Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On Fear


I read this wonderful article in Yoga Journal yesterday, titled Befriending Your Fears.  We all struggle with our fears - it sure seems that on any given day I'll somehow find something to feel fear about.  Nowadays, I'm mostly able to let it be and tell myself, "Oh, there's that fear again"  when I feel my stomach start to churn and that unpleasant adrenaline-y buzziness comes up again.  When the mind starts to visualize The Very Worst Outcome.  The author calls this a Trance of Fear; what a great phrase.

Recently, it seems that with nothing else to feel especially fearful about, I've chosen to worry about driving home.  And look!  The weather wants to cooperate by raining and being cold and creating horrible muddy spots in which neighbors get stuck (yes, we had to pull someone out the other day) and concocting thick tule fogs which are the worst of all.  I'm such a city mouse driver even though we've migrated to the country.  I already know that it's way worse elsewhere and there's the discomfort anyway. 

I especially loved this paragraph from the article: "As long as you are alive, you will feel fear.  It is an intrinsic part of your world, as natural as a bitter cold winter day or the winds that rip branches off trees.  If you resist it or push it aside, you miss a powerful opportunity for healing and freedom.  When you face your fears with mindfulness and compassion, you begin to realize the loving and luminous awareness that, like the ocean, can hold the moving waves.  This boundless presence is your true refuge - you are coming home to the vastness of your own awakened heart."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Same Topic

Synchronicity is grand.  It seems that over the last couple of weeks so much of what has attracted my attention has been vision-related.  I go to the bookstore:  a new book by Oliver Sachs called The Mind's Eye, all about people who have had varying degrees of blindness and their experiences with navigating the world.  What richness of adaptation!  Another find:  a CD by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, called "Seeing in the Dark" where she relates the journey into the intuitive, creative nature.  Of course, the key question to pose is "What would You have me do now?"

For some great podcasts on spiritual practices:  Sounds True Insights at the Edge

Friday, December 10, 2010

On the Topic of Vision

 
There are two aspects of Vision that I have been working with over the last couple of weeks. One is on the purely physical level. I have had an ongoing retinal problem (Presumed Ocular Histoplasmosis Syndrome) that has caused me to lose the central vision in my right eye and can become active in the left eye at any time. It has been some years since I have experienced those types of issues in the left eye, but a week ago, I noticed quite a lot of floaters in my left eye – it was definitely unusual, although I did not notice the distortion or shadowing that I would have had with a flare up of the inflammation. So I hauled myself into the Bay Area to see the retina specialist.
My visual field in that left eye at the moment includes about 20 little black dots that move as my eye moves. It’s almost like a constellation of stars – in reverse. Instead of shining, they’re dark.

The five days before I saw the doctor were anxious ones. I didn’t know if this was a harbinger of the “bad times” again and I reviewed all of the plans I’d made years ago the last time I was dealing with the problem. What I wanted to do if all the treatments failed? How would I live my life? Etc etc etc. My job depends on me being able to see, so how would I cope with that? (low vision aides for the computer) Driving! Oh boy, there’s a big one. I’ll work from home, give up the office and rope off my work space. And reading. My photography, what would I do about that? I’ve heard of blind photographers, but have no idea how that works exactly. Anyway, I realized that no matter what, I would be able to concoct a high quality of life, with room for things I love doing, some form of practical work/means of income and a creative life.

The examination gave my left eye a clean bill of health. He saw no inflammation at all. I just have some annoying floaters. Gratitude and relief don’t even begin to cover describing what I felt with that news.

Meanwhile, on a spiritual level, I asked myself what is it that I am supposed to see that I am not seeing? Is there something I’m closing my eyes to? Some sign I’ve blocked from sight? It seems that right now, I am prompted to really look inside. What IS the vision for how I want to lead the rest of my life? Those are the questions I’m grappling with now. I don’t have answers yet, but think those answers include service and connection. I don’t exactly know what that means yet.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Complete Digression

Praying Horse must laugh sometimes.  I love these comics:  this one (and I hope I'm allowed to show you this without violating copyright), the original web site is at Dinosaur Comics and this particular one is dated July 22, 2009, but it never fails to make me laugh.  It so much reminds me of some of the silly weight loss ideas I've heard and of course the end result?  Bleh


Friday, November 12, 2010

Leptin Resistance

As I mentioned in the last post, I've been reading up on appetite hormones, specifically leptin. 

Leptin is a protein hormone that acts to regulate appetite, metabolism and energy levels.  If leptin is doing its job properly, it signals the brain how much energy your body has and how much is required - in other words, whether you need to eat because you are low on energy or whether you have enough energy and do not need to eat any more.  In the latter case, it should signal satiety.  Because it is manufactured primarily in the fat cells, the amount of leptin in your body is directly related to the amount of body fat you have. 

You would think that would mean that the appetite would decrease, but that is not the case. Unfortunately, for some of us, our bodies have become deaf to the leptin's message that we are full and should stop eating - our cells are unable to accept leptin's satiety messages and we keep eating.  In fact, most obese people have high levels of leptin and have become leptin resistant, in a similar way that some diabetics have become resistant to insulin. 

A WebMD article on appetite hormones levels quotes Louis Aronne, directory of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital:  "With leptin resistance, you don't feel full and the more you eat, the hungrier you may get."  Further, the article quotes Scott Kahan, co-director of the George Washington University Weight Management Program:  "The general public tends to think of 'fat' people as lazy and as having no willpower [but] it couldn't be further from the truth...There is no question that certain people are preconditioned to gain weight more easily and more quickly regain weight after dieting."

So, what to do?  It will come as absolutely no surprise that a proper diet and exercise were mentioned again and again as the key.  Almost all of the articles I read also recommended that snacking be limited and that one should eat three well-balanced and nutritiously healthy meals, making sure to get plenty of protein.  I don't know about this part of the recommendation - it is certainly not what I do, even though I am pretty sure that if I am not now still leptin resistant then I certainly was in the past.  I actually eat 6 - 7 times a day consisting of three medium-sized meals and three or four small snacks.  I'm not sure what the rationale is behind the three meals only recommendation, just passing on what I found in my reading.

Some Links:
Alternative Health for Today:  Insulin and Leptin Resistance - Information Worth Knowing
Sharecare: What is Leptin Resistance
Suite101: Overcome Leptin Resistance with Exercise
WebMD: Some Dieters Are Set Up to Regain Weight
Harvard Gazette: Shining Light on Leptin's Role in the Brain
eHow: How to Check Leptin Levels

Monday, November 8, 2010

While I'm working on a post about appetite hormones (trying to sort everything out is interesting to say the least), I'd like to "show off" this super-sweet blog award I received from my sister in spirit and fellow blogger at When The Spirit Moves Me, and also offer this lovely yoga invocation.

My hubby and I have been taking a Yoga Basics class on Monday nights since early spring, and we just adore the class.  Anyone in the Oakhurst area, it's at the Old Mill Studio/Pure Heart Wellness Center.

Monday, October 25, 2010

For My Sisters

Sisters, we weep with grief
Shout with anger
Tremble in fear
Stand tall in joy.

We grow strong as the biggest tree
Deep as the deepest well
Wise as the elders.

We echo and call
and call
and call.

We dream our circle to life.
Within, we cradle the newest
being – the babe we feed
with the nectar
of the goddesses and gods
the whatever is.
All of that.

We are spread about with sunshine
We are covered in rain
We soar with the wind
push up the green shoots.
Our legs are roots
Our bodies living wood
Our arms move in worship
We dance between the stars.

I’ve heard we are made of stars.
We are old as the oldest
We are the blackest night
And the newest light.

Formed from the dust of the galaxies
Conjured from lust and need
the moans of pleasure
slick seed
and yes.

We birth the mountains from our wombs,
Bring forth the seas.
From between our thighs,
the scent of ancient sands.
The old queens whose hands
hold the scepters
bestow the mysteries.

All that is.
All that is.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Recent Thoughts

I got to thinking the other day that so often many of us talk about our emotions as something that are primarily difficult or negative. Just want to throw out there that many emotions are positive. How about the times you have experienced these?

affection love fondness liking attraction caring tenderness compassion sentimentality arousal desire passion curiosity joy cheerfulness amusement bliss gaiety glee jolliness joviality delight enjoyment gladness happiness jubilation elation satisfaction ecstasy euphoria zest enthusiasm zeal excitement thrill exhilaration contentment pleasure triumph optimism eagerness hope optimism rapture relief surprise amazement

The thing with emotions is that any given one doesn't necessarily last very long; they come and go. It does take some practice to avoid holding onto a feeling, whether it be a positive or a negative one. We say we don't want to feel the "bad" ones, but sometimes our minds will latch onto something and won't let us stop experiencing that feeling, as when we are angry about what another person did and we can't stop thinking about it and rehearsing and rehashing it in our brain. I read a book some time ago by Jill Bolte Taylor called My Stroke of Insight. She's was a neurophysiologist (or equivalent) and had a stroke and part of her recovery process was in being able to watch her own emotional process. She noticed a pattern in herself that she called the 90 second rule, where an emotion causes a chemical process in the body that lasts for 90 seconds. After that time, any remaining response is the individual choosing to continue experiencing that feeling, whether that choice is conscious or not. I don't know whether this is "true", but it is something interesting to think about.

I mentioned this to some friends who responded one of two ways:  either they defended why they needed to feel the "negative" emotions or they explained how they work very hard at only experiencing the "positive" ones.  That's not the point, the point is that ultimately, we are going to experience all or most of the whole gamut of feelings - if we hold on to a particular one, whether it be one we think of a good or one we think of as bad, then we can get stuck in it and make ourselves suffer.  If we strive to hold onto happiness, oh my, aren't our hopes dashed.  If we don't let anger flow through and out of us, that burns us inside. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More Studies. Sorry, I Find This Interesting

I read the most interesting article in the magazine New Scientist about the addictive quality (for some people) of what the article terms "junkie" food, i.e. food high in sugars, salt and fats. It's a long article, but worth reading in its entirety.

A number of studies have found interesting clues to ways some individuals respond to food in a manner very similar to drug addiction where the reward circuitry of the brain is highjacked. Also, certain foods (see above) are more "addictive".


I know a lot of folks scoff at studies like these, and claim that by publishing results like this, the scientists end up (somehow) letting people off the hook of personal responsibility.  I don't see it that way - a person who wants to deny their own complicity in engaging in addictive behavior doesn't need a study to do it.  I find that learning about these correlations make it easier for me to understand some of my own past behavior. It helps to hear that there is some evidence for those of us who feel we have a food addiction, that we probably do. What it means then, is if we want to change our behavior,  we can't just go on a diet and hope that our willpower is enough; the problem has to be addressed in a way that also works with the addictive quality of our eating habits and the kinds of food we eat.  I fully believe that at the beginning of my weight loss, I made a very clear cut decision to save my own life.  I guess that sounds dramatic, maybe I should phrase it, "decision to choose health above remaining mired in unhealthy overeating".

Monday, September 6, 2010

Studies


I'm a participant in the National Weight Control Registry, which is a large, long-term study of people who have lost a significant amount of weight and maintained the loss for over a year. I'm going into my third year of participating; basically it consists of answering questionnaires each year. From time to time, I get letters from them that briefly describe some of the research findings that come out of the studies they conduct, using the responses to the questionnaires.

This year, one of the studies looked at "Psychological Characteristics of Successful Weight Losers". I'll just quote from the long paragraph in the letter, and apologies in advance for the wall of text, but I find all of this interesting.

"Some obesity researchers have argued that long-term maintenance of weight loss requires such extreme effort that few people are able to accomplish it, and that those rare individuals who do maintain their weight losses do so at tremendous psychological cost. We examined registry members' scores on a number of psychological questionnaires, and compared their scores to the scores of groups known to be experiencing high levels of emotional distress (patients with eating disorders, psychiatric patients) and to scores of groups with relatively low levels of distress (community samples, patients enrolled in university-based weight loss programs). These comparisons show very clearly that, for our group of "successful losers", long-term maintenance of weight loss is not typically accompanied by the high levels of distress observed in certain populations, e.g., eating disordered patients. On average, the scores of registry members on measures of depressive symptoms, general distress, and susceptibility to losing control of eating resemble the low scores seen in community samples and obesity patients, and are much lower (indicating lower levels of distress) than the scores observed in eating disordered and psychiatric patients. Thus, weight loss and maintenance do not appear to have created a "psychological hardship" for our participants."

Speaking from my own experience, if anything, my mental health has drastically improved as a result of the weight loss effort, if only because that process caused me to question so many of my own hurtful self-concepts as well as force me to change the unhealthy eating behaviors that brought me to being so overweight. Also, the more time has passed in maintenance, the fewer instances where I really feel the urge to pig out, which isn't to say I don't enjoy a big treat meal with full dessert from time to time.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Working Through That Nasty Anxiety Thing

I found myself feeling anxious yesterday afternoon for no particularly good reason and it took me a while to sort it out. I used to feel anxious quite a lot but over the last few years that whole tendency seems to be diminishing. I don't know if it's because exercise tends to help me blow off a lot of that kind of steam or if the whole process of having gone through that weight loss and battling the Demons of Overeating made me better able to handle it. Or - maybe I'm just getting older and I don't give that much of a s*** about certain things any more. Yesterday, I sat myself down - well I was already sitting but you know what I mean - and said what are you worrying about now? Well, it's XYZ thing at work. Can you do something about it? Yes, I can make a phone call or two. Why aren't you dialing? OK, fine, I'll dial already.

So I did that and lo and behold sorted that little problem out in a rather tidy way. But still anxious. OK, another sit down. Well, I think I am worried about ABC thing. Can you do anything about it? No, not really, it's more of a Mommish generalized worry about my son and how he's doing and etc. OK, so can you just let HIM handle his own life and just tell him you love him and let it be? Sigh.

What I find interesting about this is that sometimes, if I can sort through those little worries, I sometimes find something that really does need attention. I was getting those little worried feelings about my car - and when I acted on that and took it to the mechanic, it did need some work on the fuel system, nothing major, but still.

The other thing I've found is that I can call myself anxious when actually I probably shouldn't have had that second cup of coffee. Ha ha.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Nostalgia

I found a scan of this photo on my computer last night and couldn't resist working on it. This is my favorite-est horse ever, Chaps, long may he rest in peace. I had this photo framed but ended up having to put it away because I kept getting sad when I looked at it, but this time I didn't get that way. Oh, I LOVED this horse, we were muy simpatico. He was one of the horse herd that belongs to our neighbors and his group used to hang out down on our place, so I spent a lot of time those first few years after we bought the place with them. Poor guy, he colicked and couldn't be saved. In spite of the fact that this photo shows me at some level of my highest weight  and that hat isn't as spiffy as my current one, I am so glad my hubby got this shot.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Yet Another Riff on Gratitude

The other day, a quote appeared that caught my ear: "Gratitude is a magic wand."

As you may or may not know, I am fond of finding things to be grateful for. In my daily journal, I always have create a Gratitude of the Day.  There are days when I dearly would like to fall into total snark with it and other days when I just don't feel a lick of it. Sometimes the very things that are most pissing me off are the ones I know I need to throw some gratitude at somehow. This whole thing has worked for me now for a couple of years. Sometimes I worry that it looks all goody-goody and I'm just not all that fond of goody-goodies actually. I'll take the risk. In the past when I've written about gratitude, I mention the origin of my interest in it, which all relates to an article by Joanna Macy in Shambala Sun and her proposition that gratitude is subversive. Now, that's an attitude I can get behind.

And what I mean by that, other than admitting to still having some sort of teenage rebellion-y type of angst still lurking in this middle aged soul, is that once you start expressing gratitude for something - anything big or small - and do that on a regular basis, I have found that it's nearly impossible to get sucked into a depressed or hopeless or anxious state even in unpleasant circumstances. To some extent I am fighting that "suckage" by using gratitude to re-point my thoughts toward what is life sustaining and healthy. That directly subverts that nasty, critical and fear-provoking voice many of us end up listening to, you know the one that tells us we're no good, we need more stuff, we have to look a certain way, we're not loved, all that.

Getting back to the quote I started off with, if "magic wand" is defined as a tool that is used to direct and place energy toward a desired outcome, in that context, gratitude is a very potent one indeed.

All that said, of course I did a little additional research (using a well known search engine) on gratitude and unsurprisingly found a wealth of nifty quotations. This one brought me up short a bit: "Gratitude is merely the secret hope of further favors." - Fran├žois Duc de La Rochefoucauld. Monsieur, thank you for that little bit of cynicism, although I'm not sure how, if I express gratitude for river rocks, which I think I have done in the past (and if not, am now), they would ever provide future favors other than to remain rocks. I doubt they care whether or not I am pleased by them. Instead, finding gratitude is a way of staying in the here and now, not wallowing in the past and not worrying about the future.

Gratitude of the Day: I am grateful for breathing in and breathing out.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ridiculous Amounts of Fun

Last weekend, I joined a group of friends to celebrate a fortieth birthday.  The birthday girl had an interest in some maritime/water-themed fun and our supremely talented social director came up with our outing.  We started in San Francisco, Pier 39 and took the ferry to Tiburon, braving the wind and chop, heh heh.  Then we had a tasty dinner at Guaymas and just enjoyed each other's company.  Here is a peek at part of the ride over:



Video and Holy Cr** by Ms. Sandra Molnar, posted with her permission.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

One of the Ten Thousand Plants


I finished a book recently: Zen Women by Mirian Levering. Hubby gave it to me for my birthday and it's a history of women in the Zen Buddhist school. I found the loveliest paragraph in there quoting a Buddhist nun, Maiodao, from the 12th century: "Moreover, each person is complete in every way, each thing is perfect and that which is totally complete and perfect covers the earth and reaches to heaven. Eyes are horizontal and noses are vertical. Spring courses among the ten thousand plants; the moon is reflected on a thousand waves. There is no lack and no excess."

That eyes and noses part fascinates me.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Emotions Weight Overeating

A comment on a previous blog post, about my thought that emotions are stored in fat, and reading that commenter's own great blog post about having a similar experience, led me to pondering another aspect of weight and the varying beliefs we hold about body image. In her post on Inside Space, she talks about using her fat as a method of sheltering herself from her emotions as well as hiding in it.

I've been pondering that, as I have heard many of my weight loss "buddies" say similar things. What is true for me is not that I ever felt that I was hiding behind my fat, as in fact when I was fat, I felt totally conspicuous and as if there were no place I could hide. Barring those medical conditions that can make a person gain weight, we all know where overweight comes from - overeating. There's no pretending there.


So what did I get then from the behavior? What I believe is true for me, and is something I still have to work with often enough, is that food was my drug of choice. I used it to numb myself and stop feeling those emotions. In addition, food hits that pleasure pathway of the brain in ways that are very similar to other forms of drug abuse. Food tastes good, it feels good to have a full belly - and so on. Here's a link to an interesting article about this.


Watching the pull I continue to experience toward Food - with eating still probably my favorite activity - just being honest here - is a daily gauge of my emotional and spiritual state. If I find myself drawn toward secret eating or what I know to be overeating that sends up the red flag to examine attitudes. Am I falling into an old thought pattern? Suppressing anger? Feeling anxious? Nowadays, my tendency is to move into physical activity instead when I want to work through emotions - that also hits the reward pathway but in a way that seems to promote healthy resolution to problems and a joyous acceptance of the ups and downs life brings.


I still believe that our emotions are stored in our fat, and as we lose weight and burn off that fat, those emotions can resurface as memories - we can even experience the same bodily sensations.


In fact, one of the blogs linked to on Inside Space, has a post that makes related comments.
That blog author quotes a 19th century article by Wiliam James that discusses the physical sensations of the emotion fear and asked the question of what fear would be without the physical changes and came to the conclusion that there would be none without the presence of the physiological aspects: the fast breathing, the fast heartbeat, and so on.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lollipop. Old Memories

I was doing some grinding around on the treadmill this morning, just for grins, and up popped an old favorite tune from the depths of the iPod. This is one of those happy peppy little pop tunes that I admit to having a liking for sometimes.





It brought to mind some very pleasant memories as well. I first heard this tune while sitting (hiding from the world?) in the hallway of the school dormitory where we lived at the time - my father was an assistant headmaster and we lived at the school. I'd received a transistor radio for my eighth birthday and I was in love. It was a black one, maybe 3 x 5 and had a little earphone. Nope, not stereo or anything. The "My Boy Lollipop" song was one I really loved. Funny, I'd never seen actually seen Millie Small performing this until I looked up this video.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The View from Underneath

I had one of those great days yesterday - I just ended up enjoying everything although nothing out of the ordinary happened. Just that my brain didn't get in the way with stupid stuff - anxiety or fretfulness or whatever.


Got almost all of the housecleaning done except for the floor mopping. I like to do that when no hubbies are going to come back in when the floor is still wet, and he was busy either in or around the house all day so I'm waiting till today when I think he's going to go out thistle-whacking again.


But the best part of the day was when I decided it was time to go for a walk, ostensibly just down to the red gate to pick up the mail. I did put on my camera pack, just in case, although didn't start out feeling very inspired. But, oh my goodness, it was one of those great walks. I didn't get back until three hours later with some interesting shots in the camera and four-five miles under my belt. The highlight was watching a mama mallard with her five adorable ducklings swimming on the river.


I got my butt damp taking this picture from underneath the metal bridge that crosses the Chowchilla about a quarter mile past the red gate. Even though I was on solid ground, everything is just kind of wet there so just sitting setting up the camera was enough. Once I got started walking again though, my pants didn't stay uncomfortable for long.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Looking Up


I recently finished reading "Women, Food and God", by Geneen Roth. I rather liked it, but I do tend to admire her approach, although I wish there had actually been more "God" in this. Not that I'm avidly religious, photos of cherubim notwithstanding, but I have found that for some of us maintaining a healthy attitude toward eating requires a strong attention to the spiritual. This book advocates a "be here now" philosophy - feel your emotions now instead of numbing them with food.

What really got me going on an interesting side tangent was a quote she included in the book, from James Joyce's short story, "A Painful Case". The quote as I found it in Roth's book was along the lines of: "He lived a short way from his body" and it was used as an example of how most of us are so disconnected from our bodies and ourselves that we have no clue who we are and so of course we eat (or we drug or we do whatever we do to numb out). Well, since inquiring minds always want to know, I used a well-known search engine to do additional research. Turns out that is not the way Joyce wrote that sentence. What he wrote is: "He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glasses."

Disclosure: I am not a Joyce scholar; I'm not that smart. I tried to read Ulysses some years ago in college and failed. It made my eyes cross. I was grateful that this was just a short story.

What I found most fascinating about this research is not the actual story of Mr. Duffy or the intellectuals who dissect the Joyceian realm, but the fact that the incorrect quote that Roth used turned out to be so prevalent in that sort of self-help literature. Evidently no one thought that it would actually be useful or relevant to look up what Joyce actually said, which held ever so much more meaning.

Re: the photo. I found that little angel resting in the treehouse located in my parents' back yard.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Just Stuff


(A miniature rose with a huge color)

Finally got myself convinced to take the plunge and do something about the hearing situation in my right ear and went to the hearing aid center yesterday for a fitting. I should get the hearing aid in a couple of weeks. Yikes, it was expensive! Insurance didn't cover a single penny of it. In spite of knowing in general how much it was going to be, it still was a little more than I'd hoped for, and I found my brain saying that I should be careful not to lose it, so maybe I shouldn't wear it. Isn't it dumb some of the stuff our brains come up with? Here - let me build a shrine to the hearing aid and only look at its costly little self. Sigh.

On the way to work yesterday, as I was opening the horse gate, I looked down the fence line only to spot a wild pig standing a hundred yards away, intently watching my activities. He looked like a darker uglier version of Wilbur the pig (from an animated version of Charlotte's Web) with his ears cocked just so and his front legs planted with toes out in what would be an endearing pose except that wild pigs are not very nice. I asked him just exactly what he found so interesting and at that he trotted to the fence, squeezed himself under and went on his hairy merry way.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Grabbing It By The Something or Others


I found this nifty couple of sentences in the book I'm reading right now - well one of the books, this is the one I have in my office for enjoyment during my lunch break - from Eat, Pray, Love:


"When you sense a faint potentiality for happiness after such dark times you must grab onto the ankles of that happiness and not let it go until it drags you face-first out of the dirt – this is not selfishness, but obligation. You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight."


After all the recent uncertainty about my work situation, and worry about my husband's heart attack from which he is recovering wonderfully, and still feeling grief over two deaths in the last year and still getting used to the move here from the Bay Area I felt like I was really in the soup there for a couple of weeks. Yet all along, there were those bright shining moments of beauty smacking me in the face - driving home down the hill and seeing that magic hour of light as the sun is starting to slant just right into our little valley.


I guess I really kind of hoped I would be laid off too so I could spend more time in the garden and do more writing and fiddle with the camera. That's not how it was so my choice is to make the best of it and look for the good stuff and the happiness right here and now anyway. Someone said that you're in hell if you want to be somewhere other than where you are.


Tomorrow, I am going to plant a big patch of purple petunias. And then I'll pull about 84 more cubic yards of weeds and add them to the pile. As I weed, I see visions of what the garden can be, will be soon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Snagged


Oh dear, it does seem that time has slipped by me again. I was going to write something sage-like about how it is that only one or two little things can trip us up - all wisely related to the poor fly pictured above, but I don't feel wise just now.

I've been in hermit mode, riding out a bit of stress related to work uncertainties. Those turned into certainties last week - or at least certain for the time being which is about all one can expect. So, at the moment I am still employed which means that I've now achieved 80% relief and 80% disappointment. Yes it adds up somehow. However, I've got a new boss, as my previous one (and favorite) did end up getting laid off.

The old mind is starting to get itself wrapped around all the changes, although there was the ickiest bout of neck muscle spasm-up over the weekend. I woke up Sunday morning hearing my own inner voice telling me "It's going to be OK." Oddly enough, that's exactly what I wanted to hear - my new mantra for the time being.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wait, Is That a Little Joy Creeping In?

With my husband on the mend and starting to get out and about, back to a more usual routine for him, I am less fretful and anxious. Deep sigh of relief.

I had a great afternoon yesterday and spent a couple of pleasant hours making a clay face. I'd gone to the Open Mind Bookstore in town because I wanted to meet the artist who made the wonderful Him and Her dolls I wrote about some months ago. I deeply appreciate the opportunity to talk and to work with the clay - heh, even though my little face turned out to have a bit of a duck-bill looking mouth. Since I LIKE ducks, this is not a criticism.


After I headed home, I took a little detour along the river road, as I'd seen a couple of nice vistas on our way home the other day from a Fresno medical appointment.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I'm Still Waiting for the Pass Part of This Too Shall

One thing I can be grateful for at the moment is that spring is springing, the sun is coming out and the roads are drying out. The last post had me complaining about stress, and it's not over yet.

About a week and a half ago, my beloved husband had a heart attack, and luckily he got it taken care of early enough that it sure looks like all will be well. He spent a couple of days in the hospital, had a stent installed, and he's got a new sack of pills. First checkup yesterday found the cardiologist quite happy with progress so far. Hurrah. Do not be fooled if you think my tone just now is nonchalant, I stuck to his side like a limpet the entire time he was in the hospital.


Meanwhile, rumors are flying at work of an impending layoff. I suspect (worry?) I will be joining the ranks of the unemployed soon. The uncertainty isn't fun either.


Meanwhile, we have enjoyed a good wildflower/bird walk this last weekend, our first in a few weeks. We started a Monday night yoga class, which we both greatly enjoyed.






Saturday, March 13, 2010

Luckily A Title is Not Strictly Required

The last couple of weeks have been a bit challenging. I'm in a "This Too Shall Pass" phase just now. We drove north to Oregon last week to attend the very sad funeral of a close friend.

This week has seen me embroiled in a situation at work that is unpleasant on so many levels. Yes, I know where to find the most up-to-date version of my resume.

Tomorrow, I intend to do one of the things I love best, go for a walk in the great outdoors. Practice mindfulness. Maybe scratch the heads of some friendly equines, if any of them are around.

I really enjoyed this video of Temple Grandin - she is a fascinating woman. I read a quote of hers a couple of months ago: "Cattle is my favorite animal." I don't know exactly how I feel about cattle - mostly I find them dumb poopy things but I suspect that eventually I'll be compelled to write more about it. The holy cow and all that.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Internal Conversations

Photobucket

This scenario plays out almost every morning.

P Horse 1: Mmm, I love this cereal, that was good. I want another bowl.
P Horse 2: Unfortunately, that's going to have to be it till later, remember calories and all that?
P Horse 1: But it's good, I like eating it.
P Horse 2: (Silent annoyance)
P Horse 1: (Silent petulance)
Stomach: I hate to break it to you 1, but I'm a little bit full here and don't forget you haven't even had your coffee yet, so that extra cereal may taste good, but I won't appreciate it much.
P Horse 1: Sigh, fine, I'll wait till snackie time. Are we there yet?
P Horse 2: Don't worry, it won't be long. Let's just drink a nice cuppa and watch the birds, OK?

Sunday, February 21, 2010


At dinner tonight, and I don't remember exactly how we got onto the topic, my husband put me in mind of a very pleasant memory from my childhood. My grandfather on my mother's side was the very very best at reading to little girls (moi) and I remembered one of my favorites: the Just So Stories by Kipling. I can still hear my grandfather toning: "Go to the banks of the great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo River all set about with fever trees". I had to look it up so I could remember the rest of it again.

It started raining relatively early this morning, right while I was working on taking some pictures of the daffodils that have popped up. I gave it up at that point, not wanting either my stuff or myself to get wet. It kept up a steady rain, or at least a sturdy drizzle, most of the day. We still haven't even caught up to last year's rainfall level, we need more, are you listening up there? (Ha ha, that ought to work.)

This photograph is one of an almond blossom on the tree we planted three or four years ago. It is just starting to bloom now, there are lots of great looking buds swelling. Maybe this year, we'll get to the almonds first.

I did fiddle in Photoshop obviously - I did do a straight photo of the blossom and it was nice but I have a deep fondness for the abstract and semi-abstract not that that's a technical term or anything. For those with a fondness for the f/64 style of photography - Ansel Adams and so on - I can see that it's way too loosy-goosy. I probably should be more reverent and worship at the feet of the gods of photography.

I probably shouldn't want to slit my throat if I hear the phrase "tack-sharp" one more time. I start wondering, what if the tack referred to isn't sharp? What if it's a pink fluffy tack, or a bent tack, what then? What if you decide to throw an infrared filter on your pretty picture and then push a few more buttons?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Learning New Stuff. Hard Process


I've been debating what I want to do with this blog. I do post on the other blog, not as much as I could or should (whatever that means) and I keep a public journal on my favorite site Calorie Count. I don't want to stop this one though, so I think today I'll talk about what's up at the moment with my creative process.


Some years ago, I really got going with art work, learning to draw, sorta, and doing pastel paintings and silk painting. At some point I guess I burned out on it a little bit. At the moment, I seem to be in another period where all that pent up art is pressing on me to come out. I'm writing a lot and in the last couple of years gotten quite interested in photography.


Four weeks ago, I started a class in Photoshop. I've been using Photoshop Elements, and taught myself quite a bit just using a manual, but decided I wanted to take the next step up. I've really been enjoying that class, and have learned a lot - but mostly that at the moment I've barely scraped the surface of what it can do.


Meanwhile, I decided to buy a new camera, as I've been a little frustrated with the little unit I had. Got some good photos out of it, but again, time for an upgrade. This time, I really took a leap and bought a Canon 7D. I realize that I basically have no clue what I'm doing and spent the better part of today in a state of utter frustration. With the help of my husband, who does know what he's doing, we methodically sorted through my problems with focus and figuring out what buttons do what.


This was exhausting. I didn't get any decent photos today. But ultimately,I don't really mind that. I didn't stop learning. One balled up knot of a problem got unsnarled and the path is ahead of me. Tomorrow, I'm going on a Valentine's Day hike with my sweetie, we're going to do some birdwatching and yep, I'm taking the new gadget. Must.


Today's photo is from the old camera, but the new Photoshop. When a friend saw this, she said: "Seventies much?" Maybe so.