Sunday, January 31, 2010

Over the Top

About the time I had just gotten into the illusion series, Kay from Kay's Thinking Cap (with a great blog of her own) nominated me for an award called Over the Top. There are just two steps to accepting it: 1) Complete a survey with one word answers. (that isn't easy) 2) Choose three bloggers you think should receive the award

1. Where is your cell phone? charging
2. Your hair? long
3. Your mother? beautiful
4. Your father? strong
5. Your favorite food? eggs
6. Your dream last night? imaginative
7. Your favorite drink? undefinable
8. Your dream/goal? passion
9. What room are you in? den
10. Your hobby? painting
11. Your fear? loss
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? cabin
13. Where were you last night? home
14. Something you aren’t? shy
15. Muffins? poppyseed
16. Wish list item? willpower
17. Where did you grow up? Washington
18. Last thing you did? walk
19. What are you wearing? jeans
20. Your TV? off
21. Your pet(s)? cats
22. Your friends? creative
23. Your life? interesting
24. Your mood? contemplative
25. Missing someone? yes
26. Vehicle? blue
27. Something you’re not wearing? hat
28. Your favorite store? costco
29. Your favorite color? black
30. When was the last time you laughed? yesterday
31. Last time you cried? yesterday
32. Your best friend? husband
33. One place that you go over and over? mailbox
34. One person who emails you regularly? Bernie
35. Favorite place to eat? Macayos

So for choosing three bloggers, who can opt to join in or not, it isn't easy as I have many regular blog reads, some of whom have already gotten the award. Hopefully the next three had not:

Four, you say there are four? So sue me. Just be grateful I didn't put my whole blog list here as I think all of the blogs there are 'Over the Top.'

Saturday, January 30, 2010

the Ultimate Illusion

When you consider what we believe, incorporating the things we have been taught into our lives, how we define ourselves can be the ultimate illusion. One of the first things any culture does is put people in boxes. Some of this was doubtless done for survival in the past; but today, I am not sure of the why of it. Control maybe? Schools are advanced laboratories for doing this. A little hyperactive, ahha ADD. If the system doesn't do it, the peer group will. Those boxes often don't fit anyone but who cares.

How we define ourselves is often through our relationships, our roles in society. Who are you? someone asks. We answer by what we do or who our family is.

We can spend a lifetime never going below our own surface. There is no requirement that we must ask ourselves if we are following our own dream or someone else's. We can accept the interpretations others present us for who we are. There is nothing written into our biology that demands we think about our choices, our actions, our inactions, and our view of ourselves. We don't have to do it because there are plenty of people willing to do it for us.

It is not as though I think none of us know ourselves, but it's not easy. So much of what we think is 'us' comes out of how others have seen us and told us we must be. Expectations of parents and community are a big part of how we end up seeing us. She's the pretty one. He's the smart one. He helps others. She's so selfish.

In raising a child, a parent is constantly up against helping that child see themselves for who they truly are against who the parent wants them to be, and who the world tells them they must be. When we reach adulthood and it's no longer anyone else telling us who we are, it's often us hiding behind those illusions.

And the illusion can seem safer, more acceptable. Steady reliable translates into doing what we are told. The world is eager to tell us who we are and uses many measuring sticks to do it. We read, we watch, we see how others live, and somewhere along the way, we form opinions about ourselves. Some are based on reality but not likely all.

Some of us purposely create illusions for ourselves and for others. Some of us lie, create false identities because who we think we are doesn't seem important enough. In my opinion, the most damaging of this is when we are lying to ourselves.

To get past our own illusions, those of the world, and dig into our own inner self can take a lifetime. It's not always fun, but I believe we are better off to not live with illusions whether they are about others, our world, or ourselves. Part of what, I think, makes life so endlessly fascinating is getting past those barriers to our truth and then living it.

The photos represent different ways I see myself. Are any of them me? You know they are not because a photo, fun though it might be, is the ultimate illusion.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Illusion of Safety

The illusion of safety is one that is consistently used to get people motivated to do something. It can be health-- take this vitamin and live longer or better. It can be physical attack-- let the government regulate everything and you will live longer and better. It can be a religion-- do what we say and you at least get heaven even if not living longer and better. It can involve environment, culture, or just us. The promises and implied threats are the same.

Can there be such a thing as security or safety on earth? Is the whole concept of safety an illusion used by some to get others to fall in line?

No matter how well you maintain your body, no matter what your genetics, illnesses can come from out of nowhere to knock you off your feet. There is no real safety even in a yearly physical as it cannot catch many things until there are symptoms. You can check blood pressure, do blood tests, and those are good; but in the end, there is no such thing as a medical physical that can guarantee good health.

The environment is another where you constantly hear people saying mankind is causing global warming; and if they don't do such and such by this date, it'll be too late. Well here's the thing. I think being responsible environmentally makes sense for many reasons, not the least of which are the consequences if we are influencing global warming; but we live 'on' this earth. Although we often exploit its resources, we have no real control over anything big that could take us right out of the picture. That includes from space like meteorites, from under the ground like earthquakes, poisonous gases, or changes in climate that have been happening from the start and likely will come again. One well placed meteorite and we will join the dinosaurs.

