Posted by: MC | April 27, 2014

NEW BLOG — thanks for coming along with me

wired technology 2

Hey dear followers of ~~

As of April 4, I’ve had a new blog with WordPress.  I’m finally understanding that YOU DON’T NECESSARILY KNOW THIS.

So, here’s the address — really addresseS —

to the blog:

to this week’s post:

and to the … NEW … website:

Looking for any feedback,. response, ideas, guidance, encouragement, correction you might have.  And, thanks for following in the past.


Posted by: MC | February 1, 2014

February 1 – Re-imagining Underway

Wedding flowers en route: Paradise Valley  1-14-14 mmc

February.  The love month.  The month my skin has historically hit its most green (being of “olive” complexion – or so I’ve been told).  The shrimpy month perhaps made so out of some vague attempt compensate the rutheless grind mid-winter in the northern hemisphere can present whether rainy in Portland, sub-zero in eastern Montana or, this year, astonishingly dry in California and wildly cold where my Mama lives in Georgia.

It was February, 2009 when I set out on my first EX:Change roadtrip.  A few weeks earlier, this blog had its beginning and, with a break between the end of the first trip and the beginning of 2010, offered itself as a weekly exercise.  As much as the trip, the book 100 Voices – Americans Talk about Change and the listening at the center of both, these blog entries have given a place for me to be in change alongside all of you.

Now it’s February 2014 – a month that finds me in another time of enormous change.  In that, a lot of re-imagining is going on.  In particular, re-Imagining my work life.  Re-imagining to maximize its vitality and service.  It’s really quite a cool thing to get to do in the middle of a life (terrifying as it feels at times). Read More…

Posted by: MC | December 30, 2013

On the Cusp of 2014 – Change and What Endures

pretty much self-explanatory  12/27/2013

Soon the calendar will shift for another roll through dates, through seasons and all the moments we have no way of knowing from here.  Each of us lives in our own contagion of this following that.  The unavoidable change that is living itself can sometimes feel unnerving — or at least the anticipation of it, the impossibility I already mentioned of knowing completely any change before it happens.

I’ve been writing this blog since January of 2009 when I first took off driving the highways of this country to listen to everyday Americans speak about change.  It was the first 100 days of the first Obama administration and both the word and the idea were elevated in national attention.  Over those 100 days I listened to people from across the wide span of diversity — an array that finally defines life itself and that most certainly defines the ongoing experiment that is America (here’s the link to the re-released podcast series).

The experiment has not ceased.  Change has persisted, too.  One thing that has endured is that we still can’t know with any precision what will come next.

Here in my life, there have been rivers of change, just like in yours.  I’ve changed career (ouch), aged (again), learned a new landscape (half of my time is in Montana these days), and most astounding here in the big middle of a lifetime, I’m about to change marital status having sustained the enormous miracle of meeting my soon-to-be husband, Gary Ferguson.

Over the past five years, I’ve made a practice of keeping the focus of this blog on change as I observe and can describe it.  Throughout I’ve kept the acute awareness that mine is only one of many ways to see the world.  In support of listening and the discussion, I’ve also left out most of the change here most locally — that is, what I’m living with and through.  It’s a choice I’ll continue making — mostly — because issues and opportunities can be cluttered — can be fogged up with too many links with “oh, that reminds me of this story about my life.”

Nonetheless, today I wanted you to know a bit more about me and change.  Here on the cusp of 2014 I’m feeling thankful once again for the early interaction I had in those 100 days of 2009 with Mr. Nick Minnis (voice 08, 100 Voices – Americans Talk about Change).  It was in our conversation that Mr. Minnis taught me that my credibility as a listener rests on a crucial variable — my willingness to show up to the dialogue, to speak in exchange, at least a bit, of my own experiences and ideas.

Back in January of 2009, Mr. Minnis was taking a day off.  He was reading the paper and drinking coffee in a Starbucks on East Burnside in Portland.  I hadn’t attempted the initiation of a conversation about change with a stranger.  Mr. Minnis was the perfect  person to guide me across that threshold. Read More…

Posted by: MC | December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas to All

Christmas Eve, 2013, RL, MT  mmc

…and to All a Good Night.

