Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas shopping

Tonight I went to the mall. I bought new pajamas for our trip to Oriental (nothing's too good for my gurfrins), a scarf, boots, and tights. I went to the Aveda store and bought a few things because it was double points weekend. If you saw me carrying all those bags you might think, "Whoa--that girl has made a dent in some Christmas shopping." But this is the truth: The bags that come home from the mall during Christmas shopping season are mostly for me. I make donations or give gift cards and money to just about everyone on my list. It's just that it's so easy to bring all those bags into the house, walk past my husband openly carrying them, and hide them in the closet (theoretically until I can get them wrapped). I love Christmas!!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Offering for Healing

How I act at church

Each Sunday I swear I'm going to church and come home without saying something that I worry about for the rest of the week. Really - this is a huge problem for me. I say, "Silence is golden" and "Listening is a gift" and other cliched things over and over in the car to the parking lot. Then from the parking lot to the church, I greet each person I see with a bright and cheery good morning, asking how their week went, commenting on the weather--the sort of thing that cannot be misunderstood. But once I'm inside the church something goes kerflooey in my brain and I am like someone with Tourette Syndrome - the damndest things come out of my mouth and I have no control over them whatsoever.

Case in point: This week we had a guest speaker. The speaker is a member of the church and an ordained Methodist minister (recovering). During his sermon, he said something about how our minister has such a wealth of choice for people to take his place when he's gone and how honored he was to be chosen this week. Sooooo, what do I do? After his very awesome sermon, I proceed to the front to say, "No wonder Mr. Minister doesn't want you to take his're awesome!!"

Well, this was not how he put it at all and the regular minister has never said that he doesn't want this guy to sub for him, and I did get a very puzzled look when I said it. But it takes me until I get home to start thinking about what I said. And honest to God I can always come up with some statement I made that might have been taken the wrong way!! Geez.

Okay, so most people go to church and spend the week thinking about raising themselves to a higher calling for their God (lofty, hmmm?) but I just think of going one week without saying something stupid so I don't obsess about it until the next week when I say something stupid to replace it. Is there anywhere in the holy books that addresses this dilemma? Calling all spiritual advisors....Jesus? Buddha? Mohammed? Please heal my foot-in-mouth disease!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Blue Pearl

In the book Eat Pray Love, Gilbert tells of a group of neurologists who wired up a Tibetan monk for a brain scan to see what happens when one enters a transcendent state. She explains that our brain activity shows up normally as yellow and red flashes - more red and more yellow during periods of stress or anger or passion. During the monk's meditation, he was able to quiet his mind so completely that all the red and yellow completely disappeared, and the neurological activity of his brain collected in the center into a small, cool, blue light.

Gilbert says that mystics throughout the ages, without the benefit of brain scans, have described the stillness of one's mind during meditation, the complete union with God, as a blue light. Some say they feel this light radiating from the center of their skulls. In Yogic meditation, she continues, this is called the "blue pearl" and it is the aim of real seekers to find it.

It is amazing to me that in this instance the spiritual interpretation of meditation coincides with the scientific evidence.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Eat Pray Love

About twenty or so people have asked me in the last few months if I've read Elizabeth Gilbert's book Eat Pray Love. I have it, but had not read it. After reviewing books for my old church's newsletter for umpteen years, I vowed to not read a religious book for a while, and the book did have "pray" in the title. But I kept thinking maybe I ought to read it, if only because I hate the idea of a lot of others having read a book I haven't read!

At the airport waiting for our plane to NYC to see my daughters, I realized that I had already read the book I brought for the trip. In the terminal bookstore, the only paperback I hadn't read was Gilbert's book. Reluctantly I bought it. One hundred pages later I was totally hooked. As soon as we got to New York I told my daughters that we absolutely had to eat Italian food that night. And I don't even like Italian food all that much. Pizza, meatballs, olives! I wanted a table overburdened with red sauce and mozzarella cheese and fat bottles of red wine and bread with olive oil and herbs.

Over the course of the weekend, we had our challenges. We have three beautiful, strong-willed, intelligent daughters, and that's a lot of power in one place. But by this point in the weekend Gilbert was at an ashram in India, meditating and getting all peaceful and communing with spiritual masters. It helped.

On the plane back, I read the third section of the book which is set in Indonesia. Gilbert fell in love which certainly made things more romantic for my husband and me in the mini-airplane booster seats.

I often remember books by the setting in which I read them. This book will forever be associated in my mind with our trip this past weekend. We ate at wonderful restaurants, visited our oldest daughter's school and met her students and co-workers, went with our artist daughter to MOMA where she gained some new inspiration, sensed a new maturity and confidence in our youngest daughter. I realized anew that my children are grown with their own lives, and that I have to trust their instincts and leave their care to my higher power.

Eat, pray, love - it was a very satisfying weekend.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fall Leaves - Paris


In my church, there is a lot of talk about prosperity. Mostly this talk involves the idea that if you think prosperously, you will be prosperous. I want to hear in these discussions that this is a prosperity of the soul, but that isn't what is said at all. The idea that is being put forth involves things - things that we think we have to have to be successful and happy. The idea is this: all you have to do is change your way of thinking and the kingdom of earth will be yours.

I often sit in the pew and think that this must set up the same kind of situation for failing that other churches set up about prayer: If you just pray hard enough and have enough faith, your prayers will be answered. See how this parallels? If you just think about prosperity in the right way, you will be prosperous.

Where does this leave the person whose prayers don't get answered? And where does this prosperity thing leave the person who doesn't get all the things his or her heart desires? Well, it leaves 'em feeling like a gigantic spiritual failure, that's where. And I'm sick of feeling like a spiritual failure. I had enough of that when I thought I would go to hell if I told a lie.

I think it's high time that we started letting people know that faith is all about losing oneself to find oneself. About thinking about other people instead of ourselves all the time. About raising that seratonin level every day by doing something that makes us feel really good, not just sated for the moment. This to me, brothers and sisters, is prosperity. It lines my heart, not my pocket, and it won't wear out, get too small when I gain weight, need fixin' or any of those pesky little chores that things require.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Being Together

It was a cosmic convergence that created a phantom harmonic--all eleven of the Thursday night girls in one place last night. I can't speak to all the things that brought us to my house, but there were a couple of things that stand out. Elizabeth, our Oriental friend, called around 4:30 to say she was coming. This was surprise #1. Then as we sat around eating soup and bread, all the girls who had said they couldn't come started drifting in until we were all there.

A friend from our past died this week and I'm wondering how this might have consciously or unconsciously contributed to our wanting to be together. When one of the girls came in the door and I asked how she was doing, she said, "Well, I'm alive." That may have just said it all - we were all alive and able to be together for food and fellowship.

We did some planning for our trip to Oriental for the Spirit of Christmas event the first weekend in December. And frankly we laughed our asses off while we did it. The theme is the Twelve Days of Christmas and we are eleven plus Elizabeth's mom so we played a little with the ladies dancing...well, you had to be there.

It's the season of being thankful, and I am thankful for this group of women. I'm always trying to get them to do something - projects, speakers, book studies - but they resist for the most part. And last night I heard them say why this is: Sometimes you just need a place to go where there are no expectations except that you show up, get fed, and have a good time. So as long as Whole Foods will keep chopping all the vegetables into pre-packs for my convenience, and keep making those sugar cookies and chocolate cookies and bread, I'll keep cooking and leaving the door open on Thursday nights.

Monday, November 5, 2007

So happy to be here

One of the stories from my childhood involves an overnight at my grandmother's house. I was always conscious of not hurting anyone's feelings, but I was so homesick that night I didn't think I could bear it. As I lay in bed I started crying, softly at first so Granny wouldn't hear me, but hear me she did. When she came upstairs and asked me what was wrong, I suddenly remembered hearing somewhere that people often cried when they were happy, and I blubbered, "Granny, I'm just so happy to be here!"

That's how I felt this weekend. I went to a visitation, a wedding, and then a memorial service. Through it all my tears waited right at the corners of my eyes, and sometimes they just got so impatient they spilled over. They were tears of sadness, sure, but they were also tears of gladness. Sadness at the loss of life, gladness at hearing the impact these people made on others. Sadness at the loss of our children's childhood, gladness at the blush of young love. Sadness at the beautiful music, gladness at the beautiful music. Sadness and gladness are so closely linked as to be inseparable sometimes.

Through all the poignancy of the weekend's activities, I have to say that in the end, I was happy to have been there.

Friday, November 2, 2007


There is a very distinct threat to my personal environment these days. And it doesn't really have anything to do with global warming. In fact, it is totally oblivious to the fact that, well, the Iraq War is partially about our greedy consumption of oil. What I'm worried about is those finely coiffed and made-up women driving around in their Suburbans talking animatedly on their cell phones at 8 am in the morning. These women are downright dangerous!! Between chatting and grabbing for their Starbucks coffee cup, they don't have a hand to put on a turn signal, much less keep on the steering wheel. I can't tell you the number of times the Mazda I'm driving has almost ended up underneath one of those monster gas-guzzlers.

Who are they talking to so excitedly at that time of the morning? Who else but their buddy driving the Expedition two roads over! And what in the hell are they talking about?? The one-thousand thread-count sheets at Tuesday Morning? The woman in her pajamas in the carpool line? The great sex they had with their husbands last night?

You have to give them one thing: they are looking good while they drive and talk and get their caffeine fix. And after they put down the coffee cup so they can hold the phone between their shoulder and ear, turn the rear view mirror so they can see to put on lipstick and fluff their hair, they're looking even bettah!

Gawd, I think I'm going to start going into work around 6 am. At least the men driving those big-ass SUV's aren't all that happy looking in the morning and they don't have to put on makeup while they drive. And I might try to invent a turn signal that is activated by the chipper female voice calling out, "Left, damnit, I said left - Marie, hold on a minute. This car won't do a darn thing I tell it to!"

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ride 'em cowboy!

I've been on this major roller coaster ride this week--emotions up, down, up, down....Yee ha! Has Mars gotten back on the straight and narrow yet?!?

For the past two days I thought about martinis alot on the way home from work. I used to stop and meet a friend or two and drink those wicked things until, well, until I didn't have to feel anything any more. And I realized that that is exactly why I was thinking about them. The events of the past few days have made me feel, I mean really feel emotional in so many ways that I'm on overload. I just don't want to feel another thing. But this is not to be--the martini marathons--so I have had a few good cries and laughed til I cried and I feel about the same as if I had had the martinis but without the danger of driving home afterwards and feeling like s--t the next morning. This is progress.

I have not allowed myself to listen to NPR in the car lately. Instead I put on some soothing music. Several times since I started doing this my instinct has been to reach over and turn on the talk talk talk. Why do I feel a need to do this? Because in the same way I don't want to feel I don't want to think about all those things that are causing those emotions. I want to be distracted. I want to worry about the war or the elections or Darfur or anything that is not my feeling.

In the midst of all this craziness, some cool things have happened. Today I was at my lowest. On the way home from work I thought to myself that I would love it if there was a personal letter for me in all the bills that waited for me in the mailbox. I actually envisioned such a letter. And sure enough, there was a letter from my dear friend, Elizabeth, and just seeing it--I didn't even need to read it--changed my afternoon. I went to the visitation for my friend whose husband died and darnit if she didn't uplift me!! When I got home the phone rang and it was a friend of my mother-in-law's looking for MIL's telephone number, and she spent about 45 minutes telling about when I first started dating Durham and how much she and MIL had come to love me. As soon as I hung up, my daughter Jean called full of problems she wanted to discuss but by the end of the conversation we were both laughing uproariously at something so silly as to not be repeated here.

Having sighed alot, cried a little, and ended the day laughing at ridiculous things, I'm feeling better already.