Monday, December 31, 2007

hello from M slice

I have a new nickname, M Slice. My son started calling me that and I was like, what the heck is an M Slice? Is that something bad? He said no, it's like Homey G Slice but M for Mom. I was like, what the heck is a Homey G Slice? He said it's good, trust me, I promise.

So just now I decided to look up the definition of Homey G Slice. Well I couldn't find anything googling it so I tried Home Slice. Here's what I found on Urban Dictionary:

\home slice\

synonomous to "homie".
def 1: means good friend or buddy
def 2: means someone who seems like a little slice of home, thus home slice

So that made me feel pretty good, though Sam cracked up at the "little slice of home"

But wait, keep scrolling down... Then I read:

def 5. Someone who is an over the top dork. Someone who is trying way too hard to be cool and fails miserably. Look at that guy in the polyester leisure suit trying to pick up on that super model. What a home slice.

And keep going...

def. 6 a cool street name like poop dawg, pee diddle, or gary

Say what?!!!

Anyway it got a good laugh out of us all so I thought I'd share it :) They've also changed grandma's name from G-ma (her hiphop name) to Gamoski and Grandpa to Gaposki. Oh, did I say that my ex calls me Doonberry?

And while I was at urban dictionary I browsed some words-o-the-day and got a kick out of these:

The bits of food matter that fly onto your mirror while flossing your teeth.
I need to wash those flojectiles off my bathroom mirror before the Health Department shuts me down

\man flu\

The condition shared by all males wherein a common illness (usually a mild cold) is presented by the patient as life-threatening.This is also known as 'Fishing for Sympathy' or 'Chronic Exaggeration'.When the patient is your boyfriend, he will exhibit the standard symptoms (such as an overwhelming desire for compassion) while simultaneously rejecting any and all efforts you make to placate him.

You: Awww, you poor fella.
Him: I'm DYING!
You: (Soothingly) Oh, you're not dying Cy.
Him: (Indignant) I AM! I have Man Flu!Y
ou: Do you need some sympathy?
Him: Yes! But no one understands my pain...
You: I understa-

\purge the cabin\

Rolling the windows down on a vehicle for some fresh air, usually after one of the passengers has passed gas.

Damn was that foul! Purge the cabin before we sufficate back here!

Friday, December 28, 2007

being a radical moderate, and community-making

Me and my friend from high school, Nikki, today at lunch! We hadn't seen each other in over 15 years and it was just like yesterday In fact I think we have even more in common than we did then - since back then it was all partying and today we both love the environment and political issues and religious/science issues - it was an awesome catching up time. I love the sticker on her hybrid car that said "GOD is not spelled GOP" :)

Sam & I goofing around in the Disney Store. I love Émile! He was sooo soft and fluffy! I said he was my new boyfriend :)
Me and my new boyfriend, Émile (from the movie Ratatouille)

I have started reading Scott Peck's book The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, which I've been wanting to read for some time. Peck is a genius. He is in my opinion the greatest writer that ever lived. He just GETS IT in terms of so many things - religion and science, Christianity and other religions, how society works, how the human spirit matures, psychology, and on and on. Everything I read of his I underline or highlight every other sentence. In this book, I just read the Prologue, Introduction and the start of Chapter 1, but already I want to stand up and applaud. It came out in 1987 but it's still so relevant today. (Sometimes I think I want to start just talking about and promoting what he spoke and wrote about, because everything I read I'm like ,"What he said!" I refer to him so often in my own writing. If Huxley was Darwin's bulldog, I want to be Peck's bulldog!)

For those who don't know him. Peck wrote one of the all-time best-selling nonfiction books, The Road Less Traveled; A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth. It stayed on the NY Times bestseller list for a record 10 years and sold something like 13 million copies. Peck was an M.D. Psychiatrist who had worked in the military and then went into private practice. His book didn't immediately become a bestseller but after a while it just took off like wildfire as people started reading and recommending it. He was not initially a Christian, but the story goes (he tells in one of his later books) that a good friend of his said to him, after the publication of The Road Less Traveled, something like "Scotty it's brilliant how you told the story of Christianity through your book," and he was like "What?!" He was spiritual and respected the wisdom of Christianity and other religions but at that time was not specifically Christian. After his friend said that, he started to read the Bible and before long he converted and it became his lifelong passion. He was not what I'd consider a right-wing fundamentalist in any sense but a very practical, in the real world Christian, who understood human nature and psychology and also theology. I just love his writings. He is just so right on with everything.

Anyway, this book, The Different Drum, touches on how much we lack real communities; For the most part, our neighborhoods, our families, and our churches fall short of being real community for one another, and if we don't change that, the world is in real trouble. And he outlines what we need to do in order to get this back. He has said that he believes this was his most important work, even though it didn't sell near as well as The Road Less Traveled. Well funny, I said I would not consider him a fundamentalist but listen to how he starts Chapter 1. First he says whenever anyone asks him his political views he says he's a radical conservative. Except on Thursdays and then he says 'I'm a radical moderate.' This not only cracked me up, I love it! I am inclined to say the same about myself. More the radical moderate than a radical conservative. But let me continue.

