Thursday, December 31, 2009

There’s a Moose in My House

My darling husband, who finishes every project that he starts, is painting our front door red. This means that our rambunctious kitten, Elvis, is sequestered away until the paint dries. For the remainder of today, there will be no going near it, or so go our best laid plans. Our other kitty, Maizie, is accommodating this mandate by lying, unwelcomed, across the computer keyboard.

The red looks festive against our pale green house. A friend told me today that she plans to paint her front door black. I guess Sir Mick Jagger might croon to have ours painted black, too. Sorry, Mick, we’re sticking with red. It’s very inviting, overall a good thing for a house.

But beware what you welcome into your home.

We spent a fun holiday playing games with our granddaughter, Jasmine. One of them was “There’s a Moose in the House.” As the box says, it’s a very silly card game.

The object is to keep moose from getting into your house. With the right cards in your hand, you can slam the door or set off a moose trap and keep them out. Without these moves, you just get a houseful of moose, which I doubt are house-broken. I can only imagine what happens if you give a moose a bran muffin.

You might wonder, what’s so wrong with having moose in the house? Well, for starters, they just sit there and take up a lot of space. I can’t think of a single feng shui book that tells you in which bagua to put your moose.

Then, there’s the constant, silent staring.

So, I’m thinking today about the moose in my house, which has been crazily neglected through the holidays. I ignored them and spent a lot of time coordinating our annual fundraising efforts for the Bess Whitehead Scott scholarship fund with the Writers’ League of Texas. We head out into bookstores and wrap books for donations that fund two writing scholarships awarded each spring. Similar to what writer Anne Lamott shares in Bird by Bird, we get there bow by bow.

My first act of eradication it to take a moose inventory around the house. Just the cheese drawer alone is teeming with them. Some of them have been in there since about 1998. This makes me want to categorize my moose: stinky and stealthy. The former you get right away, but the latter sneaks up on you.

I have some moose to shoo from my mind, as well. These go into the sneaky moose category. Negative thinking that creeps in before you can slam the door or snap the trap. To counteract them, I’m loading my mental deck with healthy thought patterns to clear the clutter. A friend told me that at the end of the year she writes her regrets on bathroom tissue and drops them square by square to be flushed away – I like her style!

What moose are you going to shoo or flush away? How do you slam the door on counterproductive thinking? How has focused, positive thinking impacted your life?

When the paint dries, I’m shutting my red door and opening up my schedule for some serious de-cluttering (and flushing). And I’ll get there – moose by moose.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Avacada Stigmata

A friend of mine received the miracle of the virgin vegetable recently when she punctured her palm pitting an avocado. We called it “Avacada Stigmata.”

Okay, technically, an avocado's a fruit. But I am one of those persons who can’t classify a savory thing as a fruit (or ketchup as a vegetable). Mmmm, would you like your avocado cobbler a la mode?

Back to the point at hand: a simple, routine cooking activity took a sudden and painful turn that disrupted her life for several days. Luckily no stitches were required, although she bruised a bone. It was during this time that she realized that she’s fairly ambidextrous.

Gandhi, too, was an ambidextrian. Did that help him turn his other cheek?

Ambidexterity is something that I do not share with her or Gandhi. I write, eat, and reach with my right hand, and my left one just tags along as a helper, without any sort of “pick me! pick me!” over-achiever attitude. It’s just happy to observe and assist.

When something’s “two-fisted,” it’s hard-hitting or virile (per Merriam Webster). That doesn’t sound much like Gandhi.

But on the other hand....

If you “single-handedly” do something, you are praised for your accomplishment. It generally means you’re working alone. That I can do.

November is “National Write a Novel in a Month” month (NaNoWriMo), and for the fifth year, I’m at it again, pouring forth 50,000 words of new fiction. (But not really single-handedly since I type with both hands.)

NaNoWriMo is not quite like a paring knife in the palm, but it does release a creative stigmata of writer’s ecstasy when the words flow onto the page. You feel this amazing satisfying rush as dialogue and description flood across the keyboard. For a few precious moments you’re dishing up dollops of Pulitzer pulp.

And then the holes heal and the ideas dry up. And then you notice every household chore you haven’t done in the last ten years. But you know that they’ll still be there in December, so you write on. Fiction feast or famine, you strike at the pit of the avocado in your mind to get to the meat of the story. You remove all the obstacles and dig in to achieve your dream.

