Friday, December 5, 2014

In the Company of Kind

"I'm glad to find this group," our new writing partner says. "Writing can be so isolating," she explains.  I nod my head, even though I haven't the faintest idea of what she means.  For one thing, I rarely accomplish much writing, left to my own devices.  That's why I started a writing meetup, to create the environment and accountability to accomplish writing on a regular basis.  It's been wildly successful in that regard; I've never written more than I have in the months since I began the group.

The deeper reason I can't relate is because I never feel completely alone when I write.  I have the writer's voice, the critic's voice and the doubter's voice all wrapped up inside my mind.  When I'm alone and writing, I am so busy fending off the "that's a lousy description" and the "nobody will care what you write" voices that it can be a challenge to hear the writer's voice at all.

When I'm out writing with other writers, whether they be published authors or casual bloggers, the writer's voice comes to the forefront of my mind.  Some days, I don't even hear the critic's voice at all, and I'm not sure the doubter's voice ever leaves my house.  There's an alchemical reaction that takes place in my brain when I'm in the creative soup that only brews in the company of People who Write.  People who must write because otherwise they will go crazy.  People who write what will burn them up inside them if it doesn't come out.  People who write, no matter if anyone will read it, because it's who and what they are.  People who encourage another writer's creative genius because it speaks to their own.

In this company of kindred writing spirits, I not only feel more free to express what I must say, I feel compelled to be engaged in The Work, if only in solidarity with my fellow writers. If I don't keep putting words on the page, if I'm not contributing my own alchemical creativity to the Soup, who knows what great novel or epic poem might be stymied? If we don't support each other in this travail, who will? 

Nature does. Our writing meetup gathers at the most unlikely places in urban Los Angeles: duck ponds. Hiking trails. Parks with playgrounds. Japanese gardens. Wildlife preserves. Historic sites. Meditation gardens. And, yes, on the patios of coffee bars. The format of our group is simple. Check in and write, write, write. We don't review or critique each other's work. We just write. 

It's not that I don't ever want a critical review or see the value in sharing and receiving constructive input.  There is a time and place for it.  However, I will never get to the point of asking for reviews if I don't first put some words down on a page.  I'll never even get to that first necessary shitty draft (in the words of Anne LaMotte), but for the inspired and magical environment that sitting down with a group of devoted writers generates.

I bless the Writers of the world, especially the kind and courageous souls who keep showing up in the most unlikely places with me to write. I am grateful to be among kindred spirits.  

This post is dedicated to the Natural Muse meetup writers, especially Christy, Laura and Tony, who have kept me writing diligently for more than a year.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Do You Have a Blanket?


The doorbell rings, and I ignore it. We're not expecting anyone, and I'm in the middle of cooking, tending three pans on a hot stove. Our kitchen is readily visible to anyone approaching our front door, so there's no pretending we're not home when the door bell rings. I've tried various measures to avoid answering the door, none successfully.  I've found that gesturing wildly to indicate my preoccupation with the food on the stove, inspires a cheery wave in return—along with a hopeful look I cannot ignore. 

Tonight, however, my husband is closer to the door than I am, so I wait for him to respond. He's watching the game, but he pushes back from the table and makes his way to the door. I listen in to discover the cause du jour: selling magazines for a school? Re-painting house numbers on the curb? Soliciting donations for a good cause? 

Instead I hear, "Do you have a blanket?" All of my cynicism flies out the window. "I'm staying down at the church, and they don't have enough blankets," the voice continues. "They do have food tonight, and I'm glad for that but it's supposed to get real cold and I wonder if you have an extra blanket?"

Dinner can wait. I turn off the burners and go to the door. I take in the weathered face and gentle countenance of the weary traveler on our doorstep. I'm transported to a time and place when traveling pilgrims could expect charity by knocking on the kitchen door and a venerated monk's bowl would be filled without even asking. "Yes," I say, "wait just a minute." I search the basket full of blankets in the living room. "What a bounty," I think. I press the warmest blanket into the Traveler's hands.  He nods and says, "thank you now." I watch him as he turns and ambles back down our pathway, my eyes brimming with tears. "I've seen an angel," I think.

There are no end of opportunities to give these days. Letters from charities asking for donations arrive daily. Hungry people stand on corners with battered signs. Commercials of abused animals and starving children parade across our flat screens. The kids bring home pleas for money from school in their backpacks. There is so much want and hurt and need in the world that I have to shut off the noise of it all to make it through the day. 

It's easy to feel suspicious and jaded with all the stories of corruption in organizations we entrust to be our agents of compassion—of wealthy people pretending to be homeless while racking in thousands.  And so I pretend not to see the homeless vet crumpled on the corner, I toss unread letters from charities straight into the recycle bin, and I turn off the TV at the first sign of discomfort. 

And then someone knocks on my door and asks for a blanket, and I'm reconnected with the power and the blessing of Giving. How rare the opportunity to connect directly with another human, a fellow traveler on this Life journey, asking for something so simple for me to give—and so meaningful for him to have. No charitable organizations in the middle, taking their cut.  No wondering if the cash will be used to buy liquor. Just a simple act of Ask and Receive. 

Don't be afraid to ask, I've heard my teachers say, because you deprive someone of the opportunity to give. Giving feels good. There's no quicker path to Gratitude than the experience of giving, freely, lovingly, gladly. And Gratitude is the bullet train to the experiencing the essential Joy of this life. 

On this day of Thanks Giving, I give thanks for all who read this blog post. I am grateful for the traveling soul who reminded me of how blessed I am--and how easily I may shift my perspective from the mundane to the miraculous with simple appreciation. May we all appreciate our warm blankets tonight and all of our simple blessings. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Mystique of Multitasking



My productivity this morning is off the chart. Right now, I'm organizing the writing implements on my son's desk, watching a pot boiling on the stove, folding laundry and rearranging the china cabinet. NOT! I can hear you snort, which isn't very nice of you, even though, of course, it's true. I'm not really doing any of those things at this very moment. I'm taking a wee break to jot down some deeply profound thoughts, the kind that only come when I'm running the vacuum, the droning noise of which drowns out the everyday mind chatter, and the lint in my brain gets cleared away long enough for something deeply profound to be uncovered like the shiny, silver dollar buried in between the couch cushions. 

