November 30, 2010

Elden Is My Hero

On Thanksgiving Day my garbage disposal backed up. Not badly, but when you ran water into it it backed up into the other sink, and you had to flip the disposal switch multiple times to make the water go down. It made dishwashing difficult, to say nothing of the ick factor. The lights in the kitchen finally went out too. My lights are fluorescent tubes that live above the upper cabinets, beneath the vaulted ceiling in my kitchen, in an area I can't reach.

Do you remember the show Murphy Brown? She had that crusty cantankerous fart of a maintenance guy who kept things working around her place. I have one of those too. And just like Murphy's guy, my guy's name is Elden. No lie.

Today Elden showed up, and he was grumpy. He swore. He grumbled. He made a mess. He brusquely sent the landlady off to find me some fluorescent tubes. She hopped to, let me tell you. When Elden was out of earshot, she apologized for him. I told her that I was in love with him and he could do no wrong. That shut her up.

When Elden left, there was mud on my floor and boot prints on my counter tops. But my garbage disposal worked like new and my kitchen was brighter than when I moved in. He made me promise not to bother him for the rest of the week. Then he hugged me good-bye.

November 24, 2010

One Year and Counting

One year ago today, on Thanksgiving eve 2009, I was laid off from my job. Other than a couple of temp gigs, I haven't worked since. Certainly not for lack of trying.

I am a planner by nature, and although I can count on another 6 months of unemployment insurance coming in if I don't find work in the meantime, I can't see beyond that. It messes with my mind.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I have many things to be thankful for. I try to spend a few minutes every morning itemizing each one. Here's my morning prayer:

Right this moment, I have a beautiful home to live in, and the rent is paid.
Right this moment, I have warm and comfortable clothes to wear.
Right this moment, I have lavish quantities of food, in my house.
Right this moment, all my bills are paid to date.
Right this moment, I am healthy and strong.
Right this moment, I am loved.
Thank you!

Usually, at this point in my prayers I take off on a riff and hundreds of other things pop into my head that make me grateful. I keep going until my fears are at peace. This is how I start my day.
I've been silent on my blog for quite some time, but I think I'll start chronicling the journey of my second year. If I find a job I plan to continue writing, because truly I've been changed in this past year, and those changes will follow me for the rest of my life. With more changes to come, I'm sure.

Gotta go finish vacuuming my sweet little apartment, because my best friend is on her way to spend the holiday weekend with me, and help me cook a turkey to share with my mom tomorrow.

See how many things I have to be thankful for?

March 15, 2010

It's Not Working For Me

In June and August of 2008 I wrote about adopting a vegetarian, and then vegan lifestyle. Having read all about the harm that our species is bringing on the planet and on our fellow creatures, I swore off meat.

And now I'm swearing back on.

There are a number of reasons for this, the most compelling of which is that a vegan/vegetarian diet was not working for me. I gained weight. My blood sugar was in constant flux. I was always hungry, and therefore always eating. My cravings for sweets and chocolate were overwhelming. I tried very hard to "be good" but I always caved to the next bit of carbohydrate to cross my path, and usually to excess. This could not be the way my body was supposed to function. Something was very wrong, and I needed to find out what was happening.

I knew what I wanted, I just didn't know what it was going to look like. I wanted a way of eating that would sustain me forever -- not a temporary quick fix. I wanted it to work with the way my body functions. I wanted to eat real food, not "frankenfood." I wanted my blood sugar to stabilize, and I wanted the cravings to go away. If I lost weight, great -- but it wasn't my top priority.

I tried lots of things. I tried Volumetrics (fill your belly with low-calorie foods so that you can trigger your satiety mechanism). I tried mind games ("I'm stronger than my cravings"). I bought smaller dinner plates. I drank unbelievable quantities of water. Nothing worked. I was HUNGRY. I was out of control. I was... fat.

After a few weeks of intense research (praises to the google god) I came across a way of eating that is working for me. And I learned a thing or two about my body and how it processes food.

I began to eat meat again, and fish and chicken. And fat. Lots of fat. Animal fat. The fat that I'd always craved, but felt guilty for eating. I've stopped eating all grains, especially wheat. No potatoes or beans. I'm eating dairy in the form of heavy cream, half-and-half, and full-fat yogurt (Fage, I love you). Lots of vegetables, both cooked and raw, and some fruit.

And guess what -- my blood sugar is stable. All the time. My sinuses have cleared. My energy has soared. I eat when I'm hungry, and sometimes that's only twice a day. The food I eat is delicious and easy to fix. I have chocolate in the house, but I'm not interested. No cravings, ever, for anything. Oh, yeah, my weight is dropping.

The reading that I've done has caused me to believe that humans (at least this one) are meant to eat animal flesh. It's how we evolved as a species. There is a tremendous amount of research that supports this. Much of the "conventional wisdom" that passes for nutritional advice is based on faulty data. There is ample evidence that the epidemic of obesity and diabetes we are seeing is because of too much carbohydrate (sugar, starches, grains) in our diet, and not enough fat.

Which brings me to my inner conflict. Animals are still being cruelly treated so that my body can be nourished. I know there are small local farmers who raise food animals kindly, and graze them sustainably rather than force-feed them grains. But I'm unemployed at the moment, and my money has to stretch far.

So I've had to make some choices. Hard ones, to be sure. My choice is to do the best I can with the resources available to me. When I can afford it, I'll buy organic fruits and vegetables. I'll look for cage-free eggs and dairy foods from cows that are treated well. When I can't afford it... I won't. Currently, grass-fed beef, free-range chickens and most wild fish are outside of my financial reach. I hate this but it's my reality at the moment. Some day I'll be able to vote with my money. For now, I'll do the best I can, and keep my body as healthy as possible within my means.

And to my friends who have tolerated my dietary idiosynchrasies, I say thank you. It should be much smoother sailing from here. At least for now...

February 10, 2010

What Motivates You?

When I'm 82, I want to be just like Bubbie...


January 6, 2010

My Big, Audacious Goal

About four years ago I wrote a review on Amazon for a book that, it seemed to me, was being purposely and systematically trashed in its reviews -- as though a group of people had gotten together and made a plan to do this. This was happening to two books by the same author, within the same very tiny time frame. In my review, I pointed this out and suggested that readers give the books a chance and make up their own minds.

This morning, long after I'd forgotten about this review, I received a comment from someone named "Amazed," which stated in part, "I don't really think they want to keep others down, they have usually bought their uninspired view at a high cost, and they want to know that this 'reality' that they have bought is valuable..."

I found this to be a most compassionate response (and I said so in reply), and it got me wondering what in my life am I valuing inappropriately? I have spent great time, thought and effort in recent years letting go of things, items that clutter my home that keep me tied down. I had come to the conclusion a while back that overvaluing things made me their prisoner -- in financial as well as emotional terms, to say nothing of just plain overwhelming clutter. As William Morris suggests, I strive to keep only those things around me that I find to be beautiful or useful. (Not some-day useful, but in-the-moment useful.) I have a long way to go, but I've come a long way too, and I feel a great deal of spaciousness in my life as a result. When I look around my home, I love what I see. My home is comfortable and beautiful to me, and it functions very well for me. And yet I own very little that I would grieve over if I lost it.

Amazed's comments got me to thinking -- what about my inner life? What ideas, opinions, thoughts and beliefs am I clinging to, not because they work for me but because I am so deeply invested in them that I am defending them inappropriately? Am I living my life in ways that once kept me safe but now keep me imprisoned? Have I formed opinions about situations, people or ideas that are no longer relevant? Have I developed prejudices that keep me separated from people? Have I surrounded myself with safe and beautiful walls that keep me from seeing what is beyond them?

