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,