Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


"Like other rodents, hamsters are highly motivated to run in wheels; it is not uncommon to record distances of 9 km (5.6 mi) being run in one night."
- Wikipedia,

I really identify with my daughter's hamster. His name is Squinky, which I found odd until I happened to catch a re-run of Friends while folding clothes. In that episode, Lisa Kudrow tells a pouty Jennifer Aniston, "Don't get all squinky on me!" Aden must have picked up the name as a baby when I paced back and forth on endless evenings, watching Friends re-runs until the screaming (hers - not mine) stopped and sleep could begin. She must have absorbed the phrase and held it until the appropriate pet-naming day.

But back to my one-ness with the hamster. Squinky runs insanely fast on his little wheel, aiming his nose inward toward the axle so as not to fall off. He runs all out one direction, then stops and runs equally fast the other direction. Whether this is due to boredom or to inner wisdom (need to balance the muscles on both sides) I do not know. When he needs a temporary pause, he sits up in the wheel and looks outward, as if to say, "What is your deal? A guy's got to run!"

I am sympathetic to Squinky's insatiable desire to spin his wheel, since I suffer from the same compulsion. As soon as Squinky wakes up he throws his body into motion, and I often do the same. Starting with workouts at 5:30am and ending with class tonight at 9:30pm, it's a full day. But . . . he looks REALLY silly. As I laugh at this tiny animal and his need to run a 10k every evening, I have to question my own compulsions - the value of running around in my own wheel(s). Do we ever really get anywhere by running? Can we at least go outside to explore? And wouldn't a good nap and a snack be more fun?

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Mysteries of pronunciation as overheard in an Elementary school library:

First -grader: "I need to find the mystery of the Yellow Yatchet."
Librarian: "The Yellow Yatchet?? I am not familiar with that book. Let's look it up."
After fifteen minutes of fruitless research librarian says, "Are you sure it is called the Yellow Yatchet? I can't find it anywhere. What does it look like?"
First - grader: "Oh, it's a big yellow boat."


My sister's closing lines to me after an hour of conversation on our full lives:
"Well, keep on keepin' on. Doesn't sound like you have much of a chance..."
Me: "What?? Thanks for your support."
Sister: "Not what I meant to say . . .but just keeping it real."


Good friend consoling me around my fears of not being a good-enough mom:
"I really don't think you're so bad."


As heard in spa while receiving facial among friends:
"If I can wall-sit for three minutes I can sit with my face in a bowl of steaming water for five. No breaks, people! No breaks!"

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Our Deepest Fears

Ever tried
Ever failed
No matter
Try again
Fail again
Fail better
- Samuel Beckett

"The spelling bee is today," my daughter announced at the breakfast table, her tone off-handed and her eyes avoiding mine. "Great," I said, "have fun with that." "Ummmm, I don't really want to win because I REALLY don't want to go to district," she replied to her cereal bowl. I've heard this before about previous years' spelling bees, so I was ready. "How about you do your best, and if you qualify for district, you don't have to go? You could let someone else go in your place. Just make sure to try your best no matter what." She met my eyes then, and thought for a moment. "OK," she said, "that might work."

I know she feels pressure from school to succeed and I am not sure my bid to take the pressure off will be successful, but I don't want her to sabotage her effort and not commit with all her strength to the task before her. So then I had to ask: why do I let myself off the hook? I try my hardest at most things, just not the ones that matter the most. I'll commit to workouts, races, jobs, and volunteer posts, but withhold my heart and soul from writing, from relationships where I might be vulnerable, from my spiritual practices.

Yesterday I met with my small writing group. We have only been meeting for four months yet I really rely on, and look forward to, our gatherings. On this occasion the group read my blog posts from the past few weeks. When it came time to review my work one of my friends enthusiastically leaned across the table and urged me to consider writing more poetry. I cut her off before she finished her sentence with protestations of my amateur style, my inferiority to published poets, etc. I felt so vulnerable that I had to forestall any criticism (from the others) by criticizing myself. If they don't like my work, I think, I have failed.

One of my Spiritual Direction teachers noted last week that we don't have eyes to see ourselves; we rely on the eyes of others to see us while we look for the reflection. I think that is why I protect my writing: I don't always want my true self to be seen because I am afraid to see the reflection in my readers' eyes. Their opinion of my deepest self matters too much, and I feel too disarmed when I share my best efforts. I wonder if my daughter feels similarly exposed in a spelling bee, especially in front of a big crowd. We want to be seen but not seen too much, or too deeply.

I love this quote from Marianne Williamson and return to it time and again:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." (A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles", Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3])

May we be liberated from our fears: from fear of spelling bees, fear of showing our heartfelt work, fear of failure, of showing our love, of shining our light. Maybe then we can come to believe that the ONLY failure is the absence of our best efforts, our truest selves.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Nested Selves

At the same spiritual direction class I mentioned below, our female teacher brought out a beautiful carved Hawaiian nesting doll, with all the different nested sizes visible from the front. She talked about how the different dolls represented the generations. For me, the doll was a powerful image of all the different selves we carry within us.

I shared this thought with our teacher at the break and she grasped it eagerly. "Ooh yes," she said, "it's like finding a college textbook with your notes written in the margin. It's so fascinating to connect with your old thoughts and associations." She's right, yet some of my former selves are so vibrant I do not need books or old letters to find them. The 16-year-old self who fell in love for the first time, the 25-year-old self who celebrated the restaurants, bars, and parks of San Francisco, the 30-year-old self who was humbled, amazed, and shocked by the birth of our first child; these selves just require a photo or song lyric to appear above the surface of my consciousness. They are strong swimmers.

In every stage of our lives we learn truths and hide them, we experience beauty and are scarred by real or perceived trauma. When I was younger I may have recognized my "true self" much better than in mature versions, which assimilated cultural expectations and egoistic goals into the definition of personality and striving. I hope that my journals and this blog will keep me honest and capture some of the truths from this period of my life. At some point, too, this nested self will be just one in the chain.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mother / Warrior

"The Warrior. This is the archetype of discipline (and self-discipline), hierarchy and power. The warrior controls the self, controls others, and is controlled by others. " -

We had a great Spiritual Formation class last week. The subject was how femininity and masculinity affect our spirituality. As part of the discussion we learned archetypes of both females and males. For women: the virgin / maiden, mother/queen, and hag / crone. Both the mythological names and their descriptions disturbed many of the women in the class (for obvious reasons). The men had the Boy, the Magician / Wizard, the King, and the Warrior. Brows furrowed in consternation, many of us were about to protest the discrepancies in the types and descriptions when one of our co-teachers (the male) stepped in quickly to point out that in Celtic mythology, as in other mythologies, the female Warrior is a fourth archetype.

This resonated with me, as with many of my female classmates, especially when he went on to describe the Celtic vision of the warrior. The warrior is not a man (or woman) who fights external threats, s/he is an individual who goes within to confront the inner demons. To 'fly within' can mean a dark and dangerous journey, and those demons we harbor can be far more terrifying than an advancing army. Only when we stand our ground; both naming and facing the demons, can we become truly wise, truly strong, and peaceful - for the time being. For to be a Warrior means to repeat this cycle over and over again throughout our lives.

I latched on to this type because the Mother brings to mind endless generosity, selflessness, openness, even loss of self. Though I aspire to be generous and to lovingly meet the needs of my spouse and children, I am frankly terrified to be needed / wanted to the point of my own extinction. The glowing description of the mother who gives an "unreserved yes" to all those who call her does not match my struggle with motherhood. I feel much more at home with the warrior, recognizing the need to stand my ground against demons of anger, frustration, ego.

Our male teacher pointed out that the Balrog in JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series epitomizes the inner demon (the monster from the abyss). When Gandalf holds the bridge against the Balrog, he turns to face the monster alone,slams his staff into the ground, and shouts "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" These days, when my temper starts roiling at the children's bickering or misbehaving, I imagine myself turning to face it and saying, "You shall not pass!"

Now the warrior does have *slight* control issues, which is where she might need to kibbutz with the mother in me to improve on things around here. To control and be controlling A. does not work in the parenting world and B. is completely exhausting. So perhaps these two selves can have coffee some day and work it out. I'll be re-reading Tolkien and carving a staff for future use.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Pier 39 Carousel

Posted by Picasa

Rainy Muir Woods Day

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 1, 2012

City by the Bay

We had a truly blessed vacation in San Francisco / Palo Alto last week. Everywhere Rob and I turned (or drove) we encountered our former haunts, apartments, rental homes, workplaces, party places . . . . Our children were underwhelmed by our tiny first apartments but thrilled by the Golden Gate Bridge views, Pier 39 Carousel and sea lions, Tcho Chocolate Factory Tour and following dinner and Pier 23 and cable cars. The city never disappoints (except when you are looking for cheap housing or a parking spot). Aden and I documented some of the trip in poetry, and here are a few of mine.

Happy New Year to all.

Christmas Haiku

Days of festive light
Dark and cold hold bitter sway,
Communal longing.


San Francisco

Sea lion barks hoar frost,
Shoulders onto tipping barge.
Clanking cars grab groaning cable,
Climb hills lined by pastel apartments.
Bridges' towers force through fog drift,
Gold and grey both guide travelers to and from
The simmering city.

Memories ooze from every neighborhood,
Shared meals, sipped drinks, friends attended.
Famous landmarks stand impressive and
Achingly familiar.
Old office windows solid and silent;
Memories of play reflect much better off smudgy panes.
Hazy fog of recollections, piercing sunray of present joy.


Muir Woods (haiku)

Filmy webs dripping
Decorate mossy giants,
The architects fled.