Wednesday, July 29, 2009

‘Fiber yoga’: Crafting as meditation

“You need to stay present when you knit, even if you are just doing a garter stitch and don’t have to pay super-close attention. Touching the yarn and needles gives us a feeling of being connected to ourselves and our world. This kind of connection is what yoga is all about.”
— Cyndi Lee, knitter and director of OM Yoga
The latest issue of Yoga Journal (September 2007) has a good article about knitting, a.k.a. “the new yoga.” I have long thought that handicrafts like knitting and crochet had meditative validity and it is nice to have my belief corroborated. A particular book that might be interesting might be interesting to read is Knitting Sutra: Craft As a Spiritual Practice by Susan Gordon Lydon.

In the words of Tara Jon Manning, author of Mindful Knitting and Compassionate Knitting, “Each [yoga and knitting, or in my case crochet and loom-work] allows the practitioner to leave thoughts and distractions behind and focus on a specific object or action.” To me, this meditative practice can be described as “fiber yoga.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Advice ‘for’ and not ‘about’ us


“Adam,” a romantic comedy, opens to limited release July 29 in the United States. Its tagline sums up the film as “A story about two strangers. One a little stranger than the other...”

Publicity compiled on the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) reveals that the male romantic lead, Adam (played by Hugh Dancy), has Asperger syndrome (AS), which is often characterized by difficulties deciphering social nuances and understanding and expressing one’s emotions. In the movie, Adam develops a relationship with his upstairs neighbor, Beth, who is played by Rose Byrne.

Dr. Jackie Marshack, a psychologist and marriage therapist based in Vancouver, Wash., is using the movie's upcoming release as an excuse to promote her new book, “Going Over the Edge?” (www.prweb.com/releases/2009/07/prweb2646174.htm).

Marshack reports that she has observed Asperger/neurotypical (NT) couples developing very strained relationships. “Worse yet, conflicts can escalate to damaging proportions involving divorce, domestic violence and depression.”

Another family therapist, Maxine Aston in the U.K., coined the term “Cassandra Affective Deprivation Disorder (CADD)” (www.maxineaston.co.uk/cassandra/), singling out Asperger syndrome as the causal factor in a relationship where a partner or spouse has unmet emotional needs. Cassandra, in mythology, was cursed with always stating the truth and never being believed.

As I understand CADD to be described, the neurotypical partner doesn't feel loved or understood by the partner who has AS and the AS individual may either be undiagnosed or may deny his or her diagnosis.

There are surely multiple situations about which a person can be in denial and leave a partner feeling isolated — alcohol or drug addiction, to cite just two examples — so I question why Asperger syndrome was singled out in this way.

I’m growing increasingly concerned about the potential for discrimination against people with AS based upon wholesale application of the ideas of Marshack and Aston. Their ideas seem solely to be based upon their work with their own clients and their personal relationships.

In May 2009, noted AS researcher Dr. Tony Attwood issued a statement on the Web site of Families of Adults Affected by Asperger's Syndrome (FAAAS, www.faaas.org/): “I would like to state quite clearly that having a diagnosis of autism or Asperger’s syndrome does not render a person automatically incapable of being a good partner and parent,” the statement reads in part.

From personal experience I am well aware of the constellation of behaviors that my AS diagnosis encompasses and I acknowledge that weaknesses are co-mingled with my strengths.

If we fall short in any area of life, then surely we could benefit from advice that is written for’ and not ‘about’ us: but the available literature is lacking in this area.

The search of an online book retailer with the term “Asperger relationships” gave me “Asperger Syndrome and Long-Term Relationships” by Ashley Stanford. The “Frequently Bought Together” section suggested “The Other Half of Asperger Syndrome: A guide to an Intimate Relationship with a Partner who has Asperger Syndrome” by Maxine C. Aston and “Alone Together: Making an Asperger Marriage Work” by Katrin Bentley.

All of these books are written by and for a neurotypical woman with an AS male partner. None of them mirror the dynamic of a same-sex relationship or a relationship in which the female partner is the one who has AS.

Even if a book speaks directly to a person who has AS, it frequently makes the assumption that the person with AS is a male. In doing so, it fails to encompass social expectations that women uniquely face.

Part of the problem is that females are under-diagnosed compared to males with AS (a ratio of 1 in 10) in contrast with what researchers believe is the actual rate of occurrence (closer to 4 in 10).

I hope that as women with AS achieve a higher profile, authors and publishers will tap this market and offer them assistance that speaks directly to their needs. You will have at least one reader who avidly awaits such a book.

Published July 28, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sasha: A cat so glad to be loved


In July 2009, we brought home a little cat who had been hanging out in our neighborhood. She was so skinny, her fur was so matted; it was clear she'd been on her own for some time but she is so glad to be loved!

Originally posted to Facebook

Saturday, July 18, 2009

UUCLC Lending Library brochure

An informational brochure about the UUCLC Lending Library debuted last Sunday at the welcome table inside the front entrance of the Kelseyville Senior Center. You can read about the lending library as well as other informational brochures about our congregation and the UUA. The UUCLC Lending Library can be found in the senior center annex.

Distributed via email newsletter

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tenacious Talkers installs 2009-2010 officers

2009-2010 officers, Tenacious Talkers toastmasters club in Lakeport, Calif.

LAKEPORT — Toastmasters club No. 8731, the Tenacious Talkers, installed its officers for the new fiscal year during a potluck celebration held Sunday.

