Saturday, December 31, 2011


Looking back through the posts mom and I have made in this space during 2011, I see a shift in my focus over the twelve months. As the year began, I was in a very strong and powerful place. I had made some decisions about my life and was enjoying exploring those choices. I would hazard to say our first koan, about ethical awareness and consciousness, came more out of where I was at the time than where mom was.

Sunset - Land's End - January 1, 2012

We covered a lot of ground quickly and briefly moving from topic to topic. And while mom's post tended to be about what she was experiencing and feeling, my posts tended towards what I was thinking about and seeing. Getting up on my soapbox about a few things was both fun and slightly embarrassing (though well received). By mid-spring, I felt like the blog had settled into a pace and flow.

Sunset - Land's End - January 1, 2012

Then, there was a silence, which was very much related to life things happening and not anything between mom and me. But I can see someone reading something into it. At the same time, I know that as I look and think back over that time, there was something shifting for me during that time. I started to go to a much more internal, vulnerable place. Asking myself more personal questions. Not focusing on the world at large as much. And in many ways, less willing to share that journey in a public place.

Sunset - Land's End - January 1, 2012

After the silence, there was a flood. For me, July stands out almost as a separate blog. 60 posts. Reading through them is beautiful and bewildering. It is so different from the other content. No agenda. No purpose. No koan. Just simple daily observations and pictures.

Afterwards, it was hard to move back to content driven posts. Which is interesting retrospectively, because the goal of posting everyday for the month was to get us back in the habit of writing on the blog. I wonder if we almost burnt ourselves out that month; I definitely found the commitment of posting everyday sometimes to be daunting. Or perhaps it was the fact that after July was over, we did have a new koan or direction to move into. And one cannot forget that the fall signaled the start of the school year for both mom and myself.

Sunset - Land's End - January 1, 2012

While I'm not upset about how the blog dwindled in the last few months of the year, I wish that it had turned out differently. I don't that it could have knowing the state that I was in from September through December, but that doesn't stop me from struggling with my unfulfilled expectations. In the end, I do feel like I was able to connect more with my mom, which was what this whole project was about anyway.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day Dreams

A small white board by my computer has the word "DREAM" written on it in big bold letters. Underneath the word, dream, is the phrase "Think big and start small." My eyes have either gazed or glanced at this board daily for the past year.  A few other key phrases have been added surrounding the action words of dream, think and start. When I first wrote the word, dream, a year ago, it was meant to inspire me to open up to the many possibilities present in every moment. Realizing there are limiting circumstances to my life, I wanted to take small steps without compromising the overall dream or desire, so I added the caveat phrase.

Building my labyrinth, speaks to the inspiration of one dream that has been realized this past year. After clearing the space in the backyard, I visualized the finished stone path, started collecting a few stones and engaged my friends and family to gather stones as well. Several months later it was completed and blessed on the spring equinox. Dreaming is not something I have allowed myself to do much of over the course of my life. Things feel very different now. I am reminded of something I wrote down, "The speed with which any dream may be realized is always a function of how small the miracles have to be in order not to freak out the dreamer." Hmmmm....worth pondering.

Labyrinth from my bedroom window

Going back to school is something I wasn't sure about, but it seems the universe conspired again to let this dream be a reality. So far, I am doing quite well, at least the feedback has been positive. I don't think I have quite let this one sink in yet. I still have finals to get through.

Lauryn and Joni (her favorite Aunt on Dad's side)

Thanksgiving Day has come and gone and this year it was very important for me to be with my nuclear family. Not everyone was able to be together and so it was bittersweet and not quite complete, but a joyful time of connection for those present. For those apart, the remembrance is held in a handful of quietness. The autumn days are coming to a close and it will be time for the winter journey, finishing out this last year and final entries to the blog. This is a dream come true as well.

