Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Blog

Today is Thanksgiving, a holiday I love. Oh, not because turkey is my favorite meal in the world, or because there's lots and lots of football on TV, especially not because there's lots of football on TV. Not because I can't wait to go shopping on black Friday (although I did do that last year just so I could say I've done it once), and not because this is the holiday that officially ushers in the Christmas season with its lights and carols and sickeningly cheerful people filled with good cheer (of which I must admit I'm one), but because it is a moment to reflect with gratitude on all the gifts I've been given, both big and small. It is a chance not to take anything for granted. And so on this day of gratitude, with the greatest prayer of all being "thank you," I give thanks.

With every inhale and exhale I am aware that life is nothing short of miraculous. That I can think these thoughts and type these words, that I can see and hear and walk and do the daily chores that make up a life is something extraordinary, for so many people cannot do these basic things.

I am grateful for each and every person whose path has crossed mine, be they family, friends, perceived foes, colleagues, or complete strangers, because each one of them has contributed a color to the canvas that comprises my life's portrait.

I am aware and give thanks for shelter and sustenance, for safe drinking water and indoor plumbing, for heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. A great deal of the world is not affluent enough to have these things.

I give thanks for the challenges I face, because without them transformation and growth is not possible. And I give thanks, too, for the things that come easily for me that I have the good sense to appreciate.

I give thanks for all those in my life who have passed on to other dimensions of being, leaving me a little more lonely but a lot more grateful for the time I got to share with them. And for those still in this earthly realm, I take this moment to send you love and appreciation. I say to all of you who know me, "I value you. My life is richer because of you."

I'm thankful for the bounty of mother earth and the beauty of the mountains, the desert and the oceans, which represent the course of our lives - the heights we climb and the magnificence of the view we see when we accomplished what we did not think was possible, the deserts we cross, parched and thirsting for relief, and the oceans of abundance that sweep us to places we never dreamed existed. Yes, I am thankful for all these things.

Lastly on this Thanksgiving blog, I am monumentally grateful for you, my readers. Whether you've been with me for a while, or are just joining the party that fluctuates from tear jerking to, well, just plain fluff, I am thankful that you've chosen to stop by for any length of time and let me share part of who I am with you. I hope you have found something to be of value, even if that is merely entertainment.

I wish you and your loved ones peace and abundant blessings this Thanksgiving. Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In Search of...the ladies who lunch

Every so often I have lunch with some ladies. At one time we all worked together. It was a fun and happy time in my life. But as with everything, times changed, jobs ended, and we no longer spend hours of each day with one another. So every so often, we meet and have lunch.

I’m the youngest of our tiny trio, and Dixie is the oldest. When I first met her, I thought I might need a translator, so foreign was her southern accent to me, the northerner. It was not immediately obvious to me that Dixie would come to hold a dear place in my heart.

Dixie likes to know everything about everyone, and I mean that in the best sense possible. Before long, she knew about my family, my career aspirations, you name it. And I knew, well, I knew she had been married, I knew she liked to laugh, and I found out that it would be best not to operate heavy machinery such as a car after eating her rum cake.

When she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it seemed unfathomable to me that she couldn’t beat it. And beat it, she did. I have told many people facing grim prognoses that I know someone who has beaten the odds and is still around in all her glory today.

One time, when I was going to New York to visit my parents, Dixie asked me, “Well why would you want to go up there with all them Yankees?” I replied, “Those Yankees are my parents,” to which she responded, “Not them Yankees, them other Yankees!” Oh yes, Miss Dixie makes me laugh, and indeed lives up to her name.

When she doesn’t hear from me for a while, Dixie finds me. I swear she would find me in Timbuktu if necessary, just to make sure I’m alright. She likes getting updates and seeing pictures of my adorable niece, and when left up to her, our culinary choices usually involve a Meat & Three. If you are not from the South, let me explain what that is. A meat is usually an overcooked, unrecognizable piece of meat steeped in sauce for several hours or possibly days. And three refers to the number of side dishes you get. These can be equally unrecognizable overcooked vegetables (cooked in bacon grease, of course), macaroni and cheese, which is also considered a vegetable, and any number of other distincly southern things like turnip greens. It is always served cafeteria style and is reasonably priced. While I have been known to roll my eyes on occasion at the suggestion of such a place, damn if it doesn’t taste great. Nobody but a vegetarian doesn’t love a meat & three.

The last time I lunched with the ladies we went a different culinary route. We went to a new French restaurant owned by the son of another former employee. It was quite a distance away, but we had such a good time that we planned on coming back.

