Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Our corner bedroom is quiet, empty except for the furniture staging. I sit in a wheel chair and roll back and forth enjoying the peace. I remember the many families we have entertained in this room as they visited their parent(s) with gifts of candy and favorite food, and finally sat quietly in death vigil. Some of these residents I mourn and pray for happy memories for their families in this season of remembering.

Others were difficult people, unhappy no matter what we did for them or their families. Denial occupied so much space in their relationships, there was not room for words of appreciation. One resident demanded to be brought to the hospital because as long as he stayed with us, his son would bustle in at all hours, cheer and insist he gather up their ties and grip the living he longed to release. He died peacefully surrounded by caring nurses.

The family of one resident fought a need for Hospice until I had to call and insist that I get help caring for their father. Their response to my urgent demand for pain meds was to ask, “this won’t stop him from getting better will it?” The man died three days later.

Family Systems--the way a family functions--don’t change just because the calendar reports advanced years. A friend tells the story of her two week respite stay with her 80+ mother so her father could attend an out-of-state family reunion. “I was eager to help out but also terrified. My Mom can be so critical I turn to instant jelly.”

Another woman was difficult but manageable until her daughter visited. Within 30 minutes they would be verbally clawing at each other. Other family members understood that this was the relationship mother and daughter had always had.  In the last few days the daughter continued to bring in trinkets and goodies that would perk up her nearly comatose mom. As miserable as she made our lives, I pray for the daughter because in this month of family get-togethers, she is still grieving for her mom.

December is the time of year to forgive, to recognize the way it was supposed to be in our homes and accept the reality of what was. The lights and color of Christmas decorations can encourage us to release guilt, the gift that keeps on giving. Parents were people’s children too.

Within a week this room will be filled with the stuff of another family and we will be honored to learn the way they do things.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Parkinson’s National Family Caregivers Month

Do you know a family living with Parkinson's Disease?
November is highlighted to build awareness of people with Parkinson’s, both those who endure the disease and those who care for them. This is the month to visibly support family and friends who rally around a loved one with PD. This group includes partners who help with medical appointments or personal care such as dressing or bathing. It also includes those in our extended networks — family, neighbors, co-workers, health professionals — who provide support, making them part of the caregiving network.

It’s important to take time out to talk about their contributions and give them your support.

Parkinson's Disease Foundation in their latest newsletter tells the story of Dr. Maria De Leon who has a unique perspective on caring in Parkinson's disease. In fact, she first cared for her grandmother with Parkinson's disease, then for her patients as a movement disorders neurologist, and now lives with Parkinson's disease herself.
The family of Greg Hardoby from Rahway, NJ, have all pitched in since his diagnosis with Parkinson's disease. Mr. Hardoby is himself no stranger to supporting a loved one with PD -- his late grandmother lived with Parkinson's disease. Recently, when he wanted to make a difference by fundraising for PDF, his wife Maria, and their children all helped to put together a golf outing they called Putt Fore Parkinson's and raised more than $5,000. 
The family was featured in the NJ Suburban News on September 18, 2014.
"Hardoby, who lives with Parkinson's, his wife Maria and their children Ann Marie and Alex, organized the event as part of the PDF Champions program, the grassroots fundraising arm of the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. The golf outing featured several contests such as longest drive and closest to the pin, as well as a pig roast and awards banquet in the evening. The family hopes to make the golf outing an annual event."

Few of us have the time or energy to organize such an event, but this month simply make a phone call to your PD friends, take a caregiver out for a latte, send an email, add this link to your Facebook page as tribute to your friends, smile encouragement in the grocery store to a stranger walking with a cane and a caregiver. So simple. So appreciated.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


At Home. A short history of private life.  by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian vicarage in England and one day he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as found in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to “write a history of the world without leaving home.” The bathroom provides the occasion for the history of hygiene, the bedroom for an account of sex, death, and sleep, the kitchen for a discussion of nutrition and the spice trade, and so on, showing how each has figured in the evolution of private life. From architecture to electricity, from food preservation to epidemics, from crinolines to the cotton gin—and the brilliant, creative and often eccentric talents behind them—Bryson demonstrates that whatever happens in the world ends up in our houses.