The government cannot keep us safe from terrorist attacks no matter how many code oranges or purple they put out there. Those are usually caught, when they are, through good police work, through informants or spies on the inside, and sometimes purely by alert citizens. Such attacks cannot be totally stopped. Random crime cannot be stopped.

People go nuts over any terrorist attack and are ready to give away all their liberties to keep themselves safe, but getting into the family automobile and driving to the grocery store has many times the risk. What should we do about that?

(Incidentally I think creating a Department of Homeland Security, with its lousy name, was a farce from the start, and should be eliminated as a duplication (at the least) of what other agencies should have already been doing. It doesn't matter which party controls it. It was a bad idea that can be fixed by ending it-- not that government ever seems to end anything bad idea or not.)

Safety is an illusion. We can be responsible. We can be alert. But we should never give away our freedoms for some vague promise of safety, nor should we let dire threats dissuade us from what we know is the right thing to do. We also should not put off quality living for a vague maybe someday.

If mankind's first travelers to new lands around the world had wanted safety, people would all be clustered wherever they were born and likely dying of overpopulating diseases.

It is not easy to put fear away from us but living life fully and totally each day with an awareness that each moment we are living is all we can be guaranteed leads to a much better moment. Don't trade off quality moments for vague promises. And especially don't trade off our children's freedoms for a promise that nobody can deliver.

(Digital painting is of swans who often winter in a large grassfield not so far from the farm. They don't worry about or even think of a distant concept like safety. They do what they can for the moment. They follow their instincts, take reasonable precautions for where they sleep or spend time, but, so far as we know, worrying about safety is not on their agenda. We don't gain safety for our worrying.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Is religion itself an illusion?

Some would say god is an illusion, an image, a power that man created to give himself security and a bit of influence in a world that offers very little of either. The problem with looking toward god as the illusion or even spirit beings like say angels or ghosts is how do we prove they aren't there? Is something an illusion when it might be a fact?

For every supposed proof of answered prayer, there are those not answered (but it was for the person's best). No matter how many temples are built to honor a particular god, the reality is we cannot prove a god exists by anything worldly. We also cannot prove he doesn't exist.

Religions don't even try to prove it. They say it's all about faith and it's for one's own good that there is no proof. Never mind the confusion that kind of attitude can lead to anywhere else in life. Every example of proof positive depends on mankind believing someone else for what they saw (burning bush). So I would leave behind whether god is an illusion to another question that is easier to look into.

Is religion the illusion?

Now I am not talking about people who get into a religion for the social aspect, for helping others, for joining together, even for pleasure in the rituals, but rather when they buy into the belief that the religion was created by a god to give mankind salvation or rules for living. That's where the question of illusion comes into play. I don't see it being an illusion to join a group as long as your reasons for doing it are based on reality.

As I mulled this around in my head, knowing how many people find great comfort in believing their religion is from god (and how offensive even asking this question is to those same people), I saw this article from Nicholas Kristof which I think plays into this question as in looking at what good (or harm) religion does for those practicing it and for the world.

The thing is, the premise of most religions is that we can learn what god wants, what makes for a good life, and this will happen through channeled wisdom given to a holy person often (but not always) a long time ago. Religions are basically centered around a set of beliefs and rules. What if those beliefs and codes do not lead to a better life?

In a religion, you are asked to accept that a (or usually the) god directly contacts and inspires mankind. And this will not be all mankind because if god did that, then there would be no need for any religion. No, the religion claims that god contacted (and may still be contacting) someone special, and thus we can trust the truth delivered to the rest of us. You can obviously find that in many different kinds of faiths.

Rules for living, piousness, charity, love, goodwill, murder, exile, and wars could flow from applying those original claims of direct contact. The demands might be simple ones-- say some words. They might be more complex-- give up a normal life. They could be deadly-- blow yourself up. Most all lead to promise of a heavenly reward.

When the basis of a religion is the belief there was a contact with god, when it's based on that set of expectations, that's when it is potentially an illusion. Did/does that religion contact a god, the god, the creator of all life?

Some use religion's earthly failures (and it's not hard to show those) as proof that there is no god; but there could be a god and every religion out there could be wrong. It is even possible that religion itself blocks us from ever connecting with anything but it.

One could ask if religions (see link above) improve life on earth or make it worse? Religions encourage people to put off their best interests for a higher good-- one the religion will explain to the follower. Religions often talk of an end time; so however bad it is with one group exploiting another, the abused group should be patient and it'll all work out. Religions have often served as a forerunner of a more advanced culture overrunning a less powerful one. The promises they make have given some an excuse for doing terrible things.

I don't have the answer to the question I posed. Definitely an end to religions won't come to pass as it's obvious by now that people need them too much. But for a minute, suppose we had no religions? Would life today be better across the world, or worse? Your answer could depend on what you believe about one particular religion-- yours.

(Photo is December at one of my personal favorite religious sites, San Xavier del Bac. The energy there is very strong, and I cannot give you a logical reason why that might be so. I can just say it is.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Illusion of Romantic Love

The illusion here is not that romantic love does not exist. I think everyone knows it does. But what is it? How long does it last? How many confuse romantic love with the love that lasts beyond the thrills? How much of our expectations regarding romantic love come from books and movies? Romantic love certainly can be a powerful experience; but people who expect it to last a lifetime often keep moving through partners trying to keep that romantic high.

