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Monday, October 16th, 2017 08:41 am
I listened to American Icons: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest as i drove home from Charlotte yesterday evening. I was unfamiliar with the novel & movie: i'm glad to have picked up a bit of American culture by listening. The interview with the actress who played Nurse Ratched was interesting. I felt certain i recognized her voice, especially as she spoke of her interpretation of the character, a woman with power, doing what she believes is the right thing (and apparently doing something horrible). It turns out she's the actress who played Kai Winn / Vedek Winn on Deep Space Nine.

An interesting reprise, i should think, then.

--== ∞ ==--

Carrie watching the Crufts 125th Dog Agility Championship

Last night, after deciding that a second episode of Dirk Gently (2010) (of the Holistic Detective Agency) would bring no joy, i decided i'd put on something Carrie would like. So, here's Carrie watching the Crufts 125th Dog Agility Championship from youtube. She was riveted while the dogs were on the course. She'd lay down her head after the competitor left the field, but when the next one took the course, she was back at full attention. Watching the dogs weave through the slalom poles was amazing. Carrie definitely has a deep streak of border collie in her.

With respect to Dirk Gently i feel like it's "Sherlock was a big hit, let's try to do something else." I am wrong about this, apparently, as it came out the same year as Sherlock began. Something about the visual language of the deductive process seems so similar. Now that i think about it, there's a little bit of overlap, too, with the portrayal of the second detective in Death in Paradise. Perhaps there's a limit to how many British produced mysteries one can consume.

--== ∞ ==--

This week i trusted in the worship process and i trusted that it isn't my job to make sure an hour is filled. Having a half hour for waiting worship is just fine: that's just me. I gave the message yesterday, and was well supported after. The most flattering and sweet thing was someone telling me they were surprised i'd only been attending for a year and a few months. It's lovely to know i've fit in so well.

I do need to write a letter to transfer my membership.
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Tuesday, October 10th, 2017 07:16 am
I was asked by [personal profile] warriorsavant what leading worship meant, and i thought it might be of broader interest.

The Quaker meeting i am now attending (and to which i will soon transfer membership) is semiprogrammed. In a very brief history, Quakers came to the US with their practice of waiting worship with no prepared plan of what would happen during the worship time other than waiting in silence for the Spirit to move folks to share messages. (A current visitor to such meetings in the US might develop a suspicion the Spirit was named NPR, but i digress.)

With the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, many Friends moved west, leaving the early Quaker communities smaller. In places like North Carolina "smaller" meant quite small. Also, leading up to the civil war, the second "great awakening" was going on in the US, with protestant revivals attracting much attention. Between the influence of the other churches activities and the limited resources of a small congregation, the inclination to hire a pastor to help fill the needs instead of relying on the whole of the community became attractive. So, circa 1900, a good number of Quaker Meetings in North Carolina left the traditional practices, started hiring ministers, and soon became less distinct from Baptists and Methodists.

The Meeting i'm attending apparently ceased having a minister about 12 or 15 years ago. They've not gone fully to "open worship" but still have a pianist a couple times a month and folks in the meeting take turns leading worship.

So that's me.

Ever since volunteering, i've been making notes to try and figure out the "order of service," a concept that pulls at my childhood memory of t the Presbyterian Church. I remember learning the formality of the Presbyterian service, concepts such as making sure that credo, praise, confession, intercession were all present in the worship. That clearly isn't going on. It's more the structure of opening, announcements and then sharing "joys and concerns", then a bit of structure with children's message, collecting offering (if there are kids to take 'round the wooden plates) with potential singing, then a message.

I've gotten the sense over the year plus that each person brings their own qualities when they lead. Some read from the bible, some from positive thinking email lists, from from Quaker sources. Everyone's different, so if my difference is that there's much more "open worship" --well, then, so be it.

Except i can't help but worry that i'm doing it wrong. Because that's my being new to the whole thing. It's my insecurity, my being in front of people, my sudden blanking out of names....

I plan to check in with someone for a little advice, so there's that.
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Sunday, July 9th, 2017 07:09 am
This news story is just shy of being a Gary Larson "Far Side." One wonders about a child getting in and finding both of the items that were in the vehicle, but i'll assume that the owner lived alone in the woods.

Spoiler )

--== ∞ ==--

In more uncomfortable thinking, tensions about "cultural appropriation" on a mailing list continue into a second week. There's some generational tension, i think, and today's post had hand-wringing over "Why must we be so painfully correct all the time?" There was an attempted distinction between micro-aggression and cultural appropriation: this makes me bang my head because the precipitating issue can easily be interpreted as a micro-aggression as well.

I think the original purpose was what i'll call a subversive ministry of gender expression to tradition bound American men when transgender folks were deep in closets. Having a S-- Day to celebrate a skirt-like item of clothing that was gender neutral made for a way to encourage men to wear skirts for a day without the "feminizing" label "skirt" or the defensive masculinity of a kilt. Theoretically, it's gender inclusive, but it certainly misses the obverse of constrained gender expression for women. Indeed one person, female identified at birth, gently noted this issue.

I don't think they were heard.

I think attitudes have changed enough in liberal Quakerism, that addressing gender expression with a "S--- Day" isn't nearly as powerful as it may have been originally. I wonder, even, if younger folks completely miss the subtlety of the choice as they ask, "Why not just have a skirt day?" which would be an honest and plain spoken goal, but far more challenging to masculinity.

Then, there's the fact that this is not a formally organized event, as far as i can tell, but one person's celebratory mission. That the person who brings it forward is more boomer generation than millennial does not escape my notice. That they may not be aware of the male privilege inherent in the framing despite challenging the policing of male privilege is intriguing.

All of this plays out in the larger context of some tempest over white privilege and white supremacy in the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, where i also perceive a generational divide between "I marched at Selma, how dare you!" and "Black Lives Matter", get woke folks.

