.
.

Welcome

.
.
Make yourself at home. Put your feet up. Grab your favorite beverage and prepare to enjoy the reads.
.

.

Sunday

Are you ready to enter a writing contest?

I just got an email informing me Writer's Digest has announced it's now time for their annual writing competition. I'm signed up for their free email membership. This is legitimate.


Grand prize is $3,000 and a trip to New York for 3 days and 2 nights.

The announcement says:

"While you’re there, a Writer’s Digest editor will escort you to share your work with four editors or agents."

Now, I don't know if that means you get to show them what you wrote that won you the contest, but, I sure hope it means that you can share with them other writings you've created. Wouldn't that be cool?

They have ten categories in which you may enter:

1. Inspirational Writing (Spiritual/Religious)

2. Memoirs/Personal Essay

3. Magazine Feature Article

4. Genre Short Story (Mystery, Romance, etc.)

5. Mainstream/Literary Short Story

6. Rhyming Poetry

7. Non-Rhyming Poetry

8. Stage Play

9. Television/Movie Script

10. Children's/Young Adult Fiction

Here's the link for further information.
http://writersdigest.com/annual

When you click on the link, a box will come up asking you to sign up for Writer's Digest magazine subscription. Don't let it deter you.  If you're not interested, just close it out with the almost invisible x in the upper right corner of the box. Otherwise, sign up and enjoy. (May I have your old copies?)

You might find it advantageous to sign up for the free emails, as I did.

Even if you are not ready to submit something you have written, read through it all to get an idea of how things work. This will save a lot of stress in the future when you have finished something you might want to enter somewhere and find you have only a day to do it. You must read through and methodically follow instructions, otherwise your perfectly wonderful and publishable manuscript might be scrapped, because you didn't dot an i, or cross a T, or specify that this is a memoir and not a magazine article, for example.

Here's an something that caught my eye from their site where I can think things might get confusing and throw things off if one does not read all the fine print.

"Q: Are pen names allowed?
Pen names are fine. Write your pen name on all forms etc. so there is no mistakes on credits. Please be advised that we only need your real name if you are chosen as a winner (in order to issue prizes)."

Please note: I thought it was interesting that they used "is no mistakes" instead of "are no mistakes". If this is any indication of editing skills....

Also, before you go buying any of the books they offer for sale, check with Amazon or half.com, for better prices. If you don't mind purchasing a used book instead of new, sometimes you can get them for a penny plus postage. One other site I just love for obtaining books for next to nothing is

http://www.paperbackswap.com/

If you sign up for paperbackswap, you can reference me by name as the person who referred you. I would appreciate that very much, as then I would earn a point.

If you have something to add to this, please comment.

Saturday

Getting Ready to Write - Poem

Got Ink?


Testing writing instruments

demanding, desiring penmanship
thirsting for new ink.

Will it last long enough
to finish what I’m saying?

Any pen,
trusting,
praying,
it will function.

Examine each one
for every clue.

Dried ones go
keep the evernew

        ~~~
Elizabeth Munroz

Sealing Your Home to Save Money and Energy

I came across this article written by Dan Chiras of the Evergreen Institute discussing a way to help yourself decrease your heating and cooling bills and make your home more energy efficient.

He says: "the most important thing you should do is to seal up the building. Most existing homes are like Swiss cheese. If you could add up all the tiny leaks in the building envelope – the walls, foundation, and roof – they’d be equivalent to a 3-foot wide by 3-foot high window left open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

I think that is an amazing statement and yet, I am completely aware of how this can be true. One day an energy consultant came to my house and put small pieces of insulation material in all the plugs and light switches. This service was provided either by the state or the electric company, I don't remember which. I'm sure it helped in a small way because he missed one and I can still feel the breeze coming through that one. Got to get out there myself and seal it off because it goes right out to the outside wall of the house where cable was once connected.


But what Dan recommends makes a lot more lasting improvement in my mind. He says sealing the spaces in our homes that have leaks to the outdoors "could easily cut your annual heating and cooling costs by 10 to 30 percent, perhaps more. It all depends on how leaky your home is."

He recommends ways to discover the air leaks in your home, either by hiring a professional or doing it yourself. I am aware that one way to do it is by having an infrared photo taken of your home.

Usually the areas that need sealing are around the edges of windows and where the floors and walls. I just recently discovered where the air space came through the house completely along the baseboards in the kitchen, and I'm now guessing in the rest of the house. My kitchen floor tiles were just replaced and when the baseboard was removed I could literally see light coming in from outside. I often have an influx of ants that come through that way. Now I know why it's been so easy for them.

Dan recommends that clear or paintable silicone caulking to be used in those open places. And don't forget to check doors and put weather stripping on them.

He has written a book: Green Home Improvement.

Friday

Keeping Warm in California Winter

Not all California homes are properly insulated or weather worthy, especially if they are older. This is the type of home I live in. It is also unfortunate that inadequate heating is also a problem.

A 6 foot gas heater built into the wall of the hallway is the main source of heat for the whole house, which throughout the winter, even here in California can waste a lot of energy with heat going up the flue! Also, by having a heater in the hallway, the hallway might get up to 80 degrees (26 degrees celsius) before the bedroom would get up to a comfortable 65 degrees.


I recall when living in snow country we often heated our homes to warmer temperatures. But, I'm fairly sure that is not the case today.

It is not unknown to have freezing temperatures where I live. I have a lemon tree in my front yard and there have been times when the lemons have been ruined because of it. One winter we had two full weeks of freezing temperatures, for example. Again with inadequate insulation (none in the walls) this can make it quite uncomfortable inside the house.

Nonetheless, I have decided this year to decrease my use of gas for home heating. I have had the pilot light to my heater turned off, so that I will not be tempted to use it. Plus, I will not have to pay for running a pilot light, which according to a friend, saved him 8 dollars a month, once he turned it off.

