Friday, June 8, 2012

20 years from now....

“20 years from now you will be disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the one’s you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain

The past months, two years even, have been such a time of growth and change and fear and moving on. It's been a time of letting go of what I thought my life would like and embracing what blessings I have before me now. It's not easy. It's scary. It's wonderful. It's dreadful. It's just life. And I'm darn thankful to have it. There have been moments. because of my health, that I've worried around the clock. There have been days I've been utterly grateful to have had those hours awake. Even if I was a nervous wreck, I was still thinking and wondering how, to quote Mark Twain, to 'sail away from the safe harbor'.

I've had a lot of fun with my Preppy Yogini on Tumblr lately. It's given me the opportunity to just enjoy beautiful things...wonderful places, amazing ideas, fabulous quotes. I love the sharing of information, too. Because I've been fairly housebound for quite some time, it's afforded me the chance to 'travel', even if it's only in my imagination. 

Imagination and ideas are powerful tools. They're even better when they express beauty, joy, hope and daydreams. I hope you'll come over and "visit" my Preppy Yogini "imaginarium" on Tumblr. I have no idea where I'll be in twenty years. I hope it's a place of health, a place of a beauty and a place of joy. In the meantime, I'll take those baby steps towards all of my dreams, even if means moving away from the safe harbor.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Because: A love letter to my children

When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts.  A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.  ~Sophia Loren

Because: A Love Letter to My Children

In the past year, my children, now in their late teens, began very seriously understanding their future potential. As their mother, I had always seen the gifts that lay deep inside them as individuals. I also saw the incredible strength they have together, as siblings so close in age. The joke in our household as always been: they are twins, just born two years apart. They each possess a powerful work ethic, an amazing sense of purpose  and a fully defined view of self. They also are endowed gifts that are the opposite of one another.  I respect their individuality. I love them fiercely. I am a Mama Wolf, and they are my cubs. I would do anything to protect them, to encourage them and to help them achieve their dreams. 

And yet, both children, at different times, have expressed a regret that I didn't "push" them more. As my son and daughter ventured out into the world without me, they saw the credentials that other kids have to be at the top of their 'pools'. My daughter wishes that I had not encouraged her to sail, swim, and work each summer. She has expressed a regret that she didn't, like so many kids, go to SAT camp the whole time. She now feels that she'd have gladly given up our Spring vacations to take AP exam cram session courses.

My son, however, feels he did just fine in school and is content with that piece of his life. He wishes, however, that I hadn't encouraged him to golf in the summers, and play soccer and baseball each Fall and Spring. He wishes that I'd enrolled him in intensive skating clinics and that he'd been tutored so that he could have spent as many waking moments as possible on the ice. He wishes that he hadn't wasted so much time with other activities...wondering where he'd be now in his hockey career if he'd had no other distractions.

My daughter is a wonderful student. My son is a fantastic hockey player. Perhaps they aren't exactly where they had envisioned themselves at this point. My daughter isn't yet the youngest woman to ever receive the Nobel Prize for Biology. My son hasn't yet been drafted to play Center for the Boston Bruins. They are working towards their goals, and I honor their ambitions. 

Therefore: this note is to them, my Sun and Moon.

Because I love you, I not only let you have mud fights, I brought out the hose. I let you get as dirty as you possibly could and never once worried about bringing dirt into the house.

Because I love you, I let you stage dramatic battles between G.I. Joe and Barbie, even if it meant finding tiny pieces of plastic ammunition for months afterwards.

Because I love you, I let you bring a bunny into the house without my consent...and promptly fell in love with her because you did.

Because I love you, my heart broke the first time yours did. I cried with you, both on the inside and on the out. I kept a prayer in my heart that you would continue to fall in love, and love would find you right back.

Because I love you, I cheered loudly at sporting events, even when I had no clue what was going on, or who was winning.

Because I love you, I let you wear your pajamas inside out the night before snow was predicted and then danced along with you when our district was announced for a snow day.

Because I love you, I snuggled with you and watched The Lion King (over and over) with you like on rainy days.

Because I love you, I let you just be who built forts, who made sand castles, had sleepovers, roasted marshmallows. I wanted you to be kids who'd learn to water ski in summer and snow ski in winter. I let you camp in the back yard, build a tree house with your Daddy and made you picnic lunches to eat 'in the great outdoors'. 

Because I love you, I've encouraged you. I've subtly pushed you out of your comfort zones. You may not have noticed, but I love you enough to just helpfully spread your wings ever so slightly. And when it was time for you to fly? You just didn't realize your wings hadn't always been opened a bit...making the transition to fly that much smoother. 

Because I love you, I am not just encouraging you to continue on your journey. I'm encouraging you to soar.

Because I love you, I am confident that you gained strength from just being normal, happy, laughing, playing kids. And, now I'm confident that  you will be amazing adults. 

In fact, you are already are. And I love you.

Friday, May 11, 2012

What do you do?

