Thursday, March 31, 2005

Terry Schiavo

I respect some of the people who are arguing that Terry Schiavo should be kept alive, at least the ones whose views come from their own experience caring for their own severely disabled children. Therefore a story I found first in an article in Newsweek hit me particularly hard. On March 14 a 5 month old baby with a fatal form of dwarfism was allowed to die in Texas, against his mother's wishes. Why could doctors withhold further intervention despite the wishes of the parent? Because of a law signed by George Bush when he was governor of Texas, which gave hospitals the right to decide when care is futile in cases where parents do not have the money to pay for the child's care (parents who have money are likely to be able to find another hospital to care for their child, as the bill requires they be allowed to do). One of the co-authors of the bill argues that such measures are sometimes necessary. But I have read parents write so movingly of the quality of life of their children and experience of love they have had with children like Sun Hudson.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


I park almost a half a mile from the track where I run, and walk along a small river that is cut off behind a dike. Monday it had rained hard during the night and was very cloudy still in the morning. Walking back to my car about 6:45 am, a great blue heron landed on the edge of the driveway ahead of me. I crossed to the far side of the driveway and the heron stepped a few feet off the driveway into the edge of the flooded river. And then it stood and watched me walk by. Thinking about it later it seemed a symbol of brave but tentative trust.

Monday, March 28, 2005

I needed a laugh

How to carry your dog on your bicycle. Make sure to read the captions. Or try this one.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

the dark and the light

A fellow swimmer recommended to me Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, and I finished it Friday night. A wonderful, wonderful book. At one point a soldier (whose pupils are white, irises grey, and what we called the "whites" of the eyes black) is in a sword fight with all his considerable skill against his own shadow, which is still joined to him by the feet but otherwise independent. One of many morals of the tale is the importance of living with both the dark and the light.

My church had the Great Litany of Easter starting at 5:30 am. Once people were settled all the lights were turned off, and a new fire kindled with a flint. We lit candles and did the first part of the service by candlelight. At 6:30, at sunrise, we reached the place in the story of salvation history where Jesus rises from the dead, and the lights went on and the black cloths were removed from the windows. Darkness and light.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Maundy Thursday

My church does footwashing, but it doesn't mean as much to me now that my kids no longer think it is cool to go. What moved me was the hymn:
Go to dark Gethsemane,
ye that feel the tempter's power;
your Redeemer's conflict see,
watch with him one bitter hour;
turn not from his griefs away,
learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

Follow to the judgment hall;
view the Lord of life arraigned;
O the wormwood and gall!
O the pangs his souls sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss;
learn of him to bear the cross.

Calvary's mournful mountain climb;
there, adoring at his feet,
mark the miracle of time,
God's own sacrifice complete;
"It is finished!" hear him cry;
learn of Jesus Christ to die.
And then the stripping of the altar, the removal of all decorations from the church in preparation for the vigil leading up to Good Friday. I will keep the vigil at church from 5 to 6 am.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


It isn't in all ways a good thing, being good at coping. I don't much let myself fall into old feelings that don't make sense. But they are still underneath and need to be unpacked. Today I got from general self-hatred to the more specific idea of feeling not good enough, in all areas of my life. That didn't help much, but I'm quite convinced my path right now is to sit with these feelings.

Monday, March 21, 2005

first brick

A brick workout is doing two parts of the triathlon together, to practice the transition. Today I biked the 11 miles of the triathlon route (except a detour that added a hill) in 50 minutes then ran my usual 1 3/4 miles in 24 minutes. I'm really slow, but I am happy because that is exactly the same time it usually takes me to do the run--I wasn't slowed down at all by having done the bike ride first, even though I pushed myself pretty hard on the bike. I didn't even feel more awkward than usual when I started running.

I don't think there is much I can do about being slow--I ran steadily at 85% of maximum heart rate, which is a pretty good level of effort. I didn't feel worn out; I could have kept going but because my knee still twinges sometimes I'm going to be careful to keep increasing distance very slowly. Maybe this Friday I will go up to two miles.

Friday, March 18, 2005


Beautiful spring weather, which is a good thing because restaurants are a two mile walk from the hotel. The last month or more has been intense for me both at work and in my inner journey, so I'm trying to take it very easy at this conference. It isn't a conference where I have a lot of professional organizing to do. I didn't sign up for a field trip this afternoon but instead am going to go for run in a little while and then work or write in my hotel room.

