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.