Thursday, October 25, 2007

Questions, Questions and More Questions

Tonight we saw the new flick "Gone Baby Gone" and if you deal with ethics in any way you need to take an afternoon and check this one out. The question is vividly played out: Is it better to do the right thing or the "white" as in black and white thing?

When faced with a dilemma, is there a right answer that doesn't fall into black and white thinking?

If you'd seen the movie, email me. We MUST talk!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Goza Makes Me Laugh

My friend, "Chaplain Cindy Goza" as she sometimes introduces herself with mock importance, told me of a conversation she overheard recently at the hospital. (As far as I know, no HIPAA rules were broken in the telling of this story.)

Man by the elevator: "Yeah, you know she's got that post partum depression . . . that thing you get in Iraq."

Cindy tried not to guffaw as she silently considered, "Is he talking about a soldier who got pregnant? Is Iraq really a cover up for unwed mothers?"

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

California Road Trip -- Final Highlights

Bryn (left) takes care of Richard. Richard takes care of all of Robin's friends who crash in their uber cool basement. Life in San Francisco with the Paolis is a good thing. Much thanks must be offered for nosh foods every night before the dinner meal, great wine pairings, vegan-sensitive menus planned by a man who is definitely carnivorous but also a true host, coffee and scones for breakfast, much needed conversations about writing and possibly the best tour guide I've ever encountered.

Other highlights include:
-Having the gumption to return a pair of shoes just to use the 20% off coupon I had forgotten to offer at check out . . . something I have never done before!
-Giving lots of massages but especially having Judah's help when I gave one to her mom (Judah also requested her own version of a massage and with her mother watching I followed that child's orders!)
-Watching Robin and Larry take on the cold waters of the Pacific while playing with Judah in the sand
-A trip to the wine country in the VW, wrapped in a blanket in the back seat with Larry
-Sipping whites with Robert at each winery where we stopped
-Teaching both Quiddler and Farkle to friends
-The view from above the Golden Gate bridge that Robert got on our day back from the country
-Taking the southern route through California (and yes, we missed the fires by one day) and then opting for the backroads through Arizona so that we wound our way through the mountains
-In and Out burgers while sharing the fries and a shake . . . ok that's a girlie thing to say but he's cute and at this point I'm at the stage where I'm sappy
-Sedona, AZ at sunset
-Finding a hotel with a hot tub and not being able to stay as long in the sauna as one aforementioned cute guy
-Mountain vistas, desert vistas, mountain and desert vistas . . . lots and lots of vistas
-My cute, little, red VW packed to the max
-Goza welcoming me to New Mexico

and the adventure continues . . .

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Girls Will Understand This One

Remember those girls back in high school (and I'm sure NONE of you were guilty of this) who -- once they got interested in and the attention of someone -- totally ignored you for days on end as she relished being with her new interest and just assumed you'd understand and think it was perfectly acceptable?

Well . . . high school isn't all that long ago it seems and I'm guilty!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

See Larry Run a Half Marathon?

See Larry waiting for race (and the porta-potty).

See Larry getting set with other fast runners.

See Larry stretch after race.

See Larry show off his medal from race.

See Larry enjoying sweet victory!

Note what you don't see: Larry actually running the race! Why you might ask? Well . . .

I got up at 5:15 a.m. to support Larry. Rode in the dark and fog and then walked sluggishly to the race area. Finally found coffee and an English muffin and was revived enough to give the man a pep talk and assure him he could beat his personal best time of 1:50 and make his goal of a half marathon in 1:45. I even walked alongside the runners for two miles and then turned around to get back to the finish line in time to see my friend cross it.

That's when I noticed they were picking up any signs that there'd been a race. All indicators of "turn here" or "here" were gone. And I was in San Jose, CA with not a clue of how I got to the little side street with the colorful houses. In a true Southern "bless your heart" moment (or what folks in San Francisco would say was just a stupid move on my part), I wandered and finally one hour and 50 minutes after starting my trek I made it back to the race area in time to see the pace flag for 1:45 a half block away and headed for the finish. At first I thought I could catch up. Then it hit me they were running and I was walking with a back pack and far less training in speed!