Kimberly Wiefling, an inspirational guru who has build an unlikely and exciting life for herself using the tools she teaches, sends me her newsletter every so often. The latest talks about making "big, audacious goals." I liked the sound of that, so I made a few for myself for this coming year. They include things like losing weight and finding a terrific new job.

After reading Amazed's comments, I realize that what I wrote was not a list of audacious goals -- it was a to-do list, and a very doable one at that. Now, I'm thinking I'd rather have a list that frightens me just a little. Maybe a lot. So, here's my new big, audacious goal. I just made it up this morning, so I'm reserving the right to tweak it as I go.

Beginning right now, I resolve to examine every Belief, Opinion, Thought and Idea that I have, to determine if it is one I choose to keep, and if not to jettison it, even if I don't have anything to replace it with right away. I will search my life and my actions, and ask myself, "What invisible belief makes me think/do/say/want that?" I will dig down to the bedrock of who I am, and thoroughly clean house -- and I will keep only those beliefs that I find to be beautiful or useful to me. Rather than form an image of what I want my life to look like and then strive to create that image, I will build a new, solid, relevant foundation from the rubble of my examined beliefs, and see what life manifests. As of this moment, I am leaping off the cliff, empty-handed.

Thank you, Amazed. I'll let you know what's at the bottom.

November 21, 2009

Where's the Magic?

I have another blog. It's secret, I won't share, and I haven't posted there in several years. It's a place where my soul writes love letters to me. I'd forgotten it existed. I rediscovered it this morning, and I read this:

"Hello, loved one. How are you? No, I mean underneath the annoyances of the day. How are you?

You're wondering where I came from. Why am I talking to you now? I'm the voice inside your head. Not that one, not the one that tells you that you didn't/can't/shouldn't have/better not/how could you. I'm the other voice, the quiet one.

I'm here now because I heard you. On Monday. You had just turned off the freeway onto Trimble, headed for your office, and I heard what you said. "Where's the magic? There has to be magic. If there's no magic in life, then I don't want to play anymore."

You didn't know those words were in you, did you loved one, until you heard them come from your mouth? And they rocked your soul. I heard you gasp at the truth of those words.

So here I am. I came to show you magic.

With deep and abiding love,
The Crone"


Months after I wrote that post I was living in Central California in a yurt, in a magical community populated with people who took magic for granted.

And next week I am leaving that place. I will officially become a member of the unemployed.

I don't know what I will do next. I don't know where I will work, or even if I can find work in these difficult times. I may become homeless, penniless. I don't care. As long as there's magic.


February 22, 2009

A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Cookbook

I do love a good cookbook. I've acquired, purged, and re-acquired quite a collection since I learned to cook as a new bride, many (many!) years ago. In my mind, a really good cookbook should be read as if it were a novel, curled up in a comfy chair, a surly cat fighting it for lap space, perhaps a steaming mug of tea within easy reach.

A book that is nothing but a collection of recipes is a waste of my time. When I put a cookbook down, I want to feel like I've been someplace. A really good cookbook is a portal to a different dimension. I want to arrive back home with new experiences and a wider worldview.

But the thing is, I rarely cook anything from the books. Instead, they serve as inspiration for original creation. I am in awe of how this inspiration sneaks in, strikes its deadly blow, and then tiptoes out, leaving me with flour smudged on my face, dirty dishes in my sink, and something memorable (or sometimes not) on my dining table.

I spent this morning in the loving embrace of one of the most wonderful cookbooks I've encountered in recent years. It's called "Passionate Vegetarian" by Crescent Dragonwagon (don't blame her parents -- she took that name on as an adult!). It's over a thousand pages long, and another thousand pages would suit me just fine.

After I put it down this morning, I browsed around my kitchen for something to cook. Not something from the cookbook, mind you, that would be too... I don't know, predictable. And I wanted to make something NOW, not after a trip to the store for ingredients. It had to be made with what I had in my kitchen this very morning.

So here's what's cookin':

In my rice cooker, I put brown rice, plantains (yes, I had these on hand), some sweet potato chunks, caramelized onion, garlic, a can of rinsed black beans (wish I'd had two), and some broth spiked with salt, pepper, thyme, tons of cumin, and about a third of a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice. And red pepper flakes just for some kick. (Oh, drat, I meant to dice some red bell pepper in too!)

How will it turn out? Don't know. That's really not the important part. In the meantime, I'm going back to Passionate Vegetarian-ville. Call me when lunch is ready.

December 3, 2008

Oh So Glad I Went

In our town, there's a place called The Antique Barn. It's a place where dealers can rent space to sell their wares, support each other, and reap economies of scale. Each dealer is responsible for so many hours of work each month, walking the floor and selling merchandise. My mom rents a space there, where she sells her Wizard of Oz collectibles. She puts in her hours just like everyone else, and has a ball doing it.

When we were at dinner this weekend, mom mentioned that there would be a party for the dealers this evening, and she invited me to come. Oh, crap. I said I'd have to see, because, you know, I have such a long commute.

At some point, I made up my mind to go. So I arranged my schedule to leave work early this evening, and sure enough it worked out. Wouldn't you just know.

You know how you have those nights when you get home and you think, "I don't WANNA go! Pleeeeze don't make me!" Well, I definitely was having one of those nights when I got home this evening. Man, all I wanted was to crawl into a pair of sweats and curl up with a kitty and a book. But damn, the place was only two miles from my house. On the other hand, mom wasn't exactly expecting me, so if I didn't show....

OK, so I sucked it up and went.

I have to say, the way mom's face lit up when she saw me was worth it right there. And then it got better. Because mom showed me off to everyone like I was her most prized possession, and I got to hear every one of them tell me how terrific my mom is. And then she dragged me upstairs to her space so she could show me all the new stuff she had. She just glows when she talks about her business. And hey, the food wasn't half bad either.

I'm very glad I went. I made my mom's day, and waddaya know, she made mine too.

November 30, 2008

Recycled Rant

I posted this rant as a comment on my sister's blog, http://blackcatwhiterabbit.com/blackcat/, way back in December of 2006. I re-read it this morning, and it still gets me all worked up. Why re-invent the wheel. It's a timeless rant. Timeless, I tell ya...

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You know what really chaps my ass? It’s this whole gift thing. When did this all start? And why? And how did the whole success or failure of the retail industry come to hang on the thread of Christmas? Sometimes I’m forced by overewhelming circumstances (Lord knows I’d never do it otherwise) to go into shopping malls this time of year. There are countless displays of things to buy for “the people on your list.” They’re not things that anybody needs or wants. But Christmas gifts are not about the receiver, I’m convinced. They’re all about the gifter being able to have something, anything, to give. Preferrably, it will come in a nice square box so that it can be wrapped nicely. Because it’s got to be wrapped. Not only do you have to spend money giving somebody something they don’t need or want, but you have to spend money on pretty wrapping paper that will be torn, discarded and relegated to the landfills by December 26. And the debt — oh, my word, the debt. Every week the financial section of the newspaper has an article about how to “budget” all these gifts so that you don’t go into debt. Debt — for stuff that nobody needs or wants just so that you can have something, anything, to give. How crazy is that?! And then if people give you stuff (that you don’t need or want) you have to put it someplace. And pretend you loved it. Even if you hate it, which you probably will, because it’s for sure not something you need or want, because the gifter is more interested in having a gift, any gift, to give you than in pleasing you. And this whole cycle is created, run by, and perpetuated by ADVERTISING!!!!!

