Thursday, January 31, 2013

today: the truth does more than hurt

Today I am really grateful for: the difficult truths that are hard to hear but ultimately necessary.

Today I am sorry for: hurting people when I feel hurt.

Today I am thinking about: how we respond to suffering. Do we respond with loving kindness or cruelty? (Also: this.)

Today I am going to sleep hoping: I can truly live with beginner's mind and be the friend, daughter, neighbor, colleague, sister, and partner that the people around me deserve and that I deserve to be.

Today I am reading:


by Louis Jenkins
January finally drags into February and one fumbles with
numb fingers at the ordinary knots and hooks of life. People
are irritable, difficult. Some days you want to stay in bed
with the covers over your head and dream of paradise. A
place where the warm sea washes the white sand. There
are a few palm trees on the higher ground, many brightly
colored fish in the lagoon, waves breaking on the reef
farther out. No one in sight. Occasionally an incredibly
large, split-second shark darkens the clear water. Sea birds
ride the wind currents, albatross, kittiwake, ... and pass
on. Day after day, sea wind and perfect sky .... You make a
big heap of driftwood on the beach.

Tomorrow: I begin again. Simple as that. 

Monday, January 28, 2013


New snow fell over the weekend, and with it came some simple realizations:

1. Snow-covered tree branches are in the top three of my all time favorite things.

2. Walks might be my number one.

Ironically enough, I was driving down a snowy street (ridiculously slow mind you), when I saw my friend Jack walking his two dogs. I stopped, rolled down my window, and hollered greetings at him (like any good neighbor would), and then continued on my way after we exchanged the proper number of pleasantries. And then I got really jealous about his walk. And then I realized how much I love walks. Which was followed by the thought that my favorite way to see any place - whether new or well known - is by foot. I am always down for a walking tour of a city.

As I turned the corner, I was suddenly in a corridor of snow-covered trees, and I was overcome with the desire to pull over my Toyota, hop out, and explore this place with my feet. Walks emcompass so much for me. Walks are incredibly romantic: I consider a walk as much a love poem as an actual love poem. I love taking walks as a way to mark seasonal shifts. Crunchy leaves underfoot, pink petals lining the sidewalk, the smell of lilacs perfuming the air, slick ice causing me to be extra careful. I like walking and talking with friends just as much as I like walking quietly with another person. I like creeping through back alleyways and peeking over fences at gardens. I will never find speed walking pleasurable or understandable. I wander, meander, mosey, and - very rarely & briefly - skip.

And I especially like seeing a familiar place in a new way.

Take for instance, another great walk related moment from this weekend.

My friend and I were babysitting the adorable three-year-old twins of another friend of ours. The kids ended up being delightful, but the new puppy was a royal terror. After his second pee on the carpet, I told my friend to stay put while I took Harris for a long walk. It was 10:30pm, the night was very dark and very cold, and I was in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Or, at least, unfamiliar in these particular conditions.

I have never owned a dog and didn't grow up with one, so besides the occassional dog walk with a friend, this was a new experience for me. This was definitely my very first evening-alone-with-a-pup walk.

At first, with Harris tugging me along, and a few near spills on invisible patches of ice, I found myself grumbling about the burdens of dog ownership. It was cold, Harris was being a bit annoying, and I wasn't sure I felt totally safe. Yet, something urged me on: perhaps my strong desire to wear Harris out and avoid another accident, perhaps my equally strong desire to get past my discomfort and into a place of enjoying this unknown ritual.

And what do you know? As Harris started to tire out a little and tug at me less, I started to see the walk in a totally different way. Suddenly we were on a street that was familiar to me. Soon we were passing a hardware store, garden shop, ice cream place, and bakery that I had frequented a few years back when I lived closer to this part of the city.

It looked so different in this light, with a dog by my side. I was intrigued. I looked up at the sky, and saw beautiful moon-light-lined clouds moving fast. I suddenly was a lot less cold and in a lot less of a hurry.

I realized that this walk, this moment with Harris in this familiar yet unfamiliar place, was unique. Perhaps what I was really experiencing was the realization of the brevity of life, and the singular nature of every single moment in time. The nature of time itself. This Saturday in January of 2013 walking with Harris the dog would never happen again, and no walk would ever be just like this walk. Suddenly I understood the benefit of dog ownership.

Ahh, the philosophy of the walk. The deep/not-so-deep musings of the walker. This thought-pattern is comforting and familiar! And probably part of why I love walks!

Each walk is a little adventure, at its best allowing us to see our world with fresh eyes,

Friday, January 25, 2013

Winter Self Portrait

It's bone chillingly cold here, so I am taking thermal photos to remind myself of the warmth within.

