Friday, 29 January 2010

Happy to be the Châtelaine

Châtelaine - a woman who owns or controls a house.

The move is almost complete...the movers came on Monday (BTW, NEVER use Father and Son Movers in South Florida! Great employees moved my stuff, but the company ripped me off at the last minute.)

The apartment is almost empty and almost ready to be inspected. The house is now a mass of boxes and furniture in odd places. And I am exhausted. But very happy.

On the drive to work today, I was thinking about arranging things, putting books on shelves, dishes in cabinets and clothes in dressers. Working out in my head where artwork will be hung, and where my scrapbooks can reside. Imaging family dinners in a peaceful and happy space.

So maybe it's not trendy to say that I love caring for a family home. Too bad. I love my job, but I am also supremely content to be the châtelaine, keeper of the home. And I am blessed to have the family to care for.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Can you say "Rashi was wrong?"

Idol - someone who is adored or followed blindly and excessively.

We, as human beings, have a tendency to idolize the long dead. Men and women who left their written words, music, art work or other creations and then passed away are viewed as wiser, more enlightened. Especially when it comes to religious writers, we shy away from overtly doubting their wisdom or insight.

Need proof?

Here's a question for my Frum friends...when was the last time you said Rashi (or the Ramban or any one of the sages) was Wrong. Not "making a point", or "taking a different view than another sage." Just plain wrong. Mistaken.

When was the last time you saw a statement like that in an orthodox publication? Spoken by a teacher in a Yeshiva?

Would "NEVER" be close to the mark?

And how about my observant Mormon friends? Was Joseph Smith ever wrong in what he wrote or said? Catholics have a doctrine of infallibility when it comes to their Popes, so I won't ask about that. But how about the writers in the Christian Bible -- was Paul just plain wrong on anything? How about Matthew? And to my Muslim friends...was Mohammed ever wrong?

It's not limited to religion...Chopin is considered appropriate music for even the most conservative household, and yet he lived a lifestyle that would put most modern rock stars to shame. The difference? he is long dead, and therefore somehow "better" than the tour-bus riding musicians of today.

The same even happens in families...the longer someone is dead, the more perfect they become. So why is this?

I have a's because the longer someone is gone, the less human they become to us. We all know human beings have flaws and make bad calls. It's hard to ignore when the person on the podium passes gas or fumbles over their words and makes a ridiculous statement. They are very clearly fallible.

But that long dead sage or artist? We are so far removed from ever hearing them burp or getting a whiff of stinky feet that we forget that they were no better and no different from the rest of us. Sometimes insightful, sometimes narrow-minded. Sometimes wise and sometimes foolish. Sometimes right, and sometimes just plain wrong.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

What matters more: intention or action?

This morning I got to spend a few minutes in meditation, a practice I have neglected of late -- need to fix that.

I wanted to start out with a message or thought of inspiration, so after I lit a candle, I opened my Reform Suddur (prayer book) and randomly read from the inspirational passages. One immediately caught my eye -- actually, just the first couple of lines of it...

It said (and I am paraphrasing, because I don't have the book in front of me now)

The heart must feel the effort long before the legs begin to tire.

I stopped, and re-read it...several times. The phrase "begin with the end in mind" came into my thoughts, a snippet from the many Covey classes I've attended. And I put those two quote together and I thought about how there are, or at least should be, three parts to a deliberate act...

1) The mind. The idea, the decision, the plan.
2) The heart. The commitment. The feeling that one will carry out the idea. The emotions. The soul of our actions.
3) The body. The physical component. The doing. The moving.

I think I get into trouble in my life when I forget to engage all three. For instance, I may "decide" to do something. It could be big like changing my lifestyle or applying for a better job or small like making sure the washer and dryer are empty before bedtime.

And then I jump into action. Doing. And after awhile, the effort falls off. I tire of doing whatever it is, and abandon the plan. Why? I left out the heart, the commitment.

Or I commit to do something without thinking it through, but the effort I make fails or misses the mark. Why? I forgot to engage the mind, to begin with that goal clearly in my mind.

And then there are the times when I think of something, and commit to that something, but fail to act. Without that third component, nothing becomes just "wishful thinking." Daydreaming.

Finally, there is the jumping into action before I either think it through or commit to acting. And while we can also "overthink" things and mess up that way, not thinking at all seems to be an even greater problem for most of us.


I finished my meditation with a visualization of the energy in my body flowing from my head (mind), into my heart, and out into my legs and arms (action) and then looping around again. And I felt calmer and better than I have in weeks.

I never got beyond those two lines in my reading, never touched on official prayers. But that's all okay. Inspiration doesn't need a certain length of words or the repetition of "official prayers." I just need to sit and listen.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

10 Rules You Live By

I heard a piece on Starstreams about the 10 rules you live by...or rather, the 10 rules the singer/composer lives by. And I liked the concept. So many times we are drawn into a myriad of little rules, whether from work or family or religion or society.

