Thursday, December 27, 2007

The happy hubbub of the holidays!

This past week has been filled with such holiday fun!

Last Thursday - company Christmas party with yummy tapas appetizers and beverages. I won a $50 Best Buy gift card in the raffle!

Friday - a best friend had her annual holiday Open House. Fabulous time! Tons of amazing food, holiday decor in every nook and cranny, including the ceiling, and a lot of old - and new - friends gathered to celebrate

Saturday - took my grands to see a wonderful play, La Posada Magica. This is our third consecutive year seeing this wonderful, funny, Latin-themed, audience-participation, musical play. We'll be back next year, too!

Sunday - Christmas brunch at my house so we could all celebrate Christmas with my dad. I'm used to preparing food for one person, so cooking for 15 is challenging and brunch started about an hour later than planned. Everyone had a wonderful time, pitching in to help, setting up tables and chairs, laughing, teasing. We exchanged gifts: CDs by the Doors, Beatles, Emmylou Harris, Marvin Gaye; books (Uncrowned King: The Life of Prince Albert, A Thousand Splendid Suns); DVDs (a couple of French films, Orson Welles' Touch of Evil) and other assorted gifts. After brunch and gifts, everyone munched on goodies for dessert (my daughter makes great fudge!), and I played Christmas carols and songs on the piano while folks young and old all sang along. Such a wonderful Dickensian scene!

Monday - baked cookies and tried to recover from the previous few days! I can usually manage the fibromyalgia and spondylolisthesis pretty well with periodic rest and exercise, but by Sunday I was pretty pooped and my body was "talking" to me about it!

Tuesday - blessed Christmas! I drove to my daughter's home to celebrate with her family and open gifts. My oldest grand did a beautiful painting for me; she's a talented artist! Later, I drove to my brother and sister-in-law's home for Christmas dinner with them and my sister-in-law's close family. A great meal, great conversation and the perfect ending to a wonderful week!

I hope you and yours had a wonderfully blessed Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

the breath of heaven ...

Merry Christmas from Huntington Beach, California! Doing a little reading this morning, I felt the ocean breeze gently stir in the room, lightly lifting the filmy sheers at my bedroom window. The sun's rays caught the little mirrors and prisms in the window and cast dancing rainbows around the room, colors twinkling on walls and surfaces. I put down my reading and just watched. The air across my skin and the scattering rainbows just made me feel so filled with love and the magic of Christmas and the miracle of His birth!

The following is edited from last year's December 17, 2006 post:

Advent always draws me to Mary, a young Jewish girl in Nazareth, raised in a good Jewish family, betrothed to a good Jewish man. The stories of Mary were written long after she'd crossed over, long after the events of her life had transpired. There were no reporters to relate her story as it unfolded, no paparazzi snapping away. So my beliefs about those times may not be entirely factual, but they are beliefs of the heart, of what I believe are the intents of the Nativity story.

What must life have been like for this young girl, Mary, anticipating her marriage to Joseph, looking forward to a normal Jewish life with him, raising kids, working, all the normal family things? She was about 15, maybe younger. Then an angel appears to her and tells her that she is to have a child - without having been with a man - and not any child, but the long-awaited Messiah. Faithfulness and prayer was much different then than today, but this would surely have given any young girl pause, to have at least raised questions on her part, possibly denial that such a thing could occur. How many of us - in the circumstances of those times - would have thought "thanks, but no thanks?"

Mary does question, "How shall this be?" Then, her simple, faithful "Yes" - her most obedient response "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word’” (Luke 1:38) - shows a complete trust in the Lord, her embrace of God's call for her to change everything she'd planned for her life and to obey God's word without question.

Mary's response inspires me to try to live my life with complete trust in God and in His plan for my life. My Advent journey each year provides a glorious opportunity for reflection and renewal, a special time set aside for just such contemplation on how to live my life in a way that honors and glorifies.

The beautiful song Breath of Heaven reflects the awesomeness of Mary's response to the angel, her fiat. Mary questions God, asking him if He's really quite sure she's right for the job, if perhaps "a wiser one should have had my place?" Faithfully, she responds: "But I offer all I am/for the mercy of your plan" and she asks Him for His help, knowing the difficulties that lay ahead of her:

"Help me be strong ...
Help me be ...
Help me ..."

A prayer any believer can pray any day, any time, looking to our faith (in whatever very personal way that means to each of us) to sustain us, to help us be.

Tomorrow, Advent's quiet season of prayer-filled waiting and reflective contemplation culminates in the joy of blessed Christmas. Lord, let it be me to me according to your word, and help me to develop complete trust and faith in you in all things, just as Mary did. Emmanuel - God with us!


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Heidi and my Advent practice ...

Last Saturday night, my granddaughters and I snuggled up together on the couch and watched Shirley Temple's Heidi together. I love this film! This is not only my favorite Advent/Christmas movie, but simply my favorite movie ever. Watching Heidi is always a highlight of the Advent season for me.

What does the movie have to do with Advent? Let's start with its themes of unconditional love, of sin and repentance, of forgiveness and redemption. This movie connects with a deeper spirituality within me; it's not just a cute little girl capturing the hearts of everyone she meets. There's so much more that I become aware of with each viewing.

Unconditional Love
Heidi is left by her aunt to live with her grandfather, a recluse in a rugged hut high up a mountain, who is feared by the people in the village below. Heidi, though, approaches this man - a total stranger to her - with a wide smile and an acceptance and love for him just as he is, her innocent child's hands holding a bouquet of wildflowers she's picked on the long hike up the mountain. The sweet innocence of youth holds no judgement or criticism of her grandfather; instead, she offers him a sweet, pure love without any conditions, without any hesitation. Watching this the other night - my heart filled with Advent reflection - I thought that this is much like Jesus loves us, seeing our beautiful, perfect spirits within, loving us unconditionally. There is no "I'll love you if you'll love me back" from either Heidi or Jesus. There is simply "I love you."

Sin and Repentance
In the face of that love, the grandfather's self-imposed isolation turns to a a joyful embrace of this child's presence in his lonely life and he soon loves his granddaughter with a powerful protectiveness, the two of them singing and laughing through their chores and school lessons each day. When they read the story of the prodigal son together, the grandfather wistfully quotes from memory: "'But the father said, 'Bring the best robe and put it on him, and put rings on his finger. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. For this my son was dead and is alive again. He was lost and now is found.'"

The grandfather had rejected his son - Heidi's father - years ealier, when the son married a woman the grandfather did not approve of. And now the son was dead and the old man's regrets are etched in the softness and longing in his expression as he quotes the biblical passage. A tremendously moving scene, you get a sense that the man is talking with both his son and his God, repenting his past sins and asking forgiveness from them both. Then his expression softens further, and we understand that he realizes his son is truly "alive again", through his beloved granddaughter, Heidi.

