Category Archives: Walk with Mark

Men, Boys and Mental Health: An Ongoing Conversation

Welcome to our new blog about mental health issues specific to men and boys. Please watch for monthly posts from a variety of clinicians at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. We hope you’ll join the conversation!

Post 5:: Men/Boys and Mental Health: The Courage to Seek Intimacy

Post 4:: Men/Boys and Mental Health: Provider Anxiety

Post 3 :: Men/Boys and Mental Health: Suicide Awareness and Prevention

Post 2 :: Men/Boys and Mental Health: Unique Perspectives

Post 1 :: Men/Boys and Mental Health: An Ongoing Conversation

 

 

Post 1 :: Men/Boys and Mental Health: An Ongoing Conversation

Mark Minear, Ph.D.

by Mark Minear, Ph.D., licensed psychologist at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

(June 2017) The issues facing men/boys with regard to mental health are no more or less diverse, complex, or complicated than those facing women/girls; in some respects, however, they are, at times, different.  And, perhaps, those issues are more challenging with these two basic, well-researched facts: (1) that men are less likely to reach out for professional mental health services when they need it, while at the same time, (2) that men are also much more likely to give up in despair and end their lives by suicide when they are depressed.

One year ago when I walked across Iowa on the Old Lincoln Highway from the Mississippi River to the Missouri River, my focus was on men/boys and mental health while attempting to raise both awareness as well as financial support for the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center’s counseling assistance fund for men/boys.  (After all, the Center has been very diligent for over the past 20 years with a Women Helping Women influence; and we have lacked options for how men might be able to help men—or how to emphasize the issues facing men and boys.)  Upon the completion of my trek, the Center was ready for me to continue my blog to highlight men’s and boys’ emotional and psychological needs, consider how our Center could be more effective in reaching out to men and boys, and expand and strengthen our services to make them more meaningful with healing and empowerment to men and boys.

This led to a series of conversations over the past year among the men employed at the Center with recognition of our diversity and even some ambivalence in the optimal ways to communicate with men and boys: defining the masculine experience, especially across generations as well as within a cohort, is difficult, limiting, and ambiguous.  What does it mean to be masculine?  Simply being confronted with that question immediately brings up images, prejudices, and stereotypes, for all of us.  It seems that we could simply honor the two long-held affirmations of (1) “how every person is unique” and (2) “folks are the same the whole world over”—and this could be the end of the discussion!  As a matter of fact, the eight of us at the Center even had an exhilarating deliberation about what we should name this blog—acquiescing to the idea that nothing can be said about men or boys as a population… it all depends upon individual differences anyway.

But it does seem to be important, and hopefully helpful, to get us all to think about what individual men and boys might need—raising the questions pushes us all to reflect, discuss, inquire, re-evaluate.  For instance, does depression or trauma or grief generally look different in men/boys than in women/girls?  And what about shame—how might men/boys present with the emotional distress of shame… or fear or insecurity or anxiety or _______________?

Men are in trouble (as well as boys who grow up in our culture): they often seem to sink alone instead of asking for help—sometimes digging their holes deeper by their lack of healthy coping responses and resources; they often withhold from others what they consider to be indications of their weaknesses; and they often react with anger instead of embracing the deeper, more basic emotions of hurt, fear, or sadness.  Men—and boys following their male role models and buying in to the messages in our current society—seem primarily equipped to express one emotion: rage.

Over the coming months, please watch for this blog and make your contributions.  Other writers here at the Center will join the conversation, but we want to keep it in the form of a blog so you can respond and add to the discussion.  I believe that you can enhance this conversation!  Perhaps there in nothing new to be said about men/boys and their emotional and psychological needs—or at least nothing that can be universally clarifying about this topic; or, perhaps, some written reflections might just speak to someone’s condition—the man who is in emotional pain, the boy who is hurting and scared, or the wife, mother, sister, daughter who cares and is concerned!

Men’s blog homepage: www.dmpcc.org/men

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In 2016 Mark Minear walked across the state of Iowa to raise awareness and funds for men and boys’ mental health. Read his daily reflections here: www.dmpcc.org/WalkwithMark.

 

Health Tip – Mindfulness: Be Here Now!

Mark Minear 2012

Mark Minear, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

By Dr. Mark Minear, Psychologist at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center  

“We never keep to the present… We anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight.  We are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us, and do not think of the only one that does; so vain that we dream of times that are not and blindly flee the only one that is.” (Blaise Pascal, Pensees, 1659)

I know that it may sound simplistic, even trite, to suggest the importance of living in the present moment—but it is true.  The regrets of the past and the fears of the future are the primary culprits that take us from the gift of the present.   And—if you will allow me a little oversimplification, regrets and living in the past fuel depression and fears and living in the future fuel anxiety.  So… it does make intuitive sense that inhabiting the present moment is of great value to our wellbeing.  The challenge, which most of us don’t readily appreciate, is that if you want to improve your ability to attend to the here and now—then you will need to practice!

