Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A thought for the day

Several weeks ago, my DailyOM sent me this message:
Your personal power is defined in part by your gifts. To use your talents is to demonstrate to the world that you understand yourself and are truly attuned to your capabilities. Your earthly existence provides you with ample opportunity to explore your purpose, to utilize your skills in a life-affirming way, and to positively touch the lives of others while doing so.

I have been ignoring it, though not directly: I didn't read it til this morning.

I am trying to get it...see what it means...live it.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Learn to be silent...
Let your quiet mind listen
and absorb...


I have been spending more time than I would like with Pythagorus and his theories. But, this weekend, I put one of his quotes to use.

My instinct is to talk when there is silence. I don't know if this is something that has always been or just something I picked up more recently.

In any case, it is interesting to listen to the words I would say and not say them.

I can't tell if it is making me second guess myself more or less. I know it feels weirdly uncomfortable. I feel like I have a hand tied behind my back.

I think practicing silence over a longer period of time will help me to listen better. For now, it is taking all my energy to not speak and deal with the fallout.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Today I heard THE most inspiring talk I have EVER heard. In fact, the first person I have ever seen that spoke with such authority about the things that most of us hide. If only we were all willing to be so open about the things that inspire us to be both fearless and fearful.

Watching Akeela the Bee, I was struck, again by the quote from Marianne Williamson. This is a book about LOVE, particularly about getting inside of self-love and understanding how to project it back out to the world. I share it as a way to remind myself about what's really important.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond imagination. It is our light more than our darkness which scares us. We ask ourselves – who are we to be brilliant, beautiful, talented, and fabulous. But honestly, who are you to not be so?
-Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

judge for yourself

I haven't ranted about politics in a few days, so here I go....

I am just concerned that there are folks out there who are skimming over some important news items.

Just in time for elections, the Bush administration has decided that teachers' votes can be bought. That's right. After years of being accused of not fully funding NCLB, the Bushies have decided that in order to remedy that situation, they should give perks. And guess where the first perks went? OHIO. Coincidence or pay back?? You be the judge.

More on the educational front. Oh... hold on to your seats.

So, one of the by products of NCLB is what is called, SES, or supplementary educational services. This is usually in the form of after school tutoring paid for by the school district through funds from the federal government. How does it work? Who benefits? And who are the providers...well, in a nutshell, schools that receive federal funds, called Title I, whose students have not met the minimum achievement standards for more than two years in a row. Those schools are labeled "school improvement" and then a year ... as in how many years have they not been achieving the standard.

Well, these schools are required to offer after school tutoring...but it must be given by approved providers. These are folks like Sylvan and Kaplan, and many others who have figured out that this is a super cushy way of making loads of cash without having to supply many results. There are lots of other not optimal things about this ... but this expose article done by the LA Times has got to be the worst.

Please read it.

Basically, Neil Bush (yes, you guessed it, George's bro) started a little company called Ignite! Learning, that is an SES that has sold quite a few COWs (Curriculum on Wheels, that's their acronym, in case you were wondering) to many school districts for a tidy sum.

But it gets worse. Guess the names of two investors? Nope, you'll never guess in a million years.

George H. Bush and Barbara Bush.

No, that's not all... Barbara "donated" money in the name of the Katrina survivors with the caveat that the money be used to purchase COWs. As an investor, ie interested party, it hardly seems like it's really a cash donation as you will just be getting the money back.

Oh, and that isn't where the shamefulness ends on this...she and her esteemed, or is it infamous, son (yup, that's the one with the special touch with S&L's) go around "fundraising" for school districts so that said districts can buy more COWs. You can bet the Bushes aren't giving away any milk; you got to buy the COW.

But wait, there's more. This is beginning to sound a little bit like a Michael Moore movie, but I swear, this is all in the article.

Well, what's more is there? you ask; well read this snippet if you haven't gotten to the whole article:

At least 13 U.S. school districts have used federal funds available through the president's signature education reform, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, to buy Ignite's portable learning centers at $3,800 apiece.

