Thursday, December 07, 2006

Reading material for the brain damaged (aka...mommies)

So I should tell you right now that the amazing DaMomma is now published. And you should flock to amazon and read her book, because she's a little bit rock and roll. (I have no idea what I'm saying. But I love her writing and you should read it.)


My life seems to appropriately be reflecting the seasons this year. My vision has gotten tired and blurred and my soul is cold, possibly even frozen...the thaw of spring seems eons away. I could see it coming, this blank, stark time. I tried to prepare myself. Hell, I TRIED to make myself excited for it. But winter is neccessary, but not something you can really get excited about, is it?

An excerpt from My Garden Book by Jamaica Kincaid

People will go on and on about the beauty of the garden in winter, they will point out scarlet berries in clusters hanging on stark brown brittle branches, they will insist that this beauty is deep and unique; people try to tell me about things like “The Christmas rose…in bloom in December is really very beautiful,” but only in the way of a single clean plate found on a table many months after a large number of people had eaten dinner there; or again they tell me of the barks of trees, in varying stages of peeling, and the moss of lichen growing on the barks of other trees and the precious jewel-like sparkle of lichen at certain times of day, in certain kinds of light; and, you know, I like lichen and I like moss, but really to be reduced to admiring it because nothing else is there but brown bramble and some red stems and mist… It is so willful, this admiration of the garden in winter, this assertion that the garden is a beautiful place then…

But this is not true at all…I want to say to…[these people]. This is just something you are saying; this is just something you are making up. I want to say that at this very moment I am looking out my window and the garden does not exist, it is lying underneath an expanse of snow, and there is a deep, thick mist, slowly seeping out of the woods, and as I see this I do not feel enraptured by it. But you know, white is not a color at all…white only makes you feel the absence of color, and white only makes you long for color and only makes you understand that the space is blank and waiting to be filled up—with color.

My minister read this in a sermon about a year ago. That's really what I feel right about now. I'm tired of straining myself to admire lichen. So I guess I'm kind of hibernating right now. I hope that's ok.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Grats

Here is a story from our service at church on Sunday. There was a Zen master upon whom many people called for help over the years. People came to her with heart break and strife of all manner, from the seemingly mundane to extraordinary greif. Each person who called upon her undoubtedly recieved her full attention, but she encouraged all of them to practice a mantra of sorts throughout their day, every day. That mantra was this, "Thank you for everything, I have no complaints whatsoever." It didn't make much sense to one man in particular. After a year of trying this meditation he returned to her.

"I've been saying this mantra for a year and I'm still selfish and angry and bitter. Please help me!

"Thank you for everything, I have no complaints whatsoever." Responded the Zen master. And the man arose with a new understanding and returned to his life able to embrace it more fully.

Our minister Mark remarked how people in Zen fables always seem to just "get it" with the snap of the fingers, and how crazy that made him. But in truth, the Zen master was telling us, that we must be grateful for everything...even the things that drive us nuts are gifts. So with that in mind.

I am grateful for anger, for it reminds me that I love myself.
I am grateful for loss, for it teaches me to appreciate and also gives me room for new joy in my life.
I am grateful for my life's challenges, for they teach me that my love is strong and unbending.
I am grateful for being disorganized, for it teaches me that I am resourceful as well.
I am grateful for adversaries, for they teach me that there is another vantage point.
I am grateful for tears for they cleanse my pallet, making it a welcoming place for the next round of joy.
I am grateful for my solitude, for it teaches me to appreciate my own company.
- And on another note-
I am grateful for my guiding them, they guide me.
I am grateful for my friends who ground me and remind me that we are all in this together.
I am grateful for my family who remind me that my past, present and future are all tied together.
Thank you all. I have no complaints, whatstoever.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Days Are Just Packed

Elyas: "Mommy, is your car a bug?"

Mommy: "No bug, my car is not a bug."

Elyas: "What is your car?"

Mommy: "It's a Taurus."

Dev: "Taurus? Like people who visit museums?"

Mommy: (Laughing) "Taurus, not tourist."

Dev (DEVilish smile on his face): "Oh you mean a large slow turtle!"

Mommy snorts: "Well that fits, huh?"

Dev: "Or maybe it's more of a dinosaur. A Torosuarus!"

Mommy has tears running down her face from laughter: "You've captured the essence of my car darling."

Dev: "So what does Taurus mean?"

Mommy: "It's a bull."

Dev sits and blinks. He is much better at naming cars than Ford Motor Company.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Honor Your Children

My friend Cyndi has a favorite quote that has touched me over the years of knowing her, the funny thing is it becomes more profound to me the longer it sits in my memory banks.

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.

I know I’ve told it over and over again, but on the day Devereaux was born, after fidgeting my way through recovery and chasing the loving devotees away from my bedside, I sat with my beautiful infant son in my lap staring long and hard into his beautiful chocolate brown eyes and wondering how on earth anything so perfect ever could have come from me. These first awe struck moments are the stuff that makes magic in ordinary lives, that give us meaning. These moments are the holiest of holy, because we are connected with the sheer tenacity of life and staring into the depths of true beauty. There is no more perfect moment.

But we must leave Eden, and start our lives outside the garden. There is spit up, and teething, first shots, and eventually temper tantrums, eating dirt, throwing up in the middle of the night, homework battles, undesirable friends…mountains of obstacles. And that is not all…

Nobody tells you about all of them. You start to get an idea, but just the slightest hint in about the sixth month of pregnancy, when people start telling you horror stories about their deliveries, or about why you MUST breastfeed, or why you simply MUST let your child cry it out, or why a certain kind of sheet is as good as putting your child to sleep on gasoline soaked rag. But even then, you have no idea how vicious the judgment of the parenting community will be.

I’m not really sure when it went into overdrive for me. It may have been when I noticed how the other mothers looked at me at playgroup when Devereaux was the only child who had to be chased all over the playground because he was rather like a balloon the air had just been let out of, whizzing around bumping into things and making obnoxious noises on the way. It might have been when I read on a birth board that other children just my son’s age were counting to 20, when we hadn’t even started working on it. Maybe it was just before his second birthday when a certain person informed me with haughty superiority that her son (I’m sorry, I can’t resist, who happened to be my husband) was potty trained at 13 months old! Maybe it was the first time I realized that other mothers actually had complexes about having had caesarian sections. Maybe it was the first time we were recommended to therapy, or for ADHD evaluations, or maybe it was just a culmination of all of the above and a little bit more. But there undoubtedly came a time that I began to worry, seriously, that I was not much of a mother. And more pointedly, that all of my imperfections were being passed on to my beautiful soft cheeked, brown eyed boys.

And this all sucks.

Now add to this anxiety a divorce, that really makes you question yourself and how good a person you really are, and all the nasty things that can be said in a divorce that makes you worry even more about your parenting skills, and some serious anxiety and temperament in a very sensitive child, and you have the recipe for a big bad case of Bad Mother Blues. And I’ve been suffering it for awhile, constantly second guessing my own choices, in fear of screwing them up and making them hate me, terrified of hearing the words that will always come in situations like this but make you bleed nevertheless “I don’t love you anymore, I only love my daddy!” Even writing that sucks the air out of my lungs, and it has been months since I’ve actually heard it.

So earlier today I found myself writing an email to my son’s therapist in essence asking for validation for going against the parenting peanut gallery out there telling me that the family bed is a horrible no-no. And then a few hours later I found myself discussing whether or not supporting a child’s choice of Halloween costume, even a costume that society at large might find strange, is good for a kid or not. A few hours after that I found myself reading a blog at Daddy Daze about how he worries constantly about passing his own baggage on to his kids. And it was at this point I stopped and said “WHOAH!”

And for one crystal clear moment I was back in that hospital room holding that perfect baby in my arms, and I knew…that day, a mother, just as perfect as that baby was born. And I need to trust her, because the best thing she ever did was to honor that child’s perfection.

In the middle of all this discussion and thought I spent some time with my eldest. I’d gotten off work early for an appointment with my lawyer then I picked him up from school and we came home for a decadent few hours of Lays potato chips, chocolate milk, and Shark Boy and Lava Girl. And while Max dreamed a better dream, Dev and I did too. He dug out a box of pipe cleaners that he had mangles in a bad transaction at day camp this summer and we quietly untangled and straightened them while watching the movie, and we each began to make little creations of our own. In the end, Dev carefully wound them all together in a creation he aptly dubbed “Love Man”

And also…”Love Man Gets a Great Idea”

And what have I learned from all of this? That Love Man will always have the best ideas and perhaps the ideas of the peanut gallery, pun entirely intended, be taken with a grain of salt. I know it because if you look at their faces, and into their hearts, they will lead you. Maybe the Ten Commandments didn’t get it wrong when “honor thy father and mother” was written but I think it was also only half right. Because honoring your children is to honor all that is holy in you.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

You say goodbye, I say hello

When I signed up for small group ministry about a year ago, I was nervous. I really didn't know at all what to expect. Sitting down having relatively intimate discussions about life and spirituality with ten relative strangers seemed dangerous. But I wanted to make friends in my church community. I really hoped that there would be another mother of young children with whom I might connect in my group. On my first day I sidled in to the room and sat down. Face after face appeared in the doorway, none of them the young moms from the toddler room I hoped to see. In fact, I was worried. Most of the group was considerably older than I. How could I connect meaningfully with people my mother's age or older? Ah yes, agism alive and well in my UU body. Then she rushed in, rustling around creating a stir...a typical Mary Ellen entrance. She beamed her "I'm a sweet old lady" apple cheeked smile at us and told us not to mind her. But no one could be in the same room with Mary Ellen and not take notice. She is that woman, you'll notice her because regardless of what she says, she wouldn't have it any other way.