Having been raised in snow country, my logic is that I can live with the cold. Now that I am older, I can use some of the methods learned in childhood to keep myself warmer. Layer my clothing for example. And, when it is particularly cold in the house, I can stay in one room. By my presence alone, my body heat can make a degree or so difference from the rest of the house. Keeping my insulated, floor length curtains, closed as soon as the sun goes down helps to keep some heat inside as well. If I am watching television or using my laptop, I am aware that some heat will be produced by them. I don't think as much heat emanates from my energy saver curly light bulbs as incandescent bulbs would have provided. But, it's a trade off on energy costs, not only for the little bit I can do for the environment, but also for my utility bill.

One thing I have noticed is that when my bedroom is beneath 58 degrees, I begin to be uncomfortable. It doesn't help that I have arthritis. If I am sleeping, it doesn't matter much. Up until recently, I just piled on the blankets. It makes a big difference, also if one uses flannel bedsheets.

I have recently made two concessions for myself. I occasionally will use an electric heater in the daytime to bring the temperature in my room up to a toasty 62 degrees. Also, I bought an "energy saver" electric blanket to use at night, and have been quite comfortable even when the temperature in my room drops to 47 degrees, which it has done occasionally this winter. I haven't yet recieved my utility bill for the month of January, so I do not know if this has all been a sensible idea. Will my use of the electric heater be a detriment?

My utility bill is combined, gas with electricity. Gas usage is always less expensive than electricity. But, I am hoping that by not wasting gas, my bill will be considerably less. We shall see.

With my utility company, I can go online and compare my usage to last year, so I am looking forward to seeing if it will make a difference.

Thursday

California Winter

Since I live in coastal California, the devastating cold weather that others in the country (in the world) experience through the winter is not such a major factor in my life.

Yet, having grown up in Niagara Falls, New York, I haven't forgotten Lake Effect snow storms, or 15 foot snow drifts or ice so thick it can cut a huge tree in half, and fall on your car. (Yes, that happened once.) I haven't forgotten sub-zero temperatures with a wind chill factor of 30 below. That would be -35 centigrade.

When I attended Elementary School, I walked a half mile to school, even in the wintertime. They didn't use school buses except for field trips. It would have been a good idea for me to wear what my mother called a snow suit, which was a thick jacket with leggings. I found them bulky and after about age 7, only the dorky kids wore them.

Sometimes, if I was sensible, I would wear flannel lined cordorory pants and boots (galoshes). But, by age 10 that was the time to stop wearing them. So, I hurried that half mile with bare legs. Girls didn't wear pants or tights to school. It was only when I was 13 that it began to become popular to wear your brother's jeans, but never to school.

I look back on those times with awe at the little girl who got through those winters. Sometimes the weather might be cold when I left for school in the morning, then be much colder and maybe snowing when returning home. If people didn't shovel off their sidewalks, I often walked in the street to avoid having the snow make my feet colder.

Occasionally, a friend's mother would offer a ride home. Both my parent's worked. Things were different then. I was a pretty independent kid by circumstance. I think most children today have much more protected lives.

You might have heard jokes about Grandpa saying, "When I was a boy, I walked 9 miles to school all winter long!"

Funny! One day, in the summertime I actually did walk 9 miles to my school just for the fun of it, with friends, and got a ride home from Dad. By this time, I was a teenager and we no longer lived in the city and had moved to a rural location.

The nearest city was Lockport, New York, named because of the Locks which ships traveled through on the Erie Canal. Fortunately, by this time, I was able to ride the school bus throughout the school year, and therefore did not have to face quite the winter challenges I did when younger.

Tuesday

Cream of Asparagus Soup


Hey! Where's the spoon?





Yield: 4 servings
 
¾ lb Fresh asparagus                    2 c  Hot milk
¾ c Chopped onion                     1/2 Tsp dill weed (to taste)
3 Tb Butter + salt                        1 Tsp Salt
3 Tb All-purpose flour                 1/2 Tsp White pepper
1 c  Water or stock                      2 Tb Tamari soy sauce
 
Break off and discard tough asparagus bottoms.  Break off tips; set aside.

Coarsely chop stalks; cook in skillet with onion in butter, salting lightly. 

After 8 to 10 minutes, when onions are clear, sprinkle with flour. 

Continue to stir over lowest possible heat 5 to 8 minutes.

Slowly add water or stock, stirring constantly.
 
Cook 8 to 10 minutes stirring frequently, until thickened.  Cool slightly. 

In blender, puree sauce bit-by-bit with milk until thoroughly smooth.

Return puree to 1 ½ -quart pan- preferably a double boiler. 

Add dill, salt, pepper and tamari.  Heat gently but don't boil. 

As it heats, cook asparagus tips in boiling water until tender, but still very green, about 2 minutes;

drain. Add whole to soup.

Monday

Liver Testing

To bring things up to date with the liver issue... The pancreas and liver scans are clear. I was even surprised to learn that I don't even have signs of fatty liver! It is determined that I do not have biliary cirrhosis. Woo Hoo!

Of course, this still doesn't answer why my liver enzymes climbed. Though I was also happy to learn that the alkaline phosphatase is now down to 257. So, the next steps are:

Lake Tahoe
Ultrasound abdomen R/O stones, sludge in CBD (Feb 11)

Blood tests:

Hepatic function panel
GGT
Lipid panel (now that I'm off statins, we want to see how it's doing)

I've got to look up some of the following:
Anti-Smooth Muscle Antibodies
ANA
Anti-Liver Kidney
Quantitative IGG
Ceriloplasm, Ferritin

Possible planned ERCP depending on what the results are.

Dr. also mentioned if this is not easily diagnosed, then she may send me to a colleague who focuses only on liver. I cannot imagine what else it could be!!!

In the meantime, I am no longer taking non-essential medicines that are processed through the liver. I miss my estrogen! HOT FLASHES!!! Yuck! And I miss Tylenol. I always knew that it took the edge off my pain enough that I could bear it. But, now I know just how much pain I'm really dealing with, so I'm changing my lifestyle a bit. Seems best to not experience too much cold, so bundle up more. Use heating pad a lot. Massage areas I can reach. Use Lidoderm patches. God Bless the person who thought those up!!! They don't kill deep pain, like in my SI joints, but at least make it more tolerable. So far, I have been able to avoid taking Tramadol except for a few times, and only twice have had to take Dilaudid. I am too cautious, I am told about taking them. But, I'd rather not go around in a stupor. If I were bedridden, yes maybe. But, I'm still up, though having to use the walker more. Funny how pain seems to make the act of walking so much harder.

Friday

Santa Cruz Snow

Time flies when you're having fun, they say.  But snow flies when the wind blows and the temperatures drop below 32 degrees fahrenheit.

photo by Shmuel Thaler
Right now Santa Cruz is in a little bit of shock and not of the earthquake type. We are having freezing nights, and snow up in the Santa Cruz mountains and on highway 17.

It melts off during the day, though. This weather is expected to last a week. I can't say I'm disappointed.

After the Storm

From this vantage point atop the cliff overlooking the sea, I feast my eyes after having been incarcerated an eternity behind rain streaked windows.

I drink in the magnificent nurturing beauty before me.

Today the sea is so lovely and sweet and smooth.
No longer thrashing wildly. No longer hurling herself with abandon across the face of the cliff as she has been for... how many days and weeks now?

I can’t keep track.

One stormy moment thundered into the next until  it didn’t seem to matter whether a day, an hour, or moment was counted.


The sea is quiet, lulling me.

Soft waves draw back and forth massaging wet sand. I feel as though I could reach out and touch the edge of the shimmer, pull it across me and let the gentle sheets rest on my shoulders.

I would huddle down beneath her and sleep like a mermaid.

Angel Sarah McLaughlin and Death of a Loved One

You can play this video while reading:



My niece chose this song to play the first time I heard it.

Spend all your time waiting
for that second chance
for a break that would make it okay
there's always some reason
to feel not good enough
and it's hard at the end of the day


Her brother, my nephew, died,
and this was at his funeral.
Up to that point I was numb,
had no feelings one way or the other about anything.

Numb.

I guess that's what shock does to ya.
But, there I was listening to the words.
It was like they were the only thing existing for the time I heard it.
As they sunk into my being something tore open and I sobbed uncontrollably.



I need some distraction
oh beautiful release
memories seep from my veins
let me be empty
oh and weightless then maybe
I'll find some peace tonight


Well, I was at a memorial service after all.
But, this was horrible.
Not a mourner’s weeping at all,
but out and out sobbing.
You know?
It was the kind where the snorting comes through.
I grabbed up my coat and put it up against my face to hold it back.
I felt ashamed, didn't want to ruin the sacredness of the moments
After all, there were others here who had more reason to cry than me.

In the arms of the angel
fly away from here
from this dark cold hotel room
and the endlessness that you feel
you are pulled from the wreckage
of your silent reverie
you're in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort here



My sister, Raj's mother.
My Niece, Raj's sister.
My ex-brother in law, Raj's father.
Rishi, Raj's little brother.
Raj's little sister with the beautiful name
I can't remember.
Not to mention a myriad of relatives
from both sides of the family,
some arriving from the other side of the world
And so many friends who loved him, too.

So tired of the straight line
and everywhere you turn
there's vultures and thieves at your back
the storm keeps on twisting
you keep on building the lies
that you make up for all that you lack



He died years ago,
but tonight the song is haunting me.
And here I am with that deep,
deep pain in my heart for Raj.
Well, maybe not for Raj.
He's beyond the troubles of his life.
He left them behind.
Maybe, I'm holding that deep,
deep pain he once carried.
I guess we all do
until we are free to move on.
I’m not saying
to escape before our time.
But, we have to carry it until then.


it don't make no difference
escaping one last time
it's easier to believe
in this sweet madness oh
this glorious sadness that brings me to my knees




His father was from India.
Raj chose to follow the same religion.
He was close to the Goddess, Lakshmi.

I have his picture of her still on my wall.
I can't get rid of it,

it's a little piece of Raj here with me.
Symbolic of course.

I don't think he continued in that way.
After he died, my sister cried with joy
we found a letter where he expressed his Christian feelings.



In the arms of the angel
fly away from here
from this dark cold hotel room
and the endlessness that you feel


So maybe he has moved on to his next life.

Or maybe an angel
took him to heaven to be with Jesus.

All I know is that his life was too short.
He had a heart that was sweet as candy.

Yet he had to hide it
behind a tough exterior.

From what I could tell,
it was not who he liked to be.
But, somehow he needed to have it.

you are pulled from the wreckage
of your silent reverie
you're in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort here


You know how when someone dies,
and someone says,
"He will never be forgotten."?
It's true.
Though I do not think of him every moment,
I can't forget him.

you're in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort here


Once, he told me that when he was very little,
he was afraid at night.
So, while he was lying in bed waiting to go to sleep,
he would imagine a blue light surrounding him,
protecting him from
the things that made him feel afraid.
He imagined the blue light
in the shape of a pyramid.
He said he could imagine it so well
that he really felt like he was inside.
Then he felt he was safe, and warm
and could fall to sleep peacefully.
When he told me this
he was about eleven or twelve.
What an amazing gift for a child to have.
He used that technique for years.

I know how he died.
No one should be alone in the cold like that.
But, I like to think
he was surrounded by his warm glowing pyramid,
Unafraid, safe and warm and at peace.

Or perhaps he was in the arms of an angel.

Thursday

Redeeming Pain


Deep within
lies a slimy,
pathetic Monster
writhing with pain.

We all know him
His own worst enemy, is he
only conscious of misery,
he cannot see beyond himself.

pain lingers about him,
like so many tangled wires
jumbled in static
giving off fumes

Pain is his cousin
who never goes away
only to be dealt with
in twisted anger

victimized, ostracized,
unreachable, untouchable
unworthy of redemption

he refuses to break through
his self-imposed barriers
believes he is helpless
against the invisible foe

Pain is unacceptable
not a legitimate entity

pain has planted
thorny swords of barbed wire,
prevented easy access
pain wrapped in self loathing
cannot move or grow

tears of self pity,
cover him like unshakable slime,
his fears convincing him
the pain will not desist.

self-flagellated
wounds ooze thickly
He tells himself
"it's all I am meant to be,
just pain"

A most despicable Beast,
unworthy and shamed,
is but one who needs
tender healing, love nonetheless.

