Thursday, December 31, 2009

Kissing 2009 Goodbye

2009 was not my ordinary adult year.  The family trip to Hawaii back in April proved to be pivotal.  It somehow set loneliness and uncertainty in motion and with that came major cracks in the surface of my life.  The cracks were deepened by my trip to NYC - adventure and independence reminded me that I wanted out of the rut. The laughter and camaraderie of the Washington DC school trip made me lonely for such things on a daily basis.  And then the cracks became dangerously close to breaking my life entirely. Scary.  I hung on, and somehow held the bowl of my life together, dropping tiny pieces here and there.  Was it a bowl that was broken?  No, nothing as predictable and round as a bowl.  Maybe a clay mask?  Fits in some ways but not exactly.  What is the best analogy? What cracked?  Me.  I cracked. I broke and with me, I took my life and shattered it.
Funny thing is, it played out entirely when I crashed my bike.  That's it.  When I crashed the bike, I broke. Broke my bones but also broke my patterns, broke the walls that I depended on to hold me together.  And in reassembling myself, I am thinking I have created some new structure to hold me together.  Not a wall. Something much lighter, much more porous.  Maybe even something flexible yet strong, something shimmery and shiny. Something delicate and open.  A spider web? or a dream catcher?  and what will I catch in that web? I imagine I will catch whatever 2010 chooses to offer me.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Embracing the Unexpected

I stumbled across a quote today that knocked me over:  "Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected" (Carl Sandburg).   That could be the title of my next book.  When I was way younger (college age) I didn't plan things.  I just did things.  I went to classes, I worked at whatever waitressing or retail job I could get, I loved and lost boyfriends, I took advantage of whatever adventure came my way.  I distinctly remember wanting not to collect things but rather wanting to collect experiences.  And collect experiences I did.
and then I got real about life .... that means a job, a husband, two kids and a house in the suburbs ...
and life became so very predictable, very planned.  No surprises expected and very few received.
and I got more and more serious and the brow got more and more furrowed.
Something happened though.
Now I hope for and plan for surprises!
How do you plan for surprises?  You plan for surprises by staying out of ruts, being willing to try new things, and talking to strangers!  more later....


I don't know how my life got so good.  Specifically, how did I end up with a loving, responsible, and all around good person for a husband?  Why did I end up with two compassionate, smart, focused young adults as my children?  And what universal powers led me to challenging and engaging work that also gives me a decent paycheck, sick leave, and time off during the year?  And , again, what universal powers brought me to Sebby - a close community that envelops me with friendship and fantastic neighborhood walks? Or granted me excellent health?  So I have been amply gifted but why?  Why me?  I know the theory about my life being the result of choices I made but, hey, that doesn't fit -- my health? really? okay, yes I do my part with nutrition and exercise and moderation in all things alcoholic but that is nothing really. And I made choices about education and choosing a partner and raising kids but other things conspired to make those choices happen.  The one thing that I acknowledge control over is my attitude.  For years, attitude has been about focus and determination -- all good.  Now attitude also encompasses being alive, noticing the goodness everywhere, embracing surprises and uncertainty, capturing the world in a web of happiness.  Can it last?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Christmas Letter That Didn't Get Sent

December, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I am delighted to write Christmas greetings to all of you.  Christmas letters get a bad rap but they are the perfect way to catch family and friends up on life here in Sebastopol .  It was a year packed with adventure, learning, and accomplishment and it’s fun to share that with you.

Alex graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in June!  Because he changed his major and because it is difficult to get into classes these days in CA state universities, he had to focus for six years.  In the end , he earned a degree in Social Sciences with a concentration in Environmental Planning.  Additionally, he used those six years judiciously and was able to supplement the degree with four minors:  psychology, anthropology/geography, city and regional planning, and sustainable environments.  He is now working as an independent contractor creating disaster management plans for CalFire and continues to work part time as a firefigher/EMT for the County Fire Department.  He is also in the process of applying to grad school for next fall, in the field of Geography or Environmental Studies.  We are looking forward to having him home for a few days later this week.

Meg continues to knock our socks off with her determination and perseverance.  She is majoring in psychology at Sonoma State University and is running into many of the same issues that Alex ran into at Cal Poly.  She cannot get the classes she needs to graduate but she too is putting the time to good use.  She is earning a minor in Criminal Justice and, although she is still a year or so away from graduating, she is investigating graduate programs as well.  She works several part time jobs and is highly involved with an intern program that serves families transitioning out of homelessness.  She shares an apartment near campus with her friend Priscilla and her cat George as well as Priscilla's cat Dancer.  Meg is quite the busy college student but she does find time to visit with us often.

Michael continues his work at Sonoma State University and the County Office of Education.  He recruits math and science teachers as well as assists teachers and districts in implementing science and environmental education programs.  Additionally, he has been writing grant proposals to fund another writing project.  This time his focus is on producing a guide for teachers whose curriculum includes coniferous forests.  He continues to enjoy gardening and playing with his fruit trees on the property.  Last summer, our tomato plants took over the front yard (the sunniest spot on the property) and we had a bumper crop!

I had a great year!  First, I still love my work as a guidance counselor at the local middle school.  I expanded things a bit this year by taking on the creation and production of the school yearbook - a great opportunity to broaden my photography skills as well as my layout and production abilities.  I had fun and learned so much from that work and I am doing it again this year.   I also got to travel quite a bit and was able to document all my travels with my camera.  In April, I went to Hawaii with my siblings and many of their family members.  We enjoyed a wonderful week playing and visiting together on Oahu.  In May, I visited NYC for the first time.  I went  with my brother Brian and had an awesome adventure!  I LOVE NYC and can’t wait to go back.  So energetic there!  So much to see and do! In June, I once again accompanied about 40 eighth graders to Washington DC (my fifth trip - I LOVE that city too!).  And in August, Meg and I went to Boston and stayed with our niece/cousin Myra.  Our days were packed with touring, laughing, a little shopping, and lots of visiting.  

My travels came to a screeching halt (literally) in late August. I was letting off steam from a tense day at work by taking a bicycle ride when I was right hooked by a truck pulling into a parking lot.  Yikes!  Nine fractures and one surgery later, I am on the road to recovery.  I learned a great deal through this experience and, as painful and frightening as the whole thing was, and as odd as this sounds, I would never trade it away.  I now have a 4” plate and 12 screws holding my clavicle together and know more than I ever thought I would know about bone grafts.  I also discovered the value of sleep and realized that the treadmill that life had become really could stop.  Quite a lesson, actually.  Most poignantly, I discovered how many people care about me and how the love of family and friends can really sustain a person.  For all of these lessons, I am deeply grateful.  My right arm still has very limited movement but I get to start physical therapy next week and hope to be back on the bicycle by March.  Wish me luck!

Although I believe 2009 was my friend, I can’t wait to see the surprises in store for 2010.  I hope to travel more (Michael and I are going to Santa Fe after Christmas and plan a spring trip to Yosemite), take lots of photos, do some more painting and write up a storm.  AND, continue to appreciate a slower pace of life, my renewed health, and the love of family and friends.  Merry Christmas and Happy 2010!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Screeching Brakes

It's what everybody says:  The months are just tripping by!  Where does the time go?  As always, I question my use of the precious days that I have.  So often, like most people, I find myself running through  the workdays while hanging on for the weekends.  And the weekends fly by in tornado of errands, chores, reading, and a little catching up with friends or maybe a movie or an outing with Michael.  And then back to work.  And I think that is why the months just fly past....
To slow things down, I have to slow down.  I have to be more aware and not operate on automatic pilot - so much easier said than done.  I operate on automatic pilot because it feels as if there is so much that MUST be done.  I can multi-task with the best of them and I can be so damn efficient and productive - but am I really seeing what I am doing? and how do you get everything done that has to be done if you don't multi-task?
How do you take things off the list?  Where would you start?