Jon Kabat-Zinn suggests that “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”  You can understand, then, how meditation is simply an optimal way to practice—paying attention with intention and lovingkindness to one’s breath, one’s thoughts, one’s body, sounds in the environment, a candle or a sunset, the taste of blueberries, the aroma of fresh baked bread, etc.… you get the idea.

It would be wise to take some time each day in a formal way—five to ten minutes is a good start (research has shown that consistency is more effective than lengthy times if they are sporadic); however, you can then augment your practice when you have a few minutes waiting for someone, two to three minutes at work for a mini-break, turning off the television and staying in your chair, etc…. you get the idea.

When you practice, you are more likely to know when you are not in the present moment so that you can gently return to the present moment—even under stressful conditions (when we are conditioned to return to the past or tempted to reach for the future).  So… in closing, here are a few nuggets to consider:

  • Be gentle with yourself: nonjudgmental = self-compassion.
  • When you catch yourself straining, know that you are not on the path of mindfulness.
  • Accept the things you cannot control, including your thoughts—but remember you can make choices (including the observation of and the response to your thoughts).
  • Explore the resources on mindfulness—great books, websites, YouTube, etc.
  • Experiment with your practice—investigate with curiosity for what is beneficial.
  • Integrate mindfulness meditation into your current spiritual practices.
  • Be grateful—always a way to be “in the moment”; consider developing a daily gratitude journal.

Two closing quotations:

“The best spiritual advice is the simplest—pay attention.”  (Alexander Green)

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on very wave, find your eternity in each moment.”  (Thoreau)

Register here for the Center’s upcoming Mindfulness Training class.

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In 2016 Dr. Mark Minear walked across the state of Iowa to raise awareness for men’s mental health. View his photo gallery and read his travel blog here. 

Epilogue – May 16, 2016

A Walk Across Iowa on the Old Lincoln Highway: Epilogue

by Mark Minear

photo credit: Beckie Minear, Mark’s sister-in-law, taken on day 9 of Mark’s walk

Greetings!  Here is the last entry to the blog of my Walk.

If there was a book to emerge from this experience (and I don’t anticipate that there will be—but if there was), I can’t decide whether it should be called…

Walking on Holy Uneven Ground

or

Walking on Uneven Holy Ground.

I think the former.  My experience was both—human and sacred.  I clearly had the sense of how temporal the event was in my life… earthy, uncomfortable, unpredictable, weary-making, uneven, etc.  (Of the estimated three-quarters of a million steps from river to river, I would guess that over half of them was on uneven ground—a tapered shoulder off the road, portions that were not graded, various sizes and shapes of rocks, etc.)  It was an experience that stretched my human capabilities to some of its limits…  however, it was also a spiritual opportunity to catch some “glimpses” of the holy… the beauty of creation, humility amidst the Mystery, the sense of Presence, moments of awe and joy and wonder and reverence, Light for the path, a calling to something deeper and higher, etc.  It was a sacred experience that surprised and renewed me with hope and transformation amidst the importance of gratitude and generosity.  I think the former, Walking on Holy Uneven Ground, because it connotes both the sacred and the human with the sacred over all the experience, including the human (and, surprise… even if we are unaware).

Such is the case for these earthly journeys we have been privileged to take.  There is certainly an unevenness to our daily challenges and the way is rough at times, and one certainly knows that they are alive as their bodies remind them step by step on the pilgrimage.  But there is also an available sacredness that gives us pause to open our lives to the Holy Other—to have moments, not where we escape the realities of the earthly journey, but to bring great meaning out of life’s temporal experiences when we transcend and know that there is Something More to the journey than the superficial, the humdrum, the same old same old, the painful, etc. (you get the idea).

We are given opportunities to go deeper to understand that our individual lives are gifts… and, out of that sense of gratitude, we in turn spontaneously become more generous and cheerful as givers (as we understand that we are only stewards and not owners of all that is in our lives).  Can you think of anything in life—including how we think of “love” or “faith” or “joy” or whatever—that is not based in this experience and growing cycle of gratitude and generosity?

And here’s the good news: we can choose to nurture this spirit of gratitude in our lives!  We are not helpless even amidst our seasons of emotional pain and despair—we can gently but intentionally “look” for and embrace with thanksgiving the many gifts around our lives every day.  Mindfulness is about awareness—paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment.  Gratitude would simply be a response to what we “notice” in and around our lives… of course, along with the observation of other matters—many of which might be unpleasant or even painful.  When we hold in our awareness the human as well as the holy, something happens within our heads and our hearts!  Thoughts and feelings that are uncomfortable are certainly there—but that is not all!  We also find wonder, curiosity, reverence, gratitude, generosity, etc. on the path to becoming transformed by the sacred in and around our lives.  And this ability to observe our inner experience becomes an opportunity to see more clearly the Light of God’s love and forgiveness and grace for our lives!