For example, in 1983 a vine owner observed leaves “covered with galls from which sprang insects of a kind he had not seen before.” He was the “first in Europe to suffer from an infestation of grape phylloxera, a tiny aphid, that would shortly devastate the European wine industry.”  The result in France in 1952 was wine growers in southern France finding their vines dying. “Because the insects infested the roots, the first sign of mortal illness was the first sign of anything. Farmers couldn’t dig up the roots to see if aphids were present without killing the vines, so they just had to wait and hope. Forty percent of France’s vines were killed in fifteen years. Eighty percent were ‘reconstituted’ through the grafting on of American roots.”  “It is thanks to American roots that French wines still exist.”

And here is an example of the delightful melding of historical facts by Mr. Bryson: “Phylloxera aphids from the New World had almost certainly reached Europe before, but would have arrived as little corpses, unable to survive the long sea voyage. The introduction of fast steamships at sea and even faster trains on land meant that the little pests could arrive refreshed and ready to conquer new territory.”

To further quote the back cover of my large print library copy:  Bryson’s wit and sheer prose fluency make At Home one of the most entertaining books about private life ever written.

Thursday, October 23, 2014



Blog ai lg cloud success

October has been an excellent month to review my year’s goals and evaluate changes needed to set quality but realistic goals for next year. Since reading Boundaries by Doctors John Townsend and Henry Cloud I have been a fan of their website and counseling materials. In Beyond Boundaries Dr. Townsend, begins Chapter 12, “Great relationships are fulfilling.  Great relationships involve risk.  You can’t have the first without the second.”

In the following blog written for Dave Ramsey, Dr. Townsend explores Two Areas of Life that Set Successful People Apart.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Dementia Umbrella

October and November are months when fund raising for Alzheimer’s disease sponsors marathon walks. What these groups do not identify is the research tact they are supporting. And gaining research money is big.

FYI, I teach certification training in Mental Health and Dementia for WA DSHS. In our Dementia workbook the third page shows a grey on grey umbrella representing the broad diagnosis of Dementia.  Under this umbrella are the more specific definitions of symptoms: Alzheimer’s, Pick’s Disease, Vascular, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, Lewy Body, to name a few.

Observing the residents who come to our home, while it does not get the big name recognition, I have conjectured that Vascular Dementia is as common as Alzheimer’s. You may be more familiar with the term “hardening of the arteries.” The following link ties brain and heart health together.  The cause of Alzheimer’s is at least 20% genetic. Vascular can be avoided by conscious, life-long health habits.

Check it out.



Sunday, September 21, 2014


Emily Dickinson may not be your cup of tea due to her anachronistic capitalizations and frequent dashes. But her poem, The Brain, suggests that our thinking may be rooted in a passionless track unless we allow splinters of new thought to wash in. And then we may be hard pressed to regain our previous certainty.  Fear of new thoughts and emotions are what marches censorship up and down Main Street.

Emily Dickinson, #556

The Brain, within its Groove
Runs evenly--and true--
But let a Splinter swerve--
'Twere easier for You--

To put a Current back--
When Floods have slit the Hills--
And scooped a Turnpike for Themselves--
And trodden out the Mills--

The essay, Different Rules Apply by Matt Zoller Seitz, may be such a splinter that will move you to rebuild your emotional structures in a place where floods will not trod out your mill. If there is a "flood" where do you re-build your business? Might you consider a new source of energy? Do you dare think outside the box?

Jesus continually applied mercy as he walked the ancient turnpikes through villages and past country hovels, showing concern for the poor, for women and children: the least of these. The least we can do is step off our path for a moment to consider the idea Seitz offers in his painful and embarrassing story.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

What Mortals Be

Is it dreamed or dreamt?

Whichever, when the phone rings at 4:45 AM with the same IRS scam recording we have been subjected to all week, cerebral word choice gets trampled underfoot by reptilian brain stem reaction.

When we are awakened by a resident who wobbles out of bed at 2:00 AM in agitated confusion, that is bad news. The good news is that prescribed meds and an attentive caregiver can re-tuck her/him under the bed covers, probably for the duration until the phone rings in the office almost three solid sleeping hours later.

