Time sheets

I searched on Google Images for a photograph to illustrate the bane of my existence.  (As an aside, vocabulary.com explains my use of the phrase perfectly: “The noun bane refers to anything that is a cause of harm, ruin, or death. But we often use it for things that aren’t that bad, just feel like it. …The source of this word is Middle and Old English bana, meaning “destroyer, murderer.” … there’s something deliciously archaic about the word bane. It conjures up villages preyed upon by dragons, or witches adding one bane or another to a steaming kettle.”  YES, that’s it, I feel preyed upon by dragons, not by hearing “bane” but by Time Sheets!)

There is no image.  There’s some time sheet prepared by a truck driver noting in what location he/she was when he/she stopped for a meal and I’m sure that’s just as bad in its own way to have to fill out, but mine requires accounting for my day in six-minute increments and describing those six+ minutes in a way that conveys with understanding the work and effort that went into the time, so that the person reading it understands why they should pay an ungodly amount of money for me to have spent my time doing as described.

It’s a horrible system.  When I first started practicing law my firm billed by the hour, at a flat rate, and things were so much easier.  (And the most urgent requests we got were by fax, and that was relatively rare, but that’s another story.)  But clients started wanting a more detailed breakdown, and they wanted to pay junior associates less than senior associates and less than junior partners and less than senior partners so everything was categorized and broken down ultimately into these six-minute increments that I spend hours compiling each day.

It’s not so bad if you have one major task for the day, but my typical day is responding to an email on one project when I’m interrupted by a phone call on a different project and then I remember I was supposed to answer a question from yesterday on a third project and then an associate drops by my office with a question and then it’s time to leave for my meeting … and have to remember “exactly how much time did I spend on that email for project #1 before I was interrupted by the phone call for project #2?” and anyway I don’t have time to write it down because I’m driving to my meeting and by the time I’m back I’ll be completely engulfed in doushing some other fire… hence my hatred of time sheets.

I would love it if my firm would move to a retainer system or a contingency system or any system other than this one.  But for now I’m stuck, and while I’d rather be drafting a blog post and playing around with widgets and telling you all about my trip to Scotland and, before that, the trip to Dordogne way back in October that I have yet to describe, instead I’ll be spending this gorgeous Saturday finishing up last week’s time sheets that I couldn’t bare to complete after an exhausting day of work.

But in my Mindfulness effort I will try to make the best of each moment of completing those damn things and then hopefully find some way to get them done more efficiently next time.  Until next time, then … go out and make it a great day!




Scotland Remains United with England, Wales and Northern Ireland

After an historic vote, with the voting age lowered so more Scots could have their voices heard, 55% of Scots voted to stay United, against the 45% that voted for Independence.  Almost 85% of eligible voters turned out — an amazing result I wish we could replicate in our upcoming (albeit less historic) elections.  And if only more issues of this importance were decided by free and independent votes at a ballot box rather than guns, knives, bombs and terrorism.  In our recent visit to Scotland most folks we met said the vote would fail, and that the majority of Scots are happy being part of the UK and/or the headaches and costs of separation were enough to lead to a “No” vote, so I’m not surprised by the outcome, and I think the effort of having the campaign and vote by itself has helped lead to changes that will be better for all.  Congrats to our friends across the ocean for showing how it can and should be done!


600 Seconds to Write

Perfect … read my PostaDay prompt at exactly 6:00 a.m. therefore it will be easy to write for 10 minutes.  Right?  Somehow though it should make absolutely no difference starting at a round number — especially at an hour on the dot — seems organized and round and the perfect jumping off place from which to dive into a project.  Much better than 6:03.

Now that we have that established, what exactly will I write about during my 10 devoted minutes?  Today is Scotland’s Day of Destiny, hence an ideal choice.  Certainly sounds important, and, in fact, it is.  What a difference between the UK and Russia.  On one hand, we have a rather civilized vote where the people who live in the country will decide whether they want to go it alone, as an independent nation, or stay consciously joined as part of the United Kingdom.  Things seem to work somewhat different in other countries which decide to consider a split.  No bloodshed in Scotland, no need for monitors for fear of cheating at the polls.

Of course it was much different years ago, when battles between the English and Scots were rampant.  So perhaps there is hope for other countries, as well.

