Thursday, December 30, 2010

Celebrating Nora

Dear Reader,

As many of you know, yesterday would have been my mom's 62nd birthday.

I miss her.

Last year she had been in the nursing facility for just a couple of weeks when we all went to see her on her birthday. We brought a chocolate cake and sang happy birthday to her. She sang along with us at the very end "...Happy Birthday, dear Nora, happy birthday to you!" It was pretty freakin' cute and we all laughed.

Then we fed her some cake. She loved chocolate so we never denied her that pleasure, even at the end. Juniper was feeding it to her and mom bit down so hard on the plastic fork that it broke. We had to find her a regular metal fork. Then we left. It seems like it was just a regular day. I know I didn't really think about it possibly being her last birthday, maybe my dad or my sister did. I don't know if it would have made much difference if I had thought of it that way.

The reality is that any birthday could be our last. I think if there is any lesson I have really, truly learned this year it is just that: we are not guaranteed a single day more. None of us. I am not sure if it is a good thing or a bad thing that it has taken me 43 years to really "get" this. The real question may be - now that I "get" it, what do I do with it? How does that in the bones understanding change my life? Or does it change it at all? (This conundrum will be discussed at length in an upcoming post - check back soon! ;-))

Back to mom ~ she went to dinner with my dad and sister last night. Her favorite restaurant on her birthday. I celebrated her in a different, yet no less enjoyable or significant way. I was at S's annual Pirate Party with 14 of the most amazing, inspiring, hilarious women I have ever had the privilege to spend an evening with.

S and her friends have met once a year for the Pirate Party for at least 30 years. I have been a regular invitee for maybe 10? Maybe more. The detail is of no matter. What matters is the caliber of the women, the fun, the jokes, the stories, the life in that room each year. The sparkle. Ahh, the sparkle!!! Seems fitting to me that on what would have been my mom's 62nd birthday I was able to be in a room with these women who knew her through me, and who, just by being there and bearing witness to each other, provide sustenance and laughter to the Nth degree. We eat great food, drink wine and champagne, tell dirty stories and stories that make you cry and laugh and snort all at the same time (some kind of comedic holy trinity, that one) and emanate so much divine motherly feminine power and joy and hope and wisdom it is intoxicating. It was the perfect place to be.

It was the perfect space to remember my mom on her birthday. My mom was a pirate at heart.

I am a pirate.

Maya will be a pirate.

And so the line continues...

I love you mom. Happy birthday.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Anniversary Part 1

Dear Reader,

I missed it. I am so sorry. You have my deepest, most regretful apologies. I have no excuse for missing our one year anniversary. [insert deeply regretful, in the doghouse face here.]

What? What's that? Oh? Really? You missed it too? Really. That's so not cool.

I expect comments, posts, sharing, and general adoration in a blatant effort to kiss up to me, since you forgot too.

I began vinegar and vanilla on my birthday last year, 2009. So we have been here for 1 year! yay me!!!

I don't expect you to be half as excited and proud of me as I am. That's cool. I can drink champagne alone and toast myself.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Simple Human Contact Trumps Technology

Dear Reader,

I just love this article in today's New York Times. It talks about the idea of "kangaroo care" - in this case specifically for premature babies - and how it works so incredibly well. Born of necessity due to hospitals severely lacking in the basics (including water in some. The nurses washed their hands at home, after work. Ugh.) the idea of kangaroo care has proven to be amazingly effective. Place the nearly nude premie on the mom's bare chest. The human body (especially the mom's, but others can do the trick too) keeps the baby warm enough and - check this out - a mom's breasts will adjust their temperature to the baby's. PLUS, the position helps prevent reflux and apnea and the mom's heartbeat and breathing help regulate and stabilize the infant's!

It's an amazing, inspiring read. Mama says check it out.

Power to the Boobs!


If you care to donate to a worthy cause this season...

Here a couple of worthy organizations:

The first one is the hermitage where I go on my annual silent writing retreat. This year's retreat was so amazing that I haven't had the time to write about it because I am still processing the experience and following up on the prodigious amount of writing I did while I was there. This is a magical place on the most magical Big Sur coast. The monks there maintain 900 acres of the most incredible landscape in the world (see above photo). They need our help! To find out more about the hermitage click here. For a recent article on the monks in the LA Times click here.

Another wonderful resource that shows up in my email inbox every weekday is The Writer's Almanac. I love the daily poem, sure, that's a given, but the information about famous (and not so) authors and poets is really phenomenal. I learn at least two new things every time I read through the almanac. I know they - like most other things of value - really need our support right now. You can donate to their worthy cause by clicking here.

Of course, you can always be my patron...I would be open to that!



Thank God, the Goddess, Santa and whomever else for friends I say! Hip Hip Hooray!

If it wasn't for friends and family and the lure of Hector's All Meat pizza + liberally poured alcohol my tree would still be bare, dripping wet, and leaning against the wall of the garage. Instead she shines like a beacon in the foggy night of finals week, ungraded exams, essays, journals, un-checked off shopping and grocery lists as well as the unbaked cookies, unsent cards and discarded good intentions that are psychically scattered at my feet.

This morning, as I blow my nose one too many times, reach for the emergenC, and pray for prolific and powerful grading powers, I also thank my Santa-hatted family (yes, Sally, you are family) for coming through with the mulled wine and the Christmas spirit!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Prayer for the Busy Week Ahead

I like this idea of a "prayer" for something. Having not been raised in a religious household I have missed out on this practice. However, "a prayer for..." is a common writing prompt and one that I am beginning to enjoy.

I guess you could call it whatever you want, if you are not comfortable with the idea of a prayer though as time goes on and I a) get older and b)travel further on my own "spiritual path" I am less bothered by the language inherent to each religion and more interested in the common condition.

I am sure I will riff more on that at a later date. I'll add it to my "to do" list - the very one that I am about to take issue with - LOL!

Many of my fellow teacher friends and family are already on winter break. Unfortunately, I am not. I have three more days of work. And of course, I am behind on grading, planning, thinking, ruminating, contemplating and acting on work related issues, because, really, the Muse has been hanging around lately and I just can't ignore her, now, can I? I mean, what writer with any measure of sense will just say, "Uh, hey, Muse, nice to see you but I am really busy grading this milk crate full of homework packets so if you can just hang tight I'll get to you when I am done."

Uh, nope. It's a calculated risk, I know, but Reader, I took it. And yes, I know I am paying the price but I tell you what, if the Muse is there when I wake up tomorrow chances are I will offer to make her some coffee and listen to whatever it is she has to say, for as long as she wants to share. I am loving her company.

Huh, that's odd, this post started out about prayer and all that I have ahead of me and has ended up about the Muse. She's such a funny, fickle and did I mention demanding gal. Gotta admire the sneaky way she works herself into every conversation.

OK, the prayer for the week, the busy week ahead - at least it looks busy from here, but my vision is somewhat obscured by the eight ball I seem to be behind - my prayer goes something like this:

Dear Universe, please offer me the ability to prioritize wisely, to use my time fully and in a worthy fashion. Give me the strength to see the beauty and humor in all I encounter this week and to remain thankful for the blessings in my life evidenced by all I feel I have to do, in other words - a job, students who do their work, parents and students who care deeply about their grades, children and a husband to care for, friends and family to spend time with and the gift of being able to prepare a festive home and warm meals for them, and a Muse who has come to visit. I pray I am blessed with the ability to see the good in all the week brings to me. Amen. Insha'ALLAH. Namaste.

Gratefully (and calmly),

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A wish for you

that there is at least one person, every day, who sees you and smiles at you like a kid at school performance who was scanning the crowd and has just spotted his/her mom in the crowd.

You know the look - pure love and joy.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Birthday Mirthday!

So far, so good! Woke up as chipper and happy as my sun son. Shaved my legs without a nick - even though the kidlets startled me when then came in to wish me a happy birthday and show me all the goodies waiting for me.

Got dressed without incident, coffee maker had successfully brewed me some of the dark nectar, thermos was waiting to be filled. Hubby greeted me warmly, kids begged me to at least open the cards. Little Man's handwrittn greeting was adorable, Miss M made me a huge card with balloons and cakes and so many happys and so many loves ~ I hung it on the wall in my classroom for joy.

Happy, funny fellow Starbucks addicts in line exchanged witty banter (there is a family of 3 I see there from time to time - they are my Starbucks friends.) Everyone knew it was my birthday because I said YES! to the offer of whipped cream on my birthday mocha. That's how I roll people, stand back!

Got to skoolork (school+work=skoolork) a little close to the wire but it was all good because Michael Franti worked hard the whole time reminding me to stay human and listen to the words of the Dalai Lama - or at least the words of your momma. Every flower got a right to be bloomin'!

