Wednesday, December 30, 2009

sparkling reflections …

123108 seated figure With the holidays and a new job, I haven’t had a chance to post here recently. I hope to do a proper post on Thursday after work.

In the meantime, I took a look at last year’s New Year’s post and thought there might be some things you might enjoy from it:

A small sample of thoughts from that post:

  • See the Divine in all things.
  • Be comfortable with the chaos.
  • Practice aparigraha/non-attachment - letting go, releasing, non-clinging, without fear of loss or change. "...the yogi makes his life as simple as possible and trains his mind not to feel the loss or the lack of anything. Then everything he really needs will come to him by itself at the proper time." (B.K.S. Iyengar) Also Matthew 6:25-34.
  • Worrying about tomorrow squanders the joy of today.
  • Don't give energy to anything that you don't want to manifest in your life.
  • Remember that the world sparkles and dances with the Light of the Divine. We all carry that Light within.
  • Have a sense of wonder! Be ready to be surprised.

2009 manifested some chaos in my life, with which I learned to live quite comfortably. I learned to let go, to not fear, to not worry or feel loss. To trust in the Divine and believe that I would land where I was supposed to land. I tried not to squander the day, but to manifest joy in each day fully, taking walks each morning, making new friends, spending time in pursuits that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I’d been working. I lived in joy, seeing the sparkle and dancing with the rhythm of each day. I went to Mexico with my family and loved it. I wondered and was surprised. I was in a peaceful, gentle place this past year, and very happy that I’d set the tone in that last blog post of 2009. I hope I continue to carry these lessons moving forward into the new year.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Solstice, New Beginnings

Winter_Solstice water

“ … I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Phil. 4: 11-12

“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever.” ~ St. Francis De Sales

~ ~ ~

December 21st is the Winter Solstice. It is the shortest day and the longest night of the year here in the Western Hemisphere. From December 22nd until summer, the days slowly increase in length and in light, until the sun’s zenith on June 21st, the Summer Solstice.

Tomorrow is a special day to honor new beginnings and a point of change in the rhythms of nature.

Tomorrow is also the day that I start a new beginning: I start a new job tomorrow.

I’m very happy to be starting on this next part of my life journey. And yet, there is a part of me that is reluctant to let go of these gentle days, spinning on their own time. Yes, I want to work and earn my own way again, but I also want to be very careful not to lose the lessons and growth of the last nine months. This time has been wonderful, moving with the natural rhythms of each day, walking every morning, out in the fresh air and sunshine, saying hello to others out, too. There will be many things that I will miss as I begin to move to a new rhythm.

But it’s time to do so, to move forward in a new direction. I will meet new people, learn a new job, contribute the value of my experience and work. And getting a paycheck will be nice and will help me rebuild my savings account again, and provide greater ease for me financially. I’m looking forward … and I’m cherishing what has passed. I do pray that the gentle lessons are now part of my being and that I don’t return to previous unhealthy work patterns. I’ll find a walking route to take on lunch breaks so I can be out in the air and sunshine. I will remember to honor the sacred in each day and in each moment. I will be content and have a calm spirit.

I hope you all have a wonderful Winter Solstice day!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A little bit of sparkle …

121209 manger

Growing up, I always looked forward to getting our Christmas tree and setting it up. We didn’t do much other holiday decor; the tree was magnificent on its own, sometimes with a train going round the base and among the pile of presents gathered there. At my Tio and Tia’s house, my Tio created magical little buildings by hand from cardboard with doors and windows, the windows covered with a type of glassine for sparkle, and cotton for snow. As a single parent, the tree my daughter and I set up glowed in gold and crystal with lots of little white lights. I loved those lights because they tinkled softly as they blinked on and off. With her on my lap and my arms wrapped around my precious daughter, we’d have all the other lights off and just gaze at the tree together in the quiet of Christmas … tink … tink … tink …

For holiday decorating, I still prefer simple displays, just a little bit of sparkle, enough to mark the season, but not so much as to distract me from the focus of Advent. I haven’t had a tree in years; I’m allergic to real ones and even a fake one is more work than I care to do, rearranging furniture, moving things around. Instead, I just do a few simple displays.

The first to go up at the beginning of Advent: the manger and my advent candles. The manger’s on the new etagere this year, with tiny lights to light it.  As always, the angel hanging above falls if nudged even a little. Christmas tradition.

120809 advent candles close-upInstead of an Advent wreath, I gather the appropriately colored candles (three purple, one rose, one white) and place them on an oval glass tray with a bit of greenery, some sparkly ribbon, beads, gold ornaments and crystal gems. (Photo is from the 2nd Sunday in Advent last week.)

Those are the two most important displays for me. Everything else is just for a bit of sparkle. Lights on the etagere, garland and lights on the staircase, a glass bowl of rocks and shells to which I’ve added some ornaments and beads.

A simple, peaceful Advent as I await the celebration of the birth of a Savior.

   120809 etagere lights120809 staircase garland

121209 beach display

120809 ornament bowl







Peace and goodness to you and yours.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Filled with Christmas Spirit!

I am so filled with Christmas spirit I can hardly stand myself! I have no decor up yet, no baking done, no presents wrapped - and I'm filled with happy, exciting Christmas spirit from head to toe! Christmas is truly in the heart. (All that other stuff is optional.)

I love Christmas, yes I do! I love Christmas, how 'bout you?

Do you love Christmas music? I love to listen to it, dancing joyfully in my living room.

Here’s my Pandora Christmas music station, if you’d like to have a listen:

I love to play my favorite carols and music on my piano, lost in an afternoon of happiness. When I was a girl, my family would all gather around the piano and sing. Oh, what joy it would be to hear my mother’s voice for real instead of just in my heart when I play now! One brother and I would take alternating parts for Good King Wenceslas. When we gather at his and my sister-in-law’s house nowadays for Christmas, I play the piano in their home while the rest of the crowd is gathered in the family room and kitchen, providing background music for the celebration.