Repeat after me: No More Gifts! No More Gifts!

And you can’t even turn on the radio without being innundated with Christmas carols! (Oh, sorry, another rant.)

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November 19, 2008

He's Still Posting!

I checked in on The Circular Ruins yesterday and discovered that its author had indeed pulled down all comments, and removed the option entirely from his blog. When I had last seen them, not one comment was comlimentary, though none were abusive. I was truly afraid that he might give up blogging. Would I have done that? Can't say, but maybe. But this morning there's a new post, and I'M GLAD!!!! He hasn't crawled away into a hole, as I imagine I might have done.

I'm very sad that he's pulled down his comments option, because I'd like to tell him a few more things. First, I want to tell him I'm grateful that he's still blogging, in spite of people's disagreeing opinions, including mine. Second, I'd like to beg him not to let the possible negative opinions of others change his writing. And third, I'd like to thank him for introducing me to an author in his latest post whose stories I can't wait to read. He's sending me off on a frantic search for more. What better thing can a writer do than that?

And now I can't tell him.

November 18, 2008

Where Do I Go With This?

This is one of those posts where I don't know how it's going to turn out until I finish. Bear with me as I work my way through this.

I follow a number of blogs about frugality, money management, and simple living. Recently, through my readings, I was pointed to a brand new blog. The first two posts offered well-written and refreshing takes on determining value in one's life, specific to managing one's financial resources. I eagerly awaited the next. I checked it out this morning, and there it was! The title of this blogger's most recent post is "Proposing a Celebration."

I despaired to read that this poster had an opinion about gay marriage that not only differed from mine, but was badly presented. The celebration he proposed was in honor of self-restraint, as in, if you're homosexual, you can be proud of yourself for not acting on your "tendencies."

Damn, he made me mad!

Read his post here (http://thecircular.blogspot.com/2008/11/proposing-celebration.html). I left a comment; then, unsatisfied, I left another. Comments #2 and #3 are mine -- unless he takes them down. I posted anonymously only because I couldn't for some reason log in, and I was afraid my comments would burn a hole through me if I held off long enough to work out the technical kinks.

So, now I'm left with this. Here is an anonymous someone with some thoughts I value, and some I abhor. I can, if I choose, stop reading this person's blog. I haven't decided yet, but I do have that choice.

But what if someone I love deeply holds opinions similar to Circular Ruins? How do I balance that? This isn't a simple "you say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to" issue. This is where I live. This is fundamental to my being. Can I wrap my arms around them and hold them lovingly, and still allow that huge difference?

Here's the hard part: If I'm going to walk my talk, I'm going to have to make room for this. Not just with my close loved ones, but for strangers as well.

Damn, this is hard.

Blogs I Love

I love good writing. And good storytelling. And no, they're not the same thing, although when both are done well, they take my breath away.

I've added two blogs to my blogroll, bringing my total up to, um, two. Both, in my opinion, are life-stealers. Both have at various times absconded with huge quantities of my time. Enter at your own risk.

"Somewhere on the Masthead" is written by the Magazine Man, someone who earns his living writing for publication. How he has anything left over for a blog is beyond me, but he writes a terrific story. Not to be missed are his stories about The Mighty Blaze. For a white-knuckle ride through what a man will do for his dog, click on the "Blaze" icon, then scroll down to "Fetching Blaze." This is a three-hanky story. Make a pot of coffee and settle in.

I discovered "Confessions of a Pioneer Woman" via a website about food. Although I found some very good recipes on her site, my life took a turn for the better when I stumbled on her running story about how she met and married her husband, The Marlboro Man. Click on the "Love Story" icon. Start at the bottom and work your way up. Don't miss a single episode! Heed her warning -- keep a cold shower handy. Damn that woman, she's not writing fast enough! She's also a photographer. Dig around her website and find "that" picture of her guy. You'll move to the prairie, too.

If you come across similar blogs, please don't share them with me -- I have a full-time job!

August 24, 2008

...And the Meat Goes On...

In response to my last post, I received a comment from Tuco, who blogs at Veggie Karma (http://tucovegs.blogspot.com/). Aside from the fact that I was delighted that someone other than three or four of my very closest friends and family read my blog (hello, you are still out there, aren't you?), he recommended a book to me. The book is "Breaking the Food Seduction" by Dr. Neal Barnard. Never one to resist the siren song of a book, I ordered me a copy. And boom(er), I'm a vegan. Dr. Barnard (a real medical doctor, lest you think I've been sucked in by some quack) offers some very good information as to why certain foods are addictive. Having long been under the spell of meat (actually, sizzling, flavorful animal fat) and the high of all highs, chocolate, what he says is quite interesting. There are actually compelling biological reasons why this is so. I'm NOT a weakling loser with no self-control!

Last week, before I got my hands on the book, I suspected that full-on vegetarianism was in my not-too-distant future. In the interest of using up what I had before taking the final plunge, I thawed out a chuck roast that had been in my freezer, intending to cook and eat it over this weekend. The plan was to stick it in the crockpot Saturday morning before heading out the door for an all-day meeting, and come home to a delicious, savory, high-fat pot of ambrosia. But something bad happened on Friday -- my copy of Dr. Barnard's book arrived, and I began reading. Having lived largely as a vegetarian for the past couple of months... well, that pot roast just didn't appeal to me. And, harkening back to 20 years ago, I tossed it. And with it went all the remaining meat in my freezer. There wasn't much, but out it went.

Dr. Barnard's prescription for overcoming food addictions and regaining health is a high fiber, low-fat vegan diet. It sounds extreme, but in truth I was mostly there anyway, what with my new-found vegetarian ways. I'd already stopped eating dairy (which means that me and my beloved Joe broke up, but that's another sob story) and I've never really enjoyed eggs, so in truth there wasn't much standing between me and a full-on commitment besides my shaking knees and quivering resolve.

Saturday morning I had a small moment of panic -- what would I eat that very day? The meeting I was attending would be catered, but surely you know that catered food is designed to feed the masses, and while there is often a nod to vegetarianism on the menu, vegans are left to their own devices. So I threw open my kitchen cupboards and did the best I could. A can of chickpeas, some diced red pepper, a few cloves of (be still, my heart) roasted garlic, and a couple of chopped Kalamata olives found their way into a bowl. I stirred in some fresh mint and sliced green onions, tossed in some left-over brown-and-wild rice pilaf from the other day, made a dressing out of balsamic vinegar with a touch of cumin, and lunch was ready. A sliced tomato and some carrot sticks on the side rounded out my lunch. Everyone else ate those ghastly cream cheese pinwheel sandwiches while eyeing my salad with lust. I did not share. And here's the best part -- I have some left over for today.

After the meeting, I went shopping. I came home with stuff to make this most amazing of meals. I rinsed a couple of cups of your everyday green lentils, and put them in a pot with some onions and a quart of home-made tomato sauce (not my home, someone else's), and topped it off with enough water to cover. Then, in the middle of all that, I buried a block of smoked tofu. Yes, they make such a thing, and yes, it was a risk -- but what the heck. To round out the flavors, I tossed in about a dozen cloves of that roasted garlic. (You can buy it in a jar in the produce section of the grocery store -- go get some!) Once everything was cooked I fished out the block of tofu, diced it, and stirred it back in. Being a lentil fan, I knew it would be good. But... as my young friend Leticia would say, OMG! It's smoky and savory and deeply satisfying. If this is what vegan eating is all about, I'M THERE!

