Saturday, November 29, 2008

Count Your Blessings (Bing Crosby)

Friends don't let friends blog drunk... or at least buzzed (oh well!) - just back from the Wine and Food Festival, a lovely outdoor event for which my daughter Sarah bought tickets for the two of us... and we met up with her three best friends (and two of their moms) and enjoyed the outdoors, many sips of wine from various vendors and tastes of diverse dishes from local restauranteurs. Although I attempted to go outside my alcohol comfort zone, trying a few reds (shiraz, merlot, syrah), I'm most definitely a pinot grigio kinda woman - I also enjoyed checking out the different creative labels (Plungerhead... 7 Heavenly Chards... Bliss?... :-)

We had a most delightful Thanksgiving dinner Thursday, and we're still enjoying the leftovers - I was up until 1 a.m. last night/this morning making turkey soup, my tradition (especially for Eric) of boiling up the carcass, taking the meat off the bones, straining the broth and adding spinach fettucine noodles. Voila! - we eat it for days... and I'll send some back to college with E...

The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday, when retail stores open at ungodly hours (4 a.m., I saw one advertised!) and people rush in droves to take advantage of priced-so-low-one-can't-resist sales - I am not a shopper by nature... but most especially on this frenzied occasion. I'm all for helping the economy - I'm also all for peace, relaxation and charity. I did, as I have every year for the last 10, attend the Lumpy Sue MusicFest... with my picnic basket, my low beach chairs and a mellow mood coursing through my veins (without benefit of the ritual mimosas until after we get settled) - I even won a raffle prize... a $25 gift certificate to a clothing store in Coconut Grove (entailing a future road trip... :-)

Lumpy Sue is a free concert that highlights local folk and acoustic musicians in a tranquil and relaxing setting. The festival organizers have created an atmosphere of family fun and friendship on a day that is otherwise one of retail frenzy. In an anti-mall anti-stress gesture, festival organizers have gathered musicians and their local fans for a day of mellow entertainment. Now in its 17th year, more people have discovered that it’s the perfect way to digest Thanksgiving dinner, and take an extra day of thanks for the great South Florida weather, the great people in our community and the great music our local talent has to offer. Moreover, it’s a chance to help a great cause.

In addition to offering some of the best musical talent, (past festivals have presented Diane Ward, Ellen Bukstel, Grant Livingston and Amy Carol Webb), the day also includes a raffle for great prizes, including fantastic dinners and hotel stays. 100% of the proceeds from raffle sales benefit Habitat For Humanity of Greater Miami, helping to build homes in partnership with deserving people right here in South Florida.

P.S. SMM...

I only got a ten-second shot,
grainy footage of the huge deer
caught in the crosshairs
of a ceiling security camera, a scene
of utter chaos in a strip mall store,
shown on the late local news.
The beautiful beast clearly scared
to death in this fluorescent forest,
its once graceful legs giving out
on mopped floors, think Bambi
as a fawn its first time standing.
Seeing the scattering shoppers,
you'd think a demon had barged
into this temple of commerce,
as they sacrificed their merchandise,
stranded full carts and dove for cover.
And when the aisles were emptied
of these bargain hunters, who was left
but an army of brave red-shirted
team members, mobilized by
the store manager over the intercom
to drive this wild animal out.
I wager there's nothing on this
in the How to Approach
an Unsatisfied Shopper
section in the Target employee handbook,
but there they were: the cashiers
and stockers, the Floor Supervisor,
the Assistant Floor Supervisor,
the Store Manager,
the Assistant Store Manager,
the District Associate Manager,
the District Supervisor,
the District Assistant Supervisor
and visiting members from
the Regional Corporate Office,
running after it, it running after
them, bull's eye logos on their red golf shirts,
everyone frenzied and panting: razor hooves
clattering on the mirror-white floor tiles,
nostrils heaving, its rack clearing
off-season clothes from clearance racks.
All of them, in Target,
chasing the almighty buck.

QUOTE: "The best things in life aren't things." ~ Art Buchwald

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Song (Mary Chapin Carpenter)

It is 12:40 a.m. Thanksgiving Day as I begin to type this - I spent much of Wednesday straightening and then cleaning the house in anticipation of the holiday. After I publish this post, I intend to lay out my linens, serving dishes and pantry items so as to get a jump on the day organizationally - then... I'll soak in the jacuzzi before I crawl between the sheets, with plans to wake at 8 a.m. to put the turkey in the oven. Then... back to bed... or not? - usually not... as this is my favorite holiday and I want to make the most of it.

A few minutes ago, I read last year's Thanksgiving posts, as I devoted almost a full week to this special time of gratitude, family and love - ah, that we should feel/behave this way year-round, eh? I love the no-agenda, non-commercial-ness of the day, as it's not really one Hallmark has tagged and therefore sullied - it's all about connection and gathering and thankfulness, widening our circles as well as circling our wagons.

I cook pretty much the same menu each year - our friends Kathy and Buck *always* bring the sweet potato casserole (as that's one of the few things I don't eat... so therefore don't cook) and a raspberry cheesecake. This time around, Sarah and her boyfriend Ryan are making green bean casserole and a chocolate chip banana nut bread - when I read the menu to my boys last night, they insisted that was nowhere near enough chocolate... so I made a dark chocolate caramel walnut pie (2, actually) tonight from a recipe I saw in Good Housekeeping magazine while I was waiting for my friend in the doctor's office - can't wait to finally take a bite and see if it's worth the calories!

As always, so much to be grateful for: my mom, whose health seems to be declining more slowly as she realizes her limitations and therefore asks for more help and doesn't try to do everything herself; my sister and brother, wonderful people in their own right, but absolute godsends in cities of close proximity to Mom, to visit, take her to doctor's appointments, etc.; a husband who loves and supports me, especially in my dark days; my three children who are bright, funny, compassionate; friends, near and far, who lift me up and make me feel valued; my sweet Rockstermuffin who, as soon as I lace up my New Balances, follows me all around the house until I take him walking after *my* walk; music, books and good conversation that keep me inspired, learning and growing; my renewed dedication to a healthier lifestyle; my ongoing spiritual journey to be the best me I can be; a change in national leadership such that I feel represented, rather than disenfranchised, for the first time in eight years; ikigai, a Japanese word that means "that which makes one's life worth living" (i.e., a sense of purpose) - so much more... but I have tables to set, a dishwasher to unload and wine to chill... :-)

Happy Thanksgiving to all - may grace surround and enfold you... on this day, and always...

P.S. SMM...

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

QUOTE: "Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow." ~ Edward Sandford Martin

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

These Four Walls (Shawn Colvin)

Thanks so much to Melanie for passing on this video - how perfectly-timed for Thanksgiving!

My postings will be sporadic over the next five days - my son Eric came home from college tonight (instead of tomorrow when I expected him!)... tomorrow will be housecleaning/prep day, Thursday is obvious (we'll have 8 here for dinner)... and there are plans for Friday and Saturday as well. Lots of family, food and festivity - bring it on... :-)

P.S. SMM...

These Four Walls by Shawn Colvin

BOOK: Wisdom: 50 Unique and Original Portraits by Andrew Zuckerman

POEM: What's In The Temple? by Tom Barrett

In the quiet spaces of my mind a thought lies still, but ready to


It begs me to open the door so it can walk about.

The poets speak in obscure terms pointing madly at the unsayable.

The sages say nothing, but walk ahead patting their thigh calling for

us to follow.

The monk sits pen in hand poised to explain the cloud of unknowing.

The seeker seeks, just around the corner from the truth.

If she stands still it will catch up with her.

Pause with us here a while.

Put your ear to the wall of your heart.

Listen for the whisper of knowing there.

Love will touch you if you are very still.

If I say the word God, people run away.

They've been frightened--sat on 'till the spirit cried "uncle."

Now they play hide and seek with somebody they can't name.

They know he's out there looking for them, and they want to be


But there is all this stuff in the way.

I can't talk about God and make any sense,

And I can't not talk about God and make any sense.

So we talk about the weather, and we are talking about God.

I miss the old temples where you could hang out with God.

Still, we have pet pounds where you can feel love draped in warm


And sense the whole tragedy of life and death.

You see there the consequences of carelessness,

And you feel there the yapping urgency of life that wants to be lived.

The only things lacking are the frankincense and myrrh.

We don't build many temples anymore.

Maybe we learned that the sacred can't be contained.

Or maybe it can't be sustained inside a building.

Buildings crumble.

It's the spirit that lives on.

If you had a temple in the secret spaces of your heart,

What would you worship there?

What would you bring to sacrifice?

What would be behind the curtain in the holy of holies?

Go there now.

QUOTE: "As we practice forgiveness we discover more and more that forgiveness and healing are one." ~ Agnes Sanford

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Midnight Radio (Stephen Trask)

From today's Writer's Almanac:

It's the feast day of Saint Cecilia, who was the patron saint of musicians because she sang to God as she died a martyr's death. She was born to a noble family in Rome near the end of the second century A.D.

She remained a virgin her whole life. When she got married, she told her new husband, Valerian, that she had a guardian angel who told her to remain a virgin. She sent her husband out to the countryside to be baptized, and when he came back, he found her in her chamber with the angel.

Both Cecilia and Valerian were martyred for their faith. First Valerian was killed, and then they tried to kill Cecilia in an overheated bathhouse, but she found the temperature pleasant. They then tried to behead her, but it didn't kill her. So they left her, and she lay there, bleeding and singing, before she finally died three days later.

Henry Purcell composed music in her honor. Raphael created a piece called "The Ecstasy of St. Cecilia." Chaucer wrote about her in the Second Nonnes Tale, part of his Canterbury Tales.

Ah, music - where/who would I be without it? I recently wrote the following in our folk club newsletter, as I attempted to pass the baton of editor (which never did happen, but that's a whole other story):

"Regardless of any official roles, I will always love the music and I spend a good bit of my day listening to and reading/writing about it - music is in my blood, my breath, my DNA. When I joined the BFC over 10 years ago, it was as an active, albeit alone, listener - my horizons have broadened beyond description and I'd like to think I'm paying it forward every time I post to the sf_folk list, attend a concert or recommend an artist...

Music is palpable and visceral and life-changing (oh my!) and it's heartening to find others who feel the way we do... w
hich brings us full circle to the life-long conundrum, attributed to many: "Talking about music is like dancing about architecture." - ultimately, just find a way to allow the notes to course through your veins on a daily basis. Sing, pick, hum, strum, twirl, bop, snap, stomp - whatever it takes to inhale, release and spread the joy... Just Do It! "

Today's song came into my life via Dar Williams' new CD, Promised Land - I recall seeing Hedwig and the Angry Inch years ago, but don't remember much. When I listened to Dar's cover of Stephen Trask's song from the soundtrack, it finally resonated - as I had the opportunity to tell Dar in Atlanta recently, I find it to be the companion piece of her Are You Out There... to which she replied: "Me too!".

When I think of my most vivid music discoveries/immersions, I recall them taking place afterhours... in the dark... in the dead of night - as Dar writes in her song-by-song interpretation of End of the Summer: "This is my ode to all the small radio stations and late night radio heroes who changed the lives of millions of kids out in the suburbs. I never knew about Vin Scelsa's show growing up, but I did discover New York's Pacifica station, WBAI, and from them I learned the "politics of love and music" and felt like a secret radical."

In her intro to the song, Dar speaks of the crackly radio waves insinuating their way through the suburban hedges into the rooms of impressionable kids - I was one of those teens affected, who felt the radio was speaking directly to me. I recall discovering WREK and WRAS, the radio stations of Georgia Tech and Georgia State (respectively), and hearing songs that moved me waaaaay out of my comfort zone (which was already pretty expansive, I believe): Jukies Ball by Dan Hicks, You've Got to Suffer if You Wanna Sing the Blues by David Bromberg, Things I Think I Think I'll Find by Eric Quincy Tate, etc. - I perked up when I heard a tune that I just *knew* had to be Joni Mitchell on harmony vocals, but I had no clue who the lead singer was (until it was announced post-set)... and I went all over town the following day, finally tracking down Blue River by Eric Andersen (still a favorite).

I remember my senior year of high school, when it seemed all we did was drive around in... ahem... "an altered state of consciousness" (and I still graduated with top honors - whew!), singing at the top of our lungs: Traffic's Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, Elton John's Your Song, Neil Young's Heart of Gold - one night we were way out in the woods (think Blair Witch Project), passing the liquid-or-lit illegal-substance-du-jour (noir?) around... and someone had the wonderful idea of singing James Taylor's Mudslide Slim and the Blue Horizon in its entirety... which we did... :-)

I think of the hours in my college dorm room, having a Joni marathon, all her albums stacked and dropping one-by-one on the turntable spindle - I rewind to another in-the-woods experience with my then-boyfriend, now-husband, on the way to a Cat Stevens concert, unable to keep our hands off each other...

I flashback to Christmases past, decorating the tree with my children, ever-present candles and cocoa and The Roches' We Three Kings - I am reminded of many a road trip in which I am the only one awake, driving and singing to one of my latest mixes... or a Top Ten know-all-the-words-to-every-tune CD... or my iPod on shuffle.

Even today... I cry over songs in our UU hymnbook... I sigh when I listen to a favorite recording that goes straight to my heart... I grin when I hear a tune that I know will be on repeat play in my car (or kitchen boombox) until I've processed the words and melody - goddess help me, I hope I always will...

P.S. Another SMM...

[ Added 11/23/08: I found the following posted to one of my music discussion lists this morning - "Bill Moyers talks with Mark Johnson, the producer of Playing for Change, a remarkable documentary about the simple but transformative power of music." ]

Are You Out There by Dar Williams

BOOK: All Shook Up: Music, Passion, and Politics by Carson Holloway

POEM: I love the dark hours by Rainer Maria Rilke

I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.

Then the knowing comes: I can open
to another life that's wide and timeless.

So I am sometimes like a tree
rustling over a gravesite
and making real the dream
of the one its living roots

a dream once lost among sorrows and songs.

QUOTE: "Music is moonlight in the gloomy night of life." ~ Jean Paul Richter

Friday, November 21, 2008

32 Flavors (Ani DiFranco)

Lessons of Discovery
Instruction Manuals for Living
November 19, 2008

Depending on what stage we are in our lives, we can sometimes feel like we ought to know more about who we are or how to live. We may even berate ourselves for making the same mistakes, or for just not "getting it," whatever "it" may be. We wonder how our lives would be now, if only we had “known better.” During moments like these, it is important to remember that none of us are born with instruction manuals and that learning lessons is a lifelong journey.

Inherent to our being born is that we are here to observe, learn, and grow. Accompanying this is a built-in guarantee that there will be mistakes and misadventures along the way. And while it is only natural that we may sometimes become overwhelmed, especially when the lessons keep coming, it is important to remember that learning to understand yourself and your world is an ongoing and active process where the journey is more important than the destination. Every lesson is intended so you can become more of who you are. And as you grow through this self-discovery, you begin to create your own instruction manual. The "how’s" and "why’s" are yours to discover, and part of the beauty of being alive is that these rules are always changing.

If you feel that you would like to explore what your personal instruction manual may already say, then try writing down in order some of the significant events that have happened to you. It’s also important to take note of what you learned from each one. When you are done, you may be surprised to discover how much you are always growing, and that every lesson learned always informs the next. That being said, there is never any need to be hard on yourself or think that you should have it all figured out. We always know as much as we’re meant to know at that moment, and growing into our fullness is a process that unfolds in divine timing. You and your life are beautiful works in progress. Discover yourself and embrace your life’s lessons, and your instruction manual will create itself.

I am intending a low-key, quiet, reflective weekend - let's hope the Universe agrees!

SONG: 32 Flavors by Ani DiFranco

Note to Self: On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Samara O'Shea

POEM: The Other Kingdoms by Mary Oliver

Consider the other kingdoms. The
trees, for example, with their mellow-sounding
titles: oak, aspen, willow.
Or the snow, for which the peoples of the north
have dozens of words to describe its
different arrivals. Or the creatures, with their
thick fur, their shy and wordless gaze. Their
infallible sense of what their lives
are meant to be. Thus the world
grows rich, grows wild, and you too,
grow rich, grow sweetly wild, as you too
were born to be.

QUOTE: "People spend their work years trying to be successful and their retirement years trying to be relevant." ~ director of philanthropy, REI

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Old Fat Naked Women for Peace (The Righteous Mothers)

I've been sent this video 3 or 4 times over the last two weeks - is that a peace sign in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?... :-)

I'm loving it! - this song is the lovechild of The Roches' harmonies and Christine Lavin's humor (backstory here)...

SONG: Old Fat Naked Women for Peace by The Righteous Mothers

Awearness: Inspiring Stories about How to Make a Difference by Kenneth Cole

The Low Road by Marge Piercy

What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up, they can
bust you, they can breakyour fingers, they can
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can't walk, can't remember, they can
take your child, wall up
your lover. They can do anything
you can't stop them
from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.

But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.

Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again and they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know you who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

QUOTE: "Seek patience and passion in equal amounts. Patience alone will not build the temple. Passion alone will destroy its walls." ~ Maya Angelou

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Scare Myself (Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks)

In yesterday's post, I mentioned clearing part of someone else's clutter over the weekend - I was horrified (internally, of course) at the stacks and stacks of paper, on every available surface throughout her home (floors/countertops/tables). I wondered how in the world she got anything done... did she even know what each pile contained?... would she be able to find something if she really needed it? - I realized I might as well be talking about myself... and I didn't want to think I could end up in the same situation... with someone coming into my home to help and then confronted with their own inner judgement as to the condition/chaos...

It's now time to tackle my personal albatrosses, which aren't nearly as bad as my friend's (at least I don't think so), but are still weighing on me, keeping me stuck and holding me back from moving forward with my life - my home office has become a dumping ground, my dining room table is now a desk and... let's not even talk about my car (which is really a traveling closet these days... :-)
Last week, when my caregiving situation... merged with the topic of an Oprah show... surged with a DailyOm article... converged with the following Christine Kane e-newsletter essay, I knew I had to pay attention (i.e. purge) - heard the old joke?: "God said... look, I sent you a raft and a boat and a plane". Wake-up call!

Just like my self-care regimen, I plan to do this incrementally - it's easy to become overwhelmed when one feels one has an entire house to tackle. However, one pile/drawer/closet at a time is manageable - between my preschool teaching and parenting experience, I always advocated that each item should have a home, making it easier to put back where it belongs when you're through with it... and now I need to get serious about following my own advice... :-)

I love my home (I term my decor "early eclectic"), filled with warm wood, unique artwork and a diversity of ceramics, discriminatingly and lovingly chosen over the years to showcase and reflect our tastes and passions - I want to re-create my dream of a serene, safe haven from outside stresses by keeping what we love, ditching what we don't and organizing the necessary-but-doesn't-have-to-be-visible detritus of everyday living...

Figured I'd take advantage of this sabbatical (thanks, Catherine - sounds so much better than lay-off, doesn't it?) to achieve order in my surroundings - what a great way to kick off the New Year (chaos begone!).

The Year I Discovered How Clutter Blocks Success
Christine Kane

I looked at my phone in horror.

"You want me to what?" I said into it.

"It's time, Christine. You've been talking about that basement for weeks now. It's time to deal with it."

I had been working with my coach for months at this point. And even though I had reached certain levels of success in my career, I kept getting stuck in the same old ruts. I was about to record my fourth CD, and I was ready to move to a higher level.

Thom was doing what good coaches do: listening carefully, seeing clearly - and of course, pushing me to take conscious action.

So, he encouraged me to start small and completely clear out the junk in my basement. Thirty minutes a day.

One section at a time. Building momentum as I went.

Each week, during our call, I'd report back on my progress.

Each week, I had a new reason why I simply could not let go of some clutter-y item.

"But I spent so much on it!" "I might need it someday!" "I could gain weight and need this again." "I paid such a good price for it!"

To my credit, I did pretty well at letting go once Thom talked me through these old mindsets.

Then came the week I had to face one particularly significant section of the basement.

It was where I stored various pieces of furniture I had gotten at the Salvation Army and at local flea markets when I first began my songwriting career. A bookcase, a kitchen table, a dresser, and a few shelves. I no longer liked or used this furniture because my tastes totally changed. I had begun to cherish beauty and opulence in my surroundings. I wanted to fill my home only with items that I loved.

"So, Christine," Thom asked. "Why don't you want to let these things go?"

I was embarrassed. But I told him the truth. "Well, here's the thing. If my music career doesn't work out, I might need them one day. If I fail, and I don't have any money, I might wish I had kept these things."

Long pause.

"So, you'll be on the street - but at least you'll have that bookcase?"

I laughed.

Thom sighed. And what he said next has been a core lesson of creating my success and happiness.

He said that everything in our lives has energy. Everything has our thoughts and emotions embedded into it. Old furniture is no exception. In essence, what I was saying to the universe and to my subconscious, creative self was this:

I believe so deeply in my own failure that I'm holding onto physical things that represent that possibility. Every time I walk by these items in my basement, I will be reminded of my inevitable failure. Every moment I'm in my house, my subconscious will know that in the very foundation of my life (my basement), there are items that prove I don't believe in my own success.

That week, I called Goodwill, and scheduled an appointment to have the old furniture taken away.

I'd love to report that I smiled and waved as the old clunky furniture was carried away. But the truth is I was terrified. I was letting go of my Plan B. I was saying to the Universe: "I thoroughly believe in my own success."

I had never done that before in such a concrete way!

As I wrote earlier, I began recording my fourth CD "Rain & Mud & Wild & Green" as I was clearing out the basement. That CD went on to sell five times more than any of my other CD's. It received rave reviews. Border's Books featured it on a listening post that year, and named it the top CD of the year in my category.

Now, even though I know this success wasn't ONLY about letting go of my old flea market furniture, I have become a firm believer that we each need to pay attention to the energy of the stuff that surrounds us. We need to pay attention to what we are telling our subconscious minds when we hold on.

Now you.

What are you holding onto? What thoughts and beliefs are you putting out into the Universe by clinging to it? Are you telling yourself you don't believe in the inevitability of your own success and prosperity? Or that you don't believe you can expand and create better things in your life?

Pick one thing - just one small thing - and let it go. Today!

Performer, songwriter, and creativity consultant Christine Kane publishes her 'LiveCreative' weekly ezine with more than 4,000 subscribers. If you want to be the artist of your life and create authentic and lasting success, you can sign up for a FRE*E subscription to LiveCreative at

POEM: At the Zen Mountain Monastery by Rachel Wetzsteon

A double line of meditators sits
on mats, each one a human triangle.
Evacuate your mind of clutter now.
I do my best, squeezing the static and
the agony into a straight flat line,
but soon it soars and dips until my mind’s
activity looks (you can take the girl...)
uncannily like the Manhattan skyline.
Observe your thoughts, then gently let them go.
I’m watching them all right, unruly dots
I not only can’t part from but can’t help
transforming into restless bodies -- they’re
no sooner being thought than sprouting limbs,
no longer motionless but striding proudly,
beautiful mental jukeboxes that play
their litanies of joy and woe each day
beneath the shadow of enormous buildings.
Desires are your jailers; set them free
and roam the hills, smiling archaically.
It’s not a pretty picture, me amid
high alpine regions in my urban black,
huffing and puffing in the mountain air
and saying to myself, I’m trying but
it’s hopeless; though the tortures of the damned
make waking difficult, they are my tortures;
I want them raucous and I want them near,
like howling pets I nonetheless adore
and holler adamant instructions to --
sprint, mad ambition! scavenge, hopeless love
that begs requital! -- on our evening stroll
down Broadway and up West End Avenue.

QUOTE: "To undertake is to achieve." ~ Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

You Are the Everything (R.E.M.)

It's been a very strange last five days, all of which left me with there-but-for-the-grace-of-god syndrome - despite my recent job loss, I feel pretty lucky right about now...

The father of one of my daughter's best friends lost his two-year battle with cancer last week... and the wake/service was Thursday night - I could not begin to imagine their grief... and their attempt to return to normalcy. I sobbed through it all, my daughter and I holding hands as our hearts broke with each mention of his name, each glance at the family, each memory unfolding from friends' stories - the sweet spot: he lived to see his "little girl" get married a month ago, and we are all convinced he allowed himself to let go soon afterwards...

An acquaintance from church was hit by a car Friday night... and I ended up being the one the paramedics called as they were transporting her to the hospital - I phoned our minister and another friend, who met her there, and they stayed with her overnight until she was released the next morning. I visited the next day, bringing a vat of homemade chicken soup (among other food items)... and doing a bit of cleaning and organizing (more on this in my next post) in her apartment Sunday so she could navigate through the rooms/hallways with her crutches - I also took her to the doctor yesterday, who recommended surgery (which will happen Friday) on her fractured tibia. Long-story-short (too late!, as Nance would say) is that I'm exhausted from caregiving...

On the brighter side, I walked 4 days last week, skipped Friday through Monday (due to the above-mentioned circumstances), and was back out today - I'm addicted again (just hit a vein, baby!). My trek was made even more delightful by the cooler temps (by South Florida standards) - add to that the ssstttrrreeetttccchhhing I've been doing... plus walking the dog (Rocky Raccoon) afterwards... and I'm feeling very proud of my "feed the soul" regimen...

I've also received compliments on my body changes, making me extra-careful not to fall into my typical self-sabotage MO ("oh, people are telling me I look great, therefore I can stop") - rather, I'm just setting incremental goals, knowing that mid-March will be a year since I rededicated to taking better care of myself (with many blips/traps/stumbles along the way... :-)

P.S. Two more SMM posts over the weekend can be found here... and here...

Sometimes when day after day we have cloudless blue skies,
warm temperatures, colorful trees and brilliant sun, when
it seems like all this will go on forever,

when I harvest vegetables from the garden all day,
then drink tea and doze in the late afternoon sun,
and in the evening one night make pickled beets
and green tomato chutney, the next red tomato chutney,
and the day after that pick the fruits of my arbor
and make grape jam,

when we walk in the woods every evening over fallen leaves,
through yellow light, when nights are cool, and days warm,

when I am so happy I am afraid I might explode or disappear
or somehow be taken away from all this,

at those times when I feel so happy, so good, so alive, so in love
with the world, with my own sensuous, beautiful life, suddenly

I think about all the suffering and pain in the world, the agony
and dying. I think about all those people being tortured, right
in my name. But I still feel happy and good, alive and in love with
the world and with my lucky, guilty, sensuous, beautiful life

I know in the next minute or tomorrow all this may be
taken from me, and therefore I've got to say, right now,
what I feel and know and see, I've got to say, right now,
how beautiful and sweet this world can be.

QUOTE: "The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for." ~ Allan K. Chalmers

Friday, November 14, 2008

Amelia (Joni Mitchell)

November 14, 2008
Finding Encouragement
Your True Inner Voice

Within each of us, there are numerous voices often that compete for our attention. It can be difficult to decide which one to listen to, particularly when their messages are all quite different, sometimes conflicting, and even alluring. One voice, however, is the speaker of truth. Among all your inner voices, your true inner voice is the one which encourages you, gives you hope, and pushes you to trust and believe in yourself. Conflict within oneself is often caused by dueling voices inside of each one of us. As we move through life, we get mixed messages from the various aspects of ourselves. Some of our voices, such as the naysayer or saboteur, can speak so loudly that they drown out the voice of truth. Listening to your true inner voice – often the voice of understanding, support, and self-assurance - can help lessen and even resolve internal conflict.

If you’re looking toward the future but your faith in your ability to succeed in life is wavering, you will benefit from finding and listening to your true inner voice. You can connect with it by remaining relaxed and alert, while listening carefully. If you have trouble distinguishing your true voice from the others, meditation may be helpful. You may hear many voices as you meditate, but the one you should pay attention to is the one that speaks to you with love, understanding, and compassion. It will bolster your spirits and urge you to go after your dreams. And it will never cause confusion, remind you of past mistakes, or cause you to doubt yourself.

The more you listen to and believe in what your true inner voice is telling you about your value and your potential, the stronger that voice will become. And the more you disregard the voices that can interfere with your resolve to succeed, the quieter those voices will become. Saying no to the voices that are judgmental and make you feel ashamed will help you stop being critical of your failures and afraid of success. By finding and strengthening your true inner voice, you will be able to ignore internal conflict and pick out the one that speaks the truth.

From Girls Like Us - Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller:

Between 1955 and 1957, [in] the women's pages of one of the Anderson's main local papers, the Leader-Post, ... was an inspiring poem by local poet Ella Davis, to a tougher heroine of a former era. The poem was simply called "Amelia", as if that first, distinctive name alone were enough to describe the brave aviatrix who had gone alone across the Atlantic Ocean. Davis praised her "high dreams" in "all out altitudes".

Did 13-year-old Joan Anderson (who was now defying Myrtle by sneaking out to the jazz-and-burlesque tent at the Mile Long Midway carnival) notice that the poem in the newspaper on that summer 1957 day and feel a stab of romantic identification? "Amelia": the intimacy of that first-name-alone as a title. "Dreams". "Altitudes". One wonders.

I googled my patootie off, but was unable to find Ella Davis' long-ago creation - however, I did stumble across what appears to be an amazing book of poetry (linked below), of which I'll be ordering two copies (one for my friend Laurie and one for myself):

Navigate, Amelia Earhart’s Letters Home, Rebecca Loudon’s chapbook from No Tell Books, is saddle-stitched with a glossy cover, with radiant art by Stacy Elaine Dacheux depicting a watercolor version of Amelia Earhart with her arms out and paper airplanes sailing overhead. In a move reminiscent of Jane Mendelsohn’s novel, I Was Amelia Earhart, which imagined Earhart’s life trapped on a deserted island after crashing her plane on her infamous last flight, Loudon’s whimsical collection details the imagined ephemera at the end of Amelia Earhart’s life. The writer inhabits Earhart’s persona so intensely you have to remind yourself that these are not artifacts from the aviatrix’s real life. For those of you already familiar with Loudon’s work, never fear: the collection lacks none of Loudon’s trademark ferocity, vivid, dream-like narratives, and dark humor.

Joni's song lives on forever - for my 50th birthday party at the now-defunct Main Street Cafe (so sad), I asked Laurie to open the show with 5 songs (a Joni, a Dar, a Dave Carter and a Buddy Mondlock, as well as one of Laurie's originals), and I chose Amelia for the Joni selection. I can't imagine any woman not relating to the feeling of wanderlust, translated so beautifully and achingly through Joni's intense lyrics and mournful guitar - after experiencing a broken heart, who hasn't wanted to just get in the car and go... destination unknown?

P.S. FYI - SMM...

SONG: Amelia by Joni Mitchell

Navigate, Amelia Earhart's Letters Home by Rebecca Loudon, illustrated by Stacy Elaine Dacheux

I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn

POEM: Where are you Fred? by Rebecca Loudon

the bright sea
you punched my arm
you said the fuel tanks
bubble with champagne

I want to tell you how it felt
falling and knowing
what a bad idea it was
to have decided against the parachutes

ha ha

I was a seed pod tumbling
thought I could flap my arms
shout your name and Snook’s
join hands like synchronized swimmers

Forever yours,
Amelia Mary Earhart

QUOTE: "You haven't seen a tree until you've seen its shadow from the sky." ~ Amelia Earhart

"Pilots are a rare kind of human. They leave the ordinary surface of the word, to purify their soul in the sky, and they come down to earth, only after receiving the communion of the infinite." ~ Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Much Better View of the Moon (George Wurzbach)

Last night was close... and tonight is the "official" full moon - this tune seems to fit my mood/life philosophy now...

SONG: A Much Better View of the Moon by George Wurzbach (scroll about halfway down; "I ain't no creature"... should be preacher... :-)

BOOK: One Hundred Aspects of the Moon: Japanese Woodblock Prints by Tamara Tjardes, Yoshitoshi Taiso

POEM: The Eclipse by Richard Eberhart

I stood out in the open cold
To see the essence of the eclipse
Which was its perfect darkness.

I stood in the cold on the porch
And could not think of anything so perfect
As man's hope of light in the face of darkness.

QUOTE: "And if I have to work late, there's nothing like diamond stars and a pearl full moon against an onyx night sky." ~ Astrid Alauda

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Seven is the Number (Dave Carter)

Day f*cking 1... again! - (hi, Melanie... :-)

Three weeks ago today, at 5:10 p.m., I was laid off from a job I'd held for over a year and a half - much as I knew it was the proverbial blessing in disguise, it's been a difficult time, and I've experienced more than a few manic-depressive episodes, yo-yo-ing from peak highs to valley lows.

I've discussed before that it takes 21 days to change a habit - the same can be said of facing a fact, coming to a realization, allowing an epiphany. Wallowing: over - roly-poly mode: uncurled. I have made the conscious choice to rejoin the human race, in all its glorious aspects - I re-started my walking program (3 miles in the neighborhood) yesterday, and got up and did it again today. Loving the much-needed Vitamin D, the awareness of sights/sounds/smells and the acquisition of found objects - yesterday a feather to add to my windowsill aloe plant... and today a smooth rock that fits perfectly in the palm of my hand (a new worry stone?).

Although I've been eating very healthfully and mindfully these last few months, I'd slacked a bit (d*mn those chocolate chip muffins I bought for my son's visit home from college this past weekend!)... so I've now re-committed to my fruits/vegetables/non-processed foods lifestyle - I've also re-focused my productivity goals, making a list (easy/medium/hard) of everything I want to accomplish in the next few months, to take advantage of the fact I'm home full-time until January.

Seven is significant, because for years I've worn seven silver bracelets on each wrist, each with a story/history... from cloissonne to gemstones to inscribed - some were gifts and others self-purchased, a few cuffs and the rest bangles, all special. Seven is a lucky number - seven is also the number of chakras, a pendant of which I was given by a friend recently. I've begun to study the significance of each, as well as their relationship to each other - it's obviously all about the harmony of mind-body-spirit. Much to digest (no pun intended) - I'm just toe-dipping at this point... :-)

An understanding of the energy centers of the body, which are also the spiritual centers of the soul. Chakra is a Sanskrit word meaning whirling vortices of light. They bring together the energy body and the physical body. Your soul has seven spiritual centers (also known as chakras) that control your physical, emotional, and psychological life. When each of them is in balance, your life flows smoothly. When any one of them is out of balance, the imbalance can show up as a physical symptom affecting a particular area of your body, or as an emotional or psychological symptom affecting your outlook.

More here...

P.S. FYI, new SMM - if you check out the left sidebar, you'll see I'm now an official contributor (zippity!).

SONG: Seven is the Number by Dave Carter

BOOK: Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day by Macrina Wiederkehr

POEM: The Opening of Eyes by David Whyte

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
The passing light over the water
And I heard the voice of the world speak out
I knew then as I have before
Life is no passing memory of what has been
Nor the remaining pages of a great book
Waiting to be read

It is the opening of eyes long closed
It is the vision of far off things
Seen for the silence they hold
It is the heart after years of secret conversing
Speaking out loud in the clear air

It is Moses in the desert fallen to his knees
Before the lit bush
It is the man throwing away his shoes

As if to enter heaven and finding himself astonished
Opened at last
Fallen in love
With Solid Ground

QUOTE: "Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other." ~ Henry David Thoreau

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pacing the Cage (Bruce Cockburn)

Bravo. Now be yourself.
By Garrison Keillor
November 5, 2008

A golden November day under a blue sky and an air of sweet amiability at the polls and at the end of the day, we elected the right guy, no doubt about it. Yes, we can and we did. A nation spread its wings and achieved altitude.

Bravo, Barack, Mr. Steady, who cheerfully did the rope lines, made the phone calls, answered the same questions 15,000 times, bounded up the stairs, delivered his lines with warmth and wit, ran a tight disciplined army, and that, plus $700 million and an 80 mile-per-hour wind at your back, is all you need to win the prize.

One is electrified by the historic moment, of course, but I will let Great Minds chew on that, and simply wish him and his marvelous lady all the best as they bear up under the tsunami of adoration from Democrats whom he has led out of Egypt. His picture goes up in the kitchen shrine alongside FDR and JFK — BHO elevated to sainthood and now expected to walk on water and turn it into wine. Meanwhile, everything he said about the national mess is utterly true and a lot more. And now it is Barack’s mess. Yikes.

A good shingle for the new administration to hang out, rather than The New Covenant or A Fair Exchange or English Spoken Here, would be Keep Seat Belt Buckled. Happy days are not here and the sky above is not clear.

One bright light in the marquee is Michelle Obama, that witty, jumpy woman with the quick­silver smile who said, "How does Barack prepare for a debate? He just talks to me and he’s ready." The good mother who said, "People ask me how I am, and I say, I’m only as good as my most sad child." Come January, we will have a president whose wife calls him Baby. Good for you, Mama. And now she becomes America’s No. 2 celebrity, the object of giddy curiosity.
Enjoy the people’s house, Michelle, and cruise along gently and do not read anything written about you, and don’t watch the news. Enjoy the pageantry (you look good, Baby), bring up the family, and don’t take the show too seriously. Don’t do too many interviews. Think Laura Bush, a cool First Lady. People like Laura Bush a lot, a Texas Democrat who married a Republican and stuck with him through thin and thinner. She’s smart and we know that because she never tried to show how smart she is. Do not let the mister put you in charge of health-care legislation. Your great challenge is to make a genuine life in the midst of the heavy surf of publicity. God willing, be happy and live your life. When life gets too unreal, sit down with a good book.

As for President-elect Obama, he can now stop dancing, which he’s been doing for 20 months — in a democracy we want candidates to really, really, really want to be president — and get down to the business of patient, focused, rational deliberation and calculation, starting with the formulation of a Cabinet and a White House staff. Have them write up a presidential order for Jan. 20 saying that America will not employ torture, and maybe issue a blanket presidential pardon for your predecessor and his vice, and then set about the business of disappointing your followers and astonishing your enemies and doing what is right for our country.

Be good to yourself. Hire smart, stable people who can tell you things you need to know and not copy Bob Woodward. Keep some Republicans around. You’re the man. You make us proud. You let us get to know you. You have the gift of speaking clearly and forcefully, whole sentences and paragraphs, while thinking at the same time, a good gift. You don’t need a staff of writers to create a persona for you. You need engineers. Problem solvers. You’re inheriting a raft of them.

Get on that treadmill every morning. Keep a daily journal. Let us see those darling girls once in a while. Please don’t play golf. Don’t get a dog. Enjoy Camp David. Be happy. Don’t hire people to tell you how to dress or who to be; you’re a grown-up. Don’t do crap that someday you’d have to go on TV and make cheesy apologies for. This job is one you were cut out to do and a big part of the job is to keep up the national morale and you are already doing that big-time. And thank you, sir. All those cheap motels, all those flights, all of that chip dip. We are deeply grateful.


In my 30 minutes of first-thing-in-the-morning, e-mail-check/web-browsing session (before I went out for my walk), I ran across a new-to-me link on another blog... and had to do some research - it appears to be the official homepage of our new president, where you can apply for a job in the new administration, read the presidential blog, post your opinions about what’s important, send emails detailing your vision for America, monitor the agenda and transition, etc. Impressive! provides resources to better understand the transition process and the decisions being made as part of it. It also offers an opportunity to be heard about the challenges our country faces and your ideas for tackling them. The Obama Administration will reflect an essential lesson from the success of the Obama campaign: that people united around a common purpose can achieve great things.

P.S. Another SMM post...

SONG: Pacing the Cage by Bruce Cockburn (for boyhowdy: this tune was nicely covered by Jimmy Buffett... :-)

The American Journey of Barack Obama by The Editors of Life Magazine

POEM: 3 by John Berryman

Sole watchman of the flying stars, guard me
against my flicker of impulse lust: teach me
to see them as sisters & daughters. Sustain
my grand endeavours: husbandship & crafting.

Forsake me not when my wild hours come;
grant me sleep nightly, grace soften my dreams;
achieve in me patience till the thing be done,
a careful view of my achievement come.

Make me from time to time the gift of the shoulder.
When all hurt nerves whine shut away the whiskey.
Empty my heart toward Thee.
Let me pace without fear the common path of death.

Cross am I sometimes with my little daughter:
fill her eyes with tears. Forgive me, Lord.
Unite my various soul,
sole watchman of the wide & single stars.

QUOTE: "I reject a politics that is based solely on racial identity, gender identity, sexual orientation or victimhood generally. I think much of what ails the inner city involves a breakdown in culture that will not be cured by money alone, and that our values and spiritual life matter at least as much as our GDP." ~ Barack Obama

Saturday, November 8, 2008

It's a New Day ( debuted his new song and video on the election of Barack Obama on Oprah yesterday afternoon - goosebump city... :-)

open letter to Barack Obama from African-American writer Alice Walker:

Nov. 5, 2008

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people’s enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people’s spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to “work with the enemy” internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker

P.S. Another Star Maker Machine post... :-)

SONG: It's a New Day by

New Day Revolution: How to Save the World in 24 Hours by Sam Davidson, Stephen Moseley

POEM: Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson

Lift ev'ry voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list'ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast'ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

QUOTE: " Sam: It's like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there's some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for." ~ Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien