Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflections and Predictions

As I was meditating this morning (a practice that, after years of saying "I should do that" I've finally gotten myself to start doing consistently) I was thinking about this blog post.  What I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it, how the hell to sum up such an astoundingly life-changing year for me.  I realized I couldn't possibly.  But then something else occurred to me: I don't have to.

Because it's not about ending.  Not really.  It's about the path itself.  It's about being in the thick of it and reveling in every step along the way.  One of those many things I've heard and even touted for years that is now finally truly taking hold in my understanding: it's not the destination but the journey that matters.  I am on the journey.  And it's amazing.

It's not that I've found God (though of course, that awe-inspiring realization is utterly soul-shaking in and of itself)- it's that I've finally developed a sustainable relationship with God.  It's not that I've found myself, even- it's that I've finally figured out how to honestly love myself.  It's everything; all things.  And it's going to go on for the rest of my life.

If I'm not making sense to you I apologize.  Actually, I don't.  I'm done apologizing.  I've been apologizing my whole damned life.  And, while we're on it, I've been criticizing myself my whole damned life.  I've been cynical and judgmental and dismissive my whole damned life.  And I'm done with it.  I'm done setting up barriers to keep everything out.  It's time to let it all in.

Not just God.  Not just love.  Not just understanding and passion and connection- but the whole wide universe.  All of it.  I'm letting it all in.  And I'm giving it a good, honest look- without judgement, without criticism, and certainly without dismissal.  I'm soaking it in, for real.

Needless to say, I'm a completely different person.  It's not that I'm unrecognizable- everything that's happened has led me here, after all.  But I am incredibly different.  And people have seen it.

My best friend who, despite being my cheerleader through so many of my greatest accomplishments has had to deal with quite a lot of negativity through the years, telling me how much better she likes me now that we're on the same wavelength about so many more things.  (Thank you, Kelly!)  My work wife who not only held the door open for me but fielded questions and freak-outs and endless "holy shit!' revelations along the way.  (Thank you, Jen!)  My friend who I haven't seen in a loooooong time but instantly remarked upon seeing me how much my energy has changed.  (Thank you, Jemma!)  All my yoga classmates who week after week have cheered and roared with excitement as I came out with things they've never heard me say before and express sentiments that only a short time ago would have been ridiculous to me.  (Thank you Olivia, Suzanne, Tracey, Gisette, Ericka, Jen, and Lauren!)  My yoga teacher who week after week has coaxed out and welcomed the new wilder, crazier, truer version of myself into the world.  (Thank you, Danielle!)  All the other amazing folks who listen and watch and reassure me that I am on exactly the right path.  (Thank you Susan, Phyllis, Nessa, John, and Mom!)  Countless others...

It has been a life changing year.  And I anticipate the coming year to be even more so.  Not in the large milestones way, though of course there will be some of those.  But in the small, daily instances of awareness: here.  Now.  Aware.  And grateful.    Welcome, 2016.  I am ready.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Book Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I'm not sure what it is about the mystique of circuses.  Maybe it's one of those things that is so deeply engraved in the landscape of our popular culture that we can't separate the stories and images from memory.  Whatever the cause, this book was familiar to me.  The setting, the characters, the scenes- all held some nostalgia even in the midst of some really horrifying events.  Too many movies set in the great depression, maybe.  Too many cultural references.

It's strange, of course, to have nostalgia for a time you've only studied in American history, for images you've only seen in movies.  But perhaps that's why I'm nostalgic- if I'd encountered any of these things in real life they probably would have been horrifying (not to mention that I'd be old enough not to remember having encountered any of it, anyway).  Rough men living day by day in harsh times, drunks slobbering and leering over scantily clad women, disabled and malformed people being stared at by frightened children, animals being beaten and tortured in horrific conditions.  None of these are happy things.  And yet there's that strange nostalgia- I have seen these things before.

The reason why is because Gruen does such a fantastic job of describing it.  The front cover includes a quote describing the book as "sensual" but that fails to cover it.  It's visceral.  The sounds, smells and physical sensations are described so exactly you feel it in your gut.  This book does a better job of that than anything I've read in a long time.

