Friday, February 21, 2014

Weekly Quotes 2014 #7

How much formal meditation is general recommended?  The usual length of time is 30 to 45 minutes daily.  (52)

[D]ifficult feelings are part of everyone’s life, so we need to deal with them in the best possible way.  We’ll never be able to relax if we’re fugitives from our own feelings.  (61)

Labeling emotions is a powerful way to manage them and to behave skillfully in relationships.  It helps us stay calm so we can make rational decisions. . . .  Brain research has revealed that finding words for feeling deactivates the part of the brain that initiates a stress response. (71)

How do we practice labeling in daily life?  Follow the basic structure of the mindfulness exercises you’ve been doing: stop, observe, return.  Whenever you’re seized by a strong emotion, stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, bring your attention to your chest region, observe what feeling you’re having, and name it two to three times in a gentle, loving manner. Shift your attention between your anchor and the label until the emotion loses its grip on you.  (77)

Loving-kindness is wishing happiness for another person.  Compassion is wishing for that person to be free from suffering.  We can experience loving-kindness anywhere and anytime, but suffering is a prerequisite for compassion.  (82)

[T]hey would teach me that love doesn’t come with a fairy-tale ending of happily ever after.  (xii)

Although when my mother died, she had practically nothing in her bank account, she was the wealthiest woman I’d ever known.  (21)

Another way I coped was by attracting friends who sought comfort, who needed someone to talk to about their problems.  The comfort I could not give myself, I was now giving to others, hoping that some of it would be returned to me.  And it was.  I felt needed and valued.  That, of course, would develop into a lifelong pattern.  On some level, I held on to the belief that vulnerability was risky and that perfection could protect me against my pain.  (51)

I think that the isolation so many people experience is a result of that same separation from parts of themselves that have been disowned.  (54)

I have everything I need to write this book. But I lack one thing:  confidence.  And the reason I lack confidence is that I think I am going to do it on my own.  I am forgetting that I Have inner support, inner allies, inner knowledge that comes from something beyond me, and I need to trust it.  If I am open to receiving this assistance, all sorts of support will come my way. (69)

One study suggested that eliminating clutter would cut down the amount of housework in the average home by 40 percent.  (25)

[A]lthough we presume that we act because of the way we feel, in fact we often feel because of the way we act.  (35)

I’d always followed the adage “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,” which meant, in practical terms, that I scrupulously aired every annoyance as soon as possible, to make sure I had my chance to vent my bad feelings before bedtime.  I was surprised to learn from my research, however, that the well-known notion of anger catharsis is poppycock.  There’s no evidence for the belief that “letting off steam” is healthy or constructive.  In fact, studies show that aggressively expressing anger doesn’t relieve anger but amplifies it.  On the other hand, not expressing anger often allows it to disappear without leaving ugly traces.  (64)

I enjoy the fun of failure.  (79)

The fact is, life is more fun when I keep my resolutions.  (93)

Write a letter from your happy, serene, contented . . . Authentic Self five years from now, and let Future Self give today’s inner gal a heads-up about choices she’ll make, where she’ll be living, the work that she’ll be doing, which she loves.  (239-240)

A sudden windfall is a wonderful thing and you immediately want to share it, but keeping your relationship with money intimately private is the beginning of wealth wisdom.  (301)

Secrets of any kind are toxic to our soul.  (370)

[E]valuate the importance of . . . clothing by asking each piece these four questions:
  • When were you last used or worn?
  • Did I feel beautiful or comfortable in you?
  • When and how could you be used or worn in the future?
  •  If I were moving instead of cleaning, would I take you with me?  (377)
We think that it’s dresses, skirts, and pants hanging in our closets, but really it’s our past, for most item of clothing are associated, for good or ill, with people, places, and periods of our lives.  (377)

Quoting Helen Mirren:  Being a sexual object is mortifying and irritating, yet it’s giving you power—an awful power you’ve done nothing to deserve, a powerless power. . . . I think some young women fall in love with that power, and it’s really objectifying.  And when it starts falling away, it’s an incredible relief.  (3)

I don’t want to be identified by my chronological age.  Especially now, because I have so much to stay about “aging.”  Before they jump to any conclusions , I want people to know something about my state of mind, to enter into conversation with me about experiences we share—“Yes, I know what she means” or “For me it is this way. . . .”  I want to be seen for who I am, before anyone factors in what age I am.  (8)

How . . . could we move forward if we couldn’t identify a driving force. . . .  (23)

A common problem is that we defeat ourselves before we start by replacing old unrealistic expectations with new ones.  (26)

Career consultant Carole Hyatt, who is very good at helping people get unstuck professionally, has devised an exercise that I find especially liberating.  She asks her clients to list all the skills they have, as they have done a thousand times before.  Then she shakes it all up by telling each client to cross of the skills she hates.  (31)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Things to See or Not #1

“Amelie, an innocent and naive girl in Paris, with her own sense of justice, decides to help those around her and along the way, discovers love.”

