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Books Read in 2013

Renoir - Girl Reading
I love having a time at the end of each year to review certain little accomplishments...

I read these books in 2013


  1. The Pearl by John Steinbeck: Powerful. And such a different 'message' than we get any more in America. We're all about the grasping. We believe that having ambition, seeking out ways to get ahead and rise out of your circumstances--ESPECIALLY if your circumstances are impoverished--is nothing but good. So interesting to find a story that suggests you're much better off appreciating your place.A Chosen Faith by Forrest Church and John Buehrens: Sort of a primer in Unitarian Universalist thinking, and helped me gain a foundation in my new faith tradition. (What an odd concept: New faith tradition.") I shared this book with my brother, who also read it but still struggles with the idea that faith could mean anything other than believing in nonsense.

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Renoir - Girl Reading
For church this morning, we offered two readings (one from Walk Out Walk On by Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze and one from Pema Chodron) and then, with the congregation divided into groups of 3-4, gave them ten minutes to discuss two reflection questions related to the readings:

First, we asked:

What have your experiences been with seeing beauty, growing, and practicing justice in places where life is hard?

And they offered in response...Read more...Collapse )

Then we asked...

What does it take to bring joy into places where life is hard?

And their responses created this neat little Word cloud...

Wordle: What does it take to bring joy into places where life is hard?

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2011 Animals [year in review]

Simon's Cat Fireplace

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The books-finished list [year in review]

Renoir - Girl Reading
Thanks to the magic of Kindle, flying, airports, delayed flights, and treadmills, I've read more than usual this year.

You'll note three trilogies. The Larsson novels have been renamed according to my personal interpretation rather than how they were actually published. I found these novels tedious and insipid. They are extremely popular. Ugh. (Please don't tell me I should read Twilight. I won't do it.)

  1. Traitor to the Crown (trilogy by C. C. Finlay): The Patriot Witch
  2. A Spell for the Revolution
  3. The Demon Redcoat
  4. The Hunger Games (trilogy by Suzanne Collins): The Hunger Games
  5. Catching Fire
  6. Mockingjay
  7. The Girl Who... (trilogy by Stieg Larsson): The Girl who Made Coffee
  8. The Girl who Shopped at IKEA
  9. The Girl who Used PALM technology and ICQ

    The remaining books were not trilogies or associated in any but the most tangential sense with any of the above trilogies.

  10. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
  11. Well Being: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter
  12. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  13. The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong
  14. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  15. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  16. Bossypants by Tina Fey
  17. Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
Renoir - Girl Reading
There are some books that I get so much out of that I can't devour them. Instead, I have to savor. Many of these I started early in the year. Some I started in 2010. I read a few pages and get what I need or want and then go a few days or weeks or months before picking it up again.

These books are changing the way I think.

  • Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach (Jane Vella)
  • Pema Chodron Reader
  • The Worry Trap (Chad LeJeune)
  • Made to Stick (Chip and Dan Heath) (Actually might finish this one today... will be posting my "books finished" tomorrow, and you'll probably see it on that list.)
  • Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa
  • A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard
      {Note: This one changed my thinking in a negative way rather than a positive one, I'm afraid, and I didn't put it down to savor it but to recover from it. I wish I hadn't bought it. I probably won't finish it. But it definitely had an impact. I'm really, really hoping that Jaycee returns to her story after a good decade or three of intense, free, high-quality therapy.}

  • Nonviolent Communication (Marshall Rosenberg)
      A sample from the above: "When we are alienated from our feelings, we are alienated from our values. Positive feelings tell me I want/value what is happening. Negative feelings tell me I don't want/value what is happening." -- good stuff.

