Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Life's a Peach

Aly's postcard from Georgia.. check out that early 90's vintage photo-look

A peachy-punch sunset

Peach roses... yum!

The peach tree (another one of Aly's postcards from Georgia!)
The first (and only) time I visited Georgia was in my sophomore year of highschool. My family and I went to Savannah for my childhood babysitter's wedding held in a renovated, old, maroon-painted barn. I'm not sure if it was because it coincided with the first time I fell in love or if the place is actually as magical as I remember it (it probably is) but one thing is for sure:  I left my heart in Georgia. Among the weeping live oaks and brick-red cobblestone streets, the warm and thick almost unbreathable June air, the excitement of having my first love send me cute text messages for the first time, the historic Squares and homes reminiscent of colonial America, the stately maples, oaks and white hickories that shade the Savannah River and the wild growing yellow jasmine and mountain laurel. Anytime I see a peach or the color peach or taste a peach or smell a peach I think of Savannah and that oh-so-succulent time in my life. New love. New sights. Summertime. Sixteen. I've said it before and I will say it again, some memories in life are sweet and sour all at once. Like a peach. I've heard the saying "life's a beach" but more likely, life is no vacation. Life is sometimes sweet and sometimes sour, sometimes mushy and ripe other times hard and puckeringly bitter. Or as the Zen Buddhist saying goes "10,000 sorrows, 10,000 joys." But from which will you source your own life?

(I also like to think that if life is a peach left to ripen, then life just gets better as we grow up.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Weekend Bits

Left to right, top to bottom:

~ Morning blueberry oatbran muffins (recipe and photos soon to come, here)
~ Pretty flowers and baby potted plants at Waterloo Gardens
~ Passionfruit-banana icecream from Parc
~ Blackbean and roasted corn burgers (recipe and photos soon to come, here)
~ Flaming birthday cakes for Christopher and Tori
~ Hurricane essentials: journal, Tolkien and The Power of Positive Thinking

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay

The dock at my Nana and Pop-pop's shore house.

Of course I am going to talk about the impending hurricane set to make its way on the East Coast. How could I not? I have never seen people so freaked out in my entire 23 years of life. Well most people - unless of course you are my brother. Who didn't even know there was a hurricane coming. Did I mention he is almost 21 years old? And in college? And is very intelligent? Yeah... I don't know either. Let's just call it "denial" and "minimisation" (hey, hey Freud!) Because this is the same guy who had a massive phobia of natural disasters as a kid. (I know he isn't reading this so I don't even need to apologize for the embaressment I might soon cause him.) One of my favorite stories of him is when he visited a colonial-era house for a school field trip in kindergarten. My mom was a chaperone so was thankfully a witness to preserve the story for all of history. When the tour guide asked if anyone had any questions (you know, about churning butter and the revolutionary war) my brother raised his little arm and said:

"Did they have floods back then?"

Actually, good question, bud. Did they? I mean I'm sure they did but it seems like Mother Nature has been particularly kind of pissed at us lately. But can you blame her? I think that Mother Nature is trying to tell us something and my guess is that it might have to do with one or maybe all of the following:

1. It's time to slow down.
2. It's time focus on what truly matters (*hint: it isn't external, tangible or on a computer screen.)
3. It's time to just be.
4. It's time to get in touch with ourselves, our families, our loved ones.
5. It's time for us to start respecting and appreciating Mother Nature a little more. I can picture Mother Nature looking a lot like Aretha Franklin and saying R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!

But in all seriousness I truly hope that Irene's, that is the name of this hurricane, powerful hurling energy goes UP into the solar system or someplace where it can get dried up by the sun and some meteor dust. I pray there is no devastation. I pray everything turns out OK for all of us. I especially pray that my Nana and Pop-pop's shore house will be safe and sound. The house is the most tangible manifestation of my Nana, who recently passed on, that my family has left. The house was her sanctuary. I truly believe that wherever my Nana is right now, she is probably making some negotiations with Irene about this one. She might even be sending swarms of angels to blanket the house and surround it like a big, warm hug.

