I've come to reconsider where I stand on the whole copyright issue, in regards to work that appears on my blog. If you happen to see art that I've created on this blog and it inspires you, by all means go ahead and appropriate it. If you want to modify it, scraplift it, use only parts of it or copy it outright, you have my permission to do so here. If you want to give me credit, fine. If you don't, that's okay too. I've been inspired by countless other people in all walks of life and I believe that generosity of spirit is much greater than any personal pride or glory I could achieve from claiming to be the first or the best to do anything. The sole exception to this would be photos of my family, to protect their privacy.
The vintage images that appear in this blog are digitally altered and colored by scrapologie. Feel free to use them for your personal use, however you like!
"To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance". (Oscar Wilde)
I'm not one for making a long list of new year resolutions, I'd rather focus on one or two things. Last year I wanted to achieve health and fitness goals - to lose weight, build muscle, tone and strength. I've nearly reached that goal. This year, my resolve is to build my internal strength as well. For me, that means upholding what I will and will not accept in my relationships with others, and what I will and will not accept in my life. I resolve to hold true to those beliefs I value most, regardless of what others think and believe about me, and above all, to respect and honor myself. I've learned that I am my own best friend and my own worst critic. This is the year I become fearless about showing my face to the world.
This is the year that I begin my love affair with me. This is the year I gaze starry eyed at my own goals and dreams instead of gazing starry eyed at another.
This is the year I revitalize not just my body, but my mind and my soul as well. I wish you a happy, healthy and peaceful 2013!
I’d have a stable full of Arabian steeds, rooms piled with books, and I’d write out of a magic inkstand, so that my works should be as famous as Laurie’s music. I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle—something heroic, or wonderful—that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all, some day. I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous; that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream. (Jo March in "Little Women")
Each year at Christmas, I pull out my Little Women DVD (the version with Susan Sarandon and Wynona Ryder) and settle down for an evening of reacquaintance with Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy and Marmee. It's a personal tradition, and brings back many memories of the beloved little book I fell in love with years ago.
When I was 13, my grandfather presented me with a copy of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. I devoured the book within a week, then quickly proceeded to read Little Men, Jo's Boys, Under the Lilacs, Rose in Bloom, and every other book penned by Ms. Alcott that I could lay hands on, shortly thereafter. Little Women has long remained my favorite. I adored the four March sisters and their loving 'Marmee', but I was drawn to identify with impatient, independent, headstrong Jo. I laughed at her follies, cried with her at the loss of her sweet Beth, felt her anguish as she mourned the failures of her character, pondered the lessons of the Pilgrim's Progress along with her, admired her pluck, courage and selflessness as she chopped off her beautiful chestnut mane to earn money for her mother's travel expenses, and cheered when she sold her first stories. I felt her keen sense of injustice when cantankerous Aunt March chose Amy, over Jo, as her traveling companion to Europe. My 13-year-old self was disappointed when Jo failed to return the romantic attentions of her handsome and wealthy young neighbor Laurie, but later understood Alcott's decision to wed her heroine to the considerably older, and decidedly less dashing, Professor Bhaer.
In an age where comportment and decorum were highly regarded and the roles of women clearly defined, Jo represented a break with the traditional view of the Victorian woman.She held a job, spoke (much to the chagrin of her sisters), in the slang used by the young men of her time, was a regular tomboy and longed to go fight alongside her father in the Civil War.
I hate to think I've got to grow up, and be Miss March, and wear long
gowns, and look as prim as a China Aster! It's bad enough to be a girl,
anyway, when I like boy's games and work and manners! I can't get over
my disappointment in not being a boy. And it's worse than ever now, for
I'm dying to go and fight with Papa. And I can only stay home and knit,
like a poky old woman!