A student was waiting for me with birthday greetings and a gift, a fellow teacher came in with a card signed by my co-workers and my first class sang happy birthday - with an 80% pass rate - whoo hoo!

The day is off to a good start folks...

Stay Youthful,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

You never know when it will hit you...

One of my most vivid memories of my mom is from December 8, 1980 - the day John Lennon was shot. She was sitting at our round table, crying. I didn't understand why, so much, but I knew enough about the Beatles and had listened to enough John Lennon to get it.

Imagine was one of her favorite songs, guaranteed to make her weepy - she was a crier. So am I. One more thing passed down the matrilineal line.

When she was dying my sister and I played music for her. My iPhone right next to her on the pillow. Imagine came on just as she drew her last breath.

This morning on the way to work NPR was talking about the death of Lennon, 30 years ago today, and of course Imagine was the lead music. Bam! Tears welled up, emotions rose, and the whole day shifted.

Not in a bad way,just a shift. Another reminder of how things change in the blink of an eye (I know it is a cliche, but that's really how fast it can happen), the beat of a hummingbird's wing.

Another reminder that this breath, this moment is all we have.

Tomorrow is the first birthday my mom won't be with me.

Deep breaths,

Monday, December 6, 2010

Puttin' the Wheels Back on the Wagon

just so's I can get back on the wagon m'damn self!

Yes, it's true, my wagon fell apart. Again. The yoga, meditation, eating well, less caffeine, less consuming wagon that could. Fell apart a couple of weeks ago - right before Thanksgiving and all it's abundant bounty. Or before that...maybe the long Veteran's Day weekend? Oh, no, I know when....when I started my 50,000 word quest! THAT's IT! Whew, at least I found something to blame it on. Thanks V&V fans (all 10 of you) for letting me work that all out at your expense.

The good news is - you'll get to read some exciting, energizing, motivational posts over the next few days while I get my mojo back on track.

The bad news is - you'll get to hear about me getting my mojo back on track..again.

I'll try to keep it fresh for ya Babe!

But enough about me, how you doin'? How (where?) is your Mojo? Have you lost it? Is it right there with you? And your wagon - all 4 wheels intact?

Share with us your secrets for staying on track. We need them!

Hard at work,

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Do you live like a dog on a leash?

Another walk in the woods today with Pixie. Another lesson learned. Or at least well illustrated.

Generally I dislike bloggers who post cute stories about their pets - how Fluffy changed their life in some way. Nonetheless, here I go...

We went into the park with the kids today. Pixie and I have a nice little routine, a short walk into the park and home - about 30 minutes in the redwoods with the joggers and hikers and bikers and stray crazed pick-up driver trying to wipe everyone out on their way down the one lane fire road.

Pixie thinks she is one of the 3 puppies in the family - Miss M. and Mr. T being the other two, of course. So, when you have her on the retractable dental floss leash and the kids on their bikes taking off in front of us it's really not a pretty sight. Thankfully she weighs about 7 pounds so the dental floss leash will hold her back. But she still strains against it with all her mosquito might - pulling and pulling while cutting off her oxygen intake and wheezing while she tries to gain traction against the road.

It's really pathetic.

And once the kids get out of sight - yes, even with all the possible dangers out there I let my kids out of my sight - she really freaks out. This is made more tortuous because my kids are loud, first of all. You can hear them a quarter mile away. Second, they love to get up the hill on the other side of the deep redwood forested ravine and yell "Hi Mom!"

This really drives the dog batty.

I was tempted to let the mutt off the leash to see how long it would take her to bound through the brambles and poison oak and old growth and small creek to get up the other side to her litter mates. But I refrained.

It was a tiring walk. Not the relaxing jaunt the mutt and I have been having lately, when it's just us. You know, listening to the water drop from the branches overhead, counting the banana slugs, enjoying the scent of forest as we walk through the fallen leaves and feel of the moist, soft soil underfoot.

So, you know, on the way back it occurred to me that we are often like Pixie. We set our sights on something, or someone, and just go after it no matter what. No matter that we are cutting off our flow of oxygen, wearing our tender feet down running futilely after something that just wants to taunt us and go on it's merry way.

And the real bummer, aside from looking completely bonkers, ridiculous and even pathetic, is that you miss all the really cool stuff. You are straining, wheezing, crying out for attention and you miss all the natural goodness that is right there, all around you.

You miss the stroll. The sound of the rain. The give of the path. The birdsong. The breeze. The space to think and daydream. The perfect place to poop.

As I write Pixie is passed out in her little mutt bed next to a raging fire, her litter mates tucked in their human beds, dreaming of sugarplums. All of them soothed by the rain outside.

All is well again. But my advice to you? Be the mellow dog, not the frantic, pathetic one.


Now toddlers need coaches? Are you F'n kidding me?!?!?

This clip about toddler "athletes" has me so riled up this morning! My stomach is all knotted up. Honestly, I hate this kind of shit. Excuse my language, but I am about to get my vent to another page if you don't want to hear this.

Is it just me, or does this look like forced parental playtime? Do parents really have to pay $100 for an 8 week program where they are forced to play with their kids? "up...down, jump, jump, jump..." Oh Look, Johnny can swing a noodle at a balloon and I will think he might be the next Barry Bonds (but white and not on steroids...Mark McGuire then? D'oh, no, not him either..)

NEWSFLASH: Johnny would love to run around your house with a papertowel or wrapping paper roll and chase after a balloon, hitting it with all his might - if you let him! And the "tracking" with the flashlight? Really?!?! Make a fucking fort and play with a flashlight OR let them have a friend over and make a fort themselves and then play under there for hours without you checking in to see if they are ok.

It's called unstructured play and they need it. Let them build the freakin' fort themselves and they will eventually figure out that sheets are not as heavy as the wool blanket and they will then stay up better, or that stacking an empty shoe box on top of the blanket to keep it on the dresser isn't effective and they need something heavier. DO NOT FIX THE FORT FOR THEM.

If you need to feel useful go pop them some popcorn and then sit your ass down on the couch and relax for a minute. Don't pick up a magazine, book or iPhone or turn on the game or real housewives or frontline. Just lay there, with your kid and their friend in the other room and listen to them play - alone, without adult supervision or a fucking toddler "coach" (really, you need a coach to be a toddler?!?!) Enjoy eavesdropping on the little buggers...I bet you'll learn something about them, and kids in general, and you might hear hear something funny.

Still rarin',
(3 time NCAA all american, 10 individual high school league championships, college and high school hall of fame member, child athlete, parent of 2, age-group, high school and college coach) JUST IN CASE YOU THINK I DON'T KNOW SHIT.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

wine turns into vinegar, doesn't it?

fantastic, creative night out with the girlfriends...felt really good to create in a different way and be inspired by others!

a little dehydrated from the wine and cheese and pre-night out coffee I had to have in order to stay awake past 9.

but totally worth it. I have had a really fruitful 48 hours or so and have some exciting ideas bouncing around in the vast real estate I hold in my head...looking forward, looking up, enjoying the scent of vanilla.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Real Vanilla Flavor!

Pajama Day at work - one of the biggest perks of working in education!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Going to sleep at 9:00 and feeling rested this morning.


Forgetting the poems I needed to work on last night at schoolork (school/work).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Flavor Change

The grumpies for staying home for two days, missing work and using up sick days of which i have only a few (due to using them all at the beginning of the year since they only give you THREE days bereavement!) transformed into gratitude that lil' boy isn't seriously ill, and is, in fact, back to his happy, chatty, bouncy boy self + cool stories about the ER and blood draws for his kindergarten friends. AND gratitude that I have a job where I can take a day - or two - off and it's not a huge issue.

Bonus: My daughter loves Michael Franti and his new CD and is downstairs singing "Gloria" as I type.

Note to self: Life is good, don't ever forget it.


I have a few new poems I am working the midst of the re-writing stages. Stay tuned!

PS: I'm at 21000 words, just shy of my goal of 25k by midnight tonight. Frankly I am choosing sleep over a late night writing frenzy.


After three days home with the sick boy I have "the headache."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The simple things

Yesterday I went for a walk with the annoying little dog.

Walking in the moist redwood groves I watched leaves fall to the road, twirling slowly in the cool air. I smelled horses and redwoods and dirt. I saw berries that were confused by the odd weather we've had and that, because of the few nights of frost, will never ripen.

I wondered why I don't take more short walks into the state park that is literally steps from our door. I wondered why I can go months without walking or riding my bike there.

I realized that the dog wasn't as annoying if she got out into the fresh air for a little sniffing around. She even came face to face with a squirrel and miraculously didn't freak out - barking manically - like she usually does with most things. She certainly perked up and even stood up on her back two feet as the squirrel ran up a tree, but not a peep!

I also realized I wasn't as annoying if I got out into the fresh air for a little exercise and fresh air. Pretty sure I barked less too.