Next he defines the words (which I often did when I taught biology, because understanding the root words so often helps students understand the definitions). He writes that radical and fundamental mean essentially the same thing, and says isn't it funny how words get distorted over time. Radical comes from the Latin radix, which means "root" - same as radish. And he says anyone who thinks deeply will be one; someone who gets to the root of things. Yes, Jesus was certainly a radical. (my comment, not his, though I am sure he'd agree from his writings). He goes on to say that the closest synonym to radical is fundamental - basic, the root, the fundamentals. "Yet in our North American culture these words have come to have opposite meanings." He then goes on to say how community has also been dumbed down to not mean what it really is, and should mean, and hence we've lost a true community in our schools, churches, families.

There are some wonderful examples of community that I've seen - and personally experience in my group of friends (we can be real and genuine, deep, or silly, share our weaknesses and faults without fear of rejection and just share just a wonderful supportive network of women who lift you up when you need it, and are there for one another 24/7). But I've also experienced what should have been a true community - a Christian community no less - falling short and rejecting me when I needed it most. Same goes for my family when I was struggling as a teenager with some pretty heavy stuff.What I want to do, if I do anything in life, would be to somehow help people find this sense of community in churches and families and circles of friends the way God meant it to be. It's beautiful when it happens.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas photos

This was Sam and I (self-portrait) working on the gingerbread house. Notice the mess he has all over his face - FROSTING!! Busted!
Grandpa Skip working with Sam on the gingerbread house. Note the "evil" crazy Sam in the background. Watch out, he's wielding a spatula!
The final product! I made a crystallized ginger chimney, and Sam made a window from cranberries and poppy seeds. Carob chips on the bottom and a candy cane! We made it all natural. Well I guess the candy canes are not natural...
The cutie pies with their presents on Christmas morning!
The kids got a foosball/air hockey table and ye old kitty cat decided SHE wanted to play. I swear, this cat thinks she is a human. Note the photo below, also. Whatever the kids do she likes to copy. She will sit in the chair that one of the kids used earlier for like an hour! Especially when there's something new in the house, she's enthralled. She and her sis got some presents in their stocking and they loved them. Well all except the kitty sweater which she wasn't too crazy about. ;)
This is fuzzy but it illustrates my point above perfectly... she sat here for I think an hour!!!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Crazy Christmases

It's nearly midnight in Texas and Santa Clause here has to go stuff stockings. It was a good Christmas Eve today, though I've been a bit tired and feeling still a bit melancholy over the events of the past week. I also found out this week that someone I dated in high school and who was at the center of a serious high school drama involving date rape, suicide attempts and yours truly died of lung disease a couple of years ago. This guy was not the perpetrator but was there, and well the story is told elsewhere on this blog (on my birthday, a couple years ago). Death can come like a thief in the night, and all I know is that while I have breath, I want to truly live.

The folks and the kids and I went to church service and that was lovely. Then we had lasagna and the kids opened a present each. Tomorrow we'll open everything. When I was a kid, we used to open presents on Christmas Eve because my uncle's bday was Christmas Day, but we'd open all our stocking presents on Christmas morning. They were all wrapped up and I loved opening the wrapping paper on each tiny little gift tucked in my stocking (except the one Christmas my mom actually gave me a lump of coal - and that was it). I used to do this micro-wrapping for the kids, but to be honest, I can't be bothered anymore! I don't have the time or the patience... I wrap the big ones under the tree and tonight I plan to just stuff everything into the stocking unwrapped.

I never told the kids about Santa Clause. I mean they knew the story but I never deceived them into thinking a big man in a red suit was coming down the chimney and giving us a bunch of presents. I feel that kids should be taught truth...

I'm ok with whatever everyone else's decisions are for that issue, but my mom likes to tell me (every Christmas) how my kids missed out on so much because I didn't tell them about Santa Clause. What they didn't miss out on was the awful disappointment kids get when they learn that it's all a lie, and Santa isn't "real"!! I want my kids to believe in God - an invisible omniscient and omnipresent being of light and goodness and love and truth. That is hard enough. Why teach them then about something that you know isn't real, and then reveal it's all been a big myth after all? What then will they think about God?

So of course my mom doesn't get all this... but I really don't appreciate her telling me every year that I've deprived my kids of something... I said mom you're basically telling me I'm a bad parent. She said "No I'm not, that's not what I'm saying." There was something else... I can't remember but it ended with me saying, "Denial is not a river in Egypt!" (I love that saying but it took me many years to GET what it meant because I didn't get the connection between Denial and The Nile - I'm a little slow, what can I say) ;)

So far this actually means we're getting along well this holiday. I'm serious! This is a big improvement from the Christmas everyone in the house got in a huge fight, my aunt slapped me (or hit me? I can't remember), I took a swing back but got intercepted by my uncle, everyone cried, people left the house, and in the end everything was my fault... Needless to say, I've always been the family scapegoat.

