Saturday, December 29, 2012

Beacons of Light

These days, reclaiming my Boho Mojo seems more important than ever. 2012 was quite a year and I don’t mean that as a compliment.  It tested my patience, my endurance and long held beliefs. I know it was a year of growth, but that growth was hard won.

With so many demands on my time and attention, taking time for self-renewal often takes a back seat. I’m letting go of the frenetic drive to be a leader in order to find balance and peace.

To this end I have started to purge my blog-feeds of blogs that I feel I should read, but that I don’t genuinely look forward to. I am trying to clear the deck of old projects, old dreams and unrealistic tasks. I am giving away things to people who could really use them and gaining the gift of space. I am remembering that spending some time with people, in person or online, that inspire and renew me is important and vital to my success and well-being.

I wanted to share a list of blogs of people who inspire me and make my heart lighter. These are people who have been Beacons of Light in my past year. Most of them have nothing to do with my life as a school librarian, as a poet, as a writer or as an educator. This is a list of people who inspire me as a human being. They are precious to me for their positive messages, the joy they infuse into the atmosphere around them and for the feeling of peace and belonging I feel when I visit their virtual  homes. I know I've missed some that I should have added, but here is a start. 

The Dalai Lama
To tell the truth, I just looked up the website. I don’t recall ever looking on the website before. I do, however, enjoy following the Dalai Lama on Twitter and on Facebook. His words of love and compassion speak to me.

Emmy Blue

Emmy Blue does have a strong tie in to what I do – stories and children. Beyond that, Emmy brings light and warmth to any format where I encounter her – facebook, twitter, email and certainly her website. She is a bright and energetic ray of hope that reaches my heart even on the most humdrum day.

Kind Over Matter
Kind Over Matter is always uplifting, but I am particularly taken with the 26 Acts project. This is your one stop shop for happiness activism.

Vivienne McMaster

Vivienne teaches transformational photography courses. I took her Chakra Photo Workshop last summer. Just looking at her website is a empowering act. Taking a class with her goes way, way beyond that. I treasure the photos I took in her class and hope to sign up for one of her You Are Your Own Muse courses in 2013.

Dosanko Debbie’s Etegami Notebook

Debbie’s blog uplifts me on so many levels. Her artwork is beautiful, her heart is compassionate and she also reminds me of the many happy times I had living in Japan. Looking at her blog I return to Japan if only in my mind.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Cup of Self Renewal

On this day after Christmas I have the luxury of sleeping in and rising slowly. I can steal a few hours toward self-renewal today. The holidays are always a blur of activity. The last few years have found us Christmas afternoon in states of exhausted, happy slumber. Today none of us are seeking company, rather we revel in the moments of recharging and dreaming. The clean up will come soon enough.

On mornings like this, too few and far between, I turn to my tea set with joy. This morning it is a good pot of Assam, store bought scones and what little clotted cream I have been hording for a special day. Today is special. They all are, but today is the day to remember the fact. A slow cup of tea in a beautiful tea cup, a scone on a cut glass dish, clotted cream spread with a silver knife I bought at the Brimfield antiques market last year, these all make this morning a celebration.
If I glance away from the scene right before me I see the dishes that need washing, the room that needs picking up, the tasks that require my attention today. Many and pressing are the demands on my time. There is little space to let in my brain some days.

Today, for this moment, I choose not to look. I choose not to let those cares and concerns press in on my joy. I choose to revel in this moment, to stretch and to allow myself to feel the sense of peace and perhaps to relieve the tenseness in my shoulders. For this moment I claim me.

As I look ahead to the next year I am determined to find more time for my tea set and for my self.

I wish you a pot of tea and a cup of self-renewal. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Red Berries

I love the way red berries look at this time of the year. The red contrasting with a green stem. Leaves are all fallen and so much is brown and sombre, but the berries are a burst of celebration. 

The state of the berries in the picture above makes me smile. Some have all the goodness used up. They are ready, or nearly ready to fall. Others are still fresh and plump and full of life's goodness. Come February all these berries will be kind of flat looking. Not so attractive to me, but absolutely irresistible to the small birds that hang around outside my window. They will eat them and fly straight into the living room window. When we first moved here, we thought we'd find a row of dead birds on the side of the building come spring. On closer observation we found that the same birds do this over and over. 