I don't think S--- Day is any more culturally appropriative than wearing pajamas and is less so than a Kilt Day. I do think there's much more going on though, and the energy of the kerfluffle on list certainly strikes me as pulling strength from some warm ocean of discontent. I wonder if the current group can survive it's calling to be radically inclusive when it comes to nostalgic folks who feel they've done their work.

--== ∞ ==--

Friday night we were out late celebrating Christine's sister's birthday. Carrie woke me at 6:30 barking at the young buck just beyond the deck. I skipped tea, worked outside in the steam for a while, and then dozed for the rest of the morning. Not a highly productive day, and i couldn't bring myself to go back outside at 5 pm, it was so steamy. By the time we could bestir ourselves, the evening thunderstorm hit.

This morning she woke us barking at 5:30, and it was too dim for me to see any critter. I was more rested this morning, and made tea, and have spent the time on the back porch. It's 99% humidity, with the dew point only a fraction of a degree below the temperature, but it's cool enough that, being still, i'm not soaking.

I finished the potato harvest in that outside time yesterday, and planted the whole row with a variety of seeds. On the ends of the rows, where the plants may sprawl beyond the defined borders i planted the mini-melons and yellow squash. The current yellow squash are in abundance, but i don't know if they'll survive to frost. In between i planted marigolds, peanuts, and some very old bean seed. I picked a ear of the popcorn. The pollination of the kernels wasn't as thorough as i'd wish, and -- while it may have been at milk stage -- it wasn't nearly as tasty as sweet corn. This might keep it from falling prey to critters. Time will tell.
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Monday, July 3rd, 2017 08:42 am
A Black California Friend sends prophetic-voice email around to some collection of us, which i think varies. He's open in his distribution. Sometime i reply privately, sometimes publicly. His last email was on whether it was harder to be a Quaker Poet or a Black Quaker. He'd gotten back two answers along the lines of "Gee, people are challenged by poetry."

I feel i've learned something in this reply. Maybe it's saying "out loud" that i've given up on "Quakers," which in this sense happened very long ago.

Response, long )
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Friday, April 7th, 2017 10:42 am
The women's book groups in California had a book. And the talk was about the book. Which was in some way improving or Quaker focused.

The women's book group here gave up on books ages ago. It's a potluck time with sharing lives.

I think this second group makes it much easier to become intimate and vulnerable. In the abstract, a unstructured gathering is riskier in that someone could ruin the dynamic: someone with drama all the time, etc. On the other hand, the long relationships some of the women have had makes it stable. It will be some time, i suppose, before i determine whether there is skill in managing boundaries in this group. My sense is that they can -- if someone showed up and was me-me-me-me, they could guide them. I sense a capacity to give support without being overwhelmed. On the other hand, a small meeting may not be attractive to someone who is emotionally needy.

[Here i ponder some difficult personalities over the years and try to imagine them in the set.

I have a muttering about "integrity" about the name, and i've managed that for myself by suggesting it's the book of our lives.


I heard from Friends from the California meeting of a relationship triangle that has formed, apparently without the consensus of all three folks. It sounds like it's been a challenge. I may ask one or two of the members of this meeting whether anything like that has been handled. It's this sort of issue where the not-professional laity of unprogrammed Quakers comes up short: how do you provide pastoral support and minister to the whole community as well? So glad it's not my knot to be dealing with.


I think my reticence about expressing myself in panentheistic terms is about equal in both communities. It helps (compared to pagan Quakers i know) that i am comfortable with a beatitudes focussed understanding of Christianity and also comfortable with some metaphorical use of the traditional narrative. (To be explicit, I can use Advent waiting and Easter "risen" language to express some of my experience. I'm not comfortable with "my cross to bear.") From talking with Christine, i think i am safe in describing myself as postmodernist in theology, with belief that That Which Is can never be captured in one consistent system of thought.


There's an earnestness and formal quality to the California meetings i've attended that i think holds to the FGC streams of Quakerism. I wonder how much of the behavior is due to so many convinced Friends? And so many attenders? And, given the universalist streak, a worry that the distinctiveness of Quakers must be preserved?
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Saturday, March 25th, 2017 09:10 am
I'm going to a meeting of Quakers today where we will discuss all our concerns for the current state of affairs and how to address them. I've written queries that i'm not sure will be used. So, to share my morning's reflections, here they are:

2017-03-25 The Carolina Friends Emergency Consultation,
Spring Friends Meeting, Snow Camp, NC

Concerns and Callings are both valuable and necessary as we manifest Light in the world. How have you discerned the difference between the two in your life? Have you experienced a group being Called to action?

We have an abundance of gifts among us. Sometimes the abundance can look more like trouble and constraint than gifts. Have you witnessed the creative transition of gifts into solutions?

The root of "Emergency" is emerge, bring to light. As we gather, what concerns are you led to bring to the Light in this gathering?
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Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 06:58 am
A friend at the Meeting in California hosts a mailing list. He writes out to some list of BCC and you have no idea who else is on that list. He occasionally replies to someone, bringing their response forward to all. It's different, but it is the culture of his list. The power dynamic is so different, but i think it's wise. He is a rare black attender in the mostly white California meeting, and he's willing to prick the white conscience with regard to racial privilege.

I struggled a bit with the power structure of his list last night, as i replied to a reply someone else had made to the host's use of the word whiteness. In an amazing act of white privilege, this person had complained that the use of the word made him feel something was wrong with his skin. My response was a bit more developed response of "Sit with the discomfort and think about it." I eventually simply replied to the host and the other correspondent, not BCC'ing or CC'ing anyone. I thanked the host for providing the discussion space.