There was nothing unusual about this most recent lunch. We chatted for a long time, and indulged in a chocolate dessert that I’m still having dreams about. After talking for hours, as one of us usually did, I drove Dixie home. We hugged, said we loved each other, and talked about the next time we would do this. I drove away from Dixie’s house and back to my own. I did not know that this would be the last time I would see her.

Dixie died this morning, and I miss her already. I miss knowing that there will be another lunch, another chance to talk, and laugh, and share a little piece of our lives. I feel more alone in the world, though I know Dixie is in a place worthy of the light she was when she was here.

If I’ve learned anything from the time I spent with Dixie, it is to embrace the people whose paths cross ours, and to love and cherish the moments we get with them. I’m reminded to laugh heartily, and in the face of adversity, to defy the odds and live. I am glad there is one more angel on my shoulder, but sad for the shared times that can never be again. Mostly, I feel eternally grateful to have met and known Dixie. Rest in peace, my friend.

Thanks for stopping by. Blessings to you and those you love.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

In Search of...a really long Oprah blog

What a week it was…on Oprah. Yes, part of my weekends are reserved for catching up on my DVR’d programs, and no week would be complete without seeing what’s on this, the farewell season of Oprah.

She’s really delivered in ways both profound and enjoyable. Whether it’s been catching up with my teen idols or contemplating plastic surgery and thinking better of it after seeing the celebrity results, I have been totally reeled in.

This week saw the Jackson family, a former President, former talk show hosts, Marie Osmond, and a whole lotta sexual abuse victims. Yes, my friends, Oprah has taken us on an emotional roller coaster ride to be sure.

The interview with the Jackson parents was more than slightly disturbing to me. The mom, clearly a victim herself, was grieving the loss of a son that the world mourns as well. But she neither protected that son from his father or from a parasitic world. And yes, she seemed sweet, and sad, and vulnerable. But she is alive, and her son is not, and no matter how I want to wrap my brain around the fact that Michael was an adult who made his own choices and was responsible for his own demise, I can’t help but believe that the childhood that preceded that chronological adulthood left him scarred and damaged in a way that was irreparable.

This brings me to the father, Joe Jackson, a man who radiates meanness even through a television screen. I’ve got to hand it to Oprah for going for the jugular and saying what we’ve all been thinking. And what was Joe Jackson’s response when asked if he felt remorse for beating the crap out of his kids? They didn’t end up in jail, and they’re good people, so he was justified. I’d argue that one of them ended up on drugs and is dead because he was in so much pain. But I guess by Joe’s standards dead is better than in jail. What a sick, sick man. And by the way, who is to say that his children wouldn’t have turned out just as good, if not better, without being beaten to a pulp. So I’m praying for the sake of all the children who are currently living in that Jackson house, that Joe is kept far, far away from them.

This brings me to Michael’s children. Okay, I think if you want to know who the real Michael Jackson was, then take a good look at his kids. They seem well adjusted, loving, well spoken, self aware, kind, compassionate, and most surprising of all – normal. I think for all the crazy we witnessed with Michael Jackson, the veils, the monkeys, the merry-go-rounds, the pajamas to court – who his kids are speaks volumes beyond the images we each hold in our heads of the oddities. Behind a persona that we could never quite get a grasp of, was a man with qualities that weren’t apparent to the public. I hope that wherever his spirit is residing, he is taking some measure of pride in the results of the work he did that we didn’t see, the important work of raising good human beings, because that, my friends, is the only way that we are truly going to “heal the world.”

As for the show with the former talk show hosts, it was like sitting down for tea with some long lost friends that you haven’t seen in years. It was a chance to say, “So what have you been up to?” And none of them really disappointed. I found it affirming to see visible growth and transformation in people. It reignited my faith that we all can change, and grow, and transform for the better. And that was very uplifting. I mean, if Geraldo can be faithful to his fourth wife, isn’t there hope for humanity?

Marie Osmond – how many Kleenex did we all use for this show? I was crying right along with her, and Oprah, and the audience. Let me start off by saying that I’m biased. I’ve always loved Marie since I was a child. Like millions of other people, I grew up with the Osmonds, and that kind of affection doesn’t just go away. So to see and feel her very grown up, unfathomable pain, well let’s just say that it is shared by everyone who grew up loving the Osmonds. And for those of you who are reading this blog that do not know what happened, Marie's eighteen year old son committed suicide.