Write simply,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

that's all?!?

you mean to tell me (or do i mean to tell you?) that on november 7 i had written 10,000 words and now, today, many days later (you do the math, i suck at it) i only have 17,500 words?!?! ah geez.

i coulda been a contendah! i was on my way, i was on pace for success. but no, in the last 2+weeks i have only written another 7500 words. meh.

i do have some handwritten pages i need to get in there, that might kick me up to 20k.

so again, i revise. revise my monthly goal. 25,000 by midnight, november 30 and i will call myself a semi-success. 50,000 by the dawn of 2011 and i'll consider myself a full success. how's that?

in addition, i want to submit to the porter gulch review again (deadline, 12/15) and the central coast writers contest (finalist last year - deadline early january?) and i need to have a couple more mom poems finished for my big reading at the celebration of the muse in march. and, you know, practice the weeping, not sobbing thing.

so there are my writing life goals for the rest of the year.

right living goals? another day, another post. teacher goals? another day, another post. thanksgiving day goals? cook a yummy bird. remember my mom's last holiday with us (last thanksgiving at our house) with honor and love and not too much sadness, if possible.

write on rightly,

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Over 10,000!

Dear Reader,

I have exciting news! I am over 10,000 words into my novel! In one week! Yahoo!

Technically, however, I am behind. [Insert sad, tired, writer face here.] Apparently if I was on schedule I woulda/shoulda/coulda written 11,669 words by midnight tonight to be on target for the 50,000 by midnight November 30. Whatev. It's 10:50 (really, 11:50 - damn time change) and this authoress is going to sleep!

I'm still feeling confident. I mean, really, I have a life here. Full-time job (did you know I spend the hours between 7-5 at work most days, + do school work about an hour each night + spend at least a few, if not a lot, of hours on the weekend dedicated to school work?), two loving kids who actually crave/want/need/desire my full attention, a hubby who would like some attention too, a neglected, smelly, needs her nails clipped doggeroo, and a poetry writing group for which i should think deep thoughts and write poems...not to mention things like friends, other family, bills, laundry, groceries, returning library books, and other essentials.

Damn! Just listing all that shizaam I do makes me feel like SuperWoman or something. I am even more proud of my 10,000 words! And things are just getting interesting in the story...Is it wrong to have a crush on my character's romantic interest? He is kinda hot...

In heat,

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Update: Time Marches On

NaNo Update:
NaNoWriMo began November 1. Did I mention that in order to write the 50,000 words in the month one must average 1667 words a day? No? well, it is true.

Yesterday, over 1700. Today, just over 1000. Still happy. But O.M.G. this is a major challenge. What happens when you get to the point where you have nothing to say? Yikes! I thought I was going to cheat a little at first. You know, just start typing up the novel I already began. But so far that has not been necessary. I am not writing a completely different novel, but it is different in tone to begin with. My main character is different than I imagined her too. I am looking forward to getting to know her better. Considering what I think is in store, I am excited for her!

Simplification Update:
I'm back on the wagon - no shopping this month. No purchasing of un-necessary, un-needed material goods...and let's face it, aren't most of them un-necessary and un-needed? If there is something deemed or believed to be either needed or necessary then I put it on my list for the coming month. When December 1 rolls around I look at the list. Do I still think I need it? Have I been pining away for it all month? If so, I consider it and figure out what I will get rid of (donate, give away, reuse, recycle, sell, etc.) to make room for the new item.

Just trying to slow the consumerism train down just a bit folks...

That's the update. Consciously slowing down, eliminating the unnecessary and un-needed, the extraneous that keeps me from what I really want to do: enjoy my family, practice yoga and meditation and read and write. Well, this month, just write, no read. ;-)

Write Simply,

Monday, November 1, 2010

November First

Hello Dear Reader,

Ahhh, it has been so long. Over 6 weeks?!? Can it be true? I see in my last post (yes, it has been so long I wasn't really sure what I last wrote of) I wrote about recalibrating. Ha! What is the line about the universe (God?) laughing at those who make plans? Somebody was laughing, I am sure, but it wasn't me.

October was a brutal month. I just started to breathe again (by choice - there is always a choice, but more on that later) the last week or two. Obviously I was optimistic mid-September. But then things got hectic and a little overwhelming. There was the one month mark of my mom's death and then her memorial and then the week after the union put on a benefit for her. All wonderful things, with friends and family and all that, but difficult and emotional. The morning after my mom's memorial I looked like I had an allergic reaction to something - my eyes were so puffy and swollen and red.

And then there was the regular life stuff - school/work (the honeymoon ended), hubby was out of town for a week plus, friends were in town helping in unimagineable ways and to deeper depths than I have ever known. So wonderfully amazing and yet, overwhelming too, to be held up like that. And there is more, but you are alive too, so you know how life gets, piles appear, dirt accumulates, lists grow longer and longer and unexpected things happen and feelings emerge and, and, and ... need I tell you? No, you know enough.

So I had to decide to stop the deluge. Did my psychic "end the rain" dance and stood up to the tide. Grounded my feet as best I could and said to the whirling world, "Enough is enough." Guess what? It worked.

So back to the recalibration thing. I am back on vinegar and vanilla - knowing even more the sour of life and the sweet. How necessary both are, and how pungent and fragrant.

I am also back on the yoga mat and the meditation cushion and I am off the TV (now that my guilty pleasures are done for the season I can more easily wean myself from the idiot box time suck machine) and I am also, because I am more than a little bit nuts, signed up for the National Novel Writing Month challenge. 50,000 words by the end of the month and presto! chango! you have the first draft of your novel!

What this means is: I will be here, but my posts will be shorter. Or maybe not, maybe I'll be so juicy from all the writing it will spill over here like an overfilled cup of coffee on its way from the kitchen to your favorite fireside chair on a rainy blustery sunday morning...

Write On,

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Hello Friend,

I have not posted in a while ~ over a week. I am pretty much back into the swing of working each day. I have not yet established a good system - still feel like I am playing catch up for the two weeks I was out.

That said, I am enjoying the work and even though there is a lot more involved in teaching English rather than PE I feel like A) I made the right choice and B) I will get a system in place that works for me. One that involves being able to do things that I enjoy and are important to me - other than planning lessons and grading papers! My self-imposed deadline to have said system in place? October 1.

In the weeks since my mom died it feels like my life is, on the surface, the same. But if you go deeper it is completely different. The earth beneath my feet has certainly shifted and I don't quite feel like I have my balance yet. I am making small adjustments to make up for it, and I am confident I will end up just as steady as I was before. NO, scratch that, I will be steadier than I was before.

I feel like I am constantly standing in mountain pose - it looks so basic but is in fact so challenging. To the unfamiliar (and even to dedicated practitioners) it doesn't look like a big deal - just stand there, on your own two feet, and don't move. But the reality is much more complicated and there is so much going on in your body at a cellular and muscular level. Tens, if not hundreds, of small adjustments that play off one another so that you can stand there, perfectly still, and make it look effortless.

Or you lose your balance, take a deep breath and start all over again.

In balance,

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Hello Friends,

Today is Thursday - what do you have to be thankful for? I have a list of little things (and some bigger ones too) that I am thankful for today:
1- a new job that, while hectic and lots-of-work producing, I think I will really enjoy.
2- at least one friend who will go out dancing with me - and drive me there and back.
3- good friends I have known for longer than I haven't.
4- said friends who are willing to be both gentle and honest in their sharing of insight and opinion.
5- understanding folks who let me break down when they ask me about my mom.
6- many friends of my mom who have shared sweet memories of her.
7- the sympathy cards friends and family have sent. I never would have imagined how comforting they really are.
8- that I have actually been able to get up extra early so I can get in a mini yoga and mini meditation session before work. I rock! But I am a sleepy rock!
9- kids who give good, long, strong hugs. The best kind. We do more of them lately.

I'm stopping there - 9 is my lucky number.


Monday, September 6, 2010

6 days down...

So far, so good. It's been almost a week and I have not broken my vow of shop-less-ness yet!

I did manage to break our DVD player, and we now have a new (to us) one - but the beautiful thing is all I had to do was ask if anyone had an old one they didn't need. Lo and behold - a friend had TWO of them he was going to sell at a yard sale. He said he would much rather give one to me so we met downtown for the exchange. Painless and free. Fantastic! He felt good being able to help and I, miraculously, was able to graciously accept the gift. It was very nice.

So, 24 days to go folks. How are you doing on your quest to curb your spending? ;-)


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Month of Minimalism

Anyone care to join me as I experiment with a month of beginning minimalism (also know to me as: reduce, reuse, recycle and don't buy shit you really don't need)? C'mon, admit it, it sounds like more fun than a barrel of free, recycled monkeys, doesn't it?

