Musing About Life

Reemerging from the Shadows

shadow-womanI’ve been absent from here, from all social media, for awhile. Life changed, as it does.  Here’s what happened. And why I can start to emerge from the shadows, and rejoin the virtual world. With differences.

What Changed?

My daughter started middle school and was diagnosed with ADHD. My life morphed into doctor’s appointments, school appointments, research,  tapping friends, colleagues and strangers with similar situations, long hours of homework oversight and working through a spectrum of emotions that exploded through the house without a moment’s notice.

There was no time and little left of me at the end of the day.

My writing screeched to a halt, so did the daily yoga I use to manage a back condition. I missed deadlines and obligations–something I’ve never done. And given my overblown sense of responsibility, it all felt terrible.  My stomach turned to acid, my pants tightened, I couldn’t get out of bed,papers piled up in all corners of my house, I ran out of dishes because I didn’t wash them and I noticed more wine bottles in the recycle bin.

So I scaled back. I dropped social media, resigned from all volunteer activities, took out everything from my life that took time from my family.  I didn’t have it to give. My attention centered on my daughter and work. Nothing else. Needless to say, I got lost somewhere in there.

Healing: It started with a table and chairs

Sometimes an unexpected gift gets dropped on your doorstep. Its not necessarily anything important, just changes something. Like fixing a slanted picture, and the room looks somehow right again. In this case, neighbors I didn’t know very well, moved and left me their dining room table. I needed a new one and this did the trick. One small change compelled me to make another. I added a new sofa, since the puppy tore through the old one, and the cat usurped it as his hiding place.

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Two changes and my home no longer felt like a burden, another set of lines on my never ending to-do list. It became a place to nest and to heal. A place of refuge and renewal.

My daughter continues to adjust to middle school and we’ve come up with tricks and strategies to get the homework done by a decent hour and manage some of the ADHD. Life advances one day at a time, no matter how much it feels like its racing past us.  Things are still not easy nor reliably routine.  Perhaps they never were–that’s just an illusion we create to keep ourselves sane. But I’ve come home to myself.

 

I’ve started writing again, doing yoga, and journaling. Not at the same level of productivity and not every day. My schedule has changed. I’m not taking on new responsibilities for the moment but have started adding the basics back. I’ll aim to blog more often–aiming for weekly–and show up on twitter and FB at that same level. I miss you all.

Coming Next

I’ve slowed down and may have back tracked by I’m still writing.  Hope Restored, Book 3 of Divine Temptation is with critique partners and beta readers. If anyone wants to beta read it, there’s still time and I’d love to get feedback from a few others. But that should be out later this year, if everything goes well.

After that, I may reinvent myself. Watch this space. As my life changes, my writing and writing life will change too.

 

 

Six Things I Learned from Adopting a Rescue #Puppy #Dogs

About six weeks ago, I brought home the sweetest little puppy from an adoption event. Here she is. Legacy at about 10 weeks, 10 pounds, rescued from the streets in New Orleans. We adopted her for a lot of the reasons people do–companionship, love of dogs/animals, increase our family, get outside more, exercise more and just simply because we wanted one.

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To an extent, as expected I got all that as well as not enough sleep (puppy’s need time to sleep through the night), an empty wallet, and lots of training classes. But the real gains from that little girl who is growing faster than weeds (she’s now 22 pounds and climbing), I never expected.

Legacy 4 months

1.) A new neighborhood:  Because I am out walking around more and just outside more attached to an adorable bundle of energy, I find myself talking to and engaging more people–neighbors I’ve never met, streets I’ve never visited.  I’ve rediscovered my neighborhood.

 

2.) Reorganized family dynamics:  Add a puppy, you change the time allocation in a family.  But its been for the better. My daughter and I have something else to share, to take on walks, sometimes to fight over but that’s mother-daughter relations for you. Overall, its another center for the family. Something we are all responsible for, and whose antics and needs are unique to our family.

3.) A no-stress zone.  When I’m with the puppy, I have to be with the puppy. Outside, on walks, at play.  If that sounds forced, it is and it isn’t.  I hadn’t really thought through, not in precise detail anyway, how a puppy would reorganize my time. But I like it. I like have space to be outside, with work and other worries far, far, far away. I’m not writing as much as my life reshuffles around the new addition, but I’ve also let go of some of the anxiety that was starting to weave itself into my psyche from the writing–how many sales, reviews, etc.. Its been a chance to let go, unwind and reclaim the essential joy and satisfaction that came from sitting down and writing. Something that’s been missing lately as I’ve been caught up in the world of publishing and marketing.

 4.)Forced reflection on the quality, or lack thereof, my patience levels.  Having the puppy reminded me to bolster up my patience levels. I’d forgotten how much the little ones needed. I did it when I had my daughter, but as she grew, and began to rebel–well so much for the patience muscles I had toned when she was an infant and toddler.  The puppy forces me to rebuild those skills.

5.) Club membership.  Being a dog owner has put me in a brand spanking new club.  Dogs seems to automatically bond two people who may have nothing else in common. Got my dog owner card, carrying it proudly.

6. Acceptance.  When we first saw Legacy, she was gentle and calm. When we brought her home days later, she was a bundle of energy, racing around the house in manic puppy mode, with an aggressive streak we did not expect. She’s a mutt. Pittbull may be a part of her DNA. When we had met her, the poor thing had been getting over some kind of virus. That veneer of serenity a residue of the disease or the drugs used to heal her or (or both). We had to wrap our heads around the dog we got was not the dog we thought we picked.

But that’s the same with all new additions–they bloom into their real personality. She’s also smart, learns fast, and is incredibly sweet when she wants to be and does listen–when there are no distractions around. We’ll be in training for awhile but we love her, growls and teeth and all.

So, tell me about your puppy.  What have you learned from living with a dog?

 

 

 

Summer in the City

Traffic Flow

In my day job, I save cities. In that life where I use my other name, wear my other wardrobe and use the other half of my brain, that’s what I think and say about my work. Its a good job. It has meaning and value, and I’ve lived in so many different types of cities in my life. But now I sit in an office, pushing paper, hitting computer keys and making phone calls, completely disconnected from the economic and social challenges I claim to be fixing (or at least trying to). In my city savior persona,I often take my walks at lunch. (I’ve blogged about my ongoing frustration about whether or not to give to the homeless, who I pass daily during my walks and if so how.)

During one of my sojourns which are coming to an end as labor day looms ahead, I decided to walk through one of the small urban parks a block from my building.  I tend to avoid it because it is an odd space. Square in shape, the size of a city block, one side is fully covered with food trucks and irregular patterns of people waiting to buy lobster rolls, Afghani kabobs, vegetarian burritos or gourmet cupcakes. The benches are always full and  represent the city in miniature. Smokers in one place, guys in suits on another, students in shorts and tight tanks, homeless, and those talking to themselves without a phone we tend to avoid. You name it, you can find it in the park on any summer work day in the city. Green grass and trees aside, the park chokes me like only a city, by concentrating and swirling around people, beauty and pathologies in small, dense spaces.
Saint Petersburg. Peterhof Palace Park view of crowded city park

Aren’t I supposed to feel nature, get a jolt of healing green from a city park?

Instead, I cringe at the density of social problems packed between the plants and feel tiny at my sheer inability to address them.  While I often go to nature to touch the universal spirit, I struggle to feel that spirit among the maringa sounds of iphones, the scent of those who have no access to soup, and the hustle and bustle of working folks navigating the crowds congregating in the space.

That park really drives home the magnitude of issues we, as a society, do not address. Not really. We just let them fester. Because solving them overwhelms me with what it would take, and how much it would hurt my life, what I’d really have to give up to solve them. I  apologize for getting on my soapbox. I don’t like complaining without at least an attempt at thinking through solutions. But sometimes the problems seem so big, that all I can do is keep the door shut on them, brush them under the carpet, avoid walking in block-sized city parks on summer days at lunch time.  The bury-my-head-under the carpet feeling doesn’t last. This is my day work (writing is my early morning and night work) and it means something to me, but keeping the fire burning gets harder and harder.  But I do it in the office and when I come home, I ignore the changes that it would entail to really fix things.