Come November 30th, there will be several thousands of happy writers who meet their numbers and succeed in getting their books drafted. Some will miss the mark, but whether you write 50 words or 50,000, it’s still a great event to attempt. I consider it a mental endurance feat similar to the dance marathons of the 1920s and 1930s. Write ‘til you drop. At least with NaNo, we don’t get bunions.

What was the last goal you committed to and successfully completed? Was it something done single-handedly, or did you have help and support along the way? How did you feel when you finished?

I’m a little behind this year and am working hard to catch up, still jabbing at my imagination to get at the good stuff. I may end up with a big mess of guacamole on December 1st, but one thing’s for certain – I’ll be high-fiving myself when it’s done.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Good-night, Sweet Prince

We lost our eighteen-year-old kitty, Clovis, early this morning. He’s been failing gradually for months, really, over a year. Decaying teeth gave him problems that led to a permanent throat infection which could be fought back, but never fully beaten. Bit by bit, he began tiring this summer, in spite of prescriptions, tonics, vitamins, and cajoling. He slipped away last night embraced in love, reassured that he was, indeed, the best kitty ever.

I say this about all my pets that pass. They are all the best ever. Clovis, though, was truly special.

I met Clovis on my first date with my husband, Stan. A man with a cat (and a vasectomy) gets bonus points in the dating world – well, to each her own scale. I actually thought that Stan had a dog by the way he’d described him. I was surprised to see a giant ball of Siamese-blend fluff greet me at the door. Clovis immediately demanded that I hold him. He had no use for idle hands, believing that they should always be petting and stroking him.

During our first few months together, Clovis developed a terrible allergy to fleas and began breaking out in hives and losing his luxurious fur. I had to take him to the vet for Stan, who was working so much overtime that year, and get him medication. Over the summer, as his fur grew back long and lustrous, he wrapped me around his paw and himself around my heart. Always cheerful and ready for love at the end of your most tiring day, he would melt away your cares with his loud purr and affectionate gaze. His love was so reassuring: everything would be okay with just a little petting and scratching. A rake of the brush through his beautiful mane would send him over the top and make you feel you’d accomplished at least one worthwhile thing that day.

He had his peculiarities. Clovis loved peppermint. We confirmed this one night when we caught him on the bathroom sink licking our toothbrushes. Nothing intrigued him more than freshly brushed teeth and the scent of toothpaste on your breath. If cuddling on the bed or chair, he would rush at your face and sniff and start to slobber with widened eyes.

Thus, I learned that I had to keep my mint plants up high – Clovis loved them like catnip. We’d occasionally snip off a strand and toss it in the grass. He’d rub his nose all through it and roll around with it - and slobber. He would always patrol the yard at Stan’s heels, never really much of a wanderer. When Stan first brought him into his pre-house apartment, Clovis, originally an alley cat, wouldn’t cross the threshold. He would kind of shake his head in a been-there-done-that attitude about the great outdoors. But he instinctively knew when Stan bought his house that the backyard was his domain and the front yard was to be guarded and kept free of strays. He would do his border patrol cruise every morning when let out – and would always be near when Stan worked the garden, silently observing and perpetually following him from the composter to the garden hose to the house.

Had he not been so well fed, he would have been an admirable hunter. He brought me a bird once, of which he was so proud yet very confused when I wouldn’t let him bring it in. He loved to play and chase, especially every morning when Stan laces his work boots. They would play the “shoelace game” where Clovis would dart back and forth and pounce on the fluttering shoestrings. It’s been several weeks now since he last chased much of anything, but he would still sit at Stan’s feet every morning and look up at his “Daddy” with that adoring face.

Simply put, Clovis was love in its purest form.

When strong enough to jump up on the bed, he’d nightly nose his way in to sleep between us, preferring his head on the pillow – or better, his head under your chin. While you were reading the paper, he’d climb into your lap and flop over with adoring eyes, offering up his belly for a rub. He would target the most allergic houseguest in the room and make a convert of them by the end of the evening with his insistence for affection, they with tissue in one hand, Clovis in the other.

When Stan and I first started dating, our two former alley cats were arch enemies. I tried a few times to get them together, but Clovis, with his claws, and Harry, with no claws, were never meant to bond. In their first meeting, although matched pound-for-pound, when Harry accidentally darted out of his confined area, Clovis took him to task with fur, feces, and urine flying. They could never be together after that. After Harry died in his sleep in August 2003, I thought, no more pets for a while; I’d just enjoy Clovis at Stan’s. Then, in November a friend who was moving to London burst into chin quivers and glistening eyes when I asked what she was doing with her cat. I heard the words leap from my mouth, “I’ll take your kitty,” and thought, oh, what have I done? Here we go again.

Maizie came into Stan’s house on a visit and immediately became Queen of the Mansion. Clovis took one look at her and his little heart nearly burst with love at first sight. She, on the other hand, was having none of it, à la Pepé le Pew and Penelope Pussycat. As he tired of her rebuffing him, he began to torment her, and she him. They would chase one another around the house, hide behind corners in ambush, and generally provoke one another. She would “torture him with her beauty” by rolling on her back and sides, slowly clawing her way on the carpet toward him. If she were under the coffee table, he’d be on top of it, tail switching, glaring at her and jabbing a paw down to remind her who was alpha cat. They were the worst of lovers but the best of playmates.

In his eighteenth year, perhaps nineteenth, he began to slow considerably. His teeth decayed to the point that each one had to be extracted. His system didn’t tolerate the medications well, and he began to lose kidney function. In his last days, he was crouching and wincing but always ready to sit in your lap and be petted. We decided to let him make his transition at home, surrounded with love instead of taking him to the vet. He went from sitting in an afternoon sunbeam on the porch to unable to raise a paw within six hours, uttering his last purrs around 9 p.m. We took turns holding him and stroking him until we both fell asleep. Sometime after 1 a.m., his labored breathing stilled to silence.

There is a little hole dug in the backyard by the plumbago bed beside the spot where we buried Harry – now they’ll have to tussle it out in the afterlife. This afternoon in the bright sunshine, we’ll set Clovis to rest with a few of his toys, like a pauper King Tut. There will be tears and hugs and sobs. In time, we’ll adopt another kitty and begin the journey all over again. Why? Because a pet’s unconditional love always surpasses the chasm of the loss. If a pet teaches you anything, it’s that you shouldn’t waste a single day of your life without loving someone.

We are rich in memories of our beloved.
Won’t you share a few stories of your pets, current and past? Your best pet ever?

Today is a good day to appreciate your creatures. Take a few extra moments with your furred, feathered, or finned pets and toss that ball or catnip mouse that you’ve been too busy to throw lately – well, maybe not with your fish – perhaps a little face-tank time will do. Just enjoy them while you have them – while they’re living to love you.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Honest to Goodness

In the movie lingo of Eric Von Zipper in Beach Blanket Bingo, “Stand aside, everyone. I take large steps.” Did he suffer from summer thigh-rub rash too?

With Labor Day around the corner, I feel like fluffing my hair into an Annette Funicello up-flip and singing a duet with Frankie Avalon in the glow of an evening bonfire. It’s hard to believe after 67 days of triple-digit heat (with more to come) that we are setting the sun on summer. Even with three weeks to the first day of autumn, it feels like summer’s packing its bags and waving so-long as local schools re-open and the commuters jam the roads to queue back into their fall routines.

Oddly, even in this record-setting string of blistering days, the folks around Austin seem to keep their cool. We've developed a camaraderie watching our tuffs of turf wilt during mandatory water conservation. I recently looked out on our back yard – the stepchild lawn receiving the least water – and had a flashback to fall hayrides in Indiana bumping along in wagons full of scratchy straw. Is yellow the new green?

Because of, or in spite of the heat, we seemed to speed-dance away the summer like frenzied teens at the beach. While the drought parched the yard, my calendar was flooded with a wealth of busy-ness and new engagements: summer classes in Project Management Certification, learning new software applications, and enrolling in television studio production training. It also brought some recurring experiences: completing the Danskin Triathlon, enjoying the Indiana State Fair with family, and breakfasting with my old grade school chums – still great blessings even after decades and miles apart.

We’ve seen a good friend survive and thrive after open heart surgery, continue to learn ways to lovingly nurse an aging pet into his final months, and have lived to tell of tasting Pigs in the Mud (chocolate-covered bacon – why? because it was oddest and weirdest fair food we found – and we especially like to Keep It Weird when we’re away from Austin).

Have you yet to shake the sand out of your bikini bottoms? What large steps did you take this summer? Which images will you paste into your memory scrapbook?

As we ride the last summer heat waves into fall, I’m going to flick up a Gidget ponytail and croon to my Moondoggie, “Honest to goodness, it was the absolute ultimate!”

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June Bugs and June Brides

You might wonder where I’m going with bugs and brides. What could they possibly have in common? With June brides come the images of flowers and showers, preachers and parties and the meshing of new families. With June bugs come the sounds of head-buzzing and lampshade pelting, swooshing fly swatters and cats rocketing across the living room and smashing into patio doors.

I’m thinking of both as we glide past spring into summer. We’ve had two family weddings this month and seemingly more fat brown June bugs dancing around our light bulbs than all years past. Both brides and bugs have swept quickly past leaving a fluttering of invitations and, well, wings and legs. Perhaps it’s analogous that we’re also counting more blessings than ever in our lives.

Life doesn’t always follow our plans, but along the turns of the past year we’ve found ourselves growing richer in relationships as every page falls from the calendar. The hours of this month fly past with old friends getting back in contact, new acquaintances from the weddings filling our address book and the activities of summer crowding our schedules.

Even after all the years since graduating school and university, there is still something delicious about welcoming summer and its possibilities for fun: jumping in a pool to escape the heat, slipping into a chilly matinee on a bright afternoon, choosing just the right flavor of syrup on snow cones or nestling down with that great paperback in the middle of the afternoon. It’s all lightness that we create for ourselves. Life isn’t perfect, but there is a perfectly magnificent blue sky beckoning us outside to gaze upward.

With triple digit heat in Austin, it’s important to create some slow-down time outside to slurp on a juicy watermelon and feel the condensation dripping down your wrist from an icy beverage. We find that it works to write “Down Time” on the calendar and commit to it. I’m much less likely to bump it when it’s committed on the page.

I am however, much more likely to bump into the sticky fly paper strip my husband posted on our patio to catch the bugs before they slip through the sliding glass door. Who knew they still made this stuff? Twice now while watering the plants, the breeze has shifted and sent me flailing about during a facial assault. It’s far worse than a tangle in a silky spider web. When it’s on you, it marries you and leaves a nasty trail of goo all over your face, arms, hands and hair.

I refuse to let this ick replace my happy summer memory scents like Sea & Ski lotion and baby oil. These take me back to blissful teenage afternoons in a pink gingham bikini lying on a quilt in our back yard listening to Motown hits on the radio. The sweetness of watching the clouds drift past and wondering about the future still invigorate my love for this season.

What are you doing to create lightness in your life this year? Which are your sweetest memories of summers past? What are your tricks for beating the heat?

We welcome the newlyweds into our lives and outfit ourselves for the battle of the bugs, accepting the sweetness of new love with the stickiness of just living. We’re just not using the fly paper near the brides.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jockeying for First Place When the Old Grey Mare Just Ain’t What She Used to Be

The film “My Life in Ruins” opens this week, and as accurately as this seems to describe life some days, I compile yet another daunting To Do list and dash off like an Olympian to finish what I’ve started.

Thoughts of racing come easily just days away from the third leg of the Triple Crown at Belmont and the Austin Danskin Triathlon, and I’m betting that this old mare can accomplish as much as any three-year-old thoroughbred.

As the Belmont bets are placed and we wager whether jockey Calvin Borel will achieve a triple crown astride Mine That Bird, I think about what a triple threat the female drivers in the 2009 Indy 500 were. Milka Duno, Sarah Fisher and Danica Patrick are fascinating to follow. All three qualified, competed and finished the race this year – which resonates as I tackle my objectives.

At the speedways, the pit crew can make or break a driver’s success. In the flat racing game, the jockey can guide a horse to a win or a loss. If we serve as our own pit crews and jockeys, how are we guiding the success of our goals? Are we whipping the tar out of our hinies or focusing our energies in unison to change out the tires and fuel up? Who’s spotting for us as we navigate the track? Are we working for or against ourselves in achieving our goals?

