Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ode to My Departed Fake Fingernails

Colours of wine and roses crimsonness!
Rock solid claws of my two extended hands;
Gracious drops of tender hue and gentleness
With rounded curves that molded finger spans;
Each month had its theme of festival chrome,
Began with grinding intense to the core;
To smooth the surface, each nail was buffed
With a double grind; and then grind some more,

And still more, white powder if I pleased,
Until I thought fill would never cease,
For all the layers filled the nails so puffed.

Who hath seen my nails so lovely, tres belle?
Often one who would notice would see
Me sitting lifeless waiting for drying gel,

My face weary from the long days without glee;
And waiting on fan while half asleep,
To air the polish oh just so
Protect burgundy and blushing pink with clear coat;
What I succumbed monthly to such process I do know
Elegance my manicured hands made me want to gloat;

With dripping beauty out of the salon I would float,
With handbag, car keys, and cell phone in tote.

Where are my loveliest fake nails these days? Alas, where oh where?
They perished in a competitor salon one day
With barren nail beds exposed not on a dare

And short stubby brittleness brushed with clear gelee;
Then the wailing began, for weeks pain I did mourn
How fresh and natural could be so harsh, I wailed
No more claws of steel to open packages, jars
Would I still allure those from Mars who hailed?
A newer, simpler me was born
After payment and farewell I sailed

Six fortnights since, my lovelies but distant memoirs.

What Awaits Vancouver on Monday

Except for the gold medal hockey game, cross country skiing finals, and the closing ceremonies, the 2010 Winter Olympic Games are complete. The Games appear to have been a success in spite of tragedies, including the death of a Georgian luger and the death of the mother of a Canadian figure skater. Oh yes, don't forget the numerous crashes, unfinished races, and disqualifications. The tenths of seconds behind, the coaching errors, and missed signals. But for every event, three individuals or teams stood victorious at the medals stands, and that is what most will remember when we think of the Vancouver Games.

For just over half a month, Vancouver has been the center of the universe. We've gotten to know the city, its attractions, its people, and its culture. What a spectacular setting, a cosmopolitan city steeped in natural beauty, a non-stop photo op. The athletes who prevailed in Vancouver will be celebrated for days and years to come. Yes, the Paralympic Games will be held in Vancouver March 12-21, but without near the fanfare or spotlight of the Olympics. The permanent sporting facilities and momentoes built for the Olympics and in honor of those who participated will remain as a lasting tribute to the Games. No doubt, all of the media attention will boost Vancouver's tourism for at least the next year and beyond. But still, Monday's coming.

So what should the citizens of Vancouver expect on Monday? The colour that is the Olympics in progress will vanish as quickly as it appeared. Gone will be the hundreds of bright festive country and sponsor jackets, the pins, the crowds, the stages, the banners, and the sounds. The cold of winter will look black and white, once again, after days of brilliant color. The contrast is almost indescribable, but it is something that residents living in Olympic host cities understand oh so well. The excitement, the chaos, the non-stop activity, crowds, celebrations, and the sports and other celebrities on the streets ... all are replaced in an instant with a deafening hush. Come Monday ... the world's biggest party on the world's biggest stage will be over.

Friday, February 26, 2010

How To Read This Blog, In Case You Were Wondering

Posts for this blog are oft written in batches. Instead of the daily installment, there are times when four or five posts make their way to cyberpress at one sitting. Call this the collective thoughts of the blogger spewing forth. Even so, only one of the posts will be linked on Facebook even when there is a batch update. Don't be fooled ... best to look at the azure sidebar on the right and see what's new since the last time you tuned in.

Nauseous vs Nauseated

One semester of English Usage long ago has led to my constant analysis of usage of the English language. We had to memorize lists of misused words and what the correct usage should have been. Among the words ... nauseated versus nauseous. This confession nearly carbon dates me, but here is how things stacked up for nauseated and nauseous in 1981:

Nauseous meant, to cause nausea or disgust.

Nauseated meant, to be affected with nausea or disgust.

