Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fighting off the Funk with Gratitude

I woke up in a funk today. Well, I also woke up in a funk yesterday, and the day before. No one can be happy all the time, right? And my disproportionate anger at the auto-correct function on my word processing program this morning (no, I want it lowercase you idiot, it's an abbreviation! Not a new sentence! aaarrrgghh @#!&*%$@! ~all in my head, of course~) leads me to believe that the problem may lie in the hormonal realm. Happens to the best of us, what can I say.

Even my whiteboard quote of the day:
Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
just makes me snarl. That's right, I said snarl. As in when the right side of your nose does that little wrinkle and your lip curls up a bit in the corner? It's a snarl. And I did it. (enthusiasm. I got your enthusiasm right here, I'm thinking...)

Shame on me!

So, what to do? It's not fun being in a mood like this, unless of coure you're in college and driving around Gainesville w/ your new bff and you're griping Foamy style (warning: bad language abounds if you follow that link) at anything and everything, that's fun (shoutout to you, Jen!). But, alas, I'm a grown-up now and being in a ranty mood doesn't help anyone. Plus, I'd rather not do it. I like having normal blood pressure, thanks very much. Besides, over the years I'd much rather form smile lines than yucky frowny lines...

But I digress. So, this morning as I was in the bathroom down the hall after breakfast, flossing, mouthwashing, and brushing for the 2nd time today (I'm not OCD - ok well maybe I am, but not about this particular thing. Constant spotless teeth is how you've gotta roll when you have Invisalign - you can see my loosely related vlog here) because you have to do that if you put ANYTHING other than water in your mouth (no snacking, not even any liquids like juice or tea or god-forbid, soda. Water. That's it.). Oops, there I go again. Anyway, as I was flossing or brushing or something, it occured to me through my grumpy fog that my life is much more enjoyable when I'm in a better mood. And there's no reason why this funk of a mood should have me helpless in its clutches! But it kinda did. So, I pulled out an old faithful that's appropriate for this time of year - giving thanks.

I've said for a long time that a way to pull yourself up at times like this is to do a simple, conscious switch of attention - it's easy, all you have to do is start giving thanks. For anything. But make sure it's stuff that you ARE actually thankful for. For instance, here's how mine started:

I give thanks that I'm finally getting my teeth straightened after I've been self-conscious about them for so many years....although I didn't even mean to, my dentists told me I needed to straighten them because of other stuff...And hey, it did force a diet, but I don't really care about losing weight. There's a marketing ploy - come get Invisalign! Lose 5 pounds for 5 grand! Although, for $5k couldn't I just get lipo? I mean, I doubt lipo would even be $5k....
Ok...I give thanks that I have a job.
I give thanks that I can afford to have and keep in stock all the dumb things I need for my teeth.
I give thanks that I can afford more than a few pairs of shoes to wear to work (as I clipclopped down the hallway back to my office)
I give thanks that my body all works as it should and I am not confined to the use of a wheelchair or crutches.
I give thanks that I work in a place that is well lit and safe and clean.
I give thanks that my job isn't one that puts me into any physical danger.

...and on and on. And sure enough, before long, I started to feel better. And now, retelling it, I feel even better. The goal is to continue this all day. It can be easier or harder, depending on the day, I suppose.

But it's true. Most of us do have plenty to be thankful for. And later today, when I saw a link to this random blog by Jason Mraz, I took it as the sign that it was - to tell me that I am on the right track. An article that says the exact thing I was doing is healthy, is coincidence? I think not... So, not even using the cheesy Turkey Day stuff (that's for Thursday, don't spoil your dinner now) what do you have to be thankful for?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Band Practice

Today's whiteboard quote is:

Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?

~Frank Scully

I don't have a deep thought about that one (I don't think one's even needed), just love it and thought I'd share. :)
This weekend was, of course, not long enough, but fun, restful and thank goodness it WAS, because there will be no rest for the weary til, probably January. (makes me sad to say it, but it's true. As a homebody lazybones, more or less, this makes me blanch. A little. There's only so pale my skin'll go...)
Friday I took off and we did one of my favorite-of-late things - band practice!
Disclaimer: The term "band practice" does not refer to any band in actuality that I claim to be any part of. It loosely references at least two hours of sitting in T's living room with him and B, looking up lyrics and chords online that they can play while they (and occasionally I) sing. Although I was pursuing a bit of a music career oh, a decade ago, the only places you'll catch me opening the pipes are #1: the shower, #2: the car, when I'm driving, and #3: the odd karaoke excursion.
Saturday night was a party given by one of M's coworkers that had a tailgating theme. And, as happy as I would have been to don my Gator gear, I'm still completely in boxes from the move so the most I could lay my hands on was good old UCF wear. Not that I wouldn't rather be rocking my Florida garb, ribbons beads and all (let's be honest, my time at UCF was before they had a football team worth watching-oops-I-mean-cheering on), but you gotta do what you've gotta do with the options you have.

So we went, and they had Rock Band. Now I have never played Guitar Hero in my life, and this is a souped-up version that included 2 guitars, a drum set and a mic for a singer, all which are led the same way that guitars on Guitar Hero are. Best. Game. Ever.
Candid that T got of M and I:

And him giving me the crazy eyes when I tried to do the same:

Other than that, and driving down to Redondo to wait for my cable guy and rearrange some of the rooms before we unpack everything (not a fun job, that moving furniture around business. Especially when you don't agree on where it should go), the weekend wasn't too eventful. Just the way I like it, usually. If only it were cold enough for gloves and hot cider, I'd've been perfectly contented.

