Thursday, January 31, 2008

Life After Greek

We have exams in two weeks. Somehow by then I will know all about participles and infinitives, Jeremiah and Isaiah, the quest for the historical Jesus, Calvin and Luther, and many other things with which I have little acquaintance at the moment (having already forgotten most of what I've learned this quarter).

And THEN -- I am SO excited!!! -- we are going to see Wicked. I just bought the tickets -- four weeks of shows are almost completely sold out. I had completely forgotten about Wicked, too.

It's supposed to be a tour-de-force contemplation of good and evil. Anyone care to offer a review?

And THEN -- we are going to our beloved St. Augustine for the first time in four years.

I feel completely reinvigorated for my assault on the Greek language.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ramblings Along the Lines of: Whatever Possessed Me?

If I were not in seminary, which is to say, if I were still employed and, instead of a tuition bill had a paycheck and a two-week Pesach vacation coming up, I would be planning a trip to Prague, rather than reading The Lovely Daughter's blog and emails with such longing -- longing to see her, to participate in her discovery of a new life, to enjoy a beautiful city pretty much off limits to Americans when I was her age.

If I were not in seminary, I would not be memorizing reams upon reams of facts that vanish from memory within hours (minutes?) of the requisite test, be it Greek or Bible or History, and preclude my spending time sifting through materials and ideas that have some meaning for me and would, presumably, lodge somewhere in my mind as a consequence of having been considered rather than jammed into short-term memory for the purpose of meeting someone else's expectations.

If I were not in seminary, I would be re-engaged in church leadership, or perhaps traveling to South Africa to work on hunger issues as one of my friends will this spring, or be headed for Zimbabwe to work on a school and library as another has done three times.

If I were not in seminary . . .what it all boils down to is that I am living the life of a 20-something with the body, mind, heart, and experience of a 50-something. I am used to producing and sharing and giving and achieving, and it seems that all I do right now is absorb and occasionally spit back.

Yes, I exaggerate, for the benefit of the exposition. (Lovely Daughter: Mom, your stories always have more in them than actually happened. Me: Well, sweetie, you want to hear a GOOD story, don't you? One should not feel too constrained by facts.) Yes, I still have church classes and programs to plan and teach; yes, I am involved in things here at school; yes, I am working on field ed possibilities for next year that will enable me to get out and live a life closer to the one I used to have.

Hmmm. Now that I have vented a bit, it occurs to me that perhaps we need some way here for us - ahem -- older seminarians to gather and process our experiences.

Wonder just who should address that possibility?

(Oh ~ the image ~ the famous
Prague astronomical clock, as photographed by my sons a couple of years ago. I can live vicariously, I suppose.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I Wanna Be 20! 20 in Paris!

They've been to Versailles. They walked Montmartre and visited Sacre Couer. They've been to St. Chappelle and Notre Dame de Paris. From the blog of The Lovely Daughter, who is in Paris en route to Prague:

On Thursday we were originally going to go to a bunch of museums, but we met two guys from our hostel who were going to Versailles and and decided to go with them. We did not decide this until after we had gotten on the metro, so we hoped off the metro randomly and waited for them. It was a fantastic spontaneous decision and we had a lot of fun.


Last night was pretty fun at the hostel; we met several guys from all over the U.S. (South Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania). With Kelsey, me, and Dylan who we met the other day (he's from Minnesota) we had a good portion of the U.S. represented. Its funny how you meet people from your own country whom you would never encounter at home when you are abroad. We had a really nice night in...after our long day of walking.

I am experiencing SUCH an intense sense of lost and wasted youth!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Winter, Late Afternoon

Today's RevGals Friday Five asks about winter. I try to keep my opinions about winter to myself, but it does have a certain beauty that at times emerges through a camera lens. Last year, cemetery walk, late in the day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Outing Myself?

I'm thinking about retiring this blog and starting a new one without so much anonymity. I kind of opened the door tonight when I left a couple of comments on the Lovely Daughter's semester abroad blog and realized that anyone who reads it -- her roommate's family, my father, her friends -- could now find Gannet Girl.