We read about it in books (like Pride and Prejudice) which inspire heartfelt sighs. We smile over the interplay between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not, but can those illusions (and romantic novels and movies are illusions) interfere with real life because, although there are exceptions, it mostly ain't how it works out.

He's Just Not That Into You, a movie currently on HBO and available through Netflix, did a good job showing romantic illusions through several stories of relationships at different stages.

It's not that romantic love is a bad thing unless we become confused with what it really does. Romantic love is a lot of fun (and angst). It inspires beginnings but grows into something else if the relationship is going to last. Unfortunately in our world, expectations for what that will be and how it will last get confused. The illusions are encouraged not only by movies and books but also advertisements.

He's Just Not That Into You is based on a non-fiction book, which came out a few years ago, written by a story editor working on Sex and the City who was frustrated with how often he heard women saying things that worked against their own best interests. That inspired his writing to set it straight-- as he saw it.

When I mentioned the film to my daughter, she said-- and it all starts in grade school. I laughed because that is exactly how the film shows it to be.

The cast is Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connolly, Mandy Moore, and Bradley Cooper with an assortment of other characters having some of the funniest lines. The film does a good job of illustrating the traps into which so many fall.

From He's Just Not That Into You:
Gigi: Girls are taught a lot of stuff growing up. If a guy punches you he likes you. Never try to trim your own bangs and someday you will meet a wonderful guy and get your very own happy ending. Every movie we see, Every story we're told implores us to wait for it, the third act twist, the unexpected declaration of love, the exception to the rule. But sometimes we're so focused on finding our happy ending we don't learn how to read the signs. How to tell from the ones who want us and the ones who don't, the ones who will stay and the ones who will leave. And maybe a happy ending doesn't include a guy, maybe... it's you, on your own, picking up the pieces and starting over, freeing yourself up for something better in the future. Maybe the happy ending is... just... moving on. Or maybe the happy ending is this, knowing after all the unreturned phone calls, broken-hearts, through the blunders and misread signals, through all the pain and embarrassment you never gave up hope.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Illusion of Rugged Individualism

Here he comes walking down the road and we all know everything will be okay because he's here to fix it. The mythology of the West, personified more often in media than history, still inspires many today to think that is the way to get things done.

The concept of this rugged individual solving the problems for the rest of us seems to be one of the key illusions of our country-- and maybe a lot of mankind. Although it might seem aimed at only one way of thinking, it actually can influence two diametrically different viewpoints.

We need a hero to solve our problems as he leads us to a victory. Elect the right person and sit back to applaud (or throw stones depending).

Or it's us who are the heroes and government just gets in our way. In this thinking most (at least economic) laws or regulations only impede the many rugged individualists who will fix the economy through their independence.

Inside, most of us do know that people have to work together to get anything done. We recognize that even if there was a time where you could shoot your way out of problems, it's long since past (and likely never really existed). We also know Superman is fiction. But this mythology of the rugged individualist is still one that people buy into whether they translate that into almost no government or that superhero leader.

Here's the thing. The mythology didn't even work in the Old West. Most people, at least in the beginning, came West on wagon trains with leaders. Once they got out here, they built towns where they quickly made laws and set up governments. The alternative would be to see the bad apples in their midst take everything from everyone else. Working alone we are easy prey. Standing together, we are formidable.

Even a barn was most often built in a barn raising where cooperation got it done faster than rugged individualism. People traded labor for jobs done which is basically what taxation is intended to be today. (Unfortunately we are now paying 25% of our shared labor just to pay the interest on a debt that neither political party wants to take credit for increasing).

Sure, the West had heroic individuals like John Muir who traveled alone to explore; but when he wanted to preserve something like Yosemite, he had to get others to cooperate. You could get to the West by yourself, but when you got there, you had to set up societies and at that point, government became a factor. Government should not be seen as the bad guy but the tool of the people. When it fails in that, it's time to redo government, not throw it out totally.

In Wallace Stegner's The Sound of Mountain Water he says it well when he refers to the west as "the native home of hope."
"When it fully learns that cooperation, not rugged individualism is the quality that most characterizes and preserves it, then it will have achieved itself and outlived its origins. Then it has a chance to create a society to match its scenery."
I believe it's what it still takes today. I also believe that expecting any hero to come riding into town and fixing it all, whatever party they originate from, is kidding ourselves and a damaging illusion.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Manifest Destiny-- illusion or reality?

When I thought about illusions, the American concept of [Manifest Destiny] naturally came to mind. The phrase was one of those powerful ones that is often coined to make something happen, to make people become emotionally aroused. Think 54-40 or Fight; Remember the Maine; or Remember the Alamo. Manifest Destiny, although it may have been part of American thinking from the start, was actually coined by a newspaperman (media is often at the core of these things).

Manifest means obvious to everyone and destiny implies a higher power makes things happen in a preordained way. It's fate. In the case of Manifest Destiny, it was originally about expanding this country across the continent to a supposed preordained size. The idea is that divinity ordained this country to be a certain size, and people needed to see that vision and then step out on it.

You would have to believe in an involved god to buy into Manifest Destiny because destiny, like fate, is about something bigger than us, about a force that will make things happen which we cannot (or at least should not) alter. Then you'd have to believe that god had a specific plan in mind for the world and the United States was/is to be his tool.

This concept of divine destiny for the United States is not in the Bible. In fact if you look at the Book of Revelations, when you come to the end times, there is no reference to any power coming from this region at all. Some, who believe in the prophetic nature of Revelations, think that is because the United States will have had a catastrophic event taking it out of the picture. If you instead think there is no reference because at the time it was written, there was no United States, then you likely also don't buy into manifest destiny anyway.

When you bring the phrase, Manifest Destiny, into today, there are those who use the concept to say it is the godly obligation of this country to spread liberty (never mind that we have lost a lot of our liberties supposedly to keep us safer) and democracy (never mind that we don't have a true democracy but a representative government) around the world. To a certain group, it is a godly command as though he had pointed a finger and demanded it.

There is a difference between knowing you have been blessed and wanting to share what you can with others and feeling you must do it as part of a divine plan. So here comes the question:

Was/Is Manifest Destiny an illusion or a fact? Is its concept helping us to do wise things as a nation today or hindering us?

The painting was from 1872 of an angel guiding the Mormons across the nation to their own Manifest Destiny.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Illusions and the damage they do

What is the difference between an illusion and imagination? One seems to me positive (imagination) and can lead to finding new ways to do things. The other (illusion) leads us to believe certain things are true which are not. Illusions are when we make assumptions based on false premises. I think we live in a culture that is full of illusions many of which are intended to sell products. The entertainment media makes a lot of money from creating and promulgating illusions. If those illusions suit our presupposed ideas, we approve of them, if not, we think they are bad for the world.

One example is what we think about getting old. The illusion is we can avoid it with surgery, positive thinking, or pills. Whatever we do, whatever we look like, aging is a fact of life. Nobody has yet beat it. We can dye that gray hair, get a face lift, but it won't change what is under it. Illusions are always about the superficial-- the quick and easy fix.

Some would say it's not bad to sell ourselves on the illusion we are as young as we think or we can stay young if we do this or that. I actually think it is bad. One reason is we are fooling ourselves which can lead to tricking ourselves in other areas. We might tell others how youthful we are but generally others see the truth.

The other problem with the I'm-not-really-aging illusion is that we miss out on the experience that we could have been having in the winter of our life. Growing old, watching our body grow old, having a pet grow old, these are life experiences. Why not live them positively and fully? Experience the sensations, the changes and find it exciting and actually just part of the mystery of life. Some of those experiences are not much fun but they are ours.

One of the things I learned early in life is to live the moment I am in. I try very hard not to anticipate or put off something with the idea it will be better in the future. Reality is that we only have the moment. If we throw it away on wishful thinking, wanting to be living a different moment, we may not even have it.

Trying to hold onto youth and the experiences of youth are to miss those of old age. We can miss real experiences at any age as with the parent who wishes their child older or even themselves when they want to be old enough for this or that special privilege.

Considering the sometimes subtle damage they do, I have been thinking about some popular illusions in our culture. Some come from a ways back but are impacting today. Staying true to my intent to avoid politics, the next six blogs won't be about this group or that being superior in how they deal with these illusions. It will just be looking at what illusions might be impacting our lives, asking if they make sense for today. If you come up with some I haven't thought of, be sure and add them to the mix. Feel free to disagree with me but please keep this off political agendas and stick to the issues raised.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Over organizing

In trying to not let my email in-box become overloaded (something in the past that has led to email bounces), I accidentally deleted some that were important to me. As in I cannot reply to them without them and they are gone. MsTidy had also cleared out the trash before realizing what she had done.

Which means SUNNY, if you are still reading this blog, write me again. I had intended to write back but was swamped with getting the Tucson house ready, the trip home, and then getting together with the kids; so I hadn't written but intended to as soon as things settled down.

And people wonder why I let my inbox pile up too much!

Thursday, January 14, 2010


When we hear about the devastating earthquake in Haiti and the damage and loss of life particularly in Port-au-Prince, it's impossible to get our heads around it. The needs are great and I am sure most readers here have their favorite place to donate when such things happen. For us, it's Mercy Corps who we have believed gets most of its money where it needs to go and where it has information online about its purposes.

It is unfortunate that the ignorant and bigoted Pat Robertson got any coverage from the major networks for the statements he made on his own network. His words should have stayed there; but anybody who was looking at coverage, trying to understand the scope of the need, would likely have come across them.

What Robertson was saying about Haiti is bigoted because he sees everything through a black and white prism and I don't mean race. It's religion and his own view of religion. He laid this at the people's own door as he did with 9/11 and Katrina here. He knows why anything bad happens and it always comes back to his narrow-minded dogma.

As easy to understand as anything I have seen (and books have been written on this) here is the gist of why Haiti remains so poor and it's not some mythical Satan:

This is all a tragic story and while we can as individuals donate to our favorite aid agency, there is more that will have to be done to get Haiti out of the place where it currently is trapped with 80% poverty. Hopefully this will be a new start for them. The tragedy is beyond words.

(Incidentally, I am not advocating a donation to the link at the bottom of that article because I do not know anything about the group, but the facts he laid out about Haiti's history seemed to be true to what I have read other places.)

Finding your Passion

In cleaning out drawers, I have also been into cleaning out computer files and came across the following, which I reread, and thought how it fits with the earlier post on fractals. There is a reason we function best when we are as organized as we can be. I wish I could give credit to where I originally got it but it's been many years and filed into the dusty backwaters of my C Drive and then transferred to a jump drive to wait even longer to resurface. The following is all from that article.


Discovering one's passion in life comes naturally to some, but for others, it's a vexing, lifelong hunt. Here is some expert advice for locating that certain joie de vivre.

By Jennifer Duffy
Clean up your life:
First things first: get your life in order. The nitty-gritty details of living can trip up the creative process, said life coach, Louis Abbott. It’s emotionally draining to have financial, emotional, or environmental nuisances – anything from a messy house to a mother that nags you for not calling her often enough.

Nothing can kill passion faster than a pile of papers or laundry in your way. But be warned: What works for some isn’t necessarily the answer for others. “There’s no blueprint. If (something) is not a problem for you, then why worry?”

She has people identify priorities in four categories.
Physical environment:
• Is your house clean?
• Are you organized?
• Does your car work?
• Is your laundry done?
• Have you forgiven people that have hurt you?
• Do you gossip?
• Do you make requests, rather than complain?
• Do you save 10 percent of your income?
• Do you pay your bills on time?
• Are your earnings equivalent to your work effort?
• Does your car work?
• Is your laundry done?
• Have you forgiven people that have hurt you?
• Do you gossip?
• Do you make requests, rather than complain?
• Do you save 10 percent of your income?
• Do you pay your bills on time?
• Are your earnings equivalent to your work effort?
• Is your will up to date?
• Are you at the right weight?
• Do you drink too much caffeine or alcohol?
• Do you take care of your teeth?
• Do you get enough exercise?
• Do you have any physical or emotional problems?

The idea is to deal with the minutiae, but to not become too hung up on having a perfect life.

Get outside the box. Escape your cubicle and experience the world. Forgoing routine and getting out of your usual environment are keys to finding yourself, said Lisa Kivirist, an entrepreneur and author of "Kiss Off Corporate America: A Young Professional's Guide to Independence" .

At just 26 years old, Kivirist, now 37, left a lucrative advertising job in Chicago to find her true passions: creative expression and independence. "It's easy to be reinforced by your surroundings," she said in a phone call from her farm in Wisconsin, which is quite the contrast from "the concrete jungle" of her previous home in Chicago. That's why she and her now-husband, John Ivanko, made a clean break from the advertising world and started living their passions. They had connected with the environment and small-town living on weekends, spending time hiking, biking and camping. Fast-forward to about a decade later and they're running an environmentally friendly bed-and-breakfast on a 5-acre organic farm.

If you want to make the leap, like Kivirist and Ivanko, here are some tips from the author and her book:
Try "experiential travel," which means putting yourself outside your normal environment, opening up to new experiences and changing your life perspective.
Dabble in possible passions with temporary jobs, if you decide to leave your current one.
Surround yourself with people who support you and "get the bigger picture."

Passion can be so elusive. It can get lost in routine, buried beneath unpaid bills, smothered by corporate culture, or even sidetracked by trying to keep up with the Joneses. But even beyond daily lifestyle hurdles, finding a true passion doesn't come easy for everyone.

"Most people don't know their passion," said life coach Louise Abbott. "So many people come to me trying to make something work that I know isn't their passion," she said. "Sometimes the passion is just not there."

If you've lost that certain joie de vivre, or never had it at all, here's a how-to from Tucson life coaches, enthusiastic entrepreneurs and the woman who wrote the book on living out your dreams.

Think of your life as a tree. All the things you are doing, like work, family and leisure time, are the branches, said life coach Karen Cappello. Deep down at the core of your existence are your roots, where your power and passion lie.

You may be too busy jumping from branch to branch trying to take care of things, or admiring someone else's thriving tree and trying to mimic it, she said. Instead, water and nurture your own roots.

Cappello asks her clients four questions to identify their roots and begin brainstorming ways to nurture them.
Remember a time when you were the happiest. What qualities were present?
What are the qualities of a person you admire?
Remember a moment when you felt very powerful. What were you doing?
What was present in that moment?

Then take a look at the areas in your life that already have these qualities. "Identify the successes and then expand from there," Cappello said.

Abbott suggests that you think back to your childhood. She often asks clients, "What were the things that your parents had to drag you away from because you loved them so much?"

It's the essence of those activities, whether it's creativity, interacting with people or creating something, that is the essence of your passion, she said.

Photo is of the Cascade Mountains from a ridge above Sisters.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Second chances don't always come

Mostly the world goes along, spinning away; and although we hear of this or that happening, one week seems a lot like another. Mostly that's how it is with our own lives, but once in awhile something happens that slams us alongside the head reminding us of the finiteness of life and that some things can't be planned or known.

Sunday I was on the phone with two cousins I haven't talked to much in recent years. My brother and I talked also. The calls came because of the death of our younger cousin, Mary. Friday I had been shocked (shocked is not too strong a word) to learn she had died. Someone 58 doesn't just die with no warning, no symptoms. But she had. Her brother, one of those cousins, said the autopsy results are not complete and for now, they still do not know why. Maybe the answers will come. Maybe not.

The photo above is four of us cousins at the farm where I grew up (Mary is standing to the left, a bit apart. I'm the tall one in the back with glasses). Most likely it was Easter as every Easter the family (grandmother, her four children, their spouses and many grandchildren) gathered at our farm for Easter egg hunts and a big ham dinner. The holidays were divided that way, and we pretty much always knew we'd be at one family's or another for each of them.

I remember the times the gatherings were at Mary's family home with a big color photograph of her baby picture on the living room wall. Her parents were so proud of her beauty. She had lovely, long red hair, the kind of coloring that makes red hair a rare gift. There are other memories, some sweet and some not so much.

Since learning of her death, as you can imagine, I have spent a lot of time thinking about her and the years that used to be. To the back of that photo, you can see a big old barn. We cousins used to go out there and pretend we were the Mouseketeers (you aren't too young if you know what that means). Being the oldest, I was always Annette (you likely are in my age group if you know who she was). We would climb up on the hay stacks, get hold of a bar tied to a big thick rope that hung from the rafters, and swing out across the barn floor while yelling our Mouse Club names and singing the theme song. *M-I-C... K-E-Y...*

Since I heard Mary had died, my regrets have been many as we had been talking about getting together, us being the remaining cousins. The last time she and I talked, she said the ball was in my court. I fumbled it.

It's not like I didn't know life can end abruptly. The next tallest girl in the photo was my first cousin to die. She was maid of honor at my wedding. Her death, about five years later, was also a shock as she was in her mid 20s, went into the hospital for what seemed like a bad case of the flu; and the next I heard, she was dead.

Because of being busy. Because of separate interests, Because the family drifted apart after my grandmother died, I rarely saw Mary. I don't know much about her as to the adult she became other than she always seemed sweet, a nice person with a caring attitude. She was caregiver during her mother's long illness and finally end of life. Mary and I might have been friends as adults if we had spent more time together. She didn't live all that far away. I missed the chance to know her and can blame nobody but myself.

I wouldn't even write about this as it doesn't do any good for Mary or me. I can't undo my regrets and kicking myself won't help. If she and I had gotten together, there is no reason to think she would not have still died last week. I am though writing it for everybody with a 'meant to' in their lives where it isn't too late. Sometimes tomorrow never comes.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The source of dreams?

Because of reading a mystery that has murder at its core, I was not totally surprised when early in January I woke up in the middle of the night from a nightmare. The irony was when I went back to sleep, I had another violent dream but with less of an interesting plot. Did I give up finishing the book? Not a chance.

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney is an excellent read. The murder mystery at its core is only the catalyst for revealing many secrets in people's lives. The story is set in Canada's Northern Territory in 1867. It deals with human nature, The Company (Hudson Bay but could be any big company that makes its own rules), winter, and people's struggle to make their lives better physically and emotionally. The author smoothly switches point of view every break; so we see the story through several characters. The book is broken into sections that describe the theme of that segment: Disappearance, The Winter Partners, and The Sickness of Long Thinking.

Although my nightmare had nothing to do with the plot in the book, for me, a violent movie or book can easily lead to my inner mind coming up with some plot of its own. Because of my susceptibility to this, I rarely read books or watch films with realistic, violent themes. This book, loaned to me by my daughter, was an exception because it's so well written and it hooked me right from the first page.

When I woke up from my first nightmare, because it did have elements that were familiar to me, I sorted through what had happened in the dream. I gathered up the details. Was this my subconscious trying to tell me something? I am not sure but am still considering possible angles. The dream will follow. If you don't like upsetting dreams, you can skip it, which is in italics, and read the my final ideas about it.

The female (let's call her Bee but she had no name in the dream) could have been me but it was more like I was watching this from outside, rather like a movie, which is not unusual in my dreams. Bee had a lady friend where they shared an interest in many things. This friend had a husband who was a painter but not one who had much sold his work yet. The husband was tall, a rather stiff looking man, subdued of personality, wore a hat when out painting, rarely talked, as he appeared absorbed in his plein air oils.

When Bee saw the paintings he was doing of the desert, she loved them and wanted to buy one.
She had a problem though as she didn't have a lot of money. The painter told her she could cut off a piece of a painting. They were large canvases on stretcher bars. She considered various angles for cutting it in two. One possibility left an animal that looked like a hedgehog. She didn't want the hedgehog to be the center of interest. Finally she sawed off the bottom third, which left her a pretty nice painting with lots of intense colors. The painter told her he would sell it to her for $350 which conveniently was all she could afford.

Bee was quite happy as she tried to figure out how to get the canvas restretched, right up until her friend showed up at the door very angry that she bought the painting so cheaply. 'Do you have any idea what it's worth now?' her friend asked glaring at her.
During the time that this had been going on, her husband's paintings had grown tremendously in value. We are talking tens of thousands of dollars. His wife stalked off very angry at feeling her friend had cheated her.

Bee had a dilemma. Did she give back the painting she had bought even though she had gotten it fairly enough? She knew she would lose her friend over this whatever she opted to do as the friendship had been irreparably broken on both their sides.

This is where the dream shifts and becomes violent. Some punks, guys just looking for trouble and easy money decided to kidnap Bee for what they thought was her wealth given the 'value' of the painting. They offered to ransom her for money but there was no money in her family for paying such a thing. These young people really didn't care about life or value anything except their own violent solutions.