The law provides federal funds to help school districts better serve disadvantaged students and improve their performance, especially in reading and math.

But Ignite does not offer reading instruction, and its math program will not be available until next year.

(you guessed it, I added the emphasis.)

So, districts are using their NCLB SES money to buy Ignite! COWs even though the COWs don't offer the type of instruction stipulated for SES funds. These COWs are bought often without going through a bidding process like most school expenditures. But, there is still more to know about this story.

George's little bro has a lot of friends with money who helped him get this little venture off the ground, all upstanding individuals and companies, I am sure:

Bush's parents joined Neil as Ignite investors in 1999, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission documents. By 2003, the records show, Neil Bush had raised about $23 million from more than a dozen outside investors, including Mohammed Al Saddah, the head of a Kuwaiti company, and Winston Wong, the head of a Chinese computer firm.

Most recently he signed up Russian fugitive business tycoon Boris A. Berezovsky and Berezovsky's partner Badri Patarkatsishvili.

Neil's response to this inquiry by the LA Times was to accuse the journalist and the newspaper of playing politics just before the election. Like I said, you be the judge.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I love mashed potatoes

Trying to cram various part-time jobs and three weeks of studying for the GRE into three days has made me really hungry. Worse than that...since studying for the GRE is such a drag (as one friend commented, YUCK), it provokes a lot of self-pity which leads to the need for antojos.

Yesterday, as I passed by stores and restaurants on my way to studyhall (otherwise known as Starbucks), I had to stop and read each menu. I was in a desperate hunt for mashed potatoes...and trying to stay away from the donut shop. Everyone know that donuts are an excellent substitute for mashed potatoes, or accompaniment, if necessary.

I love mashed potatoes.

I think they make the perfect compliment to ANY meal. I love BREAD with mashed potatoes on top. It's carb-comfort-food heaven.

Some of my favorite pairings:
mashed potatoes and a good salad (salad counteracts all bad carbs in the potatoes, hahahah) and BREAD, of course

mashed potatoes and bread, and then some more bread; only add gravy if mom made it, otherwise, use butter, lots of it.

mashed potatoes and STEAK and bread...in a pinch, you could substitute chicken, but only if you are feeling SUPER virtuous. I mean, what's the point if you have gone all the way with the mashed potatoes??

I used to be willing to have mashed potatoes from a box; you know, it is like emergency comfort food waiting in the cupboard and available at any time of the day. But, since I live just a few yards from a grocery store, emergency mashed potatoes are not really necessary (and probably too dangerous any way).

Not having found any real good menus with mashed potatoes on my way to studying, I decided to MAKE MY OWN. Thanks to a good friend from NJ, I know the secret to the BEST mashed potatoes ever: heavy cream (you know the one that you use to make WHIPPED CREAM!). No cream is so thick and fabulous...and therefore, there really is no substitute. Cut up garlic and onions sauteed with the cream and BUTTER; nope, not enough fat in the whipping cream, must add more, for the flavor, you know. Add the potatoes when cooked (cook with onions and garlic if available) and mash-em-up.

Honestly, nothing better.

After a long discussion with the helpful man at the meat counter, I decided on a super thin sirloin steak. He was voting for the filet minon or the new york strip steak, but agreed that on my budget I could make the sirloin work. He made me promise I would use olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic when I cooked it.

It was wonderful.
Just what I wanted.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Support Free Mammograms...

click on the title of this post...
we need to go here every day in order to get these mammograms funded!

Please tell ten friends to tell ten today! The Breast Cancer site is having trouble getting enough people to click on their site daily to meet their quota of donating at least one free mammogram a day to an underprivileged woman. It takes less than a minute to go to their site and click on "donating a mammogram" for free (pink window in the middle). This doesn't cost you a thing. Their corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate mammogram in exchange for advertising. Here's the web site! Pass it along to people you know. http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/

it's all fun and games until...

My favorite game in the world is making up stories about people I don't know. It is the corollary to people watching. My multitasking (read ADD) mind cannot stand to just watch people, and I am easily bored. So, whenever I am out, I am usually scanning the crowd for a good story starter.

Crowded restaurants are great places for this game as you are a captive audience for the duration. Though, it is not impossible to make up quick stories of people who are walking by you in a mall or on the street. The odd bit of conversation that hangs in the air as you pass someone (or as he/she passes you) makes the whole story process move along all that more swiftly. The purist may believe that this is cheating, but I think of it as a different level of challenge.

Sitting in Starbucks, reading or studying or just getting out in the world, one is privvy to many interesting bits of conversation. I have to say, though, that Starbucks is a slightly more dangerous place for this kind of game.

I am generally at the Starbucks alone. Somehow, the concept of background music has eluded the folks who work at Starbucks. Or, for all I know, the corporate management of Starbucks. That is to say that the music is always louder than background music should be. That means that people need to speak more loudly to their companions. So, it's not just the general flotsam you hear on the street; sometimes it is full blown conversation, the kind that should end up in some novel, out of context, of course. I "hear" better when I am looking at the originator of the speech. I worry that I will get caught looking at my story prey.

One of these days, I may share some of the bits of conversation and/or some of the stories I made up to go along with them.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


and other self-sabotage tools...

hide, deflect, and ultimately make it worse.

will I never learn????????

to quote myself: the important thing is to recognize it -- name it and look at it from a more objective space, and hopefully recognize it as an emotion that wants to erupt into action

next time, maybe I'll do better

maybe, maybe not

hopefully either way, I will be gentle with myself

Monday, October 16, 2006

hard work or the revolving door

it turns out that it is not enough to break old agreements and make new ones...or that the act or creating new agreements is quick and final. agreements can only be made by actually practicing them. like so many other parts of life, my life, it's a process

first I had to recognize that the old agreements really weren't working for me
[who knew one could need so much confirmation??]
part one - complete

but I wasn't truly prepared for part 2

breaking agreements means not allowing yourself or others to operate under the old agreements


it's empowering, in its own way, to see/feel/realize when you are about to fall into a bad, old trap, and then you don't
it felt uncomfortable but not untenable

it took a while to understand that not going down into the well of despair, not claiming the bad agreement [the familiar reaction] as further proof of my lack of worth, was part of breaking the agreement

you have to LIVE it

imagine that!?!

it was hard and painful and I don't really know where to go from here...but I am celebrating/recognizing/living this new agreement... I will not automatically look for a reason why I am at fault. I will not automatically believe that any difficult situation/interaction is the result of my lack of worth

that's not who I am

that's not who I ever was; I don't agree to pretend to be her to make anyone feel better

I am worthy; I am a good person; I have many gifts and talents as well as faults and foibles; I am not new but improved

you may not recognize me or only see someone who I don't claim anymore

that's part three and it's an unfinished chapter

the lesson, in case you didn't figure it out:
it's not going to get easier
you just learn to be "skillful"

Sunday, October 15, 2006


WWJRD? = What would Jesus really do?

For reasons that I cannot really pinpoint, I was reduced to tears listening to the Dixie Chicks sing about forgiving and forgetting today. [I have been thinking about ways to support these gals even though I am not a country/western or whatever it is called fan.] The emotional process involved in forgiving or getting over and then forgetting enough to move on have been weighing heavily on my mind.

So, what does Jesus have to do with it? I have been carrying around this grief and pain for a little while. Why can't we (as in the world, people in general) be more forgiving? Why can I be more forgiving -- get over it, not want to get back, move on?

Here's what reminded me (this month) to struggle with this bit of human frailty:
This, the Amish said, showing us the tender face of religion at a time and in a world where we are so often seeing the rageful face. This was Jesus' way, and they had Jesus in them, not for a day, an hour, not just in good times, but even in the very worst. (emphasis added)

We aren't Jesus (at least as we know him in mythology). We are normal human beings. We feel rage and anger; we want vengeance. We want ours. We have things to learn from what we believe about Jesus. And then there are those who practice what they believe, as reminded above, everyday, even under the most painful and difficult circumstances.
The freedom contained in Jesus' teaching of forgiveness, wrote the German philosopher Hannah Arendt, is the freedom from vengeance, which includes both doer and sufferer in the relentless automatism of the action process, which by itself need never come to an end.
To this, the Amish have offered a stunning example of the freedom that comes with forgiveness, a reminder that religion need not turn lethal or combative. I, for one, as this week ends, stand in awe of their almost-unfathomable grace in grief.
It is from an essay by Anne Taylor Fleming from Newshour.

