13 December 2007

A little less conversation, a little more . . . .

It’s the thought that counts.

Or is it?

Now, I do not know the origin of this phrase so I went where I always go when I don’t know something, the Internet. Because if you see it on the Internet, it must be true. Strangely enough, I couldn’t find it anywhere. There are thousands of web pages where the phrase is used but of the five I clicked to, there was not one where the phrase is explained.

So as everyone knows, when you can’t find it on the Internet, you call your trusty, friendly reference librarian (and I totally have one.) Unfortunately, the one reference librarian I know that is trusty AND friendly was not on duty. (Maybe I need to get him a beeper.) This is indeed unfortunate as I am now forced to proceed unenlightened and run a very high risk of shoving my foot directly down my throat.

Well, I tried. It’s the thought that counts, right?

No. I disagree. In fact, I’m not sure I could disagree more. Now, it’s not that I think “the thought” is without value. I see the value, really I do. Of course, “the thought” must come first. You must first think of taking flowers to a sick friend before you will ever find yourself taking actual flowers to an actual sick friend. The thought of going back to college to finish that degree must happen before you will step in to the registrar’s office. It must first occur to you that you’ve always wanted to be a major league ballplayer before you’re likely to start taking steroids.

This is all a given. Or in this case, three givens. But “It’s the thought that counts” implies that simply having the noble, inspired, generous, life-changing thought is what ‘counts.’ In what universe? Having the thought is only the first step, and in my opinion worth very little if left at that.

If I think about calling my philosophy teacher from high school to tell him what a difference he made in my life, how I stayed in school and went on to college because of his extra efforts and honest friendship but I never make that call and then hear that he has passed away, does that thought ‘count?’

In my opinion not only is it not the thought that counts, even the intention after the thought is worth very little unless action follows. I can intend to do anything: climb Everest, run for office, adopt a puppy, cure cancer, cross the street. The sky’s the limit if it is indeed the thought (or intention) that counts, but it isn’t. If I never move forward then none of it ‘counts.’

If I have all my inspired thoughts packed and on board, my noble intentions in my sights, what good does it do me? It’s the action that counts; it’s what I do with my thoughts and intentions. I can mean to do something all day long, all year long but if I never get around to it and try to pacify myself with “it’s the thought that counts,” I’m an idiot. In fact, it may be a special type of sin against one’s soul to mean to do something and fail to do it. If my heart tugs at me but I stand still, then I’ve failed my heart. My self.

Don’t kid yourself, it is not the thought that counts. The thought is required to start the process but it’s the action, the effort, the tenacity, the determination supporting the thought that counts.

13 November 2007

Help Yourself

A patron came up to me today, at the library where I work and asked me if I knew any good inspirational books.

I hesitated.

"Like a good self help book," she added, avoiding direct eye contact through out.

Well, if this is not a loaded question . . . . . I don't know.
Seriously, one man's inspiration is another man's jazz album, or Chilton's repair manual, or muffin cookbook.

I began thinking back over my life thus far and which books have inspired me to write, which books have inspired me to cook, which books have inspired me to take up snow boarding (no such book), which books have inspired me to be brave and which books have inspired me to read more books, and I asked this woman if there was any particular area in which she was looking for inspiration.

"In everything," she said.

I sat in a staff meeting of about twenty five fellow library employees not long ago and as a type of ice breaker we went around the room sharing what types of books we read. (An exceptional and unusual ice breaker, if you ever need one.)

There was a great representation: mysteries, romance, biographies, comic books, historical fiction, junior paperback, true crime, graphic novels, you name it. Many people mentioned their preference for specific authors: Grisham, Steele, King, Rice, Rule, Canfield, Ambrose, Chopra, Suess, Dahl.

Almost everyone gave a couple of answers. I've noticed working at the library that people can be a bit snobbish about what they read. "Well, I only read non-fiction," is the sniffy comment I've heard the most often in the course of my work. Or sometimes, "I only read biographies." Heavy emphasis on the 'only.'

Later that day, I thought back over all the answers and tried to think of any genre that might have been missed. I couldn't think of anything. Then it hit me. Self-help. Not one person there admitted to reading self-help books, including myself.

I believe any book can be inspirational, if it's read at the exact moment it's message is needed. (Some, if only by their example of 'how not to do it.') Fiction, non-fiction, adult or children book. If today I am feeling overwhelmed and defeated and without hope, I may find inspiration where I least expect it. In Goodnight Moon or The Night Before Christmas. The words of JK Rowling might be just the thing I need to get me started off on a completely new life's course. Who knows.

Typically however, we tend to think of self-help books as those filled with instructions for fixing what is wrong with us. Anger problems, weight loss, health issues, financial dilemmas, depression and such. Not the type of difficulties we are encouraged to confess socially.

But I confess.

I have borrowed, purchased and checked out many self help books. I want to read about and learn better ways, if they exist. And they almost certainly do, sometimes. What I have failed to do with most of these books however, is finish them. They usually lose me about a third of the way through. I believe the title and the marketing blurbs on the cover. I'm still in for the first few chapters, but mostly I don't see the finish line. So maybe someone should write a book on how to finish a self help book.

I have finished a few. A couple I absolutely love and am so glad I stumbled across. Some I was unable to benefit from (but at least I finished them).

I wish I'd thought to admit that I read self-help that day in the meeting. People just don't go around waving that flag and I fell right in line with the thinking that there is something embarrassing or shameful about needing help and seeking it. This is craziness.

I am happy to say that I don't know it all, that I have a lot to figure out. Well, okay not 'happy' exactly but willing at least. I wish I did have it all figured out. But I don't.

And neither, by the way, do most other people.

News flash. Our culture is conclusive evidence of how much we don't know. But aside from that, do not forget that I am the one checking in the material that pretty well represents what people read and guess what. . . . . we're reading self help, whether we say so out loud or not. I easily check in more self help, inspirational-type material than any other category of library items.

So I don't know who those fellow library employees thought they were kidding that day. And they may actually be reading the complete works of Shakespeare but they are also reading The Idiots Guide to Sex and many, many others.

And good for them!

30 October 2007

13 Across

I'm back on crosswords. (All thanks to Jeff S. and PBS!) I'd been crossword-free for so many years I'd lost count. And I can count pretty high, sometimes.

I have a hard time doing something a little bit. Something, ha, more like everything. There are very few things in my life that I don't care DEEPLY about. Deeply, as in: intensely, intimately, passionately, anal-retentively, thoroughly, obsessive-compulsively, diagnosibly.

(Is that a word? Well, it is now.)

So it follows that when in a relationship, I'm known far and wide for my level of commitment and intensity. Good, if you can work up an appreciation for that kind of thing. But historically viewed as bad, more often than not.

I've known some unfortunate relationships. Stupid guys. Mean guys. Harsh, heartless, soul-sucking, deliberately cruel, ill-tempered, malicious, vicious, contemptuous, gleefully sadistic guys with, by the way, very small genitalia. (It's all that bad karma.) The thing is, such guys are experts at marketing and you don't realize you're in stormy, even dangerous waters until you can no longer see the shore. And since I, historically am not very good at knowing when to stop beating a dead horse, I found myself barely treading water a good number of times.

I've always looked back on these relationships with shame and regret. "How could I be so stupid as to be fooled initially, up front, then to stick around even after the truth was quite clear?" Just thinking of them, made me cringe and shudder.

Recently however, it dawned on me that if it weren't for one particularly smug, snively, misogynistic, mouth-breathing, bottom-feeding, bed-wetting (oops, getting carried away. . . . ) individual that I knew early in college, I might not have embraced so completely my love and loyalty to the Beatles. I was all in with David B, therefore I was all in with the Beatles. Basic math.

I love the Beatles, all four. With my favorite rotating fairly because they all have equal merit. In my opinion, Paul is the cutest, John was the most gifted, George was the most overlooked and underrated and Ringo was the drummer. Girls, at least this one, love drummers.

I was born in the sixties and should have already had a healthy exposure to the Beatles but I am from Yakima, so instead I was exposed to Glen Campbell, Donna Fargo and BJ Thomas. Knowing of the Beatles of course generally, it wasn't until the early eighties that I dove in head first. And it's all thanks to David. An intensely charming, disarming, magnetic, heart-melting, entrancing, beautifully long haired son of a bitch, who when he wasn't busy bewitching me could invariably be found mesmerizing some other stupid, naive, foolish, trusting, confused girl, who probably and conveniently enough for David, happened to be naked and nodding enthusiastically at the time.

Anyway. . . . .

I thought if there was an upside to David B, there should be an upside to any other unfortunate encounters from my previous lifestyle.

For example: Jeff S. introduced me to the daily crossword. Regardless of what else happened on any given day, the crossword puzzle was not negotiable. Some people need coffee or crack to get started each morning, Jeff had to do the puzzle. So I did too. I can't seem to be anything but "all in." We'd buy two papers and sharpen our pencils. Jeff, when he wasn't covertly visiting an ex-girlfriend for twisted nostalgia sex or waiting to get bailed out of jail for DUI, also taught me how to shoot pool. (Every mother's dream for her daughter.) So I've got that going for me.

It's true. I thank David B. for the Beatles, for ER Rogers, for Dirty Mothers, for ham bao, for Sunnyside Beach, for teaching me to use chop sticks, for the things that linger in my life as positive side-effects, in spite of David himself.

I thank Steve O. for Gasparetti onion rings (to go) and for getting that other girl pregnant so I can safely say "Whew, close one!"

And I thank Jeff S., whose mantra when it came to intercourse and intimacy was 'variety is the spice of life,' for Manhattans straight up and the silver linings that are left over from an otherwise torturous slice of my life. I am still pretty lousy at pool but at least I look like I know what I'm doing. And today I knew instantly what 13 across was.

Unfortunately there are others. I'm still trying to come up with the bright side of Gary (cringe) and Mel (shudder). How on earth is it possible that I could be such an idiot? Rhetorical question by the way, you can stop making that list.

A few nights ago, there was a PBS documentary on crossword tournaments. Who knew? And for a moment I was taken back to the newspaper folded into quarters and the haunting voice of Jeff yelling at me because I dared to use a pen and some of my letters were lower case. After the show I scoured the house looking for an old paper, so I could do a puzzle. It was great. I hopped into bed that night telling myself "I am totally going to do this crossword puzzle" all giggly and giddy. Then I took a look at some of the clues and amended that statement to "I am totally going to start this crossword puzzle." All the relaxing, intellectual challenge without the toxic company and verbal abuse. Win/win. So now I'm back on crosswords. At least one a day, sometimes more (all in again). Did you know there are usually two puzzles in the paper now days?

Times change and so do I.

10 October 2007

Much Ado

I have a special place in my heart for Michael Keaton.
(Translation:I have a serious crush on Michael Keaton.)

I really can’t elaborate much, mostly because I don't understand it myself.

He's no Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise or Johnny Depp (although according to IMDB.com he was considered for the role of Capt. Jack Sparrow).

Or the more seasoned Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford or Mel Gibson. But this is all good from where I stand, because being unlike these is a mark in his favor. I find myself drawn to his subtle, dry, intelligent humor. And the spark in his eyes when he grins doesn't hurt.

Do you know if he's married? Never mind.

Granted, he really hasn’t been in much recently, but in my world this is also a plus as opposed to a minus. I love this guy. He does a little something for me.

Does he have a pierced ear, do ya think?
As I was saying. . . .

Of course as with any actor, he has some good stuff and some ‘eh’ not so good stuff.

  • I can take or leave Batman.
  • He was hilarious in Night Shift, but a little over the top in my ideal fantasy land.
  • Beattlejuice was funny, but there weren’t enough Keaton scenes as far as I’m concerned.
  • The Paper was good but a bit too serious most of the time. (Randy Quaid was too funny.)
  • He was cute in Multiplicity but the movie itself was not good in my opinion.
  • My Life was all about him dying, that just made me sad.
  • I think Mr. Mom was a cute movie, but not a classic exactly.
  • He was also good in the movie, Live From Baghdad. Of course, this was a win-win for me, because I had read the book about CNN’s live trendsetting broadcasts from our first Iraq conflict back in the nineties. The book was fascinating (I recommend it), the casting of the movie was simply frosting on the cake as far as I was concerned.

My all time favorite Michael Keaton part is the role of Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing. Talk about not enough scenes, his role may qualify as a cameo, but I watch this movie strictly because of Keaton (although it has some of the best one-liners of any movie I know). If you haven’t seen his work in this movie, it’s the best. I recommed it just to see him. Even if you are not a Michael Keaton fan, I believe you’ll laugh.

Do you think he'd wear clogs for me? Hmmm, maybe . . . . anyway.

I work at a library and so wanting to know what other Keaton material we had in the system (it had been a while since I’d had a good dose), I did a search of our catalog.

An unexpected DVD came up in the search. A documentary that he narrates. Okay, not exactly my 'fix' of choice, but it piqued my interest anyway. Mainly because the subject of the documentary was Fred Rogers.

I have a special place in my heart for Mr. Rogers.
(Translation: I have such a profound appreciation and respect for this man that watching this DVD was a double jackpot.)

Apparently Micheal Keaton began his career working at a small public TV station in Boston that also employed Fred Rogers and they worked together in the early years. It was so cool hearing the admiration for Fred Rogers in the voice of Michael Keaton. The DVD was a bit predictable but wonderful all the same.

I grew up on Fred Rogers. Now I didn't exactly mention it to my friends on the play ground, but I watched him every day after school. Because of my skeptical, cynical nature even at that age, I know I didn’t benefit as much from the spirit and intent of the show as I could have, but I knew even then that it soothed my soul in some way. It was relaxing and reassuring.

When I was grown with children of my own, we watched it together.
When they were older and going to school, I’d watch it without them.

Well, ‘watch’ is probably not the right word. As I was folding clothes, making beds, posting teacher conference reminders, scanning PTA memos and peeling potatoes for that evening’s dinner, making the list of science fair supplies we’d be picking up from Lowe’s hardware and trying to get the glue stick detached from the carpet, calling the vet for the inevitable appointment in Velvet’s future and searching for unseen but inevitable Lego pieces and Barbie shoes from under the sofa I would listen to Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.

