Monday, March 31, 2008

Anyone for rabbit stew?

Saturday I went out for a long walk. It was a rather gloriously warm day and a walk was the perfect way to be out in it. Still, I was on edge. I wasn't sure whether there would be a pot of rabbit stew on the stove when I came back.

I came home to find my cell phone chirping a happy little chime, letting me know I had voicemail.

I was reluctant to listen to it, given the events of the past few days.

An old friend contacted me. He's someone I haven't talked with for several months. I was rather happy to hear from him at first. We had a pleasant conversation and the words flowed like a river, each of us catching up on the life events of the other. We hung up happy.

The next day, the phone rang again. It was him. We talked a bit more and ended the call on a happy note once again.

A few hours later, I heard Fur Elise again. It was the phone.

It was him.

This time, he seemed a bit more aggressive but I didn't take it too seriously. I skirted around the more unseemly comments and changed the subject.

7.00 PM. Fur Elise. Now I'm getting concerned.

It was him.

He talked in a way that truly creeped me out. References to our "partnership" and how he never would have expected that after not talking for so long that I would instantly feel "love" for him "again".

I never loved him. He was a casual friend. I explained that as diplomatically as possible. Apparently, he didn't catch the subtle clues.

The next day, Fur Elise. I ignored all four of his calls which came in rapid fire, one after another, within two hours.

I decided to take action on it by writing him an email. I wrote:

I'm sorry I missed your calls. I have not been home. [really, I was ignoring him] At any rate, after giving it some thought, I really don't think we should talk any further. You are a really intense guy - which is fine - but it just doesn't work well with me. I do wish you all the best but please don't call me again. Best, ~Chani

Within minutes, the computer was chiming incoming mail. He wrote:

What you are is a self centered person that only thinks of herself. You need a partner that just accepts everything that you do. If you think its ok not to return someone calls is ok then let 14 be eternity for you. A decent woman would let someone know when she changes her mind not just change it. You need an overhauling

Wow! What in the world? This is a guy I had lunch with a few times several months ago! He's not a "partner". And, yes, as a matter of fact, I do expect people to accept the things I do.

I shot a final email back.

I'm sorry you feel that way.. and I'm sorry you feel the need to wish ill-will on me. I was never your partner. I was barely a casual friend. More of an acquaintance. You need a reality check. Still, I choose to wish you well - because that's who I am ~ and I'm self-centered that way. May you be well and happy, ~Chani

All this to say ~ there are some real wackos out there! Who would have thought someone like me, someone who is rather invisible in most circumstances would attract such a thing?

Happy to report he has not called back. Oh. And I changed my ring tone. I will never hear "Fur Elise" the same way again. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Credit Card Shuffle

Okay. The truth is that I have too many credit cards. And I shuffle them. It's sort of like a ponzi game. I apply for the cards that offer the No Interest Until Armageddon option, get one, transfer the balance on a card that is coming close to Armageddon, close the account and move on. Meanwhile, I pay absolutely no interest. Ever.

This morning, I transferred the balance on my Washington Mutual card to Citibank because I am due to start paying interest in April on WaMu. Guess which card has my recent trip on it? Yep. WaMu. Now I will have a year longer to pay it off without interest.

This gets rather complicated but the point of this post isn't to lament my financial problems.

These credit card companies make me laugh!

Each time I get an offer in the mail from some company, they try to entice me with all kinds of choices. Would I like a picture of my dog on my card? How about Disney characters? My picture? The Grand Canyon?

No Khon Kaen? No boats on the Chao Phraya?

But I have to choose something. The application will not be processed without choosing my very own card design. So many critical choices!

I'm content with a plain old grey plastic card with numbers, a logo and expiration date on it.

Perhaps what they should do is allow us to send a photograph from our personal collections and have them put on the plastic.

Can you imagine? Self-expression while getting further in debt. Perhaps we can design our own cards with our very own artwork! Or we can list all of our significant interests and hobbies, kind of like a personals ad.

Might as well.

I can't do anything else. I owe too much credit card debt.


So tell me your credit card horror stories.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Into The Wild.....

I know I haven't had much to say here lately. There are reasons for that and I'd rather not go into all the specific reasons - but I've had some internal work to do that shouldn't involve others. So I filled this space with quotes and impersonal exercise ideas. It's just something very hard to communicate and I chose to silence myself.

One of the changes I've made here is to delete my sitemeter. It was depressing me. I will not be able to visit new visitors now unless you say something. I will have no way of knowing you were here. I miss a lot of the people who no longer drop by but know there is nothing I can do about that.

I've been watching movies. Yesterday I watched an interesting one that raised some interesting points as well as emphasizing some important truths.

It is called "Into The Wild" and involves a young man who decides to remove himself from the craziness of the world and go into the wilds of Alaska. He left after having graduated from college, wanting to avoid the typical mainstream traps of career and family.

Along the way, he met several people, all of whom seemed to like him very much. It didn't mean much to him which is incomprehensible to me since I am somewhat socially dependent. He enjoyed their company in the moment and moved on freely, no regrets. This isn't to say he was a "user" of others in any malignant way. He simply chose not to attach. At one point, he said "I think people make a mistake when they say the only meaning of life is in human relationships."

He continues to retreat more and more. He eventually ends up living in an abandoned bus in Alaska.

I don't want to ruin the movie for anyone who hasn't seen it, but it did raise some interesting thoughts.

Is choosing not to attach the healthiest way to go?

I think he discovered that it is not. See the movie to get a sense of his final discovery. I will say here that the final entry in his journal said "Happiness is only real when it is shared."

Being one who used to believe it didn't matter, I've also discovered that it does. That is why I am putting more energy into finding local people to be involved with. One of my new activities is at the local Lao wat. (Yeah, it's not Thai - but any port in a storm! The traditions are similar.) They seem to be very nice people and it is a wonderful feeling to be around the happiness of others once again. My next trip out will be at the beginning of April for some weekend activities they are hosting.

This seems to be a logical step. While my ultimate goal is, of course, to go to Thailand, I am here for now and am not ashamed to admit that I need companionship. Ever since I came back from Thailand, I've been acutely aware of how lonely I've allowed myself to become.

And, yes, I allowed it. It doesn't happen outside of me. I've allowed it to go on way too long and get far too deep.

So I won't be around here as much. But I'm not going away entirely. Not at this point. I will only make that choice if everyone ultimately completely loses interest in me.

See you in a few days. May everyone be well and happy.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sacred Life Sunday: Walking Meditation

I have an aversion to aggressive movement. Hammering a nail is uncomfortable because the jerking, pounding motions feel unnatural.

It's been a problem for me with many work-out routines in that it almost seems I have to be angry to make the motions meaningful.

That's why I've gravitated to things like yoga and tai chi. Qigong. Things that include slow, fluid movements and lots of stretching.

Lately I've been turning my walks into meditation time. (Sitting meditation drives me nuts. I have the attention span of an infant and just can't make it work.) Walking meditation serves the purpose of exercise for my body as well as my mind. It gives me a chance to pay attention to how my feet feel on the ground, the scents around me, the sounds, the atmosphere.

The best thing is that it really helps to somehow integrate my mind and body, to draw them together instead of always feeling somehow at odds with my body - as though it is something separate to be carried around. I've always had an incongruous relationship with my body and feeling disconnected from it.

Those who have a much faster pace of life than mine will probably find it useful for intentionally slowing down and feeling more connected to their environments, not mindlessly going from one task to another.

I've found that it's best to find a place where I will be uninterrupted by traffic. A local park, around the neighborhood or even in a large department store. All of those settings work. At least for me, I've found it needs to be outdoors, not on the treadmill.

Try it. You'll probably like it. :)


Thursday, March 20, 2008


"You're an interesting species, an interesting mix. You're capable of such beautiful dreams and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you're not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we've found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other."

"Contact" - movie 1997


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Improve the Silence....

Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?

-Sai Baba


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sacred Life Weekend: Feed Your Head....

Friday afternoon, I received "The Power of Myth" DVD set from Netflix. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to watch it and found it so entrancing that I listened to it the entire day. Listening to it is like having the richest, healthiest most satisfying meal.

Taking a break from that, I read "The Yoga of Eating" which really changed my thinking about so many things. It is a gentle, kind approach to feeding our souls so that we don't have to feed our bellies in quite the same way. :)

He speaks against self-denial and discipline, citing the origin of that type of thinking, and instead suggests that we begin to see our bodies and our minds as the same, not separate. It is not a battle between the body and mind - it is not a dichotomy - but instead learning the language of our bodies so we can provide for them and care for them more effectively.

I've just begun "Ascent of Humanity" by the same author. So far, it is wonderful! I'll write more when I've finished it.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Use What You Have

When I think back (which I don't like to do), I realize how much I missed out on, how much I didn't do, because I didn't have what I thought I needed to have.

Exercise is one example. For a long time I didn't do anything because I believed I had to have a gym membership, weights, a treadmill or some other special equipment. As anyone reading here knows, I am not a wealthy person.

Fill empty milk bottles with water for weights. Walk on the street instead of on a treadmill. Use a long rubber tube to stretch with. No one needs a gym. It's a luxury.

All of this to say, we can always find a way. It doesn't have to be difficult and it's a bit too easy to fall into the consumerism trap that tells us we have to buy certain things to get certain results. Merchandisers want us to believe that we need what they have because that keeps us buying and in debt.

In all things, it's important to get out of the "if only" thinking. If only I had this, I could do that. If only I was this, I could have that. If only I had it, I would be happy. If only the sky would turn purple.... If only....

This goes far beyond material things. It also applies to all other aspects of our lives. We all come with the internal software that we need to survive in this world. When you consider, our ancestors certainly didn't have all these products - nor did they need them.

It's a type of limitation thinking that leads to subtle, low level depression. There's nothing worse than feeling like we can't make changes in our own lives. It benefits only those who want to make a profit off our insecurities.

So I am learning to use these limitations as an opportunity to be a bit more creative ~ and to further simplify my life, lessen my dependence on "stuff", which leads to more freedom.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spitzer, Spitzer....

Are we surprised?

Tell me you're not!

In watching this yesterday, the first thing I noticed was the decidedly unhappy look on his wife's face. Can any of us even begin to imagine her humiliation?

I, for one, am sick of hearing about men and their inability to control their sexual urges. I'm tired of women being hurt by it.

I don't believe for one minute that Spitzer is really sorry. I think he's sorry he got caught!

He risked his family's well-being, risked his wife's health (STDs, disease, etc), risked his children's well-being since they will lose faith in him and he damaged his community.

Shame on him!


Monday, March 10, 2008

Just a question today.....

Because I am otherwise absorbed today, following up on some of your wonderful suggestions (and all of them were good... thanks :), I am going to ask a question instead of writing a long post.

What song would you sing to your newborn child?


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Believe in Something.....

Something I've been thinking about for Wellness Wednesday is what the key components are for really being well. Not just healthy, but well.

I am a person of strong beliefs. Some might even say opinionated. Both are true. :)

But I remember back to a time when I was blown about by the wind, taking in belief systems like the latest fashion trend, always trying to root myself in something whether it fit or not. My world felt like shifting sand, always subject to the "weather" of the moment.

During my life time, I've been involved in everything from conservative Christianity to atheism and most points in between. None of those things fed my soul but I wanted an identity. I wanted a community. I wanted to belong.... so I'd rather adeptly adopt whatever surrounded me.

That wasn't healthy of course and certainly didn't make me well. In fact, it made me feel hollow.

There's a certain tearing-down process that takes place as we discover our own core beliefs and begin to live them. That becomes a foundation from which we make our choices. For me, that took place in Tucson where I'd arrived after a particularly difficult experience on the east coast. I remember looking at the brick wall in front of me in the little cottage I'd just rented, knowing that my life could not remain the same. I found a mentor and began exploring.

Most of the foundational beliefs we discover are rooted in some system that was established before us, rooted either in culture or ethnicity. None of us are islands and there's very little truly original thought. As we go along, we begin to pick them apart, examine them, turn them over in our palms like a stone, eliminating the things that don't make sense and find truth in the rest. Sometimes something so strongly grabs us as truth that we can't avoid it. That is what happened with me in Thailand.

As we begin to live it fully, it adds color and clarity to our personal tapestry. Mundane things take on a richness. We have more to give others because we're standing on solid ground.

It's not easy and it takes a lot of courage, particularly when our choices are different than the majority who surround us but I honestly believe we can not be well without it. There is a lot of truth to the title of an old country song which says, "You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything."

What do you believe?


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Blogging and the Workplace....

It's Julie Day. This week's question is multi-layered. What about free speech and blogging? Should there be consequences for what we blog? How about workplace blogging? How about the courts?

When it comes to free speech, I am a purist. That is to say.... any of us have the right to blog about anything we choose. With that comes responsibility. The first rule of blogging, in my opinion, is "do no harm".

The consequences can be varied. If you write drivel, people will probably think you're an idiot and not read what you have to say. If you defame someone, they have the right to sue. If you encourage others to commit an illegal act, or admit to committing an illegal act, there will probably be legal consequences. If you are the propaganda minister for Al Qaeda, you will have all the western intelligence services monitoring you. If you threaten someone's life, you'll end up in jail.

That said, you still have the right to say it as long as you are willing to deal with the blowback.

As for workplaces and blogging, I believe employers have no right to limit or restrict blogging, except during the workday on their systems. Unless someone has a classified position, in which case he or she will be monitored by security personnel, no employer has the right to butt into the personal lives of employees. Even someone with a classified position has the right to blog as long as he or she does not blog about sensitive material. If he or she blogs about Contingency of Government plans, it will mean some time at Leavenworth. Barring that, give the director of the CIA a WordPress template. Bring it on!

When I was still working, I was one of the few employees whose access to the Internet was not restricted. Most of us in the IT department spent large chunks of our day on the Internet because it was necessary for our jobs. No one particularly cared what we did when there wasn't something pressing and most people walking by would see "yahoo", "CNN", some sports site or eBay up on someone's screen. My guess is that some people probably blogged. At night, I used to listen to radio shows on the Internet.

Employers come up with a million excuses for restricting access but they're flimsy and transparent. I know this because I used to have to spit it out like pablum when people would ask to have their access unrestricted. Security, open ports, viruses, blah blah blah. It's all nonsense. Any company with decent computer security will not have that problem. (Just as an aside, AIM or any of the teleconferencing software [chat rooms] will create security problems but that's unrelated. Access to the web or the mail server will not cause that condition.)

Employers enjoy too much control already in our lives. In the sick recesses of their own foul dark little minds, they believe it's appropriate to control what an employee does at home. We're hearing more and more of these cases come up in court. Employees are property and therefore owe undying allegiance to the company store. Everything they do is considered to be a reflection on the company.

Baloney! It's not appropriate and they need a slapdown. In this respect, I am completely in line with the libertarians. What people do in the privacy of their own homes is their own business. No one else's. It seems that once they gained access to our body fluids, all bets were off and they assume unlimited access to every other facet of our lives.

There was a woman who got fired for blogging. I don't remember the specifics but I recall the general circumstances. Was it Dooce by chance? She was saying things her employer didn't like. She was writing about her coworkers and conditions at work.

She may have sued the pants off them and if she did, I hope she won.

Working people need to be talking about these things. We need to be sharing our experiences, our pay, and our conditions. It's a good idea to remember that a lot of these rules have nothing to do with the security of the companies. It has to do with the security of those in charge. They don't like it when we talk to each other. Blogs can serve as guerrilla journalism so they want to restrict it.

So.. as always in a workplace, keep your mouth shut, your butt down, your back to the wall and your powder dry.

In the privacy of your own home, outside the workplace at a restaurant or bar, at the gym or at your keyboard, let it rip! Blog until your fingers are numb. We want to hear what you have to say.


Monday, March 03, 2008

This morning....

This morning, the power was out when I woke up so I decided to walk to the corner to get some coffee at Starbucks (which ordinarily I wouldn't even consider). The cars were all backed up at the light which was, of course, flashing. A major intersection became a hellish four-way stop which is always a mess. I thought about all those people sitting in their cars, probably going to jobs they hate and then having to deal with such an inconvenience. I thought, "well, I wish them all peace" and the power came back on. I know the two events are not connected .. but it still made me smile.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sacred Life Sunday: Loyalty

Yesterday, I watched an interesting movie. It is called "Breach" and is about the Robert Hanssen spy case. As far as I'm concerned, it is the best spy movie since "The Falcon and The Snowman".
But this isn't a movie review.

Both movies were interesting character studies and it got me to thinking about loyalty, how we form loyalties, how we maintain them and how betrayal leads to larger betrayals. It also made me think about how important loyalty is to our identities.

Robert Hanssen seemed to be a person without roots. He attached himself to his interests with extreme intensity but the intensity was only on the surface. His conservative Catholicism rated right alongside his interest in guns and there seemed to be no differentiation or compartmentalization. He also struck me a person who was surrounded by community but never felt "a part of".

I am not advocating spying, of course. I dislike all forms of betrayal from the minute to the global. It's all the same. I don't quantify it.

What matters in this is not national security or state secrets. What matters is how we form community and where loyalty fits into that. What caused Robert Hanssen, Ed Howard, Rick Ames, John Walker or any of the other more famous spies to betray the national security establishment to which they belonged?

For me, there can be no community without loyalty. They are inextricably linked. I am also a person who forms strong loyalties which makes it hard for me to understand more casual connections or strictly utilitarian connections.

I can't imagine a life without loyalties. It is my foundation, my root. It is what keeps me connected to the planet. Without loyalty, it would feel like being lost in outer space.

Loyalty is linked to security. We get loyalty by giving it and it is an integral part of feeling safe in the world.

So what about Robert Hanssen?

The only thing I can think is that he felt so betrayed that he was unable to develop the loyalty necessary to want to protect his community. He is a complex man apparently, but lacks the insight to see it or express it. One line in the movie really grabbed me. Hanssen talks about how "the US can be likened to a powerfully built but retarded child." The motivation may have started as a desire to prove a point, then a slow burn into addiction ~ making fools of those that would not listen. I think it also fed an emotional need to feel connected to something strong and powerful that pretended to value him by giving him money and praise.

So what are your thoughts on loyalty?