Quirky, sweet film complete with memorable characters, a gnome, and charming weirdness.  I’ve been trying to get Rob to watch this with me for ages.  I’ve pretty much given up.  Since I cannot get him to watch it, maybe you will watch it and enjoy it as much as I.  But if your taste falls along the lines of Shallow Hal then maybe this movie isn’t your cup of tea.  I have a friend who said this movie was weird and she didn’t like it and a few days later told me I’d love the Jack Black movie.  Yeah.  Not so much.  Give me Audrey Tautou over Gwyneth Paltrow any day. 

“A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future - until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.”

There are times when I watch something because of the actor and/or actors associated with a film because I have an implicit trust in what they do.  And with the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, this film sort of bumped itself to the top of my list.  This is not a comfortable movie.  Joaqin Phoenix is particular “ugly” in this film, a perverse anti-hero, not easily sympathized with by any means.  Hoffman, of course, is brilliant.  They both are.  But is shit a movie I would recommend?  Yes.  It’s disturbing but not all movies should be fun or even fun to watch.

“A brilliant and charismatic, yet psychotic serial killer communicates with other active serial killers and activates a cult of believers following his every command.”

Somewhat related to the above film, I binge-watched the first season of this television show at someone’s recommendation.  I did not enjoy it.  I sort of went along for the ride at first, assuming that it would have some depth.  If you liked 24 and miss it you could watch this somewhat derivative and far less intense program.  I’m assuming the season finale was supposed to be one of those mind-blowing moments that manipulates the viewer into being on the edge of her seat.   I obviously was underwhelmed. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Writing Wednesday: Short Story: A Cardinal Tradition

When I first shared this story with some friends, they didn't believe I'd written it. It is definitely not typical of my ideas. I've since wondered if this wouldn't make a better novel, giving more familial background and elevating the conflict something. In any event, here is the original conception and what, if I anything, else I do with it, at least the rough draft was done.  (Likewise, I have thought that "So Much to Say" would make a good play.  I've just never learned how to write a play.)

