Monday, November 26, 2007

The Cycle of Life ...

The morning before Thanksgiving, actually most of that day, was spent running around buying raw vegetables and then racing home to wash, clean, chop, dice, season and mix this and that for Thanksgiving dinner.

My eighty-three year old mother came by to help and my oldest daughter dropped in with my grandson.

I couldn't help but think about the cycle of life -- watching Mom's head bent low fixing the traditional green bean casserole, her body stooped with age and degenerative disc disease. We tried to give her 'easy' things to do so she didn't have to use pressure on her arthritic fingers to chop. She needs to feel useful as do most of us. She's well into her sunset years.

My grandson, with his perfect toddler body, chubby little index finger bent out like a swaying bridge in a tell-me-what-that-is point, barely at the dawn of his life, and my daughter, chasing him around eager to share knowledge, to help him learn--I suppose she's at high noon.

I don't like to think about myself getting older or Mom already nailed firmly into old age.

I even see the beginnings of crows feet around my daughter's eyes! Never mind how did that happen to her, I want to know how the years sped by so fast rendering me with a daughter who has crows feet! I want to know how I could possibly have a 34 year-old daughter when I feel 34. I know I'm beyond the high noon years of my child, but I'm not at sunset yet -- I'm guessing I'm at 3 p.m.!

Then I thought about gratitude.

How very lucky I am to be surrounded by a loving family. How very lucky I am to have 'enough' and more than enough. How grateful I am to be blessed with a witty, generous husband; a bright son; another beautiful and sweet daughter and three other grandchildren; two sons-in-law I adore, in-laws I love to visit ... life is good. I feel humbled by all that I have been blessed with.

What makes all of this so sweet is remembering darker days when I didn't know how I'd afford the turkey for Thanksgiving or have enough money to put Christmas presents under the tree. Life was one big worry that there wouldn't be 'enough' and yet when I look back on those days, always and without exception, abundance prevailed. My God/Higher Power provided. I am blessed.

Life is so good...

There is much to be grateful for...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

If I could put time in a bottle....the first thing that I'd like to do is to spend everyday ...(thank you Jimmy Buffett)

By all standards, every standard you could possibly imagine, I am not an important person, but if you were to look at my day timer, you'd think even the president would need to wait in line weeks to meet with me. (actually he'd wait forever--but that's another story--or maybe I'd meet with him right away to straighten him out--that's another story, too).

I bought my Franklin Covey planner six or seven years ago. It took me hours to decide on the color -- but when I spotted the apple red one, my heart stopped!

The first time it took it out on a date, I attended a coaching conference in Marin County and left it on the seat of my chair as the 'THIS SEAT IS TAKEN' unwritten note for five minutes, or 300 seconds, while I ran to the ladies room. In my absence someone spilled water on it. My beautiful red leather planner now a mushy soggy smelly mess. I knew it would leave a big old water mark, too, which over the years faded into a 'new/old' color, dingy red.

Near the end of conference the woman next to me whispered that the gal behind us had a little 'water accident', she said pointing her finger through her ribcage. Little? She went on to say she told me this because she didn't want me to think she did it. Another check mark for high standards!

Anyway, I started looking at my planner -- there is time for everything except nothing. Let me clarify, there is time to do everything no matter what, but no time to do nothing. I guess we'd call that 'unscheduled' time, but it feels like a foreign phrase, doesn't it? Unscheduled time, huh. (gives you insight as to how spontaneous I am doesn't it? And a peek at my memory retention abilities...)

Am I the only one who's time constipated? One minute it's noon and the next minute my husband's walking through the door and it's dark ... and he says, "Oh, are we going out to dinner tonight?" Bless him he never adds 'again'.

Anyway, this time thing got me thinking. How do women who work full time and have a brood of kids at home do it? Or people who use wheelchairs? And people who have to walk instead of drive? Or people who never seem to have enough time? Or aren't good time schedulers? Or people who get caught up in their dreams and whoops, they've missed an important meeting? Does God give them extra minutes because they need it?

No wonder life is a chaotic lunacy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Meditation? Who has time?

Om, Om, Om. Meditation. Breathe. Relax. Ah,what would I do without it? I could describe the last six plus months and that would give you a pretty good idea.

The thing about meditation is, I need to make time for it.

When I don't meditate, I am a little snappy (not the good snappy as in 'chic' or 'snappy wit') but more like snapping turtle...not good. But who has twenty minutes twice a day, make that once a day, to meditate? I mean really. I have more important things to do than to be a slave to something that inspires grace, compassion and patience after I do it, don't I?

