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A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

Z, why is eaZy so hard?

Posted by on Apr 30, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 1 comment

Z, why is eaZy so hard?

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0On being half-ass, and why is Easy so Hard?!

And reminding my other half, in 2015,  that this was his club, and he needs to re-subscribe!

The Half-Ass Club

       circa 1998

It’s about getting started because you can always quit.

. . . Meeting an offbeat, grass-chewing southern boy, and driving in his spluttering convertible around the streets of Santa Monica, was a hoot. Kent was unconventional, irreverent and lived a plane ride away – the perfect escape, a no-obligation bonk.  In the first year together I bought him a belt, a wallet and a watch, items he had not used in years.  We went shopping for a suit and got him a financial plan. And though his 101 job-loss stories should have raised a red flag, one of those crazy days I tripped and fell sideways in love.

The day we moved in together, Kent told me that he ‘just didn’t clean’. He also admitted to handymanitis, regularly paying late fees, and pre-planning his sick days. This all seemed surmountable in the filtered light of true love. It wasn’t until we were married with baby that he told me about The Club.

I had always wondered how the homecoming king, senior student council president and rockin’ drummer (with the local heartthrob band ‘Hippie le Peu’ no less) had managed to slither into the background.  According to Kent, it started with a hand-shake agreement between the founding members of The Club, he and his roommate, Dennis. I knew many of the stories. The most enduring visual being two white-legged Georgia boys geared up for a full day mountain bike ride, quitting on the first hill and hitch-hiking back, high-fiving in the back of a hay-filled pick-up truck.  This was the formative moment for ‘The Half-Ass Club’.

. . . he had honed a secret mindfulness,
a conscious way of deflecting stressful perfectionism.

After 9 years, 7 months and 4 days I told Kent I wanted – no, I needed – to join. I was done with finishing – finishing the cleaning, taxes, house projects, sentences. More than a dust-free sofa and a flea-free dog, I wanted his happiness quotient. The truth is, he got more done than I, his friendships were well-maintained, his career on track, he was a loving husband and father – all despite, and because of, his firm commitment to The Half-Ass Club.

Considering the options (Prozac or divorce), he agreed to share the love.

First I learnt that my husband was a closet perfectionist. Underneath his easy-going ways buzzed a far-from-half-ass system of decision making trees – all pointing to minimum disruption and maximum efficiency (yes, efficiency!). It was not that he was unapologetically lazy as I once considered, but that he had honed a secret mindfulness, a conscious way of deflecting stressful perfectionism. This was more than taking the easy road, this was exciting new age philosophy – I grabbed my digital quill.

“Hold on hold on”, said he who doesn’t ruffle.

“Don’t over-analyze, don’t write me into neat little chapters”.

Ah so much to learn.

~~

The Half-Ass Club, Kent went on, is about doing more when your expectations are less. It is about getting started because you can always quit. Ironically, if you are a couch-potato, truly lazy with no aspirations, The Club is not for you.

I was in.

After the appropriately unstructured initiation, I pledged my allegiance to giving less of a shit (the oath chosen for me by Kent) and now I find that life is moving along smoothly. I’ve learnt that vendors send reminders, I sleep well under piles of unfolded laundry and walk lightly through my days, without the weight of the details on my shoulders.

No doubt the pendulum will swing and I will succumb to alphabetizing the pantry, vacuuming the cat, and other temptations. Then I will recite my pledge to the Half-Ass Club, hand off half the errand list to providence, and half the worry to Kent.

~~~

© Robyn T. Murphy

~~~

Y, whY Blog?

Posted by on Apr 30, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 1 comment

Y, whY Blog?

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0I am so grateful for this articleThe Value of Writing Programs: On Why I Don’t Have an M.F.A., by Hannah Gersen. WhY? Because today I was going to spend my second-last day of the A to Z Blog Challenge talking about whY I blog, whY I don’t generally ‘promote’ it, whY people write, and at what point should we declare ourselves, ‘Writers’.

And really, Hannah Gersen says it all. If you write, it’s worth the read. The takeaway? Write because you write, study writing and reading and art because you want to. It’s a privilege you don’t have to feel guilty about. But if you’re a writer, you probably will (feel guilty).

This thought frenzy was prompted by a tweet linked to this articleWhy Writers Love to Hate the M.F.A. Tweeter, @sternbergh comments, “Not sure if MFA can make you a writer but it definitely prepares you for a lifetime of arguing over validity of MFAs.” Funny guy.

Me, Me all about Me

I’m grateful because I have only to add my own personal imagery.

And I’m tired from the A to Z’ness of the last 24 letters, and feeling a little self-indulgent.

My Sappy Metaphor for My Writing Life

I set off on a familiar hike into the world of writing. Then I took a turn. I didn’t say a wrong turn. I took a turn and got lost. Part of me wished I’d stayed home. It’s true, I could have gone back to take the path marked on the map in my pack. I tried. But life gave me enough trail-blocking boulders and flash floods to propel me along the writing path. I’m still trekking. The terrain is unknown and the destination unclear, but I’m sure to find views that exceed any I’ve seen on my regular hike. Right?

