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Something New…

I’ve been feeling the urge to try something new.  There’s been a growing craving for growth, learning, stretching the boundaries of my knowledge and skills.

Maybe I gotten too comfortable. Settled into too much routine.

I recently heard that we will never know what gifts and talents are hidden and stored with us until we make a demand on them. That resonated with me because it’s all too easy to think that we can just wait around until new skillsets emerge and make themselves known. Sometimes I’m tempted to feel that exploring an area I know nothing about is a waste of time because I could spend that same time doing something I’m good at.   I could spend my time doing something that is likely to lead to a successful result. But that’s not what growth is all about.

Creating something new is a messy process, fraught with periods of failure. It’s about exploring, trying and failing some more. It’s only when we push through new beginnings that we get to enjoy the joy of discovery. It’s only then that we are rewarded with enlarged capacities and expanded opportunities.

This week I’m spending some time with my parents exploring a passion they dearly love..plein air painting. We’ll be working in oils which I haven’t done since college. I’ve also never developed a gift for painting outdoors on-location as my preference has always been the controlled, bug-free environment of my studio, close to the refrigerator, bathroom and air conditioning.

But this week, I’m trying something new…

Our instructor, John MacDonald, a renowned oil painter, has encouraged us to be patient with the process. To mindfully engage in the joy and pursuit of finding our own creative expression. He has challenged us to not expect a masterpiece at the end of the week, as that may or may not happen. The goal is not to walk away with a successful painting; it’s to develop new ways to see and express the world around us which will involve the continual process of discovery.

So here goes…this may be the only canvas I share with you. It’s fresh, new, and brimming with possibility.  So is this experience before me.

May you listen to your own yearning for growth.

 

Beyond Labels

I’ve been thinking about labels…

We use them liberally to inform our choices. To categorize and classify. To add structure to our disorderly world.  Many times we use them to define each other… to put each other in a box so we can more easily deal with conflict or quickly identify those who share our values.

It’s like we all have label makers in our back pocket, and we love to use them!

Recently I was at a retreat for business executives. This is a unique organization that brings diverse leaders together to unify, strengthen and serve their individual communities. Mutual respect for diverging perspectives is a cornerstone of the membership which helps leaders gain skills for critical dialog. At this gathering, however, something stood out to me.

Throughout the weekend, there was an underlying tone of condescension for one of the political parties. Now it was subtle. I don’t think people even realized it was present, but it pervaded conversations and presentations in such a way that the disdain just seemed like “fact”…that one political party was inherently wrong and had to be dealt with. To me, this was just a symptom of the current state of our political climate. It also got me thinking.

WHAT IF we chose not to immediately define each other by our political affiliation?

WHAT IF we were able to see beyond who we voted for in the last election?

Think about it.  When we hear, “Oh, she’s a Democrat….”  or  “He’s a Republican…” we jump to conclusions. We think we know exactly where the other person is coming from and we cast judgment based on our own perspective. We also close our thought to each other, automatically assuming that suddenly we are on opposites sides of a great divide that can’t or shouldn’t be breached.  If we continue on this course, we will continue to have the ideological chaos that we are starting to accept as the status quo in our country. However, we can break through this wall of obstruction if we begin to deal with ideas, not labels.

We see this example in local politics. In El Dorado County, our political climate is truly non-partisan. In fact, for a long time, I didn’t even really know how my fellow Councilmembers had registered….and we’ve found it doesn’t matter.

We take one issue at a time. We talk about it. We look for the community’s perspective. Naturally we bring our own knowledge and critical thought into the process, and then we make common sense decisions based on the common good.  And we don’t give a darn what label is next to our names at the Registrar’s office, because at the end of the day, we are all here to bring our best to the decisions at hand in service to our community and our country.

That sounds like a pretty good model to follow.

 

 

 

 

Standing on Common Ground

Common ground is the sacred space between divergent perspectives.

 The Urban Dictionary defines it as …”A common interest between two alienated parties who generally disagree with each other.”   This definition makes a thought-provoking assumption … that people dug into divergent perspectives can willingly work together to find a common interest.

That’s worth fighting for.

