Pleasures and Ponderings

Monday, September 24, 2007

Vignettes from my book, Diving Right In

Tastes, Neighbors, Fences
One warm Friday, next door neighbors loaned us their pruning tools and helped trim bushes and then brace up a leaning fence. I was so glorying in that rare evening of domesticity that a housemate and I put on aprons and got to work. Soon we had bread pudding, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pudding. Their wine went well with our warm desserts.

Family Rituals
Friends and 1 shared growing-up rituals. I have fond memories of Christmas Eve, when we’d get up to go to Midnight Mass. When we came home, we’d have cocoa and open a box of chocolates and even drink wine. With my own children, we have gone to an early evening service on Christmas Eve, and had goodies afterward.

I wanted more ritual, so I started one! I rarely buy ice cream (“It’s not healthy”) but we all like it. So the night before the first day of school I bought a half gallon and we pigged out. I told Nick and Katie we’d do that each year. Another tradition is that we go out to eat when they get their report cards, if up to snuff. One thing we’ve done often, but probably isn’t a ritual, is canoeing, with me sitting back and them paddling, which suits us all just fine. I’m in charge of feeding bread crumbs to the ducks. We like picnics too--it’s one of the rare times I’m open to lunch meat and pop and potato chips; junk food wins when we picnic.

How Do You Know If You are Loved?

A close friend, her husband and I had driven east to Snoqualmie. We found a friendly river (lots of rocks and rippling water.) We three sat on the boulders eating our fruit and sandwiches. Ahna was sharing childhood memories. I asked if she felt loved. “Oh, my, yes!” “How did you know?” She replied, “He grinned at me!” Such simple, yet such rich words.

I watched myself the next few days with my children; we talked, laughed, went on outings, but the deep intimacy that shows itself in grins was rarely there. I had to ask myself why! I suspect that grins, as opposed to laughs, need the soil of relaxed, unhurried hanging-out time. As several past and present housemates could attest, “hanging out” is not my forte. I’m “Type A” — high energy, results-oriented! Nothing wrong with that when things need to get done, but when the “project” is closeness, it’s time to shift gears!

I notice I’m more likely to be in a grin-producing situation when I’ve chosen to relax and put aside any need to ”accomplish” things. Thus, when Katie and I are looking at her drawings from Archie comics, or I’m sitting on Nick’s bed hearing about Fire Explorers, my consciousness is THERE, and my unfinished projects are out-of-mind. Then I’m free to be light and relaxed, the perfect conditions for warm looks/ teasings/ grins of camaraderie, and knowing you are loved.

Katie’s Menagerie
The fleas are gone (a black Lab plus two cats makes summer flea spraying mandatory). Now there’s a rat, one that Katie paid money for! It is making a home in her room along with a fish tank, two gerbils (Bruddle and Sissle) and a hamster, JoJo. (A month later, her pet rat died. Deb removed it from its cage, and Chris dug a deep hole. Katie wrapped it in a box and buried it. Her friend gave Katie two flowers. Oooh, what a dear thing to do!)

Movies on Short Notice
One thing my son and daughter and I enjoy together is movies. So I bought seven tickets for $20, and we’ve seen Stand By Me (so good I stayed in the theater and saw it next showing); Crocodile Dundee (fun like Greystoke was); The Great Wall; Twist and Shout (poignant), and Peggy Sue Got Married. After it, we talked about what things WE might do differently if we went back in time several years.

Often we decide on 25 minutes’ notice that we all three are free, and we scramble into the car, even deciding from the Sunday paper half way onto the freeway which movie we’ll see. Last time, I was short money to see the movie we chose (not the 7 for $20); I took the chance that Kathryn, who lives in the house WE lived in for 7 years on Capitol Hill, could loan me $20. I rang her bell, and 19 seconds and two laughs later, we three bounded down the steps with our $20., pellmelled down the foggy alley, rather exuber­antly, and got 6-for-$18 tickets at Harvard Exit. We made it just in time with the biggest tub of popcorn and the styrofoam cups of tea they provide.

It feels like we have another family ritual, stuff we’ll talk and laugh about at future Thanksgiving dinners and on walks 15 years from now.

These are from my 2007 book,
Diving Right In: Reflecting on Life's Adventures.

To purchase the book of 85 poems and 180 pages of vignettes about all areas of my life while I was raising my teens alone, order it at .

