Category Archives: Journeys

NJ to Oregon travelogue, day 4

Tues, Oct. 4:

Started the day with 1700 miles to go and ended with 1200 to go. Had a call with Phil,  our mover, to update him on progress. Basically if we cannot be there by Friday morning he initially said he wouldn’t be able to deliver our stuff until Tues or Weds. Sigh. But then he called back and said he might be able to do Sat.

We had a big line of storms we would have to go through. They had the potential of producing strong winds and hail, but we crossed it to the other side without incident.

We had a great but short visit with Erin, Art, Ryan, Sam and Gracie. It was interesting learning how they were doing and what they were up to for the Fall. Erin and I talked about the challenge of finding Stuff to write about.

We then proceeded to Irv and Janet’s place in Omaha. Because we were running late, Janet was already at work and we didn’t get to see her, but had a really nice visit with Irv.  

It rained a few times but got through the line of storms pretty fast.

Then we assessed the miles between us and Ft. Collins, where we were going to stop for the night. No go. So then we chose Cheyenne, WY. By 4 pm it was clear that we would be driving until 10 or 11 pm if we kept that course. So we ended up reserving a room in Sidney, NE, about 3/4 of the way between Omaha and Cheyenne.  Folks, this is a long drive when you have a dog and cat in tow.

Got into Sidney, the home of Cabela’s, around 9 pm, but it was actually 8 because we had crossed a time zone. 

Days Inn is fine, but the surrounding parking lot is a bit sketchy and there was nowhere to walk Sophy. 

Went to Wal-Mart and ended up at Applebee’s around 9:30.

NJ to Oregon travelogue, day 3

Monday, Oct. 3: We have 1,966 miles to go. Will reach halfway point tomorrow. The journey has included seven states – New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. 

Tomorrow we will go into Nebraska, weather permitting, and see Irvin and Janet and Erin and Art.

We drove a long time on this day and stopped, exhausted, at 7:30 pm. By the time we checked in and had thw pets cared for, it was 8:30 and we were able to go for dinner. 

We stayed at a Microtel, which was clean and comfortable.  We ate at the Beer house Restaurant. I had a decent grilled chicken with avocado and Jim had the Beerhouse sliders. 

To my great relief, Silver used his litter box right after we got him settled on the hotel room. Overnight, he continued to use it :-).

So I feel less guilty about having him in the carrier for ten hours. And I have been walking him too. 

Sophy is actually doing better than she did at home, with regular walks and food. No accidents so far.

Jim had a rough evening because we pushed too hard to get there. Basically, moving is hard because we don’t have any of the usual comforts or enough down time. You’d think that sitting in a car while your partner drives gives you lots of down time, but it’s not focused time because of all the things we have to look after.

NJ to Oregon travelogue, day 2

Sunday morning, Oct. 2: Left at 10 am. Silver was good all night (slept on the bed) and Sophy slept well. So did we, despite having a smoke smell in the room. Silver didn’t have a BM so I walked him on his kitty harness when we stop. Although he walked well and was super cute, he didn’t do anything. I guess he can hold it for a while longer. I offered him water in his kennel and gave Sophy some, too.

Went through lots of tunnels:

Blue Mountain

Kittatiny Mountain

Tuscarora Mountain

Allegheny Mountain

The views are beautiful but there is a low fog on everything. Bucolic. Pastoral. Like a Charles Wysocki puzzle.

Thinking in a couple of directions today – gratitude for the wonderful send-off by friends and family members, and concern about remaining logistics.

Before we left, we were able to visit some of our favorite places and see some of our favorite people again. One of our favorite places is the Raptor Trust, a sanctuary for injured and sick birds like falcons, hawks, owls, eagles, and ravens. The Raptor Trust is next to The Great Swamp, between Berkeley Heights and Morristown. I spend a lot of time there or driving through it, just enjoying how serene and beautiful it was.

I got to go out with several of my favorite work friends and they treated me so kindly. Their good wishes have buoyed me as we go through this tough journey.

I also spent time with dear friends that I knew from outside of work. I am so glad to have been able to visit with Don and Claire Kissil, just to name a couple.

As we get through more of these marathon days, my concerns are, for the most part, settling down. The dog is doing fine and the cat is not complaining at all.

NJ to Oregon travelogue, day 1

Jim holding the bag

Jim holds a bag of our stuff so I can put on my seatbelt in our overloaded Corolla before heading to his mom Marilyn’s house. We would need to further downsize to begin our journey to Oregon.

Saturday, Oct. 1:

Got a late start around noon because we needed to cash the security deposit check and trim down what we are bringing with us. Heartfelt hugs with Marilyn and Jessica, who is staying a couple weeks and flying to Portland from DC.

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Our feast at Troegs. I loved the beet-marinated deviled eggs and the margarita flatbread. He had the charcouterie and cheese plates, and spiced roasted almonds.

Silver was quiet and well behaved and used his litter box like a good boy. The cat pan liners are a win! So easy to clean up. He did not try to escape even once, and did not disturb Sophy. He seems to really enjoy staying at Marilyn’s home.

Sophy was also great. Happy to report no accidents.

We stopped in Bethlehem and visited Marge, Nick, Chris, Paul and Cherie. Nick said a prayer to wish us well, a gesture i found very touching.

It will be his birthday tomorrow and Marge’s on Oct. 3. I hope they have very happy birthdays.

We stopped at Cabela’s to get Jim a rain coat. It rained on us as we left the store.

Didn’t make much progress today but we stopped for the night at the Econolodge in Harrisburg then drove down to Troegs Brewery for dinner. We had Sophy in the car and Silver remained at the motel. All was well when we returned.

Male-female duets remind me of ephemeral beauty

On waking this morning, I found that a song was living in my head. The song is “Dust to Dust” by The Civil Wars, a duo that is no longer together. Listen on Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/track/5P6ZBMWS66FVo6deJaDdHy.

The Civil Wars

Joy Williams and John Paul White, The Civil Wars, were an amazing duo.

I discovered this amazing group too late, it seems. The haunting acoustic melody has a stripped-down feel and perfectly showcases the incredible voices of Joy Williams and John Paul White. The lyrics are also amazing:

It’s not your eyes
It’s not what you say
It’s not your laughter that gives you away
You’re just lonely
You’ve been lonely, too long

All your actin’
Your thin disguise
All your perfectly delivered lies
They don’t fool me
You’ve been lonely, too long

Let me in the wall, you’ve built around
And we can light a match and burn it down
Let me hold your hand and dance ’round and ’round the flame
In front of us
Dust to dust

You’ve held your head up
You’ve fought the fight
You bear the scars
You’ve done your time
Listen to me
You’ve been lonely, too long

Let me in the wall, you’ve built around
And we can light a match and burn them down
And let me hold your hand and dance ’round and ’round the flames
In front of us
Dust to dust

You’re like a mirror, reflecting me
Takes one to know one, so take it from me
You’ve been lonely
You’ve been lonely, too long
We’ve been lonely
We’ve been lonely, too long

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? It seems to me sometimes that the older I get, the more kinds of loneliness and sadness I know. Is it because experience teaches us the many variations that life can bring? Or that we simply endure more as time goes on?

This isn’t a negative post – these emotions are simply part of the mix that goes with being a human. It’s how we see beauty for what it is.

Hopefully you listened to the song and agree with me about its beauty. Knowing that they broke up makes the song even more precious to me.

I have a playlist on Spotify titled “Male Female Duets,” because what I have experienced with The Civil Wars was also the case with so many others.

Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole’s duet, “Unforgettable,” is one of the best examples. The father/daughter blend of voices is silvery and perfect, making me wish they’d had years of recording together. Nat King Cole originally recorded the song in 1951. Natalie sang for the remastered duet in 1991 – twenty-six years after his death. Natalie died in 2015. Sigh.

