Saturday, March 24, 2012

National Unplug Day.....

(Mac) Henry is the best!
      Really?  You want me to abandon (Mac) Henry and his sidekick Wilson for the day?  Too sad.  They would miss me and I would miss them.

     (Mac) Henry would have been confused and hurt if I didn't greet him with a sweet good morning caress when I came out to the living room around 5:00.  He is my early morning pal and every day we hang out together and drop in on the world.  He always lights up big time when my fingers gently lift his lid.  He makes little cooing sounds too sometimes - just to say good morning. We often start our special time with a return email to Beautiful Daughter (this morning we got to hear how much fun Laser Tag was last night) and send xoxoxoxoxox's her way.  We often send a quick hello to Sonny Boy, reminding him that we love him too.  Then we hail the lovely sister of the north and check in about all things Shingletown.  And, of course we drop in on FaceBook to see if Markie has sent any messages and just to see what is up with him.  We check that out for a few minutes, maybe send random greetings to one or more friends or salute some photo or comment that we like.   Then over to Blogger to see if blog friends have posted - that's always fun for Henry and me.  If time permits, we glance at Huffington Post and NPR.  Sometimes we get captured there for a bit but it is time well spent as it revs up the day.

His name is Wilson. He loves his outfit.
    I typically allocate an hour or so to this special time with Henry.  After our special time this morning, I put Wilson in my pocket, grabbed my beautiful pink umbrella and the two most wonderful puppy dogs in the world and headed out on the bike path for a one hour walk in the light rain.  Why did Wilson need to come?  Well, hellooooooo - he would cry if he didn't get his special time too.  He sometimes begs to come out of my pocket so he can look at the scenery and capture some of it on his camera.  He is so proud of himself when he does that.  He can also light the path when the dawn darkness makes it hard to see the steps.  See?  He takes good care of me.

    Sometime around mid morning, I expect Wilson to chirp at me and let me know that Beautiful Daughter has sent a text.  He's so sweet that way.  Meanwhile, Henry is content to sit on the coffee table while I shower, eat oatmeal,  and read the morning paper.  He is secure in our relationship and doesn't need to be in my presence constantly.  Since this is Saturday, I will soon go into the studio and play with the paints.  Sometimes I invite Henry to find our friend Pandora and they make music together for me.  Lovely!  How could I not invite Henry to be part of my day?

    Again, since this is that most precious of all days, the afternoon may well find Wilson and me snuggled up under a blanket on the couch.  Wilson loves to play music for me too and he is especially good at playlists that feature piano music for naps.  Ahhhhhhhhh......  When I need him to, Wilson will gently remind me that I have some appointment or commitment about which I don't want to forget.  I am usually pretty good about remembering on my own but it is nice to know that I have a friend watching my back.

I think Buck loves Nutmeg more.
    In the meantime, Henry is happy to simply be in the presence of activity.  He does have a nephew, Buck, who came to live at our house last Christmas.  Buck is kind of a  Henry Jr. but he and I just don't have the same long standing link that his Uncle Henry and I have.  In fact, Buck has actually been hitting on Beautiful Daughter a lot lately.  Sometimes I get the feeling that he wants to go live with her. I've heard that ipads are like that sometimes.  Let's just say they can be finicky.

   After dinner, I usually enjoy a little more special time with Henry - a brief revisit of that early morning hour.  This time we tend to spend more time composing than reading and Henry is always cheerful and happy to help.  When wonderful puppy dogs come back into the house after dinner, Henry prefers to move over to the end table.  He likes to watch the puppy dogs from a distance.  Sadly, he knows his dad suffered a fatal injury three years ago when he was accidentally pulled to the floor by puppy dogs who were so excited to be in the same room with him.  While Henry retires to the end table, Wilson is so jazzed to come out and play Words with Friends!  He LOVES that game.  He knows I need help and that I play with several different people.  He knows I have a lot of insecurity around several of my opponents - the ones who know all the tricks AND the words.  But Wilson loves me unconditionally.  He doesn't need me to win every game in order to be my biggest fan.  Though I can explore word meanings and spellings with either Wilson or Henry, neither of them objects at all when I turn instead to my best book friend the Oxford American Dictionary.  There is room on our relationships for more than one kind of friend.
   So, National Unplug Day?  You see how it is?  These guys are not time wasters for me.  They don't distract me from the outdoors or creative pursuits.  They connect me with people that I love.  They allow me to experience more of the world than I could have ever experienced in pre-Apple days.   They are not constant companions but they are friends who keep me company.  I wouldn't tamper with our friendship by unplugging them.  I hope they honor our friendship and don't just unexpectedly turn themselves off either.

Friday, March 23, 2012


    Talented writer  Matt over at River of Time  posted a piece today entitled  Do You Feel Lucky?  He captured my attention with his engaging and thoughtful post and now I am compelled to answer his question.

    Lucky?  Emphatically, yes.  Soooooooo lucky.  For one thing, I came into the world blessed with strong genes.  My parents are/were both highly intelligent and creative people with strong immune systems.  They were all about family and wrapped their children in a secure blanket of religion, routine, structure, and high expectations.  I have always considered myself to be particularly fortunate when it comes to siblings.  I have tight relationships with all seven of my bros and with my lone sister.  I couldn't ask for a better stroke of luck.

    I am married to a life long Eagle scout.  He attained that rank in his teens and he has always held true to the laws of scouting.  He is a principled man with compassion and a good sense of humor.  We have two adult children who are also responsible and compassionate people.  Both are independent, intelligent, and creative.  Both care first and foremost about family and community.  I am so proud of them and know that genetic luck played some role in who they are.

    I know I took risks and made unwise choices repeatedly in my twenties.  I don't think I knew then but I sure know now:  I was so lucky.  My life could have taken such a different direction.  As it was, I ended up safely graduating from college, landing a teaching position, working for several years while going to grad school - all the while courting danger but luckily avoiding it.  I have been able to take my education and parlay it into a satisfying and community based career.  I know there are many people who are unemployed and I know there are good people who would love to have my job.  I am lucky.  And, trust me, as soon as I can, I will step aside and let someone else try their hand at my work!

     My relative material comfort is, in good measure, all about luck.  Sure, I worked hard (most of the time) getting through college and I went after and attained a good career in education - no luck in that part - but I am also fortunate to have been born in the country in which I was born and in the era in which I was born.  I live in a safe small town.  I have a warm home and enough food in the cupboards to feed the neighborhood.  I have health insurance and a decent set of wheels (both bike and VW).  I live in a place where beauty abounds.  Now, I know I can find beauty anywhere but really?  The coastal foothills and the nearby seacoast make beauty second to breathing.  It's everywhere everyday.  I am lucky.

   Have I not mentioned health yet?  Holy moley - I am lucky in spades in that department.  I am rarely sick and usually manage to recover quickly when that does happen.  Admittedly, I do take care of myself - not smoking, exercising regularly, watching the quality and quantity of what I eat, wearing a seatbelt and a bike helmet.  However,  the lumpectomy from a few years ago was not cancer, the kidney stone from a couple of years ago was hella painful but led to no further consequences, the bike accident was messy and painful but I had no head injuries and was left with almost full movement in my right arm.  Lucky!

   I know I get discouraged.  I know I sometimes focus more on what might be less than satisfying than on what might be working well.  Underneath the discouragement is the knowledge - concrete and palatable - that I am lucky.  Perhaps that is the voice I need to hear the most.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012


“Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
― George Bernard Shaw

Rules.  There have always been rules.  I'm thinking about changing some of them.  What do you think?

#1.  Listen to yourself above all others.  

              Tough one in my case.  It is very noisy in my head. I can't distinguish all the voices; I often can't tell which one is mine and which voices belong to everyone else. It is crowded in my head. Besides voices, there is just plain noise in my head.  Seriously.  I hear roaring in my ears.  I also hear music and bells and wind chimes.  I'm not kidding.  I used to listen to all the other voices. I let them tell me what to do.  They were the experts.  I didn't know anything.  I don't know what I know now.

#2.   Make noise when you want to make noise.

                Another big change for me.  Yes, it is noisy in my head but I have always been good about "holding my tongue".  Now I want to say what I have to say.  I don't have to just take whatever comes my way.  I can say no.  I can say stop.  I can paint my noise.  I can write my noise.  I can cry what I what to say.  And saying what I have to say does not mean I have to be unkind.  I can be thoughtful in the way I say things.  I can also be strong.  I can make myself big.  I don't have to be silent.