So, today is, besides returning movies and books that are way overdue because I'm a lot lazier in practice than in theory, the beginning of the T Day recipe finalization rounds. Good times. And as I definitely ate waaay way too much hummus (you know when you're completely full and know you should stop but it all tastes so good that you justify continuing to eat as you stuff your face more and more? Like, after you're really done with the bigger things so you say it's hummus, not a REAL main course so it doesn't matter? ... That = me, 10 minutes ago) at lunch and now can't imagine ever eating again, it's a harder job than it may seem.

Happy Monday, and thank goodness for short weeks!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Know Thyself

I’m sitting at The Panini Garden in Santa Monica, outside on their back patio in the perfectly sunny and breezy 79 degree weather. Perfect for…May. Early May. I might say August or September, but the light isn’t golden as it should be during the fall months.

Today, I’m oka
y with the ridiculously out-of-character November weather. I’ve never been to this place before, although every time I’m in Santa Monica and say I want to go somewhere to write T says that here would be perfect. Okay, okay, he was right. I love it. There just aren’t places like this at home. The back patio, where I’m sitting, has thin strips of linen draping from rafter to rafter, allowing enough light for it to be bright but completely taking the glare away. Tiny birds are fluttering between the gaps in the linen and in from the trees next to the fence down to the floor of the patio and back again. I didn’t even notice them until the couple next to me got up to leave and a tiny flock of them flew up. It’s an odd sensation because even with the slight breeze, you feel like you’re inside and you don't expect little birds to be everywhere. Sounds weird, I know, but it’s actually really cool. T and a friend are also here, working on a project:

It's one of my silly little mottos that you need to make it a point to know what you need in order to be your happiest, or most productive, inspired, or least bitchy; however you wanna spin it. For instance, it didn't take me too long to realize that I need more sleep than a normal person in order to be my most pleasant and productive. I also am a morning person, and am at my best when I awaken before 7am, which, combined with my need for sleep, makes for early nights. I find that this isn't normal for my peer quarterlifers so every year or two I'll somehow forget how important it is and try to maintain my normal routines with less sleep (like, going to bed late every night and still getting up at the same time in the morning, like I've been doing for the past couple weeks) and I'm okay for nearly a month, after which it's downhill, quickly. So, I can either go to bed early, or suck. Generally and all-around, suck. I'll be less energetic, less positive, my workouts suffer of course, and I am serious when I say I lose intelligence. No kidding, I become stupid. Or stupider, maybe...? See - I need sleep right now.

So that's 1. Another one for me is that I need to be in lovely places. I don't mean necessarily my living space, which depends on a lot of factors and can't always be done, but as soon as I move to a new city one of my top priorities is finding the closest and most beautiful parks, gardens and trails, which I then need to go visit semi-regularly in order to feel whole and balanced.

I've known people before who said that needing those things made me less human - an old boyfriend and I had gigantic fall-outs when I said I couldn't always live in Florida because I needed real trees in my life. Sorry, I do...

So, back on topic, places like the one I'm sitting in, that has blooming lavender bushes lining the patio, intricate patterns inlaid in brick along the walkways and a simple fountain next to the door, not to mention the birds, are important to me. I lived in Richmond again between undergrad and grad school for about 8 months and Maymont was my savior. I miss it like I miss a person, and every time I go I feel as if I'm visiting an old friend as I walk the paths.

I'm sure that's one of the things that makes me odd, but at least I'm aware of it :) And I don't think there's a thing wrong with needing beauty in my life.

So, in closing, what are things you need? What calms your soul and makes the quiet voice of inspiration easy to hear, once your mind has settled? Maybe it's music or particular foods, or routines like exercise or visiting certain people.

Think about it, find out, then start putting some of that stuff into your schedule. Go on msn.com or any news site and you'll see how pampered our lives are compared to some in the world. We have a responsibility, at the very least, to appreciate that fact and make ourselves the most healthy beings we can, in order to contribute what we need to to the world.
Happy Friday :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

On Seasonal Smelliness and Brain ATMs

While I'm happy that the work week has been going by at a good clip, it also makes me a little apprehensive about the upcoming holiday season probably passing in a flash. After Halloween, it seems more and more like the other holidays are a day apart, and then there you are, dumped in the new year, looking around and wondering what happened (not to mention possibly hungover, depending on your NYE celebration...)

I have a tradition that's pretty silly, I do admit, but it's awesome (subjectively) - and it involves this:
Bath and Body Works' Winter Candy Apple. I love. And have been wearing it, for a month and a half each year, for nigh on a decade. You know how smells can instantly and effortless take you back - not only do you remember what was happening when you smelled the smell before, but how it looked, sounded, smelled (of course), and even felt?
Your nose, (olfactory nerve) is the one that is most hardwired into the brain (hence the pheromone theory that you're attracted to people and don't even know why, etc.) so smells engender emotion and memories in a way that no other sense can quite duplicate. And, when I start to use my delicious WCA scent, I know that the holidays are here! Sometimes I'll dig it out just for fun and wear it for a day in summer, but my sense of time gets very confused :) Maybe it's just me, but it's things like that that make the passage of the years so nice.
So that's my excitement for this week, I'm instantly in the grasp of the season. Even though it is going to get up into the eighties this afternoon, which just isn't right...
I haven't had as many of my deep thoughts this week, or perhaps they haven't lingered long enough for me to still grasp them by the time I'm at my keyboard (the best ones come at decidedly inconvenient times, like in the shower or on a walk outside). I've been sitting down to write without much coming out, and here's where my Brain ATM theory comes in:
I think, that if nothing will come out of your mind (creativity, inspiration, etc.), then you should put something in. Read, watch a movie, listen to music. To kick it up a notch, do these things with media that not only entertains you, but that has a deeper connection to your creative drive. Watch a movie that you LOVE and that would inspire the kinds of thoughts that you're looking for. Or, reread that book or re-listen to that cd (or ipod playlist, trying to be modern here) that will do the same thing. If none of that sounds good, go read some kind of textbook, letter, or educational website about the topics that you often ponder, and after it's marinaded there for a while, you'll break it down, reform the paper pulp and send out a new noggin output, that is very much "you". There ya go: (not-so) instant inspiration.
So, I've been doing a lot of reading lately. Oh, one more thing - if you write, you'll write like who you're reading. Therefore, if you love a certain author, read a lot of their stuff and you'll eventually start to sound like them. I find this to be VERY true for myself - I start to "talk" (aka write) like whoever I'm "listening" to (reading), pretty soon. Especially if I'm spending a lot of time immersed in that person's work.
Hmm, if only it worked like that for musical talent or financial genius...
Ok, that's it for today. Get out and enjoy the weather! If it's hot or cold or rainy, By definition, it's very much November where you are (even if your November involves record breaking highs, like mine does. sigh.) Don't let it go by in a flash.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Crossed off the Calendar

The other day, as I was looking for a quote suitable for the whiteboard (they have to be just right), I came across one that basically said that if, every night before sleeping, you cross off that day on your calendar, saying "this is one day that I will never live again", you will learn the value of time. I forget who it was by.

Good grief. I didn't think much of it at the time, but it's marinaded for a few days now and I can't get it out of my head. Living with that knowledge (I'll never live this morning again, this afternoon again, this sunset again)... has made my life more precious moment-to-moment, as I wonder what things I would miss if I were looking back on my life. They're always simple, like the feeling of the cobbled sidewalks of campus beneath my shoes and the tiny leaves of the silhouetted fern trees against the sky. Or T making me smile -

Speaking of, last night as I was driving to Santa Monica after work and only intermittently stuck in traffic, I decided to listen to an old Garth Brooks cd that I hadn't put in yet in this time zone (the last time I listened to it was in grad school I suppose, in FL). When the song You Move Me came on, I remembered how many times I used to listen to it, along with other songs that spoke to me in the same way (sorry if you don't like country, but they have some of the sweetest songs. I'm an equal-opportunity music lover) and how I would think of them. For instance, with this one, he's saying how the person he loves has changed everything for him and made his world a better place to live in. I used to listen to it and swoon and wish that I could affect someone that way; I was entirely too cocky about my own potential life choices to ever think that I could ever be in that position with another person - that they would give me new ways of seeing things that made my world brighter...and that's just what T does. Not that I'll go into it here, but suffice it to say that not only did he give me faith in love again, he has given me faith in the goodness of people.

Here's a picture of us soon after we met:

Ok, done swooning now.

Anyway, I was talking later to my friend B, a.k.a the sexy vegan (who is also T's roommate and who makes amazing videos, hence the link - make sure to check out the interlude video - awesome) and we somehow got into a discussion about life, health, positive thinking, the power of prayer, and so on. Leave it to me - in college the joke was that after I'd had a few, I wouldn't want to dance or flirt - I'd go sit in a corner with someone and discuss the mysteries of the universe. Weird.

Then, on a more mundane note, I ordered some gluten-free stuff for turkey day! T can't have gluten or else he has mild Celiac's symptoms - tummy ache, fatigue, etc. (as I remind him every time he contemplates ordering a Guinness these days), so I was a bit worried about how I'd make some of the holiday stuff, but lo and behold, there is a gluten-free pie crust mix here! That was the only one I hadn't figured out how to sub rice flour or something into. I'm very excited.

In closing, have a great day. Enjoy your weather (yes mom, I AM jealous of you having to warm the car up), and remember, there's only a month and change left in our lovely 2008 - make it memorable :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blazin' Moves

First of all, here's a pic I took this morning on the highway as I was on my ridiculously-and-unnecessarily(stupid LA traffic!)-long drive in to work this morning (don't worry, traffic was stopped when I took it, no reckless driving here):
See how the sky fades into a pinky brown at the bottom? No, the sun wasn't rising. Rather, that's smoke from the fires. I heard that over 200 homes are gone at this point.

For living in paradise as we do in SoCal, there are some pretty huge prices that are paid for that perfect weather
, I think. I can only imagine how those who woke up to a normal day on Friday and are now without houses and all the possessions in them, 3 days later, can feel. Please pray for them and send positive thoughts/energy, I will be...

Now, on another, less important note, I moved. this. weekend.

Aaarrrgh! There, that was my textual primal scream. I feel a lot better.

Let me explain. Usually, I like moving. I feel it thrilling, and I especially love that last drive away, when you are leaving your own world behind and driving into the unknown. I think it's incredibly freeing and exciting.


In order for me to really get the most out of this kind of excitement, a few "givens" have to be in place. Ok, to amend, not "givens" for everyone. Just givens for me. As I learned this weekend. One of them is, I dunno, packing your stuff, maybe?

