Life, Death, and the Little Things

First, thanks to all of you who sent me kind words yesterday as I talked about how my friend Terry’s passing made me feel. She was one of the people I talked about in my post Welcoming Death and Treasuring Lives, which I also published in our Friends of La Leche League newsletter, Continuum, in the most recent edition (that issue is just for subscribers, but back issues are available at the link, if you want to see what the newsletter is like).

Terry!

I know Terry’s legacy will live on, through her art, books she wrote and illustrated, the students she helped educate, and the many memories all of her friends have of her, like when her surrogate, Flat Terry, went all around the world visiting friends and giving them paper hugs. She was so creative, so very human, and a great friend. Was she perfect? No. Who is? We are all glad to have known her. I’m honestly not up to writing a long tribute, because I’m just so sad. But, here’s a nice tribute my friend Nancy Sherwood wrote.

Stephanie was one FUN woman.

Sadly, my online friend Stephanie Jordan, who was the other person I talked about living her life to the fullest, passed away yesterday. I’m just so impressed with how well she continued to enjoy every day, no matter how sick she got, and how wonderfully she prepared her children for life after she was gone. I’m so glad they got a lot of time to spend together and make memories. Again, rather than summarize her journey, I’ll let you read what Nancy S. said in her blog. I’m glad she was able to keep herself together and share these memories!

While people were commenting on my post from yesterday, another friend let me know of an LLL Leader’s passing, a woman named Beth O’Donnell. I didn’t know Beth (though I may have met her at one of those conferences where I met so many women), but when I read her lovely obituary, I realized how much in common I had with her and what great contributions she’d made to the world. She was a teacher of the Our Whole Lives curriculum that my children studied at our Unitarian Universalist church, so I know Beth helped babies, mothers, children and future children. Wow. But it was also just nice to read about her interests and travels. It’s like I got to know her a little.

I feel privileged that one of my volunteer “jobs” is to maintain the web pages for We Remember, which honors La Leche League Leaders (and others who have contributed to that organization) who have passed away. Their names are also inscribed in a book, which is taken to ceremonies – this year there will be a virtual ceremony at an online conference. I read every one of the obituaries that are shared, and I’m really happy how many of them include little tidbits that make the person I’m paying tribute to come alive again in my mind. I’m really grateful to the family members who pause in their grief to share the lives of the people they loved, so others can carry their memories as well.

I’m not sure why, but reading about these wonderful volunteers always inspires me. Go ahead, take a look! You can even post a memorial to someone who mentored you, share news of an LLL Leader’s passing, or make a contribution to Friends of LLL’s work in their name (you will see that I’ve done it a few times lately).

One of the first entries in this blog had a photo of Dr. Thoms!

And speaking of people who volunteer their time…yesterday, I also found out that one of our Master Naturalist mentors, an amazing human being named Alston Thoms had passed away in June, and we hadn’t heard about it (I did touch on this yesterday, but I want to say more). If you read his memorial page, you’ll see what a real treasure the world lost when his life ended. I learned so much about the Native Americans who lived in this part of Texas from him, and I always hungered to learn more. His teachings will live on through the work of his graduate students and the many Master Naturalists he generously taught through the years.

Here’s what I said about him in my blog from early in my Master Naturalist career:

We also had a very interesting speaker, Prof. Alston Thoms, an anthropologist from Texas A&M. He is an expert on Native American history, and focused the talk for us on what people ate in past centuries in this area. It was lots of roots and berries, cooked in earth ovens (which he does yearly for his grad students). The most “duh” moment came when he asked what the most common food source would have been. It took a while to realize that of course, it was the white-tailed deer. It’s been in the area as long as humans have, and always on the list for what’s for dinner!

I could listen to this guy all day long.

Proud of Me, May 14, 2018

So, please. If someone you care about is no longer with us, share your memories. They can mean a lot, even to people who didn’t know them, and the little things, their quirks, their stories, their adventures…they can mean more than you know to someone else.

What’s My Problem?

My brain is not working, that’s my problem. Somehow, I’ve allowed myself to fall into a pretty deep hole of depression, low self esteem, or hyper-protectiveness to where anything I try to do that even remotely resembles work is a huge hurdle. Anything that has drama, misunderstandings, unkind behavior and the like makes me want to flee, and it’s spilled over into my volunteer work the most. It’s hurting my head to write this, but I’m going to, anyway. Someone has to say something, and perhaps if it’s me, I’ll feel better and more like keeping on.