Dear Beastie,
I come to you,
my hand outreached to comfort,
yet, you stab me with your lightning bolts,
unwilling as a cowering porcupine.

You can only unleash your pain yourself, I see.
Did you know I was once like you?

By soothing voice, I sing to you.
By soft-coated whispers,
I encourage you to breathe,
and unwind the chains
you have wrapped about yourself.

Hiding in the poppies
locked you further away,
brought increased harm and alarm
No remembrance of who you are.

And so, I calm my pain focused mind,
my aching heart, my stress-filled body
to accommodate your need for undivided attention,
your need for redemption of your false beliefs
to embrace what I once thought was the enemy

Without your spiky Armor,
you appear quite harmless.

With your oozing wounds placated,
your tears dried away,
you are quite a cuddly creature
and purr readily when petted

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Art created by Xavier Rodriguez

Tuesday

Suicide Attempt? or Blessing?

I was a youngster, practically. And I used to cry and moan and twist in pain in my hospital bed, saying "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus," and "Oh, My God"

Now mind you, I was pretty much out of my head not only with the pain, but the morphine they were shooting into me every four... or if they forgot, five or six hours, sometimes later. Some compassionate woman from down the hall, got herself out of bed to come find the one who was calling on God. She found me and proceeded to tell me how she would pray with me and for me. Praise the Lord, thank you Jesus...

Oh, my. I shut my mouth and smiled at her. There was no way I was going to get into a religious argument with her, no way I was going to go through a major guilt and conversion session, and soon she was gone. I was very bitter, and at that time was Atheist. Little did she know that I had been cussing, "taking the Lord's name in vain", otherwise I don't think she would have been so interested in praying with me. I guess I should have said "goddammit", as my Mother would have said if she was hurting.

Doctor MeanGuy had been in that day to tell me the tests showed my bladder was shreds and there was nothing they could do with it, except connect the ureters to my bowel. Of course that would mean a lifetime of E-coli infections and who-knows-what-all backing up into my kidneys.

I knew little medical terminology. But I sure as hell knew bad news when I heard it.

Since I had cancer and wasn’t expected to live anyway, I just thought I would take things into my own hands and get it over with. I was so despondent about what that doctor had said. I had had enough surgeries!!! I had had enough pain and suffering. I had enough of hospitals, doctors and nurses. Enough of living in fear.

Needless to say, the little old Italian woman, Mrs. Calabresi who was in the bed across from me, (four to a room was a luxury in those wards) watched all this with bright eyes. I loved that old woman. I don't know why anymore. Every morning the priest would come in to give her last rites, every afternoon her adult kids would traipse in to see if she had died yet, and quietly leave. Every evening she would attempt chat with us but mostly listened. I didn't know much about her diagnosis except that she had something terribly wrong with the arteries in her legs, ( I think) and she couldn't walk and was expected to make her exit quite soon.

So, that night when I decided to cut the intravenous line and the bladder catheter tubes (one came out of my abdomen) she figured it all out, got out of her bed, and walked over to me. I was so shocked to see this, you'd think Jesus walked on water! Anyhow, she lovingly stroked my forehead, I got tears in my eyes. Real tears not the tears of the frightened girl in pain. And she touched her heart, then my heart, speaking in her broken Itali-nglish. I understood quite a bit, anyhow, as I lived in Niagara Falls. Either you were Italian or Polish, I was neither but heard the languages all my life. Anyhow, she said things like, “you be better, God will help you.” That's the woman I could be honest with. “No, God wont help me, I don’t believe in God, I'm mad at God!”

She completely disarmed me by saying: “You no like God? Tha's okay! Madre di Dio si curerĂ . God's Mother make better!”

My mind went completely blank... a concept I couldn't conceive, God’s mother? Calabresi had me and she knew it.

"Okay Now? A pregare la Madonna You pray!" I just stared at her. "You pray! I pray!"

I couldn't say no. I would have done anything she asked me. She had a "green scapula" with her. (How it suddenly appeared threw me. Did she have it in her hand all along and I didn't notice. Why, of course!) She held it up for me to see the Blessed Virgin. She showed me the words encircling her picture. Then we said the words together.

"Again!"

We said it again. We repeated it quite a few times. Then she put it in my hands and curled my fingers around it telling me to pray all the time... well, three times a day, ten times over, or maybe it was the other way around. By this time I was hypnotized, and I can't even remember how fervently I did this. Though it really did calm me, and I felt prepared to go beyond, whatever that would be. I still was mad at God and still didn't believe in him. (Yes, yes, an oxymoron, I know, but had little logic back then. Hmmm maybe less now)

Soon the nurses were in there putting in a new IV and one catheter. They couldn't do anything about the one leaking into my abdomen. The doctor would have to repair the damage surgically.

So, that was why I was cutting things. I had scissors, but no razor, so this would take time. Damned nurses. If I had turned that light on needed assistance they never would have come in all night long. Just when you don't want them, they come along and bother you.

So, the next day, they had to take me into emergency surgery. After I woke up Dr. Neisen (the nice one, see? I remember his name after all these years) came in beaming. I was still kind of druggy from the anesthesia but so glad to see him. He said, "I don't know what happened, but your bladder is all in one piece. All we had to do was sew up the hole where your abdominal catheter was located."

Smiling nurses came in to see that I was comfy and all tucked in. When they pulled back the curtain, I could hardly wait to tell Mrs. Calabresi. But her bed was all made up tight as a drum. She and all her belongings were gone. Nobody had to tell me where she had gone.

The next day, I asked for the priest. He came in. I told him about the miracle, and that I wanted to become Catholic. After he asked a few questions he told me no. It was impossible. I was a married woman, on my way to a divorce and previously baptized and confirmed in a non-catholic church. I was pretty insulted. After all, it had been a Catholic miracle. He agreed it couldn’t have been anything less. But that wouldn't make any difference where my soul was concerned.

He left, and then I was REALLY pissed at god!

For a long time after that though, I went to the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Youngstown NY, and had some peaceful times. But, I never converted, even after the "rules" got loosened.