Jack and I visited Scotland for the first time in June, and loved it much more than we had anticipated.  The literary history and culture of Edinburgh spoke to me.  For Jack, it was the Scottish people he enjoyed the most.  The Royal Mile was packed with tourists but it managed to maintain its ancient charms nonetheless.  The first morning I ran out our door when I heard the bagpipes playing — I wouldn’t want to miss that once-in-a-lifetime experience!  Of course after a day I realized it was more like once-an-hour, as the type of Scotland experience the tourists expect is broadly displayed, especially on the Royal Mile, not wanting to miss an opportunity to take in some tourist dollars.  And the number of pubs releasing those who had way too much to drink onto the cobblestone streets was a little distressing.  Really, how many pubs does one city need?  But the City is magical and charming and a very … whoops, my 10 minutes is up!


Blogging 101: Intro to A Brave New World

OK, it isn’t completely new.  I started my blog last year, or even the year before.  First, to write about my vacation.  Then, one early morning when I was still doing Kundalini Yoga and working on Chakra 5 the Voice the thought that I wanted to do things that enriched my life popped into my head.  And it had nothing to do with travel.  Or, at least (since travel can be enriching) it wasn’t limited to only travel.  So I started An Enriching Life.  Now I’m the proud owner of two blogs, both of which sit unused most of the year.  Until I find spurts of energy or inspiration, like now!

This is me, with my husband, taking our tourist shot of the Prime Meridian on our vacation to the UK this summer …

Straddling the Eastern and Western Hemispheres in Greenwich, UK

Straddling the Eastern and Western Hemispheres in Greenwich, UK

I love, adore, am passionate about, dream of Europe.  Always have, presumably always will.  When I was dating my husband I went with him on lots of trips to the Tropics (his dream locale).  As soon as we married, I declared it my turn and ever since we’ve been getting to Europe as often a I can get us there.  Which is never often enough but so much more than I ever dreamed would be possible.

I love planning the trips almost as much as being there.  The research, the finding little out-of-the-way “secret” places to visit, the days on which special admissions may be had … I once considered becoming a Travel Agent and now I don’t know why I never did.  And I love to read, research, and write.  My husband encouraged me to start a blog and it seemed the perfect way to share our trip with our friends and family — I could just direct them to my blog and everyone could live vicariously through me.  But it’s time consuming to upload the photos and remember exactly what we did when, especially when it’s months afterward before I get around to finding time to blog.  And so my travel blog is very light on postings.

Despite not posting much in my one blog, I had the brilliant idea of starting a second blog, An Enriching Life, so I could expand past travel entries into spirituality and other topics that have enriched my life and that I want to share with others.  So now I have two blogs and still very few posts, and have yet to master the most basic blogging tools.  But I’m persistent if nothing else so will try Blogging 101 and see if that is the secret ingredient I’ve been missing all this time.

My goal — that a year from now I can look back at a long list of blog posts that get better as they go along, that have more variety and more use of the tools offered by WordPress and more understanding of what makes a blog the best it can be.

This is me:  I spend most of my day in a large, international law office practicing Land Use /Environmental Law.  For 23 years I’ve been doing that.  So if you’d like to hear about the California Environmental Quality Act or in general about land use issues in San Diego, I can talk for hours.  About San Diego politics.  CEQA.  404 permits.  The RWQCB storm water permit.  Lots of other acronyms.  But that’s not what I hope to do on this blog … in fact I hope to talk about almost anything but that.

Maybe my kids?  Here’s my recent college grad son, contemplating life as he gazes over the Pacific.

Peace in the Pacific

Peace in the Pacific

And my daughter, with her roommate Freshman year:

With the roommie, freshman year

With the roommie, freshman year my step kids:

And my step-daughter, with her Dad:

Waitin' on the train, with Dad

Waitin’ on the train, with Dad

And my step-son (Dad again):

Sunset

Or my amazing husband, who runs one company and is starting a second one to bring a broader spectrum of LED lights to the agricultural market so each of us can grow more of our own food, indoors, year-round.

So hard to decide.  So much to write.  So little time.  Come along with me, and let’s work together to find An Enriching Life.


Dream On

Top-5-ListsQuick!

