Thursday, 31 January 2008

Creating a journey book

42 pages so far.

Each one decorated with beautiful paper, each with a title and a space for a photo or two.

This is my Journey Book.

I called it that because I found a beautiful metallic plaque in the Times to Remember scrapbook store in Hershey PA. It simply reads "Journey." That's on the cover.

It's not a record of the things I've done so far in my life. It's a map of where I hope to go on the journey that remains.

Some of the pages represent big dreams...Open a bookstore.

Some are places I want to go ....Visit Egypt.

Some are things at home...Create my perfect bedroom

Some are outside...Find out what happened to Great Aunt Blanche

Some are worldly...Buy a small house

Some are spiritual...Become a chaplain

And a few are deep in my heart ...Find true and lasting love

But all of them, big and small, relatively easy to obtain, and much more complex, have become a part of my roadmap for the time ahead.

As I go through time, more pages will be added.

I may not achieve them all. Or I may someday have a photo on each and every page.

Whatever the outcome, holding a book of dreams in my hands is a wonderful feeling.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

An unexpected weekend - Serendipity in action

First the zoo...that was planned.

Then on Sunday, an all day country concert, featuring amazing performances by Jewel, Taylor Swift, Gretchen Wilson, Sawyer Brown, Cowboy Troy and Big & Rich. Unbelievable music!! A gorgeous 80 degree day in January in the park, under the palm trees. Another reason to be glad I live in Florida...

But that was expected...the day was on our calendars for months.

The rest of the weekend? The bits before, in between and after? THERE was serendipity...the wonderful things found but not sought.

Who could have known? A friendship is taking a turn I never expected so soon. A new tone of ways of communicating. Feelings unanticipated, but not at all unwelcome. Seeing someone I thought I knew well in a new light.

A phrase from my Journey book* coming true?

Friendship set on fire.....

Magic is happening here.

*(My Journey book is a scrapbook with pages I designed for for each of 20 or 30 I complete the goal, I add a photo and some journaling. I'll write more about Journey books later.)

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Off to the zoo

I'm going to the zoo today, with my two daughters, and two cameras, and a lot of memories.

I know it's not cool to admit it in some circles, but I love going to zoos. It's not that I love the fact that animals that should be in the wild are in cages. I really don't. But zoos have been around since people started traveling and collecting animals from faraway places, and I can't imagine they'll ever go away.

What I love is the same reason people make zoos. Odds are, I won't be going anywhere near a tiger in the wild any time soon. Probably a good thing, since tigers in the wild tend to not be terribly fond of human visitors -- except for lunch. But at the zoo, I can see a tiger --- this magnificent creature God created. The inspiration for Blake's "Tyger, tyger, burning bright." For a moment, I can share in his vision, as I watch these graceful animals, focusing on their strength and beauty. For a moment, I can be there with them.

I've been going to zoos for as long as I can remember. Philadelphia, the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo. Zoos in St. Louis, Missouri, Denver, Colorado, and Los Angeles, California. And of course, the amazing San Diego Zoo. Wherever we traveled, my parents would find a zoo. Somewhere I have a box with souvenirs from my visits...a wax gorilla, a giant pencil, a bag that once held jacks, a few of those postcard albums I could bear to take apart and send.

But mostly I have good memories. I have not been to Metro Zoo since my now 10 year old was about 2. We were looking at the pictures the other day, and she started talking about what she remembers. And about the zoos we have been to since then.

So political correctness be darned, and my fellow PETA members can gasp in horror. We are going to the zoo!

Friday, 25 January 2008

Found my love song....

Here it is Me and You by Kenny Chesney.

I would still love to hear/see your favourites and hear your stories.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Random thoughts and odd insights

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important.
- Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970) in Conquest of Happiness (1930)

I guess my breakdown is right around the corner! Anybody have the keys to the padded room?

There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.
- Douglas Adams
English humorist & science fiction novelist (1952 - 2001)

Kind of explains my work....and maybe my belief that it IS important!

A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.
- Jane Austen (1775 - 1817), Mansfield Park

Ah, now THERE is a reason my work is important! Maybe the breakdown isn't coming quite so soon!

(All written after dragging myself out of a very comfortable, warm bed in the pre-dawn darkness to get ready to go to work!)

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Life after and before Florida

I was reading Georgia Farm Woman's blog yesterday and it reminded me of life in rural Pa.

I am from Florida, but at one point I decided to venture out and live in other parts of the U.S. One of them was rural Pennsylvania -- Deodate, Pa, population 54, a village located between a lot of cow fields and a lot of corn fields, near Hershey and Elizabethtown, PA.

We owned an old farmhouse there...built in 1778, with the "new part" added around 1850. Quite a lifestyle change for a girl brought up in a south Florida suburb! It was 13 rooms and two staircases full of drafty windows and well worn wood floors and 200 plus years of families and all their joys and sadnesses.

We had a couple of acres, and a big barn (have you any idea how much JUNK can accumulate in a big barn! Yikes! )

The traffic on our road was mostly farm trucks, chicken trucks, milk trucks, tractors and lost tourists, looking for Hershey or Lancaster.

(Now the street outside my apartment complex is mostly SUV's, sports cars...and lost tourists looking for Fort Lauderdale. Guess some things never change!)

Our neighbors and the parents of my kids' school friends were either farmers or doctors from the med center. I learned quickly that both were very intellegent groups of men and women -- but the farmers had a little bit of an edge over the rest of us. This is one of the farms down the street...

We bought most of our fruits and vegetables at the farmer's market or from neighbor's roadside honesty stands. This one had the very best tomatoes in summer and big beautiful pumpkins in autumn, plus all the decorations for Halloween and Thanksgiving -- hay bales, corn stalks, and gourds.

And EVERYONE decorated their farm houses for autumn. Every porch, every lamp post, every rail fence was decked out for the harvest season.

Sometimes I miss the views...get a bit tired of the endless rows of condos and cookie-cuter houses, and long for something more like these glimpses of green and emptiness...

I know that even these views are temporary, though. Building is going on at an alarming rate, and farms are being swallowed up by development faster than anyone could have predicted even 10 years ago.

When I have my financial feet under me a bit more, I want to buy a place up there, again. Something with a view, something near the remaining farmers. Something with a creaky floor and quirky stairs and a couple of front doors that I don't have to remember to lock. Near an honesty stand, with a pantry I can once again fill with homemade apple butter and peaches I put up myself.

Until then, I will visit when I can. And sit at the counter in the local diner, where I know the owners and the manager and the waitresses -- and their families...and probably half of the customers who aren't tourists...and there are hugs and how are you's and when are you coming home's waiting.

Looking for a love song

I'm in the mood for love...

And I need a song.

What is your very favourite love song?

The one where the words seem to have been written just for you?

The one that makes you look around for the camera to see how they got it so right?

Or wonder how they knew exactly what was in your heart, even though you hadn't told a single soul.

Old, new, popular, obscure. Rock, jazz, country, pop. It doesn't matter. Send me your song titles, your story, too, if you're willing to share. A YouTube link if you have one. Or write it on your blog and send me the link.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Dealing with failure

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.
Samuel Beckett

I think from the time we're young, we're warned NOT to fail. Whether it's unspoken, as in rewards for A's, while C's, D's and F's go unmentioned, or clear and overt with shouts, threats or put-down's, the message comes across.

Succeed, and you are good. Lovable. Worthy.

Fail, and the world begins to look like Caspar Friedrich's painting* above...dark, threatening, maybe even hopeless. We BECOME failures, and wear our mistakes as labels.

That's why Beckett's quote jumped out at me.

It was not yet another empty platitude, telling us that success awaits our efforts. No, he acknowledges that the result of trying again may be to fail again.

But in an amazing bit insight, he give two kinds of advice. First, never mind the failure. What? Fail without BEING a failure? Is that possible? Our culture would say no, but is it right?

The second bit of advice is even more radical. When you fail again, "Fail better."

I would love to hear what you think he means by that. How can we "Fail better."? I have some ideas, but I would like to see what you think.

Is his advice good? Is it healthy? Let me know your ideas?

*Man and Woman Observing the Moon, 1824, Berlin

Friday, 18 January 2008

I'm still here - my secret to happiness

A couple of years ago, I heard the song "I'm Still Here" from the musical "Follies" Elaine Stritch sang it, in her cigarette and whiskey voice...

Good times and bum times
I've seen 'em all
and my dear,
I'm still here...

At the time, my life was, to put it mildly, a mess. Getting over an ugly divorce. A few dollars away from foreclosure each month. Oldest daughter battling JRA so severe she often needed help getting into the shower, dressing, writing her school work. Self esteem pretty much in the toilet with the universe's finger on the handle to flush.

You get the idea.

plush velvet sometimes,
sometimes just pretzels and beer,
but I`m still here

And I listened. And I thought.

Someone, somewhere on line in an LDS women's group I belonged to at the time asked me about my life. And I wrote about all the jobs I'd had, from a tennis teacher and ER assistant to a children's photographer. And I wrote about the states and cities I'd lived in. And my three children.

And she wrote back...."Your life sounds facinating! I've lived in the same town my whole life, and have only been out of this state once."

MY life? Facinating????

black sable one day,
next day it goes into hock,
but I`m here.
top billing Monday,
Tuesday you`re touring in stock, but I`m here.

And I listened to the song. Again and again and again.

And I got it!!!!!!!!!!

THIS LIFE IS AN ADVENTURE! MY LIFE IS AN ADVENTURE!!!!!! And even if it is scary or lonely or something goes wrong, in the end, it will all be part of my adventure! MY story. My life. My song. MY SHOW!

I`ve run the gamut,
from a to z.
three cheers and dammit,
c`est la vie.
I got through all of last year
and I`m here.
Lord knows at least I was there
and I`m here

It's not magic.

I still get scared.
And sad.
And worried.

But then, I remind myself to look for the story...for the bit I can remember when I'm old (Inshallah) and can look back on my life and know I survived.

I have a long way to go. But thank God,

I'm still here!

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Random wisdom

I was browsing a new blog (well, new to me) and came across this tag. I thought it might be interesting to play. First, here are the instructions:

1. to get the nearest book
2. open it to page 123
3. find the fifth sentence
4. post on the blog the following 4 sentences
5. do not search on the bookshelf for a book that would make you look smart :)
6. pass this on to 6 other friends

Here is the result:

[re]lationships directly and lovingly, all sorts of suffering and problems arise. I believe that there are no problems between people that cannot be solved positively through patiently engaging in honest, empathic, loving communication.

from chapter 7 of The Lost Art of Compassion by Lorne Ladner. And it was on my desk, right next to my keyboard.

Quite a commentary on the poem in my last!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Upon seeing a photo of an Iraqi mother and her dead child…

We have never met
But even in a photo flashed across the tv screen,
I see your tears
and feel the pain that cannot be expressed in words,
the deep bottomless sorrow too much to endure.

Your child is gone.
Lost to this senseless invasion
Small arms that only yesterday wrapped round your neck,
Still and broken
A tiny cheek that pressed against yours as she last drifted off to sleep,
Cold and crushed
Eyes that looked to you for love
And safety
And a reason for the reasonless bombs,
Now stare sightlessly upward
As though focused where just a day before a roof sheltered her from the rain

Now the very sky cries for her
And for you
As you cradle her fragile body
Wondering why you survived and she did not
Asking of God why people came from so far away to take your child’s life

A world away, helpless,
I cry too

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

The US In Iraq until 2018???

The Iraqi defense minister reported that US forces will be needed until at least 2018.

That is another decade.

Another 10 years of killing. Another 10 years of suctioning off monies needed for schools and health care and food for the hungry and affordable housing and using it to build bombs and guns and coffins and flags to gloriously drape those coffins. Another 10 years of dead soldiers to count, and dead Iraqi children that no one is bothering to count.

Another decade of daily reports of home town boys and girls who will be coming home in a bag or a box or not at all. Another decade of insider fat cats in defense manufacturing and oil getting fatter and fatter. Another decade of the rest of us watching our family members and neighbors and jobs slip away. Another decade of crumbling bridges and highways and escalating worldwide hatred towards all things American.

This projection means that that number in the upper right hand corner of my blog will be too big to fit on one line. It means another 10 years of not seeing the incredible disconnect between our supposed sacred American freedom and the fact that each month of this insane invasion results in yet another freedom lost in the name of so-called security.

