Sunday, December 9, 2012

Missing Ali Already

I'm thinking thinking so much. But breathing and feeling, too. Soaking up the snuggly dogs next to me on the couch (covered by a sheet to cut down on the doggie hair), relaxing in my nightgown and robe still (it's noon), and enjoying an orange and dancing fire in the woodstove. Also, Urdu music from Atif Aslam. I love the sound of spoken Urdu/Hindi.

My boyfriend's only been gone for five days. He's visiting his mom in India. She lives there half the year, and since he hasn't seen her in three years (nor India at all), he's there right now. And I'm so glad he is. I've wanted to visit India for years and years. I have Ganesh statues in almost every room, I burn puja often (but travel with a tasbeeh), and until recently, worked in an Indian restaurant for minimum wage just so I could be around the sights, smells, sounds, and culture of India. So, I'm glad he's there. And I'm also a little sad.

It's been five days since I've seen him. Today is our two month anniversary. During that two months, we've never gone three days without seeing each other, or at the very least, texting incessantly with each other. We already share almost everything. We work together well, we play together well. We get things done, we love, we cook, sleep, talk, dance, party, and rest, and walk our dogs ... all together. It's divine and pure and exciting and lovely and ... everything I want.

So why am I sad? Just because he's not here? My last relationship was a long-distance one. I know how to be apart. For months and months. Ali and I will see each other in T minus sixteen days. He's returning on Christmas. Isn't that the best Christmas present you could think of? Not that I'm really a Christmassy sort of person; I'm more into Solstice celebrations. But still. The significance doesn't escape me.

Maybe my melancholy is precisely because of that past l.d.r. I'm feeling a wee bit triggered without my man here. That's all. Just missing him. I know that he'd love to be here right now with his doggies and his love and this fire. Napping. Or reading.

Actually. Probably if he were here right now, we'd be having brunch somewhere that served Bloody Mary's. (Marys? Maries?) And then walking the dogs in some woodsy or beachy area for a couple of hours.


I went to Ali's house to pick up a couple of things I needed, and I just smiled and inhaled his essence throughout the house, and saw evidence of me all over. It was fuzzy and warm and made me think of all the reasons I love him and I'm proud of him all over again.

I'm getting to know his dogs -- my step-doggies -- that are staying with me while he's gone, more and more each day. Casey Jones leans against me and looks at me with soulful eyes. "When's he coming back?" And Banjo. Banjito. He seems the most unaffected by this short-lived transition. My own dog, Humphrey, is becoming excessively neurotic on our walks and harder and harder to handle -- making the walks WAY shorter than I (or the dogs) want them to be.

Casey Jones and Humphrey are growing ... not fond exactly ... but, I catch them licking each other, or wagging at each other. And they are willing to share the couch and the bed with me.

Our little blended family is growing in love for each other, and my kids love the extra dogginess of our days, too.

Have a happy holiday season! And I hope all your loved ones are close by.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

I'm Off My Monetary Mo-Jo. Shit.

At what age do you start seriously talking to kids about money? I'm not talking about $15 monthly allowances, and "Well, you'll just have to save up for that Lord of the Rings Lego set," or even the generic, "We can't afford to play miniature golf and order pizza, I'm sorry. What about some homemade soup?" I'm thinking more along the lines of I have $106 in my checking account until the end of the month, and that's not paying my child care bill, or my daughter's school tuition this month. Not to mention gasoline and, you know, food.

I don't want my sensitive fourteen year old to worry and feel guilty for going to the school that she does. Her father and I picked that school because it was the best place for her. It was where we wanted her to go. (The fact that her father refuses to pay any portion of that tuition bill is frankly appalling and really shitty timing for me right now. Also something I'll never tell her.) (Equally annoying is that I don't qualify for any more than $60-$70/month tuition assistance because I make "too much money.")

I am not frivolous with money. I don't have much credit card debt ($2K). I do often splurge on organic produce, chocolate and olives, though -- totally unnecessary purchases -- and when my daughter comes home from school with tears streaming down her face due to homework overwhelm, I am known to cave and volunteer pad thai from Chao Pra Ya and Doctor Who on Netflix. (I haven't decided if that qualifies as an unnecessary purchase at this point. Therapy is therapy. However it works.)

When I was a kid, I knew that our family didn't have as much money as the next one. We always had everything we needed though: Hamburger Helper, Tuna Fish Casserole, hand-me-down clothes, and family dinners at the table. I watched my mom pay bills every month, peripherally, and knew that every month she very carefully chose which ones to pay, and which ones to only send a partial payment to -- knowing that with a partial payment they couldn't turn off services or repossess.

I don't remember my mom and dad ever discussing finances with us kids. And I don't recall ever worrying about food or a roof over our heads. And strangely, I don't remember ever feeling that my friends had it better than me. I just knew that was the way our family was. I didn't begrudge my friends their wardrobes, or big bedrooms. After all, I did get Keds, and huarachees, and Levis. I just got them six months later. When they weren't quite so cool. Nevertheless, I felt well-adjusted, socialized with my friends, and had money in my pocket for after-school chocolate bars. Life was good.

And when I got married at seventeen to my first love, I didn't mess around with a honeymoon or new living room furniture. I knew how it was. We shopped at garage sales, ate our share of Top Ramen, and borrowed family friends' futons, and worked full time.

So how about now? How much is too much information? Do my children understand monetary reality? Do they know we only have a hundred bucks to live on for the next two and a half weeks? (I'm sure they don't, nor do I know if that is the kind of information that 11 year olds and 14 year olds need to know.) Do they see the difference between their father's house and mine? (I'm sure they do.) And while it bothers me a little to see so much money spent on electronics for the kids -- especially when it seems through actions that new laptops and a PS3 are more important than education -- I am grateful that the children are seeing different lifestyles.

What I ultimately want is for them to be prepared for life after school -- when they have their own jobs and apartments. What I ultimately want is for them to understand that our choices around money have consequences. What I ultimately want is for them to know what to do when they only have a hundred bucks in the bank and a lot more month to go.

'Cuz I sure don't.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Homesteading Nostalgia

I was feeling nostalgic for my suburban homesteading days, so I thought I'd put up a few pictures I'd taken a couple years back.

I just put some of my meager savings into a deposit on some land in Costa Rica. (!!!!) Current plan is still to move there after the kids are out of school. Will start practicing self-sustainable practices now in anticipation. :)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Experiential Dance

Today I danced uncertainty, frustration, willingness, openness, letting go, surrendering, joy, concentration, trust, grounding, symbiosis, nurturing (receiving it), and connection with both the Divine and also my peers ALL IN ONE DANCE.

That's pretty amazing. Most days I only dance one thing.

At the beginning of dance "church" today, I felt the not-quite-frantic feeling I get when I think about life purpose. I danced "What's my calling?" "Is this my calling?" "What's my calling?" "I'm trying to find my calling." Calling, calling, calling. Like an echo, unanswered.

Then I sunk into the music and let go. Let go of the control I so mistakenly think I have. I surrendered to the Divine. "Use me as you will. Use me as your instrument in this glorious orchestra, to make beautiful music -- to dance and live my joy." I knew this was the only way to find that calling. Dance, let go, and surrender. Rinse and repeat.

See, now I'll know what it feels like to be joyful and living my purpose and answering my call, because I danced it already, today.

Giving myself up to the Divine Universe is scary, and I said to It today while dancing, "If you want me to open myself up -- to show up for work and play and calling, and more importantly, to stop being in charge -- You'll have to hold me up, be my strength, and guide me."

And it became clear through my dance, or through the portals of dance -- those shamanic dream gates -- that this was a dance all in itself -- this giving up control and letting go, the awkwardness and fear around that, the surrendering again (or despite that), the Universe's promise of support, but then my need to let go and trust that the support will be there when I leap. Like the flyers in Acroyoga who need to trust their bases. The bases can only do their job when the flyers are confident in their base's ability to do their job and hold the flyers in safety.

Today I was gently reminded that there will be dark places in the room/life where I dance, and in those places I'll need to make sure I'm paying extra close attention to staying connected to Source. Are my feet and hands touching the ground? Am I dancing the two halves (the upper and lower) of my body together? 

My two halves of my body don't need to be doing the same thing. They can be dancing the dance of one supporting the other, they can be dancing to complement the other, they can be dancing continuation of the other. So, 'No' to having to dance the same dance, but 'Yes' to being in synch with one another. Or, in this case, one half of the other.

The last two or three songs of today's dance set were (for me) about HOW to connect to Source, and to being nurtured. After I danced receiving nourishment, someone brushed against me by "accident" and I had a brief and lovely moment of connection, and then went back to receiving from the Universe.

Today, everything I needed, I received.

I'm still convinced, over and over, that things happen for a reason. I went in to Dance today with expectations and a specific desire to talk to a particular person, but that individual was not there. Had he been, perhaps my dance would've been far different. Maybe I would've been distracted by him and not have danced so much meaning in this one dance set.

In gratitude, I bow to the Universe. Namascar.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why I Write And What Happens When I Do

I write to quiet the demons. The pesky ants that bite me and tickle my skin with their feet.
I write to capture dreams. To recall faces and emotions and what ifs.
I write to know myself.
I write to explore.
And the world around me.
But mostly myself.

When I write I feel luxurious. Like I have all the time in the world. Like I'm important and what I'm saying is so important I have to drop everything that needs to be done in that moment to write those specific words down. Or they'll be lost. Which, ironically, is true.

When I write I feel like I have something to say. Like I AM important. But sometimes I feel that what comes out of my mouth or onto the page is not helpful, not worth saying or reading. Ultimately I want to make a difference in someone's life, and I want my words to make a difference in their lives, but .... it doesn't have to. My actions can do that, too. Like yesterday. I had friends over, and I actually didn't interact much with them at all. But I provided the space for them to be able to connect and relax and feel safe. And THAT made a difference to them.

When I write I see birds, taking flight "to the world that is invisible and is sure of bliss." (from the movie Lady Jane) Promises, echoes, memories, callings. I see imaginary animals and dreams and thoughts barely constructed. I see the past and the future, but rarely the present. I need to remind myself to see the present. Because that's where all the parallels are. That's where the meat of it is. THAT'S where I should be writing from. From the present. Write what I see in front of me. That's what can help people.

And myself.

When I write I discover who I am. Whom I'm meant to be. I discover forgotten dreams. I discover stories in the leaves and hear whispers in the foliage. When I write I discover charm and grace and wit that I don't have in my speaking world.

And THAT is why I love to write.

To access that graceful and creative place that isn't quite so apparent in me otherwise. To reclaim all of me. To remember stories of other lives. Other meanings to things. A new perspective.

Why do YOU write?
And what happens when you do?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Now ... If I Just Knew What My Life's Purpose Was.

A few weeks ago, a neighbor of mine said something like, "I try to think about what I want in my life, not necessarily about the money it will take to get it there." The idea being that sometimes, if you are very clear about what you want to manifest, it shows up. Money or not.

So this morning I took some time to ask myself, "What is it that I want in my life?"

And what showed up in my journal was .... a personal mission statement. 

TOTALLY not what I set out to do this morning, but I'm surprised and delighted it showed up.

It is safe to evolve and I have the emotional courage to do so. I have patience and compassion for myself and others, and I surround myself with people that extend those qualities to me.

I have a strong sense of purpose, fed by my intuition.

I live in a place where I am grounded to the Earth, feel kinship with the People, and am connected to Source.

I have friends that nurture and support me -- some of which I can see socially a couple of times a week. My friends are emotionally courageous people, too, and my relationship with my children includes joy, respect, unconditional love, and nurturing supportive availability.

My life is filled with curiosity, vitality, variety, zest, and writing inspiration. I have financial safety.

I have an artistic and attentive lover and partner that I feel passion and respect and love love love for; and he for me. He evolves and grows with me, alongside me. We challenge and encourage each other.

I have meaningful work that exists in symbiotic support of my life's purpose.

I feed my soul everyday.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What do YOU need?

Yesterday I think I had a very quiet, very short, mini mental breakdown.
But only for an hour and a half.

I totally lost perspective -- worrying about my cluttered house, my overwhelming life, Costa Rica angst, working my multiple jobs, and still needing more clients.  N. calls it "Paralysis by Analysis." Whatever it is, it sure makes me sleepy.

I basically ran to my bed. Except, run is too energetic of a word. It was more like, I don't know how, but I just appeared at my bed and I fell into it -- and completely covered my head and body with pillows and covers and slept for an hour. And then, when I awoke, I didn't feel so panicky, but I sort of felt afraid to get up. It just sounded so exhausting.

My back door was open and flies were buzzing around but I didn't have the energy to get out of bed to shut the door. I felt like crying. I felt achey and despondent and I didn't want to go to work the next day. I just wanted to write and blog and move away. Maybe sleep some more.

I wanted to buy camping gear with the remaining money I had in my checking account and get plane tickets for the kids and myself and just go camping on our Costa Rica lot for the month before school started.

But when I finally did get up, I moved a bunch of furniture around. So I'm pretty sure the breakdown is over, or it never really happened and I was just tired.

Whatever it was, it had me thinking what it is we really need in life, and, of course, prompted me to move that furniture.

We need:

Within a home:

~A place to sleep
~A place to prepare food and eat it
~A place to poop
~A place to read/entertain/work
~A place to get away

In life:

~Opportunities to connect with friends and loved ones
~A way to meet our other needs (like chopping wood, weeding the garden, or help with homework) that may or may not actually require money. (Note: Access the gift economy.)
~Work that is meaningful and contributes to a feeling of purpose and delight.

That's all I need.
And I bet it's all you need, too.

So, as I said, I moved my furniture around.

I was trying to simulate living in a small space. Could I prepare and eat food, rest, work, entertain, and sleep all in the same room? Yes.

I don't know if I like it yet. And I'm not actually sleeping here, but I COULD.
And that's the point.

My next five year plan includes slowly getting rid of furniture and things that just clutter up my life. Eventually I want to move into consecutively smaller and smaller homes, until I am only living a tiny footprint. Smaller house equals smaller utility bills, less housework, and less headache.

However, it also means less family heirloom furniture. And less emotional attachments to inanimate objects. Which is great, but will probably take me a few years to let go of.

But that's okay; I've got FIVE YEARS to do it!

What do YOU need? 
What is your five-year plan?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Abdul's Taxi to Kalighat -- a book review

Title: Abdul's Taxi to Kalighat: A celebration of Calcutta
Author: Joe Roberts
Published: 1999
Genre: Memoir (Sort of. I got suckered in again.)
Rating: 2 out of 5

Summary: Joe and his wife, Emma, and their baby live in Calcutta for five months because they love it. They only stay five months because that's how much money they have. When it ran out, they went back to England.

Review: What I loved about this book was the idea, first and foremost. I mean, who wouldn't? Rambling about India just for the fun of it? Sign me up! The next most loved thing about the book was Roberts' portrayal of the people he met. Great characters. And one's I could see. With my own eyes. All the way in Oregon, U.S.A.

But that's where my love affair ends.

There was tons of history thrown in and around the narrative, and while some of it was interesting ... it mostly turned me off. Because, you know, I purchased a memoir. Not a history book. (This has happened to me before.) It's one thing to make reference (historical or otherwise) to whatever it is you are writing about, but that could be summarized in a paragraph or two -- not pages.

Also, I really wanted to know WHY? Why they chose to go to India and why they chose such a cool travel experiment in the first place and how they made it work in their assumably routine and work-filled lives back home? I mean, I know he's British, but SOME emotion would've been nice to read.

And then the book just ends.

Which was weird. And slightly irritating. I say slightly because I was kinda skimming at that point.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dream Dissonance

Instead of wishing and wanting N to be here RIGHT NOW so he could cook me biriyani and snuggle with me, I will dutifully (with love and accountability) call upon those feelings I had this morning in the office I share with Brittany -- energy worker extraordinaire.

I discovered today.
I acknowledged in my body today.
I felt a Truth rise up in me today.
I knew a felt sense today.

After my lovely energy session was almost complete and I was relaxing and breathing deeply and without panic for the first time in weeks, B took me through a couple of meditative visuals. Halfway through the second one, I spilled over with tears, and continued to be highly emotional during the next ten minutes while I explained what had happened internally for me.

We often discuss what the body does, or says, during sessions.

Here's a WILDLY ABRIDGED version of the visualization exercise:

  • Imagine the soles of your feet in contact with soft earth. 

(I immediately thought Costa Rican soil and saw huge green leaves coming up from the ground at the base of a giant tree. It was in this soil that I imagined my feet.)

  • Feel the earth energy entering you from the soles of your feet, through your gates, into your calves and shins, past your knees ....  

(I could actually feel a tingly rushy feeling going everywhere she led me. I felt content and joyful, and all of a sudden I knew. Costa Rica would be good for me. A place of healing and good energy.)

She continued leading the earth energy up my body and when it reached my center -- my womb -- I could see the little light zipping around and joyfully doing figure eights around my belly. (I would find joy and healing and nourishment in Costa Rica.)


I started crying.

I struggled with the earth energy going higher through the upper chakras. It did. It was dimmed and not so joyful, but it made it.

I struggled with feelings of un-worthiness.

Was I crying because I felt like Costa Rica was the right place for me, but that it might not be for my kids and I can't get there yet, until my kids are grown up? Was I crying because I didn't feel worthy of obtaining/attaining this dream, when I should be focusing on my kids' dreams?

Or was I crying because I felt unworthy of earth energy? Maybe because I was blocked in one of those chakras? Or because I wasn't worthy of feeling joy? (GASP)

I don't know the answer to any of those questions.

Then or now.

B's hypothesis is that I've been disconnected from Earth energy for a long time and I was reunited with it today. That I felt joy and longing for it today. And the tears were a mixture of relief, love and longing.

That rings true, too.

When I asked her what to do with it, she just said 'sit with it.' Let it be there. (Of course she did.)

I'm concerned that since I wasn't able to process those feelings right after the session (due to a business meeting) that the impact -- the import and impact -- are missing now.

This is a faithful accounting of what happened at the session, but the ... longing and relief ... are missing.

I wish I could re-capture that ... in case there were extra messages there for me.

I feel like I have the clarity now that Costa Rica is definitely that place I need to be. And that it will be good for me there. Being with nature in that way will be healing for me, like the island was for that character in Lost that didn't have cancer as long as she was there. Eventually I will live there. I know it now.

But what about that other part?

The part about Costa Rica being my longing, and not my kids' dream. And the dissonance of having a dream that is different from theirs. And when is it okay to act on a dream that is in contrast to your family's? And how do I go about doing that in a safe and respectful way?

Monday, June 18, 2012

I might not sell my house for "just cool."

I have a shaman-in-training friend.
You've met him before, in this blog. My brotherfriend.
We talked the other night about how to re-access spirit through dream gates. Of how talk to soul again.

Despite this sounding a smidgeon like a fantasy novel,  I don't actually feel like writing fiction right now.

Don't get me wrong, I love fiction. I want to write fiction, and publish fiction. But first, right now, I am immersed in the world of memoir. Living memoir. Non-fiction. Living my life in a creatively non-fiction way.

I'm making roads, honoring my needs, letting go. 

I'm learning ever more about myself. 
I'm looking at my experiences with MORE maturity and LESS obsession.


I am trying to reconnect with my intuition

When Rob died, that catapulted me into talking with him in the pages of my journal, of receiving visits from him in my dreams, of meeting my spirit guides and my soul family. Of trusting myself. Implicitly. 

But not anymore.
To any of that.

My brotherfriend and I talked also about trusting myself again.


It's not really dis-trust, like I'm afraid I'll steal my laptop from myself, but more like ... when I check in on some uber-important question for soul and self, I want to know that the answer I receive is coming from a place of wholeness. Not from fear or desire.

Or co-dependancy.

Getting back to that place may take some time.
And I'm horribly out of practice.

All I know to do is: dance until the dream gates open, write until I hear the clarity that doesn't come from me, and to dialogue with people that remind me to check inside. ALL THE TIME.

"Is this bringing me closer to my goals?"
"Is making this choice in line with my true calling?"
"Will I be proud of this decision?"
"Am I communicating in the most non-violent way possible here?"
"Will chocolate REALLY help today?"
"Is this me being authentic?"

You might wonder why I'm so interested in this checking in with my soul/true calling stuff right now -- I mean, other than the general reasons of personal growth and living a life authentically, and one you can be proud to say you are living.

The reason I need to know if I'm lying to myself, or more accurately, that the answers to my questions are VALID ones -- the real reasons, the right reasons -- is because

I want to know if I'm supposed to move to Costa Rica.

I co-own a piece of land there already. I wanted to do it before, that's why it was purchased to begin with. But the plot changed in my memoir. The cast of characters is different. And I don't know if it is in my character's emotional arc to transcend the challenges to make it work with the differences from the original version of the story.

My ex wants to sell the land. So if I want to keep that Costa Rica dream alive (albeit in ICU), I need to come up with some serious cash to buy his half out. And I need to do it quickly. So, the question now becomes, not just do I want to live in Costa Rica someday? or even, do I want a vacation oasis in Costa Rica? but now it's do I want all that bad enough to put in an immense amount of time, effort and honest sweat for the next six months plus to make that happen? (Clarification: it'll take me six months to buy out my ex's half of the property. I could still take years to move down there, and I've made peace with that.)

Here's where the talking to yourself becomes mandatory.

I need to know if it is my true calling to go there. Is this me being authentic? Or is it just cool?
Because if it is, that's totally fine.

But I might not sell my house for "just cool."

Monday, May 21, 2012

Shantaram -- a book review

This is only my second book read for the South Asian Challenge. I'm getting a late start, na? But I know I can catch up.

Title: Shantaram
Author: Gregory David Roberts
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin, New York
(first published in Australia and New Zealand by Scribe Publications)
Release Date: 2003
Genre: literary fiction
5 out of 5 stars

Summary: An escaped prisoner from Australia hides in Bombay. He starts a medical clinic for slum-dwellers, lives in a slum, makes friends, watches friends die, falls in love, and works as a counterfeiter, smuggler, gunrunner and street soldier for the Bombay mafia.


I learned so much about Indian culture in this book. I want to read it again and again, as a sort of reference book.

Gregory David Roberts actually did a lot of the things his character Lin did, but because it's a novel, there is no way of knowing which parts of the novel are autobiographical and which are fiction, and that tends to create more interest for me, actually. I loved this hugely epic 933 page novel because of the character arc. Because of the character dynamics. Because of the in-depth descriptions of things that I will never know about, and therefore fascinate me.


I'm not saying that cold turkey heroin detox is fascinating, like I want to do a report on it, but the scientific detail he put in the account of Lin's coming down off the drug was interesting in a car wreck sort of way. It wasn't gruesome, it was ... medical.

I loved observing the local's response to Lin's learning their state language and the glee and surprise that they continue to have throughout the book. Apparently there are tourists of Bombay that learn some Hindi, but no one ever bothers with Marathi. And the simple effort he puts in delights and endears him to all the Maharashtrians he meets.

I love love loved the personable cultural things Lin learns when he first gets to Bombay. His first train ride is a whole month's worth of knowledge right there. That alone gives him insight to the head waggle, the "doctrine of necessity," and the Indian gesture of apology.

And just so you are not left hanging, the head waggle (according to Roberts' ... or rather Lin) is, of course, Yes, I agree with you, Yes, I would like that, BUT "the universal message attached to the gesture, when it was used as a greeting, ... was a signal to others that carried an amiable and disarming message: I'm a peaceful man. I don't mean any harm."

The "doctrine of necessity" involved doing what was necessary to, say, get on the train (kicking, punching, slapping, shoving), and then transforming into a calm and polite bunch of people all needing to peacefully share space on the train and travel a great distance.

Or when Lin offers his seat to an elderly man because Lin can't bear the rudeness of it (in Australian culture), Prabakar, Lin's friend, explains: "That is easy -- only you don't look at that old fellow, Lin. If he is standing, don't look at him standing. That is his business only, that standing, and nothing for your seat."

To say you are sorry in India involves a minuscule gesture involving touching the person you've offended, and then touching your own chest with the fingertips of your right hand.

I love love the dialects that Roberts' writes in. Sample: "Yes, baba. A few bruises I will have on all my bodies, but nothing is broken. If it is absolutely must be a beating, I will shout even more loudly, and you can rescue my bruises in the nicks of time. Are we a deal?"

The friendship Lin has with Prabakar highlights loads of interesting tidbits. Such as, the severe modesty that Indians have regarding the naked body. In one scene Lin is instructed to bathe, so he strips off his clothes. It is a hilarious account where Lin learns that nobody is ever naked in India, "And especially, nobody is naked without clothes." And that "In India, the men are wearing this over-underpants, under their clothes, at all times, and in all the situations. Even if they are wearing under-underpants, still they are wearing over-underpants, over their unders."

Prabakar acquires a pair of over-underpants for Lin so he can take a shower, but the modesty is such an issue that the man he gets the shorts from requires an explanation as to why anyone would ever be without over-unders. Prabakar, to save Lin's reputation, tells the man that Lin had "loose motions."

In every new situation in which Lin finds himself, Roberts' carefully describes the event for his non-Indian readers.  How to eat with your right hand, how to shower without offending the neighbors, how to tie a lungi, and how to interact with the black marketeers. And then, the Bombay mafia.

The novel is broken up into five parts, each one culminating in a life experience that India has taught him. The emotional arc of Lin's character is incredibly deep, and while the majority of the world's population will not encounter half of the things that Lin did in the course of the book -- therefore not having enough commonality with his character to actually be friends with him in real life -- the reader can't help but like him. Respect him. Applaud his works and thoughts. I never thought I would care so much about an escaped prisoner working for the Bombay mafia, never mind he's fictional. The contrast between the criminal acts and the humanitarianism has you rooting for him throughout the book.

The themes of forgiveness, self-loathing, love, friendship, father figures, transformation and redemption are all woven within Roberts' superb writing style. If you like character dynamics, Indian culture, and ... I didn't even come to the action! -- you will like this book. Give it a try. All 933 pages of it.

p.s. Shantaram means "man of peace."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dancing With Coalessence

Sways from limb to limb, out my fingernails and pores.
My thighs squat and my hips undulate
To the rhythm and the
Underlying percussive beat.

Graceful in jeans and kurta,
Or salwar kameez,
Rolling on the floor, stretching myself.

Spinning, floating, climbing inside the music, opening.
Climbing out of my skin.

The music enters my feet first. Then my brain hears.
My head and hips and shoulders
Find the truth in the song

And I move.
My body curving around the shape of the musical notes.

Sometimes I move in place, my feet rooted.
Other times I walk serpentine through the bodies
Feeling the smooth and dustless hardwood floors beneath my bare feet.

Sometimes my eyes are closed.
Other times I scan my dancing tribe.
And only on brave days do I look into the eyes of my companions,
Seeing their truths and joy or sorrow,
Or madness.

Sometimes I am drawn to others that share a common energetic field,
A matched set of emotions wafting from their centers.
I dance next to them, or sometimes, touch them, dance off them.
But most times I dance by myself, and heal.

Sometimes I cry,
Sometimes I thrash my arms and stomp my feet.
Some songs elicit bouncing and laughing,
Some pound through my heart chakra and I stand still in one spot,
Letting the bass permeate all my meridians and channels and exit my hair follicles.

Moving with intention, with awareness, or with neither.
Moving just to be moving.
Moving because the music makes me.

Letting go of my improper belief that I control anything. Even my body.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Write Write

I have a man on my floor. My hardwood floor. He is humming his symphony and reading The Handmaid's Tale. He is my friend. My platonic brother. He stays with me when I am lonely. He stays with me when he is lonely. And we talk.

We dance. We eat. We cook for each other. And we take walks.

We ask questions and make observations. About each other.

And sometimes they are ... not what we want to hear.

I don't know where to go to write anymore. To process life’s griefs and sorrows. The big ones that stop my breathing, and send me to bed with my clothes on, and the little ones that I just want to vent about. I took this platform class that has streamlined my blogs and website to make it more "professional," but then ... I don't have anywhere else to write write. Write write my heart. But maybe. Maybe maybe I should just write write anyway. Platform be damned. There is something, after all, to be said about writing as you are -- showing up on the page -- and whosoever gels with the message will stay to read. Will feel the resonance. Will soak up my words, like rain, and plant their own seeds because of what I've said. That's who I want reading my stuff anyway.

The other ones -- the ones that take umbrage with my phrases, my pictures of story -- those ones, they can just not read. They can put the book down. They can click away. They can unfriend me. Not with any haste or malice. Just. Because they don't find what I say interesting. It doesn't make them bleed or cry or say Yes. And that's ok. I am not writing for those people.

I've been dancing lately. Unpeeling myself and looking inside. Sometimes I'm amazed at the beauty, other times I'm startled at the dishonesty and ignorance. The blindness. The self-defeating practices.

Even now I'm struggling. Struggling to write these few words, because I've been blocked again. Blocked by my own arrogance. My own denial. My own ... unhealthy practices. Who knew that not eating enough calories, or subsisting on restaurant food and instant oatmeal, or not going to bed by 10pm could interfere with my writing?

But there it is.

So I'm forcing it through.
Sucking the stories and truths out of my bone marrow to look at them.
Trying not to think.
Trying not to feel.

And then realizing I have to.

One of the things my brotherfriend and I talked about tonight had to do with letting go of static ways of being, honoring the grieving process – no matter what it’s about, and then looking at ways to bring yourself back to wholeness. He says that I can't grow with fear stopping me every time I open up a little bit. But isn't fear a natural reaction to change? Isn't fear a necessary emotion during transition? One that helps you slow down your impulse to sprint through the grieving process? Because that's my inclination. Hurry up and grieve. And in doing so I would miss the lessons and gratitude my life situations have gifted me. I want to meander, not sprint. Even as my fear is slightly paralyzing, isn't that better than the alternative?

Ultimately I know that the fear will subside with time, and I will begin to move again. Look at the light again. Foster hope again. And actually, I think that will happen probably sooner than I think, but the safety of fear and paralysis is comforting.

If even a little annoying.

And then. And then then. Maybe after I have the courage to leave the sameness and routine of fear – I can write write again. Platform be damned.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

You Don't Spit Out Sweet Paan

"You want to try some paan?"

"No!" I am sure I looked horrified, but smiled nonetheless.

"Why not?" he laughed.

I wrinkled up my nose and grimaced.

"Isn't that the stuff that's red and you spit it on the sidewalks all over India?"

He laughed.

"Yes. But no. I don't want you to eat that kind. I'm talking about sweet paan."

We were walking down a sunny street in a small town in New Jersey. One, of course, heavily populated by the large Indian community that lived nearby. That's why we'd come here. I had come in search of a diya (oil lamp for altars and prayers), more clothes for work (salwar kameez), and to fix one of my silver-belled anklets. I also wanted burfi, and bad.

And so we were walking.

"You want to try new experiences, right?"

And with that logic, we stepped into a sweet shop and made our purchases. Two boxes of burfi, a sweet lassi (a yummy yogurt drink), and -- with trepidation -- sweet paan.

The sweet (Meetha) paan I ate was: a betel leaf wrapped around coconut, rose paste, candy-coated fennel seeds, and ... other stuff. The idea is to stick the whole thing in your mouth at one time, bite into it, and hold it there while you suck out the juice. Bite and suck. Repeat.

 It's really sticky.

 The paan we were served were too large to fit in all at once, so I bit it in half. 
(This is what it looks like inside.) 
Once it was munched down enough, I put the other half in.
This is what you look like with your cheeks full of meetha paan.

Final result: I'm sold. I like it. At first explosive taste, it was ... like ... eating incense. We bought several wedges (I'm sure that's not what they call them anywhere but on my blog) in town, and ate them up within a couple of days. They are traditionally eaten after a big fancy meal, like at a wedding. But I'd eat them after any meal. Probably a good thing I don't live in New Jersey then. I'm sure they are loaded with calories.

Another humorous account of a first time paan-eater.

Love in Art

 On our way to Penn Station 
 to walk the streets of New York City
 to find, among others, this place ... represented in art
 at the Asia Society Museum and the MET

Of course I was drawn to anything with tiny detail, script, and books. Holy or otherwise. And love. And then I remembered that any work of art is a piece of love. Made manifest. Intangible made tangible.

Look again at the photos. Closely. They all bleed and breathe love.

As should we all. Every day.

Let every day be a work of art for you.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How to pee in India

It takes a very special relationship, and one that is ... say ... eighteen months old. That's how long you have to know someone before you can ask them how they use the toilet.

Let me explain.

Before you think I'm perverted.


I'm too late?

Well ... I'll tell you anyway.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Artist of Disappearance -- a book review

Title: The Artist of Disappearance
Author: Anita Desai
ISBN: 978-0-547-57745-6
Release Date: December 6, 2011
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Literary Novellas
Source: LibraryThing Early Review
Rating: 3 out of 5


A collection of three short "novellas" in the category of personal drama. They seem to center on choice and integrity.


The publisher, or author, says this book is a collection of three short novellas. But I think it is just three short stories. The whole compilation caps out at 155 pages total. To me, that, in and of itself, is a novella -- a short novel. This isn't a novel. Nor a novella. Or a collection of novellas, for that matter.

The three short stories are as follows: The Museum of Final Journeys, Translator Translated, The Artist of Disappearance.

Desai writes well. Her pacing is good, her choice of words, and her voice and style are all champion. She seems a prolific writer -- with fourteen other works listed at the front of the book -- and I will definitely be looking up some of her other titles. But this book? Nope. Not happy with it. I gave three stars only because she writes so well. The characters in these short stories are all ones I never want to know in person though, and that's saying something.

"Museum" is written in first person and tells of one man's unsatisfactory experience at a job he doesn't like. He's given an opportunity to really stand up and make a difference in someone's life ... and fantastically fails at it. By his own choice. I didn't like the character EVER. And especially at the end when his failure is so epic. I didn't dislike him because he failed at his task, but because *he never stepped up to the plate to take the challenge in the first place* AND hurt someone in the process. Total loser.

In "Translator" (a strange mixture of first and third person), I started out liking the character quite a bit, even resonated with her, saw similarities in myself ... and then she got way too "into" herself. A.R.R.O.G.A.N.C.E. personified. Now. Maybe the reason I found this particular story so dissatisfying was because the main character's shadow side too closely mirrored my own, and I didn't want to acknowledge that. BUT, I still maintain I wouldn't have made the same choice she did. I would've operated under a different moral code. So, again, I just couldn't like the character in the end, and that left a bad taste in my mouth.

"The Artist" was my favorite, and it almost made up for the other two. In fact, I can't fault it at all. I loved the main character. I felt for him, I understood him, and I think I would've made the same choices he made if I had been him.

While this book's setting is India, I felt that any of these stories could've happened anywhere, to anyone, of any nationality.

That said, *maybe* the reason I disliked most of the characters and felt so strongly about their integrity (or lack thereof), was because I am viewing them through my white American girl sensibilities. *Maybe* if I were Indian, I would've sighed and nodded my head at their choices. Not been happy, per se, but compassionate and understanding of them -- maybe even seen how (as the book jacket says) there are "ways in which Indian culture can nourish or suffocate."  )

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mughals at the Asia Society

I'm going to New York next week to visit a very dear friend, and while I'm there we are going to see an art exhibit at the Asia Society Museum. We are specifically interested in seeing this exhibit: the Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707 - 1857.

While I was looking around the Asia Society's webpage, I discovered the Creative Voices of Islam project. 

Check it out:

Creative Voices of Islam in Asia

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Spring Equinox ... and Happy Nowruz!

Today for the Spring Equinox (New Year's Day to some on the Indian subcontinent -- but mostly Iran) I made some goals in these specific categories: Health, Family, Creativity, Children, Relationships, Travel, Knowledge, Business, and Wealth. 

If I'd thought about it in advance, I would've gotten some chalk and made myself a rangoli on my front walk/porch for the holiday.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What motivates you?

Someone asked me recently why I wrote. Or rather, what *motivated* me to write.

This was my answer:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

When I Think of War Brides

I know, I know. It sucks. Totally. Having your boyfriend live across the country bites. It’s lame. It’s all the shitty adjectives you can think of. Sad, lonely, taxing, exhausting.
            But. There are some not so shitty things, too. Things that he and I’ve acknowledged are maybe not blessings, but are certainly part of our relationship because we live so far apart.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What's an In-Debt, Paycheck to Paycheck Mama To Do?

I've already exceeded my grocery budget and it's only the fifth of the month. Seriously, I don't think my grocery budget should count if it's a Costco month.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Global Gatherings

Back when I home-schooled my children, I had to think up ways to facilitate the natural curiosity that children have – the kind that often gets swallowed up by video games and Nickelodeon. At least it did in my house. One way I did this was with Global Gatherings.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My House is Me

Let me talk about my house.

The kitchen feels like my mom. I want to sit at this table – that my grandfather made – and drink the coffee that my mom got up so early in the morning to drink. Before the rest of the house awoke.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


So much to update that I can't imagine putting all down in one post.
But I'll try.