Thursday, August 30, 2012

Megaformer – the new improved Pilates?

I took a Megaformer class last night, invited by a friend. She told me she loves it. She goes four or five times a week, so I had to find out what it was all about.

 Megaformer - works with spring resistance 
like the Pilates reformer

Well one thing is for sure – it’s tough. Forty-five minutes of constant motion - moving that Megaformer up and back while leaning on our hands or elbows. And although the moves looked similar to some of my normal Pilates exercises and even like some Yoga positions, the class was a combination of cardio and resistance that really got my heart racing and the sweat pouring out.

Although I felt I could keep up reasonably well, I don’t recommend it to someone who is just starting an exercise program. The advertisement that the class is for all levels is misleading. One has to be fit to gain the advantages of working with the Megaformer. Otherwise it will be hard to stay with the class.

Lots of planks 

Now, the question is: will I ever go again? Knowing me, probably. But I won’t rush into it. I like my morning Pilates sessions much better. They are calmer – no loud music, no shout outs by the instructor. And I always feel very worked out when I finish. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Meet artists and authors, Alice and Richard Matzkin

We spent a wonderful weekend with our friends Alice and Richard Matzkin at their home and art studio in Ojai, California. 

I always feel like I’m at an idyllic retreat when I’m there. It is so quiet, so lush with greenery and interesting things to look at, so filled with beautiful art, and the conversations are endless. Alice was my first friend when I moved to Los Angeles in 1961. We went to art classes together for quite a few years. Needless to say, she stayed with her painting. I found another creative outlet.

Around the Matzkin yard

We went up Friday night in time to hear Richard drumming with his jazz trio at a local Ojai restaurant. Besides being a drummer he’s a sculptor, mostly of aging men. Alice, a painter, has her work at the Smithsonian portrait gallery. Her commissioned painting of Chelsea Clinton once hung in the White House private residence.  Our portrait by Alice hangs prominently in our home.

 Alice, Chelsea, and Hillary, 1997

Madeline and Bob, 1998

Alice and Richard also wrote an award-winning book, THE ART OF AGING: Celebrating the Authentic Aging Self (Sentient Publications 2009), filled to the brim with photos of their artwork.

In this beautiful dual award winning art/inspirational book, painter, Alice Matzkin and sculptor, Richard Matzkin explore their fear and curiosity about aging through their art, writing and experience of growing older. (Alice's painting of the ceramist, Beatrice Wood, is on the cover.)

Please go to their online studio to see more of their wonderful paintings and sculptures.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dear Todd Akin by Eve Ensler

I don't normally post anything political. But I don't think this is political. This is about rape. 

Eve Ensler, Tony award winning playwright

Everyone, please read this.