I’m trying to sweep the track of habits that undermine my efforts, such as staying up too late and not getting enough rest. Now, if they held an Indy 500 Napping race, I could take the trophy for sleeping 500 minutes. While I’ve been training for the Danskin, I’ve added a phone alarm that says “go to bed” as a prompt to shut it down for the day and not work into the wee hours. A full night’s rest is invaluable in how you recharge and embrace the next day. It keeps you from falling asleep at the wheel of your life.

The point of my ever overflowing To Do list and all the goal setting, task tackling and exercising is to make the old grey mare better than she used to be so she can win her races with skill and grace– and not be set out to pasture just yet. There’s still a lot of hoofing around I want to do, and I’m grateful for my family and friends who keep me moving and motivated. As I run for the roses, they all deserve bouquets for their love and support. Thanks to their faith, I’m not like I used to be – I’m better.

What’s on your To Do list? Are you including time for healthy essentials? Are you appreciating your pit crew?

One item on my list is to attend a movie this weekend. For anyone who says that women’s cinema doesn’t make money, I hope that they are proven wrong with the opening box office returns on “My Life in Ruins.” I’m putting my money where their mouth is and buying a ticket. Won’t you join me?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

All the News That’s Shocking to Print

I narrowly escaped death by blow dryer this week. While I was arranging my locks, my grip slipped and my blow dryer tumbled out of my hand, hit the counter, did a triple Lutz, and splash-landed into the john. At the sound of the little zzzzt-pfff, I jumped back looked at my hands and limbs, ascertained that I was still alive (and still had straight hair), and quickly unplugged the cord.

For a few moments I just stood there in slight shock and then I started to laugh. It just seemed so funny. I’d been thinking of changing my ‘do to something easier. Was this a sign that I should get a “bowl” cut?

The day before, I was at my gym early to train for the Danskin triathlon and pulled on my Speedo swim cap to protect my hair. I know that professional swimmers probably love these things, but I can’t figure out for whose tiny heads these were designed – certainly not my Jolly Green Giant knob. I have to fold it, roll it, and cajole it onto my noggin. Forget covering the ears – it starts slipping up the moment it’s on and demands constant adjustment to keep it from popping off in the water. What I really want is one of those old models with the big daisies springing up all over and a nice fat chin strap – now that’s a classy look!

That morning during the tug of war, a big handful of the cap fell apart in my palm. Undaunted I cocked it around and started my laps, grateful that I was the only one at the pool. I enjoyed an entire hour by myself practicing the strokes that would serve me best in the upcoming half-mile water course. Of the triathlon challenges, the swim's the most daunting. Not only is it physically taxing for a mediocre swimmer, with the cutesy caps it lacks the glamour of, say, getting spiffed up in tennis whites.

But the varied training infuses fun in my fitness plan. It motivates me to keep moving and challenges me to push my limits. The medals are a big plus – I can’t think of anything since winning our grade school spelling bee that has made me feel so special. During my first triathlon orientation, they asked the question: when was the last time you did something that you were afraid to do? I must stay that getting into that water with waves of other folks passing you by is pretty intimidating.

Biking, though, has always been a great pleasure – even since my first ride without training wheels. It just looked so hard, maintaining balance on two wheels. I lacked the confidence to believe that I’d ever be able to do it and imagined breaking bone upon bone tumbling across the driveway. But one day my brother, who was supposed to be holding on to the back, just let go. I was far across our yard before I caught on that I was riding solo. And when I realized it, I promptly fell over. But I got up and rode independently from then on, without ever looking back.

For me, the event has never been about finishing under a certain time, it’s been about finishing. Period. So when it comes to the 5K run, the final portion of the triathlon, I prefer to walk at least half of it. Texas in June can be monstrous, so I pace myself according to the heat index and the distance between watering stations. As it’s tipping up toward 100 degrees Fahrenheit, I take my time and tank up like a camel.

When the end is in sight, I like to run across the finish line – I feel more like a champion. When they slip that medal around your neck after you cross the threshold, it's impossible not to grin like a beet-faced Alfred E. Newman. The inscription reads: The woman who started the race is not the same woman who finishes the race. How true.

So what was the last thing you did that really scared you? Have you pushed yourself beyond your supposed limits to reach a goal recently? Have you shocked yourself at what you can achieve with focused effort? What training wheels are you ready to shed?

