A New Year, A New Vision.

For the past couple of years, I have been orienting my year around a theme. A couple of years ago it was my Donkey Yote (not to be confused with Don Quixote) HeHaW (Health & Harmonic Wealth) tour with me and my ass in search of the answer to life, the universe and everything (in honour of turning 42).

And this year, my theme has been Truth or Dare: 2009 Edition - Game On! It's been a ton of fun thinking about my week ahead and choosing - Truth or Dare? More often than not this year, I have chosen Dare, if only because that is what I used to do in my tween days of playing Truth or Dare.

Admittedly, my dares have not been large. I didn't end up taking up pole dancing or the circus arts or really risking boldly. Sometimes just daring myself to stay in the game or mingle with others, or go yet one more intrepid mile each week felt audacious enough.

But I did take a couple of risks. Holy Hub and I renewed our wedding vows in Hawaii, in celebration of 25 years together. And I travelled back home to Alberta road-trip style, something I was not wont to do. While there, I went to see a renowned forensic psychic - in order to get at the hidden truth behind my niece's suicide this spring. And on the way home, I dared go zipline'ing with the kids and do a 10 am scary roller coaster after a big breakfast. Terrifying and stomach-lurching experiences, both - but fun, nonetheless. And I dared myself to step up and write a business plan for a wilderness education company - an industry sector I previously knew next to nothing about. I did this in exchange for sending my 13-year old son on their Coming of Age rite of passage expedition for boys next summer.

Choosing truth, on the other hand, has meant telling myself the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about things I'd quite frankly rather not. It's meant being honest in my beingness instead of living the myriad little lies that can tend to add up to big ones if I'm not careful.

Sometimes those truths have meant saying no, giving up on things and bringing myself back to a place of integrity. At other times, it's meant being willing to really stand alone with myself in front of a bathroom mirror behind a locked door, and allow myself to ask my silent question and nod my head in affirmation or shake my head in disagreement. I have tried, above all this year to channel to the good bard in living the mantra - This above all, to thine own self be true.

And it hasn't always been easy. I had occasion to stumble, once again, upon a poem a month or so ago. I read it with new eyes and this time, it really resonated with me. Perhaps because I am not always so especially good at living at that most authentically honest level where things are raw and real.

"We live a lie when we misrepresent the reality of our experience or the truth of our being. I am living a lie when I pretend a love I do not feel; when I pretend an indifference I do not feel; when I present myself as more than I am; when I say I am angry, and the truth is I am afraid; when I pretend to be helpless, and the truth is I am manipulative; when I deny or conceal my excitement about life; when I affect a blindness that denies my awareness; when I affect a knowledge I do not possess; when I laugh when I need to cry; when I spend unnecessary time with people I dislike; when I present myself as the embodiment of values I do not feel or hold; when I am kind to everyone except thos I profess to love; when I fake beliefs to win acceptance; when I fake modesty; when I fake arrogance; when I allow my silence to imply agreement with convinctions I do not share." Nathaniel Branden

Packed into this mumbo-jumbo of words is some powerful truth of what it means to be human and at times, arguably, inhuman. I suspect it didn't resonate with me the first two times I took those words in, perhaps because I chose NOT to take the words in and hear many of them as my truth.

So it's been an interesting year, to say the least. I approached 2009 thinking Dares would be where it was at, when in fact, Truth is what has really seemed to define it.

And I'm OK with that. On my painted and decorated garden stake, which served as my anchor and office talisman for my theme this year, I had decoupaged a number of quotes about the notions of both Truth and Dare. One, in particular, stands out to me now.

"The Truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off."

It makes me chuckle but also smile at a deep and cheerful level, because the truth of my being HAS really pissed me off. And to borrow from one of the year's most redundant quotes, it is what it is...

Which leads me to next year's theme. I have decided I need to back up and really sit with my beingness and embrace the present, all the while, planning for the future. So I've come up with Plan Be! as my 2010 theme. It is a reminder for me to stay grounded in the present whilst remaining methodical in strategic planning mode.

The Be also allows the word nerd in me to bring all those other juicy Be words into the realm. You know....like begin and become and bequeath and bestow and believe and behoove and beacon and beauty and beckon and bedazzle and befriend and behold and bejewel and belay and better and bestseller and bevvy and bewitch.

And as would befit the Plan part of the Be, I've decided to attach some further BEatitudinal theming to the months, in order to assign some kind of virtuous purpose and character building to my year.  As such, my months translate to Begin, Believe, Beyond, Belong, Befriend, Beauty, Beacon, Benevolent, Beatnik, Bestseller, Beget and Bestow.

It is, in essence, a year of being and doing bundled into one rhetorical package.  To be or not to be - that will remain the question. Perhaps at the end I will discover, as the ancient philosophers did, that "to be is to do".  I may well discover instead that, in fact, it's reversed and that "to do is to be." 

And my 2010 theme song? You guessed it: Let it Be. :) It speaks words of wisdom.

Blessed be. Shalom. Amen.


This is the Dawning of the Age of Expensius

I am now officially the mother of a teenager.  I seriously never thought parenthood out this far, which is entirely a good thing, of course, because anyone who plots the teen years prior to conception is 98% unlikely to want to have procreative sex.  That's my own random freakonomic statistic but inherent within this grossly excessive percentage is no small measure of validity, I suspect. 

It's why we don't give birth to teenagers right out of the garden gate.  They'd begin mumbling and bitching about the uncomfortable journey and the myriad other indignities.  Like how the air was cold and the light was so bright upon birth. And that they were left naked for so long.  And how the doctor pinched and spanked them.  And then how everyone wanted to touch their head and hold their pinky and count their toes and check out their private bits.  Ewwwwhhh.  And then how they got this boob shoved in their mouth.

I was the quintessential poster child for teenage attitude.  I well remember the days when I would walk on the other side of the street from my mother on the way home from a movie, lest anyone dared think we were together.  And I recall the incoherent, mumble language, which I would utter if and when I felt like it but not necessarily correlative to when I was asked a question.  And of course, I remember how out of touch and stoneage my parents were about everything.  Their sole raison d'etre on the planet was to embarrass me.

And this acute cellular memory is why I take great pains to ensure I pay the embarrassment forward.  Truth be told, I consider it to be part of the parental reward system.  Fear of embarrassment is the best behavior modification I know.  It's amazing how quickly a facial expression can turn from bland to horrified, just at the mere mention of threatening to chaperone the school dance and do disco moves on the edge of the dance floor.  That's nothing, however, compared to the humiliating scenarios I scheme in hopes of one day pulling a Hi-Jinks Nick TV parental prank.  That is my loftiest goal as mother. 

It's amazing how fast 13 years can morph by though, when you're otherwise preoccupied.  I look at baby pictures and I can't even piece together the genetic links between the little boy I used to bath in the kitchen sink and the hulking, gangly, 5 ft. 11 inch teenager, who alternates between being a sloth (sleeping in, farming on Facebook and Wii games are his sloth activities of choice); being a narcissist (he likes to admire his handsome mug in the bathroom mirror); and being a food thief (the constant raids of the fridge and pantry have begun).

I don't dare complain - he's smart, multi-talented, wise beyond his years, exceptionally good with younger kids, polite to adults other than those he lives with, an Order of the Arrow, an Eagle Scout candidate, and he earns straight As in school.  Priceless, right?

Well yeah, I suppose, as long as I don't add up the tangibles that come with his winsome personality.  Like the cello that needs to be purchased this year (minimum cost for a student-grade cello - $2000), or the braces he's getting this week ($5000), or the annual cell phone and clothing budget ($1500) or the host of other expenses (school travel, summer camps, sports registration, etc.).  Not to mention the upcoming biggies.  Like the car (which is the only image accessory I refuse to purchase, let it be noted for the record).  And university tuition.  He has his sights aimed high - as in Ivy League heights.  Don't dare ask him what he plans to study at said Ivy League schools though.  That will only elicit a glare, a mumble and a healthy dose of that teenage indignation, unless, of course, you happen to be a stranger, in which case you will be treated to a politely-audible if somewhat vague response.

