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Friday, September 22, 2006


This morning, I took my daughter to her friend's house. Her friend lives on a quiet suburban street. At the intersection of the street, the water had collected into a small hollow. As I turned the corner, a bird was standing in the water. I stopped the car, as the bird took no action to move out of my way.

The bird was a small hawk. I looked it in the eye.

I used to see hawks all the time. In the spring and summer, I saw them every day as I commuted to work. the hawks circled over the freeway, swooping with the air currents in that motionless flight unique to these birds. Why would they circle the freeway? There was no prey -- just the traffic. Why were they there for me to see?

I also saw hawks daily from my office window as my office is in the hills of Southern California. I often saw them in pairs. As the summer became hotter, I stopped seeing them.

Recently, I have not seen too many hawks. When I became aware that I had not seen hawks for a while I became a little anxious. The hawks are messengers that things are alright. To not see the hawks did not bode well. I do find it significant that today's hawk sighting, at such close range too (most unusual), corresponds with Rosh Hoshanna -- although I am not yet sure what it signifies.

I am always grateful when I see them. Their grace. Their flight -- as if they own the wind. I just learned that hawks are a powerful totem. They are messengers and guides to inspiration.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Oh. Motherhood has left its mark on me
stained my flesh,
rivulets marking my womb.
I don't recognize myself anymore.
I can't see what you may see when you look at me.
I am
There is so much more to me.
My flesh sets on my bones.
The trappings of my experience,
life's load.
Even my arms too, are soft,
like my belly,
from yielding.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

100 Things

In no particular order:

1. I am middle aged but essentially feel the same inside as I always have.

2. I went to the same high school my mother went to.

3. I married a man who grew up in the same neighborhood I did.

4. I love my husband.

5. I love to sing.

6. When I was a child, I sang at the top of my lungs while I walked to school, hoping that I would be discovered.

7. When I was in high school, one of my teachers told me that I could not sing.

8. Now, people tell me I have a beautiful voice.

9. I have been in bands and made a record. The record did not sell very many copies.

10. I spent a large part of my adolescence and early adulthood depressed.

11. I was in therapy for 15 years.

12. I am no longer depressed.

13. I studied and trained to be a therapist but could not continue on that path because I had to get a job that paid money.

14. I lost a baby when I was 20 weeks pregnant.

15. I work out regularly with a personal trainer who has made me the strongest middle-aged mother of two in my neighborhood.

16. Lately, my favorite cocktail is gin and sugar-free tonic with a lot of lime, but I hardly have cocktails anymore on the advice of my trainer.

17. I also gave up caffeine, dairy and artificial sweeteners on the advice of my trainer.

18. I love ice cream.

19. I enjoy cooking for other people.

20. I always make Thanksgiving dinner for a lot of people. They insist I make the same dishes every year. Since that is boring for me, I always add a new dish. This means I make about 15 different dishes for Thanksgiving, not including dessert.

21. I contributed and tested recipes for a cookbook.

22. I am a control freak when it comes to throwing a party.

23. When I read, I become so totally immersed in the book that I become unaware of what is going on around me.

24. I do not watch very much tv.

25. I do not have cable.

26. I do tend to get hooked on one show at a time. When my children were little it was "X-Files." They had trouble sleeping and I would panic if they were not asleep by 9:00 p.m. on Sunday night when the "X-Files" aired. Lately it is “Lost.”

27. I hardly believe it when people tell me they love me.

28. I do believe it when my children tell me they love me.

29. I never really enjoyed taking my kids to the park.

30. I never went to PTA meetings.

31. I wish I was a better mother.

32. I grew up celebrating Christmas.

33. Now I keep kosher and observe Shabbat.

34. I like my job.

35. For the first 11 years of my life, my family moved every year or so.

36. I have four cats.

37. I am allergic to cats.

38. I fantasize about living in Hawaii.

39. I have traveled, but only a little bit.

40. I used to speak fluent Italian.

41. I had dreams where I was speaking in only French or Italian.

42. I have sold my artwork to people I don’t know.

43. I am shy.

44. When I am with funny people, I can be funny too.

45. Two of my dearest friends have the same name.

46. Sometimes, I believe I am truly empathic, feeling what my companion is feeling at that moment, although that could also be a narcissistic delusion.

47. I feel separate from most people most of the time.

48. I belly dance.

49. I am overweight.

50. When I was not overweight, I thought I was fat.

51. I used to think I looked prettier when I made a serious face. Now I think I look better when I smile.

52. I sometimes embarrass my children because I love to sing and dance.

53. My mother died the day after I graduated from college. I was 22 years old.

54. I did not speak to my father for many years, but then we reconciled. Now he is an important part of my life.

55. I get along with my in-laws.

56. I love color. I love looking at color displays such as the paint chip racks at Home Depot or bottles of nail polish lining the drug store wall.

