Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, Mom

Mom cemetery 2012

Merry Christmas, Mom! I took flowers to the cemetery last week. Gosh, the cemetery was so beautiful! It’s one of my favorite places during the holidays. There is more love to be experienced there than in any gaudily decorated mall. There were quite a few families putting up trees and decorations when I was there. Everywhere you could see the love that people put into decorating and including their loved ones in their holiday celebrations. Of course, we all know our loved ones aren’t lying there under the sod; you are all free from any physical encumbrances, no limitations imposed on you by a body any longer. But the cemetery gives us a very special place to gather, to share memories or to ponder alone. There is a sense of aliveness there, oddly enough, because the energy of love is just so powerful and the cemetery is filled with love. One family puts up a cardboard fireplace each year, hung with paper stockings with family names written on them; as new members join the family, new stockings join the others on the mantel. It always touches my heart; those are the kinds of things that always touched yours, too.

When I was cleaning your headstone and polishing it to a gleam, I noticed an incense stick stuck in the dirt around the stone again. That always touches me, too; someone (a stranger, I assume), lights incense and says prayers for you. I sometimes see the red stick in a couple of other graves, but not in all those that surround yours. Someone specifically chooses yours for their incense and prayers. That kind of thing would touch your heart, too, I know.

So, we had Christmas brunch at my place today. Steve offered to bring the food and make brunch for everyone. Ern and the Wesleys brought drinks and food, too. I love that everyone pitches in when they come over, like family always did at home when we had Christmas with you and Dad. There’s no sense of “host and guests;” it’s family all setting up the table, gathering chairs, helping to serve, lighting candles. (BTW, I sent Dad See’s chocolates for Thanksgiving; Amber and I sent him a Hickory Farms basket for Christmas. We didn’t hear from him for either occasion. I miss him so much, Mom, that I just have to try to not think of him too much. Please watch over him, OK?) Brianna wanted me to play Rudolph on the piano after we ate, so I played and some of them sang. Then I played Silver Bells for you since you always loved that. I’ve been playing your other favorites the last few days, too, like Little Drummer Boy, White Christmas and the carols.

I miss you, Mom, but I carry your love with me always. Just look at the beautiful family you started, mom to sons and daughter to granddaughter to great-granddaughters. Your presence is felt in every family celebration. I love you, Mom!

122512 Amber Brian122512 brian amber bri jas122512 bro steve prepping brunch122512 jas bri amber brian ern kathy steve122512 opening gifts

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12

Number combos are fun to note, aren't they? Today's 12/12/12; a repetitive number pattern like this won't occur for 88 years, when the date will be 01/01/01. We do have 11/12/13 coming up next year, though, so can have some fun with that.

There are those who attribute dates with serious portent. Some believe the ancient Mayans said that 12/12/12 would signal a shift in the world, letting go of old ways and embracing a new, more peaceful world. There are all kinds of predictions, practices, beliefs, etc. about 12/12/12. I respect others' beliefs; I believe there is more in this world than I'll ever know.

For me, though, dates are fun but not anything that I believe signals anything. The measurement of time is a manmade thing, an arbitrary assignment of numbers to time, days, months, years. There are a number of different types of calendars, too, such as Gregorian, Hebrew, Julian, etc., each of which assigned their numbering differently, some with leap years, some with leap months, some with a different number of days in some months. I've read that the Mayans didn't account for leap years, so any big event that was supposed to happen on 12/21/12, should have actually happened seven months ago.

Dates are just a way that man measures time.
  • The snowy great white egrets I saw flying overhead today don't know that today is 12/12/12; they're living as they live every day.
  • The orchids that are starting to bloom in my garden don't know it's 12/12/12; they're just filling up with enormous energy as they prepare to open up in magnificence.
  • The earth doesn't know it's 12/12/12.
  • And for the Divine, time isn't measured; always is always, there are no limits, no constraints such as measured time. How can we limit the Divine with something as unimportant as a calendar?
One friend suggests that we use this day to open ourselves to a higher state of being, to be more light, more open; to stretch ourselves and to do everything with a sense of soul purpose. A great suggestion for any day and every day.

Happy 12/12/12!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Finding the blessings in less …

candles multitude
For Thanksgiving, a friend, Laura Hegfield,  gathers together people’s thoughts of gratitude and posts them all in her blog, weaving them together in different colors, to create a Mega Mobius Gratitude Quilt.  As a writing prompt, she provided “In this moment, I am grateful for …” It’s such a beautiful gathering of people’s thoughts, their joys, their struggles, their hearts. I look forward to it each year. I hope you take a moment to visit her blog and enjoy the Quilt. Here is my contribution:
I light a candle in the darkness of my little office. I inhale love, I exhale gratitude. And I think “In this moment, I am grateful for …” The blessings simply flood in, like water flowing in and around things, seeking the open spaces within me. Grateful for … learning how to live with less since I was laid off in May, how not just to live with less but to be satisfied with less, to be filled with less, to find the blessings that abound in less. Where before I might pay someone to do some things for me, I now learn to do them for myself. The dishwasher has been broken since June; I find the blessings in washing dishes the way Thich Nhat Hanh describes it, feeling the slippery soap, the edge of a plate, the warm water; gazing out the window and watching a little bird or the breeze in the trees. In this moment, I am grateful for less.
I admit that it’s been a bit of a struggle to learn this lesson. I live on less than half of what I’d been making before May. I’ve given up getting my hair colored, the occasional mani/pedi. I watch my budget very closely, feeling exultant when I stretch $20 worth of gas a full week. I carefully consider whether I can spend $2.04 for a cup of coffee, knowing that $2 is actually coming out of my savings, which I am reluctant to deplete.
I  may not be able to enjoy the extra little frills of life that I used to, but with careful budgeting, I’m able to pay my bills and meet my obligations. I find free things to do with friends, spending time gardening with one, a walk with another, a day at the swap meet (we had free passes) spent browsing and talking, knowing neither of us could spend anything, free from even considering it. I’m learning acceptance and ease in these circumstances that I find myself in. And, I have hope that this won’t last forever, that I’ll land a job again where I’m paid decently again.
Everything is temporary. Everything changes. The ability to change and flow like water is a lesson that I’m blessed to learn.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Friends in the Band