“Tragedy has serious and logical consequences. Cause and effect. Comedy usually doesn’t. You throw a person off a tall building in a comedy, he bounces. You throw someone off a building in a tragedy, don’t wait for the bounce.”  Robin Hemley

Mortality being what it is, we had best find humor in the illogic of it all or we’ll burn out as kindling for tragedy. That would be disastrous.

I no longer desire to push the foreign accent speaking scammer off a tall building somewhere in LA where he sleeps. However, the good news is that the well articulated English speaking female on the recorded message left a phone number. When we returned the call at 4:47 AM we “spoke” to a groggy male person. Yes, I have his number and can use it at all hours whenever whoever in our Home wakes in distress.

That is mortal humor and I am laughing.

Commas and hyphens were omitted intentionally. Sue me. It’s 5:00 AM.



Thursday, August 28, 2014


Aspects of mortality follow us like thunder trailing after a lightning strike low in the clouds too close to our window. Or the remembered scent of facial powder on a special Aunt’s soft cheeks.

I was stepping down into the garage from the kitchen when I heard my Grandmother’s voice, “Use your head to save your heels.” 

Grandma O lived on the first floor of a house with fruit cellar in the basement. So if she was going to make her way down to the fruit cellar, she reminded herself to mentally list what needed to go down and once down what would need to come up.

Today I was halfway to the pantry in the garage leaving behind the Tupperware container of brown rice on the kitchen counter. If I was using my head I would look around and see what else needed to be removed to the area where I was going. Once in the garage with milk in one hand and a can of chicken broth in the other, if I was using my head I would mentally review the menu and remember to bring in the bag of chocolate chips from the pantry for making cookies after supper.

“Use your head to save your heels.” I also should have checked the kitchen refrigerator for butter and now needed to trip back to the refrig in the garage. But I remember you, Grandma. Tea served in real china cups and saucers. The oil cloth covering the kitchen table. African violets on the window sill. A fuzzy bear stored in a basket of toys waiting for grandchildren to tumble out of the car and race each other to reach it. She probably didn’t understand the competitive urgency that dictated we give her a greeting kiss after we gripped the bear. For my part, I attempted to casually claim the back seat behind my Father because it would place me closest to Grandma’s door.

Grandma undoubtedly would not have picked this adage as our lasting remembrance but it has stuck, at least in my mind. A few years ago my Mother and I told stories about Grandma and she also remembered Grandma’s advice.

Mom laughed when I told her I remembered her frequent admonishment. I remember walking slowly home from third grade because I had been told a phone call from teacher to my mother preceded me. “Be sure your sins will find you out.” I found my Mother’s oft repeated warning curious and failed to understand for twenty years. Simply, recognize and clean up after your failures or you will continue to make the same mistakes. In my eight-year-old, uncomprehending mind, Mother’s adage was interpreted “be more careful not to get caught.”

And what mortal words have I left in my wake?  And you….

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Immeasurable Mortality

One of my favorite poems is by W. B. Yeats, 1865 – 1939. I include his life span because the dates place him in a historic time of particular culture, poetic form, with specific advances in medical practice.  Three score and ten was a hoped for age not often achieved.

We regret Yeats’ completed longevity bracket as it means he is no longer writing his wonderful poetry and essays. He undoubtedly would have had more to say. But we do not expect anyone born in 1865 to survive well over 100 years.  So from the perspective of 2014, his anthology was complete.

Because my longevity bracket is not completed, today I can read Yeats to my love and pass it on to my children who can read it to theirs. And to you.

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

When You Are Old is read with contemporary commentary in the following video. Interesting to me is the reader’s connection with the Ukraine, a site of so much bad death.



Tuesday, August 12, 2014


A Prompt may be a sticky note on the refrig as reminder to pick up milk, or the computer reminding me of a new password. Meditation uses the prompt of breathing, mindfulness the prompt of chewing food slowly.

I broadcast to writing groups a writing prompt suggesting the topic Mortality and received the following poems. They present two all too common platforms. I use the poems with the authors’ permission.

