On Collecting, Chaos, & Clarity

I’ve collected more than a few things over the years. At one point I probably would have been considered a hoarder of sorts by many people – although I never had vermin, pestilence, or fire code worthy issues. Something would catch my fancy and before I knew it I would have three, the official number of items defining a “collection,” of whatever this coveted new item, artist, or knic-knac was. Many times as I was collecting, I realized that I was “settling” for what I felt was within my reach. I couldn’t afford a perfect mint condition Grueby, but a cracked New Hampshire was in reach. A high-end Brastoff necklace was WAY out of my league, but a little star steed ashtray would suffice. This is not to say i didn’t have an appreciation for those items; I didn’t always realize how this “settling” for something less was a life theme for me. (Not to be gone into further in this post.)

Of course when we covet or settle, we end up filling our lives and spaces with stuff, and sometimes even people , that don’t touch our hearts or add true value to our lives. We just don’t always figure that out for a long time, if ever.

As the chaos and clutter grew, so did my anxiety and feeling of lack – yes, the irony was hardly lost on me, luckily. The purges began and helping other people purge, and I was surrounded by a lot of purging, and somehow wound up with other people’s stuff to purge for them, too. It became too much. I got out of estate liquidation, none too soon.

I have nearly eliminated “hunting” at garage sales and estate sales and antique faires and flea markets. I still have an affinity for certain things, but no longer “settle.” One of the things I just adore is an old typewriter. Over the years I’ve owned a couple, yes, only two! Never a collection! One very old beastie was destroyed by a leak in a storage closet, the other one disappeared during a move along with my Pony Barbie doll, of all things. That said, I’ve looked here and there, never too dedicated and had yet to find a really stunning typewriter that called my name. Due to the sheer weight, I’ve leaned towards small portable models, nearly settled on a 60s model, then an old abused Underwood – but resisted.

Then, this weekend, it happened…I went early morning with my spousal unit to a local Antiques Faire that I hadn’t been to in a good 10 years at least. Wandering up and down the aisles I found a Brastoff in perfect condition for a reasonable price, but, alas, it just didn’t do it for me. I have a Very Big Collection – probably 20 pieces – of Sascha Brastoff ceramics. I passed this one by. I saw a few things here and there, and then I noticed a vendor wearing a top hat incongruously not quite steampunk, not quite anything beyond being very noticeable, and behind him, there she was, the most beautiful 1920s Underwood I’d seen in quite a long time, and she was small. The compulsion to get close to her, caress her, tap her space bar, test her carriage return, and press a few immaculately clean keys overwhelmed me. Being in a pricey town, I just knew she was going for near retail at cheapest – around here those typewriters in fair barely functional condition are priced around $125 and up. My hopes and expectations were low. I cruised her once, then twice, then looked at the others he had – a couple 1969s, a 1930s – none were in the condition she was. I finally dared to ask…”How much is the beauty that I’m in love with”? I said pointing to her. He smiled, figured he had me, and said, “$80.” I said, “cash only”? he said, “yes, there’s an ATM right there.” I cringed, it was a fair price and then some, how could I say no? I told him I had to check with my spousal unit – figuring hubby would tell me I was crazy. The man who would generally rather poke himself in the eye than be dragged to one of these things and then see me buy one more thing – said, “Is it less than $200?” I nodded. Then buy it.” GASP! There was no “look,” no critique, it was amazing. I went back to the vendor and asked his best price, thinking, $75, I’ll still take it. “$75” he says. “I’ll be right back!” Off to the ATM I went and had the audacity to cringe at the $3 ATM fee. “Totally worth it,” I murmured under my breath as I pressed the accept terms button. I handed over my money, got $5 change, “coffee money, yay!” and picked up my little lovely. The case is missing the handle, but I carried her most of the way back to the car until my sweetie finally took it from me and carried it the last block.

As I loaded that first sheet of paper to type my first page, I asked myself if I needed any more typewriters. Surprisingly, the answer was a content, satisfied, “No, she is exactly what I was looking for.” I typed until my little fingers just laughed in protest, refusing to exert the effort to make an imprint, and I finally understood that all the collecting wasn’t just collecting and acquiring, it was searching for this, this feeling of “yes.”


1926 Underwood Standard Four Bank Portable Typewriter

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Pondering moments – we are never alone –

The park is full of dogs and their people. Some dogs are playing at obedience, other dogs are wanting to run into their class and play with abandon while their owners pull on leashes, watching with envy, as the well-schooled pups are heeling and playing nicely.

