Saturday, February 28, 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

Is There a Difference Between Spiritual Counseling and Psychic Reading?

We think there is.

People sometimes approach a psychic reading as a passive process. They sit quietly in a chair and say "tell me about myself." One psychic I had a session with actually set things up that way. And, to be honest, it was a very interesting introduction to the power of what CAN be done. The psychic who did that with me was highly accurate, even made psychic predictions that came true, and impressed upon me the validity of the tools Paul and I now choose to use as part of our work.

That's an important first step and it was good. Really useful and well worth doing. But once a person has already accepted the validity of psychic work there's so much more that can be done.

For example, people spend thousands of dollars (or their insurance companies do) on long term emotional counseling or coaching services. A fair number of sessions are usually spent on giving the counselor a chance to get to know their client, build rapport, and help the client get comfortable enough to reveal things they choose not to normally reveal. Outside of the field of Transpersonal Psychology (I have an M.A. in that) there is little or no credence given to spiritual experiences and in some therapists' offices it can lead to a damaging DSM diagnosis or something worse.

Now imagine the opposite. What if you came into a counselor/healer's office knowing that the purpose of the session was to get help with gaining insight and healing for important life issues and that the counselor/healer was going to use intuitive skills along with their education and training to get straight to the point? What if you knew they could hold unusual psychic and/or spiritual experiences with wisdom and respect and could even take you further in your spiritual development by sharing skills and experience? And, given that the process (like all counseling and coaching work) is interactive that you'd be given the opportunity to use whatever psychic insights you received in the session as an opening to work with those issues further and make changes that could make a big difference in your life?

That is what a spiritual counseling and healing session using psychic insights has the potential to do.

Liverpool Dance Party

I loved this! It was a well-staged and choreographed commercial for T- Mobile with the slogan "Life is for Sharing"... but it was REALLY uplifting for the crowd who had NO idea it was going to happen. They loved it and many people joined in. The world needs this kind of thing-- it jolts people out of their everyday notions about how life needs to happen and makes people feel good. The second video is the reaction to what just occurred.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

More Goat Sweetness

Another favorite goat picture. This one is young, too, probably no more than a week.

Also in our Cafepress shop on mugs, T-shirts, greeting cards and all kinds of things.

Goats in the Barnyard

More farm pics. This series is from Harley Farms in Pescadero, CA. It's a newborn baby goat and its mother, only an hour or so after its birth. We took photos of these newborn babies about a year ago but I only got around to uploading them to our Cafepress shop just now.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Me and the Horse, too

Paul took some shots of me with the horse he "whispered" to. We really enjoyed meeting her.

Paul the Horse Whisperer

Paul claims he learned this by watching a documentary but I think he probably has a natural affinity for horses. In order to create rapport with the animals he mimics their behavior -- turning his back, looking slightly away, acting shy.

This horse responded to his approach right away. She came right over and nuzzled his neck and face.

Paul has done healing on horses before and seems to be really in touch with how to communicate with them. I think this series of photos is very sweet.

Taylor, Arizona

Snowflake and Taylor are two towns situated right next to each other with a slight indention in the road between them that the locals call "Bellybutton." The two towns were established close to the same time by Mormon settlers but have a quite different feel about them. With its wide assortment of preserved brick buildings, Snowflake has a more citified feel, more merchant class, perhaps more "dignified." Taylor, however, is nothing if not cowboy.

Check out their schedule of events for the 4th of July. Cowboy poetry, country music, a BBQ, a nighttime rodeo, fireworks and then a dance.

Taylor is the home of world champion bull rider Cody Hancock. A sign celebrating Taylor as his birthplace welcomes you as you enter the town. The rodeo grounds are at the center of town and most of the town's festivities take place there.

We had lunch at Trapper's Cafe in Taylor today. We love it! Really down to earth and friendly people run it and the food is excellent if you like meat. It's a family restaurant, owned by the same family for 35 years, and has a real "hometown" kind of feel. We like the hamburgers and fries. And the homemade pie is nothing short of amazing! Paul took the photo so I could post it on this blog. They deserve all the publicity they can get.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Give Me Land...

"...lots of land, under starry skies above..."

I've been having some "subversive" thoughts of late. If blue state liberals really want to change things for good maybe a lot more of us ought to move out to the red states. It's a lot cheaper!

The blue communities are disproportionately arrayed on the edges of the country and in large cities... and those places just happen to be the most expensive places to live. It's also where the most universities are and, therefore, where more of the intellectuals choose to be. And, yes, I admit, where the most cultural opportunities and international influences tend to be, which make these locations very interesting, diverse and exciting.

But they're also extremely stressful, polluted, overcrowded and... did I say?...expensive. The breast cancer rate in San Francisco isn't among the highest in the world for no good reason.

My friend Vanessa moved out to Wyoming a few years ago. She loved Santa Cruz and seemed to have a great life there but after she lived in Wyoming a little while she'd complain that she felt overly stressed every time she came back to the Bay area to visit. She misses her New Age alternative friends and life now that she lives in Wyoming... but she doesn't miss the rest of it.

So what does Arizona have to recommend it? Space to do what you want and a lot of it.

If you have a Silicon Valley business and your business is floundering because you can't afford the ridiculously high rent... consider what being able to build a facility in a place where land costs $500/ acre (or less) might mean. Yeah, $500 an ACRE!

Have dreams of starting an alternative energy company? Perhaps, solar or wind? Why not relocate to a place where everyone lives off the grid? Where there are literally MILES of uninhabited land on which to put windmills and where the sun shines an average of 5 hours a day or more all year round.

Are there any 60's children out there still holding onto dreams of moving back to the land, homesteading a few acres, and living a more grounded peaceful existence? The Arizona high desert might be the place to be. It takes work but the altitude moderates the temperatures somewhat so it's not as hard as the desert might otherwise seem. It's a fantastic place for cattle, horses, goats or sheep. And the largest (and quite abundant) underground aquifer in the state of Arizona is right where we happen to be. Once you dig your well and put up your windmill and solar pump you'll have everything you need. There are lots of people doing that here.

