Thursday, December 25, 2008

Gift of the present -- Merry Christmas!


"Through the present moment, you have access to the power of life itself, that which has traditionally been called "God." As soon as you turn away from it, God ceases to be a reality in your life, and all you are left with is the mental concept of God, which some people believe in and others deny. Even belief in God is only a poor substitute for the living reality of God manifesting every moment of your life." ~ Eckhart Tolle

Here's to more moments fully in the present.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

'Adios'

"Adios"

It is a good word, rolling off the tongue
no matter what language you were born with.
Use it. Learn where it begins,
the small alphabet of departure,
how long it takes to think of it,
then say it, then be heard.

Marry it. More than any golden ring,
it shines, it shines.
Wear it on every finger
till your hands dance,
touching everything easily,
letting everything, easily, go.

Strap it to your back like wings.
Or a kite-tail. The stream of air behind a jet.
If you are known for anything,
let it be the way you rise out of sight
when your work is finished.

Think of things that linger: leaves,
cartons and napkins, the damp smell of mold.

Think of things that disappear.

Think of what you love best,
what brings tears into your eyes.

Something that said adios to you
before you knew what it meant
or how long it was for.

Explain little, the word explains itself.
Later perhaps. Lessons following lessons,
like silence following sound.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye


Thursday, December 11, 2008

womb-whisperer

My very pregnant friend Jen, soon to give birth to a son and with him all the possibilities that entails, sent me this blog. Not only am I reminded of the feeling of change in America, but what it feels to go through change in my own life, to turn toward the pain. I am thankful for the symbolic midwives in my life who encourage me as I birth a new idea or part of myself, those friends and family who tell me, "You can do it. You are doing it." To know that leaving the safe known and journey into the unknown is to open myself to more possibilities.

"Something is trying to be born in America. Again, I’m not quite certain what it is, but the new emerging reality seems firmly related to the visionary calls of King and the earlier urgent hope of Langston Hughes (“O, let America be America again/The land that never has been yet/and yet must be/The land where every [one] is free.”) Suffusing all of it I hear as well the beautiful wisdom and strong challenge of June Jordan: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
...Not only is something trying to be born in America, but some of us are called to be the midwives in this magnificent, desperately needed, and so painfully creative process.

...

"Often, especially in the last stages of a pregnancy, this spiritually-grounded companion of hope said she also speaks to the infant in the womb.

"Recognizing the deep sense of safety and security experienced by the womb-kept child, imagining the great joy involved in having all his/her needs supplied almost effortlessly, Selena said she shares words of encouragement with the infant as well. Like a womb-whisperer, she says something like, “I know how good you feel, how surrounded you are by a protective nurturing ocean of love. I realize it feels as if this is the only world you need to know. But, my child, when you start to feel the urgent life forces beginning to move you down, to push you out, to press your tender head into that seemingly impossible opening, go. Let yourself move toward the light, painful though it may be. The fullness of your life is waiting for you on the other side. Go, come, my child. You can, you must make it through. You can do this.”

"Even as Selena shared her marvelous work and words with me, I began to see their meaning for our nation and its social midwives. We Americans are both mother and infant, giving birth, seeking new life, full of fear, full of pain, turning away from the possibility of even more pain, feeling “the urgency of now,” wondering if we are able, afraid of what the new life demands and costs, fearful of giving up all we know (or think we know) so well, grasping all that keeps us from new beginning, from new life. Afraid of the pain, afraid of the unknown, afraid of the hope, we live urgently in need of midwives. Are we the ones?"

~ Read the blog in its entirety: "Midwifing a New America" by Vincent Harding

Monday, December 08, 2008

Birthday wish

I love birthdays. More-so than on New Year's Eve, birthdays are the time I reflect and try to quiet my monkey-mind, to decide what I need to shed and what I'd like to gain in the coming year.

Three years ago on my 30th, I boarded a plane to Kosovo, realizing a dream of living in a foreign country. Today I'm getting ready to go downtown to work, but today, and as often as possible, I want to look at the world through a traveler's eyes. To see detail, to allow myself to get lost and have an adventure. To talk to taxi drivers and people on the corner.

I want to pay closer attention to life. I want to be happy despite circumstances. My lovely and amazing sister and I were talking about the peace that passes understanding. She had just heard the verse recently in context, and pointed out that it is surrounded by words about focusing on what is good, what is true. To find peace in the midst of turmoil is possible by changing your focus. It all coincides with what I've been reading lately in Eckart Tolle's book about choosing your mood, your focus, your life, and being present in this moment.

Paul writes to the Philippians: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

"So Much Happiness"

for Michael

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn't need you to hold it down.
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records ...

Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

~Naomi Shihab Nye

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Balancing solitude and community at the Brass Monkey

I'm contemplating carving out some solitude and sacred space in the next month of holiday madness. Whenever I choose to spend a chunk of time alone, especially on a day that is typically spent in community and celebrations, I often get concerned looks from friends. They ask, with a slightly alarmed "suicide watch" look in their eyes, if everything is alright. I receive many invitations so I won't have to be alone, which I am thankful for. I don't take it for granted that I choose to be alone, while others may truly be lonely.

But there is a difference between being alone and lonely. There is a need for solitude that we're missing, especially in this season as Advent and holiday parties loom.

I had dinner Friday night with my friends Paul and Jen. Trying to find a place close to a concert at the Wiltern, we met for burgers at the Brass Monkey. Shouting above karaoke renditions of "Sweet Caroline" and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," we talked about solitude, and how important it is for understanding who we are in community. Paul, a friend and fellow INFP, gave me this quote from Bonhoeffer: "The mark of solitude is silence, as speech is the mark of community. Silence and speech have the same inner correspondence and difference as do solitude and community. One does not exist without the other."

I had just read an excerpt of "Solitude: Seeking Wisdom in Extremes" by Robert Kull in Whole Life Times. His observations resonate with what I've been reading and mulling from Eckhart Tolle about living in the present, letting go of ego and being true to who I am, despite outside expectations. (Italics mine)

Kull writes, "To be fully human we need relationships with other people, with the nonhuman world, and with our own inner depths. In solitude we have the opportunity to explore all these domains of relationship. We are also spiritual beings and may feel called into solitude to seek communion with a numinous presence we can directly experience, but not clearly define. ...

"I’ve learned that the core of my loneliness is not separation from other people, but feeling disconnected from myself. Solitude provides a respite from the demands of social life and creates a space for personal healing. Paradoxically, spending time alone can soften our sense of alienation from others. ...

"We can never really know what contribution we’re making; we can only be true to our deepest calling and trust we’re doing what we’re meant to do. I’ve found my desire to contribute to the lives of others deepens in solitude.

"We each have a social identity, a persona held in place by our interactions with other people. In solitude this persona begins to lose solidity and dissolve. The process is sometimes terrifying and there are few easy escapes. Solitude challenges us to face our inner darkness and to discover we’re not identical to the conception we often have of ourselves. ...

"Yet the world will always be exactly as it is in each moment — no matter how much time and energy we expend denying this simple fact. If our plans for the future are not grounded in joy in this moment, our lives go unlived. ...

