Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Truth

      Damn - it's just so frigging simple and true and not at all original or profound.
      I wanted to write something original and profound. When I walked the dogs early this morning, I thought about what I could write.  I thought about where I am in my life and what wisdom I might have yet to discover or, even better, and more amusing, what wisdom I might have to impart.  And this notion has been riding around in my head all day.  No wonder I have a headache.....

     As I did laundry I considered what daily chores have to do with anything.  As I took care of grocery shopping, I considered the whole food thing and what might be learned there. I got to play with the paints for a bit this afternoon and that was so cool but no great abstract or weighty stuff there.  Just colors  - beautiful blues and a rosy hue. The big event of the day was my rather spontaneous upgrade to the iphone 4s.  Shouldn't there have been some great revelation in that whole process?  After all, I do talk the non consumer talk so what the hell am I doing securing a new toy for myself?  Shouldn't there be some profound sentiment in that?  Perhaps, but it certainly would not be original.

      Here's the truth.  Be here now.  Take each moment as it comes.  Look at the leaves as you are walking.  Feel the textures of the clothes that you are folding.  Listen to the nonsense around you in the Apple store.  Breathe in the fragrance of bananas or bread as you put them in the basket at the grocery store.  Be here now.  Oh, and breathe.  It will get you through anything.


Saturday, November 26, 2011


"Instructions for living a life. 
Pay attention. 
Be astonished. 
Tell about it." 
 Mary Oliver

Pay attention.
Far easier said than done.
The world goes by in a blur of repetitive motion.
The spinning clock hands only push me to get there, to get somewhere.
Paying attention is for vacations and accidents.

Be astonished.
I like that.  Curiosity and wonder turn into astonishment.
My eyes need to be open in order to be astonished.  So does my mind.
It's a refrain I return to over and over and over again.  Eyes wide open allows me to take images in.
Mind wide open allows me to really see things as they are.

Tell about it.
That's another process all together.
Impossible sometimes to tell about what I see, what I know.
Maybe because I don't see, don't know.
I can't find the words for these things sometimes.
Painting speaks to me but most other people don't understand it.
I get that. You have to be in my mind to get what is on the paper.
Even sometimes that doesn't work.
I know.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gracie Magdalena Wilde

       Gracie Magdalena Wilde and I have been friends since we were kids.  Like most soulmates, we have drifted apart from time to time but when we connect again it is as if no time has passed.  Gracie makes me feel alive and for her I am always appreciative.  She has such life about her, such vitality.  She has the most open heart of anyone I know.  Not only is her heart open, but so is her mind and her attitude.  She takes life and people just the way they are.  I have never known a person who could roll with the punches as well as Gracie does.  That's not to say she doesn't get discouraged at times and, trust me, she is not a Pollyanna, head-in-the-sand airhead.  Quite the contrary. Gracie is smart, very smart.  She is intuitive and can engage a wide range of emotions.  She always lands, however, in a place of acceptance and tolerance.

     One of the most attractive features about Gracie is her ability to be playful.  She is passionate about life and she reads and thinks about all sorts of things but, in end, she can laugh at herself and at the world.  She is good at practicing something she calls "amused detachment."  As I understand it, that means that she can keep situations in perspective.  She can work to change what can be changed but she is also good at accepting what can't be changed and, yes, she is good at knowing the difference between the two. If there is nothing she can do about an unpleasant situation, she is able to simply assume the role of observer.  She can disengage from the games and yet watch the players and their tricks.  In all parts of her life, she smiles often, though certainly not constantly.  It's not as if her smile is painted on her face or that her smile is, in any way, false.  No, it is a genuine smile that is reflected in her shiny eyes and the crinkles around those eyes.

    Gracie is not stunningly gorgeous but that smile turns her into a most beautiful woman.   People are attracted to her physicality.  She is of average height and weight, with an athletic build - not tiny thin but not heavy either.  The muscles obvious in her arms and legs are testament to her enjoyment of physical movement and she walks comfortably in her own skin.  She is also a most sensual woman, happy to touch and be touched.  Her eyes are especially wide open to colors and textures in the world.  Many is the time when I have been with her and she has stopped dead in her tracks to exclaim in amazement at the tree or the flower or the sky or the leaf on the ground that has caught her attention.  She often seems compelled to reach out and touch whatever it is upon which she is feasting her eyes.  Her excitement can so completely draw me in that it allows me to see something that was invisible before she scanned it.

