Thursday, December 31, 2009


Walking Man is right to ask "What New Year?"... after all, few of us are changing jobs (except you, Amanda!), or moving, or truly changing anything. 

I know what will happen, though. Millions of us will "resolve" to do this year differently. Suddenly, instead of the YMCA being mostly empty in the evenings, it will be so packed that I can't find a parking space, can't get into the zumba class, can't even find a stupid treadmill or square of clear space to stretch out on, etc.

(I've actually dropped my membership for the next few months, for that very reason. Why pay for something I can't even use?)

A bunch more people will drink themselves into oblivion tonight, "resolving" to do better January 1, like that is some magical stamp which will enable them to somehow change who they are and what they do from what they have always been and always done. Will it work? 

Have you ever known it to work? Has it ever worked for you?

Can anyone, through sheer will power, change who one is? If a person hates exercise, January 1 isn't going to magically change that. If one loves cheesecake or ice cream enough to gain 40 lbs. last year, a great January filled with good choices is not going to lose the 40 lbs., and even if it does, without real everyday change, that weight will come back on. 

Yes, I want to do this year better. I would love to be published, and I'll only get there if I send my stuff out (and work on it a whole lot more than I did last year). I'm months from turning 40, and I've always worked under the shadow of losing precious time. But I can't resolve to send out something new every day, or write for at least an hour every day, or exercise every day, or be a good mom every day. I can promise to eat every day, but sometimes that's all I ever get done.

My resolution? Live every day. If that means writing, then it does. If that leads to exercise, all right then. If it means singing, great. Painting? Fine, too. But I'm not going to strive for perfection. I'm not going to kick myself over a missed opportunity. I won't regret. 

And I won't resolve this year. Today is all I'm concerned with. Just today.

I know my thoughts of future goals will creep in. They always do. I don't have to fear that I will let the world go completely, not meet my obligations, and not get things done. I am incapable of laziness. But I'm tired of worrying. I'm tired of looking back and seeing all I haven't yet gotten done. I'm sick of being disappointed in myself. 

Okay, perhaps, despite all my best efforts, I've unwittingly resolved something (darn it!). Still, I won't worry about that. I'm off to live today. Hope you do the same.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009



More than a domestic goddess
Able to refinish furniture
Bake anything
Tile bathroom floors
She, the stylish
Flirtatious dancing goddess
Graceful, loving,
Full of passion
Yet to most, her truest essence
Not nearly
Even if his shy eyes
Suggest he has nothing to say
Inside his brain’s a
Deep cavern of experience
Of wisdom
Seeing the world as only a few
Old souls perceive it
Rich, intelligent,
But to all his friends
While others click their tongues
And say, “Poor thing,”
She seethes inside with life
And art and music
Dismissed by all
She paints in private,
Writes and dances
Late into the night
Driven to create
But certain to keep each effort
And so we go
Misunderstood and overlooked
Each one
In tune with the magic of the earth
Yet silent in a crowd
Keeping all beneath our surface
Playing safe
Afraid of what will happen
If even once we do not keep
Who we are

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Five Senses of Christmas

Now that the remains of my daughter's cookie party are almost gone (can you sense my relief?), the Christmas cards have all been sent, the shopping is done, and only five presents have not yet been wrapped and put under the tree, I can sit back and just enjoy the season.

Actually, I've been enjoying the season all along, with all of my senses. I've written several entries on description, but Christmas has unique elements all its own. My "Five Senses" list:

  The lit-up Christmas tree. I use all white lights, and my ornaments 
are pretty much cream, gold, and red. Velvet and brocade ribbons, 
gold chains of bells, and gold beads. Of course, I love almost every 
Christmas tree--I just love my own most of all.

  Christmas music. I have everything from grunge rock versions 
to Vienna Choir Boys, John Denver to Nelson Eddy (thanks to my 
sis, who's a big fan of his). I love it all. Only the Chipmunks one 
gets on my nerves.

Taste: Gingerbread is number one, especially with white icing.

  The smoothness of a wrapped package. I try to box everything, 
even clothing, so that the corners are all crisp and the sides smooth. 
And, yes, I stroke them. 

  Scotch tape. Yes, I love the smell of a wood fire, too, but scotch 
  tape reminds me of Christmas in the middle of July. I wrapped 
  presents with my mother when I was a very young kid, and wrapping 
  presents is still one of my favorite activities. That pleases my hubby 
  to no end, too, since it means he doesn't have to.

What are your favorite five sensations of Christmas? Don't be afraid to share!

Monday, December 21, 2009

What "Living in the Moment" Isn't

I posted a few days ago on living in the present--not regretting or glorifying what happened in the past, nor fixating on how things will be different in the future--so as to seek happiness in the ever-present NOW

To clarify this a bit, I'd like to take a leaf from the book of Taoism to describe my approach to this form of living. I am by no means an expert, but Taoism, from my reading and experience, suggests a life in which one remains "receptively passive" to the movement or flow of life, and when one acts, it is in accordance with the flow of one's life, and is thus effortless. When one fights against the flow, one finds difficulty, suffering, unhappiness, etc. 

Let me put it in terms of relationships. To live in the ever-present now, one would exist in a way that is most calm and harmonious to one's nature and the nature of others. That does not mean never disagreeing. If, for instance, one's partner is a creep, it may seem more harmonious to shut up about it and take it--whether it be abuse, derision, abandonment, etc. However, it is damaging to oneself, and doesn't go with one's personal needs. Resentment and anger will build until you can't take it anymore, and then the flow of need will cause you to act out eventually.

Living in the moment, in this case, means not resisting the urge to speak up. Resisting the urge is hard, and it hurts the current moment. Instead, one should speak up and say, directly, "When you say this/do this/etc. I feel hurt and ashamed." At the same time, it does not mean bringing up all sorts of past hurts--those are past, and the reason one might be bringing them up is because one has held onto them instead of expressing them when they occur. It's the same with positive elements. When one is happy, one should express so, and share the joy of one's life with others. If another's actions hurt one's flow, by all means one should act to change that flow, even it means leaving. The release I've heard described from this kind of action (leaving a creep) is caused because a major obstruction has been removed.

In terms of money, living in the moment does not mean racking up credit card balances so that one can go on a vacation "now," without consideration for the future debt or insolvency. In fact, I would contend that purchases on credit are actually living in the future, and not the present, for one's subconscious reasoning is that a larger TV, a new dining room set, or a McMansion will make one happier, and it suggests that one is dissatisfied with one's life as it is. Living within one's means is one way of existing within the flow of one's life. Seeking to purchase items one cannot yet afford goes against one's flow. Buying a house and having payments one cannot afford is a gaping example of this, and it does not increase one's happiness (as many thousands of homeowners will attest to). 

Even in terms of food and exercise, living in the moment means paying attention to right now--not one's future goals, but one's eating right at this moment. If I truly live in the now, I eat only when I'm hungry--and I enjoy every tasty morsel of food while I eat it, not working on the computer or watching television while I do it, but savoring everything. It means enjoying my activity--whether walking with a friend or doing zumba or bellydancing--and it means living in that moment happily, without constantly looking in the mirror or stepping on the scale to see whether it's doing any good. If I am only living in the future ("I want to lose 10 pounds") or living in the past ("I don't ever want to be that fat again") I will not be happy now. 

And now is what counts. Past is past, future is future. We can't live in either one. I don't write because I want to get published some day. I write because I love it, and when I do it, I am happy. 

Thoughts? Bones of contention? 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What I Want for Christmas

I'm certainly not the first to think of this. As most of you are aware, I already posted both of my children's Santa letters on this blog. But my son reminded me of it last night when he asked me, "So, Mom, how will you feel when you open all your presents on Christmas morning?"

Before I could even answer, his eyebrows wrinkled. "Hey, wait. You don't have any presents under the tree."

"True," I admitted. He must have checked every package ten times already.

He shrugged, said, "Then I guess you won't feel anything," and walked off. Already a sensitive boy.

I could have explained that I really feel too old to get a bunch of Christmas presents. I could explain that my husband detests being surprised, and while I like being surprised, I also hate presents (in general), mainly because they were a guilt-ridden ploy for love in my childhood. 

But I do want things. Okay, not things, but things.

