Six Weeks of Everything

My mom often jokingly tells people I’ve taken “six weeks of everything.” For years I’ve wondered if that was a bad or good thing, like maybe it indicates I can never really work long enough to get good at anything. I’m pretty sure my mom never meant it that way. She likely just thinks it is a funny quirk of my personality that I have an insatiable desire to try things I find intriguing—not necessarily learn them to the point of mastery.

Just a few of the things I can or could get by doing:

  • Sign language
  • Writing children’s books
  • Twirling a baton
  • Speaking German
  • Swing/Salsa/Ballroom dancing
  • Taekwondo
  • Speaking Greek
  • Administering first aid to dogs/cats
  • Archery
  • Juggling
  • Film editing
  • Playing guitar
  • Doing CPR
  • Speaking Spanish
  • Sewing
  • Rock climbing
  • Directing live TV
  • Trapping and stuffing small mammals
  • Playing piano

….and I won’t even bother listing the long list of sports I’ve played or software programs I’ve learned. You get the picture.

Tonight I finished yet another six weeks of something. I can now write code in Ruby, a programming language. Before class, I watched a graduation of students from the coding academy who have spent the last seven grueling months building a marketable skill set. It was inspiring.

I, on the other hand, drove home quietly to no fanfare and without a marketable skill set…just six more weeks of something else behind my yellow Taekwondo belt.

But I’m thrilled.

I love tasting the world and broadening my lens. In fact, I’ve already signed up for my next six weeks…. JavaScript here I come! Then possibly oil painting or scuba diving….hmmmm….there are just so many things to try. I’ve decided that my life anthem must be “Try Everything” by Shikira from the movie Zootopia. It just fits. And it makes me happy when I hear it. It celebrates the trying, not the failing. It celebrates life the way I love to live it.

Be Still My Heart

It’s a beautiful morning to be free.

Eastertime has a special place in my heart, but not for the actual holiday of Easter Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, I like ham and chocolate eggs as much as the next person, but I find this time an opportunity to carve out moments for quiet reflection in the days and sometimes hours leading to that Easter sunrise.

There’s something big in something small and quiet.

Just a couple of weeks ago we played a game with our youth group at church. Adult leaders dressed as a Roman soldiers and the youth pretended to be Christians and ran around the church trying to escape our capture while they looked for the “secret place of worship.”  It was all in good fun, but when we finally all gathered in the small candlelit back room, we discussed the reality of the need for this type of “secret” worship space for early Christians in Rome. Sadly, it still remains a reality in many places all over the world for Christians as well as for people of other faiths.

Just this week my cousin in Africa sent me a picture via email of a small group of people  sitting on her floor in a circle worshiping and studying together. I’d love to share the picture, but for security reasons I cannot. I’m grateful to live in a country where we are ensured the freedom of religion, but even so, like many others, I have still felt the sting of persecution right here.

When we were playing the game, we asked the youth (in our best authoritative Roman soldier voices), “Are you one of those Christians?” They all denied it to escape…for them…all part of the game.  But their “game day” reaction isn’t all that far from reality. It is difficult to share your faith when it could cost you your life, your job, your working relationships, or your friends.

This Easter I quietly climbed a mesa top in the dark and waited for a small group of people to join me —  strangely reminiscent of another gathering long ago in Galilee– and together we watched the world awaken, welcomed the sun, and declared what I believe to be the only true hope there is for this world.

There is something big in something small and quiet.

May we humbly be the love of God in a world that desperately needs love.

Seeing Thestrals

candle

Seeing something there that wasn’t there before.

As I’ve watched my friends grieve the death of those closest to them over the last several years, and more recently just this week, the idea of seeing Thestrals (Harry Potter-inspired magical creatures) suddenly became a lot more “real” to me.  According to the “wizarding world,” Thestrals (scary-looking flying horses) can only be seen by those who have been touched by death.

So is that a good thing or a bad thing? An honor, a blessing, a badge, or a curse?

