Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What a year :)

Hello All

Hope the holidays have been wonderful for you and yours. This is my end-of year note - primarily to alleviate residual guilt for not sending cards (I love getting them but can't bring myself to do the work of sending), and also to allow myself a little personal reflection. Bonus is getting to keep in touch with those dear to me :)

I've been from hither to yon this year, in hundreds of ways it seems. I've gone from engaged and nervous to single and peaceful. It's not the being single, but rather the getting really solid about how I move through the world, and the internal clockwork that is stronger than ever.

Staying true to ourselves at all costs is a balancing act - with the demand of constant evaluation. And when you get to Happiness, you have to fight to keep it. But I'm finding the diligence pays off!!

My delectable dessert is to finally not be just intellectually ok with being single but also deep down in my gut. This has to be one of the biggest sweet victories of my life. Makes 2008 a success no matter the stock market.

This transformation was hard fought, hard won and is something of a theme for the year - internal growth and big revelations - and also a culmination of years of work.

Not that it will stop friends and family from worrying about me, (grin) but that's ok. I'm sure I'm good for them, y'all, at least sometimes.

People who take large risks, whether financial or emotional or physical seem to exist to make the rest of us appreciate safety. And while I still love the thrill of taking chances, I have to say being a bit more jaded, works in my favor. I'd recommend it to anyone - even optimists.

Especially optimists.

I've also traveled a wide arc in the career/financial arena - from a fantastic job that raked in the dough, top of my career, to suddenly laid off and looking. A Sabbatical wasn't what I had it mind, a year ago, but that's what has happened. It's been just what I needed.

The gift in this is that the search for my Life's Work continues, in several major cities that I love - Atlanta, Charlotte, but primarily St. Louis. Even considered Winston-Salem, where the sisters live, if something comes up there.

Holding to my vision doesn't mean it will happen right now, so it could be another IT job, or Project Management, or even litigation technology, but I'm trusting that Spirit will lead me to something fantastic. I'd love to travel and find a way to bring healing to the world, even if just one small corner.

My hope is for non-profit management or teaching.

A great part of this year has been reconnecting to many high school and college friends, and staying more connected to dear Charlotte and St. Louis friends. Facebook is a great tool for socializing when we are spread all over the country, and lead such full lives!

As far as the kids, they had a great year for the most part. Patrick is a Junior in high school now, and Madeleine is a sophomore. Both are thinking about colleges and working on keeping their grades up. Both have Honors and Advanced Honors classes, A/B averages and have made new friends in the Nashville suburb where they live.

Madeleine is doing community service work and has gotten involved with several clubs at school, while Patrick is still supporting his Thunderbird with working at Rack Room shoes and dreaming of a cool Mustang.

I try not to think too much about Patrick driving, (he's a good driver) or his grades sliding because of work, or that Madeleine is so beautiful that she could forget what I've taught them about beauty is on the inside.

Mostly I am humbled to speechlessness at what amazing people these kids are becoming. Probably in spite of me. I used to pray with them at night, and ended with "Thank you G-d for making me their Mommy." Still do with my little one :)

Gwyneth is in 4th grade and we've been homeschooling since November, when we moved all our things into storage. It's been interesting, hard and fun but rewarding. Until we settle in a new home it's the best way to keep her moving forward. She reads like a demon (go figure ) and scores advanced in language arts and math. Still, I have renewed respect for all my Mom friends who tackle this - it's an enormous responsibility. I can't say I'm up for it long term, but short term it works for us.

My mantra is "Do no harm." lol But Latin, French, chess and knitting, math theory are not for the faint of heart.

Gwyneth was taking cello this last Fall, but with the shifting we haven't picked it up again. On the list for 2009 is cello for Gwyneth and voice for Madeleine (again). Hopefully Patrick will go back to lacrosse - he's really amazing to watch.

Speaking of plans, we are officially in transition now and I've begun to discipline myself to stop making plans until something definite works out in my career. It's actually another good sign - slowing down to wait for the right answer to bubble to the surface.

I learned this lesson years ago, when making some major decisions in my life. Ever since it's at least some comfort to keep waiting for that sense of peace when I choose a path. I can always look back and be sure I did the best I could, as we all do, whether we know it or not!

My work with homeless teens had to pause during my months of moving and travel, but I'm planning to re-engage in Atlanta and will be creating a database for tracking grants for them. I'll also be helping with writing some grants, so anyone with experience in this arena, I'd love to hear from you. Who knows, maybe that will be my new calling - helping foundations give out money to the best non-profits. I used to have several non-profit clients when I was an independent consultant so there is some sense of how much I enjoy working with people who devote their lives to making a difference.

I continue the knitting of my life, not smooth and predictable but loops built on loops, and often bumpy. But still a useful thing emerges, eventually, at least a testament to the things we don't understand - the timing of tragedy, seen in friends with cancer and debilitating chronic illness or in the faces of the homeless; the moments of sweet grace that fill my heart to the brim, sunset on snow, bald eagles in the wild, my child's embrace, holding hands with someone you love; G-d herself.

It's good to get to the point where Love is still everything, and yet just a gift. It's great to get stuck, and then unstuck this year, and learn deeply what is to be learned. It's good to be grown up, and still not know what I will be.

Best of all, it's beautiful to know that my friends and family are on the journey with me - each of us alone, and together. Thanks for going wild places with me.

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A leaf print

In high school there was a funny spot on one of my favorite roads. I was lucky to live on Unicoi State Park, in north Georgia, and on the border of the Chattahoochee National Forest with my family. There were 6 of us in a tiny two bedroom cabin, so I spent as many hours outside as I could.

On our road, the one up to Anna Ruby Falls, I found a place where the outline of a leaf was perfectly placed on one of the double yellow lines. A truck had come along and painted those lines, and this defiant leaf stayed there, leaving black leaf shadow on the yellow stripe.

I remembered that leaf print the other day, when I was thinking about all the miles of road before and after that spot. What stood out was just the negative space, the place where the leaf had been, but was no more.

The compelling thing about it, to me, was the impact - random but sure - of one leaf in the same safe predictable pattern of yellow ribbon over a mountain road in a forest of deep green and lush waters, filled with trout and the pulse of the earth.

Yellow paint was man's imprint, attempting to bring some order to what is essentially chaos. I guess that's what I loved about that small act of defiance.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Burn Out, the Wall, and Forgiveness

Not a lot of time to post with so much time on the road. In Winston Salem this week, was in Charlotte last week, helping a very sick friend, and in Atlanta the week before to consult for a small startup in my field.

It's all good, but looks like end of January before we settle into a house, and frankly, as much as I love seeing everyone, it will be good to be Home.

Today I hit the Wall - burn out big time and prowling snarling swipes at people around me. I'd like to think I was getting it out of my system, but I'm not at all sure that I'm in the clear.

It was an effort to get myself centered, even after yoga. I had to take a walk then get spring rolls and wonton soup with G to regain my ability to walk on two legs, upright, mostly.

Blogging can also help, since I usually have a list of topics I'd like to tackle. For a few days I've had this story on my mind, and it got the attention off of my b-tchy self :

The story of the F18 that went down in a San Diego neighborhood, killing a mother, two small children and their grandmother caught my attention last week, as it did for many of us. The thought of losing everything material is hard enough to fathom, much less your entire family. What moved me to tears was that the husband immediately forgave the pilot, who survived by ejecting, and called him "one of our national treasures".

What an amazing reaction to so much tragedy.

I also found today a new site via NPR, Interesting premise that we can actively promote healing, and life changing decisions with a campaign.

Forgiveness, is after all, a decision.

Not necessarily an easy decision, but like walking thru a door that once seemed entirely stuck, if you put your mind to it, anything can be forgiven.

Even the gal in Atlanta who sold her husband's collector boxing glove - with Muhammad Ali's signature! ... to her ex boyfriend's brother. Ouch. Still makes me cringe to think of it.

Somehow forgiving others seems directly linked to our ability to find compassion for ourselves. Also, not always easy. This has been a challenge of mine for years. Only recently have I gotten better at letting go of my own often harsh standards for myself.

Years ago I read that the Greeks "discovered" the Perfect Circle in ancient times, and that was when the idea of perfectionism was added to philosophy, religion, etc.

The downside is that we limit ourselves, and others, if we expect more than is reasonable. And isn't that the beginning of hurt, disappointment, resentment and anger? Next thing you know we have something to forgive. Or worse, ask forgiveness for!

So this year I've worked on both being gentle with myself, and my mistakes. I especially work on this because I firmly believe that making mistakes is a sign of growth. When I used to train software classes I once had an advance Excel class that terrified me, simply because I had never taught it before, and the material was difficult.

But worse than my own shaky command of advanced formulas and pivot tables, was the very timid class I was addressing. They followed my every instruction perfectly, lockstep and it made me nearly hyperventilate with stress.