I love my sister. She has a dizzying intellect, and she has the most organized thoughts of anyone I know (don't talk to her about grammar. You'll walk away with a headache, I promise). However, actually, physically, organized? Not so much. (I love you M, but it's true! And you know it.) On her last move, her pseudo-family (a.k.a skydiving buddies) got to her house and saw that nothing had been packed. As in, nothing at all. Perfectly lived-in. So they, being the hyperactive go-getters that they are, moved her. In garbage bags. (I can hear some of you cringing). She STILL hasn't found some of her stuff.

This time, it was better. She was kind of packed and had already moved some stuff in her car here and there (the new townhouse is by her work). However, yes, her room was one of the last
ones packed. She just has a lot of stuff! Which is awesome when you need to borrow something :) , but not awesome for moving.

Anyway, we moved. And there's a lot more that goes into it. Imagine lost U-Haul dealerships, magical hidden streets that supposedly have a police station (to buy overnight parking permits for the U-Haul), disgusting thai food that makes everyone sick, movies that give you nightmares (Apocalypto rocks, but make sure you can see it to the end before a sleep is scheduled), Los Angeles traffic, ashes falling like snow at the new house, no place for the U-Haul at said house so having to park it halfway into the tiny overpopulated street (I bet our neighbors love us already), bathrooms that will need to be completely disassembled (I'll unpack..
.next week?), no ceiling fixtures anywhere which we discover as the sun's setting, staircases that are homicidal, and a new neighbor, oh no, I mean disgustingly awesomely huge banana spider that hangs out in the tiny tree in front of the house, sitting eye level with me as I climb out of my car-

"What does that thing eat?"

"Small aircraft."

-and my favorite, "hot" water that never gets hotter than warm. I was awake this morning in the shower, that's fo sho!

And winding up right smack dab in a Monday. I need a nap.

But, I will say, that T was great. He jumped right in, moved furniture, did things that were not fun like clean out the fridge (ew), then help carry the monstrosity of it to and from the truck, find little things that we surely would have left behind, vacuum (without being asked! Wow!) and on top of everything, also comfort me, in between carrying in furniture and who knows what else, when I was overwhelmed. Amazing. Just sayin.

M's friend Jeff with Santa's sack -oh no- I mean a "box" of M's stuff:

M's skydiving dad Mark, M, and Terry in the old kitchen:

T and I on a slurpee hunt mid-move (they make everything better):
And finally, the shot of the evening - our first meal in the new house! We're in what was soon-to-become my new bedroom, watching a movie on my laptop and eating Peruvian food. I'd never had it so was unaware that there would be squid involved. I'm a sushi lover, but I'm sorry, those little suction cup thingies just freak me out.

Have a great week! Stay away from weird ocean animals that are smart enough to learn how to unscrew a jar to get the treat inside (true story, I saw it on the Discovery channel). Wait, if they're smart, and you are what you eat, shouldn't I have been shoveling those bad boys down? Ugh, sorry, can't do it. I'll have to stay dumb :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

SoCal ShakeDown!

So we just had an earthquake!

Ok, that's a lie.

We just had a simulated earthquake of a significant magnitude. It was a drill that was for the entire state, or at least this half of the state - I guess the powers that be got a wake-up call a few months ago that no one would know what the heck to do if "the big one" hit (you can see my vlog on it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9fTFEVMK8M).

So we had it here, as a campus-wide thing, and at 10:02am they fired off a cannon to give the signal to "duck and cover". So I did, under my desk, which was surprisingly roomy and comfortable, yay for the corner desk, and which was good because we had to be there for 2 minutes! 2 minutes is a loooong time when you're hunched under a desk. I should keep a crossword puzzle or something under there just in case...

Anyway, so my boss and I started (pseudo) yelling a conversation back and forth from our attached offices. He's apparently been in all the big semi-recent ones, which is interesting, especially when big hanging lights are swinging over your head. And by interesting, I mean kinda scary.

Then it was over, and after determining that I'd be ok with the falling stuff (although I hate to imagine what my office would look like afterward - it's a pigsty as it is...) and that he should get under another part of his desk than he did, because of a ginormous heavy bookshelf that is mounted to the wall above it, I took up my role as the 'runner'.

As our building's runner, it'd be my job to go to the central location and get any info, directions, etc., as well as taking them info on injured/trapped/etc people where I am . So I went over to our division office and signed a little form to say I was there, and chatted for a minute ("Did you guys hide under the desks? We did over in Steele."...."I'll decline to answer that"...)

It's a gorgeous day today! And I noticed on my walk back that most people ignored the drill, but what are you gonna do. As I was celebrating the loveliness of the day while lamenting the temperature, which is supposed to get up to NINETY later (boo), I noticed an airplane flying pretty low - I could hear the motor loudly, but this isn't odd because LAX is so close. Anyway, I wonder what it would be like to be in an airplane looking down during an earthquake, seeing the ground writhe beneath you, buildings falling, while you're safe and level up in the air. Must be weird!

On that note, stock up on your bottled water and enjoy the lovely day. Oh, and drink some hot chocolate for me, those of you who are in the cold! I'll be sweating my face off.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Baseball Bat aka Frying Pan (cast iron, of course) Theory

My whiteboard quote for today was:

Undertake something that is difficult: it will do you good. Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.
~Ronald E. Osborn

It makes me groan with annoyance at the knowledge of it, but is so true! Why would we ever grow if the place we were sitting in was comfortable? I'm a true-to-the-marrow Taurus, and when I'm comfy I dig my heels in and don't want to move. So, the only way for me to get the message that it's time for a change is when I'm feeling discomfort about it. Which leads me to my baseball bat theory (otherwise entitled frying pan theory)...

