Saturday, March 31, 2007

Make a Wish

What poems do you select to read with a woman who is dying from a malignant brain tumor? Our friend Florence is making a brave last stand, but it is inevitable that she will succumb to this disease that has robbed her of her vision and her balance. She’s 91, has had a full life, and seems ready enough to leave this one behind.

But she asked for one last chance to share poetry with friends. Today is the day. We invited some of her nearest and dearest to join her at her house for poetry and tea this afternoon. I imagine her daughter will read her selections since her eyesight is dim at best. But her ears are sharp and will be ready to receive the words of her friends and family.

The choice was between poems that extol life and those that talk about death and what comes next. As I read over all my favorites, I could see them falling into these neat categorizations. I bookmarked several possibilities, reserving my judgment until I see just what shape Florence is in. They include:

“Request” by Lawrence Raab
“On Death, Without Exaggeration” by Wislawa Szymborska
“Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins
“Sentimental Moment or Why Did the Baguette Cross the Road” by Robert Hershon
“Days” by Billy Collins
“Horizon” by Billy Collins
“Thesaurus” by Billy Collins
“While Eating a Pear” by Billy Collins
“Tomorrow” by David Budbill

At our first poetry reading at our house two years ago, Florence read poems written by her friend who was dying of breast cancer. Much like Florence, she refused conventional treatment when it was determined that she could not get well, and instead lived out the rest of her life enjoying the company of friends and writing heartfelt poetry. Even then, her choice of poetry showed that Florence was not afraid to look at the specter of death.

Here’s the text for “Request”:

For a long time I was sure
it should be “Jumping Jack Flash,” then
the adagio from Schubert’s C major Quintet,
but right now I want Oscar Peterson’s

“You look good to me.” That’s my request.
Play it at the end of the service,
after my friends have spoken.
I don’t believe I’ll be listening in,

but sitting here I’m imagining
you could be feeling what I’d like to feel –
defiance from the Stones, grief
and resignation with Schubert, but now

Peterson and Ray Brown are making
the moment sound like some kind
of release. Sad enough
at first, but doesn’t it slide into

tapping your feet, then clapping
your hands, maybe standing up
in that shadowy hall in Paris
in the late sixties when this was recorded,

getting up and dancing
as I would not have done,
and being dead, cannot, but might
wish for you, who would then

understand what a poem – or perhaps only
the making of a poem, just that moment
when it starts, when so much
is still possible –

has allowed me to feel.
Happy to be there. Carried away.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Reluctant Feedback

On the final day for our performance reviews, I realized I hadn't had one. I asked my boss's secretary if I was on her calendar for a review that day, to which she replied that the boss had handed her back all the forms saying she was finished.

I began to wonder if she had just forged my signature in the hope of continuing her current habit of avoiding me at all cost.

Then I got an e-mail message from the boss asking me to stop by between 11 and 1 for my review. Was it going to take 2 hours?

I showed up at 11 and sat down at her table. She whipped out the form, made a single statement to the effect of "You've been doing a great job" while not really looking at me and asked me to sign the form.

I was utterly incredulous. I know she really doesn't understand what I do, but this little charade was an insult to the term "performance review".

I signed and walked out 3 minutes after I had walked in, just shaking my head in disbelief.

I'm still wondering what her game plan was if I hadn't asked. Was she going to turn in the unsigned form, hoping no one would notice until I was long gone? Was she going to sign for me?

I'll never know, but it really doesn't matter. I've gotten my report card for this term. I suppose I passed, although there was no clear indication.

It's a good thing money is not doled out on the basis of this rating.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Welcoming CYA

CYA is alive and well at my agency. Apparently the issues I raised at the meeting with the BIG boss, the meeting where I declared by departure, didn’t end there.
At a meeting last week purposely held when I wasn’t available (Darfur vigil), my boss announced that BECAUSE I HAD GONE TO SEE THE BIG BOSS, a (high-price) contractor had been engaged to check out some of the problems I had mentioned. The "gang of four" apparently blanched and started arguing that we didn’t need outsiders to be scrutinizing our work. If I had been there, I would have been wearing a huge smile on my face as I said YES! Instead after the fact, I pledged to my boss my intention to cooperate fully with the contractor.
Yesterday was the first meeting with the contractor. It was extremely interesting to see how the participants positioned themselves at the large 4-sided table. The expensive-suited contractors were on one side. My staff and I were on the second side. My boss seated herself among the "gang of four", just about as far away from me as she could possibly sit. Then there was the COTR for the contractor who works directly for the BIG boss. So far she seems rather neutral.
My boss seemed quite nervous as she made the opening remarks. At one point she sort of laughed a little nervous laugh and declared that she knew nothing of the technical details. That couldn’t be more true. The "gang of four" had rather grim looks on their faces.
My confidence was buoyed as the head contractor began to speak. As he invited us to send him documentation including things like requirements and test plans, I realized I was finally dealing with someone who understood "processing best practices".
One of the gang got on his soapbox and pleaded that he shouldn’t need to supply any documentation because he had done similar work for another application. The contractor quickly shut him down and didn’t buy it.
I spent the rest of the day pulling together a boatload of documentation and shipping it off to the contractor. I rather enjoyed this, looking at it as a possibility to totally vindicate myself on the way out the door.
The real highlight of my day was my visit to my division’s retirement specialist to turn in my paperwork. I stared in disbelief at a folder two inches thick that contained every personnel action for my 36-year career. As I signed on the dotted line, it all became real. On the long walk back to my office, I think I was skipping. I know I was smiling.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Blogs that Make Me Smile

I have been worrying all day about all the great Blogs that make me think that I failed to mention yesterday. So if you write one of them, please forgive me. I actually have a special place in my heart for a couple that not only make me think but perhaps more importantly make me SMILE!

Steve became a reader just before I took off for France last year. He is an ex-chef who obviously knows a lot about cooking. He was right there with me every day, tasting my way through Provence and Paris. He writes stories of past and present that depict a person who really knows how to have fun, but who has screwed up just a few times in life in often funny ways. He talks lovingly of his ex-wife, his daughter, and several key girlfriends (or potential girlfriends). I go read Steve when I want to be entertained.

