Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Card House Life

  You know card houses?  Kids build them out of playing cards.  It's a challenging task to build a card house because everything has to be balanced in order for the house to sustain itself.   The cards themselves are pretty darn strong.  It's not easy to randomly rip cards (though you can do it and you can certainly cut the cards with a scissors).

      Building a card house on a slippery surface is not easy.  Most of the time it works better if you have something with which to ground the house (a rug, a placemat, a towel, or tablecloth - anything with some texture).  When you start to construct the walls, you have to balance the cards against each other.

  You can spread out and/or you can build up.  Building up is the more exciting approach but it is also the more demanding approach.  Building any card house takes patience.  Building a multi layered card house takes patience and calmness.  But most of all it takes determination and tenacity.


      The thing is that each card plays a part in the house and, even though each card is strong, and even though the house may be build on a non slippery surface, it is a fragile creation.  It can easily crumble. Brush your fingertip past it and it collapses.  The cards are still there.  The cards are each individually strong.  But the house is in shambles.  Then you have to decide if you want to rebuild the house or put the cards away.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Random Things That I Know To Be True

1)  People influence you.  Be aware of how they influence you.  Make deliberate choices when it comes to friendships.

2)  Everything changes.  Need I say more?

3)  Cracks are the way subtle change happens.  The crack lets the light in and the light allows you to see more.

4)  It's okay to be who you are.  Part 1:   I remember the first time I heard this.  It was the first week of school and I had my K - 2 students gathered on the rug in front of me.  We had been creating and refining our class rules - you know, the usual things:  Be respectful of other people.  Be respectful of other people's stuff.  Listen.  That sort of thing.  Five year old Forest raised his hand - Forest of the long hair, solemn demeanor, and bit of a lisp.  His contribution?  It's okay to be who you are.  Bingo!  That became our mantra for the year and now I have learned it for my life.

5)  It's okay to be who you are.  Part 2:   I am me.  I am not, nor can I ever be, that other person.  I don't need to compare myself to the other.  That person brings all of who they are to my world but I can never be them.  I can only be me.  That's the only person I can be.

6)  We all end up in the same place:  dead.  It seems irrefutably important that I be careful about how I use the time that has been allocated to me.  The rub seems to be in how to determine the best use of time.  Still working on the rubric for that.  Ideas, anyone?

7)  I have to create space in life for letting the day unfold.  I have to have time to let my attention wander to wherever it wants to wander.  I can be curious to see where my attention takes the rest of me.  It's okay to wander to books, to walks, to desk straightening, to emails, to art, to the beach, to naps, to conversations (with myself or with others), to household chores, to watching the clouds, to playing with the plants, to dreaming, to nothing.

8)  Challenging every thought is a good thing.  Avoiding assumptions is a good thing.

9)  I will never be too old to stop learning.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Try It On

How do you know
if something fits?

You try it on.

You try on shoes.
Too tight?
Too lose?
Room for toes?
Lookin' good?

You try on jackets.
Shoulders fit?
Zippers zip?
Pockets there?
Color workin'?

You try on cars.
Fast enough?
Smooth enough?
Cheap enough?
Ridin' right?

You try on jobs.
Boss okay?
Payday fine?
People good?
Workin' hard?

You try on you.
Rules right?
Choices yours?
Room to breathe?

How do you know
if something fits.

You try it on.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Saturdays and Summers

    I live for Saturdays and summertimes.  Don't get me wrong.  I like lots of parts of my job.  I get a kick out of interacting with the kids (usually) and I very much appreciate the autonomy of my position. I like most of the adults with whom I work and fake it pretty well with the ones I don't particularly like.  I prefer the busy, adrenaline driven kind of days to the slower days when I wade through long range projects but I can and do handle both reasonably well.  I also relish the walk through the seasons that seems to be part of a school climate.

    So why do I live for Saturdays and summertimes?  I think it is, in part, a function of my age.  Truly, immortality seems to be a driving force in my life right now.  I just keep thinking, "Am I using my time well?"  When I was a couple of decades younger, working in the schools was right on for me.  I had passion, energy, vitality.  Those things are still there but their direction has changed.  Now my passion has gone inward.  I no longer want to push for those cultural supports.  I continue to value  education, child health and safety, literacy, and such but I don't want to push so hard.  Now I want to listen.

    Listen to what?   I don't know.  Listen to whatever is speaking to me.  The thing is, it's hard to hear when you are also listening for the bell to ring or listening to the upset child or the angry parent.  It's hard to hear when the chronic pain that seems to be a part of my aging body is yelling at me.  It's hard to hear when I'm tired.  That's why I live for Saturdays and summertimes.  Today, a Saturday, I was able to take a magical dawn walk along the Laguna trail here in town.  When I returned home, I ambled through the morning, doing chores, dealing with a little grocery store action, getting dinner in the crock pot.  But it was a stroll through a quiet morning.  After a silent lunch,  I painted a little and then read until I enjoyed the respite that a nap gives.  More reading later in the day, a simple dinner, some writing, and then there will be a bit more reading before sleep tonight.  All with eyes and ears open.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Knock Knock! Who's There?