The dock in the picture above is the dock at her house and it has provided me with over thousands of sun-soaked memories as a child. To this day, I have no fonder memories than the ones I made on that dock playing in the bay with my siblings and cousins - pretending I was a mermaid, drying off on the hot wood planks in the sun, cannon-balls, back-dives, diving contests, searching for clams in the muck at low-tide, putting on water-ballet shows and "commercials," watching the tide move in and out as the bulk-heads went from stubby to tall, watching the dock ramp move from horizontal to practically vertical, using kitchen tongs to pry the crabs off the bulkheads so that we could "play" with them (read: torture them), spending endless hours jumping into the water and climbing up the wooden ladder (and pulling down eachother's bathing suit bottoms as the person before you climbed up), swatting greenheads and yelling "greenie!" a hundred times a day, finding minnows, spotting the occasional snapping turtle, watching seagulls dive-bomb for fish and for the most breath-taking memory to date  - spotting a magnificent and mysterious long clear needlefish with strings of electric blue on its insides slithering in and out of the serene, deep green water.  The memories that dock has soaked into its wooden planks and barnacled onto its underbelly are the highlights of my life. I pray that dock and all the creatures (those with feet and no feet!) weather the storm.

Stay dry :) ...and for your listening pleasure,

Friday, August 26, 2011

Not Yourself You See

When you look     kool uoy nehW
into a mirror      rorrim a otni
it is not     ton si ti
yourself you see,    ˛ees uoy flesruoy
but a kind     dnik a tub
of apish error     rorre hsipa fo
posed in fearful     lufraef ni desop
symmetry    yrtemmys

~John Updike, "Mirror,"
Telephone Poles and Other Poems

*This is because.... sometimes, the inner critic likes to use the mirror against us. Don't let it win! Remember that when you feel ugly it is only a mirage. Remember that we are more than our physical selves. As Geneen Roth says "we are unrepeatable beings of light and space and water who need these physical vehicles to get around."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Chaos is a name for any order that produces confusion in our minds." - George Santayana

photo courtesy of one of my favorite websites, The Atlantic
In other words, chaos is really perfect order in disguise. Only we've got our ignorant-human-people goggles on so we can't see the master plan. We don't have the perspective yet. Maybe in 10 years. Maybe not. But the point is, from far away everything seems smaller. And when we have distance from our problems, our minds, our own little words, our own thoughts we realize how tiny they all are.

We also realize that a lot of little things can add up to one big thing. So choose your thoughts wisely. Choose them with care and remember that you are creating clusters of energy with each little thought. Also remember that nothing is ever as big or as devastating as it might seem.

Happy Thursday :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

“You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.” - Itzhak Perlman

pink and yellow rose bushes at Rittenhouse Square
Hello my innerpeachpies, I apologize for having been on hiatus. My mouth sores have gotten pretty bad - or "nasty" as my doctor so eloquently described. I've been on lots of magic mouth wash (children's benadryl + malox), painkillers and yogurt. Sounds delicious right? I also sound like I have a wad of cotton in my mouth when I talk, and when I smile I look slightly similar to a chipmunk - though not as cute as a chipmunk!

In the meantime while I've been doing as much sleeping as possible and have been trolling the blogosphere. I found some really neat stuff... (yup, I did just say "neat" right there)

Yummy recipe I can't wait to try

The coolest jewelry evaaa (check out the mustache necklace, my fave)

Cashmere affair (pleaaaase can I have them all?)

So, most random post ever? Oh well. Life is pretty random. And meaningful.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Managing Desperate Thoughts/Addictive Thinking

from Oprah's O Magazine, August 2011 issue
I don't know why they don't teach this stuff in schools. I really don't. Especially when, more and more, we see the youth culture today exhibiting signs of deep emotional need that is being covered up and "dealt with" through the dangerous avenues of binge drinking, sexual promiscuity, drug abuse and worst of all, suicide. But none of these ways of coping are health-ful or life-giving. They subtract. They take more away from you than you had in the beginning. They make things worse. They complicate matters. They reinflict old wounds and old patterns. In short, they are self-destructive and generate more pain.

We cannot deal with desperate thoughts this way. They will get worse. We also can't deal with desperate thoughts by "thinking" more. Desperate thoughts are exactly what the word sounds like they are "de-separate" - they seperate us from ourselves and from reality. They are not real. As soon as we have a desperate thought we are - for sure - no longer connected to ourselves. We are separated and splinched. We are bolting. We are no longer in the room, no longer in the here and now. We are in la-la-la land and it's a dangerous place to be. You. Do. Not. Want. To. Stay. Here. So what do you do?

