Thursday, October 12, 2017

Service

Finally attended a fairly satisfying meeting last night, which seems to be a growing trend for me as my year turns from a lot of chaos to a little less. Volunteering way too much for the last year and more, I often was in despair that my constructive energy was too little and not clean enough of my own self-interest to be really helpful. Anyone who volunteers confronts the endless well of need and while we see how many good people are trying, and how hard they are working, more people slip into the well of need and more good people are injured, discouraged, and find themselves too busy or too wounded to keep working.

The political and economic reality is indeed grim as our time tightens and conditions degrade. If you read you know how hard social progress toward equality and justice can become, derailed by desperate survival and emotional overwhelm and actual greedy and evil people who derail us on purpose. The easiest thing is to stop trying, stop working, and retreat to what makes us feel better and more protected, focusing more on our own needs and tasks and letting the bigger chips fall where they may. I am constantly encouraged to give things up, to walk away, told that "someone else" will pick up what I am doing and the implication is that they would do a better job of it, as they have less investment, less energy on the line, and don't care as much for the results I am convinced are worth working for.

In my small universe, my self-interest is built in, as I volunteer for four membership organizations and have been paying a lot of attention to the City and its plans. Those organizations (Saturday Market, Oregon Country Fair, the Kareng Fund, and the Radar Angels) occupy different levels of my commitment (more or less descending order there.) Radar Angels is almost all about fun: singing, dancing, being joyful about Jell-O Art, and putting on our main fundraiser for Maude Kerns Art Center around April Fools Day. As the Queen, I don't do much until it comes time to write and promote the show, except this year I mounted a parade entry and Sunday Streets display of 30 years of  Jell-O Art, which took a couple of weeks of effort and some stellar participation from a lovely group of good people who marched in the parade with me. Indi Stern does far more than I do to keep the Angels going and other people do too...I am a persona who gets to do what I want and most of the year I only spread smiles and click likes on posts by David Gibbs, the Knight of the Realm of  Gelatinaceae (that's my realm) who has more energy for the art part right now than I do. So we can set that service aside as not having a huge impact on my time except for the three months I am in my Saturday Market offseason. The Sunday Streets piece was one of the ways I tried to support the City this year, to turn around the Park Blocks and downtown and preserve our city center for public use. I'll write other posts about that, and have. See my other blog, Gelatinaceae.

Kareng Fund also runs itself with a dedicated group of amazing souls, who far outshine me in FB page, which I will update soon as we are entering our fundraising season. I am very proud of this emergency relief fund for self-employed artisans, and I take no credit for starting it but am dedicated to supporting it, so yeah, not dropping that part of my service.
compassion and gentleness and I mostly take the minutes and handle some of the duties of an officer. My particular officer niche is in the words area...as a writer, I love grammar and spelling and keeping accurate records so I collect all the paper archives and track legal stuff and sometimes run the meetings to a degree, and of course do my best to participate in our fundraisers, which you can find out more about on our

I'll set aside Saturday Market for today. I am an officer, the Secretary, which lest you have sexist thoughts, is not a clerical position though I do a lot of typing and filing and other writerly and traditionally sexist tasks. It is all about standing up for Duty of Care, and maintaining the integrity of the organization. My self-interest is that it function well and not cause me a lot of overwork, as I have other things to do! Making and selling my craft, showing up every Saturday and Tuesday that I can, and putting a positive face out to the community as a member of this unbelievably valuable organization are bigger parts of how I participate, but as an older person I am happy to be able to carry the legacy forward and help the rest of the dedicated members and stupendous staff keep the whole basket thriving. I take it all very seriously and in fact I have based my life upon it in many ways. Walking away from any of that doesn't seem possible to consider. Even the most serious burnout does not deter me, apparently, because as I come out the other side of a difficult time, I can see how close I came to a negative view. We had some hard times. I depended heavily on a number of other people to pitch in too, and we came through with a new staff, a very solid team, and we are rising up so fast I get giddy. There are still plenty of challenges, but the atmosphere has changed.

Last night after Craft Committee met, a Coordinator and I struggled with that silly window shade that takes a particular amount of skill to lower, and I thought to myself that if that were in the SM office, we are now at the point in our rise that we would buy a new one. It struck me as a simple metaphor for an attitude shift in problem-solving that SM has worked through...let's make everything we can easier and more efficient, starting with the small things and working through to the bigger ones. I'm not complaining about OCF's office staff at all. I actually don't care about the window shade as I only have to deal with it twice a month at most, but it's more about the way we are able to approach things that need to be fixed, in the larger arenas of OCF functions. After last night I feel that OCF has made that same shift, although the turning peach has a much more ponderous path than the basket and it takes a lot longer to measure results and sift through the details of change at OCF than it does at the smaller though equal Market. (We do also have the value of not throwing out things until they have completely been used up, and that shade does still have functional uses...but maybe we don't take it to the new office when we get one.)


A nonprofit membership organization is now a rare and beautiful anomaly as efficiency and simplicity may not be realistic goals for a large group of equal members. Finding consensus and parity are more important; gathering the multitude of voices and forging a way forward to solve problems is not simple and making it simple generally short circuits some of the consensus-building process. It can't be top-down. It has to be roots-up. Every little person has to feel the power of working together and dedicate themselves to that process. We don't shed our self-interest, as we are all far too invested to do that. We shape our self-interest into forms that will serve all of us. We are charged with bringing our tiny pieces of the whole to the forum and working together to articulate them, before we even get to defining the fixable problems and working on solutions for them.

You can feel, from your own life, how many big concerns there are and how one has to look at them in smaller pieces to even stay stable. You give $20 to your neighbor who works with the houseless and you try to shop well and live sustainably and recycle and care. People are forced by time and economics to limit what they can give, and find a balance so they don't get depleted. This has been on the forefront for people in my political universe as we try to fight dismantling social progress and hold onto our sanity and sense of hope. I have found places in my life where I can be effective and lots where I cannot do enough, or anything sometimes. But working as a volunteer Scribe and committee member for OCF has been a place where I can see the direct results of my diligence.

Our committee has not been the best at productive meetings and it has taken years for us to feel powerful in making decisions and doing work that is helpful. I've only been doing it for a small portion of the decades of the Craft Committee, but I brought my skills in good faith and offered them. Working in the future has not been something within our grasp, generally, as we mostly applied what bandaids we could and tried to carefully take apart the issues and find the parts we could work on. We listened to other crafters and tried to provide helpful suggestions on navigating the structure and policies. Decades of policy-making has resulted in some gaps and stumbling blocks in process, not that this is anyone's fault, but taking policy apart and looking at each word has been effective, so a group of us met for several years now and did that with craft policy. We were tasked with compiling it in one place and we did that, which for me was actually rather joyful as I adore organizing and writing clear sentences, which I did with the help of others who care about that. While this is a task that will never be finished, we got to a place where we had something tangible, some tools, which we were able to give to the larger organization for the benefit of the 1000 artisans, the many coordinators, all the crew people, and the wonderful staff and Board, and the future.

It was a gratifying moment and we had a large group last night to witness it. We had representatives of maybe five crews, some of their coordinators, three Board members, one candidate, at least nine artisans, and some of these were the same people. We represented as broad a swath of those interested in craft issues as you can cram into a meeting room. We took our Duty of Care seriously and we worked to identify our concerns, our possible solutions, the exact sticking points, and with transparent process as a goal, we worked to suggest some small changes that will ease some larger concerns. It was a small step in a tiny segment of a big effort to keep that peach alive.

There was a lot on our agenda and we addressed most of it. We were honest and could laugh and see both the big pictures, the realities, and the small details, holding it all in mind and all united in the same goal of making incremental progress toward equality for all members and Fairness. Any conversation you have about OCF will include this goal. This is why people serve the OCF.

We each have our own Fair. That means there are thousands of them, many thousands, and all are cherished and held dear. We all are challenged by giving validity to the many thousands that differ significantly from our own. Your needs are not necessarily my immediacy, and my concerns are not necessarily on your radar. What discourages me about the organization is the limited view of service to it that some people seem to hold.

I will say that invariably, once they get involved at the end of the table that works on policy, process, and consensus-building, their smaller interests tend to fall away into the greater goal of making things Fair. Mostly people who come into service with a limited agenda get the education they need, if they are open to it. It has been a struggle to get boothpeople into the policy-making system, to even get some of us to see how we can be useful or heard. Board members like Sue Theolass and Lucy Kingsley and Justin Honea have worked really hard to listen to others, to ask questions, and to find out what is really different about the crafter experience, the food artisan experience, and the experience of the person who works mostly pre-Fair and maybe doesn't even see the boothpeople in their true light. They've worked to bring out not what is different, but what is the same, and how we all work for each other for our mutual goal symbolized by the round, juicy peach. There has to be enough abundance for all. There has to be a balance between order and spontaneity and everyone's Fair has to be the work of everyone together. There isn't a better way to do it, and it will never be easy.

That old us vs. them is a bugaboo that will always be part of human experience but building consensus means we work through that. One of my dreams is to never hear it again. We find our common ground, we hear about what other people feel, we take our problems apart and we work through the details with our good faith and our dedication and we take our small steps toward better functioning. We bring our skills, whatever they are, and we give them.

It's service. It is actually not about what you need or want, except that you get to throw that into the mix. If there is a way to get what you need and want, you may find a path in that direction, but rarely do you get to have it without the consensus. We are not top-down, and may we never be. Ours is the greater challenge of working for the common good, and we in our community are so damn lucky that we get our little universe to do that kind of work. I cannot imagine how I would be able to tolerate the present greater world without the comfort of my smaller universe where I can see results from my work. Our endless well of need at OCF does not compare to the one we all must live with. Ours has a bottom, and we're nowhere near it. We have resources, we have incredibly dedicated individuals, and we have a complex, deeply developed legacy of problem-solving skills. It is alive in us, and we have the huge gift of our children, who have been paying attention, who have been nurtured, and who are always stepping up to pitch in and help with their energy and joy. We have people of every age, all the ages. There's no division there.

It's election time for OCF. You must vote. If you get the benefit of Fair, you have to accept part of the responsibility. And as you know, you must be an informed voter. Watch the candidate forum, please. Ask yourself about the skills these people bring, and how interested they are in serving all of us in our goal for equality and Fairness. Do they get the true meaning of volunteering, that you do it as its own reward, no matter the cost? Do they bring a narrow agenda, or are they looking at all of the concerns of all of the Fair? Will they serve me, or only you? Are they open to learning? Can they handle the humble role of participatory democracy, of the kind of self-effacing leadership we need?

I like many of the Board-level volunteers. I hear many of them understanding the Duty of Care, the real leadership role they play. I was at first dismayed by the candidates forum, but gradually came around to the realization that willingness to be open to learning was going to help me decide. I know Lucy and Justin have what it takes. I heard Diane Albino indicate that she has heard our desire to be thought of as artisans, not vendors. We do not vend...it is way more complex than that, our Right Livelihood and our lifetime investment in Fair. She has been open to listening.

Two candidates came to the Craft universe to find out about us. George Braddock is a boothperson, and I know people fear he is a one-issue person but that is a groundless fear. Watch him speak, look at his skill level. He has said so many wise things during this controversy that show his openness, his willingness to make personal sacrifice for the greater good, and his huge understanding of service. His whole life has been an unselfish dedication to help those who need help. He has supported dozens of artists and craftspeople, helped empower thousands of differently-abled folks. He suffers misjudgement with grace. I sincerely hope he is elected so we can move along in the process of healing the damage of the past year, and so he can continue to give to the organization with his huge heart and deep soul. Please vote for him.

I will give a loud shoutout to candidate Laurel Georger. She came last night and she did not campaign. She took zero time for herself, but spent the meeting taking notes, listening hard to all of the complicated issues we were navigating, and she adopted throughout a respectful attitude of learning. She didn't interrupt to ask questions, but I expect she will when there is time. She understood that we had a packed agenda and no time to bring anyone up to speed. She knew the importance of what we were doing. I hadn't met her before but I know she is about the age of my son and their friend groups intersect, so I had some expectations of her...I figured she was smart, maybe kind of nerdy (which is a great quality in service) and after the meeting I threw her the logical question, "Why should I vote for you?"

She gave a great answer. She said she has been going to Board meetings, to Path Planning, and she came to learn more about Craft Committee and what we do. She talked about her service and her openness to learning. There it was, and she didn't sound political. There was nothing about power. There was nothing about needs. She said she had time to give and the desire to work hard. That's what I want. She got my vote.

You make your own choices when you vote. You have your own reasons, and you get to follow them through. Just please know that it does matter who you choose, and how you evaluate them. Take it seriously. My actual future depends on OCF, and maybe yours does too. For so many reasons, we need the peach, we need each other, and we need the hope that together we will continue to identify and meet the needs of our community, our place in the state (political and geographical), and our role and tasks in the universe. We want this opportunity to live right and work with people we value.