"... we need inner transformation. Solitude evokes the spacious wonder of living in a sacred world."

(Photo by Gini Snavely)

'Mindful'

~by Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or I hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It is what I was born for --
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world --
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant --
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these --
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Power of women and perseverance in 'Pray the Devil Back to Hell'


From the L.A. Times: "Pray the Devil Back to Hell" is the story of how an entire country went from madness to sanity, prodded by women who would not be denied. It's a marvelous documentary detailing how the everyday became extraordinary, "how ordinary women," in the words of one of them, "did the unimaginable."

As directed by Gini Reticker and produced by Abigail E. Disney, "Pray the Devil" uses its brief 72 minutes to tell one of the truly heartening international political stories of recent years.

The nation in question is Liberia, a country that by the year 2002 had seen some 200,000 people die in ongoing fighting centering on dictatorial President Charles Taylor and the various rebels who wanted to replace him.

~ Read the full review by Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

Showtimes on Moviefone

(Photo courtesy Pewee Flomoku / Fork Films)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Peace that passes understanding - Ethel, Frankie, old hymns and paramedics


How often are we given the opportunity to test our faith? To say, "I believe this is so," and the next breath have that statement challenged? To understand what peace that passes understanding really is? In "A New Earth," Eckhart Tolle describes it as accepting the present moment for what it is. How when, in disaster or war, "they lost all ... found themselves with 'nothing.' ... Then suddenly and inexplicably, the anguish or intense fear they initially felt gave way to a sacred sense of Presence, a deep peace and serenity and complete freedom from fear. ... 'the peace of God that which passeth all understanding.'"

It was only moments. After the passing of the peace, which at All People's Church means hug upon hug upon kisses on cheeks, when young and mostly old circle the room checking in on one another, affirming to each other through touch, or words, or both, that we are loved. African American, Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic: All People's is one of the only places I have truly seen that picture.

It was moments after 70-something Frankie stood up during the time of sharing joys and blessings and said how thankful she was for Ethel, who was speaking that day. For Ethel's life and wisdom of 92 years. For her son Lonnie who was in church with her, to sing "Because He Lives" especially for Ethel. It was after Lonnie took the microphone from his mother and thanked the small group of faithful from his home church for their prayers and thoughts while he was sick, and during the operation that put a pacemaker in his heart. It was after Thurston, whose daughter died last year, stood and asked the congregation to check out his pew, where Mandy and I sat with another woman, and Luke took the mic and made a comment about "Charlie and his angels."

It was after Ethel was helped up the steps to the front of the church, and I watched in amazement as she spread out her papers and notes, and leaning against the pulpit, adjusted the microphone to her level and started talking about the historic moment of Barack Obama's election, and the beauty of the mix of people celebrating with him in Grant Park. Ethel just recovered from an operation, 36 days in the hospital and internal bleeding.

After Ethel had written a letter a few weeks ago, telling me that how after the last physical attack on her body, "I felt so sorry for myself until I saw a picture on TV about the people of Haiti trying to live through four fierce tropical storms, and another of a crowded highway of people going back to Galveston -- not to pick up their lives, but to see absolute devastation. I decided I have so much to be thankful for." She quoted Eckhart Tolle, a book she had read in the hospital, "One thing we do know: Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment."

After Ethel shared about her 40 years working with the poor in Mexico, and asked if anyone had experienced a miracle, a personal miracle. She described a day in Mexico, working with Futuro del Oro. How the sky was so blue, and the clouds looked like they had been painted by an artist. How she had been just another Gringo working to help in Mexico, but that was the day she no longer saw the dirt and unpaved roads, but recognized people she knew and loved and called friends.

After Frankie helped Ethel back to her seat, and Ethel paused, flashed a toothy grin and said, "Getting old is for the birds."

Frankie's son Lonnie stepped up to sing. He began in a low, powerful baritone, "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, because he lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives."

As Lonnie moved into the second verse, he knocked the music off the stand, and started to lose his place in the song as it was picked up and put back in front of him.

As his voice regained volume, we collectively breathed easier and relaxed into the song. Moments later he yelped, grabbed his chest and leaped away from the music stand. Everyone sat up at attention, unsure what had happened. Seconds later he screamed, a horrible sound between a shriek and a holler and dropped the microphone. He seemed to be getting shocked.

Everyone took action. A command to turn off the microphone was followed, someone thought it might be setting off his pacemaker. Lonnie moved back toward the stand to sing, but as he started to sing again, he screamed in terror, clutching his chest again. I told Mandy someone needed to call 9-1-1, and then realized I needed to call 9-1-1. As I waited for my mobile to turn on and dialed, I was raising my voice above the din, asking for the church address in a panicked screech, watching in horror as Lonnie jumped and yelled, saying he was seeing sparks every time it happened.

While answering the paramedic's questions over the phone, I tried to be calm and clear above the sound of everyone else. Lonnie sat back in a chair now, his shirt unbuttoned. How old is he? I looked around while people shouted different numbers. I locked eyes with Frankie. 55, she said clearly. Is he clammy? She laid her hand on her son's forehead, and so did Mike, who nodded. Has he changed color? the voice on the phone asked. He's African-American, I said, dark-skinned. I don't know, maybe he's a little red. I started to panic as Lonnie continue to scream out and ask what was happening to him.

I watched other people gather in groups to pray. I went outside to listen for the ambulance sirens. I did not have the peace that passes understanding. I looked at Frankie, a mother listening to her son being attacked from within. She looked terrified and helpless, but not half as panicked as the rest of us.

How many of us were thinking "all fear is gone," at that moment?

After the arrival of five paramedics and a few minutes of working on Lonnie inside, they took him to the ambulance and sped away, assuring Frankie they wouldn't leave until she knew exactly where they were taking him.

The rest of us gathered in a circle, to hold sweaty palms and pray for Lonnie. One of the women led the prayer, thanking God that Lonnie was with loving friends and family when this happened, and asked God to be with the paramedics and doctors who were treating him.

Coming down off the adrenaline, we were all visibly shaking. Mary, a woman in her late 80s who remembered me from the couple of months I had come to church last year, hugged me tight, then whispered in my ear, "Don't be scared away! This doesn't happen every week." God, humor is so necessary in those times.

We continued the end of the service with communion. I watched as many of the church fed each other a bite of wine-soaked bread and hugged. We sang, and then, because everyone agreed Lonnie would want us to, we listened as a woman and her two teen-aged kids played a magnificent song on African drums.

I haven't heard an update on Lonnie or Frankie yet. I don't know Frankie well, but I do know she is a strong woman, who has already survived one of her son's death from AIDS. I know she is surrounded by loving family and church family. And I suspect she really does believe that because He lives, she can face tomorrow.

***UPDATE: I just heard from Mandy that Lonnie is doing well. We're still not sure what exactly happened, if / why the pacemaker was shocking him. She also heard that he was apologizing as he was wheeled out to the ambulance. ***

(Photo: Rebecca and Ethel)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Africa, and world, celebrate Obama victory

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - For many across Africa and the world, Barack Obama's election seals America's reputation as a land of staggering opportunity.
"If it were possible for me to get to the United States on my bicycle, I would," said Joseph Ochieng, a 36-year-old carpenter who lives in Kenya's sprawling Kibera shantytown, a maze of tin-roofed shacks and dirt roads.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki declared a public holiday Thursday in the country of Obama's late father, allowing celebrations to continue through the night and into a second day. From Europe and Asia to the Middle East, many expressed amazement that the U.S. could overcome centuries of racial strife and elect an African-American president.

