Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On the nature of surprises

Some surprises are nice. Like the one you get when you eat my chocolate chunk meringues. You're expecting light, crispy meringue, which you definitely get, but you also get a mouthful of smooth chocolate that is totally unexpected and very, very nice.

Some surprises are odd. Like when I lifted the big, opaque bottle of laundry detergent the other day. It should have been nearly full, I had just bought it recently. And my brain was obviously operating under the assumption that it was, because my arm and the bottle went flying up. Don't ask me where all that detergent went, I have no idea. Anyway.

Some surprises are potentially dangerous. Like when I was carrying Boy2 (yes, I know, he's way too heavy for me to be doing that) down the stairs and my brain and legs were convinced there was one more step, and there wasn't. We didn't fall, just stumbled, surprised.

And some surprises aren't surprises at all, they're something else - cool sand running through your fingers. Like when you expect the very best to happen, and it does. Or when you see that something that should have been a surprise wasn't one at all - it was simply what you were looking for, asking for without even knowing it. Or when you imagine how good something is going to be, and you realize it'll be better. Or when you know you're exactly where you're supposed to be, despite the clamouring and chaos.

Hey, when was your last surprise? And was it nice, odd, potentially dangerous, or not a surprise after all?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Rub this and perspective that

I flew over mountains on friday.

There was snow, just some, on the tops and in patterns that looked like leaf rubbings or fossils of ancient and universe-sized birch and elm leaves. It was quite beautiful and surprising - I never really expect to see anything I like in an airplane, even if it's out the window.

I was going to Barcelona to see a friend, a very good friend, who I met in Wilmington, North Carolina, forever ago, when I was an undergraduate. Wilmington is one of those places, like Seattle, that left its mark on me like the snow on that mountain. Not covering me - just a rubbing, a trace, an imprint that changed me in ways that I may not have noticed until years later, decades even, after a change in perspective. I met people there who are still with me today, like this friend in Barcelona. People whose part to play in my life, whose importance, I felt instictively and instantly. I arrived when I was sixteen, still a girl, but convinced I was a woman. And I left at 21, still not a woman, but closer, and convinced, certain as I could only be in that pre-new-me way, that if I didn't leave then, I never would.

And Seattle was calling. I had so much to do. A dark side to acknowledge, years of graduate work to complete, shadow sisters to meet - Tanya and Meg who still come to me occasionally in my dreams to tell me things I must hear but won't if it's in my own voice - truths I cannot hear from myself. And the other sisters I met there, Lorraine and Julie, women who are still part of my daily life, despite the distance.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Where are you in your cycle?

I have a client, I call him the quality guy. Not because of who he is but because he works in the Quality department of a large industrial company. And I help him with his business English. Cause I am all business.

Anyway, we met this week and had an interesting quality conversation. And I learned all about The Deming Cycle. Has anyone heard of this?

The Deming cycle or PDSA cycle:

PLAN: plan ahead for change. Analyze and predict the results.

DO: execute the plan, taking small steps in controlled circumstances.

STUDY: (CHECK) , study the results.

ACT: take action to standardize or improve the process.

I must be honest. In my pre-new-me days, I would've been all over this thing. In those days when the clamouring was just a murmur and chaos was not my constant companion.

So what's my new cycle? Find freedom in structure. Find order in change. Find discipline in discovery. Find structure in freedom. Find change in order. Find discovery in discipline.

Wish me luck.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Turn it off please

It drives me crazy when both of my kids talk to me at the same time. Parents, is it like that for all of you? I can't seem to filter one or the other out so I usually end up not listening to either one and telling them both to be quiet.

Ah, quiet.

I spent the weekend alone, in a very quiet, very empty house. It was great. Very peaceful. Very relaxing. Very unusual.

Of course, it wasn't as quiet as it could've been. The clamouring in my head was awfully loud and it actually gave me a headache on sunday. Which I cured with coffee and chocolate. Let me be clear: it cured the headache, not the clamouring. Anyone know a cure for clamouring? And don't say yoga, I'm already doing that. Daily.

Sunday morning I went for a walk along the river. It was windy. For a moment, I thought I heard the truth in the wind. It was just a whisper. So faint that it could have just been my own voice. I'll never know.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I'm going into business. Unofficially at first. Isn't that the best way anyway?

Because when something's official you have to master things and control things and be certain of things. And since I've recently become aware of the illusions that mastery and control and certainty can create and the problems that follow, I'm avoiding officiality (Is that a word? If not, despite my dislike for modals, it should be.) at all costs. For the love of everything that is right and true, make nothing official for me. Make it all about fluidity and flow and flexibility.

My new business activity? Making pastries and treats for a local tea and coffee drinking establishment. Because, in addition to spreading the Democrat love, I like to spread sweetness around.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Through, not around

I know, I know. You're all getting really tired of me writing about stuff like this. What happened to the French stories? The food stories? The foot-in-mouth stories?

Well, I cannot say. I only know that I don't have any of those. My life isn't feeling very Frenchified as of late, or maybe I've been here for so long that I don't even notice when it is, and I haven't had much of an appetite lately so there goes the food thing, and my foot is nowhere near my mouth right now, it's firmly planted on floor. Well, the black high-heeled boot that is currently housing my foot is firmly planted on the floor.

So, this is all you're getting for now.

Chaos. Le Chaos. It should be enough to know that when you get to the other side of it, life will be good. That knowledge should be enough to make the chaos bearable. Should. I hate shoulds. Modal verbs, in general, suck.

So here's my question: How good are you at accepting the discomfort of chaos?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

On knowing and not knowing

Boy1 no longer believes in Santa Claus. And it's that girl that he kissed who told him. Décidément, celle là.

He told us before Christmas and seemed pretty matter-of-fact about the whole thing. And impressed by the thoughtfulness of parents in general.

But last night he admitted that knowing bothered him. And that before she told him, he knew but it hadn't been said out loud so he didn't really know. He knew in his gut what his mind didn't want to know. And when his classmate said it out loud, he could no longer go on not knowing.

So here's my question: What do you know in your gut that you don't want to know in your mind? And at which point does knowing become knowing?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

List this

You know that perfect list? The one that's really clear and tells you exactly where you're going and what you have to do to get there and what's most important to you?

I've had to make a lot of lists lately. I've been a little (a lot) distracted lately, what with getting my ass kicked, ending my life-long relationship with the word never and becoming a really reserved, flexible, tolerant new me. So at work and at home I've had to make lists just to get through the day and accomplish the minimum necessary. They've even come in remarkably handy in other arenas as well. I'm sure someone out there is enjoying the benefits of my new-found list-making skills right now.

So here's my question for the day: What or who is at the top of your list?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

On never saying never

I was one of those people before. You know the kind, the kind with strong opinions and decisive answers and categorical statements. We'll chalk it up to too many years of graduate school. There may be a few of you out there who would claim that those tendencies pre-dated graduate school but you'd be totally wrong, of course.

But from here on out, you have my word, my vehement, know-it-all and must-have-the-last word, I'm done. As of late, I've had to eat too many of those last words, regret too many strong opinions, contradict too many decisive answers and hugely qualify too many categorical statements.

You'll see. I'm going to be positively wishy-washy. All flexible and tolerant and reserved and contemplative.

I swear.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Misc Boy2 things

Boy2 has learned how to write Spiderman without any help.

And he's more proud than when he learned how to write his own name.

And a few nights ago at dinner, he couldn't stop laughing. One of those out of control, endless fits of laughter. After a while he looked at me and said, 'I'm trying to stop Mama, but I just can't focus.'

Now who would talk to a 4 year old about focus?

Friday, January 04, 2008

A local celebrity

That's me.

Whenever there's something interesting (from a French point of view) going on in the US, I get a call from the local radio station for an interview.

What did I say?

Well, let's just say, and the two (yes, there are only two of you) Republicans in my life are really going to appreciate this, I broadcast the Democrat love all over Laval.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I smell desperate longing

Well, happy new year and all that.

I've never liked December 31st very much, well, at least not for the new year aspect. It's my brother's birthday so I like it for that reason alone. I don't really like January 1st much either. I like every other day of the year though. The new year starts in September anyway, everyone knows that.

So, obviously, I don't want to talk about what I'm hoping for this year or dreaming of this year because hopes and dreams quickly become more than that and that just puts you into a terrible state (no, not Texas) - the state of desperate longing. You know the one I'm talking about, it smells like roses.

So here's my question: what do you desperately long for?