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Wallowing in a Perfect Day

I’m having a perfect day today, and wondering why I don’t create more perfect days for me. It’s Christmas, my kids and I spent Christmas Eve together, and I am absolutely luxuriating in doing my thing. For breakfast I enjoyed my Great Harvest Bread Company shortbread—every taste is a dreamy experience. I called my Dad, 89, and agreed how blessed we all are to be able to walk and talk and see and hear. I told him that I’ll put his Christmas $100 in a special envelope in my billfold. When I see something I really want but hear a budgetary argument from my inner shouldn’t-er, I will open the envelope and feel totally okay about indulging myself.

I did that Sunday at the fish market at 28th and NW Market. After I tasted the smoked black cod, $18.99 per pound or not, I put out $5.77 for a hunk that will delight me over the next few days. Memories, past and future, are a part of the joy of this day.Since the call, I’ve been doing things I feel like on the computer, this being one of them. I’ve watched Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat and excerpts from Jesus Christ Superstar and more. I ate a stick-to-your teeth caramel from last night’s Christmas stocking and deliberated the last 1/8 of it—shall I make this one bite or two to get the most pleasure? Two was the winner this time.

For lunch, I had a piece of last night’s rolled rib roast with gravy, and all the deli olives I wanted. I’m drinking carrot juice that housemate Diane and I made a day or so ago. I alternate between holiday programs on the radio and on TV. I wound up my music box and watched the pink jester move to the sounds of “Make Someone Happy.” Out my home office window the Olympics show off their clear snowy wraps. The sun lights on the shells and driftwood on the deck railing I can see from my desk. I’m wondering if I’ll feel more expansive as I am now, wandering up and down the stairs, from fridge to TV to desk, or going for a walk in the glorious sunshine. I’ll go after I send this, I decide, and be back by 4:00 to meet a potential roomer for the room available on the 1st.

I decide I like him already—his walk at Kelsey Creek Park in Bellevue “made his Christmas.” Since in many parts of the world, December 25 means no more than any other day, I would like to declare my own personal monthly holiday, for no other reason than that I (and everyone)deserve to be as happy as we can make ourselves. I know myself well enough to not leave things in that “good idea” stage. So I just wrote in on each 4th Sunday of 2002 “My Holiday.”

Wish you could see the serene smile and then the passion that becomes a bellow as I sing along with the radio. Yes, I’m happy!! I have moments of delight every day, and I want to pay more attention to wallowing in them. And wallow I will every 4th Sunday. Anybody want to join me? Pick your own monthly “my day” -your body will be grateful for the lack of stress. You can go further with loved ones because your tank will be full. And best of all, it feels good! Let me know if you’ll wallow too on your “my day.” It willgive me even more pleasure to know I’ve encouraged more joy in the world. Blessings!

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1. Eleven Guidelines for Pursuing Pleasure

As an ex-Catholic, I’ve had to practice giving up guilt around
the conscious pursuit of pleasure in my life. I tend to agree with
Napoleon Hill in Think & Grow Rich: "Ask life for great gifts and you
encourage life to deliver them to you." I made up the following list for
both a speech I gave and a column I wrote. I’m not elaborating much
on any of my 11 principles here, because I hope you will put your
own imagination to active use in seeing how they apply personally.

My 11 guidelines include:
1) Grab your pleasure when and where it shows up. Don't
have a set idea of how it must look. If you have your schedule set to
accomplish 17 things today, and you get a free ticket to a concert
you’d love to attend, drop those last 13 things if you must, and exult
in your good luck. Do know and honor your & others' boundaries and
values in the process.

2) When you see something you want, ask for it. Do it as
easily as you'd place your order with the waiter. Assume if you want
it, you're meant to have it. Ask Life to be your waiter from now on.
It’s easier to get a “no” than to wonder for the next three months
whether you might have gotten your desire if you had asked.

3) Go for what you can have when you can't have it all.
The sunny part of the rainy day; the friendship if not the lover; the
soup when the entree is too expensive.
Pleasures and Ponderings

4) Get out of your serious adult and into your playful child
every chance you get. How would that look for you? Who would you
invite along? How can you make playfulness a regular fun habit? I
hired the Bubble Man to do a bubble show in my back yard for my
59th birthday party; the five kids and 30 adults oohed and ahhed over
his tricks and the tools he entertained us with. I mark in my annual
calendar in April to find out which day Ben & Jerry’s is giving away
their free ice cream cones. Once a friend in a green foam sombrero
and I in my rainbow colored wig gave away free tickets ("to nothing")
at a local street festival. It was great fun for us and also for the
receivers of the unusable tickets. What sounds playful to you?