I was calmed by his voice, by the piano, by the songs of encouragement, by the words of truth. I was soothed like a familiar meditation. What ever the chores in my daily life, my world was quieted by Mr. Rogers.

Probably neither of these men will ever be in the 100 most Googled celebrities, but I am a fan. And I love the way the universe works and brought them together in their careers and in my affection.

11 September 2007

September 11

I could get completely caught up in an argument of the decisions made before 9/11. Administrative, economical, political decisions that may have contributed to the death toll that day. Opportunities 'we' may have had to deal with bin Laden prior to that Tuesday. About people working in positions of national security who may have been fired for pointing out failures that quite possibly compromised our country's safety. Systems and policies in New York City that may have prevented clear communications between rescue agencies. Whether or not we had become a country of complacent citizens, oblivious to the world beyond us and even to the workings of our own government, unable to see past the end of our collective wallet.

I could also get caught up in arguments of the decisions made since 9/11. Whether we should or should not have gone to war with Iraq, whether or not we should still be at war with Iraq. Whether or not it's patriotic or disloyal to be against the war. Whether or not you can be against the war and still be seen as supportive of our troops. About the people who are/were in the position to make policy and decision that in effect treat an entire population of our nation's young and strong and courageous military personnel as if they are disposable human beings. If I wear a flag on my blouse today, am I pro-war? If I speak out against President Bush, am I unpatriotic? I could get completely caught up in such discussion.

But what I really want to do is weep.

All day today and for a few day after, my eyes will be wet and red and on the verge. People I work with will wonder if I'm feeling okay. It's a grief very specific to September 11th. It happens every year since 2001. It feels heavy, like a wet wool coat that I can't take off. Heavy, dark, oppressive.

It isn't that I don't think about it and remember through out the other days of the year. I do. But when the anniversary comes around, inside my chest there seems to develop the weight of a stone engraved with 09/11/01

I guess I feel like I don't have the right to this grief. I have no direct nor indirect connection to any one who was killed or injured on September 11th. I have no personal friends or family that have been sent to Iraq or Afghanistan as a result of September 11th. I read somewhere that 3,051 children lost a parent that day and over 1,600 people lost a spouse or a partner. I can't even begin to know the pain involved for the friends and families of those who suffered and died. But I still feel the most intense, personal and profound grief I have ever known. It isn't a brotherhood, patriotic fellow countryman type grief, otherwise it wouldn't feel so lonely.

If I did get all tied up in the debates surrounding 9/11, I believe it would help distract me from this sadness.

What I think about most are the rescuers. The firefighters, police officers, paramedics, port authority officers, World Trade Center security staff. And the decisions made on that day.

I was recently at a fire extinguisher safety class and the firefighter speaking to us, explained that it's so easy to second guess why a parent would come running out of a burning house, completely forgetting the child left inside but that the smoke and chemical fumes, the darkness and panic and instinct that overwhelms a person, can easily leave one incapable of logical thought and decision-making capabilities.

I can only imagine but it seems to me the first thought on almost any one's mind in the towers or at the Pentagon that day must have been 'get out of the building.' I imagine these people found their feet and hands doing things beyond logical thought. Running faster than they thought possible, breaking down doors, tearing through the wall of a stuck elevator, carrying the disabled, pulling terrified co-workers down the stairs, throwing themselves out the windows as a last resort, anything to escape the fire and destruction all around them. Anything to get away, to just get out.

But the rescuers went in. They went running in the doors, up the stairs, straight into the smoke and the dark and the toxic fumes that everyone else was running away from. They ran against the flow of humanity, against the instinct of fear and self preservation. They ran in. My hands tremble when I think about this. I know I couldn't do it. I am in awe of such behavior. I cannot get over what they did that day. Each and every one. All that survived and all that did not.

I wish I could thank them enough, the men and women of our country who make rescue their work, the courageous members of our military. I stop by a couple of local fire stations and leave flowers, I say thank you. I shake the hand of a war veteran and express my gratitude, but it feels empty and falls short of what I am trying to say. I really don't think it can be accurately or adequately said. And if it can be, I don't think it can be said often enough.

That day and the days and weeks that followed, as we tried to process what had happened, I noticed people handling it in a variety of ways. Some people painted their roof like the American flag, others stopped by fire stations and police stations with food and flowers to show support. Some joined the military, some re-enlisted. I remember the Veteran's Day assembly at my children's elementary school later that year. My children and their class mates sang the songs of each branch of the military and during the songs, members of the audience who were active duty or retired military were to stand during the song of their branch of service. I sobbed. It was so helpful and touching the shift that swept our country following the attacks. It soothed my heart. But I remember thinking this was an opportunity for personal change. There was a lot of room for such thinking. Unfortunately there still is.

It's been six years and my life has changed some and I'm grateful, but it hasn't changed nearly enough. I so wanted to use this national tragedy to prompt something positive in my own world, in my heart. I wanted to be able to look back and know that in the midst of our national recovery, I gained a new perspective. That I would no longer fall for my usual and age old pitfalls of behavior that have never served me well, and then consequently did not serve those I love well. After September 11, 2001 I wanted to never be the same.

I'm still working on it. I haven't given up. I'm getting there and want to remember today with reverence for what was lost and with hope with what is ahead.

06 August 2007


A few days ago I was shopping at one of those deluxe grocery stores. The kind with the regular grocery stuff, but also a cosmetics department, a hunting department, a computer department, and an Army surplus department. Okay, not really but you know the mega-stores I mean.

I do not like to shop. I tolerate grocery shopping because the end result is eating, but otherwise I don't like it.

I am often guilty of thinking I'll just run right in here, grab a couple things and be done. Voila!

This turns out to be wishful thinking more often than not. What usually happens is more like, I run in and refuse to grab a cart or even a basket because I'm only getting a few things, remember? I get my 'few' things, but while I'm shopping I spot something (or some things) else that I really need to get (really) but forgot to put on the short list in my hand. So by the time I get up to the check out, things are over flowing my arms. I walk up there with a death-grip hug on a gallon of milk, a bag of ice, sunscreen, notebook paper, ice cream, champagne, a five pound bag of rice (because it's so much cheaper per pound) and the Sunday newspaper. Knowing that if I let go of any one thing, we are going to need 'clean up' on Checkstand 713. Speedy quick.

So a few days ago I found myself running in said mastodon-store. It worked out fine, I was successful in not having to break down and grab a basket, I paid for my items and carried my three bags, worth ninety-seven dollars, and headed out to my car. Whew, another shopping trip survived.

An hour later I was sitting at the dining room table of a friend, catching up, when I felt something odd in my pocket. It was a tiny bottle of lavender essential oil from the Natural Food section of the Godzilla-store. Exactly $9.99 worth of essential oil. The odd thing about this item in my pocket is that I never took it out of my grocery bag. So, as I'm fingering this bottle and the little security tag attached to the side that is almost bigger than the bottle itself, I realize that for the first time since before grade school, I have shop lifted.

