April 22, 2008

Sand, seashells, and new friends.

It's hard to say what was the best part of my vacation. It's a toss-up between being in a heavenly house overlooking the Sea of Cortez, meeting and spending time with the delightful group of Kathy's Baja neighbors and friends, or living for nine days with Kathy Keane. I realized that Kathy and I have been friends for a short time and have really only seen each other seven or eight times, but this trip proved that we are kindred spirits who share a love of nature and life.

Kathy is one of those beautiful people, full of joy and passion for her chosen work as a wildlife biologist. She is playful and fun, introspective and wise, kind and caring, and a generous person who allowed me to share this haven she has created at the seashore. She is also an artist who takes photos of birds and seashells and flowers and desert plants that take your breath away. (You can see her photos at www.magicinnature.com) Amazingly, she is single, but she is content with her life. She travels back and forth from Baja to Long Beach and Los Angeles and can't imagine that there is a suitable guy who would put up with that lifestyle, but I think that there is a great guy who would find her absolutely enchanting and whose life would be greatly enriched by being a part of hers. Here's a picture of her with her art work at last weekend's San Felipe Blues and Arts Festival:

Then there's her neighbor Jim who originally built and lived in Kathy's house and then built an even more fabulous home above hers. He's a cheery and fun guy, in his late 70s with the spirit of a youngster. He'd walk into a room and I would felt uplifted by his presence, which is hard to really describe, but that's how it was. I asked him his philosophy of life and he said: "You should always be positive and speak nice to your enemies. It's not good to hold grudges. You should speak good and feel good about yourself - you'll live longer." Here's a picture of Jim with his lovely girlfriend Sue and my friend Kathy:

I also met Vicki and Randy. He's a retired fire fighter and she worked in Christian Outreach at a church. He's a charming hostess who told us when we stopped by in the morning, "I'll have the wine chilling for when you come by later" and made the most delicious guacamole I've ever had. They, too, have a home on the beach and theirs is warm and colorful and full of purples and reds and blues and golds and textures and I hardly have the words to describe its beauty. He told stories about how much fun it was to fish on the beach with the Mexicans, that they always have such joy when catching a fish that they would jump around and shout. She is the one who chose the colors for their home and did much of the painting, including the sun on the wall in the following picture. They treated me like a friend and I really enjoyed their company immensely. When I asked Vicki about her philosophy of life, she quoted Mother Teresa, "We can do no truly great things, only small things with great love." Here's a picture of their front room:

And last, but certainly not least, are Roy and Linda. Roy is a marine biologist who has spend most of his life studying sea life in Baja and nearby and currently teaches at a college in the States. He gave a few of us a tour of the tidepools that I'll never forget. Linda is a registered nurse who does hospice work and charity work and work with her church that encourages understanding between cultures and I could go on and on about her good works. They are both playful people with childlike zest about their work, wildlife and sea life, and each other. They were kind enough to drive me the three hours back to my car in the States and I am grateful for their generosity and, even more so, for their delightful company. Here's a picture of Linda, neighbor Bonnie, Kathy, and Roy on our tidepool expedition:

So what was the most fun? I couldn't choose, it was all so wonderful. I'll load more pictures in a few days, but here's a picture I took of a sunrise in front of Kathy's house. Isn't it magnificent!

April 15, 2008

Yoga, life, and gifts.

I'm still in Baja, this lovely peaceful land of desert and ocean. I woke up today wanting to write but didn't have the time, so I just jotted down a few words from email I've received from home. Vacate, detach, find balance. I thought I'd write about those words later, but I was thinking how hard it is to fully detach from feeling connected to loved ones at home and work and responsibilities. I think I've done OK, really, and feel very in-the-moment here, but sometimes I feel like I "should" be doing something and get that anxiousness that comes with feeling unsettled. A few years ago I used to not plan anything on my Sundays, no commitments and no obligations and no time when I would have to be somewhere. As I went through the day, I'd do whatever I felt like doing or I'd do nothing and I think we just don't have enough of that and maybe that's one of the reasons we take vacations. But I have the most trouble with balance, finding a way to juggle work and friends and a social life and taking care of myself and giving enough to others while still having time for myself, etc, etc, etc. That's always the toughest for me and, I'm sure, for many other women today.

