Thursday, December 24, 2009

An Eclectic Mix

In one of my media classes years ago, our professor asked what magazines, if any, we subscribed to at the time.  As I recall mine were MS Magazine, Mother Earth News, Business Week, Newsweek and Reader's Digest.  He was humored by the eclectic mix.
I have always been rather eclectic.  I'm curious about people - why they believe and do the things they do.  That is probably why communications has been the right field for me.  The study of interpersonal communications, intercultural communications, and mass media is so very interesting to me.  Pay attention and it removes your egocentric perspective.  You have to try to step into the other person's shoes.
Why is it that what I said isn't what you heard?  Why is your belief system different than mine?  How do we move an audience to a conclusion of some thought or action?
As a corporate media producer for a global company I have to apply these things to everything I do.  One day I may be working with the President's message to employees, and the next it may be a video explaining how to use a remote control for machines.
On a personal level, I enjoy that same diversity.  I like being around people who are doing all kinds of things and who hold all kinds of beliefs.  Of course, I am most drawn to those who share common values of community.  But I don't fear people who think differently and walk a different path.  Unless it is overtly destructive, I am curious and often entertained to learn more.  
My measure of how close I want to be to those who are different is how much they laugh.  Where there is joy, there is something to be learned of greater personal value.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Coming Out

As a 52 year old activist for GLBT rights, I am sometimes asked what it is I am fighting for and why.  I ask myself that question quite often - especially when it seems the very people who would seem to be allies - should be allies - are so petty and dysfunctional.
As I search my source of motivation, I return to my coming out days.  At 18, much to my surprise, I fell in love with a woman.  I hid it from my friends and family.  I struggled to make sense of it.  I felt guilt and fear based on all that I had been taught.  I rejected the notion that I could be a lesbian.  My religious and cultural upbringing was in total conflict with my loving another woman.  
When that relationship ended, I was devastated.  I had no one to talk with about it.  She was the only one who knew.  She was gone.  
I tried everything I could think of to get over it - to excuse it away.  I immersed myself in "Campus Crusade for Christ".  I dated a nice man who asked me to marry him.  But nothing worked to change what I knew.  It did not fit for me.  I could not be in that world any longer.  I thought I could not be in the world any longer.  I felt as though this one relationship was so isolated and so unique that I was forever an outsider the world around me.  
A year later, the loneliness and isolation was overwhelming.  In the depths of my anguish, two Nuns addressed my religious issues.  And a friend put me in touch with a community of older Lesbians who had built a community and lived rather openly.  
That is why I speak out now.  That is what I am fighting for - that person - 18, 30, 40, or older - who has discovered they love someone of the same sex and is struggling to make sense of it.  The person who feels they are in the wrong body somehow.
Our hearts do not know gender.  Love is not a gender.  
I am so lucky that I learned I was a lesbian when I was just 18.  As I meet GLBT people who have learned this in later years, I realize that the older you are, the more baggage there is to overcome.  Children, jobs, older parents, spouses, community ties, all become major hurdles.  I have heard these stories over and over again with gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender people who have come out in later years.  Some have lost their jobs.  Some have lost family relationships.  It has caused divorces.  It has resulted in community scrutiny.  
I am fighting to provide a sense of community for those who struggle with these issues.  I am fighting to help to educate the world that understands love knows no gender.  Love is what it is.  I am fighting for love because I love.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Stepping outside your zone

One of my favorite college courses was Intercultural Communications.  It forced me to step outside my comfort zone and examine my own biases.  
One particular assignment has stuck with me.  We were asked to select a culture that we felt we did not like and study it.  At the ripe old age of 25, I was a non-traditional student - had served in the Air Force - lived in different cultures.  I thought I was pretty sophisticated.  It was a bit shocking to have to admit that I did not like a whole culture.  I grew up under the influence of WWII Veterans.  The Vietnam War raged before my eyes.  My intercultural experiences were not so broad - Greenland and Spain.  To put it delicately, I had no appreciation of Asian Culture.  So, I chose to study Japan.
While I still have not traveled to an Asian country, that single assignment was life altering.  I gained a sense of continuity, ancestry, and personal spiritual growth.  Most important, I have carried a belief that there are wonderful things to be gained from really examining how someone different travels this earth.  There are many paths.  We can all benefit from exploration.  

Sunday, December 13, 2009


What often gets us in trouble in life is expectations.  Our employer has certain expectations - fail them - we are out of a job.  Society has expectations - many of which are legislated - break them and there are consequences.  Families and friends have expectations.  Break them and conflicts ensue.
Our struggle is in determining if the expectations are reasonable and rational.  I love my job.  I am salaried which comes with an expectation that I will do whatever is needed when it is needed to be done.  To some, what I do to meet that expectation may seem unreasonable and irrational.  But I feel I am getting the return on that investment that is very reasonable.  As long as the company's expectations and mine are met, we have a happy union.
Personal relationships are the same.  Are the expectations reasonable and rational?  Is the return on investment positive on both sides?  When it is not, the relationship unravels.  
I notice with myself that I come unglued when I have expectations that are not being met.  Are my expectations realistic, reasonable and rational?  Does the other person know what I am expecting in return for my investment?  It's a two party contract.  Both parties need to know the parameters.  It's only going to work well if expectations match.  When they do, there is great joy.  It's a happy union.  
It can take serious work to get to that place.  I have had struggles with my job.  There have been times that I felt the balance was not good and even wanted to walk away.  I am very thankful that I did not!  
The successful personal relationships are the same.  We work through those expectations.  We find the space where we can find the greatest joy.  These are happy unions.  It is worth the struggle to find that joy.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sister Girlfriends!

I grew up with four sisters - all with wonderfully diverse personalities.  At one point, all five of us shared the same room!  You can imagine how that was.  Sometimes we fought one another - even actual knock down, drag out fights.  We cried together.  We told one another our secrets.  We schemed together.  Through it all, we loved each other and love each other still.
We have gone too long of times without seeing or talking to one another.  We have had major differences.  But if one of my sisters calls needing me, I will drop the world to be there for her.  Our tenderness with one another has grown.  We say 'I love you' a lot more and a lot easier.
These sisters I speak of are not blood sisters.  They are step-sisters.  But we grew up together and, we have chosen each other.  We remain full sisters by choice.  Distance scatters us and we cannot see one another as often as we should, but they are mine.
A wonderful group of women have emerged around me this year.  Strong sisters!  As with my other sisters, I am the sole lesbian.  But I do believe, every strong woman is a lesbian at some level.  Forgive the labels.  Women identified women!  The connections between us vary.  It is not necessarily sexual but it is deeply affectionate.  To me, it is a spiritual connection.
I am thankful for it.  I am thankful for all my sisters.
Generally, I find, that these strong women - if attached to men - are attached to some pretty awesome men who are confident and comfortable in their relationships.  As a primarily 'woman identified woman' on most all levels, this has been interesting for me to learn.  Some pretty awesome men have helped me to understand it.  One is my bother - who grew up in a whole house full of sisters.  And two pretty awesome guys I work with have had a lot to say.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Today and Now

There's much to be said about living in the moment.  This day - what lies right before us - can be as magical and wonderful as we allow it to be.  We clutter our hearts and minds with fears.  Fears based on the past.  Fears based on what might or should be in the future.  Fears imposed upon us by others.
I recall an old quote that went something like this;  "Yesterday is gone, forget about it.  Tomorrow has not come, don't worry about it.  Today is here, live it."
Of course, that is cliche and terribly black and white, but the central truth is that if yesterday and tomorrow are holding you back from today, you aren't really living.  We need to remember the mistakes of yesterday so we don't repeat them.  We need to remember that mistakes we make today are likely to hold consequences tomorrow.  But, if this day - this moment - we act with a true heart, deep respect, love and kindness, we can live without fear.  
Our lives ripple across many others.  Sometimes those surrounding us are creating waves against us and even threaten to drown us.  Most often, the churning is based in fear.  Fear, not hate, is the opposite of love.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Social Movement of our Times

Throughout our nations history there have been periods of social movement. Many struggles for social justice peaked. The abolitionist movement, the union movement, the suffragist movement, the civil rights movement. If you are like me, you see these times in history as exciting and important.
Those days are not gone. The movement for equality and justice continues. As long as injustice and inequality remain, our voices must rise to speak against them.  Always our goal should be to build a better society for all.  Sadly, it appears to be human nature to identify and separate people based on some form of "otherness".  
Today marks a wave toward social justice for LGBT people.  I urge you to be part of it.  Do not sit on the sideline and later wish you had been there.  It is now.  It is here.  And you can have a voice.
And know that social justice will not stop here.  Let this wave continue.  Let this wave move toward a greater understanding of fairness and equality for all.  
We all share some kind of "otherness".  If not today, you could be the "other" of tomorrow.  The true test comes down to how we, as individuals, care for those around us - irrespective of our "otherness".  Truth.  Honesty.  Respect.  If I am different but am truthful, honest and respectful of you, I can expect the same in return - even if you are different from me.
That old Golden Rule.  That old Golden Rule.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Our Darkest Hours

