Archive for the ‘Writing – Personal’ Category

I haven’t posted since January 8, despite a vow to myself to post at least twice per week.

That’s because on January 9, my very beloved Dad very abruptly died.  I remind myself that he was spared the vicissitudes of old age, infirmity and a slow decline.  He was 89, but was planning to play golf the next day.  While at dinner with my dear stepmom and friends he had an allergic reaction and a few hours later he was dead.

He used to say to me “Diane, that’s why I get up every morning – because you never know what is going to happen.”  How true, how true!

Tomorrow is Easter and Christians celebrate Resurrection.   In fact, many religious traditions have holidays related to rebirth and renewal tied in with this vernal time of year.

Whatever ones beliefs it is comforting, when faced with the seeming starkness of death, to ponder rebirth, renewal.  Resurrection.

A few years ago, driving down my favorite road with both spring in  Chicago and a new love in my life suddenly appearing after a period of bleakness, a poem came to me.  Having then had a battened down heart, newly awakening, I now take comfort, that having had a death in the family, perhaps, like Lazarus in the poem, I’ll feel like kissing the face of the stars – ready, once more to leap into life.

My father was my north star, and, at the same time, the firmament on which I stood.  I must say I have felt inexorably lost in these three months since he so abruptly was spirited away by that trickster, Death.

So I don’t feel the same sense of awakening as I did in 2009, seeing the daffodils starting to wildly bloom on Country Club Road.

Looking out my window, I see my tattered prayer flags, gaunt and thin and dragging after the winter snows and ice and winds.  I’ve cleared the deluge of cones from around the Colorado blue spruce in my front yard and raked some leaves from the flower beds.

In this liminal time, winter indeed is visibly waning – old, tired, nearly gone.  The days grow longer now, and some days are even warm.

But despite what the Wheel of the Year tells us – that Spring Equinox has indeed arrived – I don’t think spring has really settled in.  At least not in Chicago.  At least not in my heart.

I’m truly not seeking sympathy.  Perhaps forbearance for my long absence here.  Death, like birth, is a part of life.  And all deaths leave gaps, holes, empty spaces (though I must say, I’d not quite known how much empty there can be).

I think the thing to remember, as the Christians remind us this time of year, is that the life force lives on.  That renewal and resurrection can be ours, not in the literal sense of the Gospel story, but in beginning anew.  In affirming life.  In saying yes.  In putting out NEW prayer flags, bright, colorful, ready to be imbued with prayers, hopes, wishes, summer sunshine and love.

And as for my Daddy ~ well, I’ll quote my generation’s poet laureate, Bob Dylan:

“I’ll see you in the sky above
in the tall grass
in the ones I love
You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go.”

He decided to ditch lunch and take us all to Dairy Queen

He decided to ditch lunch and take us all to Dairy Queen instead – the last time I saw my Dad


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Life is beautiful

I was taken tonight by how beautiful and sweet life is. And that much that I find meaningful and beautiful is very simple. 

Sometimes I think when people hear talk of living a simpler life, or choosing to live more sustainably, or consciously, or in any way that bespeaks “not mainstream” it sounds like it’s dull, hard or unforgiving in some way.  “Less than”.  For me, that’s SO not true!

I’m hopeful that one of the silver linings in America’s economic meltdown is that people have been forced to look at the American money/stuff/work treadmill and examine what they really need, and how to live their lives. 

I think for me, it’s more about the time I’m at in my life.  To steal from an old Jim Croce song “I’ve looked around enough to know….”   That is, I’ve done the striving/the conniving/the climbing the ladder – and ended up here, at home, at peace, in love with my life and the world.

I have been finding that the more I move away from ‘stuff’ and its accrual/care, etc. the more I can focus on what matters to me – my connections to God, nature, other people.  Creativity, and just loving life.