Don't assume you'll find the work you need though -- unless you're a healthcare professional, car mechanic or have a skill that's in demand you might have to bring your employment with you. But if you're an artist, have an internet business or telecommute anyway it's a choice worthy of consideration.

Think you'll miss the liberal culture, politics or community you used to have? Well, that's who some of the newer homesteaders are so you won't be completely alone.... but this is also where the "subversive" part comes in. Bring your friends with you! Then this could be a great place to be!

P.S. The property across the dirt road from our property is for sale.

Monday, February 23, 2009

How Could Anyone Ever Tell You -- Harvey Milk

Last night the Academy Awards were marred by Christian extremists protesting gay marriage who carried signs saying "Heath in Hell," condemning the late actor Heath Ledger for his role in the movie "Brokeback Mountain". They were also there to protest the film "Milk," the movie about the first openly gay man elected to public office in California. Harvey Milk was assassinated by Dan White, a city supervisor who was virulently against gay rights.

Dustin Lance Black received the award for best original screenplay, a gay activist who was brought up in a strict Mormon household. In his moving speech upon accepting the award he said:

"I heard the story of Harvey Milk and it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life openly as who I am, and that one day I could even fall in love and get married.

"I want to thank my mom, who has always loved me for who I am even when there was pressure not to.

"But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he would want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches or by the government or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and that no matter what anyone tells you God does love you and that very soon I promise you, you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours.

"Thank you and thank you God for giving us Harvey Milk."

The video I've included on this page is a music video and slideshow of Libby Roderick's well-loved song "How Could Anyone Ever Tell You" as recorded by Shaina Noll. It's one of my favorites.

Macro Grass Triptych

Paul thought I should try putting all three versions of my last piece together so I did. I think it looks good!

You can click on the photos to go directly to those items or click here to see them all.

Macro Grass

Blind macro! Woo-hoo! The first shot is exactly as it came out of the camera -- no digital manipulation whatsoever. The other ones had the color balance tweaked in Photoshop.

I love these for their decorative possibilities. I love graphic art. I used to be a graphic designer for a living and, like Georgia O'Keefe, I love it when an artist blows something up almost to the point of abstraction so you're forced to take a closer look.

These photos are available as framed or unframed fine art prints or prints on canvas through my Desert Art Gallery on Imagekind. They're also available on a wide variety of products through Cafepress.

Check this one out on a Flip Mino video recorder! I never thought I'd be putting my designs on something like that. It's awesome!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Attempting to Preserve a Traditional Culture in a Pluralistic Society

I've been holding on to this blog post for a long time. The incidents that sparked this article happened in Snowflake, AZ, the LDS community we live so close to, but I've been trying to cultivate as open and balanced a point of view as possible so I've held off on posting until I could think this thing through. I don't want to participate in Mormon bashing..but the incidents still affect me. And I think the issues behind them affect our society as a whole. It's about the clash between strict Fundamentalism that tries to preserve what is perceived of as a positive and, therefore, essential way of life... and the impact of the religious and personal freedoms perceived as such high values by the rest of the modern world.

Three incidents stand out. One involved a man now living near Snowflake who had been excommunicated from the LDS church in another town. The second involved a non-LDS shopkeeper struggling to keep her business going in this predominantly LDS community, and the third was an LDS shopkeeper with strong local ties and an active involvement in the church. In each case the person we were talking to had some minor complaint about local culture. Different things each time and nothing anyone would think twice about talking openly about anywhere else I've lived. But in each case the conversation started like this:

The person looked furtively over their shoulder to see who else might be around. Then they leaned forward and said what they had to say in a lowered confidential tone.

I've seen this behavior only once before -- in Russia before glasnost and the break-up of the Soviet Union. I was there in 1976 with my high school class on a courageous (at the time) class trip designed to be an experiment in cultural openness and education. When we were in what was then called Leningrad we were allowed to go out in a group without a tour guide or chaperone. It was safe enough to do that back then but we were met outside our hotel by a small group of Russian teenagers who offered to show us "their" Leningrad so we had tour guides after all.

They took us on a subway ride and for a walk through a park and at some point along the way revealed that they were Jewish and hoped we could smuggle out letters to their families in the United States. That's when their demeanor changed. That's when I saw the behavior we've seen repeated here in Snowflake and I'll never forget the chill we felt when we realized that this simple -- even innocent-- act of defiance was making them feel so afraid.

Fundamentalist societies, whether they're Communist, Muslim, or Christian, can seem severe to those outside of them and they're very often severe to those who live within them and long for freedom and reforms. When I attended the 5th World Conference for Women in Beijing, China several years ago I had a delightful conversation with a young Chinese woman who was taking a short break from her duties there. She was curious about me as a person who was raised Jewish but no longer strictly believed everything I was brought up with. To her this was inconceivable but suddenly she brightened up. "I know!" she said. "It's because you live in America and in America you can believe anything you want!" She thought this was wonderful and made the bold statement that "this was how it was going to be in China someday, too!"

Her elders might not have been too thrilled with that. My traditional Jewish relatives are not too thrilled with it. They perceive the exodus of young people from traditional Judaism as a bigger threat to the Jewish way of life than the Holocaust! And for good reason. That very traditional way of life my grandparents grew up with in their tiny Russian village, before being forced to leave by the pogroms - the Russian Holocaust, no longer really exists. That's what the musical "Fiddler on the Roof" was all about -- the clash of modernity and the turning point in history that led to the destruction of a traditional way of life and way of seeing the world.

It wasn't a good thing...but, seeing it through my own eyes as one of their grandchildren, it freed me to live in a very different way. Positive and negative, for better and for worse. I wouldn't give it up and return to the strictures of that old society for anything. But there's a price to pay and I understand that, too.

When communities hold themselves separate from the greater society they can embark on any creative social experiment they desire...and a lot of what they create can be pretty darned good. But without an active enough interaction with the world as a whole people stagnate. In-bred patterns start to run the show. If there's any flaw in that community's perception it burdens the people involved and yet, without input from outside, it's hard to get a clear enough view. As time goes on, and a closed society becomes ever more out of step with the mores of the world around them, outside input is understandably seen as a threat. I'm sure that's why Gay marriage is so frightening to the LDS. But it's also the main reason why 9-11 took place -- religious fundamentalists striking out to keep American cultural mores away.

Fundamentalist societies are crumbling worldwide in the face of religious and moralistic freedoms they never imagined. These freedoms can come with a high price tag. Moral structures our own society counted on just one generation ago look quaint, laughable, archaic now...but the death rate from violent crimes, drug abuse, and other societal ills has risen astronomically in this time period as well. And not just here in the United States. That park we walked in so safely in Leningrad just 33 years ago is NOT safe to walk in at night today. Since Communism has failed and capitalist values have flooded back in, crime has proliferated and it's necessary to take the same precautions there as it is in any big city in our own country. In even more traditional societies, such as what you find in the Middle East, the modern ideas represented by what gets imported through American movies and TV are enormously threatening.

"How are you going to keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Par-ee (Paris)?" is how an old song goes. How are they going to do that?

They're probably not. But this isn't all bad!

A very interesting thing is happening among Jewish young people today. There's a movement called Jewish Renewal that is attempting to combine modern ideas like feminism and other egalitarian ideals with the very oldest of Jewish practices and mystical traditions. It also openly embraces aspects of other religions such as Buddhism and Sufism. It's bringing Jewish expatriates back to the roost and that's something their elders didn't expect to see.

Sometimes letting go of the reins can allow something new and, perhaps, more wonderful to emerge. The pendulum swings but it also swings back and when it settles in the middle a new society that merges the healthiest of the two extremes has a possibility to then emerge.

Spikenard for Restful Sleep

"Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment." (John -- Chapter 12:3)

This famous passage in the New Testament describes how Mary Magdalene (or Mary of Bethany, depending on who you believe) anointed Jesus' feet. She was chastised for this because the oil was considered so precious it cost what an average worker made in a year. But Jesus defended her, claiming Mary had done him a great service in preparing him for death, and insisted that she be remembered forever more because of it.

What service did she render him? This is a subject of great controversy but one point that I think is important is in the oil itself. Not only did she honor him with an essential oil normally reserved for kings, she chose one with some of the greatest healing properties available for engendering trust and releasing anxiety, grief or emotional pain. It instills a deeply grounded feeling of peace. It is used to help with insomnia, in childbirth, and to ease one's transition from life into death.

Spikenard came to mind today because I just renewed my listing for my Restful Sleep formula on Spikenard is one of the key ingredients in that formula. It's still considered a precious oil, one of the most expensive ones I use, but it's worth it! Mama Love for Restful Sleep is also available on my Mama Love website by clicking here.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Desert Fountain

Yet another view. Look at the beauty and grace of these grasses. So low to the ground, they're easy to overlook, but when you do pay attention... I find them quite captivating now.
Available as a framed or unframed fine art print by clicking here. Also on a mug, framed tile, T-shirts and other items in my Cafepress shop.

A Longer View

Same clump of grass, different perspective.
Available on Imagekind by clicking here.

Desert Rhapsody

Macro shot of desert grass flowing in a light Arizona breeze. I love the rich colors in this. What was that Crayola crayon called? Burnt Sienna? That was one of my favorites. Now I know where that color calls home. The desert -- burnt sienna and wheat.

One of my favorites from my new series, "Desert Grass, Cactus Spikes and Barbed Wire." I'll put more up as I get them done later today and throughout the next few weeks.
Available through my Desert Art Imagekind gallery as a framed or unframed fine art print or printed on canvas. Also on a variety of products (home decor, clothing, etc.) through Cafepress.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Importance of a Change in Perspective

One of the challenges for me as an artist in the winter in this high Arizona desert environment is finding my inspiration. There's not as much variety in the landscape as I'm used to. When I say there's nothing but juniper trees, dead grass and an occasional tiny cactus for MILES around I'm not exaggerating.

Except maybe a little bit. Obviously there's the occasional cow or jack rabbit or coyote. There's interesting pieces of petrified wood and things like that. But the environment is plain, simple, not nearly as exciting as the coastline at Big Sur or the garden at the UCSC Arboretum.

Still, when it comes to subject matter, some very famous artists have never been held back. Claude Monet, for example, painted the same scene of haystacks in a field over and over, showing the change of light through the day and through the seasons, and actually made a living selling them. He was one of the few impressionist artists of his day that made a living from his art while he was still living. Lack of subject matter doesn't have to be the problem!

So a few days ago I sat still for a while just looking at my environment and felt inspired to go on a personal photo shoot. Paul insisted I bring both cameras so I could use two different lenses without having to change them. It was windy and he didn't want sand getting into the camera but it turned out to be a great suggestion for another reason. I never change lenses. I'm too lazy. But because I had two very different lenses with me -- a macro (extreme close-up) and my normal wide angle -- I was able to take advantage of the extreme difference in perspective these two lenses had to offer.

Using a macro lens in windy weather typically would not be a very good idea. In fact, it's a really BAD idea. The lens focus is so tight most macro photography is done with a tripod. It's a requirement really for the kind of work most macro photographers are known for. But all that meant is that I had to let go of the outcome and use this photo shoot simply to get out of my head and let the experience show me something new.

For that purpose I also took advantage of another Paul Hood photography technique. Paul shoots blind. Not all the time. But once in a while, when he wants to get a very special angle on a shot that he can't get any other way, he just swings the camera out away from him, points it in the direction of his subject, and hits the shutter without looking. Bam! More often than not he gets an amazing shot. And the true joy in it is that he gets a perspective on his subject neither one of us could see enough to get. There's magic in it! Something unexpected happens and it's a lot of fun! (Thank goodness for digital photography though. You also get a lot to throw away.)

Here on this blog is an example of how that worked for me. All three photos were taken in the exact same location. One was taken normally with me looking through the camera lens. The second was taken blind with the camera held below my waist. The third was taken the same way with the macro lens.