“What is happening in her head? Ooh, I wish I knew!” (paraphrasing Pete Townshend in Tommy)

What’s happened is that one of my “triggers” has been triggered. It bugs me, because I’ve worked really hard to get past it, but I’m getting the idea that I didn’t get past it; rather I buried it. I’ve talked about my issues with La Leche League before, but I’m going to briefly re-hash a bit to explain why I’ve been so messed up for the past month or two.

First, I love the friends I made in LLL. Love them to pieces. They are some amazing people. But, the organization itself keeps repeating its mistakes, as if no one learns from history (which is probably true). In a majority-women organization with a strong, focused mission, many people get “power” for the first time. And it really screws up some people’s senses of right and wrong, and for some reason empowers them to bring new things into the mission (like natural childbirth, co-sleeping, baby wearing, etc.)

Continue reading “What’s My Problem?”

Healing Accomplishments

If you know me well, you’re sick of hearing about it, but if you’re an acquaintance or random reader, you might not know that I have had some pretty rough career times, crowned by the last year or two when I was working for a nonprofit breastfeeding support organization, one where I’d met most of my friends, one where I’d learned my web design skills, and one that I had planned to be a member of my whole life, good ole La Leche League.

I became a victim of the “flavor of the moment” in organizational management, and it was painful, very painful. No wonder I have always been suspicious of the latest managerial trends, six sigma, lean, agile…they all seem to try to pigeonhole organizations into their format, even when it doesn’t work.

The Board from last year

But I digress, surprise surprise. You probably do know that a while back (that would be 2018, it appears) I agreed to join the Board of Directors of the little organization for people who used to be in the big organization. I’ve had a lot of fun, got to hang out with people who have grown and changed, just like I have, and come to terms with a lot of “stuff.”

I’ve been making their newsletter since early last year, and it was a challenge to convert it to an online thing, but along with some supportive helpers on the Board and kind contributors, I think I did it, and the little newsletter is turning out pretty good (though I can always use more submissions!). And I lived through issues with the Board. Yay.

A sign I am not a great graphic designer

Sadly, though, membership had been dropping, so fewer and fewer people have been getting the newsletter, even though it’s gotten good reviews (far as I know). Part of that has been that our poor old website had gotten pretty broken, and our attempt at replacing it went SPLAT. It’s hard to join an organization whose e-commerce is not working.

But, I’m so happy now! My friend Susan (who’s visited the ranch) agreed to make us a site on WordPress, so I actually understand it. And she did a great job making it look good AND work well. I feel like my little world of Friends of LLL is all good, at last. Now we just have to tell people, so here I am telling YOU that if you used to be in La Leche League, even if you were hurt, like me, you are very welcome to check out Friends of LLL and come join us. We want to do stuff, but we need people to do it!

This is the new site homepage. WHEEEE

We have been giving “mini-grants” to groups who are trying to help parents and babies in their communities, we still want to plan another nice trip…someday, and we want to find new ways to support each other as we age, and as younger friends join us.

We need YOU! That will help us be US! I’ll be able to share news with all my old and new friends around the world, we’ll stay in touch on Facebook and such, and we will not forget those of us who have passed. As my friend Marian said after looking at the new website, “Now I just have to manage to stay alive as long as possible!”

Join me from November of last year and my happy friends, please!

I’m with her! We all need something healing and fun to keep us going. I’d love for any of my readers who feel like it would join or rejoin Friends of LLL. We ARE friends.

Who's Struggling?

That’s a relief. Image by @wanaktek via Twenty20.

If you’re not struggling, at least a little bit right now, I salute you! Tell me your secrets, on this Monday of isolation. For once, the UU Lent word of the day, struggle, seems mighty appropriate.

I like being at home, and I like being in my little basement office full of cheerful colors and numerous little things designed to keep me in a good mood (see below). They usually help, but geez, listening to the news, being unable to go to Austin to see Anita, and worrying about the health and safety of people I care about is weighing me down.

I ate goldfish crackers and cottage cheese for dinner. That’s a sign of someone struggling.

This is NOT our worst nightmare, really!
Image by @Boris79 via Twenty20.