Here's how it goes. It's my belief that we are always directed. If we ask consciously for direction, we're directed even more clearly, but on an everyday basis, we get outward (external signs or coincidences) or inward (gut feelings, "random" thoughts and ideas) nudges to tell us what the next, best step to take on our path is.

If you're not familiar with this, first think back on times in your life when a big change surprised you, especially if it was painful. This isn't something happening to someone else (illness of a family member for example), but something happening to YOU. Now, think back to earlier. In retrospect, were there signs? Were there things that told you, albeit quietly, that perhaps you should make the changes you were forced to make, in the end? I'd wager that, now that it's all said and done, you had signals about what was going to happen.

So, I think that we get "nudges" first. We all have various paths that we can walk in our lives, some subjectively better to us, andwe choose where to go by the decisions we make. I think that God wants us to walk on our best and happiest path, and so we get nudges, like little coincidences, messages and suggestions from other people, and gut feelings that, if we pay attention to, can help us to stay on our path. Even if our path is about to take a turn that we did not forsee.

Now, sometimes we can ignore them and be fine, and walk on the slightly-less-awesome path. However, sometimes there is a turn that we MUST make. And so we get the nudges. If it's non-negotiable, the nudges will turn to pushes and our discomfort with our current situation will grow. If we still ignore it, it'll keep growing and growing and getting worse and worse until we HAVE to make the change.

Examples of this are the ending of a relationship that could've ended amicably, but if it didn't end early when the nudges or pushes were there, it ends in fire and ruin, metaphorically (I've been through both), or, if you're life is too busy, you're then getting stressed, but you keep busy, then getting so sick that your life HAS to slow down, and on and on.

Now, the fire and ruin or the sickness is the frying pan, or baseball bat, upside the head.

Never pleasant.

So, in closing, pay attention to those gut feelings! And, if you need direction, ask for it, then LISTEN. It may be a whisper, but you'll recognize that pure-as-a-bell resonance within yourself that you'll feel to whatever the whispered idea is.

You'll know you're right when the discomfort eases. But a mistake can be made if that easing makes you cancel your decision to change whatever you were being directed to change. The pain stopped because you're headed on the right path - if you go back to the first (wrong) one, then it'll come back with a vengeance. So be careful.

That's my soapbox of the day. What are your gut feelings telling you?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Candycane Happiness -- no, just kidding.

Yesterday evening, when deciding what I'd wear today, I did what I've been looking forward to for weeks, maybe even months -- skipped over to the downstairs hall closet and got out my fleece jacket and scarf.

Yay! The cold season has finally arrived!

This morning I got dressed, wore my knee-high socks and boots (yessss!) and did my old faithful banish-the-cold routine: Scarf on first, two and a half wraps each way, tuck the ends, then the jacket over all, buttoned and belted, thank you.

I clip-clopped out to my car and was on my way to work. I even had to use the rear window defroster! Yup, I was excited about this.

Then, while driving, someone or other on the radio said that we'll be getting up to 75 degrees this afternoon, then up to 80 tomorrow.


Is it because of global warming? I know I'm in California and all, but come on! It's nearly thanksgiving and still not even consistent sweater weather. Not cool. (no pun intended, but it works.)

Yesterday as I was running an errand on campus I was exquisitely aware of the cool breeze chilling my cheeks and neck, and I thought how much more lovely the world looks right now with crispness in the air. Yes, it looks just as lovely in the early spring when the non-frigid winds are starting to thaw everything out, but the loveliness is different. Right now, at this time of the year, it seems to me that you need the cold in order to get the most out of the season.

Then, I realized something. It's only the temperature. How hot or cold the air is should have no bearing on my happiness anyway. It's such a silly thing. Well, maybe not NO bearing - I can understand being just a bit more happy if the weather matches, but less because it doesn't match? There's just something wrong with that.

It seems to me that we're always chasing something. Something material, or a relationship, or things that are career-oriented... isn't it only that what we all really want is to wake up happy, looking forward to the day, then live a happy day, then go to bed - happy? And the things and people that we chase are just ways that we think we can get that feeling?

The sad thing is, it seldom works. For me at least, once I've gotten those things that I thought would give me that all-is-right-with-the-world-and-I-am-all-of-a-sudden-an-infinitely-more-awesome-and-happy-version-of-myself-feeling before, I looked around and realized that it wasn't all it had been cracked up to be in my mind. I still felt like something was missing. It's not that I didn't appreciate what I'd achieved, but I didn't feel like I thought I would. So, it was on to the next thing.

But if that's the way that life is lived, you'll never be happy. What about deciding what things have really given you that feeling? Not what seems to give OTHERS that feeling - I think that's where most of us make the mistake, we see other people happy (or seeming like they're happy), so we think by having the situation or things that they have we can feel the same way. We're not those people. The same things won't make us happy.

So, what does?

Then, how to get it? And, more importantly, how much of it do we already have? Maybe we don't notice, or it doesn't help because we always want more. Well, something that's been true for me is, yes, there can always be more. And there can always be less. So it's good to appreciate what we have. Not as a fear-based "oh my gosh I may lose this" kind of appreciation, just with a gratitude for the things that make our lives sweet.

And, if we don't have what we want, how can we get it? I always used to practice the "what would the perfect version of myself, the one I want to someday be, do right now?" question. It almost always worked. And, it was hardly ever easy.

I should get back to that.

So, in closing, this has been yet another PSA to pay attention! Who knows what you're missing and wish you hadn't?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Olive Festival Weekend 08!

My Dad was in town this weekend for his birthday and the Olive Festival, which is held where I work.

