Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

Friday, September 12

Moving along with more love…  I’m feeling indulgent.  There are all kinds of examples of love that can really surprise you, examples that show you a different kind or side of love, or even yourself.

Take for instance my change in plans this evening.  Initially, I was going to meet the girls for a game of tennis and then dinner and a movie.  But, for different reasons, changes in plans opened up my evening. 

I got home, changed and then drove over to the driving range.  I hit a large bucket of balls and I was having a blast.  I was hitting each club consistently well as I worked through the drills I picked up when I took a series of refresher lessons at Triology Golf Club when I lived in Redmond, Washington last summer.  I loved my teacher – a pro who was originally from Oklahoma.  For our last lesson, he went out on the course with me to play four holes.  It’s not very often that I get to go out and play with a pro.  He had me hitting like an LPGA pro.  I kept telling him I wanted him to be my caddy/coach, and I’d start entering some tournaments.  He made me feel that confident in my game.  And it’s not that I can’t feel confident without him, but I really did rely on his expertise to coach me into taking the right kinds of shots.

So, I was having a nice practice session.  The weather was perfect.  The cute guy I had met at the driving range on Sunday was there, practicing his game, as well.  He happened to mention his girlfriend was driving out cross country to move in with him.  That wasn’t a surprise.   I wasn’t even disappointed.  I’m not exactly sitting around waiting for my prince to show up with a seven iron in his hand and a bucket of balls.  I’m busy playing my own game, thank you very much. 

And the point about my love relevation this evening wasn’t about meeting another golfer at the driving range.  Rather, I was having an awesome evening playing my own game.  When I left, I called my parents to share my gratitude for the series of refresher lessons they paid for last summer.  I wanted to let my dad know how much better my swing is, and how much better I hit the ball.  I wanted him to know how grateful I was for everything he and my mom have ever done to make my life better.  And that’s a long list.

After we got off the phone, I pulled into Pacific Breeze.  I ordered a pot of tea and the seafood and pork rice noodle soup.  It was delicious.  As I ate my dinner, I overheard the table next to mine.  Two couples, presumably in their late 80’s, were enjoying dinner while one of the gentleman was pouring the remainder of a bottle of white wine in his friends’ glasses, then his wife’s, then his own as he joked about who was going to be the designated driver.

I wasn’t eavesdropping, but because of the way the tables were set up, my ear was right in their space, and I overheard the man talking about his time serving our country in WW2.  He had been stationed in Japan.  And my ear dropped out of the conversation, but I managed to hear some sound bites about Washington, DC, visiting the war memorials, their respect for Senator Bob Dole, and then their appreciation of Tom Brokow for all of his work toward recognizing the WW2 generation.

Just before they left, I had to say something.  I am my mother’s daughter, after all, and when I am moved by someone or something, I have to share my feelings.  I am a sap, and there’s nothing I can do about it.  Anyway, I talked to them briefly about my Great Uncle Jimmy, who, when stationed in Italy, met his sweetheart, my Great Aunt Carmella, who, back in the 1950’s won a Sofia Loren look-alike contest, and how a few years ago, when the WW2 Memorial was unveiled in Washington, DC, I got to accompany them to a ceremony that was just for the men and women who served in the war.  I told them how I treasured that day, how it meant so much to me to get to experience that memorial with my Great Uncle Jimmy.   As I relayed the story to these strangers, I got a little choked up.  In part, I felt like an idiot, but on the other hand, I could see they understood what I was feeling.  And that was gratitude.  I smiled at them and told them they were truly part of the Greatest Generation.

Before we parted, I also mentioned my father, and proceeded to get teary-eyed again.  I told them how he was stationed at the Pentagon, which is why I grew up in the Washington, DC area.  I told them about his rank and how he served in Vietnam, and what an honorable man he is.  They were tickled, I think, that a young woman would even bother to connect with them on something like the military and those who bravely, dutifully and honorably served our country.

On my way home, I called my parents again.  Thankfully, they were still up.  I got choked up all over again when I shared the story of my dinner conversation this evening.  My mom put my dad on the phone and I lost it.  I know it sounds crazy.  But I am so proud of my dad for serving our country.  He is the epitome of honor, respect, dignity, courage, and the true grit American hard-work-ethic.  He doesn’t give up.  He stands for what he believes in, and he is such a good person.  He is kind and fair.  Reasonable.  And a shining emblem of brilliant-smart.  He graduated magnum-cum-laude from the University of Oregon back in the 1950’s, working three jobs to put himself through college.  My father is a kind of stoic, quiet Scandinavian man.  He doesn’t say much, but when he does, people listen.  In one word, he’s my hero. 

It’s easy to forget sometimes how wonderful our loved ones are.  Or, it’s easy to take them for granted.  I have always felt blessed for having such a solid, good family.  It is everything to me.  And while I have spent much of my time on this blog contemplating all kinds of loves, truly, my greatest love is for my parents.  I know that no one on this planet will ever love me the way my parents love me.  I have never questioned or doubted that love.  It has been my true birthright.  Their love for me is my strength, my happiness and my one true thing. 

As they grow older, I often worry.  I live clear across the country from them, which was a painfully hard decision to have to make.  I never imagined I would ever live more than a couple of miles away from them.  And here I am, in my father’s home state of Oregon, while they’re still in my home state of Virginia, and I do my best to talk with them once or twice a day – maybe more.  We’re on a Verizon family plan, thank goodness.  I pray for them daily.  I always think of them and wonder what they’re up to, so then I call…again.  We talk so much, that it sometimes give the impression of nearness.  And it’s a relief to feel like we’re not so far apart.  I get to take in the laughs, the tears and the usual rapport of what’s going on with this cousin or that neighbor.  They perpetuate that feeling of home for me.  And then I get a little homesick.  I can’t help it.

I am in awe of their unconditional love and support – it’s never wavering, it’s never exhausted, and it keeps pumping like the strongest, biggest heart humanly possible.  And I know I am not alone.  I know I not far from home.  And I know I am not unloved.  It is the greatest gift I will ever know.


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Sunday, May 4
11:15 p.m.

Once again I slept in.  I put together a nice brunch including a salad with green leaf lettuce, basil, orange tomato, strawberries, a little shaved parmesan cheese and a homemade garlic Caesar dressing.  It was fresh and lovely.

I had volunteered weeks ago to help out at the Fourth Annual Indie Wine Festival.  I had volunteered for the first two festivals (05, 06).  It’s a hip take on the typical wine fest, taking place at Urban Wineworks.  My friend, Claudia, who manages U.W., had asked me to help out.  I got there just after 1:00 p.m. and was a little dismayed that it was a perfect, sunny day out and that I would be stuck indoors.  Either way, I was happy to help out…initially. 

If I were to be honest, which is my intent with this blog – bearing my soul for the good or bad – I was honestly dismayed that the volunteers were to put on bright orange shirts that implied “Staff” and were treated more like hired help and not like volunteers – you know, friends of the organization who kindly donated their time to be useful and helpful, not to report for employment, but, again, to be helpful.  While the organization generously offered a free ticket for the alternative event day (in my case that would have been Saturday), I didn’t take the ticket.  I didn’t voluteer just so I could get in to the event for free.  I volunteered to help out a friend. 

It appeared as if the real event staff worked a little, but were allowed to drink and socialize for the second half of the event.  I just thought that was a little off.   Mostly because the volunteers were not allowed to taste the food or wine, and we even got reprimanded and separated when we chatted with each other (at a point when the event had just started and no one was really tasting in our section) – which was handled, in my opinion, less than ideally.  It was kind of silly, but, hey, I understand the focus on producing a successful event. 

But, this made me realize after this third year of helping out that I am not really the kind of person they need to volunteer – and therefore, I will not make myself available to help out again.  It is possible that the role of event day volunteer has changed since I last helped out in 2006.  Irregardless, I’d rather purchase a ticket and go and have a good time at the event.  I’ll still support the event in other ways – especially promoting it to friends who are looking for an engaging cultural Portland event.  It certainly delivers on that front!

It seems to me the festival might benefit from hiring event staff from a temping agency to put to work while finding other ways to engage friends and supporters to volunteer their time, talent and enthusiasm.  Maybe I’m wrong.  But there are probably better ways for me to volunteer my time, talent and enthusiasm to such an event.  I suppose my expectations came from my past experience, which is heavily fuelling my opinion – it was just lighter and more fun volunteering a couple of years ago.  And I am sure there were plenty of volunteers who had a different experience this weekend, so I am certainly not speaking for everyone.  I should add that my friend, Claudia, treated the volunteers very kindly, graciously and made a point to thank everyone with a genuine spirit.   That was really nice.

A highlight was meeting Alice Feiring, who’s new book The Battle for Wine and Love was featured for book signing.  Alice signed my copy – it looks like an interesting read.

All in all, I think it’s great what the festival does for small producers.  The Oregon wine industry is an interesting, wonderful and diverse group of passionate wine mavericks and it has a personality that is unique and authentic – it’s great that some of the smaller producers are able to get better visibility via this event.  I always love to see what’s going on with this segment of the industry – the 2000 or fewer case producers.  It really is a cool event – I only wish I had the time to attend some of the very interesting seminars that were part of this year’s program.

After, Claudia, Kerry and a few other friends met for dinner outside in the cafe seating at Fenouil.  I had a glass of Cremant bubbly, a few bites from a cheese platter, a butter lettuce salad and the risotto.  I was tired.

When I drove home, my mind wandered down another winding road.  I had been thinking about loss and how I used to be so bad with loss – family deaths, break-ups, change, losing friends…

Lately, I have realized I am dealing with loss with more grace than I ever thought possible.  The books on Tibetan Buddhism I have been reading, especially Pema Chodron’s classic When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, have truly transformed my way of thinking.  And I seem to be able to actually apply St. Francis’s Serenity Prayer to my life: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.  Yes, I have done my best to apply this to the different forms of loss that have come my way in recent moments.

For one, there’s Shadow, my little stray cat who has disappeared.  I am genuinely sad about this but I have accepted that he’s gone.  I just hope that he is in a happy, safe place. 

Then, there’s that break-up that has lingered for me for over two years; I am finally able to accept that and to draw some very important learning points from the loss.  This is allowing me to finally move on and to face, more confidently, the potential opportunity to love again.

I have also accepted the loss of some friendships – I mourned the loss of certain friends at first and felt sad for not having certain people in my life anymore, but, I have finally accepted the course of those friendships coming to a close, and while I will always be grateful for when the friendships were more relevent to my life at another time, I hold no anger, disappointment or regrets.  Just acceptance.

It’s empowering, really.  I used to let things fester and fester.  I realize loss is constant in life and you can only accept that some things in life will inevitably draw to an end, sometimes before you’re ready to let go.  But, you have to accept loss as a part of the gains and cycles – it’s part of balance.  You win some, you lose some; you gain some, you lose some; you find some, you lose some.  It’s kind of like ying and yang in life, these gains and losses that go hand in hand.  And more often than not, you’re losing over gaining.  It’s important to be able to handle this with grace.

The thing is, you must be grateful for both because in gaining and in losing we become better, fuller versions of ourselves.  Mostly, I want to live in the moment with gratitude.  I want to be more open and accepting, more conscious, present and enlightened.  

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Saturday, April 12
11:55 p.m.

I didn’t fall asleep until well after 2:00 a.m. last night.  And then I woke up just after 8:00 this morning.  Not enough sleep, but the sun was sending its strong rays into my room and my cats were stirring.  I got up and put a load of laundry in, then went back to bed.  I didn’t sleep, but rested, listening to the soothing sounds of Loreena McKennitt.

Finally, at around 9:45, I got up, made the bed, finished the laundry, ate some oatmeal, fed the kitties and then prepared to enjoy the most beautiful day of the year, to date.  I put on a wrap skirt, a little t-shirt, pinned up my hair and grabbed a bag with a change of clothes, a blanket and the bound copy of my book that I’m using to edit.    I stopped by Safeway to pick up some fruit, trail mix and terra chips, and then blared some good island music with all of my windows down.  It was in the mid-seventies without a cloud in the sky.  A happy, relaxed energy swept the roads, the city.

I drove up to Washington Park, taking the zoo exit off of 26 West.  It’s a beautiful drive, although packed this weekend with other like-minded visitors, and I drove in traffic past the zoo and toward the Rose Garden and Japanese Garden.  I drove around and down hill through a neighborhood of some of the most beautiful homes in Portland nested in the hillside, and parked at the bottom near the other entrance to Washington Park.  I met Susan near the fountain, up on a sun-facing hillside with beautiful trees all along, many flowering.  It was the perfect day!  Susan was on a blanket doing some work, I put my blanket down, got settled, hiked up my skirt to get sun on my legs and just took in the beauty of the day.

I worked a little on editing my book and then snacked on some fruit and chips.  Susan and I talked about the usual stuff while people watching and marvelling at the pollen floating all over the place, that looked quite beautiful, acutally.

Just after 5, we packed up and headed for a gas station.  The light had come on – annoying as I just put twenty bucks in.  Anyway.  While the gas was getting pumped into my car, I went into the restroom to change into jeans, wedge sandals, a clean t-shirt and a cute, puff-sleved jacket.  I touched up my make-up, put in a different pair of earrings, put on my large-framed black sunglasses and drove over to meet Susan and Kerry at Park Kitchen.  They were waiting at the bar.  I ordered a Manhattan, the mussels with potato and leeks, and the Flank steak salad with blue cheese, parsley and sherried onions.

After dinner, we drove up to SE Milwaukie to the Aladdin Theater to experience LIVE WIRE!  We met up with our friend Stephany and her friend, Catherine, both Virginia girls.  This evening’s haiku themes were chocolate, lies and chickens.  And so we got to work on our 5-7-5 syllable lined poems; I wrote one about lies. 

The first show opened with a funny skit by the Faces for Radio Theater cast.  A vibrant musical performance by Grand Archives kept the tempo with good guitars, a tambourine and lots of whistling.  Next, essayist Cole Gamble, who usually writes about parenting, lectured on why he never enjoyed talking about sports.  The highlight of this segment was an interview with Ursula K. Le Guin, probably Portland’s most famous writer.  Oddly, I had never read any of her work.  After listening to this adorable, engaging legendary writer speak, I was hooked.  She talked about when she first started writing in the late 50’s, when she had three small children, when women didn’t write professionally while rearing children.  She was an inspiration.  I was struck by her mild manner, her humbled demeanor, and her quick wit.  While most of her work has been fantasy and science fiction, creating imaginative worlds and challenging the notions of gender, writing to make the reader contemplate our world and our place in the world, she has taken on a new world, historical fiction, in her latest book Lavinia.  In this work, Le Guin takes Vergil’s The Aeneid, whose hero fights to claim the king’s daughter, Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire.  In Vergil’s work, Le Guin reminds that Vergil didn’t give Lavinia a voice in the epic poem, but wrote her in as part of a scene, where he described her blushing.  Le Guin espoused to give Lavinia a voice.  Here, ‘she tells us what Vergil did not: the story of her life, and of the love of her life’.

After her engaging talk, Grand Archives came out to play one more spirited, rousing set.  During the intermission I picked up a freshly signed copy of Le Guin’s work, Lavinia.

The second show opened with Alicia J. Rose’s report from South by Southwest, a music conference in downtown Austin, Texas.  Rose plays the accordion, takes professional photos and books the music talent at the Doug Fir.  Local music talent Laura Veirs took the stage. 

Dagoba Chocolate  founder Frederick Schilling was interviewed by LIVE WIRE! hose Courtenay Hameister.  It was pretty engaging.  He did a what goes with chocolate challenge with an audience member, where he ended up happily tasting dark chocolate with guacamole and then with tuna.  Schilling, who used to be a chef in Boulder, CO, and now lives in Ashland, Oregon, asserts that chocolate goes with everything.

A bizarre performance by Third Rail Repertory Theater brought two men to the stage in nothing but their boxer shorts.  It was a strange scene between a mad man who thinks he’s a chicken and his psychiatrist, who, also behaving like a chicken, seeks to heal his patient by challenging him to act like human as a spy for the animal kingdom.  I wasn’t really into it but I was impressed by their excellent interpretation of two cocks.

Laura Viers did two sets to close the show.

After, we met up with two other friends who had been sitting upstairs in the balcony section.  We all went up Powell a few blocks to the new Hopworks Urban Brewery.  It’s always a challenge for me to enter places that have brewery in the name.  Celiac disease makes that a bit tricky so I opted for a glass of bad Pinot and some chicken wings.  We were in the late night happy hour – again, this brilliant concept in Portland.  Cheap but good eats in the bars and taverns in the last couple hours of operation.

I drove home thinking about perfect days.  Today, Susan had given Kerry and me a present – just because, for no real reason, just a sweet token to friendship.  Mine was a beautiful purple ring made from beads.  I looked at the ring on my finger as my hand guided the steering wheel toward home.  I thought about the dreariness that came with the long rain season in western Oregon, and how redemption comes in the form of a day like today.  Perfect days are rare gifts, like friendships, like my purple beaded ring.  But when they blossom, when they open, it’s cherrished – and you can feel it all around you, you can feel the gratitude.  I was basking in the radiance of the gratitude long after the sun went down.





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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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