If you want to hear my playlist on Spotify, it’s at https://play.spotify.com/user/sylectra/playlist/538pZ9JkUM6XjKyIiIhZt9. Maybe you can suggest some other wonderful duets to add?

My idea of surrender, and why I need it

I think about surrender a lot, because I am over forty and have learned how to control quite a bit of my life.

Something happens when a person reaches that age group. As a twenty-something I would often remark on how bitchy forty year old women were. They just seemed angry and bitter about everything. Well, it’s amazing how the life journey can give you some perspective on that.

To my twenty-something friends, you aren’t wrong about that observation! I’ll tell on myself a bit there. :-). Here’s why that bitterness tends to rear its ugly head at that time in a woman’s life (men too, I imagine). Since I can only speak for myself (others are undoubtedly wiser than me), I will cast this information in light of my own experience.

1. I’ve been working really hard in my career without sufficient regard to my other life needs…when I really need to work smarter.
2. I think I can keep the house clean all the time, even with four teenagers and animals and a full time job.
3. I fail to fully consider how I spend my commute to and from work.
4. I overlook the mathematics of the value of my time and give away too many hour of work to my employer.
5. I have been responsible for everything so long that I have forgotten how to be irresponsible – how to delight that inner child.
6. I stay too wrapped up in what didn’t go right yesterday and what I’m worried about for tomorrow to realize that in this little moment called NOW, there is a sunbeam and the coffee is awesome and the og is less than five feet away.

From my atheist / agnostic upbringing as a child, my concept of surrender is more practical than holy, although it certainly works to have a holy idea of surrender to God.

Surrender = acceptance of a bigger idea or plan than I cannot know all of at any one moment.

It also involves letting go of the idea that I can control what happens to me, and opening myself to serendipity that can move me forward spiritually. Even writing this line, I feel resistance within myself. Sometimes someone I care about makes a suggestion for something fun to do. If it wasn’t already in my plan for the weekend, maybe I will say no to it because I might see it as a distraction or predict it is not going to give me the contentment I am after.

But I also must acknowledge the truth that when I spend my weekend in exactly the ways I intended, the probability of feeling dissatisfaction by the end of the weekend is about the same. So what’s really going on here?

Lots of stuff, most of which I call ’emotional static’ that’s a result of not centering down enough. Emotional static is caused when there is a lack of discipline in my mind. I might be wrapped up in ‘shoulds’ about others in my life (i.e., things I cannot control) – cleaning up meal dishes without being asked, not leaving socks under the couch, not sticking toast with peanut butter behind the couch, not eating all of the cereal in one sitting.

It makes me tired just thinking about it! And just so you know, I still haven’t learned what the perfect balance is to living with teenagers, and I am still exhausted when I spend more time at home, and I am still relieved to send my days in a more predictable office environment.

Emotional static also comes from sensing others’ moods without being consciously aware of them, being mad at myself for lack of action or too much action, and nervousness over something that still needs to be done (like bills or taxes).

I can describe the problem of not surrendering in great detail – what I need to do next is describe the process of surrendering in great detail. I see it as a series of many decisions throughout the day to let go of things.

Sometimes it’s impossible to let go of a particular moment, but maybe it’s better then to say, well, that’s one moment, let’s try for the next. Maybe some days are so bad that I am doing great if I can just snatch one innocent, happy, expectation-free moment in the entire day.

If any of you also have this challenge (and fighting for survival in New Jersey seems to make this more prevalent), I suggest a few starter activities that won’t require too much of your time and energy (and thus will be harder to blow off).

While taking one of these little moments, remember to stop your thoughts and take a few deep, slow breaths, focusing on one pleasant thing about it at a time – the simpler the better. On returning to the routine, practice a little emotional discipline and avoid letting negative thoughts slam back into your mind – refocus on the pleasure of that moment.

Here’s the thing I noticed about these practices – they will not appear to be worthwhile when you first think about doing them. You will slowly get more joy from them as you continue practicing with the intention of contentment.

First thing in the morning:
While waiting on the dog to do her business or the child to eat, find a sunbeam if you can, listen to birds singing, or take a sip of something delicious like coffee or juice.

On your way to the office:
If you drive, play songs that make you happy and sing with them. It’s hard to frown while doing so. Or listen to stories to take your mind elsewhere.
If you take public transportation, sit someplace that’s a little more pleasant if you can. I walk all the way down the train to the quiet car on the end and sit on the east-facing side so the sun shines on me.
Also when on trains or buses, watch the people. if they don’t make you smile, go sit or stand somewhere more entertaining. It’s okay to have fun and notice other human beings in a crowded place.
If it’s cold, wear your softest, warmest, happiest scarf and hat even if they look funny. Especially if they look funny because others will smile at you.
If you walk, play tunes on your headphones that make you happy.

You get the idea – there is one of these moments in every part of your day – give it a try for a week and see if it helps!

Shall we expect questions to lead to answers?

For the past three years, I have been sitting with the idea that it is the questions that are important, not the answers.

Today I realized I have been waiting for an answer about joy and sorrow. I had the question in my heart, is my involvment with the Quaker community my answer to the sorrows that life brings us? Is it THE answer, i.e., just about the only thing that will help balance the sadness of losing loved ones to sickness and tragedy and working in a job market that seems to separate us from our humanity?

What then is my question?
And also, is this a signal that my focus is shifting back towards answers rather than questions?

Then I realize with a laugh that, in the process of exploring this, I have just asked four very important questions.

It is not enough for me to simply place more trust in questions than answers. I think that I must also ASK the RIGHT QUESTIONS.

So then I am exploring whether trying to ask the rights questions just brings me back to an ‘answers’ mindset. How could this be the case? Well, it all depends upon my intentions when I am selecting the ‘right’ questions. If I am trying, in a well meaning way, to ask questions that maybe more likely to achieve a specific desired outcome, then do I understand what that outcome is?

And if that is the case, how shall I value that outcome against other outcomes? If the outcome seems to solve a problem in an area of my life where I have decided I have a lack, then that is one way of prioritizing the outcome.

Do I truly understand which aspect of my life needs work most? When I look at the various parts of my life which I usually feel need work, again the question comes up, how can I fairly and with my highest good in mind choose one area over another? In priorizing and ranking them, do I risk solidifying my thinking too much about something which is constantly changing?

When I sit in silence among my Quaker friends, I often have lots of prayers ready in the front of my mind. They are kind of like a wish list for Santa, although a bit less materialistic. Still, I am noisily (in my mind) asking for specific, tangible, measurable objectives – ha ha! The business mindset creeping into spirituality! If your intention is to sit in expectant silence, is it not just as materialistic to pray for a full time job in a certain field with a certain salary as it is to pray for an Xbox 360?

If this is happening during prayers, and when deciding upon the best questions to ask oneself, then what space does this leave for divine intention to be understood and/or made real in my life?

How can one human being possibly come up with something they want to pray for which serves their higher good better than that which God can come up with? Even if you don’t believe in a god which knows what you need at any given moment, perhaps in your life you’ve sensed some sort of subtle guidance from time to time in the form of seeming coincidences, and you felt that those coincidences had some kind of greater meaning (or, as I felt as an agnostic a few years ago, there were random happenings from which I chose to take meaning for my life, thus leading to some of the same blessings).

 

What would a day without expectations be?

Okay, maybe that concept is a little too abstract even for the most “zen” among us, but let’s try this:

What if we picked a day and, when asked for our preference/order/decision on something that day, instead described the outcome we’d prefer in more general terms?

We could call it the Flexible Wish Day. Or maybe Surprise Me Day. What would you call it?

Here’s how such a day might play out:

I’d wake up in the morning and do the stuff everybody needs to do to get ready for work. Instead of selecting the exact shampoo I want, I’d grab whatever’s closest. Instead of worrying about my outfit, I’d close my eyes and grab a shirt from my wardrobe, then select stuff to wear with it that matches.

Walking the dog, I’d let her go where she wants, wherever that might lead us.

At work, instead of listing all my “to do” items and ranking them by urgency/priority, I’d jot down 2 or 3 things that are foremost in my mind and then think, how do I want my morning to feel? If creative, I’d work on the thing that helps me feel that way. If social, I’d work on an item that required collaboration. If detailed, I’d work on spreadsheets and stats.

Instead of planning ahead and packing a lunch, I’d go to the grocery/deli and pick whatever attracts my eye first, without further deliberation over price or nutrition. I’d eat it with care and enjoy any surprise it delivered.

For my afternoon, instead of being pulled from task to task by urgent emails, phone calls and in-person interruptions, I would stop answering the phone and email, put on my headphones, and think, how do I want my afternoon to feel? Then I’d pick one of my priorities and work on that.

On the way home, I’d put on my iPod and hit Shuffle, even though I have 20 carefully selected podcasts saved which are exactly long enough for my drive home. Whatever played, that would be groovy. At stop lights, instead of thinking how I can get in front of the slow guy, I would look around at the faces of the other drivers and see if anyone is doing anything interesting, or better yet, if anyone would like to smile back at me.

At home, when one of my peeps asks me what I want for dinner, I’d smile and say, surprise me! If that throws them, I’d breeze into the kitchen and randomly put my hand on a box in the pantry or an item in the fridge, saying, why don’t we do something with that? Or, if the mood suits, I would say, I don’t care what I eat but I would like something spicy. 🙂

Or maybe we decide to go to a restaurant, only this time I am driving and my family does not yet suspect I am having a Flexible Wishes Day – great fun! I drive randomly until some restaurant catches my eye. I apply no criteria whatsoever to making the choice. We go in, and the waiter asks what I would like. I ask what he would like to bring me. He tells me the specials. I say, I want something warm and crunchy. And wait. Whatever comes will be a surprise! Yes!

Afterwards, the kids want to play a game. I say okay, and they ask which game. I say, surprise me! And they do.

January progress report on my life

I feel as though I am waking from a long and troubled winter’s sleep. Christmas was a hard time for me though I do feel I injected some hope into the season which will help me have a better holiday next year.

I was not suicidal and I don’t need antidepressants, but just going through a catharsis about Mom being gone from my life. Her birthday was Dec. 25 and she died 3 days after her birthday in 2006. Christmas is just not the same for me. Plus the shallowness of the holiday really wears on me – it has no real meaning anymore. Just an occasion for giving people stuff they don’t need anyway. We all have too much stuff and it pulls our focus away from more worthy endeavors.

I had a sore back around the same time and decided to go to a chiropractor /  sports doctor. I am feeling so much better and now doing exercises to avoid reinjury.

I restarted my yoga practice last week with Yoga for Restoration class. And just before Christmas I began visiting a nearby Quaker meeting, though I am not a Quaker (yet). I love their silent worship and how anyone can speak out of the silence. There is no pastor and the ugly issue of money hardly ever gets mentioned – they value simplicity as do I. I am meeting some kind souls there including one amusing older man who has invited me to a writer’s group at his house in Morristown.

There is a drum circle that meets once a month at the Quaker meeting house – not affiliated, just uses the space. But I intend to check that out as well. I am working to bring more positive energy and positive people into my life. And Jim and his family are a wonderful benefit for that.

I do have a new job as of Sept 09 and I am working to manage job stress better. It’s a pretty hectic scene sometimes. Sometimes I feel that I am actually an editor in a marketing manager’s clothing, LOL. I’d love to also have the chance to do more editing, esp. something related to my new life journey like health, spirituality, kindness, whatever.

And in the back of my mind is the comforting idea that I have with a friend from SEG – her name is Spring. We want to write and record meditations for podcasts. We are working on ideas and will be corresponding with each other about this as it develops. I hope to jump in and try one sometime in the first quarter.

I miss my friends and family who are scattered across the country – I am grateful to still be in touch with Dad, Lisa, Aline, Diane, Valerie and Julie and many others. I often get distracted and time slips by before I reach out again, but I always feel better when I do reconnect. I think about them all with gratitude and love.

Moved to New Jersey

Here is an update on my new intention to open my heart and learn to live life fully and with gratitude for the dear people in it. Having seized the day (Nov. 1, to be exact), Jim and I drive the moving van, with Subaru in tow and animals loaded, across eight states and more than 1300 miles in 2 days to arrive in New Providence, NJ in the wee hours of Nov. 3.

I had decided to quit my job and say goodbye to my dear friends to move to New Jersey, where I had seen great jobs advertised (for my field of Web Content/Online Editor) and where I had several new friends whom I met on Second Life. I also was volunteering for a discussion group in Second Life about meditation, and they were based in Princeton, NJ, and they had flown me up twice to work with the group on projects. All signs pointed to this area, as if I was sliding down a funnel and would inevitably end up going down the center hole into a bottle.

I am staying with roommates Jennifer and Rel in North Brunswick because Jim’s landlord doesn’t allow pets, but we are looking for a rental house in New Providence and expect to be moving in together in December. He has four kids (2 of which live with him all the time) and they all like me and I like them. I’m glad I am here and I am looking for a job. I’m meeting with a recruiter about doing some contract/consulting work in the Web Content area.

Jim and I both have talked about move to Portland someday. But for now I will enjoy seeing NJ and hanging out with my friends in the area. The NYC area is a 1-hour train ride away! Fun fun!

Jim took me to the New Jersey shore today (Island Beach State Park) and it was wonderful. My dog Sophy was so excited. She did the puppy bark thing for about an hour. After returning home, she crashed hard and has been sleeping it off.

I’ve changed almost everything about my life and I am excited about my future, which is great because it’s been a hard couple of years with Mom’s illness and then Randy’s dad’s illness. I could use some smooth sailing for a bit! Not that it’s going to necessarily happen starting this instant (LOL) but maybe gradually, bit by bit.

Here is a wonderful song by Blues Traveler, called “Fledgling” about a young bird who is being counseled to spread his wings and simply fall. That’s me.

People I am grateful for:

  • Jim, who flew to Tulsa to help me drive a grueling 1300 miles to get me safely to New Jersey, and who treated me like a valued and loved person the whole time.
  • Jennifer and Rel, who trusted me sight unseen and took me in as a roommate, and who helped me lug my stuff into the apartment.
  • Sophy and Meaghan, who as pets put up with many changes in their little environments and routines with good humor and flexible spirits, never losing their basic sweet natures.
  • DeAnna, for her hours of work helping me move boxes into the storage unit.
  • Jessie, for her kind acceptance and gentle spirit.
  • Laura, for her sweetness to Sophy who needed a friend.
  • Jamie, for being adorable.
  • Lynn, for reaching out to me and taking me to a local dog park (my first ever!) by way of welcoming me to New Jersey.
  • Steven, for checking on me every step of the way and helping me feel better about the changes.
  • Valerie, for being a fun and sincere friend who shows her love without reservation.
  • Julie, for sharing her troubles and hopes as I have shared mine, and walking with me.
  • Ceci and Will, for being great friends during the trying times (Ceci: wine-tasting Thursdays and Will: concerts that make me young again) and making me sincerely miss I could “fold the world” and easily give them hugs.
  • Sarah, for writing an amazing going away card and making me proud of my time as Web Content Manager at SEG.
  • So many other people who added to my joy and eased my burdens along the way.