It's a little thing, this vote, this event, this bit of stuff we do. Yet, it is our metaphor, it is what feeds us. We want it juicy. We want a healthy tree with lots of branches and fruit for everyone. We want to be in it and of it and taste it and savor it. Our little lives are the best we've got, our wealth, so let's turn our pockets inside out and share our gifts and tokens and never stop sharing.

I am so grateful for it, for these people I get to work with and witness. A huge thanks! I will now mail my ballot in. Forgive me for missing the meeting after my 14-hour day at Market. I do what I can. Do what you can as well. You don't do it for yourself, but sometimes you will feel the benefits.



Sunday, October 1, 2017

Living in Community

Woke up this morning, late for me (9:00 am!), and remarkably, surprisingly, anxiety free. I can ramp it up, when I'm ready, but I wanted to note my sense of freedom and find ways to expand it before I dip back into all of those areas where I can't seem to escape the stress.

Standing on the Park Blocks on Saturdays (and Tuesdays) with my creations, trading them for money and compliments, is always a pleasure for me, despite the emotional load it carries and the uncertainty and exposure that comes with it. Yesterday it rained all over many of my hats, as I had opted for the sand-bag-free umbrellas instead of the heavier pop-up with weights. Wrong choice for the 20%-plus rain probability; it was a gamble and I knew it, and I lost. I looked unprofessional and I have more labor and some loss with the wet goods, but I wasn't very upset by it.

I'm quite sure I wasn't upset because I had grounded myself really hard this week in what makes me who I am in this community: our shared values, and our alternative culture. This was spurred by several things; some were personal, some came from watching the City Council meetings (I keep up with them by video, and thank you City of Eugene), and some were seasonal. It's now on the winter side, while I prefer the summer side, in the Willamette Valley. That means I get cold, constrict, and have to use much more gear to walk and bike around, and I can't sit out on my deck and read, which is my chief source of escapist pleasure. I did buy myself a fake mink blankie and some hot tie-dye longjohns and I have an excellent supply of warm socks, so I am confident I will survive the harsh winters we seldom get around here and will be able to manage the advent of Jell-O Art season when we finish off the Holiday Market. My routines are solid and I like bean soup, but I still clench up when the plants die off and I have to close the windows.

Humor aside, I spent a lot of emotional labor in the past year, or maybe several years. I can't see back to a time when I wasn't carrying the extra weight of my volunteer positions (which are a few too many.) Some of that was the brew of cognitive errors I lump into the Over-Responsibility Syndrome that in me, convinces my pysche that I have to fix everything I see as not functioning optimally in my small and greater communities. Obviously that adds up to me not functioning optimally. But as a leader I do share in these responsibilities to be part of the solutions and less a part of the problems, and I take that very seriously. The degree of how seriously increases with the amount of discomfort I feel, in a spiral of the-worse-things-get-the-worse-I- get. I have my issues as a flawed person, and you've probably heard more about those than you need to hear.

But sometimes I get a reset, and I got one this week! What a joy, and what a luxury! I knew what I needed to do and say, and said and did it, and set a reasonable goal (or metric as they like to say now) to measure it, which was met, and I allowed myself the sense of relief and ease I needed. It may be brief, as I immerse into the volunteer tasks this week, such as voting for the OCF Board and typing up a few sets of meeting minutes, but I do want to savor it today. I give the credit to a few individuals, and I'll keep this vague, as well as the ways I was able to use that ease yesterday to listen well to a few in my community who needed some kind attention, because that's not the point and you know how long and detailed I can be.

The point I want to remember is that when I get what I need, I can give others what they need. It's that simple in structure. It's complex in action, and takes a lifetime of learning, but I can trace my bits of knowledge back to key people in my life who have given me the benefit of their wisdom. One person mentioned her intention to build community; at that time we were talking about Family School and why it was created (to establish a functional, deep interface between home and school for our children). One person relentlessly built community every Saturday in her little addresses in our Market newsletter. One person has spent years dropping meaty, cogent phrases on me in our casual talks, that have spurred my blog explorations and framed my storytelling so that I could share it.

One person said she had learned a particular skill set because she saw that we would need it. A little panel on the Sixties at the LCHS led me to open my archives and spread out my tangible contributions from my craft universe, which began when I came to town as a traveling signpainter in 1975 and found the Saturday Market. My first client was Humble Bagels, right as they were beginning. I dropped into the alternative society of Eugene and our area because of the almost accidental fact that my Aunt Lud and Uncle Homer lived here. I've been immersed in it since then.

Thinking about Kesey Square naming initially made me defensive about our Alternative Community, since RG comments are so mean and I resent being labeled, particularly in negative, untrue ways. Kesey wasn't really a hero of mine (and someday I'll re-tell the story of being nearly run over by Furthur-II) but I recognized his greatness, and I do believe that common usage has named the Square now and it should stick. I kind of agree that we should shift our thinking about the center of our city to the Park Blocks, if that doesn't endanger my uses of it. That's what our founders intended, and it's more suitable than Kesey, architecturally, and I had to agree with Councilor Yeh that we don't need any help in naming places after white men, but really the branding has been done by the people, so we can let it be. I don't have a better name in mind.

But in feeling defensive about the community, I ran through my speeches in my head. I often compose speeches that I'd like to give at the Public Forum but am too chicken to deliver. I know I owe it to the City Council to come out of the kitchen and let them know how involved I really am with what they do and say. I've been watching every meeting and worksession for over two years now. I take notes. I print out the materials and archive them. My small interest area is the Park Blocks and downtown developments, with a side of history starting with the first inhabitants (in detail) and I am actually quite an expert by now on my many theories and analyses of what our city and community is up to. But I communicate that to a smallish group of people through my task force emails and my blogs, and mostly stay kind of quiet about it.

I don't want to be wrong. I want to be a good leader and help us get to the elegant solutions and I want to be extremely careful to be logical, rational, and helpful. Keeping quiet and studying hard is a good tactic for me, but I see that the Councilors need to know I care, and the community needs to know what I know and think. I get stymied by trying to speak for others, and the difficulty of speaking only for myself when I'm so enmeshed through my many positions of responsibility.

Someone suggested this week that I merely identify myself by my role when I say something. Am I speaking as an equal member? Am I granting myself some positional authority, such as being an officer of a corporation, or a member of a Board, or a Committee Chair? Am I speaking as a citizen, a homeowner, a mother, an elder, a white lady, or as a human without labels? Can I speak without any labels? It's pretty impossible for me to separate my roles. I'm generally speaking from the compendium of them all. I'm me because of all these things. I can't not be me.

