Wednesday, June 23, 2010

We All Have Something to Learn from Each Other

I scored big today. With the help of coworkers and multiple browser windows, I was able to get tickets to the 2010 Women's Conference, which takes place in Long Beach this October. I was fortunate enough to attend portions of the event last year and the year before—nearly rubbing elbows with people like Caroline Kennedy, Maria Shriver, Jane Goodall, Paula Deen, and my favorite guy, Bono. The event is an extraordinary one, wherein women (and some men) share their life experiences, learnings, and feelings on topics ranging from health to careers to spirituality.

I know that in today's world, sharing seems to happen everywhere you look—social networking is exploding, people's stories are pasted all over their blogs, biographies fill shelves upon shelves at the bookstore. But I think the female gender could benefit from a little more sharing around the topic of self discovery.

Being single for a large portion of my adult life usually made me feel a bit depressed and unworthy. Sort of by default, I spent a lot of time alone and was forced to figure out what made me happy when I had only myself around. At the time, the pursuit of hobbies and time-passers felt like survival. Now I can see that it was a huge blessing that might just put me at an advantage forever when it comes to contentedness.

You see, as I'm learning more and more, a lot of women have no idea what makes them happy.

As children, we were often told that the key to "happily ever after" was finding a husband (Prince Charming) and starting a family (preferably one boy and one girl). Perhaps we were told to pursue our career passions, too. But I would venture to guess that most of us weren't told to try any and every activity we could to figure out what made us smile on a regular basis.

The result of this lack of exploration, I think, is that a lot of women out there are floundering and frustrated—and potentially seeking happiness from the wrong sources (like, for example, men who aren't their husbands). And as much as I disagree with the interest in other men, it's their sadness and general discontent that bothers me more.

If our culture is all about sharing these days, shouldn't we start sharing the secrets of quiet, internal fulfillment with our friends and daughters—and even mothers if they need help? Shouldn't we be encouraging girls to try new things and seek bliss so that even when they're married, THEY are the ones responsible for their own happiness? Maybe we would prevent a few affairs or nervous breakdowns or even simple, tearful conversations.

I'm not sure it would have made a difference to have someone tell me that my prolonged singleness was actually helping build a foundation for my cheery, self-reliant future. I probably would have still been antsy for a boyfriend. But looking back, I'm so very, very thankful that I had to learn to stand on my own two feet. And I hope that I can help some other ladies in my life to do the same...and smile a little more often.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bright Spots on the Landscape

People always associate Southern California with beaches, and although the shores here are great, I'm much more partial to the local hiking trails. I try to hit the ones near my or Mr. W's house every weekend if I can. A few weeks back, my sister took me and my niece on one we'd never tried and we were delighted to find an explosion of wildflowers. According to my dad, when they were fighting the Station Fire out here last fall, they not only doused the fire with water but also seeds. When I went back this weekend, it wasn't as spectacular, but still had a lot of blooms to boast.

Speaking of my dad, we very much enjoyed Father's Day with him today. One of the things I love most about my dad is that he'll make friends with anyone. As a kid, I remember him waltzing into our vacation campgrounds with random folks he'd met down the way who were then invited to dinner. He can strike up conversation with anyone passes by his house while he's watering the lawn. He jokes around with waiters and store clerks and anyone he can get a laugh out of. So, as usual, I found it so endearing today as he chummed up with Mr. W, giving him a very detailed tour of my parents' motorhome and showing off his flourishing tomato plants.

I was also very touched when he told Mr. W and me a story about how a hummingbird had flown straight into the sliding glass door a couple weeks ago. My dad is a huge animal lover, so he rushed to the little bird's aid. He said he picked him up and held him on his back and watched the little bird's eyes tracking his every move. He petted him on the head and rubbed his belly a bit and the next thing he knew, the bird rolled to his feet and flew away. I may have told this story here before, but when I was getting ready for the senior prom, my dad rescued a baby dove who'd fallen out of the nest in our front yard. There I was in my prom dress, helping my dad wash this bird in the kitchen sink. It warms my heart the way he cares about creatures big and small.

Sidenote—the picture above is a crevice that was carved out from the post-fire flooding that happened in the mountains above my house. Pretty crazy to hike through it and see all the tree roots sticking nakedly out of the ground.