Forgiveness and redemption
"If a man has a hundred sheep and one is gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go into the mountains and seek that which is gone astray? And if... [Heidi and her grandfather enter the church. Pastor Schultz pauses] ... And if he finds it, he rejoices more than of the ninety-nine which went not astray."

The grandfather's heart is so changed, that he decides to return to the village and take Heidi to church. As they arrive, the pastor is preaching the parable of the lost sheep. He pauses and all eyes turn to the Grandfather and Heidi as they walk up the aisle and take a seat. Whispers and smiles fill the church as the Grandfather and Heidi join in and sing with the congregation. After the service, the citizens of the village all gather 'round the two outside the church, eager to shake the grandfather's hand and welcome him back with warmth and caring. No judgement, no criticism, only joy at his return. A real God moment.

I know these thoughts are very simplistic; after all, this is the movies and Shirley Temple movies were crafted to tug at the heart strings with a three-part plot of happiness - crisis - happiness. Believe me, I know. (And that's why I like them.) But lately, I'm seeing evidence of God in so many things in each day and each moment. Why don't we have more movies like this today, movies that prompt us to live our own lives better and in closer connection with all that is good and wholesome? Movies that draw our thoughts toward God and peace and love toward one another. When Shirley sings "Silent Night", there is a deep sense of peace and calm in my spirit. This is how I want movies to make me feel.

Advent continues to help me see the sacred in all that is around me and explore how Heidi's lessons of love, repentance and forgiveness can be practiced in my own life.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

A very special holiday treat ...

Last week, Maureen at Penchants, Ponderings and Posies (I just love that name!) gave me a Friendly Site Award, which I thought was very nice and ... er ... uh ... well, friendly of her! I very nearly forgot to acknowledge it - sorry, Maureen!

There are several blogs that I really enjoy visiting and Maureen's is one of the tops. She is what I would consider a bit of a Renaissance woman; even though we've never met in person, I've known her online since 2001. Mo is a highly skilled photographer, with a tremendous eye for framing a photo in her lens. When she went to Italy (yes, she even speaks Italian), her camera was often in hand as she shot the countryside and places she visited. Some of her most wonderfully engaging photos are a series of door knockers that she captured; they're elegant and beautiful (and I've often thought would make such pretty notecards!).

Maureen's artistic talent isn't just in photography; her home is jaw-dropping gorgeous. She has a way of creating beautiful environments with lovely details throughout, yet with a comfortable, welcoming feel that makes you smile the minute you step in her door.

Christmas time at Mo's is a special treat I look forward to each year and she's recently posted some pics of this year's
decor. Weaving shimmery bronzes and coppers with soft lime greens and warm browns ... mixing natural garden elements with family treasures (where natural-looking birds festoon willow branches with deep kiwi-green ribbon) ... and then topping it all with the sparkle of mercury glass, mirror and silvery tinsel ... she has created a look rich with the magic and wonder of Christmas!

Please visit Mo and enjoy a very special holiday treat for yourself:


Saturday, December 8, 2007

sensing grace ...

Maybe it's my stronger focus on my inner life during Advent ...
Maybe it's just the season ...
But, I'm finding myself more vitally aware of God's presence in all things these days.

Do you sense it, too? Slowing down, I take fuller, deeper breaths. I open my heart to the moment, extending my arms out wide and then back, like angel's wings, heart exposed. I'm finding myself stopping and paying a little more attention, seeing His grace in just every little thing.

... the rain yesterday
... the sunshine today
...the hellos that I exchanged with strangers when I took my walk this morning ... hello! good morning! ...
...the phone conversation with my oldest granddaughter last night, gabbing away and laughing at silly things class this morning ... extending, strengthening, breathing ... holding stillness in the pose, holding stillness in the mind ... chatting happily with everyone after class
... the seagulls playing and calling to one another
... the music playing on this blog
... you ... I see His grace in you

I saw a photo earlier this morning of cats sitting in a window, watching snowflakes falling for the better part of the day. They'd change positions once in a while, but otherwise, simply sat there observing the dancing, whirling flakes, quietly witnessing without fully engaging, in the grace of the moment. We "stare out the window", metaphorically, more as kids than as adults, I think. As a kid, I'd become engrossed in watching a limey green worm inch-inch-inch across the grass, or be fully present as I observed a line of ants busily hauling things along the sidewalk's edge. Or simply witness the splendor of Nature below me as I sat on the edge of a rock atop a hill ... simply looking, and feeling my entire being fill with peace and grace.

I need to "stare out the window' more ... stilling the mind naturally by acknowledging and being present to the moment, the internal chatter on pause, breathing more fully, senses dialed in at the upper range of awareness, naturally aware of God's grace. There is no judgment, criticism, and barely any thought. Simply observant, simply aware of grace.

Fully present to the moment.
Fully present to the Grace of the moment.

In grace, there is a perfect blend of our dual natures, body and spirit in harmony. Everything we need to know, we already know. (Really.) Sometimes it's just a matter of slowing down and being more present to remember. We acknowledge the grace of God in each moment. We acknowledge our own divine grace, too. Blessed be.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

dancing with my Self ...

Golden moments -

You know those times during the week when you are suddenly very consciously aware of how very happy and content you are? When you look up and see the world frozen for a split second and you find your heart simply glowing with happiness?

When it happens, it's as if I'm going through my day, and then someone turns on a beacon of golden light that makes me stop, lift my head from whatever I was occuped with, and take notice with absolute clarity. I breathe. I smile. I AM HAPPY. The feeling floods through me and fills me up. And these golden moments usually happen when I'm with family and friends, the people I love.

This past weekend was filled with those golden moments, lucky girl that I am. On Friday, my friend and dance instructor, X, had a dance mixer at his dance studio. I haven't seen X in a few months, and haven't taken lessons or been in his studio for even longer. In his e-mail about the mixer, he also said that one of my favorite salsa instructors and a good friend, Zuly, would be there, too, and that her salsa performing group would be performing. woo-hoo! I called a friend who wants to learn salsa and needed a night out, picked her up and we went to the studio. I was grinning ear-to-ear the entire time. X always has such great parties; he taught salsa, merengue and cha-cha lessons at various times during the night, he had a fun contest, there was the performance (which was fabulous! Zuly is an outstanding choreographer who uses the entire body so amazingly) - it was non-stop fun, and my friend got her feet wet in learning the basics of latin dance. Plus I ran into several old dance friends!

