Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Word of the Year

It's a tradition, celebrated here and there around the internet. I joined the yoginis over at YogaLila in this undertaking. Last year my word was "emerge," which turned out to be fairly prescient. The word, of course, signifies an intention and a point of view for the coming year. Which means that it is important to choose a good word, whatever that might mean. Yet whatever it means, assigning the process such importance guarantees that I will fret and fuss until I am satisfied with my choice. Things are right on schedule here.

My dear friend Lianne suggested "architecture." I mused for alarmingly long about the relative merits of verbs vs. nouns for the word of the year. (Seriously, is there no end to my geekery??) While still, I must tell you, slightly preferring verbs in these matters, I am going with "architecture."

This word works on several levels. First and foremost, I am dedicating much of this year to building the underpinnings, the foundations, of this new life that I want. I have a tendency to go for the visible over the structural. I will buy the pictures to hang on a wall that I have yet to paint.... that sort of thing. To me, this backwards sort of process actually works. By doing the little, easy thing, I've moved the project forward, making it real and visible. So then it becomes more likely that I actually will paint the wall -or whatever the task of the day is.

Well, now I have both real and metaphorical walls to paint. I want to continue emerging as a scholar, as a friend, as a sibling, generally as a grown-up in my own story. I want to do the work that will allow me to be an athlete again. (Building muscle... get it?) And I have real, architectural work to do on my house, in order to make it more fully mine. On some level, this work isn't sexy. How much can really be said about sending manuscripts in, getting a new furnace, or ripping up and rearranging you-know-who's gardens?

Being me, I will find something to say, I suppose ;) But really, to me, these projects are exciting. And there will be enough froufy details to keep me enchanted with the process, I'm sure.

Sleeping Around


OK, I'm over it. What this is really about is where I traveled this year. Here's 2008's summary: sleeping. It was good given the circumstances, but things are looking up in the adventure department.

This year included:
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Hummesltown, PA
  • Birmingham, AL
  • Greenwood, MS
  • San Gimignano, Italy
  • Beloit, WI
  • Oranjestad, Aruba
  • Chicago, IL

And that doesn't count miscellaneous on-the-road stops in hotels on the way to somewhere else. And actually, it seems like there were more trips, but that's all I can account for.

Trips I know about in 2010: Washington, DC, New York City, San Diego.... It's possible that my sisters and I will get together for a beach trip. And I have Cape Cod on my mind as another beach trip. We'll see what shows up this time next year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

You'll See It When You Believe It

OK, for many MANY reasons I don't actually believe the title of this post. If it were, strictly speaking, true, no child would ever be sick, no perfect prayer would go unanswered, no selfless cause would remain unacknowledged by the universe's powers. I certainly do not want to be involved in an insidious The Secret-like process of blaming people for not believing fervently enough.

And yet, there is an element of truth to the statement for more mundane beliefs and hopes. When we believe we can do something, we do it. And sometimes, if we don't know we can't, we just do that thing anyway. Belief and manifestation are not entirely unrelated, I think.

And it's that time of year for me. I know that it's chic to forgo New Year's Resolutions. Mostly they are broken and forgotten. Worse, they sometimes become whips for people to beat themselves with. And seriously, who needs more of that? Not I, said the cat. (That's a quote from the Little Red Hen -a quote my mother and sister and I each use quite a lot.) But we have in this blog already established that I LOVE New Year's resolutions.

I like to think of possibility and hope and moving forward and claiming power that is authentically mine (as opposed to power taken at someone else's expense.) With Anne of Green Gables, I like to think that "tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet" And with Anne, I admit, I stand in wide-eyed wonder, looking at a world that leaves so much scope for the imagination.

So, in that spirit, I am picking up my colored pencils, my glue stick, my journal and pen, as well as my thoughts and hopes, and turning my thoughts to the coming year. How will I be different this time next year? How will I be closer to my goals? (And have I mentioned what a delight it is to actually have goals again, for the first time in forever?) How will the world be a tiny smidge better because I spent those 365 days on the planet? How will I be more grounded and more willing to fly, all at the same time?

My goals are a mixture of the mundane and the important -tending slightly toward the mundane, truth be told. I want to become a 5.8 climber. This is the definition of mediocrity in the rock climbing world. Tragically, it would be an improvement for me. Enough said ;) I want to paint my walls and buy furniture. I want to play with my children and my kitties. And yet, I have the chutzpah (I almost wrote "balls" but I have just spent several days in the American South where we do not speak like that. Possibly it will rub off on me, this gentility thing. Hush there, in the cheap seats. It could happen.) to hope that I can make an important contribution. Can homeless people and refugees be better off because I turned my thoughts to their situation? Can I figure out this forgiveness thing that eludes me -because I really do want to be that person? Can I become other things that I still hold close to my heart and only speak in a whisper?

So... pick up your pencils and open your blue books ;) It's time to get to work. What are you hoping for? Write it down. Dare to dream it, first. Then, if you dare, speak it. (This part is harder.) Then, with Anne and the cherry tree outside her bedroom window, bloom as if you mean it.

What's on your list? I'll post mine as it develops.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dottiness Abounds

I'm getting ready to leave town for Christmas. I'm leaving the house and its resident kittens well supervised, but I'm still feeling worried. And of course, there are two essential decisions to be made prior to any trip: the playlist and the knitting.

I have the Christmas music queued up on the iPod and the knitting project has revealed itself. Dottiness for the dotty:

It's called the Dotty Cat Bed, designed by Kelly Porpiglia from Kelp!. It's a free download, and I bought yarn to make two. I'm thinking if the girl-child's cat wants one, though, she can have one, too.

So, with those two things taken care of, I'm now freed up to deal with trivialities such as an oil change, and a new sticker for the car, and clean clothes. Details! Pish-posh. The important stuff is done.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2008's 18-month List

It all should have been done 6 months ago:

(Bold equals done)

Weigh 110 by August (N's graduation)
Train for a triathlon –whether or not you do one!
GITAP (long-distance bike ride)
Daily yoga practice
Have people over for brunch regularly
Build a wine collection
Keep a bottle of good champagne in the fridge
Find a neighborhood bar

Exercise 6 days a week
Maintain relationship with Sarah the wonder-hair-dresser
Rock climbing –the goal is weekly climbing, but I’d settle for twice a month –in March, become a member
Get better work clothes
resume daily riding as soon as the weather allows

go the gym at least three days a week
set up workout room and yoga space

Figure out a way to do this relationship demise thing gracefully and how to survive it.
Send birthday cards
Get an address book
Update it
Write to out of the area friends
Update emergency contact information
Get a will and advanced health care directives
Update funeral arrangements

Buy the house
Get a new furnace and central air

Re-create the gardens
Buy some new furniture -new couch and some outdoor furniture
Focus on safety, security, and grace

Professional; Financial; Educational
Re-learn to do a cartwheel
Take a few yoga workshops
Think about the next job –craft the plan

Write the preemie knits book
Get the preemie pattern book published
Work for the 18 months I promised at Hesed House.
At 12-month anniversary, start looking for the next thing. Keep working until you find it.
Keep planning interesting things at the yarn shop.
Attend an international conference.
Keep the idea of a social justice institute alive in your heart and mind -what can you do to make it a reality?
Retirement planning, in this brave new single world :(

Spiritual; Communal
Find a volunteer opportunity that nurtures you and does some good.
Buy flowers once a month
Join a book club
Donate blood
Become an NPR member
Get back to buying organic and fair trade whenever possible
Advocate for bicycling in town and elsewhere
See if Newman can still be your spiritual community -haul your sorry self back to church!
Reconnect with almost-lost friends
Nurture connections with all friends
Daily meditation as part of yoga practice

Expeditional; Recreational
Go to the movies once a month
Travel outside of the US
See live music and dance
Stay up dancing until the wee hours of the morning
Sib trip

Start planning for a volunteer vacation –internationally
Figure out a way to go to an international conference.
Save for Tuscany trip

I'm pretty okay with this, especially given that some of this undone stuff is well under way. I've started the preemie knits book. I'm exercising and doing yoga again. Moreover, I did huge stuff that wasn't even on the list. So the fact that I haven't yet joined a book club... well. I can live with that.

Being me, my mind is turning to the next guideline for my time. So, I thought that revisiting the current one would be the intellectually honest thing to do. Now to decide if those undone things are all still really goals.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Christmas Letter

Dear Ones,

I hope all is well in your world. I look forward to hearing from you this Christmas –and any other time, of course.

This year, like last, had a little heartbreak for me. My divorce was final in February. We all know dozens of people who survive that, and of course I have survived it, as well. Christmas letters are, by tradition, recitations of success and glory, so I won't burden you with a recounting of that appalling process. The real story is that this year has not, in the end, been about heartbreak at all -a truth which leads me straight to you. I have learned a small measure of confidence and a large measure of love because you held them for me when I could not and offered them to me when I needed them. Thank you for that. You are the bright spot in this year, and that’s the truth!

So, now I get to meet the challenge of thriving rather than merely surviving. That process is a delight. I have purposely kept the pace a little wild, figuring that it would be healthier in the short-term to stay busy. I’m working on some research that is important -to me, anyway. It has to do with social justice and transformational learning applied to the population of refugees and to the questions of forced migration. I am still rock climbing. I am absolutely unexceptional at that, but I get a kick out of it anyway. I also love my job –which was new last Christmas. I am still learning it, which makes me a little crazy. I am repairing, decorating, and generally tending to my wonderful old house. The garage has been torn down and will be re-built –well, eventually. I have a new super-efficient furnace and central air, which is altogether new for this old barn. I am turning the rooms to new uses, entertaining in new ways, and generally claiming the house as mine. Well, I share it with the two new kittens, Claddagh and Cillian, who keep me nicely humble. I have done some traveling for work and pleasure: New York City, Washington, D.C. and a tiny little village in Italy.

So now I know that I can do all those things. This coming year will be about slowing down a little and steadily building the infrastructure that will hold this new life and its dreams up. I am ready now to meet quietness and calm with delight rather than fear.

Send me e-mail. Call me. Come by for a visit. I really do want to know how it is all going for you! You are in my thoughts and prayers, always.

Have a wonderful, joyous Christmas!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Star in the Midwest -The Stellated Dodecahedron

We've covered that I'm reclaiming Christmas and deciding what it's going to be for me in this new life. I'm still discovering what's what, in that department. But as you know, I have a tree.
That tree has ornaments and there's a tree skirt, and there are three stocking hung in the stairwell. We are moving along.

Yet, the tree has no star on top. A long, LONG time ago, a young mathematician, who was still widely believed to be a nice guy, made me a star for my tree. I had a tree-decorating party at my college-apartment, and he found aluminum foil, poster board, and a compass, calculated the angles, and made me a star for the tree. It was of course The Star, for the rest of our life together. I simply could not bear to look in the box where it lives. In fact, the girl-child came and took all the old ornaments from my house and she has the star now. But my tree-top is naked.

But today I think I found the right star. Nora Gaughon designed a knitted stellated dodecahedron. Seriously, is this perfect, or what? It's knitted. It's geeky. It's me ;) I haven't started it yet, because I'm still working on presents. But it can be made after Christmas and stored away to be next year's progress. It's a free pattern on Knitting Daily.

That, and solar powered outdoor lights, and I will be in business!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Crystal Ball is Broken

I used to say that to the children, meaning... "I don't know where you left your Germany report, or your shoes. I don't know if he will call. I don't know if you'll get that job." And of course it led right into an annoying momily, about putting your shoes where they belong in the first place or how you deserve the job, or the boyfriend doesn't deserve you.... whatever the situation called for.

But this morning I had a terrifying realization. I really can't see into the future. Did I think I was being falsely modest when I claimed to have a broken crystal ball??? For heaven's sake, I, who thought I had a life plan for the next 50 years, two years ago had to make a new one, and I'm just now understanding that my crystal ball is out for repair????? Seriously, did I need more evidence?

It started stupidly. I was writing Christmas card addresses, and I wondered if I should put everyone's address into my phone as I go along. It's very little trouble, and it would help the GPS navigation get me where I am going. And then I started to wonder if I would have this phone this time next year (who cares?)... and then I started to wonder where I would be next year for Christmas(marginally more important).... and my brain just froze. I can't see next year.

At all.

I make no claims to being organized in a traditional sense. (You should SEE the desk where this is being written. No, I suppose you shouldn't.) But I do like to chart my course. I make New Year's Resolutions, and 101 Goals in 1001 days. I have plans for my writing and plans for my knitting. I have plans for this house and plans for books I want to read. And I have fledgling, spoken-only-in-a-whisper career/vocation plans. And here it gets a little untoward, perhaps. I have more than a little bit invested in being seen as a high performer.

Or... I don't know, perhaps that's not a bad thing as long as there is substance behind the image. But there won't BE substance behind the image if I don't know where I'm headed.

Darn that crystal ball, anyway. Is anyone else's in working order??? I'm freaking out over here.

Monday, December 07, 2009

A Hundred Wishes

The little neighbor boy had an eyelash on his cheek yesterday. I scooped it up and said "make a wish!" Being a small person, he said "I want a HUNDRED wishes!!" If you knew this child, you would know that it wasn't greed that motivated him; I'm quite sure it is just that he is still alive with the sense of the possible. A hundred wishes would not be at all out of line.

We learn differently as we get older. I'm not sure that it's "knowing better" though. Could I come up with a hundred wishes? Could I feel like those things were possible?

I'll have to muse on this. Please feel free to add yours.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Tending a Different Infrastructure

Because isn't THIS the picture you want in the almost-winter? It's my old furnace, in the back yard. That's not where you store yours??? Huh. Perhaps I have to rethink my strategy.


It was, apparently, 35 years old. Possibly older. So, there's no pretending I didn't get my money's worth (not that I chose it or bought it.) But it is now replaced with a state of the art 95% efficient furnace with central air. And many thousands of dollars have been removed from my wallet. Oh well. In my Great Life Plan of Aught-Nine (and no, I don't really call it that), this was on the schedule for 2012. The best laid plans, and all that....

Next summer I'll stay in my comfortably-cool house and pretend like I'm in Paris ;) I'll look lovingly at my air conditioning unit and pretend that it's a different kind of Arc de Triomphe.

And since this is what I woke up to this morning, I suppose it's a good thing I got this done.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tending the Infrastructure

I've made a decision. Apparently, I find this so stunning that I thought I should share that fact with you ;)

I am taking a step WAY back next semester -or so it will appear, anyway. I am not (NOT, I tell you!!!) abandoning my dreams. I am just considering the possibility that those dreams need a different kind of attention from me. The truth is that meaningful dreams need strong foundations, and I have let that part slip -favoring the super-structure, I suppose.

I am not saying it's wrong to focus on the "pie in the sky." I'll always be an idealist and a dreamer; the world needs us. Yet, for really the first time in my life, I mean it when I say that I am following my bliss. I don't have time to kid around about that. So, in order to make that happen, there is a metaphorical frame to be built and concrete to be poured. It's not glamorous, but I can't afford to skip this part.

Silly stuff has been left languishing. I haven't finished changing my name -all the way down to the last magazine and credit card. That makes me crazy, but there has been no time. My passport needs to be renewed. I haven't made a five-or-so year plan as to what I need to do; I have been hopping sort of willy-nilly from one -very useful- thing to another. I have a boat-load of foundational reading that needs to be done. Heaven knows that I don't have a body that will take me healthfully into old age -much less one that will allow me to trek around in rural India figuring things out. I have to engage with the work I am doing now -for its own sake, because it's interesting and important, AND because it is the foundation for what comes next.

So, a few more days of this semester, with what remains of my grace and general oomph, and then it's on to a different kind of work. It will look slower, but it's just as important as the flashier stuff.

I'm terrified. I know I can live on fast-forward; it's my favorite mode. Can I really methodically build something? We shall see.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Claddagh and Cillian are Cilling Me ;)

We've had some cat dramas around here. My daughter and I aren't very good at this. We inherited Claddagh -a maybe 6-month old cat when he found us. Seriously, he is the best kitty in all the land. He gives hugs. How many cats do that?

At the time that we got him, Victoria lived with me. Very shortly thereafter, though, she found a sweet little house just perfect for her. She moved out, but no worries. We figured Claddagh would have two mommies; he would stay with me for a while and then with her for a while. Claddagh is quite a large cat. I am assured that he's not fat, but he's big. His brain, however, is the size of a walnut. This having two mommies thing was just too hard for him. He needed to have one home.

At the time that Victoria and I confronted this, Claddagh was with her. Along came a second kitty. Simone. Simone is 12 weeks old, and TINY. Perfect. Now Victoria can have one, and I can have another. We separated them.

Claddagh pined. We should have separated them immediately, apparently. And, we now know, loyalty can fit inside a walnut-sized brain. That, or it resides in the heart. So, here comes Cillian, an 8-week-old little warrior. He fits easily into my palm, and my hands aren't what you would call large. He bounces everywhere, rides on the Roomba, hides under tiny little spaces, and terrorizes me and Claddagh both. I'm exhausted. I have this nice, large house, and yet we are all three, at this moment, in one chair. Claddagh is grooming Cillian. Cillian is snoring, exhausted for the time being. And I'm trying not to get scooched off onto the floor.

But my life is that much bigger. (I'm done now, though. Two cats are entirely enough for me.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Living my Best Life

I don't know how to live my best life. You know that, right? No experts here! If that's what you're looking for, move along; there is nothing to see. Just like everyone else, I'm struggling with this idea. Practicing self-care without spinning off into hedonism. Learning discipline without trailing off into asceticism. Observing one's own process without becoming a narcissist. This is work.

Right now, I have some not-huge-but-definitely-there questions I need to answer, in the fairly near future. As in, a few days ago would have been good. They have to do with work load and my ability to manage my time -and my apparent inability to create more time out of thin air, in spite of my clear need and worthiness ;) And, we might as well be honest, my own need to do a good job at everything is also involved.

For the past year, I have kept myself wildly busy. I did this on purpose. On the one hand, I put off my own dreams for too long. I don't have time to delay them any longer; being tired isn't a good enough excuse. And, I was very afraid that if I allowed myself very much (any) unstructured time, I would sit home and brood. Bitterness isn't really in my nature, but self-pity can be. So, keep moving-no brooding. That was my thinking.

That strategy worked, in a sense. I have made important strides. I feel better. Most of the time, I am grateful to be living alone and having this opportunity to be self-determining. Gradually, though, it has become easier (less difficult, anyway)to let some things go. I am no longer working at the yarn shop on Saturdays. I don't need the money (although I will sorely miss the discount on yarn!) and I do need the Saturdays. My thinking was that I had let some things go in the service of others. Yet, I see now that I was still leading with fear. Little wonder, I suppose, given my recent experiences. Yet, I think it's time to do something else.

I have this picture of my perfect life. It involves work for social justice (from which I am almost completely separate these days); thinking, writing, and teaching; a varied and festive social life with my friends and family; a welcoming, calm home; rock-climbing, biking, and yoga; creativity (which mostly means knitting and writing); cooking, baking, reading for fun, travel... It's a picture I acknowledge to be unattainable. It's a world where the clothes are never wrinkled, my haircut isn't two weeks overdue, and all work is accomplished easily in its appointed time. Yes, I see the problem. I am simultaneously unable to live up to this fantasy and unwilling to let it go.

People advise me to do less -lower my standards. It's perfectly valid, but I don't think it's the answer for me. Until I find the right balance, I'm going to entertain the possibility that I am also living my best life when I doubt, when I am exhausted, when I just flat-out don't feel like working this hard anymore. I can't will those feelings away. But I can try to hold the dream as a gentle thing in front of me, and try to love myself into it.

The pace may not change, but its frantic nature might. Or, love will have a gentler pace than fear. We'll see.

We can not dedicate...we can not consecrate....

It's the anniversary of the Gettysburg address. If you go here: Gettysburg drafts, you can see drafts of the address.

I have nothing terribly insightful to add to the conversation about the Gettysburg address. I can tell you that I went to Gettysburg for the first time as an adult, with my sister who lives near there. Two Southern girls walking around in Gettysburg -if there are ghosts anywhere, there are ghosts there. I'm quite sure of it. It is a place of powerful sadness, and Lincoln tried -I think- to rhetorically ease the pain. I can't imagine that he succeeded, but the appeal to our better nature can't be a waste of time.

Lift a glass with me this evening and, perhaps, reflect on visionary leadership, your best self, and Lincoln's damn fine writing.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Boys Have Cooties

Oh, relax. I'm not casting aspersions on almost 50% of the population. I'm referring to the stage in life when boys and girls each think that the other one has cooties. It's a silly game -not at all new or rare, in a cultural sense. Children learn it from each other, and it serves the cultural and developmental purpose of fostering same-sex communities among children when sexuality (whatever its adult orientation) ought to be delightfully latent. Those cooties clear right up when the time is right ;)

So, here I am at my age, and boys apparently have cooties again. I have had precisely three "dates" in the last two years. Each was a hurdle of monumental proportions for me -and two of the men I know well and really love, in a different sort of way. I thought of a million excuses why I shouldn't go. I considered pretending to be sick. Then I practically WAS sick.

This is not going well, dear ones. I never struggled with trust before, and now my distrust of grown-up, intimate relationships is like a wall of bricks around me. Actually, that's not quite the right metaphor, because this brick wall has a weight that I must carry around. In some ways it makes me angry. Math-Rat just handed me these bricks and said, metaphorically, "Here, carry these for a while. I'm going to go play." And he did, and I've still got the darn bricks.

Here's my thinking. I only see three possibilities here. There may be more, but I only see three. One is that I work out my trust issues myself, but within the community of women where I usually find myself. It would be sort of a "red tent" approach to this healing thing. Men are out there, certainly. A few extraordinary men are even my friends -and brothers are always exempt from the cootie thing, so there's that, too. Maybe if I think that boys have cooties again and work on my own developmental issues, however long it takes, I (we) can resolve this.

The second possibility is that there's a guy out there who is willing to help me dismantle this brick wall, piece by piece. That is a LOT to ask of a person who can not be certain that it will even be worth the trouble (which is the definition of commitment, I suppose. One can't know how it will turn out and yet ponies up anyway.) It will be a long process. And I know me -I will run that person a not-so-merry chase. Seriously, what are the odds such a person even exists?

Third, I just sit tight. Choosing not to work on these trust issues hurts no one else, and I'm not sure it even hurts me. I have learned that lonely alone is way better than lonely together, which is what I was for years in my marriage. I'm doing fine right here. Perhaps there is no need to push myself to dismantle this brick wall, which might well be protecting me. Maybe it will just fall down when the time is right. It could even fall down from natural causes and still there would be no intimate relationship, right? That would be a kind of decision from a more powerful place.

I'm me. I would like to be a better me. So I push myself to confront things, fix things, move forward...blah, blah, blah. I make charts and lists and plans. You've heard me blather on in that vein forever. I want to chuck these bricks. (Hurling them vaguely toward the Math Department comes to mind, but that's only funny for a second.) But for now, I'm pretending like boys have cooties. I just think it's going to work better that way.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Big Red Book

I don't know why I am so intent on seeing this book, but I am.

Maybe it's that old University of Chicago great books thing. Maybe I'm just a nosy old biddy. For whatever reason, though, I am considering a trip to New York to see Carl Jung's "secret" book, which he unimaginatively called Liber Novus. (If he had written one after this, would it have been the New New Book -or the Really I mean it this time New Book?) But when I first came across Jung's work in college, I felt like I had come home. Archetypes, the collective unconscious, individuation, integration....I became an 18-year-old groupie of a slightly mystical, spectacularly imperfect, psychiatrist from Switzerland. Leave the Back Street Boys to someone else; I was waiting at a different kind of stage door.

OK, I get it. Not everyone gets this excited about ideas -particularly someone else's ideas. And I've mellowed, anyway, to say nothing of having discovered the thinking of other scholars of the mind. I've even had an idea or two of my own, thank you very much.

But this book.... seriously, I want to see it. In it, Jung chronicled and created illuminated illustrations about his dreams, hallucinations, and encounters with the collective unconscious. He worried that he might be having psychotic episodes. His heirs apparently concurred; they have kept this book unavailable since Jung's death in the early 60s. Yet, through these dreams, he came to the theories of the collective unconscious and archetypes as tools for working toward a healthy emotional life. He famously was unwilling to let anything or anyone go from his life until he had figured out why they were there in the first place. What had they come to teach him?

So, he purposely confronted (and occasionally induced) his own hallucinations in order to learn from them. I can't quite imagine having a rich enough interior life that visions would come to me. I think they would spot infertile soil and go bother someone else ;) And yet, what they teach me is that we're not meant to simply explore the depths of our own psyches. That's necessary but insufficient, as the logicians would say. Rather, there is something "out there" that's bigger than we are, and we are meant to explore that, too. Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit.

Of course, reading about someone else's journey is not quite the same thing as having undertaken it oneself. Everyone has her own work to do in this regard, and insofar as I've even started it, I can report that it's not always fun. (It might have been easier if I had fallen for the Back Street Boys, now that I think about it.) But I'm going to New York anyway, to indulge my hero-worship just a tad but also to acknowledge the intellectual and spiritual curiosity as well as the courage of a mind that shaped mine.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Bruised Ego

Settle in, boys and girls, for a story.

Once upon a time, I was physically fit and strong and thin. I never thought I was thin, but that's another story for another day. I also practiced yoga for years and years -starting before some of you were even a twinkle in your Mama's eye. I learned some silly things and some unimaginably important things while spending time on my mat. I learned how to put my foot behind my head (that goes in the "silly thing" category, in case you were wondering) and how to be a more loving person. I learned how to twist myself up into a pretzel and how to confront some of the pretzel-y knots in my own psyche.

And I thought I learned about ego. Bearing in mind that none of these important life lessons is learned and then is over and done-with, I thought I had confronted this one. (Who's that snorting in derision? I hear you!) Seriously, I kind of thought that my ego issues went the other way -that I had been with a man I thought to be strong, but really just needed constant ego massage. His strategy for getting that reinforcement was to make other people feel small. Even more clever, he was good at getting the people around him to admit they were small before he even asked. So I thought my task was to find ego-strength where I had assumed there was none.

Alas, it is more complicated than that. Yesterday I went to a 3-hour yoga workshop. I have started to re-claim my yoga practice, but it is nowhere nearly as consistent or disciplined as it has been in years gone by. So I knew I was walking into this workshop under-prepared. In my home practice, I am learning to be gentle with myself when I can't (yet) do poses that, a long time ago, were easy. In class yesterday, I realized that there was still quite a bit of ego attached to being good at yoga.

Sigh. Just when you think you're making progress, the universe points out a spectacular area of blindness. And now that you're no longer blind to it, you're obliged to work on it. Damn it. (Oh sorry, young ones.... I mean.... gosh, universe, thanks for this opportunity to become a better person.)

I looked around at all the strong, lean yoga bodies and was unhappy with the size, shape, and fitness of my own body. I couldn't really see other people's postures to compare, but I felt worried and unhappy that I had to so intensely modify my own postures. I could compare my today-postures with my years-ago postures, and I didn't like the trajectory. My self-talk was screaming "I used to be good at this. I want you all to know that I used to be good at this. I know the Sanskrit names for postures. I know alignment principles. I have mat-cred (the yoga equivalent of street-cred, I suppose)".

Wow, who is that arrogant/desperate pain in the ass and would she please shut up?

So, today is all about ibuprofen for the muscles and the spirit. On some level, I'm hobbling around a little bruised. On the other hand, being worked just a smidge beyond your comfort level is how you make progress. As long as I extend compassion to myself as well as other people, this will probably work. I can only start where I am, right? So, I'm reframing all of this to put it into the "hurts so good" category. I'm almost convinced.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

And the Winner Is....

Seriously.... my favorite Sesame Street clip of all times....

Check out the girl with the pony tail!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Yip Yip Martians Meet the Telephone

I still say "get the earth book" when people or events perplex me. Alas, it works about as well for me as it did for the Yip Yip Martians.

I am getting such a kick out of revisiting these memories.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Me, Claudius

More Sesame Street memories. I remember laughing until I cried when this came on, and my then-small children (who of course had not yet encountered I, Claudius) wondering quite explicitly if Mom had really, finally, this time lost her mind. But they would obligingly call me into the living room to see this clip when it was repeated.

They later took out the line "Monsterpiece Theater, home of classy drama." I thought it was hilarious, but I suppose it really did have to go. There's no sense teaching kids intellectual classism. And later Alistair Cookie stopped eating his pipe at the end of clips. Again, it probably needed to go, but Cookie Monster would have eaten his pipe, don't you think? There's only so much class Cookie could provide ;)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sesame Street and Sign Language

Just another reason to love Sesame Street. It normalized the use of sign language. This is a beautiful poem, in so many ways.

Chariots of Fur

In honor of Sesame Street's 40th birthday, I spent an absurd amount of time last night looking for my favorite Sesame Street clips. Here's one from the Monsterpiece Theater series:

Alistair Cookie is too perfect.

I admit to running like Grover -minimum speed, maximum melodrama.

And we get by with a little help from our friends. Morality tales from Sesame Street -a part of my childhood and my children's.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

ET Phone Home

I make no claims that my life is more complicated than other grownups in the modern world. It's probably not even all that much more complicated than some children's lives in this modern world. Nonetheless, it's more complicated than I'm used to, so there's a sense of frantic-ness as I try to get everything done. (Sorry for pointing out the obvious. You've probably noticed my mild hysteria on this point.)

So, the question becomes -in part- how to be the most productive in the time I have available. There are other fruitful questions. I do know that. Are there things that can be cut from the schedule? How might I live gracefully, given the constraints of time and money that we all face? How can I live a balanced life? But today, I want to talk about being productive. If I'm more efficient with my task-time, then some pieces of those other questions answer themselves.

So, to make the question even more precise, how do you use your phone as a productivity tool? I have this fancy phone, and I do use it. But I have a feeling that I'm under-using it just a bit. As with everything else, it needs to earn its keep. What can it do for me?

I'm figuring out how to do mobile blogging. That's going to be rocky for a bit. I've figured out how to upload photos from my phone directly to facebook -which is hardly a productivity tool, but at least I don't waste time looking for the camera cord quite so often. I have my grocery, and hardware store, and Target lists stored in there. I do have the navigation tool, which I recommend. The stand-along GPS would be cheaper, but since I want to get back into long-distance cycling and I would take my phone with me anyway on those trips, the phone navigation tool is useful.

My brother uses it to calculate (or store... or view.... or something) his blood pressure records. My techno-whiz sister doesn't use it for an mp3 player, so I don't either. What do you know that I should know?

Monday, November 02, 2009

I'm This Kind of Athlete

Ages ago, my long-suffering life coach suggested that my weight and my fitness level would improve when I truly loved myself. Yeah, well, I thought. If I wait for that to happen, I'll die a fat, miserable, unhealthy old wreck of a human. Must.... muscle...through.

Clearly, that didn't happen. Perhaps too many other things in my life were requiring my muscle. Perhaps in subtle and un-subtle ways I had been told I wasn't good enough -and to own my complicity in that game, I am quite willing to go there with the slightest suggestion that it might be true. No one needs to work very hard to convince me of my unworthiness.

In spite of what I took to be my self-evident unworthiness, I set myself the gentle tasks of getting back to yoga and rock climbing in this fall semester. All I had to do was climb once a week and do yoga twice a week -and not beat myself up for not doing more. These are fitness (and wellness) activities that I love. They're not "working out," somehow. They aren't play, exactly, and sometimes these activities can be very hard indeed. But nor are they tedious, and for some reason I can get past the thought that people are looking at me as though I don't deserve to be there.

The visible results have not been stellar. True is true, and I still look like a fat person. And yet... my body is responding. I've talked before about how my hands are waking up, and no longer need to be iced after climbing. I can knit for hours -assuming I had hours in the schedule, which almost never happens. My flexibility isn't what it used to be, but it's way better than it was three months ago. And it's teaching me something important to have to work for it. Even my knees are better. They are still fragile and cause me tears. Yet, the other day, I forgot that I "couldn't" get into hero's pose and just did it. Of course, getting out of the posture made me cry, literally. But forgetting that there is an impairment is a huge change in self-concept.

So where do I go from here?

I don't want to climb Mt. Everest. It's probably cold, and I would have to carry my own luggage. (Or get a sherpa to do it, which is equally repugnant to me.) I don't want to be a body builder. In fact, I would prefer not to do strength training at all, but I don't think I'll get that wish. I don't want to play any sport that involves a ball. Ever. Ice climbing is a big fat "no".

"Maybes" include running. I've tried before, and failed, but something in me won't let it go. Kayaking is a maybe. There is much there that makes me feel inadequate, but I think it can be overcome.

Definites are long- and short-distance cycling, climbing, and yoga. I would love to be able to participate in a three-day walk for a good cause. Swimming is a yes, because scuba and snorkeling are definitely on my "someday" list.

I have no interest in being competitive or best or strongest or fastest. Feh. I'm not that kind of athlete. But now that I've watched my body begin to awaken from its long sleep, I know what kind of athlete I am.

I can do amazing things, on my terms. I can make progress as slowly as I want to, or not at all if I don't want to. I'm 51 years old and I climb rocks and bike and swim and do yoga. Today I'm going to the pool, wearing my appallingly-sized Speedo. It'll be psychologically hard, but I deserve to be there just as much as anyone else. Besides, once I'm in the water, no one can really see how big I am.

I'm that kind of athlete -the kind with low standards and big dreams.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Oh my lands. I am trying to blog from my phone. Unsupervised. This is unlikely to work, but once I master it, I hope it helps me claim lost bits of time.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sit Down and Pay Attention

Yesterday, I didn't go to work. In the morning, I just felt tired. Not like "too bad you got a bad night's sleep" tired. It was more like "I can't move" tired. It felt different and bad. I slept the whole day. I worked from home for a little bit, feeling very virtuous -and then that was it. Bed. I think all I did was take out the trash and answer a few e-mails.

Possibly this was a message from the universe.

Then later that day, I heard that my brother had had a cardiac scare. He's fine. In the way of 40-something year old men, he is going to have to monitor his blood pressure and stress, and get some exercise even though, I fully agree, there is no time.

Possibly this was a message from the universe.

Early this morning, still sick (and now diagnosed with the flu), I heard that a friend has cancer. It's a "good" kind of cancer -highly treatable, and very slow growing. But it's scary for her, scary for her friends, and re-arranges life's priorities in the way that these worrisome diagnoses do.

Possibly this was a message from the universe. I think I have been told to sit down and pay attention.

Eliminate activities that serve neither your goals nor other people.

Add exercise.

Add meditation and reflection.

And do these things, not because I'm scared, or the universe is threatening me. Rather, I think the universe is telling me that I have important work to do, and that I need to be here to do it. To be here -to be fully present- in the things I am doing, that's my task. To do that, I have to be healthy.

So, I'm looking again at my calendar. How can the time budget be tweaked so that the important things are tended??

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dream Interpretation

Anyone up for figuring this out?

This morning, as I struggled to come to the surface from sleep, I realized that I was having an automotive dream -sort of. I know possibly less about cars than I do about fixing bathrooms (see below). Why dream about it??

And... Dave was driving. This is wrong on so many levels. The man is a terrible driver. If anyone else with a driver's license is in the car, that person should be driving. It's that simple. Moreover, I was in the back seat. Ummm.... symbolism, ya'll???? And, we were apparently on the way to the car hospital because I had poured the wrong fluid into the wrong receptacle. Oil in the radiator, or some such thing. The fluid and receptacle were not identified in the dream, because even my subconscious doesn't know them.

Does this mean:
1) I'm not meant to be traveling in the same direction as Dave? (Really? What was my first clue?)
2) I'm getting sick and it's messing with my dreams?
3) I should learn more about cars, because mine is getting ready to blow up?
4) I just need more sleep?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Call the Men in White Coats...

... and just tell them to wait outside my house. It shouldn't be long now before their services are required.

Everyone knows about NaNoWriMo, right? It's National Novel Writing Month, and the idea is to write a novel in November. There is no obligation to write a good novel in that time. Rather, just sit down -you, the computer, and your thoughts- every single day in November and get a novel-length bit of prose. You say you want to be a writer? This is what it takes. Show up and write.

Now, I have no interest in writing a novel. I am quite possibly the least creative person on the planet. There are, however, things I want to write -things that have gotten no attention from me at all. So, really, in what sense do I want to write them, if I never sit down to, you know, write them? Fair question.

Thing the second - I have this list of 101 goals in 1001 days. I started the list in July, and I have made astounding strides on it -by my standards. Yet, some of the goals are goals I've only spoken quietly, lest the gods hear and laugh so loud I can hear them from Olympus. Those are, by and large, the ones I am afraid of. What if I'm not good enough? Smart enough? Organized enough? Writing is just such a goal. I keep track of the goals I've achieved by changing the typeface on my little list to bold; there is very little bold-ing in the writing section of my goals list.

And thing C -only apparently unrelated to the other two things: My friend Jill and her friends at other blogs have crafted a variation on a theme - NoNaShoStoWriMo. The Not-national Short Story Writing Month.

I think possibly the gods aren't laughing. I think they're saying, "Would you get a bloody clue, already??? Shut up and write."

"Yes," she said, quietly and humbly and with quite a bit of trepidation. I will write. By the end of November, I will have one knitting essay completed. If other people can get a novel, surely I can get an essay.

In addition to working what amounts to three jobs, taking care of classes, taking care of my house, working out, and loving my children to death (which happens in the background of all activities, so it sort of doesn't count as a time-consumer), I will write for a few minutes every single day. One essay. One stinkin' essay. I can do that.

The men in white coats just asked for a cup of tea and have set up camp on my front porch. Should I be worried?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pulling the Goalie

It's a hockey thing. There's no law that says you have to have a player defending the net. You can pull the goalie, and play with an extra skater. It's a high risk maneuver, but when there's not a lot of time left it might pay off.

And it's pretty much my only option. I have a crapload of work to do, school is out of control, my house looks like a tornado went through, there's a conference this weekend, and on the same day a dear family friend is getting married. I'll be changing clothes in the bathroom of the conference, and breaking a few speed limits to get to the wedding.

So... yeah... we're pulling the goalie.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Just for fun

I gave the child of my brother and his wife my camera. The poor little dear was bored, and Auntie Andrea and Cousin Victoria decided to take this person on a photographic adventure. Guess the gender of this child. I'll give you two guesses, but you're only going to need one.

I don't know what to tell you. There are literally dozens of these photos. Lug nuts. Hood ornaments. Dirty tires. Wheels, wheels, and more wheels. He didn't get it from me, that's for sure.

Meet the photographer-artist -my esteemed nephew Carter Lee Buford. You knew him when -just remember that.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Home Rescue

I do love this old barn of a house. I also worry that it is too much for me to manage. And I daily confront evidence that Dave had checked out long before I knew it. Everywhere, there are unfixed and unfinished things he just ignored; there are still other things fixed in a completely uncharacteristic (or so I would have thought) half-assed way. And now she who can knit anything but is not entirely clear on which is the business end of a hammer gets to tackle some of this stuff.

I'm thinking this view of the trim in my bathroom is a problem. That's mildew or mold or some other black ooze of death. My friend Terri (who helped me clean my gardens last year) apparently thought so too, because she showed up with tools and expertise and patience. She gently pointed out that this was probably not great news, either.

Four trips to Menard's later, we had, well, this. It's a bit of a mess, but we're calling it progress. Because it IS progress. The tub is re-caulked and the drywall is patched. My tasks, as I understand them, are to get some replacement trim, sand down the drywall mud a smidge, get some paint, possibly paint the trim, and get a new exhaust fan. We didn't talk about this, but a new shower-organizer-thingie and a new ceiling light would be good too. If I go back to Menard's today will the entire staff suddenly and mysteriously be on break?

But here's the thing. When you add this weekend to the weekend when my sister helped me to take down the shower doors (and why can't I find that blog post?), the bathroom hardly looks like it used to. With help, I'm making my mark.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

All right, all right, all right....

I'm still alive and still floundering around trying to make a life. It has been two years -almost exactly- since I drove into the sunrise. OK, technically, I drove west as I left my marriage, but that's a lousy metaphor. I drove into a dawning new day, thanks to family and friends.

I think I will always have to acknowledge that day -perhaps someday with some gratitude that I found the courage (or desperation) to actually do it. But today is not that day. Yet, on the other hand, it is time and past time to change that song.

I stopped blogging, though, because I didn't yet know what the next song might be. I still don't, quite. But weirdly, I think THAT might be the song -making a new life in mid-life. Acknowledging -and humbled by- the fact that I have friends and family struggling with HUGE issues, I get to think about .... what do I want? How hard am I willing to work for it? Is this house too much for me to manage? Will I ever be in a relationship (THAT kind of relationship) again? Do I want to?

And those big questions have a thousand attendant little questions that support them? How do I schedule my time to make those things happen? What kind of environment supports the life I'm trying to build? For crying out loud, should I get pink sheets or white? You KNOW I can obsess about anything.

So that's the new plan.... thinking about life at mid-life. A new life. The one I get to make -not all by myself. In concert with a small group of thoughtful, SMART, LOVING citizens. Maybe there's something that other people might learn from watching the process. If not... I'll obsess quietly, over here in the corner, where I won't bother anyone.

Monday, September 21, 2009

While I Was Away...


I'm just crazy-busy. Over the top, now-you've-crossed-the-line insane busy. And in part it's because things are going so well.

But there are things that the "small group" could really think about and places where we could make a difference. But of course, I overslept this morning -because I stayed up too late last night- and now I have to run.

Here's question 1. I was chatting with a friend yesterday. (not chat, really. We have important conversations.) And I "confessed" that I had done one of those 101 goals in 1001 days lists. I am enjoying watching the goals get checked off. And wondering why whole sections have seen no movement. Are they, perhaps, not really goals? Or are they gestating somewhere in the back of my psyche, and their time will come?

And, as this friend points out, wondering if making the list public is just another way of inviting the universe to mess with you. Do you speak your goals out loud, to make them more real? Or do you hold them close to your heart and breathe gently on them until they are big and strong?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Is this all there is????

I moved out of my parents' home when I was 18 to go to college. I did go home for a few summers after that, but really, after that point I haven't lived "at home". I just did some disturbing arithmetic centered around that little factoid.

It's been 32 years since that date -almost exactly, since my leaving home would have been tied to the start of the academic year. That's 11,680 days. Here's the thing. There are 8760 hours in a year -a few more, actually. It might be 8766, because of the leap year thing. But really, let's think of the work-week type hours. That's 2000 hours.

If I've done even one hour of housework every one of those 11,680 days -and between making your bed, loading the dishwasher, unloading the dishwasher, fixing and cleaning up from a meal, wiping out the bathroom sink, and sweeping a floor somewhere- you've probably got an hour in on days when you think you've done nothing. So, VERY conservatively, I've done 11,680 hours of housework in that time. That's 6 years of housework, if doing housework were my full-time job.

Shouldn't I have something to show for it???? I need a house elf.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The "Taking Care Of" Business

I've always been a bit of a nurturer. My parenting style was pretty clearly hierarchical. "I'm the mommy; you are the babies." I believe that sentence may have fallen out of my mouth more than once ;) But also there was deep, crazy go-to-the-wall care for the little beasties sweeties. But they don't need day-to-day nurturing any more.

I took care of homeless people. And students. And a husband. Then I had to be the one taken care of. Gradually, I walked out of Crazytown, and could care about the world around me. But still, I didn't think I wanted anyone or anything to need me. I didn't want to care for anything that could leave me ever again -ever, I tell you.

Remember? I even said that I thought my garden was probably taunting me with my inability to nurture things -even nonsentient things.

And then, there were animals. I never even wanted pets. I'm allergic to animals, for heaven's sake -and my stuffy, drippy nose (how can it be BOTH??) attests to that. Silly little Claddagh has a cold, and had to go to the vet yesterday. He was so upset about the car ride, he had a little accident. Sigh. And now he's on three medications that he HATES to get. And he was mad, MAD, MAD at me yesterday, for allowing these injustices to be perpetrated upon him. Seriously...the look he was giving me clearly said, "And I trusted you....."

But now this poor vulnerable little kitten doesn't feel good and is depending on me to fix it. Apparently I can nurture again. I'm back in the "taking care of" business.

Darn cat! ;)

Monday, August 17, 2009

We Need a Little Christmas...

....right this very minute..... need a little Christmas NOW!!!

(Auntie Mame. You got that, right?)

Here's the thing. Saturday, at knitting, people were planning their Christmas knitting. And of course, it's not too early for that, but I choked. I'm pretty much ready to start thinking about planning to research the possibility of shopping the "back to school" sales ;) (I don't want to over-commit, there!) Christmas is out of the question.

Or I thought it was. On the way to rock climbing this morning, the girl-child and I were chatting. If we're going to invite ourselves to someone's house for Christmas, it's actually not too early to start plotting planning. Yet, as so often happens in my life, she encouraged me to step up a little. It's time, apparently, to host my own Christmas.

I'm petrified. I'm excited.

Christmas 1 - I fled, plain and simple. I went to Montgomery and stayed with my brother and his family and was pretty much a fixture that people worked around.

Christmas 2 -I traveled. That's different. I went to a sister's house. I also had a tree and decorations in my own house -the beginnings of pulling it together on the holiday front.

But this year, apparently, I'm staying put and doing Christmas here. I would love to invite the sibs here, but the no-furniture thing will not be entirely rectified by then. But I've claimed a future Christmas for that.

I'm sad. I'm thrilled. Sheesh.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

I don't pretend to understand baseball, so really the game was an anthropological experience for me. How, for example, can it be true that this many people don't have anything else to do on a Friday afternoon?

Batting practice was mildly interesting, but mostly I was reading grant narratives. (One great, one will be great, and one... well, let's draw a merciful veil. The PI doesn't really want to do that one, is what I think.) Minor amounts of mustard on the pages will have to be explained, but I can do that. .

Then the army precision parachuting team arrived. It was hard to get pictures, but pretty astonishing. I'll climb rocks, but my hat is off to anyone who will, short of his children's lives being in immediate jeopardy, jump out of a moving airplane.

Then, the game started and the Cubbies got to work. By the end of the second inning, they had scored 14 runs. This, I am told, is unusual.

Good friends. Good fun. Warm beer and Chicago hotdogs. There are certainly worse ways to spend a day!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Write of Passage

The last 22 months have been astounding in some ways. I've come back from being a broken, bleeding wreck (OK, my friends held my hands and walked me away from that crazy place) and have made JILLIONS of amazing changes. Can I say it, who ought not? I'm proud of myself.

I own a house (well... you know.... I have a mortgage).
I have a fun job that most of the time I love.

I have a kitty purring on my feet right this minute. There's a sweet little puppy.....

There's more. of course. Traveling and coping and having parties and my academic efforts and.....

But, on some level, these are external changes. It has been pointed out to me that sometimes we change the external to change the internal. Or as a precursor to changing the internal -sort of a signal to our subconscious that we mean business.

So, do I mean business? Is this trajectory of change and moving forward going to continue? Looking around for an answer, here..... No hands raised in the class???? Well, shoot. I guess we'll figure out the answer together.

I know that this feels hard, too. Not harder than the other work. I don't think ANYTHING can feel more difficult than getting up and getting dressed in those early days. But it feels like it's going to be the work that makes the external stuff real. And I know that I have to keep writing in order to figure it out.

So, here we go. Chapter 2.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


I have a mixed history with camping. We did it a bit when the kids were little, and I liked it well enough. But camping is a BOATLOAD of work. I would have been fine if we'd stayed at the Ramada Inn and visited the forest, but it was not to be.

But weirdly -and no one was more surprised than I was- last summer I found myself wanting to go camping. I bought a tent that I could put up by myself, a sleeping bag that would keep me warm, a light, and a cooler. I wanted to camp on the solstice, and I did.

This year my schedule has been a little, well, insane is the only word for it. But the old urge to sleep outside has hit again. And the need to do it my way persists. (Seriously, I love this part of being single. I don't have to explain it... defend it... argue for it... or submit gracefully. Camping can be exactly as I want it.

And it's going to be glamping. (I didn't make up this term, but honest to Pete I can't remember where I saw it. A thousand apologies.) Okay, it won't be quite this elegant. I'm not a glamour girl, by any stretch of the imagination. But I'm going to practice early morning yoga outside. I'm going to drink champagne mixed with my orange juice. I am NOT going to eat a hot dog. I am going to bring the green bike of wonderment, and ride around for as long as I want to.

What else would make it perfect? Irish coffee at night around the campfire? Some time writing, while sitting at the picnic table? Walks with my pretty pink camera, taking pictures of whatever pleases me?

There's precisely one weekend available before Labor Day -and I suppose it is now spoken for. I'll be glamping.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Go See Yogalila

It's here: yogalila.

It's a team blog, with some dear yoga friends -friends who are smart and funny and insightful and drop-dead stunning in their abilties to practice and reflect about yoga. I've moved my posts about yoga over there, and I just put one up.

This month we're thinking about yoga and fear. But -being us- we also post whatever comes to mind at the moment. So you'll find workshop summaries, thoughts about the sutras, rants about clueless people at yoga class.... whatever.

Come play with us.

Monday, August 03, 2009

A Birthday Without Heartache

That's my mom. Some ASTOUNDING number of years ago today, I made her into a mom. (I wonder if I did her a favor?!) Thanks, Mom, for having a birthing day!

Last year, my sisters were here, and we had a party for friends and family. As it happens, it was the first big backyard party of what's turned out to be a series of backyard parties. Who knew? Last year, too, Dave returned to town on more-or-less this date. We literally have not seen each other in a year. Once I saw him from far away on his bike. That's it. Who's hiding from whom, here? This town is awfully small (and campus is smaller yet) for us not to have run into each other. (And seriously... do you know anyone else who got stood up for her own divorce? I didn't even see him then!) It's been another year of that strangeness-and I know I can live through it.

I'm making a life. It's bumpy and new and full of mistakes -but it's also shiny and new and full of wonder. I'm glad to have made it another year. I wonder what next year holds? Thank you for all the moral support and the kindness and the strength and the coffee and the hugs and the being-there. You're part of the giftedness of my life, and I thank my lucky stars for you every day.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Mr. Watson, come here. I need you.

Can I find a metaphor that helps me understand technology's role in my life? I'm not sure that I can. It's my sister's area of expertise, and she can be quite eloquent about it. Me? I just know what I know, and mostly wait for someone to mention new possibilities to me.

There are conflicting thoughts bouncing around in my head. First is the truth that people eventually adopt their last technology -sometimes intentionally. I remember my father-in-law (He was my father-in-law at that point, may he rest in peace) saying that he just wasn't going to bother to upgrade to DVDs. He fancied himself an early adopter of technology, but he just wasn't adopting another one. It was totally his call, and inconvenienced no one. But I've also seen quite young (relatively speaking) people do this. What happens if you quit adopting new technology and you're only 40-ish? Such a person becomes less employable on some level, less connected to other people, and has to work harder to get mundane tasks such as banking done. The world gets sort of ossified into a previous state, and I don't want that.

Or, does that person preserve a kinder, gentler, more old-fashioned and sweet style of interaction? And incur fewer risks to her personal information, to boot? Both can be true, of course, but which is better?

I'm getting an iPhone in a few days. I've figured out how to make inexpensive international phone calls on my cell phone. I no longer have a land-line. (What a weird idea -a house phone. Why would my house get phone calls?) I pay all my bills on-line. I order my clothes (and would order my groceries, if I could) on-line. I'm on twitter and facebook and and flickr. I watch movies and television programs on-line (legally, thank you very much) and download my music from iTunes. Clearly I blog. I'm at the point where I can hardly manage my multitudinous on-line accounts, and am trying to coordinate them through

And yet, I still use a paper planner. I've tried the electronic ones, assuming that they would work for me, but I've had no luck. I make hand-knit clothes, which surely isn't the most up-to-date technology for getting that done. I ride a bicycle, when obviously a car would be faster.

I thought at first the distinction was "appropriate technology." Why zoom when a stroll is sufficient to the task? Why muscle through a task when grace and finesse will work as well? Why wait until the last minute so that speed becomes essential? (If I figure out that last one, my life will be significanty improved.) And then I thought perhaps the distinction was artistry. I write in a paper journal with a nice pen because the process pleases me; the outcome is no different. My thoughts are no nearer to brilliant because I wrote with a fancy pen. But the design of the iPhone and the iPod is a kind of artistry -one I can appreciate but not imitate.

Maybe it's just that new technology can be fun. That's what gets it in the door. If it doesn't remain useful, it falls by the wayside -replaced with the next fun and potentially useful thing. So what's the next fun thing? What am I missing?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

No Rush

Nature doesn't hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
-Lao Tzu

101 Goals in 1001 Days

1) get teeth fixed
2) get weight back down to where it was in college -and yes, I know that number
3) keep wardrobe updated and professional (Victoria-approved, is what that means)
4) ride three centuries
5) get back to a daily yoga practice
6) find a yoga teacher; drive to a class if necessary
7) swim
8) walk and strength train at the gym
9) become a 5.10 climber -this is insanely ambitious
10) participate in the Run for Congo Women a year from now
11) really drink enough water
12) publish
13) present
14)attend 3 conferences
15) identify academic mentors
16) win the Nolan Prize
17) research what's already out there in terms of Social Justice Institutes; make a plan
18) think of yourself as an emerging scholar of global homelessness and refugees; step into that life
19) have 5 rooms in the house "done": new office, family room, dining room, living room, my bedroom
20) new garage -2010
21) central air and new furnace -2012
22) get a patio/deck organized -2011
23) upstairs bathroom repaired -2009
24) house painted -or at least be ready to tackle that as the next big project
25) maintain a clean house
26) maintain a tidy house
27) maintain an organized home
28) maintain a welcoming home
29) develop and maintain the gardens in a way that suits you
30) establish graceful rituals to your days and weeks
31) outdoor outlets installed
32) become a non-dogmatic foodie ;)
33) have a decent wine cellar and liquor cabinet
34) order house numbers
35) get new dishes
36) gradually install new windows for energy efficiency
37) see the ocean once a year
38) go camping once a year
39) stay at Starved Rock for a weekend in the lodge
40) go to Ireland
41) knit for presents
42) knit for me
43) knit for the house
44) write all the essays for the knitting book
45) develop all the patterns for the knitting book
46) publish the knitting book
47) join and participate in a writing group
48) develop your collection of pink impression glass -until you have enough to serve a whole dinner party
49) sewing for the house!
50) crafty-stuff? (Is this really a goal?)
51) See mom at least once a year
52) host Christmas at least once -I think I'm claiming 2011
53) cook for friends once a month
54) acknowledge birthdays
55) take care of (dear friend) as needed
56) make new friends
57) continue with the bonfire parties in the summer
58) host a Christmas Open House
59) spend meaningful time with the kids
60) hang out with out-of-town friends more regularly
61) participate in sib trips
62) visit one sib a year for a non-sib trip
63) figure out an investment plan -call smart sister and have her figure out an investment plan, is what that means
64) keep all consumer debt paid off
65) take a "reading week" once a year -to evaluate, to dream
66) get name change all the way completed
67) renew passport
68) get employment records updated
69) take care of physical health
70) make an appointment with a tax preparer
71) get a new car
72) start composting again
73) figure out a better way to deal with the recycling
74) use re-usable grocery bags
75) get fair trade coffee delivery
76) get a rain barrel
77) be sure all light bulbs are CFLs
78) on the first of every month, haul donation stuff to the Goodwill
79) calculate your carbon footprint; figure out how to reduce it
80) unplug the television
81) turn off the computer at night -get a power strip and a timer and you won't have to think about it
82) install a low-flow shower head
83) motion sensor outdoor security lighting on the side of the house
84) replace floor lamps with Energy Star models
85) get Real Time Pricing electricity
86) storm door on front porch
87) storm door on side porch
88) in good weather, ride your bike to work at least a few days a week
89) work towards a car free day once a week; start with once a month
90) have an Earth-Hour party
91) be sure you're using green household cleaners
92) if green electricity becomes available, sign up
93) make plans for a Social justice institute
94) serve on the Board of Directors of a non-profit
95) become a blood donor again
96) use expertise on global homelessness as a way to make things better
97) figure out how your on-line presence can help make things better
98) figure out how to have a national presence to make things better
99) have a party where we cook for Hope Haven
100) help to make this a more bike-friendly community
101) offset airmiles

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Remember What You Want

I'm reading a good book. It's called Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, and it's written by two University of Chicago economists (Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein). Economists who can write, wittily. The mind reels. I know. It sounds like it's going to be a tragic, self-help book that people buy in desperation, just to learn again that nobody's figured out what you need to know. This isn't that. It's really a book about public policy and the architecture of choices.

Take their first example: the food in a school cafeteria. We know that people will make different food choices based on where and how the food is presented. Moreover, some "paternalism", if you will, is inevitable. The food has to be put somewhere; abstaining from choice architecture is not an option. So, cafeteria designers can, without denying anyone anything, arrange things in such a way that it's easier to make good choices. Absolutely, choice architects can over-reach -denying us the freedom to make bad choices. The authors explore how nudges can make it easier to "be good" while expanding our freedoms.

So lately, every conversation I'm in is about this book. And I think about Peter Maurin and his "Easy Essays" where he hoped for "a world where it is easier to be good." The decisions where we mess up (based on our own value systems) are when the time lag between the decision point and the outcome is significant, or when the bad outcome is uncertain. If we got fat the instant we ate a jelly doughnut, or cancer from the first cigarette, or were guaranteed to die a gruesome death if we didn't wear a seat belt, then those choices would be clearer. But this is real life, and important decisions are sometimes hard.

The thing is, they don't always have to be hard; there's no particular virtue in making something artificially difficult. There's no less of a good outcome if we structure things so that the good choice is more likely. Sometimes the bad habit has become so concretized in our lives that we don't even think about what we might be doing instead. Maybe we just have to look at things differently.

How could I make it easier to workout more regularly?
How could I make it easier to do the studying and writing I want to do?
How could I make it easier and more graceful to care for the people I love?
How could I make it easier to..I don't know.... do any of the multitude of things I say I want to do but I'm not yet doing? Do I even remember what I want?

On a lark, I'm going to make a 101 Goals in 1001 Days list. Then I'm going to see if I can create little nudges, to make the right choice the easy and grace-ful (grace-filled?) one. If I get the nerve, I'll post my list. We'll see....

Monday, July 20, 2009

Kitteny Goodness

I won't do this very often.... but here he is in all his Claddagh-mischief:

He's a pain in the neck, but things are nicer with him around.

Brace Yourself

They lie. Dentists lie. Invisible braces are so very not invisible. I look ridiculous. But I'm committed now. For the next two years, I have a mouth full of metal and plastic -and if this weekend is any indication, discomfort. All in the service of a higher goal.

Which is what, again?

There's probably some metaphor here about gentle pressure across time to effect change, or bones and resistance to change, or the need for (or at least the inevitability of) discomfort when creating change.

Feh. Pass the ibuprofen.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

You Just Haven't Done It Yet...

Anything's possible. That's what good parents tell their children. Our mother -an excellent mother- had her own spin on this maxim. When we would sputter and fret about doing the next frightening thing.... dancing very close to the words "I can't", she would just respond in her no-tolerance-for-nonsense voice, "You just haven't done it yet.

I can not even tell you how very much that sentence annoyed me as a teenager. And yet, I remind myself of its truth at least once a day.

Lately, the task escaping me is home renovation. I've discovered that I find the idea of being a person who renovates her own home more appealing than the actuality of it. I want to have a lovely, cheerful, organized office/studio, for example. I imagine myself working there, struggling sometimes certainly - but with words and concepts and issues, not... THIS. I want to bathe in bubbles in a lovely candlelit bathroom. The reality is considerably less romantic. My kitchen ceiling still looks like it's going to fall on my head.

And yesterday, on a lark, I took a day off from the tasks that loom literally over my head. I went to see an outdoor production of Madama Butterfly and drove around the countryside. And had the what-for scared out of me. I saw a beautiful old absolutely falling-down house. Gorgeous. And it was having an open house. What is it about old houses that inspires the completely ludicrous "I could fix this" feeling in me? And if my house exceeds my abilities, this one would have exceeded my abilities, my mental health, and my bank account in short order.

And the house -with gaping person-size holes in the roof, inhabited by more animals than the zoo, and with standing water on the first floor- was still inhabited by a little old lady. What the HECK? Where is this person's family? Where are the social services? What's the story??? My fertile imagination and my social worker training provided a possible story. Through mental illness, dementia, or merely the force of her will, she no longer sees the house as it is. She sees it as it was. This house was built for leisure -or someone else's work, more accurately. There are servants' rooms, back stairs, buttons for summoning the servants.... Alas, they no longer answer and she's living in a world that used to be.

I am officially terrified. True enough, I "can't" fix my kitchen ceiling. But I hear my mother's voice. I just haven't done it yet. I will not become this sad, sad woman (whom I haven't met and whose story I have fabricated). I will get to work. Right after I go rock climbing with the men in my life ;)