As you may remember, my one word for the year is “Provide”.

Goodness gracious, where on earth did June go? July has totally snuck up on me!

I didn’t do much about “Providing” in June, except to be one of the eight people required in order for Franke Tobey Jones to take the bus sightseeing. It may not sound like much, but I can’t tell you how many really great sounding trips get cancelled because we don’t have enough people to go.


Early in June, Big Al and I took the train, and spent the day in Portland. I thought I posted about it, but apparently I didn’t. We didn’t have any particular plans or sightseeing aims, we just went down for lunch – left at 8:15 in the morning and were back at 5:15 that evening. Portland is a great little city with easy-to-get-around trams, and lots of “street art.”




I know I’m in the Pacific Northwest because the public drinking fountains bubble water all the time.

The flowers and plantings in the public parks and on the streets were beautifully tended – it was the Rose Festival the following day.

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The train station has great mission architecture, and has been refurbished/well-maintained, and the views of the sound from the train were reward enough for our tickets.


On Friday that week, the FTJ Lunch Bunch went to Seattle for lunch at Sky City at the Space Needle. (Good Grief! I never posted the pictures from there either.)


It was a beautiful day, and I overwhelmed myself taking pictures, as well as eating myself stupid on clams and mussels. We had great views of the sound, of the city and of Mt Rainier.

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I KNOW I did posts about FTJ’s trip to Northwest Trek and Mt Rainier Scenic Railroad.

I think I remember now why I hadn’t already posted about Seattle and Portland. I spent most of May and June doing a photo-a-day in anticipation of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). You can find all my post by searching here for #journeytoGA and/or #PCUSA. Also during the week of deliberations, I followed the proceedings on Live Feed and on Twitter and Facebook. GA will be in Portland in two years, and I’m determined to go, even if it’s only as an observer.

At church, I continue to provide leadership as a member of the session and as the chair of the Hospitality and Outreach Team. Summer is a busy time for us as we are the organizing group for our National Night Out Street Party in early August and our Annual Picnic in mid-August. Additionally we will be trying an activity during worship in July when we will pack “Gift of the Heart” School Bags for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Church World Service. If that goes well, we will do a similar activity in the fall, making hygiene kits for a local homeless shelter.

Now that I talk about all the “stuff” I’ve been doing in June, I understand why it seemed to disappear in a puff of smoke.

On a related note, the deer continue to demolish many of my flowers, and Big Al and I are off to the nursery to see if we can find something that they won’t destroy. I’m thinking maybe Foxglove (digitalis). I understand it’s as poisonous to deer as it is to people. Bwhahahahaha!!!!!


As you may remember, my one word for the year is “Provide”.

I’ve continued to PROVIDE a warm body in attendance at Pierce County Hunger Advocates. I’m in charge of sending out alerts to folks who want to know when significant hunger-related bills are moving through Congress. We’ve been working this month on beating back an amendment on the Coast Guard reauthorization bill which would require 70% of all US international food aid to be shipped on US flag carriers, no matter its place of origin. This would severely limit the funds available for actual food to be provided to the world’s poor. Even locally purchased food, which was just recently authorized, would be affected. If you have any sway with congress this is still a hot button issue.

I continue to participate in our fledgling Toastmasters group here at Tobey Jones.

For most of April and the first half of May, I was able to attend a one-hour a week Conversational French class. I was the only person who came, other than the two college students who were hired to facilitate the hour. They were lovely girls who were very understanding of my fumbling lack of memory of vocabulary. They had both spent a year in France, one in high school and one in college, so they were very fluent. I loved visiting with them every week, and I hope Tobey Jones will offer the course again in the fall. One of them has graduated, but the other could be back next year.

The Hospitality and Outreach Team at church PROVIDED an opportunity for folks to get together and have a meal at a local restaurant. We went on a Saturday evening, and had a really good time. It’s nice to meet socially. This was also an opportunity for an intergenerational gathering, so we got to know some of the youth, as well as the other old fogies our age.