More recently, it is common to hear "I am nauseous." Hearing this was like nails scraping a chalkboard. Gong. A big red circle with a line through it. No no no!!! You are NOT nauseous. Or ... well maybe you are nauseous.

The dictionary entry for these two words indicates that common misusage is winning out. We can use the same word, nauseous, interchangeably for both cause and effect. I might as well throw my 30 year old college textbook away, and I promise to learn to think of nauseous in its previously misused, now acceptable form. To think otherwise would constitute erroneous usage snobbery which is far worse than usage snobbery.

So next time someone says they are nauseous, I will cease being nauseated by their presence and ask them if they'd like a Pepto Bismol.

A Funny Thing Happened While We Were Watching The Ladies Long Program ...

So ... last night, I found myself in the basement of an unnamed friend. This story isn't one that she'd want to be broadly publicized, but still it must be shared.

God bless Bob Costas for finally giving in and letting the skating happen. I conveniently bounced amongst the ping pong table which we had converted to a jewelry making station, the computer where I peered in advance at the judges scores, and the sofa where I actually watched a bit of skiing jumping and the ladies figure skating long program.

Tap, tap, tap. When we were sitting on the couch watching Kim Yu-Na, undoubtedly one of the greatest figure skaters of all time, we had been hearing and sort of mentally blocking out a tap-tap-tapping on the window for the better part of fifteen minutes, thinking erroneously that it was yet another dose of wintry mix coming our way. We'd had a day of snow/sunshine/snow/sunshine/hail/sunshine/rain as of 7 pm.

Just as Kim Yu-Na executed another flawless triple jump ... my unnamed friend said, "It must be storming pretty bad ..." as she turned around. Alas. No.

"It's a rat!" my friend cried. The rat had been tapping on the window trying to get in. All that time, we'd been hearing rat fingernails. Ewwwwwwwwwwww....!

Fire drill. I immediately stopped, dropped, and rolled. I learned that in the 4th grade. I know stop-drop-and roll is for fire, but it worked fine for getting me off the couch and that much further away from the rat. I have a fear of rodents that dates back to 1986, when I was attacked by a mother squirrel on my porch in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

While we awaited the judges' scores for Kim Yu-Na, we gingerly kneeled on the couch and looked out the window at the rat. I was assessing whether the rat could possibly enter the house through a window or wall. We were trying to figure out if it was just one rat or an entire community. Just the thought of it all was making us both very nervous and queasy. We decided to abandon the jewelry making altogether and we ended up watching the remaining skaters upstairs.

Today. My friend's husband was at home so I was not obliged to remain on rat patrol or anything like that. But I did ask for a rat update, which came today shortly after noon. The rat had succumbed. Perhaps he starved, died of thirst, or maybe froze to death as there really was no good place to burrow in the window well, into which he had apparently fallen. Sigh. It was one of those conflicting moments where you feel bad, yet relieved.

Saint Francis and the rats. I too have had rats want to come live at my place. It's a function of living in the desert, near the mountains, in an area with lots of low lying shrubbery where rodents can hang out and multiply. The rats never made it to my house, fortunately, but they overtook the yard shortly after I got a Saint Francis of Assisi bird feeder as a gift. It was horrifying and I considered asking my priest if God would be okay with me putting rat poison in my bird feeder. Instead I called my wonderful pest control company and got the situation under control. Saint Francis remains, with an outstretched but empty hand.

I'll ne'er forget that gold medal performance. Kim Yu-Na skated phenomenally, as did her competitors, at least the ones we saw. As those who watched already know, Bob Costas and NBC denied air time for all but serious contenders for a medal or top placement. I shall always remember the little rat who was so moved by her performance that he was tapping at the window trying to get in and watch with us. Somehow I'm glad that didn't happen.

A Few Random Thoughts On Figure Skating at the 2010 Olympics

A few random thoughts about figure skating at the 2010 Olympics.