But it's useful to step back, and distill those core rules that guide our lives so we don't lose site of the essentials. Stephen Covey would probably call it "principle-centered living." I'm just calling it clearing away the clutter.

So what are your 10 rules? For real -- not a silly list or a list designed to get half of the people who read it mad.

Let's pretend we are sitting down together, at that inviting picnic table in the picture. Now tell me...What are YOUR 10 rules you Live by -- or at least try to live by?

Mine are (in no particular order):

1) Every human deserves dignity, so look people in the eye and recognize that we are all children of G-d

2) Listen to people's stories. Especially kids and old people.

3) Don't get hung up on the rules. Learn, try, test, embrace, discard. Enjoy the wealth of ideas. Just remember, they were all written by people who are just as flawed as I am.

4) Feed hungry people -- it's a blessing to share food

5) Never be afraid to say "I love you"

6) See the beauty every day -- in light and shadow, in colors, in nature, in texture, in people's faces, in structures, in our homes. Look for's there.

7) Practice the habit of giving away stuff.

8) Never stay silent in the face of injustice, whether it's by faith or language or ethnicity or gender or wealth or position. I am obliged to speak up, even if I cannot change the situation alone.

9) Never say "it couldn't happen to me." Because it could. Good or bad.

10) Let go of anger. Quickly.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010 it all it's cracked up to be....

Reading a new book called "The Daily Coyote" by Shreve Stockton, and in the first few pages, I came across a Salman Rushdie quote about "those born not belonging." That quote and her description of her wanderings could have come from my own pen, so I immediately looked up the quote, wanting to see the quote in context...

What I came across was another blogger who had been on the same search, motivated by the same lines in Shreve's book., the blog, includes the full quote from Rushdie. And I read, fascinated, as I recognized myself in the lines...

[people who are] simply born not belonging, who come into the world semi-detached, if you like, without strong affiliation to family or location or nation or race; that there may even be millions, billions of such souls, as many non-belongers as belongers, perhaps; that, in sum, the phenomenon may be as “natural” a manifestation of human nature as its opposite, but one that has been mostly frustrated, throughout human history, by lack of opportunity. And not only by that: for those who value stability, who fear transience, uncertainty, change, have erected powerful system of stigmas and taboos against rootlessness, that disruptive, anti-social force, so that we mostly conform, we pretend to be motivated by loyalties and solidarities we do not really feel, we hide our secret identities beneath the false skins of those identities which bear the belongers’ seal of approval.

So my question for my readers...are you a secret "not belonger" or do you truly value your identity as a member of a tribe, group or fraternity/sorority of kindred souls, whether by birth or design or chance?

If you practice a religion, do you stand in the middle of what ever identity society assigns to you, as a Jew or a Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or whatever you may be called, and feel more whole for the experience, or do you feel a keen awareness of non-belonging even as you do or say or sing or bow? (Note, that non-belonging is entirely separate from non-believing. One can believe wholeheartedly in a creed, and remain a non-belonger.)

Do you have deep and solid roots to a place, whether the city or town of your birth, or the place you now call home, and struggle to imagine leaving it behind (or long to return if you have left.) Or do you wake up some mornings and fight the urge to throw your essential possessions into the back seat of your car and hit the road for "somewhere else?"

Your thoughts? Your ideas?

Ironically, as I was writing this post, the song "See Rock City" by Kate Campbell came on the streaming radio site I was listening to...and it's a song about the very same thing...Here's a video of that to listen to while you think about your own attachment to belong -- or to not belonging. (A word of caution...the video has a LONG lead in as she talks about her guitar and the song...but it's well worth the wait to hear the song, so bear with it.)

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Inspired, creating, dreaming

Little golden boxes filled with sweet treats...

Fairy furnishings to peek from among the trees...

Wind chimes to sing in the breeze...

Magical lights and magic wands...

Messages of welcome, filled with flowers...

Magic, magic, magic...

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

What kind of music do I like?

Every so often, the question comes could be a Facebook quiz, a Twitter poll, or just a conversation with people at work. And the only answer I can really give is "yes."

In the past hour on my playlist, there has been:

Linkin Park
Billy Holiday
Jennifer Knapp
Mandy Potemkin
Celine Dion
Green Day
30 Seconds to Mars
Kenny Chesney
Fly Leaf
Kenny Loggins
Black-eyed Peas
Alicia Keys
Frank Sinatra
Alan Jackson
Josh Groben

All picked by me, for the playlist at some point. All enjoyed. In my car this a.m., I had the classical station on. Yesterday it was R & B. About the only things I DO NOT like are "classic rock" (70's or earlier), music with dirty lyrics or violent lyrics, and Phillip Glass. That leaves A LOT open!

Am I the only one? Or are there others out there who can only answer "yes"?