I loved high school! I mean, I LOVED high school! It was a great time of growth, learning, friendships, fun, activities; being young, strong, feeling our capabilities. In junior high and high school, I was involved in a lot of activities and clubs. Mom used to tell me that I didn’t need to join EVERY club on campus. I had a fabulous time!

Part of my high school experience was hanging out with the band group. I was actually in Drill Team, but my brother was in band and I developed some of my closest friendships (and boyfriends – even a husband) from the band group. Band and Drill Team did so many things together anyway, practicing every day for halftime shows and competitions. I joined the Stage Band (playing piano) my senior year and was the only girl. Again, great fun learning music together, teasing one another, traveling to band competitions together.

The band friends were all very close, both at school and after school and on weekends, gathering together for parties, hanging out, sometimes jamming together for fun. We always had one other’s backs for anything, from boyfriend/girlfriend troubles to school or parent issues. These close friendships really made high school a true joy for me.

Over time, we lost touch but a few of us have reconnected on Facebook. One of my best high school friends is this fun, sparkling redhead who all the band guys had a crush on. One of the best people I’ve ever known. She came out to California to visit last year, so several of us got together and had a beach party. It was the first time we’d seen one another in many years.

She came out again this year so this time, we gathered at my home and had a potluck. (My great friend Vicki joined us and fit right in.) So much food! So much fun! So hot! We had a fabulous time, picking right back up again with our close high school friendships, teasing, laughing, playing, catching up on news about those who are still with us and a few who aren’t. A few times, I just paused and drank it all in, these wonderful friends, still their high school selves inside, still dear, fun, good, kind-hearted. It was a glorious day!

091512 June caught mid-bite    091512 Time to eat

091512 Dan Rick and Mike    091512 Dan and Rick

091512 Armando Mendez   091512 group pic  091512 group pic 2     091512 schmooches for Dan

Monday, September 3, 2012

Foo dogs–I won!

I recently entered a contest at House of Turquoise. The winning prize: a pair of turquoise ceramic Foo dogs from the very stylish Shop Ten 25, valued at $135. I left my comment, never thinking that I’d win; HOT is a very popular site with loads of readers who also left comments and, of course, everyone wanted a shot at winning these beauties. Somehow the stars and moon aligned magically and I won!

So this arrived on my doorstep last week:

082512 FedEx box

I was giddy with excitement, but such a large box! Maybe I should’ve checked the measurements on the site. I’d cleared off room on some shelves but may have to re-think this!
There was a lovely note inside from Abbe of Shop Ten 25 … and about a metric ton of paper packaging and bubble wrap! There was no way these babies could get broken.

082612 note from Abbe082612 bubble unwrapping

I unrolled and unrolled the bubble wrap and voila! A Foo dog! Gorgeous, yes?
I then unrolled and unrolled the other bundle and found his brother. Don’t you love the detail on these, front and back? These are easily the most expensive accessories I have in my entire home. I’m so thrilled with how perfectly they fit my style!

082612 first Foo dog    082612 Foo dog detailing

I think I’ll post the bubble wrap and box on Freecycle; folks are always looking for packing materials when moving households. Win-win!     082612 bubble wrap

Tried them on the shelves, but they were just a tad tall for the space. I’m not sure yet where they’ll end up. I tried them on the round table (Ballard’s Bornova). Nice, but I’d be concerned about them being knocked over accidentally.

082612 foo dogs bornova table 

   082612 foo dogs bornova close

So for now, they’re on a side table (below), guarding a favorite pic of my mom and me. Mom’s birthday was this last week (Aug. 28), so I like that they have a special place with her photo for now.

082612 foo dogs side table2

Please be sure to check out House of Turquoise for fabulous home eye candy; Erin does a fabulous job at curating some wonderful homes! And you must check out Abbe’s shop Shop Ten 25 for designer home furnishings!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Meant to be humble …

tub with amazing ocean view

“No one is disadvantaged before God”

Still unemployed, still looking for work that will pay a reasonable salary. The other day I was doing some job-search-related work on LinkedIn and checked out the profiles of some former co-workers. Some now have titles like Director, Vice President, Sr. Vice President, Executive Vice President. While I’m happy for their accomplishments (and they are very well deserved, indeed; very good, smart people), I wondered what happened to me? Not in a feeling-sorry-for-myself way at all; more like a self-examination of my career path, what choices I may have made, what actions I might have taken, what I might have done differently to achieve similar status and been more successful.

