Sunday, February 21, 2010

Taming the Monkey Mind

By Friday I was fried. A very full week (work and non-work) left me Friday by noon not able to string two thoughts together. I take that back: I couldn't complete even one thought. It was actually quite scary. Trying to wrap up things at the office took three times as long as it should as I had to sit there and trace my circling thoughts back to whatever was at hand.

I am currently juggling about a dozen live projects in various stages of need. One included attendance at an evening Planning Commission meeting that lasted until 10:30 PM on Thursday. Another is requiring creative design/analysis to accommodate a 3.3 million sf development. Still a third requires binding cutting edge technology into new uses to orchestrate unusual loading dock logistics at a large hospital campus. Top that with trying to come up with a plan of attack and budget for a huge redevelopment plan in the heart of Abu Dhabi. My friedness drove me to bed by 8 PM which made it possible to get on line with "our man in Abu Dhabi" at 5 AM to finalize (I hope) negotiations on that job. Abu Dhabi is exactly 12 hours ahead on the clock and lives their weekend on Thursdays/Fridays, meaning they are geared up to work through our Saturday/Sundays. Not easy to coordinate with.

So, I needed badly to decompress yesterday. Being awake to see the sunrise across the lake from my bedroom perch was a good start. Pulling on the gardening gloves and attacking the yard for the first weeding of the season was key to my recovery. Made all the sweeter by a long phone call with my dear sister. It was a badly needed feeling of accomplishment to know my yard is almost completely free of weeds from top to bottom. Catching all those little buggers and clearing them from the roots early enough in the year to snuff them before they have a chance to reseed is worth alot. After fixing myself a healthy lunch I made my way to a "foot spa" treatment.

The (*name withheld to protect the owners) Foot Spa is a hidden hall of torture that my body so badly needed. Here, for $25 and a healthy tip, I get the equivalent of a $125 professional hour long deep tissue massage. I think this place has to call itself a "foot spa" and charge these unrealistically low prices because the owner and all the folks there don't speak a lick of English. They can't converse with you about injury spots and concerns. And really they should, as they give you a head to toe, front and back very deep tissue massage. The folks there have obviously been trained in serious massage. (I refer to the masseuse as "they" as I've been now two weekends in a row. A few of my friends have been as well and describe consistently similar treatment so I am inclined to generalize in the description) From every movement on my face and scalp (earlobes even) to the way they worked the tendons in my hands (each finger joint wiggled and stretched to perfection) to the lengthening stretches of my arms and deep rolling of my arm fat to the care and attention they they gave my knobby feet to the pressings deep on the sides of my spine to the needing of my backside (including my generous ass) and the cupping slaps to the length of my legs: I was well kneaded. (If you want the name and location of this gem email me and I'll gladly steer you their way. Just be prepared for some very rough treatment). The thing about this torturous treatment is it requires you to be in the moment on that table keenly aware of what is happening to your body. At times thinking "I hope I survive this" and "I hope this will not cause real injury" to being aware of what it is like to have someone physically touch your body when you no longer get that contact in a marriage. Right now, the day after, the memory of the pain during treatment and the parts of my body that feel a little abused and bruised leave me sure I won't get up the nerve to return again. But I know I'll be back for more abuse some near future weekend when I will need a good body workover again. My mind did wander a bit during this workout as I thought about these good people doing their magic on myself. I wonder how the owner can possibly keep in business charging so little for the service. I thought about the laborers having to patiently and thoroughly put their hands on my rough feet and jiggly parts: do they hate this? Do they resent having to put their highly professionally skilled hands on the likes of us who can afford it for the lowest of wages and hopes of a generous tip? Do they realize how much they give up because they cannot speak the language of the country in which they now live? I feel a little like I am taking advantage of their disadvantage. But, if I didn't go then they would have to wait another hour idly waiting for some other person to wander in.

In my state of happily ended abuse, I made my way to the market to stash up on healthy foods for the week. Then made a exchange at the mall which takes me out of my element. I have only been to the mall twice in the last year: once for a good bra fitting, and; yesterday to exchange one of those bras because one underwire was not behaving and staying in place. Today I will roast up another batch of a broccoli and cauliflower lemon dish for lunches.
Sis: new recipe for my vegan niece: cauliflower head separated into florets. Toss with olive oil to lightly coat. Salt. Put on cookie tray and roast for about 20 minutes. Then toss in humus to coat.

This morning I headed north to Edmonds to see my friend Mary. We took the dogs on a walk along the waterfront. Destination dog park: Satchmo was happy chasing the big dogs. Then home to catch up laundry. This is a special night: CLEAN SHEETS. And a CLEAN DOG. I'm showering and slipping into the clean sheets with a clean body. All that and now my monkey mind is finally tamed. Though tomorrow it's another evening meeting and another day of getting behind before I start. Hoping to keep the monkey away as best I can.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ashes to Dust

Ash Wednesday service tonight
(no, I didn't get extra ashes put under my eyes to match the one on my forehead. It just looks that way)

Somber service. The message was delivered by my pastor who I call friend, Terry Tripp. Her husband is dying of cancer. A really tear inducing message and so appropriate for the beginning of lent.

We really don't know why things happen the way they do. We just don't know. But I have faith in God who does understand suffering, came through his Son who paid the ultimate price to suffer among us, to be right beside us in this world of unknowns. Who gives us hope for a better tomorrow, here or on the other side. That's my profession of faith on this eve of this new season.

"The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ." (on Easter) - from Wikipedia

I have a habit of playing endless games of spider solitaire with the TV on when I am zoning out at night. My usual method of turning off my brain. The problem is that I tend to loose hours doing this when I could/should be doing more productive things. Like putting dishes away in the kitchen, folding laundry, calling a friend, getting to bed at a decent hour, many better things to do. And so, my self-denial this lent is to stay away from Spider Solitaire. Will probably end up with more blogging. Already I've caught myself mindlessly going towards that start bar to begin a game without even thinking about it. Fortunately I've caught myself before I actually deal a game. It may seem lame. Not giving up booze or chocolatte or sex or anything like that. Actually there's not much to give up in those categories. This will be something that I know I waste so much time doing so it will be good for me to give it a break. And will NOT replace it with another mindless computer game to fill its place.

Peace be with you this evening.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

To Mom, with Love

Last night was beautiful. The kind of evening that floats my boat.

Inspired by my spring gift from last week, I had planted primroses around the house. And set a long table.

I had invited some of my closest friends over for dinner. An evening to celebrate love.

A salute to St. Valentine’s in a way. Not romantic love. Something better than that. Love of each other’s company. Love to share time, laughter, a few tears.

All brought good dishes to share.

And good wine.

My contribution was spinach pesto rolled flank steak (in my cookbook).

I haven’t made this in years. It still impresses. (even myself)

A little part of my heart glowed when M. said to the others “I’ve said this before. J does a better job of getting friends together than anyone I know.” (For the record, J does not feel like this is a job. It is a blessing.) This “gift” is something I learned from my mother. Friends were important to her. She had many good friends. More importantly, she had many quality friends.

Once I became an adult she became one of my good friends as well. She would have been right at home in my home last night. I learned so much from her about how to be a friend. How to enjoy my friends. How to have fun with friends. How friends help you heal. How you don’t have to be perfect for your friends (I stopped short of cleaning my floors before my friends came over last night. Friends don’t require perfection. I learned that from Mom too.)

Happy Valentine's Day. I wish I knew how to make a good latte heart....

Saturday, February 13, 2010

An Evening with the (Green) Stars

This has been a week packed with so many meaningful experiences. So much done. So much to blog. I had to capture the Olympian moment from yesterday while it was fresh in my head and so now have to rely on memory and a few pictures to help ,me with what I wanted to share about my evening with the Stars.

Thursday evening was a real treat. Judy invited me to tag along with her and Joyce to see the debut screening of a new pilot show "Mission: Sustainable" hosted at the Fisher Pavilion, Seattle Center.

  • Dinner procured from Skillet, the airstream trailer (mobile take out restaurant) to devour while waiting in line (and we were the second group in line....hooray us!). I finally got to taste the burger with his well known "bacon jam." Don't the words "bacon jam" just get your taste buds weeping? Skillet owner and head chef Josh Henderson at one of the Farm Dinners I assisted with at Dog Mountain Farm last summer. He's a really, really nice guy (looked out for his kitchen crew) and has put together such a fabulous food idea.

  • Really good seats: since we were right up front there in line we were able to sit amongst the production crew and the featured family (I'll explain later). It's (almost) always fun to be in the middle of action.

  • A big hall buzzing with an excited crowd. Rumor has it there were a thousand there. The hall was lined with exhibitor tables and samples of things.

  • Really, really interesting table decorations put together by "Bella" who was one of the exhibitors. Watch for this lady: I believe she will be a really, really big name in local floral design (not that I know anything about big names in local floral design. I just really, really liked her concepts). Her table decorations were little vignettes of natural things, like little birds nests, moss, simple white flowers (just a few) and simple containers. One she used was a white peony stuck in a white goose egg placed on moss. (sorry my picture didn't turn out).

  • Finding a parking space on the street (read "free") just a block from the venue (the parking prayer worked yet again)

  • Seeing all the people involved in pulling off this show which was produced for under $1,000. Lots and lots of time volunteered.

  • Speaking (briefly) with the young woman whose home was featured in the show.

