Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Yesterday & A Handful of Books

This is a different little bird taken at Jack London Square.

Yesterday I finally took a fresh air walk to the library at just the right time. I was beginning to become frazzled. My destination was the library to pick up several books I had on hold. When I went downstairs I was greeted by a sparrow nibbling on a morsel. I immediately felt calmer. Sparrows have a way of being there when I need a reminder to relax. Sparrows remind me of my grandmother—her spirit is present wherever they are. As I walked by slowly with my bag of books to return on one shoulder, I noticed a young man had given the Sparrow the morsel, and he was watching the sparrow. How sweet, I thought. My whole being grew even more calm and happy.

When I arrived at the library, I was excited to collect the stack of books that were waiting for me. I most likely will not read each from cover to cover, but I will meet their contents as best I can by reading the inside flaps, introductions, examining the table of contents carefully, and flipping to the sections that call to me most. I may even flip randomly and see where I land.

I’m excited about this collection and am going to list the titles here with my small reactions so far:

The Japanese Haiku: Its Essential Nature, History, and Possibilities in English with Selected Examples (1957) by Kenneth Yasuda.

The Bamboo Broom: An Introduction to Japanese Haiku (1934) by Harold Gould Henderson.

I am eager to learn more about the history and cultural aspects of the Haiku. I’m glad that the first author, Kenneth Yasuda, is Japanese. In his introduction he says that many questions are posed to him about the status of the haiku in English by interested Japanese each time he went to Japan and he lists a few:

“Do the English-speaking people understand haiku?”
“Do they write haiku in English?”
“Do the English haiku have form?”

I look forward to reading Yasuda’s exploration of these questions.

What We Eat when We Eat Alone: Stories and 100 Recipes (2009) by Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin.

I stumbled upon this one by chance when I was looking through the online library catalog. It piqued my curiosity and made me think about how I approach eating differently when I’m eating alone, but I had never given it much thought until seeing the title of this book. Now that I have the book, it has a fun feel about it with color illustrations throughout. Maybe I’ll find a few recipes that I can double for two.

OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word (2011) by Allan Metcalf.

I was looking up another book on my Kindle when I saw this. I clicked the book, eager to find out more. I read the description and checked the library and that’s how it ended up in my hold list. I have tried to stop myself when I use OK in my writing because, frankly, I don’t always feel comfortable with how I am spelling it: Is it OK, O.K., Ok, or Okay? I’ve reverted to all right—probably not much better. But also because I realized that perhaps I was relying and overusing this two-letter word that was starting to look a little odd to me staring back from the page.

I was intrigued to learn in the introduction that these letters, OK, “were born as a lame joke perpetrated by a newspaper editor in 1839.” How interesting. I’m eager to read through this small book of about 200 pages.

Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results (2000) by Stephen C. Lundin, Ph.D., Harry Paul, and John Christensen.

There was a time when I enjoyed reading business books related to human relations and it was partially because of the work environment I was a part of. I loved the learning aspect of that job. I still like to browse through business books here and there, but not as much as I used to. It has been a long time since I read this small book and I came across it again when we helped my significant other’s cousin move. That’s when I became curious to revisit Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market and the lessons learned in this book, which are succinctly captured in the book’s inner flap: “A powerful parable that will help you love the work you do—even if you can’t always do work that you love.” Seeing that book re-reminded me of how much I gained when I worked at that job of long ago and how I carried the spirit of it and this book with me. It focused me in on how I try to bring a little fun to my current job, while still working hard. Fish! truly is a gem of a book.

Group practice (2004) by Claudia Puchta and Jonathan Potter. I’m not sure what I was expecting—inspiration, ideas? This wasn’t the book, so it’s going back to the library right away.

Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss (1994) by Hope Edelman.

I learned about this book from Keiko when she left a comment on one of my blog’s and said that I might appreciate this book. Although the book is available as an e-book, I will probably buy a paper copy of the book so that I can underline and make comments in a way that is easier for me to go back to. I am looking forward to reading this book slowly. I’ve always known that there was something unique to my way of looking at the world because of losing my mother early in life, and the book talks about later loss also. But the little bit that I’ve read so far makes me feel that I will gain a new understanding of how I’ve reacted to the loss, feelings that I’ve felt, and offer a new perspective. Thanks to Keiko for the recommendation!

The Use and Abuse of Literature (2011) by Marjorie Garber. I came across this book through my daily book lover’s calendar. A few chapters are especially calling to me, “Use and Abuse,” “What Isn’t Literature,” and “Why Literature is Always Contemporary.”

There are also several books I’m pecking away at on my Kindle. One is by Red Room writer, Kaui Hart Hemmings. Several weeks ago I saw the congratulations to her for the movie The Descendants that is based on her debut novel of the same title. I was excited because it was a Red Room author and thought she must feel very proud and good inside that her debut novel had been made into a movie.

