Monday, May 9, 2016

A to Z Reflection, atozchallenge

Again, this year, I felt under pressure to get the posts completed for the 26 days. I find if you don't write them ahead of time and then post on the day of, it doesn't work too well. I don't believe I put my best creative foot forward with this challenge and I completed it, mostly, to just keep my word and commitment. But that is not what writing is for me. I have a job and a family and I write as a form of expression and creativity. I don't write to get noticed and I don't make much advertising money from blogging. I felt a sense of falseness when other bloggers would visit my blog in a 'scratch my back, I'll scratch yours' gesture. I did make one brief, genuine connection with another blogger, but all in all, this felt too much like inauthentic marketing, and life is too crowded and too busy to pass by opportunities to be genuine, while instead engaging in activities that don't help me grow, flourish or help someone else. I don't think my blogging enriched anyone else's life, and for me, my enjoyment didn't outweigh the nagging feeling that my time could be better spent in a way that connected to others more authentically.
Sorry if my reflection is not very favorable. How could my opinion be changed? I suppose better blog categories could help - I would jump around the list to find blogs to visit, as part of the obligation, but many blogs weren't pertinent to my interests and some had topics that were so diverse and specific, which is totally ideal in the blog world, but not enjoyable for me to visit. Likewise, I bet many of my visitors didn't find mine very interesting! So if all of us bloggers could have a better idea about content, or have a matching system to make blog reading better, and make our own blogs a better experience for readers who are interested, the whole challenge would feel better.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z - Zymöl #atozchallenge

My husband loves Zymöl auto care products . The wax uses Floridian and Brazilian carnauba, and essentially more carnauba than other brands to make a great wax. Also, interestingly, they make a line of products for musical instruments like fret board glaze and natural wood finish protectors.

Try them! They are awesome!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Y - Yellow Ledbetter, song parodies

It's funny what lyrics people THINK an artist is saying snd one of the funniest parodies is of the great Pearl Jam song, Yellow Ledbetter.
If you haven't heard it, check out this parody video.
Listen to this great parody

Here's a nice live video of the song. 

It reminds me of Pheobe on Friends when she misheard  Elton John's Tiny Dancer :)

W - Water #atozchallenge

This is one of my favorite quotes that marvels at the qualities of water, and what we humans can learn from it.
"Like water, be gentle and strong. Be gentle enough to follow the natural paths of the earth, and strong enough to rise up and reshape the world." - Brenda Peterson

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V - Volkswagen/ Audi #atozchallenge

V - Volkswagen/Audi

The four interlocking circles on Audi vehicles symbolize the combining of four companies that were independent at the time, named: Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer. The owner at that time was a man named August Horch and the new mega company was subsequently named after him. 
He owned Horch, but created Audi prior to the merger and since he couldn't call the new smaller company by his name, they translated it to Latin and rolled with it (no pun intended). In German Horch means "listen/hear" and in Latin, audi means to listen. So there it was! 
Each of these four brands were retained and produced vehicles for differing segments of the market. DKW - Motorcycles and small cars, Wanderer - mid sized cars, Audi - deluxe mid sized, and Horch - luxury top end cars.

In 1960, Volkswagen acquired Audi and relaunched the brand in 1965. Shortly after VW introduced Audi to the US in 1970, and it is now one of the best selling automobile brands in the world. 
(Taken from Wikipedia photos)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Tea #atozchallenge


A stream of consciousness
mindful without words
a simple blanket on the throat,
history longer than my own.
I ask of it, to give to me,
each morning,
several times a day-
so for once I bow to it,
and give it these words to say:
thank you 
I love you

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

X - X Factor Charity #atozchallenge

X - X Factor, Charities

I love to hear about charitable acts, big and small - and since X is a hard letter, I'll note that the proceeds from the final rounds of each prospective X Factor winner goes 100% to a selected charity. That year it was for hospice children with life limiting illnesses. 
Kudos X Factor!  :)

U - Under Armour #atozchallenge

Under Armour

This brand was started with an idea by a team captain to make shirts for the team that were cooler and didn't saturate with sweat... The idea, his garment samples and maxed out credit card for start up, blew into the major defining brand it is today.
Run with your ideas kids!!

Also, this Baltimore based company has the vision to manufacture their products in the markets where they are sold - so make it in the US to sell it in the US and likewise in other countries. Let's hope they, and other companies like them will do the same and transfer jobs back to this country, bit by bit. 

R - Religion, word origin #atozchallenge

Word Origin - Religion
The origin or the word religion means to bind. 

I find that interesting, especially in light of recent discussions about spirituality vs religion - Are you spiritual or religious? Is there a difference?
Watch this video.
Whether you are religious, believing or not. He basically says that going to church is a way to gather several together to enhance their relationships and experience. It's simple, not shaming, not binding.

N- Nice #atozchallenge

Word origins often intrigue me - check out the origin of "nice" - talk about a change over time!!

Nice meant ignorant or foolish Back in the fourteenth century and has evolved many times over to now signify pleasant and kind. Yes, we can all remake ourselves, just like nice did, bit by bit, year by year. 

"The word nice, derived from Latin nescius meaning ‘ignorant’, began life in the fourteenth century as a term for ‘foolish’ or ‘silly’. From there it embraced many a negative quality, including wantonness, extravagance, and ostentation, as well as cowardice and sloth. In the Middle Ages it took on the more neutral attributes of shyness and reserve. It was society’s admiration of such qualities in the eighteenth century that brought on the more positively charged meanings of ‘nice’ that had been vying for a place for much of the word’s history, and the values of respectability and virtue began to take over. Such positive associations remain today, when the main meaning of ‘nice’ is ‘pleasant’ (if with a hint of damning with faint praise; it may yet turn full circle)" from Oxford Dictionary

M - Marriage #atozchallenge

We could all use some more love... Here are some quotes about M for marriage:

“For you see, each day I love you more 
Today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow.” —Rosemonde Gerard

“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” —When Harry Met Sally

“For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.” —Judy Garland

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” —Lao Tzu

L - Leopard Dog #atozchallenge

I have a Louisiana Leopard dog, also called a Catahoula Cur. This breed is the state dog of Louisiana and is used to assist in taking down the wild boar population by baying the boar. The can have spots and may have cracked or blue eyes, and webbed feet. They are said to be derived from a mix of the Red Wolf, Alano Mastiff, greyhound and Beauceron.
These wild hogs are nasty animals - if you remember in Old Yeller, these were the bastards that threatened Old Yeller near the end. 
Most say Catahoulas are very protective, tend to be alpha and need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. By watching the videos of them working with hogs, they appear aggressive, but are actually even tempered, just serious about their job. Abbey has a great history of them, for all interested!

K- Kimchi #atozchallenge

Kimchi is a Korean style of a cabbage and/or vegetable side dish that is fermented with lactic acid bacteria. Foods that are fermented impart health benefits because of the probiotics they contain, and kimchi can offer these health benefits, just like yogurt or other fermented dairy products. Probiotics, simply, are "good bacteria" that can help to renovate our guts and promote health. But in addition to this, kimchi, because it is made from cruciferous vegetables, also contains fiber and other compounds that go above and beyond eating these vegetables alone, or yogurt alone. This Korean food is very flavorful and is often used to compliment rice dishes, or really any dish and is eaten with nearly every meal in authentic Korean culture. Not a bad practice!
Try an authentic recipe and enjoy!

Q - Queue #atozchallenge

Queue - how often are we waiting in a line or a queue on the phone! I am running out of ideas today so here is an acrostic for queue!

Q - questioning success
U - understanding patience
E - exercise mindfulness
U -  unanticipated time cost
E - exist in a world beyond immediacy

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

J - Joy #atozchallenge

Choose joy this day!

"Joy is the best makeup." Anne Lamott

"Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day." Henri J. M. Nouwen

Saturday, April 9, 2016

P - Phone #atozchallenge

This conversation I happened verbatim with my daughter in January. I transcribed it afterward because it was so clear, and telling. 
G is my girl, and M is me, mama. 
Ms. G likes to tell me, like other kids do, about all the things her friends have that she doesn't, often to include a phone. She had told me a couple times about phones and about a particular friend I call Isabel. Isabel has lots of privileges. I've heard of her, but I don't actually know who she is. Isabel has a phone, uses Instagram, wears eye shadow and probably has raging sleepovers with all the other girls who simply must be doing those things too. So I sat and listened to her for a moment and asked her to elaborate on this "everyone has a phone" statement she frequently throws at me.

G: Everyone has a phone.
M: Like who
G: Isabel has a phone, and she brings it to school.
M: Who's Isabel?
G: I don't know about Riley.
M: Yeah, what about Riley and Alexandria and Maya? You've told me all about what Isabel has, but those are your closer friends.
G: Oh. Don't know if Riley and Alexandria have a phone, I never asked them. [she giggles, lost in a moment] We're always too busy playing games and having fun when I see them on the playground.
M: Ahh. That tells me everything I need to know.

S - G. B. Shaw, quotes #atozchallenge

George Bernard Shaw quotes - always good for a laugh or a "huh..."

"No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means"

"A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul."

"The perfect love affair is one which is conducted entirely by post." 

"When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition until death do them part. [G.B. Shaw, preface to "Getting Married," 1908]

"Youth is wasted on the young."

O - Opportunity Cost #atozchallenge

Opportunity Cost - an economic term, definition:
The loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.
There is always an opportunity cost to any decision or action - consider this when taking that action, and be mindful of what your giving up to do something.
Such as, is this blog challenge worth the time commitment and effort of doing it? Is the potential gain of the return worth my alternative? (Time!!!)

I - Infinite Jest #atozchallenge

This is a post about that really long book titled, Infinite Jest .If you know it, or the movie The End of The Tour or the Rolling Stone guy's book, you'll know what I'm talking about. If not, you may want to skip this post...or if you like reading, you may find it interesting.

I saw The End of the Tour and wanted to read Infinite Jest. The characters in the movie were eating it up. The writer himself is overwhelmingly intriguing. (And in the end, tragically messed up because he ended up killing himself.) So I started the book and am near 200 pages into the lice-egg sized font book and have really only made it through 10% of it. 
All the other books I want to read are popping up into my mind like brownies when you're on a diet. I suddenly burn to read them. My daughter came to me with an infinitely cheesy middle grade book that she miraculously has two copies of and she wants to do a "mommy daughter book club" with it, starting tomorrow, and I am suddenly excited. (Books are usually my selfish time- my time is limited and I want to read for my own enjoyment, it's is not a sacrificial task, thought this may come as a terrible shock to my "gimme, gimme, I need, do-for-me" children.) 
This book started off interesting, though disjointed. But it continued on in this way and never connected any dots. It is a big long rambling of inner mind clutter of Mr. Intriguing Wallace. He makes up new words, uses abbreviations for many things and tells time by the year that random items were developed, like the Year of the Adult Depends Undergarment. (Which for the record is 1984 because I looked it up)
So I started to read some reviews to see what people saw in this book. It's like listening to terrible music that sells millions. I am not getting it.
"Infinite Jest is potentially infinite, an endless shaggy dog tale with no punch line. Chockfull/ of brilliant riffs, it is also repetitive and boring." Ethos Review Infinite Jest
--John McGowan is Ruel W. Tyson, Jr. Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Part of what clicks in a lot of Wallace’s work is that he writes in a way that maps to the way (at least some) people think. At its best, his voice mimics the infolding, obsessive, self-conscious, reflective brain voice that we think belongs only to ourselves but that most people have in some degree or another. And to my mind, one of the central theses of IJ is that to live with that voice only, to fail to escape your own head, is toxic. It’s why Hal, early on in the text (though late in the timeline) says “I am in here” while clearly manifesting to the deans as anywhere but in there." Daryl L

It turns out, I think, that this book needs to be read as a sort of study. Like a text book. It is not just a open it up at night and enjoy some mind-hot-cocoa before bed. (It weighs many pounds and will probably sprain your wrist, or possibly dislocate some fingers if you did that). One reviewer described using two bookmarks, one for his place in the book and one for the place in the back where Wallace has many footnotes that can go on for several pages, derailing the scattered plot even further, and he was often chewing on one of them. 
Inevitably, many readers appreciate Infinite Jest because it was like a marathon they had to train for, relapse from and finally, one day complete. You have to work, mentally, to get through it, you have to persevere through the hard times and you have to commit and dedicate yourself to a mindful conscious study of this text. It is a journey in focus and a memory challenge (because something from page 49 will finally relate to something from page 763 and you need to remember these one-liner somethings.) It is also a lesson in the fact that life never buttons up perfectly, because after climbing this massive jaggedly mountain of a book, apparently there is no resolution in the ending. There is no view at the top of the mountain. 
Infinite Jest turned me off from reading it by that 10% mark and it even turned me off from reading in general. It took my bean of reading joy, cooked it and stepped on it so the fibrous inner bean pulp squeezed out of its rough and colorful skin. And then my dog ate that bean and shit it out. I love to read so this is not a good reaction from this book.
I think that life has both handed and thrown at me these same lessons that this book imposes upon its reader. I don't need to learn them by request, they will come to me again and again - from parenting, from cancer, from working, from loving, from simply living. This book was meant to be devoured like those people in the movie were doing, but it is not that for me, right now. There are some good, enjoyable, thought provoking parts but that is like getting rocks thrown at you and picking up the pretty ones in the lot and wishing to get a stoning again to increase your collection. But in conclusion, I will be like Wallace and give no resolve for this post: I won't stop reading Infinite Jest, and I won't voraciously dig into it. As he said, you can find the answers somewhere to the right of the text, beyond the covers. For me, the answer is beyond the end of this post...
I laughed at this Jest review: why you shouldnt read infinite jest !! Enjoy!!

Friday, April 8, 2016

H- health #atozchallenge

I work in health care. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist, so I regularly tell my clients (mostly adults) strategies for eating healthier and what foods they should eat less of or more of depending upon their medical diagnoses. Dietitians tell people what foods are healthy, and this can translate, naturally to how we feed out families and encourage their food habits at home. 

Our expertise lies in many things, the aspects of food science, to counseling, but really the unique piece is our knowledge and ability to provide nutrition therapy for disease conditions. (And this is in fact unlawful to do if you don't have a qualified certification in your state, or the nationwide RDN) 
Still, it is often true that many other lay people have a real good idea of what is good for them and their kids, and they should! And many of us tell our kids to eat things because they are healthy....not so fast parents!
Well, an interesting study came out finding that when you tell young kids something is healthy, will make them strong, will make them grow...etc, they eat less of it. It turns out that if you attribute one characteristic to a food (like those I just listed) they see that as ruling out other characteristics for the food, i.e. it's tasty, it's sweet, it's yummy. Basically, if you tell a kid a food is healthy, they translate that to: it doesn't tastes good.
The study authors concluded that if you want your little ones to eat their veggies, fruits, whole grains, etc. don't tell them about how they are good or will make them stronger and smarter. Just put them on the plate like they belong there, and tell them to have their meal. 

Michal Maimaran and Ayelet Fishbach. If It’s Useful and You Know It, Do You Eat? Preschoolers Refrain from Instrumental Food. Journal of Consumer Research, October 2014

Thursday, April 7, 2016

G - good kids books about tough topics (a tiny list) #atozchallenge

Good kids books about some tough topics: A tiny list of ones I've used or can think of!

Being bossy:

Staying connected to someone - weather by distance or even death:

A parent who has cancer:

Moral Lessons:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

F- Fun #atozchallenge

I'm sharing this because it is fun. 

My daughter is taking the State tests this week and she tends to get apprehensive, but these teachers at the wonderful Mott Haven Academy- a charter elementary school in one of the lowest income areas of NYC in the Bronx, made this fun video to get the kids feeling a little positive about the tests this week.

Way to get creative, put yourselves out there for the sake of the kids, and show them that adults can have a little fun!

Partnered with the city's largest social service agency, The New York Foundling, this school serves mostly at risk kids currently in foster care and the child welfare system. The Mott Haven section of the south Bronx is historically the lowest income area in all of New York City.
Kudos to all the teachers at: Haven Academny

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

E- Earth #atozchallenge (a poem for small steps)

The shading off a crumpled can
mustn't puncture the laziest of us
to cover among our
orange peels, bitter and bright
or half a meatball
tiny tummies couldn't but

if all that is chosen
for performance
is the branded aluminum sweetness
or but one box
that bounced from Kentucky
to DC to New York
connecting the dots
of the gloved and uniformed
if only one is put on stage 
this week 
he scored better than last

We can applaud
not that you
hugged upon the trees 
of your neighbors,
a standard immune to ridicule,
but that this week
you did better than 

Monday, April 4, 2016

D - Diamonds and what matters #atozchallenge

Here is a poem for D- the first word that struck my creative chord was diamond. (Of course I was listening to Paul Simon... See W day from 2015, )

Diamonds on the soles of my shoes
magnetic fuel of grateful beauty
I walk atop that which is valued most
by those who estimate me the least.
A rock so hard, by many
is treated like fragile glass
my heart hardens under
the pressure of their eyes
but on my soles, I walk
with my softer brilliance
wrapped around my fingers

Sunday, April 3, 2016

C- chemo #a to z challenge

This is a photo of my husband taking all his chemo and related pills every morning:

Here's an acrostic to go with the segmented visual:

Cure is elusive
Heal when I'm better
Emotional indigestion
Memories of youth and health
Only time

B- Black Cherokee - a post about judgement and being heard #a to zchallenge

If anyone has lived in New York City or driven down the busy FDR drive, you've probably seen the assumed homeless man there, or evidence of him. He'll set up weird standing arrangements, quirky, funny or just strange signs, or he may be standing there himself with props, often fruit. Well, this icon of Manhattan driving is not, in fact, homeless, not mentally ill to the point of lacking awareness of what he was doing or the motivation for it. His name is Otis Houston, Jr. and he lives nearby in East Harlem and works as a custodian at a health club. 

Mr. Houston claims he puts on this "show" to entertain and inform his audience of drivers in the natural bottleneck of this stretch of the FDR. He came to New York as a teenager from South Carolina, but fell into selling drugs and spend some time in jail years ago. While locked up, he took art classes and after his release, he used this spot on the roadside as his studio, trying out his skills as an artist and using the position to get himself noticed. That he indeed did! He's been noticed and known by thousands, passers by will often honk and wave and call out his nick name, Black Cherokee, for his part Cherokee heritage. Mr. Houston is simply an artist going old school to get people to see his work.
Two NYC filmmakers noticed him and put together a very original documentary about Houston that highlighted him in a whole new way than these urban drivers would ever know. There are clips of him caring for his father ill with Alzheimer's, and him giving conversation like any other New Yorker.

This post is an obvious lesson in withholding judgement. Everyone you pass today, in New York City, to Nebraska to South Dakota, has a story, and we're all just trying to be heard.

Below are some tags from everyday New Yorkers enjoying the Black Cherokee on their way to work:
(And him, as you can see, really enjoying what he does too!)

Friday, April 1, 2016

A- Asparagus #atozchallenge

Europeans of the Renaissance swore by it as an aphrodisiac, and the church banned it from nunneries.” 
― Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingslover a few years back and I remember reading one of her first chapters about one of the first spring vegetables, asparagus. I sat on a park bench with my book as my kids played on a tiny neighborhood park down my street and I read, with delighted child-like wonder about these little shoots. They squealed with free limbed freedom and I flipped pages, all quite equally happy. 

In March, asparagus is working, behind the scenes under the dirt. In April, the vigilance must begin. Kingslover states, "An asparagus spear only looks like it's picture for one day of its life...The shoot emerges from the ground like a snub-nosed green snake headed for sunshine, rising so rapidly you can just about see it grow." She goes on to say that if you don't cut it at ground level at this precise point of it's rapid emerging, it will continue on to grow, with each scale on the delicate spear growing on into a branch until it's a four-foot tree with needles resembling a dwarf Christmas tree. 

Her chapter on the asparagus was a literary delight. Two of my favorite things, food and words, combined to entertain me. But it is also a reminder of how divorced we are from our food supply. We can get asparagus all year round. It comes to us no matter where we are. But if you grow them, or go to a farmers market for them, you have that one golden opportunity in early spring, then you might as well move on to thinking about Christmas because they're done. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Live Music

I went to a live show last night and it was amazing. The guy had such a great voice, he was brilliant like his CDs, letting me know how they weren't ever over produced, but just as he is. He stood but 10 feet from me and my husband - a proper date - one we hadn't endulged in in too long. 
The artist hopped from piano to his guitar, it was a solo acoustic show. He had a way of turning his guitar into a percussion instrument by sneakily slapping it, mimicking a drum beat. He engaged the audience in a very sociable, humerous way. He wasn't awkward, over the top, or under the influence. He was just perfect!
A couple times a big man would have to signal audience members to put down their phones as they tried to capture this whole experience in a hard fast way other than in their memories. Several times, the ladies in front of me posted photos of him mid verse to their instagram accounts, others texting friends about it all, no doubt with excitement.
I remember a line by Gavin DeGraw (not who we saw, but he would be awesome) "I'm looking at the crowd and they're staring at their phones." Weather he means they are communicating with the virtual world while he's singing, to gush about where they are, or the screen is in front of their face while they try to get the best video or photo, I don't know. Maybe both.
But I can say, I went to this live show and took absolutely nothing tangible home. No ticket stub ( I printed paper tickets) no t shirt, no video, and not one photo. (Sorry, I had a flimsy wristband devoid of insignia.) I didnt watch him sing through the the screen of my phone, I didn't post a picture to Facebook, I didn't even snap one for myself. He sang purely to me and not my own personal social audience. 
Months ago, when my iPhone broke, I opted to use an older generation iPhone we had saved and chose not to load my email or any apps on it. It is not capable of sharing a photo, though it can take one. I did this intentionally to see if it felt any different to not use my phone for everything so much. There were times, I'll admit, that sitting at a traffic light for those 60 seconds, that I used to pick up my phone and see what was new. But I wanted to take my idle minutes back. I did, since the summer, and it has been nice. I can't say I feel anything revolutionary though, all I can say is that it feels, simply, normal. 
This show last night was just that - it felt normal. Like when I was younger before cell phones and kids carried recording devices, when my friends and I went to concerts and just listened, laughed and were THERE. We knew where we went and held only memories. People today seem to orchestrate their experiences and capture it in a way to display it - a summary in pictures. And that is nice; it is fun to look back on things, and for sure, I have TONS of photos of my kids. But because of the choice I made with my phone, I exprienced this fantastic show and reminded myslef that how it happened is really only in my memories, and I love it there. I can tell stories to anyone else with words limited only by my literary capacity and imagination that can make this memorie come alive - more so than if I whipped open a photo and said only, "Here, look."
Eric Hutchinson came back out after he said he was done, as most musicians do and said he was going to sing a Christmas song. He stepped away from the mic and left his guitar still, and poised his fingers before no piano. He snapped his fingers to a beat and sang acapella "Have Yoursefl a Merry Little Christmas" It was brilliant. The audience snapped too and quietly, as he prompted, and we heard him crystal clear. He had a wonderful voice.
It was a great intimate venue, with my wonderful husband, and it is only mine to see and replay... in my mind.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A-Z Reflection

After doing the a-z blog challenge I was instructed to do a reflection. I reflected a bit in my last entry, but here goes:

-I liked the challenge and I'd do it again.
-I am not used to putting an entry in every day. I am a once a month, often five of them being skipped, person these days. But it was a great way to get writing again.
-I tried to look at some other blogs of fellow challengers, above and below my own blog's title, but it is hard to comment genuinely on such specific niche subjects I know nothing about - for example, if a person writes about British royalty - the history, families, technicalities of the government and thrown - I am not personally interested in it, and if I read a random blog, as if I jumped into the middle of a detailed conversation, I will be a bit lost and detached. If the blogs could have been organized and listed according to genre that would be good. 
-This was a good way to increase exposure and broaden your audience. I had more comments than I usually do, but I am not aware that I gained any additional followers. 
-It would have been nice if I got an email reminder about the start of the blog or now for the reflection

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Z- Zen

Wow, one more day in the A-Z Challenge. Though I do love writing, I am not used to writing everyday and my creative flower has had stunted growth as of lately because of the all too common- family commitments, kids, time, other interests - other things demanding my time. I chose to do this challenge because I love a challenge- creative, physical, mental- I'm up for it! And they always say, don't wait for a good time to do something, because that perfect time will never come. (We're talking about a blogging challenge here, not some other major life events :) 
So I am closing the challenge on Zen. 

Zen is a form of buddhism, simple meditation as well as a whole life state of mindfulness. 
From the everyday man's urban dictionary: Zen is a state of focus that incorporates a togetherness of body and mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without the distortion created by your own thoughts.  

Steve Jobs was a buddhist. He took meditation retreats and spent weeks "facing a wall" in an attempt at observing the activity of his own mind. He was married in a buddhist ceremony and was well read on all things zen. 
When the 15th century poet Ikkyu was asked "What is the meaning of Zen?" he replied, "Attention." It means moment to moment awareness in every ordinary thing you do. And just as Zen monasteries and centers are constructed and designed with mindfulness and simple, beautiful detail, Jobs spent meticulous attention and precision to all aspects of the user experience of Apple devices. From the cases, to the fonts, to the layout of the store, to the commercials, Jobs was said to have paid attention to every detail giving Apple an image and a "feel". He brought something so new, but so strangely intuitive to the market (for those who can afford it). Essentially, the devices are meant to do their job so seamlessly so that our creative energies can flow uninhibited by pop-up boxes, user difficulties, error messages and other unidentified failures. 
Jobs created products that look calm and ready for your input, like a little metal monk, always open minded and centered. Of course he had other influences and lacked kindness at times, but the attentive philosophy of buddhism and zenfulness likely had an impact in his iconic career. 
He found his passion and approached it with many aspects of Zen ideas like, question everything, and have a "beginners mind". These are ideas which can really be brought to any profession and practice.

(It makes you wonder about all those Apple circles - not unlike the buddhist practice kinhin of walking in circles while meditating...very reminicent of the revollutionary "loading" circle of steps on apple devices...)

It takes time "staring at the wall" and noticing life before the calm exudes over you like an uncased iphone sitting alone. Sometimes the busyness just makes life messy, unlike all the hours and ideas and tinkering that led to an apple product into which we see no guts, no mechanisms, no wires - even on the products with wires, these "flaws" are almost pretty.

Zen doesn't have to be a reclused onslaught to your life, but everyone of us can find a bit more peace in ordinary moments, just noticing them. Here's to Zen.

Y - Youth

Nora Ephron said we should wear a bikini until 34, no matter what. 

"If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don't take it off until you're 34." From I Feel Bad About My Neck:d And Other Reflections on Being a Woman

Many of us are not fully satisfied with our physical body, but our body right now is better than it will be in ten years. And in that decade later, we'll wish for exactly what we're looking at right now! 

Enjoy the illustrations and enjoy YOU!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X - The X-Factor

X-factor - In the singing competition show, X-Factor, the "X-Factor" refers to the unidentifiable "something" that makes for star quality. It's that intangible thing you can't place your finger on, but you know it when it's there. The attempt at putting into words the X-factor of love, of life, of hope - these intangibles - makes for beautiful poetry and prose. And it also makes for a revealing therapy - when you figure out, in a way you can understand, what it is that makes you tick, what underlying feelings motivate you, and where those old wounds are. Why when you meet a person, young or old, you can see some extrapolated character? The X-Factor of life is such a beautiful enigma and trying to grasp it makes for a lifelong insatiable game!

Monday, April 27, 2015

W-Wonder: have a wish to know something; be amazed at

Back in the 60s, Paul Simon was in England trying to make a name for himself, wandering around playing his songs. At 18, he met Kathy and an intense love blossomed. Fueled by his passion and this carefree love, as he called it, he wrote dozens of hits he would later perform with Art Garfunkel in the group we all know and love. Kathy is mentioned in America, Homeward Bound and the beautiful song, my favorite, if I can pin such a loaded word on it, Kathy's Song. She is pictured on the album cover to Song Book above, with Paul.
But now, as the public is left with the testimony of their heart songs, we know that they are not together. As the story goes, she came back from America scared by the fans and fame and attention they were getting as Paul grew more well known. She was always shy and very sensitive and was never comfortable with that life. 
She presently lives in a remote mountain village in Wales and has had the same job for more than 25 years at a college. She has declined all requests for interviews over time and is simply a private person who has never spoken publicly about her relationship with Simon, and probably never will. She is married with three children and her husband claims that they are all good friends and there has never been any strife with them and Simon.

I was fascinated by this story after trying to find out who that Kathy was in Kathy's song. Well, she was a real person - and the story itself is interesting because these two paired off in what seemed to be a love-igniting match, but they were obviously not matched beyond that chunk of time as young adults. Does that in fact mean they were never well matched at all? Was it circumstance and their own youth's curiosity that made this affection? Whatever it was it made for good music!! It's also funny to find these two seemingly different people paired off - one so recluse and shy to live in a remote rural area, walking to the village bus stop to a nearby town to go to the same job every day, and the other traveling the world, three marriages later, having embraced fame and tumult. 

The chemistry of love is interesting and this is a case and point of that. (Though they do say Paul Simon is private as well.) My husband and I can be seen as different in several ways but that little heart dancer on the inside of our souls still move in fluid step with one another, without the words, blind beyond touch.
Love is a wonder!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

V - Names that start with V

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I wanted to name her something with a V. I liked Victoria, Vanessa, and Valentina. I knew a really beautiful, morally-sound girl in college named Valissa (she is Greek). My grandmother's name was Vincenza. Vs are underrepresented in names, but to me, they all sound powerful, profound, a bit exotic and dignified. My perception is funny now because when I proposed some V names to my hubby years ago he made a distasteful face and said, "I knew a girl named Valentina in high school and she was a huge slut." I think this spoiled, self-disrespecting chick ruined all Vs for him!
So, we'll just say my V impression is quite different from his!! And our girl does not have a V name :)

Friday, April 24, 2015

U- unique

Be unique!!
This photo is from a field on my walk :)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

T- Teenagers

I hear such nightmares from people who have teenagers so I am scared for when mine grace me with their evolving, immature-frontal lobe, risk-taking brains. But I heard a piece on the radio (good old John Tesh) and he said that because our brains are so impressionable during those teenage, high school years that peer standing, pressure and self image, etc. have a real defining impact on our personalities. He closed by saying there is still a piece of us that will always be in high school! It made me laugh for a second, then think. 
Ultimately, what I wanted to do in reaction to hearing this is be nice to a bunch of seemingly defensive, unconnectable, snotty teenagers.  If this period of time is so intensely affecting to these young people, I would hope it's not terribly negative so that it follows them like a chipped insecurity for the next few decades. 
If you have one chance, albiet a 5 or so year span of time, to offer that teenager some tools that you want to see incorporated in their personality, try to remind yourself of that and stay in the game for those handful of years while they evolve. I'm sure it will be painful as a parent, and really, I can't offer much advice except keep trying! In that it is similar to many other phases of childrearing - just keep trying and trying and hopefully you'll infuse some positive stuff!! 
Parenting is such an enduring game, it's the brick by brick foundation seen as a whole, and every layer counts. Some may turn out crooked, some may even crack but if we keep at it, stay on the job and lay the brick, we will soon have a wall that our child can then continue to build up themselves to its fullest potential.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


As humans we have this feeling of scarcity all the time. And as a dietitian, this pertains to my work in how we are always on the quest for inner nourishment which often manifests itself into soothing ourselves with food. But as the creatures we are, it is in our DNA to search for things, because at one pint in our evolution, scarcity was a very real threat and a threat to our life. We have a tendency toward a feeling of emptiness, and like animals (or your dog :) they are always on the search for food. When they find food, the gorge on it, especially on foods that would be unusual or rare, like those that are high in carbohydrates. So, one thing to know is that this is not a character flaw. This is part of how we are made and evolved. Somehow, to know that your lack of willpower is not solely responsible for overeating is helpful for many to get it under control, though counterintuitive. Basically, you need to rewire and retrain your brain against its nature.
Aside from how this relates to my line of work, it is true of other aspects of life, the "keeping up with the Joneses" parts. 
Psychologist Rick Hanson, who has done tons of work illuminating how the brain works and how it relates to our sense of gratitude and happiness, suggests pausing in the ordinary moments of life and really internalizing the positive experience for a minute or two. He says if you do this a couple times a day, cumulatively, you will grow a true sense of happiness, which will lead of feeling emotionally "full", not lacking.

(How funny is this picture? That is a real bird's nest pice of furniture. I thought it relatable to this post because of the illusion of comfort in that nurturing period of life.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R- Raindrops

As I drive in my freshly waxed car
I see these drops, 
Most larger than normal,
Struggling to stay up,
Or stay down,
Only they know. 

One will join the next
Into a community drop
Poised in motion
Hoping to be the one who lasts

In this case loneliness is survival
With too much camaraderie,
Eventually the group succumbs. 
But those that stand firm
In their own voice
Will last the ride

Monday, April 20, 2015

Q- Questions


Questions are a great way to learn! Never be afraid to ask questions. If I have a dumb question, I'd ask it sooner than later because the more time goes by the more silly I'll feel. A dumb question to a newbie shows innocence, which is endearing after all. 
According to the great little book, The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz, "We make also sorts of assumptions because we don't have the courage to ask questions." If you find the courage to ask questions, you'll be able to express what you want and find out where others are at, avoiding making assumptions which impacts our well being and contributes to inner turmoil. 
Communicate clearly and ASK QUESTIONS!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

P- Parenting is Purposeful

Parenting is often not rewarding but purposeful. Yes, that statement meant to catch attention sounds strange, but what I mean is that the feeling of "reward" from being parenting doesnt fill the present moments as much as the nitty gitty moments of guidence and real PARENTING.
Day to day, moment to moment, there are more instructing and sometimes aggravating moments than blissful when parenting kids, of any age. Maybe this is the perspective of an overwhelmed mama, but really, parenting is disproportionately discipline (which is teaching and preparation) and instruction mixed with smaller amounts of open observation and also moments of joy. The joy really comes in reflection - back on the observation, back on their responses to discipline, back on the long trek up a mountain that got you to a certain peak. Its not always a smiling moment that brings joy to parenting, but the look-back on the months and years that brings paralyzing joy.
This is a project that is never finished. It is not a presentation that you've concluded at work or a huge puzzle that is finally together. The satisfaction will not come when the work is done because the work is never done. I guess this is why it is so challenging. You must keep on your toes, ready for the next change and anticipate how this will effect them in their ability to be a respectable adult, then execute your parenting course. 
I am not their "friend", I am their guide.
It is challenging to create something, then let it off to be its own creation. Like that puzzle - it's like spending days on a 3000 piece puzzle then finishing - and watching it morph, muddle up, bend, crack and slowly, slowly rearrange into its own scene. I can only watch and advice hoping a piece wont fall off the table. I can only tell them how I managed to get some of my pieces in line despite a gale and storm around a younger me. I can cringe as the theoretical puppy walks by sniffing to take a piece away with him. I can yell "That wont fit there!" Or I can bite my tongue while they try and flip, turn and force... only to come to the same conclusion without me. (Or like some of them, stubbornly jam a slightly larger pice into a smaller curve, and insist it fits, and insist they're right while every time their arm moves, they peel back a bit of puzzle flesh because it's awkwardly sticking out above a should-be-flush surface.)
Parenting is such a dance, with no guarantees, and heart swelling waiting around every turn.
Parenting is purposeful.

Friday, April 17, 2015

O- Open-mindedness

The other day, a child - we're talking between 6 and 8 year old, made several negative comments to my daughter about her religion. Obviously this was passed down from her parents, and I am guessing that with the emphatic nature that this girl said these things, the contention at home around religion must have been very high and very sensitive. We are catholic and live in the Deep South, but I have also heard of kids back north being made fun of because they were not catholic, but go to a christian bible-based church in the north. 
This is so ridiculous! 
They worship the same God and are supposed to have the same values of being Christ-like - but yet they are ostracizing and putting down someone for not being in their "club". 
This is not a post about religion, this is a post about open-mindedness and I am perplexed at how far we in this country have to go. Forgetting about the Middle East and the major problems outside of this country. 
My daughter should stick up for herself, but I also told her that when she suspects that someone is immovable on their stance, esp. on a subject like religion, than don't even bother giving it your energy and time. Let it go, let them feel right and move on, because more bad can come out of trying to convince an intolerant person you don't know well something just. When you've established someone is irrational, don't give it your time.
People can only change, or understand others if their mind is open enough to hear them. And when you realize that kids are already shutting their windows down at elementary age... you get worried for the future!
Keep your mind open.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

N- when in doubt, write a poem

When something sits right
Stay by its side
Like a friend
Seen seldom in your harried life
Upon rejoining
Time lapsed only in wrinkles

A tessellation viewed from afar 
Is but two or three collapsed colors,
If that,
But steps that take advantage of
Serve to confuse
Beg to decipher

Toe touch your emotions and 
Bear we weight on your 
For one is the work of a master
And the other a fraud

Stare not into the pattern
Expecting your clarity
When within you carries 
all the knowing you need
As simple as a friend
Who's smile was never a mystery

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M - Moving

Moving. We're moving again. Moving and emptying out a house can be both cathartic and stressful. It is an immense project with a beginning and a very clear end. With tangible results, a project can be satisfying. But, there are many layers of stress to this move, as well as the last one that brought us here. For some people growing up, they moved so much, military families, etc. that this is no big deal for them. So I could make a huge deal out of a move, or just take it in stride, like all the other families. 

When I was unpacking this last time, I would rip off the tape on each box so that if packed again, the box would have fresh tape and adherence. I remember thinking that each time i took off the tape, a bit of box fuzz would go with it. I ripped and flattened, ripped and flattened, and came to think that with each move, we lose a little piece of our self, like the box. With each move, our core feels weakened a bit. 
But, each time we feel weak, we are actually getting stronger. Each box that looses some of its fuzzy soul learns to still hold the same contents. Each half millimeter gone allows the box to ask for help and accept an extra strip of packing tape it wouldn't have normally needed. It goes from "I'm strong, I'm perfect, I can handle it, I meet my edges perfectly, no big deal" to "I'm not so rigid now, I'm tolerant and flexible.Yes, I'll take a little extra tape."
So, in a way, we've been torn and drawn from moving so much, but in another we are resourceful and quite adaptable, which in this world, makes us stronger.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L - Letters

In retrospect, when I look at these letters to choose my topic for each A-Z blog post, I have found that I chose things that may not be the most paramount use of the letter in my life, and of course I blew A. I have passed family member names and a big 'ole disease that starts with C that has affected us, but I did not choose it for my C entry. Is that a good thing? It may be simply that creativity finds your true soul burrowed beneath all the kids and illness and circumstances and that is what matters when you write and paint and sing - that old you gets a chance to shine through. How freeing to find me in this format! 

It's like when they show you a picture and ask you to say the first thing you think of - it cuts back to the you you knew before you had a reason to analyze. 

I surrender to my letters!

Monday, April 13, 2015

K- Knots

K is a tough one. I actually looked in the dictionary and saw the word knot, which reminded me of Shipping News, a book by Annie Proulx, the talented woman who wrote the original short story that was Brokeback Mountain. In this book, she introduced the chapters with a picture and description of different knots.

Here, knots exemplify how the human experience is both versatile and variable.  They are certainly essential to nautical world, but to many other realms as well. It is interesting how they were woven into this book- (the book was quite boring to start so I am not encouraging anyone to read it here, it wasn't another Brokeback, but aside from that, the theme of the knots was memorable :)

Each specific knots has its own strength and way of connection - they are similar in a very simplistic way to relationships - and yet part of the beauty of knotting is that each knot can be tied and untied, made and remade, again and again. One of Proulx's themes was that some relationships must go through an examination of how they are bound to the past and how they can be loosened, remade or reformed into a totally different knot.

I love the idea that a simple rope can be twisted on itself in order to hold onto boats and docks and have a million other uses. Like our unimaginable strength when we are in the right frame of mind, the right knot. 

The reason I looked into Annie Proulx's writing is because Brokeback Mountain was a profound story. And in thinking of the knots and their symbolism in this movie, sometimes you get contorted into a knot that even if it is unwound, and forced open again, the kinks and turns from the last knot still remain, despite any new form it is put into. The muscle memory of the knot that held you best cannot really let you go. 

From The Ashley Book of Knots

Saturday, April 11, 2015


J to me a hook I find
like I've hooked your heart 
in kind
but as they say with rescued pets
who has usurped who?

In voice, a Blue Jay is there
solid and perfect no matter where
we could take a message from nature,
I see
God made us exactly as we should be.

A pirate, a whimsical story
to my children thats J in its glory
memories of mommy or daddy 
with imagination, nothing superseding.

J is just a letter
could start a word for hate or better
a simple alphabet could build the world
in words
or tear it down with ill intention.

Just joy.

Friday, April 10, 2015

I - Intuition

For I", I chose Intuition. And I am at a loss for a catchy, relevant story this morning, so I wrote a poem:

That chip behind your ear
the scratch under your nail
a wire of sudden hints
details do not entail

Mind that quiet creature
that rights your moral code
your gut stretches your torso
and can move you head to toe

But its nature is inconspicuous
and at first it trusts you full
until you avoid the effort
and cave into the pull

If you ignore it once
it may simply give a shrug
but twice you get a minor pinch
Then a screech if you get smug

Just ask yourself the question
"What is it should I do?"
and the first convicted answer
will ring for you as true

If we could listen to our gut
our quiet intuition
without an explanation
and rationalized suspicion

Then quicker our decisions made
and less the consequence
of emotion, or error, or fault
as guidance into life's suspense

Thursday, April 9, 2015

H- Homeschooling

I took on homeschooling my son for a few months in the end of a school year, for multiple reasons, and this temporary arrangement was the right decision for us and has taught us all a lot. It was a difficult decision to make but we knew it was right when the outcome was positive on all accounts.

I jotted down some reflections when I started homeschooling him, and here are a couple things I learned:

I have learned more about who he is and how he learns by teaching him and being with him all day.

When I am teaching him, I am very present. And that is peaceful.

He loves to learn anything! There are subjects I historically found boring but to see someone so interested, it makes me interested too. My curiosity grows vicariously through his.

Life will send you down bunches of situations from which you can learn and teach. Life is a classroom and that is no more apparent than when you are charged with teaching a moldable young mind.

Homeschooling or not, the flowing is true:

It is a huge responsibility to impart your angle on the world to a child. They will probably inherit your biases, your opinions, and your temperament. You could pass along political stances, religious beliefs, and prejudices. Wether inadvertently or purposefully, we perpetuate our mindset on to our children. This is both scary and beneficial- but it is in OUR HANDS which we had over more predominately to our kids- the fear or the benefit.

This is my boy using a typing program in his free time :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

G - Gratitude

Gratitude. I bet a lot of A-Z bloggers will pick Gratitude. I am grateful for big and small things, and small things that could be big things. I am thankful for my sight and my hearing. I am thankful that my neck doesn't hurt and I don't have a tooth ache. I am grateful that I am safe and loved. 

I believe gratitude is an important piece of having a positive perspective on life so I started a Gratitude Bowl in my house and on my kids' daily chore sheet, adding to the Gratitude Bowl is on there - it's there like a chore, but really it's a reminder so that we actively practice gratitude. Not all things come inherently, day in and day out. We need reminders and tangible, frequent ones. They started by adding generic papers saying "my mom" or "my dad" and evolved to specific notes like my scooter, the Christmas tree, or my dog's nose. I hope this practice reminds them that there is always something to be thankful for and always a positive position to take amidst the unfairness that will inevitably come. 

The Gratitude Bowl, of course, overflowed because we've been doing this for about a year now, so it evolved to a drawer. When I look in this drawer, it warms my whole soul with a beauty that is almost painful. My little children have followed their chores and have written what was in their heart, that day, what made them happy, what they appreciate. I started the idea, but they've done it and liked it and surpassed any tangible example of practicing gratitude by any adult I know. It is overwhelming for me to look in that drawer. I am so grateful! I asked them to do it and they reflected back to me how it's done well. I hoped it would extrapolate for them into an adult life well lived, but they have showed me it's right now, each moment, that is gratitude inducing.