Point 1 ... Unbelievable. The skaters put forward by their respective countries was nothing short of exceptional. The caliber of skating and the number of perfect and near-perfect programs with substantial difficulty was simply breathtaking. Television primarily shows the top group of skaters in each category, but that's always been the case, and many times skaters who fell still medaled in past Olympics. Not this time. There were many who did not medal and still skated spectacularly. Case-in-point: Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu. Belbin and Agosto.

Point 2 ... Compulsory or School Figures, for those few who may recall. Most of the skaters in the 2010 Olympics were born in the 1980s and 1990s, thereby missing figures completely, even in their early training. Figures were replaced with Moves in the Field, which emphasize power, carriage, and flow. And the bar was raised on jumps, spins, and footwork.

When Dick Button and Tenley Albright made the US Olympic team for 1952, school figures were 60% of the total score. 60% for slowly, carefully, tracing six patterns skated on both feet on the ice. Back in the day, a skating parent knew that her offspring had potential in the sport if the coach recommended that a skater start learning figures. But let's face it folks, watching figures on television was less exciting than watching curling. Beginning in 1968, the school figures component slowly decreased to 50%, 40%, 30% 20%, and after 1990 they were eliminated from international competitions. The edge, no pun intended, for skills in figures disappeared.

Just a few other fun facts on school figures, while I'm on the topic. Some may recall (oh ... yeah ...) school figures required skates with a duller blade and minimal toe pick, so two pairs of skates were needed ($cha - ching$). Also required, a scribe, sort of like a giant compass like the one you may have used in geometry. With figures commanding 60% of the skating score, all of this made a lot of sense.

Point 3 ... Where was that French judge? After the 2002 Olympics, figure skating underwent a major overhaul in the way scores were awarded. In 2005, the 6.0 judging system, based upon a maximum of 6.0 points for technical merit and artistic impression, was replaced with the ISU judging system, to promote objectivity and discourage abuse. For skaters, it's all about racking up a bigger score with well executed, difficult, and high point garnering components.

An FYI to those who may not know, the 12 judge panel was reduced to 9 in 2008. Since the high and low scores, as well as two random scores in the middle are eliminated, the winners are chosen with only five judges, who now remain anonymous rather than displaying their scores along with their country's flag. Since judges are evaluated on an ongoing basis for the consistency of their scores, this anonymity doesn't bother me so much as it would otherwise. Gone is the practice of allowing judges to "eyeball" whether a jump was cheated or a spin had the right number of revolutions. I admit I was surprised and somewhat disturbed that the judges' rely on only one camera in one single location for the entire ice surface. Two cameras might be a worthwhile expenditure.

Conclusions: I remember as a little girl watching Dorothy Hamill win the gold. And I believe I've watched every winter Olympics since. Numerous times, I recall being frustrated by the judging, the results, medals awarded to figure skaters (especially ice dancers) because they had tenure in the sport, the near sanction of judges from certain parts of the world giving preference to skaters from their geographic region. All of that seems to be gone now and replaced with athleticism, power and grace. And as always, television commentators, at times, can be irritating.

Figure Skating Challenge: Is Figure Skating a Sport???

Just because athletes wear sequins and make their sport look easy, doesn't mean it is easy. For those who say figure skating is not a sport, I invite you to visit your local ice skating rink, rent a pair of skates, and give it a whirl. Try jumping (with or without turning) as a first step. Then try to skate backwards. And maybe extend one leg behind you (without falling, if possible). Good luck with that ...

Friday, February 12, 2010

I Envy You, Vancouver

This scene from the 2002 Olympics four-man bobsled competition gives me chills! The expanse of the track was huge and the bobsleds were hard to see from a distance as they wound and curved along the track. When they came close to us, we had the perfect view: we looked behind us over the top rail of the seating area down to the track and saw the bobsleds flying to the finish line.

Today the Olympics opening ceremonies launches the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada. Almost nothing is as electrifying as having the Olympics come to your town ... the color, the energy, and the excitement.

Some may remember I covered the 2002 Winter Olympics as an unofficial resident reporter/photographer under the name Snowjob Susie. This was a self-appointed assignment. I'd trained to be a volunteer but it didn't work out because I couldn't get the time off work. (Note: That story has a happy ending ... I had a job offer at another bank by the time the Olympic flame was extinguished.) I didn't have any special access, yet just being here in Utah during the Olympics was special access as a few of my old pictures may suggest.