While you’re mulling it over, I’ll be looking for someone who can give me a good bowl cut.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Sounds and the Succulents

In a recent class at the Great Outdoors, Dave Mix, with Pacific Home & Garden, taught us how to put together container pots for patio gardens. I chose to do a bowl of succulents, and with the addition of just a few more accent stones, it will be finished – or as finished as any gardening project ever is. In a land where water is increasingly precious, finding beauty in native, low-moisture varieties is such a joy.

My new little friends include hens and chicks, sedum, santolina, and baby toes. As I poked these little gems into the soil, I was struck by all the different colors from the succulent garden and out into our yard – the soft, silvery lambs ear to the dark Mexican heather fronds to the crimson tips on the dragon’s blood sedum. There are more variations of green here than on all the local paint-mart chips combined.

Succulents survive by retaining water (something I do after two margaritas and several baskets of chips). They send the message: “Set me in the sun and leave me alone. I’m tough, I can take it. I can get by on just a little. Let me be.”

Of course, I’m suspicious about such neglect. It’s hard for me to respect their wishes and not over-water them. Even my hovering is cutting off their sunshine. I’m learning to leave them alone – and am grateful that you don’t have to deadhead a cactus.

At the seminar, Dave also taught us how to listen to our pots by patting and ringing them somewhat like a toning bowl. When a pot is cracked, it makes a funny thud next to an un-cracked one, and you can detect even a hairline fracture. So now this crackpot knows how to spot a cracked pot.

Toning and the use of sound have long been studied for their healing effects on the body. We enjoy the constant gurgle of a fountain and waterfall in our koi pond, as the fish dip and slip among the reeds cruising toward their next slow mosquito meal. The sound of the water draws down our shoulders and floats away the day’s cares. Nightly it call us out to the patio where we dip in our fingertips to check the temperature, still too cool for the lily pads to rise.

These days, the flow and gurgle of lively conversation with good friends and family keeps me sustained. I’m comfortable working alone and can enjoy long hours in solitude, but it’s an oasis when we gather and share laughter and stories. It seems more important than ever that we simply stop and together witness our lives, in sunshine and in shadow.

Where is your oasis? Have you paid attention to the sounds you love today? What are they? Notice what brings you contentment and allow it into your life each day.

In the meantime, if you ring my doorbell and I don’t answer, I’m just out back – ignoring the cactus and watching for the lily pads to rise.

Great Outdoors:
Pacific Home & Garden:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Books, Buds, and Bugs

Why do I check out so many library books at one time? The fragrance of the paper? A towering stack nearby flirts from the floor and beckons to be embraced. I’m wondering why I invited these home when devouring eight books in fifteen days would mean bathing in nothing but coffee.

The seduction begins when I enter the lobby and feel the overwhelm of possibility. All these amazing ideas clamor to get inside my head and incite me to act: build it, plant it, imagine it, cook it, visit it. My blood races and a little saliva puddles at the corner of my mouth. No, it’s not a seizure, I’m just seized with excitement like a lone boll weevil feasting in cotton field. So many tomes, so little time.

From the dusty volumes of the great indoors to the pollen-infused great outdoors, we bid farewell to our final jasmine blossoms of the year. Bursting in abundant popcorn-y clusters, the vines beguile us with an Orville Redenbacher bounty of blooms. They spritz the loveliest of perfumes throughout our yard and into our home. As the lacy green tendrils yawn and drop their petals and stretch across the fence line, it’s time for the fragrant freesia, sweet alyssum, scarlet nicotiana, and silver leaf senna to step up and fill the air.

These plants and dozens of others form our “butterfly bed-and-breakfast.” In our collection of edibles, the dill patch has checked out early, having served more as a bug hors d'oeuvre than a cooking accent. The bronze fennel persists, perhaps as dessert while the caterpillars munch the brunch that is my herb garden. We’ve entertained just one hummingbird this spring, but more will check in as we feed the flowering fronds (and imprison the cats indoors).

Which host plants do you cultivate for your passions? What nibbles away at your time and prevents you from tending your goals? Are you amassing late fees on your dreams? This week I pledge to multitask: pull up the lawn chair by the jasmine for at least one hour and breathe while I read. How will you nurture your projects this week?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Steep Inclinations

Lately it seems that everywhere I drive I’m parking on an incline. I find myself yanking back the handbrake with both palms and willing that the car doesn’t roll downhill. Before I walk away, I glance back over my shoulder a couple of times to make sure that it’s cooperating and holding its position. So far, so good.