I've been inspired to try this (key word, in case you aren't paying attention: "try") by a series of events:
1) my post-back-to-school shopping consumer hangover
2) the appalling amount of crap (piles and boxes and closets full of it) that I have tried, desperately, to whittle down over the course of the summer. If you have been to my house lately you will see how futile this effort has been. But you should also have seen the amount of stuff I have gotten rid of. Several large bags have gone to Goodwill, I have sold many items on Craigslist, had one yard sale, two trips to the children's consignment shops, several books and CDs sold on Amazon, two trips to the grown-up consignment shop, items donated to friends, armful after armful of papers sent to the recycle bin and at least 2 large bags sent to the landfill (AKA garbage bin.) And still there are piles, and boxes and closets FULL OF STUFF!
3) the painful realization that the reason why (well, one of the reasons) is that I continue to buy more stuff! D'oh! and then Duh! and then huh? Really, am I that controllable? That suggestible? That weak-willed that I would rather buy a brand new hardback book now rather than put that $26.00 towards a trip to, say Paris or Kauai or even the City? I gotta get my priorities straight here folks!

In my defense, please let me say that I am not as bad as many other 'Mericans. 90% of the clothes I buy for myself (and maybe 50% of the kids' stuff) are used and from eBay or consignment shops, or Goodwill or the flea market - but that is still a whole lotta shoppin' options! Books I buy used at Logo's or off Amazon or at the flea. Again, a whole lotta shoppin'. Most often I check it out at the library first and then will add to my library if it seems like a book I simply must have on hand.

But enough is enough. I really need to see if I can rein this craziness in some. Not for you or anyone else, but for me. I want to consume less - and therefore have less to wash, fold, shlep, put away [repeat] and less to dust or move or put away or carry around. The goal being more time to a) be happy with my family (without stressing about said schtuff) b) read c) practice yoga and d) meditate.

So there you have it - September is the month the experiment begins. Care to join me? Mwahhh haha.....


PS: to learn more about my inspiration check out

Sitting Torture

Boy, is it hard to get back in the swing of my yoga/meditation practice after a couple weeks of basically nothing.

Today - a little over twenty minutes of sitting meditation attempted and all I could think about was how my back hurt, my feet were cold, and yet at the same time I could not feel them. How is that possible? How long have I been at this? Can I peek? No, there is no clock visible, damnit!

Ahh well, I will be gentle on myself. Happy I found the time to sit and breathe at all - even though I know that is what I need most of all right now.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

This time last week...

This time last week, literally, Juniper and I were holding my mom's hands as she left her physical body and peacefully and softly entered another plane. Another place. She passed away at 7:26 p.m.

I had put my iPhone on her pillow and played her playlist (ironically called my "on-the-go playlist") and Prince's When Doves Cry came on. I looked at Juniper with what I imagine was a stricken look on my face. The Sunday before we had first arrived at my mom's following a call from the nursing home that they thought she would pass either that night or in the morning. We had a wonderful, magical wake with the whole family there. I will write more about that night another time, but at one point we were listening to music and I had said, "I bet she'll go when it's When DOves Cry." So to hear it again, when my mom was so obviously close to leaving, was eerie, to say the least.

It is so hard to let go of someone, even when you want them to go. Even when you know they won't ever get better, when they would hate to still be around in the state they are in, when you have "prepared" yourself for the very moment for what feels like a very long time. And yet, when the breath slows - or stops - your first impulse is always "No! Breathe!" And then, at least for me, I had to consciously say "Yes, yes, you go. It's OK. We will be OK. You will be OK. We love you and will miss you, but we will remember you forever. It's OK to go." Which is literally what I did last Sunday.

I stroked her hair, and Juniper held her hand and stroked her arm and we all listened to Bob Marley sing Three Little Birds to remind us that every little thing IS going to be alright. Then Bonnie Raitt sang Nick of Time. Mom loved Bonnie Raitt and she and Joe saw her a few times, if I remember correctly. This song always made me teary anyways...

Mom's breath was so gentle, so soft, it never really paused nor was there a dramatic intake or sigh. It seemed to me just a sweet, soft stop. She finally just let go.

And then Imagine there's no heaven it's easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky...

I love you mom.

posted 7:26 pm, August 29, 2010 totally by coincidence. or nora intervention.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Things I Promised My Mom

1) I will always have fresh flowers on the table. (She especially loved sweet peas and snapdragons from her garden.)
2) I will find a reason to laugh out loud every day.
3) I will be happy where I am and with what I have.
4) I will never stop dreaming.
5) I will dance freely and without inhibition every chance I get.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Loving this

"Being rich is not how much you have but how little you need."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Be Open to It All

Hello Dear Reader,

A few days ago I went to see my mom. She has been in a skilled nursing facility since December. While I have certainly teared up and been a little weepy from time to time over the state of her disease (severe early onset dementia/alzheimers), seeing her the other day made me sob. Big, sloppy, uncontrollable, scare the children sobs.

The imminence of her death is obvious. Her hip bone is clearly visible even underneath the blanket and I swear you can see the head of her femur where it meets her hip. She is curled up in the fetal position and cried when I rubbed her and held her hand. It was awful.

She is officially on palliative care now which means she has been taken off all of her meds and is now just being given pain medication to keep her comfortable.

I was talking with a friend about the latest with my mom and she asked why I thought I was finally having/letting myself have this reaction. I think there are a couple of reasons. First, obviously, is that she looks so much closer to death. (Although in the days I have seen her since she has looked much better.) Secondly, I believe it is because of my regular yoga and meditation practice.

Over the past two months I have worked to establish a regular yoga and meditation habit. A big part of that practice has included lovingkindness and forgiveness meditation. I know that this has enabled me to open myself up to the inevitable - hopefully with compassion and kindness for my mom, myself, and the rest of my family as well.

There is something very freeing and kind of refreshing about being cracked open.

Write openly,

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What Jacques Pepin Has That I Want:

1) An amazing French accent
2) Mind boggling knife skills
3) The gall to make an amazing dessert from just chocolate and cornflakes
4) The ability to melt chocolate in the microwave (I am SO BAD at this!)
5) Charming true stories about cooking with Julia
6) An enviable wine cellar
7) No fear of caviar (not sure if I really wish I had this, but he can make even caviar sound essential)
8) A plate of dark chocolate covered roasted hazelnuts and a glass of port. Really, need I say more?

Mais non!

ecrire sur

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Hello Stranger, Dear Reader,

How the heck are you? It has been a while, hasn't it? I have to let you know two things:

1) I have not been asleep this entire time
2) I have thought of you often - and wanted to write...but I've been busy.

And point #2 leads me directly to this week's version of "Thankful Thursday."

These are just a few of the things I am thankful for at this time:
- public transportation, the kind that lets you eat bread and cheese and drink wine and travel at fast speeds with good friends and deposits you safely in a wonderful city
- good friends who enjoy conversation and food and wine
- having an adventurous spirit
- my sister
- the french impressionists and their artwork. specifically jean-francois millet
- cafe de la presse in San Francisco - and the Spanish and French families who sat down next to my sister and I and spoke in their home language. It made me feel like I was in Europe!
- the gorgeous azure waters of lake tahoe
- friends with cabins at lake tahoe
- my children
- being married for TEN years tomorrow
- having a strong, supportive community to live in
- the way i feel when i meditate

That is a lot - and I believe I could list many more things. I am feeling very thankful and grateful and I thought I ought to share it with you - since this is not always the case! ;-)

Write Thankfully,

Monday, July 19, 2010

i "heart" sleep

i am here today to profess, publicly, my love for sleep.

sleep, i love you, you are so good to me, you make me feel rested and calm and beautiful and happy. honestly, i can't get enough of you. i just want to lay in bed with you all day. and all night. you don't mind if i drool on my pillow, in fact you like it. you know it's just a concrete (well, liquid) reminder of how deep my love for you is. you don't care what i wear - or if i wear anything at all. i feel gorgeous and sexy and sensual when i am with you, bed-head, morning breath and all. it's a sickness really. i need to go to sleepers anonymous to break my habit, but i just don't want to. i don't care if my need for you borders on addiction. i love you anyways. no matter what they say. too much of you is never enough.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Books At My Bedside ~ What I'm ACTUALLY Reading Now

The next book in the pile by my bed is 8 Weeks to Optimum Health by Andrew Weil. This was published in 1997, so I am way behind on the Weil bandwagon, but it is an interesting read. Mostly I feel validated in the dietary adjustments we have made over the past 6-9 months.

In general - and compared with the rest of the country - I would say that as a family we eat pretty well. While we are definitely NOT part of the Santa Cruz, organic, local, in-season, sprouted, soy, whole grain ONLY gang, we do fairly well. I generally shop at locally owned, non-mass market grocery stores and our farmer's markets. I buy organic produce when it makes sense (i.e. organic strawberries for sure, organic bananas not so much) and really pay close attention to what goes into our foods.