Some of the things that brought me great joy today:

  • Hanging with ‘my homies’ – a group of women I spend Saturday mornings with who help me dive deeper, get more real
  • Strong black coffee – such a wonderful way to start a day!
  • My workout with my personal trainer – this one IS a monetary indulgence but the rewards seem to me to WAY outpace the investment – I am getting stronger and I like that a lot!
  • Spending a delightful afternoon/evening with a new friend – far-ranging conversation, driving around in the country (ah, McHenry County in fall!), and taking her to see Ginger Blossom – www.gingerblossom.com
  • Woodstock Square – so beautiful – just a walk around the square with a cup of chai and my friend – delightful!
  • And then dinner at a French creperie – savoring the fresh, delicious food, conversation with my friend, the sweet, earnest young waitress, watching night descend on Woodstock Square – exquisite!
  • The moon and the clear night sky (which reminds me that my longtime love, the Winter Night Sky, is soon to be mine again)
  • Finding little gifts for my grandnieces and grandnephews at Ginger Blossom and packaging them up with small notes for each child – you cannot imagine how much joy this gave me for approximately $2 per child (x 11 – still cheap!)
  • And now looking forward to a bath in my clean bathroom, getting into clean jammies, then into newly changed sheets – ah, Saturdays!
  • and looking forward to the book I’m reading now – Three Cups of  Tea

Sara and I talked tonight at the French bistro in Woodstock of visiting the south of France – a place we’ve both been.  I was thinking that while the south of France is arguably one of the prettier places on earth (surely one of the prettiest to which I’ve traveled) that I was as happy today in my little town and then out in McHenry County – as I’ve been in far more exotic locales.  While I’d love to travel internationally again (and I’m sure I will), I can be just as happy on little day-trips – just drinking in beauty and new-ness makes me feel alive.

I think two of the components of Real.Joy.Right.Now are:

  • Being fully present – really SEEING the cool imported objects at Ginger Blossom – drinking each item, imagining the country from which it emanated, appreciating each nuanced part of the whole; noticing the brie, the pancetta, the fresh spinach and the crepe in which they were encased (like French burritos said Sara!) at La Petite Creperie
  • And being grateful.  Last weekend, visiting my Dad and his wife, I was delighted when we sang “Morning has Broken” at their Catholic church.  It’s one we sing sometimes in Unity and a song I (and likely most of my generation) associate with Cat Stevens the iconic singer of my youth.  It has been playing on Radio Diane all week “praise for the singing, praise for the morning….” – being grateful ‘greases the skids’ and ‘creates luck’ I think

So if the simple life seems dull or ‘poor’ in any way, or (worst pejorative in my book!) – boring, well, then I say wake up and say thanks and then see what it looks like to you.   Really, it IS a wonderful life.

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This past Wednesday was Autumn Equinox – the moment when the Sun enters the sign of Libra ushers in the autumn as we stop for a moment with equal day/equal night (thus ‘equi’ ‘nox’).  The days, getting shorter since Summer Solstice, are now getting WAY shorter – each day a bit darker than the one before. 

But on that day (and its counterpart in the spring) the days and nights are of equal length.

Perhaps that’s why the ancient astrologers assigned to Libra the scales, and the quality of balance.

It’s been such a subterranean theme for me just lately as I stand poised between my old job and my new one, between one daily routine and a new one that seems like it will be quite different. 

I’ve noted that my normally very extroverted self seems to be requiring more solitude, more meditation, more just BE-ing, and less DO-ing than I am normally about (my brother has referred to me, aptly, as “the doer of all things”). 

In the past I would have had some judgements about my seeming indolence.  Chided myself to “get off yer ass and get to work!” or other non-helpful ‘motivations’.  Now I observe.  Ah, I say, Self seems to want to just sit and play computer games and zone out – hmmm.  Ah, now it seems to be time for a flurry of chores.  Oh, I see, it’s time to connect with a friend.

