Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Prince Has Kissed the Blog

The prince has kissed the blog and awakened her from her seven year sleep. Suddenly there is something to say.

Wake up world, then slow down.

This pandemic has forced us to stop dead in our tracks and listen, think, go within, and dig deep. 16 days in captivity now but being a bit of a recluse who is fueled by creativity which I never seem to have enough time for ... I don't mind this shelter in place. Mike and I have promised our pleading daughter to stay home and take every possible precaution. So we are doing our best to keep that promise and stay well.

From my bubble I've seen incredible silver linings, glove clad people helping others ... sharing food and supplies and leaving fresh eggs, homemade bread, and veggies from ones garden on doorsteps. Kind people are running errands for the elderly or those unable to. Finally families gather around dinner tables again, heads bowed in prayer, I like to think. They set up the card tables and huddle over jig saw puzzles, curl up and read books ... ultimately sick of being held captive by our TVs and devices stuffing our heads with fear and panic. Quiet moments bring insight. Children stay inside to help with baking, to learn to sew, to make potholders from loops and looms. Paintings get painted, poems get written, scarves are knitted, texts and email make way for something meaningful, the handwritten letter; that dying, elegant form of correspondence. What a beautiful gift to find a handwritten letter in one's mailbox. Dogs look at us adoringly, rest a paw on our knee and beseech us with devoted eyes, telling us to trust, that it will be alright.

It's said that times like these bring out the best in people and the worst in people. I've only seen the best, for the most part. Humankindness at it's finest. I find what I've always believed to be true ... that beauty is born in the face of adversity.

Something as sweet and beautiful as this fresh egg, which a friend asked a neighbor for in the middle of her baking, then opened the door to find it there.

Or our friends and neighbors who, finding the bread shelves bare in the markets, have been the grateful recipients of my husband's beautiful homemade sour dough bread.

Yet how can I even begin to point out the silver linings born from this catastrophic and fearful time without appearing to minimize or seemingly overlook the suffering and deaths that so many have succumbed to with this coronavirus? It has stolen lives and left a trail of broken hearts in it's wake. And there will be more deaths, more hearts wrenched and aching beyond repair.    

What shall we do, those of us who survive? God has put us on a big Time Out now, this shelter in place. Or the Universe, or The Greater Force or whatever you choose to call that which is bigger than us and guides us. Let's just call him/her/it Fred, for the sake of discussion. Fred has a captive audience now, having sent us all to our rooms for the big Time Out. You go to your room and think about it, World.

So how do we change and evolve? Because after every catroscopic, horrific event that we have faced in our lifetimes, we have circled the wagons and come together to show Fred that we are human beings filled with compassion, love, and kindness. After the Oklahoma City bombing, 911 for which there are no words, the heinous slaughter of small children as they sat in their classrooms at Sandy Hook.... the list of atrocities, which is unbearably long, brings out the best in us as we respond to the call. We dig deep and Fred is happy. We pay it forward, we build monuments to remember those who's lives have been sacrificed so that we might evolve as a human race, we give our hearts to strangers who need us, we make promises to Fred ... lots of promises. This horror we have lived through while others have not, has changed us forever, and we have the scars to prove it.

This is the tricky part.

Sooner or later, we return to our fast paced lives. We are racing through airports. We are sitting in traffic, late for appointments, hurling expletives. Our kids eat chicken Mc Nuggets in the car for dinner as we ferry them from school to dance class to soccer practice and back home for two+ hours of homework.

We forget to talk to Fred, to ask him to continue to guide us. We forget that we were supposed to evolve as human beings after the last big Time Out, and that what we learned was supposed to stick. We are the ones who survive with eyes wide open and hearts not broken so that we might see what needs repairing. Pretty sure that Fred doesn't shine the light into the dark corners of our rooms, only to show us how to be kind, compassionate human beings temporarily ... until the next atrocity and then the next big Time Out. And repeat and repeat.

As we shelter in place now, let's not let our hearts shelter in place. Let our hearts run wild without precautions, seeking Fred, who guides humankind to evolve and become enlightened, and do what we are meant to do on this planet.

So that beauty is born in the face of adversity, and lives on and on.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Held by the Sea

Last week while on vacation with family and friends, I stood in the wet sand on a beach in Costa Rica and looked out to the horizon, where the ocean meets the sky at a magical point of infinity. The warm water swirled at my ankles as the tide washed in and out. This Pacific Ocean is an old friend I have missed terribly.

The Pacific and I parted ways 17 years ago when we moved away from my native California to Austin, Texas. I've been back to visit the Pacific many times since, of course, but I feel land-locked in Texas, and torn away from something so meaningful to me, that endless and magnificent sea. As a kid I lived in Hermosa Beach where I swam in the ocean nearly every day, bobbing in the waves on my Dad's back when I was very young, then body surfing those waves as I got older. The ocean connected me to the world, cradled me, calmed me. When I swam in the ocean I was swallowed up in the planet, folded in, embraced by it. It was always that way for me when I was in the sea ... it touched me and soothed me like a cool hand on feverish skin.
My family left Hermosa Beach when I was 15 years old and we moved to the Bay Area. I remember the day of my last swim at the beach. The car was packed and we were to leave for Oakland the following morning. That last afternoon I swam way out and bobbed and floated over the rolling waves, then literally said goodbye to my ocean.

"I love you," my tender, young self said out loud. "Thank you for giving me so much. I'll miss you."

Yet last week as I stood there ankle deep on that beach in Costa Rica, the years and the distance to my youth on the shores of Hermosa Beach fell away. This was the same ocean in a different country, the same waters that lapped at my feet, the same Pacific I loved, the same old friend. So much time had passed since I swam in the Pacific that last day in Hermosa Beach. But now the 50 years swam together to form what had become my precious life. The ocean was always there, a constant. Just feeling the water on my skin, or even just looking out to sea, I felt my powerful place in the world.
So this rather mature beach girl waded further out, waist deep. The small breakers crashed against me. Further still and up to my chest, nicely shaped waves were peaking and breaking. I hopped towards a big one and went under it just before it broke. Then that old familiar spring off the bottom and break through to the surface, feeling like a dolphin ... and into the calm on the other side. It was like coming up into another world ...  remote, quiet, weightless. Then bobbing and bobbing, and watching for the next waves to swell and roll in, just floating and being held by the sea.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Speechless but not powerless

It's been four months since I posted here. For some reason I haven't known what to say. Somewhat at a loss for words. And then the Sandy Hook tragedy occurred a week ago today and I really didn't know what to say. But now I do.


Dear World,

It's really not complicated or difficult.
Lead with love and not with hate.

If you have trouble with the concept of God or the Universe or a Divine Intelligence, just think of it in terms of science. Love, kindness and positive thoughts are simply energy which materialize into real things. If we allow love and kindness to swirl around this planet instead of hate and violence, we will come to live in peace. If not, we will probably eventually destroy ourselves.

Positive energy is circuitous. Negative energy is circuitous. Which would you like to see build momentum?

That's what I thought. Thank you, World.

Peace and love,    Michelle


Here's a brilliant way to get started with the kindness swirling. Not my brilliant idea, but Ann Curry's, which you simply MUST know about if you don't already. Understanding that so many of us feel powerless over the devastating loss of the precious Sandy Hook victims, Ann took to Twitter and suggested that we all do 20 random acts of kindness to honor each of the children. Someone suggested 26 acts to include the lost adults and the 26 Acts Movement was launched. Here's the article describing it ... and it also gives wonderful examples of acts that others have already done.

Twitter and Facebook are burning up with people who have embraced this beautiful idea, but of course you don't need to use either to participate. Just jump in with Act #1. And your acts of kindness don't have to be big productions. Put money in someone's parking meter, tape a dollar to a vending machine with a note that says it's for the next person to use. Buy gift cards and distribute them randomly or pay for someone's tank of gas. Yesterday I slipped some cash to the post office clerk and asked her to apply it to the charges of the frazzled-looking lady behind me who was wrestling with three packages. It is so fun!

But most important, the recipient is moved and is likely to pay it forward. And forward and forward and forward we go. What better way to honor the Sandy Hook victims than by spreading love and kindness throughout the world? Isn't this what they want? Isn't this how we learn from atrocities?? We are living in a pivotal time, a time that calls for a tremendous shift in the world. Why were each of us selected to be here, living here, on this planet at this time rather than some other time? I believe we're here to be on a collective team which will begin to change a world that has lost it's way. You are the one you've been waiting for. Go.

Sending prayers for peace, health, happiness and a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!


Monday, August 13, 2012

Jolly good!

Another fabulous gift landed at my feet a few weeks ago.
My bestie of 50 years, Marilyn, rings me up and says, "Pack yore steamer trunk, old gell ... we're going on holiday!"
And I say, "Waaaat you, cheeky old gell, is this bosh you say?"
"No bosh," she says, "we're off to London on the 18th of August!"
"Smashing!" I say!
"Brilliant!" she says!
Ohhh yes ... spot on! We're off to London for two nights, then we board the Queen Mary 2 for a seven night transatlantic crossing to New York. One night in NY where we'll have dinner with my beautiful daughter, then home. What could possibly be more jolly good than that!

You see, dear Marilyn has worked in the travel biz her entire life and is offered these smashing deals on brilliant trips from time to time. I am beyond thrilled when she occasionally pulls one out of her carpet bag and shares it with me. Like the Un. Bee. Leave. A. Bull. Mediterranean cruise we went on last year. There aren't enough jolly goods or better yet, bravissimos! to describe that one.

This time she's also pulled an amazing hotel deal out of her carpet bag, for Rubens at the Palace, which is apparently right by Buckingham Palace where we will actually watch the changing of The Guard.
And Marilyn really wants to ride the London Eye while we're there, the famous Ferris wheel. At first I told her she'd have to go it alone because no-can-do Ferris wheels. But then I decided that I'll suck it up and go  because you're in an enclosed capsule, and not those leg-dangling, life-threatening, rickety chairs. And the view of London from up there is supposed to be brilliant, ol' chap!
The next day we'll have the entire day to kick around London ... to shop, sight see and eat ... er, I dunno, mutton? Bangers and mash? Yorkshire pudding? Whatever.

But I'd love to go here:
And see this:
And go here:
 And see charming places like this:
And then the next day we'll board the QM2 and do lots of this. And SO much more!
So needless to say, I'm very excited about this trip and am especially grateful to have the opportunity to go with my BFF. Because let's face it ... this is Bucket List stuff. But I'm not telling you about this trip to be all smug and la-dee-da braggy. I'm telling you this because I want you to know that when you expect great things to happen in your life, great things happen in your life. If you decide that you will NOT settle for mediocrity, that only the most fabulous and smashing and joyful things will come your way (and you truly, truly believe they will ... that's key!) ... guess what? Pretty sure they will. Cuz that's just how the Universe rolls.

IF, on the other hand, you think your life is in a rut or a downward spiral or just plain sucks, and that you probably are not ever going to have the fabulous things in your life that you see other people get ... it's super likely that you will just never get the fabulous things in your life that you see other people get. That's it. It's really not complicated. That's just how the Universe rolls.

I feel so lucky to have grasped this concept years ago, this power of belief ... and to have come to truly understand it and live it. I, once a fairly curmudgeon-y, complaining and negative person, am now the promoter of optimism and dreams. Because once you KNOW that it will, all that joy and abundance begins to march in your direction. It comes to find you because you KNOW it will.

And of course, gratitude is everything. The more grateful you are for what you have, the more you will have to be grateful for. We've all heard this so many times, but do we all live it?

So pack your steamer trunk too. Throw the rubbish overboard and re-pack it with the finery of your dreams.

Until my return .......


(I mean, would it kill the Queen to crack a smile? Just once??)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A chair is just a chair ....

The song says, "a chair is just a chair, even when there's no one sitting there."
But I don't agree.

A chair can make a difference in your life. A chair can be life-changing. "Oh, come onnnnnnnn!" you say.

Well, what I mean is, a chair can invite you to read or knit or just sit and think in the quiet. It can beckon you to sit and scribble notes about an essay or pour thoughts into a journal. A chair might remind you it's time to curl up for Madmen or fantasize over apartments on Selling New York. And when it's 106 degrees outside and you've been out there watering the yard, a chair might remind you that you better take a load off and drink a glass of ice water before you end up with heat stroke.

A chair can invite you to sit and work out problems. (Preferably while knitting, the best meditative passtime ever.) Important decisions might be made or great ideas may come to you while sitting quietly in a chair, like the premise for a best-selling novel! You can curl up in your chair during those Sunday morning phone calls with the out-of-state relatives and friends, just sipping coffee and catching up. A chair can comfort you and offer you peace and solitude.
But the chair has to be perfect for you. It has to suit you and the things that you will do in it. The pitch of the chair has to be just right for you ... comfortable yet good for your back.  Even the style and the fabric must speak to you.  And it must be your chair in your nook, and no one else's.

A couple of weeks ago I found my chair on sale at World Market. I'd been looking for one for awhile now, for a little spot in my workshop. Not that I have much room in here for a comfy chair, but it seemed to suit the space perfectly ... not too big, not too small ... kind of a Mama Bear's size chair, and very comfortable. So I brought it home and tucked it into a little nook between stacks of fabrics and a bank of file drawers, in front of the TV, near my computer and facing a nice big window. With my knitting basket at my feet, (that dark thing on the chair is a shawl I'm knitting, not a old cat or a yule log or a massive ink stain) and a little stool to one side for my morning coffee, I settled in.
(See? Shawl, not yule log.)