After reading Michael Pollan's Food Rules I became even more conscious about our eating habits. The readability of the book made it easy to include the kids in discussing his ideas and really considering the rules when we shopped. We talk a lot about the nasty stuff found in fast food and take the time to read the ingredients list for the foods the kids really want, but are unhealthy food products. It makes it easier for me to say no when Maya can't read ANY of the ingredients and they can both see that there are way more than 5 things listed.

The point of this digression is to say that we had already made many of the changes Weil suggests in his book. We have cut back or eliminated many of the less healthful versions of processed or prepared foods we enjoy, I have added more whole grains (with limited success thus far, but I will keep trying), added non-animal protein meals, and generally become more conscious of what we eat.

This is not to say we are uber-healthy or perfect in any way, shape, or form. But if we make poor food choices at least we are doing it consciously!

The Weil book is full of interesting information and since it has been on the bookshelves for over 10 years now I can see that many of the ideas he introduced are now accepted, scientifically validated, and part of our mainstream understanding about food and health. I am thinking particularly of his conversation about trans-fatty acids. On page 49 he says, "I predict that accumulating medical evidence about the harmfulness of partially hydrogenated oils will eventually force them out of food products."

Spot on, Doc!

To wrap it up - I am enjoying this book because it introduces a lot of non-Western ideas about health. I am aware of several of these already, but this book gives more information about them and Weil does a good job of explaining how our environment and food choices effect our long-term health and healing abilities.

I'm sure many of you have already read this book or are very familiar with Dr. Weil. For those of you who are not you may want to look into it.

Write on,

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Hello Dear Reader,

The other day I was overcome, albeit briefly, by the oddest feeling. It took me a while to figure out what it was, but eventually I did.


Yes people, I was actually fully content for a moment.

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!

In the spirit of fostering more of that feeling (I admit to kinda liking it) I am instituting "Thankful Thursday"! A day to record and share some of the things I am thankful for, no matter how mundane or airy.

Today I am thankful for a mini-milestone in my meditation practice - I sat for 20 minutes! Not that I am at all attached to how long I mediate for...;-)

Today I am thankful for the sunshine that is hitting my right shoulder as I type. The sliding glass door is open and the sun is warm and I can hear my children playing with Play-doh together. Nicely. They are playing "Top Chef" which also warms my cockles. Whatever those are.

Today I am thankful for the promise of a night out with good girlfriends, a shared meal and a show.

Today I am most thankful for the gift of having summer off to really habituate some positive practices in my life - daily meditation, daily yoga - and the opportunity to recognize the positive benefits these bring me.

Write thankfully,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Books At My Bedside ~ What I'm Reading Now: Part 1

Dear Reader,

I don't know about you, but I never used to read more than one book at a time. I remember hearing from friends that they were reading several books at once, and I just didn't get it. Funny, considering the multi-tasker that I once was. (OK, I confess that may be a premature statement, but I AM breaking the multi-tasking habit and I think it is more positive and encouraging to phrase it in the past.)

I would read assigned textbooks and the like, but when I read for pleasure I just read one book until it was done and then would move on to the next. Admittedly this was easier to do before children - when I could read all day if I wanted to, or stay up as late as I wanted to with no harm done to anyone other than myself. Those days are long gone and college and an "empty nest" are far, far away. I no longer have the luxury of long days spent reading, or pulling an all-nighter just to finish a compelling book.

I don't know if that explains why I am currently reading THREE books at once. Total mayhem! I thought it would be fun to share them with you.

In this inaugural installment, however, I begin by sharing a book that I just finished:

1) Buddhism for Busy People by David Michie
Originally, I checked this book out from the library over a year ago. I wanted to read it, but never got around to it. However, I really wanted to, so I optimistically bought it...and it has been in my "to read" pile ever since.

The timing must have been right, because I picked it up again and really enjoyed it. It was a relaxing read and I was able to take my time, reflect on what I was reading, and actually think about the concepts brought up. The book, of course, is about Buddhism.

I would say it is a very readable introduction to Tibetan Buddhism told by a Westerner - one who is still working in the "real world" and not a Westerner who has been on retreat for several years, as many authors of this type of book frequently are. For that reason, among many others, I found it very accessible and readable.

I have dog-eared several pages, but one of the quotes that particularly resonated with me was this one, regarding a woman who had spoken with a priest about her difficulty, as a mother, to go away on retreat. His reply? "Your children are your retreat. You should relate to each of them as though they are a Buddha, because you never know who they are."

The thought is that, through samsara (the universal cycle of birth, death and rebirth caused by a mind grasping at a false sense of self through karma and delusion) we are continually reborn and at any given time we may be interacting with someone who is a Buddha - because they will be in another life, or perhaps they were in the past and they came back to help others reach enlightenment.

I like this idea - I find it helps me stay a little calmer when someone is rude, or cuts me off in traffic, or honks because I drive the speed limit. Not only are they giving me an opportunity to further develop my patience (which you all know I need!), or practice non-attachment, but they just might be giving me the chance to help a Buddha out. That's pretty good karma.

Write on and Namaste,

Friday, July 9, 2010

Poem of the Week: You Are There by Erica Jong

Dear Reader,

I would like to share with you, from time to time, poems I come across that speak to me for whatever reason. I aspire to do this regularly, but if I say that I may well jinx myself, so let's just pretend I never said anything, mmmmmKay?

So, today's poem is by Erica Jong. My first memory of Erica Jong is reading bits and pieces of her famous novel Fear of Flying. My memory is foggy, but I recall pulling the book down off of the towering bookshelf in my parents' house, settling into the corner, and reading an excerpt that involved, well, flying...and also a little bit of naughtiness that took place whilst doing just that. I suppose the character was "flying" both literally AND figuratively.

I just checked out a review of the book on the Erica Jong website and may have to add the book to my summer reading list! Sounds juicy. I love juice.

This poem came to me via The Writer's Almanac - a delightful service of American Public Radio, by the way, and one that can use your support if you are so inclined.

Let me know what you think of the poem. Or, in other words: "Leave a freakin' comment, why don't you?!?"

Now, without further ado: You Are There, by Erica Jong.

You are there.
You have always been
Even when you thought
you were climbing
you had already arrived.
Even when you were
breathing hard,
you were at rest.
Even then it was clear
you were there.

Not in our nature
to know what
is journey and what
Even if we knew
we would not admit.
Even if we lived
we would think
we were just

To live is to be
Certainty comes
at the end.

"You Are There" by Erica Jong, from Love Comes First. © Penguin Group, 2009.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

When You Are Making a Salad, Make a Salad

One of the most difficult things for me to do is "uni-task", or just do one thing at a time. Historically, I have been extremely proud of my ability to multi-task. It is something I have practiced daily, without fail, for at least the past 10 years and most likely even longer. I have boasted about this skill in cover letters and in job interviews. I believe it has been seen as a positive thing - this ability to juggle many different tasks and projects all at once.

I don't believe in the inherent goodness of the multi-task anymore.

I can't put my finger on one single event that made me change my mind, rather there have been many examples - from all directions - that have eventually swayed me from my position that multi-tasking was "da bomb."

First, there is the literature, the scientific studies, that have shown that the ability to multi-task is really not all that. In fact, the opposite is true in that every task you are working on simultaneously is not getting your full attention (duh) and therefore suffers. Also, it is not good brain exercise to switch back and forth between tasks. You may have thought it was good - like Zumba for your brain - but nope, it ain't. Even though you feel like you are able to split your attention between, say, washing the dishes and listening to your child tell a story, or watching the Tour de France and write a blog post, or the most extreme example of all - drive and text - your brain doesn't work that way. It can't actually do both at the same time, so it switches back and forth. No matter how fast you think your synapses work, no one's work that fast.

OK, so there is the literature and the studies. There are also personal examples. One of the things I most remember about my mom when I was growing up was what I saw as her annoying habit to not pay attention to what I was saying. My mom worked full-time out of the house and had an extremely long commute to and from work. I remember many occasions when she would be in the kitchen preparing dinner and I would be talking to her. I would ask her to look at something and she would not even look my way while saying "Oh, yes. I see. Uh-huh." While I am much more sympathetic to her situation now that I am a working mom of two, at the time I just found it annoying. Now I know she was multi-tasking - and I was getting the short end of the stick. The frightening thing is I have found myself doing exactly the same thing to my kids more times than I would like to admit. So there's that, too.