The picture reminds me to do some important things:
1.  Use things up while I have the chance.
2. Stock pile beauty for harsher times.
3. Beauty comes with both joy for the eyes as well as thorns that pierce.
4. I am reminded to smile more.
5. I am reminded to simply and make space.

Friday, August 3, 2012

WFMAD with Laurie Halse Anderson

My old writing haunt

I have found it difficult this year to write consistently. Friends at #pblitchat helped me unlock the reason for this. I realize that for a few years I had a pretty good thing going with a scheduled writing time to do the big work once a week. It was quiet. It was clean. I had no distractions. No one knew where I was. This kept me in the middle of my story and ready to add bits and pieces through the week. The luxury of that scheduled time is gone and is unlikely to return in the near future. 

While I still hope to find a larger chunk of time every couple of weeks, finding ways to keep writing consistently is my primary goal. I find without my routine, I need to be a lot more intentional about fitting it in.

At this juncture I was lucky to catch Laurie Halse Anderson's tweet about her August writing adventure called WFMAD. That's short for Write Fifteen Minutes A Day. I find this challenge a particularly inspiring one as it is pretty simple. The prompts are great, her posts inspirational and I find I can do it. 

Another way for me to reclaim the part of my life that makes me feel alive and joyous! Thanks, Laurie. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Color Deficiency

One of the things I have found out about myself through the Chakra Photo Workshop is that I have color deficiency. I already know that a substantial deficiency in Vitamin D makes it important for me to take vitamin supplements. It seems I need an inoculation of red, orange and yellow in my life. 

I have a preference for pink and purple. Some might call it an obsession. I like shabby chic, white washed, floral romantic visuals. The necessity of photographing something red or something orange in successive weeks has been a real challenge. I don't have much of that around me. I used carrots for photos in the week that also required red. I didn't really feel that I wanted to become a carrot portrait taker. 

I began to wonder if my lack of other colors in my domain has been effecting me negatively. After deciding to introduce more color, I looked around. Finally I came to the conclusion that I like me just the way I am. 

At which point Treasured Teen said "Yeah, I like me without eating vegetables, just the way I am. Is it ok if I don't eat them?" As we were in a craft shop, red beads were pressed into my palm and I was instructed to balance myself. It will be fun to see what becomes of me. I fully expect to become more colorful. Just hope I like it. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Feeling Grounded

I’ve found it hard to fit time for myself into my schedule this year. While I am exhilarated by my work and find satisfaction in spending time with loved ones, I still need to find time to be alone with myself. A time to create, to dance and to dream. A time to get grounded.That time has been elusive.

I always find that Emmy Blue recharges my inner happiness machine. Wishing I had visited her blog and renewed my view doesn’t make it so. I’ll try to do that.

The folks at #pblitchat helped me to see this morning that I need to retool my writing routine. I had found a routine that worked well for me for a few years, but life changes. My routine has become inaccessible for me - at least for now. So I need to find a new way.  I feel much gratitude to my fellow picture book writers for spurring this AHA moment.

Meanwhile, I dove into something I’d wanted to do for a while. Vivienne MacMaster is a photographer who hosts ecourses. I saw that Joanna Harness of #amwriting fame, had taken a course with Vivienne. I liked the photographs I saw and asked for info. That was some time ago. I finally took the plunge and signed up for the course that ran this summer – The Chakra Photo Workshop. I’ll tell you honestly that it was not the one I would most have been interested in, but the timing was good.

Lucky for me, this course was just what the doctor ordered. Well, actually the doctor ordered PT and I’m doing that too, but this is helping me to get my groove back. 

I’m seeing the world in a different way. I’m feeling inspired by my senses. I’m excited to see what more I can create. I chose to do this at a time when I was having trouble finding time. I know full well that I will get the most out of this if I put more time into it. Frankly, though, I signed up for it because I thought I could manage something. It might not be much, but it would be better than not doing it. Sometimes when you can sneak in a moment for yourself you find that more opens up. So I’m stealing moments for me and relishing them. And I'm getting grounded. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Back Pack, Bucket or Wicker Basket

Much has been written about bucket lists. Those lists of things you want to do, places you want to go and experiences you want to have before your time in this world is over. Sometimes I think about adding something to my list. The problem is that I have never started one.