...

"At a time when we have to confront immense challenges together, your election raises great hopes in France, in Europe and in the rest of the world," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a congratulations letter to Obama.

Skepticism, however, was high in the Muslim world. The Bush administration alienated the Middle East by mistreating prisoners at its detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison—human rights violations also condemned worldwide.

Some Iraqis, who have suffered through five years of a war ignited by the United States and its allies, said they would believe positive change when they saw it.

"Obama's victory will do nothing for the Iraqi issue nor for the Palestinian issue," said Muneer Jamal, a Baghdad resident. "I think all the promises Obama made during the campaign will remain mere promises."

But many around the world found hope in Obama's international roots.

"What an inspiration. He is the first truly global U.S. president the world has ever had," said Pracha Kanjananont, a 29-year-old Thai sitting at a Starbuck's in Bangkok.

(Read rest of article here.)

Democracy: Obama's election inspires in Iran

From Babylon & Beyond at the L.A. Times

Mostafa Eqbali, a 54-year-old merchant in downtown Tehran, is exactly the kind of middle-class, middle-of-the-road Iranian whose loyalties and attitudes have generally determined his country’s direction.

The election early this morning of Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency pierced through his preconceptions about the world.

“Let me tell you that now I believe in American democracy,” he said excitedly. “Honestly, I did not think that Obama would be president. I thought that the invisible hands of the big trusts and cartels would not allow a black man to be president of the United States.”

(Read the entire post here)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voting 2008 - Dr. King's vision

Marian Wright Edelman, President and founder, Children's Defense Fund:

"On the ballot this morning was a Black man for President of the United States, marking the culmination of a long evolutionary struggle for political empowerment among disenfranchised Americans. My fellow voters—of all races in every corner for America—will consider Obama’s presidential candidacy on the basis of his proposals, his vision and his intelligence.

This is a world-defining and nation-defining election. This morning as I stood in line to vote, I was moved by the realization that finally this is the day on which my fellow Americans are willing to do what Dr. King envisioned: vote for a President based on the content of his character rather than the color of his skin."

Politico.com

The Onion election coverage

I'm a little tense this election morning. I couldn't figure out what to eat for breakfast having just made so many decisions that will hopefully affect the outcome of our society, so I opted for pudding. The sugar rush REALLY helped the nerves. If you too need a little comic relief, check out The Onion.

There were too many good stories to highlight, ("Confused McCain Pretty Sure He Just Voted For Pat Buchanan," "Voting Machines Elect One Of Their Own As President," "Obama Undertakes Presidential Internship To Ease Concerns About His Lack Of Experience") so here's the landing page: TheOnion.com

Obama flipped the bird? Then so did Rumsfeld, the Dog Whisperer, and a baby


From Web Scout:

You may have seen today's bombshell video of Sen. Barack Obama extending his middle finger and scratching his face as he congratulated opponent John McCain on reaching the end of his campaign. The video was all over YouTube and the Drudge Report, which in turn linked back to this April post from our own well-loved political blog Top of the Ticket -- the older video shows Obama making a similar gesture as he spoke about then-opponent Sen. Hillary Clinton.

But with all these birds taking flight, and the partisan screaming that follows, I felt I needed to step forward on this issue.
...

There's a long tradition of middle-finger activity by many great citizens of all ages and nationalities. Below you will see innocent birds by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Cesar "The Dog Whisperer" Millan, beach volleyball star and Olympic gold medalist Todd Rogers, a woman on a British TV show, Tom Petty and a baby.

~ Read the rest of David Sarno's post and see the videos at Web Scout.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sundance honors Wysocki


I am surrounded by brilliant, talented friends, and once in a while, the world FINALLY recognizes this.

From Variety:

Jonathan Wysocki will receive the Sundance Institute's Lynn Auerbach Screenwriting Fellowship for his project "All Fall Down," a satirical look at the U.S. after 9/11.

Wysocki will pocket $2,500 and will have a script reading produced through Sundance's Screenplay Reading Series. Scribes Tom Perrotta ("Little Children") and Susannah Grant ("The Soloist") will be enlisted as mentors.

(Read the rest of the brief (a sentence or two) here.)

(Jonathan on the right, a photo from his Tibetan travels)

Joseph Campbell - The Power of Myth

I never want to over-underline a book, defeating the purpose of finding the one meaningful sentence or passage, but I'm having a hard time putting down my pen, and I'm only in the introduction by Bill Moyers.

Here's some of my underlined passages so far:

"To him (Joseph Campbell) mythology was 'the song of the universe,' 'the music of the spheres' -- music we dance to even when we cannot name the tune. We are hearing its refrains 'whether we listen with aloof amusement to the mumbo jumbo of some witch doctor of the Congo, or read with cultivated rapture translations from sonnets of Lao-tsu, or now and again crack the hard nutshell of an argument of Aquinas, or catch suddenly the shining meaning of a bizarre Eskimoan fairy tale."

"He (Campbell) wanted to know what it means that God assumes such different masks in different cultures, yet how it is that comparable stories can be found in these divergent traditions -- stories of creation, of virgin births, incarnations, death and resurrection, second comings, and judgment days. He liked the insight of Hindu scripture: 'Truth is one; the sages call it by many names.' All our names and images for God are masks, he said, signifying the ultimate reality that by definition transcends language and art. A myth is a mask of Good, too -- a metaphor for what lies behind the visible world. However the mystic traditions differ, he said, they are in accord in calling us to a deeper awareness of the very act of living itself. The unpardonable sin, in Campbell's book, was the sin of inadvertance, of not being alert, not quite awake."

Russian radio and freedom of speech in the time of Putin

"...the leading instrument of enculturation and inundation under Joseph Stalin was a broadcast technology called radio-tochka, literally “radio point,” a primitive receiver with no dial and no choice. These cheap wood-framed devices were installed in apartments and hallways, on factory floors, in train stations and bus depots; they played in hospitals, nursing homes, and military barracks; they were nailed to poles in the fields of collective farms and blared along the beaches from the Baltic to the Sea of Okhotsk. ...

"In 1990, a few refugees from Soviet radio decided to start a station in the capital that would combine straightforward news, discussion, and even call-in shows that allowed people to say precisely what they wanted—a plan that might seem a banality elsewhere. The founders called the station Ekho Moskvy, Echo of Moscow, and they set up shop in a tiny, overheated single-room studio situated just a couple of blocks from Red Square. Echo went on the air on August 22, 1990, with an extended news program, including an interview with one of the young leaders of the Moscow reformers, Sergei Stankevich, and then played the Beatles song “All My Loving.”