Yes, those kind of Jack Handy Deep Thoughts are zipping around in my brain this morning as I flit from task to meaningless task, fueled by the "just one cup!" of coffee that I'm allowing myself today.  Just a quick jot, and then I must get back to that laundry in the dryer before it wrinkles.  And figure out why the oven timer is beeping.  There's nothing in the oven, is there? Are those almonds I put in to dehydrate yesterday still there? I'd better check. Be right back to share those profound thoughts.  

Whew! I just need to sit down for another minute and clear my thoughts.  I haven't put away the laundry yet, but I'm making real headway on sorting the Nerf gun parts. I'm so glad that beeping sound stopped.  It turned out to be the coffee I had reheated in the microwave.  How could I forget the "just one cup!" I've promised myself to get me through the laundry list of all that I want to accomplish today.  Laundry!  Be right back.  

Gosh, it's fun to dust every single hanger before I can even hang up the clean laundry in the closet.  We've done a bit of remodeling here this month, and absolutely everything is covered with a fine layer of dust. I had no idea how much dust a skinny hanger could hold!  I don't want my Fun Meter to peak too soon today (still two hours to go!), so I'm taking a wee break from dusting hangers while I savor the last drip of my "just one cup!" of coffee.  

OMG, THERE'S NO MORE COFFEE IN MY CUP!  *Head banging.* I do believe I deserve another cup because I've been working so hard.  I'm just coming off a three week cleanse, however, and I mean to inject my drug of choice back into my system slowly.  I've chosen a handrafted, locally sourced, cold brew which is supposed to be easier to digest. Nonetheless, the caffeine is a real jolt to my system.  That's the point of it, isn't it?   

I really don't get decaf.  Go caffeinated or go home, I always say!  But I AM home, so that saying is no help at all. The lack of caffeine withdrawal is making me testy already.  A little voice tells me that this is a great time to do a meditation. Where the hell did that come from? Probably the same idiot who came up with the "just one cup!" policy. I'll allow myself three deep breaths .... and blast! There's that infernal beeping sound again.  I wonder what it's for? If I had the clarity of more coffee I'm sure I could figure it out.  I'll just check it out and then...
Be still my heart!  I found a way to reorganize the china cabinet that really works. Sitting on the floor surrounded by the knicks and knacks that didn't quite make their way back into the china cabinet, I realize I'm exhausted. 

My cleaning sprint is done for the day, and, I'm sorry to report, those deeply profound and meaningful insights seem to have flown the mental coop along with my energy.   They've all been whisked away like the lint I need to take out of the dryer trap. Right.  The laundry. That's what I had set the timer to me remind myself to do. Sigh. With apologies to Mother Earth for the extra outlay of energy, I will sit here and bask in the glow of what I did accomplish and I'll de-wrinkle the clothes with that extra Touch Up cycle on the dryer clothes tomorrow ....is it too early for happy hour?  No, wait a minute, it's time for my meditation. I'm sure that's what I meant to say.

P.S. If you've read all the way to the end of this meaningless post, it just might be possible there's something you're avoiding, too. You might want to go check the dryer....

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Tribute to a Not-so-Monstrous Lady

I proposed to her right there at the Eiffel tower!" gushes the fresh-faced young man at the table next to us. We're sitting in a sports bar to watch a baseball game, and his interjection comes uninvited.  I'm one part annoyed by his interruption and one part intrigued by the similarities between the fervor of sports fans and young lovers. I'm in no part focused in his story.

"People were clapping and cheering for us. They threw money, lots of money, at us, like tens and twenties," he continues, unfazed by our lack of enthusiasm for his tale. "We got like $250 that night!"  And that's when I realized he was talking about the Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas...


The Eiffel Tower was on my mind again this morning when I awoke to see my daughter's drawing of it which hangs on the wall of the guest room at her aunt's house. The coincidence of the young man's outburst the previous evening and seeing her drawing first thing this morning has me musing about the Iron Lady.

Our whole family went to Europe together a couple of years ago, and Paris was the last city on our jam-packed itinerary. We were all travel-weary by the time we got there.

Some of the lifts at the Eiffel Tower were out of commission when we were in Paris, and tourists were standing in ticket lines for hours, just to get a ride to the top.  We opted not to devote our few precious hours (and flagging energy) in Paris standing in line or making the stair climb in the hot sun. We told ourselves that missing the view from the Eiffel Tower would give us a reason to return to Paris, much as our coins in the Trevi fountain assured our return to Rome. 

We settled for a nighttime stroll around her massive legs. Suddenly, the 5 billion lights adorning the Eiffel Tower began twinkling rapid-fire, looking more like a glimpse into the Milky Way than a mass of ten thousand tons of iron.  We were as surprised and elated as if the Mona Lisa had suddenly begun to sing when we were at the Louvre.  

On the last day of our trip, Aunt Kathy had said, "Of all the cities we visited on this trip, Paris is one place I don't feel any need to come back." I felt I'd failed Paris. I've loved Paris since I came here as a teen on a student tour. That trip was my first without my parents, my first trip outside the US—and my first plane ride anywhere.  I stayed with a Parisian family who treated me like their own daughter.  "Ma fille américaine," my French dad called me. I felt I have done a disservice to the city of my adopted family.  "But we were here such a short time," I protest, "and we were exhausted. There's so much more to Paris than what little we saw!"  

Fast forward a month, and we're all gathered to reminisce and share "favorite moments" from our trip. "There's something about the Eiffel Tower," Aunt Kathy muses.  "It affected me in a way I didn't appreciate at the time." I can only nod, my heart too full to speak. Today, I wander around her home and count no less than a dozen renditions of the Eiffel Tower—from the gift bag she gave me last night to the blue glass bottle sitting atop a platter emblazoned with a map of Paris. 