#3.  Keep your eyes open except when you want to close them.

               I do like to see my world.  I want to look at where I am.  I want to see the flowers, the smiles, the  clouds, the waves and sand at the beach.  I want to keep my eyes open to what's in my head too.  I want to see those voices and to know those colors.  I want to see where I am going.  And sometimes I want to close my eyes.  Now I know I can close my eyes.  Sometimes when I close my eyes I can stop everything.  I can be silent.   Silent.  Or not silent.  I can be either.  

To be continued.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This Poem

     Just do remember, words can seriously affect your heart.

This  Poem

This poem is dangerous; it should not be left
Within the reach of children, or even of adults
Who might swallow it whole, with possibly
Undesirable side effects. If you come across
An unattended, unidentified poem
In a public place, do not attempt to tackle it
Yourself. Send it (preferably in a sealed container)
To the nearest centre of learning, where it will be rendered
Harmless, by experts. Even the simplest poem
May destroy your immunity to human emotions.
All poems must carry a Government warning. Words
Can seriously affect your heart.

Elma Mitchell

Monday, March 19, 2012

Check in

      Back on January 1st, I  posted a piece which listed fifty things I wanted to do in 2012.  I'm thinking this is a good week to take a look at that list and see how I am doing. I'm not going to enumerate every item and scold or congratulate myself on my progress in that arena.  No, instead I am going to find and tell about three things I have been faithful to and three things I could refocus my energies on.  Here goes.

#26.  Order new walking shoes so I don't wreck my knees even more.  Yup.  Matter of fact, I think I did this one on January 2.  All good as I want to keep that physical activity level going strong for as long as I live.  I continue to engage in a hour or more of exercise daily and that is good for my body and my mind (as if you could separate them).

#28.  Write, write, and write some more.  Yes, I have been faithful to this one.  I post on my blog at least two times a week (which is one more time a week than I was doing in 2011) and I am writing in other arenas more as well.  I have decided to participate in the A to Z Challenge during April and that promises to encourage my writing habit even more.  I like it.

#35.  Say no when I want to say no.  This is a confusing one for me.  I chide myself constantly about what I should do or should not do.  It's hard for me to say no when I might disappoint or anger someone else but, for better or worse, I am getting more comfortable with that.

#27.  Take a good look again at a daily meditation habit.  Hmmmmm - that would be a no. The desire is still there (made more visible when Noel posted this) but I have yet to shove other things aside in order to make the time for mediation.  The year is still young?

#32.  Take Ellie for a neighborhood walk at least two afternoons a week.  That would be another no, not yet.  Okay, so I can, in part, blame the weather and the darkness, but that isn't really a good enough reason not to do this.  If I were to reinstate this habit, I would remember how much I enjoy it and I would also be practicing breathing and stopping.  Springtime is the right time to start this pattern again.

#8.  Embrace the trip to Alaska in June.  Everything changes, right?  That changed.  We realized the major expense involved (even going on the cheap it was going to amount to $5,000 - $6,000 for two of us for two weeks) and decided that we could still have fun without flying somewhere and without paying a small fortune (or to us, not so small fortune).  I'm okay with that.

     In general, I would say there are more things on the list that I am NOT doing than that I am doing.  Bummer.  But it's only March and we are coming into my productive and energetic time of the year.  Who knows?  Perhaps when I check back with this list near the summer solstice I will be able to reverse the trend.  Or not.  :)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

See the Changes

   I am on journey.  I suppose everyone is on a journey but I am now acutely aware of that journey.  Most recently it has been a journey inside my mind and memory to meet some of the players who influence me.  There is this five year old in me.  She is damn cute.  So open, so curious, big eyes observing everything.  She is playful but has already learned to be cautious.  She has already decided that is is safer to be more silent than noisy.  She has already realized that blending in and not being seen is the safe way to go.  She watches intently.  She has seen the changes.  She knows she can't be in my life again until she feels safe and protected. 