Which isn't to say that the characters aren't memorable on their own- because they certainly are.  But they're made far more real and alive because of the ways in which they react to this environment they're in.  Hell, we spend so much time inside Jacob's own body we damned near feel like we are him.  And that's a pretty impressive feat.

The plot was, in some ways, the most disappointing element of the whole story.  I'm not sure why, exactly, but boy meets girl just doesn't do it for me anymore.  Part of me wanted Marlena to end up being a bitch so Jacob could run off with Walter and the two of them could get into shenanigans of their own.  But alas, that's not what makes the big bucks and subsequently not where this book ended up.  But at least Rosie got her well deserved revenge in the end- one that I did not at all see coming from the prologue.  And in the very end, I suppose an old man running off to join the circus isn't a bad note, either.

Overall, very worth the read.  And I'm intrigued enough to see what else Sara Gruen has got up her sleeve.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Random Stream of Consciousness Entry (And Gratitude)

Today is Friday which for some us (the more organized variety) means Celebrating the Small Things.  I originally thought I would do the same but realized that this isn't really that kind of entry- that's just not where my head is.  This is a stream of consciousness kind-of entry.  A no holds-barred, explosion of neuroses, here's all the crazy stuff in my head at the moment kind-of entry.  And needless to say it's more for me than it is for anyone else (so no harm done if you feel like skipping it)- I just need to write.

I'm thinking a million things all at once, feeling a million impulses all at once, being pulled in a million different directions.  I want to write- novels, poems, epic tales of heroes winning their own private battles with themselves.  I want to sign up for NaNoWriMo next month and knock a beautiful, fully expressed story out of the park (as if it ever works out that way).  I want to finally write up at least twenty stories I've had in my head or in various stages of being written down but still desperately needing editing and post them all here.  I want to join a writing group and publish an anthology.  I want to submerse myself in the madness of creativity and surrender to everything that comes.

I want to finally get caught up at the damned office.  File all those papers, write up all those notes, finish the endless deluge of paperwork from every admission and discharge and supervision note.  I want to shut off my phone and my e-mail and just get it all done.  And I want to catch up on my freaking mandated marketing- phone calls and e-mails and invitations to link up at future networking events.  I want to get on management's ass about my training and getting it scheduled so I can prove how useful I am.  I want to return every phone call, every e-mail, every missed "oh I was supposed to.." there is.  And I want no time at all to pass during this magical process so I have time to do what I really want to do.

I want to breathe in the ecstasy of fall.  To forget about phones and television and traffic and simply exist.  In a deep forest where the sunlight barely penetrates the trees, in a thick pine grove where the scent is intoxicating, in a field where the wind whips through your hair and across the surface of your skin, in a pumpkin patch where the smell of dirt and growth and harvest is all you can think about.  I want to forget about reality and connect with the earth so I too can be pulled along in this amazing transition.

I want my soul to run free.  To burst forth from my body and touch every single living being on the planet.  True connection, organic ties, transcendence.  I want to leave behind thought and tasks and to-do lists and become one with the ether- the stuff that we cannot see or measure or understand using logical thought but which still exists everywhere, for infinity.  I want to forget every single little thing that keeps me a neurotic mess and just be light and free and whole.

I want to sleep.  I want to read.  I want to run.  I want to paint.  I want to pay all my bills and balance all my duties and still have time left over for crazy, unbridled creativity.  And everyday, in small and large ways, I feel like I'm failing.  I get small moments- this morning's yoga class where I forgot about everything for one second and just breathed.  That instance where you realize that you knocked a whole lot of things off your to-do list within a relatively small period of time because you got lost in the frenzy of work.  The quiet pauses where you're so immersed in something you forget about everything else that isn't that.  I do have those.  But not often enough, not long enough, not sustainable enough to calm this unquenchable thirst I have.  I'm scratching the surface when I want to drown.

I know that these feelings aren't necessarily unusual- but the work I'm doing in my yoga training is making everything boil over.  I'm like a volcano that has lain dormant for centuries finally erupting and I don't know when it's all going to cool down.  I know that this is part of the process, and I do trust the process.  But damned if I don't feel like I'm on the verge of completely losing my marbles.  It's wonderful and infuriating all at the same time.  And, as is so often the case, it's exactly where I'm supposed to be.

