Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Watching a house burn down

When I was 16, I was out with my friends one night, having a good time, doing whatever it was that I did when I was 16 (which was not all that constructive). I had dropped off my friend who lived kind of far out in the "sticks" and was on my way home. I saw a huge plume of smoke and could see flames through the trees. My curiosity got the best of me and I turned on a small road to follow the smoke. I got to the scene of a horrible house fire. This was an older home, built way off the road in the woods. It was in the process of burning to the ground and the fire department was trying to keep the fire under control at that point. The family that owned the house was standing in front of it, watching it burn to the ground too, along with many other neighbors from the area. It was a huge fire and very scary. And I stood there, even though I had no business standing there as I was a complete stranger, and watched in horror with them. If anyone has ever seen a house literally burn to the ground, you know what I mean. It is a sight. I was overcome with fear, sorrow, grief, relief, and thankfulness. I think about this now and imagine how completely awful I would feel if my own home burned to the ground. Nevermind that we have insurance to cover the financial loss, but all of the things inside, God I would be so devastated to lose them. Some of the things I have are so emotionally valuable to me I can't even put it into words. So anyway, that night, as I stood with all the other people, just watching, I though maybe I should help these people, somehow. And so I did this pathetic thing....I gave my winter coat to the woman, the mother I suppose. It happened to be winter and I had a coat in my car. She looked at me with the strangest look and said thank you, but I felt so ridiculous when I was driving home! I had no idea what to do or what to say, I just handed her this winter coat.


Another blog I read, Actual Unretouched Photo, made me think of my toes. I recently took my 9 yr old daughter for a pedicure and had one myself. It is my guilty feminine pleasure. I will not show all of my toes as they are hideous little stubby things that I got stuck with genetically (thanks mom), but the big toe is okay. Hayden got a flower painted on her toe, so I had to have one as well.I even have a tiny little gem stuck in the middle. Lovely.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


The Eight Fold Path

Buddhism does not aim to explain God, creation or eternal concepts. Such truths can only be found within the heart of a person. Whatever one holds within the heart is what is. What Buddhism does aim to do is help us overcome the chaos of this world and point us to a path that leads us to our own spirituality. We are all searching for the same things- freedom from our pain and realizing who we truly are, deep within. The Buddha Siddharthe Guatama, in his contemplation, realized the truth about suffering and the path to liberation from it. This Eight-Fold Path and Four Noble Truths make up the foundation of Buddhism.

Right View

The Four Noble Truths:

1. The truth about suffering is that it exists. Life is suffering. Birth, aging and dying is suffering.

2. Our reaching into the world of dreams, our desire to fulfill what cannot be fulfilled is what brings us our suffering.

3. Only when we have broken the mirrors of illusion can we end our suffering, and

4. the Eight-Fold Path can help us to break our habits of suffering.

When we are able to recognize suffering as it enters our lives, see that our own desires have brought us this pain, and understand that letting go of this desire can bring us peace we have attained Right View.

Right Thought

Reality grows in the garden of the mind. Our world is the fruit of our thoughts that sprout from the seeds of ideas. We must therefore be discerning gardeners, looking carefully at what ideas we allow to take root within the mind. We must be able to recognize which ideas and thoughts are born of desire and which carry the seeds of desire that causes our suffering.

The seeds of suffering that take root within the mind are those of greed, ill-will, hostility, denigration, dominance, envy, jealousy, hypocrisy, fraud, obstinacy, presumption, conceit, arrogance, vanity and negligence. In Buddhism, these are known as the 15 defilements, and the Buddha realized 6 methods for removing such defilements from the mind:

1. Restraining:
Restrain from what pleases the senses but bears poison.

2. Using:
Use all that we are, all that we have, all there is to cultivate peace.

3. Tolerating:
Tolerate all adversity, and never abandon our gardens to the wild.

4. Avoiding:
Avoid all that is impure and spoils the soil of the mind. Tend only to what is pure and that which nurtures the pure.

5. Destroying:
Remove the defilements by destroying them from the root.

6. Developing:
Never cease to develop our skills of peacefulness.

Right Speech

We are often judged by our words. Long after we leave this world, our words shall remain. Words can often be sharper than the blade of the sword, bringing harm to the spirit of a person which can cause wounds that are deeper and last longer than that of a dagger. Therefore, we must choose our words carefully. The Buddha realized 4 methods of speech that bring peace to our lives and the lives of those who surround us.