        Hmmmm.... I've been thinking. And thinking is something I am good at doing.  In fact, I am pretty damn good at thinking and I find myself constantly wanting to "figure this out".  I get discouraged when I reach to find the answer to some nebulous issue and I see and hear thoughts rolling over and over through my head.  It gets loud and congested and maddening in there when that happens.  Until recently, I have just assumed that this is the way it is.  It mirrored so much else about my life.  The "busy-ness" of my life has been the perfect match for the head traffic and I have accepted that as the way life is for someone who is reasonably intelligent and who is culturally successful.

      But I am starting to wonder about all this now.  I am noticing in myself the desire to stop this craziness.  I am noticing that the slower and the quieter I go, the more gladness and delight I find in the world.  I am accustomed to working hard and giving 1,000% in everything I do.  And, certainly, that has paid off nicely in terms of the standard definition of success.  I have a good job, a comfortable home in a  desirable location, two college educated and compassionate children.  But it hasn't left much time at all for just being, for simply absorbing the world.  

     There were tasks to be done in younger years. Perhaps now the task for me is to start listening more to the soft voices in my head. Oh, and trust me, they are there. They have always been afraid to speak above a whisper because the voice of Busy is so damn loud and, frankly, scary.  I am guessing that the only way I can make the world safe for the soft voices to speak to me is to send Busy away.  That's hard to do because Busy is also bossy and has been in charge since I was pretty much about 12 years old.  I'm not sure how I am going to accomplish the dismissal of Busy but stay tuned.  I'm sure that I will want to write about it.


       This post came to me as an immediate reaction to listening to the YouTube video of the recent Kennedy Center Honors 2012 tribute for Led Zeppelin.  What is it about this song that is so powerful?  And this rendition is made all the more intense by the reactions of the three surviving original band members to their music being performed on stage.  The tears that came to my eyes must be about the passage of time but also about  the haunting beauty of this song.  It's moments like this that make me KNOW I need to send Busy packing.  I need to make time to listen to music that touches me, to walk in the early dawn and be seized by the world waking up.  I need time to read and to absorb what I am reading.  I need time to play with words and with the colors and textures of paint.  I need time to feel my life rather than just run my life.  I need time to taste and time to be, maybe even time to find out who is there in my head besides Busy.

There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Ooh, ooh, and she's buying a stairway to heaven

There's a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings
In a tree by the brook, there's a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven
Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it makes me wonder

There's a feeling I get when I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who stand looking
Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it really makes me wonder

And it's whispered that soon if we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now
It's just a spring clean for the May queen
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on
And it makes me wonder

Your head is humming and it won't go, in case you don't know
The piper's calling you to join him
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind?

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold

And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all, yeah
To be a rock and not to roll

And she's buying a stairway to heaven

Friday, January 4, 2013

I'm a "None"

    The headline on the editorial page this morning caught my attention:  "Meet the 'Nones':  Spiritual but not Religious".  The "Nones".  That's what pollsters call those Americans who check the "None" box when asked about their religious affiliation. Apparently, this group is growing fast and, um, guess what?  I am one of them.

     It made me think about how that happened.  I was raised in a devout Roman Catholic household.  Along with my siblings, I attended Catholic schools.  The family's social world revolved entirely around the parish and the extended (Catholic) family.  Daily Mass was part of the school in the lower grades and Sunday Mass was a command performance. There were prayers before and after every meal, while traveling in the car, and after dinner during the months of May and October.  All rituals surrounding Lent and Advent were adhered to.  I memorized so many prayers and so many answers to life's toughest questions.  I even won the local Catechism Bee in 8th grade.  As a child, I think it was actually a protective and secure bubble.

    The significant cultural changes of the late 60's/early 70's blasted the whole Catholic Church thing out of the water for me.  I came to resent the power and control that I saw as the Church.  So much power and control over sexuality angered me.  Birth control?  Really?  That's a problem why?  Oh, because the one and only purpose for sex is procreation.  Hmmm,  how about allowing people to enjoy sex would make the Church lose power?  And women as priests?  And what was/is the problem with that?  That's not the gender that was taken into Jesus's circle of disciples?  How about that was the culture at the time Jesus walked the Earth?  So much else in the culture changed and we survived.  Why not allowing women to have some authority? Oh, right, control and power.  There are lots of examples I could cite but, overall, I felt (and still feel) as if the Church was all about controlling the behaviors of people rather than encouraging people to think through their choices for themselves.  That's when I started checking the "None" box.

     Don't get me wrong.  I do know some very good people who are faithful members of the Catholic Church.  And the focus on social justice issues has always been one of the saving graces of some of the Church leadership.  It just doesn't fit for me. Or, perhaps I should say, I don't fit in it.

