Friday, December 30, 2011

Starting a New Play as the Old Year passes

Just a quick note before the year ends. I might have time to write more tomorrow, but in case I don't...
I'm outlining a new play. My title is The Stars Are Our Ancestors. It's my first science play. Might be my last, but I hope not. I've always had an interest in science, I didn't have the self-confidence to write about it. Now that I've reached the third act of my life, I will write whatever I please. Note to young writers: write whatever you please for all three acts. In this new play, my protagonist Jenny spends most of her waking life looking at the stars. She has become agoraphobic, but lucky her she has a flat roof where she feels safe. She spends her nights lying on the roof. As an astronomer, she feels comfortable with what she knows. As a genealogist, she has come to believe that her ancestry stretches back to the heavens. Her adoptive mother Verge thinks she has lost her mind. Her 17 year-old daughter is trying to get through her senior year of high school, get into MIT, and get her mom out of the house. No urgency except daughter Djuna is doing her senior thesis on her family tree, so wants Jenny to find her biological family in South Korea, meaning Jenny has to get cured of agoraphobia before Gramma Verge dies of her metastasizing brain cancer and can help them find the family.
South Korea is like a black hole pulling them all closer and closer to the edge, faster and faster ... What happens on the other side of a black hole anyway? Is it true that we all become one?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Step Eight on the Eightfold Path

8. Right Concentration
The eighth principle of the path, right concentration, refers to the development of a mental force that occurs in natural consciousness, although at a relatively low level of intensity, namely concentration. Concentration in this context is described as one-pointedness of mind, meaning a state where all mental faculties are unified and directed onto one particular object. Right concentration for the purpose of the eightfold path means wholesome concentration, i.e. concentration on wholesome thoughts and actions. The Buddhist method of choice to develop right concentration is through the practice of meditation. The meditating mind focuses on a selected object. It first directs itself onto it, then sustains concentration, and finally intensifies concentration step by step. Through this practice it becomes natural to apply elevated levels concentration also in everyday situations.
How did I do this past week with Step Seven? Shouldn't I start with that question before I move on to Step Eight? Poorly. Stumbling around, tripping over and over Step Seven. Right Mindfulness eluded me throughout the week. Each day I had to try again and again. Last night before I fell asleep I asked to dream about my new play, to find the starting point. What I got was a dream about my spiritual practice. I dreamed I was telling an unknown woman about how I meditate, how I have been returning to my old meditations, looking at what I used to meditate on, seeing how I have changed or not changed. My cornucopia was filled with onions. Chopped onions. My yoga mat was lumpy and uncomfortable. I needed a new one. I told the woman that my practice is Dzogchen Buddhism and I was sharing with her the ways I have been changed by my open-eyed meditation.
It has been years since I've attended sangha now. And ages since I've meditated more than a few minutes at a time. And believe me my yoga mat is pristine. I never use it. My cornucopia of blessings is indeed layered with fractured meanings. Some blessings are hard to decipher.
Today I try again to be mindful of my body, mind and spirit as I move through my day. Now, let's look at step eight. Oh! it is about meditation. What synchronicity! I dream of meditation, and step eight is about meditation. Hm. Today, I will reboot my meditation practice. I will concentrate on mindfulness during my meditation. And eventually, it will become natural to apply elevated levels concentration in everyday situations. Yes?
If you have been following along with me in these eight steps, I'd love it if you would let me know. Here, or on Twitter, on FaceBook, wherever you feel comfortable. If you have questions, or anything you're willing to share, please do so.
Happy New Year! Thank you for watching me stumble along!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Step Seven on the Eightfold Path

7. Right Mindfulness
Right mindfulness is the controlled and perfected faculty of cognition. It is the mental ability to see things as they are, with clear consciousness. Usually, the cognitive process begins with an impression induced by perception, or by a thought, but then it does not stay with the mere impression. Instead, we almost always conceptualize sense impressions and thoughts immediately. We interpret them and set them in relation to other thoughts and experiences, which naturally go beyond the facticity of the original impression. The mind then posits concepts, joins concepts into constructs, and weaves those constructs into complex interpretative schemes. All this happens only half consciously, and as a result we often see things obscured. Right mindfulness is anchored in clear perception and it penetrates impressions without getting carried away. Right mindfulness enables us to be aware of the process of conceptualization in a way that we actively observe and control the way our thoughts go. Buddha accounted for this as the four foundations of mindfulness: 1. contemplation of the body, 2. contemplation of feeling (repulsive, attractive, or neutral), 3. contemplation of the state of mind, and 4. contemplation of the phenomena.
One way to think about this is to choose something specific to be mindful about. For me two things immediately spring to mind: walking and eating. Let's take eating. Pick up an apple, carefully wash and clean it. Dry it. Look at it, really look at its shape and color, notice whether it has any bruises, whether it is fully ripe. When you bite it, is it overly juicy, does the juice run down your chin? Be fully mindful as you eat the apple, how many times do you chew each bite? Do you set the apple down between bites? At all, or do you eat the entire apple without ever setting it down? What is the size of the apple? Do you eat it all the way to the core? How many seeds does the apple have?
What would happen if everything you ate were given this much attention? Would you eat less or more? Would you eat things that you didn't like? Doubtful, isn't it? Would you continue to shovel food in your mouth to stuff down your feelings? Would I if I were mindful of my feelings? Look at the four foundations of mindfulness: Contemplation of the body, feeling, state of mind and of the phenomena.
If I were to commit to being mindful of my body, feelings and mind, I don't think it would matter what the phenomena were. My life would change dramatically.
Thich Nat Hanh says: Peace in Every Step. There is the Mindfulness Meditation where you take each step mindfully, commiting to every step just the way we did the apple above. Imagine living your life that way. Well, we don't have that kind of time, do we? We don't take that kind of time, certainly.
Suppose, just suppose that when I am feeling anything other than blissful, I pay attention to my feelings, check out what's going on in my body, and honor my feelings by taking care of my body with something healthful. I have a hunch that might be right mindfulness. Just for today, I promise to give that a go.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Step Six on the Eightfold Path

Last week I was a day early, this week I am a day late. Life.

6. Right Effort
Right effort can be seen as a prerequisite for the other principles of the path. Without effort, which is in itself an act of will, nothing can be achieved, whereas misguided effort distracts the mind from its task, and confusion will be the consequence. Mental energy is the force behind right effort; it can occur in either wholesome or unwholesome states. The same type of energy that fuels desire, envy, aggression, and violence can on the other side fuel self-discipline, honesty, benevolence, and kindness. Right effort is detailed in four types of endeavors that rank in ascending order of perfection: 1. to prevent the arising of un-arisen unwholesome states, 2. to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen, 3. to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen, and 4. to maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen.

So, this entire step concerns the effort to either arouse, abandon, tamp down, or maintain and perfect "wholesome states." What does this mean? This is all in the context of concentration, or the training of our higher consciousness. We may have to meditate to gain a better understanding of how we can achieve right effort.

I am continuing my quest to be a better person by being more mindful of my thoughts, words and deeds. By watching where I step, what I say, and what I put into my mind and body.

After nearly eight months of avoiding most sugars and for the past two months really struggling to avoid sugar in the form of sweets, especially craving ice cream, I ate a huge bowl of ice cream last night. And did I pay for it. My body rejected it in every way possible, first waking me from a deep sleep, and then waking me repeatedly.

I am grateful for this reminder today of what it means to keep to the Steps, and what it means to fall off the path. Last night I fell off. Today, I'm back on track. Today I'm remembering that this body is the only one I have to get me through this precious life. Today my Right Effort is to eat healthy meals and avoid things that are bad for me. To be grateful for all that I have and to avoid self-pity because self-pity leads me to self-punishment.

Do any of you who read this blog share my foibles, I wonder? Ever indulge in ice cream because you wished you had more money to spend on Christmas gifts? Yeah, I forgot to pay my credit card bill and when I got a reminder that it is due before my next paycheck, I realized I'd have to spend the money I set aside for gifts to pay the bill instead. Oh boo hoo. So I ate a huge bowl of ice cream. That'll show me.

