Monday, 31 December 2007

Spiritually literate resolutions for the New Year

I saw this on Jan's Blog...Yearning for God, and just had to share it. She found it on another site, Spirituality & Practice. What an amazing way to approach the New Year! I am inspired and more that a little intimdated --- these are lofty goals! But I will do my best!

1. I will live in the present moment. I will not obsess about the past or worry about the future.

2. I will cultivate the art of making connections. I will pay attention to how my life is intimately related to all life on the planet.

3. I will be thankful for all the blessings in my life. I will spell out my days with a grammar of gratitude.

4. I will practice hospitality in a world where too often strangers are feared, enemies are hated, and the "other" is shunned. I will welcome guests and alien ideas with graciousness.

5. I will seek liberty and justice for all. I will work for a free and a fair world.

6. I will add to the planet's fund of good will by practicing little acts of kindness, brief words of encouragement, and manifold expressions of courtesy.

7. I will cultivate the skill of deep listening. I will remember that all things in the world want to be heard, as do the many voices inside me.

8. I will practice reverence for life by seeing the sacred in, with, and under all things of the world.

9. I will give up trying to hide, deny, or escape from my imperfections. I will listen to what my shadow side has to say to me.

10. I will be willing to learn from the spiritual teachers all around me, however unlikely or unlike me they may be.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

The art of vacationing

For the first time in almost three years, I have taken a vacation.

I had planned to go to Colorado, to see a friend, do some skiing, and revisit places I haven't seen since we moved from the Rockies over a decade ago. But things did not work out, so I have been vacationing here in Florida. After all...people pay good money to come here, so why not enjoy what I have?

But I discovered a few things as I've attempted to rest...

First,I am really bad at at. The first day off, I went from bored to nervous to panicked to guilty. What was I doing at home on a work day??? It was hard to stick to my plan and stay away from the office!!! But I did it! I went to the beach, read a book, cooked a nice dinner and visited with a friend.

Day two. More relaxed. Sunrise at the beach, then breakfast there.
Walked a bit. Wrote some letters while I sat near the water. Lunch with another friend. Home to shower. Dinner and a movie with Teresa, who was recovering from medical treatments. Yoga class, met some new people, and had a LONG, wonderful evening of talking with a friend I am really just getting to know.

Day three. Beach most of the day. I am getting this vacation thing down! Did some watercolour painting, wrote some New Year's cards, read, fell asleep to music.

Day four. I planned to sleep in, but an early call from Teresa woke me. Went to Panera with her, sat and talked and had tea and bagels. Wandered around window shopping for awhile. Went home and painted and watched TV and painted some more. Worked on my laptop to fix a Java Script problem. It worked!

Now if I had gone to Colorado, I would still be away. But I am here, so I am going into work for a few hours in the a.m. Then I will be off to dinner with Gina, and New Year's eve at the beach. Tuesday, I plan to swim, go to the gym, and watch some movies. Maybe paint a bit more. Or I might go hiking with a rock climbing group I joined recently.

I could use another week...or two. Three years is a long time. And I've discovered that it takes a day or two to wind down and stop running and start resting.

Next time will be better...and MUCH sooner. The art of vacation is something I plan to master!!

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Learning to touch, learning to see

Last night, a friend invited me to a Tantric Yoga class. I have done Yoga off and on for years, so I expected more of the same poses and chants.

I could not have been MORE wrong!

This class was not about holding the warrior pose, and we never went anywhere near child pose or down facing dog.

This class was about coming in contact with other people...their hands, their gaze, their energy, their joy and their sadness.

And that is hard for me.

I have, over the past few years, learned to give and receive hugs. I have learned how to accept and give the two cheek kisses that are a part of the Middle Eastern culture. And I like them both...something that I never thought I would.

But this was far deeper. We had to walk, stand, sit, dance and move while looking into our partner's eyes. We had to maintain that gaze and intensity through laughter and tears, movement and stillness.

It was scary and hard....and incredible. When my partner cried, I felt her sadness...and my helplessness. When we danced, I had to focus on someone else and trust my body to move as I wanted it to without checking my reflection in the mirror. I had to dance alone in front of everyone, accept and return intense, direct gazes and namaste from complete strangers, and allow my eyes to speak for my soul as I opened up my own fears and weaknesses to people I met only minutes before.

It was exilerating, calming, challenging, frequently way outside my comfort zone, amazingly inspiring, and ocassionally rather uncomfortable.

I can't wait for the next meeting!

Friday, 28 December 2007

Yeehaw! Proud to be a cowgirl!

Have you caught the new song by George Strait...How Bout Them Cowgirls? It's amazing how the words of a song can describe me so well! And as an alumni of CCHS, home of the Cowboys (and Cowgirls), a very good rider, and a former resident of the Rockies, I can legitimately use the title!

Boy, she don't need you and she don't need me
She can do just fine on her own two feet
But she wants a man who wants her to be herself
And she'll never change, don't know how to hide
Her stubborn will or her fightin' side
But you treat her right and she'll love you like no one else

Soooooo true!!!! Check out the whole song....

Now where can I find my cowboy?

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Which shampoo is best for chocolate cake??

It took almost 10 minutes to get the chocolate cake and frosting out of my hair...

But it was worth every second.

Today was my daughter's 10th birthday...yes, a Christmas baby! My two daughters and I celebrated with gifts and a round of "Happy Birthday"...and a cake.

A homemade gooey chocolate cake with lots of chocolate frosting and pink writing and roses (none too perfect, but it was adorned with love.)

After she blew out the candles, we all agreed that we wanted to wait for later to eat the cake...we'd had a big dinner, and none of the three of us were hungry. The birthday girl went to put the cake into the fridge, and wham!

She slipped, the cake went flying and landed face down on the floor. She was sitting amid the mess, cake splattered on her clothes.

My older daughter and I ran to see if she was injuries, but the cake was a goner. I looked at her tearful face...looked at the smashed cake at her feet, and grabbed a big piece.

"There's only one thing to do," I said. She tells me now she expected me to say "Let's clean it up." or "Make another."

But I am NOT an ordinary mom. Nope. I took that double handful of warm cake and sticky frosting -- and smeared it on her face! And on her hair. It only took a second for her to recover...

The tears stopped. And I was rewarded with a big scoop of chocolate cake on my face! Then we got her sister!

Cake went everywhere...on faces, in hair, on arms and necks! I had frosting up my nose!

And we laughed! We laughed harder than I could ever remember, squealing as handfuls of cake and icing came at us, grabbing handfuls to "retaliate."

Once the cake had been reduced to nothing but goo, I sent the girls to shower..with plastic grocery bags on their feet to get them from kitchen to bathrooms without getting anything on the white carpet. I stayed behind and mopped up the mess, wiped down the cabinets and cleaned off the wall.

Then I spent 10 minutes in the shower washing cake out of my hair...still laughing!

My daughter never got to eat her birthday cake...but before she went to bed, she told me it was the best birthday ever!

Cake 0, Memories, priceless.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Jesus and the GPS

It's one of the wealthiest areas in the country, but that didn't stop someone from swiping the statute of Jesus from a creche in Bal Harbour, Florida. But the owner of the nativity scene is fighting back.

She has installed GPS units in the replacement Jesus. Mary and Joseph have also been equipped with global positioning units, just in case someone decides to relocate the rest of the holy family.

The entire display has been fitted with a Plexiglas front, too. One presumes that anyone violating the barrier and walking off with any of the figures will be prosecuted. Maybe jailed. Fined, too.

I could see a GPS on a sports car or a work of art. But a Jesus figurine? Hardly seems the right response for a statue of a guy who preached turning the other cheek and loving your enemies, does it?

I would propose a different approach. Instead of neighbors and businesses chipping in for the GPS unit, as they did, why not use that money to buy a whole bunch of baby Jesus figurines, and let anyone who wants them take one home?

I'm not a Christian, but from what I've read of the guy, he would have liked that response a whole lot better.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Recycling old posts...because some things haven't changed

Last spring, I wrote a post about being lonely. Re-reading it tonight, I am sad to say little is different. The candles are spice instead of vanilla. The book is by Orson Scott Card instead of Elizabeth George. And my new apartment which backs up to a nature preserve means I hear crickets and frogs instead of cars. But the rest remains. Almost a year later, at 10:32 pm on a tropical Friday, the story remains the same ...

Dinner was over, the kitchen was clean, the laundry was done. Both of my girls were sound asleep, and the television was silent. The sound of the dishwasher scrubbing away the remains of the day was the only sound in the apartment. From the open patio door came the whosh of an occasional car passing by.

I turned on the stereo, choosing a station that plays quiet love songs, and sat down to read my new Elizabeth George mystery. At last, after a long day at work, some down time.

But my relaxation was short lived. The songs that played reminded me of lost love and certain-to-come-true dreams that had somehow vanished. I put down the book and let the memories wash over me. People I never see or even talk to anymore filled my thoughts. I pictured some in far-away homes, in far-away cities, some near-by but still out of reach. And suddenly the apartment went from a sancuary of quiet and peace to a prison. I paced from room to room, wandering in and out of the kitchen, living room, dining room, my bedroom and then back again. I picked up my phone and scrolled through the list of contacts, but it was too late to call any of them. I paced some more, wishing there was someone to stay with the girls while I went for a drive. Wishing there was someone to sit with in that quiet, clean apartment with the vanilla candles burning, and the soft music and the tropical evening breeze.

I do okay during the day. Work keeps me busy, and I am surrounded by people and lights and computers and calls from clients. In the evening, I focus on my girls, and making dinner and homework and household chores. On those rare nights when there is something I enjoy on television, I often fall asleep before the timer shuts off the tv.

But on so many nights like last night, when the silence descends, and the music tells stories of love lost and love never found, it's so hard to be alone and inside.

I've been told over and over that I'm supposed to be modern and self-sufficient and not need a man to be happy. But on nights like last night, I can't help but wonder....did the person who made up those rules ever spend her nights alone in a silent, candle-lit apartment?

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Hate mongers not welcome

I love my Uncle...but I cannot stand his politics.

Today he sent me a crude, violent e-mail which referred to all of us who oppose the current administration's open policies on torture and elimination of freedom as MAGGOTS!

I responded to him, and to everyone to whom he had forwarded that disturbing post:


When our country defends torture, we give absolute permission for any other country to torture our people as well.

And far worse than that, we surrender ALL morality. If the U.S. closes its eyes to these atrocities, we no longer have a country worth defending.

If we defend the current atrocities, we are no better than the worst in fact we are below that because once upon a time, we had a Constitution and Bill of Rights that prohibited things like torture and warrentless searches and guaranteed privacy in one's person, home, and papers, and absolute freedom of speech no matter how inconvenient or unpopular.

Sadly the current administration has turned those once precious documents into toilet paper with which they wipe their greedy, immoral bottoms.

It is time --- in fact long past time -- for people who value what America used to be -- full of people who valued freedom and were not afraid of shampoo or water bottles in airports -- to take back their freedom and get rid of the people who turn up their noses at all this country SHOULD stand for!

Freedom, not fear.
Rule of law, not the rule of the jungle.
Constitutional protection, not government secrecy.

Don't send me obscenity-laced diatribes that sully the very values our founders treasured. We were once great, not through killing and evil, but through setting a shining example for doing the right things even when it was hard. Isn't it time we aspired to that again?

It's time to choose. The hateful, valueless America promoted in your e-mail below, or everything we can and should be.

Your niece

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Post party report

Sorry...I forgot to say how the party went!

After a two hour drive, we arrived around 2 pm, and after hugs and hellos all around, we set up the snacks, and the eating and the talking started. My little one disappeared with her same-age cousins -- there was a new hamster to meet! Photos came out -- old and new -- and were passed around. My uncles looked over the old photo albums and told us stories about the people and the places and the stories behind the pictures...unfortunately, none of us had a voice recorder to capture the stories!!!

We set up the tables for dinner...a casual dinner with the fixings for sandwiches and salads and lots of fruit and plates and plates of homemade cookies and brownies!! So much for watching what I eat!

The kids table was filled with noise and plates and cups...and then just as quickly empty. There were far more interesting things to do than sit and eat! But we sat at our table for almost two hours....cousins, my uncle, spouses who were now cousins by default and affection, and my older daughter who at 17 is ready to leave the kids' table. We shared our lives since we were last together in the summer. We shared news about family members not able to join us. We reminisced about my Aunt who had passed and all the fun times we had together over the years. Older cousins told us things that happened before the younger ones came into the family. And we told them stories about how we had seen them when we were little and they were in their teens and twenties (including confessing to some pranks we'd pulled when they weren't looking!)

Then it was time for the gift exchange. We chose from wrapped gifts as our turn came up...each person could select a new gift, or take one from someone who had already opened theirs. And when my uncle got his dark chocolate Hershey bars, every one threatened to take those when it was their turn, but no one really would! Trust me, we have learned not to come between my uncle and his dark chocolate!!

The gifts were silly and fun...giant hand made potholders, coasters needlepointed with pigs, a lint cousin Terry provides all the gifts (and makes most of them herself!) Thanks Terry!

After we cleaned up, people started to leave. My little one went to spend the night at her favorite cousin Madison's house. My older daughter and I stayed with my cousins Terry and Dave. We talked as we cleaned up the rest of the party's remains. Talked as we put away food. Then sat and talked...the four of us, until almost midnight, about family and life and relationships and marriage and love and politics and life in Florida and life in Pennsylania (they lived in PA for years, too.) We got to look through Dave's collection of pins and buttons (I collect them too, and my daughter is starting her own collection.)

And despite the age differences, (Terry and Dave have grandchildren, and daughters in their 30's) we were all equals.

It was warm. It was family.

The next morning went quickly. Talking some more, breakfast, and then on our way. But all the way home, we talked about the party and family and how wonderful it is to have this blessing in our lives. And how much we can't wait for the spring cousins' reunion!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

All we can give them in the end

It occurred to me tonight, after a deep and very revealing conversation with a friend, that when it comes down to it,

All we can really hope for, for someone else, is the best they can envision for themselves.

That's it.

Anything else, anything more, even when motivated by great love or deep friendship, will never work.

Simple, really. But oh so hard for most of us to learn.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

The family party I love

It will be the cousins, our kids, spouses for those who have them, one uncle, and a lot of food. Calls to the other Aunts and Uncles and cousins. Laughs, old photos, new photos, shared memories and silliness. Breakfast at Cracker Barrel the next morning, and then everyone heads home.

For years and years, I lived too far from any family to have family holiday parties or family birthday parties or family visits. And rifts within the family kept some of us from talking to others of us.

But now I am home. After living all over the country, I now live 14 miles from where I started. It's been about a year and a half since I moved back. And these silly, crazy family parties are one of the best things about being home.

Silly gift exhanges, shared dinners and someone who remembers Grandmom. Tears and laughter as we remember the Aunt/Mom who went HOME this year after a long illness. Our kids playing together and creating family memories of their own. Taking over the dining room at Cracker Barrel tomorrow morning!

It's going to be a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

The saddest season of all

Today on the radio news, I heard that a major highway here was closed for hours because a man had perched himself on a bridge, presumably with the intent to jump. The other day, a man was taken into protective custody for evaluation after lying down in traffic on a busy road. Foreclosures have jumped, and so have people seeking emergency shelter for domestic abuse.

Welcome to December...

Why after all the evidence to the contrary, do we pretend that December is a happy month?

The numbers are clear...

More suicides
More abuse
More drinking
More car crashes
More debt
More drug use and abuse
More family arguments
More scripts written for anti-depressants

And yet...

Year after year, we as a society claim this is the season of joy and good will and happiness. Are we so blind as a society that we cannot see the reality? Or so foolish we cannot understand the profound sorrow that this time of year brings to so very many families?

Or is it that despite all the evidence to the contrary, we so desperately want to believe that there is a season where happiness and good will and joy is possible, that we keep trying, year after year to get it right?

Is this time of year a collective statement of blindness, or a profound cry to the universe, like Charlie Brown with his pitiful brown tree, to finally, just this once, make it work...

Sunday, 9 December 2007

A holiday gift for someone far away....

There is someone special, but far away this holiday season. I know he reads this blog once in awhile, so I am sending this song as a gift across the miles. Know that the words come from my heart....Yes, I do mean you.

And just in case the video isn't working (it goes on and off on YouTube, here are the words...

For Good

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you:

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend:
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you:

Because I knew you:

I have been changed for good

And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I've done you blame me for

But then, I guess we know
There's blame to share
And none of it seems to matter anymore

Like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes the sun.
Like a stream the meets a boulder halfway through the wood.
Like a ship blown from its mooring by a wind off the sea.
Like a seed dropped by a bird in the wood.

Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
I do believe I have been changed for the better?

And because I knew you:

Because I knew you:

Because I knew you:
I have been changed for good.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Reformatting a Gateway laptop ---- AGGGGHHHH!

The Buddhah would be swearing right now....

I kid you not. He would be up from under that Boddi tree and swearing like a sailor. And Jesus? You think the scene in the Temple was bad? NOTHING, I tell you, NOTHING compared to the temper tantrum he would have trying to reformat and reinstall the drivers on a 6 month old "certified" Gateway refurb.

I put the certified in quotes because I cannot imagine how this Gateway refurbished exercise in illogic and missing restore files could be called "certified".

Yes Windows reinstallled, after three attempts and a final desperate removal of the partition and reinstallation of the partition. But the "restore" disk Gateway so kindly provided lacked a few audio drivers, video drivers, BUS drivers, network drivers, wireless card drivers....not anything essential, right????

So I went to the Gateway site and typed in my model number and started downloading drivers for my computer. Except they don't RUN on my computer! And one wasn't even the file it said I was downloading!!!!

So I have spent the past several days and nights searching the net for the RIGHT drivers. And I am still at it. I have internet access now and sound, and am working on video. Hopefully someday my DVD player will work was one of the things I wanted on this new machine.

As I go through this, I have to wonder...why isn't everything that's on the computer on the disk? Why isn't there a process where the same software installed on a given machine is duplicated onto a disk? Excactly. Completely. Too simple, perhaps? Too logical?

After hours and hours of searches and downloads and reinstalls, my computer is STILL not right. It says it lacks a video decoder and will not play DVDs.

So much for quality and first Gateway just became my last.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Check out my architecture and design blog

I recently joined a community run by the architecture and design magazine Dwell, and started a blog there, too.

I invite anyone who is interested in sustainable design, affordability and innovative architecture to check out my new blog and the entire Dwell site.

My blog is called Affordability and Beauty -- Is It Possible Now? I look forward to seeing what I can learn from the other people on the site, as I try to figure out just what my dream home will be.

In the meantime, I have a question. What is the situtation for afforable, beautiful design in your part of the world? Is it possible? And is it happening? If not, what can we do about it? I would love to hear from you on here or on my other blog or both!

Monday, 3 December 2007

Karma over vengence

Ever since I posted that blog entry about a bad date experience, I have felt bad.

Not because of what happened on the date, but because I posted it out there for everyone to see. It was a mean-spirited post, IMHO, and I have not been comfortable ever since, especially in light of several of the commments e-mailed to me suggesting various types of revenge.

So I have pulled that entry. Not in the name of censorship, but in the name of karma.

Bad dates, bad moments happen to us all. Sometimes it's our fault, sometimes the other person's. Most often, it's both. In any case, we are all out there, doing our best with what we have at the moment...and in the end, that's all we can ask of anyone.

I make a lousy cynic!

Friday, 30 November 2007

A different perspective

I've had several comments on my last post...a few here on the blog, more via e-mail. And while I would never want to re-live that date, I am seeing it in a different light.

Who knows what insecurities or deeply held fears drive any of us to behave in the ways we do? Some people, when confronted with stressful situations, withdraw. Others talk too much, some run, and some lash out, masking their fears with anger and attacks (as in I'll get you before you can get me.)

I don't know this man. I mean I know some things about him...what he chose to tell me before our date. Bits and pieces of what sounds like a very nice childhood and a successful life since then. But I don't know the details. The stuff between the stories. And maybe that's where the REAL story lies.

Clearly, we are not a good match, at least not at this point in our lives. But I do not wish him ill. In fact, I wish him joy.

I hope that someday soon, he will see a full moon on a lovely tropical night and smile (because, just for the record, when he smiled, it was dazzling.) And that someone will break through his walls, and help him to laugh, to take a chance, to dance under the stars, and see beauty for its own sake with no price tag ... and most of all, to hold a hand just for the wonder of connecting with another person for the little time we have here on earth.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

My neglected blog

Sometimes it's hard to write because nothing is really happening. Other times, like over the past month, it's hard to write because so much is happening.

1) Things I thought would last have abruptly ended.

2) Things I never expected, have come into my life seemingly from no-where.

3) My work with Project Downtown has moved from a powerful weekly experience to what some of my street friends have called my ministry. I think they are on to something -- it does feel like a calling and I am prividged to minister to these wonderful people.

4) I have discovered that really opening yourself for something good to come into your life, and being clear about what it is you need, can sometimes have amazing results. Maybe "The Secret" isn't such a crazy pie-in-the-sky book after all.

5) At 2 in the morning, when you wake up with tears on your face, it's hard to understand anything...much less the reason in "everything happens for a reason." Sometimes it's not any easier at 2 in the afternoon.

6) When it comes down to it, you prabably have more friends...and better friends...than you think.

7) Having "stuff" is overrated. So are job labels, education labels and family labels. Sometimes we are so focused on the descriptions that we miss the person.

8) These is nothing quite as wonderful as having someone you really love talking with...and having them feel the same way. And there is nothing lonelier than losing that. those are my eight revelations for the month in which I was silent. Ramadan ended, my world changed in good and bad ways. And I am back to my blog.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

As Ramadan comes to an end

A few thoughts as my very first Ramadan comes to an end...

This is an experience I will never forget. There will be other Ramadans and I will, inshallah, fast. But this first time will always be a treasured memory. The sensations, the people, the lessons learned.

  • I have a better feel for what the people on the street are experiencing, although I am keenly aware that I always had the promise of Iftar awaiting me with its milk and dates to break the fast, and meal afterwards. Perhaps the meal we serve each week at Project Downtown is like the Iftar...a promise of something to end the thirst and hunger that makes dealing with it a little easier.

  • The South Florida Islamic community is one of the most welcoming, friendly, open groups of people I have ever encountered.

  • Prayer in a group is very powerful. Prayer in a group when you get to create your own sacred space inside your scarf is even more powerful.

  • Ramadan isn't just about not eating and drinking for a given number of hours. It's about letting go of other things like anger, fear, greed and impatience. It is a cleansing of the body and the spirit.

  • Ramadan alone would be very hard. Sharing the anticipation of the Iftar, even over the phone, makes all the difference in the experience.

  • I will never take a bottle of water or lunch for granted again.

Monday, 8 October 2007

A video I just have to share

This is amazing...such a beautiful voice, and words that reach so many of us.....

A Fine Frenzy's Almost Lover

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The fasting becomes more challenging

I was warned that it would get harder toward the end. That the last week or so of Ramadan would become more difficult. I should have listened.

Not that I could have done anything about it. But I still should have listened.

I am tired, weak. I am often confused. Daily functions have gotten more difficult and the days seem longer instead of shorter.

The feeling of intense well-being I experienced in the early days is gone. My day has been reduced to the necessary, the essential. All extras have been pared away.

I do my work. my driving, my daily breaking of the fast, and my sleep. Conversation is with only a few people.

Emotions are both sharp and mutted. It's like they are clearer, purer. But wrapped in cotton wool. They bruise instead of cut. And the depth is greater.

It's harder being alone. Fear is suddenly just below the surface. Not of any one thing, except of being alone.

Is this intended to be a part of the fast? Am I meant to experience this disolution of energy and power and focus? Is this part of the lesson?

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

And the blessings go on...

Today, I will pick up my car with a new engine in it. Replaced under warranty.

Today, a check was sent for a freelance job I completed a few weeks ago.

Today, I will break the fast with friends at an Iftar celebration.

Today, I had a nice long phone call from an old friend who lives far away.

Today, I doppped my daughters off at their schools and came to work safely despite a blinding downpour.

Today, work has gone well.

Today, I have had music to listen to all day while I worked.

Today, I have fasted.

And the blessings go on.

Day 13 of Ramadan, September 26th, 2007

Dreaming from a photo

I saw this photo, and instantly I was there. I could feel the cool breeze, the warmth of the chair which had sat in the sun. I could smell the scent of floweres and greenry nearby, and off in the distance the sharp tang of freshly cut grass. I could see all around me...the old stones, the moisture on the water glasses as it slid toward the table, the view from the balcony overlooking the valley below. I could feel the anticipation as I awaited a friend to join me there for a meal and long talk.

All from a photo. One photo. Vacation in a frame.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Love, life and Ramadan

This morning as I was getting ready for work, it occurred to me that life, and even more specifically, love, is a lot like Ramadan. Or at least it should be....

There is so much we want in life, and most of us want it RIGHT NOW! When the desire happens, we want the fulfillment. It could be a new car, a bigger house, a new outfit or a better job.

In love, we have an idea of the kind of relationship we want, and maybe even the person with whom we want it.

Our society tells us we have the right to "Right Now!". Instant food, instant approval on car loans, instant make-overs, instant information downloads. We get impatient waiting even a few minutes, and Madison Avenue reinforces that hurry-up attitude with ever faster and faster everything.