Which is a good segue to Velvet in Dupont. I am still in mourning over the fact that Velvet is no more. Her Blog was a mainstay of DC Blogs. It was cast as a dating Blog and while Velvet was on the loose, it was even looser. There were some really X-rated episodes. I lived vicariously through each and every one of them. At one point Velvet even sent me one of her toys so I could experience some things first-hand, so to speak. When she wasn’t talking about dating, there was the totally disfunctional Velvet family, featuring Gloom and Doom. The DC Cops were always a welcome break from an overdose of sex and drinking. I really miss this one, which took just an avatar to put a smile on my face.

Now I will quit citing others and return to my life, which is currently racing toward May 3 at breakneck speed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Blogs that Make You Think

The meme of the week seems to be Blogs that make you think. I found myself nominated by both Golden Silence and Mother of Invention. I asked myself why, after recent posts had dipped to a new low level on topics ranging from dog poop collection to nothing to write about. But nonetheless I was honored that these readers and others keep checking in.
So now it’s my turn to nominate Blogs that make me think. I seem to have developed a fairly close-knit Blogger community, so many of the people GS and MOI nominated are my favorites too. However, there are more that they didn’t mention. So here are my nominees:
MediaConcepts: I met Matt at the last big Blogger happy hour I attended. I hated the place, some bar in the Dupont area which started with a "G". But it was worth it to discover his Blog, if nothing else. He’s now living out west and many of his posts take on the flavor of southern California. He rants about things that matter and then throws in a humorous post just to balance the rants. He does his homework and finds/takes great pictures. He’s one of my favorite male Bloggers.
Draw-Conclusions-on-the-Wall: This is not a paid endorsement, although David is my husband. He has always been a great writer. His 6 posts over his first year of Blogging illustrated that. Now he’s posting on a more regular basis. He is one of the most technically savvy people I know, so he of course has migrated to Wordpress and customized his Blog to the limit. But he also has interesting things to say. He throws out ethical and moral questions. Then he too reverts to taking movies of our silly prodigal dog.
InfiniteConnections: Aileen appeared on the Blogging scene sometime last year. No one I know has met her, but she has acquired quite a following. I recently told someone that I view her as the next Washington Cube. She offers real life situations which pull at your heart strings and make you remember similar times in your past. She cuts to the chase and tells it like it is. I loved her recent post about male Bloggers. Any time you come to Infinite Connections you know there will be something of substance.
Avocado-in-Paradise: She is a young one, easily young enough to be my daughter. But she writes with a maturity that belies her age. Her taste in topics is extensive, but includes many of the same things I write about. She occasionally offers up a U-tube gem, always a good way to entertain. I hope she stays with the DC Blogging community.
GoldPoppy: Reya offers us the world in pictures with reality turned on its head. She has this unique way of looking at things that is almost kaleidoscopic (is that a word?) Reya was the person who enticed me to Blog, and even though our Blogs are as different as night and day, we both have a similar track record in publishing frequency. You can fly high and dip low with Reya. You can never be sure what the day’s ride will offer.
Ulysses: Here’s a new Blog that sports only a handful of posts, but they are the kind that leave images in your head and give you something to chew on for days. He is a master at dialogue and there is obviously a romantic heart of gold under that big burley exterior. Go read Ulysses when you have more than a minute or two because he writes a novel with every post. But they are all certainly worth the read.
I read so many other great Blogs, some daily, some here and there. But these are just a few of my favorites that were not covered by those who "sponsored" me. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
And if you were mentioned above, it's now your turn!

Monday, March 26, 2007

One at a Time

How many of us are congratulating ourselves for our abilities to do more than one thing at once? Kristin told me just the other day how she can read a book while she walks home from the Metro or wherever. I write Blog posts while I am attending meetings these days. Most of the world has a cell phone or an ear pod permanently affixed to their ear.
But yesterday’s article in the NY Times suggests that while we think we are beating the system, the evidence isn’t so convincing. The article offered several simple pieces of advice:
(1) Check e-mail messages only once an hour.
(2) Listening to soothing background music while studying is fine, but avoid songs with words.
(3) Driving while talking on a cell phone, even with a hands-free headset, is a bad idea.
These are suggestions for managing technology, not eliminating it, as it lures us to click and dial and tune in.
This all has to do with how our brains function. We simply are not able to concentrate on two things at once. One is always getting short shrift. Studies at Vanderbilt University showed much better results for both children and adults who were given tasks sequentially as opposed to at the same time. Surprisingly even though older people think more slowly, they seem better equipped to block out interruptions and choose what to focus on. The real problem comes in how long it takes people to get back on task after they are diverted.
We are still in our infancy in terms of learning how to manage and utilize all the various forms of technology at our fingertips. But we must be respectful of the brain’s ability to deal with this barrage of information if we are to manage digital communication efficiently.
I’m trying the once an hour e-mail check today as a first attempt at putting this into practice.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Oh Happy Day

Nobody, but nobody, thinks of Jewish music as choral music. Instead, the image is of a male cantor with an operatic voice singing traditional melodies with lots of embellishments.

Today we traded in that image for an experience to sing the music of composer Simon Sargon with 200 other local Jewish voices from 10 congregations. And even more special was the fact that as the composer in residence this weekend, he was the conductor.

Sargon is a professor of composition at Southern Methodist University and for many years was the Director of Music at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas. He is one of the pre-eminent composers of contemporary Jewish liturgical music.

This type of event always points out what non-conformists we at Temple Micah are. Our instructions were to wear whatever we liked, whereas other choirs came uniformed in black and white, or with matching tallit, or with some other planned “look”. We just looked happy.

As luck would have it our piece was Yom Gila (happy day). We were arranged in a semicircle with Teddy singing bass as well as conducting. We knew to get our heads out of the music, to watch, and to smile. Simon Sargon beamed after the final note of our piece, which of course he had composed.

We also did 3 pieces with the group, all 200 of us on the bima at the upscale Temple Sinai, where the congregation tops 1,000 families. All of the choirs learned the music ahead of time, getting together before the concert to work with Simon Sargon on polishing it. It is always nice to know what the composer really intended.

It’s interesting to see some of the same faces every time we get together for one of these choir-fests. But in addition today I saw my friend Elizabeth’s sister and her husband and a woman from the agency where I work.

Make a joyful noise we did this afternoon. It was one of the highlights of my choir year.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

That Was the Week That Was

Well, this has certainly been a roller coaster week. So what did I learn?

