Saturday, August 23, 2008

Doctors should teach nutrition
not pharmaceutical addiction.
What do you think?

Pass it On

I was listening to the Wailers as we were putszing around town today. It occurred to me in a flourish that this is one of the more beautiful songs I have heard. Below are the lyrics. I am still trying to figure out the "why behind" some of the word choices but it is clear that this song is a reminder to love one another, pay attention to your heart, and live in the light. And with my hand cupped over my mouth, leaning into your ear, I whisper -- "Pass it on......."

Bunny Wailer
Pass it On

What your hands do,
It's your own eyes that see,
So won't you judge you're actions
To make sure the results are clean.
It's your own conscience that is gonna remind you
That it's your heart and nobody else's
That is gonna judge.

Be not selfish in your doings,
Pass it on
Help your brothers in their needs
Pass it on
Live for yourself - you will live in vain
Live for others - you will live again
In the kingdom of Jah Man shall reign
Pass it on,...

What's in the darkness
Must be revealed to light
We're not here to judge what's good from bad
But to do the things that are right
On a hot sunny day
Under the shadow is rescue
But as the day grows old
No one under the sun will find you

Be not selfish in your doings,
Pass it on
Help your brothers in their needs
Pass it on
Live for yourself - you will live in vain
Live for others - you will live again
In the kingdom of Jah Man shall reign
Pass it on,...

Feel Good

I find myself bubbling with project ideas and tasks that need to be dealt with over this weekend. The tasks float around in my consciousness vying for attention as my body and spirit hesitate- not knowing which to do first. I can get immobilized by these daunting thoughts and get stuck not accomplishing anything- even with the greatest intentions. And being an idealist I can set unrealistic goals and get exasperated in the end.

But today is different. It began with a pivotal moment where I stopped and asked myself a question.
I started my day with an errand for a friend and set about thinking about getting other things done as well. I headed for the car and I paused, with chagrin, as I realized that I forgot to load the car up with the recyclables. I was tempted to just keep the momentum going and forget about it, but it is then that I asked myself a question, "Erin, right now what would feel good to you, if you did it?". A simple question really.

It was at that moment that I realized that I want to feel good today and I want my actions of the day to reflect that. So, I turned the car off and got the recyclables and grabbed some wipes to wipe off my dash at stop lights (that will make me feel good- do that!). So I did. Recycle bin empty, dash clean- no longer sticky with this gosh awful stuff that Quinn tried out- spray candy. In travel, the spray candy ended up sticking to the dash, while my hair brush deposited a few hairs into the mix - gross!

After finishing my errand, I asked the question again: "Erin, what can you do right now, to feel good?" I did an inventory and realized I had a pie in the fridge at work that was gifted to me and should be taken home and a proposal that is mostly done but needs a few finishing touches. That would feel good to have that done as I walk in on Monday morning. So, I did. Pie for tonight (with vanilla ice cream) and proposal on boss' chair. Yeah!

Seems like a super simple concept - not sure why it has taken me so long to employ. I suppose this is where the Just Do It campaign came from. But for me, it began with the question, then quick analysis to discern which thing to do and then the immediate move to take action.

Leaving the shoulds behind and moving to action is one of the keys to my happiness.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I have been researching about the effects of emotional abuse. It is becoming clearer to me that emotional abuse is an attempt on a person's part to control their environment. Usually fear is at it's base. Fear of further hurt, fear of abandonment, fear of trusting too much, fear of real intimacy. In general, I think inflicting emotional abuse is an indicator that someone is living out the abuse they have shouldered in the past.
Their reactions can include abuse through words: overbearing opinions, always needing to be right, judging others, putting people down, humor at the expense of others, guilt giving, preaching, dredging up history (not letting go of past"sins"), and the silent treatment. Or, abuse can come through actions: regimented routines-militaristic expectations, venting- screaming or complaining- verbally unloading anger on others, intimidation -"if you don't do this, then.....", extreme expression of mood swings, favortism, role reversal (child needing to parent the parent), and the use of religion for control and judgement. (Categories and concepts came from a book I am reading: Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse).
Actually these are the effects of emotional abuse. We become anxious, have difficulty making decisions, are hypervigilant, hypersensitive, insecure, veiw love as a risk, experience body break down, second guess ourselves, experience energy loss, become apathathetic, feel rage, and have a sense of disconnectedness. Emotional abuse is damaging to our sense of self. Sometimes we perpetuate the abuse by becoming muted, skittish, put ourselves down, acquiesce to others rather than having our own opinion.
Emotional abuse is messy business.