There are times in our lives that we face many roadblocks. Everywhere we look, it seems there is devastation in the pathway out. In those moments we can feel most alone. I am certain we land in those situations for many reasons - and we land there due to our own failings.
Those failings are not nearly as important as what we do to overcome them.
In those moments, what makes the greatest difference is in whom we choose to listen - really listen! The wisdom comes in our willingness to hear.
I have been most fortunate to have strong and trusted friends and family who are able to not only hear me, but also to tell me what I need to hear. They have reminded me of my strengths and weaknesses. They have lifted to me and motivated me to be more - to do more - and to keep doing better. I am able to be most honest with them and, as a result, get the best and most honest advice. Their advise is sometimes difficult to hear. But I can trust them and know that I will have to sift through what they say.
They are my board of directors. I know, and they know, what they tell me will be filtered through their own experience with me and with other personal situations. They keep me honest and true to the values they believe we share. They are a great gift. I do not always follow their advice. When I am wrong, they find a gentle way to tell me "I told you so" quickly followed with continued support. When I am right, they are the greatest cheerleaders.
In addition to my personal board of directors, I have advisors. Typically, they do not have the longer range of view with me or not the keener insight based on experience, but I believe they add great value. Often, I know, these advisors will one day rise to board status. In any case, their voices matter to me.
They all matter because they keep me on a truer path. They lift me up. They inspire me to be better - to do better - to be more.
In your darkest hour - look to your board of directors - your advisors. Be certain they are not excusing you but rather lifting you to better places.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

About God

As a child, my mother took me regularly to a solid and very loving Christian church. I loved it. The church was just up the road so I knew everyone and where they lived. They were friends and neighbors and I adored them. I wholeheartedly believed all that they taught me.
At 8 years old, I learned that it wasn't always right. We were taught that if we prayed a certain way with the total and complete faith of a child, our prayer would be answered. One fateful night, that teaching was tested. With total and complete faith and conviction, I took my little brothers hand, assured him that everything would be all right and prayed exactly as we had been taught. I believed it so completely, that when adults tried to tell me my prayer had not been answered - my mother had died - I refused to believe them.
In the months that followed I struggled to determine which truth was wrong. Did God really operate the way we were told? If so, my mother was out there somewhere and adults were lying about it. I was angry either way.
My aunt started taking me to her church where the preacher talked a lot about hell fire, damnation and the wrath of God. That brought on a whole set of internal questions. What a horrible girl I must be that God could not hear me.
So, decades later, what is my view about God?
I believe God is very different and much simpler than is taught in most Christian churches. And yet it is more complicated perhaps because the focus is not on what God will do for us, but rather getting in tune with God and what God is. God is all the energy of everything combined. God is everything and everywhere. There is a natural flow and our energy is part of that.
It's like learning to surf. There are multiple waves continuously coming. Choose the right wave, at the right time, and get your energy flowing with it, and you have a great ride. The person next to you can try the same wave and it can knock them down. It's not the waves fault. It's all about developing the right skills and getting in line with the wave.
God is not going to intercede and put us on the wave where we want or need to be. And God is not going to purposely knock us down. It is simply about our getting ourselves in line with the energy force that is "God". Simply, I say. Well, as simple as developing any skill. Put me on a surf board with some big waves and you'll see me knocked around a lot. And as I work on this simple spiritual skill, I still get knocked around a lot. Still searching for that perfect wave.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Choose your battles

There's a cool show I like to watch when I think of it called "What Would you do?" It's an odd twist on the old Candid Camera show. Situations are staged that cause on-lookers to make a decision to intervene or not. Situations like a blind person given the wrong change in a store, at an open house visitors steal things, an upscale store is obviously racially profiling, or gay men are openly affectionate in sports bar. Sometimes no-one stands up to defend the victim. So, they ratchet up the actor bully role until someone simply can't stand it any longer and intervenes. I feel bad for the person who is duped in the story - the one who speaks up. It's always emotional. It kind of bothers me that they were tricked.
But it does pose a lot of questions for me beyond what I would do in the given situation. I wonder, is it easier to stand up for strangers in a situation that appears clearly wrong? Somehow, it seems so. We can speak up. Feel good about it. Walk away and never see those people again.
The battles that rage among our friends and family are much more difficult. We all see one another a lot. We will cross paths again and again. The context of the battles are so much larger. And the lines are much less black and white.
Perhaps the battle then should be to find a way that lifts all parties up. How do we do that for the person who is purposely giving the blind person the wrong change? What if the person doing that misdeed was your brother or your friend? Would it make a difference in how you handle it?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


All voices need to be heard. Even when it is difficult, we need to hear the dissenting view. That's important. But typically, the person yelling loudest is not going to be the one to roll up their sleeves and get the real work done. And more often than not, the person yelling the loudest is creating a cloud of dust that everyone else has to try to clear in order to find real answers.
People willing and able to take leadership positions in our community are tough to come by. Yelling loudly is not leadership.
Listen to - seek out - those calmer voices that are talking about getting real work done. They are talking about building the trails and clearing the pathway to something more.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chip Away - "Out in the Silence"

Anyone who has faced injustice, especially repeated injustice, knows how difficult it is NOT to wear a chip on your shoulder. Bitterness and fear are strong emotions. They are ugly emotions which cause us to pre-judge. Then it's a vicious cycle of self fulfilling prophesies.
How do we get past that?
I watched Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer's documentary, "Out in the Silence" for the second time last night, at Pitt Titusville. I have deep respect for these two and the work they are doing. The greatest message is one of hope. Hope is the answer to overcoming bitterness and fear.
There are times our hope is misplaced. There are those, like Diane Gramley of the AFA, whose lies and beliefs are so entrench that they cannot work toward solutions. Confrontation only energizes them. They become more entrenched and spin bigger lies. Their objective is solely to silence their "enemy". There is little hope that they will rationally seek solutions.
How do we get past that?
We realized they are not part of our hope for progress. We carefully, patiently and rationally expose their lies. We open dialogues with good people who are willing and able to understand. We place our hope in telling the truth as often as we can to as many as we can. We have to maintain a healthy level of optimism that the truth will ultimately be accepted. Otherwise, all the person sees is the big chip on your shoulder.
Finally, there must be legislative and legal protection. Without it, hope wears thin. Injustice cannot be allowed to thrive.
Overlook it - it will grow.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Transparency and Trust

I am very uncomfortable when someone tells me secrets or asks me not to tell a specific person something. It makes me suspicious. What more don't I know? What has the person tried to keep me from knowing? What are they doing that they are ashamed of doing?
I'm told I tend to be too open about things. I don't see a need to hide a lot. If I can't trust you to know things about me, then it is one of two problems. 1) It's something I shouldn't be doing or saying 2) You are using that information in a way to purposely hurt me.
I sincerely avoid doing and saying things I shouldn't.
If you take information from me and use it to purposely hurt me, I should avoid you.
I believe in transparency because it builds trust. It builds trust personally. It builds trust professionally.
Obviously, I'm going to protect certain information from getting into the hands of people who cannot be trusted. I don't want criminals getting my financial information, for example.
But when I begin to hear couples tell friends not to tell their spouse something - where they were, or about a shopping trip or about a speeding ticket or worse - it's a sign of a bigger problem. Transparency and trust.
With businesses, it's the same thing. If a lot is being hidden from the public or employees or management, there's probably a bigger problem.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Healthy Attitude

No matter what is going on in our lives, a healthy attitude makes all the difference. Our attitude - how we choose to speak and act - is the one thing we, ourselves have full control over. It's our choice.
I try to remind myself of that fact often. It's my choice how I react. It's my choice what I think. It's my choice what I feel. I may make that choice based on someone else's action, but my reaction is still my choice. One of my favorite song lyrics is; "There's more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line. The less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine."
It's when I most stubbornly seek the black and white - the absolute - that I am most distressed. Life is a crooked line with more than one answer.
As I consider those I most admire, it is those who display an optimism and healthy respect for everyone around them. Their optimism and respect lift me up. These are the people who seek excellence in what they do. They can communicate their expectations in a positive way - even in conflict. They do not fear conflict but are always approaching it from a determination to find a solution.
They know there is more than one answer and they are willing to hear it. They key is ANSWERS. That, to me, is a healthy attitude.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Building Bridges