A Cardinal Tradition

“Grandma’s here,” Jordan called from the living room. 
I was in the kitchen, sifting together the ingredients we would need to start baking cookies.  Heavy with the stress of the holidays, this was the still point in our traditions.  Every year I set a day aside for baking cookies, my daughter helping as soon as she was able.  I had learned to sort the ingredients into bowls which she would then pour into the large mixing bowl. 
We still used the mixer that my mother had given me for a wedding present.
“Momma, hurry.” 
“I’m coming,” I said hearing my mother’s voice in my own, an echo that still caused me to flinch and pause.  How long would it be before this would pass? 
I swiped my hands across my jeans, dusting the flour and baking soda from my fingers, as I walked to the room where my daughter was standing at the window her face practically pressed to the window. She was holding her breath so as not to mist the pane and obscure her view. 
I stepped up beside her, my eyes searching for the sign—that flash of flurry and red. 
“There, Momma.  See?”  She raised a slender hand, so much like my mother’s, and pointed. 
I directed my vision along the line of her finger and there it was, the red feathers brilliant in the pallid brightness of the winter’s light.  A cardinal hunched on a branch, unmoving.  My mother’s favorite bird. 
“Tell me about Grandma’s Christmas tree,” Jordan said still staring out the window.
I began the retelling of my memory.  “Grandma would have Grandpa pull the boxes from the attic one week before Thanksgiving and the Sunday before we would go out and hike through the forest.  Momma always brought along a thermos of hot chocolate and when we found the perfect tree Poppa would cut down it down while Momma poured each of us kids some hot chocolate.  When your uncle Tommy got big enough he would help. 
“When the tree was down we would drag it back home and Momma and I would go to the kitchen and start making the cookies.”
“Just like we bake cookies, right?”
“Yes.  Just like we do.”  I didn’t bore her with the details about how I still used the same recipes from when I was a little girl.  Rich butter cookies.  Oatmeal stuffed with raisins and nuts.  Chocolate drops and chocolate chip.  Ginger snaps that tasted so perfect with the eggnog Momma made.  These things I had carried from my family to my family.
“The day after Thanksgiving, Momma would start sorting through the ornaments while Poppa put up the lights.  She would retie the plaid ribbon bows that had flattened out in storage first.  When the lights were done, Poppa would leave her alone to finish the decorations.  We would help decorate the lower branches but I think Momma waited until we were in bed to reorganize the ornaments because the tree never looked the same on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  We sang Christmas carols while we decorated.
            “Silent Night is Grandma’s favorite.”
“We always ended with Silent Night but you are jumping ahead.”
“I’m sorry.”
I slipped my arm around my daughter’s shoulder.  “The last ornaments to go on the tree were the cardinals Momma made before I was even born.  Red felt birds she sewed by hand, stuffed with cotton, with little black beads for eyes.”
“You loved those ornaments didn’t you, Momma?  Like I like our ornaments.”
I did love those ornaments when I was little but when I turned twelve or maybe thirteen I began to hate them for their domesticity.  They were homemade, handmade, and embarrassing.  When we would go to the stores to shop for gifts, I would see the manufactured sparkling ornaments of glass and plastic sparkling on the display trees, returning home with a resentment that turned me away from the tree my Momma had so carefully decorated each and every year.  I was ashamed that we didn’t have store bought things on our tree and refused to string the popcorn and cranberries or sing the carols for a long time. 
Jordan was on the precipice of adolescence, still adoring everything that was layered with family tradition but I knew this would pass.  I dreaded the changes coming as I did all changes in my life.  But I knew that she too, just as I had eventually done, would come back to where she had started, embracing the details she had abandoned. 
“When Momma was done Poppa would come and put the angel at the top of the tree.  We would turn off all the lights except the ones on the tree and admire the tree in silence for a while.”
“And then you would sing Silent Night.”
“Yes, then we would sing, holding hands.”
The cardinal sitting in the tree hopped to a different branch as if ready for the story to end so he could leave.
“And cardinals are Grandma’s favorite bird so she comes to visit us every year so she can visit and see that we are okay.”
“Every year.”
The bird suddenly took off, an explosion of fire flying away from the tree’s branch.
“Let’s go make the cookies, Momma.”
Jordan took my hand, leading me past the tree in the living room covered in a rainbow of sparkling glass and plastic ornaments, a sparkling homage to the tree I had wished for as I was moving towards adulthood.
In the kitchen on our table was a smaller tree which nonetheless dominated the table so that we—my husband, my daughter, and me—were forced to eat in the dining room for the duration of the holidays.  This smaller tree was covered in the ornaments Momma had made, divided with my brother and my father when she died. 
I paused by the table, admiring the smaller tree.  On the other side of the table Jordan stopped as well, looking at the tree with the same expression of peace my mother wore when the family tree was finished. 
“Let’s get to baking these cookies,” I said my voice modulating so much like my mother’s that I smiled, glad to know that I carried something of her with me as well, hoping that some things would never pass.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Weekly Weigh-In: Four Week Measurements

You can't really see the sweat
but you can see the weights.
Last week the fifth week of boot camp began and ended.  That means there are only three more weeks.  It’s hard to believe.  And it’s been a great journey.  This past week I officially finished 4 weeks and started my fifth so it was time for me to take measurements.   Eep! 
Bicep R = -0.8
Bicep L = -0.5
Bust = -2.0
Waist = -2
Thigh R = -0.8
Thigh L = 0.8
Calf R = 0.5
Calf L = 0.5
Total = -8.8
My total inches lost = 8.8 (22.4 cm)
That’s not too shabby!  I’m very pleased with those number. 

One of the things that’s often said by the coaches is:

No guilt
No shame
No judgment

Like the more alliterative repetition from last week’s post, I really like this and I often need it.  I never feel guilt, actually, about exercising (although I do feel guilty for gaining the weight to begin with).  I do, however, feel ashamed when I am unable to do something with the same ease as before.  Or I did, at first.  Over time, I came to recognize the strength it takes for me to make these adjustments for myself.  Knowing when it is time for me to use a wall for support is not a negative.  It’s something to celebrate. Honoring my body is an essential part of my overall well-being.  By using a wall for support, I’m taking care of myself.  And I’m exercising, which is another way of taking care of myself.

But judgment . . .