Now we all have our youthful indiscretions to look back on. I have mine, not to be mentioned here, and you have yours. Remember? Anyway, shop lifting is not one of my childhood guilts. One time, just once, I took something. I took a single, whole walnut from the bulk bin of the produce department of the only Safeway of our small town and slipped it into my pocket. I was probably about four or five years old. When I got home, I was so afraid of getting caught that all I wanted to do was hide it. There was enormous guilt in that one nut. I found a hiding place behind our recliner/rocker in the corner. It sat there for a while, then the next time we were headed for the store, I put it back in my pocket and slipped it back into the bulk bin at Safeway.

Whew, crisis and a life of crime averted.

Now do you wonder, if I was going to shop lift anything, why I didn't go for a Blowpop, or Bottlecaps or pretend cigarettes? Something worth the risk? I wonder exactly the same thing. I think the walnut, in it's impenetrable-for-a-five-year-old shell, is symbolic. I'm just not sure of what. Maybe that I am nuts.

Back to the present: I sit at my friend's table not mentioning the sweaty hand and bottle in my pocket. Now of course, I'm not worried about getting caught, but I hate this feeling. When loading up my arms with the big ticket items, I must have slipped it into my pocket to free up a hand. I hate that I shopped mindlessly, that I was not paying attention, that I was in such a hurry that I walked out of that high security mother of all stores (where the alarm did NOT sound as I walked out) with this essential oil in my pocket. Do you know what most people use lavender oil for? RELAXATION! The irony!

So I'm tired and I looking forward to getting home after our visit. I could return to the store another day and pay for the misdemeanor in my pocket but I know that my soul will not like this one little bit. I have to, want to take care of it as soon as possible.

I pull into the parking lot and run back into the store. The alarm sounds as I'm crossing the threshold. Yeah, yeah. I take it back to the same check out I went through the first time I was in this hell store; it was not the same cashier. I explain that 'somehow' I walked out without paying for this item (and by the way, you're alarm system is on backward) and so I now need to pay for it. The cashier is a kid, a young man of maybe, MAYBE nineteen. He listens to me, and squints his eyes.
"You came back to pay for it?"
"Most people wouldn't have done that," he states, probably not realizing that I'm taking this as a compliment, instead of the way he intends it.
"Most people would probably break out in boils when they used it too," I explain. "I am not taking any chances."
He looks confused.
"I don't screw with karma like that," I said.
He gives me half a smile, pity probably, and I leave the store and head home to reward myself with a cold glass of Bellatore and a clear retail conscience.

Now as most of my posts do, this one is taking on a life of its own. The point I set out to make here is that we have become a society of seeing what we can get away with. It has become an 'accomplishment' to envy, when some one boasts of getting away with something.

"Guess what! The chick at the drive up at Wendy's just gave me five dollars too much change."

"I got caught going twenty over the speed limit, but I went to court to fight my ticket and I got it cut in half."

In sports, children (not to mention the paid professionals) spend the entire game trying to get away with something. Arguing calls that they know are just, flopping to the ground acting like they were fouled to get an undeserved (and probably unpracticed) foul shot. Getting tackled at the eight yard line, and wrestling around in the pile, inching the ball closer and closer to the first down marker when they think the ref won't see. Always trying to get away with something, and then patting themselves on the back when they are successful.

When did this happen? This shift from doing the right thing, simply because it wouldn't occur to us to do anything else. It feels very subtle to me. It's not like the price of gas or the rate of meth use, that you can see creeping ever sky ward. It happens unseen, unchecked and even celebrated.

I do not want any credit or brownie points for doing the right thing here. (Although I wouldn't mind a brownie.) What I hope happens instead is that that kid thinks about it; that after he got off work and was deciding which fast food establishment to patronize, he remembers the lady who came all the way back into the store just to pay for one item she inadvertently walked out with.
This is a lot to hope for, I'm afraid.

11 July 2007

The Red Road to Happy

I haven't posted here for a long while. I want to, but the overwhelming thoughts on my mind today are a bit questionable for this, and possibly any other forum.
So I'm wondering if it's a good idea to give them air.

You know what I mean, something is swirling within your head, and you can't quite decide if it would be wise or foolish to talk about. Maybe the question itself is a good indication.

Erring on the side of caution or throwing caution to the wind?

I wonder why there are days when thoughts can be so consuming, heavy in nature. And other times, thoughts are light, airy and energizing. When by all appearances there is nothing significantly different from one day to the next.

Is it a physiological matter, like blood sugar or hormones?
Is it the tide, the pull of the moon?
Is it metaphysical and dependant on the thoughts I allow versus those I do not?
Could it be the weather, the effect of the draining oppressive high temperatures or of gray skies?

It startles me at times what has the power to thrill me and what does not.
And what has the power to kill my joy and what does not.
I will plan a special day of alone time, with indulgent ingredients like fresh flowers, a trip to the bookstore, champagne in crystal, walking in the sand. But at the end of the day, I'm feeling less satisfied than I would have imagined. I went through all the proper steps, but something didn't take.

Then on the other hand, I'll have no such plans, but hear the perfect song at the perfect moment in an otherwise overwhelmingly imperfect day and suddenly I feel fully re-energized, immortal and taller.

Recently, I cleaned out and reorganized the supply closet at work. It was simply a task on my list of things to do that day. It was a job long overdue and became quite involved. When it was complete, it felt as good as a 'job well done' usually feels. Pretty damn good, if you ask me.

But then over the next few days, I found myself going over to that closet, opening the doors, checking over both shoulders to make sure no one was looking, then stepping back and taking a good deep breath of the order before me. This simple, occasional task had the power to soothe my library tired, road weary soul. I love but would never have predicted such an effect.

For too long now, I've owned a generic, beige dish drainer with no personality at all (still doing my dishes the 'old school' way). It was looking dreary and weary so I grabbed a new one at the store last week. A new RED one. *Sigh* It radiated "pretty and shiny" in the store like all new products are supposed to, emitting that silent but deadly brain twisting radar signal "Buy me, buy me. I will bring you happiness, success, riches untold. If you buy me, you will BE somebody!" Well, don't tell anyone but it's true. It does brings me happiness. Every time I walk by that shiny new RED bauble on my kitchen counter, I stop and smile. Plus it still has that new drainer smell. Win-win.

Who knew happiness, even momentary happiness, could sometimes be found in the color a dish drainer?
Or Aretha Franklin's spelling ability?
Or from running my hands over a perfectly placed box of freshly sharpened #2 pencils?
(Do they make RED #2 pencils?)
Or looking forward to crawling into bed with Harry Potter?

How is it on some days, in some ways, I can be so easily pleased?
Then at other times, that seem no different at all, I am virtually impossible to please?

Do you have unusual events or objects in your life that surprise you at their power to please, to touch your happy spot, to bring you peace? I'd like to hear. Maybe I'm missing out on something that I could be appreciating as much as you do. SHARE!

Admit it, you'll never look at a new RED dish drainer the same again, will ya?

24 June 2007

'Shiny Child' & 'Genius Grandmother'

The best thing happened today. The BEST thing happened!