If you could see me in the kitchen in the evening, preparing dinner, you would see the dark side of multi-tasking. The dishwasher is open as I unload, the silverware drawer is open, a couple cupboard doors hang open, the water is boiling on the stove, the lettuce is in the spinner in the sink and one carrot is half sliced on the cutting board. Where am I? Probably in the garage folding laundry, because I went out there to get paper towels and realized I had a load of laundry left in the washer from yesterday that needed to dry.

Really. It's ugly people.

A few nights ago I tried an experiment. While I made the salad I focused on making the salad. That was all I did, until it was complete. This may sound like a relatively simple task to many of you - so you may not understand the depth of my sickness - but I know there are a few of you out there who feel my pain. This was not an easy thing to do. There were several occasions when I had to, literally, tell myself, "If you are making the salad, make the salad." It felt really good to finish the job and move on to the next without the mental and physical kitchen chaos that usually occurs.

I am going to keep practicing. I'll let you know how it goes.

When you write, just write,

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Passion Driven Blog

Hello Dear Reader,

I was trying to figure out how I missed posting for the entire month of June. I suppose it has take me that long to a) decompress from the school year and b) halfway dig myself out of the piles that grew and grew over the 6-8 weeks before school got out under the auspices of "I'll deal with that after school is over."

I have also been thinking about what my purpose/gift in life is, if any. It is taking me a while to come up with something, but once I determine it I want to focus on living it. consciously. intentionally. compassionately.

You know, if I am honest, this hasn't been going on for just the last month, it has been going on way fact the searching itself it may just be my purpose in life. Sags are seekers after all...;-)

A couple of years ago I was at dinner with 6 or 7 other women. All fantastic, successful, vibrant women. The question was posed ~ "what is your passion?" (We took "my children" off the list of possible answers, given that all of us who had children would likely have said that.) It was an eye-opening experience. All of them had an answer at the ready, they knew what their passion was - preparing meals for family, creating perfect living spaces, designing buildings, working for justice, music, and on and on. When it came my turn to answer I had a very difficult time coming up with an answer. Sure, there are a lot of things i am interested in, like reading, writing, research, wellness, finding balance, what makes people tick, but no one thing I could point to and say "That, THAT is my passion." Grasping, the only thing I could come up with was "exploration."

Exploration, maybe that IS my passion. I love to explore. From figuring out my physical limits in track, to exploring the athletic mind and what can limit it or make it grow, to studying the dynamics and politics of motherhood, constantly researching, searching, and learning about a thousand different topics. Some I write about, some I act upon, some change me, shift my direction in life, take me on a different course for a while.

Right now I am exploring creativity and how to find balance between obligation and freedom - or at the very least how to be happy with the division, knowing it will always be dynamic, shifting from day to day, month to month, year to year, lifetime to lifetime. Right now I am seriously experimenting with yoga and meditation as a means to achieve that elusive equanimity.

I have practiced yoga intermittently for over 15 years, and toyed with meditation just as long, if not longer. When I was a competitive athlete I regularly practiced visualization and guided relaxation, which are both closely related to meditation, in my book. As a psychologist and counselor I am naturally interested in the function of the mind and how we can alter it with our thoughts and intention.

As I write, I am visited by the pleasant thought that maybe now, right now, is the place and time where I begin to put all of these various experiences and "lifetimes" ~ athlete, student, wife, mother, woman, writer, poet, dreamer, teacher, yogini ~ together and (FINALLY?!?) learn from them and value them all equally.

In hopes that I don't sound completely nuts,
write on,

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Did I Really Take June Off???

Hello Dear, Patient Reader,

Are you still there?

Believe it or not, I am. Or some semblance of me is. Maybe just the hard, outer husk, ready to be shed. Or maybe, more optimistically, the sweet, juicy, ripe kernel inside, almost ready to come out.

Not sure which is sitting here at the computer today. Did I mention it is a very cute, 13 inch, compact, portable white MacBook? Yup, sold my meager Starbucks stock and bought a used MacBook on eBay all by myself. I also got a very cool desk and chair and my own Paris inspired bulletin board for which to post inspiring writerly quotes and hopeful stories of writers who published their first books late in life. (the older i get, the shorter that list gets!)

So, now that June is over and it's a fresh new month full of independence talk and fireworks, hot days and foggy nights (here, where we are), beach days and sand in the bed, I am full of vim and vigor and a desire to get this blog rolling again.

In that spirit ~

Write on,

Sunday, May 30, 2010

That Was Fun

With a capital "F"!

I really enjoy reading my poetry to an audience. I knew this last year, when I did the reading (my first) at the PGR pub party. This year I was hardly nervous, just excited. I wanted to read more! Everyone only read the piece that was published this time - last time folks read more. I managed to squeeze in one more, "Yes", simply because I was dying to read it to an audience and this was my only chance.

Carpe diem!

So now I must channel my leftover adrenaline into something writerly and productive - submissions? More blog posts? More poems?

Perhaps all of the above.

Write on,

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Reading Outloud in Front of a Crowd

Yes it is true! Tonight I will be reading my poetry outloud in front of a room full of strangers - with a few friends and family members thrown in for good measure. Gulp.

Actually, I am not nervous...yet. I loved reading last year and am very much looking forward to reading again this year. I have not yet determined what three poems I will be reading, but am pretty close. I definately wan to read "Yes" since it is better read outloud and it should be fun to do. "Self-potrait as a hummingbird" has been requested - twice - so I am going to include that one for sure. The third one is the one I am not sure about. It's a toss up between "New York, circa 1997" and the one that actually appears in the publication. The thing is I read that one last year. I could probably read all four in the three minutes I have, since my work is so concise. ;-)

alright, now that I'm about three hours away from kickoff and am writing and thinking about it the butterflies are waking...Wish me luck!

Read on!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Happy Things: Workspaces

Sadly, Dear Reader, this is NOT my new workspace...but I wish it was! Everytime I see this ramshakle wooden building at the UCSC Life Lab I think how much I would like to live there...or at least have a writer's studio!

Dream On, Write On,

Happy Things: Success! Birdhouse Photo Uploaded!

Yahoo, Dear Reader, Yahoo!

I am sooo proud of myself - finally able to upload photos to the blog.

This is a photo of a birdhouse I saw at the UCSC Life Lab garden last week. Like I said, I am not sure why birdhouses make me happy, they just do and for now, that is enough. (However, Ode to the Birdhouse might be a good poetic exercise.)

Off to upload some more photos!

Write On,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Happy Things: Birdhouses and Workspaces

Hello Dear Reader,

Welcome to a new column/post topic: Happy Things.

Since I have completed the Artist's Way and am transitioning the blog to be more about the successes and struggles of the writing life I am planning to feature some recurring topics. Some I came up with all by my clever lil' self and others are unabashedly cribbed from some of the other blogs I frequent and/or enjoy. (I will give proper credit where due, BTW.)

In any event, and since the oven timer is going off downstairs, Happy Things is making it's debut tonight. The things that make me happy today are birdhouses and workspaces. I got a new workspace!!! It's mine! All mine! I will take photos and post them later. I have some fun birdhouse pictures too.

But now I must run, lest I let dinner burn!

Eat, I mean WRITE on!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Things That Make Me Think I Am Not Really a Writer

Dear Reader,

Momma said there would be days like this. In fact, my mom said all the days would be like this. She was a harsh realist.

Sometimes I like to read about other writers to get inspired. I especially like to hear about folks who began writing or were first published later in life. This is so I feel like I still have time.

A Facebook Friend posted this quote from George Eliot - "It is never to late to be who you might have been." (or words to that effect.) It has been recieved with great adoration. This must mean we all wish we were someone else, doing something else, to a certain extent.

Is this a horrible lie we prepetuate to future generations? That you will be something great and unique and you will find great personal and professional satisfaction if you work hard and have a few lucky breaks? Maybe my mom was right, it is better to tell your kids life is difficult more often than not and is a lot of hard work.

Well, I am digressing. The point of this post was to list the things that make me think, sometimes, that I am not a "real" writer. Things like the fact that I can go days without writing and hardly miss it. I always hear writers say "oh I simply MUST write, or I can hardly breathe..." or some such thing. But what about us who have a million other things we "simply MUST" do in our day - like take care of children, clean house, do laundry, grocery shop, cook, feed, clean up, wash, read to, tuck in, pay bills, let the dog out, rinse out the wetsuits, look for a job in case the pink slip isn't recinded this year, be a friend, be a sister, be a daughter, a wife, a mother, and oh yeah, if there is time left be an individual who is fit, relaxed, well-read, interesting and a WRITER too!

I am mad at whoever sold me this bill of goods, but I am madder still at myself for buying it. And not being able to unload it.

Write on if you must. And you simply must.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Watched Pot Never Boils

Or, you can not stop a volcano from erupting. Opposite ideas, same general emotion. i.e. We really are not in any kind of control no matter what we like to think. So there, Dear Reader, that is a fair introduction to my headspace today.