Jeff Shute will serve as club president for 2009-2010. Greg Scott is vice president of education, Cynthia Parkhill is vice president of public relations, Jonathan Donihue is vice president of membership, Louis Rigod is treasurer, Tom Kalk is sergeant at arms and Marion Smith is secretary.

The club also honored Cynthia Parkhill as its Toastmaster of the Year. She is serving her second term as its vice president of PR.

Tenacious Talkers is part of Toastmasters International, a non-profit organization that provides its members with training in public speaking and leadership. The local club meets at 6:15 p.m. each Thursday at Sutton Associates Wealth Management, 290 N. Main St. in Lakeport.

For more information, call 707-263-5350 or visit http://tenacioustalkers. freetoasthost.net/.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

UUCLC Lending Library serves first customer

The UUCLC Lending Library recently served its first customer. OK; so I checked a book out to myself, it was so inviting to see the books that members of our congregation have donated. You can read about a couple of those books in the discussion forums on the UUCLC’s Ning site. June and July books of the month have been posted there. A new title will be featured each month.

Distributed via email newsletter

Hand-crocheted Hogwarts cardigan

My Hogwarts school cardigan is crocheted in Lion Brand "Wool-Ease" worsted-weight yarn. No. 152: Oxford Grey, No. 138: Cranberry and No. 171: Gold. To it, I added a Hogwarts crest and pewter buttons.

The pattern comes from Crochet with Style by Melissa Leapman; however, I adopted her pattern for an oversized nubby cardigan to create it in the colors of House Gryffindor.

Originally posted to Facebook

Fingerless gloves in colors of House Gryffindor

This is the Lion Brand pattern for fingerless gloves, created with Wool-Ease yarn left over from my Hogwarts school cardigan.

Like the cardigan, the gloves were created in the colors of House Gryffindor (No. 152: Oxford Grey, No. 138: Cranberry and No. 171: Gold), perfect for keeping hands warm when mastering the use of one’s wand.

Originally posted to Facebook

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

‘Alternative’ festival needs to practice what it promotes

The rutted dirt driveway seemed to go on forever and we shifted uncomfortably on our hay-bale seats as a man on a tractor pulled the makeshift shuttle up the road. Uncomfortably jostled by ruts in the roadway, I was relieved to disembark at journey's end.

Monday, July 6, 2009

How do you ‘Stand on the Side of Love’?

A potluck gathering assembled Wednesday, June 24, to observe the opening plenary session of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) General Assembly, taking place hundreds of miles away in Salt Lake City, Utah. Enthusiastic cheers responded to the announcement of a new public advocacy campaign that urges everyone, not just UUs, to "Stand on the Side of Love" and promote everyone's worth and dignity. Learn about this fledgling campaign at www.standingonthesideoflove.org/.

Marriage equality is among the new campaign's most immediately visible platforms. Subsequent posts via Twitter and Facebook have also promoted advocacy for "family-friendly" immigration policies.

One of the side effects, however, of being in a "lay-led" congregation is that it's easy to buy into the notion that I, in fact, am in charge instead of some higher authority. While I take interest in the platforms that are being formed nationally, I have my own personal ideas about "Standing on the Side of Love."

The most insistent concern for me is to have zero tolerance for bullying and social exclusion in our schools. In order to achieve this objective, everyone must buy in, especially the teachers and the other school employees who will be the "first responders." They would be responsible, in my ideal campaign, for creating a "caring majority" among the 85 percent of children who are neither bullies nor victims.

This is the premise of a book loaned to me by Pomo Elementary School principal April Leiferman: "Bully-proofing Your School: A Comprehensive Approach for Elementary Schools" (Sopris West, 2000). Written by Carla Garrity, Ph.D; Kathryn Jens, Ph.D; William Porter, Ph.D; Nancy Sager, M.A.; and Cam Short-Camilli, L.C.S.W., the purpose of this book is to prevent the school environment in which bullying is permitted to flourish.

Students at Pomo sign a pledge agreeing to "stamp out bullying." The pledge holds onlookers just as guilty if they fail to report or stop the abuse.

Don't believe that a school can shape a bullying environment? Think of a physical education curriculum of exclusively competitive activities in which the most popular children are allowed to choose sides for the teams. The person who is always chosen last is put painfully on display. Or school assemblies in which those same popular students are allowed to single out classmates in front of the entire school -- supposedly in the name of fun.

To this day, I don't want to be a member of various civic clubs that raise funds by publicly fining their members. It feels, to me, too uncomfortably like those high school assemblies. Please don't think I am in any way disparaging these international clubs that do so much good for so many.

Most commonly, bullying will flourish when teachers and administrators decide that "kids will be kids" and leave the children to work it out for themselves.

It is inexcusable to me, however, that a victim should also have to take the lead in advocacy for the right to be treated with respect.

Do you think I unfairly hold teachers responsible for the climate in schools? In my opinion, it's part of the job that you signed up to do. It is your trust and responsibility to promote a climate of equality.

And think about much of the prejudices based upon our perceived differences. Chances are, adults learned these attitudes when they were still in school. Where better to quench these tendencies?

"Standing on the Side of Love" would do well, in my opinion, to include anti-bullying among its platforms.

I realize, however, that many other people make up my local congregation. Expand that number to include everybody else that this campaign wants to mobilize and there are probably just as many personalized opinions. I encourage you to get involved and contact the movement directly. In addition to considering the platforms that it already promotes, be willing to advocate for how you "Stand on the Side of Love."