Wednesday, June 27, 2012


     As I was running some errands today, I heard part of a talk show on a San Francisco radio station.  Apparently, one of the eastern states  has passed new legislation (or wants to pass said legislation?) that would put a $10,000 fine for first DUI offense.  The host was soliciting reaction to this law.

    $10,000 is A LOT of money for most people.  As the talk show guy said, it's not the kind of sum for which most people can just whip out a check.   In California, there is a typical $1,000 fine for first offenders and then assorted other costs:  in pound fees, court fees, increased insurance, DUI treatment program.  In short that first DUI can run you well over $7,000 in expenses.  So, if the fine was raised to $10,000, all these other costs would be added to the $10,000 fine, making a grand total of well over $15,000 for one mistake.

    And I completely support this.  I don't want to hear any excuses.  Most callers that I heard in my brief window were on my team but there were still several who voiced the opinion that this was just too much of a punishment.  Nope.  Not in my book.  People need to get it:  you cannot drive when you are under the influence.  If hitting you through the pocketbook is the way to get the message across, then so be it.

    One of the callers tried to use the "when a person is drinking they don't always realize how tipsy they are" excuse as if this should let them off the hook.  Really?  How do you figure?  Maybe the threat of going into debt to the tune of $15,000 or more will make them think before they get in the car.  Some other caller tried to play the "what if there is a medical emergency" card.  Right.  How coherent and responsible are you going to be after having a few beers?  Emergencies require that  cool and rational heads prevail, not slightly inebriated ones.  Call 911.  Or risk creating an even larger medical emergency.

   This drinking and driving thing has always been a pet peeve of mine.  I know the buzz and the relaxation that comes with  a margarita or two.  I know it.  I like it.  A lot.  But there is way too much at stake for me to get behind the wheel if I have been drinking.  I want it to be that way for everyone.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hope Drifts

“Remember, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” 
 Stephen King

    There was a time when I wished my parents had named me Hope.  The name offered such a positive outlook.  Who couldn't love a girl named Hope?

  It seems to me that hope is an essential ingredient in life.  It is not necessarily The Essential ingredient but without hope, how does anyone make anything change?  And when does hope become a goal?  Or are they always and already the same thing?

  Just wondering.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Nuns on the Bus

     Have you heard about the Nuns on the Bus?  This group of a rotating 14 or so American nuns is on a bus tour of nine states designed to draw attention to the harshness of the U.S. House of Representatives budget bill.  I will say they are among my current heros.

    Their trip is about making people aware of  the proposed cuts in domestic and international hunger and nutrition programs.  Frankly, I first heard about it the other night when their spokeswoman, Sister Simone Campbell, appeared on The Stephen Colbert Show.  As with most things Colbert, her presentation was brief but enlightening.  In another interview, Sister Simone said that the budget bill "all wrapped up in sound bites" would punish struggling people "while benefiting the top 1 percent" with tax cuts that would add to the national debt.  "The House budget would decimate our country.  It is not in keeping with the spirit of our Constitution."

     The tour is being sponsored by NETWORK, which describes itself as a progressive national Catholic social justice lobby.  These women care passionately about the marginalized in our country.  Most of them, I would venture to say, have given much of their adult life to others.  They have devoted
themselves to their God and to the less fortunate people among us.  That is why they are my heros.  This path requires a heaping portion of unselfishness.  People who give fully to others live among my heros.  It is something I am not willing to do.  I am not willing to set aside my requirements for solitude and silence, my desires for a diverse sort of life, to give all to a cause.

     I am humbled by someone like Sr Simone Campbell.  For 18 years, she was the lead attorney for Community Law Center in Oakland, CA.  There she served the working poor of her county assisting people with family law and probate needs.  She also worked with a California Interfaith public policy organization to protect the interests of people who are poor.  She went to Iraq in 2002 with a group of religious leaders and has been able to present and write extensively about her experience.  She has been the Executive Director of NETWORK since 2004.  Clearly, her life has been about peace building and economic justice.  I admire her so much.

