Tuesday, August 30, 2005

the meaning of words

In the end, only kindness matters. - Jewel Kilcher

Sometime I start to notice messages appearing in different parts of my life as if God is trying to speak to me (no I am not hearing things - ha ha). For example, I read Tuesdays with Morrie's message about giving and receiving love, then wrote in my blog about it, and then Sunday's sermon was about receiving love... Our pastor talked about how we have to be able to receive love FIRST before we can give genuine love to others or ourselves for that matter. We have to be able to know that God loves us unconditionally, and that if we are children of God and accept the gift of his forgiveness, we are accepted as perfect even with our infinite imperfections, and that he wants to bless our lives.

I hear these things and intellectually understand but does my heart truly comprehend? Why do I worry and obsess and get anxiety over things I've said and things I've done when I should know that no matter what mistakes I make God's love for me burns bright and warm and eternal? I can curl up and rest in the warm sunshine of His love, and know that as long as I sincerely seek forgiveness for the errors in my ways, He will answer my prayers and guide me in my life's journey. He won't forsake me, and I will always be taken care of. I can lose my job or my health or my family or my friends or have the world hate me, or have no food or shelter, but God will continue to lead me and love me and provide all that I truly need- and with that love I can give to others. The answer to a prayer request may be NO (and it often is...) but I know that He is leading my life and I am here serving in the best way I can, using the gifts He gave me to teach, inspire, and love others with.

A couple weeks ago I received some somewhat harsh criticism. I heard words that were nothing but meanness, and they didn't hurt much because I knew that despite someone else's belief, those words were "not me". Regardless, in the face of words that sting or that seem to have no reality, I still like to search for the nugget of wisdom. Where are my actions misunderstood? What part of the words might I accept as true, if said in a kinder gentler way?

I remember an English assignment in 6th or 7th grade where we had to write definitions for words that had similar meanings but had different implications when you read them. It was an incredibly valuable lesson for me now as a writer - the exact word I choose can and will affect the way something is read and interpeted. Words are so powerful. So if someone calls me relentless it has a negative connotation. I know that in reality, I am very determined and persistent, yes. Similar words but the meaning is actually quite different. Relentless implies I will stop at nothing with a self-serving interest. I am definitely not that. I follow God's lead, and not my own (well I try, I certainly get off the path!). I am stubborn and impetuous and think I know the best way and I often do... but regardless I will not continue to pursue something into the ground if it is truly not a right path or not going anywhere. And these very traits have enabled me to succeed against many very difficult odds in my life, personally and professionally. Every trait can be both a weakness and a strength.

Monday, August 29, 2005

a time to dance

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven…
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance
– Ecclesiastes 3: 1,4

This scripture was in my daily devotion today, and so true to my life right now. In the past weeks I have wept, mourned, laughed and tonight danced. On the way home from my bible study, I cranked up the Black Eyed Peas new CD and my kids and I were dancing in the car at the stoplight – the woman next to us was looking at us and smiling (I think she actually goes to church with me – ha ha!). All three of us bopping around in the car – I am sure we were quite a site. When we got home Sam wanted to dance some more so like we do sometimes we put the CD in and danced around the kitchen until we were worn out. It was a beautiful end to a day full of anxiety.

And my cup truly runneth over. I checked my email, and got a message from Daline – we are doing this Best Year of Your Life thing together – and one of our exercises is to ask a couple people whose opinion we respect what are two things we admire about the other person. Below I am pasting her email to me (with her permission). When I read it I thought, I can now die happy knowing that someone on this planet truly understands me and gets what I've wanted someone to understand my whole life. As I said, friends are the true soul mates. Amen to that.

Wendee Finlay. Wendee Holtcamp. Wendee. Wen. Friend. Soul sister.

Two things I admire about my soul sister, Wen:

Enthusiasm and Determination.

Wendee reminds me of the energizer bunny. She gets an idea and she goes with it and
doesn't stop until it happens. She thinks in possibilities. She doesn't just dream; she succeeds. In college, she seemed to have the elusive balance. She treated school like a 9-5 job, maintained a 4.0 and had time to play. When she wanted to stay home with her children, she taught herself how to create websites to create income from home. She defended her Masters thesis with ease and grace just after giving birth to her first child.