By the time I met Larry at the location we'd agreed on, he was stretching.

However ....


And even if I wasn't there to capture it, a chip on his shoe and the smile on his face was proof enough.

See Larry. See Larry run.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Questions Held at Bay

“They asked themselves questions they’d long held at bay.” -- seen in Hope’s Edge by Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe

A sequel to the 30-year-old bestseller Diet for a Small Planet, this book takes the reader on a journey to five continents to examine the global food and hunger challenge.

I’m not going to write about that. They did for more than 400 pages and don’t need my input.

But that sentence – read before I even got out of the Opening Note – made me pause.

What questions have I “long held at bay”?

Hmmmmm . . .

Now that I’ve spent some time around some bays, I can see a whole new aspect to the question. While to hold something at bay is to keep it away, the whole “out of sight/out of mind” kind of thing, I can also tell you that bays tend to hold their fog fairly well.

That’s more along the lines of what I’ve been doing with some of my big questions – keeping them in the bay, in the fog, with some parameters but plenty of room to disappear into the great sea of nothingness.

The whole idea of this year-of-not-a-vacation-and-not-9-to-5 is to give some time for the fog to move on and really examine the questions that maybe haunt me more than I know.

One is definitely about the whole God thing. What do I believe, hold dear, claim above all else?

Another question that slithers in on occasion is what am I to do about the plight of human kind? And which exact plight concerns me most – or at least enough to do something about?

Here are a few more … though I don’t know if they are phrased exactly right – keep in mind the fog still lingers:

Do I think love – as in what one person has for another that keeps them together for a lifetime – exists? Is being “in love” simply a Hallmark/Hollywood invention?

What wouldn’t I do for a friend?

When something exists because of “the system” (and here I mean political, familial, social, etc.) what makes me give up before trying to address it?

Last night I had dinner with a man who had come back from Iraq after three years of service there (and 20 years with the Marines before that) and the first thing he did when he landed in the Chicago airport was to get a beer. He hadn’t one in three years. His refreshment was tarnished however when a suited young man spoke loudly to the two women he was with about his views on the war, the military and specifically how Marines were nothing but “killing machines.”

Still attired in his military garb, this man knew the comments were for his benefit and – in his interpretation of the event – walked to the young man and politely asked him to refrain from including him in his earshot since he had seen good men die as the result of this conflict that he didn’t agree with either but was willing to do what he could for the country that had asked him. The young man then told him what exactly he could do to himself. At which point, my new friend suggested that if he didn’t refrain he would tear his head from his shoulders and . . . well, you get the picture.

Our government and in some ways our society is a system practicing the attributes of insanity. We keep doing what we’ve been doing expecting different results. If we didn’t learn from Vietnam that we can’t blame the soldier for the “solutions” prescribed in faraway strategy rooms, then will we ever learn?

And if I care enough, what does one person do to say “enough.” I told my friend that I often felt like a drop of water in a big sea that has little to no affect.

He said, “Take it from someone who knows. When you’re in the desert and you lift your canteen and all that falls is one drop, you’re pretty damn grateful for that drop.”

Here’s a toast to my first efforts at drops to lift the fog . . .

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Life is like a portabello sandwich . . .

Larry and I have had several discussions about his veganism. I applaud his commitment to living his convictions. He understands that I don't have that same level of conviction. And we both allow ourselves the space to just be. Makes for a peaceful co-existence.

But the conversations have been lively and fun. For instance, he might mention that some vegans choose their lifestyle out of respect for creation. They don't want to kill anything -- even mosquitoes. I counter with the surprise fact that I've practiced "capture and release" form of pest control in my abodes for years. If I spot a cockroach for example and it's possible to shoo its crunchy exterior out my front door, I will. However, if a blood sucker comes my way, I'm all over survival-of-the-fittest and given that I'm a little higher on the food chain the circle of life is going to start back at ground zero as far as that critter is concerned.

Hasta la vista, baby!

(calming from my mounting aggression . . . breathing) So, yeah, I get the respect for that which has been created. But I also think in systems. And a system of predator and prey seems to have been established for balance. While hiking part of the Tahoe Rim I learned from one of the guides with me that in order to protect the lake from the possibility of being destroyed by fire, they have to thin out the trees. Now some folks don't want the thinning. And some folks don't want the potential for devastation. Leaves me wondering what the system can hold or if we don't sometimes come to a point where new systems must be established.

Pretty deep question that pretty much originates at the mosquito question. At this point, I'm still under the influence that the "way of the world" demands that things get squashed, trees get thinned, and folks with no power must rely on advocates to advance.

If someone's come up with a way that works that allows power brokers to discuss it over a steak lunch, we may have a new answer. Until then I continue to view myself as what I long ago surmised was a "pragmatic optimist". I want to believe there's a better way but until we find it, I'll do what I can to build up my muscles for the wrestling match around the corner.

By the way, Larry has chosen his lifestyle because of the corporate powers that control so much of the world's resources that their waste could feed third world countries. He's a good man with a big heart and an evolving definition of what can go on his plate.

One of my favorite choices is portabello . . . juicy, meaty tasting, and no guilt . . . the kind of food that makes you feel exotic even if all you do is put a slice of cheese on it and call it a burger. Not unlike this new life I've chosen, heh?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Waiting for the Shower in Lake Tahoe

While I wait for the shower (five of us in a condo with only one makes for some wait time), I thought I'd share some recent sights:

-1600 year old tree
-band billed as Celtic Rock was actually a Southern Rock band with a barefoot girl lead taking on "Born on the Bayou" and I don't think she was
-older couple dancing together to above music with grace and poise and I wanted to be her
-me dancing to above music and glad I was me
-Donner Summit
-Gold Rush town with exhibit of REAL gold
-Lake Tahoe at sunrise (yep, I said "rise")
-snow on the mountains
-more ways to eat without meat than I thought and some of them are quite tasty

Friday, October 05, 2007

3 Rs . . . Ok, 3 1/2

Larry and I were chatting as we made our way along the seaside of Santa Cruz.

(For all you Texans and landlocked friends reading this we will now observe a moment of silence for the appropriate degree of envy to set in.)

I was telling him of how I had begun to view the experience of packing up my belongings, setting forth on this journey, and trying to settle into the processing and preparation I wanted to achieve in order to begin to map out the next phase of my days.

Together we came up with a series of words that seems like a worthwhile reflection tool set.

Romance -- Initially I was caught up in the romantic idea of writing, traveling, and volunteering. You know what I mean . . . the tendency to focus on the sights I would see and the people I would meet rather than the fact that I had to have a new tire for the car and 12 hour days of driving meant you just want a hot bath and a bed, not fodder for a inspirational post on a blog! (You are somewhat inspired, right?)

Reality -- You may love your lover for all he/she is worth but, fact is, he/she snores, smells like a bad pair of wet sneakers after exertion of any kind or any number of fill-in-the-blank reality checks. I have posted previously about the tension I feel with living the dream and facing the reality that other folks who I love dearly are realizing their own dreams without my being in the near vacinity. For someone as connected to family and friends as I am, that's not the easiest of ideas to digest. I'm enjoying my cake and eating it with delight, but I can't help but wonder what the cookie I can't quite get to tastes like either. Don't hear this as a complaint . . . it's simply reality.

Reliving/Reinterpreting -- I've often said, "It's all about the story." Larry takes it one step further and acknowledges that for him the biggest pleasure is the retelling and reinterpreting his life by the experience. He's not as moment-focused as I am. He relishes what he's going to get out of whatever is happening now so he can be an even better in the later.

As we played with the ideas, he offered up one more for all you philosophical types to enjoy. He spoke of consolation and desolation. As he experiences life, he feels consoled by his Creator in various moments where he's absolutely sure of the conneciton. But there are times, empty spaces he calls them, where God appears to be absent. In those times of desolation, Larry is convinced that God exists as well and he's trying to lean into those times and discover new truths about himself.

Hearing him, I crossed my fingers that my friend wasn't into the whole suffering movement that many spiritual pilgrims embrace. He assured me that he enjoyed pleasure too much to take up pain as a pasttime. But what he has found in a rather catholic train of thought, he said, is that he indeed is in a place to learn more about himself when he's almost convinced he's without comfort. A runner, he compared it to having to lean into the wind and take on the resistance in order to gain strength and excel.

Just thought I'd share . . . don't know what I'm going to do with this tidbit of conversation but definitely wanted to share.

I'm NOT on Vacation But . . .

Several folks I've chatted with of late have referenced my new "normal" as a vacation.

No. Nada. Nunca. X-na on the acation-va.

I'm in a new place in my life and a new kind of life. Every day is a celebration of what might be. Every day holds opportunities for relaxation, pleasure, learning, and making the space I take up more worthwhile because I've done something good with the time I've been given.

But I can't view it as a vacation because that particular word denotes that I'm taking time away from something to which I will return.

That's not going to happen.

So, yes, I'm on a break from the 9 to 5 world. But I may never return to it. I'd love to find a way to write, be creative, train and do all the things I enjoy doing while simultaneously fulfilling other folks' expectations enough to actually get paid for it. You've now heard my current dream. If I don't pull that off, then current plan #2 is to find something that will pay the bills and also allow me to pursue passions like writing and volunteering. We shall see.

I mention the v-word because while I am not on one, Stan, my traveling companion was. He left on Wednesday night and we spent Tuesday and the time until we left him to his own devices to get on the peanut-laden Southwest flight home traversing the city with the help of two most excellent tour guides.

World, meet Richard and Larry! Richard and Robin will host me the last week I'm in California. Larry has made provisions for me to stay among the Redwoods in a very comfortable room on the campgrounds where he works. Robin wasn't in town but Richard, with his vast knowledge of San Francisco architecture, real estate, history, food, wine and well . . . just about everything . . . served our cause of getting Stan a good sense that he'd "seen" the city. Of course, with the top down on the Beetle you can see plenty!

Richard was gracious beyond belief in that we stuffed his probably close to 6 ft frame in and out of that car with little room to spare and not once did he complain. Instead, he just added another story of travels on the road and challenges as well as delights he'd experienced there.

Larry sent us on our way the first day in because he had to work but told us how to get to the DeYoung museum and oh, oh, aren't we glad!?! Loved the view from the tower that is just another way San Francisco can "na na na boo boo" the rest of the country with its grandeur. Also loved that a towering docent (truly tall beefy guy) felt the need to offer us his own account of one particular fashion exhibit. When he left us, i asked Stan, "Now why do you suppose we, of all the people in this room, merited that little extra?" Stan offered, "Well he glanced at me and studied you, so I'm thinking he's leaning your way."

I do so love men talk with the men!!! I thought my breasts were being appreciated but Stan confirmed it. Ahhhh . . . not everyone here is saluting the Castro flag, now are they?

We did a lot of twisting and turning and topping of hills. We also took in some great art including murals painted on the walls of the Mission District, particularly along Balmy Alley. Stan thrilled me when he proclaimed the last several days to be the most fun he'd had in years.

Yes! Yes! Yes! I wanted to reward him wih a great time. He rewarded me with his delight. We all come out winners.

Unfortunately, he missed the biggie as far as I was concerned. When we dropped him off we came back by the AIDS memorial and then made one more stop at the remembrance of the Holocaust. As I approached the cut out on the hillside that allowed for the statues the first thing I noted was a white "wire" fence (think plaster when I say white) and a man's back. The statue was to appear to be facing out, perhaps even looking at the incredible view from his vantage point. As I came closer, the intake of breath happened almost before I truly comprehended what I was seeing. Behind the man lay numerous bodies on the concrete floor. All plaster white -- big, small, men, women, clothed and not. Stark. Just close enough to real to serve as the harsh reminder of man's inhumanity to man I'm sure it was created to be.

God, help us. Hate doesn't go away just because we create memorials.

