School has ended.
I am grateful.
I am grateful school has ended.
School has ended well.

Part of the graceful ending of my master’s program was an opportunity to record a “This I Believe” statement and have it played as I stood in the middle of the circle of faculty and classmates; each one a part of this transformational experience. The intent of the exercise was for each individual to be witnessed and celebrated at this journey end. Here is my statement:

This I believe…that each person has an eternal, spiritual essence that holds our deepest callings, purpose and desire for destiny.

I believe that creativity is birthed out of the place of spirit and that to nurture our spirit is to support our ability to do the unique and meaningful work that we are drawn to do.

I believe that that work is best supported when we recognize that every connection we have with people, places and things can be characterized as a relationship.

I believe that engaging our spirits in these relationships will bring the greatest satisfaction and deepest meaning to life.

January 12, 2010. The day the earthquake hit Haiti. This was also the day my cousins Laurel and Steve Rodd medevaced their son, Teddy, from Durango, CO to The Children’s Hospital in Denver, CO. Teddy’s health had been challenging over the last year and was thought to be a result of a soccer accident…but that first week of 2010 saw a steady decline in health that indicated something was terribly wrong and needed to be addressed NOW.

So was the beginning of the next chapter of the Rodd family’s story where Teddy,  age 10, was diagnosed with a brain tumor that grew from the middle of his back inside the spinal column up through the lower part of his brain.

The following excerpt is taken from Teddy Rodd’s public journal hosted at CaringBridge.org. This brilliant website allows family and friends to update information on loved ones during a serious health event. This particular journal has been updated by Teddy’s parents and other family and friends throughout the last four months. To date there have been 22, 483 visits from family and friends!

I read today’s entry by my cousin, Steve, Teddy’s dad, and was inspired to share his post here. Steve had an opportunity to get out of town for a short trip as well as shares about what community has meant to him and his family in these last months. May you be blessed in the reading as I was today…

Monday, May 10, 2010 2:26 PM, MDT

I was standing in the cool rain forest.  Eyes serenely closed. Palms face-up and outstretched soaking in the dripping moisture from the canopy above.  In the mean time, Teddy was soaking in Round Nine of the Chemo IV Drip at Children’s in Denver with Laurel.  A very distant memory.

A shimmering mountain stream danced its way through the boulders and lush foliage out to sea.  I’ve really never seen Matt scared.  All I could see were his eyes.  Big as saucers.  All I could hear was the ferocious black phantom crashing through the timber and Matt’s gargantuan Texas whoop.  Both sounds rudely interrupting my quiet meditation.  The bear was famished.  The whoop stopped him dead in his tracks.  He just woke up from hibernation to the scent of French pates and stinky cheeses strapped to our backs.  We slowly backed up.  Once the bear was out of sight all I could see was Matt’s back side.  I was fast on his heels.  The bear wasn’t about to get our lunch.

That bear will most assuredly grow in size as the years go by.  Tears will roll down our big fat cigars into our stout beers as we weep over how that fanged beast almost devoured our back sides and our most exquisite picnic lunch.

You may remember Matt.  He was one of the original founders and writers of Team Teddy’s blog.  He was also the one that you most likely talked to upon calling our mobile phones during that first week of fighting for Teddy’s life up at Children’s back in January.  Upon hearing about Teddy’s diagnosis, he and his wife, Denise, decided to put their lives on hold for a week.  Matt hopped on a plane to manage the chaos.  I still remember Matt taking our phones, making us sleep and sitting with us as Teddy was being taken apart piece by piece in surgery just one floor above.

He flew me to Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada.  We ferried across the inlet to Vancouver Island and made our way down a seemingly never ending gravel road to a small fishing village for three days.

Matt and Denise have once again put their lives on hold.  Gave me a break from cancer.