By the end of the first break, I had to make some mistakes (not hard) to convince them this was good! I reminded them that one of the primary reasons to get into a group for instruction, in my view, was to have a "free ride" to stumble, and without a deadline or boss hanging over you!

As for others, yeah, I do try to practice forgiveness, even for those close to me (funny how that can be harder than forgiving a complete stranger). I work to see the world through their eyes, and try to consider them with as much compassion as possible. Especially for my ex and his wife. When we disagree, as we are now over holiday visitation, and I get those too familiar nasty emails, I at least work to sidestep the aggression. Doesn't mean I get what I want, necessarily, but I'm certainly more peaceful, and a better parent than I would have been otherwise.

So too I have to be patient with my transition right now. I'm homeschooling Gwyneth for a few weeks, and visiting friends and family while I can, before we settle in St. Louis next month. Gwyneth will have regular time with her dad again, and I hope to see more of Patrick and Madeleine, who miss their friends.

Most of all I have to trust that even tho the move to Atlanta didn't work out, and the hoped-for move back to Charlotte didn't end up the best choice for my family, that it is all Good.

What the hell, even if it isn't I'm going to have fun - most days - on the way.

Send blessings and prayers for the young husband in San Diego who lost everything in a matter of seconds. His family, his home, his world. May our friends with serious illnesses also be wrapped in comfort and love every day - Cindy in Charlotte, Anne in St. Louis, and my substantially pregnant sister, who almost went into labor a few weeks ago, at the end of her second trimester, Lura Katherine.

And please remember the homeless, especially the teens and children.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Walking in Grace

The sweetest thing about holidays, to me, is that they give us chances to reflect. I love that the Jewish High Holy days, usually in September, are about spending time thinking about the past year and how we conducted our lives. We are commanded to right wrongs, to ask for forgiveness from those we've hurt, and to consider how we can live the next year more faithfully.

What kind of faith we decide to follow, and how we carry that out can continue in our celebration of Thanksgiving. Being grateful at High Holy Days for another year (being written in the book of Life) carries over into the feast we enjoy with friends and family, and we look for the Blessings.

To me this is how we walk in Grace. Stumbling through life, or skating on the surfaces is easy, but it misses so much. When we actively look for the good things, what has gone right with our day, or our lives, we have a chance to be grateful for the small and big stuff.

Everyday life has so many irritating and frustrating events, stuff of what could be a downward spiral. We pay bills and notice how we have less money in the bank, instead of being glad we can work, have the funds to pay for our debts, and give back to the world.

Next month comes another favorite holiday - the winter season of Light. Channuka, Christmas, Winter Solstice. All these give us a chance to actively help heal the world. We can concentrate on what we get, or we can focus on giving. I'm pretty sure the rituals began with giving because there, in the midst of the darkest days of the year, in the cold and unforgiving world, we need to remember that Spring will come, and that redemption is with us always.

Many faiths believe that redemption comes thru the work we do to heal the world. In Judasim there are two twin notions, tzedakah and tikkun olam. I see tzedakah as the concrete expression of gratitude, giving to the poor, working in the soup kitchen, sponsoring a family for Christmas (yes, Jews routinely do this every year :)

Tikkun olam, on the other hand, is the notion of healing the world, a mandate by G-d who chose us all as partners in creation. We decide if we will help in those intangible ways when we consider tikkun olam. Listening to a troubled child, visiting a sick friend, emailing someone who may be lonely or frightened is tikkun olam. So is comforting the bereaved, and praying for the hurts that come from the disasters of life.

Somehow I find that faith is how I hold onto the joy. The broken-ness of the world is not less, but my ability to embrace it, if I hold strong to my faith in the lovingkindess of a power greater than me, greater than all the pain and suffering - this gets me by. And more, it lets me celebrate all the transcendent beauty, a patch of sunshine, a smile from a stranger because he is walking a puppy on the sidewalk, the memory of a child held in complete love.

Walking in Grace is also about surrender. I can't make it all better, but I can extend myself to the heart of the matter, to soothe my own pain and understand some of what others are going thru. Sometimes just not feeling so alone is a healing gesture, to let someone know you are there, or have been there and came thru the dark times, in spite of how bad it was. There is grace when we surrender to how hard life can be.

Ultimately I see the past of my life, littered with mistakes and triumphs, and likewise the lives of others, as valuable for the journey we take. If I find joy, it's because I've fought for it.

Look at all the good that comes when we tenaciously grip our right to happiness, and to hope, pushing forward to let go of what doesn't work in our lives, staying committed to finding our truths, to growing in the right direction.

One huge benefit of all this work is our children are graced. They see our struggles and, as always, are watching, learning. If we let them in on our joys and sorrows, our mistakes and lessons, then they truly get what we've always wanted for them - more.

More what? Certainly not more things. In fact I hope my kids learn to be content (and joyful) with LESS. Letting go of the material will free them for lives of true freedom, like lovely monks who journey with only their bowls. No wonder we breathe deeply in the presence of those holy people who have set aside worldly ideas of success. Mother Theresa, the Dali Lama, Jesus, Gandhi, Abraham and Sarah. They all surrendered, let go, worked to heal the world, found joy and, deeply grateful, walked in faith and grace.

I hope to see my kids, and all the children I love, gain more understanding of how to create a life well lived. How to walk in compassion and deep gratitude. How to balance taking care of themselves with helping to heal the world. I hope they fight for happiness and joy. I hope they grow until the last breath they draw, touching the Infinite, and know there is always more for all of us.

Blessings on you all this day, and every day. May our lives be for a blessing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Where's Vicki?

Ok - I'm sorry to say that between traveling, moving and a rotten cold, I've been slack on the electronic front. Even email has been a bit much to keep up with, but it's manageable as long as I remember not to stay on the phone all day.

I'm in St. Louis this week, and back here for Thanksgiving with the kids. In October I spent about 10 days here, and about that much in Charlotte. Then I returned to Atlanta to pack all my things into storage and hit the road jack. I felt I needed to be in "the Lou" to find work here, and still hope to make it to Charlotte to visit before the end of the year. (But no promises.)

Background: I've been looking in several cities for a great position, which determines where we'd move to. Might have found it!

It looks like a move to St. Louis is probable, tho the company is in Atlanta. I hope to get a position ironed out in the next few weeks with a vendor there, doing what I've "groomed" myself for, electronic discovery, sometimes onsite, and lots of remote dial in. It's a great field, but hopefully this time on different terms!

The possibilities of being in Charlotte aren't gone, but I won't be based there. I will likely be traveling there for projects/consulting and also to south Florida, New Jersey, etc. Not moving to Charlotte makes me sad, but I feel really good about being in St. Louis where the big kids and I have such great friends and I have a good support network. No surprise that the kids come first.

I hope I'm finding a sweet spot in my career, where I can work, be independent, take care of Gwyneth and the kids, pay the bills, and also start up something here in St. Louis for homeless teens, an issue very important to me. Please send prayers for all of this to work out if it's the best move for us. It's not a done deal! (yikes)

Homeless Teens

It's really cold here, and while there are homeless services, none that I know of cater to the teens, who are often too young to be allowed into adult shelters. They are so vulnerable on the streets, to crime, to exploitation, to drugs and just sheer exposure. Please think of them this year when you consider holiday donations - Stand Up for Kids is a great organization helping homeless teens all over the country.

If you don't give to Stand Up, please give to another local homeless support organization! While many struggle during these hard times, there are few more vulnerable than the homeless in our country. They are old and young, medically and sometimes mentally challenged. They deserve basic food, shelter and medical care. And yet they are often the most maligned in our society.

Prayer Requests

I have two very close friends who are going thru tremendous health problems right now.

Cindy in Charlotte is having CFIDS challenges, and they suspect it may be a serious mito-chondrial neuromuscular disorder. She's been feeling lousy for many years, then downright sick (like the flu, for about 20 years) but got really sick almost two years ago with seizures. They look like epilepsy and leave her exhausted. Luckily she is able to give herself IV treatments at home every day, and has help. But it's so overwhelming. She has three great kids, two grown, and a wonderful husband, but your prayers will mean a lot. They just got a lab report back yesterday confirming the genetic disorder and now know her daughter could be at risk. Please keep Cindy and her family in your prayers as they go through determining new treatment options, and how to cope with the degenerative disease.

Another great dear friend, Anne, in St. Louis is going thru brain cancer treatment. She is a single mother of a wonderful guy, Greg, 12. It's lovely that she has a great support system here, and yet, at less than 40 it really isn't right that she has to do aggressive chemo and radiation. The next 6 weeks, (she's in week 2) will be tough. Thank goodness she has been working hard at staying in shape, since a heart attack about 10 years ago. Earlier this year she had to have a defibrillator put in for her heart. Now this cancer. Please keep her in your prayers. She's a fighter, but more than anything believes that prayers sustain her.

You who have know me long know I don't make friends lightly. These are two of the finest women I know. But while you are at it, say prayers for all those who are uncertain about their jobs, are struggling with health issues, or have other challenges. Be kind, we all are fighting battles unseen.

That's all I can muster today - more on Halloween, the election and aftermath later. Fascinating times we live in! :)
love wildly,

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Day of Judgement

How lovely that the political landscape seems to reflect the events yesterday and today in my faith, Judaism. Last night began Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year, and the first of the High Holy Days. We celebrate several things on this day, the creation of humankind, the beginning of the New Year, and we give thanks having had a good year. We also ask for forgiveness for sins against G-d (sins against fellow human beings must be worked out with them :) and finally to be inscribed in the Book of Life. (The Book of Life is not sealed until Yom Kippur, 10 days later, so we have a week to work with! lol. Some of us need the extra time!)

Here is a nice (and brief) explanation of the deeper meanings of Rosh Hashanah.

Worldly Day of Judgement

On the financial markets, it seems to me also a day of judgement. The markets are making radical corrections for all the excesses of the last 10 to 15 years. It's scary and painful, as these things usually are.

Unlike Reaganomics, the effects of this crisis truly can trickle down to the middle class. Losing that kind of asset volume in a single day is hard to comprehend (we lost $1.2 trillion in the 777 point dive the markets took yesterday) much less extrapolate to full effects and outcomes.

The most dire part of this to me is not the correction, however. It's that the complexity of the problem is so enormous, that even the very best minds ON THE PLANET can't seem to agree on one of the fundamentals of problem solving: defining the problem. They are struggling with defining the problem (although we can describe it, which is a start). Here is my arm chair quarterback attempt:

Banks are struggling with bad mortgages and other debt and can't figure out how much bad debt they are carrying overall, because valuation of these debts is tough in stable times, and nearly impossible when "the markets" are as crazy as they are now.

The value of the banks is tanking because the value of their assets are low and losing value.

People tend to want to get their money out of "failing" banks, even when their deposits are FDIC insured. (This is what happened with WaMu - they had a "stealth" run on the banks, over the last couple of weeks, and therefore they didn't have enough assets to support their debts, so the feds took them over and sold them.)

Failing banks makes the stock market tank, because the market depends on stability and there ain't none right now.

Once we have a better handle on the problem (which means, in part, determining how big is the problem) then we can chart a course. I'm all for taking the time to think this thru rather than having a shot-gun wedding.

In addition, if we are going to help save Wallstreet's bacon, we have to put some serious constraints on their behavior (also known as regulations) and a huge STOP on overblown executive compensation. In my world, when someone blows it, like these top execs have, then they get to suffer the consequences. Cut salaries and kill the golden parachutes. Or let them go out of business. (shrug)

As far as Main Street or the middle class, how is it that Congress is so dense about how to help? Once again they prove to have zero idea of what people need. Homeowners need time to get back on their feet, unemployed people need extended benefits, all taxpayers need a rebate so they can either save it (what a concept) or buy some essentials, like expensive gas! or repairs on their cars.

Small businesses could use a hand too. Again, some tax relief is the easiest way to help the most people quickly.

I hear people saying don't help either group, not Wallstreet or Mainstreet. This doesn't make sense to me. For one thing, it doesn't seem practical - since when does Congress sit around when there is an opportunity for grandstanding and partisan bickering?

Further, this is a real opportunity to change "business as usual" not only on Wall Street but in Congress. It's also a chance to rein in the Out of Control Administration (I'd personally like to hand them their head on a platter).

btw, I never thought that we should do nothing, and let the ship entirely sink. There is just no good reason to give Wallstreet and the Treasury a blank check and unlimited power, respectively.

The only thing that will work is a comprehensive fix - if we bail out investment banks, and do it right, we will also help Main Street - and that doesn't need to be implied or indirect assistance, but real changes.

Here is a brief article about why the bailout bill failed yesterday. Note that, if you listen to the 3 min audio, that the former head of the FDIC, William Issac, who also headed up the savings & loan bailout, has a low cost idea of how to fix this.

Now that would be some good news!

Here is Defazio's (Dem - Oregon, voted against the bailout) take on it. Check it out.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bailout Won't Cost Top Executives of Failed Firms a DIME

Here is something I found today, reported at CNNMoney on the new bailout plan (which I noticed they have begun to try to sell us as a "buy in" - ha!)

Limiting executive pay: Curbs would be placed on the compensation of executives at companies that sell mortgage assets to Treasury. Among them, companies that participate will not be able to deduct the salary they pay to executives above $500,000.

They also will not be allowed to write new contracts that allow for "golden parachutes" for their top 5 executives if they are fired or the company goes belly up. But the executives' current contracts, which may include golden parachutes, would still stand.

And the valuation of assets looks as clear as mud - no one knows how bad the problem is, and no one can say what assets are worth, especially in this market.

If the plan "costs the taxpayers money" then

If it ends up with a net loss, however, the bill says the president must propose legislation to recoup money from the financial industry if the rescue plan results in net losses to taxpayers five years after the plan is enacted.

In addition, Treasury would be allowed to take ownership stakes in participating companies.

Stemming foreclosures: The bill calls for the government, as an owner of a large number of mortgage securities, to exert influence on loan servicers to modify more troubled loans.

In cases where the government buys troubled mortgage loans directly from banks, it can adjust them more easily.

Exert influence?? That doesn't sound like real help for homeowners to me.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Beware and Auto Industry starts to Whine

From Robert Reich:

Congress knows the public is furious. That's why it's insisting on the above-mentioned provisions. But Congress and the Administration, and Wall Street, also know that the public -- and the media -- can easily be hoodwinked into believing that certain limits and protections have been built into the deal when, on closer inspection, they haven't. Wall Street is masterful at creating the appearances of value when there's no value there, and many of our representatives in Congress are well-versed in the art of creating the appearances of public gains when the gains are mostly private. So the media has to dig hard and look at the details of this deal.

Meanwhile, when no one was looking, American automakers are on the way to getting their own sweetheart deal from Congress -- billions, ostensibly to convert to more fuel-efficient cars. On a much smaller scale, this bailout is almost as outrageuos as Wall Street's. Detroit has known for years that it would eventually have to create fuel-efficient cars, but it kept producing SUVs and trucks because that was where the profits were. Japanese automakers in the US did the right thing, took the risk, made the investments in fuel-efficient technologies. But they're not getting bailed out.

More Financial News

Here is an article where Newt Gingrich questions the idea of a bailout.

And here is one that show McCain tried to stop this problem (the entire collapse) a few years ago. Clearly a biased article, but if true, very interesting.

And here is one opinion, from a leading economist, who served under Reagan, that we shouldn't do a bailout at all!

Note that Congress can't even figure out to close the markets for a few days or a week in order to have time to solve the problem. Isn't closing the market more sensible than seizing banks like Washington Mutual and selling off to JP Morgan?

Bottom line is that Congress is trying to figure out a solution WITHOUT KNOWING HOW MUCH BAD DEBT Wallstreet has. This is the biggest problem they face, lack of critical information.

The other big problem is that I don't hear of enough help for the average people who are actually the driving force in the economy. If we all hold on to all our money because Wallstreet blew it, then no one wins, we all lose.

Remember - the only defense is being informed and being actively involved.

It's not only your right, it's your obligation.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Financial Crisis


If you have not been paying attention to the economy and the bailout you should start bleating like a sheep being led to slaughter. Please take a moment to get involved.

If you are retired or have a few moments at home, and even if you are working full time, it is critical TODAY that you call and email our representatives to express your outrage and determination that we taxpayers should not pay for the bailout of hotshot Wallstreet firms who have been running around the financial playground of our country like a bunch of Wild Boys. They know we are mad, but if you aren't part of the solution, you're asking for it.

Here is an easy site to get your representative's phone number and electronic address/form.

Make no mistake - Wallstreet and Congress created this mess.* Our elected officials looked the other way because there was "prosperity"** and it was easier than making sure the rules were good and being followed. Compensation for the Wallstreet Bad Boys has been so astronomical that it begins to make the Enron scandal look tame.

This blog, by Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, is one of the best sites for intelligent, concise explanation of how we got into this mess, and what to do to fix it so that We The People are protected. (You can copy and paste his recommendations into an electronic message to Congress, if they make sense to you.)

NPR has a piece here on alternatives to a bailout, and how a similar "bailout" crippled the Japanese economy for a decade.

Here is another good news piece from NPR: It notes that (thank G-d) Congress is wary of the bailout that the Bush Administration is begging for, in their sudden realization that they could be presiding over the worst economic melt down in our country - yes, this crisis will rival the Crash of 1929 in the history books.

What makes me apoplectic is that all this was preventable, and now Bush is using FEAR, the only tool in his arsenal, to try to force us to pay the tab for CEOs and top executives who have made BILLIONS on our backs.