This morning i am more able to see what is going on: we must trust the host to curate ... fairly? justly? It is not transparent, a word that comes to mind as echoing the Charlotte Mayor as she tries to negotiate between the police and the people. My discomfort with this list is it isn't transparent, and i need to trust the host. The people of Charlotte ... they have a situation with trust and transparency, too. I've no idea how many responses the host receives, how often his BCC list is "all" or "some", how wide or diverse the community of discourse is. I think it's wise though, because it is a way the black voice will be heard in the white space. Our host's moderation reminds me of the moderation of nuclear reactions in a power plant: the clamor or white voices as we, in our many different places of facing our privilege, feedback upon each other and melt down. Our host absorbs and paces the discussion, keeping it from being overwhelming, keeping the silence between messages that is hard to do in an asynchronous medium.

I knew last night i recognized something "Quakerly" about the space our host had made. This morning i see the pacing he creates, keeping the space between the responses, choosing whom to recognize as clerking the discussion. And just as one holds the clerk in the Light, recognizing the difficulties they face in the challenge of moderating, i hold our host in the Light too.

--== ∞ ==--

In other news, i have avoided the debate and much (i suspect) of the rehashing of the debate. Each morning i read the analysis at http://www.electoral-vote.com/ trying to skim past most of the eye rolling at The Donald, but occasionally following the links to news articles, such as the one about the Trump campaign trying to find a mosque The Donald could publicly visit. I admired the responses i read about: no we will not create a photo op, but yes we will sit down and talk with you. The local Meeting's women's group is gathering tonight and the invitation includes "bring your favorite quotes from the debate." I will not go. I wasn't feeling inspired, as yesterday i was dragging with a cold (it's too soon to see today how that will go). But until debates are about policy and not performance, i'm opting out.

I spent the weekend lopping and have indeed created a huge pile of brush to eventually send through a chipper as well as tangles of grape and honeysuckle vines to be burned. I haven't quite figured out my metric for "worth the time to send through a chipper" vs "burn" but i have one, some instinct about the balance of effort and reward with a bias to chip. I got quite worn out on Saturday, working in the sun. Sunday i reserved energy and spent some time just appreciating the cleared space and the trees of the understory. I selected spindly oaks to keep and hope will grow up above the dogwood and redbud, lopped out sweetgum, found what might be spicebush -- a native plant that fills the same niche as the autumn olive and is host to spicebush swallowtail butterfly larvae -- along with ferns and pipsissewa. (I'll note i was taught to call Chimaphila maculata pipsissewa, not, as Wikipedia redirects, Chimaphila umbellata.)

Monday and yesterday i corresponded - and also had an insight: i can start drafting digital Yuletide greetings NOW. I was considering what to write to someone back in California and was feeling like i had no place to connect a conversation. I'd sent the person my month one and two missives, so i knew they had a picture of where we were, but no real response. So i've drafted a note to send come Thanksgiving or Yuletide with a how are [things] going. Actually, as i write today, i'm not sure why i feel the need to delay sending that.)
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Sunday, September 4th, 2016 07:34 am
Today should be just about heaven. The rising sun is brightly illuminating the tops of the pines and there is a fair blue sky. I don't think there's a cloud until you get to Kansas. We're around 480' elevation here and a good bit up from the nearest creek.

Hunting season may have started, and i worry about how gun shots will play on Christine's nerves knowing the deer that visit us and that hunting lands are directly to our east. I should go buy purple paint to mark our boundary.

Last Sunday was moderately pleasant, too, and instead of yard work i took off into our woods. I crossed into the hunting lands and back a couple times -- there's a bag with three propane cans and something else i should go collect for the trash that i found. I assume they are empty, and i assume they were left by hunters and not the litterbug previous owners.

I started out near our eastern boundary and cut west, finding a massive sweetgum (liquidamber) and the large rock that had tickled my father. There's no loam in places - the clay shows through a bit. I saw a fairly common orchid and some wintergreen. The southwest corner is well marked with a pipe. Cutting back east i found thickets of autumn olive and the ground covered with stilt grass. I was waving my walking stick in the air ahead of me to clear the orb weaver webs and then whacking the grass, to alert any snakes. Despite looking at my location on my phone I got turned around more than once. It's Mirkwood, i tell you, Mirkwood back there. If there are Hobbit capturing spiders i will not be surprised.


It was a bit depressing, and i stalled on yard work this week. Today i will get back in the groove. In good news, there's no honeysuckle back there. I did see a place where one of the giant vines of poison ivy had apparently collapsed under it's own weight right at the edge of our clearing. I've no idea what to do with that: "nothing" sounds like the right plan.

--== ∞ ==--

Another thing that happened last Sunday: I attended my first Meeting for Business at the FUM meeting. Of two remarkable things, one was that they discerned about a slight change in wording in their minute to repeal HB2 (the "Bathroom" bill). An out transwoman in their community had concerns about how the wording made it sound as if the meeting did not reject the bathroom provision but all the others. No one was defensive (although there may have been a long email thread to which i was not party), there was compassionate discussion -- including for those who have been stirred up to fear -- and the minute was adjusted promptly.

The other remarkable thing was the informality. Over the week i've grown to realize that the formal practice of business meeting with which i am familiar is partly due to the large size of the meetings. I've not decided what i think, but i am becoming acquainted with the Quaker Police in my head, tut-tutting about the form.

The meta-Quaker police are going to tut-tut about THAT, as form is not the goal. And i think a spirit of Love and Justice moves unhindered in this community.
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Monday, April 11th, 2016 09:15 am
It's fifteen minutes into my do my most important **work** thing slot ... and i want to write. I haven't written for days.....

Top of mind is that this past week has been "off." I have a multitude of excuses:

1) Christine has been back in NC, and
2) The home we're under contract to buy was inspected Thursday, and
3) there's now six weeks until we move

but also

4) i forgot my meds two days in a row, and
5) i was drinking green tea (which is apparently caffeine deficient), and
6) one day last week i had very interrupted sleep.

This morning, when i was awake at 2 am, i dreaded that i would have another day with interrupted sleep. I was up for a few hours, then printed some paperwork. The running printer apparently woke Greycie Loo who came to snuggle me back to sleep. Good cat! Except for where she uses one sharp claw to get you to move into just the right position for her to settle down: ouch!

--== ∞ ==--

I saw my brother last night. I think he is comfortable sharing the stresses of his 21st century marriage with me -- i don't know who else he has to talk to. (I'll have to check with my seeester to see if he also shares with her.) They appear to have a fairly traditional marriage, with him in the high powered job and her taking care of the kids and doing volunteer legal work. They aren't, however, traditional, and it's not what they want. I called him on it though: they jointly prefer the security of his income more than what would be satisfying and meaningful. I hope it was helpful to say things out loud: i'm sure i didn't tell him anything he doesn't know, he just gets trapped in a mental circle of seeing external forces making him/them not have the life they want.

Hmm. Wow, that's familiar. How horrible a sister would i be if i pointed out it's the pattern our mother modeled for us? (Saying "you're being like Mom" is not a compliment between us siblings.)

--== ∞ ==--

I've retired from Meeting, pretty much. I have a huge backlog of associate clerk email to go through. So many people are saying such nice things. How does one gracefully accept the "we're happy for you and sad for us because you do so much?" I will attend the after meeting lunch so people can talk to me and will let a friend have a small party. Really, i would prefer to just fade out.

This has been a lesson for me in my shyness and how it affects my sense of connectedness. I have seen tears in friends eyes, and i'm shocked that they feel so strongly about me. People have taken the time to write wonderfully tender notes. I feel on one hand i'm a rotten person because i don't reach out to people like that when they leave: am i so self centered?

Yet, i feel like the real lesson is that there is a a very big difference between how i see myself (mousy and invisible) and the reality. I'm not sure WHAT the reality is, but i don't think i am as invisible or peripheral as i think i am. It's an unsettling feeling.


and as tears well up i'm pretty sure that i've been avoiding thinking about this for some weeks. I know i have been avoiding the email.

I don't know what to say.

--== ∞ ==--

Gratuitous librarian fun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLaWsjv92E0&feature=youtu.be
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Sunday, April 3rd, 2016 08:26 am
Yesterday i went through craft boxes. Paper, paint, pastels. Bits of wood, and mirrors, and test tubes and things saved from this that and the other. A pump to make a water fountain. Some sort of home automation stuff from pre-internet of things days.

I have consolidated a good deal, but there was a bit of ache as i declared certain projects abandoned, picked out stitches, or tossed things in the trash. It's not all quite ready to move, and i still have things to list on freecycle, but i am happy with my success in the purge. I wasn't ruthless: i'm happy to have kept things that i think will be fun to use with the kids. I am lighter by a bit. One reality is that these days bits for projects are easy to find on eBay or such: hoarding treasures isn't quite as necessary.

--== ∞ ==--

One of the Meeting kerfluffles, based on my being sharp with a newcomer when she interrupted worship during meeting for business (and her not understanding what was going on), may finally be at an end. That person had, last week, posted a notice that newcomers aren't actually welcome to Meeting for Business. This has caused quite a stir, and retriggered for me the guilt i feel at having not been more gentle but has also made me feel a bit bitter. I apologized sincerely, but this person seems to be carrying misunderstandings. She's finally posted to the list again, and her misunderstandings are clearly pronounced (we were not going to vote, and certainly not on whether to hear from her). I hope our worship and ministry committee will get its act together and post a statement about expected behaviors at meeting for business.

Not holding my breath for that, though.

I will be recording clerk today, so i need to clear my mind of this frustration and focus on the business at hand.
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Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 07:14 am
This morning i found in my Associate Clerk inbox a letter from the clerk of NCYM-FUM, the North Carolina Yearly Meeting of Friends that aligns itself with the anti-universalist branch of the Society of Friends (Friend United Meeting). He writes that three meetings have been released from their membership in that Yearly Meeting. Two (Poplar Ridge and Holly Spring) because they were involved in funding the formation of a new yearly meeting and one (New Garden) because it holds membership in another yearly meeting.

Reading a March summary from Chuck Fager (http://quakertheology.org/Preview-QT-26-03-01-2015.pdf), my interpretation of the action of North Carolina Yearly Meeting-FUM is this:

* Poplar Ridge is almost indistinguishable from a Baptist Church;
* Polar Ridge's pastor wanted to reduce the theological diversity of NCYM-FUM by insisting that all Meetings be aligned with NCYM-FUM and no other Quaker bodies.
* New Garden is the meeting most targeted because it is in fellowship with the more liberal branches of Friends "New Garden Friends Meeting is an inclusive, welcoming Christian faith community. Our members and attenders represent a wide range of religious backgrounds and traditions. Grounded in more than 250 years of Quaker heritage, New Garden remains a vital Meeting for those who seek that of God in every person." [Code word inclusive means they welcome LGBTQ members.]
* Poplar Ridge's attempt to dominate the Yearly Meeting business by demanding unity in theological stance has been incredibly divisive.
* The Yearly Meeting executive body, witnessing that Poplar Ridge had finally crossed a line in beginning exploration of starting a new Yearly meeting, had grounds to release Poplar Ridge and its financial partner Holly Spring before the gathering of the whole where the dissent and tumult would be even more charged. Unfortunately, by applying this particular judgement of a line to the disruptive and demanding meetings, they needed to equally apply it to the more universalist meeting that maintained a membership in a second yearly meeting.

So, i read this as a trimming of two extremes from the Yearly Meeting.

Ah, here's Chuck's more up-to-date blog post: http://afriendlyletter.com/breaking-carolina-bombshell-three-nc-meetings-expelled-will-it-stand/

It seems my reading aligns with his.

