Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Moment

I'd like to wish you all a Happy New Year. But all we have is this moment right here. So let me instead wish you a totally groovy new moment.
(Please re-read at will)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Torn Between the Things That I Should Do

I went to work yesterday feeling less than energetic - a little nauseated and a weird ache in my neck, but I knew it was going to be really busy. You know how it is between the holidays. Lots of people take vacation days and there is a skeleton staff left to handle things.

This morning I felt the way I did yesterday squared. I thought about the five clients I had scheduled after the morning meeting, and I thought about my co-workers who would have to handle any emergencies that came up without any help from me.

I took my temperature. One tiny little degree over normal. That's not really a fever, is it?

I really dislike it when anyone comes to my office with bugs. Bugs like me and I don't fight back very well. This is something about me that I don't really like. I very much dislike feeling puny. I imagine that people think I'm weak. sometimes I think that about me, too.

Actually, it's just my immune system and some of my muscles that are weak. I've learned that the best and fastest way for me to get over an illness is to sleep it off and I've learned that little bugs can turn into big bug-a-boos if I ignore them. Knowing that about my body is a strength.

That's right, huh? (Now's when you jump in and reassure me.)

So the internal debate continues even after I've called in. Did I do the right thing? Could I have done right by my clients and co-workers if I had gone in or would I have shared germs, worn myself down and given them far less than their money's worth?

Well, one thing is certain. All this arguing with myself has given me a headache.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Acorn Dreams

I had what my sister and I call a real dream last night. According to us Campbell girls, a real dream is one that strikes us as significant. It's not necessarily realistic in content, but it has a real feel to it. I've not done a very good job of describing it, I'm afraid. But like pornography, you'll know it when you see it.

Anyway, I dreamed I was finishing up a job. I had moved into a small room for my job and I'd brought far too much stuff. The room, my office I guess, was the bathroom in the house in which I grew up. It had a cabinet above the toidy and I had it stuff with beach towels, gloves and hats - things I really didn't need in the Southern location of my job. I was purging all the things I didn't need.

I was also fixin' to leave the job, but in the meantime, I met with the big boss. I told him my vision for creating a display (we had a small space in a museum nearby) that encouraged people to think about using corn and beans as building materials. I told him this was a good idea because we were in the middle of the corn and bean fields (so we must have been in the Midwest with Southern weather) and it was good to find additional uses for the crops.

As soon as I told him this idea, I realized that it was actually a bad idea because we really needed to use those crops as food. Then I changed my vision to include finding a way to easily harvest and convert acorns to eatable food. I told the big boss what a good source of protein acorns are and that you just have to get rid of some of the tannins to make them more palatable.

Then I was trying to tell my friend, Edie, where I was going to go to college the next fall. I told her the name of the college (I can't remember it now) and she looked it up and said it was on the dark side of Atlanta. This meant that it was on the far side of Atlanta from where we were. I didn't really want to go to the other side of those mountains, so I told her I changed my mind. Then I told her I wanted to go to Western (Illinois University) and study biology so that I could figure out how to use acorns as food and their shells as building materials.

The acorns in my dream were about 3 inches across and had hard shells. And I was hurriedly filling one large paper bag and one small paper bag with them on my way to a science building on campus. There was no doubt in my mind that I would accomplish my task. I planned to begin my education with my dissertation research, in case I ran out of time, the important part would be done.

Throughout the dream there was an interesting element of time. I was going back to college as a college-aged person, but with the wisdom I have now (well, isn't that everyone's dream) but I knew I wouldn't have enough time to get everything done I wanted to accomplish. It was as if I had to accomplish things quickly in order for them to be used well.

Sometimes writing about my dreams helps me understand the meaning of them. Sometimes not.

Will someone please do some research into turning acorns into good food on a commercial basis? Then maybe I can get back to dreaming about Eric Clapton or George Clooney.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Good Quickies

I'll bet you can think of a gazillion things to do in the coming year that could make the world a better place. Here are 17 quickies to get you started.

1) Look in the mirror and say nice things to yourself. It's tough to be nice to others if you aren't nice to yourself.

2) Use small gasoline operated machines less. Gas lawn mowers, snow-blowers, leaf-blowers, etc. are big polluters of sound and air. Electric or manual grass cutters and rakes are kinder and you can skip a trip to the gym.

3) Share food. Choose a day of the week to eat simply and use the money you save to donate food to a local pantry. If your school or place of work doesn't collect food for a local pantry, perhaps your grocery store does.

4) Recycle everything possible. It's amazing how little actually has to go to a landfill if you reuse, donate, and recycle carefully.

5) Make GoodWill, St. Vinny, or other thrift stores your first choice when shopping. Not only will you save major bucks and support a good cause, but you'll keep stuff out of the "stuff stream."

6) Compost. Your kitchen scraps and garden clippings transform magically into super soil for your flower or veggie garden and keep stuff out of landfills.

7) Grow your own. You can grow some of your own food, even if you only have a little patio and a flower pot. How fun is that! It is good for your soul as well as your body.

8) Don't panic, go organic. Ok, so I didn't make up that phrase. But every chemical you keep out of your body is one that won't make you sick.

9) Smile. It's healthy to smile. It might be catching. At the very least it will piss off people who are trying to bring you down.

10) Remain grateful for every breath you take and remember that right now, in this very second, you have everything you need.

11) Practice acts of random reckless kindness. Hold a door for someone, let someone into traffic, put a quarter in a stranger's meter, hold your tongue, give sincere compliments, feed the birds, pick up litter, forgive with abandon.

12) Use Earth-friendly cleaning supplies. Vinegar, borax, baking soda, and lemon oil are wonderful at cleaning most things you have and they are inexpensive to buy. Check out Seventh Generation if you prefer ready made stuff.

13) Check the air pressure in your tires. Proper pressure improves gas mileage.

14) Consider vegetarian Tuesdays. (Or Wednesdays or April, etc.) Healthy for you and the rest of the planet - especially the animal you don't eat.

15) As much as possible, surround yourself with peace. Don't watch violent tv or movies or read violent books or play at killing and maiming.

16) Cry when you feel like it. It's good for your sinuses as well as your heart.

17) Wash your clothes in cold water.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Seeing Things For the First Time Again

One of my earliest memories is Papa carrying me from the car to the house the day I got my first pair of glasses. He set me down inside the front door and I just stood there looking around, soaking it in. My mother says I couldn't possibly remember it because I was only two years old, but I don't think you forget the first time you see things as they really are.

The brown floors were individual pieces of wood with lighter and darker grains. The pink blobs on the wall of the bathroom were flamingos standing on only one of their spindley legs. Trees had leaves - individual leaves. There were just so many more little things making up larger things.

People would ask my parents how they got me to leave the glasses on, after all I was just a toddler. But I was a toddler who could finally see. And vision is a great motivator. I wish I would have saved every pair of glasses I've ever had. It would be fun to see how lenses and fashions changed. I'm sure if I tried on my first glasses now, I wouldn't be able to see at all, even though they clarified things so well 52 years ago.

We all look through lenses all the time. We look through the lens of our culture, our upbringing, our beliefs. And we change. The lens that made things clear in our childhood may really muddle reality now. And that's ok. We outgrow our beliefs the way I outgrew my glasses.

We never get to the point in life that we no longer need to check our prescriptions. Usually vision changes so insiduously that we don't realize we aren't seeing clearly until we get new lenses. Then it's just amazing.

Seeing things as they really are is an experience we never outgrow.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Eyes Have It

Recently I suddenly couldn't focus my eyes well enough to read. I did all the things one does at a time like that. I slapped the monitor, blinked, rubbed my eyes, cleaned my glasses, used some eye drops, asked the person in the next office if my monitor looked blurry to her, took a break, panicked.

I didn't suddenly go blind, you understand. I could still see almost everything, I just couldn't see little tiny squiggles on the screen or paper. I could still see colors and light and people, and cars on the highway. I just couldn't read.

Little squiggles on paper or a monitor. How important can that be, really? Little tiny line drawings on a contrasting background. My fingers push on plastic keys and little tiny line drawings appear on the monitor and flash across the world onto other monitors. And when you read them you can pretty much understand what I was thinking about when my fingers pushed the keys.

I don't think about what my fingers are doing when I type. It's like walking up stairs. If I think about it, I stumble. And I don't think about looking at each tiny squiggle individually and then translating arrangements of them into words which I then translate into ideas. But that's exactly what we do when we read. It's just that we do it so quickly, so automatically that we don't even realize we're doing it. I took it all for granted.

Until I couldn't do it.

Now that the squiggles are coming back into focus (right now print looks rather like a 3D movie without the glasses) it amazes me that anyone can read at all. Our brains and eyes do unfathomable acrobatics at unbelievable speed and we only even think about what's going on when it doesn't work perfectly.

Just pick any one of these arrangements of squiggly lines and think about it. We define them with other arrangements of squiggly lines. We can't even think about words without words. And if we had to sustain all our ideas with spoken words without using written words, we'd all lose our voices from overuse. People have been doing mighty things with words, but they have had to first be able to identify tiny little squiggles on the screen.

The process is breathtakingly beautiful.

So whatever this vision problem is, I think I'll be grateful to it for opening my eyes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Statistically Sucky

Today was one of those pewter sky days with fog so thick you have to use windshield wipers. The sun never peaked out. It was just fine. Perfect in its own way.

Ten of us girls who grew up in a place very much like Mayberry hidden in the middle of the cornfields in Western Illinois, got in contact with each other again in recent years. We didn't reconnect at our five year reunion or even our ten year reunion, but sometime after the reunions didn't really have years attached to them anymore. We connected years after there was any motivation to prove anything to each other.

Today I learned that one of the ten of us has a particularly nasty form of cancer.

Two of our group are currently fighting cancer. Two have MS. Two have fibromyalgia. Two have lived through the death of a child. Almost everyone has lost at least one parent. Two of us have been married more than once. One has never succumbed to marriage. Three have grand children. To my knowledge no one is gay. I don't really know how "average" our statistics are, but lots of them suck.

Thirty-six years ago not one of us could have guessed who'd be where today. I certainly didn't think I'd be the only one of us living outside Illinois. Who knew so many would move back to our sleepy little hometown? I seem to remember that we were all itching to get out of there.

I don't think we spent a second of worry on who might have this disease or that disease later in life and that's certainly the way it should be. Actually, now that I think about it, I remember warning my friends who could tan that they would someday have wrinkles and may get skin cancer, but I only said that because I was jealous.

I guess if we would have thought about it - which certainly would have been a waste of our young time - we would have realized that we would all be faced with some rotten stuff in our lives. I'm glad we didn't think about it then. Ignorance truly is bliss sometimes. We were so busy enjoying the sun and the bright blue skies that we had no idea in the world that a pewter sky day with fog and mist is also beautiful in its time.

Even though the stuffed-shirts don't read my blog, I really do love my girls.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Health Care?

I hear people say that they don't want nationalized health care for a couple of reasons. The first is that they're afraid it will make everyone's health care more expensive and the second is that it will cause us to wait for medical procedures. I also have heard people say that any American who really needs health care will get it now anyway. To those deluded people who believe that, I say WAKE UP.

I really think the biggest reason people are so busy fighting against nationalize health care is the big letter S.

This country currently spends more money on health care than any other country. Do we have healthier, longer lives? No, we do not. Does everyone get the health care they need to stay healthy productive members of society? No, they do not. Do we currently end up paying for unhealthy Americans? Yes, we do.

Every day I work with people who do not have adequate health care coverage. Ask them about waiting for a procedure. They wait because they can't get in to see a doctor. They can go to emergency departments if they have wait long enough for their problem to become an emergency. But emergency departments are not emergency-and-ongoing-care departments. Do you expect that the care provided to uninsured people in the ER is paid for by the money faeries? That cost is spread out across all our health care costs and we end up paying the most expensive rates possible. And any plumber knows that it costs less to prevent a problem than it does to fix it. That goes for doctors, too.

God forbid that someone with a mental illness doesn't have insurance or money. That person is likely to end up on the street or in jail. It's expensive to keep people in jail, not to mention inhumane when we're talking about someone who's there because of an illness. Surely support and medication are less expensive than incarcerating or having ill Americans end up on the street. Yet what have we done? We've eliminated psychiatric hospitals, wings, and hospital beds. We've cut budgets for outpatient clinics. All of us share in the cost of homelessness in this country, too, but I think that's another column completely.

We have said, in effect, we don't care about you if you don't have health care benefits and we are too selfish to let you have it. We are too afraid of the big letter S, as in socialized medicine, to look at you.

The word Socialism bothers some people. The words Selfishness and Shame bother me more.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I Love My Sister

My sister is just about perfect. She's beautiful and always has been. She's very intelligent. She's kind and very dedicated. She's funny. She is truly one of my most favorite people ever. She really gets into holidays, Christmas included, and decorates and sends cards and entertains, etc.

She pointed out that my Bah, Humbug Christmas posts made her feel sad. I think they make her sad because I said something about Christmas having always been an occasion for disappointment to me. She's also sad because I seemed to be blasting people who "over-decorate."

So I stepped back and thought about this. She's usually right about things and it's very worth consideration if she points something out.

It's true that I never would want to take away any one's joy. Not even the people with the 12 lighted holiday characters lined up in their yard. I don't think it's very green to send out holiday cards, but I must admit that I enjoy the very few I receive and I have to assume that people carefully weigh the use of paper and resources against the joy the cards might bring.

And while Christmas has historically disappointed me, it's not because I wasn't given an embarrassingly large amount of gifts. I just always felt that what I gave wasn't enough or something. And I felt disappointed whenever people continued to behave badly even though they were in the midst of this "Season of Peace and Joy." And I can't help thinking that our resources could be better spent.

Having explained that I wouldn't want to take away any one's joy, I still do fantasize about rearranging people's lighted characters or demanding all mall Santas take a breathalyzer. My sister says - and I'm sure it's true - that some people need Christmas and all the trimmings to get "in the spirit" and be generous and peaceful. And perhaps Christmas makes people happy in and of itself and in that way it is a good use of resources. I don't understand that, though I think people should be happy.

I think I walk a wire here deciding whether I should just shut up because I might interrupt some one's happiness or trying to shine a light on what I know to be better uses of resources, a more realistic and loving way of finding happiness.

So the bottom line is this: I know this is only my opinion and that there is the ever-so-infinitesimal chance that it is wrong. But hey, it's my blog. I don't like Christmas clutter. I'm overwhelmed by the business, busy-ness, and waste of the whole thing. But it's your thang - do what you need to.

And I love my sister.

Monday, December 7, 2009

New Year's Resolutions for My Girls

To My Girls *

Let's all sit down and have a glass of Chianti and discuss how we ain't gonna change a ding dang thing in the coming year because we are so ding dang perfect now it would be a crime against nature! We are perfect just as we are and could use some improvement.

Let's vow to always see each other as we really are - beautiful, sexy, brilliant, exceptional women with great taste in friends.

Let's promise to never pass up an adventure, even if the odds are about 89 to 11 for getting hurt. Hell, we've been hurt before and memories are the very best things to collect. Besides, if we get knocked down, we've got our girls to laugh and help us up.

Let's promise to laugh so hard we may just wet our pants.

Let's resolve to flirt with experience, skill and not a lick of shame. Flirting is good for the flirter and the flirtee.

Let's change our hair color and style, wear as much or as little make up, and shave our legs and underarms or not according to our whims. Let's pay attention to those whims. Whims are our friends. Whimlessness is next to boringness.

Let's all learn to say no to things we do only because we think we're supposed to do them. We aren't getting any extra innings in this life, so if we can't enjoy the things we're supposed to do, then we'd better just not do them.

And let's all enjoy doing those things we know we will make the Universe a better place.

Let's dedicate 2010 as the year we are not afraid to fail. Heck, haven't we failed enough to learn not to be afraid of it by now? If you haven't, get out there and fail at some things. My bridge master told me that if I wasn't going set at least a third of the time, I wasn't playing with enough guts. Let's agree to ask ourselves these questions: What's the worst that can happen if I fail at this? What's the worst thing that can happen if I don 't attempt it?

Let's all finally realize that we needn't be afraid of death, only of not having lived. Surely nothing is worse than dieing of boredom.

Let's all resolve to be so present in the here and now that we forget to worry about the future or fret about the past.

And let's all forgive ourselves for all the stupid things we've ever done and LET THEM GO! There isn't room for them here, now.

Let's all let go of the greatness we used to have or nearly had or might have had. There is not room for that here, now, either.

And let's realize that there is only here and now and it is more than sufficient.

Let's forget to get back at people and threaten to flood each day with random acts of kindness. It might just catch on.

Let's get our minds around the fact that we are all One.

Let's take naps when we need to and call our friends regardless of the hour.

Let's please remind each other to be grateful for every moment - even the ones that seem yucky. Even in those moments, your life is the greatest miracle of all.

Let's allow ourselves to cry when we need to. It's good for our sinuses.

Let's always realize that sometimes you've just gotta. And that's the only reason you need.

Let's all solemnly vow to overflow our lives with joy and peace and love. You know where that comes from right?

*And yes I know that calling us girls is not politically correct. I'm 54 and I don't give a shot. I can be a girl if I want to and to hell with political correctness! My Girls - you know who you are!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ho, Ho, Humbug

My seasonal fantasy consists of hunkering down in a cabin in the woods, with a large enough supply of split firewood, food, wine, books and a hot tub. No phones, no television, no cars driving by. Just me and my dog in a cozy cabin surrounded by quiet snow.

It may be due to a vestige of the urge to hibernate. But it's probably due to the modern urge to escape the chaos of the holidays. The lights and decorations, the din of the repetition of Christmas music, the endless chatter about buying and shopping and baking and entertaining is all just too much for me. It's not that I hate gifts, baking, entertaining, etc. It's just that I'd rather spread it out throughout the year. The giant flashing Santa on my neighbor's roof - that I could live without.

I don't participate any more in that stuff, but without escaping to my fantasy cabin, I have about as much chance of totally ignoring the hype as a fish has of ignoring water. It's everywhere!

One neighbor has 12 lighted figures in her front yard. A couple of Santas, baby Jesus, Frosty, a giant candy cane, some reindeer, etc. Twelve! And they're all just lined up there as if they are waiting at the post office or something.

So if you come caroling at my house, don't be surprised if all the lights in my house suddenly go out and no one comes to the door. I invite you to come back in May, when we can all enjoy it.