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Sunshine-AwardMy lovely friend at Appleton Avenue nominated Conscious Engagement for the Sunshine Blogger Award! On this rainy October morning, a sunshine blog post is the perfect choice. Receiving a nomination is humbling and I know I can never fully convey my appreciation that someone would take the time to validate what I’ve been doing here at Word Press. My thanks will come out all jumbled and silly. It’s just… well… it’s so neat. The best I can do is graciously accept.

So thank you Appleton Avenue!! I love your blog for the way you convey your spirit, your honesty, you bravery in baring your real and personal life for all the world to see. You’ve got an irreverent streak that is irresistible to me.

The last time I was nominated for an award, I did some research to find out more about it. I like the way that post went, and was prepared to begin my next foray into researching blogger peer awards. I was stopped in my tracks by the very first post I read, in which Jo, my newly discovered blogger-of-like-mindedness, did all the investigation for me. This is what she found on her post, Blogger to Blogger Awards: The Sunshine Award Unveiled:

It appears that the Liebster Blogging Award and the Sunshine award may have been the same award at one time. I tracked posts to 2008 that had them intermingled. It’s not clear when they split off into distinctive threads but clearly it happened. The purpose of the ‘award’ hasn’t shifted too much over the years. It is essentially a virtual ‘pat on the back’ for a positive or creative blog that inspires others or brings ‘sunshine’ to their world. Typically it appears to originate from one post that really ‘shines’ on that person’s day.

Jo explains the downsides of blogger awards, including their similarity with chain letters, and the upsides, like online networking. And of course, I can’t ignore the greatest benefit, which is the opportunity to pat another blogger on the back and say, “Hey, I dig what you’re doing here.” Read the rest of Jo’s post, and get all the finer details.

Like every blog award, there are a set of rules. I especially like the part where I get to list 10 interesting things about myself. I am the Rooster in the Chinese Zodiac, and I tend to enjoy being the one making all the noise in the center of the circle, ha ha. In fact, that can be interesting fact number one.

I am also able to nominate others for the blogger award. The rules contained in the nomination I received say it like this:

  • Present 10 deserving Bloggers with the Award – “who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.”

It’s not my style to nominate. But as I did the last time, I am eager to share with you the blogs I do like to read. In that way I can let the hosts know that they’ve made a positive impact on my life. Also, isn’t the word “blogosphere” kind of fun and spacey?

Ten things about me:

  1. I’m a Rooster (see above)
  2. I almost never make good French Toast, despite the fact that I can prepare a lot more complicated meals with ease. Can anything be more simple to cook, I ask you?
  3. I prefer audiobooks read by people with a British accent.
  4. I’m adamant about proper punctuation and spelling, so much so that when I read poorly written correspondence, I judge the person who wrote it more than I judge the content (I’m terrible, I know). If you find mistakes in my blogs, please tell me so I can edit. Except for the ellipses… I can’t help myself with those.
  5. I still miss my mom.
  6. I’m scared to death of riding a bike in traffic. I live in one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the country, and people are always saying how I should bike because it wouldn’t hurt my bad knee so much and because it’s easy exercise, and good for the environment. But I remain irrationally afraid that the moment I’m on a road, I’ll be squashed by a car.
  7. I can still sing the jingle “Two all beef patties, special sauce…” by heart.
  8. My 17-year-old just registered to vote, and it was not my idea. I’m so proud.
  9. I love eating sweet stuff with my coffee, but can’t stand sweet stuff in my coffee. That’s weird. Right?
  10. I have house baggage. My next house must have a bathroom that will allow me to extend my arms in any direction (or better: two of them!), countertops high enough so I don’t get back pain while washing the dishes (are typical people really that short?), and a kitchen that can hold at least four people. At once. Without hugging. I know that exposes the spoiled American that I am, but there it is: I want a bigger place.

Blogs that I really enjoy reading:

  1. The Crazy Bag Lady @ Bulan Lifestyle (you saw that one coming!) But check this out: She found my blog because of my post about the other award, and we’ve been following each other since. Evidence that blogging awards are a force for good.
  2. A Tramp In the Woods. This blog is fun every single day. Fodrambler’s spectacular micro photos of insects are captivating, and his thirst for knowledge about all the woods-dwelling life forms would make even a teenager excited about science. Every topic is packed with fabulous information and non-stop wit. The guy can be hilarious.
  3. Nicholas Andriani writes about his travels. And specifically, about one amazing time abroad in which he explored north Africa, southern Europe and the Middle East. He cares about the world and illuminates it with his skilled writing.
  4. Monochromia is a photography website for black and white photos. Together, this group of contributors display ridiculously good B&W photos. The photos are surprisingly varied and all remarkable. It’s a beautiful medium to display their art.
  5. Ram On is a great place to get one person’s take on “what it all means in a global sense.” Bruce writes extremely well and somehow manages to find a baseball analogy to nearly every story. His posts are thorough and thoughtful and exhibit his engagement with life.
  6. Corners of the World is without question a window into some corners of the world you didn’t realize you have been wanting to see. Aanchal simply exudes joy and a spirit of exploration as she describes beautiful places and documents her wild adventures.

