Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Good Mother

“I wish I could do it over again,” said my friend, “I wish I’d paid more attention. I wish I’d stayed at home. I wish I could remember their childhoods.”

It could have been me saying those words.  It could have been you. 

Have you ever heard a woman claim to be an exceptional mother?  Have you ever met a mother who is free of guilt or regret?

I’ll try it out today.  Squeeze a lump of faith into my fist.  Smile.  Play the part.  Say the words. Feel free to join me:


Thursday, February 14, 2013

SF In My Bones

“It's an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attractions of the next world.”  ~ Oscar Wilde
First steps on Fifth Avenue in San Francisco

Some sage person (who?) said we feel most at ease in the place we learned to walk.  The ground in that particular place hums like a tuning fork against your bones. 

I was born in the southern Appalachians and lived thereabouts until I was 23, but it was in San Francisco that I took my first steps.  In an apartment on Fifth Avenue near the old French Hospital.  My father was stationed at the Presidio, and Mom and I came out to be with him.

There are photos of me waddling all around the city in baby shoes, usually with one parent or the other kneeling nearby with outstretched arms to catch me:  At the Palace of Fine Arts, in the Japanese Tea Garden, at Fort Point, on Baker Beach.

I have no memory of that time.  Yet, as a young adult, I moved back to San Francisco and I've stayed nigh on 30 years. My work is here. My friends are here. My children were born and raised here.

San Francisco feels exactly right. In my bones.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Shallow End

Shin splints have sidelined me from my usual exercise regimen of step, interval training, hiking and Zumba.  Instead I’ve been using the rowing machine, doing abdominal work and lifting weights. 

I’ve also added water aerobics to my schedule and have taken a few deep-water classes to get my heart pumping without impacting my injured leg. 

Today, the Y didn’t offer a deep water class so, while participants grooved and weaved in the shallow end of the pool, I stayed on the deep side and followed the instructor (modifying my movements as needed).

What do you think of whenever water aerobics gets mentioned? Do you think it’s silly and sissy? You aren’t alone. In my experience most folks laugh and conjure up images of plump blue-haired ladies bobbing around in shower caps to Rod Stewart singing “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.” 

But – let me tell you – it can be very challenging!  And I admire every single person who has the courage to strap on a Speedo and take the proverbial plunge.

There I was this very morning: Huffing and puffing in the deep end.  Concentrating on my movements. Churning the water like a shark chasing chum.  Cross-country skiing, Peter-Panning, mini-moguling, windmilling, starfishing and hoedowning.

I failed to notice the senior men paddling around me (during the recreational swim designated for the deep end). As the hour progressed their circle tightened until I had to watch carefully where I was kicking. A few lingering smiles, a few nods, a few too many g'mornings.

When I climbed out of the pool and headed for the showers, a trio of septuagenarians stood in my path.  Stood where they didn’t need to be standing.  Poised to accidentally-on-purpose talk to me right in front of the women's locker room door which is a full 50 feet away from the men's locker room door. 

Time out. 

I just want to say that this brings up all sorts of conflicting and uncomfortable feelings.  If these men were my age (55) or younger, would I mind as much? Would I be flattered? Would I be affronted?  Would it be creepy? Would I be intrigued?

I want to be nice. I see no reason not to brighten a stranger's day – and mine – with friendliness. Even if someone is testing the slightly lecherous water, I think it’s best to assume the best and hope it turns out to be the case.

So I smiled broadly and wished them all a great day.  And then one of the white-haired gentlemen stepped toward me to prevent me moving.

“Excuse me,” he said, licking his lips and leaning toward me, “Excuse me, but you look just like a beautiful Russian lady I used to date. May I ask you your background, your nationality?”

What would you have said?  Because all I could come up with – as I ducked around him and into the safety of the women's locker room – was “Scots-Irish.”

Monday, February 4, 2013


My house is small.  A tiny guest room doubles as office and meditation space.  My wee altar is tucked under the desk.  A zafu and zabuton rest in the bottom of a bookshelf.

I wake up, roll out the zabuton and position the altar against the door because that's where it fits. I light a candle. I sit and breathe. I repeat this ritual every other day.

Last week I did a visualization to help guide me into the rough day ahead. I asked spirit how to escape my funk and meet the world with a smile.

When I opened my eyes I saw – for the first time – this doorknob and keyhole.

Now, how metaphorical is that? A keyhole! A door! Right in front of my face.  Right over my altar. For years, I’d been too busy ohmming and ishing to see it.

My friend Laurie once told me a story about noticing. She’d been walking in a world of pain. Troubles pressing her on all sides. And one day she laid on her back in the grass and looked up.  “I saw how big and open and steady the sky was.”

She saw the clouds as her thoughts, "practically made of nothing and as we watch them we can see that not only are they moving, but they are only small specks in the scheme of things…”

I remember Laurie’s sky story sometimes when I'm stuck.  Or I make a point of noticing what is near me. Or I notice what’s inside.  Though sometimes I’m too bogged in my own quagmire to find the way. 

But I know the way is there, given some patience, faith and awareness.

Open my eyes.  Open the door.