The blind macro technique led to some really wonderful effects. Some of my shots wound up looking surreal, like an abstract painting. And then I found that if I used the unique perspective the blind technique showed me and then actually looked through the lens to line up my next shot on purpose... I got some really unique and creative stuff.

I'll be sharing them over the next few weeks. I'm calling the series that came from this shoot "Desert Grass, Cactus Spikes and Barbed Wire."
These photos are available as framed or unframed fine art prints or prints on canvas through my Imagekind gallery. The first two are also available on a variety of products (mugs, t-shirts, greeting cards, etc.) through Cafepress.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Modesty in LDS Culture

In our efforts to learn more about the community we live in and the LDS, Paul and I picked up a Mormon newspaper called The Beehive. It had a variety of articles that were supportive to Mormon beliefs that were no big surprise -- the beauty of adoption, stories of missionary work, calls of action to support sick or dying community members. But the one thing that caught my eye were two ads for women's clothing stores that used the word "modest" to advertise their wares.

When in Rome it's wise to do as the Romans do so I was fully prepared to keep my legs shaved and wear a bra in public. No problem, really. Neither one of us is particularly outrageous in our mode of dress. What I didn't expect is that the Mormons expect people to keep their shoulders covered and wear skirts or shorts that rise no higher than the knee.

From the Brigham Young University Dress Code:


A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, revealing, or form fitting. Shorts must be knee length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extreme styles or colors, and trimmed above the collar leaving the ear uncovered. Sideburns should not extend below the earlobe or onto the cheek. If worn, moustaches should be neatly trimmed and may not extend beyond or below the corners of the mouth. Men are expected to be clean shaven; beards are not acceptable. Earrings and other body piercing are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas.


A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, strapless, backless, or revealing; has slits above the knee; or is form fitting. Dresses, skirts, and shorts must be knee length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extremes in styles and colors. Excessive ear piercing (more than two per ear) and all other body piercing are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas.

One could think that this dress code applies only to the university but I found a similar set of requirements being made of those who would attend the Snowflake Pioneer Days Dance, an event presumably meant for the entire community:

**Appropriate Dress for All Dances:

No tank tops/sleeveless shirts
No short skirts or shorts
No low cut clothing in the front or back
No crop tops with stomach showing

This event, by the way, is scheduled for July. It's hot in the desert in July. It feels hotter when people are dancing.

Clothing which is considered attractive to the opposite sex is forbidden in Mormon culture. Don't ask me how Marie Osmond got away with it when she was performing. According to what I've been reading online any clothing intended to draw attention in a physical way is considered unchaste and unacceptable.

My reaction to reading about this dress code at Pioneer Days was to feel sad and disappointed. Are we really meant to be this out of step with the community we're living in? Yet...

I used to feel embarrassed sometimes in Santa Cruz. Feminists parade down the street bare-chested and on Halloween young women have been known to appear completely naked except for wildly applied body paint. Having come from comparatively staid New England I frequently felt out of place in Santa Cruz -- although I grew to appreciate the freedom that community helped me cultivate.

I also understand a bit about wanting to withdraw from the aspect of our greater culture that objectifies women and makes them targets for unwanted attention. Latino drivers in California blare their car horns at any woman with sizeable breasts. I actually came to like the freedom and relative tranquility of wearing baggy clothes for awhile.

And yet...

If a guy is going to be inappropriate in his thoughts and demeanor because I'm walking barefoot and have my shoulders showing...

I don't know what to think about this. I mean, who were the pioneers in this town that this event is celebrating? They were Mormons. But for a newcomer who is not LDS, it feels oppressive, rather extreme.

Why I Like Cafepress

You may have noticed that Paul and I are including links to Cafepress on a regular basis right now. It's not one of the "premier" artist sites -- there are others that show artwork off a lot better and have lots of options for matting and framing. Imagekind is one of those. We've had our work there for over a year as well. (I'd include a link but the site doesn't seem to be working at all right now! Grrr... okay it's working now. My gallery is here. Click here for Paul's.) But even though some other sites cater more to people doing wall art, Cafepress seems to work better for us... and it suits our sensibilities (at least to some extent).

I have to admit to wanting to see people buy some of our work printed on canvas (and that CAN be arranged - just ask!) or in a really cool frame. BUT we both get a real kick out of the idea of someone seeing our artwork every day while drinking out of their favorite mug.Paul sold a mousepad the other day with a photo of an owl on it. Owls EAT mice. I wonder if the person who bought that one realized the humor in that particular selection. We thought it was fun.

I like that Cafepress allows us to make our artwork accessible to people who couldn't imagine buying a framed piece of art for their wall. And yet you CAN buy a decent framed print of our work through Cafepress, too. It turns out their framed prints are archival quality. Paul's mother has several on her wall right now. The print quality is really quite good... and if the artists think that (we're an awfully picky sort when it comes to our own art) then you can trust it will probably be acceptable to you, too! (If not, you can send it back. Cafepress isn't perfect but their customer service is very good.)

Click on the photos and they'll bring you to the appropriate pages on Cafepress.

Sleeping Cat

Pipa asleep in her new favorite chair. The sun comes in the window and warms her during the day. The nearby propane heater does the trick at night.

Click the photo to find it on Cafepress.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

99 Things

I saw this on somebody else's blog.

This is a list someone made of 99 experiences. The exercise is to put the ones you've done in bold, things you want to do in italics. Things you haven’t done and don’t want to: leave in plain font.

Many of the choices are weird! But it was fun to do anyway. I was surprised to see how many of these things I actually have done and how few of the ones that are left that I want.

