Saturday, August 31, 2013

Morning Wu-Wu

Cambridge - Thursday 8/29

I'm working my way through Byron Katie's book A Thousand Names for Joy. It's Katie's written response in parallel to the sacred Taoist text the Tao Te Ching.

Here's the passage that struck me today (pg. 117):

The voice within is what I honor. It's what I'm married to. This life doesn't belong to me. The voice says, "Do the dishes" -okay. I don't know what it's for, I just do it. If I don't follow the order, that's all right, too. But this is a game about where life will take me when I do follow.  There's nothing more exciting than to say yes to such a wild thing.  I don't have anything to lose. I can afford to be a fool.

If you have no idea who Katie is, or what the process of The Work is all about then this phrase can easily be taken the wrong way. Out of context it can be twisted and turned, making the sentiment seem crass, selfish, and maybe even a bit crazy. I get that.

Regardless, I'm not going to explain to you exactly what The Work is, or what this above excerpt is trying to transmit.  I'm not sure you'll get anything out of it, or if it will resonate with you on any level. It may just make you think I'm a bit too wu-wu, or that I'm hearing voices (I'm not, I assure you. Well, except for that inner voice we all have that we listen to all the time).

I will tell you that the part where she says, "... this is a game about where life will take me when I do follow. There's nothing more exciting than to say yes to such a wild thing" , that's the bit that makes me smile. I can't quite put my finger on why exactly. I think it sums up that life is really quite simple, all we have to do is follow the simple directions, or not. If we don't superimpose a story on every thought, if we let go of the expectations we keep for others, and dwell in our own business we don't have anything to lose or gain. Saying "yes to such a wild thing" is living in line with what's true for me as it arises. No right, no wrong. Making one choice then making another. There's freedom in that to me.

"I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional." - Byron Katie

Somehow this cute video feels connected to all my above rambling, and sort of lightens the weightiness of my mumble-jumble above.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Speaking English in England: Part 2

After yesterday's post a few friends, Anglophiles and former expats, left lovely additions to my list in the comments section. Hope you enjoy Part 2 of Speaking English in England! 

Thanks to Amber for the following! She's a Mum of two who recently moved home to Ithaca, NY so she experienced different turns of speech than I do. Miss you Amber!

Mom = Mum

Mail = Post

Glue Stick = Pritt Stick (it's a brand just like say Scotch tape)

Scotch Tape = Cello Tape

Cookies = Biscuits

Zucchini = Courgette

Eggplant = Aubergine

Cell Phone = Mobile

Supposed To = Meant To

Swimsuit (+goggles etc.) = Swimming Costume

Costume = Fancy Dress

Baked Potato = Jacket Potato

Vacation = Holiday

Soccer = Football

To Pick Up = Collect ("I have to collect my kids from school")

Yard = Garden

Dinner = Tea (not always, but often, "Shall I give your kids their tea?"= "Should I feed them dinner?")

Thrift Shop = Charity Shop

Shocked (or super surprised) = Gobsmacked (I LOVE this ONE!)

Thanks to my friend Demian, who I met on my study abroad program in France (USAC!) for these gems as well.

Baby Stroller = Pram

Elevator = Lift

Apartment = Flat

Trunk (of a car) = Boot

Flashlight = Torch

Cigarette = Fag

And a bit of slang for you:

Wanker = Tosser

Idiot / Jerk / Loser = Git (Thanks Sandee for this one!)

And a couple more that I thought up this morning:

Math / Arithmetic = Maths (yes, with an "s" on the end)

E.R (emergency room) = A&E (accident & emergency)

Diaper = Nappy

Drunk = Pissed

Stoked! (really excited or happy) = Chuffed ("I'm chuffed to bits!")

There's also the fact that words ending in 'a' they pronounce with an 'r'. But only when the next word starts with a vowel. For example:

"China" can be pronounced "Chiner"

"We are going to visit Chiner on holiday."


"For holiday, we are going to China."

And for those of you who just can't get enough of this silliness, I found a Wiki page that lists words from A-Z that are different between the two languages. Here's words A-L and here is M-Z

For fun, here's a video of Hugh Laurie on The Ellen DeGeneres Show talking about the difference between British slang and American slang. Go on, have a laugh!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Speaking English in England

When we made the decision to move to England I was excited and a bit relieved that we'd chosen an English speaking country.  Having lived in France for 5 months during my last year of undergraduate, arriving with z-e-r-o French language was exciting, but exhausting.  At least in relocating to England I'd have mastery over the language, right?


