"The Small Still Voice" by Joan Douma Written (March 17, 2014)
I have been asked to describe the “small still voice” within me. It is basically “insight” which leads me to the truth, an expression of who I authentically am, with no facades, pretense, fitting in or any other mode Of being other than who I was born to be and to express. It is the “intuition,” the inner knowing of what I should do, where I should go, what stand should I take, regardless of opposition,(even from myself?), the knowing without certitude, and I believe, most of all, faith in who I AM.
I have just turned 79 years of age and today I had a message from my small still voice and a clarity of purpose, the answer to “why me?” which had not been revealed to me earlier.
In 1977 a swim “downstream” culminated into the pool of alcoholism and I commenced recovery and the long, arduous swim “upstream” which “dog paddle” has brought me to where I now live a life, yes, soon to the 5th portion of a century of living a life of varied experiences, none of which would I change had I had the opportunity NOW to do so. Everything I experienced was perfect and I had a moment of clarity today (yes, the “small still voice” speaking from within me) which assured me that the path I have been on since 1977 was always in the greater plan of why I am still on earth, evolving and experiencing life to the fullest.
I needed to take this journey so that I could show, by example, and word and, most Importantly, I believe, how it “feels” to have another personality enter ones being and take over choice, decisions, truth and many other parts of a soul as it ravages its power over a human being, in spite of all the best intentions, insight, vows to change the individual attempts to practice.
No one can understand certain pain (mental, emotional and physical) experienced by another unless they have literally “walked in their shoes/footprints of that other person.”
For me, the other personality was alcoholism, and younger than I, people I love with all my heart, family, friends and, yes, acquaintances, have been afflicted with the personality of not only alcoholism but a drug, eating disorder, depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsion disorder, cancer, and more which only someone who has HAD IT can truly understand.
I am able, today, to express, in these instances, with truth and understanding, many insights Gathered along the way which I learned, experienced and put into action in my life which Can now serve as tools for others following my path. What I can share most importantly Is certainly HOPE and FAITH that we CAN “recover” and “maintain” and that life can be One of the most fabulous adventures that one could have dreamed of.
I feel so privileged that my inner voice spoke to me today so that I can share the above with anyone who wants to listen. Namaste, Joan
Joan was born in Oakland and lived in Berkeley until 1946 when she moved to Napa with her family. Joan attended Napa High School where she made lifelong friends and met English teacher/future travel companion, Ileta Grabenauer. Upon graduating high school, Joan worked for the attorney offices of Dan York, Frances “Bud” Frisch, and Ralph Trower. In 1978, Joan moved to Campbell to work for the San Jose Office of Appeals for the state of California as a legal secretary. At the age of 50, Joan’s adventurous spirit led her to work for the US State Department foreign service as an office management specialist for the US embassy in Geneva Switzerland, Izmir Turkey, Pretoria South Africa, Taipei Taiwan, Singapore, and Ottawa Ontario. During her 15 years with the foreign service, Joan made countless friendships, which she maintained until the day she passed. Joan retired to Napa at the age of 65 to be closer to her family members, including her mother, Margaret LaPoint. Joan loved everyone just as much as she enjoyed animals and opportunities to travel. She was most passionate about people, and Joan impacted the lives of individuals around the world. This passion led her to co-found Seedlings of Change, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, supporting, and empowering ordinary citizens, community groups and small organizations striving to promote positive, lasting change. Joan is survived by her sister, Sharon Emmett (Harry), daughter, Kriss Buterbaugh (Mark), and two sons, Daniel Douma (Nilda) and David Douma (Kim). Joan is also survived by her grandchildren, Natasha, Jonathan, Melissa, Jessica, and Maggie; great grandchild, Steven; and two pets, Luna and Zoey. A celebration of life will take place at 1:00 pm on February 2, 2019 at the Napa Valley Center for Spiritual Living, located on 1249 Coombs St, Napa, CA 94558. There will be a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her name to SeedlingsOfChange.org.
I return with memories of my 16 month tour of duty in Pretoria, South Africa and, coincidentally, one evening while watching TV between 9:30 and 11 p.m., I felt like I crossed the bridge of time and this tour of duty came to the forefront of my thoughts (which are enumerated in the following paragraphs). South Africa is a beautiful country and I was posted in Pretoria but traveled to Cape Town, Durban, and Kruger Game Park, and to Kwanke Game Park and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, which, with my love of animals, domestic and wild, were surely highlights of my experience. A co-worker and I also took a weekend drive to Swaziland and the beauty of the multicolored bougainvillea trees were stunning but the blue jacarandas lining the streets of Pretoria will forever remain my most vivid memory of floral spectacular and a found Pretoria, with its quiet beauty, to be a most suitable place to live. I enjoyed the arts, symphony, musical comedy theater, in which I saw Lloyd Webber’s and Tim Rice’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Machine” and of course, the varied native dance and singing of this fascinating country. I could elaborate in greater detail but the following memories are the ones that touched my heart and stand out in my memory at this time, so I will move on to that recent evening when I was viewing television.