The toughest challenge in any debate, any conflict - is to communicate one's point without name calling and without attacking the person rather than addressing the actual issue. If we are to be successful in bridging our divide, we have to be able to communicate our differences in way that helps us each understand what separates us. Then, we can begin to discover what we have in common. If the things we say are intended to invoke an emotional response, or are an emotional response rather than rational discourse, we cannot expect to find solutions.
We see so much of that in politics these days. And, sadly, we do it in our personal lives as well. It's difficult to work through things sometimes. When we disagree with someone, don't like what they are saying or if we don't want to believe a truth, we will take an emotional route. "Kill the messenger". Discredit them with things that have absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand. Distract everyone's attention. Shift the focus to something quite trivial but may capture a knee jerk response.
As I follow the health care debate, I am so saddened by this type of reaction. "Socialist" "Nazi" and derogatory signs that are inflamatory and, I believe strongly, simply racist. What is that about?
FDR was called Socialist in his calls for reforms that this country now embraces. Social Security is one of them.
We have a health care crisis in this country. We are far behind the rest of the world in caring for our citizens in many ways. If it is "socialistic" to believe we need to take care of one another, I am not ashamed to bear that label. But Nazi??? Who could say anyone who wants to provide care for all is a Nazi? Come on!
Businesses cannot endure the rising costs of health care. Some say employees should not expect that benefit. If employers cannot afford it, how can we expect employees to take on the burden themselves? So, what is the solution?
We are supposed to be one of the greatest countries in the world. Can we not solve this together? Let's stop the name calling and the distraction and get this job done.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Family relationships are a microcosm of societal interaction. The larger and more extended the family relationships the better the representation of the broader society. Through the years there are conflicts, dramas, crisis and celebrations. Families come together and families are sometimes split to pieces.
At your last family reunion or gathering, was there one person who walked in and changed the whole tone? Good and bad?
The same thing happens in the board room, the social club meeting, the school reunion and in any regular gathering.
When I was teaching, I was humored that each class had the same personality dynamics. There was always an over achiever. There was always a student who tested the teacher. There was always a student with excuses. There was always a student refusing to work within the structure of the system. And these were adults.
These approaches to interacting in groups surely began with family relationships. It's tough to break patterns of behavior that are deeply ingrained. Of course, the good patterns we want to keep. The bad may be very difficult to overcome, especially if they are not recognized as bad.
As I've heard stories from friends about the various gatherings this summer, I've been interested in the ones talking about the relative who was perhaps a step out somehow. The most positive stories were about city relatives coming to the country. The kids began their visit timid and uncertain about getting involved. With encouragement, they were soon kayaking and cooking on an open fire. It took caring encouragement.
The saddest was about a relative who is perpetually stirring drama. Without even being at the family gathering, she was able to interject a degree of controversy. It was based on a battle that has been a recurring theme for many decades in that family.
Where did it begin? And how can it ever end?
I'm learning for myself that the better I work with family issues, the better I work with larger groups. Family issues are the most difficult and there seems to always be one family member that seems simply impossible. That's a challenge. I'm thinking if I can learn a comfortable way of dealing with that one, I can use that skill later in a larger context. I've certainly had more time to practice and may be able to get away with more mistakes on that one.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


“Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.” Benjamin Franklin
As we muddle through the vast array of information now available to us, how do we determine what is true and what is not? So much information is at our fingertips but how much is simply garbage?
Maybe we should take the approach Ben Franklin advised. If someone tells you something, simply don't believe it is true. If you see something, believe there is a 50/50 chance that it is true. So, then what do we do?
In the end, I think we need to all learn to follow our inner voice. There is a positive energy - a source of all things good - God, perhaps. We need to quiet all around us - what we have heard - what we have seen - and let our inner spirit guide us to what is right and true.
Maybe that is why I have been thinking about Greenland lately. Imagine the silence of that place in the deepest chill of winter. A dark northern sky - only a few hundred souls nearby - only the sound of cold nature - darkness - a crunching snow - Silence, thundering Silence. A clarity that the soul can feel and hear. Something that can be believed deeper than one can see or hear.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fall Arrival In Greenland

I arrived in Greenland October 1978. We flew in a C-130 cargo plane stopping in Goose Bay, Labrador before hopping the ocean. It wasn't fancy. Like riding in an oversize cargo van, there was no insulation and it was very noisy. Webbed cots folded out from the sides and we could lay down for the trip which was about 4 hours from Goose Bay.
We arrived in daylight though the days were already growing short and the temperature was wintery, about 30F. I was immediately issued heavy mittens, a parka, Sorrel boots (which I still wear) and mukluk's (a boot with attached canvas leg protection that tied at the thigh.)
Bundled up, I was ready for the grand tour. The landscape is stark like a frozen desert. It is not green at all. The little vegetation that exists is short and brown. Less than 1000 people were living there; about 800 Danish, 80 US Air Force and a small number of US civilians. Most of the Danish people lived on one side of the runway and the rest of lived on the other. There was a movie theatre, an NCO club, a gym and bowling alley, the Polar Bear Hotel, a dining hall, the Base Exchange and barracks on the US side. On the other side was Scandinavian Airlines and the International Airport with a restaurant and grocery store and apartments were nearby.
From the Danish side, we could drive out to the port on the longest paved road in all of Greenland - 9 miles - speed limit 35 mph.
From the US side, we could drive across the fjord and up the mountain on a 3 mile dirt road to Lake Ferguson, a beautiful glacial lake - deep and blue. That was my regular drive for work at the Radio and Television Station. A short walk away was the Danish Row club which by October, was closed for the season.
This would be my world for the next year. The nearest civilization is hours by plane, longer by boat, and a dogsled is only going to get you to an even smaller village somewhere out there. The next day I would meet the station manager for my first official day as a broadcaster in Armed Forces Radio and Television.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Year In Greenland

One of the most extraordinary experiences in my young life was being stationed at Sondrestrom Air Base. That was 30 years ago.
It closed as a US Air Base in 1992.
I've been thinking for some years that I'd really like to go back. So, recently, I downloaded Google Earth to see if I could find it. And I did. From the air the place looks pretty much like I remember. It's still a very small town - Kangerlussuaq. Now it is promoted as a tourist destination. Is Greenland on your list of tourist destinations? It is on mine. I lived there one year.
Check out the midnight sun tab. I saw the northern lights in even greater glory than the picture shows. The pictures of Lake Ferguson reveal the landscape I saw everyday. It's about 3 miles up the mountain from Kangerlussuaq and where the Radio/TV station broadcasts originated in those days. The Danish Row club was nearby.
So, what is Greenland like? Sondrestrom - Kangerlussuaq - is the "Miami" of the north. While Thule had a complete underground system for going from one place to another, we did not need that in Sondrestrom. Our winter temperatures that year were in the -60F degree range. As long as we plugged our vehicles in, they would start. We dressed accordingly and learned that exposed skin was not an option.
I wrote home that I had walked to the truck without drying my hair and it froze on the way to the truck. My family sent me a hair dryer. There are no trees - except for the one in Royal Danish Commander's yard which was in a pot. My brother sent me pictures of the trees of PA in various stages of color.
Greenland is an amazing place. I will write more about that year in the days ahead. At this time, 30 years ago, I was leaving there. I was there when they won their "independence" - home rule. I spent only one year there but am still drawn to it. I am drawn to the place but also the people - both Danish and Greenlandic. I am also drawn to the historic significance of the United States presence there.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Rhetoric of Motives

Two of my favorite college courses were Communication Law and Communication Theory. Communication Law focused on the First Amendment and copyright. Communication Theory dissected the complicated aspects of communication.
As we examined First Amendment cases, I was facinated by the distinctions between free speech and individual rights protecting libel and slander. We do not have the right to lie. We cannot yell "fire" in a crowd. And if those lies harm another, it is against the law - whether verbally or in writing. It's really that simple.
Communication Theory was my passion. I love it still. How do we effectively communicate a message? How do we effectively evaluate the messages we hear and see? My career has led me in the path of crafting messages so I am reminded to go back to basics often and look at how messages are perceived. How can we craft communications to help people understand our intended message? And, as we receive a message, how do we determine it's true intent or truthfulness?
We often assume a great deal. When we hear gossip, for example, how do we determine what is true? Is it more reliable based on the person who tells it? Is it more reliable if they tell a story and a portion of the information is also in the newspaper? Is it more reliable if that person tells the gossip in front of someone else who nods in agreement?
How do you decide? My favorite theorist, Kenneth Burke, would point to Motives. Look deeply at the motives of the communication source. You must go beyond the message and seek the greater context. There you will gain a larger truth. You can apply this to corporations or individuals. Look for the motives behind the rhetoric.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Power of Words

Words are so very powerful. I think we underestimate the impact of the things we say - the words we write - the words we say.
I can mark a number of turning points in my life. Words people spoke to me that resinated and influenced me to make a decision. Most I can name, but one I recall and will never remember his name. And I am certain he would never remember me at all. Each are single conversations at a moment in time where I was making a choice or about to make a choice.
My 5th grade teacher whom I met by chance on the street while I was in college the first time. She inquired about my major and told me it was wrong for me. "You should be studying Literature, journalism..." She was right. Within the year, I was in the Air Force as a military broadcaster. Hadn't even imagined it at that moment.
Then the program manager at the local radio station that I met some months later told me he had gotten his start in Armed Forces Radio. Then the career counselor in Boot Camp who told me what to do to get into the field.
None of them will ever know the impact of the little things they said. They offered them with sincerity and positive intent. And I latched onto them.
I write. I blog. I speak. I sing.
This last week, I've had a number of reminders of how meaningful it is to offer positive and sincere words. What if my 5th grade teacher had not shared her thoughts? What if the program director had not shared his experience? What if the career counselor had not shared his knowledge?
So often we are afraid to say a thing. We are afraid to share our experience. We are afraid to offer true counsel.
Write. Blog. Speak. Sing. If it is sincere - from the heart - from what you know to be true - it is needed in the world and can make a world of difference.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rooting for the Underdog

A little over 20 years ago (where did the time go?) I was contracted in Franklin County, PA to develop volunteer services for that area. My job was to market, promote and help place volunteers in the various county run and non-profit organizations in both Franklin and Fulton Counties. It was a very humbling experience. So many programs and projects were underway and I met the most amazing people. From the Chamber of Commerce, the Red Cross, Area Agency on Aging, March of Dimes, Easter Seals, Drug and Alcohol, Crisis Center, Exchange Club, Lions Club, Kiwanis, Junior Women's Club, Family Services, the Hospitals and so many more.
Most of us are totally unaware of how many people in our communities are serving everyday. While the causes are all worthwhile and needed, one touched my heart more than all the rest. It offered the greatest promise, the greatest challenges, the greatest rewards and also the greatest dangers. It was the Exchange Club's Parent/Child Center. Volunteers train to become mentors for parents who are at risk - most often single mothers who are stressed, uneducated and in need of mom's themselves. It's a huge commitment and often the result of a referral from Children and Youth services.
I'm one of those people - and I know there are many of us - who love to see a story about someone overcoming adversity. I saw that with the Parent/Child Center and having been intimately involved, I understand the many sacrifices it took by many people to see the success. I remember the ones who didn't make it. I remember the frantic calls in the night with a crisis that threatened to tip the balance the other direction. And I remember some that tipped the wrong direction on those frantic nights.
One young woman had 5 children to 5 different fathers. She was faltering. Someone "in the system" believed she had a chance. She was referred to the program and matched with a volunteer. That volunteer promised 2 years of her life to mentor that young woman. By the time I left the area, that young woman not only graduated from the program but earned an Associate Degree and had become a Parent/Child Center volunteer herself.
We cannot know who is going to make it and who is not. The best we can do is provide opportunity for someone to begin to make the right decisions. THEY need to make the right decisions. Sometimes they need someone to guide them toward those decisions.
I will always root for the underdog when I know they are truly working to overcome adversity. We cannot let adversity become an excuse for not doing the right things. It's a great balance we all face. When it comes together - combined energies - it grows like a a perfect wave and we can all ride it through to the shore. 20 years later, I still remember one underdog who rode the wave, and all the people who helped create that wave.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Say No

As we strive to be the best, to achieve the best, and to create positive outcomes for the broader community, we have to SAY NO to those who obviously seek the opposite.
I remember our playground bully - DH. He pushed to the front of the line. We didn't say anything. He took things that didn't belong to him. No one stopped him. He'd pick on certain kids and said horrible things to them and about them. No one stopped him. We were all afraid of him. And if he wasn't directly picking on us, we didn't want to get involved. The minute he stepped on the playground, we were all tense. Of course he had a couple of buddies at his side who were too stupid or afraid not to follow him. Even the teachers seemed intimidated by DH or simply didn't want to intervene. He had big stories to explain why he punched or pushed somebody. They appeared to believe him.
One day on the playground, he was picking on somebody and one girl - alone - stood up to him. She didn't hit or punch him. She just stood up and said what everybody else would not. She told him that all the kids on the playground were sick of his actions - sick of his talk - sick of the way he treated everyone. She told him he needed to stop. And it stopped. The reason it stopped is because all the other kids gathered behind her and agreed.
DH didn't bully on the playground again. We all realized that, together, we could say no. We took care of each other.
Bullies are liars and if they have an audience - if those around them remain silent - they are empowered. They will keep bullying until everyone tells them NO. Tell the bully NO next time - this has to stop!

"The Secret"

In a dark hour not so long ago, I met a woman who recommended this movie - "The Secret". It was the third time I was prompted to watch it. I did. As a result of that movie, the following is posted on my refridgerator. It is so profound that it will take a few minutes to read and a lifetime to master. I believe it is the essence of every great religion - it is what "the Master" intended us to grasp.

"I promise myself

To be so strong that nothing can disturb my peace of mind. To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person I meet. To make all my friends feel that there is something worthwhile in them. To look at the sunny side of everything and make my optimism come true. To think only the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best. To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own. To forget the mistakes of the past and press on the the greater achievements of the future. To wear a cheerful expression at all times and give a smile to every living creature I meet. To give so much time to improving myself that I have no time to criticize others. To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong fro fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble. To think well of myself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud word, but in great deeds. To live in the faith that the whole world is on my side, so long as I am true to the best that is in me."

Christian D. Larson

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Live like there's no tomorrow

A friend is challenged these days by his teenage daughter as she pushes the envelop. She's breaking rules, defying direction and generally stressing both mom and dad as they try to keep her safe. She's sure she knows better and is very angry when she gets caught in lies.
As I watch the pushing and pulling, I am reminded of all the things I was told at that age. "There are consequences for what you do." "Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn't mean you should." "Don't be so egocentric." (I had to look that word up.) "If you want to be treated as an adult, you have to be responsible and be accountable for your actions." "The choices you make affect everyone around you."
I'm not sure how I got through those adolescent years without hurting myself or someone around me. I really wanted to live like there was no tomorrow. Very short sighted with a very narrow view of the impact of what I was doing. Living by impulse. That's not so unusual for adolescents.
As I look back over the things I was told as a youth, they still apply. There are consequences for what we do. Be careful who you follow. Don't be egocentric. If you want your freedom, it comes with responsibility and accountability. The decisions we make very often affect more than just ourselves. Those are solid values.
It's about seeing beyond your little fenced in yard and beyond what feels good today. There are other people around you. There are days ahead. We need to look ahead. We need to plan ahead.
We see a lot of adolescent behavior throughout our society and a lot of it comes from adults. Banking institutions create "products" to quickly make a buck. Many politicians make decisions based primarily on pole numbers. Many corporations make decisions primarily to get their stock prices up. As individuals we spend our money as fast as, sometimes faster than, it is coming in. No tomorrow - it feels good today. Very adolescent behavior.
Time to be grown up.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Invest to combat fraud

I sent this as a letter to the editor of the Derrick which ran August 21, 2009. Coincidentally, on the page before, a story ran about a local business fraud investigation.

In these tough economic times, scams and white collar crime are reportedly on the rise. Small towns and areas like Venango County are particularly vulnerable as they know there are few (perhaps no) trained resources in the police departments and throughout the justice system that can be dedicated to investigating such crimes.
Recently a friend's debit/credit card information was stolen and used to attempt to purchase items. Her credit card provider caught it. She had a pretty good idea how the information was stolen and a lead that it was device fraud, but local law enforcement could not help and referred her to the FTC website. Perhaps they simply didn't know what to do. They are not trained for it and with other seemingly more pressing crimes... But if it was your credit card and you felt there was a local tie, you would want someone locally to take an interest. The bank protected her, but who's protecting the bank?
As a community, we want to be welcoming to investment and potential investors. And sometimes they just won't be able to provide the results they thought they could. But sometimes, they never intended to provide what was promised. When it appears that is what has happened, when there is evidence that has happened - but it is not investigated because there simply aren't enough resources to investigate - the community is at risk.
This is a very tough issue for communities like ours because our resources are stretched thin. In difficult economic times, scams and white collar crime rise. We all pay for it somehow.
So, what do we do? A few years ago, Greeley Colorado faced this issue. Through fundraising efforts, the County Commissioners raised money to hire investigators. Funds came in from banks, businesses and victims.
It's a good investment. It makes the community a safer place to do business.
Most important, if you feel you have been a victim of fraud – a scam – a white collar crime – report it to law enforcement, your magistrate, or the District Attorney. If you don't report it, they can't help and will never know the depth of the problem. Fraud is not a civil matter. It is criminal.
Linda Henderson, Franklin

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Black Tie Barrow

Last night's fundraiser event at the Barrow Civic Theatre was a great success. An amazing group of people have worked very hard to keep this wonderful place alive. At this event, they took the opportunity to pay tribute to many of those people while showcasing what the Barrow has to offer - ballet, opera, showtunes, dance...
I'm sure many in the audience, like me, took a bit of a trip down memory lane. I remember going to movies there when it was the Kayton. I remember when it was a sporting goods store. I remember when the Civic Operetta performed at the Franklin High School.
While I have never been significantly involved with the Civic Operetta or the Barrow, I have been positively affected by experiences with them. One of my teachers asked me to volunteer as an usher for shows at the High School. It provided opportunity for me to see the shows. I saw 1776, Little Abner, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Fiddler on the Roof. LOVE IT! If I hadn't been asked to volunteer, I probably would not have gone to the shows. Theatre was outside the realm of my family experience.
I believe those shows influenced me beyond simply opening my eyes to live performance. Each of those shows told stories about different times and different cultures. As I left Venango County and traveled to other cultures, I was more open to experiencing them with an open heart and mind. That is the importance of art and live performance can open hearts and mind in a profound way.
Live performance, whether it's music, dance, or drama, creates a unique energy especially when the performer and the audience truly connect. As we struggle to save and fund the arts, this is the most difficult thing to quantify, yet it's the most important benefit that art provides - an uplifting energy the connects people. Our differences melt away. There's no experience like it and it cannot be recorded or reproduced. It happens uniquely in that time and place.
That is what makes the Barrow Civic Theatre and performance spaces like it, so important. They are uplifting. They connect people in a unique way. They open hearts and minds.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mail Order Guitar

There are probably a lot of things you shouldn't buy mail order. I'll leave that to your imagination. Today, I got a mail order guitar. And it has brought back memories. My first guitar - a Kay electric - under the tree. Very exiting Christmas. I was about 12, I think. Then I somehow got a little F hole acoustic soon after. Played that past the neck bowing till my fingers hurt to play it.
Then, my biggest purchase. I was in the Air Force, stationed in Greenland and had a Jumbo Yamaha shipped to me there. LOVED that guitar. Carried it to Spain and back - all across the US and back. That mail order guitar suited me fine and served me well. Sold it thinking I needed something better. And the next guitar was a nice one - is a nice one - my nephew has it now. And I've been playing it a lot lately. Oddly, it just didn't feel the same to me any more.
So, I got a bug to mail order a guitar - like I did way back when. Now, back then, I knew the exact guitar I wanted. This time, I just picked what I felt I could afford right now. It came today and I've been playing it. It's not the Yamaha. It's not an Oscar Schmit or a Guild or a Martin. But playing it just now - it suits me fine.
I knew it when I found myself playing a little bluesy rift I've done off and on for years but have never found words to give it. I didn't find words yet, but suddenly little parts of the rift I long forgot to add came out. I was playing what I felt and it felt ok. The little $99 special guitar can stay and I'll keep it in the hard case that looks like it should be holding a $600 guitar.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Garden Update

As I watch the garden, I note that while much of the cucumber plant is dying, there are ends continuing to survive and even little cucumbers sprouting.  In fact, they have grown up around the sunflowers and whatever else they can find to climb.  So, I just keep tending and watering them.  Maybe I will have a few freeze pickles yet.  Maybe the lesson is just don't give up.  And I have been reading a lot for planning next year.
My tomatoes plants grew huge.  Much larger than I ever had before and certainly didn't expect.  So, they overshadowed the pepper plants.  And they are not so happy.  But, it looks like I will have lots of tomatoes - probably enough to can some.
I am seeing signs of a full 8 ears of corn - some will be blue from Arizona - don't know which yet.  And my second planting of green beans are now about to produce.  I never plant enough of those.  I eat them raw fast as they grow.  Perhaps that will be my goal next time - plant more!!!
Soon I will have an eggplant and more are promised.  All in all, things are too close together and there are far too many weeds.  It's a pitiful garden but it pleases me to have tried.
It's not a total failure and next year - next year - it will be more productive.
The morale of the story is - do nothing and you will get nothing.  Do something without fully planning and researching and you will get something - but not what could have been.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dying on the vine

My cucumbers are dying.  Such a sad sight
.  I've been watching the blooms - watching the growing cucumbers - anticipating.  And slowly, they are dying.  I saw little predators and odd signs along the way and tried to stop it.  But alas, I am not a master gardener.  I planted seeds.  I mulched.  I weeded.  And at the start, it all looked wonderful.  And then, the bugs showed.  
Tonight, sadly, I read about the cucumber beetles.  Insidious little creatures - the very ones I spotted and tried to thwart.  But, by the time you see the signs of damage, it is too late to save the plants.  The damage has been done.  It's all about prevention.  Prevent them to doing their terrible damage ahead of time - when you plant the seeds and seedlings.
And now I am concerned about how broadly the damage will spread.  It could affect other plants in the garden.  I do not like chemical solutions to such things.  I see that some careful planting of other seeds could have prevented this disease.  Ultimately, the cucumber bug spreads disease and you simply cannot let it in the garden at all.  You have to block it's ever entering in the first place.  Once it's in, the damage is done and cannot be undone.
I sigh.  Such hope of freezer pickles - now all dashed.  Can the tomatoes, peppers, corn be saved?  It appears to be all right.  But the cucumbers looked wonderful not so long ago.
All because of an innocent looking beetle?  Geeze!  And all it wanted to do was eat.  But while it was eating, it was spreading disease that killed a whole bunch of stuff.
Is there a life lesson here? 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Amazingly Predictable

My friend Dennis teases me as he sees me hang up the phone day after day and just shake my head.  He says I'm going to be in a constant head shaking motion after a while.  And I have to love the laughter it brings.
There is an amazing predictability to things that becomes almost hilarious.  Odd dramas play out with this strange thing - like watching a movie and anticipating the next scene.  I guess I am amazed that even the irrational and unreasonable is totally predictable.  It's scripted.  Watch the character's in the movie carefully and it's obvious what they will do next.
So, what happens in the end.  Do irrational and unreasonable characters have the ability to predict?  It would seem, in a right world, that rational and reasonable will prevail.
Meanwhile, we should all laugh as much as possible and be care not to shake our heads permanently.

Monday, August 10, 2009

If you have nothing to say...

I love writing.  I think it's because you have time to choose your words more carefully.  I like to rehearse speeches or difficult conversations.  And one of my favorite sayings is "If you have nothing to say, never say it out loud."
I like to speak positive things about others and the world around me.  I prefer diplomacy over battle.  I would rather walk away than fight.  I'd rather focus on logic than emotion.   And while I am more likely to find something in the back of the cupboard than right before my eyes, I like to look for plain and simple solutions to problems.
I am a quiet person.  I hold emotion somewhat close but wear my heart on my sleeve.  I am an idealist and believe that good overcomes evil.  I further believe that good is the natural state of being and that evil is counter to the natural state of energy - the natural state of any human being.
I would like to believe that we all simply make mistakes and take a wrong turn but it's not the core of our being.  I would like to believe that.  But the jails are filled with people who insist that they did nothing wrong - despite all the evidence otherwise that convicted them.    Their probation officer broke their probation.  The police were out to get them.  No one told them they couldn't do whatever it was.  Their childhood was horrible.  A terrible person turned them in.  On and On and On without once accepting that they really should not have done whatever they did.
People can be so very convincing and so very human.  I recently watched the movie Copote and am haunted by the relationship that developed between murderer Perry Smith and Copote.  Copote was haunted by Perry Smith and it was very destructive to Copote.  He discovered a very human, very ordinary person behind the murderous Perry Smith that reminded him of his own life story.  Much as Copote may have wanted something other, that ordinary and human Smith, could not overpower what Perry Smith did.    In the end, Perry Smith was held accountable for his deeds.  Society was protected from the possibility that he would murder again.  Copote was forever changed by the experience.
The morale of the story - something I have to say - as human, as convincing, as understandable, as a story may be - we do have to account for what we have done.  If we choose to protect the wrongdoing based on that convincing, human, understanding part of ourselves - despite all the evidence - buy into that person's insistence of the need for pardon or placing blame elsewhere - it will ultimately be ourselves to suffer the pain of the conflict.  Ultimately, others will suffer at the hands of that one - that one - protected from accountability.  The balance of justice will have shifted to allow evil over good.  That cannot be.  

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sorting through the maze of life dramas

All relationships have some form of drama.  And it's human nature to have some form of emotional reaction to that drama.  That's life.  That's human.
As we face conflicts with our friends, family, co-workers, and partners that emotional reaction is stronger.  We find ourselves "taking sides" - forced to choose one person or the other's version of the drama.  The greater the emotional reaction by any party, the greater the drama.  And the closer to the situation, the greater the emotional reaction.
In my own dramas I'd like you to believe I am always right.  But I am not immune to emotional reaction either.  In these trying times, I most value those people I call my "board of directors".  These are the people who know me pretty well - warts and all.  I trust them to tell me honestly what they see.  And, while it may be quite difficult, I value those who will cut to the chase and say they see some flaws in my thinking.  Or push me to do things that I am not necessarily comfortable doing because it is hard for me.  
If you are truly my friend - on my "board of directors" - don't simply take my side.  Tell me the truth.  Seek truth for yourself.  Be true to yourself.  If truth is our common ground, we will never go wrong.  And, in my mind, best of all, our bond will never be broken. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Context is everything

There is a special culture in small towns.  It's about context and can drive outsider's or newcomer's crazy.  It drives natives crazy as well.  One of my favorite aunts used to say "Somebody farts around here and everybody knows about it."  
The web of connections here in my home area - Venango County, PA - is very intricate and runs quite deep.  For example, much to my surprise, when I closed on my house in Franklin in 2000, I discovered it had been owned and originally built by one of my relatives in 1905.  M.R. and Freda Henderson - Catherine Lamberton's parents.  M.R. was Justice of the Peace in Franklin and an early ham radio enthusiast.
My mother's parents, Leah and Howard Hawkins, moved from Indiana PA to Oil City's South side in the 20's or early 30's to start a "mom and pop" grocery store.  I have a wonderful picture of a string band posing in front of that store.  My mother was born in Oil City in 1936.  My love of music came from my mother and grandfather.  
 The Venango County roots on my father's side of the family go back more generations - to Thomas Law - I believe 5 generations back - maybe more.  And so, there are many offshoots of that clan - Law, Bennett, Osborne, Gilliland, Corbett, Henderson... and you get the picture.  All of which place me in greater context.  Someone hears my last name and asks if Bill or Carl - both teachers - are related.  And so, I am seen in light of them.  Fine light I might add.
When you are young and seeking your own identity, that can be unnerving.  Like being compared to your older sibling in school.  
But as I am growing older, I am finding great joy in it.  I come from a long line of good working class (and a few upper class) people.  Honest, hard working, fun loving people.  Kind people on both sides of my family who passed many wonderful values on to me.  It is a context I hope I will be viewed within.   And it is a light I strive to carry.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

the path out

I love stories about one person making a difference.  I believe one person can make a difference!  It's hard to believe sometimes and I believe it's even harder to actually live it.  That's why we are touched by such stories.  They are far and few between or maybe they just aren't told enough.
Visit and hear this one -
A schizophrenic street musician is given new life by a caring man and those he convinces to join in bringing the gift of music back.
How many people walked passed this man for years, and missed this opportunity?  How many people would have met and overcome the many challenges faced?
Music is the universal language and can help us all overcome so very much.  It reaches our soul.  
I've kept a guitar nearby for more than 40 years.  When I was stationed in Greenland, my first mission was to purchase a Jumbo Yamaha and had it shipped to me there.  Carried that guitar across many miles and several continents.  Sold it to buy an Oscar Schmit.  Do wish I had kept every guitar I ever had.  Even the Kay electric that thrilled me that Christmas way back when.  But I have never believed much in having more than I would actually use at any given time.  I'm not so big a musician that I need more than one guitar at a time.  And I remember how excited the young men were who got the Yamaha and the Oscar Schmit.  Instruments are meant to be played and enjoyed.  Why have an instrument you do not actually play?  That makes no sense at all to me.  

And so I am pleased by a story of a talented musician being given a chance - given an instrument worthy of what they can play.

Today I do not have the Yamaha or the Oscar Schmit and await the return of my Martin.  Kind friends have ensured I have a guitar to play.  And so, Meanwhile, I will play what I have as Mr. Ayers did.  I will play because it is my soul.  I am not so gifted, but it is my heart and the gift I give to myself.  

Monday, July 27, 2009

What would you do?

There's a show on ABC called "What would you do?"  I've caught a few episodes and find it interesting how people react to situations of bigotry, thieving, verbal abuse, etc.  Actors set up specific situations just to see how by-standers will respond.
What would you do?  We all like to believe we would do the right thing when confronted with an injustice but very often we waiver.  It's understandable in some ways.  How many times have you been told to mind your own business?  And how many times has someone wrongly interfered in your business?
How do we draw those lines?  Would you walk past a dog or baby left in a hot car with the windows up?  Would you speak up if you saw a cashier giving a blind person the wrong change?
If you witness someone being mistreated, what do you do?
How do we decide when to intercede and when not to intercede?  
It really depends on your tolerance for injustice.  It goes back to what our parents and grand parents warning us about spending time with the bad crowd.  You grow a tolerance for bullshit.  You begin to overlook and accept things that you should not.  And if it continues, you could wind up doing things that you should not.
My tolerance meter changes a lot by whom I choose to surround me.  Hopefully, I will continue to be extremely picky.  And, as a result, what I will do in given situations will be very clear.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I cannot help but believe in the best in people.  Call me naive.  Call me Pollyanna.  Call me an optimist.  I just can't stop believing.  I can look at a criminal and see the pain they must have endured that drove them to make outrageous decisions.  
I'm over 50 years old - a woman - a lesbian - and I have been kicked in the teeth as much, if not more than anyone - and I still believe.  I refuse to be jaded.  I refuse to be convinced that anyone is completely beyond hope.  I just believe that deep beneath the surface, sometimes deeper than imagined, there is always good.  I refuse to believe that anyone or anything is inherently evil.  Everyone has the potential for good.  Everything has the potential for good.  Every terrible thing can be converted somehow.
I do not want to change that belief.  It is the core of my hope for the world around me.  And I do not want to abandon hope.
But a huge part of that hope is to insist on the best.  It is a difficult path.  And I have to start with myself, then my closest circle, then my next closest....  First I have to believe it is possible - possible for me - possible for my closest circle - possible for my next....

Monday, July 20, 2009

We Invest

We all invest in the world around us.  We do it by the choices we make - the products we buy - the businesses we frequent - the organizations we support.  Your choice to buy a carpet from the local independent guy instead of the huge department store may seem small to you, but it's a lifeline for the local independent guy.
Take a moment to think about the local, home grown businesses that are gone now.  I'm sad that the local hardware store is gone where I could buy nuts and bolts by the pound.  I was sad when the meat market on Liberty Street closed and perhaps that influenced my decision to stick to a more vegetarian diet.
Maybe I didn't support those businesses enough.  Maybe I didn't invest enough in their day to day livelihood.  And I have lost something as a result.
What do you want to see continue in your neighborhood?  Are you investing in that future?  
There are day to day stuggles - real challenges facing small businesses every day.  Are you investing?  And like every investment you make, are you ensuring that you are as informed as you can be?  
Once upon a time, a guy told me "choosing to do nothing is a choice".  I will take that further - invest nothing and you will get nothing in return.  And maybe you will get less than nothing - you will loose a possibility for the future.  
It's tough to watch our neighbor's struggle.  It's tough to know how far to invest with our local business people and when to speak up when we see challenges.  Speak up.  Be informed.  Invest.  It matters.  If you are approaching it all with a sincere goal of lifting everyone up, you are on the right track.  It is your business - your neighborhood - your community.  Invest!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

And Justice for All

One of the greatest things about living in a small town is the low crime rate.  There are very few murders or serious violent crimes in comparison to larger communities.  Random acts of violence are extremely rare.  Our greatest risk of a stray bullet comes during hunting season when most of us know to stay out of the woods.
Our worst neighborhoods in Venango County are no more threatening than an average neighborhood in many cities.  This is a safe place to live.  Our police departments generally do a very good job of targeting dangerous drug activity, burglary, traffic problems and obvious criminal activity.  You can pretty much count on them to respond when you see something suspicious.  
About 5 years ago, I was dropping off a U-haul trailer in Franklin in the wee hours of the morning.  Within minutes, a Police cruiser pulled in to see what I was doing.  They were very polite but it's a good thing I had documentation to support my story that I was dropping the trailer off and not stealing it.  I respect that and feel safer in my home knowing they are watching.
But it has come to my attention, Venango County is vulnerable to one category of crime - white collar crime and fraud.  Often, these crimes require forensic accounting which is a specialty field all it's own.
According to sources in the DA's office, there are few resources available in Venango County to dedicate to this type of crime and if you follow the court cases in recent years, that rings true.  Only a few cases of fraud or related white collar crime have appeared in our court system.  Does that mean we don't have white collar crime or that we are ill equipped to handle it?  I believe it is the latter.
A ten year old report from the Department of Justice shows that white collar crime is on the rise nationwide.  Is Venango County prepared to deal with this issue? (
When fraud and related white collar crime is brought to the attention of law enforcement and the justice system in Venango County, how is it handled?  How do the police determine when and if they will actually investigate?  Is it based on who is filing the complaint?  Is it based on the dollar amount involved?  Is it based on whether or not the person is willing or able to file a civil suit?  Is it based on gender, relationship to the defendent or some other criteria?  Is it based on resources available to investigate?  There must be a criteria - official or unofficial.
The law is the law.  What is often in question is enforcement of the law.  It's an important question to pose for Venango County.  If we want to remain a safe place to live, we need also to be a safe place to do business - as a consumer and as a business or service provider.
It is an important side of our legal system that has to be addressed.
Meanwhile, the best option is prevention.  Pennsylvania offers a great resource to check the court related history of people within PA.
You can check by participant name and county.  Information is limited but with a docket number, you can then go to the local court house and obtain more public information.  
Another valuable link is
When it comes to fraud, don't get caught up in the legal system.  Don't make big decisions without a lot of research.  The wheels of Justice turn very slowly and may not be readily available in some cases.   Especially if you don't have great determination and strength.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

How do you stop a liar?

Someone asked me tonight, "How do you stop a liar?"  So, I googled the question.  Isn't the internet fun?
I found these comments interesting.  There is a difference between Pathological and Chronic liars.  I landed on the pathological in regards to this question as well as the quote just below.

"Liars lie because they can lie. Over time they become experts in lying. Their success today depend on their ability to lie. 
They have become dependent on this habit. Lying gives them a feeling of control in a situation they cannot control. Notice the word "feel". In other words, they assume they cannot control the situation if they don't lie."