– My decision to retire was well-timed. I see the whole office infrastructure becoming tenuous and people are saying things like “I wish I could join you.”
– Some of my staff are questioning whether they want to stay on under the current regime.
– My ego is soaring as people hear my news and stop by my office to say nice things.
– The jerks are still just as jerky as ever.
– Diplomatic cars NEVER beep their horns when they see the “Save Darfur” posters. They either don’t have hearts and brains or they are under strict orders not to take a side.
– Parking meters in Chinatown (DC) must be fed until 9:30 PM. I paid the $25 ticket which I got when I went to the Blogger Meetup.
– I must NEVER EVER leave the gate without the safety latch on because Jake checks every time he goes out.
– Jake knows how to come home.
– Dylan still does not.
– 24 hours is not enough time in which to declare a dog or a person dead and gone. Not even 36.
– There are anonymous angels out there doing things like reporting stranded dogs. Thank you to the one who saved Dylan from his entrapment.
– Dylan is a lot more spry that I thought. He may be with us for quite a while longer.
– The owners of dogs without a license in Fairfax County are subject to a $100 if their dogs have to be picked up by Animal Welfare. We're trying to work a deal on this one.
– I’m learning how NOT to plan a party. I picked my favorite foods instead of a theme of related foods. My patient party planner is slowly steering me in the right direction. We’re going for Cinco de Mayo (date and food).
– A gray blank day does not inspire a blank mind to write much of anything worth reading, so instead this is all you get for today. Maybe tomorrow will have some color and texture to it that will inspire me to write something interesting.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Time to Die

I wonder if a dog could have a sense of the impending death of another companion dog? I wonder if that’s what prompted the escape yesterday of Jake and Dylan?
Dylan had continued to decline over the past 6 months. His weight was down from 80 pounds to a mere 65 pounds. I feared every morning when I came down the stairs that he would not be able to get his aging hips to support his weight. Perhaps Jake was noticing these things as well.
Maybe they had a conversation in dog language when they went outside after their breakfast that went something like this:
J: How ‘ya feeling today?
D: My hips hurt and I can’t see much of anything, but other than that I guess I’m OK.
J: If I can work this lock, want to make a break for it, you know one more fling out in the wild?
D: Sure, do your thing and let’s go before she opens the door again.
I never realized as I fed Dylan yesterday that it might be my last glimpse of him.
I wasn’t convinced that Dylan could walk even a few blocks, so that is why I was most surprised when they simply vanished. There are woods and wild places in multiple directions from my house, so even though I drove around looking for them, it was no surprise that I didn’t find them.
It was 9 hours later, around 4:00, when I was at my computer looking out the front window, that I spied Jake meandering into the yard, by himself. He had never left Dylan before, so I immediately became alarmed.
After he had some water and rested for a few minutes, we put his leash on and went out for what turned into a LONG walk, constantly telling Jake to FIND DYLAN and letting him lead us. Jake has the nose of a bloodhound, so there was never any doubt as to which way to go.
It was only when we got to the point at which Holmes Run, a small creek, crosses over a concrete spillway that Jake seemed to lose the scent. Had he and Dylan come together to this point? Had Dylan lost his footing on the slick moss-covered spillway and fallen into the deep water on the other side? There was no evidence of him anywhere, but Jake was done and we walked home, asking all passersby on the trail if they had seen an old black dog. People offered their encouragement, their prayers, but no one had any news for us.
We continued to jump every time the phone rang last night, but there were simply no calls about Dylan’s whereabouts. I started to think the worst, hoping that whatever happened, he had gone peacefully and without a struggle. I worried about the fox that we know lives in the woods. Even though he is bigger than the fox, I’m sure the fox is younger and still has his sight. My real hope was that he had simply run himself to death and curled up to drift peacefully off.
It was almost as if Jake had offered Dylan an honorable death. It would have been only a matter of time until I had to take him into the vet’s office to be put to sleep when he could no longer stand up. I can’t think of a worse way to go than by lethal injection in the sterility of an animal hospital.
My heart still aches for this dog who had been my constant companion for 13 years, who had never shown his teeth to man or beast, who had put up with the likes of Jake, and who embodied the meaning of the label "perfect dog".
Jake is in mourning too. I left him barking a very woeful bark this morning as I headed off to work, so unlike him. He will miss pushing his brother out of the way when a handout was offered. He will likely be depressed to be the only dog now.
But maybe, just maybe, he was responsible for easing Dylan out of this world in style.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Oh where oh where have my little dogs gone?

Finding the gate unlatched when I open the side door to bring in the dogs always leaves me with a sick feeling. Good God, they’ve escaped again!

It happened just before 7:00 AM today, just as I was about to leave for work. This wasn’t the first time. Jake is the Houdini, who figures out how to get the gate open. We have taken to using a secondary lock on the latch, just because he is so good. But apparently it wasn’t on this morning.

In the past they have gone as a pair in every conceivable direction, and they never come home of their own accord. Nice people normally find them and then call the number on their tags or take them to a local shelter or even bring them home. It usually takes just a couple of hours. But today it has been 8 hours and we haven’t yet received a phone call.

I’ve called all 3 local animal welfare groups – Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax – carefully describing the dogs, their collars, their ages, their color, their weight and asking them to call me immediately if they show up. But so far no calls.

Dylan is so old and blind at 13 that I really worry about him. I keep imagining him collapsed in a small black pile somewhere in the woods. His hips are bad and his stamina left long ago.

Jake on the other hand is in much better shape and could run for quite a while before getting tired. In the past he has never left Dylan. I picture him hovering over Dylan and urging him to get up and run.

Then my thoughts wander to dogs who have tangled with cars and then I just have to stop thinking. My dogs are not street smart because they are never off leash.

Missing dogs make my work problems pale in comparison. The only thing that might be worse would be missing children.

Every time the phone rings, I am so hopeful. But so far there are no calls from nice strangers.

My heart is aching for those guys to come back. Oh, please....