The last scene of the dream had the dead body of a woman and I knew it was Bee. It was now a painting, broad, garish splashes of color and her body lying in the midst of it, as though it had been tossed into a field of huge, garish flowers. Her partially unclothed body had graffiti written across it in grotesque ways. Definitely a vivid, even beautiful painting in a sad, violent sort of way.

Since I had the dream, I have off and on tried to think if it was telling me something about myself. Dreams can do that. When I have particularly vivid dreams like this one, with a plot to them, I take more time trying to think them through. Some dreams I know are just mind chatter, but others are communicating something through their elements or story-- or so I have believed.

Although the violence was probably inspired from reading the book, the plot was nothing like it. The elements of painting and friendships are in my life. Would I demand to keep a painting despite losing a friend? I can't imagine doing that. Am I trying to hang onto something (most likely not something physical if so) to which I have a right but should release? That one I have to think about.

From The Tenderness of Wolves:
'I bury my face in the pillow that smells of must and damp. Its cotton slip is as cold as marble. It is only here, alone and in the dark, that I can allow those thoughts some rein. Thoughts that come from nowhere, from dreams, taking me delirious hostage. I long for sleep again, because only in sleep can I slip the bonds of what is possible and right.

'But as I have found so often in life, what you truly long for eludes you.'

Friday, January 08, 2010

Something personal

After thinking about what I said in the 2010 blog about how I want to be more than I am, I thought I better add a postscript lest readers think that means I am miserable in being who I am.

Whether this will sound like the right thing to say, I like who I am-- a lot (and that includes being 66 years old). I feel so incredibly lucky I have had the life I have had. Biologically and environmentally I was gifted on many levels.

It starts with my family. I have often thought how fortunate I was to have the family I had and that which I still do. That does not mean it was/is perfect, but it suits me perfectly. I used to tell my daughter that she was perfect to me. She didn't get it until she had children of her own and then saw they can be perfect to her even if not perfect literally.

A perfect family (whatever that might be) would not be as great a gift as having one that was complex, where there were challenges, but one that helped you be who you are-- even if that came through obstacles (some of which I never did surmount).

I love the genetic mix that I was given for what I have looked like. I could have changed the feature that most would be criticized in the culture in which I grew up (nose with a bump), but I didn't do it. At my age now I am delighted I didn't since I see it as being unique, and I don't want to look like everybody else.

To say I really like myself is not to say I am perfect, nor that I see nothing that could be better. That's the whole point of change and working toward more. It's not that I have to see myself as inferior to want change, but rather that I believe in myself enough that I know I can be more. If I can seek that through ALL of my life, right up until the day I die, I will feel it was a good thing. To sit back and say, that's enough, that is all I want to be, that seems to me the road to stagnation and atrophy. You can enjoy being who you are while still working to be more.

Throughout my life I have been a person who asks 'why' even when it often isn't popular to ask. It's in my nature to wonder about things, relationships, life. It is not in my nature to ever think I have the definitive answer. I might think I have the definitive answer for now letting things go for awhile to pick them up later and see if that answer still works. To me, all of life is organic and growing. Change is part of that.

In my eyes, my biggest flaw (and my friends and family know there is more than one) would be that I tend to get into too many things through that wondering and not really go deep enough in any. I know about a lot of things but not a LOT about many of them. I am a person of diverse interests instead of one great passion. I regret that in some ways, but we are who we are. I find people who have that one great passion to be quite fascinating maybe because it's my own missing element (so far).

I could try and stick to one subject, make it my cause, but I know I wouldn't do it. Somewhere along the way I'd be diverted off by something else. I have accepted that I will never have one great gift. On the other hand, I find life endlessly fascinating and am almost never bored.

Finally, I got an email from [Stephanie Ellen St.Claire] that happily fit with what I had also been thinking regarding 2010. Whenever that happens, I feel an encouragement to trust my own insights. Because I know not everyone is into astrology and it's a lengthy look from a psychic, channeler, and astrologer, I decided to put it into Rainy Day Extras for those who are interested in checking out alternative ways of looking at life.

(Incidentally some are calling it twenty ten but because I called it two thousand nine, and will probably call it two thousand eleven, I call it two thousand ten.)

Thursday, January 07, 2010


Going along with the fractals, comes this link from a friend:

Our World May Be a Giant Hologram

Isn't it a fascinating world!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A hidden key?

Are fractals (repeating geometric configurations) a hidden key to why some relationships work and some do not? Perhaps they can show when our body is succumbing to disease? Do fractals explain how Eastern medicine works as a preventative to disease or even a cure as it realigns those patterns? Are they why prayer can heal without looking toward a divine hand in it? Can they be used to find a greater understanding of how biological life works?

You can find online many examples of fractals. The one above belongs to Farm Boss and is on the back of our utility room door. It is called a [Mandelbrot set].

We recently watched the NOVA documentary: [Fractals: Hunting the Hidden Dimension] which I had ordered from Netflix because I knew Farm Boss was into such things. I surprised myself by finding it absolutely fascinating as I began to see other applications for fractals. The program explained, for those of us who are not scientists, what fractals are and what it looks like in the body for instance when they are ordered and then screwed up (not a scientific term but says it well). It is possible that someday they will be a way to find disease and maybe even treat it.

