Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Harder to Say “Thanks”

Is it harder to say “thanks” lately, I wonder??!! Virtually every friend I have, virtually everyone I know has had a rough year, in one way or another: either they have been touched, and not in a positive way, by the state of the world, lost a job, someone they know lost a job, a house, definitely lost all sense of security and hope for a better future; or they have lost someone they knew, or they have lost a little bit of their health, or …

Geography is irrelevant here. It’s happened everywhere this year, it seemed.

People tell me all the time not to be sad, and to just “be grateful” that I have a job and a roof over my head still. And I am grateful. In Romania we say the gift will be taken away from the ungrateful. So, I am grateful. But can you honestly be completely, unconditionally grateful when you see those around you in pain, or need, or want?

A couple of months ago I was really, really ticked off by my mail lady. Yes, I have a mail lady, not a mailman. And for a year and a half since I’ve had her services, she’s ticked me off weekly. I finally brought myself to complain about her to the Post Office. It takes a lot to make me file an official complaint. Really. They wanted concrete examples, and proof, blah blah blah.

And then I sat down and reconsidered this whole thing. In the big picture of things … the facts that I get the mail after 6 PM every night, or I miss bills almost every other month and get the neighbor’s (legal) drugs in my box, the fact that I didn’t get a $10 delivery from Amazon (needed, grated!!) was not worth someone (probably with family and bigger problems than I’ll ever have) losing a job. In this world we live in, I didn’t want someone with maybe 5 mouths to feed jobless and looking for a job … Even if she wasn’t going to lose the job just because of one complaint. I didn’t want to risk it. I didn’t want to contribute to the risk. So I did nothing. The mail is still delayed and screwed up. But I feel happy.

So, whether need and want hits home or close to it, you cannot help, as human, not to care, I think. We are designed to be compassionate creatures, and losing that is losing humanity. It’s being handicapped and being un-whole.

Sure, I am grateful. There are healthy children being born in the world, and healthy families out there – some of them really close to me, there are healing wounds on those who’ve had them open this year, and pictures with smiling faces in them that bear the 2008 time stamp. There is forgiveness, and there is hope. There is one phone call you’re still waiting to make and one phone call you’re waiting to receive to tell you about better days. There’s always hope.

There are families that are still whole and others dented, but united by so much love they just discovered they never tapped into.

I am grateful for all that. I worry. For all of those whose pain and need I know and all of those whom I have not met yet. I worry – but somewhere, in my humanity, I am grateful, too, for the good things we all can see, occasionally!

Happy Thanksgiving, all! And let’s be grateful for the turkey we are eating: whether bought or given, let’s just be grateful it’s there.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fall Thoughts and Wanders

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” (John Muir)

Who said it doesn’t snow in North Carolina?! It does so. Every fall.

Every fall, millions of billions of leaves float gently on air waves , like wannabe flakes, clothe the ground, multicolored wonder rugs, to pave the way for the swan song of the year.

It’s a magical time. I love when I come home and, like a whisper, the leaves are falling in front of my face, right before I open the door, as if there is yet one more thing they want to tell me before it’s all done, and over. I always greet them with a pause and a smile. I acknowledge each and every one that comes in my path. With patience and utter awareness. Almost respect. I am sure they know I know what they mean!

When I moved to the States, I remember my dad’s first reaction to the news. I was waiting, terrified, with stopped breath, to see if he’s going to kill me, burn my passport, or otherwise keep me in a basement we didn’t have, to sober up from my dreams … His answer was: “Good. You’re moving to the States. At least that’s a beautiful country. You’ll never run out of things to see”. And he shrugged and went about his day.

How can one forget that?!

And he was right. At least, here in North Carolina, there is never penury of things to see. Ocean or mountain views, bare rocks to hardwood forests, lakes and waterfalls to quiet streams; small, quiet towns, and huge cities – we’ve got it all…

All you have to do is fill up the tank, program the GPS or print your map, and head out.

To sum up my fall, I tried to capture some of these wonders and beauties of our land in the following pictures, and may they now speak:

- 1 or

- 2.

Enjoy the trails and the leaf snow and the whispers!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Past Due

I know they say this was not about race. That's what they say. But something tells me we all know differently.

So, f
irst off, I’d like to say that I am proud. I am proud that this nation I am now part of, this nation of which I have dreamed to be part of all of my life, has finally come to the 3rd Millennium, as a true leader should have come. It has finally recognized who they are, and voted like-wise.

We are no longer a nation of “one size fits all”-s! We have never been, in fact, so it’s about time we admitted it. It took since the (“official”) discovery of this great land by the Old World till last night to realize it, it seemed! I believe that on November 4th of this year, we opened the doors wide to the world, instead of letting the world barely sneak in, like it has been doing for centuries. We will finally, hopefully, be not an island in the world, anymore, at least in the ideological sense.

This vote, and this victory, is past due, I think! But better late than never. Better now than 8 more years from now! Or 20, 30, 40 years from now. The fact that is so past due, I believe, makes it even more momentous! If it’s not momentous, then how would you explain the outpour of folks in the streets last night?! All around the country?! We’ve been waiting long and hard to recognize diversity of every kind as the glue that binds us, and we finally came to that realization last night: that diversity is good, and not a hindrance. Not something we need to or we can “fix”. But something we could feed from and grow from.

People of color will tell you just how long and how hard that journey’s been, but it’s finally here. It feels surreal! Last night, the streets of some cities felt like the ones in a suppressed nation that finally got to vote freely! Last night, the freedom we felt was not the one in our songs, and poetry books, the one we get to hear about at baseball games and home comings and President’s weekly addresses. It was not just words. It was real emotion. It was real, and raw, and it felt personal for each of us, and all of us! No Fourth of July celebration I have ever witnessed felt more sincere. More unifying, and more passionate.

I am not sure whether it’s the sad state of the nation at this time and the need to feel happy, or just the rush we all feel at the promise of something different, and something new, and something we can trust, but whatever it is, the true American freedom of choice first off, and of speech and manifestation came through last night. It was breathtaking. I thought, watching the crowds: “So, this is what it feels like, finally, to BE an American!” – I finally, after 10 years of living here, got it.

I was not here when Clinton or other presidents before him were elected, but something tells me it was not like this.

They’re very few and far between the moments I get fired up about politics. I can count them on the fingers from one hand alone. But I feel like this time it’s not just about politics. Not at all. I feel and believe, and not because CNN News tells me, but because it’s true in my heart, that this is about history, more than about politics. It’s about history just as much as the fall of the Berlin Wall was and the fall of Communism, and just as much as freeing Europe after the Wars, or invading Vietnam was. And it’s just an uplifting moment to be part of it, and witness it with your own eyes. I have been so fortunate to live such times.

In the mesh of the blurriness of too much news, and the insecurity of “what will be next”, you feel, and you breathe the wind of change and hope. And you don’t know quite what to do with it, but you drink it thirstily, like you would water from a fire hose after a long and hot, and wet-less day in the desert.

Like my dad always said: “This is not the end of hardships. It’s the beginning of them.” The work is yet to come. But I feel like with the right crew, the ship won’t sink! And I do feel for the first time in years like we’re getting close to at least a wise captain, who will hopefully lead by example and steer forward.

Call me a Dem, or even a Socialist, if you so choose, but I will forever look at the “W” years as the Dark Ages of the beginning of The Third Millennium for this country. In a lot of ways, I personally believe these 8 years should not have been allowed to be the first ones after year 2000 for this country. They’re not worthy of opening a century! … But then, there are such things as wrong choices.

But we should look forward, I think: learn from what we missed the first time, and value and cherish what we have achieved today. And perfect it! I think yesterday’s vote shows that we have learned. For now.

I had a dear friend who once asked me : “In Politics, when all is said and done, don’t you wish you were on the right side?!”. I can only hope we are on the right side, but of course, only time, and history, will prove that! For now, I know this election alone is a milestone in American and modern history, and that alone is the reason of my happiness. What comes next, if good, will just be the cherry on top! But just that we finally made this choice, as a nation, as a majority, shows that we have passed a threshold seen as almost insurmountable before now.

I am so happy to say this is my very first ever election where I had a say. This will be one of the best stories I can tell to my nieces and nephews: about my first vote! I am grateful I was allowed to have a say!

I thank the American people for “waking up", really, for finally maturing and for looking at their neighbor and looking at their kids and voting for them just as much as they vote for their own private beliefs. I congratulate them for finally getting past the shallowness of judging someone by looks and years and faith affiliations and really, really looking at the values they can bring to the country, and at the “content of one’s character”, and for leading their vote with that.

I thank them for finally acknowledging the potential of what they could be, rather than the stubborn belief that they already are and voting with that in mind, as well. Hopefully, from now on there is no turning back, just like there was no turning back to Communism or Nazism , either. It’s only up to us to see to that, and the hardest step, the first, is behind us.

There is so much more I want to say. But for now: thank God that being an American, at least for this one night, is cool once again .

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Another Atypical Vacation – A Family Love Blog

Note: to my friend, Mary, who recently lost her mom and who understands "family" better than anyone I know.

“To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family grieves and joys. We live outside the touch of time.”

(Clara Ortega)

I have always wondered how I seem to my parents, now that I am 33. You always hear them say “Honey, you’ll always be my baby, no matter how old you’re going to be”. They still send me and my sister an e-card every Children’s Day, June 1st. But you don’t feel like “a baby”; you don’t feel like you need to be advised every time you go to bed to brush your teeth; you don’t feel like every time you make a boo-boo and overbuy you need to be reminded that life’s hard and your parents had it tough in their times and you should be more careful with money … Or do you?! You know that with their worry, you feel their love, so … don’t you?!

I felt the same thing with my sister these past two weeks I have had her with me. And what a privilege and honor that she could come and share her time, and her family with me! I know for those of you with no siblings out there, this is science fiction talk, but those of you with brothers and sisters, you’ll know what I mean…

My sister is my reality gauge! She’s the one that always holds that crystal clear mirror in front of my eyes and lets me see myself for who I am: selfish at times, generous at others, mouthy and big-headed, a bitch at other times, of course, soft and even childish at others – whatever the mood of the day, if I am too wrapped up in myself, she’s there to define it for me. It’s so refreshing, because it’s an experience I never get to live when she’s not around – and I miss it so! And as someone once said: “she makes sure my head stays the right size” - It’s an approval/ or disapproval vote everyone needs to check with once in a while – and it’s as objective as it’ll ever be, because it’s unbiased: whatever she says, or does, she knows I’ll always love her! No boyfriend or husband I have ever had has given me that. No other kind of love. It’s an unique and loving comfort to just ... be

Also, with her around, I never ever censure myself! You always have to be on your best behavior when around strangers, of course, but not around your sister… Freedom is the key word in that environment! You put too little onion in your grape leaves? You are OCD about having counters clean? About cleaning after your guests even when tired as a dog? You are annoyed by cheesiness? You hate cartoon-and-people movies? Or have no patience for movies at all? You hate chocolate and love bacon? – you can admit that to your sister: she’s known that all her life, and takes it as matter-of-fact as you, without a slight bit of judgment.

We talked about how much we love each other, and how much we know about each other that no one else knows. How much I know about her, as a “problem child” ( I say and she's proud of), how much she hates me for my being the “goody two shoes” that she has to live up to; how much love and approval I know she needs, and no one else seems to notice; how much we see of each other in her newborn.

We wondered again, about our likes and dislikes and how different we are: she – likes chocolate, sweets, dark beer, red wine and 80 degrees on the thermostat; I like vanilla, puke at the thought of anything sweet, I like white, sweet wine and Miller High Life, and get sick to my stomach if the thermostat is beyond 72! She leaves things scattered around the house, sweaters, blankies, empty bottles and dirty glasses, I religiously put everything in place, or else I cannot fall asleep at night. We laughed, and wondered how in the world we ended up so different – growing up in the same house?! We hugged a lot. And we kissed. And we heard each other’s blood, the same and ever so different, flowing through our veins.

But we both have the same memories, always true, about growing up, and about what we remember about dad and mom, and Maia, and how close and lovingly we grew up. There is that thread there, which is timeless and bloody, that will always remind us of who we are, and where we come from, and we both share it, just like Siamese twins a common organ without which they cannot live!

A lot of people think having relatives in town for more than 2 days is draining. I had her, her husband and her new baby for two weeks and it seemed like too short of a weekend, and I am already missing them … I hope they enjoyed my moody self half as much as I enjoyed them!

My sister and I were enclosed in this timeless bubble where we relived everything from our very early childhoods where nannies would abuse us or treat us to movies and grannies would spoil us to our first alcohol abuse and defiance of dad. "The Man". It was a short lived and emotionally packed time. And you know what they say about time when you’re having fun …

To me, who has no family close by, this was, in a selfish way, the best spent time of the year! I reminded myself of who I am, one thing that I often forget to check into, as we all do, being too busy with “life” (we call it), I rested (thank GOD for not logging into work every day), I looked my future in the eye, through my wonderful brand new nephew , and I felt more love that I have felt in a whole year. All in two weeks. In love with life, and love itself, and what’s important in the world: family, good, healthy relationships, and truth, always truth. I cannot ask for more. Oh, but yes, I might: I might ask for them to come back and meet me soon!

We had our chats, and our laughs, and our happy and sad tears, too … but through it all, I’ll have to say, this is the best spent vacation in a while. She said we should “see something new next time, like a new state, or go shop in NYC or something” (she loves shopping, I hate it with a passion!!), but I said: “whatever, I just want to see you – and that’s present and new enough” … We’ll see where “next time” will find us …. But for now, I agree with Dr. Joyce Brothers, wherever she may be now, that said: “when you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses.” And I thank The Spheres for my recent two weeks of that kind of happiness!

I don’t care how many pots of food I need to slave over, or however many milk bottles we need to wash for the babies, I don’t care how much she tells me not to put her sweater on a hanger at the end of the day , or however many times she frowns at me telling her she eats too damn much … or how much her empty bottles are in my way on the counter . I don't care how much she tells me I am too stuck-up and too conservative, or that I need to let go of being too anal. I know there is not ill intention it any of it. I want to feel that love, that common organ pulsating between us, as often and for as long as I can – always … every chance I get!

And more than anything, the world seems clearer around her. I have made some decisions about my life that I would have never made without her showing me who I am really am, and what I really want in life. I need the crystal clear mirror and the objectiveness. To say that's "priceless" would be the understatement of the year!

Thank you for coming, sister – love! And no matter where we live, physically, emotionally we’re always just a sigh away…

For the pics from my "sis adventures", visit this album - and thank you to my brother in law, for letting me share her, and the baby and for contributing to the pictures with his talent: http://wanderworldpics.shutterfly.com/813.