The pin trading area on Main Street was not vastly different from the jewelry exchange in New York City in terms of action and intensity. The Roots hats were all the rage and lines were long at the two Roots stores. A friend and I crashed the Italian party at the top of what is now the Wells Fargo building. The grocery stores had Coca Cola displays in the shape of Olympic rings. My daughter got to skate in Opening and Closing Ceremonies. She also skated on fake ice with Brian Boitano and other past Olympians inside the Grand America, an elegant hotel in downtown Salt Lake City. Utah light rail, TRAX, was jammed with people from all over the world wearing special Olympics jackets, hats, even ear muffs. Those of from Salt Lake City saw our town transformed into a wild party. I was interviewed by a Holland television station about what it's like to be an American skating mom. And speaking of skating, who could ever forget the French ice dancing skating judge?

The week after the 2002 Olympics, I traveled with other skating moms to Lake Placid for our daughters' skating competition. Some of my friends were in a parade to honor the Olympic atheletes and volunteers. We met skeleton gold medalist Jimmy Shea's dad at his liquor store. We relived the 1980 victory by the US hockey team. We saw the skiing venue. The people in the tiny little village of Lake Placid definitely haven't forgotten what it was like to have the Olympics come to town.

When the Olympic flame is lit tonight and Vancouver is illuminated beyond its wildest dreams, I'll be there in spirit. I envy you, Vancouver.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I Manifested Tulips Today

Yesterday, I posted the URL to a floral sale on my Facebook profile. With Valentine's Day coming, this was a deal too good to pass up, even for those who get to be their own Valentine this year.

The package: $39 for a beautiful bouquet of tulips, a box of chocolates, AND a $50 gift card for is a web site that features dozens of restaurants all across the US, including many of my favorites here in town. The gift card works like this ... you go on the web site, pick out where you want to eat from the many delicious choices, then print out the gift certificate.

I LOVE flowers and sadly with my tight budget my frequent flower purchases at Costco have moved from the "need" to "want" category. And I have loved tulips all my life, since I was a child.

I almost ordered. I had input my name, address, and credit card number, then decided, welllll, maybe this is a little too self-serving at a time like this.

Click. I logged off the website before the order was final. And I didn't think about it again, til today.

First, the doorbell rang and it was Fed Ex. A box of flowers sat on my doorstep. When I opened the box, I found tulips. Just like in the picture online. My parents had sent me flowers for Valentine's Day. I searched the box pretty thoroughly and concluded they ordered the tulips but not the chocolate and gift card. They are beautiful!

So this afternoon, my email included a better special offer from Pro Flowers ... they were reducing the price of the package by 10%, so now I could get the same package for $35. So being the quantitative soul I am, I pondered, is it now worth the 10% off, the $4 discount, to have $50 worth of dining, a box of chocolates, and 15 more tulips, delivered next week? Yeah, in my case, it probably is.
Interestingly enough, my mom had no idea I'd posted an ad for flowers on Facebook yesterday. I'm pretty certain she's known about my passion for tulips for a long time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nearly Naked Networking

Normally, when I'm in the changing room at yoga, I'm engrossed in rushing to get out of there. Yesterday, however, I overheard a conversation between two women that caught my attention.

"Do you have credit or credit policy experience?" asked woman A.

My ears perked up. I have 15 years of experience in credit, with several years experience in policy writing.

Woman B was unemployed but wasn't sure she'd qualify for a position in credit. She was in accounting and was frustrated because even with 23 years of experience, employers turned her down since she didn't have a bachelors degree.

"Go ahead and send me your resume and I'll see what I can do," said woman A.

Oh perfect, I thought. I'm in a dressing room, dripping in sweat and rapidly removing my wet clothing. Here's my prime networking opportunity of the week and I'm ... wearing not much more than a smile.

