Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Light Within




Engulfed in darkness
was I
Stranger to the
God dwelling in
Through trials and tears
I soon discovered
The Light
Was always within
Now I give
of this gift
To anyone
Who would hear
Pray,
Affirm,
Surrender,
Love always wins.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Gone Green!



Welcome to my hood, zip 94590, Vallejo, California.


The most amazing thing about my neighorhood is the panoramic view of the Bay Area. Lucky me! Vallejo Heights sits on top of the hill overlooking the old Mare Island Naval Station on the west, and on a very clear day, one can see across the glistening San Francisco and San Pablo Bay, all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco landmark Sutro Tower, and Marin County’s Mt. Tamalpais.





Over on the other side of the hill towards the east, one can see Vallejo’s White Slough and on the northeast…ah, Napa -- Wine Country, pride of Northern California!




But the crowning glory of Vallejo Heights is a secret and delightful find – Sheveland Park, the city’s green glory, the perfect paragon of super-environmental friendly engineering and design.




Sheveland Park’s play structure was constructed using 19,434 plastic containers, 19,906 aluminum cans and 8,104 soup cans. This is the city’s recycling program at work. Impressive!




Wheeee! The slide down is a soft landing on trucked-in white sand.



The park is still a very well-kept secret. Very few children play here, and the high school kids seldom hang out. It is a great place to be still and breathe clean air, enjoy the view, write, meditate, or just be.




And when sunset comes... serenity...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Charming Gardeners





"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."
-- Marcel Proust



Marcel Proust has been strumming my heart strings lately. Whenever I think of a quote that captures what I’m feeling or thinking, Proust captures it in one short and pithy sentence.


I was on the phone a little while ago with my dearest best friend and soul sistah Medi Tate who challenged me to do my gratitude list before I called it a night. It’s 1:41 AM now and I’m not ready to call it a night yet. My heart is welling up with emotions of thankfulness for the pure and simple grace that envelopes my everyday existence.


This simple grace is unquantifiable, unidentifiable, untouchable, and yet I have that distinct sensation of shimmering god-dust sprinkling down on me, filling me with positive expectation of new and blessed beginnings. Maybe it’s the coming of spring, the budding of new leaves on deciduous trees, the raucousness of birds, or the lengthening days. Whatever it is, it makes my heart swell. No… I know exactly what it is – it’s a feeling of overflowing thankfulness.


Today was a day of emerging and forging friendships, friendships real and virtual. Friends are the god proxies who show up in our lives and make visible to us the Truth of that Invisible Loving Presence. Call it what you will – God, Buddha, Christ, Allah, Lakshmi, Krishna, karma, energy, universe. Call it “Something.” That “Something” that creates magic and miracles is made manifest to me through friends. Kindnesses, humor, beauty, art, poetry, epiphanies are shown to me through friends. Yes, they are the charming gardeners of my blossoming soul.


So I end this day with joyous thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.



Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Loser!





(Blogger's note: This is an edited post of the original article published on February 12, 2008, in recruitingblogs.com, a business and social networking site for professionals in the industry.)




In one of my recent contract recruiting gigs, I got a resume from “L”, an optical engineer who seemed perfect for the search I was conducting at the time.

The general requirements were at least 5 years experience in optics engineering, aerospace, defense, manufacturing, and a BS, or better yet, a Master’s or Ph.D.

“L’s” resume fit the profile to a tee, with longer than 5 years of experience working for recognizable names in the required industry. What excited me was that 10 years ago, he had worked as a novice engineer for the very same company for which I was recruiting.

How thrilling! As a seasoned recruiter I felt the familiar rush of adrenaline that comes when I know I’ve found that needle-in-the-haystack candidate. I had my own search firm once, a long time ago, and every time my business partner Nancy Hitchcock and I made a placement we danced around the office and pretended to bow to Mecca. We even kidded each other that making a placement was better than sex.

Anyway, when I come across the perfect candidate, I make a fist in the air and jerk down with a forceful and victorious, “YES!” So I did. Yes…YES!

I quickly dialed the extension of the engineering director and asked if L was eligible for re-hire. His immediate response was, “LOSER!”



Now, folks, c’mon. C'mon.

Have we become so heartless and lacking in humanity and compassion that we can so readily dismiss someone as a loser? Have you heard yourself call someone a loser lately? If you have, hmmmmm… You need to take a look deep inside your soul.

However pathetic "L" was ten years ago, ten years is a long time for someone to learn from mistakes, evolve, change, mature, develop, improve, transform and become a more productive corporate citizen.

I didn’t argue the matter. I knew it would be pointless to inject compassion in an environment that did not foster such a sentiment. After all, the corporate bottom line is about numbers – return on investment, sales projections, quarterly profits, cost per hire.

If the Engineering Director had a soul, perhaps the light of compassion in his heart would have spotlighted this perfect return on investment scenario. Here was a former novice who had gotten ten years worth of experience under his belt, paid for by another company. Now this seasoned engineer was willing to come back and add his earned-value on the table. Hubris has a shortsighted view.

