Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New Blog

Just wanted to let you know that I've switched over to WordPress, so you will now find my blog over here. I don't expect to be posting here anymore, so I hope to see you over at http://alymcf.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Seeking the Perfect Potato Chip

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with potato chips.

On the down side, potato chips mess up my blood sugar balance, requiring me to consume some protein after eating them. They are also greasy as pepperoni pizza swimming in its own glop.

On the up side, they are addictive little yumsters.

So one of my more mundane goals of late has been to try to find the perfect potato chip. This goal has led me to do strange things like order a sampler pack of Popchips.

Popchips have a peculiar texture, different from others on the market. But they’ve got some interesting flavors. like chili lime, which tastes strangely like a tortilla chip even though it is made of potato not corn.

And then there are Lay’s potato chips.Their parent company is against GMO labeling and this stance normally disqualify their products from taking up valuable space in my kitchen. But darn if their Limon potato chips aren’t a piece of cracked up heaven. When I have them around, my daughter and I go through these things faster than poop through a goose.

Next let’s examine Kettle chips. These things, in their normal incarnation, are too greasy for any human being to eat safely. But they’ve got these evil good flavors that are the perfect combination of sweet and salty. Nasty stuff, but when you need it, you need it.

But when I’m not feeling unbalanced enough to need the flavor addiction grease fest, I get either the reduced fat Kettle chips

or the Baked ones, which they call “Bakes” because apparently someone who works for them has a degree in Marketing but not in Grammar.

The plain Baked ones are best with some kind of dip because frankly they are short on flavor.

One issue with Kettle chips (to be fair, a lot of snack foods have this problem) is they can’t seem to decide which oil they are using in their chips.

This sort of indecisiveness is a problem for any person who, like my neighbor, cannot eat canola oil without ill consequences.

So which is the perfect potato chip? I have not yet found it. I welcome your suggestions.

So far the perfect chip is not a potato chip at all. It’s this:

Please comment and tell me your thoughts about snack chips!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Poem: I Said a Prayer

I said a prayer
to benefit the dead
then saw the prayer was actually
for myself.
For we are connected –
the dead and the living –
by a strand slimmer than spider silk.
It’s invisible, even –
the tethers that bind us.
Words are inadequate
but still I try to say – to weave –
the spinnings of my mind
and mesh with the webs of others.
Prayers are inadequate
but still I strive to change the world,
one word, one soul, at a time.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Lazy Lip Balms

I was lying in bed a while ago and reached for the lip balm I keep next to my bed. I thought about it for a moment. I have a lip balm tube by my bed, in my purse, next to my computer, and downstairs in the living room. Do I really need all these lip balms? 

I remembered a time when I had one (1) lip balm to my name. Wherever I was, if I needed lip balm, I had to go get that one tube. Now what…am I just lazy? I need a lip balm on every floor and in every room or something? 

Well, I reflected, it is not that bad. When I am in bed, of course I don't want to get out of bed. And it makes sense to carry one in my purse. Since I acquired an extra couple of lip balms at some point, it made sense to have one in my living room and computer room as well, since I spend time in both places. So that's how it happened.

Still, that's a lot of lazy lip balms. The least excusable one is probably the computer room lip balm. Because I need excuses to get off my ass when I'm at that infernal machine. How hard would it be for me to just walk into the bedroom when my lips need moisturizing? Not hard. I should toss these (wait…I have three lip balms next to my computer?) tubes and make myself get up. It's the same principle when it comes to snacks. I should never keep snacks and candy next to my computer. Otherwise I will eat them mindlessly, and not even burn enough calories for the trip to the kitchen (which I'm not taking when the snacks are by my desk).

And speaking of lip balm, I keep it until it smells rancid. Which usually takes one to two years. Haven't you ever put on lip balm and thought, "Yuck! This stuff just turned between now and the last time I used it." Into the trash it goes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Merging vs. Observing: Concerts!

