Saturday, January 29, 2011

Part 3: Tending the garden of our LIFE

My grandma and grandpa years before I was even a twinkle in the eye of my mom who is in the background. 

A few years later. Still hanging out.

Do you ever wish you had a certain photo of your grandparents that showed who they truly were? All I've got of my grandparents are posed photos taken at parties. 

If I could have a photo to show what my grandpa looked like to me, he'd be sitting at the kitchen table smoking a cigarette with oil stained hands. He was a farmer and was constantly fixing farm equipment. The photo of my grandma would be of her in the garden. She'd be wearing a long sundress, bent over with her ass end high in the air pulling out weeds between the onions. 

That was my grandma.

Grandma wasn't one for a lot of chit chat when I was a kid. English was her second language. There were commands for after lunch: "Go wash your hands. Don't touch the walls." And commands for in the car: "No feets on the seats." One of my favorite commands was: "Have it to me" when she would want me to give her something. She never quite mastered when to use the verb To Have and the word To Give. I never corrected her because it made it easier to imitate her later.

Though we didn't rattle on together, grandma and I had a common language in the garden.

My childhood homestead was largely self-sustaining. We would heat our home with wood we cut ourselves (painful), we made our own maple syrup, we canned fruit from our orchard and we made a wide variety of culinary concoctions out of what we grew in our garden.

My garden was an aching acre and it came with it's own grandma. 

Most mornings of summer, grandma would barrel up the driveway to toil in the garden. I'd be sitting on the step petting kittens and ask her, "Flip flops or running shoes?" 

Flip flops were fine to wear in the garden for most jobs except for hoeing weeds, which required running shoes.

She'd nod hello and say, "Flip flops. Grab a basket. Beans today."

And we'd head out to the garden to pick beans. Sometimes the row of green beans was eternal. You'd be surprised just how many beans you can get from one plant. I'd whine, "Grandma, why did we plant so many beans?"

She'd reply, "You'll be happy you did in November. Happier still in February. Keep picking."

When I picked carrots, I'd ask, "Grandma, why are some carrots short and some long? Especially when we planted them all at the same time?"

She'd reply, "Some days are short and some long but they are all the same time. That's just how it is."

Sometimes zucchini would grow huge literally overnight. "Wow, grandma. Look at this." I'd hold up a two-foot long zucchini. "It's ginormous!

She'd reply, "Don't get too excited. Bigger zucchinis aren't as good as the smaller ones."

I didn't understand this until much later in life. 

Grandma would explain that some crops are ready to harvest early for a reason, like radishes, which are always ready first even if you pretty much ignore them. "Radishes come up first so you have strength for the growing season. As the season goes by, you get stronger and stronger so you can carry the heavy pumpkins, which are the last to harvest."

"Grandma! You're just joking."

"See if I'm right. See if the radishes come up first and the pumpkins come up last. Then you tell me why that is. God doesn't make mistakes."

Once we weeded what needed weeding and picked what needed picking, we went to the kitchen to prepare it for winter. I'd cut this and that and have it over to her. She'd blanch this and that. I'd carry the jars or freezer bags of tasty vittles down to the cellar. And she was right about those beans. I was always glad to have them in November and especially glad in February.

One year, right before I left for university, grandma departed this life. But not until pumpkin harvest.

I can't even believe this life I had. It seemed like so much work back then. And it was. But now, it all seems charming. And now when I dream of my future, it includes a garden. Perhaps someday, I will be the one in a sundress, bent over with my ass end in the air, pulling out the weeds between the onions. 

"Grandma, why is this row of beans so crooked?"

"So I can fit more plants in it. Keep picking." 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Part 2: Tending the garden of our DREAMS

I've been rereading Your Heart's Desire by Sonia Choquette. It's a simple guide to helping us attain our most heartfelt desires. In the book, we:
  1. Define our heart's desires
  2. Solidify action steps
  3. Take those action steps
It's not a big mystery, but so often our true heart's desires don't get achieved because they aren't juicy enough. Much of the time, our heart's desires are:

"Just not this. Not what is happening right now. The opposite of this."

And that, doth not a juicy heart's desire make. Once we take a deeper cut and really question ourselves on what would bring our lives the most joy and fulfillment, we must treat the answers like a freshly cultivated garden to nurture and nourish. We must also:
"...protect our dreams with strong boundaries. At this stage they are delicate sprouts barely entering the Universe and need to be surrounded with protection and vigilance."
This means we must protect ourselves from nonsupportive influences such as jealous friends or nay sayers. I've had to do this lately in regards to my sprouting world tour and newly launching nomadic lifestyle. These friends have said, Don't go. Then said, I want this and this and this from your house. They've also said, How much is your rent? I should take your apartment.

Friggin' vultures. I'M NOT GONE YET.

Then they barrage me with questions about who, what, why and when. Followed by their opinion of who, what, why and when.

I don't need their approval and I don't care about their opinion. I am also sheepishly aware that I created this mess because somewhere along the line, I started this garden of heart's desires but neglected to put a fence around it. And that attracts a vermin-esque quality in some of my associates. I'm sure their questions probably come from a caring and supportive place. Still, it has made me want to hide under the covers until the day I skip town. 

So I've been teetering on this line of energy... What do I share? What do I not?

In one case, I didn't share and was scolded by a "You LIED to my FACE!" which still makes me reverberate with contempt and seething. The truth was that I wasn't ready to share, and seriously dude, if you want to know more, read the blog. Be supportive in that way.

I also learned that you, dear readers, have been the most supportive of all.

Three cheers for us!
"Your desire should be treated like a treasure and secreted away from disbelieving eyes. A friend once said, 'If someone works against you, deny them you.'"
Which I did to Mr. LIED to my FACE who never reads my blog anyway. Pft.

Achieving our heart's desire also means:
"looking at every plane of energy and noticing any waste, clutter, distraction, or disorder that keeps you from focusing your full attention and energy on your dream. And it means finding the time and discipline to establish the order your dreams require for growth."
Hence my new found love of Craigslist, my local thrift store and my new Moleskin organizer.

As a result of reading Your Heart's Desire, my garden is coming along quite nicely:
  • I've put up that fence. Now when people ask, I tell them, "When I know and am ready to share, I will." 
  • I've shooed off the vultures who just want to pick through my stuff. I used my hardcore ninja moves. HI-YA!
  • I've sent light to my sprouting dreams. And used a few of my tears to water them.
  • I've nourished them with time to grow. This means keeping my schedule light so I can fit in time for action steps, meditation and daydreaming. I've also been keeping away from energy zapping friends.
  • And finally, I've surrendered how I think my garden should grow. My friend Pete McCormack, once said to me, "Let the seeds of love fall where they may. Let God take care of the rest."
And now, I hold the vision of harvest, when I can look back at these moments of my newly sprouted, tender garden and know that the world and my world are both better places because of it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Part 1: Tending the garden of our MIND

I've been reading Jill Bolte Taylor's My Stroke of Insight, which is about a her experience of being a brain scientist and having a stroke.

The book is divided into three sections:
  1. The morning of the stroke
  2. The recovery immediately after surgery
  3. The eight years of recovery that followed
This third section was the most intriguing to me. She explains that as she healed her brain, she chose what aspects of her brain circuitry to nurture and what aspects to avoid.
"I view the garden in my mind as a sacred patch of cosmic real estate that the universe has entrusted me to tend over the years of my lifetime... Regardless of the garden I have inherited, once I consciously take over the responsibility of tending my mind, I choose to nurture those circuits that I want to grow, and consciously prune back those circuits I prefer to live without." -- My Stroke of Insight, Jill Bolte Taylor
This got me thinking. How I could control the less attractive aspects of left brain (anger, impatience, fear-based stories) and shift to the right where I could deliberately live from a place of compassion, love and peace?

Then this oldie but goodie story of how to do just that came to mind...
An old Cherokee Indian was speaking to his grandson:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a long minute, then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
I was (effing) blessed to be able to practice this today when the stock I sold YESTERDAY skyrocketed TODAY. My left brain began to run it's goddammitmotherfuckerwhyohwhy?!!?! fear-based story line of judgment, regret and worry.

My bad dog left brain was traipsing around in my garden and that just wouldn't do. So I stopped after 90 seconds and said aloud:

"Bad dog! Listen left brain. What's done is done. Take the lessons. Leave the rest. Now shoo!"

He stopped and stared at me. Then I imagined him scampering off, tail between his legs. I got back to tending to the sprouts I want to cultivate in my right brain. 
"I think Gandhi was right when he said, "We must be the change we want to see in the world." I find that my right hemisphere consciousness is eager for us to take that next giant leap for mankind and step to the right so we can evolve this planet into the peaceful and loving place we yearn for it to be." -- My Stroke of Insight, Jill Bolte Taylor

Monday, January 24, 2011

I am upset because...

It's Day 2 and it's not going well.

Since I quit my job before Christmas, I've had five weeks of house guests and one week of Hawaii with friends. That brings me to now, the second day of daily life with just me.

It's not going well.

I am upset because... I find myself emotional and overwhelmed by what I'm about to do. I'm about to leave my life of 10 years in California to go... somewhere else... just to see what's out there... when I don't have to go anywhere.

I am upset because... I had to say goodbye to my two friends whom I affectionately call Dolce & Gabbana in this post. They are heading in one direction and I in another. Reality is what it is. We're all aware that we don't know when or how or where we'll be together again.

I am upset because... I don't know where to start with unraveling my apartment. I'm quite Zen-like in my ways but still, unless I was Hermoine Granger, I couldn't fit all this in my handbag.

I am upset because... I'm disoriented. I start a task in one room, then walk to another and forget what I was doing. I walk back and forth, haphazardly tossing/recycling/donating/gifting the items of my life.

I am upset because... people don't reply fast enough. Today, I picked up my phone to send a text, but then got distracted and checked email instead. I never did send that text, yet I got upset because a reply (to a text that wasn't even sent) didn't come. I'm losing it.

I am upset because... I haven't had a coffee in four days.

Clearly, I am upset because... bla bla bla.

In Spiritual Psychology, they teach that when we say "I am upset because.." anything after the "because" doesn't really matter. If the "I" is in a state of "upset" of any kind, it's a clue that school is in session and this is an opportunity to heal, learn and grow.

Fucking great. 

So all the becauses don't really matter and when all the becauses don't really matter, it's harder to blame everything that happens after the becauses. Dig?


Yes, it's a toughy. When I take away all the stuff after the "because" in "I am upset because," I'm left with what's really going on. "I am upset."

The word "upset" means by definition "To cause to turn or tip over; capsize."

I've had six weeks of support and now that I'm alone I've lost my balance and have tipped over. That's all. No biggie.

Ahhhh, now I'm picking up what you're putting down.

 I just need a few days to get my bearings and stand on my own two feet again. To grow my sea legs. And this will require some gentleness toward self.

So, I've taken myself to yoga, made myself tea and napped. I made lists and slowly crossed items off. I stopped when I reached my limit. I tried not to judge. And at the end of the day, I felt a little better. Still, I called a friend to go dinner. Why? Because on a day like today, I learned that though I can stand on my own two feet, sometimes I need a little help from my friends.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Me and my friggin' identity

A year ago, I did the unthinkable. I got bangs. They never really worked. I was hoping for some sort of Penelope Cruz thing or an Audrey Hepburn thing. Instead I got this thing:

This is the only photo where my bangs weren't a complete failure.
(Pictured are Rod and Scott, my hosts when I stay in Toronto.)

My bangs had a mind of their own. They never stayed in place. I bought hair goop and reclaimed the use of my curling iron. I whipped out my hairdryer. I think I even had mousse.  I even hit the snooze button less often in order to go another round with my hair.

All dismal failures.

No matter how much I tried to move my hair in one direction, it always came back to where it started. (I wonder if this is a metaphor for my pending world travels.) After too many mornings of frazzlement and sleep deprivation, I threw up my hands in surrender and threw my hair back in a hairband to await the awkward growing-out phase.

It's like sitting shiva. But longer.

This whole episode with the bangs taught me that I'm not the type of girl who should have bangs and I'm definitely not the type of girl that should have high-maintenance hair.

Sometimes it takes a bad hairdo to truly know who you are. 

I bring this up because I'm currently making decisions on what clothes and items to take with me on my pending world tour. I already heaved a few bags of office clothes at the donation door of my local thrift store. The office clothes had the stank of status meetings and office coffee. Blech. What's left are a few sundresses and pajamas. And that doth not a wardrobe make... unless you go to Hawaii, which I did last week, and it worked out pretty well.

I went shopping the other day with a girlfriend. We were on a mission to find me the perfect travel clothes.

Another dismal failure.

After too many shops and changing rooms, I threw up my hands in surrender. Everything seemed either too fancy or too casual or too wrinkle-prone. Will I be dining in fancy restaurants? Will I be hiking a lot? If so, in what climate? Will I be over-dressed or under-dressed? Cold or hot?

What am I going to do about boots?

I just don't know. I don't know because I'm not sure where I'll be at what time of the year, and I especially don't know what kind of person I'm about to become so I don't know how to dress the part. Up until I recently, I was defined largely by who I was in the world. I worked in an office. I wore office clothes. That's what I looked like. 

This is all gonna be great for processing and self-reflection in my journal. Me and my friggin' identity.

I suppose the plan should be to pack light and dress as myself. Lucky for me, I've already got (some) of the wardrobe for that. I'll figure out the rest when I get there... wherever that might be.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Canadian beach bum REVEALED!

My Canadian beach bum.

If you didn't know I had a tattoo before, you do now. Glad I broke the news to my mom before I wrote this post. 

So I'm still hanging in Hawaii. Still loving the place. Still using the word "dude" at every opportunity. 

A few highlights of the day: 
I'd call this the low light of the day.
High winds, schmigh schminds.

This salad is bigger than my head. 
And that's big.

Wikipedia says, "The PiƱa Colada was introduced on August 16, 1954 at the Caribe Hilton’s Beachcomber Bar in San Juan, Puerto Rico by its alleged creator, Ramon “Monchito” Marrero. Apparently, the hotel management had expressly requested Monchito to mix a new signature drink that would delight the demanding palates of its star-studded clientele."
Star-studded clientele.

The surfer in this photo jumped off the cliff after this was taken. 
We shrieked like girls.

We also shrieked when there were whales. They were everywhere. So much so that we went from starting the week yelling "WHALE!" and pointing like we were in epileptic fits to simply looking up and pointing without interrupting our conversation. They were magnificent. I tried to take photos but that never seems to work. It's just blue ocean with what looks like a fly in the middle of the frame. But here was my attempt:
 Attempt 1: Fail

 Attempt 2: Fail

Attempt 3: Fail

Attempt 4: Steal photo from National Geographic.

A hui ho!
(See you later)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Getting my guru groove on in Hawaii

Dancing in waves at Hapuna Beach.

Warning: I'm about to get spiritual so you might as well decide right now how offended you're going to get.

Hawaii is a convergence of spiritual practices, which is probably why we get on so well. That and the flip flops. In Hawaii, there is the Christian tradition that came from the west, the Buddhist tradition that came from the east, plus the Ho O Pono Pono tradition, which is rooted smack dab in the middle of the pure Aloha Spirit.

I, myself, am also a convergence of spiritual practices:
  • I was raised Catholic and attend a Catholic church.
  • I attend services at Paramahansa Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship.
  • I also attend Michael Bernard Beckwith's Agape
  • I eat lunch at a Buddhist temple. They have the best vegetarian food. 
  • I am a practitioner of Spiritual Psychology as taught in a Master's Degree program at the University of Santa Monica.
    Chatting with Buddha on Waikoloa Beach.

    "What did you just say?"

    Since I'm in a spiritual hub, now seems like a good time to share how to have a conversation with big wigs like Buddha.

    How to chat with spiritual beings in 5 easy steps: 
    1. Sit down and shut up. (Technically, this is two steps.)

    2. Breath in deep to quiet down your mind. 

    3. Say a wee prayer. Mine is taken from Spiritual Psychology and it goes something like this: "Lord, I ask for the clearing. I ask to be surrounded, protected and guided by the clear white light of the Holy Spirit. I ask for only that which is for my highest good and the highest good of all concerned to be brought forth in service to evolving my consciousness. For this, and so much more, I am so grateful. And so it is." Feel free to use this prayer and edit at will.

    4. Imagine with whom you want to chat and start chatting. Sometimes this one of the heavy hitters like Jesus or Buddha (as shown above). And, sometimes it's someone in your life with whom you'd like to speak in order to gain clarity about an issue. I even say in my head, "I'd like to speak with the authentic self of (Insert name here)." Once you've got the vision of this person in your mind, start asking questions.

    5. Make space for that person to answer. Often an answer comes immediately. Sometimes it takes awhile. Most of the time, the answers seem to come from a being wiser than ourselves. But if it sounds like something our mother would say, that's likely our ego feeling uncomfortable or unsure so it's butting in. Just tell the ego to go away for awhile.  
    And that's about it. Pretty simple stuff. 
      Sounds a bit woo hoo.

      Ya, I hear that. Some people call this channeling, which can sound extremely woo hoo. But for me, it feels good so I do it. I'm my own consenting adult and it's not hurting anyone.

      Channeling (or whatever this is) can be a fun practice. For instance, I love sitting in church and having a conversation with my grandma who died years ago. And when was the last time you met Jesus for coffee? It's easier to visit Him in the coffee shop of your mind. After all, you can't just reach out and touch all deities.
      The original Pillsbury Doughboy.
      "Ooh that tickles."

      In Hawaii, the ocean has a lot to say as well. 

      As does the sunset.

      On this trip to Hawaii I even talked to my body image issues. In my mind's eye, I saw that I was talking to a blobby fatso that just said "bla bla bla bla" when I spoke to it. My lesson here was to ignore the voice inside that says "bla bla my thighs are fat bla bla" because clearly, it doesn't have anything worthwhile to say. This has helped me feel more confident when traipsing around in a bikini.
      This couple seemed very confident traipsing around showing it all off. So why am I hesitant?

      I highly recommend starting to chat with people or your body in your mind's eye. It's a calming practice. It provides the necessary answers. And just think of how much money you'd save by not having to go to psychics/gurus/clairvoyants/seers and the like, who pretty much do the same thing I've outlined above if they're worth their salt.

      Try it. What could happen?


      Sunday, January 16, 2011

      Hawaiian Farmers Markets/Miller Time

      Discussing veggie vittles with my mystery travel companion.

      On the second day of my Hawaiian adventure, we got settled in our new digs. This meant a trip to the Waimea Farmers Market, located on the Big Island.

      A lovely palette of produce. 

      After acquiring the necessary provisions, we grabbed grub for lunch and sat with a mix of locals and tourists. It seemed like every other person was visiting from somewhere else. I wonder the locals tire of talking pleasantries with tourists. If they are, they never let on. Locals spoke with us as if we've sat at the farmers market with them every week for years. 
      A romantic moment captured at the local coffee shop.

      Once filled up on farmers market fare, we wobbled back to our behemoth rental SUV monstrosity and barreled down the mountain back to our condo. All that shopping makes a girl thirsty, and that can only mean one thing: It's Miller Time. We had beers in the fridge but nary a beer bottle opener could be found. We looked high and low to no avail.

       Finally, after many exasperated attempts, I jimmied a bottle open with the side of a can opener and elbow grease. Imagine trying to open a bottle of beer in the same way you'd open a can of Campbell's soup. It can be done but I don't recommend it.

      Do not keep a Canadian from her beer. 
      Cheers. Finally. 

      Once the beer was sloshing around in my belly, I ran back to the store for yet another provision:
      Oh those Hawaiians. Such a sense of humor.

      Destination 1: Hawaii

      Why yes, Virginia, I do believe in private planes.

      Secretly, I had wanted my first destination in my new life as a non-corporate girl to be Hawaii. But I put it out of my mind. I thought I had to start somewhere big like Paris. Somewhere super significant. Somewhere that wasn't in Los Angeles' backyard. (Oooh the Hawaiians would not like to be thought of in Los Angeles' backyard.)

      But as fate would have it, a friend of mine was heading to Hawaii with her fancy golf buddies and was touching down in Los Angeles in her private jet to fetch them. She asked if I'd like to come along to some Champions Classic something-or-other-golf-thing in Hawaii.

      Why yes I would.

      This spontaneous trip to Hawaii would be reason #752 why it was good that I quit my job when I did. She admitted that she wouldn't have asked if I had to accrue the vacation hours to join her in Hawaii.

      Gawd I hated having to accrue vacation days.

      Gawd I love my charmed new life.

      This was the first time I flew in a private plane. Allow me to explain the difference between flying commercially and flying privately:

      In both cases, you get dry so it's good to drink water. 

      Other than that, everything is different. 

      I'm also aware of how non-green private plane travel can be, but hey, I don't eat meat, which has to count for something.

      You may wonder if I backpacked or took a suitcase, based on my blog post from the other day.

      Suitcased it. Hands down.

      I failed at backpacking almost immediately. I failed at backpacking the moment I wanted to pack the brown shoes to go with the blue dress in addition to the black shoes I already packed for my black wardrobe. I now understand why Angelina Jolie wears black almost all the time. It's just easier to put all the pieces together. Why did I pack the blue dress and brown shoes? I'm staying in a fancy golf-richy-riches neighborhood. I can't be hoofing it in my Birkenstocks. That just ain't gonna fly in Fancyville.

      After getting "leied" at the airport, we zipped through the fields of lava rocks and pulled up to our beach condo. Once we unpacked our clothes and surveyed the complimentary toiletry offerings, we made tea and spent the rest of the day gabbing. We were only interrupted when whales swam by.

      I can't even make this stuff up.

      I actually sat outside our condo in Hawaii and watched whales swim by. 

      HOLY FRIG.


      It's pretty much the most amazing day ever. Not a bad way to begin the world travels.


      Monday, January 10, 2011

      Backpacking vs Suitcasing

      My room with a view in Rome.
      Last night I was at a party in Santa Monica discussing the pros and cons of backpacking around the world. As you may know, I'm planning to travel in the near future and am currently investigating my options. My friend Magda is a hardcore backpacker and hosteler and was convincing me to do the same. She had some pretty compelling arguments for backpacking and staying in hostels.

      "Tourists have suitcases. Travelers have backpacks."
      -- Magda
      Magda's top three for backpacking:
      1. It's easy to meet people in a hostel.
      2. A backpack is easier to lug from place to place than a suitcase. 
      3. It's a cheap way to travel.
      Janice's top three reasons for not backpacking:
      1. A backpack is heavy to lug from from place to place.
      2. A backpack means less fabulous clothing options.
      3. I google image searched "backpacking" and was immediately horrified.
      Do I even want to backpack across Europe? What about my blogging? I imagined typing up dispatches from the comfort of my own wee flat that I rent for a couple weeks or even a month at a time. One with a view of the Eiffel Tower or some such urban icon. I imagined sipping fantastic coffee and nibbling on vittles procured at my neighborhood cheese/fruit/bread monger whist telling you, dear reader, of my adventures.

      I didn't imagine not that.

      Last May, when I was at the train station in Rome, I saw many backpackers. I was shocked to notice one common look on their faces. It wasn't happiness. It was fatigue.

      I'm not really into fatigue. That's what my job was for. That's why I quit it

      But Magda had some good points. Backpacking and hosteling does make meeting people easier. And I must admit, my biggest fear is eating alone, seeing sites alone and just plain old being alone. Then again, I like alone time to write which is one of the main goals of this trip. And I'm not sure if I'll take the time to write if I'm hanging with a group of travelers 90210-style everywhere I go. So I'm a little flummoxed by my options. I want to meet people easily, but I also want a certain amount of alone time. And comfort. Let's not discount my desire for comfort.

      Here's what I know about backpacking vs suitcasing.
      • Having a 75 pound bag on my back doesn't sound appealing.
      • Rolling a suitcase down a bumpy cobblestone street doesn't sound appealing either. 
      • I don't want to eat alone in restaurants. 
      • It's easy to meet people in hostels.
      • I want to meet people but also want a certain amount of alone time.
      • I like the quiet and privacy of my own living space.
      • Backpacking has a certain level of adventure. 
      • An apartment with a suitcase of clothes has a certain level of living as a resident of the city vs a person traveling through the city with a backpack.
      • I actually can afford to stay in something a little more comfortable than a hostel.
      And in true blogger form, when I can't figure out something, I turn to you, dear reader. What do you think? Do I backpack and stay in hostels? Do I pack a suitcase and stay in apartments? Do I take a backpack to an apartment? Or do I take one carry-on and figure the rest out when I get there?

      Frig I suck at traveling and I haven't even left yet.

      Friday, January 7, 2011

      Getting Zen at Disneyland

      Mickey Mouse meets Janice MacLeod.

      I took the nieces to Disneyland. Why? Because no matter how much you'd rather nap, read and watch TV, you remind yourself that it's not all about you. Besides, you've got a whole blog about you.

      You've got to go Zen when you embark on a trip to Disneyland. There is the parking, the cost and the mile-long souvenir shop that can bring out your cynical self. Not to mention a sea of bored, tired parents. The key is to go to your happy place. To rev up the inner child. After all, it's never too late to have a happy childhood.

      Getting to your happy place is easier when you've got a kid or two in tow.

      The niece loved running into her favorite Disney characters. "I met the real Snow White!" she exclaimed. She has not yet gained an awareness of employees in costumes, or if she has, she's not owning up to it. And she was delighted to enjoy a leisurely boat ride through It's a Small World with nary a complaint about how the song repeats ad nauseam. Even the tram back to the parking garage was yet another thrilling adventure.

      And I admit, though the curtain was drawn back for me years ago, I still love the magic Disneyland. I love it for all the reasons the niece loves it, but also because every "cast member" called her a princess, because they were masters at crowd control, and because they had Rice Krispie squares in the form of Mickey's head.

      At the end of the day, me, the model aunt, stood in line with the niece so she could get her photo taken with the Mickey Mouse. As I approached the front of the line, I wished I could get a photo with Mickey, too. And in true Disney form, they had a cast member standing at the front of the line whose job is to ask even the shyest of aunts if they, too, would like their photo taken with Mickey.

      Why yes, I would!

      And the smile you see in the photo above. That was real. Why? Because I got my photo taken with the real Mickey Mouse!!!!

      It's true. In that moment, I really was in my happy place, which happened to be in the happiest place on earth. 

      Wednesday, January 5, 2011

      Writing vs parenting

      A rare quiet moment for self.

      There are times that I've gone days without blogging. Usually it's because I have a lot on my mind. But the reason I've not been blogging the last few days is because I haven't got a thought in my head.

      The family is in town and when family is in town, there is very little internal thought process for me.

      I'm so very blessed to be able to see my nieces more than the usual hour before they go to bed. That's how it used to be. I'd get up, go to work, come home and hang with them for an hour before they went to bed. Then a few weeks later, they'd head back home and I would have barely seen them.

      How do parents with full time jobs do it?

      Beats me. 

      But now that I quit my job last month, I am within arms reach of one or both of them 24/7. In fact, the 5-year-old niece has her head on my shoulder right now as I write. And the 1-year-old is trying to climb up on my lap, which makes typing difficult to say the least.

      All this family time has made me wonder about writing and parenting. I've always thought that I'd be a parent one day, but how does parenting affect writing? Can they exist harmoniously together? I'm not sure. And I truly have fallen deeply in love with writing. Perhaps the love I feel for the little people already in my life can be enough to fulfill any parenting impulses I feel. I keep waiting for my biological clock to start ticking. Maybe there is a screw loose.

      Elizabeth Gilbert has explained in her book Committed that she takes her role as an aunt very seriously and that satisfies her enough to forgo having children of her own. She also writes on her site:
      "I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began."
      Me, too. And I wonder how full-time children of my own fit into the calling.

      You've probably read the works of writers you love, then they have kids and all they write about is kids. That's usually when I lose interest. The writers shift to another audience and I'm left to find an author that fills me literary heart with joy.

      And I understand! I understand that they have nothing to write about except their children because their days are filled with maintaining these little lives in their midst. And everyone wants those little lives to be happy. We all want the next generations of childhoods to be better than our own. And sometimes that means playing with Strawberry Shortcake and forgoing the blog post.

      This guy will say it's all about time management. He's a writer and a parent. He figured it out.

      Anyway, I don't have an answer. I just have a curiosity about what I thought I wanted (children) and what I know I want (writing) and I wonder how (or if) they can live harmoniously together.

      In the meantime, I'm taking the kids to Disneyland today.

      And I'm packing my journal.

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