So if I go to speak to the City Council, will they see me as the voice of Saturday Market, even if I provide a disclaimer? I think I can speak positively for the Market, but so do the people who say outrageous things to city leaders about how we feel about the FSP. I don't agree with them, and I don't want them speaking for me, because I have grown to see how that thing over there works within our community and it isn't all bad. I know and love some of the drummers. I see how the newly hatched artists and crafters can't quite make it across the street to join Saturday Market, and I want them to build up to having that chance. I see how desperate some people are to make a single dollar with the skills and damage they have accumulated. I am not a mean person who thinks things should be swept clean and trashed instead of supported. Let me repeat again that any fixes over there have to be a community solution, with buy-in from the users, the neighbors, the public entities, the social-service agencies, and all of us who are involved and affected by the use of the northeast block. This will not be an easy solution or a simple process, but anything less will be a tragedy. That needs to be heard.

So I feel I should counter those opinions spoken in public by some who would represent me. I don't label people as "druggies" or "hippies" (though I have warm feelings about that label) or any other designation if I can hear myself. I resent labels for me and I resent them for others. I hate so much this rising atmosphere of hate and intolerance and I should be one of the people speaking loudly to counter it. That needs to be heard.

Park Blocks: big complex subject and all my study does not make me enough of an expert to go tell the City what to do. Changes to the Park Blocks are a community conversation. I'm certainly a part, but I am not here to deliver pronouncements and answers, though I have definite opinions. It is a process. I am engaged in that process. I will fight to stay engaged, but I won't fight the process or the other participants. Framing it as a fight is always a mistake. I will trust the process, and the participants, to be good listeners and to trust me as well. I hope the Council knows I'm here. I might owe it to them to remind them. I know they feel vulnerable sometimes that they are out there by themselves trying to make decisions without adequate citizen involvement. They would welcome me at the public forum. I could make a three-minute statement that would be helpful.

What I'd try to say today would be that when I got here, in 1975, I found a fairly well-established group of amazing, caring people who were trying to work on a better, more stable corner of America that would offer the space for growth: sustainable, thoughtful, ethical growth within the lessons we had learned from the Fifties, the Sixties, and the rebuilding of the American psyche that was so damaged by those decades. The assassinations, the lies, the Vietnam War, the actions of the CIA and FBI, and the betrayal of solid human values needed a huge healing. We applied our damaged selves to the task and we built things here. We sold our goods at Saturday Market and OCF and we volunteered at White Bird and we worked at the Homefried Truckstop and the newspapers and we talked and we cared and we built. We bought the dilapidated post-WWII properties and the old 1920's houses and we rebuilt them and made the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods valuable again. We created schools and clubs and groups and neighborhoods and we built a wonderful solid core that got us through the depression of the 80's, replanted our forests, re-invested in our downtown, and we did it with our open hearts and our deep desire for a better world. We're still here, most of us, still doing our best.

We did this next to all the people already here, the loggers and the farmers and the people who didn't welcome what we brought and built, and through the decades we proved our worth and our dedication and we not only survived, but we thrived. We built treasure together and we won't rest and say it's enough. We will do this until we fall over, and then we'll do it from our beds. There are so many shining examples of this kind of person that you all know many, many of them, living and not. We have a stunning, living legacy in Eugene and Lane County of a society that has embraced the place and helped to work to make it one we are so proud of we can barely see it in it's entirety. We've invested our lives in this.

You might say we take it for granted. I'm here to tell you that every day that I stand on the Park Blocks, every single Tuesday and Saturday, I hear from someone their deep appreciation of our town and their recognition of our hard work. I should tell this to the City Council and the Lane County Commissioners. Perhaps my problem is really that I feel it so deeply, and it is so much a vital part of my being, that I am fairly sure I would dissolve in tears as I try to explain that fathomless love.

I don't want it to feel trivial. I don't want it to fall on any deaf ears. I don't want to compete for attention with the rest of us, the 350 people, the climate change activists, the advocates for the unhoused, the people fearful of losing the equity they have built as I have built mine. It's all of a piece. We're all together in this, whether or not we agree about the details. We have the unity we wish to see.

We've been saving our world all this time. The Vietnam story brought this back to me in waves. My friends the Marines, the protestors, the liberators of love and women and people of color, we're together in this. We haven't put down our tools and we aren't going to fall into the chaos that's being pitched at us. We have got it going on.

So thank you all, and thank you for reading and listening. Thank you for what you do. Keep seeing this big picture. Keep the faith. Love what you do, notice the moments, and love harder. Let it be.

Let it be Kesey Square. It's not like you can stop people from using their Free Speech. It's not like you would want to. That isn't what people want. We want our human needs met. Let's start there.

Every day.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Vulnerability Hangover

Forgive me for not reading or listening to Brene Brown before I write this, but the concept itself is enough for now. I read about it in Sherman Alexie's newest book, which turns out to be a memoir about his mother, primarily. It was hard to read but also easy to read, and now I'm reading When Breath Becomes Air because a friend I ran into at the Lucky Day shelf encouraged me to..

From my gut reaction I know I've been experiencing this and it's behind my lack of posts. I'm guessing it is a condition I will continue to learn to live with. I have always wanted to find ways to be more honest and more easily vulnerable. It has always been scary and wonderful.

Mom's here for one more day. I feel pressure to talk about everything, make sure I hear everything she has to tell me, pack it all in just in case I don't get another or a better chance. All of which is not possible and makes me feel more stressed, irritated, tired. Things I'm reading and watching on TV don't help. The Vietnam War is still a defining historical event in my life. My Aunt Lud's 100th birthday party was lovely and tragic (she is suffering from dementia). I stepped out of my routine and took off Tuesday Market, and all the meetings and activities I usually find grounding and that keep me going in the endless round of how my artisan life works.

I so needed a break, that it was overwhelmingly obvious. I'm grateful that Mom's visit forced me to clean my house, think about others, and make space in my home and thoughts for family. I am missing the Standards Committee meeting today, my writing group isn't meeting, and I'm not typing any minutes or doing any printing or even thinking much about my work life. It's like a vacation though not a vacation of escape. It's only a pause. I have printing to do tomorrow, and minutes to type, and a meeting Friday, and of course Saturday I will sell as usual. I did last week. It was the one piece of my routine I was not willing to give up, and I'm glad. But a pause was welcome and needed. (In fact, I gave up the paid duty of taking the Standards minutes, so if anyone is looking for a little gig taking minutes, please let the Market know you are available.)

