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Friday, July 3, 2015

An exercise in locating the beauty

I was out for a walk today, it was gorgeous.  I thought about what I wrote the other day about finding beauty if you just look for it.  It occurred to me that not everyone has practice with this.
On top of that we all have filters through which we view everything.  Many of these filters are negative.  Negative filters make it very, very difficult to see beauty anywhere.
If you read that piece on seeing beauty and you are thinking that I am completely nuts, well, I have an exercise for you.
Get your camera.  Or your phone.  Whatever you can take pictures with.
Then walk around with the camera in your hand and look for pictures.
It’s impossible to miss the beauty that is everywhere when you have a camera in your hand.  With a camera in your hand you are looking to capture something interesting, something beautiful.
All of a sudden, with a camera in your hand, you see everything differently.  You start to see all the intriguing stuff that is always there.
It really is impossible to miss the beauty with a camera in your hand.
So go out.  With a camera.  Take pictures, loads of pictures.  You don’t even have to look at them later.  Just wander around.  Wander around a familiar place.  Wander around a new place.  Look everywhere.
And take pictures.
You’ll find the beauty.

And you’ll keep finding it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

You'll see it, you just need to look

The world is a strange and beautiful place.  Between last Friday and tomorrow I will have done 34 and a half hours of massage.  This is more than I’ve done in a long time.  I added today and tomorrow to my schedule when one of my jobs put out the call for help.  I’m on vacation in a week and a half and I need the money.
After I picked up those hours I got a text from my buddy Christine who booked me at 4:30 today and then a friend asked if I was free tonight to give a massage.  Of course I said yes.  Then I said, we can have dinner afterwards!
It’s been a long day.
And tomorrow will be another long day because I have to go to work, get terminated and re-hired under the new owner at Cranwell.  And after work I’m heading to meet friends for BBQ and a show at Barrington Stage in Pittsfield.
Wednesday I don’t have to do anything until I head out to meet up with a friend to get the paint for marking the route for day 5 of the New England Classic (NEC).  I’ve mentioned this ride in the past, it’s the most fun you can have on two wheels, without question.  I was going to be riding seven days, since my bike was stolen I’ll be riding at least two days and volunteering the rest.  I’ve always thought that volunteering would be the worst.  Only because I’ve always been a rider and watching everyone take off to ride when I can’t?  Can you think of anything worse?  For a long time I couldn’t.
Then my bike was stolen.
And I’ve already taken the time off work.
And I haven’t done the full ride for a few years.
And it turns out I’ve raised $3275 so far.  The minimum I have to raise is $2600, I reached that with a donation from a family friend, thank you so much David.  I was going to say a generous donation, which it was, but they are all generous, so very generous.  Then two days ago another friend put me $1 over my $3000 goal.  So I upped the goal to $4000.  And a few more generous donations have gotten me to $3275. There are still 11 days before the ride, if diabetes is a cause close to your heart and you’d like to donate you can click here.
When I asked Tim, the ride director, if it would be alright if I volunteered since I am losing loads of training time after the theft of my bike, his response was one of those where the tone comes through even in black and white via e-mail - One way or another you’re coming for the whole trip.  Or something to that effect, we want you there, we’ll work it out.  My NEC family, pulling ranks tight after the loss of a loved one (if you aren’t a bike person you can’t understand, but if you are you totally get that).
This is a really rambling post, for that I apologize.  I’ve been moving non-stop since the asshats broke into my car a few weeks ago and my thoughts are a bit disorganized as a result.
If you look closely to each piece of this you should be able to pick out the beautiful parts.
I’ve done loads of massage, including one for a friend in deep need, so that I can bump up my income and not worry about my upcoming vacation.  Beautiful.
Dinner with the friend mentioned above.  Beautiful.
A long day - because I’m seeing a college friend and her awesome beau for BBQ (with fresh strawberries) and a show.  Beautiful.
My NEC friends making me welcome, even without my bike.  Though they may just want me for my massage table.  Which I’m totally okay with.  Beautiful.
My friends, colleagues and assorted people who are not all known to me rallying to a current total fundraising amount of $3275!  Beautiful.
The break in, not so beautiful.  Putting together my new bike with my favorite bike guy Paul Rhinehart at The Spoke in Williamstown, beautiful.
We all want the easy, peasy beautiful.  We want the beautiful that jumps in front of our face.  And sure, easy can be really nice.  But it’s easy.
But finding the beautiful in the hard, exhausting, challenging moments - that is . . . 
Rewarding.  Finding the beautiful in the hard, exhausting, challenging moments is rewarding.
So in those hard, exhausting, challenging moments take the time to look around and find the beautiful.

You will find it rewarding, I promise.

Monday, June 29, 2015


I was sitting at the kitchen table reading while dad did his anti-Parkinson’s qigong.  It’s breezy but sunny outside and I went out to see how it would be to sit on the dock and read.  It’s gorgeous and I decided I would change into my bathing suit, grab my fold up chair with the built in foot rest and head out to the dock to read.  It’s been rainy and chilly and I get pretty cold sitting inside.
Dad would be finishing up his exercises shortly and then he’d sit down at the kitchen table to work on a report he’s writing about the soil composition of a vineyard in Sonoma County, CA.
Don’t tell my dad but these days I’m feeling the need to justify sitting out on the dock reading when he is inside.  He might be working or reading, doesn’t matter, I feel like I should be near him.  Plus, we chat or I read him something funny from my book or he gets excited about figuring out the story he’s telling in his report or any number of other simple nothings that make my time with my dad really good.
Justifying is totally my thing, absolutely nothing to do with my dad, he’d tell me to do whatever I want.
But what I want is multifaceted.  I want to be with my dad as much as possible while he’s still around.
What’s that you say?  Tara, you’re being morbid!
I don’t see it that way.  My dad just turned 79.  He has some good longevity in his family, grampa was 94 3/4 when he died, gramma was 93 5/6 and my uncle will be 83 this year and shows no signs of slowing down.  But dad deals with camptocormia, a condition that causes his abdominal muscles to contract when he tries to stand erect and has an impact on his stamina and strength, as well as Parkinson’s.  He’s not exhibiting excessive symptoms of Parkinson’s, but he has some and the progression is hardly predictable.
Though we have noticed positive changes in his symptoms since he started doing the qigong last September and we have faith that he will be symptom free before too long.  If you know someone affected by Parkinson’s we (dad and I) highly recommend Howard Shifke’s Parkinson’s Recipe for Recovery.
At any rate, one never knows what can happen.   A friend of mine has spent the better part of the last two weeks sitting at her fathers side in the ICU.  He is in his 60s and thankfully is recovering well.  But it has been a trying time.  My heart goes out to her and I hold them both in my reiki practice.
You just never know.
So I feel like I need to justify moving out of the house onto the dock.
And this is the result:

Attractive, no?
I put on my bathing suit and shorts and was heading up to the garage to get my foldout chair with the foot rest.  I looked at the driveway and realized I couldn’t go sit on the dock when the weeds needed to be whacked quite so badly.
I was pretty annoyed at the weeds and grass, I whacked them last time we were up, but it has been so warm and wet that we should have let it go until this visit.  Generally they only need to be done in the spring and one more time mid-summer.
But noooooo, when we got here on Sunday it looked like they hadn’t been whacked at all.
So I went back in the house, changed into my work shorts, put on my work sneaks, grabbed the gators, helmet and weed whacker backpack and went up to the garage.  I almost got the weed whacker going myself - I have a hard time with those pulley things.  Dad poked his head out to make sure I had opened the choke, which I had, but he came up and helped me.
Of course he got it going.
Then I whacked the weeds.  I was very glad for my dad’s spare pair of gators that lives at the cabin, but I still got beaten up by the gravel in the driveway.
I have conquered the weeds once again.
And I justified being outside while my dad was inside.
Of course, then I came in to write this and now it’s lunch time so I’ll be in for a bit more while I eat.
Eventually I’ll get outside.
I finally made it out, I had good company
Or I won’t.
Either way I’m with my dad and life is good.

If you see my dad you can tell him how much you loved this entry and wish him well with his recovery - he reads virtually every post, including this one, before I share them with you.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What is it with addiction?

Lying in bed this morning writing
What is it about addiction?  How is it possible that I can know what eating sugar does to me: pain, stupor, weight gain, lost days, lack of interest in anything - yet I still eat it.
I’ve read books and articles galore.  I understand that sugar lights up the pleasure centers of my brain.  I understand that this phenomenon was designed to get us to eat food that wouldn’t kill us, you know back in the day when food was . . . food.
I also understand that food has been bastardized.  Using fat, salt and sugar food companies have designed food to hit our bliss point, and hit it hard.  They have made food that is, literally, irresistible.  If you believe that food manufacturers have your best interests at heart, stop it, they don’t.  They have their bottom lines at heart.
But I digress.
Intellectually I understand addiction.  And I understand that sugar triggers those pleasure centers even more than heroin and cocaine.  I totally get it.
But I still find it baffling.
Because I’m smart.  Somewhat absurdly educated, though not as much as many.  I’m well read, though not as much as some.  I’m analytical.
And I have studied this stuff for years trying to understand why I can’t . . . lose weight, be sane, stop eating sugar, eat normally.
Seriously, you can’t imagine the number of books on sugar, diet, weight that I have read.  Well, maybe you can, but then you’re kind of obsessed as well.
Still, I can’t grasp how it is that I - knowing what sugar does to me, believing that continued consumption of sugar will kill me, knowing that I will just continue to gain weight (which increases my physical and mental discomfort exponentially), knowing that I spend my days in bed, knowing that I live with heartburn and insomnia when I eat sugar, knowing that nothing will ever change while I’m eating sugar, knowing that I am almost completely useless as a human being when I’m eating sugar, knowing that I will be constantly in pain, knowing that I will be depressed, knowing that life is not worth living - still eat sugar.
How is that even possible?
I know - addiction.
I told you, I know the mechanics of it.
I told you, I know addiction is the goal of food manufacturers
I told you . . . I KNOW.
Still, I don’t get it.
It is incomprehensible how a person can be educated on all of these consequences - and still eat the sugar that makes the consequences.
For example, I get pretty judgey about smoking, in my head, never out loud, I just don’t understand how people choose to do something that can kill them.
I can be judgey in my head because I have never, ever smoked anything of any kind.  When I was a kid there were anti-smoking commercials (for you younger readers those were taken off the air for a long, long time so not everyone grew up with them) and I was highly affected by them.  I was convinced my parents were going to die, any minute, because they smoked.  I campaigned long and hard to get them to quit, my dad quit when I was 10, mom quit when I was 18.  Dad quit on our second six month bet.  Mom quit when I was a freshman in college.  I was screwing up and she was smoking like a chimney, she decided I wasn’t worth killing herself over.  She was totally right.

My apologies to those in my life who now think I’m judging them in my head, I’m really not.  Mainly because I know it’s your life and we all have our demons and I just love you and tell the judgey voice to shut up, it’s none of our business.  But also because I’m too busy wrestling my own demons and questioning how I can be so damn stupid as to do this thing that is killing me - figuratively and literally.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Stolen sobriety, wasted days

This morning I got up an went to the bathroom.  As I sat there, one cat at my feet, one on my lap (I haven’t been alone in the bathroom since they moved in last October) I contemplated my run.
Except I just couldn’t motivate.  I was groggy.  I was tired.  My hands were sore and a bit swollen.
I couldn’t think why.
Then I remembered.
I had ice cream and Charms Blow Pops last night.
And the night before.
And M&Ms on Thursday.
The asshats who stole my bike also stole my sobriety.
They are still forgiven.  And I take responsibility for my actions - I made choices and I ate those choices.  And today my body is tired, sore and blech.  And, though my original plan of a nice long bike ride is out the window (literally, cause, you know, my bike went out the rear window of my car . . .), I had planned on a nice long run in the woods at Stanley Park.
I can’t explain the grog that I experience when I eat sugar.  I’m up, conscious, awake, functional, yet things just don’t want to move.  My brain doesn’t work very well.  I can’t imagine making my body go do things.  I can’t even imagine imagining.  It’s more a lack.  A lack of movement.  A lack of thought.  A lack of interest.
That’s as close as I can get to a description.  It’s vacant and unpleasant.
And when there is a lot of dairy, as in ice cream, there is pain in addition to the vacant.  Sugar makes for some pain, but the dairy causes edema and arthritis pain.
Motivating from the vacant is almost impossible.  Motivating from the vacant and pain, well, you can imagine.
Maybe you can’t imagine.  We all have things that we deal with, things no one else really understands.  We might invite others to look, to hear our stories, to try to understand.  But I don’t think we are ever really understood in our agonies.
Still, we try.
So this morning I remembered clearly why it’s so important to stay away from sugar.  I want to wake up in the morning without pain.  I want to get up in the morning and get right to work - whatever that days work is.  I don’t want to be the person I am when I eat sugar.
So today I start again.

Those asshats stole my backpack, my bike and my sobriety, but only for a little while.

Friday, June 12, 2015


To the asshats who broke into my car last night,
I forgive you.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully mean it when I call you asshats.  You have inconvenienced me.  A lot.  I had to spend the night in Connecticut.  I was out for dinner with my mom, godmother, sister and nephew.  My mom and godmother wouldn’t let me drive after we found my car because I was really upset.
So I had to sleep in my clothes on my mom’s couch.  I didn’t sleep as much as I would like, being traumatized by the violation and all.  I was up at 4 for an hour or two, after going to bed at midnight.  I had an 8AM appointment to get my rear window replaced.  But that was going to take too long, I had to be in Massachusetts to give a couple of massages.  Fortunately my mom had a car I could use to get there.  Still, that meant an extra round trip to Massachusetts and back to pick up the car.
Time I had planned to spend doing something else.
Then there’s the fact that you took Percival.
I thought Percival would be with me for the rest of my life.
But no, for some reason you think you are more entitled to my stuff than I am.
The big problem with that - I have a 550 mile bike ride in four weeks.  I’ve raised $2042 of my $3000 goal for this seven day adventure, and now I can’t ride.
On account of you stole Percival, the titanium bike that the team at Seven Cycles designed and built especially for me.
That bike will never fit anyone the way it fits me, but you wanted a few bucks.
Fortunately I have replacement value insurance and I’ll have a new bike.  Not in time for the ride, but what the hell - your needs are more significant than mine.
Then there’s my backpack.  Less significant than the bike, but with a check written to the lovely woman who takes care of my cats when I’m away.  Now I need to decide whether or not to close that account.  No inconvenience there.
Person or persons unknown, do you read my sarcasm there?  It is heavy.
Fortunately I had my phone and my wallet, but you got a couple of lovely Moleskine notebooks, one that I planned to use for my Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy class for the next two years.  Hopefully the notes I’ve already taken weren’t that important.  You also have a selection of highlighters and my friend Lee Albert’s book, Live Pain Free Without Drugs Or Surgery.  Maybe you will use it to develop a regular habit of self care.
Crap, there’s also a jar of a lovely local made salve that my friend Cara gave me after she won it in a race.  It was really good salve.  Maybe you will add that to your self care regime.
My whole day has been spent dealing with this.  My claim is in process and I had to provide an inventory of everything you took to the police and my insurance adjuster.

So now it’s 1:08AM and I have to be up to get to the Berkshires for 10AM.
There will be more inconvenience because now I have to drive to New Hampshire one of these days to pick up a friends bike so I have something to ride until my new bike is ready.  And I’ll have to make a couple of trips to Williamstown to see my buddy Paul at The Spoke, he’s going to help me build up the new bike.  If you (dear readers, not asshats) find yourself in need of a bike, Paul and his crew are definitely worth the trip.
Still, I forgive you.
I condemn your actions, they were shitty and no one deserves to leave a restaurant after watching their nephew play baseball and having dinner with their family to find that their car was broken into and their beautiful bike was stolen.
Still I forgive you.
The thing is, forgiveness is about taking care of me.  Karma will take care of you - I don’t need to stew in anger or hatred, that doesn’t serve me at all.  I forgive you to release my pain and trauma.  I forgive you so that I can move on, looking forward to my new bike.
I forgive you because I don’t want to be stuck in this moment for any more moments.
I hope you are caught and punished.  Even if you aren’t, the life you have chosen - crime and being a creep - will take care of that.
You aren’t worth anymore of my time.
So I forgive you.
I’m still angry, it’s been just over 24 hours, it’ll take me a little more time to let go of the anger.
But I forgive you and I will keep forgiving you whenever I have a moment of fear, sadness, anger.

Because my forgiveness allows me to move forward onto bigger and better things.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

What mountain biking can teach you about life

I was out for a run yesterday and thought about mountain biking.  I haven’t been out on a mountain bike since 2005.  I took a header, the only one I’d ever taking, the Sunday after Thanksgiving - just a week before traveling to Vegas for my first marathon.  Also, I didn’t have health insurance.
I thought, this is really idiotic.  The mountain biking, I mean.  Without insurance.  When my living counts on me being physically fit to work.
I was spooked.
And once I was spooked I just couldn’t do it anymore.  When I got insurance a few years back I thought, hmmmm, maybe I should get a mountain bike.
I didn’t follow through, lots of other stuff going on.
But I was thinking about it as I was running trails yesterday.  I thought everything I know about life, I learned from mountain biking.
Then I thought, bah, that’s not even close to true.  But . . .
Mountain biking is a pretty good model for living your life.  Well, a couple of aspects of it.
Don’t look where you don’t want to go.  Rather, look where you want to go.  This one is tough, there are so many things in our path that we want to stay away from, things that are scary - terrifying even.  But we go where we look.  So if you look at that row of rocks that is likely to tip you over . . . yeah, you’re going down.  You have to take note of the obstacles in order to draw a good line (unless you’re behind someone drawing a really good line), but if you focus on the obstacles your ride will suck.
See where I’m going with this?
In life, if you focus on obstacles, all you have is obstacles.  It’s hard to see anything beyond what you focus on.  There will always be obstacles, but looking for them doesn’t help.  At all.
Trust the bike.  This is one of the first things I learned from the guys who took me mountain biking the first time, and who put up with me when it was all I could do to hang on to the last wheel in the line.
At first it’s hard to trust the bike.  After all, I’m the sentient being, I should be the one in control.  A bike is just two wheels and some metal, why should I trust it?
That’s how it feels right up until the first time you can’t see a line and you let go and trust the bike - and it takes you right over everything without a problem.  All you have to do is maintain your balance and a light hold on the handle bars, the bike has this.
In my life I see this as trusting the universe.  It’s hard.  I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get enough money to pay my bills.  How to cobble together enough work to make my life good, without giving up everything in search of the almighty dollar.  How to make my life what I want it to be, even when I can’t see anyway to accomplish that.  When I let go and trust the universe things generally work out pretty well.  Not necessarily exactly how I would have it, but satisfactorily nonetheless.
For example, a friend asked if I could join her for a training ride for the New England Classic that a friend of ours organized.
Nope.  Sorry.  I’m working.  Like I always work on the weekends.
Yesterday I called to find out what the hours were because I didn’t have them in my calendar.  Turns out they didn’t have me in for any hours and it’s dead so they didn’t need me.
Voila, my wallet won’t be too happy, but I get to spend the evening catching up with one friend and surprise my other friend tomorrow when I show up in New Hampshire for his ride I told him I absolutely, positively couldn’t do.
Trust your friends.  This one I figured out on my own.  My friends are all terrific on the mountain bike, definitely better than me.  We were out on a trail and I was coming up on a small cliff.  No, really small, two feet or less.  Small but terrifying.  Seriously.  But Bruce, Deb and Mikey were all on the other side of it and shouted, just go for it, you can do it!
I believed them and went right off the cliff and it was a rush.
The same thing happened another time on a bed of rocks - just pedal, you’ll get through it.
Trust your friends, they see you as you will never see yourself.  They see your strengths more clearly than you ever will.  If they say, you can do it! there’s a good chance you can.

Clearly, not everything I know about life, but mountain biking offers a pretty good base to work from.