Browsing the archives for the Change category

Four Candles for the Queen of the Universe

Change, Life as it is, Love, Spiritual Journey

My friend, Debby, the Debutaunt – the self-proclaimed Queen of the Universe, passed away today.

Four Candles for the Queen of the Universe

Light the First Candle
The light of this first candle represents our grief. The pain of losing you is intense. It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.

I got the news on twitter and sent condolences and then thinking of Deb, I looked over some of the photos I have of her. Grief then overwhelmed me as I realized the hole that she left in me – I guess part of me has been waiting for her Instant Message to joke about kicking cancer’s ass again and we would swap stories and laughs just like we used to do.

I tried to look over some photos and maybe send them to her sisters, but I couldn’t function at the computer at all. I was moved to honor her and I wanted to give something special to he sisters, but i was non-functional. So I stopped and called friends to connect and share my feelings to get through it all.

Light the Second Candle
The light of this second candle represents our courage – the courage to confront our sorrow, to comfort each other, and to move forward in our lives

Deb is the bravest woman I have ever met, and her family is an amazing family. If you follow the link to her blog, you can start the story where I did in about July 2005. Meet a woman coping with life the best that she can when she finds she has Leukemia a couple months later. Read her stories of her courage as she found reason after reason for why she can do this – and watch as she fought with a katana-like will to get better.

Light the Third Candle
This third candle is a light to all of our memories of you. To the times we laughed, the times we cried, the times we were angry with each other. The silly things you did, the caring and the joy you gave us.

So tonight I reached out to a friend and connected with another person on the phone – and also went to pick up my daughter. On the way home with my daughter it occurred to me how I could respect the depths of my feelings for the loss of Deb. So we stopped off for milkshakes and when we got home I got my son and daughter together at the kitchen table and we had milkshakes while I told them stories of how Deb became the Queen of the Universe (it says so right on her checks), and how she helped me when my daughter was in the hospital, and how crazy-funny her blog was.

I shared, too, how much of her blog I re-read when my father was diagnosed with Leukemia as well. Deb was sick again by this time, but her story had been written and shared. I sent gifts to team Zoe, her daughter’s Leukemia Society fundraiser, in my father’s name. Deb’s fight, and the grace with which her family showed rallying around her, helped me as this evil blood cancer took him away.

Light the Fourth Candle
This fourth candle is the light of our love. We cherish the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved for you. we thank you for the gift your life brought to each of us. We love you, always.

I pray that Zoe will remember always just how many lives her mom touched and made better because of her smile and her fierce battle to survive. There was such light in her smile and laugh, and we will remember her.

On the way home, I remembered a recent memorial service we attended for my father who flew away in October. In this service, they lit four candles and read a special celebration for each candle and what it meant. It was a beautiful way to honor and respect my father when this service was performed a couple weeks ago. My suit coat was still hanging in the car tonight and I found a copy of the service in my coat pocket.

So tonight, this is how I remember and celebrate the passing of the Queen of the Universe. Lighting each candle and speaking these words on behalf of all those inspired and touched by her. Her fight is over, and all of our lives are better for both the battle she fought and for the peace she now knows. May all those who have been touched by Deb – especially her family – find comfort in one another and in the love she has for them.

She touched so many people. I’m just one of them.

[Edited on 5/22/2009 to add the following from Deb’s Sister]

Speaking of friends… several of you have been asking about how you can help… if you knew Debby, you knew that she was always behind raising money or awareness for a few good causes. Here is a list:

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to

Contributions may be made to:
The Financial Advisory Group, Inc.
c/o David Jenkins
5599 San Felipe, Suite 900
Houston, TX 77056

Please make out the checks to “College America” and in the memo field write “FBO: Zoe Costello.”

4 Comments

Learning to Let Go

Change, family, Life as it is, Love, Mistakes, Spiritual Journey, Vulnerability

How do you stop a runaway escalation in conflict between parent and teen? After bunches of mistakes, I’d have to offer the mere wisdom of letting go.

What Our Lives Used to Be Like

Once upon a time I wanted to protect my daughter from the forces that might harm her.

Spider Lily Redux

I fought against those forces. I fought the threats – some maybe only perceived – others tragic in their reality. Threats involving cyberbullying requiring trips to the E/R. And threats that included turning over to homicide detectives the IM transcripts between my daughter and the kids who murdered her friend.

I was up to such a fight. But it wasn’t just these things I had to fight. There was my daughter’s own resistance to my protection and a constantly escalating struggle. I listened to the network communication to keep her safe. She encrypted the communications. I placed filters on the computer in the network stack. She installed her own network stack. I installed a kernel-mode rootkit to completely own the operating system. She used live CD’s to bypass the operating system I installed completely.

What Happened

I remember the day that I learned that I could not forcibly keep her safe. Her mom had convinced me to start deadbolting the house and hiding the key. This was a huge act of desperation for me – I had survived a fire in the middle of the night as a child and so knowing how to escape was always on my mind. One morning I awakened and found the deadbolt was loose – she had gotten a screwdriver and used it to remove the deadbolt so she could sneak out. As I was considering hunting down all screwdrivers and locking them into a toolchest I realized that I could not win the battle.

I could not force her to be safe.

It was a tragic moment of realization. It was the end of an illusion to which I clung. It was the end of a bunch of mistakes and the beginning of becoming teachable.

Later a counselor drove it home for me. She asked a simple question, “If your daughter decided to kill herself, what could you do to stop it?” The answer is that I couldn’t. Not that I got that right away. Like I said, I clung to that illusion that somehow I could try hard enough and through valiant effort, I could save her. But I had to admit that she was smart enough and I was too limited – unable to watch over her every moment – and that if she devoted her intelligence and creativity in that direction I could not stop her.

And in fact, probably, nobody could.

How Things Are Now

Now, almost three years later, my daughter uses the Internet without filters of any sort. The keys to leave the house at night are no longer hidden. And the responsibility to live and thrive and grow is where it should be – it’s on my daughter’s shoulders. I’d love to say that letting go made everything perfect, but it didn’t – there were still several more crises to get through and I was frightened several times about the choices my daughter made.

But things are better. And while letting go doesn’t make everything perfect, it does make it survivable for me. It makes the responsibility for her life fall onto her shoulders and not mine. It doesn’t mean that I am not interested or that I don’t love her – I do, I do! But what she hears from me now is that I love her enough to respect her decisions and the consequences she chooses.

We have boundaries, and she knows that if her behavior goes past those limits, than she cannot stay here any longer. But it’s her choice and her call – my job is just to uphold and enforce those consequences.

And our relationship is better than it has been in a long time.

Why Letting Go Works

I doubt I understand all of how this has improved my life well enough to explain it, but I will still try. I think this is one of those lessons one has to learn from their own mistakes, but maybe I can point out a different course of action if you are caught in this painful place of escalating conflict.

Imagine a tug of war with a rope between the two of us and my pulling it to the side of safety and her pulling it to the side of freedom. The closer I get the flag on the rope to my position, the harder she will pull it to her side and the more out of control she gets – the closer she gets to what she sees as freedom, the more desperate my pulling becomes. When she was younger, we started this game, and it worked because I could overpower her and drag her to my side.

But as she has gotten older, smarter and more creative, my ability to simply overpower this system is eventually lost. And as I try to continue to do so, the more she pulls against me. So I pull harder, so she pulls harder. Can you see this dynamic in our battle over controlling the Internet?

“Letting go doesn’t mean giving up, but rather accepting that there are things that cannot be.”
–Anonymous

But there is another option. The rope stays somewhere in the middle – not quite where I want it and not quite where she wants it. She’s seen the pain of winning too much freedom and so as I stop fighting her and lay my side of the rope down – so too, did she. Eventually.

Those boundaries I mentioned? She knows that if she chooses too many freedoms, she can’t live here with me and they may get her into worse places than living in my home. The rope is where it was before – the state is still that teen state of having to be between unsafe freedom and restrictive safety. But now we are not fighting to keep it there.

In fact, by refusing to fight her, she has found the fight is really between her and herself. This is the battle we all face and that our children must face and learn to win. Before, the only option for her to master was in defeating me – now she has a chance to learn self-mastery.

Free to Become Her Daddy

So letting go does work. It’s terrifying and seems completely the wrong thing to do. But try harder and then harder again was not working so it was time to try to let go. Now that she doesn’t see me as her opponent in everything, I have become free to become her father a little more and a little deeper.

I’ll take it.

No Comments

Continuous Change

Change, family, Life as it is, Mistakes, Spiritual Journey

A very long time ago, I was introduced to the idea of continuous improvement – or to use the japanese term, kaizen. Nowadays it means a lot of formal processes and is an integral part in LEAN processes and Six Sigma and such, but when I first heard it 25 years ago, I only knew it was a powerful idea about continuous improvement – and that it had possibilities in work or in one’s life.

I’d love to tell you that I embraced it, and lived it fully, and give you a field report of what its like to have lived 25 years of continuous change. But I can’t.