I have listened to Anne Taylor Fleming reading this essay over and over...trying to wring out the part that I can hold on to, that which one could touch if it were tangible material. All I can say is, no matter what anyone's personal spiritual belief may be, we have religion and spirituality to help us humans deal with our contradictions. It is a contradiction to have such vile instincts and at the same time a (sometimes?) logical brain. We have emotions and we are capable of knowing right from wrong. This is hard. There are so many times our logical/rational minds tell us to do things that seem more emotional and instinctual. These are minefields. We are lucky to come through most days unscathed.

Religion, with its rules and regulations, can help to put order in the chaos of contradictory thoughts, feelings, associations. But it can become dangerous when we give up our logic/rationality, when we make religious belief into instinct...especially when those religious beliefs have been molded into daggers. Here the Amish come, for all their imperfect ways of dealing with the modern world, and show us that you can use your religious beliefs as instincts and have it not be predatory. Imagine that.

I'm still not signing up for any organized religion. I am still wary of the reverential treatment of people and gods. But I am embracing my need for answers and comfort, and still trying to find the safe harbor in my mind or soul, wherever it is.

It's comforting, in a way, to know that such horror and destruction as the shooting in an Amish school house could bring us a little tiny bit of enlightenment, or at least a glimpse of the beauty of the human spirit. In these dark days, with so much anger, animosity and posturing, this little light is a welcome reprieve. In case you want more on the Amish and their view of forgiveness, I recommend Scott Simon's thoughts, an OpEd from the Philly Inquirer, and Talk of the Nation's bit on the Amish Culture of Forgiveness.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


I am goal oriented. I feel I do much better with everything when I am working towards a goal. I love to PLAN. I can plan myself to within an inch of my life. A friend from a long time ago used to call me little-miss-down-to-the-minute because I literally scheduled my work and play down to the last minute. It seemed to allow me to manage my time better. At least, that is what I thought. In fact, it may have just been another way to CONTROL.

Control what you may ask? The answer is as vague and specific as anyone could be. On the one hand, I was in control of my life. I knew what I had to do with every minute of my day. On the other hand, I had no true responsibility, the schedule dictated what I would do and when I would do it. How many of you have obsessions that can simultaneously allow you to be a control-freak and an irresponsible slacker?

The truly dangerous part of this behavior, however, is not its psychotic double-personality; its danger lies in the appearance of great propriety. Who could quarrel with being goal-oriented? I am not just goal-oriented, mind you, I am successful at achieving my goals. I am an excellent planner and can be quite disciplined in the execution of plans as well. The thing is that I rarely take a step back and examine why I am moving forward with THE PLAN whichever it may be.

It all seems very logical at the time. Here's the goal, here are the steps you need to take to get to the goal, and voila, you have achieved your goal! Congratulations. Again, who could complain about such an accomplishment? Well, the secret, ugly truth is that since there was precious little thought given to the why, the successful end of the project was, in fact, not the end I was trying to accomplish. In the end, I feel bereft not accomplished. Not only was the end not what I wanted, now I have to start all over again.

It would be nice to say that "It was really all about the journey." However, if I am being painfully honest, the real answer was that it was about avoiding having to know what I really wanted to accomplish. Sometimes, it is just that having a goal outside of my personal growth or introspection means not having to deal with whatever demons were knocking at the door when the infamous PLAN emerged.

If the plans were cockamamie, you know like some get rich quick scheme, then a logical person would someday have to put a stop to it. Instead, my friends rally around my latest, greatest plan. I seem so level-headed and determined, they hardly have the heart to ask me WHY are you so determined to do that?? They watch me trudge along merrily on the hamster wheel to nowhere.

