Friday, January 30, 2009

Twenty Five Things about Me

A little weekend fun for you all ...

Sheri and my friend Lara on Facebook both tagged me with this “25 Things About Me” post, and here are my answers. Hope you enjoy them :)

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits or goals about you. Then tag 25 people, including the person who tagged you.

1. Emo music is a guilty pleasure of mine. I adore Fall Out Boy, Amber Pacific, even though I'm probably at least 10 years outside of their target demographic.

2. I don't like E.T, Pretty Woman, Reese's Pieces, or Cadbury Creme Eggs.

3. I love Aliens, Legally Blond, Peanut Butter M&Ms and Cadbury Mini Eggs.

4. I've been to Israel and floated in the Dead Sea.

5. I don't drink soda. Any kind, ever.

6. The only fast food I eat is In-n-Out Burger.

7. The reasons I don't drink soda or eat fast food is because both are brimming with High Fructose Corn Syrup, which is my primary migraine trigger. It's been a wild ride avoiding things I actually love and finding things I can eat. Now, before I buy any food at all, I look it at the label. If it has HFCS I don't buy it. If I don't know, I won't eat it. It's taken a long time to to the point where I have that kind of self restraint.

8. I've lived in Colorado, Connecticut (twice), Arizona, Minnesota, and California.

9. My family moved five times by the time I was ten, but I haven't moved again since I was ten (except to go to college and grad school).

10. I have an irrational fear of needles and sharp things. It's gotten a little better since I started getting migraines, since there was a period of time when I was going through a ton of blood work and stuff.

11. My first car was a 1975 VW Bug named Tweety. It was yellow, of course.

12. Yellow is my favorite color.

13. My birthday present from my parents when I was six was an Italian Greyhound puppy that I named Buffy. This was *cough* 19 years *cough* before a similarly named Vampire Slayer showed up on the scene.

14. I am a fan of Firefly and the movie Serenity. It seems that my dog's name may have been a precursor to a love of Joss Whedon's work. I also love Battlestar Galactica.

15. If I had my way, I'd probably eat a pasta based dish at least 5 times a week.

16. I only have three front bottom teeth; I was born that way. Most people have four front bottom teeth. Go look :) Tom Cruise, on the other hand, has only three front top teeth. That's probably the only way he and I are at all alike, well other than we're both short.

17. I wear a women's size five shoe, which is also a children's three. That means I can buy kid's shoes, which is handy for sports shoes because they cost less than the adult sizes.

18. In Divinity School, I took Pastoral Counseling as an elective. I also took Performance of Biblical Text. Both were awesome.

19. My very favorite video games are Halo (Xbox), Kings Quest (old PC), and World of Warcraft.

20. My hair is naturally very curly, but its only really recently that I started wearing that way. But I tend to go in phases, curly for a couple weeks and straight for a couple weeks.

21. One of my favorite places is the ocean. I'm grateful that I went to UC Santa Barbara for college, which is within walking distance of the beach.

22. Once upon a time, my sister and I lived in the same apartment complex; I was one floor up and two apartments over from her. It was really nice to live that close, and made it really easy for when my parents came to visit.

23. I've driven across the USA three times in my car. I really enjoyed driving with my Mom because we'd take the time to stop and go to interesting places like the Wendell August forge in Grove City, PA.

24. Last year I went to Scotland with my parents, and it was an amazing trip. It was the first time I'd traveled with both of them as an adult, even though we'd gone on plenty of family trips when I was a kid. We went after my Dad retired, and drove throughout Scotland. One night we stayed at a castle - the Kildrummy Castle Hotel!

25. When my Mom, Aunt, Sister and I went to Rome, we got into St Peter's for a private Mass presided by Pope Benedict XVI. We'd been told that the Pope was in town, but that the Mass that day was closed, and no one was allowed in. However, my Sister noticed that people seemed to be going in to St Peter's. We wandered over, and after some Italian / English miscommunication, it seemed we'd given the impression that we were either with the people ahead of us, or that we were "with the group that was here today." All we'd really said is that we wanted to go in. Anyway, very soon, we found ourselves in the Mass, which had been reserved for Catholic Seminarians only. I happened to sit next to an American priest who was kind enough to explain everything. I asked if the Pope was here yet and he laughed and said, "Oh no. But you won't be able to miss him when he arrives." Sure enough, the Pope made a grand entrance, and stopped to greet the Seminarians on both sides of the aisle. I've never heard such a roar of excitement in my whole life. It was a real treat.


I was this close to Pope Benedict! No zoom here, folks :) Check out all the Happy Seminarians just behind him. It was a really happy day.

Instead of tagging others, consider yourself tagged if you've read this :) If you'd like to play along, please list 25 things about yourself on your blog and leave a note in the comments so we can come and read them.

Super Bowel Happy Hour!

Today we received an email at work announcing this afternoon's Super "Bowel" Happy Hour. I'm sure hoping the theme is just the result of an unfortunate typo....

Edited in an effort to be helpful to those reaching this page looking for honest info about the Football game ... since today has yielded a very high number of hits for people actually searching the term Super Bowel.

You'll want to look up Super BOWL on Google, so try clicking here.

And for those who are confused by the difference between Bowl and Bowel, two definitions:

Bowl: An American Football game that pits the number 1 and number 2 ranked teams (one from each division) against each other. The winner of the game also gains the title of Champion for the season. In college football there are many, many bowls, most are played on or around January 1st. The Rose Bowl is the oldest of the college bowl games, and it happens between the Big 10 and Pac 10 divisions, and is held in Pasadena, California.

The Super Bowl, decides the champion of the National Football League, and the winning team receives the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The game is not hosted by a specific city, but a different city is chosen to host the game every year. Americans often have large parties to watch the Superbowl. And, advertising during the Super Bowl has traditionally been the most expensive and most watched advertising of the year.

Bowel: Another name for the intestine. The small bowel and the large bowel are the small intestine and large intestine, respectively.

You can see why mixing up these words would be funny. One is football, the other is your large intestine.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Post of Frenzied Gratitude

Sometimes work dominates our world and needs an overwhelming amount of attention. Today was one of those kinds of days, with what seemed to be back to back meetings. And a chiropractor appointment. And then I stayed at work until about 8:45pm, and jumped right back in to some work when I got home. Now, at 11:37pm I just emailed my last document away for a morning meeting.

Glancing at tomorrow's schedule, well, I've got another whirlwind ahead of me. Client meetings all morning, and then in the afternoon, more documentation for my boss and other clients.

In moments like these, I am grateful for my job. I am grateful that we are busy because I know that there are many other businesses that are not. I'm grateful that my co-workers do good work, that they stay late when they don't have to just to help, that we like each other, that we push each other to do our best. My heart is happy that tomorrow there will be a happy hour at the bar on our floor. I know that not every business operates the way advertising does, and while it can be hard and crazy, I am grateful for those long days as much as I am for the quiet ones.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Scrapbook in the Making

Back in October, my friends and I had planned a baby shower for Susan, who was expecting her first baby. Strangely, she ended up having the baby on the very day that we'd planned to have the shower. He was a couple of months early, and is fine and healthy now.