1. Call or text someone you trust.

2. Name the feeling to your trusted friend. Whatever it is. For example, is it sadness, guilt, fear, loneliness, desperation, anger, shame, worry, anxiousness....? Is it nameless? (I used to have a recurring feeling and I never found the right words to describe it so I would always call it "hippopotamus grey feeling")

3. Describe the feeling and where it is located in your body. If the feeling had a color what would it be? Is it blue, green, red, orange, purple, yellow? Is it multi-colored? Speckled? Streaky? Is it round, soft, hard, jagged, furry, fuzzy, slimey, gooey, thick, watery? Is it in your heart, chest, tummy, abdomen, shoulders, stomach, legs, groin? Is it moving? Stationary? Stuck? Throbbing? Be creative and don't limit yourself to the words I just used.

4. Share the thoughts running through your head. Remember, we are only as sick as our secrets.

5. Do not be discouraged if your friend does not understand or is concerned. The point is you are telling someone else. You are sharing the thoughts and feelings with another being who is alive on this earth. You are sharing your story. This simple act of truth-telling and sharing brings us back to ourselves and to reality.

If you do not have someone to call, do this exercise in a journal or call a helpline. Also keep in mind that when in doubt, disengage the mind. Stop thinking. Be aware of your body, your in and out breath. Take note of the sensations in your body. Invite someone in before you spiral down.

"In all instances, you need to examine your addictive thinking. Virtually every spiritual tradition teaches that your higher self is the presence of God within you. When you know this power within yourself, you no longer think in terms of anything that you must have or do with reference to external needs. In Christianity, this inner knowing is referred to in the commandment that says "... for behold, the kingdom of God is within you". In Confucianism we are told, "What the undeveloped man seeks is outside. What the advanced man seeks is within himself." In Buddhism we are reminded, "If you think the Law is outside yourself you are embracing not the absolute Law but some inferior teaching." In Shintoism we are implored, "Do not search in distant skies for God. In man's own heart He is found." And finally, in Hinduism we are told, "God hides hidden in the hearts of all."  Within each and every one of us is a divine power that needs no substance or anything external to know bliss."- Wayne Dyer, via The Daily Love

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Because I am not this

ME as a SUPERHERO... i made it at The Hero Factory

I am on this

But I still sound like this (Brainy)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mushaboom Mondays

mushrooms in our neighbor's yard

cute mushroom family
Yes I realize today is Tuesday people (I haven't taken anymore Nyquil, thankyouverymuch) but I saw these mushrooms yesterday -- Monday -- and I liked the alliteration. And even though I am probably HIGHLY allergic to these wee little white fungi (and other things growing at this time which I have to thank for my recent bout of allergic attacks/congested head/swollen sore throat/mouth sores) I can't help but love them. I love them because they remind me of faraway worlds like the rolling, moist greens in Ireland where I believe small fairies and pixies use these mushrooms for little houses. I also imagine them being little springboard jumping pads for fairies like Crystal from Fern Gully (My . Favorite . Movie. Ever.) who live in lush rainforests like Hoh Rainforest in Washington state.

photo courtesy of

I also love them because even though I dislike not being able to swallow or speak (thanks mouth sores) or sleep at night or breath through both nostrils at the same time, I like that their blooming may or may not have caused me to get sick which has forced me to slow down. To slow down just enough to, no not smell the roses (over-rated), but take pictures of the little mushrooms in all their funny, Super-Mario-world-like glory. Sometimes I like getting sick because it reminds me to slow down, to rest, to take care of myself and to treat myself gently like I would treat a little child. Sometimes when life gets really hectic and crazy I do just the opposite of what I reallly need to do (rest) and instead I drink more caffeine, get less sleep, take on more projects and end up burning myself out. And then my body or the natural world remind me that HELLOoOoOoOOOoo I am not a superhero and that I need to rest and take care of myself because what good is any of the work I do if I don't have a healthy body to do it in? The answer: no good (unless of course I am Casper.)

By the way I have no idea what "mushaboom" means or even if it is a real word but it's a real word to Feist and frankly that's all that matters to me.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Letting Go of "Perfection"

picture of the orchid in my bathroom

First of all let me preface this by saying, I'm not sure I believe in perfection. What does the word mean anyway? Let's ask Webster, shall we?


Perfection : the quality or state of being perfect: as a : freedom from fault or defect : flawlessness b : maturity c : the quality or state of being saintly
a : an exemplification of supreme excellence b : an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence

Hmmm. Flawless? Freedom from fault or defect? Saintly?! Unsurpassable excellence?! Uh whoa sounds religious to me. Prelapsarian religious to be exact. 'Prelapsarian' is a cool term I throw around to look smart on the 'ole blog here. It's a term I learned in my sophomore year British Literature class when we read Milton's "Paradise Lost" which is a reeeaaaalllly long poem about Adam & Eve eating the forbidden fruits in Paradise and thus "falling" from God's grace and therefore becoming sinful human beings with free will and somehow creating the necessity of having Jesus come around just so that he could die for us... (and some Catholics think that other religions don't make sense?) Lapse = Fall. Pre = Before. So Prelapsarian means before the fall, or before that sinful, indulgent and untrustworhy feminine impulse of Eve led her to eat the fruit. So the entire basis of our creation story has to do with a woman eating something she shouldn't have eaten? Um, how can you not have food issues if you are raised Catholic?

I'm being funny. But also I'm not. The history of the Catholic Church is wrought with guilt, shame, punishment, self-flagellation, mass genocide (what's up Spanish Inquisition?) and has a pretty awful track record when it comes to claiming that all things sexual and sensual (related to any of the senses) are "sinful" and that the female body and the female must be controlled, suppressed and made to feel ashamed. The idol of the Church is the Virgin Mother Mary who concieved without sex. So basically the woman you are supposed to look up to didn't have sex? And the woman you are supposed to blame for having caused this whole debacle ate something sweet and delicious when she wasn't supposed to? Just let that sink in for a moment.

So Mary the Virgin was "perfect," and a prelapsarian Eve was "perfect." I don't know about you but "perfect" isn't sounding like a lot of fun to me right now - or even humanly possible. One could argue that the entire definition of perfection is a little skewed. Maybe the true definition of perfection is nature itself - perfectly imperfect. The way flowers die and regrow even after a city has been bombed. The way that animals intrinsically know that when they are hurt, they need to go to a quiet and safe place to rest and be alone. The way that the tides move in and out at their own rhythm and pace. The way the seasons work, the way things die so that other things can be reborn. Perfection, to me, is the natural harmony of things and it is embodied in the natural give and take the way that the natural world balances itself out without the force of man. (ACTUALLY, man is kind of out what kills the natural balance of nature and kills nature.)

Regardless of whether perfection truly exists (because maybe we are already perfect as is, right now without changing anything?) or not, I have always tried to force myself to be "perfect" - or better yet to be like the Virgin Mary, the Prelapsarian Eve or this generally strange homogenized mixture of what I think I am supposed to be based on TV, magazines and my peers. As a little girl I would tear my shoes off if the thread line on my socks didn't match up to my toes. I would rip my pony-tail out if there were any "frumps" (also known as "bumps" by normal people.) I needed to have the right color socks. I needed everything to be tight and suction-cupped to my body. Nowadays my obsession with perfection has to do with things like my hair looking right, having the right job, making a certain amount of money, making sure my body looks like everyone else's, making sure my clothes are trendy etc. etc. etc, ad nauseaum.


My pursuit for "perfection" has been in vain because life has a way of coming in, messing things up and usually confusing the hell out of me. So what's a girl to do? There is no other choice but to let go and allow things to flow as they naturally would. The way that water flows in a container and forms to the shape of whatever it is in, so too must we allow ourselves to be molded and shaped into the life, the body and the world we are given. Or, as my favorite quote says from the book The Bingo Palace by Louise Erdrich,

"Why fight the joke, why rush the moment? Who the hell knows how it all turns out?"

Sometimes we have to relinquish control in order to be able to fully take life in. Sometimes we just have to trust in something deeper than ourselves and our rational, logical minds. Sometimes we have to let ourselves eat the juicy sweet fruit and NOT beat ourselves up over it. Sometimes we just have to let ourselves be - imperfections and all - and trust that we will be loved and that, in the words of T.S. Eliot, "all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well."