    I want to follow her example but I don't even know where to start.  Oh, wait a minute, start from where you are.  But that's where it gets tough.  To follow her lead, I need to give more of what I have.  I need to take precious time away from my solitude, from my reading, writing, family, painting - all those things - and give it to a cause.  I could more faithfully participate in the Sonoma County Peace and Justice Center.  There are tons of opportunities there to get involved in peace building and campaigns for social justice.  I could volunteer weekly with local food pantry.  I could even commit to writing one letter a week in support of some cause.  But I know, at this point, I won't.   I am not going to beat myself up about this.  I am simply going to acknowledge my admiration for people such as Sister Simone Campbell.  Who knows to what that acknowledgement may lead?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

F. Scott and James

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” 
 F. Scott Fitzgerald

Amazing little quote, heh?

I referenced inner vs outer travel the other day.  My summer this year is not so much about outer travel but a whole lot about inner travel.  I am, oddly for me, being somewhat okay with the value of doing nothing.  I am being curious, watching dreams and words, colors and thoughts.  Fascinating when you can take the time to do it.

The most recent issue of The Sun magazine carried a tribute to psychologist James Hillman.   He died last year at the age of 85 but only after a life rich in observation and thought and filled with depth and connection.  In 1959, Mr. Hillman was made the director of studies at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich.   Hillman was a critic of mainstream psychology and took aim at some of the assumptions behind standard psychotherapies.  He argued that the best way to understand the human mind lay not in standard psychological or medical constructs but rather through myth and  imagination.   He wrote that psychology has become reduced to "a trivialized, banal, egocentric pursuit, rather than an exploration of the mysteries of human nature."  His work wove together philosophy, religion, and the arts as well as the webs cast by Freud and Jung.

I am intrigued with his belief that each individual has a purpose or calling in life.  Hillman believed that this purpose revealed itself in childhood.  The purpose or the calling is not so much about "doing" as it is about "being",  The way I interpret that is that children are who they are and, instead of trying to change them or make them into someone different, we need simply to be curious about them and let them unfold in their own way (which might not agree with the plans we have for them).  As adults, I think sometimes we have forgotten the child who lives within us.  To what was it that the child was drawn?  What captivated her days and her imagination?  Rediscovering the answers to those sorts of questions might open doors that may have been closed long ago when something else (like responsibility) entered the room.

Back to F. Scott Fitzgerald and his words above,  I like that he says it's never too late to be who you are.  You can change or you can stay the same.  I like Hillman's notion that so much of who is you comes with you to the planet.  And then you need to make the best of it and live a life you are proud of.

How about that for a big order?  Live a life you are proud of.  Not a perfect life but a life you are proud of.  What do you think?  Too much to ask?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Freedom Made Real

Pardon me while I pay yet more homage to summertime....

Dear Beautiful Summer,

And, yes, you are beautiful!  I know I have written love letters to you before but the truth is, when you love someone, you can't just say it once and be done.  No, a person in love is compelled to shout their  love from the treetops and so I must do that.  I must let the world know that you are my one and only true love.  I can  never get enough of you.

You have some marvelous power over me.  When you come to my days, you wrap your arms around me and I am warm and happy.  You can be HOT but you never have to be.  You engage me no matter what your mood.  Even the majestic Mr Sun wants to be with you as much as he can.  Today, the summer solstice, he has you in his arms for fourteen plus hours.  You are in his embrace from before 5:00 am until after 9:00 pm.  Heaven.  He stays in the sky until he can no longer keep his eyes open and you sooth him with tender breeze filled kisses.  Nice.

I love your light.  I love the flowers that you give me.  I love the balmy sense that the treadmill has broken and it's okay to just breathe.  I rode my bike down to the post office at 3:00 this afternoon and was taken with the clear view of the nearby mountains and the warm air on my shoulders.  In a little bit, I will take the puppy Ellie on a neighborhood walk and I will run into a number of folks from the neighborhood out for an evening stroll.  You, Summer, bring people together in casual and leisurely ways.  You are the epitome of relaxation and freedom.  I even love that, on  a good day in summer, I can get away with tank tops, shorts and flip flops - wonderful freedom made real.