The last time I made one of those grand plans and rolled full steam ahead, I ended up with night terrors and serious nightmares. [What's the difference? Both are terror-ific, but one is while you sleep and the other waking, at least in my experience.] When I decided, and the fates colluded to make it easier, to take some time off the hamster wheel, I had a hard time letting go of the planning. The first month, I was so busy with things to do that I had been unemployed for over three weeks before I had a day off. I just couldn't force myself to not have commitments. It has taken me two whole months to decompress from my frenzied goal-planning. Just in time for me to want to laze in front of the TV non-stop while simultaneously be freaked out that I DON'T HAVE A JOB and I AM SPENDING ALL MY SAVINGS.

It is quite an effort to calm down, allow myself to be and try to allow whatever is next to happen. I want to construct a PLAN. I am trying desperately to keep myself from making too strict of a lifetime plan...just for today or this week. Just til December. Not for the next five years and not for the rest of my life. It's really hard for me to just let life happen.

Ah...control. Control my environment. Control my reactions to the world. Control my emotions in general. I have decided that my need for control is what drives my plan-o-matic behavior. How do you make calm out of chaos? I make a plan. And stick to it, no matter what will be at the other end of it.

Friday, October 06, 2006


I am back-posting, again... so I thought I would warn any voracious readers who don't want to miss a minute of the action.

The posts from the retreat are still in draft form; I will let you know when they are posted.

Hawaii, has just one posting, so far.

There are other tidbits to keep you reading...
Part 1 of my musings on my hometown; it is background for a post I have been wanting to write since March. It may come out some day.

The ranting reflection that came out for 9/11.

There is an update on my progress on my weight resolution.

The post on NYTimes article and my match.com irritations is fun even though long.

There are a few more in the hopper. I will update this post accordingly.

Happy reading. Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Matching for Afterlife??

For the last few weeks, I have been trying out match.com. I must clarify that I haven't exactly been giving it my all. I did, finally, post a picture and go ahead and try the free three days. But, alas, canceled the subscription last night, a full day before the end of the three days.

I have been considering lo all these days writing about my impressions of this foray into internet dating. I catalogued a few things that irritate me (stretched truth, insincerity, potential social awkwardness of all of us involved) to share, then I happened upon this article about some rural Chinese folk buying dead brides for their dead sons.

It should be pretty clear to you by now that there is not a happy match.com ending to this story. That is not for me, anyway; but according to the article (you must read it, the highlights will not do it justice), these poor souls need their mates in order to achieve success and happiness in the afterlife. And they can achieve it by getting hitched in the grave.

Well, that's not exactly true for both unmarried dead men and women. The men need to be married in order to be complete, but the women actually needed to have birthed a child after married in order to be worthwhile human beings. So, you know, dead brides can't exactly have children, but apparently they can have weddings. And if your parents can't afford a dead bride or are unwilling to grave-rob for you, you can at least get a straw doll of a bride. Not exactly a blow-up doll, but then again, you are going to be able to make good use of it.

Given the obviously weighty importance of getting matched for these folks, it hardly seems important that the match.com-ers are lying about their age, height, income or anything else. In this remote Chinese village, for instance, beg, borrowing and stealing any woman for your son (dead or alive) is far more important than trying to find the "perfect match."

Still, don't these match.com-ers understand that someday they will meet some of these women and that 6'1" they claimed in their profiles will NOT match up to their actual 5'9" statures?? Or do they think that all of us on match are desperate women who are also depth perception challenged??

Don't get me started on the lack of social skills or just mildly socially awkwardness factor. It won't be pretty. And, I am sure you can probably guess my objection to internet dating with regard to these details.

And, um, what's with all the want to find my partner, the woman for me will be my best friend, bullshit. Give me a break. Match.com is CLEARLY hook-up CENTRAL. And these dudes may be willing to date, but this is mostly about not having to work too hard for sex. I don't necessarily have a problem with the concept of a hook-up central, I just don't understand the need to LIE.

Here is what I take from it: you think I am stupid.

Alternatively, I imagine: you think this is what I want to hear. Which leads me to: you have no idea what I want to hear. Or: you have a problem with truth.

I don't want you to get the idea that I am just so cynical it doesn't matter what they put in their profiles. I READ the profiles, cringing all the while, but I do read them. I do believe that there are men out there who are capable of being sincere, honest and interested in developing relationships. I just am not sure that those men are trolling match.com. Maybe they are and I am a cynical bitch who doesn't deserve a date with any of these wholesome men.

Maybe not.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


I decided not to call this post Statis...though that is how I have been feeling.

Just a little update on the healthy resolution:
-I have not been exercising. Since that fateful post, I have only gone on two walks and done yoga three times. No running, though Mary does try to get me out there.

-I have been eating well. I have not eaten OUT since the posting. And I did go to the grocery store, so that helps. My daily fiber intake has fluctuated from 25-50 over the past two weeks. It works, I swear.
Here is one high fiber, good taste recommendation. 14 fibers per tortilla...ok, that is over half of the rda of fiber in your diet. You can find them at Safeway, in Oakland, at least. After my favorite breakfast of kashi oatmeal with added flax and dried fruit (12-16g of fiber depending on the dried fruit), I am DONE for the day with the fiber. But I have been also trying to get fresh veggies and fruit every day as well. I will admit, I ordered the kashi bars as well. Not like eating a candy bar or anything like that, but I carry it around with me, get 4g fiber and stave off hunger while I am out in the world of McDonalds and Ice Cream Stores.

-I have lost the requisite two pounds each week, so far. We will see where I am next Monday.

-I ordered some exercise do-thingy, but I have not gone to pick it up at REI just yet. That should happen this weekend and then I hope to be serious about making good use of said exercise do-thingy.

-I am keeping a food and exercise log in an effort to keep me HONEST and on track. So far, it has not managed to make me WANT to exercise, but it has kept me from running out and eating CAKE or DONUTS.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Some of my Favorite Virtual Places

Here are my favorite blogs...not new just reminding you to take a gander if you haven't or haven't in a while.

If you haven't read PostSecret, get to it. What would your postcard say?

My coach, at least for a while, Andrea, spills her guts in the most poetic way ever, in words and pictures.

I am sure there are many wonderful blogs to read; share your favorites with me!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Oxnard, part 1

When I was growing up, there wasn't any place I wanted to be less. Oxnard was the jail of my adolescence. Who's hometown isn't?

As I child, my street, my school, my neighborhood (known to those from without as South Oxnard) was my world. It was a safe place, for the most part, and my life revolved around my family and all of our extra parts. My mother cared for children in our home as a way of not having to work outside the home. So besides my four siblings of a wide range of ages, we always had two or three other very needy children running around our house.

My hometown is the stepchild of the county. We don't have a pretty name or a mission or anything of note, really, but as an adult, I can look back and see that we had the best beaches, really wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables and the kind of welcoming and friendly place you mostly only read about in books. Everyone in my community, as far as I could walk or bike in any direction, knew who I was. They were folks who had known my family for years or at least since we had moved into the neighborhood. Some of the them went to high school with my parents when there was only one high school in our town (by the time I was in high school there were four in town, now there are five with three alternative campuses). Even if they didn't know you, they behaved as though they did.

But as I grew older, that world felt like it was closing in on me. What had been comforting, like a cocoon, was now just suffocating. And all I could dream of was how to get away from what seemed like the smallest town in the world. It was, in fact, then and now the largest city in the county by population if not by geography. But, nothing seemed smaller than Oxnard when I was a teen-ager. Everything seemed more sophisticated, more exciting and better.

I couldn't get out of the 'Nard fast enough and have, really, never gone back to live for longer than 10 months. But, now, when I visit, I start to catch glimpses of what I gave up, how the place formed me, and to understand why, even though I haven't really lived there since I was 18, I still always claim it.

Where are you from?

Southern California, Oxnard...it's between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, on the coast.