Dear Todd Akin,
I am writing to you tonight about rape. It is 2 AM and I am unable to sleep here in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am in Bukavu at the City of Joy to serve and support and work with hundreds, thousands of women who have been raped and violated and tortured from this ceaseless war for minerals fought on their bodies.
I am in Congo but I could be writing this from anywhere in the United States, South Africa, Britain, Egypt, India, Philippines, most college campuses in America. I could be writing from any city or town or village where over half a billion women on the planet are raped in their lifetime.
Mr. Akin, your words have kept me awake.
As a rape survivor, I am reeling from your recent statement where you said you misspoke when you said that women do not get pregnant from legitimate rape, and that you were speaking "off the cuff."
Clarification. You didn't make some glib throw away remark. You made a very specific ignorant statement clearly indicating you have no awareness of what it means to be raped. And not a casual statement, but one made with the intention of legislating the experience of women who have been raped. Perhaps more terrifying: it was a window into the psyche of the GOP.
You used the expression "legitimate" rape as if to imply there were such a thing as "illegitimate" rape. Let me try to explain to you what that does to the minds, hearts and souls of the millions of women on this planet who experience rape. It is a form of re-rape. The underlying assumption of your statement is that women and their experiences are not to be trusted. That their understanding of rape must be qualified by some higher, wiser authority. It delegitimizes and undermines and belittles the horror, invasion, desecration they experienced. It makes them feel as alone and powerless as they did at the moment of rape.
When you, Paul Ryan and 225 of your fellow co-sponsors play with words around rape suggesting only "forcible" rape be treated seriously as if all rapes weren't forcible, it brings back a flood of memories of the way the rapists played with us in the act of being raped -- intimidating us, threatening us,muting us. Your playing with words like "forcible" and "legitimate" is playing with our souls which have been shattered by unwanted penises shoving into us, ripping our flesh, our vaginas, our consciousness, our confidence, our pride, our futures.
Now you want to say that you misspoke when you said that a legitimate rape couldn't get us pregnant. Did you honestly believe that rape sperm is different than love sperm, that some mysterious religious process occurs and rape sperm self-destructs due to its evilcontent? Or, were you implying that women and their bodies are somehow responsible for rejecting legitimate rape sperm, once again putting the onus on us? It would seem you were saying that getting pregnant after a rape would indicate it was not a "legitimate" rape.
Here's what I want you to do. I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you are on your bed or up against a wall or locked in a small suffocating space. Imagine being tied up there and imagine some aggressive, indifferent, insane stranger friend or relative ripping off your clothes and entering your body -- the most personal, sacred, private part of your body -- and violently, hatefully forcing themself into you so that you are ripped apart. Then imagine that stranger's sperm shooting into you and filling you and you can't get it out. It is growing something in you. Imagine you have no idea what that life will even consist of, spiritually made in hate, not knowing the mental or health background of the rapist.
Then imagine a person comes along, a person who has never had that experience of rape, and that person tells you, you have no choice but to keep that product of rape growing in you against your will and when it is born it has the face of your rapist, the face of the person who has essentially destroyed your being and you will have to look at the face every day of your life and you will be judged harshly if you cannot love that face.
I don't know if you can imagine any of this (leadership actually requires this kind of compassion), but if you are willing to go to the depth of this darkness, you will quickly understand that there is NO ONE WHO CAN MAKE THAT CHOICE to have or not have the baby, but the person carrying that baby herself.
I have spent much time with mothers who have given birth to children who are the product of rape. I have watched how tortured they are wrestling with their hate and anger, trying not to project that onto their child.
I am asking you and the GOP to get out of my body, out of my vagina, my womb, to get out of all of our bodies. These are not your decisions to make. These are not your words to define.
Why don't you spend your time ending rape rather than redefining it? Spend your energy going after those perpetrators who so easily destroy women rather than parsing out manipulative language that minimizes their destruction.
And by the way you've just given millions of women a very good reason to make sure you never get elected again, and an insanely good reason to rise.
Eve Ensler
Bukavu, Congo

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Late breaking book news

It’s time to bring you up to date with book news. It seems like things are moving so fast, I barely have time to do my novel and article writing. But it’s all good.

Books for Sale
As of yesterday the Kindle version of Leaving the Hall Light On is for sale. The paperback has been available for the last month or so. And in case you still like hardback books as I do, I have them for sale at my Amazon storefront at a reduced price of $21.50.

Marketing Events
Book giveaway at Goodreads. Hurry over there. It ends on August 28.

Google + Hangouts with Jason Matthews: Indie Authors #21 on Memoir Writing and Indie Authors # 24 on Writing as Therapy. I’ll participate in another hangout next Monday, August 27.

A September 13 roundtable with Linda Joy Myers of the National Association of Memoir Writers and Mike O’Mary of Dream of Things to talk about how I was able to contract with Dream of Things after my former publisher went out of business.

Readings at the Essay Fiesta and Waterline Writers and an interview on Rick Kogan's talk show on WGN radio – all taking place in Chicago in mid September (details to follow). Why Chicago? I grew up there and that’s where my publisher, Dream of Things, is headquartered. A great excuse to go back to my hometown.

And I’m scheduling a new blog tour to take place between October 1 and December 31. I’m so excited that many of the blogs that hosted me last year will host again during this tour. If you are interested in joining in, here are the details:

The Tour
The tour is open from October 1 to December 31, 2012. You can pick any date that works for you. And you can participate in one of three ways:
A.    Post a review of the book on your blog. 
B.    Post a Q&A with me using up to six questions from the list, below.
C.    Post a description of my book and conduct a contest to give away a free copy to one of your followers. (You can also hold a contest in conjunction with options A or B, if you like.)