"At the time, Echo of Moscow seemed merely part of the greater phenomenon of expanding press freedoms, the logical outgrowth of a movement spurred by the Kremlin leadership. Now, eighteen years later, in the authoritarian ecosystem of Vladimir Putin, Echo of Moscow is one of the last of an endangered species, a dodo that still roams the earth....

"Venediktov is a standard-issue type of the Russian intelligentsia, with thick glasses, a wry, knowing manner, and frizzy Bozo the Clown hair. As an interviewer, he is as aggressive as the young Mike Wallace, but a great deal more cerebral. As an analyst, he is incisive and cocky, well satisfied that all his predictions will, or have, come true. More important, he has been an extremely adept politician when it comes to fending off the complaints and demands of the Kremlin and protecting his reporters. The walls of the Echo studios are covered with photographs of the dignitaries who have come to be interviewed, and Venediktov seems undaunted by all of them. Many of his questions begin with chesty prodding: “Kak eto mozhet byt’ ”—“How can it possibly be . . . ?” When Bill Clinton went on too long with an answer, Venediktov kicked him under the table."


Read the rest of "Echo in the Dark" at the New Yorker website.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Making friends with the present moment, and public transportation.

Week one with no car. In Los Angeles. I used to mock people who thought they could live like this. L.A. is not known for its public transportation system, but it is known for lacking a center, and its overall sprawl.

I gave up my lovely Honda Hybrid last week, when it became apparent that the payments that were too high in the first place, were astronomically out of my budget with the rising cost of living and the economic crisis. I gave up my car, found my rapid bus downtown, and I must say, I LOVE IT.

It might have something to do with my slow digestion of Eckhart Tolle's book "A New Earth," in which he writes about breaking free from time and form, and making friends with the present moment. He writes that you are "able to decide what kind of a relationship you want to have with the present moment. Do I want the present moment to be my friend or my enemy? The present moment is inseparable from life, so you are really deciding what kind of a relationship you want to have with life. Become friendly toward it, welcome it no matter in what disguise it comes, and soon you will see the results. Life becomes friendly toward you, people become helpful, circumstances cooperative. One decision changes your entire reality. But that one decision you have to make again and again and again -- until it becomes natural to live in such a way. ...

(When psychological time takes over your life) "Almost every thought you think is then concerned with past or future, and your sense of self depends on the past for your identity and on the future for its fulfillment. Fear, anxiety, expectation, regret, guilt, anger are the dysfunctions of the time-bound state of consciousness." ...

"To awaken within the dream is our purpose now."

No better moment to make friends with the present, and live outside of psychological time than when your bus is late. I feel very Rebecca, very me, riding the bus. Though I tried to create a haven in my car, I tended toward tension, unexpressed anger over that which I couldn't control, yet somehow thought I should be able to control. As a passenger on a bus, there's no control. Illusions are gone.

The bus is late? It will come when it comes. An over-sized SUV that cannot possibly fit into a Trader Joes parking lot cuts us off? It doesn't matter, we're still barreling down Beverly Blvd. Bus breaks down? Another bus will come for you. No worrying about getting to the mechanic and back to work.

I've heard New Yorkers bemoan how isolated we are in L.A. -- in a sad reenactment of "Swingers" satire, we all jump in our individual cars and drive off alone. Friday morning, while waiting for the late bus, I talked to a couple people, gave one guy change so he could ride the magical bus, and still made it to work in plenty of time for my first meeting. On the ride home I met a lovely German couple who were taking the rapid down to "the Groove." I offered my travel services, which involved pulling the yellow cord to request their stop and shoving them off into the middle of Fairfax. Over the street noises we talked about travel and the best time for me to visit Germany.

I realize I've got it easy. I'm thankful to live in my neighborhood where I can walk to the best coffee in the city (Kings Road), to Trader Joes, the drugstore, Borders, H&M and, actually, to movies and books and the Farmer's Market at "the groove." But I also think there's something to being in the moment, ready for whatever it brings, even traffic and rain. Make friends with it, and the Germans across from you.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Beauty


Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God.

~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 'Aurora Leigh'

(Art: "Fiery Dance" by Vladimir Kush)

"Thrill the World" -- Why there's hope yet


The fact that millions of people would not only remember, or re-learn the "Thriller" dance, and then go practice it in parks to be part of an around-the-world thriller-thon, gives me hope for our future.

From Hero Complex at the L.A. Times"

"We should have seen this coming after "13 Going on 30" made it somehow cool yet wildly uncool to do the monster mash, Michael Jackson-style. Anyway, this Saturday there will be (ahem) normal people just like you in 96 cities across 13 countries who will do a synchronized public celebration of the 25th anniversary of M.J.'s "Thriller." Here in L.A. the "Thrill the World" dance will be at the Hollywood and Highland courtyard, which assures that anyone who dares to participate will be photographed by thousands of tourists, many from strange foreign lands such as Malaysia and Wisconsin. With the stakes so high, there's rehearsal today at 5 p.m. at Pan Pacific Park in West Hollywood. Or you could re-learn the dance right now right there at your office desk by standing up and following-along to this step-by-step video. ..."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cheers to Poppy -- my world is getting bigger



I've seen "Happy-Go-Lucky" twice now, taking Caroline along for the second trip. It really did restore my faith in film-making and humanity, and I'll never look at my rear-view mirror the same way again. En-ra-ha.

Sally Hawkins' character Poppy and her best friend / flat-mate Zoe are engaged with the world, teaching their kids at school, taking classes (the flamenco scene is unforgettable) and playing - dancing, pubs, rowing in a lake and trampolining. Caroline was so inspired, we are now signed up for Spanish language classes (beginners, after I realized I couldn't translate my thank you message to Caroline: "Tu eres ... the wind beneath my wings") and are going to attempt a hip-hop dance class next week.

Updates and potential injuries to come.

(Photo courtesy Miramax Films)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lamott and Lende -- economic / election / life / stress advice

Lende is another writer, who, like Anne Lamott, shares her personal stories that I feel I know her, her family, her chickens, her community. She lives in Haines, Alaska -- a small town with all kinds of small town color.

Amidst all the stress of the economy, the elections, the negative attacks - she and Anne Lamott offer similar advice.

In her column at the Anchorage Daily News, Lende writes:

Worrying about a bad thing that might happen does affect you physically. Witness my hives and the hens' empty egg box. Singing about anything makes your heart lighter, and doing good things for your neighbors, like being a hospice volunteer, changes the whole world for the better. It has got to. As Margaret Mead said, it is the only thing that really can.

So I'm going to be much more selective about how much I read and watch the news until the election is over, but I'll still listen to Joanie on the radio. Did I tell you she is also a hospice volunteer? She's signing off now with her theme song -- "It's a good day for singing a song, a good day for moving along ..." -- which works better on my hives than an antihistamine. I may sing it to my chickens too. I think I'll even keep humming it as I pin an Obama button to my raincoat and shop at my favorite McCain-Palin grocery store.

At Salon.com, Lamott writes (and the nicknames are in reference to the Sarah Palin Baby Name generator):

Figure out one thing you can do every single day to be a part of the solution, concentrating on swing states. Money, walking precincts, registering voters, whatever. This is the only way miracles ever happen -- left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe. Right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe. The great novelist E.L. Doctorow once said that writing a novel is like driving at night with the headlights on: You can only see a little ways in front of you, but you can make the whole journey this way. It is the truest of all things; the only way to write a book, raise a child, save the world.

