Monthly Archives: July 2010

The Foreground

When I was about 11, I used to spend a ton of time at my friend Sue’s house. We played a mean game of roll the ball down the dark hallway, swam in her pool, hung out in her very cool room, ate ice cream and occasionally studied our faces in the mirror. One day I said, “I like the way I look from far away better than close up, don’t you?” And Sue, as straightforward as they come, said, “No. I like myself up close better.” Of course I immediately moved close to the mirror again to see if I had been wrong about myself the first time. Nope. Same answer. I definitely looked better from a bit farther away.

After I took this picture of this brown honeybee (or brown bumble bee, not sure which yet), who was sitting comfortably under a table while we held our garage sale, I cropped it so I could check out its compound eyes more easily. Fascinating! From far away, their eyes look like bulging black bumps, but up close they have a miraculous and beautiful pattern made up of THOUSANDS of tiny lenses called facets. Facets? Hmmmm…just like me. Facets. I have thousands of them too, although they do not necessarily affect my vision, nor do they make me attractive when I am microscopically close to a mirror. But before I explain where I am going with this, check out the brief info below about a bee’s eyes, which I got from:


Like most insects, honey bees have compound eyes that are made up of thousands of tiny lenses called facets. Scientists think that each facet in a compound eye takes in one small part of the insect’s vision. The brain then takes the image from each tiny lens and creates one large mosaic-like picture. This image is somewhat analogous to the image produced on a television screen, in which the “picture” is essentially a grid composed of dots of light. The advantage of the compound eye is its ability to detect movement. Honey bees can easily differentiate between solid and broken patterns, but show a preference for broken figures. Related to this, bees respond more readily to moving flowers than to stationary ones. Therefore, their eye is better adapted for movement perception than for form perception.

And just as a bee’s eyes are specially adapted for movement, my many-faceted self must certainly be adapted for something, right? Is it that I can negotiate chaos with only occasional meltdowns? Is it that I can ignore the bulging trashcans and write this blog instead? Is it that I am good at making pie crusts? I’m not sure. Unlike the bee, whose eyes have made good and specific use of its facets, I am still examining mine…exploring each one to try and understand what grand purpose or purposes for which I might have been fashioned. Sometimes this requires standing very close to the mirror without judgment. Other times I stand back and appreciate the well-roundedness of this “jack of all trades, master of none.” Multi-faceted? Hmmmm. Diamond in the rough?

Balance (A Tribute to Children)

The timer dings! It’s time for the next group of excited children to rush out into the muddy muck and claim a raft. For the next five minutes, the children, who have grabbed a bowish oar and perched themselves precariously upon a piece of floating wood, happily balance and pull, balance and pull. One little girl loses her right shoe in the brown sludge but is too afraid to hunt for it. Another girl gets very close to the foot bridge, but with patience and strength, maneuvers herself free. A boy challenges another to a friendly battle as their rafts collide.

While I am watching, not one child falls in. Not one child calls for his mom or looks nervously to the shore. Is it because they know the water is shallow? I think not. It’s because balancing on these things is natural to them. Even with the initial “figuring out” that each and every child did in order to get on without falling over, there was no evident doubt, no giving up. Balancing on that board was a fact before it was a reality.

Perhaps, I think to myself, this is what I need to nurture: an innate sense of balance, one in which I do not question whatever obstacle is put in my path. Steady, one foot at a time, breathe, up comes the leg, then the other, breathe again and Wa-la! Success. Balancing. No doubt. No stress. Hey, this is fun. Let’s pull the oar a bit and sail through the murky waters with confidence…

View From the Top

Over 12,000 species of these fascinating creatures. I hear they hold conventions in kitchens all over the world! Which got me thinking (always a sketchy endeavor) about just how many things might be missing from our kitchens without our knowledge. After all, an ant can lift 20 times its weight. Translated into something I can easily grasp, that means that my son, an average-sized second grader, would be able to abscond with a car–if he were an ant, that is. So you know all those times you just knew you had one more bite left? Right! Now you’re tracking with me. Mystery solved. Stop looking. It’s gone…taken to the sadistic queen ant and her minions.

And just in case you haven’t had your fill of ant trivia yet, did you know that ants don’t have ears? Of course you do. You’ve never seen one with ears, right? Me neither. It’s their feet that are crucial here, because that’s how they sense the vibrations they need in order to navigate their tiny world successfully. And finally, you didn’t really think that God created such tiny lungs did you? Ok, well, um, yes, so did I. But apparently, the ingenious body-map of the ant includes, instead, tiny holes all over their body in which they take in oxygen and also expel the carbon dioxide.

Still, I’m wondering about this guy at the top of the thistle. What’s up there, all the way in the sky, that he just had to have? If ants eat just about anything, what made him decide to climb so high, only to perch himself precariously among such sharp, poky thistle tips? It only took a second for me to put myself in his place, metaphorically of course you silly. Climbing. It’s what we do when we need a change, a new perspective, a fresh vantage point, a challenge. Sure there’s food at the bottom of the thistle, but this little guy apparently wanted more out of life so he decided to climb Thistle Everest to get it. Did he like what he saw there? I’m thinkin’ he did. I’m also thinkin’ that the oxygen whipping through those little holes in his body gave him quite a rush. He may have even wondered what the heck he was doing up there and how on earth he was going to get down. Perhaps the maniacal queen ant has a curfew, or even boundaries he crossed to get so high.

All right so I know that I’m doing that literary thing wherein an author allows animals to have human characteristics for the sake of an interesting read, and I realize that I’m doing it badly, but don’t miss my point: Have you taken in the view lately? Have you pushed your own boundaries and climbed a bit higher? Have you allowed the breeze to wash over you ?



Recently, my friend and I decided to embark on a 7-day cleanse. Actually she decided, and then I decided to join her. The plan includes a ton of fresh vegetables (which we both love), eaten steamed or stir-fried in olive oil and also gently boiled into a vitamin and mineral packed broth to eat throughout the day. Additionally, several shakes made from fresh veggies, protein powder and flax seeds and oil can be happily drunk. Even hummus and certain nuts are allowed. Suffice to say that this “cleanse” seemed like nirvana to me since I really do enjoy eating healthfully (did someone mention lemon bars?). The biggest challenge for me was going to be starting the day with hot fresh lemon juice and green tea instead of my usual gigantic serving of blazing hot chai and oat bran crunchies (my morning ritual with a favorite book).

Day one found us washing, chopping and cooking the broth, which turned out to be yummy! The lemon juice was great too, as it reminded me, of course, of my favorite lemon bars (sans delectable crust and sugar of course). And I like green tea, so all was well…until day two when I began to feel deprived.

Day Two:  It started as a loneliness for my morning ritual, which was not quite the same with substitutes, and grew into an insidious coveting of any and everything anyone else was eating. I found this strange, as I typically eat whatever I want and don’t concern myself with this at all. In a moment of clarity (ok, and hunger) I realized that the cleanse was over.  Though it contained a myriad of healthy foods I adore, the strict plan also reminded me that I needed to honor my recovery by choosing not to participate in an endeavor that unexpectedly harkened back to pre-recovery days.  Deprivation was taking me backwards twenty plus years, not forward.  I was not experiencing cleansing, I was becoming darkly irritable.

Part of healing from bulimia when I was 23 had to do with exploring deep psychological issues.  An equally large part had to do with food itself, which had unwittingly become a coping tool, albeit an unsatisfactory one.  Since eliminating food from life is a bit tricky, one can only renegotiate the boundaries, establish a new relationship.  Little by little, that’s what I did.  And ironically, I found that allowing food free reign, and me free choices, was the unexpected path to wholeness.

This beautiful piece of rainbow chard, resplendent in green and yellow and absolutely delicious steamed with a tad of butter, reminded me that recovery is also beautifully resplendent, and a sacred, holy gift to be honored.  As for the cleansing, that’s been happening for the last 23 years.


There is something about a ladder that inspires me to climb to new heights, but the most persistent urge is to defy my strong sense of reality, of the practical, and climb so high that the ladder disappears below. As the wooden rungs disintegrate, they are replaced by thick, dark, winding green tendrils of beanstalk. I climb and climb, higher and higher, until the most beautiful skyline appears. A sharp intake of breath, then another calmer one and I am fully enjoying the view, the feeling of being “up above it all.” I take a step towards the lushest, greenest grass I have ever seen and begin to wonder about The City Park Jungle, the place I used to visit as I kid when I would lay so flat on the earth that the very tall grass would obscure any view of me. I loved imagining that I was invisible yet safe, and this is how I wind up feeling so far above the civilization below.

I loved all the tiny creatures who were in the jungle with me. But alas, remembering the tiny creatures in the grass, leads me to ponder the fact that I have escaped into my childhood fantasy while standing on top of a very high beanstalk, only to be reminded of the giant in Jack’s adventure. I wonder if he is here now but quickly recover as I remind myself that not only is this my fantasy, but also that I am in control of what happens to me up here.

I may not be in complete control of what happens to me today, but I am in control of how I feel and how I react to the circumstances of each unfolding moment. Today I will climb like this, choosing to be happy and light…suspending any thought that threatens to alter this view-from-the-top perspective, despite the ever-present hunger of the giant.


I like the way it feels on the dark side of this wooden fence. I like the way no one knows I’m here. I like the way the sunlight bleeds through the cracks and shimmies underneath, as if trying to find some one, some thing. I like the way it has to stop, just shy of finding me here, hiding, exploring, watching, waiting for nothing but the right moment to emerge. It might take a while today. I need this.

The light-twinged darkness comforts me like a large bowl of mac and cheese would. And mac and cheese makes me sleepy like a large glass of red wine would. And so, I nap without snoring; asleep with my eyes open. I breathe deeply, evenly, like I would in yoga. And I sit here with the in and out in and out air flowing through my nostrils, taking me deep inside the chakra-colored world I am suddenly privy to.

I feel my heart open and see a strong shaft of sharp green light split it in two, simultaneously multiplying the pieces until there are many halves floating in green water, like thousands of lilies waiting for their frogs to sit on top and give them meaning, purpose. I wait…breathing, breathing, and hear and see nothing until one by one each heart-half finds a mate but not a match. The result is beautiful, and no longer only green. Rainbows of color grace each nearly solid heart, and where the chosen mate was not a perfect match, the light bleeds through the cracks and shimmies underneath looking for some one, some thing.

The moment has come, and I emerge from my safe place, prepared to face my stunningly beautiful life and the way it teaches me to use the darkness to fill in the holes with light…


Peace in the Fullerton Arboretum

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…

“Let There Be Peace on Earth” is a song by Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller written in 1955.[1] The song is usually associated with the Christmas season and appears on the album of the same name by country singer Vince Gill. Jackson, who had been suicidal after the failure of a marriage, later said that she wrote the song after “discovering what she called the life-saving joy of ‘God’s peace and unconditional love.'”[2]  (Wikipedia)

The intent of this photograph was to capture the beautiful artwork the children did at the Fullerton Arboretum a few months ago.  When I saw it today, I was immediately enveloped in the absolute beauty and peace of the setting.  May this photo remind you to seek a peaceful path today…


Tobi's Toes

One of my first cats, a giant gray tabby, was named Toes. Many years later my kids and I painted our toes (not our nails, our toes). I envisioned having a big party with all kinds of paints and everyone creating masterpieces or whimsical design on their toes. Crazy? Perhaps. Certainly. Of course. That’s just me. And for some reason, I like toes.

Today I found this photo of my son’s foot. I eventually noticed the way the water pressed itself around each toe…an “impression”…which led me to question myself, “What kind of impression are you making?” When I press myself into this life I am blessed with, what squeezes out around the edges? On days I am tired, do my children see my grumpy, impatient edges, or do they see me trying to be kind despite how I feel? When I am engrossed in conversation with another friend, do I squeeze out “it’s all about me” as I talk their ear off instead of listening, asking about them? When my husband comes home from work and I am thinking about how great it is that he can take over some of the parenting, do I still welcome him home with love and warmth, concerned about him and HIS day?

I know what I want these answers to be. And I know what they really are. I realize that I need to work on my “impressions”…not the kind that help me appear to be something I am not, but the kind that make me stronger, and encourage, nurture and inspire those around me.

So if you happen to see me staring at your toes, you will have to wonder whether I am just admiring them, or if I am working on making a better “impression.”


It’s 6 a.m., my teenager is up getting ready to head to work. Boss in town, lots of work to do, up early. “Mom, can you do my hair?” At that moment, you cannot believe how utterly wonderful these words sound. “He wants me to do his hair!” I shout to myself.

It’s just a bone (as in, “Somebody throw me a bone!”), and yet it’s everything. A teenager doesn’t openly say “I need you.” Truth be told, it’s quite the opposite…less is more (parent involvement that is) is their motto. Give me food and water, and shut the door on the way out…is more in line with what they are thinking (and then some). So, call me crazy but, “Mom, can you do my hair?” sounds a bit like the angels are singing in heaven…and they’re singing my song. It’s going to be hard to make myself wash the hair gel off of my fingers…


After a few weeks of driving by this gate, I finally stopped to photograph it. Why, I wondered, did one gate need so many locks? Did kids from the nearby high school put them there as a joke? Once I got close enough to take the shot, I realized the simple answer. But as I drove away, I couldn’t stop thinking about the beauty of such a solution.

You see, many people need access to the nature preserve behind the gate. I counted 13 locks, which means 13 different keys, 13 different reasons for opening the chain-linked gate. The chain is made up of a link, then a lock, another link, then a lock, a link, a lock, a link, a lock, and so on. One turn of a key in the corresponding lock, and the chain is opened so the gate can swing wide to allow access.

Is it like this with us as well? Do we keep ourselves protected by lots of locks, just waiting for the right people to come along with the right keys to open us up?