Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I feel so much gratitude these days it's hard to contain. Even when everything goes wrong, like today. (Actually, nothing goes wrong just goes wrong in our own little heads. Everything is as it is.) After the craziness of the day today, I came home, put on my tennis shoes and hopped in my car and zoomed over to Carkeek Park near my house. This beach can wash away anything that ails you, I swear. Today, I arrived just in time for sunset.

A train screeched by hugging the coastline. I grabbed my down jacket and took the ramp down to stretch of sand below. The Olympic mountains shot out of the sky like seated Buddhas. They seemed to be screaming peacefully, if that's possible. Each mountain called for me to "WAKE UP." I felt the wind on my face and the wild waves crash on the shore. The sun started to fall and was so brilliant I thought it might catch the earth on fire. I closed my eyes and took in the last rays of the sun before it was swallowed up by the snow-capped mountains. A tiny circular afterglow seemed to rest in the spot where the sun had been. I felt peace. It was there all along, just got covered up by the drama of the day.

I truly LOVE my job. I am an ESL teacher. It's the best job in the world because IT IS the world in my classroom. I work with immigrants and refugees from all over the world. I love them ALL. Most of the time I am in awe in my classroom. My students are my greatest teachers. I learn from them constantly.

Today, I had to meet with each one of them individually, about 30 students, to help them register for next quarter. On Tuesday night, I also met with 30 students. One by one they would filter into my classroom and sit down. I thought, "Registration, piece of cake..I'm almost done with the quarter." I set up a couple of chairs and as the students came in, they sat down across from me...many of them completely opened up, broke down, revealed secrets, whispered of divorce and pills and unemployment and pain in the head and neck and back, etc. I sat nodding my head for two hours. Sometimes the drama was so close, the chaos so strong, the pain and suffering so real, that I was not sure I could bare it. After each one would finish, they would thank me. When I came home from work, I asked my husband, "Why is there so much suffering in the world?" He kissed me and hugged me and calmed me down and then went to teach his yoga class. I felt drained, but walking along Puget Sound renewed me. I am grateful. Grateful to everyone and everything that crosses my path. Pleasure or pain, all are my teachers.

This is literally where I stopped typing. I am not making this up. There was a knock at the door. No one ever knocks on my door. The knock was loud and hard. I looked through the peep hole and saw my neighbor. I opened the door and saw that she looked a bit panicked. She said, "Kathy, can I come in? I cut my finger and it's really bad." There was blood running out of her finger and I got a towel from the cabinet and we wrapped her finger and I told her to raise her arm over her head. We rushed out to my car and I drove her to the emergency room. They asked my neighbor, who was bleeding, to fill out two pages of medical information. Mind you, this woman just cut off most of the nail on her index finger and was bleeding profusely into the towel. I filled out part of it and she filled out as much as she could. Then we waited. Finally, they called us into the room. My neighbor laid down the gurney and we waited again. Thankfully, we got to share time together as neighbors, otherwise that time would have been long, painful and lonely if she had gone by herself. Finally, Dr. Hook (no kidding) arrived. He took the towel off and she was bleeding on the gurney as he sauntered over to the another room to see if there was any gauze. He came back with scissors, gauze, a very long needle, and cauterizing equipment. He said, "I'm going to have to put your finger to sleep." I thought, that's what they say when your pet is sick and suddenly I was reminded of all my childhood cats. He tied the finger tightly to stop the bleeding. My neighbor breathed deeply as Dr. Hook stuck the needle in to numb the finger. Then, he started cauterizing her finger. Smoke came out and it sort of smelled like something was burning on the stove. Dave with the tube gauze came in and dressed the finger. He let us know that tube gauze is very's from the 70s and you can't find it anymore. We decided we were going to get bumper stickers that said TUBE GAUZE RULES. While we waited for the nurse to check us out we stuffed my purse full of surgical gloves so that she could shower without getting her finger wet. The full moon was shining very brightly as we walked to the car. We passed the cemetery on the way out. My neighbor said, "I guess if you don't make it, they can throw you over the fence." That's how close the cemetery was.

I'm happy my neighbor came to my door and I was there. We had a very nice conversation about her job, my job, the neighborhood, winterizing her pea patch, memories, stories, life. We haven't talked in awhile..other than the wave every now and then. We talked more when the weather was hot and the neighbors were out on their porches and doorsteps. Last summer we had a block party and there were a few rounds of badminton in the backyard. There were also lots of barbecues.

The winter is long and cold and it can be hard. My neighbor is another teacher. She reminded me that we all live so close, but we don't. We can get sucked into our own little worlds and forget about the people around us. We can get sucked into the computer world and forget that there are living, breathing, BLEEDING people out there! She woke me up, just like my students woke me up.

I am so grateful for that.

Pleased to Meet You...What You Want My Name?

RASPBERRIES!!! Thoroughly Modern Millie was my favorite movie as a child. Though looking back on it, I often wondered why I was allowed to watch a movie that had the adult world so entrenched in the story line. You have white slavery, prostitution, jazz babies, and thingees popping out of bras. Perhaps I loved the way Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore had to tap dance in the elevator to get the damn thing to move. At the heart of the story for me was the lovely, raspy voice of Carol Channing. I wanted to be HER, because she was comfortable being HER. My first life lesson at the tender age of seven, was to be ME. Carol had a voice that exuded confidence, not beauty. She had a strength acquired through love. She loved to perform and she loved character and out of character.
So, here's the deal. Katherine and I have been corresponding, reading each others blogs during this past year. She is aspiring to write her story (yes folks...if I may be a little Palin Folksy right now) about her life lessons, about the Buddhist monk she married. Love is a thing of beauty that is often imitated, yet rarely lived for most people. Katharine has endured enough of my private prodding...and invited me to be a contributor on this wonderful venture. I am a bit of an anti-heroine, a rebel...because the bottom line is what the publishing industry seems to have evolved to. The goal is to write, to read wonderful stories, differing genres, and please hope for ORIGINAL THOUGHT, which is a concept I feel has been L O S T in this world that has become so driven by currency. My views darling...and not meant to be taken as gospel...a Dharma...a chapter. I have published four works, because well, writers do that sort of thing...and I am not adverse to self publishing...MOST of the writers I have venerated HAVE. However, my reasons for publishing are not the SAME reasons MOST publish. MOST publish with dollar signs in their eyes. They wear the title of author and disband the title of HUMAN. The reality is, when you are striking out there, the goal should be to improve your craft. You can read a million books about how to do something, but like religion, you have to find what works for you. The publishing world is changing and the industry is horrified that more writers are taking control of their art. YES...ART. This is an art and not everyone has the gift to do what we as writers do, and that is to tell our whatever way it is presented.
If you are like I are not afraid of these blank pages. You get excited about them and realize that anything...absolutely anything is possible, so you pick up your favorite writing implement and you get to work; notebooks, laptops, CPUs, or on a highly coveted MacBook. One of the HUGE mistakes I would make would be to try to copy someones writing style, and try to make it my own. WRONG. You can learn from many writers, but what most need is their own voice, signature...something that is the missing note to enhance what is yours. What seems to eat away at writers is the direction the market goes...the celebrity 'author' who employs a ghost writer to ink their story. Perhaps the list books get to you. Perhaps it is the number of books you have picked up and you shake your head and wonder WHY it is so popular with the masses.
I had to stop doing that myself because what happens is this thinking gets writers to reinvent the wheel. Come on people...what we need to do is to stop rehashing the latest vampire love scenes and write our blessed little hearts out to capture what we want to feel and see...and just maybe an audience will find you or you will find the audience. The first audience that has to be happy is YOU.
OK, a little about me. This is my vision board, collage, collection of odd pictures...whatever you want to call it that I look at. It kind of reminded me of Henry Miller's bathroom, but the reason I put it up was for my personal inspiration so I take action in my life. I am a 43 year old woman who still runs around like I am in my 20s. Most people can't believe my age. GOOD. I wouldn't want them to think I had cashed my chips in and decided to die in front of a television. Unfortunately, this has been the legacy for most in my age group, and they have the extra large seating to confirm their death wish. I am unforgiving about laziness and attitudes that are suicidal. I see this precious gift called LIFE...and baby it is worth living. "That's good for you, but not for me." really is a reason for people to continue doing the same thing. Change is UNCOMFORTABLE. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting change...does not work.
I close with my hands extended out...and a picture, of a what I have dubbed a fire horse (which I am one). This image I captured at the Daegu Arboratoreum. It is one of the oldest pieces of surviving art in South Korea. I loved it because I personally related to it. That is what it takes for your art to succeed. Not everyone will love you. So get over that and get to work. I look forward to seeing all of us come together to make this blog not just what will help us, but how we can help others along the way.