5) Take pride in what does work for you instead of putting
yourself down for your limitations. When I was in Siena, Italy, and
geographically challenged, I feared I'd never find my travel partner
Dee again when I went off looking for lodging. I retraced my route
the long way, but found her. How can you reframe a criticism of
yourself into an approval/ acceptance of you just as you are?

6) Plan for, and insist on, breaks or rests to make the
demanding times less stressful. That goes for at work, on a hike, and
meeting a deadline. What kind of breaks work for you? It could be a
cup of tea, a three block walk, a trip to the store, five minutes of
stretching, or even a nap.

7) Don't limit yourself by another's belief on what is
enough. Go back for Life's seconds. Stop when you have had enough.
Only your own self-judgment keeps you from going for what you
want. In Conversations with God, God says “I don’t care what (work) you do; all I care is that you fully express all of who you are." Does
that mean being active in six major projects? Going out to concerts
and dinner and meetings four nights a week? You get to decide.

8) Don't make snap judgments about people or places.
There is good and not so good in everything. Give it a chance to
shine. When a man I met through the personals sent an inappropriate
email card, I didn’t ditch him, because I knew he had a good heart.
Some people take time to open up.

9) Tune in to the little things. Look and listen for what
soothes your spirit and quiets your busyness—star or cloud gazing,
daydreaming, birds flying, lilacs, a water fountain, the variety in a
garden center, or classical music.

10) Do whatever it takes to figure out what fulfills you.
Then give yourself over to it. Examples that inspire or fulfill might
include the artist Gaudi in Spain; Journaling; Barbara Sher's books;
Tony Robbins, B. Kipfer’s 14,000 be Happy About and The
Wish List.

11) When you experience bliss, wherever you are, embrace
it. Don't put conditions on it. Let it come; let it go. When I was in
Europe a couple years ago, I had only three days to spend in the Swiss
Alps. I would have loved extra time. But I got total delight out of
those three days. Preferences are fine, but —delight in the day.
Moreah Vestan

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From Nun to Nudist to Now

I’ve wondered often how I, who was a nun for a year, could
have become the authority-free woman I am today. Of us nine kids, I
probably took Church rules the most seriously. I remember urging my
teen brother in the 1950’s to ”be careful” on his dates. I hadn’t
understood what sex was about until I was myself a teen, so I took it
on myself to encourage siblings to follow the rules.

I remember tattling on classmates in grade school, feeling
totally justified, since rules were made to be kept. One of the nuns in
my 12 years of Catholic schooling said that if we thought we had a
vocation and didn’t follow it, we’d never be happy. That put the fear
of God in me. Knowing myself to be “a good girl,” I suspected God
might want me as a nun.

So my second year of college found me in a convent in
Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It felt a little bit like pioneer life. We sewed
names on all our clothing, including cloth sanitary napkins. Twenty of
us postulants slept in a big dorm, with sheets as dividers in our
approximately 4’ x 8’ sleeping area. We had one black outfit for
Sundays, and one for weekdays. We went to Confession on Saturdays,
and I associate the smell of baking bread with those weekend

We’d pray the Rosary on daily afternoon walks, and listen to
Madame Butterfly often in evening recreation, because the Postulant
Mistress liked it. (I do too). Even at age 19, I couldn’t understand why
the other girls talked during afternoon chores. The rule said No Talking!

I’d probably still be a nun if it weren’t for a wise Mother
General. She interviewed each of us at the end of our year as a
postulant, before we became a novice. I was going to be Sister Nathan
as a novice, though I would not take the vows of poverty, chastity and
obedience for a few years. When the Mother General asked, “Are you
happy?” I answered, “I’m not happy, but I’m satisfied.” And she said,
“That is not enough for a bride of the Lord.” I’d most likely still be
Sister Nathan otherwise, if I’d not been so gracefully dismissed. In
1961, I was still authority-ridden. I had no other life experience than
as an obedient Catholic.

Two years later, considering marriage to an Iowa suitor, I was
still innocent/ naive enough to confess that I’d sat on my boy friend’s
lap. Told that was an occasion of sin, I never did it again. That
romance ended in a few months. Five years later, I had taught one
year of sophomore English and one year of junior high English,
followed by four years of second grade. I was engaged to Don, whom
I’d met through a correspondence club. I even had my second graders
write him a letter.

