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How Big is the Universe? Wow, It’s REALLY Big.

18 Aug

Call me crazy, but whenever the size of the universe comes up in conversation, I always hear a variation of the same statement: it just makes me feel so, you know, small. And I say “really”? Yes, I understand that the earth is a fraction of an atom in the great design of the universe. I get it. But my predominant reaction is “well, that’s makes me part of an astronomically (obviously) large thing. I am part of THAT!” So in a kooky way, it makes me feel really good. As Carl Sagan said, human brains literally can not comprehend/compute/fathom the size and scope of the universe and what’s in it. That’s not our job. I suppose when we try to measure that, it’s a bit like trying to make flowing water into a box we can hold and grab and toss. What’s the point? Perhaps the real question is “how are we a part of it all?” Here are two cool videos referencing the Hubble Ultra Deep Field in 3D.

And here is George Smoot at the TED conference discussing the actual design of the universe. I am so fascinated with how matter-0f-factly Smoot basically describes so effortlessly and definitively what we know about the universe. Certainly, we only have what he calls a “droplet” of information to go on, but oh the places we will go (that’s Dr. Suess, not me.)

Alice in Wonderland, I’m Coming Down That Rabbit Hole

31 Jul

Tim Burton films run hot and cold for me. Hot? That would be Edward Scissorhands. Cold? Willy Wonka. I appreciate his sense of style, fantasy, imagination, fun and darkness. He has a voice… a perspective. And that’s something. So as a huge fan of classic children’s and middle/young adult fiction, it’s with great anticipation that I saw the trailer to Alice in Wonderland. Looks good enough to eat.

Everyday Choose Love. Choose Light.

13 Jul

Today was a great day. We were with our lovely neighbors at the lake early this morning enjoying the cool water, the nibbling fish and the joy of a young child discovering a remote cove for the first time. We snacked on cherries and crackers and basked in the beauty of the rolling Texas Hill Country. By 1 p.m., we were back in our comfortable, safe and air conditioned home with a happy, sleepy little boy nestled into a dark little room for a summer afternoon nap cuddled up with a Very Hungry Caterpillar doll. He woke up all smiles and light, and I know that there is no amount of money on earth that could come close to how rich I felt today with my family and friends.

So I thought about this song by The Submarines. And though it always reminds me of those pesky iPhone commercials, independently of that it’s such a great song about living life with a full heart and how that keeps us present and alive.

“Here we are in the center of the first world. It’s laid out for us. Who are we to break down? Everyday we wake up. We choose love. We choose light. And we try, it’s too easy just to fall apart.”

Mom Told Not to Breastfeed in Public at McKenna Children’s Museum, TX

25 Jun
UPDATE: Please see the end of this post to read a statement from the museum. I think they responded to this situation quickly and very well. Good for them.
My friend Amy Nylund was breastfeeding her baby at the McKenna Children’s Museum in New Braunfels, TX yesterday. She was told to remove herself and go to a private nursing room instead because someone felt “uncomfortable.” According to the laws of Texas (and the laws of human dignity and respect), mothers can breastfeed babies whenever and wherever the Mother is legally allowed to be. Here’s what she did:
A letter to the director of the McKenna Children’s Museum in New Braunfels.
Anyone who feels inclined to write one of your own (please do!!), the email address is Please make your subject line BREASTFEEDING RIGHTS AT THE MUSEUM. Their phone number is 830-606-9525.

June 24, 2009

To Whom it Concerns:

Earlier today at the McKenna Children’s Museum, I was with my two children, two of my friends, and their four children. As the older children played, we sat with the younger kids near the toddler area. I was nursing my daughter, and my friend Jodi was nursing her son. We were approached by a representative of the museum (I’m not certain if she was a staff member or a volunteer). She asked that we move to the nursing room, because someone had complained and felt “uncomfortable.” We expressed to her that we felt it was within our rights to feed our children wherever we were. She asked again that we move to the private room, and then she left. A few minutes later we were approached by another member of the staff (I regret that I neglected to get her name). She reiterated the sentiment that nursing should only take place in the private room. She said she had to take the other person’s complaint into account, and that since there were three of us mothers, we could take turns watching one another’s children if one of us needed to go nurse.

