Friday, June 29, 2007

The universe is really busy ...

Oh, wow. There's a LOT more than just Mercury Retrograde going on in the universe.

Thanks to Diane Sylvan's blog, Dancing Down the Moon, for pointing the way to Lisa Dale Miller's interesting site with all the info about this full moon.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The times, they are a'changing....

I knew something was going on in the universe. It's that old meddler Mercury again, messing with data and machines and schedules. It's a good time to catch up on projects, and that's what I've been doing -- finishing up a number of things undone, although some of them are likely to keep coming back for a while.

Communication is where I've noticed it most, though, especially with our daughters. Phone calls made and not returned. E-mails sent into the ozone. Misinterpretations of innocently-written words, or actions. Eh.

It'll be over in another week or so, until the next time, and I suppose it hasn't been too bad. Change is coming, though -- I see it, I feel it, I can almost smell it.

And maybe it's time. Of course it's time! What am I saying...

When you stop changing, you're dead -- and I've known some folks who had a pulse, but sure weren't among the living. Change brings us growth, sometimes painful. It stimulates, challenges, rewards, irritates, frustrates. Every so often, we need to invite change into our lives to shake things up, so we don't stagnate in thinking and being and doing.

Mercury sort of pushes that along three times yearly by making sure we check and double-check, or suffer the consequences. You think once, twice, and yet again. And then leap.

I'm grateful for change and for growth tonight, although it's easier to take when it happens to ME, and not to my children. I'm watching painful change from afar, and it remains to be seen if any growth happens as a result. I'm praying for that for them.

Fire is still raging in the Tahoe area. This has been such a dry year that it is especially worrisome -- Mt. Lassen already looks bare, and it's just June. Since we've been here, it will lose the snow by sometime in August, perhaps, but this seems early. Friends who just camped in the mountains said that their usual campsite was dry-- last year it was a wide, rushing stream at this time. It is a time for caution and care.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Putting one foot in front of the other

While I'm not particularly wrapped around the axle about any single thing that's going on right now, there is a lot of stuff floating about:

Kid stuff, for instance. Oh, they're all grown and long out of the nest, but you don't stop worrying about them. One has some health issues that worry me, and I want to go make it all better, and know that I can't. One is shutting us out while she deals with some pretty hard life issues -- and we just have to be able to love her from afar for a while. And one continues to make choices for herself that can only lead eventually to disaster.

Work stuff, for instance. I'm grateful for new opportunities that have been placed in my path, even while it makes me nervous about meeting deadlines and providing quality service. There are doors opening, it seems, and sometimes it takes a while and a lot of talking and thinking to decide whether or not to walk through them. And yet, such doors are what got us here.

I've had occasion lately to remember Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," a poem I memorized years and years ago and have always loved -- probably because I've pretty much always chosen the lesser-traveled road.

I think that as one ages, those diverging roads take a little longer to choose between -- at least I've found it so. We weigh the pros and cons of each road, inasmuch as we can see them. We speculate about the "what if" factor -- if the road turns out to have ginormous potholes that threaten to swallow us, for instance. Ultimately we wind up back at that clearing where the roads meet, and the option is weighed and measured, but we must choose one.

So far -- and this, perhaps, is what allows me to sleep at night -- the places those roads have taken me have been quite the ride. Never in my wildest imaginings, for instance, could I have predicted 10 years ago where I'd be today, and yet that road to California was an enormous decision and choice. I am so grateful I made it!

Life stuff, for instance. I still want to lose that pesky 15 pounds. I still need to walk more often than I do. I still feel guilty about both of those, in a vague, you-oughta-be-doing-something way. I'd like to rev up the sewing machine and stitch up a couple of tops before we head off on vacation. I oughta get a couple of rows of green beans and chard planted in the garden. I need to organize the arts council stuff better, do more, clean out that basket. Clean my desk, fer pete's sake! All those shoulda-woulda-coulda items. You know.

And yet I'm taking steps, putting one foot in front of the other, plodding along and doing the task at hand, trying not to worry about children and praying every morning and every night for their safety and health and happiness. That's okay for now, to handle life one step at a time.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The longest day

..of the year is today, the Summer solstice. It's the longest day of the year, also the shortest night. It is a time for celebration, for the ripeness of the earth and warmth of the sun, for the life and bounty it brings.

