Tuesday, September 30, 2008

letting people be who they are

Mountain goat in Glacier National Park
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

"Fortune favors the audacious."
-Desiderius Erasmus


I am sitting outside in my backyard and it's an absolutely glorious sunny day, no humidity - amazing for Houston - it's just gorgeous today. This morning my daughter had minor outpatient surgery to have her ear tube removed that was put in there when she was a toddler. Normally they fall out naturally but this one didn't so she had to have it removed. She did great. She's back home now.

I'm working on my Louisiana pine snake article and catching up on feedback to the journals from my Online Nature/Environment Writing Class (next one starts Sep 20!). I love the journals, because my students come from all over the world and it's so interesting to read about everyone's neck of the woods. In their Outdoor Observation Journals, I have students observe and write about the sights, sounds, smells, and even the feelings they have (touch, but also emotions) that come as a result of being outside. I always find it interesting how no matter how far away they get - in a nature preserve or park - it seems they just can't escape human development all around. Even those who hike out miles away and sit and do the journal will still write about the sounds of an airplane overhead, or dogs barking in the distance, or helicopters, or smell cigarette smoke of someone nearby. We are part of it, connected to it, but we don't always respect and care for it.

On another note, I've been reading in this book about the "three gets" of Al-Anon. I don't attend Al-Anon meetings but am very familiar with codependency issues, as many people raised in chaotic and dysfunctional homes, as I was, have some of these traits. I have dealt with a lot of it, but it's a process! Anyway, so these are the 3 gets which I just found really interesting:

1. Get off your partner's back - basically stop responding to what they are doing, suggesting things, trying to change them, and let them be themselves and do their own thing.
2. Get out of your partner's way - don't give advice or negative feedback. You make your partner's behavior none of your business.
3. Get on with your life - deal with your own issues.

These would seem to be pretty tough sugestions if you're in an active relationship especially if the partner is an alcoholic, addict, or has other big issues! But one thing I have found really interesting is the statement that every person has the right to exist exactly as they are in the world. And when we let go of our wishes and expectations and get on with our own lives, sometimes the things we want come to us naturally. Sometimes we have to reach out and let the person know how much we care, but ultimately we have to let go of the illusion of control and let people be themselves, and let them know who they are is ok. And of course, we also have the right to choose our response to that person's behavior. Maybe we want to end the relationship or friendship or put it on hold. We can state our preferences, but often people tend to say the same thing over and over...which typically does not do much good and often has the opposite effect because the other person sees you're not really serious because you say you don't like it but you continue to tolerate it! All I know is that letting go and letting God is way easier said than done. And this is one of the favorite pieces of advice I've gotten about love, "Love the other person more than you love yourself."

Another thing I've read is that part of the problem with the world is that parents try to change kids: Don't be angry. Be nice. Don't lie. They give the message that part of their natural humanity is "bad" when all these things are natural parts of human behavior. As Debbie Ford wrote in her latest book, when can that tendency to lie help someone? Maybe for a little kid that you're telling not to lie ever ever ever, it might actually help that kid to lie to some stranger at the door, or in a chat room. Things are not always so black and white.

I also got this in my daily email thing:

Accepting people as they are is also transformational. For years, a man tried to get his elderly mother to stop complaining. One day he gave up trying to change her and accepted her faults. This experience of unconditional love opened her heart to the point where she stopped condemning herself and others. If there is some area of your life that you are seeking to change, first practice acceptance. By acknowledging where you are and giving thanks for the good that you have received, you will release an energy that will transform you and your present circumstances. - Douglas Bloch in Listening to Your Inner Voice

If I ever went back to school, I think I'd want to become a psychotherapist. I love psychology!

And last but not least, this is just too funny! It has like a 2-second ad followed by a cartoon thingie. From Salon.com

Monday, September 29, 2008

i hate mean people

Longhorn in the Texas Hill Country
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp


This is the question I have, why are people mean and critical? I just don't get it why people that are supposed to be your friends do that sometimes. I guess the question is, how long do you hang onto a friend that is consistently that way? I believe in forgiving people, I mean I really do. I like to work through issues and move forward. But I just do not comprehend why people send out stupid mean email stuff and then don't understand why it is obnoxious. And why do I keep trying to be friends with these people? It's like that old tale about going across the river on a crocodile's back and getting bitten. Well duh you knew it was a crocodile!

My friend wrote a post on friends today on her blog, One Breath a Time that totally resonated with me. Yes! These are 99.9% of the friends I have. Why isn't everyone this way?


My definition of a friend is someone I care about- a lot (so of course it's someone one I know). A friend is someone on whom I can call --- for anything -- and know that this person will help me, willingly and without keeping an account of how many times I've asked. A friend is someone for whom I would do the same. A friend is someone I support and encourage and who does the same --- no matter how far apart we are, how many times a month we talk with each other, how much we share -- or don't share -- our feelings. No. Matter.

If you want to be friends with someone, you just let them be themselves. You listen, you share. You care. You're nice. You don't say rude things and when someone says you're being mean you apologize. And you ask how you do better. It's not that hard, really, people!

And with that thought, after I finished pilates I called my friend Georgia and said I had a bad day. Do you wanna go get a rita and chips? And she said yes. So I'm going now!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The gift of Creation

Sunset on the San Jacinto River
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp


Today I saw a vision of the world wide and raw and beautiful. A flock of white birds pierced the blue as I drove my car across the San Jacinto on my way to church. They turned this way and that, cracking the stillness with the greater serenity of their sky dance. Beyond my vision, daily, the world of Creation goes on about its business. And I am humbled. And I am awed.

I once watched an island of birds nesting, interacting, squawking, talking, fighting, kissing, taking care of their offspring and realized this went on with or without my witnessing it. A whole world of wildlife lives and breathes and breeds and dies without us ever noticing. And how do we honor that Creation? God speaks these humbling words to Job:


Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you attend the wild doe when she is calving?
Can you count the months they carry their young
or know the timing of their delivery,
when they crouch down to open their wombs
and deliver their offspring
when the fawns growing and thriving in
the open country
leave and do not return?

Who has let the Syrian wild ass range at will
and given the Arabian wild ass its freedom?
I have made its haunts in the wilderness
and its home in the saltings;
it disdains the noise of the city
and does not obey a driver's shout;
it roams the hills as its pasture
in search of a morsel of green
(Job 39: 1-8, Oxford Study Bible)

And on and on it goes, putting humanity in our place. Beautiful poetry.

I felt uncomfortable and disturbed inside after an intense group session delving into my soul and spirit and past, and I walked behind our church down a trail to the bridge over the creek, where I leaned over the rail and watched the turtles play. The air was dry and warm. A perfect, cool breeze came. I watched a little red-eared slider kiss a larger turtle, or so it seemed, again and again. It must have been eating parasites or something but there it was, entertaining me with its antics.

And then amongst the dozens of sliders, I saw a big softshell turtle with its head emerging. I watched it, and even as the sliders passed by it, it would not move a muscle. And then after minutes of watching the same scene, I saw a second softshell the same size as the first that I'd not seen until I kept watching, observing their world. It revealed itself to me by silently watching. It had not arrived, it had been there all along but I'd missed it until all of a sudden, I saw it. It reminded me of Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (one of my all-time favorite books), and her thesis of 'seeing.' We can not see what we do not watch and observe and wait to reveal itself to us. And within that moment my inner disturbance left me, and I found the answers, for now, for then. I realized why, and connected the feeling to the reason. I left the turtles, walking back down the forested greenway with a deeper sense of peace. I knew.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Palin is Ready? Please

The sky near Abiquiu, New Mexico
Copyright (c) 2005 Wendee Holtcamp


Quote of the day: "You're definitely a dork. But a good dork." - my daughter

This is a fantastic article in Newsweek: Palin is Ready? Please.

I watched the last half of the debate. It was interesting. I tried to get my kids to watch it but they didn't want to. I'm really looking forward to Thursday's Vice Presidential debate. I watched a video clip of Palin making a complete moron of herself with Katie Couric, and was even more astounded than I was before. Her reply on to Couric's question about the economic bailout is quoted verbatim in the Newsweek article, and absolutely dumbfounds me. Apparently I'm not the only one who was dumbfounded. This is what she said:

COURIC: Why isn't it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries; allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the—it's got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.