Seeing as how this fit of veganism came on me all sudden like, I'm scrambling to get a plan in place. I often get home from work at 7:00 or later, and who wants to cook that late. At that point I'm hungry and I'm looking for something, anything, to deep-fry. So planning ahead is a good thing. Which is why I also came home with a few of those frozen fake-meat burger-like discs that look like hockey pucks. They were intended as strictly a fall-back measure, but I had one of the "chiken" patties last night on whole grain bread with some sliced tomatoes, and God help me, it was good.

I'll try not to go all Remo Williams on you (innocent bystander: "You killed him!" Remo Williams: "He was dead already -- I smelled hamburger on his breath.") but I'll probably be a bit more of a pain in the ass to cook for. If you invite me over, I'll be happy to arrive with a pot of something wonderful to share.

June 13, 2008

Oops, I Accidentally Became a Vegetarian

Twenty or so years ago, on a Sunday afternoon, I curled up on the sofa with a copy of John Robbins' book, "Diet for a New America." When I finally put it down late that night I was a vegetarian. The book is a frightening look at what we humans were, at that time, doing to our food system, our fellow creatures, and our planet.

My vegetarianism lasted a year and a half, during which time my body never quite adjusted. I missed meat every single day. When I renewed a relationship with a man who had no interest in vegetarianism, it was "easier" to give it up.

This week John Robbins is a guest at the community where I work. His request (OK, his demand) was that during his week-long tenure our kitchen would not serve meat. Not just to him, but to anyone. I did not meet him this week, but (oh, the Achilles heel of my life) his books are featured in our bookstore.

John Robbins was born into the Baskin Robbins (31 Flavors) ice cream fortune. He was being groomed to inherit both the business and the fortune. Through self-education and introspection he determined that another course was necessary for his life, and he walked away from that fortune to build his life based on his own values. He founded EarthSave International, wrote some mind-rocking books, and the rest is history.

For me, too. Because on Wednesday I purchased another of John's books, "The Food Revolution." It was published in 2001, about 15 or so years after "Diet for a New America," and I gotta tell you -- things have not improved. We are still feeding ourselves by way of astounding cruelty, and we're still destroying our planet at an ever-more escalating rate.

If anyone is actually reading my blog I'll say that it is not my goal here to change your mind and make you see things my (or John's) way, or even to press you to read these books. I'm just chronicling my journey.

And I believe I might have accidentally become a vegetarian once again.

Twenty years ago, on the day that I read his first book, I had spent the morning grocery shopping. There had been a good sale on beef, as I recall, and I had stocked my freezer. By the next morning, of course, beef was off my diet and several friends became the lucky recipients of my freezer contents.

With my prior experience as a guide I'm planning to do it differently this time. I'll give my body time to catch up to my mind. I'll hang onto the meat in my freezer (mostly chicken this time) and use it as necessary to ease myself into this new style of eating. Rather than force my body into submission I'll coax it into agreement. I'll allow the process to unfold naturally. And maybe this time I won't leap at an excuse to give it all up.

I've done much thinking in the last 20 years as to why it was so difficult for me. I've come to realize that I don't actually like meat all that much. What I love is the fat. Crispy chicken skin. The tender, well-marbled, high-fat cuts of beef. Bacon fat! (It's been pointed out to me that I can nibble the fat from a piece of bacon with surgical precision, leaving only the lean behind.) In truth, while I love the flavor of meat, I don't particularly like its texture. But oh, that fat. And the flavor it imparts to a dish. I love what a good ham bone does to a pot of beans.

And there are so many of my life's most loving moments that have been marked with meat. My dad teaching me how to roast a chicken over the phone after I'd set up my first household. Thanksgiving turkeys. My mom taking me to three different restaurants to find "Chicken in a Basket" the year my father was stationed away from us in Germany, just because it was what I craved. Preparing meat loaf for my partner because I knew it was his favorite, just to see his delight. Steaks and chicken on the back-yard grill, surrounded by friends. Spending hours on the phone talking through recipes with my best friend.

Many things are different this time around. For one thing, I'm a much better cook. For another, I've worked through most (but not all, alas) of the personal issues I used to disguise with food. And third, I no longer have anything to prove. This change is a journey, not a destination. This time, I'm not declaring, "From This Day Forward I Am A Vegetarian!" Therefore I can't fail. Instead, from this day forward I will make choices for myself on a meal-by-meal basis, informed by how my choices affect my fellow creatures and my home planet.

If you are reading this and you ever have occasion to cook for me let me just say that I will gratefully eat whatever you prepare. No need to cook differently on my behalf.

I'll let you know if that changes.

May 18, 2008

The Uh Oh Effect

Trolling through my blog, I found this draft of a post. I don't know why I never posted it. It's a sweet reminder to trust myself. Here's the post I wrote (but did not post) on February 1st:

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Many of my friends know that I am verging on desperate to move out of the boonies into town. I've launched an extensive search for some place (else) to live. Everyone is rooting for me except my mom, who thinks I should stay where I am and save some money. That's a mom for you.

Last weekend I drove through a bit of a rainstorm to check out one promising place. I called a friend who lives in the same area, and together we went to check it out. It had many wonderful things going for it -- it was in a quiet, rural area, but less than five minutes from all the major stuff one needs for life -- grocery stores, gas stations, coffee shops, library, etc. It was a studio, but a large one -- with an ell suitable for hiding bedroom furniture, and with a simple room divider it would easily become a "one bedroom." It had a small but serviceable kitchen. The entire front wall of the apartment was glass, floor to ceiling, and it looked out onto a wilderness. The patio was huge, comfortable and private.

When the landlady called me a couple of days later to tell me I was on the short list of acceptable candidates, I had a small wave of nausea. My stomach was saying, "Uh oh, watch out." I declined the rental, without fully understanding why.

The uh oh effect has never let me down. Over the years I have let it down regularly.When I was twenty, I married a man five months after our first date. In all the whirlwind, I didn't pay attention to my stomach. Three weeks after the wedding, the uh oh effect woke me up in the middle of the night. In the dark that night, I asked myself, "What have I done?!" Had I been listening, I could have saved myself and a truly wonderful man from a six-year mistake.

I accepted my current job on very short notice. It required a move of almost 200 miles, and it required a total life shift. I got rid of most of my possessions, left a very low-rent apartment in a good part of town, quit a job I enjoyed, and left all my friends behind. I moved into a tiny cabin with grass growing on the roof, miles away from the nearest grocery store. My job is complex, frustrating, and overwhelming. During this transition, not once did the uh oh effect kick in. Not once. There have been days when I've gone home from work crying, asking myself, "What am I doing here?!" This is a far different question than, "What have I done?!" I have never asked myself that question in all the time I've been here. Not once. My stomach is at peace.

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Draft over. I wrote it on February 1st. Within two weeks I had located the place I'm living now. Within an hour of seeing it for the first time I had signed the lease and written a check for the deposit. No uh oh's. My daily commute is a grueling two and a half hours a day. People ask me regularly if I regret making the move. I can honestly say, no. Not ever.

The most surprising thing that has happened as a result of this move is that I've fallen in love with my job. It's become the job that I had hoped it would be when I took it. I am excited daily by its challenges and rewards. If I were offered a job in town, closer to home, for more money, I'd be a fool not to consider it. But it wouldn't be a slam-dunk. Before I say yes, I'd have to ask my stomach what it thinks.

