Friday, August 31, 2012

Ha ha, AT&T

Well played, AT&T, well played...

After the recent debacle where AT&T forced my hand, and shepherded us into a UVerse upgrade, they managed to cut off my internet reception for a frustrating afternoon of lost work time. I ranted a bit, as you may recall.

I just received the bill for the first month's service. AT&T has craftily charged us $149 for the installation which WE PERFORMED OURSELVES. Ah, yes, I'm sure they are having a good and wealthy laugh. I just got to have a nice long conversation with a very sweet Indian man who assures me that he has now corrected the billing error.

Ah, AT&T, how will I ever replace you?...

Is There Ever a Cage?

Being stressed feels one way, and being relaxed feels a different way. I prefer to feel relaxed. : )

Today has been something of a surprise to me. I simply feel happy, so much less wound up in tension than I have the last few days. I almost had forgotten what my day to day life feels like, and so, today has taken me a bit unaware. Hmm. What do I DO in a normal day? What do I think about? What goals do I have? I have been so completely focused on yesterday's outcome that I am a bit nonplussed that life has gone on.

Which I really should know by now that it always does. So, I'm doubly silly for being unaware!

I've been mixing some simple little errands with processing yesterday's decision and what it means in my life. So on one hand, I put gas in the car, started a load of rumpled towels, made food, dropped off at schools and went to Farmers Market. On the other hand, I've been composing and sending out grateful announcements and thank yous to the many, many friends who have helped me get to this point. I've had dozens of people lend support and write me letters over the years, so I need to update them and thank them now. I also spent a good bit of time researching legal issues online, trying to make sense of exactly where I stand now.

I have to say:  it looks EXCELLENT!!! Basically, my plea has been overturned and changed to not guilty, and the whole thing dismissed. It is almost -- almost -- as if it never was. But of course, it was, and it changed me greatly, and, honestly, I'm pretty appreciative of most of those changes in my life. One thing led me to another along this path, and for the most part, I am pretty contented with what I've learned and been privileged to experience. I don't know if I can honestly say that given a choice I would have opted for all of my past, but on the other hand, there are many, many parts of it that now that I've been through them and survived and succeeded, I wouldn't want to give them up. Huh. Good thing I don't have to actually make that choice isn't it?

Following the law is never an issue for me, so regardless of what happens from here, I don't expect it to be an issue that holds me back either way. Which means that the future is opening up in front of me. And... it is a little bit daunting.

For years now, I've wanted to be able to vote again. Today, I finally sat down and did my diligent research. And guess what I found out? I CAN vote again. I COULD have voted as soon as my probation ended and I was in good status. So for years now, I've been longing to exercise a right that I already had. Just my own misperceptions and illusions have been holding me back.

That's quite a metaphysical lesson.

All those times I've walked past the ragged people posted outside of supermarkets or Target, their clipboard full of forms clutched in their hands, and their voice ringing out from behind their card tables: Excuse me, ma'am? Are you a registered voter?

And I've been telling them no! I've been feeling bad about them. I try to avoid them, or I tell them I'm not a citizen. Or I just walk past quickly. But I was feeling bad. And instead I could have been feeling righteous. Indignant. Informed. Involved. I could have explained that I was declining to sign their petitions for my own political reasons, INSTEAD of feeling like that was a privilege denied to me. Like a freak. (With, you know, a lot of company in freakdom.)

I remember that once I went to a Tarot reading and the card selected for me was a beautiful white bird. It was trapped and resting in a cage that hung in a radiant sky. But the cage had no bottom. The bird within was there only by choice, or by refusing to see that freedom was available to it at any time.

I consider that message now, in light of these discoveries in my life. I have the unnerving feeling of my whole life opening before me. Oh my gosh, I think. What do I want to DO with the rest of my life? What am I going to BE? Before, I was able to feel like I only had certain choices available to me. I have succeeded greatly by doing the best I could with the circumstances I had. But, now... what if those limits are gone? If I could be anything, what do I want to be? How best can I serve others and occupy myself? Anything? Really, anything?? Geez.

It's interesting to see how willingly we adopt limits that we hold ourselves to. How we rule out possibilities for ourselves. It's been wise for me, of course, to be mindful of legal restrictions, and to be scrupulous in following them. It's second nature for me now to be aware of those at any moment of the day, and check myself for continual compliance. But, wow, what if those go away? What if I really, truly become FREE? How much of what I think are restrictions are really just the illusions of my own mind? Have I become accustomed to thinking of myself with a badgered victimhood that is just my own excuses?

Man, I have to think about all of this. What do I want to be when I grow up?

And, first, what are we even going to do for the holiday weekend? My ability to plan ahead didn't even go that far into the future! : )

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Something Very Very Good!

As always, it's a process.

We went to court this morning, first thing, bright and early, driving our nervousness through the streets of the low-income neighborhood tucked around the building. After many difficult trips a long time ago, in a more turbulent part of my life, I hadn't been here in years.

I had let myself forget the way actually, so S had to drive while I sat. We were both so edgy I even started up my yoga teacher patter, a soothing commentary to breathe deeply, sit with relaxation, and so forth. That's something different about me from when I was younger -- now I am trained to be aware of tension and relax it.

The building itself was surprisingly pleasant. Nothing was as I remembered it; an upgrade program had created the soft, efficient feel of an airport with the security checkpoints, potted plants placed strategically under skylight windows and large screens displaying the court dockets of the day.

My attorney was keyed-up, almost nervous in his rehearsal of how he would approach our request. He chatted with my husband and me as we waited for the courtroom to be opened. I had forgotten how very sad the people who show up in court look, how poor and downtrodden. And also how out of touch. Okay, people, I know that you're poor and things are hard in your life, and maybe you're even being defiant against this whole system, BUT it is just in your OWN interest to dress up a bit and play the game, okay?? I mean, people were there in jeans, with holes and stains, and sandals, and rumpled t-shirts and baseball hats. As usual, the bailiff thought we were attorneys because our outward branding puts us in that group.

The DA seemed amiable instead of belligerent, and willing to discuss things in a friendly way with my attorney. As soon as the judge appeared, they all three disappeared into a back room for a private conference. I sat and prayed.

The final conclusion :  Expungement Granted!! Signed and in effect today. Yay. Yay!!! It's super confusing and not commonsensical, but it basically means that I am no longer convicted. (Although I am still a felon.) So now if I wanted to look for a job, I can mark NO, that I have never been arrested and convicted, and California Labor Code says that they cannot consider the expunged offense in hiring, firing, or promotion.

Reduction denied, and relief from registration unsure. The judge agreed to hear the case, but acceded to the DA's request for more time to consider/prepare any opposition. We go back in two more months for that BIG decision. That's the one I want, but I can wait two more months. And it does seem like the judge is already leaning that way, or he would have simply denied it today and washed his hands of it, sending it to a different court.

It was hard to be there, and it's hard to wait. On the other hand, I am now WAY better off than I was yesterday, and I was doing pretty darn well in my life yesterday. I'll be glad to simply have it all finally settled and cleared up.

I do have to say that my attorney's strategy was brilliant, and it worked perfectly!!! He may use annoying cliches, but he is one smart, competent guy and he has my best interests at heart. I am so grateful.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I'm sitting at my desk, finally getting around to some bills. Somehow, miraculously, yet one more month, there is still money in the checking account with which to pay all that needs to be paid. The stamps I'm sticking on the envelopes wave flags proudly and proclaim beautiful words. Liberty. Justice. Freedom! It's very inspiring.

Inches away, my notebook sits on my desk as well. It is stuffed with hundreds of pages about me and my life. Divided neatly into labeled and indexed categories, it describes me as a worker, a student, a friend, a neighbor, a mother, a parishoner, a writer, a yoga teacher, a bill payer, and more. Even as a lover, much to my chagrin.

I've tucked all the new paperwork within its pages. It is my record of me, and I am quite proud of it. Atop it sit some symbols that mean something for me. A small pewter pentacle, purchased in the magic shop, and a silver heart that reads Blessings. My Celtic rune necklace that asks for completion and closure. A divination crystal given to me by my favorite guru. And the Magician card, pulled from my Tarot Deck, the wand aloft, reminding me that with the ability to successfully and completely wield the power available to us we can all have lives of freedom.

I hope that the bills and the stamps -- the responsibility and the slogans -- blend together with these other powerful messages. I expect a good outcome tomorrow; as I said, back in April, I expect a miracle!

Excuse me, now. I have to go slip the waiting champagne into the refrigerator to chill and defrost the yummy chocolate cake. I have to start thinking of the many texts and emails, the many thanks to people who have stood by me so loyally and lovingly, and seen their hopes realized.

Twenty-Nine Days of Giving... and Receiving

Today ends my first cycle of mindful giving. I have to say that mostly I have enjoyed the giving very much. Some days it was a bit of a challenge; some days arranged the gifts almost by themselves with very little effort from me.

I've learned a few things from this experience. One thing that I confirmed is how easily giving comes to me. I give so habitually to friends and family that often I had to discount small gifts or notice that I had given multiple things in one day. Sometimes I give so much that it is easy for me to get a bit drained. I'm more mindful of that now as well, and try to keep it in balance.