You have to get a mental picture of Mary Ellen. Mary Ellen has the picturesque charm of every sweet grandmother, school librarian, neat, tidy, and practically perfect in every way Mary Poppins you've ever met or conjured in your imagination. But let me tell you a small secret. Mary Ellen is no Mary Poppins. Mary Ellen is a mensch. The first time I ever heard Mary Ellen speak it was at our church's annual member meeting. We were voting on important matters of budget and conscience. But Mary Ellen defined the UU experience for me by rising and sweetly chastising the congregation for holding our annual meeting while the gay pride parade was preparing to begin. What kind of Unitarians do that? That, my friends is my friend Mary Ellen.

I thought about my friend Mary Ellen two days ago when I read Damomma's account of a scary incident. I thought about her for a lot of reasons. Small group ministry is supposed to be rather like Vegas...without the slot machines, stage shows or alcohol...but what happens in small group is supposed to stay in small group. I hope the laws of Vegas, small group and the divine Mary Ellen will forgive me for sharing this. Mary Ellen is the most committed atheist I've ever known, a strong, willful humanist woman. On this day we were discussing prayer, and she told us the only time she'd ever truly prayed was on the day that she rode in an ambulence with her son who had been hit by a car while riding his bike. Her prayer was not a request, it was a demand, "God!" she yelled out loud in the audience of a stunned paramedic, "Don't you hold this child responsible for my non-belief!" That's my Mary Ellen.

Mary Ellen has had a hard year too, much harder by far than mine. Always busy with her work for hospice, caring for her aging and sick husband, she missed our last few sessions of small group last spring. "Under the weather," she reported simply via email. I learned during the summer that she had been diagnosed with cancer. It spread quickly and her doctors have spent the summer trying to keep up with it. As it goes with things like this, one week we would get an email telling us that she was doing better, the next week there would be some new challenge. But always the emails ended with a reminder that Mary Ellen needs her rest to fight this thing, so while cards and letters were very welcome, please don't plan to visit. But today the email was different. Today the email was simply it is time to say goodbye, here is her room number, if you have something to say, you'd better say it now.

Mary Ellen also told us that in her work at hospice, she often became very close to people and their families at the end of their days. It was not uncommon for families to ask her to pray at their bedsides or funerals. She said she didn't feel comfortable with this, as she was indeed an atheist, but a Unitarian as well, and she encompassed well our fourth principle, the right to free and responsible search for truth and meaning. So she would generally suggest that a family member or close friend might be better suited for the task. But occasionally, she said, she couldn't get around it. So when she prayed for these people, she tried to pray as she thought they would have prayed themselves. I am trying, and will continue to try to pray for Mary Ellen as she would do. By standing up and speaking out for what is right, by taking up the cause of the defenseless, by nurturing humor and compassion with a strong voice and a steady hand. And I hope you will too.

It's been a long time now since I've seen my friend, and I'm a bit afraid of what I'll find when I do go to see her. I'm so angry that she's saying goodbye, just as I was learning to say hello. But this is what life give us. I'm thankful I got any of it at all.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Where we are going is someplace we've been...

Here's a great poem from Jean Wyrick "Poem for an Inked Daughter."

I wanted to share this with you resonated in me. Not that I have a teenaged daughter showing up to dinner with dragons inked on her shoulder...nor did my mother care about my outrageous (and ugly) earrings when I was a kid. But we've all done it, looked into the eyes of these children and seen our own peering back at us with the same fears, defiance, frustration, and oh, yes...our very own humor staring us down and challenging us.

Remember that when you respond my friends. The best parenting advice I've ever read was "be the kind of parent you wished you had." If you take that on the surface, well that could be dangerous, I suppose, because we all probably wanted rich, famous and very lenient parents. But deeply...what did you want your mom to say when you were hurt? What might dad have missed that he shouldn't have missed? In the stillness of your heart, the answer to the kind of parent you want to be is the kind of parent you wished you'd had. And if you had that kind of parent...your kids are doubly blessed, because you got a mentorship.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

What are you made of?

"Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice, that's What Little Girls are made of..."
I've been a big talker lately, haven't I? I can sit here smugly and write about seeking joy and forgiving and taking on new chanllenges...and yet I find myself frozen in fear, for reasons I can't quite grasp, at the prospect of walking into a courtroom, for a proceeding that has an obvious and expected conclusion, expecting no surprises. But still crazy afraid.

I came home tonight and consumed my new favorite comfort food, a chicken taco salad, heavy on the sour cream, and fitfully watched the episode of Project Runway that I missed last night. I respectfully got sucked in, but each time they went to commercial, I found myself up and pacing like a caged animal. Peaceful was not my name.

I climbed into the bathtub with the thought that my brain may slow down if I boiled it in lightly scented bathwater. But instead in boiled over...I suddenly remembered an article I read a few days ago and this voice, actually That voice, came thundering into my head, "Eileen, what are you made of? That's the problem, that's the question." And I have to tell you that my sweat shirt is still sticking to my body because I didn't dry off well enough because I needed to start writing this before it went away.

So the article I read was an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the much blogged about book "Eat Pray Love." She was infact talking to a reporter about her adventure which is chronicled in that book. And she said this,

"What has changed about the world, I think, is that women can now take those epic journeys, too. Joseph Campbell (whom I do love, by the way) always said that there was no such thing as the feminine heroic quest; that women have, mythologically speaking, never needed to go out there in the world and "find themselves" because, as life-bearers, as the living goddesses of fertility, we are already perfect and whole. Now, while it certainly is flattering to be deemed a perfected life-goddess, I for one don't personally relate to that icon at all."

It is really so true. I love Joseph Campbell, but this same statement has always bothered me, as does "sugar and spice and everything nice." And it continues in current popular music, when in his song, "Daughters" John Mayer tells us:

"Boys, you can break
You'll find out how much they can take
Boys will be strong
And boys soldier on
But boys would be gone without the warmth from
A womans good, good heart"

But girls we have our own quests to make...sometimes instead of away from tending the fire, we must quest instead to go through it. And to hell with them if they don't get it.

And I was sitting in that bathtub and it all fell down on my head. I'm not sugar and spice and everything nice. I'm not perfect or a living goddess. I'm on my own heroic journey. I am woman...and I'm learning...and I'm growing...and you can't stop me.

What I'm afraid of, I think, is walking into that courtroom, knowing that it's the biggest test of my life. I have to walk in there and find out what I'm made I a blow hard sitting behind a computer or am I a person on a quest? Am I sugar and spice and everything nice or am I real and confident and flowing? Will I be who I am, or will I be wearing a hockey mask?

My husband has a favorite phrase about getting ready for something big, "putting your game face on." But for me, this time, it's about taking my game face off, and seeing what is underneath. And I think he'll be surprised, at least I hope so. Because if it is what I think it is, it is nothing he's ever seen before.

It is nothing I've ever seen before. And it is amazing.

You are what you dig deep, right Neicey?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Forgive and Forget

Humans are hard wired for learning. Who knows why, but we've made it to this place in our development because we learn from our mistakes. As little children we touch something we aren't supposed to teach and some thundering voice from above tells us "No!" (And I'm talking about your caregiver's voice, not God's, but when you are less than two feet tall, there isn't much difference.) And we look at that object, not making a conscience choice to learn, but we memorize it, and we see it as a "No!"

"NO!" is the first word I ever wrote. I was four, and I had a felt tip marker and was starting toward my mother's ironing board with it. My older sister shouted "Eileen, NO!" and stormed away to get mom. So that is what I wrote on the ironing board cover. My mother didn't see the humor in it that I do know. That ironing board, the last time I saw it when I was about sixteen, still had the faded out "NO" written very clearly on the edge reminding me that this object was a big "NO!" Throughout my childhood, each time that thing was hauled out from the shadows; I felt varying degrees of guilt, frustration, and impudence in looking at it. What I never felt was forgiveness. I'm not saying that my mother never forgave me, although I can't say for certain that she did because we never talked about it. But the person who most needed to forgive me got taught the lesson of "No!" that day, but never got taught how to forgive herself. That, if you are as slow as she is, was me.

For all our abilities to learn from all sorts of mistakes, the biggest mistake we make in life is often one that we don't know how to recognize as such. The mistake of harboring anger, towards ourselves and others. Anger is a heavy ugly load to carry, particularly anger toward ourselves. And anger toward others, only inspires anger toward ourselves, because we are carrying around the weight of the mistakes of others with no lesson to learn from it other than "NO!" a lesson we all learned when we were under two feet tall. And so, we suffer.

How does one learn to forgive? I'll be honest and tell you I haven't figured it all out yet. But there is some wisdom in the old idiom "forgiving and forgetting." The idea was presented to me over fifteen years ago when I first read Life 101. When you break down these two words you get something very interesting, a concept that has helped me learn to embrace forgiving and forgetting. "For Giving" If you are "For Giving" well, that's a great thing, isn't it? In this case you want to be all for giving the weight of the problem up. Be for giving yourself credit for having made a mistake, and knowing that you won't make it again. Be for giving the person who hurt you the weight of the misdeed back, so that they too can learn from it. If you are carrying around for them, they will only learn that you are an emotional pack mule. "For getting" Usually when you hear the word forget it sounds like you are going to give up the lesson you learned, but that isn't what the word says, is it? It says you are "For Getting." But what are you for getting? I'm willing to believe that by being For Giving, you make room on your emotional plate "For Getting." Forgetting is making room for joy, for new experiences, for better than the injury you've been nursing.