What 5 things pop in my head as what I’d most like to wipe from my day?  Hard to choose just 5 … how do I know I’m choosing the best 5, oh my mind tends to wander and calculate and want to come up with the absolute best and not make any mistakes but the assignment said to quickly list the first 5 things so … here goes!

1. Thinking of every possible angle of every problem, pondering, issue spotting, afraid to take action because my action my not be the absolute best solution and I want to make the perfect decision, so it takes forever to get anything done.

2. Delaying action my gut tells me must be done to avoid having a worse problem in the future because I failed to do what my gut told me I needed to do because I really don’t want to do it and maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance I’m wrong and the bad thing won’t happen and then I won’t have to deal with it so, leave it for tomorrow because, after all, Tomorrow Is Another Day and didn’t that work out well for Ms. O’Hara?

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3. Drinking wine with dinner every night … Dr. Lipman says it’s just liquid sugar and sugar is not something sweet little ‘ole me really needs, and besides it makes me sleepy and unmotivated and unlikely to accomplish much the rest of the evening

4. Forgetting to be mindful and to live in the Now.  Right this minute.  Breathe.  Now.  Yes, Just. This. Second. Right. Now.

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5. Getting frustrated, depressed, angry about what I’m doing In The Now and Not Doing Anything About It other than thinking, delaying, ruminating, complaining, questioning, avoiding

OK I sense a theme here — apparently I need to take action.  So, what would it be to go through the Day having eliminated all 5 of those habits?  Let’s see …

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I’d wake up with energy having not had any liquid sugar from the night before, with an organized day before me since before going off to bed I’d have had the motivation to list out my plans for the coming day and have ready what I needed to get off to a good start.  I’d then act on the matters before me, doing what my gut tells me needs to be done even though I really, really don’t want to do it and I can think of many reasons why I shouldn’t/may not have to/can’t do it.  But I’ll just do it.  And maybe what I do isn’t perfect, could be better, isn’t even the right thing to have done.  But it’s done but it’s unlikely to kill me and if it does then at least I had a full, well-lived day.  Where I lived in that day rather than worrying about what I did yesterday or don’t want to do tomorrow.

And I write and I read and I walk and I talk and I tell stories and I learn and I love and I go live the day fully, completely, perhaps wrongly but at least it’s lived and I spent it doing something worthwhile or joyful or relaxing or gratifying or helpful and not wasting it ruminating, worrying or procrastinating.

A day without my First 5 Habits I’d Like To Eliminate sounds like a pretty damn good day.  Maybe I’ll try it.  So glad for @postaday for getting me writing, blogging, and doing what I love.  Here’s a link to the challenge if you want to give it a try for yourself!


A Hidden Treasure in Southern Italy

If you’re ever on your way from Rome to the Amalfi coast, don’t miss a detour to Old Capua. Research and reading about ancient Rome as I prepared for my first trip to Italy I fell in love with Julius Caesar and Cicero and, in general, with ancient Rome. Many of the books written about that time mentioned Capua in one context or another, as it was home to gladiatorial combats and a famous gladiator school, and it was from this area that Spartacus came, back in 73 BC. The gate by which the Via Appia leaves Rome is even known as Porta Capena, as it leads to Capua.

When we told the Italian driver taking us from the Amalfi Coast to Rome that we wanted to detour to Capua, he thought we were crazy. “All my 17 years of driving people no one has ever asked me to take them to Capua,” he said. “Capua? Are you sure?” Assured that we did indeed want to pass by his suggested itinerary and go to Capua instead, he drove us up to the Santa Maria Capua Vetere amphitheatre, and it was one of the highlights of our trip. Santa Maria Capua Vetere amphiteatre

It cost a whole 2 euros to get in, and the old Italians in the ticket office were dismayed that there were two more of us visiting that day — they’d already sold tickets to at least 10 people, and couldn’t believe the crowd! While we were there we saw only two other visitors, and we were free to wander throughout the grounds to come and go as we wished. Which was great, but depressing as we thought about how this treasure was open to the elements and the whims of the visitors and lay unprotected. But the freedom to explore not only the upper seating levels but also to go underground in the passages where the gladiators waited their turn was fascinating and a never-to-be-forgotten experience.

I stood by myself underneath the amphitheater stage and imagined what it must have been like. As I closed my eyes to soak up the feeling birds started flying about and making mournful songs, as if the souls of the long-dead gladiators were speaking.

After exploring the subterranean passages and wandering the grounds, we visited the on-site Gladiator Museum, which had no English signs and was pretty hokey, but worth a quick visit. After wandering the grounds we returned to the ticket office and asked about the Mithraeum, which I thought was on the grounds, perhaps under the amphitheater. Our driver asked the man at the ticket office about it, and after an exchange in Italian none of which I could understand, the man closed the ticket office and headed to his car. We followed in our car, not sure what was going on. After a short drive into the town, the man parked the car near what seemed to be some old apartment buildings, opened a door in the wall and motioned for us to go inside.

We entered a small cave-like room with stairs. My husband and I started walking down, not sure where we were going or what we would see. After going down to the bottom level and turning the corner we saw a beautiful albeit faded fresco with faded but beautiful blue and red stars along the stuccoed side walls and a fresco in the center. The beautiful sanctuary dedicated to Mithras was discovered in 1922, and is believed to date from the 2nd century BC. It was small and there wasn’t much to see, but just the experience of being by ourselves in this ancient place of worship (it was used by followers of the mystery religion of Mithraism) was an amazing experience, and all for the price of 2 euros.
Mithraeum

It helps if you speak Italian or have someone who can translate for you as the people who work there don’t seem to speak English, and there are no signs in English, but even without that it’s definitely worth an off-the-beaten-path visit.


Sardines, with Passion

I’ve been to Cannery Row in Monterey, California a few time, wandering among the shops and restaurants and breathing in the atmosphere as it must have been years ago when it inspired Steinbeck’s writings. But today, with my parents visiting the area for the first time, I checked TripAdvisor.com to review the “Things to Do” and see what my diverse group of folks might find interesting. Ranked third was Tim Sardine’s Cannery Row tour so, on a whim, I called to see if there was still space available. Tim Sardine’s Cannery Row tour Even though he hadn’t been planning on giving the scheduled 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. tour today, when he heard how much we wanted to do the walk he graciously re-arranged his schedule to accommodate us. And I’m so glad he did.

Tim is passionate about Monterey’s history, its waterfront and its people and it’s hard to think that there could be anything about the area — at least its fishing heritage — that he doesn’t know. He met us at The Clement Hotel at noon (which, by the way, has a gorgeous lobby and adjoining outdoor deck with beautiful views of the ocean) and, although we didn’t walk more than a mile from start to finish, dug deep into the history of Cannery Row, illustrated by fake sardines, the real key to a lock associated with the railroad and railroad tracks that brought the San Francisco market closer to the Monterey fisherman, goggles worn by the Japanese abalone fisherman in the early part of the last century, and other artifacts that brought the history to life for us.

He told of the special whistles each cannery blew when the sardines were in, bringing the employees of that cannery running from their beds, down the hill to the cannery prepared to work in up to a foot of water at backbreaking jobs that didn’t stop until the fish were all canned, since there was no refrigeration. He told the story of a man that first changed the cooking method from one using oil to one using steam, and how he ended up canning money in the middle of the night before fleeing to Mexico to escape the IRS. And the story of the Japanese man who noticed no one was diving for the masses of abalone that carpeted the ocean bottom, bringing Japanese divers that were shocked by the chill of water 15 degrees cooler than they had expected and forced to pull apart wool sweaters to create layers of underwear to add to their traditional diving attire. At first they sent the abalone back to Japan, where there was a big market for it. Once that was banned, however, a German chief by the name of “Pop” Ernest Doelter aka The Abalone King experimented until he invented a recipe for the abalone that turned the dish from one resembling a rubber boot to one that inspired poetry, including the verse:

“Oh, some folks boast of quail and toast
Because they think it’s tony;
But I’m content to owe my rent
And live on abalone.”

After 2-1/2 hours Tim still had a half-hour of material left to share, but we needed to get on the road to our next adventure. He left us with some souvenirs of our day to remember him by, memories of a perfect afternoon in Monterey, and a College-level course level of information on Monterey fishing.

Even if you have no interest in sardines or fishing or history, just being around someone with such knowledge and passion for his subject makes the afternoon worthwhile. One of my favorite ways to enrich my life is to spend time with people who are authentic, who love what they do, and who love to share it with others. No one exemplifies that more than Tim in his waterfront tour.

