Alda’s Mirror

“Is there anything else you want?” my father asked?

There wasn’t, but I knew no was not an acceptable answer.

“Take anything,” he insisted.

This was 1999. We were in the garage attic of my parent’s house, looking at the trunk that held my grandmother’s belongings—my father’s mother, Alda. I never knew her. She’d had rheumatic fever as a child, which left her with a weak heart. Alda died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1936 when my father was 10. He couldn’t remember a time when she wasn’t sick.

I’d already taken the pink Depression glasses: a few small juice glasses and several larger water glasses. They were wrapped in newspaper in a pile next to the trunk.

I picked up the girl doll with the porcelain head and cloth body. She was big, about two feet long, with dark hair that felt human and eye lids that opened and closed. She wore a green velvet hat. If the hat were life-sized, I would have worn it myself. Continue reading Alda’s Mirror

You Just Saved $16

The library reopened gradually. First, the lime green tape that blocked the mouth of the book drop was removed. A few weeks later, an email announced that library books requested online would be available for pickup. Patrons were required to make a reservation and show up, masked, at a table outside the library, where a masked librarian handed over the goods in a brown paper bag. Getting a book had never felt so dangerous. Continue reading You Just Saved $16

Approaching William James

I may have been procrastinating when I biked to William James’s grave.

I’ve been a fan ever since I read Varieties of Religious Experiences as an undergraduate. Recently, I’d checked out James’ psychology textbook. Not the monumental, two-volume, 1200-page Principles of Psychology published in 1890 that established James as the Father of American Psychology, but the lesser, 400-page Psychology: The Briefer Course, an 1892 abridgement of Principles. James’s students referred to the big volumes as James and the shorter book as Jimmy.

I’d read the long introduction to Briefer Course and was about to start the main text when the idea to visit William James’s grave popped into my head. The weekend before I’d meant to bike but had read instead. Why is it always easier to do something other than what you’re supposed to be doing? Continue reading Approaching William James

My Relationship with My Meditation App: It’s Complicated

Sitting isn’t easy, so setting a specific amount of time to meditate helps me maintain a consistent practice. I started off using a kitchen timer, but it ticked, so an audio-engineer friend created “songs” for my iPod with a gong at the beginning, silence for 10, 20, 30 or 45 minutes, and then a gong at the end. This was in 2006, a year before the first iPhone was released.

When I bought an iPhone in 2011, one of the first apps I downloaded was Insight Timer Light. I upgraded to the paid version later, for the advanced options. I can’t remember what it cost, maybe $9.99, but it seemed like a reasonable price to pay for an app I used almost every day.

Continue reading My Relationship with My Meditation App: It’s Complicated

My Migraine Guru

I’ve worked with some excellent teachers over the years, but migraine headaches have taught me more about meditation than any of them.

I was 13 when I had my first migraine. The pain and nausea were unbearable. My worried mother took me to a pediatrician, who referred me to an optometrist, who referred me to a neurologist, who prescribed medicine that didn’t work. Fast forward a few decades, several doctors, and many drugs later—I still get migraines.

Continue reading My Migraine Guru