At one point, I was on the fast track toward a vice president position … then the company was bought out and new management brought in who had their own people. I’ve been in two other companies that were bought out, staffs were downsized, departments absorbed; another company closed in the dot-com bust; another had a major Reduction in Force in 2008’s economic downturn. I left another great job for a more attractive opportunity, then the director who hired me was promoted and his successor had a different vision for the group that didn’t include the role I had accepted.

Two friends gifted me with a couple of thoughts recently that helped me to get my head and heart straight and gain some wisdom and understanding:

One friend is having to close her business after pouring her savings, sweat and lifeblood into it. In talking about our situations last week, she said that her husband had told her “Maybe we’re just meant to be humble.”

“Meant to be humble.” That really struck a chord with me. I would love to have the nicer things in life, not too extravagant, but nicer. I love beautiful things that are simple and well crafted. That pic above just makes me gasp; the beautiful lines of the tub, the elegant floors and oh, yeah, how about that view? I’m not into fussy, ornate, busy; show me sleek, simple, perhaps with a bit of rustic, mixed with some happy color. In some ways, my tastes are already humble. But still, I would like to be able to purchase some nice towels, perhaps new dishware, re-upholster my Mom’s rocking chair, have some curtains that aren’t from Ikea, update the bathroom. I’ve never really had that “extra” that would allow me to have a nicer car/wardrobe/shoes/d├ęcor. I’ve always had to watch my budget. (My brothers and I joke “Why wasn’t Dad a rich shipping magnate?”)

As I pondered these thoughts about humbleness, another friend posted this illuminating thought on Facebook:

“No one is disadvantaged before God.”

It was as though the Divine meant those words specifically for me. Those who are vice presidents and those who are unemployed: before the Divine, we’re all the same. Wealth, titles, beautiful bathtubs—none of these matter ultimately. Those are things of the physical world, not of the place where our souls are. I was letting my ego lead my thoughts instead of the heart of my Divine self. There is ultimately a great equalizer as we move forward in our journeys. My friend’s husband spoke it so truly: We are meant to be humble people, all of us. None of us is disadvantaged where it counts. A little wisdom gained.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Little noticings …

Walking-feet

On my walk this morning, I kept finding my mind wandering to what I wanted to get done today. I am mindful of practicing mindfulness and being in the present moment, though, so I repeated a quote from one of my favorite movies (Peaceful Warrior) to bring me back to the present:

Where am I? I am here.
What time is it? Right now.

I use this phrasing quite often. It seems that I’m often writing a To-Do List in my head. This phrase reminds me that I am not in the past; I am not in the future. I am only in this moment, right now. There is nothing else to do right now but enjoy the present moment.

I always love reminders to be present. Thich Nhat Hahn is one of the first teachers from whom I learned mindfulness. In the first book of his that I read, as an example he wrote about being mindful when washing dishes: feeling the softness of the soap bubbles, the warmth of the water, the shape of the plate, the slipperiness of its surface. (It so happened that shortly afterward I was washing dishes after a Thanksgiving meal and a relative asked me how I could stand doing so many dishes. I told him about being mindful and I’ve been teased ever since about “being one with the plate.” I think you have to know your audience when you share things like this.)

At the monastery where Thich Nhat Hahn lives, he'll sometimes ask the novices working in the kitchen "What are you doing?" to remind them to be mindful and present instead of wandering away in their thoughts as they work; to notice what they are doing, the things around them, the songs of the birds, the warmth of their bodies. My yoga teachers teach this mindfulness, too, reminding us to notice how a little adjustment of an upper arm opens up more space, how fully exhaling allows the body to move a little further into a pose, how our bodies feel after a round of Sun Salutations: our breath, body temp, suppleness. Little noticings that make us more aware of the union of breath, mind and body.

Yesterday, I took my granddaughters for ice cream. As we were leaving, I pointed out to the oldest that I liked the flooring, which had intermittent squares of blue, green and pink. "You always notice the smallest things, Nana," she said to me and smiled. I try.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Old Navy photos

080112 Dad's Navy pic - mailing tube

I wish I could share some happiness about my dad, but there’s been no change. Still no contact with him. I’ve sent him cards and my daughter has, too, but no response.

I sent him another card last Sunday with some photos. When my dad was in the Navy, he’d sent a photo to his sister Helen.  Helen is now in a home (Alzheimer's/dementia)  and when my cousin Chito (Helen’s son) was packing up her home, he found the photo and sent it to me. 080112 Dad's Navy pic full
It’s about 3ft long, a formal photo of a large group, maybe his ship’s crew? It was still in the original mailing tube, stamps and all. I took several photos, including a close-up of my dad. (It took me 3 days with a magnifying glass to find him in the photo.)

080112 Dad's Navy pic - centerI don’t have any expectations that my dad will respond, but I’m OK with me still reaching out to him nonetheless. I can love him without being loved in return. It still hurts to not have contact with him, but I can still love him.

We’re taught to love as the Divine loves, unconditionally. Not “I’ll only love you if you love me the way that I want you to.” Just “I love.”

080112 Dad's Navy pic - 2nd row, middle

(Dad is  in the 2nd row from top, middle, darker man to his right)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Narcissistic culture?