Wendee is a glass half full kind of gal. She doesn't waste time complaining, describing in detail the texture of the glass and how full it used to be and how the people and events in her life have drank from her cup and now it's only 49.98% full. Wendee grabs the pitcher and fills it back up. She sees life as a puzzle: nothing is impossible, just create a plan and do it. Many times, when I have been afraid that I can't do something or have wanted to give up, I have thought of her and all that she has accomplished with very little help. She falls down, she gets right back up. She steers off course, she adjusts her sail. Through it all, she hangs on to the child-like enthusiasm that makes her so endearing.

I can picture Wendee as a little girl running through a field of sunflowers, eyes bright and shining, laughing without a care in the world, completely immersed in the moment.

She's still that little girl, and no one will ever convince her that dreams are for children, that you have to grow up and settle. Some people have enthusiasm, but run in circles. Some people have determination, yet are uninspired and self-limiting. In possessing both, a person can move mountains. In Wendee's world, you don't grow up and give up your dreams, you grow up and learn how to make them come true.

Whiners of the world. meet your savior.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

tuesdays with morrie

I am reading Tuesdays with Morrie aloud to my kids. I love this book. I love its messages. I love the compassion Morrie has. Here are a few of the parts that I love that I read today.

Morrie is talking about how he saw a TV show with people in Bosnia getting shot at and how he started to cry for them. It was, at first, foreign to Mitch why you would feel this compassion for people someone didn't know. As a journalist, Mitch interviewed grieving families and attended funerals and never shed a tear. And Morrie said to him "The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in." I think it's so true that not only do we learn how to give but to receive which is difficult for many people who are very generous but not so loving and generous toward themselves, to allow people to help us, and to accept kindness and love when it is given.

In the next chapter a favorite part is when Morrie is talking about how people don't think about what is important in life until they are faced with death. He says "the culture doesn't encourage you to think about such things until you're about to die. We're so wrapped up in egotistical things, career, family, having enough money, meeting the mortgage, getting a new car, fixing the radiator when it breaks - we're involved in trillions of little acts just to keep going. So we don't get into the habit of standing back and looking at our lives and saying, Is this all? Is this all I want? Is something missing?"

Then he adds "You need someone to probe you in that direction. It won't just happen automatically."

I hope to teach my kids to live their lives so that they always have compassion on their fellow man/woman, and to live each day to the fullest possible potential, to know that this day could be their last because death comes like a thief in the night, and this moment right here and right now is truly all we have. Fill it with love.

And what of the incredibly painful, sad, fearful times we really do endure? How do we feel love and joy amidst pain and uncertainty of the future - or in Morrie's case with known certain death? He replied to this question about whether he feels sorry for himself by saying "I give myself a good cry if I need it. But then I concentrate on all the good things still in my life."

Which reminds me of the bible passage taped to my bathroom door that tells me to focus my mind on what is good in the world and not get hung up on the negative, which I believe can run our mind in circles and lead to depression, which is rampant in our society. We don't need Prozac we need love! Genuine, compassionate, godly love that is not between man-woman but human-human; it can be friend, family, or mate. It is "agape" we need to learn to give and receive and that can heal the world.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Friday, August 26, 2005

the threefold way

If there is one thing I have learned from this recent situation it is to trust the skeptical voice. I'm not talking about becoming totally jaded or cynical, I mean just that trust takes time and needs to be earned. It's easy for women (don't know for men because I'm not one and I have more women friends) to weaken our boundaries --- to trust too soon, and to put up with mildly unacceptable behavior or to think that things will change.

The way a person is with one thing is the way they are with all things. Show them the door and don't look back - life is too short to waste time holding onto false hope that people will change - they rarely do. If the relationship and love is genuine they will be patient and honest, they will return to what is right immediately. If not, then it's not right. And if it's not right, no matter of time is going to change that. I have learned that there is no need to wait around for anyone. I don't believe that any man needs "time". I believe that when I knew something wasn't right, I was right, and it was wrong of me to try to justify another's absence or distance - if it didn't work for me, then I should have walked away and not kept holding onto hope. There is simply no justification that is acceptable. To heck with the sweet words, they turn bitter in the mouth. That reminds me of a bible passage "I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up. It was as sweet as honey in my mouth. When I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter." Revelation 10:10

The whole passage some have suggested is about the Antichrist, who comes to power by way of deceiving the people with sweet words.