April 24, 2008

Me and Joe... and Someone New

I've just finished my morning coffee. Lord, how I love my morning cuppa Joe. And not just any Joe, either. Deeply concentrated, mysterious, complex, smooth as silk, acid-free and mellow. My kinda guy.

Every morning for years, with knowing anticiption, I would portion out his exquisite elixir, add milk, and then enjoy his delicious company. My Joe -- he never disappoints. But one day Joe and I realized that something was missing. The excitement had dimmed. We liked each other fine, but the thrill was gone.

For a long time, Joe and I lived with a lovely set of mugs I'd brought home from a garage sale -- inexpensive, serviceable, and rather pretty, they didn't ask for much. We were together for many years. Comfortable and companionable, but something was lacking. Joe and I needed... more.

One day, I found myself in the housewares department of my Nob Hill grocery store. And I met the most beautiful set of mugs I'd ever seen. I wasn't looking for them, I swear. It just... happened. I didn't know until that moment that they were exactly what Joe and I needed. Erect. Well-formed. Amply proportioned. The instant my fingers touched their smoothness, electricity happened. I knew we had to be together. What a threesome Joe and I could have with these babies!

The next morning, when I awoke, Joe was waiting for me. As always, I felt my pulse quicken, in anticipation of what I knew was to come. But that morning, there was something more, something new and exciting.

I selected a mug, running my fingers over its cool skin. Ah, the anticipation. Joe slid into the mug, in carefully measured amounts, forming himself to its contours. I could sense his excitement. I paused for a moment, enjoying his heady aromas. His mysterious darkness contrasted starkly with the white interior of the mug, and my eyes grew wide. He urged me to hurry -- he was as impatient as I was!

Into his dark depts I poured cold, smooth, organic milk. Right up to the top of our new mug. Joe transformed, awoke, became something altogether new. But there was more to come.

I put the mug, Joe, and the milk into the microwave. I paced, restless, until the bell rang. And when I withdrew the mug, Joe had become... elixir of the gods.

As I wrapped my fingers around the handle of this new mug, compelled by an urgency I'd long forgotten, I knew that as wonderful as Joe and I had been together, things were about to get even better.

This mug was put on this planet for me and Joe. It responded instantly to Joe's heat. It knew... it just knew what to do, and exactly how to do it. Cradled in its confidence, Joe came alive. He called to me. He whispered things he hadn't said in years. Our love was born anew.

The three of us spent a long, luscious morning in each other's embrace. When we finally reached our fulfillment, life had changed for all of us. As we separated for the day, we whispered our promise to each other...

Tomorrow.

April 14, 2008

Why I Moved Here

Mom has a stall in a shop that sells collectibles and antiques. She specializes in Wizard of Oz collectibles, and she's developed a small but loyal following.

Last week, someone came in and wanted to buy 11 (count 'em -- eleven) cookie jars. These jars are pretty spectacular (to say nothing of expensive), and they take up a lot of room in her garage. For a very long time, she's had a lot of money and space tied up in these cookie jars. And here was someone who wanted to take 11 of them off her hands, and for a profit, no less. Wahoo! I got regular updates through the week as this deal unfolded -- he was interested; he came back to look again; and then... YES! he wanted to buy!

Mom asked me to come over on Sunday to help her load the boxes into her CR-V so that she could bring them to the shop. When I arrived at mom's house, she had dug them all out of their storage places, and then her back started hurting. She couldn't lift them into her car by herself. They were light boxes, but they were large and she is small. It took no effort for me to lift them in. Being a foot and a half taller I had leverage she couldn't get. Oh, yeah, and there's that age thing. She has someone at the shop who will unload them for her, package them, and mail them to her customer.

After this 5-minute project she made me tea and we sat and visited for a while. I teased her, "Mom, what are you going to do when I get too old to do this sort of thing for you?" "I guess I'll have to give it up." She hints at this sometimes, and it always makes me sad. She enjoys her business, and I enjoy her enjoyment of it.

As I was leaving, she hugged me and said, "Don't move away, OK?" "No, mom," I said. "I'm here to stay."

January 29, 2008

God Said Yes!

In the faith tradition that I follow, I'm told that God answers every prayer with a resounding and joyful "Yes!" We are taught to begin every prayer with "Thank you," rather than "Please." It's the ultimate prayer of faith. If God says "Yes" to everything I ask, then a grateful thanks is appropriate, even before my prayer is spoken.

My tradition also teaches that everything... yes, everything is a prayer. It gives weight to the saying, "Be careful what you ask for -- you might just get it!"

I woke up this morning with the clear knowledge that my conscious prayers of late have been pretty grim. "I hate my job." "I'm unhappy here." "This is not my place." These prayers have been making me miserable. I spent some time this morning re-reading some of my earlier posts, and I know there are other, happier prayers bubbling beneath the surface. Prayers of gratitude and wonder. And I did a little housecleaning, letting to of some of those grim thoughts to make more room for the good stuff.

I am still not happy in my job. I'm still sure that this is not my place. But this morning I gave thanks that my life is changing dramatically and quickly for the better. I gave thanks that God lives in me and fills the spaces between the cells in my body. I gave thanks that good things just keep happening to me. And for the first time in weeks, I noticed the humming bird outside my window, and I smelled the sea breeze, and I felt the cold, refreshing snap of clean winter air on my skin. And in this moment, I am happy.

Of course I am. God said yes.

January 19, 2008

"We Have Come to be Danced" by Jewel Mathieson

I gotta learn more about this woman!

We have come to be danced

We have come to be danced
Not the pretty dance
Not the pretty pretty, pick me, pick me dance
But the claw our way back into the belly
Of the sacred, sensual animal dance
The unhinged, unplugged, cat is out of its box dance
The holding the precious moment in the palms
Of our hands and feet dance.

We have come to be danced
Not the jiffy booby, shake your booty for him dance
But the wring the sadness from our skin dance
The blow the chip off our shoulder dance.
The slap the apology from our posture dance.

We have come to be danced
Not the monkey see, monkey do dance
One two dance like you
One two three, dance like me dance
but the grave robber, tomb stalker
Tearing scabs and scars open dance
The rub the rhythm raw against our soul dance.

We have come to be danced
Not the nice, invisible, self-conscious shuffle
But the matted hair flying, voodoo mama
Shaman shakin’ ancient bones dance
The strip us from our casings, return our wings
Sharpen our claws and tongues dance
The shed dead cells and slip into
The luminous skin of love dance.

We have come to be danced
Not the hold our breath and wallow in the shallow end of the floor dance
But the meeting of the trinity, the body breath and beat dance
The shout hallelujah from the top of our thighs dance
The mother may I?
Yes you may take 10 giant leaps dance
The olly olly oxen free free free dance
The everyone can come to our heaven dance.

We have come to be danced
Where the kingdom’s collide
In the cathedral of flesh
To burn back into the light
To unravel, to play, to fly, to pray
To root in skin sanctuary
We have come to be danced

We have come.

-Jewel Mathieson

January 14, 2008

The Source of my Wealth

I have no money to speak of. I am a paycheck or two from homelessness, as are many people I know. Still, today I can't shake the feeling that I'm rich. I'm giddy with the headiness of it.