"Pathological Liar

A pathological liar is usually defined as someone who lies incessantly to get their way and does so with little concern for others. Pathological lying is often viewed as coping mechanism developed in early childhood and it is often associated with some other type of mental health disorder. A pathological liar is often goal-oriented (i.e., lying is focused - it is done to get one's way). Pathological liars have little regard or respect for the rights and feelings of others. A pathological liar often comes across as being manipulative, cunning and self-centered."

So, the question was "How do you stop a liar?"  I found two answers.   1)  Call them on the lie.  But you know they will just seek a new audience.
2)  Stop listening to them.  And that one seems the best.  Notice in both quotes above that the goal is to obtain an outcome - control a situation.  There is a focus and a desire to achieve a specific thing - a need to control a specific situation.  Refusing to even listen to the lie gives the liar no power - no control.

A friend sent me a book recently, "The Truth about Lying".  It covers the full spectrum from white lies to how we may make it difficult for others to tell us the truth to those who make lying a way of life.

We all mislead people sometimes.  Telling someone we like their new haircut when we really don't or that they look thinner than we really think or that we like their outfit when we really don't.  Or we don't tell them about our own shortcomings in a job interview.

So what is the cutoff point with lying or "misleading"?  And when do you determine that a person is just simply a liar and should no longer be given an audience?

Perhaps it is in the fallout of the lie.  Who is going to be hurt?  Who is going to benefit?  How great is that benefit?  How large is the fallout?   And finally, how often is what this person says a LIE?  

Friday, July 10, 2009

How many secrets do you keep? Underground

How many secrets do you have?  That may seem like an odd question to those who maintain a simple life.  In disfunctional worlds, there are lots of secrets.  
Gay people keeping "beards" and pretending to be straight.  Black people "passing" as white.  Married people passing as faithful.  Business people passing as honest.  How many secrets???
As we look at all the dramas of the world, it usually comes down to this.  How many secrets?
Are you leading person A to believe something different than person B and working to keep person A and B from talking directly?  Are you trying to hid information from everyone?
How about just being transparent?  If you are ever in a position to try to determine truth, don't go to person C to find out what A and B meant or did.  Go to A and B.
In a disfunctional world, there will always be strange triangles of information.  That disfunctional person will go to great lengths to keep you from going straight to the source.  Go to the source folks!!  And if someone acts like it's a big secret or emotional drama, be suspicious.   

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Under the Surface

There is so much that goes on beneath the surface of our lives.  It can be shocking sometimes as we get to know one another, muddle through the struggles of our own lives, and strive for better relationships with long term family and friends.  We surprise one another, disappoint one another, fail one another and champion one another.  We make assumptions along the way - sometimes correct and sometimes quite flawed.
I've been reminded a lot lately that it's what is below the surface that lies closer to the truth.  If the water is too muddy to see below, don't trust what you see in the water's reflection.  You are only seeing what someone wants you to see or what you want to see.  
I was surprised three times this week with truth below the surface.  People with whom I have a long history and believed to be one thing actually demonstrated an amazing inner strength I didn't know they possessed - attitudes and values I thought were quite the opposite.  I didn't expect them to be ones standing beside me but they were without my even knowing.  Those represent two of the three surprises.
The third was perhaps not as much a surprise as a realization that there are people who seem to have stopped trying to sort right from wrong and have simply entered an intellectual zone of winning and losing.  They have numbed their spirit to a point that feelings, conscience, and empathy are gone.  Oddly they seem most motivated by drama and crisis but actually they operate in their heads with a single goal of overpowering.  These are the religious fanatics, the pathological liars, the criminals and the addiction ridden people of our lives.  They are absolutely certain that they are right - the world is wrong - and we need to leave them alone to dominate the situations we may share.  Contradict them and you are THE problem.
Look under the water's surface.  What you find there is much closer to the truth than what meets the eye in the water's reflection.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Dreams can be funny

I'm very curious about dreams.  I find it most curious that we could be surprised by something in our own dream.  If our own minds are creating them, how could we not know what is going to happen next?  Where do dreams come from?
Last night I had a pretty funny one.  A really big blackbear kept following us everywhere.  I can't tell you specifically who "us" was but I know it was a small group of people.  The bear wasn't particularly frightening, except to on-lookers who were disturbed to see a bear so out of place.  And we were getting a bit annoyed with him.
Finally, I decided he was just lonely and needed something to do.  So, I dressed him up in a bear outfit and set him up to lecture about what bears like to do.  Suddenly he was a talking bear and everyone loved him.  It was a big hit and he was too busy to bother us any more.
During my dream the entire situation was very serious and plausible.  But when I woke up, I thought it was one of the funniest dreams I've ever had.
Reading about the symbolism of bears in dreams didn't really shed any light on my dream bear.
Maybe it's the beginning of a good kids story.  

Thursday, July 2, 2009


A few weeks ago an old college friend went kayaking with me and later emailed asking, "Are you always so quiet when you go kayaking?"  Not so long ago my brother came for dinner and soon remarked "It's too quiet here".   My Molly Mutt sits on the front porch with me and a neighbor commented, "she hardly ever barks."
I really do enjoy quiet a lot.  It can be wonderful to just be still and take in what is happening around you.  Our time on the front porch is a special time for Molly Mutt.  Her ears are perked up.  She sits at the top of the steps and just watches everything.  She sees the birds, the cars driving by, the people and their dogs and she just watches.  Now and again she'll do a subtle little buff - usually at a person without a dog, as if to ask where their friend has gone.  Or A little "hey - look at me".  
But we both can get our fill of quiet.  Neighbors tell me she sometimes howls the saddest crying sound when I am gone.  I have my own ways of howling when I've had enough of being alone.  But I can make phone calls and drive.  Molly Mutt hasn't mastered either of those yet.
It's all about balance, I think.  I'm suspicious of anyone who cannot stand silence and being alone.  But I'm equally suspicious of anyone who only wants silence and being alone.
We need to be somewhat self contained and somewhat social.  Keeping a good balance is important.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

We're all cousins after all

One good thing about living half a century and counting, is that you get to see life take huge circles.  Astonishing twists and turns across mountains and around the world can wind up right back to the place you started.  But when you find yourself back in that place, you see things you never saw before.
In just a few days - a house full of people - word from old friends - a family reunion on multiple levels - a dear friend's loss.  So many energies seemed to converge at once.  For the first time in what seems like many days, my house is silent again and I have a moment to take it all in.
I have so many families.  There is the family of friends whom I have chosen and who have chosen me.   There is the family that I was born into with whom I share the longest memories and genetic history.  There is the family created by my father's second marriage when I was very young.  All these families are precious to me.
I view my neighborhood and larger community as family.  And these past days, sharing so much time with the closer family has given me some interesting perspective about the larger family context.
I have been estranged through the years from my genetic family.  There were things I thought I could never forgive and there were things they thought they never could.  But I wound up at family reunions again and found that we are really not so very far apart at all.  Our history together - those camping trips and holidays - the shared losses and shared successes - brings a larger context that overshadows any differences we may have.  We find a way to honor our connections.
In our neighborhoods and our larger community we need to do the same.  It's our common ground and our interconnected experiences that matter most.  If we can find a way to honor those, we can find a way to be family.  

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Company's Coming

Living in a hundred plus year old house has many challenges.  It's big.  It's old.  And I haven't been around as much in the last few years so things need a lot of attention.  It doesn't help that I am that person you may have read about the goes into one room to do something, then sees something that belongs in another room, then gets to that room and sees something that needs done, then gets a phone call which leads to something else and on it goes all day long.  At the end of the day I have been very, very busy but not one full thing got accomplished.
Well, now company is coming.  While I don't particularly like clutter, I can easily overlook it.  But it matters a lot to me that guests not feel uncomfortable, so I am motivated to shape up.  One important agenda item was to clear the boxes that got shoved into the library in disarray and create an extra guest room.  I'm pleased to report that within hours - actually forcing myself to stay on task - a guest room is formed.  AND just a few adjustments and the second guest room will also be ready.  The third and most important one needs to be ready by Thursday.
I'm really happy that company is coming over the next few months.  For those of you who are natural homemakers it may seem odd but I'm finding a new pattern of thought for me.  It is one of functionality - how to use the space to work more naturally for me as well as comfortable for those who may wish to share it.  There's great creativity in that.  
Next, I think I need to keep company coming so I'm motivated to keep honing those creative skills.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A reason for everything

A dear woman I once knew would often say, "Everything happens for a reason".  Her daughter repeated those words to me once when I was least receptive to it.  I had walked out to my beat up van to go to work.  It was a difficult time.  After many years of media experience and education behind me, I was only finding part time work in my field.  Ready to go to that job, I found a flat tire on the old van.  I kicked the tire, walked back in the house and fought tears.
"Everything happens for a reason," she said.  I had just enough time to express my true thoughts, when the phone rang.  It was an offer for the job I was hoping to find.
Often things just don't happen as quickly as we believe they should and not in the way we believe they should.  Then once we get to the other side, we see an amazing series of events that came together to create this new thing.  The difficult parts created appreciation.  The things we believed were side paths actually brought some important understanding that we needed in order to obtain a better outcome now.  Of course, there are other paths we take that we can clearly see kept us from obtaining our objectives sooner.
Generally, I believe it's the times I try to force an outcome that turn out to be source of mistakes.  There's much to be said for taking a slower pace and seeking patience.  But it is all a balance.  The turtle only wins the race if he keeps moving forward.  