First, Murphy Brown, and her showing up at a press conference conducted by our President’s press secretary, and various other references to the things that are happening in our country presently, which included references to separating immigrant mothers from their children.
Then Law and Order, and I felt like I was back in South Africa again, during which 16 months Nelson Mandela was released from his years of imprisonment, and I had felt proud to be working in the political section of the Embassy (this was in 1990). As I watched the show portraying the heart breaking separation of a Hispanic child from her mother and the law and order officials trying to house her and not have her taken by an official working for the government who was initially jailed for kidnapping (for his prior move of this child to New York City and a foster home), but released from custody as the judge had no option but to rule that the new immigration laws superseded “justice,” who now, once again, had returned to take the child to a dormitory holding “cell” for these children, I was taken back in time to my tour in 1989/1990 and the fact that the ONLY way the suffering people could protest apartheid without landing in jail/prison was through, yes, the “arts,” on stage, in paintings, whatever means could legally express their feelings.
I was also privileged through a friend’s invitation to go with her to a black township on a Sunday where a family with hardly enough to eat themselves offered us their one chicken (we refused of course) and provided coca colas for refreshment, and warm hospitality in their little hut, while this young black man of 19 or 20 years of age stood at his mother’s dining table reciting lines of a play he had written in which he felt free to express his true feelings about his, and all his people’s, distress to live in such an unfairly prejudiced environment for so many years.
And further, because I, myself, was and am, a recovering alcoholic (41 years of sobriety in this year of 2018) this same friend who took me to the black township took me to various AA meetings in Pretoria and on Sundays I, along with South Africans, almost entirely Caucasian, in the Program went to an SOS Orphanage to a room where a meeting was held which was attended by black men and women who were attempting to get sober, and I marveled at the strength of these individuals, although totally suppressed in every which way in their lives, could still want to “get sober,” and I felt a sense of privilege and pride that I was given the opportunity to partake in such good work.
It is strange what one remembers about tours of duty/life in a profession which I sought and proudly worked in for 16 years overseas to earn a living; it is not the experiences one normally would tell friends about, like wonderful theater, scenery, game parks and the like (although I certainly also enjoyed these when in country) but these special memories which I have described in the above paragraphs which are heartfelt, and involve all human beings in our world. This was truly an evening of reflection! And I feel grateful, during this season of Thanksgiving to have enjoyed the experiences. Until next month and Taiwan.
I am back, this Halloween day, with a few special moments of sharing about my experience at my second posting in the Foreign Service, Izmir, Turkey, where I worked for two years from January of 1987, in a small Consulate (Ankara houses the Embassy) in which I served as the only “cleared” secretary and did double duty as back up communicator. This was a challenge for which I had to have six weeks of training in Washington, D.C. for, as well as an additional six weeks of Language training, each of which practically caused me to have a nervous breakdown (I jest here, as I lived through each training and was able to do my added responsibility of backup communicator as well as have enough “street smart” Turkish language under my belt to function in Izmir with the local Turkish culture). I worked with a very small American staff, consisting of the Consul General, three American officers, and a communication technician, and we supported by a small staff of the local Turkish employees. The Consulate was closed after I departed post, so I was fortunate to have been the last secretary (we were known as OMSers, Office Management Specialists, but both titles, OMS and Secretary were interchangeable in the scope of my duties at posts). The Consulate and my apartment were each located on the first street by the bay/water, and my apartment (about a 30-minute walk to and from work each day) overlooked from its several stories up location, the Aegean Bay, which was so pretty at night, with the lights of an on the water restaurant shining brightly as well as, of course, the moon in the sky. The sunrises and sunsets were glorious and the weather in Izmir was perfect most of the year, although winters were very cold and windy. I had visitors in Turkey: my longtime friend, Ileta, for three weeks (we went to Istanbul for a long weekend, traveling on the ferry there and returning by air, and bused to Bursa (which means “green” city) a second three day weekend, which was lovely and where we visited many mosques and other interesting cultural sites). My Swedish friend, Anita, who I had met and become friends with in Geneva, also came to visit for a week and we spent a weekend at a lovely spa resort a short bus ride away on the sea (I will never forget, Anita, a tall, strong Swedish woman who always chose to swim “in the sea” while I used the indoor pool but mostly the “hot tub!”). Another good friend came from her post in