Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Top 10 Predictions for the Trump Presidency

I hope that I'm wrong about all of this, but unfortunately, despite what everyone keeps hoping and saying about President Elect Trump, he remains depressingly consistent. 
I have a few predictions for what will happen during Trump's Presidency.
10. His cabinet will be entirely composed of white men.
9. His children will be intimately involved, although in unofficial positions.
8. The Democrats will take back at least 1 branch of Congress in 2018.
7. Corruption will increase.
6. The deficit will not decrease: it will either increase or stay the same.
5. Ivanka will serve more First Lady functions than Melania.
4. At least one woman will be sexually assaulted by Trump, although he will dismiss her claims and settle out of court.
3. Trump will use the Presidency to benefit his businesses.
2. Trump's Supreme Court picks will be people who have done favors for Trump in the past, not people who the Republican party would ideally choose.
1. ISIS will continue to operate and grow in strength.

I hope and pray that I am wrong.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Backyard Labyrinth

Even 5 year olds can meditate!
Well, it's ALMOST complete! Just before Thanksgiving, I finished my back yard labyrinth to the extent that I can. This spring, after our last frost, I'll be planting ground cover in the dirt walkways, but until then, this project is complete and fully functional.
Frankly, with the election results, it couldn't have come at a better time. My daughter and I have both enjoyed using the labyrinth to walk and pray. Now, she's only 5, so it's not quite the same experience for her. However, I hope as she grows and matures, she finds this labyrinth to be a wonderful tool for meditation and de-stressing.

Here are my suggested steps, based on my own experience, on how to build your own back yard labyrinth.

1. Design the labyrinth. 

  • Decide if you want to pave the walking paths or not. I decided it was simpler and better for my yard to just put in stone borders and leave the paths dirt and plants. If you're going to pave the entire area, this guide won't be a whole lot of help!
  • Choose a labyrinth pattern. I used this video to draw several labyrinths on paper. I selected the pattern I wanted and then drew out a five circuit labyrinth on plain paper.

2. Measure twice, then measure again. Once I had my pattern drawn on paper, I measured it to see how big an area I would need. 

  • You need to decide the size of your center circle, your walking paths, and your borders to define the paths. I chose to make the center circle 36" in diameter. Based on advice from the Internet, I made my paths 16" wide. I decided to use 4-6" river rock for the borders, so I estimated that the borders would be 4" wide. Then I added up 5 16" circuits and 6 4" borders to a 36" diameter circle to get a total of a 20 foot diameter circle. I drew a lot of scribbles and added up the numbers several times to make sure 20 feet was really what I needed. 

3. Clear the space. 

That's not my house. But that is my yard.
This was actually my original starting point, as I was clearing out a gigantic hedge in my yard. The idea to fill it with a labyrinth came later. Still, you'll need to clear out a circle of significant size. I recommend clearing out a square, because that's a lot easier to measure out. Once I destroyed the massive hedge, it was easy to measure out a 20' by 20' square that was free of trees or bushes.
Next I cleared the ground. Which means I sweet talked my father in law and husband into using their rototiller on my 20' square. That was hugely important. It dug up a ton of rocks and roots, as well as uprooting most of the weeds that served as ground cover in that spot.
Best husband ever! (Father-in-law also great, just not pictured)

Find the center. 

I put stakes in each corner of the square, then connected them diagonally with twine. I used another stake at the intersection. I did some more measurements to make sure the center stake was really at the center, and while it wasn't perfect, it was close enough.
Twine is hard to see, sorry!

Draw the labyrinth. 

