Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ayurvedic Panchakarma

Today was my second day of Ayurvedic Panchakarma, or as my husband not so affectionately calls it, Poopachaka.  I'd like to say I feel different, but I don't, and I'm trying not to get discouraged.  I know it's helping in some way, I'd just like to see some sort of tangible physical/mental benefit from it.  I have a feeling it's like good nutrition, you don't always notice the benefits, but your body is better off in the long run.  Even so, I'm hoping for a miraculous turn around tomorrow.

It's actually a lie to say I don't feel different.  I'm tired, and I'm hungry all the time.  I think because I'm eating the same thing for three days in a row.  Any time I restrict my diet the cravings start immediately.  I don't think I actually have to eat the Kitchari at every meal, but it is easy to digest and that is the goal for these three days.  Kitchari is a blend of rice, mung beans, ghee, and herbs.  "Ayurveda believes that all healing begins with the digestive tract, and kitchari can give it a much needed rest from constantly processing different foods while providing essential nutrients." (Quoted from  It actually tastes pretty good, and is very hearty for a "detox" food.  I'm just tired of eating it.

The goal of panchakarma is to detoxify the body, strengthen the immune system, and restore well being.  I'll be happy with any one of those three things.  Maybe the results don't manifest right away, and it will take a little while to notice a difference.  Or maybe it's already taking effect, and it's just too subtle for me to notice.  I mean, I haven't dropped anything lately, or tripped over my own feet, and I haven't been as absent minded as usual.  I can't say I've been particularly cheery, but I don't know if that's from the panchakarma, the rain, or the other not so cheery people I've been around today.

The panchakarma itself is interesting, and not quite as pampering as I had thought.  After all, three hours of hot oil massage for three days sounds pretty good.  The massage includes a lot of karate chopping, tapping, and rubbing with oil.  Lots of oil.  I can't even wash it out of my hair with shampoo.  My favorite part is the steam tent after the massage.  It's one of the few times all day when I am warm and I love it. My only complaint is that it is over too soon.

The warm oil dripped on my forehead today was particularly relaxing too.  In contrast to yesterday, when it was so hot I thought it might scar me.  I was worried I'd look in the mirror afterwards and have a Harry Potter-esque lightning bolt burned on my forehead.

Reading back over this, I'm realizing that maybe I just have my expectations set too high.  I've been sluggish and unmotivated all month, and I was hoping the panchakarma and the new year would propel me into some sort of forward motion.  Leave the old junk behind, start the new year with a fresh body/spirit/mind.  I think that will still happen, because I'm working on manifesting it right now. But there is no magic poopachaka pill like I hoped there would be.  This will take some effort on my part, no one else can do it for me.  If I don't have some miraculous results tomorrow I'll get through it, and I will probably learn an important lesson about expectations.  But I'm still hoping to send the old year out with a bang.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Wonders of the Body

I continue to be amazed at the things I discover about natural healing.  Last week I was experiencing burning and itching on the top of my toes, and at times there would be a strange purplish rash.  For almost 48 hours, the fourth toe on my left foot hurt enough that it made me limp.  My toes were also colder than usual.

I thought maybe it was athlete's foot, which can be a symptom of candida.  Since I had been craving bagels (and eating them), this sounded like a logical explanation.  My husband wanted me to go to my regular doctor, because he was concerned that the purple color and the strange sensations might be a circulation problem.  I didn't think I needed to go, but I went so I could say, "See, I told you it wasn't anything."

The doctor said it wasn't athlete's foot, but more likely just bad circulation.  She ordered some blood tests just in case, and that was that.

When I went to the acupuncturist today, I pointed out the purple spots on my toes and told her about what had happened.  She pointed to the worst purple spot and said, "That's the end of the spleen channel."  The spleen is what we work on most often when I go to see her.  "That spot is your gall bladder, and that one is the end of your liver channel.  They're all tied together with what we normally work on, and I think what we're doing is working.  The junk has moved to the end of the channel and now doesn't have anywhere to go."

She suggested that a small prick to the end of the affected toe would relieve some of the pressure.  Last year this would have sounded crazy to me.  Today it sounded like just what I needed.  I actually can't believe it myself, but four toe pricks later I felt like a different person.  I have been really sluggish all month, suffering from a general malaise that is driving me crazy.  Within a few minutes of relieving some of the pressure, I felt a sense of euphoria that has eluded me for over a month.

Did it really work that well, or was it all in my head?  To be honest, I don't really care.  I feel better and that's all that matters.  I am continually astonished at the wonders of the human body, and the way it will heal itself if we just pay attention.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

It is just after midnight on Christmas Eve.  Little one and grandma snug in their beds.  Cookies, carrots, and scotch left out for Santa and the reindeer.  Soft mutterings and loud banging from the Ikea bunk bed assembly worker upstairs (aka my husband, who could use a whole bottle of scotch about now.)

I have always preferred Christmas Eve to Christmas Day.  Much the same as I prefer Saturday to Sunday, because there is still something to look forward too.  It is an unusual night as well, a time charged with so much expectation and emotion for most of us.  The magic of virgin births and fat men that circle the earth and slide down chimneys.   The loneliness of people who don't have families to celebrate with.  The stress that family gatherings and obligations cause for others.  The pressure of too much to do with too little time.  The wonder in my son's eyes as he lies in his bed staring out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the magic.

As I walked around my neighborhood late this evening, I caught a glimpse of the magic too.  Luminaries lit the walkways, each candle a glowing beacon in the night, leading me on to the next.  A light dusting of snow.  Complete quiet, not even a car on the road.  It was a beautiful way to end the evening.  In fact, I started my day before 7am with a similar walk.  It's amazing how peaceful suburbia is when everyone is asleep.

However you spend this Christmas day, I hope you find a little bit of the magic.  Be it alone or at a crazy family gathering.  In the tear of a grandma or the look of wonder on the face of a toddler.  In a virgin birth or a fat man in a sleigh.  I wish you peace, love, and hugs, on this day and all the rest.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Birds

An interesting thing has happened to me on two different days this week.  A flock of robins (yes I said robins) has taken up residence in the tree out front.  Think about it for a minute.  When was the last time you have seen more than one or two robins at the same time?  The day before yesterday I stopped counting them at 20.

This morning while I was preparing to meditate, one flew into the tree next to my window.  He just sat there and stared at me.  I couldn't stop watching him, even though I don't know what I expected him to do.  Come over and tap on the window and give me a message?  (That's a joke, just in case you didn't hear the sarcasm.)  Here's what the "Animal Speak" book has to say about robins.

Keynote: Spread of New Growth
When a robin comes into your life, you can expect new growth to occur in a variety of areas of your life - not just a single area.
The robin egg reflects the innate ability of those with this totem to assert the will force to create new growth in her life.  When the robin comes to you it is to help you in this process.  It may reflect you have been dong so inappropriately or ineffectually.  Either way, the robin will show you how to do it successfully.

I realize that the robins were probably migrating, but I still have never seen anything like this before.  It is quite a site to see 20 red breasts in a tree, with more flying around between the houses.  I think the message is very timely for me.  I am excited about the prospect of new growth.  Like the robin, I'm ready to spread my wings and search out new sources of nourishment, whatever they might be.

My Triumphant Return

Wow.  I know it's been a while since I've blogged, but I didn't realize it had been a month.  It's not for lack of material, or because I don't want to write.  I just haven't had any motivation.  The old me would have said I didn't have time to write.  The new me realizes that's not entirely true.  It would be more accurate to say I haven't made the time to write.

I've been going through an interesting period lately.  I only worked the first 3 days of the month, so I have been home for an extended period of time.  Even though I have had this extra "free" time, the days seem to be whizzing by faster than normal.  Time seems to have accelerated, and I am frazzled because I have all of this time off but don't seem to be accomplishing anything.  There is never a time when I am just sitting around doing nothing, but at the end of the day I don't know where the time has gone.  I'm certainly not doing spiritual things, self help, reiki or writing; these have all been pushed to the bottom of the "to do" list.  I can't get motivated to make them a priority, and then I feel guilty about not doing them.

I realize that I will go through resting periods, gaining strength for the next big thing coming my way.  Sustaining a rocket ship trajectory of growth is not sustainable or even desirable, and I realize this.   I know this is one of those resting periods.  I'm in the upside down bell curve as my husband said last night.  I should just relax, be gentle with myself, and not judge myself for what I am accomplishing or not accomplishing.  Because I know this, I get even more frustrated at myself because I am feeling unhappy and guilty about where I am with my evolution.

After spending time with some inspirational friends last night, I think I am ready to start growing again.  Or at least to stop being so hard on myself.  It is a fine line between urging myself forward so I don't become stagnant, and giving myself the time and space crucial to my spiritual growth.  I need to absorb the changes I am trying to make so I can move on.  I am trying to change some core beliefs that have been a part of my life forever (doubt, fear, and trust to name a few).  This is a huge shift, and I need to be gentle with myself until it assimilates.

Writing is very therapeutic, and I think I just had a breakthrough as I wrote the last paragraph.  In the past, I have very enthusiastically started projects and then lost interest.  The last month has been a period of slow growth, while I try to absorb a change before I move forward.  There is a part of me that fears I am giving up on myself when I go through a period like this.  That I am losing interest, or losing faith, and that this will end up like all of those other abandoned projects.  That's what leads to the guilt, and then the vicious cycle because I know I shouldn't feel guilty.  I know I am exactly where I need to be.