My only surviving (out of ten siblings) Uncle came to the party too, staying with his wife at Ritta's cottage, and it was wonderful to bring them into the Market family. My Aunt Gayle remarked upon that aspect of our community right away. Without prompting she recognized that we all seemed so connected at the Market, so non-competitive and friendly and helpful toward one another. Ritta, as you may know, is not only a fantastic chef but a wonderfully warm and embracing human and she was so welcoming to my relatives, as was Colleen and so many others. Raven did not complain when I set up chairs for my relatives in our shared  open space that we use for ourselves and my customers. He was patient as I ran off to make the various connections I always do on Saturdays, setting my selling responsibilities aside while I check in with other artisans about the deck construction (still has to be stained when the weather improves), the wrapped pod (love the old-growth forest with dinosaurs) and other things that impact our Market experience.

One neighbor had a heart attack last week but was still at Market. One had been evacuated due to fire but still came too. One was terrified and needed reassurance from several people about a Standards issue. We were dealing with grief from the loss of loved ones. Friends wanted hugs, others had questions generated from the Annual Meeting, many had opinions and details to check in about on lots of aspects of our experience. Farmers' Market needed a plastic bag for some dog waste. People come to me, I go to them. It's a rich part of what I do in the Market community, and I want it. If and when I step away from things, it's a struggle of so many emotions. I want to make space for other people to step up, and I want things to be done well and thoroughly the way I have come to see them done. I want leaders to be supported and not criticized or drained of their enthusiasm. I want staff to be supported and freed to bring their skills to really work for us the way we deserve to be worked for and with. I want the Market to be coordinated with OCF as a structure for our survival and celebration as artisans and masters of our crafts. I want my life to work well and I want that for all of us. It's how we live and we made it so we could live that way. And we want to share it in so many ways.

I want to feel free to write in this framework about my vulnerabilities and I want to feel safe posting it publicly, exposing my insecurities and working on my strengths in an open space that I can share. It's important to me. So I will have to learn more from Brene Brown and others on how to manage that, open even more, not give in to fears. It might be what will get us through this time and all the times we have left.

Mom wants to talk. Tears are close. See you Saturday. When it's love or fear, you know that I will work through that fear to get to that love.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Where We Are Today



I finished a lengthy post about Jell-O Art and the Parade and all of that over on my Jell-O Art blog,  Gelatinaceae so feel free to wander over there and find out more than you want to know about those gorgeous and joyful details of my life. This blog is where I get to explore my more personal thoughts and reflections and boy howdy, would I like to. I'm not entirely sure I can say much of anything about what has been going on in my life. It's fraught.

You know how I used to write those glowing post-Market essays about how much I love and value Saturday Market and Country Fair and my crafting life and my roles as witness and transcriber and all of the many ways those two organizations work so well in my life. Yeah. I still feel those things briefly, but I will say that I really did not anticipate how far Trumpery would work into my personal and political and social life. There's not enough resisting in the world to undo the damage that has followed that so-called election for me. It feels like hell on earth. And today we face another escalation in hatred and bigotry and sliding backwards in history a century. It's more than any of us think we can handle most of the time. And yet when I mentioned something vaguely political to one of my customers from out-of-town, she said "I have no problem with it, I'm getting rich!" So there you have the crux of it.

When it benefits you, all of your morality and sensibility go right out of your mind. Humans! What does it take to get you to see other people and care about them? I do not feel full of hope and love for my people today. I had a brief moment of loving my Saturday Market family sometime in the last nine months, but it flew out the window after about five minutes. Sometimes I hate almost all of you and myself as well. That's why I haven't written, that's why my days off are full of yardwork and escapism, reading novels and eating delicious foods. I am very disappointed in the humans these days. That does possibly include you. I know I am not living up to my expectations.

That's why I pour my energy into Jell-O Art and volunteering and making lots of inventory and standing on the concrete simply smiling and selling my goods. Some of the rest of what is going on is not believable and you will thank me for not telling you. It's far from pretty. You can go down to the Park Blocks and look at the cut through the wall for the dining deck with its surrounding chainlink and construction zone and dead rhodys and that can be your operating metaphor. My stone wall of solid love for my organization and my crafting life has a big, sawed-open gap in it and so that no one will fall into it and break a hip and die, we'll put an ugly, awkward fence up and wait. Surely the deck will look sharp and clean and with picnic tables and umbrellas, and we'll heal our dismay at the mangled wall. Maybe they'll face it with some lovely granite sheet and finish it off nicely. I always like to try to expect the best. But metaphorically speaking, I do not appreciate the gaps in the solid walls of my life. Put down that saw!

I have to say that the skill level of ordinary people in navigating moral complexity and right action is low. The bar keeps getting lower. I have to avoid Facebook most of the time, keep a poker face in meetings and conversations, and refuse to engage pretty much every day. And then I go home and agonize and my need for therapy increases and I certainly am not going to get it from a donkey who leaves his poop on my neighbor's space and is still in my bike tires from the parade. Can we get some real help here? Anyone? Is everyone completely overwhelmed with despair? Sometimes I think so.

Of course, I can right my ship, and do daily. I know how to keep working and I can always default to that, but there is an increasing list of things I don't want to do. I don't want to go to any more meetings where people lie and bully and pretend to be innocent when they are undermining everything we have worked for. I am shocked at people who still pretend to be my friends when they are actively ruining what I have worked so hard to build, with so many other good people. I have to believe that they are not aware of what they do. I have to actively work to forgive them and keep picking up the trash they leave behind. I have to remember that they are being seduced by some short-term gains while others of us are holding steady and will be ready to rebuild as soon as the way is clear. But I innocently never imagined this level of destruction.

One of the main issues is that so many people are really quite fragile and all this uncertainty and meanness has pushed them right over their edges. That's what's going on with the guy who sorts food out of the trash and then tries to sell it to people, and the one who walks out into traffic right in front of the bus. They've lost whatever support they used to have to maintain. They're the ones that you can see, but a lot of the others are hiding out at home or doing what they have committed to, the meetings and the tasks, but inside they have lost it and are not maintaining. So do we call them out and fight it out? Do we sit around and share our feelings and cry together? Well, maybe we do that in the empathy tent or our therapist's office or over coffee, but why don't they see that we can't do that in the meetings? Why can we not do our work without all the static and interference?

Perhaps it's widespread sonic bombardment. It's the pervasive smell of Febreeze all over everywhere. It's cars and fumes and the hot weather and travel for entertainment and entertainment and escape over substance and some of it is simply overwhelm. Life shouldn't be intentionally made harder.

I go back to Marshall Rosenberg saying that the reason we are here is to make life more wonderful. That's what is our goal in every human interaction: to meet the needs of the other person while identifying our own needs and working toward the mutual meeting of both. It's the win-win attitude for life. Why do we try to make losers to dominate? It does not work to make us feel better. We are not here to climb to the top of any heap, certainly not the compost heap of everyone else after we destroy them.