Most everyone speaks a form of English that I can understand, however there are the occasional strong accents, phrases of speech, vocabulary words, and pronunciation differences that trip me up from time to time.  I especially notice differences when I'm placing our online grocery order and type a product into the search box and it returns zero results. Really?  Or I type "paper towels" and only get toilet paper as the result. (they're called "kitchen towels" FYI)

Despite these differences we've managed to adopt certain vocabulary words and phrases of speech without even realizing it (until the other person notices you doing so and rightfully teases you). As we approach our one year expat-iversary Devin and I still take great joy comparing British English to American English and we crack ourselves up almost every time.

Since I can't possibly remember all the differences in one post, I'll just start you off here with a list of things in the hope that I'll do another "Speaking English in England" again soon.

If you want to say _______ you should say ________.

Hello = Hi-ya!

Potato Chips = Crisps

French Fries = Chips

Sandwich Bread = Bloomer

Bike = Cycle

Bladder (where you hold your pee) = Water Box

Colon = Midnight Soil Box (Devin and I just made this one up based on Water Box)

Pap Smear = Smear Test (ew, way to make it more gross than it already is England)

Sneakers = Trainers

Pants = Trousers

Underwear = Pants

Sweater = Jumper

Shopping Cart = Trolly

Truck = Lorry

Median = Verge

Stovetop = Hob

Oven = Cooker

Post (as in, something you'd tie your boat to or block traffic with) = Bollard

Eraser = Rubber (Imagine my confusion walking into the supply room at the elementary school and seeing a box with the word "Rubbers" on it. I thought, "My aren't they progressive with their birth control in this country!")

Markers = Felt Tips

Glue Stick = Stick of Glue

Garbage Can = Bin

Garbage Bag = Bin Liner

Thanks = Cheers

Doctor's Office = Surgery or GP

Bathroom = Loo

Toilet Paper = Loo Roll

Toothbrush = Tombstone Polisher (FALSE! Just seeing if you were paying attention)

Umbrella = Brollie

Pancake IS NOT = to Flapjack

Bye = Bye-Eee! (to be spoken in a high pitched voice)

Hope you enjoyed your foray into British English. More on this later!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fear Project: A Blog By Julie Melman

The Fear Project

Yesterday I was looking for interesting art therapy articles to read and came across Julie Melman's fantabulous blog The Fear Project.  To read a piece on NPR about Julie you can click on this link, but in short: Julie = Associate professor and design educator/illustrator feels creatively blocked with computer illustration, takes on "tangible" art project, interviewing people about their fears and illustrates them on paper.  Here are some examples of Julie's work which I've borrowed from her Society6 website where she has lovely prints for sale.  (All rights reserved to Julie!)

Fear of Marriage & Divorce

Fear of Saying No

Fear of Having Kids

This morning I was struck by an entry she wrote about her creative process and working it out. It's from the page Fear Notes, and it's the entry dated August 17, 2013 Sharing + process + working it out.  In my role as an Art Therapist I frequently have adult clients struggle with the belief that they aren't creative enough, that they don't know how to use art materials, and that what they make will be ugly or "wrong".  As though the innate creativity that exists in each of us could ever be less than perfect.  (If I had a £/$ jar for each time I heard the phrases: "But I don't know how to draw!",  "I'm not artistic.",  "I can't even draw a straight line." I would be one wealthy Art Therapist!)

Sharing + process + working it out.

I often tell people similar things to what Julie says in this post. There is no wrong way to make art. You can't make a mistake, and if you think you have made one, you can work with it or throw it away. Your art is only precious if you want it to be.  You aren't wasting my time or the art materials.  Experiment. See what happens.  Don't plan.  Don't try. Just make.

I think this advice works for so many areas of life.  I often don't do things or won't try things unless I feel like I know what I'm doing, or know what I can expect (physically and emotionally) from the experience.  A false sense of control often pervades my worldview, (and likely the worldview of many of you as well) and I think by not trying something that I'm scared or fearful about I will keep myself safe and comfortable.  While this may sometimes be true, I'm learning that "safe" and "comfortable" doesn't often mean I'll stay "happy" or "feel better".

My fear (for today):  That I can live an unlived life. That someday I'll have regrets.

What are you hesitating to do in your life?  What excuses are you allowing to hold you back before you jump in and try? What would you ask Julie Melman to illustrate for you?  What's your fear?
(Please share your fear in the comments section below!)

“Do not fear death, but rather the unlived life. You don't have to live forever. You just have to live.”

― Natalie Babbitt

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wednesday Reflection

Coton Reserve Walk

In the book, Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander the prologue opens with the quote:

A man should look for what is, 
and not for what he thinks should be.
- ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879-1955)

As you may have gleaned from my list of books in yesterday's post I'm often reading more than one book at a time, and frequently one or more of the books has a spiritual/meditative/psychology theme. Part of me is always searching for something a bit deeper, a bit juicier, a bit more at peace than what life offers on it's surface.  