In fact, I would dare to push this a little further.  Many folks I know are closer to what might be considered agnostic; they find it difficult to wrap their heads and/or their hearts around a Creator, let alone a specific expression of a Heavenly Parent or Christ as Friend.  But, even if there wasn’t a God, this path of living and growing with gratitude and generosity is still a noble, magnanimous life to live.  For those who believe that we are alone without a Holy Other, is there a higher way to walk through this earthly journey?

We can pay attention to both the internal and external realms of life, and we find this inner path to be our portal to experience the transformational holy in our lives… to attend within and listen.  Thomas Keating wrote: “Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation.  In order to hear that language, we must learn to be still and to rest in God.”  Consider doing what it takes to pay attention, not just to the beauty of the external world around you though the five senses, but to the inner spiritual intimations of God’s Light and Presence that are already there!

So… I returned home to my loving wife, the people in my life of family and friends, the tasks and responsibilities waiting for me (boy, did the yard need to be mowed!), etc.… and, though I was still most certainly “Mark”, I also was given the privilege to be “Mark with a little more awareness of both the human and the divine”…  a “Mark who could be a little more grateful and a little more generous!”

Mark Minear

Mark Minear

“And the end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started…

And know the place for the first time.”  (T.S. Eliot)

Peace, Mark

P.S.  My walk across Iowa resulted in opportunities to stir up some awareness about mental health care for males as well as raise over $12,500 for boys and men who need counseling assistance financial support if they are uninsured or are inadequately covered by insurance.  Once again… my heartfelt and humble “THANK YOU” to all of you who donated to this fund!

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For more information on Mark’s walk across Iowa: dmpcc.org/WalkwithMark

Day 14 – May 4, 2016

A Walk Across Iowa on the Old Lincoln Highway: Day #14

Mark Minear

Mark Minear

by Mark Minear 

Greetings! And “thank you” to everyone who had anything to do with this adventure.  So many people in so many ways were a part of preparation, support, encouragement, etc.  “No person is an island”… right?  “Every person is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” wrote the English poet John Donne in 1624.  Even after years of being taught that the American way is one of “rugged individualism”, do any of us really believe that we are that self-sufficient… in no need of another?  Someone helped to make my walking shoes, fix me a breakfast sandwich, and bottle my water… but now I have a new appreciation for just what it takes to make an endeavor like mine over the past two weeks a success.  All I can say is “thank you!”

I appreciated all of the replies to my blog entries, texts, emails, voice mails, etc.  Please know that I felt that I was not be able to reply to the replies on the blog—to keep up with them… and other ways that people reached out to me may have also not had a response.  Just know of my appreciation… and I hope to connect with folks in the coming days as part of “unpacking” this experience!

Today after walking the last 10.5 miles this morning, my wife Karla, brother Hal, and his wife Beckie took a number of pictures at the Missouri River bridge and the sign that says END right above the sign that says LH Heritage Byway.  It was an enjoyable experience to share it with these three special people in my life!

I truly believe that if we all live with intention, then growth, development, transformation, etc. happen within our lives.  I have told some of my clients that, after an hour session together—if we were intentional about our time, then we would both leave my office changed in some way.  That’s what we do—we affect each other’s lives…  let’s make the effect a redemptive experience to empower us all to live more consistently with the values we hold close in our hearts.

When I arrived home this evening with my wonderfully supportive wife Karla, I began to reflect on how this experience has impacted my life.  Just as I attempted to pay attention with intention on the Walk, the journey is not over.  I have more intentional reflecting and learning to do.  There is still much to glean from this wonderful opportunity I had…. so more to come.  Just as T.S. Eliot wrote:

“And the end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started…

And know the place for the first time.”

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Did you know that there is a wonderful Village Welcome Center dedicated to pioneer history of the area, the LH, the Loess (for those of you who wonder how to pronounce this, it rhymes with “bus”) Hills, etc.?  Just about two miles northwest of Missouri Valley on the LH, it is a great stop in so many ways. I treated myself to a new hat with the LH design on our way home today.  Kathy Dirks, the center’s coordinator, took my picture next to a LH marker that still stands upright in its original place… she was going to do something with it, but I can’t remember what!

Today, after the completion of the Walk, I met a waitress at a restaurant in Missouri Valley who wondered why the four of us all had on orange t-shirts with the LH design on the front.  After briefly telling the story, she decided to inform others (regulars, I am assuming) of my journey.  Today, I learned to start putting matters into perspective—that I did not accomplish this Walk alone… and togetherness and gratitude need to remain central in my upcoming conversations.

Today I am grateful for my loving brother Hal Minear.  It is a major understatement to say that I could not have accomplished this challenge without his support.  I may have walked every step of the way on my own… but, without his practical, logistical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual support, I don’t think that this would have been a success.  So… I don’t really know how to express the depth of my gratitude and love to my brother for helping to make my bucket wish dream a reality…  so…  I gently, humbly, mindfully, and graciously says “thank you, big brother” as you have always had an amazing way of looking out for your younger brother across the years.  The gift of my “gratitude marble” was deeply heartfelt!

Peace, Mark

P.S.  Moments after I finished this morning, I received a call from the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center to inform me that $11,555.05 has been given to the Counseling Assistance Fund thus far… perhaps a few more donations will still come in…  I hope so!  The fund will always be there with the need. My humble thanks to all of you who contributed to strengthen our abilities to serve the uninsured and underinsured.

P.S.S. I think that I will likely have one more blog entry… perhaps in a week or so.  It may be interesting to others what develops out of further processing and reflection… and it would be great to write an entry without the pressure of time amidst my diminished mental acuity due to fatigue!

Day 14 a

Mark: “From the bridge you can see the Missouri River in the background.”

Day 14 b

Mark: “The end of the road.”

Day 14 c

Mark: “This Lincoln Highway marker is still in place where the Boy Scouts initially put it in 1928…at the Village Welcome Center just north of Missouri Valley on U.S. 30.”

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For more information and more posts, please see Mark’s homepage: dmpcc.org/WalkwithMark.

Everyone is invited to “Walk with Mark” by helping him reach his goal to support quality mental health services for boys and men. Supporting his 331-mile trek is easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Walk with Mark via his blog on the Center’s website or Facebook page.
  2. Walk with Mark by joining him for part of his itinerary.
  3. Walk with Mark with a donation to the Center for the counseling assistance fund.

DonateNow

Day 13 – May 3, 2016

A Walk Across Iowa on the Old Lincoln Highway: Day #13

Mark Minear

Mark Minear

by Mark Minear 

Greetings!

Over the recent years I have attempted to understand and embrace the transformational power of nurturing gratitude in my life. It has seemed to intertwine very comfortably with mindfulness—to learn to pay attention with intention. When we have eyes to see, there are always good things around us for which we can be grateful. (And, without being simplistic about looking for the silver lining, I would include that I do believe that—even in the midst of our pain—we can still be grateful for the many daily, moment-by-moment gifts in our lives.)

But this Walk has helped me to contemplate that I still have much more to learn. I have had so many generous people provide me with various kinds of practical support, messages of encouragement, and donations to support the Counseling Assistance Fund—people who simply care about me and wanted to contribute to help make my adventure a success. (It really does take a village to help a walker across the state of Iowa.) I think that I still have difficulties simply accepting such gifts without scheming that there must be a way I can return the favor… get even, you know, balance the scales by figuring out what I can give back in return. Though I am not as eloquent late at night when I am fatigued as when I am mindfully walking and reflecting, I do think that—even as I am sharing an expression of gratitude, if I am somewhere in the future thinking about how to make things even, then I am likely to not be fully present with gratitude in the moment. Sometimes all we have to do is to mindfully and graciously say “thank you.”

In fact, when we are fully present for our expressions of gratitude to others, then both we as the receivers and others as the givers are more likely to experience the power of grace, which has the potential to be transformational for both parties. And I figure that if I can be more mindful about simply being grateful (and not working some angle in my head about paying something back), then perhaps the transformation will include becoming a more generous person… whatever the future holds… paying back, paying forward it doesn’t matter… just becoming more cheerful and generous in my giving in the future! I figure that if I have some guilt in the midst of receiving a gift, then I have more work to do to clear out, “let go” of, some of the obstacles in the way of expressing my gratitude – whether it is to God, to others, or even simply a matter of what is quietly experienced in the heart!

Well, tonight I feel inadequate trying to describe my efforts to learn more about gratitude (more to come in the days ahead). Here in Missouri Valley at an RV area at the fairgrounds, about 10.5 miles away from the Missouri River… my brother Hal and I have been joined by our wives. Tomorrow, Karla, Hal, and Beckie will be here to walk a little with me… and to celebrate the finish with me. In my efforts to learn, I will start with trying to “purify” gratitude with them… all I have to do is to express a heartfelt “thank you!”

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” (Meister Eckhart)

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Did you know that the community of Woodbine developed a unique and historical way of welcoming Lincoln Highway travelers into its downtown? In 1921, the city installed brick on the LH for about six blocks. The bricked section of the road is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today I met Elmer and Bruce, long-term residents of Woodbine over another sub sandwich. We had a friendly chat about a number of things (including the importance of abstaining from alcohol among other moral/religious matters—something that Elmer learned from his grandmother); however, they also directed me to a notable gas station with history on the LH—the Brickstreet Station (see pictures below). What was interesting about this conversation is that Elmer (who reported that he was now in his 90s) said he can remember, just barely, when they were laying the bricks for the street—which he said was completed in 1929. So… I am not certain where the line is between historical fact and legend.

Today I learned that both the Lincoln Highway (U.S. 30) and the Union Pacific railroad are still vital arteries of commerce, work and employment, family, etc.—all ways that we make connections across the miles. The original transcontinental Lincoln Highway was established to unite the country… and it united Iowa in many ways as well… and U.S. 30 certainly continues that tradition. And the sound of a train is never far away from the LH… whether during the day with the Walk or during the night in the middle of sleep. From our home in Marshalltown we hear the roar, rumble, and horn of the train about one-half mile to the south. (I left today’s gratitude marble along the railroad tracks… as I am still tickled that trains are still so relevant.)

Today I am grateful for Rick & Judy, long-time friends that came up to Missouri Valley from their home near Glenwood. Karla and I became friends with Rick and Judy now almost 40 years ago; and, even though we haven’t seen each other regularly over the years, as kindred spirits we always resume where we left off the last time. I am grateful that we have such friendships. They had heard about my adventure from another mutual friend, Lucia, who lives in MN. It was an encouragement to see them here at the end of the journey across Iowa!

Peace, Mark

P.S.. I have just over ten more miles to go to get to the Missouri River. I hope to have this journey completed by around 12 noon on 5/4/2016. Then I will likely have another blog at the end of the last day—likely from home… and then, perhaps, some post-journey reflections in a week or so. I know that there is still more to come on gratitude… hopefully something more refined and thoughtfully articulated.

Day 13 a

Mark: “It has been suggested that I take more selfies…so here you go with the Woodbine historic block.”

 

Day 13 b

Mark: “A couple of pictures of the Brickstreet station in Woodbine.”

Day 13 c

Mark: “Notice the mileage to New York and San Francisco.”

Day 13 d

Mark: “Before this trek I had not heard of the Boyer River, which empties into the Missouri…but now I have walked its river basin the past two days.”

Day 13 e

Mark: “I think that I am up to 14 Lincoln Highway markers with this one in Logan and the three at the Welcome Center just north of Missouri Valley.”

 

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For more information and more posts, please see Mark’s homepage: dmpcc.org/WalkwithMark.

Everyone is invited to “Walk with Mark” by helping him reach his goal to support quality mental health services for boys and men. Supporting his 331-mile trek is easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Walk with Mark via his blog on the Center’s website or Facebook page.
  2. Walk with Mark by joining him for part of his itinerary.
  3. Walk with Mark with a donation to the Center for the counseling assistance fund.

DonateNow

Day 12 – May 2, 2016

A Walk Across Iowa on the Old Lincoln Highway: Day #12

Mark Minear

Mark Minear

by Mark Minear

Greetings! I discovered this evening that one of the donations to the Center’s Counseling Assistance Fund was given by an uncle remembering his brilliant and gifted nephew. His nephew had a mental illness and took his life five years ago. I read and re-read the words about this young man who was only 30 when his life ended… and, just as he was dearly loved, he is now deeply missed. First of all, I am humbled that such a gift in memory would be given to my efforts with this Walk. But also, I was moved by the grief that this family has experienced over the recent years as I was introduced, in a small way, to an incredible soul whose life was tragically shortened. I am grateful for this donation… and to this uncle who misses his nephew and who wants to contribute to the lives of others who might be suffering from mental distress. This may be the highest act of love we can do amidst our own loss, grief, and pain… to be redemptive in our efforts to help someone else. Peace to this uncle and this family.

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Did you know that this blog is just packed with fun Lincoln Highway trivia? Here’s a good one: today, while making the trek west out of Westside, I had the privilege of walking for about three miles on the northernmost (you know, in terms of latitude) part of the entire transcontinental Lincoln Highway from New York to San Francisco.

Today I met P.J., manager at the Sparky’s mini-mart in Vail. Originally from Denison with great hometown pride, P.J. had lots of information and stories covering the LH, Denison’s celebrities—Donna Reed and Brandon Scherff (University of Iowa offensive guard who was drafted 5th overall in the NFL 2015 draft by the Washington Redskins), railroads, his grandfather (who kept Donna Reed’s brother’s pick-up from the 1930s going), etc. I had a second breakfast of a sausage, egg, and cheese croissant and a Gatorade along with a delightful conversation. I told P.J. that he was “spontaneously entertaining” as his second job is announcing the Crawford County dirt track races in Denison (if I remember correctly)!

Today I learned something about the strength of the aroma of an ethanol plant. This is the second one that I walked by over the past two weeks (they were both about a mile in length—Nevada and Denison) but the first one where I was downwind.

Today I am grateful for some of the simply pleasures in life: walking by someone mowing freshly cut grass; the croaking sounds of frogs in the flooded ditches and other wet areas; geese either taking off in flight or attending to their goslings; the quickly changing formations of clouds; and the beauty and song of the redwing blackbird (such a cool bird that seems to have their nests in the countryside ditches). In gratitude for the call of this particular passerine bird, today’s marble once again was tossed into another Iowa ditch!

Peace, Mark

P.S. There are a lot of good books on the history and updated status of the Lincoln Highway. A couple of my favorites are by Brian Butko: Greetings from the Lincoln Highway (2005) and Lincoln Highway Companion: A Guide to America’s First Coast-to-Coast Road (2009).

P.S.S. Due to the rain over the weekend (I walked in the light rain but the rain on Saturday was just too heavy), I got about a half day behind… so I hope to finish at the Missouri River (about 10 miles west of Missouri Valley) around noon on Wednesday, May 4th!

day 12 a

Mark: “Once again the Lincoln Highway and the Union Pacific railroad crisscross…and stay fairly close to each other!”

Day 12 b

Mark: “I was so excited to catch this picture of the train coming by that my finger got in the way.”

Day 12 c

Mark: “This Standard gas station in Vail was restored just last year.”

Day 12 d

Mark: “This stately home on the Lincoln Highway just north and wet of Arion has magnificent brickwork.”

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For more information and more posts, please see Mark’s homepage: dmpcc.org/WalkwithMark.

Everyone is invited to “Walk with Mark” by helping him reach his goal to support quality mental health services for boys and men. Supporting his 331-mile trek is easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Walk with Mark via his blog on the Center’s website or Facebook page.
  2. Walk with Mark by joining him for part of his itinerary.
  3. Walk with Mark with a donation to the Center for the counseling assistance fund.

DonateNow

Day 11 – May 1, 2016

A Walk Across Iowa on the Old Lincoln Highway: Day #11

Mark Minear

Mark Minear

by Mark Minear

Greetings!

Today was a day of incredible diversity; and I stayed busy “noticing” my reactions (automatic stuff) and my responses (more intentionally thoughtful). From the time my brother dropped me off on the boundary between Greene County and Carroll County to the time I finished approximately 27 miles later just over the boundary between Carroll County and Crawford County, I experienced a variety of weather, sights and sounds, and togetherness and aloneness as I trekked east-west across the entire Carroll County!

I walked miles on gravel roads without encountering a single car… this provided a wonderful opportunity for a more mindful walking meditation. The skies provided a light cool rain (45 degrees) well into the afternoon… but, after a change into dry clothes and shoes and some calories and a break with napping in my brother’s car for a while, I was energized to keep a 4 mph pace for the last 12 miles; and, by the time I reached the hilly town of Westside (not certain about the origin of the name because this town is on the east side of Crawford County… just feet into Crawford), the sun was out and people were mowing their yards and kids were playing football. I noticed how my moods changed over the course of the day as well… People talk about the Iowa weather changing quickly – you’ve heard the jokes. But there is something about taking another step that changes our view of the world… or pausing for a moment… or engaging a person… or enjoying the beauty of nature… or reflecting on the magnitude of the universe… or expressing a sense of gratitude… or listening to the “still small voice” within our hearts… there are so many ways that our lives can be transformed! Paying attention with intention is the key!

Did you know that Iowa had over 100,000 miles of roads by 1912 but few were graveled or paved? By the early 1920s not much had changed; Iowa dirt turned to mud with rain was called gumbo, “a particularly vicious and viscous and generally impassable brand of mud peculiar to the state.” In light of the significant amounts of rain in western Iowa over the past two days, I wanted to share a warning to motorists from the 1924 Lincoln Highway Association guidebook: “It is folly to drive on Iowa dirt roads, during or immediately after a rain… When it rains in Iowa or Nebraska, the tourist should stop if he wishes to save his car, his time, his tires, and his temper.”

Today I met Brenda at the Casey’s in Glidden; she fixed me an egg, cheese, and sausage breakfast sandwich, and we realized that we knew a common person. Today three gifts to the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center’s Counseling Assistance Fund were given primarily because of the WHO-TV news segment. An anonymous couple just getting out of church, a woman named Sue who had her reasons to affirm such efforts for men and mental health, and Kevin a farmer whose dog Sidney followed alongside of me for about a half mile (he was my co-walker for the day) were all generous and encouraging.

Today I learned more about the way that rain makes its way to the ocean… filling the fields, down the waterways, into the ditches, to the creeks, the streams, and the rivers… WOW! I could see it, hear it, smell it… and, today, I had the privilege of walking across the divide between the Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers drainage basins—it is noted just off of U.S. 30. (Into the fast moving creek empowered by the drainage from a field plopped my gratitude marble for today!)

Today I had an extra sense of grateful simply about being alive. It is such a privilege to participate in this adventure with the entire experience… with its joys and its sorrows, its mysteries and its meanings, its beauty and its chaos, etc. And I think that hope is such a central part of this journey I am taking. Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I think that the sacredness of love is the transformational hope moving in all of our hearts… attending to this intimation will give our lives a sense of purpose and peace and power!

Peace, Mark

Day 11 a

Mark: “Merle Hay was from Glidden, Iowa. He enlisted in the army with eight others from this small town on May 3, 1917.”

Day 11 b

Mark: “He was the first iowa serviceman and perhaps the first American serviceman to die World War I on November 3, 2917.”

Day 11 c

Mark: “The city of Carroll is graciously trying to guide me through their community on the Old Lincoln Highway.”

Day 11 d

Mark: “Today I walked long stretches of gravel roads. . .remnants of the original Lincoln Highway.”

 

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Everyone is invited to “Walk with Mark” by helping him reach his goal to support quality mental health services for boys and men. Supporting his 331-mile trek is easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Walk with Mark via his blog on the Center’s website or Facebook page.
  2. Walk with Mark by joining him for part of his itinerary.
  3. Walk with Mark with a donation to the Center for the counseling assistance fund.

DonateNow

Day 10 – April 30, 2016

A Walk Across Iowa on the Old Lincoln Highway: Day #10

Mark Minear

Mark Minear

by Mark Minear 

Greetings! Today’s rain reminds me that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” And then the psalmist (Psalm 24) goes on to add, “for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” You know, at some level we all already know what I am about to write… but a day like this confirms for me again just how little in our lives is under our own control. My wife has often said that “flexibility” is a strong indication of good mental health. (After an initial 1.5 miles today, I had to wait the next five hours due to the rain.) Many of us may be able to admit that the environment around us, including the behaviors of other people, is beyond our ability to control… but some of us may also wander to what extent our own behaviors are under our control.

I believe that I am headed to the word “acceptance”! (The rain today held up the progress of the Walk with only 16.5 miles instead of making it all the way to Carroll. It appears that I will need an extra day to complete the entire journey… hopefully on Wednesday, May 4th!)

I was thinking along the wet, cool, and windy roads today that this has been a good stretch for me as a person. I may attain a better understanding of my limits with this experience of a river-to-river walk. I have been noticing some of the not-so-likeable aspects of my life surfacing… you can guess – a little grumpiness, some impatience, a need for control (see above regarding the weather conditions), self-centeredness, anxiety about others on the journey with me (I worry about others’ safety while walking with me—in fact, I had a couple of co-walkers who reminded me that they were adults and were making the choice to walk with me), etc. It is wonderfully convenient that I have good excuses about such attitudes and behaviors that show themselves… “I’m tired”… “I haven’t had enough calories”… “My feet hurt”… Don’t those seem like reasonable excuses?

So here’s the kicker… perhaps it is a two-fold message to myself. On one hand, it is a matter of acceptance of who I am… weaknesses, warts, and all… and that both excusing myself and beating myself up are not necessarily paths to healing or transformation. So… on the other hand, maybe it is the grace that comes with such acceptance that makes way for possible transformation to become the person who lives more consistently by my values… compassion, caring, generosity, patience, trust, gratitude, letting go, etc. Perhaps the spiritual grace of acceptance without judgment is the very path allows for the awareness and empowerment that we can become more of the people we feel called to be, the people we want to be, the people who live more consistently day-by-day and moment-by-moment according to the values we treasure in our lives.

Did you know that James Edward Moss, a Civil War veteran and admirer of President Lincoln, built a pair of concrete monuments on the corner of his farm about two miles north of Scranton? (See today’s pictures below.) He erected them in 1924, two years after the Lincoln Highway was paved, as Greene County was the first to gravel and then pave its portion of the LH.

Today I met Nhan and Ora at the Heartland Coffee and Bakery. They were gracious to allow the interview with WHO-TV to be held in their wonderful coffee shop in downtown Jefferson. I also had the pleasure of enjoying one of their cinnamon rolls with a hot chocolate.

Today I learned a little bit more about “accepting the things that I cannot change.”

Today I am grateful for the WHO-TV team who came to interview me in Jefferson: Reid (the reporter) and Marissa (the photographer) were both very personal (warm and engaging) and professional (respectful and competent). They both seemed to have an interest in mental health concerns and to be genuinely moved by the work of the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center and my efforts on this Walk.

Peace, Mark

P.S. Yesterday’s gratitude marble was given to my sister-in-law Beckie. She has now come out twice to walk with me… and she has also taken a number of wonderful pictures of my experience. The one from yesterday walking between the trees (did you notice the Lincoln Highway Heritage road sign in the background?) is one that I am hoping to have framed someday as a remembrance of this journey.

Today’s marble is hmmm…? still in my pocket… I forgot to do something with it!

Day 10 a

Mark: “An old abandoned motel two miles west of Jefferson. This dreary day added to the poignant reminder of how everything changes with time.”

Day 10 b

Mark: “Two Moss monuments two miles north of Scranton on the Lincoln Highway…one faces east and one faces north.”

Day 10 c

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For more information and more posts, please see Mark’s homepage: dmpcc.org/WalkwithMark

Everyone is invited to “Walk with Mark” by helping him reach his goal to support quality mental health services for boys and men. Supporting his 331-mile trek is easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Walk with Mark via his blog on the Center’s website or Facebook page.
  2. Walk with Mark by joining him for part of his itinerary.
  3. Walk with Mark with a donation to the Center for the counseling assistance fund.