With the new guy all situated in the world, we figured it was time to have a shower to welcome him and celebrate the miracle of his life. So, this weekend six of us will gather for tea, cake, friendship, and a little scrap book fun. Originally, I'd come up with this idea that we'd put together pages for the "big events" of his life: coming home from the hospital, his first tooth, first birthday, holidays, meeting his cousins, etc. And then Susan could fill in the pages with pictures as he hit these little landmark events. Since we're not really the scrap booking kind of crowd, we also planned on making some funny pages that seemed specific and appropriate to his parents and their life. They travel a lot, have a cat, really love sci fi, so we have goods on hand to make silly pages that reflect their lives, too.

Since he's here and already lived a little, it makes the event even more exciting and meaningful. Now we have some pictures to put into the book, and I think it will be extra special to hear Susan tell us all about his trip home from the hospital, the first time he met his friend Hannah, the trip to SoCal to see her family. I'm really looking forward to it.

photo album makings
I picked up our supplies at Target and Michael's. It's funny, because you can see our fish Spike in the picture if you look closely enough.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Inspiration and Interior Design

One of my favorite kinds of blogs (along side my *favorite* kind of blog, that of the inspirational nature) are home decorating blogs. I'm a total fiend for TV shows like "Trading Spaces," "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," and even "This Old House." But I'm totally gonna fess up here ... I'll watch the whole show just for two things - One - to see the people's faces and reactions to the room or house that has been redone, and Two - to just see the before and after shots. Who doesn't love before and after shots?!? I don't need the whole hour (or really, This Old House - we don't need 5 shows about one renovation project), I just love those last ten minutes.

I think why I love those last ten minutes is because they really showcase the inspiration that leads to the big reveal. There's a lot of work that goes into redecorating a home or room. Really good decorators are clearly in their element, taking the project to heart, and giving their creative all to a project. I'm fascinated by interior design, and so I love seeing how a good decorator can turn something old into something new. To me, it's truly inspiring.

So, without much further adieu, here a a few of my favorite decorator type blogs.

Making It Lovely - Nicole has an eye for decorating with clean lines, and an underlining 60sIMG_8694 style. I'd personally LOVE to redo my apartment with this look, but I get totally overwhelmed in wondering where to start. So, I started with this ceramic bird on a mission style end table. Something about "a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step..."

This Young House - Really, if you haven't met Sherry and John, you need to run over to their blog right now. I won't even be mad, because they are just that awesome. They have a ton of before and after shots, and maybe some day if I am lucky, they can help me with my living room.

Making This Home - Katie and her husband live in Berlin, in a 480 square foot apartment. They are Americans, and their blog chronicles their adventures in upgrading their home. I like reading because it reminds me to be grateful for all 891 square feet of our apartment.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Moment of Recognition

I got off the BART train this evening hungry, fumbling for my ticket to let me through the turn style, deep in thought. I happened to pause for a second, and glance up, looking back in the window of the train. And there, still seated on the train, head down in a business document was someone I once knew very well. This was the person who I'd lived with, who first told me of the events of September 11th as I stood in my pajamas in complete disbelief, someone who I had known better than anyone in this world. He is the only person in this life with whom I have shared the words "I do," albeit it long ago on a warm summer afternoon in Berkeley. We had exchanged sacred vows in front of family and friends and God. And yet there he was, sitting quietly, reading.

There was a certain amount of joy in recognizing this face, and so I ran to the window and tapped it with my left knuckle. As he looked up, I saw that he was tired, worn out from the day, and now wearing a full beard. He looked so different, and yet so very much the same as the person I'd been so in love with. And as his eyes recognized me, after looking half startled, he smiled. I waived happily, quickly, and said "hi," even though I knew he could not hear me. We held each other's glance, and then I walked on, towards the stairs.

As the train pulled away, he looked up again, found me still on the platform, and waved. A friendly, loving wave. And then looked back down to continue reading as the train headed south out of the station.

It was an unusual moment, being met with someone I'd once known so well and had not seen in many months. And now, with time, and distance, emotions and differences, and a train window, we were as far apart as any two strangers could be. Yet, for that one brief moment, there was the joy of recognizing someone who had been as dear and close to my heart as anyone in this world.

Celebrating the Moments of Daily Life

I ran across these banners on Etsy by bird and bear, and I'm delighted by them. While we're all used to hanging banners for the big days in our life, birthdays, anniversaries, New Years Eve, why don't we look for those other moments to celebrate?

Both the very simple acts of joy:

But also those awkward times, times we all come across and we all navigate, to varying degrees of satisfaction. Instead of lamenting choices, or second guessing, it'd be great to go home, hang a banner, announce that you've disappointed someone, celebrate it and move on.

I've got to find a way to integrate this idea into a retreat :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

And Then, 'Nothing' Happened

The original plan for this weekend was to attend a retreat on Centering Prayer. You may recall my trepidation of coming face to face with the possible Nothing, and my general excitement over the retreat, since it was going to be led by Cynthia Bourgeault. Or, you can see those entries here and here. Well, it turns out that the Nothing was not meant to be; Cynthia had to cancel the retreat late last week because of a funeral. So, my heart goes out to her and her family and hope that they can find some comfort in each other in what must be a difficult time.

This weekend, then, has been unscripted and unplanned. It's left room for small things like cleaning and some laundry and reading. It allowed us to go see a small, yet terribly interesting second hand furniture store, and stop by a bakery to delight in baked treats. It's amazing how some bakeries have a timeless quality, with the displays, the lighting, the treats all retaining their look from as back as far as my childhood.

Today I think there is grocery shopping, putting some finishing touches on my part of a baby shower for next weekend, and hopefully reaching out to friends and family to check in. The Nothingness that I once feared has so far revealed itself as nothing, and I've enjoyed every minute of its quiet.

In the window

Hard at Work

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Music: When it Don't Come Easy

Patty Griffin is an amazing singer and song writer. I debated if I should post this song, or "Rain," which is also awesome. It's raining here in San Francisco (and a tip: don't call it "Frisco," folks or "SanFranCaliFrisco" for that matter- it's the equivalent of calling Boston "Beantown" which I hear is frowned upon by locals as well) and likely will be all weekend.

I went with this song because I feel like its a timeless message that we all need to remember, in each of our relationships, every day. Enjoy!

The picture was just taken out my window from work. That's the Etrade building below my window.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Your Heart's Deepest Desire

A Franciscan friend once relayed a story to me of a time when he was discerning his life's purpose. He went to his Benedictine mentor, a staunch, serious older gentleman and asked him for help in this discernment. And his mentor said, "Tell me, what is your heart's deepest desire? Think about this for a week and return to me with your answer."

