Friday, July 24, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things (with pictures!)- July 24

HUGE thanks to our hosts Lexa Cain, L.G. Keltner and Katie!
Once again, I've been out-of-commission so far as this blog goes (save a for a book review).   I've heard other people talk about the difference between "writers" and "seasonal writers".  Writers, from what I understand, write every day.  Whether they want to or not, whether inspiration strikes or not, even if they have to drag themselves kicking and screaming to the keyboard- they write.  I am clearly not that kind-of writer.  At least not at this point in my life.

Seasonal writers, they say, go through fits and bursts- times of insanely high productivity where the thoughts flow out of them so quickly their fingers can barely keep up and other times when the well dries up and the computer gathers dust.  That seems to be me.  Other passions, other practices have firmly taken the reins so far as time and commitment.  I have to be ok with that for now.

Yoga- My number one passion, practice and focus at the moment.  I have been diving deeper and deeper into this new-found lifestyle and I'm loving it.  Everything I was saying earlier still applies and I'm trying not to get overwhelmed by how much there is to learn (not surprising with a 5,000 year-old discipline).  There's so much reading, so much note-taking and journaling about the process and how I react to it (so I am still writing, just not here) and so much--- just so much.  The one big thing I wanted to share is that I finally painted the cover of my yoga journal and I have to say that I was thrilled with how it came out.
I haven't painted anything in so long I can't remember and this week, after writing in it for almost two months, I finally got out my lovely watercolors (given to me several Christmases ago) and painted.  At least 20 times during the process I thought "This is horrible!  I should paint it all black and start again!"  But I pushed those thoughts away and kept painting and in the end I came out with something I'm really proud of.  It represents- to me- all the elements: earth, air, fire, water and ether- in various forms and fits the spirit of the journal and the whole process I'm in.  (Plus it's puuurrrty ^_^)  If any of you artistically inclined folks want a really special journal then go out and get yourself a canvas-covered one.  Totally worth it.

Healing- On July 11th I was SUPPOSED to run in the Pottstown half marathon.  In preparation for that, I planned to do my long run in Valley Forge park.  
A story:  July 4th, I'm running in the park when I get hit by a bike.  Both the bicyclist and myself go flying and land in the (thankfully soft) mud.  His friends who were riding with him all stop and rush over to inspect us and make sure we're ok.  He's absolutely fine, just a little embarrassed.  I seem to be- there's no cuts or wounds and the only sign of injury is a little tire burn on my right leg.  I stand up, take a look around, walk a couple steps and conclude that everything is fine.  I walk back to my car feeling pissed off that it happened but concluding that I'll just do the run tomorrow (since I only got a little under 5 miles in out of my planned 13).
Over the course of that day, my leg starts to swell.  Not just the calf muscle where I got hit but everything south of there- my ankle, my foot, all of it.  By that evening I'm barely able to put any weight on it and my limp is so bad I can barely get around my house.  I'm getting the distinct impression that my dream of running the Pottstown half is about to be crushed.
Monday I go to the doctor.  She doesn't seem all that concerned.  She tells me to put an ace bandage on it, try to stay off of it, and when I do start running to start off with something small- like 2 miles.  Based on the fact that I can hobble around on it it doesn't seem to be broken, but she gives me a script to get an x-ray just in case it doesn't start to feel better by the end of the week.  She announces, as if it's really obvious, that I will not be running any half marathon that weekend.  When I get back to the car I let myself finally cry like I'd wanted to when I first got the idea that my run was doomed.  Training that hard and psyching yourself up for something only to have a freak accident a week before ruin everything is a pretty big blow.
I'm thinking I don't want to go and wait 45 minutes to get an x-ray that's just going to tell me what I already know- nothing's broken.  (My logic being that the doctor would be much more concerned and I wouldn't be able to walk at all if that were the case.)  So I just get the ace bandage and go back to work. 
Over the course of that week the bruising gets MUCH worse and the swelling doesn't go down.  My walking doesn't improve any, either.  After hearing three different stories from people who knew someone who walked around on a broken or fractured leg or foot for a week or more before they finally got an x-ray that showed breakage I finally agreed to go get the x-ray.
Back to the doctor (different doctor in the practice) to get the results- no, nothing is broken but yes, there is A LOT of soft tissue damage and it is a really serious injury.  She looks at the bruising and swelling and says "Actually, when you told me what happened I thought it would look A LOT worse."  It's at that point that I start to grasp how serious the injury is, and how much longer my recuperation will last than I thought.

