Friday, November 24, 2017

Revisiting the idea of 29 daily gifts

I've been reading Jen Sincero's great book, You Are a Badass, and she speaks in it of a book that was popular some years back called 29 Gifts. A woman diagnosed with MS was advised to give something away each day for 29 days as a way to take action towards her own healing. By the time she was halfway through, the woman's health and outlook on life, after this devastating diagnosis, had vastly improved.

I remembered doing this when the book came out and how both fun and challenging it was. So I've decided to do it again, this time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which is about 29 days. (Another friend is going to do it for Lent.)

The easy version is to give away something every day and not to worry about much variety in the gifts. The medium version is to give away as many different things as possible. The most challenging version is to give away 29 different things.

If you decide to take this on, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Make a phone call to an older or sick friend you've been thinking of
  • Give away money
  • Give away food
  • Give your undivided attention
  • Pay for someone's latte or parking
  • Give away something someone admires that you own
  • Pick up trash
  • Let somebody else have the next parking space in a crowded lot or street
  • Send someone flowers
  • Send a greeting card to someone who would never expect it
  • Smile more
  • Open doors
  • Tip really big

Let me know what happens. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Why doesn't Sisyphus just walk away?

In the Greek myth, Sisyphus is condemned for his sins to carry an enormous boulder up a hill, watch it roll back down, and then do it over again for all eternity. Futility of effort is a terrible punishment, and I've been wondering, as minds tend to do, why Sisyphus doesn't just walk away. He isn't imprisoned, he isn't chained. Instead, he accepts his fate.

This isn't so different from many of us. We bang our heads against the same wall over and over, knowing nothing changes that way, and accept both our fate and our impotence. The wall can be a job that isn't working, a relationship that isn't working, our addiction to a substance or an activity, or in the larger context, the circumstances and conditions of our lives and those around us all the way to the political and social scene.

There is, I believe, a great wave of impotence and Sisyphean futility engulfing us in these days of huge shift. The old order is clinging to the reins and it's cruel and violent. The new order has yet to show itself, and we all feel stuck, rolling the same old boulders up the hill only to watch them roll down again.

Maybe it's time to stop and walk in a new direction--perhaps around the hill or down the other side.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

From the amazing John O'Donohue


Give yourself time to make a prayer that will become the prayer of your soul. Listen to the voices of longing in your soul. Listen to your hungers. Give attention to the unexpected that lives around the rim of your life. Listen to your memory and to the inrush of your future, to the voices of those near you and those you have lost. Out of all of that attention to your soul, make a prayer that is big enough for your wild soul, yet tender enough for your shy and awkward vulnerability; that has enough healing to gain the ointment of divine forgiveness for your wounds; enough truth and vigour to challenge your blindness and complacency; enough graciousness and vision to mirror your immortal beauty. Write a prayer that is worthy of the destiny to which you have been called. 

John O'Donohue 
 Excerpt from ETERNAL ECHOES

Friday, November 10, 2017

Renegotiating our commitments

It's important to me to be a person of my word. I want others to be able to count on me, and it's even more important to me to be able to count on myself because as an addict, it's been my pattern to break my word with myself a lot. At the same time, I want to and need to be able to change my mind.

I recently felt stuck in two obligations I'd committed to. I'd agreed to X and Y without really thinking through all the implications. With X, I didn't realize the problems until I arrived and things became difficult. I had no way to predict that but I know enough to always have a Plan B and that time I didn't. With Y, I had advanced warning that things weren't going to work out well, but I felt just as stuck until my life coach reminded that I can always negotiate a commitment. I may disappoint someone or have to pay a penalty but I don't have to be stuck. I just have to figure out what I really want and ask for it. So I figured out, asked for what I needed, and was able to negotiate to get it.

I'm learning more and more that I shouldn't say yes to something until I've figured out what I really want. And then if things change, I don't need to stay stuck.

How do you choose your commitments?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Love on a train

Madonna and child
sitting across from us
Swaddled against her chest
the boy child gazes at us
with ocean-blue eyes
full of clarity in his safety
He has her cupid's bow mouth
and receding chin
He has her love
as she rubs his back
The train moves us
to the airport
and he sleeps,
his cheek against
the freckled skin
of her chest
I assume
to her steady heart
I envy him
that peace
that safety
that mother love

Monday, October 30, 2017

Lightening up for Fall

It's nesting season again. October rolls around and after the Indian summer days have come and gone  and we go through the rather meaningless ritual of returning to Standard Time, I get an urge to tidy and sort and clean things out so that my winter habitat is peaceful and supportive. It's also a good time to lighten my load.

I recently went through my closet and filled some donation bags for the thrift store, cleaned out my basement storage unit, setting aside old tax returns and papers for shredding and reconsidering getting rid of all that stuff I keep hanging on to. Will I ever need that air filter set up that I bought a decade ago? Do I really need three suitcases? Is it time to jettison those boxes of old journals?

I like sorting and tidying my stuff. It's a practice I learned from my mother, who parted with things easily, and who also taught me how helpful it is to know what we have--and where it is--in case we do need it.

What rituals signal Fall for you?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Took a walk
on Marmot Rd
on Mt Hood
Not a house in sight
only one set of mailboxes
and three gravel drives
into the thick, wild woods
of moss and ferns
pine and fir
yet signs of us were everywhere
A McDonald's cup and french fry sleeve
3 water bottles
2 beer cans
assorted plastic bags
the rings from a six pack
We watch as children
We learn what's okay
I learned not to do that
I know others didn't
but their indifference to beauty,
to the natural world
grieves me
And this is but a tiny consequence
of that indifference

Friday, October 20, 2017

Three things that make living spaciously easier for me

This year, my major intention has been to live my life more spaciously and use peace of mind as a filter for my decisions. When I do this, my life is so much better and when I don't, it isn't so great so I know that I'm on to something Here are three things that help me do that.

Do one thing at a time. When I write blog posts, that's what I do. When I do paid work, I do paid work. When I read for fun, I just read. No email, no Facebook. I might get up to stretch and get some water, but I take an intentional break and say no to the interruption of distractions and the myth of multi-tasking. 

Don't do any one thing for too long a time.  While it's great when I get absorbed in my work, it's not so great when I finally get up from the desk. So I set my phone alarm for 20 minutes whatever activity I'm involved in and do something quite different. In fact, I keep a list of computer-related tasks and a list of more physical activities so that I can balance screen time with doing the dishes or unclogging the bathroom sink.

Don't substitute just anything when what we want is something specific. I've put myself in some stressful situations lately because I've accepted invitations that I felt lukewarm about. I knew what I wanted--some time with a couple of close friends--but they weren't available and so I said yes to some other possibilities. However, they weren't what I wanted and while, like most of us, I know how to make the best of a situation, I don't want to do that if I can avoid it. It reminds me a lot of my active food addition days when I'd eat something sweet I didn't like (dark chocolate or raisins, for example) when what I really wanted was caramels or ice cream. Life's too short to settle.

When I practice these ideas, my life is more spacious. What makes your life more spacious?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Movie Review as Poem

I'd been told to go
Do it big screen
--You won't be sorry
And I wasn't
Two hours
emotional roller coaster
I was drowning
in a sinking ship
being strafed and bombed
on the open stretches
of beach
outswimming an oil fire
on the waves
Flying on the shoulder
of the Spitfire pilot
As he used up his fuel
to protect and serve
I lived the terror

for two hours
What a movie should be

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Challenge of Staying Awake to the World

The news gets worse and worse. Natural disasters exacerbated by our choices and those thrust upon us by the greedy and powerful. A rampant culture of violence against others by those in despair and rage. Polluted water and air. The stupidity of teenagers with fireworks who set off a widespread chain reaction of destruction and death in a nearby forest. If I let myself get overwhelmed by all this, a few dozen drinks or a few gallons of ice cream seem pretty tempting.

It didn't take me long in sobriety and abstinence to figure out that the challenge wasn't in giving up the drink or the food, it was being willing to stay awake and to do it all the time. To be present to what is going on in my life and in my world. To keep my eyes open and my heart open too. If I did that, I would see the astounding beauty of the world and the equally enormous suffering. And I would need to learn to do what I could and sit with the rest.

These days I'm finding this challenging. I want to numb myself into a sugar-induced nap for the afternoon. I want to watch mindless TV on an overly full stomach. I want a drink. I won't do that. I know only too well where it leads, but I want it to all go away for a while. Las Vegas. Houston. Florida. Puerto Rico. Eagle Creek and the Gorge. Feeling a lot of sadness today. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Poem for my friend Brian

Sitting in the dark with strangers
the bright glow
of a hundred candles
warming the space
that separates us
in a circle
that binds us

Words, tears, revelations
as the high holy days begin
in a religion not my own

We asked for what we needed
forgave each other
for what we could
no longer carry
Accepted our truth,
our responsibility
for this life
for this world
Invoked the names
and the nameless
of those gone before us

I opened myself up
to belonging
Ritual helps me do so
and I forget that I need that
in this life
in this world

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Love this quote

"Progress on a project changes everything. It changes the work--it exists!--but it also changes you. It gives you power over your life and choice that so few people have."

Jessica Abel, Growing Gills

Monday, September 25, 2017

The weight of the world

Humans aren't built
to carry the weight
of the world
We can manage
the cares of

our tribe
our community
but the larger scale
the global view
won't fit on our narrow shoulders
We can care for family
and some of those we don't know
but the plastic-filled oceans
with dying sea lions
and nuclear fish
the melting poles
and starving white bears
the hurricanes and forest fears
the greed and corruption
that cares for no one but self
is beyond our ken
beyond our kin
Many of us try
We pick up a few hundred pounds
of what's wrong
work to solve
dog fighting
sex trafficking
racist hate
child neglect
but we weary quickly
the impotence to change anything
too discouraging
and we go back
to our own life
already fraught with
its own sadness
from accident, cancer
factory closures
old mistakes  
our own or someone else's

Humans aren't built
to carry the weight
of the world

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Baffled by conservative family

I don't come from a particularly large family. I have three siblings, four nieces and nephews, and nine cousins. I am in regular contact with my siblings and we have pretty much the same values, the ones we grew up with. But some of my cousins are another story and our Facebook friendships have become anything but.

There are some differences that have contributed to this. I grew up in Western Oregon, which is quite liberal, and they grew up in Northern Idaho, which is not.I have a lot of education, as do my siblings, and my cousins do not. I appreciate that their lives have been different and have fostered different values in them.

But what I don't understand is the desire of one of my male cousins to make fun of my beliefs. I don't question his. They're his. He's clearly a Trump supporter and a lot of people are. I don't understand what they see in him but I don't question their right to see it. But he clearly questions my right to my opinions and that isn't something that either of us grew up with. Curious.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The joy of stickers

One of my projects this year is to make my art practice sustainable and regular, not just a when-I-have-time practice or a when-I-feel-like-it practice. My coach was surprised to hear I wasn't putting it into my calendar along with other appointments. I'd tried that, I told her, but I just ignored it for things that seemed more pressing, like paid work or a Netflix mystery series. So she challenged me to figure out something that would work.

I thought about my good friend Margaret, who often rewards herself for difficult tasks with stickers. I don't find making art difficult, quite the contrary. It's a source of great joy and pleasure for me. But I find getting to it difficult. So I needed some reward for changing that.

For the last three weeks, I've been using stickers. I get a sticker in my paper calendar if I paint during the day and another sticker if I do something else art-related (watch an instructional video, work on my inventory, sketch, look at other artists' work). I can earn up to 3 stickers a day. and it's absolutely working.

I splurged on some beautiful stickers from the gift shop at the Japanese Garden so they're visually fun too. And it is so satisfying to look at my calendar and see 16 stickers for a week, proof that I'm living into my intention.

What might you use stickers for?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Cremation of Beauty

My father was 16
in August of '33
Rode in an open-back
cattle truck
with friends from school
to dig fire-break trenches
at the Tillamook Burn
350 thousand acres
of old-growth gone
in a month
The ghosts and skeletons were visible
in my own youth
as we drove to the beach
in the summer
Now the Gorge
a kid, a firecracker
friends from school
the same powder-keg conditions
a weapon of mass destruction
The land will heal
but not in the years
I have left
So glad I looked
on each drive up and back
worshipped the green cathedrals
as my friend Mary called them
Now grieving the forest homeless
the countless beings lost
to human foolishness
Aching for the beauty
gone up in smoke

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

From a Stressed Life to Your Best Life

Join me at Portland’s New Renaissance Bookstore for a hands-on workshop on innovative ways to use our time, money, and energy in creating spaciousness and peace of mind. Bring a journal, scissors, and a friend!

Sunday October 1, 2017
2-5 pm

Registration: 503-224-4929

Friday, September 1, 2017

Living from our values

In July I posted a list of the many things I'd like to do and be in my next decade. Of course, that's a list of possibilities, not necessarily commitments. And when I talked to my life coach about it, she reminded me about the filters I want to live by: peace of mind, spaciousness, and contribution. As I prioritze the use of my time, energy, and money, which activities will support those values?

I'm conscious that the three values--peace of mind, spaciousness, and contribution--are actually states of being rather than activities, that they are how I can do things rather than things I can do. And we talked about the fact that how we BE is perhaps much more of a contribution than any single thing we can DO.

What if living in peace of mind and spaciousness is the biggest contribution I or any of us can make to our world right now? Food for thought.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Town crier

His voice rang out
in the dawn stillness
echoing off the roadway
that would hum with commuters
within the hour

Shouts, a jarring laugh
curses, stage whispers
he was young and looked strong
and when I saw
he wasn't on the phone
I didn't linger
to sort out his words

I could only bless him
this member in good standing
of the lost and lonely
who wander untethered
in our city
A town crier
whose news is not so good
a canary in the coal mine
of our failure
towards the least of us

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Being more generous and less accommodating

I have wonderful access in my life to wise and thoughtful teachers and coaches. And one of them recently said this in a workshop on relationships: Be more generous and less accommodating.  At first, this sounds like a contradiction. Isn't accommodating being generous?, someone in the group asked. The teacher said no. There's a whole different kind of energy that comes from generous than comes from accommodating.

Generous is something we generate, we create from inside ourselves. We give from some inner impulse, often one of love and caring. Accommodation, on the other hand, comes in response to something, usually something we don't really want but are willing to accept though not always from love and caring.

Here's an example from my life: A couple of Sundays ago, I spent time across the river in Vancouver painting with my friend Eileen and then visiting with my 96-year-old stepmom for a couple of hours. I got home late in the afternoon and it was hot and I was ready for a shower and my pjs. But I got a call from my friend Pam. She had car trouble and was waiting for a tow truck. Could I meet her at her mechanic's and drive her home?

There wasn't any question in my mind that I'd say yes. She needed help and I could give it. But as I got ready to respond, I realized I could respond from generosity or from accomodation. The difference would be not only in my words and my tone, but also in my body, in my energy. I chose generosity and said, "Sure, how can I best help?" It turned out to be a long wait for her and I picked her a couple of hours later and drove home. It took me an hour. But I could do it with a lightness of being rather than the weight of inconvenience and that was a great learning for me. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A birthday poem

She's 71 today
My best friend from high school
We still share
a love of reading
a love of cats

In those early years
we shared hours on the phone
Talking about
the everything and nothing of life

Long letters in college
briefly roommates in the City
then a triangle
not what you think
two women/one man yes
but I wasn't in it
Still I had to choose
and I didn't choose her

Three decades to reconciliation
Both glad to reconnect
Birthday dinners, occasional lunches
At the last one
she revealed her diagnosis
brain plaques
a memory that isn't processing
the everything and nothing of life

She was cheerful in the telling
She's always been cheerful
I hugged her
Everything and nothing to say

We count on those
we've known the longest
to hold their memories of us
and then that too passes
into the everything and nothing of life

Monday, August 14, 2017

A lovely book

I don't review books on this blog very often. I could. I read a ton of them and many good ones. But I used to be a professor of literature and book reviews seem like work to me. Not so Brian Doyle's 2016 novel Chicago. Doyle is a writer of lovely, gentle stories that contain a magical element. In this book, it's a wise dog named Edward who is as human as any of the other characters. It's been a wonderful summer read.

Here's a little taste:

"You never see a statue of the man who invented pants, for example, whereas there are endless statues of men brandishing swords and rifles and pistols, as if brandishing implements by which we steal the life from fellow holy beings is an admirable thing, more laudable than the genius of pants. By rights, there ought to be a statue in every self-respecting sensible city of a man brandishing pants, or a frying pan, or a beer mug, to celebrate inventions that clearly and inarguably made life better."

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Summer cabin fever

My relationship with the out of doors has always been one of semi-ambivalence. I love a beautiful day as much as the next person, and you may not find anyone who loves big trees and flowers more than I do. But I'm not someone who wants to be outside in all weathers. I was surely born with the comfort gene as opposed to the adventure gene, and I am also a body sensitive so extremes are misery for me.

Last winter, during our big snow, I missed getting out and doing my regular routines but it was clear and sunny and the quiet hum of the heater was a welcome thing. And with my yaktrax on my boots, I could walk each day in comfort. I was a bit lonely after a few days but I was okay.

In the high heat of the past few days, I've been experiencing  a different kind of summer cabin fever. This summer shut-in feeling is quite different. All the curtains drawn against the heat. The noise of two Vornado fans in the living room and portable ACs in the bedroom and studio. The outside sunny and green and uninhabitable. My walk at 6:30 a.m. already too warm and I'm sluggish after a few blocks. The tinge of queasiness from my body struggling in the heat. The loneliness of long days and evenings mostly by myself.

It's curious how I don't get lonely when I spend a day by myself if getting out is an option and how lonely I can get when it isn't. Of course, I could drive in this heat but being in the car, contributing to further toxic air pollution, dealing with heat-cranky drivers? No thanks. I'll take cabin fever instead.  

Friday, August 4, 2017

Amazon Prime is not the addict's friend

In the sweet little movie Mumford, the main character pretends to be a psychiatrist and treats patients in a small American town. One of his patients is an affluent woman whose addiction is catalog shopping. A whole large room in her McMansion is filled with unopened boxes from Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, you get the picture. She doesn't care about the stuff itself; it's the acquisition that does something for her.

I'm not that far gone. I don't buy stuff I can't use, stuff on a whim, stuff because it's on sale, stuff that I might need in the mythical someday. But if I need something, I got straight to Amazon Prime. No delayed gratification for this girl. And as a recovering food addict, delayed gratification is a muscle I need to build.

I know that awareness is the first step. I'm aware. Now to step into non-action.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

What I want for my 70s

This is the first year of my 70s and I've been dreaming up all sorts of things that I want for this decade.
  1. Write 7 more books.
  2. Help people free themselves of addiction.
  3. Heal my relationship with my child selves.
  4. Lose another 35 pounds. 
  5. Come into a fuller understanding of myself as a woman.
  6. Share my experience, strength, and hope in many ways. 
  7. Paint outrageous abstracts. 
  8. Become a fine poet. 
  9. Build a much deeper connection with Spirit. 
  10. Fall in love with contentment.
  11. Live from a curious mind and a generous heart. 
  12. Cultivate sobriety and abstinence.
  13. Be a sought-after speaker and presenter. 
  14. Walk through my fears. 
  15. Simplify to serve my passions and purpose. 
  16. Always assume everything is working out for me. 
  17. Make a ton of $ so I can give away a ton of $.
  18. Encourage creative self-expression in thousands of others
  19. Become a major blogger on recovery.
  20. Build a sustainable, inspiring art practice. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bright Line Eating Boot camp Coupons

I have some $100 off coupons for the bootcamp. If you'd like one, email me at

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Loved this quote from Christiane Northrup

"Forgiveness means no longer letting your past be your reason for not thriving in the present."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

What if we already have enough of everything?

Most of my life, America has been a culture of acquisition. We don't have the homogeneity of some cultures whose millennia of a shared past create a strong bond in tradition or whose national systems of education teach everyone the same things so that there's a bond of knowledge. We are a country of different, shifting groups and ideas glued together by geography and bureaucracy. Instead of a reliance on the old to understand each other and how we are, we focus far more on the new and what we have to relate us to each other.

Shopping is one of our biggest pastimes and in order to keep that endlessness going, we're encouraged to focus on what we don't have. This makes us restless and bored rather than satisfied and contented. And for many of us, that's at the heart of the stress we feel.

