Monday, December 31, 2012

ring in the new

“Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.” 
― Alfred Tennyson

Entire poem  here
* Photo by Melissa Mathieson

Thursday, December 20, 2012

merry stressmas

The woman I overheard while shopping at Target summed it up: "Well, I got Michael out of the way ... ." Out of the way? Is this what it's come to? Not that I could berate her — I was approaching Christmas in pretty much the same way.  If I could just find the perfect trinket for everyone on the list — preferably at $20 or less a pop — I'd once and for all prove to my closest friends and family they are loved beyond belief. They, in turn, would marvel at my wonderfulness. Tall order when you're among the frantic masses at the local Target. Only 4 more shopping days, the merchants proclaim. Better get on over here and take care of biz or you'll fail to have the best Christmas ever come the 25th.

Sometimes I imagine an amended chapter in the bible in which Jesus goes into a Target store  — make that Walmart — and condemns all of the beady-eyed shoppers whose spiritual priorities have hit rock bottom. It's so not about the stuff, he would proclaim, so why do we make it so?

In direct defiance of our Lord, I've been whipping out my debit card with the frequency of an OCD hand-washer — even withdrew funds from the 'ol emergency savings to cover the extra expenses likely to be incurred by trying to be everything to everybody.  Not that I have the means to go extravagant on anyone, but it all adds up. The other day the bomb hit. My online banking statement reflected numerous purchases I didn't make — all in all over $400 deducted from my account! I hit panic mode!

Thankfully, my bank ensures I'll be reimbursed for the unauthorized debits. But I had to open another account and am now in the process of providing new bank routing numbers to my bill collectors.  What kind of person preys on a financially-challenged single working mom at Christmastime? Just evil. There's a lot of that going around lately. People don't seem to want to do the right thing anymore. Even at Christmas.

In the middle of the present chaos that is my life, I managed to find some quiet time. I really want to focus on the baby Jesus and the hope his birth represents this season. (It is CHRISTmas, for god's sakes!) But I am stressed ... and angry. I pondered on a savior on a cross who knew all to well about anger and pain and being the victim of other people's evil. Despite all of it, he muttered the words, "Forgive them, they know not what they do" in his final, desperate hours. Yes, Lord, but I'm drawing my personal line at the guy who guns down kindergarteners and their teachers in the classroom. How, exactly, does one forgive that?

This, I think, is what's meant by the "peace that passes all understanding." Some things I simply don't — and never will — understand. But while I fail to comprehend imperfections in someone else, my own are all too clear. Sure, most of us don't go around committing mass shootings, but we all have weaknesses — and instincts that kick in to help us survive our often difficult existences here on earth. I, for one, have acted out in ways I'm not proud of. A lot. We all, through no fault of our own, possess varying degrees of how to conduct ourselves here on this planet ... Don't we deserve to be loved and forgiven in spite of them? I'm grateful for the birth of a savior whose message to the world is just that.

Wishing you all a peaceful, joyous Christmas, and blessings beyond belief in the new year!

Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light, 
and usher in the morning; 
O shepherds, shrink not with affright, 
but hear the angel's warning. 
This child, now weak in infancy, 
our confidence and joy shall be, 
the power of Satan breaking, 
our peace eternal making.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Punch Brothers: Red Handed

Early Christmas present: Punch Bros. live in Santa Barbara w/my loved ones. Can't wait!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

applauding myself

The crockpot is truly the working mom's best friend. How else would I have been able to walk in to my house after a 9-hour workday to the sweet smell of simmering beef, sitting down to a gourmet dinner for my girl and myself in mere minutes? Here's how:

South of the Border De-stress Roast

1. Begin first thing in the morning. Complete all of the get-ready-for-work-and-school tasks, but skip your morning workout. (There's always tomorrow for that.)

2. Coarsely chop an onion and sautée briefly. Dump in bottom of crockpot.

3. Season a 2 lb chuck roast with lots of sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and cumin. (A friend suggested chipotle chile powder, which is probably fabulous, but I didn't have any!) Brown all sides of seasoned beef in onion pan and dump in crockpot on top of onions. Top pot w/three coarsely cut carrots and two lime quarters.

4. Pour an entire bottle of beer over beef. Doesn't matter what kind. I used Heineken. Add a little water to cover the meat.

5. Put crockpot on high heat for one hour, then adjust to low. You may now leave for the office.

6. Work an 8+ hour day while crockpot's doing its job.

7. Return home and fully experience the sweet smell of a home-cooked meal. Who prepared this amazing roast dinner while you were away? You did!

8. Serving suggestion: Fresh brussels sprouts (brown in oil/butter and steam a few minutes in white wine), and Mexican rice (follow instructions on packet).

9. Last, but not least: a generous glass of wine for yourself! You deserve it!  c:

So so delicious. Applause, applause!

Bonus: There WILL be leftovers! Mexican beef soft tacos anyone?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

love and turkey

Always feel a deep connection with my dad this time of year. His Thanksgiving turkey was his pride and joy ... and one of the many ways he showered us with his love! By some stroke of great luck I inherited these recipe cards, written in his own hand - such treasures!

Pure joy can be experienced in the memory of a lost love, especially after you've had ample time to grieve. I am reminded that while I am here on earth with new and old loves, I should be fiercely recording the events in photographs and writings - our time here is so temporary! I'm thankful my dad took the time to jot down his secret turkey procedure ... even a recipe card can bring it all back. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

music for a rainy day

Chris Thile's album "All Who Wander Are Not Lost" is like an old friend.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

a sunset speaks

Your ordinary sunset would have done it. But tonight's stopped me in my tracks. I caught it walking out of my office this evening. Stressful day. Impossible week - and it's only Wednesday! Yet, like a really good song, your baby laughing, and a million other of life's unexpected joys, all I could do was stop and marvel. And grab my camera! "Thank you" kept playing in my head.

The staff at the magazine received the news earlier this week: Our office will be moving "over the hill" where the rent is cheaper and you can purchase an In and Out burger for $2.05 (gotta love Google!). Bummer for me is I'll now be commuting from my coastal paradise on a daily basis. I worried about being away from my daughter all day, the cumulative monthly cost of a 45-minute commute, the wear and tear on my car, less time to exercise and play on Facebook, etc. etc. I spent much of that day in black-cloud-my-life-sucks-mode. Had to get out of there.

I headed to the ocean to sit and ask "WHY????" But what I encountered was a picturesque coastal scene rivaling that of above sunset. Not easy to be pissy when you're observing such magnificence.  I turned off my "noise" and listened - decided to be grateful I even had a job; happy for my longtime commuting coworkers who will finally experience the short drive to work I've been enjoying for years; and relieved that, although it'll be a stretch for us, it's doable. So much to be thankful for ... certainly enough to make you smile (almost) all day long - even at your stressful job.

A million alternate decisions would've prevented me from stepping out of my office at 5:15 tonight, yet the stars aligned and I was richly awarded with the most exquisite eye candy. I reveled in being in that exact place at that exact time. Another chapter may be ending, but a new and potentially wonderful one has just begun.

Tonight a friend posted a photo of the setting sun as seen from the top of the hill that will be part of my future drive home. It was really something.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

a poem

by Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Photo by Melissa Mathieson

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dwight Yoakam - A Heart Like Mine

Old & new & fun.

i am.

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” 

Photo by Melissa Mathieson

Saturday, October 13, 2012

sunny someday

I was in a good place mentally prior to seating myself on my bench of choice at the ranch today. Strange, because nothing's really changed in my life. I'm at the same job, with the same guy, have the same single working mom challenges, still want to lose 10 pounds. Not long ago I experienced a month-long freak-out, worrying about everything in my life to the point of a cumulative downward spiral. But I did one thing right during that time of personal crisis: I prayed for clarity and peace. I believe that prayer was answered.

The fact that I even have a "bench of choice" is a blessing. There's a spot along my hiking route that has the most amazing ocean view, and I've been plopping myself down on the dirt there for years. A few months ago someone mounted a bench right there - a deluxe work-of-art in memory of someone who surely loved the view as much as I do. 

Two rainy days yielded to the most lovely Saturday. You know how crisp and clean everything is after a good rain? Today was like that on steroids. It was as if I had blinders on to all of my life's negatives. I counted my blessings, which included: My amazing children, Trader Joe's pumpkin cream cheese spread, the great music I'm listening to lately, said boyfriend, and a million other wonderful things happening in my life right now.

Blinders? Or should I choose to make ALL of this my reality? "NONE OF IT IS BAD," said my God when I stopped to listen. "IT IS ALL WONDERFUL. EVEN WHEN YOU CAN'T SEE IT, IT IS ALL WONDERFUL." 

Here are some photo-memories, and my musical ode to that divine sentiment/picture-perfect day:

Sunny Someday on Youtube

Friday, September 21, 2012

Emily Wells - Passenger (Official)

I have a special connection with my music savvy friends. For me, discovering a great new song or artist is like immersing myself into the best book ever or visiting a fabulous city for the first time. And when you can share that intense joy with someone who also "gets it," well, that's just the cherry on the sundae!

My friend Tina turned me on to a great artist named Emily Wells ... Just some of the coolest material sung by a chick who truly feels it. I'm on board.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Aimee Mann - Labrador

The hilarious and poignant Aimee Mann, ladies and gentlemen ...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

the kindness of good friends

Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you."
"You have been my friend," replied Charlotte. 'That in itself is a tremendous thing.” 
 E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

It had been a rough couple of weeks. I'd  come face-to-face with what I perceived as problems in my long-distance relationship and had assaulted the love of my life with "why didn't yous" and "why don't you evers." He asked if I was breaking up and I told him I didn't know. We didn't talk for a week. My newly-married sister and her hubby came to visit and instead of taking on my usual role as perfect hostess, I drank too much wine and created a madcap scene that would have fit nicely into the movie Bridesmaids. To top it off,  it was an extremely busy week at the office, a couple of things slipped through the cracks, and my boss vocally expressed her disappointment in me. There was a scene. I clearly sucked. 

