Things I’ve learned: Summer/Fall Edition

“And the yellow sunflower by the brook, in autumn beauty stood.”
― William Cullen Bryant

I always go into summer with three basic goals:

1.)  to write a lot;

2.)  to read a lot – preferably while lounging by the pool under a hot Texas sun, sipping a frosty margarita; and

3.)  to spend some quality time in nature – just me, my camera, and a blank Moleskine.

I always go into fall wondering what the hell happened to my summer.

It’s an eternal struggle.  The “best-laid plans” and all that jazz.  The truth is: summer is never as free-flowing and easy-going as I like to believe.  It is hectic and frenzied, a precarious balancing act dictated by obligation and commitment – life, love, band camp. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is a fruitless endeavor.  Quite the opposite. My summer was filled with moments of unscripted relevance, and it is within these fragments where true clarity is discovered. Here are a few things I learned over the summer…and into the fall:

1.  Sometimes the hype is right.  I’m not one to blindly follow the crowd.  I think it’s fair to say I spend a majority of my time in perpetual lag  – always trailing a few steps behind the cool kids. I attribute this to two things:  a.) an abundance of ignorance, and b.) an unwillingness to trust in the judgment of others.  One doesn’t have to look much further than E.L. James, comic book hero movie reboots, and selfies to understand the latter.  I hold firm in my belief that popularity rarely equates to anything worth a damn.

While this line of reasoning is beneficial in sidestepping steaming piles of mindless nonsense, it also tends to isolate me from the more noteworthy components of popular culture.  The Showtime series Homeland is one such element.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that I make a concerted effort to avoid original programming distributed by pay-cable networks – HBO, Showtime, et al.  This has less to do with the quality of the works produced and more to do with my prudish nature.  I find the nudity and explicit sex depicted in these shows gratuitous and unnecessary.  There is an adage:  just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  I mean, really, explain to me how opening a scene with a main character receiving sloppy fellatio from a handful of naked courtesans contributes to the art of storytelling.  It is beyond my capacity for comprehension.

But…I digress.

homelandHomeland is the American version of an Israeli series called Hatufim.  It’s a spy drama – well-written, well-acted, and character driven.  All things that put it right up my alley. The only problem – it’s put out by Showtime, i.e. lots of gratuitous sex with little to no intrinsic value to the overall plot.  And so, despite the critical buzz, the media hype, the constant nagging from my inner circle, I ignored Homeland – for four seasons.

What changed?

Boredom (and maybe a little wine) on a soggy weekend in early June.  I binged for two days straight.  On the show, not the wine.

Turns out, all that hype was right.  Homeland is fantastic.  Claire Danes is wonderful (a total nut, but great).  Mandy Patinkin is brilliant.  Mr. Wickham plays an assassin.  An assassin!  How awesome is that?

rupert friendThe lesson here:  Mr. Wickham makes a great assassin…oh wait…it is really easy to fast forward through all that icky parts to get to the good stuff.  Who knew?

Everyone, but me.

2.  Nothing beats a birthday at the beach.  Birthdays depress me.  I know, so cliché, but it’s the truth.  I spend half the day contemplating the reality of my own morality, and the rest stuffing my face with cake to mask the pain.  Of course, then I feel guilty and spend the next two weeks at the gym trying to undo the damage.

This year, I took a different approach.  I went to the beach.

IMG_7716We spent the week in one our favorite places, just exploring.  There were sunset cruises and wildlife eco tours; a bit of shopping, a little sunbathing, a lot of food and wine.  On the morning of my 43rd birthday, I took a solitary walk along an empty beach as the sun came up, had a photo shoot with a cooperative Great Blue Heron, and ate my weight in mussels.

It was the best birthday ever.

From now on, all my birthdays will be celebrated at the beach.

3.  Starbucks has desecrated the sanctity of Christmas.  If I can’t have snowflakes and sledding dogs with my overpriced, calorie-laden latte then it is all for naught.  We might as well just cancel Christmas.

4.  Letting go and moving on.  I once wrote a blog about the ten things I learned in my thirties.  One of the most important lessons:  nurturing healthy relationship, and eliminating the bad.  Easy advice to give, tough advice to follow.  This is especially true when you fail to recognize the signs of a shifting landscape.  No partnership is perfect, of course – be it familial, marriage, or friendship.  We are only human, and thus inherently flawed.  Yet, if we take care and are vigilant, we are able to forge meaningful and beneficial bonds.

In every relationship, there is a certain degree of compromise and acceptance – the old give and take.  My husband snores like a freight train, but he takes out the trash.  It’s a trade-off.  We make it work.  It is along a similar vein that I measure all the relationships in my life – give and take.  Is it mutual?  Is it proportional?  Is it fulfilling?  Often these are easy questions to answer.  But sometimes I am blindsided by the realization that what was once mutually satisfying, is no longer viable.

For the last year, I’ve struggled with such a revelation.  In hindsight, the writing has been on the wall for a long time.  I blame complacency.  I am a creature of habit, and will sometimes go out of my way to avoid confrontation in order to sidestep the unpleasantness of change.

My epiphany came with an incident last Christmas that to most may seem trivial – a homemade gift given in love without so much as a thank you.  Yes, I know.  Trivial.  In the spirit of the season, gifts should be given without the expectation of reciprocation.  But the lack of acknowledgment hurt my feelings – deeply.  I’m not sure why it affected me in this manner.  I’m not prone to such sensitivity.  Yet, it did.  I suppose it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.  One more thing added to a growing list of irritating and hurtful trespasses.  It changed my whole view and shined a light on something that I had long denied.  The friendship was dead.

And so, I have spent the better part of the year coming to terms with that reality.  It’s been difficult.  There is a certain amount of grief that comes with it.  And resentment.  But I have come to accept the fact that the friendship, in its original state, is gone. It is through this acceptance that I have found peace.  I suppose that is all we can hope for in life – peace.

5.  Awww moment of the week:  This is the part of my blog that I reserve for a picture of something adorable.  In light of recent events, I’d like to take a moment to pay my respects to the victims of the Paris terror attacks.

paris peace

Honey bees and Bluebonnets

I moved to Texas from Europe in the late eighties.  I didn’t take it well.  I thought for sure I was being punished for some unspoken transgression.

Then the bluebonnets bloomed and I knew I had come home.

IMG_5029 IMG_5160 IMG_5104 IMG_5074 IMG_5290 IMG_5301

Things I’ve learned

It’s been a while since my last real blog post.  Even longer since my last “things I learned” post.  I wondered at that.

But only for a nanosecond.

Let’s get to it.  What have I learned?

I learned:

1.  I’ve missed yoga.  Three years ago I took a yoga class to fulfill a college credit requirement.  I registered for the beginning class even though I had previous experience and was probably more transitional intermediate than beginner. I did so out of fear.

A costly miscalculation on my part.  As it happened, the instructor was the Antichrist and seemed woefully unaware the course was entitled “Yoga for Beginners.”   Think wine-soaked ballerina with severe Adult Attention Deficient Disorder.  Who teaches a yoga class set to swinging show tunes?…and sings along…and twirls…oh, so much twirling…She taught the class from her own private padded bubble, offered no modifications, and failed to understand the core principles of yoga.

I have many personality flaws.  Chief on the list:  Type A.   I’m an overachiever. That is especially true if there is something I value at stake.  At the time, it was my GPA.  I wanted an A and it is not in my nature to quit once I’ve committed.

Oh, the clarity of hindsight.

Three years later, I am still suffering the repercussions of that earned A.  My diagnosis: persistent grade 2 hip flexor strain with severe pain and limited ROM. Could be worse. Could be better.  But I’m making progress with the help of some wonderful physical therapists.  Last week, at their badgering urging, I started to practice yoga again.

I’m not going to lie.  The first few dozen sun salutations were rough.  But, at the same time, it was an incredible feeling.  Of course, I needed an extra day of physical therapy to recover, but they assure me it will get easier.  I’m going to choose to believe they are right.


2.  The X-Files is returning to television.  I’m conflicted.  I always loved the X-Files.  It was great television.  But reboots, remakes, and sequels annoy me.  A few years ago, I wrote about it. On the one hand, I am curious to see Mulder, Scully, Skinner, and Cancer Man reunited.  They were fascinating characters.  On the other hand, I think it is often better to remember something beloved in its original, unblemished state.  I probably won’t watch.

Of course, for all of my righteous indignation, I am a total hypocrite.  There are two films looming on the horizon – one slated for release later this year, the other next year. Jason Bourne and James Bond.  Both are sequels/remakes/reboots.  Both make me giddy with excitement.

I thought about arguing the merits of these franchises and how they differ from all the unoriginal rubbish out there.  But I don’t need to explain myself to you. Instead, I offer you a peek at the new Bond.

Savor it.

3.  I don’t like cherries.  I’m forty-two.  I’ve spent most of my life believing that I don’t eat cherries because I am allergic to them. Turns out – not true.  I just don’t like them.


4.  Spring in Texas:  Bluebonnets and bees.  What else is there to say?


5.  Miles Davis makes the perfect background for writing.  As a general rule, I don’t listen to music when I write.  It’s distracting.  I do much better with everyday white noise. Well…unless, it’s “screaming toddler Tuesday” or “”where’s the damn coffee in this place’ octogenarian Thursday” at my favorite coffee shop.  The latter is always a special treat.  There’s nothing quite so entertaining as a group of filter-free, half-deaf senior citizens out for their weekly breakfast social.

Last week, I discovered Miles Davis.  I’ve never been much of a jazz fan.  I much prefer old-school soul, sixties R&B, anything touched by the hands of the almighty Sting, and Florence and the Machine.  Jazz always seemed like too much work to fully appreciate. Does that make sense?   Probably not.  Sorry.

Anyway, I was researching Jazz artists/albums in reference to a character development I am doing for my current WIP and happened upon Sketches of Spain, a Miles Davis work conducted by Gil Evans (fun fact:  Gil Evans and Sting recorded a live album, Last Session, in 1987).  I liked the title; the cover art was warm and inviting.  I took a listen.

It was spellbinding; yet, subtle and unobtrusive.

I bought it.

This week on “screaming toddler Tuesday”, I plugged in my headphones, turned up Sketches of Spain, set it to repeat, and just wrote.


Here.  Have a listen for yourself.

365 Photos: Day 20

“…sweet spring is your
time is my time is our
time for springtime is lovetime
and viva sweet love.” – E. E. Cummings


365 Photos: Day 19

“One lives in the hope of becoming a memory.” ― Antonio Porchia


365 Photos: Day 18

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.” ― Robert Lynd


365 Photos: Day 17

“What is now proved was once only imagined.” ― William Blake