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Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Comments can be added at the bottom of each post-- click the tiny comment icon. Join in the conversation.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kenny Swann: you are ENOUGH. January 28 tiny resolution.

Kenny Swann is another of my unmet friends: an openhearted, social justice loving Christian--sort of like Jesus in that regard, though he would be fully embarrassed by the comparison.  He's brave in the way Jesus was too-- standing up for what is right, not just what is culturally acceptable in the moment. He walks his talk, and inspires me to try to be a better human.  I "met" Kenny through the stories he shared on my Tennessee cousin's social media page.  And boy, does he tell a good story.  He needed some encouragement to guest on this blog.  I am so glad he did.  ---jls
You Are Enough!

A little over a year ago, I made my first trip to Haiti.

I was wrecked. I never knew and maybe never even cared that a world like that existed. After my first trip through the city of Jeremie, my initial reaction was that the best thing for Haiti might require a bulldozer and a start over.

But then I got out of the bus. I discovered a wonderful and loving people with the same desire for a better life for their children that I had. I also discovered that the greatest commodity of any people is HOPE. Hope is hard to come by in a third world country.

One day when a young girl was looking at our pictures on our cell phone, she saw a picture of Santa Claus (they call him Papa Noel in Haiti). She knew who he was, but told us that Papa Noel did not care about Haiti because he never came there. Out of this an idea was born.

I must confess that I am blessed in my old age with a little girth. But I have never grown a beard. So on February 2, 2014 , this Papa started his beard. And on December 14, 2014, Papa Noel went to Haiti!

THE TRIP WAS AMAZING! And I learned two things that I would like to share. I like to call these things ENOUGH.

FIRST: In a land of absolutely NO Santas, ONE Santa is enough. My beard was scraggly, and because I am fat, I had to wear a cooling jacket under a Santa suit in 100 degree weather. Our first visit was in a little place called Bon Bon at an orphanage with 75 kids. After thirty minutes, our number of children swelled to about 300 and they chased our bus for about a mile after we left, shouting and laughing. The length of my beard or the fact that my suit was wet didn't seem to matter.

I learned that even you though you might not be the best bringer of joy, hope, love and laughter, you may well be the only one that some will ever see. So you are ENOUGH! Bring it with all your heart.

On our last night we had a stopover in a rescue orphanage in Port Au Prince. We were only there to eat, sleep and catch a plane the next day. In the course of our meal, a wonderful lady named Miriam Frederick told us about how this place had come to be. They were a rescue orphanage with regular orphans, abused orphans and handicapped orphans. Her heart was heavy because a group had been scheduled to bring Christmas to the children, but had cancelled because of unrest and riots in Haiti.
Our group leader told her we had half a Papa Noel (I had left my pants in Jeremie...long story!) and no candy, but we were willing to do our best after evening devotion was over.  Another group with us at devotion that night had brought some candy canes.  When we took a count, just as in the Bible story of the Loaves and Fishes, we had EXACTLY the right number of candy canes. And so it came to be:  a half-suited Papa Noel with just enough candy shared what may well be the best Christmas he and the children ever had.
You may not be the best equipped, but never doubt in a world of need the love you bring is enough!

I don't know your station in life. I don't know your faith. I don't know your willingness. What I do know is in a world that is short on Joy, Love, Peace and Understanding ....You are ENOUGH to bring these things to others!   
                                                          ---Kenny Swann, Tennessee, January 2015

P.S. Just in case you would like to know:
Miriam Frederick
New Life Children's Home
PO Box 6462
Lake Worth Fl. 33466
"Love has no borders"

Monday, January 26, 2015

Marcia Epstein writes on Smiles/January 27th 2015 Tiny Resolution

Marcia Epstein/photo by TR
Today’s guest is long-time friend, social worker, radio host, poetry advocate, and mother of two sons, Marcia Epstein.  Marcia, her husband Kyle, and their rescue dog Beau live in an 1880’s Victorian home of many colors in the neighborhood between downtown Lawrence, Kansas and the campus of the University of Kansas.  I met her in the way back when, volunteering for a crisis hotline and domestic shelter where she later served many years as a beloved director, overseeing hassle-free and anonymous 24 hour mental health support.
just do it.

Marcia specializes in suicide prevention and suicide bereavement support.  After decades in the nonprofit sector, she now works for minimal profit in private practice, with several volunteer projects on the side.  She volunteers on the Training Team of the new Trans Lifeline, a national hotline.  She also hosts (for free!) a radio show called “Talk With ME” on www.LawrenceHits.com. Find out more about her work at http://marciaepstein.biz/

Thank you, Marcia, for your words, and your lifetime of love and service.  And these wonderful photos of love in the Kansas streets.  --jls
 “Smile, breathe, and go slowly” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

This one really is a tiny resolution because it’s something you already know how to do.  Just one simple task: share some smiles every day.  You can do it!

good advice
Start your day by smiling at yourself in the mirror.  No judgment.  Just do it. “And if you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself, get a better mirror, look a little closer, stare a little longer,” urges Canadian spoken word poet Shane Koyczan (from To This Day).

When you’re finally out and about, smile at a not-yet friend, someone you see on a sidewalk, in a hallway, in the grocery, on a sidewalk, in an elevator. You won’t know which of those people really needed that caring acknowledgement, but you will be making a big, positive, difference in at least one person’s day.  And that person may “pay it forward.”  Imagine the ripple effect!

As long as you’re out and about looking for people to share a smile with, pay attention to your surroundings and surely you will notice things that bring smiles to your face even if no one is around.

And of course, smile at the people you know!  Because as Maya Angelou said, “If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don't be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning 'Good morning' at total strangers.” 

look at your beautiful self!
I will confess that this smiling thing comes easily to me.  One of the things I’m known for is my laugh, which is big and frequent.  I believe that if we don’t laugh, we will explode.  Which just wouldn’t be pretty.

I also believe in keepin’ it real.  So that also means acknowledging the whole range of emotions that we experience, including the painful ones.  Both 2013 and 2014 included some very traumatic experiences for me, so I’m not always laughing.  But I smile and laugh every day.  And encourage you to as well!  Happiness can only get in when we create an opening.

So… start with a smile!  And then another.  Thanks!      --- :) M.E.

Spoken word poem:
Joe Pound ~ The Art of Kindness

Nat King Cole ~ Smile

Midwife and Pilgram Lisa Lehrer offers a Shiny Resolution: January 26, 2015

Lisa, welcoming a new soul
Lisa Lehrer can't walk many places in Corvallis without running into one of her clients.  A midwife for over 25 years, she's well past her thousandth delivery.  Originally from Minnesota, Lisa has made her home in the valley since adulthood, but she maintains a Midwestern blend of warmth and pragmatism that lets mamas and daddies relax and babies smile.  She's an intrepid, often solo world traveler: trekking in Nepal, biking in Amsterdam and this fall, walking a few hundred miles through Spain.  

Lisa's one of the most unpretentious women I've ever met; unless you know her well you'd never know about her amazing travels, how she can handle a skill saw and lay a stone walkway, and she can paint, draw, sew.  I'd find her completely intimidating except she's also my very dear friend, and a truly gentle soul.  
True to her reserved nature, it took some encouragement to get her to offer a guest piece.  I'm delighted she did.   --jls
Lisa writes:   This is a SHINY resolution (as compared to a tiny one).


I walked on the Camino de Santiago this past season and had an experience that keeps informing my movements, thoughts and actions.
the long road to the labyrinth

 It was on the last day of my walk that I came across a stone labyrinth on top of the world. I knew immediately that I would walk it. The sky had already brought me a multitude of gifts that morning. First, the golden light of sunrise as I was walking through a forest that was open in an inviting way. Then walking out where the expanse of rolling hills and small villages in the distance were breathtaking. I could feel my breath come into my body just taking it all in. 

