Monday, February 24, 2014

Clap Along if You Feel Like Happiness is the Truth

I've had this song stuck in my head for days... and I keep thinking it's just because I'm sweet on Pharrell (and, let's be honest, his Canadian Mounty/Bullwinkle hat).

But maybe it's more than that. In all honesty, I just wanna be happy. More than anything else, I love that feeling of having to smile on the outside coz I feel so good on the inside. 

Yesterday, I was walking on the beach at Zuma and really enjoying the sun and the clear water and the sound of the rocks and the blue of the ocean, and a man yelled to me, "Hey! Did you see the whale?" I hadn't, but I stopped and stared at the horizon with him for a few minutes while he tried to catch sight of it again. He kept saying, "It was just there, so it ought to surface again soon..." and pointing just a hair to our left. I said I didn't care. "I'll wait until it comes up. I believe you. I'm just happy someone saw it." And, of course, it surfaced soon and we smiled to each other and I kept walking.

Truth is, happiness is contagious and you wanna share it. I didn't know that guy, but I love that he wanted to share his happiness with me.

And I want you to be happy, too. Start by clicking on the video. I dare you not to snap your fingers and sing along.

xoxo Erin

Click to see Pharrell Williams' "Happy."

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thank You, 2013 - Come to Mama, 2014!

Baby, you're a firework.

This is a note of gratitude to everyone who's read this blog over the year (hi, Mom!), in spite of your own busy life and pages-long to-do list. I'm grateful to be heard and understood, and wish the same for you.

It's been a year of transitions and growth; but then again, what year isn't? 

I have been working on my novel. Yes, I promised it would be done last year and yet it's not (although I'm entrenched in 3rd draft revisions and can see the "end" in sight!). And so I keep plugging away, trying to balance the true meaning of my life on earth with a desire to just finish the damn thing. (Deep breath, exhale, smile widely.) For all I know, the book is just a means of transportation to a deeper understanding of myself, right? (Pause, wrinkle forehead, wonder why I wrote that when I have trouble remembering it each day.)

And though I love writing this blog and will continue to do so in the future, I'm also THRILLED to unveil my eponymous website: . It is very different from this blog, which I consider the place where I can roam through my random thoughts and explore crazy ideas about life and spirituality. On, you can expect ramblings about pop culture, people I crush on, music I love, information about my book and art and inspiration, and it will evolve as I finish my book. For now, you can sign up for my email list - click the "join my list" button and you'll immediately get a free sample of my book!!

I'm excited for the New Year and grateful to the old one for all the lessons it brought to me. Here's to taking those lessons and learning new ones in 2014, and creating even more unseeable, exciting opportunities for growth!

xoxo Erin

The Nature of Dog

Gibby. Is he a D-O-G... or a G-O-D?
It occurred to me on my walk yesterday morning that I may have it all wrong. 

By "it," I mean, what if what I *think* is real... isn't? 

Like, what if my dog -- seen here in his usual stance and mood, a happy yellow lab with his tongue hangin' out, waiting for a walk or a crumb to drop -- isn't really the pet I think he is, but instead is... (gulp)... 


Hang with me here; I know I sound more than a little nuts. But just as I sometimes forget that everyone else in the world - every one of the billion-some people across the globe - is a tiny piece of stardust (or "God," or the Universe, whatever works for you), I often take my dog's true nature for granted. And when I thought about the very nature of our relationship, I saw the connection between my dog and God; or, rather, my relationship with God.

Things like:

* I hate getting up to walk the dog every morning. I hate it. Sometimes I want to wake up late, or drink a second cup of coffee, or mindlessly pin pretty pix on Pinterest, but my dog is ever-present, waiting for me, a large dog-like shadow panting with anticipation until I get off my butt and get the leash and get out into the sunshine of the morning. It's like how they say "God is all around." And so I reluctantly get him outside. But once I'm out...

* I love walking my dog. I'm reminded of the present moment, of the birds singing, of the changing of seasons, of the incredible greatness of the world we live in. I see my neighbors and I feel the blood coursing through my veins and celebrate the movement in my body and the very fact that I'm alive. I'm ALIVE! What a freakin' accomplishment!!

* My dog never hates me. Ever. I've snapped at him and pulled his leash tightly when he's threatening to bark at a horse (a definite no-no in my horse community), I've made him wait to "do his biz" until we're in a better location, I've been a total grump on our walks, etc., etc. But he's a total lover. He just wants to love me and everyone else. That's all. 

* He lives in the present moment. He's not concerned with what happened yesterday and can't even think about tomorrow (literally), so he just makes the damn most of every single moment.

* My dog doesn't expect anything in return. He just likes to be happy and wants everyone else to be tail-waggingly happy, too. Sure, he'd love to get a big fat juicy marrow bone and cuddle up with someone on the couch, but just being alive is enough for him. In fact, he makes it look like it RULES!

