Friday, March 07, 2014

Weekly Quotes 2014 #9

Real friends, partners, and family members are those who see one another for who they are and love who they see.  They value your truth.  (100)

We are all born intuitive.  To be intuitive is a natural state of being.  (119)

In the eyes, ears, and arms of the universe, you are perfect—no matter who you are, what you do, or what you have or haven’t accomplished.  (142)

Spirituality is the journey of one’s soul learning how to unite with divinity.  Connecting to spirit is an individual experience.  When you connect, your being soars in ecstasy.  (142)

The separateness you feel while living here on Earth is pure illusion.  You are always connected to the Divine.  (143)

We act as if suffering always points to a personal flaw rather than being a fact of the human condition.  If we remind ourselves that wanting to feel better is a natural instinct, perhaps we’d be less likely to take ourselves to task when things go wrong.  (84)

Actually, when bad things happen to us, we tend to have three unfortunate reactions:  self-criticism, self-isolation, and self-absorption. (84)

Accepting our flaws doesn’t mean that our behavior can’t or shouldn’t change for the better.  Acceptance is in the present moment.  Each one of us has room to grow, and grow we must.  We start by befriending who we are today, no matter how fumbling, incomplete, or clueless we are.  Full acceptance of ourselves, moment to moment, makes it easier to adapt and change in the direction we’d like to go.  (87-88)

Mindfulness says, “Feel the pain” and self-compassion says, “Cherish yourself in the midst of the pain”; two ways of embracing our lives more wholeheartedly.  (89)

Quoting Simone Weil:  Compassion directed toward oneself is humility.  (98)

[S]he’ll move beyond me, because that’s the healthy thing to do when your best friend lives a thousand miles away. . . .  (25)

If you want to be a writer, you need to stop censoring yourself.  (35)

Quoting Steinbeck:  New York is an ugly city, a dirty city.  It’s climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition murderous.  But there is one thing about it—once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.  (57)

How can you argue with spiritual transcendence through self-indulgence?  (117)

I was—and still am—completely unprepared for true tragedy.  I don’t think any of us can be ready for it, and those who say otherwise are lying.  (178)

But anyone who has been to high school knows that being yourself is probably the most impossible thing in the world.  (264)

[I]t takes courage to express your voice and your truth.  (71)

Each experience in our lives, whether it works out according to our plan or not, is teaching us that we have a choice:  to stay open or to close down.   Wouldn’t it be better if we just entered situations with an attitude of “Let’s see how this will turn out,” without bringing the pressure of our own agenda to bear?  (76) 

Don’t limit your solutions.  (79)

Not having a partner never stopped me from dancing.  (102)

It is hard for the soul to reside in a body that is fighting a disease; it requires a tremendous amount of loving care.  (179)

It’s often easier to contemplate changing your job than changing your marriage or your life style or yourself.  (31)

You cannot assume anything about yourself, now or in the future, based on what has gone before.  (36)

Every change is a risk. . . . [T]he alternative to this kind of risk is not safety, but lost opportunity.  (40)

As I got deeper into my Fuck-You Fifties, I even found myself looking for opportunities to take on people I disagree with on issues I feel strongly about—just to prove to myself that I can do it.  To prove that I am not “nice” anymore.  And I must admit, to shock people.  (53)

The search for the right words is not about semantics; it is about self-definition. (56)

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Things to See or Not #3

I read the novel because friends recommended it to me and, at first, I liked it.  Technically, it was interesting, effectively using a fractured timeline to tell the story.  The premise was also unique enough to keep me reading even though I completely disliked the characters.  All of them.  Sometimes a story will grow on me, even if I don’t like the characters

Not this time.  The more I thought about the book after I read it, the more I disliked it.  Which is why I am surprised to say that I liked the movie better.  I don’t know if it’s because it necessarily had to cut out most of the parts of the novel that made me dislike the novels so the characters are less distasteful.  If you liked Somewhere in Time, you will probably like this movie.  If you did not like the movie, you may want to give the movie a chance.  Or not. 

What took me so long to see this?  Terry Gilliam.  He has a knack for creating visual effects I find somewhat disturbing so I avoided this film for a while.  And this in spite of my love for Monty Python.  I think I would have enjoyed this movie so much more if I had seen it with someone else, even an audience of strangers. Or perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I had watched it without frequent Holly interruptions.  (Seriously, you'll read more about the frequent Holly interruptions on Saturday and I don't know many movies that can hold up to more than one bathroom break.)  Maybe I just need to just watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  At worst, Holly would interrupt a skit and I’d likely enjoy the next one without interruption. 