My chair meets all of the above requirements. It brings me comfort and contentment, peace and meditative moments .... if only for a short while each day. Sometimes that's all you need.
And someone else is happy that I've parked this chair here. My miniature dachshund Rosemary, whose massive bed conveniently resides by the file drawers, is overjoyed that I've joined her little world. Just hanging out with mommy now. World complete.

So I put on some Neil Young/Harvest, sit down and knit a couple of rows, and look down to see Rosemary's sweet little face staring up at me adoringly.

From where I sit, life is good. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pura vida!

One month ago, when my husband and I returned from our lovely vacation in Costa Rica, I fully intended to blog about that vacay vibe we all vow to hang onto when it's over. You know ... that mellow and relaxed free spirit you become when you've had a good dose of beach time, of books, mojitos, and sarongs, of other people cooking delicious meals for you and serving them poolside, and of taking your cues from the laid-back locals whose mantra is "pura vida," .... a phrase which embodies well being, harmony and positivity .... basically translating to "everything's cool, bro."

Pretty much like this ....
 ... and this,
... and this,
 ... and this:
You arrive in Costa Rica looking like a stuffed shirt with a fresh pedicure. Your hair is flat-iron smooth and you've just had your roots done. Your make-up is smart and proper, and your long umbre scarf is swagged artfully about your neck. You're stressed from traveling and exhausted from the previous hectic day of departing arrangements ... the dogs, the yard, the mail, the packing.

But fast forward ten days. You're leaving Costa Rica relaxed and looking like a native ... tan, hair sun-bleached and wild, bra-less in a beachy maxi dress and flip flops and wearing the exotic shell earrings you bought off a beach vendor. (And that turquoise anklet which you'll probably never wear again. Wow, really? What were you thinking?) But you don't care ... you're rockin' the surfer beach vibe. Your high school Spanish had come back to you in little bursts all week so now you attempt the local phrases like a fool. "Hey Tico, que hay de nuevo?" (What's going down?) But it's cool. Whatever. It's all good, man. 

And as you board the plane for home in this pura vida zone you think, now THIS is the way life should be lived. The Ticos have it so right ... enjoy every moment, soak it up, no worries! And you swear you'll maintain this state of mind back home ... this natural, easy-breezy way of thinking, of dressing, of living! Pura vida! 


We return home to Texas to no running water. I pick up the dogs from the kennel and the bill is astronomical. The internet is down for 5 days. And the land line. And our security alarm. And all that cable trouble knocks out the TVs for days.  Eventually it all gets fixed. But then .... the water craps out again.

Meanwhile the notes I'd scribbled on the plane for that blog post were long forgotten. I've strapped on a bra, fired up the washing machine, done nine loads in between water outages, and plugged in my flat iron in an attempt to look put-together.

Make-up on ... check.
Vacuum up dog hair ... check.
Cook seven days a week ... check.

I had hit the decks running and never looked back. So many things had wiggled their way onto my plate that I couldn't settle down to write. My Costa Rica blog post had slipped away.

And then I realized something. Wise up, sistah ... life just isn't one long vacation. That's the ying and yang of it ... the vacay vibe can't exist without that regular, everyday, run-of the-mill stuff and all it's routine hassles. What's a vacation worth if not to escape from the daily drudgery? And the truth is, I'm so grateful to have a fantastic, abundant life which is virtually stress-free. My days are filled with creativity, family and friends I adore, and a couple of precious and hilarious doggies. Nothing I could call drudgery! It was my hard-working husband who really needed the vacation and I was lucky to get in on that.

We DID love Costa Rica and have decided to return next year for two weeks! So I've tucked away the sarongs and turquoise anklet until then and meanwhile ...

.... everything's cool, bro.

Pura vida to all! 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

When the dream becomes bigger than the pie.

Oh dear. I sheepishly return after more than a two month absence. My winter months, which I love to spend quietly curled up reading and writing, have been quite the opposite, with travel and a busy schedule.

This is not to say I haven't had some thoughts twirling around in my little pea brain though. Here's one of them, a post I've actually had in the hopper for weeks.

I woke up one January morning with a killer migraine. For weeks I had been bloated, stiff, sluggish, pasty-looking, all that. It wasn't pretty. I knew I had a bad case of sugar overload and post holiday blubbery. And I was clearly sick. Of it!

You see, the previous day I'd noticed a bowl of nice green apples sitting on the kitchen counter which no one was eating ... and whadaya know, a frozen pie crust in the freezer. And wouldn't it just make sense to not allow that perfectly good food to go to waste??? Why don't I just throw together my Mom's famous and fabulous sour cream apple pie recipe? (And yep, there was some sour cream in the fridge ... so handy!) You know, just clean out the cupboards and be resourceful? And oooooh, how I love pies.

But of course, the REAL reason I wanted the pie was because I knew that the holiday goodies were gone and I was grieving the loss of them. The cookies, chocolates, the gingerbread ... gone. And I subconsciously dug in my heels over the idea that it was time to get on the healthy track again. SO not festive!

So I made that scrumptious pie and I had my way with it. My husband was of no help whatsoever ... he was out of town. I did take a slice to my neighbor who shares my passion for pies. But that didn't help much and by day 2 I had consumed nearly half of the pie. Then I began eyeing it warily every time I passed through the kitchen. It seemed it was trying to tell me something.
Funny how our trusty brains spring into action to save our asses when we're in trouble. I was reminded of something I already knew too well. To keep my eye on the prize ... the prize being my dreams and goals and passionate ideas about what I plan to do with life in the second half. And these aren't mediocre dreams, lemme-tell-ya ... these are huge, wonderful, exciting dreams. I know that the only way I will ever realize and enjoy these dreams is to be healthy and stay healthy until the end of the line. The dream is important. The dream is all I think about. The dream is BIG.

And this may seem like a BIG leap ... from apple pie to dreams-come-true. But actually, it's directly connected. When the dream becomes bigger than the pie, well ... that's how you stay on the healthy track.

I learned a long time ago that, given two options, it is simply human nature to lean into the one that is the most enticing and thrilling. The one with the most emotional power. The brain naturally selects the most enticing, powerful thing and the scales are tipped. Obvious, right? Sometimes too obvious for us to see. Here is a very personal example of how that works. I'm happy to share it with you with hopes that it helps you see the power you have in your life.

I gave up drinking many years ago but not without a lot of failed attempts and a tremendous struggle. For a long time alcohol offered me euphoria, escape, avoidance, and yep, good times. But as time wore on that changed and alcohol began to represent misery for me... it became a negative factor in every aspect of my life. So I had two things resting on the scales; a drinking life of misery and a sober, healthy, clear-headed and joyful life. One option beckoned to me and the other sickened me. When one looked like a champion and the other looked like a loser, the scales tipped dramatically. The brain just naturally selects the more powerful and desirable option when it comes down to the wire. The brain helps you find strength in that selection so you can carry on. Really. I finally left the misery behind and never looked back.

So it's like that with weight issues vs. a healthy body. For me anyway, I have this BIG life ahead of me, full of passionate hopes and dreams. Nothing can stand in the way of that. With that in mind, the scales are tipped because the dream becomes so much bigger than the pie, i.e. unhealthy habits. As long as I keep my eye on The Dream, THAT is what works for me. Not counting calories or points or fat grams. Not measuring and weighing my food. Not weighing myself every day, or even every week. All of that simply brings focus to the idea that you believe you are fat, never good enough, always battling the bulge. That kind of focus will actually keep you stuck in the fat rut. You only need to focus on health and the rest will follow. And you need to want health because ....???? Because your life, your dreams, your future is magnificent. Bigger than the pie. Much bigger than what the pie can offer you. It's really just a mind trick.

(And yup ... I threw away the rest of the pie.)

Now, this is not to say that I can snap my fingers and this works like magic. Because trust me, with my appetite, I could easily be as big as Texas. We all have to constantly be mindful of The Big Dream and hold it up against the pie like a crucifix. I takes focus and because we are imperfect human beings (and not the Dali Lama), we can get lazy or forget to focus ... we slip and stumble and sometimes go on, oh ... I dunno, holiday eating binges??? But we know what to do ... get up and remember again that the dream is bigger than the pie.

Keep the most enticing thing forever strong and powerful in your busy little head. (Note to self: and that ain't Mom's sour cream apple pie.)

P.S.  Those of you who followed my previous blog, 128 Sticks of Butter, might remember that I went through a very interesting journey a few years ago, starting off with one idea about weight loss and arriving at quite another by the end of my last blog post a year ago (March 11, 2011). You can probably get the gist of it just by reading the first couple of posts and the last couple of posts. But basically it was a bit of a epiphany. That blog is inactive now but I've left it up because I've found that people are still reading about the unexpected path I took, and some find it helpful. Please visit if you'd like.