Monday, November 28, 2011

musings as the days shorten

The penultimate month of 2011 is almost at an end. This is the time of year where I wonder where the time went. Yes, it's also the time of year when I think about family, thankfulness and all of the other holiday season things. But right now, I seem to be thinking about what I set out to do this year. I started 2011 with an influx of energy and ideas. I had projects for my non-work time. Travel plans abounded. I felt good about where I was and what I was doing. As I assess, I think things came out at a 50/50 split.

my windowsill on a Sunday afternoone

I did well on follow through with the travel plans. I went to Vegas to celebrate/reconnect with three amazing friends from college who I rarely ever see anymore since I moved to SF. I went to NYC for the first time and had an amazing time with Martin, my aunt Michelle and uncle David. We spent 5 summer days in Michigan with Martin's family and got some quality time hanging out with his oldest niece. There was the stormy Valentine's night off the pacific coast at Costanoa. And my first camping trip ever. Most recently my Thanksgiving trip with my family to Oklahoma City. So, I did well in that respect.

sticker graffiti on 13th near Valencia

My projects haven't come off so well. This blog was one project, and while it has been successful in some ways, it's hasn't been what I imagined. I finished knitting a hat for my dad. But everything else - building a lamp for Arielle, making a cookbook for my sister, making in inappropriate cross stitch for my brother, writing letters to Resa every month - did not happen. Some got started, but none got finished. Perhaps my eyes were too large for my stomach in this instance. But since all of these projects that were supposed to take up my free time didn't happen, what did I do with that time?

old sign in chinatown, SF

Finally, how do I feel about where I am and what I'm doing? Unsure is the best answer I can give. I don't feel content in my work anymore. I feel restless. I'm dreaming more. I'm reading more. I'm imagining more. I don't have any answers, but rather multitudes of questions. Perhaps as I go through the rituals of closing the year over this next month, I'll begin to feel some resolution and some consensus about this year. Then again, perhaps the process that I'm going through will take a little longer to suss out. We'll have to see.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

the nature of habits and myself

Earlier in October, I signed up for an online course that was committing to do a yoga practice at home for 30 days. The commitment would be supported through video and email support by the yoga teacher. After the course, theoretically, one has gotten into a habit of daily yoga.

While I have enjoyed the course and practicing yoga at home, I have not been able to manage to make it a habit. In fact, I believe I have an unusual predilection for not forming habits out of daily practices. I'm not saying that I don't have things that I do regularly - showering, checking email, etc. Or that I don't respond to certain stimuli in certain, patterned ways - over-eating when upset, tearing at my nails when nervous, etc. Those ideas aren't what I mean when I say habit. I mean willfully and purposefully putting in place behaviors that become so ingrained that eventually they become almost subconscious. Things like daily yoga/exercise, filling my bike tires weekly, regularly writing on a blog. I have great ambitions and seem to have rather poor follow through.

For example, all of my journals before my 17th birthday look like this - one week of daily writing, an entry two weeks later that tries to catch up and fails, one more aborted attempt to catch up, the rest is blank pages. This was my habit. By the time I was 17, even I had recognized this pattern in myself. So, when I received a beautiful journal from a friend for my birthday, I was reticent to do anything with it. I didn't want it to end up like all the others. I thought about it for a while and wondered what would happen if I didn't date my entries? What if I just wrote what I wanted and then put it aside? And then, it wouldn't matter if I picked it up the next day or in two weeks or in two months or two years. It would look like I was just starting from where I left off. I started the journal in January of 2000 and finished it, my only complete journal to date, around 6 years later. I started my current journal in January of 2006 and am not nearly halfway done.

