Thursday, October 30, 2008


Our instructor suggested we use positive affirmations. Where better to post mine than here?

Writing comes easily and naturally to me.

I am delighted by how fun and easy this all is!

I am a winning grantwriter.


I've known for quite a while now that when I'm feeling depressed, worried or anxious, the best thing to do is find something positive and move in that direction. Doesn't really matter what - cleaning the house, cooking a meal, chatting with a lonely friend, yoga practice, writing something good - as long as I focus on the positive energy and moving forward, things improve. I feel even better if that energy involves some way of helping others. Nothing lifts me out of my doldrums like connecting with someone in a way that makes the world a better place.

To that end, I attended a grant writing workshop yesterday that turned out to be fantastic. The instructor was organized, knowledgable, personable and friendly. Best of all, she agreed to critique proposals for me at any time!!! Now I have a mentor who can give me feedback on my writing. (It's not like fiction you know.)

Since then, the skies have opened and freelance offers have rained down upon me. I am now writing for not just one, but four nonprofits! I have steady work until at least summer with the potential to develop more if I can fit it into my schedule!! I am so happy - there's nothing better than getting paid to write in a way that helps good causes and helps those in need.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Back to Work Mode

I'm procrastinating writing by flipping through Natalie Angier's book Woman - An Intimate Geography. I remember her as a brilliant and captivating non-fiction writer, and I'm trying to figure out what makes her so good.

Each page sucks me right in to the story, even though the "story" is various explanations of biology. It should be dry, but it's fascinating, even personable. The narrative flow hooks me over and over. I want to be able to do that!

Here's a sample passage, turned to at random. It ends the chapter titled "Labor of Love, the Chemistry of Human Bondage" :
Cort Pedersen has pointed out that we humans can maintain with our mind's eye the neuronal state of attachment, which other animals need their real eyes, noses, and ears to keep alive. We rarely can sever all components of an intimate bond, he says. We have photographs. We have friends who mention the loved one. We walk the same streets and eat in the same restaurants where once we strolled and dined and released cholecystokinin with the loved one. We have Sam playing that song, you must remember this. We have too many senses and systems eager to reenact the past, and we have too much memory. Again and again the pathways of old love are reignited. Our analytical minds feed and protect the circuits of attachment. The human capacity for thought and memory keeps love alive long after the lower brain, the Rattus brain, would have thrown love away. Eternal love is a myth, but we make our myths, and we love them to death (350-351).

I love that last line.

Why I'm Not a Big Fan of Horror

So now I know.

Early this morning, while the energy flows were crackling, I was having nightmares. Horrible, anxiety-producing nightmares about the demon that I most fear. I fear her because she seems innocuous. She seems normal and like she should be a reasonable, likable person. Indeed, in my dreams, I make her nicer, softer, prettier than she is in real life. But still she longs to destroy me. Her desire is my devastation.

When I wake, I am trembling with anxiety and longing to be comforted. I try to calm myself with that soothing self-talk we adults can do so well. But in some ways leaving my troubled dreams behind is no comfort. I am in the real world, and the nightmare still goes on...

Remember Ghostwalk - those Ballet performances we attended on Friday? I should know better than to expose myself to that. It's not so much the performances, or a real fear of the supernatural. I'm haunted more by a sense of energy shifting in a way that is unpredictable, uncontrolled, and possibly dangerous. Last night I was too frightened to walk through the dark hall and check my sleeping children. And I always check them during the night, have since they were babies. Good Lord, woman, where's your Faith?

Faith is the only thing that saves me. But today, I am scared and feeling so alone...

Now I know.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Yoga Focus on Monday

During the past week, I've been noticing my waist.

Specifically, I've become aware that I tend to be slumpy in my sides. Like most of us who spend hours seated and bent towards a computer, I tend to collapse a bit forward.

In almost every asana, beautiful extension appears when I remember to create that open space all along my ribcage and between ribs and pelvis.

Especially in my beloved Trikoasana (Triangle pose), I catch myself crunching into my lower side. Much too droopy. So this week, I'm all about giving myself some length and strength, moment by moment.

Bible Verse for Sunday

"I have much more to say to you,
more than you can now bear.
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes,
he will guide you into all truth. "
John 16: 12-13

I spent some time hanging out in the First Congregational Church this weekend, waiting to see a Halloween performance by the Riverside Ballet Company. We entered a hushed, darkened church, lit by kerosene lamps on the pews and watched ballet-dancing vampires. It was truly one of the creepiest things I've experienced, being that I'm not much for the horror/macabre/underworld scene.

While waiting for the performance to start, I had 30 long minutes to browse the church's literature. They feature the verse above, along with their signature line "God is still speaking," and this explanation:

God didn't stop speaking at the end of the Bible. God has more to say. God is still trying to get my attention, trying to get me to look, to feel, to listen. God speaks through other people, nature, music, art, and the Bible.

