Monday, January 31, 2011


I fell in love with my mother-in-law the *moment I met her. She was dressed all in green, as I recall. Like some kind of beautiful grasshopper. Well, that's not exactly right, but...she was something bright.

I had flown out to California to visit Michael, part of our early courtship, and we'd driven to San Diego to see her. We were both nervous to meet, but that passed as soon as I walked in the door. She held her arms out and said, "Welcome Elizabeth!"in her Tennesee/Southern California drawl.

That was the beginning of what's been a long and lovely leaning into each other over the years. Mother-in-law, friend, grandmother to Claire, spiritual warrior extraordinaire, inspiration. 

Today is Johnie's 85th birthday. Oh, so many stories I could tell about her. But it's late and I'm tired and a bit blue that we're here, and not in San Diego with her. We called and sang a wobbly rendition of Happy Birthday. Well, it came together in the end

"Oh my!" Johnie said, laughing over the speaker phone, "You all sound amazing!" 

When I got on the phone with her we chatted for a bit. 
"I'm so sorry we're not with you," I said.
"Oh, Elizabeth, don't you worry about a thing. I'm getting stronger every day, I'm coming back, girl. And you know what? The best thing we can do for ourselves is to get the stress out of our lives. Period, Elizabeth. No worrying."

That's my Johnie-girl. 

*[I wish I had a picture of her from that day. This one with Claire is an oldie. It's grainy and dark but it catches her twinkly eyes and the two of them together feels sweet to me.]

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Blessing

Gentle snowy afternoon.
Dare I say some hope has returned?
Thanks for riding the peaks and valleys with me.

I'm cooing at you, dear readers.

xo b

Friday, January 28, 2011

Coo At You

Everything feels so fragile. Me. especially. My stomach has been hurting for a month, since Christmas Eve, to be exact. 

It's acid reflux, someone said.
Maybe it's an ulcer.
Oh, lots of women our age start to get that.

My doctor didn't have an answer, so I'm taking a daily pill while spooning creamy, minty over-the-counter liquid into my mouth, hoping for relief from the burning. I have an appointment with a gastro-guy on Tuesday. Doctors scare me. They always want to run tests. I hate tests.

What is it that I can't stomach these days?

Our car died; money is tight. I need work.
Throngs of Egyptians are being tear-gassed.
A woman at Claire's bus stop told me her husband lost his job a year ago. Very hard, Betsy, she said. I had no idea.
Received an email from my brother this morning; our childhood friend, Sue, is dead after a long battle with cancer. She's left behind her fifteen year old daughter, Anna. Anna's father died a few years back. Sue would've been fifty-one on Valentine's Day. 

"Not feeling too good," I said to Michael.
"This is when the spiritual practice needs to kick in," he said.
I am not expecting to hear this from my husband, standing in the driveway, but it feels helpful, healing; the way he cups my face in his hands and looks into my eyes, kindly. 

I feel flayed to the suffering in the world. I pray, say affirmations, take pills called Mood Fix that I found at the health food store. I'm too sponge-like. I need to armor up, I think. I've had it with the constant loss and change and uncertainty. With people packing guns at supermarkets. But armoring up isn't the answer. Dis-armoring, is more like it, surrender. Okay, hands up. Heart open.

Sitting here in front of my big window, snow falling, dog whimpering, I feel this: I/we must practice kindness, over and over, treating everyone like a newborn baby, cooing at the sweetness, the lightness. Treat yourself that way too...

Coo at you.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Be Melting Snow

Lo, I am with you always 
means when you look for God,
God is in the look of your eyes,
in the thought of looking, nearer to you than your self,
or things that have happened to you
There's no need to go outside.

Be melting snow.
Wash yourself of yourself.

~ Rumi

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When Deer Show Up

"When deer show up in your life it is time to be gentle with yourself and others. (in the dead of winter?) A new innocence and freshness is about to be awakened or born. (are there labor pains involved?) There is going to be a gentle, enticing lure of new adventures. (on a tropical island?) 

Ask yourself important questions. (again?) Are you trying to force things? (um.) Are others? (not to my knowledge.) Are you being too critical and uncaring of yourself? (maybe, often, always?) When deer show up there is an opportunity to express gentle love that will open new doors to adventure for you. (bring it.)" 

- Ted Andrews (Animal Speak)

[inserts by moi!]

Monday, January 24, 2011

Like Paris?

Claire and I were at the bus stop. 
Temp, - 5? 
We're sitting in the car, engine off, no heat, talking. 
"Maybe we should take six months and go build wells for people in need," I said. 
This happens, especially in winter. This urge to go somewhere else, do something else, step out of this life and into another. I think, maybe that'll shift the restlessness inside me, make me feel better about the pipes freezing.
"Build wells?"Claire said.
Silvery breath swirled between us. 
"Like Paris?" she said.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dad Does Windows

Dad said, "My name's Mabel. I'm from Bayside. Oh! And I do windows too." 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Satya Yoga

SATYA YOGA = my leap for 2011. 

First class today; I'm thinking, well, if nobody shows, I'll do my practice anyway. Oddly, I did not feel sad, or worried about this. It felt good to be in the simple space, nothing but wood floor, a brick wall, sun streaming in the window. I lit candles and did two sun salutations. I sat on my mat. I twiddled my thumbs. 

The clock ticked. Hmmm, how will you feel if it's just you, alone? Oddly, still not sad or worried. Well, maybe a little. Then, I heard a voice at the door and there was Ella. A minute later, her friend, Kristen showed up. 

It was a good class. At the end, the two women were covered in soft blankets resting in the quiet. They looked happy, dreamy. They said they'd come back again. 

So, leap and the net will appear.
two students turns to four turns to...

I guess I wanted to let you know that I've found work outside of my writing room, aka bedroom. That I'm trying to make a living, be a productive citizen, get people breathing again. Something like that.

Either way I'm having trouble telling you about my new business without it sounding like an ad, or worse, shameless marketing? 

Satya = living your truth so what the hell, in over 300 posts I don't think I've put one link...or I tried once but couldn't figure it out. Anyway, indulge me. Click the link to Ken & Co home page. You'll see the New Yoga with a woman who looks nothing like that and you'll come to my yoga page. If you live near by, come breathe with me. And if you live in Arkansas, no matter. Stop by when you're in town. 


Friday, January 21, 2011

Let Me Be Wise Enough

I am the expert on my own life. Today and every day let me be wise enough to consult with myself. 

The Promise of a New Day

[ Mom's meditation book]

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Greeted By The Morning Moon

This morning, I rolled out of bed, slipped my feet into Michael's big boots, pulled on his gray ski cap. The taking Chewy out in the morning look is pretty much whatever I can grab and go. Needless to say, the dog wouldn't care if I was bare-assed naked; I can't speak for my neighbors. 

We were making our way through the crunchy snow when I saw it; a big, golden coin of moon, hanging over the tall pines.  

Where was my mind right before I looked up? Untangling some worry? Not today. I think I was laughing out loud watching Chewy trying to run on the slippery snow, his legs splaying out like Bambi.

[And I'm happy to report that I've been making some progress with that worry thing.] 

Anyway, that fat yellow moon stopped me in my tracks. Chewy skidded to a halt on the icy snow, banging into my leg. 

I thought, 

Here you go, sister. It's an invitation.

To pause.
To look up
And be greeted by the morning moon. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Your Place In The World

"Your place in the world is fine," she said.
"What made you say that?" I asked.
"I don't know. I don't try to figure this stuff out, things just pop into my head and that's what came to me for you."

I'm not sure why it may me go so soft inside, but it did. Some days you get just what you need, when you least expect it. Don't you love that?

Shouting-out to our new tribal members...we love dogs and exclamation points!!! Thanks for jumping in!!!

So, allow me to pass this message on to you today. May you breathe it in and let your heart soften...

Your place in the world is fine.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wooden Spoon Under Your Pillow

Last night Claire performed a snow day ritual before climbing into bed:

1. flush four ice cubes down the toilet
2. put your pj's on inside-out
3. sleep with a wooden spoon under your pillow


Snow day. 

What other tricks does my kid have up her sleeve?

Imagine the possibilities...

Monday, January 17, 2011

In Memory Of A Peaceful Warrior

If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. 
And so today I still have a dream. 

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

In memory of a peaceful warrior.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Turning On The Light

...spiritual practice is not about locking up all the unruly aspects of myself, in the hope they will never get free. Spiritual practice is about turning on the light - and the light is love.

- Rolf Gates

[Meditations From the Mat]

Saturday, January 15, 2011

To More Life

It's Saturday.

Michael's at his office, working. Claire decided to go on an adventure with her grandfather so I dropped them off on Main Street to run errands. She gave me a crooked smile like what am I doing, and then whispered, "I have my phone, Mom," as she shut the door and followed her grandfather into an old-time drug store. 

I drove straight home, avoiding the Saturday crowds, not wanting to be in the mix of it all.

Earlier, we'd been talking about poetry. Not like we sit around having literary discussions over our oatmeal every morning but it came up and it was a good conversation. Who's Mary Oliver, Mom?and it got me thinking about poems I love; the ones you read over and over, never tiring of the words, always feeling nourished afterwards. 

Here's a sliver from the poem, My Dead Friends, by Marie Howe, one of my favorites...

I have begun,
when I'm weary and can't decide an answer to a bewildering 

to ask my dead friends for their opinion
and the answer is often immediate and clear.

Should I take the job? Move to the city? Should I try to conceive
a child
in my middle age?

They stand in unison shaking their heads and smiling-
whatever leads
to joy, they always answer,

to more life and less worry...

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Peace I Give You

It's been almost a week since the terrible shooting in Tucson. Then came all the talk and outrage, flowers and memorial services. So much grief to hold. For many, the grieving won't sink in for days, maybe weeks, and then. 

Burying a daughter, not yet ten, I cannot imagine. 

In the midst of tragedy, life continues. Walks, bus stop talks, taking a father to the doctor, writing, snow days, food shopping, work. We still get up and do our lives. 

We must.

And so when I saw the bumper sticker on the snow-splattered car in front of me at the market, my heart lifted. May it lift yours...

Peace I leave with you
My peace I give you

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Dog Is A Mirror

I was out with Chewy walking in the sun and it really was so beautiful, even with the bloody cold wind, it was still beautiful, and my body felt strong and moving, I was running with him in the snow, and he was very happy, of course. Such freedom. 

I thought, my dog is a mirror for all that I long for: go ahead, sniff that, jump in, go to the edge, dig in, run, chew on tree branches, play, be joyful. Okay, well, maybe not chew on branches. But I sure can gnaw on things for a long time. Years? Even the way he gets all whimpering and staring out the window reminds me of me. Like there's something out there; we'd better check it out. 

So I've vowed to stop yelling at him when he is being his dog-self, to have more compassion and understanding for his wanderlust and joie de vivre. He gets so caught up in happy thoughts, he can't always hear what I'm saying. Anyway, maybe this will translate into me not being so hard on my *wobbly person-self.

The final sweetness was when we were getting in the car. I saw the two eagles, their white heads so clearly visible through the trees. I was too far away to get a picture so I sat quietly and watched them glide over the creek.

Surely, it was a sign.

*read: A Bit Wobbly (Jan. 12, 2011)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Bit Wobbly

It, meaning life and/or me, is, in a word, twurvy. [If Sarah Palin can make up words, so can I]...

One moment life feels light and fluffy, then it switches to dark and dense, moving on to exciting and creative, then dull and boring, then tender and sweet, then dull get it.

Most of the time, these mood fluctuations are happening quietly between my ears, or so I like to think. My family would disagree. They gently point out that I wear everything on my sleeve, or taped to my forehead. I'm not always sure what's leaking out. 

Maybe it's a January thing, but I'm feeling deeply connected to the Weather Channel these days; so many highs and lows, swirling systems off the coast, flash floods, droughts, raging wild fires?

A fleeting thought came to me while shoveling the front walk that some readers who follow This Being Alive may have concerns about my mental health; how come she posts some lovely thoughts about flowing like a river on Monday and the next day she's up in arms about testicles hanging off the back of a pick-up truck, then there's a charming piece about her aging father, while on Thursday she's writing, (yet again) about finding her life purpose, and come Friday, there's a sweet photo of her new dog playing in the snow with a Buddhist quote captioned below. 

What do you think, Marge? Does she strike you as a bit wobbly? 

Of course, it's likely nobody's thinking anything of the sort. Or maybe you completely relate to the mood swing thing. That's the hoot about being human. We make stuff up about what we think is happening, or what other people might be thinking, while 99% of it is false. Meaning: it's all in our head.

We're all a bit wobbly; some more than others. 

May I see a show of  hands, please? 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tumble Already

Do not be too timid or squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse, and you may get your coat soiled or torn. What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again; you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I'm thinking about the timidity that comes up around trying new things, the squeamishness over not getting it right. As if we're supposed to know before we start; what we're going to write before we pick up the pen, know what we'll be when we grow up, how the performance will be received by the audience, exactly how the relationship is going to pan out before we get in too deep.

Recently I heard a woman speaking lovingly about failure. [I wish I could tell you who it was, but I can't remember.] I do remember that she was very clear that without it, beautiful failure, we'll never be fully be alive. We'll be too afraid to step into anything with both feet, the fear of tumbling and getting rolled in the dirt is too great a risk. So we stay put and wonder what might have been...

I wake up most days not knowing what the hell I'm doing or where I'm going. Yes, I feed my kid, I walk the dog, I teach a yoga class. I do things out in the world; I'm functional. But I'm feeling a deeper longing to try things on and truly allow my life to be an experiment. I'm not even sure what any of this means, but I keep wondering: 

What might happen if I really lived each day like that?

tumble already. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Whole Lot Of Time

Faith is not, contrary to the usual ideas, something that turns out to be right or wrong, like a gambler's bet; it's an act, an intention, a project, something that makes you, in leaping into the future, go so far, far, far ahead that you shoot clean out of time and right into Eternity, which is not the end of time or a whole lot of time or unending time, but timelessness, that old Eternal Now.

- Joanna Russ

(from Mom's meditation book)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

In The Crosshairs Of A Gun

It's Sunday night, getting onto bedtime and I'm just sitting down to write. I want to write about Claire and I braving the gusty winds this afternoon on our ice skates down at the lake. Or how lovely it was to sit and read from The Indian in the Cupboard in front of the fire tonight...Claire did most of the reading, but I read some and Dad did too. Chewy slept at my feet the whole time. 

But all day, out of the corner of my eye, or mind, is the image of a group of Tucson citizens, down at their local Safeway supermarket for a "Congress on Your Corner" event with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords when out of the blue, a young man steps up, points his gun at Ms. Giffords and shoots her at close range in the head. After she fell, he continued to spew bullets into the crowd, shooting 20 people. 

Congresswoman Giffords is in critical condition. Six others are dead, including a young girl who had recently been elected to student council in her school. She wanted to come down to "see democracy at work." 

This recent massacre is so numbing, really, I'm sorry to bring it up, but are you shaking your head too? Doesn't it make you wonder how we've come to this place in our history? Don't you feel like something's gone terribly wrong when Sarah Palin, the darling of the NRA, designs a map depicting the locations of Democratic politicians around the country in the crosshairs of a gun, and that seems normal to people. Doesn't that make you feel really fucking worried?

People were gathering to hear Representative Giffords down at the local supermarket for a peaceful exchange of ideas. 

Just an ordinary day in the USA...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Smart Kid

It's our first school snow day of the year. But that doesn't mean you get to lounge around in bed, oh no, Chewy needs to go out, no matter the weather. I'm pretty sure if he had his way, we'd live outside. 

I woke early this morning, lit some candles, made my tea, and thought of my teacher friends (and all the kids too!).

I imagined everyone sinking into this delicious day off with a collective sigh. 

There's no question; snow days are good for the soul.

Claire said, "It's a good thing, Mom. You know, in the middle of the week, or like today, just to stop, to take a break."

Smart kid.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Simple Dimple

It's a fairly clear indicator that it's time to sort through and toss out when one finds, under the rubble of papers etc, a veterinary appointment card for their dead dog from five years ago, May 5th @ 9:30, Che.

So, although I have other things on my to-do list, I've started with clearing my desk. And the areas around it on the floor. Now as I sit here, typing this to you, there's a spaciousness in my head and body that wasn't there before. 

It's simple dimple, as Dad likes say.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Float Down The River

Yesterday I wrote, inside release you'll find ease. 

That was after an early morning weep-fest at the kitchen table while my patient husband listened, gently pointing out how hard I tend to be on myself, suggesting maybe I could shift my focus from struggle to enjoying the ride, however bumpy it may feel at times. 

Part of my tears were because I'd been up three times in the night feeling pukey. Not fun. But there was this creative rub, this what am I doing here again? rub, that bubbles up at least once a week for me. It makes me feel terribly messy, like a big crying tangled ball of yarn, but Michael says he wouldn't have me any other way. 


Have you ever noticed that even when things are landing in your lap there's still a part of you drawn, like the proverbial moth to a flame, to the difficulties? 

Just wondering.

I felt hugely successful upon waking this morning because I'd made it through the night without barfing. This put a spring in my step that had been missing for the past few days. I got up, made Claire some oatmeal, saw the dusting of snow outside, put the kettle on for tea.

Using a different measuring stick for success and leveling out one's expectations eases the struggle thing. Another idea might be to just 

stop struggling and float down the river.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Take Ten

So you know how something can bug you and bug you but you never do anything about it?

Like a messy desk, or junk drawer that keeps getting stuffed with more junk, or that stretch of road that you drive damn near every day? You know, the stretch of back road that people keeping throwing their garbage on? I know what you're thinking; which one?

I don't know what it is that finally propels me into action. Wrong. I know. It's sheer discomfort. It's the I cannot stomach this for one more day feeling.

It was december 19th, mom's death anniversary. That's weird enough. I was antsy and needed to do something. 
I told Claire, "I have to go pick up the garbage on Franklin Hill Rd. You wanna come?"
She said, "Not really, Mom." 
I said, " No problem. I'll be back."

I got my hefty garbage bags, rubber gloves and went to pick up the McDonald's wrappers and water bottles and beer cans strewn along the road. I tried not to look at the dead 'possum laying near the telephone pole while muttering under my breath at the bastard people who litter. I kept moving and picking up and by the time I was done, I'd filled a big bag, the road was clean, and I felt better. I'm not telling you this to root-to-toot my own horn. I'm telling you because the whole then do something about it thing felt so damn good. 

So, my new thing is Take Ten. Take ten minutes. Do something. 

Anyway, the *rainbow of this story is when I drove down that stretch of road the very next day, it was clean. And I felt happy. 

Note to self; Take Ten.

* the dark cloud was that two days later, there was a new batch of litter on the side of the road.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Coming Of Light

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow's dust flares into breath.

- Mark Strand

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Set Them Sailing

Our New Year's Day tradition is to go down to the Delaware river, write wishes on leaves and set them sailing downstream.  

Michael is focused; three wishes, three leaves. Claire, three or four. I, on the other hand, can't stop scribbling once I get going. This may be desperation on my part for fear of leaving anyone or anything out.

health, love, laughter, family time, freedom from worry, creative successes, money in the bank, let Owen learn to like the dog, watch over my kids, take care of my mother-in-law, keep Dad well,...leaf after leaf. 

The river was beautiful today; smooth, clear, gently flowing. We stood and watched our wishes float away while Chewy rolled in the ice at water's edge. On the hike back to the car, I picked up a piece of birch bark to write one more note with my bright blue marker...

to come into my own.