Since then I recognized her name when I noticed that one of the Kindle Daily Deals was her book of short stories called House of Thieves (original copy right 2005, eBook copyright 2011). The first story in the collection is The Minor Wars and this, Kaui Hart Hemmings tells in the beginning of the collection, is the story that was expanded into her first novel, The Descendants.  Often times, I am disappointed with how short stories conclude, but The Minor Wars does not disappoint. I look forward to reading the rest of the collection in House of Thieves and later moving onto her novel before seeing the movie. Her writing is refreshing, her dialogue is to be admired—it has a natural and real quality, and though her writing seems to have a quick beat, she weaves in just the right amount of metaphor and beauty that add pause—not too much, not too little. Her writing is crisp, clean, and lovely. Belated congratulations to Kaui Hart Hemmings!


Yesterday…Yesterday is today. Today is yesterday. Today is Today. When I stepped away to take my walk yesterday, I didn’t realize that the winter day would cheer me up as it did. Last week was spring and this week it’s winter. Books—though—such magical creatures full of so much. The mere title of a book sometimes will take me to an imagined world. I like questions. I need to ask myself more questions and answer them.

For the love of nature, walking, breathing—and for the love of books, sharing, writing—it is all love.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Beauty lies in

the starkness

of bare


Monday, February 27, 2012

Jimmy Dean ~ Giving Thanks

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”
--Jimmy Dean

The first time I read this quote, I knew it was for me. I came across the quote at work about two years ago on a paper towel of all places. The quote wasn’t attributed to anyone and at the time I didn’t look it up. I added the quote to the bottom footer of our team meeting agenda—good words to remember.

For the past several days the quote has been there with me, maybe because we’re heading into busy season and I’m sure there will be moments where I need to adjust my sails. But these words of wisdom will serve in all facets of life.

I typed the quote into Google yesterday to find out who said it and that’s when I learned it was Jimmy Dean. I didn’t realize Jimmy Dean was also a singer and had acted.

Here is a Youtube of his song, “Bumming Around.” This is my first time hearing this song, his first hit in 1953. I like the vibe, carefree and relaxed. 

Another interesting tidbit from Wikipedia:  Jimmy Dean was entombed in a 9-foot tall piano shaped mausoleum overlooking the James River on his estate.

I love his epitaph:  “Here Lies One Hell of a Man.”

Jimmy Ray Dean (August 10, 1928 – June 13, 2010).

Thank you Jimmy Dean for your words that seized me from the first I read them and carry me through my days when I need them.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday ~ Miscellany of Wanderings ~ Laughter and Dancing

This morning I have my metaphorical dancing shoes on laced up with passion and laughter. A stray from the classical, jazz, and Latin notes that usually breeze out of the speakers, it was time to put in high-energy music and get moving!

As usual, I’m in and out of books, certain ones pulling stronger. During my morning time, if I’m not writing, I’m reading. This week I’ve been pulled in different directions, each book shouting, read me, read me. Whom to pick, whom to pick? I love the writing of Milan Kundera. When I read his words, I feel transported and he pushes me to think. There are certain of his books that are more difficult for me to enter because of the politics and the satire that won’t resonate the same as it does for someone from his Mother Country. Nevertheless, I gain much through his penetrating mind, and his beautiful and lyrical writing. Right now, his book that keeps calling me is, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. In fact, laughter is an activity that I cherish. Laughter and hilarity make life interesting and the ability to see the comedic in any circumstance is healing.

I’ve recently come upon a book that I was not looking for. I think I was looking for a book on language and this one came up as one that others bought. It was free and had favorable reviews. It’s not a book so much as it is an essay on laughter. I’m on page 27 of 99 by Kindle standards, so I have a ways to go, but so far—through its denseness—I am having many connections—stragglers that appear to me as little lights stringing together. The essay is titled, “Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic” by Henri Bergson. It makes me realize how much I see the comedic in life and how especially at work, even when I have my occasional moments of emotional sensitivity and overreaction, most of the time I am laughing to myself and feel that I am watching a sitcom. And often I laugh at myself too. This gets me through the day, to bring this element to the often mundane tasks of office work. I’m not complaining, just pointing out that I make the most of my time and work best when I am surrounded by laughter, even if I’m the only one laughing inside. Now, this isn’t to say that I sit and make fun of people or laugh at them all day, rather if someone has an aspect to their personality that arises often. For example, an office mate that shares the space will overhear a conversation and will insert himself into it loudly and cut off whomever was talking. For some co-workers this is an annoyance. Objectively speaking, it’s probably slightly rude, but I don’t think he’s aware of it. And here is what Bergson has to say about the comic character, “…it is really a kind of automatism that makes us laugh—an automatism, as we have already remarked, closely akin to mere absentmindedness.  To realize this more fully, it need only be noted that a comic character is generally comic in proportion to his ignorance of himself. The comic person is unconscious” (pg. 8). Ultimately, I have no problem with his frequent intrusions. It offers variety and interest to my day and it makes me laugh every time because it’s who he is and for me there is hilarity to this automatic behavior and the way that it physically plays out. Bergson further states, “to imitate any one is to bring out the element of automatism he has allowed to creep into his person. And as this is the very essence of the ludicrous, it is no wonder that imitation gives rise to laughter.” When you are in a situation day in and day out, you can either find the horrible all the time, or you can do the opposite.