I suppose the biggest this thing I’ve PROVIDED is a customer for those local farmers who grow and sell organic vegetables, fruits, and plants. It’s become a regular thing for me to go to the farmer’s market every Saturday morning.


So far there have only been mustard greens, green onions, and asparagus,

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but the local strawberries are just starting.


They also sell organic plants to put in your own garden, that you won’t have to worry about killing all the bees and birds with the pesticides the big, corporate concerns like Lowes, Home Depot and McClendons put on their plants before they sell them.


These are all small, family farms and I especially like shopping at L’Arche, which is a farm for adults with developmental difficulties.


I guess it’s been being on this diet and having the dietician rave about organically grown produce, but I’ve become much more picky about what I buy. Also locally grown fruits and vegetables go a long way to helping minimize hunger here locally – if the farmers can sell their produce for a decent rate, we will have less worry about genetically modified foods and pesticides in what we eat.

rant/ I suppose the last thing I’ve PROVIDED (although not willingly) was fresh greens for the deer.


There you have it – chewed to the stalks – poor lupine – and the deer don’t even LIKE lupine! And all the bloom gone from the astilbe. (Snarl, growl) /end rant





(This is a transcript of my speech today at Toastmasters. Read it and heed it. PLEASE.)


This year in early September we will note with sadness the hundredth anniversary of the death of a passenger pigeon named Martha. She was the last passenger pigeon on earth, and with her death a species that numbered in the billions only a few decades earlier disappeared forever from the world.

Throughout the 19th century, witnesses had described the pigeon migrations: how they took hours to pass over a single spot, darkening the sky and rendering normal conversation inaudible.

In 1871, their great nesting sites covered 850 square miles of Wisconsin’s sand oak barrens – 136 million breeding adults were estimated. There were so many of them, people hunted them without thought, for food and for sport. They burned their nests, and took their eggs.

When it became clear that the flocks were diminishing, the general public couldn’t believe that anything so ubiquitous could possibly become extinct.

In 1890, when calls for conservation were made, the industry of killing them for food complained, “If you restrict the killing, people will lose their jobs.”

By the mid-1890s wild flock sizes numbered in the dozens rather than the hundreds of millions (or even billions).

Then they disappeared altogether except for three captive breeding flocks spread across the Midwest. And finally, the last known passenger pigeon died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.

“Is there anything we can learn from this story of extinction? What can this teach us?” asks David Blockstein, senior scientist at the National Council for Science and the Environment.

Today, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 13 percent of birds are threatened. So are 25 percent of mammals and 41 percent of amphibians.

Hydropower and road construction threaten China’s giant pandas.

The northern bald ibis from the Middle East has been driven to the brink of extinction by hunting and habitat loss.

The whooping crane is barely holding its own – only by a concentrated effort at preservation throughout its habitat.

Little brown bats are dying off in the United States and Canada.

70 percent of freshwater mussels in North America are extinct, imperiled, or vulnerable.

Facts (National Geographic)

•Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit around the world since 1880, much of this in recent decades, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

• The rate of warming is increasing. The 20th century’s last two decades were the hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia, according to a number of climate studies.

• The Arctic is feeling the effects the most. Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing, and the region may have its first completely ice-free summer by 2040 or earlier. Polar bears and indigenous cultures are already suffering from the sea-ice loss.

• Glaciers and mountain snows are rapidly melting—for example, Montana’s Glacier National Park now has only 27 glaciers, versus 150 in 1910. Our very own Mt. Rainier is seeing its glaciers shrink significantly.

• Coral reefs, which are highly sensitive to small changes in water temperature, suffered the worst bleaching—or die-off in response to stress—ever recorded, with some areas seeing bleach rates of 70 percent.


• Industrialization, deforestation, and pollution have greatly increased atmospheric concentrations of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, all greenhouse gases that help trap heat near Earth’s surface.

• Humans are pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere much faster than plants and oceans can absorb it.

• Although natural cycles in Earth’s orbit can alter the planet’s exposure to sunlight. Earth has indeed experienced warming and cooling cycles roughly every hundred thousand years due to these orbital shifts, but such changes have occurred over the span of several centuries. Today’s changes have taken place over the past hundred years or less.


• Since 1870, global sea levels have risen by about 8 inches.Sea level could rise an additional 7 to 23 inches by century’s end.

• One hundred million people live within 3 feet of mean sea level, and much of the world’s population is concentrated in vulnerable coastal cities. Some experts suggest that by 2050 New Orleans will be in a bowl surrounded by man-made levees, about 3 feet below sea-level, and 20 miles off shore.

• Strong hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and other natural disasters are already commonplace in many parts of the world.

More than a million species face extinction from disappearing habitat, changing ecosystems, and acidifying oceans.

• Changes in the ocean’s circulation system, known as the ocean conveyor belt, could cause a mini-ice age in Western Europe.

Solutions (Natural Resources Defense Council)

Set limits on global warming pollution

Invest in green jobs and clean energy

Drive smarter cars

Create green homes and buildings

Build better communities and transportation networks

We need to be careful that we don’t become mesmerized by the scope and complexity of the problem, or we may find ourselves like the passenger pigeons – permanently gone from the face of the earth.

Sacred Dawdling

Capture(This is the transcript of a speech I gave at Toastmasters yesterday.)

One of the benefits of living here at Franke Tobey Jones is the opportunity to be informed and entertained during sessions of Senior University. Last week we heard from an Occupational Therapist about Mindfulness and Mental Health. According to studies, mindfulness can help with many of the mental risk factors that affect us as older adults.

You are probably saying to yourself “Just what is Mindfulness, anyway?”

In the simplest definition, Mindfulness is slowing down and noticing what is going on around and within you.


  • increases gray matter,
  • improves psychological functions such as attention, compassion and empathy,
  • lifts the mood,
  • decreases stress chemicals in the body,
  • strengthens the immune system,
  • and helps with a variety of medical conditions including cardiovascular disease, asthma, and type II diabetes, to name a few.

Mindfulness really can be practiced by observing your breath, your breathing rate, and your thoughts.



Let go

You may have heard it called mindfulness, meditation, centering prayer, or – as Sue Monk likes to call it – Sacred Dawdling.

My blogger friend, Caroline, says, “Dawdling as sacred? Really?

“It is sacred, because it’s an act of faith. To stop work, be unproductive, and simply look out into the day…this requires trust.”

You may remember I mentioned my quiet time that I take care to observe every morning after my shower when I sit on the side of my bed, look out the window at the trees in the copse behind the fence, and let my mind drift.

“For a time, I forget the forces and the shoulds and should nots. For a time, I just…am. I’m just me.”

After 15 or 20 minutes of just sitting there, I’m ready to get on with my day. You may be saying, “but I don’t have TIME for this.” I feel like I don’t have time, not to meditate.

Another blogger friend, Esther, has been going through a bad patch recently. She reported that her BFF had recently told her “Meditate, Esther – do meditate.” Her friend’s heart cried out GET THAT FRIEND OF YOURS SOME PEACE! She needs it.

Some days it takes what seems like FOREVER to quiet the monkey brain chatter going on in my head. I often wake up with a hymn in my head – an earworm, if you will. I don’t usually sing it out loud, but I sing it all the way through while I sit there. I will also mentally go through all the moves of the Tai Chi form we are currently working on.

Caroline says, “When I sit still like this, there are two forces battling within me.

  • One says, ‘This is important. This is what you need right now. Stillness is going to bring you farther than constant motion ever could.’
  • The other says, ‘What are you doing? Get off your butt! Be productive! Contribute to society!'”

If all else fails, I fall back on one or more visualization techniques I learned in centering prayer. I particularly like the image of floating down a river lying in a canoe with dappled shade passing over my closed eyes. If a thought comes into my head, I just toss it away. Another favorite image is of the surf, endlessly rolling in, and receding, and I breathe in stillness and breathe out worry with the surf, as the waves come in and go out.

Esther asked, “How much energy do I actually spend, worrying? How much energy do I actually spend, rushing? How much more efficient would my life be, if I were always to rest, before I rush?”

Every day we meet the critical, worried part of ourselves that judges our ‘Performance” minute by minute.

“This is an act of rebellion: to endure time, to quiet your hands, to live peace instead of war. It’s harder than it sounds. But sometimes I think this is the simplest and greatest call there is.”

With practice in the art of sacred dawdling – just 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there – we will be better equipped to understand the value of Einstein’s words,

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons


Joy and Happiness

Before you get all excited, no we didn’t sell the house. 😦

But at Toastmasters this morning, one of the speeches was about Happiness, and how to have real happiness. The speaker posited three necessities for happiness.

  1. Have something to do.
  2. Have something to love.
  3. Have something to look forward to.

So I’ll try to drag myself out of my funk by listing a few things in those categories, to remind myself so I can be happy.

What do I have to do? Right now I’m involved in getting the Presbyterian Women Interest Group on Facebook organized and moving.

It is taking on a life of its own and has now spawned four Bible studies, and seven discussion groups related to various issues facing Presbyterian Women. We don’t just have Presbyterians, either, but are ecumenical, with members of Disciples of Christ, Methodists, Lutherans, United Congregationalist, and at least one Catholic. It’s a vibrant, enthusiastic group of women who are interested in social and religious issues facing all of the world. That also gives me an excuse to indulge my Social Media relaxation where I can eavesdrop on lots of other people’s lives. It’s wonderful for an introvert like me – to be able to have contact with folks without having to be around them all the time.

What do I have to love? I love my husband of 46+ years.

I love my kids and grandkids – although I don’t get to see them as often as I would like.

I also love my friends on Twitter and Facebook who allow me to get in their lives and in their heads. I love my church friends – although they sometimes irritate me. I love God.

What do I have to look forward to? In the very short term, I’m looking forward to lunch tomorrow with Big Al’s men’s group at the church. On Sunday, I’m looking forward to a new-style EPIC worship service in the evening. On Monday, we’re going to the commissary with a nice trip to the casino and overnight in the Horseshoe Hotel. In a little bit longer term, I’m looking forward to going to Mo Ranch for the Bible Study Conference, and reconnecting with Margaret Aymer Oget, aka @mayog, one of my Twitter friends who I met IRL at #UNCO11. She is the author of the Presbyterian Women’s Bible study for this year and she will be presenting at the conference.

I’m a little afraid to think about looking forward to moving to Tacoma, because whenever I get my hopes up, they seem to be dashed – but I guess I can put that into the category of looking forward in the loooooooooong term.

And in reflecting on Happiness, and thinking about these three questions lead me back to my series from last December on Joy! Maybe I’ll go back and work through those suggestions again.



I love words.  My parents and grandparents always used the EXACT word to express their feelings, or thoughts.  Because of that, I also have a much larger vocabulary than most people I associate with.  In my Toastmasters Club

I almost always already know the “Word of the Day” and regularly use it with little trouble.

I may have mentioned here that I’m doing a little editing of poetry for a friend of mine.  One of the things I try to do is suggest different words that may have a slightly different and more exact meaning than the word he has used.  I also have a pretty good “ear” for rhythm and syntax so there may be another word that would “scan” better in that poem, and I suggest it to him.  In doing this, I find I have been turning to my trusty “Roget’s Thesaurus“.  I know most word processing programs have a Thesaurus built in, but you can often find different shades of meaning in the print version that you don’t necessarily get electronically.

I also subscribe to Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day.

They send me a word with definition, pronunciation, at least two examples of it being used in a sentence, and a short paragraph of etymology.  You also get a “review” question every day, either “Test Your Memory” or “Synomym” or “Word Family” quiz.  The “Test Your Memory” questions are about a word you might have gotten as a word of the day some time in the past couple of weeks.  They also have an app for your phone!

Yesterday’s word was “tutelage”, and the word family quiz asked “What relative of ‘tutelage’ can mean “a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why”?  The answer is…

Up Early

I was up and out of the bed early this morning so I could go to Toastmasters.  I’m glad I went because there were several people missing.  I was the Wordmaster and everybody used “supererogation” in a sentence during Table Topics.  Now that I’m retired and not getting up and going somewhere most mornings, I’m totally out of  the habit of getting up early.  I don’t know how much longer I’m going to last with this.

I’m ready for a nap, right about now.

I really like the new colors from Vera Bradley. My favorite is “Folkloric”.  She went a little crazy with odd purples and pinks for a couple of years, but these Spring Colors are just fine.

It looks different on the larger bag.

I already sent an e-mail to my daughter-in-law who turned me on to Vera Bradley saying I really liked this color.  She replied “Wow! Ouch! Look out for those flying 2′ X 4’s!”  Oh, well, she’s always asking me what I want from Vera Bradley, and I just thought I’d let her know!

Best Laid Plans

“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.” These words by Robert Burns in his little poem To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough are my watchword today. 

I had full intentions to get my body to Tai Chi this afternoon at 1:30 and start on my New Years Resolution to get back into some semblance of shape (stop laughing, Bill).

I jumped out of the bed in good time this morning because Big Al and I had an appointment at 9:15 at the dermatologist for our regular quarterly checkup.  I took my shower and we got to Dr. Michelson’s office right on time.  He checked my itchy ankles and legs and said “Yep, it’s winter and you have dry skin!” (Duh!)  He gave me a prescription to help and we were out of there in plenty of time to scoot to Big Al’s final appointment with the plastic surgeon for his ear.

That’s where things started to go bad.

We had already been waiting for 45 minutes and people were still coming in.

I think his ear looks just fine.  We had already been there an hour at that point.

Finally, they called him back an hour and fifteen minutes after his appointment time, and I settled in to wait a little longer. I finished my current Jack Reacher novel (thank goodness, I had my Nook with me) and I started another one.  Then I got bored with that and started a game of Sudoku on the Nook.

And still I waited. 

Al finally came out and we went down to get the car.  But there was only one runner at the Valet Parking, so we waited a little longer.  By the time we got in the car and on our way, it was 12:15.  And I was starving to death.

I said, “Let’s go somewhere quick and close for lunch so I can get to the church for Tai Chi at 1:30.”  So we went to Cantina Laredo – usually a really quick in and out for lunch.  Well, first we had to wait for a table (unheard of on a Thursday), and then there were two big birthday parties going on, and the servers were otherwise occupied.  About 1:00 o’clock I gave up the idea of Tai Chi, and settled in to enjoy my lunch, because I still would have had to go home and get the sheets out for the cleaning ladies, and write their check before I went to the church.  I just gave up on Tai Chi.  (Is this really procrastinating, Tracy, or was it circumstances beyond my control?)

We hadn’t been home but about 15 minutes when the cleaners got there, and so my afternoon was further messed up.  Now, I find out I’m the Wordmaster for Toastmasters tomorrow (I got left off of the e-mail list for some reason, so I wasn’t notified at the beginning of the week like everyone else was.)  I need to find a word that will go with the theme of “New Beginnings.”  I think I’ll use “suprerogation” – a Merriam-Webster Word of the Day from a couple of weeks go.  If you don’t know what it means, look it up!

“It Might Have Been”

Day #10.  For all sad word of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, “It might have been.” (John Greenleaf Whittier)

The general heading for this topic is “Express Yourself”, so I thought I’d see what others were saying on their blogs and how I could chime in and say something for me, instead of thinking “I might have said…” and “What would have happened if I had…”  I was the Toastmaster at Eagles Toastmasters this morning.  My theme was “Joy” in honor of this series of blog posts.  This post, today, is going to be about lots of different things I’ve been thinking about, and reading about, and “stuff” that I thought you, gentle readers, should know about.  Comments and further suggestions on other views are welcomed (keep it clean and suitable for a family audience, please.)

A lot of people seem to be uncomfortable/skeptical/quizzical when I speak about my “Twitter friends”, particularly in the context of Christian community.  This blog post by one of them does a good job explaining my feelings. 

I’m very glad that I don’t have to say “If only I knew those folks.”  Fortunately, early in my Twitter/Facebook experience, I ran across Bruce Reyes-Chow, immediate past Moderator of the General Assembly.  He is a firm believer and participant in Social Media, and, thanks to his gracious sharing of his lists of followers and friends, I was able to hook into this vibrant group of people.

Current Vice-Moderator of the General Assembly, Landon Whitsett, pointed me to this blog post.  As a former Air Force wife and former DCAF employee with a pretty decent security clearance, I absolutely understand what the author is saying when he opines that most of these “secrets” are not necessary, and should be opened up to the world. 

In many cases, the need for secrecy is more a need to avoid embarrassment by the powers that be.  I agree with the author when, in talking about Julian Assange, he says “… my gut responds to him in the same way that it responded to Mikhael Blomkvist in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  He’s in trouble because he’s messed with powers and principalities.  He’s likely not a saint.  But dang, is his story both real and compelling.”

Carol Howard Merritt made me cry, again, in her post “Advent Whispers”.  (also published as an article in the Huffington Post) 

Carol has a way of announcing the prophetic in a practical voice.  As someone said in a Tweet this morning, her gift is where praxis meets prophecy.

Finally, I’ve been thinking about Advent this year, not just a marking time until the big day, but as a time of preparation, and holy waiting.  As Sonnie says, ” We want to skip right past hope, peace, joy and love in order to rush to the manger and the baby Jesus.” 

For several years now, I’ve been particularly guilty of this, probably because my Advent time has been foreshortened.  For the past six or seven years now, I have served on a CPA committee that put on a big continuing education event in three cities in Texas.  They happened in the first two weeks following Thanksgiving, so by the time I was finished with all of that, I was already two weeks late in getting ready for Christmas.  I would come home from the last event exhausted, and realize that I hadn’t done anything about decorating the house, or wrapping presents, or even shopping for them.  And I wouldn’t know whether we were going to have Christmas at my house or at my brother’s house, or at my son’s house, and I would feel rushed, and stressed, and completely discombobulated.  Since I retired this year, I didn’t have that added stress, and I’ve been able to do everything at my own pace.  The presents are all bought, wrapped, and mailed.  The little bit of decorating I’m going to do has been done, and it’s in the family room right next to the TV where Big Al and I can enjoy it every evening. 

We decided early that we were just going to stay home this Christmas (much as I will miss being there to see the grandchildren get their Santa Claus gifts).  Big Al and I will still have our stockings, and we’ll have cinnamon buns and grapefruit for breakfast (a real treat since I take Lipitor and usually avoid grapefruit.)  I don’t know whether I’ll just roast a hen and fix raw cranberry salad and dressing for Christmas dinner, or whether we’ll get it catered by the caterer at the church.  We’ll go to church the day after Christmas, and I will be a sponsoring elder for a new baby being baptized that morning.

This is Day #10 in my December series “Reclaiming Your Joy”.

Find a Laughter Yoga Class

Day #6.  Find a laughter yoga class and take it.  Then practice every day.

So I’m thinking to myself, “Yeah, right.  I’m really going to try a Laughter Yoga class.  I probably won’t even be able to find one in Dallas.”

So I go to Bing and I type in “Dallas ‘Laughter Yoga'” and *BAM*, up come a cajillion site, and one has a group that meets on Monday evenings not far from where I am.

Okay, I made the committment to try to follow these suggestions, so maybe I’ll go tonight, and maybe I won’t.  If I go, I’ll report on how it was by posting a comment to this blog.

I may decide to go, or I may not, but here is a video of someone from the club that I happened to know from Executive Toastmasters when I was a member there (in another life).  I dare you to watch it all the way through and not be giggling when you finish.

This is Day #6 in my December series “Reclaiming Your Joy”.