My friend went back a week later and gave an answer that was not satisfactory to his mentor. He was instructed to go back, over the next week, and contemplate again on his heart's deepest desire. He did this for nine weeks in a row, and finally, on the tenth week he returned with the answer of "I want to dance, and I want to invite others to join the dance with me."

With this answer, the mentor was satisfied. This was his calling. To dance, in the light of Christ, and to invite others to join him in his dance. He knew what his life's purpose was.

When we were planning our last retreat together, this same friend looked me straight in the eye after relaying this story and said, "Paula, what is your heart's deepest desire?" He waited a moment and said, "You don't have to share it with me now, but it is a question worth pondering." And we sat in silence for a moment, and then returned again to the discussion of our retreat.

I was quite struck by this question, by the frankness of my friend's words, and of the very stark nature of his inquiry. This was such straight forward question, asked in earnest. And it was probing and intense. What was my heart's deepest desire? What motivates me?

At this time, my answer is "To share the Love and the Joy of the Creation, and to experience as much of it as I can in my time here." It is not far from my first answer, which came to mind very quickly after I was first asked the question. That first answer was simply "Love."

I have a feeling I will ponder this question for some time. I will know when I have settled in to the right answer because I believe it will feel right, and familiar, like warm slippers or a father's embrace. Or like coming home after a long journey.

So, what is your heart's deepest desire?

Sunset in Mendocino

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reflections on Obama's Inauguration and a Letter to President Ford

Early in the morning of January 20th, I lay awake at night wondering about our president elect. It was 1am my time, so it was 4am in Washington. Was Barack Obama asleep, or was he awake, thinking about his "new job?" I know that the night before a new job, I am usually so excited or nervous that I can't sleep. Would a new president feel the same way?

As I thought about this new president, ready to assume his new job, I recalled another time that I had felt a certain empathy for the leader of the new world. Gerald Ford had been my favorite president as a young child. Perhaps it was because Nixon had been such an unfavored character, or perhaps it was because President Ford had a daughter, Susan who seemed so smart and lovely, and I really admired her. The funny thing is that at age three, I was a huge fan of President Ford.

When President Ford lost the election, I was worried about him, and his family. My Dad had been let go from his job recently, and at three, I vaguely understood what it meant to be faced with unemployment. I wouldn't have known the word recession, but I imagine I knew there were hard times in general.

So, I asked my Mom to help me write a letter to President Ford. I told him I was really sorry that he'd lost his job, and that my Dad had lost his job recently, too. I told him that if he needed a place to live for awhile, his family could come and stay with us. We sealed it, put a stamp on it, and sent it off to the Fords.

A few weeks later I got a reply. It was likely a canned letter, but in it, President Ford told me thank you, and that I was lucky to be young and live in such an exciting and promising age, and that I was fortunate to live in the finest country in the world. He also sent some pictures of his time in the White House.

I cherished that letter, in a young and patriotic way. We had it framed, and hung in my room as I grew up. I was proud of our country and felt a certain amount of pride and awe for the office of the President. Somewhere in one of the Bush eras, I think I lost that sense of patriotism.

As I've seen the inauguration and excitement around President Obama, I feel that old sense of patriotism coming back. There were millions of people who stopped what they were doing yesterday to watch a man be sworn in to the office of President. And in his speech, President Obama reminded us of the greatness we have known, the promise we hold for the future, and the encouragement to find our strength to rise and lead again as a united nation.

At the inauguration, there was a sense of awe, a respect for the Office, and the appropriate amount of American celebration around the ceremony. People who had likely felt disengaged, as I had, during previous administrations were out with American flags, feeling that someone who represented them was taking the lead. It has been heartening to see the media coverage of these days, of a new First Family and their excitement about the journey they are beginning together. And there is that youthful excitement shining through again, full of patriotism and promise, filling hearts with hope. This is what I will remember from these first days of the Obama administration.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Building of Brand Obama

I could not be prouder today of our whole country for making the choice to elect such an amazing man, for taking the leap of faith, for holding on to hope, and for voting with our hearts. It is momentous. It was awe inspiring to watch as Obama took office, as millions watched on the mall, and it was just breath taking to hear his speech as I drove into to work.

Some of you know that in my "every day" life I work in advertising, specifically in interactive marketing. I'm a project manager for websites and other online work. I've been in the online world for ten years, which well, makes me a veteran. I went through the dot com bust in the Silicon Valley, and I was let go from a fairly well known startup when it went under.

One of the things that absolutely fascinates me the most, from a logistics perspective, is Brand Obama. Here is a man that has a truly inspirational and aspirational message, who has researched and known his demographic, embraced technology, and executed a highly successful integrated, interactive campaign in the way few others have been able to do, and he did it with heart. Here's what I saw him do, and do well:

A good brand knows its core values.
We know what Barack Obama stands for because he was able to continue communicating it to us in everything he did. It's CHANGE and HOPE. Plain, simple, easy to understand, and presented in a time that we all needed it most. And, as I said earlier, this is a value that is true to Barack Obama's beliefs; it comes from the heart and it stays true to his earlier writings. It is a part of him, and it comes across loud and clear.

A good brand starts with a strong logo.
Obama's logo is reminiscent of the heartland, of the sky of the prairie states. It reminds me of Kansas or Missouri, and of small towns that I have visited as I've driven across the country. By pulling in visuals that resonate with our thoughts of the hard working farmer, Obama is delicately saying that he is one of us. He has worked hard, he has come from a town like ours and he understands our needs.

Moreover, where many brands have very strict guidelines and restrictions, throughout the campaign Obama encouraged groups to make his logo their own. On his campaign site, he offers variation on his logo for Environmentalists, People of faith, first Americans, Hope, kids, LGBT, Latinos, Students, Veterans, Women, Pacific Islanders, every state in the nation, Americans abroad, Republicans, Sportsmen, and National Delegates. He's inclusive in his logo, changing it every time with a nod to the group that may use it. It's not just in words and font, they've truly modified the logo to fit each group.

A good brand understands the media it is using and plays to the strengths of that media.
With this strong logo in place, Brand Obama made the move to use the interactive space to its best advantage. While new media is indeed new, we have never seen a politician play so confidently, so smartly or so integratedly in this space. Obama embraced YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, to name a few. The brand jumped full force onto Al Gore's best invention and used the internet to its potential.

A good brand recognizes a viral phenom when it happens and rolls with it.
Shephard Fairey is the street artist who created the now iconic Obama HOPE poster. Done entirely as a individual project, Fairey distributed the posters in downtown Chicago on his own. The image became so popular that Fairey ended up distributing 500,000 posters and 300,000 stickers by the end of the campaign, all funded with his own money. Later the image was picked up by the city of Chicago to help celebrate Obama's win, and were found on banners throughout the city in November of 2008. On January 17, 2009 the image was placed in the National Portrait Gallery, and became part of the permanent collection.

