Saturday, November 29, 2008

Yesterday Was All Kinds of Special

Yesterday was Romanov's Eight Birthday. Eight is my numerological number. In tarot it is the card of strength. There are seven major chakras but some teachings have an eighth, the higher self chakra. Eight on its side is infinity. The eight ray star is linked with Ishtara and Venus. The root for our word "eight" is also the root from which we get the word star.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Tradition

A part of our Thanksgiving tradition is to watch the national dog show on NBC. I've never seen a Siberian Husky get to the finals but I do keep hoping. So does Romanov. He pays very close attention to the program. Snowdoll, however, was not the least bit interested. She just slept through the whole thing first beneath the coffee table and then on the pillow.

Romanov lost interest after the husky didn't make the final round so he didn't get to see the winner: a pointer. I was rooting for the samoyed because if I didn't have a husky, I'd want a samoyed. When the show was over, Romanov took the pillow back from Snowdoll. He was obviously disappointed by the whole affair.

Also, last year I made a healthy alternative to pumpkin pie--something low fat and not nearly as delicious as pumpkin pie. This year, I chose to make a pumpkin custard in hopes of having a yummy alternative to the temptation of pumpkin pie.

Next year, I'm going to just have a piece of pumpkin pie. Save myself the trouble of making tasteless alternatives because ultimately the result is the same--I taste the disappointing "other" and end up having a slice of the real thing anyway.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

So Much

Gratitude should not be focused on a single day of the year, as we all well know. But it is nice to have a reason to pull the family together, to slow down and share some time over a meal mutually enjoyed. In Reiki, there are five principles (also called intentions) on which the practitioner is supposed to meditate each morning and evening. The third of these is “For today, be grateful.” The implication is not merely to be grateful but to do something for which others will be grateful. Today I am surrounded by reminders of why I have so very much to be grateful and opportunities to hear the words “Thank You” exchanged with frequency and sincerity. And I am reminded that there are those who do not have family surrounding them, who are suffering in the face of tragedy, and who pray for even a modicum of the optimism I have each and every day. Indeed, one day is not enough and it is more than some experience in a lifetime.
The following was written by my son's friend Matt Cruea.
The Gobbledegooker Once upon a night most dreary There was a man most weak and weary He sat upon his easy chair And gave himself unto despair For on this day when one gives thanks The men in suits had closed the banks His 401K was assuredly gone And his savings account was overdrawn As he sat alone in his study most dark He heard a noise; perhaps a bark? Twas not a bark, twas not a hooker He saw at once: The Gobbledeegooker A Hellish sight for a man most frail His flesh turned fast from peach to pale He ran upstairs to avoid a squabble From downstairs it came: "Gobble, gobble, gobble" The man he ran into his room To avoid most certain turkey-doom To see a picture above his bed He slowly but surely swiveled his head Within the frame lay sweet lady Ella A gorgeous catch for any young fella But alas, she left him, when his pockets grew bare And he sat day after day in his frayed easy chair But Ella, sweet Ella, she made his eyes moist Perhaps she'd have stayed had their problems been voiced? Oh Ella, fair Ella, indeed such a looker Came rapping at the door: The Gobbledeegooker The man dashed at once to his balcony door His nerves were so shot, he could stand no more His bedroom door, meanwhile, that he once did cobble Tore open with fury: "Gobble, gobble, gobble" Outside now at last, he climbed with his might To escape to the roof, to escape from his plight The shingles his father had applied here by hand Upon them our man did shakily stand He thought quickly of father and mother, so sweet Of this house that they built; a splendid retreat And oh how they loved him, their bundle of joy Oh father and mother and their innocent boy The man peered off downwards to the ground now below To jump now meant death on that grassy plateau Up the side came the beast, the man felt like a snooker He'd been cornered and trapped by the Gobbledeegooker The man thus did scowl, the thing didn't belong His beak as pronounced as his waddle was long He realized a jump might make him hobble The monster just laughed: "Gobble, gobble, gobble" The air whooshed around him as he made his descent He thought to himself of his life's great lament But softly he spoke to himself as he thought: "My life may be gone but what wonders I've sought" "A mother and father who loved me so well And a wife I loved too, she treated me swell I've lived through such wonders, seen rockets and tanks My life was lived well, and for that I give thanks." His body did fall to the ground with a crash In a moment a life was snuffed out in a flash And up on the roof, like a pressure cooker Came the thunderous tweet of the Gobbledeegooker The bird of prey wondered just why the man fled The Gooker just wanted to come and break bread To celebrate thanksgiving as his turkey legs wobble The Gooker just shrugged. "Gobble. Gobble. Gobble."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Course in Miracles List of Books

The obvious starting point: A Course in Miracles scribed by Dr. Helen Schucman. This will be the primary text from which I will be reading. I plan on doing the daily Workbook lessons along with reading my way through both the Text and Teacher's Manual. I plan on taking notes and I'll possibly share quotes and thoughts here in the blog. I'm not sure. I am rather protective of certain subjects--my spiritual beliefs being one of those. And there are so few that it behooves me to point them out when I occasionally come across an area of my life I won't share openly and oh too willingly. The challenge for me will be doing the daily lessons as prescribed because habits take a bit of time to establish but I'm optimistic that I can succeed.
A Workbook Companion: Vol 1 by Allen Watson and Robert Perry is optional but pretty high on my list of what I'd like to read in conjunction with the A Course in Miracles. This may be adding unecessarily to the daily readings, however. Then again, a commentary may help me better appreciate the primary text. This is open to debate but if someone else were to want to use this book along with the primary text and to read along with me then the fence sitting would end and I would definitely fall onto the side of including it immediately. Otherwise, I may try to do the Workbook with the companion and see how it goes. A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson is the book that introduced me and many others to A Course in Miracles and I have little doubt that I will want to read it while I am reading through the primary text. I read it ages ago and the entire time I wondered if Williamson's interpretations were accurate. I didn't have a copy of the text at the time and since then, of course, she's become one of the predominant teachers on the course. She does a radio program that streams online. She talks about the daily meditations. Odds are, and assuming I even remember to do so, I'll listen to the program as well. Multimedia study at its best. Of course, that's relying on my typically unreliable recollection.
Karen Casey's Daily Meditations on a Course in Miracles is more broad in scope than the companion above. It quotes from all three parts of the A Course in Miracles and once again offers some thoughts and interpretations which I assume include ways to apply some of the ideas and philosophies presented. I remember reading many wonderful quotes from this book before it was ever on my bookshelf. I didn't know who Casey was and have since lost the file in which I had all those quotes I adored. I'm optimistic that I'll rediscover them and some new ones. Based on what I remember, this book will probably be the least provocative yet a pleasant addition to the exploration. Whether I read the daily meditations each day is unlikely. Maybe I'll read a few days at a time which detracts from the concept but will still allow me to reap the benefits and pleasure of reading it at all. The Gifts of God by Helen Schucman is a poetry collection. I think it would be lovely to read this sometime after I've finished the text (while still working through the workbook, obviously). I don't know if I will enjoy the poetry on a technical level. Hopefully, the messages will outweigh any lapse in poetic talent. And maybe I'll let my judgment fall aside for once and appreciate the writing for what it is. It's hardest for me to do this with poetry because I almost always go into automatic analysis, listening to the rhythm, contemplating word choices. I tend to read poetry more critically than anything else and I would like to avoid that mindset while reading this book. I'm leaving it for at least after January, to allow me time to get into the habit of the rest of the reading I'll be doing every day. Jerry Sears's A Course in Miracles in 5 Minutes amuses me the way "The Bible in 5 Minutes a Day" would amuse me. This is one that's been on my shelf almost as long as A Course in Miracles. I vaguely recall reading it and maybe I even did the exercises. I can't recall. This doesn't bode well for the book itself and the likelihood of my doing it during my six months. However, if someone else wanted to read along with me then I could easily shuffle this higher on the list. With that said, I would prefer not to start it in January. Again, what with the Workbook and the daily lessons plus the possibility of using the companion and/or daily meditations book, this is one that will wait until I'm in the rhythm of doing the prescribed practices. The Silence of the Heart by Paul Ferrini is the second volume in his Reflections of the Christ Mind collection. I don't have volume one and the cover I have is very different from this one but I remember reading so many lovely quotes from some of Ferrini's other books (and possibly this one, for all I know) that I am eager to read one of his books. I also have Miracle of Love and Return to the Garden if someone has already read volumes one and two and/or, like me, don't have copies of all four books. I don't know that these books necessarily need to be read in order. I doubt it and if I quickly discover that they should be then I'll just have to forego doing so since I don't want to purchase a copy at this time. The Divine Matrix by Gregg Braden is one of those I have a feeling I'll read and give away. Not suggesting that I won't enjoy it but I really want to not have such a large permanent library that there isn't room for removing some clutter. The copy I received came along with a companion cd so if I get around to reading this book, I will also listen to the cd. I can't say off the top of my head what the cd contains. Hopefully not a collection of New Age music which usually distracts me the way muzak annoys most people. I am very curious about this book, however. Something about the title and cover appeal to me very much and my intuiton suggests that if I don't read this during the six months, I would be genuinely surprised. And last but not least is The Disappearance of the Universe by Gary Renard. I haev his collection of Enlightenment Cards and I enjoy the messages on them very much. I do not, however, own any of his books. But I suspect that I can find this one at the library. I've heard good things about this book but not from anyone I know personally. There is a long list of books, movies, and more that are highly recommended that disappoint me tremendously. This and Braden's book are both tentative reads, mostly because I don't want to be disappointed. I'll hold off on both of these books until I am fairly immersed in the primary text rather than allow myself to get too distracted by the extraneous.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Six Months Not Quite But

As those of you who've been reading along know, every six months I take the time to choose a new religion to explore. I am not suggesting that in six months I can fully delve into the riches that any spiritual path offers. However, I am already aware that in six months I can feel what paths resonate and which do not quite feel or fit my own life with its existing beliefs.
Earlier this year, Tantric Yoga was to be explored beginning in June. However, in late June Snowdoll surprised us all by having seven puppies and my time became consumed with puppies and taking care of them until we could find them new homes. By the time that had happened, I'd lost nearly three months of practice because it took me a while to get my post-puppy bearings again.
So here I am facing the oncoming new year and anticipating a new choice. I considered briefly that I would pick up with Tantric Yoga, since I did not get the chance to do it as I had intended. However, the second place choice from the last poll was A Course in Miracles. The reason I am leaning towards the second place is because ACIM is divided into three sections: textbook, workbook, and teacher's manual. The workbook is divided into 365 lessons so it makes sense to begin ACIM with the new year.
To that end, I am officially announcing my next spiritual exploration focus. This does not mean I won't continue reading texts on other spiritual paths or doing yoga or sitting zazen. It just means that I will make reading the textbook and supplementary books (by Marianne Williamson, Gary Renaud, et al) a higher priority.
I'll post a list of ACIM books I have or can borrow from my local library for those interested in joining me for the first six months of next year. Look for that later this week. Woohoo!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer's had a lot going against it. It's a romance and I am not especially fond of romances and can only list a very few exceptions to my position (Jane Austen writing most of them). And on top of that it is very popular. Hugely popular. This is typically the sign of a book I am very likely to loathe (Harry Potter being another example of an exception).

What it had going for it? It's young adult and I do love to read a well written young adult novel. And it has vampires. I love vampires. In a way, however, these can also be a strike against a book because I have exposed myself to both more than the average woman my age.

 It's always best to start with what you like in a review so here goes. One, the writing is good. Not brilliant but above par. Two, Meyer manages to add some details to her vampires without stomping on the tradition. (Her explanation of sunlight is interesting and the description offered about halfway through the book is lovely.) 

There. I got that out of the way.

First and easiest to explain, what I disliked is the cliche of the genre. Romance novels are tedious and this one does not rise above the rest at all. Right down to Edward Cullen's smoldering eyes and crooked smile, not to mention his devestatingly handsome good looks. And of course Isabella Swan, aside from having a name that is annoyingly overwrought, is completely oblivious to her own innate charms even after not one, not two, but three boys ask her out. The only other redeeming quality I could find in the novel is that the narrator is sixteen years old, otherwise this would have had overtones of pedophilia. At least I think she was sixteen. I was tempted to go back and confirm this but resisted because I honestly didn't need another reason to dislike this book.  \

I dislike this book so very much that I will avoid the movie. I suspect that the film removes many of the elements I find the most alarming but it boils down to this: If my adolescent daughter brought this book into my home and ooh'd and ahh'd over it, after reading it myself I would sit her down and strongly explain to her everything that I find so outrageously alarming. Because the scariest damn thing about this novel is not the vampires; it's that Meyers has taken a character who is showing many of the signs of being an abusive boyfriend and she's romanticizing them!

 Here is a list of questions/warning signs to look for, which I copied from this site, the early stages of potential abuse:

1. Does your partner tease you in a hurtful way in private or in public? Edward teases her constantly about her clumsiness.

2. Does your partner call you names such as "stupid" or "bitch"? When Bella first meets him, he looks at her with pure hatred. Naturally, she falls in love with him. WTF???

3. Does your partner act jealous of your friends, family, or co-workers? He confesses to being jealous of one of the many boys who want to take her to some school dance.

4. Does your partner get angry about clothes you wear or how you style your hair? Truth is, no he doesn't. Edward does however get angry with her for wanting to be around him and not being more afraid of him.

5. Does your partner check-up on you by calling, driving by, or getting someone else to? He doesn't have to. He actually comes into her bedroom and watches her while she sleeps. This is not romantic. It's creepy!

6. Has your partner gone places with you or sent someone just to "keep an eye on you"? He follows her when she goes shopping with some friends.

7. Does your partner insist on knowing who you talk with on the phone? They didn't give him the opportunity but so far that's only two points he hasn't gotten.

8. Does your partner blame you for his problems or his bad mood? Hello! "You smell so good." "You tempt me." It's all your fault is implied every step of the way.

9. Does your partner get angry so easily that you feel like you're "walking on eggshells"? See the chapter "Confessions" for the display of his strength and power because this is so fucked up it isn't even remotely charming. This is the sexiest chapter in the book and before the romantic part of it begins he shows Bella just how dangerous he is. Rather like the man who says he doesn't want to hit you punching a hole in the wall. This is an implied threat, the kind threat that emotionally and physically abused women know too damn well!

10. Does your partner hit walls, drive dangerously, or do other things to scare you? He constantly drives dangerously even though it scares Bella. See #9 above for the walls.

11. Does your partner often drink or use drugs? Ironically, he drinks blood but I'll give this one a pass because that is not a bad thing in his case.

12. Does your partner insist that you drink or use drugs with him? Again, no he doesn't. So far four out of twelve are no's.

13. Have you lost friends or no longer see some of your family because of your partner? I'm guessing that a character that is fairly minor in this novel is going to become more important and will probably end up being forced from her life even though he is far less dangerous to Bella as far as I can tell. If anything, he's dangerous to Edward so naturally this other guy is going to have to leave her life.

14. Does your partner accuse you of being interested in someone else? There's a scene early on where he is reading the minds of those around her to find out if she is interested in the long list of boys who find her adorable.

15. Does your partner read your mail, go through your purse, or other personal papers? He knows where she keeps the keys to her truck, her house, and watches her while she's asleep. So far as I know, she doesn't keep a diary but I see no reason to believe he woudn't read it if he had a chance.

16. Does your partner keep money from you, keep you in debt, or have "money secrets?" I am removing this from the list. It is not relevant because they do not live together.

17. Has your partner kept you from getting a job, or caused you to lose a job? Again. Not relevant to the context of the story. Perhaps this happens later but for now the answer is a tentative "no" although technically she does end up missing some days of school.

18. Has your partner sold your car, made you give up your license, or not repaired your car? Not relevant. 

19. Does your partner threaten to hurt you, your children, family, friends, or pets? Yes, he does. Frequently. Says he wants to kill some strangers early, expresses a potentially violent jealousy towards one of the many boys, and of course says that she is so tempting it's hard for him to resist killing her to quench his thirst.

 20. Does your partner force you to have sex when you do not want to? No. He does not. In fact, he's afraid to have sex with her lest his strength cause him to break her delicate loveliness.

21. Does your partner force you to have sex in ways that you do not want to? Again, a no.

22. Does your partner threaten to kill you or himself if you leave? He actually encourages her to leave but abusive men will do this during the "honeymoon stage" proclaiming they don't know why you are staying, you should leave but please don't because I love you so.

23. Is your partner like "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," acting one way in front of other people and another way when you are alone? Absolutely. Apparently this is a part of Edward's charm. And that's the problem. Abusive men are charming as hell. And unfortunately (apparently) so is this book which makes everything I hate most about romance novels pretty and popular and not the least bit tasteful or acceptable. Thank goodness my daughter never brought this book into my home. I would never have forbidden her to read it but I would not have condoned its presence.