Magic Winds

It was extremely windy today.  The magic winds blew in.

I had two magical days in a row.  Yesterday was amazing  I started the morning getting a phone call from the Reverend at a UU church in Berkeley to interview for the Part Time Office Manager position there.  How perfect would that be!!!  We spent some time on the phone discussing the position, the congregation and my availability, and he was very warm and friendly and I think I’d like to work there!  It would be ideal, working in a UU church while I become a UU minister.  We will see.  Whatever will be will be.  I’ll keep applying to things, but send out good vibes for this one!  I interview next week!  Yay!

The magic kept coming.  I opened my mail to see a bill from 24 Hour Fitness for $29.00.  Nuts, I thought to myself, I didn’t cancel that.  I had a 3 year membership I’d taken out 3 years ago and I thought this was for a monthly charge for a new year’s subscription.  So I call and get wonderful Melissa on the phone and she says, no, that is your YEARLY rate to stay a member.  What?????  $29.00 a year???  Yes, that’s true.  You got in when we used to have that policy, even though we don’t have it any longer.  So I said than sign me up!  Even if I only use it twice this year, it’s paid for itself.  Hot Dog!!  I felt the magic coursing through my veins.

So I let Sequel outside for the second day in a row and that darn cat, I didn’t pay attention to where he went,  and when it came time to leave after dinner, I had to go with him still outside.    Be safe, I told the dark night, where he must have been hiding somewhere.  Onward I went to my first meeting of the Brain Exchange here in the Bay area.  Magic personified!!!   Here I was about a mile from my place with a group of 28 women in a brainstorming session.  I had always wanted to attend the LA group and never seemed to get there.  So when I got the referral from my friend BJ to attend the original group, I made it a point to rectify my past behavior.   I went.  What a group….. I mingled and listened and joined their Yahoo group and was able to ask a question the next day regarding my finding a tenant.  They meet once a month, you can ask any question you want if time permits by drawing numbers from a box.  Of course I pulled the last number of the night so they never reached me, but when I asked the question online from the Yahoo group, the brainstorms just poured into my inbox.  What a wonderful opportunity once a month, to get to know women my age, make connections, network, find the resources I will need….. my next question is where do I find a hairdresser like Helen????  🙂

Friday morning began late cause I overslept.  🙂 But no matter.  I got a call from my realtor who said she had found a tenant for me that signed the lease!  I then walked to my nightclub movie theater and watched Eat Pray Love at the second afternoon matinee.  I felt like I was walking on air after I left that film!  I loved it!  I had read the book and I allowed the movie to take me to other places, even though the magic in my life was going strong.  I really didn’t need to step onto the screen except to visit the wonderfully exotic places they visited.  I had been to Italy but not India or Bali and they are on my bucket list.  I even got popcorn WITH BUTTER!!  Talk about decadent.  I just felt good.  I allowed myself to eat buttered popcorn.  And I didn’t stop there.  After the movie ended, I took a walk to my Nirvana shopping plaza and got a double dutch chocolate scoop on a sugared cone.  I kept the magic going.  That turned out to be my dinner, but what a great dinner to splurge on once in a while – popcorn and ice cream!!  It was a bit windy walking home, but I didn’t care.  It felt too good of a day.    I came home feeling excited and hopeful and refreshed from the good long walk.  And also to a check in the mail!  I had begun to become fearful I wouldn’t find a tenant as I’ve already paid double for the month of August and feared I would be doing that for September as well.  Hopefully my new tenant will turn out to be reliable and dependable and take good care of my condo.  Since the magic winds are in town I am going to believe that it’s so.

From my little bit of Mayberry,

Jo

August 20, 2010

August 18th

So let’s talk about the WEATHER.  I never knew that part of the deal was never wearing shorts again.  So far in the last 2 ½ weeks that I’ve been here, I have yet to wear short sleeves,  let alone sleeveless,  haven’t opened a window, have used my heat in the car in AUGUST, still using my down comforter to sleep at night, need I go on??? Mark Twain was right.  The coldest day he ever spent was a summer’s day in San Francisco.  The lows range from 50 – 55 at night and so far the high on the Coast has been 70…  in AUGUST.  This is the middle of August and it feels like November.  So that I never expected to happen.  I’ll just have to get used to it.  I still have LA blood.  There are some clothes I’m convinced I just should pack away as they will never see the light of day here.  Not with a high of 66.  But if that is my only complaint, so be it.  I am so thoroughly happy here.  It’s been amazing how easily it has been to adjust.  Folks here are so much friendlier than in LA.  Not sure why, but they really are.  People walk down the street and smile at me as they pass by.  Now there are 2 LA oxymorons in that sentence.  One, people walk down the street.  Two, they smile at you.  I didn’t realize how much I missed that, but it didn’t happen to me much in LA.  And at least when I walk here, I feel a little warmer.

Sequel had his initial chaperoned outside visit!  I opened the door as I cleaned out my storage cabinet and left the door open.  At first he went out, expecting me to shoo him back in.  But I didn’t.  So he got a little braver and walked out off the stoop.  I walked back with my dust rag and step ladder and he started to run back into the apartment.  I assured him it was okay and he explored the front of the entrance for awhile.  It was very cute and I’m sure confused the hell out of him.  For all of his 13 years, I’ve always kept him inside and now I was saying it was fine to roam around.  In the condo I could never let him out, HOA rules and regs you know, but here it’s a fairly quiet street and he can roam safely.  At least I hope he can.  It was so cute to watch him explore, I felt like a proud momma watching a child ride his bike for the first time.  Tee hee… I know you parents out there think I’m loony tunes, but this is the closest to parenting I get.

And the wonderful part about the storage is that when I was at the mailbox the other day talking to my neighbors, I discovered that I not only have one storage cabinet in front of my car, but THREE!!!  Totally stoked am I.  So Jose the handyman came over and sawed off the combination lock that the last tenant left because she couldn’t remember the combination (I bought padlocks with keys, thank you very much) and off I went to clean and load this sucker up.  I am feeling abundant with space all of a sudden!  I got all my Christmas decorations in, books I can store and still have 1 and ½ cabinets left to stuff.  So as I did all of this, I realized this was my perfect opportunity to initiate Sequel on the joys of the outdoors while still being able to keep an eye on him.  He did wonderfully well.  Callie however, must have been an indoor cat for too long.  She refused to go outside.  Maybe her time will come later, or maybe she will forever be an inside cat.  At any rate, they seem to be settling in and almost seem happier here than in the condo.  That’s a relief.  I need to take a hint from my animals.  It’s obvious that it isn’t the WHERE that makes one happy for them and I feel that too.  There are moments where I’ll still reach for my makeup brush on the shelf that isn’t there or think oh, I have that box in the left drawer of my hutch, but they’re not there any longer.  I don’t like not being able to open the door under the kitchen sink all the way because it hits the stove, and my 6 inch cabinets under the counter don’t hold much, but I’m grateful that I have a place to live that I can call home.  I watched a documentary on HBO last night called Homeless: the Motel Kids of Orange County and one question posed to a child was, “what do you wish for?”  And she said, a home.  I want to have a home.   And all the gratitude for all I have poured out of me and I thought, I have so much to be grateful for.  In the shadow of Disneyland, these children play amongst garbage bins and drug dealers and long for a stable, safe, consistent place to live, to just be routine.  Someplace they can call their own and feel like a child.  So no matter what is going on in my life, or how out of sync I feel during this transition, I have a place to live and food to eat and cats who love me.  May you all have the same.

From my little bit of Mayberry,

Jo

Transition in 12

August 16, 2010

So I’ve been here 2 full weeks!  This last week has been a bit easier than the first one in terms of getting organized and more settled.  That’s a relief.  And I could tell I started to slow down a bit.  I even had a couple nights where I slept for 10 hours. …. I must have been tired.  I emptied all my boxes and put them in the recycle bin, found a place to have my phone plugged in in the bedroom so now I have my 3 phones all hooked up (a bit overkill I must say), went to see The Kids Are All Right at the matinee in what I’ve discovered is a decadent theater near me.  Believe it or not, there are rows of seats with tables in front them, like a nightclub, which felt very strange while watching a chic flik, but also kind of neat.  So I have a nightclub movie theater to go to.  My apartment sized refrigerator got replaced, thank you Barbara the Property Manager.  The old one had condensation on the outside of the frig, a missing knob so I couldn’t turn down the temperature, consequently I had frozen milk and frozen OJ, something new and completely different.  The light would only come on when you flicked the catch AFTER opening the door and the vegetable drawer was missing.  Think I’ll miss that frig????  So I got a shiny new white one that doesn’t have any of those defects and promptly went to Trader Joe’s to replenish my food supply.  I had been afraid to buy too much food, since I knew pretty much after day one that it was going to be replaced.  I began to hang pictures which really made me feel more at home.  I experimented a bit with hanging different objects with other pictures and I’m not so pleased with the results, but I can always move them later.  I HAVE to figure out how to put these photos on my blog.  Haven’t figured that out yet, but I love the progression I’ve watched my rooms become.

I got caught up with my DSL and actually started to watch TV again.  Warehouse 13!!  I was in withdrawal.  And Drop Dead Diva.  I’m nothing but eclectic I must say. What episodes I missed I could also watch on Hulu, so I’m all caught up.  Isn’t modern technology amazing?

After 12 days of being here I also finally got my mailbox key!  My landlord had also been on vacation and had the key, which Barbara could never give to me.  It was really interesting though, the substitute mailman was so kind, that he would stop by my door every day I was home when he arrived, and gave me my mail.  The regular postman, I discovered, is in Europe on vacation right now, (is this why our stamps are going up???) and I’ll get to meet him next week.  The first day I tried to get my mail, I was at the Post Office when the postman actually was at my apartment trying to give me my unemployment check.  I’ll never do that again!  I’ve discovered though that when the mail is delivered, it’s like Floyd’s Barber Shop here.  I’ve met more neighbors now while getting my mail.  I met Mike who’s grandfather actually built these buildings and found out that my building used to actually be a warehouse and they transformed it into 4 apartments.  I must say the insulation is outstanding.  I never hear my neighbors and this must be due to the fact that they changed this in the 40’s so it was built like buildings used to be built.  I have archways for doorways and all the walls are curved at the corners like in the 40’s and I love that about my place.  It’s a good solid building and I can feel that just living here.

I met Janet and Diane who live in two apartments in the opposite building from me.  Janet is a teacher and just spent 50 days in Europe!  How cool is that!!!  We all stood in the courtyard talking and comparing trip adventures, with Mike adding comments from his balcony above,  for the longest time and it felt like I’d come to live in a small town.  They gave me all the tips on the laundry room (yay!) and how long they’d been here, I think 18 and 15 years respectively, and it was a nice feeling to start to feel a part of.  Mrs. Kravitz came by too, of course.  Mrs. Kravitz has the brightest red hair I think I’ve ever seen.  It’s like an orange-red, except for the grey parts near the temples that she seems to miss when dying.  She ALWAYS has a smile on her face and isn’t at all as mean as Darren’s Mrs. Kravitz seemed to be.  (tee hee)  We’re all about the same age with no children and it’s a nice feeling to find other people like me.

I walked to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning and stopped for a cup of Peet’s Coffee, decaf nonfat mocha of course.  This was a GREAT Farmer’s Market!  Soooo colorful, with Indian musicians playing and I even bought a couple bags of Moong Dal, Sukhi’s spicy treat!  It’s toasted lentils to put on salads and such and so yummy!  I got fresh green beans, red and yellow peppers, juicy, juicy purple plums and fresh spinach.  Now that my food won’t freeze in the refrigerator, I could safely buy the things I knew would keep.  I came home and made a wonderful dinner and watched Nights in Rodanthe which I’d never seen and cried my eyes out.  How lame!  It was so relaxing though!  To sit with my cats and watch a chic flik and eat Dreyer’s Slow Churned French Silk!  What a nice evening to have.  I’m starting to feel like I live here and that’s a nice feeling.

Until next time from my own little Mayberry,

Jo

The First Week Here

So I’m finally posting this after a number of glitches…. Even though it’s my 2 week anniversary of moving, this is Week 1.  Thanks for your patience!

I have DSL again!  And it’s been over a week since I wrote my last post… lots to tell.

So after my first day I really delved into settling in.  I discovered my kitties picked up fleas at Mike’s house so on to the Nirvana shopping center to the Petco there.  I met my own Mrs. Kravitz!  She lives in the purple house next door (seriously) and has a black cat named Buddy and knows every single thing about all my neighbors.  She filled me in on all my neighbors’ secrets and then offered to take my bookcase that won’t fit in my study (even though I did my diagram and thought I had worked it out perfectly to be able to fit), in her van along with many, many boxes I had broken down and off to the recycling center we went.  She showed me where my two story Target store is and I proceeded to buy my NEW RED microwave!  I had to recycle my old one as it took up a third of my counter space in my miniature kitchen, and I absolutely love this one!  Along with my new wastebasket and step ladder to reach things and a new Brita!  It left a pang of sadness in my heart when I remembered the side by side frig I left in my condo down south… the one with the automatic ice and water dispenser… sniff.   How I miss that frig!  But now I have my Brita which will provide me with filtered water as my frig did.  Although the water here is actually drinkable, unlike LA.  At least it tastes and looks drinkable….    🙂  And I also discovered a Petsmart by the Target, so I am animal supply abundant!!  How exciting is that!

So I unpacked the myriad of boxes that I somehow transported down here – I’m not sure how I thought I could fit all of this in 500 square feet, but I did.  And when I figure out how to post photos, I hope to show you all the transition.  Every day I accomplished more and began to clear away the wreckage of my present.  I’ve even hung pictures up and found homes for most of my things.  Some things, I discovered had to be relocated, not sure where things are supposed to live yet, and I’ve had to remove whole drawers full of things and have them live somewhere else.  But I’m sure as I live here longer, I’ll discover where things are supposed to be.  I did discover that when I drop something on my linoleum kitchen floor, it breaks…. Sorry Claudia! One of your red striped bowls bit the dust.

I really miss my washer and dryer!!!  It’s been 12 years since I’ve had to pay to do my laundry and boy is that expensive!  It’s so much cheaper to own your own and I really do miss that.  I had a laundry incident already.  The second day here I used the laundry room here to wash my allergy cover for my mattress and it just wouldn’t dry.  After 6.00 worth of quarters, I thought, I’ll just let it dry overnight by itself, but alas, the next day it still wasn’t dry.  So since I didn’t want to run the risk of mildew I went to a Laundromat that night and spent another 11.00 just to wash and dry my duvet cover, mattress cover and set of sheets…. That’s expensive bedding.  I hope that doesn’t happen to me again.  I really really miss my washer and dryer.  🙁

I began to miss some of the still lifes I created in my condo.  I would go to put something on a shelf or bookcase and realize I don’t have as many shelves as I used to have.  I couldn’t recreate the miniature moments I had created down there.  In some ways that’s good.  I’ve had to become more creative with my imaginings of my cozy home, but part of me longs for the familiar.  I do miss the familiar.  I miss just walking out my door and knowing where I’m going.  I need my Garmin just to get to the Post Office.  And I know that with some patience I will eventually learn where all my necessities of life are in this city.  I just want to know them NOW.  I’ve made 3 trips to the recycling center so that’s indelibly etched in my brain… convenient.  I think I still have one more trip.  I keep finding things I realize I really don’t need and the Goodwill drop off is in the recycling center… convenient again.  I’ve simplified my life and that’s a good thing also.  I’ve realized that the things I thought I could live without are barely missed by me.  It was the fear of letting it go which was actually more traumatic than the letting go.  Some things got packed and moved that should have stayed in storage, but those have found homes in indiscreet places.  I discovered a WONDERFUL new tool, a 6” riser that fits under each leg of my bed so that underneath my bed has become a giant storage facility!!!  Queen sized!!  Probably not the best feng shui, but it sure has cured my storage issues!  And the cats can’t hide under there any longer.  A sad note, Penny has yet to be found.  I really hope someone has taken her home and is caring for her and she’s not somewhere on the streets of Encino.

So I feel like I’ve come back to civilization.  I have a home phone number, DSL and my Dish Network is all set up.  I’m connected to the outside world once again.  I have pangs of sadness living in the unknown.  I have to find a new cleaners, new doctors, new dentist, who will cut my hair like Helen has?????  All the things I took for granted that I knew so well in LA.  My Flip’s tire guys I could trust, getting my special contact lens cleaners down the street from Solley’s, Jon’s Market carrying my Zergut vegetables…. I may have to google those to find out who sells them.  I had a comfortable existence without fanfare down there.  I could walk out my door and know exactly where I was going.  That’s not where I live here.  Here I have no IDEA where I’m going, in more ways than one.

But I’m here and I’m glad and I’m safe and I’m beginning to get settled.  Could I ask for anything more?  🙂

Jo

The First Complete Day

August 2, 2010

Good evening!  I’m writing on my laptop again, as my computer is NOT hooked up, in fact you can’t even see it amidst the boxes.  But it’s my first complete day here and when I get Internet access I can actually post.  In the meantime, I can write.  The beauty of technology and the save button.

I think I’ve counted 52 boxes.  At least.  And I have found the Recycling Center!  What a cool place.  5 minutes from my place is a complete area devoted to recycling.  There’s a bin for hangers, for filmy plastic – like saran wrap, one for hard plastics, one for mixed plastics, one for cardboard, and newspapers, and on and on, and it’s just unbelievable.  A neighborhood after my own heart.  It took me 6 years to get my condo complex of 133 units to recycle with blue containers.  This is so wonderful that a whole community does this and recycles on a regular basis.  I even have my own compost container under my sink.  Go figure!

So the first day I furiously unpacked, went to the recycle center, and visited my NIRVANA SHOPPING CENTER!!!  It’s actually called El Cerrito Shopping Center, but to me, it’s Nirvana.  Everything I could want is right here, 4 blocks from my apartment.  Trader Joe’s is there, Wells Fargo is there, Lucky’s, CVS, See’s Candy (oh, my), The UPS Store!!!  Even Bed, Bath and Beyond, Barnes and Noble, Pier 1 and Panda Express – the unmentionables that I better stay away from are there.  J  AND  there is a Farmer’s Market every Tuesday and Saturday morning!!  So twice a week I have a chance to get fresh organic food.  A Californian’s dream.  BART is across the street and I can either walk or drive there as there is plenty of parking.  So, it really is Nirvana.

So here I sit satisfyingly exhausted from this great adventure I’ve begun.  It was interesting.  I had 2 fortune cookies I took with me yesterday on the drive up and I decided to open one while driving and snacking yesterday.  Lo and behold, it was a double fortune, uncut.  The first one said, “You’ll never know what you can do until you try” and the second one said, “Your faith carries you through difficult times.”  I couldn’t have made up a more amazing fortune for myself.  Another coincidence, as I’ve had this fortune cookie for awhile and never opened it.  So on the day I’m driving up to my new home with my 2 cats in a jam-packed car, I open THAT fortune cookie.  I had to laugh at the irony and feel elated at the wonderful feeling those fortunes gave me.  So I see this as an amazing new omen of what life has in store for me.  I have a cute tiny new home, my 2 cats are safe with me, hopefully the third is down with Mike and I have a whole new future ahead.  I wish that for everyone.  It’s a wonderful feeling that I hope you all get a chance to feel.

Sweet dreams.

Jo



My Last Service from July 18, 2010

For those of you who didn’t attend, or even those who did, here is a copy of my last UU service at The Onion in North Hills.

__________________________________

Thank you all for being here today.

I appreciate that I have this last time with you this morning and I hope I can impart something of value to your thinking and your being.

I have a mentor that I think the world of.  And there have been times in my life where things haven’t gone exactly as I’ve planned and I would get resentful and angry.  I had a job once where I hated going into work and one of the co-workers there REALLY got on my nerves.  I would call my mentor to “discuss” this co-worker’s behavior and she would tell me to go into work with the thought of giving love and service.  Love I said?  Can’t I go in and just give service?  No she said, you need to go in with an attitude of love and service.  I didn’t want to do that.  I didn’t like this person so I certainly didn’t want to love her.  But my mentor had never steered me wrong and so I decided to take that action.  What I discovered was that when I gave service with a loving attitude, it changed me somehow.  I found out that to truly give service to someone, I could not judge them, I could not be cruel to them, I could not be resentful.  It took the power away from me to be anything else but kind.  For when I gave service unconditionally, I felt love.  I became a neutral being giving something to someone else without any pre-conditions or expectations.  I just did it.  And when I did this, I really did begin to feel better.  I decided to try it on other parts of my life.  I decided I needed to be accepting of others, no matter what I thought of them.  I decided to be kind to Republicans.  I knew this was going to be hard, for they did not reflect my views at all.  But when I took this principle, which is also a principal of Unitarian Universalists – our 4th one actually – Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth and I applied this to the outside world, not just to our congregation, that would have to include Republicans.  I discovered that I became more tolerant of others, no matter what their beliefs, and began to look at them as human beings, just like me.   That is not easy to do, and I know I don’t do it on a daily basis, but isn’t that what our 4th principle stands for?  I am reminded of a quote attributed to Zig Zigler ,which says “When I speak, people often say, ‘Zig, I like what you had to say, but for me motivation doesn’t always last.’ And I tell them, ‘Bathing doesn’t either. That’s why I recommend it daily.'” I think this can also apply to love and service.  I may not do it daily yet, but I can create a habit of giving service and eventually work towards doing it daily.

So the love part became a little easier.  I also discovered some issues with my service part.  One day driving to this very sanctuary, I passed a woman at the exit who was begging for money at the stoplight.  I looked in my purse and saw 3 dollars and thought to myself, I haven’t gotten my unemployment check yet, so I don’t have any money to give her.  I drove on when the light changed, but I couldn’t get her out of my mind as I drove here.  Because the truth was, I did have money.  I had a retirement account, I had a small savings account, I even had a mutual fund with funds for my tuition in it.  I chose to believe I didn’t have money to give her, because I didn’t want to give her what I had left, my 3 dollars.  I easily could have done this.  And since it was a Sunday, I didn’t need any other money that day and if I did fall into dire straights within the next 24 hours, I could get my hands on money.  I allowed my deprivation thinking to affect my behavior in the present moment when I was really living in the future.  Truly giving service is to not fear giving to others no matter what.  I had been in fear to give her the 3 dollars in my purse and I blamed it on being on unemployment and thinking I was poor in that moment.  I wasn’t poor.  I had shelter, a car, food at home, a loving spiritual community to support me and friends and family.  I allowed fear to enter into my behavior and I didn’t help another person in need.  Now I’ve heard some people tell me they never give to people begging on the street, because they are probably scamming everyone and are just not working.  They want it easy.  Well I’ve seen some folks standing in 100o weather begging for hours for a few dollars and I’ve never thought of that as easy work.  It’s humiliating work.  It’s degrading work.  And I can’t imagine any human being choosing that to earn a living instead of working in any air conditioned building, whether it’s a bank, or K-Mart or a 7-11, or somewhere else with more dignity.  I firmly believe that these folks don’t choose this lightly.  They are desperate and cannot see another alternative.  I think it’s difficult for us to look at it this way, because it hurts to think another human being is in that dire of need.  So we look away and go on.  At Christmas time I gave a woman a 20 dollar bill at the stoplight.  And she was shocked and I said Happy Holidays and she grinned with a half toothless smile.  This woman felt she had no where else to go but to beg at a freeway intersection.  I doubt that she would choose that as a vision of what she would see her life become.  When I was 27 I lost my job and I found a temporary job one weekend selling green carnations at a street corner for St Patrick’s Day.  I made 50.00 that day in 1982 and it felt like a thousand.  It was a hard 12 hours, sometimes fun, sometimes gratifying, when it started to rain, sometimes miserable, and I can have just a slight inkling of what the woman at the exit went through.  But I did it for work and she did it to just survive.  When she stands there, others judge her and call her lazy.  I may not give every person who begs money when they ask for it from now on, but I will not choose to do it based on what is in my wallet.  I will do it because I really believe that person needs it more than I.  And that I believe is included in our first principle – the inherent worth and dignity of every person.  To see each human being as a person just like us.

In April I did a service on the power of one and I’ve been thinking about the book The Power of Half ever since.  In this new adventure I’m embarking on, I will be living in half the space I am now.  I’m selling some things, giving away others, throwing away a lot of paper products and downsizing to about 500 square feet of space.  What I’ve discovered is, I am choosing to look at this as not downsizing.  I did at first, and I felt like I was losing something.  I’m not selling my condo however, I’m renting it out, and will be renting a small apartment in my new city by the Bay.  So I’m choosing to look at the fact that I’m gaining 500 square feet.  The 1200 I won’t be living in I’ve chosen to let someone else live in.  Unitarian Universalism has helped me to change my thinking in this respect.  It’s not how much I lack, it’s truly how much I have.  Now I’m not talking about the other kind of thinking our country seems to experience frequently.  The thinking that “I’ve got mine, so they can get theirs”.  There is a part of our culture that feels that somehow people should make it on their own.  That for anyone to help them would detract from the American tradition of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.  That if the government or an agency helps a person in need, it’s charity and that’s degrading.  And that’s certainly not capitalism and the American way.  I don’t agree with this.  That flies in the face of the definition of service.     Dictionary.com defines service as an act of helpful activity and Webster’s uses the definition, a contribution to the welfare of others.  These definitions are worded in the best interest of the other person.  In no way is service denigrating to a human being.  It is the exact opposite.  It shows us our own humanity.  When we give service to others, we are elevating that person to a dignified state equal to our own.  Isn’t that the first principle of Unitarian Universalism?  Aren’t we here to value each other on a daily basis as being worthwhile and dignified?  How did our society become so unbalanced?  Robert Reich writes in The Nation that in 1928, a year before the Great Depression, 1 percent of the richest Americans held 23.9 percent of the wealth.  By the 1970’s due to the expansion of the Great Society, the top 1 percent held only 8 to 9 percent of the annual American income.  But by 2007, due to various political influences, the richest 1 percent once again were living like in the past and holding 23.5 percent of the total wealth.  FDR’s Great Society was once again demolished to pre-depression era living.  Where is the equality in that?  How is that the American way?

So when I hear some folks talk about how we have free enterprise in this country and how everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed and they should just do what others do regardless of circumstance, I think to myself, but where is the service in that?  I don’t believe that Wall Street would have collapsed if they were truly giving service.  I don’t think the housing market would have collapsed if they were truly giving service.  Their mindset has become one of, how much money can I make with the least amount of work and effort.  How much more money can I make by taking advantage of others.  That is not service.  So I look at our great country, and yes, I am so lucky to be living here and grateful every single day, but I think to myself, what would this world be like if we all gave service to someone else?  No one would be in need.  Every single person would have another person taking care of them in some way.  Even those with no food could give service to someone maybe needing a yard raked, or a car washed.  And I actually think that even the wealthy would not be the poorer from it as I think they fear they would be.  There is a robbery that occurs when someone cannot experience the act of service.  Both from the point of giving service and from receiving service.  For when I’ve given service to someone else, I’m not sure who received more joy.  I got as much joy from giving to someone as I think they got from receiving it.  In fact I think I got more.  I felt a part of this planet.  I felt a part of the human race and a part of this whole cosmic world.  Now I’m not turning into Jerry Brown, but I feel I have to speak in superlatives to describe what that feels like.  And for those folks out there who never give service, they are missing out of all this glorious joy.

So let’s start a movement.  Let’s begin by doing things for other people and NEVER expecting anything in return.  Maybe we could start for one day a week.  Say on Mondays  (or if that’s a bad day for you, Tuesdays) we could do something kind for someone, whether you know them or not,  who needs a kindness and then eventually build it up to 2 days a week, then 3 days a week… etc.  Pretty soon we would be doing a little something nice for someone else every day.  Can you imagine how that would change the world?  If I fed my neighbor one meal a week when they didn’t have any food, then maybe another neighbor could take another day of the week.  Even if it was just one meal.  Eventually we could almost eradicate hunger in our own local area here in North Hills.  Then maybe North Hollywood could do it, then maybe West Hills could do it, then maybe even Wasilla Alaska could do it.  If we could change the way we treat each other on a PERSONAL basis, would this not affect others outside our sphere?  And maybe that’s the key.  We need to SEE each other.  It’s easy to not help someone when we view them as a “collective” someone.  But when it’s Simon down the street, it’s harder to ignore.  We have become a nation who twitters and texts our way through communication, never sometimes actually using a human behavior like our voice or touch or sight to communicate with another human being that has a voice and sees.  I want to get back to our humanity.  And I really believe that giving service will help to achieve that goal.

Now comes the hard part.  I need to take a moment at this service to say goodbye.  At the beginning of this year, I never would have thought I would be moving out of LA.  I was very settled, living in my condo for the last 12 years, earning a living, singing at karaoke, belonging to this beloved community, enjoying moments with dear friends.  I never thought that my life would have changed like this.  And all of sudden it did.  Within one week I had lost my job and had major surgery.  And I was the happiest person on earth.  For all my excuses as to why I couldn’t do what lay in my heart had suddenly disappeared.  This journey I’m beginning has already been fraught with miracles.  It was a miracle that I got laid off during the Obama stimulus package and have the government paying 65% of my COBRA payments.  I wouldn’t have healthcare right now otherwise.  It was a miracle that Starr King School of the Ministry gave me an extra week to apply for their Master of Divinity program and that I got all my paperwork in exactly when they needed it.  I have to relay this one miracle to you.  I had forgotten to request my transcripts until the day before they were due to Starr King.  I woke up in a panic that morning, went to the website, couldn’t request them on line, called Admissions, they said, “We don’t fax transcripts,” but they transferred me to the transcript department anyway.  I gave the woman my social and she looked at my name and said, “I know you.”  Now I haven’t been on this Illinois campus for 25 years.  I said you do?  She said I’m Ellen!  I said, I’m sorry I don’t remember you.  She said you were a friend of Cindy Kaman’s.   Cindy had been my best friend in college.  I said yes I was.  She responded, oh I can go ahead and fax these for you.  They might be hard to read, but they’ll know you went here.

What are the odds of that happening?  My phone interview for Starr King was the day before the committee met.  Every step along the way opened up and I have progressed slowly but surely to the point I am at this morning.  The Universe has gently carried me along.  I had Barrie and Garry and Al and Mary Pat and my dear friends Spencer and Marianne all help me pack and load and carry my belongings and I’m over half way ready to depart.  I have others committing to packing up the moving van on Tuesday.  I have been the recipient of great amounts of service and am so very, very grateful to you all.  I have found love and friendship and joy in this congregation that, I almost feel, I will never find again.  I know that’s not true, for there are Unitarian Universalists all over this country and I CERTAINLY plan on coming back to visit.  You have given me a shoulder to cry on, a team to work with, causes to work on, bright eyes to laugh with and a feeling that we are together that will be very, very hard to replace.  You, this congregation at the Onion, which by the way, I will always say and continue to explain to others why this is called the Onion, have enriched my life immensely.  During my interview for admission to Starr King, the Reverend asked me where I thought I needed improvement.  I said well, I’ve never been a spiritual leader.  I don’t know if I can do this or not.  Who am I to think I can be a spiritual guide to others?  What can I give them and where will I get the knowledge and resources to do this?  Reverend Wood said, that’s called humility.  As long as you stay humble, you can reach out to anyone.  It will be so easy to remain humble, for all I have to do is think of all of you.

I hope you all go out and give service to someone in need today.

Blessed be.



And then there were 2

August 1, 2010

So today is the day to depart.  The bags are packed, the kitties have been inspected by the vet and I’m all set to go.  I have Sequel and Callie in their carriers, having given them their ¼ pill to put them out on the drive and Penny is nowhere to be found.  Mike and I searched for 45 minutes; I played the fake out game that seemed to work to get her to the vet, but today, alas to no avail.  We pounded tables, shook furniture, Mike even turned the vacuum on, but no sign of Penny anywhere.  So I had to leave without her.  I am now Penny-less.

I’m missing her already.  This poor cat has already had a traumatic life and she’s only 4 cat years old.  And I had her for 2 years and 5 days.  Maybe it was her time to go another route.  Maybe it was God’s way of making my property manager an honest woman, as she refused to put down on the landlord’s addendum that I had 3 cats.  She recorded 2.  And 2 it now is.  Penny was just too afraid to come out and now she’s been left behind…. Kind of an analogy of life sometimes.  I hope Mike finds her and I’ve given him permission to give her to the no-kill shelter, but he says he can keep her for a while.  We’ll see what happens.  So say a little prayer for her that she is happy somewhere.  She’s had 3 owners in 4 years  that I know of so I know she’s a traumatized little kitty.   I just hope she is safe and happy.

So I began my journey and lo and behold as I came within a mile of Grapevine, Free Bird again began to play, this time on KLOS.  Not making this up.  Sometimes the Universe has symmetry, sometimes it has odd messages and sometimes, it might  just be coincidence, but I think it was at least a happy accident and a good omen.  The cats in their carriers were wedged between other boxes stacked high in my little Mustang and barely made a sound.  Once they began to go under I could tell, because their meows turned into eeeaarrnngggggg noises….. which was kind of cute.  And once in awhile they would semi-awaken with an errggg noise, but mostly it was me and my music on the road.  American Idiot and Neil Young, is actually a nice combination on the open freeway.  I had a slight incident with my Garmin towards the end.  It actually did not tell me to turn from the 580 to the 80 so I missed my turn, but only lost 14 miles and I was here.  Gloriously moved!  And it was still light out.  I was unloading my car when a neighbor pulled out and said this is your parking space, I was just using it.  So I jubilantly pulled into my COVERED PARKING SPACE with the STORAGE COMPARTMENT in front of it!!! God is so looking out for me.  I have a space for my Christmas decorations!  Hot dog!  Annnnnddddd  I don’t have to worry about the salt air ruining my paint job.  I had been thinking of getting a car cover and now I don’t have to.  Talk about good omens.

So the cats wandered for a bit, which doesn’t take long in 500 square feet and quizzically looked at me like, mom where did you bring us?  I’ve asked myself that question these first two days and wondered myself what I’ve gotten myself into.  But I’ve done it, I’m here, so I’ll have to see what’s in store for me next.

Day 24 The Finale Approaches

Tomorrow is the day.  I pack up the cats and me and as much “stuff” as I can stuff in my car and off I will go.

The condo is done, done, done!!!  I went back today to touch up a few things, paint the door that was forgotten and the walls I needed to correct, and now all is well.  The condo awaits it’s new tenants.  I gave it a blessing and wished for the new residents to love living there as much as I have these last 12 years.  I walked through each room, remembering the potlucks and parties laid out on my dining room table, the view I had sitting at my computer seeing the tops of palm trees, remembering Sequel running up and down the steps.  It was indeed bittersweet.  But the time has come to move on and I know that more exciting adventures await me up north.  I almost took photos and decided no.  My memories are sufficient and I want to remember this place full of life, not empty with space.  It’s more beautiful in my mind right now.  Although it does look good!  Why did I wait sooo long to fix the kitchen faucet???? I could’ve enjoyed it working so well when I was HERE.  So a lesson learned.  Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today.  It’s much more enjoyable.

I’ve had a more relaxing day than I’ve had in a month.  I have 5 bruises on my right leg and 4 on my left that I hope will fade quickly.  And my skin is acting like I’m in high school again, so I really need some skin care!  Avon Gold Jar to the rescue!  I sincerely hope I’ve lost some weight.  I wouldn’t know as I’ve packed my digital scale 🙂 along with so many things I miss having. And I’m reallllyyyy going to miss my washer and dryer.  I haven’t had to pay to do my laundry in I don’t know how long… so we have a little laundry room in the new place and I’ll have to start saving quarters again… can anyone say starving student???   It’s been 25 years since I got my Masters and now I’m getting another one.  Who would’ve thunk.

So another miracle happened today.  I had a neighbor that I wasn’t on the best of terms in the past.  In the last year or two we’ve actually been very cordial and today I asked her for help in finding a tenant as she is a real estate agent.  We weren’t friends, we weren’t enemies.  But I read somewhere once that to ask a favor of an enemy confers some forgiveness, so in some way, I think I’ve made a small amends.  She’s delighted to help and get my commission… tee hee… no really, we are on very good terms now and I see a tenant on the horizon very soon.  She is right next door so can show my unit at any time and that is a comfort. 

So I leave Los Angeles the better for my time here.  I’ve had a glorious 17 years, sometimes tearful, many times joyful, and even if I never move back here, a little part of it is in me and I hope, a little part of me is in it.    I believe I will be an Angeleno forever.

Good night Los Angeles.  Sweet dreams.

Jo