With gratitude and finest possible wishes to each of you ~

–Red Lodge, MT

Posted by: MC | December 7, 2013

<500 words to honor our Elder, Nelson Mandela

Thank you.

This week I had the distinctly privileged new millennium opportunity to sit in a microbrewery with a web design specialist.  “Websites are, at best, for linking good minds in support of human community and the planet we humans share.”  I knew I liked her.  Somewhere in the mix I asked about blog length (you who follow EX:Change know mine can be lloonngg).  She said, “Max 500 words.”  I was impressed.  I’m giving it a try.

My subject is one that may never be fully described with words.  Maybe none can, but the global outpouring in response to the death and precious lifetime of Nelson Mandela is certainly evidence of both the desire to speak and its inevitable inadequacy.

Here, and in honor of this man who will never cease teaching, I use the words I can find to reflect some of what Mandela’s life teaches me.

  • There are never words to suffice, but try to speak your inviolable brilliance with the best clarity you can muster.
  • Always show up.
  • Attend to what has heart and meaning.
  • Listen.
  • Dare to get over yourself (use your ego, but do not get trapped in being it).
  • Live your truth.
  • Be humble enough to know that your best truth will do two things.  It will remain constant and it will change over time.
  • Laugh (with and not at).
  • Listen again.
  • Love knowing that love requires the same humility as truth.
  • Lead with the health and integrity of all people as your only goal.
  • Give up expectations that everyone will see things your way.
  • Be open to persuasion (see truth and love above).
  • Allow yourself to be noble.
  • Generosity is possible in every circumstance.
  • So are gratitude, creativity, perseverance and wisdom.
  • Be of service.
  • Take every next step – even when you are afraid.
  • Courage is among your birthrights.  See the courage in showing up every day to your life.  You’ve done it since you were born but haven’t really noticed.
  • Notice.
  • Cruelty solves nothing.
  • Every person you meet is a teacher.
  • See each one.
  • Refuse to allow compromise to the rights of any one.
  • Spread joy.
  • Be clear – firm when necessary.
  • Be fully human.
  • Nothing can take away your beauty – your value.
  • Take good care of each other.
Posted by: MC | November 26, 2013

Neuroplasticity and Gratitude

Thanksgiving 2013 mmc

I was never much of a fan of talk about the biological bases of behavior.  Already in the mid 80’s, there were innovative graduate programs popping up to explore brain-based treatments more nuanced than conventional treatments like ECT, Labotomy and psychotropic medication.

Nonetheless, I remained decidedly a proponent of the nurture side of things.  This bias came in large part from working with kids in schools and seeing the folly, and really the “Big Brother” danger, in any notion of changing kids from their brain chemistry out.  I knew I couldn’t get inside a child’s skull and rewire neurons. By extension, I was a warrior for preventing the abusive intrusion of anyone wishing to try.  I will never be ok with kids being subject to chemical sedation or any other neurological intervention for adults’ convenience.

However.  Yes.  However.  There really have been some amazing and, for me, astonishingly positive developments in neuropsychological research in recent years.  Today I’m thinking particularly of Dan Siegal’s work on interpersonal neuroplasticity, especially as it relates to my favorite holiday.

Thanksgiving arises from retelling of circumstances surrounding two primary acts.  Both are well known in American lore.  There was the generosity of people indigenous to the East Coast of this continent, and there was the survival of European people who ventured from their homelands to these lands with few resources and little relevant skill.  The stories can be told very badly and the euphemized racism and arrogance of the Thanksgiving tales populating my memory demand responsible criticism.

Still, for me the day remains remarkable in largest part because of its potential.  Thanksgiving arrives every year with the possibility of being reclaimed as a day simply for being grateful.

The overlap with neurology?  If Siegal is right – and his data combined with the studies replicating his findings indicate he likely is – we affect one another’s ways of knowing and being just by thinking near each other.  I leave all of that for you to check out and know I have lots more to ask and explore about this idea.