I think we all have rhythms and more of them than we purportedly rational beings would like to acknowledge, are driven by our animal-selves.  The changing of the light, the strong signalling the Earth gives us in the transitional seasons, alerts our Inner Animal that change is required.  While I’m far from a hibernating bear I have long observed that I sleep a bit more in the winter than in summer.  I noticed I wanted soup, not salad, for lunch yesterday. 

So I look to honor this balancing time by listening to my body/soul and also attending to my commitments – to myself and to others. 

I wrote a book called Be Your Own Life Coach : Dream it! Plan it! Do it! (now out of print) – a personal growth book focused on helping people clarify and achieve their goals.  My favorite part of the book though is a few pages on which I acknowledge the dance between DO-ing and BE-ing and how important it is to honor what  IS, not just plow ahead mindlessly.

There’s as much danger in the plowing ahead mindlessly, I believe as in the equally dangerous habit of indolence and just “letting it all hang out.”

I think it’s all about consciousness.

Quick tip of the hat to my new friend Sara McIntosh and her fabulous blog My Dispenza Days (noted here before) which focuses on consciousness and has me thinking lots on that topic.

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“We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.” – Frank Tibolt

This seems to be the theme that needs exploring in my life right now.  I’m in this one-week liminal period between jobs – doesn’t feel totally like a vacation and I have a sense of needing to get EVERYTHING done before starting the new big-girl job.  So what did I do yesterday?  Some socializing with friends (heavenly) then a whole lot of nothing.  How did I feel at the end of “a whole lot of nothing” (i.e., loafing)?  Refreshed? Renewed?  No – depressed.

As I wrote in another post – “Action leads to satisfaction“. 

This morning I read the lead story on MSNBC – a reposted article from The New York Times on The New Unemployables: Workers over 50.  Even though I have this great year long contract lined up I felt a little wave of fear.  But besides my longstanding belief that God takes care of me in all ways, but most espeically with work and money (so, since I firmly believe it, this has always been the case) I realized I had several other things going that I hope will prove helpful even in these hard times.  I don’t think these are unique to me, at all.  I suggest that these (and tips YOU have) are helpful and not only vis-a-vis a job:

  • A bias towards action (see Action Leads to Satisfaction)
  • A belief that all is well and looking for evidence to prove that
  • Knowing that “trust Allah but tie up your camel” – i.e.,  don’t just leave it up to God/the Universe –  do the work

In the case of work/money/the new economy, I still like 3 Ways to Thrive in the New Economy.  All involve ACTION:  Live simply, pay down debt, have multiple streams of income, figure out how to be self-employed. 

Just in my day to day life, I see how days in which I’ve been purposeful – perhaps quiet, meditative, not “productive” but action-oriented in that I’m doing what I set out to do – are WAY happier than days in which I drfit/loaf/spin.

For many years I’ve made yearly, monthly, weekly, then daily lists using a trick from Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – I look at the tasks in the major ‘roles’ in my life and prioritize them.  When I do this i not only get more done, but I get more important things done.  And I’m happier.  When I think “oh, that’s too structured, too much work, I don’t wanna” it can feel like a treat for awhile and then it feels chaotic.  It’s a flow, really, balancing out when I need to just BE (which I do think is important) and when “Action leads to satisfaction”.

Today seems like a nice mix of both.  I have a plan – but I also have flexibility to see what the day brings.

  • An understanding

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I am supposed to be camping right now.  Have had a women’s campout on my calendar for months.  Planned for it, looked forward to it.  Then earlier this week my friend Steven said he’d be in from LA and the one night he had free was Friday – could I (and two other friends) meet him for dinner?  But of course!

Thursday I got a new job. It doesn’t start for a week, but honestly I thought I’d have a bit more time off between gigs.  VERY grateful for the new job, but the one week off seems so short and so much to do.

Many of the folks who usually go camping aren’t.  I was feeling especially bereft that my friend Claire, a fellow writer and someone who is very physically active wasn’t going.  While other people sit around all afternoon Claire and I typically get in at least one, often two hikes.

Then it started raining.

I’m finding that I want RIGHT NOW is some quiet time.  I want to clean my house, do my laundry, write, meditate, just BE in this day as I sit between the recent past (my 2+ years as a contractor at Kraft) and the very-soon-here-future.

There was a time in my life when I would have dutifully run around frenetically pulling together camping equipment, rushing to drive up to the campground, putting my tent up and then sitting around in the rain under a tarp.  Why?  Because I had said I’d be there. And because – for whatever reason – I consider myself macha/tough/stoic.  Good Norwegian?  maybe.  Mars conjunct the Sun? Perhaps.  Bossy big sister? But of course. 

But now I know that while it’s important to honor obligations in which I am needed, I can be flexible with things that are open invitations.  And while it’s important to be tough when it counts (I’m a big fan of “stand and deliver” in terms of being strong enough to withstand life’s vicissitudes when needed) it’s dumb to do things that don’t make sense just to be tough.

I was laughing with my Dad the other day – we were talking about golf (his passion) and the apparel on the professional tours.  Dad told me that the golf superstars only wear long pants in tournaments but when they practice they wear shorts. Which led to him saying he wears shorts in the summer when he plays golf.  I told him that I didn’t wear shorts til I was over 50 – because when we were kids my brother and I observed that Dad didn’t wear shorts so we came up with a rule that “tough guys don’t wear shorts.”  Between Chicago’s summers and menopause I decided being tough wasn’t so important. 

So while it took me decades to figure out the shorts thing, it didn’t take much time this morning to switch gears and plan to go hang out with my pals at the campground this afternoon after the rain passes.  And to give myself the gift this morning of unstructured “what do I WANT to do” time.

So do you let yourself be a willow?  Sticking to the oak side? Or are you a wee little forest of some willows, some oaks and some beautiful maples?  Standing strong, being flexible, just focusing on beauty.  It’s all good!

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Don’t you love that line from the song “Closing Time”?  It SO sums it up.

And when they happen more or less simultaneously your heart gets to do some wild rides.

Tomorrow is my last day at my contract gig at Kraft.  I’ve been at Kraft on 2 different contract jobs for most of the last 2.5 years – it’s kind of  been ‘my job’ even though “I’m just a contractor.”  I have friends there and the commute and the cafeteria and the corporate culture are all part of my life. And it’s closing time.

But today I went on a job interview for a new contractor gig and found out tonight that I got the job.  It’s not like “getting a real job” but these days getting a 12-month contract job and a good hourly rate is something to celebrate. And I’m very excited about aspects of the work I’ll be doing.  So it’s a pretty immediate new beginning coming from some other beginning’s end.

I’m glad I have a week off in between to loaf and play and maybe even do some chores.  But more importantly I think endings need to be acknowledged properly before launching into new beginnings. Kind of like not doing rebound romances.  Or (for me) not immediately going out to get a new kitten when your cat dies.  You need to let go of what was properly to make room in your heart for what is now to be.  At least I do!

So, soon – very soon – a new adventure beckons.  But tomorrow I’ll go in and get my work done, say good-bye to my friends and take a last look around. And say a lot of thank you’s.

How has it worked out for you in your life when you’ve had back-to-back ending/beginning situations?  Were you able to handle both simultaneously?  What worked for you?

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Doing it differently

I have a sorta new friend.  Actually, better put – there’s a woman I really don’t know (cept I bought some of her handmade shoes which would knock your socks off they’re so cool – whose blog My Dispenza Days I’ve been reading.  If you saw the movie “What the Bleep Do We Know” you might recognize the “Dispenza” part – he’s a chiropractor quoted in the movie (which is, among other things about quantum physics – EXACTLY my type of movie! Truly!).

Anyway, in Sara’s blog she talks about ways in which to change one’s consciousness.  I can relate so much to what she’s written. And it’s all served as great reminders to me to WAKE UP!  To get out of my rut.  To, as Ram Dass said back in the day, “BE HERE NOW.”

So, while I”m here with you now, at my keyboard, and have been ‘making my rounds’ online, I made a big point tonight of doing many things differently from when I walked in the door from work (later than usual) til a few minutes ago.

And i’m noticing how happy I feel.  How a brief, but dear visit to the peeps I consider my local “fambly” (my friends Di and Bill) and getting some little non-online chores done tonight and a big bowl of cantaloupe (I’ve gotta say – YUM) all conspired to get me fully embodied into this HERE and this NOW and it was good.

This theme seems to be popping up a lot for me of late – I’ve written about it more than once in my blog, I’m getting the message from Sara’s blog.  Even work conspired today – the meeting at 8 am on “What are we going to do about the French site” suddenly wiped out the work I thought I had to frantically complete between now and Friday and suddenly my smarter-than-you-can-even-imagine co-worker Kiran was able to help me work on the virus on my personal laptop between our other chores. 

A more interesting challenge for me – and one I’ll be thinking about – is when do our GOOD habits get in our way?  Shall I just throw prudence to the wind and not floss my teeth for a while, feeling its become too habitual?  While that’s a silly example I think the underlying question is worthy of my attention.

And Sara’s blog is worthy of  YOUR attention – pop over and have a look

And then look for ways to ‘mix it up’ as just one of many ways to BE HERE NOW.  Can’t hurt, might help.

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The joy of creativity

I was so tired today.  Work was exceptionally tedious – truly the IT equivalent of bricklaying all day (minus the heavy lifting and hot sun parts – yeah, I know that even my crummy work is fairly privileged).  BORING!  TIRED!

Dragged myself to Trader Joe’s to pick up some provisions. 

Tomorrow is a going away lunch for my team. 3 of us who have worked together and the primary client we have served.  We’ve been on a wild ride these last five months and now it’s  getting on time to say goodbye.

I had picked up some wee trinkets on Saturday to give my friends but I wanted to get something more.  I had a few ideas, but two of them seemed sort of obscure.  All 3 things were available at Barnes & Noble, which is conveniently located next to Trader Joe’s.  Man I was tired, but I dragged my weary self into the store.  I searched for the most obscure item first – when the guy said they had it I felt a little surge of energy – oh, good!  I think LeAnne will like this!  Then I looked for what I had in mind for Mark.  Wow – they had only one of those, but they had it!  My energy level started to lift. Debated on two different things for Kiran – found one I liked.

Came home, still tired, made a bite to eat.  Then it was time to make cards for my friends. 

That’s when everything changed.  I fired up Microsoft Publisher and then began crafting cards – picking out the right images, the right theme, the words that went with the little gifts.  It was fun to think about my friends – what I really enjoy about each of them, the odd little bits I know about their lives – and then translate that into personalized cards to go with the hopefully unique-for-them little gifts I picked out.

I think it was the combination of  creativity and getting the focus on others that made it such a delightful evening.

How about you?  What little things do you like to do that revive you?  That make the time fly by?  That bring you joy and delight?

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That’s what the poster in my bedroom said when I was a teenager. 

And my friend Mary Lou made me a plate with the same saying on it.

I’ve been thinking about that, and about my friend Candace’s question .  Because it seems I ***am*** clearing a space.

In my home, for sure – I’ve been on the hunt for what can be given away, thrown away or somehow repurposed.  definitely making room.  And while I wish I were making MORE room in my body, the 10 pounds that have evaporated (seriously where DO those pounds go?) seem part of the same process.

My job ends a week from Friday – and that makes room in my calendar and will perhaps clear our some of my savings as I await the Next Big Thing.

One of my big campaigns this whole year has been about being more conscious about the people with whom I choose to spend time.  The Universe made it abundantly clear that being more judicious was in order with a few back to back boundary-crossing ‘friends’ making it clear that it was time, as Nancy Reagan counselled, to “just say no”.

The cliché is that nature abhors a vacuum and some of the open space rather quickly got filled – I took two photography classes over the winter, started blogging and have spent more time with people who are delightful.

But it does seem that there is a confluence of things going that are creating quite the open bough.

And I’m curious as to what singing bird(s) will alight.

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My friend Candace asked me an interesting question Friday night.  She was talking about helping a new friend de-clutter and mentioning that this woman’s house really DID need some decluttering.  I replied back that lately I once again felt an almost biological urge to go through my house and life and get rid of more stuff.

Now many of you either don’t know me, or haven’t been to my house, so this may not strike you the same way as it struck Candace, one of my closest friends.  Because I am the anti-matter girl, as it were – I truly believe that we don’t own stuff, it owns us, and so I’m always seeking more freedom through less stuff.  And my house, while reflecting my great love of art & books, is fairly minimalist now (though not severe or spartan by any means!  I LOVE beauty!).

So Candace said “You’re already clutter-free!” and then asked me the interesting question:

“What do you think is behind that desire for less clutter?”

I found the question interesting in several ways:

  1. In and of itself:  so what IS behind my anti-clutter stance (for me)?
  2. Does there have to be anything more to it than what it is?  Why isn’t my desire to eliminate things I don’t find useful or beautiful enough at face value?  Was Freud right? (“sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”)
  3. How does this reflect our different values?
  4. How is her question and my response to it reflective of our differing world views?

1.  What’s behind my anti-clutter views?  Wow – as is true with any question this could just go on and on.  I could talk about my Dutch-Norwegian father who was always chiding us to tidy up and who would clear our kitchen counters of even things like toasters in his quest for order.  I could say that clutter and my ADD-like brain are inimical to one another.  I could say that I crave beauty and clutter seems distracting and non-beautiful to me.  But I think the truest statement is the one I made above.  I like freedom and having stuff to attend to or that distracts me lessens my freedom & mobility. I don’t like it.

2.  Does there have to be a meaning?  While you would think my answer on this is ‘no, of course not’, actually I do think if we dig a bit more deeply we can usually see that our attitudes, predilections, etc. emanate from some part of our lives or our history.  And while that’s true I think it can be too self-focused and ultimately not productive to spend too much time on such things unless they meet these criteria: a) the behavior/desire in question impedes our spiritual, emotional or physical well-being or growth; or b) the behavior/desire greatly enhances us – and we want to discover what there is about it, at core, so we can find more of that ‘suchness’ in other areas of our lives.

3.  How does Candace’s question reflect our different values?

4. How does Candace’s question reflect our different world views?

I have some opinions on those two question – but it strikes me that writing about what I think my friend’s values & worldviews are is presumptuous at best.  So we’ll see if she agrees to the game I’ve proposed – that I interview her for the blog and present those as the companion piece to this.

I think that’s one of the things that makes life fascinating, yes?  That we all see things differently, and yet that there is this thread of commonality.  I’m quite curious about Candace’s answers.  But even if she doesn’t feel like expounding on them publicly (I’m pretty sure she’ll tell me at least!), I’m grateful for the opportunity to think about her question.

And I’m still itching to start going through closets and drawers and (my winter project), the basement once again.  One nice thing is that as you keep winnowing, it gets easier and faster – and any sense of incipient loss or “I might need this” gets obviated by the facts – I’ve given away/thrown away/donated so much stuff in the last 8 years (the upside of being single) and no bad things have happened. The only thing I got rid of that I had to repurchase was some fishing line I used to hang up a glass ornament in my window.  I think it cost $5 to replace.  New fishing line:  $5.  Less crap in my basement toolroom: priceless.

What’s your take on:

  • clutter/stuff?
  • good questions
  • the value of introspection; and/or
  • differing world views

I really want to know!

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