MFA? Not yet. I’ve not made a red cent from writing. I don’t intend on promoting my blog far and wide (or inserting contextual links for SEO, as my spam advises). But I do have a graduation moment:

At the point I turned my back on the path behind me, and took a terrified step into new terrain, I became . . . A Writer.

~~~~

© Robyn T. Murphy

~~~~

X, eXtemporaneous

Posted by on Apr 28, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 2 comments

X, eXtemporaneous
Had to re-post this one, from 2013. 
+ I'm eXhausted by this a to z blog challenge.
~~~

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0I climb in bed knowing I’ve volunteered to write 2-300 words for the Write on Mamas A-Z Blog Challenge.

In the almost-asleep realm that is half-thinking and half-dreaming, I hear the familiar Seinfeld riff.

And I am Jerry Seinfeld, on set, reading a directorial note from Larry David. In one minute I have to ad-lib a stand-up segment on a letter – but I can choose only from J, K or X, as all the other letters are taken.

When I look up, I am on-stage in jeans and a blazer, in front of a live studio audience with cameras rolling.
I put on my best not-even-trying-not-to-smile face.

” . . . and I said, well, you know, J and K – I understand why they didn’t get chosen. But X? What’s wrong with X? X is nothing like Q. Q is all needy and pathetic, with U next to him all the time. X – he stands on his own, brings his own lunch, shows up on time. Why shun the X?

“And look at R. R is all high and mighty – you know, “restricted” movies, “Rated R”. Fuh! X is all over that. X doesn’t even need to stand for anything, and he still trumps R.

“X is a kiss. In fact, X is hot – a Roman ten – and you know those Romans! In Australia, you put four X’s together and you’ve got a can of beer.

“And he’s a team player. When X gets together with E, things get interesting. Ex-girlfriend, ex-wife, ex-pelled. That’s a lot of material!”

And I have them in the palm of my hand.

“If I was a letter, I’d be an X. Think about it: Give it a couple of numbers and it multiplies!
It’s a really cool chromosome that you don’t want to argue with. Once, it had it’s own files; It’s got its own factor; it’s own ray . . . its own Generation for Pete’s sake. Not to mention the whole marking-the-spot thing.

“There’s just no good reason . . . to shun the X.”

“It’s a take!” someone yells.

In the almost-awake realm that is half-dreaming and half-thinking, I hear Larry David tell me,

“That was pret-ty ** pret-ty ** good.”

~~~~

Robyn T. Murphy is an Xpat from Australia, a Gen X-er, who finds writing an Xcellent medium for her tendency to Xaggerate. She writes and ruminates in Xquisite Marin county. You can find her at (here) at www.robynTmurphy.com

~~~

© Robyn T. Murphy

W, Wellington

Posted by on Apr 28, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 0 comments

W, Wellington

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a011 March 2015

An ocean of cloud below the SoundsAir twelve-seater airplane, the J24 racing boat of the skies, defined my transition. Yet another transition – internally (see, say, this post), and logistically: from a slow pace through baking wineries and majestic waterways surrounding Blenheim, to the shadowed bluster of Wellington, New Zealand.

Blenheim, Marlborough, is the north tip of New Zealand’s South Island, and Wellington: the southern tip of the North Island. With an early morning flight and an anti-social urge, I decided to stay close to Wellington Airport. This is how I ended up in the sanguine seaside town of Seatoun. Feeling the pressure to do some tramping (the New Zealand term for hiking) before I departed New Zealand’s shores, I ventured out, hoping the grey of a typical Seatoun day would blow inland to expose the cheerier silvers of dusk.

cookStraitJacket zipped to my chin, I dutifully tramped, okay I walked, along the foreshore. Wind-weary scrub and grasses lined the path as it snaked parallel to the beach, rose and dipped playfully past modern homes of glass and stone until an impressive staircase beckoned. Though I was physically dragging and mentally drained, this staircase called me so emphatically, I had no choice but to put my head down and battle into the elements. An outdoor stairway always leads somewhere worth the climb. And in Seatoun, this is an understatement.

Turns out I was on my way to Point Dorset, a Maori Pā site at Oruaiti.

As the track widened, the view to my left gaped, and I was at once transfixed by the power of wind and water. What grew astoundingly, poundingly clear, was the force of water that is the Cook’s Strait, keeps the meek earth of the two land masses in line. The southern edge of the North Island and the northern edge of the South Island dare not mess with the mighty sea.

“Oh my,” I said out loud to no one. Standing at the top on an elegantly crafted Waka (Canoe) sculpture, a wood, concrete and shell structure flush to the ground, I marveled at nature’s roar.

“Wake up,” it said. “Stand taller.” Or maybe that was the pouwhenua (carved land post).

“Holy sh**,” I whispered to myself.

At that moment, I was compelled to stand at the bow of the Waka. I was moved by some connection, some intersection of wind, water, atmospheric pressure perhaps, immutable earth and my own internal weather. The dark cloud of my burdened limbic sky rose and I recognized it. It was a mirror of the raging weather. My grey merged with the swirling, throbbing ocean, silver under the great dome of earth-sky.

Something cupped my shoulder blades and my arms could do nothing else but extend to the sky. Yes I stood like a right goon on the rise above Cook’s Strait with my arms overhead, my eyes closed and I prayed. I asked, begged, pleaded for time. More time for my dad. Five more years. I asked for health for my daughter, a cure for her asthma; abundance and success for everyone I know. Let me know better: how can I help? How can I love? How can I fly?

Heading back down, I felt a little foolish. Swept away, quite literally, by the raw force of weather and water. I don’t remember the walk back, except the feeling of the downward path as it slid under me, the wind at my back.