While the Eiffel Tower is recognized around the world as a much-beloved symbol for Paris today, it was not an emblem that was readily embraced.  Three hundred artists, including the most notable of the French arts establishment, penned a letter of protest demanding a halt to the construction of "this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower," a “hateful column of bolted sheet metal."  Aunt Kathy's comments make me realize that it is just as impossible to predict the impact of the great iron lady today as it was for those famed artists who had not yet set their sights on her.

What is it about the Eiffel Tower? Every person I know who has been to experience it has shared a tale of an intimate experience. 

"We snuck a bottle of wine to the top."

"We didn't have money for the lift ticket but we were on our honeymoon so the guard to let us ride."

My own first memory of the Eiffel Tower was of my French dad carrying my girly purse for me as we climbed the 300 steps to the 1er étage. My own father would not have been seen sporting such a decidedly female possession.  As terrified as I was of heights, I gratefully accepted French dad's offer—and the opportunity to grab the handrails with both hands.

"Let's go back to Paris!" reads the script on my daughter's drawing.  Judging from the number and variety of Eiffel Tower renditions in Aunt Kathy's home, I'm thinking that she doesn't need much convincing. 

Why this column of bolted sheet metal commands the hearts of so many people, I can't say.  I'm content to know that the great Iron Lady continues to inspire my family to dream and adventure, and, for this, I say "merci beaucoup." 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Racehorse Mind

The waning light and the chill in the air at the end of a long beach day lure me to the campfire.  The firepit is is a tall can designed to discourage embers from escaping into this dry canyon, and I can't see the fire inside it from the vantage of my camp chair.  My desire to contemplate the fire, at this point, is far less than my desire for rest, so I content myself with observing the smoke that billows out.  The cloud of smoke is thick and stinging, suggesting that the hard wood has not yet ignited.    

A hand reaches in to stoke the fire. Fine flakes of ash now spring into the air and hang suspended like twinkle lights before riding the downdrafts, swirling and dancing like tiny snowflakes being kissed from the sky.  The billows of smoke thin, as the hard wood takes light, and the stillness of night is pierced with the cracks and pops of a once-living being, now surrendering noisily unto a greater power.  This fire, once as reluctant to ignite as a tomboy to dance, is now as hungry and eager to consume as a bear after a long winter's nap.  

So like me, I think.  Most days, my biggest challenge is getting my mind out of bed.  My soul's first and foremost intention of the day is to devote the first stirrings of the day to quiet and peaceful meditation.   Not ready to engage in the activity of the day before aligning with all that is Peace and Love, my Soul urges me to get up, light some incense and sit in quiet contemplation.

My mind, however, wakes up revving with all the fervor of a racehorse after a good night's rest, the thrill of being alive coursing through its veins, the unabashed desire for the thrill of the run firing its naked need to feel every muscle and sinew working in perfect harmony to Be. The. Run.  My Soul's longing for Stillness is quiet, virtually impossible to hear over the bugle fanfare that calls racehorse mind to post, chomping at the bit to do what it has trained its entire life to do.

I contemplate the irony that it is my Soul's thirst for stillness that urges me out of bed, while it is the eager insistence of my mind to race through the paces of the day, to anticipate the curves of the track and to brace for the perceived pitfalls of the course that keeps me in bed.  "If you want Stillness," my mind reasons, "you can lay right here and have it."  

Soul is not fooled.  It knows well the cunning of my mind and its habit of employing trickery to get its own way.  Lying in bed is where racehorse mind does its best work, whether it be at 3:00 am or at the start of a new day.  This is where it enjoys a home field advantage.  

I lure my mind into the kitchen where I promise to scan my phone for messages, an activity that both pleases and occupies it.  Seeing nothing urgent, I silently, without any bugle fanfare or PA announcement, slip into my meditation room where Soul enjoys its home field advantage.  My mind makes one last appeal for control, as it examines the clock and sets a time for departure.  And then the racehorse settles back into its stall for a nap as my Soul has its way with the Divine.  

Day after day, this is how it goes, appeasing two toddlers, both demanding to be heard and to be validated.  Whereas once I tore out my hair trying to keep them in check, to keep them from scratching and clawing each other, now I'm learning to allow them each their time and to aknowledge each their contributions.  And still, the conversation begins anew every day when I wake up.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Negotiating Integrity

I'm sitting in a torture chamber as I write this blog post. Cleverly disguised as a neighborhood coffee house, this is a den of iniquity for me right now.  The tantalizing smell of coffee brewing wafts around me like a favorite hat that is swooped from my head by a gust of wind.   It is swirling around me, tantalizingly close and always inches out of reach.   

I'm on a cleanse. This is day 16 of a 21-day cleanse, as a matter of fact.  I've had a couple of blips along the way but no coffee. I don't drink coffee on a daily basis, saving it for those days when I need that extra pick-me-up or for a weekend coffee date with my husband.  And I've been doing fine with a daily cup of Yerba mate tea, which has it's own smidge of naturally occurring caffeine, in place of the latte I so dearly love, for lo these past sweet sixteen.  I was caught totally off guard this morning, then, when the urge for one great coffee buzz flattened me like Wile E. Coyote running himself over with a steamroller.   

"Just one cup," I thought. "One small cup will give me the energy to get some work done." I haven't felt a real sense of accomplishment since I started this cleanse.  "It will be organic," I reasoned. "I can maintain my integrity and my pledge to reduce my toxic load, if it's a cold brewed, shade grown, Fair Trade, organic coffee. It will be nothing less than a heroic, selfless act of Eco-commerce." I will do whatever it takes to negotiate with Mr. Will & Ms. Integrity and get myself out of this caffeine and sugar deprived stupor. 

This is what I do. I'm an excellent negotiator, if I say so myself, even if the bulk of my professional experience is among Me, Myself and I. We can be a tough crowd, so it's a testament to my skill to note just how often I'm able to get us all to come to terms. 

