31 December 2011

and one more thing...

thank you. thank you. thank you. thank you.

30 December 2011

the list 2011

I've been looking forward to this for nearly a year. Ahem, I give you... 

The 19 books I read (and finished) in 2011
1.What the Dog Saw -- M. Gladwell (1/2011)
2. The Tipping Point -- M. Gladwell (1/2011)*
3. Women, Food and God -- G. Roth (2/2011)
4. Into the Wild -- J. Krakauer (2/2011)*
5. The Good Wife -- S. O'Nan (3/13)
6. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake -- A. Bender (3/22)
7. Me Talk Pretty One Day -- D. Sedaris (3/25)*
8. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running -- H. Murakami
9. The Elegance of the Hedgehog -- M. Barberry (4/15)
10. The Time Traveler's Wife -- A. Niffenegger (5/11)* 
11. Her Fearful Symmetry -- A. Niffenegger (5/28) 
12. Anatomy of the Spirit -- C. Myss (7/24)* 
13. The Happiness Project -- G. Rubin (8/11)
14. The Help -- K. Sockett (9/6)* 
15. The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother -- A. Chua (9/24)*
16. A New Earth -- E. Tolle (10/24)
17. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe -- C.S. Lewis (10/31)*
18. The Power of Now -- E. Tolle (11/20)*
19. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -- R. Dahl (11/22)  

I thoroughly enjoyed the books I read this year, and a handful of them, I really loved(*). But I think the one that moved me most -- the book that left me breathless and speechless with book clutched to chest and tears streaming -- the book that revisited my thoughts long after I finished its final page was... 

I am grateful to the writers who made me laugh, who made me cry -- who met, occupied, taught, challenged and inspired me in 2011. I look forward to and hope for the good pleasure of many more hours in this blanket with a cup of tea and a good book. I'm always looking for recommendations, so if you have one, please send it my way. Until this time next year... 


I turned thirty-five in November. 

My day was cake and ice cream -- ballet, a massage and sushi. But to add frosting to an already exquisite day, Paul and the kids woke up early to decorate the house...

And as if that wasn't enough, I received a special surprise in the mail...


20 July 2011

haiku for lovey

To notice, to see
the fabric and threads that bind
Unexpected Gifts

Warmth and light and love
Boundless, endless, eternal
Time to love, to leave

Damp and bitter cold
Shaken, unraveled, undone
And yet, love endures

Missing my sisters
Recalling. Reminiscing.
A warm reminder

Smelly and adored
A filthy maturation 
Worn and never washed 

A rice-filled pillow
Sunshine amidst gravid gray
Waning at the seams

Open hands release
A new friend enters the scene
donning running shoes

She saw, she noticed
She picked up thread and fabric
Unexpected gifts

Gratitude abounds
Another rice-filled pillow
Lovely. Washable.

14 July 2011

music makes me happy

Tonight I found my summer show, and I'm glad about it. Singing, dancing, Ryan Murphy... it's my cup of intoxicating tea: the glee project. Mmmm.

And when I entered my kids' school earlier this week, I came face-to-face with a pillar from my past: the Grease soundtrack coming from an antiquated stereo. Fond memories of Sandy, Rizzo, Frenchie, Kenickie and Danny Zuko flooded my body and mind. I felt powerless over the overwhelming urge to doo-wop, dance and sing out loud to the horror of my children and their incredulous, prepubescent peers.

Man, I LOVED that movie!

Yesterday morning, Danny and Sandy were my cleaning day companions, and tonight I sampled my future cleaning day soundtrack. My throat is sore from aiming for (and completely missing) high C as I scrubbed toilets and soap scum. But my bathroom is clean, I've been humming all day and I'm heading to bed with a smile on my face.

13 July 2011

grass comes from seeds??

Here in the woods of the Pacific NW, I'm surrounded by fascinating artisans and craftsmen who fish and crab and hunt for gooey ducks (what's that you say? yes, that's what I said also).