I think they look pretty interesting.


My nostril has some heat.

I don't always look this surprised.

When I'm not confused by technology - aka 99% of the time - I am smiling. Therefore, this could also be called "Atypical Self Portrait."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Some Overdue G-O-A-L-S

Offff-dahhhh. Have I been avoiding this or have I been busy avoiding this?

Sure, the last week has been busy - with a very full workload & a ton of social engagements - but the last week has also been extremely cold and thus I've had plenty of opportunities to sit here in front of this ol' computer screen and pound out some 2013 goals. Heck: January is nearly over! Let's get to it.

(As a sidenote, I have a book called to-do list with a bunch of fantastic lists in it, as well as prompts for you to write your own crazy lists. I originally went there for inspiration for this blog post, only for the DIY list I turned to to be called "Things to Do Before Having Kids." Since I don't know if I want kids, I suppose this prompt is as good as saying "Just write your damn 2013 goals already!")

Health/Fitness Goal: Feel awesome about my body by the time I am a bridesmaid in Rebecca's wedding. (This gives me until September and since I'm mostly feeling awesome already, I just have a small way to go...)

Work Goal: Simply put, create some healthy boundaries and establish rituals to establish a better work-life balance.

Home Goal: Dedicate more time this summer to establishing the perennial parts of my garden AND have an awesome outdoor light display next winter (which means I will have to hire an electrician to install some outside outlets.) Is this display way too much of a stretch to be my ultimate goal? Dream big I say!

Relationship Goal: Do some things by myself that feel a little bit scary but ultimately nurturing. Ideas: take a trip alone, go to a play alone, take a mini road-trip alone, visit an orchard by myself. All of these are activities I love, but that I avoid doing alone. The relationship I have with myself is crucial this year.

Daily Goals: Drink 5+ glasses of water a day. Take ten minutes of silence at the start and end of the day (bookend with silence). Gossip less at the office. Bring healthy snacks to work so I don't crave salt/sugar/salt (on repeat). Continue doing my facial regime with my awesome new Ole products. Give one sincere compliment a day. Take a moment each day to note one thing I am grateful for.

Weekly Goals: Make my own lunch more days than I go out to lunch. Do strength-training at least twice a week. Sit in the sauna once a week, perhaps less in the summer. Have one car-free day per week.

Spiritual Goals: Go to church at least once a month. Do Sun Salutations yoga at least once a week. Read one book about spirituality, faith, or religion that really challenges my beliefs.

Super Awesome Fun GoalS: Take a trip to somewhere I've never been. Take a few classes where I am a true beginner. See one of my life-long friends that I haven't seen in a decade (Dave or Shannon). Look into an adventure for my 30th birthday (dogsledding??)

Incredibly Random Goals that Don't Fit Elsewhere: Wear sunblock ALL the time in the summer. Read one book a month. Deal with my possible mustache.

I already mentioned that I decided the mantra of this year is to enjoy my time and embrace my fresh starts. Writing down my goals for myself is a way to acknowledge that ways that every day we begin again, and a fresh start is always possible.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Teusday's Inspiration

Watch this.

I hope I can live my life with as much love and intention as is present in the moment this video depicts.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Before and After: The Kitchen

There are still a few small pieces to finish up in my kitchen, but it's so nearly complete that I felt it was due time to share the amazing transformation pictures. Here are some side-by-side comparisons of different parts of the room. (Sidenote: this is a huge project for me, and while wedding dress shopping with & for my pal Rebecca yesterday, I decided this kitchen is my wedding. The appliances = the dress. The counter-tops = the catering. The light fixtures = the flowers. Etc, etc, etc. Basically, to rationalize draining my rainy-day-fund into this space, I am seeing it as a transformational life event akin to those that all my friends are undertaking (and spending money on) that I am not. When I look at it that way, I think perhaps I should set up a registry for my kitchen...mostly the least I might write some cheesy vows and pop some bubbly when the feeling moves me.)

Pantry/Fridge Becomes Back Entry

Opposite Side of Pantry
Sink wall becomes fridge and counter space

View into the pantry before and after (back door moved!)

Stove wall

Window wall total transformation

Cooking in this gorgeous space is the best. Here are some of my favorite views:

Hidden in the lower cabinet are cookbooks. I love how functional this formerly unused space is! I also love getting to display my favorite vintage glasses and pottery in the glass front cabinets bookending the windows.

For fun, I painted the edge of my basement door the same orange-red as the back door. So when it's open a bit you get a little surprise pop of color.

The view into the kitchen from the front entry, with a little peek of the amazing vintage-inspired lights. This view is so stunning and still very shocking to me.

And a final marvel of this space: all the light! The photo below was taken on my cell a few days ago as I was leaving for work. All the light you see is what is spilling in through the windows. I love how bright and inviting the room is. And that pop of red (on the then drying back door) is absolutely the best.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2 poems for thursday

I've been nourished by poetry these days. Sometimes it's just the perfect line. Sometimes it's the fragility of language and meaning itself. Sometimes it's a place I've been, while other times it's foreign but brings up empathy and compassion in me. The contradictions appeal: the simplicity and complexity of a few words strung together, somehow it really is a comfort.

A link to one: here.

And one typed out with intention - found scribbled with past intention in my journal - here:

by Nancy Henry

When things got hard
I used to drive and keep on driving -
once to North Carolina
once to Arizona -
I'm through with all that now, I hope.
The last time was years ago.

But oh, how I would drive
and keep on driving!
The universe around me
all well in my control;
anything I wanted on the radio,
the air blasting, hot or cold,
sobbing as loudly as I cared to sob,
screaming as loudly as I needed to scream.
I would live on apples and black coffee,
shower at truck stops,
sleep curled up
in the cozy back seat I loved.

The last time, I left at 3 a.m.
By New York State,
I stopped screaming;
by Tulsa
I stopped sobbing;
by the time I pulled into Flagstaff
I was thinking
about the Canyon,
I was so empty.
Thinking about the canyon
I was.

I sat on the rim at dawn,
let all the colors fill me.
It was cold. I saw my breath
like steam from a soup pot.
I saw small fossils in the gravel.
I saw how much world there was

how much darkness
could be swept out
by the sun.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

goodbye: the art of acting crazy

Years ago a friend gave me a book of Hafiz poetry called I Heard God Laughing. When he handed me the book, I noticed a beautiful wooden bookmark neatly tucked inside the first few pages. When I opened the book to retrieve it, it sat atop a poem called "You Don't Have to Act Crazy Anymore."

I looked up at my friend - a person with whom I shared a complex history - and I said: "That was on purpose, wasn't it?" His eyes and whole face smiled as he winked out his reply: "Perhaps."

Tonight as I was counting the ways I have been making things more difficult - more insane - for myself, I recalled this poem. It's hard work to feel as fractured as I do; it takes true effort to be this stressed and overwhelmed (by work, family, friendships, etc). It takes effort to keep it all inside, all the while acting the martyr insteading of either asking for help or giving yourself exactly what you know you need. Time. Relaxation. Care. Quiet. Letting go. (And, okay, maybe a massage.)

Last night I went to the gym after an epic cry session with my therapist. I don't normally allow myself to cry in front of other people - even my damn therapist - so I arrived at the gym in little, vulnerable pieces. I did thirty minutes of cardio, a bit of strength training, and then totally came undone in the sauna. 

Which actually translated to me just letting myself feel what I was feeling - a literal sitting with it. I sat in the sauna for nearly thirty mintues - until my eyelids were sweating and I thought okay, that's probably enough - but I stayed because even though the feelings were rough, ultimately I got to a good place. It was symbolic I know, but also something more basic: letting all the toxins out felt good both emotionally and physically. By the time I got up and left, I was drenched in it. I was also ready to wash it all away and let go. 

I left the gym knowing that all I wanted and needed when I got home were a few nourishing rituals. So I did just that. I slowly ate a beautiful grapefruit, took my vitamins, rubbed good lotion all over my body, and crawled into my bed - freshly washed sheets and all. I fell into a peaceful sleep for the first time in a long time. And today at work, I was in a much calmer place. I worked slowly and deliberately, and told many people No, I can't, I have too much on my plate. The honesty of where I was at lifted the weight right off of me. Funny how that works. 

I don't have to act crazy. I also know the ways to be well. 


You Don't Have to Act Crazy Anymore
by Hafiz

You don't have to act crazy anymore -
we all know you were good at that.

Now retire, my dear,
From all that hard work you do

Of bringing pain to your sweet eyes and heart.

Look in a clear mountain mirror -
See the Beautiful Ancient Warrior
And the Divine elements
You always carry inside

That infused this Universe with sacred Life
So long ago

And join you Eternally
With all Existence - with God!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Fresh Start

Blog, you've been good to me.

One of my 2012 goals was to write more. Apparently I have succeeded because per my annual traditional to write out my New Year goals in my paper journal, I discovered I have been ignoring that thing! My last handwritten entry was in March 2012. Sheesh.Yet here, on the World Wide Web, I wrote nearly 90 entries in 2012. Yes! Success!

Looking back over my 2012 goals, I was pleased to see that I have really followed through on a number of them in addition to the writing goal. I've been more thoughtful about how my money goes out into the world, I've been commited to my health and getting to a healthy/comfortable weight, and I've removed negative and toxic influences in various ways. I've still got a ways to go in the work-life balance aspirations, but it's nice to have something to continue to work towards.

So, later this week I will write down - in detail - some of my mundane to fascinating 2013 dreams, but for now a teeny pre-slumber preview/anecdote.

After spending some time writing in detail about 2013 - my hopes for 2013, my desires for 2013, my names for 2013, and my spiritual practices for 2013 - I set my ultimate intention for the coming year. My intention is:

To enjoy 2013 and make the most of a fresh start.

Writing that down - using up an entire page of my journal just to write those words - inspired a huge, satisfied sigh to leave my being. I put the cap on my pen, put my journal down, and grabbed the first book from my nightstand that my hand touched. It just happened to be a book I haven't consulted in far too long, Pema Chodron's The Places that Scare You.

I opened the book and it fell right to the chapter called "Fresh Start."

Damn, universe, I love you for providing instant affirmation.

Pema writes:

We will discover forgiveness as a natural expression of the open heart, an expression of our basic goodness. This potential is inherent in every moment. Each moment is an opportunity to make a fresh start.


Onward and upward!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Best of 2012

My friend Rebecca and I must have the same afternoon slump patterns, as typically a few times a week between 2-4pm we fall into rapid-send-email-frenzies. Today's frantic - and extremely important - communication spurt - complete with way too many question-marks and exclamation-points (per usual) - gave me the idea for tonight's entry. In one of our many tangents, Rebecca was telling me about her friend, Lindsay, who I should remember because she was "the one who saw you on election day. hahahahahaha!"

So, as the story goes, on election day Rebecca's high school friend Lindsay thought she recognized me in line to vote, based on Rebecca having featured me in her blog a few times. She was trying to figure out if it was indeed Rebecca's friend Sara, when she heard me eagerly engaging in conversation with a neighbor ahead of me in line....about vegetables.

As Rebecca said to me over hysterical laughter later that day, upon hearing the nature of the conversation and the level of enthusiasm in my voice, of course Lindsay got confirmation it was definitely Rebecca's friend Sara. I just love the idea of being caught excitedly, lovingly (and loudly) chatting it up about vegetables while thinking I was being rather quiet and lowkey. The walls have ears in my neighborhood polling place! I additionally love that Lindsay reported back to Rebecca, who reported back to me. Something so charming about this little instance of community via community. In it's random, quirky way, it was one of my favorite memories of 2012.

So, what were the other Best of 2012 moments? All together now:

Let's break that down:


My mother's kitchen sink becomes a bathtub.

The harvest.            

Gathering with women of many generations for yoga in an old barn, where bats and birds swooped low over our heads as we held strong poses by the light of many candles. A restorative weekend of movement, laughter, conversation, and amazing food.

Decade-long friends still being able to surprise you - and bring you to the most sincere laughter-mixed-tears.

A spur-of-the-moment project - one girl, a shovel, and some determination - turned into an afternoon to evening backyard transformation, completed by the flickering glow of a headlamp. 

A most sacred and beautiful place. Equal parts adventure and solitude.

The first snowperson constructed at my home...and a new companion's first snowperson ever. Sharing firsts with someone you care about.

Any and every moment seen through these eyes.

An autumn and election-season that finally felt restorative.

The first meal in the new kitchen using Grandma Bernice's old crinkle-vegetable cutter on multicolored root vegetables. Old is new again.

Thanksgiving with a dear friend and his dear family, in a beautiful Southern town, where even a stranger from Up North is practically family by weekend's end.

A meal cooked for me with care and intention.

Inspiration boards made with a circle of trusted friends.

Bringing kindness and sincerity into a place that needs more of it.

First blooms.

And this blog.

The practice of noticing. The commitment to keeping a record of it. The dedication to not shrinking away from the truth, no matter how ugly or beautiful or uncomfortable or desperate or raw and unedited.

This year I've tracked many goodbyes and many hellos. I've tried to record them here, sometimes while sitting at my computer in a not-ugly robe. I've tried to be true to my voice, even when it was shaky and unsure. I've reveled at the rare moments where I've said exactly what I meant.

This year I decided to befriend myself, and the blog was a big part of that. Befriending yourself means giving yourself the same patience, love, and forgiveness you give to your dearest friends. Through writing more - always from a place of honesty - I've done my best to extend that care back towards myself.

Bring it on 2013. You have a lot to live up to.