Of the Fall   2013 Mike Medler

Tell me where the laceration runs
in final hours, in dust where
you have poured it all
and sutures live a long way
off. Tell me of the marksman
and the empty field beyond
and your tactical advantage.
Tell me if you can
see pain, taste anger,
wrap your arms around
the pervasive and all-consuming
loneliness that leads
you by the hand now. Tell me
if you remember kinder
moments, as if to make it
all worth something, or
if it is all worthy of nothing.
Tell me why your seams
have split and spilt you
into shaking hands, a final
gesture, a fall from which
I cannot lift you, from which
none will rise. Tell me
of the fall, or nothing.



The Waiting Room

I hate the waiting room,
the comfortable chairs and polished tables.
The complementary coffee and tea.
The big screen quietly scrolling the
ephemeral patient status,
attaching numbers to

I hate the waiting room.
It’s like Russian roulette
when the surgeons walk in, fresh from the OR
battle, bloodshed and carnage carefully cleaned away.
We all hold our breath.
I’m sorry.
And then nothing is ever right with the
world again.
Quiet keening fills the air as
spirits transcend.
Spirits going on to better, we hope—
oh we hope, to a better place.
But leaving just the same.

And we are left with our grief.
And we know our joy is but temporary.
And who knows the what or the when or the how about tomorrow.
Or about any tomorrow.

I hate the waiting room.

2014  Sharon Anderson

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Our usual warm-weather-low-humidity has turned like a child looks back to see if someone familiar is near. In the Pacific NW rain magically ceases soon after Fourth of July and doesn’t reappear until late September/October. But our light sweater July evenings have dissolved into two days of November downpour and I feel cheated. Where has summer gone? Will it reappear?

Our yucca plants produced their white bell blossoms early and with extravagance. They were glorious for days, reluctantly dropping petals as they dried on the stock. Our neighbors’ plants were not so long enjoyed. The rain force bent the stems or denuded them. Their short season concluded face down in the mulch.

Unseasonable weather reminds me of a metaphor hidden in an Asian figure:
Talk about tomorrow
the rats will laugh

Assuming, hoping against hope, continuing in spite of, planning with no guarantees, are conditions of our mortality amid storm-beaten flowers, nurturing rain, changeable weather systems.  
In front of the wooden yucca stocks, the iris greenery feed their tubers. Spiking gladiolas are turning a shade of coral I would not have chosen. Mortality and death are complicated subjects. 

by Robert Frost

Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question 'Whither?'

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?



Sunday, July 20, 2014


Sumptuous Mortality

Children’s veranda in the
lowbreathed summer twilight:
‘if I should die before I wake’ lingers
erosive     engraving

O     not alone     ‘my soul to take’.
The sweetjuice hay of nightbreath
smothers in luxury. Who doesn’t
burrow into being
deaf to not-life for

sleep, a time of sleep.
A handkerchief of waiting daylight blown
in esperance: enough.

Margaret Avison. Always Now. Volume Two.


What is our life expectancy? We look at ancestors who died in their 40s, early 60s, 80s. We consider the conditions of their living and passing, and extrapolate our years through the statistics of our improved nutrition and health care and presume we will live…more.

As children we kneeled by our beds and prayed the historic prayer, pushed ourselves up to slide over the sheet, dusting our bare feet off one on the other. Curled in the dark we silently amended the prayer, but not for a long time if you please.  The many versions first recorded in the 1800s are basically the same but they differ in the last two lines.  “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take” seems a heavy burden for a nine year old. Less Catholic prayers exhort angels to watch over me, or simply pray for safe guidance through the night. Considering the various plagues from which children in the 1800s died, any of the versions would suffice.

On Sunday night as we mentally move into the demands of Monday morning, we scarcely consider our death. We prepare to commence another week of busyness and stress. But a friend reminds me on Facebook that she has survived cancer and achieved another birthday. Others have not. Bear with me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread

Our neighbors have two toddlers, ages 2 and 4, who hurtle themselves across the lawn, down the driveway, onto our cul de sac, full tilt with seemingly no other intention than to move as fast as possible. There is no more mindfulness in their actions than the peony that drops deep pink petals on the hedge. 

In contrast, one of our seniors walks carefully one foot before the other, trailing her hand along the wall.