As we witness our society grow increasingly divisive with both sides of the aisle quick to point fingers to the “other side” as the root cause of all manner of evil, it’s easy to buy into that narrative, dig our heels into entrenched positions and lob hate-filled attacks at each other, especially on social media.  We’re also pretty good at labeling each other and then stuffing each other into the narrow box we’ve defined.  We assume we know where the other person is coming from, and we are quick to form a vicious judgment on their intent, perspective, or mindset.  And while pockets of that certainly exist here, I have also seen that, as a community, we are often willing and able to search for common ground. That is something to be proud of.

Recently, I had the occasion to see both methods in action when I forced an issue rather than take a more consensus-building approach. It was an interesting learning lesson.

The hate-filled lobs came first. People assumed they knew where I was coming from. They presumed to know my “end game” and defined me by the labels they assigned…labels such as ”racist”, “xenophobe”, a “member of the KKK”, and my personal favorite, “a racist piece of f’in shit”. And while there’s not an ounce of truth to those hate-filled labels, they swirled fervidly around social media.

And yet others showed up differently. Many reached out in agreement that there are difficult challenges that need to be seriously considered. Conversations acknowledged that issues are layered and complicated and so are the solutions. Ideas were shared that opened my thought, that deepened understanding, that recognized there are not simple, one-sided solutions. Some people showed up with grace, and grace breaks through the most difficult impasse.

As I’ve reflected on it, I see that it’s critically important to not buy into the fevered pitch that is playing out on the National Stage, no matter which side you most identify with, because that doesn’t have to be us.  In our community, we are more than who we voted for because that does not fully define us nor should it stop us from pulling together as neighbors, friends and members of the same community.

What does it look like to choose to stand on common ground? I have seen…

  • It starts with giving people the benefit of the doubt…that we are good people who just may have a different outlook.
  • It asks questions to understand, not attack.
  • It stops the naming calling and it stops assuming we know each other by the labels we assign.
  • It agrees that one side is not always summarily right and the other side inherently wrong.
  • It realizes that divergent options can exist together respectfully.
  • It agrees we don’t have to change each other’s mind to feel good about ourselves.
  • It acknowledges that there may be things we don’t know…that there are things we can learn from each other.
  • It recognizes that life, issues, and politics are not just black and white, right and wrong.   They are complex and layered and so are their solutions.
  • It understands that an enlightened life is fluid. That we can stand for our principles while being open to new information.

There’s no doubt in my mind what our common ground is. We are particularly passionate in our devotion and dedication to Placerville, Apple Hill, Cameron Park, El Dorado Hills, Tahoe, the Sierras, the American River and every place in between in El Dorado County.

We all want what’s best for our county and the incredible people in it.  And while we may have differing opinions about what that looks like, we are good people who love our amazing community.

And that is a sacred space on which to stand.

 

 

 

 

A discussion on sanctuary state status…

At our City Council meeting on February 28, I had asked that we bring forward a letter of opposition to California becoming a sanctuary state.  At the beginning of the meeting, I did end up pulling the item from the Agenda out of respect for my fellow councilmembers….I had not followed proper protocol in putting this item on the agenda in the first place.

The best course of action is to ask if the majority of Council agrees to hear an item, and if so, it is included in a future agenda. I did not do that…I put the item on myself and so my fellow councilmembers dealt with a backlash of opposition prior to the meeting without the opportunity of a discussion about it. I put them in a difficult position and therefore pulled the item. That said, we welcomed a robust discussion at public comment.

Last night I was incredibly proud of our community.  And while one side of this issue was in the majority, we were able to tackle a really charged and emotional topic in a respectful and constructive way, something we have not always been able to do.  Awareness was raised about this issue, opinions were shared, and a deeper level of understanding was encouraged.  It is tremendously important is that we continue to build containers to hold critical conversations and that we welcome, and participate in, diversity of thought on both sides of a conversation. Our community will be richer for that.