Brussels, twice, and we took the local bus all up and down the coast exploring and seeing the various sites, including Antalya, Cappadocia, and Ephesus, which was a half hour car/bus ride from Izmir, which is famously known for the city who was “dug up,” so to speak, and available to many tourists who explored the area. I remember a very memorable evening when I went with a military tour group to the Coliseum and sat outside on a beautiful warm evening as the Russian Symphony, led by a woman conductor, performed Tchaikovsky’s Concerto #1. The performance was the best I had ever experienced, in every respect, of classical music, and when a selection was completed right down to the last note on a piano or violin one could literally “hear a pin drop,” which just amazed this happy listener. (I MUST add that this evening had a special meaning to me as my wonderful father, then long deceased, had loved music and one of his favorites I remember from a child growing up was “Tonight We Love” which was sung and performed and taken directly from this composition and so, on this memorable evening, I felt like “my dad was sitting right beside me” experiencing this wondrous moment in time). However, the highlight of my trip was when my favorite cousin, Shirley, who was three and a half years my senior, and who I had been very close to my entire life in California, came and spent a week with me in Izmir. She would relax and sight see locally during M-F when I was at work and I would come home with a “gjevrek” (this is an Albanian name: “Albanian–Turkish relations have traditionally been friendly due to pragmatic, geographical, historical and religious factors and the existence of a large Albanian Diaspora in Turkey) , wonderful “Turkish” pretzels which were sold warm on the street from a tiny little stand which I passed when I walked to work each day, and each evening we would reheat them and enjoy this treat before bed with cream cheese and jam (oh how I would like to have one of those this very moment to savor!!). We took a local bus over a three day weekend, down the coast, staying in Mamaris and Boldrum, one night each, experiencing the local culture, wonderful food, and music (I remember one warm evening, strolling along the beach after dinner, hearing music and we walked into an open air restaurant on the beach where Turkish citizens were doing their traditional dance Gaziantep (Yarim Kaba) and Shirley and I just hopped right in there and joyously joined the crowd!! Such FUN!!! Smiling faces, music and dance! One day, out of Mamaris, we took a boat out on the sea and my cousin encouraged me and, with a promise of “I gotcha!,” and I trusted her explicitly (not being a confident swimmer in any sense of the word) I did climb over the side, descended the ladder, with her by my side, and experienced the joy of the sea without fear. Yes, my two years in Izmir were very rewarding and memorable, in many respects, and I must leave you now so goodbye, until November and South Africa!! Joan
Geneva was a wonderful location for exploring other parts of Europe, easily, and on three-day weekends with a holiday as I had no “leave time” having just joined the Government and Foreign Service. Highlights were: My sister, Sharon, came for a two-week visit and I surprised her by a train trip to Venice (amazing the difference in the quality of train travel once we reached Milan to change trains and left the Swiss rail for the Italian rail!!!). We stayed in a hotel right overlooking the water and traveled by a waterbus (Vaporetto) while in Venice to Murano (the celebrated home of Venetian glass-making since the 13th century) and another close small island. I remember that the first night my sister ordered calves liver with polenta and she was “hooked” and we returned to the same restaurant in our hotel for a repeat the following night, and I also walked the streets with her, so she could locate in little markets, fresh raspberries and clotted cream which she ingeniously kept cold in a little makeshift ice chest apparatus for her before bed snack! What a wonderful time these two sisters had together, and I shall never forget it!! My good friend, Barb, who lived in Napa, California, came to visit me in Geneva and we made a train trip which took us to Zurich and then on to Lugano, where we discovered this charming little village on the lake, spending a couple of nights in a Pension, which I remember was adorned with bright pink flowers which seems to envelop the entire little white building, and we enjoyed walking along the lake during the day and taking a boat trip on the lake, and simply marveling at the beauty of the area. I remember a highlight of how the mist/fog would come down over the lake like a veil, a picturesque scene which I, in my many travels, and viewing many lakes, had not experienced before. I particularly remember one night, when I was sound asleep in our room and all of a sudden I heard this racket, jumped awake, and it was my friend, who heard a lightning and thunderstorm and leaped out of bed, opening the window wide and exclaiming, “oh, I LOVE it, I LOVE it”!!!! as the pouring rain came streaming into our bedroom. Barb and I took another three day weekend trip, by fast train from Geneva to Paris, a city where it is just a sight to stand in the middle of this beautiful city and look to the right, to the left, up and down, in amazement of what one can see and experience, and of course we visited the famous art museum, the streets where artists were painting and displaying their works and enjoyed many tasty delights. One night when we were dining, to show what a small