My daughter assured me that I could pick up with this television series with Christopher Eccleston’s turn as The Doctor.  For those unfamiliar with Dr. Who, you need to be prepared for some goofiness, some scary moments (Are you my mummie?), and some poignant ones as well.  You pretty much don’t know what you’re going to get from episode to episode.  You just sort of have to go along for the ride, buckle yourself in and trust that you’ll have a good time.  Don’t give up after the first few episodes but, if after the first season, you aren’t hooked, then you probably should find something else to watch.  There's a reason this show has such a huge, cult-like following.  There really is something for everyone, or nearly everyone.  Whether you like to cry or laugh, an episode will eventually come along that does one or the other or both.  I love Eccleston and Billie Piper.  I'd say more but I don't want to write anything that might be a spoiler.  

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Writing Wednesday: Short Story: Stay or Leave

Stay or Leave

Today is her daughter’s second birthday and Sylvia’s been busy decorating their railroad apartment for the party.  Streamers and a crepe paper tablecloth over which are scattered plates of appetizers.  The useless fireplace is full of lavish ferns that have managed to survive even the most voracious Pretty Kitty incursion.  The grey and white cat currently curled on the wicker rocking chair only occasionally glanced about at the mayhem. 
Sylvia peered into the refrigerator one more time to check on the cake she had spent the night before baking.  Her daughter Waverly is spending the afternoon with Aunt Frances who was scheduled to drop by shortly, bearing both her baby girl and some bottles of wine.  Cheap wine but Sylvia knew her guests expected nothing more.
She glanced yet again at the time and moved to the bathroom where she quickly did some last minute touches to her appearance—one more sweep of hairspray to hold everything in place, another slice of eyeliner, and a final layer of lipstick.  Across the bed on which she had conceived her daughter, she had laid out the Georgette floral flouncy dress that was in fashion as time shifted into the mid-sixties, a style that flattered her shape by hiding rather than hugging her figure.  Except for the jewelry she planned to add to her ensemble, Sylvia was ready and about to light a cigarette and catch a quick breath when the front doorbell buzzed. 
Frances was a bit early but better early than late although Sylvia wouldn’t need as much help as she had initially thought.  Without a second thought, she buzzed the front door open and cracked her apartment door open before heading to the closet where Waverly’s presents were hidden deep in the corner.  Waverly had a way of getting into every secret place of the apartment, curling beneath the sink cabinets and up one of the pantry shelves in the narrow closet in the kitchen.  Sylvia’s closet, with the low hanging coats and skirts was a favorite hiding place and many times she’d found her daughter face buried in a layer of fabric.  “Gotcha,” she would announce and Waverly’s face would emerge, smiling huge and content. 
Sylvia nearly dropped the brightly wrapped items at the sound of a man’s voice.  “Noah?” she asked, hoping it was her nephew.
“No. It’s me.  Ernest.”
He had no need to identify himself.  Sylvia knew the voice, would know it forever, unable to forget the man whom she still loved desperately and relentlessly.  The man she had forgiven in hopes of forgetting.
She put the packages down on the bed they had once shared and stood slowly, inhaling and then exhaling in relief, grateful that he would see her again on a day when she knew she looked her beset.  Not running around in curlers and jeans but dressed as if ready to go out on a date. 
“Ernest.”  She repeated the name to feel it on her tongue before turning to look at him.
And there he was, the same slender man with greying hair, almost feminine delicate features, his face barely shaved.  Slightly scruffy the way she liked him although his hair was more closely cut than before, when they were a couple.
Perhaps she prefers it that way, the internal accuser reminding her of the other woman even as she remembered how the satin softness of his hair felt when she tangled her fingers around his head when they kissed most deeply.
There he was, a shopping bag with what looked like store wrapped presents in one hand and a large teddy bear in another, a bright pink polka dotted bow around the bears neck.
Polka dots were her favorite; Ernest would know this.  She smiled because he remembered so many things, the little details of her life. 
Even from where she stood she could smell the cologne he was wearing, her favorite, a musky blend they had discovered one day at the art fair as they were walking home and a sudden summer storm had forced them to seek shelter inside a shop where, among other things, the owners created their own blends of scents.  The one they found, the one they loved, had been called, appropriately enough, “Rain” and smelled lovely on them both. 
Sylvia’s small bottle ran out over a year ago and she couldn’t afford to replace it; as she inhaled she wondered how he had managed to make his last so long.  Then she remembered that they couldn’t afford two bottles and had shared the one until the day he had moved out.
Moved out with no good-bye or explanation.
“What are you doing here?”
“I came to see her.”  He had that contrite puppy look that seeped pathos, begged forgiveness.  “You look wonderful.”
“It’s her birthday.”
Sylvia moved forward to close the door to the apartment which he had left ajar.  “I know it’s her birthday.”  As she heard the click as she shut the door she thought better of what she was doing and opened it again. “Get out.”
There wasn’t much time.  Frances would be here soon, here with Waverly who had never met her father and wouldn’t understand who this man with the presents was, a birthday Santa who would get an eager kiss and smile from a child who was easy with her affection even with strangers, something that alarmed Sylvia endlessly but she hoped Waverly would eventually outgrow.
“Sylvia please,” he held out the bear as if the gift would bridge the distance of the two years and nearly two months of his absence and erase the loss and loneliness he’d left behind, the devastation of facing the final weeks of her pregnancy alone.
“No, you can’t do this.”
“I wanted to come sooner.”
There was an unspoken “but” lingering somewhere in both their mouths.  “But” she wouldn’t let him come see his bastard daughter, not when he had two children and a wife to take care of.  “But” he didn’t know how to apologize for the unforgivable.  “But” he didn’t know if she would say “welcome” or “fuck off” and hated confrontation. 
Hated confrontation so much he never said good-bye.
“Good-bye, Ernest.”
How could his name still sound and taste so sweet?  She would not look at his hazel eyes, the amber flecks of nearly gold that made them shimmer even when he was not near tears as he apparently was now.
“Sylvia please.”
“No.  I can’t.  You can’t.  She deserves better.”
She deserves better but . . .
Which she?  Sylvia?  Waverly?  The nameless wife? 
“Get out, Ernest.”
“Can I at least leave these things?” 
He moved to set the bear and bag on the rocking chair, saw Pretty Kitty flipped onto his back, belly up and sleeping through the intrusion of this other male. 
“No,” Sylvia moved to block his progression as he shifted towards the sofa.  “No you can’t leave them.”
“Sylvia, don’t be like this.”
Like what? she wondered.  Like a mother protecting her daughter from the hurt he had left behind when he disappeared from their lives? Like a mother who could see a lifetime of his coming and going when it was emotionally convenient for him but never often enough for either of them?   Like a woman who loved him then and now and would forever love him and forgive him?  Like a lover who knew that if she did not love herself and her daughter enough to say no now they would both carry the pain she had been carrying for over two years?
“No,” she moved back to the door.  “Get out.”

“Sylvia,” Frances called and there was Waverly’s echo “Momma” almost immediately afterward.
She was again in the bathroom, shaking and determined not to cry. 
“Look Momma.”  Waverly toddled to the open bathroom doorway, barely able to hold up the teddy bear with the pink polka dots in a bow around its neck.  “Polka bear.”
“Someone left some stuff outside the door.”
Sylvia lifted Waverly into a stifling hug, moving the bear as best she could to move through anything that might separate her from her darling daughter. 
“I love you, pussycat.”
“Love you Momma.  Happy birthday.”
“Yes,” Sylvia agreed.  “Happy birthday.”
Frances handed her the shopping bag and Sylvia saw an envelope with Ernest’s familiar scrawl across it.  For Sylvia.  She removed it and threw it into the trash can.  She had the best he could ever give her and there was nothing more to say.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Ask Me Anything / Tell Me Anything

Share your stories.
Ask me to tell you mine.

We are a story telling species.
And we all have so much to say.

Weekly Weigh-In: Last Week of Boot Camp

It’s not about keeping up.
It’s about showing up.
~ Coach Jonathan Roche

More than once,
I was literally dripping in sweat!
The No Excuses Boot Camp led by Jonathan Roche and his team of coaches is coming to a close this week.  Or Cycle 18 is coming to a close anyway.  Cycle 19 will begin on March 17 and I honestly wish I could afford to sign up for it because it really is a great program.  (BTW, if you buy his book, The No-Excuses Diet, you get a coupon for $10.00 off the boot camp and, honestly, it’s worth it even without the discount!)

I learned a few things about High Intensity Interval Training, including Tabata intervals.  But that isn’t the best part of the No Excuses Boot Camp.  Truly, the best part of the workout is the positive enthusiasm and support of the coaches.  I’ve shared some of the encouraging words they share during the workouts but there are so many more.  In the daily emails, Jonathan signs himself as “Your Biggest Fan!” (complete with exclamation mark).  Now, I am pretty sure that my husband, children, and even my mother are bigger fans of yours truly than he claims to be but that is he attitude the coaches have.  They are there to support you in your workout. 

I didn't even take full advantage
of the community boards, frankly.
And they listen!  On the community board, people can request more core (or some other muscle focus) or a specific song and, in a later workout, the coach will say they read the request on the message board.  Sometimes they even mention someone by name.  With five coaches, even when not every "boot camper" is posting comments on the community board, it can’t be easy to keep up with the numerous posts.  Still, they do try to respond, even if, like me, the boot camper does a recorded workout rather than schedule to do it live, on the day it is taped.  I know because one of the coaches responded to my “flag plant” even though I had not done the workout until a week later.  (The coaches invite people to plant their flag on the message board confirming they did the workout and there is a unique thread for each workout.  That’s a lot of threads with a lot of planted flags!)

The No Excuses Boot Camp is only going to get better!

Some days, I didn't sweat
quite as much as others.
There are some improvements being made to the message boards (necessary really) to make them more user friendly.  Better still, there are plans to introduce new cooking videos with people sharing how to make healthy, well-balanced meals.  A great resource to be added to what is already a wonderful collection of positive, and effective, workouts. 

And I’ve no doubt there are more improvements in the works.  Honestly, forget the image of some drill sergeant shouting at you to do more, work harder, and the whole no-pain-no-gain nonsense.  The No Excuses Boot Camp is great!  I hope they will make DVDs that people can buy (I’ve no doubt that is one of the things planned for the future).  If I were working, I wouldn’t hesitate to pay for a year’s worth of the boot camp.  Honestly, I can already see how good it is and how much better it will be in the next cycle or two or three. 

This is one boot camp that promises to only get better.  If you are thinking about getting back to a daily exercise routine or signing up for a boot camp, you should definitely consider the No Excuses Boot Camp.  At least give it 8 weeks.  Think of it as an investment in your future, in your health, in your well-being, because these coaches aren't just pushing you to sweat off the fat, they are there encouraging and supporting you to feel better on every level--mind, body, and soul.

logo for Readers' WorkoutsWhat have you got to lose?  A few pounds?  A negative "I can't do this" attitude?

If you aren’t as convinced of the merits of the No Excuses Boot Camp as I am after those first 8 weeks then you can move on and find something else more to your liking.  Although I can't imagine any online resource that is more positive in its focus and clearly effective than this one, there may be one out there.  (If you find one, let me know.)  I loved this boot camp even on days when I didn't feel like I wanted to exercise,  and I’m only sorry it’s coming to a close.  For me, anyway.  And for now.  I can see this being something I’d happily buy for myself when I have a job again.

As for my weekly weigh-in . . . alas, my scale decided to quit on me and I am unable to tell you whether or not I've lost any weight.  I had been losing weight although last week I gained a few ounces.  We will be replacing the scale soon, I'm sure.  In the meantime, the weekly weigh-in posts will be a misnomer and I'll just have to hope that you, dear readers, will forgive me and be patient until I can once again weigh myself and give specific numeric results.  

Join me and other bibliophiles in sharing your workout tips and experiences, what you are reading, and more over on Joy's Book Blog!

Sunday, March 02, 2014

A Week That Could Only Get Better

Mammogram results.
Sunday and Monday

As I explained in my weekly weigh-in post, I was blind-sided by a Saturday surprise.  As I also explained, I had forgotten how deeply it affects how I feel, wearing me down on a very basic level, far more than how I felt before I had vertigo.  I mean things like cramps or even a menstrual headache?  These things I knew and took in stride.  But the vertigo is so much worse and, although I manage to move through my day in spite of the dizziness, I truly forgot how completely exhausting the experience is.

And I went through this once a month?  No wonder I was so miserable for so long.  Ugh!

Feeling so miserable didn’t stop me from applying for a job and reaching out for a writing critique partner.  I found this blog post and I dared to leave a comment.  As you can see, nobody responded to my comment.  So I went ahead and responded to two other comments.  I also emailed two other people.  I guess I’m trying to take my writing seriously again.  That’s why I’m sharing random pieces on Wednesdays, hopefully whetting your appetite for more.  (Having only received on comment leaves me wondering if I’m succeeding but there seem to be a few people plussing my pieces so I’m going to focus on that.)