It started to rain on and off. Gradually, the wind picked up until it was blowing both my hair and poncho all over the place. As I was walking toward the next village the rain slowed down, the sun brought rich tones to the fields and I was astonished at the display of rainbows that kept unfolding. First one arced over the village, touching the earth on both ends. Then another overarching the first. All told, seven different rainbows were gifted to me as I continued to walk.
gifting skies
Singing my way out of the labyrinth I was struck with the thought that I had fulfilled a long standing dream. What a surprise that was. Now, I’m inspired to be open to new dreams and possibilities unknown. On New Year’s Day the word that came to me in yoga practice was Radiance. It reflects a way of being open and honest, engaging, curious and alive. 

shine on
Look for the sparkle, twinkle or warmth that is there. Feel it moving through and from you.   Be Radiant.
                                ---Lisa Lehrer

May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way home

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Anna Coffman on Finding Love in the Difficult: Tiny Resolutions January 25, 2015

Editor's note:  German-born Anna Coffman has led many lives in one.  Formerly a succesful software engineer, she answered a heart's call of practical compassion, leading to her current work in nursing, hospice care and as a facilitator of rites of passage using nature as a teacher.  She is a Zen Buddhist practicioner and leads retreats and spiritual work.  I was a beneficiary of a workshop in which she shared her deep wisdom of the healing power of the natural world.  You can learn more about Anna at her website:  http://www.journey-home.net/.  
The piece below came out of her recent visit to the a holy and wholy terrifying place:  the camps where millions of Jews, gays, Roma and other marginalized people lost their lives.  Somehow, even in this dark  and sad space, Anna found room for love. The card she made after this visit sits by my computer, and I often gaze at it whie I write.  Please take it upon yourself to accept Anna's challenge. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Artist Joshua Goode says keep expanding your voice: Tiny Resolutions Jan. 24 2015

Ed. note:  I "met" Texas artist Joshua Goode in a strange way.  I'd become friends with a German artist via an international photo diary, and we chatted regularly about our days.  In the summer of 2013 Anit wrote about stumbling on a strange sight during her daily rural ramblings:  an American doing an archeological dig in a field near the tiny village of Hilmsen.  He turned out to be uncovering an ancient lost Texan civilization.  See video at bottom to see what he discovered.  Goode is the artistic version of a multi-instrumentalist.  He does sculpture, printmaking, paintings and performance installations.  Here he turns his thoughts to moving in new directions.  May you be inspired to try your own hand at a new form of expression today.  --jls
Tiny Resolution—Trying Something New

After hearing and reading many New Year’s resolutions I have come to realize that I am unwittingly engaging in one of the more common and naively ambitious ones—write a book.  

I did not wake up on January 1st with a cartoon exclamation point over my head with an epiphany to do this.  This decision was the result of a steady progression in the conceptual development of my artwork, which led me to the ‘logical’ conclusion that I need to write a book.

I could explain this decision more, but it really was an oddly clear one, which is strange because this endeavor is far out of my comfort zone and I have never considered doing it before.  I am a visual artist. I am used to working with my hands, physically altering objects.  Sitting in front of a computer for hours upon hours wrangling words is not something I’m looking forward to.  But I know I need to and I’m going to.  Why am I so certain that I need to?  Because this is what my artwork is telling me is the next step. There is really no simpler way to say it other than I’m listening to my gut.  

I have always tried to approach my work from different ways, adding different elements to better tell my story. I began as a painter, then I added printmaking, then sculpture, then installation, then performance, then video, all as I felt the development of my artwork needed it.  Each one of these mediums took a lot of practice, failure and resolve to learn before I was able to implement them in the correct way as facets of my artwork.  Each time I have felt the excitement in the fear of trying something new, starting out again as an amateur. I cringe when I think of the numerous mistakes and the subtle embarrassment of seeking advice from professionals in a new craft, seeing the laughter in their eyes when I ask the stupidly obvious questions of a rookie. At the end, however, comes the payoff, the personal triumph of learning something new.

I often think of my daughter, now seven, as she tries new things.  I have watched her learn so many things I now take for granted. Seen her fear when sitting on a bicycle for the first time.  The joy in her eyes as she first hit a baseball after swinging and missing and slamming her bat down in frustration. Listened to her timid, hesitant voice awkwardly fumbling through her first storybook.  As kids growing up we are constantly learning and trying new things, either out of necessity or fun, sometimes both.  As we get older we often avoid the struggles and pains of learning something new.  The necessity isn’t always as apparent as when we were kids and we can have fun doing something we already know.  So we get into comfortable ruts.

My imagined need to expand my artwork keeps pushing me forward. It keeps life exciting and prevents me from becoming bored by doing the same things all of the time.  So I’m going to learn how to write a book, write it, and add yet another aspect to my work.  I don’t know how it will turn out, but it’s happening, I don’t see any other option.  Then what?
                                                                         --Joshua Goode, 01/2015 

Be Your Beautiful Self: Friday, January 23rd Tiny Resolution

It's Friday, and we've worked hard this month for our jobs and doing our resolutions.  Today, I challenge you to just be your own funky beautiful self.

That's right.  You don't have to do a single thing more.  This could be the easiest or the most complex challenge this month.   However you approach it, I hope you enjoy it.

Tomorrow we have a guest post coming from Texas artist Joshua Goode.  Stay tuned for the remaining week of Tiny Resolutions.

f you want to delve a little deeper into today's challenge, visit these past posts.  Be sure to click on the embedded links for related videos and articles about celebrating your Inner Eunice.  :)    And as always, comments and conversation are welcome.

The moviegoers guide to being different

Accept Yourself

Hey, Weirdo. Yeah, You.

Song of the day, a little gift from my therapist pal Gary Barnes.  He recommends CRANKING IT UP.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Author Julian Hoffman writes on Keeping a Keen Eye Open: January 21st Tiny Resolution

Julian Hoffman and Julia Henderson
Ed. note:  Today's guest is author, amateur naturalist and avid walker Julian Hoffman, author of the award winning book, The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World.  Julian  and his wife Julia Henderson make their home beside the Prespa Lakes in Northern Greece, in a natural area of the Balkans sharing the borders of Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  There they monitor vulnerable bird species being impacted by proposed wind farms.  Julia provided the photographs for Julian's beautiful piece about remembering to keep a keen eye open in our daily lives.

Julian's fiction and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.  He is currently working on a collection of short stories, and a new non-fiction book about the human interplay and connections with wildlife and natural areas.
I'm very grateful for Julian's generosity in sharing his eye with us.  Read it slowly; it merits savoring.  You can find more of Julian's work at this link. --Jana

More than Meets the Eye

 “The least I can do is keep my eyes open. Attention is what I want to spend. I don’t ever want to feel inside me a whole storehouse of unused binoculars, magnifying glasses, telescopes.”
                     ~ Barbara Hurd, ‘Sea Stars’, Walking the Wrack Line                        

Julian perusing the wilds
Here in the mountains of northern Greece, we never know what kind of a winter we’ll have until it’s over. In some years deep snow mantles the valleys and slopes like a rippling white sheet has been thrown over the world, the temperatures steadily sinking until the smaller of the two nearby lakes is glazed with ice and our village water pipes freeze solid until spring. In other years, though, winter simply feels like a long extension of autumn, when lizards continue to scatter over the stony hillsides and butterflies drift through the pale and slanting light, worn to a faded memory of their earlier sheen, as if in deference to the supposed season.
Julian surveys the blanketed estate
This winter has been one of the hard ones so far; the kind of winter when wild snowstorms are followed by a piercingly cold brilliance – the night skies so deep and refulgent that the clarity of vaulted starlight is haunting. But these winters, however beautiful and stilling I find them myself, are tough on the wild species we share this valley with, and so just before Christmas I hung our bird feeders from the snow-sleeved apple trees in the garden and loaded them with seeds. It took a few days for any birds to find them, the feeders swaying like censers in the whistling mountain winds, but when they did, their calls went out across the valley, echo after echo until a carnival of winged creatures turned up one morning in the snow.

rosie chaffinch holding out against
all those great tits.  photo: julia henderson
The main beneficiary of the bird feeders is the great tit. A relative of the North American chickadee, the great tit is one of the commonest species that exists here, an everyday sight around the village in any season. It’s joined in these roving winter flocks by birds that are no less unusual to this valley - chaffinches and tree sparrows that love to feed on the spill of small seeds at the foot of the trees. We’re so used to these particular birds that it’s easy for them to go unremarked, to see them simply as part of the outdoor furniture. The usual suspects – that’s what my wife and I often call them when we ask one another if there’s anything on the feeders.
Last March I travelled down the west coast of the United States on a book tour. It was my first time in that particular part of the world and everything about the journey – the people, places, landscapes and wildlife – was new to me, brushed with a unique light, the unmistakeable signature of first experience. My days carried a corresponding intensity. One of my stops that month was in Corvallis, Oregon, where I stayed with my friends Charles and Kapa. Along with their generous hospitality, and our long conversations and shared laughter, something else of that stay stands out for me: my time spent watching their bird feeder.

left lower great tit, high right great tit. 
they're everywhere!  photo: Julia H.
Charles has a ground-floor study facing the garden and he’s hung a bird feeder just beyond the window. Leaving for work one morning, he kindly said I could use the space to get a close view of its visitors. I settled in that morning with a mug of coffee and a field guide, and within minutes that simple pane of glass that framed a feeder had become a window onto another world. Something small flew in and foraged seed from the ground. It was black-eyed and shy, keeping close to the edges, the same cryptic colour as falling dusk. Another bird arrived, sporting rich chestnut flanks and startling ruby eyes beaded black at their cores. I watched, mesmerised by the sheer beauty of these birds that were new to me. As I turned the pages of the field guide, trying to assign names to a cast of colours, shapes and sizes, a bright flash caught my eye. I looked up from the book to see a large bird of deepest azure peering in from the other side of the glass. It carried the wash of a glacial lake on its head, tail and wings, as if an emissary from the far north. It sprung from the feeder and oared away on its own river of blue, but those few seconds in its presence were magnetic. 
Charles asked me how I’d got on when he returned from work that afternoon. My excitement and delight must have been noticeable as I rattled on about the birds that had graced my day, their names alone a litany of mystery to me: dark-eyed junco, rufous-sided towhee, scrub jay. It turns out – and I should have known, given that it was a garden feeder - that these birds are some of the commonest around, the everyday Oregon equivalents of our great tits, chaffinches and tree sparrows. But that morning, staring through a pane of glass at a suite of elegant and astonishing creatures that were completely new to me, they were anything but ordinary. We tend to honour the first of things in our perceptual experience, elevating newness over repetition, rarity over regularity. It’s the novelty of the encounter that often sharpens its impression for us. Of course no matter how frequently we see a particular bird, becoming so used to its presence that we can sometimes turn indifferent to it in the process, the bird itself never alters at all.
Julia surrounds the usual suspect
Whenever I look out the window in the direction of the apple trees I try to keep that bird feeder in Oregon in mind, as if it were my first time in this snow-filled valley instead of being midway through my fifteenth winter here. I watch the great tits with the same keenness of eye that saw juncos, towhees and scrub jays blaze into my world as if forged new from a fire, resolving to be attentive not only to the things that are unexpected, but to those that are ever-present as well. The great tits are a blur of steely-blue wings against the snow, jackhammering sunflower seeds against the limbs of the tree. They send the bird feeders spinning like merry-go-rounds when they land on them at speed, twirling together until they finally slow, their feathers the colour of lemon peel and coal. I’ll see these birds throughout the year, long after I’ve cleaned the feeders and hung them from a beam in the shed, wondering what kind of winter will grace us next time around; creatures so commonplace that they’ll put in daily appearances as I sow and weed the garden and then harvest its fruits, but no less wondrous for their familiar and predictable presence.
                                                                                         --Julian Hoffman, January, 2015