It’s my birthday and I’m feelin’ good

I just woke up this morning, and I started the day with a warm glow. I feel happy, proud, hopeful, and grateful. Today is thanks to all that others have done to keep me alive; today I am proud of all I have accomplished, all that I have done to take care of myself and keep myself alive from one day to the next; today I accept another number after “I am”– a badge of courage, a badge of success, a badge of survival. I’m even proud of my mistakes today; you know why? Because I lived through them, I learned from them, and they helped make me who I am today. This morning I’m awash with a feeling of acceptance about my whole life– all the good times, bad times, successes, failures, finds, losses, smiles, tears… every moment of my life so far has brought me to this point, and look! I’m alive, I’m happy, I’m hopeful, and I’m grateful.

Today is a celebration of my mother’s carriage of me to term — of her decision to have me — and of her successful birth of me. My mother died last October, but if she were still alive, she would once again say, “today is my birth day,” and she would be beaming with pride in me and love for me. Well, mom’s not here this year, but I’m loving myself for her. I’m proud of myself for her. She and my father and God and everything-and-everyone made me. Today is a celebration of me– this unique individual, this creature, this person. There is not, never has been, nor never will be anyone else exactly like me. I’m special, I’m loved, and I love myself. Today is a very good day.

I remember a time before… yet where are we now?

I started thinking tonight about how I remembered a time before every town — nay, every corner — had a Walgreen, Walmart, Starbucks, CVS, Dollar General, QT, 7-11 (are there 7-11’s anymore?), Circle K, etc. Then I realized it was September 11th and it would be wrong not to add that to the mix. Well, this is not a Nine Eleven post, but it’s on 9/11, so I will add to this that, unlike anyone eleven years old or younger today, I remember a time before 9/11. I remember a time when we called the World Trade Center the twin towers. I remember when Philippe Petit walked between them on a tightrope. I remember a time before the twin towers. I remember a time before motion screen billboards. I remember a time before wrap billboards. I remember a time when billboards were rolled out in paper and the strips had to line up just so. I remember a time before Apple. I remember a time before Microsoft. I remember a time before the iPhone, the iPad, Google, AOL, Facebook, Twitter, Quora (I don’t even use Quora), social media, sexual harassment (as a term)… although I remember hearing a joke about Catholic priests and choir boys at summer camp when I was 10,  in 1977, just before this movie called Star Wars came out. So let’s say I remember a time before people said they were shocked that Roman Catholic priests were molesting and raping boys– I remember when it was so well-known there were jokes about it. Hypocrites.

Hmph. As I was saying… I remember when I had never heard of Starbucks. I remember the first time I saw one I was vacationing in Seattle in 1990. Within a year or two, they were everywhere. I remember when a tweet was a sound a bird made, blah, blah, blah. I’m 45. It’s not so old.

And yet, you know what else I remember? I remember when I was in first and second grade and being told we had to learn the metric system because we would all be moving to it. Whatever happened to that, huh? I remember when we were going to go solar in the 70s. Whatever happened to that? I grew up watching 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek, and Space 1999. I thought we would be living on the moon by the end of the twentieth century and in space by the twenty-first. I also grew up believing in and praying fervently for World Peace by the Year 2000! (Soka Gakkai) How about that world peace? Well, if we can’t even switch to the metric system…

I am not a man who is shocked at all this “newfangled technology.” I’m a boy who grew up expecting a world bigger, better, greater, and more peaceful than what we have now. I hear it’s patent law and trademark and copyright and litigation that’s holding us back, and I’m not surprised. I see trillions (is that enough, or is it quadrillions?) of people burned, bloodied, killed, wasted, and wounded in war, killing, destruction, neglect… I see money stolen from the middle class and given to the rich while the poor have less of a chance of becoming middle class.

We have such great technology, it’s both awesome and terrifying. When I see what filmmakers do with technology, sometimes it restores my faith in humanity. A lot of what people do with technology in social media, photos, videos, words, music– these things restore my faith in humanity. I suppose I should count us lucky that our whole world hasn’t been demolished, and I do! We are lucky, and I guess we are doing something right. We have a long way to go, though. It’s not too late to adopt that metric system, go solar, wind, water, clean energy, sustainable. It’s not too late to make this world the great place we thought it would be when we grew up. I think I have an idea for tomorrow morning. I’m going to wake up and ask myself, “What can I do today to help make this world as great as I hoped it would be when I was a boy?”

Meditations on master’s degree

I meditated this morning and remembered:

  • I’m getting my master’s degree so I can teach at a university. That’s my “dream.”
  • I teach because I want to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
  • I sometimes forget my dream and my homework feels like an obligation.

Last night, I watched GCB and they were talking about their dreams: what gets them up in the morning, gets them excited about life, makes them feel like they can make a difference, gets them through the day. I remembered that’s how getting my master’s degree should feel. We go into school thinking, “I want to do this!” and then, once we get there, we say, “I have to do this (homework, project, reading, writing, test, practicum, etc.).”

My affirmation now is that I am excited about my dream to teach interpreting in an advanced degree program that makes a difference in the lives of interpreters and the people who use interpreters. I am the one who chose to be in school; this is my choice, not an obligation. I am eager to get up every morning and prepare myself to fulfill my dream.

Happy Yuletide!

Yuletide Plates.
Originally uploaded by danielgreene.

I am a Jew who loves Christmas. To me, Chrismastime is a season, not a celebration of Christ. I do not believe that Jesus was the messiah. Personally, I do not believe that there will ever be one Messiah; instead, I believe that each baby born brings with him or her a great hope that he or she may help, in his or her own way, to heal the world (tikkun olam). The Nativity story, while I do not take it as fact, resonates with me deeply because of its miraculous romanticism and its underlying themes. Both Christmas and Chanukah convey a message of new hope, light in the darkness, and the triumph of good in the world in spite of hardship. I believe that the themes of Yuletide can be appreciated by Jews, Christians, and Pagans alike because–face it–both Christmas and Chanukah were religious overlays to Pagan holidays in the first place. So, maybe I should just say that I love the Yuletide! (Even though I don’t identify as a Pagan.)

All labels aside, whatever your religion, may you enjoy this time of year and may it bring you a renewed sense of hope!

P.S. These are the Woodland Santa and Pine Cone plates designed for Sakura by Debbie Mumm (© 1998).

P.P.S. I’m so glad that my new 28mm lens allows me to sit at table and take photos of my food with onboard flash! With my 50mm prime lens, I would have to get up from the table and stand over my food to take a photo of it, and with my 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens, I would have to add even more weight to an already heavy kit (since that lens is so heavy to begin with) by piling my 430EX hotshoe flash on top of it all. So, I now have a lightweight photography setup for going out to restaurants, taking photos at the table of food, friends, and family, etc. I’m excited about the possibilities!

Counting the Omer, Growing the Beard…

…maybe. I’m thinking about it. I’m thinking and feeling about a lot of things, really– too much to tell you.

But what is the omer? The omer is a period of counting that is a mitzvah or “commandment” in the Jewish Bible. Jews are supposed to count the days from Pesach to Shavuot to mark the journey from Exodus (freedom from bondage) to Mount Sinai (communally experiencing the presence of God in a deep and miraculous way and receiving the Torah). It is traditionally a period of semi-mourning, reflection, and, among other things, not shaving or getting a haircut.

To tell the truth, I have never counted the days between Pesach and Shavuot; in fact, now I would have to think… ah, yes, today is the ninth day of Omer. But something the rabbi said, half in jest, about having “rabbinical permission to grow a beard over the next seven weeks” got me to thinking not only about growing a beard, but also about how I might seize upon an opportunity to have a religious experience. Or at least enhance the spirituality of my life for a while.

I’m at the point where I hate my beard. It itches, and I think it makes me look old, mean, and ugly. I took this photo now in case I can’t stand it anymore and I shave it all off. But maybe I’m also taking this photo as a way of reflecting more deeply on having some patience with this process.

It is difficult to sit with that which itches at one and makes one feel old, mean, and ugly. Like my kvetching. I complain. I do it several times a day, often without even thinking. Sometimes my first words in the morning are a form of complaint. This is something I would like to tackle during the next six weeks.

Even if I don’t keep the beard.