I watch hard for my few real-life heroes and try to blow them kisses and let them know they are seen and appreciated. I really appreciate those who check in with me about my downcast eyes (I have never been big on eye contact...I'm really sensitive and have to protect myself a lot, so I go within.) I like it when they ask me if we're okay. If we're not, it gives me a chance to say so, and if we are, it gives me a prod to be more demonstrative with my appreciation. I still do have a lot of hope in a lot of specific areas, and sometimes things go well, and sometimes people exceed my expectations and work hard and do the right thing according to my shifty moral compass. I remind myself daily about all the good people I meet, all the kindness I see and the strong, fearless people who keep moving forward. There are lots and lots of them. Mostly they are being a bit cautious and self-protective as we see what a long haul this is going to be. Mostly we collectively have a lot of hope that good will prevail and hate will be diminished as people bond together for the common good.

But gee whiz, it used to be easier. I know I'm old. Sixty-seven is getting up there. It's going to be one thing after another. I've been really lucky so far that my injuries have developed more compassion in me than disability. I'm lucky for my immune system and my sensible tendencies and my low-key lifestyle, and my plain luck. I am very grateful. I am trying hard to keep building on the compassion and keep trying to suggest avenues forward based on that and not on retribution, punishment, or domination. I do not ever want to get caught up in domination games or control patterns, except the ones I use to establish my own inner control and domination over my more base impulses.

My ability to identify control patterns is proving to be quite useful and I am dedicated to sharing my studies. If we can reduce someone's behaviors to the factors that are driving their control patterns, and identify their greatest needs, sometimes we can help them work to get those actual, underlying needs met. When they work so hard to mask and obfuscate and hide their real needs, when they catch us up in their fervent strivings for revenge or destruction or whatever they are using to establish what they perceive to be their safety, we all get lost in that. We all have to suffer with them until someone gets a glimmer of that underlying need and says the magical things to ease that specific need.

Once in awhile these openings that come are transformative and I continue to believe that empathy, listening, and setting our own sufferings aside and trying to see that of the other, do help. I've participated in it countless times and it has worked for me to work with someone who also can do that. Some people really do have skills, and practice them, and if you doubt me, step into that Empathy Tent next time you see it and work on one of your concerns. Complain, vent, cry or criticize or whatever you need to do at that moment to lessen your suffering, and see how one of these listening experts responds. More than likely, your heart strings will resonate and you will feel the shift. Listen for it. And also try to build those skills. Slow down, wait to let the other person finish, and try a bit to draw more out of them. Encourage them to see you as a safe person to work with. Be a safe person to work with. Be fucking real. Drill down.

We are all having to count on each other, to depend heavily on each other to navigate these times. We need gentle humor and sweet reassurance and we need to reground in our basic values almost every day. We have to find the energy to not give up, to not let dominators do that, to call out controllers and take away their effectiveness. We have leaders to follow on these things. Support for our leaders is always as important as taking the lead. Not everyone can get out there in front, and many of those who do are quaking in their boots, but they get out there anyway. Stand beside them. Sit with them. Get out of your inner dilemmas and look at them (this is a lecture to me, always, you know.)

We will get through this. We will build our Old Hippies Home and figure out a way to live together until we die of life. We will not submit to hatred and ugliness and call it normal. We will take care of each other and however clunky our process and procedures are, we will bring our real, good hearts to the tasks and we will use them for the forces of good. There is really no other choice.

I think sometimes that I have outlived my usefulness to the Market community. I have tried so hard to help with this Park Blocks future and to get good staff in place and to maintain transparency and do the right thing, to not be moralistic and judgemental but rather to gently point in what I believe is the right direction. To look at each thing we do and see if it is the best we can do, to keep up with the fast pace of changes and not get pushed over, to be open to change and still bring what needs to stay the same, these have been some of my efforts. Most of the time I sound like I'm telling an innocent tale of the way I wish things were. Most of the time I am ignored and lots of the time I am dismissed and probably if I had to be elected to leadership I would find out the truth, that I am of the past and need to let go. But I won't step out of leadership until people actually, plainly, tell me to.

I see myself as the one person in place to carry forward the legacy of our original founders, that group of artists who had the vision almost fifty years ago to give us this life. Both of our organizations, Fair and Market, came from these same roots, as did most of what makes Eugene the weirdly wonderful place everyone now wants to move to. We made it for us and for all. We each did our small or large parts and we are still trying. I'm not giving up easily. I'm not stepping aside until someone takes up the mantle of carrying forward the legacy. It might take some decades of study for someone to want that position. It might not happen. Maybe our model is not a good model for nowadays, maybe we can't bring it forward any farther.

That is possible. That isn't clear yet, and it would have to be made abundantly clear to me before I'd agree to it. But in the meantime, I am here and I can be your foundational block in your beautiful stone wall. I will work as hard as I can for the survival of our old stone walls, metaphorically and in real downtown life. If you want to support me, see what you can do to help. Many of you have stepped up, to make the Guidebook, to work on the Craft Policy Working Group, to persist with the meetings and committees and keep waiting for other people to see the need and want to participate. I thank you and I am depending on you. We need more of us. We need help from those who have worked on their needs and can now see the needs of others. Our small lives need vision and support.

Do your part. Then do a little more. Remember what they say about that arc of history bending towards justice. Keep inspiring yourself and keep inspiring me. Now is our time, and we are the ones. Thank you so much for listening, and for this brief moment of peace that I will now go and savor.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Loving Summer

I promise to make this short because one of my chief pleasures in life is sitting on my deck watching the leaves move and the sky and it is that time of day. I cannot believe that my work load has not decreased one iota since the beginning of spring...I am still trying every moment to stay caught up on the essentials and the other things are piling up around me.

But I will get to those piles because Mom is coming for my Aunt Lud's 100th birthday in September and you know you have to clean before your mom comes, even when she is 91 and really doesn't care if you do that or not. My piles are even more intense this week because I am going to be in the Parade! On Sunday! With a cart load of Jell-O Art and an outrageous outfit (if it works) and that spirit of the intensity of real fun. I can hardly wait. 


Every time the anxiety comes up I try to repeat the part about the fun. I so need it. I enjoy the Fair, and I love the Market, but those are work, tons of work, and it is hard to really feel loose and free. I anticipate feeling pretty loose riding my bike in the Parade. I plan to make it so engineered and foolproof that even I will have fun every minute. We'll see of course. I should be dusting my Jell-O pieces right now and of course I am not. Getting them on the cart and down Broadway might be way too much engineering but I am determined. And like the  Jell-O Art Show itself, the main objective is fun for all, so if things go a bit south, no one will notice, and certainly no one will care.