Most of us are familiar with the story of Peter denying Jesus when questioned after Jesus’ arrest: “I do not know the man,” he replied not just once or twice, but three times, trying to distance himself from the seriousness of the situation.
Would Peter’s reaction be different in today’s instant-fame-fueled culture?
“Weren’t you with that man Jesus?”
”Yup! I sure was! Had dinner with him just last night in fact. Check it out: I posted pics on facebook and tweeted about it, too. It’s trending so hard right now. I’ve got a bazillion retweets since the arrest.
Hey, if you know of any news organizations looking for a good story, I’ve got the inside scoop! For a price, of course!”
My July 31 post mentioned the seeming trend of people falsely attaching themselves to tragic events, getting their name in print or being interviewed on TV or even possibly selling their story to the highest bidder.

The quest for fame seems to be on the increase, possibly fueled by our celebrity-focused culture. (Why do we have awards show after awards show for entertainers but not for those who serve: teachers, military, police, fire and emergency personnel, etc.? What is it that we truly value?) Studies show decided increases in young people who aspire to be famous, often without any hard work or talent involved in the quest. They see people getting their own TV shows for no good reason (teen moms, reality TV, big brother, bachelors with multiple women to find “true love”) and think “Why not me? They’re famous and have no talent or skill; I can do the same thing.”

There are seven traits classically associated with narcissism: authority, entitlement, exhibitionism, exploitativeness, self-sufficiency, superiority, and vanity. One study found that the percentage of young people classified as narcissistic (30%) has doubled in the last 30 years. (What happened to humility and Andy Griffith types?) Another study reported a 40% decline in empathy in young people. Our youth are bombarded with messages about self-involvement, entitlement, vanity and fame and the rich rewards of being famous: TV shows, money, houses, cars, vacations, fabulous parties and their pictures in every tabloid.

So what do we truly value? My granddaughter’s summer reading list includes Fahrenheit 451. The assignment summary describes it as about a society where the trivial is valued above the truth, where out-of-context factoids are more widely dispensed over information and knowledge. I sometimes feel we could be headed in that direction, where bread and circuses are fed as entertainment to the masses, numbing them into complacency and acceptance of these disturbing trends.

I’m thankful there are many hard-working, intelligent young people in society who are not lured by this siren’s song of fame and narcissism; young people who are studying and volunteering with humility and caring, who don’t seek to attach themselves to events that might get them on the evening news. These are the people, though, who should be celebrated, whose stories should be told. Humility should be a trait we value above narcissistic self-involvement.

Further reading:

Have Media Created a Generation of Narcissists? - http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/media-creates-narcissists-0113121/

Narcissism: On the Rise in America? - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jim-taylor/narcissism-america_b_861887.html

The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America - http://www.amazon.com/The-Mirror-Effect-Narcissism-ebook/dp/B001NLKWVM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1344309025&sr=8-2&keywords=the+mirror+effect

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Fair … and a thought about safety

080609 fair jas bri tango close

Standing in line for the giant ferris wheel when we were at the fair last week, I looked around at all the people there on a Thursday. My first thought was that I was glad I wasn’t there on a Saturday or Sunday! Crowds are not my thing at all. I like calmer, happy, gentler fun and laughter; crowds tend to be too manic and out-of-control for me.

Looking at the people in line and around the fair, a second thought struck me: the Colorado movie theater shooter. That shooting in the theater was such a random event; not the act of a foreign terrorist hell-bent on terrorizing Americans; it was a guy armed with guns (a military-style semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol), an American, a student. If it could happen there, it could surely happen at a fair packed with people. Sure, they check our bags as we enter, but it’s a cursory check, quick, brief.

It saddened me that I even had that thought. It saddened me that any gathering could be a target for someone armed to kill with guns. I wish I hadn’t thought it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Last week, I heard a news interview with a young woman. “I went to that camp. I was at the camp where the shooter was a counselor. I just can’t believe it! It’s just so … so … surreal! To think that I … I was just amazed when I made the connection. It’s so surreal,” she said in breathless, awestruck tones. The news reporter went on to say that the shooter had been a counselor at the camp … in 2008. Not recently. Four years ago, in 2008. He also went on to say that the young woman never actually met the shooter, not ever. She just happened to have attended a camp where the shooter had one time been a counselor. Years ago.

This is news? The reporter went to journalism school to make these kinds of non-connections between events and people? There is NO connection. Why does the media make these stretches and try to create a connection that does not exist? Why did that young woman feel that this was “so surreal?” She never met the guy. She has zero connection to him. Since I live in the same state that he’s from, am I connected? No.

Talking with other friends, this seems to be fairly common among some young people, trying to connect themselves to media events in some way, any way, even when they’re not connected in any way. Why this stretching? Is it for some measure of fame, false as it is? These false connections diminish the real facts, diminish the real news, diminish the real connections that could lead to some understanding of these events. I don’t understand why everyone wants to be a media darling, falsely attaching themselves to tragic events. It’s so surreal.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Unemployment Benefit: The Fair, home tour and dancing!

080609 fair giant ferris wheel

What a super-fantabulous fun-filled day yesterday! I spent the day at the fair having fun, then went on a VIP champagne–and–hors d’oeuvres home tour of beautiful model homes and then finished off the night at my friend’s Scottish country dancing class. (I did spend two hours in the morning working on my job search; I was a responsible adult.)