A few weeks ago, I started thinking about it because I did something that I could have crossed off such a list.

If you’ve never heard of Brimfield you may not know that they hold a huge antique sale/flea market. You may not know that people fly in from all over the country to attend this event. Well, I've known for more than ten years, but had never found the time to go and experience it. So it was a wonderful Mother’s Day that I made my first visit. 

I was attracted to this shop like a magpie.

Here is my purchase.

I enjoyed it so much I went back this week for the July event. I made it a point to park in the church parking lot. This church has done so much for the community since the tornado hit last June. I have been very impressed with their strong and continued response.

There is plenty to see. We walked around and saw such a mix. Some booths were grand cacophonies of stuff. Plenty of treasure to be unearthed. Other booths were impeccably decorated like upscale boutiques.

We made purchases in two shops. The first, Thoreauly Antiques from Concord, MA, features beautiful items for home decorating. I bought a string of crystal from an old chandelier. I bought them as raw materials for a project that will even surprise me.

My passion for fiber arts brought me back to Candace of The Scarlet Lady, the shop I delighted in last time. Millinery flowers, lace, trim, and lovely vintage clothing and home goods are the specialty of this shop.

I stocked up on the tiny lace that I use for making doll clothing.

By this time we were dehydrated so we stopped for a cup of freshly squeezed lemonade. Did it ever taste good? (Yes, it did. It hit the spot.)

Going to Brimfield was just as enjoyable an experience as I had imagined. 

Pen in hand, I’m ready to make a list of things I want to do so I can remember and do them. Still, I just can’t bear to call my list a “bucket list”. The things I’m placing in my list are just too special to me for that. I’m toying with making several lists:

A wicker basket list for all those elegant experiences I revel in
A backpack list for all the travel I hope to do
A shredder list for all the things I hope to let go of
A furoshiki list for all those friendships that I hope to nurture

Do you keep a list? What do you call it? 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sheep, You Are Safe from Me

Today I celebrate my 30 years as a vegetarian. The last carnivorous meal I had included lamb chops. My impetus for beginning was my health, not the welfare of animals. I began in a time when we all read Diet for a Healthy Planet and The Moosewood Cookbook was fresh off the presses. Growing your own sprouts was popular and I even bought mesh lids and gave it a try. Mostly, I forgot they were around until it was too late.

I have appreciated the reports that say the vegetarian diet will save fuel, is cleaner and makes for a safer and more equitable food supply. These are nice benefits to have for something I’m doing for my own reasons. Believe me when I say, I don’t deny the claims that vegetarians are better looking and look younger!

I have been macrobiotic, ovo, lacto, pesco or dietarily vegan at different times during the years. I remember going to Whole Earth Expo 1982 in New York City and coming in contact with many different philosophies I had never heard of before – Raw Foods, Sproutarians, and others. I remember how surprised I was at the sweet taste of sprouted bread.

Some trends in vegetarian food have come and gone. Some remain constant. I’m grateful that it is much easier to find vegetarian options and the improved labeling.

If I had never become a vegetarian I would not have trod the path I did. I would probably not have studied cooking at Lima Cooking School in Tokyo nor the Kushi Institute in Becket, Massachusetts. I wouldn’t have learned to cook from so many wonderful people including Wendy Esko, Sarah LaPenta, Avelyn Kushi, Lima Osawa or Noa Otomo. I would not have spent hours making Japanese sweets with my friend Atsuko Nagashima with the youmogi (mugwort) we picked on a mountain hike earlier in the day. I’d have missed the joy of growing food, buying from local farms and cooking fresh. In short, I became a better cook.

As a vegetarian I have been adventurous in going to new neighborhoods to find vegetarian friendly food. For a while, I wrote restaurant reviews for an English language newsletter that catered to the natural foods crowd in Tokyo. I never would have been asked to do this had my journey not begun.

I traded lamb chops for chick peas, a trade I have never regretted.

