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Comfortable Books

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The books are comfortable on their shelves. They are organized in the semi-haphazard way that works for me and since I feel comfortable surrounded by books, every room in my house (with the exception of the bathroom, which has a basket) has at least one bookcase. I grew up surrounded by books, being read to from birth, maybe even before, and I still have some of my original books, Goodnight Moon, Moy Moy (signed by Leo Politi with a water-color flair), The Umbrella, Lucy McLockett, The Birthday Party by Ruth Krauss, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and a collection of Beatrix Potter stories. I am not even sure that all of these books are still in print. They are on the top shelf as the crown jewels to my extensive children’s book collection.FullSizeRenderMost are too dear to part with and I can remember reading each one to my daughters during our traditional “three books before bed” story time each night. Of course, books were read during the day too, and kept in baskets, tubs and bookcases around the house for easy access. My mother managed a children’s bookstore for twenty years after she retired from teaching English and creative writing and found it impossible to visit my daughters without bringing a book for each one of them.  Leo Politi

 

 

The books are comfortable on their shelves. The dining room houses two tall bookcases filled with more mature memories, books belonging to my mother, then in her late 20’s and friends with Ray Bradbury, Norman Cousins (who was my godfather) and other young emerging writers of the time, those from my reading past and on a top shelf, the biographies of musicians that could suck Gary into reading. There are books with beautiful photography of Yosemite and hopeful gardening books for someday.FullSizeRender_2

The shelves of books are organized thematically: one bookcase holds the spiritual books, a bible from Gary’s bar mitzvah, and books seeking to answer the questions that seem to have no answers.  FullSizeRender_1

 

The books are comfortable on their shelves. The living room bookcase holds books more current, books about finances, organizing and an entire shelf devoted to books on writing. Most books here have been recommended by people I hold in high regard and whose opinions I respect, and though some have only been half-read, my stopping point noted by a bookmark, all have been started. The writing books have been read more than once and their exercises practiced to lend motivation during the times when I felt stuck or that I needed to expand. Some books here arrived as gifts of distraction, comedic books and popular books from the bestseller list to even out the fiction/non-fiction aspect of the bookcase.IMG_2049

The books are comfortable on their shelves. The small bedroom bookcase next to my bed holds treasured books, books that must reside close by, books with meditations to reflect on nightly and a few I need to look at just to regain a sense of composure and that feeling that friends are close by. Some stand tall and others rest on their sides, nestled together like long time family members who have lived together so long they take each other for granted. I don’t take them for granted and when I hold them, I remember when and why each one came into my life and take comfort in the special place they hold in my heart.FullSizeRender_3

The books are comfortable on their shelves. I was comfortable too, but now I find that I have to downsize, begin to purge or at least to sort through the lifetime accumulation of possessions in residence. I thought books would be the easiest things to start with, easier than say, clothes or mementos, but these books have personalities and they are so comfortable on their shelves. They look back at me and I find it hard to pick them up off the shelf and put them in a box. It’s just hard sometimes to say goodbye.

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Summer Writing: Goodreads and Teachers Write!

It is the dead middle of my summer break and I’ve finally found that I remember who I am:  a writer. It takes me about a month to detox from the crazy school year, but now that I have, I am diving into the world of the written word.

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The Wind and The Dog

Why is the wind so restless?   It begin to howl yesterday afternoon and during the night it droned on endlessly waking people and dogs alike.  Charlie demanded to go out into the windy night twice, unlike him to wake from his comfy slumber on the sofa in our room but the wind brought out the wild in him.  He spent time on the lounge in the yard, poised like a sphinx, nose in the wind, whiskers blowing.  We too were restless, listening to the howling up here in the tree house.  We are perched above, in somewhat of a wind tunnel, and while it looks like a restless breeze, it sounds like we are living in a haunted house.

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This morning we struggled to rise, not as rested as we would like, to face the wind again for our dutiful morning walk with Charlie.  Somehow he never tires of the outdoor adventures, though in-between he sleeps deeply, contentedly, owning the sofa or curled in his bed.  He really demands so little:  morning and afternoon walks, cozy sleeping arrangements, a nuzzle here and a dog hug there, yummy treats and cool water.  He gives so much:  unconditional love, tenderness (like the way he gently licks the peanut butter hiding his daily pro biotic off of Gary’s finger in the morning), companionship (nestling in next to the bass drum as Gary practices or planting himself at my feet as I write), and serving as the lone “brother” in a house of daughters.

People come into our lives for reasons known and unknown.  The same is true of animals.  They arrive and are woven into our family fabric, becoming part of traditions, histories, and etching permanence in our hearts.

Today I appreciate this good old boy of ours, hearing his gentle breath and soft snores as I enjoy my last few days of winter break.

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Looming New Year

 

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

Maria Robinson

I heard this quote during my wonderful Weight Watcher’s Meeting with Michelle Jacob last Saturday, and though I have heard it before, this time it sunk in.  I have been thinking about positive ways to move on, move forward and what I want to change for the New Year.  This is often a time of reflection, my usual pastime, which is accentuated during this time of year because so many others are putting energy in the same place.  I am creating a list of changes and here is the beginning of my list:
 
1.  Write more:  I am happiest when I do this and actually have begun to crave writing time, which must mean it is really something I need to do for my soul.
2.  Practice Yoga (more often):  This is another happy place for me and one that has great physical and emotional benefits.  Turning off my incredibly active “monkey mind” for an hour a day….
3.  Letting go: This is a general category that includes stuff, emotions, weight, and habits.
4.  Look for more natural ways to heal:  A concerted effort to investigate better health through more natural solutions like Save Our Bones, meditation, and a better, plant-based diet.
5. Create what I want:  which includes manifesting, doing, writing and discovering what is important to me.
 
The past is a magnet, pulling at us to look back, go back and revisit old stories, but really, once we have learned the lesson, and gone through the emotions, what good does it do to revisit?  The quote about the past is gone, the future is unknown and today is a gift (present) is a bit overdone, but the message is clear.  For one who thrives on control, I am coming to the conclusion that I can only control myself.  My mission for this new year is to offer the gift of change to myself and see what happens.

 

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Nothing is ever simple.

 

Some days are just like this.

 

Life sometimes grabs you by surprise, and when you least expect it, just when things are rolling nicely along. a moon pops up just as you are jumping for joy.  Today was that kind of day.  I am a bewildered cow today, just hanging on, waiting for the recuperating weekend.  I have taken to bribing myself with special evening and weekend rewards-just for making it through the rest of life, you know, the driving in traffic, working, managing a house and finances, not to mention the extreme amount of maintenance it takes to keep up appearances.  My reward preferences are:

*A lingering visit to the gym that includes not only the mandatory walking and lovely yoga, but a special sauna and nice long, on someone else’s dime, shower complete with Kiehl’s soap and shampoo.

*A facial, anytime, anywhere.

*A massage, ditto.

*A pedicure (OK, I guess it is obvious I want to be pampered)!

*A walk on the path between Will Rogers Beach and the Santa Monica Pier (I am saving up for a cool cruiser bike)!  Advice anyone?  Best brand, best seat, gears or no gears-I’d like to take it to Mammoth to cruise around this summer too.

*Sitting in the movies with my hubby, escaping into an adventure, another place or another person’s life.

*Reading a good book.

*Writing while sitting on my worn green sofa with the holiday lights that frame my window casting a soft glow.

*Dozing on the above mentioned sofa with my darling dog, Charlie (he is the reason the sofa is worn and we have given up getting him to stay off the sofa) who is spoiled beyond belief, but also very helpful in helping me achieve my 10,000 steps as his favorite reward is to have me get up and walk over to the sliding door to let him in and out every 5 minutes.

So, the mug in the photo, with the bewildered cow, belonged to my mother.  She often encountered the surprises of life, and rewarded herself with a cup of coffee and the chance to read anything and everything.  I miss her, and the talks we had in the afternoon when I got home from work.  She was an ever-present ear to my venting and even if she tired of hearing me vent, she never made me stop until I was finished.  I miss that unconditional love, unending companionship and understanding.  I still talk to her, but the part I miss the most, is the advice and answers she held for me.  Sometimes, the answers to my ponderings are whispered to me by a little voice I can only assume is hers.  When your DNA is entwined with that of another, it is inevitable that the connection is permanent.

 



 

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Taking The Multi Out of Tasking

 

I guess I just can't do it all.

 

It has occurred to me lately that my life is a little like my Firefox browser which currently has nine tabs open across the top.  I am suffering from multi-task syndrome which is similar to attention deficit disorder except I am not just looking around when I am supposed to be concentrating on a task; I actually start doing new tasks before completing my original task.  I notice this especially when I begin to write and an idea pops into my head that sparks my curiosity compelling me to investigate the new idea, which inevitably leads to another idea, etc.  I am left feeling unfulfilled and uncompleted.