So I looked back through just the most recent entries and thought about what I might delete if people I know were reading this. A few things -- some of them comments about people in my life who might recognize themselves (sometimes in a not entirely flattering light), some of them perhaps too personal for public consumption. Some things . . . oh, I don't know.

Someone else wrote a terrific entry in the past couple of days about things that she was doing during the year that she was 25. I thought about writing a similar entry, and the first thing that came to mind (after a LONG period of dredging backward -- it's been quite awhile since I was 25!) was being taken out for a birthday lunch by the guys (all guys in those days) in the law firm where I was clerking that summer, having a little too much to drink (which, for a birthday lunch in the middle of the business day, would be anything at all), and getting hit on by one of the partners (who did that occasionally and whom I brushed off as something as a pest; I was married and he was SO OLD - probably past 40 -- one foot in the grave, obviously). And then I thought -- well, would I want my son and his girlfriend who read my blog to to read that? (Which they are probably doing at this very moment.) The people whom I might serve in a church some day?

As I've said before, I'm usually pretty discrete -- but I'm not perfect. (Really? REALLY? ) Perhaps a housecleaning would be a good idea. I'm thinking I will start a new blog and save some of the posts I really like, or maybe just clear some of the dead wood out of this one.

Those of you who write under your real names, or who are transparently pseudononymous: where do you draw the line? Do you have anyone in your lives about whom you think, I wouldn't want her to read this, or I wouldn't want to reveal this to him? It occurrred to me that I could use the session (governing council, for you non-Presbies) of my church as a litmus test -- people whom I know and who know me to varying degrees of intimacy -- which is to say, some extremely well and some not at all --, people with whom I share important moments in life but for whom I generally wear something of a public face, people whom I will most likely be asking for recommendations some day.

In the past few days I have read blogs to which real names are attached in which women have talked about their abortions (Roe v. Wade anniversary), blogs in which people have revealed searing details of family anguish, blogs in which people have been ranting about this or that issue as if they have been possessed by something not of this world.

How do you decide?

Please ~ discuss!

Identities optional, of course.

Monday, January 21, 2008

From My Chair

. . . I am enjoying the Lovely Daughter's adventures in England. She has been here:

and today she is here: and tomorrow she will take a train through this:

and end up here:

I took this final shot summer before last, so I am going to have particular fun imagining her next few days!

Who can identify all the images?


Saturday, January 19, 2008

So Here I Am

Two weeks ago I broke a toe by stubbing it on the basement stairs. (Laundry is a dangerous business.) Not a big deal, but often painful to walk on. So I decided to go to the orthopedic guy and get it checked out and get a walking cast so I wouldn't pull apart all my other muscles in my attempts to compensate for being unable to balance properly.

Early yesterday morning while it was still pitch dark outside, I made a crash landing as I stumbled over the curb in front of Ortho Guy's office. A few minutes later I was huddled in the doorway crying (literally) and announcing that they would now have to x-ray both feet.

Toe? Yup, clean break. Foot? Not broken but badly bruised and so excruciatingly painful that (1) toe pain no longer noticeable (2) unable to tolerate pressure of either foor brace or Ace bandage (3) unable to put any weight on it (4) now in possession of crutches and Vicodin. And (5) no cast for broken-toe foot, since that is now the only one that works at all.


A little nest in a living room recliner surrounded by notebooks, laptop, dishes, phone, remote, etc.

HOURS of those real OC Housewives. (That might give you an idea of just how pathetic I am.)

A paper on Ezekiel completed and emailed.

Plenty of time to catch up and ruminate on GC35 (see previous entry).

A nice long visit from a friend; my disoriented state had caused me to forget our lunch date and so she came here and brought me brownies. It is SO nice to have friends who will hang out with you despite your forgetting about them and despite your attire -- same PJ bottoms and baggy sweater for 24 hours -- and surroundings -- dirty dishes and piles of paper.

Comtemplation on blogging.
Lisa, you are right, the communities have fractured. And I find that if I visit a blog and leave comments a few times and they aren't reciprocated, I don't bother again. I also find that I am not so good at it myself anymore. But if you abandon your Jesuit-watcher Prebsyterian seminarian birder photographer mother friend, she will be slow to extend forgiveness.

Unsuccessful tries to reach the Lovely Daughter, who is visiting a North Carolina camp counselor friend
here. Which, frankly, should not be allowed when your mother needs crutches to get to the kitchen.

A New Era?

Like others interested in the fortunes of the Society of Jesus, I have been keeping up with the news of the 35th General Congregation -- the 35th meeting (in the last 450 years) of representatives of the entire worldwide order for the purpose of setting direction for the future. The Congregation began in Rome on January 4 and the first matter of business, accomplished this morning, was the election of a new Father General.

It's been a moving process to learn about and to watch, even from my tiny observation point at my computer somewhere toward the middle of the U.S. The election was preceded by four days of quiet discussion and prayer among the Jesuits as names of leaders emerged and were considered. (Anyone who shows the sighest interest in the office for himself is automatically disqualified. A novel idea.) The January 17 entry
here gives some insight into the process and its meaning. (And, on a personal note, some insight into why I have been so grateful for Jesuit spiritual directors in my own life.)

Like other religious institutions, the Society of Jesus is plagued by declining numbers in the face of an increasingly secular world and divisions of opinion with respect to theological, social, and political issues. So it's fascinating to see the process by which it recreates and redefines itself. The next two events which I will be watching with a similar degree of intensity will be the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) this summer and the U.S. presidential election in the fall. If only we all practiced four day murmuratios before making the big decisons . . . .

Thursday, January 17, 2008

All In A Day

The Lovely Daughter and the Charming Roommate spent part of this frigid Chicago day at Millenium Park and, when I called a little while ago, were out to dinner with Chicago Son and Delightful Girlfriend. The girls fly to London tonight; of course, we have all taken note of the mystery crash at Heathrow earlier today. All on board the aircraft are fine and the pilot is a hero, according to the news. I want there to be no need for heroism tomorrow morning.

I spent the latter part of the morning participating in a Presbytery discussion group to which I've belonged for some months -- part of our effort to bring together people of diverse viewpoints on the LGBT ordination issue so that we can get to know one another. Gospel hospitality and graciousness: it can be difficult to go to meetings or hang out online and hurl insults at people who have become your friends, so developing relationships is one way of combatting anger and recrimination.

And then I sat here and worked and watch tv for part of the afternoon. I don't think there are words to describe the experience of preparing a paper on the Old Testament prophets while at the same time watching episodes of The Real O.C. Housewives. Choice quote of the afternoon: "I'm turning forty and one of my main goals is to be as hot as I can." I'm afraid that I became briefly addicted to the show last summer after one of my friends explained to me that it was, in fact, real -- I had caught part of an episode and thought it was a satirical farce. Well, actually it is. And it's back.

And now my neighbor has been here for nearly two hours: an onstreet parking issue, houses not selling in this dreadful market, a cancer diagnosis down the street, her family's holiday visit to the daughter with the twin grandchildren in Germany, the failure of the church to maintain its property, her son's impending marriage, the noisy summer nights when the kids behind her have pool parties ~ the usual, along with the realization that we have been fortunate neighbors of one another for 24 years!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bon Voyage!

This afternoon I skipped a class and raced (well, it takes more than two hours) home from seminary just in time to accompany The Lovely Daughter to the airport.

The Girl from the Midwest City and the Roommate from the Oregon Small Town met up at O'Hare and are spending the evening with Chicago Son and Delightful Girlfriend. So far all young people, all luggage, and all passports and visas are accounted for.

Tomorrow: a day in Chicago and then -- on to London!

(I am pretty impressed, I must say. From a conversation a year ago -- "I want to study abroad" -- through a lengthy application process, two jobs to help pay for the trip, and a massive organizational effort -- The Lovely Daughter is now in possession of pounds and koruna, Rick Steves guidebooks, and a plan to learn Czech. In a couple of weeks she will be renting her first apartment ever -- in Prague!)

She was only just yesterday a very tiny two-year-old standing on the kitchen counter and saying, "I can get it myself!"

How did it come to this?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Do you ever experience a moment of memory coming to you out of nowhere ~ a memory of something long forgotten, forgotten perhaps since the day it happened ~ a memory that emerges from the dimmest recesses of your mind as an offering of a small respite from the complications of the present?

I had one the other day. It's been intense in my world -- Christmas was difficult; our son was mugged (he's doing well); our daughter leaves tomorrow for Chicago, London, Paris, and Prague (yes, the travel plans keep expanding and yes, her roommate's visa finally showed up, with only a few days to spare); I've written a paper and taken two exams; and now I have to study for exams and a paper in the two courses that I had to let slide completely for the past couple of weeks.

And in the middle of everything, one of those moments came to me, a moment out of my childhood, which in its rural midwest settng seems to have been lived in a completely different era, an era before Lessons and Sports Practices and Playdates:

We are playing in a creek several miles from home, my three brothers and I. We are probably about 10, 10 (I have a stepbrother exactly my age), 8 and 6, and my dad has brought us over to the creek in a truck. He likes this particular place for its huge chunks of flat, smooth rock, which he is unearthing and piling into the truck so that he can turn them into a patio at home ~ but they are too heavy for any of us to be of help. The sun is shining and we spash in the pools, skipping stones across the deeper ones and looking for crawdads in the shallows.

As I recall, we are unsuccessful in our unending and passionate search for snakes. We usually carry snakes up from the creek behind our own house and keep them in jars for a few days before we release them. I have no idea why. I suppose there is something primordial about the curve of a snake through the damp grass and the feel of a snake in one's hands; for whatever reason, we devote hours of our lives to the pursuit and capture of snakes. But there are none today. Perhaps they have retired in the face of chaos: the sounds of rocks being wrenched from the mud and clunking onto metal, accompanied by the voices of four noisy children.

A little cat appears on the edge of the meadow above the step banks of the creek. She is about to take a ride with the four of us in the bed of the truck; she will have a new home and be named Pigeon, since we already have a Pigeon named Cat.

The midafternoon summer sun always streams so perfectly across the creeks of the Midwest.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Saturday, January 12, 2008

2008 Book Challenge: Dos

This might seem a bit on the late slide in terms of the church year, but Raymond Brown's slim An Adult Christ at Christmas was the required winter break reading and paper topic for my spiritual direction program, and I'm still finishing up the paper. That being the case, I'll offer the introduction and a bit of the conclusion from the current draft of my paper. Don't worry ~ I won't torture you with the whole thing!

"When we celebrate Christmas, we tend to merge the various elements of the gospel stories of Jesus’s birth along with various cultural traditions and practices with little thought to their origins or to the accuracy with which they reflect the events we honor. Raymond Brown’s An Adult Christ at Christmas is designed to counteract that tendency by explicating the theology of the narratives in Matthew and Luke through the chronology of gospel writing and the literary shape given the two infancy narratives by their authors.


Brown makes the critically specific point that the gospels reflect the experiences and views of the post-Resurrection Christian community. **** In the context of Ignatian spiritual direction in which imagination is such a key component, it is helpful to keep in mind that in the writing of the gospels themselves, the events reported were being imaginatively reshaped and assessed in the context of the post-Jesus experience of the writers. "

If you enjoy scriptureal exegesis, this is a nice little book for use in preparation for Advent ~ a preparing-to-prepare book!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

So Much for the New Year

For the past several days I have been haunted by the story of the young woman murdered in the mountains of Northeast Georgia. I see little tv here at seminary, so what I know I have picked up from the internet -- a young, strong, experienced, and defensively trained hiker out with her dog, killed by a blow to the head; the alleged perpetrator a drifter who may be responsible for similar deaths elsewhere.

I - neither young, strong, defensively trained, nor in possession of a large dog -- have spent a considerable amount of time hiking in the mountains of western North Carolina (and many other locales), often by myself, sometimes with one of my then-teen-aged children. I have always been aware of the dangers, especially when I am alone, but the joy in pursuing a narrow trail through the Pisgah Forest or standing in the open meadows of Graveyard Fields or playing in a waterfall has overcome whatever sense of caution I might have felt. The Lovely Daughter has talked of returning to her camp counseling job in North Carolina next summer, which would require a trip down there and offer an opportunity to hike in the mountains.