I read a great statement this weekend in Steve Lopez's interview with gay priest Geoffrey Farrow about his recent support for California's Proposition 8, "The Bible is not a book. It's a library written over 15 centuries."

The Bible is a library. I like that.

Poem for Saturday

The Well of Grief

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface of the well of grief
turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe
will never know the source from which we
the secret water cold and clear, nor find in the
darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown away by those who wished for
something else

by David Whyte in his collection Close to Home

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Attack of the Killer Spider

The most fascinating thing just happened.

I was sitting here at my desk, trying to write, procrastinating and feeling generally yucky, when I glanced over and noticed motion by my hand.

The sun falling through my window was casting shadows onto my desk. In shadow silhouette, a long-legged spider wickedly attacked a bee. I glanced up at the window, but couldn't locate them. Yet across the surface of my desk the horror-movie scene continued, with the ominous, grappling reach of the spider sending shivers up and down my spine. I swear I heard chord-heavy organ music playing.

I thought frantically. What should I do? Should I run outside and save the bee? But if the spider already injected it with that paralysing poison-juice wouldn't it die anyway? And doesn't the spider deserve to eat as much as the bee deserves to fly?

In fascinated revulsion, I watched, frozen in a few seconds that felt like forever.

Then, just like that, the bee freed itself. It pulled away and flew off.

Sometimes, the world isn't as cruel as it seems. Endings can be happy, even without our intervention.

I feel cheered up.

Not Much Time

Yesterday evening, as my husband and I were relaxing in our living room after putting our daughters to bed, he lifted his head from the worn ivory armchair and looked at me. His blue eyes were tired and serious. “You know I haven’t got much time left,” he proclaimed.

I froze, trying to figure out his meaning. He doesn’t have cancer. He wasn’t clutching his chest, or burning with fever. Perhaps he knows something I don’t, I worried. Perhaps he is intuitively sensing that he is ill and this is his grave way of telling me. Or could he just be sick and tired of me – finally? Is this the end? All of these thoughts spun through my mind like moths fluttering.

He continued, “I have to go to sleep soon.”

Relief flooded me. He wasn’t talking in cosmic terms, making a pronouncement in the huge picture of life; he just wanted to go to bed.

How often I find myself thinking on a large scale when it is simply the next few moments that matter the most.

(written 1-10-08)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Breathe In, Breathe Out...Tied to the Wheel

Machinehead by Bush

Breathe in, breathe out
Breathe in, breathe out
Breathe in, Breathe in, breathe out
Breathe in, breathe out
Breathe in

Tied to a wheel, my fingers got to feel
Bleeding through a tourniquet smile
I spin on a whim, I slide to the right
I felt you like electric light
For our love, for our fear
For our rise against the years, and years, and years

Got a machinehead
It's better than the rest
Green to red, machinehead
Got a machinehead
It's better than the rest
Green to red

I walk from my machine
I walk from my machine

Breathe in, breathe out
Breathe in, breathe out
Breathe in

Deaf, dumb and thirty, starting to deserve this
Leaning on my conscience wall
Blood is like wine, unconscious all the time
If I had it all again I'd change it all

Here’s the song of the day, as chosen by my radio suggesting it as I drive along. I heard this not once, but twice* today. Interesting because my yoga training session this weekend focused on Pranayama, you know, the practice of breath.

Apparently, in classic yoga studies, breath work comes only after a good understanding of both social and personal ethics and physical poses. Yes, first Yamas, Niyamas, and Asanas. Then you get to breathe.

My teacher was dead serious when he informed us that the texts warn against doing advanced breathing without adequate preparation. They list the side effects of breath study as sweating, cold flashes, or, death. That’s right, death. He hit that one hard.

So now I’m a bit afraid to breathe or to teach others how to breathe. Maybe we should just figure that everybody gets to be responsible for their own body’s well being.

Or maybe the yogis were having a bit of a joke and pointing out that apana (exhalation, without breath) could lead to death.

Anyway, I like this song and it reminds me to breathe!

Sorry I can’t give you the video. Embedding was disabled by the band’s request. Here’s the link to get to youtube:

* I also heard DCFC’s I Will Possess Your Heart – which I adore - twice today. It was my day for repeat songs. Hmmm.


How long to sit for meditation?

As I am very restless, here's what I tell myself -

When we meditate, we experience the Now, only this moment, always this moment, the Now.

That one single moment holds everything, Infinity, all of time and space within it.

Therefore, what does it matter how long meditation lasts by external time measures? Even one minute is enough to experience the timeless state of Now.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cleaning and Musing

Contrary to my plan of going to the office to write, I find myself still at home. Writing, just not grants.

I engaged in a bout of stream-of-consciousness cleaning, and now I feel better. That’s my own term. It’s when I wander about the house, cleaning something in every room I go into and letting task open onto task. If I stay at it for a while, eventually the rooms are tidied, I’ve swept, I’ve dusted, I’ve polished mirrors and scrubbed sinks and used wet towels to wipe floors and then started laundry and so on.

I’m grounding myself in the quiet and solitude after such an engaged weekend. I lit candles with a prayer for peace. I listened to Cuts You Up about 15 times. Every now and then, I stop to do an asana or chant a few Om’s. By putting my environment in order, I give myself space to come to relaxation and creativity. I honor the Niyma of Saucha - cleanliness. The automatic movements of cleaning free my brain to wander and imagine.

Whirlwind of Beliefs

It’s Monday morning and I have a headache.

My weekend was even more full and complex than normal. Friday evening, I played Bunco in Rialto. The team is a part of the small-group ministry of the large Evangelical Christian church that all the women but I attend. The dice clatter, we tally points, and I worry about the state of my soul as perceived by my fellow players.

Saturday night found me touring Whaley House in Old Town San Diego. First, we piled into the wooden courtroom to hear stories of resident supernatural happenings. My daughters love that it’s supposed to be haunted and always beg to go there. They are completely unafraid of ghosts and the supernatural.

My friend and her son accompanied us. He’s seen a fair amount of movies that I consider totally inappropriate for even me to see. Consequently, he became so scared that he planted his feet and refused to go upstairs with us.

Even the story about the dog ghost freaked him out. I mean, come on, it’s the ghost of a little black terrier that wants to lick kids’ legs. That’s just sweet.

The docent told us that some visitors feel the presence of a ghost who was hung on the spot as a pressing on their throat and chest. Honestly, I felt that quite strongly as I came down stairs and for about 10 minutes after leaving the house. But I’m going to chalk that up to suggestibility and heightened physical sensitivity from my yoga practice. I mean, if you tell me to feel my back, I feel my back. If you tell me to be aware of my throat, I perceive my throat. I probably just engaged some muscle tension, even julandharabandha, unconsciously.


Yesterday, I visited Indian cultures. I spent all day sitting on my mat on the floor of a dim shala listening to my charismatic teacher explain yoga philosophy. Sanskrit, pre-Hindu beliefs, and chanting challenge Western mindsets.

At lunch, I captivated a man walking his dog in the park when he realized that I was reading Tarot cards on the grass below the breezy trees. If I’d had more time, I would have offered him a reading as he was clearly fascinated. Not that I really know how to read cards. As I told him, I’m just playing. I just wanted a break from the yoga.

Last night, I covered myself with a scarf and went to dinner at my good friend’s house. She’s Muslim, from Bangladesh, and there are complex social interaction codes from both cultures. I get exempted from most of them because of my American status. Still, I can tell her friends are uncomfortable because I’m the only white one, the only one who doesn’t speak Bangla, the only Christian. That T and I have formed such a close friendship is unusual in their tight social group.

My jeans stood out among their gorgeous jeweled saris. Next weekend, we’re attending their Eid Festival. Again, our family will be the only white folks there. I could borrow a sari from T. But it won’t change who I am.

Which is?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Energy Moves

Hey! It’s a great day to be alive.

The sunshine pours through golden leaves, and the air whispers autumn. Halloween is coming, Samhein, Dia de los Muertos – all those fall festivals that mark the change in seasons and the turning of our world towards the time of hibernation and rejuvenation.

My friend’s old Tia told him that winds pick up in October as the Spirits begin to stir about. Now when Santa Anas blow wicked dry across my days, I shiver with that sense of motion.

For our nod to yoga today, let’s bring some of that mysterious autumn activity into our spines. Especially for those of us who sit for hours at our computers, our spines plead to have a range of motion. This Kundalini-style movement will give your vertebrae that little energetic boost they long for.

Come to sit cross-legged on the floor, in an easy, comfortable pose. Position your feet so that your legs and hips feel comfortable and not cramped. If you’re wearing jeans or tight pants, you probably need to unfasten them or even slip them off. (Okay, obviously, that’s if you’re alone, working in privacy. If you’re in the office, sitting on the floor in your underwear might not be the politically savvy move towards advancement!)

If you prefer, you can stay seated in your chair. Just scoot forward to the edge and plant your feet firmly on the ground directly below your knees, making a nice 90 degree angle.

Ground down through your sitting bones and feel your connection to the solid earth below you.

Place your hands comfortably on your knees and begin to rotate around. Make a big, easy circle with your heart, first left, then forward, then right, then back. The base of your spine makes a tiny circle, your tummy draws a middle-sized one, and your heart dances through a larger circle above it.

Think of your spine like a long-handled wooden spoon, and you are stirring a big, black cauldron full of something delicious and healing.

As you sweep forward, inhale. As you sweep back, exhale. Do that as long as you like. Then switch directions and go the other way.

While you stir, you’ll feel your spine slowly come to life and fluids and energy begin to pulse and crackle along this path.

Awake and filled with breath, return to your work.

There – life floods your body! It’s a wonderful autumn day. May you be blessed.

Flashback to the Eighties

From time to time, I just have to post music that I like. I know it's not particularly literary or yoga-based, but, hey, I like it.

I heard this song on the radio yesterday. (E, do you remember this one??)Now I know the words:

Cuts You Up - Peter Murphy

I find you in the morning... after dreams of distant signs
You pour yourself over me like the sun through the blinds
You lift me up and get me out
Keep me walking but never shout
"Hold the secret close", I hear you say

You know the way it twists and turns
Changing colour, spinning yarns
You know the way it leaves you dry
It cuts you up, it takes you high
You know the way it's painted gold
Is it honey? Is it cold?
You know the way it throws about.

Yeah on and on it goes, calling like a distant wind
Through the zero hour we'll walk...we’ll cut the thick and break the thin
No sound to break, no moment clear
When all the doubts are crystal clear
Crashing hard into the secret wind

You know the way it throws about.
It takes you in and spits you out
It spits you out when you desire
To conquer it, to feel you're higher
To follow it you must be clean,
With mistakes that you do mean
Move the heart, switch the pace
Look for what seems out of place

It spits you out when you desire
To conquer it, to feel you're higher
To follow it you must be clean,
With mistakes that you do mean
Move the heart, switch the pace
Look for what seems out of place

And now I find the special kind
You, yourself, like sun through blinds
You lift me up and get me out
Keep me walking but never shout
It's okay... it goes this way
The line is thin, it twists away
Cuts you up, It throws about
Keep you walking, but never shout.

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Brother, the Mountain Biker

As it's come to my attention that my brother is now reading this blog, I will keep my promise to him. He was quite excited about his last vacation, centered as always on hurling his body around at great speeds while clinging to the alloy and vinyl bits of a bike frame.

So excited that he got himself taped and did the youtube thing. Check out the clip below and ask yourself, "Is this the way I would choose to spend my one week of freedom per year?"

At least with yoga, your body stays in contact with the ground!

Coming Attractions

Oh goodness. It is so difficult to find the time to write even a fraction of what I want to. Plus there's that whole annoying (no, really it's wonderful!) job of writing grants. So whenever I write here, technically I'm using precious "free" time that should be used to work for money. Sigh.

Still though, here are some things I desperately want to write about and plan to get back to in the near future:
1. Short short fiction and Lydia Davis's excellent story collection A Variety of Disturbances
2. Elizabeth Gilbert's Pilgrims and her advice for writing
3. The importance of setting to help establish and ground characters in fiction. A good balance between dialogue, description and setting works best.
4. Demons - positive or negative? Plus explain Buddhist Demon Meditation technique (I'm not making that up, I swear!)
5. The 8 limbs of Yoga
6. An exploration of Yamas and Niyamas
7. Spam and Sincerity in writing
8. Continue posting directions for poses (good practice for teaching, like lesson planning)
9. Samantha Dunn and an excerpt from her wonderful novel Big Love
10. Ghosts and my own daughters' photo of a San Diego ghost

Alright, this can tease your interest, and now I can just refer to this list and stop carrying it around in my memory!

Welcome and Be Well

Hey! Thanks for reading. Your participation makes this blog possible!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Try Tadasana Today!

I paused a moment while writing that last post. A good chunk of my readers are into yoga - that's why they're reading this blog. So when I throw out pose names, they can follow right along. But at least half of you aren't so experienced. So, this is for you.

What follows is the type of direction I'm learning to give in my teacher training. If you haven't done yoga - or you just haven't done it today - I'm asking that you give these instructions a quick try. Yes, I'm talking to you, M, and you too, E. And you too, you know I am.

Read through once or twice, then stand up by your chair and do this asana. It will only take two minutes, and I guarantee you'll feel better.

First, take just a moment to get calm and focused. Let your breath deepen and feel how it fills your body. Imagine that the gentle hum of your computer is the trickle of water. In the background, the low murmur of music hangs in the air. You catch a whiff of spicy incense.

Now come to standing. Take off your shoes. Feel the ground beneath your bare feet. Wiggle your toes just a bit and balance yourself into your body. Another deep breath.

If you can, bring the inner edges of your feet together, big toes touching. If you can't, bring your feet close and parallel.

Root your heels into the ground and feel your leg bones lengthen up the backs of your legs.

Root the balls of your feet and the pads of your big toes and stretch your other toes out to the sides of the room, adding space across the bottom of your feet.

Feel your body begin to stretch and lengthen. Elongate through the fronts of your legs, feeling your knees lengthen, your quadriceps strong.

Roll your inner thighs towards each other and under your body toward the back of the room. Now your stomach softens and lengthens, pulling up strongly with a feeling of space and lifting your chest and heart.

Your tailbone floats gently under, curling beneath you, buttocks relaxed, as your heart, chest and ribs open with each breath.

Your neck stretches up, lifting your head. Your arms hang down from your shoulders, near your legs, but not touching, with energy flowing down your straight fingers into the ground below.

Let your shoulders relax up and back, away from your neck. Spread your relaxed collarbones, lifting them up and over your upper ribs. Feel your ribcage lift and expand like a balloon.

The crown of your head lifts taller and taller as you breathe and grow upward from your rooted feet. Enjoy the breath and the sensation of space throughout your skeletal structure.

Ta-da. You're a Mountain! Tadasana!

Good job - don't you feel better?

Sometimes Props are Called For

After publishing my little diatribe yesterday, where I insisted that props are not for me, I attended two yoga classes - and both used props.

And used them well.

In the first class, we did half-moon pose with and without a block for stability. I like the pose both ways, but, honestly, I prefer it with the block. My flow of energy from head to extended foot is better when I am parallel to the ground.

A gifted Iyengar teacher runs the second class. We spent 10 minutes fussing around with attaching straps to each upper thigh. Then we spent at least 40 minutes using those straps as handles to pull our thighs and femurs around toward each other to align in Tadasana. By standing on a third strap and pulling against it with our hands, we also focused on moving the shoulder blades well down the back while lifting the chest and abdomen.

Lovely alignment. Strenuous working. Over and over and over.

I feel the results today.

One thing I really appreciate about the Iyengar-style is the attention to detail. It's like the Japanese Haiku form of yoga. You may not do many poses, but you pay attention to the alignment of each muscle and bone in the few you do during class.

And, yes, the props are essential.

It's good to be flexible in both our bodies - and our opinions.

**The lovely illustration above is actually a greeting card sold by Siamese Dreams. I came across their line of gorgeous yoga inspired cards while searching for graphics. You can find them at their website www. or by calling 1-888-243-6816. This text accompanied the card:

Chandra is the golden moon god also known as Soma. This Soma is the elixir of immortality drunk by the gods. The posture of adha chandrasana (half moon pose) celebrates the waxing and waning of the moon and the cyclic nature of life. In this image of a woman practicing beneath the moon we remember the powerful unconscious forces that the moon energy symbolizes. She gains strength from the moon as she balances upon one leg. Her arms help guide her as she moves sideways. Through the line of both arms she links earth to sky and basks in the warm glow of the full moon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Are We Human?

I was buzzing down the freeway, taking in the crystal clarity of the sky and the sharp golden quality of the sunlight when this song came on the radio. Within two lines, I was crying. And I'm not even pregnant. Go figure.

Music - it speaks to us sometimes.


I am so stubborn. Sometimes this is a good trait. I have reaped rewards during my life simply through my sheerly obstinate ability to hang on to something going against me until it shifts to being my way. Other times, my hard-headedness works against me.

During yoga, I always want to do everything myself, without any props. I’m not sure why. I suppose I feel like there is something more natural about yoga with just my own body. Props feel like taking a shortcut.

There’s no good reason why I would feel this. I certainly have experienced lovely and helpful alterations to poses through the judicious use of props. Bolsters do support my knees and relax my back. That yoga block does let me reach more assuredly in Trikasana without crimping into my ribs. In addition, there are quite a few hands-behind-my-back poses that I can’t do without a strap. At least, not do well.

I don’t look down on anybody else for using props.

Perhaps I am afraid that if I get used to them, they may not be there when I need them. My own body will always be with me.

All I know is that when the teacher tells us, “You can get a bolster to make you more comfortable,” I never go and get one.

I just want to get on with the pose with my own limbs, my mat, and the floor.

Because I’m stubborn.

(Written 1-15-08)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

And If You Are a Writer…

You will arise from your office chair
Leave your computer
And cross the room to the
Dictionary with the fine, thin pages
And the tiny, dark print
To discover the correct past tense
Of “to hew”

Because it matters to you.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Yoga for the Face

A friend was recently complaining about feeling stressed. So stressed in fact that she grinds her teeth at night. Yikes!

This made me wonder. Which yoga poses might be good for relieving facial tension? I thought of Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward dog), Bujangasana (Cobra), and even Tadasana (Mountain) because of the self-awareness it helps activate.

Many of my readers are talented and experienced yogis. Can you think of other asanas that I might recommend to my friend?

A Poem

I came across this poem in a novel that I read recently which was okay but not excellent. This poem however spoke to me instantly. I like Oliver's work. I hope you will as well.

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver

Thursday, October 9, 2008


On my way home, I drive past an old man strolling along the sidewalk. He is carrying a book on this clear, sunny day, reading intently as he walks. Even from my car, I can see that its paperback cover is worn and faded, its pages yellowed. I wonder what is so compelling that he cannot bear to stop reading it. I almost pull over to ask. But I do not want to break his absorption.
That is so sweet, I think. How touching to see such devotion to letters.
Then misgivings creep in. Is it really a good idea to do two things at once? His attention cannot be fully on what he reads, or on his journey. It almost seems that he is trying to trick himself into exercising, trying to do something healthy for his body without being aware of it.
In my rear view mirror, I study him. His walking is stiff and cramped by the need to hold the book. Reading pulls his head down from his neck and misaligns his back. His arms are not free to swing and give him balance and momentum.
Also the pace must be bouncing the words around below his eyes. Reading is difficult when the book is jouncing about.
Perhaps he would enjoy his reading more if he gave it his full attention, letting his body sit quietly in a comfortable chair while his mind devours the words.
Perhaps walking would be better if he were fully present with his body’s motion. Free to see the sunshine on the flowers and the birds flitting and the neighbors who drive by and notice him.
I drive past, uncertain.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Lunch in the Cafe

I sit in the café, eating. Although I am here to write, I am very hungry. The food is undeniably appealing. I attack my warm soft bagel and savor the cold contrast of the rich butter. The chicken tortilla soup has three kinds of beans in it. It is hearty and satisfyingly healthy. Minus the chicken, it would be a great veggie meal.

I am at one of my favorite tables, a small round dark wooden one, like the tables at Parisian sidewalk cafes. From this corner, I see the whole café and out the window.

I eat and watch the view. The roofs of the Victorian homes, the civic buildings, the blue sky above breeze-kissed trees. Cars drive by.

I sit and I eat. Soon I will write. For now, I am simply here.

This is what I am mainly doing today. Simply being wherever I am.

Today I am asking the question, Where? and finding the answer, Here.

At the table facing me, a brown-haired young man in a green T-shirt highlights a textbook. Organic Chemistry. An open notebook, a huge calculator, and a study guide wait before him. He looks vaguely anxious, a bit tired and grizzled. He chomps his trail mix with intensity.

I think that I miss learning. There is such simplicity to being the student. There is structure. You have the book, you have class lectures, you have the syllabus. You know your destination and it is up to you to take the information in and make it your own.

Of course, I am still learning. I am a student always, as we all are. Today has been about gentle, compassionate study.

However, it was nice to have the syllabus.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Catching Up

I was talking about this blog with some friends yesterday when I realized that I was referring to posts that I'd written on my first blog.

So - because I feel a bit guilty about not getting around to posting this weekend and leaving my small but growing readership in the lurch - below you'll find some transplanted posts for your enjoyment.


The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower

Originally posted 9-14-8 on Bliss

In shoulder stand yesterday, I focused on my femurs. As my legs became long wands of golden light, lifting energy to the ceiling, I rotated the femurs inward toward each other. This automatically aligned my pelvis and spine and strengthened my torso. It’s incredible to feel that extra lift and extension, effortless like a growing vine.

Maybe I’m Learning Why the Sea on the Tide

Originally posted 9-19-08 on Bliss

There's a lot to like in Roxy Music's More Than This. Of course, it reminds me of high school, but in a generalized, comforting way. Unlike so many nostalgic songs, it's not tied to any particular moments or associations for me.

Then there's the mellow sound, very flowing and relaxing.

But, best of all, thanks to my helpful friend Google, I now know what the actual words are saying. Instead of just humming general phonemes, I have meaning.

And I like those lyrics very much indeed, although I still only understand them in an organic way, like a poem, rather than in a concrete way. Which is all the better I think.


In Everything Give Thanks

Originally posted at Bliss on 9-14-08

It’s Sunday. I may not make it to church, but I will be worshiping. Below is probably my favorite verse in the entire Bible; it has comforted me greatly times without measure.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

I have to confess. When I was ordering checks recently, I almost ordered checks with this verse blazed across them, even though they were horribly country cute with bluebirds and birdhouses and bees and butterflies – not my style at all. That’s how much this verse means to me.

Then I came to my senses and realized that I am a WRITER. I’m not reliant on some printer – I can write my own message on my checks – anything I want. So I ordered the awesome island beach scenes instead.

I Pull Back the Curtains, Let the Sun Shine Into My Eyes

Embedded below is the video for “This is the Day” by The The – a song that has stuck in my mind since high school. It has that air of bitter hopefulness that appeals to me.

The Los Angeles County Fair - Worth Every Penny (14,500)

Originally posted at Bliss on 9-13-08

We had our usual wonderful time at the LA County Fair this week. It’s an annual tradition with our family to go at least once, often two or three times, during the season, and the evening we picked could not have been nicer. The lack of crowds and cool temperatures made for an enchanting fair experience.

While I’m always shocked to hear people discount or disparage The Fair – and, yes, I mean YOU, co-workers – I can understand how easy it would be to get lost in the hype and schlock. The commercial buildings with their nonstop sales and the carnival midway along with ever exorbitant food prices can be a bit off-putting.

However, I love the fair. LOVE IT. With just a bit of attention, you can still have a lovely, old-fashioned country fair experience. My kids get to practice such traditional skills as spinning or weaving. We’ve made rag dolls, panned for gold, created art projects, played one-room school, and followed the entire production cycle of a glass of milk or a sample of honey. The Fair still presents a rich legacy of traditional American skills and values in a wonderful, dynamic contact zone with modern Southern California life.

Where else can you go from barns full of horses and cows to Mexican Heritage to smiling, tap-dancing children to tattooed drunks stumbling out of a horse race, poorer but not wiser, within just a few steps?

Plus do not overlook the power of the fried food. This year I was appalled and delighted to find fried Reese’s, fried Snickers, fried Twinkies, fried frog legs, and, yes, fried Pop Tarts on offer with the more traditional fare of corn dogs, funnel cakes and donuts.

With my focus on tradition, the Home Arts Building is always a highlight. I feel a sense of awe when I stand before those gleaming, glowing jars of jams and luscious canned fruits. I worship at the cases filled with cookies, cakes, and breads, always wondering why I don’t enter my own baked goods into the running. I marvel at the patience and perseverance of women who still make the time to quilt or embroider or knit.

New to The Fair this year – a children’s playhouse area, small pipe cleaner-like worm toys that some of us will remember from our own youths, and, ta-da, CUPCAKES iced and decorated for you while you watch. YUM!

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Originally posted at Bliss on 9-13-08

I always check out the Tablescaping at the LA County Fair. For this exhibit, people decorate a table for a meal while following a theme. Then the judges tear them apart for putting spoons in the wrong place or for having a flower arrangement that doesn’t match the scope of the settings.

One theme this year was Breakfast At Tiffany’s. One of the tables received a perfect score – 100 points out of 100 points. The judges actually admitted that the placement of the settings was flawless – a first for me. In all my years of attendance, I never remember a perfect score.

It was a breathtakingly lovely table. Tiffany blue cloth with white satin trim showed off an array of sparkling silver and “diamond” jewelry. The dishes gleamed, pink roses added a burst of contrast, and a lace- and flower-bedecked poster of Audrey Hepburn presided coolly over it all.

I’ve always liked Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Despite the shockingly racist portrayal of the landlord and the overwrought reliance on Moon River, it’s a beautiful movie, simultaneously light and heartbreaking. The story of the struggling writer and the struggling woman who find each other but still struggle appeals to me as both a writer and a woman.

The reverence with which Holly embraces Tiffany’s as a symbol of hope and comfort is coded in our cultural iconography to the point that even a non-bling girl like me feels a little thrill at the thought of those priceless baubles.

So if you’re in need of a little reassurance that it will all turn out okay, check out the table at the LA Fair. It was perfect – proof that it can be achieved! Or pay a visit to Tiffany & Co yourself. There’s one in Pasadena. You can grab a delicious cupcake from Dot’s Cupcakes down the street and eat it with class and verve while you eye the goods on display.

Or, do what I’ll do this weekend. Pull out your DVD and hum along with Henry Mancini while you create your own escapist dream.

Movie Trailer

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Downtown Upland, Cupcakes and Blue Cow

After my emotional upheaval today, I found myself in Historic Downtown Upland. I hadn’t planned to go there. But I wanted to pull off the freeway and marshal my forces, and Upland seemed as good a place as any.

When I saw the blocks of small shops and cafes, I remembered that I had been here once before. It’s a lovely little place really. There are antique shops and restaurants, flower boxes and some trees. Oh, and a huge and very impressive Chinese pharmacy with an intimidating array of brown-twig herbs and medicinal powders.

I ducked into The Local Baker and the staff could not have been nicer. Maria and Jesse were prompt, helpful, and, gasp!, sincerely friendly. I enjoyed a level of service that can’t be taken for granted anymore.

I bought two chocolate teddy bear cupcakes for my daughters and another for me. It was so yummy, just melt-in-the mouth sugary heaven that I went back into the shop and picked out a birthday cake for my upcoming party. Chocolate covered with chocolate and topped with pink roses. Jesse even suggested that I sample the vanilla custard filling to be sure I would like it.

As I juggled my boxes on the way back to my car, the display in the windows of Ferro Enterprises – Finest Collectibles Gallery caught my eye. Normally, “collectibles” are not my thing. But on display were adorable six-inch high statues of cows that made me think of the cows roaming about India.

These cows were replicas of Cowparade, the art exhibit first featured on the streets of Chicago in 1999 where various artists were given a life-sized fiberglass cow to embellish. Check out the cowparade website and perhaps you will be as astonished as I am. Apparently this is the largest public art event and has occurred in cities all over the world. It’s even coming to San Diego in 2009! There are over 1000 photos of art-cows online here.

The cow that stopped me was like a canvas for a painting fantasy. Decked out in blended shades of aquas and indigos, it had green vines crawling up its legs and lilac horns. Stars and moons dotted its flanks. It looked simultaneously Universal, Spiritual, and soothing. Plus it was just pretty.

The price was right too; a hand-lettered sign proclaimed that all cows were 50% off.

Unfortunately, the shop was closed. Darn, the luck! Now I’ll just have to go back some other time, because I am quite sure that Blue Cow wants to come home and live with me.

If you’re in the area, drop by Downtown Upland. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Just don’t buy Blue Cow before I do, okay?

(For laughs, check out this cheesy commercial. Actually Upland is much better than this I-wish-we-were-having-a-better-date video would have you believe!)

Procrastination and Perseverance

Today I had one of those errands.

Did you ever have one of those? One of those errands, one of those tasks, one of those appointments that you had to keep but you just really, truly, absolutely, sincerely did not want to?

I’m not talking about the sort of task that awakens normal levels of procrastination, like completing a writing assignment or cleaning the house. I mean the kind of obligation that activates deep and powerful emotions. Fear, dread, anxiety, uncertainty, terror. That kind of stuff.

An obligation like visiting a loved one in the hospital when you know they’re dying but you can’t bear to face the loss. A task like selling the house you grew up in. An errand like making that first appointment with the attorney. (And, no dear readers, these didn’t happen to me. They’re just examples)

On the scale of how much I did not want to face this today, my obligation ranked higher than having a root canal and lower than fleeing my war-torn country for refuge.

It was that kind of task.

But, you know what? I did it. I got through it. Sure, there was a long period of denial this morning while I pointlessly surfed the net. There was crying after. And, in between, there was me being strong. There was positive self- talk, and lots of love and compassion, and an I-can-do-it attitude.

So I did. How about you? Did you ever have one of those?

The Future of Newspapers

Clearly, I'm a regular LA Times reader. Lots of the content for my posts is sparked by my daily habit of cruising through those crinkly pages to find out about our world.

For a while, I've been wanting to post about the changes newspapers are undergoing. That's why something on television struck a chord with me.

I was watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last week. (See Wednesday, Sept. 24th episode here.) As he joked about how the various media approach Sarah Palin, he pretended to forget what newspapers are.


Stewart jibed, “You know, those things that smudge your hands. You know, you wrap old fish in them.” Aah, the bitter satire.

Unfortunately, it’s so true. The sea change that is swamping our country’s papers is sweeping them away. The Los Angeles Times I hold in my hands today is a pale, pared down version of what I read just three months ago.

Round after round of leadership change and staff cuts has reduced the scope, breadth and depth of what comes into my home each day in plain ole black and white. The push is towards the Tribune’s website and growing list of blogs. And that’s great. Maybe a change is inevitable; maybe it’s just what is called for.

Frankly, I’m surprised by the quality writing that the paper is maintaining despite the battering by economic and social forces it’s endured during the last few years.

If this interests you, Columnist Steve Lopez said it best this summer. See if his plea brings a misty tear to your eye.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"Slow-Paced" Yoga

I should have known better.

I tagged along with my parents to their weekly yoga class, and, just because it is composed of a handful of senior citizens, some of them with major physical limitations, I thought it would be easy.

Slow-paced, indeed. Sure, we focused on only three poses. That meant, that in the experienced hands of this unbelievably intense teacher, we had nothing but time to hold and fine-tune each pose. I broke a sweat almost instantly.

See, it doesn’t really matter what everyone else in class is doing. If you’re working at the edge of your pose, at the farthest limit for your muscles, you’re working hard. C. demands that of each student.

It was a completely new experience of Trikonasana (Triangle), Tadasana (Mountain), and Virabhadrasana (Warrior II). By using wall-mounted ropes Iyengar-style, we were able to focus in on the inner thigh muscles. C. taught us the three types of muscle contraction – concentric, eccentric, and isometric. With the ropes holding a bit of weight and providing resistance, it freed up the thighs to experience eccentric contraction. We lengthened and elongated from the ball of the heel up through the inner thighs.

With proper inner thigh rotation, beautiful space opened across the low back, the pelvis aligned, and the tailbone scooped under.

C. was so patient with my many questions. I truly believe that she is one of the most informed teachers around. For sure, she knows her anatomy inside and out! (Ha Ha).

So when she showed me how to open across the chest by drawing my shoulder blades down and feeling my collarbones lift up and over my highest ribs, I paid attention.

I think I’ll go back for more “relaxation” next week.

Thank You, Chris Erskine

This week I got around to something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.

I emailed LA Times columnist Chris Erskine and thanked him for his column. I’ve been reading Erskine’s columns for years, laughing and sighing along with his spot-on observations of modern family life.

I just wanted to tell him that I appreciate his hard work.

And guess what? He emailed me back!! This modern communication stuff is a marvel of instant connection!

Even better – he offered to send me a copy of one of his books, Surviving Suburbia. (Check it out on Amazon here.)

It arrived yesterday. My birthday’s this week so I’m waiting to open it. It’s my first present.
One more time - Thanks, Chris Erskine!