Perhaps you remember the old days when people in the audience at concerts would hold up a cigarette lighter. I always interpreted that as the fans saying, "Oh great Rock Star, you are like the sun, and this small flame is my way of showing my desire to merge with your great light." (Ok I know they were probably just high and doing the lighter thing because it seemed cool, but I'm a mystic and a poet, so there.)

In more recent years, you go to a rock concert and instead of lighters, you see the virtual "flame" from hundreds of smartphones instead. The meaning-making part of my brain wants to understand this shift in cultural consciousness. And the way I read it is, "Oh wow I'm in the presence of something awesome right now and I need to record it in some way." 

I've done that myself. I've snapped crappy, blurry photos of the performers. I've attempted to bootleg part of the show with Voice Recorder (doesn't work, volume is too loud). And I've tweeted and Facebooked about the show while it is happening.

In fact, I've been recording shows for posterity since I first started going to concerts in the 1980s. I was a photography major, and I use to plunk my ass down on the stage at the 930 Club in D.C. and take photos of the bands I was seeing. I was well aware that I was choosing to step back and protect myself from the intensity of the experience by hiding behind a camera.

What's a little strange for me is that now everyone else is doing it, too. And I'm not sure what to make of it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Seeking patterns: Music, movies and poetry.

Years ago I read an article positing a question about movie critics Siskel and Ebert. Why would they rave over some obscure, hard-to-relate-to film, while panning the latest feel good Robin Williams family fare? The article went on to answer its own question. In a nutshell, Siskel and Ebert have seen so many movies that they require something more from their celluloidesque entertainment than the average moviegoer.

I've mentally returned to the ideas stirred up by this article many times, mainly when seeking to understand why I can barely tolerate most of the music on the radio, while my own music tastes are "torture" to my friends' ears. Looking back on my history, I've spent time working in a record store and also as a volunteer disc jockey and music director for a college radio station. I've had a music zine, and my record reviews and music articles were published by an entertainment newspaper as well. (Oh and I've also written songs, recorded them, and played briefly with a band, but that almost doesn't matter).  Does all this put me into that Siskel and Ebert zone, where I'm so familiar with music that I am bored to tears by the mainstream fare and need some serious weirdness to wake my neurons?

Contrast this with my experience with poetry. Two and a half decades ago I was very involved in the Newark, Delaware poetry scene. I met regularly with local poets and we critiqued each others' work. Many of us also read our work aloud, and occasionally even got paid for doing so. But other than the work of other local poets, I was not much of a poetry reader. Fast forward to now, and I'm even less involved with poetry than ever. In an attempt to find some new poetry to enjoy, I've discovered the work of Mary Oliver, which speaks to me more clearly than a lot of other stuff that's out there. And guess what? Mary Oliver is apparently America's best selling poet. So following the thought pattern, I am apparently not enough of a poet connoisseur to have obscure tastes in rhyme and verse. And that's fine with me. A bit of a relief actually.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


It's summer and that means the dome goes up in the backyard and I take up painting again. I've been working on a series called "Fruit Voodoodles" since before my kid was born. The past two summers I've made some good progress. 

Here's a sample of some recent work:

I'm also blogging a bit about art and what I've learned from doing it. I'll write and post more as I get closer to the finish of this project. In the meantime, you can see a close up of my first painting in this series.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Gold Yunnan Tea

A while back I wrote about tea, and how I like it to express the full rainbow of flavor. Well I did find one tea that expresses a short section of the color palette in great depth. That tea is Gold Yunnan.

For the sake of symplicity let's say this tea expresses…the full palette of available…golds/yellows. (Because that is the name of the tea, and although I do have a wild imagination, I am not, in fact, a possessor of the trait of synesthesia).