Transitional movement transfers us from one place to another. A toddler must learn to make that transference while keeping his balance. As he lifts his back foot leaning toward forward motion, he is unbalanced. If his concentration falters, his heavily diapered bottom stays aloft only as long as he hesitates, then falls.

The present slips so quickly from future to past. Whatever our movement, it helps our balance as we transition if we give our full attention to what we are doing in the moment. Then we can look back and appreciate that we were fully involved in our life. Not merely spending time.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mindful Living

As I’m writing this, it’s a blue sky, cool morning in Washington. The fog of winter months has evaporated into joyous clear air of summer opening our vista across the bay and to the distant mountains on the Canadian border. The sparrows and finches flutter at each other above the feeder before settling to take turns. Early swallows feed on the wing.

And as I observe the activities of a natural world, I ask myself, what do I do without thinking about it, without due process but move on automatic pilot? What would change if I focused on the elements of a task, just for a few specks of time, to observe them as a child who is first learning?

The energies around me change their intensity, ebb and flow like the tide washing higher on the beach, hiding the small creatures busy finding food and avoiding becoming a meal. Energies that collect the fragments of me into a vessel to be of use. My energies also change as demands are placed on me by others or I decide that something has become necessary rather than optional.

Attempting rootedness in the moment frustrates me because as soon as I breathe in the moment, I must exhale and that chosen space of time has evaporated as quickly as fog. As much as I want to stay, my mental list of wonderful potential pulls me away, like walking an unruly puppy.

But I am grateful for the moment, for each breath as I take a last turn through our residents’ rooms, observing them sleep, the rise and fall of their blankets. I failed them in small ways through lack of energy or distraction. But also today I paused to glance out the front window to observe the hummingbird flit around the purple glass flame on its pole; I mindfully listened to the frustrated silence of people who have no choice but to internalize rather than risk garbled speech. We created moments of joy feeding our people with our their favorite food, hugs and conversation.

And I pause, mindful that I live as fully and with as much presence as I can manage at any given interval in my life. At the end of the day, that must be my peace.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mindful Multitasking?

Guest Writer: Moira Allen

Is Multitasking Good for Writers?  (or anyone else)

Link to this article here:

Show me a writer who doesn't "multitask," and I'll show you...

well, I'm not sure what.  But I'm not worried about being held to my half of that sentence!  I seriously doubt that, in today's "do 50 things before breakfast" world, you could show me that writer.

Let's face it: We all do it.  We have no choice.  As I've said before, the speed at which we can do things hasn't saved us labor.

It's simply caused us to have to perform 10 tasks in the time once required for one.

The problem is not that we multitask.  Again, in many cases, we have no choice.  The problem is that many of us have been led to believe that multitasking is a good thing because it speeds up our work and increases our productivity.  After all, it stands to reason that if you can do two things at the same time, they'll both get done faster than if you did them sequentially, right?

Unfortunately, studies are showing that this isn't true.  In fact, it seems that multitasking can actually DECREASE your productivity -- by as much as 40%!  In plainer words, that means that either one will accomplish 40% less while multitasking, or that the actual time required to complete one's tasks may increase by 40%.  I think.  Studies also show that multitasking increases the chance of error.

Which makes me feel loads better, because I was beginning to wonder if I just "wasn't doing it right."  One of my most common forms of multitasking is to work on Project A on my computer, while scanning articles and images for my Victorian website on the scanner sitting next to my desk.  Scanning is boring.  I can't handle just sitting there and turning pages, so it seems logical to multitask: Work on something else, and pause to flip pages as needed. 

Only it doesn't tend to work that way.  Instead of making good progress on Project A, and getting a pile of scanning done, I find that BOTH projects actually tend to suffer.  All too often, I get distracted from Project A (and turn to something simpler, like e-mail or checking my eBay sales or playing a game).  As for the scanning, all too often I end up rescanning the same page because I forgot whether I actually pushed the button. 

My husband can attest to another hazard of "multitasking."  When we lived in Virginia, my office was downstairs, the kitchen upstairs.

Many a dinner -- and many a pan or teakettle -- burned to a crisp because I'd pop downstairs to do "one quick thing" while cooking.

That's one reason why I always use a whistling teakettle, even though today my office is in the "breakfast nook" and the rate of burned dinners has decreased dramatically.

Mothers have multitasked for millennia, so I figured the problem wasn't simply that I was a dinosaur, less hardwired to multitasking than the generation born with a cell phone grafted to its fingers.

So I decided to check a few articles to see whether the problem was more than "just me." 

Unfortunately, although there are many articles on the evils of multitasking, those articles themselves can be confusing, as they provide different "examples" of what the author thinks multitasking actually is.  One, for instance, sets up an example of a woman fixing a meal (I'm not sure which meal, since it involves eggs and a salad).  The article defines mixing the eggs and washing the lettuce as "multitasking" steps, while heating the pan is "parallel processing."  In my mind, this is not multitasking at all; it is simply a set of steps involved in the single task of "preparing a meal."  Multitasking, to me, would be preparing the meal while popping back to my computer to answer e-mail.  Other articles describe "exercising" and "listening to music" as a form of multitasking, and again, I disagree.  Most of us use music as an integral part of exercising, to set the tempo for our workout.

We're not doing two separate things - but if we were attempting to work out and hold a conversation, we might be.

Pursuing different projects within the same general time frame - i.e., during the same week or even the same day - is also not "multitasking."  If one works on Project A for one hour and Project B for the next, or Project A on Monday and Project B on Tuesday, with the goal of completing five projects by Friday, this is not multitasking.  Working on several projects at once is not the same as working on them simultaneously.  Otherwise, we wouldn't need such concepts as "prioritizing" or "scheduling."

So here's my definition of "multitasking": being engaged simultaneously in two or more activities that require a comparable amount of concentration.  For example, I cannot switch pages on the scanner without removing my focus from the computer.  I must physically turn my chair, lift the book or magazine from the platform, turn the page, reposition the item, close the lid and push the button.  It requires both hands, both eyes, and a modicum of brain power.  If I am, say, editing this newsletter at the same time, that task also requires both hands (on the keyboard), both eyes (on the screen), my chair to be positioned facing the computer, and (one hopes) a modicum of brain power. 

In short, multitasking involves what researchers describe as "switching."  One is not, actually, doing two things at once.  One is rapidly switching between tasks - edit a paragraph, "switch off" from that task, turn the chair, reposition the book on the scanner, "switch off" from that task, turn back, edit the next paragraph.

Each switch requires a certain amount of physical adjustment (turn chair, take hands off keyboard, move book, hit button, turn chair, put hands back on keyboard).  But more importantly to researchers, it requires a mental adjustment, known as "goal switching."  Once you switch goals, the next step is "role activation" - I must go into edit mode, then into scan mode, then into edit mode.  In each mode, I must focus on the types of tasks or steps involved in THAT task, and "switch off" the focus on the alternate task.

Even though the time involved in "goal switching" and "role activation" can be just a few tenths of a second, these switches add up.  More significantly for writers, the more concentration that is required by a task (such as writing), the more we are likely to be distracted by the constant interruptions of multitasking.  It's hard for a stream of thought to flow if it is constantly being diverted.

Obviously, we're not going to stop.  There are too many demands on our time to hope that we can avoid multitasking altogether.

However, if you're feeling frustrated, blocked, and unable to concentrate, this could be the culprit.  Once you realize that multitasking isn't actually going to get your work done significantly faster, it can be reserved for the tasks that require the least brain-power.  And writing definitely isn't one of those tasks!

Here are some interesting articles on the topic:

The Cognitive Costs of Multitasking, by Kendra Cherry http://psychology.about.com/od/cognitivepsychology/a/costs-of-multitasking.htm

You Say Multitasking Like It's a Good Thing, by Charles Abate http://www.nea.org/home/30584.htm

Multitasking: Good or Bad? By Roger Kay, Forbes http://onforb.es/M91bUE

Reprinted with permission from Moira Allen, Editor

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Mindful Living with Poetry

Don’t give me the whole truth,
don’t give me the sea for my thirst,
don’t give me the sky when I ask for light,
but give me a glint, a dewy wisp, a mote
as the birds bear water-drops from their bathing
and the wind a grain of salt.

