Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

It happens this way …


I just finished reading Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. Gottlieb is a therapist who not only shares her experiences with challenging patients, but who sits on the therapy couch herself as she tries to sort out feelings about a traumatic relationship break up.


I’ve been to therapy several times in my life, so listening to the conversations from both sides of the couch was enlightening. I don’t think I realized the challenges for the therapist who needs to patiently build a trusting relationship in order to help a person change and grow. And, as Gottlieb illustrates, that building process could take months.

Among the many insights I gleaned from this highly readable book, I’d like to share three that touched me:

  1. Compassion is a desirable virtue, of course, but Gottlieb makes the distinction between idiot compassion versus wise compassion.

 In idiot compassion, you avoid rocking the boat to spare people’s feelings, even though the boat needs rocking and your compassion ends up being more harmful than your honesty. People do this with teenagers, spouses, addicts, even themselves. Its opposite is wise compassion, which means caring about the person but also giving him or her a loving truth bomb when needed.

 Bombs away!

  1. We marry our unfinished business. (Or, I’d add, we get into all kinds of relationships that help us discover that unfinished business.)

Rather than play the blame game when things go awry in any relationship, I need to remember to pause and ask: “What’s my part in this situation? What do I contribute to the conflict? What do I need to learn?” Sometimes it may be as simple as I didn’t communicate what I needed in the moment and it was that silence that caused misunderstanding. Or, it’s time to move on from a relationship because it no longer serves the highest good of either party. Whatever. The challenge is usually an indication of my own Continue reading →

Turn every day into a Valentine!

It happens this way …

When little irritations get in the way, I try to remember  what I wrote in this poem.

Happy Valentine’s Day –– and may you all  burst with love!

just so you know

 this morning in the rain I chased your car

halfway down the street intent on ranting

about pots and baking pans greasing up

the sink and sheets of Fed-Ex bubble wrap

obscuring piles of mail and your grey coat

invading my green chair but I wasn’t

fast enough to catch your rearview glance

so I punched your cell to sear your day

with guilt for how I felt put-upon/

crowded-out/ and all those pent-up things

I never say until they burn and how

I could forgive if you were off to work/

to shop/ to pray not out to lunch with friends

but I struck delete when I recalled

your kiss good-bye and words we vowed to say

(Let us be kind) when love’s reduced to sniping/

blaming/hurt and smallest things conspire

to ruin sunsets on a Maui beach

or walks around our autumned neighborhood

so this is just to let you know I’ve scrubbed

the pans/re-hung your coat/cleared out debris

from my morning’s discontent practicing

Let me be kind again and then again

DSC07449 (1)

What I Learned from the Presbyterians

It happens this way …

On the evening of January 15, while my students and I gathered in our local library for another meeting of the Happy Valley Poetry Society, one of our dear members lay dead on the floor of his home a few miles away. Sam Cole, one of the goofiest, dearest men I’ve ever met, suffered a massive brain bleed that day, and his wife Jane found him when she returned home from some errands.

Two ironies:

  1. Sam had been given a sparkling bill of health by his doctor the day before.
  2. This was the first class Sam missed since we started our group last April.

That morning at 8:53 a.m. Sam had sent me a poem for class discussion. Unlike the quirky humor that filled his previous work – he aspired to be a stand-up comic – this one was nature-based. Since he wasn’t there to share it, I read it out loud to the class and we ooh-ed and aah-ed at the imagery.

Here’s the poem:

The Stream

by Sam Cole

This month gurgling around

mossy green rocks and boulders

sparkling by day and moonlight

shoulders caressing ferns and old tree roots

calm for its water skippers

while lichened oaks, elms, and alders shadow it.


But next month riches of forest rain

fill its one deep pool

no longer home to minnows and summer camp kids

now ready for spawning salmon to rest

before their final moments upstream.

Here, room waits for all.

No questions asked.


Those last two lines are killers, no? How prophetic!

Yesterday Sam’s church community at Milwaukie Presbyterian held a memorial service for him that was just stunning in its outpouring of love for this man who played several integral roles in the church.

The church’s leader is a young woman: a charming person whom you’d love to be friends with. After the service, we had time to chat and I felt embraced by her loving energy. How blessed that church is to have her.

Rev. Katie had done a scriptural reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans in a translation that almost made me jump out of my seat. She told me later it was from the work of Eugene Peterson in a version of the Bible called “The Message.” Peterson tries to make the language sound like the original Greek and Hebrew would have sounded to the original listeners and readers.

I found the translation on line for free ( and am going full-blown ecstatic reading it.

A tidbit from Romans 10: 9-20

9. Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.

10. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

11. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master,

12. cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.

13. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

14. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.

15. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.

16. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the  great somebody.

17. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone.

18. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.

19. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

20. Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness.

“Don’t fake it … practice playing second fiddle …no cursing under your breath …don’t be stuck up… don’t be the great somebody…”

Wow! There are poems to be written here.

God speed, Sam! I know you’re delighting the angels with your goofy poetry and stand-up comedy. We will miss you.

