Sunday, March 30, 2008

My Saturday

Yesterday, I had an eye appointment that I nearly forgot about because I was emailing. I got there 10 minutes late, and they had to squeeze me in. But I'm quick with the eye exam process, it didn't take very long at all. I chatted with my opthamologist and the optometrist more about coffee than the actual exam. The good news is that I haven't lost my ability to focus, unlike most people my age. My eye doctor thought this was remarkable. I don't know enough about eyes to be as amazed as he was.

A Christian bookstore was in the same mall area as my eye appointment was, so I checked it out to see if they had Laura Story's new CD. Yep, they did. I had been asking about it for weeks, and they didn't know who she was. When I got there yesterday, they had two of them and I got the next to the last one. So the word is out, even up here in Michigan. I also got a copy of an ESV Bible, paperback. It's the version our church uses in the pew, and in our pastor's sermons, so I thought it would be good to have one around the house. Our pastor, Kevin DeYoung, had co-written a book, but I didn't see it while I was there. There might be a copy on our church's book table tomorrow, so I will definately try to get it there. You might be interested, it's called "Why We Aren't Emergent (by two guys who should be)".

It was lunchtime, and I smelled hamburgers as I walked out of the bookstore. Wretched woman that I am, I could feel my stomach rumbling instantaneously. It was the McD's down a block, apparently the winds were blowing eastward, carrying the aromas of charred meat in my direction. I got a small burger for lunch, and a small salad with fat free dressing.

I went home. After reading a while and doing a few chores, I walked the dog and played with kittens. Dennis came home while I had Sonny and Fredo on my lap, and told me that the neighborhood kids wanted to see the kittens. So I brought the frightened creatures to the front door so that all four of the kids could get a glimpse and pet them a little while I held on. Anything I can do to market them so they would have a good home in the future.

I made a veggie stir fry for dinner and then got ready for work after we ate. My store is open later on Saturday nights, and I didn't have to be in charge. Aimee was already there running things, and she had me "off the floor" just doing non-customer related work, which was music to my ears. I got to organize things and work on the presentation of our merchandise, which I love to do.

A couple of high school kids asked me what year I was in college after they ordered their frappuccinos. I said I wasn't in college anymore and that I was probably older than their mothers. I was probably the same age as their grandmas. Fifty-two, they asked? Yep, fifty-two. They didn't believe me. My college aged co-worker got into the act and claimed he was 45. I pointed to Aimee and told them she was 21 (she's a few years older than that). Loved messing with their minds. Reminded me that youth had some disadvantages, like gullibility--a problem I no longer have.

It was a great day.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hello March

Dear March--Come in--
How glad I am--
I hoped for you before--
Put down your Hat--
You must have walked--
How out of Breath you are--
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest--
Did you leave Nature well--
Oh March, Come right up stairs with me--
I have so much to tell--

I got your Letter, and the Birds--
The Maples never knew that you were coming--till I called
I declare-how Red their Faces grew--
But March, forgive me--and
All those Hills you left for me to Hue--
there was no Purple suitable--
You took it all with you--

Who knocks? That April.
Lock the Door--
I will not be pursued--
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied--
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come

That Blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame--

--Emily Dickinson

It's hard to believe March is nearly over. It's been a strange month, snow one day, sunshine the next. I have daffodils--resiliant flowers, they--coming up in the garden. They don't care about the unpredictable weather, they just show up no matter what.

Time to make plans for gardening this year, I plan to do more of it this year. We need more roses, I think. And the hostas need to be divided. Ferns for the backyard, of course. And a garden path as well. The dog doesn't know it, but she's getting a fence. Please don't tell her, it's a surprise.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lessons From A Mermaid And Dory The Fish


I went to the pool today and swam a half mile as fast as I could. I noticed a new swimmer in the next lane that was moving through the water quickly as though she must have been a mermaid. A college student, I figured. But unusual, the college students don't show up at the YMCA and they don't swim in the middle of the day like us old ladies do. But she looked as young as a college student and like she must have been a competitive swimmer as well.


But she was inspiring, and I took a few glances to see what her secret to speed was. I decided that she was just in shape. Maybe I will be like her one day. Maybe.


I ran into her in the women's sauna and I asked her how her swim was. It was brave of me, she didn't seem to want to talk to anyone. But I was wrong about that. She started talking as fast as she swam. I told her she did great in the pool, and she was really humble in receiving my compliment. That was her first swim in a year since she had back surgery, and she used to go running but she hadn't healed from the surgery yet. She used to compete 20 years ago. I told her she didn't look old enough to compete 20 years ago. Yep, she said, in college. Now she has twins and taking care of them is her work out. Her parents who are in their 80's still swim at least twice a week, and love to swim.