Why would I take time meditate when it pretty much guarantees my day will at least start out well, even if it begins to swirl and crumble during the middle of it????

In her book "One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers", Gail Sher says, "Before his enlightenment, Buddha was also tempted to extremes. Afterwards he taught the middle way." I love that, don't you? I am no Buddha, but I am tempted by extremes --

To paraphrase Sher, the 'middle way' isn't the easy way out, it's not being rigid or lax, but living in the middle. For example, if you want to eat a box of candy, you allow yourself a few pieces. You're not depriving yourself of all of it (rigid) nor eating the whole box (lax) (and yum).

I decided to apply the 'middle way' principle to my meditation practice. What would happen if I meditated for ten minutes instead of a whole twenty? Would it work just as well? Would I have the illusive calm-compassion-grace I can only find with a twenty minute meditation?

Having had this love/hate relationship with meditation for years, I thought it would be interesting to try. Twenty minutes straight is hard. While it does works, it is torturous for me to sit that long. I get antsy. I get alligator eyes and must peek. I need to know how many more minutes do I need to endure this and then TIME IS the meditation. (the fact that the timer is set doesn't count ... ahem)

So I've been doing it, this sitting for ten minutes, my own personal 'middle way'. And it works. Yay!

Frank Sinatra sang (he was never one of my favorites but that's another story) ... "I Did It My Way". And doing it my way works -- for me that is.

Now I'm wondering where else I can apply the 'middle way' to my life. Yoga? Exercise? Food?

If you're struggling to do something and it isn't working, you might give the 'middle way' a try. After all, You've Got to Please Yourself (Ricky Nelson -- can't help it these things it popped into my head...)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

One time yoga damsel turned yoga matron

Ever gone to a yoga class? I mean ever gone to a yoga class after a period of not going to one for a couple of months? Let me tell you...

I'll never again brag about being limber. Nope not one bit. I am a rubber band stretched just beyond her snapping point--but not snapping--just losing all of her elasticity like an old pair of, well all I can think of is, an old pair of underpants -- you get the point...

And, it all happened because I had to keep up with everyone else in class, that would be the yoga instructor wearing her cute pink yoga pants and hibiscus flower top, in what I can only assume is a size "0", and the 'girls' who were probably 18 to 20.

Yoga is supposed to help you focus, give you inner core strength and create a feeling of calm and peacefulness. That may just happen, but right now, in this moment, the focus is on pain, the inner core strength feels like I need help sitting up and calm and peaceful are coexisting only because I've taken more than my fair share of over the counter pain meds. And tonight might be a good night to drink...

Do I sound bitter? I don't mean to. I guess getting older is taking its toll on my ability to rationalize in a more mature way -- but wait -- if I'm mature, why can't I just accept that fact that, heck, I used to be young, now I'm not?

What does all of this say about me? I think it says I am way more competitive than I thought, that I can and did turn myself into a very proud pretzel but at what cost? (see above) And, was it worth it? (see above) Arrgghh!

The art of aging gracefully...I'm not there yet and you know, I'm not sure I want to...I don't think I'll do the pretzel thing again, though :-(

Friday, October 12, 2007

Story Board: 21 done, 10 to go

I am upstairs in my office getting ready to work on my story board. I finished story boarding the first 21 chapters complete with summaries, seasons, place, time, characters, and the dreaded comic strip depicting the 'action' in each chapter. (that's one story board per chapter.) A big nod goes to my fabulous coach, Mary, who coached me to complete 21 story boards by the 19th. She did such a good job inspiring me that they were finished Sunday night. Yahoo and hallelujah! Thank you Mary!

The good news is I've graduated from potato heads to little action stick people. Some of my comic strips, make that most, look like a four year-old did them, but that's okay. They hang in our guest bedroom so I can figure out what the next step is and where to put the chapters still in need of a board. (I do feel a little sad for guests...)

The challenge is story boarding the last ten chapters. These are the chapters I couldn't figure out what to do with because of my poor organizational skills. I tried to hold all the information, chapter by chapter, in my head. Impossible. Between memory lapses and 'mental pausings' as my friend Eileen says, my brain couldn't do it. So, these last chapters need to find homes among the existing 21 story boards. There definitely are places for them --that's why I wrote them--I just can't remember where they belong. But, when I'm finished it will take care of my editor's question of "is something missing here?"

Apart from my lack of solid organizational skills, Nineteen Darby Way is coming along great!!! I love the protagonist and the various predicaments she finds herself --I just need to plug those incidents in the right spots so she doesn't appear to be in the middle of a psychotic break.

That said, story boarding is the best organizational tool! Finally, I know where I am in this sea of words and paragraphs and chapters. The goal now is to finish these last 10 chapters by the 19th -- wish me luck...
Wanna write? Here's a PROMPT: The real truth is....

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Procrastination whispers in my ear ~ do this, do that -- but do it later. Right now, let's go have fun! Yes!

Anyone out there know what I mean? Come on, some of you must.

During the spring, I started working through the exercises in The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron with two writing friends.

So began our journey. We wrote 'morning' pages as Julia Cameron calls them, took ourselves out on artist dates, ruminated over the questions at the end of each chapter, and checked in with each other every week, as our built-in accountability.

My buddy, procrastination, would wake me up bright and early to remind me to do my morning pages--MORNING pages--not afternoon or evening pages, but morning pages, not almost three but THREE FULL PAGES -- handwritten.

Okay, fine. So some mornings grew procrastination legs deep into the evening and I'd scrunch up in bed at night and scribble out three morning pages to keep my commitment. Except they weren't MORNING pages, they were midnight procrastination pages, which left me frustrated. I started wondering...

Did my morning pages count if I didn't do them in the morning to start my day off in the right 'writing' frame of mind?

Are morning pages written in the morning the magic formula to being a good writer?

What did all of this say about me as a writer--did it say I was committed or should be committed?!

After a few weeks of driving myself crazy, taking little credit for writing every day unless things were done just right, I had a chat with my writing com padres -- they didn't say the word crazy, but I got the point: the point is to write, doesn't make any difference what time of day it is--it's about finding the right time for you, er, me.

Turns out the best time for me to work on my book is late afternoon and evening. But the morning pages? I do them mostly in the morning now because I get up a little earlier. But they count anytime -- day or night. They count if I only write 2 1/2 pages, too! And finding a good time to write takes most of the pressure off because I'm doing what works for me not Julia Cameron. Follow your own intuition!

Any time devoted to writing is good and working with your own body clock helps squash the procrastination bug.

Here's an interesting web site for writers with lots of articles about writing, organizang, etc.

Wanna write? Here's a PROMPT: The thing about procrastination is....

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hiking in Sedona

We just returned from Sedona -- red rocks in odd and sometimes highly suggestive shapes and sizes, deep red dirt, vortexes, walking and hiking trails that take one deep into the heart of Indian medicine wheel country and spirits.

Rick and I found a little hiking trail behind the grounds where we stayed--piles of flat red rocks almost like slate (to walk on), red dirt (a mix of cinnamon and pomegranate color), insects, salamanders, the tiniest of birds perched in low bushes, cactus and prickly pears.

It didn't long for me to realize that I don't have the agility of a goat or those cows I see traversing the hillsides on the golden hills along Camino Tassajara. Rick on the other hand, forged ahead, stopping to snap pictures and take in the view. I spent a good deal of time looking down carefully calculating where each foot should land next and trying to keep up with him.

The thing about hiking is, one must stay present otherwise one might find herself splattered on red rock ... but once I realized that I WAS present, I could make the experience anything I wanted -- spiritual, meditative, fun, scary, and it became more meaningful.

And that experience reminded me of writing. To write I need to be present not to just show up at the computer or the note pad with pen in hand, but to consciously show up so that it matters that I've been there...

Wanna write? Here's a PROMPT: You were the gentle one ...
(and keep going for 20 minutes)

prompt from Pat Schneider's book, Writing Alone and With Others

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Click Clack, Scarves and Women

Autumn inspires me to knit. It's the swirl of cold when I walk Jake in the morning and the changing of leaves from green to crimson, yellow, gold and purple. The air has a hint of decay in it, and yet, for me it represents renewal, new beginnings. What could be fresher than the start of the school year? New Year's is a reminder to stay on track for all the things I wanted to start once 'fall' hit--after the ease and heat of summer.

But back to knitting...
I follow in the footsteps of my great grandmother, Hanna, who knitted dark green vests for World War 1 soldiers, my grandmother, Anna, knitted white cotton bandages on needles the size of a red cocktail straw for lepers, and my mother, Kay, who picks up her knitting when her arthritic fingers allow. She used to knit argyle socks for my dad, afghans, pink angora hats with white pompoms for me at the start of our New England winters, but arthritis has robbed her of long stretches of looping yarn and holding knitting needles.

I take the easy road -- I knit scarves -- just knit, no purl, no yarn over, no seed stitch, no sweaters, no shrugs, or cozy little slippers. Just knit. Twelve stitches. Size 15 needles.