"Pop quiz, hotshot. There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?  "~ Memorable quote from the movie, "Speed"

I have to admit that I'm a sucker for action movies, at least for some of the time. As much as I enjoy a period piece (usually starring Kate Winslet or Keira Knightly) or a romantic comedy, there is something about the adrenaline that comes from imagining yourself right alongside Bruce Willis in "Die Hard". You wonder if all of the the pieces in the puzzle will come together to make for a perfect heist and a clean getaway. You envision the perfect blend of cool, sexy, brilliant and quick mindedness to be with James Bond. In an everyday life of bill paying, parenting, housework, home maintenance and other mundane chores, being in a completely impossible situation, so outside the norm of driving kids to school, gives you the freedom to wonder how you would make the best decision possible, in the most extraordinary series of events, and all would  be well in the end.

There's a great line in the movie, "Speed", in which the insane, resentful former cop, Dennis Hopper, is trying to extort money from the LAPD. In an unbelievable (or believable only in Hollywood) series of events, Keanu Reeves, plays the brash young cop willing to jump aboard a hijacked bus, filled with both hostages and explosives, in order to save the day. Save the day he does, of course, being 'our hero'. And yet, I couldn't help but wonder at Dennis Hopper's pop quizzes to the 'pup' of a newbie detective. He put Keanu Reeves' character into the position of making instantaneous decisions that impact not only his own life, but the lives of others.

When it comes to real life, it's awfully hard to make a decision on the spot for most people. I think that I can relate to the snap decisions of Hollywood's glorious heroes because I'm a snap decision maker myself. I'm a "go with my gut" instinct kind of decision maker. I rarely weigh options. I never make pro and con lists. I think about my choices for a nanosecond and I make up my mind. I rarely regret the decisions I've made...even if I have to acknowledge that the ramifications led to a learning experience. I recently read that more than 80% of American adults have a great deal of trouble making choices. These decisions can range from large ones (such as a potential spouse or the purchase of a home) or small ones (such as what to serve for dinner). I was flabbergasted by this statistic, and yet, I can appreciate that decision making is challenging. No one wants to make a mistake, and therefore, is stymied from moving forward. Any choice, this piece went onto say, is potentially wrong, and thus, decisions are put off indefinitely. 

Both of my children had very big decisions to make this year, regarding their futures. I was on pins and needles for them both. I was desperate to know what their choices would be. They, on the other hand, were rationally, calmly and logically proceeding to eliminate what wasn't going to be a good fit, and factor in what would be the best option for their respective futures. I was wanting them to dive into the deep end of a choice, head first. Why? Because that's how I've always done it. I have learned something very important from my young adult children: waiting isn't the worst thing in the world...waiting can help a person solidify her rationale in making a decision or investigate his alternatives thoroughly before committing. I respect this process more than I can say. I just get itchy, living with the unknown...perhaps that's why I find it so easy to relate to the snap decision action heroes: they don't have to mull over colleges or cities. They just throw themselves into the action.

The past month has been a time of growth for all of us. I have learned to appreciate a more measured, analytical decision making process. I still am the impulsive one in the family, and probably always will be. But, I can appreciate a judicious deliberation now too. And yet, at the next fork in the road in my children's lives, I'm scared I'll turn into a virtual Dennis Hopper once again, and over the walkie-talkie, ask, "Pop quiz, hotshot. What do you do? What do you do?". 

I'll just try very hard not to use explosives. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What was lost....

You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.  ~General Douglas MacArthur

Today is one of those picture perfect, elusive Spring days in Maine. My family often joked that Spring in Maine was a "stealth" season....not making more than one appearance between Winter and the 4th of July. Thankfully, I was able to get outside and enjoy the milder temperatures to walk my two big dogs. Instead of the usual jaunt out of our neighborhood and scramble up the hillside, I decided to shake our destination up radically. I chose another neighborhood not far from ours. The dogs thought this was Mardi Gras and enjoyed all the new schools, the squirrels they had yet to intimidate and new spots to, well, 'visit'. It was great. I ran into a woman I hadn't seen in nearly two years with her dog. We stopped to visit, let our pets touch noses while we caught up.

"I heard you'd been sick. I'm glad you're doing better, " this woman said to me.

"Me, too!," I smiled.

Then, really looking at me, shaking her head and making eye contact, she said, "You just LOOK so different. I never would have recognized you. But, at least you're alive. That's the important thing."

Stunned, I said my goodbyes and staggered off, feeling punched in the emotional pit of my stomach. I realize that I don't look 30 anymore. I also realize that I don't look like the skinny yoga instructor I was just 18 months ago. I have a closet of clothes that are too tight and a mirror that shows every inch of of my body's changes, due to surgery and the following complications. I also see that every line on my face, the worries, the pain, the fears and the anxiety I've experienced. I'm not blind, nor do I live in a bubble. I understand what I've lost. I also understand it can never be recovered, given my new set of physical limitations, as well as my age. And my unexpected conversationalist was correct. My being alive is the most important thing. I am here. I am well enough to take Dakota and Murphy on long jaunts. I am excited for my daughter's prep school graduation. I am looking forward to my 25th wedding anniversary with my husband, my son coming home from Florida and my mother spending the summer in Maine. I have many blessings to count. I treasure each and every one of them. 

