Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Meditation on Meditation


All I have to do is sit still. So why is meditation so difficult?
This is how it usually goes for me:  Sitting still, doing nothing. Okay, breathing, but nothing else. Okay, filtering out any thoughts that don’t have to do with breathing.
In, out.
In, out. Slowly.
Or not slowly. Just watching the breath. Or maybe repeating a phrase in my mind, a two-syllable phrase that matches in, out. One syllable for In. One syllable for Out.
People who practice a type of yoga called Kundalini might use the syllables “Sat Nam.” (Their meaning has to do with truth.) Sat. Nam. Sat. Nam. In. Out. Just breathe. I try it, and it seems to be working. But then, Sat Nam becomes Sat Nam don’t forget to send that email and why are car horns honking.
Is it possible to fail at meditation? Is it failing or is it just part of the journey? And why am I doing this anyway?
I would like to be more focused. I would like to be more productive. That’s why I want to meditate. The times that I’ve been able to block out random thoughts, I have understood what meditation can do for me. It’s spring cleaning for my brain. Bags of worn and outdated thoughts handed over to Goodwill and the cobwebs in my brain closets swept away.
Meditating gives me energy. I can get all of those little annoying projects done, the ones that paw at the back of my consciousness like yappy little dogs. The thought of doing all those little projects overwhelms me when I can’t focus, but when I can, I wonder why I let them get to me in the first place.
I’ve heard about the good things that meditation can do for veterans with PTSD, even the ones whose bodies are whole.
When meditation is working for me, in my mind I sometimes see colors that represent the amount of heat I am carrying in my body. Yellow equals calm, and that’s my normal self. I always see at least some yellow. If I’m having an intense day, I’ll see heat as bright orange or red. If the intensity has passed, the orange and red turn to dark red and then to black. Those colors dislodge and move along the river of yellow calm until they disappear. Do I really see those colors? Since colors exist only in our minds (not in our eyes), I’m going to say that yes, I do see those colors.
I wonder what would happen if everyone in the world would meditate at the same time for ten minutes. All of the billions of us just sitting quietly for ten minutes, eyes closed. (We’d have to make sure that for those ten minutes, nobody was sky diving, frying food or attempting to recite all of the digits of Pi.) Fighting everywhere would stop for ten minutes. Some peoples’ physical or emotional pain might be relieved for ten minutes. Maybe we’d all focus a little bit better after that.
Until recently, I had never meditated for a full ten minutes. Now I’ve even done it for twenty minutes a couple of times. I will try to do it more often. I’ll sit and not think about it. I’ll work harder at doing nothing.


Friday, August 14, 2015

If You Build a Literature Festival in Rural America, They Will Come


IN MY STUDY -- Children's writers write so kids will read. Kids find our books with the help of librarians, parents, teachers and even other kids. As often as possible, we meet our kid readers at school visits and author events and library story times.
But what about kids who live in places so rural that they don’t have a library in their town or even in their school? They can buy books through school book clubs, or maybe their parents visit bookstores when they travel to the city. Or they can buy books online. Kind of like the old days. Think Sears or Montgomery Ward deliveries of new school clothes in the 1960s (ripping open the brown paper bag to discover… my new plaid, pleated skirt, with a giant gold safety pin!) or how about the Wells Fargo wagon delivering bathtubs (or was that just a song?). Anyway, kids in rural America can get their hands on books if they want to. But what about meeting authors?
That’s where Karen Drevo, the heroine of my story, steps forward (with hands over her face because she would insist that NONE of this is about her). Karen, a youth services librarian, and her sidekick Marci, assistant youth services librarian, have run the Norfolk Nebraska Literature Festival for 21 years, bringing kids from rural Nebraska to meet authors whose books are included on Nebraska’s Golden Sower Award list. This year, I was privileged to be one of those authors.
On our 2 ½ hour drive from the Omaha airport, I got to talk children’s books and writing with Karen (who had already driven 2 ½ hours to pick us up) and two of the three authors who were part of this year’s event. Riding shotgun was Pat Zietlow Miller, 2014 Golden Kite winner for her lovely picture book, SOPHIE’S SQUASH. Sitting next to me was Liesl Shurtliff, author of RUMP and its companion books JACK and RED, magically reworked fairy tales. We would meet up with Lisa Bullard, author of an adventure/quest/mystery tale called TURN LEFT AT THE COW. She was driving (past cows) from Minnesota. My book, PRISONER 88, filled the historical fiction category, a genre that is sometimes hard to sell to kids who think history is just a list of dead people.
First thing the next morning, we authors hosted individual writing workshops. Among my participants was a group of four kids from a class of approximately 14 (some discrepancies there about kids leaving and kids moving in). They had hit the road before 7 a.m. On a Saturday. In July. With their teacher. To talk to authors. (Some other kids came from as far as 2 ½ hours away!) One girl, a soon-to-be seventh grader named Taylor, a ginger with a smile as wide as Nebraska, told me that she loved to write everything, even presentations for school. She volunteered to read for each exercise we practiced. Her enthusiasm gave me the burst of energy I needed after the previous day’s two flights and long car trip.
By late afternoon, after all of our author presentations (wow, did I learn a lot about how to capture an audience’s attention), we signed books, took selfies (“us”ies?), hugged young kids and old kids, too. And then we packed all of our overflowing bags (yes, we all bought books) into the car and headed back to Omaha.
To me, a first-time published author at the age of 55, the whole experience was a dream come true. Based on the great questions I got after my talk, I think there are now some kids in Nebraska who will try more historical fiction.
Karen and Marci and all of the staff and volunteers from the Norfolk Public Library did a Herculean job herding authors and readers through a day filled with books. Or maybe it’s more appropriately American to say that they did a Paul Bunyonesque job. Marci’s latest round of chemo had left her unsure the night before whether she could attend. (She was there. All day.) Everyone sweated out a shipment of books that finally arrived the morning of the festival. Karen drove a total of ten hours in just over a day. Ask her about it and she’ll tell you it was no big deal.