Olav Hauge.  Selected Poems. White Pine Press. 1990.

Olav H. Hauge (1908 – 1994) lived all his life in Ulvik, a village in the west of Norway, where he made a living off the apple crop from his orchard, an acre in size. His poems begin with simple things, a wild wind dying to become a breeze, rough cut curb stones (stabbesteinar) along a country road, tramps, knives. His themes carefully build from the simple to universal and heartfelt. Pruning his trees was mindful work and he continued such with words on paper.

Mindfulness calls us to live in the moment, be it rest or work. Hauge’s poem centers his request on the dew he can comfortably hold in his hand. A wise man.



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Efficient Mindful Living

Zondervan Publishing author, Phillip Yancey liberally footnotes his writing, giving the reader appetizing food for further thought. In Prayer, Does It Make Any Difference, he references a quote by Thomas Merton, another of my favorite authors.

When a journalist asked Thomas Merton to diagnose the leading spiritual disease of our time, the monk gave a curious one-word answer: efficiency. Why?  ‘From the monastery to the Pentagon, the plant has to run…and there is little time or energy left over after that to do anything else.’

Efficient: tight, productive, no waste, organized, economical.  My thesaurus adds resourceful, proficient, effective, ecologically aware.  What else would you add? Efficiency sounds good, right?

We walk efficiently with little wasted energy.  If I cut out a pattern, I always line the paper close to the edge of the material so there is little waste. The flaw in this efficiency is that I am left with one larger piece of unused material rather than two smaller ones stashed in a bin. You can’t just throw away good material. My husband’s garage displays organized clutter on the same principle.

With the onslaught of technical communications, we experience fewer moments of calm and more strangling measurements of our substance. Computers were going to turn us into a paperless society and we all know that was a myth. Social media connects us but also devours time before we become mindful of its passage.

Our children expend their youth thumbing video games on TV or their cell phones. As Merton points out, increased production comes at a price of our time and energy. Each  celebrated birthday presents us with a cake and the monster that jumps out is the question: am I the person I want to be? Have I accomplished everything I should?

Unfortunately, efficiency isn’t patient, kind, long suffering; it gets the job done. In a country club or church kitchen there is usually one efficient worker who sets the pace and decides how the congregational dinner will be served. (Caution: Do not get in her way.) At one time we worked with three merged congregations, and at the first funeral lunch there was confusion because each group had served fruit salad a different way. The women literally stood and looked at each other until one stepped forward with a solution for the day.

There is a myth of our culture that if we are efficient we will be productive. And if we are productive we will be fulfilled and content. Ergo, if we are not content, there must be something wrong with us.

Full bore productivity rarely works long term. Brain research shows multi-tasking is an illusion. When headaches or depression get our attention, we attempt to fix ourselves using the myriad self-help books available, because -- there must be something wrong.

Or, we search for contentment on vacations (I deserve it), recreational shopping for clothes and jewelry (I deserve it and its fun), signing our children into activities that fill every spare minute of their time (I didn’t have these opportunities and they deserve it), or, we numb our frustrations with food, drugs, alcohol. Pick your poison.

Efficiency has its place but unless we handle it carefully, deliberately appreciating economical movements and accomplishments, efficiency becomes the black knight crusading for achievement at any cost.
Efficiency becomes the opponent of mindfulness: deliberate working and contemplation throughout our day.

How do you evaluate efficiency in the context of mindful living?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Mindful Living and Acceptance

My difficulty with meditation unsurprisingly lies in my mind. I place myself in a peaceful setting alongside a gently burbling brook. I look for shades of green and concentrate on the light revealing multiple hues in a single blade of grass.

Try as I might to leave regrets outside my meditative state, they camouflage themselves until I accept them as part of the scenery. They then explode from the shrubbery repeating the mantra I have heard in my head for years. “How could you not have known! Look at the trouble you caused!”

Unpleasantness in my life appears to lurk around the edges, discouraging attempts at quiet meditation. Its potential presence chases me away from meditative moments when I might reach acceptance. Busyness is easier to handle but makes mindful living more difficult. Running from a quiet space, I suppose there are people who live without regrets and I should be one of them. Silly.