My intention on bringing this item forward was to build that awareness.  It certainly had NOTHING to do with being “anti-immigrant” because I don’t feel that way at all!   ALL of us were immigrants at some point and I support and value all members of our community.   It just that as I’ve been talking with people, I’ve been amazed that a great majority of folks didn’t know that California was on the bullet train to sanctuary state status.  It’s an emergency statute, it has passed its first committee hearing and is in Senate Appropriations.  The approval process could go very quickly and would be enacted immediately.

My intention for taking a hard look at SB54 was to ask the question, “Is this the BEST solution to the problems we want to solve?”  Are there other options?  Do we need to strengthen or revise the H-2A Termporary Agricultural Workers Program to provide better confidence and protection to our vital immigrant population?  Is there another safeguard we should explore? There is a significant lack of information on how sanctuary state status will affect our community and we need to be keenly aware of unintended consequences.

My overriding concern is, how do we protect American citizens AND the hardworking immigrant families that are a vital and valued part of our local and state economy, WITHOUT…

  • Overwhelming our resources
  • Taking away local control
  • Unduly tying the hands of law enforcement
  • Enabling criminal intent to flourish in our communities
  • And without jeopardizing federal funding which is about a 1/3 of our state budget.

Because the bottom line is…if we don’t have a prosperous and vibrant economy, our City, County and State can’t be a refuge, a place of safety, or the land of opportunity for ANYONE.

Also in the seat that I’m in, my lens is always “what is best for Placerville and El Dorado County”?    How do we ensure that everyone in our community is safe and secure and that our City has the resources it needs to provide essential services?  Is what we are doing now working?  Do we need the State to fix something for our local community?  I’m incredibly wary of broad-sweeping big-city policies and how they will affect us, and we usually aren’t in the position to respond to them BEFORE they become legislation.  We are usually dealing with the ramifications of those policies after they are enacted.

Let’s make sure we are not blindly rushing into a solution because we are passionate about doing something.  Let’s not get embroiled in crazy rhetoric, on either side, that does nothing but obstruct clear, rational, informed thought.  At the end of the day, this is a really complicated issue and there is a tremendous amount at stake.

 

 

In the presence…

There was a bat in yoga class today.

Now you have to understand…I HATE bats. I detest how they flit about in erratic ways. They are unpredictable, and in their frenzied state, I’m afraid they are going to dash into me.  You just never know, and they are so darned hard to get rid of!  Usually, I choose to run away from them. In fact, the last time one flew into our house, I locked myself in the bedroom until my husband got him out.

So there we were…enjoying an incredibly soulful yoga class on a rainy morning, when in flits this unwanted visitor. He roared down the middle of class, grazing yogis on the shoulder, even fluttering into their hair. Immediate disruption. Peace, gone.

We stopped our practice…ducking, slightly confused, the way forward blocked by indecision on how to proceed. While some bravely stood to deal with the bat, I assumed Child’s Pose. I contemplated leaving but realized the better choice was to get as far down on the mat as I possibly could as this black beast zoomed all around the room.   Finally, he flew out the double doors that had been opened for him. With sighs of relief, we gathered ourselves and settled back into our practice…problem solved.

15 minutes later, he came back.

This time, I chose a different mindset. We all did. As he flew by the face of the young woman beside me, we kept going. I was engrossed in what we were creating in class. It had been way too long since I had been to yoga. I was feeling empowered once again by strength, peace and an inspired state after a long period of inactivity…and it felt good.  I choose not to have that disrupted. There was also a lovely sense of community as practice progressed. We were a diverse group in age and ability, and there was a unified harmony as we moved through class with our own varied expressions. The bat settled on the wall, and we continued, undisturbed.

As I lay in Shavasana, a phrase from the 23rd Psalm came to me “in the presence of mine enemies”.  It occurred to me, our work, our activity, our progress and our peace can all move forward even in the presence of an “enemy”.

Now there are different types of enemies.  An enemy can come in the form of problems, disruption, chaos, misunderstanding, rumor, gossip. Others are more destructive, personal and are found in blatant attacks against us. But once again, no matter how aggressive the enemy, we can move forward, we can have peace, we can stand our ground effectively in the middle of their presence.

We tend to think that we need to be free of the dissention, the conflict, the chance of being attacked before we can find a sense of peace.   We think that an enemy or a problem needs to go away before we can move forward.  Or, we tend to think we need to change someone or affect their character or chosen nature before we can regain our equilibrium.

This morning I saw that the bat did not need to leave for me to act. He didn’t need to go away for me to have a sense of peace.  The erratic nature of the bat did not need to impede my activity.  Also, I didn’t need to change that winged beast and make him something other than a bat.  He could be a bat and I could move forward, and that choice was entirely up to me. Obviously this is a small example, but I so appreciated the lesson behind it.  And rather than running away, at the end of class, I walked away empowered, inspired.

I’m grateful for the lesson learned from that beady and erratic little guy with wings.

 

 

 

It’s Going To Be A Good Year

2017.  A new year, and you know what that means… time for our annual New Year Resolutions.

As I embarked on my yearly mental gymnastics, wrestling with what lofty goals I should embrace first, my thought wandered to the word “Resolution”. It means to “determine a course of action” and is usually associated with choosing new habits or doing better in certain areas of your life.

In it’s strict definition, “resolve” means to “come to a definite or earnest decision about”.  You know…“In 2017, I will exercise regularly!”  or the ever-popular, “This year, I’m going to lose weight!”.   And with every Resolution, we usually insert a measure of willpower which fades about as quickly as a snowman in the midday sun.

I’m so tired of that…of setting quick intentions, and failing.

I realized it’s about delving a little deeper.  Break the work RESOLVE into 2 parts. To SOLVE is to “find a solution for”. It’s to untangle, unravel, to work out an answer.

The preface “RE” means “again and again”. It is also associated with “turning back”.

This causes me to look at what area of my life is holding me back?  What problem cries out for a solution? What habit or pattern need to be unraveled and untangled? What challenge keeps coming to me, year after year, in order to be solved, once and for all?

Framing it in this light, I realized that going into the new year with several good intentions isn’t going to work at all. (Not really a news flash, is it?). However, turning back, identifying a habitual challenge and working out a solution for it, once and for all, is what a Resolution is really all about.

It’s going to take work.  (Darn it.)  It’s going to take real change. It’s going to take a drastic restructuring of habits and patterns that are not productive, because that’s what solving a problem is all about.

We often don’t want to change. And that’s exactly why we have the same Resolutions year after year. That’s also why we tend to have the same problems as each new year rolls around.

So this year, I wish us both a real RE-SOLVING of those challenges that are weighing us down.  I hope that in our resolve, we get a little better, a little bolder, a little more authentic, a little more disciplined, a little more courageous…that we have the capacity to bring a little more of our best selves to our family, our work, and our community.

And as we do that, it’s going to be a really good year!

The Perfect Thanksgiving

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My childhood Thanksgivings were perfect.  They really were.

They were stress-free gatherings full of love. Perfectly delicious meals, perfectly prepared. The table set with my grandmother’s beautiful cranberry glass goblets. The guests, always the same, always on time. The turkey served moist, juicy and the homemade pies beyond delicious.

I’ve spent my adult life trying to replicate that magic…that perfect experience.  I tend to worry that what I do isn’t special enough to create such magic for our family.

Today, as I was doing mental gymnastics planning the timing of our Thanksgiving celebration, thinking about what expressions of thanks would be shared, who would be present in our gathering, a thought hit me. I wonder if my grandmother thought her Thanksgivings were perfect?

I wonder if she was simply delighted over the thought of finicky Aunt Marian coming to visit for a month and half? If she jumped with joy as she prepared 3 meals a day for a houseguest that usually found something wrong?

I bet that some of her turkeys weren’t quite done when she was ready to serve. Probably, there were times the mashed potatoes were lumpy, her pies not sweet enough, her stuffing too soggy.  I never noticed.

I wonder how excited she was to host Christmas Eve, Christmas, my birthday, a New Year’s Eve Party and a New Year’s Day marathon only to collapse in exhaustion on January 2, her birthday…the day we all left.

I’ll bet you anything she didn’t think those Thanksgivings were perfect. And I’m completely convinced she wouldn’t have traded them for the world!

All the chaos, all the work, all the stupid things that were sometimes said…it didn’t matter. Our family was together and we built a foundation and legacy of love that still blesses our children and grandchildren.

Perfection doesn’t exist…and it doesn’t have to in order to be really, really good.   We can love “what is” and not be responsible for things we can’t control. We can do our best with the preparations and the meal knowing that what we are really serving up is love. We can open our hearts and our home and find joy in stretching the boundary of our bounty and gratitude.

So, the turkey may look like the one above. That was actually our turkey 4 years ago. It kinda stayed too long in the fryer.  (Ya think?!)  While it was the most hideous bird I have ever seen, it was really quite moist and delicious inside.  I guess that’s a pretty good analogy for the holiday season.   It may not always be pretty on the outside.  There may be some chaos.  Some things may go wrong.… and that’s OK.   Gratitude is about having a “great sense of full-ness” for all the goodness in our life. And at the end of the day, it’s all good!

May you be perfectly happy and blessed this Thanksgiving and holiday season.

Welcome Home

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After 52 years, my parents are moving back to El Dorado County.

My mom just called from her car as I sit in their new home waiting for the moving van to arrive.   She talked about what it was like to walk out the door this morning. I was twelve when we moved into that house in the Bay Area, and it’s been home for most of our life. She remarked that she should be sad to leave a house we’ve shared as a family for so long. However, although bone-weary from the moving process, both my parents feel a strong sense of joy as they look forward to this new chapter in their life.

I am struck by their bold courage, their fresh sense of optimism, their willingness to leave behind all that is familiar and reach forward, with joyous anticipation, to what lies ahead.

I am also struck with the realization that we always have a choice.

We can live life looking forward or continually straining to look backward.

We can be hopeful about the future or we can worry about what might happen in the vast unknown.

We can be filled with gratitude for all the good that has embraced our life, knowing it is evidence of future blessing that await us. Or we can be weighed down with sentiment that clings to past joys, which we feel certain won’t come again.

The choice is ours.

Life is like a book. A really good book has chapter after chapter of exciting events. Each chapter builds on the next as characters are developed and as meaning and depth ripen with the evolving storyline. One chapter is not a book, no matter how good those pages are. And an exciting, rich chapter means that what lies ahead is going to be worth our time, energy and investment because it has been building all along.

And don’t you love it when a book is so good that you can’t put it down? You just want to keep exploring its pages, wondering where it’s going to lead but all the while knowing that it’s going to be good because the foundation is solid.

I’m so proud of my parents for feeling that way. So proud of them for refusing to be weighed down with anything that keeps them from moving boldly forward. My life is infinitely blessed by their example.

I am infinitely blessed by them.  And I look forward to the new home they will create, because the one they just left was so incredibly sweet.

Mom and Dad…welcome home.

 

 

A Well-Cared For and Cherished Community

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My friend, Cindy Savage, used this phrase in reference to Placerville and it grabbed me…

“A Well-Cared For and Cherished Community”.

Doesn’t it speak to the heart of how we all feel about our City? There’s something about Placerville that is so uniquely special that it takes hold of you. You can move away. You can tour the world. Eventually, you’ll come back as your heartstrings pull you home to a place where you know the Christmas trees will welcome you every holiday season. Where you know the merchants and they know you. Where you watch what you wear to the grocery store because you know you’ll run into your friends and neighbors!   Where you feel like you belong.

“Cherish” evokes the kind of emotion that runs deeper and stronger because it’s based on things that matter. It also makes a demand on us…it calls us to “protect and care for lovingly” that which we claim to cherish. What does this mean for our community?

Placerville needs us to protect and care for her.  Next Tuesday, November 8th, Measure L will be on the ballot asking City residents to approve a ½¢ Specific Sales Tax so we can pave our failing roads and replace the leaky water and sewer pipes under those roads. Those are the improvements that our City desperately needs:

  • Over 75% of our roads are in the “Failed – At Risk” category
  • 25% of the water we buy from EID is lost in leaky pipes before it gets to your home or business
  • 34% of our sewer system is in immediate need of repair/replacement
  • We are $45.5 million behind in critical repairs
  • We need to spend $2 million MORE each year on critical repairs to City roads and pipes, and we just don’t have that kind of money to “reallocate” in the City budget.

We need a dedicated string of money that will guarantee these improvements can be made now, and that is Measure L.

Measure L also has some important safeguards:

  • Measure L money will ONLY repave and maintain EXISTING City roads and fix the pipes under those streets. (It’s can’t be used for new development or new streets).
  • By law, Measure L money cannot be used for any other purpose or diverted.
  • The money can only be used for repairs and maintenance inside the city limits.
  • It will end in 20 years. (Let’s see how it works!)
  • A Citizen Oversight Committee will make sure the money is used correctly.

Measure L is anticipated to cost each household about $66 per year because it spreads the cost of repairs over everyone that uses our City streets, not just you as a City resident. Every day, up to 70% of people who come into our town DON’T LIVE IN IT. Now don’t get me wrong, we’re so happy they are here! We warmly welcome them to work, shop, play and enjoy our city! However, they use our roads. They use our infrastructure. A sales tax is the ONLY way to ensure that they help pay for the repair and maintenance of those roads and pipes. If they don’t pay their share, city residents will pay the entire cost.

Imagine you and your spouse are enjoying dinner in a local restaurant. There’s a family of 3 at the table next to you. You smile. You introduce yourselves. You chat. You enjoy the evening, then they get up to leave and walk out the door….and you get stuck with their bill. The cost of their entire meal is on you. Not fair? You’re right. It’s only fair they pay for what they chose to order.

If you’ve already voted and said “L Yes” to fixing Placerville’s roads and pipes, the Residents for Measure L heartily thank you!

If you haven’t voted,  on Tuesday, we URGE YOU to join your friends and neighbors and VOTE YES on Measure L.  You’ll be voting for everyone to pay their share of maintaining our roads and pipes.

YES on MEASURE L will be a conscious choice to care for and cherish the City of Placerville.

She deserves it.


For more information, visit www.FixPlacervilleRoads.com.

MEASURE L IS ENDORSED BY:

  • Taxpayers Association of El Dorado County
  • El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce
  • Mountain Democrat
  • El Dorado County Association of Realtors
  • Foothill 7
  • CA Alliance for Jobs
  • Your Friends and Neighbors

 

 

 

 

 

“Action”

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Yesterday I got a glimpse at a world I know nothing about and it led to a unique insight.

After years of experience in the business, my daughter, Brie, is the lead actor in a new movie. It’s filming in Sonoma County and I had the privilege of visiting her on location. Like you, I’ve certainly seen hundreds of movies, but I’ve never seen how they are made. Stories were shared of scenes they shot, and as I walked the different sets, she talked about various segments. Driving home, it hit me that the movie process is a lot like life.

A movie is filmed in fragments, one scene at a time. One segment may call for lighthearted, friendly banter. Another one, deep-seated emotion. While yet another may be consumed with sheer, raw terror. When called to the set, the actor plays the action at hand. They are expected to bring the scope of their talent and training to whatever is before them. They aren’t concerned with what is filming tomorrow. They don’t have time to think about yesterday’s lines and performance. Today, this scene, this action, this moment, demands their very best and their full attention. And while each segment might not make sense on it’s own, the film is magical and meaningful when the entire movie is seamed together.

It’s a lot like life.

We live it in segments, and yet, how often do we bring our full selves to the moment at hand? Probably not nearly as much as we should. We are often tempted to spend our energy concerned about what’s coming tomorrow. And when we’re not worried enough about that, we’re probably consumed with what did or didn’t happen yesterday.

Today, this moment, is the set we are being called to. The action that is being demanded is now. Now is all that matters. As we show up, we will find that everything we have done has prepared us for this moment. We are enough, and we have all the talent, strength, character and ability to respond to the scene, to the direction at hand, to move successfully through this moment and get to the other side.

Tomorrow the Director will call us to play a different scene. But right now, we are to bring our full self to the set. And it doesn’t matter if this segment makes sense on it’s own… it will.  We just have to trust the process, show up and engage our intellect, intuition, and skill set to the part we are directed to play today.

So quiet on the set….“Action”.