I am so sad and upset about the way this was handled today. I would encourage you, as an organization, to read the State of Texas policy on breastfeeding, which states:

Tex. Health & Safety Code § 165.001 et seq.
1995 Tex. ALS 600; 1995 Tex. Gen. Laws 600; 1995 Tex. Ch 600; 1995 Tex. HB 359

Chapter 165. Breast-Feeding
Subchapter A. Breast-Feeding Rights and Policies
Sec. 165.001. Legislative Finding

The legislature finds that breast-feeding a baby is an important and basic act of nurture that must be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health and family values. In compliance with the breast-feeding promotion program established under the Federal Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. section 1771 et seq.), the Legislature recognizes breast-feeding as the best method of infant nutrition.
Sec. 165.002. Right to Breast-Feed
A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be.
I am saddened that in a lovely space like your museum, you would discourage and shame a woman who seeks to feed her baby naturally. On your organization’s main web site (, it states on the home page “Imagine living in a community where improving people’s well-being is a common goal…Where parents have the resources to nurture and raise children who are strong in both mind and body.” For an organization that seeks to improve the health and well-being of your community, I find it shocking that you would discourage a mother from easily giving her baby the absolute healthiest food: breastmilk.

To ask a woman to go to a private room just doesn’t make sense, especially in a setting where most mothers are watching their older children as well. The fact that I was there with friends has no bearing on what your policy SHOULD be: to allow a woman to feed her child wherever she deems fit.

It is disappointing that you see breastfeeding as offensive. The health benefits of breastfeeding, for both mothers and babies, has been so well established that the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that all babies be breastfed for at least one year. The World Health Organization recommends doing so for at least two years. In the United States, our national average length of time for a baby to be breastfed is six weeks.

The fact that we deprive American babies of the best possible nutritional and immunological support can be attributed directly to the attitudes of people like your two staff members today, who attempt to make women feel that breastfeeding is something to hide.

I was too upset today to ask for my money back on my way out. I paid for three admissions. I will not return to your museum until you develop a written policy supporting the rights of breastfeeding mothers, and until you educate your staff and volunteers. I will tell every mother I know about this incident. Word is already spreading. What happened today gives off the strong impression that your museum is NOT a family-friendly destination. I hope that this isn’t true. I look forward to hearing from you about this incident.


Amy Nylund
Amy just got this letter on July 1… yeah!
Good morning Amy,

Thank you for your email and for speaking with me regarding breastfeeding at the McKenna Children’s Museum. I wanted to let you know that the Museum’s breastfeeding policy is now in writing and states that under Texas law, a mother is entitled to breastfeed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be. McKenna Children’s Museum welcomes mothers who want to breastfeed in the Museum. McKenna Children’s Museum has a privacy area available or mothers may breastfeed in any public location of the Museum. If a patron complains about a mother who is breastfeeding, Museum staff will kindly explain that breastfeeding is permitted in the Museum pursuant to Texas law and suggest to that customer that he or she relocate to another section of the Museum. All staff have been informed and educated about this policy.

We hope you will visit us soon.


Alice Jewell, Director
McKenna Children’s Museum

Two Experiences, One Body

20 Jun

Next weekend I am presenting with my dear friend and colleague, Nettie Hartsock, at the annual Writers’ League of Texas Agents Conference. We’ll be talking about all things Web 2.0 as it relates to writers, and I am so pleased to have the opportunity to talk to colleagues and, of course, to attend the conference and expand my knowledge of the publishing industry. I went to this event last year and was so impressed not only by the quality, number and accessibility of the agents, but also at the incredible diversity and passion of the hundreds of writers in attendance. It was fuel for my creative spirit, and an enormous inspiration to my writing practice.

226amma03_FamilyHugBut truth be told, I was also looking forward to seeing Amma in Dallas next weekend. Each summer she tours the U.S. giving Darshan and hugging every last one of us dirty, anxious, helpless souls. It would have been glorious, but to be among writers and connecting with people in my community is my urgent call this year. I will see her next year, or perhaps make the sort of leaps and bounds in my life that will take me and my family to India to see her. Who knows? Go see Amma this summer… and give her big hugs from me. In the meantime, here’s a little pick-me-up with this idea of two experiences, one body! Have a great Saturday!

