Saturday, November 20, 2010

5 Things I learned this week.

1. "Kumbaya" is a distortion of an old spiritual called "Come By Here", a praise and plea to God.

2. I can skip reading BlackBerry messages until Monday if they are identifiable by subject line as a thing I can only work on while in the office. This saves me an evening (or a weekend) of stewing about a piece of casework, for example.

3. Toothpaste can treat and heal burns, polish old tennis shoes, fix car scratches and more!

4. If you make $34,000 a year, you pay $10 a year in taxes toward public housing, 24 cents toward funding for the arts, $1,040 to Social Security and $11 to Head Start. You pay $46 in foreign aid and $230 toward combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

5. This is the time of year for Delicata squash; go get yourself one, quick! They're incredibly delicious.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Topsy Turvy.

In the great work of life -- to become a "better" person -- we're usually given parables that illustrate selflessness. Walk a mile in someone else's shoes, right? The great Pema Chodron teaches us how to breathe in anger and oppressive heat and darkness, and breathe out love and refreshing coolness and light. We think of how much we love our children (or pets or best friends) and imagine that God loves us like that. Another Buddhist teacher reminds us that everyone we meet is, or has been, our mother. Treat them thus.

Well, some days, I say "boo" to this. It doesn't work. The stupid driver who delays me another five minutes coming home, the jerk in the grocery line who has to write a check, then use an Oregon Trail card, then run back for something else... you know how it goes.

At church on Sunday, the parable that was told might be unconventional, but it's sticking with me, and the topsy turvy way it illustrated those lovely lessons of compassion is just darn neat. I'd like to share it with you, and would love your reactions - those that are immediate, and those that come later.

God was narrating a man's death, as he wandered up to her. He had died in a car crash and said to her, "Am I dead?" She said, "Yes," and he replied, "What about my wife and children? What will happen to them?"

God answered, "See? That's great! You just died and you're thinking of other people! You're growing! They will be fine. Your children will always think of you as perfection; they weren't old enough to resent you yet. And your wife is relieved." Seeing his shocked face (and ours in the pews!), God said, "Well let's be honest. Your marriage was falling apart. But she feels guilty for feeling relieved if that makes you feel any better!"

Then he said, "Well, what happens next?" and when she told him he would be reincarnated he said, "Ha ha! The Hindus were right!"

She said, "Well, everyone is, in a way."

"Who am I going back as?"

"Let's see... you're going back as a baby peasant girl in China, in 542 AD."

"What? OK, going back is one thing, but I am going back in time, too? I can't do that! What if I run into myself? The whole thing will collapse!"

God laughed. "Well, you run into yourself all the time. You won't remember this life or any of the ones you've lived previously. And you'll keep going back, around and around, until you've matured."

"Matured? Is that what life is about?"

"A little cliche to ask me the meaning of life, isn't it? But yes, it is. All this is for you."

"And you made all this, just for humankind, so we can grow?"

"No, not humankind. Just you."

As he was struggling to catch up, God let him know that it would not only be OK if he ran into himself down there, but that he definitely would. That he was every single other life on the planet.

She said, "Every time you've been mean to someone, you were hurting yourself. And every time you've shown kindness, you were really showing kindness to yourself. And when you have lived every life there is, or has been, or ever will be, you'll have learned it all and be ready for what's next."

---- ---- ---- ---- ----

What do you think? This is an abridged version, but the good jokes and the basic gist are in there. It really has me thinking. Some days, it is just too hard to think of every homeless person on the street and every co-worker and every crazy neighbor as your mother or your child or a member of your human family. Frankly, in a distracted or frustrated state of mind, selfish is part and parcel, and so what a great reminder to embrace that selfishness... and just think of that person as ME!

I think this parable takes "Love thy neighbor as thyself" out to its fullest conclusion. And I, for one, am grateful for the gains from the mental stretch it requests.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"It also reinforces the idea that breasts are the fundamental, defining aspect of femininity."

I mentioned to a friend last week, off hand, that I hate pink-colored items for sale in the name of "breast cancer awareness" or "breast cancer support". Awareness and the support are great - as is research for a cure - and so the friend was shocked and said, "Why do you hate it? I like it. I support research when I buy it."

And I only had a vague answer that many of the products donate a portion of the proceeds to research, and usually only a portion of the first 1,000 or 10,000 or 100,000 sold - be it yogurt lids or shoelaces. It was decidedly not a powerful response. And it was decidedly not everything that bothers me, that prompted me to use the word "hate", but I just couldn't find the words for the feelings/thoughts.