And yet, this woman's comments did shine a spotlight on an issue that many women my age feel, cancer patients or not: we are no longer recognizable as the women we used to be. Oh, maybe some of us have pushed back the clock a bit and held off the inevitable. Maybe there are more magazine articles telling us that "50 is the new 30". The fact, however, is that time marches on. As Dolly Parton says, in "Steel Magnolias", "And if you're not careful, it'll march right over your face!". We may have been pretty, we have even been beautiful, we may have been sparkling, we may have been just breathtakingly, achingly young. We are no longer those dazzling girls. But, we have something pretty spectacular: we are here. We are wise. We are careful. We can see the bigger picture. We are creative. We are grounded. We are fabulous. But we still find ourselves in a tailspin when someone calls the 'smaller picture'..the one in the our attention.

Love handles? Crow's feet? Thighs that even Buddha would hate? Bah! Humbug. We are alive. Let the young girls have their moment in the sun. Let them enjoy it. They'll cross the bridge and join us here on the other side and say, "This is scary, but it's great." It really is scary. It's scary to not recognize ourselves. But it's much scarier giving in to despair. I'd rather be who I am...with the appreciation for all I've learned along the way...than be who I was. Pretty, or not. Therefore, we can tell those belles, coming across the path towards us, it *is* great.

However, I still wish I could fit into my old jeans. Some days.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

And all shall be well...

For a number of years, I've written a blog called The Preppy Yogini. Bits and pieces of this blog have made their way into various yoga and book circles. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had The Preppy Yogini be so well received. It's been a lifeline for me in many ways. I've met some incredible people through The Preppy Yogini and it has opened doors for me in ways I never could have imagined. 

And yet, as I wrote in a piece called The Bohemian Sloth, I've felt myself stepping away from my Preppy Yogini persona. I've spent the past 15 months battling cancer, and its physical aftermath, for the second time. No longer am I a yoga instructor. No longer am I particularly preppy. It's been a time of great changes in my what I can do, in what I want to do and to what I will aspire. Blessed Julian of Norwich was an anchoress in the 14th century. She was quite literally walled into Norwich Cathedral. She had two windows: one opened into the cathedral, so that she could be a part of the worship in the church. The other window was outside. It allowed her to receive food (and I'm assuming, to get rid any waste). More importantly, it allowed her to speak with people, to pray for them and to be a part of their lives. She was a mystic and a little "out there" in her theology. And yet, she was also ahead of her in many other ways. She felt God's presence as a Loving, Kind Mother. Imagine that concept in the medieval world!

While the idea of being walled up anywhere is terrifying from a claustrophobia standpoint,  I have to admit that I felt some affinity for Blessed Julian for the past year. While I've done some traveling and I have gotten out of the house, I have also been home more than ever have. I've always been a doer, a mover, a goer and a 'be right in the thick of things' kind of woman. I've worked, I've volunteered, I've gone out to lunch with friends and noodled around art museums. I have spent more time in quiet contemplation, over the past year, than ever before. It's a heady thing. I've had to learn how to simply be in peace without anyone else to entertain me. I've learned so much in the past year...most of it having to do with meditation, harmonious quiet and silent images. I'm done a great deal of praying. I've read a tremendous amount, even for a bibliophile like me. I've come to appreciate the beauty in stillness in a way I never had before. I've always been an admirer of Blessed Julian, but I've come to understand her better...even in the smallest know what it's like to simply be alone.

My new blog,  And All Shall Be Well, will not be  a collection of my own life experiences and lessons from, as I had in The Preppy Yogini. It's my goal to write short essays that may be used in meditation, for inspirational reading, for prayer and for uplifting imagery. This won't be a running diary. Rather, it will simply be a tool for others to use in their quests. I like to describe myself an Episcopalian with dashes of Jewish roots and twists of Zen. I feel honored and blessed by Native American, Celtic and Norse traditions. And All Shall Be Well is most definitely written with God in mind and in heart. But, I'm hopeful that, whatever one's faith tradition, there will be illuminating pieces that will speak to many. I plan on drawing from many sources for my own inspiration.

St. Paul wrote in Philippians, "Finally, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."  It's my hope that the pictures I'll paint with my words will uplift and will be worthy to 'think on'.

(Note: I will not take down The Preppy Yogini, I've accomplished what I had hoped to..and will continue to update. But, I hope you join me as I work on And All Shall Be Well. Namaste, Peace and Thank you.)

Saturday, February 4, 2012


"Better joy in a cottage than sorrow in a palace..."    ~ Proverbs

Every child remembers a favorite Christmas. For most, it's the year they received a bike under the tree. For others? A set of slot cars, a pair of ice skates or a trunk of dress up clothes. Yet others? It was that much dreamed of doll, GI Joe or set of puppets. I enjoyed most of those, without question. And yet, my favorite Christmas was the year I received a Holly Hobbie Play House. This wasn't a to pretend to move my tiny doll family about. This was a small cottage sized playhouse completely made out of cardboard. It was adorable. It had trompe l'oeil design of an adorable cottage. Little did I know that my parents had, quite literally, stayed up all night putting it together. (And later on that day, they realized that they had disassemble the darn thing and put it back together in my room!) 

