Sunday, January 11, 2009

New Rule: When sad, make cookies

Making cookies in a time of distress has two fabulous things going for it:

1) you're doing something, granted not something hard, but something with your hands that also involves reading and following instructions. Engaging in cookie baking is a delightful distraction from the woes du jour.

2) you get to eat them, lightening a dark time but putting something sweet and tasty in your mouth.

Note that you don't even have to go all the way through to baking them to reap the twofold reward.

I'm not 100% sure but it does seem to me that Cookies kick Cancer's ass. I am feeling better already.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cancer is SO on my Shit List

We found out today that our beloved 11 1/2 year old dog Jasper has cancer. We don't know how bad it is yet, but it's bad. On Monday they'll run tests to see whether the cancer is also present in his lungs and/or liver. Since it's a melanoma in his mouth, which has a deep root, they have mentioned, so far, removing a part of his jaw. This is an idea I just can't stand. He is such a beautiful creature, I can't imagine cutting into him in this way... But I'm keeping an open mind until we hear more about prognosis and treatment options from the vet.

We took him for a walk this afternoon, mostly for the sheer joy of watching him prance along in the sun. Every little thing he does now, we see through different eyes, wondering if it's the cancer. And I keep reminding myself that a week ago, he already had the cancer and I wasn't sad. The only difference today is that I know it, I know he has cancer. I am remembering what I learned from something I read recently, that it isn't external circumstances that cause suffering - it's your thoughts about external circumstances that cause suffering. So I'm working on not repeating the story to myself that my dog is going to die, and instead I'm trying to enjoy him while I can. And of course, crying my eyes out repeatedly.

Since my sister also has cancer right now, and Alex just finished chemo for cancer, and I work for an organization whose mission it is to prevent breast cancer, I am seriously feeling cancer-ed out right now. Cancer is the cancer.

I am so over it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Full List of 2008 Books

2008 was a good year for reading - not my best year by far, but still over 30 titles. I would like to do better in 2009!

* Bitter Sweets, Roopa Farooki
* Run, Ann Patchett
* The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid
* The Stone Gods, Jeanette Winterson
* Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula LeGuin
* You Don't Love Me Yet, Jonathan Lethem
* Namako, Linda Watanabe McFerrin
* The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
* Tarzan of the Apes, Edgar Rice Burroughs
* A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle
* Dune, Frank Herbert
* After Dark, Haruki Murakami
* The Moon and Sixpence, W. Somerset Maugham
* A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
* Oaxaca Journal, Oliver Sacks
* A Feast of Crows, George R. R. Martin
* House of Many Gods, Kiana Davenport
* Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri
* Eat, Pray, Live, Elizabeth Gilbert
* A Storm of Swords, George R. R. Martin
* A Clash of Kings, George R. R. Martin
* A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
* Man Gone Down, Michael Thomas
* The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
* Peony in Love, Lisa See
* The Tenderness of Wolves, Stef Penney
* Ordeal by Hunger: The Story of the Donner Party, George R. Stewart
* Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham
* The Razor's Edge, W. Somerset Maugham
* Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Not listed but also consumed in 2008: The Power of Now and The New Earth, both by Eckhart Tolle.

Is it really post-worthy? Bel Air Plaza, Napa -- my new favorite shopping center

My friend Trixie and I had a three-hour yoga workshop in Calistoga on January 3rd. On our way back we stopped in an absolute dream of a shopping center - so amazing that we both thought we should immediately consider moving to Napa! For a certain demographic, clearly ours, this shopping center represented heaven on earth. And, of course, since it was heaven, there was no parking hassle.

Imagine if you will, all in one place:

Whole Foods
Trader Joe's
Cost Plus
Copperfield Books
+ Pharmaca across the street

and a bunch of other stuff, like Orchard Supply and a small bath and body store (Sumbody, delicious!!). I don't know about you but that's most of the stores I either frequent regularly or love all in one place. The very idea of them all being next to each other was almost too much to believe.

And the Whole Food wasn't just any old Whole Foods. It put our puny, crowded, engineered-by-idiots Marin stores to shame. Seriously, we walked around the Whole Foods completely dumb-struck - it was huge. The prepared food section was easily the size of half of the San Rafael Whole Foods, and included a taqueria where they'd build a burrito or tacos in front of your eyes, a gelato bar, a huge salad bar and hot foods too including 15 soups and stews. They also have a wine bar, and what feels like the contents of an entire Elephant Pharmacy under the same roof. Unbelievable. And enough room in the aisles for 4 carts!!!!! It was the first time I've been in a Whole Foods in a long time and not had the urge to kick someone - there was actually enough room to move around in. And no hassle of trying to park in a minuscule lot packed with Volvo SUVs, either... Like I said, heaven.

Of course I realize that this is entirely ridiculous for lots of reasons, not least of which is that this experience followed a three-hour yoga workshop. The irony of going from a long practice dedicated to the happiness of all beings, to a goofy epiphany of luxe eco-yuppie shopping is not at all lost on me. But maybe that workshop is part of the reason why we walked around feeling like we were visiting from another planet, just stunned at how spacious everything was, how pretty, how thoughtful, with plenty of space to breathe. How wonderful, how ease-filled it felt compared to the stress and tight quarters of our usual experience.

I'm not saying that I will regularly drive up there just to take advantage of all of those stores in one place. That would be excessive, even in the Prius. But it is really nice to know that somewhere that combination exists, and with all that room. Just knowing it's there -- little shining possibility -- that's enough.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008: What was that all about?

What a crazy, mixed-up year 2008 was! In February I declared it would be The Year of Balance, and that proved prophetic. 2008 was a roller-coaster of intense stuff, but I think, sitting here contemplating it all of a piece on January 1, 2009, that I mostly held center. OK, so I'm still working on Scorpion pose and probably will be for a looooong time, but if I learned anything at all this year (and who am I kidding: I learned a lot) it's that practice doesn't make perfect. Practice IS perfect. When things are hard or challenging, just keep going, just keep working it.

Things that definitely sucked about this year, not necessarily in order of suckiness:

- the economy
- Alex getting cancer
- my sister Carla getting cancer
- Laurent having repeated tonsillitis, then a tonsillectomy
- Joe being in the emergency room for bike crashes more than once, including the spectacular Nov 1st run-in with a deer
- my job, most of the time
- my dad losing vision in his right eye (macular degeneration) and not being able to drive or read

Things that definitely did not suck and were really great this year:
- doings lots of yoga, especially with Laura and the whole Marin Anusara kula - awesome!
- seeing a red octopus on the beach at Bodega in January (what a beautiful weekend that was)
- going snowcamping at Lassen last February
- taking 6 total weeks of vacation, including 10 days in Oaxaca and 3 weeks in France and Italy, pretty sweet
- volunteering at WildCare for a few months
- getting the blissbug idea and working on it with Martine and Terence
- Laurent moving back to San Rafael, doing well in school and at work
- spending a weekend in SF with Marianne and Heather
- getting along with my parents
- writing lots, including starting the blog, and
- generally feeling super-connected and surrounded by really, truly great friends

Taken alone, the Suck List above would feel crushing, but when I shuffle it together with the Awesome List, it no longer feels so bad. In fact, even with all of the insane sucky shit that happened this year, the year was amazing -- crazy, but amazing. It's as though at the same rate that some things got bad, the good stuff just got so much better. And I mean SO much better.

I'm 85% clear on the theme for 2009, but am going to spend a little more time savoring the complexity and many deep satisfactions of the past year. Yes, it was hard, but damn, it was really good.