Archive for March, 2008

Saturday, March 29
10:26 p.m.

To say that I have been stressed is an understatement.  I am concerned about the economy, about my finances, about the cost of gas, about the cost of my utilities (esp. my energy bills, which are atrocious), about feeling like I owe more than I make!  At times I’m tired of doing it alone – I mean, most people my age have a partner to split everything 50-50.   Which, if you live sensibly, means you end up regaining that half you had been losing.  I’m tired.  I wanted, for so long, to earn my keep, to be independent, to do it all on my own.  At some point you have to make choices.  Do I change careers?  Do I get a roommate?  Do I take on a part-time job for extra cash?  And then I just breathe…

Breathing is such a natural, innate process that you don’t even think about it, you inhale and exhale in the same fashion as blinking or digesting.  Most people don’t even realize that they’re not even breathing properly.  Most people breathe with just the top from their breastbone on up, not using their diaphragm.  Breathing isn’t even considered, that is, unless you can’t breathe – if you are badly congested or choking on something, or if you are giving birth or concentrating on it for a yoga class or meditation session.  The point is, breathing is probably the most important thing we do.

I’ve come to learn the importance in breathing.  While at rest, in exercising, in meditating and even when sleeping.  And, now I’m learning it’s even important in the writing process.  I began reading Laraine Herring’s book Writing Begins with the Breath.  In her introduction she writes (and I quote without permission):

“Deep writing comes from our bodies, from our breath, and from our ability to remain solid in the places that scare us.  It comes from merging with what we are writing – from dissolving our egos so that the real work can emerge through us, without our conditions for success attached to it.” 

That has been my problem.  I have been so strangled by my need to find an agent, to get my novel published, to get my short stories and essays published…and worse, my need to make extra money to pay off my debt.  I have put an incredible amount of pressure on myself that I have literally created my own writer’s block. 

This book may help me to put a fresh breath back into my writing process.  This is essential, else I might suffocate from my own clouded mind and body. 

So, the question of how will this book incorporate breath in the writing process?

Herring claims:

“Returning to the rise and fall of breath, bringing a level of conscious awareness to a predominantly involuntary action, reins in the scattered nature of our thoughts and grounds us in our bodies, squarely in the present moment where we must remain if we are to write deeply.”

I haven’t been disciplined with my meditation.  At least I have been consistently working out, and in my cardio exercise I am aware of my breath.  Now, I need to make an effort to implement more yoga into my workouts, 15 minutes of yoga a day, and this includes making plenty of time for sleep each night.  I  had been depriving myself of a decent night’s sleep for weeks, going to bed too late.  And I have been congested since my bout with the flu, so I’m still taking Claritan-D, which doesn’t help in the sleep department, other than it helps to keep me clear so that I can breathe – that is, paired with a Breathe Right Nose Strip adhered to the bridge of my nose.

I need to come up with a dedicated writing process.  I need to make the time for it, I need to cut out distractions, I need to slow down, to breathe and just write.  Conversely, I need to stop over-thinking, stressing, and pressuring myself to perform.  I need to create a process or ritual that will aid in the free flow of expression.  I haven’t identified the process yet – light candles or burn incense, stretch, do a couple of yoga poses that will open up my creative energy, sit at a desk or set up at the dining room table…

After writing this, I took a deep, meditative breath and shook out the tension in my shoulders.  I think this book is going to prove to be quite helpful, at least I’m hopeful.  Meantime, I made myself a cup of Yogi Tea and the following message was on the tag:  Be happy so long as breath is in you.


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Friday, March 28
11:16 p.m.

Today was a day filled with meetings.  I didn’t really get any work done, so I brought work home with me for the weekend.  I really need the two days off to not work, but, I find that I get really behind on our meeting days.  After the meetings, we had a farewell party for a co-worker on her last day.  I stuck around for a short while, which ended up longer than I intended, as I had a Tibetan Buddhism workshop at New Renaissance Book Store at 7 p.m.