Definition of a Thestral, according to J.K. Rowling: Manifesting as black, skeletal, bat-winged horses, but invisible to all who have never been truly touched by death, Thestrals have a somewhat macabre reputation. In centuries past the sight of them was regarded as unlucky; they have been hunted and ill-treated for many years, their true nature (which is kindly and gentle) being widely misunderstood. Thestrals are not marks of ill omen, nor (their spooky appearance notwithstanding) are they in any way threatening to humans, always allowing for the fright that the first sight of them tends to give the observer.

Today, a friend of mine preached a sermon on love where he told about the seasons of loss in his life (past, immediate, and future). Those losses were, are, and will be painful, yes, but they can also be an opportunity…an opportunity to give, recognize, and receive love in a deeper way than ever before. The more pain we experience, just maybe, translates to the more love we have the opportunity to experience as well. Strangely true.

Isn’t that just like a Thestral? The fear we have of pain and loss tends to give the pain a bad reputation–a reputation that it has nothing to offer but something evil or scary. Yet something kind and gentle is hidden beneath that scary exterior. And it isn’t until we experience great pain or loss that we are able to see something we’ve never seen before. When we open our eyes and hearts to it, we just might get the opportunity to deeply understand some of the greatest love of all and, in turn, be that kind of love to the world.

Solomon’s Moon

moon

Solomon: Forevermore this is your moon. Thank you for your story.

As I hailed a taxi at the Indianapolis airport on my way to a conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Solomon, my taxi driver. Though he moved to the United States from war torn Eritrea in 1991, his English was still rather broken.

Looking out of my window I spied a gorgeous orange full moon setting just below the horizon. I squealed with excitement, trying to remember the name of this month’s full moon. I finally remembered it was the Worm Moon and I told Solomon about the Algonquin Indians and why they named it so. He told me that in Tigrinya, the name of this kind of full moon was something that sounded like fortuna…which I translated as fortune (in Greek).

My short, mustached driver spent the better part of fifteen minutes explaining how the moon phases worked, using hand movements where his words failed him. He told me that a full moon, like this one, meant rain is coming. I imagined him growing up in Eritrea with his family and the stories of the moon and its weather patterns passed from generation to generation. (Of course, I looked it up when I got to my hotel and found out that scientists have studied the stories and found that there is actually a shred of truth to this lunar weather predictor.)

After the weather report, I told Solomon about our friends the Bahta family who were refugees from Eritrea back when I was in high school and college. Eritrea, a postage stamp of a country in East Africa, endured a horrible civil war.  I told him about Tigisti Bahta, their daughter whom I tutored in English. Tigisti means patience. And she needed a lot of it having me as an English teacher.Solomon said he had also fled to the United States for the same reason. He told me he started out in Washington D.C. and it was difficult because of the crime there. He said to me, “Black, white…it doesn’t matter. Color doesn’t matter. Crime is crime. Wrong is wrong. And I didn’t like it.” He was extremely grateful to meet his sister in Indianapolis and for the peace he has found here. Solomon means peace.

I’ve learned that Eritreans have a different system of naming from most Western countries. Among Christian Eritreans, children are given two names: a secular name at birth and a Christian name when the child is baptized.

I never learned Solomon’s Eritrean name, but I have decided to give him an honorable one —Werḧi, meaning moon. So together his name would mean peace of the moon.

I woke up the next morning to a precipitating sky. Solomon’s moon was right. And I am better for knowing him…. even if it was only for a 30-minute taxi ride.

Oven-Killing Flaming Meatloaf and Sabbath Mode

oven

This is bad…but not as bad as the meatloaf.

A flaming meatloaf blew up my oven. At least that’s how I like to tell the story. However, the truth is the meatloaf was an innocent bystander and the oven decided to self-destruct all on its own.  Flames grew from the element and when the fire department arrived the oven temperature topped at 1000 degrees.

The electric range/oven now sits alone and sad in my garage and a gaping hole still remains, almost a month later, in my kitchen. Researching ovens has taken a backseat to work travel, work projects, volunteer commitments, and family. But today is the day! I am tired of cooking eggs on my barbecue grill and eating cold pizza.

While researching ovens, I discovered an amazing thing –they come with a Sabbath mode. I never knew appliances had Sabbath modes! I kind of thought that’s the mode I have been in since the fire—a break from my oven and range —Sabbath mode.

Turns out Sabbath mode is a feature in many modern home appliances, which is intended to allow the equipment to be used (subject to various constraints) by Shabbat-observant Jews on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays.

So how does Sabbath mode work?

Orthodox Jews believe you shouldn’t work on the Sabbath. That includes cooking raw meat by turning on an oven. You can, however, warm up something that is already cooked. In the olden days, starting a fire and doing all the prep for cooking was a lot of work.  So, on the Sabbath, the fire was just kept burning so warming of food could occur without “working” to make a new fire. So, in Sabbath mode on modern ovens, the automatic 12-hour safety shutoff is disabled…thereby keeping the “fire” hot so you don’t have to physically turn the oven on once the Sabbath starts..

So technically (according to Jewish law), I haven’t been working (with my oven) for 25 days. That’s a long Sabbath. Funny thing is…I don’t feel rested. For me modern appliances take away work, not create work. My mom always told me when housework and the world seems overwhelming, start by getting all the machines working for you. It is how I start most weekends. Get something cooking, turn on the washing machine, run the dishwasher and…voila! Within minutes I feel like Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice with an army of brooms.

I am happy to report the electric range and oven arrives on Monday. I have a new appreciation for this appliance. For me, I’ll now consider EVERY mode it has a Sabbath mode.

Pareto Principle and Pea Pod Pondering

peapod

What kind of pea pod are you?

I ate peas last night. I haven’t had peas in a long time. They were great and they made me think about Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who made an amazing discovery in 1896 — the famous 80/20 rule. And it applies to more than just economics.

Yes, it started in Italy when Pareto discovered that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the people. But he didn’t really shout ‘Eureka!’ until he also discovered that in his garden 20% of the pea pods produced 80% of the peas.

Since that time the principle has been verified in all manner of cases.

  • 80% of sales typically come from 20% of the customers.
  • 20% of workers do 80% of the work.
  • 20% of criminals commit 80% of the crimes.
  • 20% of pub-goers consume 80% of the alcohol.
  • We wear 20% of the clothes in our closet and spend 80% of our time with 20% of our friends.
  • 20% of car drivers cause 80% of the accidents.
  • 20% of our time spent on a task leads to 80% of the results.
  • 80% of decisions are made in 20% of the time.

We can’t help it. We are just pea pods.

Should I just give up and start only going to 20% of my meetings and spending 20% of my week at the office? (This is assuming I’m one of the 20% of people that gets 80% of the work done. And I guess that would mean I would only get 80% of the 80% of work that gets done.) Drat. That last 20% of the work is necessary to get 100% of my salary. What a shame the last 20% takes 80% of my life.

What am I to do with this? Can I choose the pea pod I will be? Can I change my percentage and defy the odds?

I won’t speak for you…but this pea pod is going to try to become more efficient.

I’m Sorry I’m a …?

apology

Hit me with your best shot. I apologize.

I’ve always found it funny that when you defend your faith or beliefs, it is called apologetics. Today, when we think of the word apology, we associate it with an act of sincere regret—something you are sorry for doing and feel bad about.

“I apologize for stepping on your toes.”

“I apologize for hurting your feelings.”

But never, “I apologize for what I believe.” That would be the opposite of what a true apology is.

The word comes from the Greek apologia, a derivative of a word meaning “to speak in one’s defense.” It comes from apo-, “away; off” together with logos, “speech.”