And my joy is in no way diminished by the fact that no one is going to appreciate how ‘best’ this is, except for me. I don’t care if you get it or not. I’m so happy. (How often do you hear me say that?)

As I have mentioned before, I work in a library. And as good as that is, it is not the best thing today. I work in a really small branch of a library that is housed in the local community center. There are many advantages that fit my nature perfectly about working in this tiny library. One advantage is that it completely fits my desire to control. I can be a true freak about control if I’m not careful. At this library, most everything peripheral and superficial is influenced by my opinion. I have a lot to say about how things get shelved, what items go on display, what items get moved where and so on.
I love this job.

When I got this job, I inherited some factors from the previous branch assistant. One being the acrylic rack that hung on the wall in the back corner by the door that has that 'Alarm Will Sound' warning on it. You know, the corner that gets hardly any foot traffic. Anyway, these two shelves were home to our ‘free’ periodicals. Magazines and newspapers that are free of charge: listings of the local farmers markets, upcoming events for the elderly, the local parks & recreation department's calendar, etc.

These acrylic holders bothered me from day one, two and a half years ago. They sucked, as far as I could tell. All the magazines and periodicals fell over in the holders. They would stand up straight the first day, but then gravity would rule all the days that follow. I hated looking over to that corner and seeing all those floppy periodicals, much less having to go over there and try to make it look better, which by the way was not humanly possible. Eventually my frustration got the best of me and I begged someone with string pulling authority to ‘fix it.’ She ordered new, free standing acrylic book shelves to solve my problem and the free stuff now looks great. Order & beauty restored. Whew.

The empty shelves that completely failed to fulfill their free periodical destiny were moved to another location in the library with my hopes of finding different library material that would not flop upon display and stand up shiny faced instead, for all our patrons to admire and check out and possibly even read.

Well, I tried everything in those shelves: talking books, non-fiction DVDs, paperbacks, board books. Nothing worked, not because they flopped but because of the nature of the shelves; they faced down toward the ground. So unless you were lying on our industrial strength multi-colored carpet and looking up admiring the speckled, universally generic ceiling tiles, you would never accidentally catch a glimpse of the cover, much less the title of anything in those holders. I officially gave up. But couldn’t really put that resignation into action yet, so they've hung on the wall empty and defeated for months.

When my string puller stopped by one day, I mentioned to her the futility of these shelves and my belief that whomever in our library system who ordered these useless items had probably worked for the pentagon in a previous life, ordering gold plated toilet seats and diamond tipped screw drivers or hammers or what ever they were. She wondered aloud if maybe they had been assembled incorrectly and we both stood there for a few minutes trying to figure out in what other configuration they could possibly be put together. We came up with nothing.

That was a month or two ago.

Today a young patron, I’d say she was about seven or eight years old, was in the branch with her grandmother. Now this library is tiny so I know the names and astrological signs of almost everyone who steps into our magical ‘Libraryland.’ But these two patrons were unfamiliar to me. As the grandmother browsed through our adult fiction section, the grand daughter sat on a small stool close by and read a book. She saw me shelving near by and asked me what those empty shelves were over her head. I explained how I’d tried but failed to find anything that displayed well in those shelves and that I really needed to just take them down and send them away, out of my sight. She looked at them as if she too were trying to think of something to put in those shelves. She ran over to a table and grabbed a book she planned to check out and put it in the middle shelf. I complimented her on her choice of books but showed her how unless you were a Chihuahua looking up from the floor or an infant gliding by in an adult driven stroller, and likely without the ability to read and probably without possession of a library card, no one could really appreciate this great book she picked because it faced the ground. I mentioned how I had even tried to figure out a different way to assemble them but that I was stumped.

It was then that all the planets aligned and all the library gods joined hands and the grandmother, that I will from now on refer to only as Genius Grandmother, said "Maybe they are put together backward." I studied the shelves, trying to picture them 'backward' but still saw nothing. I looked back to the grandmother and then back to the shelves and that's when I saw it.

It took this unique pair of patrons in the library at that very moment, my shelving in that specific area, my leaving those empty shelves hanging there all that time (thinking something would come to me), this inquisitive, socially shiny child and her Genius Grandmother converging at exactly that moment in the cosmic magic of library destiny. Like the library version of the Big Bang theory.

I could see it. The slots were in backward. I had tried to picture them reversed before but my logic couldn't make it work. She was right. They were all backward.

I pulled the top shelf and turned it around, then all the rest. I was giddy. If Nancy Pearl had been there, she'd have 'shushed' me.

I asked the child to help me pick books to fill the born-again shelves. She said her favorite animals were zebras, so we found all our junior non-fiction books on zebras. Genius Grandmother said hers were elephants, so we threw a couple of those in too. I went skipping around the stacks, all the typical daily burdens temporarily lifted from my shoulders.

Singing Tra-la-la. Okay not really, although I could have because these two magic people were our only patrons.

And so for the rest of my day, no matter what else happened, I was so happy. The zebras and elephants in our branch have never looked better and all is well.

09 June 2007

Unhealthy Debate

A long time ago, I had an interesting conversation with someone I loved deeply, and later managed to treat questionably. And I've carried that talk around with me since.

One day Kevin, the guy I was seeing in college, and I were walking on campus and talking. It was a relaxing, quiet Sunday afternoon and we'd spent the last couple of days together, looking ahead to another week of class. College was an amazing and difficult time in my life. I certainly wish I'd done it all differently.


Somehow the topic of selflessness came up and it turned into perhaps our biggest argument. It was my contention that there is no truly selfless act. That even an act that 'appears' to be selfless, is not. A very cynical belief at any age. I have never been above debate for the sake of debate, but this wasn't the case that day. I believed fully in my point.

Kevin asked about a person who would dive into frigid waters to save a drowning person and wouldn't that be a selfless act? I claimed that it would not be, even if he were to lose his life in the act of saving the drowning person. Because if that person were to stand there and watch someone drown when he believed it was in his power to help, he would hate himself for the rest of his life if he didn't try. He would not be able to live with his action, or in this case, non-action. So, it still comes back to how it effects the would-be rescuer.

It was a memorable discussion and started out friendly enough. He kept trying to come up with scenarios that would prove me and my theory wrong. There was nothing he could find that I was unable to turn around to an act that ultimately served the 'selfless' person, in one way or another. It started to get heated, and Kevin got pretty pissed off at me in the end.

I confess to enjoying, through out my life, winning a debate. It feels good. But on that day, there was something sad inside me because I could see that it was indeed a sad and unfortunate belief to hold. The fact was, however, that I couldn't see any other truth. Kevin was disappointed in me and quite frankly I think he hated that I felt this way. It wasn't a deal breaker for 'us' but it definitely didn't add to the magic of our relationship.

Today, twenty five years, one marriage and three children later, I still can't find an exception to this theory. Can you? I think I would like to be proven wrong. I think I would like to have been proven wrong that day. Maybe things would have gone differently for me since then. Maybe not.

Some might say the act of having children is a selfless act, because there is so much to sacrifice along the way. However, I don't think so. I don't think people have children for selfless reasons. I won't go into the reasons I think most people, myself included, have children because it would only reveal more of my cynical nature and how much it has in fact evolved, but I definitely do not believe it to be selflessness.