I think her appearance was brave. I think she is a woman who is so completely authentic, and open, and available to both the beauty and horror of life, that she inspires me to be the same. And that is a gift. It is said that the only way we teach is by example, and if that be the case, then Marie Osmond is a great teacher of how to live, and learn, and evolve in all the ways that truly matter.

When asked about the tabloid rumors that her ex-husband was abusive, she thought for what seemed like a long time before answering. That pause alone made me like her. It didn’t feel like she was being calculating about how she would answer. It felt like she had the feelings of others like her children to consider, which outweighed what may or may not have been the awful truth. And the truth is that people come into our lives at the level of our own self esteem, according to Marie. I have pondered that fact on more than one occasion in my own life, and I can tell you that it’s absolutely true, and profound, and better learned sooner than later. To the degree that we value ourselves is the degree to which we will pick someone who values us. This is a hard lesson to be learned by women, but it is at the core of how our lives turn out in every respect. So kudos to Marie Osmond. I wish her comfort for her grief and peace in her heart.

Lastly, and most shockingly, I’d like to talk about the interview with George W. Bush, a President whom I have both loathed and mocked, a man whom I have blamed for things that have both been and not been his fault, but for which he bore the responsibility because he took the oath of office.

This interview shocked me, and I’ll tell you why. For the first time ever, I found him to be both likeable and a feeling person. I know, they must make a pill for that, and don’t get me wrong, he still ruined the country in ways both big and small, but there are things he said philosophically that I agreed with. Of course, had he directed those philosophies in a constructive way, we most likely would not be in two wars, despised by much of the world, in the crapper economically, and with catastrophic environmental results that have increased exponentially. So there you go.

Still and yet, Mr. Bush was not immune to what’s been said and thought of him, and he showed remarkable good humor about it. For instance, he talked about being recognized on the street.

Man on street: Did anyone ever tell you you look like George W. Bush?

GWB: Yeah, it happens all the time.

Man on street: Sho’ must make you mad.

And so he knows that not everyone likes him. He also knows that some of us have openly questioned whether he could read a book, let alone write one. I have to admit that I, being one of those people, felt a little sheepish when he said that…although, if he truly wanted to put that concern to rest, he could pull out a copy of, say, the Constitution and read a little of it for the class. Then those nasty rumors would be gone once and for all, and he might have a reminder of what parts of it he ignored and/or destroyed during his tenure. But I digress.

Here’s what I liked that he said. He said he has zero desire to criticize his successor. Well, God Bless. He also said he believes you ought to treat people the way you’d like to be treated yourself. The Golden Rule. I’m on board with that. So my question to him is this: Which country does he think should come in here, pillage our resources and overthrow our government? Because that’s what we did to other countries. And we’re continuing to do so. I’ve got a great idea to recoup that deficit money. Pull the troops out of the damn wars. Bring ‘em home. Save lives. Save money. Cut military spending. If you want to invest in military, train special ops people to infiltrate the training camps and sleeper cells. Come on, you know I’m right. Spend less money more wisely.

Mr. Bush said he wants our president to succeed. He loves our country. And since he is the only Republican to go out there and say that, I retract everything mean but true that I just said about him. That’s right, folks. You heard me. Our Republican former President just said he wants Barack Obama to succeed. That didn’t come from Dick Cheney, or Karl Rove, or Sarah Palin, or John Boehner, or Rush Limbaugh, or Glenn Beck. It came from George W. Bush. And for that, he just showed a redeeming quality that no one else on either side has shown. Good for him. He’s making it harder and harder for me to hang on to my outrage (although not impossible).

Last but not least, he talked about living by a set of principles that is inviolate. Now here’s the sad part of that. I agree that it is the noble and right thing to do to have a set of principles that you live by despite the changing tides of public opinion, politics, and popularity. I agree with that. But what set of principles did he have that allowed him to let his corporate friends profit at the expense of the welfare of the American people? What set of principles was it that allowed him to ignore intelligence warnings prior to September 11th, and what principles allowed him to let the people of New Orleans suffer like they did without sending help and restoring order for its citizens immediately? I just don’t understand what those principles were. And so, though I really want to let bygones be bygones, and forgive the man who thinks he’s done nothing wrong and apologizes to us for nothing, I find the arrogance that makes him unapologetic reprehensible. Each and every day we live with the fallout of eight years that began peacefully, prosperously, and maybe a little too innocently. Those days are gone. We are living in a world devoid of innocence and prosperity and peace. And maybe some of it can be reclaimed. And maybe some of it shouldn’t be. All we can do is move forward now. And maybe that was the lesson in all of this week’s Oprah shows. Move forward, evolve, transform, and share that gift with a world that needs it.