What makes me feel wealthy? All of my laundry cleaned, folded and put away. Knowing that I can stay cocooned in my home all weekend if I want, because there's a stew in the fridge waiting to nourish me one bowlful at a time. Coming home from the library with my arms full of books. A long, juicy converstion with a dear friend. Peeking out the window and seeing a day so beautiful that I just have to get out in it, and knowing that I have the time to do so. Hitting the garage sales with my mom, even if I didn't find anything to buy. A phone call from my sis, which always makes me realize how close we are even though we've been apart for more than a decade.

I was telling my best friend last night how desperately I wanted to move to town, but that it would take all my funds to do so, between first, last and deposit, and the cost of moving and furnishing a new place. She said, "Let me help. You'd do it for me." She's right, I would.

My dear friend John sends me his favorite books in the mail because he just knows I'll love them. In doing so, he opens new worlds for me, and I think of him every time I enter one of those wonderful worlds.

A departing houseguest left a sticky note stuck to my bathroom mirror for me to find after she left. It says, "Don't forget, I love you." The friend left weeks ago. The note is still there.

I am a wealthy woman.

January 12, 2008

I Love It Here/I Hate It Here

I had written a long, difficult email to a friend last week, sharing the struggle I'm having about living and working in this unique and complex environment. It was cathartic to write it all down, and it helped focus some of my wandering thoughts.

Last night, I was talking on the phone with my best friend. I was trying to articulate to her some of the things I find difficult about being here, and why I might consider leaving. I knew I wasn't thinking clearly, that I was caught up in a frustrating moment, and so did she (that's one of the many reasons why she's my best friend). As a balance point, she challenged me to list some of the things that I love about my situation.

I'm turgid with morning caffein, and I've had chocolate cake for breakfast, so this seems like a good time to do just that -- quick, before I crash!

What I Love About My Situation
  • I live right next to the ocean. I can stroll to the edge of the continent before breakfast, with coffee mug in hand, and watch the waves roll in. An amazing way to start the day!

  • I can hear the ocean waves through my window as I lie in bed at night. An amazing way to end the day!

  • In the year that I've lived here there have been rainy days, sunny days, foggy days, frighteningly stormy days, and even one memorable day with hail. There has never been a day that has been anything other than astoundingly beautiful. Being outside in dramatic weather wakes me up and puts me in touch with God.

  • Nobody cares what I wear to work. Nobody cares if I wear makeup. Nobody cares if I wear a bra. Everyone here dresses for the weather. Period.

  • At night, I can see a trillion stars. You have to be in the far reaches of boonieville to see stars like this. I get to see them every clear night. Awesome!

  • My commute to work is a quarter-mile walk with the most scenic view on the planet.

  • It's safe here. Nobody locks their door.

  • There's something comforting in knowing that every person I meet "belongs" here. Even people I've never met before are not strangers. Everyone makes eye contact and nods and smiles. Some stop for a hug.

  • The food is not to be believed. And I don't have to cook it! All I have to do is show up in line. I've volunteered in our kitchen here, and it's shockingly hard work. People do it every day so that I can eat. I do not take it for granted.

  • Toilet paper is free. (Little things count, yes?)

  • Everyone here is on a spiritual path of some sort or another. Every single person.

  • I can have meltdowns, and people don't think it's the end of the world. They have them too. Then we all get back to work. Liberating!

  • I have a claw-foot bathtub on my deck. Bubblebaths under trillions of stars are wonderful! Hmmm... Maybe tonight...

An incomplete list by far, but enough for now -- I am meeting friends in town for lunch. Let me bask in this. Counterpoint to come.

January 9, 2008

When Does It Make Sense to Quit?

I've been struggling a lot with my current work/living situation. It's brought me to tears on more than one occasion. I won't go into detail now, but living and working in the same very small community can be difficult. Toss in some cultural and values differences, and it can be a nightmare. I have found myself wondering if it's time to toss in the towel. I've considered moving into town, which would give me more access to social, spiritual and cultural activities, and it would also broaden my exposure to a wider range of people. But it would add more than 2 hours per day to my commute, which sucks no matter how you slice it. I've also thought about quitting my job, which would render me without income or home in one fell swoop. I'd have to live on my savings until I could find another job.

My discomfort with my situation has gotten in the way of my being 100% present to my work. This isn't fair to me, and it's especially not fair to those who are paying me to do my job.

I've decided on a plan of action. First, I'm going to give everything I can to my job. I'm going to stop complaining, and seek out more ways to contribute. Second, I'm going to actually look for things I enjoy about my situation, and start dwelling on them. Third, I will save like a crazy person, so that I have some financial options. And fourth, I'll review where I am on April 1. If I choose to leave, I'll leave it in better shape than when I arrived. If I decide to stay, it will be because it enhances my life to do so.

My screen saver says, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." I can only invent my future by doing my best in the moment.

This job was never meant to be a long-term commitment for me. But it does deserve my full commitment for as long as I'm here. There. Decision made.

January 1, 2008

Value: Health

It's New Year's day, and I'm almost finished posting my values and the objectives I've selected for each one. Today's value is Health. Every year I make the resolution to "lose weight" or "get healthy" without defining for myself what that means or why it's important to me. And by the end of the first week I've moved on, and I hate myself for it. Today's value gives me a "what for."

  • Health: This means I love my body! I love living in my body. It is a terrific vehicle that takes me where I want to go. it is strong and agile and pain-free. I can trust it to do what I want or need it to do. It takes me on great adventures, and it's up to whatever opportunities I choose to follow. My body and I take very good care of each other.
  1. Develop a regular, consistent exercise program. Oh, my, haven't I been here before. LIFT those weights! JOG that track! GET out of bed and DO something! I'm going to go a little lighter on myself this time. I'll move my body in some way or fashion at least 5 days per week. Maybe that will be a walk, or some stretches, or a short yoga class. I just need to move back into my body and start living there. Since I don't exactly know how to do this, I'm open to experimentation. Notice there is no mention of losing weight or sculpting my body or fitting into a size (fill in the blank). If I'm going to love my body, I need to love it exactly as it is. If I want it to take me where I want to go, I need to honor it instead of demanding that it honor me. In order for me to be able to trust my body, it had damned well be able to depend on me. For my body to take care of me, I had better start doing my part.
  2. Feed my body well. No diets, no eating plans. Just give it what it needs. I've made an agreement with some friends to not eat sweets for the month of January. Not as an austerity program, or a "diet," but just to see if that makes me feel better. Another experiment.
  3. Clear my chakras at least 5 times. Laugh if you want, but here's my story. I was in a car accident in 1990. A minor one for the car, but I did something bad to my shoulder and I have been in some form of pain, minor to major, every day since. Every day for seventeen years. A couple of months ago, I took a workshop given by Donna Eden on energy medicine. During the course of the workshop, we paired up and cleared each other's chakras. The pain went away. It didn't lessen, it went away. I can do things with my shoulder I couldn't do before. For the first time in 17 years I can sleep on my right side. The pain starts sneaking back after a while, but it goes away again when I do the chakra clearing thing. Placebo effect? Imagination? Yeah, ok. Whatever. I'm doing it!
  4. Trace my meridians an average of 5 times per week, every week. This is another thing I learned at the energy medicine workshop. I swear I notice a dramatic difference on the days that I do this. So what if I'm fooling myself. It takes 5 minutes.
  5. Get teeth cleaned and bring my dental work up to date. Oh, yag, how I hate the dentist. Maybe if I write it down I'll actually do it.

December 27, 2007

Value: Involvement

I tend to isolate myself. Many people seek out the comfort of friendship at the end of a long, hard day, or when disappointment or heartbreak come to visit. I find my renewal in solitude. And it's easy to go way beyond renewal -- the path of least resistance for me is to be alone. Too much of anything is not a good thing. So here are my 2008 goals to help me peek out of my cave.

  • Involvement (belonging, being involved with other people): For me this means I am deeply connected to a circle of friends who are connected by deep love and respect for one another. We've chosen each other as family. We have much in common, and we revel in our differences. We are "there" for each other, no matter what.
  1. Hang out with my mom at least 10 times. I enjoy my mom's company. She's easy to be with, and she is a good listener. She loves having someone to run errands with, and to check out the sales at the local Wal-Mart. She likes that I do the driving. And she saves up stuff for me to do -- reprogram her VCR, change her lightbulbs, assemble a bookcase. She's my mom. She should be able to count on me.
  2. Share at least 6 special outings with my mom. She enjoys being invited out. So I plan to invite her out. A play, a picnic, a local happening. Stuff she might not do by herself or with her circle of friends. And I love introducing her to my friends. I include these two goals because my primary reason for moving back to Monterey County was to be near my mom as she ages. She's not in need of help now, and may never be -- but here I am, and we need to be in each other's lives. Since she never nags or presses, it's easy to not pick up the phone. It's the hermit in me. I now have quantifiable goals to push me toward enjoyable activities with someone whose company I enjoy.
  3. Connect with my friends at least once a month. It's amazing to me that someone as reclusive as I am could possibly have so many deep and loving friendships. How did that happen? Why have they hung around in the face of my neglect? They deserve better from me.
  4. Make at least one new deep friendship. Not just a pal, or a buddy, or someone to hang out with. The real deal. I have no idea how to do this. When I look at the people who are closest to me, it seems like they just happened to me, each one a miraculous and unexpected gift from the Universe. This year, I'm open for another gift. Maybe more, if my inner hermit doesn't run scared.
  5. Gather with women I love at least once a month. Women. I love my men friends, but women offer something a man might never understand. In person. Lunch. Treasure mapping. Music. A ceremony. Whatever. It doesn't matter. Sisterhood feeds my soul.
  6. Attend at least 6 multi-person social gatherings. The thought of this sends my hermit diving for the darkest corners of her cave. I woo her out by telling her she can have it on her terms. A small dinner party with people I know. Lunch and a matinee with a couple of pals. I tell her she can leave when she needs to, if it becomes uncomfortable. She's considering this.
  7. Introduce my friends to one another. How can these amazing, tremendous, very special people not immediately fall in love with one another once they meet? I'll do my best to make it happen.
  8. Flirt with a man. Yikes! Did I say that? Hermit, come back!

December 26, 2007

Value: Economic Serenity

This is another one of the values that arose when I did the Values Game. When going through their checklist, there were a number of terms to select -- "Wealth," "Ecomonic Security," etc. But "Economic Serenity" just hit the spot for me. So here are the goals I've selected for myself for the coming year that fall under this category.
  • Economic Serenity: For me this means I am at peace with my financial situation. I live comfortably, within my means. I'm prepared for any financial challenges. My financial situation is "roomy" and comfortable. It allows me to be a ble to choose good options for myself.

  1. $10,000 in living expenses. I live and work in the same community. My housing is part of my compensation. If I lose my job (or decide to leave it) I also lose my housing. This will likely mean a period of financial upheaval while I locate a new job and a new place to live. My goal for this item is to give myself the stability (serenity) to get through such a period as calmly as possible. It will also give me the option to leave here any time I wish, without feeling like I have to stay because I can't afford to leave. $10,000 will likely be enough to support me frugally for 4 months, based on rents I've studied in town. My ultimate goal is higher, but this is a good amount to shoot for by the end of 2008.

  2. $2,500 apartment deposit. Finding a new place to live will likely require first, last and a deposit. I want to have some choices. So I'm creating a fund for that.

  3. $4,088 in car replacement. I tend to buy a second-hand car and drive it forever. My plan is to buy a new car in 2013 (but only if needed), and to have the cash on hand to do so. By the end of this year I'll be on target if I can have $4,088 in that fund. I haven't had a car payment in years, and I'm planning my finances so that I can continue.

  4. Remain debt-free. I have been in huge debt in my life, and it's awful. Just awful. It's a prison. It limits my choices. It definitely messes with my economic serenity. No more.

  5. Transfer 401(k) to IRA. I have the IRA open. I have the paperwork. All I really need to do (I think) is to fill out the paperwork and mail it off. Then, it will be done. I'm procrastinating and I don't know why. All this high finance! So this will be an early goal. I'll get it done. I will.

  6. Have a net worth of at least $40,000. As I mentioned in my first post, My net worth is around $28,000. This means I'll have to increase my net worth by $12,000. This is extremely doable. If I reach it before the end of the year I may revise it up. During times when I've been in deep debt I actually had a negative net worth. It's kind of nice to be on this side of it for a change, and to see an upward direction. At my age, I should have lots more. But I don't. This is where I am. I can only go forward from here.

  7. Keep YNAB up to date. YNAB is a software program I discovered. YNAB stands for "You Need A Budget." The website I discovered it on is http://www.youneedabudget.com/. It's a zero-based budget, which means each dollar is allocated to something -- food, clothing, car fund, investing, whatever. That means no loose money floating around unassigned, to be spent on something frivolous. I love the program. It makes me pay attention to my money and how I spend it, and it's not painful to use. Since I started using it a couple of months ago I've found myself making better choices. I'm excited to see where I'll be after a full year of use.

I also have some goals related to my profession, but I'm ambivalent about them. I'll address them in another post.

The Day After Christmas

Sometimes I feel like today is my favorite day of the year. I struggle a lot with the holidays, and I'm always grateful when they're over. For me, they're over the day after Christmas.

Here in the small community where I'm now living the holidays have been very low key. We have many visitors from other cultures and other traditions, so it's easier for me to just ignore the fact that it's Christmas.

Because I struggle with my roller-coaster emotions so much during this time of year, I try not to make any important decisions about my life. I had a couple of melt-downs in the past couple of weeks, and because of the low key nature of the holidays here, I had to remind myself that the season may have been a factor.

When I think about the holidays themselves, there are very few actual related moments that I can point to as awful. I spent a lovely day with my mom searching for a phone/answering machine (my gift to her) and then sharing KFC for dinner. Yesterday I was invited to share a meal with friends who work where I work. They have a kitchen (for which I envy them greatly) and so I got to putter in their kitchen helping to prepare the meal. Othere friends/co-workers shared the table with us, and for the most part we didn't talk about our work. A delight.

And today it's over. And I am grateful.