~~~

“Whetu Kairangi pa site on Seatoun heights provides a link between the ancient past and the present, being the place where Toi’s great grandsons, Tara and Tautoki are said to have built their pa and their houses, the first in the district. One house was named Raukawa after the water now known as Cook Strait, the other called Wharerangi, after an ancient house from Hawaiki. The spring there was called Te Puna o Tinirau, after a place in the ocean where whales are said to originate. Here began Ngai Tara.” (http://www.wcl.govt.nz/maori/wellington/ngawaahirangitatau.html)

~~~

© Robyn T. Murphy

~~~

 

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

V, Vinyl

Posted by on Apr 27, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 0 comments

V, Vinyl

Follow meA2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

to the land of croon

Falsetto harmonies

like milk

 

Not satellite, not iTunes

I sit and stare

What a thing, to

watch sound

 

Around it goes, stirring

static and silk

 

Sit with me

with a mindful ear

Soon folded, smoothed

by a Mix_master of old

 

Before long

 

I, too

go around

 

thick like cream, as

it lays me down

~~~

 

 

U, tween Under fire

Posted by on Apr 24, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 0 comments

U, tween Under fire

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

~~

~~~

Lithe long-legged colt

Fine hairs tell-tale

Augur

The battle within

~~

Long bones creak
 membranes silken
 folds deepen
 mounds billow
 delicate miracles
synchronized

~~

Impatience smolders

~~~

Temper an ambush
Attitude the artillery
Impudence the battle ground

~

Innocence in defeat

~~

This is Eleven

~~

© Robyn T. Murphy

~~

T, Truthiness

Posted by on Apr 23, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 1 comment

T, Truthiness

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0Teetotaling, Tennesee Williams and a Trip to Echo Falls.

It was the perfect time to attend the Tennesee Williams Festival, right as I was steeped in the book TRIP TO ECHO FALLS and its crisscrossed stories of alcoholic writers and the cities they lived in. Tennessee Williams, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Chaucer, Cheever. New York, New Orleans, Key West, Seattle.

British author, Olivia Laing starts her journey in New York City at an AA meeting, where one brave soul describes his loss of connection to others as ‘decomposing lace’. (Love that). As Laing relives moments in the lives of great authors – a range of addiction-fueled carnage and messy genius – she toggles between great literary works and the AA creed, with a little neuroscience and memoir thrown in. She touches on her own family’s challenges with addiction. I wish she’d go deeper.

She stops in New Orleans as part of her journey across America as she writes and researches the book. Like me, she alights in The French Quarter, a place, she writes, that smells of horse pee and rotten bananas. And like me, she drinks at the Carousel bar of the Hotel Monteleone.

Teetotaler: someone who does not drink 
at all usually for health, religious or 
personal reasons. not just because they 
are short on cash or their wife pokes 
them good in the eye with a broom for 
coming home drunk (urbandictionary.com)

CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF got a standing ovation at the Le Petit Theatre. ‘Echo Springs’ (the book, not the whisky) called my name as I rolled into bed. I happened to be on page 128, where Laing discusses the play. She makes much of Brick and Big Daddy’s use of the word ‘mendacity’.

Mendacious: given to or characterized 
by deception or falsehood or divergence 
from absolute truth. (m-w.com)

As I closed the curtains on the last night in that buoyant, textured city, I thought about the great writers and the possible reasons they drank. I’m grateful for their work, but what is the cost? Did the writing life lead to alcohol or the alcohol lay ground for unrestrained writing? Laing doesn’t overanalyze, tie the book’s ending in a ‘this is what it all means‘  bow, or preach, leaving me impressed and disappointed at the same time. She very indirectly points to faith and community as the path to a connected, reverent, surrendered teetotaling life.

If Tennessee Williams himself read the book today, I believe he would detect the ‘stench of mendacity’ in the esteemed writers’ interpersonal dramas. Were they haunted by the fake or deceptive intentions, the mendacity, of others? Haunted by their own mendacity and searching for the opposite on the page? Perhaps when they weren’t writing and drinking, they should have sought out the opposite of mendacity. Perhaps they couldn’t find it, because it’s not found in books, it’s from the gut. So says Colbert.

It’s … truthiness.

Truthiness (noun): Merriam-Webster 
2006 word of the year. Truth that 
comes from the gut, not books. A 
quality characterizing a "truth" that 
a person making an argument or assertion 
claims to know intuitively 'from the gut' 
or because it ‘feels right’ without regard 
to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, 
or facts. 
(wikipedia.com)

~~~~

© Robyn T. Murphy

S, Shades of Grey

Posted by on Apr 22, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 0 comments

S, Shades of Grey

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0Here is a re-post (times two) of my flirt with Fifty Shades of Grey

~~~

4/24/12

 

Picking up a copy of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, was like Regis Philbin buying crack with a bag of quarters. I slunk into Barnes and Noble, chosen for its size and the chance of an anonymous purchase. Collar up, I scoured the best selling racks, the fiction/literature section; the new authors stand. Nothing. I spied a woman in a smock with a name tag. But she was on lunch and directed me to the information counter I had been avoiding. I let a young mother ahead of me in line, and hoped for the least amount of attention, wondering when I had become such a prude.The young man at the desk was not fazed at all when I asked him where I might find the contraband. And thus he announced it to the world.

Cringing was I, slouching into the Teen Fiction aisle in humiliated retreat, when the young mother turned back from her stroller, cleared her throat and said she would like a copy – for her Mormon mother, to boot. And so I proceeded to the checkout counter with my new young mother friend and our two copies of mommy porn. Her little baby coo’ed approval. Only one more checkpoint to go, and now I had a partner in crime. I relaxed a little.My accomplice went through without even the slightest hint of a raised eyebrow.  I approached the smiling (was she smirking?) clerk.

“Will that be all?” Well yes for today, you see I am currently unemployed and have all this time to read and well you see I’ve just finished a light popular book that led me to some pretty enduring authors and timeless quotes that evoke the sense of purpose and truth in life and I really don’t usually pursue things like faddish literature or reality television but in this sense it seems like more a social statement that everyone is talking about, including members of my book club, and how can you measure it against the classics at all of course.. not (laugh) (uncomfortably). Yes, that’s all.

“Do you have a card for 10% off?” Well yes I have a card, somewhere here – or you could check my number but could I please just pay cash and don’t worry about the discount. I might not even read it – maybe just get the cliff notes. (laugh) (excruciatingly)

“Enjoy your book” – smiling (smirking?) Who knows. I high-tailed it out of there, blushing no doubt.Outside, my new friend, daughter of a mommy porn-reading Mormon, waited to continue our conversation.

“Do you think it will be too much for my mother?”

I told her it is a stretch for me to read explicit sado-masochistic sexual exploits and my Catholic mother would probably have a rosary bead malfunction at page one, so yes, I told her, I suspected it would.

“I guess I could give it to my sister, ” she mused.

“Or you could read it first and then give it to your sister,” I mumbled nonchalantly.

We didn’t exchange names or telephone numbers. She slipped her book into a paper bag, I put mine under my arm and we walked quickly in opposite directions, heads down, like we were never there at all.

 

4/10/13: Still no grey tie.

 

5/4/12  – So I finished reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.  While I couldn’t be happier for new author E. L. James  – and don’t begrudge her any one of her millions, or her newfound fame, I do understand her baffled look when she is questioned on the incredible sales and interest in her books. I’m not sure, also too (didn’t you think Tina Fey was better than Julianne Moore?), whether the phenomenon is due to the unrestrained descriptions of the kinky sex, or the media frenzy over the book phenomenon. And, forsooth, a media frenzy can sell a book, thereby creating a phenomenon. Actually the media frenzy was the only thing that had me reading to the end. I would have put it down at chapter two, if I weren’t waiting for the smut – just to be able to join the conversation.It’s true!Here is my opinion, unrestrained, but not at all kinky:

The protagonist is clearly an alien. That, or she has had a frontal lobotomy. She does a lot of talking in her head, trying to convince the reader that she was actually a 21st century girl. Oh yeah, she didn’t write the book, E. L James did. OK then, she seemed like she was acting… Yes, it’s true, she’s not real. Exactly my point! All to say, I felt I was reading a script, not a novel. Try as I might (and not in the way you’re thinking!),  I just could not buy the BID, TID aggressive sex, with pyrotechnic orgasms that rained down upon them.

The perpetrator, Mr Grey, although confounding to the young protagonist, Ana (victim? hero?), is not that hard to figure out. On one hand, he is the indecently rich knight in shining armor that we have been telling our daughters doesn’t exist. On the other, he happens to be extremely violent but kind, wounded, perverted yet non-critical, generous yet controlling, schizophrenic and single minded about a 22 year old who always has the perfect one-liner.  I got the feeling that the author didn’t quite know how he was going to evolve with the story, so he just didn’t.  It’s Meet Jack Black all over again – plus a good beating every now and again. Oh I miss Professor Higgins.

In the end, I didn’t particularly care if they were able to work it out, or not. I would like to know what happened to Mr Grey when he was a boy, but not enough to brave Barnes and Noble for the second round of the trilogy.

My husband, on the other hand, wants to read it now that he has read my review above – annoyingly illustrating my point. That’s just what happens when you join the conversation!

 

© Robyn T. Murphy

 

 

 

R, Reply

Posted by on Apr 22, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 0 comments

R,  Reply
A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0Ask
Yourself
Who you are
What fills you up
Reach deep inside
Pull out the good stuff
Puff it Primp it
Claim it
Proclaim it
However you can
Distraction is destructive
Time is deleterious

Return to the motherboard
To rest
To philosophy
Teach the children
To think

Conjure
Smile into each other's souls

Rummage Ruminate
Rest in Me
Recharge
Get lost in a baby's smile
It comes from Me

Reason only with the receptive
Ground your feet
Before you fly
Inch forward but eagerly
Harm no one

Love much

Seek always
The light
~~~~

© Robyn T. Murphy 

Q, Quiet-itude

Posted by on Apr 20, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 0 comments

Q, Quiet-itude

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0Q Day on the A to Z Blog Challenge

~~

This last weekend I spent three days at a writing retreat at Green Gulch Gardens and Zen Retreat Center, a piece of paradise crouching behind the adjoining hills of Muir Beach in California. When moving around the property, we did our best to blend into the environment – matte wood and pristine sand paths, organic gardens, soft light through the fog, hushed tones of tenants and visitors to this Buddhist practice center.

Back in the Guest House, we Writing Retreat Rabble-Rousers drank wine, talked over each other and generally revved our systems back into adrenalin mode. All in all, I took much from this weekend – writing comaradarie, new friendships, words on the page, but also an aspiring model of sustained quiet-ability observed in the long-term Green Gulch (can I say) characters.

~~~~

My husband chides me for filling every silence with blither, or humming, or when chided: deep sighs.  He’s right. I can’t be quiet. When a few of us arrived the first morning for breakfast in the Green Gulch communal dining hall, two lines of early risers faced each other and a chant was in progress. I accepted a card with the morning blessing and enjoyed the tradition as I enjoy grace before meals. But then came ten minutes of silence. I held my breath through the food gathering, stifling an expanding giggle. Then the calm eating. Focus you eyes on your plate, I told myself, but soon gave in to studying faces and marveling at the composure of others. Cough. Clear the throat. Do not hum. OMG! Excruciating. Finally it was over.

Over the next two days, I studied those walking in silence, sitting in silence, moving about in silence. Some engaged in brief conversation, some smiled in passing. Some held a grimace within. Some had no identifiable connection to any other moving creature. Of course, this is all about me and my projections, my own inability to center myself and be still. I recognized that at the time. And so I arrived before the silent part of every meal, to practice.

Perhaps it was time and familiarity, or becoming just that little bit more still, but I got more connection with these quiet bodies, and more smiles, as I calmed my compulsion to stir up the air. My favorite characters were those who were not walled off from the hubbub of living – the squeaks of a baby, the chatter of passing hikers – but were moving in an attitude of quiet. A Quiet Attitude.

Sunday evening, I did an mental inventory. Rested: check; productive: check; inspired: check. Inner peace: not yet bathed in quietude, but working on a better Quietitude.

~~

You’re right, there is no English definition of ‘Quietitude’, however, after I wrote this post, I was interested to come across this book by Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

 “The word Quietitude denotes the transcendental serenity and poise of the mind by a process of enlightenment and sublimation.”

~~~~

© Robyn T. Murphy TEXT/IMAGE

P, Parenthood

Posted by on Apr 20, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 1 comment

P, Parenthood

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0P. Potstickers and Pina Colada’s. Prophecy, Pot Products and Pillow Talk. So many interesting options.

But today on the A to Z Challenge, I have to give a shout out to my latest addiction, of the NBC variety: television drama, Parenthood. I know, I know, it’s finished, and old news to many, but I am binge watching this show (Season 4 thus far) and it really does a more than decent job at presenting more than decent material, but whacks you in the emotional center over and over. How do they do that?

Might have something to do with Kristina’s cancer: the scenes played so sensitively that I gave up on blotting tears and let the river flow. When Adam (Peter Krause) spoke to his wife, Kristina (Monica Potter) on the phone, and the reality of what they were facing sunk in, his performance changed the very blood in my veins. I swear. And yes, the cancer episodes resonate the most at this time, but the surprise of this show for me, is the likability of absolutely every character.

~~

This last weekend I had the pleasure of spending some long, contemplative time with three Millenials at a writing workshop at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center. Up came the topic of childhood heartthrobs. David Cassidy, Andy Gibb, Scott Baio, Henry Winkler . . .

“Who’s Henry Winkler?” they gaped. “The what? The . . . Fonz?”

There was a moment of panic amongst the non-crop-top set. Is Happy Days to be lost forever once Gen Xers kick it? Don’t these young ones need to refer to the sheer humanity of Richie Cunningham and his accommodating parents? It was disturbing.

~~

Finally home and exhausted, I snuck in a Parenthood episode before dinner. Marital strain, failing students, PTSD and a failed political campaign: all there. Then in the credits, name smiling with sheer open-faced, honest humanity: Executive Producer: Ron Howard, the non-crop-top version of our Richie Cunningham!

For sure, the fragmentation and polarization of television programming has changed the common vernacular (Aaayy!) and iconic characters that Happy Days gave us in the ’70’s and ’80’s. And unlike the apple-pie Cunninghams, Parenthood’s Braverman family lay it all out there. But there’s this – when you come across someone who is loving the personal experience of Parenthood, or remembers a classic moment in Happy Days, the sharing is magic, the same magic.

~~

 

© Robyn T. Murphy 

O, Owen Meaney

Posted by on Apr 19, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 2 comments