As my anonymous pal Krinkle Bearcat once wrote: Laughter is carbonated holiness. It is chemo. So do whatever it takes to keep your sense of humor. Rent Christopher Guest movies, read books by Roz Chast and Maira Kalman. Picture Stick Freedom in his Batman underpants, having one of his episodes of rage alone in one of his seven bedrooms. Or having one of his bathroomy little conversations with Froth Moonshine. (Bless their hearts.) Try to remember that even Karl Rove has accused him of being a lying suck.

Reread everything Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower ever wrote. Write down that great line of Molly's, that "freedom fighters don't always win, but they're always right." Tape it next to your phone.

Call the loneliest person you know. Go flirt with the oldest person at the bookstore.

Fill up a box with really cool clothes that you haven't worn in a year, and take it to a thrift shop. Take gray water outside and water whatever is growing on your deck. This is not a bad metaphor to live by. I think it is why we are here. Drink more fluids. And take very gentle care of yourself and the people you most love: We need you now more than ever.

(Click here for the whole essay)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Caroline Williams has it 'Made'


More Caroline bragging -- my smart, talented hysterical friend is not just 'lucky' -- she's been working soooo hard and it pays off!

Caroline Williams has it 'Made'
ABC nabs scribe's single-camera comedy pitch

By Nellie Andreeva

Oct 15, 2008, 01:00 AM ET
It seems that Caroline Williams just can't do wrong -- her first-ever TV pitch, the single-camera comedy "Made Over," has sparked bidding, landing a put pilot commitment at ABC.

After graduating from UCLA's master's program in screenwriting in 2004, she set out to write a spec with the sole goal of landing job on NBC's "The Office."

The spec, "Miss/Guided," did get her a job on the Emmy-winning comedy that earned her a WGA nomination this year for penning the "Phillis' Wedding" episode. But it also took on a life of its own, making it to series on ABC last season with Judy Greer in the lead.

"It's been a busy and exciting couple of years," Williams said.

For her sophomore development effort, produced by Warner Bros. TV through a blind script deal, Williams drew inspiration from the movie "Jerry Maguire," in which Tom Cruise plays a jerk sports agent who reinvents himself after losing his high-power job because of a nervous breakdown.

"It's about the power of beauty and image in society and how that affects female friendship and competition in the workplace," Williams said of "Made Over."

Set in Los Angeles, it centers on a shallow, image-obsessed cosmetics executive who has a crisis of conscience and quits her job. She joins a younger woman with completely different values to start a unique consulting company.

"Both are incredibly dysfunctional people who have no friends and no places to go outside the company, so their relationship inspires them to change."

In addition to "Made Over," which she is writing/exec producing, Williams also is working on a feature script for Paramount.

Not too shabby for a recent college graduate.

"I'm really lucky," Williams said.

She is repped by UTA and attorneys Robert Offer and Lindsay Straussberg

-- Hollywood Reporter

Photo courtesy Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Anne Lamott at Salon.com


Thank God for the elections. I'm always looking for new, fresh-from-her-soul/brilliant mind work from Anne.

"So with all of this going on so close to home, how can we hang on, take care of one another, make a difference, live lives of purpose and dignity and joy -- without losing our minds?"

"I will tell you: Remember the bees, and look up. Don't stare at the bottom of the jar in which you are trapped. Turn off the TV for half an hour, and look up. Don't look at the Wall Street traders in their distressing guise as bees, trapped on the floor of the exchange. They are not prisoners, like the bees; they are volunteers. Instead, look up at your computer and find a good charity site where you can send whatever you can afford. Go to Oxfamusa.com or DoctorsWithoutBorders.com. Send what you can to Planned Parenthood in the name of Sarah Palin. Send what you can to Obama's campaign in a swing county in your nearest swing state. The Republicans are wrong: You don't always lose if you share. You actually get really, really happy."


"No time to cry wolf" is at Salon.com

Monday, October 13, 2008

Finding my feminine roar

As I slipped a rubbery falsie into my already padded bra my thoughts flitted toward a boob job, more elegantly referred to as 'enhancement,' and while my monkey mind was there, it might as well peer in the mirror at that nose that could use some 'refining.'

In an unanticipated moment of truth and clarity and maybe a small ounce of self-love, a more rational voice asked, "Why? Who are you competing with?"

Living in Hollywood, having worked in the film industry, the answer was obvious. Celebrities, of course. Actresses. Models. Heiresses.

And you're competing with them for ... ?

The voice left the question open.

Oh. My. God. Did I really think that I needed to be and look as sculpted as a star on a screen or a model in a magazine? That's lunacy. And, in our society, totally NORMAL.

It's exhausting. My curling iron is falling apart from too much use. My lip pencil is raggedy and runs down to the quick faster than it used to. My tweezers are dull from plucking. I'm dull from caring.

Why should I, my goal to be a writer who highlights the needs of women and children, waste the mental and emotional energy to care that I look like a star? The irony that I could help women realize their full potential as gorgeous humans, no matter their weight, height, financial situation, when I can't quite convince myself that bit of botox wouldn't change my life? (Okay, no botox. That's madness. Just the nose job.)

The documentary "America the Beautiful" questions our definition of beauty. In one of my favorite scenes, Eve Ensler, famous for her feminine strength and "The Vagina Monologues," tells about her travels to Africa. There she met a woman who was absolutely in love with all -- ALL of her body. When Eve complained about parts of her body she was less than thrilled by, the woman pointed to a tree and asked, 'Is that tree beautiful?' Of course, Eve answered. The woman then pointed to a different tree. 'Is that tree any less beautiful because it is different?' ... 'I am a tree. You are a tree. Love your tree!'

Why is it so hard to love our trees? Why am I afraid to even raise my voice, when lately, I want to roar in both outrage and joy? In the same film, I learned that the same year that women won the right to vote is the year the first beauty pageant began. Coincidence? I think not. And that makes me RAGE.

I'm surrounded both by married friends, single friends, and engaged friends. Friends with babies, most of them adorable. And I'm great with babies. They love me. Kids beg for me to come visit. But I'm not sure I want one. I never had that strong desire, though I have thought about adopting, mostly because my heart breaks to think of anyone feeling abandoned, less than wanted. This has led to an unhealthy influx of stray kitties. I plan to use a little more wisdom when it comes to kids.

As much as I've never felt that strong desire for a family, I often feel judged by those who do, or by society as a whole. I don't want to judge those women who are on the path most traveled, and therefore do not want their judgment about mine. Like all judgment, it likely comes down to fear. Fearing what's different, what is unknown. For those on the marriage and baby train, what happens if you entertain the thought that perhaps you don't want kids? You've never examined what that choice, that life, might look like, and the unknown is frightening. For those of us who think we know that we do not want kids, fear that someday you MAY change your mind, and that is truly life-changing. Terrifying.