I have also been in touch with my childhood enjoyment of imitating and occasionally, I do imitate and am able to invoke these moments by sound and physicality. It doesn’t happen often and it’s very spontaneous when it does. In this case, I feel that it’s harmless. This particular co-worker has a strong personality and is quite comfortable with who he is.

Now, as I think of imitating myself, I laugh. A few months back, my significant other was playing around with our iPad and when I came out of the bedroom, he was filming me. When we played back the film, I was in stitches with laughter. I didn’t realize what he was doing, even though it should have been obvious, so in the film clip my eyes kept darting back and forth and I just had so many little odd body movements as I stood there, looking here, looking there and asking, “what are you doing,” before I figured it out.

Before the music started and before I knew I was going to write this morning, what brought me here to the page was the “Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer.” I was tossing a few old pamphlets into the recycle pile and was about to put the Trader Joe’s flyer there, when I realized I hadn’t read through it yet. I am always entertained when I read it. I flipped through quickly and landed on an image of what I assume is supposed to be a Greek man speaking with his hand held out in discourse. The caption reads, “I’m happy to have a dialogue with you about the yogurt, but in the end, philosophically speaking, it’s all Greek to me.” It may be the frame of mind I’m in today, but it made me laugh. I put the high-energy dance CD on, started dancing, grabbed my laptop; kept dancing; grabbed The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, set it by the laptop—and while I was getting the book, I saw “Goddesses Knowledge Cards,” which I discovered over the weekend when I began my declutter frenzy. I thought I had gotten rid of them. I’m so glad I did not. Still dancing, I shuffled and spread the cards out, closed my eyes and selected one: Pele the “fiery Hawaiian volcano goddess.” Perfect card for the day. “She reminds us that even in the midst of fiery eruption there is creation and new life.”

Thursday, February 23, 2012


The soul is cleansed
in the sleep of night. 
Each tomorrow, a new day. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thinking about Self-Confidence ~ Intentional Awareness ~ “Pleasant Pit bull”

This morning while I was washing dishes, thoughts were racing through my mind. I’ve been thinking about a school memory for a week or so; or rather it popped into my awareness and I wanted to write about it and then a book on introversion that I’ve been reading gave me a different perspective on my experience. I haven’t finished the book yet; that may be where my hesitation is—my experience and the book have not yet fully gelled. And so I began writing about it and set it aside and started this—started writing knowing thoughts of yesterday were on my mind— and I can tell as I type this there is that self-conscious observer right at my shoulder.

Speaking of self-consciousness. There used to be a time that I was overly aware of my every move. I still am aware, but not to the degree that I was in the past. It can be difficult walking through the world, having a conversation with someone, or just waiting in line—being fully aware of every uncomfortable feeling in that moment. I no longer think of myself as shy, though I do have shy moments. Writing has helped me to find not only my writing voice, but also my verbal voice. I have moments of meekness and I have moments of thunder. I have a line that if crossed, the lion cub growls. That’s how I see myself sometimes—as a lion cub that is capable of being a lion with a great mane. Yet, I have accepted that my nature is not the lion.

When I go to a cafĂ© to order a coffee, most of the time I place my order with the meekest voice. I become self-conscious because I wonder to myself, why are you acting like a mouse? Where is your voice?!  Sometimes, I come across as confident.

Yesterday my lion cub came to my rescue. I was at work and the boss came to me in a calm but accusing manner and asked why I had filed the letter with his edits scribbled on the page and that it did not appear to have gone out. At first I accepted the error because on the spot when someone approaches you accusingly, what else is there to do? I was caught off guard. He said, “I’d like to know what happened.” I took the thick file from him and looked at the letter, and said, “So would I.” I flipped the docket over and examined it. He had not signed off, and I had not signed off that I had processed it. I said to him, “I can say that with 99.99% certainty that I did not file this. I would not file a letter like this with your written edits on it and furthermore you didn’t sign off on it and neither did I. This looks like you filed it.”

His demeanor changed when it came back to him and he realized that was exactly what happened.

Not often, but occasionally the boss will deviate from the usual processes that are in place so that things like this don’t happen. Or in a haste he may forget to transfer his notes to indicate why he didn’t actually need to send a letter out and that’s why he put it back in the file the way it was. In the end, all was fine, and I reminded him, “If your going to do something yourself, you need to make sure you document it so we know what the hell happened!”

“I agree,” he said. And he puttered off.

What this experience makes me think about is that in my job role as an assistant, something in me changes so that in more moments than not I have confidence; I speak up, I take charge. I know that this is common when you’ve been at a job for a long time, but it perplexes me to a degree that I can be one way during this chunk of my days and then another way the other chunks of my days. Throw me in a live classroom and most likely I won’t raise my hand to talk; small class group discussions won’t open me up much; if my hand isn’t raised, and I’m picked to answer a question, I might freeze. I’ll want to talk but I won’t feel a comfortable entry point because most people will already be talking and I won’t be able to get a word in—this is how it feels, this is how it’s been. And by the time I muster up the confidence to speak up, I’m exhausted, we’ve moved on. It’s done.

The exchange with my boss yesterday reminded me of how different I am at work—mostly the speaking up part.  During one of our team meeting activities, the activity was to select a question and the question was to discuss what attribute we liked about each other. I liked the question. After we all shared what we shared, my co-worker closed by saying I seemed to do a good job of keeping things moving along and described me as a pleasant pit bull. I loved the image.

In most of my jobs, if I felt comfortable in the environment, this aspect would come out. I remember another boss, whom I had a similar relationship with described me as a bulldog because I knew how to get the things I needed to do my job and help others do their job. I would keep after them, but always with a pleasant slant—firm, but friendly.

Sometimes this confidence will show itself in family settings and with those close to me. I guess I’d like to hone this in myself and to bring this confidence out in more and more settings as time goes on. It’s nice to know it’s there and by writing about my experience, it helps me bring more intentional awareness to that which I wish to work on in myself.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The House Is Still

The  house is still. Day
is waking. 


The house is still. Listen to the
flowers growing.

Tick-tock, tick-tock


Blurp, blurp



A small bird gently sounds into my left ear. 
Right ear perks up
to the bold  crow in the distance. 



The house is still, 
Full of quiet sound. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Help with a Move, Laundry Day & Mooing Cows

Yesterday my significant other and I helped his cousin and her husband move. They had plenty of help the days preceding and now it was our turn. He helped the husband with the large heavy items and I helped his cousin get the rest of her closet boxed up and bagged little items that still lay around the house. As I helped her put things in boxes and bags, I couldn’t believe—or maybe yes I could believe—how much she had tucked away out of sight, little whicker baskets of clothing, scarves, knickknacks. She had to make due with the small space that their old house afforded. I kept thinking back to the clothing and other miscellany in my own closet. A blouse warn once or looked at twice, now an orphan piece of clothing hanging there to gather dust, to be looked at, but not touched. I have one such jacket that I keep swearing that I will wear. I bought it at a second hand store, a nice deep army green straight tailored and plenty of room to move around comfortably in, with a plum lining. It has character. I’ve worn it once and that was about 15 years ago.

After the second stage of my helping task, which was to help the cousin unpack and put things in their right place, I was further astonished at clothing with tags still on. She also had a few hand bags, very nice Italian bags that were in the garbage pile. She said if I’d like to have them to feel free. I’m not a purse or handbag person, but one brown bag caught my eye. I decided to take all three. I think I will donate them to the local second hand store. I’m also guilty of throwing things away in a haste during the home stretch of a move. There comes a point where you don’t want to look at all the stuff any longer and the ease of throwing objects away becomes an easy answer. I couldn’t stand to see those purses go to the trash heap, so I rescued them for some other person to enjoy and appreciate.

We put in a long day, fruitful though, which was great. The men would have to finish the following day, which is today—Sunday. There wasn’t more for me to do so I stayed behind and took care of the laundry chore.

Sometimes we share the laundry duty and other times it works out for only one of us to do it; and sometimes we appreciate the space of doing it by ourselves. Since my significant other had to be out of the house by 7:00 a.m. to continue with the move, I decided I’d get the day’s laundry task done early this time. We don’t usually begin early. I sorted through the laundry and all the while, my mind was taking note that there were clothes I should look through, could look through and form a pile for donations. There were also books and other things—thus this has led me to my spring cleaning mindset—a little early, but it’s about time. I think I’m going to try and “spring clean” every 3 months or so—keep the accumulation in check. I believe I’ve actually said this before, but maybe the habit is already beginning. I’ll see in another three months.

When I got back from doing laundry. I had to make several trips to take the baskets of clothes upstairs. I left the baskets in the living room, went to the bedroom, and I immediately went to my clothing shelves and tossed the clothes on the bed and began sorting through the clothes. I started a pile for donating, which the green jacket will finally join. I then folded everything that I was keeping. The shelves were getting stuffed, partially due to poor folding—lazy folding, on my part. This is only a start. I’m looking forward to decluttering, a task that always makes me feel a little lighter.

