Wednesday, December 25, 2013


After our Solstice hike.
Ali and I have decided that a kick-start in our creativity is in order. We both love learning new things, stretching ourselves creatively, and doing things together, so we are at the same time going to be learning Spanish together (starting in a couple of weeks at the Winter term), and working on Julia Cameron's Walking in This World program.

Many of you are, no doubt, aware of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. I've done the program myself about five times. But I've only attempted Walking in This World: The Practical Art of Creativity, the sequel, once before.

I just read through the first week's reading and tasks, and done most of them. Since Ali and I will be sharing the book, it might be a bit of a challenge, but we'll do whatever works. Our current idea is for me to do it first, and to give Ali the Cliff Notes version without him reading it (or looking through the book), and then he'll do the tasks he wants, as well as the core work that happens every week. I'm a little skeptical about this tactic, only because I find inspiration in reading Julia Cameron. I don't believe I'll be able to convey that same inspiration to Ali when I give him the Cliff Notes version, and then he might not get as much out of the program as I will. (But that's projecting, and telling myself a story, so I won't do it anymore.)

For those of you considering the self-led course, here is a snippet of an outline:

Week 1: Discovering a Sense of Origin
Week 2: Discovering a Sense of Proportion
Week 3: Discovering a Sense of Perspective
Week 4: Discovering a Sense of Adventure
Week 5: Discovering a Sense of Personal Territory
Week 6: Discovering a Sense of Boundaries
Week 7: Discovering a Sense of Momentum
Week 8: Discovering a Sense of Discernment
Week 9: Discovering a Sense of Resiliency
Week 10: Discovering a Sense of Camaraderie
Week 11: Discovering a Sense of Authenticity
Week 12: Discovering a Sense of Dignity

The Basic Tools are mostly the same as in The Artist's Way. The only addition is a Weekly Walk for twenty minutes. Continue doing the journaling of three long-hand Morning Pages, and a solo Artist's Date once a week.

Who's with me?!

I'll keep you updated as I go through the process. I'd love for you to do the same in the comments section. It'll be fun!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Disappointment Feels Heavy in my Chest

Warning: There is nothing profound in this post. In fact, it's probably better if you don't bother reading it.

I get stuck on what to write a lot these days. It's easier to watch someone else's stories on the screen, or to read someone else's words in a book. It's easier to market my book, instead of writing a new one.

It snowed today. And instead of being cozy and knitting or reading or blogging, or glorying in the unexpected day off to play (or even to be accomplished), I felt bad. I cried while watching Little Women. I felt orphaned. Abandoned by family. Some not in a malicious way (perhaps none of them in a malicious way), but I felt lonely all the same.

My mom and my sister (and her family) live in Minnesota and I only hear from them sparingly, every few months or so; my dad (and his family) live not more than an hour away, but I only see him once a year on xmas eve, presumably because he can't be bothered any other time. He and his wife have a new roommate that I only found out about today when he confirmed he would *not* be joining us for our traditional xmas eve gathering because it would just be logistically too inconvenient. And then there's my other sister. The one in Wyoming. The one that stopped talking to me six years ago. For religious reasons, she said.

I asked my friend today if it was wrong to wish your family were different than they were. She said, No. When I said that it felt like I was giving up on them, she said, you can't give up on someone who won't engage.

It's not that they won't engage (except for Wyoming Sister), it's that they don't engage in the way that I want them to. Isn't that loving them conditionally then? "I'll only love you if..."? I keep coming up with excuses for them, or repeating to myself what they tell me. And my mom did just call me last month out of the blue and talked to me on the phone for two hours, when I know she hates talking on the phone, and then we followed up via FB chat last week for a couple of minutes. Another friend said that I don't need to make excuses for them, I need to just let the sad and disappointed pieces of me talk.

Maybe there is something to just accepting that they aren't who I want them to be, and not trying to get more out of them. I should just love them the way they are and get my emotional and familial needs met by others. Who'd want to be around or talk to anyone who is disappointed in you anyway? That way just leads to more hurt. Plus, I'm not the greatest at keeping in contact either. And what's with my whining when I miss them? Why don't I contact them when I think of them, instead of bemoan our separation and wonder why they don't contact *me*?

My children are home, but as teenagers they most often prefer the solitude of their bedrooms and YouTube, and my loverloverman is still in India (due home is six days!) Combining that with my geographically and emotionally absent family members, I feel understandably melancholy. Suddenly the dishes and making dinner look way more difficult to approach than normal.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Blog Nostalgia

I've had some pretty great days this last month. My book launched; I had a party to celebrate--where much fun was had--and my reading was a hit. I've bonded with my kids (one teenager, and one in the making); I received a holiday invite from my ex (first time EVER); I was sick with a fever and allowed myself almost a week of sitting on my couch, reading, and watching movies. I've slept with doggies; make pots of delicious edible things; and played Scrabble with the mother-in-law I hardly ever get to visit  anymore. I have caught up with old friends, Skyped with my loverloverman while he was on a trip to India without me, and generally just smiled about everything that showed up.

Life is pretty grand these days.

I'm starting to get inspired again, too. Creatively.

The other day my friend was threatening imminent departure from Facebookland, and a comment was made about Facebook being a sort of mini-blog, and I thought--with a start--that this was true. (Thus, the scant posting here and other places.) I've wondered a few times if, and how, Facebooking has affected my writing.

I don't feel like I am addicted to screen time. I'm never turning to the computer because I am bored, or have nothing better to do. I'm never turning to the computer because I am sad. I don't waste my time on the computer. Mostly I use it as a tool. I work from my computer. I read on my computer. And, yes, I stay connected to some people on the computer--lots of times through Facebook. And yes, sometimes Facebook will suck me in and I'll stay on the site much longer than I anticipated (or needed to.) Just like when I go into the grocery store with a list of five items, and come out having spent $124.

Facebook, I'm sorry to say, has indeed become my new blog. I post my pictures on Facebook. I occasionally vent about something that needs attention, I post epiphanies, I write witty asides. I summarize in a sentence or two what I used to write pages on. While this might do wonders for streamlining my writing style, in actuality it has pert-in-near stopped it all together. Which is tragic.

This morning while eating breakfast I looked through some of my old book-marked blogs. Ones that I found inspiring in 2009. Most of them didn't make the cut, but it did remind me of how much I really had enjoyed reading and writing blog posts.

I turned to blog reading, and writing, years ago as a stay-at-home, un-schooling mama. (Please note the now-unfortunate blog url that can't be changed: Insane Parents Unite!) It was a way to seek out my tribe, to remind myself that I wasn't all alone on this planet of craziness, and that maybe--just maybe--I had something to say that would help other insane mamas, too. And let's face it. Despite my mostly regular handwritten journaling habit, I still used my blog as a diary. A cataloging of days. It kept track of how much I accomplished in my urban homesteading efforts, it reminded me that I was making a difference in my children's academic and social lives, and more importantly--that when written out like that--I could actually recognize good parenting skills amidst the chaos.

But now I mostly Facebook all that.
In small snippets.
That you can read on a status line.

This is no good, People!

I must return to writing in full pages. Grease the wheels of ingenuity once more. For I've lost the ease at which I once thought up stories. I used to have characters flitting around in my mind, waking me up in the wee hours of the morning, begging to be put on paper. But now, I struggle to write book reviews. I've had a couple of ideas for novels wade into the edges of my imagination, but not long enough for me to meet them properly. Not long enough to invite them to tell me their stories before they go.

I've become rusty.