I want a novel published. This is my most selfish of wishes, but it is one nonetheless. I won't get it for Christmas. I can't even guarantee I'll get it by the end of next year, or ever. 

I want to be a better writer, and to spend more time writing. One is directly connected to the other, but I continually face the nasty voices in my head telling me that my writing will never get any better (and that it's pretty lame to begin with). The voices make me reluctant at times to face the computer, even to write a blog, and they attack the other idea as well, that practice will improve my skill. This wish is directly related to the one above.

I want my son to adjust to school in a happier way. I can't make that happen, but I am doing what I can to help him.

I want people who are out of work to get jobs. Sure, I'd like something full-time, but I can handle it because my husband provides well. Still, it would be so much better if people who are out of work are employed. They'll be happier, more productive, and they'll make the rest of us happier, too.

I want people to be truly happy. Not just friends, either. I'm just fine with not so great people being happy, for their happiness may make them nicer. I am convinced that most mean people are mean because they are hurt inside and cannot resolve their own unhappiness.

What is it you most want? I'd love to know...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Are We There Yet?

Kids are notoriously incapable of telling time. When my daughter was around three, anything that had once happened to her, including wearing diapers and living in another state, happened "last night." For her favorite friend Dorienne, everything in the past was "yesterday." All past events could be grouped in one single amorphous PAST that floats seamlessly from just a second ago to the very day the child was born.

Children are as time-goofy in the other direction, as well. Just try telling a child he's going to visit his grandma's, but not until next week. Without fail, the child will wake you earlier than normal the next morning, informing you that his bag is all packed for the stay at grandma's, and you need to feed him some toast before both of you leave on the trip. What's a week? Seven days? Is that the same as seven minutes? Oh, longer? More like ten minutes? No? Fifteen? What? How long is that?

The anxiety can be tremendous, for three minutes in time out feels to a three-year-old like a day and a half. Oh, when will the happy moment come when I don't have to sit here on this timeout bench anymore? When is daddy coming home? When is breakfast? Yum. When's lunch? What do you mean I have to wait four hours?!?

Driving trips are the same. Are we there yet? How long is this going to take? What town are we in now? (That last one is my kids' personal favorite, and I name off the towns as we go by... Monroe, Snohomish, Woodinville, Bothell, Bellevue, and so on.)

I could keep on criticizing my kids, but it isn't their fault. They truly cannot grasp the concept of time until their brains develop a bit more. In fact, even as adults we don't grasp time well. My husband, for instance, thinks that time runs more slowly than it actually does (and is therefore nearly always late). A student once tested me with regards to time keeping, and my task was to tell her when I thought 60 seconds had passed. I waited, waited, in silence, stressing out, afraid 60 seconds had long since passed. I finally couldn't take the strain and said, "Now." It turns out 36 seconds had passed. As you might guess, I'm habitually early for everything.

But it isn't just deadlines that have us mixed up. We still so often get caught up in what is coming in the future, so much so that we forget to look around and enjoy what is happening right now. I have done this countless semesters (as have my students), telling myself that once I get my grades all turned in I can relax. Or I say, this semester was awful, but next semester is going to be great. Or, I don't like where I live now, but the next place I live will be perfect. My next job will be ideal. My next house will be exactly what I want. My child's next teacher will be better.

But is anything as spectacular as we imagine, when we bank our soul's happiness on it to that extent? 

I just turned in my grades today (yahoo!), but even before this milestone, my life's been pretty good, including the finals to grade and underachieving students to reprimand. My daughter turns nine in two days, and I don't have any expectations about what that will mean for her. I just want to enjoy her now, at this very moment. Right now I am enjoying watching her sleep with the little Christmas tree in her room at this very moment. 

I hope she's not dreaming about someday. I hope she's dreaming about now.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Finishing My Novel Today!

I have hemmed and hawed about this stupid novel for too long. I'd hoped to finish it before Thanksgiving, and yet I am still at least two pages from being finished. It's going to take at least ten to finish the thing the way I want, but I'm carving out the whole morning and early afternoon to do it, no matter what. I'm taking my kids to school in about an hour, driving home, and sitting here until this thing is DONE.