I've seen very good marriages, and very broken ones. I know many friends in their late 20s and 30s who are already divorced, and many who work hard on their relationships and are thankful for their partners. None of that, however, really sways who I am. And part of that has taken some time, to be comfortable knowing I am on my own journey, as is each individual, and each path will look different. But often I do find myself feeling defensive, and that is usually when I end up saying something hurtful, to try to make my perspective seem better. I get defensive, and I think it's justified based on such a long history of repression and rules about a woman's life.

In "Eat, Pray, Love," Elizabeth Gilbert writes a great deal about this choice to be single, and how the world views it. She also notes that she may change her mind, she may want to marry if she meets the right man who would truly be a partner. She may want kids later. She's changed her mind before, she knows its fickle ways.

She writes, "To create a family with a spouse is one of the most fundamental ways a person can find continuity and meaning in American (or any) society. ... Who are you? No problem -- you're the person who created all this. ...

"But what if, either by choice or by reluctant necessity, you end up not participating in this comforting cycle of family and continuity? ... You'll need to find another purpose, another measure by which to judge whether or not you have been a successful human being. I love children, but what if I don't have any? What kind of person does that make me?

"Virginia Woolf wrote, 'Across the broad continent of a woman's life falls the shadow of a sword.' On one side of that sword, she said, there lies convention and tradition and order, where 'all is correct.' But on the other side of that sword, if you're crazy enough to cross it and choose a life that does not follow convention, 'all is confusion. Nothing follows a regular course.' Her argument was that the crossing of the shadow of that sword may bring a far more interesting existence to a woman, but you can bet it will also be more perilous. ...

"A lot of writers have families. Toni Morrison, just to name an example, didn't let the raising of her son stop her from winning a little trinket we call the Nobel Prize. But Toni Morrison made her own path, and I must make mine. The Bhagavad Gita -- that ancient Indian Yogic text -- says that it is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection. So now I have started living my own life. Imperfect and clumsy as it may look, it is resembling me now, thoroughly." (pp 94,95)

And another font of feminist wisdom, Miranda in "Sex and the City", responding to uber-romantic Charlotte's comment that she believes every person has a soul-mate, someone who completes them. Miranda replies (and I paraphrase) "So if you don't meet that person, you're somehow not complete? That's so dangerous."

To know there are many women making the choice to live in the moment, to be present for the life you have and not pin hopes and dreams on someone or something else. I would love to find a man who truly is my partner, for mutual support, understanding and challenge to be more fully myself. But the more men I meet, the more comedic/horrific dating stories I gather, and the less I'm positive that will happen. And that's okay, because I am more than content. I am happy with who I am, who I'm becoming, and all the amazing friends and family who are a part of that life. And you can't beat the freedom of the single life.

Favorite song of the day: You Me And The Bourgeoisie

I just had a great lunchtime discussion about the economy, looming layoffs, and the fact that we have taken so much for granted, so much as expected. My morning latte. My car, a full tank of gas, the freedom of a last-minute road trip. Instead of feeling panic and fear about the current economy, it's a chance to change my life. (I keep telling myself that, in between deep breaths to replace those shallow, panicky ones.)

Here are some of my favorite lyrics from
"You Me and The Bourgeoisie, a few down on the list on their myspace page, that I repeat, as needed:

Plastic Bottles
Imported Water
Cars we drive wherever we want to
Clothes we buy it's sweatshop labor
Drugs from corporate enablers
We're not living the Good life
Unless we're fighting the Good fight
You and Me just trying to get it right

Love can free us from all excess
From our deepest debts
Cause when our hearts are full we need much less

The Submarines - You, Me And The Bourgeoisie


Here I am with all the pleasures of the first world
Laid out before me who am I to breakdown?

Everyday I wake up,
I choose Love
I choose Light
And I try, it's too easy just to fall apart

Oh my baby don't be so distressed
Were done with politesse
It's time to be so brutally honest about
The way we think long for something fine
When we pine for higher ceilings
And bourgeois happy feelings

And here we are with the pleasures of the first world
It's laid out before us, who are we to break down?

Everyday we wake up
We choose Love
We choose light
And we try, it's too easy just to fall apart

Plastic Bottles
Imported Water
Cars we drive wherever we want to
Clothes we buy it's sweatshop labor
Drugs from corporate enablers
We're not living the Good life
Unless we're fighting the Good fight
You and Me just trying to get it right

In the center of the first world
It's laid out before us, who are we to break down?

Everyday we wake up
We choose Love
We choose light
And we try, it's too easy just to fall apart

Love can free us from all excess
From our deepest debts
Cause when our hearts are full we need much less

Yea i know we long for something fine
When we pine for higher ceilings
And bourgeois happy feelings

But Here we are in the center of the first world
It's laid out before us, who are we to break down?

Here we are in the center of the first world
It's laid out before us, who are we to break down?

Everyday we wake up
We choose Love
We choose light
And we try, it's too easy just to fall apart

Everyday we wake up
We choose Love
We choose light
And we try, it's too easy just to fall apart

~6lyrics.com

Friday, October 10, 2008

Macedonia and Montenegro recognize Kosova -- Serbia expels Macedonia's ambassador


"Serbia has expelled Macedonia's ambassador after his country recognized Kosovo's independence.
...

Macedonia and Montenegro, two close allies of Serbia, granted recognition to Kosovo Thursday.

Serbia immediately expelled the Montenegrin ambassador Anka Vojvodic. Serbian President Boris Tadic called the recognition of Kosovo very wrong and contrary to international law. Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic called Montenegro's recognition a knife in Serbia's back."

Read more at Voice of America News

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Mail goggles ... brilliant

A breathalyzer for your laptop ... if you're too tipsy to do the math, you probably shouldn't send that email.

One more reason Gmail is the best email to use -- mail goggles.

"Called "Mail Goggles," the Gmail add-on makes sending e-mail from Gmail more difficult during certain times that you can set manually (while sober, that is). How does it do this? If you have Mail Goggles installed—which you can do by going to the "Labs" tab under your Gmail settings and turning them on—it will force you to answer a series of math questions before sending out any new messages." -- From ars technica

The google site

Saturday, October 04, 2008

something too important to forget

A friend sent me a book of poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reading the poem he suggested, "The Art of Disappearing," I am thankful that he knows me so well. It resonated deeply, made me both want to sit in silence and to send out a hallelujah cry, that in my head sounds something like ululating, and might scare the children.

"You're trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
...
Know you could tumble any second
Then decide what to do with your time."

As I'm repainting my room, cleaning and purging all unnecessary clutter, I want to purge all that is unnecessary in my life. To be deliberate. It feels like preparation. I'm not sure what is coming next, but I want to be ready, not weighed down by stuff, either physical or psychic.

"The Art of Disappearing"

When they say Don't I know you?
say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say We should get together
say Why?

It's not that you don't love them anymore.
You're trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven't seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don't start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

~Naomi Shihab Nye

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Steve Lopez visits Palin's hometown

Into the wild of Wasilla, Alaska, where Sarah Palin once ruled

"They paved paradise, and all they've got to show for it is chalupas and discount tube socks."

~Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My favorite non-Onion story today


This may be my favorite straight news story of the day:

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Michael Douglas had to field questions Wednesday about the financial turmoil shaking world markets from reporters recalling his role in the 1987 film "Wall Street."
...
"And my name is not Gordon. He's a character I played 20 years ago."

Read the full, fully serious, non-Onion article on the LA Times site.

(Photo courtesy David Karp / AP)

Friday, September 19, 2008

International Day to Take Off Your Veil?

Facebook reflects struggle over Islam's role

"This is not just a technical war, but a moral one. Facebook is reflecting what's happening in Muslim society," Korayem said. "I'm engaged in dialogue between Islamists and secularists. But there's too much tension. No one wants to revise his opinions. It's turned into a screaming war. Islamists speak to me as a disbeliever. They want to convert me. They quote verses of the Koran as if to awaken me."

The struggle is over Islam's role in the new century. Facebook groups like Korayem's seek separation between the spiritual and the political.

~By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

McCain Gets BarackRoll'd

Heard of Rickrolling? "...best described by example: You are reading your favorite Hollywood gossip blog and arrive at a link urging you to “Click here for exclusive video of Britney’s latest freakout!!” Click you do, but instead of Britney, it’s a dashing 21-year-old Briton that pops onto the screen. You, sir, have been Rickroll’d." - Web Scout

McCain gets BarackRoll'd at the RNC

Hilarious.

And check out this score

For all my PCC basketball teammates who suffered through the Fresno game, and the subsequent newscaster jokes, I offer you this.

"There's the "agony of defeat." And then there's this women's ice hockey score from the European Olympic pre-qualifying tournament: Slovakia 82, Bulgaria 0.

That's correct: 82 goals for Slovakia, none for Bulgaria. It was not the all-time record for futility, however; that is still held by Thailand, which lost 92-0 to South Korea in the 1998 Asia-Oceania U18 Championship." ~ ESPN


At least we got on the scoreboard.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Beauty

If the documentary 'America the Beautiful' is playing in your area, go see it! It's a compelling story about America's (sometimes deadly) obsession with beauty. After observing a plastic surgery, the documentarian says he went home to call every woman he knows, to tell her she is beautiful, exactly as she is. And then called every man he knows and asked him to tell every woman in his life that she is beautiful, exactly as she is.

How do we define beauty? In one of my favorite scenes, Eve Ensler tells about her travels to Africa, where she met a woman who was absolutely in love with all.. ALL of her body. When Eve complained about parts of her body she was less than thrilled by, the woman pointed to a tree and asked, 'Is that tree beautiful?' Of course. The woman then pointed to a different tree. 'Is that tree any less beautiful because it is different?' ... 'I am a tree. You are a tree. Love your tree!'

You are beautiful. Love your tree!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lorelei Gilmore at the DNC?

If I can't have Lorelei's fast-talking play-by-play packed with witty cultural references, the next best thing is Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of "Gilmore Girls" and the voice behind one of my favorite female characters.

EW.com has Sherman-Palladino guest blogging from the DNC.

From "Thinking Chicks and Michelle Obama"

Women have to put up with "chick lit," which is code for crappy books. (I'm sorry, why is there a separate section for "chick lit"? We can't read something from the grown-up shelves? They think, just 'cause it's summer, women all across the world suddenly lose a chromosome? They lose focus and can't put big words together unless there's a picture of a pink shopping bag on the cover?) Women are constantly underestimated. They are ignored, brushed aside. Presidential candidates tell heinous misogynistic jokes about them to reporters on the campaign bus. Women have to prove every day that they are good enough, smart enough, tough enough, etc. So, with all these weighty thoughts rolling around in my head, I waited with anticipation to hear Michelle Obama's speech.

Read more ...

Teaching Wild Animals to Swim

I don't know -- the cat still looks plenty pissed off.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Donald Miller prays at the DNC

Thanks to my friend Cameron who sent me these links, and who summed it up so well:

"Whether you are a democrat or not, it's great to hear the gospel
addressed in such a public forum and in such a beautiful way."

Addendum: After posting this and then reading some of the comments on the interview in Christianity Today, I started to think about my firm support of the separation of church and state. As much as I appreciate Miller's honest and real prayer, I wonder if the DNC had asked for prayers from any other representatives of the many different faiths free to practice and vote in America?

Here's the YouTube video, and an interview with Miller in Christianity Today.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Michael Phelps Returns To His Tank At Sea World

"Phelps, the 6'4", 200-pound aquatic mammal, and the first ever SeaWorld swimmer to be raised in captivity by foster swimmers (Mark Spitz and Dara Torres), was recaptured by trainer Bob Bowman in a hoop net baited with an entire Dutch apple pie following Phelps' final Olympic event last Sunday."

Read the whole article (and see the photo!) at The Onion

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Life in the present -- with soundtrack

I took an unexpected lunch hour today, feeling anxious and overwhelmed. My sister talked me down from her house in Portland. I held the cell phone to my ear, anxious to be in the moment, to take in all that was real, now. The construction workers, their rumbling trucks competing with the sound of car horns and the accordion music ... what? Where did she come from?

As we mused on Jesus' and Buddha's teachings about the freedom of living in the moment, a girl sat down a few feet from me, opened a square black case, pulled out a black, shiny, pearly accordion and promptly began to play. My laughter made her pause, was I suddenly in a film scene, replete with soundtrack? but a dollar dropped in her case and the music started again. One of the construction workers stopped by and dropped in a dollar. A man in a suit opened his wallet, pulled out a 20, eyed the girl, then asked his friends if they could break the 20.

Apparently, they could not.

Fully in the moment, I felt a lot lighter and ready to head back to work. My thanks to God, the universe, whatever you call the mix of wonder that led to that moment.

Frederick Buechner's advice to find God? "Pay attention. ... Keep your life open."



Should Michael Phelps be forced to race non-humans?

I wondered if anyone else was burned out by Michael Phelps coverage. Further proof that I am not alone:

Michael Phelps Wins Olympics, Still Can't Beat Dolphins


"There are still hurdles to be cleared, Mr. Phelps (though we're pretty sure he won the gold in the 100m hurdles as well)."

www.asylum.com

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Peace of Wild Things

I may have posted this before - but I felt the need to read again, and thought others might as well:

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

~ 'The Peace of Wild Things'
by Wendell Berry

Monday, August 11, 2008

New Republican slogan (A wonderful new drug hits the market)

Granted, this does not support my hope to find common ground, and all that Obama keeps reiterating to break down party lines -- but it's funny. And really more about the Bush administration than anything.

It's time for you to live your life. It's time for the Republican party.

"Please consult a physician before using Republican."

See more Adam "Ghost Panther" McKay videos at Funny or Die


Funnyordie.com

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Candle4Tibet vs. Gilmore Girls


I don't know much about Tibet's history and the current oppression from China. In an ever-expanding world view and news and information flow, I feel overwhelmed trying to keep informed about individual countries, uprisings, droughts, celebrations.

I'm interested how, through the Olympic games, the world focus narrows in on China's human rights record. I received an email from Candle4Tibet this week, alerting me to a light protest -- a candle vigil around the world, on the eve of the Olympics, to raise awareness to what many call the cultural genocide of Tibet.