Memo to self: No matter the prevailing ethic, I will be unwavering in my conviction that everyone deserves to be treated as a decent human being with infinite potential for excellence.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

And Now We Turn To Politics...

There is nothing like politics to get the assassins out in force.

Everytime there’s a blog post about politics the poison arrows fly. It’s like the last scene in the Chinese action movie “Hero” where the Assassin Nameless (played by Jet Li) is executed by a million flying arrows. The visuals are stunningly beautiful and breathtaking but Nameless’ fate is certain and inescapable – death. Have you rented that movie yet? If not, please log on to Netflix and put it next up on your queue. After you watch it, you’ll totally get my point.

On Gather, and elsewhere in the political blogosphere for that matter, metaphorical death is the inevitable ending, not just for the poster but for everyone who gets into the fracas.



Hate flows.

Read the article “Chelsea Pimp Remark” by P.S. Burton and you’ll see what I mean. It’s amazing to see the bile and blood spewing in the riot.

One wrote in screaming caps, “…WONDER HOW CHELSEY FEELS ABOUT HAVING AN ACCUSED RAPIST FOR A "dad???. AGAIN EVERYTHING HILL AND BILL GET THROWN IN THEIR FACE THEY DESERVE- NOT CHELSEY SHE IS A VICTIM OF POOR PARENTS.”

Another rants, rushing to post without checking for spelling or grammar, “The ultimate sleazer's of all time, bj billy and the enabler- to all his mental illness, Hillary are out-raqed (sic), the same pathetic liars and mud-slingers "the Clintons".

Of course, there’s always the peacemakers who try to inject reason and diplomacy into the melee but who get shouted down by shriller voices nevertheless. Just like in real life, I guess. Depending on which side you’re on, you’ll hear the decibel of your own voice. You know who you are.

Trust me, I don’t mean to sound like the righteous one. In fact, I’ve ambushed some posters in the blogosphere myself. There was an article published recently with unspeakable words of venom leveled against both Democratic Senators and I, acting like a sniper, rated it a "1" without leaving a comment, and invited a connection to do the same. Guerilla warfare, y’know. It’s a jungle out there.

I’m bad. Okay, I confess. I emailed Dan Abrams a couple of days ago. On the subject line, I typed:



Obama girl has a crush and Chris Matthews has a hard-on


In the body of the email, I wrote:



“Hey Dan,

You are the GM over there, right? Do you have any control over Matthews at all? I’ve finally decided to pack my bags and go over to CNN and – good God – Fox Noise because seeing Matthews’ hard-on for Obama is obscene. You better do something about him because the youth might be watching.

Oh, and I grew up thinking the word journalist and news had the prefix “objective” next to it. Guess not!

My two cents,
Maya
Bay Area”

Thank goodness Deux ex machina, the Invisible Hand of God of Cyberspace intervened. The message was returned to me undeliverable due to a bad email address. Whew. In retrospect, I really didn’t want my foul mouth to be broadcast over the internets. But then again, here I am pimping my own porn.

If there’s a lesson in all this, the lesson is that in a democracy we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and women are created equal, and that we are endowed by our Creator with the inalienable right to act like jerks.

That’s all I’m saying.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

There But For The Grace


(Blogger's note: This is a work-in-progress piece for a weekly writing challenge in Gather. There are two parts to the challenge. First, the "hook" to the reader must be captured in 25 words or less. Second, the theme should be about interruption. I was humming along on my keyboard when writer's block hit me. I stopped here and will pick up again later. Here goes...)

“There’s a cop…A cop!” She muttered under her breath. “Keep driving. Turn right on the corner then go around again. I don’t want trouble…”

My heart started racing. I pressed harder on the gas pedal and the truck picked up speed. I looked at the rear view mirror and saw the cop car parked furtively behind a gray dumpster on the side of the building on my left. My heart skipped a beat. I took a deep breath to steady my nerves and drove to the corner.

“Here. Turn right then go around the block. Maybe we’ll find them on the other side.”

Even though there was concern and urgency in her voice, Alexie was cool. She knew what she was doing. Alexie had done this dozens of times before but the times… they are a-changing.

I steered her monster steel gray Ford F-150 and rounded the corner. There they were, scattered along San Pablo Avenue, in front of Home Depot, leathery-skinned Latinos in groups of three or more, talking together or sitting on the sidewalk, day laborers all, waiting to be picked up like cheap whores in the night. But it was only 7 AM. Contractor’s hour.

“There, that one -- he looks big and strong. Slow down but don’t stop,” Alexie ordered. “If you stop, they’ll mob us. Keep the truck moving.”

I slowed the truck down to a crawl. Alexie pushed a button and the window slid down noiselessly.

“Cuanto?” Alexie asked in Spanish, directing her question to the hombre with the aggressive stance.

“Quince!” Day Laborer #1 said. He was big and strong and could command fifteen dollars an hour. Good for lifting heavy stuff all by himself.