Rob, Karen and Caleb live just up the hill on the ranch.
We basically live together.  Our lives though have been forever intertwined since Teddy’s diagnosis.  They became junior high parents in the blink of an eye.  They put aside the “coolness factor” as aunt and uncle and became “mom and dad” to Nano and Allie for that first month while Teddy, Laurel and I were up at Children’s.  They continue to set aside their lives to care for our family that has became “their” family.  In the midst of all this, Rob just had major surgery on his spinal column.  There was a point when he and Teddy were actually comparing and borrowing stool and neuro pain meds.

Karen was recently feeding the horses.  Her car slipped out of gear.  Rolled down the hill picking up speed.  Karen in its sights.  The horses got spooked and jumped.  Just in time to warn Karen to dive out of the way.  It’s wasn’t head on, however the car clipped her and fractured her foot in multiple locations.  My heart skips a beat when I think of what could have happened.

No big deal, right, in light of a kid with a brain tumor?  Of course it’s a big deal.  It’s a huge deal.  Matt and Denise still have three very young children of their own with significant ongoing needs.  Rob and Karen are still trying to figure out how to deal with major surgery and horse feedings that turn into multiple fractures.

So many have put their lives on hold for us since Teddy’s January 12th diagnosis.  They’ve given of their time and resources to the point where it actually hurts.  It costs them something of great value.  Dear friends and family took turns flying in to Children’s during that first month to help care for Teddy.  I can still see Uncle Scott and Auntie Anne tenderly feeding, dressing and lifting Teddy that second post-op week.

So many have ferried us back and forth to Denver since then.  Taken on our kids and countless critters in our absence despite the ongoing needs of their own families.  Meals and checks mysteriously show up on our doorstep.  We return from our weekly Children’s trips to a thoroughly cleaned home…and folded laundry.  It’s a strange thought to think that people are actually rifling through my underwear.

Our lives have been stopped dead in our tracks.  Put on hold.  Ripped open.  Exposed.  Personal privacy is a distant memory.

We’ve discovered community.

Transparent.  Raw.  Imperfect.  Beautiful.  Sharing till it hurts community.

Teddy’s cancer has ushered us naked, broken and completely dependent into community.

We’re discovering though that our lives really haven’t been “put on hold” or “set aside”.

This is life.

Every excruciating moment of these last four months that can feel wasted is life well spent.  I’ve never been more physically available and emotionally present with my wife and kids.  We’ve never experienced God’s hand in such stark detail through the loving hands and feet of caring people.

One hundred forty-two orange and green squares of Durango community prayers and smiles keep Teddy warm at night.  The one hundred forty-third square is burgundy with the inscription “Love, Daddy”.  It’s from one of my oldest shirts that Matt and Denise had bought me years ago.  Perfect time and place to retire the worn burgundy fabric.  It’s at the top of the quilt close to his face.

Teddy successfully finished Round Ten of Chemo this past Wednesday up at Children’s.  It was my turn to take him back up.  Getting really good at timing the numbing cream for his chest port poke.  One hour before the appointment we pull over to the side of the road to apply the cream.  We cover it with the Glad Press N’ Seal.  Not too much, otherwise it hurts too much when they pull it off.  Teddy can pretty much do it himself now.  They then access the port, draw his blood and test it to make sure that his little white soldier count is high enough for chemo.

Thirty-Four Rounds of Chemo to go.

We just experienced our first two weeks with no major crisis since January 12th.  PT is going great once a week.  We also take him to PE at school twice a week to be with his buddies.  Last PE he whacked the t-ball and surprised us all by running the bases for a home-run.  He loves, Kelly, his dining room tutor.  Teddy actually looks forward to his two hours of home school twice a week.  The rest of his week is pretty much spent at Children’s.

His little white soldier count has remained high enough for chemo.  No more allergic reactions.  The burning pain is under control.  Appetite decent.  Weight constant.  His hair has even started to grow a bit.  It’s coming back in dark brown.  He still rarely parts with the cool orange Turtle Fur lid that Uncle Rob bought him up at Purgatory.  It usually follows him to bed every night.

Teddy:
You mean I don’t have to get chemo this week?  Woohoo!

Daddy:
We still have to go back up to Children’s though.

Teddy:
Oh.

Daddy:
Maybe the last time for six weeks if all goes well.

He smiles.

Laurel, Teddy and I will head back up the rifle barrel to Children’s in just a few days for another MRI and a multi clinic consultation with his pediatric neuro oncology and rehab docs.  It’s typically a seven hour trip each way with fun drinks and snacks.  Books on CD have become dear friends.  Nano and Allie will once again move up the hill to Rob and Karen’s in our absence.  It’s Nano’s last full week of junior high.

So how do we feel?

Numb.

Grateful.

Exhausted beyond ridiculous.

Trying not to think too much about what’s around the corner.

Maybe wishing there were another way to experience community.

Back on the ranch we observed in shock the annual castration of the bull calves.  Wasn’t aware that their meaty donations are a culinary delight here in the Southwest.  Anybody for some Rocky Mountain oysters?  Apparently they taste like chicken…

Steve, Teddy’s Dad

//

Have you ever heard a song play on your radio, ipod, record player, etc. that was just what you wanted or needed to hear? Its a magic moment, when synchronicity shows her face and you know once again you are not insignificant but part of a bigger picture or story that matters. I had that magic moment today…my iPhone “creative” playlist was going and the song “Heaven” by Paul Wright came on. My attention was drawn to the most memorable line of the song “we don’t need long hair forever, no, no…” Now, I’d been thinking the last couple days that it was time for a haircut – hence the magic moment when I heard my favorite line. Yes! It is time for a haircut, and I’ll even do it myself I’m so inspired (no joke, LOL)!

And yet, before I could get out the scissors, my latent curiosity took over and I decided it would be a good idea to look up the lyrics to this song. I mean, I’d made up a story in my head on why this line could be in a song about heaven but I wanted to see all the lyrics to get the real picture. So to google I went.

Lo and behold! There wasn’t anything about long hair, short hair, or any kind of hair in the lyrics of this song! Instead I read “we don’t belong here forever, no, no…” Huh. I listened to the song again and there it was, I could finally hear the original intent of the song and could also see how I had misconstrued the words because of how they were sung.

Now what? My incorrect view of the song had created an alternate universe for a wonderfully magic moment. For me, that still exists and I am going to cut my hair. And, at the same time I now see and hear the original intent of the song and now hold a new meaning for what this song is about. I’ve read the lyrics and have a new appreciation for the song writer. I also have spent some time thinking about heaven and what I think it will be like, what I hope it will be like. This, then has provided some more magic moments for me.

I’m reminded of how I, and I dare say others, have made meaning out of what we have seen and heard in our lives that has served us very well. These ways of seeing or interpreting life can be called mental models:

“Mental models are deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures or images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action.” The Fifth Discipline, The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Senge, (Doubleday: 1990) (from http://www.pimaregionalsupport.org/systems/glossary.htm)

These mental models can also be skewed or incorrect as illustrated by my own story. My hair example is a “light” version of some of the mental models I have had. Some more deeply ingrained ones have been much more challenging to not only define but to examine and/or change. I’ll save these for some later posts.

For now, I hope you enjoyed the story and you’ve had a chance to think about a few of your own ways of seeing the world that have provided humor and laughter in your life. This story today had me cracking up enough to inspire me to write this blog post. :)

For you curious types here are the lyrics for Paul Wright’s song “Heaven”:

Heaven
Right around the corner
I want to know what it’s like to be in heaven
Looking back on my life having answers to my questions
Cuz we don’t belong here forever
No no we don’t belong here

And we’ll be dancing, singing, bringing our praise
By lifting our voices to Jesus
There’ll be no more crying, lying or dying when you and I are in heaven
I want to know what it’s like to live forever
Embraced by the light of knowing you better Lord
Cuz we don’t belong here forever no no we don’t belong here
We we we gonna be dancing, singing,
Lifting our voices to Jesus
Take me home
I want to go home
I want to be in heaven just singing and dancing and praising and living forever
© 2005 Gotee Records

I’m off to go cut my hair…wish me luck!

Update (2.5 hrs later): Mission accomplished!

//

New Years is my absolute favorite holiday! I love starting a new, fresh year that is like a giant white canvas…clean and ready for new strokes of color and new lines of definition. It has been my practice the last decade or so to make sure to have a meaningful transition heading into the new year which has included IHOP onething conferences, hanging out with friends or family, or even working on fun, creative projects as what transpired this past New Years.

An interesting twist to this New Years was something that inserted itself into my consciousness about two weeks before the turn of the year. A thought came that was something like “forgive everyone before year end.” I loved this idea as I’ve experienced the freedom forgiveness can bring when I release offenses and expectations of people that are hindering my love for them…I’ve even applied this forgiveness to myself. Although I try to be conscious and intentional of this, I know there are times I forget and do not realize or am unwilling to acknowledge when I’m holding something against others.

So, I was willing…and its amazing how it still took a week to actually get to it. I had pulled a booklet off my bookshelf to read to ready my heart called The Importance of Forgiveness by John Arnott and finally started to read. I had only gotten to about page two when it hit…my first one to forgive came to mind. Spiders. Yes, you read that right…spiders. Now this may seem very bizarre and ridiculous to you but I knew exactly what it meant for me…

Spiders are my friends?

Growing up I had been very allergic to bug bites, bee stings, etc. My childhood holds lots of memories of Elixir of Benadryl which at one point may have even saved my life. One memory is of me at about age seven or eight walking in the dusk down a sidewalk with my parents. There was a tree stump next to the sidewalk and as I was not walking fully on the sidewalk I tripped over an exposed root I had not seen and fell onto the stump. My leg started to itch almost immediately and by the time we had walked to the car, where we were headed, and got home my leg was quite swollen. At that point I was able to see the tell tale signs of a spider bite. Even with the Benadryl it was a few days before I could wear my knee socks again because they could not be pulled up over my swollen calf. This memory is one of many but the one that has stayed in my mind as my reason for not liking spiders…and mosquitoes, and bees…all of whom I have been a victim.

Isn’t that funny, as an adult I can see that bugs are just a part of nature and they weren’t “out to get me” as it were. Yet, in my heart as a child I was constantly having to be on the alert and deal with the consequences of these small members of creation bringing pain and discomfort. As I sat in the living room thinking back over the history I’ve had with spiders I forgave them and released them from all that I was holding against them. I then realized there was an invitation in that moment for me to have a new relationship with spiders. One based not on fear but on respect for another member of creation. I also realized something else…that I had been holding a bigger offense against nature in general. Who knew? My relationship with nature as an adult has always had a “once removed” element to it. This is not to say I haven’t spent time in nature as I’ve had my share of adventures and primitive living. No, it was more about my heart connection with nature…a realization that even when I had tried, I was not able to commune consistently with nature in the ways I had yearned for.

Why? I was afraid of being hurt. Just like those bug bites as a child had seemed so big and dangerous at the time, my view of their power and impact had not changed even though I had mostly grown out of those allergies. So the time has come for a fresh start in 2010 with my relationship not only with spiders but with nature and the natural world. I’m very excited about this and am looking forward to getting to know and commune with creation this year.

What about you? Is there someone or something you need to forgive for the sake of your own freedom and joy this year? Even if its small and “silly” like spiders it might be the key to unlocking your heart for something beautiful to happen this year. Go for it…its worth it! Let it go

“Love is what creating is about.” So wrote Robert Fritz as he describes the creative process in his book “Creating.” Ascribing love as a generative force, Fritz invites his readers to not only recognize the process of creating as a tool, but to step into a lifestyle of creating and so experience life at its essence. According to Fritz, the act of creating builds energy, which in turn builds momentum, which in turn renews energy, which continues an energetic flow that is renewable.

Fritz separates the creative process into nine consecutive elements:

  1. Conception – one begins to consider what to create and experiments with ideas;
  2. Vision – a specific idea is identified, many times through brainstorming;
  3. Current reality – identify what I currently have in relationship to the vision, this is where structural tension is born;
  4. Take action – begin creative process, learn by doing, experiment;
  5. Adjust-learn-evaluate-adjust – creating is a skill that is accumulative;
  6. Building momentum – organizing actions to build momentum, comes with experience;
  7. Always have a place to go – creates a dynamic that focuses time, energy and direction;
  8. Completion – often acceleration of energy and actions, final decisions, declaring that creation is complete, direct energetic momentum towards next project; and
  9. Living with your creation – develop a new relationship with creation, from creator to audience.

These elements are experienced in an active way where creators take risks, experiment, and learn by doing.

In a collaborative arena, Fritz also points out that creative teams need a clear vision if they are to be successful in creating. When the clear vision is absent, this is most likely a symptom of a simple truth: the individuals, and therefore the group itself, do not know how to create. They were never trained. To think that it could be this simple blows my mind as I would love to have this kind of job.

Notes based on: Fritz, R. (1991). Creating. New York: Fawcett Columbine.

The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:

A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.

To them… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.

Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off…

They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating.

Pearl Buck (1892-1973)

Who knew that organizational theory could be so interesting? Alive? Mysterious? Adventurous?

It all started with a book. A very thick book at that. Gareth Morgan’s “Images of Organization,” a seminal work on organizational theory,  sat dauntingly on my shelf for a while before I finally had the chutzpah to pick it up and read. Once I opened its pages, I was captured by a central idea that was both inspiring and amazing: organizational theories are metaphors in disguise. I say “disguise” because it seems like org theory’s presence in the world shows up more as stiff, starchy, boring, dry, somber, deep, intellectual, and elusive than alive and relevant. At least to those of us who have not tread these strange waters before.

But the deed was done. The book was opened. The pages pulling me forward into a new world that was strange and yet so familiar. How could this be? You mean, metaphors with their picturesque capacity to bring life to any concept was the “stuff” of theories? A lens that captures an idea about how organizations can work, function, communicate, produce and be in the world?

I learned that org theories are like colored glasses. Each theory views organizations through a different premise or perspective or lens. When the different pairs of glasses are worn, one can see different pictures or patterns of organizations. These pictures are metaphors. For example, one organizational theory is cultural theory. When organizations are viewed through cultural “glasses,” one sees the diversity of people, or lack thereof, the norms that have been established in the org, the obvious, and not so obvious, ways the org communicates, the underlying assumptions of “how things are done around here,” and so much more.

Another metaphor for viewing orgs is systems theory. This pair of glasses reveals the connectedness that each part of the org has to the whole. This holistic view notices that when action is taking place in one part of the system, the whole system is affected. These glasses reveal patterns that take place over time and also recognize the parts and players of organizations that can be invisible to other metaphors.

So where does the adventure come in? The adventure awakens by the looking for hidden (and not so hidden) treasures that can be found in each organization. Each org has a unique dna, history, culture, etc. that is complex and full of mystery. Each org runs by a set of theories/metaphors that is both conscious and unconscious. By using metaphor as a tool to help identify current org ways as well as desired outcomes, a rich path of discovery is opened up.

I’m reminds of the movie “National Treasure.” In the movie, Ben Gates is following clues that are supposed to lead to a huge treasure. Along the way he comes across some peculiar glasses that have multiple, adjustable  lenses, with each lens a different color. To be able to see the whole map and find the treasure, Ben had to view the map through the glasses…adjusting which lenses he looked through as each lens showed only a portion of the full map. In the same way, to fully see the complex dance of any org, we will need multiple pairs of glasses/metaphors/theories to see the complex levels and layers of that org.

So what do you think of organizational theory now? What about metaphors? Are you curious to learn more? If you start looking for them, you’ll find them in the most interesting places. Let me know what you discover!

P.S. How many metaphors were used in this post? What are some more metaphors that represent the way we view organizations?

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