This past week has been a continuation of the punchy week I wrote about last Sunday. I have not been on top of the blog posting - not at all. I want to whine that "The universe is just not cooperating with me!" in my most annoying small spoiled child voice. Shhh, if you listen closely I bet you can hear me.

It's been an up down and all around week. There was a death in the extended family. A wonderful woman, just 59. It was the ten year anniversary of the death of a dear friend which, in some ways, made me wonder where the time went. Mother's Day is rough - I went to see my mom and I can't help but wonder if she will still be here this time next year. She weighs less than 100 pounds. I don't think she recognizes me anymore.


The only way out of this for me is to write - which i have been doing - and sleep, which is what I am going to go do now. No good is going to come from this mood I am in tonight.

Write on, people, while you can,

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Rolling with the Punches

Dear Reader,

It's been a while, I know. I have no excuses, no rationale, just a simple apology, I suppose. I have not been writing my daily pages, though I try. For some reason the past couple of weeks have just been rough.

This is not to say that I have not been writing, because I have. I workshopped a couple more poems last week and I spent quite a bit of time researching where to submit which poems next. Of course, this requires an Excel spreadsheet so I can keep track of what I sent where and when I should either hear back or ping the editors. Read: time suck.

I have also been germinating ideas for poems - scrips (new word, just debuted) and scraps here and there. I love the voice recorder on my phone. Very cool for when I have an idea and am driving and can't write it down. The Muse knows I better commit it to something other than my memory if I want to be able to go back to it. (Note to self: Get back to it.)

I need to do a few things like:
- wrap up the whole Artist's Way thing. Tell you all about my final exercises and my take aways from the experience.
- update my "plan" - you know, the thing I like to spend time creating and then promptly deviating from. Story of my life really. Nonesensical - that's how I roll!
- come up with a new tagline for the blog, since I am esentially finito with the Artist's Way and am on Jessica's Winding, Circular, This Way and That Way Path now.
- schedule a time to meet with my photographer friend so we can shoot a very writerly looking portrait of me for the blog. I am thinking black turtleneck and an espresso, with an intellectually pensive look upon mon visage. What do you think?

This is really only a partial list of shiz I need to do. Right now, in this space and time, however, it is all I can do to just roll with the punches. This seems to be what the universe is telling me to do, so I am going with it.

Finding inspiration and creation in the day to day (and writing on...),

Monday, April 26, 2010

Save the Date!

Hello, Hello, Hello!

Save the date - Saturday, May 29th. Porter Gulch Review party and poetry reading! More details to come, but it is at the Cabrillo College Horticulture Center. Beautiful place, beautiful view, fun night. Last year there were artists displaying their work and many talented poets reading. As I have a poem in this year's edition I will have the opportunity to read - and I shall!

Write on!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Where, Oh Where Has Jessica Gone?

Where oh where can she be, Dear Reader?

Somewhere out there in the atmosphere trying to convince Mercury to un-retrograde, that's where! 

Bonus points if you know what the HECK I am talking about. 

Seriously, she'll be back soon. When she returns from her planetary travels she will land in a pile of post-it notes, random scraps of paper, dog-eared poetry books, and voice messages she sends herself while driving to and from work listening to NPR stories about Alzheimer's or Dorothy Height that, for some reason, make her cry. 

Eventually she will dig herself out of this mound of odds and ends. Hopefully she will be making sense (again?) by then. 

Until then, Dear Reader, reach for the stars and hang on if you catch one!

Write On, 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Back From the Dead, or Darn, Spring Break Was Fun!

Hello, Dear Reader, 

Both of those titles would be appropriate, as it turns out. Spring Break was a blast, even though this time last week I was writhing around in my sweaty pj's feeling horrible and willing myself not to vomit...again. Yuk.

Luckily, the worst part of the flu or exorcism or whatever it was only lasted about 24 hours. I felt significantly better on Tuesday, though it really took all week for my tummy troubles to subside completely. Well, almost completely - my hankerin' for coffee and wine has diminished substantially. I am concerned.

We had company from out of town and good weather for the second half of the week which meant lots of fun stuff to do like go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium , eat good Mexican food, go out to breakfast, wander around and do a little shopping in downtown Santa Cruz, wander along a sunny West Cliff path, lay on the grass, people watch, go to the movies a couple of times, hit the Boardwalk...really, you name it, we did it. So fun for me and the kids had a BLAST.  We all found some of our missing much-ness.

The down side of all this fun-having is that there wasn't much daily writing or traipsing down the Artist's Way taking place. So this will be the final week, and I will wrap it all up next Monday. Neatly, with a real pretty bow - I promise.

I did have some inspiring moments and if I can ever get my camera and computer synched up I will share some cool shots with you. I was possessed to write a couple of rough drafts, starts, random thoughts that may turn into something. I have had time to live a little and do some thinking about how to better do that - the living - and make sure I stay healthy, creative and inspired. More on this later, 'cause I know you are interested! LOL!

And one other thing: I WILL be in the 2010 edition of the Porter Gulch Review !!! More details to come, but my poem "Notes to the Gardener" was selected. [insert big cheesy grin here]

Write On,

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Little Ray of Sunshine

Hello Dear Reader,

I am delighted to be able to share the smallest sliver of sunshiney, glistening, hopeful good news with you. As you know from my last post I was feeling quite sad that none of the poems I had recently submitted were accepted for publication or awarded big fat prizes (like $500, which was earmarked for my really cool new MacBook...) :-(

However, just when all hope is lost (that is, specifically, noon on the last day of notification) I received a lovely email from the Central Coast Writers' Group notifying me that - while I did not win the contest (bye bye MacBook dreams...) - my poem "Yes" was a finalist and my name would be included on their website!

Given the dearth of good news in my literary life this month I am pretty happy about this last minute positivity!Also, I am further motivated to send out my poems for consideration in other literary publications. Like I said, I felt I had some strong poems (or I would not have sent them out), but they are stonger still thanks to my poetry revision group (Big whoop whoops to Amber Sumrall and the other wonderful poets in that group.)

So, purple 2010 edition of Poet's Market in hand,  I am carefully researching where to send my little fuzzy babies next. Wish me luck!

Write on,

Monday, March 29, 2010

Let's Talk About (Suc)Cess, Baby!

Success...What is it, how do you achieve it, when do you know you have it? It's so much easier to know when you don't.

Story time, Dear Reader, so settle in. About this time last year I submitted some work to a local literary magazine, The Porter Gulch Review . I was surprised to find out one of my poems had been accepted and was to be published in the 2009 edition. It was totally cool and fun and led to my first public reading! I enjoyed the experience immensely.

However, I pretty much pooh-poohed the PGR - basically because they had selected one of my poems to publish. What was it that Groucho Marx said? Something along the lines of he wouldn't want to belong to any group that would have him as a member.  Essentially I figured the PGR wasn't much of a literary journal if I got in. (Yes, this is a sad indicator of how low my self-esteem is...)

Imagine how I feel now having submitted several poems for consideration for this year's edition and  not having any accepted. Pretty crappy.

I submitted poems to three journals - all of which were to contact selected poets by March 31. Granted, it is only late on the 29th and therefore there are technically another 48 hours...but it ain't lookin' good folks.

Waaaahhhh. :-(

On the flip side (and there always is a flip side) I am a little relieved because I recently workshopped  one or two of the poems I had already submitted. Now that I have done more revising they are much stronger poems. And I have every intention of submitting them to other journals. That is part of my on-going plan - keep those freakin' poems in circulation, because sooner or later someone will read them and see the shiny goodness they hold.

In the meantime I am feeling a little disappointed and sad.

I was reading quotes on success and came across this one that, for some reason, I really love:

" Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire." - Arnold H. Glasgow

Please pass the matchbook,

Quote of the Day

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." ~ Anais Nin

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Spring has sprung Dear Reader!

This has to be some of the best news we have heard in a very long time. Last week I was walking on a wooded path in a coastal redwood grove nearby and was thrilled to see the most amazing flowers - tiny purple orbs hanging thankfully on green stalks, hopeful, beastly fern fronds unfurling themselves in the shade, even the poison oak, shiny in its "leaves of three, let them be" glory was something to be thankful for. Spring!

Last week, however, I was extremely ill with some crazy flu-like version of a very bad cold with a side of mucus producing hacking. Felt about as lovely as it sounds. BUT, I decided to put a positive spin on things. Since spring was in the air I decided that being sick, without an appetite, and with feverish nights that left my bedclothes soaked each morning, was a great way to get some physical spring cleaning done. Think of the toxins I got rid of! I had been indulging in too much sugar, too much caffeine, too much bad, processed food. So the sickness imposed semi-fasting and major detox sweat sessions were really a blessing in disguise. I took Friday off and slept all day, in anticipation of feeling miraculously better on Saturday - the Spring Equinox.