We all three got into the car and drove to Organix, the local organic food store, to see what we could work out.  I noticed immediately that the store is out of my favorite tea.  This didn't bode well for Me.  "Do you have any organic coffee?" I heard Myself ask. 

"There's a nice organic cold brew in the refrigerator," the clerk said, as he handed a bottle to Me who could barely contain her joy. I saw Myself reflected in the glass of the refrigerator glass, and I could see she was pissed. "You're not going to give up so easily, are you?" she hissed. I shrugged. "Perhaps it's meant to be," I said.  I put a single bottle in my cart. "It's got a real bottle cap, so we can't open it until we get home to a bottle opener," I said to reassure Myself. "Maybe this will all have blown over by then."

Back at home, I had just enough time to put away the groceries before it was time to head out to this writing meetup. I made Me put the cold brew into the fridge. She relented only because I pointed out, "this is a brew to savor, not to be slammed down in a rush." I saw Myself giving Me a celebratory thumbs up, which deflated Me. "Besides," I said, "we don't need it. Our next stop is a coffeehouse.  With all organic coffee!"  

We all got back into the car. "Blackberry tea, please!" I heard Myself blurt out at the counter, before anyone else could speak. I glanced at Me who fell into a petulant pout.  I took the tea to our usual table and set us up to write. "Isn't this nice?" I said. "We worked it all out and we're still friends."

The mere suggestion of a compromise riled Me.  I heard her scheming, "okay, fine, not today, but the cold brew is definitely on for breakfast tomorrow. It's organic, there's no need to rush tomorrow, plenty of time to savor it..."  I heard Myself sigh. 

All this dissension is making it hard for me to my concentrate on writing.    Maybe it will be better tomorrow, after that coffee.....

Monday, August 18, 2014

Missing My Blankie

Laying on my back with my legs up on the wall, I'm enjoying an end-of-yoga class reverie when I hear the instructor say, "I love that you brought your own blanket!" to another student.  I'm flooded with anguish.  Just last week, I was relieved of the possession of my favorite blanket.   I'm still grieving its loss.  It wasn't just any blanket, mind you.  It was a cheery red plaid and designed for outdoor use, with a waterproof backside.  It rolled up and had a handy leather handle, so I could take it anywhere in nature I wanted to write.  I've written countless blog posts and most of my eBook while sitting on that blanket.  It has accompanied me to to mountaintops and creek beds, from cultivated gardens to wild woods.  

Oh, I know you can find replacements everywhere now.  Ours was the first I'd ever seen,however, when David bought it in an after-Christmas sale more than ten years ago.  I remember it clearly because I thought it was still too expensive, not "clearance" priced at all. "We already have blankets," I protested.  I just couldn't see the value of it.  Fast forward to starting the Natural Muse meetup, and I'm trekking all over Los Angeles, finding remote and often dirty or muddy places in nature where I can sit with Nature to write.  I quickly discovered the value of that blanket.  Easy to tote.  Big enough for me and all my gear. Waterproof backside to stay dry even when I'm perched creekside.  

A week ago, I brought it home from writing by the duck pond at the Holy Spirit Retreat Center.  We also use it in our "outdoor room," so I dropped it in a lawn chair on the way from my car to the front door.  That's the last time I saw it.  Part of me still holds out hope that I've done something with it that I just don't remember.  That happens more often than I care to recount.  The other part of me says that it's gone to a good home, that anyone who would take a blanket needs a warm, dry place to sit (or sleep) more than I do.  

And still I miss it.  Why am I so sentimental about this blanket, anyway?  It wasn't handmade or a family heirloom. I have the means to replace it.  My mind is baffled even as my heart aches for it.  (My mind also says that nobody is going to be interested in a missing blanket to read an entire blog post about it).

I'm sitting indoors, as I write this, a rare blog post composed while sitting at an actual table.  Call me Linus, I just can't bring myself to write outside today without my trusty blanket.  The blanket was a sort of ticket to explore, I muse.  No matter where I went, whether I knew where I was going or how to find it, I knew I'd have a familiar place to sit. 

Have blanket.  Will travel.  And write.  

What's making this whole experience so miserable for me, I realize, is that I'm keeping my focus on "what I've lost."  We're remodeling a bathroom in our house now, and, as excited as I am to see the progress, I'm also feeling pangs of nostalgia.  The bathroom where we've bathed babies is no more.  My children are babies no more.  Am I just a sentimental mess, always missing what is no more?  Maybe there's more wrapped up in this blanket than I have realized.

I'm reminded of a suggestion made by life coach Jessica Colp in a master class on Acceptance and Surrender.  Use your own breath to move into the feeling of acceptance and surrender, she says.  Every inhale is an experience of  receiving (acceptance) and every exhale is an experience of letting go (surrender).  I settle back into my chair and, with every exhale, I imagine my blanket keeping someone else warm on cool summer night or a with family picnicking by a babbling creek. 

My act of Surrender "complete," I do a quick search online, and I find replacement blankets are readily available, costing half of what we paid years ago.  I just can't bring myself to buy one of them.  I don't want just "any blanket" to replace mine.  I'm going to Etsy and find one that's handmade.  One that's special.  And I can't help but hope (you know it goes) that I just might find the old one as soon as I buy the new.

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For more about life coach Jessica Colp, see www.JessicaColp.com

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Iron Jawed Angels Around the World

One of my perpetual goals as a mother is to get my kids to watch Movies with a Message, something with "redeeming value," as my mother might have said. Recently, I succeeded in convincing Chloë to watch Iron Jawed Angels with me. It's a film about two young activists, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, whose peaceful zeal and unwavering commitment energized the movement to gain women the right to vote in the U.S. 

About 30 minutes into the movie, Chloë said she didn't understand what all the arguing was about.  I explained that the story took place in a a very different time, and that, a hundred years ago, many men were very fearful about giving women the right to vote.  Women had never had the right to vote in this country (except in a few states), and men were worried about the changes that would take place if women were given the right to vote.  "I just don't get it, Mom.  They should know that you can't stop a woman.  Women are too strong for that." 

