Tuesday, March 31, 2009


There's an old song from a 70s musical called "A Chorus Line". In the song, the singer laments "Who am I anyway? Am I my resume?"

I have a few words to say about Twitter and Facebook.

There are a variety of reasons why I don't like them, some more global than others.

It concerns me that we are all being reduced to "profiles" and communication is being reduced to 140 characters. It's depersonalizing. It is also desensitizing. When any of us become reduced to such soundbytes (or textbytes, as the case may be), communication degrades. Real communication requires time and effort. Do you really think anyone cares what color your couch is or what you are cooking for dinner?

Friendships take effort. Friendships take authenticity. They take.. excuse the expression... emotional investment. They take time. The kind of caring we all long for isn't something that can be automated or made convenient.

We minimalize ourselves into short paragraphs and call that "connecting". We reduce ourselves to snippets, skill sets and a litany of interests, even though we are all complex individuals with different qualities and interests at different times.

We no longer discriminate or discern. With Twitter, Facebook and even Blogger, we fill up our RSS feeds with too many things and end up communicating substantially with no one. I once read someone's site and he or she had over 600 subscriptions in Google Reader. (I have 55.) There is no way anyone can give adequate time to 600 feeds. It's tough enough with 55! I've been on Blogger for almost 2.5 years and I have had substantial connections with three people. That's because all four of us made the commitment of time, effort and communication.

All this hyper-linked content has created mass Attention Deficit Disorder. We're always looking for the next thing, the next technological "fix" that will satisfy an almost carnivorous desire for one more tittilating snippet of information. It's technological channel-surfing. Like call-waiting, we can always click off and see if there's something or someone more interesting somewhere else.

We don't write letters anymore. Does anyone remember what it's like to sit down at the table with a pen and paper, thinking about the things we want to tell our correspondent? Since letters are less frequent, we have to think about things over a longer span of time and respond more meaningfully.

Now we have email. We get on someone's "forward" list and get cut-and-paste inspirational stories or bouncing icons with quippy sayings. We get jokes. How is it "keeping in touch" to pass along impersonal information? It's more like one of those dreaded round-robin Christmas letters.

We no longer have to remember our friends' birthdays because we get an automated message to remind us. We get on-line and pick out some bouncing monkey or bouncing bunny, slip in a limp "happy birthday" and send it off. We've met our obligation. Eh?

We don't use the phone anymore. Sometimes I hunger for inflection, for tone of voice, for the sound of someone's laughter.

Instead, we get snippets on SMS, Twitter and Facebook. We get the title of the book someone is reading - or what song they have on at the moment. We know every time someone goes to Safeway. We know every time someone went out somewhere. We know the color of his or her couch. It is facile, unoriginal and consumptive.

This kind of cyber-crowding is really no different than being in an overly-crowded room. We scratch the surface and move on. We get bumped and jostled, facebooked and twittered. We want to breathe fresh air.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Sacred Life Sunday: A Little Longer....

Yes, I know I am a day late.

This morning I got up to the news of yet another mass family killing. This one in an "upscale" neighborhood in Santa Clara, California.

It's certainly not the first report of someone going off the beam and killing their entire family because of a job loss, foreclosure or another type of financial setback.

I've believed for a long time that the timing of this depression (recession, my hiney!) is spiritually significant. It's the proverbial fork in the road.

For too long, people in this particular social system have defined themselves by what they own instead of who they are. Consequently when financial setbacks or losses occur, people feel their entire identity is compromised.

This economic depression is providing an opportunity to re-evaluate our priorities, to do things differently, to value things differently, to choose differently.

My hope is that it will change us at a fundamental level. We'll stand still a bit longer, listen a little more closely, look at each other with a bit more compassion and take the time to see below the surface. Reassure someone. Notice when someone is in trouble and take some action, however minimal, to re-establish our core humanity.

Communicate the fact that we are all in this together and we're all prepared to help in some way.

It's time.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sacred Life Sunday: You Raise Me Up...

She was 12 years older than me, a recovering alcoholic with a long span of hell behind her. Foul-mouthed and fat. Crusty, outspoken, strong. She smoked like a haystack. She had skin the shade of coffee with a wrinkle or scar that marked all the passages of her life. She always wore bright colors, all the tones of the earth. Orange, green, brown, deep red and plum.

I was in the thick of what would be a very long climb out of the abyss. Lost and confused with this life, not knowing why I was here or why I should remain here. Knowing I didn't really want to be here but believing suicide was wrong, one day followed another with that drip-drip-drip stagnancy that can drive a person insane. I'm not good with dates but she came into my life sometime in the early 1990s.

When I would complain, she would say, "you are where you are because you choose to be there". At first I thought she was terribly unsympathetic and harsh. How could she possibly believe that I would choose to be so miserable?

It took a few years for me to realize the gift (and the exhortation) she gave me was powerful. It changed my life from one track to another. It was the proverbial four-way stop. It was the radical idea that I/we always have choices. It was the radical idea that we own our own existences. We are not cogs in a cultural wheel or products of social custom. Naturally those things influence us but they don't define us. Life is a series of choices, one thing or another. Sometimes both or all in a new configuration. Sometimes, as Neitzsche said, when something is tottering, we give it a final shove and move on to something entirely new and different.

That simple. We always choose. We are always choosing. Big choices and little choices.

I wrote a yellow post-it note and put it on my refrigerator. "You get to choose."

There was one on my bathroom mirror as well. "CHOICE!"

This might seem rather odd to those who have come along in the generation or two after mine. My generation of women were taught to be compliant and deferential. The idea of choosing what we would do, be or have was outside our reality. We were chastised to never be haughty or demanding. We existed to serve. The idea that we could design our lives as we saw fit was revolutionary. Our job as women was to serve men and serve children. The first wave of modern feminism which took place during my late teens allowed that we could then join another type of servitude ~ to an employer instead of family. The essential message didn't change in substance, only in the packaging.

The practice of learning to make choices was frightening as hell in the beginning. I thought the earth would shatter, the heavens would open and mass destruction would occur at the very notion that I would make a choice that someone else might not like.

Oh, my God! I'd be disliked, culled from the herd, rejected, sent into oblivion. I would cease to exist!

And, in fact, that did happen. I've written here previously about it, the time spent in complete isolation from any adequate support systems or friendships. And, yes, it was hell. It was also a transition. Without that, I wouldn't be where I am now.

It's been a long, hard road, this journey to finding likeminded others, women and men who are not afraid to make their own choices, chart the course of their own lives, make decisions that suit who they are instead of who they were conditioned to believe they should be. I'm only beginning to get comfortable in my own new skin.

It goes on, this learning and experimenting. These days though, I wouldn't have it any other way. I love the idea that I make choices, that I am responsible for those choices and that I have the internal strength to deal with the consequences.

This wouldn't have happened without that unusual friend who shattered my world and guided me in picking up the pieces.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Sacred Life Sunday: Would you like to be a hero?

I want to do something different with Sacred Life Sunday. It's time to change my focus a bit. Honestly, I am tired of talking about myself. Like most of us, my life is just a series of days and one is not all that different from another. I'd like to spend more energy putting good things out into the world for people to participate in. Most of us want to feel like we can do things as well as think about them. The doing can be just as spiritual as the thinking. From now on, I will try to use SLS as an opportunity to find something good to pass along to you - whether it is a website, a book, a volunteer opportunity - something uplifting and wholesome.

I hope you find it to be of some use in your own life.

Those of us who are not wealthy often wonder how we can give to others in a meaningful way. Too often, charity is all about giving money. So what can those of us who don't have money give? I believe we have the same spiritual requirement. Sometimes we just have to be a bit more creative. The older I get, the more I realize that sometimes a smile and a good morning won't mean a thing to someone who's hungry. It's a good way for us to feel like we're doing something ~ but there are plenty of opportunities to make a real difference and have a significant impact on someone else's well-being.

One of the lessons I believe we will learn from this economic downturn is that we are here to help each other. If ever there was a cosmic smackdown, this is it. We're here to give and receive. We're here to be aware of others and do what we can to make each other's lives easier. This is an opportunity to move away from competition and empire-building and focus on cooperation and community-building.

Recently something came to my attention that I'd like to pass along because there are some wonderful things happening. It feels really nice like Kiva but doesn't require a financial outlay. It's good like Freecycle but it also provides a chance for people in need to ask directly for something they need.

It is called WishUponAHero. It is a site where people make requests, state their wishes and match up with those who might be able and willing to meet their needs. Granted.. this is material but sometimes a material item can make a big difference in someone's life.

I saw a news story about a woman whose refrigerator broke and she couldn't afford to replace it. Someone in her area saw her post, had an extra refrigerator around and gave it to her. It's helping her save money since she doesn't have to buy fresh food daily and she has kids so it makes a huge difference.

There are all sorts of requests there. Check it out. You might be able to be someone's hero. And perhaps, if you need a hero, you may find one.

Either way, it's all sacred.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wellness Wednesday: Nothing is lost that can't be replaced....

Throughout this whole car debacle, I've come to understand how much easier life can be when we don't get caught up in the drama.

During this process, I've been watching other people. The representatives of the insurance company, the neighbors, the person who caught the license plate number of the hit-and-run driver, the body shop that has been storing it.... the cast of characters goes on and on.

And I'm the only one who is detached. I am the only one who doesn't have a strong feeling of urgency.

Don't get me wrong. I'm very grateful for the people who have been helping me. I'm not indifferent to them. The insurance company (Nationwide, in case anyone is curious) has been helpful beyond the call of duty. That's a crapshoot though. It all depends on the claims representative and I got a good one.

The point of this is that I can't see getting upset about any of it. Granted, it's an inconvenience. It's more administration than I am accustomed to dealing with. Phone calls, DMV trips and trips to the body shop to release the vehicle to the insurance company. In the end though, it was just a car and both the person who hit it and I are okay. Nothing was lost that can't be replaced. In the end, that's all that matters.

It's been a long time that I've tried to reach this level, to be able to remain this calm during something that pulls me in contact with the systems, with phone calls, with negotiating, with all the things I most dislike doing ~ and still come out of it okay. No physical symptoms at all.

Now if I can just maintain it! Not only in this situation but in all similar situations!


Saturday, March 07, 2009

Collision... Part II

Thanks to everyone who replied. I took all the suggestions and have prepared a list of similar vehicles from AutoTrader, Vehix and Craigslist. I looked for the exact same car and found only one - at $1950.00 - and it had 40K miles more than the one I had. My understanding is that they have to give me fair market price for my area. If they do that, I won't have anything to
argue with them about. Hopefully it will go that way.

I had an object lesson in aging when I picked up the rental car yesterday. It was a Kia Rondo... some huge SUV type thing and I couldn't stand driving it. Seriously. It scared the heck out of me! It also had all kinds of
buttons and bells. I had no idea what all that mess was and didn't want to deal with it. I took it back to Enterprise and asked for another car - for one thing, not a car that was like something the Secret Service would have, not taller than me and *no talking*! I don't want a talking car! It gives me the willies!

They exchanged it for a Chevy Cobalt and it is much, much better! It doesn't speak. It beeps and chimes the way machines are supposed to do. Iit doesn't have anything I haven't seen before. The only creepy thing is that it tells me (on a display window) what song is on the radio. It comes up and displays "KSSJ 94.7 Aaron Neville Use Me". A bit TMI. How does a simple frequency reciever know what's playing?

Get out my tin foil hat!

Guess I've lost my hip card forever.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009


It's been an eventful week!

Yesterday as I was sitting in my living room, watching TV, minding my own business and listening to the rain, I heard a loud thunk out on the street.

For some reason, my intuition told me to get up and look. I did. A green Dodge Caravan rear-ended my car and left the scene. As luck would have it, the mail man was approaching right at that time. He got her license number.

It was an 18-year-old kid, probably talking on her cell phone. When she hit my car, she panicked and ran.

Not a good move.

Naturally, I had to make a police report. I called the police, they came out, took a report, blah blah blah. Thank goodness for the mail man taking down her license plate! The police went to her house.

I was rather stunned by the whole thing.. but figured somehow, it would work out. Things usually do.

This morning I took the car to the body shop for repair where they declared it a "total loss". The young lady who wrecked the car did, thank goodness, have good insurance. I got a rental car a few hours ago which I will have until the insurance company settles with me.

Here's my question for you guys: Any advice for dealing with the insurance company to get as much money as possible for an old vehicle?

I will be using that money for a down payment on another used car, one that is better and newer. That means I'm stuck with payments for a while. Double payments for six months since I am still paying the person who loaned me the money for the one totalled yesterday. I am going to be so broke that losing weight really shouldn't be a problem since I'll barely be able to afford food.

I know the insurance company will try to get by with as little as possible but I don't want them to take advantage of my inexperience, either.

So... regale me with your insurance stories!