I am regressing back to my days of Baba Ram Dass and Be Here Now, when we were encouraged to be “in the moment,” to calmly experience where we were.  Focusing on breathing is a good start because it slows the body and allows the mind to focus on one thing-breathe in, breathe out, my mantra for slowing down.  This is just the beginning though, because I really find it challenging to just sit still and breathe for longer than fifteen minutes and I also really do have things to accomplish, which involves physically moving.  The next step is to stop the multi part of tasking, stop reading e-mail, stop checking Facebook, stop thinking of more things to add to my already too long list of things to do, stop starting new loads of laundry, stop snacking and stop veering off on Internet searches…at least while I am writing.  I am trying to learn to focus on one thing at a time and this is not easy for a “Type A” teacher, but I love a challenge.

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Needing Less

Going gray.

Lately I have found that I am needing less.  It began with letting go of little luxuries or what I had previously considered luxuries and necessary rituals; long nails perfectly manicured, colored and highlighted hair, weekly shopping trips.  I had thought I needed these things to make me beautiful, to make me feel good about myself and to feel young, but I began shedding this fallacy last spring when I took a Victory Gardening class through UC Davis Extension.  Long nails just don’t fit with organic gardening and seemed a little anti-natural.  I had begun growing my hair out the summer before my mother died and she had said, “You are going to look stunning!”  That boosted my confidence and now  makes me remember her salt and pepper hair and her dignity.

This was the beginning-superficial looks, but I have moved on to material possessions and entertainment.  I feel good letting possessions go and it is almost a challenge to see what I can eliminate next, keeping only the items that are beautiful, have a use or are a memory.  I am finding new ways to entertain myself that don’t cost money but provide enjoyment.  Reading, writing, sitting in the yard watching birds, especially our resident doves, walking and catching up with friends provide endless opportunities for self-improvement, self-reflection and rejuvenation.

I have also found new interests that cost a bit, but the pay-off is huge. I have started the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program as a challenge to improve my writing, to meet other writers and to enjoy the instruction of highly qualified writing teachers.  I have rededicated myself to walking and exercise, I have begun a meditation practice to find inner calm and peace.

Needing less does not mean having less.  It means wanting more and finding it within.

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Lost in the Fire, Stimulus for Understanding


Another task in my recent writing class was to imagine a character who had lost everything in a fire.  All people and animals are fine, but the belongings, the “stuff” of their life is gone.  I did not need a moment.  My hand flew across the page and by the end of the short assignment, I came to a startling realization about my mother.  My sister and I have spent the past two years creating time together to look through all of my mother’s memories beginning with clothing and continuing with personal letters and important papers.  Over and over again we exclaim, “Why did she save everything?”  I have come to a happy conclusion and am once again in awe of my mother’s ability to transcend time and space to visit us and remain an active part of our lives.

Lost in the Fire

She slowly sat down on the curb, letting the officers words sink in, “There is nothing left,” what did that mean?  She mentally walked through the small house, one room at a time, (there were only three) and now somehow, what had seemed so small, suddenly seemed filled with so much.  Each closet had held years worth of memories organized on shelves; those that no one knew of, others she didn’t even remember, and now, without the visual reminders and tactile images, those memories would be lost forever.

There had been boxes of family photos dating back to the 1870’s sealed with ancient tape, and too many albums, the oldest photos pasted on black paper with curly script descriptions and names of unfamiliar people who had immigrated, leaving all of their belongings behind, she was not so different from them now.  All of the lovely cards from her father’s train travels as a salesman for women blouses written in flowery prose to her sister, her mother and to the child she once was, were lost along with the Western Union Telegrams with short messages stating safe arrivals in other states. There had been collections of timeless watches, cuff links now obsolete, tiepins from her father and embroidered handkerchiefs from her mother.  Memories no longer relevant in today’s disposable world, yet cherished objects that had been held in the hands of her loved ones.  She had everything.  She was the last in line and as loved ones departed, their precious mementos became hers.  Three sets of china and crystal wine glasses that had toasted happier times could not withstand the intense heat and flames and the silver whose patterns had been carefully selected and listed on wedding registries were molten globs of useless metal.

The books, there had been hundreds carefully organized by genre, favorite short story collections, architecture, poetry and the history of the city she loved.  There were picture books, the most special and those signed by authors reflecting a second career managing a children’s bookstore. The books were gone too, and in a sense, part of her that was irreplaceable.  She was older now and her memory lapsed when trying to conjure up titles and authors.  Files of papers she wanted to save, to refer to and relive another day were ashes now.  The years she had spent teaching had been housed in one file box including letters of admiration from former students and the most precious, the certificates, accommodations and articles about her innovative teaching style in the educational journals.