I try to look at the bright side of it all.  I consider that I'm learning a new language and that it's my turn to be out of touch and stoneage. 

I guess that makes me officially grown up now, more's the pity.  But it still won't stop me from disco dancing on the fringe.  It's a tough job being a shameless mother, but someone's gotta do it.


1,000 Places to See Before I Die

I've been armchair travelling around the world this year, courtesy of my Page-A-Day calendar. I feel blessed to report that I have been to a good third of the locales listed on these pages - Lake Constance and Lake Como, the Bugaboos, Agra, Cape Breton, Milford Sound, Durbar Square in Kathmandu, Fiji, the Grand Palace in Bangkok, etc., etc.  It's really quite affirming to realize that perhaps I have been a place or two on this planet.

Yet, as with knowledge, world travel has a way of hitting you over the head with its sheer enormity.  The more I've travelled, the more I realize how little I've travelled.  I've been to One Tree Hill of U2 fame, but I've never seen the trees of Yellowstone.

Today's calendar image is Halong Bay, Vietnam.  In a word?  Stunning.  I want to go there now.   Have you ever had a visceral reaction to a destination image thereby inspiring you to travel there?  Movies can do that to people but sometimes a simple little calendar image can, too.  I got tired of being awed and amazed by travel brochure images of the Bugaboos, which happened to be in my own backyard.  So I made Holy Hub drive 90 minutes down a dirt road and off the beaten path in order to see these mountain spires in person.  I think it was worth the trip - he still grumbles about the heat, the dust, the detour.

Too many places, not enough time.  But I'm determined to get out there in this world and experience a few of these majestic places for myself.  Sometime, somehow, someway. 

What's on my hit list?  Mostly mountains.  I monumentally love, love, love mountains.  We've seen a range or two or ten in our lifetime - the Rockies, the Alps, the Himalayas, the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, the Southern Alps of New Zealand - and we now lived flanked by the Olympics to the West and the Cascades to the East.  I'm convinced mountains will factor into the images that flash across my mind in those penultimate moments of life -  Valley of the 10 Peaks, Mt. Rainier, The Matterhorn, Mt. Pilatus, The Three Sisters, Nanga Parbat - all these mountains take up a huge amount of space in my heart.  But there remain, seriously, so many more I must, must see, trek, touch and bow to in reverence in an up close and personal kinda way.   

Patagonia, the Dolomites, the Pyrenees, Bhutan, the Drakensberg in South Africa, the Pamirs, the Armenian Highlands (home to Mountain Ararat and Noah's lost Ark), and yes, even a few ranges considerably more local like the Tetons, are all on my must see, do list. 

Which leads me to my next category - National Parks.  I've been enjoying catching bits and pieces of Ken Burns' PBS documentary - "The National Parks: America's Best Idea"  - he's so right, they are.  I was inspired by the adventurous escapades of Edward and Margaret Gehrke, who made it a point in the 20s and 30s to travel to all of America's National Parks.  While I don't feel inspired to see all of the 400 or so parks in the system, I would like to at least see Yosemite, Yellowstone, the main section of the Grand Canyon, and pretty much every single National Park in Utah.

My next category is Islands.  We've vaycayed on more than a dozen gorgeous and memorable islands in the South Pacific, Caribbean Sea and Indian Ocean, but there are some elusive islands I still must paddle to ~ like Easter Island, the Galapagos, the Marquesas in French Polynesia, the Greek Isles, Aruba, Malta, the Andaman Islands, the Queen Charlotte Islands, Tasmania, Madagascar, Iceland and the Hebrides, if only because the latter sounds exotic. Reading books like The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers and a Woman's Search for the Meaning of Wife by Janna Cawrse Esarey struck a wanderlust chord within me to want to set sail for the high and low seas in search of sun, sand and ocean spray.

I haven't even touched on Mystical and Whoo-whoo Places.  We've been to some sacred sites and ancient ruins, but we have yet to see the biggies like Egypt and Stonehenge or the Camino de Santiago or Machu Picchu or even the birthplace of Bono.

There are oodles of other categories that I haven't mentioned - coastlines and scenic road trips and historical cities - but the aforementioned are what really float my travelling boat.

How can you tell the bug has bitten me again?


Testing Testing

If I knew a way to tote my custom domain to Word Press, I'd be so outta here because my Blogger problems have been huge these past few months.

Let's see if this posts, shall we?



My Blog is haunted. Well actually, I have a different choice word in mind for it but haunted will suffice.

It's been screwing up my settings, not permitting changes (and yes, I clicked "Save Changes"). It's a control and power thing. Technology likes to mess with me like that - seemingly assuming an intellectual superiority.

Anyhoo, our life and times - Blogger-notes version - is that we got Remannied in May on Oahu. I say remannied because that's what our wedding banner said - my husband's name, a popular German one, resembles the first in a two-word Latin descriptor for a particular natural form of birth control - you know the one - initials are CI. In any event, his name is shortened to C--t, which shares phonetic harmony with it's popular German counterpart K--t. Well, for our wedding, his sister, now-estranged - saw fit to fashion lovely car ornaments and head table banners with a stylized font (this was back in they day of dot-matrix printers).

So the R's became N's and our banner read as C-NT & (HOLY) - JUST MANNIED....I'll let you play Vanna. Why didn't we snip the R's? Because to do so would be to mess with the very precarious fabric that fuses the small Schmidt clan as one. Even the pastor was more than a little scandalized that day. And 21 years later, as I made the whirlwind rounds of long-lost but found family this summer, the tale still prevails. "Remember your wedding banner?" titillated family folk would ask, with a giggle and a hand to their pursed lips. (As if we could forget).

But I digress. We were re-mannied once more in early-May. It was a lovely sunset beach affair on the near-deserted Ke Iki Beach, officiated by Rev. Jofrey Rabanal and witnessed by our less than attentive kids, who were just a tad preoccupied with making faces in the video camera and kicking sand at each other than to show any sign of reverence towards the sacrality of the moment. Because let's face it, neither of us were entirely sure we wanted to marry each other again. Kidding aside, we wrote our own vows - this time Mr. Expletive wrote his own and it was stellar - he even promised to obey me this time around (a joking reference to the fact that I argued and lost my war of words with our Lutheran Pastor the first time around concerning having to promise to "obey".

So this ceremony was less the failed performative utterance that the first was (Obey?! - as if!, I mean, Yes, of course I will (not)) and more in keeping with where we were at 21 years ago last August. Our original nuptial vision was to have a small intimate watercraft affair and then escape to a tropical locale for a wondrous honeymoon. So this felt like redemption and might I add, as though I had finally come of age, maritally speaking.

We had a lovely time in Hawaii although unbeknownst to us until the tail end of the trip, tragedy had befallen our family. We learned (by an impersonal e-mail from above-noted estranged sister), that Holy Hub's 17-year old niece (from whom we were also estranged for reasons owing to her still living with her mother) had committed suicide at the hospital.

We performed a bittersweet vigil upon the volcanic rocks of the beach for her on the penultimate eve of our departure under the watchful glow of the most specactular sunset of the week, mere steps from where we enjoyed our vow renewal ceremony days earlier. And then a few days later, we flew back home for the funeral - which was quite possibly the most profane event I have ever attended (toilet humour in a eulogy that is supposed to celebrate the life and brief times of a cooped-up, medicated-from-birth girl is not all that amusing). The only saving moments were the lovely commemorating eulogies of her grandparents, your's truly/Holy Hub, and our brave offspring - who took the time to write and deliver their own heartfelt memories and poems of tribute to their cousin at the podium that day - but those were fleeting and did little to save the day.

We returned this summer to spend time with her grandparents who are still reeling with grief, as well as to visit her gravesite, see the hospital ward she was staying in, and visit with other friends and family.

We, the family, will remain forever haunted by her death. She was only a year away from freedom. She hinted as much on her various blogs, which discovered in hindsight, revealed much about her inner turmoil and unhappiness. We very much looked forward to resuming and beginning anew a relationship with her once she was out of the house. It was not to be.

So there you have it - the fine line between joys and sorrows, regrets and resolve.

I visited with a psychic who does a lot of forensic work, and was able to glean some interesting information about the circumstance(s) of her death. The jury is still out on what all this means or is a foreshadowing for, but in the meantime, the cogs of the wheel in the family, long dormant, have begun to gain momentum again, and that does not bode well.

PS (if you're inclined to leave a comment, do so here - my blog is still haunted.


The Summer Day

The Summer Day
Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


Drowning Fish

Long time no blog.

To be honest, I don't even know where to begin. I feel ranted and raved out and yet, in counterpoint, I also feel like I haven't even scratched the surface of ranting. It just gets bottled and corked and like all good things left to ferment, it turns sour and distasteful.

Do I blog about my disillusionment with the media? No, it's not worth it. I'm being increasingly more selective about the media since the elections and I haven't been inclined to want to plug back in since, mistrustful as I am of the intentions and agendas of most major media outlets. Pick a story and that will be the case. I'm not interested in the prevailing story, angle, slant and skew. I want to hear the untold story and hear from the voices who aren't as loud, popular and boisterous. And I want to hear the real story.

In the spirit of Oriah Mountain Dreamer's The Invitation, I want to know what people ache for, if they dare dream of meeting their heart's longing, or would willing risk looking like a fool for love, for their dream, for the adventure of being alive. And if they have touched the centre of their own sorrow or have been opened by life's betrayal and can sit with pain, their's or mine, and can be with joy, mine and their own, and can dance with wildness and let ecstasy fill them to the tips of their fingers.

Like Oriah, I don't care if the story they tell me is true - I, too, want to know if others can disappoint another to be true to themselves. Rather than being curious about what people do for a living or where they live or how much money they make, I am infinitely more interested in knowing if people can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children. And like Oriah, I want to know what sustains people from the inside when all else falls away. I want to know if people can be alone with themselves fand if they truly like the company you they keep in the empty moments.

I don't care if they stand on the side of conservative or liberal, black or white, privileged or oppressed, male or female, single or married, young or old ~ I care only that they dared live and speak their truth such that all those preceding labels become like so much useless armour.

I'm reading Amy Tan's Saving Fish from Drowning right now. It's a clever book. She uses the most omniscient of narrative techniques by positing a dead, quirky narrator, Bibi, as the intrepid guide who takes the reader back in time along the Burmese Trail with an unsuspecting group of journalists, artists and travelers.

She prefaces the book with a delightful quote:

"A pious man explained to his followers: "It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop out a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl. 'Don't be scared,' I tell those fishes. 'I am saving you from drowning.' Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and I sell them for a good price, With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes."

I like travel tales. All life is a grand fish tale and the steps that define a journey. As such, all life, with its strifes and perils and plights and metaphoric peaks and valleys, can be aptly depicted within such narrative frames.

What does all this babbling have to do with the price of fish in Myanmar? Simply this: I'm hungry for fresh stories and a new mythology and the truth between the fines lines of the lies we tell ourselves in order to play safe and save face.

But above all, I'm especially hungry for a station stop - I've lost sight of where this train is going and as lovely as the landscape remains, I'm getting more than a little bored with the scenery. My own Burmese Trail adventure beckons.