Orange County Fair – My granddaughters, their cousin, my brother and I all went. We started with some food (Wow! Prices have really gone up; had to shop around for 072612 Fair - Cat Womensomething that didn’t require selling a kidney.) and watched a bit of chef Robert Irvine’s demonstration.

Wandered over to the tattoo booth and I got a mehndi (henna) tattoo and the girls got airbrushed tats. Then it was off to the giant ferris wheel, where the attendant looked like Snoop Dogg. What a view from this thing! Loved it. My brother and I wandered the exhibits while the girls went on more rides then we all watched young people dancing and performing at one of the stages. Oh! And we finished up with funnel cake. Always have to have funnel cake at the fair!

 072612 - Julia airbrush tattoo   072612 Fair - mehndi art tattoo072612 - Fair - J and B airbrush tattoes

VIP Home Tour – I received an invitation from a home development around the corner to come view their latest model, complete with champagne and hors d’oeuvres, so my friend Vicki and I went to go hobnob with the upper crust.072612 pacific shores - kitchen lighting (Actually, Vic IS upper crust, but she’s the cool kind.)

I’ve always loved to view model homes; when my daughter was young, we used to visit one of the local developments, pretending we lived in “our” selected model, deciding how we’d arrange our furniture – fun, imaginative play. Vic and I had a great time enjoying the models, although we had to question why one of them used plain old white 072612 pacific shores - bath backsplash4x4 tile in the bathrooms. The food was fabulous: melon with prosciutto, fabulous cheeses (my fave was the cherried cheese), fruits, wraps, assorted crackers. One guy was obviously there for the food and drink as he kept going back for seconds, thirds, fourths.

072612 pacific shores - wall stencils - close-up

Scottish Country Dancing – And then we were off to Vic’s dance class. This was my first time seeing her group, although she’s been dancing for years. I think I could do this! I love choreography and it was pretty easy to pick that part up since I have a ton of ballet training; the challenge (as in most dance) would be in the technique. It’s similar to ballet in some respects, though, so maybe I have a shot. I told Vic that it’s different than my usual salsa dancing where there’s a lot of body contact. “It’s British,” she laughed; “they don’t touch.” ha!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Garden Visitors

072512 mourning doves

I fed the plants in my little courtyard garden earlier this afternoon. As I stood there watering, feeling the warmth of the summer sun on my skin, relaxing my muscles and mind and spirit, I noticed the white butterflies that floated softly from plant to plant – from the roses to the society garlic, to the salvia and  mandevilla. I noticed the spiders busily weaving their webs among the plants, hoping for their catch of the day. As I bent down to clean out a few leaves near the jasmine and the fountain flowing next to it, my arm brushed a transparent web that I didn’t see before. A couple of wasps busied themselves, hunting amongst the flowers.

My little courtyard gives me quiet, meditative time, looking up at blue skies, watching the clouds blown out by the ocean breeze as they spread wispily across the sky, feeling warm rays on my skin. I enjoy the aliveness of my garden with flora growing and changing, insects making their homes, everything alive and vibrant. Later this afternoon, I heard mourning doves calling their gentle coo and looked out to see a pair perched atop the garage. Ah, summer …

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Authentic Self - What do I choose to consume?


Mom used to always tell us "Don't be a follower." She always taught us to listen to our true hearts and not just go along with the crowd.

But when you're a pre-teen/teen/young adult, following the crowd is what gets you accepted by others, it's how you make friends. If everyone is wearing the current trends, listening to the popular music but you're not, it's easy to be left out of things. So we quiet our true hearts, go along with the crowd, do the things everyone else is doing and we're accepted as part of the group. It's human nature; we're safer in groups. And we start believing we're choosing for ourselves when we're really following the crowd in order to gain acceptance.

When we're babies and toddlers, though, this "following" mentality doesn't even register. We are totally reactive and accepting. Babies drool, make funny faces, laugh at silly things, wear untrendy clothes - without ever a thought as what anyone else might think. They're completely, totally uninhibited and free of any judgment, of themselves or others.
Choose wisely what you expose your mind to; what input you give it; who you spend your time with; what kind of "bread" you feed your one-of-a-kind mind to nourish it." - Beads of Wisdom, Janice Lynne Lundy
As I got past my 30s and beyond, I started to do more self-examination. What did I really like? What really spoke to my true heart? What would I choose if I was totally uninhibited and free of judgment? How could I be more the way I was when I entered this world? What if I actually marched to the beat of my own drummer and chose to be my really, truly, authentic self?

