Monday, March 18th, 2019

Back When Time Existed

I swear to you, that once upon a time, there was time.Everybody had it.Days were long and afternoons expanded as need There was time to make jello for dinner, Breakfast was leisurelyPeople cleaned their Tupperware cracks with a special gadget.There was time to make a macrame placematHouses were quiet. Phones rang once or twice a day.There was space for everything. One kind of pan, one half a closet was plenty, four mugs, four plates. one bathroomEven bookworms had only one bookshelf. Books got written, companies made money with just one good product, genius occurred with no breathlessness.TV was watched with no sense of “wasting” time because there was plenty left over.People finished all their tasks for the day in a day and slept with no “to do” list floating over their headThey slept in one of their two pairs of pajamas in blankets from a wedding shower long ago.Back when there was time, back when there was time. When enough was enough.  


Friday, March 8th, 2019

A Lenten Promise–Heading Toward Middle Ground

The season of Lent is here. About a quarter of Americans observe Lent—including 61 percent of Catholics and 20 percent of Protestants. Lent lasts forty days and goes from Ash Wednesday until the Thursday before Easter. It is a time of abstinence, of giving things up—most often foods and luxuries—as a way to shift focus from the secular to the spiritual.

The Christian observance of Lent does not dominate non-Christians in the way that Christmas does, though many religions engage in the ritual of self-denial as do even non-religious adults. In general, religious self-denial is a way to mean business about honoring God and the sacred and recognizing the reality of suffering in life. This “fasting”—from food or luxuries or worldly activities—balances the magnetic pull of secular life. Ramadan for Muslims is a month-long time of spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion. It is specific about abstinence requiring no eating from sundown to sunrise, no smoking, and no sexual activity. Jews practice an absolute fast for 24 hours at Yom Kippur with no eating and drinking at all. Hinduism has several periods of fasting wrapped around the ascending and descending moon. The New York Times has reported on Lent’s observance among secular adults including former Christians sentimental about their roots who see it as a time for discipline and self-improvement. 

After the fasting comes the feasting. Big fat feasting. There are special foods in abundance with treats galore. No holds barred. And so, we live in a rhythm of fasting and feasting, feasting then more fasting. We feast and we are fat in so many ways. We live in a time of extremes with people thinking and being at opposite ends of the continuum. We are workaholics and then playaholics. One percent of the world’s population hold’s most of the world’s wealth while fifty percent live in poverty. The political parties in the US take positions at opposite ends of their political continuum and rarely venture toward the middle. We act out rightness and wrongness with little awareness that leaves space to find common ground. We are religiously divided with some hanging on tight to the end of the continuum of traditional belief allowing for no change and with the disenfranchised former believers and Atheists growing larger at the other far end.

We are in desperate need of the middle where balance lives. Could the Lenten season be a time to commit to growing a middle ground? It will be a tough forty days even if you only practice in your own home. You can grow the middle by:

  1. Staying when you want to bolt when a conversation of hot differences emerges and shifting to listening only.
  2. Slow down your reaction to a repugnant idea by asking ,“What don’t I like? What do I like? What do I find interesting?—and sharing your thoughts.
  3. Build in a count of thirty when you want to indulge in too much food and drink, too much screen time, too much rightness to allow yourself space to truly choose.
  4. Give up the concept of “right and wrong” and use the concept of “dilemma” or “conundrum” that needs a practical resolution.
  5. Try some silence to create a natural balance in yourself that will help you find the center of any continuum of opposition you happen to be on.

New behavior needs exaggeration and focus. What if this Lenten season was used to abstain from staying in opposition to others and to practice meeting in the middle?


Monday, November 12th, 2018

Reflections on Elections on Veterans’ Day

What a bold, optimistic experiment our nation and government is. So idealistic. So wise about the dynamics of Power. So against autocratic rule. It was designed and created by men (what might have been if women were in the room!) who had just rebelled against their former country and they needed to create a new nation.

I thought about this  as I left the house to vote at the local school on Tuesday. It was pouring down rain, the lines were long, and the system unable to handle it with ease. I didn’t mind the difficulty. Our vote is not a casual happening. It is the moment that power is dispersed across our country. It seemed right that it took some work, discomfort and endurance to use my power. I saw people I knew who I was aware would not vote as I would. And it felt grand. Profound. We can disagree about our vote and have a nice conversation in line. That’s our premise.

While in the Peace Corps, I was in Panama City., Panama. The US had just had an election. My then, husband and I were watching the Inauguration of Nixon in a doctor’s office waiting room. The Star Spangled Banner was playing. There were five Panamanians in the room with us. All were quiet. Then a Panamanian man asked why we were not standing for our national Anthem. He went on to say that it was a miracle to see a transition of power without violence. We jumped up, hands over our hearts, glad the anthem was long enough to allow us a moment of pride rather than what the shame or indifference the Panamanians perceived. It took a foreigner to give us a kick in the pants to make us more aware.

After voting, on Tuesday, I went to the Mall to the Apple Store with my husband. I ended up with three hours on my hands while the sick computer was backed-up. I have low Mall tolerance. I wandered and poked about. I was still thinking about voting and wearing my “I voted” sticker proudly.

I didn’t see anyone else with a sticker. I began to ask people about voting. It started out casually. I ended up talking with young women clerks who looked to be in their early  mid- twenties. None had voted and none were going to. All were good at helping me in the store—nice and competent. I only asked one question; “Did you vote?”

Here are direct quotes from my tiny sample:

—No I didn’t vote. Would have had to wake up too early. After work I have to get to my kids daycare

—My husband talks just like Trump, so it doesn’t bother me

—They are all crooks so why vote?

—I don’t get paid enough to be able to vote

—My break isn’t long enough and I don’t know where to go anyway

—I never have voted. Neither do my mom and dad

—All I know is school is out and I had to pay a sitter more than I make

—This isn’t for President, right?

—I don’t know the people so I shouldn’t vote

—My boyfriend did

—Is this Oprah’s thing?

—Won’t matter to Trump

—I know I should but it takes so long

—I would, but I support Trump

I think of Veteran’s Day and lives lost to protect Democracy and I want to go back to the Mall and give the young ladies the kick in the pants awareness I got in Panama. Then I’ll give a kick to schools that don’t teach where Democracy came from and how fragile it can be and why it is worth fighting for. Next I’ll boot our election process that makes it difficult for people to vote.

Last I’ll give a kick in the shins to every politician who messes with elections, who doesn’t respect or understand a fair fight, and doesn’t understand that our democratic process is what creates our unique value in the world. It needs to be valued, protected and modernized.









Sunday, November 4th, 2018

Grab Moment of Contentment



“If a moment of contentment floats my, grab it, extend it, and fill up.”

I just wrote that sentence to end my weekly Sunday Connection email to my family. I’m hoping it didn’t ruin my moment of contentment!! Too much awareness can kill any experience. You begin to experience experiencing which is a joy killer.

My moment of contentment:

—Being in bed with clean linens and pillows just right—a rare confluence.

—Seeing my rag tag bedroom with different eyes—my dad’s easy chair, my mother-in-law’s dresser, the kids table my children used, the grapefruit plant started with the seed from a hospital breakfast on the day of the birth of my first born, my dad’s dusty fedora on top of the book shelf, Mexican tin angels guarding, and books upon books upon books.

—Healing sleep. Three weeks of bronchitis with 2 am coughing fits that involved waking up to use steam, making coffee (red cup) and using inhalers and waiting for enough calm to return to bed. Bless Nyquil. The last three nights have been the kind of sleep with dream of having. Deep, comfy, restorative.

—Being grateful for this imposed fallow time. I have clarity about my “work” that feels good and so am ready to dig in. I got real with me without knowing it. I do want to write and support people doing the work I did—organizational development and I do want to support my new companion book to I PRAY ANYWAY: Devotions for the Ambivalent. I have a strong interest in the trend of the shape shifting going on in religion/spiritual life today. I’ll figure out how to do it using social media my way. (Didn’t need a consultant.) Needed drifty, sleepy, drugged out time in bed!!

—Fall holds on outside my window, not sparkling so much now, but a slow glow that hits my poignancy button. It’s all all all all too perfect and fleeting, which is the recipe for poignant.

I could shift my lens in a blink of the eye and complain about each thing I just extolled. And so I won’t blink. I’ll relish. Like I said to my kids, “If a moment of contentment floats by, grab it, extend it and fill-up.”


This book kind of sort of fits in with my thought.

The Art of the Wasted Day

by Patricia Hampl