This is the tip of the iceberg of how I coped with the diagnosis and surgical challenges. Very badly, until Mrs. Calibresi stepped in. Then, very calmly, because,  “Tha's Okay.” I could always talk to God's Mother.

Monday

Poem - Cat Paws

cat licks my paw
rough
pleasant
wet
feel connected
little creature
I love

I play with his fingers
or shall I say claws
he tolerates just so much
pulls away
not injured
but indignant

Stretching
curling tail
walks away
my feet are safer










Elizabeth Munroz

January 2010

Poem - Fog


fog haunts mountain

drivers peer anxious

red lights glow

in snake formation

some too close

wheels sing with pavement

their own secret wish

rain storm any minute

home

home

just get home


Elizabeth Munroz
January 2010

Sunday

Not Enough Cats

Not enough cats
only three

saw one at the shelter
A calico,
pretty,
but not the one.
Will I ever find the right one again?
These three are alright.
I love them.
They probably don't love me.


Not like she did
No soul connection
No deep knowing
They don't love me, yet.

Depend on for food, maybe.
Enjoy petting and play.
And the birdseed I scatter over the yard for birds
Hate being kept inside.
Don't have pristine litter boxes
I wish I dared let them outside.
But, after what happened...

These three fill my life with there antics,
their growls and spats
vying for the top shelf of the kitty condo.
purrs and rubs on the legs and sleeping on same
And wild eyed, you will not pick me up looks
crawling under the blanket to lie by my side
sleeping in the closet, the garage, the head of my bed
waking up with one on my chest
How did that happen?
Why didn't I wake?

Fur
Lot's of fur.
Fur all over the house.
On the carpet,
in the corners,
on the curtains where they pass through to look outside
in the dryer vent,
in the closet.
on my clothes,
up my nose
Fur

Would I have it any other way?
No, not in a million years.



Elizabeth Munroz
January 2010

Saturday

Strangers from New York Experience Earth Quake

Living in California the majority of my life, I've felt plenty of earthquakes. The mild ones under 4.0 on the Richter scale are seldom noticed. They are nothing more than if someone was standing on the back of your car and bouncing a bit. As the intensity of the quake is greater, the higher the number on the Richter scale. Once an earthquake reaches 5.0 it can be felt strongly. Once it reaches 6.0 it is so strong that buildings can shudder, grocery store shelves lose their supplies and people are more likely to run into the street. You can see the trees and telephone wires swinging back and forth. For each degree after that the increase in intensity can be very forceful. In disadvantaged or undeveloped countries an earthquake measuring 6.0 can cause considerable severe damage.


Four days before the 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti, a 6.5 earthquake hit a city called Eureka in California located 653 miles (1050 KM) north of where if live. I felt it. Not hard, like the people who live there. But I felt it as many did, up and down the northern California area all the way over into Nevada. The Epicenter was just off the coast near Eureka. Being California, the area was able to sustain the damage without deaths or serious injuries, though, there are now reports of 22 million dollars in damages. (about 15.5 million Euros).

Over the last 300 years, Californians have learned that brick houses and other such buildings would be destroyed by earthquakes. Many deaths and injuries could be prevented by adequate engineering of structures. By the late 1920's guidelines for building were established and have been improved upon since then. The reason there were no deaths and serious injuries in Eureka, is because those building codes had been instituted. We are very fortunate compared to what has happened in Haiti. It is heartbreaking to see the damages, injuries and deaths due to that earthquake.


My First Experience with Earthquake.

When living near Vandenburg Air Force Base from 1963 to 1965, the earth rumbled more from the rocket and missile launches than it did from the few minor quakes I felt.


The first serious earthquake that affected my family was in 1971 on my Mother's birthday. She and my Dad had gone to visit my younger brother and his wife on a vacation from their home in New York State. The idea was to get out of winter snow and ice. I was staying at their home at the time, with my sister.

About 1 minute or so after the 6.6 to 7.0 quake occurred, my sister and I decided to call and wish Mom a happy birthday. We had no idea what had just happened. It seemed so odd that we couldn't get through. We called the operator to have her put us through. She told us all the lines were busy and to wait and call later. We waited a while and tried again. Still we couldn't get through. We called and asked an operator to try again. She abruptly said, "You can't get through! There's been an earthquake!"

It sent shivers up my spine. Though I hadn't experienced any quakes when I lived there. I knew it was serious if the telephone lines were not working.

There was nothing on the TV about it. We only got three channels in those days.

My sister and I were worried. We called a few more times in the hopes that all lines were no longer busy. But, still there was no connection. The thought occurred to me that if my parents were located where the worst damage happened, then our other relatives might be safe, and there telephones working.


So, we methodically went through the telephone book and called every relative we had in the Southern California region. Some did not connect. Some gave a permanent busy signal, a special kind of busy signal that let you know that it wasn't just a person talking on the line.

Then, I called Uncle Buddy's house. Lo' and behold, his telephone rang. Back in those times, you could ring a person's phone number constantly without interruption and that is exactly what I did. Suzan and I took turns holding the phone listening to the rings. We figured that if the phone was ringing the damage where my uncle lived could not be too bad. Of course, we realized that Uncle Buddy must have felt the quake, but hopefully his house was okay.


At one point we decided that if his phone was ringing to try my brother's phone again. Still no connection. Then trying Uncle Buddy's line got a regular busy signal. There was hope! He must have been using his phone. We waited a few minutes and called again. This time the phone rang twenty times, then Uncle Buddy answered the phone. He didn't understand at first who was calling as my voice was so strained and I was speaking so rapidly, and Suzan was suggesting things for me to say in the background.

I told him we had called to wish Mom happy birthday only to be told of the earthquake, that there was nothing on the TV about it and we were worried. Uncle Buddy had been out in the yard and not wanting to come into his house because of the aftershocks, and didn't want to stay on the phone for long. He had tried to call my brother's house and was unable to get through. The epicenter was reported to be very close to where my brother lived. Uncle Buddy promised he would try to find out what he could and call us back and let us know if everyone was alright.

When the news was reported on TV We learned is was a serious quake called the Sylmar Quake. Sixty five people had died, another two thousand injured. Hospitals had been crushed and freeway overpasses had fallen, many highways were closed, landslides had caused damage to property, two dams had been destroyed. The biggest worry for us was that my brother lived near one of the dams that were being inspected to make sure it wouldn't crack. If so, there would be flooding.

Eventually, Uncle Buddy called us. Mom and Dad were okay, Roger and his wife, Sharon were okay. The baby, Carl, was okay. They had suffered no major damage. Roger's apartment was new enough that it had been built with earthquake safety in mind. Thank you, Engineers and Architects!

When we finally had the opportunity to speak with Mom and Dad, the wishing of Happy Birthday was forgotten. But, they hadn't forgotten, and we were reminded what a beautiful birthday it was. Suzan and I were confused at first, then Mom said it was beautiful because they all survived and did not suffer any damages.


There was a bit of unforgettable story in this situation. Mom and Dad sleep on opposite sides of the bed. They are not spooners, they said. I began to feel uncomfortable. I didn't want to know how my parents slept. But, Mom, or was it Dad, continued to tell us, they had gotten in the habit of sleeping with their backs turned to each other, simply because they had opposite side of there bodies with a little arthritis pain and they were more comfortable this way.

Since they were sleeping at Roger's house, they were not used to the bright sunlight shining through the window. They were both just slightly awake. A moment before the quake occurred Dad turned over and snuggled up to Mom putting his arm around her. Luckily this kept her from falling off the edge of the bed and onto the floor. Even more luckily, when the big mirror from the dresser fell directly onto the bed, it landed exactly where Dad had just moved from. Dad was not injured and therefore another reason to be grateful.

Elizabeth Munroz 
January 16, 2010



If you would like to help the survivors of the earthquake in Haiti, please visit the links below which will direct you to the Canadian or American Red Cross web pages.

Both of them have donation forms which will allow you to send help to where it is most needed. 

Canadian Red Cross


American Red Cross



Also see this article about how you can simply donate through a text message 



Wednesday

Quiet Steady Rain


Branches dance to orchestration
chimes caressed by the wind
water dripping between spaces
so many pebbles pounding the roof
gutters rush to find a way to meet with wet soil

Stretching antenna, snails head for high ground
water dive bombing around them

Trailing ants gone
safely stowed in the attic,
or deeply burrowed beneath soil.
Can they manage the onslaught
of rivulets flooding
their collapsed corridors?

Opened window listening
Sonata plays full volume.

Water splayed upon window sill
Cats shake their paws
watch with piercing eyes
to see where each drop
ends it's journey

No resounding thunder, no lightning strikes
just the windows mumbling to the whispering wind
the conversation during intermission lulls me to sleep.



Elizabeth Munroz
January 2010

Tuesday

Happy Birthday, Granny! A Poem.



Granny sits in the chair closest to the door.
She is more than ready to go home.

Overwhelmed by kids running wild,
missing her quiet cuddly cats,
their warmth on her lap,
their sweet purring.

Even Sonny,
the one who growls like a panther,
the one who yowls loud enough to wake the neighbors,
and bangs on the door when locked out,
would get lost in this ruckus.

Granny is visiting at her daughter's house
to celebrate her seventieth,
the big seven oh.
She should have stayed home,
had ice cream with the cats
listening to mellow Beatles music

The other daughter arrived
with more grandchildren.
Some other kids are here, too.
Their friends?

running around being kids, all noisy and wild.
having fun.
Granny wishes she could jump around
and have rough and tumble fun
...and scream

The others are able to ignore
most of it.
90 decibels maybe.
high piercing pitch
sudden like an ice pick
thrust through a block of ice

What will she do with the presents?
Where will they fit in her luggage?
The knick knacks and doo dads,
the shawl and afghan,
the bubble bath,
the low necked blouse and too tight pants.

They must have forgot
Granny needs nothing
she has too much of everything
just give her love.
It's enough.
Really
and maybe
some tranquility.

Granny decides to hide,
sneaks into the computer room
wishing she could email herself
as an attachment.

She is counting down the days
until she sees
Sonny and Cher again.




Elizabeth Munroz
January 2010

Monday

14 pounds of Meat

Imagine my shock today when I went to the doctor. Her assistant welcomes me. I follow him back down the hall and he tells me to hang my purse here, put my sweater there. I'm happy to oblige. Purse on hook. Sweater on chair. Then, he says, "step up on the scale".

This is not the part that I like. In fact, I prefer to not face the weight. Can't I just get on there backwards and not know the numbers? After all, I already know what they are, or at least the ball park figure, and that's what I got, a figure as big as a ball park. Just the same, this cute young man wanted me to get on the scale and so I did, mumbling the last remembered poundage from last visit to save him the trouble.

Imagine my surprise when there is now an unexpected drop in my weight. I have lost 14 pounds since the last visit in October. He congratulated me as if I were a contestant on the Biggest Loser. Suddenly, there were several staff people mulling around, also offering their praise. What? do they stand in the hall waiting for that momentous moment? It's an Oncologist's office, for heaven's sake! What do they do with the chemo patients who have lost 14 pounds in one week? Commiserate? or maybe, quietly sneak away, shaking their heads?

I'm not complaining about their attention. It gave me a clear picture that I mean a lot more to these people then I ever imagined. We know each other from over ten years, now. I will have to bring them all some candy, well, okay, some flowers.

Even Dr. C, heard the fuss in the hall and came out to see what was going on. A big smile on her face, a nod of her head and a wave as she went by. I don't know why I felt embarrassed.

The uptake on all this is that I have this evil judge living inside my head. Oh, you got one too? Yeah, well Judgy, is not to be mistaken for Judge Judy, she's so much nicer.

Judgy nudges me in all my glory and says, "What are you happy about? Knock that off! You don't have a right to be happy. You didn't do anything. You don't deserve these kudos. You can't take credit for losing this weight! It just happened by accident. You didn't count calories, or fat, or protein. you didn't eat a balanced diet. You didn't give a hoot about the quality of your nutritional intake. You certainly didn't EXERCISE!!! Lazy Bitch! This is just an illusion. There's something wrong with their scale."