It is a balmy 95 degrees and partly cloudy – California muggy, which for the rest of the world is a nice dry day this time of year.  I’m walking the “track” while listening to music my daughter gifted to me a few years back, so it’s nearly vintage, and while I’m taking in the barks, the yells, and the smells the sky is turning that soft sherbet orange as the sun drops on the horizon, reflecting off of clouds of various whites, blues, and grays.

As I round the track I realize that my mother had these same moments of presence in some other park at some other time,  but it probably felt very much the same as this moment feels for me. A larger than life peace looking up into the fluffy, ruffled, scattering clouds at sunset. The vastness above the background hum of small life sounds all around. Walking, being present in this moment-pondering nothing and everything. Through space and time we touch ever so gently. I am never alone.

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The soft peace between opposite elements…on an early winter evening…

The rain falls lightly as the fire’s roar softens and begins to fade to embers. It is a very soft and somehow peaceful moment resting between these two primal elements.

Both hypnotize and touch something deep, beyond memory into the ancient moments of humanity. Both give or take life in their extremes, and yet are absolute necessities for our survival. It makes sense that they soothe and nurture us in these small moments.

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When “I’m a single mother” pisses people off…

“This $2,000 bill is causing me SERIOUS HARDship; I’m a single mother of three and I just don’t understand what they want from me. I submitted all of the paperwork and they’re just not getting back to me.”

If I were a caseworker or in Children’s Services, this would be a very viable statement within that particular context. The pleading parent on the brink of homelessness looking for benefits, assistance, begging for help to keep her head above water. HOWEVER, these are the words my colleagues and I have had the ongoing pleasure of hearing from the mouth of a Very wealthy land-owner in an affluent community in regards to subdividing her lucrative real estate property.

It is all I can do to not hang up on her the moment she pulls that card. I’m getting closer to making a snarky comment – it would be worth the write-up, I’m not going to lie.

That she is speaking to several lower-level municipal workers having actually lived, or currently living, as single mothers without the resources to own a home, and for some of us, not even the resources to stand on our own in the world with our own apartments, let alone retain our own “real estate attorney,” this women is the epitome of self-centered affluenza-afflicted idiocy. 

Some might argue, “She’s probably just cash poor living beyond her means.” To them I say, let her sell her $2 million dollar piece of land and be done with it. She’ll find no pity here. She’s sat on this development for several years and every problem she has is a direct result of her unwillingness to follow clearly written instructions. There is no bureaucracy stifling her – it’s only urgent when it’s urgent to her – just like the largest developers that are remiss in paying their fees due to inattention, correspondence is ignored until it might affect their bond, then “the system” is expected to jump through the hoops,lower their fees (let the Taxpayer subsidize them!), and make haste for their bond company. aaargh-sigh.

That all said, I can say with definite confidence, that this is one time when pulling the “I’m a single mother” card pisses people off.

Am I wrong?  If so, why?

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Pondering a moment – bunny in sunlight

It’s finally been raining; we’re in a drought and living up to being “Sunny California.” The rain brings with it a calm peaceful feeling and a break in the rain brings moments of clarity in the sunlight that flows in through the window and rests gently on my bunny resting on the carpet. The sun illuminates his fur bringing an even more soft appearance to it, like one of those vaseline filters used on starlets. In this moment of quiet and warm there is a deep contentment and serenity – everything is safe, calm and well.

Gently surfing the moments.

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The Calm After The Storm…

The warehouse is empty and the sun filtering through the skylight is soft and quiet, and nothing echoes in this moment. The crowd, the chaos, the excitement, the triumphs and disappointments of the day are lost in the silence.

It is the moment of departure – time to close the door, and take a deep breath before the cycle begins once more. The space between the chaos of wrapping up and beginning again.

There are countless moments like this in life. After a play. After a party. After the last box is on the moving truck. After a major project at work. After a work shift in retail, a restaurant, an auto plant, a tradeshow. After a birth. After a funeral.

These are the profound and sometimes poignant moments that pass almost unnoticed, as the next moment unceremoniously propels us forward.

What are your moments?

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“Did you hear about…” (4 words that can make or break a day)

So often harmless gossip can begin with these 4 words; or just as easily the announcement of extremely good, or extremely bad, news. It’s all in the tone and facial expression, isn’t it?

So much of communication is dependent on tone and expression. Then there are those monotone still people – those can do quite a number on us.

