Human nature repeats itself

I’ve been watching The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, tapping into my lifelong but often neglected curiosity about history.  PBS documentaries play prominently in my memory of jr. high and high school history classes.  Watching The Civil War in seventh or eighth grade, Eyes on the Prize in high school…the events of history gripped me through their storytelling, songs, photos.

The documentary is full.  Anecdotes, statistics, details support lessons and themes of the Roosevelts’ public lives that might help us understand the past we come from.  After the German agenda against Jews manifested in Kristallnacht in 1938, FDR extended the visas of 15,000 German and Austrian resident aliens.  Yet, in 1939 85% American Protestants, 84% of American Catholics and 25% of American Jews opposed welcoming refugees from Europe.  The documentary follows these statistics with Eleanor Roosevelt’s words: “What has happened to us in this country? If we study our own history, we find that we have always been ready to receive the unfortunate from other countries.  And though this may seem a generous gesture on our part, we have profited a thousandfold by what they have brought us.”

In the excitement of presidential primary season, amidst soundbites of politicians promising a new future, perhaps we should tune into history.  It seems our faith affiliation alone does not motivate us to follow the tenants of that faith, but maybe the hindsight of history could inspire us to act on the virtue of its ideals.



Talking to myself

Dear empty room,

Something is happening in me.  I’ve been thinking of it as a re-creation.  We’re regular visitors to the Museum of Science and Industry now, and so we have observed many hatching chicks of late.  The external, obvious, identifiable product of the re-creation is not tangible.  But weak muscles and joints within me have been nourished, and I might just gain strength enough to crack through a shell.

I think it started about a month ago, when I listened to an On Being podcast*.  I almost never listen to On Being.  It’s a little to heady and blah-blah talky for me, generally.  But something about the title of the episode caught my attention:  “Successful Givers” with business school professor Adam Grant.  I work in nonprofits, even in fund development at the moment, so I listened to the unedited version of the interview.

While listening to Krista Tippett and Adam Grant, warm and engaging speakers, I had a growing sense that I have not felt open and generous in my work in a very long time.  There was a moment in the interview which  I’m not sure made it to the edited radio show: I heard Adam Grant describe how people become less generous at work when they have been hurt, and suddenly I felt open to learning how very difficult work situations have calcified me from trust and generosity in work relationships.  I know the tightness I’ve felt has had an affect on my job search–can’t open myself to new experiences when I feel constricted by the past.  It’s even affected the way I represent myself to the many new people I’m meeting in our new community.  I’ve been bashful about who I am professionally, unclear even to myself on the value of my ideas, my education, my experience, my creativity, my capacity to learn and try and fail and try again.

I am learning to view myself with grace, with optimism.  I’ve been reading Brene Brown, I’ve been working in a dysfunctional organization, I’ve been preparing myself for the new year.  I feel like I’m experiencing healing, not clarity, not certainty, but some healing.  Even to acknowledge my experience as hurt, my need as for healing, that’s progress.

One element of my writing that will keep me from becoming an overnight blogging sensation is that I tend to end my meditations abruptly.  So here, I will end this note with a list.  A list of things I could think more about by writing about them:

  • How working in a crazy environment helps me see myself more clearly.
  • How dysfunctional environments aid people in treating one another badly.
  • About the 3 bullet points of shame at the beginning of Daring Greatly that helped me understand a most set of work dynamics.
  • How a bunch of things I read and listen turn out to be surprisingly related.
  • What I’ve learned about entering a distinctive work culture
  • About leaving so much good behind and finding myself in a desert, about the hope of what will arise from the desert floor.
  • Ideas for making the most of the time we have in this place.

Good night for now, empty room.  I hope to visit you again soon.





“When one is going to lead an entirely new life, one requires wholesome, regular meals.” -Oscar Wilde

Floor plan

A doorway and closet on one wall and windows on two other walls + furniture for two kids limits the possibilities for a floor plan.  Drawing the floor plan did aid debate over whether or not switching the dressers from their previous positions would fix the problem of drawers banging into the closet door.  Going ahead and moving them won the argument.



We established an outbox with which to follow these rules, as established by Apartment Therapy:

1. Anything can go in the Outbox
2. The Outbox is allowed to get messy
3. Everything must stay in the Outbox for at least one week
4. After that time you have several choices
a. Take anything back out
b. Leave anything you are undecided about for one more week
c. Dispose of the rest by moving to the garbage, recycling bin, or giveaway pile

I admit the idea of putting any/everything in the outbox seems silly to me.  Why pile it all up?  Why not separate by trash, recycle and donate right there in the moment?  Well, I know that making a decision about every object I pick up can lengthen the process and stress me out, so I’m willing to embrace the AT Outbox.  The new challenge is to return to the outbox in a week and make decisions at that time.


Resume or Eulogy?

This Ted Talk sums up a lot of what I’ve been wrestling with lately.

Finding Focus

We spent some time looking around the room and asking ourselves some questions.  Here’s what we concluded:

There is resounding agreement that the room is definitely too crowded and there is stuff we need to get rid of.  E would like things that match to be displayed and things that don’t match to be put away.  N and I agreed the color scheme is a bit overwhelming, although J would say the colors make a melody.

IMG_1232 IMG_1244

We answered the crucial questions as such:  we’ll remove the extra dresser, the alphabet cards and stuff animal bins.  All of those things can find another home elsewhere.  We’ll keep E’s jewelry box, the baptism certificates, new bedspreads, one dresser per kid, and each kid’s lamp.  We had a few other “maybe” ideas about the rug and artwork, but there’s no rush on those.