She prescribes an air cast and physical therapy and tells me- in no uncertain terms- that it will be a LONG time before I'm able to run again and when I do start I'm gonna want to do a lot less then 2 miles.  (Well, at least she's taking it seriously.)

Fast forward to today and I am walking with absolutely no limp thanks to the air cast and only a slight one when I take it off.  The swelling is almost completely gone and the bruising is doing that lovely rainbow coloring that looks nasty but lets you know it's healing.
I haven't been able to do anything other than teach at karate and yoga has been seriously modified (mostly floor postures or ones that involve only my left leg) but I'm feeling significantly more optimistic about my healing.  And lord knows that the next time I'm running in the park I will be looking around me constantly for bicyclists.

I'm also feeling, to bring it back to the theme, insanely grateful.  It shouldn't take injuries like this to make me so acutely aware of how damned lucky I am to walk, run and do everything else I can do without much difficulty.  Hobbling around these past three weeks has made me think so much more about how difficult it must be to walk down a hallway, get into or out of a car, go to the supermarket- hell, even get on and off the toilet- when you're disabled.  I'm going to be back up to snuff in relatively short order while so many others never get that back and I am aware that I am really, REALLY lucky for that.  So if there is a silver lining to all this it's that it's reminded me of my many gifts- and that's a never a bad thing to be reminded of.

Happy to no longer be hopping- because I can actually walk now!  But you can all still hop for fun.
1.Lexa Cain2.Fiction and Film
3.Writing Off the Edge4.Kidbits
5.TheCyborgMom6.Thoughts and Ideas from Deanie Humphrys-Dunne
7.My Inner Geek8.Eclectic Alli
9.Kim Graff10.Intentional Insights with S. Kelley Harrell
11.Constantine12.My Miracle Life
13.Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams14.My Creatively Random Life
15.Jeff Chapman's Writing16.Shells Tales and Sails
17.Lara Lacombe18.TF Walsh
19.Caring for my Veteran20.Life, Yoga and Other Adventures
21.About myself, by myself22.Suzanne Furness
23.My Write Spot24.Elizabeth Seckman
25.Avalon26.Cherdo on the Flipside
27.Writing By Marilyn28.My Baffling Brain
29.Planet Kimberly30.Shah Wharton
31.Mere Joyce32.Just Get It Written
33.Kathleen S. Allen34.Victorian Scribbles
35.Dandilyonfluff36.Curious as a Cathy
37.Tanya Miranda38.Teresa Morse
39.Catherine Ensley40.God, Entertainment, & Annoying Things
41.Ann - A Friend of Jesus 201342.Carole Anne Carr
43.Special Teaching At Pempi's Palace44.Square Pegs
45.Sandy's Space46.The Beveled Edge
47.Patricia's Place48.Peace, Love, & Books
49.Desiree Yearning50.Yvonne Van Dalen

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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So I have to come right out and say it: I LOVED this book.  I've met people who have claimed that it was their favorite book of all and knowing the tiny bit that I knew about it I didn't see how that could be.  I get it now.  So forgive me if this review is overly sentimental and sappy- I just can't help myself.

It's not just the characters that permanently lodge themselves in your heart, it's not just the moments that stick to your soul- it's the language.  The book is about the power of words and that power is demonstrated throughout every beautiful page.

In a nutshell, the story is about a young girl named Liesel Meminger growing up in Nazi Germany and it's as devastatingly sad as you might imagine it to be given that setting.  Without spoiling anything let me just assure you that this book will certainly rip your heart out.  I can't really say I had any idea of how bad it was for German civilians before reading this book.  After countless narratives and films about the holocaust I somehow imagined the entirety of Germany as a country of Nazis and neglected that conditions for civilians during that time, especially those sympathetic to Jews, was almost as bad in terms of the fear, hunger and lack of freedom.

But what really struck me about the story, and what makes it a favorite to so many, isn't the brutality or the horror of that time- it's the beauty that existed within the thick of it.  The breathtaking capacity of human compassion, the depth of love, and that indefinable human spirit that makes the narrator so attracted to these creatures he is charged with unburdening.

Death makes a fascinating narrator and as a writer reading this book I was completely and totally drawn in by the tools that Zusak uses to draft the story.  The translations: "A Translation of Rosa Hubermann's Announcement- 'What are you assholes looking at?'", the definitions: "A definition not found in the dictionary- Not leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children" and the short, stand-out moments he emphasizes: "A guided tour of suffering- To your left, perhaps your right, perhaps even straight ahead, you find a small black room.  In it sits a Jew.  He is scum.  He is starving.  He is afraid.  Please- try not to look away."  All these moments cut from the tapestry to pull you further in. 

As a narrative device it keeps you on your toes- you can't fall into any reading patterns here, the writing prevents it.  And if that's not enough there's always the occasional books within a book as with The Standover Man (with the simple drawings overlain on a white-washed page of Mein Kampf with the words bleeding through- which made me cry so freaking hard) and The Word Shaker (laid out as an ageless fable interspersed with cartoons).  At times it feels more like a collection of treasured objects than a book.

It's also interesting how the timeline is death's- not chronology's.  As he says at the beginning: "I would watch the places where we intersect, and marvel at what the girl saw and how she survived.  That is the best I can do- watch it fall into line with everything else I spectated during that time."  There are two standout moments in the beginning that don't occur until much later on in the story which serve the purpose of introducing the style more than anything else- letting you know from the beginning that this is Death's ship and you're just along for the ride.  There are glimpses of what's going on outside of Liesel's world, reminding you that this was both the holocaust and war at the same time as it was childhood for the main character. 

There were some jumps I never quite got over- letting us know that one of the greatest characters in the book was doomed to die about a hundred pages before he did, and then reminding us in fragile moments that that was coming.  That was rough, and it didn't make that death any easier to handle when it did finally come.  But for the most part it served the purpose- it drew me in, over and over again and kept me wanting to read.  The power of words: it's a theme.

In the end though, what will stick with me the most are the characters.  I collect characters like memories- they stick out in the timeline of my life and I remember them fondly as if they were witnesses to it.  And these characters are so devastatingly dear to me that I will house them in my heart forever.  Max with his hair like feathers and white-washed pages of Mein Kampf teaching our Liesel what words mean.  Rosa with her unforgettable terms of endearment and cardboard body, forever slumped over her husband's beloved accordion as she snores.  Rudy with his Jesse Owens dreams and talent for theft demonstrating what true friendship (and an endless yearning to be kissed) means.  Hans with his silver eyes, pallet of paints and priceless accordion proving that love is the strongest emotion of all.  And of course Liesel- the girl who's desire for knowledge was nursed and nurtured by this cast of characters, allowing her to blossom into an amazing story teller.  All of them- and all of those beautiful moments with them- will stay with me for as long as I have memory and I will love them.

This book was amazing.  One of my favorites.  And I can't be more grateful to have read it.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things- How is it July Already?!?


HUGE thanks to our hosts Lexa Cain, L.G. Keltner and Katie!
So a month ago, I got really excited about posting again and I formulated all these big ideas in my mind about stories and blog hops and everything else.  As evidenced by the fact that it has been more than a month since I've posted anything I completely and totally failed to bring any of those ideas to fruition.  Sigh.  It's a CONSTANT theme in my life- there simply aren't enough hours in the day.

But, I have been keeping busy...

Yoga-  So I told you all that I signed up to start a year long yoga teacher's training last time I wrote.  I officially started on June 14th.  It has surpassed all of wildest expectations for what it could be- and it did even in the first class.  I'd been looking for something for a while- informally for years, formally for the last year or so.  And I knew, in a general manner, what I was looking for.  And the search took me to some different places- none of which were really meeting my needs.  When I heard about this class it sounded like everything I was looking for.  Well, it was EXACTLY what I was looking for.

My mind is blown every time,  I feel fed after every class, full after every class.  And yet, true to the stories, I leave each time with more questions than I had when I walked in.  I am learning how to love myself.  I am learning how to be a woman.  I am learning how to see God in every second of every day- both the infinitesimally small and the universally large occurrences of everyday.  And yet, the paradox, I am more sure now that I know less than I ever did before.  Like I said- mind blowing.

I am aware that this is an incredibly important, life-altering, searching, seeking time in my life.  And I could not be more thrilled to be on this path.  Yeah.

Running-  I've still been sunning on a pretty regular basis and I'm gearing up for my second-ever half marathon next weekend.  I have plans to log in a full 13.1 tomorrow so that come next week when my brain starts telling me that I can't I'll have concrete, recent evidence to say 'NO!'.  (That's how it works for me- once my brain knows it's not in charge my body can go ahead and run.) 

I've fallen into a bit of a pattern which I think is good because it allows my mind to wander more- I do the same loop of Valley Forge Park and because I don't have to think about where I'm going I can focus on seeing, feeling, smelling= being.  I'm having a lot of Bhava moments (which we define as the moments in which you are most you, and thereby most in tune with the source) there and it's, again, feeding me.

Karate-  Not surprisingly, this transformational mood I'm in has re-inspired my karate practice.  I'm noticing so many links and themes and it seems like our master's own journey is taking him to similar places.  He started investigating more Chinese-influenced systems a year or so ago in hopes of finding the true source of movement for a lot of broken form systems and it's led him to transition into teaching more fluid movement.  Funnily enough, my home element is water.  So I'm seeing water- fluid, heavy, smooth movement- EVERYWHERE now.  And I'm teaching it more, and I'm seeking it more in my transitions and it's bringing up all the messages I'm getting from yoga so I'm having more of those mind-blowing moments.

We recently had our annual black belt test and for the first time I was put in a main role (along with the other third dans and masters) of running it.  And then I was put in charge of running a Friday night class all by myself.  (AAAAHHHH!)  I'm a complete novice and I feel it in every instruction I give.  But I'm trying to remind myself that that's exactly where I'm supposed to be- the awkward, messy, insecure starting point.  The same messages, in every area of my life.  Ain't it funny how truth works?

The area of my life that is NOT going well, and which is making me reach out more towards these things which feed me, is work.  That whole "not enough hours in the day" thing it hitting me in the face every single flipping day.  Not in the actual therapy- that's wonderful.  But the paperwork is KILLING me and I haven't figured out how to handle it other than working longer hours, coming in on the weekends- all these things I DON'T want to do.  (Which is why I'm going in today to do paperwork even though our office is closed.)  I don't have an answer for this glaring gap in the otherwise exciting, transitioning landscape of my life.  And although this isn't really an excuse for the lack of writing and reading that I got all excited to do earlier it is a reason for it.  So I'm not going to make any promises about visiting everyone or posting every Friday.  I will post when I can, comment as I can, and hope that I'm not being a bad blogger for it.

But for the moment I'm trying to focus on the progress- all those things I said above.  Because that's nothing to sneeze at.

Celebrate The Small Things Linky:


1.Lexa Cain2.Fiction and Film
3.Writing Off the Edge4.Kidbits
5.TheCyborgMom6.Thoughts and Ideas from Deanie Humphrys-Dunne
7.My Inner Geek8.Eclectic Alli
9.Kim Graff10.Intentional Insights with S. Kelley Harrell
11.Constantine12.My Miracle Life
13.Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams14.My Creatively Random Life
15.Jeff Chapman's Writing16.Shells Tales and Sails
17.Lara Lacombe18.TF Walsh
19.Caring for my Veteran20.Life, Yoga and Other Adventures
21.About myself, by myself22.Suzanne Furness
23.My Write Spot24.Elizabeth Seckman
25.Avalon26.Cherdo on the Flipside
27.Writing By Marilyn28.My Baffling Brain
29.Planet Kimberly30.Shah Wharton
31.Mere Joyce32.Just Get It Written
33.Tyrean's Writing Spot34.Kathleen S. Allen
35.Black Coffee and Cigarettes36.Victorian Scribbles
37.Dandilyonfluff38.Curious as a Cathy
39.Tanya Miranda40.Teresa Morse
41.Catherine Ensley42.God, Entertainment, & Annoying Things
43.Ann - A Friend of Jesus 201344.Precious Monsters
45.Carole Anne Carr46.Special Teaching At Pempi's Palace
47.Square Pegs48.Sandy's Space
49.The Beveled Edge50.Lisa Manifold
51.Lori Carlson52.Patricia's Place
53.Peace, Love, & Books