Thanks for stopping by and indulging me. Please tell your friends.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In Search of...a spiritual cleanse

I once saw a title of a book called What You Think of Me is None of my Business, and I laughed out loud. Oh, don't misunderstand me, I knew the veracity of that statement, but I also understood myself well enough to know how difficult that would be for me to live by. And lo, these many years later, it turns out that I was right about myself.

In my perpetual effort to be liked, I have forgotten that some people won't like me no matter what I do, and some people will love me no matter what I do. I forgot that there will be days during which I will royally screw up, maybe even inadvertently ruffle someone's feathers in the process. I suppose it shouldn't matter to me, as long as I've done the best I can, and as long as my heart is true. But it does matter to me. And so, in my longing for inner peace, and my understanding that I must be the peace I wish to see both in the world and in myself, I am on a mission of spiritual cleansing today.

It is easy to blame, and hard to forgive those who have truly wronged us. It is easy to dwell on the petty and the minute in others, and hard to look ourselves in the eye and acknowledge where we fall short. It is easy to want to control, and hard to surrender to a universe that we aren't entirely sure is friendly. And it is oh so easy to care what others think, and hard to listen to our own souls and take the road less traveled.

But I'm learning that there is a difference between understanding someone and agreeing with them. And that collateral damage can happen in relationships as well as wars. I am learning that there is little in life that we can autonomously control and even less that has any control over us. I've learned that I can fight the good fight, pray to a merciful loving God, and hold fast to my dreams, and still in the end, I must surrender to what is.

So despite my recent crankiness and incessant railing against just about everyone, today I am choosing to embrace the beauty within the pain, to celebrate the strength to rise up one more time from a fall. I am focusing on the joy in spite of temporary suffering. I am deciding that half full or half empty is still half more than nothing. I am pausing for a moment to take a deep breath and remind myself to appreciate in this moment those whom I've loved and lost, those whom I love and still have, and those whom I will come to know and love one day. I surrender to the certainty of change, the inherent beauty of each moment, and a greater source of knowledge, wisdom, love and compassion than I myself have.

I wish you the same today on your journey. I am monumentally grateful that you stopped by and read my blog. Peace and blessings to you all.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In Search of...things that make me wonder

I've been suffering from both insomnia and migraines for the better part of a week, and this has left me both cranky and devoid of that part of the brain that censors. At my worst I had to restrain myself from throttling a little old man today who felt it his duty to spew forth whatever he's most recently heard on Fox News, so convinced was he that it was the gospel truth.

As I had a silent conversation with my rising blood pressure, I wondered why it is that we are all so easily offended these days. At the deli counter in the supermarket, I also wondered how it is that deli meats get their solid but somehow simultaneously gelatinous appearance, as well as which exactly turkey pastrami is. So there you go.

I know that my musings are escalated by my lack of sleep. For instance, I took it as a personal affront from Bromley when I bought the wrong tea for my father the other day. It seems that Bromley, in its infinite wisdom, has changed their labeling. Now the green tea has an orange label and the orange pekoe has the green label. Why?

Keith Olbermann was suspended for donating money to Democratic candidates without NBC's prior approval. I wonder what else it is that NBC needs to give prior approval for. When you take home your paycheck, isn't it yours to decide what to do with? And didn't the Supreme Court just make campaign contributions a frenzied free for all? Keith returns to his show tonight. I think we should all tune in for some light comedy. Speaking of which, Conan is back on TV, looking decidedly older and more than slightly worse for wear. I wish him well, but I never liked him. See, right there, no censor. Of course, if he wishes to have me on his show, then he'll be my most favorite talk show host in the history of all talk show hosts.

Jon Stewart, who is possibly my truest love next to George Stephanopoulos, made light of the pummeling he's taken by his fellow liberals in the comedic community, and I say to his compatriots: What the @#$&?!!!! What, you don't have enough material with the newly elected folks or the new Speaker of the House? Come on. Quit picking on Jon!

