“MAGICAL HOUSEKEEPING”

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I was ecstatic upon receiving Magical Housekeeping with the prospect of writing a review. I had heard of this book prior to receiving it and was eager to finally read it. I have always believed that the way one treats their home can have a direct effect on one’s own happiness and what one consciously or subconsciously invites into their lives.

A few months ago, my highly skeptical boyfriend came across an article exploring the direction in which one’s bed faces and the effects it can have on one’s life. We were going through a rough time and our relationship was very strained. Our bed was facing North and wouldn’t you know this was considered the worst position for one to face while sleeping? Navajo tradition states that only the deceased should face North, as it was considered evil. Hindu’s maintain a similar custom, arising from a story between the goddess Kali and fellow deity Ganesha. Lying with the head facing North is said to bring about anger and miscommunications. Wouldn’t you know that as soon as we re-arranged our bedroom, these problems disappeared almost instantly from our relationship? The skeptical boyfriend was suddenly not so skeptical.

The Universe makes no mistakes, and this book came into my possession at the perfect time. We were moving into a new house with much more space, and therefore many more arrangement options. Our apartment at the time, which was a mere 750 square feet, had very limited options in terms of what furniture went where. My favorite section of Magical Housekeeping was a chapter titled “Harmonious Positions”. I was instantly inspired and hastily made a visit to our yet-to-be-inhabited new house. I mapped out the entire floor plan and decided where I wanted to put everything in a way that corresponded to these energy points.

There are many ways to do this; however I followed the method used in Magical Housekeeping, which consists of splitting one’s residence into 9 square areas in a grid format. Each space (called a Bagua) pertains to a specific area in one’s life, such as relationships, career, creativity, and so on. They each correlate to one of the four elements and I took this into careful consideration. For example, I placed our fish tank in the Bagua near our front door with water as its related element. I chose this location not only for continuity, but also because water near one’s front door is said to invite Chi (good energy) in. This particular Bagua is associated with Self including career, life mission, and career. I felt this was a perfect fit since my boyfriend and I are both water signs. “Fire burns, water falls, wind blows…”

In case you’re curious, our bed now faces East, and our relationship has never been better.

I have always been one to devour a book when I find one I like. For example, I read the first three Harry Potter books each in a single day. Magical Housekeeping was no different. First I must say that unless I am reading fiction, I almost never read books in order. I like to flip open to a random page and go from there. This was clearly a wise decision because I flew through the first few chapters I read. My immense enthusiasm began to dwindle as I worked toward the front of the book. Not because it lost its spark, it was quite the opposite actually. Each chapter increased in depth and was more interesting than the last.

What dissuaded me from further implementing these practices into my life and home was intimidation, via an important chapter titled “Clearing Clutter”. The mere thought of de-cluttering sends my heartbeat into a frenzy. I organize in piles and ever since I was a child, corners have been my clothes hampers. No matter how intricate, feature-ridden or pretty the hampers my parents purchased for me were, they just were not my thing. Needless to say, I was hesitant to even read this chapter. I was open to de-cluttering at least a little bit, although I wanted to be able to commit to keeping it that way, another of my not-so-strong points. I decided to go ahead and browse through it anyway. Maybe they would take another approach to de-cluttering, as opposed to the countless magazine articles and books I had read over the years. They did, gladly, however it was not something that worked for me personally.

In the principles of Feng Shui, it is said that in order for good energy or Chi to flow, it must have open space and smooth surfaces. Lots of corners, angles, and clutter are big no-no’s, as energy can get blocked up in refined spaces. This is my main motivation for trying to keep my piles to a minimum (keyword: try). Aside from this vital principle of attaining a peaceful household, another point that did not work for me was the suggestion of ridding one’s home of any items which did not bring about good memories or which did not represent the real you.

I see the importance in this practice and I believe that it would cause a noticeable difference in peacefulness for the individual; however, as with most practices in Magical Housekeeping this is for those who feel the nudge to do so. I am a very sentimental person, and as a result, I have collected a fair amount of trinkets and photos over my lifetime. Not all of these have happy memories attached to them: the Sleeping Beauty music box I gave to my mother for Christmas as a child, which she then re-gifted to me the next year; photos taken with friends and lovers who are no longer in my life; and of course as a writer, I have stacks upon stacks of journals. These are one of the few things I have well organized, as they are my most prized possessions. Many of these journals were filled in highly-inspired times of insomnia and heartache, when I feel the only appropriate and helpful thing to do is write. These are things very special to me that I hope to keep for the rest of my lifetime and someday pass onto my partner or children. It became apparent to me that while very helpful to many people, this was not something I was able to implement into my life.

What I learned from this book is that you must do what works for you and your family. Magical Housekeeping, while not going too in depth on any particular topic, covers a wide variety of ways to invite peace and happiness into one’s home. Every sense is taken into consideration, with the exception of taste. Tranquil sounds, pleasing aromas, comforting textures, and appropriate and powerful colors are all highly recommended and explored in their own chapters. I believe we all want to live truly happy and peaceful lives, and the way you decorate, arrange, and treat your home can have a tremendous effect on one’s life and attitude, either for the positive or negative. Home is what you make it. It takes time, thought, love, and energy of all varieties to attain the home you want: The home to grow memories, to grow relationships, and to grow yourself.

Contributor:  Carina Trinidad. She can be reached at carina_trinidad@yahoo.com.

THE OFFICIAL BUBBLE MARGARITA

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The Official Bubble Margarita:
  • Rub a quarter of a fresh lime around the rim of your favorite glass
  • Dip rim of glass into Himalayan pink salt crystals ground course
  • Add 1 oz. 100% agave tequila (Blanco is aged less than two months, Reposado is aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year and Anejo is aged a minimum of one year but less than three years).
  • Add 2 oz. pommengrante juice such as Pom Wonderful
  • Add our secret ingredient, 1/2 vial ZipFizz, berry flavor (Sam’s Club or online)
  • Add 2 oz. electrolyte water such as Smart Water
  • Add a dash of Triple Sec or Curacao
  • Sir until powder dilutes
  • Add ice
  • Squeeze and throw in the lime wedge

You’ll wake up the next day and wonder if you did something right or wrong? But here’s why it’s right. Himalayan pink salt crystals claim to have 84 natural minerals and elements found in your body and the added benefit of balancing your PH — and even claims to eliminate cellulite? Limes have Vitamin C. One hundred percent agave tequila has less sugar than mixto tequila. Both are made  from a cactus-like plant not related in any way to gluten. The anti-oxidants in pomegranates are two to three times higher than that of red wine or green tea. ZipFizz is an energy drink loaded with 25 high quality vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and antioxidants and has 2 1/2 calories (1/2 vial). Triple Sec is mostly sugar, but it’s made from dried peels of bitter oranges. Electrolyte water has potassium, calcium, and magnesium that will balance the salt and keep you from being bloated.

And it tastes amazing! It’s the skinny, healthy margarita.

THE PET SAFETY & PROTECTION ACT

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The U.S. Pet Safety and Protection Act would provide a much-needed safety net to ensure that beloved family pets aren’t stolen or acquired under false pretenses for sale to research laboratories.

The act would prohibit Class B Dealers — people who make their livings selling animals to the research industry — and unlicensed individuals from selling dogs and cats to research labs. Currently, under the Animal Welfare Act of 1966, these people aren’t held accountable for where they obtain their animals.

This is a problem because dealers sometimes acquire them through illegal or unethical means — such as responding to “free to a good home” ads in newspapers, falsifying records to keep the animal’s true origins unknown and stealing pets kept in outside yards.

Passing the Pet Safety and Protection will ensure that stolen pets and animals acquired illegally or unethically won’t end up in research facilities. Tell Congress to pass the Pet Safety and Protection Act today. If you would like to sign the petition, I have, click here…

VENUS DRIVE BY SAM LIPSYTE

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This slim collection of short stories (the first Picador addition, although the collection was first published in 2000) packs a punch. The stories have immediacy and urgency. From page one the reader is dropped into a world of depravity and desperation. The stories are well crafted, and Lipsyte’s attention to language and rhythm is first-rate. Surprising things happen, and the reader feels sufficiently afloat in the endings. And yet something is missing, something essential, something, well….

The first story, entitled “Old Soul” concerns a man who frequents places like “Peep City” and “Peep Town” to cop a feel when he isn’t visiting his dying sister in the hospital. The voice of the narrator, as is often the case in this collection, is honest and unflinching. When commenting on the ambiance at Peep City, the narrator muses: “Why do they make these places so dark? I like to cop tit in the light.” By the second paragraph, we know we are in the hands of a brutally honest narrator, and that whatever is ultimately revealed in the story will not be sentimental or maudlin.

The narrator in this story is, however, not without scruples—wink, wink. When pondering the length the women in these joints will go to for an extra buck, he says, “Sometimes they asked about hand jobs, blowjobs, all the jobs, but I never wanted to go that far. I felt sorry for them. Somebody told me they were exploited. Me, I always paid in full.” He’s a pretty despicable character, an “Old Soul” as the title suggests. And if you’re in the mood for “likable characters”, you’ve got the wrong collection. The rest of the story concerns the narrator—he doesn’t have a name—going to bars, more peep clubs, and finally to visit his dying sister in the hospital. In this short scene, Lipsyte mines into the core of the story, and the language is fresh and alive. When describing his sister in the hospital bed, the narrator observes: “Ventilator, feeding tube, they had everything in her to keep her from going anywhere.” The story takes a glorious turn when the narrator slips his hands under the gurney covers and knuckle-fucks his sister, paralleling an earlier scene in Peep Town. The moment, while shocking and perverse, seems to fit with the overall tone of the story, and is perhaps the only parting gift this narrator can offer his sister before she dies. In a sense, it’s a short masterpiece.

The other stories range from childhood ruminations to adolescent rites-of-passages to adult burn-outs, who have, for all intents and purposes, lost their last chance at redemption. Certainly, the one thing these stories all have in common is an acuteness of language. Many of the lines are vibrant and penetrating—my annotated copy was graffitied with check marks and exclamation points— and regardless of the context, stop and make the reader think, or just appreciate, their beauty and insight. In “I’m Slavering”, a story about a young man looking for Gary, his drug-dealer/mentor, the narrator says of him, “Once he sawed off his thumb and gave it to his mother on a breakfast tray, he was in the free and clear. Who would ever bother a boy like that again? Who would tell him when to go to bed? This is what I mean by wisdom.” I found myself, as I read, revisiting sections like this over and over again for the crystallization of language and thought.

And so…what’s the missing piece? Why did the collection, in the end, leave me cold? What the collection lacks, in my humble opinion, is follow-through. At the end of most of these stories, I felt let-down. And I suppose it’s not surprising when you look at the acknowledgement page to find Gordon Lish’s name there. Lish was Raymond Carver’s editor for a time, and it’s purported that he cut many of Carver’s stories in half. Lipsyte’s stories seem to have a Lish’s fingerprints all over them. When minimalism is working at its best, stories tend to open-up and suggest more than the words on the page (as Carver’s do). When it is not working, stories tend to feel stilted and choppy, anemic almost. More of the stories in this collection fall into the latter category, unfortunately, and despite the beauty of the imagery and language throughout, the reader is often left asking : “So what?”

Still, it’s a collection that’s worthy of a read, especially if you appreciate the aesthetic possibilities of the well crafted sentence.

Contributor: Dennis Fulgoni, B.A., M.F.A.

LILITH — THE CONCERT YOU CAN SKIP

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On July 10th in the most amazing California weather, my friend, Kim, and I set out to go to a concert — a concert bringing women together, The Lilith Festival — bonding with our sisters! We had great seats & preferred parking. What could go wrong? EVERYTHING!!! Well, the parking was pretty good. It started at 2:30, but that just meant the park was open and there were several stages with people singing — not to much in the way of booths and Red Bull was $8. But we brought a picnic, so what did we care? At 5:30, we went to the big outdoor stage.

The first performer, Brandi Carlile, had the most amazing voice. Okay, she did sing two Johnny Cash songs including “Folsom Prison,” but she could really sing.

Then a Mariachi Band came out. We thought it was a joke! Nope. It lasted for a painful hour.

Then a sitcom played on the large video screens. I’m not kidding. It stunk. Can’t even remember the name of it.

Next some old woman was singing. I asked Kim, “how do you sing like an old woman?” Weird. Later we found out that was Emmy Lou Harris. Much later.

Then another singer I won’t even bother to mention, because she was pretty awful.

But it was 10:30 PM and Sara McLaughlin was going to sing and make the whole experience enchanting. Couldn’t hear a thing. Her band over-powered her. This didn’t happen to Brandi, but to the headliner, the sound was off.

And may I just add that people stood up, our sisters, through the whole show and blocked our view. Once Kim asked one of the girls to sit down. That lasted five minutes.

We left $214.00 later, tired and disappointed. Not to be a downer, but this is a concert I would skip. We’re going to laugh about this later, right?

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DIGNITY FOR CLARICE

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The emaciated, yellow Pit Bull darted savagely among moving and parked cars, her liquid brown eyes gazing up into windshields as if to catch a glimpse of a familiar face. With her hips jutting sharply up and out of her spine and her breasts pendulous with milk, swinging as she ran, she presented herself with an embarrassingly pathetic air. She had been abandoned, with puppies.

It was on this freezing, rainy March day that the woman pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot to come full on to this gut-wrenching scene.  Her heart fluttered as she contemplated the nature of the problem, but her instinct to help this dog overtook any reason as she rushed into the store, mind racing as to what type of food could be gotten in a hurry that would be the most nutritious.  Kitten chow, full of protein, would have to do for now. And she flew out of the store, startling shoppers as she went, and began searching for the dog, calling in a high-pitched tone, “Puppy, puppy, puppy,” a tone cultivated from many years as a dog trainer.  The dog appeared, eyeing her suspiciously as she poured a small pile of chow within the enclosure for carts.  Taking a tentative nibble, but too nervous to eat, the dog started off.  The woman called again to no avail.  Then she poured the rest of the chow into small piles near the first in an attempt to keep it from disintegrating too fast in the rain.  Sighing, she returned to the store to finish shopping and when she came out, the dog was gone.

Three days later the woman was amazed to see the dog again and this time went straight into the deli section and purchased a 2 lb. package of cheese-filled hot dogs and a 1 lb. bag ofchicken tenders.  Going outside, she called,”Puppy, puppy, puppy!”  To her delight the dog seemed to recognize her voice and approached close enough so the woman could pitch chunks of meat to her.  The dog greedily snatched them up.  Then –a breakthrough — the Pit took each chicken tender from the woman’s hand.  Calling again, “Puppy, puppy, puppy,” the woman opened her car door, patting the seat, in hopes the dog would get in.  And then what?  Trying again anyway, “Puppy, puppy…” but the dog trotted away out of the lot.

Ms. Susan Porter, 66 year old dog obedience trainer for the small town of Amherst, Virginia, was smitten.  Yearning, sad images of the Pit, now affectionately named by her, Clarice, popped into her head at odd times of day and night–especially when tending her own three cats and ancient Yorkie Poo.  She planned a course of action.  Buy poptop cans of puppy meat, paper plates, bowls and water for her car at all times.  She remembered a remedy for failing puppies and purchased a tube of nutrients at the pet store to add to her moving dog rescue kit.

In God’s hands, the woman’s and the dog’s timing collided.  The Pit was just there time after time and the woman fed her nutritious meals while shoppers and their children watched.  When she tried to approach Clarice to pat her head, the dog would sweetly use her teeth to drag a half-loaded plate away–always just out of reach.  Mother, fathers and their children loved watching this unusual and heart-rending sight and would sometimes cheer. And by now it occurred to Ms. Porter that this dog had at one time been owned by someone.  But how long could she have been feral and survived with puppies?  And could this situation be reversed?

For this reason, she phoned the animal rescue office and spoke with an officer.  He said, “We’ve been trying to catch that dog since January!”  January, February, March…a long time!  She was stunned to realize that the dog must have given birth to pups while out in the bitter cold.  Now a really cruel question arose.  Where could a mother dog hide and nurture puppies for this long in the winter?  Puppies need to be kept warm to survive.  And there were coyotes in this neighborhood.  She was even more determined to rescue this dog and maybe find the pups, too.  Ms. Porter began to comb neighborhoods near where she’d seen Clarice asking neighbors if they’d seen her.  One young man with a healthy, handsome German Shepherd said he’d seen her and thought perhaps other people in the neighborhood gave her scraps.  As to the whereabouts of the puppies, he didn’t know.  He made this chilling remark, “If they can’t catch her, they’ll shoot her, won’t they?”  Ms. Porter grimaced saying she didn’t know and left her phone number in case the man saw the dog.  She tracked other grocery stores in the vicinity and found that in back of Food Lion , they fed stray cats.  One day she found Clarice there, a young boy in hot pursuit.  Ms. Porter convinced him to stop chasing Clarice and called “Puppy, puppy, puppy!”  Clarice came close enough for a hearty meal and then took off–boy in hot pursuit.  She was wanted!  Ms. Porter began to canvas the surrounding area looking for shelter where pups could be nurtured.  Surprisingly there were quite a few, but no sign of Clarice.

The next encounter was at the Wal Mart, and Clarice was beginning to look a little better.  She had put on a couple of pounds, but was still very compromised.  Then, suddenly, just as the Pit had dropped into her life, she was gone.  Ms. Porter placed another call to animal rescue and the officer asked if she had been one of the people who had called about the dog.  Apparently, there had been a few people who had made that call.  When he realized that he had spoken with her before, he told her that he was not at liberty to say what happened to Clarice, but that they had caught her!  Ms. Porter’s heart sank.  It had been two weeks.  Had Clarice been put down?  And what about the puppies?  She scanned notices advertising puppies and called one of them.  The woman who answered told her that her son had a Pit Bull who had puppies but that they had gotten rid of her because they couldn’t afford to get her spayed.  Mind numbing pain crept in as Ms. Porter realized that in rural communities this was not that uncommon.  Dogs were kept outside and not always treated with kindness.  She was very heart-broken and often murmured the name, “Clarice!”

Several months later, Ms. Porter went to the pet supply store with her own Yorkie Poo riding in the basket.  When she spied a dog who surely could be Clarice with the store’s dog trainer, she jumped in amazement.  The dog looked so good.  She approached and stared at her asking the trainer if he had gotten her from the dog impound.  When he told her he made a point of rescuing Pit Bulls, she screamed in amazement and joy.  She spoke to the young man of her journey with the dog.  It was Clarice all right and she looked radiant–happy to be by the side of a young man who knew what he was doing and who would care for her in a way that she very much needed and FOREVER!

Contributor:  Susan Porter

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