Please tell me this has never happened to you. Has it?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Step Five on the Eightfold Path

5. Right Livelihood
Right livelihood means that one should earn one's living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully. The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings and that one should avoid for this reason: 1. dealing in weapons, 2. dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), 3. working in meat production and butchery, and 4. selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs. Furthermore any other occupation that would violate the principles of right speech and right action should be avoided.
These days I'm earning my livelihood primarily by way of my retirement benefits from Social Security and a small pension from That Insurance Company for which I worked. I also work a number of part-time jobs. I edit books, screenplays, stage plays, and other materials; I work as a patient model (also known as a standardized patient) once in a great while; I dogsit for a select clientele; and even more rarely, I catsit. I write almost every day of the year, but that doesn't bring in a lot of dough. Still, it definitely meets the criteria of Right Livelihood: it is legal, peaceful, and righteous. I harm no one with my writing, as I do my best to write as I speak, aiming to hurt no one.
There are many people my age who are resorting to selling their prescriptions in order to buy food or pay their mortgages. A person can understand how one can be driven to desperate thinking. But if one is living a Buddhist life, one cannot consider that type of livelihood, any more than working for the OLCC, or working as a meat wrapper for Fred Meyer, or a butcher for Whole Foods. A job as a bartender, or cocktail waiter would also violate the principles of right livelihood for a Buddhist. As would working at a place that sells medicinal marijuana, I think. And I think this because I believe that people choose to stay there to use the marijuana. If people picked up their drugs as they do from a pharmacy and left, that would be a different matter. As a person who lives with pain on a regular basis, I feel no need or desire to socialize with other sufferers while I take my medicine and seek relief. Therefore, I don't understand why medical marijuana users need a socializing area either. I believe this hurts the cause. Well, that was a tangent. I could be wrong. Seriously though, people who need and receive morphine for their pain, do not need a cafe in which to "enjoy" their morphine. They pick it up or have it delivered, and get relief. Period. Why wouldn't marijuana be the same when used for the same purpose?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Living with Migraine Headaches

Most months I average 6 migraines a month. One month this year I had only three. In November, I spent 10 days down with migraine. Today I have another, even though the last one was just two days ago. This makes life difficult sometimes. On good days, I am on top of the world, especially when I have several good days in a row. On days like today, when I haven't had much of a break, I feel particularly gloomy. There are some migraine days when I feel like walking into the ocean with a pocketful of stones. Except that I don't feel like walking, or driving to the ocean, or going outdoors, or getting dressed, or even opening my eyes to the light. Or hearing the roar of the ocean.
I don't feel sorry for myself. I know there are people so much worse off. I've had worse pain myself. It does wear on me though. And there isn't a lot of comfort in numbers, even though there are more than 36 million migraine sufferers in the US alone. Most of us women. I think there are five of us in my family. I'm the oldest one. I'd like to tell the younger ones that migraine disappears after menopause, but it didn't for me. It got worse. I'd like to be able to say it's possible to find all your triggers and then just avoid them, but that hasn't been possible for me either, although I've been diligent, and I've been looking for over 30 years. I've identified my food triggers, and I avoid them.
I try new drugs, new "cures" as they come up. There was a new drug that was supposed to come on the market this past month, but it didn't pan out. In the last leg of the experiment something went wrong. I'm going to get some butterbur the next time I'm out -- if Whole Foods got it in -- and give that a try. It takes a few months to work, but I will try it. That's an herb that has been shown to work in trials in Europe. And here too in alternative medicine.
Today I just feel like sharing about migraines. I have written about them in the past, but not recently. If you are a fellow migraineur, I share your journey. I hope you are having a good day today. Make the most of it. That's what we all have to do, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Step Four on the Eightfold Path

4. Right Action
The second ethical principle, right action, involves the body as natural means of expression, as it refers to deeds that involve bodily actions. Unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind. Again, the principle is explained in terms of abstinence: right action means 1. to abstain from harming sentient beings, especially to abstain from taking life (including suicide) and doing harm intentionally or delinquently, 2. to abstain from taking what is not given, which includes stealing, robbery, fraud, deceitfulness, and dishonesty, and 3. to abstain from sexual misconduct. Positively formulated, right action means to act kindly and compassionately, to be honest, to respect the belongings of others, and to keep sexual relationships harmless to others. Further details regarding the concrete meaning of right action can be found in the Precepts for Buddhism.
Basically, Right Action, means: don't kill, don't steal, don't be sexually stupid, and don't lie. And, it's way deeper and broader than this. It means living life mindfully, with careful and explicit thought about everything I do, every step I take every single day of my life. Do I do this? No. I work at it. That is my spiritual practice. I am becoming a better person. Practice, practice, practice. Pick up the spider and take it outside -- IF it is bothering me. IF it's going to bite me. Really, a few spiders can live in my house without harm. Those big garden spiders? They belong in the garden. Juicy gossip? Keep it to myself. No one needs to hear that. I try to avoid hearing it myself.
Stealing? Of course not. It also means if I find something, I do everything possible to locate the owner of the lost property. Or give it to someone who is in charge of Lost & Found. Sexual conduct? I could have done better in my past life. I won't talk about now, thank you. Suffice it to say I'm not hurting anyone. Lies? I do my best to adhere to Thich Nat Hanh's training: "Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small."
Have a great day, and please share your own dharma!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Step Three on the Eightfold Path

3. Right Speech
Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path. Ethical conduct is viewed as a guideline to moral discipline, which supports the other principles of the path. This aspect is not self-sufficient, however it IS essential, because mental purification can only be achieved through the cultivation of ethical conduct. The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start war or create peace. Buddha explained right speech as follows: 1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, 2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others, 3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and 4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. Positively phrased, this means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently, don't gossip and -- basically: to talk only when necessary.
Everyone knows she shouldn't lie. Everyone knows she should speak in warm, gentle tones and be friendly. Not gossiping is harder than you think. Oh, I don't gossip, you think. I don't talk about people behind their backs. For most of my adult life I have honestly believed that I NEVER engaged in gossip, never spoke negatively about people behind their backs. Then I became a Buddhist. I learned about Right Speech. It was explained to me that to truly honor the intention of Right Speech I should never talk about people at all. Good, bad or indifferent, it was not my place to discuss other people. Not my business. Okay, try going one day in the company of other people not saying one word about someone who is not there. Don't mention your mother, your sister, your children. Don't talk about the bus driver or the guy who cut you off on the way to work. Don't mention the doctor you saw, the cute baby in the stroller who kind of winked at you. What? But that was so cute! What's the harm? I don't know. There could be a hundred reasons you shouldn't mention that baby. I'm a writer and I can think of ten off the top of my head in an instant.
Right Speech is my biggest challenge every day of my life. I want to say bad things about bad drivers. Or slow drivers. Or drivers who don't use their blinkers. Why am I in such a hurry? I always leave in plenty of time. Slow down, de Helen. Breathe. Using malicious words against others -- even if they can't hear me -- means I lack moral discipline. Therefore, I have to refrain from using malicious or harsh words. It helps if I can remember that we all want the same thing in this life: we want love, we want happiness. Taking a deep breath, putting a smile on my face, these things help me maintain my moral discipline. Help me become a better person.
By the way, it's time to check in re the walking and veggie commitment. I have kept my veggie commitment and have slacked off on the walking. I let migraines and rain and cold keep me confined to the indoors. I promise to get back to the walking. Even when it is rainy and cold, when I go out and walk I always feel better about myself. And I also have the alternative of going to the gym and walking in the saltwater pool, or even (shudder) on a treadmill. So I have zero excuse. How about YOU? How are you doing? How will you do this week? I am starting my gratitude list for US Thanksgiving Day this Thursday. You?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Step Two on the Eightfold Path

2. Right Intention
While right view refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom, right intention refers to the volitional aspect, i.e. the kind of mental energy that controls our actions. Right intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. Buddha distinguishes three types of right intentions: 1. the intention of renunciation, which means resistance to the pull of desire, 2. the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion, and 3. the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion.
Last Monday, I wrote about Right View, about keeping in mind how everything is a sentient being, and operating from that point of view, so that I can have compassion for all beings. Remembering that we all suffer, that we all want love and happiness. So this week, I am working on Right Intention. Making sure I keep my commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. Let's look at Buddha's three types of right intentions: 1. renunciation. Well, I gave up sugar 7 months ago, and yesterday I allowed myself to fall off that wagon. Why? It was Harvest Potluck. I made a special cake that took me 4 1/2 hours to build from scratch. I ate two small slices, plus I had another garden club member's special dessert. Then I got a migraine which still has not abated, in spite of two doses of meds. Was it the sugar? hm. Maybe it was not keeping my commitment. 2. Resisting feelings of anger. As I was driving yesterday with a migraine, I said (aloud) in the car "I should not be allowed to drive with a migraine," because I was calling people idiots and stupid drivers. They couldn't hear me, but that is no excuse. I was not resisting my feelings of anger. Oh, and it didn't help my headache in the least. 3. The intention to develop compassion.
I'm always working on developing more compassion. I actually did do a better job of that yesterday, even after I got the migraine.
I hereby declare myself RE-COMMITTED to my intention of renunciation of sugar, in spite of the upcoming holidays. And I will resist road rage. I will have compassion for my fellow drivers. They are not idiots, they are drivers, like me. They may be having a bad day, or a migraine. They all want love and happiness, just like I do. I will keep that in mind.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Barbara Grier, dead at 78

Probably every lesbian author has a Barbara Grier story to tell. I first met Barbara when I was a budding playwright in Kansas City, MO in Actors' Sorority. I was one of the co-founders of that theatre company. Barbara came to show her support, as did most of KC's lesbians. She learned that I was one of the playwrights, and told me that if I ever wrote a lesbian novel to send it to her at Naiad Press, which she had just started with her partner Donna McBride.
I learned from other women in the company that Barbara was well-known, not only in our community, but across the nation. She had been an early leader in the lesbian community. She was also well known for owning every lesbian novel in and out of print. Her personal library was the envy of every lesbian I knew.
Years later I finally wrote that novel, a mystery. Not exactly a lesbian novel, but one I thought all women would enjoy. I sent it to Barbara. She called my house and left a blistering message on my machine. Told me to throw it out and start over. I had just spent 18 months writing this novel. She said my premise was politically incorrect and I would be shredded by animal rights people and there was no hope for it. All this on my machine. I called her. I didn't agree of course. I'm a HUGE animal lover, and something of an activist myself. She was wrong. And I was CRUSHED. Barbara Grier was telling me to toss out my work.
Well, she told me the same thing on the phone, only louder.
I didn't write for months.
But then, I realized I could send it to other publishers and test my theory that I was right, I wouldn't have to start over. I did get the book published. But my heart was broken. I had so wanted to join Barbara's stable. To be published by the great Barbara Grier. Rest in Peace, great Barbara.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Occupy Portland