Okay one last story about my dad. So, every time my parents go on vacation, they bring all of us kids (and the grandkids, too) a souvenir. They mean well—they're showing their love by purchasing trinkets. But I already know they love me. So I tell them—every time—not to bring me anything. I already have enough stuff to fill my apartment and make frequent trips to the Goodwill. This annoys them to no end. They want to do things their way. They want to buy souvenirs. So they decided on their recent trip to Alaska that, as punishment, they would buy me the junkiest memento they could find. A super cheesy Alaskan shot glass. They were so proud of themselves.

But I got the last laugh (and made my dad laugh really hard, too) when I wrapped up that shot glass and gave it back to my dad for Father's Day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Dark Side of Hedonism

A couple years ago I took a "Values Test" at work that revealed my top priority in life is pleasure. Lots of different things fall under this value umbrella—family, friends, writing, hiking, cheese, Mr. Wonderful. I am happiest when I'm experiencing something a little decadent. And I try to make it a point to add a little decadence to my life every day.

I'm lucky because the work I do 40 hours a week generally gives me great pleasure. I love not only being creative but also organizing information, thoughts, and elements on a page.

I indulge my love of chocolate and cheese and wine almost nightly.

I spend time with Mr. W and my family and friends often because they make me smile and feel more connected.

I hike and run regularly because I adore the scenery and the endorphins.

I'm pretty much a joy junky.

But this week, I was reminded (as I am every few months) of the ugly side of my hedonistic attitude. When mama doesn't get her fill of pleasure, mama wants to punch people in the face.

All it takes is a little too much miscommunicating and mucking with my workload to leave me gasping for good stuff on the job. Throw in an apartment that needs cleaning, a couple loads of laundry, two days' worth of dirty dishes, upcoming social engagements that require shopping trips and an oil change light that keeps blinking at me, and my pleasure receptors start wailing like banshees.

Oscar the Grouch has nothing on me.

Thankfully, I found that even 20 minutes of writing or exercise can get me back on track. I'm like any other addict, I guess—I just need a little pleasure hit to take the edge off and then I can continue functioning like a semi-normal human being.

I suppose there are worse ways to be. I'd rather be a glutton for bliss than a devotee of misery.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Morning Oddities

This morning I had to go to the doctor for a follow-up check on something I had investigated back in October. Last fall, I found a lump in one of my ladybumps and given my family's history with fibroid cysts in their breasts, I knew I needed to get it checked out stat. Turns out I just have uneven tissue. Go figure; fits with the rest of me.

Anyway, as if it wasn't awkward enough to walk into an exam room knowing a very nice man was going to come feel me up for 15 minutes, I was immediately taken aback by a big black spiderweb in the corner of the room. Don't worry, it was plastic. But I wondered why it would be there. Maybe it had been there back in October (which would have made a lot more sense) and I hadn't noticed it. But even putting a decoration like that up for Halloween seems a bit odd to do in a doctor's office. Where women take off their tops.

The room had a lot of different art on the walls, too. I remember admiring a large picture of the Rialto Bridge in Venice last time I was there. But today I also checked out the old black and white "doctor" prints that were on display. One had a mostly naked woman lying on an operating table while the doctor stood over her and the caption below it asked something like, "Donde es el amor?" Which I don't even think is proper Spanish. But if it was mentioning "love," it was clearly not a nice vignette of the medical industry. It may have been a bit of 19th century porn.

The second picture also had a woman sprawled out on a table with her doctor nearby, but she was clothed. Maybe this was an earlier shot in the porn pictorial.

It was strange.

The doctor couldn't have been nicer. He's great and my mom has gone to him for about 20 years, so he knows our family well. But I think he is maybe that's the reason for all the eccentricities. Or maybe he thinks that putting freaky stuff around will distract women from the fact that they might have problems with their tatas. I guess I'll never know.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pressure's Not Invited to This Party

Last weekend, Mr. W and I were sitting on the highest terrace in his backyard, drinking some nice Santa Ynez chardonnay and eating several varieties of cheese when I let the alcohol get the best of me and decided to pick his brain. Just for a minute...

" you know how you're going to do it when you actually do it?" I asked with my biggest, sweetest doe eyes.

Readers, you totally know what I'm talking about here...

He took a gulp of wine and said, "Every time I start to think about a plan I feel so pressured. It has to be perfect."

"Who says it has to be perfect?"

"People. Everyone. It's this huge thing and you have to come up with the perfect way of asking because everyone's going to want to know 'how did he ask you'."

I felt terrible. That's a lot of pressure to be carrying around. And really—who made these rules? Who ARE these people that judge proposals and children's birthday parties and wedding receptions—oozing their opinions all over the place when it really all has nothing to do with them?

