Sunday, December 12, 2010


One of the really awesome things about my job is that I get great vacation time. In fact, I get so much great vacation time that I can't seem to use it all. I'm losing a bunch of vacation hours when 2011 comes round. That's alright though. I have attempted to squeeze some things in here. Like Panama!

I went to Panama for the week of Thanksgiving with some wonderful friends. I have no complaints about this trip! It was a true vacation. We sat by the pool and read, then for a change of scenery we walked down the jungle lane to our own beach, then when we got tired of the salt water we walked back up to our pool. We read and read and read--I finished the Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, some smutty beach read that I don't remember the title of, and then the Help. Really great reads! Then we ate, nothing too remarkable but good food.

We did encounter a rainy day that limited our beach sitting, so ventured into El Valle which was an amazing day! We found mud baths, sat in natural hot springs, zip lined through rain forests, over waterfalls...hmm. It was so beautiful!

Here's where vacation is accomplished--I didn't think about work, people, the cold air of Boston, or anything! I forgot it was the end of November, not summer everywhere, I let the sun bake me, I lathered sun screen like it was my job for the week, and all good things!!! It was also just long enough that the last day I did feel like I had my fill and was ready to get back to life. Three weeks later I'm ready to go back to Panama where it's warm. I've decided one of the best sensations is the warm sun massaging your bare shoulders.

Monday, March 1, 2010


I used to work at an adolescent mental health treatment center. I worked in an area designated the CSU...crisis stabilization unit. (I think) This was an area where individuals would go when they broke too many rules, became a danger to themselves or others, or annoyed their unit staff enough that they'd have to leave the "clinical milieu" for some quiet time. Depending on the reason for the person coming to CSU, there would be a plan assigned for each client that would allow them a path back to their regular unit. Often these involved writing assignments. I had to look at many writing assignments. Often some of these teens would be in such a bad mood they would refuse to do the work, or do it in some snarky sarcastic way. I had the distinct privilege of reading and correcting these assignments. When someone didn't do it sincerely or put any thought into it, the rule was to draw a line through the whole thing and write REDO and then give it back. Seems rather stupid now that I'm more educated in this field, but at the time, that was one part of my job.

Lately this has come to my mind quite a bit. There are things that I do that sometimes I mentally grade myself, slash it out and wish I could REDO. Unfortunately there is often no way to redo. Then there are other things that I wish I could REFRESH. Refresh is different than redo. Let me give you some examples:

REDO: conversations with clients, conversations with friends, conversations on dates, (apparently talking is a problem for me), eating rituals during the day, rolling through stop signs in front of cops, snoozing my alarm 5 times too many, sending that text message or midnight email, Sundays.

REFRESH: my closet, the air in my apartment (this weekend anyway), career, budget (start from the beginning), dating options.

I'd love to redo a few things and I'd like a few things refreshed-almost reloaded-with new options and possibilities. So I guess the questions is how to refresh or redo some of these things when I have to live with the way they are now. But wouldn't a giant refresh button be awesome?!! That reminds me of those Staples commercials with the easy button.

But to answer my own question, I think there are always ways we renew our options whether it be in dating or job possibilities or finances. I just often make excuses and get lazy so things stay the same. It takes work, creativity and an adventure to refresh some things. As far as the redo--I guess I could just say really loudly, "REDO" and start over again.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

coin purse

I must have been in 1st grade, although I'm not sure. It's the time when you start learning about money. Ditto's for homework with pictures of coins and dollars, my job was to add them up. I have a fuzzy memory of the first time I tried to purchase something. They made a big deal about a school store in my elementary school. This was different from the regular school store. This was a store that the 5th graders would be running for a week that the other grades would be able to visit. It was right before mother's day and it was marketed as a place to possibly find your beloved mother a gift.

I was excited! I negotiated with my own mother how much money I could possibly have so that I could buy her something. I think she gave me a dollar--like I said the memory is fuzzy. I remember a dollar because she made me put it in my coin purse. I get a little grin on my face when I think of my mom talking about a coin purse (and pencil cases, but that's another story for another day). My coin purse was little, pink and had a small zipper to keep the contents safe. I put my little coin purse in my empty purse and went to school. I'd seen my older sister take a purse to school. Finally I had my purse with my coin purse with a dollar for the store!

Our whole class had a scheduled time to visit the store. We went after lunch and had probably 10 minutes to "shop around." I was nervous, clutching my purse. I looked closely at the prices considering what I could afford. There was a mug that I wanted to get for my mother. It was too much money. At a small table I found some containers holding pens, erasers, pencils and other small items. Then I saw it. A glorious, tall, red, glittery/sparkly pen! It swooped around in loops at the top! The pen was less than the dollar I had. I looked at the 5th grade girl across the table and told her I'd like to get the pen. She told me it would be ___ what maybe 90 cents? I took out my coin purse. I remember looking at my dollar, hand shaking a little and saying out loud, "so, I give you this?" The 5th grader snatched up my dollar, gave me my dime and I was done. What a rush!!

I just purchased a car. My first--I want a new car--purchase! I negotiated the financing and everything. I had the same nervous energy of that day in first grade. Is this really going to work? So, I just give you this? Really?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

mothers day

Every Mother's Day our family would go to church (because it was Sunday, not because it was Mother's Day) but on Mother's Day I was excited because sometimes my dad would have a corsage for my mother. It would probably be an orchid. The fun little game I'd play would be judging the competition of corsages. Who had them, what did they look like, color, number of flowers, how big it was resting on the woman's chest, important details. There was one woman who was usually the winner. She was Hawaiian and would have huge, beautiful flowers. I doubted there was an actual competition or that anyone else cared, but in my small childish head I considered it. I was concerned that some women didn't get flowers from their families. Were they sad? Somehow I thought that maybe the flower symbolized the woman herself. I wanted my mom's corsage to be beautiful. Today I caught myself wondering about that. It's been so long since I went to church with my mom on Mother's Day. Corsages seem to be dated in my mind, but I secretly hope there are still some people who find themselves sporting massive corsages, one orchid per child birthed, weighing heavily on a mother's chest, partially blocking her vision, and giving her child something to stare at (or destroy-depending on age).

Mother's Day 1990. I was 11 years old. At the age of 12 a child moves out of primary and begins going to youth Sunday School classes. I was a few months away from this awaited day when I would no longer be one of the children. This tough age of trying hard not to be a little kid, seeing the girls a little bit older then me and wanting desperately to fit in with them left me quite conflicted. That Sunday the primary was scheduled to sing for their mothers in sacrament meeting. I did not want to do it. I think I was so tired of being a kid. I wanted to be older or cooler or something. I told my mom I didn't want to go up to sing. Of course this didn't go over well. I don't remember what took place but I do remember finally going up to the front to face the congregation. I couldn't sing. I also couldn't stop crying. I just stood up there and sobbed, taller then everyone, standing on the back row, I couldn't look at my mother.

I wish I could sing a cheesy song to my mom today. My favorite was:

I often go walking in meadows of clover,
and I gather armfuls of blossoms of blue.
I gather the blossoms the whole meadow over,
Dear Mother, all flowers remind me of you.

Oh Mother, I give you my love with each flower
to give forth sweet fragrance a whole lifetime through;
for if I love blossoms and meadows and walking,
I learn how to love them, dear Mother, from you.

Mom, I'm sorry I didn't sing to you that day.

Friday, March 6, 2009

i wish i could do it more often

Today I wanted to tell a stranger that he smelled really good. I was walking into my building and he was walking on the sidewalk in front of me. I thought it, and I wondered about how often I have thoughts like that and what a different world it would be if I could just say, "Hey, you smell really good! It's nice!" and then skip along my merry way. Don't wait for a response or conversation, just smile and bolt. Let it sizzle.

Had the walk been 30 seconds longer I totally would have. I've done it before. It's just been a while.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A pleasant exchange

I'm not sure what it's like in other cities around the country, but here in Cambridge we have homeless/beggars/pan-handlers/whatever you want to call them, walking around busy intersections of traffic. Many hold signs telling of their woes and circumstances, carry empty Dunkin Donuts cups for their collections, wear heavy coats when it's warm, and trash bags when it's raining. I don't often give them money, I feel like I contribute to their care in other ways, but sometimes I may have some spare change to toss out the window. Often they look sad, unkempt, grumpy and worn.

Today I approached one of these intersections anticipating seeing my window friends. To my delight, one of my friends had a new sign:

If you don't have any change, Just smile.

He walked from car to car, holding the sign up to the windows, waving it back and forth with more energy and vigor than usual, doing a little dance and beaming at the cold hearted, icy Bostonian who couldn't help but smile. It was such a great thing to see. For a second I felt like I was at a Red Sox game. Feeling united somehow with strangers. I smiled at my intersection beggar friend and watched him in my rear view mirror going to the cars behind me. I'm confident he will make more money today.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Several people know sad tales of my childhood educational experiences. Today I was thinking about a few teachers/professors/instructors who challenged my experience that all teachers were just horrible and awful. I could seriously tell you stories, but that's not the purpose of this today. It is, instead, to again compliment the unsuspecting.

Mr Simmers was in high school. Sophomore year. Yes you kicked me out of your classroom once or twice, got after me for talking over you, and the like. You were the first teacher I can remember who helped me with my writing. Yours was the first class I ever read something I was assigned to read, A Separate Peace (and yes I cried at the end). You were the first teacher I remember actually talking to me about my work and my experience in your class. You took me on my first fishing trip. You let me skip my foods class and watch the OJ verdict in your classroom my senior year. You weren't my friend, and for that I am grateful. You were my teacher, one of the best I ever had. You were available but also never overly accessible so as to take away my own sense of responsibility for myself and my grades. You didn't provide me a handicap, but let me deal with the consequences of my choices. Thank you.

Mr Somebody was a professor I had my sophomore year in college. It's funny I can't remember you or the name of your class. The reason I include you is because it was in your class that I realized I was smart. Like really smart! Not overly smart or anything, but that I was intelligent and capable!! We read some of the Bahavagad Gita and portions of the Koran and other deeply thought provoking writings that I don't recall. I do recall loving it, thinking about it, having something to say about it, and writing it down. I also remember doing well! There was something about the way you approached that class that motivated me. I wanted to read; I wanted to impress you. I wanted to continue when the class was over. Thank you.

Ms Tohn -- an instructor in grad school. You are a little nutty but in the best possible way. I was always impressed by your passion and compassion for the work you did and the people you worked with. I loved your approach and how it liberated people, often breaking away from traditional therapy which can, at times, actually keep people stuck. I didn't always agree with everything you said, nor were you one I wanted to vocalize my disagreements with in class, but I found that we could always discuss and share ideas when I spoke with you. You were always very respectful of all people, accepting of different ideas and approaches (although some would disagree with me). You helped me finish out grad school, jumping through the necessary hoops and considering so many more options about what I could really do with this degree. Thank you!

Friday, February 27, 2009

It may seem sarcastic, but it's not 2/27

Dear Parking Ticket Fairy,

I have lived in Boston for nearly 4 years now. I have never encountered a profession in which I have been as impressed with the personnel in terms of their dedication, availability,endurance, and vision. More than once I have thought I could outsmart you, get away with disregarding parking rules and regulations. Although I have gotten by at times without incident, more often than not, you have been there to help me understand the importance of orderly parking and public safety. When I have parked in a parking space limited to 2 hours, and I don't get back until it's been 2 hours and 10 minutes, I am AMAZED that my ticket is stamped at 2 minutes past the allotted time. You're dedication is to be admired. When it's snowing, white-out conditions, the parking spaces are filled with plowed snow, it makes no difference to you. You will make sure every loading zone is clear and parking meter valid. Rain or shine, I see you nearby, lurking, waiting for the second my meter runs out. It is impressive.

Today I left my car for three minutes in a loading zone and I saw you leaving the $55 dollar ticket on my windshield. Thank you. Thank you for keeping me on my toes, for keeping me from thinking I can get away with a loading zone pause.

If only your dedication and loyalty to your responsibilities could be mirrored in other professions. Cable people, phone companies, cashiers, professors, employers even--They could all learn from your vision of a better world, with rules and regulations, where no one gets away with ANYTHING.

Thank you.

and lent begins 2/26

Yesterday I desperately wanted to compliment this person aloud but there was no way I could. I have a client. Clearly I cannot disclose any specifics or share any detailed stories (although you know I want to). My first compliment to those in need of my stimulus offering of compliments to a negative, angry world goes to the intensive manipulators.

Many overlook the artful craft that is skillful manipulation. To know how to whine and complain enough, to blame and avoid responsibility just the right way, to invoke others towards feelings of guilt or desperation to help you, to create an atmosphere where one may desire to give you money or a listening ear (which leads to your getting something), to make them think it's their idea and you somehow deserve the offering, or that in anyway the offering will somehow relieve some degree of your pain...

it's masterful really. I get to work with some of the best.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

the lent plan

Last year I had a great time writing confessions everyday on my blog for Lent. I like Lent. I'm not a Catholic but I really do like the idea of giving something up or doing something differently. I realize that my lame offering for Lent last year may be seen to others as mockery perhaps but I assure you it is not. My confessions last year really helped me to reflect and be grateful for so many blessings in my life. I take a lot for granted and I'm already excited for my new plan this year. Although there is some silliness to my plan, there actually is some sincerity and interest in making self-improvement.

I was talking with some co-workers the other day about what to do for Lent. One of my co-workers brought up a very good point. For Lent she tries, instead of giving something up, giving back. She seeks out shelters and other programs that she can volunteer a few hours each week. We talked about how this is another way to be reflective on all the capabilities and resources we have and offer it to someone else. Another factor leading to my decision this year was a talk we had in church last Sunday. An institute missionary couple was speaking to us and the Sister was talking about kindness. It was an enjoyable talk and one I've thought about since. One thing she offered was that a compliment withheld is a criticism. Interesting, I thought.

For Lent this year I would like to offer a compliment a day. There are many times, I'm sure, when I am complimentary to others, but this will be something that I plan to put energy into. It's an opportunity to open my eyes, view this interesting world around me and find honest sincere ways to compliment (perhaps when it seems un-compliment-able?) I couldn't help but think about this like my own version of a stimulus package. Some people have gone a long time without compliments, sometimes because they don't deserve them. I will fix this. I am going to saturate my immediate world with kindness and compliments to the undeserving, the ungrateful, and the unsuspecting.

I will also seek out an hour a week to dedicate in some kind of service capacity of which I am not already involved.