Circles and Neon

My problem with continuous improvement – or even slight improvement – is that it involves change. And like Monk once said, “I don’t mind change, as long as I am not there when it happens.” And when I am busy trying to not make any mistakes, or do that perfectionism thing, I become rigid and inflexible – and so I resist change. And then that continuous improvement thing just can’t breathe and dies.

But this is on my mind at the moment for a few reasons. First, I am about to experience a significant amount of change in my life as my daughter will return home soon. And secondly, I have recently come to the realization that change is an intrinsic part of improvement.

My son and I have been living together alone for most of the past year, since my daughter was hospitalized. And while it hasn’t been perfect, it has – for the most part – worked. That is, it has worked in a way that is a change from the way things did not work when last my daughter lived here. So as much joy as I feel to have my wonderful daughter back in my daily life, I also feel some fear of the unknown.

They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.
–Confucius

Things were not working well before, and then things did work, and that move from not working to working is both a change and an improvement. This next change is coming – and it can be an improvement. (While all improvement must be a change, not all change is an improvement.)

So as I have considered this and looked at it, and given myself permission to feel the feelings as long as it doesn’t keep me from getting things done that need to happen for this to work, I thought I would share some of the ideas that I am having on the subject:

  • I am the author of my life and so I can write this next chapter – or at least outline and start it – the way I think it could go. This is a rejection to the passivity that I used to have to change, and means I have a chance to influence the change to be an improvement. Maybe even a big improvement.
  • The only place I can author this change is in my choices of what I do. I don’t get to choose for anyone else what they will do. Trust me, I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work. But my own choices, that is where the rubber meets the road.
  • Some of the changes coming may be changes I will really enjoy. Like going to the symphony with my daughter again and shooting with our cameras.
  • Some of the changes I may not enjoy. I don’t like the decions that others make sometimes. And where that conflicts with my boundaries and my responsibilities as a parent, I sometimes must choose to do things I would rather not do – or in a more basic form, I don’t want to live through some of the things I have had to live through in the past.
  • I have chosen to embrace change – to be open to its possibilities. It feels frightening – but only in that way that doing the right thing seems to stir fear up for me.

So that is where I am. I have finally come to the realization that I will never have the sort of life that gets better and better every day unless I have a life that keeps improving. And continuous improvement really just means continuous change (that we hope will be positive more times than not).

If today is going to be better than yesterday, then I need to let the day change to let that happen. (Otherwise it would be the same, you know?)

If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.
–Author Unknown

How about you and change? How do you handle it? Are you comfortable with it? What gets you through the times when lots of things all change at once?

No Comments

How to Reboot Life Systems

Change, Life as it is

I spend quite a bit of time around computer and communications systems, both at home and at work. As a result, I occasionally have a system get stuck or need to be reset – that is restored to a known working situation with the system in a healthy state. Sometimes starting with a clean slate it all it takes to get past a problem, other times, it simply creates a starting point to solve problem.

Telecommunications Junction

I also have my life systems sometimes get stuck as well – because of a system crash such as a lack of housekeeping input causing the living-comfortably-at-home system to halt because of unacceptable disarray. Or as another example, I may be overwhelmed when I have too many challenges to handle at any one time, and this may affect any number of systems in home. This is where having a good methodology to reboot the hung systems is handy.

Most computers have simple ways to restart them when you need to. It may be a couple of mouse clicks, or a keystroke combination such at CTRL-ALT-DEL, that does it – but its a simple process that is often a first step in getting things working again. Unlike a blue screen of death I usually don’t have an external notice that systems are not working, rather it comes from listening to my own state of satisfaction. When systems in my life are working properly, I feel a sense of contentment – when a reboot is necessary it’s usually through a growing discontent with something I am doing or not doing.

I have a couple systems of living that are very helpful to me. I can’t say I do them perfectly – or even just very well, for that matter – but they are both good life systems, because they both have reboot methods built into them. They are David Allen‘s Getting Things Done (GTD) and the FlyLady‘s processes for decluttering and getting rid of CHAOS. (For those who don’t know the FlyLady, CHAOS is an acronym for Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.)

In the book, Getting Things Done, David Allen writes:

Think about the last time you felt highly productive. You probably had a sense of being in control; you were not stressed out; you were highly focused on what you were doing; time tended to disappear; and you felt you were making noticeable progress towards a meaningful outcome….

And if you get seriously far out of that state – and start to feel out of control, stressed out, unfocused, bored and stuck – do you have the ability to get back into it? That’s where the methodology of Getting Things Done will have the greatest impact on your life, by showing you how to get back to “mind like water” wit all your resources and faculties functioning at a maximum level.

Falling off the wagon on any new system of living is easy – I’m doing it all the time it seems. But knowing how to get back on track is the key though. With GTD, I know I need to get my list out (I use MonkeyGTD for my lists) and renegotiate my own commitments to myself and to start gathering and processing again. That’s the beauty – it is that easy to start making prgress – to reboot to a known working state.

And for days like today when I feel overwhelmed by my home and the work it needs, Flylady always starts at the same place. What is the condition of my kitchen sink? And today was no exception – I went to the kitchen and started on the sink. Soon it was clean, and the cleanliness started spilling over to the surrounding countertops until my kitchen was done, and that lead me to working on other parts of the house. I know that next I will be working for 15 minutes a day and also working on being mindful of my bedtime and waking routines.

The point is, I didn’t have to wonder what to do to get rebooted and get systems back to a known running state. Before FlyLady, I would have wandered the house feeling overwhelmed and not knowing how to start working on so much to do. Before GTD, I would just leap into the closest fire and leap from one out-of-control mess to another, burnout and watch things crash again.

I wish I was always in control of all areas of my life. The good news it that instead of needing a systems that always stay in a steady state of harmony, I can make do with just knowing how to correct my course whenever I start to drift.

How do you reboot the portions of your life that seem to get hung up?

No Comments

Merely Changing the Mask

Change, Life as it is

Recent visitors will see a new look to merewisdom.org as I updated the theme for the first time since 2006. This is a change to the outward appearances of the site, much like changing masks. The outside changes, but the inside stays the same.

Mask by Tim Pratt

In addition to the change in the theme, I am trying a few things to make who I am when I am not typing here become more visible to you. In effect, showing more of my footprints as I wander the web, making mistakes sometimes, and trying always to learn from them. I am also trying to put into practice something I have been learning, that is that constant improvement must mean constant change.

Changes have been made in the comments now as well. You may now not only reply to what I have to say, but also to one another so that you may converse and share wisdom between yourselves rather than merely interact with me. And trust me, the wisdom of some of the people who have honored me with their visits and their comments is great indeed. so take a moment and comment on something you like – either from me or from another visitor.

Sometimes the search for a right outward appearance takes a while, but when it works, it can help transform the inside as well. Consider for a moment this poem by Tim Pratt:

Mask

Feathers and paint, kohl sticks and smeared
pigments, cerulean blue beads, scales
and links of chain mail heaped on a rough
wooden table in a narrow room, four
hurricane lamps lighting it up. This is
the maskmaker’s workshop on the avenue
of greater dreaming, a place only open
at night.

I have come to find a new
face and body, a truer expression
than the one I see in the mirror. Here is
the Lakota ghost shirt, feathered and white
and clacking, and stone jars of pale
face paint. Here is the zippered leather
mask of a fetishist; it gives me a chill
because I think it can only destroy
identity, not reveal a deeper one. I move on, to
Carnival masks, a crocodile headdress I linger
over but know is not mine, a harlequin’s
cloth face of fixed hilarity, a beautiful
smooth gold mask of the sun. These all have
power, but none are mine.

Then the maskmaker
enters, a lush woman serene and regal as
the moon, her eyes blue and lively behind
a simple silver domino mask. “You want
to be a serpent,” she says, picking up
a length of python skin and putting it down
again. “Or an angel, above everything.” She lets
white silk run through her fingers. “Or
a manitou, with a face that shifts like the sky or
water, changing to fit your needs.” She shakes
her head.

“But you are not those things.” She lifts
a bundle wrapped in gray cobwebs. “You are a
spider. Lonely architect. Thought-maker. Weaver.
Moving in two worlds. Poison-head.” She unwraps
the webbing. I see segmented legs, glossy
black mandibles, and something scuttles under
the trapdoor of my heart. Not a lion, then, or
an eagle, but this feels right. She holds out the spider
mask, sticky filaments still trailing, and eases it
onto my face. I see with spider’s eyes, geometry
and possibility and vibrations in the air, corners
and spirals and prey. The legs on the mask wrap
tightly around my head and I

wake in my dusty bedroom,
looking at the corners where the ceiling meets
the walls, thinking

“I’ve never noticed how much
a spider’s eyes resemble diamonds.”

May these changes help weave a better community, and possibly break free our inner thought-maker as they are intended. May you find some glittering changes along the way as well. And please, if you find any comments left here as having helped you, or at least made you think, please leave a note to tell that visitor. And if I broke anything, please let me know as well. 🙂 Thanks!

1 Comment
« Older Posts