How do you handle this all. Knowing that at some level, if we looked and really saw, we’d realize that a lot of the world really does not work for most people?

Meet me where I am, and I’m not on a street corner

street cornerIn a past post I questioned why I seemed to be giving less to the homeless who wait with hands out on the street corners–both walking and driving.  Something happened today, juxtaposed to some conversations I’d been having at work, and I had one of those blinding flashes of insight. I realized that  I’m not on a street corner–I’m never really on a street corner. Clear as mud, right.
 

Let’s start with the trigger event. Heading toward a meeting out of the office, I had to navigate through several street corners of those super enthusiastic youth with matching shirts and clipboards pushing their priority causes?  If you live in a city, you know what I mean.  They usually want you to sign a petition, give money, or just be informed about [Fill in Cause Here].  I respect their enthusiasm and envy their energy.  And many of their causes are worthy. And here’s the insight. It’s not the message or even the extent of the need, but its simply when you want me to give (money or time), you need to ask me where I am. And I am never on a street corner.

 

What does that mean? Good question. Let me explain.

 

Now that I’m older, with many more responsibilities, my life is tightly orchestrated–very tightly orchestrated. I don’t stop during my work week. If I’m on the street or in the car, I am in motion–moving from one place to the other.  My conscious mind centers first on navigating the path, then secondarily on where I am going and what I will be doing when I get there. This is not the time to sell me something–and yes, all that stuff on the street corner is a form of selling.

 

To convince me to do something, you have got to meet me where I am, and my mind is never on that street corner. I have no internal proclivity to be convinced or even to stop at listen at that time. You may be able to stick something in my hand– a holiday safety card, a free box of cheerios, but it needs to be doable while I am in motion.

 

So I’m not getting less giving. In fact, if I look at my acts of charity over the past few years, I’m giving more.  It’s just really hard to get my attention when I am heading somewhere else.  That is another tragedy of the cashless, cashfree society. Those who need most, have to ask where those are least likely to be heard.  😦

The inconvenience of charity: How do you give in a cash free, cash less society?

atm and debit cardSometimes it feels like the needs of others are squeezing me to pieces.  Take last weekend.  While I was parked at a red light, an older woman came knocking on my window, sign in hand, Three children, please give.  My daughter freaked out in the back telling me I had to give, there were three children, and the woman, I swear, gave me the evil eye or that might have been my guilt looking back at me.  Be that as it may, I have no cash. I rarely use it and I don’t carry it.  I’m debit card dependent, partially out of laziness, and partially out of the real need to make ends meet every paycheck. Using the debit card helps me do that (I also check my bank account at minimum every other day to see how I’m doing).

 

Hands of Homeless Man with Change in Cup
And its not as if that’s the only homeless person I pass. I work in the city, live in an inner ring suburb. The homeless are a part of the fabric of my existence, like a streetlamp or a fire hydrant, I pass them every day, sometimes greet them, sometimes no, sometimes give if its one of the few days I have dollars in my pocket, mostly not. But they are human, and they have needs, and it could be me.

 

And I have no idea what to do, never have. If there had been blogs oh so many years ago when I first moved to the city as an idealist youth out to save the world, I would have written the same thing. I remember the regulars on my regular walk to work–the baby bag lady who was only a few years older than me, black hair down to her ass and a cup held out.  The Cup held his out with an arrogant jut of his wide chin, daring you to fill it. And the would-be professional, who each week put a sign next his cup–please give I need a ____ for a job interview, the fill-in changed periodically from brief case to shoes to shirt to jacket.  Back then, I gave–often. I kept change in my pocket to be able to do so–back when change and not dollars actually added up and could at least buy a loaf of bread.   It was more a part of my psyche, the way my life was structured with some cash and change always in my pocket.

 

What happened?  Did I get colder and harder with my own economic struggles.  Is it age? Or is it the fact that I don’t carry cash enough to explain it?  Probably not, but why is it so hard to give to the guy on the street with a cup and so much easier to swipe my debit card for a nonprofit that provides help for the homeless?  Any thoughts?

Sucked into the consumer spiral: How do you handle the craziness of consumerism?

consumer

I have no extra time so why is it that shopping has become increasingly more cumbersome, complex and time consuming? I can’t seem to ever get everything I need from a single store.  With a single shopping list that includes organic and non-organic foods, household products, pet needs among other needs, I hop from organic markets to Trader Joes to traditional supermarkets, checking off items as I go.

Part of its money (organics can get expensive so I have two stores for that alone), part of it is that they all have subtly different options–and as a spoiled denizen of the U.S. consumer culture for way too long–I want what I want.  Even Target, my go-to, back up store for everything, only caters to an increasingly smaller proportion of my needs even as it offers a wider range of products (e.g. mine just added a whole grocery section).

Ah, the internet you say is the answer, buying on line cuts through all of that.  Kind of, sort of, but not really.  I use that too but once I start tapping on delivery fees, the time to evaluate the sites if its not Amazon or the local supermarket, and do cost comparisons, its only really advantage is it saves on gas costs and lets me order at strange times of the day. But I don’t necessarily save time. So instead of replacing physical retail, it just heaps on more options–all of which I use. Nothing gets cut out, just used differently.

If that’s not enough, I have another consumer pathology that creates some pretty crazy buying patterns.  Price versus waste makes me insane. I just bought a $3.99 bottle of brand name aspirin with 50 tablets rather than 200 for $1.99 because there is no way I’d use even 75 by the best buy date.  Is it better to pay a little more and not waste, or save a dollar and throw a lot out? And that waste gets in our water, our food, our green space.

Mixed Nuts

Nuts, shopping in the 21st century, its just nuts.

What are you’re pet peeves for shopping and consumer culture in 2013?

Thanks for dropping by,

Sabrina

Is life without caffeine, sugar, alcohol, gluten, and animal products worth getting out of bed for?

In a moment of profound wisdom or total insanity, I upped and volunteered to join a group of fabulous women to cleanse my body of the big five–caffeine, sugar, alcohol, gluten and all animal based products for three weeks.

Why you might ask (I certainly asked myself that every day)?   Four reasons.

1) To manage inflammation and its resulting pain and discomfort without pills or shots (or surgery).

2) To prepare differently for my annual check-up to see the results of my blood work

3) To lose weight

4) To see what it’s like, given all the increasing research and hype around modern diets and nutrition (explorer in me).

What was it like?

You know, it wasn’t bad.  Once I got through the first few days of feeling pretty sluggish, a side effect of giving up sugar, it was pretty easy.  The real upside for me wat that I could eat all the time (and I did) and still lost weight.  The hardest part was eating out–finding a restaurant that could deliver a dish I could eat (salad greens with olive oil notwithstanding)–was a major research undertaking.  The other really hard part was finding food that didn’t have sugar or gluten snuck in as a filler.  I read labels til my head spun.

What did I learn?

Of those five foods, the one I missed most was caffeine. Whether that was the caffeine itself, or just the religious experience that coffee is for me, I’ll never know. But as soon as the cleanse was over, the first thing I put back was my morning coffee. At that point, with my morning coffee and nothing else was I felt the best I’d ever felt.

Giving it all up actually made eating easy. It reduced the choices of available food choices so dramatically it took the “what do I eat” question out of my life.  In effect it replaces temptation with hard and fast rules that require no measuring or counting.  The upside to that was that I could eat all day, snacking on fruit, vegetables, rice cakes and nuts.  I don’t think I could have pulled this off without nuts as a major part of my diet, which would limit this for some.  The downside to that is that most social life is not structured around these rules so you have to work hard to stick to them–read labels to the extreme, bring your own food to parties, always have snacks with you, do a lot of restaurant research so you have a reliable list of places where you can get something beyond salad greens with olive oil for a meal.

The relationship between hunger and satiation/satisfaction changed. Eating this way, I got full more easily with much less food but I was hungry much more often.  I know there’s a lot of information out there that things like sugar (and many of its variants like corn syrup) additives and possible gluten disrupt your satiation mechanisms and have you wanting without hunger.  For me, I believe it now and I have one miserable child as I make some changes in our diet as a result.

Finally, food is not just fuel, it is a major part of the social, sensual and religious fabric of our lives.  Being part of that matters, a lot.  For me, it is important to take a sip of wine and eat a bite of bread (assuming bodies can handle them) during a ceremony.  I do want to take a bite of a cookie or anything else my child makes at school, at friend’s house, or undertakes on her own in mine.  Whipped cream stays in the fridge (I’ll let you figure out why) although I may change it soy cream.

Did I achieve my goals?

I lost five pounds. Yeah!

My annual result blood work was better than it has been in several years.  However, it still could have been better. I was happy that my doctor was happy, but I had hoped for more stellar results.

The pain associated with inflammation was no better but no worse than with the drugs. That leaves me with the question–Did both or neither work?

I had the experience and I’m making changes as a result.

End Results

Will I give all these things up? No.

Will I change my diet as a result of this? Yes. I already have.  I’m buying differently, cooking more and will keep all these foods reduced in my diet. All in all, I find it easier to live without labels (e.g. vegan) but I have taken to heart what I’ve learned. I also found a lot of products without many of these things are just good .

What about you? Have you given up any or all of these?  What was your experience?

Nurturing creativity: Lets share some ideas

I credit my decision to commit myself to writing to The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  When my creativity takes a nose dive (guess where it is now) that’s the first place I return to for a jumpstart.  She recommends two tools to unleash creative potential–morning pages and artist dates.

Morning pages are a process of writing three pages daily by hand on just anything that comes out. It helps you work through all your stuff out and just primes the pump before you dive into the rest of your day. Through those pages, my inner need to write fiction (I write non-fiction in my day job) surfaced with a vengeance and here I am.

I struggled over the artist’s date.  Once a week you are supposed to go on a date by yourself and do something whimsical, silly, fun or just escapist to fill the creative well and keep those artistic muscles in shape. Truth is, my life’s so packed with responsibilities and deadlines that when I carve some time out, I don’t quite know what to do with it.  I struggle to rediscover my ability to play like a child.  Over time, I’ve find several me-dates that help refresh my sense of joy and wonder, all fodder for the muse.  Here are a few of things I dreamed up.

  1. Visit used children’s book stores: I love to page through the old books full of illustrations and drawings we lack from the adult fare. (I probably should get more into Manga and anime.)
  2. Pull out a sketch pad, colored pencils and a copy of cartoon drawing for dummies. I had a blast drawing clowns and animals.
  3. Bake an elaborate dessert–something that’s as pretty to look at as it is to eat, drawing out those design instincts when putting the dish together.
  4. Lie down on the grass and just be.

How do you do it? What do you do to keep you’re creativity juiced? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Coming home

Welcome to my new look.

Why the change, since my blog was still an infant, a whopping four weeks old?

A bad fit. Every time I returned here, it just didn’t feel like home.

On my blog, I wanted to  feel safe enough to howl at the moon, jump off a cliff and share what’s lurking deep in the marrow of my bones.  A place my heart can sing and cry, alone and with others.

So I switched to a blog design that allows me to, in the words of Melissa Manchester, “come home to myself.”

Let me reintroduce Sabrina. Straightforward with clean lines,  playfully pink with a solid black spine,  full of well-defined spaces to try out floppy, oozy, free form ideas.  Upfront with the ability to flirt tucked subtly under the skin.

Yep, I feel right at home.  I invite you to do the same.  Tell me what you think.

Shifting worlds

I feel like I am walking around with new glasses on–everything feels familiar but off-kilter. It’s uncomfortable, its awkward, but clarity is lurking around the corner.  I can feel it. Why? Because I reached out when I felt angry. Because I reinterpreted a conflict as an opportunity to address a festering relationship. Will it work? Don’t know.  My world has shifted. Lets see where it goes.