The important thing here is that the Obama campaign embraced this image and encouraged Fairey to continue its distribution once they knew of it.

Another viral effort, also unfunded and un-endorsed by Brand Obama was the "Obama Girl" video, with its song "I've got a crush on Obama," which hit YouTube on June 13, 2007 and currently has 12,877,668 views. While it is a SNL - esque video, complete with a scantily clad girl and ridiculous lyrics, Obama himself has never said much about it - other than he worries about what his family might think of such a thing. But message is out there, and remains.

A good brand builds relationships with people and works to maintain them.
From the moment you landed on his campaign site, you recognized the brand and were immediately familiar with its look and feel. The site looked like the TV ads, which looked like the print pieces, and looked like everything the Obama campaign put out. The wording of everything sounded like Barack Obama's speaking style. Everything about the campaign and its outbound communications built on every other piece, and it all provided a solid, singular voice for the brand.

Beyond building that integrity through look and feel, from the moment you landed on his site, you were encouraged to sign up with your email address to be a part of the movement. After you signed up, the emails came regularly, and still do. And, the campaign was very smart to offer incentives, like a magnet, for making a donation. Not only did I want to participate, but I was excited at the prospect of receiving a gift that helped broadcast my enthusiasm for the campaign. Brand Obama did a great job of balancing involvement with support, and asked for donations in just the right way.

Beyond that, while the communications were regular, the requests for assistance with the campaign were both unassuming and respectful. Obama asked for our time, our money, our vote, but was grateful for whatever we could give. The campaign met us where we were, understood that the public may not have a large sum to donate individually, but that as a collective, we could offer a whole lot. In that respect and with that gratitude, we were happy to help how we could.

Brand Obama moved beyond traditional advertising that offers one way communication via TV and print, and very successfully navigated the world of new media, opening up two way communications in ways no other political campaign has in the past. Like Apple's embracing the transfer of electronic music and creating iTunes, Obama saw the strengths of the media and jumped in, reaching out to a demographic (those that are 18-30) that historically does not vote as often in elections, and started a grassroots movement with them. The brand created a Flickr group that encouraged photo sharing, created profiles on Facebook and MySpace, and continued the dialogue with people who had shown interest in the campaign. And, a YouTube channel exists for his footage. By doing this, Obama was living the message that he so proudly has on his site "I'm asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington ... I'm asking you to believe in yours."

This communication, look, feel, and branding is consistent on the relaunch of The White House site. Brand Obama continues here, with the font, the graphics, and the messaging that we've come to associate with him and with his campaign. They have changed the navigation to read "our Government," (instead of Government) posted photos of the Obama Family at the National Day of Service, and added a blog. The campaign that started with Barack Obama's campaign has already evolved to include what appears to be the look and feel of his presidency. A presidency that looks to be filled with Change, Hope, and to be inclusive and communicative. These are the messages he has been sending to us all along, and this is a marketing campaign that shows advertising and its potential at its best. It is true to its purpose, true to a Brand, and is communicating the true messaging of a man and his vision.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Ladybug Club

When my family moved to California, back in 1982, we moved next door to an amazing family. It was just our luck that they had two girls, one my age, and the other just a couple of years younger than my sister. This was the beginning of a delightful friendship. In the early years we had Easter Parades with our dogs and their guinea pigs, complete with bonnets, dresses, and singing up and down the street. We staged an exceptional version of Annie in which I wore a pair of cut off panty-hose on my head as Daddy Warbucks. Bless our parents and grandparent's hearts for sitting that hour as we actually performed "Tomorrow" by singing along to a tape recording while sitting in the hall closet.

The other thing that this friendship started was The Ladybug Club. We had a theme song, a clubhouse (OK, so it was actually a dog house with a bath mat for carpeting), and we had optional dues. Which were later pilfered by *someone* to buy ice cream cones. There were many many tea parties in the doghouse (we gave up insisting that it was a clubhouse after awhile), and once Tammy and I had a sleep over in the doghouse. We fit the two of us, with sleeping bags, and were determined to sleep out there until her brother came out and made scary noises, causing us to run, screaming bloody murder into her house.

Twenty-six years later, we're all grown up and we've moved away from the street we grew up on. My parents have moved to another state. Tammy's parents still live on the street, and when we go back to look at the doghouse, we really wonder how we all ever fit in there for our club meetings.

It's been a few years since all the Ladybugs had met up, so we decided to have lunch together today. Tammy's sister, Lark, had moved to a new house with her family, and she offered to have us all over. She has two daughters, both under three, and Tammy has a son who is almost two. Lark lucked out when she and her husband bought the house, it came with a super cute playhouse in the back. A real one, with shutters, a heart window, real carpet, and a working front door.

This afternoon, when all the kids were running around in the backyard, the four of us found ourselves easily coaxed into a game of "mean queen" which involved everyone getting into the playhouse. And there, for a few beautiful moments, all the Ladybugs were back together, screaming and laughing and smiling, just like old times, tucked happily away in a magical playhouse.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Friday / Saturday Music: Just Like Heaven

After some technical difficulties yesterday, I now present my "Friday Music," which is "Just Like Heaven," by Katie Melua. I love the mellow guitar, her dreamy voice, and feel like it's an awesome cover of The Cure's original classic tune.

Was there anyone else who once thought that the first line was "Show me how you do that trick, the one that makes me scream 'sea sick!'" No? Maybe it was just me? Now that would be quite a love story...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

One in Eleven Million: Lessons from World of Warcraft

This is it, I'm coming out of the video gaming closet. In another world, I am a level 76 Night Elf Druid. Or, in other words, I play World of Warcraft.

Shocking, I know.

World of Warcraft, for those who are unfamiliar with the game, is an MMORPG, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. It is a video game where you create and play a character, and other people log in and play characters as well. The landscape, towns, weather, and events are persistent, meaning that even when you're not logged in, they exist, virtually on a server. You can group up with other people and fight together for gold, loot, and of course, glory. WoW, as it is called, is a game produced by Blizzard Entertainment, and it currently has eleven million players worldwide. That's more people than the entire state of Michigan, which as of the last census has 10,095,643 people.

I like the game for many reasons. I enjoy the story, I like the challenge of the game, and I really do like that I've had the same character for over four years. I've met a lot of interesting people, and created some online friendships that I cherish. It's great to have a group of people who are online, playing, enjoying themselves, and who are always happy to see you. In many ways, it is a place where "everybody knows your name." (Albeit your character's name.)

Once, at a retreat I was attending, we were encouraged to reflect upon some of our favorite pastimes and think about lessons that might be learned from participating in them. Some people might say WoW is a pastime, and I would list it as a hobby, if it were on a survey sheet.

So, what had I learned from my druid? Sometimes she's the healer for a group of players. That means that I go into a dungeon with a group and keep an eye on the health level of either five or ten people; healing them as they are taking a beating from a mob in a dungeon. The thing is, you have to watch your own health, too. Because if the healer goes down in a group, well then, everybody will probably die and the group will need to start over. The healer is as important (if not more so) than anyone else in the group.

"A healer is no good unless they heal themselves first," was what my brain was saying to me. And that was it! What I'd learned from WoW! We each have to take care of ourselves before we can be of service to anyone else.

It's a simple lesson, really, but so hard to learn. We are each busy trying to be care takers, to cram more into every day, to keep a full schedule. So many of us are people pleasers, looking to make everyone else happy in our lives. Maybe it was Martha Stewart who encouraged such bad behavior, but we (especially women, in my opinion) often think that we need to be able to do it all, and expect no less from ourselves.

But, in the hustle and bustle of every day, we each need to keep an eye on our own health meters in the midst of looking out for the other folks in our lives. Are we tired, or worn out? Did we eat lunch? Would taking a walk around the block, or stepping out to get a coffee be a nice break? What can we do to "heal" ourselves so that we can take better care of the other people in our life?

Once I'd had this little epiphany, I've come back to the thought many times. It's a lesson in balance. It's a lesson in appreciating everyone for their special roles in our life, too. While the healer might not be out in the front, getting all the glory for hitting the hardest or downing the big boss, the group would not be able to be victorious without a healer in their midst. The support of the healer allows everyone to succeed and shine.

So, as you go about your day, take stock in healing yourself if you need to. And be sure any take notice and appreciate the healers around you as well.

In Iron Forge
My druid is the the tall female, second from the left. This a group shot in one of the cities, named Ironforge. She's a shape shifter, so that's also her above, in "moonkin" form.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Oh That Pesky Nothingness

Last week I wrote a little about being worried about attending a silent retreat which is being leadFence at The Sea Ranch by Cynthia Bourgeault. I was wrestling with the questions of "What if I find something ugly in the quiet? Without anyone there to help it look nice? Without anyone to laugh it away with me? What if I can't deal with the Nothing?"

It's funny when you put questions out to the universe, or the blogoverse. Sometimes they go into the void. But sometimes, perhaps when its a question of weight, or concern, sometimes you get an answer.

I was reading Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, which is also by Bourgeault, in the hopes of better understanding silent meditation. She does a great job of explaining that centering prayer, which is silent, is very different from our usual prayer in which we may speak to God in words or language. Standard prayer, which generally gives praise, bemoans hardship, or reflects on something amazing, is part of the cataphatic prayer family. It makes use of our faculties. This is how most of us grew up, praying in church or before a meal.

Centering prayer is considered apophatic prayer. It is formless, bypassing things like "reason, imagination, visualization, emotion, and memory." In apophatic prayer, you get still and quiet; it is a more subtle means of accessing perception, and engages our "spiritual senses." Your mind is not engaged, but your spirit is. Bourgeault likens the convergence of the self and the divine to "pieces of cloud dissolving in sunlight," which is a quote from Rumi.

What blew me away in this (aside from a great Rumi reference) was how she then described the experience of apophatic prayer, especially in light of my fear of being along in the Nothing. "What first appears like a 'nothing' to us gradually begins to become filled with its own light and intelligence, and this in turn carries us closer to our own hearts and closer to that mysterious place of interpenetration at the heart of all things. This more subtle level of perceptivity can be sustained only when the denser and noisier perceptions of our usual human faculties have fallen silent."

I am definitely enjoying the book, and really appreciate Bourgeault's style and way with words. Centering Prayer as she describes it, while distinctly Christian, also sounds so very Taoist to me. In returning to the Tao now, I delight that the verse that falls open is the 56th one:

Those who know do not talk.
Those who talk do not know.

Block all the passages!
Close your mouth,
cordon off your senses,
blunt your sharpness,
untie your knots,
soften your glare,
settle your dust.
This is the primal union or the secret embrace.

One who knows this secret
is not moved by attachment of aversion,
swayed by profit or loss,
nor touched by honor or disgrace.
He is far beyond the cares of men
yet comes to hold the dearest place in their hearts.

This, therefore, is the highest state of man.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Handmade Labyrinth on the Patio!

When I walked out on to our patio at work today, I was met with ... a full sized Labyrinth made in chalk!! I could not believe my eyes. It was beautiful and inspired, and well, not completely finished. So, I asked my co-worker if I could help finish drawing in the lines and she said yes. I was so totally thrilled to help and actually see this thing at work that I ended up crawling on the ground, getting chalky, and scuffing my work shoes, but who cared!?!? because ZOMG! there's a labyrinth at work!!

I didn't get to see my co-worker setting it up, but she told me that she'd put a chair in the middle and used some rope, marked off at equal intervals to make the circles. It's a full 11 circuit labyrinth, like the one at Chartres Cathedral (and Grace Cathedral in SF). We had a nice talk about how she'd fallen in love with them in Ireland and that's where she first saw them. What really gets me excited is this makes me realize that you could create a labyrinth anywhere for a retreat. What a great part of the week of Inspiration!

On the way to my car, I stopped and took another picture, of the Palace Hotel. This is from the Stephenson ally:

The Palace Hotel

Monday, January 12, 2009

Today was ... the Beginning of 'Inspiration Week'

At work, the powers that be are sponsoring what they call "Inspiration Week" this week. I applaud this effort. Today, there was a private tour of SF MOMA just for our company. They also invited local artists to bring in their art, to the office, and it has been hung in the hallways. On Friday we're going to have a happy hour and meet all of the artists who's work is on display. Really cool.

So, I'll try to do something a little different this week and come up with something perhaps inspired each day.

It was 67 degrees in San Francisco as I walked back to my car at around 6:00pm. Truly strange weather. However, it made for a lovely, calm sunset. I took this picture from the parking garage:

San Francisco at Night

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Taking That Retreat Feeling With You

The Young Adult planning team had its first meeting for our March retreat today. Our focus was to come up with our theme, and then to brainstorm on some ideas for the day. One of the things that we always struggle with are ways that we can help people take the retreat experience home with them. It's easy to address big issues, meet new people, and get in touch with your spiritual side when you put everything aside for one day and focus on just that. But how do you keep it going? How do you implement practices for everyday life?

That's going to be our theme for the next retreat. We're going to gather ideas of Maui Day 1 - Paula 099things that each of us do every day as part of our spiritual practice, have opportunities for participants to try them out, and then send them home with the tools to make some of what they've learned a daily practice. So, for example, one of the team members will likely lead the Rosary in a break out session, and we will give out instructions on how to do it, and give each participant a Rosary to take home. We'll also have "less structured" things for people, who (like myself) might be more comfortable journaling daily, but would not be as drawn to a more formal practice.

I'm excited about this idea. Each of us has things that we do, every day, that bring us closer to the Creator, and closer to our spiritual center. Lots of times young adults just need a nudge, or an introduction to a topic, and that will open the door to a new way of thinking for them. If there's a daily practice that can help them in communing with God in a new way, it's great to get an introduction to that idea at a retreat.

Today's meeting reminded me of how much I love the creative process in planning our retreats, and how I treasure the group and our ability to feed off of one another for great ideas. I truly missed them, and the group dynamic, in the last retreat I led.

How do you prefer to spend Spiritual time? What ways have you found to commune with God on a daily basis?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Celebrating Failure

In Improv, one of the things you learn really early on is to acknowledge and celebrate your failures. It's part of the deal ... there are times when a group of improvisors are doing something on the fly, and something goes terribly wrong. Or just becomes awkward. I think that's part of why audiences love to watch improv. One of the things we do in class (and its encouraged) is acknowledge that moment of weirdness, when the action has stopped and the everyone is stuck. If a scene's a stinker, we very gloriously put our hands above our head, give a jester's bow and announce, "I FAILED!" And then, everyone claps.

Isn't this the best thing ever? To just announce you've failed, and then, get this, you move on. That's right, once you've acknowledged this little hiccup, you don't look back. There's no stopping to figure out "what went wrong," no Monday morning quarterbacking, people don't jump in and say "oh, I would have done this." Nope, you shake off that little moment, and you're up again in another scene. We move on because everyone has had a scene go south. No one is immune from weirdness. Instead of allowing the mind to start running over the the scene, again and again, or anyone diving into the depths of feeling sheepish, we just let it go.

I think that this is part of the magic of improv. Sure, you're up there doing scenes without a script and with only one piece of input from the audience. Sure, anything could happen, and most anything does happen. The thing is, no one in that troupe should be looking to control the scene or judge what is going on. Instead, each of us is up there listening, reacting, in real time. What we hear and see with our other improvisors moves the scene along. And we have to be open and ready for any suggestion, from anyone on the stage, at any moment.

With this kind of risk, you could open yourself up to a lot of potential self judgment. The ego really wants to judge everything you do up there. It would be easy to say "oh, I should have been a dog in that scene," or "I should have figured out that Bob wanted me to be a fairy princess" or worse, "wouldn't it be funny if I pretend to be dead next?" But when you do that, especially on the stage, you stop your mind from listening to your other players, and you lose your place. Literally, you lose your place in the story. And that's when the whole troupe finds itself in trouble; when someone has stopped to judge themselves or is thinking of ways to control the scene, and is not listening. More than likely, that group is about ready for an epic fail.

I love improv because it teaches a lot of important life lessons. It reminds me to be present in the moment, it teaches me the importance of listening to others around me, and it tells me again and again that failure is just fine. And more than that, we need to just let go of any weird feelings about failing in life and be kind to ourselves, giving ourselves credit for the risks we take. It's too easy to be hard on ourselves for our decisions or our actions, day to day. Anymore, I try very hard to acknowledge that I failed at something, get my butt back up on life's stage, and try really hard to do it better the next time.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Upcoming Give Away With a Twist: How You Can Help

100th post bannerI want to celebrate Welcoming Spirit's 100th post with a give away, which will happen in early February. I'm envisioning a small gift basket that has things that are inspiring, that I love, that I would want to share with someone else.

In the spirit of giving, I would also like to make one of these inspiration gift basket to give to a local women's shelter and deliver that around the same time.

Here's where I could use your help: Do you make something, or have something you'd like to donate to the give away? Would you like to join in and help make this happen? If you have something you'd like to throw into the mix, please comment here or email me at welcomingspirit [at] and let me know what it is, and we can figure out the details. Anyone who helps out will be acknowledged here on the blog for their generosity.

I am going to be making something for the basket myself, everyone will just have to wait and see what that is :) I can't wait to see what we all come up with, and to see what we can give to another group of much deserving people, as well.

Friday Afternoon Music: Elevator Love Letter

There's a little band from Canada called Stars, and I thought I needed to share this lovely tune with everyone for the reprisal of Friday Music. Here is "Elevator Love Letter":

I've found myself listening to this song on repeat, and wanting to climb into it and live the music (and not necessarily the lyrics) for a bit, if that were possible. Or go to the beach and just spin and spin as it plays, a little like SanDeE* does in LA Story.

Happy Friday all!


If you know Welcoming Spirit, you know that I like to do a music post once a week. Music has always been a big part of my life. I have some favorite memories as a kid in the formal dining room, with my Dad playing drums with chop sticks on the table, my sister and I dancing around like crazy, and my Mom singing along to great songs like "Weave me the Sunshine," or anything off either The Beattles Sgt Pepper's album or later, Billy Joel's Glass Houses cassette.

This play list is taken from Friday posts from the last couple of months, plus some new favorites. I dedicate it to my family and thank them for inspiring a love of music in me.

SeeqPod - Playable Search

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Oakland Riots

It made the top headlines on CNN last night; a riot broke out in Oakland after a peaceful protest was taking place at a BART station (Fruitvale). The protest was being staged over the January 1 shooting of Oscar Grant by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. Oscar Grant died from the shooting.

The rioting took place in downtown Oakland, and involved crowds busting in store fronts, burning cars, rioting. The police came out in riot gear. The mayor, Ron Dullums came out, on his own, with a bull horn, asking the people to remain peaceful. He marched to the front of the steps at City Hall and took some questions. Utterly unscripted and raw, I also found this image by Thomas Hawk (on Flickr) of the mayor. A man deep in thought, in a moment of true humanity.

Tonight the family of Oscar Grant has also come out, asking that the violence stop. Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson said today at a press conference, "You're hurting people who have nothing to do with the situation. You're vandalizing their property, hurting their cars and breaking their windows. Please just stop it, please."

It is hard to put any of this situation into context, for me, for the Bay Area, for those of you who live outside the region. I thought a lot about the incident as I rode BART home tonight. I ride BART at least two times a day, often more, and often to Oakland for business. I have friends who live and work in Oakland. Many of those who work in Oakland were "evacuated" at 2pm in fear that there would be more protests, and possibly rioting this evening.

How do we live with this kind of fear? The kind of fear that makes people angry, and rise up, and become violent? We all know of the raw emotion that can come from a tragedy, from oppression, of feeling down trodden and hopeless. I know the economy is bad, and I know people feel lost. But how does that kind of fear translate to such violence?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006My prayer is that there will be peace. I pray that somehow the message is understood, while we all feel for the untimely loss of this man, a father, a family person, a church goer, it does not make it right to continue violence.

What we need is peace, love, and more peace. This is my prayer for the family and the community tonight. That everyone can focus on finding a better way to address this injustice, to show their outrage, and to find justice. And that in the toughest times we can find a way to live together bravely, strongly, and with love.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A New Idea for Welcoming Spirit: Book Reviews

OK, so its not really new. But it's new here!

I get these really great alumni magazines from UCSB (UC Santa Barbara, go Gauchos!) and Yale, and lots of times they have announcements of faculty or alumni books that have been published in the last year, with a little blurb about the books.

I keep these magazines, on the coffee table, often far past any sort of reasonable amount of time. Like the copy of "Spectrum" from YDS that I finally leafed through last night, dated "Winter 2008." When I picked it up, I thought "oh, good, I'm getting to this in the right season." Wrong! It was from January, 2008. ouch. That thing had sat on my coffee table for 12 months.

But what I did find was this cool book called "Brand Jesus: Christianity in a Consumerist Age," which piqued my interest. I'm ordering that sucker tonight, and I'm going to read and review it here.

I got Tagged by Sheri

This is my first time being tagged, so here goes. I offer a special welcome to my new friends from CC blogs, and hope you enjoy this little glimpse into my world.

1. Do you think you're hot?
No. LOL. I don't really have much to say on that one ... I'm happy with how I look, I cherish that I'm short, but "hot" isn't one of those things I aim for. Strangely, growing up I'd always get pissed when people told me I was "cute" because I'd be upset that they were likely only looking at me for my height or physical appearance. I didn't want that to be one of the things people noticed me for.

2. Upload your favorite picture of you.
C2 shoot 056

3. Why do you like that picture?
This is a picture of me at work. Behind me, you can see a "green screen," where we were doing a video shoot for a website. I'm holding a giant cup of mayonnaise, which was a prop, of sorts. We threw it, along with a ton of other gross stuff at our actor for one of the takes.

The reason I asked someone to take this picture was because another co-worker and fellow project manager, Colby, hates mayo. He's disgusted by it. So I wanted to show him what he was missing, since he'd originally handed this lovely project off to me. I love that I wanted to taunt someone with something that would gross them out.

Also, this project had been really difficult in some stages, but I'm proud of the team for doing a great job and coming up with a wonderful final product that the client is thrilled with. And, finally, I do love my job, and photo shoots, while they are a lot of work, are often really good, long days.

4. When was the last time you ate pizza?
Last night. We had a frozen pizza from Target, which we were trying for the first time. It wasn't so good.

5. The last song you listened to?
The last full song was "O Beauty, Ever Ancient" by the Saint Louis Jesuits. I played it a bunch of times while I was making the video from the last retreat. But, I have been hearing snippets of Metallica off and on all day because I am home, sick, and my guy has been playing it.

6. The last movie you watched?
Dan in Real Life. I wouldn't recommend it. I love Steve Carrell, but I found myself feeling the movie lacked context, and then it seemed very predictable after we hit about the half way point.

But, that same day I watched "Lars and the Real Girl" - weird, but I loved it. Really good.

7. Last restaurant you ate at?
Pasta Primavera.

8. Last book you fully read?
Open the Door by Joyce Rupp; I read it in preparation for the last retreat I did.

9. What are you doing right now, besides this?
Sitting on the couch, toggling between the questions (alt tab for the win) on Sheri's site, and looking at flickr. Thinking about taking a nap or playing World of Warcraft when I'm done. :)

10. What name do you prefer besides your own?
Hmm. I like my own name. I think its funny when people play around with my last name and make up names with it. And, Dorothy Mantooth is a great name. She's a saint, you know....

5 People to Tag:

And, anyone else who wants to play along :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Fear of the Nothing

I like to attend retreats as much as I like leading them. One of the ones of special note coming up is with Cynthia Bourgeault. She is the author of one of my favorite recent reads, The Wisdom Jesus.

Her site describes her as a "hermit priest, writer, and internationally known retreat leader;" she has done a lot of work around Centering Prayer and meditation, and worked with Thomas Keating. I am reading another of her books, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, and I'm finding it quite interesting. I'm very excited that she's doing a three day retreat up at San Damiano later this month. The only part that scares me a little bit is that it is a SILENT retreat.
Silence at the Academy
So, I'm an extrovert. I mean, I do love silence, and there are lots of times I like nothing better than to sit quietly on my own. But generally, I am reading, or writing, or I have some sort of input. Or, I might be sitting on BART (its our local train system, Bay Area Rapid Transit) as I go to work, and I enjoy a kind of solitude there. Total silence, now that is a different kind of thing.

It's funny that I am afraid of silence. Of being alone with myself. I am not afraid to get up in front of people and do Improvisational comedy; without a script or without any sense of what the group I'm working with might do next. We can make up whole scenes and worlds, and I remain within my comfort zone. I'll even sing in front of people in Improv, without knowing what kind of music might be played for me. And, without even being that confident in my own voice.

But, facing myself, and doing it in the quiet, that is a different matter. It seems a little bit like "The Never Ending Story," when Atrayu is trying to stop the Nothing. He has a good luck dragon, Falcor by his side, who keeps him safe and sound and leads him to the princess. Perhaps it is a matter of trust, of wishing I had a companion with me, my own Falcor. More than anything in Improv, I trust those other people in the group to "play nice." We've all agreed to "make each other look good," we are Falcors for each other to catch one another if we fall. What if I find something ugly in the quiet? Without anyone there to help it look nice? Without anyone to laugh it away with me? What if I can't deal with the Nothing?

I guess I need to take a deep breath and realize this, too, can be met with the rules of Improv. I'm betting the Creator wants each of us to "look good," and wants us to fulfill the promise we've each been placed here to fill. Instead of this being played out in front of other people, it will be played out inside, in the silence, where God named me, where God made each of us. Instead of meeting the Nothing, I indeed will be face to face with The Something. We just need to enter in to the silence, which some say is God's language. I will go, and I will take heart in one of my favorite lines, a mantra of sorts, "Be still and know that I am God."

On a totally unrelated note, I present you this bit of joy from our family holidays:
December 08 178

Joey, an Italian Greyhound, enjoys pink wigs, long walks on the beach, chasing grouse at dusk, endorses the use of "doggles," and delights in the musings of Dame Edna.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Car Manufacturer Bailout: Let's Turn This On It's Head

On the way into work today, I was listening to NPR, and there was a story about automobile emissions standards, and how those standards have come into question around to the industry's requested bailout. I realize I don't usually get into political issues here, but something about this story grabbed my interest. I do like to talk about ecological issues, and I feel like at the heart of things, we are stewards of this Creation. So, for me, the questions of pollution, global warming, and acting on these causes is closely tied to being spiritual.

On NPR, they were discussing the fact that as part of the possible $15-$25 billion bailout requested by General Motors, Chrysler and Ford, one of the stipulations had been that the big three manufacturers had to drop long standing law suits with the state of California over their vehicle emissions standards.

What's this you ask? Well, here in California, starting "way back" in 1943, we started having big problems with smog in the Los Angeles basin. Even back then, politicians started passing legislature around emissions because public health was a concern. As things have grown and changed, the focus is now on our impact on the environment.

The standards that California has passed, and that at least 12 and as many as 20 states would follow (as of NPR's report this morning), are more stringent than the federal standards. The California standards, which were proposed with the "Pavley Bill," are briefly described as such: "Under the Pavley bill, automakers will have until the 2009 model year to produce a new California breed of cars and trucks that will collectively emit 22 percent fewer greenhouse gases by 2012 and 30 percent fewer by 2016. Seven Northeastern states, including New York, have pledged to adopt the California standards. Former Governor Gray Davis signed it into law on July 22, 2002."

This law has been contested from the beginning, by the major car manufacturers because it hits their bottom line. Originally, the contention was around the fact that the large/heavy SUVs could not be sold in California (they didn't pass the emissions standards), and that this would cut into profits. Now, with the bailout, the manufacturers are crying out that we need to return to a single set of standards, and that those standards should be the same across the nation. And, that those standards should be the federal ones, not the more stringent ones that have been mandated in California.

What I hear behind this is "It will cost us money to make these changes, and we're so focused on how things have always been that we don't want to change anything. We just want more money to keep running things just as they have always been run." It literally is all about these major car companies, and their concern about profit, and about being unwilling to change the old paradigm of building an automobile.

Here's my stance on this topic. It's clear from declining sales that GM and Chrysler are no longer meeting the public's needs as they once did. Even two years ago, Toyota had ousted Chrysler from it's standing in the "Big Three." People have stopped buying these cars. It's also very clear to me that there is a need to make a cleaner running vehicle, one that is efficient in gas if it uses gas, one that is affordable to the general American consumer, and one that is forward thinking in its design, energy source, and likely its size.

So, why, instead of defending old ways, demanding a bailout, and wanting to retain the old manufacturing plants, why is one of these big three not re-thinking the business of building a car? Why is a spokesperson from the industry saying this morning on NPR that it should fall back to the old production in order to retain profits?

Let's turn this thing on it's head! There is a niche that's waiting to be filled; and it is a green car, an affordable car, a car that doesn't pollute or create health problems, and one that meets or exceeds emissions standards across the nation.

I'm no car expert, but I think there's money in this plan. If the manufacturers made plans to make a new kind of car, retrofitted a plant, it seems jobs would be opened up, and the green consumer would buy this new kind car. I don't have the full answers, for certain. But it seems like the responsible thing to do, especially if the manufacturers are getting OUR money to do it, is to build the car we want. Not to keep building the cars we don't want and have stopped buying.

I have my hopes that the industry will arrive at a similar idea. It's the right thing to do - for the economy, for the planet, for people's health, and for our future. While its a brave idea, and takes a risk, "you can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it." Meaning, we can't fix the problem we have by continuing to do the same thing we've always done.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

"O Beauty Ever Ancient," a Video From the New Year's Retreat

At our New Year's retreat, we did a lot of group work with doors - each person chose an image of a doorway or gate or threshold as they arrived the first evening. This item helped break people into "teams" (small groups), and had a quote about thresholds or journeys on the back. I wanted to find a way to share this with others, and to post the song "O Beauty Ever Ancient" by the Saint Louis Jesuits, which was used as part of a chapel service.

Standing on the Threshold from Paula on Vimeo.

As I watch this again, I can't help but think of each of the participants at the retreat, and know that each photo is in one of their hands now. I hope that they are all happy and well and that their journey is blessed as they continue on into the new year.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Love Gambles Away Every Gift

Another poem that I've come across recently, and that has really had me thinking is this, by Rumi:

Love is recklessness, not reason.
Reason seeks a profit.
Love comes on strong, consuming herself, unabashed.

Yet in the midst of suffering,
Love proceeds like a millstone,
hard surfaced and straight forward.

Having died to self-interest,
she risks everything and asks for nothing.
Love gambles away every gift God bestows.
Without cause God gave us Being;
without cause, give it back again.

This poem, in so many ways seems like a companion to the Hafiz poem, which you can read here. The line that keeps ringing in my own head is "Love gambles away every gift God bestows," because it speaks so deeply to our need to follow our own passion, and act on our own gifts. It is our deepest calling to "gamble away" each of our talents and gifts, out of love and respect for ourselves. For truly, the more we give of ourselves to others, whether it be through song or poetry, acting, designing, writing, leading, doing math or medicine, the more enriched everyone's life is. By following the deepest love of each of our hearts, we come to know our purpose, and can serve each other fully. This is true in work, in play, and in relationships. When we give more of ourselves, we will always get back more than we expect.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Being the Light for Each Other in the Darkness

One of the things that strikes me, now just a day after the retreat has come to close is the spirit of the crowd that was there. They were truly there, present, living in the now. They embraced everything that came their way, sharing, opening up, giving of themselves again and again. It is inspiring to see sixty people do this, with no expectations, no agenda - just a desire to grow and experience life.

I had many favorite moments of the retreat. I take away images of quiet moments, of couples, friends, groups of families, all bravely coming to a retreat together. Of people leaving their individual comfort zones, letting go of those folks they may have walked in together with, and opening their arms to new people in their small groups. I loved seeing that some of the randomly assigned small groups related so well that they lost track of time, talking well into the next presentations, taking their own time to continue to meet. It is amazing when the spirit shows up and brings the right people together at the right time. It is amazing.

I loved New Year's Eve, with its quirky surprise events. At right about 11:45, we were met with darkness when all the lights went out with a blown transformer. It was a teaching moment, reminding each of us that we are never completely in control. Just when we have everything planned, everything figured out, a feast planned, drinks ready and a singer in the wings - the Universe reminds us that we are part of a bigger plan. Dependent on so many things, our best bet is to roll with what comes our way. As Randy Pausch said in The Last Lecture, "we can't control the hand we're dealt, we can only control how we play the cards."

How did these New Year's Revelers respond? There was an impromptu countdown, with much toasting and cheering. We eat a small feast in the dark, under emergency lights. There were those singing "Feliz Navidad" around the fireplace, in the wee hours, after even the safety lights went out. There were those escorting other people back to their rooms, returning with the flashlights to the Fireside room to escort others again, until everyone was safe and sound.

These people, perhaps strangers when they arrived, rose to the occasion. They were the Light in the Darkness for each other. They showed what community can be and do, and they have lit a light in my own heart. I thank each and everyone of them, and wish them all the Happiest of New Years.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Wee Hours of 2009

We ended our evening with Mass, full of song and thanksgiving for a year gone by, and a new year to start, full of promise and adventure. Our crowd was in a festive mood, glad from song and full of community.

We left the chapel, and on the horizon a great flash of light, followed by total darkness. I had cheered, thinking we had been treated to surprise fireworks. Instead, we have been treated with surprise silence. Enveloped in a veil of fog, wrapped in a deep winter quiet, filled with peace and cheer and a need for sleep.

I count my blessings, grateful for dear companions, the witnessing of traditions, and this amazing reminder of the joys found in the most simple of things.