* Sometimes I have to walk around with a big pile of shit in my hands that I didn't make. Okay, so it's in a bag, but who likes to hold another creature's steaming poop? I don't, not at all. But it has to be done. I love Gibby and I don't want him to be uncomfortable, which means I have to take him on a walk so he can poop, which means I have to pick up said poop and transport it to a garbage can. It is my least-favorite part of pet ownership, for sure. But if I think about it, I hate cleaning up other people's messes in all aspects of my life; it's only now that I know it's an act of sheer love to just bend down and pick it up, even if you didn't make it yourself. This applies to dog shit as well as not going ape on another driver or saying mean things to someone who's hurt you. Pick up the poop and drop it in the garbage can and wash your hands. Then move on.

* Sometimes I mistake his barks for anger, when he's really just excited or happy. The other day, a neighbor was walking her husky and German shepherd and Gibby went nuts, as he always does with these particular dogs. "I'm sorry!" my neighbor called, and I found myself saying, "Oh no, that's okay. He just gets energized when he sees your dogs!" Where the heck did that come from? The sentiment rang true for me in so many ways: often I've mistaken excitement for nervousness or fear.

* As the morning dog walker, I hold the leash; as such, I hold "God" back from his true nature. He wants to experience the world by sniffing every plant and closing his eyes to feel the sun on his face and eating a little horse poop and saying hi to every passerby. I'm the one who yanks on the chain and says, "No, Gib, we don't have time. Not today. I have too much to do." Like what? What could be more important than living my life in the only moment I have: the present?

I don't expect to convert anyone to this dogma (what?! tell me that word isn't a coincidence!), but it's certainly something to chew on. I still consider myself a new dog owner, even after three years, but even that is good metaphor. After all, even at 42, I'm still learning about "God."

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Free at Last

Emme's perfect smile
There are some things that come naturally to parents: loving your kids; annoying other people with tales of your kids' beauty, smarts and cunning wit; witnessing each new development with a mixture of awe, pride and bittersweet nostalgia for where you've been together.

Serena's top braces came off, too
But when there are battles - and there will be battles, unfortunately - you have to pick the important ones. Again, some are easy: no, you may not wear those booty shorts to school or Um... Let's find a more appropriate dress for the bar mitzvah... I don't always want to be "right," per se, but sometimes I have to put in my two cents.

However, I hadn't expected a struggle with Emme over braces. 

Full disclosure: I never had braces. It's a good thing I had naturally straight teeth, too, because my brother's mouth was an orthodontist's gold mine. Still, I didn't love through the discomfort of years of orthodontic appliances, braces, expanders, rubber bands, altered speech and eating, etc., all of which my kids hold against me.

When they were little - and I mean tiny, like kindergarten - our orthodontist recommended two phases, to widen arches and then to straighten teeth. I was totally on board; Raf was unsure. It was sad to see kids with full metal in their mouths before they could even reject it, but I was sure it would pay off. Emme's teeth in 2nd grade were headed to Spongebob-ville and the early braces for 9 months warded off crooked teeth for her pre-teen years. 

So when it was time for Phase 2, she said, "My teeth are straight. I don't need braces." Raf agreed and I had a tough time convincing him to sign the contract with the orthodontist. Month after month - for nearly a year and a half - I have struggled with the whining, "When can I get them off?" (Serena and Marlowe had braces at the same time - and both are getting them off this summer, too - but they didn't have as tough a time with them.)

With our summer vacation looming ahead of us, Raf decided to ask if we could get the braces off before we left, instead of a month later as planned. I wasn't sure about messing with the plan... after all, I didn't go to school for straightening teeth... but once the doctor was on-board (and believe me, it has been a scheduling and logistic puzzle toting three kids on three different schedules to their appointments a half-hour away at the end of the school year), Emme was thrilled. 

That is, until she had to wear rubber bands 24/7 for three weeks to speed up the process. It was painful and she cried; Raf said he wouldn't have wanted to do it if he'd known it would be so painful. Emme mumbled something about how nice her teeth were before she'd gotten braces.

I threw my hands up, frustrated at trying to please everyone and ending up pleasing no one. But the fact is - and Emme's heard me say it so many times, she's over it - I'm grateful for the braces and for having the means to give our daughters beautiful smiles and to avoid dental problems later in their lives. When they look at their gorgeous school pictures and wedding photos, they'll see why I was so adamant about braces. 

"You'll thank me on your wedding day," I'd say and she'd roll her eyes. 

Anyway, when Emme got her braces off last week, she couldn't stop smiling. I caught her looking in the mirror and she turned to me, saying those golden words a mother loves to hear. 

"Yes," she smiled. "You were right. Thank you."

And this time, being right felt really good.


Live version of Arcade Fire's "Neighborhoods #1" at Austin City Limits in 2011. In case you can't see it, click here.

