Sunday, October 31, 2010

Building Self Confidence

hot springs, Yellowstone National Pk
The above is my tribute to Halloween night, when witches boil their brew, its bubbling sulfurous stench a warning to all who might venture near... Actually it's a picture I took on my recent road trip, a hot springs in Yellowstone, which didn't smell all that bad, thanks to a slight breeze blowing away from me.

Looking at it tonight reminds me of the day of departure, of feeling a little daunted, a little frightened even, about the prospect of the long drive ahead, of the many little decisions I would need to make, where to stay, which route to take, when to stop. Not consulting anybody else, taking into account only my own wishes, experiencing such solitude of being and arriving safely back home again after 4,000+ miles gave me a wonderful boost of self confidence, hopefully a dose that will last for some time to come!

Saturday, October 30, 2010


serenity stone, 3 inch diameter
I don't know what I'm going to write today. It's not planned, yet it must have something to do with serenity, because I thought of the above picture, taken the day nobody showed up at our Saturday morning OA meeting, taken outside the AA meeting building, where someone had carefully nested this three-inch treasure in the moss at the edge of a little planted area near the door. I was compelled to find the picture and put it at the beginning of this post.

Who did that, I wonder? The artist in me wants to know if the base is a rock, solid and silent, under a thick coating of gesso or if perhaps the whole thing is made with clay. The child in me loves the little snails oozing their way slowly, ever so slowly, across the stone. The seeker in me loves the word serenity, craving a place where my mind can be like that, totally at peace, where time stands still, where colors blend into harmonic tones. The elder in me loves the essence of it, the thought behind its creation and position in time and space, spirals of snail shells winding both inward and outward, tiny baby steps represented by snails, innocence of white, inevitable growth symbolized in the vines, all these things culminating in serenity.

So how do we know serenity? Where do we find it? Once experienced, how do we keep it from evaporating as our busy minds create heat from friction of daily concerns. Surely the spiritual practice of meditation must allow an entry to serenity. Baby steps. At our weekly OA meeting we say the serenity prayer in unison:

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can
and wisdom to know the difference.

In those brief moments, I feel my shoulders drop and my breathing slow. A sense of well-being comes over me, and I'm ever so slightly more optimistic than when I arrived at the meeting. I still don't know anything, don't have any answers, but in the moment of saying this prayer, I am more open to whispers from the universe, less needful of control. Fleeting? Yes, but with each meeting, each week of fellowship, serenity cloaks me a nanosecond longer.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Feels Like I'm Dog-paddlin'...

lion cub at Smithsonian Zoo
don't like the pity pot
really don't
trying to stay positive
trying to count blessings
trying to stay focused
trying to keep swimmin'

little tyke in the picture
a lion cub
at the Smithsonian Zoo
got put in the moat
to see if he could swim
a test by his keepers
to see if it's safe
to let him be
with his mommy

he's doin' it
look at that sweet face
a little frightened maybe?
yet his nose is definitely
above water

me too
my nose above water
across the moat
in the dark of the year

don't know what I'll find
on the other side
or how long it will take
to get there

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hard Copy, Soft Bound...

I used Blog2Print to make a book of my first 95 posts on this blog. Easy-peasy! 116 pages, chose the black/white cheaper version, selected black for the cover with my blog header painting for the image. Twenty something dollars, including free shipping. Not bad! Arrived yesterday (much faster than promised) and actually looks really good!

Two regrets, two things I'd do differently if I decide to do it again... I'd use reverse chronological order, starting with post number one and progressing to the most recent post at the end of the book. I thought it would be good the other way, but reversed my decision as I started to read through the book.

The other thing is that I'd pay more attention to the front and back cover photos. (1) There's a little box under the photo where you can over-type their instruction to title the photo. I'd delete their words but leave the window blank as the title looks goofy. (2) I'd make certain the photos I upload from my files are high resolution, not the ones that work fine on the blog but look all pixelated and stupid on the cover of the book.

Oh, and I might also delete a few posts from the book, particularly the ones with lots of pictures. Blog2Print formats everything just the way it appears on the blog (text size, font, text alignment, bold, italics, etc.) EXCEPT placement of photos. Two of my posts have a bunch of photos with a few lines of text under each photo. The book ended up having the text lines all bunched up and the photos at the end with no accompanying text.

I chose black and white, because this blog isn't about color or photos and because it's MUCH less expensive. But still looks good. The color photos in the various posts just show up as black and white. They look fine that way, especially since it's not about art here.