This is the tea I turn to when I don't want the strength of a black tea, but I do want a smooth, fragrant flavor. It's the tea I turn to when I want to casually, delicately, slam back two full cups of the stuff in under two hours. It's what I call a tea that is easy to drink. If I could guess intelligently, I would say it is low on tannins. 
When I first encountered this new favorite, it was at the 2012 Northwest Tea Festival. A lady from Teahouse Kuan Yin handed me a sample packet of loose leaves and warned me that the tea had been mislabeled. When I first tasted it, I was sure it was an oolong, but an oolong that I actually enjoyed. So I was kicking back cup after cup until the sample was gone, thinking "I finally found an oolong I like. I need more." But when I visited Teahouse Kuan Yin and asked them to help me find it, I learned that it was in fact, Gold Yunnan, a black tea from China. (The part that had been mislabelled was just the subtitle, which had declared it as Gold Yunnan: A Taiwanese Assam. I knew that couldn't be correct, as Assam is a region in India, Yunnan is a province in China, and Taiwan is, well, Taiwan. A tea can't really be all three at once unless it is a blend.)

So anyway, now I have a whole bag of this wonderful stuff. And if you want to taste it, come on over.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sense of Foreboding

I'm not sure when it happened but recently I realized that I often view some of the things I have to do as "something I just have to get through." I'll look at my schedule for the coming weeks and think something like this: "Oh, that event/party/parade/vacation or whatever…I just have to make it through that and then I'll be fine." 

I'm wondering if this is what it's like to get older.

I'm more likely to have a sense of dread about events that have a big facet of the unknown to them. Like I'm going to an unfamiliar place, or where there will be a lot of people I don't know. The thought is: "what the heck am I going to have to deal with?" And this sense of uncertainity triggers the sense that somehow I'm going to have a hard time getting through it.

The good news is that the more I force myself into situations I'm uncomfortable with, the better I'm able to face life and its unknowns with a sense of purpose and courage.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Value Judgments and Social Media

Recently I posted something to the effect that making judgments causes us misery. With this notion in mind, I examined my use of social media. While on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr etc, I am compelled to make dozens of decisions per minute about whether or not I "like" something or have an comment-worthy (or share-worthy or reblog-worthy or retweet-worthy) opinion about it. Not only am I using my own judging sense, I'm being subjected to other peoples' opinions about what's worthy of my time and attention. All this agreeing, disagreeing, liking, disliking, etc makes my brain buzz with value judgments, hundreds if not thousands of them a day. And I can tell you from experience I'm a lot happier when I can brush off opinions and just rest in what is.

In a nutshell, social media compells me to put a value filter on everything. And that often makes me rather grumpy. So my summer goal is Less Social Media.

I have a beautiful backyard with a hammock. Come visit me sometime.

And just in case you did want my opinion:

It's my belief that reducing thoughts that mentally make us separate from others is the key to contentment. (I'm aware that's just my opinion and you may disagree). All the same, we naturally fall into the habit of judging, and there's no need to beat ourselves up about it. That's just how it is, and one can strive to be more mindful of one's judging, or not. I'd argue that being mindful of when you are putting a value filter on things can lead to a happier, more peaceful state of mind, even if you can't eliminate the judging itself.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Spot the Pattern

I need to read the same thing from multiple sources before it finally occurs to me to put it all together and internalize the message. So in a marvelous coming together of resources, nearly every book I’ve read recently is saying the same basic thing in different ways.

See if you can detect the pattern:

“All we need to do is pay attention. We don’t have to decide if something is good or bad, right or wrong.  We don’t need to have judgments about what kind of person we are because we have certain kinds of thoughts of thoughts or feelings or reactions. That is the road to suffering. Our job is quite different: Just notice. What is happening right now? We notice this, then this, then that, then that… We pay attention to all of it. Where is the suffering?”
Suffering is Optional, by Cheri Huber

“The Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti once remarked that observing without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence. When I first read this statement, the thought, “What nonsense!” shot through my mind before I realized that I had just made an evaluation. For most of us, it is difficult to make observations, especially of people and their behavior, that are free of judgment, criticism, or other forms of analysis.”
Nonviolent Communication, by Marshall Rosenberg