1. Words of Honesty:
Speaking without truth can be a means to our end and to the end of others. Therefore, honesty is always the best policy.

2. Words of Kindness:
Speaking words of kindness, we will never be the cause that divides hearts or puts brother against brother. We become peacemakers. Our words are cherished and valued and shall bring peacefulness to ourselves and to those surrounding us.

3. Words that are Nurturing:
Words that comfort rather than harm the heart, shall travel to the heart, and bring long lasting peace.

4. Words that are Worthy:
Speaking only what is worthy and valuable for the moment, our words will always be found sweet to the ears of others and shall always be considered in a peaceful manner. Words of gossip, untruth, and selfishness do not return to us with peace. The worth of our words is measured by how much they improve the silence.

Right Action

All of our lives we have been instructed to do the right thing. Often we are perplexed with what is the right thing. Ultimately, we must decide for ourselves what is right- but often our judgment is clouded by the defilements of the mind. While upon the Eight-Fold path, we must remember that our aim is to end our suffering. All we do, comes back to us in one way or another, eventually. What may be the right thing for the moment may not be the right thing for the next. Although this moment is the only one that exists, we must not fail to realize that within this moment- the past, present and future are contained. The truly right does not change from moment to moment. Look deep within your own heart, and you will know what is right.

The Golden Rule in Buddhism is: Do no harm.

The Buddha practiced the following code of conduct in his own life:

1. Respect life

2. Earn all that you have

3. Control your desire, rather than allow desire to control you.

Right Livelihood

Often when one begins practicing the ways of Peace, a time comes when lifestyle must be evaluated. In this life, we have the opportunity to liberate ourselves from the cycle of suffering and find peace. We also have the opportunity to help others break free. Does one's way of life support or hinder the ways of Peace? Only the heart knows.

Right Effort

The path is not an easy one. Our habits of suffering are strong, and deeply imprinted in our way of life. It is difficult to maneuver peacefully in a world of chaos. Many of the things that we know we must let go of are things that we have held dearly for we have fought fiercely to obtain them. Our very own self- identity may have been formed with great personal sacrifice. Discipline and diligence is key to persevering on the path. Therefore, our decision to take up the path to liberation must be firm, and executed with right effort. When we have realized the truth of suffering, and are willing to seek liberation with the same tenacity as a drowning man struggles for a breath, then right effort has been attained.

Right Mindfulness

Being mindful of the heart of matters can help us to overcome suffering with understanding. When sitting, laying or moving, being mindful of the following four frames of references are said by the Buddha to help us achieve great understanding, and can even help us unlock the secrets that are within our hearts.

1. The Body:
Paying attention to our physical being can help us direct the mind away from the distractions of the world. Focusing on our breath, our movements, our actions, our components, and on the sheer miracle of our physical existence we can arrive at calmness and clarity.

2. Feelings:
Paying attention to our external and internal feelings, observing their rise and fall, can help us realize their origination, development and decline. Understanding the nature of our feelings can help us let go and break our habits of clinging.

3. Mind:
Turning the mind upon itself, observing our thoughts, can help us realize the origination and aim of our thoughts. With this understanding, we can understand the nature of the mind and overcome our thought habits of suffering.

4. Mental Qualities:
Paying attention to our mental state of mind can help us recognize the five hindrances of our mentality (sensual desire, ill-will, laziness, anxiety and doubt). Observing their origination, development and decline, can help us realize how we can overcome them. By observing the origination, the components, the development, and the decline of things in regard to these frames of reference, we can find a deep understanding in the nature of ourselves, and to know our own hearts is to know the hearts of others.

Right Concentration

As we sail through life, the winds of desire push us toward the Ocean of Suffering. But the skillful stand firm in virtue at the helm, directing the rudder of the mind toward peace. Single-minded concentration on the path to Peace (the Eight-Fold path) is right concentration. It is picking yourself up when you stumble and continuing onward. It is recognizing why you have fallen astray. It is recognizing when you are about to fall. It is continuing upon the path without hesitation or doubt. It is never ceasing to develop our skill in the way.

Days gone....but not lost

This is me. I learned how to rock climb in 1998 and got to do it quite a bit. Hayden was about 3 when I started, and she did some climbing in the indoor gyms and a little bit outside. Then I had twins and my climbing friends moved away or started families of their own. So, it has been awhile since I climbed, but I wait anxiously for those days to come again. Hayden is almost big enough/responsible enough to belay me. Soon.

The Dave Matthews Band rocks it hard!

Mr. Smoov and I went to the DMB show last night in Atlanta. What an excellent show! Although I was sad they did not play 'Two Step', I got over it by drowning my sorrow in overpriced beer. Trey Anastasio from Phish joined the band for a bit, how cool is that? DMB played a lovely cover of 'Time of the Season'. And I smuggled a disposable camera into the show by stuffing it in the crotch of my jeans. Pictures to follow...of the show, not the crotch of my jeans.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Potty Training Playoffs, Day 6

They are doing so good. Both of the boys can hang in the undies now, around the house. I have not braved public places with boys in undies yet, I am not ready for the mad sprint to the public restroom when they say "PEE PEE!" But at home, it's undies during the awake hours.

And they are damn cute in those little boy undies, my favorites are the Thomas the Tank Engine ones:

Raindrops keep fallin'

I worked this past weekend, 42 hours in three days. It was horrible, we were so busy and then had some major equipment problems on top of that. The "chillers" that keep our cleanrooms cold and OR-like, went down. We had to work in them anyway because we had tissue that was expiring and had to be done. So we worked in rooms at temperatures of 88 degrees and 79% humidity. It was like wearing a fucking parka and walking the streets of Calcutta at noon. We have to wear all of this stuff to cover ourselves when working in the cleanrooms: masks, hats, gowns, was hot I tell you.

And then I got to work all night long, not sleep and handle the kids when they got up. So, at about 8:30am I went down to the basement to turn off a light and heard running water. Hmmmm, we don't have running water in our basement. It was flooding. Water was pouring in around a water pipe that leades outside. Apparently, it had not been properly sealed when the house was built. So there I was, sleep-deprived and having to deal with water pouring into my house. There was already an inch on standing water on the floor and it had run into one of the finished rooms down there, soaking the carpet. I called my husband, panicked and tearful. I was dumping buckets of water every few minutes and getting soaking wet. I lost it. I needed help. So he ended up coming home from work in the next two hours, I called a guy we know who knows what to do in situations like that. The guy came over with a pump and rigged it to pump the water out should it happen again before we get the problem fixed. My husband got up all the water with our carpet cleaner. All is well in the basement today and life goes on.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

They seem like good reasons to me, aside from the fact that killing is wrong.

From: Death Penalty

Capital punishment does not deter crime.
Scientific studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that executions deter people from committing crime. The respected Thorsten Sellin studies of the United States in 1962, 1967 and 1980 concluded that the death penalty was not a deterrent.

The USA is unable to prevent accidental execution of innocent people.
The wrongful execution of an innocent person is an injustice that can never be rectified. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty, 119 men and women have been released from Death Row....some only minutes away from execution.

Race plays a role in determining who lives and who dies.
Race is an important factor in determining who is sentenced to die. In 1990 a report from the General Accounting Office concluded that "in 82 percent of the studies [reviewed], race of the victim was found to influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty, i.e. those who murdered whites were more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks."

The death penalty is applied at random.
Politics, quality of legal counsel and the jurisdiction where a crime is committed are more often the determining factors in a death penalty case than the facts of the crime itself. The death penalty is a lethal lottery: of the 22,000 homicides committed every year aproximately 150 people are sentenced to death.

Capital punishment goes against almost every religion.
Although isolated passages of the Bible have been quoted in support of the death penalty, almost all religious groups in the United States regard executions as immoral.

The USA is keeping company with notorious human rights abusers.
The vast majority of countries in Western Europe, North America and South America — more than 117 nations worldwide — have abandoned capital punishment in law or in practice. The United States remains in the same company as Iraq, Iran and China as one of the major advocates and users of capital punishment.

Executions are carried out at staggering cost to taxpayers.
It costs more to execute a person than to keep him or her in prison for life. A 1993 California study argues that each death penalty case costs at least $1.25 million more than a regular murder case and a sentence of life without possibility of parole.

Millions could be diverted to helping the families of murder victims.
Families of murder victims undergo severe trauma and loss which no one should minimize. However, executions do not help these people heal their wounds nor do they end their pain; the extended process prior to executions prolongs the agony of the family. Families of murder victims would benefit far more if the funds now being used for the costly process of executions were diverted to the provision of counseling and other assistance.

Incompetent Counsel is a Persistent Problem
A study at Columbia University found that in 68% of all capital cases reviewed between 1973 and 1995 the state and federal courts found errors sufficiently serious to require retrial or resentencing.

There is a better alternative.
California judges have the option of sentencing convicted capital murderers to life in prison without the possibility of parole. There are currently over 2,700 people in California who have received this alternative sentence which includes a limited appeals process. According to the Governor's Office, only three people sentenced to life without parole has been released since the state provided for this option in 1977, and this occurred because they were able to prove their innocence.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Score

The Potty Training Play Offs: Day Two

2pm - Jonas, 2 accidents, Tristan, 5 accidents

Tristan goes for the potty in order to get candy, he thinks if he even manages to squeeze out a tiny dribble, he should get a Runt. Jonas seems to get the potty concept. When he goes, he GOES. No dribbling for him. So far, today, Jonas is winning.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Cake or Death?

I have asked this question and been unable to get a straight answer. I have been involved in many a debate on this topic, always ending at a dead end.

How can a person be against abortion but support the death penalty? How does a person say that they value human life so much that they think even birth control pills and IUDs are wrong because they may cause harm to a fertilized embryo and then in the next breathe say it is okay to send volts of electricity through a person or inject them with poison until they die?

I have read a lot on the topic of the death penalty. It doesn't work. It does not deter criminals, at least it does not deter the kind of criminals who commit the crimes that carry a death penalty sentence. There is a lot of information out there, one can find people using the Bible to support the death penalty and then one can find people using the Bible to support abolishing the death penalty. And so it goes, round and round, as religion tends to do. Spinning and spinning and never getting anywhere.

I have asked a person, in internet land, to explain to me this conflicting belief, thinking she would be able to. In the past she has always been very opinionated on such topics, particularly religion, God, and all that jazz. I thought maybe she might be able to explain things in a way that might possibly make a tiny bit of sense to me (although I will never change my mind), make it possible for me to say, "okay, I don't agree but I can see why you think that". So far she has put me off, claiming she will answer when she feels like it. And then she went on to say I was hounding her, harassing her, and being uncivil. What the fuck? I ask an honest question because I want to know and suddenly I am being uncivil. Uh huh.

Maybe if I had the blind faith and the belief that Jesus was the son of God, I would get it. Maybe once you are part of that, the light goes on. Or maybe it doesn't.

For me, I am guided by what I know to be right and wrong. I listen, to my own heart and to what I think is God. The Bible does nothing for me and never has, it only serves to confuse. With so many ways of interpreting the words, a person could justify just about anything.

From where I sit, it isn't any man or woman's right to judge the value of another person's life, whether they should live or die. Despite what horrific crimes they have committed, I do not believe man is worthy of deciding to take another man's life. That decision should be left to those who have the capacity to decide.

Let he who is free from sin cast the first stone.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


This is a picture of my family on the 4th of July, 2005. We all gathered at Aunt Linda's house and ate and ate and ate and get the idea.

Some people were missing. Scott had a previous engagement and Abby lives in Miami and couldn't make it. Mama Ruby, Papa Bill, and Brian have gone ahead to the next place.

Brian was special to me. My cousin, about 3 years older than me. We were such great friends growing up, we were always on the same page, had the same sense of humor and went through a lot of adolescent angst together. I thought about Brian today as we were making the drive to Aunt Linda's. I was excited to see everyone, I had not seen some of them in years. But Brian had been gone the longest. He killed himself when I was 22 and he was 24 and that was 10 years ago. And it was hard then and is still hard now. It seems I avoid my Aunt Judy and was not even aware of it until today. Judy was his mom. I am so afraid to talk to her about him because to imagine her pain makes me hurt. Today I sat with her for a bit and I told her I missed Brian and as soon as I said it, I cried. And I couldn't stop crying. And she just hugged me and told me she missed him too, every day. I felt like such an asshole, crying to HER like that. She is the mother who lost the child, I was just his cousin/friend. What right did I have to break down and cry? But I did anyway. And it felt good and I was glad she hugged me.

And I miss Brian. as much today as I did 10 years ago when I helped carry his coffin to his grave. I love you Brian, and I always will.

Happy Fourth

I like this picture so much I added it on my header =)

Saturday, July 02, 2005

How to cook an egg

Hayden's method of cooking eggs. It worked!