Until we moved, I spent every waking moment in that playhouse. I brought pillows and blankets and enticed our dogs to come hang out with me. I read. I played house. I played school. It was my sanctuary within my sanctuary. I felt happy, safe, free to be creative and utterly joyful there. I never worried about needing to clean it (it was too small to really get untidy). I never thought I might lose anything or that things would just vanish. It was manageable. Additionally, it was just how I wanted it. No one helped me...I simply brought in there bits and pieces from around the house....a favorite silver frame, my books, the soft leopard blanket my mother had sewn, my father's lap desk (which served as the perfect actual desk) and a little antique trunk to hold my "treasures". It was the most essentially 'me' space I've ever had.

It's no wonder that I've loved cottages ever since then. As an adult, I've been incredibly fortunate to have had a lovely roof over my head at all times. From my husband's and my first apartment to our current house, we've never been without the safety of shelter. Additionally, I've had some wonderful help from my mother with furniture and from my mother in law with painting each room. And yet, compromises are always made. Whether it's making do with furniture because it's serviceable, or finding the happy medium between what I find beautiful, and my husband finds too feminine, that majority of the spaces in my house are a testament to adaptation. Please don't misunderstand. I love my home, my husband, my children and our animals. But, every decision to change, or not to change, a space requires modification on my part. I am grateful, beyond measure, for the loving family I'm blessed with. However, I continue to daydream about cottages. Small, charming, folksy, shabby chic, historic, quaint, girlie and scrumptious...I've wanted "a room of one's own", thanks to Virginia Woolf, most of my adult life. Mine just happens not to be a room. My "room" is a tiny house of my own.

When I first came across this cottage in The Grower's Daughter, I fell in love. A former hunting cabin, the cottage was renovated by a Wheaton College graduate, when her husband and she chose to downsize dramatically and moved into a wooded property with very little in the way of luxury. The cottage became a labor of love, a refuge and a sanctuary for the builder. As Wheatie myself, I related to the the builder's aesthetic sensibility, her taste and her desire. I love the way in which every nook and cranny is used. I am passionate about the white, Victorian-meets-Shabby Chic style. I love the roses. I love the chandelier. I love the sleeping loft. I love the pink. I love the lace. I love the doorknobs. I love the china. I love the little porch. I love how utterly immaculate everything is. There isn't dog hair all over the white draped furniture. There aren't hockey bags opened up on the porch. There isn't a gaggle of (however beloved) teenagers draped over every surface. There are no half finished glasses of juice everywhere. It's peaceful. It's dreamy. It's private. 

I'd love to have this cottage in my own backyard. I can imagine climbing into the bed (using a ladder I'd put on wheeled tracks), with a cup of perfect tea and a stack of my favorite books. I'd leave my cell phone back in my house. Although I would install indoor plumbing (unlike this dream cottage, that's a non-negotiable for me), I would keep this cottage just the way that it is otherwise. I'd eat things like cucumber sandwiches and sliced mango. I'd wear Victorian inspired dresses and sunhats. I'd wrap myself up in fur blankets when it would get chilly. I could write uninterrupted. I could sleep without being disturbed. I could hear myself think. It would be my own space. Just for me. No sweaty athletic apparel on the floor. No Ramen noodles left to congeal. No unending sports games on television at the loudest possible volume. No television at all, actually. It would be peaceful. Calm. Relaxing. Serene. 

I realize this is a pipe dream. Even if such a magical abode just appeared, as if conjured, I know that it wouldn't remain perfect for long. My two dogs are immense and release enough fur every day to create a smaller animal. They'd be scratching to be let in within seconds. I know my husband, ever the space-needer, would be eyeing my cottage as a possible home for his lawnmower, plow and boat equipment. I'm sure my kids would lobby to make my cottage into the teenager hangout.While I'd be at the store, I'm sure I'd arrive home to find my charming decorations out, and the ping-pong table and TV in. Along  with the iHome blasting music. My fantasy sanctuary would become doghouse, storage barn and media center the moment my back was turned. Maybe that's why it's best left a fantasy....I can keep it beautiful and perfect in my imagination in a way I'd never manage in real life.

And yet...there's a perfect place under the pine trees that would be just dreamy. Do you think I can keep it a secret?

Sunday, January 29, 2012


"Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple."  ~  Dr. Seuss

I feel truly, exceptionally and powerfully blessed. So many people have dropped me notes to wish me well and to encourage me over the past year. I have no idea what my life would be like, had my life's course not veered into unknown territory. However, one thing that I do know: I'm eternally grateful for those special folks who have reached out to me. I'm encouraged by your stories, by your thoughtfulness, by your willingness to get to know me and by the new friends I've made. In addition, you have all asked me some good questions. Rather than repeat myself, I've decided to do a Q & A segment on Preppy Yogini. I've done this on other blogs, but not here. So, I hope that I'm managing to answer most of your questions. If not? I plan on doing another one in time. Thank you again for all of your kindness and understanding.