I'll note that were i to move to North Carolina i *might* sojourn with a North Carolina Yearly Meeting
(Conservative) meeting, but i could not join one. I would not be interested in any meeting that was aligned with NCYM-FUM -- except with the possibility of the expelled New Garden Friends Meeting. I'd be more at home at a Meeting that was part of Piedmont Friends Fellowship and Yearly Meeting. I've happily joined Friends at the Chapel Hill Friends Meeting in the past.
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Sunday, May 3rd, 2015 05:27 pm
"I don't suffer fools gladly," said our clerk, as he was consoling me. I'd asked about whether i was noticeably snippy with the clerk of a committee. His answer, "Yes, you are obviously having a problem with Friend Easy Going." I blanched, and he went out of his way to say it wasn't bad and i shouldn't be too hard on myself, and his colleagues just accept his explosions.*

I listened, but also recalled the recent lectures on how i intimidated the team and lost people's willingness to engage in calls. I wondered if the clerk has someone to tell him the truth.

I recall, too, my well appreciated boss of many years telling me that i didn't suffer fools gladly. There was an odd tone in his voice as he told me that: i wonder now if i missed a subtext.

Ah well, one gets older and hopefully keeps learning.

This was after worship, during which i visualized sitting in my meditation garden mandala. In front of me was a black mess of resentment, caused by Friend Easy Going's clerking style which seems to try and pass off all the work to others. "Resentment isn't like aphids," i thought. "I can't just spray soapy water on them. It's not like rot, or like dried out soil." The black mess became a large rock, in the way of my sense of orderly paths in the garden.

What do you do with rocks? My first thought was that you haul them out and make walls out of them. The rock grew bigger, more obviously a rock outcrop, and clearly impossible to move.

Ah, i realized: the rock is not my resentment, i am resenting the rock. The rock is a thing that is. You accept the rock as part of the lay of the land, and shape the garden with that land - not by imposing will on it. (Having a visualized garden it is far too easy to impose will.)

I know now Friend Easy Going is.** I need to accept that this Friend is not likely to change style any time soon, recognize that i will have the details and notes Friend Easy Going will forget to bring, and accept that the Friend has other gifts (much more social, approachable, ... easy going) that i do not. I can use my gifts to help make things smooth.

It's not like i am being misused. (I do wish Friend Easy Going would have more direct language when making requests.)

* And also the clerk let me know that Friend Easy Going has caused others to have issues with the Friend's leadership and that the Friend is aware that better clerking skills would serve all better.

** Christine completes my sentence with "is ... dumb as a rock," but getting others to do the work is not evidence of an inability to articulate.)
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Monday, April 13th, 2015 07:18 am
Yesterday i clerked my second Meeting for Business and, due to last minute scheduling shifts, i also attended our Worship and Ministry committee. I am trying to acknowledge my cranky feelings without dwelling too much in them: the clerk of the Worship and Ministry committee can't seem to manage the agenda task. I was happy the Clerk of Meeting could join us as he too could note that, yes, our committee was given a charge back in January or February and it wasn't just i as nag.

The next layer of grumpy was the couple persons who, having been given opportunity over MONTHS to contribute to retreat planning and have say, became all brainstormy and enthused about new ideas. I'm sorry but it's a week away and where were you when we had our planning calls and the months of discussions.

Similarly, one person who had had a chance to edit the State of the Meeting report via email, then in the early Worship and Ministry meeting, waited to have ideas during the Meeting for Business where editing as we go is not best practice for our community.

Amazingly, someone i respect praised my patience after meeting. I wonder about whether i would have this composure if i was still managing at work: I have so much feedback about how harsh i was as a manager. I know the harshness was the effect of years of stress, nonetheless it's hard not to frame it as failure. I remind myself that i held things together over the years of insane management, and if i was intimidating and oppressive, the team was being protected from stuff that is no longer going on.

Meeting for Business was very short, and a friend remarked on the shortness when i clerk. I think i have just been fortunate to have non-issues in the past two business meetings: surely issues will come forward as time moves on and i move to the role of Clerk.


Between committee meeting and Meeting for Business, my worship led me to reflect on what's next for Christine and i (settling here or not, my work life), and i feel led to be as open as i possibly can be to alternatives to the expected. I suppose i was somewhat affected by Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, and the vision of pursuing something that made my heart leap. The delight of thinking about forestry management on Friday, leads me to ask how can Christine and i find roles as very middle-aged sedentary persons that allow us to get involved with biodiversity in any of a number of ways?

I reflected back to a series of visions i had over ten years ago. The Divine gave me a huge seed (perhaps more a rhizome or corm) and told me that this was my happiness to plant in my garden. I remember the hesitation and fear i had: what if it ran rampant and took over everything? I distrusted, i was concerned about my control, my decisions and choices. And i overcame that fear and planted it. Over the years i've been aware that i have let that garden get trampled and apparently destroyed, but as soon as i take care, the happiness plant (some sort of lily) sprouts up green again. It persists and now cannot be eradicated.

Providence has given me glimpses of possibilities, of happinesses in work and life, and i know i need to be open to stepping out into the unknown. I think i'm slowly emerging from the deep rut, and so i will have a chance of seeing myself other possibilities. How to get there.....
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Monday, February 9th, 2015 07:30 am
I probably need a deep debriefing, but there's not time this morning.

Last week i spent time proposing that Meeting hold a Public Meeting for Worship on the night of the 22nd, in concert with other groups around the country marking the third month anniversary of Tamir Rice's death. I was chided for some of my proposal for a Usual White Error viz leadership and carried that heavily as earlier communication advices at work were also still weighing heavily: am i that oblivious, i wondered. By the end of the week, though, the chider had publicly apologized for misunderstanding me and she apologized to me in person. I value her thoughtfulness, so i am glad to find that i had not stumbled into the territory of the completely oblivious. (Although, i do think i wrote my original ideas out in a very unclear manner leading to the miscommunication.)