So, first of all,

Happy Birthday Dad!

He arrived Friday afternoon and M brought him up with her on Friday evening for the banquet they give as a part of the Festival.

It was lovely - there were rows and rows of tables set up on the lawns and with the pretty settings, centerpieces (all edible!) and great company, it was a altogether satisfactory evening. I only noticed after the sun went down that they had brought out little lamposts that were set up around the periphery of the lawns (SO cute), and my Dad commented on how great it is that there were no bugs at all buzzing around. You'd NEVER be able to say that back east. Yay Socal!

Terry also met my Dad for the first time which had me a little nervous, of course for no reason - they got along great. Everyone loves Terry, including random animals and kids; there was a little girl of about 7 or 8 who just wouldn't leave him alone! It was adorable, but, not gonna lie, I talked a litte smack to him about it. Sorry Terry :)

The next day, Michal and Dad took a load of boxes down to the new place and I eventually got some school work done. Then yesterday, on Dad's actual birthday, we went out to lunch at The Crepe Vine in Old Town Pasadena, which was great even with the FOREVER long wait, especially because the manager working was sweet enough to smooth any ruffled feathers at our table, of which there were some (not mine!).

Afterward, we walked over to 21 Choices, which is an amazing frozen yogurt place in Old Town. It's basically just like a Coldstone Creamery, but they use all these delicious and light frozen yogurt flavors. You never get bored because they're different every day, and they're frozen yogurt, so you don't feel like you ate a brick afterward like you do with Coldstone, ugh. Add in fresh ingredients and (possibly freakishly) happy and welcoming employees ("how do they do that?" I say "They give them coke in the back room" -Terry. Riiight...) and you get a little place that constantly has a line out the door and around the corner, even on chilly days.

That lady sitting on the left was TOTALLY flirting with my Dad. She was cute too. He should've gotten her number. :)

Terry had the bright idea to...

Get frozen yogurt 'staches. Probably not as healthy as milk...

In closing, a fun and relaxing weekend. And yay on the cold weather finally arriving!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Perfection 2 cents

My whiteboard quote for today is:

"The farther a man knows himself to be from perfection, the nearer he is to it."
~Gerard Groote

In my field we keep saying how knowing that we don't know everything brings us closer to true knowledge - how, the more we know, we realize that we actually know less than we started out thinking we did. (I know that sentence is kind of convoluted, but I swear it makes sense...)

I think that's true with happiness too. This morning I was walking into work and thinking about my day, and the fact that Dad's coming to visit today for the first time since his recent move to northern CA, and that this is the first time he and T will meet (which holds great importance for me, of course), and that the Olive Festival is tonight which I've been looking forward to essentially since the last one in October '07, and my feelings about the job that I was walking toward, and on and on.

Then I went off on the job, career, and life tangent - I was raised to take education for granted. My sister was a true genius, and I just followed, thinking that's what everyone did. Now I have a bachelor's, two master's, and am headed toward a Ph.D., and still am not exactly sure what I want to do, or, more truthfully, HOW to do what I want to do.

Perhaps I'll figure it out eventually, perhaps I won't. I used to think that, at some point, the switch had to flip and things had to start being easy. You'd eventually just kind of have it "all" under your thumb and know what you were doing, more or less all the time. At least, that's what it looked like from where I was standing...

...then I realized that, no. No one ever really knows what they're doing. Hell, if I were to see myself now from my 15-year-old-eyes, I would probably think I ended up being one of those people who had it all together and that is CERTAINLY not true. I'm as clueless as I ever was! Sure, maybe now and then I know what's going on, possibly enough to be an authority even. I could talk about the things I know all day, fully confident, but there is so much more to life than those little pockets of knowledge. And no, there's no such real thing as an "adult". We're all little kids, who just think about different things than we did when we were small.

I still have the same mind, the same internal "voice" that I had when I was seven - I just spend my time thinking about different things. And I have more experiences, but my "me" is still the same "me". (another reason to talk to kids like they're people, not like they're "kids" - they are people. Just the same as all of us "grown-ups")

So, for me at least, the answer is to, maybe, know I don't know everything, can't plan everything, yet will likely, if I stay focused, ending up getting some semblance of what I want (heck, it's worked so far), and to always, always make sure I'm paying attention to what's important.

I always used to feel like I was always waiting for my real life to start. That was never true. And now, at least, I know that this IS my life.

And, about the quote, no one is perfect. And everyone is. The non-perfection is part of the greater perfection. As as soon as we can all see that in each other, the world can start to approach perfection too. I think.

Happy Friday! I'll post Olive Festival pics :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Earthworms and Pennies From Heaven

First of all, the election...

I wasn't feeling so great last night so I was lying down at T's house while he was at the computer, updating me with the unofficial results that Obama had won, by a landslide even. That was not a big surprise at all to me, I don't know how anyone could have reasonably expected much else with the way things have been going for the past weeks, but lying there, tired, only halfway thinking about it and not even surprised or particularly interested (at that moment, of course I was happy to hear it) I felt a quiet but intense inner surge of excitement. It was bigger than me, and I know it didn't even come from my own thoughts. It was the feeling of the tide changing, in a grand sense. And this history-making election is just a symptom of this great thing that is affecting all of us. I talked to a friend this morning and she felt it too - what an interesting time we live in. The climate of the world is changing, and we're here to experience it. And, from where I'm standing, it certainly looks like that change will be for the better.

Now, on to other things...

