Z is for Zen

Dogs are my Zen

Kari and Dogs

The other day I filled out some paperwork for massage therapy. It asked me what I do to relax, and I should have written Walk my dogs. Walking shelter dogs has the same effect (although I’d prefer that Mia and Leo believe they’re the only dogs with this effect on me).

See my sweatshirt in the above photo? It says Dog is my Zen. I saw it across the room at Dog Is Good‘s booth at the SoCal Pet Expo and thought, If I ever needed another gray hoodie, this is the one.


My doggies bring me so much peace and joy every single day. I love coming home to their sweet faces and waking up to them each morning.

There’s ample scientific proof that dogs (and cats, too, I guess) are good for you:

Playing with or petting an animal can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol.

From WebMD:

Along with treatment, pets can help some people with mild to moderate depression feel better. … “Taking care of a pet can help give you a sense of your own value and importance,” Cook says. It will remind you that you are capable – that you can do more than you might think.

My favorite evidence, from HelpGuide:

Even hardened criminals in prison have shown long-term changes in their behavior after interacting with dogs, many of them experiencing mutual affection for the first time.

Need I say more?

We did it! Thanks for joining me on my All Positive A to Z Challenge. I used all positive language in my posts in honor of my book, Bark and Lunge, about how positive training helped my reactive dog Isis. At least I hope I did. Have a look at all 26 posts to see if I slipped up anywhere, and let me know!


Also, please join me for the Thursday Barks and Bytes Blog Hop, hosted by 2 Brown Dawgs and Heart Like a Dog.

Heart Like a Dog

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Taking Wonder with a twist of Danger

During a recent martial arts class, Rob asked his students whether they saw the world as a dangerous place with moments of wonder, or a wondrous place with moments of danger.

Definitely a wondrous place, I thought. Then I considered my writing and realized that to move the action forward in my novel, I need more moments of danger. Nobody wants to read a book about a happy well-adjusted young woman in a great relationship who loves her dogs. That’s why I didn’t have a memoir until Isis died. Pain equals conflict equals drama.

A few days later, I made one of my fictional doggie characters viciously bite someone.

I didn’t stay in the dangerous world long. Last weekend, I participated in Stephanie Renee Dos Santos’ Saraswati writing and yoga workshop.


Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts and science… depicted as a beautiful woman to embody the concept of knowledge as supremely alluring… Saraswati is the goddess of learning, and not a god; the feminine aspect signifies creativity. … Saraswati is known as a guardian deity in Buddhism who upholds the teachings of Gautama Buddha by offering protection and assistance to practitioners

I’ve dabbled in yoga for many years, but never connected it to my writing practice before. We met on the labyrinth at Fairhaven Park, a perfect setting for outdoor yoga. After an hour of poses targeting our hips, back, neck and shoulders, opening ourselves to creativity and culminating in Tibetan meditation, we sat down to write.

Stephanie guided us through writing prompts focusing our attention on the natural world. The yoga gave my writing an awareness of my physical surroundings that I sometimes neglect. We returned to our mats for a few more vinyasas before a final writing exercise to bring it all together. I was quite surprised to find that the stream-of-consciousness observations from the earlier prompts fit perfectly into my novel, and I wrote a short scene that I didn’t even know my story needed.

After that infusion of wonder and beauty, I went to a dark place. Literally. I pulled Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places off my shelf. I tried to start it a few months ago, but wasn’t in mood for dark that day. I read the first line (I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ), and thought “Not today.” Can’t remember what I read instead, but since then I’ve read some Chuck Palahniuk, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and I Am Forbiddenthe latter being this month’s book club selection.

Without any sense that this book could help me with my novel, Dark Places looked good to me on Monday. I don’t write violent psychological thrillers, but I sure do enjoy reading them. Once again, my inner reader knew what I needed even when my conscious mind didn’t. The main character in Dark Places is a damaged young woman with a violent past. She is angry and stunted, rather like my main character in Fight Like a Lady.

You find inspiration where you least expect it.

The Japanese art of folding patterned paper

A few years ago, a work associate I knew only slightly was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was given a few months to live, but survived almost a year. During that time, I followed a Caring Bridge blog documenting his illness, treatment and family life.

One of the ways his loved ones coped was to fold origami cranes. Thousands of them. Their goal was to fold a symbolic 1,000 cranes, but they exceeded that number. At his memorial service, they handed out the extras.

I thought this was a beautiful idea and decided to learn how to fold cranes. For Christmas, I received a book on origami and a couple of packs of patterned paper. Last week, I opened them for the first time.

Cranes are not difficult to fold, but unless you have someone to show you in person, I recommend following along with a book, starting with the more basic shapes until you master the preliminary fold and the petal fold.

Here is my offering for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern:

Problem solved

One of my recurring anxiety dreams involves needing to pack up an entire apartment, but I’m running out of time and space in my luggage.

Last night, I was in dream Chicago and was going to miss my flight, and the person traveling with me with hadn’t even started packing!

Then the dream took a twist. I called the airline and changed my ticket for the next day. And I realized I could fly home to Los Angeles with all the luggage I could carry, then DRIVE back to Chicago to get the rest of the stuff.

This has never happened. I solved my anxiety dream. Guess I have nothing left to worry about in real life.