P.S. - For more to read on letting go of perfection:

Being Perfect by Anna Quindlen (Commencement Speech for Mount Holyoke College, May 23, 1999)

P.P.S. - If this post didn't make sense or was scatter-brained, I blame it on the Nyquil I took at 3 am last night to soothe a terrible sore throat. *Note to self: Never take Nyquil 3 hours before you have to wake up - you will not wake up. You will sleep through 3 alarms, fall over while brushing your teeth, almost get hit by a car crossing the street and be out of it all day. But I'm going to post this post anyway because if I wait until it's perfect, it would never be finished. ;-)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

One Drop of Water Contains the Whole Ocean

picture I took of a water drop hanging on my plant in my bathroom

"Everything you take for granted is a blessing.
Everything you fear is a friend in disguise.
Everything you want is a part of you.
Everything you hate you hate about yourself.
Everything you own does not define you.
Everything you feel is the only Truth there is to know.
Everything you wish for is already on its way to you.
Everything you think creates your life.
Everything you seek for you will find.
Everything you resist will stick around.
Everything you let go of stays if it's supposed to.
Everything you need is right where you are.
Every time you bless another your bless yourself.
Every time you blame another you lose your power.
Every time you think you can, you can.
Every time you fall you must get up and try again.
Every time you cry you're one tear closer to joy.
Everytime you ask for forgiveness, all you have to do is forgive yourself.
Everyone you see is your reflection.
Everyone you know mirrors you.
Everyone wants to be happy.
Everyone wants to live in joy.
Everyone seeks a higher purpose.
Everyone breathes the same breath.
Everyone needs love to survive.
Everyone has a purpose to fulfill.
Everyone's the same as everyone else.
We just get caught up in labels, names, skin color and religion.
Everyone's the same as everyone else.
No one wants to feel the pain.
Everyone's the same as everyone else.
Everyone is dying for love to remain."

- Jackson Kiddard, author and polymath.

When There is Nothing Left to Burn, You Have to Set Yourself on Fire

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Handling Strong Emotions

Thich Nhat Hanh, photo courtesy of

Last night after a pretty intense meditation and yoga class I came home to eat peanut butter by the spoonful watch a video of a speech made by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. Since I friended Thich Nhat Hanh on facebook (yeah, me and the Buddhist monk are buds) I get regular updates about where he is speaking next, where he just spoke, what he spoke about and links to watch videos of his speeches. I say "speeches" but what he really does is talk in a calm voice and immediately draws you into (through a computer screen!) his calming, loving presence.

I was first introduced to Hanh (is it appropriate to refer to a monk by his last name?) in my East Asian philosophy class in college taught by our teacher who had gone to Japan and lived in a Zen Buddhist monastery for 12 years.  I tell you this man was the calmest, brightest and most un-ruffled human being I've ever met. I loved being around him because things just felt clearer. He taught us about Buddha and meditation and he had us read (among many other books)Thich Nhat Hanh's short book "The Heart of Understanding." Since reading that book and reading an interview between him and Oprah in O Magazine, I was instantly hooked on this man's words. I wanted to hear him speak and read his words every day. Naturally, I friended him on facebook. (Oh, modern technology.) So when I got a status update that he had given a speech on "Handling Strong Emotions" I clicked the link right away. If anyone needs some advice on how to handle strong emotions, it's me. My emotions are not like rain showers in tropical rainforests, where the light rain comes in and dribbles over the plants for food and nourishment and then is swiftly replaced by bright warm sunshine. No. My emotions have the size and fury of a hurricane, a tornado and a tsunami all in one . They come in and knock me off my feet, sweep me into churning waters right below the eye of the storm. I become whatever I am feeling. I become bowled over by anger, jealousy, fear, sadness, despair all at once in a matter of seconds and sometimes cannot find dry shores for an hour.

In his speech Thich Nhat Hanh describes the 8 steps of mindfulness in handling strong emotions. The first step is awareness of the in/out breath. Being aware of "breathing in" and being aware of "breathing out" is the first step because the breath is the bridge between the mind and the body. Focusing on the breath yokes together the mind and body.  Hanh encourages one to recite:

"Breathing in I know that I am breathing in.
Breathing out I know that I am breathing out.”

You can also put your hands on your belly over your belly-button and feel the belly rise with the in-breath and fall with the out-breath.

So step 1) awareness of the in/out breath, step 2) following the breath with the mind, step 3) awareness of the body, step 4) releasing tension in the body, step 5) generating joy, step 6) generating happiness, step 7) recognizing pain, step 8) embracing pain like a mama embraces her baby child who is crying. Hanh also says that the key to becoming a practitioner of mindfulness is to join a community of people who can support you when your thoughts/emotions become too big for you; he says that the strength, energy and solidarity of a community can help you through your weakest moments and hold you up.

If you don't know the difference between joy and happiness (I didn't) then watch this video. If you would like to feel peaceful and calm for an hour, then watch this video. AND, if you are anything like me and you like to be taught by a person rather than read on your own, you would greatly benefit from watching this video and learning Hanh teach you all 8 steps in depth using props/images. Yes, it is rather long (about an hour and 20 minutes) but I've spent that long crying, screaming, ranting, raving and thinking negatively and never considered that a waste of time. Trust me when I tell you this will be the best hour and 20 minutes you spend. You can skip to the 9:15 mark to get started. Go ahead, watch it! :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I Want This Hair

photo courtesy of
Okay, hair fairies? You got that? That is all. Oh and maybe Olivia Wilde's awesome ferocious fierceness as well too please. Thanksssssomuch.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Lonely Games Too

"I’m afraid that some times you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ‘cause you’ll play against you."
- Dr. Seuss, Oh! The Places You'll Go!

This weekend was spent down the shore with my family and extended family (Mariana!) doing fun stuff. There was swimming, running, long talks, beautiful sunsets, funny conversations with Pop-pop, and lots of corn, fish, peaches and spaghetti consumed (but not in that order thank god.)

There were games of Top Toss (I won the first two rounds!) and tanning competitions (clearly my dad won on that one) but there were also lonely games too. Even though they were NOT invited, my inner critic made a number of dramatic appearances over the course of the weekend. I've referenced my inner critic in a post before. Sometimes I call my inner critic Bellatrix as in Bellatrix Lestrange and sometimes she is a he and I call him something else, to which I will later dedicate an entire post. My friend extended family member, Mariana, was helpful in pointing out when my inner critic was running the show - telling me I shouldn't go out with her and my friends Saturday night because I didn't look good enough to be be seen- and she prompty reminded me, "your inner critic wasn't invited." I'm so glad Mariana was there to help me see when my inner critic was talking to me and when I was listening to the inner critic and following its ridiculous orders. She was a protective buffer between me and my inner critic. *Thank you, Mare.*

You see as Dr. Seuss says in his quote above, we all play lonely games against ourselves that we can never win. When we start sabotaging ourselves by listening to and believing our inner critics, we are playing a dangerous game against ourselves that we can never win. We can't win when we are playing against ourselves because conflict, competition and violence never lead to innerpeace (or innerpeach!) When we fight with ourselves, we will lose 100% of the time. It seems silly that  I would take a perfectly lovely weekend at the beach with my friends and family and turn it into something unbearable at points. But that is what happens when I start to follow the inner critic, when I listen to it berate me and tear me down, when I believe its insults and when I let it run the show. The inner critic is no fun. The inner critic wants to be miserable and wants me to be miserable. The inner critic loves to set me up for failure, to set me up against myself so that I can never win and so that I feel permanently trapped. Even though the inner critic ran the show for some parts of the weekend, the good news is that I realize it and that I realize how much fun I missed out on because I listened to the inner critic and not to Courtney. It turns out Courtney likes to be outside, to laugh and to love and connect with the people around her. She also really likes peaches (with yogurt!) and innerpeace innerpeach more than fighting with herself.

P.S. - There is a very big difference between healthy competition and unhealthy competition. For example, competing against Brian and his family in Top Toss (and busting on eachother in jest) is a form of healthy and fun competition. Comparing yourself to every single girl you see and feeling like you are fatter, uglier and less worthy than they are is an extremely unhealthy and dangerous form of competition. It is also an indicator - as the excellent Clarissa Pinkola Estes points out in her awesome post about jealousy - that one "is not casting one's nets beyond one's familiar small pond." Search for Clarissa Pinkola Estes on facebook and friend her to get her daily words of wisdom and guidance. And DEFINITELY read this post of hers:

Dear Brave Souls: Jealousy and Copyists are often Proportionate to Not Casting One's Nets Beyond One's Familiar Small Pond

by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes on Monday, August 1, 2011 at 12:55am
Beyond the Pond...