Started your own blog
Slept under the stars (in a tent -- I don't really want to do it without a tent)
3.Played in a band
4.Visited Hawaii
Watched a meteor shower
Given more than you can afford to charity
Been to Disneyland
Climbed a mountain
9.Held a praying mantis
10.Sang a solo
11.Bungee jumped
Visited Paris
Watched a lightning storm at sea
Taught yourself an art from scratch
15.Adopted a child
Had food poisoning
Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
Seen the Mona Lisa in France
Slept on an overnight train
Had a pillow fight
Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
23.Built a snow fort
Held a lamb
Gone skinny dipping
26.Run a Marathon
Ridden in a gondola in Venice
Seen a total eclipse
Watched a sunrise or sunset
30.Been on a cruise
Seen Niagara Falls in person
Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (close-- I went to Russia, I don't believe their birthplace is still there)
Seen an Amish community
Taught yourself a new language
35.Had enough money to be truly satisfied (I wasn't rich and I might have liked more but I was satisfied most of the time)
Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
37.Gone rock climbing
Seen Michelangelo’s David.
Sung karaoke
Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant (sort of, bought it for ourselves, gave part to others more than once)
Visited Africa
Walked on a beach by moonlight
44.Been transported in an ambulance
Had your portrait painted
46.Gone deep sea fishing
Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
Gone scuba diving or snorkelling
Kissed in the rain
Played in the mud
Gone to a drive-in theatre
53.Been in a movie
Visited the Great Wall of China
Started a business
56.Taken a martial arts class (Aikido)
Visited Russia
Served at a soup kitchen
59.Sold Girl Scout Cookies
Gone whale watching
Donated blood, platelets or plasma
Gone sky diving
63.Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
64.Bounced a check
Flown in a helicopter
Saved a favourite childhood toy
67.Visited the Lincoln Memorial
.Eaten Caviar
Pieced a quilt
70.Stood in Times Square
71.Toured the Everglades
72.Been fired from a job
een the Changing of the Guards in London
Broken a bone.
Been on a speeding motorcycle
Seen the Grand Canyon in person
77.Published a book
Visited the Vatican
79.Bought a brand new car
80.Walked in Jerusalem
Had your picture in the newspaper
Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve
83.Visited the White House
Killed and prepared an animal for eating
Had chickenpox
Saved someone’s life (we might have through our counseling work, someone said so, don't know for sure)
87.Sat on a jury
Met someone famous
89.Joined a book club
.Lost a loved one
Had a baby
92.Seen the Alamo in person
Swam in the Great Salt Lake
94.Been involved in a law suit
Owned a cell phone
Been stung by a bee
97.Hit a home run
Got flowers for no reason
Grown your own vegetables

Monday, February 16, 2009

Desert Insights

Sitting outside, semi-meditating, really just wanting some time to myself, I looked to my left and found myself entranced by a pretty view. Juniper trees. Nothing unusual for around here. But they were "arranged" beautifully, I thought. An artist's thought pattern if ever there was one.

There appear to be more than one kind of juniper around here. The most common variety has multiple small trunks fanning out from the ground and grows in a bushy, round bottomed Christmas tree like form, not very tall, but VERY abundant.

The other kind that was common to Sedona but not so much around here is tall, has a single thick trunk or a double trunk that sometimes twist around themselves as they shoot up to the sky. No Christmas tree look here but quite exotic and interesting, at least from my point of view.

They don't always twist but there are enough of them that do that I'm beginning to think that the Sedona myth-making machine that tells people that the trees twist because of their proximity to a "vortex" has to be suspect. I'm revisiting the idea of vortexes today. I loved my experience at Cathedral Rock...but I've felt that way in nature many times before. In Vermont, other places as well. Any place with a long view and a quiet atmosphere where I've been allowed to sit long enough to relax into it and soak it up. In some places it happens faster, without any effort on my part. Cathedral Rock was definitely one of those places for me.

But I've seen Paul do this instantly whenever he gets into a healing frame of mind. He doesn't believe a vortex is necessary for spiritual communion and well-being and neither do I. It's just rare for those of us who live (or used to live) more urban or suburban lives to get into a meditative frame without deliberately trying to meditate.

This happens for me when when I sit quietly in nature or when I'm being an artist. I believe the mystic and the artist have a lot in common. A lot of mystics ARE artists. The act of being in the moment and being open to what it is present is so much a part of what it's all about.
This image is available as a framed or unframed print, on greeting cards, mugs and a wide range of other items in our Cafepress shop.

Veld Fire Protea

Paul and I have been looking through our past photo shoots to see if there's anything we like that we neglected to put online.

This series is one I did at the UCSC Arboretum in Santa Cruz. It's called a "Veld Fire" Protea. I believe it's from South Africa and it's a pretty cool plant. You can find the photos I decided to make available on Cafepress by clicking here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cultivating a Positive Attitude

I'm so glad Paul and I celebrated Valentine's Day earlier in the week because yesterday was a bad one for me. Nothing about me and Paul. There were business disappointments, odd mishaps, frustrations, and getting my head filled with junk on the telephone and by watching the evening news. And let me ask you, how many times can we see the commercial for "free credit" or hear it on the radio without wanting to throw those devices far far away?!

I'm in someone else's house right now so I don't have that kind of control over my environment unless I go outside or go to my bedroom and shut the door behind me...and there are times when I just WANT to relax in the living room with everyone else.

So, by the end of the day yesterday I was in a bit of an emotional meltdown. I even wrote in a forum I'm participating on that I needed to cultivate a positive attitude suitable for manifesting what I want to create right now. I was trying to be more positive than I felt when I wrote those words down. What I was secretly feeling is completely out of touch with what that positive attitude might be.

At the end of the day Paul agreed to give me some of his expert counseling attention...and he was great. Somewhere in the conversation, though (and this was the really helpful part!), he blurted out that how he was feeling these days was in such great contrast to me.

How does he feel?

"Like a 45 year old teenager at the beginning of my life with the whole world open for me!"

He smiled a big smile as he said these words and his eyes were gleaming with anticipation.

It was exactly the kind of reminder I need.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Age of Aquarius

My friend Vanessa sent me this:

When the moon is in the 7th house
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars!!!

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius!!!

At dawn on Valentines Day, Feb. 14th this alignment occurs!!
The moon in Libra enters the 7th house and Jupiter and Mars align
in Aquarius!

