Friday, April 28, 2006

my purpose

I am on week 2 of reading The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, and a couple of girlfriends are reading at the same time. These are some of the insights I've had.

1. "What could I start doing today as if I was doing it for Jesus"? is asked on Day 8. This may sound strange, but my ideal is that I interact with people as if I would if I knew that they had cancer - to be kind, gentle, patient, tolerant. I think that when I am impatient or rude - whether to frustrating phone service people, or kids or whoever - I am failing to do this (obviously). Another way to think of it is how would I speak if Jesus were visible and sitting right there? I think that in general I am pretty nice to most people most of the time, but I need to be more actively conscious of this "ideal" - especially with kids when we are running late for school or they are leaving their stuff everywhere! :) Phone customer service people are particularly frustrating to me... I need to be conscious to try to be a blessing to everyone that I encounter (and still be forgiving of myself when I make mistakes).

2. On that same question I got the insight that I need to actively do my writing in that way - as if for Jesus. I sometimes get a sort of writer's block which is not that the words won't come but that I procrastinate out of fear or something...I need to stop worrying about the outcome of the project and just do the work, do the writing and know that all I can do is the best I can do, and then God will bless the fruits of my labor in the manner He so chooses. I have such a desire to want to be a bestselling author, or to win a prize for the writing because I strive for personal best (not competition with anyone, just with myself) but I like the bible passage version of 1 Peter 2:11 "Do not indulge your ego at the expense of your soul." I am not here to win myself awards or bring myself glory but to bring glory to God through revealing his truths and making them more clear through my writing. (I know these things intellectually already of course, but it's becoming a more personal thing now).

On a separate note, check out this great website. The Hippie Christian. Or the Hippie Christian Blog. Cool beans! Groovy!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

visions of hamburgers dance in my head

I am on Day 2 of my 2nd time doing the Master Cleanse, the lemonade diet... where for 10 days I will only drink a special lemonade made from freshly squeezed organic lemons, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Though called a "diet" it is not for weight loss but to cleanse and rid the body of all the crap we accumulate from food - preservatives, pesticide residue, from OTC medicines, etc etc. It is also a sort of spiritual time where you try to change the attitude toward food and how addictive food and "eating" can be. We consume so much more than we need to in our world today.

Last time I didn't find I was that hungry. This time I am having visions of Chips Ahoy (which I never eat), and Hamburgers dancing before my eyes. Last time I didn't really want any food and was not tempted. This time I am seriously wanting to nibble... which you can not do as it seriously messes up your system. Last time I did this along with some other friends. And this time I am too but they start tomorrow so I'm 2 days ahead. I did go to yoga and the steam room today, which was nice.

So you do all this exercise, and it's lunchtime, and you think to yourself, Oh Boy, I'm hungry, I get to go home and have a big lunch... of lemonade.

Well now I'm off to read that book to my kids at bedtime again! Then have a glass of yummy lemonade.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

joy and acceptance

I took my kids to our favorite park this weekend, this neighborhood park with different jungle gyms built all around a grassy hill. I love going to the park because it's just like being a kid again. I hang upside down from the monkey bars, I swing as high as I can go, I roll down the hill over the clover and grass, then we climb to the hilltop and put our fingertips wide and spin round and round and round and round... until we are so dizzy we fall down.

Then in church today they talked about death, and played a snippet from the Tim McGraw song "Live Like You Were Dying" and I love the lyrics. I actually have a little book based on this song that I bought a couple years ago. The song is about someone who finds out he had a few months to live.

"I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fumanchu
And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying."
And he said, "I hope one day you get a chance
To live like you were dying."

It is literally my goal to every day try to heed that advice. On the Christian radio station Saturday they asked listeners to pray for a family whose 14-year old daughter was in a car accident and they took her off life support just a few hours ago. At first I didn't understand, was this a praise request? But then it just washed over me, and I realized that little 14-year old had died, here in Houston, just a few hours ago. And I though my own daughter is 11, could it be possible that I might only have 3 years left with her in life?

And I hugged them tight, as I always do, and we went to the park and played our hearts out. Every morning I say the part of Psalm 118 in my prayer "This is the day the Lord has made, Let me rejoice and be glad in it" (I often reword or paraphrase it). To me it speaks of the wisdom that this day is a gift from God. Let me be present. Let me be actively aware each moment that this day is a gift, that my breath and my family and everything around me is a gift that is here today and tomorrow might not be, and even the struggles and difficulties are not so bad. Let me love deep and forgive (myself and others) and find JOY or better yet MAKE JOY!

Which is why I love to have fun in the park because swinging high or twirling around literally fills my spirit with joy. And the kids love it too. We even tested a scientific hypothesis of which slide was fastest - there are 3 slides of slightly different shape right next to eachother. We tested whether it was the slide itself or the weight of the person (me being the biggest, Sam the smallest), and we did two test runs on each slide and we determined the answer! It was a blast!

We stayed til almost dark, and there was a group of high school kids, and toward the end of the evening they started to smoke. Then I started to smell a familiar other smoke... and I started to think, ok..... and I needed to get my kids out of there. And you know, it just got me thinking how though I do not want my kids going there with drugs, I want them to have the inner strength and outer activities to keep them healthy and active and not get into trouble - that was me 18 years ago. And I got to thinking, it is because these kids have found others who accept them, who they laugh with and who they have fun with, and their parents probably criticize and nag the hell out of them and make them feel unloved and unworthy (because that is how I felt growing up).

And I also started to wonder if I do enough... not just "stuff" but am I filling my time with the right stuff. The harvest is ripe and the workers are few... Life is short, and there is so much suffering, and a little love and joy can go a long way. But I have to be sure I am faithful and fruitful in small things before I can take on larger things...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

something funny, friendships and boundaries

I started reading the book "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" to my kids at bed tonight. I got this at the library book sale, because my Master's advisor at Texas A&M had a poster in his office of this, and he is one of the people I respect most in life as a role model. He always made family a priority. While many professors would work late in the night while their families stayed home, he would leave at 5pm if his son had a game and say with a grin, "priorities is priorities." He was accomplished in his field yet didn't make career his entire life. He always offered just the right amount of encouragement, and was just a really, really nice guy. Although I appreciated him a lot then, after having some crappy advisors after that, I honestly appreciate him now more than ever!

Anyway so this book is hilarious!!! I was laughing so hard I could barely read. He talks about how he does the laundry, and loves when the static electricity is such that you can stick socks all over your body. He says he did this one time and his wife walked in and gave him THAT LOOK. I don't know why but this just utterly cracked me up! Maybe because it is something I would do, and my kids would look at me like I am nuts! And then join me! (However dryer sheets have eliminated static cling... maybe I need to stop using them). He then talks about when his washing machine stopped working and describes it as this monster doing a herky-jerky across the floor coming at him with froth in its mouth. It was just so funny.

My daughter performed in her play at school tonight - they did the Homer play The Odyssey. She was the "old woman" who narrated and she had very long monologs she memorized, and she did awesome! The school had the kids' work on Greek History displayed, and there were these quotes on one student's poster that I liked:

Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish. -Euripides ~400BC

I like the quote because I am in this situation with a (former) friend. And having interacted with enough foolish people, I find it is very true that people who can't or don't want to see your perspective typically will deny, and flip it back on you. Life is too short to associate with people who don't show you respect, in my opinion (Ralph Waldo Emerson had a quote on some stationary I had as a kid, that I didn't understand at all then but I do as an adult: "I have found that to be around those I like is enough.")

Friends are allowed mistakes for sure, but when you point something out that crosses a boundary or you find offensive or hurtful, to maintain the friendship it's then their obligation out of love and respect to stop that which seems disrespectful - or to try. But when they don't or won't - you walk away and close that door. I put up with enough narcissism when I was a child to easily recognize it in people! It's very frustrating because friendships are important to me, and I don't walk away from them easily. The only friends I've ever lost are those who refused to tell me what the problem was, and instead walked away because it was "easier" - or those who refused to respect when I told them I didn't like some behavior. I don't know a problem ever solved by time alone.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

life is musical, maddening, beautiful

My paraphrase of Psalm 118:24

Life is musical, magical, maddening, beautiful. The present moment is all you have (at least while on Earth). THIS IS YOUR LIFE! ENJOY IT.

Monday, April 17, 2006

writing is easy...

Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.

- Gene Fowler

Writing is the hardest way of earning a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators.

- Olin Miller

Saturday, April 15, 2006

memories of Peru

* My two key Spanish phrases are "donde esta el bano?" (where is the bathroom?) and "yo necessito cerveza!" (I need beer!). In the cloud forests, Marianne and I were standing by the bathroom and I rescued a frog that was trapped in the bathroom stall, and as I held it, it jumped on my nose! Stunned momentarily, we started laughing when it jumped back toward the bathroom, and I said it was saying "donde esta el bano?!"

