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Jim's blog

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Location: Osterville, Massachusetts, United States

I am a professor at Cape Cod Community College and and a member of a Buddhist order. After a 30-year career as a newspaper reporter and editor I became a full-time professor in 2001. I am the author of the textbooks "The Elements of News Writing" and "The Elements of Academic Writing." I enjoy running, hiking and camping. I have two grown sons and two grandchildren.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

More mindfulness

I am still processing the lessons I learned at yesterday's Day of Mindfulness. I think the biggest single lesson I learned is that when I feel anger toward someone it may help to look with compassion at the person toward whom I am directing my anger. Last Wednesday I had a big argument with one of my closest friends at the college. It looked like the end of a 20-year friendship. But now I am able to see it as an opportunity to better understand his pain and suffering. He may be a sad and lonely old man covering up his loneliness with a lot of bluster. I am working on converting my anger into compassion. It makes me feel much better.
Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a beautiful book called The Miracle of Mindfulness. http://www.parallax.org/cgi-bin/shopper.cgi?preadd=action&key=BOOKMOM
It truly is a miracle.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Day of Mindfulness

Our sangha today held a Day of Mindfulness, which is essentially a one-day retreat. People gathered from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. for meditation and related activities. We had walking and sitting meditation, a silent meal, a dharma talk by a wonderful teacher, Joanne Friday, and some singing too.
I had been very concerned and worried that it would not go well. I was worried that nobody would show up, or only a handful of people. I would have been embarrassed to invite Joanne to come all the way from Rhode Island for just a few people. But it turned out just fine. We had about 35 people, and they reported having a very good time. I am so relieved.
The quality and wisdom of the teachings is what make the whole thing work.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Tired Thursday

9:30 p.m. Thursday: I didn't sleep well last night. I ended up skipping my whole morning routine and sleeping in until 8 a.m. It's funny, but several of my colleagues reported doing similar things. I think Wednesday was emotionally draining for a lot of folks at the college. We had some very contentious meetings. I plan to stay up and watch "Commander in Chief" this evening and go to bed at 11. I know I need my sleep, but I want to see that show.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Back On Track (sort of)

8 a.m Wednesday: I ran three miles again this morning. It was a little hard for me this morning. I don't know why. But pushing myself has to be good for me. I am proud of myself for running every day. Unfortunately I am not meditating, writing, or doing yoga or weights. So much to do; so little time.

We passed a husband and wife out walking their dogs. She had fluffy white hair and a puffy white coat. She was walking two little poodles with fluffy white hair and puffy white coats. Her husband was very sad and sour looking with big jowls hanging down, he was walking -- you guessed it -- a basset hound. After we passed them Vivi and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. I can't believe how much those dogs looked like their owners. It was hilarious. I hope we see them again.

Running: 3 miles

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Back to work

8 a.m. Tuesday: It's back to work after a long Patriots Day weekend. I have been running almost every day. I did three miles with Vivian on Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday. And I ran about five miles with Alison on Saturday. Of course I overate like a glutton on Sunday, so I need to run even more.
Running 3 miles

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Missed Four More

9 p.m. Saturday: Things have just gotten too darn busy. I know things will settle down a lot when the semester ends in early May. The good news is that I have been running a lot more. I ran with Vivi every morning this week, and then Alison and I did a Saturday morning run. I feel like that bad bout of bronchitis is finally behind me.

Spiritually, I met with the three aspirants who are planning our Day of Mindfulness Saturday, and I feel confident the day will work out fine.

And at work, the president has forwarded my name to the Board of Trustees for tenure. That will be a nice pat on the back.

I wish everyone peace in this time of rebirth and renewal.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Missed four days!

8 a.m. Monday: For the first time in nearly a year, I missed several days of blogging. Life just got too busy. I have fallen behind in grading papers, and tried to spend every spare minute doing that. I finally got caught up with grading for my on-line class, but not the regular face-to-face classes.
I did go for two-mile runs last Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. That was good. And I have been meditating regularly But the overall stress level in my life is still much too high.
I will go back to counting my blessings. I am grateful for:
  • My health.
  • My family.
  • My job

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Running Again!

Yes! Vivi and I went for a two-mile run at 6:30 a.m. That felt wonderful. Even though my bronchitis is still not completely gone, I cannot wait another day to run. The rest of the day was filled with more peacekeeping at the college. It seemed like I spent the who day trying to resolve conflicts between warring parties. I also wrote the school newspaper budget proposal for next year. By the end of the day I felt stretched thin.
I am thankful for:
  • Running! Yes!
  • The trust people show in me.
  • My wife, who is patient with me when I get overtired, over-stressed and grumpy.
Running: 2 miles

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Taxing Tuesday

10 p.m. Today was a pretty good day. I did get up at 6, which is terrific. But it was pouring rain, so we didn't run. Instead I wrote yesterday's blog and I had a good long meditation. Things were calming down a little at work, and I got a lot of things accomplished. In the evening Barbara and I pulled together our tax information. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I do not do my own taxes. I gather the facts and send it all off to my friend Rick, who always does a good job for us. I am willing to pay him to make sure I am not doing anything foolish on my tax returns.

Three things I am grateful for today:
  • My financial security. We sure aren't rich, but I am not in dire straits by any means. I can sleep well not wondering where our next meal is coming from. On a global perspective I (like most Americans) am richer than about 99 percent of the world's population. I saw that on a Web site somewhere. It was amazing.
  • My bed. It is comfortable. Isn't that nice?
  • My spiritual perspective. I had lunch with my friend Steve, who is a minister, and we discussed the benefits of seeing things through a spiritual perspective. I am blessed to be able to do that sometimes.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Day of Healing

It is early Tuesday morning now, and I will try to catch up on Monday's blog.
I had a terrible case of insomnia Sunday night. Just before bedtime I drafted a proposed message to the entire faculty and staff urging restraint and calm. Perhaps the tension about that situation kept me up all night. It might have been other personal problems. My sleep patterns has been getting worse and worse, but Sunday night was the worse in years. I was still wise awake at 4:30 a.m.

After a brief nap I got up, took Jesse to school and met with her to plan her fall class schedule. Then I taught my mass communication class. I also met with another students in that class and answered some questions for her. I had sent my proposed message to other members of the NCBI team (We are the National Coalition Building Institute -- a conflict resolution group. ) It was well received, and I forwarded the message to the whole college community. For the most part the response was good. This is what it said:

To the college community:

The five of us, as students of the National Coalition Building Institute, hope to promote civil discourse, reconciliation, and an awareness of what we all have in common. The last 10 days have been difficult at Cape Cod Community College. A very divisive issue has separated members of the administration from members of the faculty. In small meetings, large eetings, personal conversations, and e-mail exchanges, there have been some harsh personal attacks. Several people feel deeply hurt. There is a natural human tendency to want to strike back in such situations. We believe any ontinuation down the road of animosity and attack will hurt our students and the college in general. None of us wants that.

We believe it would be helpful if we all refrained from taking any precipitous action for at least a week. Let's put a hold on this disagreement until cooler heads can prevail and it can be discussed in a manner that won't threaten to tear the college apart? We strongly urge everyone to refrain from making any personal attacks on any other member of the college community. We are not asking people to compromise their principles, we are just asking people to stop, think and then look for ways to advance those principles in a constructive,collegial manner.

It was generally well received, and I think it did some good. There were several more meeting that day, analthoughht eh conflict remains, it appears that both sides have backed down a little bit. I am pleased about that.

I missed the union meetinbecauseue I went to my doctor's for a follow-uappointmentnt about my diabetes. The new medicine is working well, and we are both very pleased about that. She also gave me some medicine to help with the insomnia, and we had a wonderful long talk about my life in general -- what a terrific doctor.

A friend who read my blog made a wonderful suggestion of something she thought I must be thankful for, and she is absolutely right!

  • I am thankful that Jill Carroll, The Christian Science Monitor reporter who was held captive for three months, was released unharmed Friday. She ian excellentnt, dedicated journalist working for the benefit of all of us. And that newspaper, The ChristiaSciencene Monitor, is -- I believe -- the best newspaper itheeh world. It is not a religious publication. It is an excellent, fair, objective, independent newspaper. www.csmonitor.com.
  • I am thank foor my physician, Dr Carol Topolewski, who itheeh best doctor I have ever met. She is a family physician who treats our whole family with compassion, care and skill.
  • I am thankful for my friends. I havsomeoe wonderful friends -- too many to name -- but I hold them in my heart and value them.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Mindful money management

9 p.m.: Sunday is my day of mindfulness. Unfortunately I also had to take care of business today. Barbara and I have both been too ill or too busy to pay much attention to our finances for far too long, and we both realized we desperately needed to get a handle on it today. So we spent several hours in the middle of the day going through bills and checks and organizing everything. Fortunately, everything is OK, and we won't end up in the poor house. Unfortunately, it was not a very spiritual enterprise.
But I did get to go lead the sangha in the afternoon, and that was very spiritual, mindful and fulfilling. I also got to talk to good friends there about spiritual matters.
Then, in the evening, I watched West Wing, which I enjoy. I am sorry they are canceling it.
I talked to Vivi today, and we are going to resume our morning runs Tuesday. I think I am finally bealthy enough to run.
Three things I am grateful for:
  • My health. I am particularly grateful that I am usually able to go for a nice run. I love running, and I am blessed to be able to do that.
  • My neighborhood. I live in a beautiful, peaceful, quiet neighborhood that is a lovely place to go running.
  • Trees. I am grateful for trees. I love trees.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Radio Conference

9 p.m.: Our college holds an annual radio conference, where students get to meet professionals form the radio industry. Although I have never worked in radio myself, the conference organizer, Lisa Zinsius, asked me to be on a panel about news writing, since much of what I teach does apply to broadcast news writing. It was a very interesting conference. It got off to a slow start, but our panel went well, and more and more people arrived as the day went on. The keynote speaker, Bob Seay, is a highly respected broadcast professional who was a news director and station manager on Cape Cod for many years. His talk was especially interesting.

I also managed to carve out some time in my office to get some work done for the Cape Cod Interfaith Coalition.

In the evening, I watched the NCAA basketball semifinal game between George Mason and Florida. I was sad that George Mason's Cinderella story came to an end. They almost made it, but Florida just outplayed them. But at least people have finally learned a little about George Mason University, where my friend Steve Klein teaches journalism.

I will see how long I can think of things for which I am thankful. Tonight, I am thankful for:

  • My profession and my career. I have been lucky, and I have worked hard, and I have enjoyed my work most of the time. I have had a good time as a journalism, and it was obvious at the conference today that I have made a lot of good connections, and I am respected in the field. I am very grateful for that, and I should remember to appreciate it.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh. I am grateful and thankful to be living at a time when I can benefit from the teachings of such an enlightened master. His teachings, and his interpretations of the teachings of the Buddha have changed my life.
  • Food. Yes, I am grateful and thankful for the abundance of delicious food that is so readily available to me. May I learn to eat in moderation and appreciate what I receive.
Once I wrote a little blessing I like to say before meals:

  • Aware that some people are starving, I will consume no more than I need.
  • Aware that not all food is healthful, I will be mindful of what I select.
  • Aware that this food is a blessing, I will be thankful for what I receive.