I'm giving up some baggage I've been hauling short term and long term, because I'm all for getting some new beauty in my life. How about you?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Grapes and Wine

I'm an eater. Ask anyone who's seen me from the neck down, they'll tell you, yup, Ei's an eater. Now this is not to say I have an astounding sense of what is fabulous in cuisine, nor is it to say I even know what I like, but I eat really well. I eat when I'm sad, when I'm bored, when I'm get the picture. The one time in my life that you can tell that something is really wrong is when I'm not eating much of anything for an extended period of time. That is indeed a really serious sign. Other than physical ailments, it has happened three times in my lifetime - once was this spring.

But this tendency to want to just chew up life, gulping it down in large chewy bites is not limited to food. It is the way I consume information, relationships, even my relationship with the divine. I don't want to sample it, to savor the aromas, to feel the texture on my lips or to even admire it sitting on a plate. I want to ingest my life...infuse it into my very being. And I've realized that this has become a problem.

My weight is only a small indicator of how ineffective my approach to life has been, but certainly the most readily apparent, nagging reminder of how much I've sucked into myself without thinking, without feeling, without even enjoying. And how little I've passed up. How little I've let go. It is the ever present symbol of the baggage I tote from even my youngest days in life...dragging around thirty some odd years of impulsive cramming myself full of life, regardless of it's nutrient level or taste.

So here I am at 37 a few short weeks from 38 and finally saying "I'm stuffed...I couldn't eat another bite." In other words, to quote an old old commercial, "I can't believe I ate the whole thing."

I've never been to a vineyard. I can't say that it has ever interested me. As a whole I'm not really about drinking too much. This is not to say that I didn't go through my period of stuffing myself on the experience of drunkenness and released inhibitions and wild parties that left me feeling broken and restless. But I've never been one to really enjoy a glass of wine, a special cocktail, the best stout beer. I really didn't get it. I had a friend in Denver who had wine parties the way some people have Tupperware parties (and yes there really is a company out there that does this with fine German wines). I went to her parties, but I really didn't get it. I got myself their wonderful dessert wine and promptly drank the entire bottle by myself. If I had visited a vineyard though I quite imagine I would have stuffed myself indiscriminately on grapes while tromping through the vineyard, rather than saving myself for the wine once we entered the cellar. By the time we'd gotten to the wine, my stomach would have been protesting, telling me that wine was out of the already wanted to throw up.

I really admire people who know themselves. That know their wine. I've not really been that person in my life, as much as that is something that I've wanted to consume, it was just too much waiting for an eater. Wine isn't a pluck it off the vine, or shelf, or drive through window interest. Wine takes patience and education, and a very clear sense of self, meaning, knowing the difference between what makes a wine good to the world and what makes a wine your own special taste. I haven't had that kind of time to invest in wine. I haven't made that kind of time.

Now before Christie gets on my tail about aspiring to be a lush, let's be clear that this is my metaphor for the day. I've decided that I need to slow down and witness more and ingest less. That I need to smell some fruit that I will never taste, and marvel at the artistry of a cream puff that will never end up in the seat of my jeans. I need to pluck some grapes and make some wine. And when the wine is finally ready, I will savor it...because it is mine and it belongs completely to me. And hopefully, by the time it is complete, I will have plenty of room in the seat of my jeans for it too. Because I'm tired of hauling around an entire lifetime of impulsiveness like Marley hauled the chains of his life. It's heavy, and burdensome and unattractive.

I've decided that I'm not looking for another love to consume (or who will consume me). If I ever love again it will be because the perfect blend of fruit is delivered, by happenstance, into my open hands. It will be because that fruit ferments perfectly and is tended with caring skilled hands. And when it is consumed, I will experience it with every sense I have available to me. And if I never have the chance to make that perfect bottle of wine, I will die happy at spending the rest of my life cultivating the skills to do it anyway, rather than gorging myself on grapes.

However...I may still indulge in a handful of grapes now and then. Man cannot live on wine alone.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Warning...mind bending statement coming...

That's what I hear when there is a certain tone and frequency to the way my son says "Hey, Mom...."

"Hey, Mom?"

"Hmmm?" Pulling nose out of book..."Yes darling, what is it?"

"Do you think that God stays in heaven because he's afraid of what he's created?"

(Insert the sound of crickets chirping here....)

Well, what would you say if your seven year-old asked you?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Actually, it's half full...

There's been a whole lotta blogging going on in reference to Natasha Bedingfield's song Unwritten. There's a reason for that, you know.

It's my youngest son's favorite song. There is something so endearing about his sweet toothless lisp crooning out "Feel the rain on your skin, No one else can feel it for you, Only you can let it in, No one else, no one else, Can speak the words on your lips."

It matters it matters that it speaks to him, that it speaks to you, that it speaks to us. We're all unwritten. We all have empty pages in the journal, admittedly some of us have fewer pages left than sweet Elyas.

Which brings me to the real topic on my mind...all those pages we've already written upon. We all seem so focused on what we will write, might write, want to write, that we sometimes do not give enough props to those pages we've agonized over, poured ourselves into, or even the stuff we've jotted down on the fly, never knowing until years later how much it really meant.

I have pages, volumes of pages, and you do too. I may be unfinished, but I'm not unwritten. And I'm learning to live and love it. I hope you are too.

It's not enough to know where you are going, you have to know where you've been. And love it. And I do.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

In the middle of nowhere

I was driving down the interstate today, thinking. What else do you do when you are driving down an interstate? Like always I'm thinking about where I'm at in my life...thinking about how I got here, thinking about where I might be going. I-80 isn't a very interesting route. Not much to look at, lots of pretty fluffy clouds, dead racoons on the side of the road, lots of trucks.

Like I often do, I notice the cars driving around me, how there is a pattern to the craziness. How you end up kind of traveling "with" someone for awhile, because they are driving about the same speed, in the same direction, and you kind of feel like you have a traveling partner, even when you know you don't. But then they get pissy about a slow driver, or take off on some exit to get gas or food, or slow down because they are nervous about a cop you've passed, and *poof!* traveling partner is gone. And suddenly you are in the middle of nowhere without your partner. Your partner that you never really had. But it was comforting for a moment, wasn't it?

I grew up in a little town that has an event every year called "The Middle of Nowhere Festival." When I was about 11, in fact I know I was 11 because it was the year my sister got married, the year my dad died, Ainsworth hosted the National Horseshoe Championship. Who knew such an event even existed? I didn't, but there we were hosting it. And there was this guy, a professional bowler, who was on Johnny Carson one night telling Johnny that he was on the way to the middle of nowhere to participate in this event. So when he rolled into town he was greeted with a huge vinyl banner that said, "Welcome to the Middle of Nowhere." I guess someone needed to depreciate the expense of that vinyl banner, because it became an annual thing every year thereafter. It's been 25 years, and I wonder how many people in that town even remember why they do this? Anyway, I couldn't help but agree with the bowler. I hated the town where I grew up. It was bland and boring and mean and I couldn't wait to find the world, get lost in a city, own some notariaty. I couldn't wait to get somewhere.

I grew up, I went to cities, I slept with artists, I read great books, explored the dives, and drank up the theatre. I gave birth to beautiful children, and I drank in the texture of the world.

And still I wake up again and again in the middle of nowhere.

What did I miss?

I got home and read some blogs. I talked to my friend. I tried to sleep. I filled out paperwork for my divorce. Finally I plugged in one of my favorite movies, even though I knew it was a dangerous choice, American Beauty. It's a weird movie, because everytime I watch it, I identify with all of the characters, some more than others at different times. I thought tonight that I'm somewhere in the middle of all of them. And I laughed. And then I cried.

Both my wife and daughter think I'm this gigantic loser, and...they're right. I have lost something. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I know I didn't always feel this..sedated. But you know what? It's never too late to get it back.

It's a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do that you've forgotten about.

Ricky to Angela
She's not your friend. She's someone you use to feel better about yourself.

Angela to Jane
At least I'm not ugly!

Yes you are. And you're boring. And you're totally ordinary. And you know it.

Our marriage is just for show, a commercial to show how normal we are, when we are anything but.

Angela to Lester
Do you think I'm ordinary?

You couldn't be ordinary if you tried.

I can't think of anything worse than being ordinary.

Lester, closing speech
I'd always heard your entire life flashes before your eyes a second before you die. First of all, that one second isn't a second at all. It stretches on forever, like an ocean of time. For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars. And yellow leaves from the maple trees that lined our street. Or my grandmother's hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper. And the first time I saw my cousin Tony's brand-new Firebird. And Janie. And Janie.
And ... Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but its hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst. Then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain, and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.

I don't know where I went wrong, or if I went wrong. Maybe I'm supposed to be in the middle of nowhere. Maybe that's where it's all at. Look at the miles of puffy white clouds...the semi-trucks racing by. Look at the road kill and all the people racing to get somewhere. Look at the cornstalks whipping in the wind. Maybe there's something here I missed.

You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry. You will someday.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Poor Katy didn't

A real conversation from my life.

D: Mom, remember that Katydid that we caught in Mr. Cute Teacher's room?

M: Sure, very cool.

D: Did I tell you that Matthew caught a Praying Mantis?

M: Yes, I saw him at conferences, remember?

D: Mr. Cute Teacher put Matthew's Praying Mantis in with the Katydid today. And the Praying Mantis ATE him!

M: (Stunned silence)

D: School is just so cool!

The Theatre of Life

My love affair with theatre (and yes, I'm enough of a theatre geek that I spell it that way, not "theater") began as most do I imagine, in a darkened auditorium, swept away in the wonder and majesty of a beautiful story close enough to touch. A story you feel like you are part of, not witnessing. I was four years old and my mother took me to a production of Camelot at the college she attended. Had it been any other production, I can honestly tell you the course of my life might have been altered. This one evening in my life at such a tender age defined me in ways that I'm only begining to understand.

Of course, what four year old girl isn't rapt with the idea of Kings and Queens and dashing knights in armor, and lovely wicked bastard sons working their evil in dastardly ways? That's what hooked me, I loved sweet selfish Guenivere and doddering and loving Arthur. I was enamored with the narcissistic (go figure) Lancelot and squealed with delight at Mordred's charming flavor of nastiness. But the thing that stuck with me from day one to whatever day I'm on today was the scene where the round table was conceived.

Arthur was a well meaning screw up. He had accidentally become king, it had never been his intention to be king, and he wore the title uncomfortably. Finally in a place with the love of a woman that he adores, he wants desperately to be more than king...he wants to be a GOOD king. He races through their chambers as he dresses pontificating about what it is that his kingdom needs. He knows more than anything that it needs peace. As he wraps himself around the idea that the noblemen, the knights of his kingdom, must personify something new, he thinks about who they are. They are the strongest, both physically and economically, of the land. And with their power, they determine how life is for all others. Their might determines what is right. "Might is right," he disconcertedly mutters to himself. Finally with the help of Guenivere, he begins to realize that as king, he can mold a new heirarchy, where all nobles are equal and given equal consideration. Guenivere offers the use of a huge round table that they were gifted for their wedding so that no one would have the honor of sitting at the head, all people would be equal. And as the idea springs to life, Arthur dashes around the room shouting about his ideal kingdom, ending triumphantly with "Not might is right...might FOR right!"
I was caught and my fate as an idealist, bleeding heart, liberal theatre geek was sealed. Might for right. Might FOR right. It resonates at the very core of my being. It is in everything I feel and I do. I'm a little girl caught in my own fantasy kingdom that didn't quite grow up.

But it isn't such a bad thing.

We all know where that story went. Arthur built his beautiful Camelot into a place more magical than he could have imagined. It attracted people from far and wide, including the man who would be his best friend and who would also destroy it all, Lancelot. And it attracted the attention of a bitter son who would have them all die in bitter dissapointment for the sins of his father.
"Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot."

Ok, so if you aren't a theatre person, or don't know the show, I'm probably taking lots for granted. But in the final scene as Camelot crumbles, Arthur sends a young boy out into the world, comanding him to hide and be safe, to live a long and fruitful life, and to tell anyone who would listen about the beauty and the joy that Camelot had brought.

"Run boy, RUN!"

And I was that boy. I'm still fighting the fight, dreaming the dream. And I'm enamored by the fact that my own Lancelot didn't destroy the dream. And I'm wondering if maybe there's a round table hidden in a dungeon somewhere in the depths of my soul that I need to drag out, clean up, and put to use.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


If you've never been in therapy, I have to tell you it is a very bizarre experience. Not because it is painful (which it can be) or because it is embarassing (it can also be that) or that it is uncomfortable (I tend to think this is a given). The thing that makes it incredibly strange is walking in to a room, having a relative stranger hold up a mirror to you and seeing things that you, a relatively intelligent, thinking person can't see when you yourself pick up the mirror.
For me it's gone something like:

Very Astute Therapist: So Eileen, do you see this here?

Ei: Well, yes, I guess, I do...

VAT: You see what this is don't you?

Ei: Uhm, I guess it's a wall of some sort...

VAT: It's a brick wall, Eileen.

Ei: Oh, yeah...ok...I can see that...yes, that makes sense.

VAT: Eileen, honey, you need to stop smashing your head against it...that's not real healthy.

Ei: that why there is blood running down my forehead?

VAT: There's a box of tissues right there on the table, would you like a glass of water?

Yeah, it's something like that. And suddenly you are out in the sunshine and fresh air and you are seeing brick walls all over the place. And you suddenly start remembering old, old brick walls on which you've knocked yourself unconscious. And you feel pretty foolish. But you also feel pretty damn good, because you know you can stop the madness. And you have a weird desire to walk up to total strangers and say, "Hey, did you know this is a brick wall?"

Well, it's not that simple of course, but I can recognize the type of brick wall that I'm probably most likely to mistake for a feather pillow now. Now I just have to work on letting go a particularly difficult brick wall. But it sure helps to know what it is.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Who am I? Really?

Our minister, Mark, likes to challenge traditional understandings of language, particularly religious language. While we can all agree that being a Unitarian Universalist is quite different than belonging to practically any other church community in North America, he is quite dogged in holding on to traditional Christian language in describing our culture as an organization, as a people. And while I understand that historically, our roots are Judeo Christian, and too that it is a good mental exercise to challenge the stereotypes we embed in the meaning of words, I wonder if we're doing anyone any favors. "Church," "sermon," "ministry" are all words that inspire a thought process inside of the minds and hearts of people. And I wonder if we are challenging stereotypes, or arm wrestling over them. We, as UUs, end up explaining ourselves a lot. We get raised eyebrows from people who have heard us talking about being involved in church and then hear us adamantly rejecting God language and dogma. There's even a much-revered process in the UU tradition, called the Elevator Speech in which you try to figure out how you would explain Unitarian Universalism in the length of an elevator ride to a stranger. I realize of course it is all for the sake of starting honest open inviting Creative Interchange. But I wonder how honest and open they are if they are so contrived? Are we really co-opting another aspect of Christianity that we don’t seem to honor so much, the art of witnessing, an art that I've always seen as recruiting? wonder some Christians don't like us so much. We take their language, their practices, and all their best ideas and wrap it around a package that is not theirs. How frustrating. How utterly rude.

At the same time though, we are humans, with both a desire to express ourselves, claim our right to be in society, to be a meaningful part of that society, and to do it on our own terms. One of my most beloved swiped ideas came from Maya Angelou. She once wrote, in a nutshell, that if a man tells you he’s a bad person, you should believe him. He knows himself better than you do. The original idea, I think was that people will reflect to you what they've already told you about themselves, because they are just setting up the story they've already written. A man who tells you he can't be faithful doesn't want you to fix him; he just wants you to know that he doesn't intend to be faithful. A woman, who tells you that she's always managed to find broken men, doesn't mean to tell you that she is changing her ways when she comes to you, but that she intends to find what’s broken in you. Of course, this is Maya's truth, and to some extent mine, and it, like all truths can be challenged. All the same, it is uncomfortable to look at some of the declarative statements I've made about myself, and claim them as my own responsibility, and yet somehow I must. When I say I'm shy and awkward, I must acknowledge on some level that I'm choosing that. When I've said that I don't love myself in the past, I must know that I have also chosen that.

UGH. My thoughts are so tangled up in knots!

So the reason I'm thinking about this is because I joined a book club. Ok, I didn't join, yet. A friend invited me and she said, this is the book were reading and I went out to pick it up. And I'm having a crisis about it. The book is by Anne Lamott and its titled Plan B, Further Thoughts on Faith. Initially I was skeptical...I didn’t want to be preached "the word of God" in my casual reading. That’s why I'm UU after all. But the women who invited me to this group are also UU, so I thought that there must be something to this, and I checked out some reviews, and bought the book. I opened up my mouth and said, "I am open minded, I want to see what this woman has to say." And I started reading.

Ms. Lamott is a liberal, anti-Bush, "its all about love" Christian. She's anti-war, pro-helping the helpless, and very much into the fact that we are all human "becomings" not necessarily human beings. Even on a personal level, I have much in common with her...struggling with lack of focus when it comes to meditation or prayer, guilt over anger felt for a dysfunctional mother, and the belief that with all things, you can only start where you are, and bumble your way out of it. And surprisingly, or maybe ironically, or maybe even predictably, will all that we have in common, I don't like Lamott at all. I find her weak kneed and self-indulgent. I see her grappling with an urgency to be kind to herself, but not so much to the people who love her. Mostly I find her wishy-washy, and it surprises me that it bothers me so much. She writes with pain-staking honesty about confusion and despair, and I wonder how much she chooses it. And I'm surprised to find that I'm thinking more conservatively than I ever have, but I'm modeling myself after a black poet laureate in my thoughts, rather than a white woman who sports dread-locks and is a New York Times best-selling author, and I wonder which is a more appropriate liberal role model. I tried to think of these two women on a continuum of Liberalness versus Conservatism, but I can’t even place them in the same universe, much less the same continuum. And this all makes me think that we approach this all wrong.

We tend to identify ourselves with people with whom we share a view of the world...religiously, politically, and philosophically, etc. But some things have happened in my life that have made me challenge the wisdom of this way of personally aligning yourself, of choosing your tribe. I have a good friend who is a very conservative Christian. We've butted heads loudly and with much anguish on subject matters that we both hold personally sacred. And yet we are drawn to each other like magnets. We revel in each others company, and I can tell you that I respect this woman so much more than I do Anne Lamott, with whom I should believe that I have so much in common. My friend and I have often wondered about why it is we are drawn to one another when our definition of the world is so different. But reflection on Anne Lamott, Maya Angelou and the language of Unitarian Universalism has made me realize that it’s not the world you have to agree on, it’s yourselves. My friend and I look from different eyes and see a different reality, but we define ourselves in much the same way...survivors, optimists, loving, loyal and strong. We are women who challenge ourselves and our society to do better and be stronger. We do not accept the wimpy voices that tell us we are just helpless little souls with no real power in the world. We know that we are only mortal, but we don't use it as an excuse to not try hard. She said it in a different way, but I think she's right - we don't share eyes; we share hearts.

I've been struggling with my labels lately. The way I define myself has been so limited. I don’t like being a theist or a non-theist. I don’t like being a victim or a feminist or a divorcee or a girl. I've said it before that the only label that defines me, even remotely accurately, is Eileen.

And even that has severe limitations.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The tooth fairy is a thug

So I don't know if I've ever mentioned it, but my son, the almost seven year old is kind of funny about his teeth falling out. That's it, he requires them to come out all on their own, even if they are dangling from a thread of skin, nobody better touch those teeth. He's lost three so far. The bad thing about this method of harvesting teeth is that it's rather much so that no one really notices. Dev will just be talking and you'll notice his tooth is gone. So it has gone with two of the three lost tooth to turn in to the tooth fairy. But amazingly she's come and left a pittance to soothe the soul of the six-year-old child...and I thought she just must be an angel...or I did until today. Now I realize her roots are in organized crime. Nothin' for nothin' now don't you know?

At 4:30 sharp the telephone rings. It's Miss Sweet Soft-spoken Teacher from Elyas' preschool class.

"Hello Mrs. Jackson? This is Miss SST.."

"Hi! What's up?"

"Well, Elyas had a little accident and..."

Now my brain hears little accident and I'm thinking he needs a change of clothes...

"...and he was riding a trike in EL and crashed into another child and he knocked out his two front teeth."

I'm sure she continued talking at this point. Or maybe she didn't all I could hear was myself saying "Oh my god! Oh my god!" over and over again. Or maybe I wasn't saying it, I'm not sure. I told her I'd be right there, called Darius and told him to call ahead to the dentist and find out if we should go there or to the emergency room and I literally ran from my office to my boss, and without actually even stopping I told him what had happened and ran to the car. I think I ran two lights.

When I got there he had about seven teachers tending him. I wondered who was with all of the other children. I scooped him up and Miss SST directed me to the conference room where I called Darius (you know my cell phone picks the damnedest days to konk out on me) who told me I was to call the dentist and then demanded to know what happened. I had no time to talk to him so I said I'd call him back. I called the dentist's office and we were on our way in a few minutes. I called his cell phone number as I was leaving the room and handed the phone off too poor Miss SST, saying, "Please tell him what happened."

We entered the office with milk packed teeth in my purse and sobbing babe on my shoulder. A very pregnant hygienist directed us immediately back to a room and Dr. Charming Pants was there in minutes. He examined scared and sobbing boy. I was doing my best to put on my "Mommy's not worried, so don't you be either." face, but I could tell he wasn't convinced. I kissed his fingers and patted his little face. Dr. CP asked me to step out in the hallway to talk while Very Pregnant prepared Elyas for an x-ray. He started to explain that they wouldn't try to put the teeth back in because, at Elyas' age, the roots of the baby tooth had already begun to disintegrate, in preparation for his adult teeth coming in. There was not enough root for the teeth to attach to, and even if there were, there would be a good chance that doing so would damage his adult teeth. Now I knew there was more to this...but I didn't get there. Not because my baby was crying for me...not because Very Pregnant went into labor...because I, one of the sturdiest moms I know, fainted. I don't know why, I had eaten today, it wasn't the blood...I just flat out went down. I was able to utter, "Hey I'm sorry I'm getting very dizzy..." quickly enough that they were able to help me into a chair before I really went out. I wasn't out too long, but it was a scary enough event that I never ever want to repeat it.

Well, after I so rudely interrupted, Elyas had his x-ray. There was a phone conference with a pediatric dentist in another city. And there is a possibility that he might lose the teeth on either side as well, but they are going to let nature take its course. There is a good likelihood though that the gum will firm up around them and he will retain them.

Meanwhile.... Elyas gets to look like a six year old with lost teeth for probably the next three years. The dentist tells me that scar tissue from this accident could actually slow down his permanent teeth coming in. And then we'll get to see if they got damaged too. Yippee.

Damn tooth fairy. She could've just asked for her money back.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Of Houseplants and Friendship

My Grandma Ruby raised African Violets. They were her favorite plant in the world...her kitchen window sill was always filled with little plastic margarine tubs sprouting little purple flowers and soft fuzzy leaves. She said that they were the sturdiest little plants and so easy to grow. I think she also liked the fact that in the middle of the sand hills of Nebraska, anything tagged with the title "African" sounded exotic and like me she loved the way the leaves tickled against her skin as she lifted them up to water them. By the time my memories all begin of my grandmother the only house plants she really kept were African Violets, sans one huge old philodendron in the living room. I know that it wasn't always the case, as my mother sometimes told me about the houseful of beautiful plants my grandmother kept when she was a young woman and how adept she had been at making them blossom and grow. I think my mother thought my grandmother had grown too tired and old to keep up after all of those plants, and to some degree, she might have been right. But I also think that maybe my grandmother just really figured out that you only have so much time and energy in life, and you have to spend it on that what makes you happy. African Violets made my grandmother happy.

Me, I certainly didn't inherit Ruby's bubbly, silly personality, her skill for making piecrusts, or her green thumb. I've gone for years at a time without having a single plant in my house because I really didn't think I could make them live. I went through a short phase though, back in Denver where I had a houseful of plants that I had gifted to me by my employer...the office was always changing out plants...had a plant service, and when they no longer fit the decor, they got sent home with the employees or sent to the trash. You know I couldn't let them just wither and die in a dumpster because they'd gone out of social justice gene wouldn't allow that. So for a time, I became a shelter for homeless plants. I had all kinds of amazing and interesting plants. I discussed their care in depth with the plant guy at the office and I spent a great deal of energy taking care of them every day. I started shopping for new pots for them and they gave me a special joy. At one point I even ended up bringing home a small potted lemon tree, which thrived under my carefully noted instructions from the plant guy. Maybe, just maybe, I thought, I DID inherit a little bit of a green thumb! Huh! But you know the only thing that you can count on in life is change. Scott and I split up. When I moved, the lemon tree didn't make it. The stress of being strapped to my little pick up truck and hauled through the streets of Denver was just too hard on it. And I got more involved in theatre again, and I wasn't home as much, and I started to neglect them...not intentionally, but I'd forgot a watering, or there suddenly wasn't enough money for special fertilizers. I was lonely and got a cat that liked to chew on them.

By the time I met Darius, they were all pretty much gone.

In the last few years I've discovered succulents. Succulents, if you don't know tend to be beautiful plants that don't require a whole lot of care. They certainly like a little attention now and then...but if you miss watering them for even a whole month they don't shrivel up and die, they just kind of go into hibernation. In fact, I've found that sometimes you can pay just a little too much attention to them. They don't die, but they get cranky. Between them and my bamboo that grows in rocks with water, I've finally found my houseplant niche.

It has been a thought of mine over the years that relationships are living things that have to be nurtured and cared for. It's only recently that I've begun to look at them with the houseplant in mind, but the more I consider it, the more I find it a worth analogy. Most of my friendships, like my plants, are succulents. They don't require a whole lot other than a little bit of water now and then and some appreciation from time to time. They don't thrive on a schedule or on too much fertilizer. Sometimes they get root bound and you have to move them into a bigger container, but that's an occasional maintenance thing. They are relaxed and unencumbered with watering schedules and demanding fertilizer routines, in fact, they'd probably balk at it. But they are ever present and shine beautifully in my life and their mere presence gives me joy.

Some of my relationships are more like the bamboo...they grown in the damnedest of places and require lots and lots of water, but little else. They have a sort of Zen presence that soothes me, and it is no problem to refill the water once a week because it has become a process that fills me up as much as it is a tending of the relationship, and that gives me great joy.

I have a philodendron or two, that are like my grandmother's...old and huge and you know, you are never quite sure what you did right with it, but it survived the years and it's big and beautiful and you are very proud of it.

And of course some relationships are like great old trees out in the yard. You don't have much to do with them other than appreciate them and make sure the bugs don't get them. They are the relationships that give you shade and a safe place to rest. They are shelter and a haven.

Now like with my plants, I've gone through my green thumb phase of life with friendships too. I've tended hothouse flowers, and shrinking violets. I've tended lovely willowy ferns and clinging vines both of which grow so fast it's hard to keep up with it. I've planted trees that didn't make it to adulthood.

Both with friendships and gardening I think I've begun to understand what I'm capable of and what I am not and what makes me happy. I appreciate my friends who can raise orchids, and while I admire them, I can't. I'm a succulent kind of girl, and I'm thinking maybe a bit of an African Violet lover myself...but I'm not sure I can raise them. I'll have to see if I can channel some of my Grandma Ruby and find out.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


I've been running on "E" for awhile. I'm sorry if I haven't been able to support you the way a good friend should. I've been hyper-focused on my son's issues for a few months. Not necessarily the "right" approach to life, but sometimes the right approach isn't even an option.

But at the insistence of my therapist I did two things this weekend. One was to NOT read parenting books or "take care of my children" when they aren't here to take care of...she saw a pattern in me that I need to be taking care of my loved ones all the time and make no room for myself.

The second thing was she insisted I plan some sort of outing. I'd confessed that my weekends alone had become a time of shutting myself in from the outside world. She insisted that I get out, even if it was just to go have a cup of coffee by myself. So yesterday I went to Walgreen’s to pick up my antidepressants and some Excedrin, and I discovered I was hungry. I lingered in front of the frozen dinners at Walgreen’s for a moment, but I knew I really hadn't fulfilled the spirit of the "getting out of the house" prescription and a tasty deli sandwich suddenly sounded very appealing. I drove first to the South Union Bakery, where I've had a good bite once, but found sadly that they were closed and on to Crave on 6th Avenue...also closed. I was bummed. I suddenly remembered a coffee shop that's been mentioned to me by a number of people and recently featured in one of my company's publications, a place called the Ritual I decided to give them a try.

The Ritual is owned by a pair of life-partnered lesbians (now see folks, wouldn't it just be easier to say "a married couple?"). It is very hip and urban...when I went in there were old hippies arguing politics in one corner and a little family with the mom happily nursing her baby and munching on a salad in the other. A woman who I can only tell you looked an awful lot like my former roommate back in Denver, Monica, waited on me. I felt instantly at home except for the slippery very rounded far-too-narrow-for my-big-ass bar stools. They serve only vegetarian food, so I ordered up a Grilled Veggie Panini and perched atop an uncomfortable stool and began sifting through the daily newspaper.

Two articles jumped out at was a story about Kevin Costner returning to the small town, and indeed cornfield baseball field, where Field of Dreams was filmed. It was a lovely little report of the festivities they had and the kinds of crazy idealists such an event attracts. FOD has always been a favorite movie of mine, despite my intense dislike of Costner, more as a person than an actor admittedly. The idea of unusual paranormal activity bonding people across time and space made me love the movie...that and James Earl Jones who makes me think I should have been born in a different time and place so that I could curl up next to that big booming chest and let him murmur me to sleep each night. Sigh.

The second article was about the Mesqwaki tribe's annual pow-wow, a well written piece about how generations of the tribe join together each year honoring the rituals of their ancestors, whether they consider them religious or cultural, it being an important part of who they are as individuals and as a community.

And it all made me think.

It made me think that sitting in the Ritual Cafe, reading about two very different, but very life affirming rituals must be telling me something. I finished off the yummy veggie panini and headed out the door. I had to get quarters for laundry and I had a $20 in my purse, but had missed the deadline for getting to the bank, so I headed for the local grocery store, Dahl's, as I knew their customer service counter would help me out. And while I was there, on a weird impulse, I bought myself some sparkling water. I used to live on the stuff, back before man or children. And I came home and instead of tackling the reading list or the laundry I sat back in a tub, sipping my lime flavored sparkling water and I thought about rituals. My abandoned, personal rituals like lime flavored sparkling water, white candles and hot baths on Saturday afternoons. Like reading cards for hours because I wanted to, like watching Little Women in my pajamas with a chocolatey coffee drink in hand. Hanging new swags on the living room window to add the colors of my life or spending hours finding treasures at the Salvation Army on South Broadway (oh and if any of you know Denver at know what a treasure trove that place was where the donation bags of Cherry Creek ended up - 'nuff said.) I drew and painted and listened to the woman deep inside of me...

And it seems like all I've been doing since then is listening to my husband and my children and the society of motherhood. And while I love motherhood and certainly loved my family, somewhere that woman got packed away in a closet like a well loved family game...where every time you look at it there seems to be more pieces missing. So yesterday I got her down, dusted off the box and taped up the split corners. All that was left inside was a bottle of Perrier a couple of half burned candles and some bubble bath. But it's a starting place.

I think it's time to refill the ritual box.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Divorce Diet

So our editor was asking me the other day about how much weight I've actually lost. I told her it's the ever so trendy Divorce Diet, and that I'm astounded more people aren't jumping on board this bandwagon. We had a good laugh.

A few minutes ago she was following me down the hallway and says "Well damn, I'm just gonna have to run out and get married so I can get a divorce too."

Take the perks where you can get them, eh? LOL.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Pondering the divine

I was laying in bed with my son tonight, I seem to be doing that a lot lately to help him go to sleep. I started re-reading "The Artist's Way" tonight. Well ok, I started re-reading the beginning because I never made it past maybe the first chapter or two when I tried to undertake it ten years ago. So anyway the introduction is all about how the author sees the divine, no matter how you define it, as a free flow of creative energy. And she talks about just opening up and letting whatever is inside of you out. So I'm laying there kind of thinking about this and I think I'll just lay there and try to let something out. This is what came to my mind.

There is this little scrunchy looking cartoon woman with long pigtail braids huge eyes and an over bite who has come upon this mountainous but very smooth uniform thing, which she assumes to be a boulder, I was reading about energy vortexes in Sedona, AZ recently, which is where Cyndi says I should live, I think this is where this comes from. Anyway, in a very "Cliff Hanger" fashion she begins climbing this thing and finally, clumsily struggles her way to the top, which is a flat smooth plain, and she gazes up into the sky...only to realize she has just scaled the toe of God. As she stares gaping into the sky a voice booms down at her...

"My Child.."

She gasps for air and trembles, "Yes?"

"You are standing on my foot."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

More cute kid stories...

Ok, just one...I know I'm probably reaching my quota for the week, but honestly, without my kids entertaining me, I might lose my mind.

I was standing at the stove making French toast for Elyas (aka Rodeo) this morning and he was standing on the step stool next to me inspecting my work. I flipped the toast and he got a very serious look on his face and climbed down ran across the room and turned off the light.

"Why did you do that?"

"I want my toast darker, Mommy."

Inside my head...

Inside my head...

I have a confession to make - I hear voices inside my head. I don't think they are of the dangerous fact I imagine they are quite normal. I label them with things like conscious, guilt, pride, etc. Maybe you do too. Or maybe I'm crazy. Who cares? At any rate I've been struggling with one particular voice inside my head for a long time. It sounds like my mother - or maybe my grandfather. Probably both. It's the voice that says things like "You can't." "You'll fail." "Why even try?" and "Because you deserve to be treated that way." It sometimes drives me to wish for bad news just so it will stop speculating about how bad things will turn out. Do you know a voice like this? It's an insidious little beast and I wish it would just die. But it won't because, you know, it's part of me. And it will be there on the day I die.

So I opened up my email yesterday and there was this bit of junk mail in my folder that said very boldly "DON'T LISTEN TO YOURSELF." Well, whoever wrote that headline got my attention, because I opened it. It was one of those IVillage newsletters that I accidentally signed up for and have never gotten around to canceling. The article was about weight loss and most specifically that little voice that drives us to failure. The one that says "I'm too tired" and "You've tried this a million times before." and "Why bother?" And of course the sage advice was, don't listen to that voice. It's all very simple isn't it? Just ignore yourself for a bit. You'll be fine, and you'll get into the habit of ignoring yourself and before you know it, ignoring yourself will be second nature.

Sounds good, doesn't it? Or does it?

I was reflecting back on the fact that this particular little voice sounded a lot like my mom and her father. And it's too very easy to kind of laugh and say, yeah...generations of baggage. But I started questioning why on earth it has come to pass that this horrible self deprecating voice made it into my head. And I realized it isn't an insidious little beast. It's my protector. My guard dog. Mommies tell their children "No" and "You cant" and "For heaven sake don't do that you'll get hurt!" And it becomes engrained in our heads. Because mommies are the guard dogs of the universe. The best of the best, the ones you want on your team, because they not only protect you from the outside, but they implant this little voice inside your head that protects you from the inside. And wow, that's a hell of a thing.

So I've decided it's time to stop railing against my little voice. Instead, it's time to reintroduce myself to it, and start training it to act as I want it to act, which I really need to give some thought to what that might be. But I knew there was no coincidence that Cyndi posted "What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage" the other night and the fact that has been dancing through my head all along. This morning when my little voice approached me and said "You are so lazy, you should have done this a month ago, what is the point of doing it now? She's already mad at you for not doing it!" I silently kept doing what I was doing. My little voice muttered at me a few minutes more, and then reminded me that the post office closes at 5, so I'd better go straight away after work. And I said "Oh yeah, good point!" And wrote it down. And then it was quiet for quite a long time.

Of course, this is all very experimental. Who knows if you can actually train a voice in your head to behave? But a girl's gotta try.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"I think"

"I think"

"How was the first day, Dev?"

"GREAT MOM! I got to see a horse!"

"Really, very cool!"

"And I think I got to ride it..."

Looking at the camp counselor, "You think?"

Laughing, "Yes, he rode it."

"But I didn't hold the straps."

My thinking boy...didn't know if it counted as riding if he didn't have the steering wheel. He does think...too much.


"Ok honey, let's get going, so we can pick up Dev."

"Devereaux, mommy."


"His name is Devereaux."

"Ok, yes. But Dev is his nickname, right?"

"DJ is his nickname."

"DJ is your dad's nickname."

"No, it's Devereaux's"

"Ok. Hey, what's your nickname?"



"Yes, Rodeo."

Ok...learn something new everyday...

Monday, June 26, 2006

"Quack, Quack, Quack"

"Quack, Quack, Quack"

"Quack, Quack, Quack," mumbled Elyas in a sleepy haze as he climbed into my bed in the middle of the night.

I smiled, "Quack, Quack, Quack, to you too Little Bear."

"No Mama," he said as he snuggled in against my shoulder. "It's a duck, not a bear."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Who am I?

I walked down around the corner of the building, taking the long way around so I could pick up my mail, and I caught the sight of my shadow marching along in front of me, slightly to the right. I was surprised at how square my shoulders were, that the tilt of my head indicated confidence rather than the wilting feeling I've been fighting off for several days. I wondered for a moment at how much the shape of my shadow has changed in the last few months...there's the obvious, stomach slightly flatter...but there was this command about me that I didn't recognize in myself.

I've been on a roller coaster, up and down, up and down, all around. I started lagging about a week ago, even as things started to ever so slightly improve in all sorts of places. I wondered if I'd been kidding myself about all the changes I want to make, about how changed I feel. I wondered how much of it was bravado to carry me through this mess. I wondered how it would be in six months or a year when all the novelty has worn off and I'm just alone again. I pushed myself harder and asked more of myself and committed more, with half the heart. And that's when I told myself, somewhere deep inside to just stop for a minute. I locked myself in my apartment all weekend and barely went out except as was mandatory by life's expectations. I didn't really do much...laundry, cleaning...and of course hair color. I argued with Darius in my head, but even in fantasizing about telling him off, it ended in a draw. I watched a crazy movie called "Dark Water" and I felt like I'd get hit too close to home and it made my life feel like it would drive me crazy.

So once more I'm on my own tonight, and I came home for more of the same. I sat down and ate some grapes instead of supper. I took a bath. I wondered why it had been so long since I've cried and yet so long since I've been able to sleep all night long. The two didn't seem to match for me. But then I remembered I had to return some keys to Dan, my property manager. He had let me use a fridge in an empty apartment when mine was on the fritz. I walked them down and handed them to him and passed back through the parking lot, taking the long way so I could get my mail. And I caught a glimpse of my shadow on the brick wall. I realized in spite of myself, I truly have changed. I'm not a woman who walks with her eyes cast downward and her shoulders slumped. I reflected back on my exchange with Dan and how I met his quizzical look when I rang his bell, and how I unapologetically apologized for taking so long to return the keys. I had honestly felt no shame. And that's a novelty for me. And it's a bigger novelty that it wasn't forced or coerced, and I didn't really even think about it until well after the moment had passed.

I sit again in the quiet of my apartment, in a way reveling in the quiet of my apartment. I really am a new woman. I'm not entirely sure of what this new woman really is or looks like, but I'm proud of what she's shown me so far.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Adventures in Hair Color

Ok, so if you haven't read my headline lately, it's from a Fiona Apple song...I'm sure that's a surprise. "Gonna make a mistake...gonna do it on purpose."


Well, I'm about nothing if not full disclosure. Oh My Gawd. What a night I put myself through.

I left work feeling spunky and decided to just do it...get the red and go for the gold so to speak. So I agonized in the aisle at Walgreens for about thirty minutes. I should have made it 45...actually I should have gone out for a beer, but I didn't so it doesn't really matter. I was going to show you the product I used, but it doesn't really matter. I made a choice that I thought would be light enough to cover up if it was bad, and a real change color wise. I knew in my gut that something was not right in the middle of the process...

(Sure, you can use it for blackmail...however I own nothing of value)

Now I don't want to exaggerate...but you've met Ronald McDonald at one of your trips to a playplace, right? You know the big plastic statues you climb on? Uh-huh. I looked like his older and weirder don't believe me, do you? Oh yeah?

(Really...absolutely NOTHING of value)

So I put on my Green Bay Packers hat and ran back to walgreens and got a an ashy brown color. I didn't take pictures of that....because it looked pretty much exactly the same...ok, maybe I looked more like a leprechaun's sister with that...just a smidge darker. Darker could be better. Could be, but wasn't at all.

I searched the internet for about two hours and finally determined that my hair was not damaged enough yet to require the assistance of a professional...I know I'm an idiot. Check my headline again. But I think it worked out "OK" this time.

This time I picked up this product and some more color...darker still in the auburn hue though. When I got done with the Color Oops this is what I have this morning.

No, it's not what I planned or what I had thought about, but dammit...I started to look at that new package of coloring and almost had to throw up. And I have to buy groceries today so no more screw ups are in the budget.

Thankfully I have a sense of humor...can you imagine if I actually took any of this too seriously?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Adventures in Babysitting

I have this funny idea that sometimes a theme of sorts enters your life and you have to follow it through to its natural conclusion. Sometimes it is easy to figure out sometimes, not so terribly (ahem...squirrels come to mind). Anyway, the last week or two have been my adventures in babysitting weeks. My Devereaux, as you know was having an extreme amount of trouble in his summer Y-camp situation his first week. So much so that after I had to pick him up on Friday, I was determined that I wouldn't take him back. He complained loudly to me that one of his "friends" was calling him vulgar names, and that all of the kids were calling him "Devereaux Looney Pants" in reference to the troubles he's had controlling his anger lately. When I walked in there was about 50 kids all jammed into the same room and the noise level was astounding. It made me want to crawl under a desk and throw things and I was only there for five minutes and I'm not the extremely sensitive to sound person that my son is. It was more than troubling. So I had already started the process rolling for getting him into Daycare for Exceptional Children and I was under the impression that by Monday we would have a green flag. Monday came and I had to take the afternoon off, because I found out that the day I applied, the county who funds the program had mandated a wait list for such programs. The woman with whom I spoke at the daycare was certain it was a small matter and they'd be able to get him in. But then she called me and said she'd found he was already set up with the county and she could use a "back door" to set him up for daycare. AWESOME, I said, and we agreed he'd start Wednesday. I called Dev's other parent and told him and we all did a little happy dance. Then Tina called me back and said "Uh, gee sorry, the back door thing isn't working, I'm sorry." And so it went for the rest of the week. I won't go into details about how insane it's all been, but it finally was apparent to me that I can't seem to count on Dev getting into this program quickly if ever. In a fit of desperation I called a teenager who has sat with him and asked if she would like to make some summer money. She said yes. What I didn't know is Dev's other parent was making even better arrangements at the same time...a temporary spot in his former preschool classroom right next door to his brother's class. Short term this is awesome. Long term, we'll have to find another solution, but we're working the angles. So I happily dropped him off after his Summer School classes today in the capable hands of his most loved teacher of all times. He was in heaven.

But the funny thing is this theme. Adventures in Babysitting has been going through my head for awhile. I'm on a different side of the coin, but I've certainly had the Babysitting Blues. So last night I left my boys for a moment absorbed in Xio Lin Showdown and I ran my garbage out to the dumpster. As I came back in a pretty gray tabby yowled at me from a ground floor apartment.

"What's the matter mama? Wanting out?" I cooed at her.

"Nah, she just likes to bitch." said a voice from behind me.

I turned around and gazed into the prettiest blue eyes I've seen in a very long time. The package around them had an eerie resemblance to George Newbern, the lovely who played "Cute Frat Boy to the Rescue" in Adventures in Babysitting. I smiled and said "Hi."

"Hi...who are you?" said Cute Frat Boy Look-alike.

Sticking out my hand I said, "Eileen, apartment 12."


He smiled warmly and opened the door for me. And I went back to my life, and he went back to his bitchy cat. And I smiled all the way down to my toes for the first time all week.

Don't get me wrong, he's much too young for me, and I wouldn't dream of letting him be anything other than a lively fantasy, but it was a fun exchange. And hey, didn't the Cute Frat Boy come into the picture at the end of the movie? Yeah, I think things are going to start getting better soon.

Either that or I over think things...ya' think?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I came home tonight so tired. I worked less than 8 hours but had been going constantly for help in sight. I need to do laundry and go to the store. I want to crawl into bed and cry.

I did crawl into my bed for a few minutes. And I thought, "I want my mommy!" Actually, I don't want my mommy. I want A mommy. Somebody who makes it all better, who takes care of it behind the scenes and is there to stroke your hair and let you cry when you need to. But in this life, I'm the mommy...I have been for a long time now. And not only do I have to do that for my kids, I have to do it for myself. It's ok, I can do it, but it's kind of like eating a gourmet meal that you slaved over all day just doesn't taste quite the same as it would in a fancy restaurant.
Maybe not the deep meaningful post intended by the dare to do this journal, but I'm tapped today. I'll be more than a mommy it's all I got.

Friday, May 12, 2006

More squirrels

So in the car on the way to school yesterday Dev says, "Hey mommy, what is it that squirrels like again?"

I was a little surprised, but then, nothing surprises me anymore. Dev has tuned in to my squirrel frequency, I guess.

"What do you mean 'like?' You mean what kind of food do they like?"


So I ticked off a list of things I've seen squirrels eat. Then he asked me if we could buy some peanuts to feed to the squirrels this weekend. I said sure, asked him if he wanted to put a little plate out in the courtyard where he could watch from his room or if he wanted to go to Grey's Lake and take a walk and see if we could find any squirrels there to feed.

"Both, please."

So apparently this theme won't be exiting my life this weekend.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Another day

Christie asked us to blog, no matter if it said much or not...

Life right now is exceedingly difficult for me. I'm struggling with Darius about custody issues. My boys can't seem to sleep when they are at my house. I broke down crying last night because Elyas simply wouldn't go to sleep, because D. called and yelled at me about money, because my life is not what I wanted at all at this point. Elyas put his arms around my neck and coo'ed "It's awright. Wyas is here." over and over and over. It was nice to see him reflecting back to me what I know he's seen from me over and over again, that he knows what comfort looks like to him. I hated being comforted by my four year old. Two hours later in the dark of the night I finally caved and moved the whole clan out to the living room. We opened up the windows to watch the rain and pretend we were camping out. Devereaux reached out and stroked my face in the moonlight and lightening flashes I could see love written all over his face. He sighed, "Mommy, if I were grown up, I'd marry you." Right back to tears it was. Then he told me it looked like the sky was crying too. We cried ourselves to sleep finally, huddled in a mass on the living room floor.

I woke up at some point with my stomach in knots and all I could think about was a sense memory of deboning a chicken...of gently and carefully splitting the breastbone in half with a very sharp knife and carefully pulling and cutting the flesh from the bones. It was what my soul felt like last night...

Sorry to be a bummer. Hopefully the day will improve with coffee.


I don't know about you but I really love the Johnny Depp version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Ok, yes Mysty, Johnny is creepy...I have to give you that. But he's always been creepy and it's a weird part of his sex appeal. But that isn't why I love this version of this story. As much as I LOVE Gene Wilder and the little orange Oompa Loompas, that version lacked the squirrels. More specifically, it lacked beautiful little Julia Winter delivering the immaculate line "Daddy, I want a squirrel!" Her diction alone was enough to inspire me to wander around for days saying "Squirrel, squirrel, squirrel!" in my best fake British accent. My boys hate it when I do things like that. But it's a mother's job to annoy her children, and I'm just warming up for their teenaged years.

My life got, well, a little squirrelly again yesterday. In fact, something downright weird happened to me yesterday. First, let me share with you that I got an invite to subscribe to a blog yesterday from a total and complete stranger. Ok that's not so weird, those kinds of things happen all the time, right? I checked his profile to see if maybe it was somehow someone I was connected to, you know, from my past? I'm always curious to see what happened to the kids I went to high school with. But he wasn't one of those people. And while there was nothing particularly offensive about his profile, I couldn't even see much of anything we have in common, saving one. We are born under the same astrological sign in the same year. So in the hopes of furthering science and seeing if our astrological similarities spelled out personality similarities, I decided to read one of his blogs. It was not a side splitter, and it wasn't a very long blog, but in essence it is about him seeing a tail-less squirrel, and how that freaked him out and caused him to wonder about the poor squirrel's life. Like I said, kind of cute. Fast forward several hours when this was the last thing on my mind. I was getting home from work and my mind was full of personal business stuff I needed to accomplish during the evening. My arms were full of stuff I was carrying from the car and as I walked across the parking lot at my apartment, I dropped my keys. A flurry of motion in front of me made me look up as I had knelt to retrieve them. About four feet in front of me know what's coming...honest and no kidding, a squirrel with no tail. NO SHIT. Can you believe this? Oh ok the thing had a little stub, it looked like a teeny poof on his butt, but still!

Now what the hell does this mean? Is my spirit animal the ferocious tail-less squirrel? Is it a sign that my means for balance in the universe has been amputated from me? Am I just a karmic FREAK? Seriously...who else would this happen to?


Friday, May 05, 2006

This I believe

Ok, so my friend asked me a very pointed question about my spiritual beliefs. I was a little hesitant to post a blog about this because, you know, some of us (ahem - cough) have gone down this road a few times before. And well, it wasn't pretty. So for those of you who know I'm talking about you, I would heartily encourage you to stop reading right here. Or here....or...ok it's your call. The reason I make this disclaimer is because I earnestly believe in each person's RIGHT to their own beliefs. I also earnestly believe in my right to disagree with them. And well you know, I'm a bit bullheaded and mean when I get backed into a corner. But I don't intend this to be like that. I intend this to be a simple statement of my beliefs, which are not so simple, which is why it required more than a response on a blog comment. I could have sent her a private message, but then I would miss the fun of comparing notes with some new people I'm meeting now and learning about their more esoteric approaches to life and spirituality.

So the big question is what does one CALL oneself when you don't particularly believe in a GOD/DESS, but you really do believe in a higher power...just not the kind most people think of? I've used different terms as my spiritual path has unfolded before me but this is where I'm at right now. I'm a SPIRITUAL agnostic humanist UU. I'm sure that doesn't really help much. I believe not in a god or god-like BEING. I distinctly do not see a higher power as a BEING. I believe it is more of a collective energy, an energy that binds all life, perhaps even all matter in the universe, each to the other. I believe that we as humans are capable of calling upon this energy in a way that is unique to our world, and therefore also kind of difficult. But when have we ever done things the easy way? I also believe that there are many paths to this calling. Some call it God and read bibles and pray. Some call it life and read philosophy and work hard. Some call it by dozens of other names and read tarot cards, or study stars, or practice Taoism, or meditate, or watch Oprah (she keeps coming up in my think I'm supposed to get something from Oprah today?). Some people just enjoy their lives. Some people write poetry or sing. I think they are all paths to the same source of energy. I've studied enough about world religions to know how remarkably similar they are in places, and that so called "miracles" happen regularly in many different religions. I see this as proof that, forgive an old saying that is crass, there is more than one way to skin a cat. I believe that people are inherently good...a rather radical belief in itself, I've learned. I believe that there are parallel universes that some call "heaven" and others call "other world" and others call tripe. And I believe in certain conditions these parallel universes interconnect with our own. Sometimes we have a modicum of control over that happening, usually we do not...but I don't think "they" have any more control of it than we do. I think of it like being on a crowded elevator and having personal space...whether you are trying to or not, you somehow end up touching someone else. I believe in the wonder of evolution...and I believe that it's an amazing creation story that is not contrary to a higher order at all. I believe at death the energy that comprises the spirit, like the energy and matter that comprises the body, returns to the earth and is redistributed to other life. I think from time to time it stays together to the extent that some sense of the soul departed can be tangibly sensed. I believe in the power of people to do amazing things, both amazing good and amazing bad. And I believe in Calvin and Hobbes.

I believe I'm done now.

God love you, you're a success!

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it before, but just in case you didn't catch it the first time, I'm a bit of a self help junkie. Not in a bad way (I laugh as I type this..."I can quit anytime I want - really!") I got introduced at a young age. My mom was taking a Dale Carnegie course, and I'm not sure why she decided to take it...maybe it was to support a friend, or maybe she wanted to Win Friends and Influence People. I don't know, that really doesn't sound like my mom though. Oh yeah, now I remember. She became an Amway sales all know Amway, right? The mother of all direct sales programs? Yeah, I shudder when I think about it too, don't be embarrassed. I'm kind of proud of the fact that my mom failed as an Amway representative, just as I've failed at selling lingerie and toys through direct sales (different time periods in my life...obviously). But I must be careful not to play to the end here (my actorschmactor friends understand that term...I don't know how commonly its used in the outside world, sorry if I've confused you.)

So anyway, self-help books, programs, courses, CD's, DVD's...I LOVE them. Not really because I'm a basket case. Really. Stop laughing. I MEAN IT, STOP! I'd kind of lost track of it all when I was in college when I accidentally got a copy of "Life 101" in a book club because I didn't mail the card thingie back...because I couldn't afford stamps, much less a book, but hey. Back then you couldn't put stamps on a credit card, but books you could. Unfortunately I didn't find the credit self-help gurus until way later in my life (read...last year...and yeah...I'm an accountant.) That book really spoke to me. And then I was on this journey...becoming more than a self help junkie. I realize I've officially become a self help aficionado. Now you know the difference between a junkie and an aficionado, don't you? It's the quantity versus quality thing. I got a lesson in that this week, at a time where the reminder that I'm a "less is more" person seemed amazingly appropriate.

You see even though I need it desperately, I haven't had time to return to my favorite authors and speakers for help through this rough time. And even when there has been time, I've been indulging in a lot of bubble baths lately, an interesting side effect of not having a husband. Bubble baths are essential to a reasonable separation. And because I've been neglecting my own deviant delight, I made a junkie mistake that an aficionado should never make. I tried to mainline some MOTIVATION. Now maybe you've seen the dark underbelly of the world of MOTIVATION up close and personal or maybe you've just glimpsed it through the veneer of a "harmless" Tupperware hostess catalog. For the former this may be the sound of Marley rattling his chains at you, and for the latter, try not to throw up and consider it a warning. And if you are a Mary Kay representative for the love of Pete get help.

So my company did this advertising trade with the company promoting an event called "GET MOTIVATED!" Subtle, isn't it? In trade we got twenty or so VIP tickets to this event which featured speakers like Suze Orman, George Foreman, Rudy Guilliani (sp?), Steve Forbes, and then that guy that is legend in MOTIVATIONAL circles, Zig Ziglar. He in fact was the reason I wanted to attend, though while I think back on it the only reason is because I know my mom heard him speak once and was giddy for a week. I should have known better. I should have really noted the fact that the only press this thing was getting was that it would create the worst traffic conditions known to downtown in history. History. But I have an attraction to disaster too, I suppose.

So Monday morning I got up bright and early and got chewed out by my downstairs neighbor for making too much noise. I shuffled my children off to their proper locals and I set out to GET MOTIVATED. Except of course for that damn traffic. I ended up driving to my office anyway and walking nearly two miles to the event. I was only an hour late and had only missed one speaker. I found a seat and wedged my way in between a platoon (?or whatever?) of Army National Guard dudes who all had shoulders the width of a compact car, and a newspaper guy from Bondurant who kept borrowing my pen to take notes. Not that my notes on the fatigues of Mr. Shoulders did me much good anyway.

I got an education first on what these people think entertain Joe Junkie in the front rows. Apparently it's really plastic version of American Idol. Barbie meets Kelly Clarkson on mind control drugs, if you will. But I digress. I could break down each speaker and what they said, but the truth is I only stayed until lunch and only that long because I couldn't move, really. And if I did break it down I'd probably offend SOMEONE for the wrong reasons. The final analysis is this. If you ever get the opportunity to hear George Foreman speak, GO. If you ever see the phrase "GET MOTIVATED!" "full day seminar" and "free tickets!" in an email, schedule the day off and lay in bed and watch Oprah instead. It will be much more fulfilling.

The thing I think they all miss is what my favorite honest to goodness motivational writer warned us about many years ago. I will only paraphrase, because I don't remember the exact words. But he said that the problem with SUCCESS and MOTIVATIONAL programs is there is this idea that life is all about plateaus and that in order to be a success, you need to keep climbing up to the next plateau. And sooner later you are going to climb up to that last plateau and they are going to throw some dirt on you and you'll be done. He says the really important thing is, if you get to plateau 2 and you are happy, stay there! There is no magic rule that says you have to start climbing again the next morning. My favorite line from this tape (which is right around thirty years old and I listen to it once a week) is this, "If you are a janitor, and you are happy, and your wife loves you and your kids love you God love you, you are a success!"

Less is more see? Okay, except when it comes to how long it takes me to get to the point in a blog.

Much success to you my friends.

Yes, I did.

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