It occurred to me recently that I could step out of that cycle. That I could take on believing and acting as if I have enough of everything already, right now, in this moment and in this next moment and in the next. Enough stuff, enough money, enough time, enough energy. What might happen to me? What might happen to you?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The courage to keep singing

The conference hotel
by the Bay
had a lovely walkway
along the water

One morning 
I followed it to the end
not far from the airport's runway

On a signpost sat a tiny bird
singing his heart out
in the cool mist of early day

I stood and listened
to his courage, his spirit,
as every 45 seconds
a jumbo jet took off
and drowned him out

He went on singing
and I saw in his fragile self
and heroic determination
all of us who want to save the planet
and who go on singing for survival
in spite of the deafening sounds
of corporate greed

Monday, July 10, 2017

Breaking the work first/play later habit

I'm on a quest this year to create a sustainable art practice that fits my life. Because I'm slowly reducing the number of paid projects I'm willing to take on, I'm freeing up more time that should make an art practice easier to sustain. But I'm continually bumping up against another very long-term practice that's proving hard to shift: getting all my work done before I can play.

Between the Protestant work ethic I grew up and parents who praised tangible, practical productivity, I find it hard to go into the studio when I've got editing deadlines or other work commitments. Even if I can get myself in there physically, I feel the work looming over me. No problem, you may be saying to yourself, just paint afterwards.

But I'm blessed with work that requires concentration and creativity and after some or many hours of doing that, I don't have the bandwidth, as we say, to get creative in the studio. So doing it first is my best option.

I know that my brain can be rewired. I've done it with other long entrenched habits and I can do it with this. But I guess I just need to whine about it first.  

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

An unexpected consequence of abstinence

I've always been tender-hearted, a sensitive, as we are sometimes called. That may be one reason I drank for so long and then numbed with sugar for more decades after I got sober. The world has a lot of awfulness in it and some of it pains me a great deal.

Last week, workmen spent a day working on two ancient and enormous deciduous trees across the street from me. They form an integral part of my skyline and our neighborhood. I spent the day in grief and terror that they were going to be killed (the old house had recently been sold to a developer) and anger that greed trumps oxygen-producing, shade-cooling beauty and grandeur. My impotence to save them was wrenching.

As it turned out, the trees are still standing akthough minus about 25 feet of lower limbs. I am relieved but cautious. Maybe that is all that will happen to them. Maybe not. I realized in my emotional exhaustion at the end of that day, that abstinence from anesthetic sharpens my feelings. It sharpens my joy and pleasure for sure, and it sharpens the heartbreak. As long as that was an intellectual knowing, I was okay with it. Feeling the reality is something else.

Friday, June 30, 2017

An old woman from another century

An old woman from another century
crossed Sandy Boulevard
as I waited for the light
black skirt falling below her knees
black stockings, black shawl
black kerchief too big for her head
pocketbook over one arm
shopping bag over the other
she looked plucked
from Corsica or Sicily

The age showed in her walk
the stride of youth long gone
as it is in me too
although I still pretend

There are other old women on foot
in my neighborhood
frequent enough to look familiar
heavyset Russians
in mismatched clothes
from the 70s
pulling little carts behind them
homeless, toothless women
pushing a big cart in front of them

But this little crow of a woman
looks collaged onto Sandy
with its cannabis billboards
and Subaru traffic

The light stays red
and I wonder what language she speaks
and what memories lie
in that heart and body
I wonder too if she will buy
any of the same things
I am on my way to buy

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Nutrition and violence

Not long after I stopped drinking, I also gave up caffeinated coffee and sodas. When I checked into the treatment center, I was given a massive dose of B vitamins to help repair my frazzled nervous system. Alcohol and caffeine are terrible for the nerves; they strip the protective sheath off the nerves themselves. Having raw nerves is a literal expression.

When my nerves were raw, I was incredibly irritable. The slightest frustration would set me off. I also had high blood pressure. It isn't the alcohol that causes the blood pressure problem; it's the sugars in the alcohol. Combine high blood pressure with raw nerves and you've got a walking emotional time bomb.

When I shifted my diet exclusively to protein, veggies, and fruit, my mood changed drastically and I became unrelentingly cheerful and relaxed and peaceful. 

So what does this have to do with violence? If we consider that a huge number of the people in our culture eat diets of alcohol, caffeine, refined sugars, refined flour (which is a form of sugar), and processed foods with chemicals that tax the liver, is it any wonder that violence is epidemic? Those in prison eat these foods because we serve it to them. Our poor eat these foods because it's what they know and what they can afford. Our kids eat them. And we seldom see the connection. I've been wondering what the Max train stabber eats and drinks when he's on his own. I've been wondering if the diet of White supremacists contributes to their anger and violence. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

An ode to the demons of the Internet

are my nemesis.

I need the machines
in my life to work
and when they don't
my powerlessness to fix
or even understand
confronts me
with a universe
that is closed to me.

The mysteries of God
of the Big Bang
of the human heart
are as nothing
compared with
a persistent request
to enter a different password
when I know I just
put in the right one.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Trying out an antidote to depression

I've been reading the work of Martin Seligman, father of Positive Psychology, and came across one of his most successful exercises for those who suffer from depression. Fortunately, I don't have clinical depression. Most of the depressive episodes I had vanished when I stopped drinking (duh!) and although I get blue sometimes, it's in the normal course of life. But the older I get, the more interested I am in being happier so I decided I'd give the exercise a try.

It's very simple. Each night you write down three things that went well during the day AND you write down how you contributed to that success. That's it.

I've done gratitude lists before and I felt good about doing it but it never really changed anything for me. This has a different feel to it and it's the second part (our contribution) that is the critical piece. For we begin to see how we can impact our lives directly, how what we do makes a difference.

Seligman has researched this with thousands of people and just about everyone who does it for six or more weeks is happier, including the severely depressed. All I can say is that it's working for me!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A poem from April's poem-a-day challenge

Sunday leisure doesn't happen
in my home very often
It's a gym day
and my morning 300 words
on the novel occurs
without regard to the calendar
but my gym buddy
tweaked her back
and wanted rest
and I gave myself a pass too
choosing poetry over treadmill
although the blue sky
a rarity this spring
beckons after breakfast
and I stroll down the street
composing verses as I go

Monday, June 5, 2017

How a book on Mumbai is helping me understand white supremacy

A couple of years ago, I picked up $1 copy of a book called Maximum City by Suketu Mehta that I'd read about online. It was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2004 and is a journalist's experience of Bombay/Mumbai. He was a kid there, moved to New York, and then took his family back there for a few years to see what it would be like to return home. The book is fascinating and very well written  and presents a whole world of human experiences that are foreign to me.

I happened to pick the book up a few weeks ago. After the recent tragic deaths of two Good Samaritans on Portland's mass transit, like many of us I've been thinking about how someone comes to have so much hate and violence at the ready. Curiously,  Mehta's book has offered me some real insights. One of his chapters concerns gang warfare in Bombay and includes these ideas:
  • The oppressed want nothing more than to become the oppressor. 
  • Most young men (15-25) are wired with a love of strife, of fighting, of proving themselves. Young men in a minority are even more inclined in this direction.
  • When no one loves you growing up, you find some other group to belong to. 
It's not hard to imagine that young white men, like young black men, feel oppressed in our culture today. Jobs are hard to come by, money is hard to come by, acceptance and respect are hard to come by. The oppressed want nothing more than to become the oppressor, which is just what the young white man on the Max train did.

Our culture of war counts on young men being wired with a love of strife and proving themselves. Not all young men experience this, of course, but lots do. Violence is this energy sent in the wrong direction.

Jeremy Joseph Christian (the irony is not lost on any of us) is not a slick, handsome Ted Bundy. This is an overweight, unattractive young man with most likely limited resources. While it's possible he grew up in a loving home where women and animals were well treated, I doubt it. This is someone with not much left to loe who was seeking acceptance and found it in a group that espouses hatred. They took him in.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not looking to excuse anything he did. But Mehta's book helps me understand a little more how we all play a part in this. How do we provide something different for these young people in our schools and communities? How do we make up for what they most likely don't get at home? 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I found this post thoughtful and provocative



The experience of spiritual freedom is a condition of suspended limitation. I remember a very profound moment in my life when I realized that I didn’t really know what was possible. Stop and think about that for a minute. What if you really didn’t know what was possible?

The moment of this realization was a quiet one. I was outside looking up at a beautiful blue sky and I just realized that I really didn’t know what was possible. In that moment I could see that my ordinary experience of reality was surrounded by a sense of limitation – an unspoken invisible assumption that some things were possible and others were not and I knew the difference.

I could be this kind of person and not that kind of person. My acquaintances could act in certain ways but would never act in others. The world is this way and never that way. Some things are possible and others are not and I know the difference.

When that invisible assumption of limitation fell away I was overcome by a sense of awe and wonder. It wasn’t a discovery of what was possible. It was simply the realization that I didn’t know what was possible and that meant that anything was possible.

If you slip into a state of suspended limitation you will feel dizzy with possibility.

You will see that the ideas of what is and what is not possible have always been only ideas and can’t necessarily be trusted. You will realize that it is you that either holds these ideas as true or realizes that you don’t know what is possible.

As magnificent as this recognition can be for an individual – it is a thousand times more extraordinary if it is shared with others. If a number of people manage to drop false ideas of limitation together something truly miraculous occurs. You become wedded in a direct recognition that none of you knows what is possible for yourselves, for each other, or for the world. -- 

Friday, May 26, 2017

A wonderful line from John O'Donohue

"A glimpse of beauty helps awaken and refine our reverence for the intimate eternal that dwells in us."

I love that phrase "intimate eternal."

From: Beauty, the Invisible Embrace

Monday, May 22, 2017

A poem about disappearing pots

On my January walks
bright Talavera plant pots
graced one end of the
Baja ceramics lot on Burnside
I promised myself
one, maybe two
when spring came,
imagining their blues and yellows
on my front porch
welcoming me home

Then March came
and the pots were gone
Every single one

On the second to the last day of April
I walked over to Burnside
spoke to the slacker on duty
--ignoring the oxymoron
He'd no idea what I was talking about

Had I dreamed them
to get me through the winter grays?