Christmas Angel

Christmas is about celebration, the celebration of the Gift, and the love of the Divine for each of us. I feel that sense of celebration in every fiber of my being these days! Happy, joy-filled, dancing in my heart and in my feet, my fingers dancing across the keys of the piano, my voice lifted in song. I love Christmas!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Silently soaring

hawkIt was a gorgeous clear day as I was out for my morning walk last week. Blue skies, warm weather, soft ocean breeze. I was in a great mood, happy to be out and enjoying the day. Everything seemed to be sparkling and vibrating with a positive energy.

As I was nearing the end of my route, I saw a hawk soaring in the sky, a few blocks away and to the right of me. I slowed down my pace to watch it in the distance … wings extended w-i-d-e … utterly effortless … soaring on the air currents.

Dipping one wing ever so slightly, the hawk made slow, lazy circles against the blue sky. One circle, two circles … no flapping of wings, just circling with absolutely no effort of any kind. Is anything in life as utterly effortless as that hawk soaring up there? I thought. Straightening out, the hawk lifted a little higher in the sky and began riding the air currents in my direction.

I was captivated by the peace and grandeur of this majestic bird. As I watched, I imagined what it would be like to be that hawk. Simply opening my arms/wings wide – opening up my heart and spirit - and soaring … soaring … completely unfettered, utterly free … no anchor binding me to earth, trusting that the air currents would support my journey … not making the slightest effort, no flap of wings, no sense of urgency. Nothing to do, nothing to undo. Just be. How peaceful it would be to soar like that, up in the silent sky above.

In an interview recently, the interviewer asked me what I’ve been doing since I was laid off in March. I gave an answer, but later I thought about it more. What have I been doing?

I’ve experienced the peace and beauty of a hawk soaring in the heavens.

I’ve laughed at the squirrels scampering along the lawn or at an industrious one hurrying up a tree with a peanut safely in its mouth.

I’ve made friends along my walking route: Jan and her Corgi, Penny Lane; John and his grandson; Geri who had shoulder surgery; the young couple who rescue and foster big dogs; the older couple who foster Great Pyrenees.

070509 patio sheersI’ve sat outside in the summer, enjoying my garden and the golden sunshine.

When a friend was in the hospital for lung surgery I went to visit her.

When my granddaughters had dentist appointments, I took them.

On Veterans Day, I went to Pier Plaza for a very moving ceremony.

When my old high school friend, June, came out to California to visit, we spent an afternoon at the beach catching up and laughing and crying as we shared our life experiences.

062109 Xcaret subterranean riverI took my family for a wonderful vacation in Mexico on the Mayan Riviera. And there were no worries about all the work I’d have to come back to.

I’ve fostered a wonderful, perfect dog named Snowbell that I fell in love with.

I’ve tackled long-delayed chores, giving the garden a thorough clean-up, painting the bathroom, painting and re-organizing my office (still in progress).

I’ve walked every day in the sunshine, firming up my legs and hips, strengthening my back, my skin brown from the sun, losing 15lbs. so far.

And this last week, I spent time with my son-in-law in the hospital, giving him massages to help with the nausea, spending time with him as his doctors found the cause of his illness and helped him to regain his health.

What have I been doing since I’ve been laid off? I’ve been grateful for the many wonderful and beautiful opportunities I’ve been given, so many things I wouldn’t have been able to do while working. I’ve slowed down, smelled the roses, walked in the sunshine.

I’ve opened my arms wide and I’ve soared.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

dancing in the mirror …

101709 Mom and IThis morning as I laid in bed, still in that beautiful, open, in-between space between sleep and wakefulness, my mom was suddenly and surprisingly on my mind. I instinctively started saying over and over "I love you. I love you. I love you." As love filled that golden space between, I sensed her as a young woman – so pretty! - dancing in front of a mirror. The image was so clear: She wore a long, creamy movie-star-style dressing gown, swaying prettily in front of a full-length mirror, a glimpse of leg peeking out from the dressing gown as she moved and danced. The energy of it was just so beautiful and I felt so filled with love between us.

I get these mind/heart images or thoughts or energies about her from time to time, and they’re usually from before I knew her, not as I knew her after I was born. It’s as if she's telling me more of her story, the parts that I wasn’t here for yet, as if she wants me to know who she was here outside of her narrow definition to me as “Mom.”

You should know that Mom was a champion swing dancer, winning many contests with one of her brothers as her partner. Oh, she loved to dance! Seeing her moving in front of that mirror as a young woman this morning seemed so natural, exactly as I would imagine her doing at that age.

Mom working at dry cleaners

As I said, these sensations occur from time to time, and usually not in that in-between time in the morning. I’ve had sensations when I’m doing something completely random - maybe cooking, or shopping, or seeing something interesting on a walk or while driving – and there’ll she’ll be in my heart/mind, her energy of love so instantly recognizable. I’ll feel a sense of how she experienced something very similar to what I’m doing in that moment, how she experienced life when she was pre-wife and pre-mom; I’ll get a sense of her wonder or her delight or her surprise at these things.

Crazy? Odd? Maybe. I don’t sit around and mope about her being gone; I know and trust that she is in a place of utter love and beauty and is purely, abundantly happy. So, I don’t think I’m manufacturing these sensations from a sense of loss. I don’t know. The energy seems to come to me unbidden, in the most random of circumstances.