Um, hello?

Friday, September 26, 2008

3 things to share

Sunset in Tasmania, Australia. I took this shot out of a moving car! I love the clouds when they make that sort of thin cottony blanket in the sky.
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp


I wanted to link to a couple interesting articles I read online. The first one, Post-Ike images bring to mind The Road my friend - also from Houston - emailed to me. The article is chilling, and illuminating, and worth thinking about. It talks about how The Road - a Pulitzer prize winning fiction book being made into a movie - discusses through literature how civilized society is not the normal state of affairs and with a major disaster, we could easily revert to a very different state of the world and how humans relate to one another.

The other article is just a funny dialogue between Chris Rock and Larry King, It's Simple: Vote for the Guy With One House. My favorite line is, when asked by Larry King if he was proud that at this stage of our history a black man is running for President on a major ticket:

"Um, you know what? I'm proud Barack Obama's running for president. You know? If it was Flavor Flav, would I be proud? No. I don't support Barack Obama because he's black....There's a proud feeling because of the character of the man."

I laughed because of the Flavor Flav reference!

Last I wanted to include this amazing poem by Rainer Maria Rilke from Rilkes Book of Hours: Love Poems to God. It really resonated with me in so many ways, the dichotomy between the way I feel when I'm in the city, in suburbia versus the way I feel when I'm outdoors, as he puts it when the "wind is blowing through a field of flowers" and all that is lost when our children who become adults never experience the pleasures of nature and exploration and how it connects us so deeply to God and ultimately back to humanity. It also speaks to me of how much women lose out when we don't find men who truly love us for who we are, rather than for what they see visually or what they want from us and how easy it is and how many women close down that part of themselves that desired to be truly deeply loved because they stopped believing they would be seen.

The poem's first line is also prescient with the way natural disasters are destroying parts of cities - New Orleans, Houston, and many in other countries - but it's so much more than physical destruction - it's how our souls are being lost from the heart of God and His creation and how it inspires us and makes us alive. And though he does not put this component into the poem to me it speaks of how important it is to not surrender to this fate by taking life into our hands and seizing the moment and living life to the fullest - carpe diem! Anyway, that is my take on it. It's chilling and beautiful and inspiring. I love it.

Lord, the great cities are lost and rotting.
Their time is running out.
The people there live harsh and heavy,
crowded together, weary of their own routines.

Beyond them waits and breathes your earth,
but where they are it cannot reach them.

Their children waste their days
on doorsteps, always in the same shadow.
They don't know that somewhere
wind is blowing through a field of flowers.

The young girls have only strangers to parade before,
and no one sees them truly;
so, chilled,
they close.

And in back rooms they live out the nagging years
of disappointed motherhood. Their dying is long
and hard to finish: hard to surrender
what you never received.

Their exit has no grace or mystery.
It's a little death, hanging dry and measly
like a fruit inside them that never ripened. III, 4/5

- Rainer Maria Rilke translated by Anita Burrows and Joanna Macy

Thursday, September 25, 2008

making faces

Painting fabric with Huito, which is similar to henna, in the Yine Indian village of Diamante, Peru along the Rio Madre de Dios.
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp


Sometimes it's hard for me to stay in one place
- Susanna in Girl, Interrupted


When I was tucking Savannah into bed tonight we were talking about things and she told me how one of her good friends was griping about her older brother's behavior and when she was listening to this, she heard some of her own traits. It's funny because I've had a very similar experience lately. It's like God likes to smack us awake sometimes by allowing us to see ourselves through other people. Lately I keep running across people with my own traits - good and bad and ones that just need to have the volume turned down on. I try to see everyone through the lens of compassion and I like everyone, even people who are sometimes rude etc because hey I make the same mistakes. I thought she was pretty self-aware to be able to recognize that about herself.

So Savie and I then got on this conversation of how when she's mad at me, she makes this awful mean looking face and when she does it, it always makes me mad. She only does "the face" when I'm disciplining her. I said, what is going through your head when you make that face? Are you trying to cast a spell to blow me up? (she loves Harry Potter and has read every book like 10 times!) and she laughed and said, no, that's what I do to keep my mouth shut and not say all the things I want to because I have the problem of word vomit (she didn't use those words but said something that means the same thing - that phrase is from the movie Mean Girls). I was like, "Ooh That is what I need to do!! I have that same problem!" She said, so is that what you're going to do when you're getting mad at me? We can just make faces at one another? (ie disciplining her is always getting mad at her, according to her...). So we started making faces at one another. :) But seriously I was thinking, hmm, maybe instead of sending out an anger bomb to the universe (or someone in it) I need to make a face that no one can see.

I actually have been thinking about the film Girl, Interrupted for some time now because I remembered this dialogue about ambivalence since I saw it the first time it came out, years ago and since I've been thinking so much about how ambivalence rules my life, I decided I wanted to see the movie again. I am watching it now, while catching up on email which had collected dust during the hurricane. Here's that dialogue...

Susanna: I'm ambivalent. In fact that's my new favorite word.
Dr. Wick: Do you know what that means, ambivalence?
Susanna: I don't care.
Dr. Wick: If it's your favorite word, I would've thought you would...
Susanna: It *means* I don't care. That's what it means.
Dr. Wick: On the contrary, Susanna. Ambivalence suggests strong feelings... in opposition. The prefix, as in "ambidextrous," means "both." The rest of it, in Latin, means "vigor." The word suggests that you are torn... between two opposing courses of action.

This was also in an email newsletter I get, quoted from the book God Grant Me...:

Listening is one of the gifts we give to each other. Listening is also one of the gifts we give to ourselves. As we listen to others and learn from them, we stop thinking we are the center of the universe. Listening to others - to truly hear what they say, to learn from them - helps keep our egos in check. We should frequently ask ourselves, "Am I practicing the skills of active listening?"

Prayer for the Day

Higher Power, today I pray that I may open myself up to hearing Your voice in the words of others. Allow me to see the people around me as teachers. Help me stay open to being taught.

rec.ike.ling

Here are some photos from the last couple of days. We got electricity back and since then, I've been frantically trying to get caught up on life. My house is a disaster without having the ability to vacuum or clean very well, and I had to restock my fridge and freezer, and still don't have a fraction of the stuff I had to throw away... I have been catching up on email, and online bank stuff, and all that online stuff that had been such a pain for the past TWO WEEKS. Holy moly. Because of the weird nature of the hurrication and the kids off school there's been a lot of socializing since I couldn't work - or it made it very hard to. Savannah started back at school today and Sam starts Monday - IF his school gets power. They're still without it as of now!

I mentioned yesterday the idea we had for the wood rec.ike.ling and here are a couple pics of us collecting boards from fences that have fallen all over. We got a couple of whole fence sides, too, using Matt's truck. Stef has a garage full too. I need to get back out and get more... there's a limited supply of this stuff and we won't be able to rec.ike.le any longer. We are going to make a bunch of very cool environmentally friendly wood crafts from all these boards and donate some money from our profits back to help hurricane victims. At least this is all the plan for now - we're just playing around with ideas and seeing where we can go with it!