What about donating a kidney? Giving all one's money to charity? Pushing a child out of the way of a speeding car, only to be killed yourself? No, I'm not buying it. For these potentially 'selfless' people, to do otherwise would have been unthinkable. They would never be able to be happy being a person who wouldn't not have acted in the moment of need.

I wonder what Kevin thinks now. I presume he has gone on to marriage, career, children and more. Would he still disagree with me? I wish I had the opportunity to ask him this question and a few others.

Do you disagree with me? Is my thinking warped? Dark, harsh, twisted? Defeatist? Does it enable me in dysfunction somehow? I would LOVE your thoughts and your help in this. Another perspective might be more important than you could imagine.

08 May 2007

Edify Me

I recently found myself trying to explain, when asked, why I no longer watch a popular television series. Or more accurately, verbally fumbling all over myself trying to explain why I no longer watch a popular television series. And in the end, I'm pretty sure I was unsuccessful.

I like to think I'm relatively articulate but found myself running circles around my point. This has led me to the conclusion that I probably shouldn't be trying to explain something I don't even understand myself.

So over the next couple of days, I meditated on it. I danced on it. I ate on it. Why had I removed this series and a number of other 'hit' shows from my current viewing menu? It felt 'right,' that much was true. But 'right' as reasoning felt incomplete and vague.

There was a word I was lacking that I just knew would fit my sense of this answer. But the word remained elusive for a good number of days.

What I did know, as I reached for this word, was that lately I have little tolerance for 'entertainment' that steels something from me, that compromises me in some way.

For example, I try to watch very little news. The news industry can claim their mission is to inform, but I'm skeptical. I think their goal is to disturb and upset. What is it about the news that makes us keep coming back for more disturbing and true stories?

Another example: I am not crazy about the genre of Suspense when it comes to movies and books. I do not like that gut gripping "I have to know how this ends" feeling I get about half way through. Even if the movie or book sucks, I have to see how it turns out or it will drive me crazy thinking about it. I'm a freak, what can I say?

I find most reality TV to be disturbing. The suspense of waiting to see who will exhibit what manipulative, self-serving egregious behavior next. Waiting to see what nasty, rude dream-crushing thing Simon says next. I believe reality TV has very little to offer. Why are we so intoxicated by watching what is often the very worst of people? Even if it somehow accidentally manages to inspire someone, it isn't worth the price of the toxic nature that seems to be required for good ratings.

The huge following such programs enjoy are just another reason for me not to join in. Why would I seek to be counted among the pop culture 'throng?' (Not thong, throng.) Does that argument work in your head? "Everyone else loves it, so it must be good?" Bullshit. I understand that there are valid objections to my point; I can hear them in my head. I do not care.

I do not believe something has to be disturbing to be entertaining. But in fact, most pop media seek to push the envelope in this direction. I've had enough. 'Disturbing' steels something from my soul each time I allow it. It robs me of my peace, bit by bit. What little optimism, hope, encouragement I was naturally born with is slowly worn away by provocative media. I do not need to be provoked to be entertained. It's quick and easy entertainment but it is not quality entertainment.

It feels like an addiction to me. I don't know if I'm interested in anything that I HAVE to have. I feel dependent and weak when I NEED to see the next installment of Sopranos, The L Word, Desperate Housewives, Rescue Me, Survivor; Central Park or what ever. Now, I realize there are millions of toes to be stepped on here. That's fine, I can live with that. Fortunately for me, there are very few people stopping here to get their toes stepped on. Sorry to those two people.

So, if 'disturbing' is what I seek to avoid, what then do I seek to include deliberately in my life? The answer is 'that which edifies.'

Raised in Sunday School, there were a few words heard frequently in that specific setting, that a child would rarely hear on the outside. Redemption, sanctification, reverence. Valid words all, but not often used in common, everyday verse. For me, as a child, 'edify, edification' were even more mysterious than other such church-specific words.

But that is what I seek: to invite into my life that which enlightens, empowers, stimulates intelligent thought, encourages my spirit, my dreams, lightens my path, expands my future, bolsters me to walk taller, farther. The world as it stands is a dark and disturbing place. Why go seeking more of what we already suffer to endure?

As I said, I like to think of myself as relatively articulate, you may disagree. If I have failed to make my point, I think I still get an 'A' for quantity and for use of my thesaurus. If the gauge by which you judge content include that of most of the world: sensational, edgy, provocative, dark, creepy, inciting, 'fringe,' well then I'll happily just continue to suck, by those standards.

07 May 2007

Ecce Cor Meum

My first child was born with a broken heart.

Complex Congenital Heart Defects, officially. His heart was smaller than the size of his little newborn fist, and it had five serious things wrong within that tiny space. His survival was not assured. And on some days not likely. Gave me a whole new appreciation for the pain my own heart could endure.
Not endure well, but endure none the less.

He was transported directly to Children's Hospital from his birth hospital. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. We spent almost three months there, that initial 'visit' and I received a reluctant education in a few areas, during our time.

  • I learned (and used) medical terminology I hoped never to need.

  • I learned (and performed) minor but practical medical procedures that my son would require if I ever hoped to take him home.

  • I learned that in any given situation, one of three things will happen. Things will get worse, they will get better or they will stay the same. I've yet to find an exception to this.

  • I also learned that I never want to hold a job that my heart is not called to. This may be the greatest lesson I learned.

It was one of those "don't try this at home" type lessons. As we lived day-in, day-out in the midst of sick children, parents sick at heart and the staff of a hospital designed specifically to support the well-being of these first two groups, it slowly became apparent that not every one working within the walls of Children's hospital was necessarily 'called' to work there.

Upon hearing of our stay at Children's, people most often remarked "Aren't they wonderful people there?" And the answer is Yes, absolutely. There are indeed some incredible individuals at Children's. People most amazing. Talented, motivated, exceptional, gentle of hand and kind of heart. And my family & I were fortunate to know each one. These were people who literally saved the life of my son. They are extensions of the hands of God, as far as I am concerned. For these people, their work with the lives of these children, broken in one way or another, was their calling.

There were also people working at Children's for whom, it seemed, it was just a job. Their hearts were not in their work. We were there for months the first time and for weeks during subsequent visits; I'm not referring to people who were having a random bad day. They were not happy in their jobs, and it showed day after day.
I know I could never do it. I am not made of the right stuff for such a job, so wouldn't you rather I work somewhere else? Isn't it better for all concerned if I find a profession I'm made for?
Maybe it grows to be too much, taking care of babies, children, teens who sometimes die before your eyes. Growing attached to children and families who eventually leave, one way or another. Maybe these people didn't begin their work discouraged and disheartened, but over time it couldn't be helped? I don't know.

