Saturday, May 31, 2008


I read on the prattling brickbats website that someone she knew was getting a four leaf clover in the mail. Of course all those who know and love her wonder, Is it I? I got one today. Beautiful. Thank you. P.S. I still have the first one you found.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Where everyone knows my name

I wore the name tag all day. My husband and I work together and he never said a word about it, although he told me he loved the jacket I had on. I met two friends for lunch and both of them commented on it, one saying, "Oh, you wore a name tag so we'd know your name, haha!" and the other asking why I had on a name tag. Tonight I had a board meeting. We were interviewing a prospective employee, and my minister thought I had worn the tag so she would know my name. A couple of the women said how beautiful it was.

I was most self-conscious when I was going to be around someone I knew. And I did catch a few people looking twice at it, I guess since it wasn't your usual Hello My Name is... tag.

I think I'm going to wear it to church on Sunday. I was going to wear it to work again tomorrow, but we have an new architect coming in to talk about a job and if he's observant, he might wonder why I have on a name tag at my office. Then again, that might make things interesting.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Double dare

Blogger Peggy Payne has dared us to wear a nametag for at least a day to see what happens. I have made a beautiful one and will proudly wear it all day tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Food and Rant

My friend, Mit, is a great cook if I read correctly. She is always posting these wonderful sounding elaborate menus. I am inspired to share a recipe I made up today for a church meeting.

I am all about shortcuts that make cooking a breeze. I made shrimp salad by cutting up scallions, celery, shrimp, and tossing it with Brianna's Chipotle Cheddar dressing. Right before putting it on the croissants, I will toss it again with a little lettuce mix. Yum yum.

And maybe I'm the only person in the world who didn't already realize this, but Soodhalter Stir Stix were just the thing for making fruit kabobs. They are colorful, pointy on the end, and the perfect length for pieces of pineapple, watermelon, and strawberry.

As a green, I steamed asparagus, sprinkled with lemon juice and coarse salt.

All of the ingredients for this meal came from my neighborhood grocery store. Good thing because I'm totally put out with Whole Foods. Last night I went to pick up some strawberries because the ones at the grocery store looked hard and greenish. It was eight o'clock. The door was locked. What the #@(*&? So I went to the next door. Two unarmed employees were guarding it and informed me that the store was closed. Why? I asked. For a "team meeting" they answered. There was a fairly well-attended event at Quail Ridge and people were moving toward WF for dinner, groceries, whatever. And I'm thinking, "You're going to turn down at least a thousand dollars worth of business, and irritate the hell out some people (me) for a team meeting? Wouldn't the employees, whose salaries are supplemented by sales in their respective departments, be irritated too? What on earth possessed them to do this? My husband says they probably don't want to pay overtime, but there certainly seem to be many ways to work around that problem without shutting out customers an hour early in the middle of the week. I am reminded of the time I went in to the store and encountered a surly checkout girl who informed me that she was in a bad mood because there were so many customers and that they were spending so much money. Hellooo? Your paycheck? Where the hell do you think the dough for it comes from?

All that ranting has made me hungry. I'm going to go try the food. If I don't die from eating it, I'm going to serve it to the minister and board tomorrow.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Although we ride bikes every day in Oriental, those bikes are plain, lightweight, gearless models. Simple: you want to go, you pedal; you want to stop, you kick back. It's easy to get lost riding for a long time there because there are no hills. None.

Today we took mountain bikes to the trail that runs from Meredith College to Umstead Park. It was the first time I've been on a bike with gears since I was a kid, and I didn't really get how to operate one even then. I rode around the parking lot a few times to get the feel of the ride. The front wheel felt unstable, wobbling back and forth, but after a minute or two I thought I could manage a straight line.

We headed down the trail. For the first hundred feet the trail is fairly level. Then a big downhill ride. Of course the pessimist side of my brain would hardly let the optimist side enjoy the breeze and ease, reminding me that soon I would be going uphill. But before we got to the up-hell part, we rode over the beltline. I'm not really one for heights, but it was not a problem. I just didn't look down. In fact, I couldn't look down because I had to try to keep the bike on a straight and narrow to keep from swerving over and crashing into the walkers and riders on the other side.