Besides getting an early start to the day and coming home with more day before me, I enjoyed seeing and hearing the cows moo. Certain laundry days I see one or two cows and no moos. Today, though the green hills were spotted with cows and their delightful moo, moo. I also noticed that when I walked into the laundry, there were three men doing laundry. No women yet. It wasn’t until about 10 a.m. that the first woman walked in. It seems that one older gentlemen may have been washing for the first time. He appeared to have one large comforter. I heard him ask someone how long it took for a load to wash. He seemed antsy and kept checking. One of his loads of wash was next to mine. I felt for him because there are some days I too feel antsy doing laundry; today was not one of them. Another gentlemen seemed the athletic type and he was kind enough to hold the door open for me, though I didn’t expect nor necessarily want him to. He did it once. I had more laundry. He didn’t do it the other times and I’m glad because it would have felt odd. The doors are easy enough to open. And then there was a man who seemed annoyed when I just about ran into him. I was backing up quick with my basket and didn’t see him. I said sorry. He had a cold stern look about him. I proceeded to the dryer.

And so that has been the day, not terribly exciting, but I felt joy in driving down the twisted roads with the bird chatter in the background; walkers and runners getting on with their routines; green hills being green hills; and cows mooing—I think this was my favorite part of the day so far.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Crumpled Sock

Today is a crumpled sock. Wooly with muted rainbow stripes,
of chocolate, mint green, and
yellow crunch.

Acknowledge your crumpledness,
crumpled sock. Stretch out,
Smooth your wrinkles, pick off the lint.

Face the day—in all your crumpledness!

Writing into Wholeness

One life changing experience came with a not so great moment in a college composition class.  I had failed my first attempt at the local community college and decided to give it another try. I felt dejected by the instructor’s comments to my face. I was trying to express my feelings—incomplete thoughts, typos, run on sentences, grammar horrors. It wasn’t her fault I was producing sub-par work. I was the type of student an English instructor abhors where the expectation is for students to know the basics of good writing. That was the beginning. It didn’t improve. I was at about a “D” in the course. The instructor suggested I drop. I did. I felt bad. Was I ever going to be able to get through these damn English courses?

I waited out the semester and I enrolled the following semester in a course that would focus on writing improvement. The new instructor seemed much more supportive from the get go. She didn’t have an air of superiority as I felt the other one did. She was down to earth and seemed like she really wanted to help. I didn’t do great, but there were improvements in my overall writing and expression. I was at least able to produce “C” work.

At some point between the first and this second experience, something in me said, I am going to make it my life goal to conquer writing. I am going to master it. I didn’t give up. I began taking more community college courses with no direction whatsoever and learning on my own, staring at the pages in grammar books, trying to make sense of the rules.  It began small and then took over. Progress came. I started to love the learning process and I couldn’t get enough. I wanted to take all the English classes that I could. I toyed with ideas of majoring in English with a minor in philosophy; and then I thought about majoring in Psychology, no wait Health Science. I didn’t know what I wanted to do except to take interesting classes, write, learn, and explore.

I ended up being a student of life and finding the “expresser” in myself through writing, especially through the English classes because I was introduced to so many types of reading and ideas, and I savored writing about my reactions to the material. And when I received positive comments, I glowed inside. It was a long process and once my expresser was awakened, I took to my journals and I traveled wherever I wanted to go in my thoughts and imagination.

Through a series of synchronistic events, one of which lay dormant for at least a decade, I decided that I would work on a liberal arts bachelor completion program through John F. Kennedy University. My emphasis would be humanities, which since I attended there has changed a bit. I never did finish the program and I have a huge debt that I will be paying back for a long, long time. I have gone back in my mind asking if it was worth it and I sometimes waver between a meek no to a resounding YES! I’m in no position to finish for several reasons, but I feel that I got what I needed and I gained so much out of the program. It was truly a spiritual writing journey. Part of the reason I chose this school is because of the emphasis on writing. The tutors there were spectacular and I remember in a writing workshop for students new to the program—there was an English major there whom had switched her major to something—I don’t remember what.  And though she was an English major, she still somehow needed help with her writing. I felt there was hope for me.

The courses that I took were interesting and varied and I still think about them till this day. I was encouraged through the instructor’s comments on my writing and gradually I think deep down I began to realize that I was becoming a writer. I don’t know that there was any one strong moment where I thought, I want to be a writer; rather, there were a series of intersecting moments that I realized I needed to express, and writing happened to be the container for a woman who doesn’t speak up much in person—and still doesn’t. My main voice is through the words on the page. For that, I am thankful.  If not for this mode of expression, I would still be unconnected pieces without a voice. I write. I express. I am whole.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day was always one of my favorites. As a kid in school, I looked forward to selecting Valentine’s Day cards, not individual cards, but the boxed variety with miniature envelopes and a selection of Valentine messages. I remember in elementary school making the pouches and decorating them with stickers and our art, hearts, lots of hearts and lots of red and pink. These would be our Valentine’s Day school mailboxes for the day.

It’s a little bit last minute, but I’m going to try and get a few Valentine’s Day decorations for the apartment. My significant other and I were going to go out for a special Valentine’s Day dinner, but at the last moment—yesterday—, I suggested we save a little money and have it at home in our cozy apartment. I would cook something—what I didn’t know. “Any requests,” I asked. “All that matters is that I’m here with you,” he said. I kissed him and told him that I feel the same and that I would think of something.

I see hearts wherever I can find them—in leaves, in the clouds, in the cement. I don’t necessarily look hard for them, but I do find them. The photo I posted is a heart I found in February a few weeks ago on one of my walks. I had my camera with me, prepared this time. As soon as I saw the image, I was taken. I knew that I would post it today, Valentine’s Day. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a heart in a tree before. What a treat.

I wanted to prepare something different for dinner than the usual and I saw a soup recipe in Cooking Light that I’m leaning toward. I’m nervous because it will be the first time, but I think I’ll take a chance. It’s Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup. The photo in the magazine looks delicious.

“No flowers or chocolate.” That’s what I told my significant other as he was leaving for work this morning—meaning that I don’t want a Valentine gift—because we have each other and we’ll be cozy at home this time, instead of in a restaurant. Even though I said no flowers, I think I will pick a small bunch of freesia or other fragrant flower to put on the table, if I have time. If I lived near a field of pretty wildflowers, I’d rather pick those for our table.

So in my mind’s eye, I’ve set the table with red placemats and fragrant flowers in the center; a few chocolate kisses spread like rose petals; a tall candle, to dine by candlelight, and a little sugar and spice offered by the soup on this Valentine’s Day.

Cozy, loving simplicity, with a dash of pizzazz: A perfect recipe for an intimate Valentine’s Day celebration.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

MOOn Moment ~ HOwl Talk

Today the muse is Keiko Amano, her blogs and our exchanges. It came to me at work in a moment. It felt playful and fun. I quickly took a pencil and scribbled quickly on a post-it note in pencil and slipped it into my satchel.

All this talk about Howl

       SOund of Haru

Is making the mOOn


Moon dust everywhere.

       Aroo, Owwooo,

Ow, ow, ow, Aroo.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Piles, clean desk & a restless sleep.

Piles of papers, receipts, store clothing tags, earrings, a dollar bill, old bills, new bills, rubber bands, small books, a compact camera in a baggie, a hairbrush, dust—all of these things were becoming too much. I have gotten behind in sorting through the desk where the computer stands that I used to sit at and type into. Lately, I’ve been using my laptop, away from the desk. I didn’t plan on writing anything this morning. I put most of the odds and ends into a large bag to sort through later. I’m able to sit here now and I must say it’s a nice change to be able to sit with my legs crossed under each other in the chair. My joints feel as though they’ve been oiled. For a long time I couldn’t bend one of my knees under, but for several weeks, it’s been easier, less of a crunching sound. I love the light in here, in the bedroom, where the miniature desk sits as I type and hear the man blowing leaves outside and the NovaLatino CD streaming “Latino moods and Brazilian beats” out from the living room, reaching back to me. I can see the brightness of the sun on my screen from the window and my cup of tea sits there at my left waiting to be finished.

Yesterday I felt a little more tired than usual. This often happens by Thursday. I think it’s more mental tiredness than anything. I went and laid down early—about 8:30 p.m. and slept until about midnight. Since I slept for a good chunk of the early part of the night, I had trouble sleeping during the later part of the night. I looked at the clock: 1:36 a.m. I just sat there, enjoying the silence. I could hear the non-sound of outside because no cars were passing, no man blowing his leaf blower, no birds—and where do the birds go at night to sleep? But then I heard off in the distance a flock or maybe it was a pair—Canadian Geese. Ah, how lovely, I thought. Black webbed feet holding up a rotund bunch of light mocha and cream feathers, attached by the most slender and graceful black neck. Oh how I would enjoy watching them and feeding them at the park as a child and also as an early adult. I was surprised to hear them at these wee hours, but then again, perhaps they like to travel at early morning hours too.

Sheep. 1…2….3.  A yawn. 4…I reached 10 and counted beyond that, but I don’t know that it put me to sleep. I did feel more soothed. Next time I woke up and looked at the clock it was about 3:30 a.m. or thereabouts. The moon had come around again, bright and large. I perched up and looked outside. The clouds! Amazing puzzle pieces—illuminated puzzle pieces against a midnight blue aglow that made me think of the classical piece by Erik Satie, Gymnopopedie No. I. I cannot tell you why—only that it is a feeling. Even though this piece has a melancholy feel to it, at the same time, it is both peaceful and feels filled with imagination. This image—of those clouds—illuminated puzzle pieces, dancing with the moon—it was the highlight of my restless evening and when I did look out in amazement, the first words from my mouth were an ever so quiet, w-o-w. I felt like a child looking at the night sky for the first time. Careful not to make too much noise, I tucked myself back into bed and slept soundly through the morning.