But here’s the deal.  If we do have the capacity for affecting one another by the way we think, a day of gratitude – real gratitude far away from habits of ‘me first’ thinking – can only enhance the capacity we all have for being grateful.

Great saints and sages of all time have lived and taught that gratitude is right next to kindness – both are the reliable seeds of peace and wellbeing.

Think of it.  A day of gratitude that affects how we all function – individually and collectively – toward peace and wellbeing.  There may be cynical opposition to such a thing, but from what I’ve heard around this country, peace and wellbeing are the thing.  We’d rather get along than not, and a day of real thanks, when all our neurons bathe in gratitude, sure seems a step in the right direction.

Central Coast Range, CA  1-2013  mmc

Ok — From Fracking the past two weeks to wasps.  Tipping my hand here:  I find myself thinking of the former at the causal edge of ongoing climate degradation while the latter live on the continuous curve of the climate’s changes.  That, of course, places wasps in the company of all breathing and otherwise animate things (like people, rivers, pine cones, lentils …).

In particular, wasps have been on my mind because of the one from a swarm that burst forth from beneath a dormant lavender bush.  Their home had been unknowingly rocked with the resolute leaf removal effort of my raking buddy.  He let out three sharp yelps spaced according to the moment of three stings from the swarm.  I took off toward the street with one of the frightened beings was trapped in my hood.  I didn’t know it was there until it cut loose on the front of my neck just to the right of my wind pipe.  Ouch.  And now, in the wake, I’m sporting a charmingly brontosaurus-like neck line that itches alternately like wild fire and an enormous sneeze that won’t happen.

There is evidence that some wasp populations are dropping (e.g., the fig wasp — thus threatening the yield of fig crops) and others are growing — in both numbers and aggressiveness.  The attribution is changes in the climate, particularly overall milder temperatures in wasp habitats.  That symptom of climate change is, today, annoying and itchy but could easily becomes dangerous (like the million wasp hive — 6 ft X 8 ft — found this past summer on private land in Central Florida).

There is, however, far more urgent evidence of climate change — REALLY.  WE MUST GET THIS.  Evidence in the lives lost to unseasonal and brutal tornadoes this week in the U.S. midwest on the heels of the horror and growing casualties of the Philippines typhoon.

This week at the Warsaw Climate Change Conference, the evidence is coming into stark focus as voices from the poorest and most economically and politically oppressed communities of the world are uniting to demand attention.  Their message is painfully clear.   With vast disproportion, the land upon which they live is hit by lethal weather events.

So what will it be?  What will it take for the people of power and access to admit and act immediately to correct our increasingly dangerous climate?  And no less urgent — when will those of us who consider ourselves to be just part of the masses LISTEN to the data and to the unspeakably aggrieved people of these horrible and increasingly frequent weather events?  What will it take for us to demand action by our leaders — public, corporate, religious?

Marilyn Hudson asks that question in her interview on fracking (last week’s blog).  Harold Gattensby asks that question when he lifts his voice and arms calling us all to our stewardship and into our vast relationship with each other.

Then there are the models, very few, of how we can more — of how we are not stuck.  Models like that offered by the 72 Alaska Native Tribes and Canada First Nations who devote themselves in unified coalition and as individual communities acting toward their goal of drinking from the Yukon River in 50 years time.

We are not at all powerless here.

What will you do today to listen?  What will you do to act — locally — right in the middle of your life?  Individually and in affiliation — in coalition?

People are dying — the animals and land and water are stressed.  But these are only words and my neck itches.  And that is the point.  It is from here in the comfort of time to write a blog — time to whine about a wasp sting — from here that I and any of you reading must each take our next step.

You know where you have influence.  Use it.  Matters of our air and water and land are simply matters of life and death.

This is where we are.

Today is Veteran’s Day.  Today we honor people who have placed their lives on the line to recover peace.