On the other side of the bridge, the big hill came into view. I made it about a fourth of the way up and had to walk the rest of the way. Walking's good, I kept telling myself.

We rode maybe a fourth of the entire length of the trail and rode back. I alternated between euphoria down the hills and exertions beyond anything I had experienced walking/riding up those long inclines.

My middle daughter rides her bike all over Asheville, and I have a new-found respect for her strength and stamina.

I was red-faced, sweaty, wobbly, and whipped at the end of that ride, but elated too. I had ridden a bike with gears for the first time in over forty years and lived to tell the story. And I plan to get back on and ride some more hills as soon as I can. Now that I know that I can.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rainy day, small spaces

We're at the dock, another weekend that we're supposed to go anchor out thwarted by the wind and rain. What do I do on days like this in the very small space of the boat?

Read a book of short stories by Filipinos
Read all of last week's newspapers and work crossword puzzles, cryptoquotes, and jumbles
Read Psychology Today
Walk in the rain to the bathroom
Feel sleepy and maybe take a mid-morning nap
Listen to music and become annoyed when my husband vetoes the disco
Eat too much out of boredom
Watch a movie
Play computer

My husband's suggestion? "Maybe what we ought to do is take a long nap, look at the weather, and then go home."

Thursday, May 22, 2008


This was the Hazelden daily reading and I took it very personally!

I've started to realize that waiting is an art, that waiting achieves things. Waiting can be very, very powerful. Time is a valuable thing. If you can wait two years, you can sometimes achieve something that you could not achieve today, however hard you worked, however much money you threw up in the air, however many times you banged your head against the wall. . .
--The Courage to Change by Dennis Wholey

The people who are most successful at living and loving are those who can learn to wait successfully. Not many people enjoy waiting or learning patience. Yet, waiting can be a powerful tool that will help us accomplish much good.

We cannot always have what we want when we want it. For different reasons, what we want to do, have, be, or accomplish is not available to us now. But there are things we could not do or have today, no matter what, that we can have in the future. Today, we would make ourselves crazy trying to accomplish what will come naturally and with ease later.

We can trust that all is on schedule. Waiting time is not wasted time. Something is being worked out - in us, in someone else, in the Universe.

We don't have to put our life on hold while we wait. We can direct our attention elsewhere; we can practice acceptance and gratitude in the interim; we can trust that we do have a life to live while we are waiting - then we go about living it.

Deal with your frustration and impatience, but learn how to wait. The old saying, "You can't always get what you want" isn't entirely true. Often, in life, we can get what we want - especially the desires of our heart - if we can learn to wait.

Today, I am willing to learn the art of patience. If I am feeling powerless because I am waiting for something to happen and I am not in control of timing, I will focus on the power available to me by learning to wait.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Say what I want

When I was little and visited my grandparents' house at Carolina Beach, my grandmother made great pancakes. For some reason, I never wanted to say the word "pancakes" and would always tell my grandmother, "Say what I want." And she would say, "Pancakes?" And I would say yes.

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend from church. We were talking about the minister's sermons and what people want to hear from him. The conversation went around and around.

"What do you want him to talk about?" my friend asked.

"I think people like to hear about forgiveness," I said.

"He has talked about forgiveness alot," my friend answered.

"Maybe he should listen to what people are talking to him about and talk about that on Sundays."

"He's going to have to find his own way," my friend wisely said.

Finally, I sighed and looked up at the ceiling: "It's like I'm saying to him, 'Tell me what I want so you can give it to me.'"

My friend laughed.

I think this is how some of us approach church because we're not sure what it is we want. We yearn, but can't put our finger on what's going to satisfy the yearning. We expect the minister to give us sustenance to satisfy our cravings that can never be named much less satisfied.

It's a lot of pressure on the minister, trying to guess what we need. I think my friend was right. He needs to speak from his dark places, from his yearnings, from his shortcomings. That's where he'll find his passion for teaching us lessons and where we'll find resonance.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Searching

Quote from Paulo Coelho's book entitled Life:

"I discovered that searching can be as interesting as finding--as long as you overcome your fear."

On a very practical level, this has been true for me this week. I wanted to do some searching for information to expand a short story that I wrote for class last semester. I just didn't know how to start. Finally on Sunday afternoon, I got my computer and a notebook and started looking on the internet. It's so exciting! I can't wait to get home at night to start the search again. And the wealth of information available is stunning.