I barely made it on time!  But, I walked in just before Yangsi Rinpoche, the speaker.  I was struck by his height!  He must be at least 6’6″!!  He’s a very gentle presence and moves slowly, with purpose.  He wore the traditional burgundy colored robes of a Buddhist monk.  His energy was peaceful, serene and yet intensely powerful.  I felt healthy and balanced in his presence.  I took a seat in the back and was so relaxed during his talk about compassion, I nearly fell asleep.  I heard every word and it was as if I were in a meditative state.  After his talk, he took some questions.  He has a kind smile and laugh. 

After, I went to the books store and bought Yangsi Rinpoche’s book Practicing the Path.  He was singing books, but I was too late.  Yangsi Rinpoche is the president and founder of the Maitripa Institute in Portland.  When I save enough money, I’d like to take some of the courses at Maitripa on Buddhist Philosophy and Logic, Meditation, Tibetan History, Compassionate Action, etc.  I’ll ask Rinpoche to sign my book at another time.

I also bought a book on writing called Writing Begins with the Breath: Embodying Your Authentic Voice by Laraine Herring.  Laraine spent three-weeks at the Soapstone solitary writers residency for women on the coast.  She writes about her experiences there in her introduction.  I really want to go to Soapstone when I have time and money to do so.  In any case, I’m really connecting with Writing Begins with the Breath.  And more on the author – her blog.

I also bought a beautiful journal.

After, I went to Higgins for a bite to eat.  I sat at the back bar and ordered a glass of Pinot noir, a mixed greens salad and the risotto with forest mushrooms, fiddlehead fern, leeks and chevre.  The food was delicious.  I had a nice conversation with the bartender.  While I ate, I put down the Writing Begins with the Breath book, after reading the engaging introduction, and began to write a poem about my spring-inspired risotto.  There’s nothing like eating food that’s local, seasonal and fresh.  It certainly inspires me!  I sketched the coiled fiddlehead fern and a leaf of Italian parsley next to my poem.  I decided then that I would write about my experiences “dining at the bar”, whether in the form of poem or essay.  Initially, I started this as a ‘food as poetry’  journal, but I may add essays.  We’ll see.

I finished my dinner with a nice cup of caffeinne-free Stumptown Coffee cappucino.  I love it when restaurants downtown serve Stumptown Coffee – it’s my favorite, bar none.  Since it was getting late, I had to go caffeinne-free, otherwise I’d toss and turn for hours and tonight I was hellbent on getting a good night’s sleep.  The rest of my evening plans included to stretch, go to bed and sleep in late!

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Thursday, March 27

At 9:00, I put on the Discovery Channel while I began outlining a writing project I’m starting.  I became entralled by the program called Secret History of the Freemasons.  It’s an intriguing 2-part series on the supposed conspiracies of the Freemasons.  The first part delves into the many conspiracies.  The second downplays it to an old boys club.

When I looked up New World Order, I was a little freaked out by what I found on Wikipedia (copied without permission, but link sited):

“…In present form this can be traced to the collapse of the Soviet Union and President George H. W. Bush‘s new world order speech of 11 September 1990. In it he described the United States’ objectives for post-cold-war cooperation with the former Soviet Union, using the phrase ‘new world order’ .”

Bush made this speech exactly 11 years before 9-11.   It seems like a conspiracy.  No wonder GW didn’t look the least bit shocked after learning about the attackes while he was reading to young children.  He must have known, or, if there is an effort to establish a new world order, it must have been a conspiracy.A New World Order shows up on our currency – the dollar bill, under the pyramid/eye, a symbol of the Freemasons.  The Latin is wrapped around that symbol – Novus Ordo Mundi.  Also, those symbols can be found all over Washington, DC – in the design of streets, in architecture, etc. 

When reading Wikipedia’s defining paragraph, one can only assess that both the Bush Administrations are part of a conspiracy:

“A New World Order (Novus Ordo Mundi) refers to a plan in which a powerful and secretive group is to be conspiring to eventually rule the world via an autonomous world government, which would replace sovereign states and other checks and balances in world power struggles. In the new world order, many significant occurrences are caused by a powerful secret group. Historical and current events are seen as steps in an on-going plot to rule the world primarily through a combination of political finance, social engineering, mind control, and fear-based propaganda.”

September 11, at least in my experience of having gone through it in Washington, DC, seems to follow the plot of world rule through political finance (look at the gas prices, the government relationship with big business and corporate conspiracy), social engineering, mind control and fear-based propaganda.

How can anyone argue that??  Wikipedia continues:

“Supporters of this theory can say to a certain degree who is part of it. Most prominent families such as the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers, the Bush family, the Morgans, Warburgs and Du Ponts, as well as European monarchs, are said to be important members.International organizations such as the World Bank, IMF, European Union, the United Nations, and NATO are often listed as core NWO organizations. Presidents and prime ministers of nations are routinely included in the conspiracy. A slightly different version of the NWO theory goes as far as saying that these families and persons are all part of the same 13 bloodlines.”

And, finally:

“While the September 11, 2001 attacks have been linked to ideas about the New World Order, they have sometimes been presented as a conspiratorial media-orchestrated plot to frighten Americans into giving up their basic liberties to a “Homeland Security” authority that will eventually turn control of the United States over to a multi-national “coalition government.”

The United States government knew in advance of the attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon (9/11), the Bush administration created the attacks as a “legitimate” reason to enter Afghanistan, and later Iraq. It is also thought that the US may use similar reasoning to invade Iran, Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East as a foothold for the new world order…

Other new world order theorists see the conspiracy at work in globalization, or in the various intellectual movements evolved from Marxism, ranging from social democracy to the Frankfurt School. These are thought to be intended to homogenize cultures and values by political normalization, as in the European Union and African Union‘s gradual “communitarian construction” scheme of a common economic and legal framework.”

I can’t think about this.  It freaks me out.  I grew up in DC and always felt suspicious of that city.  I didn’t trust the Republicans or the Democrats, which pretty much explains why I am a registered Independent.  And 9-11 sent me over the edge.  I had to move, I had to get out of there.  The energy was never right for me.  I am glad to be far, far away from DC.It’s weird, I never really thought about the concept of a New World Order.  I have been suspicious to conspiracies, from the Bible to Pearl Harbor, Hitler and the Nazis, the USSR, to the Bush empire.  I actually voted for both Bushes.  I  had been manipulated first in conservative (initially) values, and then out of fear.  Either way, not knowing any better.

I have been spending so much of my time trying to figure out how to make the world a better place, how to free Tibet from China, how to make lives better for widows in India, how to help the working poor here.  Am I just a tool in the master plan that’s being played out, in attempt to create this new world order?  Globalization.  I’m just going to stop there.

It’s a much nice place in my world of do-good or do good and avoid evil, as my dad always says.  Sometimes, it’s better to be like the trio of monkeys:  hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.  Something I just don’t want to know.  I am not one seeking the truth.  I randomly came across the Discovery program and then, out of curiousity, I looked up the New World Order, but beyond that, I simply don’t want to know…

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Wednesday, March 26
11:14 p.m.

I woke up freezing cold.  Just when spring had finally arrived, wintry cold weather has blown in.  It’s just cold.  And snow hit higher elevations.  The weather predictions show possible snow on Friday, even in the lower elevations.  By mid-afternoon, with rain off and on all morning long, the skies cleared, the sun came out and it was spring for a fleeting moment.  By the time I left the office, it was cold and gray again.

I had a very productive day.  I’m working on a few design projects and feel like I’m making some serious progress on some marketing and sale pieces.  I like the creative process and feel really good about creating materials that will make a difference for my co-workers.  I’m learning to drop the ego and focus my energies on trying to be useful at work, to be helpful and to come up with solutions that really make a difference in my colleagues’ work.

I’m feeling the stretch of kindness, by way of extended gratitude, that made me feel good.  First, while attending the leadership seminar last week, the owner of the consulting group suffered an unfortunate loss.  She had rescued a lovable dog several years back, who became the company mascot, more or less, and sadly, the dog’s health was declining. Still, the sweet dog came to work with its owner during the days of the leadership seminar, and came around every now and again for a pat on the head.  A very sweet dog, indeed.  But the dog had died on Wednesday, the night before the last day.  So, on Friday I had asked my boss if we could send sympathy flowers to the owner on Monday, from all of us.  She had sent a note to my boss this week that he had forwarded to our office (since the flowers were on behalf of all of us).  The forwarded note really touched me.  A small gesture can really make a difference in someone’s life.  I’ve been really trying to extend myself outwards, in every essence of my being, in every opportunity in my life.

Then, this evening when I checked my hotmail, I received a very kind note from the gentleman I had met last night to chat about participating on a committee for a fundraising event for the William Temple House.  I was really moved by his note and I feel even more inspired to pay it forward.

I will not worry about my problems, my financial stresses, the fact that I will have to owe money with my taxes this year, that I’m paying outrageous gas and energy bills, that I am single and alone, that I haven’t felt butterflies for anyone in a long, long time, that I am so far away from my family.  When you think of others and focus your energies on making a difference in the world, be it a neighborly or global effort, the challenges, problems and fears we struggle with become less influential on our overall state of being, wellness and happiness.

I am a disciple.  I believe in this.  I am one person.  I am doing my best to make a difference, one day at a time.  And I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that have come into my life, allowing me to focus my time and energy on other people.  It’s infectious!  I hope to pass this bug on to as many people as I can.  Imagine!  If everyone spent an hour each day doing something for someone else (sending a hand written card to an elderly relative, buying a cup of coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks, taking a bag of groceries over to a homeless shelter, knitting baby hats for premies in the hospital, volunteering to read at a school, etc.), imagine what your neighborhood, town, city, state, country, world could be like…

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Tuesday, March 25
10:32 p.m.

My Yogi Ginger tea fortune read: Patience pays

Today was a great day.  I had hired a great professional photographer to come to the winery to take photos of our bottles.  I initially planned to get there while he set up, give him the bottles to photograph, and then drive to the office so that I could get work done.  That didn’t exactly happen.  I ended up sticking around and was included in the process, which was really quite fun.  The photoshoot took all day and I had a ton of work to do, not to mention I didn’t sleep very well last night and was a little stressed about getting to the winery early, quickly finding good bottles to photograph and getting to out by 5:00 to go to an appointment I had with a charity committee I’m joining to help plan a fundraising event.  Well, the shoot went beyond the work day and I didn’t get out of the winery until after 5:30 – I had to call the director of the charity to let him know I was running late.  Then I couldn’t get the gate to close.  I finally got out and headed toward Portland.

Also, at the end of the work day, I received a phone call from a chef in Seattle who agreed to participate in one of our wine dinner events scheduled for this summer at the winery.  I was thrilled!  I kept playing phone/email tag with this great young chef, but, patience pays.  He made a commitment, and now our summer events schedule is all set.  A relief!

I arrived in Portland in good time and marveled at the beauty of the William Temple House.  A friend of mine works in the development office.  I got a tour of the historic house and the new wing, which is dedicated to its community service, and learned more about the mission of this organization.  I am honored and excited to help this committee plan a very special fundraising event.  I am going to help them get donations (including wine) for their dinner and auction.

I have impatiently worried that I haven’t found any inspiration for writing essays, prose, narrative non-fiction or short stories (fiction) to submit to literary magazines.  I need to get work published.  Finally, last night before I went to bed some ideas came to me.  Finally!  Good ideas, ideas that I knew I could put down on paper.  Tonight I was too tired to begin that work and, after doing some weight training, making dinner, and playing with my kitties, I stretched and decided I would put that work to practice over the weekend.

I feel like I have a lot of good things in my world right now, things that are especially meaningful to me.  It’s wonderful to smile and feel happy – and not because of another person or material things, but for simply being in the flow, staying on a true path for my life, seeking opportunities to make a difference in the world, following my dreams.  I am happy.  In a state of grace.  And certainly counting my many blessings. 

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Monday, March 24
11:04 p.m.

I had some revelations today.  First, I was blindly paying 31.5% APR for my Bank of America credit card.  So, I called their customer service line today asking if I could lower my APR and the rep was pretty condescending and said I didn’t qualify.  So, I asked him to close the account and I told him I would stick with USAA, which has been an amazing, consistent banking experience for me.  It was incredibly empowering to end the abuse and to cut up that credit card.  Obviously, I still have to pay off the card, but I am really focused.  I have a budget and I’m going to stick to it to pay this card off first and then start building my savings account.I started banking with Bank of America when I was sixteen years old.  Only, I am no longer treated like a valued customer or an extension of the company’s family.  Rather, I am just an account number and a big fat dollar sign.  This troubles me. 

I have had such wonderful experiences with USAA, but I am not willing to open a checking and savings account there (not enough branches nearby).  I am going to go to my local Wachovia branch and share my disappointing experiences with Bank of America to see what they can offer to me.  My dad mentioned Wachovia has been rated with the best customer service.  That’s got my attention.

After this conversation, my parents pledged they were going to close their credit card account with Bank of America and possibly look into banking with Wachovia, as will my brother.  They, too, are disenchanted with Bank of America’s steely way of doing business.  It’s just not the same bank that I first signed on with nearly 20 years ago.  I think that’s really sad.

I also have been keeping notes about when I get congested.  And it’s almost immediately after I ingest dairy.  So, I decided I’m cutting out dairy.  I will occasionally consume cheese, but in very serious moderation.  I bought a half gallon of skim milk last week and I get so mucousy after I drink it – which I had been using for hot cocoa.  So, no more.  I will go back to Silk Lowfat Vanilla Soy Milk, and I’ll even restrict my consumption of that, too.  Reading about Celiac, it is often the case that other food sensitivities occur.  It’s not worth suffering through it and requiring Claritan for clarity.I have been with my health insurance long enough that I am going to make an appointment to correct my deviated septum.  That will certainly help minimize the sinus pressure I have endured for the past few years.

After work I went to the gym to get a cardio workout in.  I was chatting with this young woman who I’ve seen there a few times before.  She’s 19 and moving back to Hawaii within the next couple of weeks.  We started talking about nutrition, exercise, following your dreams, boys…and before she left she told me she almost wanted to hug me!  She told me that she really appreciated my ‘coaching’, that she’s learned a lot from me and that our talks have made her feel really good about herself.  Indeed, I have offered her sisterly advice on how to start life-long habits now, commending her for some life changes she’s already begun.  And, she shared with me that she often dated boys to feel good about herself.  I told her that she’s so smart and pretty, that she should seek that within and in order to do that, she should challenge herself with things she wants to learn, goals she wants to attain – and when she succeeds she will feel better than any young man could ever make her feel.  She left inspired, telling me she was excited about going to college, about studying and working hard to put herself through college.  It felt wonderful to mentor this young woman, to share some of my life experiences and to encourage her to be the best she can be.

Taking my own advice, about learning from your past and always striving for more for yourself, well, my only barrier in life is my finances.  I am committed now, more than ever, to pay off my debt, to live under a restricted budget until my debt is paid off and then I can build my cash reserves, and I will have freedom once again.  Freedom to go on a weekend jaunt to Telluride or Mexico; freedom to visit an old flame in Paris, France; freedom to go to Tibet or Machu Pichu; freedom to write.

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Sunday, March 23
9:14 p.m.

There’s nothing like making up for lost sleep.  I got a really good night’s sleep.  I woke up and sorted my laundry, had breakfast, fed the kitties and then got dressed for church.  I got there right on time, but parking was nearly impossible.  It was raining, windy and cold, and I had to park about 4 blocks away from St. Mary’s Cathedral.  And, of course, once I made it through the front doors, I was stuck in the crowd in the lobby of the church, so crowded that I couldn’t even get near the holy water to dip my fingers in and give a proper sign of the cross.  It always frustrates me when droves of non-chruch-going Catholics show up twice a year for Mass, on Christmas day and Easter Sunday, and the rest of us who attend regularly are scooted to the back in the lobby.  But, at least people are still coming out to elebrate the most sacred of Christian days, which actually makes me happy.

The priest made an interesting remark about those who only show up a couple times a year, but not in a patronizing way.  He spoke of Easter not being just a day for bunnies, chocolates and eggs.  He reminded of Christ’s willing sacrifice for all sins and the symbolism of his resurrection and that we must reflect on that.  But after his gentle and necessary reminder, he lightly encouraged us to go home after Mass and enjoy the bunnies, chocolates and eggs, for it’s a time of celebration.

As Communion began that was my cue to exit.  It was too crowded to wait through it, and, since I am unable to receive the sacrament, again, due to having Celiac Disease, I felt it was time to go.  I drove up to Glisan to find the new gluten-free bakery.  I was disappointed to find it closed on Sundays.  So, I headed to I-5, back towards Tigard.  I pulled off at the Bridgeport Village exit and went to REI to use a credit for some Life is Good pajamas.  This is one of my favorite feel good brands!

Next, I walked over to Whole Foods to pick up dessert for Easter dinner at Susan’s mother and stepdad’s house.  I found a beautiful butter cream Easter cake; I got a small gluten-free lemon tart for myself.  I picked up a loaf of gluten-free sourdough bread.  And a coconut mango candle for Susan’s mother, with a pretty recycled gift bag. 

Back at home, I had a quick snack and then put in my first load of laundry for the day.   I put on some comfy clothes and watched a special on Christ on the Discovery Channel simply called Jesus: The Complete Story. This was a very interesting documentary that depicted Christ looking very different than what artists over the centuries have suggested.  Also explained by science and new research was how Christ was crucified, how he died, where he was crucified, the true relationship with Judas, who was actually asked by Jesus to go to the Hebrew guards, among other interesting facts surrounding his days before, during and following his resurrection.  It was a very engaging take on the historical, faithful ideas behind the last days of his life. 

Susan picked me up and we drove to St. Paul for dinner.  We helped chop up apples and celery for the Waldorf salad.  It was nice to spend time with her family.  Her cute younger brother was in town from Texas, where he is stationed in the military.  He leaves for Iraq within the month.  Susan’s mom asked me to say grace, I was holding Susan’s step-brother’s two month old baby, Sam, as I thanked the family for including us, asked for blessings for the friends and family, including health and happiness, and then followed with the traditional Catholic prayer.  We had ham, a gluten-free spinach casserole, gluten-free potato au gratin, and the Waldorf salad.  Claudia joined us and brought a bottle of Bishop Creek Pinot Noir. 

After, we had a lovely dessert wine with our sweets.  It was a really nice dinner. After dinner we sat and talked for about an hour before we headed back towards Portland.  Susan dropped me off and I changed and continued with my laundry and made my bed with clean, right-from-the-dryer sheets.  I put on my pajamas and then brushed the kitties and made myself a cup of Bedtime Yogi tea.  I could feel myself begin to unwind.  I have been slightly congested today, but I haven’t had to take any medication.  I meditatively sat down to recount my day.  

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