I chose not to include the comments. Maybe I'll regret that decision because many of the comments are soooooooooooo great, helpful, inspirational, funny, nurturing... dunno... we'll see.

As I said, it's really easy to do the book on the Blog2Print website. You just check your platform (Blogger, WordPress or TypePad), tell it the range of dates you want included in your book, and then tell it to upload. At that point, if I remember correctly, you can actually "see" and "read" your book. Then you get some editing options... like cover color/design, uploading cover photos, whether or not to include comments, how to order the posts. Not a lot of editing possibilities, which keeps it simple.

All in all, I'm satisfied and will do it again. Nice to have it in print... like a journal...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Be Patient

Once again, Jules (Big Girl Bombshell) soundly struck a chord in me. The title of her post, Serene Silence... Stopping the Pursuit, offers profound wisdom in just five words. Somehow knowing that my pursuit of answers, especially concerning my marriage, feels like an endless and pointless chase, I crave serene silence of my mind.

Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart.
Try to love the questions themselves.
Do not now seek the answers
which cannot be given you
because you would not be able to live them now.
And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps, you will then gradually without noticing it,
live along some distant day into the answer.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke

Isn't Jules saying the same thing as Rilke in the above poem? Love the question. Live the question now. How can I do that? Live everything. That I understand a little better; that maybe I can do. Patient? I was not so patient today. I wanted resolution. I wanted the decision about staying or not staying in my marriage to be made.

Chewing the inside of my lips, being tempted by all kinds of baked goods and candy, feeling resentful that I can't use these substances to numb my fretting mind, self-pity close to the surface and ugly even to my eyes, I plowed through the day as if on a tractor constantly bogging down in mud and driving rain. How sweet to finally come in from the rain, to stop the pursuit, even if just for the moments of this writing! Be patient, says Rilke. Yes, I say, and live everything!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Soothing Myself...

nobody there for our OA meeting
this morning
nobody but me
room dark and locked

feeling sad about that
looking forward to the fellowship
and wanting to talk
wanting to tell them
about listening to the big book
about struggles
with sticking to my food plan
about how I missed them
the past three weeks

our marriage counselor
told us we both need to learn
how to soothe ourselves

used to be easy
easy as a couple of cookies,
a piece of cheesecake,
a nice sweet treat

so I'm standing by myself
on the sidewalk
near the AA/OA meeting room
asking myself
how can I soothe myself

into my mind pops the thought
I could call my quilting friend
invite myself to her house
for a knitting/stitching bee

hot tea
a big hug
sympathy and understanding
then we settle down
she stitching
me knitting

and later for lunch
we make a concoction
with canned pumpkin
pumpkin pie spices
plain yogurt
a little brown sugar
and pecans
comfort food
comfort companion
comfort activity

ah, life is much better now!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Where Is Home?

Recently, Jules, Big Girl Bombshell, wrote an excellent post about the spiritual element of health and weight loss (here), which inspired me to write the following:

Mind * Body * Spirit
and of these
we try so diligently
to make it
all about the mind
all about mind control

I agree with you, Jules
the spirit part
while we struggle
with our minds

like you, I want
to write about faith
to uncover spirit
for without it
my body and mind
are empty

I am home now, home from 4,046 miles of solo driving, across five big states and back again. Home? Where is home? Was I home in Minnesota, the land where I grew up, the place where most of my small family still lives, my mother, two brothers, two nieces, a nephew and a grand nephew, a place where just two weeks ago I felt comfortable, accepted, totally loved?

It's almost weird being back on the island, in my own home with my husband, who couldn't say he missed me, who doesn't like so many things about me, where sometimes, I tip-toe around in fear of displeasing him. Can this be home?

What can I change? How can I make this place where I live feel like home. Doesn't it seem the answer lies in the realm of the spirit, in opening my heart? Closing to my husband over the years, no matter the why of it, feeling open in Minnesota, feeling closed again now, my heart aches.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Road Trip Pictures ~ Giants

Since my original intent regarding this blog was to keep it centered on recovery, not about attracting readers, not about pictures, tutorials, awards or giveaways, I'm feeling a little conflicted about posting pictures from my recent solo road trip. On the other hand, who would want to see them if not the few who have followed my quest, my journey of 4,046 miles, here on this blog?

At least I must post pictures of the wind turbines, my new lovers, the giants who bewitched me as I drove both east and west. So here they are, along with a few pictures of the oil drilling business, also mentioned in my posts here and here. All pictures are click-to-enlarge.

wind generators at wild horse, WA

giants in the dawn, first day on the road
Washington state, East of Ellensburg
see the car?

wind generators at wild horse, WA
each giant stands 351 feet tall
and weighs 223 tons
rotor blades, I call them wings,
are 129 feet long
and weigh 7 tons each

wind turbine, hauling a 7-ton wing
hauling a wing
me chasing, stalking
lead and follow cars
wondering about me
passing them
lurking at the next town
waiting for another photo op

wind turbine, hauling a section of 221-foot tower
24-wheel trailer!
would you say
this tower is big and heavy?
base is 13 feet wide
compare to size of red truck

wind turbine, hauling a section of 221-foot tower
as big as a building

oil drilling rigs, ND
old-time oil rigs
reminding me of birds pecking
in horse pastures and farms
scattered across northeastern Montanna

oil drilling rig, ND
new oil developments
building rigs like these
black, noisy and
nearly as high as wind turbines
laying pipes
employment boom
hotels and motels
all display no vacancy signs

oil drilling equipment
heading east from Shelby, Mt
going to work
there's oil to be drilled

oil drilling equipment
more oil fellas
going to work

personal car of oil drilling worker
nearly all the cars
at the motel
looked like this
oil workers
looked like this too
motel posted a sign on the door
"take off your boots
before entering"

oil pipeline, ND
miles and miles
of pipelines
being laid
farms and oil wells

wind turbines, MT, dawn
ah, the beauty
and nearly silent whisper
of wind turbines
dawn patrol
this time near
Cut Bank Montanna

wind turbines, Cut Bank MT
walking among them
filling me
with joy and wonder

wind turbines, Cut Bank MT
newer designs
turn more slowly
safer for birds

hwy2cafe, Cut Bank, MT
breakfast at
Hwy 2 Cafe
Cut Bank, MT
my favorite
restaurant meal
on hot cake
no syrup needed
bacon crisp

hwy2cafe, Cut Bank, MT
antique plate collection
all around the room
chalk drawing
of my beloveds

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Road Trip Report ~ I'm in LOVE!!!!

time on my hands
don't feel like reading
or knitting
or beading

solitude of being
produces much thought
so two posts today

I'm in love
with many lovers
all of them giants
all of them majestic
all of them powerful

in early morning light
I walked among them
their sweet voices
whispering love songs
their arms outstretched
dancing in circles

enchanted and in awe
filled with gratitude
under their spell
I took picture after picture
could not stop
could not get my fill of them

there on a dirt track
through the rolling hills
of middle Montana
just west of Shelby
there I fell in love
(as though I weren't already)
with the wind giants
immensely tall
slowly turning
wind turbines
generating power

much later
after tearing myself
away from my lovers
I ate breakfast
at the Hwy 2 Cafe
a charming little place
with a vast collection
of antique plates
on the walls
also pastel drawings
one of them
depicting my lovers

taking a picture
of the drawing
generated a discussion
with three old timers
having breakfast
at a nearby table
one of them is 101 years old
and still quite spry

I love these wind machines,
I tell them
yes, they say

I tell them I wish
for money to invest
in the company
that manufactures them

says one of them
too expensive
much too expensive
hydro's the thing
invest in hydro

yes, I say
the infra-structure's expensive
but after that
wind is free
and there's no harm
to the environment
(maybe to a few birds
maybe not)

hydro, he says firmly

his buddy says
he's a retired commissioner
of the local hydro-electric company

well then
he knows a thing or two
about power

never-the-less, I say
wind is everywhere
wind is the future of power
and dagnabitall
I'm in love with the giants


Sorry I don't have a way to download my pictures while on the road... so for now it's just word pictures... but never fear, once home, I'll select some to post. Question: better to insert them in the previous posts at relevant points OR better to put them all in a new post???

Two Rings

I'm wearing two rings
on a chain around my neck
two gold rings
each with this inscription inside

august 3, 1949

one is my mother's wedding ring
the other is my dad's

when Dad died
four years ago
Mom wore his ring
as I am now
on a golden chain
around her neck

thinking he is still alive
and married to one of her nurses
she decides
not to wear either ring

my sister in law had them
and offered one to me

no, I said
these rings should stay together

she said I could have them both

is it right?
should I keep them?
I don't know the answer
about should or shouldn't

they mean a lot to me

touching them often
thinking about marriage
thinking about
how compatible my parents were
aware that it's a rare thing
aware of the times
when my husband and I
enjoy that type of togetherness

how did my parents
deal with their differences
the moments when respect fell away
the times when their paths parted
for surely they felt gravel underfoot
just as we do

I wear these rings
touching them often
hoping to find a way
to remain in my marriage

Friday, October 8, 2010

Road Trip Report from Shelby, MT

first move of the day
turned the wrong way
from the motel
and drove about 30 miles
back the way I'd come
the day before

I'm not supposed to
be driving into the sun
in the morning...
that's the evening's bane

then I started getting bored
and hungry
the old eat from boredom syndrome

walked past greasy, personal pizzas
at a gas station hot "food" counter
had to have it
not healthy
but not on my abstinence list
been thinking about pizza
but this isn't good pizza
but I'm hungry
ok, ok, ok
ate it in my car
while driving
not mindfully

old highway church
with Native graveyard in back
old, old graves
and some new ones
very primitive
wooden crosses
humped dirt
plastic flowers
feeling a little sad
and lonely there
trucks and cars passing
their drivers giving no thought
to the souls resting there
just above the highway

the big pink church
farther along the way
once Catholic
now abandoned
today with a huge crowd
gathered in the Native graveyard
next to the church
more than 100 cars
parked along the highway
and the little road to the church
I stopped
but didn't want to intrude
later I inquired at a
Native-run visitor center
in the next town
a tribal elder
an original land owner
a woman respected by all
92 years old
had died
was being laid to rest

respect for elders
what a wonderful concept

for the rest of the afternoon
I played cat and mouse
with some wide-load trucks
pulling 16-wheel
flat bed trailers
hauling parts for wind turbines

all other vehicles
on the highway
I'd pass them
drive ahead
pull off the road
get out of my car
camera in hand
and try to
take pictures of them
as they went by

then I'd do it again
being dissatisfied
with my pictures

the mountains
Glacier National Park

another day
another opportunity
to make healthy food choices
to not eat in my car
to eat mindfully

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Strange Day on the Road

lovely start
a few miles west
took turn off
for Turtle River State Park

beautiful, quiet place
nobody there
no campers

soft morning light
on the rushes
surrounding a little lake
flocks of Canadian geese
flying low in formation
and landing

sunning themselves

red sumac
along the road
picture perfect
didn't want to leave

talked with Park Ranger
soon they'll close the park
for the winter
only a few stragglers now
none last night

he tells me some boy scouts
are coming for the day
he'll teach them
the ecology of the place

I ask him about wind
which he says is fierce
especially in winter and spring

I ask him about wind generators
he says it's growing in the state
but not self-sustaining yet
supported by a wind-power sur-charge
on electric bills
(later I am awed
seeing a whole ridge
rimmed with white giants
turning slowly
collecting the power of wind)

oil's the thing he says
in fact if I'm headed west
which I am
he says I may not find
a place for the night

all hotels and motels
are filled by oil rig workers
and pipe line builders

I make calls at the next town
he's right
none of the less expensive places
have a vacancy

I make a reservation at a place
that's way over my budget
taking the last available room
glad for his warning
glad to know
I won't have to sleep in my car

the day drones on
a little boring
although I'm listening to
The Big Book
(Alcoholics Anonymous)
on my CD player

I am surprised how much
I learn
how much I like this book
how much sense it makes

although written in 1935
it feels very current
maybe it's because
truth is not bound by time

it holds my interest
relevant to my past as a drinker
my whole life as an overeater
and my recent recovery process

I had a bad fall today
walking around the side
of a gas station
a deep divot in the road
caught my foot
sending me reeling
and tumbling
onto the pavement

makes me think of Mom
of how often she fell
in her later years
and how each fall
cost her dearly

a little lunch
at the Frontier Cafe
and two aleeve
helped with the aches

after that
came the oil rigs
big, tall, powerful, mean-looking
oil rigs
and the more standard types
little ducks
bobbing their yellow heads

farmers plowing their fields
farmers cutting and bailing
the grass
dairy cows and salt licks

and right next to them
another oil rig
or a ditch ready for pipes
to be laid

oil and farm
oil rig workers
and farmers

is there conflict
how could there not
be hard feelings

the noise
heavy trucks
the rigs dominating
the horizons
wouldn't the farmers
resent them

beauty, peace and recovery
in the morning
gradually shifting
to disrupted nature and conflict
as I traveled westward

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On the Road Again....

on the road again
solitude of being

driving west
this time not on the freeway
slowing down
way down
for small towns
and farm equipment on the roads
pulling over
to view a grove of birch
white bark gleaming and
yellow leaves twittering
in the magnificent sunlight
stopping at little visitor centers
is there anything I should see
in these parts

hard to say goodby
sad to leave Mom's room
blowing her kisses
her sweet little stuffed kitty
clutched firmly in her arms

my brother asked me to stay
said they'd love to have me
through the weekend
when they'd be off work
and we'd have time to play

but solitude of being
was calling me
the call stronger
than the desire
to stay longer
in the warmth
of my extended family

pausing for a moment
on the fence
stay or go

then I knew it was time
time to get in the car again
and head west

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Working the Steps

Yesterday I went to an AA meeting with my brother and sister-in-law. Half my life ago, I quit drinking, a habit compulsion that got me into a lot of trouble during my 20s and 30s; but I never went to an AA meeting, just quit cold turkey one day. Surprisingly it wasn't very difficult to quit. Guess I'd had my fill of the repercussions of excess alcohol, plus I had my real addiction, food, still firmly in place. Good, reliable food, easy to hide, perfectly legal and socially acceptable.

Yet, for others it's clear that alcohol is their primary addiction and for them maintaining sobriety must be a huge challenge. My brother, bless his heart, has been clean and sober for 17 years. And at yesterday's meeting my SIL was awarded her 16-year sobriety pin. Everyone there spoke very highly of her, saying how much they admire and are inspired by her honesty. How great it was to be there, filled with respect for both of them!

Once a person has been sober for a while, feeling whole and sane again, not gripped by the need to drink, their life back on track, it must be easy to slip out of the program. Yesterday's meeting, however, was filled with long-time-sober folks who are working the steps, dealing with character issues that lead them into alcohol addiction, issues that still affect their lives and are always a threat to sobriety. The meeting topic was Step 6, We're entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Ten thoughts I had while listening to others talk:
  1. Defects of character sounds so horrible, yet I know I have them and can name a number of them.
  2. Listing my defects of character happens in step 4, which is where I am at the moment in the OA program .
  3. How can God remove them? Why would God remove them?
  4. Would I be a genuine, whole person without them?
  5. I want to fix it myself. I want to identify and then remove my character defects all by myself, no help needed, thank you. I can do this. I think I can, I think I can.
  6. But I couldn't stop overeating by myself. That is a fact, proven over and over.
  7. I'd be more accepting of step 6 if it were worded differently, if it said, We're entirely ready to have God help us remove all these defects of character, leaving us somewhat in control of our own destiny.
  8. To turn it all over to God? Well, that's a concept I resist.
  9. Not there yet, I'm only working step 4. Maybe by the time I get to step 6, the concept will have grown on me.
  10. My will be done/Thy will be done.... that is the conflict.
What came to me in the meeting as a certainty is that following a food plan and remaining abstinent from my binge foods is just the tip of the ice berg. Yes, I feel much more sane. Yes, I feel more peaceful and less resentful since I began working the program six months ago. Yes, I've lost weight, am more healthy and more fit. Yes, yes, yes!

Yet, like the alcoholic, my underlying character, my unresolved issues, my lack of faith threaten to undermine progress and send me back to food for solace. I accept the challenge, with a nod to my brother, SIL and other participants in yesterday's meeting, of working the AA/OA steps as best I can, with the realization pointed out by my SIL yesterday that I can work the same steps over and over, each time learning something new, each time finding new levels of peace.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Traveler's Food Choices

a traveler's food choices
often in restaurants
and in my case
in family homes
are certainly more challenging
than when safely in one's own home

yesterday I picked up rolls
at a scrumptious bakery
as my contribution to dinner

omg! samples!
long one of my greatest downfalls
some sort of cinnamon-swirl goodie
and something with frosting and nuts

didn't think
forgot about my food plan
I'll try a sample of that one, I said

carried it to my car
along with the rolls I purchased
seat-belted myself
and took a big chomp
ooooops, this is sweet
ooooops, frosting
ooooops, this thing isn't a bread sample
shall I finish eating it?

I'm in my car eating it
knowing it's technically an abstinence food
knowing I don't eat in my car anymore
knowing I'm eating between meals
which also I don't do anymore

did I spit it out? no
did I throw the other two bites out? no
did I eat them
even though I knew it was
in violation of both my
food plan and abstinence list?

I'm sorry to say, mea culpa

what now?
shall I start my abstinence count again
yes, I suppose so
I don't want to start again
loving and being attached
to the number 90
today's number
I really resist
setting the counter
back to zero
but I will
because that's the truth
and the way it works best
is to stick with the truth

I forgive myself
for yesterday's mistake
wrapping the truth of it
around my neck
like a beautiful scarf
and move along the path
of today's food choices
armed this time
with greater awareness
and a stronger commitment
to feel my feelings
before reaching for samples
or whatever is offered