     Gracie knows what matters to her.  She is the queen of perspective and I marvel at her wonderfully balanced life.  She makes room in her days for adventures and action and yet there is also a time and space for reflection and solitude.  She does not hide from the current culture (she gets a kick out of her ipad and her access to Netflix) but she is not immersed in every element.  Like me, she loves her boots and clothes in general but, unlike me, she is content with one pair of boots, a few sweaters,  and a couple of jackets.  She likes to dress comfortably but still stylishly but she never goes overboard with that sort of thing.  She doesn't spend a lot of time focusing on appearance but she clearly doesn't ignore it either.  Gracie likes to socialize with friends and family but in moderation.  She will enjoy a glass of wine but I have never known her to drink to excess.  She says she doesn't like getting sick the next day.

    I know my life has been greatly enriched by Gracie's presence.  I wish I could hang out with her all the time but she has a habit of fading away and then I can't find her.  She is so inspiring and I want to be in her wold more of the time.  In order to do that though, I need to figure out how to get her to hang around more.  I want to make her less of a shadow and more of a confidante.  I want to share her laughter and her stories and bask in her good vibes.  I'll have to work on this.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Ten Commandments of Christmas

1.  I am the King of Goodwill.  Thou shalt not have the gods of big business before me.

2.  Thou shalt not despair at the whimsy that is Christmas.

3.  Remember to keep holy the Christmas tree.

4.  Honor thy family and friends with love and good cheer.

5.  Thou shalt not whine.

6.  Thou shalt not commit gluttony (too many times anyway).

7.  Thou shalt not not lose patience nor take the world too seriously.

8.  Thou shalt not forget to stop and appreciate the lights and colors of December.

9.  Thou shalt enjoy the music, the movies, the puzzles, the stories and the fantasies that are the magic of Christmas.

10.  Thou shalt pause and wonder at the winter solstice night sky.  Thou shall appreciate the expanse of the universe and consider thy place in the cosmos.  Thou shalt breathe.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to Make Christmas Happy

       Here's the truth.  I would like Christmas a whole lot better these days if we didn't have the gift giving tradition.  Don't get me wrong.  I like the idea of giving gifts.  It's just that it feels as if gift giving has become so hollow.  Maybe it's just my world but gifts don't seem to have the same impact nor satisfaction as they did in the past.

     When the kids were little, it was wonderful to plan the Christmas gift scene.  The whole Santa Claus mystery was a delicious event in which to participate.  To play along with the Santa magic made the season so much fun and so rewarding.  It was gratifying  to imagine their excitement and to wrap gifts and to hide them and to be apart of the Santa story.   I enjoyed making their wishes become reality and their wishes were many and varied.  You couldn't go wrong.  

      But that's the rub.  The kids are grown up now.  It's tough to know what they might like.  I don't trust myself to select from clothing styles and the toys that they like are uber expensive.  I can certainly find books that I imagine they would like but it is all in my imagination.  Besides, neither adult child appears to have much time for old fashioned reading.  Certainly there are little knick knack things out there but how many rings or bracelets does a 24 year old woman need and how many magnets or goofy firemen does a 26 year old guy need?  I could give them cold hard cash but I do that all the time.  Where is the surprise in that?  Where is the sweetness and the personal touch in that?  Ditto gift cards - same thing only different.  So gift giving becomes problematic.  I could just wrap up the practical things:  shampoo, or packages of Trader Joe noodles or maybe a calendar or some kitchen tools.  Whoo hoo. 

      Ditto the husband.  I used to get him shirts and ties but now he never wears them (can you say retired?) and so why bother?  I used to get him food items but I don't want him gaining any more weight so I've nixed that too.  I always get him (us) an Ansel Adams calendar for the kitchen - it's a tradition, for goodness sakes!  Books are a possibility but, like the kids, he is not a big reader of books. Additionally,  just because I might like a book is no reason he will.  I don't trust my instincts on that anymore.  Too many mistakes. He's also the last person I would imagine who wants or needs knick knacks.  He likes office supplies but he stocks up all the time.  GRRRRRRRR

     See what I mean?  I am at a loss and every year it gets worse.  Every year I feel bad becasue I want to participate in the gift giving thing with these three people but it feels like a waste of money.  AND, I know they are looking for something "special" for me too.  Really, if I could pull the rug out from under the gift thing (at least for immediate family), if I could take that expectation away, I would enjoy both the prelude to Christmas and the whole Christmas Day thing a lot more.  Failing that, give me some fresh ideas.  Don't include anything that speaks to gardening, the arts, personal adornment, food, reading material, sports equipment, office supplies, music, car parts, clothing, knick knacks, pets, and on and on and on.  Please.

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Sister Laura

         It was about 1978.  Laura was working at Bob's Big Boy in San Jose - a Friday evening.  I was on my way somewhere but I stopped in to see how she was doing.  As I recall, she had only just started and was nervous about how the evening would go.  I remember seeing Laura - I guess in the kitchen.  The where in the restaurant part of the memory is fuzzy. What is distinctly NOT fuzzy is the memory of how beautiful she looked.  It was an ordinary time and she was working, for goodness sakes!  AND she was stunningly gorgeous.  Dressed in her black skirt and white shirt uniform, she beamed a welcoming smile.  Her  beautiful eyes were shining and that smile was genuine and stunning.  Her hair was long and pulled back in a pony tail and she was the epitome of confident youth.  Though I was not a heck of a lot older than she, I remember being in awe of her youthful beauty. Today, although she may be a little older, she has certainly not lost that beauty.

     The thing about my sister is that she is one of the most genuine people I know. She is grounded, honest, kind, and smart, very smart.   Laura is also very capable.  Her talents and skills are wide ranging and include the logical/mathematical realm as well as the world of words and music.  She can quickly and calmly assess a situation and determine what needs to happen.  If you are in Laura's family you are in luck as she will give you the money she doesn't have to be sure that you have what you need.  She will rearrange her life to be there for you no matter when and what you need. Laura is this remarkably strong woman who has had more than her share of challenges over the past 35 years.  She digs right in and goes forward almost as if she has blinders that will block the obstacles.  She sees what needs to be done and she does it.

     Yes, Laura is a hard worker.  She also makes the most wonderful music to liven up the days.  She has always been a musician.  She would drive me crazy when, as  a little girl, she would pick out tunes on the living room piano.  On the one hand I was envious because she could even do that.  Lord knows, I couldn't.  It also drove me crazy because I got tired of the ping ping pinging of the piano.  But she was drawn to it and it didn't matter.  She took that initial musical talent and turned it into a life long avocation.  She can play a bunch of musical instruments (most recently taking up the ukelele) and has a lovely singing voice.  One year (1982?) she played the lead role in the community theater's production of Oklahoma.  She wowed that audience both with her voice and her beauty.  I know for a while she was the music teacher at the school in Laytonville and those kids were so lucky to have her enthusiasm and energy.  

   Laura is a dedicated mother and, from where I sit, a loyal and loving wife and life partner.  From the time she learned she was pregnant with her daughter Erin Rose, Laura has always put both of her girls first.  The early single parent years with Erin were a tough time for Laura and yet she worked hard and made the best choices for her little family.  Later, when Isabel arrived, Laura was more settled in Ft Bragg with Doug.  I think those years in Ft Bragg were the happiest time for her.  She was in love with Doug, her beautiful daughters gave her great satisfaction, she made a lovely flower garden and she thrived on caring for these three people who were so important to her.   I have been in Laura's home and witnessed the playful affection that gets tossed around so comfortably and warmly.  When Doug was so sick a year ago, Laura couldn't do enough for him.  She literally had to fight the insurance companies and went to bat to be sure he had the best doctors she could locate.

     My sister has been there for me through some very bumpy times in my life.  I know, she is the younger sister but in many ways I think of her as the stronger, more rational, more down to earth one.  I tend to be more philosophical, more emotional, more careless than she is.  Don't get me wrong.  I am diligent and a hard worker in my own world , just not too focused on anything but now.  Laura is a planner and a doer.  She thinks about the future and gets things in place.  Me?  I just try to deal with today.  That's about all I can handle. That's what I mean about Laura being strong.  She can handle whatever comes her way (including me and my life issues....).   We can have a blast together.  Back in the old days, we used to make cookies every time we got together.  But then we decided to pay attention to weight and all that.  No more cookies.  But now we substitute long walks and occasional shopping trips - just for fun!

 Anyway, I just want the world to know that I lean on Laura all the time.  What would I do without her?  I try to give back to her but I don't think I will ever be able to make up for all the times when she has been there for me.  Life is funny, heh?  She , who used to be the mostly annoying much younger sister, now becomes the confidante, the trusted one.  And I look to her for lessons.  Life is indeed odd and surpising

Monday, November 7, 2011


I am looking for rewards these days but not the kind they attach to credit cards and such things.  If fact, I am in the process of reducing all that stuff.  I canceled two big bank credit cards this morning.  I don't even know how I got them.  They started out as store credit cards and then, at some point, and likely because I was advised that I could get AN ADDITIONAL 20% OFF MY TOTAL BILL  if I changed to a VISA or MasterCard, they became big bank credit cards.  I don't need those things at all.  They only clutter up my life.  Bye bye, bank card.

Except for the Macy's one, I have never subscribed to any of the Rewards programs anyway.  I got into Macy's only because it is the second oldest account I have and because I once worked there.  It is nice every once in a while to get this credit for $25.  I guarantee you I don't make purchases to get the points.  They just cash in from time to time.

Like so many other people, I am interested and inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement.  There is so much I don't know or understand but so much that I want to know and understand.  For example, as pitiful as this sounds, I will admit that I never even thought about the big banks and how they take advantage of the working people.  I just didn't know anything other than that my paycheck goes to Bank of the West and I have a debit card from there.  The automatic deposit is convenient and the debit card can be handy.  End of awareness.

And now my eyes are open.  Imagine my incredulousness when I realized that my folksy so called neighborhood bank with the all  American name of Bank of the West is actually headquartered in Paris, France.  They are a huge band and they take my Sonoma County dollars and use that to get themselves the best return.  Maybe it will go towards  a hotel construction project in Dubai or a manufacturing plant in China but it's likely NOT going to be sweat equity home project in Santa Rosa or a small business loan to a solar company in Sebastopol.  I feel really stupid not knowing this and I wonder how many other things I don't know.  I will move my (very limited) money out of Bank of the West as soon as is practical.

An intriguing offshoot of this process has been my own rededication to reduce/reuse/recycle.  I am loving the concept again of reduce.  I have never been a big consumer but I am looking around and thinking I can do better in this department.  I can stop and reconsider the purchase of yet another sweater or pair of boots (NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!   - but ..... yes).  I don't want to fuel the production of more things, fuel the waste of more resources.  I have been on this train since college for sure and I am all about recycling and riding my bike or walking places.  I love that I live three blocks from work and that Oskar can sometimes sit alone in the garage for two or three weeks without his steering wheel being gripped by my hands.  But I can say stop to the purchase of more luxuries.

Truth is, I will never stop buying reading materials and likely not art supplies.  I will always be interested and open to technology innovations.  I will buy dinners out and bottles of wine and good fresh produce and breads.  But more jewelry?  more jeans?  more BOOTS????  Not so much.  Not never but not so much.

I will get into the rewards plan that gives me less stuff to take care of.  I will enjoy the reward that comes with NOT buying something.  I will consider how I can use my paycheck to make a difference in the world and maybe buy myself some knowledge and experiences.  All good rewards, don't you agree?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Lost and Found

      Ironically to me I am responsible for the Lost and Found department at school.  I never understood how that factored into the job description for school counselor but more recently I have come to some realizations about that.  Every week I put out all the Found jackets, sweatshirts, sweaters, hats, shoes (really?  shoes?  yes, really shoes) and other things that turn up.  I get on the intercom and remind the kids that the Lost and Found is on display and I make up some number like 389 as in, "Seriously, kids, there are 389 items hanging on the rail.  Go see if any of them is yours."  Invariably, some child will inform me later in the day that there are NOT 389 items and I simply say, "Not anymore."

      The thing about Lost and Found is that much of my work is about loss and discovery.  Kids come to me when they are hurting.  Many times they are hurting because they have lost something:  a friendship, their confidence, their interest in school, a beloved grandparent, pet or something special, their connection with a parent, their innocence (only they don't know that last one - it's my take on their sadness).  I can sit with them and listen and I actually do that well.  There is something so very compelling to me when I am one on one with a child who is hurting.  I am NOT a therapist.  I do have some access to therapeutic skills and strategies but I get lost myself in that process with a child.  I don't want to harm them by pretending I know more than I do and I do know when I need to set them up with a professional therapist.  But I certainly can listen to them, accept them where they are in that moment, offer a safe place for them to put their fears and their loss out on the table, and go from there.  Sometimes that in itself is enough.  A child leaves the office walking just a little lighter, having been heard. He or she is now comfortable in the discovery that there is a place where they can put those sad thoughts down.

      Being lost is a tough place to be.  I know from my own world.  Where I am in life now (another way of saying "at my age") I think I should have it [life] all figured out.  I don't.  The path is still
very unclear.  There were years when the road was direct.  In fact, I would say it was a freeway.  Prior to becoming a parent , the road was somewhat windy but it was the scenic route.  I knew where I was headed and I was okay with the well paved road that meandered up and down relatively gentle hills.  Yes, there was an occasional steep hill or pothole around which to maneuver but all in all, the signs pointed the way and the road was smooth.  Parenthood brought the freeway.  It was fast, it was straight, it had lots of onramps and offramps and some major interchanges.  At times the traffic was heavy and irritating.  At other times, it was actually quite peaceful and an enjoyable ride. There were tons of directional signs and even some cool billboards.

      But kids grow up and now the road signs have disappeared.  In fact, the road itself has disappeared.  How odd is that?  When I first really realized this (just a few weeks ago) I was flummoxed.  How could this be?  How did the road disappear?  I was also lonely out there in that field - high grass everywhere, a visible blue horizon, and me, paralyzed in fear.  WTF?  Who took my road?  How do I know where I am or, more importantly, how do I know how to get where I am going?  And, by the way, where AM I going?   The question is:  Do I start moving around in search of a road or, at least, some signs?  Or do I do as we've always told small kids to do:  just stay in one place and wait to be found?