I better go be Santa. I'm putting on my Santa hat now...

preparing for the holidays

Image Copyright (c) 2007 Wallace. J. Nichols

I spent today cooking and cleaning with the kids and then watching a bit of The Fellowship of The Ring extended version, also with the kiddos. My mom and stepdad arrive tomorrow; the holiday begins! Today Sam & I cooked a gingerbread house and we'll decorate it tomorrow. I've never made one from scratch before so it was pretty cool to do so. Savannah made a banana cream pie recipe that is awesome, mostly by herself; she wanted to say she did it all by herself. I prepared the lasagna we'll have tomorrow night (Christmas Eve) but we'll have our big dinner on Christmas Day. Wow, I really can't believe it is Christmas. This quarter of the year went so fast. I guess it's because I left for Nepal before Halloween, came back just in time for Thanksgiving but was super jet-lagged for 2 weeks, and then it was Christmas time. So time goes.

With the coming of the new year, and the passing of life so suddenly, the time comes again to reflect on goals and changes and such. I think often about living life fully, and I hug my kids daily, and tell my friends and family I love them. I've rid myself of toxic and negative influences and friends, while trying to be a good influence myself. I always try to be aware of, and improve or change any negative qualities in myself. Yet especially the suddenness of Jim's death has really made me think even more about this - what changes do I need or want to make in my life to make this the life of my dreams?

Even on my way back from Nepal I felt like I'd been called more towards home, and less away wandering the world, or if I do wander for it to be either with someone I know and love or doing something to help people - like mission trips. I've also felt drawn more to figuring out how I can help people more in terms of poverty eradication and other global social ills. The environment and especially wildlife will always be a passion, but I feel that there are also other issues I want to get involved in. I've been feeling drawn to doing documentary work, rather than just writing, and want some doors to open in those areas. I want to impact the world in a big way, to spread the knowledge of God's love and grace and truth. Sometimes it is just so hard to figure out what to spend my time on. So I often end up just doing whatever is easiest, or whatever presents itself, rather than visualizing what I want or planning toward a goal.

Some things to think about as I roll on towards the New Year.

Friday, December 21, 2007

grief turns out to be...

"Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it."
- Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking.

I've been privileged to get to know an incredible woman a little bit better over the past year since our church's New Orleans mission trip. This Monday, her husband died suddenly and unexpectedly. They have 6 beautiful children. Her blog "Have you seen my mind? I've lost it again" is hilarious and candid. She just returned from a mission trip to Kenya, and had mentioned the possibility of going again next year and whether I wanted to go. Heck ya, I wanted to go.

I don't want to say too much more, but I feel deeply saddened by her loss. This family had shown me kindness and welcome, and I was touched by the love they still share after 24 years of marriage and 6 kids. It's something to aspire to. They were both devoted Christians, and it showed in their lives and their genuineness. The funeral is tomorrow morning. It's a sad time.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm asking the universe for an Aeron Chair

I stumbled across a blog, Word Wenches, when searching for the Aeron chair which I really want for Christmas but am pretty sure I'm not going to get since it costs something like $9,000. Well actually $749, to be precise, but it may as well be $9,000. They were mentioned in the book Freakonomics because the designer, Herman Miller, had his team design the most ergonomic chair they could, ignoring aesthetics. What they got is this thing that looks like, paraphrasing Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (Freakonomics co-authors) a weird large black insect covered in mesh. I was in Office Depot the other day buying a tackboard for my "Wall of Love" and I wandered over to the chair section and found an Aeron. OH. MY. GOSH. The first thought (upon never having actually laid my eyes on one) is "That looks so uncomfortable. And freakishly weird." Then I sat down. OH. MY. GOSH. They are sooooooooo comfortable. They're sort of bouncy and soft in a way you certainly wouldn't expect from appearances. It just goe sto show, don't judge a chair by its freaky mesh covering! I simply must get one. So if anyone has a random $749 to plop down on this here writer activist bohemian friend of the universe woman - or alternatively if you just happen to have one you hate, or have some in storage not getting sat upon that you'd like to donate as a charitable cause to make my rear end more comfortable (not to mention my back alignment), let me know and I'll send you my address.

I mention the Word Wenches blog because in the post I stumbled on (where they mention the Aeron, which is why it came up in Google) the writer/blogger said something that made total sense to me. She said as a writer she is a hare, not a tortoise. She doesn't do a little bit of writing every day, slow and steady like a tortoise. Rather, she cranks out a whole bunch in a very short time. I thought, wow, that is so me! I sometimes get mad at myself for doing random stuff (wasting time?) like blogging, Facebook,, emailing, and feeling this sense of literal dread when confronted with the idea of actually starting an article (seriously - I hate starting articles - it's painful). Reading the tortoise vs hare comparison, I realized that being a hare is just my writing style and working style. I am able to crank out good copy in a short time, and never miss a deadline. I've learned this technique works for me. I consider those online sites like Facebook (well some of them) creative outlets. Or sort of random mental stimulation. But I think I need to find a little more balance though and use a combination of tortoise and hare techniques to become even more productive while still enjoying my creative online endeavors.

Another random interesting thing is that the White House has a set of ornaments painted with themes of each individual National Park, Preserve and Historic Site. There are 350 ornaments painte dby artists across the nation and you can browse images here. I thought they were pretty cool. This one has pitcher plants on it, and represents the Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, just a couple hours east of where I live. Some of them are much more beautiful than this one but this is relevant to an article I'm working on right now! Actually the White House has a theme of Holiday in the National Parks for the White House Christmas tree.

I’ve also heard that they’re “greening” the White House in a few ways. It’s like Bush is trying to bring attention to environmental issues late in the game to soften up the negative image of the Republican party’s environmental record right before the election.

Here is what they wrote:
“This Christmas season we give thanks for our nation’s abundant blessings. In the spirit of gratitude for our natural and historic treasures found from sea to shining sea, this year’s theme highlights America’s national parks. From breathtaking landscapes to important historical sites, generations have marveled at God’s magnificent creation and cherished memories of visits to these special places.”
– George W. Bush | Laura Bush

I mean really? Come on. BARF. Bush may appreciate beauty in nature (who doesn't?) but his environmental record shows that he's selling out on our national parks, infiltrating them with private vendors, cutting critical funding, opening ways for oil drilling and new roads... the list goes on. In fact NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) has a nice list of Bush's environmental record with national parks online.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

whose words to believe?

Me, Savannah, Sam and Matt at The Melting Pot - an awesome fondue restaurant - for Savie's 13th birthday! (I had to blot out Savie's friend because her mom didn't want her photo on the internet - sorry it looks funny!)

Right now I have a house full of girls screaming at the top of their lungs, wrestling and having fun. It's my daughter's party and we're celebrating her 13th birthday, which was this past week (photos above from our family dinner party on her actual bday). Today, we went ice skating earlier and had pizza and cake and all that. Now it's about time to settle down and watch a movie.

Life has been interesting the past few weeks. Anxiety over the submission and negotiation of selling my book (proposal) has been crazy, and I will have some firm news early next week. Well I have some news now, but I don't want to reveal any details until papers are signed and all that jazz. It's not over 'til the contracts are signed!

I've struggled a bit lately with wondering why amidst all the positive feedback I receive from friends, my kids and their friends, random blog visitors, and family, I still fret over the very few times I get people who say things like "what an idiot" or who disappear and leave me questioning what I did wrong. Was it something I said? Some stupid thing that was mis-interpreted? Was I actually an idiot? (quite possible!) ;) But is that unforgivable? I guess I live in a world where I imagine that friends are friends for life, and that pretty much all offenses (especially minor annoyances) are forgivable and work-through-able. But I have found that is not a common way. I'm grateful that I have been able to find so many wonderful friends who do believe like I do, and who I would do anything for. But I always feel weakened by rejection, which I'm sure relates to the abandonment issues of my childhood. I need to truly integrate into my heart that my worth comes from God's love for me and not from the approval of anyone... yet at the same time it's reassuring to know that I have made a difference in the lives of my friends and that there are people who respect and admire what I do. It lifts me up and brightens my life.

I decided to make a "wall of love" for my office where I'll have photos of my friends and printed out statements that they've written to me over the years. Here are just a few from the last couple weeks:
  • You are a treasure in my life!
  • You are just the coolest friend! excuse me now I have to go cry tears of appreciation.....
  • You are such a vibrant, glowing soul, smart, creative, a good friend to your friends, hugely curious about the wide world—and so incredibly talented!
  • Sending you a big hug girlfriend along with a pint of yer fav ice cream (or soy ice cream?) I feel your pain Wendee, I really do. It's a painful rollercoaster, this believing in ourselves and putting ourselves out there.
  • You are incredible, and rejection and abandonment issues should not be on your radar.
  • Wendee, you are such a blessing to me. I hope you're taking some time for yourself and also not being too hard on yourself, in terms of loneliness, stress, anything. You're awesome -- great writer, neat person, cool woman, good friend, beautiful soul. I'm totally grateful for you.

I choose to believe these words as manna from heaven, gifts from God through my friends. I choose to believe the good and not the negative voices and the rejection, though I do try to learn lessons and always ask what I could do differently or to have a different outcome. I am going to watch a movie with the kiddos now. Love and light and laughter to all!

Savannah at her birthday party tonight. This is the mint bonbon cake that I made - yum!
Horseplaying tonight before we headed out for ice skating.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

only love

Only love can make it rain
The way the beach is kissed by the sea
Only love can make it rain
Like the sweat of lovers laying in the fields
Love can bring the rain
That makes you yearn to the sky
Only love can bring the rain
That falls like tears from on high

- Love Reign O'er Me by The Who, Quadrophenia

My dad recently shared these lyrics and though I've heard the song a hundred times in my youth, it's been some time now. What beautiful lyrics. And they go on...

I recently watched the movie Gandhi which was released when I was in middle school (1982) and I never watched it, but always wanted to. What a powerful story Gandhi has, and what a great movie. I am particularly taken by his stance on non-violent resistance. Could another person like Gandhi arise today, amidst all the bloodshed and hatred? I'm not sure. Looking at the way Jesus died rather than fight, I'm inclined to wonder if absolute non-violence is actually the Christian calling, which humanity has fallen far short of. I don't have any answers, only questions. And more than a little bit of sadness at the state of the world. It's easy for me to sit here and say "Where does all this anger and hatred come from?" but I'm not living in extreme poverty with my children, friends, parents, relatives murdered before me as some in warring nations have over their lifetimes. I only know that anger and hatred and revenge can never be the solutions.

Some of the things Gandhi said in the movie, which may not be exact quotes from his life, which moved me include:
"The only devils are those in our own hearts, and that's where the battles should be fought."

"I am willing to die for this cause, but there is no cause for which I am willing to kill."

"Through our pain that we suffer, we will let them see their injustice."

"Truth is God, and God is truth."

"Love is the strongest force the world possesses, and yet it is the humblest imaginable."

I've been feeling a bit discombobulated lately. It's a big transition time for me and some decisions that are out of my hands are causing me to postpone other decisions that will depend on that outcome. It's crazy making time... it's not always easy to let go and let God.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

hilarity, insomnia, and vegetarian recipes

i love penguins !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Do you think my writing is small?"
"Did you say, do I think your writing smells, or do I think it is small?"
"Why would your writing smell?"
"SMALL! Is my writing SMALL!"
"I don't think it smells."
"MOM!!! I am going to kick you!" She marches over and literally kicks me in the shin as I am cracking up and grab her to stop her.
"You can not kick! Seriously." I gave her a joking swat on the bottom, laughing, and then fell over.

Maybe you had to be there... but it was hilarious!!! (She typed the penguin message up top.) We had a fun dinner at Panera Bread and talked about things like school, boys, etc. Sam is doing so much better in basketball even though he's the shortest on the team. They played a game yesterday against all these extremely tall players - it could have been the NBA! Needless to say, they lost like 74 to 1. Oh well... Savannah will be 13 soon and is starting to like boys, it's so cute. I ask her questions and give her a hard time and she hits me ;) But she hugs me more than she hits me so I'm in good shape. So far. Usually.

I've been struggling with insomnia since I got back from Nepal but last night I took melatonin and it worked. I think I'll take half a pill tonight. Then nothing tomorrow. I want to make sure I don't toss and turn all night, which just utterly sucks... but I hate taking medication of any kind. You're talking to a woman who had two babies without any medication!! Melatonin is a natural substance produced in our bodies, but taking excess amounts is probably not a good thing and definitely not something I want to rely on for sleep!

On another note, I'm finishing reading Henri Nouwen's The Return of the Prodigal Son, which is a stunningly beautiful, powerful and amazing book that recounts his encounter with the Rembrandt painting and how he relates the stages of his life to the characters in it, which are the characters from the Biblical parable of the same name from Luke 15:11-32.

In the chapter on the Father, which represents God, Nouwen says,

"Here is the God I want to believe in: a Father who, from the beginning of creation, has stretched out his arms in merciful blessing, never forcing himself on anyone, but always waiting; never letting his arms drop down in despair, but always hoping that his children will return so he can speak words of love to them and let his tired arms rest on their shoulders. His only desire is to bless.

In Latin, to bless is benedicere, which means literally: saying good things. The Father wants to say, more with his touch than with his voice, good things of his children. He has no desire to punish them. They have already been punished excessively by their own inner and outer waywardness."

I especially love the Latin description of "to bless,"because it's a lesson I've been working on with my daughter, to teach her to say positive things to others rather than to criticize. I tell her that there is really never a need to say anything negative unless there is either a need to set a boundary, or to teach someone something and it needs to be done in love (Speak the truth in love). I never realized until now that the word to bless meant saying good things. I like that.

I'm looking for good vegetarian recipes so if anyone knows any send them my way!! I'm recently reverted back to vegetarianism, and just don't have a lot of good wholesome recipes. Send 'em on over! Let me tell you, the kids, carnivores that they are, are just thrilled by this!

"You're not a very good vegetarian," Savannah said to me tonight.
"Why?" I asked.
"You eat meat all the time!" she replied.
"I just started!"I said.
"You are NOT going to become a vegetarian, I'm not going to let you!"

This is going well... ;)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

powerful and sad

I just watched the movie Reign Over Me, which is about a friendship between two guys, played by Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle. Adam's character has lost his wife and kids in a plane crash but it's not until later in the movie you realize it's from September 11th. He had become sort of a lost soul, wandering the streets of New York City, and one day he randomly runs into Cheadle's character. They'd gone to dental school together. Anyway I found it a very powerful moving film but maybe also related to the wandering soul lost on the streets... lost family... powerful themes in my life. Funny I was just blogging about that theme Thursday.

I spoke with my brother, Lazer, on Thanksgiving, who was with his daughter (Kira) but said to me he hated the holidays because he didn't have family to spend it with. Dad was sick. Lazer said he knew why people killed themselves during the holidays. He's not a depressive type at all - in fact he is quite the opposite. Almost to the point of denial of the darkness and sadness of the soul that we all hold within us, especially those with as strong of abandonment themes as we carry from our childhood. I felt for him, because I felt exactly the same. I didn't think the thought of relating to why people kill themselves but I myself had felt the extreme pangs of loneliness and I didn't have my kids with me, and he did. He's a single dad. My mom, when I related this to her, in her typical manner said she was going to call him and tell him to 'stop being so negative.' God love her! Relate, acknowledge, understand, feel the pain, listen. Don't deny or negate the feelings! So I have my mom and dad still living, but lost both at various stages of my childhood, as well as other people I loved. I also lost innocence in their care. Speaking of loss and the loss of innocence I wanted to share these photos of these beautiful orphans from the Oshin Child Development Center in Kathmandu, Nepal that I visited. The website has photos and info but I'll post my own. I really liked Samrakshya - she is such a beautiful girl! My daughter is excited to write to her when she gets back from Mississippi tomorrow.

Samrakshya is the older one in the far right, in the back.
Note how they eat with their hands - this is the culture there.
The boys.
So cute!
They are happy, they are kids being kids.

One thing I wanted to relate that has nothing to do with the orphanage. In Kathmandu and other big cities there are street orphans that are very dirty, and they come up to you very aggressively and put their hands together in the Namaste sign which looks like praying, and then they touch their hands to their stomach and then to their mouth and hold out their hands. They won't leave you alone. I'd just arrived in Nepal and I saw this one old man come out of a grocery store in Thamel in Kathmandu and when the kids begged from him he pushed them away with his hand and said something in a really rude tone like "Get out of my way kid" or "scat" or something to that effect. The boy was with another street urchin, maybe his brother, maybe not and I can't get this image out of my head. The boy reached over and kind of patted him and hugged him. No anger by the boy toward the man, he just looked like he genuinely got his feelings hurt, and his friend comforted him (did I tell this story already?!). I noticed that in Nepal boys and men will walk down the street holding hands. It is not homosexuality, it's just the public display of affection between male friends. Here's a photo, but even grown men hold hands. Very different than in the U.S.!

Friday, November 23, 2007

thanksgiving with friends

We're trying to see how many faces we can get into a self-portrait. First 4 then 5 then...
Six! But Carlos took this one so maybe it doesn't count! From left and going clockwise, this is Charlotte (in red) Lynn (in black), Maggie (in brown), Tammy, me and Trish (in white). I love these awesome women! What a great Thanksgiving! And I slept soundly for the first night since I've been home!
Me at Thanksgiving at Maggie's...


where is this land i wander in between joy and heartbreak. i've left the land of brokenness yet have not yet found that place i recognize. i wander to distant shores, hike mountains, ford rivers, sweat in the amazon jungle, sail aboard ships, swim in the sea, free, so free with the aquatic. i feel home floating swimming kicking and enveloped in quietude surrounded by diamond bubbles and bejeweled fish. i hike i walk i run and i stop and sleep breast to the ground, breathing, breath. i look i always look up dizzy to the stars. a billion trillion white lights. where is my casseiopeia? i can not orient. i am not home. even when i am. these paved streets and shops and stores and houses i do not recognize. i am content and free but i have not yet found. i am following the path, i have reached down and picked the crumbs left, the signs they lead me home but i do not know where they lead. i follow, i lose my way but i always find the stars and the earth and the fire leading me on, ever on to home. ever on.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I'm Carbon Neutral for 2007 - Thankfulness!

I finally did it - I calculated and then fell off my chair at the amount of CO2/greenhouse gases that I personally emit...(well not personally, mind you, but through my car, plane travel and home electricity). I'm double the U.S. average and NO, not because I drive a Hummer or huge SUV (I don't... well I drive a Subaru Forester which is a small SUV). However I take a lot of plane trips, and most particularly the trip to Nepal in itself pretty much doubled my carbon emissions (at 25,980 miles...). Back in July during the Live Earth concert I did a quick-calculation and got 15 tons, which is under the U.S. average of 20 Tons CO2. However, this time I did a detailed calculation and added up all the flights and my car mileage etc. I got 39.66 Tons... Yowza. I used to calculate my emissions, and I chose to offset with its affiiated 501(c)3 nonprofit Climate Trust. Check out their carbon calculator. I chose this nonprofit to offset my emissions and make my life in 2007 carbon neutral because they were 1 of the 8 best ranked of 30 reviewed in the recent report by Clean Air, Cool Planet, "Consumer's Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers." In other words their offset projects were high quality, they were engaged in education efforts, and it was an overall good organization to donate to.

This year I'm thankful for:
  • Family and friends, new and old and the love you've all shared with me
  • That so many people care enough to try to help save the planet - let's hope it's not just a "trend" that disappears.
  • That we CAN offset our emissions... I encourage others to at least match the average U.S. output. That equals a donation of around $200.
  • Good health, a wonderful home, and the opportunity to travel and write about places and issues that need positive attention drawn to them.
  • Saving grace, and the love and sacrifice of Jesus: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. My Lord, Savior, Redeemer and Friend.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. God Bless You!

spending holidays alone sucks

Maybe it’s because my kids left for their grandparents with my ex 2 days after I got back from Nepal and I’m totally alone on Thanksgiving (tho a friend did invite me over tomorrow) but I’m just feeling really incredibly lonely. Funny thing is that despite how heart-on-my-sleeve this blog is, and how often I share my feelings, I feel hesitant about saying that I'm lonely. I don’t mind being alone, I actually like many aspects of it, but I have to wonder if that is not just my wall that I’ve built to deal with an inevitable situation I can’t exactly control. Or can I? Do I keep myself single and too busy for dating or out of the way of meeting people subconsciously on purpose? Anyway, I’m just wanting to share my thoughts because I’m alone on Thanksgiving and it sucks! Hopefully I'll go to bed and wake up tomorrow feeling a little better, and I'll offer some things to be thankful for. xoxo Wendee

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

it's not my imagination!

I am having had such a hard time with jet lag and getting my sleeping/waking rhythms right that I had to research this, and what do you know, some scientists say that it is indeed more difficult to recover going from East to West (I flew East from Nepal to Bangkok to L.A. to Houston over the Pacific Ocean coming home) - check out the Wikipedia entry on jetlag (OK I know this isn't exactly a scientific paper but I don't have time for serious research on this right now!). It probably doesn't help that I am able to sleep in or go to bed when I want, as opposed to when I went to Nepal and we pretty much had to wake up and go, no matter what. I went to bed at 1am, pretty normal for me, but then woke at 450am and could not get back to sleep! So I worked for a couple hours, then napped again expecting to wake at maybe 10am but I got up instead at my mom's phone call at 145pm!! Crazy. I went for a run today and it felt so great. I'm trying hard to work on my article on mountain lions and it's killing me...

A couple of my articles are out now.
An Off-Setting Adventure:
Cruising the Galapagos with a Carbon-Neutral Conscience, E/The Environmental Magazine, Nov 2007. Unfortunately you need a subscription to access it... but soon enough I'll post a version online.

Don't Mess with the Snappers: Irascible conservation veterans keep fighting for their beloved Big Thicket. Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. Dec 2007. The link still goes to the Nov issue as of today but the Dec issue will be up soon.

Fabrics, KathmanduMacaque at the monkey temple, Kathmandu, overlooking some Tibetan prayer flags.
A tea plantation in eastern Nepal. Tibetan bowls in a Buddhist temple in Meghma, India.
The porters carry stuff in baskets that they balance with their heads. It's amazing how much weight they can carry... they would carry 4 of our backpacks/duffel bags in one load.
Insane! Amazing!

Monday, November 19, 2007

reflections on non-attachment

We're both looking for something we've been afraid to find.
For once in my life, I'm scared to death.
It's easier to be broken. It's easier to hide."
- First Time (song) by Lifehouse

This came from my journal ... reflections on the trip.

I was really excited on the flight home to Houston, as well as the last leg of the trip from Bangkok to LA. Don't know why, it was just this bubbling energy from the adventure gone by, that all had gone well, that I was safe and sound and the bonding and connecting that occurred really mostly toward the last days. For many days of the trip I just felt alone, though not lonely, but didn't know if I fit in. Anyway, as I was riding in the bus back to Bhadrapur from the mountain highlands I started to reflect on the sort of detached attitude I carried through the trip and wondered where could I find again this pure joy that I experienced when I spent some weeks in solitude in New Mexico? Why on my trips to Peru, the Galapagos and now Nepal was I not feeling particularly inspired? I felt mostly just a lone soul wandering through a distant land. I liked the people on the trip but making friends takes time. There's no instant bonding as adults, I think, the way kids do.

At one point on the trip a communication breakdown, and some small frustrations added up and I felt overwhelmingly not just a lone soul but I felt strongly that I'd made a poor choice in coming on this trip and spending money that I should have saved or spent on the kids education or something for our family (since my editor said I could write the article without going - though of course such articles are inevitably better when one sees things first-hand). I questioned myself as to why I made the choice to wander and explore when my heart truly belongs at home, with my children who need me and my ability to love, protect, cherish and guide them. (I also do believe that kids suffer when parents have unlived lives or unmet dreams -- they sacrifice too much of themselves at the kids' expense... kids need parents as role models also). But in my circumstance, money is truly extremely tight and I just felt that I'd made a bad choice. I started to cry as I walked alone down and up the rugged path, people far behind me and people far in front of me but me alone.

I felt maybe the reasons I chose to go to Nepal - besides my wanderlust and desire to see all the continents - will come out in time. I certainly loved seeing the red pandas in the wild, something very few Westerners have seen - few people at all, for that matter. I loved the scenery (though cows and their cowbells are omnipresent no matter how seemingly remote the forest or extreme the slope), and I loved the hard sweaty, heart-pumping, breath-taking trekking we did and meeting new people and seeing the culture.

I came to a sort of conclusion that I want to travel with someone rather than alone. I don't mind being alone but there's something to be said for traveling with a close friend or partner who you share a bond with already before the experience. I think that having someone like that there would have made all the difference. I'm a social person who cherishes my friendships, even as I also need a lot of alone time to nurture my creative spirit. The experience certainly enriched the muse and gave me some inspiration for the fount. The feeling on the plane was unmistakable, just hopefulness, excitement and energy and a desire to step back into a leadership role that I have given a backseat over the last few years. I love public speaking, teaching a group of students, and hope that with my book I can step back into that role.

I also had some insight into religion and spirituality as I reflected. Being in a nation with a lot of Tibetan prayer flags, Buddhist temples and Hindu worship (and sharing a trip with Hindus, Jews, Buddhists and myself a Christian) I got to thinking about the Zen Buddhist principle of non-attachment. I am interested in knowing the origin of this principle and its etymology, because I tend to think that attachment is normal and healthy - to friends, family, children, and even God. It's when attachment degenerates into addiction that problems ensue. We have to be able to say goodbye - often permanently - to people or ideas that no longer work without catapulting into depression or an inability to function. The alternative is that the principle is 'wrong'... though I tend to think not because Jesus' teachings repeatedly echo these words about non-attachment or what I'd refer to more as non-addiction.

"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 16:25) -- don't be attached to your very life because it's a temporary home of the spirit which has a greater purpose - to serve and love selflessly. Death is not to be feared.

When his immediate family wanted to speak with Jesus while he was in a crowd, he replied, "Who is my mother? And who are my brothers? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." (Mt 12:48-50). In other words, do not be too attached to blood family because although it's natural to feel more altruistically toward them, our true calling is to God and hence all humanity. We are all brothers and sisters, we are all One. Our duty is to serve all.

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." (Mt 6:24) In other words, do not be too addicted or attached to money or the seeking after of it...Jesus also told the parable of the rich fool: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:16-21). Many more teachings on greed and attachments to money are there also...such as when he tells the young man to sell all his possessions and follow him.

Do not be addicted to outcome... "God's will be done" even to the point of death such as Jesus crucifixion. There's a far greater good that comes out of suffering done for God's glory. Don't take this out of context though - there's never glory in inflicting suffering on another nor in staying in a relationship or situation in which one's very life, safety or sanity are threatened. I do believe that God brings good out of our suffering if we're open to the life lessons within and our hearts do not become hardened but stay open and humble. We can see a thousand deaths but still know that death - even if prolonged and tortured and scary - is not eternal but a momentary suffering. Sometimes perhaps it's harder to see death than to experience it. Death occurs and ends but our life sustains beyond it. Even if one doesn't believe in an afterlife, the gifts or creative works we leave behind, the love we've shared and given to others through hugs, kind words, smiles, friendships - these things live on after our death. Our molecules certainly live on - forming into dust and then into other organisms or parts of the earth and the universe. As Michael Dowd says, we are all stardust!

So overall I sort of had a feeling that I was ready to 'feel' again, to risk, to feel deeply and passionately in the part of myself that I seem to have closed off somehow, maybe due to detachment. But detachment differs from non-attachment. So... Bring it on!

jetlag from hell

It's taking me a lot longer to recover from jetlag than it did when I got to Nepal. I suppose it doesn't help too much that I stayed up purposefully until 430am this morning working on getting my photos resized so I can post a few. Then I slept until noon. However tonight I'll try to get to bed at a reasonable hour. I am physically exhausted though. It's weird.

At the airport my kids gave me a HUGE hug (both of them at the same time). Sam clung especially hard, which is unusual because Savannah is usually the one expressing how much she misses me. I gotta keep this short. Here are just a few photos from the trip. Will create a gallery at week's end after I write my article on mountain lions!

Paige, Dana and I at Malibu beach. I stayed with my friend Paige on the way to Nepal. I love this photo!
This is me, Mickey, and Tim (back row) with a family we stayed with one night. Tim is the producer of the It's Your World documentary on eco-conscious travel. Check out

We saw 3 red pandas in the wild! They are so teddy-bear cute. It took a while to find any, then we saw 3 in the last days thanks to the sleuthful hard work of the local "forest guardians" who know the forest well and are hired by the Red Panda Project to survey and help protect the community forests. Whew!

A sunset shot of mist, clouds, and a silhouette of the forests and mountains. This shot was taken somewhat near the village of Santapur at the India-Nepal border, and around 12,000 feet.
I have so many shots of cute kids peering out open windows! Love this one. A cute Nepali boy carrying a load of sticks (probably firewood).
An abstract shot of incense and marigolds inside of the Monkey Temple in Kathmandu. Althuogh it's a Buddhist temple a Hindu prayer service was being held here.
A baby macaque eating what remains on a candy wrapper. The monkey temple is so named because of the many macaques there, protected by Hindus who believe they are an incarnation of the monkey God Hanuman.
Tibetan prayer flags were common throughout Nepal.

The whole group on the last day of the trip (minus Chuckles, who was sick). I had to include one photo of the Himalayas! This was Mt Kanchenjunga. We also could see Mount Everest when we got to the highest spots on our trip. Clouds covered the Himalayas much of the time though. Clouds would roll in, and back out with amazing speed! And along with that came heat, cold, snow, sun, rain... all within a few hours or even minutes sometimes!