My authentic self:
  • Doesn't like cartoons (They're too over-the-top, too "ah-OOO-ga!" for me)
  • Loves Chocolate Almond ice cream
  • Doesn't like violent movies, car chases, explosions
  • Doesn't like 3D (it spoils the movie for me because the emphasis is on the snazzy special effects)
  • Loves a good story
  • Finds fireworks boring (explosions, bang-boom-pow - yawn ... tell me a good story instead)
  • Chooses non-violence - TV shows, books, movies - I'm more careful about what I consume and prefer peace and love over violence and fear
  • Doesn't drink alcohol (never really found a reason to; oddly to some, I don't like the way it makes me feel; I feel different, not me, not authentic)
  • LOVES yoga
  • Loves to take walks in the morning
  • Loves to lie in the sun in the afternoons
  • Loves to hug others with loving enthusiasm
  • Is completely content to be alone, puttering around my home, doing whatever I choose to do to make me happy
  • Laughs out loud at funny shows
  • Claps (alone in my home) at great performances on So You Think You Can Dance
  • Loves salads and veggies and quinoa
  • Doesn't like meat in general (exceptions: tacos and my special In 'n Out burger)
  • Gags when I see any animal meat on a bone (urp)
  • Digs in the dirt without gloves (with my diamond and ruby rings on)
  • Loves loving and being loved
OK, so some of these things are the same things others like, but some get me some weird looks. (The cartoons, alcohol and meat-on-a-bone ones mostly.) The point is, I choose these things for myself, authentically, not because others like/don't like them.

Periodically, I do a self-examination and ask myself: What is no longer serving my highest and greatest good? What do I choose to consume? Do I choose things that are kind, caring, loving, nourishing to my authentic self? Things that enrich myself and others? I try to choose wisely and with a kind heart.

Are there any things that your authentic self likes or doesn't like that go against the norm?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

How quickly things change …

A couple of months ago, I was thinking about how nice and quiet my life is, no drama or Big Events, just a contented, happy life. Things can change so quickly, though, and so dramatically. In the last two months:
  • I left my job
  • My dad’s wife passed away
  • My daughter was in the hospital for tests related to her lupus
  • Dad’s dog had to be put down
  • A good friend/neighbor passed away
Worst of all, my dad is no longer speaking to his family.
When Dad’s late wife was in the hospital, my brother and I spent time with him each day there; my brother usually took him in the morning and then I went in the evening to sit with him and then take him home. In spite of the circumstances, it was wonderful to be with my Dad again and listen to his stories, talk with him, share conversation and jokes.
After my mom passed away in 1990, we spent a lot of time with Dad, but after he remarried 16 years ago, that changed. We’d invite him and his wife to get together and were told they already had plans with her family. We’d invite them to holiday gatherings; at first, they’d come for an hour or so, then leave to spend the afternoon and evening with her family. One Christmas, we pulled up to my brother and sister-in-law’s home just as Dad and his wife were leaving so we had to give them their Christmas presents through the car window, with the car engine running and his wife telling us to hurry. Eventually, they just stopped coming to our family’s holiday gatherings so they could spend the time with her family instead. It was sad for us and we missed our Dad tremendously, but there wasn’t much we could do.
(Eight years ago, my Dad and his wife became legal guardians of three of her grandchildren, who have been living with them. Two of them, an adult grandson and a minor granddaughter, still live with him. He’s no longer legal guardian of either. I’m very proud of my dad to have stepped up to help raise his wife’s grandchildren, even though he was already in his 70s at the time.)
When Dad’s late wife passed away in May, my brother and I spent each day with Dad, helping him with finding bills and other paperwork, getting things organized so he could handle things more easily. (Dad’s had some strokes and suffers from memory loss at times.) We also wanted to be sure the home was safe and healthy for Dad. It was a mess (a lot of hoarding): paper piles everywhere, medicines and medical equipment in multiples of multiples, multiple kitchen appliances, boxes of food on the floor, a lot of things on the floor, actually, instead of put away.
And the kitchen – when Dad and I checked the produce drawer, there was rotten, blackened, moldy food filling the drawer, with rotten tomatoes that had gone to liquid in the bottom. A container of flan had an inch of mold growing on it. The freezer was completely stuffed with freezer-burned food. You get the picture. Not a safe place for a man with memory loss. He could’ve eaten the rotten food or mistakenly taken the wrong medicine.
My brother and I worked at cleaning up the kitchen and the bills, etc. for over a month. We took him on errands, getting prescriptions, making appointments, having lunch, taking him grocery shopping for foods he wanted. We started looking at services who could come in to cook and clean for him. We had a wonderful time finally being able to be with Dad, gathering his stories as we worked together to have a safe kitchen area for him. Kitchen surfaces were greasy and dusty; we knocked down cobwebs from corners and walls. As we cleaned, I’d ask Dad “Do you want to keep this?” If he did, I’d say “OK, let’s wash it and honor it and display it nicely.”
I took him to my cousin’s retirement/birthday party one Saturday and he had a wonderful time seeing family he hadn’t seen in many years. He accepted our invitation to attend my granddaughter’s/his great-granddaughter’s birthday party on 6/16 and we made plans to go to the pier for breakfast on Father’s Day 6/17. He also accepted my daughter’s/his granddaughter’s invitation to join the family at an Angel game and he was looking forward to all of these.
On Friday, June 15, I brought a family album with me for Dad to enjoy. He asked my brother to please make copies for him because “I don’t have any pictures of my family in the house.”
One of the appointments we took him to a couple of weeks before was to see his trust attorney, who reviewed the trust with him. When Dad reviewed it, he protested and told the attorney that he wanted changes made to it, including giving my brother Power of Attorney and  making sure that his children and granddaughter were included in the trust. (Dad’s original trust was changed in 2009, after he’d had his strokes and memory loss. The previous trusts for each of them provided that his wife’s family received her estate and Dad’s family received his, including the home that he and Mom had bought and paid off. The 2009 trust gave everything to the three grandchildren, which Dad said he wasn’t aware of.) The attorney suggested that Dad think about the changes he wanted made and to come back to make all the changes at once. My brother later prepared a list of Dad’s wishes so Dad could review and make certain of what he wanted changed.
So on Friday, June 15, everything was wonderful with Dad and I again confirmed I’d pick up him at 1 for his great-granddaughter’s birthday party the next day. On Saturday, I went to pick him up; no answer. I called the house; no answer. I called his wife’s family members; no answer. I went to the neighbor’s house and she didn’t know where he was, either, but was finally able to contact another of his wife’s family who said that Dad was safe, but wouldn’t share where he was. The next day was Father’s Day and my brother planned to pick him up; called the house; no answer. On Monday, he came to pick up Dad for his doctor appointment; again, no answer.
I was extremely worried about him by this time. We hadn’t heard from him for three days and didn’t know if he was OK or missing or what. I called the police, who met me there. Dad was OK, but the grandson and granddaughter were yelling at me and saying that they didn’t have to answer our calls about my Dad, that we never visited Dad (they probably didn’t know their grandmother always had other plans so we couldn’t) and that Dad didn’t want to talk to us. I left in tears.
And so it’s been like that ever since. We thought we could finally have Dad back in our lives and after two months of joy with him, we’ve been robbed of that again. My daughter took Father’s Day gifts to him two days later and although he came to the door (his late wife’s family was there), he didn’t let her in or give her a hug or kiss. My daughter and my dad used to be like two peas in a pod, super close and loving; as a kid, she accompanied him everywhere; after Mom passed and we’d visit Dad, she and he would snuggle closely together, her little head tucked under his arms wrapped around her, watching TV.
I don’t know how my Dad is doing. I wake early each morning, praying for his well-being and for a safe home for him to live in, with . I send him loving thoughts through my prayers. I miss him and am broken-hearted that no one has a kind heart to let us know how he is. Our primary concern is for our Dad’s well-being, that the home is clean, that he’s eating good food, with no rotten food or things on the floor he could trip on. I know that deep down, my Dad still loves his family, each and every one of us. I pray that we can gather together again some day and share our family’s love again.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dad … selfless devotion