Many people ask me why I still keep my AOL account. Pure sentimentality, I tell them. I remember the Christmas we got our family's first computer. I stayed up late on Christmas Eve into Christmas morning trying to get it all set up. A wonderful friend stayed up a good part of the night with me via phone, helping me install the AOL software and hook up the modem. And I remember the first time I heard the sound of that modem connecting--a sound I had of course never heard before--and I knew that something amazing had happened. At the time, I had no idea what it meant to have access to practically all the information in the world, and how that accessibility would impact the ways we learn, communicate, create, share.

I've overcome the fear of beginning the search and now it's a journey full of promise. As my larger story is taking shape, as the finding continues, I feel a sense of excitement about my writing that I haven't felt before. I understand why people like Charles Frazier say that they love the research for their books almost as much, maybe more, than the writing.

It's going to be a fun ride!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Check and check

(In honor of accomplishing #2 on the dread list below, I am posting one of my favorite photos from the album.)

"I will tackle at least two things I dread doing. I will not waste my time and energy by wallowing in boredom, worry, criticism, or fear. I will do what needs to be done even if it requires effort, risk and change."

This was at the end of a daily reading I got today. I sent it to my friend Peggy Payne and we challenged ourselves to act on this. Here is what I did:

1. I called a new dentist. I have dreaded this for several reasons. One, I have very sensitive teeth and am prone to need a lot of numbing for procedures. I hate the thought of having to break in a new hygenist and dentist. Also I don't want to call the old one and tell them that I'm not coming back and ask that they transfer my records. I called the new dentist. (I have not called the old one--Monday's dread list??)

2. I put all of my best photographs in an album so that I can begin taking them to stores to sell them. This was a fairly extensive endeavor because I had to choose the photographs, put them all on one UCB drive, get copies, and finally assemble them in numbered order in an album. Earlier this week I had done the first three things, but tonight I finally finished the album. It looks very professional and I get that good old seratonin rush looking at so many of my good photos.

I feel great about having marked these two things off a list I began on May 1. I am not a list maker, but this list is of things that I dread doing, things that I dream of doing, and ordinary things like "rest for two days" and "watch a movie." I had done everything on the original list except watch the movie "The Counterfeiters" and get a clothesline. Now I am putting hard things on there like "do research for a story" and "submit something somewhere."

Speaking of movies, grab a box of Kleenex and go see Young@Heart. Excellent documentary about a group of seventy- and eighty-year-olds who tour the world singing. I smiled, laughed, sniffled, and cried outright. Very inspiring!


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Looking Down

I'm not all that old, just clumsy. And more than a few times I've been barrelling along and tripped. Sometimes I catch myself, sometimes I don't. So I have developed this habit of looking immediately in front of where I'm walking. This habit has an unexpected result: I find a lot of things on the ground, such as:

1. One of the stuffed animal eyes and the mirror eye
2. Two stickers that said "Eve"
3. Coins
4. A Chinese fortune cookie fortune that said I would get my heart's desire
5. Money and a tampon dropped by a girl in front of me
6. A beautiful and very large moth sitting next to a pine cone (in the middle of a parking lot)
7. The note pictured above

I have tried to train myself to look up and in the distance because my husband tells me that you can anticipate what is coming better that way. But with all those interesting things lying around on the ground and the street I'm afraid I might miss something.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Goat

I am a Capricorn. One of the most irritating things about being a Capricorn is that most astrologers portray us as mountain climbing land goats. This image encourages them to wax poetic about how we are able to scale great obstacles, have strong footholds, etc etc. In fact our sign is represented by a sea goat. This is from an astrology web site: "Capricornus the sea goat is in the area of sky that the ancients called the Sea. It has changed very little over the ages. The figure has the head of a goat and the tail of a fish."

Here is a wonderful drawing of the sea goat.

The constellation Capricornus was considered to be the "Gateway of the Gods" through which the souls of men passed after death.