Well, isn't that fun! Happy Valentines Day!

Don't Force Them to Divorce!

Watch the video, click this link, sign the letter to the Supreme Court, and write to Obama, your congresspeople and the local news media!

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about a case filed by Ken Starr intended to nullify the marriages of 18,000 devoted same sex couples in California on March 5th.

Stand up for love on Valentine's Day! Do it now!

Sleep in a Wigwam - Holbrook, AZ

We went to Holbrook, AZ earlier this week and had ourselves a small adventure. Paul wrote a funny blog about this one so I won't repeat his version here. Suffice it to say that if you're going to have your car break down in a strange place you might as well pick one that's really strange!

Holbrook is unusual. On historic Route 66 and proud of it, it is absolutely filled with kitchy shops with silly dinosaur sculptures in front, motels where you can sleep in an "authentic" cement teepee and all kinds of other crazy stuff. Saw an unintentionally hilarious sign in a shop window offering "Tatoos, Piercings and Taxidermy." Wish we took a picture of that one but we got lots of others and I'm sure we'll return.

Holbrook must have been something in its past. It's pretty poor right now with lots of boarded up old motels and shops. But you can still see potential in its old adobe buildings and crazy Route 66 decor. It's an artists' redevelopment project just waiting to happen... and it's the only significant town near the Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert. We enjoyed ourselves. Ate an entire small box of Valentine's Day candy in a cement wigwam. It was a fun thing to do.


Click on the images to find them on Cafepress.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cow on the Range

My latest artwork featuring a familiar scene not far from where we live. Now available on Cafepress on a wide variety of products and as a framed or unframed fine art print or print on canvas through my Desert Art Gallery on Imagekind.

Snowflake, Arizona

It DOES snow in Snowflake, Arizona -- it's snowing now as I'm writing this blog entry -- but that's not why the tiny town we're currently living near has its name.

Snowflake is named after the town founders Erastus Snow, the LDS apostle charged with the Mormon colonization of Arizona, and William Jordan Flake, the Mormon pioneer who was given the job of starting the settlement by Brigham Young.

A piece of trivia that's of interest to me is that Erastus Snow was born in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, a much larger town than Snowflake, close to the only good friends we have that are living as rurally as we are right now. Snow was introduced to the Mormon faith there. He then moved to Ohio and was a member of the first Mormon pioneer group to cross the plains in wagon trains to settle in what later became Salt Lake City.

The town of Snowflake is filled with wonderful historic homes that date back to the early pioneer days. You can go on a historic walking tour and supposedly in the summer some of the buildings are open to the public to see inside.

The town of Snowflake is home to one of the few Mormon temples in Arizona. I believe it is one of 108 in the world. It's situated on the west side of town and people pay more to live within sight of it. It has great spiritual meaning to the LDS community and they're very proud of it so I'm hesitant to express my personal opinion in print. Because it is so modern in its architecture, to my uninitiated eyes, it looks a bit like an alien spaceship that's come in for a landing on the hilltop.

That's a bit ironic because Snowflake is also the home of one of the most famous UFO sightings and alien abductions in history. At least five people claim to have witnessed it. None of them, that I'm aware of, have recanted their story to this date. The person the aliens supposedly took, Travis Walton, still lives in Snowflake, wrote a book on the subject, and has a small following. A movie was made based on this book called Fire in the Sky.

Another strange tidbit about Snowflake is that it is home to a substantial enough community of people suffering from multiple chemical sensitivity that it helps support a small alternative-oriented organic grocery store. Amelia's Garden stands out as a bit of an oddity in Snowflake. Trust me, we were relieved when we saw it. Paul and I, unfortunately, were present there on the last day their wonderful organic cafe was open for business. We shared a Chipotle Portabello Mushroom Sandwich which was one of the most delicious gourmet quality sandwiches I've had anywhere. The cafe still serves coffee, tea and baked goods and hopes to reopen as a restaurant in the spring or summer. We hope they do because the staff is so dedicated to healthy lifestyles and the food was really VERY good.

We don't know yet why so many chemically-sensitive people were drawn to Snowflake. Supposedly most of them live on the east side of town near where we are. They all came from somewhere else and we've heard that some of them have found improvement in the condition of their health since they arrived and managed to re-establish themselves.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Paul and Sheryl's Adventures in Mormon Territory, Part 1

Our first deliberate outing after deciding to learn more about the LDS started in a surrealistic way that, should we ever do a movie based on our experiences, would HAVE to be included.

We decided to check out the Heritage Antique Store in downtown Snowflake and were met at the door by two young LDS men in full missionary regalia -- plain dark suits, plain white shirts, dark ties and LDS badges on the left sides of their suitjacket lapels. Each of them stood at either side of the door and opened it for us as we came in. I must have looked startled -- I think I even jumped back -- because they laughed and made a gesture as if to usher us inside.

It turns out they were not acting as official greeters or sentries at the door. It was just a coincidence. They were on their way out.

Once inside we were greeted by the most beautiful antique store I've ever seen with a beautifully restored old-fashioned soda fountain in the front. We were welcomed by the woman working behind the counter who responded with great enthusiasm when she heard we had just moved to town. Apparently two of the other people sitting at the counter were new to Snowflake as well.

We enjoyed ourselves browsing around the shop. The merchandise chosen was exquisite. There was more than one room to explore including a dark but curiously inviting basement with examples of pioneer tools and odds and ends not clearly marked as ready to sell. There's also a restored social hall on the second floor of the building but we didn't see that as we only found out about it just before we were ready to go.

Sprinkled here and there throughout the store were carefully placed signs with sayings I think are probably indicative of Mormon sensibilities and culture. The first one we saw as we were coming in was "Breathe, you're home now." Then I saw a set of child's building blocks spelling out the words "Family" and "Love." Many others, too. All very positive, wholesome and nothing that would seem offensive to anyone in any way.

We had sandwiches from the fountain later in the day and treated ourselves to a hot fudge sundae as well. The store owner was shocked that Paul and I opted to split a "small" one but the one we received was plenty large enough. And it was really good!