My paper this morning went well except that I forgot to look at my watch when I started and the chair didn't give me a warning before time was up. Despite the fact I was out of time I didn't cut the funny story out of my conclusion, but I told it so quickly that people didn't really get it. I could have done a better job of cutting my paper to the right length (18 minutes), but that really doesn't solve the problem unless I just read it, and that isn't the custom at this conference. Several people in the audience kept nodding, which I was pleased by because I was making some pretty complex points.

I ended up wearing a navy v-neck cotton cardigan over my camp shirt to look a little more professional, and felt comfortable with how I looked. I brought a dressier outfit but didn't even try it on--it just didn't seem like me. I got a nice compliment earlier in the day--someone I was in graduate school with told me I looked better even that I did in graduate school. Nice to hear 3 months before my 50th birthday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


If I'm really organized I can go swim tomorrow morning at 5:45 am, go home for 5 minutes at 7:30 and pick up my son to drive him to school, and still be at the airport in time for a 9:45 am flight. I'm hoping I will get some quiet time at this conference.

But I'm really stumped trying to pack. It is supposed to be in the 70s in Houston, so my dressy red long-sleeved fake suede shirt won't do. I'm no longer willing to wear my old XL and 1X short-sleeved shirts, which I did wear last summer even though they were somewhat big then. I've bought some size M short sleeved camp shirts, but it turns out they are all pretty causual.

I don't even know what I would want to wear. I haven't worn dresses in years, and I'm going to need a different approach to how to look somewhat dressed up in pants than the nice tunic shirts I wore when I was heavier. Most of our female job candidates these days seem to wear twin sets, but those have never appealled to me. I guess I had better go look at the blazers in my closet from 20 years ago.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

my journey

Love is stronger than the emptiness. I have to keep learning that. I hadn't been back to the emptiness for a while, but it it part of the journey. The child felt anger, humiliation, self-blame, and finally emptiness, hopelessness.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Science and Technology in Society

Official word today; both my proposals to the provost were fully funded, not just for one year but on a recurring basis.

I got into this last spring, when I learned that the new general education requirements to go into place in Aug. 2005 included a requirement that all students take a course on Science and Technology in Society. I realized that this wasn't going to work unless more courses were developed and the faculty developing courses learned more about the field of STS. I put in a proposal to the provost for a faculty seminar. I got no response until I got a small grant from NSF; then the university came through with the rest of the money.

Our faculty seminar last fall was successful, and I began making a list of what needed to be done to get courses taught. Feeling that nothing was going to get done in a timely way unless I just did it, I wrote a proposal to be coordinator of STS (and get release time and an administrative supplement) and another proposal for funding for extra sections of STS courses in my college. I wrote down everything I thought ought to be done. It was those proposals that were just funded.

I've been trying to follow a philosophy I think of as water flowing down hill. I don't have a vision of what STS should be on this particular campus, but am simply following whatever opportunities come available and being willing to put in the work. I've gotten farther than I ever expected.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

a beautiful warm spring day

My first priority was to join a Cyberspinners bike ride through the Eastatoe valley just south of Route 11. We stopped at one abandoned house with a large field full of daffodils. We did about 30 hilly miles and my knee twinged less than yesterday when I did about 25 flatter slower miles.

Somehow I also got a paper rewritten today to give at a conference this Friday. Actually it still needs to be cut in half, but at least I feel I have a text to work from that goes where I want to go. Cutting it is going to be hard, as the argument hinges on some complicated technical details. The session organizer emailed me today to ask me to circulate my paper right away, so I barely squeaked under the wire on that one.

Church today left me thinkig about the story of the raising of Lazarus, who "stinketh" (in the worlds of the King James version). And about a comment someone made in our Sunday school class on Celtic spirituality: that we meet evil but we know the good inside us is stronger. My first reaction was that it didn't work that way for me as a kid. But I do like the Celtic emphasis on the goodness of creation.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

the bridge

Here is my image of the bridge:

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

more ideas

I met with K., whom I see as a spiritual director but who is trained as a Jungian analyst. We had a creative conversation about the question of different strategies people use to live with having done something bad.

He said two images came up for him. The first was the 19th century Second Great Awakening paradigm of the conversion process. I read conversion accounts years ago (for a project on science at Mount Holyoke College) and the pattern is that the unconverted one feels worse and worse about herself, more intensely unworthy, until the selfhatred has grown and grown until it finally breaks and the young person feels God's love and acceptance.

K.'s second image was an old Cherokee ritual called going to water. On a given day every year the members of a community would take off their old clothes by a river and enter the water and follow it downstream to another place where they left the water and put on all new clothes. All wrongs except murder were forgiven by the process of going through the water and other people had to be forgiven all wrongs and debts.

I said I don't want to leave the child in me behind in order to find a new life, and K. had an image of a mother carrying a child with her through the water.

That was powerful for me but I started looking for images that weren't of leaving the old behind and starting anew. One possible direction is to trust that God will bring good out of all that is in me. I know I wouldn't want to be the person I would be if I hadn't had the bad experiences. Rotten stuff is good fertilizer.

I had a stubborn image in my head of a bridge, though I resisted it, not wanting to be a bridge between the world where the harm happened and the new. K. suggested I could be a drawbridge, but the image in my mind is of a suspension bridge. I need to make the picture before I try to say what it means.

A friend sent me this link for making friends with the shadow.


I'm working with feelings about something I did as a child. While I could say that I was too young to be responsible, that isn't touching some of the deepest feelings inside me so I am looking for other possible approaches. One of my philosophies of life is that there are always more than two alternatives, so I am trying to think of as many alternatives as I can for how people live with having done something bad. Here's what I have so far:
  • repression--forget that it happened
  • always feel inside "I'm bad"
  • find God's forgiveness
  • throw yourself into working for some related good cause

I'm trying to think of more alternatives. They don't have to be desirable alternatives--I'm not looking for an answer but rather trying to enlarge what I call the possibility space, the range of ideas available to me. More generally, the direction I want to go in is the Jungian idea of embracing the shadow.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

belated ride report

I had a lovely bike ride of just over 3 hours on Saturday. The mountain was early in the ride and most of the climb was moderate with occasional level patches. There was one stretch where I was above 90% maximum heart rate for longer than I have ever been before. Downhill was no fun--steep and curving and a rough road so I had to ride the brakes the whole way. Then there was a long flat stretch and I kept my pace up. The last uphill was tough.

The most interesting things I saw were two belted cows, which look to me like they ought to be pigs, and an old apple orchard that had just been pruned. The apple trees were pruned not in the open-center style I am used to but with central trunks like telephone poles and horizontal branches alternating directions, called central leader pruning.

Monday, March 07, 2005


I regret going out in my car early in the morning to run instead of just rolling out the door, but the track is easier on my joints and just too far to walk. But this morning it was a good thing, because I knew early that my car wouldn't start. It has been starting sluggishly and I have been worrying how to know whether it just needed a new battery or whether there was something more wrong. After not being used all weekend it couldn't quite get going, and when I tried again later it didn't turn over at all. That certainly suggested that the battery was failing--it didn't show the recovery that a battery usually will. My husband jumped it and I stopped and bought a new battery after dropping my son at school. I bought this car used so I didn't know if it still had the original battery, but the brand on the battery was Motorcraft so it probably was original. The car is a 1998 Ford Escort that now has 120,000 miles on it, so it has certainly earned a new battery. I'm happy that it looks like the problem was so easy to fix.

Friday, March 04, 2005


I'm looking forward to a weekend of hiking and biking at Kanuga. I tend to make spending time outdoors a higher priority when at Kanuga than the program of my church's retreat weekend, and particularly so if a lot is going on in my personal journey. It is easier to face the difficult memories if I can burn off my pain hiking or biking. Last summer I did the 42 mile Apple Festival Challenge route but went around the mountain--I'm hoping tomorrow to do the whole 2924 cumulative vertical feet.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

not according to plan

The coach didn't show up to swimming and the lifeguard was late, so we started 15 minutes late. We still got in a pretty good workout, as we paused less between sets without the coach teaching.

When I went back into the locker room I realized I was leaving bloody footprints. My periods have gotten heavier, but it is frustrating to be leaking after less than two hours. I mopped up a little with my towel but that didn't the job. When I was dressed I went and told the older man at the front desk. He looked totally confused until he got that the issue was cleaning up the women's locker room floor. He said he couldn't go in there and asked if he could give me a mop. I said I would gladly clean up my own mess. As I was mopping, someone in the locker room thanked me and asked if I had cut my foot. I explained and got into a conversation with two total strangers about the weirdness of perimenopause. My periods are regular for the first time in my life.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

I'm glad to be here. Some difficult memories came up yesterday so it is odd that that is what I want to say, but it is.

Update: It took me until the next morning to remember how to find these words that were in my head:
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Max Ehrmann