When there's not enough opportunity in a group's close-in environs, there's often way more than enough jealousy to go around. Dont submit to the latter. It will kill your creative life, make you a second-rate dreamer instead of an original do-er. Change environs. Dig to China if necessary.

In the world, opportunity for most all things is everywhere in the nearly 197 BILLION square miles of planet Earth, in a way opportunity is not available in the less than ten square miles many people, not live in, for we all live in various biospheres, but rather limit themselves to in thought and deed, at any given time.

In life there are not just ten opportunities per ten square miles of mind and heart. Rather, there are at least 196,939,900 opportunities in as many square miles. Multiply by 365. Think bigger. Broader. Deeper. Farther. Creative life needs broad vistas no matter how confined the body may be:  Do not stay in a ten square mile mindset when the entire universe of every and any possibility is yours. Whistle for your wolves and go.

with love,

"Beyond the Pond" endnote from La Pasionaria/ The Bright Angel manuscript, ©1982, 2011 C.P. Est├ęs, all rights reserved.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Meet Poley

Selenite, roll of toilet paper, Rose Quartz, Poley, Yoga Journal

When I get really weepy I indulge myself and have a good, long cry. I do this fairly often because it feels so good to cry sometimes. Usually when I am having one of these cries I like to have a few essentials nearby: a roll of toilet paper to sop up tears, some crystals, a book or magazine that contains words of wisdom, my comfy bed and, of course, Poley.

Most of the time when I am not crying to my mom, Poley is with me for these cries. Poley is the polar bear stuffed animal I got from my godfather when I was 2 years old. I have a picture of me holding Poley for the first time after unwrapping him from his Christmas box. It's one of my favorite pictures of me because I look positively in love. My eyes are all squinched up and I am squeezing the life out of him in the picture. Since that picture both Poley and I have grown up and got some life and love rubbed into us. His bright white fur has browned a bit and his little black leather nose has frayed after having been put to the grindstone a few too many times. The icecream I fed him and lipstick I put on him (even though I call him a "he" he's actually adrongynous and was always a good sport about the lipstick) have stained his little downturned stitched mouth. But his beady, purple-black eyes have remained as wise and as all-knowing as ever. Poley serves as a pillow when I need him (he is the perfect mixture of softness and buoyent strength,) a tissue when I am crying, and has endured countless squeezes, hugs, kisses and even neglect. There are times when I don't need Poley at all and he gets forgotten, wedged between my bed and the wall, collecting dust. But he is always awaiting me with open paws the next time I need him. When I cry, he listens and nods silently. Often I ask Poley questions that usually begin in "why" and he just looks back at me with a quiet knowing and a tinge of empathic sadness in his eyes. Sometimes I think Poley is the pet dog I never had as a kid. But the cool thing about Poley is that he doesn't poop, doesn't beg me to feed him all the time and he doesn't require my attention. Actually, Poley doesn't depend on me for anything. His sole function is to provide comfort to me. He is silently, softly always there - this white, furry and comfortable presence hanging in the background of everything.

"Tears are a river that takes you somewhere... Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground, carrying it downriver to someplace better." - Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lost Trousers, Erasers and Wild Geese

picture of Philadelphia taken with my iPhone using instagram

My walk from the train station to work in the morning is always an interesting experience. Sometimes I see homeless people gathering together to talk and brush eachother's hair in the grass. Sometimes I get honked at by cars passing by because I look like I am soliciting my body as I peel off layers of extra clothing that I had to put on to ride the Coldest Train in America. Other times I jam out to my Hannah Montana radio station on Pandora... wow, did I just admit that on the world wide web? Yep. Sometimes I find things like men's trousers dangling in the trees along the sidewalk... ? (Somewhere there is a man walking around without his trousers! Poor guy.) And other times I am stopped by images so gorgeous such as this one above that I have to smile to myself. I like how in this picture it sort of looks like an upside down world with the reflections of the buildings in the Schuylkill River. I also like how the green of the grass and the silvery grey of the water pop out against the industrial and bleak horizon, almost as if under the bridge there is a secret garden world full of bright colors and chirping birds and magical mirror waters.