Holly Sitting Pretty

I finally felt better, not overwhelmed with misery, able to even get some housework done.   I even had a telephone interview for a medical billing and coding job.   How crazy is that?  Finally, right?  While I was talking to the woman, Holly ate Rob’s anniversary gift from last year.  I’ve already ordered a replacement copy because Rob was truly disappointed that she had destroyed a gift I’d given to him.  That’s three books she’s eaten and it’s getting pretty old.  Time out does work as a deterrent.  It may take her a few more times to figure out that chewing up a book will result in her being disciplined.  Until she associates the one action with the other, we pretty much have to assume she will destroy another book.  It didn’t help that we were also back to Day 0 With No Accidents.  I mean, honestly, if she weren’t so darn pretty and sweet . . .

The daffodils are
beginning to bloom.

The weather turned more mild and I was able to get some things done, feeling better than I had been.  During the previous day's telephone interview, I was asked to come in for an interview.  Oh boy!  But the doctor couldn't actually confirm that Friday would be a good day for her because we were talking while she was driving home from work.   At least she wasn't texting but I confess to being a little anxious to get off the phone when I realized that she was driving while talking with me.  So we had hung up on Tuesday, tentatively saying I'd be going in for a job interview on Friday.  I had not heard from her, however, when she was home and able to check her calendar which is why I chose to send her a quick email confirming I could be there and asking for the address of the office.

In the meantime, I was getting my potential interview ducks in a row.  Transportation.  Choosing an outfit to wear.  I even made sure I didn't have any roots showing.  I have to say, I'm glad I keep my eyebrows plucked and my legs shaved even though I don't go out very often.  I never know when a job interview may come my way and I like to be ready when it does.  It gave me one less thing to worry about.

Holly is fascinated by
the sound of a baby crying.

Rob had to work today so I was on my won with the dogs.  I also hadn't heard anything back from the doctor about the job interview.  I even sent her a text in hopes of hearing something but, the truth is, I went to bed discouraged, assuming she had changed her mind.

On the plus side, I had heard back from a few of the people looking for critique partners and, as a result, I had a few people who wanted to swap writing and see how things work out.  See, how it works is that everyone can trade writing/critiques and, if after that, both people don't feel like it's a good fit, everyone can walk away "no questions asked" as it were.  I think this is why this arrangement appealed to me.  I wanted to find people who were ready to trade writing and work on their craft, not get started on maybe someday getting that book started.  I have too many stories, a backlog of writing, desperately in need of some spit and polish. I just need a little guidance, I think.  So maybe I didn't end the day assured of a job interview but I did end it with a few temporary writing critique partners, with my fingers crossed, hoping I'd find one or more who is a good fit.

Pile of books.

Having gone to bed without a job interview, I woke up with one.  The call came around 9pm, hours after I go to bed.  (I get up at 4am so you can imagine what time I go to bed.)  Good thing I had arranged for Erin to pick me up.  Whew!  The interview went well but I did not get the job.  Instead, I was offered an internship.  The doctor needs someone who has experience and can get to work right away.  I would need some time to learn what to do in a real medical office setting.  You know how it is--you can learn how to do something but until you have to go out into the real world and put it all into practice, it's all theoretical.  I completely understood why she didn't think hiring me for the position was a good idea.  However, I liked her suggestion of stepping in and shadowing the person she does hire, giving me an opportunity to learn as I go along.  Plus, the internship is something I can add to my résumé.  So a win-win situation.  Yes, it wasn't a job, but something is better than nothing and nothing's all I have right now.

Crocus:  A Sign of Spring

Kanika came over for tea and sympathy.  We talked about her family, my potential internship, and life in general.  After she left, I did some housework and had just finished lunch when Love called.  We talked about her son, my possible internship, her husband, my husband, and our lives.

I honestly can't believe it's already March.  I've started reading Wanting What You Have by Timothy Miller.  Here's hoping that 1) I don't misplace it like I did January's book and 2) don't want to read it very slowly as I am with February's book.  Next week is the last week of the No Excuses Boot Camp and Rob will be working each and every day.  Hopefully, I can keep the dogs from driving me crazy.  And maybe I can get some writing done because I can't keep sharing my writing on Wednesdays if I don't start writing new things. Yes, I have a lot of writing and a backlog of stories (and even entire novels) but it isn't an infinite supply.