Thursday, June 4, 2015

Larry's out in 151st place

BACK AT THE HOTEL -- Larry moneyed, but he ran into a nasty hand and went out in 151st place. He paired a Jack, the other guy did runner runner for a straight. Bummer. But Larry moneyed in 2 out of 3 events he played in.

Today's table

I didn't see ANY women in the money at this tournament, but this is Maria Ho, and she might have been in it.


Day Two of 6-Handed Tournament

AT OUR HOTEL -- Day Two of the 6-handed tournament restarts at 1 p.m. We got back to the room around 2:30 a.m. and got to sleep maybe around 3 a.m.


Some numbers:

1,651 entrants. 206 left after Day One. Paying 180. Larry is in 95th place with 52,700 chips. First place is $457,000. The chip leader, with 213,000 chips, will be at Larry's table.

I helped him stack chips as people busted out and the chip stacks got pretty high.

We're ready for today.

At dinner break

Heading back after a break. The weather is perfect, not nearly as hot as usual.

One light is a streetlight, the other is the moon.

Antonio Esfandiari in glasses. He's still in, has about the same size chip stack as Larry for Day Two.

Daniel Negreanu before he busted out early on.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Doing Well in 6-Hand Event

POKER KITCHEN -- 7:22 p.m. We're eating dinner. The dinner break is 90 minutes meaning that if Larry is in it at the end of today's play, that will be sometime after 2 a.m. He's got about 18,000 chips right now. They started with 7,500. He's playing well.

His chair outside the ropes is where I've been hanging out.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

WSOP continued

IN HOTEL ROOM -- Tomorrow (Wednesday), Larry will play in a 6-Handed No-Limit Hold 'em tournament that starts at noon. If Larry's table is close to where spectators can stand, that will be great. It's easier for me to see what's going on when there are only six players at a table.

We checked out the Mob Museum today. It's located in an actual old courthouse where some mob trials were held.




Mail box slots left over from when the building was a courthouse.

The other night, we had a terrific meal at El Dorado, a Mexican restaurant that is located in a rather strange place.


The two businesses have nothing to do with each other, although I'm sure there are some patrons that have visited both.

Excellent empanadas


The Riviera is no more. It has closed its doors, and it will be imploded like so many other Las Vegas casinos long past their prime.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Table 7 Wasn't Lucky

BACK AT THE HOTEL -- Larry busted out at about 5:30. He had pocket Kings. He got all the chips in the middle pre-flop against pocket Jacks and the third Jack arrived on the river. Boo.

Antonio Esfandiari is in that tournament. We also saw Michael Mizrachi and Vanessa Russo.

Larry will play in a six-handed tournament starting on Wednesday. Maybe third time's a charm.