Saturday, February 27, 2010

feeling lucky?

Interesting article from the Good News Network by the author of The Luck Factor. Richard Wiseman researched luck- why some people feel lucky and other people feel unlucky- and found that lucky people-
generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.
After his research, he enlisted several people- both lucky and unlucky- to spend a month practicing skills that would help them increase their "luck".
One month later, the volunteers returned and described what had happened. The results were dramatic: 80 percent of people were now happier, more satisfied with their lives and, perhaps most important of all, luckier. While lucky people became luckier, the unlucky had become lucky.
One of the points brought up in the article that I particularly appreciated was "Lucky people tend to see the positive side of their ill-fortune." Every cloud has a silver lining and all that. I like this too because it is similar to the Zen story Maybe and really comes back to examining our own perceptions. What is truth? What we perceive, how we view ourselves, others, life, defines our world view and what we think is possible. If we don't think something is possible, we are less likely to go for it. Less likely to see opportunities to make it happen. Less likely to see good things where we would otherwise see bad.

Each time I go deeper into these concepts I come back to these same ideas about our individual perceptions and the stories we tell ourselves about them. We make our perceptions, enforce them, give them meaning. Why not, then, choose perceptions that help us feel good. Choose a way that lightens our spirit, a way that gives our life meaning and opens us up to expansion. Big smiles. Running through fields. Guinea pigs hopping. Gorgeous pink trees against blue skies. New ideas. New opportunities. And catching each one as it passes by. Really noticing the goodness that is this life. And seeing how the act of noticing the goodness around us can impact our lives for the better. Whether this is luck or not, Wiseman's research shows how this goodness is open to all of us. Right now. As usual.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

reading shakespeare

Last month I had the idea to read Shakespeare this year. Like most people, I have read some of his plays at different times, some by choice, some for school. I have seen a few more acted out at Shakespeare festivals or during summer time productions. It has been several years since I have read or seen anything by Shakespeare and there are still so many of his plays and sonnets, etc. that I have not read. Why not read them now when nothing else seems to be appealing to the reader in me? It's true, I haven't been reading very much lately. Nothing really steady for the last few months. It is one of those periods of time when I start several books and nothing seems to take. The books remain half read by the side of my bed or are promptly returned to the library. All good books of course, their timing in my life is just not what it could be. And to be honest, there are some books whose time never comes. I put the Shakespeare idea on hold for a few weeks, maybe a month and wasn't sure if I was going to pick it back up. It's good to have ideas that you can follow through with and others that you can let go. There is no shortage of ideas and I don't like to censor that part of me lest I find myself completely without inspiration some day. I prefer to let the ideas flow and flow where they may.

Last night I watched Shakespeare in Love and decided to pick up my Shakespeare idea again. At the very least I am going to read Romeo and Juliet. It seems like one I must have read in 12th grade English but I can't remember anymore. That year was really so overtaken with Thomas Hardy (who, by the way, I have also revisited in the last several years and who I really really enjoyed, contrary to my first experience with him which I remember as being excessively dry. Jude the Obscure is fabulous. My seventeen year old self would probably cringe to hear me say that, I realize, and Mr. Cauldwell would be thrilled. It was his favorite. That reminds me. I have been meaning to read Far From the Madding Crowd, one of Hardy's that I also have never read. I love how inspiration leads to inspiration!) that I remember very little else.

So Romeo and Juliet and then on to Twelfth Night because that was at the very end of the movie and I know I have not read it. I am thinking of rereading my favorite Midsummer Night's Dream. I also still have a copy from many years ago of The Merchant of Venice, where, as legend has it, Shakespeare created my name, Jessica. I bought it so many years ago in a small independent book store in Virginia when I was visiting my aunt for a week during the summer.

OK- the memories are flowing along with the inspiration. I am feeling up to it, excited, and wondering if I could even handle one of the drier histories that I have dutifully avoided all these years. One of the Henry's, perhaps. Or a Richard. Who knows where this could lead me- reading Shakespeare in the garden in the spring sunshine, flowers blooming around me? How's that for inserting a little poetry into your life? All's well that ends well, and all that, you know...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The game?

Wii Monopoly

The players?

Mr Hatter, a millionaire tycoon who wears a fedora, smokes cigars and has a butler named Bannister. Mr. Hatter spends a good bit of the game trying to get Ms. Toad to give him money randomly and spitting out bits of his cigars.

Ms. Toad, his mother, who gets roped into a 2 1/2 hour long game of monopoly in the interest of connection but who ultimately gets pulled into the game enough to take control of the board and bankrupt the last player with two wisely placed houses on Boardwalk. Her butler is named Charles, by the way, and brings her tea and cakes during her infrequent trips to jail.

Mr. Ship (aka player 4, the computer), who teaches Ms. Toad that the way to win is to put every ounce of cash into those houses. More houses please. It was Mr. Ship who finally went under on that fateful trip to Boardwalk.

Mr. Burrow (aka player 3, the computer). Oh well, not everyone can get a monopoly every time.

Samuel got Monopoly for the Wii last week from Blockbuster. He has been playing it steady all week. I played one game with him a few days ago and last night he persuaded me to play another more complete game. He finished it up for me this morning when it got down to Ms. Toad and Mr. Ship. I honestly didn't have the heart to go through the motions of bankruptcy, so sure was I that Mr. Ship would prevail. And yet no. On the very next turn it was all over as Mr. Ship landed on Ms. Toad's boardwalk with houses. Thank goodness for those houses. And the back story. Playing with Samuel and creating a back story to go along with the front story really shifted the game enough so that I really enjoyed myself. So there was that AND connection. What more?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

spring garden planning hooray

Eva and I spent some time outside today uncovering the wood violets and picking through the garden. The oak leaves from fall and winter pile up on the violets and surrounding flowers and I generally wait until early spring to remove them. I was enjoying the smells and sounds of this early springtime. Red wing blackbirds. Geese practicing flight overhead. Moss covered bricks. The trickle and squish of water in the lawn. Earthworms forced to the surface, languishing under bricks and rocks surprised by Eva's prying! We listened to the water creep along in the mud while we checked out some new purple crocuses blooming by the back fence. The squish and trickle. The ground so dense with moisture. There is nowhere to step that doesn't bring puddles to the surface.

From the garden I pulled more carrots and onions to mix with the kale, chard and collards from my CSA basket this week. The chives are up. The kale is growing. We found the sweet pea seeds we saved from last year's plants. I am hoping to plant those in the next couple of days. I still need to buy either pea plants or pea seeds and am wondering if I will raise my ban on sugar snap peas this year. Last year I planted only sweet peas and English snap peas. I admit to missing the sugar snap peas at least some of the time but am wondering if I get enough from my CSA to satisfy those infrequent cravings. Right now I am all about greens and plan to plant more mesclun mix to replace the plants that died in our cold snap last December. Salad salad salad. I love to dream of salad.

The slugs are daring me to plant more primroses in the spot where the calendula used to grow. (The also died out in the December cold this year which is strange because they are usually so hardy. It must have been the timing and duration of that particular cold snap.) Today in particular I feel that I owe it to them. I accidentally stepped on a slug this afternoon and am sad to say that while it was not good for me, it was worse for the slug. I hope it was quick. Do you believe I have never intentionally killed a slug? Tis true. Eva talked to me about how it was quick and painless for the slug and how he was happy that it was at least me who accidentally stepped on him rather than one of those other people who might purposely killed him with salt. Yep. My daughter for sure. Later she did demonstrations on the kitchen floor of what it would feel like to be stepped on and die. Poignant. If I plant enough primroses, I do believe there might be enough for the slugs and me to enjoy. They haven't touched the ones coming up in the garden, for instance. Something about the primroses I plant out front that is particularly attractive to the slugs.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

early morning

I am up very early this morning with just the hint of a migraine and trying to decide if I should have some caffeine to try and put an end to it once and for all or if I should go back to sleep. Obviously, they are mutually exclusive. This migraine started yesterday evening and I thought I had pushed it back to wherever migraines come from last night when I went to sleep but obviously it stuck around enough to get me up with the cats this morning.

I think for now I will sit up and have some macaroni and cheese. Between me and me, I have eaten nearly the whole box I made last night. There seems to be nothing quite like macaroni and cheese for a migraine {for me}. Oatmeal is good too. Other pasta. Something about the intense carbs is really important. Is that serotonin production? Migraines are such complicated beasts I suppose it could be any number of things. All I know is that I keep a box of mac n cheese in the cupboard specifically for migraines and that during those times it is transformed from a mere boxed convenience food to a near nectar of the gods.

I see a hint of sunlight through the window now. A subtle lightening of the sky. I imagine that by the time it is really light outside I will be going back to sleep for a while. My kids were up very late last night which seemed like a bad thing at the time but I am now seeing it could be a good thing, what with me up before the crack of dawn and all. I may get some extra time to sleep and perhaps say goodbye to my migraine. Mac n cheese and a little more sleep may be just the thing. No caffeine needed. Some days I really can't take the caffeine. Another one of those maybe good, maybe bad zen moments that seems to permeate my life, helping me to suspend judgment on what goes on and allowing me to be with what is. If I stop and think about it, I have to admit that things usually do work out at some point on some level. I don't always like the process on the way, though. Looking closer I see that might not be a bad thing. Maybe yes. Maybe no. I'm sure there's something in there about learning to suspend judgement on the process as well. Leave it to a migraine to shed light on a process. They seem to be a whole process in and of themselves.

Before heading off to sleep, I wanted to post some cute pictures from the other day when our friends Lisa, Orion and Akasha came over to visit. We loved hanging out and showing them Albert and Terrence, but of course!

Here is Eva showing Akasha Albert. My goodness but she loved that guinea pig. The last picture is Akasha eating some of my canned peaches. That night the kids and I could not stop talking about how cute it was that she brought her bowl into me and asked for "more peaches". Toddlers and guinea pigs- what more? Well, peaches, for one, obviously. But after that you are really stretching.

I am off to sleep for a bit before Samuel and Eva wake up. See you on the other side of the migraine.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yesterday I was all set to show a friend of mine how to make soap. I carted all the oils and equipment over to my friend Nicole's house (who so generously offered her space) and got ready to set up, starting with the sodium hydroxide. When I opened it up, the entire one gallon bucket of lye was solid. There was some slushy lye goo on the top that I could scrape through and underneath it was completely hardened. At first I thought I could scrape some out but it was impenetrable. I realized too that in this state the sodium hydroxide might not be strong enough to use for soap making anyway. When I got home I looked around for some information about what could have happened but could find nothing. Finally this morning I read a little about the properties of sodium hydroxide and found out that it is extremely hygroscopic- it literally "attracts water molecules out of the surrounding environment". The wikipedia entry I read said that sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is so hygroscopic it dissolves in the water it absorbs. So, basically, my NaOH has been attracting water from the winter rain of the Pacific Northwest for several months in my garage and I knew nothing about it. Now I know. I will definitely make sure that the lid on my next bucket of lye is securely attached.

But I love this. While reading about hygroscopy and lye and such I found a picture of this little guy. The thorny devil. He is also hygroscopic. Go figure. He lives in the desert and has "hygroscopic grooves between the spines of his skin to capture water in". Imagine that. NaOH and thorny devils attracting water every which a ways. And what am I attracting into my life every which a ways, just because I am who I am?

At first I thought that the NaOH was a little silly for pulling in all that water- it's called having an affinity for water. It does, after all, turn itself into a solid mass of unusable ick. But who am I to judge? The lye was no longer usable for my purposes, true enough. It's not really here for me, though, I have to admit. I can choose to use it but NaOH is not mine. When it attracts water to itself it becomes less reactive, more at rest. Peaceful? What if we attracted everything that felt good to us in our lives- everything we had an affinity for? Enough so that we finally felt at peace. Non-reactive. We need to expect that it will come, though, set ourselves up for it. Just like that little thorny devil running around the desert with his hygroscopic grooves. Each tiny bit of water collects in those grooves and converges and grows until he has enough water to sustain himself in the desert heat. Maybe it's like that in our own lives as well. Each bit of goodness, no matter how small it seems now, joins with other bits here and there. If we notice the bits one by one as they show up, collect them like the thorny devil collects water, absorb them like the lye draws in the water, they will join together to form enough goodness to sustain us. In this life there is goodness to be had for everyone. We have to set ourselves up to notice it, though. Take stock of it when it enters our lives. Save a space to hold it in our hearts. And expect that it will come. Again. Expect that it will come.

Monday, February 8, 2010

and yes there are crocuses blooming

We spent the day hanging out with friends at our house. The kids spent a good bit of time in and out of the house playing and looking through toys and books and such. This was the first time we had gotten together with these friends in our home and there was much seeing and showing and telling about. Guinea pigs, star wars, Nerf guns, guinea pigs, swinging, dollhouses, cats, dogs, snacks, guinea pigs, Playmobil. Did I say guinea pigs? The sun was shining and the kids had the inspired idea to take a walk to a nearby park and we spent the next two hours (give or take) outside at the park while they worked on moving rocks around to create a stream and waterfall leading into the lake there. It was a magical time with flocking birds, great blue herons, ducks and coots, a rare snowy egret sighting (my first at this park), saving worms from certain death in the now flowing water. The grand finale was a crawdad who crawled out from under one last rock being pried from the ground. He made his way down the flowing stream, meandering unhurriedly as though the path were made for his journey out to the lake. We walked back chilled and contented with cold hands and muddy feet. Bare heads. Laughing in the setting sunshine.

Friday, February 5, 2010


And just like that, more thoughts. There is a Samuel Butler (the Victorian novelist, not my son, although my son certainly has some quotes to remember as well) quote that a friend of mine posted on facebook yesterday that got me thinking.

Here's the quote-

"Fear is static that prevents me from hearing myself. ~Samuel Butler

What I thought when I read this quote was that static meant fixed, rigid, permanent. A force at rest. Showing little change. In this context, fear is something that is fixed in our lives. The permanence of it (of our thinking it is permanent) keeps us from moving into the unknown, flowing with life, which is decidedly not permanent.

Of course the other way to read static in this quote is as background noise- background noise that is loud enough to keep us from hearing the voice of our self, our desires, our heart. Either way, fear is something that can get in the way of us flowing with life- of even hearing what that flow might be or where it might take us. {I'm just noticing too that the word static even feels like the opposite of the word flow.}

I'm not necessarily one to suggest we have to conquer every fear or do all of the things that we are most afraid of. I think in some cases, some fears, can be helpful. The types of fears I am thinking of with this quote are those fears where you know you want something but are letting a fear guide you instead. It has been my experience that you can tell which type of fear is which (a helpful fear or a limiting one) by the level of sadness you feel when you think about not doing what you want and living the fear instead. Even just thinking about the possibility of flowing rather than fearing can open up your heart enough so that you notice a shift in your perception of your fear and how very un-solid and quiet it can be.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

ice skating

The kids and I have been able to get out quite a bit lately after feeling sick for-what-seemed-like-ever. {Which seems less dramatic than saying we were sick *forever*. Because we weren't, it just seemed like it. It was actually only a little over a week.} And I have to say I am looking forward to more ice skating today. I am going to be sure to take plenty of food, though. The last time we went ice skating I was so hungry and had a migraine coming on. I could find no respite in the food surrounding me at the mall. Ack. Something about eating one of those pretzels or egads having a drink of my kids' icee? would surely have made things worse. So it's peanut butter and crackers for me today. And lots and lots of water. And maybe some iced tea, but only because that sounds good right now. Proactive is the word of the day. Ice skating wears me out and makes my head cold but if I am ready for it, I love spending time there with my kids and our friends. And of course Samuel and Eva love it. They ask about it all week long and want to stay and skate all day. What more?

peaceful knitting

I have been feeling a little uninspired about what to write on the old blog these days. Maybe it is the illness. Something too about spending quite a bit of time over the past couple of months figuring out some time honored life lessons about peace-of-mind and I suddenly have very little to say on the philosophical front and feel more like putting it into practice. So I am practicing again and good grief trying to appreciate the pause in chaos for once because goodness knows I wish for peace when the chaos is here. Why not enjoy the peace when it finally decides to make an entrance. But not a hanging-on-fearful-when-it-will-end sort of enjoyment. {Although there is certainly some of that, but that takes practice. More practice.} But more like an appreciation for where I am right now- whether peaceful or chaotic- and feeling the benefit of each. So I see I did have something to say after all.

I find I get so good at being with the chaos that the peace feels- quiet. Not wanting to inadvertently bring on any unnecessary chaos, I have been working on quite a bit of knitting. My new plan to staying peaceful. You've no idea how much more knitting I can do when it is peaceful. Chaotic knitting is left to sit over and over again. Dropped stitches. Forgotten needle sizes. Lost patterns. But peaceful knitting? Peaceful knitting flows off the needles lickety split. And the inspiration. Idea after idea. Doable. Done.

I am currently fixing up a sweater that I knit last year but that hasn't quite worked out the way I had hoped. The last week or more I have been adding length, changing the bottom from ribbing to a hem and turning it into a cardigan. I am all set to add a zipper after I finish up putting in pockets. At the very least I hope it will be a good sweater for the changing weather of spring. I need something to wear to Sauvie Island when we go to check on the frogs. I'll post a before and after picture when I am done. My plan is to do one new project each month and then finish up a project that has been sitting around. This project I am finishing up is moving into the next month but I think it will be worth it once it is done. Then onto a scarf. More lace. I can't get enough.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

early tastes of spring

We've been blessed with some lovely sunny days. Yesterday Samuel and Eva and I met our friends Esme and Nicole at the Rhododendron Gardens. We love going there any time of year- it is a fantastic place to feed ducks and geese. And squirrels. We brought extra peanuts for the squirrels this time and the kids had fun offering peanuts to some already very well-fed red tailed squirrels. They took turns and the squirrels went from one child to the next gently taking peanuts from their hands.

Here are two of the little guys, the first one taking a peanut and the second after he had scurried off to eat it.

Surprise surprise- there were even some flowers blooming! Here is Samuel offering up the whole bag of cracked corn to an obliging goose.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Samuel concocting with markers in water.