world it is? We started visiting with a couple sitting next to us and they were a couple from Napa, where Barb and I each grew up, who owned a winery in the valley. Barb and her husband became good friends with this lovely couple when each returned to Napa. It warmed my heart during the entire visit by Barb, to watch her exuberance and thrill at absolutely everything she experienced both in Geneva and elsewhere during her two-week stay in Switzerland. There were a lot of visitors and a lot of shared experiences and when my friend, Ileta, came for a three week visit, I planned a trip to Vienna, Austria, as I knew what a thrill it would be for her to go to an opera and ballet, with her love and knowledge of music, and I announced my surprise and we flew to Vienna, stayed in another very unusual and interesting pension in the middle of the city, and not only saw these events but also a Spanish Riding School Lipizzaner performance and, of course, we enjoyed more than one meal of “wiener schnitzel” On a second three day weekend we traveled by train to Interlaken and further on to Grind weld, high in the mountains and Ileta, also being a nature lover of all species, spent hours just sitting by the big bay window gazing, happily, at all the scene offered her. It must be clear by now that, for me, being in the company of my “special people” and observing them in pure delight of experience, was and is one of my “highlights of life”!! In conclusion, Geneva, Switzerland was a perfect “first post” for this adventuresome 50-year-old woman, and we will move on from here next month to Izmir, Turkey, which was my second posting for, again, two years, on the coast of the Aegean, and my memories from that tour of duty. Until then, fall is approaching quickly and another beautiful season to enjoy in my home here in Napa, California
After a year of waiting to learn if I had been accepted into the ranks of the State Department Foreign Service as an Office Management Specialist, I did make the "list" around Easter of 1984, and in August received the telephone call from State that I was offered a position (where I would be posted would be revealed to me later if I accepted the employment), and I immediately said "Yes!." I was told to rather "dismantle my life" and report for training in Washington, D.C. in one month, which I did. Coincidentally, and to the joy of each of us, my best friend at the San Jose Office of Appeals who applied concurrently with me, also was placed on the list, and about an hour after I received my offer, she received an offer of employment as well, so, for the first time in my entire life, I left all I loved in California and flew off into the "unknown," but with the consolation that my "best friend" would be by my side in Washington, D.C. for our five weeks of training. Two weeks later I was advised I would go to Geneva, Switzerland, to work in the political section of the Mission to the UN and my friend was to go to Paramaribo, Suriname, where she would work for the Deputy Chief of Mission at that small Embassy. The training was often grueling, but exciting, and my friend and I enjoyed experiencing the wonders of Washington, D.C. together for the first time together in our off hours. November 1, 1984: I departed for Geneva, and as I circled the airport the thought passed through my mind "what in the world have I done on purpose," as the fear of the unknown became prominent in my mind, but I was met at the airport by my new boss, the political officer, who delivered me to my temporary hotel quarters in downtown Geneva with the promise he would be back to pick me up in early evening to have dinner with him and his family in his home. After I settled my belongings the first experience I remember was going out for a little walk, spotting a "boulangerie" (Geneva is a French-speaking city), walking out with a warm baguette, and, with a maiden name of "LaPoint" thinking, I have arrived in yet another "home”! Memorable highlights of my two years in Geneva, working in a seven-story Mission and living in “old town” In a second floor flat of a very old building abound. I made three lifetime friends during that posting, John, who became a traveling companion and my “soul mate” was a “communicator” (one who receives and disburses “cable traffic,” which I learned in training is the way the Foreign Service communicates from one Embassy, Consulate, etc. to another); Deb, an office management specialist, and Anita, a Swedish woman who I met over coffee who had lived and worked in Geneva for many years. These three people became lifelong friends to this day (however, sadly, John died, at the age of 60 at the end of 2016, and I shall miss him forever). I enjoyed strolling the streets of the city, listening to street musicians along the way, shopping at meat markets, bakeries, groceries, and fruit and vegetable stands, candy shops, flower stands which lined the area, and marveled at how the Swiss, who ate ice cream throughout the entire year, could retain their slim figures. There was the beautiful Lake Geneva and fetes. I ate fillet de perches with pommes frites caught fresh from the lake, raclette (a Swiss dish of melted cheese served with tiny boiled potatoes and dill pickles), drank many, many cafes which were always served with a little wrapped piece of Swiss chocolate, and delighted in the many culinary delights of the city and country. Two memories stand out: a drive up to the mountains with my friend Anita, so she could ski and just as we climbed at one point appeared the top of a mountain with the sun shining on the snow which looked like “gilded gold”; and another day while on a bus tour through the city it was the first snowfall and the small branches on the trees were etched with snow as if by the careful stroke of a painter had occurred to create this beautiful sight. I was simply “at the right place at the right time” on these two occasions. I could go on forever but it is time to complete this article. In another article, I shall describe some of my travels in and out of Switzerland which I was fortunate to do in my two years posting so, until then…………………………….Joan
Let me introduce myself to you--my name is Joan Douma and I am Secretary of the Board for Seedlings of Change, since its inception in 2009. Eveline Marie Smith has suggested to me that I write an article now and then for the newsletter based on the fact that we are a global organization, providing mini-grants to both local and international venues that align with our mission and intended manner of helping people to improve their lives and their community, in some cases, country (i.e., improving pollution conditions or contributing to new manners in which to provide sustainable daily living improvements to families in a variety of locations). As I have served overseas for over 16 years, before I retired, in 2000, as an Office Management Specialist in the Foreign Service branch of the U.S. Department of State, Eveline felt I have had experiences I could share that might be of interest to our readers, which I will attempt to provide in different newsletters in the future but for now I felt that I should simply introduce myself and give you a little history on my life up until now. I was born in San Francisco, CA, on February 24 of 1935, moving to Berkeley, CA when one year old where I lived with my parents and my sister, Sharon (3 1/2 years my junior), attending Washington Elementary School through the 6th grade. My childhood in Berkeley was wonderful and I have such fond memories of, life in Berkeley then. When the entire world was safer for children growing up, walking several blocks to school and home, and to an ice skating rink where I enjoyed this activity so much with a friend, to movies up on Shattuck Avenue, or to Walt's Drugstore on the corner of California and University Avenue where I was treated to a 5 cent chocolate coke by my grandmother, and for a special treat? a banana split for 25 cents! Which was huge and delicious, and Walt’s had comic books, paper dolls, puzzles, and many other items which delighted a child as they are growing up. When I was age 11 my family moved to Napa, CA, and we had a chicken ranch, "laying" hens and "eggs" was our business. So, I went from being a city girl to a country girl and I was in my element! My dad getting me a horse and I, thinking I was the "Roy Rodgers" of the day! I spent as much time as possible roaming the countryside and having adventures which I will never forget. I entered "junior high" in Napa at that time, 7th through 10th grade, and finished high school at Napa High School. When I was 19 years of age I married my former husband and we had three children, my daughter, adopted, who we brought home from the hospital at 2 1/2 days old (now 58) my son, Danny, who I bore, and turned 58 on July 12, 2018 and my third child son, David, who is 56 years old. I have five grandchildren and one great-grandson. My work for the vast part of my working career was as a legal secretary here in Napa, it was a small two girl office, and I did this work until I divorced and moved to the San Jose, CA area, in 1979 where I worked as a Senior Legal Stenographer for the State of California. Then when I was almost age 50 I joined the Foreign Service and went off into the world in this new career. I will be sharing with you my experiences and travels in another article. For now, you know who I am, and I look forward to sharing more of my life in articles to come.
The children are seeing light through Seedlings of Change. It is with Seedlings of Change help they have clothes to wear, food to put a meal on the table which before they seldom had one meal a day that was eaten at 4 pm. I am glad and happy to say a big Thank You to Seedlings of Change for putting a smile on their faces. And also, for making it possible for the children to attend a school that they may know how to read and write through the Elementary Education Program made possible through Seedlings of Change support.
My friendship with the founder, Eveline since 2008 id Gold! During these past 11 years, we were able to raise livestock like; cows, goats, pigs, and hens. We now have gardens where the women are able to plant; maize, cassava, potatoes, sorghum, groundnuts for their home consumption are for commercial use. The money received from the produce sold at the market is used to boost their families. We also had a knitting machine and sewing machines which were used to make sweaters and clothes until they broke down they now have been repaired and one of the women is going to begin working with the machines again soon rather than selling the machines off. I also want to extend my sincere gratitude and appreciation to Eveline and Seedlings of Change team for supporting Jane and her kids and more so for funding her medical treatment. God bless you all! If it were not for you, we would be rugs but thank God we met you. I remember Jane and her kids used to sleep on funny rugs on the floor but today she sleeps on a mattress, they used to sleep in huts with no light, but they were able to get solar lamps from your support. The children used to walk to school barefooted but now they try to put on shoes and attend good schools. Bravo Seedlings of Change!