I cried a lot, moped through my 8-hour days at the office, and was generally the opposite of a joy to be around for a good part of a month. I called in sick one day. I didn't exercise and consumed a diet of tortilla chips, cookies, and white wine. Trying to make sense of it all, I wrote a pathetic blog entry which has since been deleted.

But I did something right. I shared my situation with a few friends, who in turn, went to great lengths to show me how much they cared. My coworkers delivered hand-picked flowers in vases, small gifts, encouraging notes, and candy to my desk. Some sweet girlfriends called and texted. I called my mom, who offered extraordinarily loving, non-judgemental support. I mustered up the strength to go for Saturday morning walk, and when my good friend phoned me and I didn't answer, she appeared at my house. Worried when I didn't answer the door she drove around the neighborhood looking for me. 

The dire days of a month ago are memories now. I patched things up with my boyfriend. He really is in my corner in life, and has made significant efforts in recent weeks to show me this. My sister was another one who reached out to me in my week from hell. She assured me there was absolutely no resentment on her part about what I shall hereby refer to as "the incident." It really was about me forgetting to eat all day (while trying to be the perfect hostess) before drinking some wine, and I am fortunate no false judgement was made on her part about it.  Things at the office have been fine too. My job is frustrating at times, but I enjoy a 3-minute commute to work, am in town for my daughter and whatever she needs from mom, and have a regular income with good benefits - not to mention working with some really cool people. Compared to so many in these hard economic times, I am nothing but privileged and blessed. 

Talk about blessings ...  I am knocked out by the quality of friends and family God has chosen for me. Is there anything in life more important than nurturing these relationships with every ounce of my being? I think not.

Photo by Melissa Mathieson

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Team Tim

With my goofy bro somewhere in Germany

If you check into this blog on a regular basis, you might be thinking, "Wow, she really writes about dead people a lot. Why doesn't she just do some intensive grief counseling and be done with it?" Fair warning: The following is another blog about a dead person.

Also if you have been checking in, you will know that my brother/best friend died of complications from AIDS nine years ago. He was 38. If I have anything to say or do about it, those two sentences will NOT sum up his entire existence.

Time really does heal wounds. When I think back on my little bro I am now able smile at the thought of how cool he was without so much of the sadness. At Christmastime, when you flipped the light switch to his bedroom the place became orchestrated with colored lights, Christmas kitsch, and the local radio station playing all-holiday music. To the lyric "Let your hearts be gay," he would say with a smirk, "NOT what you think!"  Precious moments, but my problem - and probably the reason I write so much about dead people - is that memories like these are starting to fade. I have a million of them, but unfortunately, the same phenomenon that causes me to walk to the mailroom at my office and forget why I had come there in the first place is beginning to delete them from my brain's internal hard drive. So I guess I write about this dead guy a lot in a lame attempt to keep his memory alive. He was, and is, so much a part of me.

Once again this year we are doing the AIDS Walk in San Francisco (July 15). Our team is named "The Fans of Tim Elbourne," in his memory. Most of the team members didn't even know my brother, but they are united in the cause and have agreed to stand (or walk) with me, and for this I am grateful. Our team will wear custom T-shirts with my brother's picture on the back. Timmie lived in San Fran and had many friends there. It is my prayer that someone from the walk that day will notice his picture and share a memory or two. I need all the Tim Elbourne stories I can get.

It is also my prayer that someday soon no one will have to lose their brother, friend, coworker, etc.  to this dreadful disease because the disease will no longer exist. It is, unfortunately, our family charity of choice. Our team raised over $1,000 last year and we hope to at least match this amount this time around. It'd be most awesome if you threw us a few dollars toward the cause. You may do so by following this link:


If you would like to walk with us, I can assure you it'll be a life changing experience! You can do so by clicking on "My Team Page" through the above link. The more the merrier and everyone is welcome!

And if you have already donated, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Since 1987, AIDS Walk San Francisco has raised nearly $74 million for San Francisco AIDS Foundation and other HIV/AIDS organizations in the six Bay Area counties. Established in 1982, the Foundation refuses to accept that HIV transmission is inevitable. With the unrestricted funds raised by AIDS Walk San Francisco, the Foundation is able to provide direct services to promote health among those living with HIV and implement ground-breaking prevention programs to create sustainable progress against HIV.

Even though there has been success with drug treatments that are prolonging some people's lives, they don't work for everyone. These treatments can also take their toll physically, and for many cause awful side-effects. I am also concerned that so many young people in San Francisco are getting infected. And above all, there is still no cure in sight.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

father fixation

I'm having my own personal Father's Day party for my dad this morning. I'm blessed to have had a dad with the biggest heart of anyone I've ever known ... or ever will know. While we've been robbed of his existence on earth for more than 8 years now, in my heart he's more present than ever, gently guiding me through the rough spots and making me laugh on a daily basis. Here are some amazing photos I recently discovered from his White House days in the early 70s.