The movie proceeded to depict the malevolence and violence waged against the suffragettes, from the taunts and threats to the beatings, the maggott-filled food, and force feedings in the workhouse where they were imprisoned.  It was tough to watch, and even more tough to subject my baby girl to watching it. A part of this Mama Bear wanted to shield Chloë from the ugly reality of it all, even in its cleaned-up-for-Hollywood form.  

And a  bigger part of me wanted her to see it.  To prove to her that she was right.  The suffragettes never wavered in their commitment to their cause, despite the many setbacks and even their own personal fears and doubts. Chloë and I both cheered, tears streaming down my cheeks, when the film depicted the moment of glory when amendment giving women the right to vote in this country was passed. This right might have been one she, a child of the twenty-first century, would take for granted but for seeing this movie.

I recently read the book Half the Sky, so I know that women around the world continue to suffer injustices, from lack access to education and healthcare to human trafficking into the sex trade.  Lest we think that's just a problem "overseas," an estimated 50,000 women and children are trafficked each year into the United States for sexual exploitation.  Countless women and children in this country lack access to basic nutrition and health care. 

Such problems seem so big and hopeless that it's easy to check out and say, "there's nothing I can do about it." The book Half the Sky would be far to depressing for me to even read, in fact, but for this redeeming value:  for every injustice it highlights, it also showcases an individual who is working to help the women and children who are impacted. These are not governments or corporations but ordinary people who are taking bold action to address problems that seem as daunting now as women fighting for the right to vote did a hundred years ago.  Their courage and determination give me hope. 

The book also offers ideas about how the rest of us can support them in these brave souls, most being available right from their comfort of our own homes.  Anne Frank said, "how wonderful it is that no one need wait a single minute to improve the world." As soon as I put down the book, I went to kiva.org to fund a micro-loan for a woman in South America wanting to purchase more chickens so she will have eggs to feed her family ~ and to sell, so she has an income. 

It occurs to me that these small acts are just what is needed to bring about the kind of change we want to be in the world, as Gandhi suggested.  It's tempting to think we'll do something about looming issues when the big project ends, when the kids are bigger or when there's more money to donate.  Putting off action, I have found, means putting off peace.  When I'm feeling particularly bad about a situation, I ask myself, "what can I do about this right now?"  The answer may be to share the video, to raise awareness, or it may be to say a prayer blessing those who are on the ground helping.  Then I do that ~ and let go the guilt that I can't do more or the stress of adding one more thing to my Do Someday list.   

I honor and thank my suffragette sisters whose courage paved the way for my life today, and I bless all who are on the ground helping impoverished, disempowered and enslaved women around the world.  I give an equally big shout out to all of us who are making our own small contributions right where we are, wedged among the PTA meetings, the late nights at the office and folding the laundry.  Everything we do matters, and, collectively, we are proving Chloë right: women are far too strong to be held back by old paradigms and outdated customs.  I hope that it takes less than a hundred years for all of our global sisters to know it, too.  We need all of us holding up the sky to meet the many challenges we face on Earth today.

PS If you're interested in creating change in a bigger way, I recommend the Game Changer Intensive course offered by the Pachamama Alliance. I just completed the course, and it opened my eyes (and heart) to the many opportunities for effecting positive change.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Reflections of an Easter Bunny Mom

This past Sunday was my fifteenth appearance as an Easter Bunny mom.  It's been a few years since either of my egg hunters has believed in a magic bunny. Still, I shopped, planned and prepped pretty much as I always have.  My concern about about choking hazards has fallen by the wayside, and and the egg hunt began several hours later than when the youngsters excitedly awoke at dawn.   Otherwise, it was Easter Tradition as usual.
  
My egg hunters have seen enough Easters that they are no longer be amazed by the sudden appearance of brightly colored eggs in the yard, nor are they astonished by the bounty they hold.   I dearly miss their shrieks of joy and wide-eyed looks of wonder. I choked back tears, as I compared their toddler jubilation with their more half-hearted efforts this year.   

Then I reminded myself that I'm glad they've showed up for the hunt at all.  Neither one protested that they are "too old" for it now.  They still hunt with interest and a mildly competitive edge.  Even if the attitude suggests nonchalance, I don't feel that any of us are ready to give up this tradition.  

I remember all too well my first Easter after I had discovered "the truth" about the Easter bunny.  My well-meaning mom had asked if I wanted to help her assemble the Easter baskets, which would still be a source of wonder and surprise for my younger sister.  I eagerly accepted this opportunity to peak behind the curtain.  

And then I regretted that I had.  The wonder of Easter basket magic was forever stripped away, like pulling the curtain away from the Wizard of Oz.  I wish I had opted to play along for a few more Easters.  It is this memory that keeps me filling baskets and eggs for my kids who long ago discovered "the truth."  Maybe it's no mystery who delivers the goodies, but it's a family tradition.  I like to think that it's the kind that assures them that I'll be here, no matter how old they get.

When I allow myself to let go of comparing this Easter egg hunt experience with those of their younger years, I realize that I wouldn't want them to be any other way than as they are.  The tight wrap on emotion and the lack of surprise simply demonstrate that all is well with their evolution and maturation into wise and worldly humans.  

Truly, there are gifts at every age.  We now share a love of cynical humor that is beyond the grasp of an innocent toddler.  My son creates digital music using tools and skills that require a finesse and intelligence I can't quite fathom. My daughter paints and decorates cakes with an artistry not demonstrated in her preschool works.  They both possess a unique and wise perspective of the world, and I'm thrilled to be witness and to support their unique evolutions. 

I can enjoy the best of both worlds when I both remember with love their childlike innocence and marvel with awe at the evolution of their many gifts and abilities.  Suffice to say this Easter bunny mom will be hiding eggs in the yard for years to come, if only for the opportunity to savor the memories of Easters past.  Who knows? I might not even wait until Easter. I might just be that old lady wandering the yard in her housecoat, chatting with her memories  - and surprising herself to find that there are brightly colored plastic eggs in the yard.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Commercial-Free

One of my very earliest memories is of a television commercial in which a stylishly dressed woman was joyously mopping the floor in an otherwise spotless kitchen.  The mom in the commercial seemed so happy to be mopping, in fact, that I thought my whole family would be better off if only my mom would mop our kitchen floor while wearing a skirt and heels.  Not only did my mother not dress up to clean house, but she wore her oldest clothes.  That did not bode well for her experience of exhilaration.