They're online, of course
But I wanted a live array
Dozens to touch before choosing
The one, maybe two
for my front porch

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The best question I'm asking myself

I was on retreat recently with women friends and as usual we talked about anything and everything. One of the members was headed out to find a quiet spot and make a difficult work-related phone call. I encouraged her, spur of the moment, to do whatever would increase her peace of mind. And in that moment, it struck me that that was the best question I could ask myself with every decision: Is this going to increase my peace of mind?

Is eating this going to increase my peace of mind?
Is accepting this invitation going to increase my peace of mind?
Is taking on this work project going to increase my peace of mind?
How can I handle this situation in a way that increases my peace of mind?

This is a valuable shift for me from "what do I want." Sometimes I do need to discern what I want before I can ask myself about peace of mind, but using this as a barometer for choice is proving so helpful for me.

How might asking this question ease your life?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

My April poetry project

April is national poetry month and I decided this year to write 30 poems in April. I wanted to commit to writing a poem a day but I'm not rigid about that anymore and some days I wrote two or three. But it was a most satisfying experience.

I've learned to go into such a project with very low expectations, letting the doing of it be enough. So I don't commit to writing 30 great poems, just 30 poems. Here is one written at the beach.

I walked up the long gravel road
where rape is occuring six days a week
The entrance was gated
but I found my way around
and climbed the hill to an intersection
Some of the violence is old
the bones heaped high
branches akimbo
Higher up the wounded earth
is still soft, brown, raw

We hear the trucks in the house
if the windows are open
A low rumble
as they climb up empty
and come back down laden
with the toppled trees

I ache for the displaced
fox, coyote, bobcat
bird, mouse, beetle
I do not know who else
owns the land
but its inhabitants
were not offered a fair price

I apologize for my un-kind
but it seems as nothing
in the havoc we have wrought

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Poems and projects in general

I'm somebody who loves projects. Call me crazy but I like setting goals and achieving them. I like completion and checklists. I find this kind of structure really helpful for two things in my life: things I don't want to do and things I do want to do.

If I can make something I don't want to do into a project, like my taxes, I'm more likely to just get it done. I can break it into discrete tasks, make a checklist, and keep moving. This also works for some of my shoulds: floss more, stretch more, get to bed earlier. If I can commit to doing it each day for a month or two and see the visible results on a graph, I can form the habit.

Why would I need a project for things I want to do? Because some of the things I want to do, I never get around to. I think about them. I talk about them, but I don't seem to do them. Now I'm not going to make a project otu of a one-time thing, like calling an old friend. But I might make a project of calling an old friend every week. I might make a project of sending a thank-you card to someone I appreciate every day for two weeks. I might make a project of painting much more regularly. What a project helps add for me is a way to measure my fulfillment on my intention.

What might make a good project in your life?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The filter of application

I wrote some weeks ago about my epiphany around curiosity vs. judgment. How if we can stay in the former, we can stay out of the latter. I read a variation on this recently, a technique called a "filter of application." That rather than see things through the filter of judgment (good/bad, stupid/brilliant), that we can see everything through a filter of application: How can I use this to get what I want, to get where I want to go?

I'm finding this particularly useful when I listen to other people talk about what they're doing and how they're doing it. I used to just listen politely. I was interested in them, especially if they were close to me, and how they were doing, but I wasn't listening for what I could learn, for what I could use. Now I'm seeing opportunities for learning everywhere, and it's helping me give up the stance that I have to figure it all out for myself. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

My idea of fun doesn't have to be everybody else's idea of fun

I did another proprioceptive writing session this month with my good friend Sue and out of it came an amazing revelation to me. I've always been annoyed when people tell me that I need to have more fun. This started when I was a kid. My mother would tell me to go out and have fun with the other kids. But what they were doing was never very fun for me, never very interesting. I was much happier reading, writing stories, forcing my sisters to be students in my make-believe classroom.

And as the years have gone by, I have continued to not find what most other people think of as fun as, well, fun. I'm bored lying on a beach or by the pool. I was bored sitting around drinking even though I was an alcoholic. Drinking or getting stoned wasn't fun. It just felt tedious. Parties with small talk weren't fun.

I now understand why. Fun for me is being engaged and stimulated. I like learning things. That's fun. I like exploring ideas. That's fun. I like acquiring new skills. I like deep conversations that are about solving problems. I like workshops and creative retreats.

I was a serious kid (with a great sense of humor) and I'm a serious adult (with that same sense of humor), and I'm finally okay with that. What a relief!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Self-medicating with busyness

In talking with my coach this week, I had a big insight. I've always sort of known that I'm addicted to overworking. I like feeling productive (it's a reliable positive feeling for me) and I like being needed by my clients and doing them a good service with my editing and coaching. It's a win/win.

But over the years as my interests have broadened out, especially in the creative direction of writing and painting, this overworking habit is not serving me so well because I'm just trying to cram more in and feeling more and more stressed about it. I've set up blog commitments and writing commitments and painting commitments and work commitments and social commitments that leave me pretty ragged.

And what I saw Monday was not only is overworking a well-entrenched habit, it is a form of self-medicating. And oddly, a kind of preemptive self-medicating. I overwork not only to get the good feelings of productivity and being useful. I overwork to prevent boredom, restlessness, and any other uncomfortable feelings. In a way, this isn't a bad thing. I don't want to be bored or restless or sad or unhappy. But at the same time, I don't let those feelings come up and move through me. I'm numbing them out with work and commitments.

I don't think I'm the only one who does this, the only one who's nervous about downtime and what might show up. I do know that I don't want to be self-medicating in any way. I want to be fully in my life however that appears. So change is needed.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What would it take to make this the best part of your life?

In my decades as an intellectual cynic, I would have found this question ludicrous. I prided myself on being a realist (I focused on realist literature for my doctoral work after all) and didn't believe in personal transformation or the ability to create what we want. Now I do believe in that.

Sobriety from alcohol, abstinence from sugar and other simple carbohydrates have proven to me that we can change how we are, how we feel, how we "be" in our lives. And while we are powerless over many things, we are not helpless. We always have control over how we react to circumstances and how we respond to what life presents us.

Two years ago, I was pretty despairing. I was mired in food addiction, obese, only sort of healthy (I did have a consistent exercise program). Now I'm in better health than in a long time. I have a lot of gratitude for all the blessings of my life and a lot of curiosity as to what else can happen. I'm not sure what it might take to make this the best part of my life, but I'm sure interested in the inquiry.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bright Line Eating discounts

Bright Line Eating is starting another boot camp on April 24. I have coupons for $100 off the cost of the bootcamp. Email me at

Monday, April 17, 2017

Getting off the fence

I got to watch a master coach last week help a woman work through her indecision about a long-distance relationship. The details of her dilemma are not important here, but his coaching was so valuable that I wanted to share those ideas. This is what I saw.

It takes tremendous energy to be on the fence. The energy we put into thinking about the issue (and most often, it's worry, not just thinking), the energy of stuckness, is energy that doesn't go into other meaningful things in our lives.

Fence-sitting drains our energy in two other ways. We often feel bad about ourselves that we are indecisive and that drains us. And we are in fear, fear that we will make the wrong decision. And that drains us.

But most important of all, we can't move forward if we're on the fence. We've usually fallen into what is jokingly called "the paralysis of analysis." We play out the pros and cons, make lists, discuss it endlessly with friends or family (who may begin to lose patience). And nothing changes.

The coach encouraged the woman to decide. To step out of the relationship and see what happened. Or to step much more fully into the relationship and see what happened. She wouldn't know, couldn't know until she stepped down off the fence one or the other.

I've lived some long stretches on the fence. I know understand why that was so dreadful.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

An amazing article on our right to choose

In the early 1970s, I worked in Houston as a counselor for women seeking legal abortions in New York and California, where it was already legal. This article really speaks to my heart.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A great post from my rabbi on managing expectations

Managing Expectations
As you might or might not know, I am an accomplished magician. Every year since 1979, I’ve gone to Tannen’s Magic Camp
 – first as a camper, then as a counselor, and now as a member of the senior staff.
The best magicians will always let you know before you are fooled how you are about to be fooled. They might say “Wouldn’t it be amazing if…” and give you a sense of where the magic is going to happen. They hint at it. The general rule is that you don’t want your magic to be anything completely unexpected.
Surprises undo us. Most of us dislike being completely fooled. We don’t mind if a spoon bends, and we don’t mind if the signed card is now in a wallet — as long as we were somewhat expecting that to happen. We are comfortable with our expectations being messed with as long as we are expecting our expectations to be messed with. We do not like when things happen far outside our expectations.
The recent election of Donald Trump was outside of the expectations of a majority of Americans and many people throughout the world. (I'm still quite baffled by it.)
We don’t like to be fooled.
We don’t like the world to be other than how we want or expect it.
We dislike it a lot. We really don’t like the world not to conform to what we expect.
We ask the doctor, “Will this hurt?” We ask people who have been down the road before us, “What’s it like?” We seek all types of counsel to help us control, predict, and prepare for the future.
That’s what this newsletter is about. With regard to some of the spiritual-religious aspects of your life, I help you make some better sense of this world. And, I push you, gently and with love, towards making it a better place.
 might be keeping God out of your life – no matter your understanding of the word gee-oh-dee. Observation bias underscores this notion that we tend to see the world as we think we will see the world .  For example, if you are a teacher and you think a student in your classroom is “trouble,” you will see countless examples of that child misbehaving. If you think a friend is rude and  interrupts the flow of conversation, you will see that happen.

You should be astounded, literally, to realize that what you expect to see is almost synonymous with what you see. - rB

Maybe the world is only how we see it because that keeps us comfortable?
I awoke the other day with a quote by Martha Beck in my mind: “The repercussions of one person living in stubborn gladness are incalculable.” I was struck by the word “stubborn” and decided to spend the day in stubborn gladness – and while it took work, I managed to do it.
If you want to see more love in the world, start looking for more love in the world, and you’ll see more love in the world.  If you expect to encounter wondrous things, there’s a much greater chance you are going to see wondrous things. If you are expecting to see a beautiful world, a beautiful world can be seen.  (If you want help in this spiritual paradigm shift, please ask. I would love to help.)
Perhaps the universe doesn’t want to fool you too hard by making the universe anything other than what you expect. That’s how good magic tricks work anyway.

Rabbi Brian Mayer  has a great blog on Monday mornings. You can sign up for it here: Sign up for free! -