(The above picture is not my dog but rather a lookalike for Jake, so don't try calling...)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Irony of It All

Remember that young boss I had last year – the one I thought might not give me my promotion? I had an interesting talk with her on Monday that confirmed how much I miss her.
She had been brought in when my boss of 12 years had decided to retire last year. At 34 she was 20 years younger than any of us senior people whom she was supervising. I worried that she might judge me to be "over the hill" and pick someone much younger for the promotion that I was applying for. She did everything by the book completely, but in the end I got the job (that I had been doing forever).
Then last fall when the position she was acting in was converted to an SES position, we all thought she would be selected, since she had been doing such a good job. But in their infinite wisdom the powers that be brought in an outsider (my current boss) and shipped the young one off for a 4-month rotation in another agency.
That was the point at which my job world started to change. I can trace it almost to the day.
The young one has kept touch through e-mail, offering me encouragement and support. I was so touched because it was entirely unnecessary.
She was here just for Monday afternoon. Late in the day we had a heart-to-heart talk in her office with the door closed. She first offered me her congratulations and then her eyes welled up as she told me how very sorry she was that my saga had ended as it did. She recognized the fact that I seemed to be the only one left who would speak the truth if it went against the party line. She confided that the retired boss had been feeding her all sorts of ammunition to use in support of me. She revealed that she had independently offered the same solution I was pushing to the current boss – the solution that was rejected. She expressed concern for her own future in this agency that seems to be changing before our very eyes.
She offered a hug and then asked how my party plans were coming along.
I find it so ironic that this person who is young enough to be my daughter could be so incredibly supportive, even in her absence. This is the sort of reassurance I have been so desperate for that no one else has offered. I’m so glad our paths crossed this week.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Another May Party

My mind recently flashed back to a legendary party of long ago. This reminder was prompted by a question from my good friend, who is turning out to be an excellent party planner. She asked me to describe the perfect party and instantly May 5, 1973, came to mind.
I lived in a group house with 4 other women, one guy, and assorted random other people from time to time in a wealthy part of DC. We were all in our mid-20's. We were all somewhat poor, working on starting salaries (mine was $9,300 a year). But we never worried about money and a high priority was eating, drinking, and having a good time.
At that time Nard's (run by a guy named Nardello) was a DJ company specializing in oldies that regularly played in places like Whitby's and Hawk and Dove. We hired Nard's for our party and our back yard became the dance floor.
We carefully canvassed the neighborhood ahead of time, asking these upper class people to call us before they called the cops. Among these neighbors were Art Buchwald and Congressman Jim Symington. We as renters were a definite novelty in Wesley Heights. They all smiled and agreed, probably remembering such parties at an earlier era in their lives.
I never remember thinking about the possibility of rain. How could anyone dare rain on our party? And of course the weather was perfect.
I don't remember food as a high priority. I'm sure there were enormous quantities of chips and other junk food and I do remember making my mother's onion dip. There was no shortage of things to drink, most on the alcoholic side.
David came to the party with his hair hanging down to his shoulders. At that point, he was just another work friend. I think he brought the bottle of gin that rendered him the drunkest I have ever seen him.
But meanwhile we danced to the music of Nard's, making our requests for those songs we held so dear. And we danced for hours, taking up money to extend their contract. That's when I first realized just how much David loved Higher and Higher by Jackie Wilson. (Maybe that's our song, Aileen.)
At one point a DC cop did show up. My very capable roommate Dick invited him in, steering him clear of the room where a lot of "smoking" was going on. He was only too happy to have a drink and leave us alone.
David's "higher and higher" finally crashed around 2:00 AM and I realized that he was in no shape to drive home. So our first night together was not one of ecstacy, but rather a drunken stupor as we collapsed together into my single bed. I suppose it was intimacy by definition of space. As we nursed our hangovers the next morning over glasses of orange juice and I popped by BC pill out of habit, I could see the light bulb going off in his head. Ohhh...
After a long description of the May 5 party and my desire to recreate the same atmosphere, my party planning friend said to me, "Let's see. You were 24 years old, right? Do you think anyone at your retirement party will want to dance?" Now there's a jolt back to reality. Maybe not.
If Steve were here, he would dance, but it's hard for me to picture some of my other guests on the dance floor. Maybe I should invest heavily in gin. But not for David, who turns green at the thought of drinking gin after that night.
We'll see. Do you think 50-something's would dance? Oldies? Ballroom? Swing? What type of music?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Piles and Piles of It

Having young children and dogs has this odd effect of making you view poop differently. In the first half of my life I felt slightly ill at the sight or smell of poop of any sort, but the kids and the dogs in combination with a declining sense of smell have rendered me fairly insensitive to one of the facts of life.

In this vein, I set out yesterday with large shopping bags and yellow latex gloves to rid the back yard of dog poop. Let’s see – 8 months of 2 dogs even going once a day would be nearly 500 piles of poop. Some had probably managed to decompose into the yard, but the back yard was still a veritable mine field of dog poop.

So for a good hour – long enough to make my back ache – I bent over repeatedly to pick up each and every one of those little brown turds left behind by my two faithful companions who have never mastered the art of going down to the woods, preferring instead to squat on the grass. Even as I scooped, Jake came by to show me just how it all got there.

I finished the clean-up with 2 large bags heavy to the point of almost breaking. I calculate at least 25 pounds of dog poop.

I just hope the garbage man doesn’t look too closely at what’s in our big blue trashcan this week. He may not have too look – his nose may give it away!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Inheriting Time

The prospect of my time truly being my own is unbelievably liberating, but at the same time just a little scary. It’s like that feeling of looking at a totally blank screen and being told you can write whatever you want.

Since I was 18 years old I have worked anywhere from 20 to 60 hours a week. Work has taken up a big chunk of my time. I have been able to postpone or not do things because I had this excuse of work.

Last Friday was a trial balloon for me. I woke up with a slightly allergic headache and called in sick. That mean 9 hours of unscheduled time. I had no problem in figuring out what to do with it. I also didn’t get out of my pajamas until 5:00 in the afternoon. That part will need to change.

I found myself wondering today if I would develop a pattern to my day – perhaps

Get up
Breakfast with the newspaper
Write in my Blog
Play with the dogs outside or take them for a walk
Practice piano
Read my book club book

Meet a friend for lunch
Take a bike ride
Visit a museum
Clean some part of the house
Plan a trip
Volunteer in some capacity

I want to make sure that whatever “schedule” I come up with is subject to change on short notice or no notice at all, perhaps just on a whim.

I do want to make sure I don’t go around looking like a slob all day long even if I don’t need to leave the house.

This transition is going to be interesting. It can really only happen when I am free from the current work dilemmas that at least now have a date for closure. When I can put that era of my life in deep storage, I can finally move on more pleasant thoughts like how to use all the free time I suddenly have at my disposal.

We humans struggle with transition, but I think this will be one that can only improve my quality of LIFE!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Semper Fi

As I drove past the Marine Barracks while going to meet a friend for lunch, I was reminded of a feeling of patriotism that my family has not known first-hand in recent years.