I want to share this poem with you because I was having a pretty bad couple of days and reading this poem somehow smudged out all the icky feelings for a moment - like a giant eraser. (True story: I love the way erasers feel on my fingers!!!!!!!!!!)

Wild Geese 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

- Mary Oliver

Monday, August 1, 2011

Grasshoppers and New Moons

Me getting a picture of...

The Venerable Sir Grasshopper III of King of Prussia
Chances are, unless you're a stargazer like I am, you weren't aware that this past weekend was the start of a new moon. New moons are the start of a new lunar cycle and typically represent - you guessed it - powerful beginnings and brand new starts. Although the full moon has its own meaning and special characteristics (werewolves, higher Emergency Room hospital admittances) I've always been a fan of the new moon because for a few days the moon disappears from the sky to its dark recluse where it seems to recharge, regroup and reassess. To me it symbolizes the beginning stages of a creative project where the imaginative juices start flowing and you start to dream up ideas without ever actually creating anything tangible just yet. It is in the darkness where we are truly born again. Therefore, if ever you are in a time in your life of "darkness" try and turn it around and see it as a time of rebirth, renewal and an opportunity for potent creative growth.

On top of it being a new moon, on our way out of Crate and Barrel on Saturday Aly and I spotted the little green man I posted in the picture above - The Sir Venerable Grasshopper III of King of Prussia. I have no idea why but grasshoppers always seem so Stately and Noble to me. I think it's because they always look like they are wearing a green tuxedo with tail. I'm sure right now you are wondering how in god's name a new moon and spotting a grasshopper are related. But I promise they are related. (Although admittedly I am a poet, and I find meaning and relatedness in everything - it's what we do.)

According to animal medicine (a Shamanic belief that the natural world responds to our deepest desires by presenting to us an animal whose traits we most need to adopt at that time), the grasshopper is a symbol of leaping forward.

According to Ina Woolcott in her article, "Grasshopper, Locust Power Animal, Symbol of Leaping Forward,"

There are 10,000 or so species of grasshopper, they are cold blooded as all insects are and are more mobile when it is warmer. Each species has their own unique song.... The power of sound and song is part of grasshoppers medicine. It is an ancient method to use song to alter ones consciousness and communicate with animals and spirits. There are some native american songs that date back 20,000 years...

Grasshopper is the Chinese symbol of good luck and abundance. Anyone with this power animal has been given the ability to take chances - to act on a whim and jump right in. For them things may not progress step by step as they do for other people progress - but rather extremely fast. When taking that leap simply trust your own instincts on when to make the leaps. Listening to your inner voice and responding to it will lead you to positive outcomes. Don’t be afraid to make that leap, remembering all the while that Grasshopper’s only ever jump forwards and never backwards...

If the grasshopper-locust leaps into your life, then you are being asked to take a leap of faith, to do something without fear - this will generally be something that you have avoided doing and is often linked to a change in direction on a grander scale - be it a relationship, career or change in self. You will have the wisdom needed to get passed obstacles in an efficient manner....

Grasshoppers are usually peaceful, however in times of overcrowding or food shortages, they turn into the much feared locusts who in the blink of an eye can strip a farm or forest. They turn almost black so as to take in more sunlight which fuels their swarming by giving extra heat and energy. They do this until they find somewhere with enough food, enough of them die/are killed to control the population. Remember: the fruits of the earth are for all to enjoy and there is plenty for all if used in a sacred way. People sometimes forget this sacred balance and take more than needed - this may also be an indication of people taking from you. Do others claim too much of your time and energy? Do they try and make you take responsibility for their actions? Ask yourself these questions, remembering that the going only gets tough when we refuse change.

So I take a few things from this. 1. grasshoppers represent leaping forward into new possibilities (hello, new moon!) 2. they each sing their own unique song (we each have our own voice and story to tell) and 3. we can learn from their dark side that it's important not to hoard food or take to much but also on the flip-side of that it's important to not allow others to walk all over us and consume too much of us. I'd say the grasshopper and the new moon had a LOT of good things to teach me and maybe you as well?

P.S. in honor of the new moon I am including the song "Made in the Dark" By Hot Chip