* I just loved the Yine children. I tried to show them how to do headstands at their recess, but I think they were a bit stunned at that one... I took loads of photos of them, they are so precious. I let Ludwig take some photos of his own and he did a fine job! Daline told me there is a documentary about how an organization put cameras in the hands of children in 3rd world nations. I think that would be wonderful.

* Marianne's laugh, joie de vivre, and humble attitudes toward everything are inspiring. In discussing situations that could easily seem extremely personally frustrating, in every case she had a positive way to look at it. She could always see the good that would ultimately come out of the situation, and in a very unselfish way. Even in situations when it would not help her business in any way, she was far more interested in the actual well-being and interests of the Yine - things that would ultimately benefit the Yine in terms of learning about situations or becoming more savvy about the way the Peruvian government works.

* Stringing sara sara seeds into a necklace with Chiky and Rene and Daline on one of the last nights there, drinking beer and wine and trying to communicate in Spanish (I am a very poor speaker of Spanish! Though I am learning!). I had a great time that night.

* Hanging out at the hot springs - it was such a beautiful spot, and we painted ourselves in mud.

* Painting warrior images on cloth with Berta in the Yine village of Diamante, and then having her paint warriors on my arm with huito, a rainforest fruit.

* Seeing the tamandua (anteater) swim across the Alto Madre de Dios river and then emerge at the other side.

* Singing Hullaballoo Kaneck Kaneck, the fighting Texas Aggie song, with Daline as we paddled up the river in the hollowed-out-log canoe.

* Teasing our rainforest guide Tina about her British accent (which I love) - particularly when she says "herbal tea" or "scarlet macaws" or "purplish jays."

* One of the things I enjoy about traveling is doing the photography itself; catching a spontaneous look in someone's glance, or a smile, or a moment. Shooting the sky and river in their glorious cloud formations, and trying to catch the mood of the moment through an image. I try to shoot at different angles sometimes, from high or low. I try to catch a person's personality through the candid image I shoot of them. And so one of my highlights was just this process of watching people and catching moments of people and also the scenery on camera.

On a separate note, a writer colleague sent me a link to this article in the Miami Herald about single mom rainforest biologist Margaret Lowman, and I enjoyed it. She has a book out about her adventures with her two kids which included trips to Peru among other places.

Friday, April 14, 2006

courage and self-doubt

I've been thinking of how the past 2 years post-divorce have seen me through so many different things - a leave of absence on the PhD, starting and leaving a full-time research job, a dead-end relationship....and just the divorce itself. All seem like failures on my part, even when they are not really. But they are so different than the past 15 years... Several months back I posted about self-doubt and a person commented saying, you have self-doubts and you're so successful?! After I met my exhusband I become a little pistol, self-determined and very successful. I went from being a party animal who did not apply myself fully in my academic studies to someone who made a 4.0 in all courses. I quit the partying, became healthier, graduated with honors then published my Master's research in the top journal in ecology, and finished in two years. I always tied this behavioral switch to my 5-months in Australia, where I discovered my love of wildlife and ecology, but I wonder if having someone to share my life with also didn't become the glue that held everything together. Having someone who loved me, and to love, made it all seem there was a purpose in everything.

Throughout my childhood, the subtle (and sometimes explicitly stated) message from my mom and stepdad was that I could not make it on my own, that I needed them, that I was irresponsible, that I was not good enough as I was, that what I thought and said was not really what I thought and felt. So maybe subconsciously I believed it, and though I am entirely competent, intelligent, and motivated to succeed - and believe my career shows this - maybe now that I am independent and solo somehow I don't believe I can do the same things once again? That I am somehow unable to succeed on my own? That even though my ex had nothing explicitly to do with my academic and career success that maybe somewhere in the recesses of my brain and soul, I believe that on my own I am nothing and can do nothing right? I don't know, really, but the thought came to me today during my morning meditations/prayers. I need to reverse it. Positive visualization seems to work well. The other day I sat yoga-style in my bedroom and just imagined myself fully and completely loved and accepted and forgiven, perfect as is in the stage of my self-growth that I am at... it was difficult but nice.