Random notes about 2011 [year in review]

  1. Cab drivers are fascinating characters.  Everywhere I go, if I ask a cab driver how long they've been driving [in town X] and where they were before, I wind up getting an amazing story.
  2. The KINDLE is the best thing ever. Now, instead of compulsively buying a book or adding it to my wish list, where it sits until I decide I don't care, I can ask Amazon to send a free sample directly to my Kindle. Then, the sample sits there until I'm ready for it and, if I become ready for it, I can get started reading it right away, decide if I like it enough to actually pay for it, and if I do, I can continue reading it immediately. Best. Thing. Ever. (That's the only way I can cope with enticing lists like this:
  3. Whole peppercorns can be added to soups and sauces without grinding for an awesome kick.  (Thanks to Cattlemen's Restaurant in Oklahoma City for that insight!)
  4. Been wearing a pedometer daily for many months. Still inconsistently trying to walk 10k-15K daily, and usually getting less. Pretty much gave up on strength training--with poor results.  But, I've been tracking as I go and have had at least 25 days over 10K since September 1.  So, if I get in 10K days for 150 or even just 100 days in 2012, I'll have improved.  That's totally do-able.
  5. I know a great deal more now than I did a year ago about business travel--what and how to pack, how much to carry, and what deserves a backup plan.
  6. NaNoWriMo FTW! Characters first came to mind in August 2011 on a flight to Phoenix, based on thinking about Howard @ church, and I wrote a (mostly) complete first draft.
  7. Damn You Autocorrect makes me laugh so hard I cry. Best new web site.
  8. Watched all of Veronica Mars and, together with Rick, started at the beginning and caught up to the present day with Big Bang Theory
  9. I finally bought and planted some Clematis in the back garden, along with a couple of hostas, vinca, and bleeding hearts.
  10. I FINALLY visited my birthplace! Irving, Texas, the house where the family lived then, even the hospital where I was born and the area where they had the nursery and new mothers' rooms.
  11. Mom's had bad leg pain for the last several weeks.  The official diagnosis is "pinching of the sciatic nerve by the large muscle in the buttocks, the pyriformis muscle, which has gotten shortened from lack of stretching, displaced, or enlarged."  She is really, really done with being in pain all the time.
  12. One day on a flight, I started scribbling about what I thought I'd most like to do if I could have all my “ideal work” conditions and type and market and so forth, which was when I identified churches/”spiritual workers” as one of two ‘markets’ for my work.  As a result, I could recognize an opportunity ("Healthy Congregations") when it presented itself earlier this week, and I'm excited!
Love and Power are complimentary not opp
From the Art of Hosting manual I received on March 30, 2010: courageous, inviting and willing to initiate conversations that matter - find and host powerful questions with the stakeholders - and then make sure you harvest the answers, the patterns, insights learnings and wise actions...

In 2011, I've taken my practice of hosting conversations to new levels. I've done process hosting, which essentially means sitting in on core team meetings with others who will be hosting, offering my experience and insight into making questions more powerful, inviting more diverse stakeholders, and designing harvest. I had great success in hosting a strategic planning and vision-building meeting with the diversity council in the University's Office of Human Resources, hosted a World Cafe to help the community/college Alumni-Relations liaisons identify their strategic value in the face of the new advancement model that the University is moving into, and hosted about six hours of circle and Open Space Technology, built around some skill-building in a "fishbowl" activity, for the Multicultural Center at the University--all before leaving Ohio State.

I had a wonderful opportunity to "apprentice" in an Art of Hosting training in the late winter early in the year, which not only gave me a lot more practice with process hosting but also exposed me to Proaction Cafe and Theory U.

The folks who I apprenticed with for that AoH also invited me to help facilitate a series of conversations in a methodology based on World Cafe for a statewide medical-insurance symposium. That was a unique cross between fascinating and boring! But hey, I got paid, which was nice. :)

Thanks to a friend from the University who is an Appreciative Inquiry expert, I also got to participate as a facilitator for an Appreciative Inquiry Summit for Feeding America, the network of food banks across the United States that does a lot of fund raisers you might have seen, like at your local grocery store. I got paid for this one, too, which was very nice.

All this experience gave me the impulse to approach my church with a desire to let them know that I had this toolbox at hand in case they wanted to make use of it, because in service of the church I could do so for free. In that context I've been working with the leadership development committee to start sharing what I know, which hopefully will help me develop some "mates" (hosting partners are called "mates" in the AoH community)in the church.

While it wasn't strictly a hosting event, I did get to talk with Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze when they came to town for a breakfast-introduction to their new book, Walk Out, Walk On. Meg Wheatley is one of the founding thinkers behind hosting conversations that matter, and I'm excited that I am getting to know her as a person in my world as I'm being exposed to what she's written over the years and how it has dramatically shifted the way people think about people and organizations. (She is as foundational--perhaps even more so--as Peter Senge.) Anyway, the breakfast was a pretty significant opportunity for me to reconnect with the local AoH community after starting the new job and getting really involved at a national level, and less at the local level.