Little Women would leave an impression upon me. Like Jo, I dreamed of being a writer and went on to major in Journalism. Some years later, I'd marry into a Punjabi Indian family and would receive instruction in the importance of the appropriate dress, appearance and comportment of a new Indian bride from my inlaws, who wanted me to make a good impression on friends and family, as I accompanied them on various social calls. I openly rebelled against their advice and complained about the requisite social calls, remembering Jo's own aversion to "society":
She hated calls of the formal sort, and never made any till Amy
compelled her with a bargain, bribe, or promise. In the present instance
there was no escape, and having clashed her scissors rebelliously,
while protesting that she smelled thunder, she gave in, put away her
work, and taking up her hat and gloves with an air of resignation, told
Amy the victim was ready.
Jo March, you are perverse enough to
provoke a saint! You don't intend to make calls in that state, I hope,:
cried Amy, surveying her with amazement.
Why not? I'm neat and
cool and comfortable, quite proper for a dusty walk on a warm day. If
people care more for my clothes than they do for me, I don't wish to see
them. You can dress for both, and be as elegant as you please. It pays
for you to be fine. It doesn't for me, and furbelows only worry me.
Jo's sentiments about clothing and dress echoed my own at the time. I didn't understand what all the fuss was about, and felt if people couldn't accept me for who I was, regardless of how I was dressed, I had no use for them. And Amy's response quite echoed my mother-in-law's, when I would announce that I had no desire or intention to change into the clothes she'd suggested.
Over the years, as my interest in art and design developed, I began to view the form and function of clothing a little differently, but I still recall fondly the simplicity and idealism of my 26-year-old self as a new bride, and see how Jo helped to inspire and shape the person I was. What stood out to me about Jo's character was her persistence and belief that women could do anything that men could.
Admittedly, there are passages in Little Women that would annoy the modern reader, certainly some that espouse old gender stereotypes and many that read as Puritanical and prude, but given the context in which the book was written, i.e., against the backdrop of the Victorian era, 19th century America, Little Women was ground-breaking literature for young women of the time, and Alcott influenced other writers of literature for girls, including Canadian author L.M. Montgomery who penned the Anne of Green Gables series, (another favorite).
Little Women remains a timeless classic. Once we get past the straight-laced, "goody-goody" passages, we can retain its valuable message. The sweet and simple lessons it imparted a little over a hundred years ago still hold true for us; that the things that matter most are those that cost the least - family, sisterhood, charity, character, humility, laughter, friendship, compassion, learning and love. And that as humans, we are constantly a work in progress; we make mistakes, we err and commit foibles that we later wish to erase, but we go on to learn from them, always holding true to our values, and to who we are on the inside.
The news of the shooting at the school in Connecticut has been on my mind for the last few days, and reminds me to cherish every moment with my little one. The light of an innocent life can be put out so unexpectedly and quickly. My heart goes out to every victim of that tragedy. Gather your loved ones and hold them close, for they are what truly matters. When it comes down to it, love is all there is. Love is everything.
Sharing a video of my own little one's first year of life. I've been feeling nostalgic for her baby days and seeing this video reminds me even more of what a precious gift our children are, they are truly blessings placed in our arms by heavenly angels. Peace to you and yours.
I'm going to be very brave and post some photos of myself, especially some that are not very flattering. Here's a photo timeline to show my weight loss progression. One of these days I'll get a bit braver about doing full length shots - I'm not there quite yet! However, looking at these photos, I can see all the hard work I've done and the progress I've made. I'm proud of having made health and fitness a commitment in my life, and hope it inspires you to do the same!
This was taken in January 2012:
This was in May 2012, at the most I've ever weighed (191 lbs)!
Here's the first one that shows significant weight loss. Took about 3.5-4 months to get to this point. This was either late August or early Sept. 2012:
This one was taken in September 2012:
This one was taken in October 2012:
And these last two were taken today, (145 lbs, new goal = 135 lbs). Sucks to be your own photographer though. I either get grainy pics or that deer in the headlights look! This one is right before I headed to the gym:
And this is post workout, probably a good thing this one came out grainy, lol!