And that's what I'm grateful for today.

For More Organized thoughts check out the 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.Intentional Insights with S. Kelley Harrell10.Constantine
11.My Miracle Life12.Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams
13.My Creatively Random Life14.Shells Tales and Sails
15.Lara Lacombe16.TF Walsh
17.Caring for my Veteran18.Life, Yoga and Other Adventures
19.About myself, by myself20.Suzanne Furness
21.Elizabeth Seckman22.Avalon
23.Cherdo on the Flipside24.Writing By Marilyn
25.My Baffling Brain26.Planet Kimberly
27.Shah Wharton28.Mere Joyce
29.Victorian Scribbles30.Dandilyonfluff
31.Tanya Miranda32.God, Entertainment, & Annoying Things
33.Ann - A Friend of Jesus 201334.Special Teaching At Pempi's Palace
35.Square Pegs36.The Beveled Edge
37.Patricia's Place38.Desiree Yearning
39.Yvonne Van Dalen40.Anne Higa
41.My Antimatter Life42.Into the Imagination Vortex
43.Peace, Love & Books44.Bouquet of Books
45.Entertaining Interests46.Lightravellerkate

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Quiet Days or The Power of a Good Book

It's a quiet sort-of day, the kind built for blankets and books but so rarely spent that way.  Reality demands action: coffee and traffic and e-mailed responses.  Reality doesn't give a damn how wistful you are or just how much the sky reminds you of a foggy moor or a deserted ruin.  Reality just wants you to function like a responsible adult- that term that declares the death of all childhood wonder.

But today, just by virtue of the fact that reality can take tiny breaks during the weekend, there is quiet.  And there are blankets.  And books.  And a small, cinnamon-colored dog curled up on said blankets.  And a candle which smells of lavender and whose small, constant flame can take your mind to much darker, more dangerous places if you let it wander.

Nipping at the corners of thought are the irksome chores that never really get done for long enough to be called "finished".  Garbage to take out, showers to scrub, the general pick-up of endless items moved out place and needing to be restored to order.  But the words are more powerful and pull you into that soft lullaby where memory and fantasy dilute the vision of sharp, uncaring reality.  

You float away in it, wrapped in the comfort of paper pages under finger and firm canvas bound cardboard in hand.  You follow the long, meandering path of crafted thoughts and deeply felt imaginings.  You let the hazy warmth of the candle cocoon you inside the small room- away from details and tasks and effort.  And you thank god for the quiet.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things- Can you believe it's September already?!?

Thanks to our hosts Lexa Cain, L.G. Keltner and Katie!
It seems trite to even apologize for my long absence at this point as it's become the norm around here.  Suffice it to say that all the distractions I've spoken of before- yoga, work, etc are still at the fore front and thus I'm just not much of a blogger nowadays.  While I sometimes experience guilt thinking of all of you amazing folks out there who are posting all the time and the fact that I'm not visiting you regularly I have to own the fact that my mind simply isn't there nowadays.  We all have closeness and distance, periods of hyperactivity and lulls.  I'm in a lull so far as blogging goes but I know someday that will change.  Until then, a few small words from me to serve as an update and a wish that all of you are doing well and will forgive my absence when I do return to more activity.

Running-  I went for my first run since the accident this past Wednesday and I'm pretty confident that I am fully and officially healed.  It was just a mile around my neighborhood but it felt amazing and two days later I'm still pain free with no signs of swelling or residual issues.  Of course I'm already chomping at the bit to try to ramp up my distance again since there may still be a chance for me to do the October half marathon I signed up for earlier in the year but I've promised way too many people to take it slow to not go one mile at a time.  Either way, I am so incredibly grateful to be well again and to anyone who sent prayers/healing thoughts and positive energy my way I am eternally grateful to you!

