Monday, September 28, 2009

Motivational vignettes

Proverbs, platitudes, snappy one-liners... call 'em what you will, I love 'em. Not everything I hear strikes a chord with me, mind you, but I've heard some terrific motivational comments lately that I thought I'd share. I'm sharing them for two reasons - one for your enjoyment/edification/amusement and two - so I can remember them since I found them so moving and inspirational. I hope you agree.

From a Weight Watchers meeting:

"If you change the way you look at things, the way things look change." (Wayne Dyer)

"Don't worry about failure. Worry about the chances you miss when you don't even try." (Anonymous)

On teshuvah (repentance) from the High Holy Day machzor (prayerbook):

"Even if it seems inadequate in your eyes, none of the good you do is ever lost." (Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav)

"To have found God is not an end, but is in itself, a beginning." (Franz Rosenzweig)

A tale is told of one who sat in study before the great tzaddik (righteous one) Rabbi Mordechai of Nadvorna of blessed memory. Before Rosh HaShanah the student came to seek dispensation to be dismissed early.

Reb Mordechai asked, "Why are you hurrying?
The student said, "I am the reader for Rosh Hashanah and I must go home and look over my festival prayer book to put my prayers in order."

To this Reb Mordechai offered this response: "To he who would learn, the prayer book and the prayers are still in the same order as they were last year. Perhaps it would be better for you to look into your own deeds and put yourself in order." (S.Y. Agnon)

From Dhammakaya (Thai) Meditation, which I now practice (although not as regularly as I should):

Samma (sah'-mah) Arahang (ah-rah-hahng') which means "Purify the mind" in an effort to free yourself from suffering in life.

Just about anything from Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks, the husband and wife relationship expert team, both of whom have Ph.D.s; Here are a few of my favorites from them:

"We can choose to operate from a place of radical responsibility. In every moment of life, we get exactly what we are committed to getting."

"We believe that complete transparency is the best aphrodisiac ever discovered, as well as the best way to get a good night's sleep."

"People commit to outcomes, which are beyond their control. Instead they need to commit to processes."

And since none of these wonderful jewels of wisdom came from me and so I don't want to accept kudos for them, I would be remiss if I didn't share one more that sums them all up and has helped me immensely in my life over the last several months: "Teamwork - It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn't matter who gets the credit."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Only the first 16 letters....

So I've mentioned that every Thursday I volunteer making calls for the Deeds for Governor campaign to drum up support for him. Now the election is only about five and a half weeks away and still it seems that very few people even know about the election much less who the candidates are. But that, as I hear someone say today, is a subject for another lecture or, in my case, blog post.
Some of you who read these posts know how fascinated I am by language matters and how, being named "Daphne" I am especially taken by people's names. Earlier this year a baby shower was thrown for one of my colleagues from the old job. Having access to the membership data base, I went through it looking for "fun" names and then put together a contest in which people had to figure out which name in a list of about ten or twelve was not real. Some of them were real doozies like "Rebecca Boober" (a real name), "Lawrence Putz" and "Jack Loser" (also real) and "George Dingus" (you can't make something like that up!).
So today in my list of names to call there was a person whose last name is "Essaranuwatankul." It was suggested to me by staffers at the campaign office that I address the prospective voter by first name if the phone was answered. Luckily for me it wasn't so I didn't have to "risk" botching the name. But it took me back to my high school days. Why?
New York State high school students take standardized tests given only in New York called Regents exams. I thought there was a law against cruel and unusual punishment. But I digress...
Anyway, you always had to put your name on the exam forms by filling in a prefab space with boxes. The instructions for "writing" your name read as follows: "Only fill in the first 16 letters of your last name."
I had a girlfriend in high school whose name was "Urania Papatheodoros" (I think that was her name. It's been a while...). But still, even some of the more exotic names of the Greek students I attended school with were only 10 or 11 letters long. I don't believe I knew anyone with a single name - first or last - that was more than about 10 letters. I was friends with a guy named "Marco" whose real name was "Marcangelo," but that's only 10 letters and I can't think of ayone I knew whose name was longer.
When I took the Regents exams and had to fill in my name, I always wondered whether there was really anyone out there who had to actually comply with the instruction "Only fill in the first 16 letters of your last name."
Now I know.
What do you think Philadphia resident, Mr. Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff, would think of the instruction and my wonderment?

Score: Domestic Divahood, 11; Unfulfilled on the job, 0

Friday, September 18, 2009

Signs from God

So I recently signed up on Facebook as a fan of an Italian education application called "Parola del Giorno" which translates as "Word of the Day." At sundown tonight Rosh HaShanah -- the Jewish New Year -- began. As I have done for years now on Rosh HaShanah, I recently sent a card to several friends and family members on which I quoted the chorus from Michael Jackson's song "Man in the Mirror." The lyrics go, "I'm starting with the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to change his ways. And the message couldn't be any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change."

I thought those words offered a good idea at a time when one is, for all intents and purposes, "starting over."

So what does any of this have to do with Italian and why is my blog post titled "Signs from God?" Glad you asked.

The word of the day for Thursday, September 17th - the day before Rosh HaShanah - was actually two words "voltare pagina (pronounced vohl-tah'-ray pah'-gee-nah) which taken together are an expression meaning to turn a page or symbolically "to turn over a new leaf."

Here we were on the threshhold of Rosh HaShanah and from a seemingly unrelated source I was being "told" to turn over a new leaf. Wow! I believe in signs from God and the signs are clearly everywhere that I need to make some changes in my life.

I read this awesome parable in the prayerbook in synagogue tonight. It goes like this:
A man is lost in the forest and has been wandering around for several days, trying to find his way out, when he encounters another man. "Aha!" he thinks to himself. "This man surely must know the way out." He calls to the second man, "You there! Can you show me the way out of this forest?" The second man replies, "Brother, I too am lost and have been trying for days to find my way out of this forest. The only thing I can tell you is not to take the paths I have taken, because they have not led me to where I want to be." The second man then adds, "Let us become partners and search for the way together."

I have so many wonderful family members and friends with whom I can partner to search for the way. Thank you to my friends, family and God for helping me to look for the right way and supporting me as I do.
L'Shanah Tovah 5770.

Score: Domestic Divahood, 10; Unfulfilled on the job, 0

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Figs and intestinal fortitude

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great poet and philosopher said, "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." Someone must have forgotten to tell my fig tree that.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. To quote a local evangelist in our area, "Not a sermon, just a thought."

It's just that its getting harder and harder to keep up with the seemingly frenetic pace at which the fruit is ripening. Thank goodness Gary and I have neighbors who like fruit!

I've never seen anything quite like it. Gary and I think we've "harvested" close to 150 figs and there are more yet to come. Amazing!

The thing that drives me batty though is that I can't figure out what we've done to generate such an abundant and healthy crop. Was it all the rain this year? Was it something -- anything -- that we did?

I wish I knew. All I know is that it's raining figs in my back yard. It's very exciting and delicious, too. But I have this sinking feeling that I may be setting myself up for a fall. You know what I mean -- that at this time next year I'll be going "Ahhh! Where are all my wonderful figs?!" and remembering this time last year (that would be NOW) fondly.

In the meatime I'm learning what to do with figs other than give them to neighbors - dried figs, fig jam, chicken with figs, fruit salad with figs, peanut butter and fig sandwich...

Score: Domestic Divahood, 9; Unfulfilled on the job, 0

Friday, August 28, 2009

Whose health care plan?

So I mentioned in an earlier post that I'm volunteering with the Deeds for Governor campaign. As a reminder, Creigh (pronounced Cree') Deeds is Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

On Thursdays I go to the district office about six miles from the house and make calls to voters to remind them about the election and get a feel for whether Creigh Deeds can count on their vote in November. When I make the calls I have a loose script that I follow saying who I am and why I'm calling.

Yesterday was my second day volunteering. I made 99 calls. Making these calls is quite an education --primarily in what people will say when they can't see you.

So I called this woman and a man picked up the phone. I said I was looking for the woman of the household and that I had her name on a list of voters. The man said, "I'm a voter, too."

"I see, Sir," I said, "but I don't see your name on our list." To which he replied, "Oh, I'm a conservative voter." Whatever works for him. I'm not going to pass judgment.

Then, not that it was germane to anything, he offered the following comment, "I have to tell you. I think my wife is starting to regret having voted for Obama last year."

I believe I said something to the effect of "Sir, I'm not sure exactly how that relates to the information I'm seeking."

Unbeknownst to me that was an invitation for him to share his thoughts on the health care debate, the conclusion of which was, "...and we don't want any of that African health care."

I have to say I was reminded by this man's comment of an incident that took place years ago when I was dating which, today, always makes me laugh.

I was using a dating service that sent letters with information about prospective matches. I was matched with a guy who, I found out later, had quite the wry sense of humor. We were on the phone chatting and I asked him what the service had told him about me. He said they had told him that I was this, that and the other thing and that I was black.

I was very surprised that the dating service would have made such a major error and I wondered how and where they had gotten that information.

The joke was on me though as my prospective date fessed up that he was just kidding around with me. Boy did I feel the fool and have a good laugh when I heard that.

When this guy yesterday made his comment, I considered telling him that this "sista" was wondering whose health care plan he had been reviewing. I'm sure I'll laugh about this one day too.

Score: Domestic Divahood, 8; Unfulfilled on the job, 0

Thursday, August 20, 2009

24 Carrot Smile

It's amazing where you can get with a smile and a friendly word.

I was at the county garden plot with Gary this past weekend. It was hot as all get out and we had just planned to be there for a few minutes to admire my recent handiwork and water the beds with greenery other than weeds in them.

I was picking little weeds from among the melons and tomatoes and Gary offered to fill the watering cans. I get some serious tunnel vision when I weed. Being "in the zone" I didn't want to stop weeding, so Gary went off by himself.

Soon afterwards he came back and we emptied the three watering cans/buckets we had, but still the beds did not look sufficiently "happy" so we both went back for more water. (Think Jack and Jill going up a hill...)

On the way to the water source, Gary told me that another gardener had attached a hose to the spout without using a "splitter" so no one else could take water from the spout. That's pretty rude. However, Gary said, it had been no problem to fill the watering cans before and would surely not be a problem this time either. So we went to see the guy whose hose was on the spout.

I thought the guy would detach his hose so we could use the spout (I have NO idea what I was thinking...). But instead he just put his hose into the watering cans and filled them up. While he did, we got to talking...

Those of you who know me know my penchant for talking, telling stories, etc.

Gary knew the garden would never get watered if I had anything to do with it, so he went off to finish the job, while I kibitzed.

So it turns out that this guy, Sam, is one of the pioneer county plot gardeners having transferred his"crops" to Franconia Park when the original garden on Beulah Street was essentially paved over to build a school, several years ago. As a result, Sam has a double plot at Franconia Park and whoa does he have veggies! One thing I'm continually learning about the gardeners at the county plots is that they are interesting, generous people.

So I ask Sam if I can have a look at what he's got. I don't know what I said, but when Gary came back to get me about 20 minutes later, I was carrying an armful of zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, purple basil, peppers and more.

Each time Sam pressed something else on me I replied politely "Oh, I couldn't possibly take it" knowing all the while that I could and, odds are, that I also knew that, in fact, I "would."

We had pasta with an awesome spicy vegetable sauce for dinner that night.

And to think it all started with a good word and a grin.

Talk about a 24-carrot smile!

Score: Domestic Divahood, 7; Unfulfilled on the job, 0

Friday, August 14, 2009

Electioneering for good ol' what's-his-name

I've just picked Gary up from the Metro and I'm cooking dinner and the phone rings. Naturally. It's that magical hour when everyone who has nothing useful to tell you decides to invade your privacy. Gary gets the phone and I see him nodding his head and then he says something to the effect of "Well, my wife might be interested. Let me put her on..." What the h-e-double hockey sticks am I about to get into?

So I take the phone and a young lady introduces herself and says she is the field office supervisor, or some other such exalted position, in a new campaign office that just opened about about eight miles from the house and they are looking for volunteers to help get out the vote for Creigh Deeds. For those who don't know, Creigh Deeds is a state senator from Bath County (home of the great unwashed?), VA and he is the Democratic candidate for governor. The thing is, I have no earthly idea how to pronounce the guy's name. Is it Cray? Cree? Crayg? Houston, we've got a problem.

I'm going to call some Virginia voter and say "Hey there. My name is Daphne and I'm calling you today to talk to you about good ol' "what's-his-name" and why you should vote for him for Governor this November. Yeah, that's going to make a great impression.

The irony is that I got very fired up during the presidential campaign season last year and I want to do this so I've agreed to volunteer to help "Get out the Vote." I start Thursday. Let's hope I know good ol' "what's-his-name's" name by then...

Score: Domestic Divahood, 6; Unfulfilled on the job, 0

Monday, August 10, 2009

Why don’t we do it on a heavily traveled road?

For meditation you need absolute quiet and tranquility, right?


This Saturday I went to meditation as usual, but to my great surprise and nervous delight I wound up meditating in a public park. I felt like I was back in college again (I mentioned that after the session and generated some laughs) when we used to cajole our professors into letting us have class outdoors. I don't remember getting an awful lot of learning done when my college courses were held on the lawn, but outdoor meditation was remarkably educational.

Think of a really heavily traveled street in your neighborhood. Now picture trying to tune out all that noise and activity and "stimulation" such as it is.

I was a little bit anxious about my purse and my wallet, but the abbot from California who is the meditation master says "Forget about your worries," so I tried not to be too uptight. The end result? Well maybe I was really tired from gardening and staying out late the day before, but I was GONE very soon after the actual meditation session began. It was deep.

Meditating with this monk is so "trippy." He's got a very round face and he wears these glasses that make me think of John Lennon and he's always smiling. A more mellow guy, I've yet to meet. Taken together with his bright orange robe, he is totally psychedelic! I was told that he's in the 45- to 55-year-old age range so that fits in with everything else, even though he's a Buddhist from Thailand.

I have to say I think I am starting to better understand why Jews dig Buddhism so much. The meditative state is so harmonious and composed. No wonder the monks encourage us to meditate twice a day. I really wonder though whether the people who say they meditate daily actually do. I'm trying to be more diligent about meditating, praying, etc. I almost feel though as if I have to put it on my daily schedule, because I have so much going on that I forget to get it in. Forget to relax? Pathetic, no?

Well, it's all about prioritizing.

I know that when I look out for and take care of number one (that'd be ME), that I do better by and for all those around me. And that's what I want to do.

We'll see how I do tomorrow. It's my first day volunteering. I'm excited, but a little nervous too.

Maybe if I pray and meditate a little before going.....

Score: Domestic Divahood, 5; Unfulfilled on the job, 0

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Schnitzel Days of Daph

The Mystics game last night was so much fun! Per usual, since the seats next to us have not been sold for the season, there were strangers as occupants. But we couldn't have asked for better strangers. We sat next to a family of five who were visiting DC from (Excellent!) the Bahamas. I chatted up quite a storm with the wife, who was sitting next to me with her delightful, lively and very curious two-year-old daughter. I made a fool of myself in conversation when I said something about "Bahamanians." The wife had a good laugh on me before telling me that the correct term is "Bahamians." Whoops! What was it that sage fellow Abe Lincoln said? "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt." No kidding, Abe!

The Mystics were playing the Detroit Shock. Think Katie Smith, Alexis Hornbuckle, Kara Braxton, Cheryl Ford, and of course, the legendary Rick Mahorn. I was tempted to yell, "Hey Coach Mahorn! Try not to get thrown out of the game this time!" Given his size -- like a small Mack truck -- and temperament -- let's just say, not the kind you necessarily want to bring home to mother -- I decided it was in my best interest not to share those comments. But I certainly was thinking them. And probably for good reason.

One of the assistant coaches -- Earl Cureton, aka "Earl the Twirl" drew a technical foul in the first half. Not quite sure why, but if I had to guess I'd say it had something to do with "misuse" (I think that's genteel) of language. They're a tough group, those "Motor City" ladies.

So after being the national champions last year, Detroit has been stinkin' it up BIG TIME this year. And as was expected, they lost. But the action was continuous and the lead did change hands a few times, so it was a fun game.

And it was only made better -- much, much better by the food. I have been waiting all season for breaded, deep-fried chicken tenders, better known as "chicken fingers." I absolutely love them and I got to have them last night. Since food is included in the price of our tickets, we got to have them for "free." It was so awesome! A basket of chicken fingers at the Verizon Center costs at least $9. It may be $9.50, I can't remember. So imagine having as much of this food as my little heart desired and not having to shell out serious bucks for it. And in addition to the chicken fingers as an "appetizer" they had a variety of cheeses. Oh man! I was in 7th heaven.

So I've been trying to figure out why I like chicken fingers so much and I may have hit upon something today.

I think it may have to do with the fact that as children when we would drive up to CT on Friday evenings and stop at Grandma Florence's house in the Bronx, she almost always gave us schnitzel. Here's a newsflash: Schnitzel is breaded, fried chicken breast. In other words, not so far off chicken fingers. Could it be that I'm having a flashback when I eat chicken fingers to those innocent days? I'm not sure, because as I recall, I would often struggle with Naomi about who was going to get to stretch out all the way in the back seat. Usually I lost. But even when I "won" the ridiculous and, I daresay, questionably safe child safety harnesses in the back seat made really lying down and getting comfortable next to impossible.

I never learned to duplicate Grandma's recipe exactly and it would have to be exact, because otherwise it's just not the same. Veggie schnitzel in Israel filled a void, but eating it wasn't ever really like eating Grandma's schnitzel in my pajamas at the insanely late hour of - it was probably 8:30 p.m. or so.

Perhaps with the extra time on my hands I'll experiment...

Score: Domestic Divahood, 4; Unfulfilled on the job, 0

Friday, August 7, 2009

Man vs. Weed

It's August 7th and today was "Employment Situation Day." That meant getting up extra early so Gary could get to work early. And the timing couldn't have been better. The weather was remarkably cool for August -- in the 60's, so after I dropped Gary at the Metro, I came home gathered my tools and went to our Fairfax County garden plot. There I engaged in a fierce battle of man vs. weed. I'm glad to say that after two hours, man won, but it was touch and go for a while. I had to keep reminding myself that I was picking up activity points on Weight Watchers meaning I can eat a little more tonight at the Mystics game. Detroit is playing pretty poorly these days, so the food may be the highlight of the game. Hopefully not.

After a few hours of manual labor, I returned home to have coffee with Sharon. On the way home, I stopped at Safeway to pick up some kind of "munchie" to have with coffee. As I walked in, covered in dirt and sweat, I got a few looks. Perhaps people thought I was homeless. I was quite the sight.

So I changed into a dress when I got home to make myself look presentable. To my delight when I left the house, via the front door (as opposed to the garage) there was a package on the porch. It contained a pair of "retro" sunglasses that I ordered several weeks ago. They are completely kitschy and completely awesome and they fit like a glove. Now I just need the 1960's flip hairstyle (see photo) to go with them to complete the look. I'm trying to achieve the flip, but I probably need to use more hairspray. Since I use no hairspray now, "more" is a relative term.
In keeping with my environmentalist persona, I need to find something that's not going to widen the hole in the ozone layer. I'll leave that to other Southern "belles."
Yeah, like I'm so Southern. You should hear me screaming and carrying on at Mystics games. I'm still trying to scream myself hoarse. So far I still have a voice. Bummer! But I definitely get some looks when I belt out such favorite phrases as "Let's go ladies!" or "Come on (insert name here)! Knock it down!"
Yikes! On the subject of knocked down, I'm about to fall down from exhaustion. It's tiring just watching the Mystics. I can't even imagine what it must be like to play in one of those games.
And I have a big day tomorrow. I'll get a fix on how my plan to lose a pound a week before vacation is going. If I don't report, we'll know...
Score: Domestic Divahood, 3; Unfulfilled on the job, 0

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Prelude to Retirement

It's August 6th and day two of "not working" for me. Ha! I think I can view this period of "no work" as a prelude to retirement. After all, I've always heard it said that when you retire you become far busier than you were when you worked full time. If that's case, give me full time work! On second thought...

So today's main activity was a meeting about volunteering. The work will be helping job hunters to develop resumes and conduct job searches -- a subject I am quite familiar with. I was surprised when I was told I have to provide references to the people who oversee the volunteers. References? To be a volunteer? Who'da thunk it? Gone are the days I guess when you could sashay into the headquarters of an organization/agency, say "I'd like to volunteer" and be asked "When can you start?" Fortunately I have excellent references.

I'll be starting off slowly -- one day a week for four hours. I'm hoping I'm going to love it and can "make something of it." Ideally I'd like to volunteer three days a week. I've got other ideas in the pipeline, including manual labor on a horse farm. Gotta make that contact! Put it on the ever-growing list of things to do tomorrow.

When I got back from my meeting I "set to" writing a thank you letter as if I'd had a job interview. Between writing the letter, contacting my references and answering a few other emails, I was on the computer for most of the day. It's almost like I was at work. Who says not working isn't work?

Still all this keeping busy is great for the soul. The body could probably use a little more activity.... Well, I'm a work in progress.

Score: Domestic Divahood, 2; Unfulfilled on the job, 0

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Domestic Diva Day One

It's August 5th, 2009 and today is day one of life after voluntarily leaving my job to become a domestic diva. I have to say, given the economy, I'm incredibly fortunate to have been able to leave and not immediately have to look for a new money-making position.

The irony is that with the economy as miserable as it is even volunteer work is hard to come by. Case in point:

I called a local government agency this morning about volunteering and was told "Sorry. We have all the volunteers we can accommodate right now."

Amazing. All I could think was "Man, would I hate to be job-hunting right now!"

But it's not like there isn't plenty to do to keep me busy at home.

I was folding laundry (baskets of it!) to a CD of country music (if you can really call Tim McGraw and the likes "country") and had gotten into a rhythm when the phone rang and "broke" my routine. Can you imagine being sorry to be called away from doing laundry? And yet there I was.

It may be inexplicable to some and at moments it's even surprising to me, but I derive a powerful sense of peace and joy being at home and taking care of my house.

I'm so excited and pleased to be at home. "At home" is a bit of a loose term, however. I have so many plans -- coffee with Suzanne; meditation; gardening; maybe helping to groom horses at Karen and Mark's farm; having lunch with Gary periodically and, of course, working on my cards, to say nothing of all the projects I haven't mentioned, thought of, etc.

Yeah, life is tough.

Score: Domestic Divahood, 1; Unfulfilled on the job, 0