A friend called tonight to have me talk her out of calling her exboyfriend and I threw many verbal tomatoes at him and it did the job! LOL. We are so much more deserving than that kind of treatment. We rock. ;)

I've been thinking about an understanding of the universe and the right way to live that involves three aspects
(1) love, acceptance and tolerance of others
(2) knowledge of and protecting one's own boundaries
(3) critical eye inward: continual self-introspection to determine where one can improve.

Although we can love and accept all others with a godly, forgiving, prayerful and merciful love, because of aspect 2, we don't necessarily let all people into our lives. We have to know and protect our boundaries as to what is acceptable behavior within our own lives. The bible says not to judge, but there is a difference between hypocritical and self-righteous judgment, and spiritual discernment/righteous judgment (John 7:24) that allows us to decide what is right for following a path of love for God, humanity, and ourselves. Turning the critical eye inward ensures we don't stagnate. When you get older if you don't exercise you're going to gain weight and lose health. Staying in shape takes energy and effort. Likewise with spiritual growth.

As people get older I believe boundaries weaken. Many have come face to face with their weaknesses, and some give up that they will ever or can change. People use this excuse to justify further going down the wrong path. It's never to late to return to the path, and everyone has the ability to reach for the power and love and grace that comes from Jesus Christ. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

ha ha ha ha ha

Savannah to me on the phone last night: "you're dancing around, shaking your booty & eating cheese?" (and I was...)

Just know that Savannah is a riot. She is a tween, and she is so sarcastic (wonder where she gets that from) and she cracks me up. She is not constantly silly like Sam but she and I have our moments. We have a home that has a lot of silliness. Matt (their dad) also is a very subtly hilarious guy. He likes to say he is from the planet Cruton. Savannah always hits him when he says that. We used to play a game Matt made up called "No not really" where we'd make up some crazy off the wall story, not revealing it was a made up story, and inevitably one of the kids would go "really?" and then we'd say "No, not really." It's amazing what you can get the kids to believe, even if temporarily.

My favorite one is "I was sitting in Starbucks the other day in the big purple chairs and I looked out the window and there was a giant donut rolling down the sidewalk."

Now this is the actual factual truth - I got a pack of Bertie Botts beans (of Harry Potter fame) at the video store the other day and I'd written an essay on these a couple years ago but hadn't seen them since they came out with the 1st movie. These things are hilarious - so Savannah and Sam & I are reading the package "key" to jellybeans - in an increasingly incredulous voice I'm saying out loud, "Black pepper, booger, dirt, Earthworm! Earwax! sardine, soap, bacon, rotten egg, Vomit!"

We tried some of the nasty ones before, and trust me they are dis-gust-ing. I had tried dirt before and it tasted like... dirt! Last night my friend came over and we sampled the goods, and Savannah had said soap was good, so I tried it and sure enough it wasn't bad. It definitely tasted like hand soap.

Gail was like "it tastes like, eww, something, soap and... sugar!" I also tried a black pepper (not bad) and vomit (had to spit that baby out... ewwwwww and double ewww). We were cracking up. And thanks to my awesome friends Gia & Elizabeth who popped in last night while Gail & I were watching a video and surprised me with brownies and a S-bucks card for my bday!!! Love you guys!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

radical honesty

I have not written about my adventures out on Matagorda Bay at the end of July. I went out with Bill Balboa, fisheries biologist for an article I'm writing for TX Parks & Wildlife on the new delta at the mouth of the Colorado River. It was great fun. I truly love adventures.

Here are some photos from the trip: Matagorda Bay

I've been thinking about how it is when someone misunderstands your intentions or just flat out doesn't like you. I have always wanted to live at peace with all people but sometimes it just doesn't matter what you say or do, some people are just not going to be happy or they're not going to like you. You're going to rub them the wrong way. It used to bother me but I keep hearing those words I used to hate, in the kind voice of my best friend Daline saying, "You're doing the best you can."

And you know, what I love about Daline and what I strive for in my own life is to try to accept myself as is, to love myself even with the parts of me I don't like or are in progress, and yet to not use liking who I am as a general person as an excuse to not move forward to improve myself for tomorrow. There is always room for improvement. And you have to look within because people unfortunately don't usually sit you down and say, look here is what I wish you would change in the way you interact with me. I think its cowardice personally to be a bit blunt because most people will just walk away from a relationship or friendship or acquaintance rather than just talking about how things really are. I mean, come on people! Let's just lay it all on the line.

I believe in radical honesty. I think that no matter what you've been through, there is no shame in living this human existence. The only way society has ever progressed is sharing the painful, deeper, more intimate truths and showing other people that they are not alone in the things they feel or have experienced. We are never alone, no matter how alone we feel. We can always choose to come to the table and talk about it, and share our pain, our shame, our sorrow and likewise our joy, our successes, our strengths, our lessons. We live in a human community and it's about time we realized it.

Monday, August 22, 2005


Dedicated to my friend Bill Balboa who makes me laugh out loud and first introduced me to the world of weenuses (and he is definitely not a weenus) I have started a new blog WEENUS - check it out http://weenuses.blogspot.com

"A site to report all the weenuses in the world and all the crappy things they do. Send in your stories and I'll post them anonymously"

WEENUS: loose skin on your elbow according to urbandictionary. Dude your weenus is showing! Do you have any lotion? My weenus is dry.

WEENUS (my definition): Dimrods of the human race of all ilk and variety

And to describe the ultimate WEENUS: There is no knight in shining armor. There are only knights that come dashing up on their high horse, sweep you off of your feet, and jab their jousting stick through your heart.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Married to Mowgli, With Children

Married to Mowgli, With Children
(c) 2002 Wendee Holtcamp

(For a little comic relief, I am posting an essay I read on NPRs All Things Considered back in 2002)

I should have worried when he said he liked me because of the dirt under my fingernails on the first night we met. I worked at a nursery, and dirty fingernails were a natural result of planting petunias. He thought I was a real earthy girl. I had just returned from five months in Australia studying rainforest ecology, and I thought I was pretty earthy myself.

I was too enthralled with his chiseled muscles and those gorgeous blue eyes to notice his strange interests. I would soon discover that he was more like Mowgli the jungle boy than Brad Pitt. Before long, he’d be feeding our children maggots served on a bed of lemony rabbit grass. No matter that I was actually the one who had swung from vines in the Australian rainforest, my Mowgli could actually survive from the fruits of the earth.

“Me Mowgli, jungle boy, me eat wild creature and fruit of the earth.” He didn’t actually say that, but he may as well have. He’d supped on nearly every wild creature found in these southern parts: possum, soft-shell turtle, squirrel, deer, wild turkey, duck, alligator, frog. “Always wanted to try armadillo,” he often said.

“Leprosy doesn’t deter you?” I’d ask, in wonder, knowing these creatures are the only non-human carriers of leprosy in the animal kingdom. I knew it wouldn’t.

Once we got married and procreated, like the chimps of Gombe he passed along his unusual behavioral traits to our children. One afternoon, I returned home from teaching Biology, and my husband had a bowl of what looked like pine nuts before him, our two children eagerly peering inside. Some of the “nuts” are wiggling about in the bowl.

“Mmm, try some,” he said, as he popped a handful into his mouth.

“Gross!” I replied, “What are they?”

“Carpenter ant larvae.”

“Oh lovely. You’re feeding maggots to my children!”

My young ones are far braver than I. They each reached into the bowl and grabbed some of the white elongate creatures that had been dug up from a hollow tree by the bayou. My daughter selected one non-wiggling pine nut ant larvae creature and slowly lowered into onto her tongue. She chewed it nervously, then ran and spit it out on the front porch.

Sam grabbed a whole handful, wiggly ones and all. “Mmm. Tastes like nuts. It would go good with rabbit grass!” He slipped outside to gather a handful of the lemony relative of clover.

“So, I suppose you have researched whether or not these are poisonous?” I asked jungle boy, senior.

“Ant eggs aren’t poisonous,” he guffawed. “They’re a delicacy!”

“Just like the Drummond rattlebox beans, I suppose.”

A few months back, we had been kayaking along our backyard bayou when he noticed a rattling pod of a common shrub. We pulled to the shore and collected several. When we got home, he shelled them and promptly began to boil them up for dinner.

“Aren’t you going to check if they are poisonous?”

“They’re legumes,” he assured me. “Legumes are never poisonous.” He tried to persuade me based on the fact that he’s been eating wild roots and shoots since he was a child wandering the back woods of Mississippi -- even had him a book on edible nature, at one time.

