Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Welcome of the Door

The first day of January finds us standing on the threshold of a new year, and here we are, standing on our own threshold, in the first light of the first day of the new year.  As we welcome the first light across our threshold, an invitation awaits us: to create a space in our lives where we can begin to live in the moment.  In this sense, Downtown Dad and I are observing the thresholds of our lives, the doorways that mark our movement from one stage of life to the next.  

Many cultures regard the new year as a time that signifies a "threshold" in time and space, the middle ground between here and there, neither past nor present, nor future, a spot where energies meet. 

The Celtic people believe there is great spiritual power in these threshold places, they call it the "welcome of the door."  In this space there is a significance of chance meetings and random events with an openness to new experiences, opportunities and people, of great possibilities.  This is characterized by the expansive and generous nature of the phrase, "cead mile failte," a hundred thousand welcomes. 

This new year we invite you to join us in the threshold, on the edges and boundaries and doorways of our lives.  May we find the strength with each other and in each other, and in those who have gone before us to welcome possibility, change, uncertainty, even fear.  There we shall find the welcome of the door. 

Monday, December 26, 2011


Its kind of sad, as Downtown Dad and I clear the living room of the after-Christmas wreckage, saving the bows, tossing the paper, making sure everything is out of the boxes before breaking them down to better fit into the recycle bin; but A Christmas Story is on TV and it lifts our spirits.  I know, A Christmas Story is ALWAYS on TV... but before long, we've stopped our labors to laugh, yet again with Ralphie and Randy, their Mother and The Old Man, in the days leading up to their 1940s Christmas.  I love it because it makes me laugh every damn time I watch it!  I have to admit though, I didn't start out liking it. Then, once "you'll shoot your eye out" became almost as common a phrase at Christmas as Happy Holidays, and leg lamps became a regular part of the Hallmark Christmas Ornament line-up, I thought maybe I should pay attention, and see what the REAL message was within this cute, but quirky story.  Sure, on the surface, it's about getting the perfect present for Christmas. And, whether that is a Red Ryder Bee Bee Gun, or a Teach Yourself Gaelic DVD, if that's what you really really want, you have to make sure that the people who will be giving you gifts, know you want it.

For me, especially the day after the present-opening flurry of the day before, I feel a kind of let down, not that I'm disappointed, but its something I can't quite put my finger on. Winnie the Pooh says... "what I like best..." and then he had to stop and think.  Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you begin to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called."  Maybe that something is the message in A Christmas Story, that the anticipation you feel leading up to something might be just as good, if not better than actually having gotten that something. Think of the fabulous possibilities Darrin McGavin as The Old Man hints at, as the huge crate is delivered to his door, "Why, it could be anything!" he sputters, and might arguably be more excited before he opens the box, than after he finds out what is in there. Maybe the "Fra-geee-lay" stamped on the lid is a prophetic warning: that feeling of anticipation... that feeling just before IS Fragile.

The notion that the anticipation of something is somehow better than the realization, may be more common than we realize...  Internet marketing guru, Seth Godin, says in a recent blog post "A wrapped present is transformed when it is opened.  Anticipation turns into information, and frequently, one is worth far more than the other." Which one is worth more, he cleverly leaves up to the reader.

Our family had probably the best Christmas this year than we've had as a family for a very long time. Not because Downtown Dad and I finally both have full time salaried jobs, therefore more discretionary funds with which to buy presents, although that was part of it.  Not because we were at home together as a family, although that was a big part of it too. The fact is, I think, not only that each of us we were able to put some magically mysterious wrapped boxes under the tree, but that we were able to give each other that fragile just before feeling, and each one of us, not just the person who's name was on the tag, was able to imagine the possibilities, and think to themselves... Why, it could be anything!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Homes Tour 2011

Merry Christmas!   Happy Holidays!   Gud Jule!    Nollaig Shona Duit!  Bright Blessings!   Merry Christmahannukwanza!   Happy Festivus!

I'm honored to be a part of the Jen on the Edge Holiday Homes Extravaganza, though I have to admit, I almost forgot! We usually go overboard on decorations with every surface flocked, decked, or wreathed in some sort of tableau of the season.  This year, we've toned it down. So, Welcome to our house! C'mon in and have some nog, or cider and a couple of cookies.

Here's one of our favorite Santas. This was handpainted in the 60s by Downtown Dad's loving hands.  This little guy, all of 2 feet tall, weighs in at about 30 pounds!  Under Santa's watchful eye, a couple of elves climb a ladder.........

to fill the stockings, all hung by the chimney with care!

A few more elves are busy with some last minute gifts.

We have a few different styles to choose from for tree decoration.  The kids usually pick the style - so this year they chose the gold and maroon "elegant" look. Truth be told, I prefer the "messy" look, with no real color scheme, using all of the old ornaments.  To me, each one has a story, and it takes hours to do the tree because as we unwrap each fragile macaroni garland or pie tin Jesus, its like seeing an old friend.

And last but not least, wishing you and yours health and happiness in the coming year, are my favorite decorations.  A pair of shabby chic snowpeople that we've named Herb and Pearl.


Friday, December 16, 2011

2011 Wrap up...

It feels to me like 2011 was a cocoon that I'm emerging from.  Not that it was a bad year, hell, not that it was a good year.  It just feels to me like some kind of used up skin that is sloughing off.  It was a year I started out, not with resolutions, but with intentions.  I intended a lot of things, quite a few of which I got - not overnight mind you, but through some planning, some flexibility, some give and some take.  Mostly I intended to do some deferred maintenance on my health and well being - body, mind and spirit, the rest happened, as they say, while I was making other plans.

Body - I had several gatherings to attend this year with people who hadn't seen me in a while, (or ever).  You'd think I would have gone on some kind of strict diet or exercise regime to lose weight for these events.  But I didn't.  I didn't want to disappoint myself, and frankly, was more interested in connecting with the people, than comparing waist size.  I did however embark on a journey of healthcare, having my hormone levels checked, the inside of my colon checked, and my skin and teeth checked.  I'm happy to say that for having grown up frying myself in baby oil on foil paper, and eating a diet of Doritos and Coke, I was pretty lucky to only have one cracked filling that needed a crown, one instance of a relatively slow growing skin cancer, and a benign colon polyp, both of which I had removed! I'm also happy to report that while I now take a handful of supplements and plant-based, bio-identical hormone pills, potions and lotions, I am thinking much more clearly, and I am hot-flash free for the first time in about 5 sweaty years!  I also made the decision to stop covering the grey in my hair.  I noticed one day that the strands were a particularly shiny and pretty color, so slowly but surely, I'm working with my hairdresser to cut off the old unnatural colors and grow in the healthy salt and pepper, with a sassy style!

Mind  - While I was happy as a little clam working at the Symphony with a covey of women my own age and temperament, and who loved to drink wine as much as me - it was only part time.  I managed to add a second sweet part time contract job at the local healthcare corporation where Downtown Dad also works, with the Marketing Department's Digital Care Team, proofreading, and editing the website.  This was a group of people quite different from my Symphony Babes.  Mostly 30 somethings with decidedly healthful habits, like working out.  I was able to hold down the two part time jobs for most of the year, but the hours, not to mention the wild mood and personality swings, were starting to take their toll. A few months ago I accepted an offer to become a full time member of the Digital Care Team, and quit the Symphony.  I'm not quite what I refer to as a "real boy" yet, I'm still on a contract basis, but its getting closer every day!  Benefits, retirement, and peer pressure to be healthy - YAY!  I've also signed up to participate in a 13 month, non-surgical, diet and exercise program that is largely funded by the company.

Spirit - Through a series of events I would have never expected, I have had the opportunity to have some deep and meaningful conversations with my family and friends and the chance to look at my life quite differently.  I learned that I like hoppy beer, and the mountains behind Goleta, almost as much as the beach. I learned a lot about classical music, and the people who play it, and that after all these years of dreading the winter, I find I miss the snow when it's not here.  I've learned to speak and write in HTML, and to "dance with the digital natives," as well as that the emptying nest is not as bad as it seemed.  I also learned that I am not a Baby Boomer, but a Generation Joneser; and that I should trust my gut, because I am a very intuitive person.

This probably won't be my last 2011 post - I just wanted to capture some of this in writing.  I'm looking forward to blogging in 2012, and my intent is to post more regularly, with something worth reading. My 13 month program and progress (or lack of) should prove interesting.  I will be making a few "organizational" changes to my blog as well.  I want to add my 'bucket list' items, mostly as goals, but also as fodder for things to write about.  It is also my intent (as always) to make time to read and comment on other people's blogs.

So, here's to putting the finishing touches on whatever you hoped to accomplish this year, and to whatever you hope the new year holds for you!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How I got my MoJo back

My grandfather, Robert "Doc" Hinkley, loved bowling. It was his life - so much so that in the 30s and 40s he was famous for having his own bowling supply company in LA.  He did what he loved and that was pretty cool.

He actually invented the original machine that measures and drills the holes in bowling balls - has the patent and everything.

Though he died before I was born, when I was growing up, my mom, his daughter, kept his legacy alive in her love of bowling.

She was a member of a bowling league as far back as I can remember, and subbed at least once a week, sometimes more. She lined her bedroom window with trophies for bowling 300s.  She did what she loved, it was nerdy, but cool in it's own right.

I tried my hand at it for a while in the 80s.  Even made up some nerdy matching bowling shirts for our team facetiously called The Guttersweeps.  We thought we were cool.

You might say that bowling is in my blood.

But based on a few less than great experiences, and one movie quote that puts bowling in a less than great light, for a good share of my adult life I have been denying my heritage. I prefer more literary pastimes, like Shakespeare, and blogging - although of late, I have lost my muse.  But blood, as they say, is thicker than water, and despite anything I had hoped to the contrary, my son Robert "Bobby" Duncan, who thinks everything nerdy is cool, loves bowling.

For his 30th birthday, friends and family gathered at a local bowling establishment to celebrate the day.  We all bowled a game or two with silly names on our scorecard, derived from Facebook, and Twitter handles, like Whatshernameagain, and BM (for Bobby's Mom) and Skirt. They were all very cool, and I felt pretty lucky to be a part of that group of nerdy-cool people.  Despite everyone's fears to the contrary, we all had a really great time - due in no small part to the adventurous spirit of those gathered there, who had no idea as to the royal ancestral bowling blood flowing through Bobby's and my veins.

Yesterday I had lunch with Bobby to celebrate my birthday.  A couple of his friends who had attended the birthday bowling bash showed up and joined us, Skirt being one of them. She mentioned that she was disappointed that our bowling adventure hadn't shown up in my blog.  Once again, something too personal, or just too nerdy to write about.... wait!  What?  She not only had read, but was looking forward to reading my blog?!?!

It occurred to me at that moment that I was wallowing in my own self righteous pity.  Who was I to deprive people of knowing that Bobby and I were descended from bowling greatness?  What was I thinking, keeping the story of a gathering of this magnitude to myself? Where were my manners?  Whenever two or more of you are gathered in a bowling alley, there has got to be love!  Why, as the theme song to Arthur (the greatest movie to ever pay homage to the kind of people you meet in a bowling alley) says, 'when you get caught between the moon and New York City, the best that you can do is fall in love' or, barring that, write a blog post!

Monday, December 5, 2011


Hallelujah, I'm another year older.
Hallelujah, I was right.
Hallelujah, I was lucky enough to know him.
Hallelujah, it was me.
Hallelujah, it wasn't me.

2011 has, for me, been an awesome year. One that has carried with it the satisfying fruition of much planning and anticipation, as well as bringing along with it some harrowing experiences that may at best be called 'learning opportunities.' And I am thankful for every single minute. 

This year has had its minor falls, and major lifts, hellos, and goodbyes, amazing adventures, and stunning revelations.  Summed up in a well worn adage... be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. 

With all that went on, in the space of the past several months, it would seem that I would have plenty to blog about.  But somewhere along the line I seem to have lost my mojo.  If the experience was too negative, then I couldn't write it because I always feel like I have to put a positive spin on things.  If the experience was too personal, I fretted about writing anything at all.  If the experience was too painful, I simply found it impossible to find the funny, or at least an entertaining aspect that would make it an acceptable post. So I just didn't.

Looking back, I wish I would have found the words, taken the chances, thrown caution to the wind, so that I could stand now, where I am, and look back at all I've climbed over, hacked and slogged through and say Hallelujah! 

Someday, I may well be able to put all of my ragged, broken, golden, and holy thoughts together into something worth sharing.  For now, this starkly beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujia by KD Lang will have to suffice.