Saturday, December 19, 2009

"To Thine Own Self Be True" or not?

Have you ever tested how truthful you can be with yourself?

While the question may immediately strike you as silly, in only a moment you will realize what is being asked. If you have ever decided to change a habit, face an unpleasant reality, or been caught red-handed but decided a bluff was at least worth a try, then you know that “to thine own self be true” is often a tough test to pass.

As we approach the new year (regardless of culturally determined date issues), the idea of “resolutions” will rear its (ugly/beautiful) head; just overhearing words like “resolution”, “goal”, “objective” or any variations or related terms demand attention. The problem is the attention demanded is directed at self.
My physical with a new doctor resulted in news demanding some changes in my lifestyle. So, December 15th was my cigarette quit date.  I had already started to develop an exercise regiment with Pedro Cruz Rios, my personal trainer here in Miami. My logic was based on my [youthful] vision of my past when exercise meant I would not smoke. Here is where we get to the truthful part. Today is only five days since my quit date, and I’m finding the being true a bit tough.

Why did I pick a date before the holidays, when I know I’m inclined to feel down? Was I deliberately setting myself up for failure? One cigarette isn’t really cheating, is it? If I walk an extra fifteen minutes, will that make up for it? Oh, and I also decided to keep a food diary. If you think you are truly honest with yourself, try keeping a food diary.
At this time of year we need to remember no one is perfect. Okay, I need to remember no one is perfect, especially me. In fact, I need to remember that none of us can reach perfection and striving for perfection can have dire consequences. In fact, the drive for perfection can, well, to be honest, drive you crazy.
Well, then, in the interest of being truthful with myself, maybe I can delay my cigarette quit date just a couple more weeks while I amp up my exercise routine. Honest. Cross my heart and hope . . . well, you know.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

An Amazing Conversation

The gentleman to the left is my new oncologist, Dr. Eugene Anh. Before I moved to Miami, I had another fantastic oncologist, Dr. Kathleen Toomey of New Jersey. This past week I had to establish contact with a new oncologist to track my progress; so I met with Dr. Anh at the Sylvester Center for Cancer of the University of Miami.

What is amazing is that I had never, ever ,had a conversation with a medical doctor like the one I had with Dr. Anh. His interest lies in understanding the connection between the spiritual self and the physical self when it comes to healing. Dr. Anh seemed to hone right in on the personal, social and ethical issues I had as a cancer survivor and how they connected to my current physical issues which could put me at risk. He is the first person outside of my immediate family members (as in two people) that I admitted having issues about how to deal with what I feel is my lack of spirituality and therefore my lack of connectivity.

I cannot begin to explain how refreshing it is to speak to someone who is not bound by the constraints of scientific medicine. Dr. Anh is writing a book, putting information online, conducting research, and obviously actively interacting with his patients in an effort to relate to the whole person.

His blog is worth the time of checking out the past entries: . You will undoubtedly see how his approach to medicine may be realized in my own writings.

Thank you, Dr. Anh. I look forward to my work with you.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Do You Ever Get Over High School?

Recently I connected with a high school friend on Facebook. Of course, this is a phrase many others have echoed of late. The highlight of this possible contact was the reminder that our 40th high school reunion would be held next year.

There are a few people I would like to meet again. Teddy, our valdedictorian, who was the English teacher's son, and a cool dude. [Okay, yes I admit to a bit of a crush.] Michelle, the daughter of a local rabbi, who was the best friend a girl could have during junior and senior year. A boy whose last name was Ott -- he took me on my first real date. We both worked at the local library and with his first paycheck he took me to a Japanese restaurant in the next town. His father, an editor for Sports Illustrated, chaffeured us in a Mercedes Benz. It was elegant.

But I question if we ever really get over high school? Those adolescent years full of turmoil and angst, to put it kindly. Why else would we freak out about the possibility of a reunion? For most of us, high school was not a musical. It was an endurance race, filled with enough fears to make a monk reconsider his vows.

I did go to one high school reunion that was fun -- probably because it wasn't mine. My husband grew up in a farming community in Oregon. When he was notified about his 25th reunion, he wanted to go even though we were living in Alaska. The reunion was held in his original hometown. Like me, he had been a bit on the chubby side and was everyone's friend, and no one's "boyfriend". His entire class was 99 students, almost divided 50-50 by gender; and they had lost more than half of the boys to the Viet Nam war. About 1/3 of the rest succumbed to drugs and were either in rehab or prison.

Many of the students had stayed in the area, taking over their parents' home. They saw each other on a regular basis, went camping, skiing and on golf trips together. Together they had invested in Willamette Valley Vineyards and made it a success. And my husband? Well, he has beautiful wavy white hair and was the hit of the party. Me? I enjoyed the envious looks of all those long-ago girls who "just wanted to be friends".