Or maybe she just needed to use that miracle cleaner that the happy lady used.  That store brand stuff Mom bought was not giving her the euphoria that the advertised brand could provide.  In fact, my mom could be downright grumpy when she mopped our floor.  I remember receiving a particularly angry lecture once while (I swear) she was vigorously mopping a hole in to our kitchen floor.  I don't remember what she was yelling at me about.  The confusing disparity between my mom's angry outburst and the happy tv lady's expression was far more engrossing.

It seems laughable, now, that I once believed women could orgasm over floor washing.  What's more troubling to me, however, is that one of my earliest, most clear memories is of a television commercial.  I don't remember the first time I got money from the tooth fairy or the my first trip to the zoo.  But that television commercial stands out clearly.  

I'm a mom now with a kitchen floor of my very own.  I confess that I rarely mop it, and, to be perfectly honest, I have never felt the rapture when I do.  What's more, I've been known to merely swipe at the biggest spots with a wet towel, ignoring the rest, barely five minutes before the guests arrive.  I felt a momentary pang of failure when I wrote that last sentence.  How are my children ever going to learn to live happy lives if their slothful mother fails to demonstrate the joys of floor mopping?  More seriously, I wonder what my children are learning about who they should (or shouldn't be) from all the advertisements they see?  

Even though we can now fast forward through those inane television commercials (halleluia), I also know that they are being bombarded with so much more advertising than I would have ever thought possible. Buses, trash cans, drink cups and grocery store receipts are plastered with ads.  Sports stadiums are emblazoned with brand names.  Facebook and search engines promote products targeted to their demographic.  The YouTube videos they watch start with a commercial that you must watch for at least a few seconds.  Even movie theaters show commercials before the previews now, and the movie itself subtly promotes those oh-so-carefully placed name brand products.  Mobile billboards and, yes, even forehead advertising, mean the propaganda can follow us wherever we go.  No longer must we suffer a lonely commercial-free walk in the woods, if we plan it right.  

It's hard to say just what my kids are picking up from all of this because advertising has changed so much since the day of those June Cleaver ladies.  In fact, I'm hard pressed to tell you what is being advertised in some of those commercials they show during the Super Bowl.  Clearly, the objectification of women's bodies has not gone out of favor, and finding more ways to trash the planet is hot.  Beyond that, I'm generally at a loss to say.

I'm glad my kids are both book readers.  It occurs to me now that reading may be the only remaining form of entertainment that is entirely free of commercial advertisement.  For my part, I'm doing everything in my power to teach my children to love and accept themselves just as they are and to be respectful, conscious, grateful children of Earth.  The rest I must entrust to their naturally-distrusting teenage minds to discern and discriminate.

Or maybe I should post some of my own ads.  Can I pay Google Adwords to promote directly to my kids the deep satisfaction of floor mopping?  Or the joy of dish washing? Or (and I'd pay a premium price for this) the rapture of toilet bowl scrubbing?

Nah, they wouldn't fall for that.  

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This entirely commercial-free blog post was brought to you by...Memory, Sarcasm, and our premier sponsor, Love.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Owning my Age

"How old are you?" my friend asks.  I stop to calculate.  The numeric value of my age has long lost the great significance I once gave it.  I no longer store it front and center in my memory the way a ten year old displays a prized baseball trophy.  "This is 2014, I was born in 1961, and I haven't had my birthday yet, so I'm 52," I tell her.  My friend looks puzzled.  My friend is younger.  She still knows her age precisely.  I grin and shrug.  "Once I passed the 50 yard line, I pretty well forgot about my age," I explain.  

I'm easily candid about my age, and I have never understood why women my age would lie about it.  If I ever were to lie about it, in fact, I'd claim to be much older than I am.  I'd much rather hear someone exclaim "I can't believe you're that age!" (as in, "she looks so great for her age!") than to hear, "oh, really....." (as in, "OMG, she's must have done some hard living to look that bad.").  

Maybe it's the lack of Botox that inspires my outlook on age.  I want to be the age of someone who has earned these wrinkles on my face.  I want to be the sage someone who has lived through enough to have earned the permanent furrow in my brow.   I want to be the light-hearted someone who has laughed enough to own the crow's feet by my eyes.  I want to be the devoted someone who has lost enough sleep nursing grand ideas and cranky babies to explain the dark circles under my eyes.  I want to be the lucky someone whose face reflects a Life Well Lived.  

I'm not sure what honor I can claim in the loose, crepey skin on my neck, however.  It is far more related to gravity than Good Times. I suppose I could become the eccentric madam who wears a fashionable scarf casually draped around her neck, even on the hottest of summer days.  Or I can hang my bathroom mirrors higher, so the view of my neck is permanently removed from my sight.  

Or I can remind myself how much I loved my Grandmother.  She lived to be ninety-five years old, and I loved and admired her until the day she died.  I know her face was lined and her neck hung loose, and yet, when I looked at her, I saw only Love.  Never once did I look at her lined face and think, "those wrinkles make her look so old!  Why doesn't she DO something about those lines?"  

Why would she?  She was authentically who she was, rarely wearing any makeup or a carefully placed scarf around her neck.  And I loved her, just as she was, however she was, at whatever age she was.

Thinking of the way I saw my Grandmother gives me hope that the people about whose opinion of me I care most will see me the way that I saw her.  Evolving, not degrading.  Radiating, not disintegrating.  My best and truest mirror is not hanging on the bathroom wall.  It is in the faces of my beloveds.  It is there I shall see my true reflection.  