I have so many other projects I want to start on, monologues for contests, plays destined for staged readings in the near future, another novel, a revision of my third novel so that I can enter it in the Breakthrough Novel Contest, and so on. Plus, I have a huge canvas ready so that I can paint a painting for Crystal's new decorating ideas in her room. And I have two novels by other authors that I need to be reading soon (is yours almost ready, Rocket?). All of these things are waiting for this revision to get done, and I'm antsy because I'm not doing it.

So, here it is, the ultimatum: 

You won't see me here tomorrow--and I won't even allow myself to comment on any of your blogs--unless my novel is done. End of story. 

I will do everything possible to be here, but if I'm not, know that I am working hard to finish this %&$#)@ novel revision. 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday Fun-Day!

I know how most of us approach Mondays. My husband moans and groans starting on Sunday afternoon, upset that his lazy weekend has to end and he has to face traffic, dress up, and spend the day in meetings or bossing people around (in gentle ways, of course). The temptation is to grimly face a whole week of working, knowing it will be DAYS before you get to wear those sweats all day. 

Why not approach this differently? Make a pact to go out to eat every Monday night, or take somebody to lunch at work, or carve out an hour in the afternoon to work on that novel/play/poem/painting/etc. The only watchable television is Monday Night Football, and that is only watchable for a specific viewing audience, so turn it off and play a game with the kids, or curl up to a good book you've been saving. 

I'm planning on doing absolutely NO real work today. I'm saving the class grading tasks for tomorrow (several script analyses, and discussion grades for the entire semester), and except for doing the dishes (only because I have no clean spoons), I don't intend to lift a finger I don't want to. No wrapping trash, no cat box cleaning (sorry, Skooker), no work. I might spend the morning watching the three remaining episodes of BBC's "Robin Hood" (insert drooling here), or reading, or finishing up my novel revising, or whatever. 

And don't tell me, "Well, some of us have to go to work." Yes, you do, but that doesn't mean you have to do much when you are there, or do it with a lousy attitude. And whatever you do, make it fun. Laugh. Be lazy. Or if being lazy brings you down, work super hard, cross everything off your list, and then leave an hour early so that you can pick up a few videos on the way home. (Videos? On a Monday? Are you kidding? No, I'm not!)

Don't accept your Monday as it is. Make it into something you actually want to do. Become your own Pollyanna, and make your Monday great enough that you look forward to the next one.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Awful Theatre and an Awful Legend

We went to "one of Seattle's best kept secrets" last night, a little light-filled holiday park called the Lights of Christmas, and as part of it, we saw a premier of Miracle on Candy Cane Street, written and directed by the leader of a local community theatre troupe. 

It was awful. It was painful. The stage was filled with child actors (mixed in with a few adults), the audience was filled with their relatives, and my husband and I found ourselves glancing at each other at nearly every line. The audience loved it. My kids loved it. They laughed at the almost complete unintelligible villain, who was dressed in a black satin cape, of all things, like the villain in a melodrama. (I kept waiting to see the Boo! Hiss! signs.) He was French, and we know how inherently evil French people are. The song numbers were stolen from Enchanted, The Lion King, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (no, really!), and the plot of the play was more contrived than my smile when my husband's discussing every hole of a golf game he just played.

I could go into more detail, but I won't, for I don't want this to get too long. Besides, the worst part of the play wasn't the performance, it was the play's pseudo-Christian premise, the "Legend of the Candy Cane." 

In case you are unfamiliar with this, and you love candy canes, please stop reading now. Really. Just stop. Even writing this down is enough to gag me, so if you continue on, know that you have been warned. 

The "legend" states that the candy cane symbolizes Jesus. And here's the proof:
1. It is in the shape of a shepherd's staff, symbolizing both his birth and that he is "our shepherd." 
2. If you turn it the other way, it's a "J" for Jesus.
3. The white of it symbolizes his purity.
4. It has three red stripes, to represent the Holy Trinity.

It's this last one that really kills me, though:

5. The stripes are red, to symbolize Christ's blood.

Ack! Gag! I haven't eaten yet this morning, or I know I'd be chucking it up (sorry, Stephanie!). Why this last thought is such a comfort to people is beyond me, especially when they put one of those little canes into their mouth and suck all the red off it! It's as offensive as the Easter when a well-meaning relative gave me a chocolate cross. I'm supposed to eat a chocolate cross? This is how I'm supposed to celebrate Christ, by sucking his blood and chomping down on the thing he was crucified on? 

It's a good thing I hate candy canes. I don't think I will ever eat one again. 

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Sweater, a Poem

I haven't done this in a while, but I felt compelled. Poems creep into me slowly, stewing, and then pop out rather suddenly. 

Here's this one:

The Sweater 

Your mother knitted it

Filling it with a sad mistrust,

Running along a few blue stripes

Of self-hate.


Others fashioned it with

Pins and needles

To poke at you

To prick you.


But you wore it all those years,

Hoping somehow

The warmth of your skin

Would soften those needles

That everyone one would get along

If only you tried a bit harder.


It itched and bled you

Hurt and maimed you

Strangled you around the neck

Too tightly woven.


You left the house

But took the sweater with you.

You wear it still,

Pretending it only tickles



If you only wore it long enough

The sweater would fit right.


But it’s too tight

And too loose

The garment isn’t very becoming.

(It makes you look a little fat)

And its garish pinks and gingers

Wash your face to pale.


Take that goddamn sweater off.

Can't you see it doesn’t fit you anymore?


Monday, December 7, 2009

Another Santa Letter

Have I told you lately how different my son and daughter are? Well, if you checked out the last letter by my daughter, you'll get to see for yourself in this letter below, written by my son (with my help spelling, since he's five). Here it is:

Dear Santa:

For Christmas, I want a little car that has any kind of color of stripes. And the other thing I want is a van that is a remote controller. And that’s it.

But I do want some more presents. A new lunchbox and a toy elf and no more. That’s done.

I love you, Santa.

Naturally, he neglected to remind Santa about all the fun times he's been having at school, on the bus, etc. For more info on that, see this post. He's probably hoping Santa won't know, or won't care, and won't shove a huge, anvil-sized lump of coal into his stocking, with a note reminding him that he's been naughty all year. 

Okay, so he hasn't been naughty all year. Just 89% of it. 

And Santa noticed. But Santa loves him anyway. 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

One Letter to Santa

I've been writhing still under too many papers and too much end-of-the-semester stress, and I have nothing truly brilliant to offer today, either. (But when do I have anything truly brilliant? I Hope that's not what you visit for!) My daughter wrote her letter to Santa, though, despite my insistence that Santa is "a very nice story," so here it is:

Dear Santa Claus:

       Hi! How are you doing? How are your reindeer doing? Is Rudolph okay? I hope you have a great Christmas. Are your elves working really hard? I’m glad your elves are making gifts for girls and boys that are good. You are so jolly.

       Were we good this year? I’m making this note to you. What do you like about Christmas? I like putting up our Christmas tree and getting Christmas ready in our house. I like talking to Grandpa on the computer when we are opening our presents. I like the snow because I get to throw snowballs and I like to make snow angels with my family. I like decorating the tree, too.

       This Christmas I would like some puzzles (with 30 pieces in them), a panda pillow pet, a sewing kit, a toy frog, and a big coloring book. What I really want is Operation SpongeBob and other games on the Wii, board games, a Nintendo DS, and a mini-laptop that Brandon and I are going to share. I’d also like a Fashion Holiday Barbie Doll, a painting and coloring kit, a Non-stop Glamour Barbie Minivan, and a Rudolf toy with a glowing nose.

        Have a happy Christmas, Santa Claus. Take a big, long nap, and I hope your reindeer have a fun time, too.

I think she might have made the whole letter small talk and never gotten around to the gifts if I hadn't reminded her why she was writing. I'll post my son's when he's done with his if it ends up even remotely interesting.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Update on Caisla

I told you I would update you on Caisla's condition. She is in stable condition, but because of brain swelling, they had to do surgery to open up her skull yesterday. Her brain has no "dead" sections, as far as the brain surgeon could tell, but its damage is "extensive." 

We are still waiting and watching, I from a long distance. I hope I do not have to fly to Kansas soon, for that would mean bad news.

I will let you know if anything comes up, but in the meantime I'll try to post happier things. Right now I'm up to my eyeballs in papers to be graded.