It’s interesting to me that she chooses to show me her story. They’re not messages of guidance to help me on my own journey or warnings of some future event. They’re more like a sense of knowingness in my heart/mind, very sweet, very comfortable, very wonderful. I smile when they happen and say to myself “Oh! I see! Thank you” and I feel that I know more of her story through her own energy.

I think it’s wonderful that she’s done this for me from time to time. We’re here so briefly; in a couple of generations, the small details of our stories – favorite flavor of ice cream, our first kiss, our delight at a specific smell – will be lost. There will be no one left to tell our stories. And I’m fine with that. This is not our eternal life here; it’s just a pit stop where we do some work, live, laugh, love. But maybe after we’re gone, we’ll do like Mom and share those stories with our loved ones energetically (if that’s what’s happening; I’m still not ruling out “crazy” as a possibility, or, as my dad says, maybe I’m just “getting swimmy in the head”).

Do you ever have a sensation of a loved one who’s crossed over? How does it feel to you?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Where am I?

102009 ocean from pier

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished" ~ Lao Tzu

“The thing that's totally different between children and adults, Rose, is that children have the ability to spontaneously use their imagination to forget what's bothering them and be inspired by every pony, feather, or bug that crosses their path.” ~ The Universe

I think that nearly anyone reading this knows about - and maybe practices - being in the present moment. Lately, I’ve been considering this in relation to children, animals and nature. I’m learning so much by just watching how they remain fully present – and do it absolutely naturally, just like breathing.

Little babies are about as present as a person can get. No thoughts tumbling toward the future: there is no concept of time to a baby, there is only Now. (I don’t really buy into the concept of measuring time; a topic for a future post.) No worries about the past; the baby’s too young to even have much of a past. There is only Now.

Watch little babies and see how present they are. They respond to what happens with pure honesty. There is no editing, or remembering their manners. They get hungry, they cry. They get tickled, they laugh. They feel like burping, they burp. [smile] They forget the everyday bad things quickly. One minute they want this toy, the next minute they’re distracted by something else. Always Now, always present.

Animals are very much the same. No past or future worries. Only Now. They run around the yard just to run. Or dig in the garden because it’s a doggy thing to do. They don’t stop and consider their actions against what they’ve done in the past or what they might plan to do in the future. Their pleasure is in the present, exactly where they are right now.

And how about ocean waves, gently crashing to shore and then sighing back out? Over and over, without ever ceasing. When my then-husband first left our daughter and me, I spent a lot of time sitting on the beach, watching the waves move back and forth, reassuring me that the world continues on, that in the constancy, the Now of the ocean, there is only the present moment. Here is Now … and here is Now … and there really only is Now. That is the only place that we ever truly are. Here. Right now.

peaceful warrior “Where am I?”

“I am here.”

“What time is it?”


There is a wonderful, transformative movie called “Peaceful Warrior” that I highly recommend. I use the above quote from the movie a LOT in my life, when my mind is rushing and playing pinball around a hundred things at once. When I sense my thoughts getting all jumbled up and chaotic, I stop and ask myself “Where am I?” I answer “here.” My pinballing thoughts stop and I shift into Now. I see where I am (yoga, on a walk, at my desk, driving), and I focus on being present to this moment, maybe feeling the strength of a trikonosana or really seeing (and smiling at) the people in the cars around me. (And, sometimes seeing that I should probably slow down a little.)

Babies, animals, nature – by observing them, I learn more about releasing past and future and being fully present to Now.

Edited 11/07/09: I was just reading today's practice on The Oneness Experiment and found a very similar theme on The Rhythm of Oneness:

"Children allow themselves to move at their natural rhythm and pace. They accept what arrives from moment to moment and then allow it to spontaneously flow into something else."

I always say kids can teach us and help us to remember because they're still so fresh from God.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Honest Blogger

I've happily discovered several new blogs (to me) recently that truly speak to my soul. When I first started blogging, a couple of the blogs I first found were wonderful story blogs, people sharing the stories of their lives. Then some of my friends from my decorating group sites started blogs about decorating with a lot of beautiful pics, and I started following several of them. Somehow, I've been lead to sites lately that speak more to the spirit, to an awakening, to the beauty of our inner selves. These truly speak to me, as my own blog was initially intended to be about my own exploration to the center of my self. (I believe that age makes one more self-reflective. At least it does in my case. :-D)

One of those blog discoveries is Laura, at Shine the Divine: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice. Her blog includes her beautiful art and messages that bring a smile to the heart. Laura surprised me by awarding the Honest Blogger Award to me this week! Thanks, Laura! I'm not normally one who posts awards, but this really touched me because Laura is a new friend and sister in my journey.

Per some of the guidelines of the Honest Blogger Award, as honest bloggers we:

* Speak our truth from the heart and tell it like it is
* Share openly and honestly our true feelings without fear of judgement, blame or shame
* We acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses and don't see them in terms of success or failure
* We are free spirits

There are several more, all basically saying that an Honest Blogger strives to be honest, guileless, and acknowledge that we are each on our own unique and special journey.

I'll admit that I'm still not fully comfortable about sharing at times; I do still have some fear of judgement. I guess most of us do. We all want to be liked. We all want others' approval, not their disapproval. But there comes a point when we begin to learn to stand in our own truth, when the judgement of others doesn't matter as deeply as our desire to be known for who we are.

Who am I? A reader, a pianist, a dancer, a writer, an artist, a thinker, a person of love and peace and so much more. These are some of the things that I am in my self, outside of my relationships to others (family, friends, colleagues). To truly know my self is to know who I am when my identity is not defined by my relationships. It's easy to get caught up in being defined as mother, daughter, sister, friend, spouse, but in the still, quiet moments of life, we each stand alone and need to know who we are in that space.

There are many who I consider to be Honest Bloggers that I follow, so I don't feel comfortable awarding this to just one right now. If you feel that you are an Honest Blogger, though, (and honestly, you would know better than me) please take the award if you wish. Thank, you, Laura!

I wish you truth and peace in the still and quiet spaces. Namaste

Monday, October 19, 2009

The woman in church …

exhausted statue I entered church a few minutes before Mass started, trusting that since I was early, I’d be able to find a seat. Looking around, I didn’t see any readily available so I stood at the back of the church, scanning the pews for a place to sit. I knew my friend, Vic, would be sitting in her usual spot but I couldn’t see her when I looked in that direction.

So, I stood in the back, still scanning. My back had been hurting (I have spondylolisthesis) and sitting would be so much better than standing. I spotted my friend up front but was there room next to her? Not really sure if there was room between her and the man on her right. Mass started and so I stayed put for now, thinking I might move down there in a few minutes.

A young woman sidled in to stand next to me. I was very aware of her presence there, maybe even a tad annoyed that she was standing so closely to me. Then I heard her cry. Softly … a sniffle at first … then barely-heard gulps of air … and then quiet sobs. Her head dropped and I could feel her energy withdraw from the Mass and flow deeply into her sorrow. I could see her quiet tears drop toward the floor.

The annoyance of my human nature swept away, and I felt a deep compassion for her, my divine nature coming forward. I didn’t need to know the cause of her tears; I only knew that she was in deep, soul-engulfing sorrow, something so familiar, I felt I was feeling it with her.

I felt a lightness through my crown chakra, flowing down and opening up my heart. Instinctively, I moved in front of her and wrapped her in my arms as she cried even harder. And we just stood there like that - just being - just being present to one another.

As her tears subsided, she whispered, her head still down on my shoulder, “My mom died this morning.” And then we both cried some more.

She briefly shared her story in whispers there at the back of the church, a story much more important in that moment than the Mass that was being celebrated. Others would hold the Mass energy for us for few moments; I knew that I was to be a good servant, that I was part of a Divine purpose.

Later, after Communion, as we returned back to our spots, a new wave of quiet crying washed over her. She hadn’t slept in two days, staying by her mother’s bedside as her mom moved forward in her own personal journey. I found some tissues for her and she knelt in private prayer.

At the end of Mass, we shared another hug and she thanked me over and over, saying that I had been her angel in her time of need.

stars silhouette As a child, I was sometimes overwhelmed with the depth of God’s unconditional love for us. I found it immensely hard to fathom, like trying to think of the universe, the Big Bang, or trying to think of a time before the earth was created. It could make my head hurt to think of the amazing Love we’re given, freely, no strings attached. I don’t have to do anything to earn that Love. I can’t do anything that will make the Divine not love me any more. I will always and constantly and abundantly be loved. No conditions.

And so, my child-self would pray to God to please give me opportunities in my life to be His servant, place me where He needs me to be to serve others, to let me release my own ego and simply be what He needs me to be for others. (I’d hoped at one point to be a cloistered nun, living in a cloister and spending my days praying for peace and goodness and Love in the world.) And so the Divine has presented opportunities all throughout my life, and each time I recognize it as the answer to my child prayer. Not to earn Love; I already have it. But to share my connection with that Love by being a servant for others, gratefully, lovingly.

I read a story once where a child asked a kind stranger if he was an angel. Nope, he answered. Sometimes God’s angels are so busy, they use humans to help out. And we’re only too happy to serve.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Grandma’s 94th birthday!

figure celebration

Saturday was Grandma’s 94th birthday! I’m lucky she lives within 30 minutes of me so I popped over to her house in the afternoon with a birthday card and a geranium that I potted up from my garden. Grandma and I share a love of gardening; since the day I met her, I’ve enjoyed exploring her garden when I visit.

Grandma is actually my ex-husband’s grandmother. When my daughter was born, Grandma got a new nickname, Great G, to celebrate her status as a great-grandmother. After the divorce, Great G always remembered my daughter/her great-granddaughter for every birthday and every holiday, sending a card, a gift, always letting my daughter know how very much she was loved. Other than my sister-in-law who I’ve always remained close to, we didn’t have much contact with the rest of the family (for various reasons that really don’t matter after all these years). But Grandma and I exchanged cards and letters from time to time, keeping a bond of love between us. When my daughter grew up, married and had her daughters, I told her we had to go take the girls to see Great G. Oh, Great G just sparkled at seeing her great-great-granddaughters!

To meet Grandma is to love her. A little bit of nothing, she weighs less than 100 lbs. But she’s not frail or fragile in any way! Her hair is always beautifully coifed, as red as it’s always been. Her voice is strong and capable, her movements sure. She has trouble hearing and some sight issues, but nothing stops her. She demonstrated to me Saturday that her hands – even with arthritis in her right one – still have good gripping power for her garden clippers. On a bad day when her two arthritic fingers don’t work correctly, she just bends them around the handles and gardens away!

That’s the kind of woman she is. Never a complaint, never a mean word about anyone (at least to me). She’s resilient and resourceful. No car? No problem. She walks to where she wants to go. The grocery store, church – she gets done what has to be done.

And her stories! I love hearing her stories and Saturday over coffee I enjoyed one after the other. Grandma was born very early on a Sunday morning on October 3, 1915, on the family farm in Kansas City, Kansas, the youngest of her mom’s children. The doctor lived 12 miles away, but he didn’t have a horse and buggy so Grandma’s Daddy took his own horse and buggy to go fetch the doctor. Grandma’s mother knew the menfolk would be hungry so she made breakfast for them so it’d be ready when they returned. Then, at 6am, Grandma was born.

Life on the farm taught her to be strong and take care of what needed taking care of. Every summer there were fruits and vegetables to be canned. The meat was kept in the cold storage (they didn’t have a freezer or electricity) but if the weather warmed up, they’d have to take the meat and can it, too, so it wouldn’t spoil and go to waste.

She grew up, married, had her two daughters. Her husband, though, had a wandering eye and left the family a couple of times. Afterward, she said, he’d always summon her and she would go. (She shook her head with obvious regret as she told me this.) She finally divorced him and bought her home for her and her daughters, telling them that this was it, she wasn’t going to be moving any more. (She’s lived there over 60 years.) She worked at the market deli to support herself and her daughters. And she told herself that she wished he would call. Sure enough, he did, and this petite, strong woman gave him her answer: no, not this time, not ever again. Grandma was smiling and proud of herself as she told me the story, looking strong and young as she remembered.

pink_balloonsUntil recently, Grandma still hung her laundry out on the clothesline to dry. She had a retractable line in the backyard that she’d pull out from one pole and then pull it across the width of her yard to secure it to the pole on the other side. As she says, “it wan’t a bother.” She’d always done it this way and it’s what she was used to. She finally has a dryer now, though, and when we were in the kitchen fixing coffee, she grinned and told me in a conspiratorial whisper that she really likes how much easier it is to use the dryer. Ha!

She says she likes the church she goes to now, but that she sometimes has a hard time hearing the preacher. Grandma prefers the Baptist church she used to go to, where the preacher spoke more loudly and forcefully. She likes a church, she says, with her face crinkling into a smile, where she can shout “Hallelujah!” The old church is too far to walk, though, so she goes to the one that’s close by, walking to church on Sunday morning and getting a ride back home from a neighbor. I’ve never been in a Baptist church. I think I’ll give her a call in a couple of weeks, and see if she’ll let me take her to her old church. I’m looking forward to shouting a couple of Hallelujahs myself.

Happy birthday, Grandma, you wonderful woman!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

a little respect, just a little bit …

“…we now have a permanent presidential campaign that encourages all partisanship, all the time among our leading politicians.” - ”

capitol buildingAll partisanship – I’m not sure that I’m for “all partisanship.” I think we need to be bi- or multi-partisan – with intelligence, respect and courtesy for all parties involved. We need people to have differing opinions, to debate the issues from multiple viewpoints, to not agree on the best solution from the get-go. Each party should want something different, creating some tension in the argument that will give rise to flaws, errors in judgment, political blindness. Instant agreement doesn’t dredge up and expose the bad stuff.

I was once in a business meeting where two parties – the heads of their respective departments – seriously disagreed on an issue; option A would would have greater negative impact on one department, and option B would have greater negative impact on the other. Each one argued her points passionately and intelligently. And always respectfully. I remember thinking how impressed I was with each of them at that moment. It was the job of each department head to run her department well and to represent the best interests of the department, and that’s what each of these women was doing. This was an important issue and needed the depth of review and debate that their discussion was providing. If they’d agreed from the outset, there would have been no quality review, no discussion and questioning and exposure.

I believe it’s healthy – even vital and necessary - to have two (or more) different viewpoints when discussing Important Issues. Get it all out there, expose the flaws, discuss options, disagree and explain why you disagree. Listen. Listen and understand. Don’t keep playing the same record; listen to someone else’s. Broaden your thinking.

All this name-calling across the aisles and emotional propaganda by both sides is disrespectful of others’ opinions. The disrespect (and threats) accorded our previous and current presidents does not advance the discussion in an intelligent manner.

We need differing viewpoints on healthcare, the economy, and the other Important Issues. And we need to respect those viewpoints and appreciate that each person is doing his/her job, representing the best interests of his/her constituencies. It could be dangerous if everyone fully agreed on every Important Issue. We should agree that bipartisanship is a good thing. And respect our differences.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Shanti Peace

Shanti Shanti Shanti
Peace Peace Peace

Peace in my thoughts
Peace in my actions
Peace in my words
Peace in my voice

Peace in the sounds around me
Peace in the movies or TV shows I choose
Peace in the music I listen to

Peace in my heart
Peace in the stillness
Peace in the voice of God

Shanti Shanti Shanti
Peace Peace Peace


Saturday, September 12, 2009

But I drove all the way over here ...

I guess I'll just have an iced coffee, then ...

This was the sign posted at my local McD's last Sunday morning. I stopped by for coffee on Thursday and the sign was still up. Must be a shortage of boy toys. I'll keep checking back. Want to get there when the new shipment comes in so I can have the best selection.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Start the car! Start the car!

When I moved into my home, I had just about the ugliest staircase ever: green carpet that wrapped around the steps and down onto the wall and a chipped white iron railing, the kind you might use outside in a garden, not indoors. Ick. I wanted to block as much of it as possible, so a designer friend custom-made a nice large wood entertainment center (armoire and side bookcases) that managed to hide some of the staircase ugliness.

Fast forward to 2008: I had the staircase redone!
Hmmm ... but now the armoire/bookcases covered my beautiful new staircase. Another change needed! I sold the entertainment center on Craigslist last month and brought out the old TV stand until I have a job and can get a nice, new one.

In the meantime, though, I needed a bookcase for the goodies that had been on the other two bookcases. The bookcase had to be no more than 24” wide in order to fit on the wall designated for it. Ideally, I wanted one that was open on all sides, too. That wall has an outlet that I use for the vacuum cleaner and I didn’t want to have the outlet blocked if I could help it. Searched and searched; so difficult to find a bookcase that size. I finally found one online at Bed Bath and Beyond: open sides, right size, wood, $99.99 – hurray! I called the corporate number and found they had it in stock in my local store, so I called the store, had them put it on hold and rushed right over. So excited!