I always thought I had good self control. Now I am thinking maybe not.

From Ramadan, I am learning to control my desires. To postpone what I want (or maybe even believe I need) until the right time. I am learning to deal with temptation and wait patiently (ok, sometimes patiently!) for what I want.

And I am reaping the benefits. The sweetness of the dates, and the cold smoothness of the milk as I break the fast each night is like nothing I've ever experienced.

The food has not changed.

I have.

And I hope I can carry this experience into the rest of my life.

The value of a long awaited purchase. The fruit of a patiently saved balance in my bank account, instead of the fleeting joy of a spur of the moment purchase. A vacation planned months in advance, allowing me to savour each day as it grows closer.

And above all, the sweetness of love when it is the right time, instead of right now or when I think it ought to be time.

Ramadan is about lessons. I knew that from the start. I only hope that when the season is over and there is no reason to control my hunger or thirst each day, the lessons will stay with me.

Monday, 24 September 2007

11 days of Ramadan and counting

Last night, I attended my first Iftar celebration. It was in the home of one of our Project Downtown members.

For three hours, we shared food and Salat and drink and conversation and laughter. We sipped hot mint tea and talked over the details of our days. This was a women's two daughters and I welcomed into a circle that included a few friends, some acquaintances and some women we just met. The women ranged from my daughter (aged 9) to several moms of teens and 20-somethings.

It was an amazing experience.

As Ramadan moves into its second third, I am amazed at the changes I've experienced.

  • I've learned to follow a chart of times to eat and drink, instead of surrendering to the demands of my body.

  • I've learned to focus on the moment -- a profound lesson in mindfulness.

  • I've discovered how very little we need to eat to survive and thrive and am amazed at the vast amount we usually eat in contrast.

  • I've learned gratitude for that first sip of milk and first bite of a date at the end of the day.

  • I've learned the value of community, as we encourage each other along this season of fasting.

  • I've learned humbleness when a homeless man, so impressed by the concept of fasting, decided to fast with us, despite the fact that his daily life already includes hunger and insufficient food.

  • I've been imnpressed by the fortitude of my eldest daughter's fast, as she pushes her way through hunger and thirst through school days and household chores.

  • And I am touched and grateful for the Iftar invitations that have been arriving daily as people learn that we have joined the fast.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

On the 8th day of Ramadan

Today has been the hardest day so far.

I ate before dawn, but clearly not the right stuff. Shakey, sleepy, very thirsty. But I am getting through. The process is more important than my momentary comfort.

I just had a weird experience. I was updating my Facebook and the new app asked for my religion. I sat there for 10 minutes marking and unmarking two different boxes. I could not commit to where I have been for all these years, nor to where it seems I am going. I finally settled on "Multireligious" (yes that was one of the choices!) for now.

I feel that I am straddling a crevasse, trying to keep one foot on either side. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately?) the gap is widening and it is about time for me to make a choice.

That's what this fast is all about. Choices.

MENSA -- What is everyone so afraid of?

I just paid my Mensa renewal dues.

Being a member of Mensa is a big secret for most of us. I can talk to a stranger at a party and tell them that I am a criminial, an atheist, a puppy hater or a Republican (I am none of those, BTW!) but if I say I am a member of Mensa, I am instantly looked at as either:

Stuck up


Why is okay to confess our sins to total strangers or brag about our skills in the gym, on the tennis court or even in bed, but so wrong to admit to being smart?

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Ramadan, Day 7

It's amazing how quickly we've adapted to the schedule of Ramadan. This morning at 5:30, my 16 year old daughter, who is also observing the fast, came into my room.

"Have you eaten yet, Mommy?" And a while later...

"It's 6. We have until 6:11. Do you want some more water?"

One week since the observance started, and our mornings have changed from a quick Pop-Tart and cup of tea on the way out the door to a real breakfast at 5:30 a.m. And an eye on the schedule posted on the fridge and the clock. No one is questioning whether they could grab another glass of water at 6:12, even though it's only a minute later. The precision of the times makes it impossible to ignore.

And it feels natural. It has already become a part of our routine.

As has the evening, when we watch the time as we prepare dinner.

"Time to break the fast", one of us will say. And the milk comes out, and the dates, and we snack gratefully on those as we get dinner on the table.

Our appetites are diminished, but what we do eat tastes so good, as though we are noticing the flavours and textures for the first time.

Ramadan has already changed us in ways we never anticipated. We expected hunger, thirst, maybe a headache. Some grumpiness. But instead, we've discovered a soothing routine, a schedule to make us aware of food and water and time and commitment. Yes, we have experienced hunger. And at times, the thirst becomes almost unbearable.

But mostly we have discovered an order and peace we had not expected. But have quickly come to cherish.

And on the lighter side....

A satire for all those horrible CNN subtitled interviews in Iraq...

Interview with a terrorist, with subtitles

Thank you Blog Drive Bys for posting this!

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Living Ramadan

Today is Day 6 of Ramadan. My first Ramadan. Not the first I've known of, but my first fast. Before I was an observer. Now I am a part of this amazing tradition.

I got up at 5 this morning and ate a small breakfast. Less than a week into Ramadan, and it's already hard to eat very much at one time. Three glasses of water later, and it was time to start the day's fast.

The first day I was dizzy and lightheaded a few times. Now I just feel incredible. My mind is more peaceful than I can ever remember. My breath is slower. My sleep is better. Like the artist mentioned in a BeliefNet article, I feel transparent and hollow, cleaned out of all that is unessential.

And I am hungry.

Not for food. You thought I was going to say food. Nope.

I can talk about food, shop for food, even cook food, and I am able to wait until the proper time to break the fast. Last night I started making dinner before the fast ended and yet I got through all the prep without tasting one single bite. Food has become far less essential than ever before.

No, what I am hungry for are answers. And inspiration. And a clarity of purpose.

What am I doimg here in Ramadan? What am I to learn? How can G-d use my hunger and thirst to teach me things I need to learn? How can I understand the lessons and make the changes I need to make?

And where am I going after this?

My exploration of Islam began 7 years ago in a diner in rural central Pennsylvania. I was curious. I asked a waiter some questions. He told me I would make a wonderful Muslim and he let me borrow a copy of the Quar'an. I read it in a week. More questions. The waiter left to return to Egypt. I decided I needed to learn Arabic so I bought some books. I did not learn Arabic.

In the years since then, my questions have grown more numerous. Teachers have entered and left my life. Some remain. Some new ones have entered recently. I am studying Arabic at the University now, and finally learning.

I am living Ramadan as I fast. And as I feed the hungry and homeless with Project Downtown members on the streets each weekend. And as I read and think and pray. And I will experience another aspect in the next few days, as I attend my first Iftar celebrations. I am aware that I am part of a wonderful tradition stretching back centuries.

I will be blogging about this experience for the rest of Ramadan, in hopes that writing about my experience will help me to see the lessons and understand the purpose for this fast in a very personal way.

Bragging about my son

My son, who just graduated from high school, is working on the Weird Al concert in PA today! He's an aspiring lighting designer, working at a theatre company doing lighting design and going to school. I am so proud of him. So Nicky, this YouTube is for you!

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

A moment from Ally McBeal....

I think a lot of people can identify with this collage of scenes and songs from Ally McBeal. For all the loves lost, for all the what's if, and maybe somedays, for all the why's and how's that have kept us up at night....I offer this to you.

A few songs...warning...have tissues ready.


Tuesday, 14 August 2007

From the The Lang Report....

A post I think everyone should read, from The Lang Report by Michael Lang

August 10, 2007
The Buffoon in the White House…… it isn't funny anymore!
Updated August 13, 2007
If you saw George Bush's Press Conference yesterday then you know what today's title is referring to.

When addressing his audience, Mr. Bush (sometimes I just can't bring myself to call him President) made light of serious matters by his feeble attempts at sincerity, a smirk and a chuckle that insults all those that are serving and dying in Iraq as well as those suffering in this country as a result of his reckless stewardship.

In fact, as I recall, most of Bush's public appearances could be characterized as insincere and condescending. For example:When asked about Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who has been condemned by Democrats and Republicans alike for lying and incompetence; Bush shrugged his shoulders, shook his head and said the he didn't understand what all of the "fuss was about". He suggested that Congress should spend their time passing his legislation rather than wasting it on "witch hunts and personal agendas.

Yep! …….He actually said that! In the face of overwhelming documentation of conflicting testimonies and probable perjury and contempt of congress charges looming.

Bush continues to compound the insult by fielding more questions about Iraq and blatantly lie about the obvious. It is one thing being optimistic about a situation and another thing to completely deny the truth…….Truth based on facts!

When evaluating Mr. Bush, it is difficult to believe anything other than:

1) he is totally dishonest and is constitutionally incapable of facing and telling the truth, especially when it conflicts with his agendas

2) he is the ultimate hypocrite because his hypocrisy affects so many lives and sadly causes so many deaths,

3) he IS the moron that he portrays to be (and it's not an act)

Whatever his pathology, he is an embarrassment as he is supposed to represent the best and the brightest that our country has to offer. But more important than that is he is extremely dangerous for a very scary reason. He is ignorant and unteachable and he appears to be perfectly OK with that !

Pretty scary for the man said to be the "most powerful man in the world"

Monday, 13 August 2007

I'd like to buy a book -- does anyone work here?

"I'd like to find this CD", I told the clerk, pointing to the entry on the computer screen.
"It's over there," he said waving vaguely toward the CD racks.
"I looked there, but I couldn't find it. Can you help me?"
"If it's not there, we must be out."
"Can I order it?"
He looked at me with an exasperated sigh. "Fine."

Yes, this is customer service at my neighborhood bookstore. Clerks on the floor are nearly non-existent. Books and music are often randomly shelved. Peak times at the checkout mean only one or two cashiers will be available while the rest vanish somewhere into the hidden reaches of the back room.

Last night's exchange was sadly typical of the level of service I've come to expect at this prominent chain bookstore, where the emphasis seems to be on coffee rather than reading material.

There was one bright spot. The cashier looked at the books I’d selected and told me about another author she thought I’d like. She described the theme and how much she’d enjoyed it.

"Where is it? I asked, thinking I could add it to my pile.
"We don't carry it, she said sadly. "But maybe you could order it online?"

So much for customer service

Sunday, 12 August 2007

The absurdities of modern life - trying to use an extended warranty

I stood there in the service department of the Suzuki dealership holding a part that was once attached to my car's took both arms to hold the large plastic-wrapped piece of a Forenza. And yet the service rep in front of me was telling me that my very expensive Platinum warranty would NOT cover my repairs...

"...because it's a hose, and they don't cover hoses..."

Now I have seen hoses before. Garden hoses, dryer hoses, and yes even car hoses. But this large conglomeration of plastic and metal and other materials...some rectangular, some round, some cylindrical was clearly not any sort of HOSE! But the man stood in front of me, and with a completely straight face, declared it a HOSE! Or rather said that since the warranty company (the one that the Suzuki dealer where I bought my car new said would cover my car bumper to bumper) said that this part was a hose, it therefore was a hose.

The people at Hogwarts would be proud. With a single word, these apparent Muggles had transformed a large car part into a hose...and what's more, had done so over telephone lines and without ever changing its appearance.

So now I am faced with the task of filing complaints against the PA Suzuki dealership who sold me the policy, an appeal with warranty company, and fraud charges with the State's Attorney in three states (PA, where I bought the car, the state where the warranty company is located, and the state in which I now live and the action occurred.) I have to submit photos of the part, file reports and make endless telephone calls.

So much for bumper to bumper...

Monday, 6 August 2007

Falling in love with Key West all over again

I've always loved Key West.

From visits as a child growing up here in Florida, to sunrises on the beach after late night drives down during college, it's always been a place apart from the rest of Florida. Margaritaville.

But recently, I had heard from friends that the place was no longer worth a visit. Run down, no fun, not worth the long drive.

I am happy to report they were wrong. I just got back from my first visit to Key West in years. And although the approach to island was far more cluttered with fast food restaurants and seedy looking auto repair shops (are there really THAT many broken cars in the Keys?), once we got to Duval Street and the Old Town, the magic was still alive and well.

We stayed in a beuatiful bed and breakfast right on Duval. For two and half days, we walked shops, to restaurants, to the pier for the nightly sunset celebration, complete with music, performance art and craftspeople of all types. We swam in the pool and waded in the Gulf. And for nearly three days, did not have to drive.

Yes, Key West was more crowded than before. And chain stores like Bath and Body Works had popped up along Duval. But there were still far more wonderful places to explore like a gallery named "A Boy and his Dog", or a restaurant that listed the latitude and longitude and declared it to be the location of Paradise. As I sat there on that warm tropical night, enjoying a great dinner with someone special, I could not disagree.

It truly was paradise.

Next year, my older daughter will graduate from high school and head off to college, leaving my little one and I free to go wherever we wish. I spent an hour of my visit to Key West checking out the local job market (not bad) and the local real estate (very high.) And I contemplated the possibility of completing my return to Florida of a year and half ago by moving as far south as one could go.

I already live in Florida, surrounded by beaches and palm trees and music and art. But there is something about the concentration of all that creativity into such a small space that made all the difference. I imagined life without a daily commute, and the wonder of raising my daughter on a island filled with art and music. And I found that I really liked the idea.

Watch this space as the year goes this time next year, maybe I'll have my own bit of Paradise too.

Friday, 3 August 2007

We have money for killing people but not for saving them

The tragedy in Minnesota is all over the news today. And what's more horrifying than the fact that so many people died, were injured or lost beloved family members is the the fact that it was so easily preventable.

The reports coming out say that many of our country's bridges and overpasses are structurally unsound. This terrrible event was not so much of a surprise as a finally. The estimate to fix the problem is in the billions...guess it was just too expensive to save some lives....

But wait....

This country DOES have billions and billions to spend on KILLING PEOPLE. Thousands of people. Hundreds of thousands of people...

As of October of 2006, Reuters out of London estimated that in excess of 650, 000 Iraqis have perished since we INVADED their country to SAVE them! Who knows what the total is now almost a year later. If we can spend countless dollars and waste thousands of U.S. soldiers' lives to kill 2.5% of the Iraqi population, why is that we can't spend the money to keep people safe on their way home from work bridges in Minnesota?

While we bow our heads in prayer for the lives lost and the families ripped apart, we should also hang our heads in national shame...shame for out twisted priorities, shame for voting these criminals into public office who make these decisions, and shame for not getting rid of them once we knew what they were....

Let's put every single politician who voted for this war and/or against spending on infrastructure upkeep and repair ..and their families...on one of those substandard bridges and'll go sooner or later. I know karma will take care of them in the long run...but sometimes it's hard to sit back and wait.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

The life I never had

I just finished reading a couple of new is from a new writer I'm hiring, the other is her sister's blog. And I found the life I never had....

I read about close families and having neighborhood girl friends to share the baby years and toddler years as they raise their families together. About getting together with friends from high school year after year to see familes form and grow. I read about family trips and dads who loved their kids ...

I found the life I always wanted, and never had.

I think one of the reasons I moved to Utah for college was because I knew that I wanted a family and a life like that. I always tell people I moved because as a child of South Florida, I was anxious to experience mountains and snow. And that is partially true. It all looked so dramatic ...towering mountains, fields of pure white snow, spring meadows filled with wildflowers. But what I don't ever tell them is that I moved because I wanted a different kind of family.

Don't get me wrong...I grew up in a very good family. My parents loved us, and we had a good life. Trips, lessons, a nice home, beautiful clothes -- every THING a child could want. But from the beginnning, I was wired differently.

My mom, a brilliant woman who would have made a top notch doctor, became a nurse and then a homemaker, but never really fit into either of theose roles. She did them because when she graduated high school in the late 1950's, she was told that was where a woman belonged. She resented being at home. Hated cooking, would sooner have thrown herself from a tall building than ever sew, scrapbook, knit or do any sort of craft, found women's groups deadly dull, and had no interest in neighborhood get-togethers. We lived in the suburbs -- she was never a suburban wife. She was meant for different stuff -- feretting out tough diagnosis, or performing impossible surgeries. Think of Dr. House from the FOX TV show and you have my mom! I kid you not.

My mom wanted me to be and do all the things she never did. To be successful in a career, to be an achiever at the top of my field, if not in medicine, then in law, engineering or business. A tiger lady. Driven.

Unfortunately, I was not like my mom. I love to cook, to make things. I quilt. I do needlepoint and cross stitch. I scrapbook. And from as early as I could remember, I loved babies. I knew, from an early age, that I wanted a family.

That contrast was never so clear as when my mom "caught" me reading a Bride's Magazine. She snatched it from my hand and threw it into the trash. The next day, there was a copy of Ms. Magazine on my bedside. My mom had spoken.

I moved to Utah because I knew about Mormon families. I had Mormon friends. I loved their families. I saw exactly what I wanted there.

Unfortunately, I never got that dream. I married. I have three amazing children. And I divorced. I never had the suburban house with the friends next door, or the family vacations.

I guess I am mourning that lost dream. I have a career. I do work hard, and I have started to achieve some measure of success. I have, in many ways, all my mom wanted. How ironic. It seems that fate has given us each the lives the other wanted.

My mom now runs charities, sits on the board of directors of a medical facility, is a leader in the community. It took her awhile, but she got to place where she belongs. Finally.

Maybe it's not too late for me...

Friday, 27 July 2007

Friday Five -- The Earth

From Sally on RevGalPals...

Here in the UK we are struggling with floods, other parts of the world have similar problems without the infrastructure to cope with it, still others are badly affected by drought.... My son Jon is in Melbourne Australia where apparently it has been snowing ( yes it is winter but still!).... With crazy weather in mind I bring you this weeks Friday 5...

1. Have you experienced living through an extreme weather event- what was it and how did you cope?

Several blizzards in The Rockies and Pennsylvania where the snow was so deep,
it covered the street signs to the top! We could not drive anywhere -- heck, we couldn't even see the car! In the Rockies, I lived in town, so we just walked everywhere for a few days. Everything was so traffic, no classes or work to get to. In Pennsylvania, we lived in the country, so there was no where to walk to...and although it was nice by the fireplace, I went stir crazy! Probably why I am back in Florida now!

2. How important is it that we wake up to issues such as global warming?
We want to live as though we are master of the environment, looking on from above. We have refused to admit we are instead a part of it...for good or for bad. We are waking up (slowly) to the awareness that this is not reality, not an option.

3. The Christian (Islamic/Jewish/Buddhist...) message needs to include stewardship of the earths resources agree/ disagree?

Absolutely...the earth and all it contains is a gift and must be cared for as such.

And because it is summer- on a brighter note....

4. What is your favourite season and why?

Autumn is both my favourite and my saddest season. It is cooler but not cold. Colorful in much of the world. But it is also sad -- for some reason it reminds me of all the people I miss, the dreams not yet (or never) achieved.

5. Describe your perfect vacation weather....

Warm, sunny, clear blue skies, breezy...that special feeling of something wonderful will happen today!

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Wondering where G-d is leading me...

I received an invitation to attend an Islamic awareness day at a local public place this weekend. I've RSVP'd a maybe, because I am just learning about Islam, and doubt my abilities to answer even the most basic of questions with any degree of accuracy.

And yet, I want to go. Not to be the source of answers about Islamic practice or theology, but to be an answer to the very first question that should be asked...

Why ask about Islam? Especially as a Jew. Why ask?

Every person who walks up to this table on Sunday will have their own answer io that...curiosity about what they've heard/seen on tv, a desire to prove their own superiority to another group, genuine intellectual interest about some point or another of the faith. I'm sure that the reasons will be as numerous as the people who stop by.

And I'm sure that among all of those people, there will be a few who share my answer.

Because I could not help but ask.
Because the driving search for what this life means and what I am to do with it has led me, step by step, moment by moment to this place and this time...looking back, I can see the turns and twists that brought me here. this place, and to these questions.

The next what's and why's remain to be seen. For now, knowing that I need to ask is enough.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

An American Theology of Consumerism

I have just been reading Lawrence of Arabia's post about the rise of the cola wars in the Middle East.

Awhile ago, the Confessions of a Shopaholic blog had a piece on the rise in obesity in France. The New York Times reported on increases in cancer rates among Japanese and Chinese citizens who have adopted an American style of eating.

After I read LoA's post about the cola wars and watched the videos that blatently fuse American pop icons with Arabic themes, I realized that what we are witnessing is not just advertising, but a religion being spread with the same zeal as that of any missionary -- and the budget of a corporate giant.

The Free Dictionary online defines religion as:
a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

In this case, the American way of life is the supernatural power. After all, is it really much of step from repeatedly claiming ourselves to be a Super Power to being a Super-natural one? Our lifestyle, our vaues, our styles and tastes -- we claim to rule the (known) universe. Our way is best. Drink our sodas, wear our clothes, live/eat/drive/sing...and above all SHOP as we do.

Just as early Christian missionaries brought a whole new package of beliefs and behaviours to the "primitive peoples" of the world, Coca Cola and Pepsi are preaching a new focus to their Arabic audience. Look at us. We know the truth. Do as we do. This way lies happiness and freedom from your ignorant old ways. Cast off your old ways. We come in the name of the creator of prosperity. And we have been sent here to bring you into the fold.

This is more than just opening up a new market for a's creating the belief that this product AND the liftstyle it represents are the right way to live. How far is that from definition number 3 above? In truth, it's right on the money (pun intended.)

Sadly, our nation's campaign to spread its theology has been widely successful. Taco Bells and McDonald's dot the globe, and it's hard to be far from a Snicker's Bar or a can of Coke.

It's nothing new to recognize that the American way of life is being exported. But seeing it as a religion we are proslytizing is, to me, a far scarier thought.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Words from a song....

More true than I would like to admit....never heard of the song or the artist before today, but it touched me....

She loves her mama's lemonade,
Hates the sound that goodbyes make.
She prays one day she'll find someone to need her.
She swears that there's no difference,
Between the lies and compliments.
It's all the same if everybody leaves her.

And every magazine tells her she's not good enough,
The pictures that she sees make her cry.

And she would change everything, everything just ask her.
Caught in the in-between
a beautiful disaster,
And she just needs someone to take her home...

And she would change everything, everything just ask her.
Caught in the in-between of beautiful disaster,

And she would change everything for happy ever after.
Caught in the in-between of beautiful disaster...

-- Jon Mclaughlin - Beautiful Disaster

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Getting to know my readers.....

I would like to get to know you, my readers. Here is a little quiz to help me learn more about my friends here online...

1) Where do you blog?

2) What are your favourite blogs?

3) What gives you joy?

4) What is your favourite sound?

5) What is you favourite song?

6) What do you hope to hear once you reach the pearly gates?

7) You have up to 15 words: what would you put on your tombstone?

8) Write the first sentence of your own great American novel.

9) What color ink do you prefer in your pen?

10) If you could have any view you wanted from your window, what would you see?

11) What is the one place you most want to visit but have yet to see?

12) What is the best place you have visited so far?

13) What do you want to be remembered for by those who knew you best?

14) What is something you want to achieve this decade?

15) This lifetime?

(Adapted in part from RevGalsBlog)

My answers, to get this started....

1) Where do you blog?
Here! And at BlogHer, Wetpaint (actually a Wiki), and several other smaller sites

2) What are your favourite blogs?
See my list to the right of this page!

3) What gives you joy?
Smiling at a stranger who looked sad or angry and having them smile back.

4) What is your favourite sound? could be rain, a stream, a waterfall or waves as long as it's water

5) What is you favourite song?
The Prayer, as sung by Josh Groben

6) What do you hope to hear once you reach the pearly gates?
Welcome back.

7) You have up to 15 words: what would you put on your tombstone?
She sang, she danced, she cared, she loved.

8) Write the first sentence of your own great American novel.
Elizabeth didn't expect to see a unicorn that morning -- but to be fair, the unicorn did not expect her either.

9) What color ink do you prefer in your pen?

10) If you could have any view you wanted from your window, what would you see?
A beautiful expanse of water, with a slightly foggy sky, a rainbow, and a bit of land off on the distance

11) What is the one place you most want to visit but have yet to see?
England - especially the coastal areas

12) What is the best place you have visited so far?
San Francisco

13) What do you want to be remembered for by those who knew you best?
Really loving them with all my heart

14) What is something you want to achieve this decade?
Financial independence as a freelance writer

15) This lifetime?
Learning as much as possible, understanding as much as possible, loving as much as possible

An issue we need to address

As immigrants and refugees in this country continue to be demonized, (it is always the "other" who is viewed as the cause of all economic and social problems...xenophobia), here is a issue we need to address immediately...
Iraqi refugees. .

Monday, 16 July 2007

And the hatred continues...

Yesterday in my e-mail I received a hate letter to all Muslims allegedly penned by a John Maniscalco, an American Airline pilot. A few minutes of investigating revealed that the letter was a hoax, and that their pilot by this name denies any involvement in it.

Michelle Simmons, customer relations representative for America Airlines, told that they are investigating the matter, but have not yet found the letter's source. And that “On September 12th, our Chairman issued a statement to all American employees specifically stating that we would not tolerate hate of any kind at our Company. That statement remains true today."

And from, “The origins of "You Worry Me" remain murky — it first appeared on the Internet in June 2002, but attempts to verify whether its real author is an American Airlines pilot and/or someone named John Maniscalco have led to dead ends. “

The fact remains that someone wrote this piece…and here is my response. I hope you will read it…

To whomever penned this letter:

I wish I could say I understand and sympathize with your fears. But I do not.

I do not wish this because I want to share your fears and distrust, but so I could better address the many errors they represent.

Sadly, the facts and emotions you cite in your letter are born less of truth and understanding than of of paying attention to the ramblings of media talking heads who are paid to incite fear and distrust in the name of higher ratings and more expensive commercial rates.

You asked for answers...please allow me to humbly offer you a different perspective.

I would like to address your points one by one. For ease of following my response, I will be inserting my response into your original text in green. I challenge you ---all of you – to read to the end. Please.

YOU WORRY ME!" allegedly by American Airlines Pilot – Captain John Maniscalco

I've been trying to say this since 9-11, but you worry me. I wish you didn't. I wish when I walked down the streets of this country that I love, that your color and culture still blended with the beautiful human landscape we enjoy in this country. But you don't blend in anymore. I notice you, and it worries me.

Did you know that the majority of the world's Muslim population is not Arabic? And that odds just as likely that the majority of people you are "noticing" as you move through your day are Jewish, Christian, Hindu, or Sikh? People of all faiths have been attacked and even killed on our streets since September 11th simply because someone "thought they looked Muslim." Did you know that the largest population of Muslims is in Indonesia, with significant numbers in India -- not Arabic countries at all?

I notice you because I can't help it anymore. People from your homelands, professing to be Muslims, have been attacking and killing my fellow citizens and our friends for more than 20 years now. I don't fully understand their grievances and hate, but I know that nothing can justify the inhumanity of their attacks.

The men who hijacked the planes on September 11th had spent the days before hand drinking and engaging in sexual activity with women. These are documented facts. They then killed thousands of innocent people.

As the killing of innocents and to a lesser extent, both alcohol use and extramarital sexual activity are strictly forbidden by the Qu'ran, clearly these men were not practicing Muslims, any more than the members of the IRA who bombs malls or Timothy McVey who bombed the building in Oklahoma are Christians, although they all claimed to be. And we do not brand the entire Christian community for the acts of Mr. McVey and his fellow mass murders who also attacked and killed our fellow citizens. Nor do we condemn all Irish people for the acts of IRA.

As for not understanding the basis for long standing dislike of the US among certain countries, please, please start with a basic review of history...of the many governments we have set up and armed in that region, only to bomb and destroy at will when the puppet governments no longer suit our purpose or play our game. I would refer you to the archives of the New York Times, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Miami Herald or any other major newspaper to read the news stories concerning our friends/foes in the Middle East and North Africa. You will be amazed at the vast discrepancies between what the news media reports today about the events and what was written at the time things actually happened.

This does not justify September 11th. Nothing does. But it answers your question about hatred.

Sadly most Americans are grossly uninformed about their own history, and thus are easily swayed by the media. Shame on us...we should know better.

On September 11, nineteen ARAB-MUSLIMS hijacked four jetliners in my country. they cut the throats of women in front of children and brutally stabbed to death others. they took control of those planes and crashed them into buildings killing thousands of proud fathers, loving sons, wise grandparents, elegant daughters, best friends, favorite coaches, fearless public servants, and children's mothers.

As stated above, the individuals were no more Muslim than McVey was a Christian. History is replete with examples of people who assumed a religious label to justify horrific acts of violence. Few religions have not seen this tragedy. We should be able to see through this guise by now. But it is still trotted out by power-hungry people worldwide and in every faith, and still used to justify hatred and retaliation against honest practitioners of the target faith. Shame on us...again, we should know better.

The Palestinians Celebrated, the Iraqis were overjoyed as was most of the Arab World. So, I notice you now. I don't want to be worried. I don't want to be
consumed by the same rage and hate and prejudice that has destroyed the soul of these terrorists. But I need your help. As a rational American, trying to protect my country and family in an irrational and unsafe world, I must know how to tell the difference between you, and the Arab/Muslim terrorist.

After September 11th, did you approach your Muslim friends and neighbors to ask how they felt about the tragedy? Were they happy? Or were they as devastated as you? Did you start there when you were seeking answers?

Or could it be that you have never talked with a Muslim, except perhaps for a brief exchange in a business setting? Who are the Muslims in your neighborhood? Have you visited their homes? Invited them to yours? Shared a dinner? Gotten to know their children? Or are you relying on the sensationalist media to tell you who Muslims are and what they believe? There is hardly a person in this country who does not know that television is run on ratings...and that includes the news...and yet we are willing to swallow wholesale the "facts" they tell us and change our lives based on that "information." Why? Shame on's time we considered the source before we believe anything

And once again, I need to point out that using the phrase "Arab/Muslim" as though the two are interchangeable is incorrect, as the majority of the world's Muslims are not Arabic, and many Arabs are not Muslim.

See the rest of the letter and my reply on To Be Continued ...

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Ten facts about belly dancing

Monday was my weekly belly dance class. Soon I will be adding a Wednesday class as well.

And over the past few months, I've learned a few things from this old and difficult dance form. Here are my top 10, in no particular order:

1) You have muscles you never knew you had. Seriously. LOTS of them. And they are none to happy about being found after a lifetime of relaxation!

2) You never outgrow the love of things that sparkle and jingle. Rattles and shiny toys have nothing on my shimmy (hip scarf with coins attached) or belly dance bra with the opalescent beading and dangles.

3) A group of women will attempt almost any move and never worry about how they look while they're learning. But let one man set foot in the studio and every woman will freeze.

4) It is nearly impossible to sit still when belly dance music is playing. Something will start to move -- a foot, a leg, an arm, a hip...pretty soon you're dancing when all you planned to do was listen.

5) Most of the things we associate with belly dance like belly button jewels, the types of costumes and the setting for the dance came from Hollywood in the 1920's-40's ... not from Egypt.

6) There are lots of different kinds of bellydance, including Egyptian, folkloric, tribal, cabaret, and fusion. All very unique, all very beautiful.

7) Women like watching bellydancers as much as men do -- but they drool less.

8) The belly dance community in South Florida is one of the friendliest, most welcoming group of women I've ever met.

9) Age, size and body type are not issues in belly dance. Great dancers come in all of the above.

10) Once you start belly dancing, you won't want to stop. It is a most pleasant addiction!

Monday, 9 July 2007

Poetry Discussion

From the poetry discussion at Yearning for G-d

Poem for Poetry Discussion

Primary Wonder
Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; caps and bells.
And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng's clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, 0 Lord,
Creator, Hallowed one, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.
-- Denise Levertov

Posted by Jan at 7:48 PM

I posted my comments on Jan's blog, but here it is here too...

The visual picture she creates is amazing! What a a wonderful description of Shabbat...the week as the noisy throng, Shabbat as the the welcome quiet! The Shekihana, the feminine spirit of G-d, the white clad, pure Shabbat bride, moving quietly forward through the week, finally able to be heard and seen in the silence of the Sabbath.

Be sure to go over to her blog to read the rest of the insightful comments from her readers. And perhaps join in!

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Since the promise...Sunday

On Sunday, I went with the Project Downtown people to a residential shelter for abused kids. Even as I feel the emotions I experienced on meeting these precious children, I am finding it hard to put it into words.

The young men I mentioned from yesterday's post put on a professional level children's theatre show for the kids (this week it was pirates...they do a different show for each visit, as you can see in video hotlink above.) We did a treasure hunt, we played Duck, Duck, Goose, we sang. We hugged children and snuggled small babies. Some of the children had particular favourites among the adults present, some were outgoing, some appeared baffled and lost, their small eyes deep with pain and sadness. Some played, some watched. Some shared their stories in unexpected ways (we are not allowed to ask about their experiences, but if they talk, we listen.)

I went for two hours and stayed for four. I am haunted by these children, honored by their trust in the face of such much pain, awestruck by their ability to laugh and that laughter's testimony to the strength of the human spirit.

I watched the young men performing for these kids. These young men who belong to a faith that so much of the world has written off as evil. Pouring their hearts and souls into a few hours of distraction for some kids in need. Giving out jokes and hugs and goody bags with equal grace and love. Down on the floor among the children, never pausing for a moment to wonder if snuggling a baby makes them any less manly.

I am proud to be among this group of people. Humbled by the innocent trust of the children I got to know. Grateful for every tiny hand that reached out to hold mine, or small set of arms that wrapped around my neck today. Anxious to return in two weeks to once again see these sweet children.

G-d is indeed blessing my life. Who would have thought that a prayer uttered on a stormy day while writing on a computer in my car in a McDonald's parking lot could return so much?

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Since the promise...G-d's latest additions to my life -Saturday

A few days ago , I made a commitment to do one thing every day to make a difference. Since then, G-d has been acting in my life in big ways.

I wrote about the women and the overheated car. That was Tuesday evening. Thursday morning, I checked my e-mail to find information about an organization called The Project Downtown. It's a small but growing group of people in cities across the country and now across the globe that started with three men taking 30 sandwiches out to the homeless on the streets of Miami. It's still the same feed, to, to talk with, and to listen to the homeless. To be a resource there on the street. Not a formal organization. A friend. Someone who will spend an hour or two and share a meal and a willing heart with people who are struggling to survive.

I responded immediately, and got an e-mail back telling me the place and time to meet on Saturday. I went. This "chapter" of the group, headed by three truly amazing young men, was ...I am not sure exactly what word I want....


The right word is somewhere among all of those, a piece of each. After we distributed sandwiches and cold drinks and talked and listened, we had had a brief meeting among the volunteers, then a closing prayer.

I was invited back to the Mosque afterwards and went gladly. We spent another 1-2 hours talking, planning for this group, and discussing obsticles to our program (the police, a local women's group...they apparently regularly harrassed the group for handing out free food to the homeless.)

"There is a big beautification move on in the cities here," I was told. "So they only want the homeless fed indoors. Out of sight. "

"The homeless are not beautiful to them, I guess."

Very wrong.

Next Saturday we will be there again. I will be there again. And the hungry and homeless will still be there too. With their beautiful souls.

Perhaps not beautiful to a city...

I'm just that G-d and the people who started this group see with different eyes.

Friday, 6 July 2007

From The Faith in Commmunity Blog...

Borrowing from another Blogger....

Diane posted on Thursday, July 5, 2007....

Poem: To Be Of Use, by Marge Piercy
Mompriest and I are discussing poetry on our respective blogs. Now it's my turn -- and this is the next poem I want to share.

I discovered this poem in a book of essays called The Impossible Will Take a Little While, edited by Paul Rogat Loeb. The essays, from various faith traditions, speak about the connections between social justice and spirituality. There were also several poems in the anthology, including this one. I think of this poem, as well, when I consider my younger stepson and his girlfriend, who last May built a kiln in our backyard for a school project they did together on Japanese Raku pottery.

To Be Of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

(from collection called Circles on the Water, Alfred A. Knopf, 1982)

Friday Five -- a Quick One....

Here is the RevGalPals Friday 5....and my answers. Add yours,copy it to your blog. Let me know if you do!

Today, what are you:

1. Wearing
Blue jeans (faded), black cotton long sleeved Indian tunic with silver embroidery and trim, Bass slides (three years old, the leather is oh so soft and they are sooooo comfortable!), silver necklaces, bracelet and watch.

2. Reading
Generation X by Douglas Copeland

3. Eating
Grapes, blueberries, and mixed salad greens

4. Doing
Working...or rather I should be. The Friday restlessness is in full swing!

5. Pondering
Love, life, connections and distance

Thursday, 5 July 2007

G-d is listening

I had no sooner hit send on that last post than a car pulled in next to me, steam pouring out from under its hood, even in the downpour. Two women got out. I looked up, and all but laughed. Clearly when we make a promise like I did and talk about it to others, the universe listens. G-d listens.

I spent the next hour getting to know two nice women, helping them with their car, getting soaking wet. When I exhausted all I knew to do, a man in shirt with a Mobile gas logo appeared out of no-where ( the point where one of women asked if he had fallen out the trees! A moment before, we had been the only ones in the parking lot!) He told them what else they needed to do before they drove away. The rain slowed down, I said good-bye and drove home.

I was astonished by the immediacy of G-d's response to my promise. But yesterday when I was helping my friend pack for her move to Colorado, I told her about it. She is a follower of Eckankar, a religion that incorporates many of the elements of earlier faiths and believes in the existence of guides or masters. She told me the right-now response was not at all weird or was the way the universe is meant to work. I put the challenge out there, and G-d responded. As it should be.

I'm curious...has this kind of immediate response happened to any of you? If so, could you please share your experiences? I would love to hear them.

I'm off to work now...same as most days. But today with a new awareness -- and gratitude -- that G-d is listening.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Blogging in the car

Life is good.

I am sitting in my car in a fashionable South Florida suburb. All around me, it's pouring rain...the kind that makes it impossible to see the road in front of...heck I couldn't even see the hood of my own car. There is lightening hitting on the other side of the road. Thunder cracking so loud it startles me even though I know it's coming.

And yet, I am warm and dry and safe. An iced tea beside me. Music on the stereo. And a full bar connection to the Internet on my wireless laptop. My cell phone fully charged and sitting on the seat beside me. A warm and safe apartment waiting for me when the rain finally stops and I can see to drive home.

And life is bad.

As I sit here complaisantly enjoying the fruits of technology, I am aware that in the hospital just behind this strip mall there are people fighting for their lives. Family members wishing for one more chance to say all they never got around to saying before time ran out. And probably within a mile or two of me, there is someone who is hungry and has no money to buy food or to feed their hungry child.

The one of the Noble Truths in Buddhism is that suffering is a part of life. And that we have a choice to accept that fact or to make it even worse by dwelling on the injustice of the suffering. Judaism and Islam teach us that while suffering is a part of life, releaving suffering is our duty on earth -- in large part the means by which we will be judged. And someone once said that it is impossible for me to become sad enough to make another happy, sick enough to make another well, or poor enough to make someone wealthy.

So what are we supposed to do? Thank G-d that we are among the fortunate? Bless our good kharma for our easy life? Say that when we have time we will do something?

I few days ago, I posted a blog about how much the small efforts matter. Now I am going challenge myself and you who are reading this blog to put those quotes into action. By doing small things with great love.

Starting today...right now...not tomorrow...make a small difference. Even the busiest among us can do one small thing every day. Instead of bemoaning hunger, buy one extra can of food and put it in the food bank bin. No more excuses about how that won't make a difference. It will. Run an errand for a neighbor. Ask about a co-worker's sick child and bring a small treat to cheer them. Call your legislator to encourage them to vote for a loving and caring law, or to thank them for voting against a bad one. Pick up a piece of trash in the park. Take a bag of pet food to your local animal shelter...or even just a single can. Leave a book for someone to find in a laundrymat -- and write a note telling them that it is for them to keep. Read to a child. Hug a neighbor. Put your change in the Ronald McDonald bin at the drive-through.

Make it your mission to do one act of kindness every day. Don't wait for someone to ask you. The Qu'ran says that we should not only help those who ask for help, but should seek out those in need who will never ask.

Live your faith, whatever it is. Be someone who mattered, even if, on the day you die, no one ever knows your name.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Sleeping alone, napping with someone you love

To nap with someone is the realization of your inner self. To sleep alone is misery.

-- Moawya

My friend sent me this as a text message yesterday. We are both in the middle of exploring new relationships and trying to find that elusive thing called love. So we talk a lot. Calm each other's fears. Try to sort out what we hope will happen from what is really happening. Give each other support and warnings. And a few times, have even pulled each other from moments of dispair.

But this text message stopped me cold. "Realization of your inner self..." may seem like a lot to put on an ordinary nap. But it's not.

He is right.

When we are small, we nap in the safety of our cribs, our homes, usually with a parent nearby. Sometimes even cradled in the arms of someone who loves us. Safe. Protected. We rest and gain strength and recharge for the next adventures or tests we'll face after our nap. Whether it was an outing to the park or one more try at walking across the vast space that was the living room, after the nap we were ready.

As adults, most of us seldom nap. Unless we're sick, we are far from our beds from the beginning of our day to the end. If we're married or with a partner, we may share that bed at night. If we're single, we may spend our nights alone, or perhaps sometimes with a lover. We make love or read or watch tv in our beds...we are doing. Or it is nighttime and we are sleeping.

But a nap, as an adult, is different from other sleep. It is a return to that safety of infancy. It has no agenda. It's not about sex or night time. It's just about rest and renewal.

To share that moment of innocence and safety with another person is a profound act of trust. It is to admit our fatigue and our needs, and then to awaken in broad daylight again with this person next to us, all our flaws visible, faces bearing the marks of our pillows or our hands, hair messed up, perhaps even clothing rumpled if the nap was unplanned. It is to entrust our sleeping selves to this person who is sharing our bed while the rest of the world runs around outside our window.

It is to steal a moment from the time when adults are supposed to be productive or at least busy and return for just a moment to the freedom of our childhood.

You're right, my friend. I already owe you so many thanks for all our hours on the phone and the wisdom you've shared.

In return, I wish you someone to share a nap with...