Many of my new friends and neighbors blow glass, bake bread and drink coffee like it's water. They built their homes from the trees on their land, they raise and sup from their chickens and their cows, and they wear sweaters to the beach in the summer time. In casual conversation, I often hear the genus and species of each plant, bird and bug that passes by. And nearly two years later, the culture shock remains. I oftentimes feel like a novice and tourist -- a stranger in a strange land.

I grew up in the suburbs of the High Plains. I was nearly twenty before I realized that grass comes from seeds rather than flatbed trucks topped with verdant carpets of sod. Blackberries, cherries and eggs came from the grocery store, sticks and stones came from Target and Michael's, and rainstorms lasted fifteen minutes tops.

Slowly, I am acclimating: learning the culture, talking the talk and walking the walk. This gait is quiet and slow; the movement, organic. I wear dreads and wool sweaters out of necessity, and there's just a whole lot more of me. I've traded my teakettle for a coffee pot, and I actually use a compost bin. At sea level, I really do feel closer and more connected to the Earth and its rhythms.

Shifting. I am shifting.

I'm surrounded by towering trees in this land of ever green, and I have more information -- other perspective. I am unable to be who I was, trying to be who I am without becoming lost in who I hope to become. Facts of the past are no longer so, and I'm still not sure what to do with that. Many things I once did I can no longer do and many things I never considered are common place now.

Yes, little by little, shifting.

I've been talking about it over ten years and writing about it for at least five,  but something shifted indeed this Spring. I sowed seed, pulled weeds, let Seattle skies work their magic and voila!

My garden is little and laughable, and I'm unsure whether the peppers, the broccoli, the peas, the carrots, the onions, the beans... or anything else will take. Nevertheless, the spinach in our salad yesterday came from the earth beneath my own two feet. The harvest is slow and small, but it is.

05 June 2011



And I'm posting this picture of the present...

 To forever remind me of the joy I felt on a deck this weekend
and of the overwhelming pride I feel tonight
and to help me to remember that yes, 
sometimes the sun also shines in Washington.

26 May 2011


We're back home now, but before we left I took this picture to help me remember...

It even rains in Denver sometimes. 

10 April 2011

the flu, concluded.

For twenty days, I moaned, ached and I laid around
I hardly stood to put my feet on the ground.

I just read and I ate and I ate and I read,
and I painted, crocheted, ate, then got back in bed.

The rain started, then stopped, then it started again
And I slept and slept more, and I grew another chin.

But the rain and the aches stopped and then I arose,
Our tin anniversary was a welcome repose.

Spring Break, a conference and spots of sunshine,
Up days and down days, thank God for red wine.

Now the babes and my mate are all nestled in bed
And I'm here in the dark with the thoughts in my head.

Tonight marks an end and then Tomorrow begins,
So I'll head back to bed sans the flu with my chins.

24 March 2011

comment vous appelez-vous

"In order for consciousness to be aroused, it must have a name." 
~ Muriel Barbery

22 March 2011

the flu, cont'd

It's been eight days.

I decided to try another approach today. Rather than to carry on as much as possible with life as usual --  to pick up, to drop off,  to suck it up and go to that meeting, to teach, to go for a walk or to get to work on that garden since the sun is shining, or simply to make it to my chair in the living room where I spent the greater portion of last week -- I decided instead to stay in bed. Save potty breaks, rice-pillow reheats, two meals (sort of)  and a midday shower, I've been here tucked in bed since last night.

From this spot, I've been silent, looking just beyond the door and our back porch, past a grove of swaying alders to a blue sky. Longing. Dreaming. All day, a steady stream of fresh spring air has blown away the stench of sick through the wide open doorway. Cherry blossoms blossom just outside my window, and a single daffodil blooms from a sprawling fern in the lawn. The late afternoon sun shone on my face and warmed my bed just before it set beneath towering pines.