  • Getting home (on a "school night" before 10:00 PM) Thank you Judy and Joyce for giving up early for my sake!

The show's premise is sort of like "Queer Eye" where a panel of experts in various things show up at a home, send the family off, go through the home and identify areas for improvement, bring the family back in and then instruct them on how to be better. In this case everything was focused on having a smaller carbon footprint: becoming more sustainable. The family, in this case, were certainly not starting at "crisis mode." They live a simple life, not huge consumers or blatant environment offenders. The panel of experts to work with included a professional chef, a landscaper, a home products expert (she focused on cleaning and personal care supplies); energy experts; transportation; outdoor/nature enthusiasts; and some others I've apparently forgotten.

We were there because of Judy's connection to the featured chef, Becky Selengut. Her blog, Chef Reinvented, is wonderful, and coincidentally linked in my favorites. She got to go through the family kitchen and point out problems with corn sugar syrup and trans fats. She pulled out a package of sausage from the refrigerator full of nasty stuff which coincidentally I had seven just like in my fridge at home as I was taking them to JRC for breakfast the next morning (well they were on "managers special" at a really low price which is what we buy when feeding forty kids on no budget!) She also pointed out the farm bred shrimp from Asia, which, even after learning in the show that they are bred with lots of antibiotics and processed stuff, I still bought because they were also on sale and I had to grab something to take to an Olympics Opening Ceremony thing but that's another blog entry if I get around to it). The products person gave them tips on better things to buy and spent far too much time talking about her use of "feminine products" suggesting she use some terrifyingly named thing called a "menstrual cup." WTF? I am so, so glad I am fully done with having to make that environmental decision. I believe the show lost at least half of the potential audience with that discussion (the men...I mean men are even more embarrassed when Tampax commercials come on the TV than women. And as a woman I can tell you that I was always embarrassed too if such a commercial came on if any man i.e. son, wasband, etc. were also in the room). Two lovely twins pointed out the monster oil furnace and leaky windows eating more than this family's fair share of available energy.

While it was really fun to go to a premier event and spend a fun evening with friends (and eat a really good dinner) me thinks this show will probably not make it to a TV near you. Frankly, people who are really environmental enthusiasts don't sit around and watch much TV. While some of the information was new to me, most were things I already knew (take the bus sometimes instead of driving, buy healthier food, have a good furnace and tight windows). One didn't look at this family and say "wow, look how these losers were totally transformed." First of all they weren't losers: they were nice, normal people, who were actually really good sports for letting these guys come in and point out how they are screwing up themselves and the environment. Secondly: no huge, or at least visible transformation. At the end of the show they (and we) were maybe more aware and committed to doing a little bit better. But the realities of how much time and money one needs to be the perfect stewards of our environment don't all translate into what can reasonably be done in the course of a TV show. And I'm sorry, but they lost me at the menstrual cup!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Word of the day: DREAM

Dream. That was the message from Anna Cummins who spoke to the kids today at JRC.

Today the Olympics kick off just up the road from us. So we had a special guest this morning. Two time medaler (one silver in Greece, one gold in China). Rower. Incredible young woman.

She spoke to an attentive group of youngsters. Her message: Dream Big! This is what all Olympians have in common. They have a dream.

All the kids closed their eyes and dreamed of their big dream. They shared. Singers. Artists. Skaters. Computer game developers. These are our children’s dreams.

Second part of the lesson: to get to this dream what can I do today that will start me and keep me on that path. Hands up!! Practice. Research. Study. Sing.

Third lesson: Dreams may change over time. But that’s OK. Because the work you do towards your dream will prepare you for a new dream down the road. Anna didn’t row until she was 19 years old. But God had prepared her for a new dream.

Then we had a little flag ceremony. Kids wore hats representing different countries. Well, not contries. ‘cause we just had a bunch of goofy hats. So we had the countries of Shark and Catfish represented.

And we touched a real gold medal. An Olympic gold medal. How very incredibly cool is that? (me thinks very, very cool indeed)

Everything followed by a nutritious and delicious and fresh made breakfast. Before heading off to school.

Kids at school have dreams too. This one posted in the hallway. It kinda made us sad. And oh how I related too.

("__'s dream for the world is someone will play with you at recess")

I am not too old to dream. And I now have friends to play at recess with.

What is your dream?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Life Calling...

I spent Saturday at an all day preparation session for Disaster Response. It was put on by the Southern Baptists who have quite an organized national team for coming in and helping out when disasters hit. I didn't know that this was a Southern Baptist thing when I signed up. In the confirmation I was told that I was welcome to attend but couldn't be part of a response team if I wasn't Southern Baptist. I get that. Insurance, funding, their cause identity. I decided to go anyway. I still want to be prepared when the opportunities arise to help out in a crisis and this was a good eye opener for me for the different kinds of things that responders are called to do.

The team behind the meeting I attended focus of a food ministry: primarily preparing and serving food to other emergency responders as well as to victims of disaster, usually teaming with Red Cross or Salvation Army to prepare the food that is taken out and delivered to the local areas. I think because these types of responders have to be prepared to respond in very short notice and commit to being mobile that it is particularly appealing to older folks, mostly in retirement. Most of the folks attending were in that category. Good people.

I am just going to continue to do what I can to prepare to answer a call and look for the right opportunities. I have some things going for me: I have a passport; I have all kinds of immunizations since my trip to Sudan last year; I recently completed a CPR class; I have my food handler's permit; I continue to volunteer at JRC (which is really a life giving thing for me).

I plan to get a good first-aid class. However I don't intend to become a Southern Baptist. Not that there's anything wrong with a Southern Baptist. I just think I make a better Presbyterian!

I am just finishing up a good book by a friend of a friend (Joyce Majors: Smiling at the World) who took a year and did volunteer opportunities all over the world. Sort of an extended Eat, Pray, Love. It's got me thinking. And plotting a little, really. She worked on a farm restoration project in Italy, and mostly animal rescue focused ventures for the balance. I'm OK with animals but I think my activities would have to be more people focused. Like teaching in Sudan. And holding babies. Ministries of pampering. Or maybe I'll just rent an RV and drive around the states for a while, seeing what finds me. Anyway, it feels a bit like a midlife crisis (oh no. Another one.) It's a restlessness that needs attention. Any ideas?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Is Love Over Rated?

When one hangs out with other women who have "been there...done that" often the conversation comes around to whether one thinks love in a couples relationship is really something that could ever be a reality for one's self. And ultimately, if a really good loving relationship is possible? I mean, how many examples of successful relationships, one like one would entertain emulating, do you know of?
I've had lots of conversations around that topic lately.

As Americans, have we over-romanticized the concept of marriage? Really, in many cultures marriage is a partnership for survival. People couple to recreate. Roles are taken one: provider, nurturer of off-spring; caretaker; home manager; meat and berry gatherer; water gatherer; defender. All those things are important. When a group of East Indian women were interviewed about their marriages all these roles came up. The reporter asked about love. "What about love? she said. The women all laughed. Not bitter. Just not apparently a necessary ingredient for a marriage.

I have been in love. It was great. It even got in the way of some of being able to do some of the other roles. Now when I think about being in relationship, it feels more like work. I don't think I want to work that hard.
....but a little part of me would like to be in love. (there. i said it)

"we" (one of my "been there done that" friends) decided one of the worst jobs ever would be to be a marriage counselor. I'm not sure what the significance of the picture of the dead elk in the back of the pickup truck that I was following yesterday has to do with that. But it seems appropriate.
For the record, I changed the title of this entry to "Is Love Over Rated?" from "Love is Over Rated." I believe that suggests some openness to some possibility which, though maybe just a minimilimeter off my commitment to independence, it is a movement.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I (heart) Spring!

It has been feeling a little like Ground Hog's Day around here.

Get up. Get dressed. Walk dog. Go to work. Work. Work. Work. Stress. Work. Come home. Scrounge up something to eat. Watch tv. Read. Got to bed. Get up and do it again. And again.

Yesterday the routine broke.

The latte art worked!

I noticed that the sun was out when I left for work.

And it wasn't completely dark when I left work.

And then there were these. Primroses.
Waiting on my front porch.
And it feels like spring.
It feels like hope.

Thank you dear, dear friend for the gift of spring.
You are the most thoughtful person I know.
Thoughtful WITH follow through.
You rock!

(I took the snowman off my car antenna.
Replaced it with a sun.)

I made a new playlist for the car. Keep hitting the repeat on this one by Sara Groves:

(and if you click here you can hear it for gift for you...well shoot. It's just posting as a sample. You might have to buy the whole song. It's worth it.)

Sara Groves

It Might Be Hope

You do your work the best that you can
you put one foot in front of the other
life comes in waves and makes *its* demands
you hold on as well as *you're* able

You've been here for a long long time

Hope has a way of turning *its* face to you
just when you least expect it
you walk in a room
you look out a window
and something there leaves you breathless
you say to yourself
it's been a while since I felt this
but it feels like it might be hope

It's hard to recall what blew out the flame
it's been dark since you can remember
you talk it all through to find it a name
as days go on by without number

You've been here for a long long time

Hope has a way of turning *its* face to you
just when you least expect it
you walk in a room
you look out a window
and something there leaves you breathless
you say to yourself
it's been a while since I felt this
but it feels like it might be hope