What does this example say about me? And, can I translate it into something useful in my other goals for myself? How do go about setting up a habit without holding myself accountable to time? I guess I can't really say that I made journaling a habit. I did the opposite. I removed the element of regularity. It worked for what I wanted - to finish a journal - but it didn't make journaling a consistent part of my life. How can I remove my self-sabotaging expectations of myself while still holding myself accountable? Maybe I'll go contemplate it while in downward dog.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Understanding Graduate School

Well it's October and the heat is on in graduate school. If I make it through this month, I believe all will be well. I think back on my preconceptions of what school would be like and how I even imagined I could hold down a job while in school. School is a job in itself. The readings, the research and writing papers, attending class, studying, on-line lectures all combine to utilize a majority of my time. Even factoring in my age and unsharpened skills, I think even a non-stressful job would have been too much for me this first semester. But it is so much fun to be a student again, learning things new to me. I have been a generalist most of my teaching career, which means I know a little bit about a lot of things. I am eager to focus on a narrower agenda.

Critical thinking is an area of concern for me now as I read to understand and then share my views and interpretations back to the professor. I knew I would be good at test-taking, at least the tests that cover content. I have a mid-term coming up that is all essay and short answer. In order to get an A on the long essay, I must form a thesis statement and develop the essay using various readings and class discussions to fully explore the topic. I believe I can do this, then there is the but.....but what if I fail to have a convincing argument? What if the information just leaves my head at the last minute and I draw a blank? What if what I see as important and relevant is not the key point the professor had in mind. There is so much information to be aware of and only a fraction of it is covered on the test and you don't know what it will be, so you study it all. Talk about a narrower agenda! What have I signed up for?

Then I remember life is about process and all I can do is do my best. As a teacher, I remember the students who involved themselves in their learning generally fared well and were able to articulate what they learned in a reasonble manner and I can do the same.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September Retreat

on retreat in September in north Georgia

"The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life." 
~Robert Louis Stevenson

self-portrait on a leisurely walk around the lake 

I think many times we often forget how the everyday simplicity of our lives hold the key to happiness. This year of writing with Lauryn has helped me discover how much pleasure I find when I simply notice what I am doing as I am doing it. It leads me to respond to my circumstances in a genuine way, bringing joy into my life. Just stopping and taking note of my breath. I can slow it down and focus on how grateful I am that I am here now. I always have tea candles to light and lighting them on a dreary day lifts my mood. The red flowers on the labyrinth path share their beauty for free as I walk the circuits in prayer.

sun-kissed foliage of red and green

It wasn't always so in my life. If there is any wisdom in living to be an elder in our society, I believe it is in the understanding of this principle. It makes for a twinge of saddness that my realization of this did not come sooner, but then I am reminded of all the days to come and I am grateful for the awakening, for it did not come too late.

Monday, September 19, 2011


September usually marks a time in my life when I lose any semblance of balance between my work life and my non-work life. The start of the youth & teen program fall session at the dance organization where I work means that I work the first two weeks of the session straight.  This year was no different. I worked the Tuesday after Labor Day, the 5th through the 17th. Twelve days of working. Most of the time I was putting in 8 hour days, if not longer.

The over-achieving, workaholic is a standard image in our contemporary, western culture. Definitely within the corporate culture. I think it's just as bad in non-profit culture where I work. There is this idea that we have to sacrifice our lives for the good work we're doing. When there is a gap to be filled in, we jump in and roll up our sleeves. There's a constant idea of there being no money and no resources. You're supported by your ideals and the knowledge that what you're doing is important.

I have always had a strangely strong work ethic. I have been noted of going above and beyond in all of my jobs - student (6-22), receptionist (15), sales clerk (16), restaurant hostess (17-20), library circulation desk attendant (18-22), au pair (22), Americorps volunteer (23-24), non-profit arts administrator (24-29). I'm not saying I haven't slacked off or wasted time while on the clock. I read a romance novel at the library one semester that a professor had put on the holds shelf for a class during the downtime of my shifts. Note that I wasn't in the class. But, overall, I've always focused on being present and engaged in the workplace, which has served me in finding better and better jobs and employment.

So, when does this become a problem? When does being a good employee go beyond what's healthy? How do you say no when you know there is no one else there, and no money to hire someone to be there, to do the job? How do you stop being good at your job for the sake of being good to yourself?