Life’s always been about struggle, though. Every so often some kind of malady shows up and wipes out a lot of people, disregarding their wealth, social status, or degree of universal belovedness. That’s part of humanity (and other life forms as well). That doesn’t mean it’s not hard right now. I just wanted to get some perspective.

So yeah, life’s a gift, and let’s all enjoy it while we have it. That doesn’t sound cliched at all, does it? But that’s the best I’ve got right now.

My yellowish office and my newsletter, as seen on Instagram.

Still, I’m getting stuff done, and actually got my newsletter draft finished over the weekend, so there’s actually time to proofread it and get it reviewed. My entire family spent all their time in their offices, so I figured it was better to hang around in the office than go home and stare at the animals (which I did a lot of, anyway).

Gratitude

Me and Mike’s family.

There’s always something to be grateful for, and just because I don’t share it every day doesn’t mean I don’t feel it. I’m very grateful to the companies that made all the social media software we’re all relying so heavily on. Last night much hilarity ensued when I joined with my friend Mike’s family in an extremely goofy Facebook messenger filter festival. Now, that’s family fun. So, thank you, programmers of filters.

And I’m extra grateful for the creators of Zoom, who allow me to attend meetings online and actually SEE my coworkers. I’ve also enjoyed a couple of Zoom sessions with women I’ve been in an email/FB group for 25, that’s right, 25 years. Shout out to the Sislist!

Me, Zooming solo.

Heck, I’m even grateful to the post office for letting me send letters to my family and friends to cheer them up. Are you doing that? A woman I admire in Minnesota (who founded the email list mentioned above) is sending letters to anyone whose address you send her. She calls it Sunshine Mail. It’s keeping her busy and brightening so many days. Knowing about it brightens mine.

There! I’ve cheered myself up just by pointing out these ways we have to cope, while we struggle along. Send me more ideas!

In Which Suna Pays for All Her Fun

Yesterday was a beautiful day in New Orleans. It was mostly sunny and in the 70s outside. Too bad I did not step outside the hotel until after dark, and then it was just to go across the street to eat dinner. Guess what I had?

OYSTERS! (I also had fish)

The reason I stayed in the hotel all day is that the fun trip was over, and it was time for our annual Board meeting. In the morning, trip attendees joined us to give us input on how the trip went and suggest places to go next. It was great to hear how much fun people had and how smoothly everything went. It was a HARD slog planning this trip, but in the end, the trip planners (with a lot of help by the Board President) got it done.

I’m very glad I am not a professional trip planner, and tip my hat to my friends who are!

Continue reading “In Which Suna Pays for All Her Fun”

I Found The Tacky Stuff. Still Fun.

Yes, yes, I’m still in New Orleans with the Friends of La Leche League on their bonding trip. Today was the day of less history and more typical tourist stuff. However, I managed to have fun.

Me having fun and trying to not get sunburned. Failed.

In the morning, people mingled and bonded until time to walk (if you were fit) to the Steamboat Natchez, which is the only steam-powered paddle-wheeler in use in New Orleans.

There, we were treated/blasted to an actual steam calliope concert. It was fun to watch the steam coming out for each note.

Calliope at work.

On the boat, we had a brunch, which was adequate, and good jazz music (though one DOES weary of “When the Saints Go Marching In” around here). Since you couldn’t see a dang thing during the meal, I got out of the dining room as fast as I could to see the river.

Jazz band.
Continue reading “I Found The Tacky Stuff. Still Fun.”

This Is a Call for Super Introvert!

I’m sitting in the Austin airport again. This time I’m also going somewhere fun, but not for relaxation. I’m traveling to New Orleans to participate in semi-annual Friends of La Leche League trip. Since I’m on the Board, my role will be to help make the trip fun for the participants.

It’s an airport!

I have to go back to my Super Introvert mode that I used to get in at the large conferences, where I had to be on and available 24/7. Usually I handle conferences by getting a room to myself. But, this is a nonprofit, so we share!

It’s fun sharing rooms with old friends. You catch up, tell funny stories, etc. I just hope note that we are all older, we will sleep some.

This is a group of wonderful people, and I am hoping everyone’s issues and infirmities don’t prevent everyone from having fun. And I hope I don’t collapse from being my busy LLL persona for 5 days. I’m not the same person I used to be.

Luckily I’m in a great mood and looking forward to some fun and good. Yes, I will eat a beignet! Moderation in everything.