Meeting will be going ahead with this public witness, and i am glad. Two other folks are helping make it happen.

I clerked my first meeting for business yesterday. Early at the beginning the recording clerk had to nudge me to notice someone raising their hand. Ah, i don't need to just listen to those speaking: i need to listen to those listening! I noticed a Friends shaking her head in disagreement later in meeting, while a minute was being read. Ah, she has an issue, i noted. I kept her in mind as we approved, and was happy when she spoke about her concerns at the very end of meeting: she felt the minute was too optimistic but in the right direction. She felt more was needed.

Another point was realizing another Friend had asked a question and raised a concern that wasn't answered. The speaker hadn't heard her real question and was lecturing her. I interrupted, answered the question she had asked, and checked to see if that was the question. Later i checked to see how her concern still rested with her.

I think i did OK on my first time out. Friends were all supportive.

It was a short meeting for business, but it was plenty of spoons. But i had them.
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Wednesday, December 31st, 2014 07:33 am
Ministry out of the silence in Friends' worship has certain expected stylistic elements as well as stylistic elements that are derided by some. I roll my eyes at ministry that begins, "This morning on NPR, " or, "I read in the New York Times."

I was chagrined, then, when i found myself beginning ministry last Sunday with, "On Twitter this morning." Well, that wasn't exactly how i began, but it's close. I continue to carry concerns about the racial tensions with police and shared reading this story: https://storify.com/AtotheL/pregnant-woman-maced-in-delray-beach-fl . The point was that we are now able to listen easily to the stories that are being shared with us from those who experience oppression -- and that i am looking for how i am led to take my role in healing the brokenness.

I still only see that i need to listen and witness. I wonder about accompaniment: if we were to move into a house, should we buy in a neighborhood that is far more diverse? The obvious place to select would be excluded by my criteria that we do not buy anywhere that has obvious weakness due to sea-level rise or liquefaction during an earthquake.

I talk periodically with a woman in Meeting who is much more connected to the area social justice community. We've talked about this and both recognize that we need to be followers of black leadership, we need to listen.

We have had a police incident at the Meetinghouse this month, though, and so this may be where we need to do more than listen.
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Monday, July 7th, 2014 07:38 am
ARGH, lost a draft.

* mainlined "Witches of East End." Soap opera. Whatever. Meh

* Sister in law working for a NGO that trains North Koreans to understand international business law
* Niece S is 2, cute. Knows how to tantrum.
* Nephew D is doing Houdini escapes from rope and handcuffs. "Don't throw your brother into the pool, i'll do it" says the mom about her hogtied son. Soccer, triathalon, nascent 6 pack abs on the 7 year old, good grief.
* Nephew Z wonderful to talk to about fish and dinosaurs and natural history. He's brillant! And perhaps not as nurtured as i would nurture his interest: a geek among not-geeks. So, i've ordered John McPhee's Founding Fish to give to him when i see him next. He's not a geeky geek: he has a definite talent for social flair and attention (and i cannot help but project that as learned to cover his geekiness).

Elephant issues may have been pressing because I was under the weather: i noted a definite uptick in my energies yesterday. (I had worried so about having the kids over.) With a little more strength, i am able to be present for the Elephant.

In worship yesterday i reflected about the varieties of skill different folks bring to worship. Apparently, having the chairs arranged in one way or another causes significant distress for certain folks. My first reaction is incredulity with an undercurrent of "You're doing it wrong." But with reflection came some compassion. What is it like to first come? I think of a minister who joined a few friends and i for silent prayer ages ago and her restlessness and walking. For some, just the stillness is a challenge. Then, there's being present in the stillness, then learning how to actively listen. And it could be scary: i can appreciate that. I can imagine worship may be a wilderness for some. So, i understand that for some, the framework of no noises, chairs just so, is a signal to center, a framework to hold the center.

But i still come to this conclusion: if you are distressed because you cannot find "your chair" you need to be in that distress for a while and learn about it.

I imagined worship as a landscape: cultivated land on the edge of a wood. I remember walking with some kids at the retreat center through the redwoods and the fear one child had about being in the woods. For me, it's a delight, even though i have stories of being hurt or lost (in the real world), and while i can't think of an experience in worship where i have been hurt or lost, i know one can encounter unpleasant and difficult experiences.

I suspect, as someone who is chronically depressed, i can so easily be lost that i don't associate the experience with worship. If one did first encounter existential despair in the silence of worship - -that could make it a very scary place.

In my reflections, offering my impatience up to be changed by compassion, i then began to ask: if i feel so comfortable with worship, what is my responsibility to the community? How can i comfort others as i comforted that child in the wood? Also, with what am i so comfortable that i need to move out of my comfort to a place i feel uncertain and scared?

Well, the latter is offering vocal ministry. That is a challenge and a stretch for me: when my listening is rich and powerful for me -- what am i to share? The near sermons? The full lessons? How do i not ramble on to the point of distracting? Yet if i share just the queries, will there be enough signal to cut through the noise?

And i did offer vocal ministry yesterday. The noise of my poor speaking skills meant at least one person became certain i had said "competence" where i was trying to say "confidence." Had i offered up the stronger message, the instruction i was feeling so powerfully, would that confusion have existed? On the other hand, the person clarified the message for any others who misheard by understanding that the query was about confidence despite mishearing me.

So, adventures.

Work calls.
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Thursday, March 27th, 2014 06:39 am
One common tradition in Friends Meetings is to read queries to the gathered Meeting for Worship. In Pacific Yearly meeting, Faith and Practice has twelve sets of queries read once a month. In the past at my meeting, they were read on the first Firstday (Sunday) in the month.

Some particular someone got a bee in his bonnet about this being programmed worship. We've dropped the practice despite others in the meeting thinking that the queries should be read.

During Wednesday evening worship, a rare occasion for me, i found myself thinking about queries.