December 20, 2007

Value: Inner Harmony

I'm gathering together my list of 2008 goals and intentions, and seeing how they apply to the top 5 values I've identified. It's been an interesting process, because as I mentioned, goals that aren't tied to something significant in my life haven't offered much motivation for me in the past. I'm very interested to see how (if) applying them to specific values makes a difference. Here's the first value, and the goals I've chosen to support it:

  • Inner Harmony (being at peace with oneself): For me this means that I have met myself at a deep level (and I continue to do so) and I love who I've met. I can trust myself. I can depend on myself.
  1. Find a church I love. I belonged to a church in San Jose that was truly inspiring to me -- the Center for Spiritual Living. I loved the message, I loved the people, and I always came away feeling wonderful about life and about myself. Although it's doable for me to drive up to San Jose in time to attend their 10:45 Sunday service, and I do from time to time, I'd prefer to find a spiritual community closer to me. I'd like to build connections and friendships within my own new community. I've attended the church closer to me that represents the same denomination, and by comparison it feels quite flat -- not enough people, not enough energy... just not the same. Unfair, you bet. I'll go back a few more times, and I'll continue to look for other options.
  2. Attend church at least 12 times. This is all about "give it a chance." My intention here is that with consistency I'll develop relationships and therefore friendships and a connection to my new spiritual community, once I've identified it.
  3. Develop a daily practice. OK, this could fairly be stated "Develop another daily practice." I've had a number of them. All have sustained me for a period of time. I'm not asking myself to develop the one, true practice for life. I just remember how nourishing it is for me to feed my soul daily, and my intention is to begin again.
  4. Follow practice at least 5 times per week, every week. Yeah. Consistency. That's a good thing.
  5. Breakfast at the cliff at least 3 times per week, every week. I live next to the ocean. I mean, right next to the ocean. A previous practice has been to take a bowl of cereal and sit on the edge of the cliff and talk to the "Powers That Be." Oh, how my day is changed by that one little action! And it's the first to fall away when my day gets hectic. I'll expand this intention to allow taking my morning mug of coffee to the cliff before I leave for work, if it's going to be one of those "eat breakfast at my desk or starve" mornings. I can't swear I'll do this often enough to qualify as a daily practice, but I can't let it drop out of my life, either.
  6. Blog at least 52 times. That averages out to weekly. Hold me to this, OK? Anything I write before January 1, 2008 doesn't count. 52 times. At least.
  7. Develop morning and evening routines. The mindlessness of having these routines written down in check-off form is way more liberating than I ever could have imagined. Brush teeth. Pick up stuff and put it away. Feed the cat. Lay out tomorrow's clothes. Put work stuff by the door. Take vitamins. Make bed. Whenever I follow my checklists, my life becomes easy in small but meaningful ways. My house stays tidy. My morning stops being rushed. I arrive at work with whatever I need. I go to bed relaxed, and wake up more refreshed.
  8. Follow routines daily for at least 12 consecutive weeks. Hopefully habit will carry me on from there!
  9. Finish at least 6 really good novels. Not trashy stuff. Not inspirational "good for you" reading. I mean really good literature. I used to read voraciously. Not so much any more. I miss it. I miss getting lost in another world for a while. Any suggestions?

December 16, 2007

Goals? Me?

A couple of months ago I came across a terrific tool for helping one to define one's values. It's called "The Values Game." It's the brainchild of Rachelle Disbennett-Lee, who is a life coach. Her business is called "True Direction, Inc." and she works out of Aurora, CO.

I played the game, and I was astonished to discover what rose to the surface. One of the things I appreciate most about this game is that it encourages you to define your values in your own words, rather than give you a cookie-cutter definition. It was enlightening, and quite possibly life-changing for me.

If you want to play, the website is www.coachlee.com. Click on the "Resources" tab, then select "Values Game."

Here are the top 5 values that came up for me, and how I've defined them for myself:

  1. Inner Harmony (being at peace with oneself): For me this means I have met myself at a deep level (and I continue to do so) and I love who I've met. I can trust myself. I can depend on myself.
  2. Economic Serenity: For me this means that I am at peace with my financial situation. I live comfortably, within my means. I'm prepared for any financial challenge. My financial situation is "roomy" and comfortable. It allows me to be able to choose good options for myself.
  3. Involvement (belonging, being involved with other people): For me this means I am deeply connected to a circle of people who are connected by deep love and respect for one another. We've chosen each other as family. We have much in common, and we revel in our differences. We are "there" for each other, no matter what.
  4. Freedom (independence and autonomy): For me this means I have lots of wonderful options to choose from, and I have the means to choose among them. I can choose how to spend my time. I am surrounded by people, situations and things that I choose because I love them. I am free to make changes in my life quickly and easily, if I so choose.
  5. Health: And this means I love my body! I love living in my body. It is a terrific vehicle that takes me where I want to go. It is strong and agile and pain-free. I can trust it to do what I want or need it to do. It takes me on great adventures, and it's up to whatever opportunities I choose to follow. My body and I take very good care of each other.

I have hung them where I can see them often. I plan to play the game at least once a year, and track if and how things might change for me.

So, what about goals? I've tried writing goals for myself many times over the years. I've always given up after a few days, and I could never figure out why. "Write goals," everyone says. "Successful people write goals." I never got the knack of this. I would write a list of stuff I think I should have/want/do, and much of it I actually did want to have in my life, but I was never able to attach emotionally to any of it. Now I understand my difficulty -- I couldn't find any connection to the "why" of it.

For the first time, I have a structure to build on, and this time I think goal setting is going to be a useful tool for me. Using this list, I've written some goals and action items for 2008. I'll be writing about each one individually, and sharing the goals/action steps I've chosen for the coming year. I'll also keep track of how I do as the year unfolds.

December 15, 2007

Through the Eyes of a Friend

I live and work in a conference community located amid beautiful scenery, about an hour from the nearest town. Many wonderful things are provided for me here that I would not be able to get elsewhere -- free room and board, free access to exciting conferences given by world leaders, having exquisitely wonderful people as neighbors, not to mention some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet. Sometimes the remoteness gets to me. I miss the conveniences of living near services, libraries, churches, stores. And because of the unique nature of the community, I struggle with the work challenges, many of which I have never encountered before. I've sometimes thought of leaving, moving back to "civilization" and finding a different job.

Recently, one of my closest friends came to visit. My friend and I met more than 18 years ago, when she recruited me into a start-up company. Several years later she hired me again, this time to work directly for her. Although it's been 10 years since we worked together, our friendship has carried on and deepened over the years, despite the fact that we now live in different states.

During her visit this week, we spent 3 lovely days bringing each other up to date on our lives. As she prepared to leave, she turned to me with tears in her eyes, and told me how gratifying it was for her to see me so happy.

"Didn't you hear a word I was saying about all the stuff I'm dealing with?" I asked.

"I heard you. You have challenges here. Every place has challenges. You can't escape them. But I also heard you say how much living here feeds your soul. I heard you say how nourished you are by the community of people you live with. I heard you say how much you respect your boss, and I know how important that is for you. And I can see just by looking at you that things in your life are shifting, and in a good way. I've never seen you this relaxed. This place is good for you."

I am grateful for her perspective. It's easy for me to get caught up in momentary difficulties and forget the good. It's easy to toss the baby out with the bathwater.

Note to self: Knock it off!

December 8, 2007

It's said that you can't get to where you're going unless you first figure out where you are.

Here's where I am, financially speaking:

I turned 55 years old just over a month ago.

My net worth, as of November 28, is $28,432.10. This includes a 5-year-old Toyota and a small 401(k) from a job that I left 10 years ago that I have yet to roll over into an IRA. I have about $7,000 in cash savings, but no investments other than the largely-ignored-till-now 401(K). I have no debt (a good thing) and I don't own a house (they tell me this is a bad thing). I'm employed full time.

I've been partnered for most of my adult life, but I'm single right now, and at the moment it's my preference. I'm preparing to care for my mother when the time comes (she's fine and healthy, thanks), but I have no kids of my own. I've asked myself the question, "Who will care for me?"

I suspect there are lots and lots of people out there in my position -- we've made mistakes, gone boom and bust a couple of times, thought we'd never grow old. And now, here we are.

It's my intention to create a personally and fiscally satisfying life, starting from right here. I'd be honored to have you along on the journey.