Six is a good start, yes?

One more thing I need to say: I am writing this post because I realize I am delinquent on acknowledging blogger awards. AppletonAve is only the first blogger to nominate, and there are two more nominations in the queue. I have procrastinated in the hopes of doing them justice, and if you are one of those other two bloggers please know you are not forgotten.

I thank you – all of the people who are reading, and all of you who are blogging – and wish continued exploration for you in both the physical world and among this beautiful community of netizens.

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

I received my very first blogger award nomination last week, from appletonavenue. It’s the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. I’ve seen awards around the blogosphere, and wondered how they worked. Now I’ve got a better sense: Someone who was nominated for the award gets the opportunity to send it on to their own favourite bloggers.

I want to express my sincere gratitude to appletonavenue for taking the time to nominate me, to tell me about the nomination, and for spreading some good vibes into the world.

Her blog is about an honest a blog as you’ll find anywhere. She often includes her personal struggles with real life issues that we all deal with: health, employment, family. She lays it out there. For real. If you have toes easily trampled, or sensitive feelings, better stay away. I LOVE THAT.  Her posts are a reminder of how honest I could be. Plus, she’s another blogger who tags with the word “rants.” And that is awesome.

I’ve mentioned it before; I like to get to the bottom of mysteries and stories. So, I spent an hour trying to find the origin of the Sisterhood award. Couldn’t. If you’ve got leads, let me know. The earliest one I could find was dated January 30, 2011, and thanked the blogger who awarded it, but when I got to that blog, I simply could not find a reference to the award. I did lots of searches for “2010 Sisterhood of World Bloggers” and couldn’t find an instance when the award was presented in 2010.

I learned a lot about the award though. In one case it was presented by a man, which proves a Sisterhood is an idea, not a set of rules. In one case it was referred to as a “cooking blog award,” so I guess I need to post a recipe. (I have one in mind, the World’s Best Crock Pot Chicken, but I haven’t found the time to get that one to you yet.) It also actually *has been* awarded to  multinational bloggers (good, because I disdain the casual use of a phrase like “world blogger”). I learned how many people seem really, truly grateful to receive a nomination. It reminds me of a new word I recently learned from another blogger I read (BTW, in the list below). The word is netizen: A citizen of the Internet. Once we start giving and taking online, we create a community. I have several Internet communities now that are integral to my sense of well-being, WordPress and facebook being the two major digital places I live, in addition to my physical Montavilla home.

The character of this award seems to morph with time, like all good chain letters do. It began in a different format, in which the blogger listed the blogs nominated, with a call out to the people “Hey, come get your award.” Now it’s more personal, and the trend seems to be an individual personal message from the presenter to the nominee on the nominee’s own page. Another change is associated rules. The one my friend received has a list of 5 rules, including answering 10 personal questions and the nomination of 10-12 favourite bloggers. I found one from 2012 that had rules including answering 7 personal questions and nominating 7 bloggers. I found one from February 2011, in which there is only one rule: pass it on. I like that. It’s the most important rule in any case.

The  January 30, 2011 award from food and thrift states “no rules at all,” but then asks to please link back to the presenter.

In my form of passing it on, I’ll list the blogs I am currently reading the most often. I’m not a nominator-type person, so if you were hoping I’d nominate you: sorry. Don’t take it personally. I am big on advertising, however. Advertising awesomeness, I mean. So here are the blogs I’d like to advertise, in no special order whatsoever:

  1. Hiking Photography – Canadian Patrick Latter is an astonishingly talented photographer. We’re talking jaw-dropping work. His blog isn’t just a collage of pretty images, but often includes quick blurbs about his friends and his interests. His interests frequently include packing into pristine wilderness and scaling mountain peaks. Only a few posts in, you’ll realize this guy has a natural Joy Of Life that is irresistible.
  2. Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things – A blogger kindred spirit, LB rides her motorcycles on distant trips and also around her part of the world, which happens to be the southeastern United States, and lucky for us: she takes her camera with her. LB is another human being whose goodness and love is obvious and irresistible. Her artist’s eye informs her lens, and the images she posts show me how to look deeper and to appreciate the wonder of the world that is right outside my door.
  3. With All I Am – Tanzanian Prayson Daniel takes his theology studies seriously and passionately. In fact, it is his own ceaseless searching for his path in faith that led him to these studies. He immerses himself in academic studies of Christianity, as well as history of Christianity, and modern applications of theological perspectives. Prayson is constant, earnest, loving, open, and humble. He and I share a lot of love, even though I am atheist and he is devout. He is helping my defensive and angry heart to learn about the better parts of Christianity, and is not trying to convert me.
  4. Hike Mt. Shasta – This hiker blogger hails from northern California. Bubba Suess has a goal of providing the most comprehensive guide to the trails and sights of Mt. Shasta. This compelling volcano is near the California/ Oregon border. Hike Mt. Shasta is fun to read because the trails are so close to my favourite backpacking area, the Trinity Alps of Northern Cali. And you know I love volcanoes…
  5. Caelan Huntress – My daughter and I met this gigantic personality (and his lovely family) years ago at a park in North Portland. Later he sold me insurance (I’m still a customer of the company, though Caelan moved on). Now I stick around because Caelan has yet another of those personalities that is crammed with adventure, love, and unquenchable optimism. He always has some new plan, some incredible dream, some clever creation to talk about. His newsletter focus right now has a lot to do with helping you help yourself, in business, branding, blogging. His blog is an intimate invitation into a beautiful life. And this man is not satisfied with plans and dreams…he then goes on to make stuff happen. It’s wonderful to witness.
  6. Ben Trube, Writer – Ben writes programs to build fractals. I am in love with fractals: mathematical equations that, when graphed, make patterns that appear the same or similar when viewed from different distances. They are also beautiful. Ben’s blog contains stuff about fractals, including his newly published book on what he’s been doing, but there are also a bunch of posts on regular stuff in his life, and about being a writer. He rants, he champions causes, he praises his friends. He also introduced his dad’s brand new book review blog recently, and I like that one too.
  7. The Rider – The Rider is a South African pastor who explores and comments on the world around him. The first post I read was about a welding project in which he built a bird feeder on his property. How fun is that? And what are the odds that I would randomly stumble onto two blogs from motorcyclists? I enjoy the opportunity to read the perspective of a non-north American, and I’m humbled by his ability to touch his readers in a second language. Here is a man with a wonderful sense of humor and an engaging delight in life and the people around him. (also, The Rider does not nominate people for awards either)
  8. Annika Ruohonen Photography – Annika also writes her blog in English, a second language. Her intent is to showcase her stunning photography, but sometimes her words offer the perfect poetic accompaniment. She is a teacher, a mother, an artist. Her photos are profoundly moving.

Whoo. That turned out to be a long post, didn’t it? Well, I hope I did the award justice, by spreading the love. Thanks to all of you for being out there, and for reading, and for writing your own.

Holtz Bay, Attu Island, Alaska. One of the places captured and occupied by Japanese during WWII. Note the crashed Zero on the beach. {credit below}

At work Friday, Brian gave me his perspective on the book I’m writing. He apparently represents the Intelligent & Interested Young Men segment of the future potential population that could read my book when I’ve finished. The IIYM insists on knowing details about stuff that’s only fuzzy in my mind. I had convinced myself that I didn’t need to know any more about Reagan’s Star Wars than I already knew. My book is not about that!

I said as much to Brian, too. “My book is not about that.”

Let the history buffs worry about World War II in the northern Pacific and the end of the Cold War. I want to write about the fascinating sociological and anthropological details of a small group of people stranded together on an arctic island with no means of leaving and very little communication with the outside world. The fact that we were a Top Secret Air Force base supporting a critical mission in military defense of the country was interesting, of course, but that stuff pales compared to my memories of the drama unfolding amongst us there all jammed together on that nasty cold, wet rock in Alaska.

Brian persisted with an email sent about twenty minutes after we returned from our walk for coffee. The subject line: doctrine of mutual assured destruction. In the body:

What I was trying to say earlier was that Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative represented a challenge of the doctrine of “Mutually Assured Destruction” which postulates that use of nuclear weapons in full scale war would result in the destruction of both the attacker and the defender, thus becoming a war that has no victory nor any armistice but only total destruction.

Oh, come on, really?!

I haven’t been talking to many people about my book till recently, because it wasn’t until now that it seems like a tale is finally unfolding, 60,000 words into it. I’m tentatively putting it out there as the topic comes up in my daily life, because I want to get a feel for people’s reactions. Brian is the first person in a long time to immediately take in the information and begin pressing with questions. It just figures that all his questions are in an area that I have been glossing over: what was I doing out there on that godforsaken rock in the Bering Sea in the first place?