That was my first goal after Warrior Monk; to look in the mirror every morning for a month and say "I am exactly where I need to be."  Coincidentally, it was right after I stopped doing this that the unmotivated funk settled in.  I think maybe I need to make that a morning practice again.

I will have some interesting things to write about this week, and I can feel my enthusiasm returning already.  For a while now, I have been interested in finding out more about Ayurveda; a traditional healing modality from India.  I am especially interested in panchakarma, which helps detox and restore balance to the body.  I can't write any more about it now, because I don't really know anymore about it.  I have just had an intuitive feeling that I need to check it out, and I have a consultation appointment with an Ayurvedic practitioner tomorrow.  I'll be educating all of us about it later this week.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


A friend of mine pointed out last week that there are a lot of "damaged" people walking around.  I have been pondering that a lot lately, and I must admit it has me kind of down.

So many people in so much pain.  Why?  Why do we have to suffer?  Because it is our lot in life.  That sounds awfully trite, but it's the thought that came into my head so I wrote it down.  And then this one came.  We must suffer to grow.  Without the suffering, there is no challenge.  Without the suffering, there is no need to change, to evolve.  We have a choice.  Do we rise above the challenge, and use it as our catalyst to propel us into something bigger and better?  To help us accomplish whatever it is that our soul is longing to experience?  Or do we let it consume us?  Eat away at us from the inside, until there is nothing left but a hollow shell, incapable of feelings or actions.

Most times the "damage" we suffer comes from something (or someone) outside of our immediate control.  Although we may not have control over the original incident, we do have control over how we choose to let it affect our lives.  Do we use it as a crutch?  As an excuse for never taking responsibility?  Do we let the fear of being hurt again consume us so that we can never reach out?

Or like the chick in the egg, do we take the chance that there is a beautiful world on the other side of this blackness that envelopes us.  Do we have the courage to break through the wall separating us from our destiny; or do we stay inside this shell and die from lack of nourishment?  Do we stretch and grow like a flower bulb in spring, reaching for the warmth of the sun?  A sun that isn't yet visible  but our instinct tells us that it is there, just waiting to be discovered.  Or do we shrivel and die like an unpicked grape on the vine.

Do we rise above the "damage" or let it consume us?  Each one of us must make that choice for ourselves.  There is no right or wrong, only what is best for you.  Your soul knows the answer and can help you make the choice.  Let it speak to you.  And then listen.

Breathing Lessons

I seem to be having a hard time getting organized lately.  "Hurry up we're running late," seems to be my mantra of choice recently, and I'm making a conscious effort to change that.  My son and I did some volunteer work last week before I went to work.  I purposely left home early so that we wouldn't be rushed.  I made one stop at a store on the way, and then managed to get stuck in rush hour traffic.  That would've been ok, except I ended up on the wrong street.  Twice.

After making a concerted effort to be on time and still being twenty minutes late, I was getting frazzled.  I started muttering to myself under my breath.  Berating myself for always being rushed, asking why this had to happen again.  I was about to break down and cry when a tiny voice of reason drifted up from the back seat.

"Don't cry mama.  Stay calm.  It's ok.  Try your magic breathing."  Apparently my son has actually been listening to me.

As I tried to calm down I realized my feelings weren't just something I could switch off.  I knew I was being irrational, but I needed a way to release the frustration before I could feel better.  Far too many of us just swallow those feelings down; burying them in a deep dark place inside.  Harboring them for later, when they begin to infect us from within, causing dis-ease because they were never released and dealt with properly.

I thought of the words to one of my son's songs.  "It's alright to cry.  Crying gets the sad out of you."  I mentioned this to my son, who again told me to try my magic breathing (Close your eyes, slow inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth).

It wasn't until today that I realized the lesson from getting lost and being late for the volunteering.  Not only did I learn that my son actually pays attention to what I tell him, but I learned first hand how hard it is to do the things I tell him.

When he is having a full blown melt down because he is exhausted or frustrated, I expect him to stop behaving like that as quickly as possible.  I've taught him about magic breathing, never realizing how hard it was to accomplish when your emotions are like a pinball machine and you just need to vent.

I've been around a lot of parents lately that expect their children to "get some control" and never show any emotion.  I feel really sorry for these kids, and I think we all need a constructive way to release emotions.  My son was upset the other day, and he went over and started banging on his drum.  Some parents might have been upset by this "lack of control," but I was actually really proud of him.  To me, it was a positive way to release negative energy that if buried inside, could cause him harm later.

Am I saying we should all go around yelling and banging on things every time we're upset?  Of course not.  But I am saying that it's alright to cry.  Or bang a drum.  Or hit a punching bag or pillow.  Or stomp your feet.  It doesn't matter how old you are.  Let your sad out.  Or anger, frustration, hurt - whatever it is you're dealing with.  And feel the freedom of release.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Writing on the Wall

I found it hard to sleep last night.  Session 3 of my writing class left me with all kinds of interesting possibilities, and I couldn't wait to wake up and start working with them and writing.  Now as I sit in the car dealership waiting for my car, with all of the time in the world to write, I am avoiding it like the plague. I've wasted time sending e-mail.  I've even thought of doing the test for work I've been procrastinating about.  And now I'm blogging.  What am I avoiding?  And why am I so afraid?

I don't have to ask the question, I already know the answer.  My class is about transforming myself through my writing, and I have definitely been doing that.  I know that once I break down the walls there will be no more excuses, no reason not to continue on this journey.  I feel like I am ready for that, but obviously there is a part of me that is not.

Yesterday was an insecure, emotional day for me after reading the assignments of my writing classmates. Although I was very proud of my assignment, I started to panic and feel inferior after reading theirs.  I kept telling myself that their journey is not mine.  Their stories are not mine.  Even still, I felt the old drive to be the best kicking in.

I had a discussion with a friend the other night about seeking approval vs. feedback.  I realized I have spent my entire life searching for approval.  If I didn't get it, I would change myself so that I would.  Now I am at the stage of my life where I am on the cusp of letting go of the approval.  Of not caring what others think of me, not changing myself to conform to what others think I should be.  I'm realizing that part of my journey is to be true to myself.  The only approval that matters is my own.

I have a lot to learn about writing, and I want honest feedback so I can learn and grow.  At the same time, there is a part of me that feels like a failure if someone doesn't like what I've written.  If they have a suggestion then that means I've failed.  I haven't accomplished my lifelong goal of pleasing everyone.

Deep down, I know my writing will reach those that it's meant to.  Not everyone will like it or be touched by it, and some may not even understand it.  I was actually a bit shocked with the feedback on my piece in class last night.  It was all very positive, and the suggestions that were made gave me some great ideas for further growth.  Instead of feeling inferior I was actually excited; hence the reason I couldn't sleep.

I don't have anything left to do now but write my next assignment.  Part of me thinks if I take long enough to type this my car will be ready and I won't have to start.  I don't know what this resistance is, but I'm summoning up the courage to break through this wall.  First I need a cup of coffee, and then I need to find my sledgehammer.  This wall is coming down, but I need to write some graffiti on it first.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Call

I wrote this on day 4 at Warrior Monk.

When do I not feel the call? Lately it is my constant companion. I can feel it luring me, and I welcome it. But what exactly am I being called to do? I realize I am on the path, the deer trail before me hidden in the woods, but the end is unknown. The last word of the sentence “I am” remains elusive. What I discovered today is that the word I’m searching for is elusive because there is no word. I can stop frantically searching for a title for what I am being called to be because there is no title. To give it a title would impose a limit – and my potential is limitless. Writer, teacher, healer, I can be all of those and more. With a sense of astonishment I realize that I can’t see the end of the path because there is no end. I am writing, teaching, healing right now – in this very minute – and so much more. This is my calling. Welcome calling.

The Deer

I'm taking a writing class, and a few weeks ago our first assignment was to write about object, place, and character.  The instructor said I did well with the object and place (I wrote about a stone circle in Scotland), but that I needed to flush out the character a little bit more (myself).  He suggested I write a timeline of my life, just general events and dates, to get me going.  When I sat down to do this, all I kept writing about was my dad and my relationship to him.

My dad passed away the day after Christmas 2006.  He worked for over 40 years at a job he hated to support his family, and he would have done anything for us.  The problem was that he didn't trust people.  He did the best he could, but I grew up feeling like I had to question everything and everyone, especially myself.  I worked on this quite a bit at Warrior Monk.  Learning to trust myself, releasing fear and doubt.  Finally able to accept who I am, even if it is different from what others expect of me.

I don't think my dad would have understood the spiritual quest I'm on now when he was alive.  Stick to the sure thing, the safe thing, he would have said.  Avoid the unknown. He was a no-nonsense kind of guy, and he couldn't even understand why I wanted to be a vegetarian.  Somehow I feel a deeper connection to him now that he has passed, almost like he is guiding me.  Not only do I think he understands, but I think he wants me to succeed on this new path, whatever it turns out to be.  He's no longer pointing out everything that could go wrong with my new endeavors, but showing me the deer trail through the woods that will send me on my way.

I arrived early at Warrior Monk to do some writing.  I was standing close to the house, looking for the perfect spot to write.  A deer came up out of the woods, looked right at me, and continued to walk towards me.  My dad was an avid deer hunter, and he taught me quite a bit about them.  In all of my years of watching deer, I have never seen this happen.  Frustratingly, a car came around the corner at that point and scared her away.

Every time we went outside over the next few days, I saw a deer, sometimes several.  Even the last day.  I had to leave early to get home for Halloween, and as usual I was running late.  I wanted to write one more poem beneath my "inspiration tree" before I left, so without much grace I bounded through the woods as fast as I could.  Looking down so I didn't fall, I didn't realize how close the deer were.  When I finally looked up I saw the 4 white tails flying, as the deer tried to escape this crazy person wrecking their peace and crashing through the woods.

The deer are a sign to me that my dad continues to accompany me on this journey of self discovery.  I am slowly shedding this skin that no longer fits, and blossoming into the me that I was always meant to be.  Thanks for the encouragement and guidance Dad.  Just watch me grow.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Leaf

I wrote this the second day of Warrior Monk, as I laid on the grass watching the leaves flutter thru the breeze.  It feels like a poem, but I have no idea how to punctuate a poem.  It doesn't matter.

The golden leaves shower down like rain, the gentle caress of the wind enticing them to leave the safety and nourishment of the tree.

But the tree is not really nourishing them anymore, which makes it easier for them to leave.  To take the invitation of the wind and unabashedly proceed to the next stage of life.

The stage where they decompose and provide nourishment for another.

If only I could leave the tree so freely, with reckless abandon.  Is it really reckless, or just finding a new source of nourishment?

Releasing something that no longer serves me, but instead drains the color and life out of me.

I must do this to survive.

The leaf knows what to do.  Why don't I?

I Am Free

"It was only my acceptance of labels and definitions of others that made me "Who I Am Now," when, in reality, I was free to be anyone."  An excerpt from "The Sin Eater's Last Confession."

I've spent my life being the over achiever, trying to please everyone.  I always felt the need to make people proud of me, to be proud of myself.  "Do whatever it takes to get the pat on the back and make people like you," seemed to be my motto.  What I'm realizing now is that it doesn't matter if other people like you, the most important thing is that you like yourself.  Rumi said, "start a huge foolish project like Noah.  It makes absolutely no difference what people think of you."  I think I finally understand that, and I am letting myself start to believe it.

I spent a lot of time at Warrior Monk dealing with the fear, worry, and doubt that surrounded me growing up.  I had a wonderful childhood with very loving parents, and I mean them no disrespect by what I'm about to say.  The feeling I carried with me from childhood thru becoming an adult is that the world is not a safe or happy place, and this came mostly from my Dad.  Don't trust anyone, always question someones motives, think of what could go wrong and the reasons you can't, shouldn't, wouldn't etc.

I have fallen right into this belief system, and I didn't trust anyone, let alone myself.  I've been ignoring my intuition and longing, knowing that I'm called to do something to help others, but questioning where this feeling is coming from.  The old, "What if" question kept rearing it's ugly head.  "What if" something goes wrong?  "What if" you make the wrong decision.  The lack of trust in myself is holding me back from doing something bigger with my life.  Well, it was holding me back.  I managed to dump a lot of my fear, worry and doubt at Warrior Monk thru their creation exercises.  They made me realize that the things I get most upset about are my own creations.  If they are my creations and I create my own reality, then I can change by beliefs or release those that no longer serve me.  This is a very simplified description of a complex process, but hopefully you get the idea.

So now I find myself at the threshold of a new path.  No longer worried so much about what other people think of me, and ready to see the world in a new, rose colored light.  Am I going to be naive and stupid?  No.  But I am also not going to be afraid to express the true me, the real me that has been bottled up inside for a while.

This blog has been the first step in expressing myself, and I'm ready to let more people know about it.  Some of my closest friends don't even know I'm writing it, and I think they will be quite surprised.  If I start to get nervous I will just think of Noah, and all that he accomplished by not worrying about what others thought of him.  I'm sure some of his friends thought he had lost his mind.  I may not accomplish what Noah did for the world, but what I will accomplish by being true to myself is invaluable to me.  Don't worry friends, there may not be a flood coming, but I know what I'm doing.

Am I A Warrior Or A Monk?

I'm back.  Quite literally.  I spent last week here at Warrior Monk, and yet again I have had another experience that defies a description in words.  To say that it was life changing sounds like an exaggeration, but it truly was a life changing experience.  My re-entry back to the real world has been slow, and that is why it's taken me so long to get back on the computer again.

During the 5 day retreat we had no phone, tv, radio, or computer, and we were encouraged not to wear a watch.  I don't have an addiction to the first 3 items so they were not difficult for me to give up, but giving up my addiction to time was an effort.  I am constantly looking at my watch, and it seems that the more time I spend looking at it the faster the time passes.  I am amazed how long an hour can seem when you're not counting it in 5 minute increments.  I actually spent the first week after class without a watch, and I only put it back on yesterday to come to work.  I always knew what time it was even without the watch, and I think I will continue to go without one when I am at home.  Timeliness is a good asset for a pilot to have, so I guess I will continue to wear a watch for work.  But I won't be happy about it!

At the retreat, we were awakened every morning before dawn with a bell chime, and it was so nice to wake up to a beautiful sound instead of the incessant honking of an obnoxious alarm clock.  I'm not sure if it was the chime or the excitement over the day ahead, but I found myself leaping out of bed like a kid on Christmas morning.  When I try to get up before dawn at home, I always end up turning the alarm off and going back to sleep.  I'm hoping that will change, because for my peace and tranquility at home I am definitely investing in a gentler alarm clock.

I can't believe I'm actually admitting to this, and don't tell my husband I said it, but I actually enjoyed having someone else in charge for 5 days.  Not having to worry about when to get up, when to eat or what to cook, or when I had to be somewhere was a refreshing change.  All of my needs were met, and I felt safe and encouraged instead of fearful and worried.  I did not have to worry about disappointing anyone except myself.

I also came away from the week with a newfound appreciation for poetry.  I have never enjoyed poetry before, either reading or writing it, and have always found it quite intimidating.  I thought all poetry had to have some sort of strict structure and form, and I certainly didn't feel intelligent enough to write it.  I lumped it into the category I use with crossword puzzles.  It makes me feel stupid when I don't "get it", so I won't even try.

Every poem that was read during the retreat spoke directly to my heart.  Not only did I understand them, but it was as if they had been written specifically for me.  The first morning we meditated, took a walk, and then came back inside and opened our workbooks.  When they said we were going to write a poem next, I think I laughed out loud.  That was before the fear took over and my palms started sweating.  The combination of meditating, the influence of being outside in nature, and the love bubble of people that surrounded me, encouraged me to put aside the fear and write. And I loved it.  In fact, one of my goals is to write 30 poems by Dec. 1.  I'm up to 9 so far.  You might even see a few of them here.

This post is already much longer than I had intended, so I will end it for now.  I'm sure I will continue to discuss the experience in the next few blogs.  For some reason I have resisted writing about my experience until now.  It was all I could do to not crawl into bed tonight and put this off yet another night.  I'm not quite sure why I keep coming up with excuses, but I will try to blog more.  If I have time after the poetry!  I told you it was life changing.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Prevention Is A Naughty Word In Healthcare

I consider myself to be fairly intelligent and well educated, but I need something explained to me. I cannot for the life of me figure out why everything in this country related to healthcare seems to be backwards.

I had a few questions about what could be reimbursed for my Healthcare Spending Account, so I called to find out the answers.  I was told that I could be reimbursed for over the counter medicine like cough syrup and Tylenol, but not vitamins or supplements.  "Basically anything that's not preventative," were the exact words of the representative.

So let me get this straight.  If I'm trying to prevent myself from getting sick I can't get my money back.  But once I am sick I can get reimbursed for buying drugs.  It's like I'm being rewarded for covering up the symptoms by body is giving me to tell me something is wrong.  And we wonder why we spend gazillions of dollars on health care.

This kind of thinking leaves me dumbfounded, and although I'd like to be optimistic I don't see it getting better any time soon.  Do you know that in some countries that practice "Eastern Medicine," the practitioner doesn't get paid if you get sick.  That means he or she has a vested interest in keeping the patient healthy.  That makes much more sense to me, unlike in this country where doctors don't make any money if the patient stays well.

I plan to continue exploring "alternative" health options, even if I have to pay for them out of pocket and don't get a refund from my health spending account.  I may not get my money reimbursed, but I will continue to be proactive rather than reactive with my health.  Maybe if enough of us start to feel this way it will make a difference.  I can only hope.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dancing Queen

Over the summer I participated in a class called the Rhythm of Life Design.  I blogged about the life changing effects from the class here.

I met some amazing people at the class, and several of them were in town last weekend for a drumming workshop/concert.  One of my new friends teaches African dancing, and she was going to perform before the concert.  Or so I thought.  It turns out that she was actually teaching a dance class, and after a few moments of indecision and sheer terror I decided to go ALL IN and overcome a fear that I've had for 20 years.  Since I don't believe in coincidence, I realized I was meant to take the class, even though I would have been much more comfortable spectating instead of participating.

I have a love/hate relationship with dancing.  I love to dance, but I hate for people to watch me.  This stems from an insensitive comment made by a college boyfriend.  We were dancing at a bar, and he leaned over and shouted something in my ear that sounded like, "You dance like a cow."  Because of all the noise I was sure that I had heard him incorrectly and he couldn't really have said that, so I asked him to repeat himself.  No, that was definitely what he had said to me.  The boyfriend didn't last, but the crushing blow to my ego and self esteem did.

During the dance class last weekend I was still self conscious, but I also really enjoyed dancing for the first time in years.  I realized that everyone in the class was more concerned about what they were doing than what I looked like.  There was a concert after the class, and it didn't even bother me when people arrived early for the concert and stood along the glass windows to watch us dance.

What kept me going was some great encouragement from my friend/teacher.  She said that sometimes she steps outside of her comfort zone and finds herself "going for it," even if it makes her uncomfortable.  She does this to help the people that are watching her, because they might not have the courage to try something new.  By overcoming her fears, she is showing others that they could do the same thing.  I'm trying to remember that lesson.  Not just in regards to dancing, but regarding everything else in my life that I find difficult or intimidating.

At Rhythm of Life Design we set goals for ourselves for one week, one month, and one year.  With lots of encouragement from my friends, my one year goal was to dance in public with them at the same time next year.  It appears I've managed to manifest this goal about 10 months early.  The most important thing I've learned from all of my new inspirational friends is this.  If you go "ALL IN," you are guaranteed to grow.  And you might just enjoy yourself in the process.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Are You Eating Bugs?

My son had his first preschool field trip last week.  It was the first time he had been around other kids that had brought a lunchbox from home.  Over the last few years we have educated ourselves and overhauled our food consumption at my house.  We tend to eat fairly healthy things now, and we try to stay away from artificial sweeteners and food coloring, and anything with partially hydrogenated or corn syrup on the label.  My general rule of thumb is if the label contains more than a few ingredients or something I can't pronounce I try not to buy it.  Except for "cheesy poofs," which my son continually begs me to buy and I can't seem to say no.  Maybe it's just the cute name he has for cheese curls, but for some reason my rules go out the window when it comes to cheesy poofs.

I was not prepared for the inevitable questions about food when my son returned from his field trip.  "Mommy, Jimmy had a packet of red stuff he put in his water at lunch time.  Can I have some of that?"  Luckily, my husband, who actually started the healthy eating campaign at our house, picked up the charge. "Didn't you say that Jimmy got in trouble on the bus ride back to school?  Sometimes when we eat things we shouldn't it makes us hyper and it's hard to control ourselves."

We've actually seen the evidence of this first hand.  Our neighbor has a child that was having some behavior problems, but instead of medicating her they decided to try a diet change first.  After cutting out foods with preservatives and food coloring, the child's behavioral problems went away.  I wish more parents realized that there is a correlation between food and behavior, something I didn't realize myself until the last few years.  I wonder how many children on Ritalin would be better served by a dietary overhaul instead.

"Besides," my husband told my son, "that red stuff is made from crushed up bugs."  My husband teases my son all of the time, and I could see the look of disbelief on my sons face.  "He's not kidding this time buddy," I chimed in.  It is a little known fact that red food colorants called cochineal and carmine are made from crushed up bugs.  Here's one of the many google references if you don't believe me.  (I found it hard to believe too.)

Food Coloring Made From Bugs

Unfortunately, I can see where this is going to go.  My son will go to school and tell the kids that there are crushed up bugs in their drinks.  The kids won't believe him, and four year old arguments will ensue.  A few kids may actually go home and discuss this with their parents, and the parents will tell their kids we made it up because we don't want my son drinking the red stuff.  If only they all read my blog, then they would know the truth!

I'd like to say I've completely stopped eating anything red since I found out about this, but I just can't give up my ketchup.  I'm afraid to look at the ingredients, so maybe right now I'll go with the philosophy that ignorance is bliss.  Maybe if I decide to look I'll get lucky, and it will only be Red #40 on the ingredient list.  That way I'd only be eating a coal derivative instead of bugs.  Thank goodness we have the FDA to protect us from natural things like Stevia, but allow us to eat tar.  But that discussion is for another blog.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

100 Writings of Blogs On the Wall

I didn't actually plan to write 3 blogs in one day.  Technically it was only two, since I wrote the first one last night but didn't have my computer with me to post.  This is perfect though, because my 100th post is a significant blogging event, and today is my birthday and a day that feels very pivotal in my evolution, for some unknown reason.

39.  It's still hard to believe.  I think 40 is going to be a monumental, life changing year for me.  But why wait until 40?  Maybe because I need a year to prepare.  I am not nearly as worried about 40 as I was about 30.  From age 26 on, I was counting down the years to 30 with great angst.  Even at 30, 40 seemed incredibly old to me.  It's amazing how your perspective changes.

I won't say I'm actually dreading 40, because I think I still have some amazing things to accomplish in my life.  It is a little daunting to think I'm as close to 59 as I am to 19, but I try not to think about that.  At the warp speed pace my life has been taking lately, 59 will be here before I know it.  I've spent the last 20 years accomplishing the personal, ego centered goals I've set for myself.  I plan to spend the next 20 years giving back,  making a contribution to the world that I can be proud of.  I guess I really am having a mid life crisis.

I'd like to write some words of wisdom on this 39th birthday.  Something I can look back on later and be amazed at my forethought, or just give myself a good giggle over the things that never materialized.  Nothing profound is coming to mind though.  Actually, I read something in "The Sin Eater's Last Confession" last night that was very appropriate.  This is the book I've been reading about Celtic Shamanism.  The author of the book was talking about his encounter with angels, and the message he received from them.  He saw the words "Be Tranquil," in the shape of a lemniscate or figure eight.  I have a previous post about lemniscates and their significance to me.  Here are the words he used to interpret what this message meant to him.

"It meant "accept who you are," "stand in your power," "know your truth," "follow your destiny," "release expectations," "let go," "relax," "embrace," "engage," - all of these things and more.  Finally it meant:  "We are here for you.""

I couldn't have said it better myself,  as I need to work on all of these things.  And the last one gave me the chills as I read it.  I was giving reiki to a friend this weekend who is very intuitive, I would even say psychic.  During the session, she said, "They keep saying "WE ARE HERE.""  When she said, "I'm listening," they said, "Not you," meaning the message was for me.  Then they proceeded to tell her I don't listen to them.  Could that little nagging intuition I occasionally feel be something more?  Or do I not listen because I just can't hear them?  It's a little strange that she had the message " We are here," and then 2 days later I read a book where angels are saying "We are here for you."  My husband would say I'm reading too much into something that is nothing more than a strange coincidence.  I'll leave it up to you to decide, but I am definitely listening.

Happy Birthday To ME

I had a birthday gift from the company today.  When I checked in for work at 5:30 this morning, there was a little "acknowledge assingnment change" message on the computer.  This is normally not a good thing.  It means they've changed my assignment for the day.  "Please don't do this to me," I silently prayed, expecting the worst, while visions of having to go on the road for three days in a green speckled shirt circled around in my head.  Not to mention, I was looking forward to having birthday dinner at home with my family.

Imagine my surprise when I acknowledged my assignment and discovered that my whole day had been cancelled!  All I had to do was ride in the back of the airplane home, instead of my scheduled Boston-Philly trip I was supposed to fly.  Have to go now, I'm home in time to have lunch with my wonderful husband.  Happy Birthday indeed!

You Are Stronger Than IT

As I drove to work yesterday, I found myself incredibly frustrated.  A friend was visiting for the weekend, and although we had a great time I didn't get much accomplished around the house.  I spent most of yesterday playing with my son instead of catching up, and about an hour before I was to leave for work I realized how much I should have taken care of during the day and didn't.  The pile of mail that had been sitting for a week, the bag of groceries that never got put away, the pile of clothes on the bed, the laundry, etc. etc.

It's a fine line between playing with my son and getting chores done for me.  I will never regret a minute I spend playing with him, but I have a hard time being fully present with him when I know I have a list of projects hanging over my head to accomplish.  My motto lately has been, "the laundry and dishes can wait."  Even though I can physically avoid doing the dishes, emotionally I am not able to forget about the sink and just enjoy the time with my son.

As I drove to the airport yesterday, I wasted valuable energy berating myself.  For all of the things I didn't do or should've done, for the fact that I haven't blogged for a week or exercised in the last two, for running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get out of the house for work.  I said things to myself that I would never dream of saying to anyone else.

Stuck in traffic, I used my time to pray to God that I didn't do anything stupid while I was at work.  Not that I was worried about doing something dangerous stupid, just stupid stupid.  What qualifies as stupid stupid?  Well, last week while I was doing my walk around check of the airplane, I tripped on the hose from the fuel truck because I thought it was just a shadow.  Since I didn't realize it was there, I tripped on it about three times in the second it took my brain to realize what was going on.  The fueler couldn't control his laughter, and I'm sure it instilled a lot of confidence in the passengers watching me from the windows of the terminal.  It always gives people a warm fuzzy feeling to see that the person that is about to pilot their airplane has trouble with something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.

Either God didn't hear my prayer, or he thought I was referring to today when my trip actually started, and that I didn't need help with my commute to work last night.  Whatever the case, he certainly didn't save me from myself and from doing something stupid stupid.

I had decided to start eating healthy again, so I made myself a green drink.  The drink contained about every green vegetable imaginable, plus spirulina.  For those of you unfamiliar with spirulina, it is a bright green powder, stain-worthy enough to be used as a dye for Easter eggs.  I put the drink in a flip top container, which I then stuck in the seat back pocket of the airplane so that it didn't spill under the seat in front of me.  Half way to Chicago, at about 30,000 feet, the pressure was too much for the container and the top blew open.  A shower of green rained down on me, the passenger next to me (luckily a pilot I was commuting with), and everything in our row from the seats to the tray tables to the ceiling and sidewall of the airplane.  It may even have hit people in the row in front and behind me, I was too embarrassed to look.

As if this weren't bad enough, I had a scheduled overnight at home tonight, which meant the shirt I was wearing was the only one I had with me.  (I commute in uniform because it is easier to get through security.)  It wouldn't have been such a big deal if I had had my leather jacket with me, but I conveniently forgot to grab it as I raced out the door to work.

I guess maybe God really was listening to my prayer though, because when I turned my phone on in Chicago, I had a message from a friend who is a great inspiration to me.  The message was actually from the day before, but I had forgotten to listen to it, and now I know why.

My friend said that she had been catching up on my blog, and just wanted to tell me I didn't need to be so critical of myself.  (Which I already know, but for some reason need her to continually remind me.)  The message she had, which was exactly what I needed to hear that minute, was this.  "You are stronger than IT."  Whatever it is.  Whether it's the unpaid bills, the lack of exercise, or green speckled airplane seats and uniforms, "you are stronger than IT."  Boy, did those words ring true for me.

I am stronger than IT, so I'm making another resolution, a birthday resolution if you will.  This day, 365 days before my 40th birthday (yikes), I vow to be kind to myself.  In whatever form that takes.  I vow to not say things to myself that I wouldn't say to other people.  And I will not get upset with myself when I inevitably slip up with these vows, or do something stupid stupid.  And that's the word of the day, straight from the mouth of the Jolly Green Giant.  At least my tie covers most of the spirulina.  Amen.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Blame it on the Samosa

I made it 2 whole days.  Today, day 3, I succumbed to the Indian buffet.  Now that I've self diagnosed the liver stagnation, I've added spicy foods to my normal avoidance list of wheat, dairy, and sugar.  Almost everything I ate tonight was spicy, but at least I managed to avoid the naan bread and the mango lassi.  I had a little wheat and dairy, and a ridiculous amount of rice pudding, fruit pudding, and halva pudding.  Interestingly, I noticed that an hour after eating I was exhausted and felt like crap.  Will I ever learn?

At least I journaled today.  Writing was actually listed as a helpful activity for liver stagnation.  Maybe that will inspire me.  Oh well, back to square one tomorrow.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

New Discoveries

I'm on day two of the "old new me."  I have been doing pretty well with my goals so far.  The day before yesterday I got up early and went for a walk.  We are definitely having an Indian Summer here and it was just too beautiful to stay inside.  In fact, I'm sitting on my candlelit porch right now and I'm almost hot in a sweatshirt.  Unheard of for mid October around here.  I also wrote in my journal that morning and did my affirmations.  Today I did my affirmations and then stayed inside and did some writing for my writing class.

I also started taking flower essences again, this time it's Bach Flower Remedies.  I just happened upon them the other day at the grocery store, and they have really made a difference.  A flower essence is the dilution of a flower into a liquid for emotional support.  I put several drops of each in a glass of water a few times a day and drink it.  I can't believe how well it works, because I certainly was skeptical the first time I tried it.

I am taking a nettle blend, which actually isn't by Bach.  This is for my allergies, and I am learning that nettle is good for all kinds of ailments.  I was unfamiliar with stinging nettle until I met my English husband.  Either I was just lucky as a kid, or we aren't assailed with nettles here in the states like they are in the UK.  He absolutely hates them, but I have made friends with them and am finding them quite useful.  I guess I'll feel that way until I get stung by one.

I also bought something called the Bach Emotional Eating Support kit.  Since I've had no will power concerning food the last few weeks, and I have been eating things with ingredients like carnuba wax and glycol, I thought this might be helpful.  It contains the following 3 remedies.

Cherry Plum - helps you act rationally and think clearly with a calm and balanced mind when you fear losing control

Crab apple - helps you accept your physical imperfections and feel better about the way you are

Chestnut Bud - helps you observe your mistakes objectively so you can learn from them and move on

And I also bought Mimulus, which I have taken before for my fear of public speaking.

Mimulus - brings courage and calm to things that frighten or worry you, also aids the shy and timid

I can't tell you how they work but somehow they do.  I also had another interesting discovery today, which I will need to research further.  I have a book called Healing With Whole Foods.  It is a great book, but it is huge and I can't take it to work with me.  It's also the type of book that I can't read right before bed when I'm only half awake.  I really want to be able to read it cover to cover, because I'm not getting the full information by just looking at symptoms.  That being said, I'm pretty sure I have a liver stagnation.  What does that mean?  I'm not sure myself other than I need to be eating different kinds of foods (which my intuition was already telling me.)  Actually, I just googled liver stagnation to try and explain it better, and I just realized why I have it.  This is from an article by Anasuya Batliner.

"A main function of the Liver in TCM (traditional chinese medicine) is to  move Qi (energy) and Blood so that all the other organs and muscles are energized and nourished. Liver likes to be motivated, to accomplish goals, to move forward in life in a creative and dynamic way. Anger and frustration emerges when our way forward is thwarted. Liver is the organ system most affected by repressed emotions."  I'm not going to go into detail other than to say, "Yep, that would explain it." 

Friday, October 8, 2010

I'm Coming Up

"Coming Up,"  an annoying and yet catchy McCartney song that is now running circles in my brain and won't leave me.  Maybe it explains my current mood.  Coming up - like a flower - coming uuuuuuupppppp.  Sorry, I tried to convey the song in my head onto paper and it's just not working.

I had a realization today.  Part of the reason I'm in a bad mood is because of the garbage I have been putting in my mouth.  Well, not exactly garbage, but things I know I shouldn't be eating.  This spring I did a pretty restricted diet, where I cut out all wheat, dairy, sugar and alcohol.  Even though it was a horrible spring for allergies, I didn't have any of my usual symptoms.  The down side was that food suddenly lost it's appeal since all I was eating was rice, vegetables, eggs, and nuts.  In fact, the main reason I stopped doing the diet was because thinking about food all the time and what I could and couldn't eat was just too stressful.  I did feel better though, and it was the first time in years I didn't have allergy symptoms.

The last few weeks my diet hasn't been very clean.  I just got home from work, and on this trip I had a flour tortilla, breaded fish, coffee, and a Sheila's Dream Bar.  What is a dream bar you ask?  Well, it's a delicious dessert bar that has everything I shouldn't be eating, including dairy, wheat, sugar and chocolate.  On top of all that, it also has carnuba wax and propylene glycol.  Now, it's bad enough that I seem to have no will power lately, but normally if I read the ingredient list of a food and it has things in it that could be used to wax my car or de-ice my airplane, I wouldn't put it in my mouth.  Not today.  Today it was delicious.

I've decided I'm sick of waking up in the morning with dry, bloodshot eyes from my allergies.  I'm tired of being grouchy and in a bad mood.  I've finally decided to suck it up and make a change.  Here is my plan.

1.  Daily Affirmations to release anger, anxiety, negative and self limiting concepts
2.  Stop eating junk I shouldn't be eating.
3.  Start taking Bach Flower Remedies again.  I ran across these at the grocery store of all places, and they called to me so I bought them.  I'm going to start with them in the morning.
4.  Getting up early to write/yoga/journal/whatever I feel like doing that nourishes ME

Wow, just writing the list is intimidating me, but I am ready.  I guess that means I better go to bed so I can get up early and start with day one of the new me.  Now that I've committed to this in writing (even if no one reads it), hopefully it will guilt me into staying motivated.  We'll see what happens when the alarm goes off in the morning.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, So I've Been Quiet

Don't confuse the important things in your life with the necessary things in your life.  That was the message last Sunday in church.  My life seems to be jam packed with important things, which I keep trying to finish before I will let myself do the necessary things, like writing.  The message is certainly not lost on me, I just can't figure out a way to stop worrying about not accomplishing the important things.

I thought after my checkride was over I would have plenty of time to write, blog, do reiki and yoga, basically any activity that nourished my soul.  I have done little of those things since last week, as the chores of life seem to keep multiplying on my never ending to-do list.  What have I gained my putting my to-do list ahead of my to-be list?  I've gained an unwanted attitude adjustment.  I'm in a horrible mood, angry, grouchy, and generally pissed off at the world.  I haven't felt like writing because I can't find anything that inspires me to write about.

Why is it that when I am in the right frame of mind nothing seems to bother me?  Now, because I've fallen off of the happy wagon and can't seem to drag myself back up, everything seems to annoy me.  The school board meeting I can't attend tonight because I'm working, the argument I just had with my husband, the fact that the sushi restaurant closed 20 minutes early - all these things would normally not cause me to think twice on a good day.  Today they all got the better of me, I'm embarrassed to admit.

I'm trying everything I can to get myself back to a place of love.  I read an interesting quote yesterday.  It basically stated that there is no evil in the world, only misguided love.  I don't know if I believe that or not, because it certainly seemed evil when I couldn't get my miso soup and shrimp tempura today.  It does help me to realize that people aren't intentionally trying to piss me off though, so maybe I'll hold onto that.  And I'm also going to try to make writing my first priority in the morning, before I do anything else.  Maybe that will put me in a better mood right from the start.  I'll let you know how that goes.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Up until recently, I would have said that Dallas is one of my least favorite places.  I guess I would still say that, but I've just spent the better part of a week here and I think maybe Dallas and I have made peace with one another.  I have a somewhat pavlovian response to this city.  It's not, ring a bell and I'll salivate, but mention the word Dallas and I immediately start to feel stressed.  Let me explain why.

I come to Dallas once a year for training, which normally involves a day of class and then a day in the simulator.  The simulator training rotates every year, one year it is training, and the next year it is a proficiency check, or PC.  The PC is like a test, and we are expected to perform things like engine failures on takeoff, engine fires, systems failures and windshear recovery.  Obviously these are things that we don't normally do in the airplane, so it is very nerve wracking to be tested on something you only get to practice once a year.

I suffer from an affliction commonly known amongst pilots as checkride-itis.  It seems that no matter how much I study or prepare for a checkride, I am always nervous about it anyway.  Flying an airplane is a very fluid process, and conditions change all the time.  No matter how prepared you are, something can always throw a monkey wrench into your plans.  I think it is this unpredictability that causes me so much angst.

My other problem with the simulator is that I expect myself to perform flawlessly, and anything less than perfect I regard as a failure.  My instructor reminded us that PC stands for Proficiency Check, not Perfection Check.  I wish I had taken that into consideration over the last few weeks, which I spent wishing Oct. 1st would hurry up and get here so my test would be over.  The checkride went just fine, as it always does, and now I'm sorry I spent so much time and energy worrying about it.

It would be unfair of me to say I don't like Dallas just because it is the place that I happen to take my checkrides.  Dallas and I just don't see eye to eye on quite a few issues.  Texas is the land of oil, rodeos, big pickup trucks and steak houses.  I'm concerned about the environment, I am disgusted by the treatment of animals at rodeos, and a vegetarian.  Well, I guess I can't say I'm a vegetarian anymore because I am eating fish.  Wow, that's the first time I've not been able to call myself a vegetarian.  That makes me sad, but at the same time it's the first time I have been to Dallas and actually been able to eat.

Vegetarians are an alien species in most of Texas.  The hotel where we used to stay had a steak house and a bar, and nothing else around it.  The only thing I could eat on the menu was cheese quesadillas, which by the fourth day became very unappetizing.  We have since switched hotels, and this one is next to a great mexican restaurant.  Not only that, but the hotel actually has a recycling bag in every room.

I am eating fish and Dallas is recycling, maybe we could learn to get along.  Unfortunately, that still doesn't solve my checkride-itis.  Until I can find a way to stop getting a knot in my stomach when someone mentions the big D, I think I'll stick to coming here only when I have to.  But maybe I won't spend so much time dreading it next year.

Monday, September 27, 2010


As I sit in my hotel room in Dallas, I am beginning to panic.  This is a new record for me, I usually reach this state of mind several weeks before I get to Dallas.  I'm here for my yearly class work and simulator training.  It's a review of things we don't normally do every day - things I hope to make it through my career without having to experience - events like engine fires, failures, evacuations, etc.  Usually about two weeks before I get here I start panicking because I haven't been studying.  I do everything I can to procrastinate, although in the end I always end up being over prepared.  In fact, my house is never as clean as it is the month I have training. This year I'm lucky enough to have someone to clean the house for me, so I've found other things to distract me instead of studying.  Mainly writing.

Yesterday I had my first writing class, and now I'm so inspired that it is even harder to stop writing and start studying.  It was a strange feeling sitting in the workshop with 5 other writers.  Wow, did I just call myself a writer?  (I write, therefore I'm a writer, remember?)  Anyway, I felt completely out of my element, as all of the other writers in attendance seemed much more accomplished than me.  As the day progressed and we worked through exercises, I felt myself getting more blocked with each subsequent task.  I was over-thinking and comparing myself to everyone else, instead of just writing.  My inner critic was raising it's beastly head with all of the common put-downs.  "You can't, you're not good enough, why are you wasting their time, you don't belong here."

There was one comment missing though, the one that normally comes to the front with lightning speed and can snuff out my self confidence in a flash.  The fear of wondering what everyone else thought of me was conspicuously absent yesterday, and it was an amazing relief.  It appears that all of the spiritual work I have done on myself in the last few months is actually working.  While I was hearing my inner critic in one ear, I was able to accept it for what it was and I had a strange sense of peace and calm.  I realized that the other people in class weren't there to judge me, but on the contrary, they wanted me to succeed.  I also realized that most of the other writers had insecurities of their own, so they certainly weren't concerned about mine.

It is an incredibly liberating feeling to be able to focus on learning and growing, instead of feeling inhibited because I'm worried about how others perceive me.  I know that I will get exactly what I need to out of this class, and that it will help me evolve not only as a writer but as an individual.  I can't wait to get started on our writing assignment for the next class, but I guess that will have to wait until tomorrow. I've procrastinated long enough for today, and now I am really starting to panic.  The books are calling me, and the pen will have to wait.  But not for long.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Supersize Me

We seem to have an oral fixation in this country.  The obesity problem is an epidemic, and it is making our health care costs skyrocket.  And yet everywhere we turn we are encouraged to consume, consume, consume.  I am talking about food here, but the same could be said for our houses.  Because everything is so inexpensive, we seem to have a need to fill every nook and cranny in our bodies and our homes with as many things as we can cram into them.  When our home starts bulging at the seems, we just buy or build a bigger one.  Unfortunately, we can't supersize our bodies like we can an extra value meal.  It's a shame that quantity, not quality has taken over.

Here's an example.  I took my son to church on Sunday, and he was in children's church for less than an hour.  While he was there they gave him a snack.  He is in preschool from 9-11:30 in the morning and he gets a snack.  The other day I dropped him off at the babysitters after breakfast, and they had been waiting for him to arrive to have a snack.  If the snack was a piece of fruit or some veggies I wouldn't have a problem with it, but we all know that's not what he is eating.

I don't mean to sound like I am preaching here, because I am struggling with this food addiction myself.  I have a friend coming into town this weekend, and I suggested we meet for lunch or dinner.  Not for a walk, or for yoga, or to talk, but to eat. When I take my son to preschool, I fill a to go cup with tea or coffee to take with me.  Do I really need to do that?  How often do we just shove food into our mouth without really paying attention to what we are eating or drinking?

I have been to Italy a few times, and I really enjoy the attitude towards food in that country.  Most things are fresh and/or home cooked, and meals are a time to sit and converse and enjoy food.  Gas stations on the highway have hot food, sandwich bars, and several selections of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Even the school lunches are home cooked.  I remember watching a Jamie Oliver show where he went into an Italian school kitchen and showed the cooks what a British school lunch looked like.  The cooks said they wouldn't feed it to their dogs.  Is that an exaggeration?  Probably.  But how do we teach oue kids that they don't need to eat constantly, and that they need to consume clean healthy food to fuel their bodies, when we aren't getting the message ourselves?

I notice that since I have been back in the states my allergies have returned.  I am still eating the same things I ate in Scotland - bread, coffee, and more sugar than I care to admit. Is it just the accumulation of all of these things over time that I am having a reaction to, or is it the extra additives we put in our food, like high fructose corn syrup?  I'm beginning to think it's the latter.

Someone told me the other day that studies have shown that sugar is as addictive as heroin.  I can't speak for the heroin side of it, but I sure am having a hard time kicking the sugar again.  I find that once I stop eating it for a week, I no longer crave it.  I'm trying to cut back my son's sugar intake as well, but that is next to impossible now that he has left the little cocoon that is our house and is out in the big, sugar obsessed world.  I know I sound over protective, but I am amazed at how many times in one day he is offered sweets.  And how do I tell him no when everyone else is eating it?  He even has a new mantra when I talk about sweets.  When I tell him he can't have something, he looks me in the eye and says, "It's all about the sugar."  We both have a long way to go.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Amazing Grace

If you read the last post and are anything like me, you went straight to google to find out what the term "sin eater" means.  A short definition from the, states a sin eater is "a man who (according to a former practice in England) for a small gratuity ate a piece of bread laid on the chest of a dead person, whereby he was supposed to have taken the sins of the dead person upon himself."

I must admit after learning the definition, I wondered why I felt called to buy a book about sin eaters. The visuals I was conjuring up in my head to go along with the definition certainly creeped me out. In the last post, I discussed how the book "Walking With The Sin Eater" has finally helped me realize why I keep drawing lemniscates. It has also helped me learn the meaning of several herbs/flower essences I have felt drawn to lately, such as chicory, garlic, fennel and juniper. And more than all of that, it has me pondering religion and some of the beliefs I've had all of my life.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I have been unable to find a church to fit my evolving spiritual views. I feel closer to God than I ever have before, but at the same time I find myself appalled at some of the things that are done in His name. All of the lives that have been lost over religious disagreement, the money spent on lavish churches when it could have been spent elsewhere, ego driven leaders that are more interested in power than in living a "Christian" way, all have made me question where I fit in with my spiritual beliefs. I'm starting to realize that my connection with God is something only I can discover, it is not something that I need to be interpreted for me or have someone else tell me what I should believe.

The book brings up the point that maybe even Jesus was sick of what was going on in his name. "Be like me, act in the ways that I act, but do not give your power to me or others, or feel that you must become part of a movement where I am all that matters."

As I pondered this idea today, feeling somewhat like a heretic, I had an invitation to visit a new church with a friend. The theme of the church for the next few weeks is "Re- Start", and my friend and I both felt the message was appropriate for me. I did enjoy the church, and I will probably go back again. During the sermon, the minister talked about the great chasm that sin creates between us and God, and the only way to bridge that chasm is through Jesus Christ. Do I really believe there is a chasm between God and I?  What do I believe?  I sent up a prayer asking God to give me some guidance. Is it really ok to feel what I'm feeling? Can I connect with Him as well on my own as I can through a church? Do I need to be told what to believe, or to have passages of the bible interpreted for me?

Believe it or not, I think I actually received an answer to my prayer, and it came in the very next song. I had an idea a few months ago to start my own "fellowship", if you will.  Since I couldn't find a church that I enjoyed attending, I thought I would start my own group of like minded people. I planned to call it the "Amazing Grace" fellowship. I actually had one meeting, but then the busy-ness of life took over and it fell by the wayside.

If you haven't guessed it already, the song that followed my prayer was Amazing Grace. Coincidence, synchronicity, or sign? I'll leave that for you to decide, but I certainly know what I believe.

Lemniscates and Sin Eaters

My friend and I were in a shop the other day that specializes in crystal jewelry, incense, new age books etc.  As usual, I found myself in the book section, even though I have a stack of unread books at home.  I was trying to decide between two books to buy, both of which were in the Spirituality/Celtic genre.  One of the books I wanted to buy, and the other book I knew I should buy.  After my experience with the "Book of Kells,"  I bought the latter.

The book I bought is called "Walking With The Sin Eater," by Ross Heaven.  The title sounded strange to me, as I had no idea what a sin eater was, and the description on the back cover didn't explain much.  As I flipped through the book I saw it mentioned Wales and Glastonbury, two of my favorite places.  I also saw that it discussed shamanistic insights and a pilgrimage, and I think these things drew me to the book.  Now that I've started reading it I can barely put it down.

After I do yoga, reiki or meditate, I often find myself in a very relaxed, almost hypnotic state.  When I feel this way I normally pick up a pen and start to write.  I have the urge to write words, but mostly what I end up drawing is the infinity symbol, or lemniscate.  This has also been happening to me when I try to draw a mandala, which frustrates me.  In my head I know what I want the mandala to look like, but all I keep drawing are spirals and lemniscates.

I've tried several times to google the meaning of lemniscate, but I never seem to find anything useful.  Imagine my surprise to find a description in "Walking With The Sin Eater."  The book states that it is a powerful magical symbol often found on the staff of healers.  "It stands for the meeting of souls: saint and sinner, man and God as one."  It is also a sign of direction and purpose.  "It means that its bearer can never be lost because the circles double back on each other.  By following them, the traveler may therefore go as far as he wishes into the worlds of spirit and matter but always find his way home."

As I find myself drawn into the world of alternative healing, this definition hits the mark perfectly.  In fact, I'm embarrassed to admit I had tears in my eyes as I read the passage.  Some would say it is just a coincidence that I keep drawing lemniscates, but I find it an amazing synchronicity with a much deeper spiritual meaning.  I also feel like I'm at the beginning of a "pilgrimage" in my life, trying to find my true purpose and what I am really being called to do.  The thought of "never being lost" is a reassurance that feels very comforting to me right now, as I'm not sure where I will end up on this journey.  Yet again, I am learning that if I give up trying to control things and listen to my intuition, the answers I'm looking for will appear almost effortlessly.

The Dove

I've been having a hard time getting myself to sit down and write this week.  I complain about not feeling spiritually connected, and yet I don't make the time to connect with Spirit.  When I actually sit down and make the time to connect through yoga, reiki, writing, or drawing, I feel so much better about myself.  I've also had some unusual synchronicities this week to write about, but I still haven't been motivated to sit down and write.  (I've learned to use the word synchronicity rather than coincidence, as I don't really believe in coincidence anymore.)

While we were in Scotland, I was looking for a book that my sister-in-law had mentioned to me.  At least three different times on the trip I went into a book shop and thought, "oh, there's the book," only to pick it up and realize it wasn't what I was looking for.  The book I kept being drawn to was called the "Book of Kells."  It is an illuminated rendition of the four gospels from the Ninth century.  The original is in Trinity College in Dublin.  After being guided to that particular book numerous times, I still wasn't getting the message that it was that book I was meant to have.

Fast forward to this week, at my friend's house.  I showed her my new earrings from Scotland, which have a celtic symbol on them.  She said, "Those remind me of this book we bought in Ireland," and she pulled out the "Book of Kells."  Ok, Ok,  I get it.

The book talks quite a bit about St. Columba, who founded the abbey on Iona and was credited with bringing Christianity to Scotland.  We visited the abbey while we were there, and it is fairly remote.  We took a ferry to the island of Mull, drove for an hour where we only passed 3 houses and a shop, and then took another ferry to the second island of Iona.

As I sat at my friends house I flipped through the book, and I discovered Columba's name in Gaelic means "Dove of the Church."  I have a fondness for doves, and I had the strange experience last week of seeing 3 doves at the beach.  Forgive me if you read that blog entry, but in case you missed it here's a recap.  I was sitting by the pool in Fort Lauderdale, and 3 doves came and landed on the table next to me.  I had seen plenty of seagulls and even pigeons around that day, but I had never seen doves at the beach.

I didn't mention anything about doves to my friend, and I put the "Book of Kells" down so she could give me some reiki.  During the reiki session, she said she envisioned a white dove.  "This dove is always with you and he protects you," she said.

After the session, I picked the "Book of Kells" up again and went to the section titled "The Peacock and The Dove."  I have also been drawn to peacocks lately.  This section explained the significance of doves in the ancient artwork, and stated that the dove was used as a symbol for Spirit. Hmmm.  Maybe I'm not as spiritually disconnected as I thought.  Ok, ok, I get it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Paper or Plastic? How About Neither?

I truly believe that it is possible to learn something from everyone you meet.  It might not always be something positive, but you can learn something none the less.  I try to keep an open mind when I have a conversation with someone, and I realize that I don't always know the best way to do something. (Unless I'm talking to my husband, in which case I am always right.)

I wish the US would take this approach and look at the way other countries resolve some issues.  I think that any time someone (or something, as a country), thinks that their way is the only way, and that they know better than everyone else, you start to lose something.  Now before you start throwing daggers at me, I know that there are a lot of things we do well here, things that are worthy of emulation.  And I also know that places like the UK have some issues that I'm glad we don't have to deal with here.  These are just the things I think we could change in the US and be better off for it.

The entire 10 days we were in Scotland, I think I went into two bathrooms that had paper towels.  All of the others had hand dryers.  Now before you say it, I hate those things too.  In fact, I've stopped using them since they never get my hands dry.  Lately when I am in an airport restroom, or any other restroom for that matter, I've been noticing the mountain of trash we create by using paper towels.  We use an enormous amount of landfill, not to mention trees, to dry our hands, when they air dry (or dry on our jeans) just as well.  I'll admit, when it's 10 degrees outside it's not very comfortable to go outside with wet hands.  And it is annoying when it's cold and flu season and I'm trying not to touch the doorknob to get out of the restroom.  I've started to look at these as minor inconveniences compared to how much waste is generated using towels.

Another one of my personal pet peeves is our use of plastic bags for groceries.  In the UK the majority of people I watched go into the supermarket had a reusable bag.  In the US it's just the opposite.  Sometimes when I hand the clerk my cloth bag, they put something in a plastic bag and then put it in the cloth.  It wouldn't be so bad if the plastic bags weren't paper thin, because then the bag boy wouldn't feel the need to give me 6 bags for the 8 items I've purchased.  If I forget to take my cloth bags and ask them to pack it heavy to use less bags, they just double bag it.

My sister in law was telling me that there has been a major "anti plastic bag" campaign the last year in the UK.  They have managed to cut the number of plastic bags used in half, I can't remember the exact numbers but it was in the millions.  Every shop I went into, they asked if I needed a bag before they just mindlessly shoved my chewing gum into a bag I didn't need.

Contrast that to the states, where the plastic bag industry just spent millions to successfully stop an anti plastic bag law in California.  Do I think it should be a law that you can't use plastic, probably not.  But unfortunately, some people need it to be mandated to do the right thing.

I was listening to a radio show last year, and the host was talking about the island of plastic waste floating in the Pacific that is twice the size of Texas.  In the next sentence he said something to the effect of, how dare they tell me I can't use plastic bags, I'll use as many as I want.  This is the attitude that drives me crazy.  What's best for me is not always what's best for humanity.  Like I said earlier, you can learn something from everyone you come into contact with.  Even if that something is just a reminder to be a little less selfish and a little more open minded to change.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bye Bye Allergies, Hello Mercury Poisoning

The next few blogs will most likely be about my trip to Scotland.  I have a lot of observations and stories from my trip, and I don't want you to have to slog through one giant blog to read them.

I've been a vegetarian for twelve years, but I've started eating fish again in the last few weeks.  I'm starting to pay more attention to my intuition and to what my body is telling me that it needs to be healthy.  When I was working with the nutritionist, I would often know the foods that I should or shouldn't be eating before she would even tell me.  This wasn't through research, but through signals I was getting from my body.  For example, when I would pick something up that I shouldn't be eating (and I don't mean a doughnut or ice cream or something obvious like that), I would have the urge to put it back down.  It was like a little alarm bell going off in my head, "Danger Will Robinson, Danger."

On the flip side, I kept feeling like I should start eating fish again, but I just couldn't get my head around the thought.  After my nutritionist, acupuncturist and husband all suggested I eat fish, I figured I'd stop ignoring the signs and try it.  I tried it a few times before we left home, but I ate quite a bit of it in Scotland.  It helped that there was an abundance of fresh seafood along the coast of Scotland, and I must say the fish was delicious.

I have a few rules for myself about consuming seafood.  The first rule is to eat only one animal at a time, although I have had shrimp sushi twice so that one might be going out the window.  The other is for the lump of meat on my plate to be indistinguishable from the animal it came from.  For example, I ordered a  half lobster salad, thinking it would come out as a lump of meat on a salad.  Oh no, it came out as a lobster chopped in half on top of some lettuce.  Even though my husband pulled the meat out for me while I turned my head, I quickly lost my appetite and could only eat a few bites.

I know this sounds hypocritical.  If I can't stand to think about where the meat comes from or how it arrived on my plate then I shouldn't be eating it.  But an amazing thing has happened since I've started eating fish again - I haven't had a single day of allergies.  The reason this is so amazing is because I have been eating all kinds of things I was previously supposed to stay away from.  I mentioned I had coffee for breakfast every day on vacation, well I had wheat toast too.  I never understood why my husband complained about the bread in this country until I went to the UK.  You can actually spread butter on the toast without the bread falling apart.  Ah heaven.  I had a few glasses of wine, and just two nights ago I had two margaritas.  These are things that previously would have made me wake up in the morning with gummy, sticky eyes, but that hasn't happened.

My theory about why this is happening is that there was something missing from my diet that the fish is now providing.  That must be the case, because I now find myself craving fish all the time.  I had mahi mahi tacos the other night in Lauderdale that I was absolutely salivating over.  This doesn't make me feel better about myself mentally, as I'd still rather be a vegetarian.  And I had to sit with my back to the fish tank in the restaurant, because if I had spent too long watching the fish swim around I would not have been able to eat their cousin for dinner.

Hopefully, I haven't just traded one medical problem for another.  My allergies seem to have abated, but now I'm worried about all the mercury I'm consuming with the fish.  I'm sure there's a fine balance somewhere, I just have to find it.  I've made myself hungry writing this, so I'm off to cook breakfast.  If only I could find a good piece of toast.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

It's 5 O'Clock (am) in Glasgow

Upon arriving at the Glasgow airport from our redeye flight, we discovered that our rental car wasn't available yet.  It seems that in the UK if you say you're going to pick up your car at 8 am, they take you literally and don't have a car ready for you at say, 7:15.  So we went to have breakfast at the pub/restaurant while we waited.

One of my favorite pastimes is people watching, and there isn't a much better place to do this than at an airport.  Some might say the beach is better, but I have to disagree.  Just as often as not I see something on the beach I would rather not have seen.

As we sat there eating breakfast at 7:30 in the morning, I noticed a strange thing about the Glaswegians at the other tables.  Instead of drinking coffee or tea, the majority of them were drinking beer, I even saw someone with a glass of wine.  At 7:30 in the morning?  Which begs the question, how early is too early in Glasgow?  One of my dad's favorite sayings was, "It's five o'clock somewhere."  I guess it doesn't specify five o'clock pm, I just always assumed that's what it meant.

I guess if the Scots are anything like my English in-laws, they know they'll be drinking tea every hour for the rest of the day, so why have it for breakfast too.  And that is not a slam on my in-laws, I love them dearly.  I just don't have the extra "tea stomach" that seems to be inherent to the British.

And I can't figure out why they don't drink coffee, although I know that sounds very American.  For some reason, the coffee in the UK is about a million times better than what we have here.  In fact, the description for an Americano on the menu was "a posh name for a regular coffee."  Even their instant coffee is better.  I had previously given up coffee because of my allergies, but I had to have one that morning because I didn't get much sleep on the flight.  After tasting it I was ruined for the rest of the week and had to have one every morning.  Why can't we have coffee like this in the states?

Maybe the difference is in the way the coffee is made.  Instead of a giant coffee maker, most people make it in a french press.  It takes up less room in their house, and I think it makes a better cup of coffee.  Maybe they are starting with better coffee to begin with, but I buy some pretty good coffee and it never tastes like that.  Or maybe it's the fact that you just don't see many people walking around with coffee "to go" in Scotland.  I prefer this approach, although it might not seem so quaint if I lived there.  It was a nice change to sit and enjoy my coffee, rather than just mindlessly consuming something while I walk.  And besides, it gave me that much more time to sit and people watch.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I've just spent the last two afternoons on the beach in Fort Lauderdale.  I feel like I'm on vacation, but I'm actually here for work.  It's trips like this that make me really love my job.  I'll try to remember this sentiment the next time I'm stuck on an overnight in a place like El Paso, TX, or Jackson, MS.

It was a bit of a culture shock being on the beach today.  Last week in Scotland, we took a ferry ride to the island of Harris/Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.  Harris is unlike any place I've ever been, it's rocky surface made me think of being on the moon.  After about a half hour driving on a single track road, we came to one of the most remote and beautiful beaches I have ever seen.  Gorgeous white sand, mountains in the distance, crystal clear turqouise water.  Luskentyre Beach was unbelievable, and part of what made it unbelievable was that we were the only people on this amazing beach.  Not a house to be seen anywhere, in fact I think we only passed about 3 on the drive to the beach.

Fast forward to today.  A thousand people on the beach, and not a square inch of property that doesn't boast a multi million dollar high rise.  As I was sitting on my beach chair trying to enjoy the sound of the waves, I kept being distracted by the inane conversation of the obnoxious twenty somethings behind me.  Either I'm starting to act like a hermit or I'm just starting to sound like my mother, but these girls really annoyed me.  I realize they had every right to have a conversation on the beach, I just didn't want to hear it.  I'd rather hear the sounds of bleating sheep in the distance.  Is that what sheep do, bleat?  Baa-ing in the distance just doesn't sound right.  It doesn't matter, Luskentyre was so remote I don't even remember seeing any sheep.

Even though it was 30 degrees cooler on Harris, much too cold to get in the water, I felt myself wishing I was back there today.  I remember being in Scotland for the first time 12 years ago, and thinking how amazing it was that you could drive for hours and not see a town or even a house.  I thought, "How could anyone live somewhere so remote?"  I still couldn't live there, but I sure don't mind going for a visit.  To have a beach like Luskentyre all to ourselves was almost surreal, and I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to experience it that way.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Amazing Grace Fellowship

I finished reading the book I was guided to buy, Leaving Church, in no time.  This blog is not going to turn into a discussion on religion, but it's important for me to document my spiritual growth and transition.  It will be interesting to look back on these posts a few years from now and see how things have evolved.

I've mentioned before that I am currently unable to find a church that fits my evolving attitude towards God.  I have become more spiritual and closer to God in the last year than I have ever been, but I have also grown further away from the religious institution of the church.  I have never believed I needed a "middle man" to get to God, and I don't believe I need to go to church every week to show God that I am worthy.  However, I do miss being a part of an organization that helps it's own, a group of people that care for and shepherd one another.

Because of this feeling, I had the bright idea to start my own church about 6 months ago.  I didn't really want to call it a church per se, but more a "group of like minded people" that would help each other and the community.  A fellowship, if you will.  I envisioned a different leader each week, so that we would all be equal and there would be no power control issues.  I did manage to have the first and only meeting of the Amazing Grace Fellowship, which was attended by neighbors and friends.  We did a meditation and healing circle for the people of Haiti (it was right after the earthquake).  It went fairly well, although I was nervous most of the time and unsure of what to do.  I probably would have been able to continue with the fellowship had I not lost interest/motivation.

This is what I was referring to a few posts ago when I said I often start things and then never follow through.  It's why I've been a little skeptical with my new found enthusiasm after the Rhythm of Life Design.  I still would like to find an organization to be a part of, I just don't have the motivation/time/desire to be the organizer.

One of my favorite parts of the book, Leaving Church, was the thought of what life could be like if we realized that God lives in the world, not just in church.  What could we accomplish if people behaved like they do in church all week, instead of just for one hour a week?  What if we encouraged people that being kind to each other is more important than defending our own interpretation of the Bible?  What if we realized that everyone deserves to be loved, and then acted that way?  Here is the quote from the book that really resonated with me.

"What if people were invited to come (to church) and tell what they already knew of God instead of to learn what they are supposed to believe.  What if they were blessed for what they are doing in the world instead of chastened for not doing more at church?  What if church felt more like a way station than a destination.  What if the church's job was to move people out the door instead of trying to keep them in, by convincing them that God needed them more in the world than in the church?"

Now that's my kind of church.  One I could attend, or maybe even help start.  I have to admit, writing about this has started my mind thinking again.  Maybe my motivation has returned.  Although, I also had an idea the other day to start a school, so maybe I'm just floundering around trying to find some direction.  It will be interesting to see what, if anything, comes of this and where it leads me.

I'll be on vacation for the better part of the next two weeks, so I probably won't be doing much blogging.  Writing has become a significant part of my day because it helps me to relax.  I feel centered and grounded when I write, and I really look forward to it.  For once in my life I am not excited about getting away from the computer.  I will have my journal, but for some reason it seems quicker and easier to pound out my thoughts on the keyboard.  Hopefully I'll return to you in two weeks with lots of stories from Scotland about standing stones, islands only accessible by boat, legends and myths etc.  I can hardly wait.