I'm agitated today. Mayor Sam Adams of Portland has given Occupy Portland a deadline to vacate the two parks (across the street from each other) where they have been encamped. They have until 12:01am 11/12/11. What will happen? Is the protest supposed to end? We all know that is not going to happen. What are the alternatives? Are we supposed to imagine that rich benefactors will provide safe haven indoors for protestors to encamp for the winter where Portland Police will not have to watch over them? Who is provoking whom here? What is happening in other cities right now? What are the words being shared in the inner sanctums on both sides? I so want to know!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sharing my Practice of Buddhism for Eight Weeks

I share a lot of my life here on this blog. I've kept my daily commitment to walking and eating more fruit and vegetables for a solid month now. I hope I've inspired some of you to do the same. I will continue that commitment and will continue to check in periodically to let you know how I'm doing. I look forward to hearing from you here or on Twitter (where I hear from you more often, I have to say!) As of today, I plan to share with you weekly about my renewed Buddhist practice.
If you're curious about Buddhism, you can go to for the basics: the Four Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path. There, they will be spelled out for you in detail. Here are the 4 truths in brief:
1. Life means suffering.

2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

4. There is a path to the cessation of suffering.

The path to the end of suffering is of course The Eightfold Path. The first step on the path is called Right View. Right View means to see things through, to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas, and to understand the law of karma and karmic conditioning. Right view is not necessarily an intellectual capacity, just as wisdom is not just a matter of intelligence. Instead, right view is attained, sustained, and enhanced through all capacities of mind. It begins with the intuitive insight that all beings are subject to suffering and it ends with complete understanding of the true nature of all things. Since our view of the world forms our thoughts and our actions, right view yields right thoughts and right actions.
So how will I put Right View into action this week? I'm thinking today about the preciousness of all sentient beings. I'm thinking about how last week in NYC two carriage-pulling horses collapsed on the streets. People have been fighting for years to end this needless cruelty, but others find it "romantic" to be pulled through the streets by horses. I'm thinking how thoughtlessly people kill "pests" that do no harm to them, how many animals are "farmed" for their flesh and fur, and it makes me both sad and angry. I look forward to the day when all the meat that is consumed by humans is grown from cells, as is now possible.
I am grateful for all the wonderful human beings in this world who make it their jobs, their passion to save the lives of animals, birds, fish, plants, species of all kinds for today and for the future. I am grateful to share my own life with the world's best cat, Stanton. And to have had the privilege of sharing the lives of so many companion animals over the years. And to be friends with so many more.
I have learned more about unconditional love from animals than from any human being, and I strive every day to be more like Stanton in that way. Greet my loved ones with love, no matter how much they have ignored me today or in the past. Be loving, always. Forgiving, always. Let everyone know when I'm happy, whether they care or not. State my feelings, then get over them. Sincerely over them. Be affectionate. I'm trying to be these things. I have a long way to go to reach Stanton's level of evolution.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Seeing my name in print

I never thought about getting my name in print by editing, but tonight when I went to read the reviews of a book on that I edited, there indeed is my name listed as editor. I don't know why I was so surprised except that I hadn't thought about getting credit for my work. That wasn't why I did it. Still, it was a thrill because I really like the book, I think it's smart and funny, and lots of fun. In fact, I think many of the poems, and sayings inside should be plastered on refrigerators, tee shirts, mugs, and bumper stickers across the country. It's possible to actually buy some of them through Cafe Press, and I'm gonna get myself some to have around the house. They won't have my name on them.
If you're curious about the book, it's "SnarkyKu" by Michelle Shy. Delicious, really.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Walking, veggies check-in

Wondering if any of you are keeping your commitments to daily walking and eating your daily allowance of veggies and fruit? I've been walking AT LEAST a mile a day since October 15th, usually 2-3 miles. Walked 3 yesterday. I do allow myself to take 2 days a week off, but I've been taking only one a day off so far. I guess I'm afraid that if I take off 2 in a row, I might not go out on the third day.
I find it hard to get as many veggies as I need to eat. Not so hard to get the fruit. So lately I've been buying red or orange peppers and slicing them up to eat raw. Today I bought a bag of baby carrots, which as we all know aren't really babies at all, just carrots that are cut down to baby size. I find it easier to eat raw vegetables than to eat cooked ones unless I'm eating soup, or someone else is doing the cooking.
Last week I ate soup 4 days of 7. Vegetable soup, of course. And many different kinds of vegetables including turnips, which I would never eat otherwise.
I'm not getting on the scale for awhile yet. As long as I can still wear the same clothes, I'm not going to weigh myself. But my jeans, which used to cut into my waist, now feel like sweatpants. Comfortable.
I'm having trouble with my sweet tooth. So, I'm allowing myself peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And today I bought some honey to eat on rice cakes. The jelly is no sugar-added kind. I don't eat sugar substitutes like aspartame or splenda -- they give me migraines. I'm not eating sugar because I think it will be good for my health, not because I've been ordered off sugar.
I invite your comments. Join me in making a commitment to walking and/or eating more veggies. We can do this!

SALE! Thru 11/1/11 only!

Two of my plays: Blue Roses, and Copperheads and Common Women, are on sale right now at
for 30% off today and tomorrow thru close of business. All you have to do is use this code at checkout:
In fact, you can get 30% off on ANYTHING on Lulu's site up to $50 off, so go! Shop!

Friday, October 28, 2011

BLUE ROSES at Dramatists Guild Friday Night Footlights 10/28/11

It’s 1940 and Dr. Freeman is on the cutting edge of mental health. Two young women named Rose are in an asylum together; their attendants Tee and Flora have obstacles of their own to overcome. The State Hospital for the Insane is no sanctuary as the two Roses meet and bond over their shared family secrets. Tee and Flora, though of different races, share the same working class values, degradations, and abilities to overcome the hardships life throws at them.


ROSE Irene Longshore

ROSE ISABEL Elizabeth Bell

TEE Natalie Claire Holly

FLORA Anna Malinoski

DR. FREEMAN Steven Hauck

NUN Doubled by the actor who plays TEE

RICHIE Doubled by the actor who plays DR. FREEMAN



You can buy a copy of this play at or read more of my work at

THANK YOU FOR COMING TO THE READING OF THIS PLAY! Support Mental Health. Take care of your own, it's a precious thing. Please leave any feedback you have about this play after seeing tonight's reading in the comments section below.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NYC Blue Roses

Attended rehearsal last night at the Ta-Da theater on West 28th Street. Met my director and cast for the first rehearsal of this coming Friday night's reading of "Blue Roses." What a joy! This is the third time I've had a reading of this particular play. The first time was in Portland and it was directed by one of my favorite directors, Matt Zrebski. There were also a couple of my favorite actors in the reading: Anya Pearson as Tee, and Cecily Overman as Rosemary, but I'm blanking on the rest of the cast. (My apologies people, my brain is like teflon.) The following year there was a reading at the Great Plains Theatre Conference in Omaha. I didn't know the director or any of the cast. It was a fine reading and I was primarily interested in what the panel of 3 judges had to say. They all thought it should be produced, and what feedback they had, I have since incorporated.
This director is firm yet gentle, has creative insight -- in short, she totally gets the play. What more could a writer ask? Nothing. Except great casting, and she's done that as well. Even the woman doing the stage directions is top notch: a beautiful voice, whip smart, instantly responsive to the director's changes.
I'm in love with the cast. They're enthusiastic, professional, and great to look at. You'd think they were doing Broadway rather than a one-night reading at the Dramatists Guild Friday Night Footlights. That's what being professional is all about, isn't it? As an actor, you never know who this playwright might turn out to be, who your director might refer you to, when your fellow actor might suggest you to someone else. It's all about networking in this business called show. Still, everyone I've met seems genuinely interested in my script, they are all working to do their best, and I so appreciate it. I'm learning even more about the play from being here, watching the process of rehearsal, answering their questions about the characters, about the story.
This is why I'm a playwright. And now I want more. More play time, please. I'm going to upload their pictures so you can see them. I can't work out how to label them, so: the first picture is of the director, Vivian Meisner. The next is the character Rosemary, Irene Longshore. Rose Isabel is played by Elizabeth Bell. Next picture is of Natalie Holly who plays Tee. Our lone man is Steven Hauck who plays Dr. Freeman. Stage directions are read by Jane Altman. I have no picture (yet) for Flora.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A1 Editing Services

