How People Pray

May 16th

Tonight was our last class of the semester. I’m amazed that in a few days I will be through my first year of seminary. One more class tomorrow, my final paper is complete, and it will officially be end of term! I’ve gone through a full year of school, which I thought would last forever, and it’s gone by faster than my hair grew. We had a final potluck tonight and shared our final projects and I already miss the camaraderie we established in this small and intimate group. Doing the research for my final project – once I got started – was interesting and actually fun. I got to use the UC Berkeley library which was amazing… one of the three that they have… a student’s wet dream! So many books and so little time…. 🙂

I discovered I pray more than I thought I did. I relayed a practice that I have that really touched my classmates and team teachers. I grew up without a bed. I slept on the window seat in our dining room until I was 14 years old. When we moved to another house, my dad fixed up the attic and I had my own room which made me ecstatic. Consequently I’ve made my bed nearly every day of my life… I would say I’ve missed less times than the fingers I have on both hands. I discovered in this class that my reverence for making my bed was a form of prayer; that it has never felt like an obligation, and that I’ve enjoyed it nearly every day of my life. Not having a bed in my formative years when I watched commercials and TV sit-coms of little girls in their canopy beds and Gidget in her room, always made me feel like I had so little. It’s only in my grown up years that I’ve discovered what a blessing that has been for me. It took me years before I could tell people that I even experienced that, for it felt shameful to not have a bed growing up. Now it just feels like a battle scar in a way, a mark of determination and witness to a part of life some people experience and other’s do not. It’s not something I’m ashamed of any longer, growing up poor, but just something that happened to me that I can learn and grow from. And I have been amazed at the reaction from my instructors and fellow students. They’ve taken this experience of mine to heart and I’ve had several tell me what an impact that has made on them when I relay this story. So I guess I’m on my way to being a minister, for isn’t that what ministers do, but encourage and grow one another’s consciousness? I hope that’s something I can do.

So now I take a deep sigh and look around to clean up the clutter and pick up the pieces of all that I dropped this semester… now is the time to start blogging again, to deep clean the bathroom instead of just wiping things down, to go through stacks of papers and junk mail and revel in spring cleaning! I nearly have the summer off! I have 2 workshops one week each and a one week intensive in late August and that is the extent of my educational obligations. It will allow me at least a chance to catch up since I’ve gone part time this first year. I will be going full time next year, full speed ahead I hope, so that I’m not on Social Security when I graduate…. 🙂 sounds like an oxymoron to be on Social Security and a student at the same time. I don’t have my part time job any longer so I may get a chance to look for something flexible this summer. It’s difficult when my class schedule changes every semester to find an empathetic employer, but I know there’s one out there. I’m also hoping that work-study comes through next school year, that could be wonderful! At least they would be understanding…. One can only hope.

So here I sit, with one year of grad school under my belt. Who would’ve thought a year ago that this would have gone so smoothly? I’m looking forward to summer, will even get to Southern Cal to see my cousin’s son graduate from UC Irvine (my younger cousin no less, do I feel old) and then a short visit to LA! That will be nice…. Plus who knows what other adventures await me this coming summer. I’m just thrilled I’m almost through my first year!

From my little piece of Mayberry,
Jo

Back from the Dead

April 28th

It’s been a month since I’ve “blogged” – there’s a lot of catching up to do. It took 3 weeks to recover from this atrocious head cold I contracted in Vegas… oh yes, Vegas! We did come back and left everything in Vegas but the head cold. We were only there for 2 days and it was a jam-packed 2 days indeed. It was a lovely getaway even if it was so short. We visited Chris’s old neighborhood; he grew up in Vegas when it was much smaller and hadn’t seen it since ’87 so it was a whole new experience for him. We found the house in a small cul-de-sac which was very nostalgic for him. We packed in sight seeing that day, rode the roller coaster on the top of New York, New York and met my wonderful friend Rani in Henderson and ate the most delicious seafood gumbo in the world! Sunset Station had this amazing stained glass covering their ceiling that transfixed me for awhile and rain coming down as wall dividers. Very cool. I couldn’t stop staring at it. And the food was so rich I couldn’t finish it. Luckily we had leftovers for Rani to take home. We got to catch up and Chris and Rani actually met each other, which was nice. It’s a nice connection when friends from different eras of my life meet. I like the feeling that brings me. She is a great friend to me and I’m so glad this time I could travel instead of her driving down to LA. Although it is much shorter I discovered to drive from LA than from San Francisco…. Next trip by plane!

We toured the Strip by day and by night and reaped the benefits of the different beauty of each. We had a front and center spot to view the water show of the fountains in front of the Bellagio under dark skies and glittering lights. And we saw them during day too under sparkling sunshine! We packed up the next morning and actually gambled an hour before we left. … that’s how serious of a gambling streak we have in each of us.. tee hee.. we almost forgot to gamble. Which was probably good, as I only lost $27.00 and that might have been worse, although I only budgeted 40.00 for gambling in my spending plan…. I know, I’m a cheap date. We drove through pouring torrential rains coming back, however, that were a bit scary at times. At one point I couldn’t see the road, slowed to a crawl and almost pulled to the side, but thought better of it. We were the only ones on the road at the time so we pressed on. Monsoon season in the desert. We arrived safe and sound though in Sacramento and had nice warm soup to slurp once we got there. Just in time to watch the last half of The Hangover on HBO….. fancy that!

That’s when I began to slowly slip into the cold from Hell. I was sick for 3 weeks, missed days of work but only one day of class. I did fall behind though in my reading and writing reflection papers and any upkeep whatsoever of my apartment. When I finally crawled out of this virus, I had 3 loads of laundry and a lot of cat hair to clean up. During the progression of this sickness, I had so many wonderful ideas of blogs I could write, but alas, when the virus left, so did the amazing thoughts! Or could they have just been hallucinations???? Congestion does strange things to one’s brain.

It’s interesting what happens to the mind when the body gets sick. It only proves to me how interconnected both parts are. My mind and body both knew I needed recuperation and no matter how hard I tried, I didn’t sleep less than 12 hours a night. Rest is a remarkable curative. Eventually my sore throat disappeared and after using an entire box of kleenix, that stuff disappeared too. I found myself isolating; I think as all mammals do. During the course of this month, I received my Income Tax Refund and could take Sequel to get his ultrasound. It confirmed he has lymphoma and that made me sad. I could tell when he wasn’t feeling well, he isolated too. It must be a trait of warm-blooded creatures. My vet was encouraging however. Since I couldn’t spend the additional 300.00 for the needle biopsy (I’ve already spent 1500.00 on vet bills in the last 6 months, believe it or not), she gave me a regimen for him to be on and we are treating him without definitive proof of the cancer. If it’s not lymphoma, then it’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome and they treat them with the exact same drugs. So what do I have to lose? He’s getting the diet and medication that will help him either way, and that’s a good thing. She said I could have him another year or two just using this regimen if it is cancer, so that created hope for me and that’s the best I can do. When I took Callie in the next day for her problem, I discovered she’s allergic to flea bites and is on the same medication as Sequel. So both my cats are on steroids!! Cats on steroids, good name for a band huh?

So my next project is getting them out of the house to flea bomb it. No easy feat, but I’m working on the logistics. At least we’re a little bit healthier family now. Could I ask for anything more?

From my little piece of Mayberry with cats on steroids,
Jo
🙂

Spring Break in Vegas!

March 21, 2011

We’re in Vegas! I have finally used the trip I won last year from my wonderful church’s fundraiser and Chris and I are in Vegas! About 5 hours into the drive we were questioning the validity of our decision, we drove why??? Instead of flying why??? I just couldn’t find a decent rate; flights were outrageous. So we took to the road not anticipating the 9 hour drive that followed. I had always driven from Southern CA when I visited Vegas so this was a new adventure. And we had some mighty nice surprises along the way. We crossed the Tehachapi Pass viewing snow covered mountains that positively glittered with new fallen snow. With the crisp air cleaned by the rain, everything sparkled! It was absolutely breathtaking to view this scene as I had never crossed that particular pass, and to see it like this! We stopped for lunch and ate the chicken salad sandwiches Chris made with garlic and bacon on sourdough, what yum, layered with fresh spinach, and had sustenance for the remainder of the journey. Ah, how a gay man can cook! We had the best conversations; I discovered that Chris is an astrological savant. For some reason he can remember the astrological sign of famous people. Angelina Jolie? Gemini. Brad Pitt? Sagittarius. Jennifer Anniston? Aquarius. So then I tried older folks. Spencer Tracy? Libra. Katherine Hepburn? Taurus. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers? Taurus and Cancer respectively. I couldn’t stump him. There’s got to be a way he can use this skill… tee hee… He can’t remember the stars’ names, but he remembers their signs. What part of the brain uses that??? We then started Counting RV’s (instead of Blue Cars) and got to 18 before we got bored. There really weren’t many on the road which is not surprising with gas over 3.89 and on the road over 4.11 a gallon. Road trips bring out the strangest conversations in passengers. Chris began a diatribe of drunk drivers and people on cell phones and wondered if they did both at the same time, would they cancel each other out and actually drive normally? Then I chimed in, would you call that drunk dialing while driving? I know, huh!! 8 hours 45 minutes is a long time to drive!! We experienced all kinds of weather: it rained on us of course, saw the snow going over the mountains, nearly turned the A/C on when it got hot with the sun bearing down on us, and experienced gail force winds – at least it felt like it. We only missed out on sleet and hail (not that we wanted to) We drove through the pass where it looked like lower Switzerland (and winter), the end of the pass where it looked like Ireland – green hills with craggy rocks protruding (summer) and when we left Sacramento, all the trees were blooming (spring) We only missed out on the look of Autumn, (which in a stretch we could say were the browns of the desert tee hee.. really a stretch!) We knew we should have left sooner when we were approaching 6 pm and still had 48 miles to go to hit the 146, check into our hotel and get to the Mirage to see the Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil at 7 pm! Needless to say we were a few minutes late, but saw the rest of the show and we were completely mesmerized by the immensity of imagination in this show! Hats made of horns, telephone booths and trampolines! Little faceless children dressed in suits marching, I’ve never seen such fantasy! It was Dr. Suess married to the psychedelic 60’s meets a combination of the New York City Ballet and the circus in a theater of the round. Wrap your minds around THAT image! I want to go again! The audience was wrapped in parachute silk, gazed on 20 foot high images of John and Paul and Ringo and George that brought waves of nostalgia enveloping me more than the silk covering. The costumes were from Fantasia and magic smoke curled over the stage and never once crossed the line into the audience. HOW did they do that? I’m in love with LOVE ! Cirque du Soleil outdid themselves, which says a lot, as there are 7 different shows currently running in 7 separate casinos. They’ve landed on a goldmine and aren’t about to stop. It’s absolutely fabulous!