Sam carrying boards from the "motherlode" of fence dump sites back to my vehicle. We did a couple trips here and in the evening the mosquitos were like something out of a horror movie!! What a cutie :)
Savannah unloading boards that we got from Stef's neighborhood. The kids cleaned out the garage earlier in the day and now we have a clean space for the boards and working with them.
Noodles anyone?
Uli, Savannah and Sam playing in Stef's pool.
Stef and Uli - what cuties!
Savannah and Uli hanging out on a lawnchair by Stef's pool.
Me and Georgia at Wazabi Sushi bar last night. Taken on my cell phone so it's grainy!
The Wa-Lu rolls I ordered which were very good! I am not a big sushi fan so this was a good start. It had walu tuna, cucumber, and avocado plus strawberries on top. Nice presentation!
Charlotte, Georgia, Carlos, Elisa, Maggie and me at Wazabi Sushi Bar. Stef, Georgia & I stayed out front talking until midnight after the place closed down. I need to buckle down and get some serious work done over the next few weeks! OMG I had the funniest story to tell from this night. I started talking to this guy at the bar when I was asking the owner for his take on the best drink (strawberry infused sake), and then later when I was sitting down with everyone, that guy came over to talk to me, but I didn't realize he was standing right behind me like literally about to open his mouth to say something, and I said to everyone, referring to my past relationships, "Why do I always attract guys that are jerks?!(though I actually said something a little more colorful...sometimes I have a potty mouth! I'm working on it!). Everyone at our table started CRACKING up at which point I turned around to see that guy and he started backing away (jokingly). It was absolutely hilarious like straight out of a movie scene. I felt bad, as I wasn't talking about him! But even he admitted it was classic.
The cool looking sushi boat Charlotte and Carlos got. It was even flaming!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

over it

Sam about to blow out 12 birthday candles on his brownie last night, with Stef's mother-in-law helping out.
Copyright (c) 2008 Wendee Holtcamp


Every woman chooses the man who chooses her - Anonymous (via Stefanie)

I couldn't give a damn what you said to me
I don't really care what you think of me
Cause either way you're going to think what you believe
There's nothing you can say that would hurt me

I'm better off without you anyway
I thought it might be hard but I'm ok
I don't need you if you're going to be that way
Cause with me it's all or nothing
...
Hey, Hey you I found myself again
That's why you're gone
I can do better, I can do better

You're so full of it I can't stand
The way you act I just can't comprehend
I don't think that you can handle it
I'm way way, over it

- Avril Lavigne, I Can Do Better

That Avril song is a great one to listen to when you need girl-power feelings to deal with frustration... and I've been listening to it when I run. It's good to express my anger that way, I think, which is healthy, rather than venting at someone! :) (Which I have to admit to doing sometimes, especially after a lot of pent-up frustration and inability to actually communicate with someone...)

Anyhow, I wanted to paint a sort of word picture of some things in my life and how various pieces of the puzzle came together in an affirmation of myself. I was having a conversation the other day with a guy friend (by email) and he took something wrong and then went off on me about me being condescending or some crap like that (I mentioned this briefly the other blog but didn't get into the details). Now maybe it came across that way but I've never intentionally condescended to anyone in my life. I grew up poor and surrounded by people of various races and religious beliefs (or not) and am friends with people from all walks of life, education level, religious beliefs, age, etc. But I sure as heck was not meaning to be condescending but he just went OFF on me. This isn't someone I know all that well though I have met him in person, but I was like, whoa. I think the anonymity of email makes it easier for people to act like asses (And I have done so myself), even when you know the people in person. We say things in typed form we probably would not say to their face.

Anyway I found myself a bit hurt and taken aback and thinking, wow do I need to stop writing so much, or using "big words" or expressing all the intriciacies of my thought processes to others so I don't offend someone else, or make them feel condescended to? I really started second-guessing myself, and wondering if I should change to not offend others. But then the saying of Eleanor Roosevelt came to mind, "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission." And I realized that was HIS stuff not mine. I also remembered the words of one of my Christian spiritual mentors - an awesome man from Van Horn Texas - who said in any bit of criticism or advice the only thing you need to do is to listen to it, and say, What, if anything, does God have for me in this information? And then discard the rest.

Another thing that happened related to the situation was I saw a preview to this documentary where there was this old professor guy in a room with tons of books and stacks of files filled with probably scientific research papers talking to the camera, and I thought "I am that." I totally relate to the professorial persona, the intellectual. I have several file cabinets full of scientific papers and reports, and tons of books in my office. I realized, that is just who I am. I am an intellectual, I love words, I love to express, I love to read, I am knowledgeable about a lot of things, and I do not need to diminish my own light and my own self to make someone else feel comfortable. And if someone does not like that, that is not my problem.

On another note, this is kind of funny, yesterday Stef told me, you know your problem is you have too many guys to choose from! When you're with one person (married or whatever) you have to work things out (which of course is not a bad thing), but I have the freedom to choose. I laughed, and said, I know! That is precisely half my problem. I am so in love with being solo, I have a hard time opening up and letting anyone in for fear of diminishing me. I can seem like I open up but I never let anyone in for real. I feel abundantly blessed to have my own house, no one to tell me how to spend my money (finances are a huge source of marital arguments and were in mine too), or my time, or to tell me I'm spending too much time with girlfriends or work, I don't have to pick up anyone's stuff (except the kids, but I make them do it!), I don't have to answer to anyone but God! Someone was asking me, when I told them I felt ambivalent about finding love, which side of the fence I leaned. I really do not know. Obviously my actions would indicate that I lean toward the being solo side. That may change, if the right guy came along. As I've said before and I'll say again "It takes a damn good man to be better than no man at all!"

So I just got back from my run and am on a mission today to collect fences lost in Huricane Ike!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I choose joy!

Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp


This is a picture of my dad's log cabin in Oregon somewhere in between Rainier and St. Helens, where I grew up part of my life. It didn't have the big TV antenna back then! We never had running water, had no telephone, used wood stoves for heating and cooking (the stoves were named Gandalf and Smaug!) and we had no electricity for the early days. Boy you'd think I'd be used to the no electricity thing! Seriously I can handle it no problem, and I can trek through Nepal with no showers for 12 days, and use squat toilets, but it's different when you get in the routine of having electricity versus a routine of not having it! Anyway, living here was amazing in so many ways, and very formative. It was really just one big (or not so big...) open room with a loft. Dad still has an outhouse, though he has running water. We raised chickens and had a big veggie garden. We did not have a lot of money! I spent every summer here, plus my dad won custody of me when I was 8 and I lived there until I was 10. I lived there when Mt. St. Helens erupted, and we got out of school a month early. If you call what my kids are having a hurrication, I guess I got a volcanation! :)

Anyway, today was a mah-velous day. For one thing, my electricity was restored at about noon, and I said out loud, "There is a God!" I was so overjoyed. I had a stressful morning because I had my court case and courts just make me nervous, I'm sure a holdover from my childhood custody battle, but whatever. The Judge ruled in my favor, but not for as much money as I'd asked for. But it's something. So I got done with court, came home and the power came on! Because the house was still a zillion degrees and the kids were roasting and bored, I took them over to Stef's for the day and we hung out at her pool in the backyard with her, her adorable 3-yr old daughter Uli and her mother-in-law. Had a couple beers. Grilled pizza for dinner. Then celebrated Sam's birthday (which was on the 17th!) with the brownies I'd bought for his "cake" last week! We had planned on having ice cream brownie sundaes on his birthday, but no stores had ice cream at first and then we didn't have a working freezer for the ice cream, until, um, today! So we got some today, and put it on ice until after dinner at Stef's and then we had brownies with ice-cream-soup :) Sam put 12 candles on his brownie. I'll put some pics up tomorrow. I'm exhausted.

So the other cool thing is that as Stef and I walked around her neighborhood I saw a junkpile of fence and I was like, dude I have this great idea. We need to take that stuff and salvage it and make stuff out of it and start a business. She was like, that is such a great idea! I had the thought originally yesterday because of a couple things. First, because of all the fences that have blown down, people have the scraps of fence post out waiting for the garbagemen to pick up. I have this cool birdhouse that my brother got me last Christmas made by this guy in Berkeley, California who uses scrap wood . He's got a pretty funny website, Berkeley Rustic Birdhouses, and the story of how he got started is really funny and now he started a nonprofit where he taught people in Sri Lanka how to make these birdhouses and the money raised is helping them, tsunami victims, have money to rebuild their homes and communities - it's called Birdhouses to People Houses. Well I got to thinking, maybe I could do something like that. Matt is salvaging some to build a sort of interesting roof on an extension on his house and with all these things, I just thought, hmm.

So when we were walking around the neighborhood, I mentioned the idea and she thought that was such a great idea, and it's extra cool because since I'm such a tree hugger environmentalist type, we'd be saving stuff that would otherwise go to the dump, and go to waste. Stef had the idea to make plaques and signs, and I thought oooh that is cool. People love to buy those kinds of things like at Hallmark etc. So we can create all kinds of neat sayings on these wood boards and sell them - ranging from Bible verses to inspiring sayings to whatever. The kids want to get involved and create a teen/kids line. Sam had the idea to paint the saying, "No More War" - Can I just say how proud I am to be his mom?!! :) So tomorrow we are on a mission to collect as many fences as possible around the neighborhoods and store it in our respective garages. So if you are in Houston and have any fences lying around your yard that you're going to toss, send me an email. And I came up with the coolest name for the business but I'm not going to share it just yet! We are probably going to donate a % to benefit Ike victims. All this is still tentative but I think it's so cool, even if we do it on a small scale.