One of my quirks is that I always have to rescue earthworms from the sidewalk. You know, after it rains and there are a bunch of them out there who came onto dry land to escape the saturated ground? Well, I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, but once they're out, it's not like they can see their way back into the safe darkness of the soil again! The thought of one dying a painful death, less than a foot away from salvation but having no idea how to get there really bothers me. So, when I see one that's still alive, I put it back into the grass. As I've become an adult, I'm not as eager to pick it up in my hands, but I always nudge them over until they're in a place where they can burrow down.

I know it's not much, but it makes me feel like I did my part to spread some goodness in the world - and I'm sure it was a big deal to the earthworm!

This morning I saw one that it was too late for and had a moment of sadness. I know it's a little thing, but senseless death, no matter how small, should be mourned, if only for a moment or two.

I saw it on my walk over to the cafeteria on the campus where I work. I was craving, and I mean craving (as in, had been for days and was finally breaking down and getting one) a croissant. Yum. So, I decided to trot on over and pick one up, as the only other thing I had brought with me for lunch was a banana and that wasn't up to balancing out the huge amount of vitamins and herbs in pill form that I'm taking with every meal (another story) that make me nauseous if I don't have food too.

So, off I went. Very excitedly (on the inside).

As I was on my way, it occured to me that I wasn't actually THAT hungry, and although the banana alone wouldn't be enough, having a huge croissant too would probably make me feel just as yucky. But what are you gonna do, so I still went over and saw what they had in the caf.

A minute or two into my perusing, I saw a couple of trays, with the cutest little mini-croissants! About a half or a third of the size of the gargantuan ones I've always seen before. Yay! (note: I have never seen these before there.)

Anyway, I picked one up and headed for the checkout. The woman standing there looked at me.

"That's all you're getting?"
(she looks with a strange face back towards the bar)
"Well, you can't really buy one of those alone - it's part of the entire breakfast over there."
(Oh, great. So am I going to have to pay something like $6 for this itty-bitty croissant? I'm not happy. And, for some reason, this morning I was not my usual smiley and good-natured self. Only once in about a year do I actually show my dissapointment and/or annoyance at a time like this. I frowned at her, thinking about what I was supposed to do...I guess my option to put it back was gone, I didn't want any more food, so I would have to shell out way more than I should to buy this little thing, all the while that I've been trying to be frugal for the upcoming holiday season. Dammit.)
"...Well, next time, remember that they're part of the actual breakfast. But just take that with you right now."
(all the time said with that same not-so-pleasant look on her face)
"Go ahead. But remember that next time it comes with the whole thing."
(it occurs to me that she just wants me to walk out with it.)
"Are you sure?" (she nods) "Ok, thanks! Have a good day!"

And I walk away, feeling abashed that I was a bit of a jerk (if mostly only in my head), and trying to figure out what just happened.

These are the things I am talking about when I say that if we notice the small nice things/blessings/answers/whatever that we get on a day-to-day basis, life can be so much sweeter. The truth is, I'd wanted something, even only for a fleeting thought, and not only did I get it, very unexpectedly because I didn't even know it was an option, but I got it for free.

And yes, it's only a small thing, but isn't life made up of nothing but small things?

So I gave thanks for it and cherished my moment of luck. Of course me, being me, attributed it to the Divine presence and said thanks for the little, mundane (but noticed and appreciated) gift, that was given to me for no reason.

And yes, I'm still having a not-so-great day. But isn't it great when you're given little things to smile about?

Hmm, kind of makes you think that it could be all on purpose, doesn't it? ;)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On Voting Mayhem and Cultural Goodness Trickery

