"My Story Lives is a cornucopia of hope and optimism in the midst of challenging and sometimes dark circumstances. You're doing great work!" Dr. Mel Waldman, Psychologist'

"In my opinion, this is one of the BEST LITERARY sites ever created!!" Camincha, San Francisco Bay Area poet and writer

Monday, January 26, 2015

FOR THE BIRDS

It occurred to me as I stared out at the feeders today,
that there are way too many bluejays,
and too many chickadees,
scarfing up the black-oiled sunflower seed.
They are both so common and they eat so
darn much of the pricey feed that I have a hard
time appreciating them.

Meanwhile, the visit from an amazing red-bellied woodpecker
this morning made my bird feeder day.

So here is my question:
if the red-bellied woodpeckers
were as plentiful as
the bluejays and chickadees, and the bluejays and chickadees
were as rare as
the red-bellied woodpeckers...

You get the picture.
I'm pretty sure I would be delighted with blue jays and
chickadees.

Realizing this, I try to remind myself to be grateful for all of the
birds that visit. Every single thing in nature is a miracle.

P.S. Meanwhile, bluejays have rich symbolic meaning. Check it out.

Friday, January 09, 2015

To Reduce Stress Try Chanting the Chakras!

Maybe you know all of this already. But for those of you who don't, the chakras are energy points in the body.  There are seven  of them. Says Wikipedia:

"Their name [chakra] derives from the Sanskrit word for "wheel" or "turning", but in the yogic context a better translation of the word is 'vortex or whirlpool'."

Chanting the sounds associated with the chakras is like giving your energy body a kind of vocal massage up and down your spine (each chakra is associated with a different color light.)

It's easy to chant the chakras, and it doesn't take long at all. If you have five minutes to spare in the morning, set a timer and then make these sounds one by one (taking a big breath in before chanting each chakra):

Chakra one, corresponding to the Crown Chakra at the top of the head and the third eye in the middle of the forehead: Say "EEEEEEE" 

Chakra two, corresponding to the Throat Chakra: Say "AYYYYYYYY" 

Chakra three, corresponding to the Heart Chakra: Say "OHHHHHHH" 

Chakra four, corresponding to the Solar Plexus Chakra: "UUUUUUU" 

Chakra five, corresponding to the Lung Chakra: "AHHHHHHHH"

Chakra six, corresponding to the Reproductive System: "MMMMMMMM"

Chakra seven, corresponding to the Base of the Spine: "SSSSSSSSS"


Try making each chant as long as you can. Over time, you will find that you go on and on with the vocalization!

If you do this chanting daily, you will be amazed how much they help reduce stress. One artist friend of mine, Barbara Beach, says she chants the chakras "to tune herself up in the morning."

Thanks to my energy healer and long-time friend Denise for instructing me in chakra chanting! I hope it works for you as well as it has for me!

Good luck with this, and have a good day!


Thursday, January 08, 2015

Winter Scene From the Window



Grey ice below a thin layer of snow.
A single black crow, its wings writing,
lifts into the towering pines.
The sun throws elephant shadows
over the hillside.
The crystal sky is so blue.


Monday, December 22, 2014

The Corner Store, Where the Cookies Came in Two Sizes...


 By Camincha  

The corner grocery store of Alba’s childhood -- she recalls being nine -- was very special. It took the role of today’s Community Service Centers: if you were not at home when a package was delivered, they would accept it, and hold it for you. They would take messages. They would let you know when that special brand you were waiting for came in. If you didn’t have a phone they would let you use theirs. Some charged una peseta, twenty cents, or if you were a regular they would just let you borrow it. Saying, “No. No charge for you,” they would slide back the peseta that you had placed on the counter, perhaps adding with a smile, “you are a preferred customer.”

Alba’s grocery store at the corner of Porta and San Martin in Miraflores, in the same block as her house, was owned, like most small grocery stores in the area, by Chinese. Two Chinese men. Both tall, good-looking. One was called Lin Lin. Alba never knew if that was his real name or not. She just accepted it, the way children often take some things for granted. Lin Lin was friendly and helpful to his clients. He smiled whenever he saw Alba. Often he saw her from his post, sitting behind the counter, before she saw him. As she approached, all of a sudden, his eyes would be visible, then his smile as he rose from his chair.

Lin Lin’s store was spacious, clean, with a large counter and a high ceiling. Its walls were lined with drawers. Little drawers. Large drawers. They went all the way up and down the walls. The drawers contained all kinds of merchandise. On one side, they held a well-organized rainbow of threads, ribbons, small pieces of yardage. Next needles, thimbles, measuring tapes. Another group held writing paper, pencils, erasers of all shapes, sizes and colors. An entire side had make-up, tiny perfume bottles and First Aid items. Other drawers held rice, all kinds of beans, noodles, wheat, coffee, tea. But the drawers Alba always zeroed in on were the ones that held the cookies.