A big burly somewhat older guy emerged from a large car parked next to the curb. The car had a DV license plate and a sticker in the window that said “Served in Combat”. It was adorned in other ways to make it quite clear that this Marine’s life still evolved about the fact that he had served his country, probably in the Viet Nam War.

He walked around the car and watched as a young man in fatigues approached. He raised his hand in a salute to his son who then returned the salute. It was a moment that said so much about this family that I will never know.

My father was proud to have served in World War II and in the Korean War. But sometime after that point, serving in the military went out of vogue for most of the upper middle class. My husband and his friends and all my guy friends at school prayed for a high draft number and made contingency plans to go to Canada or grad school. My son never gave so much as a thought to enlisting in the service.

The reason for this shift all has to do with our growing discontent with wars for the wrong reasons. We live in a country that uses threats of terrorism to control a public that is too uninformed to question what they are told.

But it was obvious there is still a multi-generational feeling of willingness to serve, whatever the fight, whatever the stakes.

My parting thought for this family was that I hoped that young man would come home from wherever his service took him with all his limbs and senses intact. I wondered if his son too would be a Marine.

Friday, March 16, 2007

About a Boat

Some people remember the greatest details of their dreams. I have never had that ability. I’m lucky even to remember who was in a dream. BUT, when I meditate I sometimes go into this dream-like state in which I am conscious and amazing fantasies play out in vivid color and detail. I have no trouble remembering such moments, which are probably just that.

Wednesday night’s sit once again invoked the image of a boat. It was just a little rowboat. I was in the boat and I think my husband was too, although he didn’t figure heavily into this dream. The odd thing about my little boat was that it was surrounded by a veritable sea of life preservers. It would have been impossible to fall overboard without touching half a dozen of them. WHEW! I was safe.

My little boat was moving slowly away from the shore, not powered by the oars that usually move a rowboat, but it was instead being towed by a couple of dolphins who swam out front with their bottle noses up in the air carrying ropes from the boat. I looked off on the far horizon and saw that the red buoy was still there in the distance but that we were moving in the opposite direction.

Then I glanced at the shore to find a whole cast of characters I knew only too well. There was Reya doing a little shamanic dance. Deborah was playing her bass and this time it was no longer a minor key. Bill and Kris were trying to find their own boat so they could come with us. Linda and Michael were working a deal with Frequent Flyer miles and said they would meet us there.

But where was THERE? The destination wasn’t even important. The image of the moment was all that mattered. The feelings of safety and love of friends and family and utter contentment were the perfect accompaniment for a little rowboat slowly going out to sea.

Breathe in. Breathe out. And do it again and again and again.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lunch by Invitation Only

I just can’t resist passing on a conversation I had with one of the group I so unaffectionately think of as "The Gang of Four", those people who have made my life so miserable over the past 4 months. This one is a GUY, not one of the 2 B___s.
GUY was sitting in my office telling me how I should be doing yet another part of my job.
ME: Well, I won’t be around to implement this, so I guess someone else will just have to deal with it.
GUY: What? Are you leaving?
ME: Yeah, I’m retiring.
GUY: When?
ME: May 3.
GUY: Congratulations. Are you going to have a lunch?
ME: Yeah, for some people.
GUY: Who is going to be invited?
ME: Those people who have been nice to me.
I resisted the temptation to say "and that does not include you".
So here is where I am with planning my getaway. I decided to have a series of small brown-bag lunches with various groups of people with whom I’ve enjoyed working over the past 35 years. The deal will be that I will bring the salad and they can bring whatever else they want to eat. It’s not really about the food, but about reminiscing, so I can leave here with a bunch of pleasant memories.
I’m also going to have a really nice dinner party at my house that will include three of my former bosses, the best secretary in the world (Rosa – are you reading this?), some of my closest friends, and of course my husband. Although this started out a little rocky because of the issue of cost (I won’t say any more), I’ve now decided to make all the food and hire people to tend bar, serve, and clean up. It will be a delicious evening.
As GUY walked out, he couldn’t wait to tell me how I could buy SAS for my home computer so I could prepare for my work life after retirement. I responded that I planned to NEVER write another computer program after I retire, that I was actually intending to GET A LIFE!
A number of things this week have confirmed that I am definitely making the right decision. Meanwhile I’m looking forward to sharing coffee or whatever with one of my favorite Bloggers, a party planning lunch with my best friend on Saturday, and a future that is looking very bright. As someone I know always says, ONWARD and UPWARD!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Content to be a Slacker

I’m taking a break from gloom and doom to announce that I have finally learned how to do something I thought impossible: go to class and just ignore the homework. After all these years of Type-A behavior and over achieving, I have proven that I can be a complete slacker and still fool the teacher.

Last fall when my friend Reya introduced me to Miriam and told me about her level 2 Hebrew class at Temple Micah, my first reaction was: NO! I don’t need another activity in my over-burdened life, and I would never have time to prepare for class – to do the homework.

But out of curiosity I decided to go to just one class. I’m not all that proficient in Hebrew, but even though the class was already on Chapter 4, I knew enough of the stuff they were doing to fake it actually quite well.

You see I have a head for languages. During my lifetime, I have studied Latin, French, Spanish, German, Norwegian, and a little Hebrew. With all of them, you come to understand how the grammar works and some of the constructs of the language and then it starts to make sense.

Hebrew is actually not a difficult language. It’s based on a system of roots. Many words will then be derived from the same root. It’s sort of like word families, where they are all somewhat related.

After the first class when I hadn’t managed to embarrass myself too much, I talked to Miriam and said I might come again, but that I didn’t have time to do homework. She quickly said, "That’s OK. Just come to class."

And so I have been going most every week since November. I really look forward to Tuesday night now. We first have the equivalent of an "assembly" with the Hebrew 1 class taught by the Rabbi. It’s always a vigorous fast-paced (if you know Toby, you know what I mean) lecture that gets us ready for our smaller classes.

We have around 12 people in our Hebrew 2 class. They are not always the same faces from one week to the next. Class opens with a little ritual of saying the Hebrew prayer for studying the Torah and then singing (yes I said singing) the Aleph Bet (Hebrew alphabet) – remember the ABC song? Then we read and translate some sections of the current week’s Torah portion (something in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). We then work on reading and translating some part of the Shabbat morning service. Finally we look at the textbook, which tries to make sense of the grammar.

This revelation that I can actually do NOTHING in between class and just show up guilt-free is a completely new and wonderful feeling. Studying just for the sake of learning with no thought of the grade at the end of the course is liberating.

This all makes me wonder how much more fun I could have had through years of school if I had just trusted that I was smart enough to keep up and not do all that miserable homework! It just proves it’s never too late to learn how to learn!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

With a Heavy Heart

Today my heart is heavy. I mean really heavy. It's as though the blood and anger have been drained and replaced by some heavy cold metal.

After THE BIG MEETING yesterday, I totally understand how a leader in a country with a parliamentary system feels when he or she loses a vote of confidence. It's this feeling of total rejection, where you continue to ask yourself, "Why didn't they believe in me?"

It's interesting that until the moment of truth yesterday, I had a small hope that the two bosses would finally say something to the effect of: "We now get what you've been saying. You have our full support. Go back and do your job." But instead, it was obvious to me that the decision had already been made prior to my meeting. They continued to say: "We agree with much of what you are saying, but we are still choosing to do this other thing. We also acknowledge that you have been quite unfairly treated by these other people, but there's nothing at all that we can do about it." At which point, I found myself wondering why in the world I would want to work for people with this mentality under any circumstance.

I left work yesterday in somewhat of a blur. Fortunately I was on my way to play duets with Deborah. What better medicine to clear my mind and put things in perspective!

Deborah and I had an interesting discussion about retirement. Whereas I was eligible to retire with full benefits at age 55 with 25 years of service, her retirement is totally up to her. As a physician, her plan is one she has to create for herself. She can't really contemplate retirement until age 65. This makes my current situation rather enviable from her point of view.

We spent a productive hour working on the JC Bach Adagio for piano and double bass. It seemed appropriate that it was in a minor key. It was never more beautiful than yesterday. As I played I recognized that retirement will give me an opportunity to play more and more music with Deborah and with others.

For people with no life outside the office, retirement is like a death sentence, the beginning of the end. For me, however, it can be a reaffirming life sentence, the beginning of a new era in my life that is overflowing with exciting things to do.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to get a transfusion of new blood that will revitalize my heavy heart, that will replace the solid metal with something that affirms the meaning of the rest of my life.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Coming to Closure (Finally)

How does Friday, April 13, sound? It seems to me like a good enough day to retire. Everything finally came to a head today and although I didn’t leave the rescheduled meeting with this decision cast in concrete, it seems inevitable.

Several times the Big Boss said to me, “I can’t believe you are willing to fall on your sword over this,” to which I responded, “Believe it. I can only do my job if you give me your support and right now I don’t feel I have it. So I simply must leave.”

I felt emboldened by extra energy from friends who knew this was happening. I held my head high and never once even thought about tears. Instead I was proud that I could stand my ground, that I could clearly articulate my case, and that I could make good on my promise.

Obviously their surprise indicated they didn’t actually believe I would leave. But there were no counter-proposals, no attempts to placate me. So the writing is now on the wall and soon to be on the official documents.

I just realized today that I don’t have the slightest idea how to retire! I never went to those pre-retirement courses that most people take around the time they turn 50. I was always too busy doing my job. But tomorrow I will find out.

The nice thing about retirement is they cannot do anything to stop you. It’s not like a lateral assignment, where they don’t have to release you. This is one where the employee calls the shots.

I just sent my boss a note with the date that also said,

“I am requesting no announcement, no lunch, no open house, no cards. I will say my goodbyes to those who have supported me over my 35-year career at the _______.

This is not how I envisioned leaving, but I cannot stay in a place where I don’t sense the support and respect of those above me.”

So there you have it. A little part of me feels sad. But my overwhelming emotion is a sense of relief that this is finally coming to closure and I can move on with my life, as they say on the soaps.

As of this moment I can turn my attention to planning a party. With some advice from friends, I have a start on that. But I must now find a place in the DC area that can accommodate a party for 100 or so with yummy hors d’oeuvres-y food and drinks for all tastes. Maybe even dancing? This part is going to be fun! Let me know if you have any suggestions!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

When Are Exceptions Justifiable?

New information about our brains has the potential to revolutionize the legal system in this country. So says an article in the NY Times Magazine today.

It used to be that only by reason of insanity was a person let off the hook or given a lesser sentence after committing a heinous crime. But consider a man in New York who strangled his wife to death and then threw her body off the 12th story of a building to make her death appear to be suicide. Prior to his trial an MRI indicated he had a brain cyst. The judge allowed the finding of the cyst to be admitted as evidence, but disallowed any statement that such a cyst could turn a person into a killer. Instead of being put behind bars for life, he was charged with manslaughter and given a reduced sentence by the jury.

The same article went on to say that research into our brains has shown that many of our thoughts are written clearly enough for someone to read without our ever uttering a word. WHEW! That’s actually pretty scary. I can envision a whole new genre of law that deals with nothing but evidence gleaned from our brains – neurolaw or something like that.

This whole thing started me thinking about how we treat people with various disabilities in the workplace. I’ve had several of these types of employees over the years – one who was mentally unbalanced, one who was practically paralyzed with back pain and was on heavy-duty narcotic painkillers, one who had a whole battery of related problems that caused him to miss a lot of work, and a fourth who had ADD.

The real issue with these disabled employees is whether we can hold them to the same standards as those who don’t have such problems. It can become increasingly difficult to make work assignments that are commensurate with those given other people at their same grade level because these people often have a track record of turning up absent or not meeting deadlines.

But then if they are given preferential treatment, doesn’t that mean that the other employees are making up for the fact that they can’t perform equally?

It’s a tricky wicket, whether in the legal system or in the workplace, to decide when to recognize a condition that perhaps makes a person different from others in meting out a sentence or in making a work assignment or in evaluating a person’s performance.

All men (persons) might have been created equal, but some become less equal, and the issue becomes how we deal with that inequality. This post contains more unanswered questions than it suggests answers.

Any thoughts?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Living on Borrowed Time

If you found out that you had an inoperable malignant brain tumor and your days were numbered, how would you plan to spend them? This is the case for our petite 91-year-old friend Florence, the inspiration for Poetry by the Light of the Moon. We spent the afternoon with her and I came away more impressed than ever with this woman who has risen above many a crisis, but whose days are definitely numbered with this one.

One of the first signs of this invasive cancer was a loss of vision and balance, which were definitely evidenced a couple of months ago when we had Florence over for Shabbat dinner. She couldn’t see much of what was in front of her and imagined things that were not. I could tell just how frightening this was to her.

With this vision loss in mind, we decided to take her a small bag of things to thrill her remaining senses: fragrant body lotion, sumptuous chocolate truffles, and two books on tape to occupy her time. I’ve always heard that blind people rely on their other senses to compensate for their loss of sight. I hope this will be true in Florence’s case as well.

She is so wise in her approach to this disease. And she is fully knowledgeable of the gravity of it. Instead of opting for surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, she is taking prednisone to decrease the swelling in her brain and gathering her family and friends around like warm blankets to give her comfort. She has no pain currently, just diminishing sight, balance, and motor ability.

She is living at home with her daughter Lydia who has come back from Boston to take care of her mom. Lydia is an accomplished cook and an artist. The whole family are brilliant – cultured, well-read, and compassionate.

We spent the afternoon sipping tea and feasting on a pear tart that Lydia had made. We didn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on Florence’s predicament, choosing instead to talk about upcoming election candidates, the fact that children are being robbed of time to play, how to make garam masala, the loss of civil liberties, and the potential for life elsewhere in our galaxy. How’s that for a variety of topics?

Before leaving I volunteered to gather people Florence knows and loves for a poetry reading at her house. Her face lit up and I could see her starting to think about what she would read, or perhaps what she would choose for someone else to read.

Her son, who is a scientist, followed us out to our car. He admitted to being unprepared to deal with the emotional aspect of what’s to come as he watches his mother’s brain be paralyzed by a growing tumor. He’s scared, but he and the rest of the family are the best line of support anyone could ask for.

If I were in Florence’s place, I would probably be arranging for a quick escape route when I felt it was time to go. I’m not sure I would be willing to let nature take it’s gruesome course.

But for now, Florence continues to embrace life with a fervor that is enviable. And just what was I complaining about last week?

Friday, March 09, 2007

I Hope No One Saw This

Just as I was about to drop the banana in the mailbox on the way to work, instead of the Netflix mailer, I realized that I am seriously DISTRACTED!

Maybe it was tossing and turning all last night. Maybe it was just an indication that my mind is often not on what I’m doing these days.

As I peeled my banana for a mid-morning snack, I was glad it hadn’t disappeared into the mailbox. Actually the surprised mail handler would never have known the identity of the nutcase who mailed it. But then I couldn’t eat a Netflix movie for a snack either.

Rescued just in the nick of time...

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Like a Volcano with Dry Heaves

I’m still burning with anger, but I no longer have any steam. That’s what I realized today when my friend and colleague urged me to write up the whole work saga as one last-ditch attempt to convince people. I think I’ve become enamored with that list of things from yesterday, to the point where I’ve lost my desire to fight.

I thought you were supposed to be down to navel-gazing before retirement, without a single meaningful, necessary thing to do. Instead I find myself putting in ungodly hours, working through lunch, to prepare for what is looking more likely to be my exodus. I met with my staff today and told them about the possibility so that they wouldn’t hear about it from someone else. They sort of blanched and the one whom I always joke about as being so conservative that he wears a belt and suspenders simply said, “Holy moly!”

These are the people I will most regret leaving. I had really intended to spend the next two years gradually turning more and more of what I currently do over to them in an orderly fashion. Instead it may simply be dumped on them as I scurry out the door.

I had a bizarre phone call yesterday from B___ #1's boss. He implored me to just try to be nice to her and everything would work out. He told me that she simply didn’t have time for mediation. It was when he told me that she behaves the way she does because she is passionate about her work that I said I had to go to another meeting. She is obviously much better at PR than I will ever hope to be.

I think it’s OK to feel a red-hot glow, but I’m almost relieved that the urge to spew up molten lava has gone away. It could be a difficult month ahead as I combine anger with sadness with anticipation. What an unlikely combination of emotions!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Just Dreaming

When I get up in the morning, I find myself asking, "What would I do if I didn’t have to go to work, if I were retired? Just how might I spend my day?" Here are a few ideas just for starters:

– Do a complete workout in the basement gym.
– Reward myself with a feast for breakfast.
– Read the newspaper cover to cover, except for the classifieds.
– Read the New Yorker the day it comes.
– Go to the library and check out an exciting book to read.
– Go the latest exhibit at the National Gallery.
– Learn a new piece of music.
– Take a class in how to write poetry.
– Volunteer to help Hispanic construction workers learn to read.
– Go to a movie with my husband – one of those afternoon special price ones with a discount for seniors.
– Take my dogs for a walk. Throw Jake’s Kong until he drops in exhaustion (that takes a long time).
– Meet a friend for lunch.
– Ride my bike on scenic trails.
– Cook ethnic food, preferably with someone.
– Play a lot of music with a lot of different people.
– Take a nap.
– Have sex in the afternoon.
– Sleep as long as I want to at night.
– Go visit my children and also see friends around the country.
– Travel to Timbuktu and back maybe going around the world.
– Be silly and laugh a lot.

I didn’t realize how many things I had been saving up for retirement. This sounds like the best part of my life just over the next bend. There are still a few bumps in the road, but I am getting there. I really am.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Taking the High Road

Yesterday I suddenly came to the realization that I am in control of my destiny. This realization as one of the b___s had a temper tantrum and began to self-destruct as she ranted at my staff and the other tried time after time to make me the scapegoat for every problem imaginable. I could just sit back and smile and say to myself, "Soon it won't matter at all."

My friend who advises me to take the high road instead of getting down and dirty with the b___s encouraged me to stay principled and not lose my cool. So far it's working. But that didn't stop me in a meeting today from invoking a penetrating stare at b___ #2 and saying over and over to myself, "Do you have any idea how much I hate you?"

Only 6 more days until my meeting, after which there will be no more question about my destiny. The decision will ultimately be mine whatever happens and that is a terrific feeling.

I may just take the high road right out of town.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Finally a Birthday Celebration

It was about time after 2-1/2 weeks that we celebrate my husband’s 60th birthday. The weather and people's busy schedules made him wait this year. In his non-conformist style, he opted for a birthday pie instead of a cake. I found a recipe by none other than Martha Stewart. At first I was daunted by all those pastry leaves, but actually it was far easier to cut out and draw veins in 24 leaves than to make a lattice crust. Anyway for someone who sucks at making pies, this one actually turned out well. Martha goes for straight blueberry taste – no spices, no lemon, just piles of blueberries.

The rest of the menu included osso buco with piselli (peas) and risotto with a mix of wild mushrooms. The osso buco had simmered in wine and stock for 2 hours and was practically falling apart. That and risotto are such comfort food. European style, we had a salad chock full of bosc pears, avocado, and walnuts with lots of mixed greens, needing something a little sweet to follow the spicy lemony veal.

I finally inaugurated all 8 placemats and napkins made from the French Provincial print. It’s always nice to entertain people who know my kitchen well enough to help serve and appreciate my dogs enough not to mind taking home some Jake and Dylan hair on their nice clothes.

Happy 60th to David. This marked the end of birthday season.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Whole Megillah Beatles Style

Last night the Purim Players at Temple Micah once again enacted the epic story of Queen Esther and Mordecai saving the Jewish people. This year the story was told with the beat of the Beatles and it was the best ever. Audience participation was at its highest because “hey mon”– we grew up with that music.

Here are some clips from the music that propelled us through the evening:


Hey Jews, you can’t refuse. This is Purim your special day.

When I find myself in times of trouble Manewith she comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

We all pray in a mellow synagogue.

Oy Va Voy, Oy Va Voy.

Shekel Lane...

And did I mention that everyone dressed up? There were these 4 guys who looked a lot like the Beatles, but upon closer inspection were actually Teddy, Toby, Meryl, and Debra. There was an interloper Sergeant Pepper in a bright red jacket (David) and I was Lovely Rita, with my little book ready to give anyone a ticket who crossed me. The tiny Queen Esthers were too numerous to count. And there was a random Winnie-the-Poo, court jester, you name it, whatever first appeared in the attic costume supply.

Interspersed between the scenes of the play were readings from the Megillah, the place where the story of Esther is recorded. We didn’t actually chant “the whole Megillah”, but in fact a good part of it. There were 12 of us who took on the task of learning the special trope (music) that is used for this once-a-year reading. It’s always a little unnerving to hear yourself sing, but the players had set the stage with a degree of levity that banished stagefright.

The play was actually directed by two old pros at drama. Michael and David are hams who love to act and sing and they passed along this attitude to the cast who rose to the occasion. The adults were great, but the children stole the show. My vote for the best of show would be Laila (who is 10) and Jordi (who is 7 and is a born actor).

No event at Temple Micah would be complete without food. Everyone enjoyed traditional hamantaschen afterwards.

The good news for me was I noticed on the way home that the headache I had been carrying around for days was absolutely gone. A lunch and shopping with my best friend and an evening of fun had simply cured it!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Exercise Dropout Anonymous

Is there the equivalent of AA for people like me who fail to follow through with an exercise program? Quentin – I confess that I’ve been a miserable failure recently when it comes to the exercises you prescribed. I had an excuse one week when I was sick as a dog. But the next week I simply chose to skip them so I could get to work and start being miserable by 7:00. (That’s just another form of sickness.)

It is sort of like practicing the piano when you are a kid. You always practice when you know you have a lesson coming. But now that I have no more PT visits, I suddenly lost the reason to do my daily dozen or so.

I feel the stiffness and the inflexibility gradually returning, so something has to be done to get me back on track. My motivation has to be maintenance and improvement, not doing my homework for my next lesson.

I have managed to do a few pilates stretches each day. I think that’s because I have a set of 5 that take me no more than 10 minutes.

I have an idea that what I need is a menu for all the other myriad of exercises (and yoga poses and cardio work) that allows me to customize my workout to the time I have, which is realistically always at least 20 minutes but sometimes as much as an hour. Sort of like choose one from group A, two from group B, etc.

I did a good workout this morning and rewarded myself with two pieces of bacon for all those calories burned on the elliptical machine. I could feel my muscles reluctantly giving in to the various stretches with “Oh, that again.” They haven’t completely forgotten.

Quentin is making a house call this week to check out our basement “gym” facility. Now that David and I have both been graduated from PT, it’s where we will have to hang out to do our homework. Hopefully he will be able to help me design several game plans for different amounts of time.

I really do want to be disciplined enough to pull this off and quit thinking up excuses not to exercise. It has a big impact on my physical (and mental) well-being. Hope springs eternal...

Friday, March 02, 2007

Petting instead of Ranting

On the way to work today, I heard an announcement about an NSO family concert that included an instrument petting zoo. I longed for a child or a grandchild to take to pet a violin or a saxophone or a double bass.

It made me wonder how we determine our musical preference. Is it what we heard as children? What our parents liked? What our parents didn't like?

In my case, I don't actually remember a lot of music in my home as I grew up. There was the popular music my mother listened to on the radio as she did her housework while the Arthur Godfrey show aired. There was Saturday night with Lawrence Welk. There was a period of several months when I was introduced to musicals because one of the grocery stores (either the A&P or the Piggly Wiggly) offered a different record every week for $1.99. I listened over and over to Oklahoma, Kiss Me Kate, South Pacific, and other gems.

It was when I started taking piano lessons and using the John Thompson series that I found my passion for classical music. Having an interest in classical music as a 12-year-old is really swimming upstream. But that was OK with me. I played everything I could get my hands on.

As a teenager I learned the value of popular music when I took on the job of painting the interior of our house (at $20 a room). Whereas I couldn't slap the paint on with a background of Chopin, the Lovin' Spoonful was just perfect.

I came to love the Beatles' music. It took me a few years to get there, but right around the time of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band I was hooked.

Today my music of choice is usually classical. I hear a lot of other music with guitar and crooning singers that comes from my husband's iPOD. Some of it resonates with me, and some of it is just background music.

So back to my original reason for writing. How did I fail to impart my love of classical music to my children? Neither of them would ever choose to listen to "my" music for more than 5 minutes. Maybe if we had petted a few more instruments together...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Seeing Another Form of Red

At meditation last night, I checked in as being "full of anger". As Mary invited the bell to begin our sit, she said, "Maybe we can all forget about anger for the next 35 minutes." I almost replied, "Not likely," but instead I chose to say nothing.

The next 35 minutes were the most profound sit I ever experienced. I don't remember counting breaths. I don't remember being distracted by making mental lists as usually happens. I don't remember thinking about what I might have for dinner when I got home.

The single image from my sit was one of a scene where I was near water – on a boat, on a pier, I don't know exactly where. A red buoy repeatedly drifted toward me and I gently shoved it away.

I never wondered when the sit would end. Instead I settled into the most profound state of contentment, where I was in control of my anger and I happily chose to get rid of it!

The final bell announced the end of the sit and I drifted back to reality, somewhat changed and much more content.

I've seen the red buoy a few times today and, although it's only too real, I continue to push it away.