Posts Tagged ‘fun’

Tonight I got to spend time with two darling little boys who are like faux-grandsons to me, six-year-old Michael and his nearly eight year old brother, Thomas.

I was very excited about the evening as I had Michael’s birthday present – one that I’ve been itching to give him.  He turned six about 2 weeks ago and between his mom’s schedule and mine this was the first time I could get over there to give him —— Moon Shoes!  Ya, I didn’t know what they were either – turns out they’re devices you put your shoes into that essentially turn your feet into springy jumping devices.  Perfect for my 6-year-old Tiggerish friend.

We then did a lot of digging in his mom’s garden (with permission, of course – always important to ask Mommy before such ventures).  I thought maybe we were digging to China, as I did as a child (and I always truly believed we’d get there) but turns out we were digging up a hidden Treasure Chest.  For a wiry little six-year-old, given the Northern Illinois clay soil, I would say Michael did a great job. And gosh! There WAS a Treasure Chest, cleverly disguised as a big lump of dirt.  He told me we had to split it open to find the treasures.  So he got a shovel, whacked it in half and then was exuberant.

“Look! It’s GOLD!”  He then took the dirt and crumbled it into our safekeeping secret hiding place (also known as a garbage can) crowing excitedly – look at all our gold!  We’ve got gold!”

So I sang him a John Prine song:

“You’ve got gold
Gold inside of you
I’ve got some
gold inside me too”

And then he sang along, happily creating gold from dirt.

I’m not a Mom.  Or a real Grandma.  And while I’m a doting Aunt and Grand-Aunt my nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews live far away.  Michael and his 8-year-old brother Thomas are two of my major inlets into the wonderful, magical realm of childhood and time with them is both a gift and  a lesson.

Because every day I have the opportunity to turn dirt into gold. All the time.  I just usually see it as “only dirt” and miss the magic.  And when I see the love in my young friends eyes, despite all my incredible failings, I DO believe that I’ve got gold inside of me.  And you know – you’ve got gold, gold inside you too.  Check it out.  And who knows – you may have a hidden treasure box in your garden too – you just never know….

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I got two new kittens last Sunday night – Liam George and Maggie Mae.  I’m learning a LOT from them already:

  • It’s important to play
  • Being able to pay attention is WAY over-rated
  • Gender is difficult to determine in kittens (Liam was Liam, then Maggie, now Liam again….same deal with Maggie)
  • Having company/playmates is fun, but tiring
  • Sleep a little, play a little, eat a lot, poop a lot – it’s a good life being a kitten
  • Life is SO interesting – just look around!  So much to explore
  • Make friends with everyone you meet
  • When you need a break, find a quiet space and take your own time out
  • If you’re truly adorable people will put up with your less adorable traits (like waking them up at 5 am or falling into the toilet and needing a bath)

Some of the things I”ve learned about ME from getting my new feline companions:

  • I seem to be becoming impulsive – first a spur of the moment motorcycle, now spur of the moment kittens
  • Love can overcome my mania for order and peace and quiet
  • Ditto love changing my seemingly entrenched habits
  • It’s good to be a homebody – at least for awhile
  • I have tended to be the one who goes to where my friends are – now, because I have “babies” at home, I’m asking my friends to come to my land – and they do and it’s delightful

Lots of lessons from such tiny beings.

That’s Liam in the close-up and Maggie chasing her “busy balls.”  Sweet!

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Mondays are Physical Day here at Taking it to the Streets

I got two new kittens last night!  They are already teaching me so many things, in a variety of ways. 

I had been thinking the other day of how the seeming death of the Earth in winter, makes for such a joyous awakening in spring.  How the earth has the energy to put on the remarkable show we get each spring, because of the months of seeming inactivity and stillness.

This winter, besides winter in Chicago, I had a bit of a winter of the heart, with 5 deaths in 14 weeks – including the death on Halloween of my very beloved 14 year old cat Caitlin Marie.  That loss cut through my heart – she was quite precious to me.

I wasn’t sure about when/how I would get new cats – but in the back of my mind I wanted two kittens.  So last night I went to a Cat Circus (yes, really!) and in the lobby when we walked in was a cage with a sign that said “Adopt Us” and two darling little kittens that I knew were going to be my next family members.

“To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn turn)
and a Time for every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep.”

I DID remember that, when Caity died and when my friend Becky died.  That there would be happy times again.  That grief wasn’t ever lasting (though, for me, at least, the dead are never forgotten).

But, like spring riotously erupting forth after a long, hard winter, Liam and Maggie going nuts romping around and being 1.5 lbs (Liam) and 1.1 lbs (Maggie) remind me of the newness of life, the birth as the wheel of life turns.

Some lessons are easier to learn than others.  And despite a rather sleepless night last night as we all got used to each other, and Liam biting tiny teeth marks into my glasses (and this is just in the first 24 hours…) this is a very joyous lesson indeed!

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Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets

If you read my previous post, you know I have embarked on a new adventure – becoming a motorcycle rider.  Here’s my version of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” – the spiritual lessons I’ve already from this motorcycle adventure:

1. The Middle Way is good.  I’m usually very frugal and sensible about money.  I can’t think of me ever impulsively spending more than $200 (bookstores) in my life.  The bike was a lot more than $200. And I’m glad I stepped out of my usual way of being to buy it.

2. Humility.  I normally am at the top end on most tests I take (college Botany being a MAJOR exception…).  I feel calm and confident taking tests even when I know there’s no way I’ll ace it.  I felt panicky on my DMV test and indeed failed it.  Wow.  This is giving me enormous empathy towards the many people who have test anxiety. Now I get it! 

3. My ego is bigger than I thought.  I didn’t want to tell anyone (other than a small group) about the bike til I passed the test and had my license.  By letting you know I got a bike, took and passed the class and didn’t ace the DMV test on the first round I’m feeling vulnerable.  Ego likes to be #1!  to be RIGHT!  to be THE BEST!

4. Patience!  Omigosh, I think I shall be learning LOTS about patience.  The state test is all about going V    E     R    Y      S     L    O   W….. That’s the problem – being able to execute precise maneuvers on a large machine whilst going very slowly is hard!  And the way to learn to do this task is to do it over and over and over and over again.  In Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, he talks about needing 10,000 hours of practice to get really good at something.  I personally think this is particularly true of physical tasks in which ‘muscle memory’ plays a part.  I’ve driven a stick shift car since my 20s and I never think about shifting gears – up or down – it’s what my body does in response to the road.  I want to get like that on my bike – but not over the course of many decades. Oh! that’s that patience thing again….

5. Having fellow travelers makes it better.  I have a few friends who are bikers (makes me smile to write that – most of them SO don’t fit the stereotype…).  Friday night my friend Candace and her husband Jim came over and Candace got me on to my own bike and up down the street for the first time.  My 1200 cc Harley is a bit more bike than the 500 cc Buells we rode in class – so I felt nervous.  But I did it! Up and down my street.  Then yesterday, my friend Kim came over and we went around the block to the schoolyard, where I spent 2 hours under her tutelage working on turns and cones and turns and cones and turns and cones.  Then we went to the Harley dealer to pick up my license plates (in the car!) and ran into our friend Rae Ann who had just bought a bike.  So next week we’ll go out for a little ride (I’m hoping to squeeze in some more blasted cones too…)

6. There’s joy in newness.  Yes, it’s hard in some ways to be a beginner – there’s the acceptance and patience and humility about it all. But there’s lots of joy too!  Learning something new – anything – awakens one’s entire being.  When I bought the bike, Brian, my sales guy, told me “Now you’re gonna start seeing motorcycles EVERYWHERE”, and boy was he right.  And I daydream about how fun it will be to actually get out on the open road and ride.  I look at Kim’s fancy tricked out bike and think “I want one!”.  And I take pride in my sore-cause-they-haven’t-been-used-much muscles after a few hours of riding.  It’s very fun to learn a new skill.

7. Creativity begets creativity.  Have you noticed how many musicians also paint?  That makes sense to me – that being in the creative zone opens up that neural pathway.  I’ve found that since I got my bike I am also eager to get back to last year’s new hobby – photography. I’m thinking it will be fun to combine them down the road – throw my camera into my backpack and go looking for beauty.  Can’t WAIT to ride on Country Club Road!

8. Respect power but don’t be afraid of it.  This is a great lesson for me, the perpetual rebel.  It’s an area where the Middle Way is much  needed – and I think not just by me.  We tend to overemphasize power (thus we’re surprised by pictures of Osama bin Laden with a grey beard and a blanket on his shoulder watching TV – forgetting, one supposes, that “we’re all Bozos on this bus” – ie, we are all just walking-around-humans at some level).  Or we flaunt it and ignore it.  I told Kim I was nervous because of the power of my bike.  I LOVED her answer – “Diane, 40 mph is still 40 mph, whatever bike you’re on.  Don’t be afraid of your bike’s power – just respect it.”

9. There are principles at work – it goes easier if you know them.  I wouldn’t call myself an innately visual, spatially intelligent person.  One time my friend Pat was over and I was saying that the artwork in my living room didn’t seem correctly placed to me – something felt off.  She said to me, “Great big picture – little tiny wall.  Little tiny picture – great big wall.  There’s your problem.  Diane, there are PRINCIPLES of decorating – it’s good to know the basics.”  So too with riding a motorcycle.  “Where you look, you turn”; “Don’t put on the brakes in a turn”; “Slow down before a curve, then hold your speed or accelerate through it.”  Combining my “book learning” of the principles with my muscle memory is my current task!

10. Smile, have fun and enjoy the ride!  I bought the bike as a response to all the death in my life. My nod to the truth “life is short.”  During the class my teacher said – “Hey! don’t forget to smile!”  Whilst I’m learning and practicing and wishing I was already a “10,000 hours expert” (ala Malcolm Gladwell) I can enjoy This Ride, Right Now.   The whole “be here now” thing that is why I meditate.

How about you?  What do your hobbies teach you spiritually?  What new challenge have you undertaken of late? I really want to know!

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Mondays are Physical Day here at Taking it to the Streets

Usually on Mondays I write about food, or sustainability or things about Planet Earth.  Today I ***should*** make it Politics Day with the big event of Osama bin Laden’s death.

My topic though is much more personal to me today.  And it involves a little test for you, my readers, if you’re willing to humor me (test at the end – trust me, it’s easy).

This past winter I had 5 deaths in 14 weeks.  Followed by a $10,000 tax return.  It was a heady combination.  Watching my friend die of cancer was probably the hardest thing in my life and besides making me sad, angry, frustrated, and, at times, feeling hopeless, it also made me fall in love with being alive and all that it entails.  I live in my head – a lot.  Books, the Internet, even conversation with others – all very heady activities.  I use my head to make money (IT stuff).  My body?  Well, it hauls my big brain around, doncha know (and my big mouth, too…)

After Becky’s death I knew I had to engage more fully in life and live a bit more full out.  Mary Oliver’s dictum rang in my ears “What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Bought it at the end of March and haven’t said a word, except to a very small circle.  Took the class to learn to ride this past weekend.  My plan had been to take my licensing test this morning, pass the test and maybe possibly ride to the home of my friend Annemarie (Becky’s widow) soon to show her.  Look! Here’s my response to death stealing our Becky away – I am saying YES to living out loud!

Well, I didn’t pass the test —– yet!  I found that motorcycles are very visceral and while I have zero test anxiety with mentally-based tests (even those on which I end up doing not terrific – I’m always calm) I was beyond anxious about this test.  Which kind of nailed me.  To my astonishment, in part of the test I was going too slow (if you’ve driven in a car with me you’d know why this seems quizzical).

So my friends Kim and Candace and Bill K will all help me learn and I’ll take the test again and I’ll pass and then I get to be a Harley chick – well, then and a few thousand hours of riding. 

So I was thinking I should wait to say anything publicly until I had the motorcycle license.  But I decided that’s my ego getting in the way of letting my body have a chance for once.  So even though my ego says “never admit you’ve failed – show up triumphantly”, my body wanted me to tell you:

Hey! I got a Harley! And I can ride a motorcycle!  Not perfectly, not great, not fast and I’m not fabulous at shifting gears – but guess what?  I can ride a motorcycle!  Whoo hoo!

I get to be reborn to being a different me – in many ways regaining the sense of wildness and freedom of my youth but without all the troublesome intoxicants involved.  If this turns out as I think it will, I believe it will add to my spiritual path – the whole reason I’m drawn to motorcycling is the visceral oneness with the bike and nature and me.  And my friend Kim says she’ll have me out there riding with her in no time flat. 

So here’s the test (my ego wanted some payback for letting the body steal the show) – if you’re one of my Facebook friends and you’ve read this blog, don’t give away our little secret directly – but do post something along the lines of “Vroom!” on my page.  Just enough so I know you read it, but not enough to spill the beans yet.  Game?

Oh – a few postscripts: Yes, I have a permit (so I’m allowed to go out with licensed riders and practice). And yes, I will always wear a helmet. And no, I don’t have a death wish.  And, yes, it was every bit as fun as I thought it would be – and that was only in first and second gear!

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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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I bought a new iPhone 4 tonight.  Wanna hear my great excuse for plunking down $199 (the cheap part of the transaction) and $25/month more to the small fortune I pay AT&T each month (second only to my mortgage).  It’s a GREAT excuse.

I’ve been job interviewing at small tech consulting companies. Wanna know who works there?  Young people young enough to be my kids.  Don’t think they don’t notice that discrepancy.  So I was thinking my old Motorola Razrback, so hip in its day, was not helping.  Now losing a lot of weight and dressing hiply would help even more, and maybe listening to rap on my iPhone when they come to get me in the reception area – that COULD help.  But I was looking for a realistic solution.

An American solution.

You know – one I could throw money at, rather than have to change me.

Because the behavior I’m talking about is called signaling.  I did not know this fact til I read Freakonomics a few years ago.  Among the many fascinating things in that romp of a book (kids named Orange Jello but pronounced oh-ron-zhello – really?) was a bit about signaling.

Which is when we accessorize our life to say who we are.  Like my coworker whom I think is a closet (maybe not so closet) Republican remarking archly when the topic of cars came up and I said I had a Subaru “ah, yes, seems like all the NPR types drive Subarus” .  I was actually trying to do other signalling with Molly Moonroof and wasn’t  thinking she was saying “Pardon me, but the human driving me is an erudite, Starbucks swilling, NPR-listening effete”.  My friend Patrick calls my cars granola-mobiles and I’ve always felt proud that my signal strength was loud and clear {“peace and love, man”} – but who knew – whole new dynamic to consider.

So my iPhone in my mind is saying “She may seem old and in the way, but she’s techier and hipper than that.”  It could however just say what my ubiquitous presence on Facebook may be saying to the young “Shit! the parents have taken over!”  Hard to know, isn’t it?

Think about communities which are far removed from your own.  People in those communities are signalling coolness and status with things that people outside those communities look at and do the Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot head shake.  (Those huge pants with underpants showing – SO unattractive).

Back when all the various liberation movements were coming around I read something that talked about how in a way, people who are members of any minority have more innate power in that they understand both their own culture and the dominant culture. People in the dominant culture are either clueless about others existing around them, or feel that they are above all of that.

And we’re like radios (in so many ways, I think) – we pick up some stations – more than one, but others aren’t on our dial.  So signals are going off like crazy and you get some, others not at all.  Some signaling we do consciously, others totally unconsciously.  Which can work for or against you.

And we’re always reading other peoples intended and unintended signals. 

And really – whether I”m right or wrong that having ‘the right phone’ will help me in job hunting – it was a hell of a good excuse to buy a new toy, don’t you think?

Tell me about how YOU intentionally signal?  What do you wear/say/do/drive/eat/drink in order to say WHAT and to WHOM?  C’mon, I’m curious.  And I need a distraction from thinking about that additional $300/year to AT&T.

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