I think I was a born entrepreneur in some ways... when I was little I came up with the idea to go door to door selling crafts I made. I did this with my cousin who was 6 months older but my aunt said I was the ringleader - LOL. Sometimes I'd sell mom's stuff in a roving garage sale. And I also sold mistletoe which I got off the trees in the cemetery door to door at Christmas time. I also loved working with wood and crafty stuff when I lived with my dad, though I haven't done that kind of thing in years. I love hammering! Come to think of it, it's not so different than whacking a pillow with a baseball bat. Hmm, this might be therapeutic, even.

Yesterday or the day before I was thinking about joy and happiness and how I've been a bit stressed over various things, but I also realized, I need to just choose joy. And I set that in my mind, and despite the stress over court, I actually had a really great joyful day. There are so many amazing things going on in my life right now. The weirdest thing is that whenever I have a relationship or even a possible relationship in my life, it stresses me out so I push them away in one way or another. I feel so much happier and more stable when I am on my own. I think I'm just a freak that way - ha ha!

Alanis says she loves "edge-stretching" and so do I. I like to work on the areas of my life that feel like I need to stretch to grow to feel comfortable, but I love the challenge. I'm working on figuring out how to let someone into my life... it's going to take some time, but I'll get there. I'm super extremely protective of my kids and the life we have, and it's hard to imagine anyone changing all that. But I'm working on it... It's not always fun, or easy, but in the meantime, I choose joy, and I love my friends, my kids, my job, my house, and life in general!

Oh and can I just say that the mosquitos are absolutely HORRENDOUS!! There are like literally ten million everywhere, and the second you walk outside, they cover every inch of your body like killer bees! I think I am now covered with one ginormous mosquito bite!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hurricane party!

It's 430pm and as of right now I'm still without electricity at home. Well technically I haven't been home to check - it's too freaking hot to be at home - but Elise's mom lives in the same neighborhood and was going to call as soon as her power went on. I am going to take the kids to dinner here in a bit with Georgia and her family. Where? Anywhere with margaritas! I am having a stressful day. More internet communication issues. Man, will I ever learn? I give up! But I'm trying to plug away at my Louisiana pine snake article, slowly but surely.

Here are some photos of the hurricane party the other evening at Kate & Mark's place. It was such a blast. I truly love all of these peeps. It has been a huge huge huge blessing to have them in my life over the past year. I'm actually starting to like living here because of this amazing support network that I have started to develop. And I've recently started some support group stuff at my church too that is allowing me to go deep with some of the crap from my past, and get real with people that are loving, safe, and supportive. Not having that is one of the things that has disillusioned and disappointed me with "church" in the past (and recently with a non-churchy group of friends), so it will be an interesting next few months. I think we all need to be taught how to support and make one another feel safe, as I don't think it comes naturally for most people. I know I want to be that way for my kids, especially, and I'm not always so good at it.

Some jasmine perfume Elise got me in Malaysia and gave me today! I love her! :) And it smells sooo good too.
Trishalicious and her son. :) Trish playing "Blink" with the kids. That's Savannah and Sam in the foreground.
Maggie and Jim. I'm not sure what Jim is doing - caught him in a funny pose - but Maggie looks gorgeous as always!
Kate running about... and a friend of theirs who I just met (along with his wife) at the party in the background. The party was at Kate and Mark's place. It was a great evening!
Jim and Maggie.
The grillmeister, Mark!
I love this picture (except for me - I look like crap in this pic!) This is Lynn, Trish, Stefanie, me and Joan. Lynn and Trish are yoga instructors (Trish also teaches Zumba and dance) and Lynn also is getting her own catering company going. They're all incredibly awesome people, inspiring, fun, luminous, generous, gorgeous! I love them! That goes for everyone there!
The kids all started playing basketball later in the evening - by generator-powered lamp-light! They had a blast.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

more on anger

Mountain lion at the Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Center, Texas
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp


“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up.”
- Anne LaMott


Another friend blogged in her Myself & Us blog about how as a child she was taught anger was a "bad" emotion and hence hid that. I totally relate to this. I was very quiet and shy as a child (unless I got to know people) and kept lots and lots and lots of what should have been rightful anger inside (can you believe I hid things and was quiet? ha!). When I got upset or hurt, I cried, I didn't get angry. But I've learned that "feelings are facts." They're not good or bad. It's how we act on them that can have consequences.

It's kind of funny (or not) because I can sound really angry by email or text or whatever, but when you see me I do not sound or seem angry in person. I hate internet and phone communication that way. Honestly I need to just cut myself off from it! Seriously! But I've read that it can be healing and fun and a good way to get out pent-up frustration to get a baseball bat and beat the crap out of a pillow and I'm seriously thinking of going out and buying myself a bat. I may not look angry right now, but inside my head, I'm hitting my pillow with a baseball bat in my head. Ha ha!

Things I'm annoyed at

Marine iguanas, Fernandina Island, Galapagos Archipelago
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp


OK I'm going to vent. These are the things I'm annoyed at right now!

1. People who say they'll be there for you, and then aren't.
2. People who constantly cancel on you or say they'll call and then don't.
3. Stonewalling
4. Lack of communication. Like ANY communication. See #3 above.
5. People who think they are so great, and they are just human like the rest of us.
6. People who you know care, and yet are unable to make the effort to SHOW they care.
7. People that do not say thank you.
8. People who do not apologize when they mess up, or when you call them on their stuff.
9. People who are so completely oblivious to how they affect other people, even when you TELL them! Or they just don't care.
10. People who just don't care. See #1.

And I'm also annoyed at the fact that it's taking so long to get my electricity back on and now the temperature is 900 degrees Fahrenheit with 99% humidity!

Generally I'm pretty laid back but sometimes I struggle with the balance between standing up for what I need, and then feeling like crap for saying what I need. Who am I sorry to? Obviously if the people disappear, they are not true friends anyway. So what if I am not perfect in my delivery sometimes. We are all human. We all say that, but does anyone actually GET it?!!! Does anyone ever actually forgive, reach out, talk, listen, care? Is the world just all about our own selfish narrow view, and we are so unable to reach out and care for other people? Jesus H. Christ. I'm fed up!

I've written this before, and I fully believe it. "You have exactly what you put up with." Well I put my foot down about what I'm not willing to live with, which (can you guess) has to do with consistent unreliability and making promises and statements that are completely out of touch with what that person is truly able to give. Let your word be true, and follow through with what you say you'll do, because in the end, it's really all you have and are.

As a kid I had no boundaries, and I allowed people to walk all over and through me. But when people who grew up like that find our own voice and our own boundary sometimes when someone steps on our toes, we are not able to say "Excuse me, please get off my toes" but instead tend to say, "GET THE HELL OFF MY TOE!" But can anyone just be patient with my humanity? Seriously.

I just read this on a friend's blog and loved it! It's on the Fully Caffeinated Blog, the post Every Once in a While. This is the last paragraph which I LOVE!


Every once in awhile you need to think of the line from "Fiddler on the Roof," "A bird and a fish can fall in love, but where will they make their home?" And you need to realize you are a bird, and you married a fish, and at times you leave each other gasping for air, and although it's never been easy, it's sacred. And strong. And worth it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

still without power

I don't have anything profound to say, I have too much work to do! I am still without power, supposedly until Monday though apparently the power company is now saying that they can't even guarantee that. I had a blast last night at my friend Kate's who had a hurricane party - I"ll put some pics up later, but I have to get some writing done!

Friday, September 19, 2008

medication and hurrications

An endangered red panda in eastern Nepal
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp


Community is a safe place precisely because no one is attempting to heal or convert you, to fix you, to change you. Instead the members accept you for who you are.
- Scott Peck, The Different Drum

In response to some of the comments, I thought I'd post a bit more of my thoughts on medication. I think it all depends on the person and the situation. I always have heard that when something is affecting your life in a negative way (affecting your finances, your general state of well-being, your career, your family life, etc), it has become a problem and you need to address it. I still believe in doing everything possible before turning to meds. There are so many options - support groups, therapists, meditation, prayer, becoming closer to God. We all have different thoughts about this, but I do believe that God heals. I think that we all have a lot of emotional ups and downs, especially women who go through natural cycles anyway. For those who express their emotions in writing, it can seem more "extreme" than it really is! That's mostly what I was saying.

I'm trying to prepare for a small claims court case over my car repair situation from earlier in the year. What excitement. I already went through mediation, which failed and the court case is set next week, and I hoped maybe it would be postponed due to the hurricane, but no luck. The kids are out of school until Tuesday and Thursday (different schools) at the latest update. They are enjoying their hurrication (don'tcha love that word?). I am still without electricity but I did get gas with only one car in front of me for a wait. However they were charging $3.99/gallon when just down the road it was only $3.10!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Belly-button rumination #587

Sam playing Jenga on his birthday. Happy birthday Sam!
Copyright (c) 2008 Wendee Holtcamp

The reality is that every human being is broken and vulnerable. How strange that we should ordinarily feel compelled to hide our wounds when we are all wounded!
- Scott Peck, The Different Drum

There is pain in our wounds. But even more important is the love that arises among us when we share, both ways, our woundedness.
- Scott Peck, The Different Drum



I went running this morning and about 1/4 mile from my house, I tripped over one of the many fallen branches that are all over the sidewalk path I run. I held my hands out to stop my fall and got a pretty decent couple of scrapes on my elbow, & hands. At first it didn’t hurt, it was more of a shock but I saw how deep the cut was and all the dirt in there and I started to jog back toward home to clean them up. Then I said, ah screw it, I’m going running. I’m fine. I run 6 miles generally so I still had quite a ways to go and I was fine. I got to thinking about me and pain. I had an older brother who used to beat up on me a bit and really didn’t like me much, so I learned to be pretty tough early on. My dad who was a hippie was all against preservatives and medicines and stuff that is unnecessary and I have taken on that into my own life. I think people need to toughen up! I had two babies without any drugs, got through a pretty severe depression without drugs and went through a hellacious few years as a teen without medications (though I did “self-medicate” in those other teenage ways!). All that’s long past.

The ouchie on my elbow. What hurt worse was the alcohol I used to clean the wound! Digging in and getting the crap out of the wounds so we can heal is often worse than the original wound. But of course, it's absolutely necessary for true healing.

Anyway, I think that so many people take antidepressants and medications that some people have become out of touch with the normal range of human emotions (of which I display all of and many of on any given day!) and don't seem to know WHAT "normal" is! I think that, particularly with us creative types - artists, writers, etc - we have a deep well of emotion that we can tap into that allows us to create, to see the world in a unique way and to create poetry, writing, photograph, or whatever other artistic endeavor creatives get involved with. God forbid we destroy that beauty and creativity through taking medications that dull our human senses. And I do know there are some situations where people need medications and even anti-depressants and other medications, and to each their own, but I strongly believe we are a way overmedicated society.

So anyway I was reading this book on relationships and it was talking about differences between men and women and of course it’s a generalization but when I read the description of men, I was like that’s me! LOL. I really think in many ways I’m much more in touch with my masculine side – not in the way I dress or look but in my behavior. This book says that men “are programmed to move quickly and solve problems; they have the ability to focus and get the job done.” It also says that testosterone shapes the male’s body and he’s wired for building physical tension and releasing it.

OK I’m not so sure how much testosterone I have, but I swear I think I’m a man in a woman’s body (don’t worry, I don’t want a sex change, I like men too much! LOL). But I so relate to that description. When I want to get something done – whether it’s build a freelance writing career from scratch, learn how to do something, recover from a issue I’ve recognized in myself, I just find a way that’s been done before to solve that problem and I do it. Nothing can stop me when I’ve set my mind to something (though I won’t walk over people to get my way, I don’t think that’s right).

But I’m ultra-independent, a do-it-yourselfer, super active, I invest in the stock market, I bought my own house, I am an outdoorsy person who likes bugs, snakes, sharks and bears, and unlike most women (who tend to have the problem of not saying enough of their feelings and keeping things inside) I call people on their shit. And, weird or not, I feel like I relate to that description of the physical building of tension and releasing it. I know what they’re talking about… and I don’t necessarily mean THAT, but I do this with my build up and release of my emotions, but also in things like needing to work out until I’m exhausted, which ironically gives me tons of energy! The description of women is that their sense of adventure is internal, and their wiring gives them an edge in family relationships and they’re natural diplomats. Um, that’s not me! So I think that some people have a hard time figuring me out and for those who are trying... (besides myself) Newsflash: Stop trying! It’s not your problem! (PS This message is for a particular few people, not my general blog readers at large! Though in general if you try to solve someone else's problems you might want to look up the definition of codependency...).

Anyway, I have been talking to guy friends about some of these things. To one friend I said, “So if a guy has a problem with you or something, how do they deal with it with you?” and one guy said, “They’d just say hey man WTF is the problem, why did you do this?” And then they’d work it out right there. And I’d say but if a woman has a problem, she’d say “We need to talk. Guys hate this. Why does that phrase strike fear in the heart of a man?” He laughed and said, “Well that’s because of the setup.” Anyway typically I would tend to just call people on their stuff when they piss me off. I don’t get mad often at friends (unless you are a phone customer service person, who are born into this world just to annoy people) but when someone does something to tick me off I’ll just tell them – no beating around the bush for me. I do this to guys and to girlfriends. But in my experience, women are not so good at dealing with this, and maybe this is why so many marriages and relationships are so crappy. Women run away from conflict, they do not actually like to resolve it or maybe they’re just not so good at it. I’m not saying I am, but at least I know what bothers me and speak my mind… I’m not so sure that men are any better at resolving conflicts but I think that they’re not used to dealing with a woman who acts like a guy in that kind of thing. I think maybe I’m just from Planet Cruton, as Matt likes to say.

Oh, and we still do not have electricity. More areas around me do, and the gas lines are getting shorter. I think I heard something online that it may be on by Monday. Last night me Georgia and Amy went out for margaritas. That was fun! Yesterday during the day I spent some time with Sam, Savannah and Matt and we took Sam out to his favorite restuarant - Happy Buddha Japanese Steakhouse - yum!


Sam climbing the tree in our backyard. You can see the one missing slat from my fence - the sole damage from the Hurricane to my house. Yay for that!

This cat has got so much personality! She is so funny. She loves looking out the windows, especially when they are open with just the screen. She is also the cat that eats too fast and throws up all over so she is quite skinny. We call her the bulimic cat. Her littermate, on the other hand, is a typical fat orange cat.

This is my neighbor's house with a pine tree through the roof. This sight is quite common around my neighborhood!!
Here is another tree that was toppled over from the root ball. Another very common sight!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Day 6 without power


My two kitties, who are littermates, when they were young!
Copyright (c) 2005 Wendee Holtcamp



Still no electricity at the Holtcamp household. Today is Sam's 12th birthday! He spent the night at Matt's last night, and came over this morn to a table full of presents and it all decorated (I managed to find some stuff out - Target is open - yay for that!). We played some games this morning, including Jenga where you stack all the wood things up and see how long you can go without the tower falling over. I took some pics and will put them up later. I'm at Elise's charging my cell phone and checking my email, and then we're all going to our favorite restuarant Happy Buddha Japanese Steakhouse! Apparently they have electricity all down by the mall, which is where that is.

Last night Savannah & I went over to Georgia's house and helped her eat some of the chicken in her freezer which she grilled for me and the neighbors. We also had some crawfish etouffee over rice - yum! Tonight we may be having a girls night out. I am TRYING to get some work done but it's almost impossible to do in such a crazy situation. I work on my laptop for a couple hours, then have to run back to Elise's to charge it. Electricity is slowly going on in vartious places but only about 40% of Houston's gas stations are operational and there are still long lines. Fortunately I do not have to get gas, yet, and still have 3/4 tank!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

madly in love with me


Sam looking at a California Poppy, Green Gulch Organic Farm
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp


I'm beginning to think it's going to be a long, long recovery post-Ike for Houston... I have a full tank of gas, but some people are waiting for HOURS in the most massive lines you can imagine. I'm just way too impatient for that! I had a friend who got annoyed at me when I told him to fill up his gas tank pre-Gustav... I seriously hope he ran out, had to wait in a long line for gas - ha ha! OK that is my evil side coming out - he he. Now because I said that, mark my words, I'm going to have to wait in a long line...

We still have no electricity, and I had to throw out a bunch of food today. The weather cooled down a bit so that's nice. It's frustrating to not have life as normal, but I really can't complain too much. I have hot water. I have water! I have a gas stove. I've been to the grocery store and there's food and not long lines unless you want to get ice. Traffic is a bit hairy since traffic lights are all out and people are not always so safe (people run lights a lot). But hey, I don't need ice. I don't even own a cooler. And I'm going to drive even less because I want to conserve gas. There is just one spot that I know of that has cell phone reception - on the bridge over Lake Houston and I've driven out there a couple times, but I can use my home phone (did I say this already?). I get text messages on my phone though I think they're somewhat delayed. So life is weird, but I am getting by. Kids are off school through the end of the week, at least.

Yesterday I walked over to my friend Melody's to see if she wanted to go walking. I arrived right as she and her family and her parents (who live 2 houses down from her) were sitting down to a nice grilled dinner of steak and sausages from their freezer supply. Her mom piled up my plate with salad, potato, and steak - yum! And a glass of Pinot Grigio. So much for walking... ;) I was talking to her mom about a recent dating disaster, and we were talking about all kinds of things and she says to me, "You are beautiful. You are intelligent. The problem is not YOU! It is HIM!" I was like "I love you!"

I'm working through some issues and trying to find a phrase to replace my negative or self-sabotaging thoughts of feeling unloved. I have pondered using "I am loved" or "God now" or "God loves me" but they didn't quite do the trick. Then I heard this line in a Watermark song that says (God) is "madly in love with me" and I thought, that's it. That is the line I need to put in my head to replace the thought that is so deeply ingrained from my childhood that I am not loved. I don't need any man or any person to be in love with me, I need to fully acknowledge in every part of my being that God is madly in love with me! What a cool thought.

I'm trying to get some work done on my Louisiana pine snake piece but the people I need to reach are also affected by the Hurricane....So here I am, and I better get back to work! Tomorrow is Sam's 12th birthday - poor kid may not get the best birthday. I usually like to have the house all decorated for them, balloons, flowers, cake or cupcakes... I can't use my oven and the groceries stores only have the minimum of stuff, so I may have to make do.

Oh, and the Debbie Ford talk was cancelled and I'm so bummed! I hope it gets rescheduled!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

the shadow


The Coral Sea
Copyright (c) 2008 Wendee Holtcamp



I’m sitting at my kitchen table at dusk, drinking a cup of instant coffee and eating the last of my Hershey’s chocolate. I always have chocolate in emergency situations. Whenever I fly, I buy some chocolate – usually Godiva pearls. My philosophy is if there’s a chance of dying, you may as well have some chocolate. And all I can say about the instant coffee is thank God that I saw the woman in the grocery store grab some off the shelf, because I’d have never thought to buy some if I hadn’t seen her grab some. Thank God for small miracles!

Everything in the fridge is now room temp, and everything in the freezer is now mildly cold and melted. Fortunately I didn’t have much meat or other frozen stuff. I have some mushy blueberries – that is probably my greatest loss because I spent hours picking those things and they usually last me through the year for smoothies etc. I feel very blessed that my house is completely unscathed. I lost just one board off of my fence, and that’s it. I have 3 medium sized live oaks in my yard, and not even a branch came off. However many of my neighbors did not fare so well. Driving around my neighborhood in north Houston (not too far from the Houston Intercontinental airport) I notice a lot of downed trees. A LOT. Several people have pine trees through their roofs, or cracked in half and oaks completely uprooted in their yard. It’s truly amazing that this far inland we have sustained so much damage, and yet it’s also amazing that there was so little loss of life. It’s humid and warm, but a cold front is supposed to come through tomorrow I think. Heck I grew up without AC so it’s not a big deal to me!

At 730pm on Sunday night, I still do not have electricity, nor does anyone in my neighborhood, though some people throughout various parts of Houston do including my friend who lives literally just across the road (the major road that runs through this area, that is). I’m going over there in the morn to charge up this laptop that I haven’t used until now. I stopped by earlier today and they were having a hurricane party! But I am here with the kids, so I’ll go tomorrow. The kids are off school through Wednesday I think. They’ve been playing in the street with friends and just hanging out here with Matt and I who stopped by earlier for a few hours. I have been reading a lot. I read about ¾ of the book Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford, who I am supposed to go see give a talk on Thursday and I’m hoping and praying that still happens because I adore her, and have for several years, but I don’t know if it will be cancelled due to all the mess. This was the first book she wrote, and I’ve heard a lot of it in audio form because I’d bought a CD set of hers that has guided visualizations several years ago. But given all the soul searching I’m doing lately it’s been really good.

She talks about the ‘shadow’ which includes the disowned or hidden parts of ourselves. She says to ask, what words would you hate to have written to describe you in a newspaper article? What are some traits that you hate in others? And though it’s extremely hard for some people, you have to find where in yourself you manifest these same traits, or where have you in the past? Often these things are what drove you to become these traits’ opposite. If you insist you are not stupid, then maybe in our past somewhere someone teasing you drove you to do well in school and excel and to become well-read so that no one could ever call you stupid. But still, you may still do some stupid things, even though it’s not a word you would ever use to describe yourself. Maybe you see “drama” in other people but think you’re really non-dramatic but you seem to attract drama into your life. That’s because you have drama in your shadow. Maybe you hate when people feel sorry for themselves, or have that poor pitiful me aura or cry or get emotional, well that is because you’ve disowned that part of yourself, but it’s there. Somewhere inside, you feel sorry for yourself, but you hate it so much you become cold and despise people who seem like they feel sorry for themselves – or people in tune with their emotional side. The process can take some digging and some work, but it’s really valuable.

One of her main points is that we have all the traits in the universe, and we can become both the most amazing saint and the most awful criminal, depending on our circumstances. The hidden traits have to be “integrated” or accepted or they will forever be part of what psychologists call the false or hidden self, what Carl Jung called the Shadow. We will attract people into our lives who have these vey traits that we despise, because God, the Universe, whatever is trying to get our attention and getting us to recognize these hidden aspects of ourselves and of our personalities.

So it’s an interesting book and I’m going to do some of the exercises. One of them is looking at yourself in a mirror and saying the negative trait over and over “I am X” until it loses its emotional power over you and so if someone ever actually called you that, it would not have any sting anymore. Debbie Ford actually was part of a TV show on one of the major networks that must have only played a couple episodes then disappeared but where she took divorced or separated couples and had one of them work through this process in her workshop (among other things) and she had the people in the small group “flood” the person with that negative trait. It’s emotionally wrenching and they often cry or get angry or can’t hear it at all. But eventually they get through it and it loses its power. I would absolutely LOVE to do one of her workshops, but they’re too expensive for me. I know that Alanis has done them!! One day, I will attend one!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

After Ike

OK here's the scoop. My house is A-ok, I'm fine and have lots of food and water, but no electricity and no cell phone coverage (tho I can receive and send the occasional text message). I am at Elise's right now who HAS ELECTRICITY! She lives across the major road from where I live so that gives me hope that I'll get mine on sometime soon. But she got hers last might and so far nothing in my neighborhood. Everyone's grilling.... Matt came over and grilled some fish & venison earlier. I don't have any meat in my freezer except a huge brisket that I guess I'll cook tomorrow. I'm BORED to tears - it's amazing how bored you can be even though I have tons of books to read and board games etc. STILL. Holy cow. Call me if you get a chance on my home # if you have it... However circuits are stressed so some people are having trouble getting through.

Trees are down all over my neighborhood, some through people's roofs etc but my house and yard are totally unscathed. OK I gotta get back to my house, think I'm going to go running or something. Going stir crazy!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ike update

Well we lost power for a couple hours, even though it was not even raining! It is pretty windy. But then it just came back on. No telling how long it will last this time. Maybe it's time to make dinner... I'll udpate the blog or possibly my Facebook page from my mobile. I think that Facebook page is public... all for now.

Hurricane Ike

A white-tailed deer fawn not far from Jesse Jones Nature Park in Harris County, Texas
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp


I suspect God is big enough not to be terribly bothered if we damn Him now and then. What really infuriates Him, however, is to be used. - Scott Peck, The Different Drum.


I love the look of vulnerability in the fawn's eyes. Just total helplessness, really. What sweetness and beauty lies in that vulnerability. In our weakness, I believe, we are made beautiful and in our surrender we are made strong.

Just in case anyone's wondering besides those who have already contacted me, yes I'm staying put in Houston. They actually told us residents who are not right along the coast to stay put to avoid the gridlock of Hurricane Rita, which I did get stuck in and that was terrifying! I have a brick house, I am going to be just fine. I just hope that I don't get any trees through my windows. We have lots of food and water, and have brought all the patio furniture in, etc. Me and the kids are just hanging out. I'm trying to continue work on my book until we lose power, maybe sometime tonight. We're wondering what to do with the basketball goal.... I think it's a bit too big to go flying through a window, and it's not near a window... so, methinks we should just leave it where it is. I hope that I do not live to regret this decision. Same goes for the gas grill. Hmmm.

I'll update on the blog so everyone knows I'm ok, in case anyone cares, or wonders :) I'm not worried! Maybe I should be?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Two wolves - a Cherokee legend

Shadows in the morning - Big Bend National Park
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp



"All of my flaws and negative qualities -of which I have many - have brought me priceless gifts, for they are what have led me to become who I am today. I can no longer stand in judgment and disapproval of my human flaws, weaknesses, and dark impulses, because the integration and wisdom of my own humanity are what have led me to deliver my greatest gift and create a life beyond what I could ever have imagined for myself."
- Debbie Ford in Why Good People Do Bad Things.



I love that quote, and it's so true for my own life! Debbie Ford has been a huge inspiration and influence on my life, and I'm so excited that I'm going with some girlfriends to see her talk on Sept 18. She is one of my all-time favorite authors and spiritual teachers. She is talking on "Why Good People Do Bad Things" at the Unity Church in Houston, which also happens to be the name of her latest book:
Why Good People Do Bad Things: How to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy. I picked up the book at the library today and started reading it at the gym, and already it's so insightful! More on that in a sec. I have some of her audio programs, which are totally amazing but I gave them to a friend and never got them back! But I have also read The Best Year of Your Life, and parts of The Right Questions, The Secret of the Shadow, and The Dark Side of the Light Chasers

The most inspiring and unique thing she has contributed, I think, is that she teaches how we tend to try to hide from our shadow side, pretend it doesn't exist, shove it under the rug, deny it. She teaches that by denying the shadow, we only end up repressing it so much that it bounces up like a beach ball held under the water and in this way we can sabotage ourselves. This beach ball example she talks about in her new book, but her teachings on the shadow have been part of her writing since her first book, Dark Side of the Light Chasers. So the main thing she teaches is that instead of denying and repressing that shadow, we need to acknowledge it, and understand its gifts and lessons.

Even our worst traits can benefit us, sometimes, or at least have great lessons for us. For example, if we have a greedy side, maybe that can help us save money when we really need to. If we (say, as a kid) tended to tell lies and still have a part of ourself that may lie occasionally, ask, when can that trait benefit us? Maybe for a kid, it benefits them to lie when they have to tell some stranger online or on the phone that no they are not home alone, or to disguise their identity. She describes all this far better than I, but the point is that instead of feeling totally shamed by these parts of ourselves, we have to learn what lessons they can teach us. It's not about thinking the shadow is "good" but to understand that all humanity has both the dark and the light, and when we deny it, it leads to hypocrisy and self sabotage, like when priests abuse children because they've denied their sexual urges, or when the pastor of a evangelical church that condemns homosexuality ends up having homosexual affairs, or when Strom Thurmond makes racist comments throughout his life and was a segregationalist in the early part of his career but turns out he had an illegitimate daughter from his black maid. Those very parts we try to deny in ourselves so fervently often come out to sabotage us, when they are not openly acknowledged.

In the new book I really loved this Cherokee story that she tells. It's quite long but here is the main part: A Cherokee chief takes his grandson out under a tree in the forest to have a talk with him about life and tells him, "It is as if there are two big wolves living inside me; one is white and one is black. The white wolf is good, kind, and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all that is around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. The good wolf, grounded and strong in the understanding of who he is and what he is capable of, fighting only when it is right to do so and when he must in order to protect himself or his family, and even then he does it the right way. He looks out for other wolves in the pack and never deviates from his nature. But there is a black wolf also that lives inside me, and this wolf ...is loud, angry, discontent, jealous, and afraid. The littlest thing will set him off into a fit of rage. He fights with everyone, all the time, for no reason. He can not think clearly because his greed for more and his anger and hate are so great. But it is helpless anger, son, for his anger will change nothing. He looks for trouble wherever he goes, so he easily finds it. He trusts no one so he has no real friends....Sometimes it's hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them fight hard to dominate my spirit."

The son asks him which one wins. And the grandfather answers, "They both do son.... You see, the black wolf has many important qualities that I might need, depending on what comes our way. He is fierce, strong-willed, and will not back down for a moment. He is smart, clever, and is capable of the most devious thoughts and strategies, which are important in a time of war. He has many sharp and heightened senses that only one who is looking through the eyes of darkness could appreciate."

He says that he feeds both wolves, because if he feeds them both, they will no longer fight for his attention and because they are no longer fighting, he can hear the voice of his deeper knowing and choose which can help in what circumstances. "If your grandmother wants food to cook for a special meal and I haven't taken care of it like I should have, I can ask my white wolf to lend me his charms to console her black wolf, who is hungry and angry. The white wolf always knows what to say and is sensitive to her needs. You see son, if you understand that there are two main forces that exist inside you and you give them equal respect, they will both win and there will be peace. Peace, my son, is the ultimate Cherokee mission - the ultimate purpose of life."

I loved this story. Debbie Ford's writings have played a big part in my being so open about my own "shadow" which I openly discuss on this blog and in my life. In fact that I talk about my shadow, my weaknesses, my flaws so regularly is part of why the whole online support group thing fell apart, because it can seem like it is some dominant part of my life if I talk about it all the time. But that's really not a true picture. I like to observe and describe my own dark wolf so he knows I know he is out there, and what he is capable of so he doesn't too often sneak up and sabotage my white wolf. I've written before that I believe in radical honesty. But I think for the most part my life reflects living in the light of the white wolf. The spirit of God.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

food foibles and wishbones

Bubbles in the backyard! Savannah with a couple of girls she was babysitting. I love this photo. I love the joy on Savannah's face.
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp


We really did plan on paying for that food. Elise and I went on a bike ride across the bridge yesterday. We were originally going to go to Starbucks which is 4 miles from my house but Elise was using my son's bike and in her words, dude, it was hurting her a$$, and so we got over the bridge across the San Jacinto River and I said, do you want to stop here and get lunch? She said, sure, dude, let's do it. I said, I don't have my money with me, and she said, I can pay for it and you can pay me back.

We were gonna go to Raffa's, my favorite, but its no longer open for lunch - huge bummer! So we went to Como se Dice. Then we ate and talked and then the check came. And then Elise realized all she had in her wallet were 7 Starbucks cards. To give her a little credit, she did just get back from Thailand, but dude, do they even have Starbuck's there? Hmm, what to do.

We decided to sit on the back patio and get a strawberry margarita. Hoping we could figure out a way to pay for it. We didn't dare tell the waiter why we hadn't put our credit card in the bill yet, since he then might not bring us a margarita! So Elise called her room mate, and fortunately for us he was home and came and bailed us out! Meanwhile that rita was strooong. And we split it. But anyhoo, we rode home and then I attempted to get some work done before I have girls night out.

I am totally digging this song by Watermark on the Purest Place CD, Hidden in You. It makes me feel victorious!