Friday, June 12, 2009


Tonight the phone has been ringing off the hook.  One of my favorite young friends with questions.  One of my best friends with chat.  My Dad and step-mother with plans for an upcoming visit - which must include golf, I'm told.  Text messages from my brother and sister about plans for the weekend.  And a call from an old college friend with whom I'm recently reconnected.  She and her son will join us to kayak on Sunday.  Then on line facebook and twitter messages.
What I love is that all these people are genuinely connecting to do fun things.  There is life out there.  There is life right here.  
I'm ready for laughter.  I'm ready for genuine spirits seeking the best the things in life.
Have I said "genuine" enough?  
1. Actually possessing the alleged or apparent attribute or character: genuine leather.
2. Not spurious or counterfeit; authentic. See Synonyms at authentic.
a. Honestly felt or experienced: genuine devotion.
b. Actual; real: a genuine dilemma.
4. Free from hypocrisy or dishonesty; sincere.
5. Being of pure or original stock: a genuine Hawaiian.

Ok, we all have some agenda.  But, you know what?  Some have much more agenda than others.  Let's have some good, old fashioned connections.  Honest - actual - real - free from hypocrisy or dishonesty.  That's not so hard.  Certainly not for good hearted people.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

No rain - no rainbows

It's raining - a good soaking rain.  Most of us grumble about it.  Today I'm happy because it'll help my garden grow.  And I love the saying "No rain, no rainbows".
Most of us go through rainy times in our lives.  Sometimes we experience outright storms.  We are impatient to get through them.  They are troublesome and seem to keep us from what we'd rather be experiencing but it's part of  life.  There will be storms.  Hopefully fewer as we learn not to call them on.  But there will be storms.
When I was young I liked running out in the middle of the pouring summer rain - even with thunder and lightning.  Maybe one day this summer I should do that for the fun of it.  But more and more, I look for a calm spot to patiently wait it out.  I'm the one you'll see pull my car to the side of the road when the blinding rain is too much for the windshield wipers.  
I'll wait out the storm and look for the rainbow on the other side.  I'll search the garden later with expectation of spouting seeds.
And so it is that I remind myself to value to the rain and storms of life.  There will be rainbows.  Keep planting to seeds between the rains with expectation of sprouts and a harvest.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Some people say I think too much but I'd rather think too much than too little.  Some people say I'm kind of quiet, but I remember a saying "if you have nothing to say, never say it out loud."  So, I think and I write.  Maybe writing is like thinking out loud.  
Tonight I'm thinking about perceptions.  Years ago I did communication workshops about it.  I'd start the workshop showing a handful of pictures from ads and magazine stories minus the text that went with them.  Two of the images were perceived incorrectly by every workshop attendee.  The one was a close up of a young woman's face.  Her hair was wet and she was holding an ice cube to her bottom lip.  The other showed two black children cuddled together in a living room with a shadow of a man in the doorway which led to the kitchen.
Now, these workshops were held for volunteers who were preparing to work hotlines, women shelters, and other crisis intervention programs.  So, I admit that they were a bit set up to seek trouble.  But, that was my point.  Even when we see it with our own eyes, it may not be what we believe it to be.
The woman with the wet hair and ice cube was in a health magazine story about ways to keep your lips healthy.  Most believed she had been beaten.
The story with the black children was about Habitat for Humanity and the shadowy figure was their dad who was making their dreams come true.  Most thought the children were in danger.
We can be so very wrong about what we are seeing if we do not have all the "text" to go with the story.  
It's the text and the full context that makes all the difference.
And so it is with our perceptions of ourselves.  The greater context of our existence provides the greater truth.  If we isolate ourselves, find ourselves in great conflict with outer voices, or otherwise discover that our self perception and our external audiences perception is different, we are probably missing the truth.  

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Actions speak loudest

It's sometimes difficult to determine the truth in others.  It's sometimes difficult to find the truth within ourselves.  When our words and our actions conflict, there's something wrong.  It's the simplest measure, but we often ignore it.  Actions speak louder than words and we need to focus on the actions.  It is the truest measure of truth in others and within ourselves.
I keep thinking about a woman who claims to have had a lifelong dream and expresses deep passion for a certain place.  But her actions display the complete opposite.  Saying something is true does not make it so.  
I know when my actions don't match my words I have all kinds of reasons.  Someone or something is preventing me from putting my words into action.  Usually, somewhere in the middle I'll say it just isn't that easy.  In place of action, the woman above will say "I'm working on it."  The action is no more than our lips moving.
And then there's what the lips are saying.  Here are some good ones.  "And I can prove it."  But no proof comes.  "He/she won't let me."  Huh?  "I'm afraid of what he/she might do."  So?
For me, in addition to being thankful and happy, I know I need to keep striving for my words and actions to match.  And I want the balance to be more action and less talk.

Opportunity perhaps?

I received a letter today from a distant relative who is "praying for me" and included a tract about the dreaded homosexual lifestyle.  How do I turn this into a thankful thing?  These are the challenges - opportunities - that will surely help me grow.
I decided to look up lifestyle - "habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards, economic level, etc., that together constitute the mode of living of an individual or group."
Do hetersexuals have the same habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards and economic levels?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thankful every day!

I wake up every morning thankful.  I go to sleep every night thankful.  There are plenty of things that could occupy my mind for which I am not thankful but I've made a conscious effort these past months to find and live out my own joy.  Now that I'm getting the hang of it, it's great fun.  And it is the one thing no one can steal from me.  
The more thankful I am each moment, the more things there seem to be to be thankful about.  Now how does that happen?  I have the same job.  I have the same boss.  I live in the same place.  I have pretty much the same looming issues - some of them quite daunting with no real solution in sight.  The simple answer I can give is that I decided to be happy and be happy doing the things I love.
So I focus on all the great things in my life - all the great people in my life - all the interesting projects at work - all the places I get to see.  I'm not ignoring or forgetting about the issues - just focusing on what can be done and being patient knowing things will get done and will be solved with the right attitude.
As a result, I'm finding everything more enjoyable.  Today, I made two new friends in our HR department as we worked on a project.  We had a great time as we got the work done.  At lunch we chatted away about cool things we find in common.
Frustrations that would have weighed me down on another project, were easily overcome in another meeting.  And I enjoyed the process.
Over the weekend with people from all walks of life, I talked with people and learned wonderful things about their philosophies.  We exchanged phone numbers and emails.  And unlike my normal previous self, I will follow up with them.
I'm sure I will have down days and still have moments of feeling overwhelmed.  But I am determined to wake up each day thankful.  I am determined to end each day thankful.  I give you permission to remind me to be so.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Linda goes to camp

Last month while flying here and there, I read an article about the growing number of adult camping excursions.  Those of us who went to camp as youngsters, are loving the idea of going to camp again.  Meanwhile, my brother told me about the Butler Outdoor Club's annual Extravaganza at Breakneck campground near McConnell's Mill.  I didn't realize it then, but I signed up for camp.
This is the Outdoor club's 13th year of holding this event and it is amazing.  Go to to see the list of events from which to choose.  There's mountain biking at various levels, hiking in strenuous and not strenuous settings, rock climbing, history excursions, bird watching, kayaking, sailing and so much more.  In addition to all the activities, there are the "camp" experiences of joint meals, group campfires, and nightly programs.  It's all family oriented and family friendly - even dogs are welcome at many of the activities.  I didn't take my Molly mutt this time because I chose several events that were not dog friendly.  Next year, I will choose dog friendly events because she would have loved it and I missed her.
Breakneck campground is a perfect spot for this type of event.  They have a beautiful location with a nice big "dining hall", shower building, cabins, shelters, and plenty of campsites.  It's a campground geared to outdoor people - no pool hall or game room - a safe space, ready firewood, and great proximity to lots of outdoor recreation.
Attendees of all ages - little ones to 80 somethings - were happily involved - all gathered to experience the outdoors in their own way.  And the Butler Outdoor group worked diligently to provide the best atmosphere possible for all.  I can only imagine the work that goes into organizing an event like this.  Try gathering 30 family members for a picnic and you may get an idea.  Take those 30 people on an excursion together - multiply that times 10 excursions going on at once in opposite directions and....  These folks, I'm certain, could actually herd cats.
My hat is off!  I had a wonderful time and I would encourage everyone to check out the Butler Outdoor Club.  Even bigger than that - I encourage you to get outdoors in Western PA.  Perhaps in my next blog, I can share some of the fun places I saw this past weekend.  Right now, I need a shower and a bed.