Update on my weight loss journey. I've reached another weightloss milestone - 145 lbs! I thought I would never break 150, as I had been there for nearly two months, but it finally happened. At 5'6", I could conceivably stop here, but my goal which was 140 lbs, is now 135, and when I reach that milestone, I've promised myself I'll focus on maintenance. I've been absolutely ecstatic to pull on fitness clothes that show a healthy, well defined physique, and I am proud to see curves re-emerging and slender but muscled limbs developing. The thought struck me today that I am designing, as I've always done; the only difference is that the canvas is now my body. That was a powerful realization!
I've increased running speed to 5.3 mph for my treadmill days and increased the cycle resistance load from 10-12 to 12-14 in spinning class. Resistance training at this point is mostly on Cybex machines. For the lower body, I favor the glute extension, hip abduction/adduction for a great hip/thigh workout, as well as the leg extension and leg press/curl. Occasionally I'll mix in lunges with free weights. For the upper body, I like the lateral pull down, bicep/tricep curls, chest press, incline press and overhead press. Like many women, my problem area is the abs. For abs/core I have been doing the torso rotation, ab/back extension plus 100 sit ups - alternating them on the medicine ball and directly on the floor on a foam mat with my legs elevated. There are a few other machines I have worked in, but those are the main ones; I alternate upper body and abs with lower body and abs but do some form of weight resistance training almost daily. I plan to add squats including the hack squat machine as well as freestanding squats, more core exercises and free weights as I approach the last ten pounds. Even though "strong is the new skinny", I'm not keen for that super-muscled look on me, so I am shooting for just the right amount of definition by completing three sets of moderate weights at higher reps on each machine.
I am amazed at how quickly I was able to develop muscle. I can feel long, rock-solid muscle on my thighs and legs where flab used to sit just a matter of months ago, and slender arms are taking shape once again. It's absolutely worth all the sweat, tears and sacrifice. I don't miss the sugar and the carbs (even with all the constant exposure to holiday goodies at the office this time of year.) My body has really embraced clean eating and healthy living. If you've been considering committing to fitness, I encourage you to take the step to begin your journey. Every milestone reached fuels me to reach higher. There is no such thing as too old, too fat, too awkward or any of the other excuses we hold up as barriers to reaching our goals. You CAN do it. The key is to take the first step. And then another, and another, and another. The empowerment you will feel from seeing the results is worth it. And besides: "I really regret that workout!" said no one, ever.
“The little space within the heart is as great
as the vast universe. The heavens and the earth are there, and the sun
and the moon and the stars. Fire and lightning and winds are there, and
all that now is and all that is not. “ ~ The Upanishads
"We are all just looking for some kind of happiness. Sometimes things work out for us, and sometimes they don't. It really doesn't matter. Eventually all our hopes and fears are going to dissolve, and at the end of our lives, according to all the deathbed reports we've ever received, the only thing that will matter is how loving and brave we've been. All those dying people can't be wrong when they say that all the things you want and all the things you dread are just like waves in the ocean. Eventually they just become reabsorbed into the vast play of the sea. And you know what? The ocean doesn't care. It never gives up. It can accommodate it all, gentle waves that lap the shore and those that roil up ferociously, tiny tidal pools and great, freezing depths. The real secret, the great ones say, is that we are much more like the ocean than the waves. Underneath all our hopes and fears is profound stillness and the memory of how to return to it." (Susan Piver)
Read this quote today and it resonated deeply with me. This puts it all in perspective; loss and disappointments lose their significance when I realize that there is something grander at work, that we are all interconnected, and part of something much larger than we can scarcely imagine. That regardless of our professions and our endless quests for glory and recognition, our soul's work is to learn how to love one another. In the meantime, we each count the days and make the days count, until we return to be claimed by the sea.