Usually I did enjoy this giving, but some days I felt compelled. It sometimes seemed like another thing to take care of, especially writing up an entry about it each day. I learned that cash, small items, and time are very easy for me to give. So is emotional support. Phone calls and panhandlers are more difficult for me.

The timing of this giving conincided with a significant period of preparation in my life for a big change. I noticed that right away, and decided to make it part of the intention. I did not undertake this giving practice in an attempt to prove that I am a good or generous person, or in an attempt to "bribe" the Universe into giving me back what I want in return. It doesn't work that way.

I did however undertake this Giving with the idea that I was consciously channeling Energy. And that the Energy flow that I could create would help to prepare me for the attainment of my goals. And I believe that that is true. The Energy I have begun to feel over this last month has been immense and inspiring. I have greatly enjoyed tapping into it and releasing it from the places where it was blocked within me by fears, pains, and other obstacles.

I noticed on my walk tonight that the moon is just attaining fullness. Another sign of building positive energy and another sign that everything is moving along in a positive flow. Oh, and did I mention that I experienced a freak storm today? Intense wind, raindrops heavy and silver like quarters falling through a sunny sky to drench me in a cleansing flow of silver-gilded water. It was over as fast as it started, located only in the parking lot where I stood, and could not have been more magical. This giving is a part of all that.

I plan to do this giving again. I will wait a while, have a fallow period and rest, where I give without effort or planning. Then I would like to start again, when the time feels right. I already have ideas of things that I didn't work into my giving this time:  I'd like to donate blood; I'd like to give to an organization that provides school supplies to foster children; I'd like to make a microloan through I might do a cycle where I give only to strangers, forcing me to broaden outside of my habitual giving.

We'll see, won't we? We'll just see how it goes next.

Conversation in the Twenty-First Century

I continued to give small gifts throughout the day.

Before I left for my morning errands, I sent a round of texts out to my friends. Like most women I know, I love communicating by text. It's fast, it's instant, it's efficient and, for me, it's writing! i don't like talking on the phone much at all as it is such an interruption to whatever other task I am trying to accomplish. But since texting occurs at my own pace, it is a lovely way to have a conversation. I can even work or write while having a text converse since the messages wait for me until I am at a break between thoughts.

Once or twice a week, I will touch base with most of my friends. Some of them I text daily, multiple times. Others, just as the mood strikes me. Today, I dragged my sister-in-law into texting with me. Because of the cost, she and my brother are the last people I know who do not text regularly. And I'm usually a late-adopter of new technology. I mean, if you're waiting until AFTER I embrace something, you are waiting until very, very late in the game. My former cellphone was so old, it was still a flip phone. The camera was 1 megapixel. My daughters used to ask me please not to use it in front of their friends. I loaned it to a 12 year old once to call her mom, and she didn't know how to make it work. That's how old my tech stuff usually is.

So for my sister-in-law not to be accessible by text is almost contrary. And she and I REALLY need to talk more and build an even stronger friendship. So I just texted her anyway and said that she should keep count, and I will send her money at the end of the month to cover us staying in touch. We don't have the money much more than they do, but I know I'll blow through money anyway, so it seems like a worthwhile investment to me!

She seemed to appreciate it, and even texted me back. So, that is a new avenue to sharing started for us.


I don't know why exactly, but there is something about the spill of early light across autumn leaves that makes me immensely content. The golden tones are so warm and promising, and every thing about the quiet beauty of it speaks of peace and the huge okayness that undergirds all of life.

There is a great acceptance in a good friendship that doesn't come in any other human relationship. Partnerships, love, family -- those all come with expectations. We need the other to be the person who can be and act and behave in a certain way to meet our needs for us. But with friendships, we are free to just notice and appreciate other people, taking them just as they are, and not needing to change anything about them.

Mindful Giving - Day Twenty-Nine

I returned to the labyrinth. Finding myself with a day both more relaxed and more open in its hours before me, I chose to begin with some time for mindfulness.

I walked the twists and turns with purpose, quickly. Reveling in the sensation of movement and the challenges of the path. The morning sun rose just above the mountain's peak, and I inhaled deeply from its golden light. Inviting the warmth and glow inside of me.

I walk barefoot, my feet in contact with the textured cement surface, rough like a cat's tongue, feeling an appreciation for sensation and awareness. With my eyes half-closed in contentment and pleasure, I simply enjoy the motion through the morning. For the first bit, my thinking mind is still in place, sorting through the events of the morning drop off, planning ahead in a list of things to accomplish next. But by the third or fourth turn, I feel my mind ease.

With each twist, there is a new challenge, a moment of re-balancing, a shift of perspective. With each turn, I feel the push from the soles of my feet, and that slight second of falling, of being lost in space around the corner before my body catches me up and sends me in a new direction.

My first gift today was a donation for labyrinth upkeep. I hesitated only slightly, but then dropped $20 into the box. I know well enough that it can come back. It seemed for a second like a lot, maybe too much to give. I might need it later. But now I have given it, and I know that I will never miss it. It is simply absent from my wallet, leaving its friends in their place to take care of any needs that may arise today. And my gift has gone on its own path, to do its own good out in the world.

You know, this writing is a labyrinth too. With its shapes and forms, its twists and turns. Simply look at it. Feel the physicality of experiencing it. That's one reason why it is so attractive to a mind in search of restful balance.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Celebration IS Coming...

 And so is Autumn!

Cheers and Joy

Mindful Giving - Day Twenty-Eight

A few weeks ago, I met a friend for a strategy session. She was jobless, out of money, and getting desperate. She wanted my help to get her moving in new directions. She decided to apply for a university job training program, so we completed the application together on my laptop. Just as we finished, she got a call from her former employer, offering her a chance at a different position.

After a few nail-biting weeks, all the details have fallen into place, and I'm glad to report that my friend is starting in her new position this week. She is so happy to have something to occupy her days, and so relieved to be able to start paying down her bills.

Still, I received an email from the university asking me to evaluate her as a candidate for admission. So, today, I spent a good bit of time serving as my friend's reference. I answered a whole bunch of questions about her and gave her a really good recommendation. That way if she gets into the program, she can decide if she wants to train for a back-up career, just in case.

She is a wonderful woman, and it was a pleasure to say nice things about her.

Eating the Apple

Over the last year, my attorney has a phrase that he keeps using when we talk: That will just give us more bites at the apple.

He's using it as a metaphor to help explain his strategy of taking things in small steps. I get it. I'll even admit that it is a vivid and useful phrase. I suppose if one is dealing with distraught people all day long, who feel their very lives hanging in the balance, that perhaps it is even helpful to have boiled your communication down into simple cliched terms.

But each time he says it, it grates on me. And each time, I think, No, I don't want MORE bites at the apple. I just want ONE big, juicy, delicious and EFFECTIVE bite that solves ALL of this.


Today I am just really tired. The stress of the week is starting to wear me down. I'm hopeful for a good outcome, but more than anything now, I just need an outcome.

I'm ready to have the whole day going on and then behind me, instead of looming before me. I realized last night that I don't have an appropriate outfit. I thought I did. I really didn't want to go shopping, but now it looks like I have to. And all by myself too, and not even in the mood for it. That's no fun.

I'm trying to get up the courage/energy to pop into my attorney's office and pick up my copies. I know I should just tackle it and I probably will -- as soon as I settle myself down with a few minutes of cleaning out my inbox and taking care of minor work tasks. That will get my checklist energy going and then I can keep working down the list. I've got some bill stuff to do today too, catch the checkbook up and what not.

I hope I sleep better tonight than last night.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mindful Giving - Day Twenty-Seven

Monday, August 27, 2012

There's been a spate of birthdays lately among my friends and loved ones. Another one of my friends had her day on Saturday. I hoped to drop a gift off by her house, but on Saturday, we were running a bit slow and a bit late. I didn't want to add hectic obligations to slow our attempts to get out of town.

So I let it go until today. This is the first day of the week. I missed my friend just by a couple of minutes picking up our younger daughters. Back at home, I realized that if I saw her again, it would be the perfect time to hand over her gift.

It was a lovely silver Liz Claiborne necklace, neutral but bright. Like me, she likes scarves and necklaces and autumn-colored shirts. I tucked it into a special box and swaddled it into white-sparkle and lavender tissue paper in a bright pink birthday bag. When she pulled into the parking lot, she was thrilled to see her present swinging from my hand.

Another day... another gift.

Two days left to go now until I hit 29. I hope the energy I'm building is a positive wave into a fabulous future.

Afternoon Work

I'm trying to get an application over to my client. I thought it was due Aug 30, then I thought it had no deadline. Now I've finally researched the right webpage and I see that it actually is due Sept 1. So off it goes to get approved!

I'm in a good mood. I'm humming and my heart is light and happy. If I can get movement in these significant areas of my life, it bodes well for the outcomes of the rest of the week.

I had lunch with my friend C again today. Really, we DO seem to be dating. She's in a good mood for once, actually happy too. Even eating again. Her daughter's doing better, and that will be a long row to hoe no matter what. Her ex-boyfriend is talking to her again; they even went for coffee. But get this! After all those months of moping and sobbing and wasting away, and just being in total misery... now that he's coming back, she says he's BORING to be around. Ack! People do NOT know what they want out of life, or what will make them happy.