I was, at 26, a virgin on my wedding night. Interestingly, no
one had told me I wasn’t supposed to enjoy sex after marriage. To my
surprise, after the first couple days and nights of the honeymoon, as
we walked toward our Hawaiian lodging, I’d be chirping, “We’re
almost there!” And to this day, when anyone says, “We’re almost
there,” I have happy flashbacks to February, 1968.

Now I was still “a good Catholic” a year later at a Church
camp when a priest, who later left the priesthood and married an exnun,
said around the campfire, “If the only reason you go to Mass on
Sunday is to avoid mortal sin, you shouldn’t go!” My mouth must
have been hanging open. This was a man of the cloth giving me
permission, it seemed, to do whatever I liked. Apparently, at the time,
all I needed was a bona fide authority figure’s pronouncement to
loosen the shackles that had bound me all these years. That campout
was the beginning of my liberation as a woman who could now begin
to think for herself.

When I was unhappy a few years later, often thinking, “Is this
all there is for the rest of my life,” it was only after a good friend
convinced me I wasn’t meant to be unhappy that I dared to separate
and then divorce. As the first one in my family to divorce, I did not
feel support from my parents.

As many divorced people did in the ‘70’s, I enjoyed a good
deal of personal freedom. I’d spent a summer month on a car trip to
California from Iowa, while my kids, around 4 and 6, were with their
grandparents on the farm. Seeing personal ads in California papers, I
came back and placed the first such ad in the Iowa City paper. I met
Don and Frank, both professors at the University of Iowa. I grew to
love them both, and my kids and I spent alternate weekends with
them. Both lovers knew of the other, and felt fine about our times
together. I’ve never felt tempted by swinging, but can see the
potential merits of polyfidelity. I see people as capable of loving more
than one partner. If not for jealousy, it could have many benefits
beyond having more than one lover. (The ex-nun in me is amazed that
I believe this. But I do. )

How can I explain to you, let alone to myself, how the
obedient child became the autonomous woman? From that priest at
the campout to the influence of many friends and authors and public
figures, I have learned to listen inside more and more. I am
comfortable in my body, and love the childlike freedom of no clothes
whenever I get the chance. Still, I am not surprised when the old need
for propriety and approval occasionally come up. I am now quicker to
notice when I have taken someone else’s truth for my own. And I’m open to any now experience that my heart leads me to.
Moreah Vestan, Author, Life Coach, NVC facilitator, Columnist

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Change Your Questions, Change Your Life

I’m curious if people realize that some questions they ask
themselves could be harmful? Have you ever asked or heard "Why
did this happen to me?" or "Why can't I get it right?" or "Will I ever
find work I like?" They can only lead to negative thinking. Since
that's probably not the desired result, what could happen if people
only asked questions that brought forth useful answers that moved
them forward?

I've listened to Tony Robbins' tape on The Power of Questions
a few times. Robbins says the quality of your life depends on the
quality of your questions. If your brain is like a search engine and you
put in, "Why is it so hard to meet women?" all it can bring up is
possible negatives. What would your search engine brain come up
with if you asked, "What are three things I could do this week that
would be fun to do to where I could meet interesting women?" Can
you hear your brain searching its archives of information and thoughts
to bring up three or more responses?

What questions could change your life or even your outlook
for the day? Just for the experience, try some of these and come up
with your own. Those will be even more insightful for you.

Relationship with Yourself
What could I do that would be a treat for me today and only
take a few minutes?
How could I set up an incentive so that a task I've been putting
off gets done?
What can I tell myself to lighten up when I've been criticized
or hurt?
What creative expression can I build into this week? Writing?
Painting? Woodworking? Redecorating? Visiting galleries and
museums for ideas? What day is it planned for on my schedule? Am I
committed to doing it?
Where would be a restful place to read a book and to picnic?
How much time (15, 30, or 60 minutes) will I spend on
organizing and sorting today so I will fully enjoy the
walk/gym/treat/reading I plan for later?
What music would inspire me right now? Did I just turn it on?
If not, it's okay to stop reading and turn it on now.
What clothes make me feel really good? When will I wear
them? Are they ready to wear—pressed, nothing missing, a good fit?
What is one step I know I need to take to fully express who I
am? If I'm not sure, when will I take 20+ minutes to journal about
what that might be?
What beliefs do I need to change to be more loving?
Accepting? Encouraging? Happy? Fulfilled? Successful?
What habits must I change to be more financially responsible?
What pleasure will I give myself for specific progress?
What park or nature spot can I visit to revive my spirit this
week? When will I go?
How can I ensure that I follow a healthier diet—call a friend
for support? Eat only when I'm hungry? Stop eating after 8:00 pm?
No food while watching TV? Join a class to learn what
others are doing?
What can I get of value from having a cold?

Personal Relationships
Who would love to hear from me today?
Who can I call to say "I'd like to spend more time with you"?
What dates and times can I clear on my calendar to offer them times
to meet?
Who am I ready to forgive?
What are some ways I can say "No”? One technique, if it's
hard to "just say no", is to offer 2 positives, 1 negative, and 1 positive.
"I appreciate your asking me to go dancing, and know it could be fun,
but I have other plans that night. I hope you'll have a good time
without me."
Who can I connect with today to support me in making my
dreams a reality?
What are some beneficial aspects of the troubling/ frustrating/
scary situation I'm experiencing with a special person in my life?
(Might it be a chance to become more open and intimate? To mirror
and paraphrase so you and that person truly understand each other?
To reconsider your commitment? To seek outside support to improve
the relationship? To practice being kind? Assertive?)

Professional and Community Relationships
Who can I call to brainstorm with on a project I'm excited
Who can I exchange my time or services with to get body
work, remodeling, child care, housework, computer help, whatever I
want done?
What organization could I join to support the goals I have?
What can I say to a boss, employee, or co-worker that would
be honest, would please or honor them, and could improve our
What one thing at work would make my job more desirable?
How can I implement that? What support do I need to make it happen?
In what organization would I most like to contribute to my
community? How much time will I offer? When will I start? What are
the benefits to me and to them?
What role do I want to play in my church, my children's
school, my neighborhood? Is the next step in my daily planner?
What can I do this month to better serve the global
What questions might serve you? What questions may you
need to ask and answer? Use this list as a supportive friend. I believe
that clear dreams, acted on, come true.

Moreah Vestan Compassionate Communication Trainer, Life Coach, Columnist Author: Pleasures and Ponderings: From Nun to Nudist to Now and
Diving Right In: Reflecting on Life's Adventures 206-938-8385

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Internet Euphoria

Recently, I got to help a friend who'd never been on the Web log on. It was probably even more exciting for me than for her. My great pleasure, my mission, is to stimulate discovery and focus on fulfillment. For example, I'd cooked black-eyed peas in the crock pot last week and couldn't find a recipe in my cookbook. Then I went to and did a search and found hundreds of recipes in less than a minute! Where can a person discover more than on the Internet? I don't compare that delight with the glory of Nature or the intimacy of friendship, but all that knowledge at one's fingertips is intoxicating!
For me, part of the joy is in finding resources that I can pass on to various people in my life. On my coaching web site I have links to about 150 sites on several topics that are important to me. I've often thought it would be great to be on retainer and be a clipping service. If you were my client and wanted more information on career choices or home loans or hormone replacement therapy" ?you name it" ?I'd play hide and seek on the Web and tell you what I found. Being on the Internet makes me feel part of the larger world. I rarely watch the evening news, but when I log on, the welcome screen always gives the top news in the world, with places you can go to check on stocks, weather, entertainment and more. The feeling I get when I open my Personal Filing Cabinet and read Incoming Saved Mail is akin to my response to a letter from a loved one in the mail box. It's like a gift I wasn't expecting, a spontaneous offer to go on a two hour outing. Some of the emails are unwelcome, but I can hit delete or tuck them unread into an appropriate folder. I have folders for my weekly AskYourself newsletter, Puget Sound Coaching Association, Humor, Web Resources, Stock Market, Events, Travel, Writing, and other areas of interest.
For me, the email folders are comparable to a photo album" ? something I can revisit to tickle my memory muscle. Sometimes reading just the subject line puts a huge grin on my face" ?I remember the joke or scenario. Loving to share as I do, I have to restrain myself from forwarding wonderful humor and great lists to everyone I know. People who know me well appreciate my desire to be useful, and forgive me when I get carried away. It's hard for me to believe there are people who can afford a computer web access who don't rely on the Internet for quick communication. Perhaps I'm a bit addicted to it, but no more so than to snow-covered mountains, intimate talks with friends, a good book, a Handel concerto, or popcorn with butter by the fireplace. I'd be proud to introduce the Internet as my friend to anyone, and I value my friends. You'll have to pardon me; it's time for me to go there!
Author: Moreah Vestan
Compassionate Communication Trainer, Life Coach, Columnist Author: Pleasures and Ponderings: From Nun to Nudist to Now and
Diving Right In: Reflecting on Life's Adventures 206-938-8385