It's not that Judgy hollers, it's just the fervent insistence that penetrates my usual block out mechanisms. She's right. I didn't do anything, I did work to lose the weight. It just happened. A trick of fate? Sudden water loss? I don't deserve to pat myself on the back for something I didn't earn.

I feel like a phony, a fake. I feel I've mislead all these wonderful supportive people by being a false weight loss person. I'm happy to have lost the weight. I hope it stays this way.

How did that happen, anyway? How did fourteen pounds of meat disappear from my body, just like that?



This is not what you're thinking. This is a beautiful beef tenderloin. Yes, symbolically it might represent the subject for today, but I wanted to turn this into something positive. So I highly recommend if you have a hungry omnivore craving you will find the most delicious recipe at this link.

It's my Bambi Girl starring...

HEY!!!  WHO TAKE MY NOMS?





You can vote or comment on my LOL Cat by clicking on the link. Thank you! Elizabeth

   http://cheezburger.com/view.aspx?ciid=6430960&vk=lo9nWSkkxyDJUSqs3AHxlF07ODUeq2lPGk6ahuacd7Uj71rbieQm7rGBtfKeTdwaiNxHF6nlP63HbDtKdNVy4A%3d%3d

Sunday

Ever feel like giving up?

I Love Living Life. I Am Happy.
Nick Vujicic





Something to think about, to cry about, to laugh.....
Play it again, and again, if need be.

Friday

Photo Friday - Something Spiritually Inspiring





Photo taken at Capitola, California the day after a big storm when the sun was going down. The hilly area off in the distance is the Monterey Peninsula, which, due to the weather, appears to be much closer than it is. Though I am not the woman in the picture, (since I was the photographer) I look at this picture and see me. I see the longing I once had during a very dark time in my life.

See how she has her arms wrapped to her body. Longing. She's not entirely hopeless quite yet. She's still standing. Some others nearby do not seem to be even aware of her, or the incredible vision just over their shoulders. I look at the surfers as those who have jumped right into the waters of life, and are living it fully.

Just a little while ago it was raining, the daytime sky was dark, like her. The rain stopped and there was but a hope of sunlight, that is when she walked out there onto the rocks. This picture is the moment when the world rejoices in the return of the sun. She just stands there longing and hurting and suddenly, there it is, the clouds parting enough and color seeping into her heart. I like to think it is this moment captured when the inspiration enters in the next breath and the spirit is blessed. Something primeval comes alive in me at times like this, and water always has a lot to do with it.

"Watch the waves, and the more you watch, the more you will able to see the beauty of them. The more you watch, the more the subtle nuances of thought will become clear to you. And it is beautiful - but you remain the witness. You remain on the beach, You sit on the beach, or lie down in the sun, and just let the ocean do it's own work - you don't interfere.


If you don't interfere, by and by, by and by, the ocean doesn't affect you. It goes on roaring all around, but it doesn't penetrate you. It is beautiful in and of itself, but it is separate, a distance exists. That distance is real meditation, a real silence. "


From: Discourses on Tilopa's Song of Mahamudra

Thursday

Water Heater

Did you know that heating water accounts for up to 20% of your household energy costs? 

If you have a natural gas water heater then you should drain a pail of water from the hot water tank every three months or as recommended by the manufacturer. 

This will remove sediment that reduces heat transfer and lowers efficiency.


Info quoted from
Blog on Smog

Sunday

The Google Search Writing Trigger Technique

.
When writer's block hits me, this is a method I've developed to free me from the shackles.

Using one word is a well known technique for triggering writing, even if it only squeezes a single sentence from our brains. But, that is not the only part of my scheme. So hang with me, here, as we still need that one word to begin the process.

Pick a word any word.

Can't think of one?

Grab the nearest printed object. Mine says Ipod. Okay, so I grab the word, pod, and write about it.  "the pea pod was like velvet in my hand, the peas, like the food of the gods, blessed my mouth with flavor".

Yes, it's corny. But, let's not judge. Whatever you come up with will work. A stream of conciousness will suffice. (pod... dod... god... blessed.. food...). It's a trigger, not to be taken too seriously. Anything to stimulate creativity when we're wanting to unleash ourselves from our greatest enemy is a gift.

Now, take the full amount created and put it in Google search. The above one word trigger sentence brought forth a lot about peas in the google search, a lot about food. But, let's say you want something more creative to help you get moving. Something, unrelated to cooking or growing peas. In fact, let's delete the peas and anything that might bring up a food reference out of our search. Might as well get rid of the extraneous adjectives, and get a cleaner search.

pod velvet hand gods blessed mouth


Let's see what happens...



Ah ha! Look at that. Pod still wins out with food references. We can go with this or narrow down further. Even though pod was our trigger word, let's throw out the pod.

There it is! Many new trigger words to get your fingers jumping over the keyboard. Not just one.

Now, here is the important thing, and I mean important! No matter how interesting the response looks, DO NOT GO THERE! You will end up spending the next hour perusing the site and all the fascinating new information. After all, a writer is a word junky. Words call us home to luxuriate in their warm embrace. DON'T GO THERE! This is an exercise in self control. No, this is an exercise in creativity. Yes, both.

Here's what you do next. Looking at the Google responses you will see jumbled parts of sentences containing your words. This combination of phrases is enough to trigger some writing. One of my Google responses is from the site: Book of Riddles - Strolen's Citadel: A Role Playing Community

"A golden bird did in its mouth abide The serpent drank the water, ... Jewel on black velvet, pearl in the sea Unchanged but e'erchanging, eternally. .... For our ambrosia we were blessed, by Jupiter, with a sting of death. ..... A sieve/collander (Sphere of Annihilation) Though desert men once called me God, ..."

This is not an exercise in plagiarism, so it's not a good idea to turn this into a little poem. It looks like it already is part of one. If there is one turn of phrase that really stands out for you, write it down, and go from there:

Here's my example:

The serpent drank the water as the dew formed. I was more fascinated by the drops of moisture than I was of his tiny eyes staring fire into the dawn.

I don't care for serpents and I would find myself avoiding the visual stimulation to go further with this, so if I change serpent into butterfly... maybe. But, the researcher in me will want to verify if butterflies actually drink dew at dawn, unless I'm going to give myself poetic liscence, and go with the flow.