Today I had Chick Pea Salad, one of my favorite recipes from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking to celebrate 30 years of good, vegetarian eating.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cherry Blossoms

You’d have to be pretty hard hearted to live in Japan and be left cold by the sight of cherry blossoms. Whether the iconic pink tinged white cherry blossoms or the deep pink pompom variety, the arrival of sakura marks a very cheerful season in Japan. I miss sakura mochi (a kind of wagashi -Japanese sweet) and the unmistakable flavor of the pickled cherry leaf, sakura cheesecake at one of my favorite Tokyo eateries (Sakurajaya) and seeing the beautiful graphics all around me. I dream of trying the fabled sakura flavored drinks available at Starbuck’s in Tokyo.

Though I cannot enjoy all the perks of a Tokyo Sakura Season, I still enjoy keeping the spirit in ways that I can. A few weeks ago I visited Blithewold Mansion and Arboretum. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom. Close to the shore there is a Japanese style garden with a beautiful bridge, a stone lantern and beautiful plants.

The weeping willow (yanagi) makes me think of old Japanese ghost tales. I almost expected to see some creature beckoning me. Several cherry trees grace this area. I found sitting there brought me a breath of fresh ocean air and peace.

Last weekend I attended The Greater Boston-Japan Cherry Blossom Festival 2012 ( in Copley Square Park. The promotional material sounded wonderful – live entertainment, a variety of Japanese food that is not always easy to find and booths by organizations of personal interest. Unfortunately, the trees had blossomed several weeks ago. There were no blooms that I could see, but the spirit remained high. The turnout was so fantastic that it was an absolute crush. While a larger venue or a smaller crowd would have made the event more optimal, I really enjoyed the entertainment, seeing the crowd and discovering new opportunities.

Many of the booths were offering ways to contribute to the recovery of Fukushima. I was pleased to purchase this beautiful pin at one of the booths.

This year I was aware of how many blossoming trees there are in my daily experience. While my commute is fairly long, it is also a beautiful road. I enjoyed seeing all the blossoming trees and was surprised to note how many cherry trees I could find. This year I not only put time aside to celebrate the season by viewing the flowers in a romantic location, but also appreciate the ones I happened upon briefly. It is fitting as it is said that sakura are so celebrated because they are the ultimate symbol of the ephemeral nature of things – in full bloom one day and gone the next. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I've Seen Berets

I’ve seen berets

I’ve seen berets
Everywhere I’ve looked this month
I’ve seen them on the covers
Of poetry books of old
The books I’ve read to remind me
Of how I started writing.

Berets of wool, of cotton and of celluloid
On heads young and old
Male and female
I saw a young man with a beard
A leather jacket and denim vest
Tortoiseshell glasses on his nose
Wear a red wool beret
At a very jaunty angle
Walking into a big box store
The sight stole my breath away
It was a vision from the young ‘70s
A memory of the past

Everywhere I looked I saw berets
With matching coats
Sophisticated or street chic
They just popped out at me

I bought a new one of cotton
In lacy black
There were so many colors to choose from
It was tempting to try orange or yellow
But I knew I’d never wear them
The black one felt just right

I wore it and people commented
Asked if I was an artist
And I knew not what to say

My new beret
Of lacy cotton
Helped me to finally conquer
The beret

This month I wrote a great deal of poetry. I started out posting something each day. Some days I had to write quite a few poems before I could find one to post. Some were just too far away from being ready for the light of day.

Many days I jotted poems down on scraps of paper. I hope I can find them all to add to my notebook. It was enough to be writing them – good or bad, shared or saved until they are more presentable.

Some poems I shared with my students. They roared with laughter. Sometimes they told me the truth as they saw it – “That’s just boring Ms. Shoup.” We wrote many poems together this month, my students and I. We tried writing concrete poetry, acrostic poems (my favorite were the group acrostics of Sponge Bob Square Pants), and I have plans to use some lesson plans I discovered to help them write Triante poems. I tried quite a few myself with varying success. 

Many days I found, however, that though I set out to write a verse for children, the recalcitrant poem turned my intentions on it’s head and out spewed a poem that only adults would appreciate. Clearly, I have a long way to go before I can call myself a children’s poet. I'm on my way, though.