So, listen, I won't linger long.  I simply want you to know that you matter to me.  You give me a reason to keep going when the other seasons don't fit well or act in a way that I consider unfriendly.  You never let me down and I will always love you.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012


     I seem to operate from this place that says that travel is a must do.  It is not okay to stay in your comfort zone at home when there are places to go and people to see.  If you look at the magazines while waiting in the checkout line, they are all about the places you MUST visit or the resorts that will save your marriage or the towns that will recharge you and make you willing to go to work the rest of the year.  If you visit FaceBook, so many of the posts are about, "Look!  Here I am in Atlanta!" or "Waiting to board in Dallas!  Off to the Galapagos!"  or 'Whew!  What a fabulous trip to Morocco!  Can't wait to tour downtown Salt Lake City next year!"  Travel, travel , travel - it is what adventurous people do.  It is what cool people do.  It is what you are supposed to do.

    Don't get me wrong.  I have seen Europe, Asia, and South America.  I love to wander around iconoclastic big cities - NYC, Boston, Seattle, Portland, Washington DC.   I do enjoy getting out of my comfort zone and learning and expanding my horizons.  Just in my own way.   I've been thinking about two types of travel:  inner and outer travel.  These days I am especially intrigued with inner travel.  The places I go in my head are fascinating and often very real to me. I generally go to these places at night or when painting or writing.  These journeys are not the kind of thing one typically posts on FaceBook
or gushes about when standing around the water cooler with coworkers.  They are, however, exciting places.  Inner travel can be highly unpredictable, relatively inexpensive and can open doors you didn't even know were there.  Outer travel is the more obvious travel route - the kind of travel that is concrete and measurable.  The kind that involves passports, TSA agents, money, novelty in surroundings and people.  The kind that the culture says is cool and essential.  The kind of travel that people should do in order to live a rich life and to fully experience the world .

   So what kind of travel do you prefer?  It doesn't have to be a black and white thing - it can be a little of both.  Have you recently traveled somewhere?  Was it inner or outer travel?  Got plans?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Gallery Tour Continued

  Few words.  Most are tied to the past but show new trends, new growth.  Getting a grip

Look Around


Shards Turned Decorative


Mind Map Enlarged

Valentine's Day


Mind Map

And the World Goes Round and Round

A Path

Aerial View of the Heart

Spinning Into Walls

Where Are We?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Better Than Christmas

Today is better than Christmas.
Not that Christmas is so spectacular but it seems to the be cultural standard for good days.

Today is my Christmas.
It is the first of eight consecutive work free Mondays.

On top of that, the sun is out and the air is warm with a slight, almost tropical, breeze.
Before 5:00 this morning, the sky was already turning away from black and into deep blue.
And, even after 9:15 this evening. the deep blue will still be waiting for black to arrive again.

I have a million tasks to do and I will do them in my own time.  I will choose what to do when.  There will be time for reading, for napping, and for simply enjoying the day.   I will seek out the colors and the silence.  I will go into my head and see who is there today.  I will breathe.

Merry Christmas, Me.


Please note:  I found this piece in my archives.  Originally written last February, it got set aside for some reason long forgotten.  I want to post some of my more recent  art work but decided to first post this for some background.

I knew I liked Kurt Vonnegut:

        Reading this inspires me to show off a few more of my paintings.  Back in early December I opened my personal gallery  to the blogging world (just for fun).  I promised to bore you again with some more original pieces so, on this lazy Sunday, I am going to take you on a tour of a different wing of the gallery.

     To wake you up a bit, I will start with this one.  I completed this one probably two years ago, just kicking around the universe.  Nephew Casey look a liking to it  and, for all his wonderfulness, I could't resist sending it his way.

   This next one has got to be one of my all time favorites.  I love the delicate yet complicated textures and colors.  I think the colors are so much richer in person but the camera gives you an idea of what I see.  It didn't start out to be heart like, I assure you, but in this view I can clearly see that image.  For fun and games, I am including the full picture as well as the enlarged left hand corner.   I recently had it framed and matted.  If only I had the perfect wall on which to display it.

       The Hand is a captivating piece.  I painted it about four years ago.  It so captured my attention that I now have it hanging in my office at work.  Here's the question:  What is the hand doing?  Some say the fingers are reaching out; others say the hand is holding on.  I know I was in desperate straits at the time I painted it.  Perhaps that is one reason it is so appealing to me.  When paintings speak to me, I listen.  Sometimes the rawness of artwork is painful but, then again, sometimes it is joyful. Check out the next two!
       Is she not the most spirited little girl bike rider ever?

And who is that peeking out?

This one is a mystery, even to me.

We'll tour a little more of the gallery later this week.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fairy Tales

O, to be sure, we laugh less and play less and wear uncomfortable disguises like adults, but beneath the costume is the child we always are, whose needs are simple, whose daily life is still best described by fairy tales.” 
 Leo Rosten

     Once again, I present the reader with words that make me feel alive.  I don't really know what it is about this quote from Leo Rosten that resonates so much in me.  I've read it over at least 20 times in the past few days and every time I read it, I get chills.  Perhaps it is because I know now how true it is.  I know that, as an adult, I am preoccupied with responsibility.  I have work to do and little time for play.  Those uncomfortable disguises become like skin and become who I am.

    And, once in a while (especially in the summertime), the child breaks the adult disguise and shows herself.  She really needs very little.  She is a happy kid who needs only healthy food, a place to run and play, sunshine, naps, and connections with people who love her.  How simple is that?

   And fairy tales?  Fairy tales tend to include fantasy characters and often involve enchantment or magic.  They can end with unusual happiness (as in:  "The story had a fairy tale ending" ).  Fairy tales are not only stories that aren't true; they are stories that can't be true.  The child lives in a world that can't be true as she will find out when the uncomfortable disguises of adulthood become her uniform.

    So perhaps the attraction to the words has to do with a longing to hold the child, to spend more time with her.  But that sparks of a fairy tale, a story that can't be true.  The days to be a child were then.  Now?  You can visit those days but you can't go back there.  Spending my work days with big kids does allow me to visit those days and, for that, I am fortunate.  But how about those little tiny kid days? That is when the child is fully alive, fully living in the moment.  Meet two of my favorite little kids here.
Never mind that they are now all grown up......

Saturday, June 9, 2012

2012 Update

     Back on January 1, I wrote this post about the new year and the fifty things I was going to do in 2012.  In mid- March I checked in here with my progress.  I didn't go through each item but I selected three that I had been faithful to and three that I could refocus my energies on.   Considering that it is now June, it seems as if it is time for another update.

     The three things that I seemed to be on track with in March were continuing to get daily exercise (via new running shoes purchased in January), writing on a more consistent basis, and learning to say no when someone else's plan for me didn't match my own plan.  I am still hanging in there with those three.  The three things that could deserve more attention?  A daily meditation habit, a trip to Alaska in June, and more frequent afternoon walks for Ellie.  Hmmmmm - all three of those are sitting where they were in March.  Meditation is a should (and in direct conflict with say no to stuff you don't want to do).  Alaska?  That's a no go although I am eager and up for some kind of adventure over the next two months.  Walking Ellie?  She gets lots of morning walks but I am up for some late afternoon walks as summer settles in.

  Okay, so let's see where I am with six other goals.

   #9.  Remember that life is short and then you die.  Yup.  Got that one covered.  Maybe too well.

Qualify as quirky?
   #33.  Take more photographs.  Yup.  Got that one covered too.  These days I carry the iphone and often the little Canon camera on walks and here and there.  My eyes are open to beauty and curiosity everywhere.  I enjoy adding photos and graphics to my blog and my preference is that I take them from my own library.  I am jazzed to expand that library this summer.  I have a million flowers and beach photos.  Looking for quirky, urban and faces now.

   #41.  Repot the house plants.  Yup.  I actually did  that about a month ago.  One sunny Saturday set me in motion on that project and they are thriving.  Checked off for at least another year.

  #1.  Go out to the beach at least once a month.  Nope.  So not on track with that one.  But I am not giving up.  WIth more free time over the next two months, I will make up for some lost time earlier in the year.  I hope to reconnect in a way that I won't lose this in the fall.

Current read
   #46.  Read at some other time than right before I go to sleep at night.  I am getting better at this one and now we are coming into the reading season.  Summer is all about reading.  Reading in the afternoon, reading early in the morning, reading novels and gripping stories.  I read less non fiction and more fiction in the summer.  I can be captivated by stories.  Whoo hoo!

   #48.  Write more love letters.  Ahhhh, I like that one!  I want to refocus on what I love in life and then tell it that I love it.  Fun!  Look for more in the second half of the year than you saw in the first.

     Okay, there it is for all the world to see.  My list of fifty for 2012 is still in my awareness.  Hello, summer!  I will cherish every moment that is you.  Guaranteed.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Be Daring

      This is a photograph of a poster which lives in my office at work.  I can't remember where I got the poster but I can tell you it snags my attention on a daily basis.  What is it that is so attractive about this poster?  Yes, the dog is cool, for sure, and he (yes, he is a he) is irresistible.  But it is the words that mesmerize me and wrap me around their sounds.  I can't even really tell you what they mean.  They simply evoke familiarity and yearning:

       "Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary."    Cecil Beaton

    In all honesty, I think I am a play-it-safer.  I live a conventional life in a nondescript small  town.  There is nothing exceptional about me or my family.  I want to be daring but I am not brave enough to be daring.  I want to be different, but what's the point of that?  Be different for the sake of different?  I don't think so.  Rarely am I impractical.  I grew up knowing frugality and hard work.  Doesn't blend so well with impracticality.

   Why do the words capture me so much?  What do you think?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Last Day

      Today is the last student day of the 2011/2012 school year.  In the wee hours of the morning here, I can reflect briefly on the significance of this fact.  My school underwent remarkable change this year, transitioning from a 6-8 campus to a K - 8 campus and doubling our population in the process.  We also started the year with a new office manager, a new principal and 8 new (to us) teachers. We had 220 new kids (and sets of parents) to embrace.  Needless to say, the year was jam packed with tension and novelty.  In fact, I can't even remember the individual days.  They are crowded behind the challenges and demands, peeking out from behind the headaches and pleasures of being a guidance counselor.

      Yes, it is the last student day.  Another year of my life spent in education wraps up today.  I have lived all my life on the academic calendar - as a student and then as an educator/counselor.  I know many people think those of us who work the academic calendar are wimps because, oh my gosh! we get three months off every summer! To be sure, if you work the academic calendar, you do have more time off than many others in the work world.  My office will be closed for six weeks this summer, and yes, the office is closed for two weeks in December and another week in the spring.  That's a total of nine weeks along with a handful of Federal holidays.  Not quite the three months in the summer that much of the world thinks I have, heh?

     So, yes, I have about ten weeks off in a year.  Do I have to remind you that my salary reflects that?  I am not whining about poorly paid educators.  I am only reminding you that I pay for that time off.  I started teaching in 1978 and have a Masters degree and two teaching credentials.  I am at the top of the salary schedule and make a  little over $60,000 / year.  My 27 year old son has a Masters degree in environmental planning.  His starting salary for full time work is in the $60,000 range.  Hmmmmmm.....

      So cheers to another school year and another year of my life.  Although I will still be in the office for a couple  more weeks, the pace will be more manageable and I will be breathing more frequently.  I hope to be posting more frequently as well.

     Goodbye, school year!
     Hello, summertime!