So after writing "vacate, detach, find balance," we went to a yoga class, taught for free by a young woman who sold her vet practice to move to Baja. It was held in an open air, defunct bar called "Cow Patty." Really. Pictures soon after I get home. Yoga teachers typically tell us at the beginning of the class what we will focus on, such things as breathing or abdominal work or shoulder stretching, etc. So the teacher says hello and that we will be working on "balance," which is, of course, exactly what I needed.

I love how life works that way, bringing us just what we need at exactly the right time. I'm not religious in the traditional way, but things like this move me to believe that there really must be something or someone looking out for me, loving me and wanting the best for me. This letting go and letting the earth or God or the universe or whatever bring me just what I need to make me happier or to learn the next lesson is such a gift and I wonder how many things happen that way that I don't even realize. I think that each encounter with another living thing changes us, in big ways or tiny ways, but we are different and then it makes us ready to receive the next gift coming our way. I think of the myriad of things that led me to meeting Kathy, my Baja host and friend, how each thing led to another and another until I am enjoying the beauty of Baja and am changed by this experience. So I open my arms and tell the universe or whatever loving entity brings such gifts into my life and say a big thank you and will joyfully look forward to what comes next. While I hold still and enjoy fully this very moment. Now.

April 13, 2008

Sand, dreams, and choices.

We take vacations for different reasons. To visit friends, to party, to rest and be restored, to learn, and to see new lands. I took this vacation because I was invited by my friend Kathy Keane to visit her home in Baja and join her and her friends in painting her kitchen bright colors. I've met her women friends, a lovely group of seasoned women who mostly live in Baja and I've enjoyed them all, each one so different than another in their own way.

I've learned from Kathy's own stories that we are very similar and yet very different. We share a love of nature and the ocean and our views on men and relationships and spiritual and even political issues are very similar. Yet, our lives have taken very different paths. She is a wildlife biologist, and her path to this career and living in Baja was one of decisions. It's as if she would stop along the way and question her next step, deciding whether her current path was leading to what she would love or not and then re-evaluating all over again until she found herself here, with a career she loves, in a place that moves her to tears of joy, and a life full of interesting friends. She works and travels when she pleases, always returning to this beautiful house on the sand by the ocean, this tiny community of people who share her love of Baja.

And I think, this could have been my life, that I would have been happy making her choices, and that I wish I had done exactly that and that it seems so much more exciting than what I have created. So I have to remind myself that my life is full of such riches, except that they are different ones. And that my particular blessings are uniquely mine and bring me great joy. And that I am lucky to have met her and be included in her amazing circle of friends and be invited to spend time in this land she loves so much. So her blessings have blessed me and I am thus doubly blessed.

April 9, 2008

Women, paint, and an ocean breeze.

I'm going on vacation to a lovely, warm, tropical paradise. No phone, no boss, no co-workers, no patients, no TV, no responsibilities, and no men. For one week. I have a new friend who lives in that lovely place who has invited me and a bunch of her other female friends to stay with her and paint the kitchen of her home in paradise. No worries, no email, no party to plan, just sun and ocean and women and the pleasure that combination will surely bring. And someone else is planning everything! Imagine that.

I appreciate my women friends. I created the Wow group to have more of them and I've been blessed over and over by the women who have joined. Each one is different and unique in their own way, and each one has brought a different color to my life. It's like seeing a new movie or reading a new book or visiting a new place, each time a new woman enters my life to become a new friend. They teach me and enourage me and push me and laugh with me and it is truly wonderful how each one adds something uniquely their own to my life.

So I wish you all a good week. Maybe I'll do a post from there and maybe not. I might post some pictures or I won't. Hopefully, the biggest decision all week will be should I take a walk on the beach now or should I do it later. Paradise.

April 6, 2008

Good music, appetizers, and tight spaces.

I remember years ago someone telling me that "not every meal is Thanksgiving dinner." I like to remember that when something goes wrong or isn't as good as I hoped it would be. It was like that last night.

I invited some of my partygoers to join me in a scouting adventure to see a new band at a new club. I was invited by a guy in the band called Sidetrac to see what I thought of his group and the club. I like adventures, seeing new places and having new experiences, so I was delighted to plan this outing. Lots of the party guys and gals wanted to join the event, so away we went.

I invited a guy I met at my last party, and we went early to have appetizers and get a good table. The food was delicious, and the service amazing. The band started their first set just after 9pm and it was good, a mellow set while the diners finished, lots of R&B and soul with a surprisingly good singer.

So what went wrong? I hate to admit it, but maybe some of you can relate and realize you're not alone. I am claustrophobic. I don't do well in rooms without windows or in pushy crowds. When it happens to me, I get uneasy and then jittery and then have trouble breathing and get disoriented. I was uneasy when I first entered the room, but I thought it just a new place and the concern about whether the event would go well. But by 10pm, I got that out-of-body feeling and felt like I couldn't catch my breath, so I told my date that I was claustrophic and, bless him, he said we needed to leave and we did.

So what did I learn? That not every event I plan will turn out like I hoped. That I need to pay attention to what my body is telling me. That it was a great band but not a good room. And that my date is a really nice guy, thoughtful and considerate and definitely worth knowing better. All in all, not a bad night after all.

April 3, 2008

Isn't it romantic?

I don't know what that means. Romantic. Guys ask me if I'm romantic and profiles list romantic as a "type" and songs are written about it and I'm confused.

I'm big on definitions. Lots of profile list "communication" as a priority but we often err on definitions. Like the time years ago when a guy told me he was sensitive, which to me means that he is thoughtful and kind, but to him it meant that he was touchy, that he reacted strongly at the slightest perception of an insult. So I thought I should just get a definition of romantic and then I'd understand it, but it wasn't so easy.

The dictionary writes about relating to romance or given to thoughts or feelings about romance, but there we go again with defining a word with a similar word. Not helpful. It also defines it as imaginative but impractical, like "romantic notions" and not based on fact, like having a "romantic view." Again, not so helpful. An internet search of "how to be romantic" defines romance as "a nebulous thing with the curious property of being describable but not definable." So I'm not alone in having trouble with the meaning of the word! It says hearts and puppies and teddy bears are romantic, but I can't imagine why. It also says that candles and sunsets are romantic, so advises to have dinner in a dark room. Apparently red is romantic because it is the color of love and passion. Who decides this, I ask. Background music, chocolates, and fancy curly things like on greeting cards, are romantic. So a red candle made out of chocolate and shaped like a teddy bear holding a hear with scribbles all over it that plays a tune when you wind it up is romantic? Give me a break, please.

And then there's this study about romance, full of statistics. Such as the percentage of men who believe in love at first sight: 48, women 49. There's even romance in weather: The average guy's most romantic weather: A snowstorm. Most romantic season: Spring. And my favorite: Percentage of women who think the average guy would prefer a night out with buddies to a romantic evening at home with her: 53. Percentage of men who would prefer the romantic evening at home: 73.

Maybe I can define romance in my own way. I believe that love is a verb, not just a feeling. It's the things we do to make our loved ones feel loved. How we can wake up each morning and think about what we can do to make our loved one's day better. It's really listening to what they say so that they will feel they are still important to us. It's remembering that they wanted to read certain book or see a particular movie and making it happen. It's turning off the TV and computer and just cuddling, each of us sharing some concerns or victories with each other. It's cheering us on when we need a boost and holding us when we feel sad. It's putting the other first without losing who we are. I remember reading a recent study that found that married men who do the dishes get more sex. It's easy enough to buy some flowers or sign a pretty greeting card, but putting out the energy and time to do something special for us? Now that's romantic.