I learned six new words today. I finished a book. And the last scoop of mint chip. And a half-eaten bag of cheddar crunchies. And I've made it three-quarters of the way through a second book. The latter is funny. Laugh-out loud, tear-streaked cheeks funny. F-bombs. Fresh air. A wide-open door. Thankfully.  

To their bewilderment, my children returned home from school to find me in the same spot where they left me this morning. For a while this afternoon, they joined me in bed. From this bed, we reviewed spelling lists, our address and highlights from our respective days. The beautiful day eventually beckoned them, and upon their departure I pondered the words Maya misspelled: hospital, H-O-S-P-I-T-L-E. octopus, O-C-T-O-P-O-S. 

Octopus. October. From this bed I considered the calendar and its months. 

Does it strike anyone else as funny that October is the tenth month of the year? Does anyone else assign an intrinsic gender to each month? January: female. February: male.  April, May, June, August: female. September through December, male, with the exception, of course: November. But then there is March and there is July, mostly female, but... hmmm, well?

I've pondered many other thoughts today. I'll spare you. 

My stomach growls. My orange beanie is pulled low atop my 'fro. Beneath it, my head is hot and throbbing. My throat is sore, and it aches in my ears and my eyes. My shins hurt. Still. The flu drones on. 

Paul and the kids have returned, and they can no longer stand the cold from my wide open door. It is freezing, Paul declared before he proceeded to chop kindling, start a fire and shut my door. The fire burns. My door is closed. My insides and my head ablaze. 

Pots and pans and footsteps and voices now clamor and pad in my kitchen. I feel glad for the sounds and smells of their return. And I feel glad for my husband and his humor and his help. And for my dictionary and my library and its books. And for my laptop. And my kiddos and their stories and their homework. And for my door and its hinges and cool breezes. And even, I suppose, for the lasting view from this flu. 

16 March 2011

the flu

My life is good.

I love and I am loved. I have faith and health. I'm happily married. My kids are great. I live a simple life. I have a handful of really good friends. I have time and words and a job. I spend minimal energy with folks I don't care for. I can read, and I do. I have a roof over my head and access to clean water, heat, yoga and oatmeal.

So, why do I feel down?

I have been under the weather --  fighting something strong for the last few days; I think it is more than this flu.

Spring is around the corner, and with its imminent return, I've heard early birds sing and uncovered tiny budding blooms. Patches of sunshine and longer days are pushing through gray skies and long nights, yet thick clouds persist. These last few days, the rain has been heavy and hard. Not today though.

Paul is out of town and the kids are at school. I'm over-churched, I miss my sister and my friends. I miss my parents, my passion and my brother. My head is throbbing and my stomach hurts. I'm not teaching much any more -- I'm both glad and sad about it. I'm thirty-four and still unsure what I want to be when I grow up.

I'm settled in my favorite chair with my rice pillow, my laptop and my favorite blanket. My house is still. I feel warm. And tired. The season is changing. The world is shifting. As am I. So when the job goes away, the health fails, the body softens, the sky sobs and those whom I love are elsewhere... then what? When the earth quakes and markets crash and people die and marriages end, what then?


Every day can't be sunshine and knowing and being known. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it fucking rains. And some days -- in spite of all the good -- I feel like crying too. So I do. And it helps.

And today, even though I'm unsettled and I don't feel well, I know my life is good.

04 March 2011


"Inhabit the life you have chosen... What if this is exactly what you are supposed to be doing, because it is what you are doing? What if each nitty-gritty task is perfection itself and you keep missing it because you're looking for something else?"
~ Geneen Roth

nemo 1934

"I have always been unsatisfied with life as most people live it. Always, I want to live more intensely and richly." 
~Everett Ruess

10 February 2011

tuck your chin

These were the words of the perfect stranger with whom I soaked in a hot tub. 

Keith, which I later discovered was the name of the torpedo in the lane beside me that Friday morning, had also noticed my strokes. He is lean and long, with deeply set dark eyes and salt and pepper hair that is mostly gone. After a few minutes of small talk following our respective workouts, Keith offered a few words of unsolicited advice.