These are not tears.
This is sweat
pouring down my face.
I only did 10 push-ups.  I only did 30 minutes of exercise.  I can only myself to death, frankly.  And it’s so ridiculous.  I know better.  I didn’t only do 10 push-ups.  I did 10 push-ups, which is 10 more than I’d done just a few minutes ago.  And I did 30 minutes of exercise which is 30 minutes more than I could do 7 years ago.   It all matters.  I do not need to devalue what I do.  I can honor it, every moment.  Honor the times when I don’t support myself by using a wall or I only do 5 push-ups or I take a day off from exercising altogether. 

I requested that my local library obtain a copy of Jonathan Roche’s book, The No Excuses Diet.  I know I already have a plan in place for when the boot camp ends.  I also think I know how I can easily incorporate many of the exercise methods I’ve learned.  Interval training makes even strength training more tolerable.  It’s hard to become bored when you’re doing something as hard or fast as you can for 30-60 seconds.  Or at least, it’s hard for me to become bored, anyway.  I still prefer yoga but I can see where I might be making more room for other forms of exercise when this boot camp is over.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Meditation Monday: Obsession

It started off simple enough, didn’t it?  I wanted to recommit to my daily meditation practice.  Then I had a cold but it was okay.  I couldn’t find the magazine with the wonderful Commit to Sit article in it.  I figured, since I didn’t want to try to start doing a mindfulness meditation practice where I focus on my breathing when I couldn’t really breathe, I could keep looking for the magazine.

You know how sometimes something starts off innocently enough but soon becomes a sort of obsession?  You don’t mean to get consumed but somehow you simply can’t stop until you have finished what you started?  That is what happened to me.  That elusive magazine became an obsession for me.  I sorted through stacks of papers and magazines in my office, trying to find it.  I tossed out extraneous things, outdated things, random things in my ongoing search for The Magazine.

I found it this morning.


Of course, all of this activity has forced me to see just how cluttered my office had become and so now I am organizing things into piles of like items.  It’s easy for me to get caught up in the details of things, to start flipping through a magazine to determine if it’s a keeper or not, reading random pieces of paper and filing them or creating a file for them, etc.  Nope.  Not gonna let myself do that.  Instead, I’m taking all of the magazines and dropping them into one stack, papers in another, books in yet another.  I have boxes to keep things under control and I’m throwing things into the recycling bin as well.  It’s all coming together. 

And now I’m more interested in keeping up with this momentum I’ve started in getting things under control in my office.  This is a good thing.  Truth is, Holly isn’t going to let me meditate yet.  She’s getting there but not there yet.  I think if I just let myself prepare for what I want to do for now.  In a week or two, or a month or two, things will not be as they are now.  When we are all in a more consistent place, I’ll reconsider things.  In the meantime, I’m going to continue exploring meditation resources both in my personal life and here on this blog.  As I said two weeks ago, there’s a lot of stuff out there and there are numerous and wonderful ways to explore meditation.   

Have a fantabulous Monday everyone.  In between my frenetic cleaning, I’ll be curled up with a cup of tea and my final found magazine.  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Whew! What a Weird Week!

Pretty Papers for the menu board.
Sunday was a peculiar day.  Rob was working and Holly was still wanting to go out a lot whenever she was up.  So I felt like I didn't get anything done. The truth is, I did get some things done.  I managed to update our menu with these pretty papers from my collection of scrapbook papers.  Yes, it's all Valentine's Day themed.  There won't be anything special for St. Patrick's Day, unfortunately, because I don't have enough papers that would be appropriate.  I also never made anything for January.  I wanted to do something with blue papers and paper doilies.  Unfortunately, I never finished and saw another holiday looming on our immediate horizon so I shelved the one project for the next project.  There's always next yer to get a nice New Year's Day/snowy January themed menu made.

And every day I exercised.
See the sweat?
Monday Rob and I had a bit of a curve ball thrown our way.  He had a gig on Wednesday but there's some icky weather being forecast for our area starting Tuesday.  The people who hired him (and others, of course) decided to be preemptive, setting up contingencies just in case the weather proved to be hazardous.  You know, unlike my darling daughter's job where she was snowed in and had to spend the night at work.  Ugh.  Anyway, it wasn't so much a question of could he or would he but whether or not we, meaning me and the dogs, were sufficiently supplied to survive the possibility of being stuck.  We have more than enough food and, if I were to really need some help, I could call on our landlords across the street so I assured him we could survive without him.

Tuesday, after Rob's doctor's appointment, we got ready for his being on the gig for a few days.  Packed food for him.  Made sure I had enough food for myself.  We filled out some paperwork and made sure bills are paid.  We got our ducks in a row and our things in order, took a nap together, then sent Rob on his way to a hotel so nice they put chocolate on his bed.  We didn't even have that when we went on our honeymoon!  I was so relieved to learn that the schools are canceled for two days so Joe won't be out picking up Bibi from school.  And Shira's job will be closed Wednesday, and possibly Thursday.  We just buckled down and prepared ourselves for whatever Mother Nature had in store for us.

Icicles on the bush.
Wednesday came the sleet, the ice, the messy weather that the dogs love so much.  And with it came Holly's diarrhea.  Yep.  She had diarrhea and I was the only one here to take care of it and her so . . . yuck.  I don't have to go into details.  You know what it means.

But it is still pretty, even if this weather is not as pretty as the week before last.  There are no cars, nobody walking around.  It's so quiet.  I took the dogs out several times (of course) and listened to the sound of the sleet sizzling in the trees.  It was soothing.  And the weather forecast says there will be snow tonight so we'll wake up to an inch or so of ice buried under an inch or more of snow.  I hope I don't fall, again.  Yep  Again.  Holly really likes the snow and, as a result, she was running around, exuberant and happy.  Funny thing about Siberian Huskies--they can pull.  She pulled me right off my feet.

The Intercontinental Hotel
in Buckhead.

Rob came home.  Woohoo!  But not until Holly first ate another book.  Seriously, she is obsessed.  I really need to leave the books where she can't reach them.  And, for all I know, she's eating them because she thinks books will help constipate her bowels a bit.  Of course, the dogs were happy to have Daddy home again.

It was a good thing we had packed some food for him--bread and cold cuts, sodas in case his glucose became to low, mixed nuts, etc.  There was a very well-stocked mini-bar but he didn't need to touch it.  And one night, when he and the others who were there on the gig made reservations in the hotel restaurant, they were unable to get a seat, even after over an hour and a half had passed.  Apparently, the hotel was the only one with an open kitchen in the area so people were coming from elsewhere to have dinner there.  As a result, the actual hotel guests were SOL.  Even calling room service meant waiting an hour or more.  So he ate late but not as late as he would have if we hadn't packed any food for him.  And not as late as he would have if he had waited for the restaurant to fulfill their reservation request.

New Pillow
Valentine's Day Card
Friday, Valentine's Day

We had a lovely day.  We started off with a breakfast of cheese blintzes and heart shaped bacon.  Then Rob gave me my Valentine's Day gifts.  A new pillow and a rose.  My card, specially chosen, because it is a "book card" as Rob said.  The sentiment inside . . . so sweet.  Rob puts a lot of thought into choosing a card.  He tries to find one that has a sentiment that perfectly fits how he feels about the recipient.  We took a nap, because he had a late night gig.  Later, we had a delicious dinner.  Steak with asparagus for me and the same for Rob with some roasted potatoes.  And the chocolate cheesecake with mandarin orange slices was perfect.  The cheesecake only has 6 grams of carbs.  Amazing!  It was a lovely, quiet day.  Precisely what the two of us needed after this weird week apart, isolated as we were by the ice and snow.

I've owned this book for
nearly 20 years.
I guess I'll never read it now.

Started the morning with Kanika, walking around the neighborhood.  It was nice to get out of the house for something other than taking Holly for a walk.  I gave her two slices of the chocolate cheesecake (you can see a picture of it in yesterday's post).  Back home, I took a quick shower and talked with Love who celebrated her birthday yesterday. And I did laundry, vacuumed, steam cleaned the carpet, and generally took care of as much as I could.  It was, for the most part, a peaceful day.

Well, peaceful except for Holly.  Rob and I decided it was time to start putting her into time out for misbehavior.  We hesitated to do it before now because it seemed inappropriate to discipline her about rules she had not learned. For a while she was doing fairly well, ringing the bell when she needed to go outside.  Then, two weeks ago that ended.  She's also destroyed several things around the house--headphones, books (two even!), and such because she likes to chew.  There are a lot of toys, bones and rawhides, plenty of things for her to chew upon without getting into things she knows she shouldn't have.  She usually does this when she's bored and we can't have associating a fun game of "keep-away" with destruction.

She does not like being put into time out.  Now, whenever we catch her doing something she knows she ought not to do, we put her into time out for maybe 30-45 seconds.  Not too long, because that would be cruel.  Just long enough that she'll soon associate misbehavior with isolation.  This is how we taught Romanov and Snowdoll.  I hate it, though.  I just wish it didn't take discipline to get positive results out of Holly.  I really wish it didn't take discipline to get positive results in life too.