"Love, I could care less how you ask me. All that matters is that you do. And sooner would be better than later." Couldn't help myself on that last part.

"But everyone will be talking about how I did it and whether I did enough or did it right," he said defeated.

"Cupcake, my dad proposed to my mom in the bathroom. Not like while she was on the toilet or anything, but just randomly while she was getting ready to go out to dinner or something. And I love that story and I would be happy if you asked me in the exact same way—or any way at all. Just not when I look really ugly, like in the morning or anything..."

I should also note here that my sister wore a plastic zip-tie on her finger for a month while she waited for her ring to be made. We're pretty low maintenance gals in my family...albeit low maintenance gals who want husbands...

Mr. W and I talked a bit more, but I felt that the best way to get through to him on this topic would be with a little poetry. So the next day, I sent him this:

It's about you and me,
Leave the other opinions be,
It's not their memory
Of you on one bended knee.

What matters is us two;
Our promise to say "I do,"
No need for something new,
All I want's a sweet "Will you?"

Stop the pressure cooker fight;
No more worrying about who's right;
Put an end to my plight;
Come on, give me the greenlight!

Tonight I will go home and read my Dalai Lama book on patience...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Black Gold, Black Death

A few weeks ago, Mr. Wonderful and I went to a screening of the documentary Fuel. The movie tracks the rise and fall of alternative fuel—namely corn oil which can be used to power diesel engines—and touches on the politics of the big oil companies and OPEC. It ends on a hopeful note, introducing the idea of diesel farmed from algae, which could completely change the fuel industry.

I have long had an issue with the oil industry. I hate that we have gone to war over oil. I hate that the execs at these mammoth companies—the good old boys of the industry—continually make record profits. But I really, really hate seeing oil-slicked pelicans on the TV.

It is so disturbing to me that innocent wildlife is being sacrificed because a greedy group of morons didn't want to keep their equipment up-to-date. As far as I'm concerned, they're murdering babies.

I try to do my part, but I know it's not enough. I know I should be riding a bike instead of driving a Prius. Or maybe I should be trying to get in the algae farming business and buy myself a diesel car. I know I'm a hypocrite because I love road trips. And it kills me that I am so reliant on something that causes death and destruction the world over.

I'm going to go donate a bunch of money to clean-up efforts now, to try to alleviate some of my guilt and hatred......

*** I'm back with some links that my awesome activist friend sent me. If you're interested in donating to organizations that are helping clean up the mess, check out these sites:

Mobile Baykeeper


Surfrider Foundation

To learn more cool stuff, check out this article: Honoring World Oceans Day

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thank You, Yahoo!.

I got some sad news last week. Yahoo! Personals is closing its doors and selling its assets to Why is this sad to me? Because Mr. Wonderful and I met on Yahoo! two and a half years ago. It's sort of like the bar where we shared our first few laughs is shutting down.

Upon reading the news, I sprung into action—logging into my old account and digging in the annals of hidden profiles to dredge up my page. Then I took screenshots of it. I'm a scrapbooker, I can't help myself. It seemed like something important that needed to be recorded for posterity. I begged Mr. W to do the same, and smiled as I read the description text he wrote that I hadn't seen in such a long time. I have no idea what I'll do with our screenshots, but the contents of them changed both of our lives for what we hope will be forever. is running a TV spot right now that says 1 in 5 relationships now starts online. 20% is a pretty big number. I'm so glad people are embracing this way of meeting each other. I know there's been a lot of resistance to Internet dating in the past (I avoided it like the plague for several years) but it really is a great way to find great people (and weirdos who make for good stories to tell friends and family). Sometimes I even miss the excitement of that first in-person meeting. Will he have a facial tick? Will he be as funny as his emails? Will his arms be unusually short?

But then I look at the picture of Mr. W on my desk and am reminded that I never want to go looking for anyone else ever again. And I can live vicariously through friends for the great bad date stories. Maybe on one of our anniversaries, Mr. W and I will pull out our screenshots and reminisce about when we first met, the way other couples visit the Starbucks where they first caught one another's eye. Maybe we'll tell stories to our grandnieces and nephews about how we started falling in love on two old MacIntosh computers. Maybe we'll laugh in our rocking chairs when we find out that only 20% of relationships begin in real life vs. online.

Until then, I wish everyone happy, lucky dating and bid a sad goodnight to my beloved Yahoo!.