Gymnopedie No. I

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Memories of Mother and Sustenance

Different memories have been stored away of when my mother passed away. Memories of how I adjusted—different compartments that I placed her within my 13-year-old self—different memories that sometimes seem to barley scrape the sides of each other as though they are fractured, yet whole.

What really brings me to a standstill is when I realize that 13 years is such a short time when it begins at birth—to know someone. But when the bond is between mother and child, daughter in this case, the bond seems to bend time into something more profound. Some of my memories include trying to get a sense of who she was to me—who was this person—this woman—my mother? I have many memories, some stronger than others but to wrap my mind around it—the best that I can do is continue knowing my mother through my own self, through the flickering memories; and through the ways in which I think about her and continue to nurture her in my living life.

I always enjoyed being in the kitchen when my grandmother cooked and I helped out by making the tortilla dough into balls, but I didn’t help her cook anything else. My mother wasn’t a very good cook—at least I don’t think she was. She never prepared any Mexican meals. She made a potato soup that I loved. My stepfather seemed to do most of the cooking and some of his meals were from his days in the Army. Shit on the Shingles is one I remember because of the name, of course. He cooked a lot of pork and beef dishes, and oh how I adored his scalloped potatoes. I’ve never tasted anything so heavenly. My aunt, who lived next door at the time, cooked and baked. I would help her bake cookies. She didn’t make them from scratch, but I enjoyed the process of going to the store with her to select a cookie mix and go back to her kitchen and get to work.

When my mother passed away, I had what must have been one of her paperback sized Betty Crocker cookbooks, and in the inside cover I remember writing the date of her death. I didn’t visit her in the cemetery for a long time and when the cookbook disappeared, I lost the date and as odd as it may sound, no one seemed to remember the exact date either. I knew it was October—we all did— but couldn’t remember the day.

I’m not sure when exactly; a strong sense that it was sometime after her death, I would watch cooking channels like they were cartoons. I loved Julia Childs; Yan Can Cook with Martin Yan; “The Frugal Gourmet” with Jeff Smith. I started looking in cookbooks and trying out recipes.  I would cook a meat meal for my grandfather and I could tell the meat was too tough by the way he was slicing into it. I made cream puffs, cookies, and cakes. I even tried to make a dessert that looked so beautiful but it involved gelatin and I really didn’t have a clue. It was a circular form and had white wine it in, layers and layers of grapes cut in half would set into the gelatin. I don’t think it ever worked out, but I still remember the picture in the magazine. I also tried my hand at candy—divinity, penuche, taffy. As I dig into these candy memories, I wonder was it the names that got me. The letters side by side are enough to entice a young girl, the sounds of the words taking me into another realm. I don’t know. I do know that I did not have a candy thermometer, so I ended up with a bad mess. I didn’t care. I just wanted to be in the kitchen, experimenting, losing myself. No one helped me. I think this is one way that I felt complete and I’ve always loved food.

Food has been there for me—in my grandmother’s wonderful Mexican dishes and her love; my aunt’s cookies and her kindness; my stepfather’s interesting concoctions and his sugary sweetness because he worked in a large bakery; and even my mother’s potato soup, ah dear mother—especially her soup because it seems to be one memory that connects me to her through cooking. Now I see even more so why the potato is one of my favorite foods. I will eat anything potato—the gracious, versatile, nourishing potato.

I’ve mostly cooked and some baking here and there, on and off, through my adult years. I’m nervous to use our small oven in the apartment because it’s gas and because it seems to get so hot. I don’t fully trust it. 

Now I have the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book, which I love consulting and searching through.

Recently I prepared a recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites: Flavorful Recipes for Healthful Meals. On Sunday I made one of the recipes: Southwestern Hominy Stew. It reminds me of Posole, a pork and hominy type soup, my grandmother used to prepare and that I know my mother loved. I enjoyed it very much and my significant other gave the thumbs up as well. Last week, I made a chicken curry with peas and spinach and coconut milk. It was pretty good, but I feel like it needed some heat to counterbalance the sweetness of the coconut milk. I used an already prepared curry powder from World Market.

Here is the recipe for the Southwestern Hominy Stew:

1 cup chopped onions
3 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 2 ½ cups)
2 cups frozen lima beans
2 teaspoons ground cumin (I used a lot less so that the cumin wouldn’t overpower the stew)
1 teaspoon salt (seemed to be enough sodium already, so I waited to salt my individual bowl)
3 cups basic vegetable stock. (I used an organic prepared container)
2 cups undrained canned tomatoes, chopped. (I used fresh tomatoes and added water)
1 roasted green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 roasted red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 roasted fresh green chile, seeded and minced. (I used a jalapeno)
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

(I roasted the peppers on a flat cast iron skillet)

Combine the onions, garlic, potatoes, lima beans, cumin, salt, and vegetable stock in a 3-quart soup pot. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer gently for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice. Stir in the roasted bell peppers, the roasted chile, and the hominy. Simmer the stew, covered, for about 15 minutes more, until the potatoes are tender. Add cilantro and serve.

For the condiments, I warmed corn tortillas until they got hard and then loosely cut them up for adding into the individual bowls. I also chopped onion, more cilantro, and avocado. I imagine cheese would be nice too, but I liked it this way. Because we like meat, I cooked up a small amount of pork tenderloin with onion and garlic as a topping.

In the words of the late Jeff Smith when he would close his “Frugal Gourmet Show,”

I bid you peace.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sunday Walk

Near dusk—at top center, a half slice moon spills out to the gentle blue sky. Birds tweet. I crane my head to look up as if I'm upside down; I stay that way taking in the Tree—branches above me splay outward—strong motherly arms revealing leaves brittle with winter that appear as white lace and dried feathers silhouetted against the mauve and silver blue sky at the horizon. As I bring my head back up, I see the other trees—tall bamboo, oaks, pines, and juniper shrubs—I don’t want to leave. I’ve ceased walking. But I must continue. All is still this Sunday, drenched in the light of the moon and blue sky.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Following where my Soul Leads

“Natalie Goldberg reveals Clio’s primary secret about why we are motivated to put our experiences into writing: ‘The deepest secret in the heart of hearts is that we are writing because we love the world.’

From The Nine Muses: A Mythological Path to Creativity
—Angeles Arrien

2-1-12: What a beautiful number combination. It’s hard for me to believe that February is already upon us. Though winter is teasing this year with clouds that look like rain, yet rarely produce the stream that we need, spring grows nearer and already I anticipate the longer days of sunlight and Spring fragrances flitting through the air.

Goddesses are at the forefront of my mind. It began with a memory of a wise woman that long ago came in and out my life— in a way that demonstrates the movement, change, and non-permanence of this mortal world. She loaned me a book. She said, I had to read it. She held it like a Bible:  Goddesses in Everywoman: A New Psychology of Women by psychoanalyst, Jean Shinoda Bolen. She told me that Artemis was definitely the Goddess she identified with: Artemis (Diana), the Goddess of the hunt, wildlife, and independence. I was eager to scan the pages to find out which, if any, of the Goddesses resonated with me most. I didn’t take my time with the book, but through skimming the chapters, I found that the Goddess that best seemed to fit me was Hestia (Vesta), Goddess of the hearth and home.

The female figure and spirit in its essence is beauty. One of my favorite representations is of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.

Thinking of the wise woman and the book she had recommended so many years ago somehow entered my space and has in a way reawakened my desire to revisit the book. Another connection is that on a recent dental appointment, even though I had noticed the beautiful Goddess statue in the waiting room many times before, on that day the beauty of it and of her whole office left a stronger impression on me. There was also a fresco style scene on a large area of the wall between two sets of seats. My visual senses were taking in every bit that I could. My dentist is of Indian descent, but I cannot recall the part of India she told me she was from. She also has smaller Indian pieces placed on the filing cabinets behind the reception desk, as well as a small scroll of the Dalai Lama’s The Paradox of our Age on another wall in the waiting area.

My dentist has a calm demeanor that immediately puts me at ease. She was 30 minutes late for my appointment, but I was happy sitting in the waiting room, taking the time to soak in the beauty in images and words; I was equally happy to see her unrattled and ready with a warm smile.

As usual new memories and remembrances or new findings always bring me back to my bookshelves—to the books that I have kept, even though sometimes I feel like getting rid of all of them and living with fewer objects, but I simply cannot part with them because I know at some time, I’ll want to look for them; I also fear one day they may become extinct. As much as I adore my Kindle, it cannot compare to the pages, ink, paper, and the art— of what it means to be book. And that is when I pulled the two Goddess books I have: Conversations with the Goddess: Revealing the Divine Power within You by Agapi Stassinopoulos and The Nine Muses, which while flipping through it this morning, I randomly started reading and that is when I found the Natalie Goldberg quote and it said it all: “The deepest secret in the heart of hearts is that we are writing because we love the world.”


This is a  photo I took in 2010 when I went to New Orleans. As I was trying to find a different photo to include with this blog, I saw this one and remembered that day, taking the street car into the Garden District for a visit to the zoo; walking through the park afterward, I saw many lovely statues. This is but one and seems to fit the space here today.

To a Happy Day and may we each find the power of the Goddesses and Gods within us when we need them.


I dedicate this blog to that wise woman, full of so much spark and energy—and all the women, men—humans and other beings of the natural world, with legs and without, in flesh or in writing—that have crossed my path and touched my own life in a way that will stay with me always.


The Paradox of Our Age

We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more convenience, but less time;

We have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgement;

more experts, but more problems; more medicines, but less healthiness;

We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.

We built more computers to hold more information than ever, but have less communication;

We have become long on quantity, but short on quality.
These are the times of fast foods but slow digestion;

Tall man but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.

It's a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room.

His Holiness the 14th Dali Lama