  1. How did you come up with the name "Preppy Yogini"? I did blog piece on this very story about six months ago, called The Bohemian Sloth. When I was doing my yoga teacher training, I was blessed with many fantastic instructors. Unfortunately, one was just hideous. He was a cross between Attila the Hun and the worst Kindergarten teacher ever. He made fun of people. He pushed students to the point of injury and he was simply a rotten person, let alone a terrible instructor. When I questioned his methodology, he spat out, "You're nothing but a preppy yogini". He meant it as the most derogatory slur imaginable. I wear it like a badge of honor now.
  2. You talk about Maine a lot. Are you from Maine? Yes...and no. To a true, iconoclastic Mainer, I am not. I wasn't born here. Therefore, I'm from "away". But, I have spent many years here, first as a summer person growing up, and then with my husband and our children. I grew up in California and New York, and went to school in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, before moving to Europe for four years. I enjoy living in Maine, but I also love traveling to other places. I get itchy feet if I'm in one place too long.
  3. What made you become a yoga instructor? How did you become one? I had been practicing yoga for years before my first cancer diagnosis in 2003. I had three surgeries in just 7 weeks. It was tough! But, yoga was instrumental in helping me recover. When I was well enough, I resigned from my job in traditional education and studied at Kripalu and Gentle Spirit Yoga for my 200 hour R.Y.T. certification. I felt tremendously encouraged by own instructors and this inspired me to pursue my own path in teaching.
  4. What's your favorite yoga style of practice? What do you recommend? That's like asking a mother who her favorite child is! I have honestly enjoyed every form of yoga I've practiced. I believe that every class, regardless of yogic 'arm', has the potential to be fabulous for all levels. It really comes down to the teacher and her willingness to give of herself to her students. For beginners, I generally recommend classes that are Hatha based, or that offer Yoga Foundations. It's a great starting point.
  5. You have mentioned being sick. What was wrong? How are you doing? I'm doing much better! A year ago, I was slowly starting to walk around and drive again. Unfortunately, my Sarcoma based cancer returned. This time, my surgery and procedures were even more invasive...and I'm also 8 years older, making my recovery that much more difficult. The form of cancer I have is not treatable by radiation or chemotherapy. Surgery is my only option. I had some pretty intense setbacks, but I'm on the road to recovery again. It's just a very slow road. Think Los Angeles traffic at rush hour slow.
  6. Why have you stopped doing book reviews? I am still reading up a storm and look forward to writing reviews again on this blog. When I created Ellen's Thirty Day Book Challenge last Spring, I actually ended up reviewing more than 30 books, since I had an impossible time narrowing my list down. I burned out on writing book reviews for a while, as a result. 
  7. I like your writing. Have you been published? Years ago, I was published in Parenting, Mothering, The Doula and several other magazines aimed at that life path. I haven't been published since then. I hope to be again. I'm working on several different pieces...but all seem to be longer than magazine articles. I look forward to continuing my writing. While it would be an honor to be published, I truly write for myself and my own spirit. Anything beyond that would be fresh butter cream icing on a very dense carrot cake.
  8. What other hobbies do you enjoy? Beyond writing, reading and yoga, I love design. I think I'm actually a frustrated art director in a yogini's skin! I also love animals...I have two dogs now, but have had horses, cats and one very special bunny during my life. I love good wine, scintillating conversation, travel and long walks on the beach at sunset. Seriously though...I really do love long walks on the beach at sunset.
  9. Are you still teaching yoga? Can I join your class? Unfortunately, my last surgery, the complications that ensued, made teaching yoga impossible for me. I am adjusting to a new definition of normal. If you're going to be in coastal Maine or the greater Scottsdale, Arizona areas, I'd be happy to recommend some amazing teachers. I am taking 3-4 classes a week again, and am enjoying the simplicity of being a student at this time.
  10. What's next for you? I wish I knew. I really wish I knew! I have no idea. I do know that it's time to figure out who I'm going to be as a grown up. It would be nice if the universe sent out smoke signals to give me a hint. While I'm looking for said clues in the heavens, I'm doing a lot of volunteer work in my community. And drinking far too much tea. 
Thank you again. Best wishes. Enjoy. Namaste!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

La Belle Époque

The past is always judged by the present. ~ Neith Boyce

When I was a young girl, I was completely enamored of the past. I wanted nothing more than to move back to a simple time of simple pleasures. This interest was mainly kindled into a fire when I read the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder in second grade. Using couch pillows and a sheet, I created a covered wagon and tried to enlist our German Shepherd and Border Collie into being my pretend team of horses to pull it. I daydreamed about log cabins, spinning wheels and calico dresses. As I continued to read, I fell in love with Colonial Virginia, when reading a biography of Martha Washington, Ancient Egypt from"The Cat in the Mirror" by Mary Stoltz and Victorian England following my lust for Jane Austen novels. I daydreamed about Ancient Greece and Rome, through books of mythology. I imagined life in Scandinavia as I mentally sailed along with Viking raiders around the North sea. I went on a spirit journey, reading about southwestern Native American rites of passage...envisioning my life amongst the Anasazi. The current age of my childhood seemed ugly, bitter, filled with anger and too fast a pace. I longed for a more quiet life, an uncomplicated life. I imagined restraint, gentility and honor in all the times past. 

My new favorite film is "Midnight in Paris", which was written and directed  by Woody Allen. "Annie Hall" this is not. It's one man's daydreaming past into 1920's Paris...the time of Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso. It was the era of the great Left Bank artists, poets, writers, musicians, designers...the time of post World War I ex-patriot "Lost Generation" great thinkers and creators. The film is brilliantly created. Each night, at precisely the same spot on a side side in Paris, at Midnight, Owen Wilson's character is picked up in a vintage car and driven into the past, where he meets all of his idols. He experiences the era with which he identifies so closely. He is desperate to be a part of this time in history, when, in his mind, life was ever so much sweeter and so much more imaginative. "Gil", Wilson's protagonist, falls in love with the beautiful Adriana...a muse to the 1920's artists. As they stroll through the Paris streets each night, Gil finds the evenings to be both sublime and transcendent. He's actually living in his dream time and can't fathom anyone else not being outrageously happy.  The pace of life, for Gil, is slower, more meaningful and far more beautiful. Adriana, on the other hand, ruminates on her own 'castle in the sky' period of history, La Belle Époque, the late 19th century until World War I. It's no wonder..."The Great War"  devastated the globe. As Gil and Adriana travel back in time to the 1880's, they come upon the famous artists of the day who dream about the Renaissance. Gil and Adriana have to decide; should each one remain in his, or her, own daydream, or return to their own present times?

The lesson of the film is quite simple: it's one thing to fantasize about the romance of the past. It is wonderful to appreciate those superlative individuals who help define an era, and help to create something completely new and original. It's quite another to run away from one's problems, one's dissatisfaction and one's melancholy by vanishing into a previous time...even if that disappearing is completely metaphorical. Each generation looks to the previous ones for inspiration and with longing. Every period in history has magically beautiful aspects to it. Yet, we forget, in our reveries, that each period in history has its own share of complications and horrors. No time has ever been perfect. Yet no time has ever been without hope. We exist, as human beings, somewhere between each of these states in our hearts and minds whenever we find ourselves living.

I continue to imagine life in past decades, in other places and spending my time in deep contrast to my present. I love to read, I adore movies and I treasure works of art and pieces of music...often from times and places different than Maine in 2012. However, the lessons I learn here and now are the ones that will create my happiness. I can take advice and admonishment from the past. But, I need to bring those into my everyday life. I find that I want to assimilate those past areas of simplicity, beauty, creativity and joie de vivre into my today, while still having a deep appreciation for the exceptional time I have the privilege of experiencing.  As romantic as Elizabethan England might seem, it's awfully nice to have running water, excellent medical care and relative safety. 

Daydreams are fun. They're a diversion from the mundane. They're a way to escape, even for a few minutes, from the stresses we are plagued with. The present, no matter how complicated and rushed, has the potential to be infinitely more wonderful than any daydream. Why? Because it's happening this very second. We can breathe the air, taste the food and hear the music. We can feel the snowflakes on our cheeks and smell tang of the ocean. As delightful as the past might seem, right now is what we're blessed with...and right now is pretty extraordinary.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Idea boards....

The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas, and throw the bad ones away.  ~Linus Pauling

When I was growing up, my mother maintained a studio in every house in which we lived. If something struck her as inspiring, she'd pin it up onto one of her idea boards. Her idea boards overflowed, and she also maintained files to hold bits of thoughts. Some of these were fabulous quotes that she found intriguing. Others were cartoons from the New Yorker, or even whole articles. Most often, however, these were bits of fabric, photos or sketches to do with design. Mom was the art director for her family's paper goods company, and it was her job to coordinate between what was happening out in the world with her artists, and balancing that with her own sense of the creative process. As she moved into the hotel business with my father, she wore two hats; one was her continued vision for the paper goods company, but she was then also responsible for designing the spaces at my parents' Santa Barbara resort, both inside and out. My grandmother was the same way. She had ideas in design neatly organized in her sewing room...which doubled as her drawing room, sculpting room, painting room and craft space. Grandma was the most talented dressmaker and landscape artist I've ever known. And yet, she did these as hobbies for fun. I used to look at the idea boards of both my mother and grandmother and wonder how many of these bits of illumination would come to fruition. I loved how they looked...mismatched, yet compelling. They were a deluge of creativity, an avalanche of suggestions.I wanted to frame the boards themselves to keep in my room.

Even though these boards were created to inspire art, they themselves, in my humble opinion were the art. The random gathering of home fashion pulled from magazines, postcards from extraordinary places, fabric swatches, old photographs, handwritten notes from friends and any number of surprising bits of vision. Some of these pinned pieces were to decipher; the gorgeous bedroom, done up in green and ivory, was obviously translated to mean a room to least in feeling or individual pieces. The scrap with just a few words, the piece of frayed, worn out gingham  or the restaurant menu were a bit harder to understand. I did know, however, that the creative process ran deeply, and that the tired piece of gingham might not be 'about' the tired piece of gingham. Rather, it could be a reminder of an event, whose memory would trigger a design different that the ratty fabric. Significance, I learned, in idea boards, often had less to do with what was up on the board exactly, than it did for what each piece signified. So, in many ways, the pin boards belonging to the most important women in my life were actually a view into the way their minds worked creatively. The items they pinned were archetypal. 

I wish I possessed the gene for creativity and style that my Mama and Grandma have. Grandma could see any couture dress in a store, look at it for a moment, and then go home and make it. Only better. Mama could gather up the most disjointed, unlikely group of furniture and textiles and create exceptional, eclectic and harmonious spaces. Me? I have no sense in either of these abilities. Both women could look at a blank canvas, and could pull forth a painting that seemed to have always existed from within. I can't even draw a stick figure. I have the utmost admiration for this potentiality. I lack depth perception, so I always pick out furniture of the utterly wrong proportion for any room. I can barely hem pants, let alone sew a dress. I can walk into a room I think is dreadful, but have no idea how to change it. Conversely, I can experience a breathtaking space, that just drips style and comfort, and yet be utterly flummoxed as to how to recreate it.

Therefore, when my friends told me about a fun website, called Pinterest, I was certain I'd be unable to do use it. After all, I'm neither creative nor inspired. I don't wake up dreaming about green velvet sofas or styling an outfit around black flats. I wake up hoping for coffee and sunny skies under which to walk my dogs.  Who knew that I'd become a "Pinaddict" within 24 hours of my first pin? My friend, Debbie, was teasing that she's turned so many people onto the site that she might as well call herself a Pin-pusher, "Hey little girl....wanna pin?".

Joking aside, it really is a fun site. You can create virtual pin boards online, maintained by the glue, no cutting, no scrunched up napkins and no running out of thumb tacks. You can find ideas for everything from fashion to Fettuccine recipes and from puppies to painting. The boards begin with a few standard ones...'For the home', 'Food', 'Books worth reason'. The possibilities to create your own, however, are endless. You can borrow ("repin") ideas from other people. This isn't considered stealing, but is the basis of Pinterest! It's the sharing of those things that inspire us and is meant to be a public endeavor. You can also upload photos of whatever takes your fancy...using the handy "Pin It" tool...and thereby, share them with the Pinterest community. I've created a dozen boards so far...and none of them are even close to compete. It's an ongoing process for everyone...we keep virtually "pinning" as long as we choose to.

Pinning is great fun. Pinning does make the "pinner" feel much more creative. Pinning creates a new community. But, pinning is addictive. Don't say I didn't warn you!

But, please excuse me. I have an idea about an all black and white board. I must pin...

Monday, January 9, 2012


Broken: Adjective: reduced to fragments; fragmented, ruptured; torn; fractured,not functioning properly; out of working order.

When my son, Josh, was a toddler, Cheerios's came out with a new twist on their oat cereal. Instead of just having the famous and signature "O", they also came out with "X's". It was cute. It was clever. It tasted the same and had all the same healthy reasons for putting the new gimmick on my shopping list. Josh, however, was duly horrified, as only an 18 month old can be. I thought it was so charming to put the X's and O's on the tray of his high chair. Josh looked at the cereal, looked at me, and then began precisely picking up the X's, tossing them off the tray to the waiting vultures (masquerading as dogs). With each flick of his chubby baby wrist, he'd say "Broken!". Nothing I could do would persuade him to even taste one. In his one year frame of reference, his beloved "O-eee-o's" were not supposed to look like that.

This was a parenting annoyance at the time. But, now, 19 years later, I can understand completely how Josh felt. There was a way that his neatly ordered world was supposed to be. He was accustomed to his snack looking a particular way. It gave Josh stability knowing what he should expect. His passionate rejection of the 'different' was not unlike how an adult might feel when her world is turned upside down. What Josh experienced as baby, on a much smaller scale, many of us discover, to our horror, as grown ups. "Broken" can mean a wide variety of things to us. It might be that a marriage fails. Or a family member dies. Or a debilitating, scary illness is diagnosed. It may be being downsized from a career. It could mean that our belief system is shattered, our hearts are crushed, our friendships aren't steady and our mind can't grasp the changes. Broken can mean that the worlds we work so hard to create for ourselves are in nothing more than a gossamer scarf, holding together the fragile pieces that fit together within the delicate folds. 

Over the past year, I've been exploring the concept of brokenness, as it applies to body, mind and spirit. This wasn't intentional. I had no choice in the matter of my body. Cancer is an all powerful, indiscriminate leveler, particularly when one has had the disease more than once. My strength through yoga failed me. I was physically broken, emotionally drained and intellectually flummoxed. How does a non-smoking, organic eating yogini get a rare form of cancer more than once? I was angry. I wanted to power through, to be the little engine that could", to deny that this disease would have any long term effects on me. I refused to allow myself to be broken. I wouldn't stand for it. How very wrong I was! How naive, and how foolish. I wish I could back in time. I wish I could take myself by the hand and say, "You will be broken. You will be challenged. Nothing will be easy. With every step forward, there will be two steps back and to the side. You will not reemerge the same woman. You will be different. You will be changed. You will be splintered. But, you will survive and create something new from the pieces."

After yet another setback last week, I wanted to cry out to the heavens, "Seriously?" But, I realize that there is still more for me to learn. There is always more for me to learn. Perhaps that's the lesson in all of this; no matter how well I think I've put the pieces back together, they seem to twirl out of my hands, crashing to the floor and creating even more fragments for me to contemplate. It's not the breaking that matters. Regardless of how I feel about it, I'm beginning to realize that the brokenness itself may very well be the lesson. It may be that I need to continuously learn humility; that I must deliberately look at each fragment and wonder what it has to teach me. It may also just be a crappy deal that I'm stuck with, and if I don't want to end up as a bitter, hate-filled old biddy, I'd better learn how to dwell with what is, rather than focusing on what is not.

Like a mosaic work of art, made from bits of shattered glass, I need to learn how to see the beauty in brokenness. I need to appreciate what is broken. Why? Because it's healthier than the alternative. One never knows: something exquisite may yet be created. I just have the humbling task of trying to discern what 'it' will be.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

It's a new dawn, it's a new day...

"Birds flying high 
You know how I feel 
Sun in the sky 
You know how I feel 
Reeds drifting on by 
You know how I feel 
It's a new dawn, it's a new day, its a new life 
For me 
And I'm feeling good"   ~ Written by Anthony Newley, performed by Nina Simone

I've begun this blog piece three times before today. Each time I've sat down to write, I've been overwhelmed with emotion. It's silly, but I truly love the idea that each of us are given a chance to start our lives fresh every January.  While I may be an eternal Party Pooper on New Year's Eve (who can stay up that late any longer?), I happen to adore New Year's Day. I'll take Beginnings over Endings with gladness. I know that this is mainly because I'm a bounding Labrador of Joy when it comes to starting new chapters. I love new books! I love new places! I love learning a new hobby! I love making new friends! I'm an ebullient starter of the au courant. I love being the first to try something unusual or dynamic. 

Unfortunately, the flip side of this positive attribute is that I get bored easily and tend to say "The heck with it", if something becomes too inconvenient, too difficult, too repetitive or just plain too boring. I tried to learn how to knit. I was terrible. I've tried serious, elegant cooking classes. I burned whatever I touched. I have mangled multiple gardens. From herbs to flowers, I have come to realize that I simply have neither the gift, nor the patience.  I have skis, a Pilates mat, a bicycle and water color paints. All are collecting dust in my garage. And yet, I began each undertaking with a jubilant bounce. What is it about trying something new that, when I hit a bump in the road, turns the novelty into irritation? Do I truly grow to dislike this endeavors or do I just quit too soon? Am I fickle or bungling? 

This year, instead of jumping to the head of the "I want to lose ten---okay, fifteen-- pounds" parade, I'm refraining from even entertaining the concept of a diet. In the place of taking kick boxing (which I am oddly drawn towards), I'm going to stick with my walking and yoga exercise pattern. Rather than sign up for classes in Russian, tap dancing or wine tasting, I'm going to take a realistic  look at what I'm already doing to see which areas could use improvement. The "bright and shiny" has always had a Siren call to me. What I see as my goal for 2012 is to walk away from the new and towards improving the old. An expression my mother likes to use is that we're like monkeys: we're drawn towards the lustrous allure of unique and untested treetops. I'm the worst in our family in this way. I will drop down my 'nets and follow' what catches my attention. If it seems complicated, intricate and all-encompassing? All the better. It will be even more delicious to contemplate. 

Therefore, my resolution this year is simple: nothing new. This concept alone is novel enough to me to get me out of the starting gate. A few years ago, I would have whined "But, that's so BOOOOOOORING.....". Now? I understand that if I'm going to be a grown up (and I think it's about time to start down that road), I'm going to have to behave like one. No more spontaneous trips to Hobby Lobby. No more daydreaming about learning how to snowshoe (this would be fine for another person...but I really don't like being cold. I just like the shoes.) I will leave all the brightly illustrated flyers my fingers itch to pick up right where they are. Since I'm a virtual Tasmanian Devil when I'm in the throws of a newfangled love with learning to go Vegan or weave willow baskets, I'm going to have to keep the barn door on any new interest closed. And locked. With armed guards ready to shoot at the slightest provocation. If not, I'll take a month's worth of Water Ballet classes only to remember that, despite my pretty new swimsuit, I dislike being wet and lack any sense of rhythm.

The new start for me this year is staying away from new starts. I am, instead, going to turn my energy towards my old starts and reevaluate them. I'll ask myself which ideas, from home maintenance to outside activities, really were successful, and which were a collossal waste of time and money. I'll meditate on being content with where I am, with what I have, with what I am able to do and who I want to spend my time with. Rather than race ahead, crazy legs, to a finish line I can't even begin to see, I hope to take this journey slowly, mindfully, intentionally and  with deliberation. As a woman who acts first and thinks after, this is going to be a profound difference.

Just writing this blog piece makes me want to pull my hair out. I'm afraid that I'll be desperate to radically change my style, my house and my interests. I'm terrified that February will come around, and I'll immediately decide that I need to begin wearing 4 inch heels or have a hankering to learn how to smoke meat.  The "shiny things" beckon. They call me to me, reel me in and then eventually lose my attention when the next shiny thing appears on the horizon. I know this isn't going to be an easy journey. I may whine. I might look wistfully at a golf course, wondering if I could learn to play. Yet, I'm determined that this is going to be my year of reflection and completion. I need to figure out what works for me, and what doesn't, if I have a chance at a balanced approach in the future.

The new dawn of the new day rises beautifully every morning. We're given a chance to begin fresh and, for most people, to start with a clean slate. My slate this year just won't be a clean one. It will be a messy one. My job will be to turns my eyes away from the glittering, untried slates and to refocus on finishing the many tasks on my well used slate instead. 

Maybe next year I'll get a clean one.