Yoga-  It's sort of hard for me to express in words how life-altering this training is for me.  A lot of the concepts I'm studying and attempting to implement on a daily basis are ineffable.  Suffice it to say that I'm thinking differently.  I'm feeling differently.  I'm reacting differently.  I'm seeing things differently.  My entire world view, concept of myself, understanding of life, the universe and everything is changing.  And it is awe-inspiringly wonderful.  At some point I will write- probably quite a lot- about this for anyone who is interested.  For now, just know that this is where my energy is (which is why it's not here) and that that is a really, really good thing.

Thanks for stopping by, reading, and being the awesome folks you all are!
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

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

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

Friday, May 29, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things- The Triumphant Return!

HUGE thanks to our hosts Lexa Cain, L.G. Keltner and Katie!

Oh my goodness!  So much is going on, I barely know where to start!  First off, I'm sorry to anyone who enjoys hearing from me from having been so absent for so long.  A LOT has been going on outside of the blog-o-sphere and while it's all good it will be made even better by me talking about it here and hearing from other awesome folks so I'm going to make a concerted effort to get on here more often to share the love with you all.

Now, the celebrations!

1)  I'm going to be a presenter at a conference this fall!  A couple of months ago we got an e-mail from corporate inviting us to submit a proposal to this organization for inclusion in a professional conference this fall.  I think I may have been the only person in the whole company who actually took the time to draft a proposal but I was super psyched about it.  Several weeks passed and I'd kind-of given up hope.  Then, last Monday, I got the e-mail: my proposal was accepted!  

In October I will be giving a presentation to folks in my field on the topic of co-occurring disorders.  I've never been a professional presenter before even though I've been to a ton of these and to say I'm thrilled about it would be a massive understatement.  Needless to say, I've got a TON of work to do before October but that doesn't remove my nearly head-asploding excitement about this.  Yay!

2)  I signed up for a year-long training to become a certified yoga teacher!  I've been looking for something for a while to help me get in touch with my spiritual side and while I've always been attracted to the traditions of meditation and mindfulness I haven't engaged in much formal training.  Well, a friend of mine is taking this training and she said it's changing her life so I contacted the instructor and got some more info and it sounded like EXACTLY what I've been searching for.  So I signed up, made my deposit and am fully registered to start in a couple of weeks.  I anticipate this being nothing short of transformational for me and I'm so eager to get started I can barely contain myself- it's gonna be one crazy, wonderful journey!

3)  Still running!  I've been doing this all along but race season started again in earnest a few months ago so I've been doing tons of 5Ks, a 5 miler, my first-ever 10-miler and I signed up to do my 2nd ever half marathon in July (which happens to be on the first anniversary of my first race)!  I'm thrilled that running has become and remains such an important part of my life and I look forward to all that will come from this.

Big stuff in the life of Bev, and excited to hear what's going on with all of you!
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.Queendsheena10.Kim Graff
11.Intentional Insights with S. Kelley Harrell12.Constantine
13.Viklit14.My Miracle Life
15.Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams16.My Creatively Random Life
17.Jeff Chapman's Writing18.Shells Tales and Sails
19.Lara Lacombe20.TF Walsh
21.Caring for my Veteran22.dcrelief
23.Life, Yoga and Other Adventures24.The Unwavering Part of Me
25.About myself, by myself26.Suzanne Furness
27.My Write Spot28.Elizabeth Seckman
29.Avalon30.Cherdo on the Flipside
31.Writing By Marilyn32.My Baffling Brain
33.Planet Kimberly34.Shah Wharton
35.Mere Joyce36.Just Get It Written
37.Tyrean's Writing Spot38.Kathleen S. Allen
39.Black Coffee and Cigarettes40.Stephen tremp
41.Linda Kay42.Victorian Scribbles
43.Alexia Chamberlynn44.Dandilyonfluff
45.Curious as a Cathy46.Tanya Miranda
47.Teresa Morse48.Catherine Ensley
49.God, Entertainment, & Annoying Things50.Ann - A Friend of Jesus 2013
51.These Are My Monkeys52.Precious Monsters
53.Its a Snap54.Carole Anne Carr
55.Special Teaching At Pempi's Palace56.Square Pegs
57.Sandy's Space58.The Beveled Edge
59.Lisa Manifold

Monday, May 18, 2015

It's the Blood, Boobs and Carnage Blogfest!

Hosted by our own Ninja Captain Alex and the amazing Heather Gardner!

I can't think of anything that better exemplifies this theme than my absolute favorite show ever: Game of Thrones.
Image result for game of thrones 
It's the best thing on television

(Notice: If you haven't watched through at least up to Season 4 then don't read on.  We're talking about death so needless to say this references a lot of characters who die.)
 This show has it all!  Let's start with the blood...
I can't think of a single episode where at least one person doesn't die in a relatively bloody and spectacular way.  Whether it's beheading, flaying, skull-crushing or just a good old-fashioned stabbing there's so much blood on the set of this show you'd think they'd run out of the stuff.  But, of course, you'd be wrong.  With an author who loves killing off characters providing plenty of material to go off of we'll be seeing lots of red for a long time to come on this show.

Game Of Thrones Boobcounter Season 1 - 4
I think that graphic sums up it better than I ever could.  Courtesy of  

And, of course- Carnage!
With the tag line "Valar Morghulis" (Translation: All Men Must Die) you know the show is gonna rack up the body count.  From Dothraki feuding to Red Weddings to the Battle of the Blackwater to the Attack on Castle Black this show kills off people in such large numbers it's hard to keep count.  But of course, someone did.
Even though a bit of my soul dies every time another beloved character gets mutilated in front of my eyes I keep coming back for more- just like the other 8 million viewers out there who, like me, will be glued to their TV sets every Sunday night for as long as this amazing show remains on the air.  Blood, boobs and carnage it's got a  plenty- but it's also the best thing on TV.

Don't forget to stop by all the other blogs naming their favorites today!  (I get the feeling this show will be a favorite.)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Book Review: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

I had such incredibly high hopes for this book, which I suppose was a bad idea since it set me up perfectly to be so disappointed. The first chapter is an exemplary education in the meaning of the word atmospheric and sets the stage for a story much bigger than this ended up being. But, because the writing itself is so skillfully done it's important to separate that from the plot, so let's do that.
The quality of the writing rivals some of the best authors I've ever read. Du Maurier is so adept at the nuances of stage-setting that it's possible for the reader themselves to start having dreams about Manderley. From the descriptions of the house to the servants to the ever tangible ghost of the title character it's impossible not to get chills sometimes when reading these sentences. If you wanted to learn how to build a setting using poetic prose you could do a heck of a lot worse. It almost has a "Fall of the House of Usher" feel to it in how large the house itself looms.
But perhaps that's part of the downfall of the story- the house eclipses the characters themselves. I believe, for example, that one is supposed to like or at least root for Maxim. I hated him. HATED him. I couldn't find one redeeming characteristic the whole damned book. And the narrator herself is so wimpy and wilting that's it's easy to not really care what happens to her- and you can't have genuine fear if you don't care what happens to the characters.
I tried to remind myself that it's a different time period- women didn't have a whole heck of a lot of options back then. But I often found myself thinking that she would have been much better off if she had stuck with Mrs. Van Hopper- who, coincidentally, was way more entertaining than either of the main characters.
It didn't help that once the narrator went to Manderley nothing happened for the first 200 pages that she was there. I get that thrillers are supposed to have a slow build but this is ridiculous. And when things finally do start to happen the reading goes much quicker- but it's not a rewarding end.
At the finish I find myself glad to have read this book for the writing far more than for the story. I've heard that the movie is actually superior simply the genre allows for the slow build without the drag you feel in reading and that the charters are larger due to being well-acted. I haven't seen the movie but I'm planning to, and given everything I've heard about it I wouldn't be surprised if it's one of a very small number of cases where the film outranks the book.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Z is for Zeal

 Scenes from an American Diner: A Story in 26 Parts
All of us have had our lives touched in some way by the disease of addiction.  Be it a loved one, friend, family member or even ourselves no one is immune to the impact of this devastating illness.  This story is dedicated to all of those people, especially the ones who have found recovery through the 12 step fellowship.

Ted gripped the edge of the seat, literally white-knucking it.  He reminded himself to play the tape all the way through and remember the self hatred and sickness and disgust that would inevitably follow the tumble back down the rabbit hole.  But his body betrayed him.  His stomach rumbled audibly with an all-too-familiar thirst.  His taste buds watered so strongly that saliva dripped from the corner of his mouth.  And his had swam with the heady scent of that grainey brew.  It was the worst craving he could remember and it was agonizing.

But they say that no door ever closes without a window opening and for the second time that day, god's timing was miraculous.  No sooner had the calming, enticing thought entered his mind than Stew entered his sight- coming in through the same door that Cole had walked through not moments before.  

He made his way over to the booth, sat down across from him and said "It went that well, huh?"

Ted didn't look at him, but kept his hands glued to the seat.  "I want a drink."

"I know," Stew said simply.

"That really hurt," Ted said.

"I know," he said again.  "Good news is, though- that's the worst of it.  It gets easier from here."

"How so?" Ted mustered.

"First meeting is always the hardest, second one's easier, by the third he might actually start to tolerate you."

"What the hell makes you assume there's ever going to be another meeting?"

"He wouldn't have come otherwise," Stew said.

This made Ted look up and stare at his friend sideways.  "That makes no sense at all.  The kid comes in here, tells me he hates me, that nothing I can ever do can make up for the fact that I wasn't a father to him, and storms off.  Does that sound like the start of a joyful reconciliation to you?"

"Did he tell you never to call him again?" Stew asked.

"What?  No, he-"

"And did he tell you he would never speak to you again?"

"He said I haven't earned the right to be his father," Ted said, his tone as acrid as he could replicate.

"Ah-hah," Stew said, as if it proved a point.

"What the hell are you ah-hah-ing about?"

"That means you can earn the right- it's an opening," Stew said, and now he was smiling. 

Ted just stared at him in disbelief, astounded at his complete and utter failure to understand the situation.  The sudden buzz from his phone in his pocket startled him, jolting him upright.

"It's him," Stew said, folding his arms in confidence.

"You are truly delusional- it's Eric or Mike making sure I'm not standing on a bridge," Ted said as he fumbled in his pocket.  He unlocked the screen and then froze.

The top of the screen had the word Cole in deceptively simple type, as if it were commonplace and the white space of the empty conversation was filled by a single line of text in green: "Congratulations on your coin, btw."

Ted stared at it as if at any moment the screen would blink and be replaced by something real, something that could actually exist.

"It is him, isn't it?" Stew was smiling now.

 "Yuh- I" Ted stammered, unable to believe what he was seeing.

Stew snatched the phone out of his hand and read the message, then smiled and placed the phone back in Ted's frozen palm.  "Like I said, second meeting will be easier."

It took a while, but Ted seemed to return to himself.  "I'm so confused- what just happened?"

"You did what you had to do- you pursued redemption with zeal.  You keep at it, you'll get it.  That's how it works.  All those promises?  They're not lies."

Ted thumbed the big book on the bench next to him, flipping the pages with his finger.  He noticed that sick feeling in his stomach was gone, replaced by an almost overwhelming desire for pancakes.

"I'm hungry," he said.

Stew waved to his favorite waitress who'd been hanging back out of an innate sense that the situation required as much.

"Hey sweetie," she said, and smiled a big toothy, grin.  "What'll ya have?"

"I'll take a waffle on this lovely Sunday afternoon and I'm guessing my friend here'll have some pancakes," he asked with an eyebrow raise at Ted.

Ted nodded with a growing smile and observed the flirtatious wink Alice gave Stew in reply before she walked back to the kitchen, swaying her hips as she went.

"That's it- what the hell is going on here?" Ted asked, pointing an accusatory finger at Stew.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," he said, doing a poor job of hiding his smile.

"Bullshit- you're dating!" Ted accused.

"Those promises aren't lies," Stew said.  "You're starting to see that now."

Ted looked at him with a grin spreading from ear to ear and nodded.

If you're interested in the promises of the program please go here- it's amazing when you see this stuff in action.  Thank you to everyone who read this story, any part of it.  It's been a hell of a journey for me and I am grateful to everyone who shared in it.