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through Travel … to Istanbul

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It was our last night at the Neorion Hotel Istanbul & we’d been so busy we hadn’t taken advantage of the promised “Happy Hour on the Terrace.” Once we made our way up to the hotel’s 7th floor we realized we’d been missing out on a treat, and it seemed most of the other guests hadn’t made our mistake, and there were no empty chairs.  Nonetheless, there was plenty of room along the railing and, while the wine was nothing special (though who can complain too much when it’s free?), the view of the sun setting over the minarets was an unexpected pleasure.

Istanbul was like that for me, full of unexpected “Turkish Delights.”  To paraphrase a quote from a website that summed it up nicely for me, you know that feeling you have when you arrive somewhere for the first time but it feels like you’ve already been there?  That doesn’t happen in Istanbul.  It is like no place I’ve ever been.

The first pleasant surprise was the Neorion Hotel itself.  After a wild ride racing up and down a jumble of cobbled streets barely wide enough for one car in a taxi that, as proved typical in Istanbul, had no seatbelts, we parked on the sidewalk in front of the glass doors to a hotel taking up only a narrow space along the vertical wall of buildings here in the heart of the Old City.  I’d reserved the hotel based solely on its Tripadvisor reviews.  Although Tripadvisor has rarely done me wrong, the fact that the Neorion wasn’t mentioned in any of my guidebooks meant I felt some trepidation.  Had I made the right decision when I booked here rather than at a better-known hotel?  My anxiety was immediately eased when we walked through the glass doors into a well-lit, modern lobby and the welcoming arms of Merve Bozarstan, the hotel’s Guest Relations manager.  After handing my passport to the gentleman behind the walnut desk so he could check us in, Merve lead us up a few steps into a sitting area of dark red cushioned seats and small tables, where the hotel serves tea free to guests every afternoon.  “Welcome,” she said warmly, “please select a welcome drink and then I will speak to you of dinner options and tell you about my city.”

We choose Raki, and soon we each had a flat, cylindrical glass of anise-flavoured Raki, mixed with water so that it appeared in cloudy, milky white swirls, accompanied by a glass of water.  To me it tasted like Everclear; it reminded Austin of absinthe.  It was the only Raki I drank during my trip, but I was glad I’d at least tried it once.

While we sipped our Raki, Merve gave a brief overview of the hotel and its services, as well as offering menus from various restaurants for lunch and dinner options (the hotel only serves breakfast).   Tired, we opted to find something quick nearby, and a 5-minute walk later found a kabob house full of a mix of what looked like Turks as well as tourists.  The tables downstairs were full, but the waiter led us up a narrow staircase to a large, green-walled and cavernous room filled with wooden tables, with paintings of Turkish men on the window glass.

Kabob House in Old City, Istanbul

We were the only diners upstairs, which felt odd at first.  But our waiter soon made us feel right at home.  He asked where we were from.  “America,” we said.  “Afghanstan”? he asked.  No, we laughed, and tried again, but still he couldn’t understand us.  Finally he pulled out pen and paper to ask us to write it down, but his pen was almost out of ink and didn’t write well.  I grabbed my pen for him to use and he misunderstood my gesture, thinking I meant to give the pen to him permanently.  “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you” he repeated as he cupped the pen between his hands and made a little bow in my direction, so grateful for the gift.  He was so happy I couldn’t bear to correct his mistake, and his joy in that small pleasures was his gift to me.  It was an experience that sticks with me now that I’m back home — the gratitude, the friendliness, the welcoming nature of everyone we met.  It didn’t seem fake, or customer-service-oriented.  Although later in the week I’d run across a few salesmen who I felt were friendly in order to entice me into their showrooms and into buying a souvenir or two, almost everyone we met was genuinely kind and welcoming.  Despite the crowds and the cultural differences and the language I couldn’t hope to understand, kindness and warmth proved once again that they have the power to connect us despite our differences, if we’re only willing to open our hearts.

After a delicious (and inexpensive) chicken and meat kabob dinner, my son and I walked the short block back to our hotel and sank into the comfortable beds and, with the help of an Ambien, were soon fast asleep.   Our time in Istanbul was off to a great start