Tag Archives: Morning Pages

My Next Dinner Party


photo credit: Ashley Mayer


As for table decorating, it is hard to beat a simple, large plate whose design and color don’t compete with the food, a simple glass that makes the wine seems to float in air, a great big soft napkin of any color that strikes your fancy, and pots of field flowers (or weeds), or a few poppies. Lee Bailey 

Here’s an idea: assuming we only invite people whom we like to dinner, why not tell them just how much? This idea came to me when my husband returned home from a Rotary meeting one morning last week.

Our life in a nutshell: Paul seems to wake up dressed and push off like Superman. That’s what I called him back in the days he wore a three-piece suit to work. I hardly saw him. Whereas I rise slowly, brew a pot of coffee and write my Morning Pages–three pages longhand—followed by my gratitude journal entries, every day, before I even talk to anyone. So I knew something about what Paul was talking about when he said they were visited at Rotary by David Brooke, aka That Gratitude Guy.

A former Nordstrom store manager, for the past 7 years David “The Brooker” Brooke has been speaker, life coach, author, and teacher on the transformative power of gratitude, a self-described “social entrepreneur.” His message: “… no matter how stressful or tragic, (any situation in life) can be reframed and refocused into a fulfilling journey, by using the simple principles of gratefulness.”

Now I’ve probably been keeping gratitude journals longer than David’s been running workshops, so I know firsthand what he’s saying. To put it simply, starting each and every day with a gratitude list—five things for which I am grateful—has me looking up, not down. Getting off on the right foot, so to speak. Lord knows it’s way too easy to start off on the wrong one, and spend the rest of the day catching your fall.

At the breakfast meeting of The Rotary Club of San Juan Island, David passed out cards and asked each member to select a partner and write down attributes he or she appreciates about that person, then give the card to him or her. I read my husband’s card, written by a very new friend, and saw that he nailed it. All my husband’s best qualities on one card, which I have put away in a dresser drawer—to be taken out whenever I need to be reminded.

So at my next dinner party, I am going to borrow a page from David Brooke. We’ll each pick a partner and write down as many attributes as we can about the other for one minute. Then share it with him or her.

This I know before any consideration of food, wine, and what I love most, the linens and dishes and table setting—so much so that I dream of my late grandmother’s butler pantry. It’s a recurring dream of mine in which the pantry figures as prominently as any other room in the Connecticut manse.  Gram had more glasses and dishes than Crate & Barrel, and in the dead space above the mile-high cupboards, rolls and rolls of paper towels. She could house whatever she wanted to store in that pantry.

Gram would have loved Costco. And I would have loved parlor games.


Filed under dinner party, gratitude, table setting

The Ghost in My Computer

Every year now I get more into Halloween. I don’t know what that says about me. Second childhood coming around perhaps? Now that’s scary.

When my daughters were young– and Halloween was always their favorite–I hobbled through it with eyes on what I considered more important upcoming holidays, namely Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I feel bad about that.

Sure I helped them with their costumes, but didn’t stay up nights like some moms with felt, tulle, shears, super glue and sewing machines. I like to think that because the girls essentially did it themselves, they became the creative women they are today.

This year, I’m pleased to say, I ushered in the holiday at the “Hallows in the Cathedral” concert performed by The Seattle Women’s Chorus at St. Mark’s Cathedral. Chanting, singing classical, showtunes, and pop in powdered white faces with dark red lips, capes and hoods, in a cathedral dark and remarkably unembellished, it was heavenly in a pagan sort of way.

So here is what is really haunting me lately: internet addiction. Call it an obsession, call it possession, it is coming to get me. I can feel it. It’s an addiction that crept up slowly over the years, and suddenly, can pull one under.

Once upon a time, I could go to my laptop and write. Now I have to clear all the email and check facebook, which sends me listening to Ted Talks, reading blogs of interest, newspaper articles of interest, signing petitions, and circulating petitions. Seeing where my daughters are, and what my husband is up to. Catching up on everyone’s photo album, travels and endeavors, hearing new music, old music, viewing U Tube videos. Browsing my favorite stores, browsing One King’s Lane, Joss & Main, Gilt and Haute. Off on tangents I never would have anticipated, and couldn’t begin to retrace.

And this happens every day.

All this before I’ve written one word.

Even my Morning Pages practice of nearly two decades is under assault. Although I write in another room, I hop up and down at every opportunity to log on. Sneaking and peeking, the obsessive-compulsive checking of email and facebook.

Can’t take ten steps without turning around and going back “to check.”

Can’t be in the same room and get into anything else. See what I mean?

Even as I write this, I am checking my email & facebook messages and posts. Thank god I don’t carry a smart phone. Thank god I don’t text or tweet too.

Sometimes instead of logging out, I have to shut it down and pretend that it needs its sleep. And go for a walk.

Oh get me out of here (writing at home)! I need a job. A job that isn’t wired. Something in the wilderness. Something like a park ranger.

My friend Teri Clifford has a sticker system. Using little gummy stars on her calendar each day, she gives herself one color for having exercised, and another color for journaling. I should adopt this. With the color green for staying off the internet one whole day.

For only nature can save me now.


Filed under Halloween, internet addiction

Just Doing It

How to be your own personal trainer. I should be able to do this. Look at how I have taken to writing. First thing in the morning, before getting dressed, before going online or going anywhere, I write my Morning Pages. And while I hope to make more of a dent in the writing world than just being a disciple of Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” I find a certain comfort in that. What else would explain why I have practiced it for more than a dozen years?

Sitting each day for Morning Pages is my zazen.

Now I am hoping to bring about another practice in the form of physical exercise. The longer I live, the more connections I see between things. Walking, writing, they are the same. In writing and in walking I am making the same expression in different mediums.

“We live as we move,” writes Julia Cameron, “a step at a time, and there is something in gentle walking that reminds me of how I must live if I am to savor this life I have been given.”

I have started with walking the 4.3 miles of The Loop daily, no ifs, ands, or buts. https://alittleelbowroom.com/2013/04/03/the-loop/

At one time I had a personal trainer. Well, I hired a friend to walk with me. Not that I don’t love to walk, I do. But this was different. She was younger, thinner, more fit than I, and faster. Whereas I am basically a browser and overly interested in homes and gardens.

One of the first things she insisted on was that I leave my little dog at home. I felt bad about that, but there would be no sniffing around in the bushes or wandering off in the grass for us. We had to hightail it every step of the way.

There is nothing like the power of the knock on the door. A personal trainer comes to your place and there is nowhere to hide and no way out. Throw in the friendship factor, and I didn’t want to inconvenience her by canceling. So I never did. Whereas left to my own devices I can come up with a million reasons why I haven’t the time: the house needs cleaning, the garden needs weeding, the manuscript needs editing, or I can convince myself that what I really need is a nap.

Now my friend has moved and I am on my own again, trying to make it happen every day. My technique is to pretend that I am her, not me. I know all my tricks too well: the penchant for short-cuts, the stop-in-my-tracks gazing at view. In other words, I have to be her to push me. It’s still a joint effort.

Then, with The Loop under my belt, I find I go out of my way to add as many more miles as I can in the course of the day. As in, one good turn deserves another. Here I think like a NYC woman, or think environmentally, and walk everywhere I can. It helps to live in a city or live in a town, but that market may be closer than you realize.

Hoping I will become as addicted to my mileage stats as I am to my blog stats on the WordPress website, my tech savvy daughters have given me a fitbit to track myself each day. Again: walking, writing, it’s the same thing. I’m getting it, really I am.


Filed under walking