If you would like to participate in the blog tour, please respond to this e-mail and let me know if you would like a print copy, a .mobi file (for Kindle), an .epub file (for Nook, iPad and other e-readers), or a PDF file. (The Kindle edition has just been released.)

Also, if you choose Option B (Q&A with me), let me know which questions you’d like me to address.
The Book
Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide charts the near-destruction of one middle-class family whose oldest son committed suicide after a seven-year struggle with bipolar disorder. Author Madeline Sharples goes deep into her own well of grief to describe her anger, frustration and guilt. She also shares the story of how she, her husband and younger son weathered every family's worst nightmare—including struggles with her own thoughts of suicide, and ultimately, her decision to live and take care of herself as a woman, wife, mother and writer.
·       "A moving read of tragedy, trying to prevent it, and coping with life after." Midwest Book Review
·       "Poetically visceral, emotionally honest." Irvin D. Godofsky, M.D.
·       "Moving, intimate and very inspiring." Mark Shelmerdine, CEO, Jeffers Press
The book is also available through my publisher, Dream of Things.
The Author
Madeline Sharples is an author, poet, and web journalist who spent most of her professional life as a technical writer and editor, grant writer and proposal manager. Through the tragedy of her son’s mental illness and suicide, she has become a thought-provoking expert on the affects of mental illness and suicide on family members—and, more important, on how to keep the surviving members of your family together and move forward in the aftermath of tragedy.

Questions for Option B, online Q&A with me (please select a maximum of six questions):
1.     What does the title of the book mean?
2.     What were the warning signs when your son first began to experience symptoms of bipolar disorder?
3.     How difficult was it for you to get your son to seek treatment and take medication for his illness?
4.     How do you give support and comfort to a person who doesn’t want support or comfort?
5.     How did you maintain your sanity after your son’s suicide?
6.     Did your marriage suffer as a result of your son’s bipolar disorder and suicide?
7.     How have you seen the stigma of mental illness and suicide play out in your life?
8.     What can a person do to help and comfort a family that has experienced a suicide or other tragedy?
9.     How did your elder son’s illness and suicide affect your thoughts toward your younger son?
10.  One of the ways you dealt with your personal tragedy is by writing about it. How did that help you?
11.  Who should read your book?
12.  What advice do you have for families that have been affected by mental illness or suicide?

And that doesn’t count my blogging, tweeting, Facebook posting, occasionally visiting LinkedIn and Pinterest, and writing for PsychAlive, Naturally Savvy, Open to Hope, and a new gig starting this month at Aging Bodies.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A favorite poem - what do you think it means?

The Man with the Hoe
by Edwin Markham

Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back the burden of the world.
Who made him dead to rapture and despair,
A thing that grieves not and that never hopes.
Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?
Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw?
Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow?
Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?
Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave
To have dominion over sea and land;
To trace the stars and search the heavens for power;
To feel the passion of Eternity?
Is this the Dream He dreamed who shaped the suns
And marked their ways upon the ancient deep?
Down all the stretch of Hell to its last gulf
There is no shape more terrible than this —
More tongued with censure of the world's blind greed — More filled with signs and portents for the soul —
More fraught with menace to the universe.
What gulfs between him and the seraphim!
Slave of the wheel of labor, what to him
Are Plato and the swing of Pleiades?
What the long reaches of the peaks of song,
The rift of dawn, the reddening of the rose?
Through this dread shape the suffering ages look;
Time's tragedy is in the aching stoop;
Through this dread shape humanity betrayed,
Plundered, profaned, and disinherited,
Cries protest to the Powers that made the world.
A protest that is also a prophecy.
O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
Is this the handiwork you give to God,
This monstrous thing distorted and soul-quenched?
How will you ever straighten up this shape;
Touch it again with immortality;
Give back the upward looking and the light;
Rebuild in it the music and the dream,
Make right the immemorial infamies,
Perfidious wrongs, immedicable woes?
O masters, lords and rulers in all lands
How will the Future reckon with this Man?
How answer his brute question in that hour
When whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores?
How will it be with kingdoms and with kings —
With those who shaped him to the thing he is —
When this dumb Terror shall rise to judge the world.
After the silence of the centuries?

