Saturday, April 30, 2011


"It is the memory that allows people to gather roses in January." -- Anonymous

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


“For every complex problem there is a simple solution. And it’s wrong.”  Anonymous

I love this quote when either the politically far left or far right pedantically identifies a problem and states The Solution. These people are why God gave us the intelligence to invent remote controls, and use them.

My husband and I have come into a congregation’s life following a strong leader who insisted on riding a single pole, or, if you will, stressed one position of a Polarity to the detriment of the interdependent dimension. With his absence those who desired the other dimension flowed into the vacuum with much shouting as they restated the Polarity and demanded a simple solution: theirs. The tension was palpable.

A Polarity is not a problem with a one-time-forever solution. A Polarity includes poles from both positions, view points, platforms, emphases, whatever you need to call it. You cannot successfully emphasize one pole without recognizing the time and place of the other.

Barry Johnson in Polarity Management diagrams the Polarity for ease in identification. In my post of April 15 I discuss To Keep and To Throw Away. Both positions offer positive and negative effects. They are interdependent. They are both right and wrong depending on many factors that need to be considered.

Left                                                                                                    Right
Positive                                                                                               Positive
1.   Emotional joy                          1. Less clutter = simpler living
2.   Profitable use                          2. Space around articles of
Dimension A                                     Dimension B
To Keep                                            To Throw Away
   1.   Can't find what you need            1. Will not have when need
   2.   Lose productive living space        2. Cost of replacement
Left                                                                                                    Right
Negative                                                                                        Negative

Every congregation struggles to manage the following Polarities:
Lay Leadership and Clergy Leadership,
Tradition and Innovation,
Preserve and Outreach,
Lay Worship Leadership and Clergy Worship Leadership.

Every home and business also struggles to manage Polarities:

Work and Home,
To Buy and To Save,
Closeness and Distance,
Separate Parts Thinking and System Thinking,
To Go Fast to Perform and To Go Slow to Prepare.

Managing a Polarity does not mean your organization will be tension-free with no arguments.  A Polarity is tension. It is a continual energy flow back and forth between two positions or "complimentary dimensions."

How we manage our pain in the energy flow gives a good clue to our survival and success.

Johnson, Barry. Polarity Management. Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems. HRD Press, Inc. 1996.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." 

Clive Staples Lewis

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


We have problems that can be solved. Either there is money in the budget this year for a new roof or there isn’t. It is either/or.

A Polarity must be managed because the circumstances of the situation change and are ongoing. Staff “problems” are never ending as long as we have staff. So they are not a problem but a polarity. There is a positive and a negative to both sides of the Polarity: to have staff or to do the work ourselves.

The difference between Polarity and Problem is important for every organization to examine because the discussion can ease the anxiety between who is right and who is wrong.

“A Polarity is basically two complementary dimensions, which are also in tension, which need to be appropriately balanced for the context. A typical Polarity which all of us at work need to balance, is between work life and home life – the two are interconnected, but also in tension. What happens in one influences the other.”

I have given you several Polarities we experience at Adagio. See if you recognize any of the following:

The groundskeeper at your country club is making changes. He is supported by some members and vilified by others.

The custodian at your church keeps his garage at home meticulous; you could eat off the floor. He rejects proposed uses of the church building because he fears losing control and thinks people might say he can’t do the job anymore.

The church is split over introducing technology into the worship service: screens built into the architecture, changes in the hymnbook, removal of the original and humongous pulpit.

The new pastor promotes community participation and suggests renaming the 60-year-old church. An older, prosperous member rejects the changes and anonymously donates money to support the programs he favors.

The senior pastor is well liked. He enjoys visitation and preaching but feels inadequate administratively. The Board hires a recently retired minister to handle a few well-defined tasks part time. The new hire begins to compare the church ministry to what he did in his old parish.

A new District Manager enters transition by asking each employee what they do and what they would need to do it better. He is well received by most employees who interpret his actions as supportive. Two outside salesmen consider him weak. They are antagonistic and arrange sales trips in order to miss staff meetings.

Managing a Polarity does not mean your organization will be tension-free with no arguments. It is a continual energy flow back and forth between two positions or "complimentary dimensions." How we manage our pain in the flow gives a good clue to our survival and success.

Elsner, Richard and Farrands, Bridget. Lost in Transition. How Business Leaders Can Successfully Take Charge In New Roles. Marshall Cavendish Ltd. 2006. Quote from page 10.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


A polarity we at Adagio are constantly managing is Medication. That sounds like a single subject but the poles are to medicate and to redirect. They are interdependent. Our energy flows back and forth and around as we consider the ups and downs of both poles.

We all understand the positives of Medication: healing, calm, relief from pain. Simple Vitamin C and D tablets can improve our immune system. The downsides that come with overmedication are lethargy, over-sleeping, and sometimes irrational anger.

Redirection is what we do for ourselves when we are less than vigorous and vital. We go for a walk or we dig into the freezer for the cheesecake we hid under the green beans. We call a friend and hear encouragement.

At Adagio we redirect by massaging cream into their hands or feet. We roll their wheelchair out onto the deck for a few minutes of fresh air, a refreshing view of the flowers, or a view of the boats on Gardner Bay. Playing dominoes or a card game can redirect our resident from their worry or delusion and give them a few moments of joy. We rinse a handful of spoons in hot water and ask the resident to dry them for us. Or we shake out the cloth napkins and ask them to fold, sort, do the type of work they have done all their lives and find meaningful.

Managing Redirection is a continual, constant in our day. The positives include meaning in their lives and feelings of value. Fortunately we are blessed with medical professionals who have the background to make recommendations for Medication and Redirection.

So whether we or a resident describe a symptom or make a complaint, we do not have a problem. We have a polarity to manage.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Not Chicken to Admit a Mistake

Yes, to all of you who emailed about the rooster I erroneously called Big Red.
His legitimate name is Foghorn Leghorn.

I say, I say I stand corrected.

May you continue to read Adagio Lyrics in good health and sound mind!

Friday, April 15, 2011

TRANSITIONAL THINKING – Polarity and Problems

*“All polarities contain two poles and an energy system that flows around them in an infinity loop.”

For example, the polarity we constantly readjust and manage flows around Stuff We Need and Stuff We Bought but don’t need for our current Adagio population.

Every household must manage this peculiar polarity. Consider the TLC television program on hoarders. To Keep or to Throw Away/Don’t Buy in the First Place are the poles our energy and emotions flow around and between.

Until Oswald and Johnson’s book, I thought my husband’s attitude toward my valued stuff was a problem. I’d never connected with the concept of polarities. We’ve experienced more than 40 years of looking cross-eyed at each other’s stuff.

After so many years of habitual attitude I am realizing that cognitive recognition of polarities-poorly-managed does not easily become an automatic, joyous thinking process. Transitional thinking takes awareness and work.

So here we sit at Adagio. We have explored the concept of polarities and problems. But, my husband can’t extricate the lawn mower from the garden shed because I have stored boxes of paper making supplies including onion skins, unused flower pots, and other stuff we spent money on and might need in July. (Fortunately my Mukilteo neighbors do not leave treasures out on the street like neighbors do in Pella, IA and Wyckoff, NJ and Oak Lawn, IL.)

We do not need a bigger shed. We need to haul everything out and only replace what we will actually, truly use. This should not be difficult. Organizing our outdoor stuff should be a simple polarity and not a problem.

I am picturing the cartoon character, big Red the Rooster nodding in agreement. "I say, I say should be.”

Also, we need to clean the shed together. We have not done so for three years because accountability can cause loud discussions. Neither of us is eager to experience dissension.

But if we recognize that both Keeping and Pitching have an up side and a down side, and we both agree to keep an open mind before we unlatch the shed door, we could reach an amicable conclusion. I say, I say, couldn’t we?

1.   What is the purpose of the shed?
2.   Can we set up a “holding” space under the deck for questionable items?
3.   Can we identify the emotional attachment to a questionable item?
4.   Can anything be replaced more cheaply than divorce?

When we have successfully practiced polarity management, we deserve to reward ourselves. Perhaps a new pot.

*Oswald and Johnson. Managing Polarities in Congregations. The Alban Institute. 2010.

Johnson. Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems. HRD Press. 2006.

Monday, April 11, 2011


In another Bible book credited to Solomon, he lists polarities that are interdependent. (Ecclesiastes 3)

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.”

One cannot exist without the other. Seizing upon mourning but never allowing time to dance is emotional suicide. Frenetically embracing without refraining is a psychological illness. Never talking leads to hatred.

Normal humanity cycles around and between a given set of two poles with energy that demands awareness and management. Picture a horizontal figure 8 around the poles of time to keep and time to throw away.

I have observed that in our marriage, it is always a good time to throw away what is in the house. But what is stashed away in the garage is to be kept, yea verily unto the third and fourth generation.

This could be a problem if either one of us becomes truly stuck on either pole. We would hoist ourselves with our own *petard.

* Injured by the device that you intended to use to injure others.

Reference: Oswald, Roy M. and Barry Johnson. Managing Polarities in Congregations. The Alban Institute, 2010.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


King Solomon was a historical figure in Israel. The Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon has been memorialized in Hollywood movies and on Saturday Night Live.

You may not know that Solomon wrote proverbs, many of which warned about licentious women. “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” (Proverbs 11:22)

Solomon had too many wives when he wrote “A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.” (Proverbs 12:4)

And then there’s my favorite, “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” (Proverbs 21:9)

My interpretation of this proverb warns it is better to eat crumbs in the attic than to feast on sirloin at Ruth Christ’s with a man in a nasty mood. (I obviously have editorialized. Since we have neither an attic nor do we dine at RC’s, it isn’t personal.)

Proverbs usually paint either/or pictures. They set up antithetical subjects.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


At Adagio there is a time to drink and a time to refrain from drinking. Fluid is important. We push water, decaf coffee or tea, juice and Jello. With one resident we encourage liquids without limit.

With one family member we cut off the juice at 6 p.m.  Fluid intake is crucially important but all that fluid needs to clear the bladder. A full bladder is the enemy of an undisturbed night’s sleep.

Two facts of life: time to drink and time to not drink. Neither is the antithesis of the other.

The truths of fluid in, fluid out are interdependent and complimentary. There is a point where the benefits of copious fluid intake make us extremely uncomfortable and we may feel pain. Conversely, extended dehydration can cause constipation and, if endured too long, death.

Fluid intake and abstinence are two poles of a polarity. It can never be a matter of only one or the other. Excessive concentration on either causes problems.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Our home, Adagio, nestles securely halfway up a hill overlooking Gardner Bay, and Camano and Whidbey Islands to the north. The only way out of our neighborhood is down hill on Ocean. A right turn points us to Everett and I-5 four miles east. A left turn is a long but doable hike to the Mukilteo/Whidbey ferry and Mukilteo Speedway. The Speedway is a straight shot east to Boeing, I-405 and Costco.

Driving down the hill we experience a challenge. In our minds we know we need to go east. So to turn west seems illogical. We have measured both directions to Costco, and traveling west to Mukilteo is shorter in both time and distance. But logically it feels like we are moving in the wrong direction.

My husband attempted to teach me racquetball. My experience with tennis made receiving a ball off the front wall and needing to propel same ball in the direction it is already going to rebound off the back wall just all wrong.

My inability to turn my body and swing the racquet toward the back wall does not make tennis a better game than racquetball. I just need to create room in my thinking for illogical realities.

We are now able to transition our thinking to the west when we leave home for Costco. Unsurprisingly we return the longer, eastern route which parks us at the dreaded *Sievers Deucy/Glenwood traffic light. As we sit and wait our turn at the empty intersection, we ask why we can’t change our thinking and come home via the Speedway.

Transitional thinking takes intentional awareness, effort and time.

*Transitional Traffic posted 11/22/10