Have opened up for editing business after successfully editing for several people recently. Have been editing books and screenplays, along with the usual articles and stage plays, and as I'm getting paid now, I thought it was time to hang out the shingle. We'll see how that works.
One of the things I do that sets me aside from the crowd is I speak fluent medicalese. I spent more than 25 years using medical terminology in my job, so I know how to spell it, pronounce it and use it in a sentence. This means I can edit medical papers for journals, etc. It isn't quite as fun as editing screenplays and stage plays, but I do know how and I've always found reading about medical issues fascinating.
I'm also editing children's books, young adult books, articles related to kids and parents, and college essays. So, if you know anyone looking for help, please send them to my website, where they can get in touch with me. Or send them to me at

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Envy: one of the deadlies, for a reason

Envy can hold us back. I don't believe in "sin" per se, so I'll call it a gift. If we are willing to look at these feelings that plague us and get in the way of our progress on the road to getting what we want in life, then they can be gifts, even envy.
The other day I met up with Ivy* a long-time friend whom I've only ever known online, until now. She and I have many friends in common. Several of them live in my home city. She started our conversation by exclaiming "Glinda* is magnificent, isn't she?" *names are changed to protect me and them from embarrassment.
I said that Glinda and I had gotten off to a bad start. Ivy encouraged me to "let it fly" or words to that effect, but I said that's not who I am. I really don't have anything bad to say about Glinda.
I could have recounted the way in which Glinda and I got off to a bad start TEN YEARS AGO, but what would be the point of that? If we haven't resolved or forgotten that by now, we never will. The truth is, and now that I've been made uncomfortable by meeting up with Ivy face to face and finding out she likes Glinda AT LEAST as much as she likes me (maybe more!), I have to examine what it is that keeps me from actually liking Glinda.
I could -- and have -- fall back on the fact that many of my local playwright friends don't hang out with her, don't like her, supposedly because when she first started writing plays she padded her resume. Lied about her productions. Maybe she did. The truth is, she sure doesn't have to pad anything any longer. She has productions -- real ones, not just readings, like most of us get or hope to get these days. And she has them frequently, and everywhere. She is well-loved (see above example of Ivy) and well-respected by people from other cities, as well as from my own. Clearly other playwrights and other theatre folks in my city do love and respect Glinda, and if they ever had a problem with her, they've moved on.
As for me, I've been wallowing around in ENVY. Feeling that it is unfair that Glinda should be getting productions, getting respect for her work, getting readings in far-flung corners of the earth, winning awards and grants, having actors clamoring to read her scripts, directors asking to read her new works, producers wondering when she'll have something just right for their theatre companies. Unfair that SHE has it, and I don't.
Ironic because when anyone else ever said anything remotely like that to me about her, I said "No, it's great that she's being produced! Any time any woman is produced makes it more likely that another woman will be produced." What's more, I believe that. But somewhere inside, I wasn't believing it about myself.
It's a new day. I do deserve it. I have a reading coming up next Friday in New York City. I have a new play that will have a reading in Fertile Ground in January. I'm writing a new short play right now. My work will be seen. I will receive useful feedback that I will incorporate to make even better work. And I am finished with Envy of Glinda! Thank you Ivy for showing it to me and helping me clear that up!
Readers, are any of the deadly gifts getting in the way of your progress to your better life? Do you feel like sharing? Please, do tell!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Poetry again

I've been writing a few poems this month, having signed up to receive a prompt a day, or at least to be aware that there is a prompt available to me once a day. Today I wrote two poems, and it felt good. For awhile there I felt as if I had forgotten how to write poetry (again). What that feels like for me is that I see or hear a prompt and I immediately take it literally and want to write something literal. Trying to think outside the box is not even possible. That feels so depressing that I then don't even want to write at all. So I instantly think of all the other things I need to do, and just don't write a poem.
Ever happen to you? Yeah, I thought so.
This is going to be short. I seriously do have to do something else. I'm meeting someone in 45 minutes, and I have to get ready to go. But I wanted to take the time to say that I am writing. I hope you are also writing. Oh! And I have been walking EVERY DAY (20 min or more now), and eating my veggies and fruit. I have to go to the store this evening and buy more groceries. I've also been practicing biofeedback on the migraines (successfully today). Taking care of my health, in other words. Please write me if you have advice, or want to check in on how you are keeping well, what you are writing, how you are maintaining your writing schedule, any of that. I do want to know.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cleaning house

Literally. Today I have to clean my house because I cannot stand it another minute. This seems to be my current M.O. I wait until I can't bear it, then I clean. And I clean everything. Today I started by cleaning up my website. Go check it out:
As soon as I return from picking up my granddaughter from school, I will start at the top of my place (sleeping loft) and keep going until I have shoveled out the hovel. This time all clutter has to go. It's fall cleaning with a vengeance. Tomorrow I will pack for my 3 week trip. So, yes, my place will be dirty when I come back home. Cat hair, litter, and dust will be everywhere again. But no clutter (there isn't that much now, truthfully). But all the extra clothes, bric-a brac, magazines, and so on will be gone. Books delivered to the library. Things I thought might come in handy delivered to Goodwill along with clothes I didn't wear this summer.
I feel 10 pounds lighter already! I did not walk yesterday, nor did I eat my allotment of fruit and veggies. I was groggy all day yesterday because I got a migraine at 11pm the night before and took my meds. I wasn't able to just sleep off the headache because I had my handyguy coming at 9am. So I had to get up, and then of course I just stayed up, loggerheaded, all day. Back to semi-normal today, and I will meet my commitments today. Remember, my commitment is to walking FIVE days a week, so I'm allowed one more day of not walking this week. Veggies should be SEVEN days. So, I have missed one day. I will try to make it today for sure. You? How's your day going? How is your commitment to health coming along? And what about your balance between health and creativity? How you doing? Eh?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Walking, eating veggies... wasn't I supposed to be writing???

Having the same problem I always have: balance. When I add in focusing on walking and getting enough veggies, I forget about getting enough pages. This should not be difficult. We're only talking about 10 minutes of walking a day at this point! Of course, I am also running errands, doing household chores and catching up from having been gone all last week, but still.
Must get better at folding in new stuff. Just like in a recipe.
How do YOU do it? Right now I feel exhausted, and it's 6:13pm. Please, just tell me how you manage to do it all.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Walking, thinking

Reporting in: So far, so good. I've kept my commitments. Walked 10 minutes yesterday, the last minutes before dark. And today, in the rain this morning. Ate more veggies yesterday than I did fruit! That's because my friend gave me tomatoes from her garden. Big ones. I'll have to make a bigger effort today. I might have to break down and eat (shudder) chard.
Spent some time thinking. Thinking about memory. For years I was the memory keeper in my family and in my circle. I remembered everything, both short and long-term. Phone numbers, names, faces, events, trivia, lines, poems, you name it. Everything I read, sang, every argument, conversation, every movie I saw, every house I ever lived in since I was still in my crib. (This is true, ask my 94 year old mother, who hasn't lost her memory yet.) However, once I started on beta blockers in my early 40s, I started having trouble with my short-term memory. I started having to make notes. Before that, I didn't keep a calendar. Didn't need an organizer at work. I kept everything in my head. So once I started forgetting and keeping notes, there was a transition period. I'd turn over my daily planner calendar and find a note that said "lunch." Great. Lunch with whom, I wonder? What time? Where? I had to learn to fill in details like that. Now things are even worse, but I'm used to it. For example, I'm currently re-reading a book that I read in 1998 because the author has written a sequel. I knew I'd read it before because I've read everything she's written, but I also knew I would have forgotten it. So, I'm reading it, nearly finished with it and I call my friend and tell her that I'm re-reading it in preparation for the sequel. She says she's already started the sequel without realizing it's a sequel. I start trying to tell her about the book I'm reading and realize I've already forgotten what I've read. It's like living in the present, and only in the present! As I read the book I think: Oh yes, I remember this. But I don't know what's going to happen next. Then after I've read it, I forget it again. Oy. So, really. Do I need to read this book? I'm going to have forgotten it by the time I pick up the sequel anyway.
I don't have dementia. I don't have Alzheimer's. So, don't worry about me. I don't leave burners on. I remember what refrigerators are for. And I don't get lost. I sometimes get in the car and have to go back into the house to get my glasses though. But I always leave in plenty of time for things that could go wrong, so no worries. Just know this is something you might have to look forward to, if you ever have to take beta blockers, or get forgetful in later years.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Starting a New Year in October: resolutions

I know. It's October 9, 2011. Not exactly New Year's Day in anyone's book, right? My friend Jenny just finished her Mussar Year. It was just Yom Kippur (I'm not Jewish), and it's not Chinese New Year, or any of those. But I've been reflecting a LOT lately. Wanting to begin a program of self-reflection or self-improvement or both. Trying to decide on which and what program. This morning I get an email from my healthcare provider: Kaiser Permanente. Thrive. Yeah, right. I'm always so skeptical about them. I do not feel I get that great of care from the Kaiser. But this morning they sent me info about weight loss and exercise, and I actually need something to help motivate me to get me back on my walking program. I want to make it a daily practice like brushing my teeth, not something I dread. I have to remember how much I actually LIKE walking.
Anyway, here is this missive. I click on the links, and lo and behold, I actually completed part of this program 3 years ago. So, I start over. Now I go further. There are multiple levels to this, like a video game, only this is actually helpful, as helpful as I want it to be. And now I have a blog. Someplace I can make a public commitment, and check in everyday. Someplace I can actually thrive. The program has digital support, consulting, logs, mp3s and so on. Today I looked at stress management and nutrition assistance. I actually do have good nutrition, I need to lose more weight, but my pounds have been going in the right direction over the past years. Walking will help me with this. The cholesterol levels will be helped as well.
Walking 5 days a week is my goal. No, it is my commitment. 5 days a week and eventually 30 minutes each time. This week I will begin with 10 minutes each day. I know I can do 10 minutes. If I do more, I'll say so. Also, I will commit to eating more veggies. I have no problem eating my fruit servings. I need to add more veggies.
Anyone want to join me? If you're a Kaiser member go to and sign up for the Succeed program (free). If you aren't, just join me in a walk and eat more veggies. Make a commitment to do something healthy. State it publicly if you feel like it. I find I am more apt to keep my commitments when I say so in public. Or in writing. Both is like concrete to me. I'll be back tomorrow to let you know how I did today!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Asylum No More ... Table Read

Okay, the play reached final draft point. The End was written. Table read date was set before I even started writing the dialogue. (Yes, I'm fearless that way.) On Monday I began the process of printing the play, getting copies made, collated, covered, and so on. One always has to allow for running out of ink (check), not being able to replace said ink (check), finishing the job on a different computer in a different location (check), and so on. I bought water for each reader including stage directions reader, arrived early to get set up, got out my notebook and sat back and listened.
I was thrilled to find that my director for the already scheduled staged reading (January 20 and 21st, 2012, 11pm) was there, he read one of the roles in fact, as well as my writing partner who read another. I knew they would provide great feedback. The reading was delivered well, especially for a cold reading. My thoughts were: I need to show more of Tee's motivation; more of Tee's inner process needs to be outer; and whoa! this climax is TOO BIG for this little team. So, after the "popcorn" responses, and the positive feedback from the audience, it was time for my question to them: did the climax see believable to you? Their responses rained down: in a word: no. Not only did it feel too big, but most people don't believe a nurse would be so unfeeling as to start a fire, even in an empty building if there was a possibility of danger to human life. She would be too compassionate. Okay, I hear you.
I have some work to do. I just want everyone to know I also heard the positive responses re the dialogue, the complex characters, the humor. It's a good play, and now I'm going to make it better. That's why we have a table read. And especially why we have it in front of people who know how to make plays better.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Purity Argument

In 1970 I organized a protest march against the wearing of fur at a fashion show. This was the first of its kind in Anchorage, Alaska at the time, so the media turned out in force, even though there were only about 12 of us marching on that March day. Nearly all my social sorority sisters were inside that fashion show that day, wearing their furs. They stared at me in shock and horror as they crossed our line to enter the hotel that day. Some spoke to me. And that was the first time I heard the argument that a person could not protest the wearing of fur if she ate meat or wore leather. "What are your shoes made of?" Apparently, if a protestor wore a speck of leather, she had no right to protest the clubbing of baby seals -- which was rampant at that time in Alaska. My hand-made sign had a picture of a baby seal, and the words "He died for your skins!"
Now all of PETA is overly familiar with fur wearers arguments. Those arguments probably contributed greatly to veganism. Fine. I have no problem with veganism and pleather and options to wearing animal skins. I'm a vegetarian. I was then.
Here's the thing though. This is a free country. We have the right to free speech. We have the right to protest whatever we feel is wrong. And we do not have to be pure before we can speak out. So, please if you feel in your heart that you should say something about the fact that the makers of UGG boots are using the skins of raccoon dogs that have been SKINNED ALIVE (see, but you eat meat and wear leather shoes, don't let that stop you. Okay?
If you want to join with other protestors in Pioneer Square this Thursday at noon October 6, and protest Wall Street, but you happen to own stocks, or invest your money in bonds, or some combination that you don't even understand, but you still don't believe that the people who brought this country to its knees should get away with it -- well go protest!
Remember the last line from "Some Like it Hot": "Nobody's perfect." That's right, none of us are, and if we all speak up, stand together, do our part, we CAN make this world a better place.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Knowledge is Power, redux

Just coming off a migraine again. But no headache today. Today I want to think again about the universe, about spiritually, about connectedness and what we really know. On June 15 I was musing about these things whilst in the throes of a migraine. I didn't come up with answers about why I believed in reincarnation, but not necessarily in a higher power. I haven't found the answers yet. I don't know whether I believe in karma, though I would like to. It would be satisfying to believe that somehow, somewhere people who perpetuate evil in this world will be repaid. But they might not. And if I believe that, does that mean that people who are now suffering horrible lives are paying for past or future deeds? Or is it all random?
There are millions of people starving to death in another part of the world -- right now, this minute -- while grapes in my garden are falling to the ground and rotting. While people are throwing food away because they're too lazy to eat leftovers, because restaurants give out too large servings, because we buy too much and don't eat it. I can't ship those grapes anywhere, they aren't even "food grade" grapes. I eat some of them, the ones I can reach and pick over. I try not to waste food at my house, and I know I am in the minority. I also know that I do this because I am scraping by financially.
There are millions of people starving to death and we knew the famines were coming, we know about it every day, we know we could end it, and we do nothing much. We could end the famines easily by cutting back on war. Just us, the US. We could. Imagine if all the nations worked together to end the famines. We could continue on with the wars and still end hunger.
If nations worked together, we could end war. End hunger. End disease. End global warming. If we worked together, there is no end to the good we could create. Knowledge of that is more than power, it is heartbreak. Because for some reason, we don't want to work together. We don't want peace. We seem to prefer fighting, conflict, war. Where is the love, the peace, the understanding?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Asylum No More, once more

When I finish a draft, I read it aloud in order to clean up spelling errors that cannot be caught by spellcheck. I also find lines that don't flow well, other little bits that need cleaning up. This time I realized I really did have to include that final scene that I thought I could leave out. The irony is I had started to write it, then thought "oh no, they'll think the play was over with the last scene. I'd better just cut this out." So I deleted it, didn't save a scrap. When I read the play aloud, I thought what? where's the rest of the play? Just like my audience would have. Too abrupt. Fortunately, I had the beat sheet right there in front of me, so I knew what was lacking. This morning I wrote that scene -- again -- this time, fully, and finally. Much better.
I also took a gigantic risk and sent the play out to a producer who is looking for material for Fertile Ground. I am already planning to have this play in Fertile Ground, but if it is accepted, I will let them produce it instead. I will do something else. I sent the producer two plays. Maybe they will choose the other one. Or neither one. Submitting plays is always a risk, a risk of rejection. But if you don't send them out, they will never be produced. And I write mine with the assumption that I will see them onstage at some point. I love the act of collaborating with the producer, the director, the designers, the actors, everyone involved.
I have co-founded and founded theatre companies myself, so I know the work involved, and I know that it is hard, that it takes a ton of organization, of commitment, and I also know that it needs to be fun. No one wants to work with people who are jerks, or who don't follow through, or don't pull their own weight. I love to do my part. I love to hear what others bring to the table. I like hearing others' feedback about my plays, and I will let it in. I want my plays to entertain audiences, so I try to create good stories. I know that other theatre artists may know more about certain aspects of the story that I'm telling than I do. So my ears and my heart is open.
For one of my plays (The Godmother) I have grandiose dreams. It would make a fun and interesting serial. Either live onstage, or on TV. I don't have the money to produce it myself or I would. Then I would produce live serial versions every year. Why? Because I believe in the characters in this play. Everyone of them is real and deep and interesting to me. They deserve to have their stories told. Maybe someday.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Writing Process: A New 10 Min Play

I'm no Mark Harvey Levine. He's had over 700 productions worldwide of his 10-15 minute plays. I haven't seen or read any of them, but I'm guessing he is a master storyteller. If you think writing a full-length play is hard, wait until you try writing a good short play. My play "The Bobbsey Twins Go to Hell," was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award, and also won a production the same year. It has also been adapted as a short film and is in post-production.
Now that I'm using the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet as structure for my full-length plays, I decided that I would adapt the beat sheet for ten-minute plays. First I tried adapting it by number of lines, but that was just too specific, so now I have it by number of pages, just like for the *big* plays. Then I tried the beat sheet out against "The Bobbsey Twins" and found that my play fit the beat sheet structure very well. No wonder that play works, where others have not.
I can begin to create my cast of characters and their back stories now. I know the two main characters already. But who will be my third? Maybe I'll work on creating the back stories for the first two today, and see what that stirs up. There will be more dynamics with a third character, but sometimes the third character is not a person. It can be a city, for example. We'll see where we are tomorrow.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wrapping that baby up: First Draft Asylum No More

I said I'd finish the last scene today and I did! Look, it's barely noon and I just wrote those magic words: The End. 100 pages. Ten short of what I thought it would take, but actually that's good. That's a good amount of pages. I can still add if I need to, or cut if I need to. Ninety minutes made a full evening and can be run without an intermission. Or if I need to add, we can have an intermission. Either way it's all good. I did this one so it can be rated PG. You could perform this one in Middle Schools. Although it's an adult drama, I'm just sayin'. It could be performed in churches. Maybe. There are a few hells and damns.
There is conflict, both inner and outer. There is soul-searching and there is character arc. There is social change going on. I'm not saying this is a perfect first draft. I'm saying this might be a good play after I get some feedback. It has potential. It has a table read coming up, and it has a staged reading scheduled for Fertile Ground in January. Now to send her out into the world so other readers can lay their eyes on her. Bye bye baby!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Getting a crush when you're a grandmother

Getting a crush on someone not your own age, when you're as old as I am is a bummer. Let me rephrase that. I have a crush on a young woman and it's a bummer. I know it will pass, because this is one of those crushes that a person gets on a celebrity, or in my case a performer. I don't know her. If I did I wouldn't have a crush because it would be totally inappropriate. Men don't feel this way, apparently. Look at all the May/December relationships. But I am not into that. No way no how. I feel brave owning up to this temporary crush, let alone writing about it in a public blog. The thing is, I feel pretty sure I am not the only woman this happens to. If I am, so be it. I know I'm queer in a lot of ways. This is one of them.
Last night I went to a concert of Edna Vazquez and the Mariachi Band Los Palmeros with whom she's been playing for 12 years. She has the most amazing voice. I first saw her at an event at Latina Gay Pride. A friend of mine invited me to go as she was playing piano that night. I was blown away by Edna's voice, so when I saw her name on the calendar I knew I was going to go see her. But when I saw her last night, I suddenly got a crush. While I was watching her sing, I kept wishing I was 30 or 35 years younger so I could ask her out. I thought about how I was when I was 30 and 35 years younger. I would have asked her out back then. Of course, she probably wasn't born back then. So you see how ridiculous this is. But it is a fantasy.
In real life, I do enjoy her singing so much. I tried to order a CD from her website, but as far as I can tell, it consists of nothing but videos of her singing. (And I'm complaining?) I am going to take my two grandchildren with me to her concert on Sunday. Both are singers and I want them to see and hear her. For one thing I want my grandson to hear a woman who can sing as loud as he can. And for my granddaughter to see a woman sing and play the guitar in person who is not her former teacher, not Taylor Swift, etc.
My crush will go away. Probably by the time I publish this post. If not, it will evaporate in its own time. It's one of those strange things that happens to you as you age that you don't expect to happen -- like pimples. What the hell? You have skin tags AND pimples? How is that fare? I certainly don't expect myself to feel like a schoolgirl about someone who is young enough to be my daughter or maybe even my granddaughter. That feels wrong. Then I remind myself it is just a feeling, nothing I have to act on. And it will dissipate as feelings do. Anger doesn't last. Even grief which is perhaps the longest lasting feeling one can have, doesn't last forever. A crush is nothing compared to grief. In fact, it is rather pleasant.
If you're old enough to be a grandmother, and you have or have had a crush lately, I surely would like to know I have some company if you're brave enough to share. :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dark night of the soul -- hers, or mine?

Yesterday the pages flew by ... I described them as a river. Today: a trickle. After I'd been writing for hours, the page count was ... four. Four pages. To be fair, today's pages are mostly monologue, rather than dialogue, so they add up to more minutes than the usual four pages, but still. Difficult to get those words down today. It seems that writing the dark night of the soul is not so easy as I thought it would be. Oh, I so blithely tossed it off yesterday as I forecast today's writing. Oh yes, today I would put my protagonist through hell. Ha. Methinks it was the other way 'round. I am literally sweating today as I write. I realized as I wrote that I am sitting here with the windows closed, even though it has warmed back up to 80 degrees. So, I got up and opened the windows. Doh. Much better. Still, I did feel as though I were pushing the words through a sieve to get them out of my head and onto the computer. I'm hoping the rewrites will be easier.
Tomorrow I'll add to this scene, then on to the next where she will arrive at the solution.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Asylum No More ... Dark Night of the Soul tomorrow

I can't believe I wrote the entire Bad Guys Close In section today. It flowed like a river. I feel so bad for my protagonist! Of course I know how strong she is. I also know what lies ahead. But right now she is devastated. Every thing that could go wrong has gone wrong. As she goes to bed tonight, even her mother is having chest pain and trouble breathing. She seems to live for work and family and her extended family has pulled away from her -- again -- her mother is ill, and she just got laid off from work. Worse than that, her cousin whom she promised to help free from prison is now lying in the violent ward of the State asylum, with no hope whatsoever of being freed and in danger of being lobotomized. Oh things are very bad indeed.
Tomorrow she has to realize that she is beaten. Hope is gone. Then and only then will she realize that she has the solution and think of it. Of course the risks are unbelievably high, but then so are the stakes. Once she thinks of it, she will have to put it into place, start overcoming obstacles, and so on. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Asylum No More ... halfway point

Writing plays has changed for me since I discovered "Save the Cat!" by Blake Snyder. Yes, it's a handbook for screenwriting, but really it's about structure a story. Once I've spent the necessary time setting up the foundation and framework, the rest is like painting the walls, decorating the house, getting ready to welcome the guests. Today I passed the midpoint, I finished page 56. Tee has reached her false peak, where everything seems to have come together. Starting tomorrow the bad guys are going to close in. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong. By the time I get through with her, she will be reduced to a pile of wrung out snot. She will be hopeless, clueless, maybe drunk, possibly stupid. She will be ready to jump off a cliff. But she won't. Because while freedom is worth any sacrifice (the theme of this play), it isn't going to require her to sacrifice her actual life. She will somehow find a way out of this mess using her last best efforts to beat the bad guys. Well, we hope that's what is going to happen. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wanting to be a good person

My friend Jenny is doing her Mussar year. This is a year of doing something she has never done every single day. But it is so much more than that. She is also doing something called Mussar practice (see, telling her readers about that as she goes along, how the practice relates to whatever new thing she has done that day.
I am following along, day by day. And I have been changed by Jenny's writings. I have been led to deep thinking about my own life, my own practices, my experiences. I have written about several of them here. And after today's entry by Jenny, I sought out the Mussar website and read about the practice because I wondered whether it was restricted to Jewish people. I see that it was developed for people of the Jewish faith, but I don't see why a person couldn't adopt these practices in order to become a better person. One would have to read the Torah. I've never read the Torah. I am a Buddhist, I guess I'm actually an agnostic. I believe we are all one in the sense that we are all made of the same materials, we all exist in oneness. I believe in the collective unconscious. I believe in reincarnation or parallel lives or something like it because I know for a fact that as a child I had memories of prior lives as an adult. That came from somewhere. So, I'm not looking to convert to Judaism, because I'm not looking for religion of any sort.
I do believe in morals, ethics, being good to my fellow beings, to the world. And in being thoughtful. Jenny's Mussar practice seems to me to be a practice of deep thinking, one of creating balance in one's life. I don't know whether it is for me. Certain aspects of it have been for me as I have followed her blog this year. Have you checked it out yet? Her post today is one I highly recommend for anyone. It is about all those thoughts that run through our brains when something unexpected happens -- and how she dealt with them, given her practice. Truly something to think about.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writing Asylum No More

Yesterday went fairly well, once I spent an hour completely screwing up my Style format that I had set up to write my new play. I should never try to do technical work before I have my tea. So I stopped that and had my tea while answering email, reading Twitter, looking at FaceBook, reading, and so on. When I finally returned to my play, thinking I would format it old school, Word wouldn't let me. My format was so screwed up, I couldn't write at all. Copy and move to a new blank document? that doesn't work in Word.
Only one thing to do. Learn how to fix what I had broken. Well, that took another two hours out of my day. Not to mention how many more gray hairs I sprouted, and cortisol hormones I sprayed throughout my body. Probably took a few years off my life as well. But, I did learn how to properly create Style formats! Still, it was 5pm by then, and I decided it was time for lunch. After that I might as well just hang it up for the day.
I didn't though. I kept going, and actually managed to produce some pages. Enough to realize that while I had been busy recruiting actors for the table read I have already committed to on October 4th (oh be quiet, I'll have a draft by then, I will!), I don't seem to have outlined any scenes onstage for one of the actors I have cast. Hm. In my mind, he's an important character. In the outline, he's never onstage. Ruh roh. I foresee a change acoming. Either on the page, or I have to cancel an actor that I really like. It has to be on the page. I like the balance of characters with him on the page. How to get him there? flashback? or do we have to visit him in the Pen? that's no fun. Looks like a flashback scene is coming up. This should be fun. Oh! Put that in the fun and games section! Thank you, Save the Cat!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Asylum No More