“With swimming,” he explained, “I find it’s best to work out one kink at a time.”

Paul was out of town last weekend, so this morning was my first opportunity to return to the lap pool in nearly two weeks.  At the tail end of my workout – seemingly out of nowhere – I remembered my brief exchange with the substitute school teacher in the hot tub. Mid stroke, I heeded Keith’s advice: I tucked my chin.  And I proceeded to swim the fastest and smoothest butterfly I’ve swum in 26 years.

Over dishes a few minutes ago, this stranger who was in and out of my life in five minutes, returned to mind. He’s got me thinking and wondering…

What kind of impact could I also make if I had the courage to say something when I see it? And what difference could it make if I just focused on improving one thing at a time instead of everything all at once? And isn’t that what they say so often in Bikram as well: tuck your chin? Maybe there’s something to that.

12 January 2011


I have been leading Zumba classes at least six times each week for the last four months, after I randomly and reluctantly stumbled into my first class last July. 

Sometimes when I'm teaching, I'll catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror --  head held high, dripping hair pulled back in a colorful bandanna, a wide, white grin stretched across my dark, glistening face, studded bling sparkling from my earlobes, ZUMBA splashed in neon across my chest and bright pants hanging from my hips with just one pant leg cinched to my knee. "Who is that in my body and how in the world did she get here?!?" I wonder as I step and sway in a side salsa. 

"So, what exactly is Zumba?" I've been asked more than once. Feel the Music; Get Fit, Get Happy our wrist bands and tank tops tout. "It's a Latin-inspired dance fitness program blah, blah, blah..." I reflexively reply. But in my final class of the day yesterday, I saw and felt something happen that my auto-response fails to describe.  

When I think back to who and how I was six months ago, it blows my mind that I am doing what I am doing. I reached a bottom so low that the only thing that could get me out of bed for a while was food (ice cream, preferably) which I couldn't stop eating once I began. With a sore belly and a wounded spirit, I called my friend Joy one bleak morning last July. All I could do when Joy said hello was cry. She listened for a second, then confessed that she was heading out the door to the free Zumba class that would take place at her church 20 minutes later.  She invited me (again) to come. "There's free childcare too," she added. 

I went to Zumba that day, and a few days later, I went back. And I went back again. And again. And without retelling the whole sob story of the early days of last summer, June's clouds eventually lifted, the sun came out in July and something in me began to change. That something didn't happen overnight, and it certainly wasn't pretty. It's been sloppy and slow actually. 

I remember the day when I started to notice. I had moved from the back to the front of Allison's Zumba class, and I caught a glimpse of myself -- left arm extended across my body, fingers long and alive. I was abandoned and lost in music and movement. The sadness that threatened to swallow me was gone, and in that moment I felt free. I was dancing

For the last few months, I have had the good pleasure of coming alongside the persons who have attended my classes to see what this whole "Zumba Thing" is all about. I have been witness once again to beauty being birthed. Insecurities have crumbled as pounds have dropped, hips have loosened and smiles have returned. In this world, belly dancing shimmies have replaced baggy tops and sweat pants, and neon has become the new black. Individuals who were once straight-faced strangers have unabashedly uncovered what was hidden. "Look, Abi," one glowing woman in particular exclaimed as she lifted her shirt after class recently. "I have a WAIST!!" 

Yesterday night, I saw 13 women move in sync. Salsa, Samba, Reggaeton, Charleston, Foxtrot, Cumbia... harmony. Although I've taught classes quadruple the size, the energy and enthusiasm in the studio last night could have illuminated the entire state. Again, I felt that shift -- we were no longer thinking through steps and choreography, we were indeed feeling the music and the magic of that moment. This was not just an hour of intense, brightly colored group fitness, and for me it was much more than a job. It was a concert of confidence, commitment, beauty and joy. For 61 minutes we worked and shook and shimmied our asses off. And from start to finish, we were beaming. We were dancing.