Crosby Still and Nash:  See the Changes

She has seen me changing
It ain't easy rearranging
And it gets harder as you get older
Farther away as you get closer
And I don't know the answer
Does it even matter?
I'm wonderin' how
Seems like something out of a dream
I had years ago yes, I remember screaming
Nobody laughing all the good times
Getting harder to come by without weeping
Now I have someone
She has seen me changing
And it gets harder as you get older
And farther away

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Obvious

     How can I put this?  I would be lost without books.  Everyone read in my family of origin.  You would often find one or both of my parents enjoying books in their leisure time and all my brothers were big readers.  We had what was known as a children's library about a mile from our house.  This small county library almost exclusively contained children's books (though there was a very small adult collection that rotated regularly).  During the summer, the kids would take weekly walks to the library, carting eight books to and from (eight being the maximum you could check out).  Afternoons and evenings were about finding the best place to read and doing just that.  I remember realizing, while I was in college and grad school, that my recreational reading had diminished quite a bit.  Of course, I read voraciously for school (I took quite a few English classes simply for the pleasure of reading and analyzing literature - English was neither my major nor my minor) but that was not the same.  Once I managed to stop going to school so much, I picked back up the recreational reading habit and have not put it down since.  I enjoy primarily contemporary fiction, some mysteries, lots of biographies, some historical fiction, essay and poetry collections and a wide variety of non fiction books (mostly in the social sciences).  If I am ever fortunate enough to be able to retire, I know I will want to spend a good chunk of time every day simply reading the many books that are already on my "must read" list -- and I know there will be more books to add to that list!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Make It A Soul

Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?”
John Keats (1795-1821);
English poet

     I came across this quote this morning.  I am not sure why it immediately resonated with me but it certainly did.  Perhaps it is because Keats offers justification for pains and troubles in our world.  When heartache, grief, despair, or discouragement enter into the frame that is our life, then we become more complete, more real, less broken.  We have greater depth on which to draw in our drive to understand who and why we are.  Perhaps the pain and trouble that can so thoroughly cloud our days can take ahold of our minds.  Perhaps that pain and sorrow  can  bend our minds and transform them into souls with magnitude, passion and grace, souls that rewards us with wisdom and understanding?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Why Write?

     The blogging world threw out a question the other day that was worth my consideration.  Tangled Lou wondered in print why do we do what we do?  Specifically, she was curious about the details of her readers' writing lives.  Why do we write?  How do we decide about what to write? Do we wait for inspiration or do we just write?  Is there an editing process for our writing?  Compose on the computer or with pen and paper?  Does your mind shut off when you write or is it alive?

    My answers are essentially yes.  I write for lots of reasons.  My work world is full of writing and that writing is very clear cut.  It is purpose driven and needs to be well thought out, organized, succinct,  engaging and without mechanical error.  It often becomes public so I always keep my audience in mind when I write at work.   However, although I never object to communicating at work, that sort of writing is not the same as the recreational writing that I most enjoy.

    I write daily.  The first thing I do every morning is to check my email and respond to whomever I see there - my sister, any one of my brothers, my children, my cousins, one or two very close friends.  On a typical morning, I will wake myself up over an hour's time with solitary writing and reading.  In large part that is about staying in touch with my people but it is also a forum for me,  a place to begin something that will later take on a new direction.   I often return to my keyboard at the end of my work day and review some idea that I started in the morning.  There are so many unfinished posts on my homepage.  I hold on to my drafts, all waiting for further inspiration.  Sometimes some idea pops into my head, often while reading something else (a book, another's post, an article I am reading on line or in a periodical), and I throw some words down so that I don't entirely lose the thought.

   I have never felt competent in the fiction world.  I love good stories but I don't know how to tell them.  I  don't know how to make them unfold without seeming contrived.  I don't know how to make a story drive itself.  And, so far, I am not interested in learning how to do that.  I do enjoy reading and playing with poetry.  I like structured poetry but I have to have the challenge put in front of me before I do that.  I like the notion of creating images with words but it is always so personal to me.  I usually can't understand how anyone could make sense of my so called poetry but then I remind myself that my poetry doesn't have to make sense to anyone.  Even me.