 

I got home from the hospital last night around 11:30pm. Normally (although there’s nothing really normal at this time) I take Dad home first then I drive the 40 minutes to my home, but he wanted to stay with his wife at the hospital and not leave her. It was hard to leave him there.

She’s been in the hospital for over two weeks now. My Dad has been there with her, sitting in his chair by her side every single day from 8am until after 8pm when I take him home. Every day, 12 hours a day, sitting there with her. It breaks my heart to sometimes arrive at the hospital in the evening and see him sitting there alone, although I know other family members have been there before me. I’m humbled by his devotion and love. My heart is shattered that he will be losing her soon.

More than almost anyone I know, Dad has this beautiful capacity for living fully and completely in the moment. A couple of weeks ago, I was asked if he realized she might not come home this time. But Dad doesn’t consume himself with “what ifs.” He doesn’t get lost in worry and thereby lose the present moment. At this moment, his wife is still here on this side and so he talks to her, strokes her arm and face, calls her “Sugar” and simply loves her through this.

She was a little responsive last night after they moved her and took her off all meds except those that will keep her comfortable now. She could speak a little and look at him, at her daughter and her grandsons. She looked at me at the foot of her bed and said hello. I blew her kisses and told her I loved her.

Dad has barely left her side these past weeks, not eating much, not wanting to leave her. Such beautiful, loving, profound devotion! He stands by her bed and talks to her, tells her she needs to get well and come home … come home … come home … He comforts her, reassures her, keeps devoted watch over her … right now … cherishing the present moment while all else stands still.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Beannacht: Blessing

 

John O’Donohue’s celtic-accented voice has such a magical quality about it, reaching deep into some inner part of my being. The words, rhythm and images of his beautiful “Beannacht" spoken in his own voice bring me an immediate sense of calm, of wonder, of a connectedness with all that is. Suitable for this holy day in honor of a blessed saint, yes? Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Namaste.

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

--John O'Donohue

Friday, February 24, 2012

Life Celebrations

021812 Paddle-out for Bruce

Life cycles through so many phases: birth, childhood, teen years, adulthood, the wisdom years of ageing and finally our bodies die when we’re done with them. In all of this, there are celebrations of the transitions we experience throughout life: baptisms, birthdays, weddings, funerals, recovery from illnesses, new babies, graduations.

This past weekend, we celebrated the life of my son-in-law’s father, Bruce, whose body died a couple of weeks ago. Bruce was a good man who taught us a gentler way of living, how to accept life as it is, to be at peace, to “go with the flow.” He was a surfer as a young man, so my son-in-law, friends and family went to the beach Saturday morning and several of the guys had a paddle-out, tossing leis and flowers into the ocean then whacking the water and chanting “Bruce! Bruce! Bruce!” We had a wonderful celebration at the house afterward with a slide show of photos, music, a beautiful scrapbook that a cousin made with some help from my granddaughters who love their grandpa so much. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful celebration of a good man. He will be missed and he will continue to be celebrated.

On Sunday, we celebrated my uncle’s 82nd birthday in grand style with family, friends, food and my uncle sitting there enjoying it all. I love going up to see him, with that mischievous sparkle in his eyes and that ready smile. He has a large family and large extended family and it was wonderful to see so many gathered to honor and celebrate my uncle. I learned that it was Feb. 13, 1951, when he was just 21 years old, that he was wounded in the Korean War, ultimately losing a leg. My uncle has always been our hero, supporting a family of nine, working in the community, in the church, always the first to help a friend, always ready with a teasing joke and his happy smile that makes everything in the world better. I love him beyond beyond. And beyond that.

And today, we commemorate the day that Mom’s body died and we celebrate the amazing life she lived. Like her brother (my uncle), she was always a bright light in every gathering, always dancing, singing, telling a fun story, keeping everyone happy. She was an amazing mother, encouraging our dreams and hopes as kids, ever-supportive of all our activities (“You don’t need to join every club in school”, she’d tell me), teaching us to be considerate of others, to volunteer, to give back, to be of help; to learn and grow, study hard and work hard. She inspired my love of dance, taking me to ballet lessons, sewing my costumes. When I grew up, I loved when just the two of us would sit at the kitchen table, talking over coffee. It’s been 22 years since I’ve sat with her at that table, yet we still talk, I still feel her loving presence, she still finds ways to teach me, to love me, to let me know she is still with me. Love doesn’t need a body.
I love you, Mom.

101709 Mom and I

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sticky labels

 

It’s difficult to truly know anyone (others don’t see us the way we see ourselves), so we’re constantly showing each other who we are, trying to gain some understanding of one another. It can be difficult to change others’ perceptions, though, especially because we tend to show different aspects of our selves to different people. We’re one person at work, but we’re different people with our parents, our friends, our loved ones, even our pets.

It’s human nature to want acceptance, so we play the roles needed to be accepted within each group. It’s a lifelong journey (at least for me) trying to reconcile all our “selves” and to learn to be authentic and genuine, to drop away the false ego, live our own Truth and connect with our Divine center within.

“People will try to tell you who you are your whole life. When they do, you’ve got to push back and say “No! THIS is who I am.” 
~ Emma, Once Upon a Time

It’s human nature to categorize; we tend to like things to fit in nice little, easily identifiable slots. We slap a label on the box—smart, funny, odd, slow, old, young, fat, thin—because we believe it helps us to know how to interact with the person. Labels are easier than getting to know a person. But labels are so limiting. I rarely tell people my age, for example, because I’ve found that they tend to then treat me differently. I want them to know me, not the number of years I’ve been on this side of my journey.

Labels aren’t just limiting, they also tend to be sticky, not easily changed. But people are always growing, learning, changing. I think most people spend much of their lives trying to be better people and learning what that means for them. Personally, I pick various undesirable traits of mine (impatience, judgment) and try to work on them to change and improve myself, with varying success.

Everything is impermanent; people and circumstances are always changing. No one stays exactly the same all their lives. We have to keep our hearts open to see the changes and not retain our old perceptions when they no longer hold true. With open hearts—and no labels—we can see the genuine consciousness within a person, not just the outer shell projected to the world. We need to stop slapping labels on others and work harder at trying to see the essence within.

Namaste

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ruthless purging …

Happy 2012, friends!

Periodically, I do an assessment or discernment, asking myself:
Am I holding onto anything that no longer serves my highest and greatest good? Is there anything in my life that no longer serves a purpose in where I am currently in my life? Is there any burden that I’m carrying that needs to be released?

I’ve used this technique over the years to release all kinds of things, from just excess stuff to jobs and even relationships. Releasing helps me to make transitions in my life, to make shifts that hopefully help me to open up and grow by not clinging to things that no longer serve a purpose.

Right now, I feel the urge to purge—to lighten up, clear out, freshen up—and declared last Saturday Ruthless Purging Day. It’s carried over into Sunday and now today, but boy am I making happy progress in going through all this stuff, clearing, cleaning, organizing. Whew!

First, I finally sold my china cabinet. Too big, too cramped for seating. Helped carry it out with the guy who bought it. Heavy! Of course, then I had to go through the contents and toss/donate/store everything.

 053110 dining area   010112 Dining area 

Mom’s china is going to my brother so I went to the Container Store and got china storage packs. (And other stuff; that place is dangerous.) Packed up Mom’s beautiful china. (Being from Texas, she loved yellow roses.)

010112 Mom's china

Then I went through everything downstairs—cabinets, drawers, closet—and kept filling bags. A friend is going to be taking a rug, a floor lamp, a table lamp and the coffee table in about a month, so I’m releasing those to live a new life in her new home. I gave her some stemware, a wireless modem and a large tray, too.

Cleaned and rearranged stuff downstairs and I just love the new, more open look of everything. Today, I’m working on the upstairs bedroom and office, filling more bags to toss or donate.

It feels great to lighten my load and release things that no longer serve me and my  needs well. I think we need to take a look at things from time to time and get a fresh, new perspective, whether it’s stuff or behaviors (another aspect I’m working on) or the people in our lives. When anything has fulfilled its purpose in our lives, it may be time to let it go and live another life.

May every thing and every one in your life serve your highest and greatest good. If something/someone doesn’t serve you well any longer, release it to be of better use to another perhaps. May you be blessed with love, happiness and the freedom to be authentically YOU.