We talked non stop for at least a half hour as we got dressed about how much we loved to swim, and she thought that I did really well today, too. I told her that I just started to pick up speed lately and I'm trying to swim every day. She told me that I will start seeing even more speed if I keep it up. Before she left, she asked for my name and gave me hers and we hoped to see each other at the pool often. From what she told me about herself, I figured she was five years younger than me. But honestly, she really looks like a twenty one year old.


Because I have a poor body image, I almost didn't start a conversation with her. I am glad that I did anyway, she is an amazing person. It is easy to talk to older women because I am not self conscious with them, but with women who look great, it is tougher.


Which brings me to another really sensitive body image topic: cellulite. I started getting it as a young teen, even though I wasn't fat. A biology teacher (male) brought up in class one day how cellulite is just ordinary fat, and to not believe any miracle cures for it. The only cure is to lose weight. I had no idea why a male biology teacher would give us information about cellulite, but I remembered it better than anything that I knew that would be on an exam. I was incredulous. How was I going to lose weight when I wasn't fat to begin with? And as I got older, no matter what weight I was at, it was there. And getting worse.


I remember a housemate in Seattle who bought an expensive system to get rid of cellulite. I thought that she was one of the thinnest and most beautiful women I ever met, but I also knew that she didn't have a lot of extra money to be spending on "snake oil". I expressed my doubts in the effectiveness of her product. I guess I was convincing because she packed it up right then and there to send it back and get her refund. I'm not sure what persuaded her, but I did say that cellulite is natural and part of being a woman. We all have it and we'll never get rid of it.


But I must say this, that I am wrong. I've never seen a female swimmer in the Olympics with cellulite. Well, any female athlete for that matter. And until I started swimming, I think I know why. Exercise builds muscle and somehow as the muscle gets bigger, cellulite is less noticeable. For awhile, I realized that something was missing and at a casual glance, the ubiquitous dimpling was almost gone. It's there, lurking, I know. But I'm not missing it a bit.


But now I have stretch marks. What is an ordinary woman to do? Well, as Dory the fish would say...keep on swimming.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Yikes!

I got bangs. Jessica cut my hair and I specifically asked for them. I haven't had bangs since I got married. That was 19 years ago.

While I had bangs, I would pull them back while looking in the mirror. It was too drastic a change for me. After we moved to California, I searched for a hair stylist to cut my hair. The guy I found gave me a whole new look, sans my bangs. I didn't say to get rid of them, but that's what he did and I liked it. Never had bangs again.

But now, I have issues with my forehead. I was wrecking my hair by not wearing a swim cap, and I swim at least four times a week. But the cap leaves a deep indentation on my forehead that takes awhile to go away after my swim. And then, the wrinkles on my forehead are beginning to deepen and look like a road map. I told Jessica that since I'm not doing botox, I would rather get bangs.

It was a shock, but Jessica did a good job. It had taken me a week to get them to behave--hair takes time to adjust. Everytime I looked in the mirror I was thinking "Yikes! Who is that?" But a couple at church asked me what year I was in college. I thought they were joking. Then I realized that they were sincere.

Hmm, I guess time machines do exist in the form of hair dye and sissors. The dye took maybe six years off. The bangs probably sent me back to my early twenties.

Not what I intended, but it is a rather nice side effect.

Yikes, now what?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Today was a great day. We went to Easter services and then to a potluck with friends, wonderful friends.

After we went home, I looked at things differently. My earthly possessions and comforts really don't seem all that important any more. I always get this adjustment after worship on Sunday, but today, it seemed even more pronounced. I want to clear away anything that distracts me from Jesus, or dilutes my gratitude to God. There's a lot to clear out, it almost overwhelms me.

I'll be spending some extra time in prayer tomorrow, asking God to align me to His desires and repenting that I had not been more available to Him, enjoying His fellowship and His work.

It's been a really great day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tell Ol' Bill





Tell me straight out if you will,
Why must you torture me within?
Why must you come down from your high hill?
Throw my fate to the clouds and wind
Far away in a silent land
Secret thoughts are hard to bear.
Remember me, you'll understand:
Emotions we can never share.
You trampled on me as you passed,
Left the coldest kiss upon my brow.
All my doubts and fears are gone at last,
I've nothing more to tell you now.

Hope for Women

I got my hair cut today--Jessica from work is pretty handy with a sissors and came over with her "equipment". After lunch, it took her an hour to cut and thin out my hair (yes, my hair is that thick). So, it's caused me to think about what we call beauty. A few questions have come to mind throughout the day.

I subscribe to a women's magazine that focuses on health, and pretty much geared to women in their late 20's and early 30's. But the articles are good, well researched and up to date. This month's issue has a feature "Beauty by the Numbers", quoting stats around the world. For instance, did you know that the average American woman spends $39 a month on beauty treatments while the average Italian woman spends $71? That women in Argentina and Canada are the most satisfied with their looks while the Japanese and French women are the least satisfied? That 45 % of women in China wear lipstick all the time?

The overall feeling from the article is that women all over the world care about their looks, and spend money to help enhance their appearence in one way or another. It matters. External beauty, for the most part makes a woman feel as though she has worth, as well as a way for society to assess her worth. This is so universal, it sort of leaves me feeling a bit of despair over it. Is that all a woman is?

Not too long ago, a book came out about God's "sacred romance" with the Church. That the most common myth or story in human history is basically about a hero rescuing a beauty, and that it is a picture of God's love for us. But I've always had a problem with that, too.

For one, it reinforces that only beauty deserves love.

For another, it inadequately explains the fact we don't deserve God's love, but His wrath.

And for another, there is no beauty in us that God desires, because of sin's ruin. He pursued us on the basis of His infinate compassion and pity on us. He will make us beautiful, but that is a work, or a "makeover" if you will, done by sanctification. Beauty, in God, is holiness--a quality that only comes from being joined to Him by faith and nothing we can do on our own.

So, as we long for beauty, and to be beautiful, it is a real longing and not one to dismiss. But to direct that longing towards God in our worship of Him, we throw off the slavery of self pre-occupation in exchange for a freedom in our hearts by the glory of His truth, His glorious Gospel of salvation through Jesus. His compassion towards our pitiful state gives us hope beyond what we look like.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Humble

Carly's kittens are blind and deaf because they develop these senses slowly after birth. Even after two weeks since they've been born, their limbs involuntarily move like they have advanced Parkinson's. They can't do anything for themselves, Carly even has to help them eliminate waste.

Spiritually, I'm like those kittens--totally weak and helpless. And because of sin, I'm not even as cute as they are. They have nothing to give their momcat in return for her constant care, except a little purr that some of them developed these last few days. She hardly ever leaves them except to take a trip to her litter box and to remind us that her food bowl is empty again.

In a way, Carly's attentive devotion to her litter of kittens is a picture of God's loving and vigilant care for me. Some days, I'm more aware of His tender presence in my life than others. Some days, I'm also more aware of my sin--the lines and boundaries that I violate in big and small ways that are offenses against God.

The activity that Carly does the most with her kittens is feeding them. She lays down and makes herself totally available. And the other activity is cleaning them. Giving a squirmy kitten a bath with your tongue is no small job. God is also involved in feeding and cleaning His children. I don't know how it looks to His ability to see my soul, but I'm sure He sees me walking around with a dirty face and tousled hair. You know, like a little urchin with a runny nose and a Junior Mint stuck in her ear. And He hears my soul's stomach growling. He will not neglect me, and He knows what I need even before I do, like all good mothers who anticipate what is going on with their babies.

This is incredibly humbling, to be reminded that basically, that is what I am in my soul. A needy kid. But more than that, I'm a needy kid who trusts in her Provider, Protector and Savior with all her heart. He is my Rock, I will not be greatly shaken.

One of the many encouraging things I heard in Kevin DeYoung's sermon yesterday is that we have to remember what God does for us, not what we can do for Him. And if we have done anything, it is truly Him working through us. That He serves us--that Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

Have a great Lent celebration!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Boundaries

Boundaries.

We need them.

We all violate them, in various degrees. But overstepping or pushing a limit is bad, no matter how little or great you do it. A little leads to more, eventually to more.

God sets boundaries. The original one was in the Eden garden, concerning one fruit from one tree. To most of us, it seems like a little, tiny petty matter. When that didn't work, God gave us 10 ultimate boundaries. Then Jesus gave us the two greatest boundaries that the 10 ultimate are based on, but those two weren't based on what we couldn't do, but what we could. Get it? With a boundary broken, consequences occurred. Always.

At work, some of my partners are timid when it's time to tell the customers that we're closing. And then timid when the 10 minute grace period after closing is pushed. I have no qualms about opening the door and showing them the way out, usually with a sense of humor, but always firmly. If there was no firm limit on what is open and what is closed in terms of store hours, how could any of us run our lives? I worked in cities where customers waited outside a full twenty minutes before we opened our doors ten minutes early, as I put together the store, the queue forming in the drive through lane or in front of the mall entrance. And the pressure was there, to open especially for them a little bit earlier than usual. And you know how expectations work, then we'd have a line forming even earlier and having to open earlier after that. If my manager said we are officially opening the store on regular basis at an earlier time, then fine.

But the boundary is there.

Tonight, after we were closed twenty minutes. a lady asked me if she could get coffee. We were half way into our close after a very busy day, and all the coffee was dumped and the machines were cleaned and closed. For me to grant this woman her desire, it meant opening them up, brewing for about three minutes and then cleaning and closing them up again. My partners had put in long hours with no breaks this evening. Would I ask them to stay another half hour for this woman's coffee?

No. Her time was up. All day, the customer came first. But after closing the only obligation I had was to efficiently clean and stock the store and make sure my partners got home safely and in a timely fashion. After closing, my store and partners come first. The consequence of me breaking this boundary would eventually make my team get worn down, and make them feel as though that their lives did not matter as much as a customer's whim.

Why does this matter?

Because, it's the little things all day long that we're not minding to do for our customers. A little extra this, a please refill that, a free shot on us, a sample of a donut here and a taste of an Americano there, and yes, we will break a hundred. Just for you. And we're glad to do it, and even are inspired to make your experience even better, a little song and a little joke, a heartfelt smile and if you are really lucky, we just might do a little dance (thousands of possibilities, including the shaken iced tea dance). And despite what you hear, the average barista does not make that much.

Just let us get home on time.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why There Aren't A Lot of Kitten Pics




















Um, because Momcat says so. That's why.

It's Just The Wiring

When Dennis and I were engaged, I told a close friend who knew us that we were realizing that we needed to work on communication. She told me that she was glad to hear that, since she noticed that Dennis and I were terrible communicators. She was suppressing a guffaw, I sensed, as she said this. In other words, she was telling me that when I said that "we needed to work on communication" I was making a giant understatement. It would have been far more accurate if I had said that we needed to do some hard labor like a chain gang in the middle of a Mississippi summer on our communication.

After awhile, well into four years of marriage, whatever I was attempting to do with communication had totally run its course. All the books and marriage seminars wasn't getting me anywhere. I needed help and I needed it fast. So, I went to a counselor. We talked about my family stuff and how I perceived it. And the fact that others in my family perceived things differently. And that there was room for that without it diminishing my point of view. But I had lost a connection between my heart and my lips. I had kept quiet about so many painful things that I lacked a trust in what my own eyes saw and what my own self felt. And what my own brain was thinking.

When you are disconnected to yourself, it creates a huge difficulty in being able to connect to others, and hence, communication problems. You can't form words to express things to someone else if you can't form words to express those things to yourself. I had to learn how to identify what I thought and felt.

For instance:

I am feeling isolated and cut off, and I am feeling a need for intimacy. My husband comes into the room, flops down on the sofa and turns on tv. I feel horrible but I don't know why. I don't know what I'm feeling. I want to reach out and connect but I'm feeling frustrated. So, I start up with negative comments about tv, about how my husband watches too many ball games, really, can we turn off the tv? It's noisy. So, my everloving hubby might turn off the tv but most likely any warm fuzzy feelings he feels towards me have evaporated. He might snap at me and leave the room, grumbling. Or he might make the arguement that this game is important and I have to leave the room. Either way, I succeeded the opposite of what I actually desired. And I feel even more isolation and after awhile, it really chokes me and my relationship.

So, I go to my therapist, who really is a professional listener. She asks me about how I'm doing. I'm not sure, but I want to work on it. Where do I want to begin? Well, we watch too much tv in my home. Oh really? Yeah, just the other day Hubby wanted to watch a ball game, it was noisy, and it lasts for hours. How does it make you feel when he watches a ball game for hours? Well, it sucks. I feel lonely. What do you want? A kiss and a hug, that's all. A bit of attention. So how did you go about getting it? Hmmm...I nagged. How did that work for you? Hmmm...not well.

So, if I were to do it all over again, how would I get what I want?

Well, I would go over to the sofa, lie down with my Hubby, ask for a kiss and a cuddle and turn down the volume a bit and fall asleep in his arms. I guess that's what I really wanted.

After awhile, I learned that the direct approach is pretty effective in asking for what I need from Dennis. He can't read my mind and he can't translate "Turn off the darn tv" to "Kiss me, love me." Or the various ways I talk in elaborate circles and expect him to read between the lines. This was actually hard for me to learn, but as I found it more and more rewarding, it got easier and easier to apply.

There's a lot of complicated theories to explain how I turned out to be such a terrible communicator. Or disconnected to my own heart. Or scared of my own ideas and thoughts that I bury them. Or too frightened to speak up when I disagree. Or become a bitch when all I want is to be loved. Or go through all the wrong array of choices to meet my own needs. Or push people I love away from me. Or build walls that keep people I love from coming too close. Or allow other people's walls keep me out. And I'm not saying that there's not more work for me in any of these issues.

I think that I still have to summon some courage to say to a sister, hey, I want to get to know you better despite our tumultuous history because I love you and I think you are an amazing woman. Yep, a lot of courage. Why? Because I'm opening myself up to further hurt and I'm asking her to take the same risk. But we have to look at the gains, not the costs. One gain is having to work through the hurts and getting closer to intimacy and understanding. We wouldn't get closer by vigilant over self protection because of distrust. It also depends on much value is placed on intimate relationships. Real relationships. The higher the value, the more risks seem to be worth it.

For some, all of this is a no-brainer and will wonder how something so simple, like being loved and giving love, could be made to be so complicated. If you come from a normal and resilient family, yeah, there is nothing to try to figure out. I'm always amazed with the families in our church for whom all of this is seems easy. And if I happen to meet the preceding generation, who aren't too far away usually in Michigan, it doesn't take too long for me to how it works out. If the family of origin is stable and supportive, the kids tend to marry younger, start families sooner and stay in touch with extended family tighter. If the family of origin has parents who know how to work through conflict, forgive and move forward, they create families who pick up the same relationship skills, without any further counseling, reading a ton of books or lots of seminars, who whether married or not, bring these skills to their future families or communities or fellowships. They may struggle, but doing relationships and communication is a part of life's ebbs and flows, and worth more than careers, travel and hobbies. Everyone knows how to ask for a kiss and a hug in an appropriate way with an appropriate person.

So, how did I get so mixed up in my relationship wiring?

I found out that asking how isn't as worthwhile as asking myself if. That is, sometimes wondering how something happened to me can waste my energy and time. But asking myself if I've got a problem leads me down a path that leads to solving it.

Like, gee, I wonder if I got mixed up in my relationship wiring? What do I do to get it functioning?

If it is a problem that is totally new to me, then counseling or books or the right seminar might help. If it sounds a lot like what I already know, a conversation over a cup of joe or some time in prayer or a bit of journaling might be more helpful. In other words, previous experience has shown me that I can trust myself to let myself explore and be guided by God and listen to others to get their feedback.

For instance, when I am feeling distant from my dad and miss him, I find myself argueing with certain individuals who remind me of him (usually not Dennis). So if you are a male friend older than me who is a bit opinionated, analytical, authoritative, cerebral, and also unretractable at times, don't be too shocked if it seems like we always clash. It has nothing to do with you and usually my fault and despite what it looks like, I do respect and like you. Since I don't run across too many people who remind me of my dad, you know who you are. And since talking with you might be a rare occasion, I don't know how I'm coming across until it's too late. The email is sent, the comment is posted, and the retort is made faster than I realize what I'm doing. And since I don't run across too many people who remind me of Dad, I haven't worked on a vocabulary or an even tempered approach to refine my way of putting things.

Oh, yeah. Did you know that my dad and I are a lot alike?

Just pray that I would call him. And that we'll focus on more than the weather when we talk.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A Fine Line

Oh, I'm sailin' away my own true love,
I'm sailin' away in the morning.
Is there something I can send you from across the sea,
From the place that I'll be landing?


No, there's nothin' you can send me, my own true love,
There's nothin' I wish to be ownin'.
Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled,
From across that lonesome ocean.


Oh, but I just thought you might want something fine
Made of silver or of golden,
Either from the mountains of Madrid
Or from the coast of Barcelona.


Oh, but if I had the stars from the darkest night
And the diamonds from the deepest ocean,
I'd forsake them all for your sweet kiss,
For that's all I'm wishin' to be ownin'.


That I might be gone a long time
And it's only that I'm askin',
Is there something I can send you to remember me by,
To make your time more easy passin'.


Oh, how can, how can you ask me again,
It only brings me sorrow.
The same thing I want from you today,
I would want again tomorrow.


I got a letter on a lonesome day,
It was from her ship a-sailin',
Saying I don't know when I'll be comin' back again,
It depends on how I'm a-feelin'.


Well, if you, my love, must think that-a-way,
I'm sure your mind is roamin'.
I'm sure your heart is not with me,
But with the country to where you're goin'.


So take heed, take heed of the western wind,
Take heed of the stormy weather.
And yes, there's something you can send back to me,
Spanish boots of Spanish leather.


"Boots of Spanish Leather" by Bob Dylan




When I was in high school, a visiting scholar came and gave us some good writing advice. One that stuck with me was about that a good poem did not do anything predictable, but often expressed a truth indirectly. Another one was about breaking away from cliche, and often things are expressed more eloquently with a sort of reverse cliche. He then took a girl's rather bland poem about memories of a past love and suggested that she write " I will not remember..." where she wrote "I will always remember". Everyone loved the example and understood what he was trying to say. He took a pretty medicore piece of writing and made it spectacular.


She later submitted the poem with the poet's suggestions to the high school poetry magazine I was editor of and I had a hard time deciding whether I wanted it in because I was there when the visiting scholar basically re-wrote it for her. It wasn't really her work. To me it was tantamount to submitting a project that your parent did. But the staff voted it in, while I kept my mouth shut about what I really knew about it.


I thought about it for awhile. I didn't like someone getting credit for genius when it really wasn't her own creativity to bring it about. Then, there was the fact that the lesson was totally lost on her from the quality of the other work she submitted that was saturated with the same kind of sentimental cliche that she was supposed to get rid of. I talked about it with my art teacher, who was a good listener and previously helped me reach clarity on a number of foggy issues. She didn't know what to tell me, but reminded me that being an editor bore the responsibility of being the final authority. I had to follow my own judgement.


What it came down to was the fact that all of our work had to be critiqued by our peers and our teachers. I never created anything without feedback from someone. That was the process of learning and improving. No one submitted anything without having gone through a filter of a teacher's input and correction. And often, the best writers are the best learners. If I didn't accept the spectacular and poignant poem that came about from a visiting scholar's advice, then I probably couldn't accept the bulk of what I received as submissions to the magazine. I decided to give the girl some credit for following the professional's criticism.


I didn't feel good about it, like I made the best decision. She didn't plagerize anyone and the bulk of the poem was essentially hers even if the brilliant spark came from a more experienced and creative mind. If it was me in her shoes, I wouldn't have claimed the poem as entirely mine and would have given the poet an appreciative nod to his contribution. Now looking back as an adult, I realize that it wouldn't have hurt to have had a talk and make that suggestion to her. But back then, I didn't have the kind of positive communications skills that would have brought us both to a good understanding. And I didn't have the critical thinking that would have resolved the ethical dilemma as adroitly and smoothly as it could have been. Instead, I shudder everytime I open my copy of the magazine and see the poem there.


Not because of the poem, but because I had the responsibility and the authority to make the right decision and I felt as though I compromised. I wasn't a very experienced editor but something inside of me told me that a line had been crossed and I didn't have the courage to deal with it. I felt as though I lost my self-respect. I was only seventeen and already knew the guilt of moral and ethical failure. And if I had been equipped to do so, I could have helped a younger girl navigate through that kind of discernment.


We face these kinds of decisions everyday. How to do the right thing. Where we cross the line of stealing from someone else or are mindfully employing lessons learned from a greater master. How we accept credit and give credit. What we do with responsiblity of authority. Where we find the courage to confront and the creativity to do it well. And you know, it never gets any easier. I find it just as hard today as it was when I was editing a poetry magazine at seventeen.


Bob Dylan is known for the quality of his lyrics, and he often dug from the vaults of what had previously been written before in poetry and in music. What he does the best is use the forms and twist it to make an original. He didn't claim to invent a new form, but adapt what was there to make something different. "Boots of Spanish Leather" is a good example of his combining a medival poem structure and a mountain folk song to bring about a song that holds our interest and communicates meanings within meanings. He allows himself to be influenced by greater minds and more experienced masters of any particular genre, in effect, he shows himself to be a very good learner. The downside is that sometimes he crossed the lines. Even Dylan found himself in an ethical quandary whether he meant to be or not. He once told how Woody Guthrie encouraged him to "steal" from him as Woody had stolen from others. In a way, the art would still live through the next generation of theives. Or else, it would die and not serve anyone.


We will not broaden our horizons unless we expose ourselves to a greater degree of challenges but let us not forget to accept responsibilities. What I finally had to learn as a seventeen year old editor was that the route of least resistence is not the best way to travel all the time. That it takes a bit of courage to deal with that fine line between someone smart enough to know good advice when she gets it and thievery.


And when we are being theives, to have the honesty to admit it. Face it, we only steal what is valuable. And we all do, in one way or another. A good question to ask myself is if I've stolen anything lately. A pencil? More change from the grocery checkout gal than what was due to me? Someone's time? Someone's heart?


It's a fine, fine line.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Adjustment

At Weight Watchers, I found out that I gained another half pound.

It's kind of hard to deal with. But I am looking at the bigger picture as well. My blood sugar has been its lowest for the last week. I work out every day, whether I am at the gym or at home. And I am eating way healthier. And I'm lifting weights now at least twice a week. Mostly my arms and abdomen. Swimming is my cardio, and I do push it.

So, I'm rethinking my strategy a bit. Maybe a tighter control of my diet. I haven't had anything sweet in two weeks. And I upped my fiber. Point-wise, I keep my daily goal a little high since I work at a moderately active job. But I'm deciding to lower it by at least 10. It will be hard.

But I had to force myself to eat dinner tonight, I made a chicken and brown rice dish with a bottled tagine sauce I bought from Worldmarket. I ate a half cup of rice and a cup of the cubed chicken and sauce over it. Dessert is an orange. I feel better, though. And my blood sugar two hours after eating still remained low--at 135. Lately, I don't feel hungry and it seems like I have constant indigestion. My medication will do that.

So, I think I'm ready to lower my point limit. I found that if I eat right before working out and right after, I'm okay, so I bring apples, yogurt, nuts or a granola bar. The trick with lowering points is to cook as much as possible and use lots of veggies, whole grains and protein. With lower points, I hope that my blood glucose won't drop too low. So, I've got to pack emergency food with me in case that happens.

The other problem is that repetition helps keep track of my points but I get tired of the same foods every day. I made chicken but it makes me sick to think of eating it. And I usually love tuna, but lately, it's hard to be motivated to even make a sandwich. So I'm trying new recipes, which is actually fun.

Tomorrow, I'm cooking Chinese Orange Chicken from a recipe I got online from Weight Watchers, and I'll stir fry some cabbage to go with it.

If it is good, I'll let you know!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Clarification

In a previous post, I listed the names of five of my kittens and they were all Italian. I went from there to state that it sounds like my kittens were a mob family.

That sounded wrong, and I apologize to all Italian people who deal with the stereotype that all Italians belong to the mafia.

What I meant was, that the kittens compete and fight while nursing so hard they reminded me of the infamous Carleone family of The Godfather, so I named them after characters in the movie. Especially Sonny and Vito, the largest kittens in the mob, who seem particularly viscious. While suckling, either one of them will bump the other off that particular teat and take it over. The other would not put up with it and bump right back. I don't know why, because Carly has more than enough milk to go around. And usually they are eating right next to each other when one decides to take the other's teat. Even though they are siblings, they wouldn't hesitate to do each other in, like the Corleone's. More than once, they'll go crazy during this arguement and start screaming and clawing each other (even as newborns, those claws are sharp) and Carly would lift her head up and look over at them with a "Don't make me come over there" look. And they'll stop.

Last night, Fredo was going bezerk because he couldn't find a way to a free teat (there are six kittens and eight teats, go figure) during dinnertime and started crawling over the top to his mom's face. Without moving her body and disturbing the other kittens while they were eating, Carly opened her jaws wide and clamped down on his head--very scary looking--and threw him down on the floor. She gave him a licking which seemed like a catlike equivelent to a spanking, only not painful and then tucked her arm over his head and held him down in her armpit, while he cried and whimpered the whole time. Meanwhile, she looked totally unconcerned, which is a switch from her usual attentiveness towards her brood's every cry. She looked at me like "Don't worry, I know what I'm doing". Finally, Fredo calmed down, his whining getting softer, and went to sleep.

Carly is a very attentive momcat, most of the time she is very sweet and protective of her kittens. But she'll be tough when she has to. Her favorite is the petite and well behaved Crema who sleeps contentedly between her mother's forepaws. Crema gets more baths from her mom than anyone, too. I wonder if Crema gets more attention because she is the runt and not as competitive as her brothers as well as her bigger and more agressive sister, Gina. I worry more about her too, as she isn't gaining as much weight as the rest.

Their eyes will be opening soon. I wonder how things will change once that happens. As of now, they scoot around on their tummies, their legs aren't strong enough to support themselves. And their hearing isn't developed yet either. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Bossa


A few years ago, I bought a CD featuring Rosa Passos, an artist from Brazil whom I never heard of. It has turned out to be one of my favorites, I never get tired of listening to it. If you like soft latin jazz, you'll like Amorosa. Most of these songs you've probably heard before, they are classics like Wave, written by Antonio Carlos Jobim. It is Passos' tribute to the great Joao Gilberto, the Brazilian "Father of the Bossa Nova", most famous for The Girl From Ipanema, sung by his wife, Astrud Gilberto.




Rosa Passos' CD brings me to a relaxed state of mind. Except for Gershwin's S'Wonderful, I don't understand a single word of Portuegese, and hardly any of the French either (as in Que Reste-I-Il De Nos Amours with Henri Salvador, 87 year old French chanson singer). I doubt I would have been this adventurous with music if it wasn't for the fact I was introduced to Bossa Nova music through the Hear music label, music featured in Starbucks since I started working there 8 years ago. In fact, it was through the music played at Starbucks I started to like even opera.




Which brings me to another topic. Starbucks has always been about more than making a latte. The reason I think I've stuck with being a barista this long is because it has made a difference in my life. As I look back over the last eight years, and I think about what has changed about me and it comes down to one thing. It's about getting to know and relate to different kinds of people, both as partners and customers. And an awareness of the people and the cultures that grow the coffee, feeling the bond between the beans I sell and their backbreaking work to create the high quality coffee that we have available on our shelves. If you want, you can read about Black Apron exclusives. We sell those out in a matter of weeks in our store. Not only do the producers grow a definative coffee with a unique flavor profile, they maintain their coffee plantations with good environmental practices and make life better for the manual laborers. The winner of a priviledge to have a coffee sold as a Black Apron exclusive also wins a grant for $15,000 to be used as needed in providing educational programs, community health programs or for infrastructure that would contribute to a better standard of living.




Oh yeah, about the coffee part...Starbucks has been and will always remain the pace setter in coffee business. If it wasn't for Starbucks, places like our local Beaners (now called Bigby for obvious reasons), the other larger coffeehouses like Caribou Coffee and independent smaller coffeehouses would not have been on the typical American consciousness. Good coffee and espresso would not have become anything beyond what you might have tried in college or on vacation in Europe. You would still be wondering what it was--it started with an "L" you think and was really milky and sweet without a sweetner and had just a touch of froth on top, but with a nice roasted espresso kick. "Hmmm, what was that again?" you would be thinking to yourself.




Who would have succeeded to build a retail chain based on just selling coffee before Starbucks? Yes there were others, but they could not break out of being just an occasional presence in the malls or downtown. When's the last time you saw a Gloria Jean's?




And how many of these other companies do you hear about do as much as possible to contribute to the needs of coffee growers and their communities as well as their environments? I met a young woman--an international student at MSU from Thailand-- who told me about a coffee company clear cutting the trees around her home village to plant coffee trees. Starbucks makes it a policy not to do business like that, and is the leading buyer of Fair Trade coffee in the world.




It helps to think about these things, to get through my day some days. Especially when I serve a freshly brewed medium coffee to a rare but memorable customer who goes into a major snit about it being too "burnt" tasting, because she is used to drinking the watered down version of coffee at McDonalds. And especially as I hear how my young partners endure inexplicable verbal abuse from a few older people who really should be ashamed of being as rude as they are. What I'm really proud of is how my partners don't lose their poise, their humanity and their cool under conditions that would rattle most of our customers if they had to do what we do. I'm sorry, burnt coffee lady, you would have a nervous breakdown within ten minutes in my shoes.




It's just coffee, yes.




But it's really about something more.




More than a job.




Like listening to a Bossa Nova, it's about living a broader, deeper, richer and stronger life. "In Brazil, to do something with "Bossa" is to do it with particular charm and natural flair" (Wikipedia)




If I'm a barista forever, it would not be a loss to me. I'd be glad to make you the best cappuccino you've ever had, with microfoam, tomorrow or the next day or the next day...and I even would do it with "Bossa". As well as all my partners I'm so glad to work with in my store.






Monday, March 03, 2008

They're Here





















Saturday night, on my way home from work at almost midnight, Dennis called me on my cell to let me know Carmelita delivered five kittens, and in the process of delivering one more. She chose the living room floor to whelp, traveling closer and closer to the heat vent. Our thermostat is usually around 65 degrees, and Carly left a trail of blood as she crept to the vent. She did everything by herself, as Den had already gone to bed around 8:30pm. Ginger woke him up with excited whining which he assumed that meant she had to go outside, real bad.


Groggy and without his glasses, he stumbled downstairs to let her out and started to hear little screechy noises, and that's when he turned on a light and saw Carly and her newborns. On the way back to the bedroom to get glasses, he heard a screechy noise and found a kitten on Ginger's bed on the floor next to our bed. Picking it up to take it to its mom, he found another newborn kitten on the hallway floor. He had passed it twice, thinking he dropped a black sock. Picking up the second stolen kitten (we have a theory that Ginger was taking them to Dennis, but who knows what was going on in a golden's mind?) he went down to the living room where Carly was pretty much handling things just fine.

Which is when he called me. When I got home, I could see that she had six kittens but it was going to take some more time to see if she had any more coming. They were all very cold and a couple weren't moving, so I asked Dennis to turn up the heat to at least 75 and get the box we prepared with towels and shredded paper for Carly's nest. I put the kittens in the nest and then lifted Carly in. After a few minutes of rubbing the ones just laying there with a towel, they started to move and cry. Dennis told me those were the ones he found upstairs. We could see from the stains on the carpet that Carly had one kitten in one place, moved to another and had the next there until finally getting to the heat source and delivering the rest. She was probably busy and couldn't move much, so Ginger scooped up the first and second ones and took them upstairs. She could have easily killed them or even eaten them, but other than being really cold, they were in good shape.

Carly had a total of six without any complications. All of them are shorthaired-- three are orange striped tabby males, one black onyx male, a similar black female and the runt of the litter is a replica of her mom--a tortoise female, her patch of carmel on the top of her head instead of on the chest like her mom. A few people have asked for them, it looks like five of them might have future homes.

Two of the orange tabbies are twins and the largest, they have big heads and chunky bodies. The black couple are slightly smaller and sleeker looking, but they look longer. The third orange tabby is skinny and cries all the time. He fights with the other kittens as they nurse, often pushing several of them away to steal their place. One of the large orange tabbies fights back, but the others just put up with it. The smallest is the tortie, she is petite but not skinny. She seems smarter than all the rest and cuddles with her sister most of the time. It'll be a couple of weeks before their eyes open, so I'm excited to finally see what they look like.

As for names, the largest of the two oranges is Vito, the other is Sonny. The black male is Vinnie, and the other black female is Gina. The skinny orange one I think should be Fredo. Yeah, I know. My kittens sound like they belong to a mob family. Well, the apples don't fall far from the tree. The next few months until they are weaned and ready to go to their new homes will be really interesting. We would like to keep one, and my heart is going towards the littlest tortie. I do have a name for her: Crema.


I will keep you posted.