Do not assume that all will be well. It will work out only if there is a serious effort to fix the fundamental issues - transparency from Wallstreet firms, regulations that keep them in line, and a bailout that DOES NOT land on the back of taxpayers without guarantees that only the government can provide.

How ironic that Bush said last night this is "not normal market conditions" yet the market is doing exactly what it is designed to do: punishing those who take extraordinary risks, and while doing so earn higher than normal rates of return.

I am an armchair economist, so if any of you have information to add to this, please comment here.
* Ok, yes, and many of us have taken advantage of the easy credit they offered. Unsecured debt is very bad. Period.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I found myself pulling a 22 rifle out of the closet yesterday and quickly unpacking it from it's case. Wasn't a good day for the meter man.

My enlightened side laughs at my Southern side. It was pretty much an automatic response to someone protractedly beating on my front door, then going into the back yard, with determination, to poke around, get under my deck and then up on the back deck. The climb to the deck required some amount of sheer will because the steps were built by trolls in the age before treated lumber and screws. The climb is always aided with ropes and stupidity.

I didn't see any ropes, but this guy had the other required attribute. There was a gate at the top of the stairs, which he wisely decided not to cross in his one display of intelligence during our brief 10 minute interaction. He was off the deck and coming around the sun porch by the time I made it out there with the rifle in hand.

Brandishing is a good description of my angry waving it at him, along with some choice words about how he needed to get his ass out of my backyard.

Where I'm from you don't ever point a gun (aim) at anything unless you're going to shoot it. And you don't shoot at something unless you're going to kill it. So I didn't jam the rifle into my shoulder, bring my head down and swing the barrel toward him. I wasn't sure it was loaded, but again, you don't point a gun at someone even if you think it's not loaded. (Gun safety 101 is good for anyone, imnsho. There's serious wisdom in not pointing anything loaded, like a bad temper, at someone without due intention.)

Anyway he decided that brandishing a meter back at me was probably not enough protection so our brief encounter ended with him safely on the other side of his pickup truck, at the street, apparently writing me up. Funny he never delivered any documents to the door...

After a few minutes I cooled off enough to cancel the local 911 service I'd called in the heat of the moment. It had been a good move, in case I needed back up. (A 22 caliber bullet, for those who don't know, is just enough to make a guy mad unless you happen to hit his heart or brain, in which case you can kill him dead. So in self defense you can only count on a 22 slowing them down, and will give you a chance to make a better plan, while you are hoping they aren't really set on causing trouble or high on something seriously mind altering.)

More likely, he would have needed medical attention to get that small bullet out of his butt-cheek.

Then I was going to check the firearm, to see if it was indeed loaded. Some strange, meaning unfamiliar, action in the bolt made me want to test it, but I was dissuaded by cooler heads. Mom talked me out of discharging in the city limits. Oh yeah, I'm in Atlanta now!

I'm not in Kansas, Missouri or rural North Carolina any more. Not necessarily a good idea to fire off a round in the backyard.

This is the second time I've met an intruder with potentially deadly force on my property. The first was about 18 years ago in Charlotte when a realtor met me and a small but effective derringer at the door when he came in without permission while I was home alone. It was a similarly brief encounter.

There is something about someone being stupid that really can make you want to shoot them. (The trick is not being equally stupid and doing it.)

Having a gun around simply reinforces the belief that you don't have to talk things out. Hmm... sounds like a guy thing.

Now that I think about it, all of this strikes me as essentially male.

Watch this -

1. Someone does something stupid: Him, banging on the door, then exploring the backyard.

2. Someone got pissed off: Me.

3. (Fire) Power was brought into play and displayed, with some expertise.

4. Threats were made. Credibility established.

5. Retreat and cooling off followed.

6. Situation resolved in no time and life goes on, in spite of the paperwork.

I like tools that are effective. Sometimes they are so effective they become elegant.

Still, I don't particularly like the NRA (National Rifle Association) primarily because they didn't kick Dick Cheney out when he shot his "friend" (friends don't shoot friends). And I don't like them because, like Cheney, Bush, Rove and other radicals, they are zealous to the point of stupidity. But, like Unions, they have their place.

Communication Failures that Matter
Overlooking the fact that our electric company did inform the household of the updating of meters in our area, and that said communication was not duly disseminated (I had no idea they were coming and couldn't read the small print on his itty bitty truck), and that he did have a meter in his hand, assessed to be new thru the window, if we put this in economic terms, I have zero motivation right now to be helpful when they send me a moron to install the meter.

Flexible Boundaries
Consider how a child, in contrast, would be greeted at my back window. No question I'd want to know what they were doing out there, and would handle the situation, but with an entirely different attitude. Children don't constitute a threat. Boundaries don't need to be protected. In fact more children should be comfortable with roaming across their neighbors' yards. It's as American as apple pie and necessary to their healthy development, even if it ticks off a senior citizen or two.

If I had been in the great outdoors, on either public land or someone else's property, I'd view any meter man with a fairly indifferent gaze.

But IN my home, with a gun, and an obnoxious zealous intruder, the entire scene played differently.

There have been times in my life when I questioned one of the fundamental underpinnings of capitalism: ownership of property, in this case, real property.

Yesterday was not one of them.

Friday, August 29, 2008


This cracks me up. I couldn't spell "pilgrimage" and had to look it up. Wonder if I should be writing about something I can't spell??

The idea came to me today that as my life continues to evolve, what I've set out on, unwittingly, or rather unintentionally, is a journey of a lifetime. I don't mean to say I've done it without wit - hopefully there is that ;) and I wasn't completely without intention, but now I see more clearly, having trudged to the top of another hill.

Those of you with the stomach to hang in for the next chapter have probably often wondered at my risk taking. There was the move to St. Louis for what seemed very good reasons at the time, and then to Atlanta a few years later for more solid reasons.

Both of those moves were for incredible opportunities that didn't work out. Truth is people do this all the time. They make a big move and it fails. Other times it works. I'd guess the ratio is about 75% success to 25% mistake.

But then who is to say it wasn't worth it? Isn't that like looking back at a bad marriage that begat beautiful miraculous children and saying, "Yeah, it wasn't worth it."? Welcome to the realm of paradox my friend.

I did have fantastic successes in St. Louis - I got to have time with the kids, extra when between jobs, bought a beautiful house, left a bad marriage and met some truly wonderful people. I got involved with AFG (alanon family groups) and into recovery, what I call emotional bootcamp, and had a cool job when I decided to leave.

Atlanta has also been great for other reasons. I've had this year of "lying fallow" while I looked for what was to be next. I got to reconnect with family, old friends and again, have met some beautiful people. I love Roswell and the river, bought a fly rod, volunteer and manage to keep so busy I still need a calendar so I don't screw up appointments.

I've worked some, enjoyed some windfalls, and had lots of time to myself - a very good thing for someone who needed a chance to think things through.

The details of how aren't important, but I've come to see that my resistance to working inside another law firm make perfect sense. I have to move on, into something else. Tho I may consult since I still love eDiscovery (electronic discovery for litigation).

Managing a non-profit make sense, but while I have management experience, I lack NP experience, even tho I've worked around and in (as a consultant) the field for years. So maybe that idea will have to wait.

Teaching draws me and that may be where I end up, for now. I love kids of all ages, love to engage them in learning, surprise them, show them the fun of just being alive. Maybe that's what they need most, that and the sense that someone cares about them, no matter how surly they are.

My sense is that moving into administration will come, but probably not as a typical principal, but rather as an innovator, working in a very forward thinking program. At least that's the dream.

My volunteer work for homeless teens has gripped me, as has teaching in what used to be called "inner city" schools. Now they are "urban children" - a much better label. No, I don't have to do it the hard way, but my drive to make a difference will not let me rest. At least not now. There is too much work to be done helping to heal the world, even if it's just one person, right now.

The homeless kids? I'm not ready to be in direct contact with them just yet. I know how hard it will be for me to trust that they are ok on the streets. Not that my faith isn't strong, but my heart is deep and wide. It's important that I get ready to face the reality of their lives before I get involved with them. And it's a real committment. You don't get to know these kids, befriend them, and just disappear.

So for now I'm helping with fundraising and donations.

My own "clearing" continues, and must be further along before I can take the next step. I'm literally getting down to the essentials in my life. Less physical stuff, (much less) fewer attachments to people who aren't also deeply embedded in life and the challenges of living intentionally, and dropping my own inner baggage.

It's wonderful.

Yeah, ok, it's wrenching too. But I know there is a fantastic reason, even if I don't get it yet.

I told a dear friend today that like bread rising there is sometimes so much going on under the surface. You have to look carefully to see it, but it's happening, usually right under your nose!

Such it is with a pilgrimage. Ah, look at that word "grim" in the middle there. Yep, that's where I've been for the last few weeks, but somehow faith (and maybe stubbornness) has carried me thru.

I'm not at the promised land, but I do know it's inside me. Like Dorothy and the ruby slippers, I've carried it all along.

My journey hasn't been easy. I'm thinking that's built in, when you take chances and are determined to push forward. It hasn't been easy for my friends and family either. Sometimes I could have done a better job of counting the costs.

And yet here I am, sensing that I'm closer than ever to what I've been doggedly pursuing.

It has something to do with inner strength, spiritual opening, and making a difference.

I may turn everything upside down, but like a toddler whose work is play, there's a reason. There is intrinsic value.

So when is the last time you played like that?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How to Lose a Gal

I wrote this list a few weeks ago and it cracked me and a best friend up. She added her own, so you won't know which are mine or hers :) Also, it's wisdom I've collected over an entire life (ALL my life) of dating. Ok, except for those 20 years I was married (lol)

1. Be really romantic and solid at first, then get all flaky.
2. Don't like what she cooks. Complain or go eat out - alone.
3. Don’t offer to help with the dishes after she cooks dinner.
4. Skip the housework – yours, hers, ours.
5. Don’t offer to do her small household repairs or help with yard work.
6. If you can do repairs, act like you can’t.
7. Procrastinate on everything.
8. Make big plans but don’t do anything to make them happen. Blame her.
9. Don't save any money.
10. Blame her when you're broke.
11. Join a band. Practice in the garage. Late.
12. Ask her to move in with you, then complain about all her stuff.
13. Boss her kids around.
14. Yell a lot.
15. Don't have a clue about how to make up. Forget all the flowers guys give on TV and in movies. Play dumb.
16. Never swallow your pride or admit you're wrong. It's not your fault!
17. Never just give her a hug when she's mad.
18. Be grumpy about little stuff.
19. Be nitpicky. Perfectionism rules!
20. Get mad if she leaves the room during an argument to cool off.
21. Follow her and say more stuff.
22. Tell her you plan to get back in shape, but don't.
23. Be excited when she buys you a great road bike, but don’t use it.
24. Gloat secretly that you can lose weight by thinking about it, and she has to work out.
25. Wonder who she might be meeting when she works out.
26. Don't surprise her with little gestures of affection.
27. Get affectionate only when you’re trying to “get lucky”.
28. Stay mad for a long time.
29. Wonder why you don’t “get lucky”. Be resentful about it.
30. Make her call you when you're going to be late.
31. Drive her car all the time. Don't pay for gas.
32. Expect really big gifts on holidays and your birthday.
33. Don't reciprocate. Don’t plan anything at all.
34. Be spontaneous all the time.
35. Try to laugh off flubbed dates that you didn’t plan. Better yet, make it her fault.
36. Forget important dates.
37. Tell her not to worry about your kids. None of her business. She’s not their mom!
38. Expect her to love your kids.
39. HATE girls night out.
40. Ask where she is all the time.
41. Read her email.
42. Call her when she is out with her friends - repeatedly.
43. Refuse to play games in the sack, or follow directions.
44. Hate chick flicks - go, but complain a lot.
45. Be surly to her friends. Don't socialize if you can help it. Except with your friends.
46. Be jealous of her friends.
47. Don’t dance – be jealous when she dances. Even if she loves it and is good at it. Hate that she takes lessons.
48. Don’t take dance lessons with her.
49. Be mean to her in public. Start arguments over dinner.
50. Don't ask how her day was.
51. When she’s going thru a hard time, don’t ask how you can help.
52. Don't talk about the tough stuff. Avoid conflict at all costs.
53. Take your stress out on her.
54. Don't forgive her mistakes.
55. Be moody.
56. Accuse her of all kinds of things. Make stuff up.
57. Bring drama into her life. Not the good kind.
58. Lose your job.
59. Let her support you for a year (more if you can get it)
60. Still don't do the housework.
61. Don't be vulnerable.
62. Attack when you feel insecure.
63. Bring out or develop a mean streak.
64. Save up lots of money and don't tell her about it.
65. Develop your road rage talents.
66. Drive fast and dangerous.
67. Be rude. Pick on clerks.
68. Talk bad about people behind their back.
69. Hate your mother.
70. Be or get addictive about something! Video games, work, drinking, sex, your scrips... offer them to her!
71. Be disappointed when she doesn't share your addiction.
72. Talk about old heartbreak and ex-girlfriends.
73. Cheat.
74. Lie.
75. Steal.
76. Swear like a sailor. Be shocked if she cusses.
77. Love it when she looks nice. Assume she does it to make you look good.
78. Hate it when guys look at her.
79. Pretend you're smarter than she is.
80. Ask to wear her clothes.

It's all about you!

Angel Friends

This past June I got a chance to see some great gals I love back in St. Louis.

It's been fun to stay in touch with visits, emails, calls. Freaky how I have such connections to friends in Charlotte, here in Atlanta and back in St. Louis.

This feels good, and I have to take some credit for trying to stay in touch, tho I never do as well as I'd like. For instance holiday cards are not my thing anymore. I'd like to be that kind of friend, sort of. I love getting pictures and letters from friends and family! But I don't really want to do the work of putting that all together myself.

But I use the blog, and now Facebook, and that seems to work too.

About a year ago I blogged about how cool it is that friends sustain us when we don't believe in ourselves. I'll repeat myself since the old blog vaporized when the company flaked out and I didn't have time to deal with technical issues outside of work.

Last year, about 15 months ago, I was listening to the song You're Beautiful for a few weeks, over and over (this is my thing, OCD with music). Now that I listen to it again, today, I realize there are lots of other ways to hear it. Could be a goodbye song...

Anyway, last year it hit me like a ton of bricks one night that I've had friends for my entire life who see the beauty in me, even when I don't see it myself. Maybe especially when I can't see it.

And in some lovely way they carry this spark of my essential wholeness, my essence, with them. When I'm ready they give it back to me, but always keep a small part in case I lose my own sense of that spark... and I do this for them too.

It's a great thing to be an optimist, and to be able to see the best in people. It took me hundreds of years to see this about myself, these traits. It was really in working on intimate relationship issues that I began to think this combination a liability. (Doesn't help you find the best guys - just the guys with the most POTENTIAL.)

Now I see that it's a wonderful thing to know that my friends are great, even when they don't see it. I love that I can remind them of their beauty. Maybe that is the best part of friendship.

And in romantic relationships I can be more disciplined about seeing what is, not letting myself get carried away with what someone could be, and just see who they are. As I've said before, a lot of guys are great starters, but lousy finishers.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Power and Trust

(written at the end of July)

I once thought safety and progress came from power - now I see these as only partly true. Remembering that I'm wired for progress, as sure as the sun rises, then I was always looking for power. Unconsciously, subconsciously, but nonetheless, it was a key theme.

Back Then my notions of power were centered around the intellectual, emotional, sensual and sheer loudness factors. I abused my first husband with intellectual prowess, and the second with emotional superiority. Neither served me or the marriages well, and I now see that it was foolhardy at best. Destructive at worst. (Can I get a witness!?)

I've tried the traditional forms of power, and found that many men, friends and family wanted to stay with the "witty factor" or the "intimidation game". I can strongly report that in the long run these are false idols, easily crushed in the light of introspection. Sure, it's fun to be witty or sexy, etc. but in the long run it takes too much energy to be edgy or svelte at all times.

It's like faith. Surface things come and go, but G-d is consistent, as is true power.

Today I see power as something that best comes from harnessing our fears and working from a place of compassion and peace. There is a profound difference, when you are willing to crack yourself open for love, to work from kindness, and set good boundaries.

Authority from this place of authentic power strengthens all those who receive it, learn under it.

It's interesting to watch how much energy people put into their particular favorite forms of power. If they are all about being funny, or smart or sexy, I know that they are still looking for authentic power. It's usually a side-effect of immaturity, but not always. Sometimes it's a defense mechanism :)

In serious intentional relationships we have to start with trust and build from there. This means mutual power and mutual interest (which affects power). You have to trust the Other to at least give a damn, Scarlet.

And be smart enough to see your blind spots.

Nothing else makes any sense without the context and foundation of "I believe you" at the base. This includes the corollaries, "I believe in you." and "I believe you care about me enough to not hurt me intentionally."

What happens without trust? Suspicions, accusations and conflict. Relationships fall apart, deals are broken, clients lost, marriages fail, children leave angry and bitter.

So what engenders trust? Certainly acting faithful, trustworthy. Just as love is not a feeling, but an action; a series of a million acts, trust is a billion acts of ethical lovingkindness, both to ourselves and to another.

How do trust and ethics link up? Simple, if someone is ethical you trust them. When they aren't, you don't. Even if you can't understand why you don't trust them, if you really pay attention you'll realize it was some unethical, or untrustworthy act.

Now consider people you consider to be very ethical. Normally that translates to deep trust as well. These are the people you set up as executors of your estate, AND you sleep at night.

But being trustworthy is also about being capable. If you trust someone to administer your estate because you know them to be ethical, but they've never touched complicated financial matters, you may be naïve (at best). And you're setting yourself up for disappointment and maybe even resentment.

This brings us around to the very large question of what are people capable of? We never really know, do we?

Dr. Randy Pausch, who died recently, said to give people time, and they will impress you. I absolutely agree with this. And yet look at how little time we give to those around us to do it better.

This is where that loving support in a relationship comes up. Let's call it compassion in action. If you can replace frustration with compassion, you've simply changed your frame of reference.

And even if someone doesn't respond, at least you know you approached it - the misunderstanding, the conflict, or broken promises - the best way possible. With loving kindness. Let's face it, not everyone wants to see their blind spots. (grin)


I don't write about my relationships, as a rule. Rather, I don't publish. (smile)

It's partly because to try to describe something so multidimensional is so much work. Words fall flat. If I'm praising or celebrating something good, it seems simplistic to me. If I'm complaining it is just poor taste.

So I don't.

But most of what we do each day revolves around working with other people. Colleagues, spouses and partners, children, the clerk at the lunch counter.

If we come into a relationship with our best selves, we may get to discover our full selves - more of who we are - if we are serious about the splunking that relationships cause.

Not many people are.

I've always been one to push myself in a big way. This took some thirty odd years to acknowledge, but it bears noting, as it is a big part of the way I am wired.

This makes me difficult to live with, at times, even for me.

Pushing forward is both helpful and can be harmful in intimate relationships. Just like we don't insist our children potty train, anymore, or demand that they walk when we are ready, we have to learn how to support each other when we are working up close and personal.

I once heard a family specialist (or maybe a dear friend) described siblings as the great motivators for younger kids. The little ones go thru periods of developmental challenges and get bratty and intolerable for a few weeks or months. The parents are (hopefully) duly supportive and set good limits. Older brothers and sisters, in the meantime, have little patience and are prone to using Kid Rules - age-old ways to make your point, such as "Too bad.", "Get over it." and loving smack down arguments, if not flat out wrestling or careening thru the house and yard.

The expert noted that this helps younger kids get thru their learning curves, motivates them, pushes them. And it isn't all bad, tho it's tough to watch the dynamics as a parent, sometimes. It's also hard for me to watch my dogs try to work out their roles in the pack (with growls and bites and even fights), but this is how they are wired, so I tolerate as much as I can stand.

In our intimate relationships we also push each other and often end up in conflict - we push limits, boundaries, and for more good stuff. We want so much from marriages and LTRs (long term relationships) that it is sort of comical, when you think about it.

My grandparents didn't put up with a lot of shenanigans, (my great grandmother got divorced around 1919, way before it was acceptable) but they didn't expect to be "fulfilled" by a spouse, tho they may have hoped for as much. They expected tough times to come around, and expected to weather them as well as possible. They were aware of their place in the long history of human progress, and expected to be a part of that, for their children and grandchildren. As we all know, they built things to last.

Without over-romaticizing the early part of the last century, which is so common, also note that the balance of power was different.

Recently I read something about power, in Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Someone was debriefing survivors of the Cambodian atrocities, and found that what these severely traumatized people wanted to talk about came down to two questions: Who is in charge, and How much do you love me?

If this is true, that these are two of our most fundamental concerns, then isn't it interesting that they are brought together in a committed relationship? There are power struggles and there are "love struggles".

Happy couples figure this stuff out early on and never look back - simple. They find some balance of power and are secure in the love they share (which takes a lot of work) and yeah, live happily ever after.

The rest of us, most of us, wonder if we can achieve that, and then set to work finding the "right" person, being in love and courting, bump up against hard issues and either track into some semblance of peace and raprochement, or we clatter along, neither completely unhappy nor happy, and then others go off the rails and end it, sooner or later.

This entry is about power then. And I have to stop and recommend a book, The Power of Two, about working out differences and issues. One of the best books I've ever read on the topic, as it isn't theory as much as How To with very clear examples of good and bad ways to talk about difficult subjects.

This seems the crux, to me, of a good relationship: Balance of power, ability to solve conflict. Sounds simple doesn't it?

Still, most mere mortals give love little thought, once they settle in with someone, instead work to make a living, raise the kids, and then wonder what happened when it gives way.

Since so many marriages end, and so many more relationships break without ever becoming solid, I wonder if we care enough to look hard at what lurks inside? The dark that lies within.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Speaking of Favorite People

Sam Nunn - tho I don't agree with him on all issues (notably school prayer) I do respect him and believe he'd make an excellent VP to Obama.

Monday, August 11, 2008

One of my favorite people On the Planet.

I love this guy, Reich. He is sensible and makes complex ideas elegant. He might be a rare Yellow Dawg democrat - a loyal party man, fiscally conservative, socially progressive. A near lost, but distinguished breed. I would count the esteemed Sam Nunn among this group.

For years I've been wondering why the entire freakin' economy had to run on consumerism - it just seemed a damn weak foundation for the Greatest Democracy on Earth (pre-Bush the Small, I would have agreed with that moniker).

The message I kept hearing was "Buy more, or we all die."

Two days ago I saw yet another panicky headline along these lines: if consumer confidence tanks, it will be a death blow to the anorexic economy (paraphrasing. Catchy headline, eh?)

How about, INSTEAD, we keep critical manufacturing stateside, save the educational system, boost family savings, and make productivity and technology gains chug the economy along and, incidentally, the rest of the world's economies. Yes, it's a full-scale reform, but otherwise we may become China's whipping boy for a long time.

Here is a great article about why the economy has tanked. Not all due to Bush's feats (or little feat) but at least it gives some credibility to the idea that the "machine" has eaten it's own guts.

Here is another article, from last year, about when the crash began, and why.

An excerpt
So what is really happening? Actually, it’s simple. The difference today is that China and other large investors from abroad, including Middle Eastern oil magnates, are telling the U.S. that if interest rates come down, thereby devaluing their already-sliding dollar portfolios further, they will no longer support with their investments the bloated U.S. trade and fiscal deficits. Of course we got ourselves into this quandary by shipping our manufacturing to China and other cheap-labor markets over the last generation.

If there were any justice in the world, every credit card company would be allowed to eat their losses (instead of riding consumers even after bankruptcy), and so would every one that took big risks in the mortgage industry. After all, they all made big money because they took big risks. It's Captialism 101 - let the free hand (of the market) work. If they had made low profits, the risks would have been low, and they wouldn't be crying about going under.

Let them eat cake.

The ethical consideration, for me, is that these big corporations made profits at unreasonable levels for years on the back of consumers. Yes, ignorant consumers, but then we don't let evil creeps sell drugs to children, do we?

Easy credit was an oxymoron when I was growing up. Once upon a time people had to earn their credit, and lenders had good reason to be cautious. If someone didn't pay, the lender lost out. No federal bailouts for really big mistakes.

Don't get me wrong - the problem isn't profits, it's exorbitant profits. Watch how the big oil companies start to twitch when we all notice how crazy it is for Exxon to post record profits while high fuel prices are adding to our collective economic woes.

My dream? One day people will start to notice pharmeuceutical profits.

Proof that Progressive Suthun'uhs (Southerners) do Exist

I stumbled across this obit on John Templeton, businessman and philanthropist originally from Tennesseea few weeks ago. Cool to find someone who links Mother Teresa to Charles Taylor.

In a career that spanned seven decades, Templeton dazzled Wall Street, organized some of the most successful mutual funds of his time, led investors into foreign markets, established charities that now give away $70 million a year, wrote books on finance and spirituality, and promoted a search for answers to what he called the "Big Questions" in the realms of science, faith, God and the purpose of humanity.

Along the way, he became one of the richest men in the world, gave up American citizenship, moved to the Bahamas, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and bestowed much of his fortune on spiritual thinkers and innovators: Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the physicist Freeman Dyson, the philosopher Charles Taylor and an array of prominent Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus.
I think I'll plan a trip to the Bahamas.... why wait?

Yes, I've been saving them up

It's been very busy here in my world. I would invite you in, but you'd get lost.

Trying to catch up on some posts today. Wrote for several hours the other day, didn't post a bit of it. Still simmering :)

More to come.

Pay Attention!

To the important stuff! Get outside tonight with a blanket or two, pillows and sleep until your alarm goes off at 2 or 3:00 a.m. and watch for the incredible Perseid meteor showers.
Don't miss it. What else would you be doing??

Brick Walls

I'd been meaning to see what this guy, Randy Pausch, had to say in his famous Last Lecture, which became famous after it got around on the internet, written up in NYT and, after lots of other public attention, he published a book.

The short version is he was young, brilliant, got cancer, and died. Good news is that there is a lot that happened in between, including some fantastic work in the field of virtual reality for education. The glimpse into that field alone was well worth the hour to hear his presentation.

There was also the entertainment value of his lecture, and the simple voyeuristic pleasure of finding out if he really did know stuff. Like the secret to Life. I mean, he was dying and all, so maybe since he was obviously closer to Death than the rest of us mere mortals, he could loosen the veil a bit, peek behind and tell us (virtually) how it looks.

Yeah. He kinda did.

What I most enjoyed about Pausch was his high human, regular guy quotient. For a professor that is.

He spoke authentically, with passion, with humour and with some serious good insights. I found myself writing some of it down, and putting some quotes on the mirror at home.

My favorite: "Brick walls let us show our dedication. They are there to separate us from people who don't really want it."

I'm not usually one to get all fuzzy headed about uplifting messages (please kill the person who makes big eyes on photos cats and dogs). But I was inspired. And it's true that it was the awful fact of his pending death (he was given 3 - 6 months, but lived a year :) that gave his message weight. Death is a great clarifier, if nothing else.

Funny to think about what you have to do for attention in this country. Either make a wreck of your life (have an affair while your wife is fighting breast cancer), don't wear underwear with a skirt - regularly (shudder), win an Olympic Gold (go Michael Phelps!) or die.

Check out the lecture for yourself. I'm still curious enough to see what he says about time management.

Even better - that a lot of people were curious enough to listen to Randy Pausch in the first place, maybe looking for confirmation of what we already know - That in itself is uplifting.

Great Quote

“For better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failures, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the
gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt
April 10, 1899 in Chicago

Saturday, June 21, 2008

No replacement

Sad to hear about Carlin getting really wild on the other side of the veil. Would LOVE to know how G-d likes his sense of humour. Rest in peace.

Here is a great article on Carlin's life work. I saw him live twice, once in college, dressed like Grouch Marx with Whitworth, a best friend, and again years later in Vegas. Fantastic.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Working Out

There is something wicked about humidity and working out. Just an evil combination.

Good design for keeping people walking down the aisle at revivals tho, while all the fans are going and the preacher is working up a frenzy! I mean, if you've been working all day in the sun, or before A/C, then find a cool tent on a summer night. Your choices are cool Heaven or hot as Hell. You'd be crazy as a bedbug to mess that up.

Tonight I've decided to form my own personal boot camp: walk, bike, swim and dance. And I'm going to learn to skull (row) this summer. And find a workout partner!

Found out a little about the Atlanta Rowing Club last weekend, been itching to try it. Especially when I heard you don't have to go out alone or on a team of 16 athletic college students :D There are 2 seaters, 8 seaters, etc. Who knows what will happen when I start gliding along the Chattahoochee? Can't pick a more beautiful place to row.

The other decision is to join a team for the Atlanta MS-150. This is a benefit ride for Multiple Sclerosis. Did it a few years ago in Missouri, and it was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

I'll need some "mature" women who know when to slow down, and won't laugh too hard when I take a fall or nearly wobble off my seat.

Ok, and there's dance. Now this is a hard one. What is better, good old fashioned Swing, or a Hip Hop Cardio? Or there is Salsa Cardio.... so many choices. It's great to have an active Recreation Center right around the corner, and low fees, great facilities, etc. here in Roswell.

For the record, if you Google "Atlanta Swing Club" it isn't all about dancing... jeez. I feel old (and very very grateful to be old enough to be creeped out).

Here is the actual DANCE group - right down the road in Norcross. This is the best fun that is legal, btw. If you haven't tried it, well, you haven't lived. Shag is perfect for the beach, and contra dancing for the mountains, but Swing just fits the west coast and especially the Midwest.

Did you know St. Louis has the most Swing Dance clubs in the country?! Great people. Friendly, patient, hard toed shoes. No smoking - at least inside.

Now that I think of it, Contra dancing (kind of like square dancing, but without all the hokey-ness) may suit us better to begin with. Kind of like Jazz is to Symphony. We need a bit more improvisation I think. "Calling" should help. (Calling directions that is. Nevermind that I'm having big flashbacks to trying to figure out the hustle many years ago. It wasn't pretty.)

Good news is I've got a dance partner, when I'm not in my own class.

But finding a woman friend to push me when I'm busy/tired/full of excuses. Not so easy... hmmm... of course I'll try Craigslist. (report back - nope, that didn't work!) And there is Temple. I'll let you know how it, er, works out.

(I crack myself up)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

State of the Union

This thread in response to a "Michele Obama is a black activist" chain email (and by implication, dangerous to have in the White House).

-------------- message from "v j" -----------------

this is worth reading :

and please dear beloved, remove me from your list of political emails.

I find myself longing for the days when all we had to mentally masturbate over (collectively, ad nauseum) was whether an intern had sex with the pres. In hindsight it seems so run-of-the-mill boring. No one died, and except for millions (of my money) spent on riDICKulous investigations, the federal budget wasn't trashed.

Now we are in a war with hundreds of thousands dead, injured, or devastated by the loss of a loved one AND we are spending millions EVERY day for the two wars in the middle east. Worse of all, we now have to finish what we started (we have no business leaving a power vacuum now) and have almost nothing to show for the billions (trillions?) we've already spent.

I would have voted for McCain had he made it on the ticket in 2000. But Bush annihilated him with lies (this would not be the last time he cavalierly ignored facts when convenient - would he had just stuck to his drug habit! Think how peaceful a stoned pres would have been!). Unfortunately McCain has been a bit too kiss-up to Bush these last 6 - 9 months for my tastes.

I would vote for a yellow dog before I'd vote for a Republican. I would vote for a evil fictional character before I'd vote for anyone who condones Bush's irresponsible wrecking of our economy and our international standing. Our grandchildren and great grandchildren will be paying for our mistakes for hundreds, if not thousands of y ears. Remember, Rome collapsed from within.

-------------On Wed, Jun 11, 2008 at 9:12 AM, Matt wrote: -------------------

I would just observe that while that President was paying attention to his intern and the problems that arose from it, he was not payiong attention to some very serious issues evoling around him. Not the least of which was the 9-11 plot which started to be planned in 1996. You complain about 2 wars in the Middle East. One can question the necessity and execution of Iraq. On the other hand what exactly were we supposed to do with Afganistan? The Afgan Government offered safe harbor to Al Queda and Osmam Bin Laden. They refused to surrender him to face Justice.
As far as the economy is concerned, it is worrisome. I would note that current unemployment is at 5.5 perecent, below the historical average. There will probably be some rough times ahead on the other hand the economy had done very welluntil fall, 2007 and been expending rapidly 4 four years prior to that.

-------------- message from "v j" -----------------

Good points. Thanks for bringing them up.

However I would say that in 1995 there was clear evidence of a plot to utilize planes as bombs and our intelligence agencies were unable to formulate, much less implement a response. Have we actually solved the structural problems in assimilating information in the US intelligence community? Do we have ports and water systems completely protected? Why aren't airline passengers given random interviews, like Israeli airline protocols - el Al has never had a terrorist incident.

The ruse to investigate and impeach Clinton certainly took up more of his time and attention than the actual intern. Had the Supreme Court not gotten political and allowed the Jennifer Flowers case to move forward (never before had a civil suit been permitted against a sitting president), he could have dealt with all of it once out of office.

I agree we had to respond to the 9-11 bombings, but had we really wanted to be clear, we would have rocked on Saudia Arabia, where the serious funding and more sophisticated incubation of terrorists and terrorism existed. It's laughable that some insisted we "bomb them back into the stone age" when the Afgahnis had never really left it. They were just a red herring.

I'm not sure of the efficiencies of launching a full scale "war" in Afghanistan to capture Bin Laden, who is still at large. Most disturbing, perhaps, is this adminstration's willingness to ignore their own top military advisors' warnings about both wars.

As for the economy I'm more concerned about the fast disappearing middle class, the suffering poor (who have no health insurance, struggle to just pay for gas and often can't feed their kids) and the exodus of deficit funding from our overseas investors. I'm not an economist, but since we have "enjoyed" deficit spending since Bush took office, and no longer have a balanced budget, foreign capital that has sustained us is now moving to other markets in the face of our weak economy. That was always the concern. Not "is it ok to spend more than we have", but what happens if no one (investors) wants to stay at our party?

Worse, what happens if China becomes the world's economic leader? We've already seen their appalling political, human rights and environmental record.

Here is a quick article on the unemployment rate jump last Friday.

respectfully submitted,

Structure and Identity

I'm back after a couple of weeks with the kids. This entailed working a bit, doing things with them, working on more of my stuff (literal and figurative), cleaning up after them, feeding them, (not in that order) and eventually making plans for dinner, the next day and the rest of their lives.

I miss them deeply when they aren't here (now live with their Dad outside of Nashville) but when they are here the work isn't just in everyday upkeep. In fact they need very little of that. Mostly they need feedback, small interactions, a bit of pushing ("If you want to have some money you have to earn it.") and then backing off.

Another large part of the work is keeping myself in the right place. If things break in the house, it doesn't mean I have to make it all better for them. Who could have predicted the pool filter, ice machine and the air conditioning - during the first heat wave of the year - would have all gone FUBAR at once? And we still have to find time to install the new dishwasher and microwave. (These were appliances I didn't care much about anyway, especially with a spare micro for heating up my coffee and popcorn:)

Anyway, the teenagers have gotten used to being very sedentary after school, without sports or school activities this year, and without the whirling social life of Kirkwood (where we moved from last year).

I can relate because my days have been very open since I left my job last year. It's become a sabbatical, tho I didn't plan it that way.

Not a lot of what I plan actually comes off the way I think it will. That isn't a negative statement, but acknowledging the essential nature of our lives: chaos.

I read a few months ago, in some Project Management literature, that no matter how well we estimate the length of time an action takes, it always actually takes longer to complete.

This has been proven and became a named principle (will have to see if it is back in this blog) and that gives it validity.

So I didn't consider this a sabbatical until it went past 6 months (a few weeks ago). Now it is more than a lull between jobs, and I've made it that way on accident/purpose.

There is a deep sense of not needing to rush this, to both keep my financial feet on the ground, and yet to make sure that I don't just jump back into the workforce as I usually do. I'm lucky to have had a career in a fairly high demand arena, but the thrill is gone.

Could I do it again? Sure. I'm one of those people who can find meaning in anything, or at least humour :) And I'm still deep down a computer geek.

But my intuition tells me that there is something else going on right now. A shift not only in our country politically, economically, etc, but also in many individuals. Now I have no way to know if more people than usual are changing their lives (who would measure that??), or if they are changing, is it simply in response to the external events - housing crisis, fuel costs, global warming, etc. And does it matter why they are changing, if they are?

At any rate I can say that there is no doubt I'm heading for a career change.

The process feels something like a slow burn that is heating up. It's very similar to my decisions about divorces years ago. It didn't happen overnight, there were months of long walks, long talks, lots of writing, years of counseling, but eventually a decision emerged, completely intact.

With the birth of my decisions, I had complete certainty about the choice. To say it was a gut feeling is shortchanging it.

In some ways those points in my life were transcendent because I allowed the process to unfold as it needed to. (In other ways they were transcendent because they were so damn hard.)

There's just no reason to rush something as major as a life decision about your partner. And for the same reason I didn't rush into Judaism - there were years of hanging around it, years of then enjoying it personally, and then months of considering if it worked for me. Finally a year of study sealed the deal.

Of course the cross over points of getting divorced, choosing my faith and changing careers doesn't mean I'm done. These are just gateways into new chapters. But the process, the journey matters.

I'm not always good at thinking through all the details of what happens next. This is a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I forge in where angels fear to tread and other times I get surprised (good thing I love surprises, um, mostly). Sometimes happily, other times miserably.

The move here to Atlanta took months to orchestrate, and I had no inkling it would lead to a complete change of my identity.

There is nothing like centering your life around raising three strong children to set you up for an earthquake when they move out. Lots of parents could have told you that, Jones.

I just didn't have much time to prepare, unlike when they enter college.

When you add my move, a layoff and an engagement to the mix, well, it's a perfect storm.

I keep coming back to the notion that the "end point" or result of all this is
  1. Undefinable - the benefit and losses will be a chaotic mix at best and
  2. Reasoned. There is a reason for this particular combination of events, even if I never fully comprehend them. This implies some sort of orchestration, perhaps divine, but it's only an implication.
  3. Structure matters - as in how I structure my days, my time, my responses
  4. Null. There is no end point.
But there is for this post.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Is Breast Milk Kosher?

Bet you didn't know that Mother's milk is kosher.

But most Jews could tell you quickly that it is. Breastmilk not kosher? How would we grow our babies?

Found this today, a YouTube of Ina May Gaskin, one of the most famous midwives of our age.

(This gives me hope that YouTube has some real usefulness by having important figures speaking and easily accessible. Such use is in stark contrast to the footage of Columbine shootings that my teens tell me you can find there.)

Ina May has a long history in middle Tennessee and nationally for her work as a midwife. In the 70s her books had a ground breaking effect - many would say she changed the face of birthing in this country.

The Farm
is one of the oldest "communes" in the country, and Ina May helped set it up.

These days, I found, they are called intentional communities. It's interesting to think that thousands of people have decided to take a harder road for their living arrangements.

It's not immediately obvious that "intentional" means "harder", but it does. If you find a neighborhood and it passes some basic hurdles (price, style, age of the houses, kids or lack of kids, proximity to the things you value - school, work, shopping) then you buy a house and figure the rest out.

You definitely don't have to go through an interview and get approval from all or most of your neighbors. And you don't eat meals with them, raise kids together, figure out community chores or make an effort to work out differences in a public way.

I've stayed at a couple of these intentional communities. I had to see what they were about, learn what they do, how they do it, think about the commitment it takes to Community to live that way.

I was lucky to stay at two of the oldest American intentional communities. Gwyneth, then 6 or so, and I visited The Farm in 2006 and I went with my ex and two small kids to Twin Oaks in about 1994 or '95.

There were significant differences between the two. Twin Oaks in Virginia (outside of Charlottesville) was very closeknit, with meals served together, (tho you could stay at your own home and cook), chores divided and the community businesses of tofu production and hammock manufacturing shared.

The Farm
was more individuals and families living together with a common cause, but many with "outside" jobs. They had a strong commitment to protecting the land they own (and bought more to keep developers out of their immediate area) and to working together, but they seemed less rules oriented.

For me there were tectonic shifts during the 10 or 12 years between the two visits.

When my children were young I was fascinated and drawn to these kinds of places. I had a need to take my progeny away from the world, protect them. Not that I thought the world to be evil or dangerous, but rather that the world of Ninja Turtles, and falling twin towers and starving children in developing nations was not what I wanted them to be thinking about.

Since then they have grown to driving age, and the hard work of releasing them truly into the world has begun in earnest.

Now, instead of being available with a lap or a hug, (or breastmilk) I offer advice sparingly, encourage strongly at times, but force myself to stop at that, give them their head (a loose rein to be sure) and see what happens.

Today another parent of twenty-somethings said she was amazed that they come back home to roost. It isn't just a few families that are getting this. Move out, conquer the world, tell you that you are doing everything wrong, and then, a few years, they're back.

I found it odd that while parents are seeing children take on subjects at younger ages, often more than they can really absorb (explict sex and violence in music and all over Madison Avenue, internet dating, global warming, etc) thus growing up "too fast" in some ways, yet in other ways they seem to prolong the growing up over all.

It reminds me of elephants, 20 something months gestation and years to get to full adulthood, much like humans (I think it's 15 or 16 years).

But I'm glad that intentional communities are still out there, cutting away ties to conventional thinking, forging new paths. I've even heard friends talk of converting a large piece of family farmland to a divided grouping of homes for like-minded friends.

Another intentional community is Celo, NC. I found it in those toddler years, a small town that happens to be the oldest land trust in the country. Everyone owns their own property, but it is a communal land trust, and they all make decisions accordingly.

I'm not sure if the land trust is legally much different from a typical town, but at least the intentions and approach are a departure from any place I've found.** Certainly the intentional communities step into the work of making more decisions together, presumably with equal voices.

Of course that entire area of the world, the deep mountains of Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia tends to set itself apart.

There are still home remedies, music making on the front porch and old crafts practiced. I think the allure is for those "simpler" times, especially as the baby boomers age. (I once counted myself among them, but being born in '63 apparently am on the cusp, and therefore given a small window of choice, at least by demographers. These days I like that - betwixt and between two generations... Baby boomers and Gen X.)

In Atlanta, like in all big towns, it's fashionable to have a place in the mountains, or at the beach. We're seeing a lot of development in those lovely Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains. Maybe the real estate bust will slow some of that down.

In the meantime I've seen the ripple effects of tourism in the mountains. Over the last 4 or 6 weeks I've been to Cherokee, an Indian reservation, Black Mountain, NC and last weekend Brevard NC. It's not just the stores and restaurants that are more "usual" but the entire world view of the locals has changed.

Maybe it's good that they aren't as suspicious of us outsiders as they used to be; then again, maybe they were more protected when they worked harder to keep us away.

I hope as long as Crones like Ina May are around, and we young'uns pick up the arts of midwifery, "sang hunting" (that's ginseng), salves and maybe an ability to slow down, there will still be places for our children and grandchildren to explore and savor. Without Walmart.

*Passover is the only time of the year I try to keep somewhat kosher, at least at home. Ok, it's the only time I try to stay on a No Fat Fluffy Bread diet - see blog entries related to baking phenomenal bread.

**There is an awesome place down the road from Celo, Hemlock State Park, where I'd love to get a fishing line wet. Very quiet and preserved.