I did start to contract a sore throat on the drive up though and after the show decided some preventive medicine was in order. We stopped at a CVS on the strip and when I reached the register I discovered that the prices weren’t marked where the products were placed. Twenty dollars for Oscillococcinum was just a bit too outrageous and there was no Buy One Get One Free on the Vitamin C. So I decided to nix that and Chris remembered there was a CVS on the way back to the hotel. The cashier must have been a local and said she didn’t blame me one bit and voided out my sale. Ah, the joys of having a car in Vegas. So get this, the second CVS had Oscillococcinum for 12.99 AND Buy One Get One Free Vitamin C for 8.99!! Score! The poor tourists stuck on the Strip apparently have to pay those exorbitant prices, but thank goodness we had wheels. So far so good, I don’t have a fever or aches or chills, just a sore throat and a froggy voice. Maybe I can stave this off! More later!!

Definitely not from my little piece of Mayberry,
Jo

To Be A Minister

March 5th

I’ve been very irritable this week. Things people have said have rubbed me the wrong way, I’ve been impatient for the smallest of things, and sometimes I just wanted to partake in Primal Scream Therapy. I’ve been nice to folks anyway, it’s not their issue, it’s mine, why take it out on them, but I’m not sure why I’ve been irritable. Lack of sleep probably contributed, stress at work, as I’ve been really busy, writing 1 – 2 papers per week and reading a book a week for my classes hasn’t helped. I couldn’t put my finger on it though.

Then I had this thought – when I become a minister, I will have to be nice to people the rest of my life. WHAT a tall order! When people irritate me, or say stupid things, or are rude, or nasty, I’ll still have to be nice to them because I’m a minister and that’s what ministers do. That was initially a depressing thought. I won’t be able to be myself…. Translation – I won’t be able to show my anger, or my sarcasm or my judgmentalism or my holier than thou attitude… WAIT! Aren’t ministers holier than thou? Isn’t that the whole point to being a minister? We get to be holier than thou right?

Wrong. No one gets to be holier than thou. No matter how much I’d like to use my station as a minister, I’m not going to get to do that. No special tables at dinner, no waiving of parking tickets. Tee hee. Like I’d get to do that anyway, I’m not Charlie Sheen you know. I don’t even live in LA anymore. But it does raise some important points. Can I truly be myself, be human, and still serve people and not become outwardly angry?

That’s what Gandhi did. I’ve been reading a lot about Gandhi in a class I have and yes, he was human, but he did a lot of amazing things. And the one precept I gleaned from his writings was that he was one human being and if he could do it, anyone could. He had his faults, and still he did the best he could. I was actually surprised to discover that there were citizens in India who did not think highly of him. To me he approached sainthood, but to others, not so much. So I think to myself when anger arises, what would Gandhi do? He truly was the epitome of non-violence. In all the writings, in all the accounts of his life I’ve read or watched, he never raised his voice in anger. He never degraded another human being with words or actions no matter what the cause. I aspire to that. My first instinct when some ridiculous fool says something completely unfounded or literally stupid on TV or in the media, is to strike back by yelling. I was raised in a household of yelling. So even my general manner of speaking seems louder than others. I’ve actually worked on that, believe it or not, and I’m not as loud as I used to be. But I am sure I’m the person on the other end of the phone many times, where the listener is holding the phone away from their ear and can still clearly hear me…. 🙂 Please know that it’s not intentional, but it is a learned behavior that is quite ingrained. So my first order of business is to learn to be a quieter human being. Not so quiet as to not be heard, but quiet enough to have my point heard.

The second order of business is to never become impatient. Never say never I know, but I can have that as my goal. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison and never gave up on his cause to end apartheid. 27 years seems like forever to me, so one day at a time I will work to be patient. I hear some of the rantings of Lindbaugh or Beck and my patience wears thin. So hence I begin to exercise my patience muscles.

I’m sure there will be trying times in the future as a minister where I will be tested. I will be tempted to strike back with a caustic remark, or attempt to put someone in their place. I will remember I am a minister; that’s not what I’m here to do.

Tuesday Chapel Service

Peace in the midst of chaos

This is the homily I presented at one of our weekly Chapel services on campus on February 22nd. I decided to post it, just because…..

I have a cat that I adore. He’s orange and white and a Maine Coon Cat. One day I arrived home, after a wonderful day where I made 250.00 extra and was reveling in my new found wealth, to find that this adorable cat had knocked over a vase of flowers in water onto my 32” TV that was a birthday gift from my brother. It was toast. I then went to work the next day to discover that someone had stolen my license plates off my car, the screw came out of the hook on my favorite purse and it broke, and my answering machine stopped working. That same week a leak sprung up in the condo I own in Southern CA which I’m trying to keep as my pension retirement if I ever get it paid off, and my tenant called in a panic as water was leaking from the upstairs bathroom to the kitchen below. He even took a video with his phone that he sent me showing the dripping water falling from the ceiling. This was the relaxing week right before the spring semester began.

I had looked forward to my break. I had thought I would have a nice relaxing month in between semesters. This was my triumphant return to school after 28 years, my newfound career, my calling. I left Los Angeles to embark on this new adventure, leaving half my possessions behind and entering a brand new arena, with a bit of savings and some hope. It was an 11th hour miracle to be admitted to Starr King and actually become a seminarian. I was laid off 3 days before major surgery last April and during recovery I thought, I was going to take an online class, why don’t I just enroll? So I called admissions, discovered it was the last day of application, frantically began the next few days gathering materials, letters of recommendation, writing my history and mailing or emailing everything and lo and behold I made the extended deadline, was admitted and became a seminarian. It was obviously all meant to be. Even though in the midst of that chaos, I wasn’t sure it would happen. The day before all materials were due, I realized that I had not requested my transcripts. I awoke in a panic and went online to discover that they did not take requests for transcripts online. So I called the Midwest, reached admissions and the woman there said, we don’t really fax transcripts, but let me send you to the transcripts department. I gave the transcripts woman my social, she ran it and said, I know you, hi it’s Ellen. Now I hadn’t been on campus in 25 years, and I didn’t have the foggiest idea who Ellen was. I replied, you do? She said, yes, You’re Cindy Kaman’s friend! Cindy had been my best friend in college. Oh yes, she said, here they are, you know what, we don’t really fax transcripts because they’re so difficult to read, but let me go ahead and fax these for you – they’ll at least be able to see you attended here and get in by the deadline. They’ll get the hard copy next week. Miracles out of chaos. What are the odds of me running into a person I haven’t seen for almost 30 years who is the exact person I needed at that moment to help me. That one kind gesture completely changed my chaos.

Now, I know intellectually, that my own thought patterns are my responsibility and that I control my thoughts, so that theoretically I can change my own chaos. That doesn’t always happen. When someone does a kind deed for me or shows gentle compassion, it does for me what I can’t momentarily do for myself. So I thought, why not do a kind deed for myself or show myself gentle compassion. The day I discovered my license plates missing, I was going into the hardware store to find a new screw for my purse that was broken. If I hadn’t gone to the store that night after work, I may not have seen the missing license plates on the back of my car. I hadn’t seen it when I left work, so maybe that needed to happen to discover the plates.

We don’t know why things happen as they do. And I’m the first one to chastise myself when something doesn’t go as planned. I’m not one that believes in fate, but I do believe in synchronicity. The handyman that came to fix my bike shed took away the toasted TV without charge, I’ve got insurance, this is America you know, so they are in the process still of fixing the leak and repairing the kitchen ceiling, so that is getting fixed. I put one foot in front of the other with gentle compassion and things seem to right themselves. I didn’t do this alone. I had help from repairmen, friends, my advisor and the spirit I believe in that I call God. That’s how I get peace in the midst of chaos.

As I write this, my BFF in Sacramento has called to take an unscheduled visit to see me so I can help him buy a new computer. I haven’t cleaned the bathroom, taken out the kitty litter or even finished a paper that is also due on Tuesday. Chaos is never ending. It’s our approach that determines the peace in our lives.

Spring Semester Begins

February 19th

It’s been over 2 weeks but Spring semester has sprung! My break is over and I’ve got one semester under my belt. I’m thrilled with these classes I’ve got… only 2, but I’m working so that will probably be enough. How People Pray is on Mondays and that is proving interesting indeed. We have covered Judaism, Christian and Celtic already and I have found some wonderful prayers to read. Spirituality and Non-violent Transformation is on Tuesdays, centering on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez and Mahatma Gandhi…. Oh to read Gandhi and get credit for it! How lucky am I! We’ve started reading The Essential Gandhi already and the book list also includes The Moral Vision of Cesar Chavez, Dorothy Day’s Loaves and Fishes, Thoreau on Civil Disobedience, W.E.B. DuBois The Souls of Black Folk…. Plus others, but how cool of a reading list is that! I’ve only got 8 books plus readings to read this semester so that feels pretty light. Some are small, that’s a good thing, some are long; James Washington’s A Testament of Hope –all of King’s speeches and writings is 700 pages long. I enjoy reading though so this is not a punishment by any means.
It’s been inspiring to hear the introductions of the students in my classes, where they’ve come from, what they’ve done, why they’re here. Ministers seem to come from every walk of life, literally, so the diversity that is brought to our classes is positively delicious. How can I NOT learn? Already many classmates have opened their hearts to allow us to see the pain and grief that they’ve experienced which brings new dimension and meaning to their personalities and souls. In my prayer class I’ve discovered forms of prayer that I didn’t realize were prayer. I have kept a gratitude journal every night for the past 8 years and discovered that was a form of prayer. My running jaunts, especially when I was running long miles, felt like meditation and I’ve realized that is a form of prayer. Many of us I think pray and don’t realize we’re praying. I wasn’t a fan of prayer in the past, believing in the medieval definitions of many organized religions. But I do believe there is a God, or spirit, or universal energy, call it what you will, that exists and there has been many a time when I have pleaded, begged, cajoled and bargained with this spirit guidance, promised to never do it again if only they …… you know the rest. So to delve into the analysis and breakdown of prayer is fascinating. Every religion or non-religion has a form and to discover how they do it actually helps me to define how I do it. We will be constructing prayers, for as I’ve been informed, I will be asked to pray on the fly… I may very well be somewhere where someone wants or needs a prayer and I will need to create one. I’ve never thought of that before. Sometimes I think to myself, WHAT have I gotten myself into? When I think of ministering I think of performing weddings, pushing back to the corner of my mind the fact that I will also perform funerals. Preaching at a pulpit seems easy, but what about when I’m in a hospital – what do I say to the patient or the family to comfort them? Or I’m involved in social action or a rally, what do I say to the masses? This is where fear could tangle my legs and pull me down if I don’t lasso it first myself. And I know I have years yet of learning to go before I will truly be ready. So I study and I do my “own” praying and hopefully step by step, I’ll learn what I need to learn and do what I need to do. It can be quite intimidating to see the role models of Gandhi, Chavez, or King and think that is my pinnacle… that is where I need to reach. That may never happen, but at least that’s my goal!

So Spring has sprung – theoretically – (it’s pouring down deluges at the moment, so it doesn’t feel very Spring-like) and I’m off and running. I feel like this semester will be easier than the first, as I’ve gotten my sea legs and feel a tiny bit more seasoned. I even attended a Student Body meeting this week and volunteered for a committee – egad! I need to have student activities though don’t I? If I’m to get some fellowships and grants, I need to check as many boxes as I can. Ugh… it feels like High School and I’m on Student Council, in the National Honor Society and in the pep club, all over again! 🙂

I hope you’re Spring is off to a good start even though technically it’s not Spring yet. I just got an early start myself.

From my little piece of Mayberry,
Jo

Break

January 30, 2011

I’ve been on break.  I looked the word up on dictionary.com and it was interesting to see the definitions.

Break  as a noun:  a brief rest, as from work.   That’s what it feels like right now; I’ve rested from school.  I had forgotten when I was in school in the past that we got breaks.  I was so engrossed in studying and finals that when Christmas came I went straight into that mode.  And I’ve had this whole month to have some extra time.  Time to do things like normal people.  Time to vacuum and go to the grocery store and pet the cat.  Give medicine to the cat.  Walk to the Nirvana shopping center.  All good things I let go to the wayside.  I almost don’t know what to do now.  I would come home from work or school, make and eat dinner and study.  I didn’t do much else.  Now I come home ….. or not… 🙂  I actually have time for a movie or to watch the 100 hours of TV on my DVR (you think I’m joking???)  And I have had 4 weeks off to rest.  I’ve started some projects that I’m excited to do before the next semester begins.  Although the list of what I wanted to accomplish is still soooo long.  I always think I can get more done than I actually can do.  That’s a bit disappointing.  As now that school will be starting again, I feel like I don’t have the time.  Ugh… it’s always about time isn’t it?

(v)  to destroy or interrupt the regularity, uniformity, continuity, or arrangement of; interrupt.  So I did that too.  I interrupted so much of my schedule.  I thought I would get an exercise schedule going, like actually going to the gym with the membership I got such a deal on.  I have been walking, and for two weekends I painted at work and moved furniture and that’s exercise in a way.  I’ve learned to broaden my definitions.  If I’m burning calories and using muscles, it counts.  Somewhat unorthodox for me, as I’ve always thought of exercise as running or lifting weights, but this counts.  And the results have been dramatic!   I instigated repainting the office where I work and it looks gorgeous!  I’m so pleased and I believe so are many members of the congregation.  Placid peach and ginger root, the accent wall is in ginger and the door is chocolate brown.  Doesn’t that sound yummy?  I’m not sure why they choose such sensuous names for paint.  It’s not like we’re going to eat it.  But it must be a marketing ploy, maybe it works for some.  I just use my knowledge of the color wheel, of which I used to teach to 7th graders as an art teacher, and it actually serves me very well.

(v) to shatter, burst, or become broken; separate into parts or fragments, to become suddenly discontinuous or interrupted;  This occurred many times over my school break.  Other breaks.  My answering machine stopped working – broken – but I McGyver’d it and it’s working again!  Sequel just had to have the tiger lilies between his canines and tipped the vase holding the water over onto my TV and “broke” that forever.  It is toast and at the electronic recycling place now.  My tenant called to say that there was a leak coming from the upstairs bathroom into the kitchen below in my condo down south, so hence, another break… the insurance company is working on that one as I type.  Sigh… so many breaks, so many shatters.  But I used to have a co-worker who stated that metaphysically when something broke in your life, it represented a breakthrough.  I must be going through some kind of spiritual awakening!  Oh and I’ve also broken 3 nails.  That in and of itself could represent a metaphysical experience!

(v) to free oneself or escape suddenly, as from restraint or dependency.  This could represent relationships.  The one break that saddens me more than anything is the break with my brother.  He has become distant, bitter, very angry and completely cut off from me.  So my job now is to let go with love and free myself of all the grief I feel and say a prayer.  This brings us back to the noun portion of the word.

(n) an abrupt or marked change; a suspension of or sudden rupture in friendly relations.  It’s a very strange feeling to not have immediate family.  Since both of my parents are deceased and now my brother so distant emotionally, I am it for my family.  I have discovered though with this break that there is a freeing of my spirit that is unexpected.  In the back of my mind in the past, I always expected to fall back on someone if I needed to, financially or emotionally.  And there has come a certain strength I didn’t know I had, to know that I truly am on my own.  It’s me, myself and I.  It feels peaceful.  Oh and one other important entity.  My god I believe in, Higher Power, Yahweh, Spirit, Universe, it’s known by many names.  There is a closeness that I feel that shores me up when I feel unsure or afraid or incapable.  So I’m not alone.  I have all I need.  And I’ve even had a break… in more ways than one.

From my little piece of Mayberry,

Jo

It’s Always Meant To Be

January 24th

I just walked back from the store today with 14 lbs. of cat litter in my backpack. Plus rice cakes and cat food and super glue. It all fit. It may have been a bit ambitious but I did it. It’s only a 10 minute walk to my Nirvana shopping center so I got extra exercise carrying my backpack on my back. And it felt good to get exercise. I’ve had an interesting week. It started on Thursday when I went to the City to be on a mock jury… how cool was that! I was paid by a focus group which then allowed me to get my bike storage built! Finally! The 3rd handyman is the charm. I had 2 men actually make appointments to come and build it and never show up. I had the Universe in my corner on this one. So I arrived home after my BART ride to find the white pitcher filled with peach Tiger Lilies on the floor with water spilled all around my TV. SEQUEL! (think Newman! when you read that) Sequel has a propensity to tip over vases and I thought I had outwitted him by putting it on the TV and for about 5 days it worked. But alas, that night it was not meant to be. I was advised to let it dry out for a couple of days, unplug it, use a hairdryer, and tried all of these things, but to no avail. Saturday the repairman I called to look at it gave me the final verdict. 95.00 for the diagnosis, 300.00 to fix. Alas, for a student looking to pay tuition, that was not meant to be. Sequel killed my 32”. So I got online, called Goodwill and replaced my 32” Panasonic TV that I’ve had for 8 wonderful years, with a Sony Trinitron 20” for 69.99! Goodwill is now my savior. It’s a TV I can actually pick up myself, (which makes it much easier to move) even though it’s not a flat screen, which is a dream of mine one day, it has great color and serves the purpose. I just want to watch TV and that’s exactly what I can do now. THAT was meant to be. And I can record Oprah with my DVR and all is right with the world.

So the day in between the TV problem and TV solution, I had just gotten into my car after work and a screw came out of the buckle on my 300.00 Loehman’s purse that I got for 99.00 (my IRS refund gift to myself that only another woman can appreciate. 🙂 ) so I stopped by Ace Hardware on the way home to see if I could immediately replace it. I have a makeshift repair on it until I can get to the shoe shop which I think they can fix and as I approached my car, I noticed that my license plate on my car was missing. I took a double take. No that can’t be. Who steals a license plates? It appears they unscrewed it and took the screws (don’t know what the symbolism of screws that day meant in my life, but it sure appeared frequently). Of course my cell phone was dead, because I’d forgotten to charge it the night before, so when I arrived home, I called the El Cerrito Police and they came and made a report. What I am grateful for is the fact that if the screw had not come out of my purse, I may never had seen the missing plate! So there you have viable proof that things happen for a reason. And I hope the person who stole my plates really loved it and are keeping it and that’s why they had to steal from me. I LOVED my plate! It was so cool. It read IMN AWE and I’ve had it for 20 years. So that evening my heart was broken over the loss of a familiar object I had managed to keep in my life for 20 years. Now… I did get over it… it IS a license plate…. But there still was a bit of sadness attached to it. But the cop was cute. And now I have to wrestle with DMV and probably get another plate… got any ideas ???? I can’t think of anything … this was my one true saying that just said so much about me.