We don't have the luxury of squandering 10 more years in this invasion. Not in terms of money or people or reputation or karma.

It's time for the insanity to end. Raise your voices and demand that it ends. However you vote this November, please, please, please, make sure your vote is for peace.


Not in 2018.

Monday, 14 January 2008

The eternal nature of truth

I found this on Jan's blog....

In all ten directions of the universe,
there is only one truth.
When we see clearly, the great teachings are the same.
What can ever be lost? What can be attained?
If we attain something, it was there from the beginning of time.
If we lose something, it is hiding somewhere near us.
Look: this ball in my pocket:
can you see how priceless it is?

~~Ryokan (1758-1831)

Sometimes there is nothing more that needs to be said. Commentary from me would be superfluous.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Friday Five on Sunday

I'm getting better! Only two days late now!!!!

This week, Mother Laura has posted a birthday-inspired Friday Five, in honor of her upcoming 43rd birthday. So Happy Birthday, Laura, and here are my answers!

1. When is your birthday? Does anyone else (famous and/or in your own life) share it?

April 29th...I share this date with Jerry Seinfeld, 70's poet Rod McKuen (I did not choose an April birth...), and the late Emporer Hirohito! Quite an odd combo!

2. Do you prefer a big party or an intimate celebration for the chosen few?

Both! I love my little birthday parties with my kids, but would also love a big bash now and again!

3. Describe your most memorable birthday(s)--good, bad, or both.

I was in high school, in the class play. And we were busy with rehersal on my birthday. But the rest of the cast got together with my mom, and they did an on stage surprise birthday party! The best of both and my 16th bithday!

4. What is your favorite cake and ice cream? (Bonus points if you share the cake recipe). Or would you rather have a different treat altogether?

Ummmm...I hate ice cream. Really. And frosting. Not too fond of cake, either! Can we go for maybe a spicy Mexican or Indian dinner instead? Some dark chocolate for dessert? Now THAT is a birthday!

5. Surprise parties: love 'em or hate 'em?

Love giving them, love getting them!

Bonus: Describe your ideal birthday--the sky's the limit.

Paris. Sunrise. Someone special beside me. A sidewalk cafe. A cool but sunny morning. A long walk. A party in the evening with my friends and family who all just happen to be in Paris for my birthday! (You said the sky!)

Now how about those of you who are not on the RevGal list sending me your answers? I would love to hear your birthday memories and dreams!

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Friday 5, 6 days late

6 days late...that's about right for my schedule these days! Last week's Friday Five, the last one of 2007 was:

...share five memorable moments of 2007. These can be happy or sad, profound or silly, good or bad but things that you will remember.

Bonus points for telling us of a "God sighting"-- a moment when the light came through the darkness, a word was spoken, a song sung, laughter rang out, a sermon spoke to you in a new way--whatever you choose, but a moment in 2007 when you sensed Emmanuel, God with us. Or more particularly, you.

So here are my Five, working backwards from today...

5) The chocolate cake war! The best birthday in my young daughter's life and one of the best in my career as a Mom.

4) Meeting a couple of new and inspirational friends online, including a very talented young architect and photographer in Indonesia who is destined for great things. Without the Internet, I would never have met these people who live so far across the world from me.

3) Facing my fears and going on a roller coaster in fulfilment of a promise to my young daughter. She touched a snake and faced her fears, so she insisted I face mine. I could not argue, so two loops and two corkscrews later, I got off the rollar coaster a bit shakier, but proud! Learning from the children!

2) Coming to terms with the fact that certain people I would love to have in my life simply cannot be there if I want to preserve my peace of mind and quietness of spirit. And feeling the wisdom of that difficult decision as my stress level dropped and my need to ask "why" fell away.

1) Going back to Pennsylvania for a visit, and realizing that I did have a home
there in that small community. Other issues in my life kept me from seeing that while I lived there, but the warmth of my welcome back taught me some new and wonderful lessons about seeing and not seeing things right in front of me.

And for the bonus:

A meditation session that was not going well, and then instantly turned around and became the very best and most profound spiritually in-touch meditation I ever experienced. The key to the transformation was replacing my counting of breaths with the phrase "Allahu akbar" God is the greatest. The result was transforming.