Per Capita, more Native Americans serve in the U.S. military than any other ethnic group.  In recent data out of the Department of Defense (2010) the contrast shows up in the fact that while Native Americans make up 1.4% of the total U.S. population, they compose 1.7% of the country’s military.  Over 20% of Native American men and women over 18 join the military and 90% have been volunteers.  This has been the case across U.S. history.

Across Indian Country, these warriors are profoundly honored – all year round and especially today.

Now, for a shift of focus.  The warrior tradition is deep in Native American tradition.  Here on Veteran’s Day two things seem vital.  First, that we never forget the generosity of all service people.  Second, that we take responsibility ourselves — in or out of military service — for the peace and well being of our land and communities.

Last week I posted a conversation out of Montana.  This week, I’m asking that all of us take very seriously the task of informing ourselves about the explosive development of the technology of Fracking.  Here on Veteran’s day, I offer this brief and important example of how we may listen and be in dialogue to restore peace to the environment as well as the economy.  Mandan-Hidatsa Elder Marilyn Hudson provides that model along with balanced reflection of the interests involved.

Please watch this video and learn.  And keep finding ways to listen and to step forward in service to peace and well being.

Posted by: MC | November 5, 2013

Fracking — Any Hope of Listening Here?

Hell? or North Dakota? This satellite photos shows the magnitude of oil development in the Bakken field (outlined in red) previously one of the the Lower 48's most sparsely inhabited places. The lights you see are not towns but flares from oil wells. Projections suggest this development will triple? quadruple? or more.

Hell? or North Dakota? This satellite photos shows the magnitude of oil development in the Bakken field (outlined in red) previously one of the the Lower 48’s most sparsely inhabited places. The lights you see are not towns but flares from oil wells. Projections suggest this development will triple? quadruple? or more.

NOTE:  Here’s a brief statement by a conservation writer and a response from a person with another opinion.  Both are residents of the same area of Montana.  My question to myself – to all of us – is how can these two people listen to one another?  How can they be in conversation toward some level of understanding – even action?  Is it possible?

And before I leave you to read their words, consider this.  The man in the first section leans toward a more progressive political identity, the woman in the second comment leans toward a more conservative political identity.  However, the man’s position emphasizes local control and the woman’s position emphasizes reasoning that she sees as more beneficial across the communities of this country.  Each of these positions is more typical of the other’s political tendencies.

So, what do you hear?  What would your ideas be for bringing these two people into dialogue?      –mc

[a note on the photo follows these comments] Read More…

Posted by: MC | October 30, 2013

Ode to a Street Gentleman

Home  10-2013 mmc

This is a repost of a blog from New Year’s Day, 2011.  That day I wrote about a man named Bill who I haven’t seen now for over two years.  He’d be 68 by now.  The street people around here who know him haven’t seen him or heard anything.  I’ll keep asking, but all of us have the feeling Bill’s life may have passed.  I’m spending lots of time considering house and home these days, so offering this Ode feels just right. 

January 1, 2011

I live in a house that was built in 1898.  It’s my home.  And it’s home to my daughter, even as she lives her new and bountiful adult life 6000 miles away for now.

I’ve been paying on my mortgage for 9 years now.  I’m one of the lucky ones for whom timing and other circumstances have made “ownership” possible.  I love my home.

There is a man.  A white man who lives his life on the street.  He is 67 years old and has been living his days behind a grocery cart for 40 years.  His name is Bill.  I know this because for 12 years, now, we’ve been exchanging small waves and smiles and, after the first two years or so, words.

Bill smokes found cigarettes.  A few summers ago when he came by the house for the bottles.  I said, “Can you wait for a little lunch?”  He nodded.  I ducked in the house and in a few minutes brought him one in the ongoing series of tortillas wrapped around beans and melted mozzarella that dot the years.  Bill and I can go months without crossing paths.

I handed him the wrap.  “Bill.  Do you have teeth?” I asked  “Nope.”  “Can you eat this stuff?”  “Sometimes.”  “So, what keeps your body going?”  “Hops.”  “You mean beer?”  “Yeah.”  “Woah.  How long have you been on that diet?”  “Since I was 27.”  That’s when I asked his age.  “65.”  With that, he smiled and was on his way.  We had just set the world record for length of conversations with Bill.  He doesn’t say much.

Here’s the story I want to tell today – New Years day in 2011 – a day our country is aching with loss and fear – especially around shelter, around the ability to provide for our families, for ourselves.

In these days, Bill and I have had another conversation.

Not long ago, Bill mentioned to my neighbor David that he had spent his early childhood living in the house that is now “mine.”  In the mid 1940’s his grandmother owned three houses:  mine on the corner, David’s to the north and the one just behind me to the east.  Wow. Read More…

Posted by: MC | October 22, 2013

One Change Leader — My Mama

Mary Alice Kemp, 2009

There it was – the enormous stack of mail that comes from being away from home for awhile.  Daunting as it seems, it’s always possible, even curious, to riffle through – separating the “must attend to this” ones from the far more plentiful immediate candidates for the recycling bin.  In a way that has become exceptional and continues a bit thrilling, there was a hand addressed envelope from a real person — this time, my mom.

In the envelope was one of her characteristically humble, downplaying, but still justifiably pleased notes atop a clipping (remember clippings?) from the Decatur, GA City News.  The news story was brief, filling the space next to a photo of my mom holding a plaque.  She was being honored for her service on the Decatur Housing Authority Board of Commissioners.  Ever since Bush Sr. formed the Resolution Trust Corporation to address the savings & loan crisis, my mom has been devoted to the ample provision of affordable and workforce housing.  The volunteer Housing Authority post she chose to leave this fall was one she’d taken on at the close of her two terms as an elected City Commissioner — fulfilling both of these city roles in her 60’s and 70’s.  My mom is awesome.

I’m confident this won’t be the only time I’ll write about the influence this woman has had on me, our family and relatives, and more people than I can likely imagine. I’m writing today because I along with very many of us, I suspect, can use the inspiration.  My mother’s service to her community is true civic service — clean and wise and supportive politics.  It’s more common than we know, and in that, it’s more possible than we believe.

My love and kudos to my mother, as ever — and my great relief in seeing that she is not along.  There truly are Elders among us, teaching us how to age and how to lead from the wisdom of living.  There is little more valuable – and little more steadfast when it comes to finding our way together in this earthly reality of human community – particularly since we and the generations to come totally rely on it.

WWII Veterans - US Medic and SS POW

[NOTE:  Viral Video from title —]

[later NOTE:  It’s 10-16 around 10:00 PST — the headlines I see say it’s over.  This is a relief.  Now the clean-up starts.  And, by way of apology for any implication that furloughed Federal workers were not experiencing significant financial and professional stress (but rather were only on “paid vacation”), I offer this link to the real stories of real people — all Federal employees severely harmed over the past 2 1/2 weeks.  –mc]

…Oh, Facebook.

You love it, you hate it and there it is — a sometimes sweet way of connecting with people you care about and hardly ever see (or hardly even know).  No matter the spin on social media and your experience with it, the virtual interaction can’t avoid being public and it can’t avoid being one very rich chronicle of the cascading stream of public (and sometimes way too private) experience and opinion.

So, here we are in the United States — together in a country whose government is shut down.  Really?  What possibly can that mean?

Of course, it matters who you ask — and the people most horribly slammed by the decisions of our Federal leadership have little or no access to facebook or this blog.  That’s part of what makes it way easy not to see effects.  This is particularly so if you’ve still got your job or if you’re pretty assured (but not totally) as a Federal employee that you’re in the middle of a paid vacation.  The legislation of back pay (which I support) alongside this shutdown (which I really do not) is particularly difficult to understand in the days of leadership shouting about the national deficit and what seems an almost rote fixation on cutting taxes and spending — both of which are directly necessary to funding back pay as well as to repairing the considerable and mounting physical and programmatic problems that are building daily like uncollected garbage.

With citizens having limited sense that our elected Federal officials are listening to we-the-people, one place discussion is happening is in the social media.  Here’s an example — the original comment and responses to a friend’s facebook post of this video of a WWII veteran. Read More…

Older Posts »