What I do know is that when this becomes the case, it might be best for everyone to decide to move on. Go to work at a place where there is less at stake. Where parents aren't clinging to your every word for some flicker of hope, where your snide mood left over from I-don't-care-what, doesn't have the power to add to the burden of a suffering family. The staff of such facilities have the honor of working with sick children. I held the hands of two mothers whose children died at Children's, it was my privilege to know these women and their two infant sons. I'm a better person for having been part of the months of life those little boys had.
It was the best feeling, being in contact with staff that lived and loved their chosen profession. It was inspiring, it was reassuring and it was calming to my soul.
And it was the worst feeling being on the receiving end of someone who hated their job, someone who did not want to be there. And in this we agreed, I didn't want them there either.
If you're going to be miserable in your work, do it at the IRS or as a lighthouse keeper or a news reporter or a bounty hunter. Somewhere else, please.
As a new mother sits next to the bed of a gravely ill baby, wondering if she is going to have to plan a funeral soon, she should not also have to be exposed to and have to contend with a disgruntled, ill-tempered, unsatisfied, prickly person sharing the same intimate space.

In the rest of life, we may have the understanding that we have to exist with such people, we work beside them, live with them, order food from them, (we may even be these people at times) but parents in this most vulnerable of situations should get a temporary 'Get Out of Jail Free' card.

19 April 2007

Playing Solitaire

Do you ever wonder if the universe is out to get you? You know that feeling, just when you think things may be going your way, then SLAM, you run smack, full speed into an invisible but thick wall of pain?
It's in my heart's desires that I wonder this the most. When I find myself really wanting something, craving it emotionally, soulfully. Thinking my heart is pulling me in a very specific direction for some predestined reason.
Like the feeling that I was meant to live by the sea. I feel like something within me actually calls for salt water washing up on my toes. I feel a sacred longing. (I love that word, longing.) But I have to confess that part of me is afraid to get my wish. My fear is that I've wanted this for so long now that maybe when I genuinely have it, it won't feel as good as the life-long longing led me to believe it would. Am I making any sense? Please don't answer that question.
It's like that saying "Be careful what you wish for...." The implication being that we aren't smart enough to know what we should be reaching for.
I find myself pining for solitude. I want to be alone. I want to come home to an empty house (by the sea). I want to sit in my favorite spot and not have to ask someone to move their homework assignment and empty Pringle's canister first. I want to sit for hours in warm lavender bathwater reading my most recent favorite book and leave the door wide open so I can hear Vivaldi playing softly from the other room. I want to leave my best fountain pen out on my desk and know it will be there when I get back to my story tomorrow. I want to write when the spirit moves me and not have to drop everything because someone has to have 'this shirt washed right now' so it will be dry by tomorrow or we risk such dire consequences that global warming starts looking good. I want to have to deal only with my own unfortunate habits and no one else's. (My own being more than I can handle already.)

I have a full-time sixteen year old daughter and a part-time twenty year old son, so I understand that I need to take care of my parenting privileges first and do things in this area, in the proper order, but my soul cries today for solitude someday.
My fear is that the universe is messing me. "You may think this is what you want, but just wait until you get your wish. Then you'll be crying for company, companionship." In other words, 'be careful what you wish for.' Am I going to get my way and then see that the grass in greener on the other side, where there are people to talk to and watch old movies with? I've thought long and hard about this possibility and I don't think so. I do not believe I'll feel lonely. I hope not. Why would my heart yearn for this if there weren't some form of destiny involved?

I'm telling you right now, that if I bust my ass achieving this dream and then . . . . . . . . well, let's just say I'll be so pissed.

Of course, I do not wish for my loved ones to be gone. I am just eager for the day when they are living on their own, happily and peacefully, enjoying their own privacy and space. And cleaning up their own petrified toothpaste globs in the bathroom sink.

11 April 2007

Mean Time

I haven't written here for a while and I am not loving this fact. It feels like a failure in some light shades of gray. Why the lapse? I'm waiting for inspiration.
I love to write. I have some fiction, some non-fiction, some light stuff and some dark stuff. I enjoy many forms.
What I am not crazy about is the act of rambling in the form of writing. And you may now be asking yourself "Well, then what the hell is this I'm reading, if not rambling?" And to that I say, "Shut up and go read your Cheerios box instead." No wait, don't leave. Come back. Sorry.

Anyway. . . . . not wanting to compromise my 'new' Web log with words for the sake of quantity, I waited. And I waited. And nothing came to me. Well, this is not exactly true, because I've written everyday for a couple of weeks, but for a number of very good reasons, these pieces are not fit for this forum. "Pieces of what?" might be a valid question. They vary in their unsuitability. Some are far too ordinary (you can thank me later), some are far too personal and revealing (I'll be thanking myself later) and the rest are still in various stages of development (we'll see who thanks who eventually).
Inspiration is a tricky thing, at least for me. In writing, there is nothing better than a really powerful, overwhelming surge of inspiration. I swear it's better than sex, or at least most sex. That wonderfully gratifying experience of your fingers not being able to ke ee p up wth teh flow of truley inspitired thought. Just a visual aid there. You're thinking about your Cheerios box right now, aren't you?
Unfortunately, inspiration is elusive. It can be encouraged and, in my experience, it can sometimes be prolonged, if I'm careful and gentle. I've seen inspiration beget inspiration. When it does show up, I hang on tight, because who knows when it will visit me again. It can't be counted on. It can't be scheduled or foreseen. So, without the ability to create inspiration on command, what should I do while I'm waiting? In the mean time?
Do you believe that writing, or any creative expression for that matter, that is not born of inspiration can still be moving, meaningful, special? Is it wise to simply plow through the motions of one's passion without the strongest of motivations? With out 'that' feeling? I'm counting on the answer being "YES!"
Someone (of whom I now have only the utmost regard and respect for) recently said to me, the eleven magic words every girl longs to hear. "Maybe you need to quit your job and write full time." Well, every girl writer longs to hear. These words would probably be lost on a girl motorcycle mechanic. Her eleven magic words would probably be "Maybe you need to quit your job and ride full time."
Do me a favor and the next time you see me, say "Write. Just write. Write when you're inspired; write when you're not. Just write and stop thinking about it so much. Geez!"

22 March 2007

Divorce Yourself

I work at a library. Lucky, lucky me. One of the benefits (and sometimes deficits) of this, is that I get to handle an abundance of material to which I would probably not otherwise give a second thought, as a patron.

Each day that I work, I'm subject to "Library Osmosis." Just by sheer exposure to the variety of items that patrons leave in our book drop or request for check-out, I see many interesting, wonderful and sometimes disturbing things. Movies, books, magazines, CDs, and well you've been to a library, you understand the concept.

Today, I was handling a book called Divorce Yourself. It caught the eye of a patron nearby and he was tickled at the concept of divorcing one's self. Being in the non-whimsical mood I was, I had assumed the book was about the process of ending a marriage. Kind of a do-it-yourself kit. And indeed it was, but the idea of divorcing one's self began to swirl around in my head. And for the rest of my day, it caused a constant and mischievous smirk on my face.

Would I divorce myself? I instantly know the answer to this question but I indulge myself with the mental debate. What would it say about me if the answer is yes? If it were possible, and I'm not saying it isn't, what would I be left with, after the dissolution? Should I try a trial separation from myself first? Would I then be better or worse off, than I am now? Am I so terrible as a life-partner for myself? Are my differences irreconcilable?

