Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Poetry Tuesday: "The Thousand-foot Ore Boat" by Barton Sutter

The Thousand-foot Oar Boat

To live until we die—
The job seems just impossible.
The great weight of the past
Pushing us forward, the long future
Thrust out before us, and so little room to either side!
The least we can do is stay sober,
Look sharp. The thousand-foot ore boat
Slides through the ship canal
And eases beneath the bridge,
All engines thrumming,
Including the pilot's heart.

--Barton Sutter

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Morning Flowers

Hi Everybody!

Hope your week ahead looks sunny and bright!

Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.

--Jack Handey

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Betty's Big Weekend

Hi everybody!

This past weekend, I just had to get out of town, so a friend and I headed up the coast to Santa Barbara.

The beach was the first stop!

The Botanical Gardens were next.

We stopped by the Mission.

This was in the window of the Mission. Hummm.... Handy!

We spent lots of time on State Street, strolling up and down, enjoying the weather, the people, the food, and the time away from our usual routine.

We had a great time getting away and livin' it up in Santa Barbara!

Happy Thursdays to you all!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Poetry Tuesday: "I Will Fix You" by Coldplay

When you try your best but you don't succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

And high up above or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
But if you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Tears stream down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face
And I...

Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down your face

And I...
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones And I will try to fix you

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday Morning Flowers

Hello Beautiful Ones!

Happy Monday Morning!

I am sending you lots of good thoughts for a wonderful week ahead.

You have power over your mind - not outside events.
Realize this, and you will find strength.

-- Marcus Aurelius

Friday, February 17, 2012

Whistle in the Wilderness or Too Loved to Fail

My friend Cathie and I go on a five-mile walk nearly every Friday morning. We usually walk around our neighborhoods, but a few weeks ago, she took me out to a big, hilly field on the outskirts of town. It’s not an official hiking trail, but the field is criss-crossed with paths that go over and up hills, around high-standing grasses and bushes.

As we walked through the low valleys and steep hills that hide the rocky crevices between them, Cathie told me when her sons were young, she brought them to this same field to run and play. Before she let them go, however, she gave each of them a whistle and told them if they ever felt like they were lost or scared, to just blow the whistle and she’d come and find them.

This story resonated with me.

A few months ago, I had believed I would stay married the rest of my life, but then I was thrown (pushed) off that path completely, without warning or preparation. Suddenly, I was in a landscape I didn’t recognize. Unstable, unsteady, and unprepared, I couldn’t get my bearings. I was lost. I felt as if I were in a hole and didn’t have the strength to get up and move out of it.

Scared and cold, I felt an unfamiliar and frightening darkness encroaching.

Then, in desperation, I gathered a tiny amount of strength and sent out a faint and feeble whistle for help.

Miraculously and instantly, my friends and family stopped in their tracks when they heard it. They turned from their own lives and came to help me. Each of them, in his or her own way, rushed to find me. They helped me up, pulled me back on the track, nursed my wounds and stood, watching me walk for a little bit before they hesitantly went back to their own lives.

This network of good people (including my blogging buddies) came together to form a braided chain, which I gratefully grabbed onto to help me up and out of the deepest of hole of my life.

One night, while I was still in early-recovery mode, I was at dinner with a group of my good friends. They had dragged me out of my house, out of my cocoon of pain and into the land of the living. There was laughter all around the table, and I found myself smiling for the first time in weeks. I thought how lucky I was to have these people in my life and then I thought of all my other friends, my family members, and my dear, sweet sons.

Suddenly these words came into my head: I am too loved to fail.

It was a beautiful, simple phrase that I heard again as I looked at the faces of the people surrounding me. I am too loved to fail.

I understood with all my being that this phrase was not a tribute to me, but to all those people who had listened and responded to my whistle in the wilderness.

I knew at that moment I had no choice but to go on and succeed in my new life.

I had too many people surrounding me, supporting me, believing in me.

It was time to honor their faith in me.

So, here I am now, making my own way on the path again, and even on those days when the visibility is low, when the rain starts to fall, and the trail is rocky, I plunge ahead because that is what I need to do. That is what I want to do.

It feels good to be back with the other hikers of the world. I am no longer huddled in that dark hole, but upright, strong and striding ahead, on the crest of a new path, and, I have to say, the view from this vantage point looks incredibly promising.

Since my life is not in emergency mode any longer, my friends and family have been able to relax some too. That braided chain with its many strong fibers has, over the course of these past few weeks, softened, relaxed and spread out to form a net underneath me that I know is there should I ever start to fall again.

The best part of my recovery? Now, that my own whistle no longer fills my ears, I can once again be attentive and listen for others who need help.

In the end, I believe that is what makes us fully human; that is our duty in the world.

We are here to help each other out, to give each other support, and to tell those who need it the most:

Here, take my hand.

You can do it.

You are too loved to fail.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Poetry Tuesday: "Secret Agent Man" by Joyce Sutphen

Secret Agent Man

You looked so good at the top of the stairs
that I wonder if you might consider

standing at the bus stop near Franklin
and 22nd at about 6:30 AM,

wearing a dark overcoat and a red
scarf, nodding (just slightly) when

I pass, and I wouldn't mind looking
Out my office window at about

10 AM and seeing you (so small I
couldn't be sure) waving from

the far corner of the parking lot,
and then, at lunch, you could be

the mysterious man sitting in the bar,
the one who never turns around until

I am almost out the door with friends
who would have no idea who you are,

and it would be wonderful to see you
disguised as a UPS man, coming in

at 3 PM with a large package
full of various useless things

and a note, telling me exactly
where I could find you later on tonight.

--Joyce Sutphen

Happy Valentine's Day to ALL my Betty People!

Extra: This just in!

I want to thank Robyn at Life By Chocolate for choosing my entry as a winner in her recent Valentine's Day Contest.

It was fun and great (cheap) therapy too!

Thanks, Robyn!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday Morning Flowers

Good Monday Morning to you, My People!

It was another good weekend here.

Hope you are starting your week off with a smile on your face and optimism in your heart!

(A spare candy bar in your pocket wouldn't hurt anything either.)

Have a happy week!

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

--Alan Watts

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sigh No More

We are in the first weeks of the new semester at school and there is still plenty of that special brand of optimism that comes with new beginnings. I am so grateful because, ironically, as the new semester begins, my marriage keeps marching toward its bitter end.

In addition to the emotional turmoil that must be dealt with, there is the division of assets. A long-term marriage creates quite a little business that must be broken down, liquidated, and divided. Pride, emotions and cold hard dollars are involved.

It’s a tough process that can shake even the most confident of people in normal circumstances. Inflict it upon someone who is still recovering from the shock of a life-changing split, and it’s brutal. Letters from the opposing lawyer meant to intimidate, coerce, and bully must be read with ironclad emotional armor in place.

It’s hideous.

There is no other word for it.

However, I am lucky enough to have a job that challenges me and transports me to another level of being. When I am engaged with my classes, my brain is in a happy place. I get to devote my days to my students and to making the world a better place. Working at a community college means I have the added bonus of interacting with students of all ages, from all walks of life.

As I learn more about my students, I realize that many of them have come through much worse circumstances and have overcome greater obstacles than I face right now. And yet there they are, still willing to take a chance, to step inside an unfamiliar classroom and, especially in the case of writing, put their self-esteem in the hands of this sassy blond teacher who probably looks a lot like other teachers they’ve had over the years.

The other day I was walking around my classroom and I saw a student with a tattoo on his forearm that caught my eye. It was a simple phrase, written in a flowing script. “Sigh No More,” it read.

“Tell me about your tattoo,” I said. The young man looked at me and explained, “Well, you know, sometimes bad stuff happens in life, but you have to move on. You can't spend your life in regret. You can't dwell on the past. You move on and life goes on. No regrets." He pointed to his tattoo and shrugged, "Sigh no more.”

I could feel the tears starting to come to my eyes, but I caught myself before they fell. Instead, I smiled. "If I gave you a Sharpie, would you write that on my arm?” I asked. He looked surprised, but nodded and said, "Well, OK, sure."

Later, after class, he asked if we could take a picture together. As we posed together with our forearms outstretched, he said, “This is one of those days I am always going to remember.”

“Me too." I said with a lump in my throat, a smile on my face, and gratitude in my heart for all the optimistic young teachers I am blessed to be surrounded by every day.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mental U-Turn

Because this divorce was not my idea, (not to mention that it was quite a surprise) it took me some time to absorb the magnitude of the change of direction my life would be taking.

However, even once I understood what would be happening, I dragged my feet. I delayed in getting a lawyer. I hesitated with paperwork. I put off meetings.

Each request from HOB’s very ambitious and determined lawyer felt like an assault, and I reacted by crawling further into my shell, hiding from the storm of nightmarish activity. I bemoaned my circumstances. How did I get here? Why did this happen? What am I going to do now?

In short, I felt like a victim and I behaved like one.

And like all things that we avoid out of fear, the issues and problems grew inside my head and the worst case scenarios took over, threatening my nearly non-existent stability. When the phone rang, I got a knot in my stomach. I winced when I opened my e-mail, fearing another missive about the divorce. When I got the mail, I held my breath, praying there would not be more information about the split.

Then, one day a few weeks ago, I got sick of myself.

I don’t even know what made me change course, but I decided to take a mental U-turn right then and there. I decided from that moment on, I would not be a victim any longer. Instead, I would be an active participant in this whole thing. It’s clear it’s going to happen, so why not?

My mama didn’t raise me to be a victim.

The next day I got a request for my W-2 from HOB’s lawyer. Before, I would have been tearful, hesitant, resentful, and slow. Instead, I immediately made a copy and got it to my lawyer, smiling at the receptionist and wishing her a happy day.

As part of my mental U-turn, I thought it would be good to be able to say with vim and vigor, “I want this divorce.” Alone and in the isolation of my car, I forced myself to say it aloud one day. But honestly? It stuck in my throat. It was hard to say. This worried me at first, but then I realized that no one really wants to be divorced. I do wish my marriage would have lasted, but it didn’t. So, while I can’t shout that particular sentiment from the rooftops, I can gleefully and confidently say, “I want to get through this, so I can get on with the new, exciting life I know awaits me.”

These days, I still hesitate at the mailbox, phone, and before I open my e-mail, but now I use that time to take a deep breath and say to myself, “Whatever it is, I can handle it.” Though I know difficult issues are ahead, I've got enough of my mojo back to believe I can deal with what needs to be dealt with. (Sometimes I may not be too graceful about how I handle things, but that's OK too. I'm going for progress, not perfection.)

In short, it’s time to stand up and reclaim some of my power.

I am a smart, capable woman. I have friends who believe in me. I have sons who love me and are proud of me. I have a family who encircles me in love and supports me without end. Does that sound like a victim?

I don’t think so.

I think that sounds like a woman who has all the tools she needs to finish up one part of her life and who has a terrific foundation on which to build an even better one.

Thanks, Betty People for all your support and love!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Poetry Tuesday: "Winter Is the Best Time" by David Budbill

Winter Is the Best Time

Winter is the best time
to find out who you are.

Quiet, contemplation time,
away from the rushing world,

cold time, dark time, holed-up
pulled-in time and space

to see that inner landscape,
that place hidden and within.

--David Budbill

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Morning Flowers

Monday Morning Flowers!

Here's wishing you and yours a happy week ahead!

Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars.
You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.

--C.S. Lewis

Friday, February 3, 2012

Betty at the Getty

Hi All,

I had a great time roaming around the Getty Museum this past weekend.

I decided to do some artsy shots just for kicks.

Hope you enjoy them!


Sitting Docent

Three Trees

Family Tree

Bird in Tree

Happy Fridays!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Books, essays, cards, letters.

Over the years, I have come to associate paper and ink with good things.

However, when the packet of divorce papers was plopped on my doorstep just before Thanksgiving, (Happy Holidays!) I knew I was about to enter a new landscape, one foreign to me—the frozen tundra of purposefully emotionless language. I felt the chill of the white papers immediately.

Indeed, so forbidding is this landscape to average people that we need to hire high-price guides just to make our way though it.

I had known this day was coming and had tried to prepare for it by looking up the forms in advance, so I opened the packet slowly, mentally reviewing what I had seen online and I bundled up emotionally, preparing for the bitter cold of the paper blizzard within.

Yep. There were the frosty forms all right, put together and topped off with a cheery little letter from HOB’s attorney. She had thoughtfully provided a little rundown of the action to follow in the packet.

I scanned the letter and then took a deep breath and flipped to the next page.

That’s when I saw it.

At the bottom of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, I saw his signature--the familiar scrawl of the man I had lived with for thirty years, of the man who had once loved me with all his heart. How well I knew those loops, the way the "i" in his name was dotted, the curl at the end of his (our) last name.

In all the years of our marriage I had associated that signature with good. Love letters, the co-signature on the deed to our house, birth certificates, cards (one beautiful one proclaiming his undying love just a week before he left). I sat and cried seeing that familiar ribbon of ink, starkly contrasted with all the block, uniform lettering that otherwise covered the documents.

I rubbed my finger over that signature as if I could discern his attitude at the time of signing.

Did his pen hover above the line with any sort of hesitation? A forced suspension of all emotion? Was there a gritty resolve? A giddy feeling of elation?

The paper, of course, revealed nothing. The signature just sat there, looking maddeningly ordinary.

I knew in order to get through the rest of the papers, I had to distance myself psychologically.

Since I am an English teacher, a writer, and a sometime editor, I have done my share of reviewing writing and passing suggestions on to writers. I went into that mode. It was the safest one for me. In my head I started a draft of my review and suggestions for improvement. It went something like this:

To: HOB’s lawyer. Re: Your cover letter.
Nice job in being succinct and to the point in what was enclosed in the packet of papers. However, you may want to reconsider the use of the line “Looking forward to working with you on this matter.” Is this appropriate in this case?

Perhaps if we were planning a brunch or a charity event, this sentence might work, but are you really looking forward to participating in the sad task of dissolving a marriage of thirty years? This well-worn (and perhaps a bit too revealing) line may be seen as insensitive to the involved parties. Consider a simple, understated “Sincerely” instead.

To the State of California: Re: The heading of "You Are Being Sued" (followed by the culturally-sensitive Spanish translation.)
First of all, I find the use of the passive voice an interesting choice here. Seriously consider why you are using it and proceed from there.

In addition, I understand that that brevity and clarity is your goal here, but the connotation of this language cannot be overlooked.

Breach of contract, personal injury, property damage: these I understand warrant the bold “You are being sued” heading. However, participating fully in a relationship, providing a warm and happy home, doing the bulk of work of raising children, and finally, offering to work side-by-side with the aggrieved party in the salvage of the marital union, do not, I believe, warrant such a austere announcement.

Consider instead that the recipient of these forms may have simply been a victim of a spouse’s midlife crisis, a bystander at the collision of a man’s realization of his own mortality and his dissatisfaction with a life that he himself chose but in his later years found too restrictive and prescribed.

Consider that perhaps he aimed the laser beam of that unhappiness at the most obvious of ties in his life, thereby avoiding the painful inner work needed to achieve long-lasting peace. Consider all that and then consider a softer approach to this announcement.

(Perhaps a simple transposition of the “s” and the “u" in “sued”? Just a suggestion.)

I have come a long way since that day in November. The mountain of paper grows; the divorce notebook groans with the weight of them. So many documents to arrive at a final, and probably relatively simple, document that will signal the end.

I no longer run away from the task at hand. I file what needs to be filed, I ask my guide for help when I need it, and I gather strength and hope from my friends who have been through this before.

Someday, these papers will be stuck in a file cabinet, locked away in the dark, frozen in time and place, weighed down, saddled with the burdens of this confusing period of life.

But I won't be.

I now know that without a doubt. I won't be.