As more and more fascinating Austin entrepreneurs cross my path, I’m enamored with their determination to stay up in down times. Their impressive enthusiasm and confidence lift my spirits and build hope. If anything will solve the problems facing the nation, it’s the brave characters of these individuals. Ten years from now, we’ll look back on these challenging years and continue to draw from their strength, initiative, and genius.

Not everyone will carry forth a successful business into the next decade, but these folks are out there living their dreams at a time when wringing of hands seems more common than a friendly hand clasp.

I stop and think about what’s my spiritual hand brake; what prevents me from slipping into a panic over the economy, social and racial intolerance, and environmental ills. At the end of the day, it’s my faith in people – individuals who strive to connect and create a better world. In my faux Streisand voice, it’s people who believe in people, and I’m grateful for those who keep encouraging me when the hills get so steep.

So my question this week is: Who believes in you? What helps you hold your position and prevents you from backsliding? As we build our new micro-communities, who will you support shoulder-to-shoulder and how? As the first layer in the new pavement, I suggest we roll out faith in one another, tempered with a little forgiveness for being human, in all its glorious imperfection.

It’s time to pop the brake, push it into gear, and go.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Belly Dancing, Babies, and Flowers in Bloom

How delicious is it to stare at a new baby? As I cradled three-week-old Maya near my heart last week, it was at once exciting, thrilling, and peaceful. During this crazed time of economic downturn, companies and prospects flail like mobile fobs in a windstorm. Meanwhile, right in the crook of my arm nestled this twisting bit of pink perfection, calming and mesmerizing me and evaporating all my cares and concerns.

Standing over her crib, her parents at once bundle love, exhaustion, amazement, anticipation, and worry. They nuzzle her, coo with her, and gaze in her endlessly-seeking hazel eyes. She peers out toward a window and you can almost hear her blossoming brain whiz and whir as she seeks to make sense of her wondrous world. She sows her soft magic over us all and reassures us that everything is going to be just fine.

After my visit with Maya, I wandered into our backyard and found voluptuous blooms emerging on our jasmine vines. I buried my face in the scent and inhaled the fresh, heady perfume. This prolific burst of flowers demonstrates Mother Nature’s recurring promise: Regardless of the edgy, nervous business climate, the spring buds faithfully appear and pop into glorious banquets of color and fragrance. We just need to lift our goblets and rise for the welcome toast.

My teacher, Najla, introduced new movements in our belly dancing class this week. We novices attempted to blend the disparate motions of our feet, pelvises, bellies, shoulders, and arms into fluid choreography. Reminiscent of Maya waving from her crib, I lacked the elusive swaddling of confidence to consolidate shoulder shimmies into piston hips and slink into an Egyptian walk. Yet I believe that with practice and with Najla’s patient cajoling over the next weeks, we’ll shed our inhibitions and sprout into a barefooted bouquet of vibrant-hued scarves fluttering and jingling to exotic rhythms.

So the week’s exploration is: What serves as your bunting? In what do you wrap yourself that binds your character yet frees the graceful gazelle within? What nudges you to flower? For me, it’s the mantle of hope, and I thank little Maya for the reminder that it does spring eternal.

Monday, February 23, 2009

First Things First

The concept behind 52 is to blog about 52 new views in the year ahead. Once weekly I'll write about something new that I've seen, heard, or done.

What's the wacky love affair with "new"? We moan about excessive change in our lives then buy every piece of technology that debuts on the market. Yet we also embrace the familiar, the comfortable, ordering the same half-dozen dishes at our favorite restaurants. An emerging wrinkle or gray hair sends us over the edge and up to the sales counter for the latest potion to keep us looking…the same…or, better, the way we looked five years ago.

52 is about freeing our hungry minds and examining our world afresh instead of gazing inward at our reflections. It's a juxtaposition of the new into the familiar and sharing what friends are learning and discovering. What are you experiencing and sensing for the first time? What did you pass daily without notice that now imparts richness and direction in your life?

I’m summoning up all of my innocence to be fully present in my world and savor its complexity – the sweetness of its belly laughs, the saltiness of its sorrows, and its emerging and unrelenting grace. What the world reveals to me, I’ll reveal to you.

Welcome to my journey.