So . . . no, I'm not on vacation. I want to see and write and wonder and maybe, just maybe, figure out my role in working away at that hate . . . one thought at a time.

God, help us indeed.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

2,377 Miles Later, We're HERE!!!

Got in at midnight. Just before we arrived at camp in the dark of night along some of the curviest roads you can imagine, I had commented on the fact that while I was more comfortable driving at night than Stan, I still was having difficulty with the halo affect my contacts created with the reflectors. Then we had to go through a plethora of the darn things because of a construction project (underway at 11 p.m.!). After that a fog set in. Then two deer decided it was playtime in the middle of the path to the camp. I'm describing the last 30 MINUTES of a four-day trip!

You can call my life any number of things but you can't call it boring!

California Road Trip – Day 4, Less Sightings and More Musings

This post will be less about what I’m seeing and more about what I’m feeling. Two reasons for this turn of the blog . . . today we’re driving through the desert and after a while there’s not much more you can say except, “Yep, that’s a desert.” And, I’ve finally begun to slow down enough in the trip mode to get beyond finding radio stations to listen to, learning new things about Stan, and grasping that Dorothy and Toto aren’t in Kansas anymore to actually embrace the silence and think.

Plus I’m an extrovert who doesn’t really believe a thing has happened until I’ve had a chance to debrief with someone else. Tag, dear readers, you’re It in my “someone else” department these days. Feel free to comment or, for you shy introverted types, email me directly!

Here’s the compilation of hmmm’s I’ve come up with to date. Feel free to chime in on any point. And, just so you who don’t know me can get to know me better, this invitation is not an open door to “fixin’ me.” I just delight in perspectives!

• Being a free spirit isn’t free. The act comes with a cost ... including being intentional about connecting with old friends who were always there when I needed them but not an everyday phone call, newer friends who I was just developing patterns with, and brand new friends who don’t know me well enough to know I have patterns, rituals, and the like that keep me going. I find that I’m struggling with being present in the moment and wanting to share the significant moments in the lives of those for whom I care deeply.
• Hello, my name is Karen and I’m a news junky. (I’ll pause here and wait for your “Hello Karen” support group reply.) . . . Three days without an update on what’s happening in the world and I need a fix. Of course when I asked someone to feed my habit yesterday by reading me the headlines, the best he came up with was that the Houston Chronicle was marking the 50th year since Sputnik. Seems I was jonesing on a slow news day.
• Kinda related to my first one . . . I’m experiencing the tension of wanting to live in the moment and delighting when that moment includes planning for future moments. Here and now versus then and there is taking up some of my conversational time these days. Good news is that I’m not forfeiting much of the now in these future-based planning sessions given that “now” includes a lot of travel time and down time in just off the highway hotels. But I can’t help thinking about what’s next with so many areas of my life. I want desperately to maintain a healthy balance of enjoying what is while anticipating what will be.
• Cheesey Alert: Since we were heading to (and now in) California, Stan and I launched our journey with a bit of the Beach Boys. (Told you it was cheesey. Now comes the serious part.) He told me that he had read that Brian Wilson never completely enjoyed his success with the band because every time the Beach Boys would have a number one hit in a few weeks the Beatles would top them. As we now know, Brian suffered from several sad plights and one of them was depression. We got to talking about the fact that no matter how good a communicator someone is a “glass-is-half-full person” cannot describe the glass well enough or in enough detail to ever help the “glass is half empty person” see it. In other words, no one can make anyone BE happy. Here’s a case when knowing I’m helpless actually helps me be of more help. I spend less time these days trying to change someone’s mind and more time accepting them as they are.
• Someone who has only recently gotten to know me is embracing the fact that I’m not all that judgmental. When he commented on it, he celebrated me so I further added that I didn’t think it was my job to judge. He asked, “So if it’s not yours, whose is it?” I kinda liked my reply, “Whoever you give that power to. Could be yourself, your mother, your lover, your spouse, your friend, or whoever you deem your Creator to be. But the one thing I know is that it’s not me.”

Well, that’s about all for today. Can’t wait to see if any of you have further thoughts on these or other subjects you’re willing to share!