Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010!


“Snow had fallen, snow on snow…”


Dearest Friends,

Our year, like Rossetti’s poem, opened with snow. Lots of it, piled in big, cold drifts in the mountains only 15 minutes from our home. We took the girls there to play, encountering crowds of other families. Our car even got stuck on a slippery place beside the road! Happily, a family we knew showed up in their jeep and rescued us.


Looking back, 2010 was like that. There were many high points, perhaps a bit of peril, and always a friend near to offer support and assistance. Early in the year, we visited the Santa Monica Pier. B enjoyed her first roller coaster ride, screaming her exhilaration across the blue-green waves. Her excitement was even greater when she won first place for third grade in the school science fair and got an honorable mention for her work at the District level. Her experiment: what type of food can cool the burn of spicy salsa? The results: milk and dairy products work best. Science with an everyday application!


J investigated the burning point of marshmallows for fifth grade and was thrilled to win second place. S and I were astonished that they both won (and also relieved to be done testing hot things!) In spring, S finished a myth class for grad school. He and J got to put the research into practice when they played genies in the local production of Aladdin. After months of rehearsals, it was a big deal --a flying-by-wire, life-sized elephant, cast-of-hundreds-scaled production. An off, off-Broadway piece that saw them painted entirely blue for their song-and-dance numbers. Plus S got to pull the elephant.


As the year warmed, our family was challenged to overcome adversity, mainly with a two mile hike to the top of the mountain just behind our home. We turned out with the community and made it to the peak, savoring the wild flowers and the forgotten vistas. We worked in 2010 on straightening out our lives, mostly when both girls got braces! They are thrilled and love their ortho visits, and their teeth are already on the way to teenage perfection.


This year I got rejected as a kidney donor for a friend – oh, the sting!— but I had my work accepted for publication. That makes two short stories in print, and more out for consideration. I lost a steady client of my grant writing business because of economic restructuring, but I became a substitute teacher for the local yoga studio. Balance in adversity, the yin-yang of daily life.


Rossetti’s poem is below, if you’d like to read it. It’s been one of my favorite Christmas poems for a long time. Besides the vivid use of language, I like the contrast she sets up. In the middle of bleakness and cold arrives the light of warmth and hope. Snow had fallen all around, but the snow was just a part of the miracle to come. Our year started with snow; maybe yours did as well. We’ve attached a little snowflake here for you so you know that we are sending along with this letter our love and our hope for your own special miracle.


Merry Christmas 2010!

This Year's Suggested Poem

In The Bleak Midwinter
BY CHRISTINA ROSSETTI

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Concurrence


A winter Solstice - full moon - lunar eclipse tonight. Yowsa!


All during the storm of the decade for us. Even if we can't see it tonight, we'll still know that it's happening.


A lot like faith.


Wishing you moonbeams and mistletoe for a merry Solstice!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Upheaval


Today I threw
Eternity against Remembrance
The ruby red aflame
Against the settled green

Why toss something away
When it can become
Nourishment
Instead?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Don't Change (in excess)

"I'm standing here on the ground
The sky above won't fall down..."

What could be better than that, really?

Why I Shop

I shop because I love the sensations of it. I love to enter a store and feel that rush of scented air, see the piles of goods all around, the colors, the textures, the whirl of signs vying for my attention. I love the sounds – the music, the clitter-clatter of carts and registers and high heels tapping, the murmur of voices, sometimes low, sometimes sharp and loud.

I love to be out among people. To pass them in an aisle. The occasional moment of eye contact, the warm smile or hello. I like to stand before a cashier and fumble out my cash or swipe my card with that one definitive stroke.

I like to look for things, to sort and order among too many choices. I like to feel and weigh the value of an object in my hand, to measure the weave of a fabric, and shake the garment out into its full style. I like to imagine – what my life would be like with each new object in it, how that coffee cup or this candle would or would not fit into my home, into my life. I like to make decisions. Some things I leave behind. Most things I leave behind. Useless clutter adds only weight and mass to a life already pleasantly full. But, sometimes, I find a new treasure, a possession to be prized for its comfort, its vivid hue, its craftsmanship. The passing of goods from one set of human hands to another, even if those anonymous hands are located on the other side of the world and had to send their small bit of art to me through trucks and ships and commerce.

I like commerce. I like being part of the marketplace, as people have always been. I like the hunt, the gathering, filling that ancient urge to group enough goods together to survive, even if survival is no longer on the line when I purchase a faux cashmere cranberry scarf. I like the concentrating of human energy that money and merchandise represent, that basic, tangible, physical exchange between essentially spiritual beings.

And I like to give things to others. So, for me, Christmas is the perfect holiday. I love the shopping.

Coming next: Why I Love Gifts and Giving

Monday, December 6, 2010

Life is Happening!


I feel a bit guilty about not posting here more regularly. I think of this blog often, but as it is basically a hobby and a luxury, I don't always put it near the top of my priority list.


My many friends out there will be glad to hear that I don't write here as often as I like because I am so occupied in writing elsewhere. My freelance business has taken off, and I couldn't be more pleased. It was a bit of rough going earlier this year - I lost a long term client, very regretfully on both sides, due to their budget cuts. But then more steady clients came along, and lately I have just about as much work as I can possibly handle!


My goals as a full -time writer have always been two-fold: 1) I wanted to make a place for myself in the world where I was using my skills, talents, and aptitudes to help others. 2) I wanted to replace the income I used to earn as a teacher.


The way things are going, I think I'll hit both goals in 2011. Fingers crossed!!


Additionally, I am in the thick of a fiction project that I haven't wanted to say much about. Let's just say that I am very pleased and that my writing mentor is being incredibly encouraging! So... maybe one day sooner rather than later, you'll be finding my name out there on Amazon!


Also, I've continued to yoga it up. I teach semi-regularly now, subbing in for a range of teacher/friends. My practice continues to be a long term joy.


So, for all these reasons, please forgive my sporadic silences. I do think of you and send warm wishes your way daily!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Awakening



Through golden
Pomegranate leaves

A single crow
Flies near
Morning's slivered
Moon

It's Autumn
Everything Is

On the cusp
Of Change

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Heart You


Read an article today about heart health. Seems there are seven basic "rules" that when followed keep your heart healthier, longer. Your risk of near-term death will be cut by more than half.

You can read the whole article here.

"Life's Simple Seven" are:
1. At least 150 minutes of exercise per week
2. BMI of less than 25
3. Nonsmoker for at least one year
4. Meeting four out of five expectations of a healthy diet
5. Total cholesterol below 200.
6. Blood pressure below 120/80.
7. Fasting blood sugar below 100.

Shockingly, in a nationwide study of 17,820 adults, only two, TWO!, met all seven healthy rules.

Myself, I only meet five of them. Gotta work on those other two.

How's the health of your heart today??

Monday, November 8, 2010

Being

There. Now I've written a poem. No matter what else does or does not happen today, this will exist. And it will matter.


Today I feel dreamy
And slow the drift of clouds
Outside the window like
The drift of time across my
Heart or like the sudden burst
Of joy that comes upon you in
A rush when all the spinning
Stops

Life Has a Heavy Inertia.

Life's confusing, huh? At least, mine is. Maybe yours is simple and straightforward. I sort of hope it is actually. Even though I'll obviously feel more left out - a bit of a freak - if everyone else's lives are rolling along brilliantly while mine seems to be sputtering and starting, lunging forward, slipping back, and looping upon itself in spirals.

Still, though, I honestly do hope that your life is exactly what you always wished it would be. What you've longed for in your deepest being, from the time you began to be. There are so many things I would want for you to experience. Things I would wish for you to be protected from. Satisfactions galore for you. And abundance in all things. And love.

True love. Varied love. Sweet love. Love that is always wrapped around you like the fuzziest warm blanket on a cold grey morn. Just for being who you are, that is what I wish for you today.

And so I sit to write these words that I didn't even know were within me, but which now move from me out into the world and into you. I love you, and I wish you well. Today, tomorrow, and always.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

While the rain falls, my thoughts are here and there. Breakfast with friends is nice but anxious at the same time. I watch and I listen, and I wonder how and why we all got to be so filled with anxiety and stress. It seems that no matter the state of my friends' lives, still they are always rushed, always worried, always fearful of falling behind.

I try to feel along with them; I try to bank my own feelings. I am aware of the similarities in our lives, the places where I build our friendships. And I am aware of the gap. That large, almost infinite space, that dwells within me. The place I came from and will go back to. That timeless spaceless passage. The realm of possibility.

It is always there, within my reach. Despite fears, despite joys, despite regrets or comforts. They are all shades of the same, and only that deeper reality is enduring.

If you know what I mean

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dilemma

I realize that I have all but given up on fiction. Oh, in my heart, I still love it, and I still want to write it.

I just don't know if there is any point to doing so.

These days I find myself focused on earning income, and economic and social survival, and keeping up with increasing household tasks. And, sadly, writing for fun gets pushed to the bottom of my list.

I am so busy with busyness, and so busy with "working". I spend every minute trying to either tackle my to-do list or create products that sell for my clients. Secretly, I'm convinced that there's no career future to be made in the sort of fiction that comes naturally to me. I love it. Maybe two hundred others out there would too.

Is that enough?

Part of me says that it is. Part of me is still pushing myself to write. To get up earlier. To stay up later. To blow off the chores and even the clients. But the guilt either way is incredible.

I read a story once, "Mockingbird", where the lead character was a painter facing death. He said something like, Having a little talent is a terrible thing.

I know just what he means. Put in the effort and time to grow the talent? Or let it lie fallow and dormant while pursuing necessary life?

Sometime today I have to decide if this spark within me should stay banked or if I should sign up for another round of mentoring, which I know from experience means I will produce new pieces. Hmm.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Autumn Moment


And the light pours golden through the leaves. Always, the light pours golden...


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Amazing...

weather lately. We've moved from the hottest day on record last week, topping the thermometer around 115 degrees, to gorgeous, drizzly rain and clouds.

My mood improves with each hour that passes and each drop of water that falls.

I hope you enjoy this view as much as I do.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Meh

I had my birthday this weekend.

I don't know quite what to say about it. It was wonderful, and it was hideous. One good part was getting older. I find I don't mind that at all and in fact I'm rather proud of it. It's like a small achievement, a victory against the chaos of life. Plus I like my new age - 42. Rolls right off the tongue.

The hideous part was my social and general anxiety.

I struggle to trust that other people will truly care about me and take care of my needs. It's because I've had some bad experiences with birthdays in the past and feeling totally neglected. Nothing like top-of-the-scale trauma, but just feeling overlooked. Which actually makes me feel guilty because I tend to sort of mope around being hyper-sensitive and critical and feeling bad for being so shallow that I can't just relax and be flush with gratitude and warmth and cheer. So I beat myself up all day long while struggling to put on a good face.

That's enough of a dynamic to send anyone reeling away. But to top it off, this year I triggered my Anxiety Disorder this week, so I'm also dealing with the after effects of that. I had to fill out a lot of legal documents last Monday, and the stress of it, combined with the pressure of work, took me right back to that place of free-floating anxiety and hapless adrenaline spikes.

I've worked with myself a long time now to get past that. Once your body conditions itself to being in an anxious state, it really sort of wants to go there during stress. The heightened awareness, trouble sleeping, and fight-or-flight panic responses are really only useful if you are in physical danger. Then they're lovely. Otherwise, they just interfere with the ability to concentrate, relax, interact with others, and cope with psychological stressors.

I even found myself having flashbacks to various assaults, something that hasn't happened for a long time now. And, of course, the nightmares. Ah, fun.

But... And it is a major but... being consciously aware of this is extremely helpful. Having a spiritual practice is extremely helpful. Having amazing friends is wondrously helpful. So there were many wonderful parts of my weekend as well, including -

I came home from yoga practice to find my daughters finishing off a cake and homemade cards for me - two days early so they could surprise me. The whole house smelled of vanilla and chocolate.

My friends insisted on having a dinner, and one of them spent the entire day cooking roast pork and other French treats. We also had a wide variety of wines, and, of course, champagne with the cake. Otherwise it's not a celebration!

My family and I took a 2 mile hike through a beautiful mountain trail and got followed by a building storm and nonstop thunder. The rain hit just as we made it back to the car, and after, there was a double rainbow.

My parents insisted on spending the whole day with me, and took us all out to dinner in a fancy restaurant of my choice. There was even more wine! :) Even if they bug me, they are really sweet and they do love me.

Shawn worked hard to buy me gifts - even wrapped them!- and he didn't fight with me despite my wildly varying moods. That's a huge relief right there, as our fights don't do any good and tend to just devestate me so that I can't work well.

Plus, now the whole thing's over for an entire year.

I almost got away. I had made plans for us to go to San Diego, but I cancelled them when friends and family so clearly wanted to spend the time with me. All day I was thinking of how I could have been miles away, cruising on the sun-gilded harbor, literally in a different world. I erred on the side of staying connected, but I should have just gotten the hell out of Dodge. My instinct to flee was a good one.

If you're around next year, do me a favor and just point that out. That's one reason why I'm putting it down here in black and white, in the hope that I'll remember.

There are parts of having a birthday that I hate and that I would be wise to get as far away from it all as I can!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Love Writing

"4. View Yourself as a Writer—Just before starting the work each day, remind yourself that you’re a writer. And if you need proof, you just have to notice where you are. You’re sitting at a computer, working on a piece of writing. Who else does that but writers? Remind yourself that you belong to that very special club, then move on and focus on the work."

I borrowed this from a list of encouraging tips that Mike Foley (writers-review.com) sent out at the start of the year.

It made me laugh aloud. Who else, indeed, does THAT but writers?

I have finally gotten to the point where when people ask what I do, I simply say, "I'm a writer." It feels good.

Best of luck in all your writings!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Embracing Beauty

Her legs were long and brown, glowing with sun and health. They rose up from sky-high strap-sandals and disappeared into tiny denim shorts. I caught the expression on my friend’s face and followed her wistful stare to where it rested on the young woman’s legs.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I hate her.” My friend gave a dispirited sigh. “She has perfect legs, and I never will.” And just like that, jealousy and insecurity took seats at our amiable dinner.

I protested and not just from a sense of friendly obligation. In my view, my friend is unbelievably gorgeous. She has eyes that change from grey to green and a luminous, ethereal quality that gives her the air of an enchanted being. She is petite but curvy and when she smiles, she resembles an exquisite work of art, some Renaissance painting or finely carved marble goddess. To top it off, she is French and speaks with a divine, lilting accent. Men adore her.

I was appalled to realize the depth of her dismay. It is true – my friend’s legs are neither as lean nor as long as the gorgeous party girl next to us. But so what? She is who she is, and she is stunning.

I reflected on this today as I left my yoga class. During instruction, I can’t help but notice bodies of all abilities and appearances around me. I have every reason to feel jealous and insecure about my own appearance. I’m an easy 60 pounds overweight, out of shape, out of practice and less flexible and strong than I used to be. I seem to be getting older by the day. Men don’t stare after me on the street – but then they never did, at least not to my knowledge.

Again, so what? I am who I am. During class, I practice acceptance. I practice joy. I notice that every Body in the class has something it does well and something that challenges it. I tease my ego. What if I am the “worst” in the whole room? I ask it. Then what?

But I know I’m not. Because when it comes to bodies – and being— there is no better and no worse. There is only infinite variation. There is only this moment and this physical form. Each of us occupies what we inhabit.

We are not in competition with each other to be the most beautiful. There is no competition. And there can be no most beautiful. My friend does not need to feel that the romantic emptiness in her life is due to the shortness of her legs. When love is meant for her, it will come.

Actually, it is already hers. Because on this world, we are all only physical manifestations of one amazing unified source. At the core of us, we are all one. And our time spent as this particular body is so brief against the span of infinite time as to be almost momentary.

Those gorgeous legs. Celebrate that she has them. Because she is only using them for this time, for the sake of all of us, as I am only using this form, and my friend is only using her smile and her elfin eyes. It all belongs to all of us. And that is certainly no reason to feel insecure.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Oh My Soul, You Come and You Go...

The cafe where I often work is on a roll today with the music selections. It's nice to groove and write. My excellent new friend is here with me as well, silently studying from her laptop. What a gift to have a friend who's companionship can include space to work. I am blessed by love.

This song, playing now, is still one of my most beloved:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Butterfly Words


I want to write something happy today, something light and reassuring. For the trouble of stopping by my blog, I want my words to inspire you, to lift you up.

I want you to have the feeling that I so often get when I read my favorite blogs, the feeling that through it all, around it all, within and out the spiraling that is life, everything is okay. Always.

That life is made of warmth and light and that everything outside of that love is shades of illusions we add to make it all interesting.

I wish this blog more accurately reflected me. The real me, the reality of me. Here, in these posts, are mere snapshots of my impressions and my life. But so often the words skim across the surface only.

Choosing one emotion to write about leaves the others unsaid. For every emotion I've ever depicted here, there were always others, resting within me like butterflies pulsing on the leaves of the eucalyptus tree, slowly fanning their orange-black wings and awaiting their own turn to soar.

Life hurts - and it makes me smile. The pain of loss is never far from me. Yet I live most days filled with joy. I'm glad for every bit of my past at the same time that I am often anxious about my future.

Mostly, I just wish us all well, and hope we can find some joy today.
And here are some thoughts from our new Poet Laureate:

One of the Butterflies
by W. S. Merwin

The trouble with pleasure is the timing
it can overtake me without warning
and be gone before I know it is here
it can stand facing me unrecognized
while I am remembering somewhere else
in another age or someone not seen
for years and never to be seen again
in this world and it seems that I cherish
only now a joy I was not aware of
when it was here although it remains
out of reach and will not be caught or named
or called back and if I could make it stay
as I want to it would turn to pain.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On the Day of the Funeral of My Friend's Three Year Old Son

Today I saw a June Bug buzzing in the intersection before me. Stopped at the red light, I had time to observe the awkward heaviness of his flight through my dusty windshield. His black wings fluttered desperately and his shiny green body struggled against the air, like a balloon that has lost too much of its helium to stay afloat. I worried that a passing car would smash against him, carry him away against its relentless steel. After a burst of effort, he folded his wings and collapsed to the asphalt. Was he ill? I wondered. Was he injured?

For seconds that seemed like eternity, he crawled amidst the black gravel of the street. I held my breath and watched. With each moment, I was sure a passing car would crush him before my horrified eyes. Crazy thoughts raced through my mind. I wanted to leap from my car and cup him in my hands, carry him away to a green haven of safety. But that was foolish. He was only a bug; I couldn’t put myself into the intersection without danger to me and other drivers. Still I sat frozen and watching, feeling a connection with that small spark of life that pulsed within his hard-shelled frame. I couldn’t bear to watch his end.

When a few seconds later, he pushed out his wings and lifted off into the air, I let my breath out in a whoosh of relief. He flew away into the distance as my light turned green. And I, I felt that perhaps there was some hope and lightness to be found in life after all.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I Am Better At...


Browsing in wonderful, eclectic bookstores than writing my own books,

Stacking books beside my bed than reading them all,

And eating cupcakes with a foamy latte than working in any given hour.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Voice


I've been getting back into a poetry mood lately, getting back into a fiction writing mood. It terrifies me if I'm quite honest.

Here's a quick go that just poured out this morning.

Inspired

Truth lifts us Up
Settles us Down
Snug and safe
Carves a Home of Real
Into the Void
The Space
Between
Shots of light and dark
Momentary illuminations
Brief flickers
heart to soul
Of All that we Can

Just Be

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fabulous, Extraordinary News!!

My friend just let me know that she will be getting a beautiful, new kidney after all. Apparently, she just found out that she was the last one chosen in a long line of live kidney donations stretching from New York to San Diego. Someone who has a loved one who needs a kidney but doesn't have a matching donor gives to another needy pairing who passes one to the next pair, and so on. It's a new way of matching up donors.

My friend will get her kidney on Wednesday, only two months after we would have had our surgeries. I am SO HAPPY for her!!!!

(Sometimes it is really hard to have Faith in the twists of Life, but so often it comes out for the best in the end!)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On "Bowing not knowing to what"

I am continually surprised by the unexpected nature of life. Just when we think that we have grabbed a firm hold on the reins and are driving the team and wagon of our days along the dusty track we prefer - Bam!- the journey changes. A wheel falls off, a fallen tree blocks the road, the team bolts with a mind of its own, or we simply decide to pull the wagon onto a grassy patch and rest for a while. In any case, our travels through life have a way of going in any direction but the one that we expect them to.

I came across part of this poem quoted in a TV show review this morning. Instantly I knew it was perfect for my mood of the day. Not focused on death and ends, but just bemused by the constant "not knowing to what" and yet carrying on by believing in something that marks our days here... for now.

“On the Anniversary of My Death”
W. S. Merwin

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveller
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what


Thank you for visiting my blog after my long absence. I wish you all the best of friendship and love as we all muddle through the unexpectedness of life together.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ahh... Vacation Ends...

Hello all. I'm back after a lovely break.

All is well, and I've deeply enjoyed taking some time to pursue more work for more clients, teaching my first "real" yoga classes, and spending oodles of fun times with my family.

Hope you've all been exceedingly well, and I look forward to catching up on your lives and writings.

Namaste

Monday, May 17, 2010

His Answer is... No

I won't be donating a kidney in June after all.

I finally got to meet with the Transplant Surgeon. He didn't like my weight and the look of my torso. Said he was worried about the surgical process. So he said, No.

Just like that.

No.

I met all the criteria, took all the tests, exceeded all the requirements and still No.

He said they should have sent me to him first. This is very helpful to find out after an entire year of working toward this goal.

All along, I've said to myself that if that I wouldn't force this process. If it was meant to be, the path would open up in front of me. So far, that has been the case - all green lights to go to the next stage.

I don't feel like trying to force myself past this obstacle.

I was shaken as I left the office, crying as I called my friend to tell her. I went to see my Transplant Coordinator but she was with another patient so I left a message with the receptionist. Five days later, I'm still waiting for her call. I certainly don't feel cared for, and I don't feel like my recipient was either. I feel like they let me slip through their fingers by not having clear internal communication about their requirements.

Too bad.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Just Look at the Pendulum and Relax Your Thoughts...

Just paid a visit to my hypnotist. (What?- You don't have a hypnotist?! She's also my yoga teacher.) I'm feeling much calmer now. She's working with me to prepare for the surgery and for all good results during and after. I have no doubt that our work can reduce my amount of pain, the anesthesia needed, and the post-op medications.

I was able to go through all my frustrations with her and now I'm feeling much more confident in my decision. I am healthy and a good donor. So I'll lose weight. Let's just get the decision behind me, the surgery behind me, and move on to the future!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Good God, Just Cut Me Open Already But Stop Torturing Me

You wouldn't think it would be so hard to give away an organ. My kidney donation has been proceeding with tests, tests, and more tests. At each test, there is essentially the same result. Some medical authority, in some office, flipping through blurred-ink papers and then looking up at me to say, Hmmm. This result looks good. You're healthy.

The variation on that is, Hmm. This result looks okay. It's almost not okay, but it's actually fine at this point. You might get really sick in the future.

Followed by the grudging admission that as of today at least, I am actually quite healthy.

Then said medical professional points out my weight and my need to lose weight. Yes, I get it. I need to lose weight. That would be even MORE optimally healthy. Yes, if I don't lose weight, I just MIGHT get ... fill in the blank here... hypertension, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, arthritis, etc. - BUT I do not CURRENTLY have any of those conditions.

So lose weight.

I'm like, Okay, so I'm healthy, so can I just give this kidney to my friend now and move on with my life? Because all of these tests, appointments, and emotional ups and downs are quite distracting from... work, writing, parenting, housekeeping, marriage building, vacationing, etc.

I met with the Nephrologist yesterday to undergo intensive scrutiny. Big surprise, she loved me. And I really liked her. She's from Romania and she taught me to say "Que Fache? - How are you?" (which is more like Portuguese than the French I was expecting.) All of these people are cool on a people-level. She poked me and prodded me and asked lots of questions and looked through sheaves of test results and did complex calculations on a cool medical app on her iPhone and ultimately said... Yep, there are absolutely no counterindications to donating.

She also made sure to tell me at least ten times that I am obese. Yes, my BMI is 34.8, actually down now to below the 35 cutoff. Yes, I get it. I am losing weight. It is a slow process. I already gave up wheat - what more do you people want from me?

So I'm saying - For God's sake, just take the damn kidney and let me heal and move on with my life.

OR just tell me NO. Thanks, but no thanks. Nice of you to try.

And don't make me go to any more appointments!

Incendiary - A Poem

(I Feel) Incendiary
Like he is a
Pile of golden straw,
Dry blowing chaff,
Scratchy kindling
Heaped up and looking
At me through dry, red-rimmed eyes
Asking, "Is that a match in your hand?"
When I have absolutely no idea
Where the matches even are
I lost the matches long ago
Along with so many other things
Lost
Or misplaced in the fog of confusion
That makes up my days

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Happy May!

I've been neglecting you lately and with good reason. Every time I turn around, it seems another "unexpected" situation, illness, or social event is cropping up that requires my attention first. And by the time I'm done, there's something else, and I hardly get any work done, never mind this blog!

My morning so far:
Phone call from Bangladeshi friend, waiting for housecleaners, teaching housecleaners in a short, impromptu yoga session because they are both stressed and have high blood pressure, and I have just been studying poses for that, dropping by my therapist's office to pick up paperwork and running into my new French friend who also sees someone in the same office. Crazy. We run into each other all over town.

Now, sitting in cafe, determined to warm up here and then WORK, no matter which friendly person shows up next!

My last few weeks:
yesterday - both girls sick. Had to shop for Mother's Day. Took homemade bouquets to 12 neighbors for May Day (yes, two days late, but it was a busy weekend!)

Sunday, May 2 - Party from noon to 8 pm at Bangladeshi friend's house for her daughter's 11th birthday. Spent most of the day listening to happy, brightly dressed women speaking Bangla of which I understand about 3 words. Lots of fun though. Tiring.

Saturday, May 1 - Church. Rushed to mall to buy present for next day's party. Rushed home to cook eggplant marinara casserole. All night party at French friend's house, where everyone spoke French, some English, some Arabic.

Friday, April 30 - Spent hours in legal project. Also had to pick sick daughter up from school in mid day.

Thursday, April 29 - All day training in how to find funding for non profits.

Wednesday, April 28 - Apprentice at yoga class

Tuesday, April 27 - Yoga class. Got hypnotized to promote weight loss, thus enabling kidney donation to go forward. Ran into French friend at cafe and talked instead of worked. French friend and I decided on whim to join other friend at impressive show by Medium in Hollywood. Rushed to get kids together for French lesson. Rushed to Hollywood and saw show. Got home after midnight.

Monday, April 26 - Both kids sick and very tired. Everyone at home.

Sunday, April 25 - All day at amazing Festival of Books at UCLA. Evening in Santa Monica - pier, promanade, dinner.

Saturday, April 24 - Aladdin performance. Met with friends and invited them back home for drinks. Went to post-play cast party at neighbor's house.

Friday, April 23 - Aladdin performance. Met with friends.

Thursday, April 22 - First Aladdin performance. Grandparents and friends attended.

Wednesday, April 21 - Final rehearsal for Aladdin. Yoga Class with training.

Tuesday, April 20 - Helped housecleaner with personal crisis. Picked B up from school and took her to the orthodontist to get her braces.

Monday, April 19 - Yoga class, working in cafe, and grocery shopping.

Okay, you get the idea. Lots of social life, lots of fun. Very, very busy. I wish I got paid for getting along well with others!!

My last few weeks:

Friday, April 30, 2010

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Just received:

"Dear Marie,

Thank you for submitting "Woodcutter" to Strange Horizons, but we've decided not to accept it for publication.

We appreciate your interest in our magazine.

--Jed"

okay... NEXT!!

(By the way, it's a great online sci fi mag - www.strangehorizons.com)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Songs, Books and Exotic LA

The photo in the header is from last year's Festival of Books. This year we had to curtail our enjoyment to only one day because my older daughter and husband were performing in Aladdin each night last week through Saturday. (Daily rehearsals, four hour stretches, four months of preparation - as Genie proclaimed, it was indeed "a BIG musical!")

But not even the exhaustion of a grueling performance schedule and the after show party until past midnight Saturday could keep me away from my beloved Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA. So Sunday morning found us slogging down the 10 freeway, gasping in delight as always as the skyline of Los Angeles greeted us with greys and pinks and slate blues like a bouquet of buildings gathered together by giant hands.

At the festival, I met Jane Smiley (Jane Smiley!!! Pulitzer Prize Winner! Academy of American Arts and Letters Indoctrinee!) and had her sign her latest book. We chatted with Susan Straight (again) whose work I adore because she writes about Riverside (near us) and she is a working, writing, divorced mom who somehow not only holds it all together, but also keeps winning an impressively mounting list of awards for her work. Jane Smiley chatted with my daughters; Susan Straight commented on how much they've grown. Because we go every single year.

Best of all was sitting in a panel of women writers talking about Voice in fiction, and watching J and B soaking it all in. They don't even know how much I am opening a world of possibility for them.

I had an incredible moment when the moderator asked how many people in the room were writers and I put up my hand. Confidently. Without hesitation. Because I am now, published and everything.

It surprised me that there were only a few of us scattered around the room. I thought that 50% or more of attendees would consider themselves writers. But to see that they were there as readers only, because they loved books and writing, and also to see that I am doing something that many, many people are not, and for me it is as natural as thought... well, that was a moment that showed me just how far my life has come.

It was the Fifteenth year of the Festival, and we have attended 14 of those fifteen. I've met many of my favorite writers and had umpteen books signed. And now, I feel like I belong on both sides of that panel table.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Shenpa, Shenpa Everywhere, And Nary a Drop to Drink

I've amused myself during my evening work session by finding and playing Pema Chodron's Youtube clips on various aspects of her Buddhist practice. I'm working on writing a yoga class lesson plan meant to assist my friend's high blood pressure. I'm listening to Pema's gentle words because addiction has asked for my attention lately.

And, bottom line, I think Shenpa describes addiction pretty well.

Not me, by the way. Well, at least not with illegal substances. It's an old friend who is struggling with alcoholism and depression who I hope to help with some Buddhist tools.

But if you broaden addiction out to include food, or relationships, hmm, well then, maybe it does get a little too close to home for comfort.

I've also been thinking of Shenpa as I read The End of Overeating by David Kessler, M.D. You can't read his depictions of what hyperstimulating food does to the brain without thinking of substance abuse and even infatuation. All types of Shenpa - all scratching at the itches of life.

*******

On a different note, I took a fun quiz at Yoga Journal to find out what yoga style is best for me. The answer is Kundalini - big surprise! I've been a yoga mutt so far, practicing a hybrid style at my favorite studio. My teacher training was based on Ashtanga; I'm apprenticing in an Iyengar class. But my favorite of all is Kundalini with its energy flow, chanting, and spirituality.

I popped over to a Kundalini site and picked out a spiritual name: Mere Piere. I just liked the look and sound of it. (Does anyone know what it means?)

Mere Piere, signing off, and wishing you a Shenpa-less time (or at least some kind self-learning).

Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday, Monday

Everyone's back to school and routines. Early morning wake-ups and oatmeal breakfasts. Lunches scrabbled together. Yoga for me, a spiritual/physical wake up. Now, in a cafe, steaming mug, crumbled scone, rain outside. A story to submit and a grant to write.

Bliss.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Is...


- a last minute rush to Target where the aisles are clogged with carts and there is not a single bag of pastel foil-wrapped candy to be found.

- a play of Calvary accompanied by choir and kettle drum in the darkened church where the acting is wildly uneven and you can't help but notice that Jesus has been working out in preparation for his big scenes. (Also you kind of hope that our real Lord and Savior had a bit more presence and eloquence at his command, and looked less like a sulking teen.)

- dying eggs and fingertips the color of flowers.

- bundling gifts for the neighbors into tissue and ribbon and dropping them on doorsteps under cover of night.

- staying up too late making a plate of carrots and guinea pig pellets for the bunny's arrival.

- staying up WAY too late taking care of all the Easter details to the backdrop of soft little snores.

- watching the dawn break over your front yard, hoping your bathrobe stays knotted round your middle, an egg carton clutched in your hands.

- being awakened by a double-pronged attack of cheerful chirping by two little girls intent on loot and chocolate.

- exciting and awesome and scrabbling for eggs against your sister.


- making brunch, using lots of boiled eggs of course.

-making lunch, more boiled eggs, deviled this time. And then another round of dishes.

- spending all day with your family, playing, eating, and eating again.

- phone calls over speaker phone, with many relatives speaking at once.

- a good time to wish you new beginnings and everlasting hope in your own endeavors!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Free Online Novel - Worth Much More than You'll Pay for It!!

An incredible novel is now available free online. This is the best self-published novel I've ever read - in fact, it's the best novel I've read so far this year.

It's fun and quirky, mysterious and suspenseful. If you love technology, San Francisco, mystery genre, the supernatural, or just darn good characters, you will love this quick-reading work!!

Check out Annabel Scheme at Robin Sloan's website!

Monday, March 29, 2010

One of My Favorite Booksellers


I would be honored to find my words for sale here...

A Writing Update

Was thrilled to receive this email yesterday - it says it all!!

"No edits were necessary in your story.

--
Yours sincerely,
The Sand Canyon Review"

Sunday, March 28, 2010

My New Crush (On a Song, That Is)

Letters from the Sky by Civil Twilight


Thursday, March 25, 2010

OMG! This is SO Me!

Quoting Nathan Bransford, literary agent, quoting Wikipedia:

"It got me thinking of all those insanely talented writers out there in fits of despair thinking they're not any good. Could it be that they're just suffering from a little Dunning-Kruger effect?Take it away Wikipedia!

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which "people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it". The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than in actuality; by contrast the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to a perverse result where less competent people will rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence because competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. "Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others." "

I've caught myself doing this tons of times - undervaluing my own skills while over-assuming the competence and experience of others. I never knew it had a name before!! Thanks, NB, my new hero!

Reflections

I haven't been doing a lot of writing lately. I've noticed that I've lost my touch, my timing. You can tell because I haven't blogged that much. When I started this blog, I had only fuzzy intentions - I wanted to write more, I wanted to feel "published", I wanted to build a record of my life's events, I wanted to speak... and to be heard, I wanted to get... better.

In lots of ways then, this blog has done exactly as I hoped it would. It's opened me to technology. It has put me in touch with beauty and ideas and experiences from every corner of the globe. It has accompanied me in my writing.

What it hasn't done is become commercial. It is not a platform, not in the sense of the word that I could use it to sell books. It has not won me any popularity contests. But I'm not sure I ever wanted to win those to start with.

This blog has been a beginning for me. This blog has been a witness to love, and tremendous loss, and pain. George Michels sings "That's all I wanted - something special, something sacred in your eyes" and I think, yes, that fits here. That is what this blog has been - my spiritual tool into a realm of sacred growth.

"Until the end of time"

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Move, Move, MOVE!!

Watching TV shortens life span, study finds January 12, 2010By Jeannine Stein

Australian researchers find that each hour a day spent in front of television is linked with an 18% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and an 11% greater risk of all causes of death.

***
Watching television for hour upon hour obviously isn't the best way to spend leisure time -- inactivity has been linked to obesity and heart disease. But a new study quantifies TV viewing's effect on risk of death.

Researchers found that each hour a day spent watching TV was linked with an 18% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, an 11% greater risk of all causes of death, and a 9% increased risk of death from cancer.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FOR THE RECORD:
Effects of TV viewing: The headline on an article in Tuesday's Section A that said "Hours sitting in front of TV found to shorten life" overstated the results of a study. As the article stated, researchers found a statistical relationship between long hours of TV viewing and a shortened life span, but the study did not go so far as to find a direct cause. —

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The study, released Monday in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Assn., looked at health data among 8,800 men and women older than 25 who were part of the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study. Participants recorded their television viewing hours for a week, and researchers separated the results by amount of viewing: those who watched less than two hours of TV a day, those who watched two to four hours a day, and those who watched more than four hours a day.

The subjects also had oral glucose tolerance tests to determine blood sugar and gave blood samples to establish cholesterol levels at the beginning of the study. People with a history of cardiovascular disease were not included. In a follow up about six years later, 87 people had died due to cardiovascular disease and 125 of cancer.

Researchers found a strong connection between TV hours and death from cardiovascular disease, not just among the overweight and obese, but among people who had a healthy weight and exercised.

People who watched more than four hours a day showed an 80% greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 46% higher risk of all causes of death compared with those who watched fewer than two hours a day, suggesting that being sedentary could have general deleterious effects. The numbers were the same after the researchers controlled for smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, an unhealthy diet and leisure-time exercise.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sophie and Smiles


Good things are already happening, and more are coming every day! The weather is gorgeous, heaping us with sunshine and spring breezes for each off-track day. I have my two little loves at home with me for two more weeks, and my Big Love as well next week.

Although J's rehearsal schedule for her school/community play at the end of April keeps us close to home every day - and, darn!, cause I'm craving San Diego -it still promises to be a spectacular vacation.

Yesterday, we bought the cutest present for my niece, current age 8 months. The adorable giraffe pictured above. I hope she'll appreciate being in the same groove as all the celebrities' offspring! Just stick with your Aunt Marie, kid, and she'll make sure you get a taste of the finer touches in life!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

11:11 - A Turning Point

" 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' " Jeremiah 29:11

I've come across this verse several times in the last few days - had friends mention it to me, and had it pop up in my reading. Whenever I hit something that I notice multiple times, I realize that there is probably some sort of information or message for me there. Otherwise, why would my subconscious mind, soul, intellect, or whatever you think makes us tick pay attention to it?

I've been dealing with some legal matters lately. Long ago, I made some very bad decisions that resulted in me committing a crime. I don't talk about it that much. In general, I've tried to pick up my life the best I can, put the pieces together in a new shape, and move forward in positive ways.

Now, I have an amazing opportunity to have my case reconsidered, and ultimately downgraded in a way that would truly FREE me for the rest of my life.

All that will happen is the district attorney will carefully review my specific details and agree to revise my status. It is just that simple. My entire future hinges on the upcoming moment when one person agrees to give me another chance.

In preparation, I am trying to give the DA the best opportunity to do just that. I am providing character references, psychological testing, lie detector results, you name it. I want to give her mounds of evidence to reassure her that I can be trusted to be a wholesome, productive person.

This has meant that lately I have been trying to get in touch with what feels like about a hundred people and ask them for letters. Some people I have to fill in on the story; others know it well. The effort of going over and over a part of my life that I cannot wait to put truly into my past has been quite tiring. At the same time, I don't mind telling others the truth of mistakes I've made. It's good practice at Satya and generally freeing. My issue is that the mistakes of my past don't accurately depict the person I am today, and I dislike feeling tied down to an ancient self.

But through it all I am feeling wonderful and hopeful. This is it, I think. This is the start of the rest of my life.

Because I keep coming across the verse above. And "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen" (Hebrews 11:1).



** If you feel that you know me through this blog, and would like to provide a reference, feel free to email me at beginwriting at yahoo dot com, and I will provide you with details.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Trusting

My yogi teabag says:
"Trust is the infinity of your soul."


Isn't that nice? It sure the heck is true for me. No matter what happens in life, I just keep trusting - new friends and old, my family, my self, and that life in general will be way more awesome and fun than anything else.

What do you trust?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Very Encouraging!!

Everywhere I turn lately, I am getting wonderful signs from God that the donation of my kidney is just about the best thing I could plan on doing!

This is a wonderful feeling as I am so very attached to K, and really want to share my health with her - although she is pretty darn happy, bubbly and unbelievably positive without any help from anyone!

"Kidney donors needn't worry" was the first thing that caught my eye this morning. The blurb leads to this article and the lovely words "profoundly safe." But I knew that already intuitively, and I am getting more and more excited about this novel experience that I am going to share with K.

There are big, BIG changes going on in my life, my work, my writing, my health, my marriage, my home - just about every aspect of my being is up for improvement right now, and there is a sense of unbelievably positive, unstoppable forces at work all around me!

The very, very best to you as well, dear reader!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Poem: Lucille Clifton

Blessing the Boats

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

Snapshots of My Life Today


Two wonderful cards for a wonderful future. I can hardly wait!!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lift this burden
up off of me,
And turn it into nothing
but
the ashes
of memory
It is done.

"Tell Me About Despair, Yours, and I Will Tell You Mine"

I saw a wonderful quote by C. S. Lewis on a greeting card at Trader Joe's this week. The photo on the card was annoying: I didn't buy it since it didn't match at all with this wonderful insight:

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one”

That's what all of us are doing. Looking for the others like us, looking for the place where we can belong. Go to The Chocolate Chip Waffle's post on Mary Oliver's poem Wild Geese. That's where my post title comes from. Look at the poem and what it says. Look at the comments of the people who love the poem.

A small group of strangers, pulled together into friendship by love of poetry, loving each other and loving poems for their ability to say to us, Yes. Me too.

All is in Perfect Order

Om
Purnam Adah Purnam Idam
Purnat Purnam Udachyate
Purnasya Purnam Adaya
Purnam Evavashishyate
Om

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ready For the Best News!!


I've done an hour of yoga and meditation. I made some crunchy warm cinnamon toast. And, after processing through writing, I've had time to reevaluate.


Before I send the bird of dispair flying out of the tree of panic, I'd like to consider the alternative.


That, this, all of this, all of these events in the past and today, are absolutely perfect.


That everything is happening just exactly as it needs to, and that it is moving towards something GOOD!


I am SO ready to be DONE with all of this gathering storm of fear, and I believe that the break in the clouds has just appeared. I wait in faith.


Above, I asked about the future and pulled the Four of Wands. Its meaning fits my situation perfectly and reassuringly.

A Sample Lesson

Here's the latest lesson I designed for a slow-paced/adaptive yoga class where I intern. I figured if I'm awake from stress I might as well get my work done.

Each week I write a lesson and the astonishing teacher rips it apart and has me reconstruct it. She used to be a newspaper editor and she still has that wonderful Lou Grant-like energy, all gruff and abrupt but kindhearted too.

The best way to learn is to be humble enough to be corrected, and I love that she is willing to spend her time and energy sharing her immense knowledge with me!

****
I. Beginning
a. Swastikasana (Seated Crossed Legs Pose)
b. Neck extension – Face Forward – Face Down – Face Forward- Open Eyes

II. Standing Poses
a. Tadasana X 2
i. Modifications – wall, nearby chair, Feet hip width apart if needed

b. Trikonasana (Triangle) X 2
i. Modifications – wall, hand on chair, block

c. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
i. Modifications – against wall, lean toward back of chair, don’t bend over very far, watch for dizziness

d. Virabhadrasana (Warrior 2 Pose) X 2
i. Pay careful attention to position of feet and knees. Keep knee and bent thigh moving away, don’t lock knees.
ii. Use wall behind for balance.

e. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) X2
i. Put palms of hand on wall if needed
ii. Use back or seat of chair

III. Seated/On Floor
a. Upavista Konasana (Wide Angle Pose)
i. Emphasize alignment of feet and knees and active legs.
ii. Use blankets as needed. Place hands on floor, slightly behind if needed.

b. Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
i. Use blankets or blocks as needed to support thighs or elevate sitting bones.

IV. Relaxation
a. Savasana (Corpse)/ Supta Baddha Konasana

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Writing by Elizabeth Gilbert

Several of you indicated a fondness for Elizabeth Gilbert's writing. Just wanted to let you know that there's a very nice article in this month's Yoga Journal about her first experience with yoga.

Also if you've never read her short story collection Pilgrims, it is an exquisite compilation of quirky but worthwhile characters in unusual situations. I think it showcases her raw writing talent better than anything else I've read by her.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sample a Wonderful Novel! Fiona Robyn's Thaw is Here!


Ruth's diary is the new novel by Fiona Robyn, called Thaw. She has decided to blog the novel in its entirety over the next few months, so you can read it for free.

Ruth's first entry is below, and you can continue reading tomorrow here.

*

These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It’s a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we’re being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides.

The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they’re stuck to the outside of her hands. They’re a colour that’s difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.

I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I’m giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether it’s all worth it. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I’ve heard the weary grief in my dad’s voice.

So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I’m Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I’m sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?

Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat; books you have to take in both hands to lift. I’ve had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I’ve still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.

Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about; princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad’s snoring was.

I’ve always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I’ll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say; ‘It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for’, before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It’ll all be here. I’m using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I’m striping the paper. I’m near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I’m allowed to make my decision. That’s it for today. It’s begun.

Continue reading tomorrow here...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Why I've Been Working Instead of Blogging As Much Lately...

To provide the inflation-adjusted retirement income you desire, you will need to save 26.9% of your yearly income (less any employer match, if applicable). This year, for example, the amount would be $18,796 or $1,566 a month.

If you wait just one year to start saving for retirement you will need to save 29.7% of your annual income, which amounts to $20,775 in the first year. Save Now and Save Less!!!

(From www.financialcalculators.com. Too bad I can't copy the chart here - it's really impressive, like a huge blue wave of money that needs earning and saving!)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

View From Above

Bright bags piled up
Like oranges for sale
Beside the freeway

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Poem

Content

This morning
The curl of your hand
Around my finger
Is the only thing
That matters
A small gesture that
Says everything

And I
Am Happy
Again

Feb. 20, 2010

Reincarnation

Written by Kristen Kochel, Sumner, Washington at the age of 16.

I believe this appeared in Words on the Page, the World in Your Hands, a book of easy-level readings to develop adult literacy. I found it while clearing out my files a few months ago. I used to use it as a lesson example in my teaching, perhaps for description, perhaps for journaling, perhaps to spark a lesson of creative writing. It's been so long now, I don't quite remember. I didn't use it every year, as I did Cisnero's House on Mango Street or Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, only for a few years in the center of my career.

Reincarnation
"Perhaps reincarnation is not a myth, but merely a time from where we get our instincts. I remember a place far different from where I've grown up, rolling plains and long wavy grasses blowing in hot summer breezes. Winters with snow driving fiercely into my face and the hushed silence after a blizzard. I see these places when I dream, images my subconscious remembers and recreates to tempt me into fully believing I am there again.

I dream of a man, as most hormone-driven teenagers do, but the things I feel are not wholly lust. I never seem to be able to see his face clearly, but I know his eyes are a deep, chocolate brown that I drown in every time I am captured by his gaze. His hair is the satiny black color of a raven's wing; it shimmers in the light, daring me to tangle my fingers in its beautiful length. It reaches his shoulder blades and will soon rival the length of my own. He has strong, capable hands with a beautiful texture put there by years of work and play. Thier strength is hidden beneath a gentleness like silk-swathed steel, a steel that protects and cares for those less capable.

He has a rigid sense of honor which irritates me to no end at times; I remain virtuous by his incredible control. I could perhaps convince him otherwise in today's world, but alas, this is a dream. Once I am committed, I will not be able to back off. What he takes, when it's freely given, he keeps forever.

I believe he was a plainsman, Lakota or Cheyenne, before the Civil War. He was a warrior and was considered a member of high society, giving freely to those who didn't have enough, as is the way among the tribe, whether an adopted member or born of the people.

I do not know his name; I search for it each time I dream of him. The only thing I find is the vision of a hawk, flying on a sky of red, screaming defiance at the wind and at those who cannot fly. I come back from the vision and fall prey to his heart-stopping smile.

If true love exists, could this be it? I haven't met the actual person; perhaps I never will. Is he out there dreaming of me? I can only hope he is. So many questions floating through my head and no answers to be found. My heart aches for someone, perhaps the someone of my dreams."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Committed - An Excerpt

Having greatly enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, I couldn't wait to read her new work Committed. Part memoir, part reflection on the state of marriage, Committed is not the book I would ever have written about marriage, but I'm finding it intriguing nonetheless.

"And now that memory - that sound - swam through me, too. I even felt as though I could remember it, despite having never met Felipe's father, who died years ago. In fact, there are probably only about four people alive in the whole world who remember Felipe's father at all anymore, and only one of them - until the moment Felipe shared this story with me - recalled exactly how that man had looked and sounded when he used to swim across wide Brazilian rivers in the middle years of the last century. But now I felt that I could remember it, too, in a strange and personal way.

This is intimacy: the trading of stories in the dark.

This act, the act of quiet nighttime talking, illustrates for me more than anything else the curious alchemy of companionship. Because when Felipe described his father's swimming stroke, I took that watery image and I stitched it carefully into the hem of my own life, and now I will carry that around with me forever. As long as I live, and even long after Felipe has gone, his childhood memory, his father, his river, his Brazil - all of this, too, has somehow become me." p239

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Poem: Luminous

I had to dig this one out of the bottom of my purse to post it here.
Transcribing from its original scribbled form on a crumpled,
daffodil bright, yoga schedule as the words unfolded in the bright morning light...
The luminous limning of
my tongue at your ear
is the pen on this page
the moonlight shooting across


the salted waves, the drift
of cloud at noon
the expression of the

self
you wish to be
that indeed
you already are

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Poem: Brahma by Ralph Waldo Emerson


My husband's taking a Comparative Mythology class and preparing a project on Indian Mythology. Discussion of the various gods popped this poem back into my head. I chose it to memorize and recite to my American Literature Class when I was 16. Even then, I had an interest in spiritual search.

Now it reminds me of the chants we learned in yoga teacher training, and also of walking below towering redwoods in our favorite stand of trees, where the nature center has posted an Emerson quote. (Well, actually it reminds me of everything, based on its message!)

If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.
Far or forgot to me is near,
Shadow and sunlight are the same,
The vanished gods to me appear,
And one to me are shame and fame.

They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.

The strong gods pine for my abode,
And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good!
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.


1856 [1857]
Photo credit to blog.discovermagazine.com

Monday, February 8, 2010

At Play

It was a wonderful weekend. We celebrated a birthday with sunburst lemon pie, strolled around one hundred years ago at a festival held under sodden skies.

We came home with this gorgeous set of blocks, toys for our children and us as well.

Chatting with the block craftsman and vendor, the original small businessman, I told myself to remember this joke he made and share it with you:

"I have to be careful not to overwork myself, or else I'll get Builder's Block."

Wishing you some fantasy building for this week - Marie

Friday, February 5, 2010

Forecast for the Coming Year


No, it's not my birthday.

While shuffling around in piles of work papers, looking for nonprofit details for an application, I came across this horoscope that I saved. Meant to post it here, so I thought I better do it now, before it disappears again into the piles in each room that comprise my cumulative work space

"You'll focus your keen intellect on solving problems for others. A rush of affection makes the holidays sweeter. You'll barter services for something you dearly want in January. March is a rebirth for your career. Loved ones credit you for success in the spring. Sagittarius and Aries adore you."

I'm solving problems right now. Don't remember bartering anything in particular last month. Hmm. Maybe it will come clear later. Rebirth, career, credit and adoration seem promising! Although I don't know that I know any Sags or Aries, off the top of my head...

Wishing you a pleasant and fulfilling year of your own destiny!
***
Illustration credit to Josephine Wall at http://www.josephinewall.co.uk/zodiac/libra.html

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Counter Mood

*

Terresa over at The Chocolate Chip Waffle wrote about "the mean reds" a few days ago. Made me remember reading Breakfast at Tiffany's last year and enjoying the book's ambiguities and melancholy ever so much more than the movie, which I also actually like quite a bit.

But the movie is glitz and glamour, a bit more madcap than serious, whereas the characters in the book are quite lost, wandering around in a haze of self-survival. They're selfish, flawed bastards.

That's the way I'm feeling lately - like people are selfish, flawed bastards. Like everybody is mostly out for themselves and nobody cares as much about anything else as they do their own getting ahead.

The Mean Reds.

This is unlike me. I am quite the lover of people in all of their wonderful, flawed, brilliant, quirky, contradictory complexity. I like to hang out around people, I like to watch people, I like to talk to people, I like to help people. Usually, if it's people-based, I'm in.

But sometimes I get lonely and scared and then I become very, very bitter. Like what is the point?

Sometimes I feel like I am pouring more into other people, particularly relative strangers, than I am getting in return.

Squiggly. Small-minded. Fearful. I'm like a grubby grey worm writhing about on the sidewalk, completely cut off from the bigger picture.

When I'm in this mood, I know I'm cut off. I know it's not what I really believe. But, there you are. I'm in a grumpy, whiny, self-pitying, look at me and do something to make me feel better, kind of mood.

Sigh. I probably should do some yoga or go shopping for some kind of chocolate and/or silk scarves.

What do you do when you feel full of venomous bile?
[*In case you care, I must credit the photo of the grey worm to wildlife@cockham.com. Apparently the grey worm is an actual species, along with 12 others in that area of the UK. Perhaps my Brit readers in that area will find some while going about their days.]

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Wordsflavors.blogspot.com

There.

Now I've written a poem.

That means something to me if no one else,

and somehow restores the graceful beauty to this day.

My Card

I've drawn this card consistently and repeatedly over the last six months whenever I touch my deck.

"The High Priestess is the card of knowledge, instinctual, supernatural, secret knowledge. She holds scrolls of arcane information that she might, or might not reveal to you. The moon crown on her head as well as the crescent by her foot indicates her willingness to illuminate what you otherwise might not see, reveal the secrets you need to know in order to make a decision about a problem or a job, an investment, love, career, family, etc.

And, finally, there is, behind her throne, the curtain that leads to the deepest, most esoteric and secret knowledge; the pomegranates that decorate it remind us of Persephone, who was taken down into the land of the dead, ate its fruit, and became the only goddess allowed to travel to and from that strange land. This indicates that when you get the High Priestess, you're going to be learning some very odd things. Very odd.

If there is a card that symbolizes the tarot reader it is the High Priestess. A woman (or man!) of psychic powers, intuition and secret knowledge. Where the Magician is about revealing, the High Priestess is about keeping things hidden behind the curtain. Things you know, but don't tell.
If the reader feels the High Priestess stands for the Querent, then this is a time of solitary investigation and the passing on of secret knowledge. The Querent might find themselves spending time in old libraries, reading through dusty documents and letters, or studying old religious texts. Things kept secret will be revealed to them. Likewise, these secrets might come to them psychically by way of visions or powerful instincts. Insights may be found in crystal balls, tea leaves, dreams or conversations with spirits."

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Panic Comes to Los Angeles



Despite a week where crankiness overtook me periodically like a bad scratch cutting across a favorite LP, I find myself in a great mood right now.

I'm hanging out on the couch, basically ignoring housework and being lazy-tired while the girls and hubby sort out the laundry. Tomorrow, we're going to drive all the way to Santa Monica to see a crazy Belgium cartoon I read about in the paper today.

Check out any of the excerpts from A Town Called Panic at youtube. My daughters are delighted with its frenzied fun, and I am looking forward to the feeling of urbane sophistication at the edge of the sea.

A trip to SM means the pier and roller coaster, merry-go-round, aquarium, 3rd Street Promenade where we favor the yoga shops and the Indian imports store, and probably vegetarian fare, Pinkberry and/or ridiculously good cupcakes. I say it's well worth the drive. (That's actually the SM pier in the header photo, from our last trip.)

None of the house is clean enough and my work is not all done. So what? I'm taking a break and coming back into a new month raring to go!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pondering the Fall

photo copyright Mark Spires

Perhaps because one month of the year has already fled, and I am still in my dithering limbo or "to kidney or not to kidney," I am focused on health. Like a sunbeam breaking gold-intense through the clouds, the topic of healthy living streams into mind over and over during the course of a day.

What is health? I find myself wondering this morning. How much health does one have to possess to count oneself healthy? Is the goal to be completely illness and injury free at all times? Or do health challenges, like other obstacles in life, provide those small storms, those moments of contrast, that allow for an appreciation of the balmy spring days of wellness?


"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship," wrote Louisa May Alcott.


I find myself musing that perhaps storms are exactly what we need on our voyages through this life, that without them the calm of the waters would be unbearably monotonous.


At this moment, I have the worst bruise of my entire life, a hidden sunset of purple, pink, green and yellow, tucked away below my left breast. It is my sole injury from an embarrassing fall this week. In a moment of mindlessness, I slipped as I stepped into our open bathtub to wash off my feet. With only one foot below me, the scum of soap I stepped on acted as a sled, and I skidded into a slow, cross-legged sit, bringing my left side down on the faucet as I fell.


Falling like that is an awkward shake-up, a reminder that life is not nearly as safe and controlled or stable as we like to think. The realization of how badly I could have been injured but wasn't is sobering. This is the kind of fall, I think, that breaks ribs and hips of the frail eldery, spiraling them into the descent. Just one moment, and the end can begin.


In total, though, the fall feels like some strange sort of success. It feels like brushing against a terrible fate, only to evade it. Because I've been doing yoga, my muscles engaged to slow and control the fall even with nothing to brace myself against. My body automatically folded itself well, not coming down on top of my ankle, leg, or wrist in what would have been a nasty break. My hips and spine absorbed the shock without protest, due no doubt to engagement of my core muscles. And thankfully, the impact occured in my breast and not my side ribs.


The pain has already subsided. The healing, automatic. I'm inclined to see this horrible bruise as an emblem of accomplishment, a badge of disaster avoided. Within minutes, my vital life force had already begun the process of healing, of assessing the damage and rebuilding the tissues with pulses of blood, of electricity, of energy.


So, again, I wonder - is health avoiding the fall, or is it the ability to recover quickly and completely?