I often knit when I sit in the living room listening to the television or when my husband drives. His driving makes my insides turn to jello. Knitting keeps my hands busy and my mouth shut and brings me back to another time of life--the smell of baked cookies, Mom's black speckled kitchen floor, our cat, Mittens, my children, and grandchildren. And it gives me time to think about challenges--it's another way to journal until I can get to my pen and notebook.

After giving several, make that many, scarves to each of my daughters who eventually said 'enough, Mom', I gave them to friends, but you can't keep giving scarves to people. After a while they might think I'm the crazy scarf lady or that I don't have anything else to do during the day... or night ... or anytime...

So, I'm looking for a homeless shelter where I know my scarves will be used to keep women warm. When I knit each one I offer gratitude for all I'm blessed with and offer hope that the receiver will have an abundant life soon. Once I donate them, I think it will help me sleep better at night, too, and in my teeny tiny way, I'm following in the steps of Hanna, Anna, and Kay.

Wanna write? Here's a PROMPT: This isn't the way it was supposed to turn out, I ....

Friday, September 14, 2007

Missing Flip Flop

Recently, Flop, of my beloved Flip Flops, went missing. It was a favorite--midnight black, two rows of tiny rhinestones up each side of the plastic 'v'.

I looked at our Golden Retriever, Jake, sleeping on top of our bed -- my number one suspect. He usually eats Rick's things. His wreck and chew history includes a ratty, over the hill jogging Nike and newly repaired leather handle gnawed right off a piece of luggage. Eating the handle wouldn't have been so bad except it took Rick weeks to decide if the garment bag merited saving -- it must have been thirty years old. But once the decision to repair was made, we expected the trusty old bag might even outlast us.

Then a few short weeks ago, Jake nuzzled his nose into an orange bag, pulling out a signed A's baseball and chewed away. By the time we found the ball--full of slime and saliva--it looked as though it never had white leather nor red string holding it together. As he lounged in the dining room mucking up the last of the string, I grabbed it out of his mouth and chucked it in the garbage.

Anyway, Jake's preferences seemed to be for leather so I thought perhaps Ms Flop cleared his list of favorites. Nonetheless, I grabbed a flashlight and checked his haunts along with the rest of the house -- toy chest, the workout room, under beds and sofa. I had worn my flip and flops within the last 48 hours and some of the places I checked I hadn't visited in days~make that weeks.

The more I pitched sofa pillows and rummaged a stack of clothes for Good Will, I convinced myself that Jake the Dog ate Flop. I eyed him with great suspicion but he just looked at me like he always does -- dark chocolate eyes -- first to the left, then to the right, back again, tail wagging, occasional blink. Cute. I still thought he knew something I didn't, ahem, like the whereabouts of Flop.

This morning I threw a load of laundry into the mouth of our new front loading washing machine, the one that, combined with its matching dryer, looks like the control panel of a 747, slammed the door shut, filled the detergent thingie, and tapped the 'start' button.

Then I hear it. Yes, it is Flop taking her first shower, make that last shower--she came unglued--half of her rhinestones missing, half of them attached. I'm heartsick.

I like to think of myself as an optimist, so here's the good news ~ it's almost the end of our California summer, well, closer to the end than the beginning -- so new Flip Flops await....

Moral of the story? You can't always say the dog ate it and always check what goes into the washing machine before the door locks ....
Wanna write? Here's a PROMPT:
The last time I looked, it sat ....
When I'm not organized, here's what happens ...

fill in the blank by writing for 20 minutes ~have fun

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Grim Reaper, a reminder to be mindful...

I have a little habit of reading the obituary column in the newspaper, a habit I picked up from my grandmother. She'd sit at her Formica kitchen table every morning drinking Red Rose tea with cream and sugar (very English) while pouring over the obituaries in the Boston Globe.

The Globe is a good sized newspaper harboring column after column of deaths in tiny lettering, unlike our local paper where most of us don't need a magnifying lens to read the print.

When I see the name of someone I know it feels like a punch in the chest and within the last month or so, I've had a couple of punches.

Last month, my friend Steve died. As an artist, he created hundreds of oil and acrylic abstracts and silk screened scarves. He also worked as a rehab counselor, dubbed himself a beekeeper--with ten or twelve hives in his back yard, had a dry wit and always made me laugh. His office walls were covered with full-sized kites -- stop light red, kelly green and lemon yellow -- with sperm-like tails stuck into position with staples and push pins. Kites have always reminded me of freedom. Now they remind me of Steve.

Steve escaped the grim reaper for a few years after his diagnosis and then its knock came back with a vengeance. The last time I saw him, it was during his remission three years ago. We ate dinner at the Cantina in Walnut Creek and talked about life, our careers, and his fearlessness about dying.

And just this morning, I read about Eddi. Eddi and I found our way to each other through a mutual friend in grad school. I used to think we were a lot alike until I read her obituary today -- she was literally classified as a genius. (no wonder she didn't understand how I could never make friends with statistics or my inability to grasp the concepts all things involving numbers...).

She had a zest for life that shot out through her eyes -- I've still not met anyone whose eyes could out-sparkle those blue dazzlers. They were a mixture of excitement, curiosity and fun -- that made me want to jump behind them to see whatever it was she saw.

We shared a teary goodbye one foggy morning at the Safeway parking lot ten plus years ago when she, her husband, and their cat moved to Washington. Then we lost touch.

Their deaths remind for me to be conscious and grateful for the everyday things in life --the tight squeeze around my neck from Sammie or JD, Baby Kyle's cuddle and his contagious giggles, a sweet kiss good night from Rick, the simple yet so important conversations with family, friends--and strangers.

Here's to staying conscious~

Writing prompt: 'When I look in your eyes ......' (write for 20 minutes about the first set of eyes that come into your mind -- doesn't matter if it's true or not)


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Laughter and Chocolate

Last night on a whim, Rick and I went to Tommy T's Comedy Club in Pleasanton to see Ralph Harris (the comedian recently kicked off of Last Comic Standing -- huge mistake). I could hardly catch my breath from laughing, one joke falling on top of another, then another, and another--in a way that just can't be scripted, can it? How do good comedians do that?

Chris Titus is like that, too. In January of this year, for Rick's 'milestone' birthday we went to Tommy's to see him. We ached from out of control laughing. Titus be back at Tommy's in November and we'll be going back --In case you're interested:

All of this made me think about author David Sedaris. One day I drove my Mom to Kaiser and while I sat in the waiting room inhaling hospital waiting room germs, I continued reading his hysterical book, Me Talk Pretty One Day. I laughed so hard that tears were streaming down my cheeks and the words on the page kept blurring. I had no Kleenex, just a wet shiny face.

A woman walked over to me and I thought, thank God--a Kleenex--instead she asked me for the name of my book. At first I couldn't decide which to wipe with my hand (or sleeve) first --nose? eyes? cheeks? before I spoke. I finally sputtered the name of the book out and she said she'd be stopping at the book store on the way home to pick up a copy.

~ laughter is like chocolate ~ everybody wants some. ~Yum~


Saturday, September 8, 2007

Rewrites, editing and fooling myself

I'm finally into the 'rewriting' phase of my book, but I don't like the word 'rewrite', so I call it editing. Editing is doable -- a comma here, a hyphen or semicolon there. It's just a way to fool myself about the massive word changes that are taking place, but it feels so much more writer friendly, you know? It's like calling a hurricaine a spring shower.

This isn't the first time around for this book. The first time it was called Peanut Butter and Kisses, this time it's 19 Darby Way. In the first book I dug in for about 40,000 words, sat in utter confusion for weeks, then changed it from journal entries to first person present tense. Talk about editing ... in the first book, there were several unruly children whose whereabouts I couldn't keep track of and a flaky protagonist--hence part of why I began again, I kept losing the kids. In the new book, Katie, an only child--is manageable -- and she's a good kid. I like her and the protagonist and I really like fooling myself.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Greetings and Welcome

Welcome to my blog. I wish we could sit and chat about life or at the very least, that I could offer you a hot cup of coffee or a great glass of cabernet as you browse my blog site, but I don't know if you're 21 -- you'll have to supply your own libation. Since this is the first entry, you'll be finished in a flash -- at least your coffee won't grow cold nor the cab too warm!

My blog is about any and all things related to writing: reading, writing, books, personal essay, freelance work, journalism, and about life. I think everyone can write -- if you can speak, you can write. Yes, there are those who can speak (and write) better than others, but I don't believe it when people tell me they can't write. Pshaw!

For example, take the phrase 'Right now I am .....' and fill it in. And keep going. (I'm borrowing this phrase from Hal Zina Bennett's book, Write from the Heart). I don't suppose he can own this phrase but since I use it and I did find it in his book, I feel I owe him a nod.

If I'm at Peets or Starbucks rummaging through my brain, picking and throwing things over my shoulder that wouldn't be worth writing about, I go back to 'Right now I am ....' and zap up comes up something. Just like leap frog I find myself hopping from one thought to another. Eventually, I have a story. Or I don't. Either way works. If it's not a good write, fine, I've practiced. If I've created something worthwhile, I can polish it up and send it out (maybe).

Right now I am .... looking forward to you visiting my blog.