My new play is becoming real. There is a lot of work that goes into a new play before the writing of the script begins. At least there is for me, now. Now that I use "Save the Cat!" as my method for scriptwriting. Although the book is a primer on screenwriting, I have found it works for me for writing stage plays. Now before I start writing scenes, dialogue, I already know the spine, the theme, every character, what the protagonist wants, what are the obstacles, what the climax will be, when it will occur, and what the first and last scene looks like. I know what the catalyst will be, and on what page it will occur. Still, when I start writing the scenes, everything comes alive, it is all exciting and brand new and anything can happen! Sometimes things happen that have to be excised. I gently cut them out and put them in another file in case I can use them some other time. So, today I finished Scene Two, and in the next scene I will write in the catalyst that will send me off for the next 15 pages or so. I will bring in two more characters tomorrow and more conflict will ensue. There will be food and drink involved. (Director's nightmare. I'll try to keep it simple. Maybe the conflict gets so intense the food never makes it to the table.) This play already has a table read scheduled. October 4th. So, in addition to writing, I'm also busy finding actors to read the roles. This is exciting too. I have three lined up already of the seven. Two will be wild cards (playwrights) at the meeting, so only two more to nail down. I'm thrilled with the ones who have already agreed to read. This is why I write plays: it's fun. Like being a kid and you say, let's play (whatever), you be the king and I'll be the knight, and you be the dragon, and you two be the fairies, and you be the witch, and you be the queen, okay you can be a princess, and now when the dragon comes in .... etc. Only with luck and a bit of skill, you get to do it for a paying audience and they laugh and cry and applaud. We have a staged reading scheduled for this play as well. Fertile Ground New Play Festival. Jan 20, 21, 2012. 11pm at the Backdoor Theatre. You can come see it for yourself. It will be a bit more finished and polished by then. I promise. :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Going forward ten years later

This past month, Pema Teeter has written daily, bringing memory to light, showing us a way to grieve, to share our stories at and has done so in many different ways, some painful, some beautiful, some mystical. If you haven't checked out her site, please do so. As for me, I have remembered 9/11/01 and the days after as well as the grief that was reactivated by that horrific day. I've honored my own dead, and have spent some time grieving my past loves and dying friends as well as my sorry ass sins. Not necessarily all in this blog, some only in my mind. Today, I seek peace and peaceful reflection. The opposite of terror and war. And I send peace and healing light and love into the world.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Anniversary of an Adventure in Love

28 years ago today I began my longest relationship. We were together almost 19 years, meaning we broke up in June of 2002. We stayed together about 17 years too long for our mental health. But we are still friends, still bound together in deep ways. We were friends for 3 years before we became lovers, and we would have married had marriage been allowed between two women. And now we would be divorced. Divorced friends. We share the same values, same politics, same ideals. We kept house alike, both love animals, enjoy the same movies. And we make each other laugh. We had many good times, unfortunately they were outweighed by the anger.
We never cheated on each other. There was no alcohol, or drugs. No physical abuse. Well, almost, a couple of times, but we got that in check. But there was emotional abuse and plenty of it. So we saw couple counselors for years. We learned all the communication devices. We tried living apart. For years.
And finally I called an end to trying. After a couple of years I tried with someone else for a few months -- and got my heart broken. I don't want to try again. I think I'm too old. Or maybe I tried too long and too hard for too many years. So today, I'm going to celebrate the anniversary of the day I embarked on a great adventure of love. It was a rocky road, and it didn't last as a marriage, but the friendship endured. That in itself is worth celebrating. Cheers!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Honoring our Dead

Today I honor my own personal dead. This is a list of my own. These are the people whose funerals I attended, or bodies I viewed, or graves I visited before I was 8 years old:
Margaret Sue Brown, stillborn. My sister.
Helen Rosalie Brown, stillborn. My sister.
John Patrick McCorkle, lived 1 day. My brother.
Helen "Nettie" McCorkle Bailey. My great-aunt.
Howard Allen McCorkle, lived 1 day. My brother.
Emma Bailey McCorkle, my grandmother.
Albert Charles McCorkle, my father.
Thank you. Please send your own lists. These babies listed above have never appeared on a list before. Howard Allen I remember so clearly. My dad and I were the only ones viewing him when we sat with him in his tiny white casket. He was pale with blue lips. We buried him while Mom was still in the hospital. I was 4 years old. The other babies were all born before me, I was the first child to thrive. I've visited their graves many times throughout my life, and imagined those older sisters so often. My younger sister and I were 2 of 6, only 2 lived. Imagine. I was also 4 when My Aunt Net died. It was shocking to me to see her in her casket, to attend the funeral and see all the grownups crying. And I was 5 when my beloved Grandma Emma died. She was beautiful and tiny, soft and sweet. She had so many grandchildren, and yet I felt special. I've written before about the loss of my dad when I was 7. Tell me about your losses.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

On that day: 9/11/01

Today is 9/01/11, not 9/11/01, but we are nearly there, nearly ten years to the day. The day we all remember where we were when it happened. Right? You remember where you were when you heard? I was sitting at my kitchen table, up early, working on my laptop trying not to disturb my soon-to-be ex-partner who didn't want to hear my tap-tap-tapping on the computer. I saw the news alert email from the NY Times: plane hits the World Trade Center. What? I thought it must be a small plane that somehow got confused, maybe there was smog, maybe the pilot had a heart attack. I kept working, then a second alert. I jumped up and turned on the TV and saw the pictures of the bright blue sky, the boiling white smoke, the crawl at the bottom of the screen, and I ran in the bedroom and woke my partner, saying "Get up! Get up! the world's gone crazy!" She didn't doubt me for a second, but came straight to the living room where we stayed glued to the tv. As the commentators began to speculate as to who or what group could have planned such a thing, she and I turned to each other and simultaneously said "Osama bin Laden." Where did that come from? We weren't people who read political op-ed pieces, watched political talk shows, but we had watched Sixty Minutes and obviously those pieces had stuck in our minds.
The day before I had seen the last of the attendants off at the airport from a regional conference of the International Centre for Women Playwrights that a few of us had organized here in Portland. We had a wonderful time here with about 40 women from around the country and Canada in attendance, several from NYC. The New Yorkers were very much on my mind that morning, along with my other New York friends. Before long, one of the playwrights who had just been here called me to ask if I'd heard from the others who had been here. I hadn't. She had witnessed the planes flying into the towers from her own balcony, and was obviously in shock. I did my best to calm her, while breathing in her fear into my own lungs through the landline.
I don't know when I've felt more helpless. To be 3,000 miles away from some of your closest friends, seeing the destruction happen live on television is a disempowering experience of the most humbling kind. I still haven't heard all their stories. Out here in the West we were being fed fear with a shovel. We were terrified of every noise in the sky as all flights were grounded. Any large bird caused us to think we were about to be blown to bits. People didn't know whether to duck into doorways, or run outside. Were we safer in our houses or in the parks? All travel was off, of course.
Meanwhile, how could we even think of speaking or writing of our own fears or experiences when they paled so in comparison with those of our East Coast families, friends, compatriots?
Ten years later. It is time. Time for everyone to tell her story. No matter where you were when you heard. Maybe you weren't even born yet when it happened, but now you've heard about it and you want to write about it. Tell your story. It's time. Be heard.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

North Carolina Beach

This morning when the alarm went off I was dreaming I was on a North Carolina beach, sitting in the way of people trying to play softball. I've never been on a NC beach, though I've been to the state many times, on business. Driven through it, stayed in a couple of the cities, enjoyed the scenery. But last night it was on my mind for a different reason, of course: Hurricane Irene. I don't know why I dreamed about NC when I went to bed thinking about all my friends in NYC. Maybe because Irene is actually still in NC? In my dream the beach was beautiful and warm and filled with happy people just trying to have fun.
Katrina hit six years ago. My son and his family have never recovered. Their home was only ever partially restored because they never received enough money to restore it. My son suffered two major heart attacks and was never able to return to work. My daughter-in-law's job took ages to return to full capacity, and she wasn't reimbursed for any of that. They had to file bankruptcy. My granddaughter's grades suffered. My son and daughter-in-law divorced. My son eventually went into rehab, and is now living in a single room. And they are only one family. Their damage was minimal compared to tens of thousands of others.
So, yeah, I'm concerned. I'm concerned about my friends on the East Coast. More than they know or could guess. I'm concerned for all the people I don't know, for the animals and wildlife, the flora as well as the fauna.
All this on the heels of an earthquake that rattled the emotions of many, though it did little physical damage, and coming up on the tenth anniversary of 9/11/01. People in NYC and DC are fragile right now. A disaster is not what they need for their anniversary.
What they need is a nice warm beach holiday, like the one in my dream. If only I could give it to them. Instead, I will send love and light and all best wishes for their safety.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Currency and Value

Question of the day (from the Story Charmer) is: what are your currencies, what do you value? I often think about what my own value is to my family. Once a person in this country retires from her day job, she begins to lose value like a new car driven off the lot. When I last worked a full-time job I made the most money I had ever made in my lifetime of work, and I began working at age 13. I worked full-time from age 17 on. When I returned to school at age 29 to go to university, I quizzed out of freshman year entirely, and worked 3-5 part-time jobs while going to school more than full-time so I could finish as quickly as possible and owe as little as possible.
All throughout my lifetime I gave presents, loans, supported as many people as I could, and managed to save money for retirement as well. I do not regret a single cent I ever gave or loaned or spent. The recession ate up more than I spent, and I regretted not having spent more so Bernie Madoff didn't get that little bit of my retirement savings. He wasn't who I loved.
So nowadays my currency, my personal value is no longer cash money. I give what I can of myself. And still sometimes, I feel a bit useless. I recognize how much perkier I am when someone asks for my help. Whether it is to show them how to sew on a button (my grandson), or to edit a script, sit with a dog, or work at one of my part-time jobs, I perk up more than when I'm working on my own writing projects. I enjoy helping others, and may find more value in being helpful than I do in my own creativity.
These are deep thoughts and not all that pleasant, to be honest. I find great conflict here. Isn't my writing as valuable as helping someone else? Do you suffer from this syndrome? Is it a syndrome? Is it even a problem?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Good Grief

Pema Teeter, the Story Charmer, is doing an amazing and beautiful series on her blogsite ( to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11. What she is doing is genius, and is breaking my heart daily. (I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.) This is a good thing.
My dad died when I was seven years old. He dropped dead of a massive heart attack when he was only 42, leaving a 33 year old widow with two young girls. It was 1951, and I lost not only my dad that day, but also my mom who then had to go out and work two jobs, and also our home to renters, while we moved into a 15 foot camping trailer. My sister was ten days away from being two years old, and we were days away from Thanksgiving. Christmas was a 15 cent coloring book and lots of sad faces. Tears were discouraged.
I spent the next two years praying every night to die and join my dad in heaven. If I hadn't been raised in church and taught that suicide was the only unforgivable sin, I would have killed myself. Instead, I spent a lot of time trying to trick God: staying out in the cold trying to get pneumonia, walking too close to Hwy 66 trying to get sucked under the wheels of semi-trucks, staying too long on the railroad tracks hoping I'd trip as I jumped out of the way of the freight trains that came by across the road from our house. None of it worked. Only time caused me to give up my quest for death at such a young age.
I think it was the death of my first step-father that shook me out of my deep depression, because my mom was already going out with the next man she would marry. And when she married him we were going to move into town. That was going to radically change my life.
I may have moved forward a lot sooner had grieving been encouraged in any fashion. Instead I was told not to cry, to forget about my dad. We severed all contact with my dad's family, all those aunts, uncles and cousins I had grown up with to that point. All were now erased from my life. Mom remarried only four months after Dad died. Today I realize she did it so we could move back into our house, and she could work only one job instead of two. Then I thought she was trying to replace my dad, and I hated my stepfather and withdrew from my mom.
Grieving is good, necessary even. When we repress those feelings, they do not go away, they just go deep. I believe I'm carrying about fifty pounds of tears in my body to this day. Will this be the year I let them go?
What are you holding on to?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

One More Stop: Book Review

"One More Stop"
Lois Walden
Arcadia, 2010
9781906413613 245 pp

Author Lois Walden has an impressive résumé as a singer/songwriter/producer. This debut novel, written in the first person, is a fast read. Her protagonist Loli is at mid-life, still searching for herself. She has an unsatisfying relationship with Simone, who leaves her to work at her career, which sometimes results in long absences. They have an open relationship, which Loli doesn’t remember agreeing to, or doesn’t recall why she agreed to it. After twenty years together, Loli is trying to sort out her feelings for Simone. Interestingly, her mother committed suicide almost twenty years ago as well, and now Loli is battling her own mental illness. Her mother’s voice appears as nursery rhymes, even though neither Loli nor her older sister recall their mother ever reciting rhymes to them.
One of the rhymes Loli hears is the Irish song Molly Malone which turns out to be the name of a bright young student Loli meets in Beatrice, Nebraska. Loli gets hired by a theater company to teach in schools across the country where arts programs have been cut. This is good for them and good for Loli – if she can keep her head together. She struggles along, looking forward to Beatrice because that is also her mother’s name. And when she gets there, there is Molly Malone. Molly has a beautiful mother. Married. But unhappy! In fact, the guy is a real jerk. Maggie and Loli have an affair, keep it secret from Molly who is finding her creative and scholarly self under Loli’s guidance at school. After Beatrice, Loli returns to New York, leaving Molly behind to deal with her bad marriage, and Maggie to continue her struggles in school. She herself has to come to grips with her relationship with Simone, as well as her escalating mental illness in the form of her mother’s voice. Her father is dying. Everything comes to a head, and is resolved.
This reviewer cringed at the ethics (or morals) of messing around in Molly and Maggie’s lives, especially as the protagonist barely knew them and wasn’t going to be around when things got ugly. The author created a protagonist with no apparent awareness of the realities the vast majority of people – particularly women – face in today’s world. This tale is set in a time of budget cuts, and the theater company who hires Loli is struggling, yet Walden writes of daily psychiatric visits, spur of the moment flights, and shoplifting candy bars with her grown sister before jumping into their BMW as if these are routine events available to (and desired by) anyone. It may be Walden’s intent to test the consciousness of her readers. Readers can’t presume the protagonist is anything akin to the author. This is fiction, not memoir, but it may rankle.
One reviewer slammed Walden for writing “unsex[y] sex” but on that issue I have to disagree. While I sometimes thought the sex was gratuitous – I found it realistically sexy, and I was happy to read a drama with a somewhat butch protagonist.
"One More Stop" was a finalist for the 2011 Lambda Literary Award for debut drama. Given Ms. Walden’s track record in her other ventures, her next novel will no doubt be more original, have a swiftly moving plot, and be more mindful of her audience’s realities. I will keep the faith.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Asylum No More

Asylum No More is the title I'm trying out today for my new play. One of my playwright friends suggested Asylum. I like it. I like a few more words.
When you see the above title, what do you picture in your mind, or hear in your head? Do you think no more sanctuary? Or the end of an insane asylum? Maybe both? Both would be ideal. Either one is good.
The one word title could be good as well. Because it means both things: sanctuary and loony bin. My protagonist works at the State Asylum. She helps people escape. By the end of the play, she will leave the asylum forever, and she will also try to put an end to the hospital itself.
I've decided on which characters are necessary for the play. I've outlined it. I've done the 15 beat sheet. I have a working title. In the next couple of days I will begin writing scenes. Today I have a murderous migraine that I can't treat until late tonight because I have an event I cannot miss. The young woman I mentored when she was in high school has finally returned to college as an adult and is graduating from college tonight, and has invited me. I wouldn't dream of missing this special occasion. So today, I'm working on the title only. I'm wondering what your thoughts are about my title? Any suggestions or comments?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Working on the new play

I'd like to be able to put the title of my new play as the title of today's post, but I don't have a title yet. My working title is "the sequel" because it's the sequel to "Blue Roses." Or maybe it's a companion piece to "Blue Roses." In any case, three of the characters from BR are also in the new play. I now have the story, the characters, the beginning, and the end. I have an entire cast of characters, some of whom will not appear onstage, and today I'm going to work out which of them are so critical to the story that they MUST appear onstage.
From there I will continue on building the outline, the 15 beats, and so on. And soon I will begin writing more dialogue. I have the opening image with its few lines already written.
This has been an exciting week, working on the new play. I have visited the ScriptLab website more than a few times, looking at outlines of films. I have watched films that are in the same genre as my new play. I am once again reading Save the Cat! as I religiously follow the rules for writing my script.
What are you working on this week? Do you ever write from an outline? I have found this to be the most freeing thing I've ever done in over 30 years of writing scripts. I always thought it would be the opposite, that it would hamper my creativity. Instead, it's like fashion design: know the rules so you can be free to create something beautiful instead of a hot mess.
I've asked before, and some people told me they never use an outline, but some use mind maps (I have before). Some let the characters show the way. What has been your most successful method? Do tell.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Life and Death

This week I visited with an old friend who is waiting to die. Those are her words. She was diagnosed with breast cancer 6 years ago, had radiation and was pronounced cancer-free. A year later it metastasized to her bones and lungs. She moved into hospice several years ago. She became one of the few people to live longer than expected. Finally she has been given 9-12 months to live, but she is eager for the 6 months mark so she can take advantage of Oregon's Death with Dignity law. Her doctor promised at the outset to help her end her life when she had only 6 months left. For a long time she still had enough quality of life left that she was in no hurry, but this week she told me she is marking time. She sleeps as much as possible to speed up the process.
This morning I learned that another friend, one I haven't seen in years, a much younger friend, died last week of a heart attack, and is at this moment being laid to rest. I missed the service because I learned of it just a little too late. She was a great talent and wonderful spirit. She directed my solo show on my 40th birthday, one I decided to put on for 50 of my closest friends to show "what forty looks like" to the total mortification of my teenage daughter. She had no idea I would strip naked. My director didn't judge me, she helped me do everything to the best of my abilities. I may have been my most creative self under her tutelage. She leaves a great hole in Portland and the world. RIP Carolyn Holzman.
And that is life.
Death. Dying. Holes ripped in our universe, scars left on our hearts as we experience loss of loved ones, and even of those we never knew. Consider 9/11. As we approach the 10th anniversary of the day the World Trade towers came down, the Pentagon was attacked, and Flight 93 was hijacked, we are reminded of lives that were lost, which reactivates all the grief we still have stored in our bodies, our minds, our hearts. My friend Pema Teeter is doing a beautiful thing over on her blog from now till 9/11/11 -- she's writing a story a day to help us all heal, and she's inviting you to write as well. Check it out: