Thursday, February 23, 2012

Overheard at Dinner

"So, have you started dating yet?"
"And why not? You're a great catch; handsome, intelligent, witty."
"Thanks. I don't think I'm ready, yet."
"Why not? How long has it been since you've been out?"
"On a date? I haven't since the divorce."
"Oh, my. That long?"
"Why don't you think you are ready?"
"Many reasons."
"I have no money. I don't have the time or the energy to invest, right now."
"Those are all just excuses."
"Really? I don't think so. As for the money, I am barely making it to the end of the month. How can I contribute anything to a date? Work has me so overworked, I don't have time. I'm so exhausted by the end of the day, I'm in bed by 9:00. And then I bring so much work home with me, and what with managing the house and yard.....I don't feel I have any time for myself, let alone a new boyfriend."
"You could make time if you wanted."
"What about you? Are you dating?"
"No, and stop deflecting the question."
"Why aren't you dating? You're a great catch as well; you're sensitive, a good communicator, romantic. And also good looking."
"Thanks. But, I don't want to, right now."
"It doesn't feel right, I just don't know why."
"I think you do."
"All right then, you tell me; why don't I want to date?"
"You're scared."
"Of what?"
"Of being hurt again."
"So, I'm right?"
"Getting hurt is part of life. It's a learning process."
"You know, sometimes you really annoy me with your logic, and all intellectual approach to life. Getting hurt is not fun. IT HURTS! And after this last guy I was seeing, I don't want to go through it again. It hurt like hell!"
"I understand."
"There you go again, with your understanding. Do you know what it feels like?"
"I can imagine."
"Imagine all you want, you will never understand until you feel it."
"Do you think it's fair for me to not contribute to a date? If you met someone who didn't feel he had the time or energy to invest in dating you, would you think it fair?"
"It might not be fair, but if that is where he is, I'd learn to accept it, and work with him, if I really liked him enough to want to get to know him."
"I don't like the feeling it gives me, being dependent like that."
"Wait a minute! Mr. Intellectual doesn't like the way he feels about something? Are you going all soft and emotional on me? I don't understand you any more."
"Oh, so now you're trying to understand me now, are you? Are you letting go of all that touchy-feely stuff and thinking?"
"Why would I do that? That's who I am, all touchy-feely."
"And I'm very logical about things, that's just me. So what do we do now?"
"I don't know. Just continue on a wait-and-see-where-life-takes-us approach?"
"Makes sense to me. But, we should try and get out a bit more, but stay within our budget."
"Agreed. Oh, and if someone interesting does come along, we play it a bit more cautious."
"What do you mean?"
"I'll try not to get all hopeful, and you will try not to over-analyze everything he says or does."
"I'll try, but old habits die hard."
"Tell me about it."
"You mean we live in the moment, not projecting into the future."
"It won't be easy, but I'll try."
"That's all we can do is try. And work together."

And with that, I put my dishes in the sink, and went upstairs to read.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Carrots, Eggs and Coffee Beans

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

In about 20 minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me? What do you see?"

"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.

The daughter then asked, "What does it mean, mother?"

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

"Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?"

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity?

Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

My mother sent me this parable in an email shortly after I told her my ex wanted a divorce. I found it very powerful. So to motivate myself not to become either a carrot or an egg, I set some small bowls of coffee beans in a couple of places where I can see them often; my bathroom counter, and my desk in my office. When I am feeling like things are getting to me, I just go to one of the bowls to remind myself how strong I can be.

Or I just go to Starbucks.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pencil Points

The Pencil Maker took the pencil aside, just before putting it into the box.

"There are five things you need to know," he told the pencil, "before I send you out into the world. Always remember, never forget them, and you will become the best pencil you can be."

You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make.

Two: The most important part of you will always be what's inside.

Three: On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition, you must continue to write.

Four: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you'll need it to become a better pencil.

And Five: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in someone's hand. 

The pencil understood and promised to remember, and went into the box with purpose in its heart.

Parables like the one above are often used to explain a life lesson. Many of us are first introduced to parables in our religious instruction. As I look at where my life is at this moment, I have to agree with the ideas expressed above, though with some reservation.

I believe we can and should correct our mistakes, if they truly are a mistake and not a lesson to be learned. In hindsight, yes, there are things I wish I had done differently, but I ask, "Was I honest with myself at the time it happened?" And most often the answer is, "Yes." Then it was not a mistake, but a lesson learned, however painful.

What's most important is what's on the inside, not the outside. Very true. Who we are as a person far outweighs what we look like, or how we dress. However, when it comes to selecting a life partner, there also needs to be some physical attraction. Chemistry plays an important part in the sexual makeup of a romantic partnership. Sometimes, it can be the inside that makes the outside even more appealing. I have met some very attractive men, but are not quite what I like as far as the inside person, and likewise I have not been attracted to some really great guys. I like that unique combination of a man who attracts me by both his inner character and his outward appearance.

We never know what influence we may have on another person. That is foremost in my thoughts as a teacher, and especially now, as I am teaching pre-adolescents. While many students have returned to visit, it's not the academic lessons they remember, it's the life lessons I have tried to instill in them that they recall the most. I have had some very difficult students over the years, and have tried my hardest to leave my mark. I can only hope they see it at some point. But, it can be a little more difficult with friends, as we are usually both adults. We adults can be more set in our ways, struggling against lessons we know may be good for us, but too painful to learn. I try to always learn something from my friends and by just being myself, I can only hope they take something from me.

Life is painful. But, life is also about growth. We cannot grow without pain. This last year and a half has been very painful for me; I've learned lessons from my divorce, from an unrequited love, from a drastic change in my teaching regimen, and from changes in my lifestyle due to changes in my finances as a result of my divorce. I feel as if I am being oversharpened at times, but the Universe believes in me, since it has presented me with all these lessons at once, and so I persevere. If all this sharpening is to make me an even better person, then I am going to be even more awesome than I already am!

Allowing someone else to guide us may be the hardest lesson to learn; but, for me, it has become the most important. By forcing our lives to go in the direction we want, it may not be what is best for us or what the Universe, God, Allah, or Our Higher Power has in store for us. As humans, we want to be in control of our lives, of our destinies. We want things to go the way that is more comfortable. And therefore, safe. When we go against what the Universe has planned, we usually find ourselves struggling, trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. We may not find our true happiness. But, by learning to let go and just let someone else guide us, we will at least be on the right path, if we follow.

Also, the Universe might have a use for us in someone else's life, maybe as a catalyst for their life lesson; the students in my classes come to mind. They are there for academic lessons, naturally; but what about life lessons? What about the possibility that I could learn from them? On the first day of school four years ago, a very proud girl walked directly to a seat in the front and center of the classroom, took out a notebook, a pencil, folded her hands and waited. She was ready to learn. I took it as a challenge. No other student had openly exhibited such an attitude of pride in learning before. I learned that there are students who will rise to the challenge of being pushed, and I changed my teaching style to fit her needs, not mine.

As I go forth on my path, I try to remember this advice from the pencil maker, and I know there is a reason for all the sharpening.

But, personally, I hope the sharpening comes to an end soon. At least for a little while. I could use a rest.

Photos of the pencil sculptures were used with permission from

Thank you, Jennifer.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Absolute is defined in the dictionary as "free from restriction or limitation; an absolute ruler; free from conditions, not dependent on external variables."

In math, we talk of absolute value. In simplest terms, it means the distance a given number is from zero on the number line regardless of direction. In practical terms, if I receive $4.00 from a debt owed me (+4), or pay a $4.00 debt (-4), the value of the amount is the same, $4.00. The value is not dependent on the direction from zero or to whom it's being paid. It is absolute.

People often think of terms like always, forever and never as absolutes, free from the limitations of time.

But are they?

I think it depends on the context. Is a rock always a rock? Didn't it begin as a boulder only to be eroded first to a rock, and then will go on to be eroded down to a pebble and finally a grain, perhaps by these waves? The always here is constrained by the size of the object.

People bandy these words around like nothing. My husband pledged to love and honor me always. One year and ten months later he asked for a divorce, just prior to our second legal anniversary. Instead of being there to help me through my depression, he wanted out. His always was dependent upon my mental/emotional health. Did he know I was suffering from depression? Probably not. Actually, I was in denial myself, so I can hardly blame him. But, I can fault him for not trying to talk to me about it as I'm sure I didn't seem myself. I was no longer the man he fell in love with. But, that's water under the bridge at this point. Let it go....

I see forever as a synonym for always. My first partner said he would love me forever. But he passed away which, of course, he never planned on. Death is not something we like to talk about. But, it's built into our lives and death doesn't necessarily negate the forever. I still love all of my grandparents. After the death of a loved one, we do eventually move on in our lives, taking up with new spouses, while still holding on to the memories of our loved ones who've crossed over. It's common. It's expected. It's life.

It's that never, the antonym of forever, that can throw a wrench into the mix. Never, to me, implies a choice, a decision or even control;  but not necessarily time.

The sun will never die. In our lifetime, that is true. But, one day, it will. Therefore, it is a false statement. I know I'm splitting hairs. But, please, follow me. Here, the never is defined by time.

I can suffer from vertigo. It's hereditary and comes from some inner ear imbalance.  I have rolled over in bed in the middle of the night only to have the bed, the room and the entire planet continue spinning, rapidly, like the carrousel out of control at the end of Strangers on a Train. It's not an everyday occurrence, but damn annoying when it happens. If just rolling over in bed can send me staggering to the bathroom, what would a roller coaster do? I shudder to think. Therefore, I will never ride a roller coaster again, ever. That is my choice, my decision.

Seasons change. Feelings change.

"I could never love him." Really? How do you know? It might be a gut reaction, now. But, we don't know what the future holds. People can and do change. What if he did get clean and sober, could you love him then? What if he changed that attitude you find so obnoxious? What then? Are you saying you aren't open to the possibility that your feelings could change? Are we humans so arrogant that we believe we can control our feelings?

The heart wants what the heart wants. What a tired old cliché. But, oh so true. We don't understand how the heart works, emotionally speaking, that is. What draws certain people together, whether same- or opposite-sex, no one knows. Scientists have been working on trying to understand this for years. Many gay people can attest to the difficulties of not acknowledging what their heart wants. We learn to fight those feelings early on when they first begin to surface. By suppressing our feelings, many of us turn to obsessive or destructive behaviors: overeating, excessive drinking, drugs, or even cutting.

Life experiences also affect us. We never know what (or who) is around the corner. I never expected to be single again, especially after being partnered nearly fifteen years. (See, there I go, it's hard getting away from these words. But, in this case, I believed it to be true. After all, I was younger and in love which was reciprocated!) But, the experiences of being widowed and then divorced have made me stronger and a different person than I was then, and future life experiences will also continue to mold and shape me.

We say these words because we believe them to be true at the time we say them. And yet, they can have a deep impact on those who hear them. Many years ago, before I met my first partner, I fell in love with a guy who did not come close to the physical type of man I am usually drawn to. He was tall, skinny and blond, and I am usually drawn to tall, muscly, dark haired guys. When I professed my feelings, he said he could never love me. Never. There was that word. It didn't matter that I was too good of a friend to lose should we cross that bridge and the romance not work out. But, what if it did? But, he said never. So, we parted ways, and haven't seen each other since. I don't know if I will ever see him again.

I think what hurt most was that I never fully understood why. Why could he never love me? I had to rationalize it was not supposed to be, so I moved on. I hope he is happy wherever he is.

Sometimes we say these words for other reasons we may not know. A friend confessed to me she told a great guy she could never love him. Later, she realized she said it not because she could never  love him, but because she was afraid she could. And therefore, possibly get hurt again. She had said it out of fear though she realized this after she said it. Fortunately, she had the courage to accept the truth, go to her man, apologize and own up to her fear. Brava for her!

Never is a very strong word. It carries a lot of weight. When said in an emotional context it can add a lot of additional hurt to an already painful situation.

I have been fascinated by Nature my entire life. I love seeing animals in their natural habitat. I never thought I would ever see a whale in the wild. Now, I have seen two.

Friday, February 3, 2012



I know what I want in a husband. I have my list. 

There is some controversy, though, over having a list in searching for love. But, I think it depends on what you put on the list that causes the controversy. Like most of us, I do have a physical 'type' I tend to gravitate towards. But how often do we find someone who is that perfect combination of personality, brains and tall, dark haired, brown eyed, handsome muscle bear?  Rarely. (But, maybe this time I will. After all, the third time's the charm, right?)

A writer friend of mine blogged that he met his partner with no such list. He threw his requirements away. But, I bet deep down there were a couple of requirements; like, for instance, no criminal record, or being a member of a doomsday cult could spell doomsday for their budding relationship. But, I could be wrong.

However, most counselors and relationship experts suggest that having some idea of what is acceptable and unacceptable to you in choosing a mate is a good idea.  The above two would definitely be deal breakers for me, as well as his being a smoker. Well, maybe not the jail time, depending upon the reason.
I sort of have it easier, and at the same time very difficult in that I have my gold standard now. I just hope I don't get too critical if everything is not 'just right,' or get frustrated at being single and settle for not enough of what matters to me. The pictures here are of a time when I went panning for gold outside of Juneau, Alaska. (I'll win the lottery and travel elsewhere, I promise. Or I'll look for my pictures of England and Germany.)

I now know I can experience deep emotional feelings for another man again. I want to feel those same deep feelings for someone else. So what am I looking for?

I want someone who will take care of me. And I don't mean just when I have the flu. I spent twenty-five years taking care of men, who tried to take care of me, but didn't quite know how, though they tried. Maybe I'm too picky and should relax a little, or maybe it's because they were so much younger than I was, both chronologically and emotionally. Therefore, I want someone a little closer to my age. I also did most of the cooking and cleaning up in my past relationships. So, in taking care of me, I also want someone who will put dinner on the table once in a while. I am not talking Chateaubriand, paella or Eggplant Parmesan every night. How hard is it to boil water for pasta? Not very.

I want someone who honors monogamy. There are many arguments out there that men can't be, or gay men shouldn't be. That should be the couple's choice and no one else's. I am too much of a romantic to share my beloved with someone else.

I would like someone who accepts that teaching can be challenging, and therefore exhausting. Sometimes I will have to bring home some papers to grade and lessons to plan. After all, how do I reach that child in the sixth grade who still can't multiply  while challenging that child who is ready for quadratic equations both in the same class? Maybe I should only date other teachers, for they'd understand. But, what else would we talk about but work? That became an issue in my marriage. So, maybe not another teacher. But, who knows?

I would like someone who has a life outside our relationship. I would hope he has career (vs. a job), and is not necessarily married to it. I don't mean he has to give it up for me, just don't bring it home all the time. I do enough of that for the both of us with all the papers I have to grade. (I will work on that.) I would hope he has a hobby that occupies some of his time for I believe we all need some outside interest to entertain and stretch our brains. In addition, I would also like someone who is generous with his time. Does he volunteer for a charity? And then, how well does he balance his time between all of his activities? If he saves time for me, I'll make time for him.

I would like someone who is educated, well-read (note to self; find time to read more), and has a creative side. (Is that too much for one bullet point?)

I would like someone who has a sense of humor but can balance it with a serious side. And who doesn't take himself too seriously.

I would like someone who is willing to work within my budget. After all, I am a single public school teacher paying a mortgage. Enough said.

I would like someone who is social and sociable. But, there is a limit to a circle of friends. If it continues to grow and grow, will we be entertaining all of West Hollywood and/or Silverlake in our home?

Old mining cars and cable spool
I would like someone who is a good communicator and who is emotionally honest with me and with himself. If we can't talk about our emotions and feelings, how can we grow together, as well as independently?

I would like someone who is willing to start out as friends first. Let's not preclude any possibilities. Let's build that foundation, before we build the walls.

I would like someone who will encourage me to be me. We all have quirky sides to our personalities. Let's honor them. Many of us surrender a large part of our identity when we meet someone, and later struggle to get our identity back farther down the road of the relationship. If we start out being ourselves from the onset, we don't have to find ourselves later on.

I want someone who takes my breath away every time I see him. And maybe he makes me tingle a little, too.

But, most importantly, I want it to be a natural fit. I want it to feel like we belong together; Soul Mates, if you will. I don't want him to be my other half, for I am already complete. I want him to be my complement, bringing out the best in me as I bring out the best in him. It's as if the Universe has brought us together.

Twice, I settled for less than what I deserve, and I won't do it again.