The interesting thing I am coming to is that most folks that are emotionally abusive to others are stuck. They may not even want to continue the abuse cycle- yet they are fearful enough that reaching for help is too risky. Doing that may mean that they would need to face the fact that in their own pain, they have hurt others.

Healing comes from acknowledging the truth, having compassion for oneself and choosing a different path- ultimately taking a risk to do something about it. This requires faith and often times trust. Tall orders for folks that have been and are currently feeling hurt.
I think of the metaphor of a dog that has been beaten. The dog may not be able to recognize a loving touch and may vicously bite a kind hand in anticipation of continued pain (this can happen even if the approach is slow and tender). In this process the one who is trying to love, gets bitten. The dog is clearly the victim here, yet in his/her victimized state, she/he has victimized a loved one.

Pain does not justify hurting others.

I think there are times when we don't see the pain we are inflicting. We scratch our heads and wonder why folks avoid us or why conversations turn sour. Feeling misunderstood ensues. We don't realize we are biting people in response to some past hurt (the reaction comes out of the past- even if the person is hurting us in the present). We have been triggered.

Now that is not to say that every approach is innocent, or that good intentions always exist- but in general, if we are in a healthy place, we can make our needs known, set limits and express our pain without hurting the other person. The tricky part is that if the other person is or has been emotionally abused as well, they may react inappropriately too, causing a triggerfest. The once kind hand that was going to love the dog, gets bitten and then in that pain, hits the dog- rebuking the the dog for the pain inflicted. All the while, trust and contentment go out the window. The cycle continues.

I recognize that the key to the ultimate health for me is to express love for myself and stop reacting out of my wounded self. I found a good resource online that talks about loving the wounded you.

"As long as we keep reacting out of black and white polarized thinking, we are powerless to change our patterns. Recognizing we were powerless out of ego self to do anything but react, creates the space to allow us to start changing our relationship with ourselves and stop being our own worst enemy. Recognizing our powerlessness to control life out of ego, helps us to begin to take power away from the feeling of toxic shame and start forgiving ourselves.

Awakening to the futility, the inherent dysfunction, of allowing our early childhood ego programming to define us and run our lives - and our powerlessness to change that until we became conscious that it needed to, and could, be changed - begins the process of learning to

Love ourselves, and creates the space to start being open to relaxing and enjoying life. By learning to stop empowering polarized reaction to the toxic shame, we can start being honest enough with ourselves to own our responsibility in how our lives have unfolded so that we can make amends to our self and others - and that allows us to start changing our behavior and relationship patterns substantially and significantly."
-Robert Burney
Attack on America - A Call for Higher Consciousness Chapter 5

Emotional abuse is probably at the root of most of the unrealized dreams of those whom I have had the pleasure to work with. And as I write this, I realize that emotional abuse is also at the root of much of the dysfunctional interactions I have with those I love. Given this, it seems to be worth a good study.

Monday, August 18, 2008


So I am reading a book that I will mention later, but first, I quote:

"Not everyone comes from a family with spirited and inspiring stories. Some of you grew up surrounded by perpetual sadness, anger, bitterness and negativity even about the "good stuff". Of course that will make it difficult for you to do other than what you've been indoctrinated into; difficult does not mean impossible. First you must have the awareness that embracing suffering is a learned response, a habit."

This got me to thinking. As a social worker I hear a lot about people's suffering. I hear about suffering within my work world, in my family, with friends and of course, I experience my own suffering. And, growing up as I did, I learned to cope with suffering- sometimes blaming others, other times forgiving too easily, and at other times forgetting the whole circumstance.

Questions surface for me. How long do you hold onto suffering? Do others deserve blame? Is forgiveness unwarranted? If someone hurts you- do you tell them? Should they feel your spite- because they deserve it? What if they did not mean to hurt you, but they did? Or, is forgiveness always a good course? When does suffering become a pattern or a habit rather than a truism within the context of your circumstance?
I know there are times when we have reminders of past hurts that rise up when we are with others. Sometimes, we have reactions at the mere hint of past suffering that can totally confuse/hurt friends, acquaintances and loved ones. Sometimes we cause the wounds. How do we chose to let go of the pain?

The fact is that people screw up all the time; they are so darn fallible. And, on top of that, they probably have had shitty experiences that contributed to their approach and reactions. An example of this is my mom. I had great empathy for her. Her life was difficult at best and she spent much of it in an unhappy place. She was bitter and angry- I think she thought she had a raw deal. In this, she did not always express herself in a loving way, often was cold and demanding, and worked to manipulate us to express some kind of control in her life. I say this only to demonstrate a point; not to disrespect my mother. (I think, in time, and through healing, she eventually found her happy place).

Anyway, after much struggle, I found a way to love my mom and I found ways to curb her manipulative behaviors but ultimately, there came a time when I expressed empathy for her and chose forgiveness rather than dish out bitterness and scorn toward her. We had the great fortune to start fresh. The change started with me- not her, the "offender". Altering my reactions, setting limits and offering non conditional love transformed things. I thank God that I took the risk and she was willing to go there with me. She was a strong lady.

I have found that for some things it is important to talk about what happened and express the hurt. For others, it is important to choose relationship over the pain- change the dynamic. Other times, it may be necessary to let go of the relationship entirely. One of the hardest things though is to forgive or love someone who has wronged you when you don't understand or have empathy for what they are going through.
What I do know or believe is that most folks want to be good to others. When something goes tilt it usually means they have been hurt significantly somehow. So that loud mouthed braggart at work, the negative relative that complains about everyone, the bible thumping fundamentalist, or the distant, cold shoulder lover is most likely bearing suffering within.

I am realizing that we have choices. We can stay in the "isn't it horrible that........" place or we can do something about it- regardless what the other person does. And, of course there is always therapy to sort through the whole mess. Then again, we would have to want to break the habit of suffering to make these choices.

The book the quote came from is called: stop whining, START LIVING by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. So far the reading has been palatable- I was not so sure when I first picked up the book.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tsehaye Yohans

Found this video as I was trying to find footage of my cousin YoHans- thought it was pleasant and uplifting. Who couldn't use a lift? Wonder what they are talking about? Seems like they aren't taking themselves too seriously. There may be a lesson in that..........

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Go with the Flow

Went canoeing with the kids and their friends. Kye could not go because you need to be 6 to go down the river. We had a great time. Saw all kinds of creatures including: turtles, a kingfisher, water striders, turkey vultures, tadpoles..........

The day was a balmy 75 degrees and we were on the water at 11:00 am - had the river (creek really) all to ourselves. Each of us had turns steering and power stroking. The kids learned about canoe safety, some strokes and how to get each other wet "unintentionally". All and all it was a great day.

This was the first real trip of adventure I have gone on with the kids- or at least the first trip in a long while. And, it reminded me of the passion I have for the outdoors.

A couple of thoughts occurred to me as we traveled down the creek:
The first is that I forgot my cell phone in the car and as I was playing out scenarios in my head, I realized that I preferred being unburdened and I was assured that we would be able to figure out how to solve whatever pickle we could get into- it may be inconvenient or taxing, but we would be OK. I felt a sense of release- almost like this is the way it is supposed to be.....

The second was that I realized that in my excitement for the trip, I was tense as I was paddling- gripping the handle, pushing hard; unsettled to a degree. I found myself having an internal dialog after awhile that sounded like this, "relax, feel your muscles moving, drop your shoulders, breathe........., pay attention to what is around you, play......."- kind of a meditation of sorts.

Sometimes, it just takes becoming aware of what I am experiencing (tension) that can help me redirect my energy- a wake up call so to speak. My little canoe trip was a reminder to me to go with the flow- enjoy the ride,....... be.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Dan the Man

This is a picture of me back in college- some 20 years ago. In the picture is my friend Dan who recently died in a car accident. He was hit by a semi-truck, early in the morning as he was headed to a Boy Scout Reservation to volunteer his time. He has a wife and child he left behind. Dan and I belonged to a service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, and would argue politics (he was a staunch republican). To his credit he did not let this come between our friendship.
He is donning a t-shirt that advertises a special event we would have every year where we would create a huge banana split to raise money for charity. Loads of fun. He will be missed.
This is another reminder to me that time is precious and should not be wasted.
By the way, Lee and Dawn, I stole this picture from your house today- hope you don't mind- I will give it back :-)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Zucchini in the Garden

Picked my first zucchini from the garden and have been wondering what to do with it. Squash is not my favorite veggie, but I know it is good stuff nutritionally.

I came upon a blog today that talks about fried battered squash. I must admit it looks good. See for yourself here.

I also have made zuccanoes in the past with a recipe doctored up from the Moosewood Cookbook- very yummy, but the kids are not as fond of it and it requires baking, which in an un-airconditioned house does not appeal to me.

So, I will try this fried squash recipe and see how that goes over. By the way, I tried fried cheese at the North Market today- fantastic! That topped off with a smoothie from Bubbles and we were all set- a real treat.