Author Kim Antieau has a lovely blessing for the solstice that I'll share with some friends tonight; gratitude, affirmation, healing, blessing, giving.

More than 20 years ago I spent Midsummer in Sweden. Everywhere we went were maypoles, decked with ribbons and flowers for dancing. Everywhere we went was green -- sprigs of green leaves, branches of trees, bunches of flowers and grasses. Every boat in the water had its green boughs lashed to the front. Every house sported wreaths or boughs on the doors. The city was pretty much shut down because everyone had left for their country retreats for Midsummer.

It is dark there in the winter -- the sun comes up in the late morning and goes down in the early afternoon. The Swedes who are in cities live in an economy of space -- small apartments, little houses, and clean design.

And nearly every one of them has a retreat somewhere in the country. Boats are popular -- there is so much water! They love the green, the sunshine, the return of the warmth and light, and they celebrate it long, loudly, and heartily, dancing and drinking and singing.

This is the heart of summer, today and these next few days. Little by little, days will begin to shorten and head toward the darkness and cold of winter. It's a cycle, as is all of life, and it goes 'round in a wheel, a continous circle of cycles of lightness and dark, of life and death, of rebirth and aging.

This is a day to mark the cycle and honor the Great Wheel as it turns; to honor the seasons and cycles in our own lives; to re-evaluate and heal. Thanks be. Blessed be.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Remembering Daddy

Today was Father's Day, and I blinked back tears often all day, especially this morning when I was reading the newspaper with all the emphasis on father-child relationships. I miss him, and some days it is so fresh that it hurts my heart all over again. Like today.

My daddy died nearly eight years ago, a week after Thanksgiving 1999, following bypass surgery that was sort of unexpected. He knew his heart wasn't pumping well, and went in for an angiogram that showed several big blockages. His doctor told him that many folks his age did just fine with the bypass surgery ... and that without it, he likely wouldn't last much longer than the following spring.

I talked to him by phone several times as he was considering his options, as did my brother. Mother was in a rehab hospital across the street, recovering from a broken pelvis she'd incurred in a fall in their apartment -- it didn't take much to cause a break in her fragile bones. I know she talked to him: I don't know what she said.

My brother, at the last minute, changed business travel plans and drove to Springfield to be there for the surgery. "Something," he said, had told him he needed to go.

Daddy was upbeat about it, and we talked about his current favorite story, Keep Your Fork, in the last conversation I was to have with him. When we'd left him just a few days earlier to return home after spending a rare Thanksgiving instead of Christmas together (corporate job concern about Y2K was grounding Tony and Rachel for that holiday), he'd given me a very long, hard hug that -- after I'd gotten back to the hotel -- had me in tears. It was like he knew. And in retrospect, I did too.

The surgery went fine, although damage was more extensive than they'd thought. It wasn't until the wee hours that night that the hospital called Jimmy to tell him that Daddy was slipping -- something Jimmy felt just minutes before his phone rang. That night, I lay in bed, candles burning a quiet vigil, and *talked* in my head to my father and to God, sending energy and fervent prayers.

The next morning I clung to the phone in California as my brother and my mother sat by my father in Missouri to say goodbye. I said mine, too -- they put the phone to his ear. Daddy squeezed Mother's hand at one point, although he never regained consciousness, and when life support was removed, he died very quickly, our love surrounding him and echoing in his ears. He was an organ donor -- even in death he offered help to others.

I flew to Springfield that afternoon, and we spent a very difficult 10 days tending to end-of-life business and my poor little mother, who in one day lost not only the love of her life, but also her home -- she was not well enough to be able to continue in the retirement community, so we had to find a skilled nursing center. It was devastating for all of us.

Sometimes I'll see an older man with a thatch of thin, flyaway white hair, or with a little hitch in his getalong, and my heart will catch, just for a moment. I hear him in my head almost every time I get behind the wheel of a car -- "You don't have to get anywhere that fast," he'd say when I was inclined to speed a little. I seldom do anymore.

When we eat our first tuna-pasta salad of the summer, I remember how much he loved that meal, and how he so appreciated home cooking because of his years eating restaurant food when he'd travel throughout the state. I remember how he loved sports -- anything, but especially golf. When we bowl, I recall his fast, hard throws down the alley. When I read a book or see a show he'd have enjoyed, I can feel him close to me.

I told him "Keep your fork, Daddy," during our last conversation. "The best is yet to be."

He believed that to the core of his being. I hope that my parents are dancing in heaven, loving each other, loving us, sharing the love-energy that is God. I was blessed to have him as my father.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Remembering times past

A year ago today we scattered my parents' ashes in Estes Park, Colorado, in a little pine grove facing the Mummy Range -- the view they loved for years when they'd visit Daddy's aunt's cabin. Sixty-one years ago today, they were married in Duluth, Minn. I miss them. I think of their life together, their fun, their great love for each other, and I am aware again of the great wheel of life turning slowly, cycles of life moving ahead, day by day, on and on, era by era.


Tonight we saw "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" at our local old classic State Theatre, and it was fun to remember what we were doing when it first came out in 1977.

That led to reminiscences about drive-in movies -- which I suppose really dates us -- and what fun they were. I remember going when I was a kid. My folks liked station wagons, so we'd have a little nest of blankets and pillows in the back. We never got snacks at the snack bar, although I always envied those piles of french fries, hot dogs off the rolling grill, and sodas -- (and when I was grown and actually could choose to purchase snacks there, I was so disappointed!) We'd have lemonade or water or maybe Kool Aid in a thermos, bags of popcorn, stacks of homemade cookies, maybe a sandwich that we'd bring in our handy thermal pack.

When R was little in the late '70s and early '80s, we'd go to a nearby drivein in the Indianapolis area in our 1946 classic Chevrolet, take snacks, pillows, blankets, and watch movies in the warm Indiana summer evenings. It was life before home theaters, and VCRs, DVDs.

That's one of the reasons I think we like the movie nights at the State. The old-fashioned setting recalls simpler times and special nights out. (The movies are monthly -- next month is "Grease," with a much younger John Travola and Oliva Newton John. Of course we'll probably sing along...)

It was a nice end to a few days of more-than-usual stresses.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Change brings stress and angst

I've been reminded these last few days by several incidents that everything changes, and life as you know it in this moment can change with a few words, a few actions. Change is the ONLY constant.

I'm also reminded that we are, at our core, fragile and susceptible, even though we may soldier through whatever difficulties are thrown at us and come out on the other side still walking, still functioning, even better, but not unchanged. For many of us, there is a strength inside that fragility that will not let us break irreparably....but not for all of us, and those are our sad walking wounded of life.

It is very scary when people you care about struggle with health issues or with devastating loss of trust and love. I wonder if they have the strong core, if they will survive the blows, and be able to find a good place again. And as much as I yearn to make it better, I know I can't. All I can do is stand by, arms open, and tell them I love them. And set my own boundaries in some instances, when their troubles blind them to the truth that they will have to face in order to move forward and begin to climb out of the pit.

It's even harder to watch when bad things happen for no apparent reason to people who are just trying to do the right thing and to live a conscientious life.

And yes, I know that I've written at some length on creating our own destiny through our choices and how we deal with the consequences of those choices, and yes, I still believe it. And I can see some consequences of choices made when I think about the incidents of recent days. And yet....and's not fair. It's not deserved. These are not BAD people, y'know? *sigh*

I've also been reminded that while *I* may work at being kind and watching my words carefully, not everyone does, and words can cause wounds that may not bleed but that are devastating nonetheless. (Mind you, I don't always succeed in the above intentions, but I do try...)

Sometimes life seems awfully complicated, with twisty dark places and power struggles and mean-spirited actions. It makes me want to run back to my refuge in the country and just stay put with my books and garden and Tony and cats, and not venture out for a long time.

This, too, shall pass. I pray for wisdom to know what to say and when to say it. And I pray for love and healing in all our lives.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Talk to me

Some days you're the bug. Some days you're the windshield. Today was a windshield day.

Expectations. We all have them in some form, whether it is of ourselves or of others. They come from so many sources, from so many influences in our lives, beginning when we are tiny, dependent on our parents for food and shelter and emotional nurturing. We're taught how to get what we want partly by watching how others get what THEY want.

Like this: if mom is manipulative and martyristic in order to get what she wants, chances are the kids are going to grow up emulating at least some of her behaviors. If mom works hard, tries to be fair, is honest and ethical, guess what. Some of that is going to rub off too. Even in adulthood we watch how others get promoted or rewarded, and emulate those behaviors -- which can account for the intensely political culture found in most of corporate America. Or, truly, in just about any job situation.

We want to please others in order to be rewarded with approval, with love, with affection, raises, whatever. We need to meet expectations in order to do that. And when it all gets totally FUBAR is when we don't know what those expectations really are, and those who have 'em aren't telling us, won't communicate with us, perhaps don't even really know themselves exactly what they expect.

What we know is that we failed to meet whatever they were, and we're gonna get punished: someone stops speaking, there is a bad performance review, reputations are smeared, relationships deteriorate.

For me, my inner judge holds a big fat hairy session in which I am always, ALWAYS found guilty and wanting.

Okay, at least I recognize it and I'm better at keeping the judge in his chambers than I used to be. (But sometimes he talks really loudly through the door.)

And even then, there's a vague uneasiness that hangs over me, a feeling that there should have been something I could have, should have, would have done better that would have met those unarticulated expectations and made it all better.

In truth, the only person I can fix is me. I don't read minds. If I don't know what someone expects, my chances of success are about as good as being able to compose a symphony by throwing rocks at a piano in a dark room.

Clear, honest, open communication can be hard to listen to sometimes, but it is so far preferable to hidden agendas and disappointment, and all the angst that can bring on. It can take a long time to recover regardless of whether you're the one who didn't get them met or the one who didn't meet them. And if you can't talk about it to figure out what happened, nobody wins. Ever.

Tomorrow starts with a clean windshield again. But I feel pretty spattered up tonight.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hunkering down this week

I've got a list of to-dos that have kept me working pretty much from 8:30 this morning until about 15 minutes ago -- and it's midnight -- with only lunch and supper breaks, and one foray into town this morning.

It's serious writing time. Finished the arts newsletter and it's off to printer in the morning. Also discovered that we are nearly out of business cards, so did a redesign on those too, and they'll also go to printer.

So tomorrow it's research and draft time on one big project. And Wednesday. And Thursday. Friday is meetings and stuff all day, and Saturday we're meeting some folks for a few hours that entails bringing food, although it won't be fancy.

But I feel better for having crossed two things off.

I'm still constantly practicing positive gratitude (although I'll admit I was challenged a time or two today), and projecting positive thoughts about what I want, picturing myself in that bright blue Jeep Liberty, for instance...*grin*

The Sopranos
ended last night, "...not with a bang, but a whimper" (apologies to T.S. Eliot). millions were talking about the 30-odd seconds of black screen that made us think the network was down or that the recorder didn't get it all at first, and then when credits started rolling silently, we realized it was over. Worse than Bobby Ewing's dream!

And yet, on contemplation today and much discussion with Tony (my honey, not the Soprano), I'm okay with the ending. It was full of speculation, symbolism if you cared to see it, and possibilities for all the family members. So they live on, in some weird parallel universe-mind, I suppose, and there could be a movie (but I bet there won't be). In some ways this ending made them even more real than they seemed to be.

It was a fun evening, though -- a group of us who have been watching this season together made it a party with Italian food, wine, laughter, and a Sopranos quiz. We watched the very first episode of the series before we watched the very last one. There were lots of changes, and yet the same issues were there.

So it's on to the next to-do on the list. Right now, that's bed. Blessings!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A couple of whammies

Every once in a while, I come across something that just wows me. It's so beautiful or profound or insightful or mind-boggling that it stays with me for days, provoking insights and more thought and creating questions or sometimes answering them.

Today was a two-fer.

First was this video, Shift Happens, on You-Tube, the amazing video slice-of-life Web site where Joe Average or Polly Prolific or Incredibly Intelligent upload their creations for anyone to view. This video is facts and statistics, and is simply mind-blowing. It is another reminder that everything changes....sometimes very rapidly.

Second was a blog post from Dianne Sylvan about spiritual paths and the effect of them on one's life. While she writes from a Wiccan point of view, what she says is valid regardless of one's spiritual beliefs. Whatever your path, she says, you will eventually experience three phases: ecstasy, practice, and breakdown. Her words smacked me upside the head, and if you're truly walking a path, you'll relate.

Some days are full of the same tasks, the same routine -- not that it's bad, but it is predictable and those days flow into another without anything to really differentiate them. Other days, like today, in the midst of the routine you get gifts from the Universe that wake you, shake you, and inspire you. Maybe they're there every day and I don't notice -- but today I did, and I'm grateful for the lessons.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Working on The Secret

I've been reading The Secret, lent to me by a friend who says she hasn't had a down day since she finished it.

It's a little different than our It Works that I've referenced in past posts, although the basic principle is the same. It's the Law of Attraction: what you think about is what you get, in a nutshell.

I've heard it for years and years: What goes around comes around. As a wo/man thinketh in his/her heart, so is s/he. Ask for what you want. Think positive.

What's really resonated with me in this first reading (and I haven't seen the movie yet) is the continual gratitude, beginning even before you open your eyes in the morning. Saying thank you to the universe for everything, saying it constantly, reminding yourself over and over how blessed you are to have what you do, to be where you are, to do what you can.

Some folks opt for gratitude diaries as part of their practice -- a good discipline. I say thank yous constantly -- for my husband, my life, my home, the kitties, for being able to see and hear and touch and smell and taste, for having two legs to walk on, and so on. Even the most crusty pessimist can find things for which to be grateful, if nothing more than a mind to think those thoughts!

And I'm practicing finding the gratitude in the people, places, and things that irritate me, too -- more of a challenge, I'll admit. The folks who tailgate me as I'm driving home -- perhaps they're anxious to get home to their families after being away all day, or to a much loved pet. People who stand in the 10 items and under aisle with a full cart -- so maybe they can't read, or didn't see the sign. Okay, so I'm stretching....

The point is that the irritation hurts ME, not them. If I turn my thoughts to gratitude for every moment, even the ones that aren't fun, it changes my attitude from a cranky, impatient one to one of patience and serenity, being able to be where I am in an attitude of gratitude.


Life is easier to live that way. It's calmer, better, much less stressful. I'm practicing thankfulness all the time. That is HUGE.

I'm working on the part where you live as though you already had that big bank account or new car on order, but I'm beginning to see the value in being positive about such things. And I have to believe I'm nicer to be around when I'm positive, hm?

You tell me. Meanwhile, I'll work on being grateful for being able to hear or see what you say, and for the venue and ability to write!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

What truly matters

We're barely into June and already there are fires. The grass is crispy and brown, even as sparse as it is from our very dry winter.

Going south yesterday, we saw a grass fire right near I-5 that was sending billows of smoke into the sky, and two CAL FIRE tankers circling, dropping loads of water or fire retardants. It didn't last long and hopefully there were no structures involved.

The day before it was closer to home. Our neighbor called to let us know there was a fire that appeared to be in our subdivision, but that her husband and the homeowner's association president were going to check on it. A few more phone calls ended with our jumping into the car to go see for ourselves. Ultimately the fire was determined to be on a street adjacent to and backing up to some of the acreage in our subdivision, but it was extinguished in about half an hour, burning what appeared to be an outbuilding of some sort.

Nonetheless, it started me thinking: what would I take if we had to evacuate?

The cats, of course....the two inside boys and as many of the outside ones as we could get into a box/bag/carrier. The external hard drives to the computers, which hold our backups. The cameras. My purse and the checkbooks. And from there, I don't know.

Like everyone, we have irreplaceable items in the house: baby books, our wedding photos, hundreds of photos from my folks as well as ours before digital cameras. My mother's and grandmother's china teacups and teapot. A few pieces of jewelry. Some photos of Tony's family and photos of his life before us.

I'd hate to lose any of them. But on the other hand, it's just stuff. Will anyone really care about it in 20 years? Not likely.

It's friends and family that matter here. We each hold irreplaceable places in each other's lives, and when we lose them, there is a big hole that never quite patches over. Losing stuff is a hassle and sometimes cause for sadness, but losing people is tragic.

The drywinter does not bode well for a fire-free summer. We're taking all possible precautions.