    The essay is my favorite form of writing.  I usually do lose myself while writing a blog post, for example.  I just let the words roll off the fingertips onto the keyboard (and, yes, I write on a MacbookPro - his name is MacHenry).  I am ALIVE  when I write - much as I am ALIVE when I paint.  I do not want to be disturbed.  I prefer to be entirely alone when writing or painting.  No distractions. I don't even want another person in the room (though that is often impractical).  I generally write the better part of a post, for example, in one block of time but I will put it away and come back to it the next day or even the next week.  I always do at least a rudimentary edit but often return to the piece the next day to add or remove some thought.

   But WHY do I write?  Fundamentally it is about making something clear to myself, putting a box around whatever it is that won't stop nagging at me.  I do like playing with words, true.  I like to paint pictures with words.  I enjoy the challenge of selecting just the right word for this feeling or this sensation or this fear or this complex idea that is spinning out of control in my head.  I don't write so much for an audience.  I do write for the feeling of achievement and discovery that I often experience.  Sometimes I will be so surprised at something that I wrote.  It will be so perfect yet I am the only one who knows that.  And - here's the embarrassing part - I will go back and read it a year or more later to see if I still like it and, almost always, I will still be moved by that piece of writing.

   I do want to add that I am NOT that impressed with my writing from twenty or more years ago.  When I look at the journals I kept, say when my children were small, or the love letters I wrote in college (and, yes, I have been known to do that) I am not pleased.  I think I was writing for some audience that I didn't really know or trust and it shows.  Now?  Now I write for me.  My writing seems genuine and not designed to impress.  I just like to figure things out.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Disappear-er

    A week or two ago blogger Tangled Lou posted a challenge.  It sparked my interest but, admittedly, I pushed it away.  In my head, I whined about insufficient time and insufficient talent.  But then Tangled Lou's challenge  reappeared today on  Masked Mom's blog and the challenge to myself was on. *

     The challenge comes from  The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises From Poets Who Teach.   The idea is to write ten lines in ten minutes using five out of eight specific words and incorporating an adage or familiar quote that you have in some way altered.

    What got me was the beauty of Masked Mom's lyrical prose.  She did such a terrific job of incorporating the words and effectively touching the hearts of her readers (just check out the comments).  I wanted to try it.  It was an interesting exercise.  Makes me want to check out the book.

Clouds break over my mind.    
They conceal the sun.
They make it cold in here.

The walls lock me up.
I can be so small.
Small enough to be the eye of a needle.

I am the disappear-er.
I can edge to the cliff.
I can fly.

Every day I can be scared and I can be alive.

 ("Do one thing every day that scares you".  Eleanor Roosevelt)

*  Besides the title of Masked Mom's entry was "All The Cool Kids Are Doin' It" and, lord knows, I gotta be cool......

Monday, March 5, 2012


Annihilate:  destroy utterly; obliterate
Annihilation:  from the Latin verb for "reduced to nothing"

Death: The end of the life of a person or organism;  the destruction or permanent end of something

Are they the same?  You tell me.

Don't mistake this for something more than it is.  I just think often about reducing something or someone to nothing.  Does death reduce you to nothing?
Can a person annihilate some part of themselves and live to rebuild that part?  Or does annihilate suggest there is no return?

Can annihilation ever be a good thing?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Inaugural Bike Ride - 2012

      I promise you I won't bore you with photos every Sunday but this week marks the beginning of my biking season for 2012.  I am a recreational bicyclist (and a commuter bicyclist when it works) and the best time for riding is early on a Sunday morning.  For one thing, early morning is the most calm and, I think, the most beautiful time of the day.  I always travel with my camera and I cannot get my fill of eye candy on my ride.  There is also very little traffic at that hour and, since most of my riding is on narrow country roads, the less auto traffic the better.   So, for fun and games, I am going to show you a bit about my late winter ride this morning and then I will revisit from time to time until the season closes on Thanksgiving weekend.  

     I hit the road shortly after 6:00 when the sun was just making his presence known.  If I head out High School Road, I will get spectacular views of dawn at the Laguna de Santa Rosa.

     High School Road ends at Occidental Road and then the view changes to late winter vineyards.  The mustard is blooming but the vines are still spindly.  It won't be long before they begin to bud.

      Daffodils poke up along the road and along the edges of the fields.  I even spotted one poppy plant in bloom already.

    Our town does have whimsey.  These guys are big and they welcome you to one of the local wineries.