Then I read this article today, from which the quote/title of this post is pulled, and I realized that's the answer I want to give. It's not only the marketing devilry involved in the pink-ifying of everything. It's the "Save the TaTa's" type campaigns, that reduce cancer treatment to a reason for saving a woman's defining role in the world: being sexual, particularly using her breasts -- and preferably for another's pleasure. So I tip my proverbial hat to Peggy Orenstein for that great essay.

Friday, November 12, 2010


OK, OK, if it IS all in my attitude... see below... then I'm taking suggestions, advice, directions - even orders. This funny and sigh-worthy post about entropy, and how our homes just keep marching toward disorder, is so terrifically true.

The advice I seek: how do I change my attitude?

The background: those close to me know I am, oh, um, a bit of a clean freak. And not just a clean-countertops, swept-garage sort of clean freak. I am only satisfied when all papers are filed, closets are organized (color coordinated sometimes), cabinets are stocked, bills are paid, lists are made and no item is in the house that does not get used. Not an extra set of sheets, not a sock that lost its mate, not a painting I've grown bored of, not a birthday card two months out of date. Out, out, out!

The question: with a very high need for cleanliness... which I claim brings me mental clarity and that sought-after, ever-elusive state of "relaxation"... while living in a world that tends toward entropy... how do I adjust expectations?

What mantras do you have, what patterns do you swear by or what magical potion do you seek that lets you embrace entropy from time to time, and still find metal clarity, relaxation, and life lived joyfully (if on the messy side in your very own home!)?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Conquered. (Once.)

I braved Costco today on a bad day... it was the first day their new coupons were valid, AND it was a federal holiday where some workers and most schoolchildren had the day off. I went into it with no timeline, a totally relaxed and zen approach, with a commitment to be genuinely nice to anyone I interacted with.


Success! Sure, I came home drained and was emotionally unable to make the *other* errand stops I intended to complete, but I had a real smile for every employee, I let everyone push their carts in front of me, I never took the last sample from the tray. Even in both the parking lot AND the gasoline line I smiled and held open the metaphorical door for others.

I don't like to let pithy proverbs win, but it's true today: it IS all in your attitude. And when going to Costco, be prepared for the worst, and when it arrives, greet it with a smile -- and plenty of time on hand.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Text message exchange that I participated in yesterday, with my texts in bold and italics. Punctuation has been transcribed with precision.

Hey!Hows it going?;)

Uh-oh. Sorry, I don't have your number in my phone so I don't know who this is.


This is Emily.

Nopeee!Try again.

No you idiot, I am Emily. Either you have the wrong number or I don't have you programmed in my phone.

Do you know Justin Haskins?



What school do you go to?

Don't know Justin, and no school. I am 30 years old and at work right now.

oh god!Sorry! My bad!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Oh, dear.

The time for stopping use of Facebook draws ever nearer, for when I am friends with a cousin whose status reads, "happy birthday [redacted]! you're finally 14!", I feel like I'm not really welcome at the party.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fun (see two posts down)

There are reasons of all kinds that one chooses their spouse... and tonight, just now, I realize that I chose mine in part because he is the only person on the planet who could patiently sing along to my mandolin-butchering-rendition of "Heavy Metal Drummer" and congratulate me for learning so quickly.

Fun... here I come!


Our new house is just that - new. There is no need to replace, update or install sinks, floors, doors, fixtures, handles, paint or cabinets. However, to make the rule there must be one exception, and ours is that one of the toilet seats is nicked and scratched and missing paint, and also is a mismatch for the toilet itself. This weekend, we replaced it. And I realized that of all the mounds of garbage I've seen or read about in the world's landfills - the refrigerators, the toilet seats, the old drywall, the scuffed floorboards - I have never directly put part of a house in that mound. And that's a good thing for 29 years of living with rental toilets (with wooden seats), rental showers (with lilac tiling), rental screen doors (complete with rips) and rental paint (always white)... but it's also the beginning of a new search for ways to recycle all manner of trash. The toilet seat, I fear, it headed for the landfill, but John balanced our environmental pro-con list and installed this:

Our new 55 gallon rain barrel! I have to figure out how to paint it or cover it in decals, because as water-saving as it may be, it still needs to earn it's aesthetic keep around here.