One thought is to lead a return of the practice.

Another thought is to return to my own practice of journaling in response to queries.

Periodically i've gone through practices of responding to questions, not just the Yearly Meeting's queries, but also some others. I'm imagining drawing a random number and responding from a set list.

Here are some ideas
  1. How have i furthered the cause of social justice in the past day (week) and what opportunities have i missed? (I thought about this during worship and the drive home. I don't see many places where i act to support social justice, but i noted by buying from Amazon instead of REI i supported the distribution center business. I think i may find this query good practice.)
  2. How have i practiced compassion in the past day (week) and what opportunities have i missed?
  3. How have i conserved natural resources in the past day (week) and what opportunities have i missed?
  4. In what way did i best steward my time and what opportunities have i missed?
  5. What was the most beautiful moment in the past day (week)?
  6. What has caused frustration in the past day (week) and how may i go forward?
  7. Are there concerns that i may carry for another?
  8. Are there concerns i may ask another to carry for me?
  9. Have i been using those tools that i know make my life better? (Or that i'm experimenting with?)
  10. Are there yams[1] i've eaten in the past day, yams getting cold on the plate?
  11. What abundance have i experienced in the past day (week)?
  12. What joy have i experienced in the past day (week)?
  13. Have i been attending to the transitions (joy/flow/meander) and when may i have missed the opportunity?

Do you have any offerings for me?

[1] http://elainegrey.livejournal.com/1041377.html?thread=1116129#t1116129
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Monday, December 9th, 2013 06:35 am
I'm listening to 1493 on my commute home with surprise that i am learning so much about China. However, as the most developed country at the time, the motivation for Columbus' travels, and the destination for most of the silver mined in the Americas, it makes sense. The author admits to simplifying, so i do note the absence of India in the narrative.

It would be very interesting to read a history of China-India relations from 2000 BC to the present.


Winter blues making headway again with me, and Christine's nadir was tangible yesterday. The laundry load still taunts me. Christine's done some laundry in the interim, but i should do a significant bout tonight.


I'm struggling again with the concept of community, where "struggling" means something like looking at an optical illusion and trying to figure out the reality of it. Something cracked open in Meeting for Business yesterday, a sense that maybe i do have an experiential understanding of community but deny it. Then again, i feel very un-tethered. Could i walk away from Meeting without noticing? My feeling is "yes" given that i found a similar time for worship. My experiential understanding of the Divine, though, has convinced me that being in community is necessary for me to honor that understanding.

I'd spent Worship turning over the idea of community in my mind, watching my mind ponder art projects, and coming back to a few questions about what spiritual growth do i aspire to in the next couple of months and what is community, anyhow.

During Meeting for Business, the clerk read the queries for the month:

Meetings for Worship and Business are the center of our spiritual
community. There, as we come to know each other in the Spirit, we
build the "beloved community."

Mutual respect and care in the Meeting form the foundation from which we can test, support, and exercise leadings of the Spirit. At its
best, the Meeting community provides a framework for us to learn and practice mutual care, which strengthens us as we act in the world.

All members of the Meeting community should share in the care of one another. While respecting privacy, we must be aware of and sensitive to each other's needs. We must also be willing to ask for assistance when we are in need.

I wasn't paying attention but scribbling out a report to give later in the meeting. Part of the breaking open occurred when the Friend sitting next to me spoke about how important the community was to him, and he said something to imply the importance of the community, the connection, wasn't voluntary. he was drawn in.

Am i drawn in?

Or to i hold myself back, a wall of intellectualization shielding me from interdependence, dependence? I see no need to experiment with withdrawal to see how connected i am: but what about experimenting with depending? How does one do that? (Other than my whole participation, as it is?)
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Monday, September 30th, 2013 07:24 am
Friday was intense. It began with four hours talking with New Manager (verdict: OMG this is great, i am so relieved and happy, members of the team were awed that he was so reasonable) (Does it say something about New Director's dysfunction that the team is awed that he is reasonable and the office manager was delighted he managed to return the guest card key?), lunch saying goodbye to my old Tech Lead, then an little outing to relax together at the near by driving range and bay trail.

I came home and edited photos, setting the theme for the weekend: photos, photos, photos. None of my photos from the walk were particularly exciting. We had watched kite boarders for a bit and i tried a few shots.

San Mateo Kitboarding

That evening i went to the native plant keying group with my eBay'ed dissection kit.


From Saturday Morning

Random observation: Lightroom 5 is an order of magnitude larger in file size than Lightroom 3.

I noted that my laptop hadn't been restarted in two weeks and did so. A notice popped up that some software i never use had difficulty initializing, so i headed to the Applications directory. An hour or so later i've gone through and swept out or updated a dozen applications.


2013 Harvest Festival

After puttering, i was off to take morning photos of our Meeting's harvest festival for the next year's publicity. Then home to edit. Christine was blue in the morning; she ordered a refill of a prescription late and has a gap. We had a pleasant several hours together on the deck, and then i was back to the festival. I had volunteered for a shift for the first time -- and scheduled that over a late lunch with at friend.

2013 Harvest Festival

I did have a surprise in that my three peppers -- two hot, one sweet -- "won" "most beautiful" in our inaugural produce contest. "Won" as the voting was with change, and there's not much discernment going on. Nonetheless, it was a rush. And Christine is terribly proud and must get a photo of me with the ribbon.


Then i participated in clean up, finding a new favorite packing job, and then then, with the younger men of meeting, loaded the tables -- sawhorses and doors -- into the truck. I kept the lumber aligned with my center of mass, and i'm delighted to find that i am not terribly sore after such a good work out.

Sunday, instead of worship, i spent time with the middle school and elementary school joint class. Oy, i am so shy. It was a very draining hour, but it's the first hump. Maybe next time i won't be so drained.