So... one foot before the other. One thought before the next. I am missing Peru. I see extravagant things in stores and think how much this money could buy for the Peruvian villages... the children... and while simply throwing money in their direction is not the answer, we certainly have a culture of extreme waste and squander and a total lack of appreciation for all the people in the world who could benefit from a little money and effort applied toward solving some of the world's pressing problems. Here is a world that still has enormous swaths of nearly untouched wilderness and will the country and the people learn from the mistakes those the world over have made in their lands? We know how quickly we can permanently alter ecosystems and plunder biodiversity - and even the Amazon has suffered already. How long until it reaches a tipping point beyond which biodiversity loss is irreversible? Will the people realize the benefit they can have to preserve their natural heritage? We didn't in the U.S. for the most part, can we be so bold as to warn and help others who are still at the stage of needing to meet the basic life requirements - food, clean water, shelter, health?

And how do I contribute, and how can I help? I plan to send some of my photos down there, the children and parents seemed to like to look at the digital photos on my camera itself after I took them. Such a small act, but one of love, to speak from my heart that I find them individually valuable and precious.

So now, I need to know implicitly and explicitly that my purpose is not for any man or even myself, but to serve a higher purpose - God. I am rereading the Purpose Driven Life along with a couple of friends. Sometimes what we know in our hearts already we need to let our minds know explicitly.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

star wears red shirt, no pants to ceremony

Star wears red shirt, no pants to ceremony. Guess who?
Ha ha! This utterly cracked me up.

Love this quote:
In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.
- Albert Camus

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Having just come back from the Peruvian Amazon, I was intrigued by this article in the latest National Geographic Adventure Magazine, Hell and Back. We spoke of this article while in Peru, so now back in the States, I looked it up. It is written by my favorite woman adventure writer, Kira Salak and it's brilliantly written and very powerful.

"All negative thoughts, shamans believe, are dark spirits speaking to us, trying to scare us into reacting; the spirits then feed on our reactivity, growing stronger and more formidable until they finally rule over us," writes Salak. "The shamans believe that whenever a traumatic event happens to us, we lose part of our spirit, that it flees the body to survive the experience. ... people may lose their sense of humor, their trust of others, their innocence."

It brought tears to my eyes, in the part when she writes, "I'm made to see that what is being purged now is a deeply rooted belief that I don't deserve to be alive, that no one can love me and I will always need to justify my existence."

I find it most interesting because the shamans, and those who use the hallucinogenic ayahuasca, experience and see what can be thought of as the spirit world. It's typically a dark hallucination experience it seems, not surprisingly perhaps since the use of ayahuasca is to heal, and since they view illness as being associated with dark forces, demons, devils.

To the modern, scientific, clinical days we live in, we separate science and spirit and for good reason. And yet as one who believes in both the spirit realm and the need for studying the natural world using naturalistic scientific inquiry, I find this article truly fascinating. I find it intriguing that most of the modern Church would reject shamanism and the visions as some sort of physical manifestation of the hallucinatory drug, whereas even Jesus himself clearly saw illness as manifestations of demons throughout his healing in the New Testament accounts. Not so different, perhaps. Maybe we have something to learn from this.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Peru photos and Mt Everest articles

I put photos from the Peru Trip on my website ( separated into these categories: The Yine Project: People of the Amazon, The Rainforest, A Machiguenga Indian Village, Rivers and Lakes, The People on our Trip, and Driving Through Peru.

Also my latest publication is now up: Mt. Everest Field Guide to Animals and Medicinal Plants - Discovery Channel Online. (Click "launch" to get into the interactive game -- it requires you to have Flash installed (there is a link if you don't have it). Once the Expedition game loads, click on the "Guides and Gear" label and it will open a new scene, where you then click on "Mt. Everest Field Guide" which has sections on Animals, Medicinal Plants - the 2 sections I wrote - and Geology).

I also wrote several Tours of Everest Animals at the Animal Planet website.

Last I have a piece in the spring 2006 SEJournal, the publication of the Society of Environmental Journalists. The Joy of a Personal Blog, or Becoming a Blog Mama - available as a PDF.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

amazon warrior woman returns!

Amazon jungle warrior woman (guerrera mujere de Amazonica!)

The Amazon jungle warrior woman has returned... just got in today, and will post more photos tomorrow. I got several great shots and had an amazing adventure! Hanging from vines, mud fights in the hot springs, swimming - and paddling - down the Alto Madre de Dios River in the Amazon basin, wildlife (monkeys, macaws, tamandua, many birds and insects and even a bushmaster - a very venomous snake), almost getting kidnapped by a cab driver in Lima, and being 'mosquito candy'.... but my heart was taken by the beautiful Yine Indian children who had such open and kind spirits.

Community-based tourism in Diamante, a tribal village of Yine Amazon Indians. I am trying my hand at painting traditional warrior images.

more to come soon...