So I ended the last few days with Steve the Handyman coming today and building my bike storage shed underneath the cabinets in front of my car. Oh how wonderful to have more storage! And Steve is an angel handyman. He did amazing work, we had a lovely chat, Sequel got out twice (but I’m getting so good at catching cats) and right before he left he offered to take my dead 32” TV to the electronic recycle place. How amazing is that! It’s as if it was meant to be.

So each day I stay here I get more familiar with my surroundings and my new life. Even with whatever set back I may have, I can’t begin to be sad. I am grateful for having so much. So far I’m breaking even between my part time job and some unemployment I’m still getting. So many people are not working, are struggling, are starving. I am not doing any of that, and for that I am profoundly grateful. What I hope is that some day, I can help those who suffer the above and somehow bring solace and comfort. I don’t know how to do that yet. I hope I learn really well as a seminarian. Right now I know that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. It’s as if it was meant to be.

From my little piece of Mayberry (with a brand new storage shed),

Jo

Happy New Year!

January 4th, 2011

I started to write this almost a week ago and stopped. And I have realized that I need to make a New Year’s resolution on this issue. I keep starting things and not finishing them. Lately I’ve been beginning a blog and then after I’m about ½ way through writing it, I stop. Then pick it up about 2 weeks later. So I’m left with this unfinished thing in my life. One unfinished thing piles on another unfinished thing and pretty soon I’m wallowing under a mound of unfinished things. So no more! I must learn to focus and finish what I start. I had a handle on this for awhile, but it seems it was fleeting and I’m back to doing it again. I could blame it on school, on work, on being tired…. any number of things. But there’s nothing to blame it on. In this multi-tasking world, I’ve discovered I’m actually more efficient doing one thing at a time. And I like it that way. It’s actually easier and I get more done. I’ve read studies recently that prove that the human brain cannot open multiple windows, like Microsoft Office can. We can only focus on one thing at a time. I think there’s a reason for that – a self survival reason. And I actually miss just doing one thing at a time. It reminds me of a simpler time, like Mayberry. 🙂

So I made it through the holidays, but it went by so fast, I barely remember them. I hope that next year during fall semester I can organize myself more so that I can enjoy Christmas. I didn’t get to see any lights in San Francisco this year. I’m sure there were holiday things to do but I didn’t get to them, working on my papers and reading. I didn’t even buy my tree until December 20th! Oh my! And that was an experience in itself. I got a beautiful tree, got it inside my tiny apartment, and then couldn’t get it into the stand…. Trunk too thick with knobs on it, aargh. So shades of Christmases past, I had my old kitchen knife, chopping away the lower branches and the knobs on the trunk, thinking, didn’t I do this before, and why didn’t I just bring the stand with me when I got the tree??? I did reach one of my neighbors and borrowed his little hand saw, which I nearly bent, (oh my) but eventually got the tree in the stand. I had the wonderful men at Delancey’s shave off the bottom branches but I guessed a little bit short. Bringing the stand with me would have been perfect. Why do I think of solutions after the fact? There’s a song in there, isn’t it ironic… tee hee.. So next year by golly…. I’ll have this down.

I spent 3 days of Christmas in Sacramento and it was just lovely. Couldn’t seem to get myself out of the house on Christmas Eve though and didn’t arrive in Sac until 9 pm. But Chris, bless his heart, had a fire going in the fireplace and made me stir fried Szechuan Shrimp over rice that was to die for! What a BFF!!! I even took a picture of it for posterity. I could then relax and we watched Sherlock Holmes and I was in super heaven with Robert Downey Jr. A wonderful way to begin the holiday! I got incredible Estee Lauder perfume and Dennis again cooked a magnificent meal, only this time the main course was a honey-baked ham, and we ate and ate and felt a feeling of fellowship that made me grateful for the family I created out here. Now that my parents are gone and my brother estranged, I’ve had to create a family. But they say that the best family is the one we form, so I have the best. I got to visit lovely Dana and see her FIVE TREES that she decorated in her home, 2 full size and 3 smaller ones, all themed, all adorable; her home is so much like walking into a store. What a collection she has and a talent that does not even resemble hoarding… 🙂   Her house is full, but so well organized and so homey, it all appears as if it’s meant to be. I’ve known her since 1991 and it was so wonderful to catch up over homemade butternut squash soup and yummy bread. I don’t know how she finds the time to do all the things she does, but she does. And she FINISHES them! So that is my goal this 2011, to finish things more on time.

I’m also getting more exercise and that started with a wonderful hike Chris and I took on this little secret path behind Cal Expo. With the leaves all fallen down, it made such a linear panorama of lines, looking through all the branches of the trees at all the ducks swimming underneath. What a wonderful hike, and I’ve got a good start at re-exercising myself. I had been doing so well and then school invaded my schedule and I never exercised again. My hope is that I incorporate daily exercise into my schedule while I’m on break and then it will come naturally even when the semester starts. How did they do this in Mayberry? There seemed to be so much more time than there is now to do the things that seemed more important than we do now. I heard once that I should do the things every moment that I will want to have a memory of and I have realized that playing spider solitaire over and over is not on that list of memories. So this new year I can begin making many more new memories intentionally. I made a wonderful start on New Year’s Eve, by attending an event that was really magical. This gala had different stations to rid yourself of the old and bring in the new. 4 were titled Fire, Earth, Water and Air. I wrote the things from 2010 I wanted to rid myself of and put them in a burning bowl, then ate 12 gin-soaked raisins (boy were these yum!), one for each month to savor one at a time to feed each future month of this new year, then washed my hands while thinking of all the things I wanted to rid myself and Rabbit said a blessing over my hands as she dried them, which was very inspiring. Then lastly we wrote a wish that we wished for 2011 and put it in a bowl and when we left we took another. My wish I chose upon leaving said, ease in manifesting great results. What a wonderful wish I took home with me! I had my tarot cards read by a professional for the first time, how fun was that! And apparently I picked the best card in the deck! Yay! I picked the Emporess and she gives me the world as my oyster for 2011! Double yay! The significator card I chose (whatever that means) indicates balance in my life and I actually feel balanced. (I’m sure some would disagree) 🙂  Then there was 2 stations on either side of the room, where you poured black water into a bowl of earth to ground all the things you wanted to rid yourself of in the past year and then lit a candle and wished for all that you wanted to happen in the coming year. We drank champagne at Midnight and so began my new year here in the Bay area. It was an exciting and hopeful way to begin a new chapter. I have one semester under my belt and 3 ½ years to go. Part of me wants to wish it away and be a graduate. The other part of me doesn’t want to miss a single second of this experience. And therein lies my greatest joy, I know, if I just let it happen. Patience will give me the experiences I will cherish. Each day I learn more and more about my faith and what it will take to be a minister. Part of it scares me, intimidates me, invigorates me. The other part is acquiring patience. I savor my break and look forward to next semester and see what that will bring. So happy new year and wishes of excitement and expectation! No wonder they portray a new year as a tiny baby. There is so much potential in what is to come.

From my little piece of Mayberry, begin a wonderful new year,

Jo

End of Term!

Catching up…..

December 20th

Finally I have completed my last paper and emailed it to my professor.  Has this semester already gone by?  My first attempt at being a student has been successful!  I’ve got one semester under my belt and only have 3 ½ years to go…. Ugh.   I’m sure it will pass much too quickly as most of my life has.  I feel as if I can breathe a great sigh of relief though.  I’ve gotten good reviews from my advisor on my progress and any worrying I may do about it would be worthless.  I now can only wait to see if I’ve passed. Fortunately or unfortunately, however you look at it, we are on a pass/fail system, so the pressure for the A grades isn’t there.  I just need to pass.  And in another measure of futuristic education, we no longer receive grades in the mail.   Of course, where else?  We can look them up online in a couple of weeks.  It’s been a stressful two weeks, finishing our group project, which we believe was a successful presentation, completing 4 papers and then finally this 10 page paper at the end.  And I’m only going part time.  If I reach my goal and get some free money next year, I’ll attend full time and all of this will be doubled.  I read 8 books this semester, although the term read is a stretch – it was more like buckle down, underline, highlight, re-read three times until it sinks in.  So much of what I’ve read seems to have gone in one eye and out the other.  And more than that I’ve learned what not to do and how to do it better next Fall.  Combining work, school and Christmas, I’ve discovered, is the ultimate challenge.  Next year I’ve definitely got to start baking my famous cookies before Thanksgiving.  I can parcel out my holiday duties and work them in if I begin much much earlier.  I didn’t buy my Christmas tree until today.  And I haven’t even started on my Christmas cards, barely began my annual Christmas letter, and only have a wreath on the door for decoration.  I did get some cookies made for our last class which were a great hit, but alas, the rest remains undone.  It’s nice though to think I have one less area to focus on.  And that’s been another success I think.  I actually focused this semester.  Nearly every night after work or class I would come home, eat dinner, and study for 2 hours.  I kept myself to a schedule and there were moments where I didn’t, but there were more moments when I did.  I studied one day at a time.  That should be the definition of progress.  One day at a time. 

I have almost 5 weeks off until the beginning of the next semester, how I’m looking forward to that break!

So I hope the rest of the world is enjoying the holiday.  I’ve missed the lights and the parties and the shopping, but I’ve got 5 days where I’ll try to squeeze some of that in.  I look forward to staying in Sacramento for the weekend and this time Sequel isn’t sick.  I’m starting to get into the spirit of the holiday and I hope you all are too!

From my now restful little piece of Mayberry,

Jo