Perhaps no more. I am heartbroken for the young woman and her family, and angered for all of us who derive such sustenance from our time alone in the wild.


Closer to home, one of our sons, still living in his college city, was robbed and beaten up by three men Saturday night when he stepped outside a bar to make a phone call. I don't doubt that he could have been making better choices about his activities and movements that night, and I'm grateful that the only visible damage consists of cuts and bruises, broken glasses, and the stolen phone, cash, and credit card, but I am horrified and terrified by thoughts of what might have been. Where, I want to know, were his friends? He says that by the time he got himself up and re-oriented, the bar was closed and they had given up looking for him; he found a police cruiser to take him home. All the more frightening, to realize that, having been attacked by people with no regard for anything, he might have been abandoned in much worse shape in a deserted area of the city.


The Lovely Daughter leaves for London and Prague on Wednesday and her roommate's visa has not arrived. I would have been concerned about her travelling alone anyway, but my anxiety level has skyrocketed.


I am writing a paper and studying for four midterms next week. Needless to say, I am somewhat preoccupied.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Epiphany Sunday

"A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter."
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires gong out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set downThis:
were we lead all that way forBirth or Death?
There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

T.S. Eliot, Journey of the Magi

Saturday, January 05, 2008

2008 Book Challenge and Book Numero Uno

Alex at Besomiami has suggested as a challenge for this year that we blog about each of the books we read. Her challenge includes some sobering statistics about how little reading Americans actually do.

I thought I'd try this one -- I didn't last long with the 365 photo challenge last year but the beginning of the year is always a time for optmism. And so I've quickly finished up my first book of the year: Geraldine Brooks'
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague. Set in 17th century England, the novel recounts the story of a small village infested with a plague which arrives with a tailor and his imported textiles. As one person after another succumbs, their friends and relatives, under the leadership of a determined pastor, make the decision to enclose themselves within their own bounds in the hope of saving others who live in their vicinity. Their plague year is then marked by both heroic selflessness and desperate, cowardly violence, with skillful women healers revered and then accused of witchcraft.

The stock elements of the historical novel are firmly lodged in place: the spunky heroine, the tragic losses, the (un) surprising romance, the wealthy wicked family seeking only to save itself, the pastor's regret and self-recrimination. But the writing is skillful and the detail wonderful. Some of the burial scenes remind me of those in the 1983 movie
Testament,which follows the fortunes of a Californa town after a nuclear attack through the eyes of one family as the population dies from radiation sickness and the survivors are overcome by the demands upon them and strive to maintain their sanity.

If I were still teaching world history to ninth graders, I would assign them sections of this novel as a way for the to delve into both the physical horrors and the human reactions -- both courageous and cowardly -- that marked the plague centuries.

Friday, January 04, 2008


I am just completing my three year term as an elder on our church's Session (governing council), serving on (and this past year, chairing) our Ministry for Education and Formation.

In practical terms, that means my schedule of, at an absolute minimum, two (and more usually three to five) church meetings per month is behind me. I no longer have to spend summer afternoons with committees dreaming up year long plans and programs, I no longer have to make cold calls (or, thankfully these days, emails) to potential speakers, and I no longer have to manage the endless stream of paperwork that accompanies any administrative task. It also means I'll no longer have a mailbox at the church, I'll no longer be on the receiving end of those emails when Something Happens, and I won't get an invite to the annual Robert Burns party, featuring haggis and terrible poetry recitations.

I think we've had a great run. From the adult end -- my particular area of concern -- we've put together a Sunday morning program that has taken us through Biblical text, church traditions, and spiritual practices -- and this year, by popular demand, we're back on the Bible again. As folks learned more about the traditions and practices that mark Christian life, they started asking for a return to the Biblical foundation -- an unexpected and very cool development.