My mind is constantly at work, telling me in every moment all the things I need to be thinking of, the future I should be preparing for, or the past I could be reminiscing about.  As I'm sure is true for most of you, it's rare that I find all of myself truly present, all my senses alive and my mind settled on what is happening at that moment.  Should I be lucky enough to be in any moment, it is even more rare that I am accepting the reality I am in.  Often I want to change it, make it better, or leave it.  It's difficult to just accept a moment for what it is, and to appreciate it, regardless of what our mind says it should, or should not be.  

August 20 - Market Street, Cambridge

That's why the quote by Einstein resonated with me when I opened the book Proof of Heaven. To look for WHAT IS, not for what I think IT SHOULD BE.  What a challenge!  To see reality and to not want it to be different.  

I think my search for this acceptance of reality is why I do so many of the things I do.  I love going into nature, taking long walks, painting landscapes, documenting life in journals, taking pictures, and helping people to find their own sense of self, their own sense of of inner resourcefulness and peace. This is what I enjoy doing for myself so it's no surprise that this is what I want to do for other people as a therapist.  

The study and contemplation of consciousness has been an interest of mine for over a decade now.
One simply doesn't move to Oakland, CA to attend JFKU's Arts & Consciousness, Transformative Arts MA program because of a passing interest in the field.  (Yes, I got my 1st MA from an Arts & Consciousness department. Deal with it.)  It's interesting how that study continues to evolve for me, but how many of my actions remain the same.  Taking pictures of moments I want to capture, even if the lighting isn't perfect.  Sitting on a bench in a park as the tourists flow past buildings from the 13th century.  Watching life unfold, as I stand up, or sit down, and and my breath moves in and out without thinking.

August 20 - All Saints Garden, Cambridge

And so I read things like Proof of Heaven and Loving What Is, subscribe to things like the Open Heart Project, and contemplate dropping in to centers called Inner Space.  I know how easy it is to make fun of things like this, to tease people and even make fun of myself for being interested in such groovy or wu-wu topics.  But as author Gretchen Rubin says, "The days are long, but the years are short."   I know this to be true, as the years are flying by me now and I want to do all I can to be here as the days are happening.  That's no small task.  

All of that said, what's my One Line for today?:

Doors open wide, bare feet, sunshine, bird-songs, acceptance and abundance. Getting my wu-wu on.

August 20 - All Saints Passage

Link Correction from Yesterday's Post

Hi Guys!

It was brought to my attention that the link I provided to the 32 Books That Will Actually Change Your Life was broken. So I've updated it on the original post, but to save you from clicking too many times, I'm giving it to you again here:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Recent Page Turning: My Book List

Recognize that cutting board Amber?

Read Recently

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin ****

The Round House by Louise Erdrich ***

Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout ****

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells ****

Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander **** (I read this in one 3.5 hour plane ride!)

*           Meh 
**         It's a book
***       Glad I read that
****     I'd tell other people to read this 
*****   Great book, loved it!

Currently Reading

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

A Thousand Names for Joy by Byron Katie

Saint Térése of Liseux by Kathryn Harrison

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Incidentally, while strolling through photos of cute kitties and puppies on Buzzfeed last night I came across a post titled, 32 Books That Will Actually Change Your Life.  Now, I'm not sure all (or any) of these books would change anyones life, but I've read a handful of them and really liked each one. I'm keeping the list for a rainy day (which I believe we'll be experiencing rather soon, it's England, afterall).

So that's my bookshelf. What's on yours?
Got anything deserving of 5 *'s?
Comment and share your book title, or email me privately.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. Wanna know what I was looking at on Buzzfeed before I found the book list? Don't judge.

One Line A Day

Photo Credit: A Latte and a Pen 

"One Line A Day: A Five Year Memory Book"

It's the title of a journal/book I found a while back when looking for a gift for a friend.
I only saw it on Amazon, but today I came across it in a little boutique in downtown Cambridge.

And then I came home to look into the idea of the book a bit further (I didn't let myself buy it on a whim), and found it featured on a blog I used to follow, The House That Lars Built.  Click that link to read their lovely post about it.

I'm going to let myself simmer on the idea of keeping yet another journal (I already keep one for work, and one for messy journaling/keepsakes).  Something about the one line a day feels spacious and doable. And somehow, even if I don't manage do do something each day of the year, there's always next year (same page, same day, just one year later).

I'm definitely intrigued. Going to let myself think it over for a bit more before I buy it.

If I had the book today my line might read:

"A simple action opens the door to a new world of possibilities."


"I'm eating a bowl of chili that I made 2 weeks ago and has been sitting in the fridge ever since. This might be a bad idea . . ."

What do you think?
Does the idea of keeping a journal in this format feel exciting to you?
Does it feel like it would become just another chore? Another item on your every growing list?

What's your line for today?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Burke Visit & London

Though we had to wait for it, summer truly arrived in July.

Vacation, travel, sunshine, touring England and a visit by family and friends.
Mom and Tom had planned a 10 day coach tour of England, at the end stopping to see us in Cambridge before we all headed down to London for a week in the city.

At the end of Mom & Tom's trip Devin and I had a few days on our own before our friends Jeremy and Elaine came to town town for a conference. We stayed in a flat-share through
in the Imperial Warf neighborhood. While there we walked all over town taking in new areas of London we'd never seen before, found a couple of really great cafés/restaurants (Megan's Cafe and Thai Rice)

Because it's been so long since that trip I'm afraid I've forgotten the details of our daily itinerary but I did take quite a few photos which I'm sharing below.

Highlights from the trip:

  • Showing Mom and Tom around Cambridge, letting them see where we call home. It's always so much fun for us to share our life here with our friends and family from home. It helps make where we're living feel real and special all over again.
  • Visiting Duxford, Imperial War Museum near Cambridge (thanks Andrea for the passes!). A very cool museum even if you're not that interested or aware of history. Immaculate place with creative installations and lots of experiential learning.
  • Going punting on the river Cam. We'd been saving this very touristy event for a warm day with friends or family, and lucky for Mom and Tom they were the lucky winners! (Well, until Tom fell off the back of the punt when he was knocked over by a branch!)
  • Devin diving in off the punt to search for Tom's prescription sunglasses . . . and finding them!
  • Eating dinner outside at the Coton Plough. A lovely place near our flat in the smallest little village you ever saw.  
  • Staying right next door to Harrod's in London and watching all the Rolls Royces and uber fancy cars roll by. Great little furnished flats incase you're looking for a very central place to stay: Basil Street Apartments
  • An unexpected really tasty pub lunch at The Sanctuary House Hotel & Pub near Westminster Abbey.
  • Visiting the Churchill War Rooms in London. How totally amazing. Check it out online.
  • Since Mom and Tom had never been to London before we hit the tourist track: Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, Parliment/Big Ben, The London Eye, Harrods, The V&A, a quick stop at the Natural History Museum, Churchill's War Rooms, Hyde Park, Tower Bridge
  • Had lunch at a great little place just under Tower Bridge called The Vault. Pub style food, nothing fancy, but great location right on the Thames river.
  • The warm and yes HOT weather we experienced! Sadly, I'm so pessimistic about the English weather I didn't pack a single pair of shorts so I suffered a bit on the really hot days. (but I am NOT complaining! Bring on the heat!)
  • Spending the entire day in Kew Gardens with Devin. Nerding out on plants, landscaping, and turning my scarf into a skirt while we picnicked on the lawn. Taking a nap under shade trees hours later.
  • Seeing Jeremy and Elaine for the first time since our wedding last year. Great to catch up with them, learn all that's going on in their lives, and to just spend time together. They were travel-troopers as we dragged them all over London the day they flew into town! 
  • Having Jeremy spend a day with us up in Cambridge as Elaine went to her conference. Again, it was so fun for us to show a friend around town, visit a new pub (The Maypole!) and take him out for Indian food just like we'd do if we were still in Berkeley.

Punting on the Cam, before "the fall". 
Devin drives our first punt experience.

Lunch on the 007.

Imperial War Museum Duxford

Devin and his favorite childhood plane.

Imperial War Museum Duxford 

Imperial War Museum - US Airforce Memorial 
My favorite summer cider

Hyde Park

Cafe @ Hyde Park
Prince Albert Memorial - London

View from the London Eye

Tom and Mom, London Eye
London Eye
Below the Eye

Churchill War Rooms

Buckingham Palace

Tasty Veggie Pie @ The Sanctuary House Hotel & Pub

Juice at The V & A Museum - London

Natural History Museum - London

Inside The V & A

The tastiest cafe in London - Imperial Warf - Great outdoor patio!

Paper clothing. Exhibition at Hampton Court

Hampton Court Gardens

Hampton Court Gardens

Kew Gardens Glasshouse

Kew Gardens Glasshouse

Grasses - Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens

Devin, in Grass Heaven

The Palace at Kew Gardens

The treetop walk - Kew Gardens

Imperial College London

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens 
Kew Gardens Glasshouse

Kew Gardens - Baby pineapple

Thanks Mom and Tom for a lovely time together in England. We really enjoyed showing you around town and playing tourist with you in London!  Thanks also to Jeremy and Elaine for making the trip over to see us (and go to your conference), and for the lovely dinner out in celebration of our wedding/anniversary!

Cheers to you! (and to us for deciding to live in such a cool place!)

The Round Church (and round doughnut) Cambridge