Saturday night, one of my "forever friends" had a gathering at his place for our group. (Chris, Glenn, Paul and I have been super-tight friends for over 30 years, from way back when we'd hang out with each other every day; a regular sitcom we were.) All I have to do is step into a room with these guys and the beacon comes on and I'm standing there grinning. We have always bantered and teased mercilessly and we haven't stopped yet. Thrust and parry, bob and weave - we'd be in mid-conversation when someone would fling some barb and we'd all be on the floor laughing. Super-smart guys, we can hold an intelligent, well-considered conversation - between bouts of laughter - and enjoy one another's company so much, that the conversation is effortless. We have such a wealth of shared experience together and almost our own shorthand way of being together, that's it's like wearing your favorite pajamas.

Sunday afternoon, my daughter had a combination housewarming party and 30th birthday party. Yes, my munchkin, who looks like she's still 14, is turning 30 today, December 6. This was the first time that her family and her husband's family would be coming out to see their new home. Daughter spent two days cleaning, decorating and cooking and she did a fabulous job, with chili verde, chicken enchiladas, beans and spanish rice, all made from scratch. (Her beans tasted just like my mom's; delicious!) As members of both families were happily jabbering away with one another and eating, I looked at them all and felt so happy. I looked at Daughter, gathering the compliments on her new home, and I was happy.

Each night this week, I've lit my 1st Advent Candle, the candle of Hope. With the rest of the house in darkness and only that small purple candle lit, I've gazed into its flame and talked with my God, peace and contentment filling my heart as I watch the Light flicker against the dark.

In these golden moments, I feel happiness. I also feel complete freedom. Freedom from want, freedom from desire. I want nothing else in this moment; I am not in need. It's just all so perfect. Nothing to add, nothing to subtract. Nothing to do, nothing to undo. I imagine this is partly what Heaven might feel like, where we lack nothing and have no wants or needs.

May you enjoy plenty of golden moments this first week of Advent. Namaste.

Monday, December 3, 2007

slow me down, Lord ...

breathing in ... breathing out ...

Slow me down, Lord; slow me down.
Remind me to be vigilant; make my soul more aware of the grace of each moment.
"Stay awake! Be prepared."
Slow me down, Lord, so I may take care in my preparations and not lose myself in distraction.

Lighting the 1st candle, the candle of Hope
recalls the hope of God's people as they antipated the coming of a Messiah.
It recalls the steadfast faith in that anticipated coming.
It recalls the steadfast faith and hope of a young girl who knew of the dangers of her simple "Yes" to God's angel.
With joyful hope, we join her in awaiting the birth of the Light of he world.
Slow me down, Lord; slow me down.

breathing in ... breathing out ...

The Light comes to dispel the darkness, to bring new life, hope, and joy in the Love of God.
Made in the image of God, we are called to be light to the world by reflecting God's grace to others.
Let our actions, our words and our thoughts reflect that grace.
Let me be aware of others' needs around me, and anticipate how I might be gracious toward them.
Slow me down, Lord; slow me down.

low me down and open my eyes that I may see your grace revealed.
My heart fills with love and light.
Slowing down, I can listen more attentively to your voice in my spirit.
Let the words of your servant be guided by your grace.
Let the actions of your servant be guided by your will.

breathing in ... breathing out ...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Seeking quiet spaces ...

Lord Jesus,
Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!"

- Advent Prayer, Henri J.M. Nouwen

Advent: coming, arrival. A mother is with child and He is soon to be born. How will I receive the Gift? Where will my heart be? Just was we joyfully prepare when a guest is coming to visit, I must prepare, to be ready to receive and welcome Him. Advent begins this Sunday and I will step away from the everyday hustle and bustle where life is so distracted and there doesn't seem to be time to get bills paid, the house cleaned, relationships nurtured and the garden watered, much less time to reflect upon the grace of God in my life.

But we are moving into Advent, and I will intentionally and gently move my footsteps and my heart onto a different path, one that is not distracted with the worldly things of my physical Self. My spiritual Self needs to be nurtured, and I won't find that nurturance among frenzied mobs of shoppers. So I will walk a different path. I will pray that each step will leave an imprint of light and love. I will seek to sit and be with my Lord each day, filling my spirit with quiet hope, reflecting on how to better fill my heart with Him and to live each day in grace. The normal distractions of each day will be replaced with attentive waiting, preparing for the happiest guest of all, the Christmas gift of a Saviour, born in a dark and lowly manger.

A beautifully graced woman, Britt-Arnhild, has a wonderful Advent practice and I will be sharing it with her again this year. I wish you all a blessed Advent time, in whatever manner you choose to enjoy it.


Monday, November 26, 2007

crazy eights

I've had a blog since May 2005 and have never been tagged for a blog meme. Pretty remarkable in blog land, like being picked last for a team (which I wouldn't mind since I'd rather dance than play sports). But my run has ended; Lynn has tagged me for a Crazy Eights list.

OK, so here's how it goes:
(1) Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves
(2) People who are tagged need to write a post on their own blog (about their eight things) and post these rules.
(3) At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
(4) Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

OK, so in no particular order, here's my Crazy 8 list of random, crazy things about me:

1. My closet is organized with the tops all sorted by sleeve length: tanks, short sleeves, long sleeves, then sweatshirts/jackets. Within each sleeve length, they are sub-categorized by color: white, brown, yellow, pink, red, green, blue, black. All the hangers face the same way and there is exactly one hanger for each garment, no extras on the rod. When I wear a brown shirt, it is returned to the brown shirt hanger after washing. Skirts and pants also are sorted by color. So simple and I know exactly what I have and can always find what I want.

2. I can bend my index finger all the way back and touch the back of my hand. Mom used to say I didn't have a bone in that finger. Freaks people out, especially when I ask them to bend it as far as they can cuz it feels kinda rubbery. Funny!

3. I play piano, not terribly well, but decent enough that my neighbors tell me I should play more. I write, both professionally and casually. I paint; I always had some talent in art and my ex-father-in-law was an accomplished artist who taught me oil painting. I dance: ballet for about 10 years, then swing, ballroom and salsa as an adult. I even performed in two amateur salsa groups. My oldest brother and I used to choreograph contemporary dances in the living room to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. But, I cannot sing. Lordy, nope, I cannot. When my daughter was little, she would turn off the radio if I started to sing. When my oldest granddaughter was old enough to speak, she asked me to turn off the car radio. I can sing Oingo Boingo songs pretty well, or at least I think so.

4. I can do the splits: right leg and left leg. I can also sit in sideways splits and lay my torso flat on the floor. It feels so good to lie like that, relaxing and breathing. I think that it opens up my hips and relieves some of the pain from the spondylolisthesis.

5. I've had cancer, twice. Cervical. Back in the late 80s and all's good now (except for the fibromyalgia, scoliosis and spondylolisthesis). It's funny, but I didn't think of myself as a cancer survivor until recently. Maybe because I had surgery both times and didn't have to do the chemo or radiation that I usually associate with cancer.

6. I rarely drink. In the course of a year, maybe a total of 6 beers and maybe two glasses of wine or champagne. I don't like the way alcohol makes me feel. It makes me feel altered,not like my genuine self, and I don't like the feeling. For me, I don't see the attraction. Maybe it doesn't make others feel altered? It makes me sad to see people who are drunk or tipsy; it affects my perception of how I know them normally. I don't want to see an altered side of people that I like.

7. I can't eat food that looks like an animal. A big ol' slab of animal meat on a plate makes me go white and become nauseous. Anything on a bone: pork chops, ribs. A roasted bird. (I'm already burping just imagining these dead animal carcasses.) If it looks like an animal or animal part, my tummy starts to do cartwheels. The smell of animal flesh on a BBQ - oy, saints and angels! - same thing. Because I tend to have low iron, the doctor says I should eat some animal, so if the food is already prepared and doesn't look like the animal (chicken tenders, tuna in a can), I can stomach it.

8. I believe we can create the kingdom of God on earth. I think it's possible, although I'd be very naive to think it's probable. I believe we can share a world of love, peace and goodness toward one another. And through that caring for one another, we can help the hungry, the poor; we can elevate the disenfranchised, care for the sick and the lonely, maybe even balance things out a bit. If we all acted as though we understood that each person we encountered had a Divine spirit, we could change the world. "Namaste" means that the Divine in me sees and acknowledges the Divine in you. We see beyond the outer physical shell - with its ego and needs and competitiveness - and we recognize the peace of God within. Maybe we can't bring the kingdom to the entire world, but I can try harder to bring it to each day that I rise and breathe, and send love and peace from my heart into the world.

Now, I'll tag the following people for fun; whether they choose to play or not is up to them: Mercy (the first person who ever commented on my blog), Amber, Maureen, Sharon.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Like gentle rain ...


Loving God,
let the gratitude
we know today
seep like a gentle rain
into the lives and hearts
of all people we meet
in your world
and at your table.
—The Blessing Candles:58 Simple Mealtime Prayer-Celebrations

Let the gratitude we feel on this day of thanksgiving be energetically multiplied throughout the entire world, resonating in every part of creation. Fill your heart with grace and gratitude - we have so much to be thankful for! - fill it to overflowing, and then let that energy flow out from you, cascading from every part of your being. Do you see it? Can you feel it?

Let its power and energy fill every footstep you take, leaving an imprint of thankfulness. Let it flow to each person you meet or see (remember to smile!). Send the energy of gratitude into the universe, filling the world with love, hope and thankfulness. Let our collective energy of gratitude dispel the dark energy of those who promote fear and hopelessness in this world.

In our gratitude, let us remember to thank God for our very breath, for the beat of our hearts, for the blood that fills our veins. Let us give thanks for the unconditional Love of our blessed Lord and for the acceptance of our human imperfections. And let us remember to say our thanks to each of our loved ones and to those who are part of our journey and who leave their footprints on our lives. Remember, too, our soldiers and all who strive for peace and freedom to fill the world.

Thank you for your friendship and for your supportive comments. May you recognize God's abundant blessings in your lives each day and may you share those blessings with all of His creation and fill the universe with love and peace.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Giving thanks for our troops ...

This Thursday, we will be humbly blessed to gather with dear family and friends to share a probably too-big Thanksgiving meal with many traditional family favorites or maybe new dishes to mix things up a bit. What we'll all have in common is that we will be blessed to be together in peace and safety. There will be no road bombs or IEDs on the the way to Grandmother's house; no one will be shooting at us as over the fields (or freeways) we go.
As we thank God for the abundant blessings we enjoy each day, let's remember to give thanks to our troops. For many American families, there will be an empty chair at their table because they have a loved one far from home serving our country. For many others, that chair will carry only memories of Thanksgivings past.

Let's say thanks to our military personnel eating in mess halls and tents overseas who protect our freedoms and serve and sacrifice with honor to make the world a better, safer place for every one of us. You can send a postcard through a special program sponsored by Xerox. Type your message and they will print your postcard and send it in care packages with other items to our troops:

May God bless all our military - past, present and future - and the families and friends who love them. Please watch this beautiful video and say a prayer for a soldier:

Friday, November 16, 2007


I read a lot. Growing up, we all read a lot: me, my two brothers, mom and dad, sharing books with one another, heading to the library every weekend and coming home with armloads of books. My brothers and I would devour our books, spending unmeasured hours with our noses buried in a story, lost in other lands and advenures: the Little Women series, Call of the Wild, Nancy Drew mysteries, Les Miserables, all the Frank L. Baum Wizard of Oz series of books (did you know there are fourteen?), Mad Magazine's Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions - we weren't always terribly discriminating about our reading material. Comic books were also favorites: Fantastic Four, Justice League of America, Green Lantern, Superman, Batman. (I can still recite Green Lantern's oath from memory.)
These days, I also read several blogs and am entertained and often enthralled reading about others' thoughts and experiences along their journeys through life. Most are exceedingly well-written, carrying me, the reader, through funny tales or thoughtful memories, making me laugh, cry, think, reconsider, take a stand, recall my own memories.
Most of these writers aren't professional writers; they don't have years of experience; they haven't published books or articles, or have doctorates in English and framed degrees hanging on their walls. They're wonderful casual writers, compelled by their spirit to write and tell a story or share an experience. A misspelled word, incorrect punctuation, a run-on sentence - none of this bothers me one little whit (is there such a thing as a big whit?) with these writers. I really don't care about writing errors in casual communications. They aren't getting paid to put out a professional publication or Web site. I make errors on my own blog and, even more so, in the e-mails I send (as my daughter lovingly points out to me). These are casual writing mediums, not held to the same standard of accuracy and writing precision as professional work.

I do hold higher expectations for professional writers, though; those who are paid to put words together to describe a service, tug at the heartstrings, rip a bodice or compel a sale. I expect those who publish in print, TV, the Web or anywhere else to spell words correctly and use the language according to their best understanding of Strunk and White or their company's style book. These are two entirely different standards: if you are a compensated professional writer, you should strive to follow the basic rules of writing. If you're a casual writer, a more relaxed and less rigid style is perfectly fine. (As if anyone should care what the heck I think about their casual writing!)

