Pruning Dead Wood

Recently where I live we had an ice storm. 2/10 of an inch or more of ice caused some havoc with electrical outages where I live. The aftermath of that storm also left some trees which had lost a few small branches, or lost major branches, or were even uprooted. Those trees that could bend under the weight of the ice survived with almost no loss of limbs. The pruning by nature took place in the whole area where I live, but how severely each tree withstood the ice storm varied greatly. I believe this metaphor also works for all people including myself.

“Let us fill our hearts with our own compassion- towards ourselves and towards all living beings.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

During my life there have been times when I needed to prune my own dead wood. What I mean is, I needed to change or transform ways of thinking and doing things, or habits of thinking that had not worked in my life. When I did not prune those habits, I made poor choices of people and things in my life that did not serve me. I learned this kind of behavior in my own family. Once I finally became a parent in my 30s, I found out what a challenge it was to rear a child. I had one child. However, I was one of five children. All of my siblings and I were born close together, 5 children in 7 years. Since I was number four, I was glad to be born, but great challenges were part of my childhood. My parents did the best they could. My mom had to do much of our rearing alone with the help of my grandmother because my dad had a job that was many miles from the home my father built for us. My mother had it hard trying to give all of us the attention we needed.

From these beginnings, I learned some not great habits. One of them was I had a poor self esteem. That hindered the choices that I made of people who I made important in my life. I did not know how I needed to be treated. I also was a people pleaser, which was not helpful to myself because I was clueless about how I felt about what I honestly wanted. I was not seeing “my part” in my own life. I had nearly no boundaries for myself, so that I was taking on other peoples’ issues without knowing it, and not acknowledging my own issues. This kind of dead wood I did not know I needed to prune until later in my life. There have been consequences to me and others I love because of the choices I have made, and particularly after I became an adult (in age) and lived on my own.

My first pruning and personal ice storm came after I was divorced in my mid 30s. I am thankful that I became a more reflective person after that time. I started to look at what “my part” was that may have contributed to the end of that marriage. After a year or so after the divorce, I started to feel happier and freer because I realized I had an opportunity to find my own profession, and learn who I am. (I had married at 20 years old.) I also did not want my divorce to become some kind of anchor that I dragged through my life as some personal failure or shame. At the same time, I did need to be honest about what had happened to me during that marriage and not dismiss my own feelings about it, and, importantly, I had to summon courage to face some parts of myself that I was not happy with.

“I don’t think we spend enough time in reflection and introspection. We don’t know who we are as individuals in this culture anymore.”

Naomi Judd

For me this process of pruning has taken a long time. The way I grew up, I rarely knew what I honestly felt or wanted. These were habits that I “lived” for years that I needed to prune and overcome, and I am still learning to ask myself how I feel each day. I am finally learning what boundaries actually are between myself and others. I am still thankful for that first ice storm of a divorce that happened many years ago because it started the process for me to begin to reflect on a deeper level about myself and my life and to learn who I AM.

I wrote this poem more than 10 years ago. I can’t even remember what triggered me to write it. It may have been when my father died 13 years ago.

Light or Load
by Barbara E. Wade

Underneath our professional, adult veneer
Aren’t so many of us
Still needy children
Grasping for our mother’s
For our father’s attention…. approval?
Longing to be heard.
Waiting to be acknowledged,
But met with silence.

As we grow older
Time dulls the ache,
But life’s circumstances
Show us that…
Underneath our professional, adult veneer,
That so many of us
Are still needy children.

How do we get past the suffering?
How do we shed the pain?
Tell ourselves how much we hate
To feel emotionally disconnected once again.
Notice that life’s delivering you
Your childhood experience
In an endless stream of repetition.
And accept that this emotional hurt
Of unfulfilled expectations
Is a mistake of perception
And we aren’t even aware
Of our self-deception.
Even though it feels exactly
Like it did
When we got little attention,
When we were merely kids.
Underneath our professional, adult veneer,
So many of us
Are still needy children.

Embrace, comfort, and protect your needy child.
Love and care for her/him.
Let her/him lay down his/her load,
And be filled with light and lightness.
Observe her/him when she’s/he’s feeling down,
Remind her/him it’s old healing wounds
To let go of and live.

This year has taught me that after my mother died in October, that she was the source of LOVE and goodness in my family. The needy child that I have had in me did not fully see who my mother was and that she was unable physically and was too overwhelmed to LOVE me as much as my needy child wanted during my childhood. Now she and I are both free and I have pruned away that false expectation and perception of whether my mom loved me or not forever. These days I am also learning to be more compassionate of myself, as I do all this pruning of dead wood.

This blog is complementary to my own;


I Love Diversity

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
– Neale Donald Walsh


We are a country which has a great deal of diversity as a nation of immigrants. Those are the facts about the people who live in the USA. I learned to love the diversity of the students I taught from all continents in the world when I was teaching English-as-a-Second Language for 24 years. Also I have lived in different parts of this country. I was born on the west coast, but have lived on the east coast both in New England in North Carolina in the South. When I lived in the west I had more interactions and friends with Latino roots. When I lived in the South I had friends and colleagues who were African American. As the Walsh quote said, I had to become willing to step out of my comfort zone. I am happy I did. My life has been enriched by having African American, Latino, and Asian people in my life. I feel fortunate that I have had all kins of opportunities to get to know all kinds of people with different backgrounds and cultures. I know other people may feel very differently from myself.

I was fortunate that I grew up in a family which did not behave with prejudice towards people of color. I am deeply thankful to my parents for not filling me full of ideas about NOT accepting others who looked differently from myself. During my lifetime when I was was dating Latino, Asian, or African American males, I did not tell this to my parents, but at least my parents’ feelings about race did not get in the way of me being more open to all kinds of people, and I was able to experience diversity through the relationships I have had in my lifetime. That was a gift.

As a Caucasian, and even a woman with red hair, I grew up feeling a little “different”. I was even different from my own family members. Among blond and dark hair children, I was the ONE red head. Many of us grow up in families where we feel different. Through my life, I have had friends who said they, too, felt like they did not “fit” in their own family. I understand their feelings, as well. As it turns out, I am now grateful, that I could question what was happening in my family, too, and kept my mouth shut about what I saw. Once I grabbed some courage and I got over my own shyness growing up, I was able to step out of my comfort zone and then had opportunities to meet and hang out with all kinds of people and had the good fortune to have diverse people in my life.

Where I have a harder time, is being with and hanging out with people who think differently from myself. This is where I am fortunate again because I have some family members who think differently from myself. I come from a family where our political opinions diverse, and we have very different views. I love those family members very much with whom I have different view points. Recently, I spent some time with them and listened to what those family members’ thought about, and why they thought and felt what they did. It is great to listen to them. There was nothing for me to defend about my views. During my lifetime, I also have had an interesting background checking out several political parties. I’ve even volunteered to work with them. From the right to the left I have listened and participated with many of them. It is great to know I don’t have to have all of the “answers” about what the USA should do.

What I have learned is, I know we need to listen better to each other, and there are many disgruntled people in this country: most of us are in that 99% category of Americans, not among the 1% ers. There are some good and kind billionaires, who are trying to make a difference in this world and come from caring places about others unlike themselves. I am not speaking about them. People with money I am not vilifying, either. Those who perpetuate injustice towards people of color, or the people who are opposed to GBLT people, or those who claim to support soldiers, but then don’t do anything, and/or also those who dismiss the planet and what is happening on it, give me the biggest pause and the greatest concern.

This was a show that was on the TED Radio Hour. Elizabeth Lesser, I thought had some good practical parts about diversity. The podcast begins with a plug for NPR. I was unable to cut it out.

Embracing our diversity in all these ways is challenging. It may require you to leave your comfort zone to reach out to meet someone different, even if you are a little afraid. On a personal level, I know doing that, has added great beauty, love, freedom, and wonder to my life.This is freedom has helped me live more openly and less fearful of the so called “other”, and be more compassionate toward myself. However, to become more open, I had to start with myself and embrace my own “imperfections” and character traits, the parts of my own “other” that I have judged harshly and not liked very well in myself.

One more important thing for me about diversity in both our thinking and our cultural exposure, is that when we embrace it in ourselves and then with others, then we can be more open to working together with each other. Then we can share our ideas, listen to each other, and embrace all kinds of possibilities for dealing with the challenges we have to face with each other and for our planet. This planet was not created for merely a few privileged ones, be they dictators or billionaires. It is for all of us. Together we are stronger, more creative, and I believe UNSTOPPABLE to create a world that works for all of us.

One more resource I found years ago was a great documentary about Race that I first saw on PBS. It is called “Race: Power of an Illusion”. This is a three part series. You can watch the first part on Youtube from California Newsreel.


Standing with and Working Together


“Let’s put our minds together to see what we can build for our children.”

_Sitting Bull, Sioux chief

I am filled with hope for all Americans because of what happened in North Dakota. It was working together with many people, first nation’s tribes from all over the country, American soldiers, and even people like me online who could not go to North Dakota. We stood with the Sioux tribe of Standing Rock, and the Army Core of Engineers had to listen about changing the access of the pipeline through the their land and destroying their water. I was joyous when I heard the news of this.

I plan to remain vigilant and cautious and hold the Army Core of engineers to their word, no matter who is president. It is time to begin and stand with and work together on rectifying our past. When I saw the abuse that was recently experienced by the people protesting the pipeline, it reminded me of the 1960s and of what I saw the local police do to black protestors in Alabama and other southern states before the Civil Rights Act was passed. Using water cannons on people who are peacefully protesting is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

If you do not know about what happened with the Standing Rock tribe, here is a great summary.

Since 1607 when the English arrived at Jamestown, the “invaders,” immigrants, the English and other Europeans, have never kept a treaty with any first nation’s people in this country. It is time in the 21st century that all of us change that history with this offensive pipeline in North Dakota. US history, in regards to all first nation’s people here, is one of the most shameful, cruel, and murderous, parts of our history, other than slavery against people from Africa.

“Not able to enslave the Indians, and not able to live with them, the English decided to exterminate them.”

-Howard Zinn from a People’s History of the Untied States, page 13.

If you have not seen the PBS series “We Shall Remain”, I challenge you to watch ALL of it and then see if you think it is morally right to stand with the Sioux nation in North Dakota.

The first time I was even slightly conscious about the plight of native people was when at 20 years old and I had moved to Arizona. After several months of living in Scottsdale, AZ, I kept seeing young men about high school age who looked like they belonged to a local tribe (I am not sure which one). I finally asked my husband, why these young men all had to wear black jeans and white long sleeve shirts. He replied,”They have to go to Indian School.”

At the time he said this, it just seemed strange and not right, somehow. Little did I know until much later in my life, that in the USA we had been training Native American children since the late 1800s to be “American” and took their language and culture away from them, even if those children lived on their reservations, where we had stuck them after we took much of their land.

Today I and all of us 99% Americans can stand with the Sioux tribe and reverse the past injustices against first nation’s people. When many of us stand together with concern and love for our fellow people on this planet, NO ONE CAN BREAK US! Remember we are still a representative democracy. We can choose to NOT let greed dominate our choices as a people and continue to pollute our planet until ALL our children and grandchildren have NO FUTURE, or we can act from the moral high ground and protect the future of our planet for ALL of us, including the Sioux people of Standing Rock.
Listen to a story about the Standing Rock tribe and the pipeline from 12/5/16.