Monday, January 31, 2011

Changing My Question

"Surrender means surrender, not a dress rehearsal for surrender." 

--Sy Safransky, from "Sy Safransky's Notebook" in The Sun, January 2011

I realized - in the pre-dawn hours of this morning, while lying in bed thinking about and suffering over events of the past 24 hours - that I need to change the question that I ask the Universe when things go wrong.

My question used to be, "WHY?"

"WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?" is the question I would ask the Universe whenever something unexpected, unasked-for, undesired and undesirable came into my world.

As I have done my spiritual work I have come to realize that this is a victim's question, a passive question, a weak question to ask at the moment of crisis, but I hadn't come up with anything better until this morning and it was this quote that gave it to me.

When I read this quote the other day on my break at work I was immediately drawn to it and read it over a few times, contemplated it and really tried to delve into its meaning and its wisdom and make them a part of me.

And as I did the question popped into my head: HOW?


How do you surrender when everything around you and in your body and in the literature and in this world we live in says, "FIGHT!"


We are supposed to fight for our rights and for our kids and for our jobs and for our partners. FIGHT! 


I am so tired of fighting and yet I find that in some ways I cannot stop.

Yesterday we had a birthday party for my now nine-year-old son and it was mayhem!

Nine nine-year-olds (and one seven-year-old) took over our house and made it into a jumping, screaming, fighting, yelling, throwing, MADHOUSE!

I tried to remain calm, but somewhere in the third hour I lost it and when I came upon a kid jumping up and down on our hot tub lid as if it were a trampoline I turned into shrill, shrieky mom and screamed, "WHAT are you doing?! WHY do you think that is okay?!"

And it was downhill from there. "The next kid who gets on the hot tub is going home!" I yelled to all the kids.

So, of course, they started climbing on the garage roof.

"The next kid who gets on the garage roof is going home!" I yelled again.

Inside I am thinking, "What is WRONG with these kids? What is WRONG with me? WHY did I think this was a good idea? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?"

But after the party I felt bad. Like a terrible failure. Why did I have to turn into shrill, shrieky mom? Why couldn't I have handled those incidents with more aplomb? With a calm, even voice. With LOVE.

And this morning I got my answer - in the form of a question - when once again this quote came into my head. And the answer is: Don't ask, "WHY?"; ask, "HOW?"


PS. Those of you who read my post from Friday, I hope you appreciate the irony as much as I do :)

Friday, January 28, 2011


"Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart." 

--Unknown, from the Femail Creations catalog

A lot of my favorite quotes feel like they were written just for me. Like The Universe said to the author, "Okay this is what she needs to hear today so write this."  

This is one of those.

My life is not inherently very peaceful what with two active boys, an aging cat, an old house, and a horny husband there is always something (or someone) that needs doing. In spite of all this I am still under the illusion that someday I am going to have PEACE.

This quote helped me to realize that peace is not something you HAVE, it is something you ARE.

So now I know that it is up to me.  I can rearrange the goal in my head and try and BE PEACE. 

Thank you Universe for once again sending me the exact message I needed to hear.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chop and...awe?

"Ever notice that "what the hell" is always the right decision?" 

--Marilyn Monroe

I chopped off all of my hair a few weeks ago. I mean ALL of it. I got out the clippers, slapped on a #8 and went to town.

A lot of people have asked me why, and I have been trying to formulate an answer that makes sense - to myself.

Because the truth is I don't really know WHY. (Do we ever?)

Here are some of the reasons....

The idea first came to me when I was reading "When Things Fall Apart" by Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun, who wears her hair in a similar fashion. I wondered if having your hair cut so short made it easier to access the Divine, since all Buddhist monks and nuns have this haircut.

It made sense to me in a funny way that really short hair would help, if only by forcing you to focus on something other than your looks.

Which leads nicely into reason #2: As the holidays reached their peak, I began to really resent the time I was spending on my hair. Wash it. Dry it. Style it. Dye it. I began to long for short, easy hair.

So I started to cut it. Myself.

First, I bobbed it. That lasted about a week, until I realized that was just as much work as long hair.

So I went after it again - trying for a Pixie cut - but somehow I just kept cutting until it all ended up on the floor.

Right after I did it I was SO happy. I felt FREE. STRONG. POWERFUL. Like a beautiful Amazon Warrior. "Give me a spear and send me out to hunt some bison" kind of strong.

It was a beautiful winter day and we took the kids to a park where we all ran around and breathed in the clean, fresh air. It was fabulous.

But on Monday the weather turned cold and dreary again. I was freezing and kind of wishing I had all of my hair back.

Plus, I had started to wonder if it was just plain unattractive. Everyone had reacted well to it and I was getting lots of complements, but I still had this idea that "some people" were not going to like it.

So I had to ask myself: Do I care what "some people" think?

I wish the answer were a resounding, "NO," but I am not quite there yet.

I DO care what people think of me - I think that's only human - but that gets to the final reason that I wanted to do this in the first place.

I am still me, for better and for worse, and I think having this haircut makes that abundantly clear.

I can no longer hide behind my long hair and pretty accouterments. This haircut puts me out there in the world in a way that I was not before. Kind of pushes me to the front lines, which is where I say I want to be.

I have this idea that there is a way to be in the world that is peaceful and loving and awe-filled all of the time. That is what I am searching for. And while I don't believe a haircut can give that to me, maybe it can help me find it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

And so it is...

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us."

--Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities 

This was one of the quotes that the minister at Seattle Unity Church used in her message on the first Sunday of the new year.

I was struck, sitting there in the pew, by the absolute wisdom of Charles Dickens.

He pretty much nailed New Age philosophy in the first paragraph of a book he wrote in 1859. 

Way to go Chuck.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Up On My Soapbox or NOT the End of Free Checking....

"Ike aku, 'ike mai, kokua aku, kokua mai; pela iho la ka nohana 'ohana "Recognize others, be recognized, help others, be helped; such is a family relationship."

--A Hawaiian proverb as recorded by Mary Kawena Pukui from Verity Credit Union's 2009 Annual Report

As long as we are talking money this week I might as well give you my credit union spiel....

With all the talk of "the end of free checking" and all the new fees that the "big banks" are levying - many times aimed at those who can least afford it - I feel like now is the time to shout from the rooftops: HAVE YOU CONSIDERED A CREDIT UNION?!?!

When I first went to work for Verity Credit Union in March of last year I already had a credit union account, not out of any strongly held personal beliefs, but because that was where my husband had his money before we got married and he felt very strongly about not having his money in a "big bank."

One of the first staff events held after I was hired was the Quarterly Breakfast where the Annual Report from the previous year was unveiled and discussed. 

Like many financial institutions, 2009 had been a precarious year for Verity, but they had come through it pretty well and were going strong and ready to weather whatever changes lay ahead. 

The above quote was on the cover page of the Annual Report and I was both impressed and skeptical. 

Impressed because this kind of attitude was just what I was looking for in both a financial institution and a workplace and skeptical because I have worked at other places which purported to hold certain values, but didn't always live up to their assertions.

Almost one year later I can honestly say that I am still impressed with Verity and the degree to which they (we) live up to what we say we value.

Which brings me to my real point: If you are still banking with one of the "big banks" and you aren't a shareholder, my question is WHY? 

Here are just a few reasons to switch to a credit union instead:

1) Credit Unions are co-ops. You are not a customer, you are a member. It is YOUR credit union and YOUR money

2) Credit Unions are not-for-profit. This doesn't mean that they are not trying to make money, they are, but they are not making money to pay the shareholders, but to pay the members (see #1). All profits go into higher interest rates on deposit accounts and lower interest rates on loans

3) Free Checking. Not only are checking accounts free at most credit unions, you actually earn a bit of interest on the money in your checking account - yes, your CHECKING ACCOUNT. Rates on other deposit accounts are often higher than at the "big banks" as well (see #2).

4) Lower Interest Rates. On all kinds of loans, but especially on credit cards. You are not going to find a 20-25% interest rate on a credit card at a credit union, at least not any that I know of. Current rates for a credit card at Verity are between 8.63 and 17.63% APR. 

5) We're a family. Really. If you become a member and stop into your branch a couple of times a month at least, the staff will start to remember you and will make an effort to get to know you. They will ask you about your job and your kids and they will really want to know. A long-time member of ours died recently and his wife said that Verity was like his "Cheers," he looked forward to going in and seeing everyone he knew. How many people can say THAT about their bank? 

This is not to say that credit unions are perfect. There are fees for certain services (bounced checks, overdraft protections, late payments, etc.), but in most cases these fees are much lower than the big banks and in the case of credit union error there is someone you can talk to directly, someone who knows your history with the credit union and who will listen to you.

What about stability? Are credit unions stable? Most credit unions carry the same level of protection on deposits as the big banks ($250,000) and Verity actually carries an additional $250,000 so your deposits are insured up to $500,000. 

Of course, no financial institution is invincible and these are uncertain times, but I would assert that the big banks are no less vulnerable than the credit unions and small banks. Can you say WaMu?

In the meantime, why not put your money where your values are and check out your local credit union?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Money Mind

"Money is about flow. You want to have a little reservoir so that you have something to eat when you’re dying, but otherwise, it’s about flow…"

--Verity Credit Union member John

A few months ago I bought some supplies for a group that one of my sons is in. I spent around $150 total and each family owed me about $40.  I didn't know a couple of the people very well and after a few days I started to worry about whether or not they were going to pay me back.

I tried to be Zen about it and let the Universe take care of it, but in the back of my mind I was worrying about it every time I thought about it and getting a little bit anxious and upset.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago and I have become pretty good friends with one of these people and have realized that their family is going through some very hard financial times.

Over the holidays we once again made a joint purchase that I paid for, but this time I went out of my way to try and NOT take the money. Every time it was mentioned I said, "Don't worry about it. Pay me later," and tried to put them off.

The most ironic part about this is that the amount I was owed in this second instance was more than double what I was owed in the first instance. 

Nothing much had changed with my own financial situation in the ensuring months. It would still have been great to get reimbursed, but once I knew that this family is having a hard time my attitude about being paid back completely shifted. 

As long as I THINK they need the money more than I do, I am okay not getting it back. 

But my logic is faulty here....

If someone doesn't pay us back, isn't it always because they NEED the money?

It may be a true financial need or it may be a psychological need (they feel somehow that we "owe" it to them, they think our family is "better off" than they are and don't "need" the money as much as they do, etc.) or even a karmic need (my past self owes their past self some kind of a debt). 

If I had known in the first case that their family was having financial difficulties would I have minded not getting paid back? Or was it the developing friendship that made me feel more generous? Or maybe the holiday season?

Whatever it was, I had to laugh at myself for the 180 degree shift in my attitude and for all the time I had spent earlier this year worrying about $40. 

I especially had to laugh when I received a check in the mail later that week and was kind of disappointed to receive it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Words to live by

"Non-violence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him."

--Martin Luther King, Jr., from

Friday, January 14, 2011

Where I Was


--The Universe

Sometimes this is easier said than done, and sometimes it is easy. 

Last weekend we went away with a few Boy Scout families to the snow. Packing up was not easy, getting the heck out of Dodge was not easy, being there with 50 people we didn't really know that well was not easy, getting home across the pass was not easy. 

Thankfully though, on Saturday I was able to spend 90 blissful minutes in the woods, alone, on cross country skis. 

Some moments, some places, some times make it almost impossible not to be where you are. 

I found being out in the snowy woods all alone to be one of those times. It was so quiet, so peaceful, so incredibly beautiful, that I just couldn't help but take it all in. 

Here are three beautiful things from my time in the woods last weekend:

1) Frozen water in a ditch looks like a small gray pond surrounded by snow;

2) The sound of snowflakes hitting the electric wires, somewhere between a zap and a ping;

3) Lying in the middle of the cross country ski trail after a fall and finding myself in a circle of snow-covered trees swaying in the wind.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

This incarnation of me

"When you meet your needs as they are, without judgments or conditions, they can evolve naturally, in a way that supports your spiritual growth. It is not necessary to pit your spirituality against your humanity." 

In his book, The Healing Power of Kindness, Vol. 1: Releasing Judgment, Ken Wapnick tells a story about two women who are in A Course in Miracles group together. 

One woman, whom he calls Pat, finds another woman in the group, whom he calls Alice, to be annoying. Unfortunately, once they are in the group together Alice starts coming to the same park that Pat goes to every day for her quiet meditation time. 

Every day Alice comes and sits down next to Pat and annoys her during what is supposed to be her spiritual time. 

Pat is beside herself, not only because she finds Alice so annoying and does not want to sit and talk to her, but also because she feels like since they are in a spiritual group together, she "should" want to talk to her, or at least be able to fake it. 

Ken Wapnick denies that this is what the Course, or any spiritual discipline, requires of us and gives her a great tool for dealing with these situations which I call "This incarnation of me."

He says, "We all have our preferences of likes and dislikes: food, colors, personality types, music...That is a fact of our existence in this world as bodies, and has nothing to do with our spiritual status. Therefore, we need but acknowledge our preferences without making them into an issue. Pat could simply have recognized that she prefers not to spend time with Alice, without hating or judging her and without making the situation into a cosmic spiritual test, which she appeared to have failed...The kind and gentle approach would have been to simply acknowledge: 'This is the self I think I am: I like food A; I like movie A; I prefer to be with person A.' In that spirit, Pat could simply have excused herself and then sat somewhere else or gone back to her apartment, and she would have remained peaceful throughout."
In order to do this we recognize the fact that we have incarnated into this world of illusion in this body and at this time. With every body comes a certain personality, certain likes and dislikes, that we can't change and can't always control. We are going to be triggered by people and events in this lifetime and it is better to recognize that and to accept it than to fight against it. 

Ever since reading this passage when I find myself triggered by a person or an event, I try and remember that "This incarnation of me" does not like blow-hards or brussles sprouts, or that "This incarnation of me" is too tired to read to my kids or have sex with my husband, and just accept that and move on with love.

 The with love being the key. 

This technique requires a lot of self-awareness and great communication skills, otherwise it can be misinterpreted by those around you as selfishness or not caring.

Using "I" messages, while being both kind and firm seems to work well. And many times, even if the other person does not react favorably, I feel relief just being able to accept myself as I am and where I am at that moment.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Time is on my side

"I am convinced that there are times in everybody's experience when there is so much to be done, that the only way to do it is to sit down and do nothing."

--Fanny Fern, from The Sun, October 2010

Last Wednesday was my first "normal" day since the holidays. The kids were back in school, I had nothing scheduled, and a full six hours in which to do whatever I pleased. 

So what did I do? I read. I surfed. I ate. I bathed. 

But underneath it all was my running "to do" list of things not getting done: write (I tried, but nothing was working that day), file, clean, call the washing machine repair man. 

As I sat there doing nothing I tried to imagine a day in which all of my "to-dos" were done. Would this be a great day? Or would it be death? 

I had to remind myself (once again) that there will never come a day when I am "all done," either with my chores or with my Self. 

Even on that day when life decides that I am indeed, "all done," there will be a "to do" list left behind.

I just hope that when that day comes I am ready and that I will find it easy to let go of my "to dos" and just be.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pennies from Heaven

"Everything is a gift [from] the Universe." 

--From the opening credits of Precious
Have you noticed the pennies? They are everywhere!

Once or twice a week I look down on the ground and see a penny lying there. It always makes me smile. As I stoop to pick it up I know that The Universe is watching out for me, reminding me that I will always be taken care of. 

Usually I put the penny in my pocket and carry it around for the day, feeling of it when I need a reminder that all is well. At night before I go to bed I put it in a special bowl I have for my pennies from The Universe. 

But sometimes the penny is a gift for someone else. 

A couple of months ago I found a penny on the way to work. At the end of the day a co-worker was short one penny in her drawer. I pulled the penny out of my pocket and gave it to her, knowing that The Universe had sent it to me for her. 

Last week I was walking the kids to school and one of the kids in our "walking bus" was having a tough day. As we walked he was sullen and keeping to himself, not running and playing with the other kids as usual. 

About half-way there I found a penny and as I bent to pick it up I noticed that he was watching me and his eyes lit up as he saw the penny in my hand. I offered it to him, and as I did he began to glow from the inside out, right there on the sidewalk. He started talking to me and had a skip in his step again. 

I like to imagine that receiving that penny changed the course of his whole day. 

In the scheme of things, a penny can seem like nothing, but sometimes a penny is all that is needed to change things in a pretty big way. 

May your life be full of pennies today and everyday!

Credit for this post goes to my sister, who is moving to New York City today with her beloved, and who first noticed the pennies and told me about them. May The Universe rain down pennies on you in NYC, sis. I love you!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Isn't it Ironic?

"Thank you India
 Thank you terror
 Thank you disillusionment
 Thank you frailty
 Thank you consequence
 Thank you thank you silence"

--Alanis Morissette from her song "Thank You"

I am not feeling very articulate today and have been trying all morning to write something that I would want to publish, to no avail. So I am going to let Alanis Morissette speak for me today. 

I first heard this song at Seattle Unity Church this past Sunday and realized that Alanis is a soul sister. 

It feels just a little bit lame to "discover" her now, when she has been famous for years, but that's how time and The Universe work sometimes. Maybe I just wasn't ready for her until now. 

Anyway, this is my song of the week. Hope you enjoy it. 

Click here to watch the video of "Thank You."

Monday, January 3, 2011

Exactly as I am

"Let all things be exactly as they are."

--A Course in Miracles

For the past week I have been trying to go to a "hot yoga" class, but I have yet to make it for one reason or another. Today, my alarm didn't go off.

Thank goodness. 

When I realized that I had already missed class I got up, got on the website for the yoga studio and started to do the routine on my own. 

Oh. My. God. 

It kicked by butt from here to Albuquerque.

Some of them I could hardly do, much less hold for 60 seconds. 

I struggled through the standing poses, exhausted and sweating by the end of the half hour and decided to call it good for today. 

My performance was sloppy and uneven and not at all as graceful as I had imagined. I was thanking my lucky stars that The Universe - or whatever force was at work - had sabotaged my alarm this morning. I am clearly NOT ready to do this for 90 minutes in a room heated to 110 degrees!

So. I am not as strong or as flexible as I remembered myself to be or hoped I was or imagined myself to be. Okay. 

This is disappointing, but as I lay there in Corpse pose "integrating" my work for the morning, I found that I wasn't fighting against it as hard as I might have expected. Having experienced this a few times in my life by now I know what to do. 

Accept. Practice. Improve. Celebrate!

See you tomorrow yoga mat.