Cool Gift Guide… for the Eclectic, Spiritual, Pop Culture Geek

16 Jun

I know it’s been a couple of weeks since turning the big 4-0, but I was going through some gifts and– wow– my friends and family really, really know me. Here is just a sampling of some great gifts you might consider getting the eclectic, bookish, silly friend in your life.

gnomeThis fun little Gnome Away From Home is perfect for a desk shrine, cake topper or cat companion, and compact enough to take with you on a trip. He’s so tiny, I think it’s actually lifesize, for real. He even comes with his own stylish suitcase and all the right international papers to travel with. Particularly appropriate if you’re writing about Gnomes (which I am)! (Thanks, Nettie)

Sticking with the mystical theme, I also received a set of Angel Cards (r) which is a 72-card set of illustrations with special, guiding words on them originallyangelcards_sml-1 designed by members of the Findhorn community for their Transformation Game (r). Yes, it all sounds very serious and stealthy, but these are small, charming little cards that direct the seeker to encourage meditation and reflection on themes from  wisdom to simplicity. (Thanks, Sonya)

Meditations from a Course in Miracles by Helen Schucman and William Thetford is an elegant and beautiful companion to A Course in Miracles published by the Foundation for Inner Peace. I love picking this up and randomly flipping to any page to get some wonderful guidance. Here goes… “On the lack of necessity for fear: All aspects of fear are untrue because they do not exist on the creative level, and therefore do not exist at all.” Page 140… true dat.   (Thanks, Fritz)

votivoAlways an awesome gift for anyone, anytime… Votivo candles. I was so thrilled to get the Mandarine candle. It’s citrus scent is light and fresh, and not perfumy at all. Nothing overwhelming about it… just a pleasing glow, a simple container and a relaxing aroma. It comes in a gorgeous gift box and makes a thoughtful, lasting gift. (Thanks, Renee)

Me likey Alamo Drafthouse Gift Cards so, so much. This is my favorite movie theater in Austin. And I used it right away to go see UP which was fantastic. I was crying within the first ten minutes– in a good way. Fabulous, must-see movie, so get to it. At the disneys-up-2Alamo you always get cool, retro film footage before the show. We were lucky enough to get to see a very blonde, very leggy Nancy Sinatra sing “Up, Up and Away” as she (seemingly) navigated a hot air balloon all by herself as happy white trousered/mini-skirted dancers frolicked in the meadow below. And then you get dinner. I had a $5 milkshake (thank you, Pulp Fiction). Great evening. (Thanks, Rachel)

And, of course, the requisite gag gift. Yes, I am 40 now… and that is hysterical. Right? So what do I get? A 40 oz. Mickey’s Malt Liquor which will quietly sit among the jumbo jar of salsa, the organic peanut butter and the Goddess dressing until something horrible happens… like a blackout or the end of the world. (Thanks, Scott)

darshan DVDAnd one of my favorite gifts was the DVD Darshan: The Embrace, a French documentary on Amma. Amma is internationally known as “the hugging saint.” Originally from a very poor Indian village, she has emerged as a major humanitarian figure who has literally hugged over 23 million people worldwide. Her foundation has distributed tens of millions of dollars for hospitals, housing, food, educational programs and more. Such an inspiring and beautiful shot film which was an official selection in the Cannes Film Festival in 2005. (Thanks, Amy & Suzanne)

There were so many others… I also received a stunning indigo-colored votive candle holder from my friend Sonya whilotus candleholderch is made of shells from the Phillipines and shaped like a lotus flower. Evertytime I light a candle in it, I will think of this special birthday and remember the people behind the kind gestures, and the feeling of abudance that overwhelmed me during such a special occasion as this. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Good Vibes: Total Eclipse of the Heart (Literal Video Version)

8 Jun

Thanks to so many of my Facebook friends who posted this incredibly awesome literal video version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” This started my week with a chuckle and snort.


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