Some people see Biblical symbolism in the split nature of the Goat's body: the sacrificial goat as the head, the fish tail a symbol of Christ. To me the sea goat symbolizes transformation, movement from one state to another, dual existence.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Informal interview

On Saturday, a boat came barrelling past the marina, setting off a wake that did around $5000 damage to a very nice motor yacht. Two wildlife resources men came to investigate. After they had finished their paperwork, they stopped by to chat with us. One of the men had served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has been back in the states since late 2006. I took the opportunity to ask him some very frank questions:

1. Did he wish he were still in Iraq? He said yes, that things were black and white there and (ironically) very predictable. At home, he has to contend with a job, wife, family, bills, all of which feel like more pressure than war.
2. Does he have children? No, but his wife wants them. He is very afraid of having a daughter because he thinks there are too many things to worry about with girls. He would be fine if they had a son.
3. Does he think the service has adequate mental health services available for returning servicemen? No, he said, and the VA hospitals are an embarrassment. I asked were they manned by vets and he said they were staffed by people who did not have military experience for the most part.
4. Did he think that if better mental health services were available that returning military people would take advantage of them? He said he thought they would.
5. How did he feel about the current political climate? He is a Hillary supporter.

A couple of surprises, and also echoes of what we're heard from the media.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

At the Dock

We were planning a trip back up the river tonight when we heard on the weather radio that the winds were shifting and would be NW 20-25 knots. So we're here at the dock, temperature has gone down a good ten degrees from the afternoon. Here are the advantages of being at the dock:

1. I can get a good shower at the dockhouse bath.
2. We can watch a movie without trying to hear over the generator.
3. I can ride my bike tonight.


1. All the food I brought to cook on the grill (by hubby) is now being cooked in the galley (by me).
2. There will be no beautiful quiet starlit night or magic sunrise.
3. People. Period.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Another "whoa" moment

Beside my computer is a small box of daily reading cards that I put together. I give them to friends as gifts and this is the box I chose for myself. There are probably 300+ cards in the box. Today is my last writing class for the semester. I decided to choose a card with the intention of setting the tone for tonight. The card I chose said, "When the student is ready, the master appears."

I believe that this is exactly what happened to me ten months ago when I ran into Angela Davis-Gardner, my writing teacher.

I am blown away that out of 300 cards, this is the one I chose today.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Doodly doodly do

Author Peggy Payne ( posted about doodling on her blog the other day. She states that "there's neurological evidence that doodling helps us think, solve problems, listen better, and keep better perspective." I always thought that doodling indicated that the person was bored with what was going on. Peggy suggested that I post some of my random doodles.

In getting together a few to post here, I found that sometimes my doodles are a way of visualizing on paper what is going on in the meeting or what I would like to happen as far as the topic at hand. Here is one from a discussion of the choir director:

Other random jottings were things that popped into my head about the speaker. Once, "What is he afraid of?" Another time, this:

Most of the doodles, though, are indications that I AM bored and ready for the meeting to be over. Here's one:

Any other doodlers out there willing to share their ideas on this?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I'm Alive!

Yep, I'm alive - I didn't die last night. But I was worried.

All this talk of synchronicity has left me a little nervous. That plus those eyes that are watching me. So yesterday, here are the daily inspirational quotes I got via email:

1. Do every act of your life as if it were your last. - Marcus Aurelius
2. Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

Immediately following the back-to-back reading of these quotes, George Winston's version of Pachelbel's Canon in D Major came on my Pandora radio station. This is the song that I have told my family (and my girlfriends in case the family's all frothed up) that I want played at my funeral. I love the way the song begins quietly, crescendos in the middle, and ends quietly, just like a life.

I was nervous.

I worried about every twinge of indigestion, but ate whatever the heck I wanted to. I laughed as hard as I could. I listened carefully to those who spoke to me. I got as much of my work done as I could. I remembered my mom who died when she was younger than me and figured out how many more days I had had than she had.

In the end, though, I don't think I really believed it was my last day. I know, without a doubt, that if I KNEW I would die today, I would gather my family around me, smoke a cigarette, and drink some Bombay Sapphire martinis straight up with three olives. And I didn't do that yesterday.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Taking a break

I seem to always be getting ready to relax. Really. If you can imagine setting the table a thousand times without eating, that's what I do. Yesterday, I decided to take a break from that. I did not do laundry or dishes, make up my bed, hang a towel, go to the grocery store--I did nothing that would have felt like a chore.

It was tough.

When I smoked, I would take a break on the deck every hour or so, sit in a chair and look around at the trees and the birds. When I quit, I didn't do this anymore. Needless to say, I got tired! A friend asked why I didn't just go outside and BREATHE. I laughed but there was some real merit in that suggestion.

So what did I do yesterday? I finished a book. I sat on the deck and looked at the birds and the trees. I started another book. I worked three crossword puzzles and read the Friday and Saturday papers, New Yorker, the Sun, and perused the Greensboro Review to see what they publish. I took a nap. I went to the movies.

Today the following was on a blog that has daily spiritual inspiration. I'm beginning to be addicted to synchronicity.

Responsibility to Ourselves

Do we think it's weak to need a break? Do we ignore the need to recharge our batteries?

Responsibility for our own lives requires us to recognize the need to restore our energy. Maybe our former escape from the world was by using food, or drugs, or spending money, or sexual release, or preoccupation with another person.

Now, since we are developing the ability to be with ourselves, we can take a break from the world and come back restored. This meditation time generates more energy for our lives. Recreation with friends, a walk, a movie, or a concert does the same.

Taking responsibility to get away is a good cure for self-pity and exhaustion.

Hazelden Meditation Series

Friday, May 2, 2008

Independent book stores

I just got off a blog where the person mentions that she is buying a recommended book from Amazon and at the bottom of the blog it states that she will be reading at Politics and Prose on such and such a date. I am always amazed that writers do not, when possible, totally support their independent book stores as the independents support them. Without the publicity of people like Nancy Olson and her wonderful book store, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, many writers would have no platform for promoting their books. Nancy is an outspoken voice for the local businesses in Raleigh, and her newsletter often has facts about the advantages of "buying locally."

We know the state of the publishing industry, how difficult it is to break down the doors when money is what motiviates the business, not the desire to publish quality work. We have to support small publishers, independent bookstores, and our local authors by attending events where people get to know how magnificant their books are.

I know from being with Nancy how tough it is for her to compete. She could have an author or two whose books are popular but not worth the paper they are written on. But she seems determined to continue to widen our literary horizons by bringing the best of the book world to her doorstep. And right behind them come the local writers who have made our neighborhood one of the best in the world for quality (and I don't use this term lightly) authors.

Sure, I order from Amazon. If it's out of print, or a used copy would do as well as a new one. But I'm not a writer whose livelihood may very well depend on appearing every now and then in a book store that hand delivers my work to its customers and puts out the chairs when I want to have a respectable audience.

Maybe the writer whose blog I read will look around Politics and Prose while she's there and realize that browsing for a decent book in a book store that cares about what it sells beats clicking on icons any day, and that her future is inextricably tied to that of the owners of the independents. And how important it is to stress this to her readers in every word she writes.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


One thing that meditation has taught me is how to ignore an itch. My nose can be burning and I can ignore it. When I first started the practice I could not ignore anything - not the chatter chatter in my head, not my aching back and knees, not my eyes that wanted to burst open, and especially not the itch. Gradually I realized that if I just keep repeating the mantra or counting, it will go away.

This ability to ignore the itch has come in very handy as I've given up addictions. With alcohol, I know that if I just keep driving past my old watering holes, soon I'll be worried that someone will open their car door on Fairview Road (if I'm passing the Bistro), or I'll be dodging walkers and dogs (if I'm in the neighborhood of Crowley's).

With cigarettes it has been a little harder because cigarette smoking is everywhere, not just in bars. But I know that if I take a deep breath and move my attention away from the sight or smell of the smoker, in a minute or two I'll be fine.

The practice of diverting one's attention from things that are harmful, whether it is addictions or feeling sad or worrying is a good one. I don't mean thinking about people who are worse off than me or trying to see the silver lining. I'm talking about actually moving your attention to something else for a while. A book, a walk, writing, cooking, listening to music--whatever might help you keep from scratching. Because we all know that scratching an itch usually leads to bleeding and, if what my mother always said was right, impetigo!!

I could use a little practice ignoring another kind of itch - that of blurting out things that should probably be left unsaid. And to tell you the truth, if I'm meditating and feel something crawling, I absolutely cannot ignore it. But I'm working on that too.