“Hmm, sure,” I said, not at all convinced. He’s about to feed some strange thing to my lovely children with nary a second thought as to whether it may cause their neurons to misfire or their livers to turn purple. I pulled out my handy guidebook, “Trees and Shrubs of Texas.”

“May poison livestock.” I read aloud. He looked up from the stove.

“We’re not livestock,” he replied, hopefully. He turned off the pot, and discarded the beans.

But here in the same kitchen, it was too late with the ant eggs. The kids had already consumed them. Nobody regurgitated ant maggots that night, so we can all rest assured that carpenter ants are indeed edible, if not at all appetizing.

So it is, married to Mowgli, with children. Never certain what aboriginal delicacy will end up in my kitchen. I’ve learned to wrinkle my brow and say in a perturbed voice, “disgusting!”

Secretly, I think it’s hilarious. It makes an interesting conversation twist when I’m out with my girlfriends. They think they have it bad when their husbands won’t cook. I mollify their concern with my stories of my jungle boy husband that does cook.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

st. francis prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

anger management

A friend sent me this story about anger management and I won't post the whole thing here, but it starts out:
When you occasionally have a really bad day, and you just need to take it out on someone, don't take it out on someone you know, take it out on someone you don't know. It all started one day when I was sitting at my desk and remembered a phone call I had forgotten to make. I found the number and dialed it.

A man answered, saying, "Hello." I politely said, "This is Chris. May I please speak with Robin Carter?"

Suddenly, the phone was slammed down on me. I couldn't believe that anyone could be so rude.

I tracked down Robin's correct number and called her. I had transposed the last two digits of her phone number. After hanging up with her, I decided to call the 'wrong' number again. When the same guy answered the phone, I yelled, "You're an asshole!" and hung up.

I wrote his number down with the word 'asshole' next to it, and put it in my desk drawer. Every couple of weeks, when I was paying bills or had a really bad day, I'd call him up and yell, "You're an asshole!" It always cheered me up.

I laughed so hard reading this, and today when driving to work, some jerk in a big red truck (I hate guys driving the freaking humongous trucks - they are always moron assholes) tailgated me and then cut in front of me (I despise tailgaters) and so I noticed he had a FOR SALE sign in his car (the later part of the story circulating the net actually has this same scenario) but I really did this - I caught up with the guy and wrote the number down in my notebook I carry with me, and next to it wrote "Asshole". I doubt I will ever call but I am tempted because I am having serious pissed off issues the past few days!

I could write a really good Jagged Little Pill right now and I just might. Except it wouldn't be music it will be a book. Besides a lack of concentration, and anger, I have actually started laughing a lot. Its kind of strange - stress release I guess. My daughter is in this weird phase where she is doing something strange sounding with her voice and breath, so at dinner I started talking like her and we were all cracking up. Savannah decided she wanted to act like monkeys at the dinner table so I said ok so all three of us were there making monkey noises and scratching our armpits - it was quite a site. ROFLOL

Saturday, August 13, 2005

pearl in the oyster

I went to the beach this week with my kids, a last rendezvous before school starts. I had received a whollop of bad news on Wednesday morning, had to spend the day in meetings where I wasn't really mentally there, and then got to get away...

At the beach, my kids and I spun around and around and around with our arms outstretched in the surf until we were dizzy and I said that we were spinning all our cares away. I did cartwheels in the surf. Then we all laid down on our tummies and let the surf and the washed up sargassum seaweed wash over us. Sam had a blast looking for crabs and shrimp in the sargassum. He's such a little explorer. My brilliant 10-year old daughter astounded me by saying "Life is like an oyster. You have to get through all the yucky stuff and inside there is a little pearl." It brought tears to my eyes. I asked her where she heard that and she said it was inside her head. There is an Alanis song that says "Me, whose seen life as an oyster...". For my 10 year old to have this wisdom without anyone telling her, even if she heard the song and figured it out astounds me. Especially because she put it in a way that even I hadn't gotten the message from the song quite that way.

Lessons I learned recently:
(1) If it seems too good to be true, it is.
(2) Listen to your inner voice, but even better follow it. Listen to your inner voice above the part of you that wants to believe in love and the integrity of other people.