“In a Zen kitchen, you do not compare or judge one apple as better than another. Every piece of food is unique unto itself, and every item of food is to be cherished without comparison.” – The Mystic Cookbook, by Denise Linn and Meadow Linn

“The Great Way is not difficult;
It only avoids picking and choosing.
When love and hate are both absent,
Everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
And heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
If you wish to see the truth,
Then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
Is a disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning of things is not understood,
The mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.
The Way is perfect like vast space,
Where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
That we do not see the true nature of things.
Live neither in the entanglements of outer things
Nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
Be serene in the oneness of things
And such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.
To deny the reality of things
Is to miss their reality;
To assert the emptiness of things
Is to miss their reality.
The more you talk and think about it,
The further astray you wander from the truth.
Stop talking and thinking
And there is nothing that you will not be able to know.

So continuing in this theme, I will neither comment nor judge the preceding quotes. I simply present them to you, to make of what you will.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Grass is Always Greener for the Other Mother

Sometimes I read in the news about women in developing nations, and how access to birth control is a life saver for them. It provides them with freedom from the incessant demands of motherhood so that they can pursue an education or career. Or even just simply have some time for themselves in a world where their health and energy are constantly being sucked dry by an infant.

And then I recall doing a mental, meditative body scan a couple of weeks after I got an IUD installed. My uterus told me it was sad that I’m not letting it do any more of what it was put here in my body to do.

I tried to reason with my uterus. I told it, “It’s not practical. We don't have room for another kid in this house. We will barely be able to afford college for one, and certainly not two. Besides I’m too old.”

But my heart took the side of my uterus, and I cried anyway, logic and reason be damned. I cried for the life I will never know…the life of a woman who has the freedom to procreate again and again, nurse babies one after the other, meet each unique child, and mother them so hard it kills her. I’m trapped in a sea of cultural expectations that demand that I have only healthy children (not the ones with birth defects more common in older mothers), that demand that each child have his or her own room, that demand I be able to provide not just love and food and shelter, but piano lessons and a college education.

Despite my mild despair over this issue, I am grateful to be living where I am, and sincerely expect to have no regrets over my decision to use birth control. I’m grateful for the benefits of living in the United States of America, with a husband who can provide for us, and as a stay at home mother of one beautiful daughter.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

We are all Unique. Yeah I can finally admit it.

You know how when you listen to a popular song, you recognize (on some level) the structure of the song…verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse variant, chorus? And you know when something varies from that structure widely that somehow it is no longer “fits” the pop music genre anymore? In fact, you might even call it experimental music.

Here, you can listen to some background music while you read the rest:

Let’s apply this concept to writing, specifically, modern journalism and blog entries. There’s a pattern to popular articles also.

It typically starts with a personal story, either about the author or about some other relatable figure. Let’s imagine a person named Mary Smith, with two small children. They live near a nuclear waste dump and Mary is concerned about the effects of the waste on her children. So after we’ve been sucked into the article via this tactic, the author broadens the scope of the article. He gives us the background and history, and interviews people from “both sides” of the situation. And eventually at the end of the article, he gets back to Mary and her situation. Recognize the pattern?

Ok. So what happens with articles that don’t fit the pattern? Are they still “good” articles that are worth your time? Or do you think the writer doesn’t know what he or she is doing?

Let’s take this article for example. I sucked you in not with a personal story about myself or some other named individual. I just talked about music song structures, with the idea that it would help you understand the article pattern concept when I got around to writing about it. Then I “failed” to provide you with history. Who was the first person to write articles with the pattern I’m describing? Heck, I don’t know, and I’m too lazy to research that. And so far, I have also failed to provide you with a conflicting viewpoint, so that you can feel like you’ve gotten a balanced perspective. Instead I’m going to rant.