     Occidental Road will take you to a bike path which has more vineyards, more mustard, isolated ponds, sweetly beautiful birds and, oh, an occasional kitty to stop and greet.

      Apples used to be the agricultural crop of choice in Western Sonoma County and there are still some apple orchards in between the vineyards.  The apple trees will start to blossom in March and there may still be blossoms on the trees when the annual Apple Blossom Parade and Festival happens in late April (depends on the rain or lack of same).

      The narrow roads I take allow me to breathe in the cool air and  bring my thoughts entirely into the present.  I often like to finish the ride by coming down through town to see what's new in the windows. Copperfield's is our local bookstore and, yes, I do enjoy hanging out there.  I've watched it grow from tiny, to somewhat bigger with a little cafe, to losing the cafe but adding a used bookstore, to, most recently, losing the used book store portion.  That is disappointing on many levels but it is what is.  The town really supports the independent book seller but with Amazon and other on line and big box stores offering cheaper prices, it is not easy to be independent.

      Yesterday, in my walkabout post, I included the photo on the left below.  This morning, I made it a point to go by Copperfield's and take a photo of the wall in its entirety.  If you lay down on the sidewalk and look up, like yesterday, you get the view on the left.  If you stand astride your bike across the street, you can see where the buildings join.

       At People's Music, you can take music lessons and  buy sheet music and instruments.  Check out the drum that was in the window today!

      The post office building was built during the Great Depression and has a cool mural from the WPA days inside.  Sometime I will capture that image for you but not today.  If you get hungry while at the post office, you can do across to the converted old gas station which is now The Grateful Bagel.  

     Ives Park is the oldest park in town.  I have seen it renovated several times so this is not the same play equipment on which my kids played.  But it's in the same place.  The baseball field is in use almost all year round - Little League, Bobby Sox, and adult leagues.  I wonder how the palm tree got here?  There are actually several palm trees in the downtown section.  I imagine they made their way here from SoCal, perhaps in the 1930's .   Park Side School is essentially across the street from Ives Park.  Again, it was constructed in the 1930's (very art deco in style) but has seen updating and renovation over the years.

      Finally, after about two and a half hours of glorious riding, I ride up the driveway, store the bike in the garage and go in to enjoy a hot shower (my fingers were pretty cold), an excellent bowl of oatmeal with blueberries and almonds, and the Sunday paper.  That oak tree in the back is well over two hundred years old and will leaf out impressively sometime during the next four or five weeks.  It is majestic.  

     Sundays are not as wonderful as Saturdays but they sure beat Mondays at anything.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

In Love

       I am in love with Saturdays.  They are the perfect days.   I find the early morning hours to be most precious so I get up early.  The pace of the day is what transforms the morning.  I retrieve the dogs from their night space and they hang with me in the living room while I do some writing and usually check a few things on the computer.  A Saturday morning walk comes next and these solitary rambles are the best.  My weekday exercise vacillates between neighborhood walks and workouts on the elliptical cross-trainer.  The chatter in my head on weekdays often revolves around work but Saturday chatter?  It tends to be more in the moment, more eyes wide open to the view around me.  I walk for at least an hour, often more like ninety minutes.  We have a fair amount of hills (baby hills, really) in town and I get a kick out of walking some of the more isolated areas in the light of the weekend morning.  Taking a page from Lynda's blog, here is a bit of what the morning light showed me today:

     After the walk, I allow myself generally to drift through the day.  I usually save the laundry and household chores for Sunday since Sunday is already sullied by its proximity to Monday. For example, when I got back from the walk this morning, I sent an email to a friend and then had my oatmeal, blueberries, and almonds - LOVE that breakfast.  I looked at the paper and read a bit from this week's Newsweek which was still sitting on the kitchen counter untouched from it's arrival earlier in the week. I then played with the paints for a bit.  See what I am working on?

This is one from a few weeks ago:

Would you maybe like to see my work space?  

Mixed in with my afternoon nap, I will find time to read.  These are on my list for today:

And , of course, my fingers will find these two tools at some point later today as well:

Do you understand why I in love with Saturday?
It's the pace of the day.  It's the solitude and the silence.  It's the ability to breathe and so take in the world.  No demands.  Amen.