Quote of Inspiration

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Poem for Bobby Wade

Morning (for Bobby Wade)

Each morning, still dark

An hour before wakefulness

You come, tiny feet

Padding up the stairs quickly first

Then slowly, you crawl

Into my bed, your back to my chest.

You scoot, settle in

And you say to me in the softest voice

Good morning, it’s time.

I lean over, kiss the wiry strands of your hair

And beg, not yet.

Turning to me with a decided grunt you kiss me

So gently, on the cheek

That my heart cracks open like a coconut shell

Making room to love you more.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Poem for Maggie

Maggie's Poem:


I see you when you

Think I’m not looking, when I’m

Scrubbing dishes, standing at the

Window, your arms and legs a hundred

miles a minute through the grass

Of the backyard, your hair

In a stream of gold behind your neck, your feet

Carrying you from one end of the earth to


I see you when you

Are alone, dancing to jazz standards in

A ballet leotard, pink with glittered straps

Across the carpet of your room

Elbows slightly bent, toes pointed

You learned in class, head and chin

Tilted up, you leap across the carpet

Taking flight, during a supposed


I see you when you

think I’m too busy, between

moments of direction

Do this, don’t do that, are you

Listening to me? Between morning oatmeal,

Lunchtime questions (how do dogs pick things up?)

And evening books, when you are eager to know

If Alice makes it back up that


I see a girl with eyes that wonder

Everything, stopping to see that a bird does

In fact have a red breast. I see a

Girl tenderly touching a blade of grass, just one

To see if it’s soft or coarse or nothing

At all. I see you, Maggie, from all angles,

All sides, right and left, up and down

Every corner of your soft heart and curious


I see you. It is everything else that is

the periphery.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fig 29 of 52

I spend a lot of time thinking about the meaning of life. I think about what I'm supposed to be doing, what I've done in the past and what my future holds. I think about potential 'other' lives and I wonder if I've learned enough in this life that my next life will be a good life. I worry that I haven't learned enough in this life, and I fear that in another life I'll come back as a heroin junkie because I'll STILL have to learn lessons about control, fear and letting go.

In the midst of all this thinking and wondering and fearing and anticipating, I miss the point of today. I blow by the now, and maybe the lesson is that the now is the only thing that matters after all.

If I stop and look at the now, I see one thing: my children. I see them and I feel them, and sometimes I lie in bed at night and cry, because it's only when I am quiet and still and can feel the weight of all my chores and projects and goals lifted off my shoulders for an hour that I take the time to really see my kids and appreciate them and feel the love of being their mother.

I want my kids to know what I feel for them, and I want to take the time to express it (for myself as much as for them) in the only way I am able to fully express myself: through writing. So, I have written them poems, finally, after years of wanting to do it.

It took years because I was afraid my poems wouldn't be good enough. I was afraid that later in their lives, my kids would pull out the poems I wrote for them and laugh and read them aloud to a wife or husband and they would kind of smirk. I'm not sure why I have this fear, because I can't imagine doing that if someone wrote me a poem, particularly a parent. And I can't imagine my kids doing that either.

And anyway, life can't be about trying to anticipate another person's response, immediate or down the road. Life can only be about what we feel and know to be true, in this moment.

I'll post the poems later today......when I have a quiet moment.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Quote 20 of 52

Basically, anything Maya Angelou says is worth quoting. I particularly like this:

Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told, "I am with you kid. Let's go."

I mean, that sounds pretty good to me.


Pilates Update.....

I went to meet Gingy last night, the Pilates guru in town. She has a lovely little studio on the 2nd floor of an old apartment building, overlooking downtown.

As I took off my jacket and slipped out of my shoes, I said, "Gingy, let me be honest. I don't want to tone a little and feel better. I want to cut the crap. I want the saddlebags gone and the tummy pulled in, and I'm willing to work for it."

She looked at me briefly, for a split second, and then she broke into a wide smile and said, "We are going to work well together."

I spent nearly two hours with Gingy, although we only probably worked out for one hour. We chatted while we worked, and we chatted after we worked. It was a lovely few hours, particularly as I'm new in town and don't yet have any friends. Gingy and I had a lot in common.

Now, regarding the nitty-gritty of the workout, let me describe it as best I can. We used the machines the entire time. The exercises are very much like the exercises you might do in a Pilates video (think Windsor Pilates), except that you're using resistance bands attached to the machines, so there is a little added umph factor. And there isn't as much tendency to flail around on the machines, because your limbs are attached to straps and/or a bar. We did several leg exercises, which were familiar to me from Windsor Pilates. For example, we did leg circles. Only with the machine, instead of just circling your legs in the air, your feet are attached to a long strap, and the strap is attached to resistance, so when you move your leg in that wide circle, you're pulling weight. Add to that the up and down motion of the pad your lying against, and it's a much stronger, more fluid workout. You're not just sitting on the floor swinging your leg. You're moving up and down while circling your leg, which is attached to a weight. Same but different.

We did about 5 leg exercises, and Gingy was mindful of my form and of how my toes were pointed and/or flexed. It's easy to ignore that part of the equation in a video. If you're focusing simply on getting that leg around in a complete circle, you can forget altogether the position of toes, but toes matter and when you do leg circles with proper toe form, it really does add a whole other dimension to the practice.

We also did arms, again with the resistance bands, and we did abs. The ab exercises, in a sort of cat position, were lovely and I usually hate abs and didn't hate these at all. Everything is just very fluid and deliberate. That's a great word for Pilates: deliberate. Particularly if you're working with a trainer, who is focusing on your form and whether or not your abs are pulled in and flat while you're working your legs. I mean, it just feels like one whole complete package instead of focusing on one part of your body.

We did a little cardio, which consisted of lying on the pad, feet on a flat black surface at the end of the machine (sort of like those lying squat machines at the gym, where you press your feet flat and push up and down like a squat). Except that instead of pushing up and down, you jump up and down (still lying). So, it's like a little ballet jump (toes pointed), except you're lying down and your machine is still attached to resistance. I know. It's confusing. I will never be a Pilates technical writer.

We did about 10 different jumps, feet in different positions, landing in different positions. I could feel my legs the entire time, all the muscles worked from different angles. My heart rate got up there (nothing like Tracy of course), but nothing was hard or too difficult. The word that comes to my mind: gentle.

I know Gingy was going easy on me because I have a tendency for lower back pain and because it was my first time. I think I could stand a lot more resistance and a tougher regime, which I'm sure she could accommodate.

I asked Gingy how often she thought I should do Pilates to get a lovely, lean, sculpted body. She said: 4 times a week while adding other exercises to my program like biking and running. She said the key is to mix it up so the muscles never get used to one thing. She said to bike once a week, run three miles another day, do the mini trampoline the third day. Then, do Pilates 4 times a week. She was pretty sure that with that regimen, and with eating well, I could achieve pretty fantastic results in no time. I admit: I was sold on it myself. And it sounded exciting.

Then, just when I was getting depressed considering the cost ($50/hr. minimum), Gingy said to me, "Would you consider being my workout partner?"

My little brain lit up in all the right places and I heard: ding, ding, ding, ding.

"Yes," I said, not sure what that meant but knowing it sounded really great.

Gingy explained that she used to work out with a client on more of a buddy basis. She still looked at the woman's form and came up with a plan for each workout, but she also worked out with the woman, so that she could fit her own fitness into the day, which is difficult for her to do with a day full of clients (she teaches as many as 10 hrs. per day). She said she could help me and teach me, but she could also workout beside me and we could keep each other motivated. For this, she would charge me $25/hr. instead of $65/hr. or, if I bought large numbers of sessions, $65/hr.

I nearly fell over with excitement. Finally, my chance at Pilates in a way I could likely keep up with for months instead of weeks. I agreed readily, and we set about making our schedule. Since my husband works and is often out of town, and since I have only two mornings a week when both kids are in school, we decided evenings were best. She didn't have mornings open, but she could work out each evening at 6:30 or 7. I thought I could swing that, but I was clear that my husband would some days be out of town or have to work late. Fine. We agreed we'd work the schedule each week and go from there.

I got into my car beyond excited. Beyond.

Then, I got home. And my husband said: No.

I could give you the blow-by-blow, but that's tedious even for the two persons involved let alone those of you in the blogosphere. So, I'll just say, he had some legitimate points. Who wants to work a long day and then come home only to have his wife leave for an hour, so that he has to put kids in the bath and then to bed? And it was going to be about 3 nights a week, give or take.

And he said: No.

Since I can't do Pilates any other time right now, I will have to wait until a time when both kids are in school and I can work it into my schedule.

To say it's disappointing is an obvious understatement, but I am learning that life is about compromise and that one fig that must be put on hold doesn't mean I can't tackle another one with enthusiasm and zest. Life can't be about the perfect moment.

So, I do look forward to private Pilates lessons one day (hopefully with Gingy at her discounted rate). I think I may love Pilates enough to end up teaching it, which would be exciting and lovely. I think Pilates could do for my body what is difficult to do at home, simply because it's hard to focus on form and precision when one is focusing on just keeping one's leg in the air. I think Pilates would be fun to do with other women, and I think it's somewhere in my future.

Until then, my disappointment is somewhat eased by the fact that I have Tracy Anderson's videos, which are fabulous and which (if I focus and practice consistently) will give me great results and keep me fit. I'm really glad I spent the one hour with Gingy, even if it was only the one hour, because it reminded me how important it is to be mindful of my body while I'm exercising, no matter the exercise, to slow down, to focus and to enjoy. I will take this approach with me during my own home-workout routines and, hopefully, in my life in general.

And, as a parting note, when I feel disappointed or discouraged, I find it helpful to sit down and write a short list of what I'm grateful for, as a reminder of how bright my world really is. To that end:

1. I'm grateful that everyone in my family is healthy and that our bodies are all fit to take on something like Pilates....or running down a hill......or climbing on monkey bars.....or climbing into bed.

2. I'm grateful my husband has a job, that we don't have to worry about his losing his job and that we don't face the stress of an uncertain employment future.

3. I'm grateful that we found this place to live, which is so charming and lovely it makes me want to cry every time I go downtown, like yesterday when I was with my son and realized that our little town still has people selling the local paper on street corners. Is that charming or what?

So, there you have it.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Another fig.....

Tonight, at 6:30 PM, I have my first personal Pilates session.

I have to take a deep breath because when I received the confirmation e-mail this morning, it included the fees per session, and I've been thinking about it all morning.

These figs are getting expensive.

A one-time session, private, is $65. If you buy in bulk, it does reduce the cost to $550 for 10 sessions or $1,000 for 20 sessions. So, you can get down to $50/session. The sessions are 1 hr. long.

Obviously, the reason I've never before done private Pilates is the cost. I mean, if I go three times a week, at the discounted rate, that's still $150 per week. PER WEEK. That's $600 per month. Per MONTH. That's enough to rent an apartment. That's more than my car payment. That's more than I spend in one month on food for my entire family. Okay, now I'm getting depressed.

Yoga is only $150 per MONTH, not per week. Granted, that's not personal, private sessions. But still. STILL.

Okay, now I'm freaking out again. And this is why I've never done this. And frankly, I think it's a pretty good reason. I don't have $600/mo. for Pilates. And even if I did, I'm not sure that's how I'd chose to spend my money. BUT.....

There has always been a lingering suspicion or idea, hanging out in the back of my mind, that Pilates is the end-all-be-all of exercise, a marriage of mind and body - the gold standard. Now, I've tried yoga, and yoga is lovely except that I started to lose muscle tone and gain weight when I stopped doing my normal workouts (Tracy Anderson) and started doing yoga. And if I'm going to spend an hour and a half a day working out, I'd like to see some lovely results.

Tracy Anderson, however, does nothing for my mind. In fact, some of her expressions I think are actually negative. For example, she talks about being 'skinny' and 'tiny' and getting rid of 'trouble areas.' I don't like to think of being tiny and I certainly don't like to think of my body having problem areas. Also, Tracy's workouts aren't particularly gentle - well, the cardio isn't. They're tough. And you have to do them everyday.

If what people say about Pilates is true, you can miraculously change your body in only three sessions a week. Three.

I'm not sure I believe that. But it's time to finally see for myself. I'm going to discuss everything with my new Pilates guru, Gingy, tonight and see what she thinks - how often does she think I need sessions, can I do work at home, how many days a week should I work out, and should I be adding cardio to the mix?

Also, Gingy (according to her website) is quite interested in overall and nutrition including a focus on raw foods. I really can't wait to talk with this woman, to hear her ideas and experiences and to see where she thinks I should be heading for overall health.

I'll post back after my session to discuss my impressions, my plan and how the heck I think I may be able to fit all of this into my life.

Stay tuned......


Monday, April 11, 2011


and delicious. By George, it worked! The angel food cake was a big success. I think the berries I served it with were an excellent choice, soaked as they were in sugar and Grand Marnier.

For the record, a child who eats his weight in such berries, dripping in liquor, is decidely happy after dinner. I believe he's running amuck as I type this.

Pics of the lovely cake:


In the Oven

I want to workout during naps today, so I threw together the angel food cake while my son played on the kitchen floor. The cake is now in the oven. Let me just say, that was a lot of sifting, and since I didn't have a hand mixer, I used my standing mixer the entire way through.

I don't have high hopes. While most recipe reviewers said the cake is fab, one woman said her came out a heaping flop of a mess, and I somehow think this will be my future.

26 minutes to go.....

A few pics.....

This seems like a waste, but I can't think of how a dozen egg yolks would fit into a healthy diet.....

The batter, in the pan.............

I'll let you know how it turns out.........hopefully well and we'll all be eating it with Aunt Andrea's famous berries after dinner!


Today....a new fig.

Today is a good day. It's a day for figs.

I am headed to the grocery store, where I will be buying a carton of eggs, setting them out at room temperature and preparing to make an angel food cake.

As part of my healthier eating program, I am trying to make one dessert a week for my family. Then, when the dessert is done, it's done. I hope this will make us more mindful of what we're eating, less inclined to eat packaged junk and give a certain festivity to our treats that just doesn't happen with a carton of ice cream or a box of store-bought cookies. I also want to include my kids in the process of baking, so that they get to enjoy the entire process. I find food is so much better and feels more special when I make it myself.

To that end, angel food cake.

Why angel food cake? Well, it's like many things in my life that I avoid. I had a bad experience. I once made an angel food cake, early on in my relationship with my husband. We'd only been dating six months, and I wanted to make a nice dessert for dinner. I spent several hours making the cake, a Martha Stewart recipe (those can be really hit or miss) that had berries swirled through the cake.

The entire thing was a flop. And by flop, I do mean FLOP. The cake just kind of caved in on itself, in a big flopping heap of sugar and egg whites.

I felt like a complete failure. I know some people would laugh or think the recipe was off or shrug and go buy ice cream. For me, however, it was just really disappointing, standing there with my deflated cake, nothing for dessert, my then-boyfriend trying to cheer me up with false words of encouragement.

From that point on, if I ever saw egg whites in a recipe (ever), I turned the page. I refused to even try. It's those dodgy egg whites that turn a simple recipe into a mine-field of culinary pitfalls.

Okay, well, I know that's a little dramatic. Still, it's true. I avoid egg-white recipes at all cost. And really, it was likely just that recipe. Or maybe it was simply a bit of technique, easily fixed. Whatever it is, it's time to overcome it and stop fearing the egg white.

Also, I really need a good angel food cake in my culinary repertoire. It's relatively healthy and low-fat, and it's best paired with fresh berries. So, it's time to face my fears (there really are fears) and try again.

I'll let you know how it comes out.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Pics of Fig #50

Here are pics from the Nordstrom website of what I bought. The dress is shown in blue, but I got black.

Fig #50 - Timeless Dress

I didn't mean to buy the perfectly fit, timeless dress. I only meant to stop by Nordstrom's dress department and try to find something for the annual Founder's Day Dinner, celebrated every year to commemorate the founding of West Point. We were going to attend, and I needed a dress. The dress code was sort of hodge-podge (unusual for the military, but we were in CA after all).

So, I was looking for something along the semi-formal lines. I hit the dress department of Nordstrom and within minutes, my excitement diminished and I thought: really? People buy this crap? And let me say, it was real crap. Cheap fabric. Awful cuts. Dodgy buttons. Way too much in the way of sequins, and the dresses were mostly really short. Like, inches above the knee short. Who wears those?

I felt suddenly very old, like when my grandmother bemoans the state of anything modern: clothing, manners, vocabulary. Then, just when I was about to give up, I saw the designer clothing section. It's small in Sacramento, but I stopped and looked and thought: maybe, just maybe, there is something to it.

Here's the thing: I've always considered designer clothes to be a rip-off, a testament to vanity and an indication that our society has become wealthy enough to be bored enough to shell out thousands of dollars for clothes that, frankly, I don't think look any better than J Crew.

But, given the offerings I'd been subjected to view, I shrugged and thought I had nothing to lose. I'd try a dress on, see that it wasn't such a much and head home. I took three dresses into the dressing room (and let me tell you that the saleswomen in designer dresses is a different breed than her dodgy-low-end counterpart). I took an Armani, a St. John and a Dolce and Gabana. The D&G was a corset-style dress, which I thought was slightly trashy but was willing to try on simply to say I'd done it. So, I started with that. I slipped into it and the girl helped me button it up the back. And then she brought me a pair of Christian Louboutin heels (the perfect size - how did she know?). I slipped into the shoes and turned around to the mirror. WOW. WOW...............wow.

The dress fit perfectly. It was tight in the right spots and not so snug in the other spots, and just when you thought a corset dress might be slightly tawdry, it hit just below the knee, which made it seem....almost.....possibly....ladylike? I walked out of the dressing room and into the main dressing area, where they have the three-way mirrors. A woman came out of another dressing room, and she stopped right there and stood there with her mouth open and looked at me and said: you have to buy that dress.

This caused a few other doors to open, and all these women came out in various states of bra/panties/jeans half pulled up, and they all agreed. I had to buy the dress. The dress....was.....amazing.

I felt like a million bucks. Really. I went back inside and tried on the Armani. The quality of a designer dress, I realized, is undeniable. No loose strings. No dodgy length. The fabrics simply slide over your skin like silk, not clinging but fitting (I realized then and there that there is a difference). The Armani was lovey, but it was ever-so-slightly boxy for my frame, and while I didn't dislike it, I didn't love it.

Then, I tried on the St. John's. It was simple. Black knit, tank top, knee-length. I slipped it over my head and it fell to my knees in one simple swoop and along the way it decided to hit every curve I might want to accentuate and bypass any curves I may want to hide. It felt like pajamas. It fit....perfectly. I slipped into the Louboutins and walked out of the dressing room. This was the dress. It was THE dress. It was perfectly cut, made of soft, supple fabric, it didn't but fit like a glove, and it was knee-length, which is perfect for me. It could be paired with a cardigan, a suit jacket, a wide belt. It could be paired with pearls, a wide bangle, a broach. It was subtle enough to go with anything and special enough to make a statement.

It was also $700. I know. To be fair, the other two dresses were both almost $1,000. So, really, it was a bargain, right?

I thought about it. I called Ray. He laughed but said to buy it if I loved it that much. I hung up and thought about it some more. I bought the dress.

Then, I went downstairs and walked into the designer shoe section and bought a pair of Prada heels.

I tried on two pair: Prada and Cole Haan. On my feet, side by side, you can't tell the difference. They're both black, patent-leather, slight platform. They look identical, in fact. But oh Lordy....the feel. It's like the dress. The cut of the shoes.....the Prada.....is amazing. You know when you wear heels and there is that gap between your ankle and the back of the shoe? And it looks like your stumbling around in your mother's heels?

Ya, doesn't exist in Prada heels. The shoes feel like they were made, then and there, by a pair of Italian shoe elves who know my feet like they know the back of their tiny little elf hands.

So, I found not only the perfect, timeless little black dress, but I found the perfect, timeless black heels to go with it.

And the irony of it all: we ended up not going to the dinner after all!

But the dress is there, in my closet, and I sometimes walk around my room in shoes (you don't stumble and teeter around in Prada) and feel like a million bucks. So, you know, it's worth it.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Another Poem

I read this the other day, in Keillor's collection (which I'm still reading): Good Poems.

I love this poem, perhaps because I'm always in the process of either settling in or thinking of leaving. I wonder what I'll do when, one day, my husband leaves the Army and I'm able (and/or forced) to choose one place to call home. I have no idea where it will be, and I wonder if I'll start to feel that urge to move again once I've settled there for a few years.....

Anyway, this poem seems to speak to me right now, as we try again to settle into a new place, with all of the inherent excitement and struggle that comes along with a move.

where we are (Gerald Locklin)

i envy those
who live in two places:
new york, say, and london;
wales and spain;
l.a. and paris;
hawaii and switzerland.

there is always the anticipation
of the change, the chance that what is wrong
is the result of where you are. i have
always loved both the freshness of
arriving and the relief of leaving. with
two homes every move would be a homecoming.
i am not even considering the weather, hot
or cold, dry or wet: i am talking about hope.


My favorite line in the poem: "....the chance that what is wrong is the result of where you are."

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