It's strange, but I feel myself expanding lately. Not physically but mentally... For instance, I've had so many limiting beliefs in my lifetime, thinking I'm "stuck" in one place or another, and then life changes and suddenly I'm different and what I thought was "real" was already over, kaput, in the past. And then, having crossed that bridge, I find myself wondering, "Well, what's next?"

Most recently, it was my weight loss.  More specifically, it was how my brain and limiting thoughts had to deal with the fact that "we" had decided I was a certain body type and yet I was no longer that physical shape. I was different - actually, I felt better than ever - and I had to admit that my "limits" were gone. 

So that's where I'm at now. Wondering, "Well, what's next?"

As I wonder and get ready for our upcoming trip to Barcelona and Rome (read all about it on my other blog; I'm planning to write here and there), I've found myself wandering around the house with my iPhone in my pocket, listening to music and podcasts with earphones. This song came up - "Neighborhoods #1," one of my favorites by Arcade Fire - and I had to share it. The video quality isn't awesome, but it's a live performance shot by a fan at Austin City Limits and it felt more fitting than the "official" music video. 

My favorite lyrics: 

...Then I'll dig a tunnel from my window to yours
Yeah, a tunnel...
from my window to yours

You climb out the chimney
And meet me in the middle...the middle of the town

And since there's no one else around,
We let our hair grow long and forget all we used to know

Here's to forgetting all we used to know and expanding far beyond what we "think" we can do.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Keeping Berries & Greens Fresh in the Fridge

I love summer and I'm so happy to see the summery produce popping up at farmers markets. The only downside to buying beautiful berries and greens is watching them wilt and shrivel before your very eyes at home, often within a few short hours. I've found that a few little tricks can make them last a little longer, sometimes days after I've bought them (if we haven't eaten them by the fistfuls on the first day, that is).

If you don't have a fancy "berry keeper," use the following method:

For strawberries, cherries and blueberries, DO NOT RINSE or wash them before you store them - they will rot and turn ugly!! Instead, place them in more or less a single layer (blueberries can be on top of each other) on a few paper towels in a shallow bowl or tupperware container, cover, and store in the fridge.

Yesterday, I bought collard greens, which I love to use in place of a tortilla for a "wrap" sandwich (filled with cooked veggies, quinoa, etc.). By the time I got them home, they had already wilted, so I snipped off a 1/2" from the bottom of their stems and placed them upright in a mug of cool water for a half-hour. After they perked up, I wrapped a damp paper towel around the stems and placed them in a large ziploc (not closed) in the fridge. 

This is what they look like this morning:

Farm fresh and ready to eat!
I've used this method with chard, lettuces, and herbs. 


What I Eat: Attack of the Growing Oatmeal

After I wrote about losing weight, I got a few questions about what I eat, so I'll share a few of my favorites from time to time. For the most part, I eat the same things over and over because: (a) I love them, and (b) I feel "safer" eating something familiar within my crazy Weight Watchers/gluten-free/plant-based parameters.

I make this stove-top oatmeal (adapting the Hungry Girl growing oatmeal recipe) a few times a week, especially if I'm STARVING after my morning workout or if I know I'll have several busy hours between the morning and afternoon. I'd even call it a natural "appetite suppressant" because I've timed my hunger after eating it, and generally I don't even start thinking about food again for 3 or 4 hours! Considering how much I like to snack, this is a miracle food. Because the recipe calls for DOUBLE the liquid and DOUBLE the cooking time, the oats "grow" to a humongous size - and even though it's a small portion of oats, you end up with a really big bowl of cereal.

Years ago, when I was seeing a nutritionist, she indicated that oatmeal wasn't the best breakfast choice for me - I can't remember the reasons, but I gave it up immediately, thinking it would make me fat. Of course, there are many ways to sugar up oatmeal and make it more like a dessert - with maple syrup or brown sugar, for example - and I also used to make crazy portions of heavy, sticky oats, so it would sit in my stomach all day like a lump.

But this... this is an oatmeal revolution in a bowl!  It gives me energy all day and has incredible staying power. 

*adapted from
(5 points - Weight Watchers PPV)

  1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  1 cup water

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook and stir until thick and creamy, approx. 12 - 15 minutes. 

Because it's a lot of liquid, it takes a long time; just hang in there, check your emails on your phone, repin a few pix on Pinterest, and stir from time to time to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. 

After it's done cooking, you can add fruit, cinnamon and/or vanilla as desired. I like to put a few frozen berries (or other frozen fruit) at the bottom of the bowl and add a layer of thin-sliced bananas (to make it sweet without sugar), then a layer of oatmeal; then I repeat the layers, like a yummy breakfast cereal and fruit lasagna!

bottom layer of peaches, blueberries & banana 

adding the first "layer" of oatmeal
My "mug" is actually a huge 16-ounce vessel and the oatmeal and fruit fills it right up. Sometimes, I can't finish the whole thing, so I stick it in the fridge for an afternoon snack and it's DELICIOUS.