Who would remember now?  How would her family know who she was, who she had been, after she was gone?  The mementos were really not for her, after all, but for her daughters, so they would know who she really was, for she was far too shy to boast and thought they would be bored hearing about those long deceased relatives-people they had never known. She had always meant to write things down, to create a family history, a journal but life had been busy and the later years consisted of medical appointments, senior classes at the Community College and occasional lunches with the ladies (her posse of four).  Suddenly she noticed that reading with fading eyes was strained and writing with stiff hands became a challenge she was too tired to tackle.  The memories were the links to the past and now that past was gone.  She sat wondering, imagining a journey, slowly fading, becoming lighter, paler, quieter, ceasing to move and even a drop of water on the tongue became too much to bear.

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Writing Will Commence

I started day one of a two-day writer’s workshop today, entitled Discovering Our Muse.  What a treat!  I got to spend the entire day at UCLA, with 12 other devoted writers and a wonderful teacher to guide us through writing exercises designed to get the creative juices flowing.  If I had any doubts about the timing of starting a writing program, today confirmed that now is the time.  Today I felt like me and I felt connected to the DNA that apparently established this deep desire to write.  I am still not quite sure about my eventual writing genre, but the desire to write is so overpowering that I am sure this is my path.  Today I discovered that I am more fearful of not writing, than I am about making the commitment to write.  Here is my answer to the writing prompt:  “Sometimes I’m afraid of becoming someone…”

Sometimes I’m afraid of becoming someone who never really learns from her mistakes.  My life has been a series of roller coaster rides up and down a journey of life in L.A.  The highs consisting of fantastic travel experiences, meals out at various restaurants, homes filled with “things” I thought I had to have, and weekends chilling on the California Riviera and the lows directly below with everything magically disappearing as if it never was.

Usually when one repeatedly rides a roller coaster, or drives through a winding canyon, the curves and bumps become predictable and one builds up immunity to the queasy feeling, the butterflies in the stomach and the wretched nausea implied in the words, “I told you so,” or “here we go again.”  That hasn’t been the case for me because the temporary view from the top is so engaging that my blinders go up and I have a hard time anticipating the inevitable fall.

Lately, my fear of repeating patterns is becoming stronger than my desire to bask in that heavenly glow.  My mid-life is bringing certain things into focus, such as the rapid approach of qualifying for an AARP membership, senior discounts at the movies and those early bird specials.  In my foolish youth, I was immortal and invincible.  My life’s tools consisted of a giant eraser and a bottle of whiteout, that accompanied me on my travels down my life-path conveniently wiping out major blunders.  In my young adulthood, I became the expert role player; able to emulate those I aspired to be by simply accumulating the trappings of their seemingly perfect life.  That didn’t work.  Now, I have come to an understanding that who I really am, is who I am meant to be and that the only way to alleviate the fear of failure is to accept the possibility that my path might venture around a corner and I will have to muster up that blind faith that will allow me to take the necessary chances and make the changes needed to reach my goal.

Sometimes I’m afraid of becoming someone who never really learns from her mistakes, so with that in mind, I am developing a plan, a learning curve, to teach myself how to become a learner.  I am organizing a real-life class to teach myself how to move forward without taking two steps back each time.  I am reinventing, reflecting and rediscovering the important elements in my life and working out a way to invite myself to partake in these real moments and make them my future.

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Pray

Finding a way to pray by looking within.

Where have I been?  It has been almost 3 weeks since I have taken this time for myself to write!  My days have become filled with reading the writing of others, so my praying, for today’s word that hopefully will not fail me, is once again to find the balance in my life.  My balance scale constantly fluctuates between reading and writing, learning and reflecting and of course, walking and reading somehow squeezes in there too.

I live through my cravings and use that as a determiner for how to spend my time.  There are days when I just crave rushing home to grab my latest book and sit on my favorite couch to languish in  words.  Then other days I must move, walk or practice yoga.  Today is a day when I am finding the balance having rushed home to read, settled in a comfy chair in my lovely spring yard, an hour later heading off to the gym for a treadmill walk followed by a great yoga class, returning home for a quick check of the email and here I am!  Writing!  If only that was the beginning of my day instead of the end of it, darn that work!

Praying is a practice that can take many forms.  I am far removed from the traditional religious connotation of praying and am finding a lot of satisfaction in meditation, when looking for answers.  I do, however, find myself talking to my mother (who passed away a year and a half ago) a lot lately and hoping she will visit my dreams to give me some much-needed advice. I do pray for that connection-to that other place that my mother now inhabits.  I do pray for messages of wisdom to reach me, and for the ability to recognize the answers to my questions, when they are given to me.  We pray as a way of connecting to our inner wisdom because when we are able to reach that place, we realize that the answer has been there all along.

This is today’s challenge:  to find a way to reach your own “gut feeling” by balancing the chatter and the quiet, the looking out and the looking in.  The reward is a sense of knowing, a sense of peace and hopefully a few answers.


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