     Along the way, people have occasionally suggested that I try this church or that church - something not Catholic.  And I guess I wonder why I would do that.  What is it that people who belong to a church get from that experience?  Why would a person belong to a church?  Many people want community and a church community gives you, presumably, a group of like minded people with whom to socialize.  Those of you who know me, know that I am not too big on socializing.  I suppose a church also gives its members tools to get through life.  Church members know the rules and they know the consequences.  Embracing a church means you are privy to answers to some very tough questions - questions that I find impossible to answer with certainty.  It also means you really don't have to think too much about the questions because the answers have been provided.  You can live your life with confidence, based on your beliefs. I suppose I am choosing to continue to wonder rather than believe.

    Checking "None" does not mean that I am an atheist.  No, I wouldn't say that at all.  It means I am curious and interested.  It means I am willing to read and learn about all religions.  It means that I am happy for people to peacefully practice their chosen religion for themselves.  I don't want to be controlled by the religions of others.  I don't want religions to tell me what to do but it's okay if anyone else wants a religion to help guide their way while on Earth.  But please don't allow your religion to dictate my life.  Again, I believe I am a spiritual person.  As the author of this article puts it. "Most "Nones" have a reverence for a power greater than ourselves and crave a deeper understanding of its significance."  Yup, that's me.

   How about you?  Do you belong to a church?  Care to tell why or why not?


***  I dont' remember the correct way to footnote but the article was written by Corinna Nicolaou and originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.  I spotted it in the Jan 4, 2013 issue of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What To Do With 2013

    “For last year's words belong to last year's language 
And next year's words await another voice.” 
 T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

     On this day last year, I created a list of fifty things I wanted to do in 2012.  Fifty was the magic number.  I hoped to stretch my mind and keep thinking of things I wanted to do rather than just stop at a handful.  I didn't think of these fifty items as goals, more as things that I was interested in pursuing.  No pressure, no big deal.  And then I watched myself during 2012, taking inventory in the spring, summer, fall, and early in December.  I was curious to see which ones would stick and which ones might fall by the wayside, which ones would keep my interest all year and which ones I would toss aside.  True to my original plan, I never did feel any pressure to achieve anything.  The fifty items were simply guideposts for the year.

     Over the last couple of days I have again compiled a list of guideposts for the new year.  I intentionally did not go back and check what I had written last year as I wanted the ideas to come from what was important to me right now, not what mattered last year.  And, for fun and games, I expect to take an inventory again in the spring, summer, fall, and early in December (which feels like a long time away).  I am curious about how they all play out.  Stay tuned.

1.  Learn how to sort through and organize the photos I have taken.  And
      then do that.

2.  Start and continue a Five Year Journal.

3.  Change out the countertops in the kitchen.

4.  Invest in a new kitchen stove.

5.  Remove some of the heavy wood accents from the kitchen.

6.  Investigate and possibly install a new kitchen table arrangement
7.  Participate again in the A to Z Challenge in April.

8.  Continue to take walks after work in the neighborhood.

9.  Experiment with paint and new directions.

10.  Go to Chicago.

11. Wait for something to happen.

12.  Go through cabinets and closets and pare down possessions.

13.  Avoid buying unnecessary junk.

14.  Get the right hand repaired.

15.  Get the left hand repaired.

16.  Go to Yosemite Valley in April.

17.  Investigate how to make photos and/or original artwork into stationery and calendars.

18.  Create a doors and windows photo series.

19.  Read more novels.

20.  Accept the darkness.

21. Go to Hawaii with Laura.

22.  Carry my camera as often as possible.  Use it as often as possible.

23.  Foster curiosity.

24.  Visit at least 10 county parks that are new to me.

25.  Become a member and regular visitor at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts.

26.  Visit MOMA in SF at least once during the year.

27.  Go to the DeYoung in SF at least once during the year.

28.  Learn what it means to make and apply my own rules for my own self.

29.   Practice being okay with being unproductive.

30.  Send 52 snail mail notes to people to remind them that they matter to me.

31.  Visit NYC and celebrate my birthday with anyone who can be there.

32.  Learn what surrender means.

33.  Read 26 books and keep active on Goodreads.

34.  Create a few more Saturdays during the school year.

35.  Notice and photograph flowers.

36.  Take the hand of the little girl.  Watch her.  Listen to her.

37.  Make room to experiment and play with cooking real dinners.

38.  Engage in frequent and random conversations with myself.

39.  Go hiking with Alex in the Santa Cruz Mountains at least once before the summer.

40.  Appreciate the temporary.  Notice it everywhere.

41.  Pay attention to the arguments between want and should.  Let want's voice be heard.

42.  Learn how to put the labels on the side of the blog.

43.  Remember the person I wanted to be.

44.  Schedule regular girl time with my best girl.

45.  Clear off my home desk and keep it cleared off.

46.  Explore what it would take to go to an 80% contract at work next school year.

47.  Look for surprises.

48.  Keep the dream journal going.  Listen to what I am saying to me all the time.

49.  Make room on the bench for all the characters who live in my head.  Welcome them all and listen to what they have to say.

50.  Hug myself from time to time.