by van, BC ferry and boat to a wilderness resort camp on the Princess Louisa Inlet, BC. Malibu, owned and run by Young Life, is the camp Isaiah went to for a week this summer, and while I was in the Young Life office signing him up, I saw the Women’s Weekend brochure and was hooked. I invited some Bellingham friends, and found others that were also going. Ten of us went up in a friend’s big van together. The ferry ride and boat trip up the Jervis Inlet was lovely.

I’d heard that there were lots of fun things to do at Malibu (Young Life specializes in fun), but I went for the natural beauty and opportunity to meet other Christian women, hear the speaker, and eat good food without cleaning up afterward for three full days. In those things my hopes were fulfilled, and I did come home refreshed and rested.

Meals were wonderful–set tables with new people to meet, served by men who paid to volunteer for the weekend, healthy and delicious. The dining hall overlooks the Princess Louisa Inlet, which flows into the Jervis Inlet. Tides rushed in and out past the camp each day, churning up nutrients to feed the creatures that come. We saw sea lions bobbing and diving every day, and at night during slack tide they silently slid through their underwater paths, streaming phosphorescence. One night there was an extra loud exhale of mammal breath and steam, and someone said it was not a sea lion, but definitely a whale. My new friends Jane and Bethany and I strained eyes and ears out over the shadowed water, catching glimpses of something white sliding past, now here, now there. Was it sea lions, or an orca whale? Once a sea lion came right into the shallows on the rocks below our balcony–to escape? Then it dove back onto the depths. Minutes later, a loud splash out by the small island. “Holy shit!” said Bethany. Jane had gone to bed, but we stayed and hoped and watched. After that we saw only seas lions, sometimes eyes glowing in the porch lights. It was sweet to share the moment with Bethany, who was as excited as I was, running along the railing to try to catch a better glimpse, and as unwilling to give up and go to bed, tired as we were.

The days were sunny and clear, the nights brilliant with stars. Each day I was able to get out in a kayak on the smooth waters of the inner inlet. The first day I heard a large, mammalian below coming from the rocks on the shore, but I never saw what it was. A sea lion, someone told me. It sounded like a bear. Looking down into the dark water, I could see the boulders softly reflecting light sky below. The depths make me a little giddy and breathless–always have, when I look and the visible edging into the dark unfathomable. I imaging large things down deeper, in proportion to the small swimming things of the shallows. That’s why I studied marine biology and why I love fishing. If it weren’t for my respect for fishing regulations, I’d bring a basic fishing kit everywhere there was wild water, to feel the pull on my line. My dad used to, I hope still does, keep red wool, line and hook in the inner wallet pouch for that purpose.

The main speaker was RoseAnn Coleman, a very funny and candid recovering Southern Baptist. She used lots of humor, some dry, some self-effacing, some body & expression, and I don’t think there was a stretch of a few minutes together when most of us weren’t laughing. Kept our brain cells alert the whole time. She also sang a few songs, country groovin’ in her beautiful clear voice. She taught on the Jehoshaphat & Ahab story in 2 Chronicles and told lots of stories, especially about her spiritual mentor Helen, who taught her how real and trustworthy God is. I bought CDs of her teachings & stories to share with the kids at home.

Although I really enjoyed Roseann, and the quote above is hers, I have to say I’m quoting Betty from the Block, the show host character that appeared each night (played by Shelby Friesen of Bellingham), even more. Wild black curly wig, 80s outfit and sunglasses, cowboy boots, and New York accent, she had us laughing until we were sore. She called us “caps locked, GORGEOUS,” called up and dubbed the sound tech/ropes course trainer “Man-Boy” (baby face and tall, strong build, “I don’t know whether to make you a peanut butter sandwich, or give you a little kiss!”). She told us the story of how she tried to become a member of Canada (“I called the king of Canada, president, whatevah...”), and how she tried to bring peace between the Canadians and Americans at the Bellingham Costco… (Got up on the garment table, called everyone around, “There’s a problem…You’re all too adorable to be acting like this… “) Oh, so many of us really needed to laugh–it was very healing.

I also got to do the high ropes course, run on the trail, take a dip in the pool, join a one hour boot camp, and hike up and down a mountain. There was also a dance party two of the nights, but Lynnette and I sidled off during that one. I do love to dance, but couldn’t appreciate the music–the same they use for the Young Life campers, I think–too loud and too teeny-bopper. Everything else was great. First women’s retreat where I didn’t feel like lazing around–I don’t think I read more than a chapter or two of my book, because there was always something interesting to do, including a personality test workshop with a perky Memphis former police chief and FBI trainer (I’m a Melancholic/beaver, but I knew that), and a session on conflict by three licensed therapists. Also easy access to coffee.

Lynnette and I didn’t fit in the first cabin in which the other Bellinghamsters were placed, so we got to know five other Washington women in our cabin. We ate most of our meals together, talked and prayed together, and there was some real bonding opportunities All that shared laughter was part of it, too. It was neat to share struggles, experiences, encouragement… God brought us together for his purposes, and I’m sure he’s not finished with what he started.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in Places & Experiences

 

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In Praise of the Clothesline

In Praise of the Clothesline

I wake up groggy to my 7:15 alarm in the dark back bedroom; my coffee habit has taken away my morning alertness, and the lack of morning light leaves my mind dim.  I wonder when I’ll have some unencumbered time to purge my system, restore the functioning of my adrenal glands.  I put on my wrap.  Anyone else up?  The dog jumps up from the bedroom floor where he’d been waiting, wags, smiles, and follows me out.  My seven-year old, always pleased to greet his first morning companion.  I love his slim, firm shape as I give him a morning hug, and again I commit to enjoy his littleness while it lasts.

I wake up the girls and my eldest son with a few gentle calls or a morning song, believing a sweet awaking is the best.

I refuse to answer any but the simplest question in my first half hour after waking—any attempts to get sense from me will end in frustration.  But I can do mechanical tasks—empty dishwasher, unlock gate, start a load of laundry.  I am drawn outside into the fresh, golden morning, in the back garden I listen to the birds and the sounds of people heading off to work and school while I take down and fold the laundry.

Working the clothesline is my favorite household chore.  It keeps me in touch with the seasons and the weather, and the sun and wind do most of the work.  I check the air, smell for rain or coming heat as I handle the slightly crisp, clean towels.  I remove items in order of the room they go to, and feel a comforting sense of order.  The cottons have absorbed the fragrance of a spray of night-blooming flowers that hang over the nearby fence.  I shake out an earwig, pick up and repair some pins, and take the load in for sorting by the kids.  When winter comes, it will be back to electrical drying.  Taking toasty, soft towels out of the dryer is another sort of pleasure.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Places & Experiences

 

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Lawrence Kohlberg’s Six Levels of Moral Development

Lawrence Kohlberg’s Six Levels of Moral Development

This was presented to me in Rafe Esquith’s book, Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire. He shares it with his fifth graders, uses it with them in discussing literary, film and historical characters, and encourages his students to aim high and develop their personal code of ethics.

Level I: I don’t want to get in trouble.

Level II: I want a reward.

Level III: I want to please somebody.

Level IV: I follow the rules.

Level V: I am considerate of other people.

Level VI: I have a personal code of behavior and I follow it.

I’ve since shared and discussed this with my kids and students I encounter while working as a substitute teacher. It’s powerful when kids examine the “levels” from which they are making their choices. I ask them for examples of when a higher level of ethics may conflict with a lower, for example when they may suffer for making a moral choice. I may point out that school often keeps students aiming at levels I and II, sadly (level III in the younger grades), and ask how having a higher level of ethics could affect their studies.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2012 in Education, Ethics

 

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Book Notes: The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldman (1985)

Notes gleaned from the book, with [my comments]

The Challenge of Anger:

Anger is a signal (worth listening to) that something is not right: injustice, failure to address an important issue, compromising too much of our self… [inability to process or react to an experience in a better way… & maybe frustration and/or shame at knowing this about ourselves].

Women are taught that it is unfeminine to express anger, so we (& others) fear it. It may bring others’ disapproval; it signals the necessity for change [in situation and/or how we think about or handle it], which is scary.

“Anger is neither legitimate nor illegitimate, meaningful nor pointless. Anger simply is…Anger is something we feel…It exists for a reason and always deserves our respect and attention. We all have a right to everything we feel.” (pp. 3-4)

Good questions:

  • What am I really angry about? (clarity)
  • What is the problem, and whose problem is it? Who is responsible for what?
  • How can I express my anger in a way that won’t leave me feeling…[ashamed]…and/or powerless?
  • How can I communicate about the issue without attacking or becoming defensive?
  • If getting angry isn’t working for me, what can I do differently?

Venting anger does not solve a problem, and may rigidify the problem & relational patterns/rules.

We must use anger to clarify and change our own behavior, and resist the desire to force someone else to change.

Submitting to unfair circumstances inevitably brings feelings of depression, low self-esteem, self-betrayal, and even self-hatred. [Not so if a higher purpose is chosen for submitting, a spiritual or historical purpose “over the head” of the perpetrator.]

“Nice lady”:

  • stays silent, becomes tearful, self-critical, “hurt”; avoids open conflict lest she make anyone uncomfortable & expose differences
  • cultivates guilt and self-doubt to blot out feelings of anger
  • rewarded by society, but high personal cost

“The amount of creative, intellectual, and sexual energy that is trapped by this need to repress anger and remain unaware of its source is simply incalculable.” (p. 8)

“Bitch”:

  • vents anger openly, but ineffectively, reassuring others that she is out of control and doesn’t need to be taken seriously
  • the more infuriated, the more calm others may become [overfunctioning/underfunctioning]
  • tries to change the other person [never a very viable option]

Ineffective styles of managing anger:

  • silent submission
  • ineffective fighting and blaming
  • emotional distancing

Clarity:

  • What about this situation makes me angry?
  • What’s the real issue [for me]?
  • What do I think and feel?
  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Who’s responsible for what?
  • What, specifically, do I want to change [that I can change]?
  • What are the things I will and will not do?

[and let’s not forget to help the other person(s) ask & answer these questions]

Pseudo-issues hide the real issue, which is more complicated and difficult to address. There may be triangles with a third person, or the real issue may be with someone else (who am I really angry with?).

Use communication skills to maximize the chance of being heard and that conflicts and differences will be negotiated.

Observe and interrupt non-productive patterns: calm down and stand back a bit to sort out the part we play in a problem (response-ability, not blame), so we can change our steps in the dance.

Deal with countermoves (pressure to change back, even to negative but familiar patterns) from within and from the others involved, who have investments in the old ways of relating. This brings strong anxiety, defensiveness of attempts to disqualify what is being said. We choose to do things differently as others choose their own way (old or new).

Identify de-selfing: When too much of one’s self (including one’s values, wants, beliefs, and ambitions) is “negotiable” under pressures from the relationship.

Underfunctioning: a form of de-selfing (common to women) in which one accepts the role of the weak, vulnerable, dependent, or otherwise dysfunctional partner. This allows the partner to deny these qualities in himself and direct most of his emotional energy toward reacting to the spouse’s problem, rather than identifying or sharing his own.

Fighting and blaming vs. assertive claiming:

  • We do not have the power to make others see things our way and affirm our desires, plans, and opinions.
  • We do have the power to choose what we will do, and what risks we will or will not take to act on these desires, plans, and opinions.

“Right or wrong, good or bad, I need to make this choice for myself” is appropriate at times. We may fear the other’s reaction, but it’s their choice how they react and we can trust them to be mature about it. [And we can communicate our choice in a way that maximizes the possibility for a mature reaction, based on our insight into that person.]

At times the choice is between doing something that is likely to upset the other, and doing something that forces us to struggle with our own upset to avoid upsetting the other.

“Fighting and blaming is sometimes a way both to protest and to protect the status quo when we are not quite ready to make a move in one direction or another.” (p. 33)

Countermoves

Bowen (family systems theory): In all families there is a powerful opposition to one member defining a more independent self. [I don’t think that’s so in a very healthy family, or at least it might be weaker or confined to the least mature members of the family.]

Opposition to change goes in 3 steps:

  1. “You are wrong” with volumes of reasons.
  2. “Change back and we will accept you again.”
  3. “If you don’t change back, these are the consequences,” which are then listed.

[4. Punishment (verbal, passive, aggressive, etc.)]

Countermoves are an expression of anxiety, as well as closeness and attachment.

Our job is to keep clear about our own position in the face of countermoves–not to prevent them from happening or tell the other person they should not be reacting that way.

Internal resistance to change:

  • fear of going into unknown territory, especially if we have not seen many examples of balanced relationships (generational patterns)
  • surfacing of other unresolved issues, e.g. about our family of origin

[In all this it seems good to encourage the other person who’s feeling anxious at possible change by appealing to their higher motives–they, after all, surely desire growth and maturity in the relationship, and would be glad to allow positive change in the one they love. Surely they do not want to knowingly contribute to your painful, destructive de-selfing and resentment. “It will be worth the temporary turmoil in the relationship, dear–you’ll see!”

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2012 in Writers & Books

 

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