Finally, in the course of doing basic background research for my November novel, I wound up stirring up some interest in hosting conversations locally around "creating jobs." This was an unintended consequence, but I realized that if that was something that was wanting to happen, then I wanted to help. Chet (the Appreciative Inquiry expert/friend) was the first to jump in and say "let's do it!", and others are joining along the way. Our next meeting is in January, toward the end of the month.

Self doubt

Love and Power are complimentary not opp
From 2 to 6

In June 2006, I had to mow the lawn. It may be the only time I've actually done that. Rick is almost always on top of that particular task, but this time he was injured and unable.

So I gathered all my womanly I-can-do-this self-talk and got out there. But the entire time, I couldn't shake the feeling that all my neighbors were looking out their windows and watching me, and (what's worse) judging me to be completely inadequate for the task. With every turn, I was doing it wrong. With every row, I was missing too much or overlapping too much.

I knew this was irrational, but I couldn't shake it. I knew where it came from (hovering parents who valued a job done well and didn't comprehend the impact on an individual's psyche when they interrupt to offer correction), but that didn't help me let it go.

And that was normal. I usually carried around a foreboding sense that I was being watched and judged as inadequate. How would I ever escape that paralyzing criticism?

At work, I came up with a strategy for at least fighting back. I started a "good job" folder, and I meticulously tracked my error rate per week so I could compare weeks and see where I was showing improvement. If someone said anything vaguely positive to me, I wrote it down or printed it out and kept it in that folder. And I would review it periodically so I could see that I didn't always suck.

That helped a bit. At least it added a voice of reason in among the irrational ones. I one rated confidence on a scale of 1-10, I'd say in took me from a 2 to a 6.

To get any further, though, I'd somehow have to move away from the irrational fear, and that was hard to do. I couldn't reason it away, because it was irrational, so all the years of therapy, while good, didn't fix it.

In June 2010, I was sent to what I thought was a week-long leadership development conference. And it was that, but it was more. In fact, it was one of the most integrative experiences I've ever had.

I was introduced that week to a practice of mindfulness meditation. I was not prepared for that at all, but I thought it was cool and interesting and relaxing, and I generally made jokes about it and looked back on the week as an odd introduction to something a lot of people do. In fact, I know that I left with the intention to try to work some time for meditation into my routine.

From 6 to 10

Over the next year I dealt with a lot of uncertainty. My job was eliminated, I searched feverishly for another job through my severance period, expecting fully that starting in mid-November I would be without income (and generally without savings), but a temp position at the University was offered to me, and I continued building my network and going deeper with training my mind.

I say "training my mind" very intentionally, because so much of what I was doing then fit that exactly. I was changing my thinking about myself, about the people around me, about my future, about how people relate to each other, about how things happen.

Most importantly, I was beginning to learn how to step back from my thinking and look at it. Most of this came from the practice of meditation, and the more I read about how to be effective in the world, the more I realized that the meditation practice was helping me to be more effective.

I've continued learning and practicing. Nothing award-winningly consistent, but I'm cycling through things at my own pace and going deeper as I can.

I need a capacity to notice my thinking and step back from it. To be able to say, "Look at that, I am really making myself self-conscious / hostile / anxious / confused / angry (or whatever). I think I'll stop and let that go."

I write that in the present tense because I have always need it and still do. I'm now actually starting to see it happen. By practicing in meditation simply recognizing that I am thinking, labeling it as thinking, and letting it fade so I can re-focus on my breathing, I am developing a skill that I can use in daily life.

Having a practice has made a huge difference. The irrational thoughts still come up, but... hah... it's like in A Beautiful Mind, when the brilliant mathematician started managing his schizophrenia without medication. He learned to stop taking his thinking too seriously. He carefully identified who and what he could definitely trust and learned to question anything else.

The rest of us can learn to do that, too. Our thoughts and feelings are less severe but can be no less paralyzing. All of us, no matter who we are, create our experience of reality by how we think about it. When we can learn to question our own thinking, we can move away from being the victims of our worlds and find the power we carry.

We can go to 10.


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