I got to the store and they pulled out the bookcase from the back. It was the wrong one! Yes, $99.99; yes, wood; yes, the same width. But it was closed on the sides. Oh no. I’m sad. Together the sales guy and I went online and I showed him the one I wanted. $99.99, wood, open sides, 24” wide. He checked. They had it in stock! Yay! I’m happy!

Off he went to get it from the back. Yes! It’s the right one, $99.99 sticker on the box, the whole shebang. Relief!

The cashier scanned the $99.99 sticker. Uh-oh!
She scanned it again. Hmmm …
"What’s wrong?"
“Ma’am, it’s coming up as $14.99.”
“But the sticker says it’s $99.99,” I say, “and it’s $99.99 online, too.”
(When I told the story to my family recently, it was at this point that they started hitting me and saying “Only YOU would even question something like that!” Guess they have a point. I should know when to keep my mouth shut.)
“Well, ma’am, it’s coming up as $14.99 so that’s the price.”

Coming to my senses – but still feeling faintly guilty – I pay, they load it up in a shopping cart and the guy helps me take it to the car and loads it in for me. I quickly thanked him … and blasted outta there, thinking of the IKEA winter sale commercial “Start the car! Start the car! WOOOOOOO!”

I know. I should’ve bought two.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What we leave behind ...

Some people come into our lives and quickly go.
Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts.
And we are never ever the same.

As everyone was going through my in-laws' things at Great G's home, she looked at the boxes and piles left behind by her daughter and son-in-law wistfully. Without moving her gaze, she told me "It's amazing, isn't it? The whole of two people's lives, now just a pile of stuff to go through." I think she was really feeling the loss at that time, because of course, we are more than just the stuff we leave behind. So much more.

Sometimes, we don't even know the things we "leave behind" with others we meet in this lifetime. I know I've been surprised on occasion when someone from my past has kindly shared something they remember about me, maybe something I taught them, or something that inspired them. We don't always know the impact we have on those we touch. We may not give the moment a second thought, but we're always touching others in this life.

My ex-husband is known in the family for being an excellent cook. As we were all talking and sorting at Great G's, he told us that people often ask him how he learned how to cook Mexican food so well. "From my ex-wife's mom," he said. I spun round to look at him. Really? Yes, really. Apparently, he still makes handmade tortillas, mixing the dough, letting it rest, rolling, patting and stretching the tortillas ... just like my mom. (As kids, we'd usually take turns getting the last tortilla, which was usually a little smaller than the others.) And from-scratch beans, complete with the bacon fat ... just like my mom. And Mom's tacos, with ground beef, potato and cumin. And tamales at Christmas even! (He's Scotch-Irish, not a drop of Latino in him.) I very rarely make these dishes! Surprised, yes. And also deeply touched, very deeply touched that he thought of my mom whenever he made these things, remembering how she did them, and remembering the times when he and I were young, idealistic, hippie, married kids, barely 20, a different lifetime ago. I had no idea. It was a gift to think that someone is making Mom's dishes ... and a huge surprise that it would be my ex-husband.

One of the big finds as we sorted were Phebe's journals. She kept journals throughout her lifetime. We all giggled as my niece read from her wedding journal, writing about how certain evenings were "very lovely" ... cue the camera to pan to ocean waves crashing on the beach. No details on those evenings (thank goodness!), just the cryptic "very lovely" to leave the rest to the imagination. Other entries were so very dear and so very sweet; a beautiful love story told in those journals.

And then there were the letters. Lots of them, piled, beribboned, bound together, boxed. Do you keep letters? Do you write them, hand-write them? When I was a kid, we wrote letters. I miss them. I miss the excitement of gathering that white envelope (sometimes with a heart or XOXOX on the back) from the mailbox and quickly checking who sent it, the return address neatly written in the upper left corner, not a label. I remember the anticipation when I'd receive a letter from my cousins in El Paso, filled with all the chatty tidbits from a household of four girly daughters. Some years ago, I had a friend who moved to Hawaii; his letters included fun little drawings of him swimming with turtles or palm trees waving in the wind. Another friend used to draw little cartoons.

Mom was a consistent letter writer when we were young. Her handwriting was beautiful, the letters curved just right, her capital R (for my name) open at the top, the straight left leg slightly angled forward and gracefully flowing down to the right leg in a curvy S shape. Each letter flowed gently as it linked to the next in each word. Her writing was the most beautiful I've ever seen. An aunt in New Mexico had writing that was not as neat and took some time to decipher exactly what she wrote, but it was always worth the effort. Mom always wrote on nearly transparent, very light onionskin. The onionskin letter pads came with a lined template that one could slip under the onionskin to guide the writer's hand and keep the lines straight. Mom, with her meticulous writing, never needed it, but if I happened to use onionskin instead of some colorful paper, I always found it helpful.

Now, very few letters arrive in my mailbox. Cards are always welcome, though, and lift my heart with delight when I spy them amongst the junk mail and bills. I keep many of them, with their words of love, encouragement, celebration. I'm lucky to have some with my mom's beautiful handwriting, others with my dad's clear, neat, smaller penmanship, and still others from my brothers with especially meaningful messages. (One says that I'm his "hero.") I've saved letters from my daughter when she was away on a school trip or on a church retreat. She often copied Psalms passages for me, little gifts of encouragement for a single mom struggling each day. I treasure the cards that my granddaughters make for me, with their drawings and things glued on. (There's one from Jas with a plastic turtle - my power animal - on it.) Many of them are bound, beribboned and boxed.

Some day, someone may go through them and think of my life and what I've left behind.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Summer fun and the gates of heaven

Good golly, Miss Molly, but it's been a busy couple of weeks of summertime fun. I've been so focused on searching, researching and applying for jobs, that I was letting this beautiful summer of no work pass me by. I was squandering this precious gift of time that I'd been given. I'd been turning down invitations to meet up with friends so I could spend the entire day at the computer job-hunting. (OK, and on Facebook, too, since I'm already at the computer. I usually work with about 8 different windows open so I can bounce around while pages load.)

Jas and Bri on left

Job hunting takes time; I have job search agents set up on about 7 sites, I check CalJobs every few days, and I'm on several social sites for online marketing. When I find a job that seems a good fit, I apply, prepare a cover letter that hits the requirements for the position so they can see how well-suited I am for the position, fill out the forms necessary to apply, make copies for my files, etc. Then I have follow-up calls, e-mails, etc. You'd think I'd have a job by now. Harumph! I know that I'll land where I'm supposed to land eventually, though.

Jas (red shoes), Bri (checkered shoes)

So ... some of the things I've been doing the last few weeks:
- sold my entertainment center
- bought a new bookcase to replace the two that went with the EC (Good story there; will do another blog post for that)
- had lunch on the pier with my friend Mary
- went to the OC Fair with my friend Ryann before she moved to San Francisco
- attended a friend's wedding shower with my very ultra-cool ex-co-workers (I love those girls!)
- took my grands to the OC Fair. They now love to ride the crazy, spin-ya-round, upside-down, twirl-and-twist rides. Yeeee-haaaaw!
- had the grands over for swimming one day - so fun!
- went with my dear friend Vic to the Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach. There are handcrafted items of all kinds: ceramic, glass, mixed media, paintings, jewelry, textiles, and so much more. Weather was perfect and the smell was awesome with the sawdust covering the grounds. I love to talk with the artisans about their work. A wonderful day!
- got my taillight fixed for free (thanks to good buddy Don who referred me to a mechanic friend of his)
- saw my friend Zuly (and salsa teacher) and her beautiful baby Skyla. We hadn't sat and talked in so long; great afternoon and what a beautiful baby!

Jas and Bri

This last Saturday, I went to Great G's house. Great G is my ex-husband's grandmother, but after the divorce she still remained close, as did my sister-in-law. In recent years, it's been wonderful to reconnect to other family members, too. My father-in-law crossed over last year and my mother-in-law this year. So all the family gathered to go through the things stored at Great G's, giving everyone a chance to take mementos and photos that had special meaning for them.

As everyone went through boxes and photo albums, there was a lot of "Oh, remember this?" and "Do you know who this is?" and "I remember when we ..." I was married at 20, so my 20s were spent as part of the family, formative years doing the growing up and maturing that we do in that timespan of our youth. I was surprised when my ex showed me a photo of me from high school that my MIL had kept; he later told me that she had several others of me, too. We all laughed at some memories, got teary about others. It was good and healing for all, I believe.

Even though the divorce and the years immediately following were very hard, it was such a long time ago, water under the bridge now, baggage that I don't choose to carry forward with me. Grudges and resentments are most damaging to the person carrying them. Better to try to live fully and healthfully in the present.

I read once that the gates of Heaven are very low. One must bow down very deeply to enter ... and we can't fit through if we're carrying excess baggage. I let it all go a long time ago. The good times and the love of those times are what remain. I think those will fit through the gates.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mexico: Xel-Ha and Tulum!

One day, during our trip, we booked a tour that took us to both Xel-Ha and then Tulum. A nice air-conditioned bus picked us all up right next to the open-air hotel restaurant where we'd just finished breakfast.

In the Mayan language, Xel-Ha is pronounced SHEL-ha and means "where the water is born." And it almost seems like it when you visit this beautiful eco-park. It is called the largest natural aquarium in the world. It's a water paradise! And Xel-Ha's all-inclusive package means you pay one price and receive not just your admission, but all your activities, snorkeling gear, towels, locker storage, deck chairs, hammocks, lifejackets, inner tubes - everything you need to have fun in and out of the water is included.

Oh, and I forgot one more minor thing: all your food, snacks and drinks (even alcoholic) are also included. If I remember correctly, there are about 5 restaurants/bars in the park with a wide variety of foods to savor. The one where I ate had a HUGE buffet, with table after table of pasta dishes, fish, burgers and hot dogs, tacos, salads, fruits - I'm sure I didn't see it all. The outside of the restaurant had spigots so you could pour your own lemonade or beer or other beverages. You could even make your own ice cream cone. Compared to Disneyland, where the price of admission and the cost of the food in the park is astronomical, this was a bargain and a delight!

You can spend the entire day in this biological preserve, exploring the jungle, snorkeling with brightly colored fish – it’s water, water, everywhere, lagoon, cenotes, caves. And everywhere you sense the deep commitment to preserving this beautiful natural wonder where Mayans once lived and thrived.

The family spent most of their day snorkeling and I wandered the park by myself. I stopped and watched a family swimming with the dolphins for a while. Pretty amazing what they've trained the dolphins to do. My favorite was when the dolphins pushed a person like a speedboat across the water: one dolphin would push on each foot, making the person rise up out of the water, arms wide open like a cross and they'd be pushed forward with amazing speed, laughing/screaming with delight.

I visited the nursery, too, with its array of tropical plants. Bonus: I got a nice cool-down standing under the sprinklers in one area. Do you see the big red iguana on the rocks above?

Meandering along one of the many paths, I hiked out to an out-of-the-way finger of land called Lighthouse Point, right on the edge of the Caribbean. Under a loosely thatched roof, there were several hammocks hanging in the gentle breeze. There was absolutely no one else around, so I just laid in my hammock enjoying the waves exploding on the rocks, the sunshine, the breeze. So beautiful, I could have stayed right there the entire rest of the day! I happily laid in my hammock, watching the waves and enjoying the amazing blueness of the Caribbean.

After that delightful respite, I spent a long time exploring along a long narrow jungle path that wound throughout the park. There were a couple of points where I thought I might be lost; I hadn't seen another soul in quite some time, and it seemed the rough jungle trail was endless. There were markers along the way to describe trees and caves and cenotes, along with ancient Mayan tales. A long hike, but so worthwhile. Then it was time to board the bus and head to Tulum!

Tulum - the Walled City - is the site of ancient Mayan ruins located on a high bluff above the ocean. The views of the Caribbean are spectacular here. Standing on the bluff, you get a sense of what it must have been like to be a part of this dynamic area. Because of its location, Tulum was a thriving trading site, with access from land or sea.

We were especially lucky to have an amazing guide for Tulum, Javier Savala, whose mother is Mayan and father is Basque. His first language was Mayan and he is an authority on the history, science and archaelogy of this area. His passion for the Mayan culture and his extensive knowledge of the scientific, mathematical, political, architectural and cultural details were contagious. A brilliant man!

Before heading up to the ruins, we enjoyed a performance by Mayan Flying Pole Dancers. With one Indian at the top beating a drum, four others, wrapped in rope, dropped down from the top of the pole, upside down, unwinding and swirling round and round. Amazing! (I couldn't help but think they must have been incredibly hot in their red velvet pants.)

Javier picked some hibiscus blossoms before we took to the tram to the ruins, promising he'd show us a surprise. At the site, we gathered round as he told us of the symbolism of different buildings, of how they were sited to the sun's path and guided the days for planting and harvesting. He explained mathematical equations that had my head spinning but that the Mayans used in the construction of the site and placement of windows and doors. Vastly interesting!

As in most every place we went, there were iguanas up here, too. With a bright, pink hibiscus blossom in hand, Javier lured an iguana to come over and take the flower from his hand. "Your turn, Princess!" he called out to Brianna, my youngest granddaughter, handing her a flower. Looking both excited and a little nervous, she bent down, and bravely held out the flower to another iguana. Gently he took it from her hand. Another beautiful Mexico moment, another beautiful Mexico memory.

Thank you for letting me share our Mexico trip. Now it's your turn to go and enjoy. I can't wait to return again soon. There's a little casita in Akumal that I'm going to book for my next vacation with a yoga studio nearby. Perfect. Adios!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mexico: Akumal and the Cricket Artisan in Playa

Midweek, we went to the beach at Akumal, a quiet, laid-back community of villas, condos and beautiful, gracefully arching bays, clear, turquoise waters and clean, sharp horizons. In Yucatec Mayan, Akumal means "place of the turtles."

Not (yet) a major tourist destination, Akumal is a beautiful, mostly unspoiled area where visitors can swim with the sea turtles. It's also home to a non-profit group dedicated to protecting the sea turtles and the ecological health of the area.

As we drove through the little white-arched entrance, there was a collection of small shops, apartments, homes and businesses all loosely gathered together along the narrow packed-dirt road. We parked in front of La Cueva del Pescador, The Cave of the Fisherman. La Cueva was part of a small cluster of buildings in a shady palm grove. Behind it was a little clothing shop and at an angle behind the shop was Turtle Bay Bakery.

There were a few small tables outside; inside, the floor was simply sand (I don't think there was an actual floor below the sand) and there was a pool table where two young men were playing and an order window for the kitchen. Inside, the walls were covered with photographs of fishermen with their catches. Very picturesque, almost Hemingwayish. One of the servers told us that if we chartered a fishing trip on his boat, that they'd cook whatever we caught right there: "Hook it and cook it!" (We didn't do it, but thought it was a cool idea.) Terrific lunch!

After lunch, we walked across the road to the beach to rent snorkeling equipment for the family. There were charter tours available that would take the family out to swim with the turtles, but they decided to just rent the equipment ... and simply watch where the tours went and swim out to the same area. They put their equipment on and out they went. My daughter saw at least 8 turtles, some bigger than my 9-yr-old granddaughter, all swimming around and below them. Awesome, amazing and beautiful!

I sat on the beach (I can't swim) and had a wonderfully peaceful time sitting there just enjoying the ocean, the waves, the breeze. Just a perfect day! Very refreshing. (I have fibromyalgia so peaceful, calming experiences are very helpful in managing the pain. And after Xcaret, I could use the peace and quiet.)

There weren't many people in the area where I was so it was pretty quiet and calming. After about an hour or so of lazy, drowsy watching, I heard - and felt!- a solid *thud!* next to my hand. A coconut had fallen and barely missed me. Whew! Close call. I turned back to that gorgeous expanse of Caribbean before me and just as I started to drift again ... *bam!* Another coconut fell right next to me! I looked up into the tree. One ... two ... There were two more up there so I moved out of the line of fire! My son-in-law opened up one of them when they came back onshore. Tasty, fresh coconut!

After Akumal, we drove into Playa Del Carmen for dinner at Yaxche, known for its authentic Mayan cuisine. We chose an outdoor table right on the street. Shortly after being seated, a gentleman approached our table from the street and placed something on our table. It was a large green cricket! He started singing a song and dancing the cricket around on the table. As he sang, he made cricket sounds (I have no idea how to write a cricket sound in letters!) and jumped quickly up and down like a cricket. So delightful! A natural artisan, he'd fashioned these wonderful crickets from palm leaves, very intricately plaited, wth wooden skewers for legs. I'd love to go back and learn how to make these from him!

Such a wonderful day! I fell in love with Akumal. If the circumstances ever present themselves, I would love to buy a little place there and live in the peace and beauty of the place of the turtles.