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Writing to Get the Words Down

This year, I am participating in National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. Several of the novels written in this challenge have gone on to be published, and one has become a New York Times bestseller. Of course, I have to ask myself, what the heck am I doing?

Writing on demand, just to get the words down, requires one very key element: the ability to turn off one's inner critic. The way I have written most of my life has involved my inner critic -- second-guessing every word; with the computer era came the ability to automatically delete and revise. In other words, my first drafts don't come easy. And this time hasn't been any better than before.

I have found a couple of processes to help me, such as Write or Die by Dr. Wicked writing program. Writing in scenes and constantly reminding myself that I need not do this in order (that can come later, naturally). Unfortunately, life loves to offer opportunities for procrastination (oh, geez, I really do need to clean the kitchen floor!).

If you are so inclined, NaNo (as we who participate call it) also raises money for youth and adult writing programs, so feel free to donate a dollar or five to the program. In the meantime, I'll let you know how I'm doing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Writing a Novel? Again?

Some years ago, I spent one year writing a mystery novel. I loved it and had great fun. My husband was kind enough to provide me space and time to complete the work. Needless to say, when it was finally reviewed by a professional, it wasn't so hot.

The urge to write that work (that I only recently decided was no longer worth holding onto) was just another phase of my writing urges. I have written poems, journals, diaries, essays, short stories, novellas, since I was seven years old and probably one of my sisters gave me a lovely pink covered diary with the little lock that could be picked by a three-year-old. It's not like I have not met with some success in my writing: reciting my poetry in Arizona; being published in scholarly, academic journals. But never my fiction -- and that is what I have decided to attack in November.

The National Novel Writing Month ( ) is a non-profit organization where ANY writer can participate in an effort to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. The organization supports young writers (and adult writers) programs and actively encourages donations from participants and sponsors. So, that is my goal: to complete a 50,000 word Young Adult novel about two bi-racial sisters who are trying to understand who and what they are in a world with ethnic and cultural complexities -- the melting pot, if you will.

I'm spending this time, at the end of October, trying to outline the novel. In order to meet the criteria of 50,000 words by the end of November, one needs to complete 1,667 words each day. Considering that I will absolutely have to cook for Thanksgiving, it's important I know where I'm headed. The Web site allows participants in various international regions to connect and plan get togethers, like Kick-Off Parties and Write-Ins. At least then you know you are not alone in your insanity.

Oh, the title of this entry refers to my darling sister-in-law who likes to say, "You're writing a novel? Again?"

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Birthdays and such

This past week, which was my birthday time, I had quite a bit on my mind. During this time I read a book by Bil  Wright, When The Black Girl Sings. While the plot and storyline seemed a bit simplistic to me, the story still made me think hard and long.

Lahni is a black child (I do not use the term "African American") who has been adopted by white parents and in her teens, now has to deal with their impending divorce. She is caught in issues of gender, race, ability and religion. My major problem with the storyline is the particular way in which Wright allows religion to "bail" or at least assist her in some form of "solution" or, as in any good YA (Young Adult) book, to realize the moral of the basic story.

Music played a major role in my life, as well as those of my children and my siblings. When my oldest daughter had trouble with math, things changed when she took up the violin. For the youngest daughter, it was becoming involved in theatre. For me, it was singing -- despite terrible experiences with my church. This all seems to reinforce to me the unique qualities of each individual as well as the importance of the arts in the development of every individual.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. As a survivor, I would like to encourage everyone to find a way to participate. Here is one way where just a mouse click can make a difference:
I thank you.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Who's on First? Being Green or Being Germ Free?

We are rushing headlong into flu season and the news is saturated with "what to do to avoid swine flu" information. At my age, these are items of importance, but my problem is how to rectify the avoidance of germs and the desire to "be green".

Decreasing exposure to germs seems to involve behaviors and items that are not always in line with being green. Purchasing and disposing of produced anti-bacterial wipes is one, along with the plastic bottles full of hand santizer. Washing my hands and using paper towels (when I'm not at home, I grant you) every few minutes doesn't seem to be green behavior (especially if I'm already coughing and sneezing). Then there is using hot water.

Of course, none of this is wrong. I'm just not sure if doing certain things to avoid the flu means I'm still being green.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009



Here you will find my weekly thoughts on what I've been reading, writing and occasionally those numbers (statistics) that seem to be part of our daily lives.

This week, Bill Konigsberg, Out of the Pocket impressed me as an excellent read for young adults interested in reading the story of a high school athlete who is forced out of the closet.