And in too much of a hurry. (Maybe another by-product of the quick and easy world of Facebooking?)

Point: I must hurry up and print this for my writing group, walk the dogs before I go to yoga, make a to-go dinner to take to my next two meetings, and somewhere in there take my daughter to the print shop to print out a homework assignment!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mechanic's Mystery Delight

Because I'm feeling a little quirky today, I posted this ad on Craigslist this evening, and wanted to share it with you in the hopes you'll get a laugh out of it. Or at least a lop-sided grin.

Mechanic Mystery Delight - $600 (West Eugene)

Boy, have I got a rig for you! I hope you can channel your inner-Click and Clack Brothers from NPR.

Our well-loved 2000 Pontiac Montana van needs to find a new home. It has many little things "wrong" with it, but none that impaired the driving of it. In fact, it ran just fine, until it didn't. I've taken it to a mechanic who deems nothing wrong with it. I've had the battery tested three times, and am told every time "it's pretty old, but you've got another year on it, probably."

I personally think there is an electrical "issue" that is micro-draining the battery. Because all that happens is it doesn't start. (It's not the starter, it's not the alternator, and it's not the battery.) I've even had it tested for an electrical drain at the mechanic's, and he said there wasn't one, "Unless it's some ghost drain, which sometimes happens." So, there you go. A mystery.

List of off-beat characteristics:
*VCR doesn't work
*AC doesn't work
*Fan selections 1 and 5 don't work, but the rest do.
*CD works so sporadically that it basically just doesn't. (Tape deck and radio work.)
*Radio read out display isn't viewable. I don't think it's a burnt out light, because you actually can read it if there is a high-powered sunbeam aimed at it. :-)
*Rear windshield wipers don't work.
*It's been in a couple of accidents with minor damage. The biggest being the right hand headlamp casing doesn't stay in anymore. (Though the headlights work fine.) I used to tape it in, but I finally just removed it. It lives inside the van now.
*The windows don't roll down anymore because I had the master switch removed. (One day it just started smoking, and melted.)
*The horn(s) are unplugged because the anti-theft program would randomly turn on the alarm sometimes while I was driving.
*The key fob doesn't work. Even with a new battery. You have to unlock the doors the old-fashioned way.
*And one last idiosyncrasy: the blinkers don't stay for long. They burn out rapidly.

But, here's the thing. None of those character "flaws" prevented me from driving it. What did end up sending me to a replacement was this: Every night I'd charge up the battery with one of those slow chargers (no big deal), it would start up right away and I'd drive off. But then, it would randomly not start throughout the day, too. Totally unpredictably. It was a huge stress for me to not have a reliably starting vehicle. But whenever I'd jump it, it would start immediately. No problem. I carried jumpers with me for months. :-)

Despite the frequent jump starts, I still don't think it's the battery. Because all the dash stuff worked. The radio, the lights (inside and out), the fan/heater, whatever. It just wouldn't turn over the engine. But sometimes it would, if I pumped the gas at just the right time.

Again, I think it's electrical. But I'm not a mechanic. And, even if I was, apparently I would be saying that nothing's wrong with it! (Or maybe I just need a new mechanic.) ;-)

Anyway. It's just sitting in my driveway. And I'm still paying insurance on it. I'd like to pass it on to someone else now. Maybe you! Blue book says that a reliably working version of this van, with no additional features (which is basically what you've got now) could sell for $1K. I'm listing it at $600 because getting it to run is ... challenging. Driving it around after it's started is a piece of cake though! My kids are sad to see it go--it's super roomy.

Email me. Make an offer.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Feeling a little nostalgic (bordering on melancholia) tonight. I started thinking of an old friend of mine (she was in my last wedding) that I'd lost touch with. She's still here in Eugene, I think I even have her address and phone number, but we don't run in the same circles, and our lives just diverged.

Not too long ago, probably six or seven months ago, she reached out to me out of the blue. It was a lovely and unexpected surprise. We had lunch together and she caught me up on what was going on. I told her my stories through the years we hadn't spoken, and then expressed apology for not having stayed in touch.

She quickly made attempts at making me feel better about it, though in an unusual way.

Apparently her husband doesn't like me. As in really really doesn't like me. I guess along the way, me leaving my husband planted some fear that my friend would follow suit--even blames me, I take it, for any of their marital discord. .... (I know, right?!)

So I wasn't to be upset about not keeping in touch, her husband wouldn't have allowed it anyway. At least that's how I read it.

At any rate, my friend just had a baby. When she posted a picture of her new son on Facebook, I added my Congratulations to the list of other FB friends doing the same. But I got to pondering tonight: I don't want that to be the only words I say about her new baby. I want to see him, and see her, and hold him, and swap stories, and hear how she's doing. Really doing. Not just status-line doing. And it occurred to me that I probably won't be able to. If I reached out to re-connect, her husband wouldn't approve. And I wouldn't want her sneaking around his back for me. I don't want to be the cause of any secrecy or stilted conversations between them.


I felt a little victimized actually. And a little triggered. A few tears were shed in the car on the way home from an errand. There have been a few people in my adult life who have viciously disapproved of me -- which has hurt -- and cut off contact with me. But no one that has been prevented from contacting me when they wanted to. It's weird and sad and unsettling.

My resolution?

Maybe it's a bad choice, but I think I might text her and share that I'd love to congratulate her in person and give her a hug, but that I don't want to cause a rift between her and her husband, so just to know that I'm thinking fondly of her and wish things were different.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Parenting a Misophonic: Living With Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome

My daughter wears her iPod everywhere. And if the buds aren't in her ears, they are in her pocket. She doesn't eat with any member in the family, instead going to her room to eat with the door closed and the music up loud. The only time we've successfully eaten together is in the living room, on opposite sides, with a movie on uber-loud.

She's not a difficult teenager. She's not going through a phase (which I was once guilty of thinking), and she's not making this up.

She has misophonia. It's also known as 4S, or Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome. The term was coined in either 2001 or 2002, depending on the text you are reading, by New York based neuroscientists Pawel and Mararet Jastreboff. There is no cure.

Definition and Symptoms

Misophonia actually means "hatred of sound," but -- from the more descriptive Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome moniker -- what really happens is rage or panic when hearing certain sounds, like swallowing or sniffling. The most typical responses to trigger sounds (chewing, clipping nails, clicking a pen) are: anger, rage, irritation, annoyance, and anxiety -- leading to the urge to flee or escape the environment. You can imagine the depression, self-hatred, shame, and negative self image those emotions might create in an individual, especially when coupled with an emotional need to strike back, physically, or using mimicking sounds.

My daughter reacts to the sounds of sniffling and chewing. And not just the annoyance that you or I feel about it. It's panic, it's rage, it's lashing out. 

On a recent cross-country airplane ride, when the flight attendants insisted that all electronic devices be turned off (meaning her iPod, and her only workable defense left to her -- she couldn't get up and leave), I held her in my arms while she cried, her nails digging into her palms, shaking, forearms tensed. I plugged one of her ears with one hand and massaged her head, while she shoved her other ear into my lap and held onto me with terror in her fingertips.

This is not made up. No one can make up misophonia.

Eric McDade, osteopathic physician at University of Pittsburg's department of neurology believes that it's caused by "abnormally strong connections between the auditory and limbic system in the brain." In other words, a mis-wiring in the brain that causes an emotional response to a particular sound. (

Though my daughter's symptoms started about two and a half years ago, we've only known the name of it for almost a year, and yet I have only tried to find her relief sporadically. She's tried some energy work that helped a little, but not nearly enough. I've bought her noise canceling headphones, but they weren't helpful. Earplugs hurt her ears. Her school teachers in the private school she attended were accommodating, and let her sit in the hallway to do her schoolwork when her classmates all had colds or allergies and sniffed her out of her seat.

Misophonia starts pre-pubescently, which is why I thought it was a phase at first. Chewing never bothered her before, so why can't we eat together as a family now? 

An article from New Republic said it is probably an "old brain" problem, "likely located in the part of the cortex that processes emotion and that evolved a long time ago."

Phonophobia is a specific kind of misophonia, and is present when fear of the sound is the dominant emotion. This is not the type that my daughter suffers from. She's definitely a 4Ser -- though the UK Misophonia website suggests that 4S be considered as a kind of misophonia. Regardless, she fights every day with this syndrome, and I ache with my own helplessness.


During my research, I've discovered a bunch of new leads to check out. There is a 4S specialist in Portland, Oregon (Marsha Johnson, audiologist) that I want to get her in to see; the first annual misophonia conference scheduled for October 25 and 26th in Portland, Oregon; a couple of forums that she could join and see that she's not crazy and there are others fighting and living with the same condition, and there's MMP to be hopeful for. MMP is Misophonia Management Protocol, and 85% of the people who do it find some kind of improvement.

Melanie Herzfeld, audiologist at The Hearing and Tinnitus Center in Woodbury, New York says that some of the techniques used for treating tinnitus and hyperacusis (extreme sensitivity to certain frequencies of sound) can reduce the effects of misophonia.

Other treatments might be: earplugs, cognitive therapy, neuro feed back, desensitization therapies, counseling, rotating cycles of pleasant sound therapy paired with unpleasant sounds, and psychoanalysis. Or any combination of these. I'd also consider more energy work or hypnosis.

Theories says "a current hypothesis being explored is that misophonia is some type of neurological disorder in which repeated auditory signals trigger a fight or flight reflex."

And apparently there is a genetic component, too.

Most surprising, Wikipedia postulates that misophonia may be another type of synesthesia -- a "neurological condition where one stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway." Like smelling a color, or hearing a shape.

Right now, the strategies that my daughter uses are limited to her iPod, leaving the room, and relying on the safety of her bedroom. She also concentrates really hard on any distractions she can find for herself  in the moment that she sees a potential trigger approaching. She plugs her ears, digs her fingernails into her skin, or sings to herself. Every day is a battle in self-control. She fights her limbic brain response to keep her emotions in check and not hurt herself or others. She's strong, and I believe in her, but I know that she'd welcome any help I can get her.

I feel the child advocate in me awakening. I did this once before with my son, who's on the autistic spectrum. Now it's time for me to be my daughter's champion, and help her understand, and live with, this invisible disorder.

Resources and Education

Misophonia 4S Provider Network 
Here's the provider info for the expert specialist in Oregon:
Marsha A. Johnson, Audiologist
Oregon Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Treatment Clinic, est 1997
825 NE 20th Ste 230
Portland, OR 97232

Sound Sensitivity is a misophonia forum for sufferers only. is the BEST "definition" I've ever seen of misophonia. Two video clips show actual triggered responses, so the non-believers (and let's face it, there will always be those that doubt) can see real people affected by this. has a forum, too, and there's a section for Tips and Tricks.

Monday, August 26, 2013

"Raising My Rainbow" -- a book review

I read another great memoir this week. Hooray for memoirists! Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son by Lori Duron is sweet, and nurturing, and real. It's honest, and ... well ... I'd want to be her friend if I knew her in real life.

When her son, at age three, found a Barbie, Lori and Matt Duron's life changed forever. As well as their two sons'. What follows are years of self-doubt, unconditional love, and the angst of whether or not he can bring his "girl" toys with him when he leaves the house.

It was life-affirming to read about her advocacy, the friends they surrounded their little family with, and the joy that beamed out from little C.J.'s face when he was dancing in an all girls ballet/tap class with a sparkly tutu on.

It's a story about love, first and foremost. It's a story about the minutia of decisions parents need to make when the challenges arise, as they always do. It's a story about acceptance, and providing the best for your child.

I recommend this book to all.

Five stars.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

It's Been a Red Flag Month

It's hard to talk about my depression, because -- on the outside -- it seems so trivial. I don't have clinical depression, I'm not high-risk for needing medication, I'm not suicidal, and I function -- with all outward appearances -- normally. However, as with everybody, I'm sure, there are seasonal times, hormonal times, or times during the year where your life seems to be running too fast to keep up with, and you just get a wee bit depressed as a result. That's the kind of depression that I'm talking about. It's the self-resolving kind. But for the month or two that it's around, it's a bitch.

I have learned over the years to identify my "red flags" that tell me when I'm in that depressive place. For instance, this morning all I wanted to do was knit and watch Little House on the Prairie. Not a normal response to waking up in the morning. When I start seeing those red flags pop up in my every day life, I want to take steps to remedy whatever is out of balance. I don't know if it would, but I fear that if I didn't change whatever was creating that mild depression, that I would settle into something much deeper and harder to get rid of.

My red flags are things like wanting to sleep a lot, or watching two movies in one night. All by themselves, they are harmless. There's nothing wrong with wanting to sleep for nine hours -- if you're trying to catch up on some lost sleep. There's nothing wrong with watching two movies in one night -- if you're having a movie marathon with friends, or if the only way you can get your son to get off the computer, widen his horizons, and socialize with you is promising to watch something he wants, if he'll then watch something you want to watch. It is a problem -- for me -- when I'm offered a night out with my loverloverman and I opt to stay home by myself and watch Gosford Park and three episodes of West Wing.

I also recognize that my red flags are not going to be someone else's red flags. This comes in handy when I'm trying to avoid diagnosing people with depression, especially my own children -- teenagers who only want to watch YouTube, sleep for twelve hours a day, and not come out of the their rooms, or even bathe. I have to constantly remind myself that they are teenagers, not depressed.

Also, I'm not the center of the universe. If I'm feeling depressed, that doesn't mean that everyone around me is.

I drug myself out of bed this morning at 9 am. Later than I normally wake up. I missed a yoga class. Again. And I didn't really feel all that bad about it. It was kind of a relief. "Oh darn. Too late for yoga." And that's happened, like, four times in the last two months. Also, different than normal for me. More red flags. So, after I did the dishes and made my bed, I pulled out my journal and started writing down things that I'm doing or feeling lately that are making me a little nervous.


1. Feeling mildly overwhelmed (like I have too much to do)
2. Tired (back to needing at least nine hours of sleep a night). Just wanting to sleep. I want to get things done but have marginal energy to do them.
3. In pain -- sacroilliac joint (unrelated, but contributing)
4. Not wanting to go out (prefer to stay in with the snuggly dogs and tea. And a book.)
5. Not wanting to go to yoga (my preferred exercise regimen)
6. Worried about money (again, unrelated, but contributing to overall emotional/physical malaise.)
7. Not wanting to work.

I think it's safe to say that I'm having a Red Flag Day. (Actually, more of a Red Flag Month, or two, but who's counting?)

Having had an up close and personal relationship with my mild depression starting to descend into something darker during my last romantic relationship (two years of long distance), I was euphoric to be in a new one that actually bypassed my seasonal February blahs. (Every February for years. It's weird.) I even warned my new boyfriend that during Februarys I would need extra hugs, and maybe I'd shed some extravagant big fat tears. He said the same was true for him in March. Good. We knew where we stood. BUT. Other than a random day here and there, neither one of us got depressed! Bliss.

Now. Here I am in frickin' August, which has NEVER been a trigger month for me, feeling all redflaggy. I'm actually not too worried about it, despite it just feeling shitty. I'm not concerned that I'll trip into the darker kind of depression, because I believe I know the cause. And that just makes everything much easier to handle. I know the cause; I know how to make it go away.

This time around it's medical.

I went in for my regular three month blood test (I have Hashimoto's Disease -- hypothyroidism), and my levels are low. Time to up the meds. My doctor wrote me a new prescription, but it's wicked expensive so I'm going to finish off what I already have (which isn't working well, but it's better than nothing). Within a week or two, when I start taking the new one, I'll feel much better.

Also, my iron levels are too low right now. I had it checked in June, coming out at 12.8 and my doctor likes to see it above 13 at the very least. Since then I've run out of my supplements, and only just started taking them again. Two months being deficient in iron can also make me tired.

And another thing. I ran out of my liquid vitamin D3 that I take a lot of, due to a deficiency, and only just found some more for sale two days ago. It's been a good long while since I had me some vitamin D3.

Turns out I'm low on everything! Which definitely puts my whole system out of whack, causing fatigue and depression most notably. Hashimoto's symptoms include muscle weakness and pain, too. I wonder if my low levels are contributing to my SI joint pain. It's been locked up, fixed, locked up, and fixed again, but still causing me a lot of discomfort.

So yay! I'm depressed for medical reasons! This is very good news to me. It means I'm not lame. It means I'm not going to stay depressed. It means: things will start looking up, I'll get more accomplished, I'll be able to stomach being social again, I'll stop wanting to knit, and I'll be able to function with less sleep. Win/Win.

I just need to wait another two weeks. Mid-September will be grand.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mirror Mirror Off the Wall -- a book review

To order this book...

Mirror Mirror Off the Wall -- how I learned to love my body by not looking at it for a year
By Kjerstin Gruys

Published: May 2013

Summary: A "choice feminist," and recovering anorexic, fed up with pre-wedding jitters and expectations, decides to abstain from mirrors and other reflective surfaces for a year.

Review: This is a feel good book. And the only reason I didn't run straight to my laptop and look up her blog, under the same title, was because I read it on an airplane.

The hero of the story is intelligent, has complex and interesting life experiences, and is always learning, researching, listing, planning, and analyzing. She admits her flaws and never sounds like she's wallowing in self-pity. When she breaks down, she feels it, calms down, finds the beauty in it, and blogs about it.

Kjerstin learns a lot about herself during this year (each month has its own chapter, for the most part), and I really felt good about myself -- inspired and encouraged in learning from, and adopting, some of her epiphanies into my own life. It's definitely a book I'd love my teenaged daughter to read, if only so she can see what a healthy body image requires.

The author mixes in some of her research on gender equality and feminism, but not in a heavy-handed way. More in a quirky "I didn't know that!" way.

This was a GREAT memoir because: it took me to a world I'd never been before (fashion, bridal consumerism, eating disorder recovery, and living a year with no mirrors); it was told in an engaging writing style that kept me turning the pages; that I identified with the protagonist (5'5", 155 pounds, a blogger/writer, a compulsive list-maker, "I am alternatively a student and a teacher, a reader and a writer, a glamazon bombshell, and a no-makeup-Mondays all-natural kinda gal."); and that she had some epic epiphanies that I won't spoil for you. Plus, I learned something new, and it was coupled with the inspiration to "try it on my own."

Also, I loved her focus on one healthy habit a week, rather than trying to eliminate a "bad" thing. I think focusing on drinking more bottles of water for a week will be easier to succeed at then eliminating the chocolate I eat every night.

4 out of 5 stars.
I recommend this book to others.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Lullaby of Polish Girls -- a review

Dagmara Dominczyk’s The Lullaby of Polish Girls has a great title – one that enticed me to request it from the Early Reviewers Club. There doesn’t, however, seem to be a lullaby quality to the novel, nor references to lullabies – literal or figurative. I’m not sure why the author chose it. Nevertheless, I’m glad it got me to open the book.

The novel is told from three different character points of view, and in three different time lines.

Three Polish women have separate personal obstacles to their happiness. They all know each other, but were separated in their teenage years and are estranged through geographic distance, and lifestyle. The novel weaves in their separate stories, going back to when they were children and had first met each other, to when they were teenagers and young adults, up to the present.

The story ends with a poignant reunion, but not before each woman grows in strength to the point that they are able to solve their own immediate disasters.

I was really glad that the novel ended this way. It’s empowering to read that they all individually “fixed” themselves first before reuniting.

Yes, camaraderie is lovely, and being part of a community of friends is the only way I want to live my life, but knowing that each woman had personal strength and courage to make it by herself separate from her friends is important.

The characters were real. The author did a great job at separating them with distinctive voices. I did have trouble with the multiple time lines. Dominczyk was careful to identify in which year the setting was taking place, which town they’re in, and which character was speaking. But still I struggled with matching the adult characters with their adolescent counterparts. Was Anna, the adult, the one who did such-and-such when she was a teenager? Or was that Justyna?

I liked the interspersing of Polish words, even though I don’t know any Polish. It added flavor and color to scenes that might’ve sagged without it. I also got a kick out of knowing that anyone from Poland reading this would get extra pleasure, glee, and resonance from seeing those words.

Dagmara Dominczyk writes well and develops her characters with flaws and fears – just like real people. The Lullaby of Polish Girls is worth reading if you like family or friend dynamics, well-developed characters, Poland, or stories with unique time lines.

3 out of 5 stars; I liked this book, but probably won’t read it again.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Found Poem ~ "In My Dream"

I was looking around the house today for a blank journal to use in an art class I'm taking next week, and I discovered what looks like a poem. Since I don't consider myself a poet, I can only assume it wasn't first intended as a poem, and just turned out that way -- like a kitchen concoction that turns out way different than you expected, but is still good.

My only disappointment in the poem is ... I don't remember who I was writing about. Also, it's a little "flowery."

Or not.

In My Dream

In my dream, you were my soul coach,
Writing down my words faster than I could.
Recording words and ideas
Plummeting from the sky,
Or my lips.

Sometimes they'd float by in bubbles,
Iridescent with purple glint,
And you'd reach out with calm,
Like swamp water slippery with waiting crocodiles,
And pluck them from in front of you.

In my dream, you'd hold up the thought
And clear your throat,
Examining it for flaws.
You'd exclaim/proclaim it sound
And write it down
And then give it a kiss.

In my dream, you heard a hoard of elephants,
Stampeding through your mind,
Interrupting your thoughts and dreams,
And you were angry.

But then you help up your own thought,
And cleared your throat,
Examined it for flaws.
You exclaimed/proclaimed it sound
And wrote it down.
And then gave it a kiss --
No longer labeled as anger.

In my dream, you wear brown cowboy boots
And leap and stomp and laugh and plead
With eyes of brown and green and blue --
Mirrors of angst and joy,
Pleasure and guilt and desire.

In my dream you hide from, what,
I don't know.
Sometimes it is yourself and
Sometimes it is me, but
Always it reminds me of fear.
Distrust in a child's countenance,
When he is trying so very hard to 
Understand this grown-up world,
And meets with disbelief at the
Strangeness of it.

In my dream, you are
3 and 20 and 48.
And 14.
All ages of knowledge
And import.

In my dream, you are 
Or with me
But always you smile
And always you

Monday, July 8, 2013

I Know It's Summer When I Stop Writing

I once wrote how I knew it was winter. Perhaps it's time to write about how I know it's summer. And it really has nothing to do with bar-b-ques and heat waves.

It's summer when I have bursts of energy to clean and to organize -- which steals not only my writing time, but my impetus. Where I learn to brew kombucha, pick roses and plums from my backyard. It's summer when I only grumble and rant about my teenagers playing WoW and Minecraft non-stop for hours on end, rather than giving them time limits -- because what else would they do while I'm massaging clients, taking yoga classes, or working in the garden?

Summer time is for not thinking big thoughts, stuffing them instead while I busywork through the day, taking advantage of the light. The skin-peeling consequence of that, is that if I don't allow myself to think them, I can't write them down either. And then THAT starts a cycle of writer's block.

I know this pattern.

I breathe it.
At least twice a year.

(I wonder if it correlates to when the seasons change, or if it happens when my life twists and alters course.)

Summer is for new business ventures, self-publishing books, and splashing merrily in the waves of a nine-month-old romantic relationship with my Turk. Summer is the time to break up dog fights with hoses, and walk the neighborhoods looking for those same cherished doggies when firecrackerfear compels them to jump out windows and push through six-inch openings in fences and find their way to the other house they live at, all by themselves.

I know it's summer when I fold my laundry and wish that I had a clothesline to capture the scent of sun.  When ants and fruit flies invade my compost bucket under the sink, and no amount of bait alleviates the swarms. When sneezing doesn't make people shrink back from your germs: It's just allergies.

I know it's summer when my arms itch for no reason, except maybe ambient pollen. When I make jam from the raspberries in my yard. When I surprise myself with gardening prowess. I know it's summer when doggies sleep on the bare hardwood floors in my house instead of upholstered squishy green couches.

When I envy the neighbors' gardens and flower beds.

When I think of all manner of things to do BUT write.

I can't write because I'm not caught up with the housework, and I don't want to leave it for another four days before I get back to it. (I clean in spurts.) I can't write because I often over extend myself, not just in summer, but it feels like I do it more in this season. So much so that come 3 o'clock in the afternoon, I'm bushed. Extra sunlight be damned. All I want to do in the afternoon is read. So I trick myself into reading books that are "good for me." Non-fiction mostly. Or that one novel I need to read for the Early Reviewers Club.

Summer is for looking at my knitting bag with wist and longing, because knitting is for winter days by the fire.

Summer is for remembering to stay hydrated, but then peeing every forty-five minutes until I'm bored with it.

I know it's summer when I only find out I have a fruit tree in the yard by almost stepping in the too-ripe ones on the sidewalk in front of my house.

If Summer isn't for big thoughts, it's for big PLANS. So many plans that I effectively gouge out huge slabs of writing time and just watch them fritter to the floor. Camping for a week, a conference for a long weekend, a flight out of state to take my children to their grandmother's place, and music festivals with costumes.

Summer is here when I take an art class for a day, sleep with the door open because it's so hot I'm counting on the dogs to scare away any intruders, and finally getting around to taking my first Spanish lesson.

I know it's summer when I meet new friends at cookouts and birthday parties. When I feel inspired to change things up. To build a chicken gate for the run that has no chickens yet. And to run yet another errand. It's a season of feeling euphoria, and then worry that the euphoria might be manic, and thinking I should probably write about it, but instead allow the weather and my productiveness to give me an artificial high so that I forget about that reason I'm not writing.

I wonder if Autumn is the season to write.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ain't Yoga Practice Somethin'?

Today I felt wronged and a little bit humiliated, so I thought perhaps I should say something about it.

Or I could just chalk it up to yoga practice.
Something I needed to experience today.

At any rate, I really didn't feel called to go yoga today, but since I have a work/study program with the studio I attend, I felt obligated to go to class. It's actually in the job description to go three times a week, minimum. I had skipped my regular day because I'd rented a rototiller and spent the day doing yardwork. I couldn't do it during the week because of work, and I couldn't do it on Sunday, because the rental place was closed. I made up my Saturday class by going in today -- Sunday.

Anyway, I often will let the instructor know prior to class if anything is going on for me in body or spirit that might affect my practice that day. For instance, last week I was sick. I told the instructor and she said to take it easy, drink a lot of water, and sit out of the postures as I needed to. It's pretty standard advice, so this morning when the teacher asked how I was, I routinely said, "Fine."

The truth is, I am fine. However, I'm on my third day of fasting (for cleansing purposes), had an extremely restricted diet (only fruits and veggies) for three days prior to that, was sick the week before (as previously stated), AND had a sunburn from the yardwork. Any one of those things could affect my hot yoga practice that day, and I had all of them. But I knew what my body could take and I knew what I was supposed to do. "Take it easy, drink lots of water, and sit out of the postures as I needed to." And I was pretty sure I'd need to. I feel healthy, but weak, from my illness, fasting preparation, and actual fasting. Plus I may have overdid it on the yardwork. I had had a mild headache and dizziness the day before, and planned on sitting out of one of each of the two sets we did in class -- in effect, doing half the class. I felt that was appropriate for what I could handle that day.

Class started.

We begin each class with a breathing exercise. I did both sets of that. Deep breathing is good. And I was just out of bed, so I had some energy. First set of the first posture -- made it through, but felt light-headed coming out of it. I did as planned, and stood out of the second set.

I didn't fidget. I didn't drink water. I didn't look around.
I wasn't distracting anyone.

I did the same thing for the next two postures. Participated in one set, stood out of the second.

Fourth posture, and the beginning of the balancing series -- the most difficult part of the whole class for me, three postures of varying difficulty balanced on one leg. I did the first set, and promptly felt dizzy enough to bend over slightly with my hands on my knees (still looking in the mirror) to avoid falling over. Suffice it to say I stood out of the second set -- until the instructor said, "Please join in, Valerie." I was mildly surprised. I don't mind being singled out in class. In fact, I've told the instructors to please do so if I need a correction. I don't want my muscles to remember a posture incorrectly. It's harder to un-learn it that way. And then who doesn't love to be commended in class for a great posture, or effort. But this was undermining my own body knowledge. In the teacher's defense, she had no idea what I was going through physically, and was probably only trying to encourage me.

There is, however, a fine line between encouraging someone to try harder, and bullying them or humiliating them to continue when it would be in the student's best interest to not go any further.

I've heard multiple teachers address this encouragement factor way more delicately than my instructor today. The way to phrase it would be, "Valerie, please join in if you can."

Despite her slightly rude way of getting me to participate, I did attempt the second set. And the two sets after that. Against my will. And I was starting to get a headache.

After one set of triangle pose, I sat down on my knees and drank water for the second set. The person to the right and behind me was doing the same thing. Just sayin'.

I forget when it happened again, but shortly after that, on another I'm-too-weak/headachey/dizzy-so-I'm-sitting-out-of-the-second-set, she made an example of me again. Only this time I'm sure everyone could hear the annoyance in her voice. "Come on, Valerie. Please join in."

I'm sorry if I don't live up to her expectations. And, again, she had no way of knowing what was going on for me that day, but that's kinda the point. I would think yoga teachers, of all people, would know that students show up to class every day with the body they have. We all perform differently, we're all at different stages in our practice, and, as I said earlier, a lot depends on how you'll do in yoga that day.

I've spent years actively working on being self-compassionate, and telling myself to not feel guilty for taking a sick day when I need one, or sitting out of a yoga pose when I'm seeing black stars in front of my face and my hearing dims. I've spent years actively working on not caring what others think of me, my methods, or my lifestyle and value structure. Of being enough. Of being myself and being okay with it. Of trusting myself.

The great part of being a bodyworker (I'm a licensed massage therapist), of someone who receives monthly chiropractic care, and who practices yoga regularly is that I've developed a really awesome body awareness. Body awareness, self-compassion, self-respect, (as well as determination, will-power, balance, no more back pain, and better posture) are all things I've gained from having a regular yoga practice. I know what my body can take. I am not a slacker.

But by the second time I was admonished in a half-hour period for not participating, I started crying. Second-guessing myself. Was I not trying hard enough? Was I not good enough?

And then I got mad.

I don't have to be good enough for her.
I have to be good enough for ME.

And I am. I go into every class with an open mind, a willing body, and a desire to do well. I give whatever I have with me that day to the yoga. Nothing less.

How dare she insinuate that I wasn't?

Unfortunately, the rest of the yoga class was a mixture of too much time spent thinking of the instructor's insensitivity, and of my weakness in caring what she thought -- because I finished the class doing both sets of everything, and leaving it with a headache, and totally exhausted in a flu-like sort of way.

At the end of class I was sorry that I'd gone. And that's only happened one other time in the four or five years I've been taking this class. I laid in the room, barely moving, until everyone else had left, took my shower, and left -- without talking to anyone. I was afraid the instructor would confront me again about my performance in class, and I'd cry in front of her, further shaming myself.

I'm going to write an email to the owner, and let her know about the incident, and request that perhaps she could educate that particular instructor on how to encourage participation in less shameful ways. I'm sure she didn't mean anything by it, but it stung nonetheless.

After the benefit of a few hours to contemplate it, I think that today I had the opportunity to re-learn and remember that I know who I am and what my limits are. That despite eternal expectations, I know what is best for me, and that I can trust my own judgement.

So, thank you, Yoga Instructor, for teaching me that lesson today.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Turns Out I'm Old

It turns out I'm old.

I had a fairly busy week with two children's doctor's appointments, my daughter's talent show, volunteering at her school, my regular work, yoga, and chauffeuring -- plus, I started installing a garden fence. And then, on Saturday, I picked up Ali from the airport, and we drove to Portland to attend a reggae concert.

We checked into our motel first, then walked to the venue. The concert was almost three hours long, and then we walked the mile back. We got turned around a few times, bought food at a walk-up window, (Thank God it was Portland, Oregon and I could get a gluten-free hamburger at two in the morning!) and finally fell into our bed (to the chorus of a party next door that Ali called the manager about, and whom were subsequently kicked out) at 3:30 a.m. (Maybe four a.m. I was asleep by then and didn't hear the rest.)

It was a weekend of records for me.

1. I went 21 hours without sleep.
2. I slept in until noon.
3. I left Powell's bookstore only spending ~$30.

Never before has any of those three things happened to me in my life. Let alone all in one weekend.

Despite 8 1/2 hours of sleep, I still felt groggy all the next day. I snoozed during the car ride home to Eugene, I collapsed dramatically into bed Sunday night, and woke up seven hours later exhausted. With five new zits on my face.

Ali said he'd never seen me so tired before. Which is code for, "Oh, honey. You look old."

I suspect I will be catching up on some sleep in the next couple of days. It makes me wonder though, if I were five years younger, would I have been so tired in the aftermath of the concert?


Try fifteen years.

I could have done it fifteen years ago, no problem.

But I still would've had those zits.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Launching in six, five, four ..

I was talking to my friend this morning about my manuscript. And other stuff. Kissing, boys, work habits, gardening. The usual. But the shocker of the conversation slipped out of my mouth, quite unexpectedly.

"I want to launch my book November 1st of this year. That's ..." I counted on my fingers. "...SIX AND HALF MONTHS AWAY."

This was definitely news to me. I mean. I'd been saying I wanted to launch in November for months now. But the knowledge that November 1st follows April 15th by only SIX AND A HALF MONTHS really threw me.

Good thing I've been researching self-publishing and talking with the pros on that. The writers' conference I go to every year is in August, so I want to be promoting the book even then. It's time to get some more nitty gritty work done.

I'm an editor. And I've edited this book for three years, but even I know that it still needs to be professionally edited by someone Not Me. Funds are uber-low right now, what with my van on its last "electrical problem" legs. (Even my mechanic can't find what's wrong with it. I'm just hoping I can make it last until August. I'll be done paying my daughter's private tuition by then, and can be a little less "creative" in my funding.) So, I might need to do without the editor. I've sent it to four beta readers though. Maybe that will help.


Next thing on the list is layout and cover design.

And reading the bible of self-publishing.

Can I get a cover and layout in six month's time? Time to find out!

I need a new title, too. Grief Shadows: Young, Pregnant, and Widowed isn't doing it for me anymore.

I'm really excited about this next phase of my book's journey. !!!

"Spring is here," said the bumblebees.

Right now I hear weed-eaters and lawn mowers and edgers beating up my over-grown nasty lush lawn. It's going to be BEE-YOU-TEE-FULL. I'm already so pleased. Next step, repairing lawn mower (it's already in the van to be dropped off at the shop) and renting a rototiller. 

Next Saturday would be the day I'd love to do the garden bed prep, but Ali will be flying home from California that day (job training), and that's a job I'd want help with. But we'll see. Maybe I'll get a bug up my butt and do it all by myself. If the lawn mower would fit in the back of my van, wouldn't a rototiller?

My friend Tamara is coming over Friday morning to do some garden plot planning. She wants to grow some corn here, so we'll have to find a good spot for that.

I need compost brought in to amend the soil, and a bit of wood chips (and maybe some landscape cloth) to border it. Then I'll get some metal T-bars and some chicken wire, and fence off the garden space from rambunctious doggies.

Chickens last.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Why Did I Dream That Dream?

Perhaps the Carrie trigger wasn't the Facebook page, or the pajama pants, but The Girl's Guide to Homelessness.

Call me a glutton for punishment, but I think I want to try contacting my sister again. The one from Wyoming. The one that said she didn't want to talk to me anymore because Jehovah didn't want her to. That was four or five years ago. My other sister and my mom say, "Don't bother. You'll just hurt yourself."

Call me a glutton for punishment.

Maybe it's because last night I wore the pajama pants that she gave me. Or maybe it was because I found myself on her public Facebook page, and saw the Friend Request Sent button from last year that she still hasn't answered. Or maybe it was the conversation I had with my best friend yesterday about unresolved family issues. But I dreamt of her last night -- my sister.

I was at a swimming hole with a big group of people. She was the only person I knew, so I gathered my resolve to speak to her, and she ignored me. To my face. Like she didn't even hear me. She blanked me. Even while I cried and pleaded with her, she avoided my gaze. A woman next to her saw me crying and checked in.

"What's wrong? Are you alright?"

"She won't talk to me. This is my sister, and she won't speak to me."

The woman looked at Carrie and only then did she feel pressured enough to converse.

The rest of the dream consisted of her telling me why she no longer wants communication, and me trying to re-phrase her words to make sense of her logic. I kept getting distracted, following her around, and I never did understand before I woke up. The only other part I remember with any clarity was a partial sentence.

"I barely have enough ... as it is ... own family ... things I need to do ..." -- insinuating that she just didn't have time to have a sister.

And then this reminds me -- now awake -- that when invited to family gatherings when the children were little, my dad would claim that same excuse for not attending. And now that he's retired, the children are less interested in hanging out with Grandpa when there is Minecraft to be played, or manga to be drawn. He's too late. And I grieve that.

I wonder if he does.

I don't suppose the children do. How can they miss something they never got used to? But then, how can I miss it? Is it really just a case of preconceived notions? Am I thinking only of how I want things to be? Why am I hung up on this? Why can't I be satisfied with the way things are?

My other sister and mother live in Minnesota and so are not available for Scrabble, or cleaning house together, or Sunday dinners. I miss them dreadfully, but at least they respond when I email or text them.

Maybe I'm being unreasonable. Obviously my family life is not going to be Little Women -- which, by the way, is the movie I compulsively watch when I miss my family (especially my sisters.)

Maybe my expectations are too high.
Maybe my idea of what family is, is warped.
Maybe I'm being unfair.
Maybe my family tries as much as I do to stay connected.
Maybe, in the spirit of diversity, my values around family are different than theirs -- so that wouldn't be wrong on their part, just different.

This puts the blame (self-correction: responsibility) back on me, where I'm comfortable with it, like a pair of shoes that don't hurt my feet, but still have holes in them. It's something I need to get over. They're doing nothing wrong. My pain is my own doing, and therefore something only I can take care of.


I must not be doing a very good job of it though, because this family abandonment/self-worth issue keeps coming up for me. I re-visit it once or twice a year.

And because I've been up since the wee hours of the morning writing, and thinking -- and even dreaming -- about this, somehow (in my mind) self-worth segues neatly into The Girl's Guide to Homelessness.

I found the book in the community library at Osa Mountain Village on the Costa Rican vacation I just got back from last week.

It's a memoir about a late-twenties, almost-well-adjusted woman that loved her full-time job, but got laid off, had nowhere to go, and became homeless. Coincidentally, she was raised Jehovah's Witness.

It was a highly triggering book for me because, for the first time, I could see what my old religion looked like from the outside.

It's one thing for me (an ex-JW) to witness Carrie's choices (who is still a JW) and make excuses for her, while not liking her actions. And it's another thing for people like my father, who tolerated his wife's religious choices because he loved her. But it's a whole new ballgame when the uninitiated observe JW idiosyncrasies, especially when they are written about in matter-of-fact journalistic fashion. Then you can see the raw cult-ish qualities frothing at the surface, and you worry about the riptides hiding underneath.

But this doesn't explain why I want to contact Carrie. To try again. One more time. To leave the door open. To reinforce the bridge. To let her know, that if she ever feels she wants to contact me, but can't, because:

"It's been so long, she'll hate me."
"It's been so long, I wouldn't know what to say."
"It's been so long, we probably have nothing in common anymore."

-- or whatever she might be thinking -- to contact me anyway. Except it does explain it. And if you ever read the book, you'll know why.

I'm willing to talk, to re-connect, to remember, and forget. I want to contact her again because I keep thinking that if I could only say it right, convince her -- she'd love me again. Enough to be my sister again. To accept me. To give me back my nieces and nephew. To give back my children's cousins.

A small voice even says, If I was only good enough, she'd want me.

So I keep trying.
Ad nauseum.
Because if I give up on her, then I'm giving up on us, and maybe someone, somewhere, at some time, would give up on me.

And that I couldn't bear.


After all these years, why did I dream that dream?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Best Friends Can Cure Writer's Block

I'm suffering from perfectionism. It's showing up as writer's block. Sort-of.

While I go about my day, I think of topics to write about, but don't jot them down, and then -- of course -- forget them. But in addition, I just want my blog posts (and essays, and book chapters) to be GREAT, so I don't end up writing them at all. Because ... they won't be great.

It makes perfect sense.

And I know what to do about it.

Just write shit.

I need to remind myself (on a frequent basis apparently) that I am allowed (encouraged even) to write badly. Just to get it on the paper. And then I can edit.

I went on this really great vacation with my honey ...

... so you'd think I'd have plenty of fodder to write about. And I do, but I want it to be great travel writing, not my diary. Sigh. But, again, then I just don't write anything. And that's just stupid.

So. This blog will just be my diary. 
I just gave myself permission to write whatever comes to mind. Whatever is important to me that day. And today it's this:


I visited with my best friend today. First time in a few weeks. It was superb. She brought her ukelele and played music while I made lunch, and then I gave her a massage. We talked about relationships, music, gardening, community living, Costa Rica, what we'll do when our kids are older, weight gain, and old times.

She's inspiring, and I hope I am still best friends with her when we are both 82.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

On the Way, Part Two

We stayed at Vida Tropical near the San Jose airport on our first night in Costa Rica. We checked in, showered, and swayed in a hammock on the balcony to relax. We went to bed pretty early (travel was tiring), and planned to leisurely eat breakfast at 7-ish and make our way to the bus station to catch a 10 am bus to Palmar Norte. Our new friends, Lisa and Mark, would pick us up there and drive us to Osa Mountain Village.

We woke with our 7 am alarm and wandered slowly to breakfast. Which wasn't ready. BECAUSE, it was really 6:40 am. They don't acknowledge the time change here. (headsmack) We almost went back to bed, but the breeze was so nice, and the orange juice and coffee ready, that we stayed up.

I journaled, and Ali swung in the hammock, reading a Costa Rican guidebook. The hostel there keep rabbits as pets, and the birds wake you in the wee hours of the morning. (Sunrise here is 5:30 am.)


While waiting for breakfast, we were informed that we should really be at the bus station an hour or two before departure because of it being Easter Holiday Week. We hurried through a traditional Tico breakfast of rice, beans, and eggs, and got to the station via taxi. The taxi to the bus station (back in San Jose) was more expensive than the four hour bus ride to Palmar Norte! $30 for the taxi, and $23 for TWO bus tickets.

(Waiting for the bus at the Tracopa station in San Jose.)

Despite my ass hurting from sitting so many hours in two days (three, if you count the drive to Portland), and my feet swelling up, puffy in my flip-flops; on the bus ride to Palmar Norte, both Ali and I felt that even though we had just arrived in this country (and hadn't even reached our destination of Osa Mountain Village), we didn't want to leave. A week would not be enough.

Costa Rica already felt like home.

On the Way -- Part One

It would be easy for me to disregard Days One and Two of the Costa Rica trip since we weren't at Osa Mountain Village yet, but then I'd be leaving out the journey. Of course! I often jump ahead of myself and look forwardforward to what it will be like when, when the right now is pretty damn awesome in and of itself.

For instance, Ali and I left Eugene on Sunday after dropping the kids at their respective plans that day, walking the dogs one last time, and last minute packing. We drove to Portland (I napped on the way -- so relaxing) and met up with Ali's friend, Erika. We went out to dinner at The Observatory and I ate a super yummy lamb burger, and Ali ate the BEST MEATLOAF ever. Or so he said. I couldn't taste it. It had gluten.

Erika had just inherited (sort of ) a new dog named Patrick. I caught him with a wee Irish hat on.

Erika's place was super cool. The light was a fantastic bonus feature for her husband, a glass artist.

We took a taxi to the airport the next morning, and flew to Texas for a short-ish layover, and found this cool glass sculpture that was really an instrument.

And then we flew to San Jose, Costa Rica.

Napping along the way.

We landed in San Jose and went through the immigration line (even though we weren't immigrating), and got our passports stamped. We got our bags and went through customs, and caught a taxi to our hostel. 

Part Two tells of our sweet hostel -- Vida Tropical.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde -- a review

Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde, by Rebecca Dana.
3 out of 5 stars
Published: 2013, G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Summary: Rebecca suffers from a crappy break-up and moves away from her beloved Manhattan, where she writes about $1400.00 shoes, into a shared apartment in Brooklyn’s Lubavitch community with a not-so-rabbi rabbi.

Review:  Giving Dana’s book only three stars because I thought it was going to include more rabbi comedy smacks of injustice, I know. But, I can’t give it four stars because it didn’t wow me.

She’s a great writer. Her years of journalism allow her to effortlessly sock you with sensory details that the average reader (or writer) wouldn’t even know was missing, until you read her work.

Her humor is self-deprecating, just the way I like it. And the pervading sense throughout her memoir is one of hope, despite – or maybe because of – her seeking and questioning. And she does it with such honesty.

“Everything I knew felt half true. I hated Crown Heights, except the parts I loved. I adored Fashion Week, except that I also loathed it. I lived for my colleagues, worshipped Tina and Edward, was happy writing silly stories about Tiger Woods and stripper heels, but also felt a kind of hollowness in the abstract, that nagging pointlessness pulling at my clothes.”

Who couldn’t relate to that?

I mean, I don’t know Tina, Edward, or Tiger Woods, but I have often felt that conundrum-y pulling of hating and loving something at the same time – and not knowing what to do about it.

Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde shares fascinating snippets of Lubavitcher lifestyle (an ultra-Orthodox branch of Judaism), New York City’s Fashion Week, and how to walk the night streets of a dangerous neighborhood in Brooklyn. (Hint: it involves rapping.)

As a lover of memoir (and an author of one), I really liked that she ended her book with how she’d grown as a character in her own life story. I wasn’t left wondering, “Now what was that book about?”  I connected with her, felt myself resonate with her personal trials (even though my life is vastly different than hers), and ended up wanting to have a cheeseburger with Jujitsu Rabbi and his rubber band smile.

Worth reading.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Gardening With Ancient Seed Packets?

To kickstart my suburban homesteading while I anxiously wait to hear if I'm eligible to even apply for a VA loan, I re-read Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life. It's inspired me to fix my lawn mower and sewing machine, go to a flea market or antiquing, bake bread, start some tomatos and peppers on my kitchen table, learn to play a strumstick, dig up and transplant raspberry bushes, and start a container garden. Wow! What book have you read lately that inspired you to do that much? (Note* Just because I felt inspired to do all that did not mean that I accomplished any of it. Just felt like clarifying.)

I discovered some ancient seed packets (three years old) and wondered if I could coax them into growing. I divided them all up into when I thought I needed to plant them. I even looked up the last estimated frost day for my region to help me with the estimations. I also bought three rose bushes that I need to put in the ground now. They've been leaning up against the fence in their plastic vendor bags for the better part of a week.

I want to plant my sugar snap peas (February's almost half over!). I don't think containers would be great for peas, but maybe. I'd rather have them in raised beds, but I'm not ready for that. I don't want to put beds in until I know if I can get a loan to buy this house.

Containers it is.

Friday, January 18, 2013

An Ode to Lists (but not in ode format ... if there is one)

When I get overwhelmed, I return to lists. They're just so orderly.

My house is a lovely size for my needs. Maybe a tad too big. But very manageable. Truly, it's the easiest of all the places I've ever lived to clean. Perhaps that might be because of my partial ability to let go (mostly) of my attachment to what my children's rooms look like. Or maybe the kids make less mess as they get older. (Which I don't really believe.) Probably it's that the kids' messes look more and more like mine every year, and I can't really decipher whose mess is whose, and I just imagine it's mine.

Everything is just the right size to easily keep clean. And "out of hand" in this house means two days in a row of not doing the dishes. And even after two days, cleaning the kitchen takes fifteen minutes. So no big deal anyway.


Except when there are contributing factors that prevent my innate kitchen-cleaning skills to kick in. Or the one that allows me to pick things up and put them away as I walk through the house, heading towards doing something totally different. That skill doesn't kick in either.

Things that slow me down and contribute to small messes piling up into gargantuan mountains (at least in my eyes)?

Not getting enough sleep.
Being cold.
Where I am on my moon cycle.
If I've argued with my children.
If I've argued with my ex-husband.
If I have a deadline looming.
If my kids have a deadline looming.

Or sometimes ... just because it's winter.

It's especially bad when it's ALL of those things at the same time. Like it was the other day.

So I turn to lists.
Somehow creating a list helps me to feel like I'm accomplishing something, doing something constructive. It's a baby step to actually getting the thing done.

I list
I can accomplish.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Holiday Letter 2012

Talk about cross-posting ...

This is the holiday letter that my kids and I wrote to mail out whenever we bought stamps. (We have decided to call them January Letters.)



We are attempting our first ever Holiday Family Letter, especially geared towards those of you we love that are far away. We’d love to catch you up on our shenanigans.

First off WE LOVE YOU and MISS YOU. That’s the main reason we are writing you.

Aubrey has braces now, and started Tae Kwon Do again. She just earned her yellow belt. She’s in 8th grade and we’re trying to find the perfect high school for her artistic talents, and one where she will thrive.

She’s still taking Japanese lessons, loves anime, manga (her new favorite series is “DRRR!!”), drawing, reading, wearing black, and skeletons. She loves music, but nothing girlie. Case in point: in this year’s school talent show, she’ll be singing either “Leave out all the rest” by Linkin Park, or a Japanese song. She still loves Harry Potter. She’s dreamy, elegant, dark and talented. I love her so much.

Robert says he’s doing “pretty good,” and is fitting in at school, which he says is “very nice.” He loves video games (“Of course, ‘course, ‘course!”). His current fave is Minecraft. If he has to read, his favorite is The 39 Clues series. He’s finished the first whole series and has moved on to the next series (within the series.) 39 Clues: Cahills vs. The Vespers. A Garfield connoisseur, he’s recently moved on to Calvin and Hobbes.

He has a permanent retainer; his braces came off years ago. He’s a 6th grader at a charter school that has a combined elementary and middle school that keeps the same teacher two years in a row. He’ll get a new teacher for 7th and 8th grade. He still doesn’t like to brush his hair and gets only one hair cut a year – a buzz cut during Spring Break. He still likes Legos, and still wants to paint his room grey (it’s bright yellow right now).

He’s funny, curious, quirky, and compassionate. I love him so much.

They both play Dungeons and Dragons with their dad and friends weekly.


We’ve been in our rental house for a year now. It’s a cozy and lovely fit for us. We’re planning to get back to some suburban homesteading this summer: gardening and chickens.

Valerie just got a new job using her massage therapy license finally – at Chi Spa (a place specializing in Chinese massage, reflexology, and detox techniques – like FAR infrared saunas and ionic foot baths.) She’s been building up her editing clientele with Yellow Pen Editing ( ), and continues to facilitate and co-chair the Mid-Valley chapter of Willamette Writers’ monthly meetings. She also has a work/study position with the Bikram yoga studio in town, and has a weekly yoga and ecstatic dance practice. (She recently treated herself to a blind contour drawing/writing class “just because.”)

Her biggest and most heartfelt news is there’s a new relationship in her life – a Turkish man named Ali who writes for a living, collects art, loves dogs, and has a great laugh.

She’s put money down on an acre of land in Costa Rica, and plans to move there full time after the kids are out of high school. Aubrey says she’s looking forward to visiting on college breaks and Robert said he might live there “if it’s cool.”

Merry Christmas and Happy Solstice. We, today, just hiked to the top of Mt. Pisgah in Eugene, Oregon to watch the sunrise on the shortest day of the year – the beginnings of a new tradition? We’ll see. 

May you find loads of peace and joy this coming year. We’d love to hear from you.