In recent months I've felt more and more strongly that there is an activist inside me, waiting for me to be brave enough to let her out. I think she wants to march ... somewhere, on something. But the rest of me has long been concerned about what people think, how they view me. If all the world's a stage, I envision myself as sole actor. The psych term for this, the invisible audience, typically describes 14-year olds. I'm so tired of being stunted, of worrying what others will think of my actions. And a candle vigil seemed a good first step in my march.

I forwarded the email and found a friend eager to join me. Jonathan had traveled through Tibet, camped in freezing mountain cold, met monks, passed through Chinese check points. He told me stories of the people there, their strength, how the buildings have been destroyed, the culture being swallowed by the prevailing Chinese culture, the Tibetan uncommon beauty and coveted cheekbones. We agreed to pack candles with us on Thursday, so that in case we didn't make it in time to the pier, we could light our candles wherever we were.

One day later, my enthusiasm waned. After 9 hours at my desk, I felt waxy and overweight, and just wanted to get a work-out in before zoning off in front of my favorite re-run of "The Gilmore Girls." I was secretly hoping Jonathan would be caught in traffic, and who was I to go by myself to a vigil full of strangers for a cause I had never intensely researched? I'd light my candle at 9, have a moment of silence and recognition.

Jonathan left a message that he was on time and on his way to the vigil. I sat for five full minutes, feeling the flab on my hips, telling myself that one more day without exercise and I'd be a candidate for Jenny Craig, and I can't afford Jenny Craig, therefore it would be completely irresponsible for me not to exercise, immediately.

Then a small voice said "That's right. There are people who aren't allowed free press, to learn in their language, who are dying for the freedoms you have. Go ahead. Turn on that salsa tape and dance your hips off." Not really a kind voice, but I didn't need kindness towards my selfish self right then. If I wanted to be that woman who doesn't care, who's ready to march for what matters, I needed to be her right then. I packed a couple candles in my bag, grabbed my camera and joined the thousands of tourists on the pier, to find the 80 or so protesters down on the sand.

As I stood with my friend, surrounded by a mixed group of men and women, the elderly to little girls doing splits in the sand, I wondered what it means for people in Tibet for us to stand on a beach, halfway around the world, holding a candle. The organizer said what I can only assume were meaningful, inspiring words. The sound of the waves crashing mixed with dance beats from the Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant and bar and the laughter from the pier drowned him out. I wasn't putting my life on the line. I barely interrupted my regular schedule. I wasn't sharing a cup of tea and hearing the stories of a vanishing culture.

But I was stepping outside myself and my concerns. I was in the presence of others, of a community, not the false community of Stars Hollow on my TV. The world is overwhelmingly big, but we act where we are, in the moment we find ourselves. It may not change China's policies. It may not be witnessed by one person in Tibet. But I am changed, and I'll view things a little differently. And that has to count for something.

"No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it. Where we live and who we live there with define the terms of our relationship to the world and to humanity. We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one's partiality." - Wendell Berry

Christiane Amanpour provides a brief overview of Tibetan history with China, interviewing the Dalai Lama in Buddha's Warriors Part1

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

GOOD Magazine: 'Wish You Were Here?'

Dispatches from places you didn't think had tourists.


"Like the soldiers packed into the room with me, I was filthy and awoke tired, but at least we were all still alive. Sadr City, a Shiite slum in eastern Baghdad, is currently the most vicious battleground in the Iraq War—one that is underreported, and therefore almost unseen. It is the fight for the future of Iraq, where the United States and Iran are fighting a war neither side wants to admit is already well under way. It is a life-and-death fight for the several million people living here, for the Iraqi soldiers sent in to take this ground from Iranian-backed militias, and for U.S. soldiers who have not seen anything like this anywhere else in Iraq.

...

I came here to live with the soldiers, to hear their stories. And to talk to the people trapped in their homes, surviving without electricity, water, and food, caught in a fight they did not seek and from which there is no escape. I came to Sadr City in the hope that someone, somewhere, is paying attention."

excerpt from Lara Logan - GOOD Magazine

Friday, August 01, 2008

puppy whisperer

Dog lullaby -- cute tumbly puppies

from the Kim Komando Show

Wal-Mart Warns Workers Of Democratic Win

I've never been a fan of Wal-Mart's policies, but this tops it.

Huffington Post has a statement from Wal-Mart.

The original report from The Wall Street Journal:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they'll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies -- including Wal-Mart.

In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.

According to about a dozen Wal-Mart employees who attended such meetings in seven states, Wal-Mart executives claim that employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise ...

The Wal-Mart human-resources managers who run the meetings don't specifically tell attendees how to vote in November's election, but make it clear that voting for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama would be tantamount to inviting unions in, according to Wal-Mart employees who attended gatherings in Maryland, Missouri and other states.

"The meeting leader said, 'I am not telling you how to vote, but if the Democrats win, this bill will pass and you won't have a vote on whether you want a union,'" said a Wal-Mart customer-service supervisor from Missouri. "I am not a stupid person. They were telling me how to vote," she said.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Christina and Robert's wedding

Little log church, Yachats, Oregon
Christina and Robert
Intent
Deb




Photos by Jay Haldor

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Obama takes the high road

McCain's camp is planning to release a new ad attacking Obama for canceling a visit to injured American troops in Germany.

As I read the two statements issued, I am reminded again how important words are, and impressed by Obama's campaign to use words to unite and bridge differences. It is even more obvious the import of that effort when juxtaposed with the typical, as seen in McCain's issued statement.

But today, the McCain camp released a new, cutting statement from retired Army Liutenant Col. Joe Repaya, who, according to a biography from the campaign, served in Vietnam and both Iraq wars:

The most solemn duty of a commander in chief is to fulfill his responsibility to the men and women who serve this country in uniform. Barack Obama had scheduled a visit with wounded American troops who have served with honor and distinction in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he broke that commitment, instead flitting from one European capital to the next.

Several explanations were offered, none was convincing and each was at odds with the statements of American military leaders in Germany and Washington. For a young man so apt at playing president, Barack Obama badly misjudged the important demands of the office he seeks. Visits with world leaders and speeches to cheering Europeans shouldn’t be a substitute for comforting injured American heroes.

The Obama campaign shot back with a message from Tommy Vietor, a spokesman:

As Senator Obama said today, the last thing he wanted was to have injured soldiers get pulled into the back-and-forth of a political campaign. That’s why we imagine Senator McCain would be surprised that his campaign released this wildly inappropriate accusation that politicizes the issue.

Senator Obama and Senator McCain share the belief that we must do everything we can to honor and support our troops, which is why Senator Obama has met with our men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan this week and visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed numerous times.

Update: The Obama campaign points out that the footage that appears in Mr. McCain’s ad when the announcer talks about Mr. Obama going to the gym instead of visiting troops is actually Mr. Obama playing basketball with soldiers in Kuwait.

Excerpted by an article by Sarah Wheaton, nytimes.com

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Lark park


So many questions.

This parking garage charges every entry -- is it possible to sneak the lark by the security guard? Did someone drive this up 3 floors to park it? If so, does one have to shift to low gear to make the hills?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008