Working in the service of fun and love is what makes life successful. I'm dedicated to fitting that into the framework of working for money and survival. I was thrilled at Fair that no one talked politics. We walked into our world, the one we created together, where we love each other and are safe. I felt that so strongly there, immediately and lastingly. Even the harsher life/death parts are sweet there. Grieving at the Fair is always a part of it for me and I hope I can always take my grief there. Marko told me that the Empathy Booth is presently serving lots of grieving people. That's out there. Many of us are still traumatized and in shock with the current national scene and that doesn't seem to be avoidable, which makes me even more grateful for that respite.

And I have a rotten board to replace (only one, you ask?) on my booth out there, so I have to go out next week and do that, if I can somehow carve out a day. Going out to the Fair site always takes the whole day. There's a magic inability to leave or be efficient. I treasure it.

But Sunday, Sunday, is bigger than big and I need to get out there on that deck and at least eat dinner. I do not have time to eat anymore. I'm looking forward to that. And digging up my garlic. It's way too late to let it sit there in the ground.

So, so happy to report that all things Saturday Market are wonderful. Tuesday was the best of the season. Our new hires are fantastic. We are set to go into our best phase yet. The City Council got their update on the downtown programs today, and they are happy, and by the time they come back from break we will be ready to give our input, and we will be, in the meantime, working hard to keep our plates spinning and all of our options good ones. And the best part is that I no longer feel like I am doing it all by myself. I know, I wasn't, but it was oppressive and now it is not.

So this is it, short and sweet as a flat of blueberries. They might not last. This good feeling might not last. But today I will celebrate how good it feels, after so long of not being able to say that at all. See you in the Parade! I will be the one with the tsunami on my head.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Better!

You'll be glad to know things have eased up on the areas referred to in the cryptic midnight blog of last week. I handed over some of my over-responsibility to other entities who gladly accepted my surrender without even a conversation. I was the one who took on all of that over-responsibility, put that weight of the world on my shoulders, and it didn't take that long to sluff it off once I had someone recognize it and call my attention to it. Others stepped in, and my relief was immediate.

I am not really the only one holding up the sky, and it certainly looked ridiculous even to me when I saw that I had been trying. Was I really forgetting that there were plenty of capable, caring people working for the same common good? I'm guessing now that I had merely fallen over the edge into a zone of irrationality, one of those where you can only see that level of mistakeness in everyone else, not yourself. It's fairly common for me to be there, with that blindness that convinces me I am right about that (and pretty much everything else.)

Ah, arrogance. I really did have too many plates to spin and was afraid and unable to drop any of them. I don't fault myself for believing in my powers. I'm glad I didn't proceed with too many decisions during that time, that I was moving too fast to pile up a lot of mistakes on that underlying one. I did some good work and kept up for the most part, which impresses me a little. It was a huge workload and I'm relieved to trade it in for my regular pre-Fair workload, which is mighty. There will still be way too many meetings but there are a lot of other people in those rooms.

I'm still the point person with City staff on the Park Blocks issues, and I like it. It's fun to gain confidence in a new area and find myself capable in new ways. I worry about it of course. My thinking about the whole Park Blocks remodel needed some months to evolve and I have now realized that it would be wrong to stand in opposition to the opportunity to spiff up our home downtown. When they say "permanent home for the Markets" I should hear golden bells of exactly what our shining diamond Saturday Market deserves and will love. I can easily admit I love that photo in the PPS report of the meandering stream with boulders in it and people lounging beside it.
I'd love that. Nobody is going to take my space and not give it back. Maybe I'll even gain back the corner that I give to the fountain and be a real 8x8 someday.

I'm embarrassed and still trepidatious to be a city booster but when I meet with these folks I like them a lot. I see that their intentions, within their job descriptions, really are to honor us and help us thrive. They have been so careful, really, with their own set of trepidations that someone like me will be hurt or damaged by their actions. They are so welcoming to our feedback and very responsive. Of course they are bound by so many restrictions that don't bind me...they are public officials with all kinds of legal boundaries, ethics rules, regulations, laws and the myriad details of each department and its codes. They have to think about everything: who they can be seen having a beer with, what kinds of things they say that might be misinterpreted, what kinds of things they might see as illegal or untoward and have to report to their bosses. I can hardly imagine the kinds of things they worry about late at night. In comparison, I am free as a little old bird.

I have to worry that my fellow members won't like me anymore (those who do) if I lead them down this path and we don't like where we end up. That's about it, really. I suppose my income or retirement "plan" might be compromised if I am involved in some dumb decisions. I might have some arguments or make some enemies in the process, but really I have little to lose and so much to gain. 

I think we forget that when we moved into the Park Blocks 32 years ago, we fit ourselves into the existing spaces. If they weren't perfect we warped ourselves to fit them. I've spent years in a spot where I can't use the fourth leg of a popup because I can't put it in the fountain (yes, we used to...). I have to be next to a fountain where some people do gross things in public and sometimes splash my goods in the process. The concrete is uneven and lots of people trip and lose their balance on the cobbles, and the morning sun can be too hot and the afternoons too shady. Each one of us has fit into a space with some limitations and we've made it work. There is no reason to think we can't do this in a new space. There is every reason to think we can do it in a better space!

A lot of us initially thought this was not what we asked for and we felt somewhat resentful that we would have to change what works for us so well. But if we're honest, we can find things that don't really work that well, that could be improved, like access to the interior, access to the raised areas, and amenities we don't have like flush toilets and cool shade coverings and who knows what all?

If we really got to work and designed ourselves the Market of our dreams, I'll bet we could find a few things to change that we'd love. That's our task: not to react in dismay to what gets done to us, but to design for ourselves the spaces we want and the amenities and features we need. We can grab this opportunity and make the most of it, and we'd be shamed if we didn't. If we really opposed this gift to use and made it so hard for the city to do it that they gave up, we'd be doing a disservice to the whole community. The community loves us. It wants this for us too. 

Nobody wants us to do anything but polish up our facets and shine all the brighter. Everyone we know wants us to thrive. Sometimes I think so small I wonder how I made it this far. Thinking big is risky, sure, but nothing really great happens if we can't at least be open to hearing from people who think bigger than we can.

So I'm a leader on this, taking on the interface between the city and my people of the market, but it's not something I am doing by myself. I'm listening to everyone, writing down what they say, writing down what we think, and helping to make an articulated plan. Every part of it is open to our thoughts and our visions and our ideas. We don't want to be the limiting factors for our lack of vision, we, who are some of the most creative and innovative people around. We want to add our vision and our great skills to the mix that comes up with the best home imaginable, the best we can all afford, the best we can all achieve together.

It feels like a lifting of a burden, to really accept and embrace this big change in our beloved home. It feels like an anticipation of a big event, a life-changing one like a wedding or a birth. I really want to live there in a brilliant and successful future. I do not want to be one of the ones who stood in the way of a good dream.

So finally, somehow, I have entered into the world that some consultants from NYC saw for us when they came with their wide worldview to our little town. I will never agree with everything they recommended or  thought they saw, because of course I know us a lot better than they could. I see our flaws and the ways we've made our compromises and decided we couldn't have nice things. But I'm not going to be stuck there in the "this is good enough for me" zone about the Park Blocks. 

It wasn't good enough for us last year, and while it's getting better, it's still not good enough for us. We're incredible. We're a force of nature that makes our community great right in the very middle. We're where you can bring yourself and find your people, find the things that matter, be in the middle of a time and place of fun and depth of emotion and what is real in our lives. We are at the center. We offer this to our community every week, for practically nothing, for their enjoyment and their dismissal and their delight and their distraction. We put it out there for whatever other people want to feel and want to do with it. We've been giving and putting it at the feet of our community for all these decades. And now our community wants to give it back. I want us to accept it, with gratitude and with joy. I want us to use our talents to make it so shiny and beautiful, so perfect, that we will all expire with satisfaction and be fulfilled forevermore. 

Yes, I have a romantic fantasy about the Park Blocks Revitalization. I think it is going to be remarkable, and I want to be a part of it. I want to be a city booster for it. I want to put my hand to it and help make it happen. I want to leave my little fingerprint in it somewhere. What better way do I have to use all of these skills I have gained over all these years?

That's the weight I want on my shoulders, the weight of possibility and the lightness of perfection. Let's try for this, together. This is so worth doing. Let's not let our fears get in our way. Let's embrace. We're already in the middle of it, so there's no turning back now. 

And all this work I'm doing, all this oppressive, onerous work...well, I love it. I want to be needed and I want to put the meaning on shirts and make beautiful treasures and sell them and I want to stay up late and get up early. And get paid for it. Today was a gorgeous summer day at the Tuesday Market and people wanted what I brought and I had a lovely day. I came home and forced myself to type some minutes and then, rather than being depleted and depressed, here I am happy and reluctant to stop writing and go to sleep. I have a wonderful life and I chose it. I get to share it. I get to work harder and longer and then go to a festival that will still be full of love even when we disagree and always when we love each other the way we do, when we're honest. And we do know how to be honest. Right from the deepest part of our hearts. We'll get through anything we need to get through. And then we'll laugh and get on with whatever comes next. On that bus, that bright and colorful bus. 
Glad I got to be under it long enough to get back out and climb on top. There's quite a view! 


Monday, May 29, 2017

Lying in the Mud Waiting for Rain

Another sleepless night. Now I know what it feels like to get thrown under that proverbial bus. It's an experience that has a demoralizing quality like no other. The wheels start to spin and dig their muddy ruts and there seems little chance that the bus will ever extract itself from the pit to roll forward again. The gears grind and we lurch from side to side.

I truly think I'd rather be under here than on the bus at this point. I think I am going to welcome the role of scapegoat and run with it. I think I am actually uniquely suited for the role, and that it fits me well. Blame me for everything. It makes sense.

Part of my minutes-taking love is the sacred role of impartial witness, observer of all, interpreter, person who frames things with honesty. I try so very hard to do that. It's a spiritual practice to me. I think of myself as someone who pursues rationality, contructs sensible and productive narratives even when there is chaotic action to describe. I don't think this is delusional, though of course tonight I am working over my delusions in fine detail trying to see if I am really the dissembler I have been accused of being. It doesn't fit with who I believe myself to be.

But I'm a person who understands being really wrong. I am the gullible innocent, and don't try not to be. I think it's part of what allows me to approach that level of honesty I try to get to. I can be fooled. But I can also see patterns and repeating attempts to confuse and I can articulate them. Not that it helps. People who haven't seen the patterns tend to not believe in them and the more the description extends, the more the listener can edge away. There's an instinctive discomfort to get away from things that one doesn't have the capability to follow or understand. Gaslighting comes into play. The sensitive noticer becomes the one at fault. Protesting adds more words. Someone who exposes misconceptions in such detail must be constructing one. People throw up their hands and won't believe anything.

Lots of metaphors I could use. I wish I could tell the story in concrete detail, but it's depressing and the best strategy is to endure until more pressing matters arrive to wash the bus down the lane despite its broken parts. Pack up the tools and pick up the next piece of work. There's still plenty to do, and there's no better way to rebuild trust than to pick the work up and resume doing it. Start sawing, start stacking, get that woodpile lined up straight and don't forget that winter will arrive whether or not all of us are ready. Summer will flee while we fret and analyze and fiddle with the details of things that are going to have to creak along somehow. With or without us.

I have the strength to be the scapegoat for awhile. I've made enough mistakes that I certainly deserve blame for some of them. I made my kid eat school lunch, for heaven's sake. I'm guilty. Blame me.

Dump all your blaming and your shaming and all of your accusations, dump them right on me, right now. You get two more minutes. Get it out. This is a limited time offer, but it's wide open. Blame me for every little thing. Let's all throw it all out there and then we can let it go up in smoke. We can bury that hatchet once we chop all of our flaming blame into little tiny pieces and stomp on it and make sure all the fire is out. Get it done.

And then we can get back to work. We still have a lot to do, and we're still stuck with each other here in our little mud pit we made. We're still going to have to shove each other around a little until we can get comfortable for the long haul. We keep finding a lot more problems to pitch into this soup. We keep trying to make something beautiful happen with what materials we have.

It's always worked before. I've been through this: being wrong, being blamed, being seen in the wrong light or called hurtful names or bruised with the thrust of someone else's defense moves. It wasn't about me then and it isn't really about me now. It's about our need to climb up, out of the pit, and the way we sometimes step on each other when we do that. It's nothing personal, that muddy boot on your shoulder. You're supposed to climb out too. At some point someone else will reach back and give you a hand. It's not a story that has an end to it.

Hardly a story at all. Someday I'll tell you the details, maybe. Probably they don't matter. It's when I tell the details that people start edging away and thinking I'm too serious about it, too intense, maybe even hysterical. Been there? Let's keep trying to make a world where that doesn't happen.