Lately I’ve felt compelled to apologize… but in the Greek sense not the modern sense. I’m not sure why now…maybe because I feel poked a lot…and it hurts. I don’t think people always realize they are poking me and it isn’t always intentional. But lately I’ve stripped away my garments, looked in the mirror, and realized I’m covered in bruises.  As long as I can remember I’ve tried to make my life a quiet, steady apology. But now it’s time for a written one. I don’t have all the answers or by any stretch of the imagination think I know it all or ever will, but I plan to have my pen search the depths of my soul and let the words of my heart heal some wounds.

Apology coming soon.

Open Up Those Golden Gates

bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach with Battery Crosby (1900) on the rocks.

When I was a kid we took our share of road trips…and we sang as we drove. We sang John Denver songs and we sang Buddy Holly songs and we sang Disney songs…and of course we sang Al Jolson’s California Here I Come. However, we  weren’t going to California. We often changed the words, because we were going to South Dakota…a lot. So we sang:

South Dakota here we come

Right back where we started from

Open up those Black Hill gates

South Dakota here we come.

Sometimes we would sing the California version. And I always imagined what it would be like to actually drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and sing that song.

Today, that dream became a reality. (I also looked up the actual words to the song and I’ve never sung it correctly). But no matter. I sung it my way today. Four times, actually, thanks to Google Maps. I didn’t mean to cross the Golden Gate Bridge four times, but that’s what I get for following Siri instead of my own common sense. And it wasn’t the only bridge I drove over. I also went over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and the Bay Bridge. And though Google told me my dreamy  little “detour” would only take 2 hours and 26 minutes, it was sorely mistaken. Let me just say that rush hour in San Fransisco is not fun. But this is the kind of thing that tends to happen to me when I take spare moments to try to see something when I’m on business trips.  I take risks and am greeted with the unexpected. (See Journey to the Pinball Hall of Fame and Are You Thirsty Yet?, if you don’t believe me.)

sf-route

My route was NOT 2 hours and 26 minutes as indicated.

Was it worth it?  I must admit I was debating it as my stomach was growling somewhere along highway 580 crawling along at 5 miles per hour. But, after I made it to my hotel, finished all my work, and took a look at my pictures…the answer is yes.  It is always worth it.

Along my way I was gifted with these beautiful discoveries–the sounds of waves, the smell of pine, and bright green, Spring grass.

beach

Waves crashing on Baker Beach. Meditating hippies and crazy nude homeless people behind me (not pictured).

beach-night

Baker Beach from the Battery Crosby.

stairs-down2

Stairs I ran up and down from Immigrant Point Overlook.This is fondly known as the 1000 Step Trail (808 steps to be exact).

immigrant-view

View from Immigrant Point Overlook.

pinecone

Very large pine cone on a fallen tree. Smells so good.

sand-fran-architecture

Classic San Fran architecture on my way to the Bay Bridge.

grass

Spring! This is not what my yard looks like in Colorado.

stairs

Sandy stairs back to my car from Baker Beach. Still shaking sand out of my running shoes.

bay-bridge

Headed to Livermore over the Bay Bridge. Bye San Francisco!

hills

Wine country, cow country…either way…Livermore is B-E-A-utiful.

Prenumbral Eclipse of the Snow Moon

moon

Tonight’s Snow Moon after the prenumbral eclipse.

February 10 in Colorado on the night of the full Snow Moon….and I spent the day running in shorts and a t-shirt in the foothills. Tomorrow I’ll be skiing. I love Colorado. Tonight was also special because it was a prenumbral eclipse of the Snow Moon. Because the name sounded like a bad teenage romance novel, I was intrigued by this lunar event and had to find out where this name came from. Prenumbra means almost shadow  and is a less intense part of Earth’s shadow being cast on the moon–a shadow that is not as dark as the typical umbra eclipse.

I had not heard of a Snow Moon (or a prenumbra) until tonight. I’ve watched many lunar eclipses and heard of the Harvest Moon before, but after all these years I guess I didn’t realize EVERY full moon had a name or that we could sometimes see the very faint prenumbra shadow. It’s easy to miss. The Moon names were actually names given to the whole month and thus the corresponding full moon received its name. Most of the names were bestowed  by the Algonquin tribes on the East Coast. Thanks to Farmer’s Almanac, I learned all their names tonight. Historically, the names are really interesting, even if they don’t apply to life today.

