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!