The answer is YES! Yes. I believe with cement-strength surety that most, if not all, of my problems are self-induced. It is cliche but true, I am my own worst enemy. I know that I know that I know, that if I would just step aside and get out of my own way, I'd be unstoppable. My universe would be mine for the taking.

And I do not think I am alone in this. Of course in life, things happen to us. But I suspect that for most of our run-of-the-mill, garden variety, everyday trip-ups, we have only ourselves to blame. (Although I'll tell you from personal experience and immediate family members, that this sure doesn't stop some individuals from blaming everyone within a fifty mile radius for their woes. Which in turn, then leads to even more problems for them to blame on others.)

So, with the delicious fantasy of divorcing myself fresh and alive inside me, what is my first step? How does one go about getting out of one's own way? Is there a book or a chant or a pill for this? This is not a rhetorical question. Tell me what you think. I want to know. Think about it for a couple of days, ask around, but then get back to me. I want suggestions, feedback. Wisdom or speculation, it's all good.

But hurry if you can, there is much at stake, since I failed to get a pre-nuptual agreement.

07 March 2007

A Musical Legacy

Of my three children, my middle child is probably the most musical. He seems to have music sewn into his marrow. He started with piano, dabbled in school choir, excels at the drums and is getting a good start on the bass guitar. Now, at twenty years old, he belongs to a garage band, that in my opinion 'rocks.' And does so in my garage, so I would know. One of the experiences I enjoy most on this planet is watching this young man play the drums. It seems to just flow from his energy. Like the beat of his heart. I see music as a crucial and non-negotiable part of his future. I hope he does, too.

My daughter also started with piano. I still love when she sits down and plays for fun. She stood out in her school choir and went on to join a community choir. She plays the flute and fiddled around with the french horn for a bit, as well. She is now more of a dancer than a musician but music continues to be a big part of her high school years. That's what the Fallout Boys are here for, right? Music may not end up being as big a part of her adult life as my son, but she has had a healthy, balanced exposure and can make that choice knowingly.

I sometimes wonder at how they have become the musicians they are. I do not play an instrument. I am not a musician by any one's standards. I started violin lessons in third grade. It probably lasted a month or two. I'm sure my parents decided it wasn't worth the battles of forced practice. Then I started saxophone lessons in fifth grade. This may have lasted all of four months. My short sax career ended in an unfortunate school recital that we never speak of. I started guitar lessons in high school, with a really cute instructor. At my first lesson, he told me I would need to keep my fingernails short to play guitar. That was my last lesson. Knowing how to read music, I attempted to teach myself piano. I think that ended when I noticed there were dishes to be done. So much for playing an instrument.

What I can do, is (*drumrolllllllllllllllll*) sing in my car. That's right. Without apology, at the top of my lungs and sometimes with choreography, as a bonus. I can belt it out with Aretha, John & Paul, Green Day, Annie Lenox, Nirvana and others. (And they are lucky to have me.) I used to be a closet car rockstar and pretend like I was simply chewing some really good gum when a car would pull up beside me. But then I decided, as with many things in my life lately, that life is just too short NOT to sing in the car. I also play a little steering wheel drums and piano but my specialty is the vocals. I harmonize and wave my hands around like I don't care that anyone sees. Because I do not care. In fact, I hope they'll see. Maybe this will give them the permission slip they need to sing in their own car. (Just don't be singing in mine because there is only room for one car rockstar in my Mazda. Zoom, zoom, zoom.)

So, this is my musical legacy to my children. I have no doubts that without growing up under the tutelage of my automobile rock operas, they would never have embraced music to it's full extent.
My third child? I suspect that he too sings in his vehicle, he just hasn't come out quite yet.

So, the next time you pull up to a car with a driver cool enough to sing, no matter who observes, give them some sign of your encouragement. Go Car Rockstars! Be proud. Sing out loud! There are more embarrassing things to be caught doing in your car. (Helpful Hint: Just because you are alone in your car does not mean you are invisible. For goodness sake and the sake of your fellow motorists, use a Kleenex.)

Some great songs to sing in the car: Bohemian Rhapsody, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Maxwell's Silver Hammer, Holiday, Respect

28 February 2007

Sand in My Clogs

A couple of days ago I stood in the surf of a beach that I love to visit. It's a spot not far, about an hours drive. It's quiet and off the beaten path. I especially love to go there when the wind blows and the clouds sweep and change into mysterious shapes above me.

An unusual calm settles subtly over me when I'm close to the sea. A quiet but definite comfort of body and soul. I love the sound of the waves and the gulls. I love the smell of the wet plant life and the salt water carried on the wind. I love the feel of sand under my feet. Between my toes. The creak of the wooden docks. The dune grass waving like the tide. Broken shells and smooth stones softened by the ocean's care. I am whole, by the sea. My soul is home.

Which then begs the question, why don't I go there more often? Or better yet, why don't I simply live there, by the sea? There is no 'good' answer to this. I wish there were. The truthful answer, which I know about but wish I didn't, is neglect of spirit. My previously persistent refusal to listen to my heart. To move toward what pulls at my spirit.

In my own defense, I will state now that this is no longer the case. I can't go back and change what's done. But I can refuse to continue in the opposite direction of my heart's desire. I may not be able to live by the sea today, but I will continue to take what steps I can to get there soon. I will take at least one step today because that's what today is for.

When it was time to head back to the car, I picked my red clogs up off the beach and carried them up to the sidewalk on the way to the parking lot. I stopped to brush the sand off my feet before I realized what I was doing and stopped myself.

I slipped my toes into my shoes and walked away from the sea. But I took the sand with me. And for the last few days, every time I slip back into my red clogs I can feel the sand soft against my toes. And I grin, like I have a secret, each time. I may not live by the sea today but the sand in my clogs remind me of which direction to head
Aren't you glad I shared?
Some favorite words ~ whimsy, doodle, serendipity, lyrical
Least favorite ~ anxiety, scramble, chaos, traffic

21 February 2007

I Dream in Red

"The best is yet to come," Sinatra whispers in my ear and I believe him. The future inspires me. It hasn't always been this way. For years, I lived convinced that 'this is as good as it gets.' For me, there was no heavier or darker truth. I love that I no longer own this particular 'truth.' I feel forty pounds lighter. Like my feet hover just above the ground as I walk. It makes my eyes water just typing this.

If allowed, I can get completely caught up in blame and regret. In fact, it's a struggle not to. Thinking of all the time and energy wasted and gone. FOREVER gone! See, off I go. . . .

So, here I am on the path to my future. I'm on my way. Good for me! Unfortunately, I can sometimes get distracted and then find myself standing perfectly still, completely caught up in some urgent but unimportant thing. If you happen upon me and find that I am standing still, give me a gentle nudge and remind me that Life is Too Short. I'll be so grateful. Eddie Vedder tells me every now and then that 'she dreams in color, she dreams in red.' Between Frank and Eddie, I'm well on my way.

Aren't you glad I shared?

A few of my favorite things: fountain pens, salt water, toe rings and sand
And my least favorite things: camping, clutter and hopelessness