So Dancing with the Stars, which, as you know, I'm a little obsessed with, was great last night. I am still baffled by the presence of Bristol Palin and the football player, Kurt Warner, and actually, I'm more baffled by the football player. He's awful. And Brandy and Maks, bless their hearts, can you think of two more unlikeable people? I didn't think so. I say they should deduct points for Maks mouthing off to the judges. Poor Brandy just wants to win, but she doesn't get my votes. You know who gets my votes? Jennifer Grey, that's who. Yes, she's whiny, and weepy, and constantly on the brink of dropping out with injuries, but at the end of the day, who isn't? I think she's the first person we've seen in all the seasons who is so completely open, authentic, and transparent that I see myself in her. I've said it before - ballroom dancing is a metaphor for life. How you show up on the dance floor is how you show up in life. I get that Bristol Palin is uncomfortable in her own skin and tentative. I get that Kyle, the Disney boy, is filled with joy and exuberance. I get that Brandy's determination to succeed supersedes everything else in her life. And I get that Jennifer is both fragile and a survivor, whose biggest struggle is her internal dialogue, and I see myself in that.

I'm wondering who will get booted off later, and if sleep will bless me tonight, and if my own worries will get the best of me, or if I will prevail, emerging victorious from the voices of doubt. Yes, these are some of the things that make me wonder. Thanks for stopping by and sharing them and your time with me. If anyone knows the answer to the deli meat question, please, leave me a comment.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In Search of...the morning after

It's the morning after...Dancing with the Stars, and Bristol Palin is still somehow miraculously in the competition. She can't believe it. Her partner can't believe it. I can't believe it, and I'm sure you can't believe it. I find it far more shocking than the Republicans taking over the House, which came as no particular surprise to anyone.

This bring me to...the Republicans taking over the House. The spin on this is making me crazier than the pre-election campaign ads, and those made me pretty crazy. Republicans didn't win the Senate, and the last time I checked Obama was still in the White House, so knock it off the whole change sweeping the nation thing. The only thing sweeping the nation is discontent, and that, my friends, is not just reserved for Democrats. I only heard a snippet of the President's address today, and he's still talking about civility and working together with Republicans. Has he learned nothing in his two years in office?

Believe me, I am all for civility, compromise, courtesy, statesmanship, camaraderie, peace, love, and understanding. However (long pause and sigh), in the grander scheme of things, it seems to me the magnitude of the problems we are facing today warrants solutions that do not require that we take the high road to an unachievable destination for the sake of taking the high road. Simply put - the end justifies the means. Just get the job done. None of us care how pretty it looks, or if two sides can sit nicely in a room and have tea and cookies. And if this election taught anyone anything, it should be that we don't care who gets reelected or not. If you've gotten elected to Congress these days, you've got money. We are not going to cry if you need to return to the private sector and begin writing your memoir now. You've got healthcare for life, so what do you care? I don't have healthcare for life.

In the past, I have not been prone to this kind of selfish thinking. In fact, just the opposite. But these are unprecedented times we're living in, and I think we can all safely say that when we have jobs, healthcare, a roof over our heads, and nothing blowing up in the sky, we will all feel more generous. But until then, 2010 winners, whoever you are, whether you just got elected last night or have been in politics forever, I suggest you go to Washington ready to create jobs and bolster the economy. I suggest everyone in Washington stop worrying about which position they're playing on the football field known as the United States Congress. It's time to bring the A game. You are the teams we chose, for better or worse. Leave the field bloody and soiled and fully spent when you do, knowing that you are not embroiled in mere sport, but in the life or death of a nation. Shake hands when you depart, and for the sake of us all, leave something better when you go than it was when you arrived.

Thanks for stopping by. Here's to a new day.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In Search election day blog

Well, it's finally here, so first of all, go VOTE!!! I'm going to go in a few minutes. Yay, it's the day where we actually do something for our country, and actively engage in the political process. Isn't it fun?!! (I get really excited about this. Can you tell?) As a judge pointed out to me the first time I ever had jury duty...oh, wait, he was talking about jury duty being the only way most of us are ever called upon to serve our country. Well, that's a whole other topic for another day. Today we vote.

I am more than slightly horrified by our choices, largely because they should never be our only choices, but somehow our system has come down to a big game of Celebrity Apprentice with the voting populace itching to say, "You're fired," more than we are selectively choosing candidates with the ability to represent our best interests. Yes, we, the super-size nation, want everything big - big personalities, big scandals, big ideas. It's like we're an entire nation on steroids. But I suggest that bravado without ideology and ethics is a recipe for disaster. And we are living in that now.

So whomever you're considering today, I beseech you to consider whether they are concerned for our well being, smart enough to discern the complexities that will undoubtedly be placed before them should they win, and if they will have backbone but flexibility. Will they be more concerned with towing the party line or with the lives of their constituents? Do they care more about politics than people? Will they sacrifice reelection for what is best for the country? These are the things to consider before casting your vote.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends - and vote.