Friday, October 31, 2014

Booooo. Boooooo.

Essential zip-lock of toiletries
I hate Hallowe'en.
I hate to fly.
So here I am, combining both my phobias in some weird through-the-looking-glass like-cures-like move. Waiting to board a spooktacular (Ugh) flight to the east coast, it  turns out that LAX is pretty much Hallowe'en neutral. Unlike, say, Hollywood Boulevard (my most terrifying Hallowe'en night ever) or any shopping mall or pretty much anywhere. There's one friendly ghost half-inflated inflatable at one of the Southwest gates, and one gate attendant sporting an indeterminate set of animal ears. (Bear? Mouse? Anybody's guess.) There's no one here dressed like death, no one streaming fake blood, no fake weapons. Hurray. Now pass the spiked apple cider and the day will be pretty much perfect. There is a guy next to me in corduroy trousers with mallards embroidered on them, but I just heard him say it's his weekend casual outfit. I'll take that over a zombie covered in goo any day.

I did spend one fairly decent Hallowe'en on my front porch. C and I dressed in basic black and witches hats with a great playlist on the laptop. Neighborhood children approached but were not terrified. We gave out good candy. (One year when my kids were small I gave out glow-in-the-dark toothbrushes. Sorry.)

Okay. So go dress up. Scare people. I'm already scared, so you can skip me. But maybe read THIS first.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

This Place

View from my yoga mat. Really.

Here in paradise we have Yoga by the Sea. It seems that with the new Daylight Savings Time schedule, I might be able to attend and still cook dinner in a timely fashion for my mom.

There's also going to be some T'ai Chi Chih by the Sea too-and I will be one of the teachers.

Really. Seriously. This place is so gorgeous. But it's damp. And the wind blows like crazy sometimes. So don't everybody move here even though the very famous Tom Hanks set the story he wrote for a Very Famous Magazine here. And yeah, if the thing that happened in that story were to really happen, it would happen here. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What I Know

You know that feeling when you're nine months pregnant and you're all excited about having that new baby, that precious person in your life that you already love with your whole being, but you really aren't thrilled about how it's going to exit your body? Well some of you do and some of you don't. But yeah, trust me, childbirth is not really something anyone wants to do. Hours and hours of feeling like you might split in two and all that. But yeah, in the end you have a baby.

I'm really looking forward to seeing my mom again. Having her back here and living with me. Cooking dinner for her every night and taking her out for fro-yo after every doctor's appointment. Hearing her stories.


I'm feeling the weight of it a little, I think. Already. Last night while opening her mail, I found an invoice from a hospital stay in Maryland. News to me. She's fine now, my brother's girlfriend messaged me on Facebook after I inquired.

This morning I awoke with muscle spasms in my hip and leg. Skipped yoga. Iced and took Advil. Felt weird all day.

I suppose the hospital invoice was a reality check. I know there will be ER visits. The hospital. Yeah. Like before. I know it. But I'm not ready for it. Because you know what? A person is just never ready for all that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Waffles. And what the yoga teacher said.

I've gone on a bit here about how I've been cleaning my room. The other day, shredding away, I was struck with a sudden craving for a waffle. Let's be clear. A waffle chez moi is a gluten-free toaster waffle--but I fancy it up a bit by gently heating some frozen blueberries in some real maple syrup and drenching the un-fancy waffle with that concoction. Add some real butter, and it's good. Honest. I mean who would drag out a waffle iron and mix up a batch of waffles for one person? (If someone out there reading this would do that, perhaps we should talk.) Anyhow, I was busy organizing, cleaning, shredding, i.e. subjugating my desire, when what did I find?

Stuffed in a pile of stuff was the un-Christmas card Dan gave me one year. A clear message that I should have that waffle. Which I did, as evidenced by the top photo. I did not get drunk. If someone responds to the parenthetical message above, that waffles and wine thing could seriously happen.

Earlier that morning, I'd gone to yoga. This particular teacher likes to read to us from the Sutras (which, I think, is a regular Ashtanga yoga thing), and what she read was something about the tongue tasting the nectar of infinity. That probably explains the craving for a waffle smothered in real maple syrup, right? And also there was something about how the invisible loves the visible.

I love that.
The invisible loves the visible.

Oh, and can someone explain how it is that I spent a week going through all my drawers and filing cabinets, pulling things out, shredding them-- and now the last couple of days as I've gone through the stacks of papers on my floor and on my credenza, what I've done with those things  is stuff them into files and put them in my filing cabinet?

Probably the only solution is to get drunk and eat waffles.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How I Spent My Mother Vacation and.....Waffles.

I've done a lot of things since I dropped my mom off at my brother's house in Maryland. Mostly, I feared that these two months would be filled with procrastination for the real life tasks I'd planned, and that I'd spend way too much time curled into a fetal position with the occasional foray into the kitchen to make popcorn which I would then return to bed to eat. I feared I might walk in circles around and around my house, wailing and tearing my clothes, or burrowing into Dan's ashes, begging for an answer to the unanswerable why. Okay, I did some of that.

But I also road-tripped to a niece's wedding with my daughter C. I flew to Hawaii for two 50th birthday parties on two different islands, and visited one of Dan's friends on a third island. I went to a T'ai Chi Chih retreat in New Mexico, and spent a week getting accredited as a T'ai Chi Chi teacher in Santa Barbara. I drove north 5 hours to my godson's wedding and drank a barrel of wine with two of my oldest friends. I've had lunch with friends, drinks with friends, dinner with friends, long talks with friends, gone to various plays with daughter M, proving, I guess, that an introvert can socialize when  it's a matter of life and death.

The domestic-doer me threw it into high gear. Kitchen and patio deep-cleaned. Bedroom decluttered--which involved shredding seven or eight bags of paper. (Didn't I just do that before I moved two and a half years ago? Why, yes I did. And yes ,I still have the six document boxes of divorce documents in my garage, thank you.) I got a new book shelf so all my T'ai Chi Chih books and Dan's T'ai Chi Ch'uan books can get cozy together in an organized sort of way. I cleaned out my closet. Again. Honest to god, I'm at one of those mid-life (Ha--why do we say that?-- Last quarter of life) junctures where I loathe all of my clothes.

I shopped. This is big. I bought two nice dresses and a pair of shoes that are not flip-flops. I bought a red toaster/toaster-oven combo that I hope my mom will love because the previous toaster was a pain in the ass and I'm not sure why she or any of my house guests put up with it. I bought this: supposedly handmade by a local artist. I hope it is.

And in my never-ending quest to make my house brighter and more colorful, I've ordered fabric to have my dining room chairs recovered.

Because, well....this is what my living room looks like after I went berserk in there a couple months back--except now the tray is bright turquoise. Stay out of my way; I still have some of that paint left. Didn't Monet paint everything redder and redder as he aged and began to lose his sight? I want everything to be orange.

Oh, and I wrote stuff. And stuff got published. And well, I wanted to write about waffles and about what the yoga teacher said this morning, but I have to go now. Tomorrow. Waffles. I promise. 


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A party!!! And all of Internet-land is invited!!!

I wrote a book.

I've gone on about it a bit here. I hope not too tiresomely.

Other people wrote books, too. Those people are:

Mona Gable
Elizabeth Aquino
Zöe Rosenfeld
Laura Fraser

We're all going to be reading from our books at the party that Shebooks, the publisher, is throwing on Thursday night.

There'll be drinks, snacks, cookies, music, literary chit-chat, fabulous company, music, and readings.

It's at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts in Los Angeles. It starts at 7:30.

Oh, and all of our books are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. You can click the links below for "Birth Mother," my book.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Traveling the World(s)

Ideally, when one goes off for the weekend to stay in a swanky-ish spot, one would not be wearing pink flannel pajamas and be in bed alone. However, I survived. I even had fun. A lot of fun.

My godson's wedding was completely charming. The after-party for the older generation (plus the groom's brother as a representative of the younger generation) was delightful and involved a lot of wine, some really good goat cheese, and one of those irresistible confections from Trader Joe's involving chocolate and nuts and coconut. I have no solid recollection of what exactly we talked about, but I do remember laughing a lot. I was afraid I'd feel like shit this morning since I barely drink these days, but I woke early and hit the road. Driving does weary me though. More than drinking too much wine. I got off the road  for a while and went exploring in a beach town a couple hours north of where I live. It was full of tourists eating salt water taffy, and  fro-yo and the sidewalks looked as though they had suffered a lot of fro-yo and taffy spills. I like where I live better.

So it's lovely to be home. I took a long walk and met an acquaintance/friend for a glass of wine which turned into dinner with more friends of hers, and god, we older women are fascinating. There were five of us and the collection of life experiences was not for the faint of heart. But there we were.

I've been trying to prompt myself to dream of Dan this past week or so. A couple of nights before I left, I dreamed I was at a party and ran into an old college friend who'd heard that I had a wonderful boyfriend. Oh, he died, I told her. He's dead. Her eyes filled with tears and she seemed shocked that I'd been so blunt. I had another dream a couple of nights ago and it slipped away before I could solidify the memory of it. I remember only touching his face.

And so it goes, I move through these two worlds, communing with both the dead and the living.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Catching the Wave

taken at Hollywood Beach 

The waves have been really big in my neighborhood. I'm not a surfer, but I feel caught in another sort of wave. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday Evening Book Report

Poets and Writers Best Books for Writers

My friend Barbara Abercrombie's book is splashed across the pages of Poets and Writers as one of the best writing books.

A few years back I took several of Barbara's classes in the Writer's Program at UCLA Extension. She's a gifted teacher. A writer whisperer. Some of the pages for my book first came out of my pen as I sat in her classroom.

You can find those pages in her book. And in mine. Click on the sidebar link below if you'd like to buy it.

And here's the link for Barbara's book: Kicking in the Wall.

Monday, October 13, 2014

"They Say That In This Life Every Meeting Is a Reunion"

The title to this post is a quote from the movie "The Grandmaster." When the two martial artists in the above photo meet, the sparks are blinding--and not from the punches and kicks they deliver.

When I was first dating Dan, he seemed so familiar to me that I would sometimes wrack my brain over it. Who was it that he reminded me of? It was like a word on the tip of my tongue that I couldn't quite utter. At the same time, all I could think of was how different we were, and why could he possibly be interested in me when we were really into very different things. And of course there was my wreck of a life that I was dragging behind me. All we really have is right now, this moment, he would tell me. Just be right here.

I don't really watch a lot of martial arts movies, but if "The Grandmaster" is any example, there are a lot of shots of feet. Our feet let us know where we are right now. And of course, they're very important in the martial arts.

Tonight I went to a T'ai Chi Chih (not a martial art, but a moving meditation) practice in a location that is not my usual one. We had just begun when a homeless guy walked in. He was staggering and looked a bit out of it, but he joined the circle, waving his arms around, not really following our moves. "Yoga," he said. Then "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo." (A Buddhist chant)

"You're welcome to join us," the teacher said. "Or sit and watch. But we're going to do our practice." So we did. The guy stood in the circle with us, but mostly did his own thing. Not too disruptively.  I put my attention in the soles of my feet. About half-way through, he left the room and later reappeared in the lobby. I had the perfect vantage point from which to see him perusing the various pieces of literature. (We were in a church.) Pretty soon he walked out the door and staggered across the parking lot as he made the sign of the cross.

Reunion? Perhaps. We never know for sure, I guess. Every encounter holds something way more mysterious than the fortunes I keep on my kitchen windowsill.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Evening Beach Report

I've been away most of September, only returning to do laundry and re-pack for the next adventure. I haven't seen "my" beach in weeks. Usually, there isn't much sea weed here--not like on the L.A. beaches--but tonight it looked like the sand was littered with carcasses.

There have been high tides, too. Pools of water are still standing near the dunes. I've missed witnessing these daily changes. Things are always changing, and the beach is one place where that's readily evident.

So I'm home. My mom is still on the east coast. It's been great to have a break from caregiving, but I feel I could fall back into some of my old ways. Tonight's dinner was Brie and crackers, olives, chocolate, and wine consumed on the couch while watching a movie. If I have popcorn and beer tomorrow, I'll know I'm in trouble.

Unscheduled time without obligations is both liberating and a bit like being in freefall. But I feel I used my day well. Laundry, a serious cleaning up of my patio while listening to podcasts of This American Life, reading most of the last New Yorker, unpacking.

Tomorrow I will buy and cook some vegetables.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

How Important Is This Softness?

Statue of St. Francis of Assisi. Mission Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

From Justin Stone's book "Spiritual Odyssey:" (Justin was the originator of T'ai Chi Chih)

Softness and Effortlessness

How important is this softness? There is a famous story of a student and a T'ai Chi Ch'uan Master that provides the answer. Every day the student came to study with the Master and every day, no matter how hard he tried, the Master tersely remarked: 'Not soft enough!'

After one disappointing class, the student went home and that night dreamed both of arms fell off. The next day when he did T'ai Chi Ch'uan at his lesson, the Master finally nodded and remarked, 'Now, that's soft!'

One of my favorite writing teachers used to say that every story happens in a particular place at a particular time. So here I am, at the teacher training for T'ai Chi Chih, being watched over by a larger than life wooden sculpture of St. Francis with no arms.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

New Short Story Published!

It's about the aftermath of a divorce, getting caught with a wad of stolen cash, cops, guns, falling in love, and forgiveness.
The Delmarva Review/volume 7. Available at Amazon, Barnes and, iTunes, and maybe even at your library.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

This is the Light that Shines

Tonight's Sunset

When you arrive at LAX and ride the steep escalator down to baggage claim, it's the feet of the person awaiting you that you see first. As you descend past the overhang from the upper floor, the rest of the body gradually comes into view. You see a pair of jeans, a torso in a jacket so familiar you know the feel of it even before the hug. Finally you see that face you can't wait to kiss.

Dan picked me up at LAX dozens of times during the five years we knew each other. Grad school. Fellowships at writer's residencies, visits to see my mom, or friends, or M who was away at college. Almost every month, I went somewhere. Only once was he running late and picked me up at the curb. Every other return, I rode down, watching for the first glimpse of his black and white Nike's.

I flew back to L.A., landing about 7:00 this morning, and let that vision materialize even though he wasn't there. I'd been away all but a couple of days this month, having a wonderful time with three different sets of friends on three different Hawaiian Islands. It was a perfect trip. But there was a surreal comfort in coming home to that image of Dan waiting at the bottom of the escalator. He was here in my house, too. On the beach. In my car. More and more as the weeks and months pass, he's everywhere, and I'm beginning to finagle a sort of peace with that--well, at least some of the time.

I've packed and re-packed for two other trips this September, and that's left no time for house cleaning so today I scrubbed, thoroughly wiped down the kitchen surfaces, opened a laundry basket full of mail, dealt with some of the general clutter all while listening to music. I stopped listening to music when my mom moved in with me two years ago. It seems rude since she can't really hear it, and I worry that if I have the volume too loud I won't be able to hear her if she needs me. This month while she continues to stay with my brother and his girlfriend, I plan to work my way through the almost 7000 songs on Dan's iPod.

It was still summer when I left, but the light shines in at a different angle now. The patio gets very little sun, and the house seems almost chilly. I plan to make this a fall and winter in which I stop complaining about the dark and seek out the light.

Here's one of the songs from the As in the iPod. Dan liked it a lot. Go ahead. Close your eyes. Dance.