Part of it is that he is clearly trying to make her do all the work -- to win him back as it were-- and he is holding back on showing any interest in her or her life until then. Still, she says if she has to listen to any more stories about his triathalon training that she will scream. Part of it of course is that she has been spending so much time having coffees and meals with me. And I am just a hard act to follow, friendship-wise and conversationally. Poor guy.

Mindful Giving - Day Twenty-Six

Sunday, August 26, 2012

We were having a lazy day at home. I ran out to the store to pick up some things for dinner, especially the chicken, cole slaw, and orange juice that B had requested.

When I walked through the double glass doors, into the whoosh of cold, commercial air, I noticed a stacked display of wine cartons. Our favorite red wine was on sale, for the lowest price I've ever seen. So I bought three bottles of it for S. I also picked up a Rooster cabernet to give my dad. Since he's so hard to buy gifts for, I've created roosters as his "collection" theme. Every gift occasion I give him at least one thing decorated with roosters. It makes it easier for me to find him things!

My extra cleaning has been a bit sporadic. Yesterday we cleaned up after the animals and I did the kitchen again. Today, I carried out some personal hygiene, continuing my efforts to put my best self forward this week.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mindful Giving - Day Twenty-Five

or... I Kissed My Best Friend's Boyfriend Last Night

Saturday, August 25, 2012

My friend visited her family in France all summer. Now she's back and she wanted us all to come to her place for a bbq and catch up. With some reluctance, she decided that we should celebrate all the birthdays in our families as well. F isn't a huge fan of birthdays, and we always run into major cultural differences when she, C, and I try to plan celebrations together. As Americans, teachers, moms, and control freaks, C and I tend to view birthdays with the same approach. They must be properly celebrated and that includes decor, cake, candles, song and gifts, at the very minimum. F, being French and just different, thinks that a cake is the most effort required. So she didn't realize that deciding the day before that this was a "birthday celebration" meant a whole different thing to us. (Which really you would think she would know by now. It's been more than two years of this difference cropping up, and even longer in her friendship with C.)

Bottom Line: There are seven July-August birthdays within our four families. Since F was providing a place, food, and a cake, C and I had to scramble to come up with cards and gifts. We did well though. Part of our Italian dinner was a strategy session; we pooled our resources, made a plan, and hit Target at 10 pm, two grim-faced, weary mothers consulting on various gift options within our limited budgets. Between us, there were gifts, cards, tissue, gift bags, themes, curly ribbon and all the bedeckings we expected.

A quick run-down
P, 5 years old - a walking stuffed puppy and a Bisquit book
A, 8 years old - cash and a Lego firetruck (exactly the right one. His face lit up like Christmas.)
B, 11 years old - a hot glue gun for crafts
G, 11 years old - a peace-decor dry erase board
S, 45 years old - amazon gift card
F, 42 years old - a silver necklace and the second novel by a French author she loved
K, 43 years old - a bottle of Moscato and a tie imprinted with the molecular pattern of wine

Aside from these gifts, my other giving for the day was being pretty laid back about actually getting to the bbq. It was supposed to start at 1 pm, and at 2 pm, my family was still at home getting ready. But so was C's. When she and I are a bit overwhelmed, our timeliness goes out the window. So even though it's a 100 mile drive to F's house, I didn't rush or stress my family, and we let C and her group get there before us. That meant I took the heat as the latest arrival. You're welcome, C. :)

But... the kissing incident.

So, it was a lovely evening. The kids had a bit of conflict and then settled down to play happily. There was salad and ckicken kebobs and chips and fruit and olives and nuts. K had made home-baked bread. Wine came out by the bottle, some nice reds and sweet whites. Then we sat and talked for hours and hours, laughing and joking, talking art and books, parenting and Boing Boing, until finally just past 10 pm we were all done in.

So, the goodbyes. I told the girls to get ready and found the kids to tell them good bye. F's kids gave me cute little proper French embraces. Then I wandered back into the kitchen where everyone was milling in that last minute chat way. I kissed Jean-Francois, I kissed Sophie, I kissed F, and then I went to kiss K. I just assumed that since we were all leaving in the French-style, which is a kiss that is more of a pressing of cheeks on the right side, followed by the same on the left side, that he would be doing that as well. After all, he's been dating F for more than a year. He just got back from vacation in France. Surely he had picked up some of the cultural traits.

So I leaned in and kissed his cheek. But he went for more of a hug. Then when I pulled back to kiss his other cheek, he leaned, and our mouths brushed across each other. Yeuck.

You know that scene in Charlie Brown where Lucy runs around screaming Ack! Dog Germs! I've been kissed by a dog!!? The effect was rather like that.

Now don't get me wrong. I like K. I like him a LOT for F. He's smart and funny and head over heels terrific to her, and I've never seen her happier than with him. But he does nothing for me. In fact, the longer I know him, the more I see that he keeps a lot of layers up in front of his real self. He talks a lot, and listens poorly, and it is almost like a magician, whose constant patter redirects your attention to where he wants it to go. So I don't completely trust him. Besides that he's not at all my type. He's slim and blond and hyper; in fact, when he and F stand together they often remind me of a beautiful fairy and a magical elf. Again, not in a bad way. But really, I couldn't have accidentally kissed the tall, dark, handsome French guy?

Plus, he didn't do it on purpose either. It's not like he was trying to be flirtatious. We just had bad coordination and a cultural misunderstanding. Sigh.

Still, it was rather a funny incident. I'll have to tell C about it -- I don't think she saw. And overall the evening couldn't have been nicer. It is such a joy to have this group of friends. We are a gift to each other.

Hopeful Giving

I suppose this is a continuation of my giving for Friday, Day 24...

C and I wanted to meet. My hair appointment went long and cancelled our lunch option, so we were aiming for a couple of evening hours. Neither one of us wanted to be gone long; we both had gifts to buy for the birthdays our friends would celebrate the next day, and neither one of us had extra cash. We wavered between coffee and drinks. Finally, I said, Let's just meet for dinner and wine. I'll buy for you!

C didn't take much persuading. An hour later, we were tucked into a little booth in the Italian restaurant's bar. C was casual and harried looking, a compliment to me that she trusts me enough to let me see her without all her polish. I, on the other hand, had dressed up to buoy my spirits. My dress was a bit too short, and it showed too much cleavage, but I didn't care. It wasn't like I had to worry about C getting the wrong idea, and I wanted to be a bit comfortable and a bit sexy for my own spirits.

I even teased her a bit, "You know, we're just dating now right? We're seeing each other like every two days, and I got all dressed up for this."

She laughed back at me. "Oh, good!!" she exclaimed. "At least, I'm dating somebody!"

We made the Happy Hour prices by five minutes, and were quite pleased with our thrift in ordering $3 glasses of wine and sharing a $5 pizza. The food was just a back-drop though. Really, we needed to talk. Not only did C bring me up to date on her last few days, and vent about her ongoing family dynamics, but I had something to discuss with her.

"I'm trying to be friendly," I explained. "And I don't know why I'm even still trying. It really bothers me."

Like the good friend she is, C pulled me up short and completely told me off.

"Look," she said. "I love you or I wouldn't say this, but I think you're being really selfish."

I blinked, taken aback. That wasn't what I expected to hear. But I was willing to listen to her point of view.

She continued, "You Hopeful people just don't get it at all. We Hopeless people aren't like you. Things haven't worked out well for us. It hurts. And it hurts worse to get your hopes up and then have things go wrong again. After a while, they always go wrong. Misery is just easier. At least misery is predicatable. With misery, you know that tomorrow you're still going to feel the way you feel today. It's not going to change."

"But," I protested, "But! Why then? Why choose to hang out with Hopeful people? No one's making you. Why do you keep calling me up to have coffee and go out and listen to my advice?!"

"Because Hopeful people are kind. They listen to you, and they're warm. Hopeless people don't listen. They have their own pain. They're in the same place that you are. So they don't care."

"Hmmm. Really? But doesn't being Hopeful make a difference? I mean, you can make a good energy, and that MAKES your life get better! And you feel better along the way!"

"Maybe for you," C countered. "For you Hopeful people, things have worked out. Things have gone your way. That's why you still feel hopeful. I used to be one of you. And I want to get back there. But I'm not there now."

"Hmmm. Well, this sounds like an argument I've had a lot of times before. Thank you for sharing with me. It's really hard for me to see it that way so it does help to hear it from you."

As I've said before, she is a really good friend to me. It was really a pleasure to take my frustration to her and let her help me understand. I thought my gift would be the dinner, but really it was needing her to help me, and giving her an opportunity to reciprocate.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bits and Pieces

Ahhhh.... It is Friday!

The girls are collected and safely home. I picked up more Indian food for a late lunch. I don't know why but I've been completely into Indian food lately. I've had it three times this week, and gone way over my allowance for purchases. (Big news there, huh?)

I think it's something about the spices that I'm craving. It probably ties in with the energy I'm directing out into the world.