We've read and discussed books as a church -- C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, Charles Kimball's When Religion Becomes Evil, Jim Wallis's God's Politics. Charles Kimball came and spent a fall week-end with us, providing a community lecture, a Sunday morning adult education session, and a Sunday sermon. We've had small group Bible and spiritual practice groups, and men's and women's spirituality groups, and a small center for quiet spiritual reflection is up and running from Advent through Lent. Most of all that is the product of a large group of hardworking people and has little to do with me, but it's been a real pleasure to see our program grow and fill vacuums that we weren't even aware existed.

From a personal standpoint I've gotten to do one of the things I love most -- I had to make a resume last week and discovered as I surveyed my computer files that I have taught adult classes on Benedictine and Ignatian spirituality; the history of the church in America; hospitality as a response to pluralism; the practice of prayer and the practice of Sabbath-keeping, the text pertaining to Abraham, Hagar, Sarah and Sons as part of our look at the story from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim perspectives; and the Tamar story as part of our Advent series on the women in Matthew's genealogy. I've learned so much and had so much fun!

I've just finished writing the minutes from my last meeting and revising my section of the annual report that will go to our congregation later this month. I hate writing minutes, so I don't mind scratching that job from my list, but I am really going to miss this level of engagement with my congregation. And I am going to be sad when the next Session heads off in the snow for a retreat at the end of this month. I, alas, will be studying Greek.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Winter Energy

I had scheduled an interview today with a pastor whom I'd not met before to discuss internship possibilities for next year.

We talked for nearly three hours.

And then, totally wound up, I went down to the Big Lakefront to see what might be going on there.

And then I came home and played with my photos. I do miss this part of my life!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Winter, Late Afternoon

I sat in the stylist's chair and made small talk as she chopped through my hair, bringing shape to thick weight.

And I went to the coffee shop for a meeting and sat with my pastor and drank a hot chocolate with whipped cream or, rather, a whipped cream with hot chocolate, and discussed half a millenium of theological conundrums ~ or mysteries, as we prefer to call them ~ which was probably a different discussion from any of the others taking place there, although you never know.

And then I went to the Little Lakes to see what last night's storm had wrought, and a chickadee called through the cold.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I Would Rather Talk

Today I got to practice listening. And let me tell you that for sure I would rather talk. About myself.

Last night The Quiet Husband and I went to the same New Year's Eve party at the same house with the same friends that we have gone to for years and years. It's usually comfortable and relaxing and fun, but last night it soured for me almost immediately. No sooner had I walked in the door than one of our group, a woman to whom I am not particularly close, made a humorous remark to me which almost ~ but not quite ~ disguised the criticism that lay under the surface ~ as she had at her own Christmas Eve party a week earlier, and as she had at at another event we all attended a couple of months ago. (OK, I might have asked for that last one.) This particular holiday season has been a rough one for TQH and me, and the consequence of her veiled barb was an immediate sense of overwhelming exhaustion on my part. We left the party at 1:00, at least an hour before anyone else, pleading sleepiness and too much holiday activity.

I have my suspicions about why this particular woman is irritated by my presence these days. And I wanted to express myself on the topic, so I called another friend, and began with, "What's up with So-and-So?" Now mind you, I didn't really care what was up with her. I just wanted to whine about being misunderstood and verbally undermined and not being loved and adored in general.

But my friend didn't pick up on my neediness, and launched into a long and sad tale pertaining to the work- and adult child-related travails of the woman in question. And, no, I'm not being sarcastic when I reference the long and sad tale of travails -- she really is dealing with a stack of challenges, all with long-term implications and some unlikely to be resolved, not in this lifetime anyway.

I wasn't really listening all that well. The story got to be so long that I started checking emails. But I listened well enough to understand that her digs at me aren't really about me at all. I listened well enough to understand that my feeling sorry for myself was vastly out of proportion to the remarks made to me. And I listened well enough to have some idea of how I might express some empathy, should an appropriate occasion ever arise.

Most importantly, not once during the conversation did I succumb to the intense desire to explain why I had asked about her at all. I just listened and stored up information that will enable me to be more generous in the future.

So . . . listening? About putting a lid on self-centeredness and noticing what others are experiencing.

SO counterintuitive for me!