It upsets me that I live in a time and place where the offerings of our people’s artists, musicians and writers are commoditized and usually only appreciated fully by large numbers of people if they fit into a recognizable pattern. In tribal cultures, you don’t get the option to “like” the dance that the Shaman is doing to heal the boil on your ass. You don’t get to write an Amazon review on the drum circle that is putting your Bokor in a voodoo trance or Yelp about the packet of healing herbs you just received from your witch doctor. Why we can’t just appreciate non-standard writing, music and art without people thinking we are weird for liking it is rather irritating. And our creative notions must apparently be condensed into a brief LOLcat style internet meme, or risk being ignored.

I like my seven year-old’s opinion on this, which she explained after belting out one of her own off-key compositions. She basically said, “If it's your own song, you can do it however you want.”

One of my favorite off-key singers:

Which brings me to the argument I usually get from people when I complain about this sort of thing, which goes along the lines of “People do art/music/writing/etc for themselves because they enjoy it or feel compelled to do it, and a real artist doesn’t care what people think about it.” But that’s not what I’m really getting at here. I’m not talking about making the art. That’s the easy part. The problem comes when you share it. If your core motivation for sharing your art is to connect with other people, then suddenly what other people think (and whether or not they deem your missives worthy of their time) is of utmost importance. Your child might make dozens of drawings, but the one she shows you is the one you need to regard carefully, asking yourself: “Why does she think I need to see this? What is she hoping I will get from this?” You may scoff and think that all a child wants is attention and praise (and think the same of any adult who tries to share their art or writing with you), but look deeper. If every time my child hands me a drawing it shows the two of us together with a heart shape between us, I can see she is trying to express her love. So…might not the rest of the people in the world be trying to do something similar? The person singing, playing guitar and selling his CD down at Pike Place Market…is he just looking for attention and money? Or might he be trying to find like-minded people who appreciate what he has to offer, and in a roundabout way, showing his love for his audience by performing the best he can?

If you ask anyone to examine their deepest goals and motivations, the vast majority would likely tell you that they want to love and be loved, and share whatever unique gifts they have with the world while they are here. The key word there is unique. We are all different. We don’t fit into a boilerplate pattern and our creative output should not be expected to fit a formula either.

Now if you’ve got the counterpoint, I’d love to hear it.

P.S. One thing I hinted at but didn’t explore fully was the connection between healing and creativity. Maybe another article.

Friday, April 19, 2013

I'm a Killjoy

When I was a girl I asked for martial arts lessons and was told not to bother with them because knowing taekwondo won’t help me a bit if my opponent has a gun. During a recent conversation with the people who raised me, I realized where I get my killjoy tendencies.

I’ve always got an excuse not to act on something I believe in or to try something I want do. I’ve got excuses for why I shouldn’t publish my novels, why I shouldn’t bother signing up for a meditation retreat, or travel to Europe this summer. For example:

--it’s too hard
--it takes too much time and money
--I can’t find enough people to support me, or watch my kid for me, etc.
--someone will not like it and get angry and fight with me and I don’t need that stress in my life
--it’s not worth the effort unless it’s successful and I have no guarantee it will be
--even if it is successful, I am not sure I want the notoriety and attention that comes with success
--I don’t want to be typecast as “that person who…”
--it might require physical hardship and I’m a wimp
--there’s surely some other reason I shouldn’t do whatever it is, and if I dare do it, I will find out the reason, too late.

So I’m talking with these people who raised me about an idea I had to try to get OTC medication education in high schools, and they had a pile of reasons why my idea was no good and why I shouldn’t bother with it. It was like listening to myself try to talk myself out of something.

Fascinating, I thought. No wonder I haven’t amounted to much. I still don’t think I can.

I’m so used to my concerns being dismissed that sometimes I just disrespect my own needs and desires before someone else can. I guess that’s called “shooting oneself in the foot,” and I’ve been accused before of doing that…by the people who raised me. Awesome.

Where do we go from here then? Recognizing that I tend to view things in the most negative way possible, I can shrug and say “that’s how it is, but it doesn’t have to stop me.” And in fact, it hasn’t. I still do just what I want to do every day. I craft time alone and time with others with a strong sense of pursuing my own agenda as much as possible. But my agenda isn’t always writing, art or vacation planning. Sometimes it is the subtle art of running errands, or recipe planning, or deciding what yarn will be crafted into what wearable object. Sometimes I light a candle or some incense as a statement of purpose and intent toward pursuing my aims toward their highest potential. Sometimes I turn on my computer and cook some self-referential meant-to-inspire-and-enlightened stew of words into a frothy, bubbled-over mess like this one.

Anyhow, I hope that whoever reads this might see some morsel of usefulness in it. I’m optimistic that way, at least.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ignorance is not Bliss

Recently in the news: the morning after pill will be available over the counter to under 17-year-olds. It got me to thinking. Trouble, I know.

On the one hand, having any drug available over the counter makes it convenient; you don't need a doctor’s prescription to get it, and you don’t need to feel like anyone… including your parents…need to know what you are doing. And I would be 100% for this, except for one thing: people aren’t taught about risks of any over the counter (OTC) medicines they take. They don’t get an automatic pharmacist’s counsel on OTC drugs, and most people don’t have a knowledgeable friend or family member who can warn them about risks. And when it does occur to someone to look up risks on the internet, the information found can be confusing or untrustworthy.

My mom was in the pharmaceutical industry for many years. I learned from her that ibuprofen was excellent for menstrual cramps. And because I am curious and I read labels, I learned that ibuprofen is the generic name for the active drug found in both Motrin and Advil. So I knew to only take one of those drugs at a time, or risk having too much.

Some people aren’t so lucky. Like the person in the news years ago who took the maximum dose of both Tylenol and Co-Tylenol, not realizing he was doubling his dose of acetaminophen, a drug that can cause liver failure at higher doses.

Despite my background, I was not informed enough to understand everything about OTC drugs. I was reminded of this one night in college when I felt a cold coming on and I took two Co-Tylenol before bed. I naively expected the medicine to nip the cold in the bud (essentially expecting allopathic medicine to act like homeopathic medicine). Instead I was kept awake half the night because of the stimulant pseudoephedrine hydrochloride, which was in there as an antihistamine.

All this got me to thinking: wouldn’t it be nice if high schoolers were taught about OTC drugs? It wouldn’t have to be a semester long class. It could just be part of the health unit, or it could just be an hour long seminar and a handout. It wouldn’t even necessarily be part of the school curriculum, but it could be something you could sign your kid up for, much like some parents sign their kid up for a class in Internet safety.

Or should we just trust that people will read the package inserts and Google any medicine they are taking in order to find out its risks? Personally, I don’t think so. Medical information on the internet seems to come in three flavors:
--too hard for a lay person to understand, but generally the most accurate, like http://www.wikipedia.org/.
--moderately easy to understand, like http://www.about.com
--super easy to understand, but least likely to be accurate, like http://answers.yahoo.com

After spending ten years doing technical support for software, I know that many people don’t read the information that comes with the products they buy. Many don’t like doing web searches or posting questions on forums either. They want to talk to a real person. Having a class would really help give young people a good foundation in understanding the risks and benefits of OTC drugs.

Now here’s the point where I step back and poke holes in my own argument. If you are like a good number of people, you may read what I’ve written here and assume I’m one of those liberals who think that people need to be treated like babies who don’t know what’s good for them. And you’d be correct…partly. I am one of those bleeding heart liberals. I love people for their inherent value as sentient beings, and want them to be happy. The trouble comes when my idea of what will lead to others’ happiness conflicts with their own. So I may think that if you get knowledge about the dangers of something, that you will use that knowledge to the benefit of your own health, and when you have good health, you have one brick in the fortress of happiness. In that regard, I think I am helping but you may not agree. So it goes. Namaste!

     I Like this quote I dislike this quote

“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” - Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What's On Your Bucket List?

