A lot can happen in a year…..or a decade, for that matter.

We sat on the 34th floor of Bonaventure Hotel, bursting out in laughter every time we looked up to see the AT&T building again. Lost in conversation, we had re-capped the last year of our lives.

“Do you think maybe we’re just too hard on ourselves?” is what she said to me.

Last year about this time, our conversation was a lot more pained. You’d have thought we weren’t two independent, happy, successful women. This year, it was a lot different. We were gleeful. Gone was the conversation about our obvious lack of panini makers. In its place was glee. Glee over a year that had seen lots of changes.

I think the calendar is good for reflection. It gives definitive marking points to track your progress. I don’t think there’s anything really magical about it. I certainly don’t believe that I’ll wake up tomorrow with renewed dedication to cut my coffee consumption from four cups a day to two. And frankly, I don’t care.

But in terms of reflection, it’s giving me something to think about.

2009 was hilarious. In one of those insane, I-can’t-believe-this-happened kind of ways.

I remember exactly how it started. With a hungover hike. And the idea to start a tea shop.  A couple of weeks later I watched Barack Obama become our 44th President. It was freezing and amazing all at the same time. A couple of months after that, I went to my first spring training games. It was a 48-hour, insane turnaround that left me nearly collapsed when I returned to work the following Monday. But it was awesome. I was 15 again.

From there I made my way into the Gila caves that I had sung about, dreamed about and pretty much obsessed about for a year and a half. With my aunts and uncles, we stepped into a different, simpler world.

And I returned to a catastrophe. An honest-to-goodness, certified train wreck that I was so entangled in that I had no choice but to walk away.

And by walk, I mean speed away. I sped to a misdemeanor reckless driving charge and through Phoenix over a hill to Sedona. I left Los Angeles with an odd bag of stuff that was entirely not useful for the trip I took. With a short visit to my parents to leave phone numbers, I left. I thought I needed to find God. In the process, I saw my soul. In the red rocks of Sedona, I had one of those beautiful epiphany moments. Where everything makes sense.

Slowly the sense was pieced back together. I spent some time substitute teaching. I taught 4th graders in summer school. We shot weddings and portraits. And I managed to survive a 4-month period of “unemployment”, probably working harder than I have ever worked in my life.

All the while, there was baseball galore. 41 games I made it to. We figured out that we could walk to the stadium from my apartment and it was blissful. Another playoff run and another broken heart.

Only to find a new home in a new school very similar to the one that I had left a few years ago. My brain, my energy, my stamina, my heart was challenged for the last four months of 2009. I came home every day feeling like I had had my head handed to me. I preached “zen”, and I continued.

It was technically probably one of the most unstable years of my life, but I loved absolutely every moment of it. Yes, even the moments where it looked and felt like I was making huge, stupid mistakes. I loved it because I saw what I was made of.

Still, every single night and every single morning, I was able to look myself in the eye and know that I had been true to myself, my feelings, and everything I strive to be. I can’t really ask for much more.

Even more incredible to think about is the decade. Goodness.

Two degrees, four jobs, I became a teacher, starting my own company with my best friend, gaining a sister-in-law, multiple moves (5, I think). It’s so crazy to think about….I’m not really big on all the New Year’s hoopla, but I have to say it was a very nice opportunity to reflect and be eternally grateful for how beautiful life is!

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Why There Should be No Baseball Offseason

(Disclaimer: My brother and I have a somewhat light-hearted approach to death. We are all very respectively of death and the dignity of life, but a lack of fear leads to conversations that may not seem too funny to some people.)

Background: I received an email with the preliminary baseball road trips for 2010 from Sports Travel and Tours yesterday. I know that Eric Karros is on the ballot for the baseball Hall of Fame so I texted my little brother and told him we should go. This is the texted conversation that resulted:

Little Brother: Let’s go right now!
Me: It’s drenched in snow. We’d die.
LB: So?
Me: You want your parting moments on earth to be at the baseball hall of fame?
LB: That’d be cool.
Me: Haha. You’re funny.
LB: You should probably die at Dodger Stadium. I’ll buy the team and bury you under the pitcher’s mound. Haha. Then the rubber thing could be a grave stone instead!
Me: Hillllllllarious. I always used to say that I wanted to be buried in the bullpen! That’s genius about the gravestone.
LB: Haha. The bullpen sucks. You should be buried under the away team dugout so you can haunt them.
Me: That’s a great idea, but I like the mound idea. You should really make that happen.
LB: Haha. Ok I will.

I seriously wish I was making this stuff up.

Dreams & Imagination

I just saw a picture for the first time.

And I dreamt it a couple of years ago. I dreamt it so vividly that I was able to draw it. In my mind, I can see it now. Then, to see this picture. It’s real. In the dream, I didn’t know where it was. But I could see it all. I could see the houses and the streets and the school and the trees and the porches.

It’s from a place I’ve been many times, but the dream is of a lifetime ago.

So, it made me wonder. Can you feel the soul of something so deeply that you can see it? Or can your imagination dream up something from a lifetime of stories?

It’s strangely calming. And strangely inspiring.

When I had the dream, it came complete with a great story. I started to write it. The plot is done. The characters sketched out. Just needs to be written. Maybe the picture was simply a gentle nudge to write it down.

Gratitude.

In the past month, I said repeatedly to several people that my life was just out of my own grasp. It was a sensation of feeling overwhelmed coupled with exhaustion and genuine stress that I have not felt in a couple of years.

This all ended with a beautiful stroke of fate– a flat tire on Friday. That wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been totally mutilated so as to be beyond repair. Several hundred dollars later that tire was replaced along with the other cracked tire, and I sat there no longer upset but deeply grateful.

Grateful, first, to the two very kind gentlemen who helped me deal with my car in the first place.

Secondly, grateful that the multiple punctures on this tire somehow held together long enough that there was no serious injury to myself or to my car.

And thirdly grateful for a realization. It came partly with the unexpected bill that required me to use a credit card I haven’t used in 7 months and partly with the celebratory lunch I had with a coworker on Friday afternoon. I don’t have a bad life by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, I have everything  I could need. But it is a struggle. It’s a struggle to keep up the energy required to do my job properly. And, if I were to be totally honest, it’s a struggle to buy groceries every week. In that conversation and as I sat in an auto mechanic’s shop in utter disbelief at the damaged tires I was shown, I realized that all the things that challenge me are a direct consequence of what I do with my life. (Even as I write this, I feel that consequence may be too harsh of a word.) And I can rest very easily in that. Not because I am a masochist, but because I truly believe that anything worthwhile has some type of sacrifice involved in that.

It was a really nice way to start off a 2-week break.

On Identity & The Public Option

The problem is not those who think that health care is a privilege. No, they are so far out of my realm of comprehension that I wouldn’t even know what to say to someone who genuinely believed that to be true.

No, the problem lies with people who think health care is a responsibility.

It’s not.

It’s a right.

It is such a basic human right that I sit here cursing with every other word out of the sheer anger that we, as a nation, are so unbelievably selfish that we cannot see that it is not any one of our responsibilities to decide who should receive health care and who should not.

I have made no secret that I was not in favor of the public option. I’m not. I think it was a concession to begin with. However, it should have served as a good first step to a universal system.

Yet again, Democrats in Senate are so unbelievably spineless that they are unable to present to our President a bill that would increase the number of people covered by health care in our world.

I was deeply bothered on Sunday by a line from a play I saw: Can an entire nation lose its identity? It was a heartfelt moment in Palestine, New Mexico, at the culmination of a discourse on the muddling of identity.

We are so twisted in our views of who we are and what we do that we cannot even act for the common good of our own people.

And as I was driving home yesterday, I thought silently that I needed some sort of breakthrough. My frustration with my work is boiling over. The idea that I have 11th grade students who read and write five and six years below their grade level is taking its toll on me. Not because it’s difficult to correct, but because somewhere there has been such profound failure in our values that we leave so many people out in the cold.

We purposefully, literally leave people behind. We leave them to fail. We leave them to die. Without so much as a second glance.

Our identity is so deeply distorted in the cruelty to which we subject our neighbors. And so easily. With a stroke of a pen. With a deferment of funds. We make judgments. And we make condemnations.

A nation that was so filled with hope a year ago at this time seems to me  so badly off course.

And I came home yesterday afternoon and read a story in the Los Angeles Times. As always, it was simply what I needed to hear.

The words came from a man I used to work with: “It’s all about staying committed to the truth that we belong to each other.” It brought to mind the words I hold as a mantra. The words of Bobby Kennedy: “But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.”

It’s the simplest thought of all. And yet so very hard to live up to.

We seem to forget, again and again, that we are each other. We are the ones who are called to be the “better” for our neighbors.

So, yes, an entire nation can forget it’s identity. It can forget its simple foundation. A banding together by some rebel spirits against an oppressive government that was denying freedoms and stripping rights.

And we sit again. At another point in our history where our government is again denying basic rights. We need an answer. An identity. A commonality.

And a simple belief that we are one.

Homicide Reports

I don’t know how this habit formed. Somewhere in the past few years, it’s something I have done without thinking too much about it. I scan the homicide reports. I wouldn’t call it morbid fascination more than I’d call it a reaction. Usually, it’s a very quick practice. I scan for areas more than I do for people. Most of the time names aren’t listed anyways. Most of the time I’ll glance at the descriptions. Sometimes, I get into patterns where I do it daily. Sometimes it’s once a week.

The nature of the places I have chosen to work has sometimes caused a little extra stress in my life. Often under-resourced, but always filled with life and beauty. Always with the thought that there was something magical going on.

Always. Except for the days that reading homicide reports is longer than a quick scan. It’s a piercing into the soul. A prayer. And some tears. And the thought that there is so much work to be done.