This morning I couldn’t avoid the reality any longer: I concluded that I must do some research. It’s not that I have to write about Reagan, Gorbachev, Yamamoto and Nimitz per se… but to put my year on the island during 1990 and 1991 into context; I am going to have to know the history behind the island and the mission I supported. I hollered to my kid that we were heading into town to the central library. She, to grab some new copies of Bleach and Deathnote; me to get a stack of war books. A stack of war books I now have to read. Stupid Brian.

{image taken from The US Army Campaigns of World War II: The Aleutian Islands. Published 1992 by the U.S. Government Printing Office}

I put up a new web page over the weekend.

I finished my 2009 Christmas letter for friends and family.  And then, because I’m a bit over-the-top myself, I created a page and put up all the letters I have stored in this computer.


…and happy holidays

“And it is not our part here to take thought only for a season, or for a few lives of Men, or for a passing age of the World. We should seek a final end to this menace, even if we do not hope to make one.”  ~J.R.R. Tolkien

one ring

It strikes me that wisdom and humility go together. That a stroke of wisdom isn’t so without careful consideration of posterity. How wise can any decision be that doesn’t take into account the repercussions that may come – no matter how far down the line?

Tolkien was insistent that his writings didn’t contain a hidden message, or a political commentary. We’ll grant him that. Great writing, however, will take on a life of its own, as readers see themselves and their own circumstances among the pages.

Some days I feel like a hapless bystander watching my earth crumble as its foundations are pulled apart in order to build the structure on top. I don’t think we are quite frightened enough. I don’t think we are wise enough in our plans. How many generations ahead are we planning for; is it our grandchildren? Their grandchildren?

The quote above is taken from The Lord of the Rings, which I am reading again because it’s been too long. This quote would not leave me alone yesterday. It is spoken by Gandalf at the Council of Elrond, when a somewhat easier suggestion is brought forth by Glorfindel that to deal with a great evil thing, the council might hide it, rather than destroy it. And Gandalf says, no, that would only protect themselves, and maybe a few future generations, but it would not get rid of the evil for good.

This makes me think of conflict in general. There are different ways to address differences: Firepower, Totalitarianism, Exploitation, Oppression, Abuse, Imprisonment, Ignoring, and Lying. These things can be effectively used to squash something that exists in opposition to what we think our goals are.

But!!! These methods will never hold indefinitely. These almost always breed retaliation. Maybe not in this generation, maybe not in the next, but eventually Mother Nature (including all her living beings) will fight for survival.

OK, so I’m preaching to the choir here at Zaadz, but let’s try honest engagement. As a species, I’m going to guess that love and patience must be for humans the most difficult path of all, because it is so seldom taken and so seldom suggested on a grand scale. Like with the One Ring in Middle Earth, the only right path is likely the most difficult one of all. And if we’re serious about it, we realize that as nice as “love” and “patience” sound, they really are the most difficult path.

We all know that facing our personal demons requires being totally honest about what’s going on; taking on these truths about ourselves as frightening as they are, and being strong and firm enough to move forward in faith that our work will come to a greater good –  that perhaps we don’t even understand yet. Even more challenging is that in order to grow we must love ourselves, and believe ourselves worthy of love, and we must be patient with ourselves in order to have the time to grow and heal.

It is encouraging to have stumbled upon a reminder that my slow and painful method of healing myself is actually the right path to be on. That I am not the only soul who struggles with the future – way into the future. And that even mighty, beautiful, and intelligent elves like Glorfindel would see reason in an incomplete solution, and so I can’t be too hard on myself when I make a mistake.

Yesterday I was surprised to have a really positive experience through merely talking about an author that I love to someone who loves that same author. We J.R.R. Tolkien lovers were put in contact with each other here:

Please visit the site if you have read Tolkien and enjoyed it. David is writing a book about the fans of Tolkien’s writing, and has the goal of getting 1000 online surveys completed, and as many personal interviews as possible. He has been doing telephone interviews since April, and got to mine yesterday.

It was fascinating the way he recognized what I loved about the book as reflections of my personality in this world. I mentioned for instance, how I loved the Ents (trees that can communicate). I thought it was probably because I grew up in forests and feel like I have relationships with trees anyway, so those characters appealed to me. David saw that I respect other races even when I don’t understand them, and seek to always learn more about those who are different than me, because it helps me learn more about myself. He mentioned that I approached the book in the same way that I approached my field of education. Anthropology brought me much closer to many people very different from me.

I had never thought of examining my personality through the things that I love to read. Now I’ll have to browse through my booklist again. Hmmmm

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