Do you think this poem has any relevance now?

Friday, August 17, 2012

A found poem

A friend recently posted a found poem on one of my Facebook poetry sites. We both agreed writing a found poem is great way to get over a bit of writer's block. 

According to the American Academy of Poets:

Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.

A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found, with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet.

I've written, or rather, refashioned several. Here's one taken from a restaurant menu. I loved all the exotic words.

Recipe for Fulfillment

Pile chicken satays, sesame-crusted Char Siu buns, Manhattan summer rolls, Indian samosas and crab rangoons into a Dim Sum Tasting Tower.
Stir fry tempeh with galangal, chilies, kaffir-lime and Javanese brown sugar.
Mix Tom Kha Gai soup with Thai coconut chicken, lemon grass and galangal and ladle into fresh young coconut shells garnished with paper umbrellas.
Prepare Komodo Dragoon salad with grilled beef, fresh greens tossed in lime and lemon grass dressing.
Wok fire flat rice noodles with thin sliced beef, Chinese sausage, eggs sprouts and vegetables and one beef satay to create Malaysian Char Kway Teow.
Make Chiang Mai by sautéing sliced chicken breasts with garlic, chili, onions, peppers, fresh basil and pesto. Pour around Jasmine rice on a square tea-green charger.
Drizzle liquid sugar and sesame oil over composed Oriental sticky rice and fresh thinly-sliced mangos and strawberries for a cool and delicate dessert.
Serve to the couple reclining on the huge red satin pillows in the candle-lit corner booth by the window.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Kenny

It's my brother Kenny’s birthday today. He would have been 75. I can’t believe he is gone over four years already. I miss him more and more.

Here are a few photos with him and my sister and mom.

Madeline, Kenny, Mom, and Sheila - 1993 

Madeline, Sheila, and Kenny - 2006

Sheila, Madeline, and Kenny - 2007

Monday, August 13, 2012

A rant about junk food

I was definitely heartened to read this story today. It is a great positive step to curbing the childhood obesity epidemic.

CHICAGO (AP) — Laws strictly curbing school sales of junk food and sweetened drinks may play a role in slowing childhood obesity, according to a study that seems to offer the first evidence such efforts could pay off.

Please click the link to read the whole story.

In fact while I was at my poetry workshop at Esalen in Big Sur, CA last month I wrote a rant about junk food – triggered by the word junk, one of a list of ten given in a daily prompt.  (See the Scary Seven at the bottom of this post, courtesy of Naturally Savvy.)

A picture prettier than the rant 
(the Big Sur coast)

Here’s the rant:

Junk food is a business.
Junk food is an addiction
Eating junk food is an epidemic

Can you imagine that recent studies
show that obesity in children
is not related to their
consumption of junk food
in the schools?

Can you imagine
they say children form
their eating habits at home,
so why worry about limiting
their junk food consumption
outside the home?

Can you imagine why?
Of course, you guessed it.
The schools get a profit –
probably a huge profit
from those ubiquitous vending machines
that spit forth,
with the drop of a few coins,
a constant supply of
high-sugar soft drinks, chocolate bars,  
chocolate chip cookies, and chips.
You name it, if it’s junk, it’s there.

The food hustlers entice school management
to allow them to put the machines on their sites
in exchange for bonuses.
The food hustlers are only
about selling and money.
The food hustlers could care less
about healthy children.

And then on top of all that
these poor children eat
burgers dripping with cheese
or pizza practically every night
for dinner at home.
So the problem is not only in the schools.
Their mothers are too busy
or too uninformed
to make them a proper meal.

Just go to any school at noon
and see those little chubby guys
stuffing their faces
instead of moving their butts
out in the playground.

How astonishing that parents and teachers
allow this behavior.
The children eat and binge
binge and eat.
until they become
a generation that will not survive
long enough to become viable adults.
They will be too sick with heart problems
and diabetes to work and have a family,

We need to act.
We need to take the plunge
and get that junk stuff out of the school
and off our pantry shelves
Neither our families nor our nation
can afford to do anything less.