Wolf Moon – January

Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages.

Snow Moon – February

Because the heaviest snow usually falls during this month,this was most often called the Snow Moon. Some tribes also referred to this moon as the Hunger Moon, because harsh weather made hunting difficult.

Worm Moon – March

As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this moon as the Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter; or the  Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation.

Pink Moon – April

This name came from the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names for this month’s celestial body include the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and among coastal tribes the Fish Moon, because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.

Flower Moon – May

In most areas, flowers are abundant everywhere during this time. Thus, the name of this moon. Other names include the Corn Planting Moon, or the Milk Moon.

Strawberry Moon – June

This name was universal to every Algonquin tribe because the relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year during the month of June. However, in Europe they called it the Rose Moon.

Buck Moon – July

July is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Thunder Moon, for the reason that thunderstorms are most frequent during this time. Another name for this month’s moon was the Hay Moon.

Sturgeon Moon – August

The fishing tribes are given credit for the naming of this moon, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, were most readily caught during this month. A few tribes knew it as the Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry haze. It was also called the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.

Corn Moon or Harvest Moon – September

This full moon’s name is attributed to Native Americans because it marked when corn was supposed to be harvested. Most often, the September full moon is actually the Harvest Moon, which is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox.

 Hunter’s Moon or Harvest Moon – October

This full Moon is often referred to as the Hunter’s Moon, Blood Moon, or Sanguine Moon. Many moons ago, Native Americans named this bright moon for obvious reasons. The leaves are falling from trees, the deer are fattened, and it’s time to begin storing up meat for the long winter ahead. Because the fields were traditionally reaped in late September or early October, hunters could easily see fox and other animals that come out to glean from the fallen grains.

Beaver Moon – November

This was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Beaver Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now actively preparing for winter. It is sometimes also referred to as the Frosty Moon.

The Long Nights Moon – December

During this month the winter cold fastens its grip, and nights are at their longest and darkest. The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long. It has also been called the Cold Moon.

Source: Farmer’s Almanac

These are great names, but I decided I would give the moon names an upgrade to fit life today…or at least my life. Here’s my version.

  • Resolution  Moon – January
  • Crocus Moon – February
  • Bike Tuning Moon – March
  • Slush and Mud Moon – April
  • Mother’s Moon – May
  • Yippee Moon – June
  • Splash Moon – July
  • Mountain Climber’s Moon – August
  • New Pencil Moon – September
  • Creepy Pumpkin Moon – October
  • Thanksgiving Moon -November
  • Chaos Moon – December

I doubt the astronomy world will rename the full moon names on my account, but I’m going to think of each full moon differently now. They are now fun time markers shining on the treasures that each month brings.

People with Rabies

rabies

This guy has Rabies.

A homeless guy called me “cool” today. He said and I quote, “Only cool people appreciate the name of my dog.” His dog’s name is Rabies. He knew how much I appreciated the name by my reaction. I LOVE creativity and a bit of dark humor. And this pup is aptly  named.

Just one day after watching A Dog’s Purpose at the movie theater (spoiler alert: bring Kleenex), today I saw another dog with a purpose. A dog named Rabies loving his master. A master who many people treat like he has rabies, though neither of them do.

I love his sign, too. I think it is a sign we all should carry. Everyday.

Because isn’t that what we are…really? Ugly and broke. We are all imperfect. Yes, we may wash our hair and put on clean clothes in the morning, but let’s face it. His sign is our sign, too.

And aren’t we ALL traveling folks? We journey through this world looking for our next opportunity–whether it be a better job, a happiness fix, a loyal friend, or our next meal. We travel. We journey. We wander. And every now and then, if we are wise, we slow down enough to share in the joy of the struggle and break bread with other ugly, broken people along the way. Cool.