Quote of Inspiration
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Saturday, December 25, 2010
In the spirit of Christmas this year, and in keeping with the theme of poetry, a friend sent me this poem, which is partially quoted in the original movie: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Music and Moonlight (1874)
We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world for ever, it seems.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Welcome Morning (Anne Sexton)
There is joy
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
in the spoon and the chair
that cry "hello there, Anne"
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
and I mean,
though I often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.
So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.
The Joy that isn't share, I've heard,
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
It feels great. I don't think I'll go climbing any mountains or anything crazy, but it feels good to know that I can face heights and get over it and do something I'm afraid of. I mean, this AND being able to braid challah. Is there anything I can't do?
Monday, November 29, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Here's the thing. I believe yoga could "change my life." I do. It's a beautiful expression of the harmony between one's mind and one's body. I think yoga is a form of meditation, because if you're really doing the poses and pushing yourself to go further, you can't be thinking about the grocery list or the kids or whatever it is we think about when we go for a jog. In fact, I never understood what people meant when they said running helps clear their head. For me, it only gets me further inside my head. And being further inside my head isn't always a place I need to go.
Yoga is different. You certainly use your body, push it to its limits, stretch it. And since there are different forms of yoga, you can be very active about it all, flowing through sun salutations so quickly and fluidly that you build up quite the sweat - especially in a heated room. So, I think yoga is a great "workout" if you're trying to workout. Of course, like anything, it matters the level and the amount of effort you put into it. You can slog through it and see any real benefit, and I don't even think you would get much mental benefit in slogging through it. I think that for yoga to truly be beneficial, you have to be stretching yourself. Otherwise, it's just going through the motions.
The thing I love about yoga, above all else, is that the focus isn't on being thin. It's not about whittling down this or that "problem" area (or at least it's not meant to be about that - we Americans have certainly bastardized it to that level in some areas). Yoga is about flow and balance, and while I practiced it in a room full of other students, everyone seemed so graceful and present. I saw people of all shapes and sizes. I remember one day, a woman in front of me was much larger than me. Normally, when it comes to sports/athletics, size matters. The slim girl is "better" than the heavier girl. Not so in yoga. This woman was so lovely, holding her poses with such grace and stability. I remember how nice her face looked as she held a pose, very calm and quiet. And there I was, the slim girl, all wobbly and half-tipping over. I used to look around the room and watch all the bodies, and yoga gives you such an appreciation for the body itself and for the strength and beauty of the body. I think this is something that makes yoga worth it if for no other reason. It reminded me of the purpose of a body and of how strong we can be when we're not focusing on bat-wing flab.
Having said all of this, I don't think I was supposed to be looking around the room at all the bodies. I mean, I think I was pretty much missing the point as I tipped over in triangle and arched my neck to see if the guy in front of me had his hand on his shin or on the floor. Really, why did I care? I'm not sure, but I did. I found studying yoga in a classroom setting to be HIGHLY distracting. But that's me. I'm fascinated by people. I'm fascinated by what they wear, how they talk, which hand gestures they use, how they talk to their children and spouses. The other day I saw a woman get into a car with a leopard-print steering-wheel cover. I have thought about that for weeks. Weeks. Leopard-print. Fascinating.
Thus, I found, in my three months, that studying yoga at home works best for me. I don't think it's any easier, if you push yourself from inside rather than from competing with others or having teacher Ping tell you, "You have more to give, Amy." I found a few yoga DVDs I like. I can put them into the player while the kids are sleeping and get a full 60 to 90 minutes at home. Then, I can shut it off and do the dishes.
And that brings me to my biggest issues with yoga. First, it takes a lot of time. It's at least 2 hrs. I have to drive to the studio. I have to get a spot and lay out my mat and wait. Then, we do the 75 or 90 minute class. Then, we get up and put our things away and get into our cars. Then I go home. It's at least 2 hrs. And I don't have 2 hrs. away from the house, without my kids for that. The precious time I have while the kids are at school is filled with errands, house keeping issues, appointments, etc. So, for me, right now, I can't fit yoga into my schedule more than once or twice a week. Well, I can but I won't. Because doing it would mean I would spend the rest of my day scurrying around to get everything else done, and that would stress me out. I do think I'll practice yoga regularly at some point. But it will have to be when I have more time.
Second, and here is my real issue, as wonderful as yoga is, it's not as good for keeping trim and fit as Tracy Anderson. I have yet to find anything that is. Anything. And Tracy Anderson is a commitment. Her videos are hard and time consuming. Even doing only one a day, it's an hour of working out. And I frankly can't work out more than an hour a day nor do I want to. I have struggled with this issue. On the one hand, Tracy is very effective, but her focus is very much on slimming, targeting "problem" areas and whittling one's thighs down. On the other hand, it works. Yoga is a beautiful practice and one that, coupled with a great diet, could definitely keep you slim and toned. But I'm going to say it. It just doesn't work as well as Tracy.
Third, and finally, I don't think yoga is beneficial (truly) unless you commit to it and do it at least five times a week. Doing it once or twice, even three times a week, was okay but I didn't notice any change in my mental state or in my body. I didn't feel even more flexible. I enjoyed the yoga. I liked how it made me feel. And I think true practice would be amazing, but once a week for three months was, if I'm honest, not at all amazing.
I'm learning in life that it's time to make choices. I can't be all things or do all things. I have to focus. I don't have the time or energy to pursue every goal I have ever made or seen or thought of in my life. Just like cleaning out one's closet, I think we have clean out our goals so that we make priorities and then see them through. This year has been especially helpful in doing this for me. As I work my way through this list, I'm able to see what really matters to me, what I am passionate about and how I want to spend my time.
For now, as much as I loved yoga, I'm shelving it. And moving on.
Monday, November 15, 2010
I skipped one night, and then I skipped another night and then I thought to hell with it, I'd have to start over anyway. And there it is. I've not been meditating.
The thing about it is that it's really hard. I'm not sure why. It's only 10 minutes a day, and I do it when the kids are asleep and the house is quiet. But it's hard. I sit there and try to quiet my mind, and that's exhausting. It's not relaxing. I thought it would be relaxing, and I'd be all Zen about it, my knees crossed, my fingers held out just-so. But it's hard on my back, and focusing on my breathing isn't at all fun, and then my mind goes wandering down roads that have been left for so long they're now unpaved - for good reason. I hate those roads.
But I will start again. Tonight. I will start again because it's hard and when things are hard (especially mental things) that's usually when we need to commit to them the most. I'm not so good about doing the hard stuff, which is why there are still those unpaved roads.
This week's quote is from The Old Man and the Sea, which I should finish tonight. But I will blog about that later. For now, here is the quote:
But his left hand had always been a traitor and would not do what he called on it to do and he did not trust it.
I love this line, and I've re-read it several times and think about it throughout my day. The idea that a hand can be a traitor. Hemingway was brilliant. Just brilliant. It's only 26 words, and yet it tells the reader so much about the old man.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
So it is with Siddhartha. Again, my experience with Siddhartha is not so surprising as my reaction to other books, simply because I was prepared for it. It's stronger when you find a book and have no idea it will impact you in any deep way. But when you purposely choose a book that has impacted so many others, your own reaction to it is tinged in a way, shaped to some extent by your expectation of it.
It doesn't, however, make the impact any less strong.
I think I was supposed to read Siddhartha at this exact moment in my life, because the ultimate message I take from this book is particularly comforting to me at this time. That message, if I have to filter it down to one, is that life is a journey, that it's never done, that we are never there, and if there is one goal, it is perhaps to end our lives at peace with ourselves. Making peace with any and everyone else are only steps toward that end-goal.
Reading this book makes me less afraid - of people, of experiences, of pain. Even in the end, when Siddhartha had gained and lost, was so disgusted with himself he wanted to throw his life away, even in the end, when he had quieted his spirit and was at peace with so little, his road lay out ahead of him, bumps and all. And perhaps his greatest bump, his hardest moment, came in the end of his life instead of the beginning or the middle. It came when he least expected it and he found himself suffering again.
I read once that Buddha said something to the effect of: All life is suffering, and all suffering is life.
I find this quote comforting and have always repeated it to myself in times of hardship, because I think we all need to believe that hardship has purpose. I was raised a Christian, so I was taught that suffering is punishment and that if one wants suffering to end, one has to only be good enough.
I think this is kind of a crock of shit.
Maybe suffering is just living, it's just part of what it means to be human, and we can't be good enough to escape it, because without it we wouldn't be living any more than if we never experienced joy.
In the end, I think Siddhartha's suffering taught him the ultimate lesson - to have empathy for others. I think that when we have compassion and empathy for others, we have somehow found a way to have empathy and compassion for ourselves.
I would recommend this book to others, but somehow, I feel that after reading it, recommending a book to others would kind of be missing the point.
I have thought, however, of the books that have most greatly impacted me and my life. I have come up with a list of 5, a monumental task of narrowing and cutting-down. Here are my top five books:
1. The Razor's Edge
2. Atlas Shrugged
3. The Bell Jar
4. Man's Search for Meaning
5. Their Eyes Were Watching God
I'm curious to hear yours.......please.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
1. Meditate Everyday For 1 Month
2. Submit a Romance Novel
3. Practice Yoga Regularly (at least once a week) for 3 months
4. Read an Entire Book of Poetry
So, by the end of November, I should have each of these figs under my belt. This week, I will write about why each fig made it onto the list and why I haven't yet done any of them.
The list is filling in.......
PS - thoughts today on Siddhartha. I've been thinking..........
Sunday, October 31, 2010
I ate scrambled eggs, fruit, veggies, home-made turkey chili, home-made pumpkin bread, butter, milk, yogurt, peanut butter and drank a lot of coffee.
Here is what I found:
1. On the two days that I ate only fruits, veggies, peanut butter and oatmeal, I felt great. I lost 5 lbs. in two days. I didn't have big dips in my blood sugar levels. When I was hungry, I felt hungry but I didn't feel shaky/weak/confused/agitated. I simply felt hungry. I didn't feel cravings for foods, because when your only option is another hard-boiled egg, well you just don't want it that badly. When your option is Oreos, there is a much stronger pull.
2. On the days I introduced more carbs (albeit non-processed carbs) like rice, potatoes and home-made baked goods, I gained back the weight I'd lost and felt much more bloated. Much more.
3. When I ate too much, even if the food was unprocessed, I felt bloated and overly full.
4. When I was eating so well, on days one and two, I didn't find I needed to drink so much water. In fact, I only drank about 40 oz. on those days and still lost the weight and felt less bloated and lighter.
Overall, the experience taught me several things. One, I was eating a lot of processed food that I wasn't even thinking about: lunch meat, crackers, bread, a treat at Starbucks, etc. In addition to eating a ton of processed food, that left little room for fruits and veggies. I ate nearly twice as much fruits and veggies this week than in previous weeks. Second, food is food. If you eat too much of it, no matter what it is, you will feel unwell. Third, just because something is homemade and "unprocessed" doesn't make it healthy. Perhaps if I stuck to a much more rigid definition of "processed" it might make a difference (like not using wheat, dairy, etc.), but for my purposes, I simply meant no added ingredients I couldn't pronounce and stuff found in a box or can. I made lemon posset, for example. It has sugar, cream and lemon juice. That's it. And I ate it. And it's just simple junk food. It's not "healthy" because I can name all the ingredients.
In the end, I went from 138.6 pounds to 135.6 pounds. That's fine. It doesn't feel drastically different, though. Maybe because I've been eating lemon posset and home-made pumpkin bread slathered in real butter........
Still, the experience was extremely helpful in allowing me to see that it IS possible to live without processed food, that I WILL feel better with a diet richer in fruits and vegetables and that my blood sugar is directly linked to crap.
And now...........we're going to trick-or-treat and I'm going to wolf down some dodgy mini-Snickers bars.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Okay, so I got out all my supplies (having to unearth them from the storage closet), and I threw them all on the table in typical Amy-fashion, all half-hazard and slightly askew. I had the computer and directions sitting next to me, and I began threading needles, cutting squares of fabric and sewing wonky stitches up and down pieces of purple felt, Van Morrison playing in the background, rocking my gypsy soul.
It was very easy, which means that if I'm saying that a kindergartner could easily have accomplished this task. The directions were cake. The bag came together just as described. It took me all of 50 minutes, and that includes time spent digging out my supplies, adding cream to my coffee and turning up Van more than once.
Here is the finished product:
It wasn't until later, driving around town feeling all domestic and crafty, that I realized I sewed the tooth all the way onto the bag, forgetting to leave the top open to hold the child's actual tooth.
For some reason, I thought this was hysterically funny, and I couldn't stop laughing about it for at least a full minute, nearly crying.
Incidentally, I went to Barnes & Noble and looked at other simple sewing books, particularly projects for kids (my level anyway). The thing about it is this: most handmade stuff just doesn't appeal to me. If I want a good tote bag, I'll get an LL Bean Boat & Tote. I can't imagine making my own clothes. I have no inclination to make clothes for my daughter's dolls. So......I'm glad I did it. I think hand-sewing is HIGHLY preferable to using a matching. And one day, I will sit in a rocking chair next to a fire, and I will quietly sew a quilt by hand.
Until then, everyone is getting tooth fairy bags.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
And then....I felt awful. I was very full. I felt sluggish all afternoon. And come on: I saw the people making the food right in front of me. What gives?
Then, I thought about the salt. The salt! I got on the scale this morning and am back to 135. That's fine, but I think the point is that when I lost those 5 lbs. and now that I've gained 2 back, I really think so much of it is the SALT. There is so much salt in processed food and in restaurant food. So much.....
When I cook at home, I use much less salt (and I'm pretty liberal with my salt), and when I'm focusing on eating fruits and veggies, well there's just not so much salt.
I ate some more of the leftover chicken teriyaki for lunch today, with steamed rice and peas. It's sitting a little heavy, but I'm okay with that.
So far, the days when I've felt the best (less bloated, more energy) are the days when I ate homemade, unprocessed, healthy food. I mean, of course it goes without saying. But saying something and experiencing something are two different things entirely.
Also, I got Jamie Oliver's e-mail this morning. If you all haven't seen his show, look it up online. I cried every week. He's really inspiring. In today's e-mail was a list of the top 10 worst processed foods. Here they are:
1. Chicken McNuggest (24%)
2. Hot Dogs (19%)
3. Fake Cheese (14%)
4. Lunchables (13%)
5. Spam (9%)
6. Twinkies (5%)
7. Soda (5%)
8. Artificial Sweeteners (4%)
9. Diet Versions (4%)
10. French Fries (3%)
Quite the list, huh?
Here's the link to Jamie's website:
He's fabulous. His site has tons of recipes, too, and they're all very simple and unprocessed. They're not necessarily "healthy," but at least they're real.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
In two days, eating nothing processed but eating full meals and still eating within my calorie range (drinking wine, eating salmon & avocado and eggs), I have lost..........
So, I started on Sunday weighing 138.6. Monday morning I weighed 135.8. Today, I weigh 133.2.
I have worked out for 3 weeks, hard. And I've not been able to break 135. Now, I stop eating junk, and I drop 5 lbs.
Okay....I'm off for the day.
Monday, October 25, 2010
I'm eating a raw carrot. And it stinks.
So far today, I've eaten:
Scottish oats, raspberries, 1 tsbs. pure maple syrup, 1 tbsp. half-n-half
1.5 hard boiled eggs
1 Apple w/2 tbsp. peanut butter (peanuts/salt only)
1 Carrot (large)
Handful of Strawberries (thank you California)
So.....I am going to attempt a week w/out processed food. This means no store-bought bread. No crackers or cookies (unless I make them myself). No candy. Nothing out of a box, unless for some reason I chose to make pasta. Then, I think I'll go with the dried stuff. But, the point is to stop eating all this stuff filled with junk and chemicals.
I'm not sure if I'll lose weight. I hope I'll feel better. I hope I'll sleep better. I've already done it for over 24 hrs. and I have to say, it's not exactly hard, but it does require some thinking and planning.
For example, I usually eat toast in the morning. I eat healthy bread (Milton's), but it's processed and, thus, is out. So, for the past two mornings, I've eaten oatmeal with pure maple syrup and berries.
For snacks, instead of eating handfuls of crackers, a bowl of Grape Nuts or a bite at Starbucks, I've eaten hard-boiled eggs and fruit.
For lunch, I've been eating home-made turkey chili with salad - home-made salad dressing (which is so much better anyway).
Last night, I ate salmon with mango-salsa and a glass of wine.
Now, I'm not out in the back planting wheat and corn and hoping to harvest it by Friday so I can eat some toast. I do realize that packaged/processed food can have a place in a healthy diet. But I also think an occasional detox from all of it does a body good, and I've always wanted to see if I can do it, if it will be difficult, and if it will be worth it.
So far, I've nearly eaten and had to clearly avoid the following: Honey-Nut Cherrios that my kids had spilled on the floor (yes, I was considering eating handfuls of them while I was helping the kids to clean them up), chocolates from See's candies (why do they give you samples?), a Smarties roll that my son got at gymnastics today, Goldfish crackers and leftover pasta my kids didn't eat (it was a Lean Cuisine, which they love and which my daughter always finishes by saying: You cook so good, Mommy).
Whew.....it's going to be a long but hopefully good week.
The second fig I want to tackle is sewing something by hand. I've thought about this for a long time, because I have this idea that sewing stuff makes you a better mom and person as a whole. I'm not sure why that is. I just have images in my mind of loving mothers in cozy houses whipping up adorable children's confections and quilts on their sewing machines, the foot pedal humming softly against the sound of children frolicking outdoors.
I know. Really, I have no idea where I get these ideas. I certainly wasn't raised with them.
Well, I have a sewing machine, which I bought so that I could make my sister's daughter a quilt. That quilt turned into a total fiasco. I was pregnant at the time, and the machine kept jamming, and I kept crying and my husband kept coming over to me and asking me (begging me) to give it up, buy a quilt and be done with it. But I was dead-set on that quilt, and when I finally finished it (you can't imagine the angst), it was not even usable because the damn thing was about to fall apart simply as I handed it over to my sister.
So, I put the machine away and swore it off. Then, I thought that maybe I could be a partial domestic goddess and go all 1872 on everyone and hand sew.
So, it's on my list. I would love to hand sew a quilt, but I also know my limitations, and so I'm going to start small..........very small.
Here is what I plan on making:
Wish me luck. I am glad my husband is gone, because I suspect that something will go wrong here: I won't be able to properly cut the felt, my needle will break, etc., etc. Sigh. Then again, it could be a blast and then everyone I know will be getting tooth fairy bags for Christmas, and it will be my signature gift: tooth fairy bags and a bottle of booze.
Wish me luck...........
Sunday, October 24, 2010
I dog-eared the page with this quote, and when I finished the book and went back to read this particular passage, I loved it still.
Here it is:
Most people, Kamala, are like a falling leaf, which is blown and is turning around through the air, and wavers and tumbles to the ground. But others, a few, are like stars, they go on a fixed course, no wind reaches them, in themselves they have their law and their course.
When I first read this passage and underlined it, I thought that a person had to be one or the other. Now, as I think about Siddhartha's journey as a whole, I think a person most likely has to be both - a leaf at times, a star (hopefully) in others.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Well, that's it for this week. I should post my impressions toward the end of the week. I am excited. It's nice to read a book of such substance, that I suspect will have a deep and lasting impact on my view of the world and my own life.
Monday, October 18, 2010
We arrived at the museum, and Maggie was thrilled with just that. I'm not kidding, she was all beside herself to be going somewhere alone with me, somewhere she'd never before been, somewhere full of promise. I love seeing the world through her eyes because it reminds me that life is still exciting and wondrous, and seeing her so pump
ed to go to our little museum made me feel badly for thinking I had to put this visit off until I could take her to a "real" museum in New York, San Francisco or even DC.
Well, we arrived and got our tickets and each wore a little blue square sticker indicating we had paid our dues.
Right off the bat, Maggie was full of questions. There was a large wooden sculpture in the entrance of the museum made into the shape of an animal - antelope, deer, etc. - and she was very curious about this. When I told her it was made of wood and that art can be made of many different materials, well she was all obsessed with this idea for the rest of our visit. We walked past the wooden sculpture. Then, she ran over to an African mask and some clay vases. She was running up and down the halls, before we could even determine where the Theibaud paintings were housed, asking me, "What's this made out of? How about this one Mom?"
We finally did get to the exhibit. We looked at a few paintings on display outside the main room, and Maggie was fine with that but it was hard for her to stand still for very long, which meant that I only got a cursory glance at each piece. We did stop and look at one painting, a man in a tree, in a park, at night. Maggie was curious about this painting, because she couldn't figure out why a man was in a tree, in a suit, in the middle of the night. But then, just when I thought we'd have some sort of existential conversation about the meaning of life, Maggie was gone, running up and down the exhibit and saying, "Mommy, you have to see this painting. It's totally amazing."
That was her phrase for the day: totally amazing.
She liked Thiebaud's art and especially liked his work done in pastel-colored paint. She kept thinking the paintings were still wet, because the paint was very thick and still glossy looking. I tried to explain the concept of oil paint, but really I think I was just talking out of my ass because I have no idea why the paint still looked wet, if his thick brush strokes mean anything and how his paintings come out looking like something when, if you look up-close, it's all just a smattering of this and that, all half-hazard.
Then, Maggie came to a drawing, and it was hung next to a painting.
Maggie: "What is this one made out of?"
MamaP: "Pastels. They're like crayons. What do you think of it?"
Maggie: "I like it."
MamaP: "Does it look different to you, different from this other one?" And I pointed to the painting.
Maggie: "Yes, it's different."
MamaP: "How is the crayon drawing different from the painting?"
Maggie: "Well, the crayons stick to the paper and stay there. The paint just kind of drips down."
I wanted to kneel down to the floor and bow my head in thanks: she's brilliant. It's true.
We breezed through the exhibit, and I was at times a little frustrated that I couldn't linger, read about the work, decide how I felt about all of it. But Maggie was running amok and some other patrons (there was a van drop off from a local assisted-living facility) were giving me dirty looks.
We wandered around the rest of the museum, and for some reason Maggie was totally enthralled with the elevator. Now, the elevator was quite large and seemed somehow really modern and cool, but really, she's been in a thousand elevators. Still, this was really "great" and "cool."
There were, as I said, a lot of "totally amazing" pieces of art, and each room we entered I had Maggie point out which painting drew her attention first. They were usually paintings of flowers, and I don't really like flower paintings, but whatever. It was very cute.
I have to say that a lot of California art looks a lot like paint-by-numbers landscapes. But hey...who am I to say?
Then, just when our visit was coming to a close, Maggie entered the modern art section of the museum, and she fell in love and was utterly taken and mesmerized by a sculpture of a cowboy riding a flying horse that was attached to another flying horse, and the horses' eyes were made out of red light-bulbs.
This was truly, truly "totally amazing." This was stop-and-stand, mouth open in amazement amazing. Maggie walked around the entire thing, oohhing and ahhhing and asking me if I was actually seeing this thing.
I was. It was horrid. Wretched. God-awful.
But hey, who am I to say?
Then, when I thought it couldn't get worse (there was a ceramic sculpture done in that blue-and-white Dutch tile kind of ceramic - and the sculpture was a semi-automatic rifle and a grenade), Maggie fell in double-triple-love with a sculpture that was depicting a death-row inmate being put to death, and there were a bunch of protesters with signs depicting each side of the debate. And to top it all off, there was a foot pedal on the floor, and if you pushed the pedal the whole thing started flashing lights.
Dear God, Maggie pushed that pedal a thousand times.
When we left the exhibits, we headed downstairs to the cafe where Maggie chose a cupcake and chocolate milk. We split the cupcake and she sucked down the milk.
I asked her later what her favorite part of the day was, and she said the paintings and the cool elevator.
I have to say, my favorite part of the trip was seeing her so excited about the modern art stuff. I call it stuff. I should call it art, but I can't bring myself to type that out. Sigh....
Anyway, I loved it because she loved it without any preconception, without any idea of what she was loving or if it was the right thing to love or what other people (me, for instance) might say about it. She just loved it, red lights for eyes, foot pedal, everything aglow. It made me look at all of the art differently, because I realized how much we like or dislike what we experience based not on our own taste but on what society says is "right," and (to be honest) how we like to think of ourselves.
All-in-all, it was a lovely day. Maggie bought a Thiebaud post card in the gift shop and drew a heart-breaking picture of herself and her father, holding hands underneath a rainbow to send to him in Afghanistan. I nearly cried when I saw it.
And then I thought: now that is art.
PS - the painting is of Stevenson and was done by John Singer Sargent, 1887. Wouldn't it be fabulous to have a painting of oneself by someone like Sargent???
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Maggie, "We're going together, just you and me?"
MamaP, "Yes, just you and me. To the art musuem."
Maggie, "Is it close?"
MamaP, "Yes, only twenty minutes."
Maggie, "What will we do there?"
MamaP, "We'll look at the paintings and talk about them and tell each other what we think."
She thought about this for a few seconds, and then she reached up, put her hands on my cheeks and said, "You're the best."
Monday, October 11, 2010
My desire to do this began about two years ago, when I was sitting at the computer one day looking at art.com. Maggie came up to me, and I put her on my lap and we started looking at the art. I asked her which pieces she liked and which she didn't like, and even though she was 3 at the time, she had clear preferences and opinions. On top of just her likes and dislikes, I began to ask her about the art itself, about the paintings, and she started to tell me what she thought of them, why she liked them and what she thought about the subject matters. It was fascinating and enlightening and thrilling. We do it still; though I admit to being lazy about it recently. We do have a few Renoir books downstairs, and we sometimes flip through those, and Maggie tells me which ones she likes and why she likes them and what she thinks about them. It's all so wonderful because it makes me look at the paintings in a new light and I realize how powerful and compelling art is for all of us.
Maggie's favorite painting (thus far, obviously) is by Hopper. Her two favorite artists so far are Edward Hopper and Degas. She loves Degas because she loves ballet. But Hopper is her true love, and there hasn't been a painting of his that we've seen so far that she doesn't like. Well, but her favorite is entitled "Hotel Room."
I asked Maggie what she thought of this painting, and she said that the women in the painting looks sad to her. I think that's such an interesting observation and comment, and every time we come back to this painting, she says the same thing: that the woman is sad.
Interestingly, I was in Madrid a few months ago, and a friend suggested I go to see the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, a fabulous collection of art that is really staggering in that it was collected by one family. Anyway, I went, not knowing a thing about it, and low and behold, I walked up face-to-face with Hopper's piece, "Hotel Room."
I thought of Maggie and vowed to take her there one day, to show her the original piece of art and to see if she felt the same way about the painting in person.
So, this week I am taking Maggie to her first art museum. It's a small museum here in town, and I wouldn't have thought to take her here except for something that happened last week. I was getting the mail and I received a large envelope from a relative I rarely hear from. In fact, I'd not spoken to her in years. Inside was a small note and a newspaper clipping from the New York Times about a new exhibit at our local gallery from a famed local artist. I myself had never before heard of him, but when I read the article I was intrigued, and I vowed to take Maggie with me.
The artist is Wayne Thiebaud, and below I'll post a few of his pieces. Maggie and I are excited, and I think that while I'm there I'll sign her up for art classes. I can't wait to hear what she has to say about our visit, which I'm planning for Tuesday or Wednesday.
I think one of the best things about having kids is that you get to view the world through a whole new lens......
I'll post later about our big adventure...........
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Thursday, October 7, 2010
That's it. I sleep with it on me every night, grateful that fall has arrived in Nor Cal and I have use for my new quilt.
I love that I set out to do one thing - purge my closet - and ended up with something else in the process.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
I will move on next week with a new fig, hopefully having completed the closet and the book by Sunday.
Whew. These figs are all getting very ripe.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
I always feel better when I practice yoga. Always. I love doing it. I love the way I feel after I do it. I love the way it makes me feel about my body, because the focus is on strength and appreciation of one's body rather than on the size of my thighs or the lifting of my ass. So, I think that if a woman is going to exercise, yoga is just about as good as it gets.
The reasons I've stopped doing yoga include: it's hard, it requires consistency and I usually like to listen to music while I exercise, and by music I mean tragic pop music like Katy Perry and John Cougar Mellencamp.
Well, last week, I took the yoga class at our gym. It was lovely. It was gentle, and the music was soft, and I felt so competent in all of the poses. It was a stretch without being a stretch, meaning I could do everything without any trouble at all. If anything, I felt a little disappointed that it wasn't more difficult. I have yoga DVDs at home that are much harder than gym yoga. But, it was a nice break and a gentle reminder of my body.
Well, based on my expertise and ease with yoga after that official gym class, I decided to take a class today at a yoga studio. I almost didn't make it, because I had to get the kids to school, so I was rushed. I also tried to talk myself out of it based on not having the right clothes. And then I almost forgot my mat.
Well, I gave myself a little talking-to in the car about doing vs. talking about doing, and I pulled up to the yoga studio with minutes to spare. The teacher was Chinese. I was thrilled. I still speak a little Chinese, and we chatted for a few minutes before class. Then, I walked into the heated room (hot yoga), and I saw the seriousness of the other students and I started to feel a little bit of fear in my heart. This wasn't the gym crowd. There was no chatting. These were all beautiful, lithe bodies stretched out on mats, composed and prepared for study.
Ping, the teacher from Taiwan, came into the room and we began. We got right down to it. There was no chatter, no sitting cross-legged for ten minutes. There was just movement. Today's yoga class was yin/yang yoga, and we started with yin. I'd tell you how we started, but I can't remember. I simply can't. It was only two hours ago, and I honestly can't remember what I did. I do remember that from the get-go, this wasn't my mother's yoga class. This was no simple gym class. This was YOGA. Sweet mama..........
I have never, ever, worked that hard at anything in my life other than childbirth. Ever. Tracy Anderson...........please. I mean, here's the thing. When you do at-home videos, there is nobody there to correct you, to tell you that you have more to give, to tell you to push harder, that you can do it, to throw your hips wider, to put your leg out further. There is only Tracy, with her perfectly coiffed hair and make-up, saying, "I know it's hard, but you really must do it."
Well, enter Ping. She is small and fit and at least 50. She won't let you get away with half-assing it. She will call you out: Amy, you can offer more. You must push harder. You are compensating.
And come on - it was only my first time, and she knew it!
I was shaking. I was obviously sweating, and by sweating I don't mean perspiring. No, that's what gentle southern women do. I was drenched in sweat. It was pouring down the sides of my arms and face. Just when I thought I couldn't stand a pose a second longer, she would tell us to go deeper, to stretch further. There was no sitting it out. There was no sense that if it was too hard you could simply go back to child's pose. And Ping was watching, all the time moving around the room. She must have re-positioned me at least 12 times. At least.
There were moments when I thought I'd collapse and give up and call out, in Chinese so the other students wouldn't understand: I can't do it. It's too hard.
But then I thought that maybe that's my problem in general. Whenever things get hard, I quit and tell myself it wasn't for me.
I kept going, even though I was shaking and I thought I'd die. I sort of actually longed to be in labor, because at least contractions only last a minute or so and then you have a breather. We held some of these positions for 3 minutes, and what seems feasible in the first thirty seconds becomes unbearable after a minute.
In the end, during our very last pose, before cool down, I was able to somehow contort my body into a bird-of-paradise pose, which I'd never before done and which only two other students were able to do. I did it. I stood up, and Ping saw me and she said, "Good Amy, keep going. Stretch your leg out. Kick it out straight."
I did. I kicked it out straight, and I somehow didn't collapse, and Ping said, "See everyone. She's doing it, and it's only her first day."
The woman next to me leaned over, when I had two feet back on the ground, and said, "That's amazing."
As we cooled-down, Ping talked about someone in our lives who might be suffering and how we could send them our healing energy. I thought of my daughter, Maggie, who is missing her father so much now and who is struggling with her anger and her emotions. I wanted to send her my healing energy because so much of the time I'm focused on dishes, or blogs or laundry or bopping around town, and I don't always know how to help Maggie deal with her emotions about her father's absence. So, I lay on the floor, my palms facing the sky, and I sent my daughter all of the healing thoughts I had, letting them flow out of that experience and into her soft little heart.
I think I'll give up the gym membership. It's time to get real. Three months. I can't wait to see what I can do.
Top 5 figs?
Here they are, in no particular order.
1. Write a letter to Aunt Marie
2. Visit Grandpa Bob
3. Write poems to my children
4. Ride in a motorcycle sidecar
5. Ride a horse fast, at a solid gallop
I realize that when I make lists, I start to work the list instead of living each experience. I find myself each week thinking about which fig to start, and my thinking is shifting from what I really want to do or experience to what I have time for or feel I can feasibly accomplish in a few days.
It's not at all the point.
So, thank you Chad, for the thoughtful reminder.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Just the words make me both excited and make me cringe. But, I'm determined to do it for several reasons. Those I will get to later in the week.
I have to admit that there is something nice about reading Siddhartha and purging my closet simultaneously. In fact, perhaps it's the reading of Siddhartha this weekend (though I still have half-way to go) that has inspired this desire to finally get cleaning.
More on my fascinating closet this week.........
Sunday, August 22, 2010
I have heard there are people who don't feel this way, and I guess I have to accept this is true. I mean, if someone tells it to you, then you have to believe it (I spent a lot of my youth not believing what people told me, and it was really exhausting). So, if someone tells me that he (let's face it - it's usually a he) doesn't want two mutually exclusive things at one time, that he doesn't think of life that way, that he isn't plagued by this sort of competing desire, well then I must believe it's true. It's just that there is a little place in the back of my mind that is screaming: liar. Okay, that's not very nice of me, and the fact is that it's not even accurate, because I think that it's likely true. I think there are people who want what life has to offer, who can take what comes and live in the moment and not want so much more that it makes them restless. I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I am jealous of these people because it is torture to want so many mutually exclusive things at one time. It's exhausting and overwhelming, because my wanting of them is just as strong for one as it is for the other, so there really is no relief in choosing one - the wanting doesn't go away. I am jealous of people (really, I am) who don't have this internal battle, who want one thing or another thing but none of those things really compete with each other, and the wanting of things isn't so strong as to make a person miserable.
But then I can't imagine being any other way, being without the wanting and the desire. I think it would be the death of me, even if it's already the death of me, and I think life would be boring and tedious without it. It's so normal for me that I think I would feel naked if I didn't experience these conflicting/competing desires on a regular basis.
I'm learning, however, that it doesn't really matter what another person is or if our own person makes us neurotic as hell. We are who we are; we can't change it. I really don't believe we can change the core of what we're made of, so the only option we're left with is to embrace it, try our best to temper whatever makes us (or others) miserable and make the most of it.
Friday, August 20, 2010
I'm off to take a hot bath, read about selfless suffering and attempt to complete my fig for the week, which I think speaks more to my self-competitive streak than anything else.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Anyway, the only fig I can imagine mustering in my current state is reading Siddhartha. I figure it's short, and I also figure that in my post-European-vacation let-down/depression, I need something to give me perspective and to really compel me to think of anything other Berthillon ice cream and Hemingway. Thus, I'm not reading The Old Man and the Sea.
Siddhartha is a whisper of a book at only 105 pages. Of course, it's usually these books that pack the most punch, so I am hopeful. I can't even tell you why I've always wanted to read it. I have no idea what it's about. I know that my mother and brother both loved it, though, and since we all tend to appreciate the same literature in our family, I have the sense I'll love it too.
My great aunt once sent me her old copy, the one she used as an English teacher. I have tried to read it several times but always failed because I found all of her notes and scribblings in the margins to be a huge distraction. So, I ordered my own copy from Amazon before I left for Paris, and it sits here waiting for me to begin.
I will begin today. I figure it comes on the heels of having just re-read Maugham's The Razor's Edge, and if any of you have read it, you'll know that Larry's journey must in some way mirror Hesse's story - at least I have an inkling in that direction. So, maybe it's the perfect time for my mind to absorb it.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
The wedding was the following day, and it was one of those weddings that makes you cry for the simplicity and sincerity of it. As I looked around the church, it was clear that every person there cared about the couple. There was none of that big-wedding-invite-everyone feeling. Nearly everyone in our row and in the rows above and behind us was all teary-eyed as the bride came down the aisle. It was touching because of the quiet emotion that sort of permeated this little Spanish cathedral perched on top of a hill overlooking the quaintest town I've seen in a long time.
Well, after the throwing of rose petals and pelting the couple with handfuls of rice, we all made our way to the reception, which ended up being a multi-course sit-down meal in a beautiful, sun-filled banquet hall that somehow makes American banquet halls seem all dingy and dark and missing a strobe light and disco ball.
Okay, I digress. Back to the food. I have to say that the dinner came on the heels of tapas, and I thought more than once of the ubiquitous Chinese expression: man, man chi. Slow, slow eat. They would always say it at dinners and banquets - eat slowly, enjoy yourself, have another glass of beer.........eat slowly.
So, the first course of our dinner was a fois gras and apple pate/terrine and slices of bread and toasts. It was lovely, and I had to stop myself half-way through eating it, reminding myself to slow, slow eat and wait for more to come.
Okay...........the second course was.........................SCALLOPS.
I know. Fig #28 on my list just happens to be EAT SCALLOPS.
I have to tell you why I've never eaten scallops. It all started back when I was a child, and my parents were divorced. My mother, sisters, brother and I all lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Oregon, and my mother was dating the man who would later become my step-father (for 7 years). I should also mention that I was raised Mormon, but my mother had sort of fallen off the wagon after her divorce (likely during my parents' marriage), and as much as we still went to church, there were these little paths taken that were definitely not sanctioned by the Joseph Smith.
For example, I found my mother in the back yard of the apartment complex one evening, on a lawn chair, in a bikini. I know. Well, as if being half-naked wasn't enough, my step-dad was there, and they were drinking wine. I think it might have been wine spritzers - those horrid Bartles and James things that were popular in the 80's - but whatever it was, the whole thing was very sordid and dangerous to my 8-year-old mind.
They were eating scallops. My step-dad offered one to me, and I declined. He insisted. I think I might have cried, and I think I was forced to take a bite, and of course I hated it and thought it was disgusting and have refused to even consider eating them again for the rest of my life.
So, there I am, at this lovely wedding reception, and along come a plate of scallops. I look across the table at a fellow Peace Corps volunteer and smile, because she follows me here at 52 Figs and she could appreciate the poignancy of this moment.
The scallops were actually not in full scallop form. They were mixed together with all sorts of cheese and cream, and they were served in big shells, all hot and bubbly, so it was sort of like eating scallops-light. I dug in, and I loved them of course. It's nice when it works out that way.
Luckily, my Peace Corps friend happens to be a fabulous photographer, and she took a photo of me with my surprise scallops. So, for those of you who don't know me, here I am - a plate of steaming, creamy scallops in my hands:
So, there it is. Me, eating scallops, at a gorgeous wedding of a great friend in a charming Spanish town. Does life get better?