O, Owen Meaney

~~~~

When someone A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose them all at once; you lose them in pieces over a long time— the way the mail stops coming, and their scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in their closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of them that are gone. Just when the day comes— when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that they’re gone, forever— there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.

– Excerpt from a Prayer for Owen Meaney

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For all who lost too quickly.

And for all of us still here and living, One more day: is this day.

As I find myself at the Green Gulch Zen Center, today’s brief A to Z Blog is in line with today’s practice of Obmutescence. Om.

Obmutescense: persistent silence

N, Nuance

Posted by on Apr 18, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 0 comments

N, Nuance

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0Day 14, A to Z Blog Challenge

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Nuance makes a comeback.

Not exactly a comeback, more a resurgence in the sense that sound bites and exaggeration may have taken a back seat to, well, truth. Not naming any names. After all, truth is nuanced. And I mean nuanced in that there’s perspective and social constructivism to consider. You get the idea.

Yes, nuanced means more words. When life gets busy, I feel as if I’m swimming in too many words. I want to skim the state of things from the frothy film of headlines and sound bites. But truth requires deep sea diving in the Ocean of Nuance. True understanding means fishing with a line, not a net.

This article on Social Justice Bullies was posted on the ‘book by an impressive Millennial I know. I read the entire article, solely because it was full of nuance, and nuance deserves one’s undivided attention. The article is about ‘Identity Politics’, about millennial social justice advocates (and social justice bullies), about the ‘increasing balkanization of identities’. A nuanced article such as this one should not be paraphrased or broken into sound bites. It should be digested with all of its nuances intact. However, I’m going to give you this sound bite

The opposite of hatred is not hatred in the opposite direction. 

because it rocks.

But it’s only meaningful after reading its preceding article. Here’s the paragraph to which it belongs:

To view everything through a particular theoretical viewpoint (that is, feminist, Marxist, post-colonialist, etc.) is an intellectual limiting exercise that works only in a vacuum. The world is more than one viewpoint. The ostricization of those who hold alternate viewpoints is not any way conducive to social progress. The opposite of hatred is not hatred in the opposite direction. There is no excuse — none — for being a bad person toward another on the basis of their identity.

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With nuance on my mind, I checked out via the Safeway Express Lane, purchase: undisclosed snacks. The prompt on checkout screen read, “Do you want to save a starving child?” I turned to the checker.

“Excuse me, I’m about to click ‘no’ on this question, although this question is not a yes or no question by the way, and I’d like you to know that I have previously donated several times, that of course I want to save a starving child with my one dollar, two dollar or five dollar donation, but this day I choose not to donate because I feel emotionally blackmailed by this question, however I want to be abundantly, abundantly clear that I am the kind of person who wants to save starving children wherever they be, and in answering no, it in no way implies that I want anything other than for these children not to starve.”

We stared at each other for a long minute.

“It’s just yes or no, Ma’am.”

“Oh screw it, what’s five dollars!”

~~~~

© Robyn T. Murphy 

 

M, Mouths of Babes

Posted by on Apr 17, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 1 comment

M, Mouths of Babes

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0Should we write down those little things our children say? I would say put them in a time capsule for eternity, but most likely it is only the genetically linked who would consider them darling or funny. That said, there have to be some gems that would make any parent go “ah.”

But I wasn’t so sure.

So, last night I decided to troll through years of e-mails from and to my college roommate, Andree. Fortunately, we live parallel lives — two involuntarily globetrotting Aussies with ankle-biters in tow.

Unfortunately, I quickly learnt, we have therefore archived an indulgent (to quote Andree) “gabfest of puffingly vacuous proportions.” Yes, from the mother load (excuse the pun) I found a scant few that make the scrapbook short-list. They may not be classic, but read on for the kid-bits that made me remember when:

Savannah, at 2, playing with my eyebrows: “I love your rainbows mum.” So sad when they finally get the words right. . .

Savannah, stirring the cake mixture vigorously. . . out of the bowl: “I’m getting the grumpy bits out” (translated – lumpy bits). This is going to be my new mantra at the gym.

Savannah, in the next room: “I’m busy mum.”

“Okay then.”

“I’m really busy mum.”

“That’s good.”

“Now I’m really, really busy.” Thump. Next time I peak in to see her mid-spin, tutu on, getting really, really “bizzy.”

Eddie, also 2, absolutely adorable, sweet and gentle little man, constantly asked to ride the “poopolator” — this is a particular escalator, the Egyptian Art Deco-style escalator at Harrods.

Once aboard and ascending, he would greet the downward-bound with a hearty, “Goodbye suckers!” – never anywhere else, just these particular escalators.

Ed trying to convince his mum to let him keep his brother’s soccer ball: “I will hold it in my armpit for safekeeping.”

At the museum, with hand over mum’s mouth: “Please stop singing. You will frighten all the people.”

At Hyde Park, 110 degrees: “Here is some breeze. It’s to calm down your pants.”

And my all-time favorite: Ed, needing to defend himself and pigeons from his older brother, needs his (imaginary) weapons — a stick and a spear — before he leaves the house. He reminds his nanny, “Never go out without a dick and a beer.” Well that is how it sounded. And that is how we have said it ever since.

Should we write down those little things our children say? I say yes, write them, use them and revisit them, put them in a box or a locket, and hold it in your armpit for safekeeping.

** a re-post. Blame Liane Moriarty

 

© Robyn T. Murphy 

L, Late

Posted by on Apr 17, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 0 comments

L, Late

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0A day late, but there’s an ‘L’ to blame.

Blame Liane Moriarty.

 

The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty, is the perfect road trip companion. And I’m on one – a spontaneous road trip with my tween. Some light relief, quality time. And what a feeling driving away. I’ve always loved that. San Francisco to L.A. And back, I suppose. I would have blamed the road trip for the late post, but road trip doesn’t start with ‘L’.

The Story Begins

Light and breezy, it seems, with those characters you’ve gossiped about at the class parent get-together (you know you have), the story is like a reality television show without the cat fights (so far). By page 14, I am intrigued. Dark secrets hide beneath the chuckles. There’s a sealed envelope. A familiar feel to the stream of consciousness from Cecilia. And I have to know: what in the blazes is this husband’s secret? I picked up the book with the intent to read until I learn what is in the envelope, then get back to my blog. But no. Cecila Fitzpatrick has scruples. She analyzes every last possibility without opening the confounded thing. Liane Moriarty is going to make me wait!

Page 134 (and I'm still waiting)

And now I’m invested in Tess’s new life after such a painful betrayal, and Rachel’s healing, and how the heck she will go on without her grandson. Obviously their lives will cross and eventually Cecilia will learn her husband’s mysterious intent.

There’s a chance she’ll decide not to open the letter. Silent scream!

There’s a chance we’ll stay another night on this road trip to give me some reading time, and there’s a chance A to Z Challenge Blogs ‘M’ and ‘N’ will be tardy as I curse Liane Moriarty for creating a finely balanced web of heartstrings I can’t bear to abandon.

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© Robyn T. Murphy text/image

K, Kauai Mana

Posted by on Apr 14, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 1 comment

K, Kauai Mana

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

Twisted trunks frown over

colliding curls of foam

 

This is Kauai Mana

 

Ask for an invitation

and she envelopes you

 

wraps you inside and out

Oils of fronds, seeds, fish

 

Mahalo Kauai Kuru

 

Or she expels you

swallows you in red dirt folds

 

then spits you, keeping only

the oils useful for invited guests

 

~~~~~~~~

 

© Robyn T. Murphy text/image

J, Jnana

Posted by on Apr 12, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 2 comments

J, Jnana

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0Today, in the A to Z Blog Challenge, we have come to the letter, J.

Somehow it’s hard to take this letter seriously. After all, J conjures jelly or jiggle, jubba, jubes, jibberish. You know, jubilant, jolly things. Juggling jelly beans, jiving Jupiter; A jumble of jello. Richie Cunningham talk.

But Jnana is where I landed.

And this is a stretch for me ..

Wikipedia says Jnana Shakti is “the power of intellect, real wisdom, or knowledge” (Hinduism). Buddhism speaks of jnana as absolute awareness without the miseries of the physical body, with a step-wise progression through levels of ‘knowing’ toward enlightenment.

 .. because, when it comes to understanding meditation and the path to enlightenment, I sit somewhere below where Elizabeth Gilbert started in Eat Pray Love, and slightly above Homer Simpson.

Jnana, knowledge from meditation (its simplest definition) is that elusive experience many yoga/spiritual teachers speak to. The truth of now, the inner knowing, the being, absolute consciousness. The words don’t really get at it, but boy do we try.  

Why Jnana?

Meditation, you see, calmed my mind and my entire neurological system, after a concussion of July 2014. It was during the three wonderful (and wonderfully free) Oprah/Chopra meditation challenges (what a gift!), when I felt the jittery, perseverating, cloudy energy physically leave my mind and body. In fact, I was able to manage my (significant) post-concussion anxiety without the prescribed Lexapro or the Ativan.

Finding peace in a moment with nothing by breath and stillness? I wish that for my tween, as she faces the current-day tween/teen pressure of body-perfect; I wish that for my father as he faces another migraine, the frustration of chemo-brain.

This motivation got me to a Kundalini Yoga workshop just last month, wherein I hyperventilated my way through a series of breathing and chanting with a room full of Kundalini Frequent Fliers. I was a fish flopping on the shore while the koi floated in the deep. A guide, I was told, was necessary to work through this kind of thing. But deep down, I knew: I was not ready. I was missing the understanding, the jnana. It’s possible I’m on the bottom wrung. Level one yoga, level one meditation, level one on the ‘knowing’ ladder. I may not get from the bottom to the top, in order avoid returning as a fish, or worse, but I’ll try, just in case that’s how it works.

That’s where I’m at, right where I landed, marveling at Jnana, the letter J, wondering if I should take any of it seriously.

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**This is an excellent description of jnana.

**Wikipedia Jnana (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jnana):

– Jnana yoga (Yoga of Knowledge) is one of the three main paths (margas), which are supposed to lead towards moksha (liberation) from material miseries. The other two main paths are Karma yoga and Bhakti YogaRāja yoga (classical yoga) which includes several yogas, is also said to lead to moksha. It is said that each path is meant for a different temperament of personality.

– Kundalini awakening is said to result in deep meditation, enlightenment and bliss.[5] This awakening involves the Kundalini physically moving up the central channel to reach within the Sahasrara Chakra at the top of the head. Many systems of yoga focus on the awakening of Kundalini through meditationpranayama breathing, the practice of asana and chanting of mantras.

 

© Robyn T. Murphy

I, Ink

Posted by on Apr 10, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 0 comments

I, Ink
A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0~~~~
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Ink, from nib
pushed
by hand
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Hand listens
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Ink
rolls in lines 

like veins

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Ink speaks
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Blood of The Muse
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© RobynTmurphy
image © KP Color Inc

H, Hair

Posted by on Apr 9, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 4 comments

H, Hair

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

Hair, like the rest of, undergoes an expansion and a contraction, a proliferation and an exodus. Not only does it cycle through months and years, like deciduous trees, it recedes by end of life, sometimes to infantile down. Sometimes from hormones, chemotherapy, stress, medications, disease.

I think if my father knew there was a season for hair, he may have treasured his undulating waves, brilled back to corrugated roofing in his youth, wilder and koala bushy in his retired years. I heard, through someone close to him, that it bothered him when he started losing his hair. Nothing much bothers Dad, so this was surprising. And then came Chemotherapy. Round Four as I type. As expected, the rest of it is malting. What’s left is sparse and silver with a hint of a wave. When it grows back, the doctor tells him, it will likely be different.

Today I finally told someone about my hair. I have a lot of it (understatement) so I didn’t feel I had the right to complain, but it’s been coming out in clumps. Almost obsessively, I run my fingers through the ends when I drive, or when no one is around, and pull out a marsupial-sized hair ball. It’s secretly satisfying.

My hairdresser took it in stride. “Stress,” he opined. But also, “No worrying about hair falling out. It grows new and soft like a baby’s and then your life start new too.” He gave me license to mess with it when driving.

“It’s like worry balls, or an executive toy,” I told him. “Relieves my tension.”

And yet, I drove home with both hands on the steering wheel and no hair ball for the garbage. Perhaps I’ll malt until the last of Dad’s hairs falls to his pillow.

And then we’ll bloom together.

 

© Robyn T. Murphy image/text

 

G, Gritty Grannies

Posted by on Apr 8, 2015 in onWriting | 1 comment

G, Gritty Grannies

G-Day, A to Z Blog Challenge – as in Day of G, not G’DAY! but g’day to you, as well. 

My first-ever re-post. Because my Grandmother came up yesterday, on F-Day, and because, to be frank, F-Day exhausted me.

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Epigenetics and Megranny

At one point, long before I was a mother, I believed I had been handed the hardiness that comes with generations of struggle. From the whole new-Australian settler thing, back to Ireland and its conflicts and famines. I felt it every time I ate a potato. And I believed that it came from my grandmothers.

Last week, I read a Facebook post on family history and its effect on genes, something called ‘Behavioral Epigenetics’,* an article that uses terms like ‘molecular scarring’ . . . and stuff. It’s about the kind of personality, or psychological tendency, that may be handed down by the sufferings of your genetic up-line. That’s a pretty wild thought. Could somebody’s great-great grandmother’s decade of famine, be a source of their constant hunger? Could the stress of war create PTSD symptoms that are handed down and down and down? Should I tell my daughter to stop stressing and think about what she’s doing to her grandchildren? Could my great grandfather’s distress at being locked in a trunk explain my claustrophobia?

Two Gritty Grannies

The article got me thinking about my grandmothers, about all the life events twisted into their DNA. And about the day I gave birth.

Nan Vincent, the tea-making mother of my mother, cleaned the floors on hands and knees, and speared cane-toads by moonlight (okay, my cousin did that, but she handed him the spear). She weathered the storms of my grandfather’s moods. And after he died, she regularly shlepped buckets and soil, shovel and flowers to his grave, a long, hot walk in the northern Australian sun. And she grew no hairs under her arms. Ever.

Nearing the end of my one and only pregnancy, I felt smugly confident of childbirth, quite sure I came into the Vincent lineage anointed with Nan’s gritty genes.

Then there was my paternal grandmother of sizable stamina, the imposing Grandma Murphy, who sprouted ten children. And though they were short on money, and room on the horse, she was an impressive sight into her eighties, with her waist-length black hair and perfect posture.

I thought of her, too, as my due date approached.

Somebody put a bike pump into my spine and filled it with gravel.

It was a Saturday evening in June, 2003, in Santa Monica California, at the AMC Theater on Third Street Promenade, about twenty minutes into ‘Nemo’, when I got the first contraction. I know how this goes, I smiled, maybe even smirked. I was ready to have this baby by the pure gritting-of-teeth and determination. No drugs. Just me, and my anointed uterus.

Several hours of panting, breathing, yoga poses, partner sacrum massage, and contraction-euphoria later, I announced to Kent (also panting but for different reasons), “It’s time to go!”

Several hours later at Santa Monica Hospital, I was . . . sent home, at less than one centimeter. Expectant nurses waiting to witness my courage and amazon qualities would have to wait another few centimeters.

The next day was a different story. I don’t care to remember the time, or any of the details. The pain was flipping my lid. They tried to send me home again, but I was levitating and hyperventilating. Where oh where had my little dog gone? That kind of thinking, if you follow my madness. I swear, somebody put a bike pump into my spine and filled it with gravel. Every cell was vomiting into other cells and my legs were crawling with under-the-skin fire ants.

“You are only just one centimeter, honey.”

“What? No!”

Excuse me Doctor, I Love You

The contractions came. I thew everything I’d learnt at the situation. Cat and cow, holy cow! child’s pose, sacrum massage, move, don’t move, walk, pray, swear. Nothing worked. BREATHE. Breathe? I couldn’t belly breathe, I for-sure couldn’t breathe into the pain. Maybe I’d kill the yoga instructor. For sure, I’d kill Kent.

They gave me something that knocked me out for two hours, in between contractions. Kent was much happier, apparently. My reality was one, long contraction, as I death-gripped the rail of the hospital bed. They gave me something to speed up the labor. An aching eternity later, I was a measly  two centimeters, when I spotted a white coat and a beard outside my door.

“Doctor?” I was in between contractions, waving the white flag of wimping-out.

Somehow, I talked him into an early epidural, and soon after, I sat with a monitor on my finger, quizzically watching my contractions on a screen. “Excuse me doctor,” I flagged the anesthesiologist several times as we waited for the time to push. “I love you.”

 Will talk if tortured

I guess I was nobody’s grand-daughter that day. For a long time after, I couldn’t come to terms with my inability to live up to all of my internal cliches – I didn’t suck it up, see it through, bite the bullet, take it on the chin, grin and bear it – at all.  In fact, I’m sure I added ‘panics easily’ and ‘will talk if tortured‘ to my epigenetic coding.

I choose to believe that it was too late to pass the wuss-factor to Savannah, in her final hours in the womb. I choose to believe that, because then I get to sweep that day’s misgivings under the carpet – which is just what my grandmothers would do.

*Discover Magazine, May 2013. Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes

© Robyn T. Murphy image/text