Well, Saturday morning didn't exactly live up to it's reputation as a glorious day full of enlightenment and green grandeur, but by Sunday I was feeling pretty good. And I am now on a strict sugar diet (wayyyyy harder to stay on than I thought - further evidence of, ahem, "an issue" perhaps?)

This, Dear Reader, is a perfect segue into my check in for Week 10: Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection. This week, you see, was all about "search[ing] out the toxic patterns we cling to that block our creative flow."

There you have it! What a great way to breakthrough those toxic patterns - get sick! Have limited or no desire to eat, have limited or no desire to sit up and surf the internet (one of my identified blocks), and have limited or no desire to multi-task, be busy just to be busy or really have any interest in getting anything done. Perfect! It its own kind of cosmic slap in the face way getting sick helped me to identify all those bad habits I have that block me.

They are (in no particular order): food (sugar and caffeine, I am talking to you), the computer (yeah Face Book, this means you!), housework (I don't even know what to say in your defense, really. But as soon as I can afford it I am getting a housecleaner - you can count on that!), and "reality" TV (Top Chef, Project Runway, Millionaire Matchmaker - did I just say that out loud? - and those damn housewives - really, why oh why do I get sucked in?!?!?)

OK, we both know I am human - specifically a Jessica - so the simple fact that I have a) identified my time sucking wasting destroying blocks and b) purged myself of their draw for a week does NOT mean I will be able to maintain this abstinence. Nor that I want to, necessarily (so there, bleh.) However, it is important for me to go forward and be mindful about what I am giving up (time with my family, time for my writing) in order to partake in these other, way less meaningful or productive things.

Sugar and Caffeine? Consider yourselves warned.

Write on,

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thought for the Day

“You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through.”

― Rosalynn Carter

courtesy of Real Simple

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


jux·ta·po·si·tion [juhk-stuh-puh-zish-uhn]

–noun act or instance of placing close together or side by side, esp. for comparison or contrast.
2.the state of being close together or side by side.

I am in the graceful state of juxtaposition. I am totally happy, excited, inspired and optimistic about life and writing and my place in both. Alternatively, I am 100% relating to the idea of "Stop the world, I want to get off!" I really, truly, madly, deeply want to take a break and lay in the overgrown green grass of spring and watch the clouds go by...for about a week.

Honestly, I think that would make a world of difference.

But we all know that ain't gonna happen! Besides, if it was possible I am assuming I would not be alone on that pretty green overgrown rug o' spring. How many of you would be there with me? Right? Can I get an "Amen!"?

Alright, Dear Reader, let's move on from Jessica in Dreamland and on to Reality with a capital "R". Time for the overdue Week 9 check in.

Week 9, if you recall, was all about "Recovering a Sense of Compassion". The idea was to uncover our internal blocks to creativity, address our past shames and failures as artists and move forward. We were to talk about what makes us afraid - of creating, of success, of failure.

My answer was to create a plan. Hah! How typical of me. Really, I don't have time to hash out all that I have done wrong in the past. I have started and never finished so many projects - too many to list. So let's just move forward, shall we?

I think we can all agree I have a little writer idol worship going on. I think most writers are better than me - more dedicated, more talented, more able, more driven, more focused.

Blah blah blah.

On the other hand, I am feeling pretty excited about working on my project once I am done with the next two weeks of TAW. I am happy with the poems I workshopped at Amber's and the feedback I got. I am looking foreward to workshopping two more this week. I have definately developed a writing habit. One that I feel badly about breaking - that is good. I may not write every day of the week, but I get 5 religiously and usually 6. I have set some realistic creative goals and am making plans to keep myself accountable and on task over the coming months.

I have slacked on the Artist's Date. Maybe I'll take myself out for a leisurely roll in the grass...

Write on,

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

System Reboot

Dear Reader, 
 I am in a personal purgatory between abject apathy and total motivation. My system is not responding. I need a total system reboot.

Not sure how to make that happen. Been pushing buttons all day long and none of them are quite doing the trick.

You know how when you push the hard reset button it takes  a little while for the system to start up again? It just sits there for a minute ( you really want me to start up again? don't you need to go pee or grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine first?) and then, one little program by one little program it begins to come back to life. Always in the same order. Very precise. Very deliberate. Following restart protocol everytime.

Baby steps in the computer world y'all. Means I need to take baby steps on Planet Jessica too.

Baby step #1:When in doubt, make a plan.

I love to have plans - just so I  can not stick to them. Makes me feel better somehow. So here's the plan for the next 30 days+:

  • This week (3/8)
    • Complete The Artist's Way Week 9 "Recovering a Sense of Compassion"
    • Begin Poetry Revision workshop with Amber Sumrall. 
      • workshopping 2 poems a week! 
  •  Week of 3/15
    • TAW Week 10 "Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection
    • Session 2 Poetry Revision Workshop
    • Listen to Lisa Allen Ortiz read at Poetry Speak  2pm, Sunday March 21st at the Santa Cruz Public Library
  • Week of 3/22
    • TAW Week 11 "Recovering a Sense of Autonomy
    • Have a date with an artist friend (Amy , are you reading this??) 
  • Week of 3/29 
    • TAW Week 12 "Recovering a Sense of Faith"
    • Celebrate completing The Artist's Way in a splendid and worthy fashion! 
      • find that special writing table perhaps? a new hot pink journal? a new fancy pen? Throw myself an  "I AM a Writer Damnit" party? 
    • Come up with a new mission and tag-line for the blog, since it will now be about something else - my life as a recovered creative and a writer working on a project!
  • Week of 4/5 
    • Spring Break from the day job! Try not to gloat. 
    • Spend at least one very late wine fueled night looking through all my half-finished, just barely started stories and poems and decide which ones I want to go back to. 
    • Begin working on "The Project" in earnest, with intention and dedication and commitment.
      • make edits, add new stuff, print out new working copy...Get Busy!
This, Dear Reader, be my 30-day plan. 

What do you think? 

Feelin' better already, 

PS: write on!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Things I've Learned

Hello Dear Reader,

One of this (two) week's tasks has been to go back through my Morning Pages and read them. (Yawn...) I've been instructed (by the book, not the voices in my head or transmissions from outer space) to take two different colored highlighters and highlight a) any insights and b) any action items.

I began this porcess last night and promptly developed a massive migraine which I am still suffering from as I type. Blech. Perhaps it was the neon green and yellow of the highlighter oddly illuminated by the fire reflecting off my glass of sparkling water and chardonnay. Regardless, the task gave me a headache.  I need a brainema.

All was not lost, however. I have learned a few things that I will now share with you:

~ I simply MUST write first thing in the morning, or else I run the risk of not writing at all or wasting a page lamenting the fact that - just like exercise - if I don't get it done first thing, it doesn't get done.

~ I am quite unhappy with my current work situation. I am not 100% sure why. I have my suspicions.

~ I should always shut up long enough to hear what my gut is telling me - and then do that, not the opposite.

~ I strongly desire my own writer's table.

~ Good advice: "You just have to keep trying. Eventually you will find someone who likes your stuff."

~ "Comparison is lethal to contentment." I don't know who said that, but they are a freakin' genius!

That's all I can muster at this time, Friend. Don't worry, I have more to share. Be patient!

Write on,

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss! (and thanks!)

I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me.

-- Dr. Seuss

Join me, Dear Reader, in wishing Dr. Seuss a happy birthday!
You know, I went to grad school in his hometown - Springfield, Massachusetts. Just a little Jessica Trivia for you.
You may have noticed it is Tuesday and I usually post my weekly check-in on Monday.  I am giving myself another week (again, per usual) to work on this week's topic, "Recovering a Sense of Compassion." I have not done much this week. I have lagged a little on the daily pages and I didn't do a single task out of the book. I have not felt motivated at all. I have felt uninspired, lazy and all around ugly.
Apparently, that is not uncommon at this point. (Relief! I am not strange! I am not abnormal!)  As I read the sidebar for this week (kind of a "what to expect" blurb) Cameron writes, "This week finds us facing the internal blocks to creativity. It may be tempting to abandon ship at this point. Don't!"
OK. I won't.
No, really. I won't.
I promise.
As I read on, Cameron says,
Blocked artists are not lazy. They are blocked.
Being blocked and being lazy are two different things. The blocked artist typically expends a great deal of energy - just not visibly. The blocked artist spends energy on self-hatred, on regret, on grief, and on jealousy. The blocked artist spends energy on self-doubt.
Hmmph. Not that I want to admit to all that, but yeah, she is totally on the money, Honey. That about sums up my mental space this past week. Yuk.

So what is plan to get past all this self-perpetuated ugliness you ask? Do I have one?

Oh yeah, I've got one:

"...I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!"

Write on,