Lately I've been seeing more and more about the dim future that awaits our country's libraries, and I worry about it. With the advent of e-books and advances in technology and communication, we should be seeing the face of the library as we know it, expanding to accommodate these new means of information access. Instead, I fear, we are witnessing the demise of one of the greatest public institutions of all time. This article, though brief, shares a quick snapshot of some of these concerns, which include publishers that refuse to sell e-books to libraries and major booksellers whose interests are not aligned with the preservation of libraries. Author Harry McCracken cites Carson Block of Carson Block Consulting as follows:
"Libraries, Block argued, aren't just book-loaning facilities. They're also about equal opportunity and community, and perhaps they should rebrand themselves as being about access, not books."
Citing apathy as a major threat to libraries, he goes on to argue that "we've always needed libraries; now more than ever, libraries need us". I couldn't agree with this statement more.
Looking back upon my childhood, I can attest to the profound effect that my local library had on me. I grew up in Springdale, OH., a Cincinnati suburb. The nearest library was in the adjacent city of Forest Park. I remember when I was old enough to sign my name and how thrilled I was, when I discovered that mastery of one's signature was all that was required to be awarded a library card! I still remember that first library card - it was manila yellow in color, and the librarian typed my name and address on the card, then had me sign at the bottom. I treasured that card and revered it, proudly extending it as if it was my personal calling card every time I checked out a book.
I remember that library as though I had set foot in it yesterday. A long, unlit tiled hallway opened into a glorious, well lighted carpeted space, filled throughout with books. Children's books were up three steps, then down another three to the right, in a space filled with beanbag chairs and low shelves for little hands to reach picture books. Walls were decorated with posters of illustrations from children's books, and if we were lucky, we could catch a librarian reading a story out loud to a captive group of wide-eyed children. I spent many happy hours there, and recall repeatedly checking out a book called "The Twelve Dancing Princesses", based on a fairy tale. The story itself was draw enough, but the real attraction was the incredible artwork that filled every page and brought the words and my imagination to life.Recently I found a more recent version of that book at my library, filled with equally lovely illustrations, and read it to Alekha at bedtime a few nights ago - she was enthralled with the story and begged me to read it again, and could I please renew it so she could keep it a little longer?
Fiction for older children was adjacent to this space, and just behind those were non-fiction books, where many a weekend was spent riffling through books on topics from outer space to submarines, farming to foreign countries and occupations to autobiographies, volumes of knowledge to assist me in producing the endless book reports that were assigned by teachers.
Adult books, reference books and periodicals were located on the opposite side of the library. The entire space was humming with activity: small children were read to by young mothers, older children seated at tables worked diligently on book reports or homework, or in many cases socialized a little too loudly, until they were inevitably shushed by the librarian. Grown ups wandered about the adult sections, little old ladies with bags of knitting perused periodicals, elderly gentlemen spread open newspapers or played at chess. From time to time, there was an installation of modern artwork or perhaps children's art to grace the walls, and the occasional ice cream social or book sale drew the masses. The library offered cool comfort and a respite from the heat of the day in summer, and warmth and welcome to those suffering cabin fever in the winter. All felt a sense of belonging here. The door was not barred regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic standing. Here, the haves and the have-nots converged, brought together by a common interest: the love of reading and community.
In the middle of this hive of activity, the librarians presided over the circular information desk, always kindly, peering at me over spectacles, ready to assist me with the many questions I had. Requests for a book were met with a lesson in how to utilize the card catalog. I was taken to the humble card catalog, predecessor of the modern search engine, where I was taught the Dewey Decimal system for the cataloging of books. I loved pulling open the sturdy oak drawers and riffling through the typed index cards to locate a needed book. Tiny pencil in hand, I'd jot the call number down before heading off in pursuit of the elusive book.
On weekends, we begged for a trip to the library. My mother always happily obliged, turning three little girls loose in the library while she went to seek out books of her own in the adult section. These little trips were much needed, anticipated and enjoyed in the most soul-satisfying way.
Summer was eagerly anticipated each year for the library's summer reading program for children, which the library called Remmus Gnidaer Margorp. Our childish belief that Mr. Remmus Gnidaer Margorp was a generous benefactor and patron of the library subsided when one of us figured out that "Remmus Gnidaer Margorp" was "Summer Reading Program" spelled backwards!) With eager anticipation, we filled up our reading sheets with each book we read, and jubilantly presented it to the librarian at the end of summer to collect our prizes for reading, usually a book bag filled with small assorted goodies, including a bookmark, a certificate of completion, a few stickers and an eraser or pencil, objects of insignificant value but proudly won in the eyes of a child.
I regard these experiences with a mix of nostalgia and fond affection, and attempt to recreate these experiences for my own child. While the library has changed considerably since I was a child, the ideals upon which libraries were founded have not. It is still one place where everyone, regardless of background, can access learning and books. I still feel the anticipation of finding a book I want to read, and am delighted to see the same excitement in my daughter's eyes as we set foot in the library and she runs off to the children's section on her quest for a book (or ten).
Our library boasts a wealth of programming: tea and holiday parties for children, toddler and family story times, musical groups, poetry shares, book clubs, book and bake sales, films, instuction for homework help, annual summer reading programs, the list goes on. Last year our library ended up on the ballot at voting time due to a cut in funding. We saw reductions in programming and in staffing. Through a visible and vocal campaign, our city passed the levy for increased funding to the library, much to my relief and the relief of others who have come to love and support our libraries.
And this is happening not just in our country, but globally as well. Nicky Wire of the Welsh Alternative Rock band Manic Street Preachers stated in an article for the Guardian:
It's hard not to feel utterly despondent at the current plight of public libraries. Along with the NHS and the BBC, our libraries are some of the few truly remarkable British institutions left. So often absolutely ordinary in appearance, a good library should offer escape routes down the most extraordinary avenues, pathways into different worlds from the one you've left outside. Ridding our villages, towns and cities of libraries, which are essential in shaping a nation's consciousness, seems like a direct attack on the soul of the country.
I shudder to think of the day when libraries may close their doors to the public forever and become an antiquated institution of the past. May we never lose these beacons of light and learning. For all who share in "the love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books", I echo Harry McCracken's statement that now, more than ever, libraries need us. It's time for us to give back to these noble institutions, through recognition that by preserving the past, we preserve the future for our children and generations to come.
So many reasons to be thankful... a dear friend's post on Facebook today reminded me that there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. And though I am alone this Thanksgiving (Alekha is with her grandparents and her dad in Nashville), I am filled with peace, serenity and gratitude for this life. And I am happy even for this solitude, for in it, I draw closer to God.
So this life hasn't turned out the way I expected or envisioned, but still, it is a life that has not been without blessings. It is a life of my choosing, full of mistakes patched over with regret at times, but I would choose no other life. For every moment has been meaningful, every mistake has been an opportunity to learn, and every decision has brought me to a higher level of understanding and acceptance.
I am grateful for a sound mind, a healthy body, a beautiful child, the love of friends and family, a house to keep me warm, bookshelves overflowing with books I love, food and drink on the table, a fireplace to warm me on chilly nights, a small space of my own to create art, eyes to behold all that is beautiful, and a camera to capture it all. How very grateful I am, when I count my blessings. Happy Thanksgiving to you, dear friends.
We return thanks
to our mother, the earth, which sustains us.
We return thanks
to the rivers and streams, which supply us with
We return thanks
to all herbs, which furnish medicines for the cure of our
We return thanks
to the moon and stars, which have given to us their light
when the sun was gone.
We return thanks
to the sun, that has looked upon the earth with a beneficent
return thanks to the Great Spirit, in Whom is embodied all
goodness, and Who directs all things for the good of Her