Please don't think that my previous post was in any way directed toward my blogging friends. What's a typo between friends, right? But errors in newspapers and TV shows and Web sites just shouldn't happen. There are numerous copy checks throughout the professional process from the time the copywriter puts pen to paper to the final publication of those words:
  • The copywriter's copy is always proofread before approval; sometimes it will also go to an editor.

  • For the Web, there is usually a QA process where the copy is checked again before the developers put the copy on the site.

  • In the case of the Hallmark site in my previous post, that word "Tradtional" is a graphic, so an artist had to create that graphic and "cut it" for the site.

  • After the site was created by the developers, it went through another QA process in a test environment, then was tested again in a staging environment then an approval environment before final sign-off and approval.

There were numerous opportunities to catch that error by those who are paid to do so. In my experience, the artist who created the graphic most likely just spelled it wrong when he/she created it; I've seen it other times in my work. Artists aren't writers. Developers aren't writers. That's not what they are educated in or paid to do. But the QA folks and the final approval folks should've caught this before I, a consumer, did.

So, when I post the occasional typo or grammatical error that I spot while reading, please know that it's not a swipe at casual writers in any way. Keep on writing any way you like and I'll keep on reading. And if you decide to publish a book (which I think some of you talented writers should do), I'd be honored to serve as your editor.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Things like this jump out at me ...

Do you see the error from the Web page above? Things like this jump out at me, whether on the Web, on TV, in print ... I can't help it. I've always been like this. I wasn't even looking at this area of the page when my alarm went off and this suddenly seemed to stand out from the rest of the page saying "Hey! This is wrong!"

I've been a professional editor/copywriter for over 30 years, and a QA Manager for over 10. My skills in spotting "wrong" have been honed through these experiences, but this is really something I do naturally. A gift? A curse? I know it can annoy others; sometimes it annoys me, too. A headline ticker scrolls across the page at the bottom of the TV screen and a misspelled word suddenly stands out from the rest. One of my favorite yoga mags is rife with errors: misspellings, verb/noun agreements, misplaced modifiers (oh, those are fun!), unhyphenated compound adjectives, incorrect punctuation.

I think it's genetic. My brothers are both like this, too. We humor one another with our "finds", chuckling at some of the more egregious errors, e-mailing humorous literary lapses, sometimes even toying with the source of the error (the writer) for our own amusement. (I'm not proud of that, but it can be pretty darned funny.)

Recently I spotted errors on two other Web sites and e-mailed the companies. They both thanked me. I've e-mailed Hallmark about their "Tradtional" cards. I wonder how many others have spotted the error?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Tango - Oh my!

The incredible precision! The footwork! The lifts! The men! I already knew this would be an amazing performance, but the show exceeded my expectations. I checked for a video of the Tango Buenos Aires dance company, but couldn't find one. If they put out a video, I'd purchase it. I'm going to be calling my former ballroom instructor and get some private lessons in tango; it's not enough to watch, I have to dance this!

The dancing was insane: blurring leg flicks, quick, precise, sharp ... long, slow lunges with the dancers gazing deeply into one another's eyes, an erotic foreplay ... the tease of a long, slender fishnet-clad leg langorously wrapping around the man's waist ... the man lifting the woman into the air, her legs scissoring high overhead as if to cut the very sky into shreds ... the swift promenades across the floor, preceded with a small lift with the woman's legs galloping in the air like a frisky colt. Passion ... longing ... hesitation ... submission ... oh my!

The choreography seemed to take us through the history of tango, from its decadent origins to its acceptance into more polite society (although never losing its steamy attitude!). The musicians were as commanding as the men who danced, compelling, stirring the blood with their music, tugging at emotions of lust and desire. They did several purely instrumental numbers that had the audience shouting "Bravo! BRAVO!"

If you'd like to get a taste of tango, here are two videos; although they are amateurs and not pros - and not nearly the caliber of Tango Buenos Aires - you get a small sense of the heat and passion of tango. Bravo! - Ivan and Allison, dancing to Libertango - a compilation

Friday, November 9, 2007

Tango Buenos Aires!

I am so excited for tonight! I'm seeing Tango Buenos Aires at the Orange County Performing Arts Center tonight after work, with a pre-show dance party in the center plaza beforehand.

I've had dance season tickets for nearly 25 years, taking my daughter when she was younger (and couldn't refuse *smile*) and now enjoying the performances with one of my closest friends (who shares my passion for strong, athletic men who can command a dance floor). We've seen ballet companies from all over the world, flamenco dance, Russian - the performances are always highlights of my year, as I watch and become immersed in the dancing, the story, the beauty and athleticism, the power and incredible ability of the human body.

I think this is the first performance we've seen that is purely tango. Tango - sensuous, seductive, passionate, vibrant. It is said that dancing is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire; I think tango may be the most brazenly flagrant expression of that desire. From the press release: The Washington Post describes the dancing of Tango Buenos Aires as “...repeatedly crafted swirling,fast-paced tapestries of movement, laced with proud postures and sensual couplings." Undeniably, that's HOT!

Originating over 200 years ago, the dance traces its roots to African, European and Latin American influences. I've been told it was once popular in Argentine bordellos and was not a dance of polite society. It was dirty, tawdry: a dance of seduction, elegantly rendered through flashing feet and teasing leg flips.

When I first took tango lessons in my ballroom classes, I was a bit uncomfortable (understatement!). Tango requires passion, the bodies held closely together, connected right hip to right hip. And my dance instructor was attractive, seductive and skilled at the dance. It is challenging to be dispassionate and focus on learning the steps and patterns when you are learning tango. An elevated body temperature is not conducive to a dance lesson.

The male tango dancers are as masculine as they come: commanding, controlling, distant - and so sexy. Remember Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman? Hoo-yaaa! The woman submits, following the man's lead, dominated by his decisions and directions. As the Center's article says:

And what could be more macho yet proudly elegant than
a brooding, tango dancing man taking charge and commanding the floor?

Indeed, what could?

If you're interested in reading more, check out the Center's Related Resources (I recommend starting with View Article):

Sunday, November 4, 2007

For my tio ...

Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord ...
... and let perpetual light shine upon them. Amen.

November is the month of Remembrance for our loved ones who have left behind their physical selves and have crossed over in their pure Spirit, no longer bound to the encumbrance of a body and it's physical needs. We are so temporary in this physical world; here for but a moment, really, and then free once again to return to our true Divine nature.

My mom grew up in a family of 10 kids: two girls, eight boys. On October 22, her brother - my uncle Alfred - crossed over, joining Mom and many of their siblings in Heaven. Some of my cousins called him Tio Freddy, but to my brothers and I he was Uncle Alfred.