Here's mine:

--Be content at the time of my death that I’ve done as much as I can to have a positive impact on others and our world.

--Feel that other people have forgiven me for whatever negative stuff I might have done to them, and that I have forgiven them likewise.

--Make sure my material life is pared down and in order so that whoever has to deal with my crap after I die won’t have too hard a time of it.

--Feel somewhat certain that my daughter is going to be able to make it without me.

--Feel calm and peaceful as I face death (just as I faced childbirth, floating on the waves of inevitability).

--Find out what happens at the end of Pandora Hearts manga. :)

I don’t want to climb Mount Everest, win a Nobel Prize, or travel around the world in a hot air balloon. In a way, I wish my list could be as cut and dried as that. After all, going to a specific place on Earth seems pretty easy, but the inner work it takes to rest in a state of contentment, peace and forgiveness can be a real challenge.

But in a way, every goal is only attainable if you really want it, and really work at it. Part of my trouble in life is that I am sometimes ambivalent about what I really want, unsure if I’m just being swayed but what other people think I’m supposed to want. So I think this list is about as honest as I can be, for now.

Whatever your bucket list holds, may you fill it with checkmarks of completion, and die knowing you really lived.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Spring Tai Chi Haiku

I'm currently taking a tai chi class and some of us write haiku to celebrate the season. I'm not sure I honored spring so well, but here are my  offerings:

Still winds and other
oxymorons fill my head,
empty of wise thought.

Cat chases yarn ball
paws move like wood, like water.
I, too, play tai chi.

Flower petals bloom
My arms are curling tendrils
Reaching for the sun.

Tea leaves float upward
my hands absorb the sun’s warmth
dan tien steeping.

Monday, April 1, 2013

I'm an April Fool

I'm not very good at determining when someone is joking or not. 

Maybe I has the dumb.

Or maybe my sense of humor doesn't sync up with other people's. That's entirely possible.

When people are snarky or sarcastic, I often just read them as mean-spirited, grumpy complainers. This can be a problem, especially since sarcastic humor seems to rule the internet, and human interaction can mostly only be experienced on the internet these days.

So April Fools' Day is a bit of a landmine for me, because I am easily made a fool.

How about April Flowers' Day instead?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Foreign Language Whozeewhatsit

So I’m pondering whether my daughter should bother taking Chinese class again next year, knowing that none of her family speaks Chinese and the middle school she will likely be going to in a few years currently has no Chinese program.

And I’m telling this to my mom, who tells me an amazing little story.

My grandma is almost 92 years old and frankly, not doing so hot. Down to 50% kidney function, lungs filling with fluid, internal bleeding of some sort, has no idea what you just told her two minutes ago. But guess what? She remembers the Polish she learned in her youth well enough to freaking translate for her roommate (who can only speak Polish since her stroke).


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Good Cup of Tea is like a Rainbow

I’m addicted to tea (camellia sinensis, to be clear). I’ve been addicted since childhood, when iced tea was my beverage of choice at the dinner table (and I wondered why I had trouble getting to sleep at night). So I’ve grown to be a little picky about it over the years. I like my tea plain…no fruit flavors, please. No sugar, no honey, none of that. Lipton was my childhood tea, but now I’m 44 and spend too much time in grocery stores and tea shops. As a result, I’ve discovered the miracle of flavor that is PG Tips.

Here’s the best way I can describe PG Tips: It is the full rainbow. That’s right. This tea has all the colors in it. Other black teas are lacking in the flavor/color department. At best, you might get roughly half a rainbow, which is what I get with a good Assam, Tazo Awake or Tetley British Blend.  A lot of black teas have only one or two colors, which makes them disappointing to drink.

So PG Tips it is. A tip of the cup to ya.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Quiet One

I’m the quiet one. That person you think is boring because she just sits there and barely says anything. I tend to choose talkative people to hang out with…the kind of people who hate silence and try to fill it with whatever they can think of at the moment. I’m perfectly content to sit there puzzling over why I'm surrounded by people who are ignoring me, as long as I forget the idea of “me.” As soon as I think there is a “me” that should have a larger say in the conversation, I get angry and resentful. But do I say anything? Of course not. I prefer to obliterate the notion of “me” instead.

Sometimes if I have problem with someone or a situation I just pull back and ponder. Often I realize the problem is actually…guess what? “me” and my thinking. This saves me from having to confront people, because if the problem is me and my perception of them, then they have done nothing wrong and there is no need to say anything. Problem solved. 

Except it is not entirely solved, because I am still lonely. I’m lonely at parties, lonely with dear friends, lonely in any situation where I feel like a warped puzzle piece trying to fit into the wrong puzzle. And the only reason I’m saying this in a public “place” is because I think some of you might be able to relate to and understand what I’m feeling. Perhaps that shared feeling will make you feel less lonely, if only for a few moments. Sharing this abstract moment of connectedness is what makes me feel less lonely. It is hard for me to relate to people as individuals, but I can often relate to them in general terms, when I consider the universal feelings we share.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

More Sincerity, Less Snark

I suspect we all have them: friends on Facebook or other social media sites whose updates are, quite frankly, boring. You know the person who thinks you need to know everytime she's taking a nap or eating a snack, or the guy who thinks having a cup of coffee while he's studying makes for an exciting status update somehow. 

If only they would be witty, clever or funny when they say these things, it wouldn't be so bad, I thought. But then I stopped in my mental tracks, horrified. Couldn't we just have honest, heartfelt communications with each other, or do the new rules of social connection online insist that every sentence contain wit, humor, sarcasm or snark? The latter seems to be true, and it makes me sad.

Last night I had a bad dream. I was feeding an insect to a carniverous plant, and suddenly the insect became a small boy who was being fed on a diet of jelly sandwiches, and slowly dying of thirst. It upset me to think of the insect/boy dying a slow death inside the bowels of the plant. But this is what we do all time with our online communications. We feed each other jelly sandwiches while depriving each other of water. 

So I'm sending out an ernest call for more honesty and sincerity so we can feel truly connected to each other, not just superficially bonded with LOLs.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Turning wants into obligations...hehehe

I had a revelation today. Those of you who’ve already had this revelation will be nodding their heads sagely, but the rest of you may learn something, so I present the following.

This pertains to how we spend our time. You see, there are wants and needs. Then there is this category I call obligations. These are “things you do because you feel like you have to.” They aren’t true needs. A true need would be like, “I must go to the ER because I broke a bone.” Obligations are fascinating!

My husband has become a pro at turning wants into obligations. For example, he paid for golf lessons a few weeks ago, but has not used them yet. He has to use them before the end of February or the money will be wasted. This motivates him to set up a time to do the lessons. Additionally, he also enjoys fine whisky, so what did he do? He set up a whisky advocacy group. Now he feels obligated to go to whisky tastings and visit new distillers so that he can report back to the group. In this way, he has an excuse to do what he wants, under the guise of it being an obligation. Another way he uses this tactic to his advantage is to talk to any interested party about his paintings. Sometimes those people suddenly want him to make them a painting, and lo…he has an excuse to spend time doing a favorite activity…painting.

Here’s how obligations work when it comes to kids’ activities: Your kid expresses a want. You sign them up for the class or activity, pay the money, get the equipment, and then suddenly the want has become an obligation. See how that works? Now suddenly Jimmy has to go to soccer or gymnastics because it’s already been paid for and you’d be wasting your money to let him stay home.

Are you in this situation at your home? Are you constantly giving up your evenings for the sake of someone else’s “obligations”? Do you have family members who cannot prioritize their wants, but simply must do it all? Maybe we could form a support group. Whaddaya say we meet one evening a week? Yeah. I can hear it now. “Sorry, Honey, I have to go to my Support Meeting.”

I’ll meet you rolling on the floor, laughing.