My hair is much more lovely now, and I feel glossy. I'm not thin yet, or rich, but I can only do so much in one day. I certainly am multi-faceted and I feel very, very interesting. I interest myself most of the time, and that is what matters most. I'm meeting my friend for coffee (although I think mine will be wine) later tonight. I actually have things to talk to her about. I've been putting a lot of myself out there for others lately, and it's starting to hurt a little bit. I'm feeling vulnerable. Which reminds me of  a whole lot of things that I've learned about life and myself and I just love talking those over with a good friend, over a rich glass of wine, while men notice us laughing.

See, I feel better already!

Sometimes, you just have to shrug and say Whatever in the face of life.

I'm really looking forward to tonight and this weekend. Aside from the wine chat, I have nothing I have to do tonight, chore-wise, so I am freed up to really work. For as long as I want, even til midnight. I have three proposals that I would love to finish. On the other hand, I have a pretty good offer from my husband to spend some time with him. So I'm definitely looking forward to that, as well! ; ) Ahh, he just texted that he's on the way home.

We're driving to San Diego tomorrow to celebrate a friend's return from France. It should be an awesome day, one of those long parties she's famous for, with a mix of friends, some bbq and cheese and bottles of wine opened here and there while French and English mix in the rooms. My giving task will be easy. Among our group, we have seven birthdays in July and August so we're celebrating them all tomorrow. I have to sort out some gifts tonight! I should probably pop by Target before I get tipsy : ).

(Responsible drinking note: Actually I NEVER get tipsy drinking if I am out somewhere and have to drive. I hardly ever get tipsy even when I'm home, cause you just never know what's going to come up. So when I drive, I keep it to one drink, slowly savored. And I could totally do without it. I'm just as good with sparkling water. Just, you know, wanted you to know.)

So... yeah...that's about it. That's me. That's part of me anyway. Well, that's a small aspect of me close to the surface that I am willing to show. Yeah.

Mindful Giving - Day Twenty-Four

My gift today is to myself. Even though it's hard for me to sit still that long, I put aside the last four hours to get my hair freshly colored and styled. I have to drag myself away from my writing to get to my stylist's salon in her house, but, ultimately, it is so worth it.

She's a fabulous colorist. I look younger and brighter. My locks are now honeyed auburn with shades of whiskey and caramel. They swish softly around my face, and make me look amazing.

I'm making every effort to put my very best foot forward next week.

Next week!! Six days to go!!!! I am soooooo excited!

In the background of the house, I could hear Harrison Ford in BladeRunner. Made the whiskey tones seem all the more fitting. ; )

Mindful Giving - Day Twenty-Three

Thursday, August 23, 2012

This was a day of small gifts. Little considerations and efforts, nothing too pronounced.

I drove to my friend's house to drop off a card for her birthday. Bright gold, very cheery, with a sparkling mass of curling silver and white ribbon draping off of it. I propped it by her blue front door.

In yoga, I had unrolled my mat at the back of the room. A woman entered and glanced towards me. I recognized her from the previous week and remembered her being where I was. "Oh," I said, "Is this your spot? Let me move."

I slid my mat four feet to the right and cleared a space for her. She protested, but I had already done it. I didn't care where I practiced.

"Oh, "she said, a bit embarrassed, "You must have overheard me talking to the teacher?"

"No, I didn't hear you at all. I really didn't."

"I was only joking," she said. "I told her, hey, that's my spot, underneath the fan."

"See," I replied, "I just had a feeling that you wanted it."

And I did too. I just knew she actually wanted to be in her usual place. I don't have a usual place in that room so I don't care at all.
I've been writing a lot of good stuff lately, and spending a good amount of time on it. I see that as a gift as well.

Shivasana Practice

The body knows what it knows
It whispers its being
All along and around each of us

Deep within, inside the dark stretches
The moist, secret places of the
Inner world where space expands
Into galaxies of cells and motion

The body holds its own counsel
Listen to me, asserts the knee
The ankle has her stories to tell
I am here too, the liver reminds
Why pay such attention to the brain?

Why does your head count for more
Than this little toe, this wrist holding itself
Upturned and bent to say that
Within us all there is a chorus of song
Of what the body knows

(The rough form of this came to me yesterday as I held still. But I think this needs several revisions still.)


For me, the difference between tragedy and completely throwing in the towel is that little catch of perspective, that subtle distance that affords a different view. It is the ability to laugh at myself.

When I notice how I am, and I laugh anyway, then I find my choices. The choices give me the way out of the pain. And into some simple joy.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


As you've gathered by now, I like to talk. Quite a lot actually. I'm rather good at it, and can fill a space with words and sound when I'm in the mood. :) My daughters take the brunt of that, but they are pretty good at shutting me down. I spill that communication energy over into various friends, and here, at this blog, and out into cyberspace. And, of course, my entire work is based on communicating as well-- on finding just the right words to help a client depict their mission and needs. So, that's a lot of talking.

And sometimes I make comments that I don't think through beforehand. I don't mean any offense by them. I truly just love talking to people. I am so curious about them, and their lives - how they are similar and different to my own -- and their impressions and their experiences. I really do like people. So, if I make an inadvertent comment, I'm sorry. Maybe sometimes I come off in ways I don't mean. Or maybe I come off in ways I DO mean, but someone just doesn't like my message. Okay. It's okay. So it is.

It must not be too bad because my friends keep choosing to talk to me. In fact they actively seek me out and solicit my comments. So they must be more helpful than not. I try to make my words count for something. And, the longer I live and more experiences I see, the more I sometimes value silence as well. And just simple being as opposed to talking.

I suppose there are many different ways to connect and to show that you care.

I Apologize for My Impatience

Even with all the many lessons and opportunities that Life has so kindly offered me to practice Patience, I often fall short. I get grumpy, I get irritable, I get stressed. I've got the same addiction-prone brain as anybody else, and it wants to get things now, feel better fast, have what it likes, and so forth.

This blog is as much about immediate gratification as it is the practice of Patience. At times, I think of not writing here, of giving that space. But I love this writing. And so many interesting things keep happening to me, or thoughts come to mind that want expression.

Like today, I walked into yoga class. I'm getting a pretty regular twice weekly routine going, so the instructor smiled and said, "Hi Marie!"

And then she started talking total gibberish. Except that somehow I understood her. It was the weirdest feeling. On one hand she was stringing English words together. On the other hand, I wasn't at all sure what she meant by them in that order. And...yet...I did. I totally understood her. I was nodding in complete agreeement from the minute she started talking.

She said something along the lines of "So, is the coming Ascension rocking you as well?" And from there she talked about how feeling people like us were energetically open to it and that there would soon be a spillover and that the shift was about to happen. How she and I were sisters in that preparation and how the connection between us was so real because we are in the same place. And more like that.

It was awesome! Since I have been intentionally opening my energy and building to a big shift for the good, I was pretty excited that she was perceiving that.

Practice was great. Very mellow and not as strenuous as Tuesday. By the end I had sunk pretty deeply. I came back to myself with a profound feeling of Love and hope. Of the Okayness of everything and how it is all working out. So, it's Love, I thought. There is no greater gift than love, and you have it in your life. Surely you can let it be a positive thing?

Another Morning

Another morning. Another day up and into my tasks. The food/kitchen/driving part of my morning is successfully completed.

Now I sit at my screen and wrestle thoughts into words.

It's a rather lovely morning, overcast, cool and fresh. A nice break from the heat that has gone on and on the last few weeks. It's my kind of day. Today, I will take responsibility to fill myself up. To cheer myself and find reasons to be content. To stay in balance. To let negative energy and problems seep by me and past me while I radiate love and warmth.

I'm looking forward to yoga. I might get Indian food again for lunch. That was yummy and I particularly liked their spiced hot tea. (Spiced and spicy are different aren't they? I wrote spicy first, but then I changed it. You know what Twain said: The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.)

I might run errands. I might type in a cafe. I might just come home and listen to my quiet house. Sit in calm and watch tv and work. Tonight will be busy with my daughter's back to school night. That's a mad dash to seven classes in an hour. The whole thing is hectic and rushed; I'm not looking forward to it. (See the semi-colon - masterful control, that's what I'm displaying!) It will be good to see her teachers and put faces to their names but that's about all we'll get out of it. There's no time to be personal or really make connections. For the first time, I understand why parents used to opt out of participation in school events. Even I don't want to go. But I know that I have to -- it's just required to meet my standards for myself.

Being the open and talkative person that I am, I've been talking to my daughters about my friend's daughter and how we can help her and also about drug use in general. It never hurts to talk, and I want them to be very clear about how I feel about drugs and my own reasons for not using them.

So in the car on the way to school today, I was being my usual self, babbling away and making odd jokes while J rolled her eyes.

"You see," I said, "That's why you can never use drugs. All these comments from me are floating around in your head. If you use drugs, they'll probably just all come out and you will have nonstop hours of all my jokes."

"Mom, are you threatening me?" J was laughing.

"No, I'm just telling you. You don't necessarily want to disable your thinking mind. There's a reason why we keep the subconcious under the control of the conscious!"

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mindful Giving - Day Twenty-Two

As mentioned, I met my friend for coffee even after she kept rearranging our meeting times. I put aside both work and errands to be there with her, and freely offered her both my advice and support.

I offered to spend one afternoon a week with her daughter, trying to give her some positive activities and influences. I used to be quite good at getting along with and through to teens. I'm a lot older now and out of practice. On the other hand, my experiences have only deepened me.

I had intended to give a birthday gift to her other daughter. Unfortunately, the absence of my car for most of the afternoon meant that I couldn't buy that gift nor deliver it. I'll try to take care of that tomorrow.

I think another gift I offered today was the gift of needing my friends. I am often being thoughtful or generous to them. Today I had a minor emergency and I needed help. I think they were pleased to feel that they were paying me back for the things I have so willingly done. I sure know that I was a very cheerful receiver, deeply appreciative to feel that I could sit back and rely on them to ferry both me and my daughters around. One mom even took them out to their gymnastics class while I fetched my car.

I didn't clean anything today. I made dinner. I made my daughters clean. I helped with homework. I fixed my car. I wrote. I do see now how those little areas of clutter get out of sight and never get easily addressed. It's because there is just so much stuff on the daily radar that takes priority.

It's getting late now. Well, for me with this schedule. I finished another proposal. I'm going to eat kit kats and read Brit Chick Lit and watch tv until I go to bed.

I think tomorrow I might go to my attorney's office and get copies of all my files. I should have my own copies. We'll see. That's an emotionally draining task. On the other hand, it's a pretty good time, energetically. It might be nice to think of it as the last trip I ever, ever make there.

External Motivators

Arrrrrrggggghhhhhhhhhh!!! I am not a, by nature, very patient person. I have cultivated some, at great effort. But sometimes it wears a bit thin.

The reward of patience is... patience. Sheesh. Big deal.


Here's another quote from Frost that I saw this morning:

“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.”

That turned out to be so true for me today. So much for my thought that I would spend the morning alone and working. No sooner did I complete that post than my friend texted back to get coffee with her right away. So I did.

We had a long talk about her daughter, and I'm trying to figure out some ways to get more involved in her life and give her a little more structure and some different adult perspective.

Then I drove over to pick up my daughter from school. Where my car promptly died. It drove fine, it parked, we got in. Nothing happened. Uh-oh...

I called my friends, I sent my daughter home with one. I got another to pick up my other one. I called AAA, I called my mechanic and told them to expect my car (most likely for a starter). My friend brought lunch back to me along with a big iced tea. The mechanic arrived. He said, Yep, it's the starter. He hooked my car up. I declined to ride with him, being closer to home where I was. I called my second friend and she came to pick me up and bring me here. And just now, this very second, I got a call from the mechanic that not only is it the starter, but that they have almost finished installing it, and my car will be back to me by this evening. YAY! Hooray!

Not what I had anticipated with my day, but honestly if my car had to absolutely stop working, it picked a great location and time. A very safe place with my kids accounted for. It actually works out perfectly. Even while I was waiting, I was feeling grateful that it wasn't under other circumstances. I also felt good that I had such good friends who were willing to jump right in with whatever I needed. This is when my investment in friendship really pays off.

Writing and Talking

Do you think writing is a type of talking? To me, when I write I hear my really clear, conversational voice in my head. It's similar to the inner voice that sort of narrates my days and circles through my thoughts.

So, when I write, I often have that sense of conversation, even if I'm typing something I know that nobody else will ever read. It nonetheless feels collaborative and communal, like sharing my thoughts and feelings. That's why writing feels so companionable to me and I enjoy it greatly.

Some writer said, "First and foremost, I write for myself. My only audience is me." And I know just what she meant by that.

But I'm wondering lately if writing and talking come from the same place. Because if I spend too much time around other people, it seems like my energy has been drawn off, and then I'm not that interested in putting my thoughts into written form. Conversely, when I'm more alone, like this morning, I'm more motivated to write. Perhaps a bit of isolation in a writer is actually a good thing?

Robert Frost said that, "Talking is a hydrant in the yard and writing is a faucet upstairs in the house. Opening the first takes the pressure off the second." I've always wondered about whether that was true or not. Maybe it's different for different writers?

Time Management

Good morning!

It is a good morning so far. At least, it's not bad. More good things than bad have happened that's for sure. Dinner's in the crock pot -- chicken stew again -- and I've played with Phoebe and tidied up. Texted a few friends. Arranged to babysit a sick child's sibling for my friend later this afternoon.

I was supposed to have breakfast with friends this morning, and coffee with another. It would have made the day pretty hectic, but I had them squeezed in along with some work plans. They all had to cancel. The first friend's kid is sick (see above). The second is just flaky. She's been cancelling plans on me all week. I love her but I'm not sure that I'm going to make any more plans for a while. It's a hassle when she changes her mind.

So my morning just opened up. I'm not sure what I want to do with those next three hours. I've got several proposals in the hopper and it would be great to churn them out today. I worked on one for a bit. Or I've got a new story idea, something based on the cowboy sketch I did yesterday. If I give it some time it will probably flesh itself out quickly. Or I can start writing about Phoebe - it's probably time to do that soon. Or I can run a couple of errands and get out into the cool, best part of the day. I will have time to write later while I'm babysitting this afternoon, and stuck at gymnastics during class. (Yay, by the way, they moved to a new facility and now it has a proper counter with outlets and free wifi. I used to stand up the whole time I was typing.)

This is literally the hardest part of working for me. Having too many choices and not being sure if I'm making the best decision. Seven of cups all the way. :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nine Days to Go!!

"Cake is a sometimes food, cake is a sometimes food." That's what the mom says on Phineas and Ferb while she's trying to avoid cutting a beautiful, fresh cake. It always makes my daughters laugh. "Look, Mom, it's you!" They think they're so clever. Just because I really, really like cake...

In fact, I like it so much that I went out and bought a delicious one today. Just because. Walking into the bakery, I was thinking that my motto should be, Cake is an everyday food! Which may not be the worst idea ever. A little wine, a little cake, a little giving, a little work, a little yoga... every day. I wanted to buy some of their petit fours and freeze them to have on hand for little treats on those long days. But they were out of the chocolate ones -- which are clearly the only kind worth the effort.

So instead I bought a whole cake. It's called Triple Cream Chocolate, and it's three delectable layers stacked up with different flavors of butter cream icing between them: mocha, chocolate, and praline. The whole thing is enrobed in rich, dark ganache and topped with more buttercream. It is so yummy! The tiniest slice is plenty because it is extremely rich and flavorful. I'm going to slice it up and freeze it.

(When J was little, she thought that the lyrics to Row, Row Your Boat said "Life is buttercream." That always made me laugh.)

I also bought a bottle of imported French champagne. I put the bottle along with two sparkling glasses on our dining room table. Now I'll see it as I go in and out and about my days. It and the cake are waiting there for nine more days -- to celebrate my coming good news!

The words are cast
My past is past
It's time to set me free

When my letters are glimpsed
You'll be fully convinced
To remove all limits from me.

Mindful Giving - Day Twenty-One

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I wasn't sure what I wanted to give today. I like to take the day as it comes and see what opportunity arises. My friend decided it for me with another emergency. This time she's worried about her daughter.

It seems that while my friend has been preoccupied with her uncertain relationships and romantic issues, her teen daughter has been falling in with a different crowd of friends. Now she's admitting that she's a pot user. My friend is horrified and scared; she wants to react in the best way and help her daughter stay out of trouble.

My gift for the day is again the gift of time and assistance. When my friend texted me, I stopped my work and texted her back. I went online and found some resources for her, plus a bunch of great info for parents at I offered to meet with her whenever she needs to talk. I'm sure they are going to work it out. It's a good wake up call that her kids need her full-time attention and support.
I didn't really clean anything special today yet. I washed dishes and finished the guinea pig cage. I re-did the kitchen floor, but this time it was quick and easy. Of course I did laundry. Does any of that count? If not, I'll try to find a drawer or something a bit later...

Adorable Rat Alert

Okay, I know this is just over the top --

but Phoebe is so, so, so terribly cute!!

She's medium and light grey (called blue) with a white belly patch shaped a bit like the continental US. She has white hands that look like gloves, and white feet and legs that look like little boots. Her eyebrows are light grey and so is the patch around her nose.

I've had her out for the last hour, letting her roam around my desk while I work. She seems really, really happy here. She roams around and then comes right back to me. If nothing else, she's learning that I'm a reliable source of rice krispies and cheerios, especially when she hears her name. While I was petting her, she curled up under my hand and did the rat equivalent of purring. It's called bruxing - a very fast chatter of her teeth -- and she even boggled her eyes at me which usually means extreme contentment. Then she went behind my laptop and curled up next to the pencil sharpener. And actually fell asleep. Awwwww. How cute is that?!

Mid Day

I'm well into my work now. I woke up early. The alarm went off at five am. But it was still dark outside, so I quickly turned that off for another hour of sleep. Those early morning hours show me just exactly where I stand with my commitment to write more. :)

Up at a more reasonable six am, I made fresh pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. I boiled eggs, I packed lunches. I hustled everyone out of bed, with only a few threats. I put my foot down with my older daughter, who slacks off as much as we let her, and I often do let her, that she either had to clean the guinea pig cage before school or skip her after-school club. There were tears, there was shouting (from her, I was calm) but in the end, she did it. One more victory in the long collaboratively fought battle that is helping someone grow to independence. I made sure that she knows that I love and value her. She is a good kid and I am so grateful for that.

I washed dishes. I played with Phoebe. I got ready and went to yoga. A good class - we did a lot of interesting partner poses. I sweated, I relaxed. Now I'm in the cafe, the one with the good view but the dubious wifi and I'm writing/texting/blogging. Can't email well, but I'll do it back at home. Got a proposal done. That's what matters.

It may not matter that much. It may not be enough to wake you in a rush of gladness each day, or to put that spring into your step... but... it matters to me. That you're okay. That you're somewhere, still going on. Still surviving. Your grit, your determination, your talent. Your point of view. I value all those things. It comforts me to see how time changes things, and yet things that matter, endure. For what it's worth.

Street Seen

Outside the cafe, the cowboy sits by himself. The wide brim of his dusty ivory hat highlights the slim bones of his face, the lean line of his angular build. He eats his sandwich with determination, one bite following right after the other.

The troop of road bikers nearby seem oblivious to his discomfort. Decked out in their gaudy yellow and blue spandex, they sprawl across the other six tables. But the cowboy keeps his eyes moving, takes in first the street and then the sidewalk, a long habit of outdoor work, of herding cattle far from the concrete and exhaust-tinged confines of the city.

He wants to get his lunch eaten, see Ellie, and get this business done and over with.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mindful Giving - Day Twenty

Monday, August 20, 2012

My dad's brother lost both of his children at the same time in a tragic accident when they were about the ages of my girls. He and his wife never really got past that. The sorrow haunted them for the rest of their life together, and perhaps that explains why they were never all that close to our family when we were growing up.

Last year, my aunt succumbed to cancer. She struggled against it a long while, but finally couldn't make it anymore. Now, my uncle is all alone. My dad is pretty much his only living relative. He's had a terrible time with the grief and loss, and he's taken to writing emails tinged with sadness to my dad as they become closer again.

That stuff Garrison Keillor said earlier, about being lonesome, that describes my uncle exactly.

So my gift of the day was a nice card written out to Uncle J. I scrawled some of our latest news and stamped and addressed it, all ready to go into the mail. I'm going to have the girls add a little note or some drawings for him. He's really been reaching out lately, trying to reestablish a family connection. I put aside a bit of my busy day to show him that we care.

My Adorable New Pet is Adorable!

XXXXXXXXXX believes that our program is unique in providing both materials and experienced assistance to maintain family homes. While cities or areas sometimes make redevelopment funds available to private residences, those offers do not come with physical assistance with the labor. Our program is also the only one that brings experts and area residents together to work on a single neighborhood as a cooperative team, thus transferring applicable skills and experience to the people continuing to reside in each area.
We will consider this program a success when we have improved the home maintenance and living conditions for the maximum number of families possible with the funds allotted. Because the cost and difficulty of repairs vary from situation to situation, it is difficult to predict exactly how many families will be helped with $5,000. Past repairs under this program have ranged in cost from $100 to $2000. Our average repair cost of $200 suggests that as many as 25 low-income families will benefit from your contribution to this program.
I was trying to type:
OMG! My new rat is SOOOO adorable. I was bored sitting in here working on my proposal, so I thought that it would be fun to bring her in with me. She's really enjoying running around on my desk. She's good at exploring while staying close to me, and I'm already working to train her to come back to me when I call her name by giving her lots and lots of little treats. She's decided she likes the far corner of my desk, in between my wooden box of dustcloths and my binder. She runs over to me, grabs her cheerio, and hightails it back to the corner to gobble it up. Then she explores a bit, comes back to me and does it all again.
She only ran across the keyboard twice -- once where she sent the document I was typing to the recycle bin. But I retrieved it and kept her off and now she's got the idea to stay off of it. Except right when I opened this post, she must have realized I was writing about her. So she ran over here and put in her two cents worth with a quick cut and paste command!
My older daughter is calling me the mad ratter. She may be right. Even I can see that this is a little weird. Still though, a tiny pet to run around me while I write. Inspiring me to write stories about her?? It seems like a great idea to me!!

10 Days to Go!!

I'm getting nervous now, but I'm trying not to think about it. I am simply going about my business, keeping the best, most alive and positive energy I can around me. I'm not even talking about it because I don't want anyone thinking about it with negative energy or confusion. I just want it to be quick and simple.

The words are cast

My past is past
It's time to set me free

Once my letters are glimpsed
You'll be fully convinced
To remove all limits from me


My friend cancelled our lunch. That's good, it gives me more time to work. But I'm in an off mood today. When I've planned my time one way, I can't always switch quickly.

I'm eating take away Indian food by myself at home. I didn't even feel like being out somewhere.

In the car, I was listening to Garrison Keillor. I like his work quite a bit. He was talking about being lonesome. It's such a sad word.

Not that I meant to say that I am lonesome. Not exactly. Of course, I am lonesome -- in the way that all of us are lonesome. In the way that all of us are alone, within ourselves, and within our routines of the day. In our minds, listening to the flow of our unique and only thoughts.

But, more, I meant that I feel tremendous sympathy for those who are lonesome. I imagine it. When Keillor talks about awakening in the night, and feeling the absence of the spouse on the pillow next to him, and not having anyone to talk to, to talk about the small moments of the day, and with whom to share -- that's the part that hits me hard.

But, on my own, in my home, with my tv show and my peace and my lunch in styrofoam cups and boxes spread across the glass coffee table, I am lucky to have those few quiet moments. My dharma is much more the path of being together with others 24 hours per day. I move from person to person during the course of the sun's path and the stars' light. To say that I am lonesome is to say that the ocean is dry lately. And yet... I do feel... aware...


Suddenly... I feel just a bit better. I smile. See, there's a bit of a lift to the day. I feel like I matter, like what I'm doing does matter. I feel hopeful, again. (Gosh, you just can't get that hopefulness out of me, can you? It's like an inherent trait with me, like the color of my eyes or my love of pastries.)

I can't solve everything. Often I think I can't solve anything. Even when I might want to. I respect and validate the loving intention behind the urge to make things better for those I care about, even while reminding myself that the ultimate way to show respect is to honor people's rights to choose their own paths through life.

Still... though... there are some things that I think are nice. There are things that work for me to make me feel better.

I like to...
make soup with lots of cut up vegetables and let it cook for a long time.
take walks and breathe the morning air
sit facing the sun and simply be
help others
make a phone call to a friend
make up a job when I don't have "real" work
make up a list of productive tasks to be my "work" when I don't have made-up work
dress up
wear make up and perfume
sing along to music
put flowers on my desk
play with my pets
go buy anything, anywhere - groceries, paper towels, coffee, gum, clothes - whatever
write anything :)

Annotation Ahead

Ehh. It doesn't say quite what I want it to say. It is almost there, almost a match for the image in my mind of a woman, strolling through the morning light, coming up a vast spiderweb glinting, and hung with dew, and finding in the web, a comfort, a joy in belonging, in its beauty. Wrapping herself within the surprising strength of the filaments, but not so tightly that she is bound, and not so warmly that she depends upon the web for comfort. But nonetheless noticing and enjoying the surprising strength and endurance, the potential of the web. The satisfaction and contentment merely of it existing, I suppose. Just a moment of beauty in an early morning. A bit enchanted, a bit private. Perhaps a bit silly, this celebration of such an insubstantial thing. That is amazingly strong.

Morning Creations

She wraps herself in
Silvered web
Knowing well the
Entanglements possible

Yet also delighted by
Its sheen, its gossamer lilt
The way the silken threads
So fine can be so strong

Wanting not to be
Enrobed without motion
But instead merely to run
The filaments through her
Hands and marvel at the
Beauty and the lasting
Quality of their fairy texture

Balancing along this finest
Of lines
Without the urge to own
To break free

Mindful Giving - Day Nineteen

Sunday, August 19, 2012

After our big trip yesterday, today we have mostly hung around the house. I've made a couple of meals; J has lounged; B has cleaned the yard like a fiend while roping S in to help her.

Even on a mellow day, I like to get out of the house for a while. My gift was that I took the time to leave home and go to the store to buy all the groceries we will need for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners this week. I had an invitation to meet a friend for coffee. Instead, I invited J to go with me so that she could be doing something more active for a while. I really preferred just to spend some nice time with her.

We went to Target first, and I bought a new laundry basket for my never-ending series of clothes washing. She asked for one of her own, so I bought her one as well. It was a nice evening, simply running errands together and chatting. The grocery store was playing a bunch of eighties tunes from my high school days so she and I were discussing music and groups.

I was glad to be low-key with her, and leave my friend's problems for another day.

I cleaned all the old food out of the refrigerator and organized all of the new groceries.

Mindful Giving - Day Eighteen

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The cat writhed blissfully around on its back while the man wiggled his fingers over its belly. The cat was a lovely tortoiseshell, sleek and healthy. The man wore tattered black jeans and a stained, ripped jacket. His black hair hung lankly against his grimy face and tangled with the stubble of his beard. They sat next to a doorway on the sidewalk on pieces of cardboard, their possessions next to them, and a jar with a few dollars in it standing hopefully by.

Knowing that walking around Old Pasadena would provide me many opportunities to give to homeless people, I had planned my giving beforehand. Based on my reflections about such alms, I had decided to give to the first person who asked, or the first person who caught my eye.

Something about this man's moment of quiet joy with his pet moved me. I pulled out the $2.00 and dropped it into his jar, wishing him a good evening.
I had $10 in the other pocket as well. But no one else came by and asked me and we didn't walk around much after dinner (since we had a cage full of rats waiting in the car). J wanted to go to Vroman's Bookstore, one of her favorites. Getting out of the car, I realized that I hadn't used the other gift. I didn't think I was likely to find someone in obvious need browsing the shelves without being pretty intrusive. I had an impulse.

"Here, honey," I said, pulling out the bill. "This is my gift for today. Why don't you take it?" I handed it over to my husband. I knew that he was going through Vromans' and out to the used sci fi bookstore across the street, a store so grubby and yucky that the girls and I refuse to set foot back inside. "Be sure to buy some books."

Often, S will browse but not ever buy anything for himself. Later, he showed up at the cafe where the girls and I were sipping hot cocoa. "I got two books," he said. "And your money was all the cash I had on me, so it worked out just right."

Before we left, I scrubbed the kitchen floor. It took almost 45 minutes of hard work to sweep it and scrub it well.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mindful Giving - Day Seventeen

Friday, August 17, 2012

Today was bittersweet. I drove 30 miles to the charming town where I help each year with a fun fundraiser to attend a meeting about its future form.  I love the noprofit that benefits from this event, or, more accurately, I love the wonderful people who work and volunteer for this nonprofit. The organization itself has had more and more serious issues with the way it conducts it business, and the way it raises and distributes its money. Over five years, it has gone from being a locally-based, good feeling place to having the ethos of a national corporation with all the attending disinterest in its employees and careful guarding of its bottom line. Unfortunately, it is NOT a corporation, thus has nothing to sell to keep itself afloat if it continues to disenchant its loyal volunteer and donor base as effectively as it has in the last few actions I've witnessed.

The outcome of the meeting was that the event will be put on hiatus for several years, and, most likely, discontinued. As I said, I'm sad about that. On the other hand, it's been going on for 20 years and the core organizers are tired. It's probably a good time to let it go. It does take a great deal of time and energy that can go elsewhere. I know it's been a part of my life, and my family's, for the last seven years. My daughters have been helping at this event every June from the time they were eight and five years old. In fact the first thing B said when I told her was, "Does that mean we won't see P there any more?" referring to one of their little friends who is the grandson of the chair. "I guess not," I said. "We'll just have to write to them and stay in touch."

This woman, who chairs the event and was its original creator, just had a birthday this week. She's 83 years old and a great-grandmother who I have witnessed putting in countless hours and errands on behalf of the mission and the event. She deserves recognition and praise. Whether the nonprofit did the right thing or not, I was determined to celebrate her birthday. This is a woman who is constantly giving to others, even if she can be a bit of a bear. I've always liked her, admired her, and gotten along with her well. Which is why I always get the consultant job!! She has everything she could ever need, and then some. But she happened to mention a few months ago that because she has a summer birthday one of her favorite celebration foods has always been ripe watermelon.

For today's gift, I made a special trip to the store and bought a watermelon and a pot of yellow flowers, her favorite color. I even carried the watermelon into the bathroom with me and washed all the dirt off of it, which got me a few very odd looks! Then I stuck a sparkly silver bow on it, and drove over to her cottage. I left the watermelon, the flowers, and a birthday card outside her front door for her to find. I know she'll love the surprise -- and the gesture!!

Observations on Mindful Giving

I'm just more than halfway through my 29 days of Giving with intention and design. For a couple of days now, I've been trying to find the time to jot down some of the impressions that this experience has made on me.

Overall, I truly enjoy this deliberate attention to giving. What I've found is that I give quite frequently and easily in my life anyway. There have only been a few days where I have even had to put much effort into the act of generosity. In fact, I've sort of disqualified certain types of giving, just because I do them so habitually. Giving to my daughters and to my husband, particularly along the lines of specially cooked meals, caring chores, and small objects, are an almost daily experience. Yes, it technically is giving if I make a stack of pancakes or run to a special store to pick up a graphing notebook, but it is so much a part of my normal life that it seems like it doesn't count. So I've only written about it the few times that I gave with extra attention to the giving. Likewise with my friends. I tend to give some portion of time to my friends almost every day. That's great, and I've been pleased to see just how easily I do connect with others in my life.

One part of the challenge was to pay attention to what type of giving felt the most difficult to me. As I've said, I find most types of giving fairly easy. I really don't mind giving money. Even in larger amounts of $10 or $20, or even higher, I usually feel pretty comfortable handing money over to someone who needs it. And I'm constantly giving people stuff. I love to buy things that I think people will like or enjoy. If there's something in my home that I no longer use, I'm delighted to give it to someone else. I do have some material things that I have emotional attachment to, of course. I might not so easily hand over my wedding ring, say, or the first toy I bought my daughter. But money and stuff is usually no problem

I'm also pretty comfortable giving time. My time is truly my most precious possession. I am very aware of that. I only have so much of it, and it tends to be spoken for. It also, along with my skills, is the main thing I can sell to make money and support my family. Nonetheless, I have a well-engrained practice of giving my time and attention to people who ask for it. I automatically re-shuffle my tasks and make space to chat with friends, host playdates, have dinners and meet friends for lunch or coffee if they need some connection. And my daughters get my full attention whenever they request it. This works well for me, as it really nourishes relationships and brings the benfits of solid friendships to my life.

I've only found two things that I really don't enjoy giving. One is talking on the phone. The other is giving to the homeless. Both of these types of giving are more conflicted for me. They bring up mixed emotions that dilute the pure impetus of the generosity. Talking on the phone is something that I associate with difficult parts of my past. It also feels very draining to me. That doesn't mean I never like talking on the phone. Sometimes I do. Sometimes the immediate voice-to-voice connection with a friend is great. But usually, I find that communicating by phone takes a big chunk of time, often more thatn I can free up. It tends  to be physically uncomfortable to me, and I get bored that I am unable to do other chores or work while talking, yet I am not getting that same level of connection that I would get in face to face conversation. It's like a limbo land, to me. I much prefer setting aside a chunk of time to meet, where at least I get the benefit of going out somewhere interesting, and dressing up, driving, and eating something unusual. The phone just saps my energy.

Same thing with giving to the homeless. I usually don't feel right giving money to people that may be helping them to hurt themselves. And I don't like the somewhat compulsory feel of being asked for money. There's a whole range of factors that come into play. Do I feel safe or threatened? Do I feel harrassed? Often the homeless ask is an interruption of what I was doing, either conversing or working, and I don't like that. But I don't like the small, petty, insecure feelings that I get when I say no either. So the whole situation sets me up to feel awkward. There are more emotional layers to it for me as well. I've had several friends who were on the edge of terrible homelessness, so when I see itenerant people I tend to feel a lot of sympathy. But mixed with that sympathy is an awareness, even an anger almost, that these people have had some degree of choice in getting to the postion they are in. And then I just feel so much anger that as a culture and whole society that we don't have a better way of helping those who struggle with mental illness, or addiction, or both, and that they have to be reduced to wandering, begging, and scraping by. Mixed with that is still some class prejudice and feelings of ego. So that whole potent, nonresolved set of feeling tends to come up. Although I often will give money to the homeless, still I feel less than good about the giving transaction.

My reflections so far: I don't do well with those two types of giving; otherwise, I find the practice to be delightful and invigorating. It's a challenge to see how many new ways of giving and different recipients I can come up with.

More New Pets

Yesterday, we made a 189 mile round trip to Northern LA and picked up our new rats. Phoebe, Riley, and Bailey made the long drive home with us with no problems. They are all super-tame and friendly, and they seem to really like their new cage. (Which they should -- it's pretty much the best and biggest rat cage on the market.)

B and I have already been up and playing with them this morning. Phoebe is just over a year old, so she is big and comfortable with people. She liked climbing around on me and checking out the couch. She especially liked earning Cheerios as treats! I'm already working with her to recognize a certain sound as meaning "treat time" and on coming back to me at the sound of her name.

Bailey is a lovely, light brown with a slightly darker face. She is super active and climbs all over the cage and the backs of the furniture. She's an explorer.

Riley is white with a close-cropped fuzzy Rex coat and a light tan head. She looks like she's going to get Siamese color on her nose. She's a bit shy and unsure, and likes to be cuddled or to hide under a blanket. It was funny when she and Bailey were wrestling around, just like little puppies.

I let Phoebe have a few licks of my hot tea off of my spoon. S just watched the whole procedure with an expression of mixed bemusement and disgust. "Okay," he said. "You know that's the Rat spoon from now on right? Don't put it back with the others."

Silly man. I'll just wash it in our new dishwasher!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mindful Giving - Day Sixteen

From January to June, I had an enjoyable and lucrative position as a consultant to a fundraising event. I feel a sense of loyalty and affection for this organization but sadly I can’t afford to work for them for free. Also, they have been continually re-organizing lately, and their latest round of leaders leave a lot to be desired. They’ve made some really bad decisions – like firing one of the most well-liked development people and being insensitive to donor concerns – that have wound up really alienating their base of support. It’s almost like they are trying to do poorly, for some mysterious reason.

For certain, it was clear to me that the leadership no longer supports this event. So today, we had a meeting to discuss its future, and the committee’s decision was to put it “on hiatus” indefinitely. I’m sad that I won’t work on this event any more. I really enjoyed it this year. I’m sad that the other volunteers who have shown so much support and dedication won’t have the legacy of a successful event.

In support of the continuity of the event, and out of affection for the main organizers, I had been working off-contract, for free, for the last few months. There have been odds and ends that came up and needed to be dealt with, included setting up and organizing today’s meeting. So yesterday I spent more than two hours typing minutes, sending emails, and generally providing energy to this organization. Today I gave four hours of my time to drive out, take notes, and give my input. It was my gift to the possibility of continued success. From June ‘til now, I have completed another 10% of hours at no cost – a sizable gift.

Although I am sad to see this go, I know that this is the way of life. Something ends, and something else comes along to replace it. I know that putting positive energy out comes back in unexpected ways. For me personally, I think the connections I’ve made may lead to other things. If not, they’ve given me closeness and involvement with the people I cared about in this nonprofit well after I had had to leave it behind for practical reasons. Now, all of the people I loved at this place are gone – they’ve retired, been downsized, moved along, or in one devastating case, self-imploded in a spectacular debacle of fraud and deception that left everyone dazed for months.

Without better leadership in place, I don’t think there’s much I can do to build excitement and motivation about the mission or the work, never mind the funding of it. It’s sad, but there it is. Even at the national organization level, good energy brings more good energy and bad energy tends to muck everything up.


Yesterday, I cleaned out the area under the sink. I threw some junk away and reorganized the paint/art supplies and dish soap we keep there. Today, I scrubbed out the sink window box. I made a severe misjudgment in the war against the ants. I thought that if I put some ant traps up there, they would take the poison away and decrease in number. The opposite occurred. Apparently the traps were the ant version of awesome nightclubs. About 1000 ants crammed into each little one by two inch plastic box, making it completely black, and then called all their friends to tell them how awesome it was. So 5000 more ants were circling each trap, trying to find a way in. Just like a bad night in LA. So while I was scrubbing up all those ants, I cleaned the rest of the counter as well.

Customer Service?

August 17, 2012 3:48 pm

AT&T is my internet provider. Since I haven’t had cable service ever since Time Warner illegally accessed my checking account, AT&T is pretty much my only way to get the web connection I need. I got a notice from them recently that they had decided to “upgrade” our area. I was pretty much given two choices: “upgrade” and choose a new billing structure, or give up the internet. Uh, gee, let’s see. I need the internet for my work… I guess I’ll upgrade.

So it involves self-installing some new equipment and a disruption to our web service. AT&T chose today at precisely 8 pm to change us over. That’s what they said: 8 pm. Not a window of time. Not from 8 am to 5 pm on August 17. Nope, 8 pm precisely. Be at home to install the equipment then, their letter said. I promptly handed all of that over to my husband with a shrug and a disclaimer – this is too much for me – you deal with it, okay? Okay. So he’s planning to be here tonight to get my computer back online.

AT&T sent me two letters, three emails, a huge package and called me to remind me about this plan. Then, today, during an important meeting, I get a random call. When I check the voice mail, it’s Ramando. “Hi. I’m your AT&T service tech. I just wanted to tell you that I need you to plug in your router.” I actually thought maybe it was a scam. How can I plug in my router? I’m AT WORK!!! It’s hours before the scheduled time.

Fucking AT&T. I get home and sure enough, there’s another message on my answering machine, and I have NO INTERNET CONNECTION. Arrghhhhhhh… I had follow-up work to do; I had a deadline I was trying to meet. I call Ramando at the number on my cell, and he’s like, Oh, yeah, I switched it over already. Plug all your stuff in.

Like it’s not two pages of instructions and four pieces of equipment. Like I can stop the WRITING I am doing to fiddle with cords and connections. Really, AT&T???? Really?? Keep it up and I’ll ditch your whole service and only work in public!

Mindful Giving - Day Fifteen

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My days tend to be very full. I'm always adjusting the balance to get a mix of child-free errands and child-free work into the daylight hours. When I have so much to do, it's particularly hard for me to stop and just indulge in idle time. But I had put off a pedicure for weeks longer than I should. And I'm a yoga teacher -- the appearance of my feet does matter. It's practically a job requirement for me to have cute toes.

So off I went, thinking that if I stuck to a simple pedicure,  I could be out in less than an hour and still have time to hit the three errands I needed to before minimum day pick up time ended my autonomy.

At first, it didn't look promising. As I pulled up to the shop, it said Closed until 11. Ugh, I thought, I can't wait for another half hour and I can't come back later. Then I saw the owner inside. Well, I'll just try the door. Maybe she's ready to start even though I'm a bit early.

Sure enough, she didn't want to turn down the business. While she worked, we chatted about her new ownership. Even though she had only been there a few months, she jumped at the chance to buy out the shop when the previous owner wanted a break. With fresh purple paint on the walls, tons of nail designs on display, and some new procedures, this young Latina was ready to make a go of it. We were just discussing how many customers she would average a day -- five to six on a good day, two if it was slow -- and how hard it is when someone shows up when she's already booked as a big brown SUV pulled up outside.

An African-American woman in a gorgeous tan and brown striped dress strode into the shop. She was beautifully dressed with her braids pulled back in a ponytail, amber and brown beads around her wrists, and a series of gold chains matching the gold belt she wore.

"Ahh. You're busy. How long for a quick polish change?" she asked.

"Fifteen minutes. I'm almost done here," the owner answered.

"I can't wait. I've got to be at work." She shook her head ruefully. "Dang. This is the third shop I've been in and all of them have only one person working." She turned to go. "It's my birthday and I have to get my polish done."

The owner looked uncomfortably at me as the woman left. "See, that hurts my business a lot."

I looked at the woman, obviously disappointed and frustrated, standing by her car and texting. I looked at the owner and made a decision. "Oh, go ahead, " I said. "It's her birthday. Just do her polish now. I'll wait."

"Really?" said the owner, her face lighting up.

"REALLY?" said the woman, coming back in and choosing a bright gold glitter polish. "Thank you SOO much. There's going to be this birthday thing at work, and I can't be late, and I need to look good. Thanks!!"

And that's how I wound up sitting  there for an extra 40 minutes, my feet dunked in rapidly cooling water, watching the worst reality television show I've ever seen, and having a long conversation about various forms of infidelity with my two new female friends. It pushed back all my errands to the next day.

But at least I gave someone a bit of care and hopefully a much better birthday.

Mindful Giving - Day Fourteen

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

P dumped C in June. It's been terribly hard on her. His reasons, though, were sound ones, and that makes the whole situation even more regrettable. All along the troubled course of their courtship, S and I have been warm to P and clear that, regardless of his relationship status with C, we would like to remain friends with him.

The last few months we haven't been in touch much. It's a bit awkward with C so heartbroken and desperate to be in contact with her lost love. I knew that if I reached out to him, she would want to know about it, and I didn't want to get stuck in the middle, or become some sort of information broker. I've been able to be a good nonjudgmental support to C because I do understand how desperate and unbalanced lost love can make you, and it's been important to me to be a steadying force in her life at this time.

Nonetheless, they started contacting each other again last week. They emailed, they texted, they saw each other to talk. So when I got a text from P inviting me to lunch, I knew it was time to reconnect. He's had a terrible time of it too, and I've felt bad that we couldn't be there more for him this summer.

So my gift today was allowing P to buy me some Thai food. :) And sincerely listening to his concerns and reflecting back to him some of his mixed emotions as he grapples with whether or not he wants to re-enter a relationship with my dear friend.

He knew that I would talk to her about it all of course. Not only is he okay with that, I suspect he's counting on it. You don't take your ex's best friend out to lunch while hoping for great secrecy. I did promise him that if he told me anything in confidence that I would keep it that way, but thankfully he didn't. So that's an effort I don't have to make.

The whole situation is tough. I see her side and I see his side. There's no one clear "right" answer; maybe they'll get back together, maybe they won't. Maybe it will be good for him to try again with her; maybe he's better off just growing and moving on. I have my bias of course, of which they're both aware. I think they're both fantastic people so I'd like to see them work it out and be happy together. Enough of this suffering. Plus we can all hang out together! But no outside observer ever knows the real dynamics of the relationship between two people. Only the two of them know what will serve their needs best.

My second gift of the day was to call C and talk it all over with her. P was the one who texted her that we would have lunch, so I knew that he wanted me to talk to her. I even told him what I would say. It's what my friend needs to hear over and over: that he clearly still loves her, that he wants to try but he's scared of being hurt, that they need to take it slow, that she needs to respect his process and not rush him, that she still needs time to sort herself out, and, most of all, NOT TO SCREW IT ALL UP AGAIN with a guy who clearly can never truly care about her or meet her long term needs.

I don't love talking on the phone, so giving up first one hour and then another was a true effort on my part. But I hope that however it works out, they will both be able to wind up being happy.