On good days, anyway.  There will still be "other days" when I catch a candid shot of myself posted by someone else on Facebook, and I'll cringe.  And maybe I'll untag myself.  And maybe I'll even buy a new tube of concealer.  

I hope I forgive myself these simple vanities.  I hope remind myself that Beauty lies within and that I see it reflected in the faces of my my beloveds, as I carefully drape that new scarf around my neck....

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Darlings

In his book, The Four-Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferris asks, "If you could only do two hours of work this week, what would you do?" Without hesitation, I said that I'd devote one hour to Community Breath and one hour to writing.  Community Breath is a one-hour, monthly shamanic breath session, community-style event I created and have offered since last April.  

Imagine my own surprise, then, when I cancelled the Community Breath series just two days after uttering those words.  Last Friday, I went to the studio, excited and happy to facilitate this month's Community Breath, only to discover that none of the people who had RSVPd showed up.  It was just as well, since, as it turns out, I had forgotten to reserve the studio, and it was occupied.  "Sorry," the studio owner said, "let me know when you want to reschedule."  I nodded and trudged, heavy-hearted, back out to my car.  

I slept on it, and in the morning, I knew that it was time to give it a rest.  William Faulkner said, "In writing, you must kill all your darlings."  That quote has always haunted me. Being a fairly verbose blogger, I exceed the 400-600 word recommended maximum on a regular basis.  Even so, I do my best to edit, believe it or not, often cutting whole paragraphs before posting.  Still, I know my posts tend to be the length and of the variety that only a mother (or someone else related to me) could love.  

That Faukner quote came to me today as I reflected on my other offerings.  I was red-hot on fire to create new events at the first of this year.  44 Earth Blessings.  One-for-One weekly meditations.  Monday Morning Marketing Express.  Holy Universe virtual book club.  Each one, my darling.  Although most of them consisted of meetings with me, myself, and I, I'm cool with that.  I've never been one to shy away from a good convo with myself.  And I bless those of you who did show up, tune in and shared these events.  

Considering Faulkner's quote, however, convinced me to shutter them all, along with my beloved Community Breath.  Perhaps I've scattered myself too thin and failed to give any of my darlings sufficient Love and Intention to allow them to grow.  Still, I felt a bit sad about it, even if I told myself that I wasn't "killing" my darlings, so much as sending them off to college.

Later that day, I reviewed the transit sent to me by my astrologer friend which said because  Saturn is square to my Uranus, I may encounter frustrations that throw a wet blanket on my enthusiasm," and suggested that I may have to "abandon my approach to an activity." This hit me squarely between the chakras.  Is my decision to cancel events related to something in the stars?  Is this like trying to negotiate a contract during a mercury retrograde ~ simply a matter of timing? 

I recalled a prior convo with Christy Bell who had asked me "why 44 Earth Blessings?" I had explained that 4 is the number of Earth and this being 2014, it came to me to offer Earth blessings the first 44 days of the year.  She considered my answer and then offered, "Why not initiate a round every four months then?"  

It all locked into place.  Honor the stars.  Honor the four seasons.  Honor the cycle of ebb and Flow.  Honor the inspiration to give, as well as the inspiration to rest and receive.  

I have been saying for awhile now that winter in L.A. is surprisingly exhausting.  While I am delighted in every other way to be enjoying a more temperate clime than the winters of my Midwestern upbringing, I regret that there's rarely a reason to do nothing.  There are no blizzards and no officials urging people to just stay home.  My years in the Midwest have trained me to believe that no sunny day should ever be "wasted."  If the sun shines brightly when I wake up, I feel duty-bound to Enjoy this Day.  Make it Count.  Get out there and go, go, go.  

The Rain is due to arrive tonight.  After months of brutal drought, it has been much heralded and is well-anticipated.  My friends back home in Missouri may scoff at the notion that a little rain offers any reason to stay home ~ even if the forecasters are predicting A Big Storm.  For me, however, this feels like Opportunity.  I am ready to curl up on the couch with a book, a purring cat and a cup of hot tea.  Saturn is square my Uranus, the rain is on its way, and the fourth new moon this year isn't until March 30.  It doesn't quite constitute a blizzard, and it's good enough for me.  I'm giving myself permission to take one of those long winter's naps and allow myself to rest, recoup and regroup.  Catch y'all on the sunny side.
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For anyone who is wondering, this post is exactly 851 words, including this final paragraph. Thanks for hanging in with me until the bitter end.  You are a patient soul.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Something Small has Hatched



I walked outside yesterday and discovered a tiny white bird shell on the ground. It was so small that I nearly missed it, and yet so beautiful that I had to pick it up.  "Something small has hatched," I thought.  


Today, my family and I are celebrating something small that we hatched ten years ago. We invited people that we didn't know over for dinner.  It doesn't sound like much, and yet it changed everything. 

We didn't know a soul here, in fact, when we bought our first house here in Eagle Rock. Our BC ("Before Children") friends were all still going out to happy hour, and our families lived across the country.  It's what happens, I suppose, when you wait until your late thirties and you live two thousand miles away from where you grew up to have your first baby.  

I thought our kids' preschool would be a great place to find new friends, since their parents would, naturally, have children the same age as ours.  Knowing how unpredictable life with babies and toddlers is, however, I hatched the idea of a casual monthly gathering with potluck food and a babysitter to watch the kids ~ no RSVPs required.  Ten years ago today, two families that we didn't know arrived on our doorstep.  The rest, as they say, is history.

For ten years, we've opened our doors on (almost) every first Friday of the month to welcome our "preschool friends" and a few more families of school friends that we've adopted along the way.  It seemed like such a small idea, at the time, and now I can't imagine my life without the FFC.

Small things matter.  That's the theme that keeps resonating with me lately, and the FFC story is a perfect example.  And so is the little shell.  It was such a tiny thing that I almost didn't see it, and yet, without tiny egg shells, there would be no songbirds.

I can't help but notice that "small things" are not often  celebrated in our culture these days.  I'm reminded of that commercial where a man, seated at a child's size table, asks the youngsters seated on either side of him, "What's better: bigger or smaller??" The kids all clamor for BIGGER.  While the children give interesting reasons why bigger is better, the overall message is clear:  even young children know the obvious.  "Bigger is better" flashes across the screen.  Case in point.

We supersize our fast food, our homes, and vehicles.  We pump animals full of steroids to make them bigger and bigger, some to the point of no longer being able to stand up unaided.  It's as if we think we can chase away the devil if only our stuff casts a big enough shadow on him.  It makes me wonder how much of our many environmental crises are due, at least in part, for our endless obsession with having More and Bigger.

This past year,on the other hand, has been an exploration of many Small Things for me. It's been a journey to re-program my own mind that thinks only an event with a big turnout is a success.  Last Saturday, three of us showed up for the first-ever Earth Goddess Adornments event, after several last-minute cancellations (and one later arrival).  After all the excitement before the event, the size of the group was disappointing.  Truth is, we enjoyed a more intimate, creative experience because of our small number.  One more reminder to be grateful for all of the small things that hatch.  

After a meeting with a wise friend and creativity coach on Monday, another new idea has hatched:  Love Earth Emissary.  Many people have said, "I wish I could support your Love Earth work if only I had the ....{time, energy, focus, proximity}."  It occurred to me that I have the time, energy, focus and proximity, and it's something I can offer.  I will hold, share and activate all of the blessings, hopes and positive intentions for Earth on behalf of all the busy and far away people, in sacred ceremony, once a month.  I can be their voices.  I can deliver their messages.  I can be their Love Earth emissary.  

It sounds like such a small thing when I write it.  Another something small has hatched.  I don't know if it has the longevity of the FFC or the sweet song of the sparrow.  I do know that it is my soul's calling, and I'm excited to see how it grows.  First ceremony will be ....on the day we celebrate Love, of course, February 14. Got a message of love or hope for Earth that you'd like to share?  Let me know.  I'm the Love Earth Emissary, at your service.   www.LoveEarthEmissary.com 



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Champagne to Cider

I'm at Los Encinos State Historic Park today, sitting under a lovely little orange tree, bursting with fruit, contemplating the pond before me.  While it would be easy to be distracted by the man-made artifices - the chain link fence around the pond and the  mechanical fountains spraying in its center - my intention is to connect within the depths.  The pond, it is said is fed by a spring, a "remarkably fine spring," Ben Truman wrote in Semi Tropical California in 1876, providing water  that  is "very palatable and as soft as water can be."   He claimed that horses and cattle came from miles around to "drink from this spring, which compared to other water, to the quadruped, is like champagne to cider, with man."

There are no horses or cattle here today but a bevy of friendly ducks that float by placidly, the geese honking loudly.  They seem quite content to be here, though I'm not sure if they are reveling in the quality of the water or the steady supply of food proffered by visitors willing to put a quarter in the birdseed vending machine.

There is some disturbance now as a flock of pigeons swoop in, lured in from the telephone poles just outside the park, by the crank of the coin mechanism of the seed dispenser.  The duck pond crew is not so immune from the disturbance of city dwellers as I had imagined.  Even now, the sound of a table saw and the chug-chug of a generator from a neighboring construction site pierce the would-be tranquility of this park.  

The food gobbled up, the pigeons retreat to their pole. The ducks show no sign of resentment for the intrusion as they return to their graceful water ballet.  Neither the sounds of the city nor the invasion of a few outsiders is any reason to stop doing what they do: swimming,  diving for fishes, bathing in the spray of the fountains, and resting, bill tucked under a wing. 

Such is the opportunity for each of us, I suppose, to appreciate what is immediately before us, enjoying the peace and grace of this moment, letting go of resentment for intrusions, tuning out not only the sounds of the city but also the busy-ness of the world.  There's nothing any of these ducks can do to stop the noisy sawing or the pigeons swooping in to steal their bounty, and it would be fruitless for any of them to try.  May we learn from their examples.  

When I first arrived here, I was annoyed by the sounds of the saw and the generator, and yet, I too, am helpless to make them stop.  And so it is my challenge and opportunity to tune in more deeply with the stillness of the sweet orange tree in whose shade I rest, the beauty - and comedy - of the downy ducks, as they turn butt-up to fish, and the deep serenity of this spring-fed pond whose waters are so delectable as to be champagne for quadrupeds and (perhaps) bipeds alike.  


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Signs, Signs

"The next prompt is 'synchronicities'...what synchronicities or coincidences have you seen in support of the book you are writing?"  Davina asks.  This writing prompt throws me for an unexpected loop.  I can barely believe that I'm stumped by this one.

I'm the kind of person who likes to believe she is deeply attuned to messages from God and the Universe.  I look for and delight in seeing signposts all along my way to affirm that I'm on the right path.  So why does the cold hand of anxiety wrap its frosty fingers around my heart when I hear this question?

It's because, in this moment, I cannot think of one single sign or synchronicity that affirms that my book is on point, that it is on Purpose, that it is my Calling.   I feel shattered.  Angry, even.  I consider myself the Queen of Coincidences.  How can I have failed to notice this ominous lack of support? Or have the signs all been there and I've been too busy, too oblivious to notice?  And, above all, how can this seemingly trivial matter be so singularly upsetting to me?

These are the only thoughts that I manage to capture in response to this particular writing prompt.  I'm relieved when the next prompt arrives, and I am back on terra firma.  I am writing....

Driving to my YMCA this morning, I notice, for the first time, of all my hundreds of trips here in the last ten years, that the address on the building next to the Y is 141.  I pound the steering wheel and shriek with joy and relief!  I can barely park the car for all of the tears that are welling up in my eyes.

"141" is my shorthand for the One-for-One Earth Blessing Activation weekly event I'm currently offering.  It was inspired by the same Love Earth passion as the book I'm writing.  This is it, I realize, this is my sign.

I feel a weight has lifted.  I feel exonerated. I feel blessed.  Indeed, the signs are all around me, if only I slow down my little car and open my eyes to see what is right in front me.  Thank you, merci, gracias and AHO!