I had such a moment this last week. I admit to feeling initially hopeful hearing the words; for about 2 micro-seconds, when the cruelest reality b-slapped me instead. “Did you hear about Nicole?” pause…<never bother with a pause when given a quizzical look, it doesn’t help-just bloody spit it out!> “She died last night.”

My brain screamed, “WTF”???!!! Nicole is/was younger than me, and neither of us is near 50, so “natural causes” were 100% out of the question. She wasn’t a close friend, but was a mentor, someone I admired and respected, and a valuable contributor in a system where contributions are squelched, squashed, and otherwise squandered.

All those wonderful stages of grief, well, sometimes they fly by in a breath, or I just get stuck in one of them and neglect all the others, because, after all, what’s the point to indulge in them ALL, right?

That moment turned into another tear-fest in the shower that night. I am amazed that no one has ever drowned grieving in the shower; minding one’s inhalations is truly crucial.

I am stuck in ANGER at a system I’ve been stupid enough to participate in, and with no real reward at the end of the journey; although much work my particular part of the organization does is extremely beneficial to our community – the what’s in it for me (or Nicole, for that matter), dies a little more every day. What was in it for her? Well, we, the “fat government workers” can no longer afford our share of health care (the take-aways totalled more than 18% at the end of the day), so now we subsidize the communities’ “needy” by participating in the local Government Health Plan for a few hundred dollars a month (instead of the $750/mo for “real” health care). Can’t get an appointment; can’t save our lives, just ask Nicole. Oh, yeah, we can’t.

Yes, I am still angry – she wasn’t done with her to do list – her daughter is now an orphan. Tuesday is her memorial, and I hope that her family finds some small amount of solace in the full house that will be there for them, as Nicole touched SO many people, tried so hard to make a difference in the face of indifference, and was a force to be reckoned with.

There is no hug big enough.

All this, and more, began with 4 little words on a Wednesday morning.

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An Incredible Hug From A Stranger

The Hugging Saint came through our area several years ago. I really wanted to go see her. Then I thought, “No, I’ve had a soul hug, someone else might need it more than me.”

Now, if you’ve ever had what I call a Soul Hug, it is something you will Never forget and you may even feel compelled to do your best to give soul hugs to other people afterwards.

Several years ago at an event of non-traditional origins I was blessed to be hugged by a complete stranger that poured her utter being and unconditional love into hugging me, and other people. I will never forget that hug because it touched the core of my being. It was very “present.” It wasn’t particularly long, but it was profound; as if a little piece of “god” had reached into my heart for a few tiny moments. It caught me off guard and in that moment of vulnerability, swept me away to Spirit.

Ever since that hug, I have done my best to give sincere hugs firstly, and to open my heart and try to touch others with my soul in an unconditional way secondly. Have I been successful? At least a few times, I think. Mostly with elderly people – their eyes light up in a way that is hard to describe, as though recognizing you, but not quite knowing where from. One was an Alzheimer’s patient, the other had dementia. Both said with a glimmer in their eyes, “I know you,” and neither of them knew me prior to our encounter. They know love; it reaches to the core of our beings and I like to believe it’s what we go home to.

I do know that the Hugging Saint is adored and very much needed in this world where we’ve forgotten how to love each other in an unconditional moment. I hope that next time you hug some one, you will visualize opening your nurturing heart and pouring it into them and see how it affects both of you. We all need love and it’s truly free. Hope this isn’t too “woo woo” and too bad if it is – I hug you.

Hugs are classic.

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Everything starts with that first step of intention…

Whether walking a wire 100-feet in the air, or taking to a parcourse beam a whopping 12 inches off the ground in a public park, the possibility of “falling” can be “deadly” at least to one’s ego in the case of the parcourse.

Realizing that none of our beginnings is truly unique – others have walked almost every path before us – gives us the opportunity to follow some of their lessons before we embark upon our own journey. That said, it is most important not to dwell on the lessons, but to take action and move your unique experience of the journey into the world.

Did I fall off of this little balance beam. Yes, the first time. Was I embarrassed? Not really – at least I was trying! Then I asked myself, “How do those Olympians walk the beam?” and I realized they glide forward into the movement; they don’t “walk” the beam, they lean forward into it and look straight ahead to where they are going, focused. “Don’t look down”! &, I think they must have some amount of “faith” in the direction they are going and that they CAN do it.

So many life lessons to be pulled from so many tiny little experiences, such as the balance beam mini-adventure. It’s just up to us to consider trying, ponder and pull whatever is there for us.

I hope this is helpful. Thank you for dropping by.

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