  • For a Chartres pattern like mine, you just need to draw circles around the center point. A Cretan pattern is slightly more complicated, and I don't know how to advise you on that one! But if you are doing a Chartres pattern, or a Cretan pattern that's centered on 1 point, you'll need to create a giant compass. I took a small spool from the center of a roll of ribbon, and put it over the center stake. Then I tied one end of my twine around that spool. Next I measured out 18" of twine and cut it. This gave me an 18" length of twine attached to my center stake. I took a can of spray paint, held the end of the twine on top of the spray button, and then pulled the twine taut. I then sprayed the paint and walked in a circle around the stake while holding the twine taut. This gave me a 36" diameter circle around the center stake. 
  • At this point, I could have draw another circle 4" out from the first circle, then another one 16" out, to outline the stone border exactly. I decided instead to measure out a 20" circle, and just dig the stone trench inside the spray paint line. This greatly simplified my life. I added some twine to the first piece, cut it off at 20", and then drew another spray paint circle. 
  • Once the circles are drawn, it's time to draw the turns. If you are using a Chartres pattern, you simply need to draw two diameter lines at right angles to each other. I chose to orient my lines according to the four cardinal directions. I used the compass on my phone to draw one north-south line through the center, and a second east-west line through the center. Next, using the sketch I had drawn, I highlighted the sections where I would dig the stone borders. 
Monkeyed with this photo to help the spray paint show. But IRL it was easy to see.

Create the borders. 

I used a mattock to dig out a roughly 4" deep and 4" wide trough along the spray painted lines. I filled in the trenches with river rock as I dug. I bought my rock from a landscaping company, in 5 gallon buckets. I used 7 buckets, or 35 gallons of 4-6" river rock. It took me 3 trips to the landscaping company!

Finishing touches

  • I went back over the paths and used a shovel and rake to make them slightly more level. 
  • I applied a strong weed killer and pre-emergent herbicide to keep weeds from sprouting up over the winter. In the spring I will plant low soft ground cover plants. Stay tuned for that post!
Overall I'm thrilled with my labyrinth. It's one of the few big yard projects I've ever tackled that ended up looking exactly like what I had pictured! And yes, I'll have to maintain it, mostly by weeding the stone borders, but it'll be well worth the effort. Now I can go out to my yard whenever I feel the need for some meditation and walk a labyrinth. I hope you get inspired to create your own meditation area for yourself!

Monday, November 14, 2016

How to Change the Conversation

Right now, everyone who didn't vote for Trump is reeling at his election. We are angry, upset, and afraid. Sadly, living in a democracy means that when the majority decides, everyone must abide by the decision.

Part of the social contract we abide by is the free choice to accept the consequences of other people’s decisions. 

Not coincidentally, living with the consequences of other people’s choices is part of living in community, any community, big or small, family or voluntary. And this is hard work.
Just look at how often churches fold or split. Look at how often marriages end in divorce. Look at how often friendships end. It’s nothing new for a large group within a community to be angry and upset about the choices made by the majority. The anger and division within America right now after this election is nothing new. This is the business of living in a democracy. We have agreed to live with the consequences of the choice of the majority.

The key to change is not anger or judgment. It is convincing argument. 

We decry the electoral college, saying it disenfranchises people. But in fact, it is an important tool to keep the voices of groups of Americans heard. Currently, the only reason rural America has a voice is the electoral college. Without that, their votes would count for nothing. This is precisely why we have two chambers of Congress – because the Founding Fathers wished to avoid population having the final say over all legislation.

So what do you do if you are a red voter in a blue state, or a blue voter in a red state? Argue convincingly. 

Women did not get the vote because they took it by violence. They made a convincing argument, repeatedly, for decades. And then enough men were convinced by their argument to grant them the right to vote.
Martin Luther King provided powerful arguments to end discrimination, and white people granted many of his requests.
But how can we argue convincingly? In a world overfilled with facts and arguments and infotainment, how can we get attention for our cause and then argue it?
  1. Relationship. There is nothing more powerful than relationship to change hearts and minds. The question of abortion is abstract until your friend or family member receives a cancer diagnosis in her first trimester. The question of sexuality is abstract until your child or uncle comes out of the closet. We must pursue relationships with people who do NOT agree with us! 
  2. Relationship. We cannot argue AT people and change their hearts and minds. A pro-life person cannot simply befriend a pro-choice person with the goal of changing his mind. Instead, we must learn about the other person. Learn what she cares about. Learn what makes him angry. Learn what we share in common. As the relationship unfolds, the discussion about abortion will come naturally, without defensiveness. 
  3. Relationship. Most people are not bigots, racists, or sexists. Most people simply believe what they believe because they have no reason to believe otherwise. Until I talked to a black friend about the Confederate Flag, I did not realize it was offensive to black people. I simply thought it was an expression of Southern pride. I was not racist, just uninformed. It was in the context of relationship that I learned about the fears and concerns of people different from me. Why do people fear Muslims? It’s not because they are racist. It’s because they don’t know any Muslims personally, but they know that Muslims destroyed the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon. When we understand the basis for their fears, we can address their valid concerns with rational facts. 

I am horrified by the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency. 

But I sought to understand his supporters before November 8th. I know why they voted for him. I don’t agree with their reasons, but I understand them. And now I can address their concerns. Because I sought to understand them and preserve the relationship, I have the access to discuss their concerns and my concerns and try to find common ground for solutions. Powerful argument is about seeking to understand first, not seeking to BE understood. That is where our future lies. Seek out the people who are different from you and build relationships with them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What Are We Going To Tell Our Kids?

What will I tell my kids? This is the message I have seen over and over again on social media today in the wake of Trump’s victory.

I will tell my daughter the same things I always tell her.

  • I will tell her that President Elect Trump deserves our respect and our prayers.
  • I will tell her that respect and prayer does not equal support, affection, or trust. 
  • I will tell her that we must always think critically about the words and actions of the President. 
  • I will tell her that love always wins.
  • I will teach her about the powerful women in the Bible.
  • I will teach her about how the Kingdom of God comes inside small relationships, not through powerful governments.
  • I will teach her that all people deserve respect and compassion, regardless of their identity or actions.

And now, what will I tell myself?  

All I have to do is The Next Right Thing. All I have to do is Love Others. All I have to do is Show Up and Stay on My Mat. How do I know how that translates into action? Because of Isaiah 30:21. God’s still small voice is always in my ears, telling me the Next Step.

It’s up to us now. Whether we voted for Trump or Clinton or someone else, it’s up to us to create the world we want. The Republicans believe in small government, and they now have the power to create that. Which means it will be up to us, the citizens, to create the world we want in our cities and states. And it starts within our hearts.
  • Will we idolize the Bible and dole out grace in tiny doses?
  • Or will we love extravagantly, foolishly, and without boundaries?
  • Will we point out the speck in our neighbor’s eye?
  • Or will we remove the plank from our own eye?
  • Will we idolize government and offer praise to our elected leaders?
  • Or will we speak the truth to power even when it goes against our self-interests?
  • Will we continue to marginalize people?
  • Or will we choose to marginalize ourselves?
What am I going to tell my daughter? The same thing I always tell her. It's our job to create the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The 17 Steps to Nanowrimo Victory

I’m using the Snowflake method to write my Nanowrimo novel this year. In honor of that, I’d like to reveal the top 17 steps to winning Nanowrimo.

17. Outline your novel. Be verbose here. Every word counts!
16. Compete in word sprints with other Nanos
15. Decide that everything you’ve written is total crap and the whole thing is arbitrary and stupid.
14. Read through the forums on nanowrimo and comment on every thread.
13. Write “I don’t know what to write” about 50 times. Count every word and don’t delete it!
12. Take a break from writing, just for one day, because so far you’re doing really well.
11. Notice that suddenly you have to write 3317 words a day to win Nano.
10. Have three amazing writing days and knock out a third of your novel.
9. Weep as you look at the shitty first draft and wonder why you do this to yourself every year.
8. Write “the end.” Realize that you are only at 45637 words and you can think of nothing else to write.
7. Get really graphic with descriptions.
6. Use “Replace” function to change every “I’m” to “I am,” every “can’t” to “can not”, etc.
5. Create a random subplot to fill in words.
4. Despair and binge on chocolate or caffeine (or both)
3. Be encouraged by your fellow writers.
2. Write “the  end” and submit your word count to the website, only to discover that you have MORE than 50,000 words.
1. Change all your social media graphics to display your nanowrimo victory.