Another method is to make a list of all the significant words so that you will have something more substantial to keep you going. Perhaps create a whole piece with those words.

golden
bird
mouth
serpent
drank
water
Jewel
black
velvet
pearl
sea
Unchanged
eternally
ambrosia
blessed
Jupiter
sting
death
sieve/collander
Sphere
Annihilation
desert
men
God


I am so tempted to go into that website and discover how all those enticing phrases are related! What wonderful words these are!

We could easily spend an hour or two perusing a dictionary to delight in all the nuances of these words. Couldn't we? If you have time and no deadline to meet, enjoy yourself. See ya later. Come back when you're ready to play some more. But, If you are still in the "let's see where else this will take us" mode, stay here.

If you are still not feeling particularly creative, the simplest thing would be to make one sentence each with one of the words in it. In the past, I would have done this on small cards and put them away until later to use as triggers. But, now we can simply keep them in a document, we call, triggers list, or simply, sentence list.

Here are some examples of sentences I might create if I am totally in left brain mode:

Her hair had the sheen of a newborn black colt

The hillsides looked like velvet.

He liked the feel of the pearl handled gun.

The sea was alive with fury that day.




Later on, we can go back to these sentences and ask the who, what, where, why's, etc. and maybe a novel will be born.

If you want to go a next step further, take all the words and make a poem or story.

I won't share mine right now. I think I've got 50,000 words on the way!

Saturday

Negative Positive Polarity

.
Negative

I dislike that word immensely when it is used to suggest that it is not acceptable. We do more harm to ourselves by putting that connotation upon our thoughts and actions.

Sickness, struggles and dying are a natural part of life. If we call that negative, then we are negating ourselves  and all of humanity for experiencing them.

It is okay to say that cancer sucks.

It's okay to say the pain (physical as well as mental) is unbearable.

It's okay to say, "I'm afraid".

It's okay to say, it is time to call hospice.

It's okay to say the truth of what you are feeling without any shame, remorse or guilt. When other people judge us as being too negative about our cancer experience because we aren't fighting hard enough, or succeeding in being healed, they don't know what they're talking about, even if they are our nearest and dearest beloved one.

The worst thing anyone ever said to me during the times when I was barely hanging on, was "If only you believe it, you will be healed!" Not only was it unkind, but damaging.

It made me question whether I had a right to survive, because maybe, I was not trying hard enough, not doing it right, not keeping myself positive, not praying hard enough.

When I see people I care about struggle with these concepts I cringe. Dealing with the diagnosis, and bearing the treatments is enough for us to experience the totally of our humanity.


When we are in the pit of despair, it is okay to say it out loud. "I am in the pit of despair."

"I don't know what else to do."

"I'm not giving up. I'm just facing reality."

Keeping the "negative" feelings stifled is like a cancer in itself.

Shedding myself of these beliefs gave me the right to live whatever life I was to have in freedom. I was released from worrying about other people's judgment on how I was coping with my cancer, and relieved of the guilt I felt that somehow I deserved the cancer, that somehow I wasn't doing things right. That I was wrong to my core.

Once I accepted it's okay for me to voice my personal feelings, first to myself, then to others, whether they agreed or not, that heavy cloud of self-doubt disappeared. Accepting my real feelings, understanding them as a natural part of life, just like falling in love and giving birth, the sun shining and rain falling from the sky is what helped me to cast off the concept of judging myself for what I was experiencing.

I have had four people in my personal life, who have dealt with cancer in the past few years. One of them died. She fought for her life valiantly, and she was very good at expressing her emotions, whether anyone thought she was being negative or not.

And I daresay, anyone who could possibly believe that one dies of cancer because of expressing one's true feelings will one day understand the error of their judgment, if they should happen to be diagnosed themselves.

I like this definition of Negative:

Electrical polarity (positive and negative) is present in every electrical circuit. Electrons flow from the negative pole to the positive pole. In a direct current (DC) circuit, one pole is always negative, the other pole is always positive and the electrons flow in one direction only. 

Both are needed for the circuit to be complete, to be whole, to flow.


Those who attain perfect wisdom are forever inspired by the conviction that the infinitely varied forms of this world, in all their relativity, far from being a hindrance and a dangerous distraction to the spiritual path, are really a healing medicine.

Why? Because by the very fact that they are interdependent on each other and therefore have no separate self, they express the mystery and the energy of all-embracing love. Not just the illumined wise ones but every single being in the interconnected world is a dweller in the boundless infinity of love.

-Prajnaparmita
From "Buddha Speaks,"
edited by Anne Bancroft, 2000.

Friday

Plans for Life, not just New Years!

.

Thinking about plans for the New Year, I came across something that made me want to plan for life. So, I pulled out some of my artwork to accompany the following.
 

Practiced regularly, Thai meditations are said to lead to enlightenment by overcoming the Ten Fetters, or negative states of mind. . . and to help generate the Ten Virtues, which can be cultivated at every opportunity!

What are the Ten Fetters? The Ten Virtues?  
Find out, become aware and be inspired.





The Ten Fetters




1. Self-illusion - the belief that your ego is real


2. Ignorance - willfully causing negative mental states


3. Sensual craving - craving after objects which taste, smell, sound, feel, or look good


4. Ill-will - anger, hatred, jealousy, bitterness, etc.


5. Skepticism - doubt (especially self-doubt)


6. Restlessness - inability to sit still and concentrate


7. Conceit - self-centeredness


8. Attachment - to religion and rituals


9. Craving for material existence - desiring endless life on earth, or being afraid to die


10. Craving for non-material existence - desiring to die





The Ten Virtues 






1. Generosity


2. Morality


3. Non-attachment


4. Wisdom


5. Energy


6. Patience, tolerance, and forbearance


7. Honesty


8. Determination


9. Loving kindness (metta)


10. Equanimity






Adapted from The Spiritual Healing of Traditional Thailand, 
by C. Pierce Salguero (Findhorn Press, 2006).


info borrowed from 
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/ten-fetters-ten-virtues.html