DonateNow

Day 9 – April 29, 2016

A Walk Across Iowa on the Old Lincoln Highway: Day #9

Mark Minear

Mark Minear

by Mark Minear 

Greetings!

As I walked along today, amidst my reflections I continued to hear my friend, Jim Newby’s, words echo in my memory: “Mark, all we have are choices.” I have been thinking about the power and importance of making choices for our lives. We do, however, have to be awake to make choices and not simply be operating on autopilot. Being awake/aware is the key… how does one stay mindful moment by moment? Do you feel that you make choices day by day… or are you simply reacting to cues and triggers around you each day? When I get tired and then get grumpy toward others, I can have a ready excuse (“I walked 27 miles today”) as if that was adequate… but, perhaps, my choice should be to take some time to retreat and take care of myself if I feel that I am unable to make moment-by-moment healthy and caring choices in my interactions with others.

I can remember some challenging times in my own life… where I chose to keep putting one foot out in front of the next. There were times when such tenacity kept me going during my doctoral program. There have been moments in which I have experienced that on this journey across Iowa… taking another step was a choice.

We often wish that we could have a sense that our decisions could be perfect… but it is likely that, especially with life’s big determinations, there is often a sense of a dilemma in making a choice. Are there perfect choices or simply the best or optimal choices? It appears to me that we are often confronted with imperfect solutions—the challenge of making decisions based upon what we know at the time. Maybe our hearts are full of good intentions (though we may even have some mixed motivations at times if we are honest) or we might get conflicting advice from different people about what the right decision should be.

Yet there is something powerful about the freedom of making choices… and not sleepwalking through life… of making determinations and feeling the sense of responsibility. Grace and forgiveness are also part of the journey… when our choices turn out to not have been optimal or were even detrimental to ourselves or to others around us. Staying aware, however, allows us the best possibility to be liberated to choose how we respond or what happens next in our lives.

I had so much else to say for tonight’s blog from my day’s reflections… but those insights don’t seem to be resurfacing… perhaps it is my fatigue or perhaps this is all that needs to be shared tonight. I would close with this thought: I believe that nurturing gratitude in our lives is a choice—a significant and powerful choice that transforms our lives… and, you know what, I have a hunch that I will choose to write more about gratitude before this blog comes to a close!

Did you know that my journey on the Lincoln Highway today gave me the privilege of walking across two bridges—one for the Des Moines River and one for the Raccoon River? (Trivia question: and where do these two rivers converge? What significant structure is at the intersection of these two rivers?)

P.S. I am now up to 13 LH markers (you know, placed by the Boy Scouts in 1928) as I walked by three today in Ogden, Grand Junction, and Jefferson (right next to the carillon tower).

Today I met Leon, the owner and operator of the Chit Chat Café in downtown Ogden. He took my order, cooked my order, and brought my order to the table… and his eggs, hash browns, crispy bacon, and wheat toast kept me going. Leon talked about the challenges of keeping a small town café going… he is looking to sell his place – or close it down if he is unable to sell it. All the best, Leon!

Today I learned that we are getting close to the $10,000 goal for the Counseling Assistance Fund. Thank you to everyone who has contributed toward this support for the uninsured, underinsured, and those with inadequate mental health coverage.

Today I am grateful for my clients… those with whom I have worked over the years and those with whom I will resume work when I return to the Center on June 1st. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with a variety of clients… but all of them with values, gifts, strengths, passions, talents, etc… and they have taught me so much about life! In regard to the emphases of my walk (raising awareness regarding “men and mental health” and raising donations for the Counseling Assistance Fund), when I think of how men may often have difficulties admitting to feeling overwhelmed and difficulties requesting help, I am bolstered by the many men with whom I have worked who are courageous, caring, and committed to improving the quality of their lives and the people they love!

Peace, Mark

Day 9 a

Mark: “This Mobilgas station in Grand Junction takes one back to any earlier time.”

Day 9 b

Mark: “And Grand Junction also has its own LH information center.”

Day 9 c

Mark: “My sister-in-law took this one in Jefferson. Would these stations be preserved if they weren’t on the Lincoln Highway?”

Day 9 d

Mark: “And of course Lincoln next to the carillon tower and the Greene County courthouse in Jefferson.”

Day 9 e

Mark: “And from Lincoln’s second inaugural address. . . ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all.’ “

Day 9 f

Mark: “My sister-in-law Beckie took this photo… It is one that i hope to blow up and perhaps frame someday.”

 

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For more information and more posts, please see Mark’s homepage: dmpcc.org/WalkwithMark

Everyone is invited to “Walk with Mark” by helping him reach his goal to support quality mental health services for boys and men. Supporting his 331-mile trek is easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Walk with Mark via his blog on the Center’s website or Facebook page.
  2. Walk with Mark by joining him for part of his itinerary.
  3. Walk with Mark with a donation to the Center for the counseling assistance fund.

DonateNow