Milwaukie Presbyterian Church

Milwaukie Presbyterian Church

The Best 15:54 Minutes You’ll Spend This Year

It happens this way …

I’ve taken a break from blogging for a few weeks during this holiday season, not because I was very busy (the holidays were kind and peaceful for us) , but because I had nothing to say. This morning as I was pondering when to get back on the  proverbial saddle, my former MSMA student, Nan Colalillo, sent a FB link to Anne Lamott’s TED talk from early last year.

“12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing” caught my attention immediately and I’ve already listened to it twice. Anne is funny, insightful, down-to-earth, and shared exactly the ideas I needed to hear on this 10thday of 2020.

So with no further ado, I invite you to listen to Anne’s brilliance and I send gratitude to Nan for the kind of sharing that makes Facebook valuable.

Another world

Away in a manger ten days before Christmas …

It happens this way …

One of my goals as a young poet was to rewrite the Bible from a woman’s point of view. Over the years, I’ve slowly accumulated poems about — among others — Adam and Eve, Noah, Martha and Mary, Lot’s daughter, and Job’s wife. Since ’tis the season, I thought I’d share one of my favorites. It’s  based on that moment in Bethlehem when Mary and Joseph are told the Inn is sold out.

Listen to the innkeeper’s wife when she comes to grips with who it was her husband turned away. What marketing opportunities were lost that day!

Innkeeper’s wife irate over loss

I could spit! I shouted in his face.

Turning paying guests away!

He brushed that couple off without

so much as, Maybe we could find … .


When will he learn? The Census earns

five years of room and board,

but lugging wood and curing hay,

learning isn’t on his mind.


Of course I’d carve a plan. I’d hearth

an extra rug to keep her bundle warm.

He and that soft-eyed man would share

a bed. And when it came her time,


we’d march those smelly shepherds far

beyond the barn and hush those wings

and aggravating songs. They could drive

a dreamer from his restless sleep.


And, the publicity we’d glean!

A destination site, at least.

Not every day do morning stars

and cameled Kings ruckus through


our town. We’d be well-mapped,

well-known for hospitality,

not the butt of half-lame jokes.

We lost the chance. I’m furious!


Know what’s worse? That dotty neighbor

with the rotting manger molding hay

lets strangers muck across his barn,

dropping coins to say they’ve been.


Now he roams his days across the hills,

singing sounds like tidingspeace,

and human hearts. Who talks like that?

I’d like to know. Who talks like that?

— from Carolyn Martin, The Way a Woman Knows (Beaverton, OR: The Poetry Box, 2015)


Sunday Evening with Buddha

It happens this way …

While doing some research on the Buddha for a poem, I came across a series of his quotations tonight. I thought I’d share some of my favorites.DSC00735

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.

You only lose what you cling to.

You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.

Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path.

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.

People with opinions just go around bothering one another.

It is better to travel well than to arrive.

Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate what they already have.

It is ridiculous to think that somebody else can make you happy or unhappy.

When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.


Here’s to lifting up our eyes to the sky and laughing!


What I Just Learned from High School Students

PlaysIt happens this way …

During the past week, Kathy and I had the pleasure of going to Reynolds High School in Troutdale and to David Douglas High School in Portland to see their latest musicals. Reynolds staged the Broadway version of the Little Mermaid while David Douglas did the same with Holiday Inn.

To say that the music, staging, costumes, singing, dancing, and energy were outstanding would be an understatement. Ever since I taught at Camden Catholic High School in Cherry Hill, NJ, a lifetime ago, I knew that high school productions could be on a par with those done by professionals. (Sister Pauline was a brilliant director who called the best out of her casts.)

So it has thrilled me over the last five decades to see talented young people committed to the passion and discipline it takes to perform at such a high level.

Maybe because I have been listening to Brené Brown and her research on shame and vulnerability on You-Tube, I was smacked in the face with a lesson I need to learn from some of the young men and women on stage.

Here’s the backstory: Growing up in the ‘50s, I felt body-shamed for being overweight. Luckily, I went to Catholic schools where uniforms saved me from having to find clothes that could cover some of my heft.

However, one day the principal of my high school called me up on stage in front of an assembly of girls in my freshman class. As I walked across the stage, I heard her say to the group, Now here’s how a chubby girl wears her uniform correctly.

 Get the picture? Shame upon shame.

Now, fast forward to last week: on both high school stages, there were young women as well as young men who would probably be considered overweight. Whether they played lead roles or were in choruses, it was obvious to me that, whatever their size or shape, they didn’t allow body-shame to stop them from singing and dancing their talented hearts out. And talented they were!

There was one young woman in the chorus at David Douglas who so reminded me of me at her age that I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. As she danced with different male partners and appeared in a variety of form-fitting costumes, there was a grace and ease about her that made me tear up.

Of course, I don’t know what her life is like off stage, but throughout her performance on that stage, she exuded a self-confidence that would put shame to shame.

I’ve known people who have felt ashamed because they were too thin, too tall, too short, too whatever.  Maybe we should start a #TooWhatever movement for all of us who don’t feel right about who we are and where we are right now – not merely in terms of body image, but in terms of what we can offer each other and our world.  I’ll be thinking about this in the weeks to come. Shame has lived in my personal space for too long! And, if anyone is interested in heading up this movement, let me know!

PS: I’m just learning about Brené Brown and her extraordinary research on shame and vulnerability via programs on You-Tube. When you have time, take a look. She will change your life!