“No, demasiado!” Too much! Alexie said to him, dismissing him with a flick of her wrist. She turned to me and waved her left wrist forward, motioning for me to keep driving.

The big and strong day laborer walked alongside the truck. “Cuanto quiere pagar?” He asked. How much do you want to pay?

“Ocho.”

“No, es barato!” Senor Big bargained. No, that’s too cheap!

“Diez.” Alexie offered.

“No, doce,” countered the big hombre.

“Quiere trabajar o no?” Alexie asked with a tone clearly communicating the upper hand. Do you want to work or not?

“Okay, ten. Okay,” Senor Big agreed, conceding defeat in price and in language.

No way Senor Big was gonna win the bidding. Are you kidding me? These guys need the money to send home. Alexie held up two fingers in the air and asked, “Amigo?”

Senor Big turned to his amigos and said something fast in Spanish but the only thing I picked up was, “Vamos!” Let’s go.

The two men climbed into the back passenger seats and strapped themselves in. I felt like I should say something to them, give them my HR spiel when I onboard a new employee. I half-turned around and said, “Hola. Me llamo es Maya.”

Alexie rolled her eyes and blew air out of her mouth, flapping her lips, making a farting sound. We all laughed.

“You don’t have to introduce yourself. Just drive!” She could’ve added, “silly” as in, ‘Just drive, silly,” but caught herself.

“I was just trying to be polite and make conversation.” I said, smacking her sisterly on her armrest. I started heading towards the freeway. It was a twenty minute drive to our work site that day. After driving a couple of miles along I-80 East, I felt compelled to make small talk.

“Esta usted de Mexico?” I asked.

Aside from my natural curiousity about people, I was beginning to feel uncomfortable sitting in a truck in total silence with strangers sitting in the back of me. What if we had picked up a couple of escaped serial killers from Tijuana?

“Si. Mehico.” Said Senor Big.

“No. Guatemala.” Said the smaller, stockier man in stained white painter’s overalls and a white baseball cap.

I glanced quickly up at the rearview mirror at the two of them sitting at the back. Their eyes were staring straight at the back of my head. Mexican, Guatemalan, I couldn’t really tell the difference. They all look the same to me.

“Cheena?” The small one asked.

I shifted my eyes quickly at Alexie who laughed at the question. She half-turned to Senor Small and asked, “Does she look Chinese to you?”

“Si. Cheena?”

“No, yo soy Filipina.” I corrected him. “Nosotros somos Filipinas.” We’re Filipinas.

“Cheena. Filipina. Los mismos.” Chinese, Filipinos. You’re all the same.

We fell silent again.

With a simple dismissive declaration, the lowly, uneducated illegal alien cut it down to the core. Mexicans, Guatemalans, Chinese, Filipinos. We’re all the same.





"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door."



In the silence I searched my heart and mind to understand the hearts and minds of others. The situation was full of irony, although I’m sure only God could grasp the extent of it. Something was being made clear to me, but there was a fog over the vision, and it came in puzzle pieces. If only I knew where my life was going. The concrete road ahead with its bright yellow line seemed clearer. It meant there are lines you don’t cross.

I had crossed them and fallen from grace.




(To be continued...)







Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Monday, February 4, 2008

Write Like No One’s Reading


I woke up this morning to the jubilant strains of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake on KDFC. Instead of smacking the snooze button I snuggled more deeply into my feather bed and buried my smile deeper into my pillow. In my semi-conscious state I saw visions of little girls in pink tutus tippy-toeing and jete-ing across the stage.

I love ballet! When I was seven my mother took me to see the legendary Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nuryev perform Swan Lake at the Tokyo Festival Hall. Mom said stars gleamed in my eyes during the lavish performance.

Mom indulged my every caprice.

“Capricho!” she would chuckle everytime I expressed a desire for something.

Hence the ballet lessons. Except for wearing my white school uniform, I lived in pink tights, black leotards and ballet shoes everyday. I even got good enough so that I was chosen to play a little swan for my ballet class recital at age 9. During one rehearsal I was so eager and enthusiastic about playing a little swan that I pirouetted myself right off the stage and broke my arm and ankle. Calamity Jane was a childhood nickname. Sad Sack was another.

I’m reminded of an email that got passed around sometime ago that said something like, “Love like you’ve never been hurt, and dance like no one’s watching…”

Adios, writer’s block! Goodbye insecurity! To hell with critics! From here on in, I shall write like no one’s reading.

I shall write freely and let my words fly like bats at sunset ascending into the night.

I shall write joyously like whales breaching the surface of the sea.

I shall type away until my fingers break through the membrane and morph into butterfly wings.

I shall pour out my heart, like there’s no end to the bloodletting.

I shall cry away the shame with words to purify me.

I shall turn those phrases like a pirouette with no end on a world stage without edges.

And then I shall end with a grand arabesque and curtsy to wild applause!

Yes, yes! I shall write like no one’s reading… Yes!