The Heritage Antique Store is next to the Heritage Bed and Breakfast which is also pictured in this blog. It's very picturesque and right in the center of town. Check the link attached to "Heritage Antique Store". The photos on that page will give you an indication of exactly what we found.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mormon Faith and Tainted Love

"Sometimes I feel I've got to
Run away I've got to
Get away
from the pain that you drive into the heart of me..."

" think love is to pray
But I'm sorry I don't pray that way."

(Lyrics from "Tainted Love" by Ed Cobb, as recorded by Soft Cell and later by The Clash and several others)

Paul and I moved to the country just outside Snowflake, AZ just weeks after millions of dollars of Mormon TV ads advocating taking away the hard won rights of gay people to marry flooded the airwaves in California and successfully swayed the election. I was furious that any religious group was given the right to inflict such pain on people I love. And I found it strange that a people that were persecuted for wanting to define family in their own way (bigamy) would fight so very hard to restrict alternative definitions of family for others. It was especially upsetting to me that most of that Mormon money came from outside the state of California. And I was shocked to discover that the concept of separation of church and state -- which gives the LDS (Mormon) church the freedom to exist in the United States -- does not currently extend to prevent such flagrant abuse of the political system by a single religious organization in return.

So imagine my surprise to find myself deep in the heart of Mormon country after our move last December.

To say I was horrified would be an understatement. For the first few days I could not walk down the street in Snowflake -- looking at signs proclaiming Jesus as the reason for the season -- without cringing. Sure, on the one hand I know that's what Christmas is supposed to be all about. But I also know that the pagan holiday of winter solstice is the reason why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th in the first place. (I spent several years of my life researching and writing a book on the topic.) And, as a person who was brought up Jewish, even though I now approach my spirituality from a much more eclectic point of view, it's hard to come to a place where there's nary a Jewish face to be found.

But this IS where Paul and I have come to live for now... and as time has gone on it's become clear that keeping such a fierce wall up between myself and any people is poisonous to me. Perhaps it's even one of the things we came here to heal.

When we first arrived Paul's mother told us that she had had more than one conversation with LDS members who expressed concern, at least privately, that church dollars were put to such a purpose in California. She also told me that Mormon people try to take care of people in the community even if they're not Mormon and that several Mormon community members had been very good to her.

Paul has been very insistent that we not become bigoted here so in the past week we have started a deliberate effort to learn more about the LDS community. I'll be sharing some of what we've experienced in the next few weeks.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Paul's Birthday

Here's spiritual "John Wayne" macho man Paul posing in the homemade slipper socks his mother gave him for his birthday. A blackmail photo if I ever saw one...but he gave me permission to put it up.

Paul had a photographer's birthday. Spent the morning editing photos then got the itch to go outside. We went on a strange excursion. Away from the closest tourist attractions we could have gone to (The Petrified Forest and Painted Desert) and off on an "explore" to parts we knew nothing about.

For good reason it turned out. Not much to recommend in Concho and St. Johns for the average tourist...although some local tour guides think St. Johns is worthy of a mention for its pioneer Mormon roots. We think Snowflake and Taylor are better for that but I'll get to that sometime later in the week.

Concho is 30 minutes from where we live down the road in the opposite direction from Snowflake. Old Concho, which you get to first, is full of falling down mostly abandoned buildings, a few old and obviously occupied family farms, and mobile homes in a wide variety of conditions. We saw a couple of thrift stores, a community assistance center, a place designated for a farmer's market and not much else. The photos on this page pretty much say it all... but it was an interesting place from a photographer's point of view nonetheless.

A little further down the road was "New Concho" or Concho Valley. Another strange hamlet of a place although with decidedly more commerce (of sorts) and a lot more houses. There's a lake there and some of the houses are surprisingly nice given how little infrastructure there is to support it. There was a gas station and a couple of churches. There must have been a grocery store somewhere in the area...but we didn't see one.

Later we heard that Concho Valley was a speculative real estate adventure that hasn't panned out. The original person who convinced all these people to buy property there disappeared with their money...and the project never got off the ground. At least not as far as we could see! There might be people who think differently.

Not much to say about the rest of our excursion. We had our first Navajo tacos in St. Johns -- ground beef, refried beans, lettuce, cheese and salsa on top of a large piece of fried bread. We liked the fried bread part...but it might have been better with melted butter, cinnamon and sugar.

Then we came home, enjoyed one of the nicest sunsets we've seen here, and settled in for an evening of more photo editing and bad TV.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

They Say It's His Birthday!

Paul is 45 years old today. Don't know what we're going to do to celebrate but I hope it will be fun!

Pilgrims Unite

Paul and his stepdad LOVE watching Westerns and they both have a particular fondness for John Wayne. Having grown up in New England just south of Boston I find this strange... or at least I used to. To my East Coast liberal city sensibilities John Wayne, the ultimate macho cowboy, represented everything that was wrong with this country. But out here -- in very similar country to where most of these Westerns were filmed -- John Wayne still represents the ultimate hero.

Paul does a dead-on John Wayne imitation and uses it to make me laugh when I'm feeling down. "Don't you worry about a thing, little lady. I'll fix yer right up!"

I'm lightening up about cowboys out here. The ones I've met in person -- in Wyoming and Watsonville, CA -- have been gracious and charming, down to earth, with a gentle sense of humor. A lot like how John Wayne is depicted in some of his later films.

Plus, with one of the sweetest, gentlest guys I know swaggering around out here pretending to be could I not come around?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Claiming the Future, Our Health, Our Lives

I haven't always been a person who claims what she wants in her life. But it occurs to me right now that there have been numerous examples where I have done so that I could share and draw inspiration from for support in my life right now. For example, I used this attitude when grabbing hold of my health.

I went through a period of time where I had multiple food allergies, the most challenging and difficult to live with being an extreme sensitivity to wheat. I remember insisting to myself that God could not possibly have made human beings with the tendency to become allergic to the staples of their own diet. That despite what the medical and science professions might say -- this could not be a "malfunction" of the immune system. That assumption just had to be a mistake.

I believed there had to be a logical explanation for why this happened and a way to undo it... and I intended to discover the secret and make use of it to heal myself. This wasn't a namby-pamby intent. It was a commitment, a project embarked upon with true conviction and the expectation of success. I intended to claim my health -- I believed I deserved it and was going to have it. And then I did.

The healing centered on finding the underlying cause of the difficulty. Not trying to find a quick fix for the symptoms themselves or by trying to circumvent the supposed "malfunction of the immune system" which drug therapy is created to do. It had to do with determining the reason why the immune system was treating previously benign substances like a foreign invader and addressing that.

The point of this article isn't to go into depth about how to heal sensitivities that develop over time. Suffice it say, however, that the functioning of the immune system in this situation is a great example of the mind/body interconnection at work: in my case, conditioned responses left over from past experiences of hurt that I reacted to in a particularly anxious fashion. Because these experiences were repeated over time my immune system, like any good Pavlov's dog, learned to associate substances usually present in my environment with these anxious feelings and went into action to keep me "safe." Once the true source of my anxious reactions was identified and appropriately addressed my immune system was freed to make a new decision. I had to consciously retrain myself to accept the foods my body previously rejected, and that takes practice, but relatively quickly my immune system behaved.

In the case of some of my allergies one or two healing sessions was all that was required. But for some of the allergies the healing took time. There were several layers of hurt to be addressed and more than one resulting pattern that had to be unraveled. It took several months of consistent work. But the results were worth it! I now eat pretty much whatever I want.

It occurs to me that in the multiple crisises our world currently faces -- economics, housing, healthcare, energy, food (in some parts of the world), and global climate change -- that we could certainly benefit from taking a similar approach. Forget about quick fixes and superficial circumventions. We need to allow enough time to unravel the underlying factors that have created these issues one by one, and deliberately focus our intent on true healing that will support the world as a whole over the long haul.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Claiming the Change

Everything changes. That's a Buddhist tenet I've never felt very good about. Change isn't a favorite thing of mine to negotiate. But lately change is what we all need, what the present administration was elected to provide, and what many of us may be pinning all our hopes and dreams upon.

Yesterday I was walking with Paul down one of the country roads close to our house. It's quiet here. Paul wrote about the natural quieting down this creates in our lives and how it helps one look at the contents of one's thoughts in a recent blog and newsletter article. I got a great illustration of how that works in my own life while on this walk.

At first I enjoyed the scenery, the pleasant weather, and my optimistic point of view. "How nice it is to walk out here." I thought. But then I had another, more insidious thought process come in. "Oh, it's nice enough now. But what if this is where you had to stay forever? What if you and Paul never get out of this 'situation'? How would you feel about this landscape then? Wouldn't it be boring to do this day in and day out?"

I immediately felt frightened, desperate, and almost completely miserable... and then caught myself. "Look at what happened here!" I thought. I went from happy and content to miserably discontent within the shortest time imaginable... and NOTHING had changed except my point of view. My rogue thoughts had almost ruined my day but I decided to choose another way.

I experimented with other thoughts: "Maybe we'll love it here and want to stay. Maybe we'll go. Everything changes. Why would I think this couldn't change, too? Maybe, I won't even want it to!"

Forever is a limiting point of view. The present moment always contains the seed of change. Paul warns me that trying to predict the future, or worrying about it based on false predictions my fear-based mindset would try to create, is a foolish thing to do.

The best way to predict the future is to claim it. "Claim it" is the phrase my guidance insisted on when I was writing this sentence. I had planned to say "create it" but that isn't good enough. We need to insist on what we want to create. To intend it so firmly we believe it is our birthright. To recognize it as something we ought to be able to have for ourselves. To claim it means "This is mine. this belongs to me and I deserve to have it!"

Let the Beauty You Love Be What You Do

"Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground." This quote by the great Sufi mystic and poet Rumi is one of my personal favorites.

Available on Cafepress on a variety of items, I think it looks particularly good on notecards, a tile coaster, a mousepad, or a mug.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Mama Love For Troubled Times with Juniper -- Organic Flower Essence Aromatherapy Healing Oil for Body, Bath or Massage

All right, I couldn't resist using Juniper after all.

Several weeks ago, not long after I first moved to Arizona, I felt like I needed to find out what Juniper oil was used for and to use it for myself. I added a little to my Mama Love for Troubled Times body, bath and massage oil and really liked the results!

I've tested it long enough now so I've decided to make this formula available to all of you -- both on my own website and on

The "Perfect" Teacher

Paul and I have joined his mother watching a film on satellite TV about Khyentse Norbu, a well-known Tibeten Buddhist Rinpoche who has made a couple of feature films (The Cup and Travellers and Magicians), likes to wear a snappy fedora-style hat along with his Tibetan robes, and has a reputation of being a bit of a trickster to his students. We're getting a great kick out it because his students want so much to either venerate him as an omnicient special being or show him to be a regular man...and he keeps defying their expectations at every turn.

We see this phenomena in our practice occassionally and in the email we receive from time to time. People want so much to believe in someone they think is better than them and, on the other hand, want so badly to tear down people who they have perceived in this way -- to bring them down a peg, show them to be "fake", whatever it is that will help them recover from the mistake of putting themselves down in the presence of a teacher in the first place.

Luckily our experiences with this are rare. I feel badly for people like the Dalai Lama who wind up having to deflect this kind of guru worship all the time and horrified by people who deliberately want to court that kind of adoration.

The name of the film we're watching is Words of My Perfect Teacher. I highly recommend it.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Quantity Discounts on Mama Love Flower Essence Aromatherapy Perfume

The normal retail price for Mama Love perfume is $12.99. I have 3-perfume sets for $34.99. And now I'm offering larger quantity discounts of 5 perfumes for $55, and 10 perfumes for $100. All orders over $50 qualify for a free Reiki Bear.

Have a retail store, spa or other business with a resale license? Check out my wholesale page then contact me for full details.