And You alone are deserving of my life
So this is who I am
A lover of a man who was scorned for sinners...
And You, You win the war over me
So my worship will be a life that is hidden in You
Your life is setting me free

A friend asked this question on her blog One Breath at a Time: If your 18-year old self could see your life now, what would she be shocked at? Honestly it took me a couple days to think about it. I wrote that well at 18, I thought I would be a MD/PhD medical researcher but I ended up going into wildlife ecology which suits me far better. However, I never had any clue that I'd be a writer. It never even crossed my radar screen (Although technically when I was 8 I used to say I wanted to be an Author, Acrobat, or Artist). But what would shock me, I think, was all the whining I do about stupid crap in my life that really does not matter. I would say to myself, Get Over it Already!!! And I would be shocked at how much I second-guess myself. In the words of Richard from Texas in Eat, Pray, Love, "You need to get a backbone where your wishbone is." So there it is.

But to be honest my 18-year old self was still a blissfully ignorant wild child. But sometimes, you know, it would be nice to just not give a rat's a$$ what other people think! I care too much sometimes, and not enough other times! And the other day, lo and behold, I came across this on the Prolifically Raw blog of Jennifer Lauck, author of the memoirs Blackbird and Still Waters both of which I love love love and it inspired me for my own memoir writing (I read them years ago) - she calls herself a wounded healer. And my memoir is coming along. Holy cow, I'm writing my memoir!!! I can't believe it is actually happening. OK stream of consciousness there. I've got over 20,000 words (out of about 80,000) written. Holy moly mackeroli. It's happening. And yes, I have a publisher and it's coming out in 2010!!! OK back to the subject... here is what she said:


There is this concern we have with what others think of us. It's habituated, probably from the time of our ancestors, when we were dependent on one another for survival. Fitting in was primal. We are still radically interdependent (even if we don't know it) but this concern is misplaced. We cut off our life force with this habituated worry and by investing our time in it, we keep life from shining through us. That is a great loss, an unnecessary waste. I simply don't do this anymore. I am myself, period. What others think does not concern me.


Georgia, me and Amy last night at Fiesta Azteca where we went for margaritas. Melody went too but she left before I remembered to get out my camera for the handy dandy old self-portraits!

The product of Amy & my pedicures the other day. I love love love this deep blue color. I've had it on for the past couple months other than a brief interlude of red. It reminds me of the color of the sky on the inside of this Led Zeppelin album that I used to love. Amy's toes are the neon orange ones!

finding true community

Shadow - Owl Mountain Retreat in Abiquiu, New Mexico
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp


We cannot be truly ourselves until we are able to share freely the things we most have in common: our weakness, our incompleteness, our imperfection, our inadequacy, our sins, our lack of wholeness and self-sufficiency.
-Scott Peck, in The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace


I came across this quote last week when I was going through a communication breakdown with a group of friends that had been a big support to me over the past couple years. Sometimes I am asked why I bare my soul on my blog, and besides the fact that I'm just a heart on my sleeve kinda gal, I think that I relate to the common writing advice of, "What is most personal is most universal." I self-criticize because I want to grow spiritually and emotionally, and I write and express so that maybe someone else will find some nugget of wisdom or truth or resonance for their own circumstance. God works that way, I think, through His people. And in our weakness we are strong. I am also as open with my friends as I am on my blog, probably far more so. My openness came back to bite me in the ass the other day because I learned that people can take things the wrong way, and can read something and think they know the whole story. People sometimes read a memoir and feel like they "know" the person but in reality it's just a snapshot. People can feel like they know you, and can offer advice where they think they know what is best for you, when they really don't have a clue. But I'm grateful for the lesson. Another awakening.

A support group or a community of friends can be a tremendous benefit to people for all kinds of reasons. But Peck, in his book about community making quoted above, writes that there is often a superficiality to groups for some time - even when there's a guise of it being a place where deep discussions and openness about people's lives takes place. People tend to just say positive things and let things slide if another says something that bothers them. No one wants to offend anyone else. But true intimacy, true friendship, true relationship can not be tested until a conflict arises and is worked through successfully. Most women in general tend to keep things inside more than I do. I am hard to offend, really I am, but some things just really piss me off and step on my toes. I'm not different in that way - we all have unique childhood wounds and you never know when one is going to push that button in anyone. Most people will just walk away and avoid, but I have learned that it's important to speak my truth and try to see if the relationship can withstand it.

In this case, the whole thing fell apart in a grand way. It was not what I'd have wanted, and most certainly I did not react perfectly or say all the right things, but all I can say is that it's always good to know true friends, versus... not. I have always maintained that true friends will be there no matter what, and will not walk away, and will work through things. Communication, especially during conflict, is always challenging. Who will step up to the plate? Fortunately I have many dear and precious friends who have stuck around for many many years, through conflicts, through ups and downs, not judged, listened, truly supported, been there for me and vice versa. And once you've experienced true community and friendship (Peck writes about this, and it's so true for me) that it's very hard to go back to a community that really is still shallow even in the guise of being "deep" when you've previously experienced true community. I think this was also why it was hard for me to return to living with my mom as a child after living with my dad, who genuinely listened to me and supported me.

So what upset me in the first place in the group was something that sounded superficially like "support" when in reality it was an underhanded jab, and if she didn't mean it that way, well she had an opportunity to fix it and didn't. As a child of a narcissistic mom, I'm highly sensitive to such things because duplicity in behavior versus words is something I grew up with. So in the situation, I spoke up and said that thing you said offended me and I said why, but instead of apologizing or acknowledging the person denied it and insisted on the initial statement which was unasked for advice and a judgment and criticism. Then others jumped into the ring and it was just like, whoa you guys are trying to tell me what to do with my life and it's just not resonating with me - it's not the right thing.

There are rules for say 12-step support groups where no one "cross-talks" so that kind of thing doesn't happen (cross-talk is when you "answer" someone else's statement). Everyone is just allowed to speak their own truth and find out their own issues through sharing and listening. No one calls another person on their stuff. The weird thing is I had just had this big breakthrough in understanding myself, and told the group that when this all happened. I can't imagine it's coincidence. Suffice it to say, I would not have tested the group's strength if I didn't think it important to find out. This is what I am learning, sadly, that I truly love everyone, but often I find I do not like a lot of people. Once you've had the real deal, it's just not worth having fake or shallow friendships.

On Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy blog, life coach Terri Cole posted something about communication (In Are they deaf or is it you? Trust me, it's you) and one of the commenters said something that was just what I'd experienced. And I read it at the same time I was going through this.

Do you speak your truth loudly when you know it might hurt? I have a friend that recently made some scathing comments and I was very direct about telling her how much it hurt me and how offended I was. What I got in response was a passive aggressive commentary and a knife twist to make the unsolicited and unwarranted dig a little deeper. We haven't talked in months and I have no desire to back down from my stance that I am owed an apology before we can move forward. I have even seen two other mutual friends drop off my radar since then. It's really upsetting, but not long after this all happened, I saw Kris on Oprah, then read your book and watched the DVD. I told myself that I should stick what I felt say screw it. My mental and social health is just as important as my physical health. And, real friends don't hurt you, they help you and you return the favor. Anyhow, I spoke up and told my truth firmly, stuck with my guns....and now I feel alienated. But, that feeling is better than backing down and doing what's right doesn't always feel good….right? I have to keep reminding myself of that.....

So whenever someone is going through a process of self-discovery and recovery from one or more of our "issues" (sadly, many people ignore their issues their whole lives!) it will be full of ups and downs and lessons. True friends support the process, as I support myself in my own journey. I don't berate myself at my mistakes. Or at least not for long! I can get really annoyed with myself sometimes... But it doesn't last long.

Author and Licensed Professional Counselor Charlotte Kasl writes, "Recovery is not about becoming perfect; you are perfectly human right this minute. It is not about being happy all the time; indeed the journey can be gut-wrenching. Recovery won't remove all the ups and downs of life or keep you from putting your foot in your mouth on occasion. So why try? Because the process of self-discovery will help you stay centered in your power, accept your humanness, and develop a sense of humor. It will help you stay calm in the midst of a storm, and open your heart to love....You can learn that recovery is not so much about "fixing" yourself as about stripping away the negative conditioning that gets in the way of your being the vital, sacred person you have always been."

And I love this: "The more you live by the truth, the more freely the energy will flow in your body."