Memory is never 100 percent accurate. Other people bear responsibility for their reactions in the remembered situations that year after year give me fits. I am egotistical when I take absolute responsibility for all outcomes of my choices. Circumstance has never been in my control. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson didn’t own a tape recorder or cd player so he couldn’t encourage us to erase the tape and cultivate good thoughts. He did write: "Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."

When waking in the morning, lying in bed and deliberately getting reacquainted with each body part prepares me to live in the space allotted me. Deliberately greeting the morning with a few minutes of quiet, picturing people I know and their needs during this day, stretches me out of myself and into the community I value.

I would be better off if I daily read the following prayer (taped to my bookcase for so long it appears an unnoticed fixture). As an entree to mindful living, it admits my imperfections and releases me from busying so hard I fail to find self acceptance.

O, that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory,
that Your hand would be with me,
and that You would keep me from committing evil.



Sunday, June 1, 2014

Mindful Living in Space

Space can be a matter of time, physical property, presence in and beyond our earth. We may value space as an interval of rest, of remembrance.  

May 25 was Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as we used to call it. Flags in cemeteries marked the graves of veterans. In too many homes the day was somber. Family and friends who are no longer with us were remembered. I saw posted on Facebook a picture of this person's Marine friend who has been gone for six years, but not forgotten.

Several of our passed residents were veterans of the Second World War. Monday we remembered them and the nightmares that told us more about their involvement than their conscious stories.

Not only military personnel are remembered. Positioned between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, there is a space where many valued persons used to be. As each is unique, that space is not readily filled. Nor need it be. It remains a memorial.



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Mindful Living Needs Space

The perimeter garden along the back of Adagio property is eight to ten feet wide. Seven years ago, azaleas, roses and a few scattered perennials allowed plenty of room for weeds but also made weeding a relatively direct process. Since I have rarely met a perennial I didn’t like, today there is little unplanted dirt. The roses are forced to climb their trellis high if they are to shine above delphinium, daylilies, campanula, iris, and the list goes on.

Shasta daisies are becoming a problem. Lychnis has stretched its roots through the lavender to get to the echinacea. Lunaria was a cheerful early pink behind the daffodils, but now it has seeded to the pathways, the rhubarb, and beyond. Something needs to be done.

My to-do list can be as overrun as my garden with too many excellent, worthwhile activities and goals that push me past my lawn chair into a hectic place. Joy is easily overgrown with “shoulds” and “coulds”.  The roots of busy slip into beds of satisfaction and dis them. In contrast, deliberate “time out” re-energizes and illuminates pleasure in thoughtful being. Mindful living pushes aside the invasive greenery, trims the out-of-sort branches that scratch at our contemplation, discovers the rich soil beneath. 

In art, space leads the eye to the main event. It lacks identity of its own but highlights lines, light or shadow. Mindful living flourishes in space, both positive (light and joy) and negative (dark and pain-filled). When a morning reaches noon and all our residents are cared for and happy, we sit on the deck to bird watch or in the kitchen with a juice drink and tell stories of who did what and wasn’t that good. The caregiver’s teenagers didn’t call with complaint, we received no news which is good news from our adult children, no one has an infection or suffered a mini stroke, and the herbs are growing tall in the window box. We thankfully pause in this space of light.

Negative space requires contemplation no less than light-filled moments. The telephone ringing can be made a cue to breathe deeply, roll shoulders. The burden of bad medical diagnosis may be carried when we carve out moments of ceased activity and prayer. News of relationship dissolution may be pondered while doing mindless hand work. A fast walk through a nature preserve may pound out fear until the heart is calmed and pumping legs can slow to deliberate walking.

Space allows me to see the truth: that persistent stem is not a flower; it’s a weed. We grow in beds of tall turmoil that serve to isolate us when we mistake them for achieved success. The view we lose is that of ourselves.

My garden needs space. The jumble of greenery self-placed confuses the view. Tomorrow I will patiently tease out of the ground white roots from stem to stem, pulling them free of the soil. Unless I sit on the deck with the residents and count sailboats while we murmur quietly, so many clouds.  Such beautiful clouds.