short excerpts...other writings...upon occasion or as prompted...
The tiger in the water? A representation of my life -- spirit and environment!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Away from Blogging for a Week

With the beginning of Holy Week, I will be taking a week off from blogging so as to spend as much time as possible in prayer, which, in reality, will be considerably less than usual and certainly far less than I would like.

Unfortunately, I cannot take a week off from traveling and am sad that I will be on a plane between Ohio and Texas Thursday evening, which means that I will miss Maundy Thursday Mass, which is one of my favorites. (The year that Fr. Greg, a priest assigned to our parish on an interim basis, was here, 2007, I was one of the 12 whose feet he washed; then he asked the 12 of us to wash the feet of everyone in the church -- it took a long time, but it was a very good experience for everyone.)

I even have to work on Good Friday this year. Usually I can manage my schedule so that I can get off work. Fortunately, the senior manager I am traveling with is also Catholic, and I have charged him with finding us a Mass in San Antonio. I hear that there is a wonderful cathedral near the Alamo. (He is reliable; we have attended Mass together during our required travels in Korea and in Germany at churches that he has tracked down.) I have told our San Antonio branch that once we know the time of Mass, they will have to work my meetings around that time. I will be back early Saturday afternoon, in time for Easter vigil at Old Mission, which is where I really prefer to be -- in my little town which one visitor once called "namolein" (Russian: "saturated in prayer").

I will be back after Easter, and I wish all of you a wonderful, blessed week and as much time as you want to spend with God.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Things That Grow

When my sister was in kindergarten, she invited a new friend to stay overnight. They played a lot. Then, they got bored.

My mommy wanted them to have a good time, so she promised to take them to see a movie. My sister and her friend were very excited!

Mommy made the promise before she knew whether there were any children's movies playing in town, so she had to look in all the newspapers. She looked and looked. She could not find any children's movies playing.

Finally, Mommy found a good movie at a movie theatre she had never been to before. She was so pleased! The movie was about Pinocchio. She knew we all liked the story of Pinocchio. So, all of us got dressed up pretty—even Daddy!

We got into the car. Mommy had directions and told Daddy where to go. None of us had ever been in that part of town before, so it took a little time and effort to find the theatre. It was an outdoors theatre and sort of hidden away from view.

When we arrived, the movie was about to start. My sister and her friend became even more excited.

We drove up to the marquee. Big, red letters told us we had found the Pinocchio film. Mommy read the red letters and changed her mind about taking us to see the movie. She told Daddy to turn around, and he did so immediately.

Mommy and Daddy took us to Baskin-Robbins instead of the movie. I like ice cream very much, so that was okay with me. My sister and her friend, though, would have preferred the movie. They did not understand why Mommy changed her mind, and Mommy could not explain very well. She said that some day they would understand why the words on the marquee had made her change her mind.

The marquee said, "Pinocchio: It wasn't his nose that grew!" So, what grew?

Conclusion Sometimes you just cannot figure out parents. (And they say that kids are capricious!)

This story is excerpted from a collection of vignettes that I helped Doah, my severely mentally challenged youngest son, to write and publish several years ago (copyright 2003). It was my attempt to help him understand literacy and the purpose of writing and reading.

Friday, March 12, 2010

In Plain View

Mommy really does have trouble with details. This is especially true if she cannot see them.

One time Mommy was invited to a posh hotel to deliver a speech in Washington, D.C. Mommy dressed up very fancy. She looked very nice. She gave her speech, and she left the posh hotel. For some reason, maybe because the weather was very nice, she decided to walk the mile to the metro station.

First, though, Mommy stopped off at the bathroom. There, she combed her hair, washed her hands, and put her backpack on. (Mommy almost always carries a backpack.) Then, she left the posh hotel.

As Mommy walked through the hotel lobby, people smiled. Mommy thought that they were being friendly. Well, maybe she did look a little funny in fancy clothes, high heel shoes, and a backpack. That did not bother Mommy. She was used to people thinking that she looked funny carrying a backpack when she was all dressed up.