In fact that was why this grocery store was so very special to her because of the cookies that were sold there: butter cookies. Flat. They were plain on one side and on the other, they had a clown’s face outlined in brown. They came in two sizes, one the size of una peseta, twenty cents, the others the size of a silver sol, un sol de plata. These cookies were so thin that she wondered how they held their shape. When she put them in her mouth they felt sturdy. Ah! but soon they cracked into tiny little pieces and their delicious flavor spread through out Alba’s slim, little body. 

And she did get a lot of cookies for one or two cents, since Lin Lin was most generous. He measured the sale with his hand. And to Alba’s delight  he had a large hand with long fingers.

Camincha is a California-based writer and a frequent contributor to MyStoryLives. To find a good recipe for sugar cookies, go to MyEdibleMemories.net
                                                  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Meet the Red Birds!

Finally I got the cardinals on film. I had no sooner sat down to meditate this morning when the bright red male started strutting his stuffon the window sill. He hung around so long that I decided to pick up my camera -- the focus already set -- and shoot. A few minutes later, the female, a greenish yellow belly with pale red head and orange beak, appeared and I photographed her as well.

The last post and the one before that discuss the weird appearance of these birds. A friend contends that cardinals appear when there is something to celebrate (or grieve over.) So here we are now with photos, proof that they actually have been visiting.

Perhaps you can understand how distracting these birds can be.  As much as I love seeing the cardinals, it's getting more and more difficult to meditate.

Another little cardinal story happened yesterday. I was looking to buy a tray for underneath our toaster, as there are always crumbs pouring out onto the counter. My husband suggested that I look in a nice gift shop in Chatham, N.Y., the closest shopping district to Spencertown.

"They won't have a tray like that," I said to him. But I told him I would look anyway.
A young woman showed me several ceramic trays that were both too small and too much money. I turned those all down.

"We have one more tray in the back room," she said, and she produced a plastic tray that was the perfect size.

Guess what was pictured on the tray?

Yes, you got it. A pair of cardinals against a winter scene.

This has been a wild bird week. And I am still trying to piece together what exactly is going on here. Clearly there is no simple answer.

Monday, December 15, 2014

WHY ALL THIS CRAZY STUFF HAPPENING?


The cardinal was back this morning, and this time it was the red male batting at the window. I was busy  meditating.

What I want to know is why do these cardinals keep trying to pull my attention away from meditating? (They have been coming since I wrote the last post, last Wednesday.)  That day my head was swimming and I could hardly concentrate on writing.

Since then, I have talked to two writer friends about this situation. When I told my writer friend Peg --  who has read 1,000,000 pages of my writing, including the novel-by-blog Sister Mysteries -- she got confused. "You mean like cardinals in the church?" she asked.

HA, I responded, it never occurred to me that someone would s thinking I was talking about the
high priests of the Catholic church.

But then, Sister Mysteries -- which I finally finished the other day in Chapter 70 called "Finale" -- was all about the Catholic nun, Sister Renata, who back in 1883 was falsely accused of killing her cousin.

Renata, finally and officially, went free in that chapter, and so, reasonably enough -- I thought I was done writing Sister Mysteries. But oddly enough the book continues and maybe that is because the book that I am really writing is the story about me and how I discovered my faith in the divine. (More on that another time.)

Anyway, when Peg said that about Catholic cardinals, I had to explain to her I was talking about the birds and how a female cardinal came crashing into my window and batted her wings against the glass as I sat there with my mouth hanging open. And all the while I was trying to meditate. My therapist in New York City, who has been teaching meditation for 20 years, says that when you meditate you open yourself up to divine energies.)

My other writer friend -- a superb poet named NANCY DUNBAR -- says that cardinals appear "in times of grief and in times of celebration." In my case, I have been celebrating the OFFICIAL ENDING TO THE BLOG TOME I HAVE BEEN WRITING SINCE NOVEMBER 10, 2011. Actually, though, as Peg knows so well as she has read all the 1,000,000 pages I've written, this book has been brewing and steaming and overflowing for 20 years (I wrote the first chapter of the Renata story in Janury 1995). Understandably I have been more than frustrated with this novel. I have tried to write it so many times I can't count. And then I have tried NOT WRITING the novel just as many times and it refused to be put away!)

So the last few days I HAVE BEEN CELEBRATING! Like Renata, I am FINALLY FREE. I am no longer trapped in this novel and I am so happy I can hardly tell you.

I guess that is why the CARDINALS have been coming to my window. It makes me believe in miracles -- so maybe you want to visit my brand new blog called Mysteries and Miracles.  I hope you will read it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Miracle Morning!


Miracles are
happening to me
this morning
the first was just
moments ago the
most amazing bird story I have ever
seen
I saw it 
while in 
meditation.