At this point, pragmatism won out. In this economy, there are 6.1 unemployed workers for every position posting. Job postings have declined by 25% year over year. Way too many employed people are terribly unhappy in their jobs and are trying to make a job change. I recalled conversation at lunch last week with someone who said they had 140 applicants for a secretarial posting, and many were overqualified. Hence, this is no time to worry about being sweaty or underdressed.

I asked woman A if she was a headhunter. Turns out, she works for a credit trade association with a membership of over 800 companies. Her organization receives requests for credit professionals and they keep resumes for distribution. She was especially interested when I said I'd love to work on contract. I had to memorize her email address, since I had no paper nor pen, even to write on my hand a la Sarah Palin.

Woman A's last name is Moses. Who knows? Maybe she can lead me through the desert of unemployment to my next gig. Even if not, I've made a new friend and taken my networking skills to the northern European sauna level, if you know what that means.

On to new adventures ...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Company Confidential

I eagerly await a response from Company Confidential regarding my recent employment application. I wonder how many people in America have been hired by Company Confidential, if any. They posted a substantive risk management position, but when it comes to company name, theirs is as cheesy as a New York gossip column. Company Confidential. I'm waiting eagerly, well ... with many other irons in the fire. I'll keep you posted.

Job Hunters Alert ...

For those who are a bit "expansive" in job searching, here are a few recent stats to consider.
  • U.S. Unemployment 02/05 9.7%
  • Canadian Unemployment 02/05 8.3%
  • Brazilian Unemployment 01/28 6.8%
Copacabana ... Ipanema ... leave tomorrow and you could be doing the samba in Rio by Carnival, which begins on Saturday, February 13.

On the other hand, if you headed north instead, you could be in Vancouver by the time the Olympic Games begin, also on Saturday.

Something to think about.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hugh Heffner Economic Recovery

On February 4, 2010, the stock market experienced a mini crash when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 2.6% and the NASDAQ and S&P fell by about 3% each. Ouch.

One financial news reporter on television theorized that people don't believe the recovery is real.

"We're experiencing a Hugh Heffner recovery," he said. A Hugh Heffner recovery is an economic recovery in need of constant stimulation, the reporter explained later.

We live in interesting times indeed.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Stock Option Trading Terms for Ladies Only

Ladies, during the past week, I've been swimming in the sea of stock option terminology found at Investopedia. I'm trying to do something while I am gainfully unemployed, and option trading was the flavor of the week.

If you had employer-issued options, once upon a time. Option price, strike price, expiration dates .... those are the basic terms used in stock options trading. You may have needed to know these terms when you received or exercised a stock option from your employer, if you were so lucky. Beyond saying that options allow you to buy and sell what you may or may not own, I barely understand options myself.

Wait til Cosmo hears about these goodies. Today, my investigation has unearthed some options terms that have left me speechless. Now I'm convinced the options trading back room must be an interesting place to have, or, better yet, overhear a conversation.
Disclaimer. You may blush when reading some of these terms and my comments, which are not to be confused with definitions. And please don't blame me. I'm only the messenger. Besides, if your daughter is considering a career in options trading, you will certainly want to speak her language. Well, maybe not.
Here we go ........
Alligator spread - not to be confused with the bear call spread, the bull call spread, the backspread, the frontspread, the gutspread, or the cat spread

Bullet dodging - understandable, perhaps

Contango - a Latin dance? would one ever do the contango while bullet dodging?

Country basket - okay, so options traders have read Little Red Riding Hood?

Cum rights - no, I promise I am not making this up

Double no touch option - we ladies all know what that means

Double one touch option - hmmmmmmmmmmmm, okay but just once, well, maybe twice

Down and in option - there's also a down and out option in case you were wondering

Exercise backdating - if this is what I think it is ... I need to backdate enough exercise for at least the last decade

Exotic option - need I say more?

Iron butterfly - In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida baby ... the long version, truly

Knock out option - knock out, meaning "hot babe" or "just pummeled my opponent out in the back alley"

Long jelly roll - perhaps a jelly donut shaped like a maple bar

Married put - obviously options traders may be married, and unfortunately, no swinging singles put (or call) options are noted

Multi-leg option - before the married put?

Naked put - also noteworthy are the naked call and naked options

Outperformance option - really? wow...

Overhang - what happens if you eat too many long jelly rolls and fail to use exercise backdating to correct long periods without exercise

Piggyback warrants - Jessica Rabbit would be sad at the lack of pattycake warrants

Plain vanilla - the opposite of the exotic option, presumably

Quadruple witching - there is also triple witching, if you want to reduce risk

Roll back - other rolling options are roll forward, roll down, or roll up ... really, roll up?

Seagull option - Invented by the Mormon pioneers, perhaps?

Strangle - this is also called the squeeze option, if you prefer

Strap - ahem ... these terms just go on and on

Strip - noooooooooooooo ...

STRIPE - swap transferring risk with participating element ... huh?

Witching hour - the time when you may engage in triple or quadruple witching activities

Yes, all of the above are unquestionably financial terms that you might need to use in a sentence on the trading floor. So now that I have exhausted everyone with my non-exhaustive list of stock options terms, I will leave everyone with a final thought: Wow. Finance is so very much more than I ever dreamed.

Let It Go

At the end of every yoga posture, the teacher says "let it go."

  • Push yourself to the edge of your physical limits ... let it go.
  • Hold onto your pose a little bit longer ... let it go.
  • Concentrate, meditate ... let it go.

Let it go.

How relevant not only for yoga but for life.

Let it go.

  • Work your hardest ... let it go.
  • Be patient a little longer ... let it go.
  • Ask and then ... let it go.

Let it go.

Whatever it is.

  • Your hopes and dreams
  • Your best wishes
  • Your worst nightmares
Letting go is not an easy task for me, the queen of mental chatter.

Let it go.

Let it go embodies the practice of detachment, the release from desire and also from suffering. Major religious beliefs share this philosophy, including Christianity. In mass each Sunday, a prayer before communion includes the words "... protect us from all anxiety ... " And I oft feel those words are said for me.

Let it go.

  • Car and home repair troubles
  • Relationship drama
  • Job stress
  • Unemployment
  • Personal finances
  • Stock market woes
  • Health concerns
  • Politics
  • A myriad of other worries

Just for a minute, I will take a deep breath and ... let it go.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Uncle Rich ... This One's For You

The best of times and the worst of times. The best: Angie was engaged and about to be married. This would be the first family wedding in over a decade and Angie was the very first of the "newest generation" of cousins to be married. The worst: My Aunt Carol was battling lung cancer, and it was feared she wouldn't live to see her three granddaughters participate in the wedding.

"Sus, why don't you become a writer?" Uncle Rich suggested I consider a writing career when he saw me at my parents' home in May. "Well, only about a hundred or so people have said I should become a writer ..." I replied. Still, I had my doubts whether a writing career was possible.

I didn't notice that my uncle left to take my aunt home to rest that afternoon after Angie's bridal shower, but before I knew it, there he was again, with a book in hand. "Here, Sus, read this," he said as he handed me David Baldacci's The Christmas Train. "I know you could write like this," he said. "Oh, I've heard him speak," I noted. A few years ago, David Baldacci came to a Christmas Box House fundraiser featuring nationally known authors. He was in the major leagues of authors. "I never really thought of myself at anywhere close to that level," I protested. Could I really make a leap from credit policies to stories about real people and real life?

By the time I went back to Arizona on Father's Day weekend, Aunt Carol's ability to fight the cancer was compromised from weeks earlier. My uncle maintained good spirits in spite of everything happening around him. I mentioned, "I'm reading the book you gave me, but I'm not done with it." My cousin Donna and I got into a discussion about Eat, Pray, Love, and her comments convinced me that book, too, was a must read. Another story about someone far from home in search of new adventures.

A bittersweet time. After a long and valiant fight, my Aunt Carol passed away in August, just days after her 70th birthday. Uncle Rich and my cousins, Richard, Robert, John, and Donna, were sad and strong, as well as appreciative to many family and friends who attended her viewing and funeral.

My Aunt Carol was present in spirit at the wedding of Nate and Angie in September in the breathtaking mountains of Midway. Her sweet granddaughters Natalie and Jessica were Light Bearers, and Allison was the Flower Girl. My cousins were there with their spouses and children. And Uncle Rich was there, too. He asked me about my writing plans at the rehearsal dinner. By this time, I had been laid off but so busy with the wedding I hadn't fully considered my future plans.

Yet again. In November, when I was in Arizona for Thanksgiving, Uncle Rich asked me yet again. "So Sus, have you given any more thought to the writing idea?" I finally realized he's going to push me on this writing idea of his for as long as he can.

So to Uncle Rich, for your persistence, this post's for you. Maybe you are right. At the least, I am complimented by your confidence, and hope that someday my blog will have at least one paid ad. And who knows, perhaps I really will write a book.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Mountain: A Short Post

I love my mountain. My mountain is in the midst of Utah's Wasatch Range between Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons.

Last week, Annemarie and I went to lunch at the Bohemian Pub (only because the Hog Wallow Pub didn't open til 3 pm and she had a plane to catch by 6 pm). Come to find out, she thinks of my mountain as her mountain.

My mountain, her mountain, our mountain, everybody's mountain. No matter what the season, seeing its spectacular beauty is a spiritual experience that I relish daily!

The Story of Mary, or Why I Believe Things Happen For a Reason

Mary was perhaps the most cheerful person on earth in spite of being elderly and housebound. I met her back in the late 1990s when I became a Meals on Wheels volunteer.

"Hi Honeyyyyyyyyyyy!" I wish everyone I know could hear Mary saying "Hi Honey!" when she opened the door to receive her lunch. The incredible energy of Mary's personae and her "Hi Honey" on this cyberpage doesn't quite express it. She beamed. She glowed. She loved. The feeling which she broadcast through her presence was practically tangible.

Once Mary miscalculated my age, about 20 years to the younger. I grew to love her even more.

For weeks, my routine continued. I knocked on Mary's door, and after a long wait, a ray of sunshine greeted me with a big "Hi Honey!" once again.

Missing! One day Mary's name was not on the list of Meals on Wheels patrons. I asked another elderly couple who were still on the route if they knew if Mary was okay. "She's in the hospital," they explained with tears in their eyes. I had tears, too. During the months that followed, I continued to deliver meals to the building where Mary lived, but each time her name was missing from the list.

One chilly Sunday, my best friend Michele and I went to Calvary Baptist Church. I'd never attended a black church and was curious. As I was perusing the printed program, there was Mary's name on the prayer list. "That's Mary! I know her! She's my Meals on Wheels lady!" I said to Michele. I was so relieved that Mary was still alive. I was surprised what a small world it was, even though Mary lived at Calvary Towers, only a few steps from the church.

Closing out the safe deposit box. Winter soon became spring. I was working at my desk in the original Zions bank branch in downtown Salt Lake City. The bank was bustling with activity. A woman walked into the branch and asked me for assistance with her safe deposit box. Since my co-workers were busy, I walked her down the marble stairs of the historic old building to the boxes.

The woman, whose name I don't recall, completed the necessary form to access her safe deposit box. I located the signature card. The other name on the signature card was Mary's name. I had no idea Mary was a bank customer. "I know Mary!" I exclaimed.

The woman explained that she was Mary's best friend and sadly explained that Mary had died. My eyes flooded as I absorbed the news.

The finality of it all. Mary's best friend was coming to the bank to close out the safe deposit box which they had shared for years. Though closing out a safe deposit box was by no means comparable to funeral grief, it was one more task to be done to accept and finalize the death of a loved one. And Mary's best friend had come alone.

We chatted for a while about what a great person Mary was. "I will surely miss her," she noted. "She was wonderful!" I said.

Things happen for a reason. I've never forgotten Mary, nor that day. I was happy to be there, to comfort Mary's best friend in some small way by letting her know I knew and adored her friend and mine, Mary.

Since then, my best friend, Michele, has passed on, too. When I used to call Michele, she'd always say "Hi Honey!" to me, too. It warms my heart to think that Mary and Michele may now be greeting each other with the biggest, happiest "Hi Honeyyyyyyyyy!" heaven has ever heard.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Doing Camel Pose for Two Minutes Makes Me Cranky

I go to Bikram Yoga for a lot of reasons. James, if you are reading this, it's debatable whether or not self-imposed torture is among them.

If you like summer in the deep South ... For those who didn't read my other post where Bikram Yoga was referenced, I'll repeat and elaborate: Bikram Yoga is two sets of 26 postures done over a period of 90 minutes in a hot, humid room. Some of the postures are easy, well, easier than the rest of the postures. Most of the postures are hard for me because I'm not double-jointed or limber, and I'm not terribly strong physically.

Mind over matter. Bikram teaches the teachers that the mind commands the body. "Oh this is a mental posture," the teacher says when instructing the class to stand on one leg and hold the other at a 90 degree angle with foot flexed, with head to knee, if possible. Yeah, right. My body isn't buying that theory on most days.

The dreaded Camel pose. A couple of the teachers like to lengthen the Bikram-approved timing for the Camel pose from about 30 seconds to two or three minutes. In the Camel pose, one's body basically simulates a wagon wheel ... a complete 360 degree backbend. If I leaned one inch further back, I'd be rolling toward the door. By 30 seconds into the Camel, my legs are in screaming pain, which incidentally is a justifiable reason to "get out of the posture" and begin Savasana (dead body pose, imagine that). And most of the time, I do escape, though if I am not feeling pain, I have held the posture for as long as 75 seconds, or got back in for a second round before the two minutes expired.

Breathe. The teachers say the secret to holding the Camel is in the breath. I've never been a fan of breathing. Maybe this is a side-effect of my asthma, which incidentally has improved with almost six months of yoga practice. The goal here is not heavy breathing but normal breathing. Normal breathing? Through the nose with breath at a normal rate and volume.

A final thought. I suppose if we can breathe normally amidst incredible exertion or extension, maybe that which happens to us outside of yoga will be bearable, almost effortless. And some days, life outside yoga is comparatively effortless, even when perhaps it shouldn't be, which is why I keep going.

That said, I still hate two minute Camels. Gotta run ... yoga class starts in 30 minutes.

Photos courtesy of Angela Fairbanks Photography

Monday, February 1, 2010

Offspring-Assigned New Year's Resolutions ... An Update

For 2010, each of the children got to select New Year's Resolutions for me. These were in addition to my own resolutions. Scores are year-to-date and are tabulated by me since no one else possibly could do such assessment.

From Phil: Please stop talking on your cell phone if someone is with you. It's rude. Score: 89%.

So about the cell phone ... this means that I have tried really hard to resist the urge to answer when I'm with someone else. Phil is right. It may be hurtful to those present when we behave as if the person on the phone (who isn't with you) has priority. Some people have this "I am soooooooooo important that I can interrupt the person I am with to speak on the phone to " disease a lot worse than me, but admittedly, I have it. I do reserve the right to answer my phone for emergencies or when I know the caller is going to be wiring $10,000 in cash, however. And sometimes, Phil, it's you calling. That creates a real conflict.

From Angie: Please stop driving on the wrong side of the street. You might get in a head-on collision. Score: 82%.

I only drive on the wrong side of the street in the neighborhood side streets, not on the major roads, lest anyone wonder if they'll see me on the wrong side of Highland Drive or I-215. Yes, driving on the wrong side of the street is a bad and dangerous habit, but it's one that is shared by some of my neighbors. This has to do with irregular (?) grading that makes you feel like you are on a weird Disney-like racetrack if you stay in the lane. To make matters worse, there are no lines on the street. How do I even know if I have crossed the line if there is no line? It's especially embarrassing to slip on this resolution with Angie in the car, which has already this year.

Note: the pictures shown in this post were taken by me. I was driving down my street very slowly and talking on my cell phone to both of my children at once.