Election Day 2008!
Last night my Choir Director (yes, I know, I'm a dork. But I love it. Shut up.) said that her six-year-old daughter ran into her room early that morning, saying "Mom! Obama's at 55 and McCain is at 45. I don't know what that means, but those are the numbers." Of course, she, as a mom of a six-year-old, went on the "good job! Now which of those numbers are bigger?..." tangent, all the while thinking that this is one example how, in truth, this one has been a historic election but when a child of that age is so involved, is that a good or bad thing?...
I don't know. There are certainly arguments to both sides of that issue, but as for me, I think that the enormous wave this election has sent through our country, and even through the world, is indicative of other changes that are just part of our story, as people on this Earth. I'm excited to see what will happen. If someone had told me, a child of the south who was raised in a highly racist town, that so many people of all ethnicities would be coming together in this way, I would have scoffed. And yet here is is. How marvelous.
Now, that said, my own voting experience today didn't exactly go...smoothly...
First, I couldn't find where my polling place was. I made calls. I went to websites. And other websites. And different websites. And I would get referrals to even more dead end ones, or short and (not so) sweet messages that said the information was suddenly not available for lookup. So, silly me, I assumed that my polling place would be the same as one that I used for the primaries. And I, vaguely, remembered where that was. So, I started driving. And the streets where I live are on a decent grid pattern, except, of course, in that section of town. Hmm. It was a maze. But, I was triumphant, and found it, after only a couple of U-turns and complete loss of my internal compass after so many zigzagging streets.
So, I parked, and stood in line. And told the guy at the central hub table thing my address, showed him my ID, and he couldn't find my name on the list. Ok, understandable. I only changed my voter's registration to my new address a month or so ago. But then he looks on the map (which was the ODDEST map I have ever seen, I'm still not sure which side North was) and says I'm in the wrong location. After, that is, asking me a couple times if I'm sure that I live on my street. Hmm. (yes, I do know how to apply mascara AND can form a complete sentence. Perhaps even at the same time! I know it's a hard concept to grasp, friend.)
Ok. So I start driving to the next one. (meanwhile listening to The Time Traveler's Wife on book-on-cd, and it's fabulous! Definitely pick it up.) The other polling place is on S. 7th St.
You would think that if you pass 1st St, 2nd St, and so on to 6th St, that the next one would be 7th. Not the case. There I am, sure about my street numbers, about to confidently make a left on the cool and cloudy morning in Alhambra, and, no. It's 8th St. What the...?
I do not mind getting lost. When I'm not in a hurry. Actually, I often like it and see it as a kind of adventure. I've seen the most beautiful architectural stylings getting lost in South Pas and San Bernadino. However, I was supposed to quickly cast my vote and head to work, and here I am, already over an hour late. So, I still hang a left, knowing how these things often work, and hope that 7th St shows up, at some point.
And it does. It was one of those magically secret hidden streets. Hmm.
But I go in, to my correct table, and...they can't find my name. Big surprise (note: I had gotten paperwork saying my voter registry had been updated. This was about 2 weeks ago. Grr).
The sweet woman there directs me into a small hidden room (again with the hidden things) that she says may hold my name, and I see her look of shock when I say that this is the second polling place I've been to this morning. "Don't worry honey. If they can't help you in there, you come back and see me and we'll make sure that you get to vote." (not that I was really worried about that, but it made me feel nice anyway. Heck, it's no question who's going to win California, he'll win with or without my vote. But I hate it when people say things like that so there I was. I also hate it when people are on their cell phones in the checkout line. Just when they're actually checking out, that is. I tend to put folks on hold).
So, I go to the little room where she sent me, where no one spoke English, and, sure enough, my name was not there, even after every person with a list took my ID, frowned at me, frowned at the list, then shook their heads.
Ok. So I filled out a provisional ballot. Halfway through of doing which, by the way, one of the ladies from the table crowded next to me in my booth and demanded her pen back. (I don't want your spotty ballpoint pen, woman, I was gonna give it back to you when I was finished. Sheeeesh).
But, in the end, I got my sticker! And I helped ensure a landslide CA victory, which I'm sure it'll be for Obama. Which is nice.
I heard some quote or other about how, with the fact that votes literally don't matter much (electoral college and all that), and how things like money for marketing DO matter, that you'd probably be supporting your chosen candidate more by donating to their campaign than actually voting for them. There's just something wrong with that.
It all goes along with how we're taught that doing these kinds of things not only makes us a good citizen, but a good person. The act of stamping a little ink thingy onto a long skinny piece of paper is in no way intrinsically virtuous, just like sitting in a chair with a needle in your arm is not directly (so you can see it) saving anyone's life. So much blood we dotate is tossed out anyway. But I bet you feel an influx of "goodness" when you leave that red truck, everyone does.
That's ok. Feeling like we are making a mark on the world is important. I made peanut butter cookies last night, does that count for a mark on the world? Well, I think it made me a little happier. T too, I'm pretty sure (yay for the fact that the pb cookie recipe I use doesn't call for any flour, I didn't even have to alter them so his gluten-intolerant self could eat them).
I think I'll count it :)

Don't forget to Vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

May You Live

There is a whiteboard next to my office door, on the hallway side. Why there would be a whiteboard outside the office of an administrative assistant's office (which is the only thing mine could be used as, judging by its placement), I don't know (really, does anyone leave notes often enough to have a board permanently affixed there?), but, early in my time here, I decided to make use of it.

I love inspirational quotes. And I don't use the term "love" lightly. While at UF I would write a quote that touched me on a post-it and put it on my wall, or desk, or somewhere I would see it. By the end of each semester, I had a nearly wallpapered office. And desk. And filing cabinet that stood next to my desk. Oh, and bookshelf (the side that faces the desk, not the part that actually holds the books. That would just be weird).

So, I thought that, since I love them and they help me so much (nowadays, I only put the REALLY good ones up in my office. At present, there's one that is a semi-permanent fixture on my desk. On an orange post-it of course), I would use the whiteboard to put up a quote that inspired me each day, in the hopes that it would inspire people who were walking down my hall too.

Note: I have an inspirational calendar and get a newsletter-y email or two a day that have that kind of stuff, so I have a few to pick from on any given day. I only use the really good ones. Sometimes none of them are good so I have to go into my quotey archives...

In any event, today's quote is

May you live all the days of your life.
~Jonathan Swift

I thought that one would be good to start the blog with. That's my soapbox - to LIVE your life. Even if all you do is wake up, head to work, head home, have some dinner, then watch a TV show or two and go to bed, it's my opinion (and what I hope to someday soon, REALLY write about and give seminars about) that to notice, to really see and feel and experience all that happens, is the whole point. And it can get more complex and emotional and spiritual and whatever, and that'll come in later blogs. But for now, the thought is just to notice. Tiny things, like the way your clothes feel against your skin, the way that the air feels cool as it moves down through your nostrils and into your lungs with each breath, and the way the sun is shining. Or the way the rain is falling. Who knows - one day this may be exactly where you want to be in your memory. See what's going on around and within you, just in case.

In other news, welcome to my blog! I decided to finally start my own when I realized that #1: It's hypocritical of me to be so addicted to others' blogs, some of which I've never even met, and #2: According to the 10,000 hour theory (will explain another time), all the writing I can do will likely help my end goals:) Thanks for stopping by, and please leave comments! I also have another page or two floating around in the cyberspace ether, which I'll put in my info section.

Have a great day!