The idea that prayer, faith healing or reiki might treat or help treat disease has often seemed a mystery but what if it has a biological reason? It may be very physical if we consider the make-up of the physical world which is of repeating geometric patterns that are consistent and ordered-- until they are not. Perhaps we can do much to restore that alignment if we catch the onset of disease before there are symptoms and we must resort to surgery or prescriptions. If we can recognize this misalignment before we get sick, wouldn't that be the most effective palliative.

Maybe taking this into account, we can see how music helps to restore balance. If we think this way, we will realign before we get sick-- or better yet, stay in alignment all along.

I think it goes beyond medicine though to relationships. Is this why some people turn us off and others draw us to them? Repeating patterns that we can recognize and utilize could help us to order our lives and even our cultures. Too much, you think? Maybe not.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Setting a new course

I am hereby announcing I am joining the cult of the politically uninformed and doing it to make my new year better than my old one. Because I cannot currently vote on anything that is up for debate and because I am sick of arguing politics here where it never goes anywhere, this blog is temporarily (at the least) going to be a politics free zone.

Because I don't want anyone thinking I am doing this because of giving up on Obama. I am not. I admit being irked with him, but he was elected to do a LOT of what he has done. We, who supported him, might want more, but he's not through yet. Possibly he's trying to make those changes gradually so the change comes without catastrophic results.

Seven or eight years ago, a structural masseuse told me that she could realign my back in 12 sessions. She said I had one shoulder and hip higher than the other and it was causing me bodily grief which would get worse. She gave me a massage that left one of my shoulders hurting for a year (or more) afterward (I should have said it hurt sooner).

I opted to skip her suggested schedule of massages, but later asked my chiropractor what he thought. He said he felt that trying to do it that way would end up causing a lot of spinal and muscle problems that weren't worth it especially given my age. I do try to do stretches, to be more aware of how I stand and sit. I haven't given up on improving my spinal alignment, but her instant adjustment felt like it'd do more damage than good!

Although I don't know and am waiting to see, personally I think that's how it could be with Obama. He has a plan, which he discussed during the campaign. He was elected by a majority of Americans in 2008 to carry it out, but he's not one to tear the system apart doing it. Yes, he has disappointed me on different issues, but his term in office is not yet over. We'll see if he's the steady as we go type or a jackrabbit who bounds all over the place. Did he deceive us or did we elect him to use his best judgment on getting us where we want to go and it's where he's heading? Did that have to be instantly? I am reserving judgment. If Americans disagree with the current direction, they can take care of that at the polls this fall and in 2012.

Whatever the case, right now I cannot impact what he does, and I am tired of writing about it or even thinking about it. If you already agreed with me before you read a particular political blog, what I wrote only made you mad; and if you didn't, you weren't convinced. You have many places you can read to tell you how right you are. It's getting me nowhere and as far as I can see not helping anybody else.

If I say this or that, the other side either ignores it or brings up something else which is exactly what they say I also do. SO rather than get myself bent out of shape about that which I cannot change, I am going to quit reading political blogs (left or right) and to be consistent, my blog will no longer delve into politics.

I will write about cultural issues but more from a standpoint that avoids one party or another and sticks to ideas (got a few in mind on the subject of the illusions). Readers can decide for themselves what political party thinks which way or would do something about any of these problems. Mostly though I hope to write about improving a life-- starting with my own.

One idea I had was to put out questions that I am working on but where I don't have the answers. Those might end up week-long blogs with hopefully readers taking part in coming up with their thoughts on these issues. It could lead to helpful discussions. Some of those might involve spiritual questions as that is of much interest to me right now.

Anyway hope I don't lose readers over this; but if so, I have to do it for my mental and emotional health. I will still check in on right wing blog friends, but when their topics are political, I'll come back another day to read.

As part of this I am also planning to quit watching television news from any network. This is an addiction that will be hard to give up. I will read a few newspapers but not when they get political. For now I need a break; and as part of my new year and my hope to bring big changes for myself into being, this is one of my ways.

Next blog will be on that new path.

Photos are from our drive home after a totally delightful three nights in Central Oregon with kids and grandkids in a house we rented together. It was a time full of hugs, much laughter, great meals. good wine, ice skating (for the skaters), cousin (12 to 2 year olds) play, cooperation, great conversations, and snow. It was a rich time with the young and old (us handling the old end). Boy does that help a person get aligned on what really matters, and it's that next generation. We make more of a difference in that by being sure our own lives are all they can be. That's my goal for this year-- one of them anyway.

The above photo is from southeast of Sisters looking toward the Three Sisters. The others are along the Metolius River. Rivers and mountains make good examples of how we get things changed-- bit by bit.

The Cascade Mountains are volcanic. There is debate about how active the Sisters are as some of the land around them seems to be inching up; however, most volcanoes in the Cascades are either dead or dormant.

This region is an ever changing, invigorating environment, and I recommend it to anybody wanting a gentle realignment. Nature is such a great healer.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Inspiring Quotes

The following are more of those quotes that I found in a drawer in the Tucson house. I left them there for possible renters to read, but I copied them for my own reference. Photos are some of my personal favorites from 2009.

The beginning is always today.
Mary Wollstonecraft

Man's main task is to give birth to himself.
Erich Fromm, psychoanalyst and sociologist

I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the Stern Fact, the Sad Self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.
Robert Louis Stevenson

The longest journey is the journey inward.
Dag Hammarskjold

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust