Archive for November, 2008

Thanks and Thoughts

Posted on November 28, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Philosophy |

I’m home from celebrating my Thanksgiving holiday. It was a bittersweet time for many of us, but we managed to shift our perception of events from gloom to gladness. There were eleven of us at the dinner, including four couples, and three single people. Even the partnered people, though, were away from other family and friends. Most had children and/or parents and/or siblings many miles away. We told stories about holiday dinners from our families of origin. We expressed gratitude for the gathering of which we were a part.

Our hosts required each of us, in turn, to mention things we’re thankful for if we wanted any dessert! :eek: Which I did. I was nervous because I didn’t know exactly what I would say. I managed to come up with a pretty long list, including being alive in such interesting times. I’d said, in my previous post, that I would mention my blogging community as one of the things I’m thankful for, but I was a bit reluctant, because I thought people would be wanting my blog address and I don’t like to have people I know in the flesh reading my blog! As it turns out, the throng of eager potential readers never materialized! ;) Only one person asked about my blog, and when I mentioned I liked to keep it separate from the rest of my life, he understood completely. He did ask lots of questions about WordPress and how to use it, so, I think he will start a blog and not tell me about his!

This was a group that enjoys talking about consciousness and science. Our conversation included speculation about conscious evolution:  Will we develop sentient artificial intelligence? Even now, where does human end and machine begin? Some of the guests play Second Life, for instance, and have actually made money in real life by selling creations within the game. There was philosophical inquiry into “What is reality?” I love this sort of discussion, and had a wonderful time. :)

Someone thought to have us take a few moments to think of loved ones who weren’t with us, and also to send some good thoughts to areas and situations we felt could use them. We mentioned the world-wide economic situation, for one; various wars our county is involved in; political turmoil; and, of course the very recent attacks in Mumbai, India. We were asked, on this day of Thanks, to reframe these situations in more positive terms. We spoke of the strength and resiliency of the Indian people, and how we stand with them for Peace. We expressed hope for the incoming US Presidential administration, and their ability to alleviate conflicting situations in the Middle East. We acknowledged the abundance at our table; the amazing feast before us. This all felt very good, and very possible, and even, very true.

On a lighter note, I must describe our feast. Everyone contributed, and my job was to bring vegetables—specifically, green beans. I wanted to make something really special for this dinner, and I don’t generally cook very much, so I turned to blog buddy and wonderchef ellaella. Her Sesame Green Beans were a huge hit; everyone loved them. They are roasted, with a touch of sesame oil and sesame seeds. They have a yummy, subtle smoky taste which is a lot more interesting than how I usually make green beans (just throw them in a steamer). I will make this often, since I now have sesame oil. The recipe can be found at ella’s blog,  From Scratch.

We also had shredded Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan (yum), mashed potatoes with mushrooms and onions (I didn’t eat these because I didn’t want the butter and milk in them), carrots (OK), squash (good), two kinds of dressing (one, gluten free—we had several kinds of dietary requirements going on) and, of course, roasted turkey (very good) and for the strict vegetarians, tofurkey (just as good, actually).

I’m being very careful of what I eat, lately, and I don’t tolerate large portions, so it was very hard to take just small spoonfuls of everything. I wasn’t going to have dessert, because I’m not crazy about pumpkin pie; usually a Thanksgiving staple, but they had Pumpkin Flan, with rum sauce. (absolutely awesome), AND Apple Cranberry Cobbler! I was pushing the limits of my newly reconstructed digestive system, but I could not resist a bit of each, oh my! I think I got through it alright; I made some ginger-lemon tea when I arrived home, which has a soothing effect.

OK, enough about my dinner. I don’t imagine I’ll eat this way again soon, but I surely did enjoy it. Take care, everyone. It’s wonderful to be able to be appreciative along with you.

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Appreciation, Harvest, and the traditions among us

Posted on November 25, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

smileysunOf the uniquely “United States of America” holidays, Thanksgiving is my favorite. Part of the reason I like it is it is inclusive of all religions and beliefs, as well as secular sensibilities. Anyone can take a moment to experience a sense of appreciation for the amazing miracle known as “life”, as well as for the people and things which enhance each of ours.

We, in my country, celebrate our version of ancient Harvest Festivals on the fourth Thursday of November, so it’s coming right up! Last month, I wished my friends north of the border a good Thanksgiving; they and other friends throughout the world are now looking ahead to the winter holidays around Solstice. Our harvest holiday does seem to come a bit later in the year than most others.

The idea of a harvest festival, or holiday of some kind, is present in most cultures, often including expression of gratitude for the abundance of the harvest, and wishes or prayers for substance during the winter ahead. I’m sharing just a few examples from ancient and modern cultures, because I enjoy multiculturalism:

The Greeks The ancient Greeks worshipped many gods and goddesses. Their goddess of corn (actually all grains) was Demeter who was honored at the festival of Thesmosphoria held each autumn.

The Romans The Romans also celebrated a harvest festival called Cerelia, which honored Ceres their goddess of corn (from which the word cereal comes). The festival was held each year on October 4th and offerings of the first fruits of the harvest and pigs were offered to Ceres. Their celebration included music, parades, games and sports and a thanksgiving feast.

The Chinese The ancient Chinese celebrated their harvest festival, Chung Ch’ui, with the full moon that fell on the 15th day of the 8th month. This day was considered the birthday of the moon and special “moon cakes”, round and yellow like the moon, would be baked. Each cake was stamped with the picture of a rabbit – as it was a rabbit, not a man, which the Chinese saw on the face of the moon.

The Hebrews Jewish families celebrate a harvest festival called Sukkoth. Taking place each autumn, Sukkoth has been celebrated for over 3000 years.

The Egyptians The ancient Egyptians celebrated their harvest festival in honor of Min, their god of vegetation and fertility. The festival was held in the springtime, the Egyptian’s harvest season.

The United States In 1817 New York State adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom. By the middle of the 19th century many other states also celebrated a Thanksgiving Day. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln appointed a national day of thanksgiving. Since then each president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation, usually designating the fourth Thursday of each November as the holiday.

Canada Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated on the second Monday in October. Observance of the day began in 1879.   (With thanks to Holidays on the Net for research.)

I am most appreciative, grateful, and thankful for YOU, the reader of my blog. It’s been quite a year for many of us, and we have a way to go yet! :) You, my world-wide neighbor, have enhanced my life, and it’s nice to remember that, as I go to celebrate a feast with friends. We’ll tell stories, and name things, and, especially, people we’re thankful for. Somewhere in there, I expect to utter the word “blog” or “bloggers”. Listen carefully and you may hear!

A very Happy Thanksgiving/Autumn/Harvest—any celebration that you hold dear!

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Obligation

Posted on November 18, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Philosophy |

This past week has been one of giving up things: responsibilities; plans; expectations; methodicism; activities.

Guess what? Outside of some belly pain, and reactions to drugs (I’m now drug-free; yay!), due to a recent surgery, it’s been wonderful. Sometimes it takes a startling life event like this to put ones priorities in order. Some of my conclusions have surprised; actually shocked me!

For instance: I have been singing in choruses almost all my life. As I love choral music (that hasn’t changed) I often volunteer to help the chorus or musical organization, and, in my current situation, I’ve been on the Board of Directors for six out of the eight years I’ve been a member. I like to sing. I like to facilitate the organization’s continuance. Right?

Well…yes. I’ve been engaging in these activities for so long that they’ve become habit. I’ve not questioned them or my participation for some time. Yet, recently, since a concert is coming up, for which I’ve rehearsed for many weeks, I reviewed my options as to participation in it. There are two more rehearsals, one “mandatory” if I wish to sing, and then there is work to do the day of the concert, as well as the actual singing. My voice is not good, right now; still scratchy from anesthesia tubes, but I can work on that. I could arrange my sleeping, and curtail other activities so I could “get by”, probably, on concert day. On the other hand, my fellow singers would understand if I didn’t participate this time.

I have chosen not to. Immediately upon making that decision, questions and taunts from my ego-centered portion of self began to surface: “But, they need all the singers they can get, as they’ve lost people!” “Who is going to collect the money for the tickets, if you’re not there?” and the most insidious: “But you’ve rehearsed all this time! You can’t give it up now! What if you miss something? What if they don’t like you any more?” And, finally: “You have OBLIGATIONS!!!”

Guess what? (again). No, I don’t. I didn’t sign a contract, swear an oath, or make a promise to put my health and/or ease below the needs of this one, small, organization. I said to myself:  “Given that all those ego-taunts are true (from its perspective), and aren’t going to go away—just put them aside for a moment, and ask ‘What is the path of least resistance? What feels better, easier? What would feel more like enjoying the journey as the boat drifts downstream, rather than furiously rowing upstream?’”

Deciding to relax, and just attend the concert, felt like such a relief. The doctors had said I should avoid stress (don’t they always say that?!?), and doing anything other than just attending, felt stressful. Good guidance from my inner self, there; guidance I intend to take more and more to heart. It turns out (of course) that other people can step in to fulfil some of my “obligations”. Others can be postponed. As for the quality of the concert, without my dulcet tones, well, we shall see. It will be as it is.

There are other activities I’ve stepped back from, as well. The word “obligation” comes from two old Latin words meaning “to bind”. (Same root word as “ligament”, which “binds” bones and muscles together.) Most definitions I’ve read use the words “constraint” and/or “constrict”. I believe, more strongly than ever, that I don’t ever want to feel “obliged”. About anything. If I’m not participating fully, with gladness of heart, then it’s not worth doing. Really! In fact, it can endanger ones health, as I feel these obligations have contributed to my recent concerns.

It seems that obligations can stem from habits. When I was first elected to the Choral Board of Directors, I was very excited. I couldn’t wait for meetings; the ability to help plan and shape this wonderful organization. In recent years, though, I realize I’ve gone from complacency, to tolerance, to almost dreading the meetings. It’s been a gradual and subtle shift. Still, I did not question it–after all, “I love music; volunteering; working; serving”.  Well. I did. This is my opportunity to reexamine virtually everything. Duty, responsibility, and obligation feel binding and constrictive. Some may argue they are part of the “social glue” which hold society together. Perhaps. I think I’d rather be “un-glued”; and when and where you find me, you’ll know I’m there because I want to be, not because I’m obligated to you.

As I close this post, I notice a badge which has been on my blog for a very long time:

Hmmm. :D

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Downtime

Posted on November 15, 2008. Filed under: Health, Music, Musings, Philosophy |

As I continue to recover from surgery this week, I’m quite taken by a comment on my last post: “Enjoy the downtime”. (Thanks, Eric!) In thinking of what “Downtime” means to me, a lot of phrases have been floating through my (almost drug-free now) brain. The term connotes both relaxation and restriction; a helpful rest, but a loss of productivity.

I turned to my old friend Wikipedia for further insight:

Downtime or outage refers to a period of time or a percentage of a timespan that a system is unavailable or offline. This is usually a result of the system failing to function because of an unplanned event, or because of routine maintenance.

The term is commonly applied to networks and servers. The common reasons for unplanned outages are system failures (such as a crash) or communications failures (commonly known as network outage).

The first paragraph applies, I think; a body is certainly a system, and my system was “offline” while under anesthesia. Following that, I’ve been somewhat “unavailable”. Although my entire system didn’t “fail to function” the gall-bladder portion of the system was heading for a crash! And it could have infected other system components also had it been allowed to continue as it was. The phrase “unplanned event” applies here, but I don’t know how one is supposed to “routinely maintain” a gall bladder other than generally looking after ones health.

How about paragraph two? Am I a network or a server? Again, the system known as my body contains a vast network of bones, muscles, veins, and electrical impulses which, ideally, function together so that I can type this post. I didn’t have an entire system failure, but what about a communication failure? Definitely. I’d been having symptoms for a couple of years, and while I did many things to address them, I realized I didn’t use any of several techniques I know to directly access the body’s wisdom. “Why not”, you ask? (I hear you!)

I have a one-word answer: FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real). I never wanted to delve too deeply into what may be causing these things. I do believe that virtually any condition can be healed, and that healing doesn’t have to come from “outside” i.e. a surgery. I also believe in the body’s innate wisdom; that it, as a system, knows more about, well, just about anything, than our conscious mind does. So, when I wouldn’t deal with the symptoms directly because I had, ahem, “other priorities”, my system delivered an alarm; a wake up call. (They do that, you know.) I hear and heed the call.

Am I a server? (as well as a network?) That’s an interesting question. I generally don’t find the idea of “service” very appealing, in spite of times when I’ve surrendered all to help others, and felt very good doing it. The trouble with serving others from a philosophical point of view (in my opinion) is it carries an assumption that others are “needy”. This further translates to seeing them as “lesser” or myself as “superior”. Yet, this idea of service calls to me. I think I would much rather be “of use” than “of service”. This may seem a small semantic difference, but it changes the way I feel about it nevertheless. I must see others, and myself, as complete, wonderful beings (even if they’re missing an organ!) before I’m willing to extend myself to be of use.

For some reason I can’t read the last two words in the Wikipedia definition of “downtime” as they are: “network outage“. Every time I look, I see “network outrage“. It seems the network that is my body feels pretty “outraged” by this assault upon it. It’s up to my higher, better self to remain calm, and “source for purposefulness” as one teacher says.

On another note, whenever I hear the word “downtime” I think of the song Downtown, as the word sounds almost the same. The song reflects my current state of mind, and my seeking a higher mental state. Sure enough, YouTube has a great video of Petula Clark performing this (from 44 years ago, yikes!) It made me feel better to watch and hear it. If you can get past the extremely dorky choreography, perhaps you’ll also “forget all your troubles; forget all your cares!”

I did warn you I might get a bit odd contemplative during my Downtime!

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Monday under the knife!

Posted on November 11, 2008. Filed under: Health, Musings, Philosophy |

So, I went to sleep Sunday night, after attending a committee meeting and potluck dinner. I didn’t eat anything weird, so I wondered why I woke up about 4am with excruciating abdominal pain. At first I thought it was some kind of extraordinary indigestion, so I drank some ginger tea, but an hour later the pain was getting worse, rather than better. I had experienced a similar kind of pain before, but not this intense, and my doctor wanted me to be screened for appendix problems. I hadn’t gotten ’round to the tests yet.

Finally, I went to the Emergency Room. They requested from me the gifts of several samples of of bodily fluids; gave me some great pain killers (!) and sent me to get a sonogram. I had gotten to the Hospital at about 2:00, and I thought I’d be out of there in a couple of hours.

They told me my gall bladder was infected, and I should have it removed. There was a surgeon on staff who could do the operation that night. He came to see me.

“What if I don’t get the surgery?” I asked. He told me these things don’t heal themselves, the infection could spread, and then more extensive surgery could be needed. It was potentially dangerous.

OK. I decided to get the surgery. My friend (who was with me) concurred. So, it happened that instead of having two meetings and a rehearsal on Monday, I lost a little weight! I didn’t eat until Tuesday afternoon, so I went about a day and a half without food. I didn’t mind, though—they gave me great drugs in the hospital. ;)

I’m home, now, and have some pain at the incisions, but they let me take home some drugs for that, too. I can’t drive for two weeks (!) A couple of friends offered to drive me places, but I don’t like to be dependent. Oh, well, It’s really nice of them. Even being a passenger in a car will be challenging at first; it’s hard to get in and out of the car.

I can type for a short time, but I don’t think you’ll be seeing any long posts from me for a few days. Drat! I had a good one that I’d been doing research on, but, that will have to wait.

So, this post is anecdotal whining. It feels OK to be doing this, but, as the days go on, I will be reflecting on the meaning of this event in my life. Don’t worry, I won’t be posting my ruminations, like “Oh, my belly button still hurts!” There is enough of that kind of thing in this very post. :)

I’ll be here in bloggieland slowly and gradually, but when this thing heals, watch out! I’ll have a lot of pent up posting to do!!!

If you read all of this, I do thank you. I mostly wanted to have a little whine. I know it’s all good–ultimately. :D

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Quiet joy; Passionate peace. A time of Change.

Posted on November 5, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Philosophy |

Captured for your viewing pleasure is a map of presidential election trends in my state, Arizona. Although all ten of Arizona’s electoral votes went to Sen. McCain, as is required by our system, you will see that this wasn’t a definitive, statewide result. I live approximately where the green arrow is, north of Tucson, which lies in Pima County, the “blue” area at the bottom of the map. Right below us is Mexico. To the left (in more ways than one, hah!) is California, and east of us is New Mexico.  Prior to this, I lived in Coconino County, Arizona, at the very top of the state (another “blue” area), in the city of Flagstaff; home to Northern Arizona University and the Grand Canyon.

arizona-map1

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about the relative “redness” and “blueness” of my state. The main, huge population center is Maricopa County, containing the city of Phoenix, and several other large cities. I’m not very politically involved, these days, and particularly not partisan, but I could not let this day go by without making some comment on this amazing and significant event in my nation’s and the world’s history.

I was raised on the tails of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, by people who’d marched in the marches. I’d always attended integrated schools, with children of many backgrounds; not just the “black” and “white” extremes of the spectrum, but many others. To me, kids were just kids…I didn’t “get” the “racial” thing.

In my teens I learned there were areas of my hometown (San Francisco), my country, and the world, that put people into categories based on what they looked like, or what belief system they held, or what reproductive organs they were supposed to have. I still didn’t “get” it.

I voted on Tuesday. As far as possible, being only human, I did not consider race, gender, or religion when deciding who to vote for. I do tend to lean a particular way regarding policy, but I have been known to vote for candidates from the “other” party, too.

I voted the way I voted; my precinct closed. I was glued to the television, as were many of you. I heard the announcement; I heard the speeches. I found both Sen. McCain’s concession speech and President-elect Obama’s amazing speech moving and inspiring. It’s been apparent for a while that Sen. McCain will continue to represent my beautiful state in the U.S. Senate for another two years; longer if reelected. I’m content that he goes back to this work with the support of his home state. I’m also content with the overall result of the election.

I watched the close-up of the Rev. Jesse Jackson as tears formed in his eyes. I wept with him, and felt chills go up and down my spine. I have not always agreed with his politics, but here is a man who was with Dr. King the day he was assassinated; a man who, by attempting to open doors which had been closed to people who superficially resembled him, helped to make this day possible.

My joy is quiet; my peace, passionate. I’m ready for a time of Change.

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A bit of Haggis; A lot of Sunshine

Posted on November 3, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Games, Health, HowTo, Musings |

My previous post contained good wishes for any of various holidays you may have been celebrating over the weekend. Part of my celebration included attending my local Celtic Festival and Highland Games. Among other things, I’m part Scottish, and played in a bagpipe band for some years, so this was familiar territory for me.

It happened that the festival was held on the very weekend of the Celtic New Year, a three-day celebration in some circles. There were two fire celebrations; one on opening night, which was “The Scottish Clan Torchlight Ceremony of Honor” at which the Clan names are read. The next night had “Celtic Fire” including fire dancers, music, and general mayhem. I learned something I hadn’t known in all these years of being part Scottish:

The word ‘bonfire‘, or ‘bonefire’ is a direct translation of the Gaelic tine cnámh. With the bonfire ablaze, the villagers extinguished all other fires. Each family then solemnly lit its hearth from the common flame, thus bonding the families of the village together.

Did you know the term “bonfire” is a shortened form of “bone fire”? Apparently my ancestors tossed the bones of the cattle they’d slaughtered and preserved for the winter onto the fire! The ceremony was for the entire harvest, and to ask for divine assistance for the supplies to last through the long upcoming winter.

Here in the desert, we don’t have a “real” winter, with snow, and all (although it can get c o l d ), and we can get food all year long (would that this will continue!) so the ceremony doesn’t have the emotional urgency it would have in other times and places, but it’s quite a spectacle nevertheless, and made me feel a connection with the more “earthy” aspects of our existence.

The games themselves were fun, although it was unseasonably warm for November. It must have felt very hot to be in traditional dress—all those woolens! I had the opportunity to hear several really good pipe bands, saw some highland and Scottish Country dancing, browsed some shoppes, and heard some wonderful Celtic music (particularly a “jam” session which included harps, whistles, guitars and fiddles—just great!)

The other thing I did, finally, years after I actually visited Scotland and couldn’t bring myself to do it there, was…I ate some Haggis! It was sold in a small bowl with some crackers. The idea of it had never appealed to me, and much to the disdain of the Bed-and-Breakfast owner in Glasgow, I chickened out there (literally; I ordered chicken stew instead) when encouraged to eat this dish.

I needed to record this momentous event here, on this very blog, because a question on this meme asked me to name a food I hadn’t tried yet, but would, now I’d been asked. I named “Haggis” and then regretted it after pushing the “publish” button. :eek: I had visions of having to report back here when I was 96 and finally got up the nerve to partake of this dish, but, fortunately (?!?) I had the opportunity presented to me on Saturday, and I lived to tell the tale.

It looked and tasted like a kind of ground-up stew; tasty, really. The only problem with it is the way it’s prepared, and I didn’t have to watch that, or think about it too much. (If you’d like to know what I ate, and how it’s made, check out this recipe from the BBC! — you’ll need a strong stomach before you read this, though. Haha. A pun. You’ll see why if you look at the recipe) :cool:

So, as you are my witness, I did do this thing I said I would do!!!

A h-uile là sona dhuibh ‘s gun là idir dona dhuib. (May all your days be happy ones.)

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