Home, and Christine wanted to go out to lunch, so we went to our favorite diner-like spot and had a pleasant meal and planned our meals for the week. Then off to the grocery, which was crowded with spill over from the Beyond Wonderland rave being held at the local amphitheater. (We heard the beat all weekend.)

ViolaMiniature rose

All afternoon i photographed details of flowers with the x10 magnifying lens and with the additional macro lens that came with the wide angle kit. When the camera flashed its overheated warning -- the first time i've ever seen it -- i went inside and edited for a while. I continued editing into the evening.

The diffuser box is great. Christine is delighted with these images. I feel like i am still learning a vocabulary of edits and settings and tools. The pea flower i had on my dissection table was so small, so hard to handle! I know i don't have all the study images i would have liked.

Must get to a meeting.
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Sunday, September 8th, 2013 08:16 am
Thursday night's configuration switch (which should, if managed well, be completed in 5-10 minutes) took three hours. The first couple of hours were due to management issues: folks not following the plan. The third hour had one technical issue (application failing to talk to its database after a bounce, wtf is going on with that?) and one operator error (staff member failing to understand what they were supposed to do).

Friday morning i was cranky.

I cannot believe that was a four day week. It felt like a month had passed since the Labor day weekend. I'd spent time in post mortem meetings about the August install and meetings wringing hands over the November install: death watches, as a friend suggested, picking up on the theme of the post mortem. I'd trouble-shot, and a stack of the trouble shooting had nothing to do with my team's work. I am, apparently, one of the "best" (where best equals willing, i think) plus, as authentication and authorization is entangled with everything, it's easy for everyone to point to it as the root cause of a mysterious issue.

My counterpart said, "Go home." And as i wanted my staff member to "go home," i did. Well, i set skype to "invisible" while she set hers to "away," thus i witnessed her responding to a team member's request for help.

I then spent the afternoon and evening on the questions facing our meeting's Nominating committee. Yesterday morning, i followed up on details and put more data into my Numbers spreadsheet.

As an aside: the Number's application sucks when it comes to managing something like 300 rows and 9 columns. I have to wait while the CPU use goes to over 100% (dual core CPU, so it's possible) if i change a row so its sort order needs to be reevaluated. This is what you get for $20 vs paying for excel. It's pretty, but maybe i just need to learn how to really use mySQL.

I also spent some time with Christine, who is still recovering from the grief and frustration of her trip east to see family (the week after the August install: we are all still recovering). She's also missed me as i disappear into deep work distractions or into my relief work of peering at Friends' process or my photography or botany research.

This morning i posted the following to a mailing list of Quaker friends:

T--'s observation, of discovering something new about a dear friend [she writes about newly noticing birds in her daily walks in the woods], leads me to write about my new hope.

I think i've written about the depression i've wrestled with over the past years and how that is tied up with my employment: my workplace is wringing all the management skills out of me, particularly the gambling part of management. Gambling? Yes, the decisions one is forced to make with too few resources. Just like someone choosing to fix their car instead of pay for health insurance (because without the car they can't get to work, yet...), when one has too few staff, one is gambling that not working on this to work on that will allow you to eventually get back and fix this. And then there's the engagement with people, which, for this introvert, is pretty costly, too.

I think i do the management well, but it's not the part of me that hums and brings in more energy than it takes. It sucks me dry.

This spring i engaged with a career counselor and was blessed to be dropped by one who would have probably led me down the wrong path, to find just the right person. She led me through an exercise of brainstorming that has opened me to how i can take a current joy and start it down the way to another type of employment.

Over the past eighteen months i've been intentionally photgraphing California wildflowers and then working to identify them. I've gone from "I have a blue flower" to learning patterns of plant families to taking flowers from my garden and gently dissecting them. My photography has improved, and i might just commit to always carrying a tripod.

As a move to shift my career, I'm working with my spouse, Christine, to create iPad apps to teach the skills for identifying flowers.

I need a deep grounding for work, and as i run away from management (which i find to be a type of ministry) i needed to find a similar spiritual grounding for this work. The importance of diversity in an ecosystem and helping people be aware of difference: yes, that's of value, but...

And i held on to that "But..." in worship for some time.

And then it came to me, how important it is for each of us to be seen. We're not just blue flowers or men or women: we are distinct, and we want others to truly see us. To truly see a flower, you have to see the whole plant, and to see that plant you really need to take the time to look. To know each other, we have to take the time to listen and observe.

To distinguish between the different genus and species of popcorn flower[1] one has to look at the bristly hairs on the plant. I think of my undergraduate years in physics. Professors would exchange the names of another woman and i when calling on us in class: we were close friends but we were not interchangeable women in physics! Not only could visual observation distinguish us, but our research interests and -- oh, how could i forget how differently we went about solving problems: I used a sensible visual understanding of the math and she just did crazy things -- our problem solving styles were quite distinctive.

How sweet it is when we are known, when you know me well enough to know that drawing me a picture (or graphing out the data) is going to help me understand quickly. We want you to slow down, understand where our birds live and our spiders spin their webs, understand whether our bristles are soft or not, remember to draw us a picture. Taking the time to know others, to observe all the distinctive aspects, as opposed to putting folks in a box (Lesbian or Gay or Bisexual or Transgendered or, damnit if you have to put this writer in one, call it Queer) and being done: this is a ministry.

I'm not sure if any iPad app can express this ministry, but that understanding is guiding my vision of how to express my passion going forward. I don't know if our app model will be enough to feed us or if it brings us attention for other employment (more gigs for Christine, contract work in environmental monitoring and data analysis for me), but it's a hope i can nourish and grow.

I'm delighted by reading T--'s adventure with her creek, accepting her narrative as another person's adventure in practicing taking the time to see.

[1] http://www.flickr.com/photos/elainegreycats/8622714749/in/photolist-e8XEFF-eH9bXy-eH3aKe-eqwfUr-ebuA8j/