Mommy walked all the way down Massachusetts Avenue to the metro station. People smiled at her on the way, and she smiled and waved back. It was such a nice day, and she was having such a nice walk. Why would she not want to smile?

When she got to the metro station, some nice lady came up to her and told her that she was having problems with her skirt again. She told Mommy that the back of her skirt and slip were rolled up behind her backpack. Mommy did not check that detail before leaving the bathroom; after all, she could not see the skirt in the back. And that is how Mommy ended up prancing about the nation's capital in her pink panties.

Conclusion: Watching where you are going is not always enough. Sometimes you also have to check your back side!

This story is excerpted from a collection of vignettes that I helped Doah, my severely mentally challenged youngest son, to write and publish several years ago (copyright 2003). It was my attempt to help him understand literacy and the purpose of writing and reading.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Why the Painting Is Smeared

A man stands on a terrace that overlooks a deep valley. He is absorbed by painting the golden clouds of the oncoming sunset. A while later he pauses to assess his progress. He starts walking backward so he can view his painting from a distance. He is unaware that he has reached the very edge of the terrace and that the next step he is about to take will be toward the valley below.

You are standing a few steps away from him. You realize what is going on. Thoughts race through your mind. What shall you do to save him?

If you scream, "Stop, look back," you may scare him and make him lose his balance and fall. If you attempt to take hold of him, both of you may lose yur balance and fall. There is only one way to save him: smear his painting.

When he sees your hand moving against his precious work of art, his feet will freeze, and he will move toward you with all his strength. Only then may you take hold of him and explain to him what was about to take place. Yes, you have smeared his painting, but you have also saved his life.

The above story is excerpted from a book, Metaphors of Islamic Humanism, by my friend, Dr. Omar Imady, copyright 2005.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Assume That the Problem Will Be Resolved

Often, problems become greater rather than disappear because subconsciously we anticipate trouble. By remaining calm and focused on the task, not on the complications surrounding the task, we can often resolve the problem rather than simply coping with it. Imagining the problem as already resolved will in many cases lead to its successful resolution.

Several years ago I flew from Novosibirsk (USSR) to Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Siberian Air. (Yes, there really is a Siberian Airlines.)

When I arrived, the Uzbek border guard paged through my American passport several times, looking at me occasionally. I knew instantly what was going on in his head. First, I had no visa for Uzbekistan. Second, since the aircraft was Russian and the flight was coming in from Siberia, only Russian- and Uzbek-speaking guards were manning the post. No one expected an American to be flying that particular route. So, what the guard was thinking was: "What? No visa! And how on earth am I going to talk about this with her?"

He tentatively asked in Russian if I, by chance, spoke Russian. I conceded that I, by chance, did.

He smiled and said, "Great! We can communicate!"

Then he went on to explain that he could not find my Uzbek visa. I assured him that he was indeed correct in his ascertainment that there was no Uzbek visa. I went on to explain that I had heard that it was possible to use my Russian visa for up to 72 hours and then get an Uzbek visa in-country. He told me that this possibility did not exist. Only if one were to stay less than 72 hours could one use the Russian visa -- and I was staying several weeks.

Well, this was certainly a dilemma. However, I assumed that the problem would be resolved, that I would not spend the rest of my life beside the border station in Tashkent. So, I said to the guard, "Well, we seem to have a problem. What are we going to do about it?"

He laughed and said that we could not do anything about it, but he could, once the whole planeload of people had passed through. He had me wait in a very comfortable transit lounge, where I could watch Uzbek television in Russian, and true to his word, he got me a visa: a multi-entry, multi-year visa and obviously felt very pleased with himself. He even had it charged to the organization for which I was consulting in Uzbekistan.

I thanked him profusely and headed off toward customs, step two for entering the country, which I did many times thereafter, assisting the Minisitry of Education with many (I hope, positive) changes.


Excerpted and adapted from a collection of vignettes, copyright 2003.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Book of Vignettes: Why Did I Write the Book

Recent experiences with Alaskan Airlines that threatened to undo my Lenten pledge to give up frustration brought to mind the reason I wrote a book of vignettes, several of which I have reproduced on this blog, several years ago. Here is that introduction:

Although I had discussed many of the concepts in this book with a friend from time to time, the thought to collect them in a book came somewhat later from an overheard conversation while traveling from Salt Lake City to New York City. A very heavy man was unable to fit into the seat on the plane. He immediately became angry and demanded that the stewardess do something about it. She did help him, of course, but the situation left both of them angry and frustrated, wandering in a wasteland of negative emotions. He felt humiliated, and she felt abused. Neither realized that a different approach -- asking rather than demanding, using humor, and looking for elusive pink flowers instead of stepping on cacti -- would have brought them both a good day rather than a bad day.

That overheard conversation caused me to think of many difficult situations I have encountered in my travels, all of which have ended quite pleasantly. For example, I have entered Moldova, Russia, and Uzbekistan at one time or another without a visa (not intending to break any laws but just because "accidents" happen). In every case, someone helped me get the appropriate visa or get permission to enter without the visa. Once, in Chisinau, Moldova, a consular officer at the airport offered to take me into town on his way home when the people who were to meet me did not show up for the very delayed plane and it was so late that all the taxis had departed -- he, the passport control officer, the customs officer, and I were the only ones left. I have been able to talk airlines into all kinds of traditional and unusual accommodations. . . . On several occasions, I have been able to get people from "enemy" countries together to complete mutually satisfying projects.

Moreover, because I tend to miss details, interesting things happen to me, giving lots of people opportunities to help me: arriving late at night in Munich without a hotel reservation (I ended at a bed-and-breakfast with Germans and learning about the country from people who live its daily life), arriving in Siberia three times without a return ticket and once without any money to purchase one (I made friends at an educational institution there who came to my rescue and filled their bookshelves with hard-to-obtain-for-them books), and so on and so forth.

What makes my experiences different from that of the overweight man? I started to analyze the reasons and discovered that there are many ways in which to defuse anger, get what one needs or wants, and leaving everyone feeling happy. Those stories are the core of this book of vignettes.

Note: Tomorrow I will post one of the stories mentioned above.


Excerpted and adapted from a collection of vignettes, copyright 2003.

About Me

My photo
I am the mother of 4 birth children (plus 3 others who lived with us) and grandmother of 2, all of them exceptional children. Married for 42 years, I grew up in Maine, live in California, and work in many places in education, linguistics, and program management. In my spare time, I rescue and tame feral cats and have the scars to prove it. A long-time ignorantly blissful atheist converted by a theophanic experience to Catholicism, I am now a joyful catechist. Oh, I also authored a dozen books, two under my pen name of Mahlou (Blest Atheist and A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God).

My Other Blogs

100th Lamb. This is my main blog, the one I keep most updated.

The Clan of Mahlou
. This is background information about various members of the extended Mahlou family. It is very much a work still in progress. Soon I will begin posting excerpts from a new book I am writing, Raising God's Rainbow Makers.

Modern Mysticism. This blog discusses the mystical in our pragmatic, practical, realistic, and rational 21st century world and is to those who spend some or much of their time in an irrational/mystical relationship with God. If such things do not strain your credulity, you are welcome to follow the blog and participate in it.

Recommended Reading List

Because I am blog inept, I don't quite know how to get a reading list to stay at the end of the page and not disappear from sight. Therefore, I entered it as my first post. I suppose that is not all that bad because readers started commenting about the books, even suggesting additional readings. So, you can participate with others in my reading list by clicking here.
I do post additional books as I read them and find them to be meaningful to me, and therefore, hopefully, meaningful to you. One advantage of all the plane traveling I do is that I acquire reading time that I might not otherwise take.