Monday, December 31, 2012

Let's Call It

Now that we've survived the nothingburger that was December 21, 2012, it's a good time to take a deep breath and look at what's actually happening. There are terrible, seemingly intractable problems facing the U.S. and every other country. At this moment the outgoing Congress hasn't passed a budget. The "fiscal cliff" may itself be a big old nothingburger. But the fact that Congress has been funding the government on continuing resolutions since 2006 is something--a symptom of the political myopia of too many of our leaders. 


And yet. There are also signs that there is movement afoot . Out of the wreckage of mass shootings, a surprising willingness to address gun violence. A brutal gang rape and murder in Delhi, a sudden acknowledgment of the price of patriarchy and sexism. A young man immolates himself in Tunisia, and Tunisians, Egyptians, Moroccans, and Libyans protest the repressive dictatorships governing their countries, discovering for themselves the responsibilities of leadership. A destructive superstorm hits the most populous area of our country, again bringing the issue of climate change to the fore.

People are awakening. What we might have accepted as unchangeable even a year ago is now shifting. There is new awareness that the old ways of thinking, doing and being are unsustainable. More people believe that climate change is here after Superstorm Sandy
After an unacceptable number of mass shootings and decades of NRA brainwashing, more people see the need for gun control measures.
It's taken a mass shooting of 20 first graders to awaken people to the fact that the easy availability of combat weapons in the hands of private citizens, and mentally unstable and criminal people, is an unacceptable price to pay for the abstract notion of the so-called "right to bear arms."After a young woman is brutally raped and dies, people in India are protesting violence against women. Dictatorships are being exposed for what they are--a way for dynasties to retain as many privileges as they can to the detriment of their countrymen.

It's taken Superstorm Sandy to wake people to the reality of climate change. It's time to stop the kindergarten argument about what or who's to blame and start addressing the problems of overconsumption and overpopulation while there is still time.To do something about it, even if it's not quite the right diagnosis.

Along these lines, when our son Geoff was seven months old, he caught his very first virus, and every subsequent virus that came his way. Bronchiolitis was the standard diagnosis.There were many sleepless nights, many emergency trips to the doctor. When he was just over a year old, our pediatrician ordered a test for cystic fibrosis. My heart froze. In high school and college, two classmates had CF, and one had died at age 24, the other at 37.

"He's not breaking any records on growth, so I just want to rule it out," she said. All the way home my mind raced as Geoff cried in his car seat.

The test results came back negative, but he still wasn't well. Finally Dr. Patno did what docs do to earn their salaries--she made a treatment decision. She consulted with a pediatric pulmonologist at the University of Vermont.  He had seen good results in infants with chronic bronchiolitis treated with nebulized asthma drugs. He recommended Intal four times daily for preventing bronchial spasms, and albuterol for acute spasms only. It was worth a try.

The first time Geoff received a treatment at the hospital, he tried to pull off the mask with his tiny hands. We restrained him as he cried the entire three minutes of the treatment. The first two treatments he received at home were the same. By the third, he pressed the toggle switch on the nebulizing machine himself. At fourteen months, he already had made the connection between the treatments and feeling better. By the time we moved to Colorado less than two years later, he no longer required daily medication. He'll be 21 tomorrow.

Just as Dr. Karyn Patno named Geoff's condition and treated it accordingly, it's long past time to make the call on climate change. Help me celebrate my son's 21st birthday by supporting and living out sustained efforts to reduce our country's carbon footprint.

Let's also call it on gun violence. The pro-gun lobby is the civilian manifestation of Cold War-era thinking. Arm yourselves to the hilt, and you'll be safer. Of course the nuclear arms race did not and has not made us safer or healthier, wealthier or wiser. People in this country are already armed to the hilt. It's time to stop paying into this outmoded thinking.

The brutal civil war in Syria with no clear end in sight weighs heavily. I pray for Assad's cruel tenure to come to a swift end, so the Syrian people may experience peace and seize opportunities to rebuild their country in ways that are more beneficial to them.

My most fervent hope is that humans stop creating the conditions for injustice in the first place and replace them with conditions for justice. Let's stop hurting each other intentionally. We can begin to stop hurting each other even unintentionally by being more sensitive to each other.

Every blessing to you in the New Year. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

"What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding"

One of the few times words fail me, so I'll let the great Nick Lowe's words and Elvis Costello's co-performance stand in as my response to the National Rifle Association's response to the Newtown murders.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Well-regulated militia, my ass

Another day, another shooting, this time of schoolchildren in Connecticut.

In the eighteen years since Don and I moved to Colorado, I have been witness to two mass shootings in the state I've come to love. It's not necessary to spell out which shootings they were. Columbine and Aurora have their own deadly shorthand. Now Newtown, Connecticut joins this sorry list.

Connecticut Senator-elect Chris Murphy says he's "shocked and saddened" by the shootings. He's half right. Because honestly, how can anyone be shocked, after all the shootings just this year? At least 15 have occurred, resulting in 84 deaths, dozens of injuries, and long-term suffering for those who witnessed the attacks and lost loved ones. This list doesn't count Jovan Belcher's murder of the mother of his daughter and his suicide, and the countless other so-called smaller-scale shootings

I'm with Sen. Murphy. I'm sad. I'm pissed off. The only thing that still shocks me is that the National Rifle Association and gun enthusiasts continue to defend the right to buy as many guns and as much ammo as they see fit. Here's what the Second Amendment says: "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Mentally ill young men dressed head to toe in body armor are not part of a well-regulated militia. No one in the United States in 2012, apart from the military and police, has any business having unlimited access to weaponry.

Some will revive the preposterous theory that if the school had been armed, fewer, if any people would have died today. The day that teachers and administrators and, God forbid, students pack heat in schools is the day that the United States is no longer a civil society. Well-regulated militia, my ass. We will effectively be in a civil war. 

The justifications for this insanity need to stop now. They are hollow, and they are a slap in the face to the people who are hurting from the senseless, and preventable, loss of loved ones. 

Over the next days and weeks, I expect there will be a shrine of teddy bears and crosses erected outside the school in Connecticut. Go for it. And then do something that will have a meaningful, long-term impact on the undeniable problem of gun violence. Donate to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Smart Feet

How cute are these piggies?
Yoga students are eager to move through poses that strengthen their limbs and core and lengthen their spines in back bends and twists. When it comes to balance poses, usually polite students barely suppress groans.

I get it. For years I dreaded balance poses. It's easier to look graceful and accomplished when cycling through a round of sun salutations or warrior poses than it is to balance, or more precisely, to fall in and out of, Tree pose.

I inherited a tendency for bunions. Wearing cute high heels when I worked book conferences on concrete convention center floors exacerbated the problem. I still remember with fondness the pair that did them in. The were floral print, square-taper pumps from Spain. They were so pretty and stylish, teenaged boys would compliment those shoes. The charm wore off when, after a twelve-hour day on my feet at a book fair in St. Louis, I swear my bunions swelled to twice their size. I've worn sensible shoes ever since.

During yoga teacher training, a stern acharya took one look at my feet and said, "You've got some work to do."  I discovered a gem of an article by Doug Keller that offers great and easy therapy for distressed feet. I did the exercises every day and found that not only were standing poses easier but so were the dreaded balances! Where I had once had "stupid feet,"Keller's exercises had helped intelligence move into my feet. It's a long way from the brain to the feet. Just as the spine lengthens and rejuvenates itself in virtually every yoga pose, messages from the brain to the feet extend their reach when you consciously work on it.

There are 28 bones in the foot. The harmony of the bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments holding this miraculous structure together can so easily be disrupted.

Foot work is not just for students who have bunions. The feet take a beating over the course of a lifetime, and we mistreat them with the shoes we wear. So I've incorporated what I call Smart Feet exercises into my teaching. My students' favorite--OK, it's my favorite--is toe raises. You practice lifting only the big toes while keeping the other toes on  the floor. Then you raise only the pinky toes while keeping the others pressed to the ground. The bonus round: simultaneously lifting the big toes and pinkies while keeping the middle toes on the floor! I worked on this last move for a month before I could finally do it.

When you try it, you'll find your fingers wanting to conduct what your feet are doing, and that's fine. The fingers are more flexible, more alive with intelligence, because we use them all the time, and they convey it to the feet. Anatomically, the big toe raise is strengthening the anterior muscles of the foot, and the pinky raises strengthen the lateral sides of the foot. All of it adds up to strengthening the feet and making them more flexible. Most people also pronate and supinate.Working with the feet yogically helps resolve these imbalances in weight dispersal, and thereby improves balance.

The shoes you choose to wear also determine how smart your feet are, as I learned the hard way. At the recommendation of teachers at the ashram, I got a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. They look like toe socks with a thin leather sole. Best $75 I ever spent. My feet sing when I wear them. I balance over my arches better, and utilize the soles of my feet more fully and efficiently. Some hardy souls I know use them to run in. But I've determined that my feet are too far gone to use the Five Fingers for running, despite the rehab I've done. I tried it once, and the left sole of my foot hurt for weeks afterward. I'll stick with my C-width Brooks running shoes.

Try the foot exercises and see for yourself how much more supple your feet are in standing poses and balances. Smart feet are always in fashion.

I may have bunions, but at least I don't have hobbit feet.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


My Grandpa Shellenberger would have loved Rush Limbaugh. He was born on Lincoln's birthday in 1898, in Manhattan, Kansas. Nowadays Kansas State has a few people of color there, but back in my grandpa's day most everyone was white.

We were waiting for our food in a restaurant in Sunnyvale, California, where my grandfather lived. Some people at a table near us were speaking Chinese. At another table people were speaking Spanish. There was a family of African-Americans there. Typical day in the San Francisco Bay area. None of this was lost on my grandfather, who said, "Are we still in the United States of America?"

The day after President Obama's re-election, Rush said, "We're outnumbered." Basically, it's the same world view my grandpa was expressing some thirty years ago. What a bleak, uninspiring way of seeing the world.

These lines from George Harrison's song, "Isn't It a Pity," performed by Eric Clapton, sum it up. "Some things take so long/But how do I explain/When not too many people/Can see we're all the same/And because of all their tears/Their eyes can't hope to see/The beauty that surrounds them/Isn't it a pity." We are all the same. We want to be happy. Safe. Loved. Purposeful. The skin we live in, and its color, is insignificant.

Empirically, Grandpa and Rush are right. Whites in this country are going to be outnumbered by Mexican-Americans and other Latinos, African-Americans and other current minorities. But rather than seeing this as something bad, something we have to build literal and metaphorical walls against, I see it as a good thing. I'm glad I grew up in the multicultural San Francisco area. When I was in second grade, Shernmin Chow taught me to eat rice with chopsticks. To this day, I can pick up every grain, thanks to Shernmin. Also, none of my other friends' parents grew kumquats, loquats and Concord grapes in their back yards.

I look forward to a day when a white woman who voted for Obama twice is unremarkable. I'd vote for him again. Or that I voted for Cory Booker or Julian Castro for president. And not because I'm a child, as Rush insultingly said, who likes Santa Claus because he's a giver of gifts I haven't earned, because I'm one of those "takers" ultraconservatives keep complaining about. I voted for Obama because he's proven over the last four years that he is a man of impeccably good character, who has righted the ship of state at a time when it badly listed in storms of war and financial and institutional malfeasance. He cares about people who can't do anything to help him, and he cares about the people who can. President Obama is a leader. Rush and his ilk are flame throwers, who divides the country into percentage points, takers vs. makers, white vs. black, American vs. immigrant. The reason Romney and the Republicans lost the presidency is not because the people who re-elected the president are greedy little children. They lost because they are more interested in enforcing difference than in finding common ground.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sacred Privilege

Twice this week I talked to voters as a volunteer for the Obama for America campaign. The first day I canvassed in a neighborhood I had never been to. A lot of people weren't at home because they were working to pay their rents. I left get-out-to-vote flyers. Many of the people were home, and about half who were home opened their doors. I reminded them how much their vote really matters and gave them information about when and where to vote. The other half ignored my knock, probably worried that I was a bill collector or an attorney's agent, or worse. Two sent their preschool-age children to the door. One of the neighbors I met on the street, the only person I spoke with who had already voted by mail, told me there'd been a drug bust a block over the week before.

I wonder how many of the people who live in that neighborhood are actually going to follow through and vote.

Yesterday I knocked on doors in a neighborhood where several acquaintances live. Lots of people were at work, but like the previous day, many of the residents were at home, too. Only one of the voters I spoke with had not voted for President Obama yet, though his wife had. He apparently wanted to wait until the high holy day itself to make his vote for the president official.

Yesterday's canvassing was much more pleasant, but Monday's was way more important. I thought of what our sons' middle school social studies teacher once said: working with students who don't have the tools and support for success was more rewarding for him as an educator.

I didn't say this to anyone I met the last two days, but I'll say it here: Voting is a sacred privilege, even if so many of the candidates go out of their way to cheapen it. It's still a great way to make your voice heard.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Make a Joyful Noise

For years my yoga teachers have recommended chanting. I own some kirtan CDs, I've attended kirtan sessions at the ashram where I received my yoga training, and I have gone to hear Bhakti Shakti at Studio Be in Boulder. I've always found kirtan enjoyable and beneficial, but my participation has been inconsistent. Chanting alone at home felt dry, and I didn't enjoy hearing the longely sound of my voice.

My family gave me an IPad for my birthday and an ITunes gift card I used to download music for my yoga classes. I've taken to bringing my IPad into my meditation room and chanting along with some of the kirtan.

The effects have been immediate. Hours after I've chanted, the rhythms are still going through my head, and sometimes I burst spontaneously into song as I go about my work! My silent meditations have become deeper and more peaceful. I like to think that's because the kirtan has softened me up that much more.

I especially love Jai Uttal's "Ganesha Sharanam." A small child begins the chant, and I smile every time I hear his sweet little voice. Even a grinch would hear that voice and smile and sing and feel her heart growing nine sizes too big.

Besides Jai Uttal, I also like Deva Premal and Krishna Das. Don't be intimidated by the Sanskrit. If you buy kirtan CDs, the lyrics are printed phonetically on the sleeve. If you use ITunes, there are online kirtan lyrics.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Being Green

This dashing devil is my great-Uncle Gilbert Arts. This pick-up might well have been one he and his brothers kept around for parts.

On the ranch where my grandmother's family settled in the early 1920s, there were several storage sheds near the barnyard where her brothers parked old tractors and pick-ups. To the untrained eye the vehicles were no good to anyone or anything. Out to vehicle pasture.

It was true the guys couldn't bear to throw out anything. After all, they'd lost both parents when they were teenagers during the Depression. It was hard enough scraping enough money together to buy clothes and pay taxes on the place, never mind buying new equipment. They were reducing, recycling and reusing long before it became a slogan. Keeping those old clunkers around served a purpose--they scavenged them for parts. Repair, and re-repair. What made them successful ranchers was their ability to do a lot of things well, maintenance being primary. Their dad had taught them how to work, how things worked and how to fix stuff when it stopped working.

Fifty years later, two of the brothers, Gilbert and Ted, had long since left the ranch. Good old habits die hard. The instinct to fix stuff was just as strong. They went around picking up old lawn mowers people had never tried to fix. They'd haul them back to Gilbert's shop for reconditioning, and they'd sell them or give them away. They'd picked up a cold case from a meat shop that had closed, and Gilbert set about turning it into a greenhouse.

I didn't inherit their mechanical genius, but I did inherit their conservation instincts. I have reinterpreted the instinct to repair, and repair again, as using only what I need.

In August my family and I attended a rally for President Obama at the University of Colorado. As we waited for him to arrive, I struck up a conversation with two students. They were lovely young women whose enthusiasm about their futures in the health care field inspired me and gave me hope.

"I only wish we were leaving things in better shape for you," I said, my eyes filling with tears.

They touched my arm and said, "It's OK. You're doing the best you could."

Maybe I have done the best I could. But it's not OK, and it's certainly not good enough for them, and for my own sons, and all the other young people who are inheriting this scarred, ravaged planet.

Next week I'm attending an Environmental Justice Training sponsored by my denomination, the United Church of Christ. Here's hoping that goodwill and love, though perhaps not enough, is at least something.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Praying for Rain

Gorgeous shot at Dead Horse State Park, Utah

On our way to a family reunion in Yosemite, my husband, kids and I camped at Dead Horse Point near Moab, Utah. Despite the beauty of the painted rock and the gravity-defying geological formations, it’s still in the desert. It’s still a monument to deprivation.

When we arrived at the campground late that afternoon, it was 102 degrees under a cloudless sky. Everywhere we looked, there was more rock than vegetation. The sun had bleached what little grass there was. The only shade available was inside the visitors’ center and the outhouse, or beneath the tarp my husband strung up against the sun.

After we set up camp, we joined a ranger and other campers for a short hiking tour of the area. The temperature had dropped into the low 90s. The ranger reminded us we needed to drink a gallon of water every day to keep adequately hydrated. With an annual average precipitation of less than three inches—compared to Longmont, Colorado, which can expect about fifteen—it’s a wonder there’s enough water for everyone who visits.

Yet in this apparent scarcity, there is grace. I had camped in the desert before, but this time I began to understand why so many holy people retreat to the desert. The desert is always at prayer, because it is always in need of relief. Praying is more natural there.

And the prayers are being answered. A species of mouse has adapted so that it never needs to drink water. It gets all the moisture it needs from the food it eats, also in short, but sufficient, supply. The slick rock is pockmarked with tiny depressions that become oases for the animals when it does rain. As the ranger described them, I thought of angel hands cupped expectantly, waiting to be filled with whatever goodness comes their way.

That night we didn’t bother to put the rainflies on the tents. We needed every whisper of air we could get. As my body worked hard to keep cool, I slept restlessly and worried I wouldn’t be fit for hiking the next day. Around four that morning, a cloud moved over the campground, loosing a fine mist of raindrops. I rolled onto my back to expose my skin to its cool blessing before falling into a deep, grateful sleep. A raven’s fractious call woke me a couple of hours later. Back home I would find it hard to function on so little sleep. Under the desert’s spell, it was enough.

Growing up in the land of plenty, I’m accustomed to a certain amount of excess. I doubt I would ever choose to live in the desert. But I do like to visit. Camping there reminds me that I can stand the discomfort of a little want.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Romney's "Macaca" Moment

Don't  they both take a lovely photo?

Forget about the Duchess of Cambridge's topless photos. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's remarks about how the U.S. is composed of 47 percent freeloader/victims have taken front and center.This is Romney's "Macaca" moment. Get ready for the Obama campaign to play these tapes over and over again until Election Day.

Listening to him speak at a May fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida, I hear a Romney who is fluent and at ease. He appears to believe in what he is saying. Usually when I listen to him speak, I hear the halting sound of someone who is beholden to donors who are basically paying him to stay on script.

As sick to my stomach as the ignorant and contemptuous remarks captured on video make me, I'm glad they're out there. Now they can be debated.

Here's the antidote to the ignorance about what the working poor actually make, courtesy of reported wage statistics and Franci Tartaglino, who compiled them:

A list of workers (who pay 0% in Federal income tax because of the standard deduction on form 1040) and what they make per hour:
Waitress - federal food service minimum wage - $2.13/hr, plus whatever tips people offer
EMT - who scrapes your bloody carcass off the highway - $14.50/hr
Nurses' aides - who keep your grandmother's diaper changed - $9.91/hr
Teenage cashier - subminimum federal wage allowed - $4.25/hr
Food packagers - keeping you E.coli free everyday - $6.37/hr
Lifeguard/ski patrol - watching your kids - $9.09/hr
Garbage Collectors - $15.57/hr
You know who else pays 0% federal income taxes? A large portion of our enlisted military! Starting pay for an enlistee is $18,000/year! 

I wish I could be part of Romney's middle class, who make $200,000 to $250,000. My husband and I are both college educated. He has a masters degree, and I did some postgraduate work. We make less than $200,000, and we pay income taxes and other taxes. I am proud of what we earn and the fact that we're raising two sons on it. I don't feel victimized because I don't meet Mr. Romney's standards for middle-class status, and I don't feel victimized because we pay income taxes and other taxes. We, like many other Americans, believes that's the price of living in a the United States of America, where people believe building a great country is about way more than making sure the wealthiest stay that way and waging wars against enemies. It's about investing in education, health care and ensuring that people can pursue happiness.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

2012, not "2016"

In the 80s, I went to see "Roger and Me," Michael Moore's first documentary chronicling General Motors CEO Roger Smith's oversight of the automaker's downsizing, and the subsequent decline of the standard of living for former GM employees. Moore reminded me of Columbo, who played a harmless idiot to disguise that he was onto the criminals. I also liked "Bowling for Columbine," the expose of the National Rifle Association's role in liberalizing gun sales to deadly effect. Moore lost me when he exchanged his rumpled Columbo-ness for being another loudmouth on cable news.

It's the same way I feel about watching MSNBC. While emotionally it makes me feel good to watch people with philosophies similar to mine sticking it to some Tea Party wingnut, I know that what I'm hearing are extremely one-sided opinions. I can't watch Rachel Maddow or Lawrence O'Donnell for very long without feeling queasy and changing the channel.

Because propaganda of any kind makes me physically ill, I have no intention of paying good money to see "2016: Obama's America," the extreme right's version of a Michael Moore documentary. Here's what Daniel Larison, a columnist for the American Conservative (not a fawning guest on Rachel Maddow's show) has to say about Dinesh D'Souza's assessment of President Obama:

"It is hardly necessary to delve deeply into the Kenyan past or trace the roots of anticolonialist thought to discern why Obama, a thoroughly conventional center-left Democrat, favors raising taxes on wealthier people. This is a standard part of the Democratic agenda and has been for the last decade. Having opposed tax cuts for wealthier Americans earlier in the decade, Democrats are continuing to be against them. This is not mystifying. What is a little mystifying is why so many conservative pundits and writers feel the need to construct preposterous, overly-complicated Obama theories to explain what is perfectly obvious and straightforward."

Monday, August 6, 2012

"We Need Better People"

That was a line in a letter to the editor in my local newspaper. Preceding it: "We don't need better gun control laws."

I agree that we need better people. Education is the first thing that leaps to mind. To me, education means giving students multiple pathways to belonging, recognizing that all people have different strengths. Some will be scholars. Others will be athletes, musicians, teachers or entrepreneurs. In an educational setting, there ought to be ways for people to identify their gifts and to go about cultivating them.

The trouble is, there is huge cultural disagreement about how to properly educate our young people. My concern is that disagreements about education is just another thing for us to fight about, and therefore to do nothing about. 

All the fighting about Chick-fil-a and the president's birth certificate and Mitt Romney's tax returns is very confusing. I've always thought Americans are pragmatic people, capable of working toward big public goals while agreeing to disagree about some of the steps along the way. There are some projects that are just too big to solve overnight, and we need to hang in there with each other. Educating our kids to become contributors is one of these big projects. It's time well-invested.

In the meantime, we do need better gun control laws.Tweaking these laws is an exercise in pragmatism. Requiring a waiting period where peoples' backgrounds are checked is something we can do soon. If you're electing yourself to be a gun owner, you're electing yourself to an intrusion of your privacy. If that privacy includes ties to a neo-Nazi hate groups, then so be it. Banning sales of assault weapons would be another. I'd like to see gun sellers tracking how much ammunition they're selling to individuals who live at real addresses, and alerting authorities when a buyer exceeds the limit.

Because if we're really serious about needing better people, we need to make it a lot harder for disturbed people to implement their murderous plans.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Kim Rhode, a skeet athlete, became the first Olympian to win medals in five consecutive appearances at the Games. I didn't see the competition, but I saw an interview with her afterward and was impressed--not a strong enough word--WOWED by the fact that she hit 99 of 100 targets. She's clearly an athlete, but beyond that, she's a champion. She also struck me as a really nice, likeable person, who posts recipes on her blog.

Watching coverage of her on the podium also made me realize how biased I am about what athletes should look like. Ms. Rhode is not ripped. She's got an athlete's reflexes and peripheral vision, and yesterday she proved she's the best in the business.

I watched the women's gymnastic qualifying competition last night, and was impressed--no, WOWED by their strength, grace and precision. When Jordyn Wieber didn't qualify, for the simple reason that each team is limited to two gymnasts in the all-around, though she came in fourth in the overall standings, my mother's heart broke. I so wanted to tell Andrea Joyce to get the microphone out of her face already, and let her go off and have a good cry. In retrospect, the replay showing her toes gripping the balance beam to prevent a fall told me how bad Ms. Wieber wanted it. I'm rooting for her to go for the gold in the individual events and to do everything she can to help her team win.

As strict as gymnastics' rules are, there is still more margin of error for them than there was in yesterday's skeet competition. I noticed form breaks and bobbles and wobbles that were by no means fatal to the overall performances. Who am I to criticize? Balancing in yoga poses is hard enough--I can't imagine balancing on a four-inch-wide beam four feet off the ground while doing flips. . . I thought they were all amazing.

But to hit 99 of 100 targets? That's otherworldly. Ms. Rhode missed one target in the qualifying round, where each athlete aimed for 75 targets. I wonder where in the qualifying competition she missed that one target. To someone who like yours truly who is easily thrown off balance by anything less than perfection, I'm sure in Ms. Rhode's place I would have talked myself into missing some more targets. Because after all, who am I to believe I can be perfect?

That's what separates the champions from the rest of us. Champions are just as flawed as the rest of us, but in that time and that place and that medium they have the will and the preparation to be the best. To put in perspective how big Ms. Rhode's  achievement is, the silver medalist hit 91 targets, while the bronze medalist hit 90.

So bravo to Kim Rhode, bravo to Jordyn Wieber, and bravo to anyone who tries to be the best at anything.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Slow-Moving Civil War

Another massacre, this time about 20 miles away from me, 12 killed and scores wounded. Another psychopathic killer, who-shall-not-be-named. Another emotional outpouring, of anger, of grief, of confusion. Another spontaneous memorial for people to express their sadness and their outrage. Another showdown between the NRA and gun-control advocates.

Incredibly, experts and politicians say nothing will change. The American public seems resigned that some time in the near future, another disturbed person will open fire and kill and wound more people in a school, or a church, a shopping mall, or wherever people gather. Even worse, gun sales have increased during the last week to "defend" against such attacks. I'd prefer not to live in a world where every other person is packing heat.

I can't believe a civilized society like ours could allow PhD student who lives in suburban Denver access to huge amounts of weaponry and firepower. I've never heard a good explanation for why citizen gun owners should have access to assault weapons. The answer is always about the abstract--the Second Amendment, citizens have an unlimited right to bear arms. Really? Because that seems to me to be stretching things a lot. The real reason is that gun manufacturers and gun dealers are making a lot of money.

Ten states have instituted regulations on the purchase of decongestants that contain pseudoephedrine, one of the ingredients used to make methamphetamine. Meth is undeniably hollowing out families and communities. I'm not talking about buying a couple of packages of Sudafed to get you and your family through a cold. But a suspicious eye ought to be cast on customers who are buying a store's entire stock of decongestant. I don't have a problem with store managers alerting police to a potential threat like this.

If laws can stop meth cooks from buying a huge supply of meth, I don't see why we can't we similarly limit the amount of artillery gun owners can buy. Notice I said a limit, not a ban. However, I am comfortable with banning the sale of assault weapons to anyone. No citizen can buy a nuclear bomb online. I'm not thrilled with the military having weapons of mass destruction, but let's leave assault weapons in their hands.

Whether we're resigned to more mass shootings, or we're going out and buying guns with the fantasy we can defend ourselves against heavily armored, heavily armed psychopaths, we're basically accepting the fact that we're in a slow-moving civil war. We're resigned to pitting our citizens against one another. We don't need supposed Muslim terrorists. Without reasonable gun control laws, we're making it way too easy for disturbed people to pick us off, one school, one movie theater at a time.

It's time to admit that allowing commerce to drive the ways weapons are bought and sold isn't keeping our citizens and communities safe. As a country of laws, it's long past time to legislate extensive background checks that track the kind and numbers of weapons and ammo gun owners are buying.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


A friend who is traveling the great midlife highway with me said, "We're both unraveling."

Coming undone? I didn't know whether to say Uh-uh, or Uh-oh, or Uh-huh. She is a weaver, so maybe she knew what she's talking about. I thought about it for a few days and decided I didn't like the idea of coming apart. I prefer re-raveling to unraveling. The Urban Dictionary's definition of reravel is "the process of undoing something that was 'unraveled.' " That's no improvement.

So as a cranky woman of a certain age, I reserve the right to make my own definition. Re-raveling means making something new from material that already exists.

This is precisely what is happening at Cheese Importers, my workplace. Tomorrow begins the move to a new building a couple of blocks away from where it's been located for nearly thirty years. It's rare to encounter this kind of symmetry, where outer circumstances like a business relocating matches my inner circumstances. Fertility is formally leaving the building. I am going from being a woman who can reproduce offspring to a woman who can't.

I'm thankful I live at a time where I have actually had a choice in the matter, though there are people and institutions who dispute this. And to this I say: Until men can get pregnant, women ought to at least have the courtesy of deciding whether, and when, they want to bear children.

Women have access to all kinds of information about how to care for their bodies after menopause. Christiane Northrup writes books to help women maintain vibrant good health within the context of a still feminine, if not reproductively viable, body, not to mention benefits to mental health. Yoga is a blessing along the same lines. Resources like this give me a form to re-ravel around. I'm looking forward to creating a few new loops and patterns of my own.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Wise Pacing

This week my son had some tough issues come up at work. We talked about it more than he would have liked. While our discussions gave me a good understanding of what happened and what he can do going forward, what's most important is his understanding and how he proceeds.

In one of our conversations, he said he prefers to solve problems in his own way and his own time. Truth is, that's how he's been since he was a baby. He came into the world wanting to be his own man. I like to think Don and I have allowed him the freedom to do just that.

"That's all well and good," I said, "but sometimes you need to speed up or slow down the pace of your problem-solving, depending on the situation."

Learning how to pace myself has been one of my touchstones. For most of my life, the pace has been fast. The maid of honor at my wedding, Cheryl Brown Manning, called me a "driver" when we were students at Montana State. Renay Oshop, the vedic astrologer I work with, refers to my "gung-ho" attitude.

Over the past seven years or so, I've consciously slowed my pacing. I can't say I'm a very good student of the art of slowness, other than to say I'm a slow learner of this particular art.

Teaching others to slow down via yoga has helped me with my own pacing. When I teach pranayama, for instance, it's all about the pacing of the breath. I invite students to breathe in through the nose, slowly threading it past the navel. At the bottom of the inhale, hold it for a couple of heartbeats before slowly exhaling back up the torso and through the nose. At the top of the exhale, again hold the breath for a few heartbeats before allowing the next in-breath. Repeat at least 10 times. It takes maybe three minutes to get yourself breathing at a pace that sustains real living.

In the have-it-fast, have-it-now world we inhabit, the word allowing is probably the hardest to cope with. Back in my gung-ho, driver days, there was no allow. I made things happen. I didn't let them happen to me. But when they did, I got angry, especially at things I viewed as negative or that diminished me somehow. Because I was already so small in my own mind, I couldn't bear to think of losing any more. And forget about savoring the good things that happened. They'd already arrived too late, when I'd given up wanting them.

Being on edge like this took a toll on my nervous system, which yoga master BKS Iyengar says spans 600 miles in the human body. Yowza. That's a veritable superhighway. I've been on road trips, and a lot can go terribly wrong in 600 miles. Yogic breathing goes a long way toward repairing those stress-created rough patches of road.

One of the acharyas at the ashram mentioned a study she'd read about the effects of stress. It takes about twenty minutes of shallow breathing to dump an unsustainable amount of stress hormones into your system. The antidote, of course, is to breath slowly, deeply and consciously.

Sometimes I have to go fast, like when I drove I-25 to Denver on Wednesday night. You can get squashed if you go less than 75 mph on some stretches. But mostly I go slow. It takes some planning. It takes me about eight minutes to get to work every morning, when conditions are perfect. But they rarely are. The stoplights are out of sync, road construction, a pedestrian in the crosswalk. So I tack on another five minutes to make sure I'm not rushing before I get to work. I throw in as many deep, conscious breaths as I can along the way. Try it some time. You'll enjoy the time you have more.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Obamacare Upheld

In today's Longmont Daily-Times Call, there was a story about a tourist from California who was evacuated from her motel in Estes Park during the fire there last Saturday. Her next destination: Colorado Springs, specifically in the area of the Waldo Canyon fire. It must seem to this poor woman that the whole state of Colorado is on fire.

Similarly, there has been so much overheated rhetoric over the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as I'm now resigned to calling it, that I'm hoping today's Supreme Court's decision at least puts an ice cube or two on the debate. I'm relieved that the ruling came down in favor of preserving Obamacare. On SCOTUSblog, UCLA constitutional law professor Adam Winkler writes:
"With this deft ruling, Roberts avoided what was certain to be a cascade of criticism of the high court. No Supreme Court has struck down a president's signature piece of legislation in over 75 years. Had Obamacare been voided, it would have inevitably led to charges of aggressive judicial activism. Roberts peered over the abyss and decided he didn't want to go there."
 Hallelujah. Today sanity prevailed.

Now can somebody please put out all these fires in Colorado, already?

Friday, June 15, 2012

The V-word

One of my favorite shows ever was "Tales of the City." Whenever I need to escape, TOTC is one of my go-tos, along with "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "Manhattan." Sometimes all three at a time, when I've really got the mean reds. To say TOTC is a series about a bunch of goofy characters in late 70s San Francisco is accurate, but it just doesn't do it justice. The series combines disco culture and Hitchcock's "Vertigo," old-money San Franciscans and a little girl from small town Ohio's infatuation with the City, and it all makes sense. Or at least enough for me. And what's not to love about Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney?

A memorable scene is when a main character, Mona Ramsey, is doing an advertising pitch for an underwear company. The old guys from the undies company object to the phrase "cotton crotch." She is visibly annoyed. What other word to replace crotch? She ends the meeting--and her career at the agency--with "You don't like the word 'crotch'? Well, I'll give you crotch! Crotch, crotch, crotch!"

Mona's travails remind me of Michigan Rep. Lisa Brown's. Yesterday Rep. Brown was barred from speaking on the floor of the Michigan House for comments she made about a pending bill that would restrict access to abortion, ""I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. [Rep. Brown is Jewish.] Why are you asking me to adopt yours?"

In her own "crotch, crotch, crotch" statement, Rep Brown spoke the words that got her into trouble with Republican leaders: "And finally, Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but 'no' means 'no.'"

Saucy, yes. But barred from speaking worthy? Uh-uh. No state legislature is a family viewing zone. Everyone doing business there is an adult over the age of 18. As Rep. Brown stated later, at least she had the courtesy to use the anatomically correct word. Not crotch, or the other c-word, but the Latin-derived word for part of the female anatomy.

Now if this was 1912, right at the tail-end of the Victorian era, this wouldn't surprise me. But's it's 2012, for crying out loud. The 60s and 70s happened. If you're talking abortion on the floor of a state legislature, I hate to tell you guys, you're talking vaginas.Vagina, vagina, vagina. There. I said it. Three times. Maybe people all across the country should link hands and sing a happy vagina song to demonstrate the ridiculousness that this is 2012. 2012!!!

These so-called House leaders need to put on their big boy pants. My kids are Love and Logic raised, so I'm a big believer in natural consequences. So I've got a natural consequence for the guys who barred Rep. Lisa Brown to watch a performance of "The Vagina Monologues," preferably starring Jane Fonda, Janeane Garofolo and Eve Ensler (no doubt their favorite liberal women). They'll hear the word vagina, and the various indignities vaginas suffer, more than they ever bargained for.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Fourth Estate

I was part of a discussion where someone was arguing that the media is most responsible for what ails our country. He cited Geraldo Rivera--Geraldo!!--as one of the culprits. Finally! Something we could agree on, that Geraldo is a joke.

But seriously. Anyone who would mistake Geraldo for a journalist has already disqualified himself from continuing to argue in good faith. But he was determined to make his point.

"Well, what about Columbine? Those kids learned everything they knew about guns from what they read in magazines and saw on TV."

OK, I can go along with that. There's a lot of stuff in the media that is simply out there, like how to build a nuclear bomb, that is lethal when combined with mental illness and an axe to grind. There's also the issue that guns are too readily available, sanctioned by a permissive government hiding behind an archaic interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Nor do I buy the argument that media makes people mentally ill. The proclivity is already there. The "news" is fuel for mental illness, just as somebody looking at them the wrong way is.

And besides, if I were, God forbid, one of the parents whose kid had died at Columbine or any other school shooting, I'd want this horror to be discussed in the media. That's why there's a Holocaust Museum--to make sure people remember.

Whether people like it or not, the Fourth Estate serves a useful purpose in U.S. democracy, or what's left of it. People complain about the "liberal media," while me and my liberal friends bitch about FOX News. If you want to watch real journalists practicing their craft--and btw, you can catch Geraldo's show on FOX, just sayin'--look to Jim Lehrer's and his cohorts weekdays on PBS' "The Newshour." These journalist know how to ask questions and actually listen for the answers.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Freedom isn't free redux

In Longmont, the town where I've lived for the past twelve years, the City Council has been grappling with the issue of whether to allow hydraulic fracturing, more commonly called fracking, to take place within city limits. The predictable arguments have already begun: Do you heat your house or drive a car? Then you're already pro-fracking, because being against it makes no sense. Do communities want to risk groundwater pollution and other unknown effects of the practice of fracking? Then let municipalities, rather than state and federal governments, decide if and how they want to proceed with fracking.

Last weekend the fracking debate literally came to my door, or rather, the door of my current workplace, Cheese Importers. A local group was collecting signatures for an initiative they seek to put on the November ballot that would ban fracking. One of my co-workers argued that these people are stupid.

Now I do have some questions about the wisdom of fracking in urban areas like the one where I live, so I might very well be one of the "stupid" people who signs the petition. I may even vote for a continued ban on fracking in Longmont, if enough stupid people actually sign the petition. I''m also trying very hard to reverse a lifelong tendency to personalize everything that is said and done in my presence.

"They do have the right to petition. It's a First Amendment right." (Pretty smart response, huh? I'm still drafting off my trip to Washington.)

"Yeah, the right to be stupid," he said, before walking away.

True enough. Everyone risks being stupid when they take a stand, especially when opponents are at least as equally convinced that their viewpoint is correct. I also wanted to laugh, because that's a funny thing to say. But I have to be honest, I was also personalizing. I flinched at the thought that he might think I'm stupid.

Just so you know, I have a lot of respect for this guy. He served in Afghanistan, and the dude knows how to work. He doesn't think anything's beneath him. One thing I'm wondering, though--isn't one of the things he served for was for peoples' right to petition, even to be stupid?

Or is the freedom isn't free argument really about ensuring that everyone sees the world in the same way, i.e., that every military action that our country takes is morally sanctified? I won't be coy about stating my opinion--freedom of speech trumps a country's freedom to make war against any other country it pleases.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori?

Translation: "Sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country." (Horace's Odes)

I accompanied my eighth-grade son's class to Arlington National Cemetery the Sunday before Memorial Day. I am not known for my pro-war credentials, so I expected to feel uncomfortable at the least, and downright annoyed at worse. Memorial Day Eve is a special time to visit Arlington, where 300,000 American flags graced every grave. I appreciate that act of devotion. I like to think that each of the people who placed the flags said a little blessing as they worked. As we walked along the pleasant grounds of what was once Robert E. Lee's home, it struck me that the tombstones were themselves an ode to the armed services' devotion to bringing order of chaos. As a poetic device, I appreciate that. Order is good. It doesn't erase the fact that legions of war dead, and those who suffered through yet survived the brutality of combat, lie beneath the ground.

We went to the Kennedy family's plot. John and Bobby died so long ago they might as well have lived at the same time as Horace. But I was surprised to find myself moved to tears when I came to Teddy's grave. There's no denying that the man was an old sinner, but I ended up respecting him for his ability to get things done in our national legislature, a feat that appears to have died with him. There were several medals from labor unions atop his grave, and a St. Christopher medal, and some coins and other tokens people had left behind. Maybe I had such a strong response because he died almost three years ago. I don't know. But like I said, it surprised me.

The brother of a seventh-grade student from the middle school had been recently buried in Arlington, and she had asked us to visit his grave. All 45 of us walked to the recent graves. That was also very moving.

So back to what Horace said. I'm always put off when I hear people say that freedom isn't free. To me, that means that somebody else's child or spouse or close relative or friend has had to give their lives so we can be free. Wars keep getting more and more expensive, literally and figuratively, and less and less do they serve the holy purposes stated by our leaders. How many wars have we had to end all wars, and yet war still rages in Afghanistan and Darfur and is brewing elsewhere?

We behave as if someday we're going to get the whole war thing right, when only God has the power to make all things right. Because we as a species seem to be almost incapable of it. The best we can do is to stop making things wrong.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Stew of Time

Author Robert Caro has published the fourth volume of his biography of LBJ. The first volume was published in 1982. In an interview on NPR, he speaks of his writing process:

CARO: Well, I write in long hand. You know, my first three or four drafts, you can see, are on legal pads in long hand. And then I go to a typewriter, and I know everybody's switching to a computer. And I'm sort of laughed at. You know, everyone says you could do it faster. However, I'm not sure that in my case that faster is better.

I highlight the first and last lines because both are true for me, and go to the truth that slow and steady is my mode.

Who knows how I got to be this way, in this go-go country where I was born and raised, where stopping at traffic signals is widely viewed as an affront to forward progress. It's not just because of my advancing age. I've always been drawn to doing things my own way, in my own time. Caro's comments points to committing oneself to the stew of time. Time is the main ingredient in a stew, where flavors and textures influence each other. Richer flavor is the result.

Speaking of rich flavor, Mahalia Jackson's "I'm Gonna Wait Until My Change Comes" played on my MP3 today. What a voice. What a teacher, through this song, of the benefit of waiting--again, that ingredient of time--for the best to come to you, rather than pushing through the red lights.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thoughts on Leadership

When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, a friend preferred Hillary Clinton to him because he was "too preachy."

"Like Martin Luther King, Jr., preachy? That's not a bad thing."

"If you're standing in front of a congregation, it's not a problem. But a country?" She shook her head. "I want people to be effective."

I chalk it up to a difference in the leadership styles we prefer. After eight years of George W. Bush, I for one was ready to be inspired. To listen to a president who knows how to use the English language elegantly and effectively, passionately and convincingly. To teach. All things a preacher does.

I follow Newark mayor Cory Booker on twitter, and he posted a list last week I find inspirational:

1. To create wealth: give more than you get
2. To obtain freedom: adopt discipline
3. To gain tomorrow: sacrifice today
4. To be secure: take risks
5. To lead: serve
6. To get up: lift another
7. To get revenge: forgive
8. To win: find the lessons in loss
9. To fly: fall often
10. To change the world: change yourself

I can hear my friend saying, "Save it for the pulpit." But I get jazzed hearing talk like this from politicians. As a leader with serious responsibilities, he's on the lookout for the best thinking, which often leads to the best doing and feeling.

Any thoughts on leadership styles?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Candidates Chase Skirts

And no, I'm not talking about bimbo eruptions and Secret Service prostitution scandals. I'm talking about the presidential candidates duking it out for the female vote in November.

I've admired Ann Romney since the 2008 presidential campaign. She is well-spoken and genuine. I've long wondered why she isn't the presidential candidate. She might have a real shot at winning.

So I didn't find it funny when a Democratic strategist said that Mrs. Romney had "never worked a day in her life," intimating that she couldn't therefore understand the economic pressures other mothers face. I was a stay-at-home mom for almost ten years, and I know what people in the world of productivity and commerce think of us. We're soap-opera addicted slackers who have let ourselves go, eating bonbons and whatnot. This attitude is what got me fired up to write this blog in the first place, to give voice and value to people who are doing the non-flashy work everyone depends on. When I was at home with my kids, I was a working mom, and I'm quite sure that although Mrs. Romney had help raising her kids, she too was a working mom. A functioning mom, who was emotionally involved with each of her five children. Just because I didn't get a paycheck for my work didn't make it any less valuable. My husband's paycheck was--and still isn't--anywhere near as large as Mr. Romney's, so I do know what from economic pressures.

What is laughable about this is how the Republican candidates and strategists have jumped on Hilary Rosen's foot-in-mouth statement as a sign that Democrats and by extension President Obama are out of touch with moms, wherever they work, and women in general.

I still think Obama and the Democrats have the advantage. One unfortunate statement from a strategist does not undo the fact that Republicans, led by Gov. Rick Perry, and shutting down Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas, and national Republicans are calling for cancellation of government support of family planning. The consequence is that women who live paycheck to paycheck and depend on free birth control and women's health screening will have access to neither. More women are going to get pregnant and have babies they can't support. And the fathers of their children are likely struggling, too.

Who's going to pay for this? The high-minded right-wing politicians and activists who are high-fiving each other for destroying Planned Parenthood clinics by a million cuts? Taxpayers will fund these stressed families, at a likely higher cost than supporting the services family-planning clinics provice, in the same way that taxpayers pay for health care for the working poor, the underinsured and the uninsured.

Some say it's a moral issue--that people who can't afford birth contol shouldn't be having sex. Please. Since when has poverty been equated with vows of celibacy? I work with a young man from Mexico who pointed out to me that in his country, people who are too poor to go out or can't afford a TV have the largest families. " 'Cause what else is there for them to do?" Oh, yeah, they could read the bible together, skipping the sexy parts, of course.

So it bears repeating: keeping Planned Parenthood and other family planning services strong is the best use of taxpayer money. I'm betting there will be a lot of other women who vote accordingly.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Triple Bind

Yesterday Don, Patrick and I visited our next-door neighbors and their newborn identical twin daughters, who were born prematurely on February 16. They're both beautiful and perfectly formed, like their parents and their older brother and sister. They are a loving, devoted family who will make the sudden doubling in the number of children in the family work for everyone. I wish every child could be born into a family like this.

Earlier in the day I attended an adult education session at my church outlining the youth sex trade in the U.S. Some of the kids forced into prostitution are fleeing abusive homes. Imagine the horror of finding that the world is even more brutal than the one you escaped from. Others are kids from loving homes who are lured by pimps into sexual slavery.

Most people agree that abortion is undesirable and should be avoided. Having said that, I don't believe that abortion, which has been legal and safe in this country since 1974, should be banned, even if that were possible. That genie is out of the bottle. Women have been ending unplanned pregnancies for centuries, often at great peril to their health. I've never understood why a civilized people would want to go back to a time when known medicine would be denied on supposedly moral grounds.

So I'm all for preventing pregnancies to reduce the need for abortion and increase the likelihood that more babies are born into families prepared to raise them in loving homes. But now on top of the right-to-life movement doing all they can to ban abortions, we've got another contingent who want to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides complete reproductive services to low-income women. They also seek to ensure that birth control and other reproductive services are not covered for employees of some religious organzations. For crying out loud. Wasn't family planning settled on fifty years ago as a societal good?

The third coil of the triple bind for women is that Viagra is still covered by most major health care insurers. Don't get pregnant. Don't have abortions. And be a darling--don't say no to a man with an everlasting erection.

There's no getting this straight, because it's good, old-fashioned crazy-making, designed to confuse women so much they don't know what to do. I can't make this crazy-making go away, any more than I could wish away unplanned pregnancy, abortion, and most especially, the scourge of Viagra.

I'll leave the moralizing to those who believe it's their business to tell other people when to have sex, who to have it with and whether or not to continue or end an unplanned pregnancy. All I can recommend is that you take the most prudent, moderate path--use contraception if you don't want to get pregnant.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

God Gets a Bum Rap

In this week's Parade magazine, Daniel Radcliffe sounded off on God. "I have a problem with religion or anything that says, 'We have all the answers,' because there’s no such thing as 'the answers.' We’re complex. We change our minds on issues all the time. Religion leaves no room for human complexity."

If sounding off on God is good enough for the guy who played Harry Potter, then I figure it's good enough for me. And I have problem with what young Mr. Radcliffe said. Because my experience of religion has not given me all the answers. Au contraire. Though I was raised a Catholic and still identify as a Christian, despite my interest in all things spiritual, I'm more in line with Mahatma Gandhi, who observed, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ."

I don't have any more proof than the next guy that God exists, or doesn't exist. So I'll quote another wise guy, the Dalai Lama, who says, "My religion is kindness." Amen to that. I'd add gratitude. And an expectation that good things are in store for each of us, if we only align our desire with what is actually good and wholesome for us.

In my life I've put a lot of pressure on myself, and at the advice of a very wise woman, Renay Oshop, I've spent the last three years learning to let go of those old patterns and allow room for grace to work. I can't say I've been a star student at the grace thing.

But like any mediocre student, I've learned something. I don't know what else to do now, except head in the direction of grace's slow drip, which in the Creator's wisdom is the only way I can receive it. I couldn't handle fast honey, so I get it slowly. I used to feel unblessed and unlucky. Now I know that's an old story I used to tell myself. By telling myself that story, I was cutting off the possibility of noticing what I've been receiving and being grateful for it. Now I'm noticing that things are being placed in my path, whether it's objects or people appearing at the right time, or more subtle opportunities. I don't know where it's all leading--to want to know is to apply pressure again--but watching and waiting for the good stuff is a lot more fun than the old way. It's like collecting pennies vs. waiting for fortune to rain down on me, and only me.

Whether I've noticed it or not, the good stuff has always come to me. Because the God I know doesn't withhold. The God I know is always rooting for us, for me. For everyone. It's no accident that our ancestors worshipped the sun, which gives its light and warmth to all, worthy and unworthy unlike. God doesn't believe in terms of worth or lack of worth. That's how we humans punish each other. So that's another part of my religion--abstaining from the cycle of punishing those deemed unworthy of love.

So believe. Or don't. Because whoever you are, the sun is shining on you