57. I do not wear blue clothing.

58. I have to dye my hair every few weeks because I have fast growing grey hair.

59. People tell me I look younger than I am.

60. I love being strong.

61. I don’t know when I will be able to retire.

62. I enjoy being in my garden.

63. I am trustworthy.

64. I do not tell people’s secrets.

65. I am an honest person.

66. I struggle to be revealingly honest in my creative endeavors because I believe honesty is required for good art.

67. I thank God regularly for big and little things in my life.

68. I believe that the natural world communicates to us.

69. My parents taught me to be tolerant of other viewpoints and ways of life.

70. I am a spendthrift.

71. I like when people acknowledge my efforts, but it embarrasses me.

72. I have never won an award for anything.

73. I am very lucky in life, but so unlucky when I gamble. I never win when I gamble.

74. I worry about the world my children are growing into and what the world is going to be like when they are adults.

75. When my nieces were little, before I had children of my own, I used to get pleasure from strangers thinking they were my daughters.

76. People used to think my younger brother and I were twins.

77. I never drink regular soda.

78. I have journaled since I was 12 or 13. Most of my journals contain budgets, complaints about my weight and lists of things I want to do.

79. I once saw a UFO.

80. I surf blogs and try to let people know I have looked at them.

81. I don’t really like my name, but I have no idea what other name would suit me.

82. I am not particularly political which can be challenging because I am surrounded by political people.

83. My life is blessedly full which leaves me with insufficient solitude to make meaningful work.

84. I may be a bit of a dilettante, despite my serious commitment to creativity.

85. I have been a teacher of human development classes, mommy and me, and belly dance.

86. If I could only take five albums with me on a deserted island I would take: Joni Mitchell Hejira, Parliament Greatest Hits, Eno Before and After Science, The Roches The Roches, and John Coltrane Love Supreme.

87. I try to be nice.

88. While I do have opinions, I am not good at debating.

89. My eldest daughter is taller than I am.

90. Since I stopped being depressed, I stopped having dreams in which I fly.

91. My thoughts are auditory, not visual.

92. I learn better when someone teaches me than by reading on my own.

93. I truly appreciate learning new things.

94. I wonder what it is like to be a man, but do not actually want to be a man. I am very happy that I am a woman.

95. I have never been to the mikvah because I am too embarrassed to get naked in front of the mikvah lady.

96. My most significant wish is that my children grow up to be happy, healthy, safe and successful in whatever path they choose.

97. I have feet like a hobbit because I never wore shoes when I was a child.

98. I like having my back massaged more than ANYTHING else in the world.

99. I do not remember enough of my life.

100. I believe we make a choice between life and death everyday.

Monday, September 04, 2006

As The Story Goes. . .

Just like everyone has a mother, everyone has a story. And I think probably most people have some sort of tragedy in their life that becomes their story – some sort of experience that causes a profound reaction and may change the direction of life. Sometimes the tragedy is cruel. For example, one of the many tragedies in my life is that my mother died when she was quite young. Sometimes the tragedy is subtle and not even touched by cruelty; it is the entitled child who can comfortably take, take, take but gives nothing back because everything in his life has been provided to him. These stories must engender compassion. These stories are formative. They are the stories of our humanity and they are all familiar.

There was a period in my life when storytelling emerged as the theme of all of the music, films and books that I was exposed to. As I became more involved in middle-class survival on behalf of my family and myself, concepts like the importance of the story dwindled as existential demands of life forced me to focus more pointedly on doing versus ruminating. In other words, I didn’t think about any of this for years! Now that I am middle aged and my kids are not as dependent on me, I have reached the developmental stage where nostalgia emerges in full force. Story is the repository of memory, containing history and hope. While so many things inform our psyche and form our personality, there are usually some key experiences that are truly formative. They are the experiences that cause new ways of behaving – if not at the time, in the future.

For example, when I was in sixth grade, I had no friends. I started a new school and just did not fit in. When I started the new school, I was excited. My family moved frequently when I was a child, so I learned to adapt early on to new social situations. In fact, every time we moved, I looked forward to starting school because I always made friends easily. But this was different. This was the first time in my life when I did not make any friends. I was devastated. The other girls in the class teased me so badly that it hurt. They teased me about my clothes, my ideas, even my politics. (The politics weren’t actually mine – they were my parents but sixth grade was during an election year and we had a mock election. Mine was one of two votes out of 30 for the democratic party.) I cried all the time. I locked myself in my room and read books about orphans who made their way in the world on their wits, charm and the kindness of rich adults. By seventh grade, my family again moved. I started a new school where I took a school bus to school everyday. There were some ninth grade girls who also rode the bus. For some reason, the ninth grade girls did not like me. I had no idea why. I did not hang out with them or any of their friends at school. I was not even aware that they knew who I was. Nevertheless, everyday on the bus these girls teased mercilessly by calling me bad names, accusing me of saying or doing things I never did, mocking me. It was horrible! I could not understand why they picked on me. I fought back with them. I challenged their reasons for picking on me, and even slung a few nasty insults myself. After being bullied in sixth grade, I had no intention of being a passive victim. Fighting back was a new skill, one that developed out of the tragedy of my cruddy sixth grade experience. It helped to confront these nasty girls; I never had the same feeling of victimization that I had from my sixth grade experience. (I am so grateful to say that since sixth grade, I am blessed in that I have always had good friends around me. More stories. . .)

We go to bed with stories. We teach through stories. We connect through stories. We find resolution through stories. We touch the divine through stories. We kiss the sublime through stories. We waste time through stories. We survive through stories.