I had been sitting for
about half an hour when
my husband brought the 
puppy downstairs so she could
go outside.

My husband came into
the living room and said a few things to me
I resumed meditation
and then
and then
the puppy came in and sat down
to the right of me  
I looked over my right shoulder

I SAW A COUPLE OF CARDINALS AT THE WINDOW ON THE BLACK BRANCHES
AGAINST THE WHITE SNOW IT WAS A CHRISTMAS CARD FRAMED BY MY
LIVING ROOM WINDOW I GASPED AND COULDN’T LOOK AWAY I WOULD SAY THEY WERE THERE FOR A HALF HOUR BUT ACTUALLY NOT  NEARLY THAT LONG
THE FEMALE DISAPPEARED BUT THE
MALE KEPT KEPT KEPT KEPT KEPT AT THE WINDOW BATTING 
HIS WINGS FLUTTERING MADLY TRYING DESPERATELY TO GET THROUGH THE GLASS AS I WATCHED MY MOUTH HANGING OPEN THE BUSH THE BIRD THE THOUGHT CAME TO ME THE BURNING BUSH AND MOSES SEEING IT AND

ME WATCHING A SMALL MIRACLE RIGHT
THERE
RIGHT HERE NOW NOW NOW AND 

HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY GO BACK TO MEDITATION WHEN
THE BIRDS HAVE TAKEN YOUR BREATH AWAY?

So I stopped 
to write this.
It's a mystery
I needed a camera but didn’t move.
Some miracles
you just can’t photograph
in words.

P.S.

OMG THE RED CARDINAL THE FEMALE JUST RETURNED
SHE IS SITTING OUTSIDE THE WINDOW IN THE ROSE OF SHARON 
HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT THESE BIRDS
I HAVE NEVER WITNESSED ANYTHING LIKE THIS NEVER
NOT EVER AT THE BIRD FEEDER I NEED TO GET MY CAMERA
I AM SITTING HERE I WILL TRY TO GET UP TO GET MY CAMERA
I AM CERTAIN SHE WILL FLY AWAY BUT WHAT THE HECK I MIGHT
AS WELL TRY...

AND I ONLY GOT THE WINDOW.



But now that we are on the subject of mysteries I might as well
tell you the candle story again
once again
today a candle won't stop
burning bush
won't stop
won't stop
the wax
the wick
I had a tricky candle once before in my Sister Mysteries blog


That time it wouldn't stop burning
It lasted and lasted and lasted
Way way past a candle should.
A long long long long
time after the wick
just kept burning
and burning and
burning bush.
I am now finished reporting on morning miracles.
(But the candle is still burning and I will time how long 
before it goes out.)

p.s.s. The candle burned for four and a half hours!





Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Dear Sylvia

By Nancy Dunlop

Dear Sylvia,
For years your poems
seeped through me
until I finally gave in and allowed myself to be yours
But now, after my own
life cracked down the middle
landing me in the hospital
I must part ways with you
I don't want your ringing anthems
about doll girls and nurses and coffin lids.
I mean, really!
you modelled your poems
to fit with your grisly prediction
yours was a poetics of quick death.


So, dear Sylvia, I divest myself of you
despite your tricky eloquence,
your beautiful horrors.
I am turning my compass,
hopping poem to poem
out of the darkness
to newly lit light.

Nancy Dunlop is a poet and a writer who lives in Delmar, N.Y. with her husband and two cats. It was published first in Miss Stein's Drawing Room.https://www.facebook.com/nancy.dunlop1?fref=nf

Monday, November 03, 2014

Write a Novel in Four Weeks? How about Four YEARS?

It's that time of year again: November, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. Why somebody somewhere decided that a work of fiction could or should be hammered out in 30 days originally mystified me.

The idea behind this month-long race is that you pour out your fictive soul in 30 days and 50,000 words. As the website notes:

"National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing... Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel."

Four years ago this month, I put aside all my skepticism. I have written three novels (published two) and I am well aware of how much work goes into writing a novel. Still,  I decided to respond to my writer friend Lori's challenge to try it out on my fourth book.

I was fast out of the starting gate and was thinking that it might just work -- since I had already played with the plot for this novel over and over again. I thought to myself, you have the pieces, and the plot, all you need to do is weave them together in a coherent way. Somehow, it really seemed doable

For the first few days, I was going great guns, turning out chapter after chapter (You can read the first installment of Sister Mysteries on line, because I decided to try writing the novel on-line in a blog.)

Still, it quickly became apparent to me that there was no way I could keep up. There was no way I could meet the NaNoWriNo deadline. My chapters kept expanding and morphing and getting more complicated. I'd finish one chapter and realize that I needed another chapter that I hadn't counted on in my original plan.

So when November 30th came along, I was only at Chapter ten.

Curiously, though, I didn't consider myself a failure for missing the 30-day deadline (and neither did my friend Lori.) Because after ten chapters, I was convinced I could write the book I wanted so much to write.

In the end, it has taken me four years to reach the last chapter of Sister Mysteries (which is coming soon!)

I make no apologies for taking four years rather than four weeks to turn out the tome. After all, it took me four (or five) years to write my first novel, Dreaming Maples. In that novel, like Sister Mysteries, I had to do more than just write 50,000 words.  Writing a novel forces you to create a whole world for your characters to inhabit. You learn about that world by endlessly writing and rewriting, seeing and re-seeing. Just to give you an idea, to produce my first novel of 425 pages, I wrote perhaps 2,000 or more PAGES that never appeared in the final product. To be a novelist you have to have many skills but perhaps the most important "skill" is patience!  (Just ask my friend Lori who, until recently, tried for many years to turn out her first novel.)

I often tell my fiction-writing students that when you write a short story, it's like holding a baby. You can keep the happy little creature bouncing in your lap or riding on your shoulder for the relatively short period it takes to produce a short piece of fiction.

But when you write a novel, be prepared to wrestle with a mammoth octopus -- one that will enfold you in its all powerful tentacles and squeeze you dry for a long long time. Writing a book is a little like getting married: you are through-the-roof ecstatic when you first jump in, but you may very well lose your enthusiasm after a couple (or more) years. Writing a novel takes over your mind and your life. You have to be willing to yield control to a higher writing power (some writers might go religious here, and I suppose that I am one of those.)

In any case, it isn't so bad that the NaNoWri/Mo folks have given "anyone" the chance to try their hand at hammering out a novel. After all, I seem to recall that it took William Faulkner only six weeks to churn out As I Lay Dying. 

Even though many people might very well fail to meet the November deadline, they're going to work up an enthusiasm that carries beyond the month.  After years of dreaming about writing a novel, a person may find a real momentum and commitment going forward. Indeed they may very well decide to push on and find a way to their own endings. And for that I say many, many thanks NaNoWri/Mo. I am deeply grateful that I am one of those writers!








Thursday, October 09, 2014

The next time you buy a book on Amazon, consider the way they treat their warehouse employees!


By Richard Kirsch
Amazon’s business model is based on quick easy buying and low prices. One way it does that is to force its warehouse workers to wait a long time to leave work, without getting paid. And that’s just fine with the Obama administration, which continues to have a blind spot when it comes to decent pay and working conditions at Amazon.
Yesterday the Supreme Court heard a case (Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk) in which workers are suing the temp firm that staff’s Amazon warehouses. The workers are in court because they don’t get paid for the time they are forced to stand on line for a security check when they leave work to be sure they haven’t stolen anything. 

The security screening itself reveals the poor working conditions and lack of respect that Amazon has for its workers. Workers who are well paid and have job security will not take the risk of stealing. The lack of pay adds costly insult to their injury.

The legal issues revolve around whether the security screenings, which can take 20 minutes or more, are “integral and indispensable” to the job, which would trigger pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Amazon certainly thinks so; the screenings aren’t optional. Still the firm, which pays warehouse workers around $11 or $12 an hour, cheaps out by denying the workers pay when they are waiting on line to leave.
As Jesse Busk, the lead plaintiff in the case, told The Huffington Post, "You're just standing there, and everyone wants to get home. It was not comfortable. There could be hundreds of people waiting at the end of the shift."
While President Obama has made numerous passionate speeches about giving Americans a raise, his administration is taking Amazon’s side at the Supreme Court, filing an amicus brief, alongside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbies.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing new about this from the administration. Last August, as I wrote at the time, “President Obama gave a great speech on why good jobs are the foundation for his middle-out economic strategy... from a huge Amazon warehouse where the workers do not have good jobs.”
The President told the Amazon warehouse workers who were in the audience, “we should be doing everything we can as a country to create more good jobs that pay good wages.”
Everything, it turns out, except being sure they get paid for all the time they are required to be at work.
The Obama administration may wonder why the President does not get more credit for the economic progress the nation has made coming out of the Great Recession or more recognition for his calls for raising the minimum wage. The core reason is that for too many Americans too low wages, too few hours at work, and job insecurity or no job at all remain their reality.
The President’s defense of Amazon reveals another reason. Americans see that he is unwilling to take on the powerful forces that are driving down the living standards and hopes of American workers. They see his embrace of Amazon and Wal-Mart, where he gave a speech on energy earlier this year. And too many come to the conclusion that it is only campaign contributors that matter, despairing of finding leaders who understand what really is going on in their lives – and who are willing to take their side against the powerful.
Richard Kirsch is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. This piece ran first in Roosevelt's blog, Next New Deal.