To write of my memories of him, is to write about my memories of growing up in a family with loads of tios, tias (aunts and uncles) and cousins, cousins and more cousins. The Oropeza family and extended family is a loving, laughing, teasing, lively bunch and, although scattered widely, we gathered often when I was young. Weekends would find us headed up to LA or Oxnard, or out to Norco or wherever family was gathering. There were always new babies being born, baptisms to attend; as we grew older, there were weddings, then more babies and baptisms. I've tried to think of a way to convey how fun and funny and passionate our family is; I've tried to think of a TV show or movie to use as a comparison. But there is none. Laughing and teasing and joking with one another is as natural as breathing to this family, fully grounded in a strong family love, and in a liveliness and passion that fills most Latin families.

When they were young men, my tios were Zoot Suiters, and they carried that sense of style and poise with them after their Zoot Suit days were over. At more formal family gatherings, they'd all be elegantly dressed in very nice, well-cut suits, dark sunglasses, some with fedoras, their thick, glossy hair shining, their jewelry sparkling. Classy, my tios, very classy. It looked like a gathering of the Mafia, we'd laugh. I always thought they were like the Rat Pack (Dino, Sammy, et al) of the 50s, suave hipsters who could make a party happen by stepping into a room.

As a young girl, my mom used to go swing dancing with her brothers, winning dance contests in El Paso. She was a great dancer and her brothers were still her favorite partners as they all grew up and had families of their own. I loved to watch her dance with Uncle Alfred at our weddings and family anniversaries and other parties! They'd smile widely at each other, knowing how to move so smoothly together, dancing ever-changing patterns that kept all eyes on them. When Uncle Alfred retired from the Teamsters, there was a big party for him at a local hall. Someone videotaped him dancing with my mom at the party; I sure wish I had that tape, the two of them so natural together, with the same lightness they enjoyed in their youth.

When my Mom crossed over, he held me as I cried and told me "If you need anything .... anything ... I will be there for you." And I knew I could just ask, and he would be there for me. He and my mom were so close; in fact, she was supposed to go visit him and my tia that day that she crossed. She'd called him in the morning to let him know she and dad were coming later. That afternoon, I called him to tell him she wasn't. "No!" he said. "She called me just this morning. No ..." unbelieving, and making me cry even more as I had to convince him.

When my cousin called and gave me the news that Uncle Alfred had crossed over, I immediately got a sense that Mom was happy to finally greet him in Heaven, joining my tia and other tios and Oropeza family who are there. We'll miss him here and remember his deep, raspy laugh, his joking and the loving manner he had about him. I think he and Mom are already dancing ... smiling happily at one another once again.


Fire update: On Saturday, the 3000 evacuees from the Santiago Canyon fire were allowed to return to their homes. Many had been camping in an Albertson's grocery store parking lot during the two-week evacuation. The fire is not yet fully contained, still burning in places and the infrared shows a number of hot spots in the rugged terrain. But at this time it is not considered a threat to the homes. Full containment is expected by Tuesday. Thank you for your prayers through this.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fire's progression

I want to start first by expressing my appreciation to those who have asked for updates and expressed their caring thoughts. I recognize that we live in a time of short attention spans (me included) and that it's hard to give much extended attention to something that doesn't personally affect you. So thank you thank you thank you for sticking with this so far.

Here's something that I personally find enormously ineresting (did someone sound the geek alarm?):

On this map, you can see the beginning of the fire perimeter and the point of origin on Sunday, Oct. 21. Move the slider to Monday, Oct. 22 and you can see how very quickly this fire spread - like wildfire! - due to the high, hot, dry winds that rapidly scattered flames in all directions. Keep moving the slider through each day and you can see the enormous effect that lighter winds, cooler temperatures and the enormous efforts by firefighting personnel have had in slowing the progression each day.

Current status (as of this morning, Wed. Oct. 31):

  • Fire continues to move east and north
  • About 200 homes still threatened; 15 homes destroyed
  • Mandatory evacuations continue for several canyon areas
  • Acres burned: Approximately 28,445
  • Containment: 90 percent
  • Full containment expected: Sunday
  • Full control: unknown
  • Firefighters on scene: 1,948 firefighters, 167 engines/trucks, 32 handcrews, 18 bulldozers. 634 officers from the Orange County Sheriff's Department. 100-plus officers from California Highway Patrol
  • Aircraft: 12 helicopters, 8 air tankers, 13 water tenders

This gives an idea of the enormous number of resources currently deployed to the fire that's been burning for 11 days now. (There are still 5-6 other fires - out of the original 20 - that are still burning.) Ash in the burned areas is as much as a foot deep. They want to light backfires in the unburned brush in the rugged, steep hillsides near the northeast corner of the perimeter in an effort to destroy any fuel that could reignite the wildfire. This is necessary in anticipation of high winds that are expected on Friday. We're having a lot of humidity, though, and the brush is too wet to burn, so we're hoping for lower humidity to light the backfires and burn the brush in a controlled manner before Friday.

If all goes well, the fire may be contained by Friday. In addition to the fully burning areas, there continue to be dozens of small and large fires - random hot spots - throughout the rugged and nearly inaccessible terrain that they are fighting. In the topo map above, I've circled the area of my daughter's home in Lake Elsinore, with the wildnerness of the Cleveland National Forest between her and the fire. The fire is still 8 miles away and isn't advancing as before. We're so grateful.

Today's simple pleasure: No more smoke smell in the office - woo-hoo!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fire Update - cautiously optimistic ...

Thurs. night, Oct. 25, 2007

Big, big, BIG thank yous to all of you who have commented and are praying along with us for all those affected and praying the fire is contained soon.

The change in weather today is really helping. Last Sunday, the fire spread 15,000 acres in 24 hours, but now, it's only spread 1500 acres over the last 24 hours. They're saying they might have it fully contained by Tuesday. The weather is much cooler and I could see the sky today - hurray! More moisture in the air, too; we even had a two-minute drizzle this afternoon. Cooler weather and lighter winds really help our firefighters in their battle of these blazes.

The science of firefighting is really amazing to me. They've set up a fire command post in a public park, with the firefighters living, eating, showering, sleeping there for now. Those in command are very strategic in how they fight a fire like this, now that it's less chaotic than when it was first blazing and the Santa Ana winds were sending flames leaping in every direction. To counteract the fires going down the hills into the canyons, they're lighting backfires to go up the hill in Silverado Canyon, so the two directions will hopefully consume one another. They've sprayed foam fire retardant on the ridge top to help contain it and have dropped fire retardant along 2.5 miles of the county line. (Lots of cell phone transmission towers on the ridgetop.) Eighteen bulldozer crews have dug about five miles of firebreak line at the northeast edge, with about ten more miles to dig. The fire will continue to burn within that area; lots of "ancient fuels" - old growth forest - in Cleveland National Forest due to the fact that we don't have a lot of recent fire history there. It's still a threat and the mandatory evacuation order in Silverado Canyon is still in place; fire is too unpredictable to take any chances. The slower advance of the fire makes me hopeful, though, that it won't reach my daughter's home before they're able to contain it.

In a news conference this afternoon, Gov. Schwarzenegger commended all those who have worked so hard in fighting these fires. (I last heard there are still 10 burning throughout SoCal.) He also commended all the volunteers: people who have brought food, supplies; nurses, doctors, cooks - so many people helping in so many ways either through volunteer command posts or individual efforts. Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) sent a breathmobile to help those dealing with reactions from breathing our smoke-filled air all week. The insurance companies have been issuing announcements as to how to contact them for claims. One resident has already received a check from his insurance company for the loss of his home, and the insurance company has people in the field contacting homeowners proactively.

The governor also said they'd prosecute to the fullest extent any arsonists (two fires, including the Santiago, are cited as arson,; two others are deemed suspicious), looters, scam artists, fraudulent contractors and loan agents. There's already been a number of arrests of people taking advantage of others' tragedy. The ATF arrested several scam artists and in doing so, found that some were wanted for attempted murder, too. Our government dollars at work in such a positive way.

So, we're hopeful, and praying the weather continues to be good. Thank you for your continued support. It's good to know that I can count on friends for kindness and prayers.
Today's simple pleasure: Seeing raindrops on the patio!

Photos: Sullivan, Yamanaka, Vasconcellos - Orange County Register

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fire - Please pray for my daughter and family

My daughter just sent me the following article link:

We didn't think it would be getting so close, but the arson-caused Santiago fire continues to grow; winds are still unpredictable, although, thank God they aren't blasting the way they were. Her home is in Lake Elsinore near Temescal Canyon, in the hills of Cleveland National Forest with open wilderness all around; the forest is right behind her backyard. They've closed my granddaughters' school for today. I'm praying that since some of the other fires are under control more firefighter and water-dropping planes can be deployed out here to the growing Santiago fire.

Please help me pray that this gets contained soon. And that they find that arsonist. The reward is now up to $250,000.

Today's simple pleasure: Knowing that my daughter and family are safe today.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wildfires - thank you!

My office is just a few miles from one of the fires raging in Southern California (the Santiago fire); since Monday, our office has had smoke inside that we've been breathing and smelling, eyes red and irritated, coughing. My lungs feel dirty. It's nasty. Co-workers have been evacuated from their homes. I've had a headache since Monday. When I left work yesterday, my car looked like there had been a light snowfall, dusted entirely with ash and soot. A deliveryman just came in with a mask over his face; since he's in and out of his truck all day, that's probably a good thing since he's breathing all this stuff all day. As I left home this morning, flakes of ash as big as my fingernail were falling from the sky. Well, what there is of the sky; the sky is still covered with smoke and ash, a gray/brown haze blanketing the sun.

Some of you may find this map interesting; it shows the current fires and when you click one, it opens and provides more details, such as acres burned, evacuations, etc.

If you click the red balloon right above "Santa Ana", you'll see the info on the fire close to my office in Irvine. (I live in Huntington Beach, though; no fire danger at home.) There are fires blazing near my daughter's new home, not close enough to be in any immediate danger unless the winds start gusting again. You can see the line of fire from her backyard, looking across the lake to the surrounding hills.

Today, they've said that the Santiago fire (the one close to my office) is still only 30% contained and still spreading. They believe the arsonist set that fire in three places and was someone who knew how fire spreads. The firefighters have been working nonstop; the police and other service personnel and volunteers have been going door-to-door asking people to evacuate. These people are all heroes in my mind, giving selflessly to help others, pushing themselves for long hours under the most wretched of conditions.

Some friends have said they hope we get rain soon; we haven't had any significant rain here for over a year. Very heavy rains would cause another disaster: with vegetation burned on the hillsides, we'd experience heavy mudslides as we did a couple of years ago, again following big wildfires.

We don't talk much about "fall" here; newcasters and reporters refer to it as "fire season" and talk about the forecast for the fire season, warnings and preparations for the fire season. Spring, Summer, Fire Season, Winter. It's nature's weather pattern for us: following beautiful, warm summers, the canyons and hills are dried out. Then the Santa Ana winds blow their hot, dry, heavy gusts through all the dried vegetation, a tinderbox just waiting for the right spark to start a conflagration.

The winds are unpredictable still, but for now they're dying down, giving firefighters an opportunity to gain some control over one of the worst fire seasons we've seen. Thank you to all who are thinking of SoCal and praying for everyone's safety.

Photos from the Orange County Register

Today's simple pleasure: knowing that people are starting to be able to go home. (Yet keeping in mind the 1600+ who don't have homes any longer.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

1 million

On the news tonight:
  • 20 wildfires burning
  • 1600 homes lost
  • 1 million evacuees (yes, milliion)
  • 600 square miles burned
  • 6 deaths
I'm just in tears. So much sorrow fills my heart for all who are affected by this.

The wildfires have caused the cancellation of blood drives all over SoCal (evacuating a million people will do that), resulting in a severe shortage of blood for patients in local hospitals. I last donated on Aug. 29, so I'm eligible to give tomorrow. (Donations must be 56 days apart.) I've scheduled my appointment for Friday. I'm not a firefighter, but I can help in this small way.

Today's simple pleasure: a big hug from my daughter


I open the window ... and then quickly close it. The smell of fire is everywhere. A headache expands across the back of my skull, my eyes are dry, red and irritated, my lungs feel dirty. The sky has disappeared, blanketed with a thick gray/brown cloud of smoke and ash. I try to keep my breath shallow, not breathing the air too deeply into my lungs. I cough anyway. Even with the windows closed, a fine silt covers every surface. The carpet feels crunchy; I can feel the fine layer of dirt on the wood floors beneath my bare feet.

One of the wildfires (there are 14 now) is a few miles from my office. About 4-5 of us toughed it out at the office yesterday, others worked from home, and still others had to evacuate, hoping they would have homes left when the fires had finished their work. It wasn't easy being in the office. Even inside, the air tasted smoky and burned my eyes and lungs.

The hot, dry Santa Ana winds have spread the fires rapidly. Strong 60mph gusts swept the leaping flames in many different directions at once, creating great danger for firefighters and homes. The blaze near my office is thought to be arson. What evil would compel a person to deliberately set a fire, scorching the earth, destroying homes, putting homeowners, firefighters and animals in danger? Near a trail, two burned bodies have been found in that fire, unidentifiable, burned beyond recognition.
Firefighters are bravely battling, but there are so many fires, so many acres ablaze. Resources are spread very thinly throughout the area. Several of them had to take shelter in their emergency shelters yesterday, when the wind turned and they were caught in the middle with no escape. I thank God that the fire didn't kill them and they survived and will eventually return to their families when this is over.

Hundreds of thousands of acres are on fire; 250,000 people have been evacuated for their safety, taking whatever they could with them, praying their homes would still stand when they returned.

Please pray for all those who are so very bravely putting their own lives in danger to help others. Please pray for the residents who don't know if they will have homes, and for those who have already lost theirs. Please pray for the animals, pets and wildlife, impacted by these dangerous fires.

I pray the winds die down today. Even so, it will be many days before the fires can be contained and then extinguished.

Southern California is on fire.
All photos from the Orange County Register

Today's simple pleasure: gratitude for firefighters, the Red Cross, emergency services and the volunteers who give of themselves to help others.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

everyday blessings

This has been a week filled with blessings.

I interviewed for a position with an interactive marketing/Web development company a couple of weeks ago, a company that does work very similar to work I did in a previous company for an automotive client. I got the job and started in my new company as a Project Lead this past Monday. I'm just so happy! It's such a good fit and I feel like a squirrel nestled in a burrow that's made just right - cozy and comfortable and content; working hard while treading on familiar ground. I absolutely love working Web projects, working with talented teams of producers and developers, ensuring all the myriad bits and pieces of a site work correctly and meet common usability guidelines, setting a high bar on quality to ensure the client is thrilled with our work and that it meets their business needs. (Am I geeking out yet?) I feel so blessed to have landed here; God's perfect plan for my life again manifesting itself. I am humbly grateful.

I had a couple of unexpected blessings financially during my period of job seeking: I recently received a check from an insurance company for a vehicle accident back in February, I received an unexpected refund for a vacation I took in February, too. Between severance pay, vacation pay and unemployment, I ended up with enough extra money to buy my new laptop when my old one died. Unexpected blessings came out of being laid off: I was able to rejuvenate for eight weeks, take daily walks, see my daughter and granddaughters more, increase my yoga practice, work on some home projects and I ended up ahead financially. I am humbly grateful.

This week, my oldest brother (who is younger than me, but once told me I wasn't doing a good job being the oldest, so he was going to take over the role), had minor surgery that went well. I prayed and thought of him all this week, praying for the skill of his surgeons, the strength of his body, the goodness of all who cared for him. It all went well and he'll be back to normal within a few days. I am humbly grateful.

My dad had some recent tests due to some problems he's been having. Apparently, he had a significant stroke sometime recently. The doctors have prescribed some medications for him to help with the problems he was having. He not only survived the stroke he didn't know he'd had (possibly in his sleep, they said), but the stroke cleared out a clot they said he'd had, too. I thank God for Dad's continued presence in our lives. I am humbly grateful.

My daughter and her family are settling into their new home, filling it with love, unpacking and decorating; my granddaughters have already made friends and are both doing well in their new school. More blessings. I am humbly grateful.

Each day is just filled with everyday blessings; we only have to open our eyes and our hearts to recognize them and appreciate them. "Thank you, God!" is on my lips a hundred times a day; the words spring forth so easily that it's almost as reflexive and natural as breathing.

I thank Him for the liquidamber tree in front of my window that's just starting to turn fall colors; for the gifts of family, friends, and strangers; for good work to do in a manner that honors Him; for the fresh air when I go for a walk; for a good, strong, challenging yoga class. I thank Him for each breath I breathe, for the sun, the moon, the sky. I am aware of His presence in all that surrounds me, all that is within me, all that is within each person I meet on my short life's journey. I am humbly grateful.


Today's simple pleasure: a beautiful view of the moon that Bug told me she saw through her window tonight, the moon glowing with the shape of a cross behind it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Code

"Imagine all the people living life in peace." - John Lennon

The son of one of my beloved friends was recently accepted into the Ross Volunteer Company at A&M University. The top 80 juniors must pass a rigorous process to be selected for this prestigious distinction.

Those selected must maintain a strict code of honor, including abiding by "The Code of a Gentleman":
A Gentleman...
Does not discuss his family affairs in public or with acquaintances.
Does not speak more than casually about his girlfriend.
Does not go to a lady's house if he is affected by alcohol. He is temperate in the use of alcohol.
Does not allow his temper; nor exhibit anger, fear, hate, embarrassment, ardor or hilarity in public.
Does not hail a lady from a club (Barracks) window.
Never discusses the merits or demerits of a lady.
Does not mention names exactly as he avoids the mention of what things cost.
Does not borrow money from a friend, except on dire need. Money borrowed is a debt of honor, and must be repaid as promptly as possible. Debts incurred by a deceased parent, brother, sister, or grown child are assumed by honorable men as a debt of honor.
Does not display his wealth, money, or possessions.
Does not put his manner on and off, whether it the club or in the ballroom. He treats people with courtesy, no matter what their social position may be.
Does not slap strangers on the back nor so as much lay a finger on a lady.
Does not "lick the boots of those above" nor "kick the face of those below him on the social ladder."
Does not take advantage of another's helplessness or ignorance and assumes that no gentleman will take advantage of him.
Respects the reserves of others, but demands that others respect those which are his.
Can become what he wills to be.

Old-fashioned? Or simply good manners applied to good values? These are the kinds of behaviors that once were expected of all people: being kind to others, not showing off, treating people with common courtesy. Above all, respecting oneself. These are the values with which I was raised, and with which most of my friends were raised.

Wouldn't it be a very different world if we all adopted/adapted The Code of a Gentleman? I can't be the only person who is dismayed at the public displays of bad behavior on My Space and Facebook, or from spring break revelers. Jerry Springer wouldn't have a show if we all adopted The Code of a Gentleman.

Imagine a society where we all curbed our tempers, were temperate in our use of alcohol, refrained from gossiping about others, or taking advantage of others; imagine a polite, healthy world where we respected others and ourselves. Imagine sharing the road with kind drivers who never lost their tempers to road rage. Imagine people having self-respect and not suffering from altered behavior due to an excess of alcohol. Imagine us all doing what is right for us and for others, treating others with courtesy at all times.
Imagine spreading kindness to each person who shares our life journey today. A kind word, a thoughtful gesture, a hand extended to help another. Simply being good and kind gentlemen and ladies.
Today's simple pleasure: giving my hard-working, home-owning daughter a back rub