Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Blog Has Move

A fellow blogger recently had a poll about whether or not she should combine her two blogs.  That got me to thinking about my four blogs! Yep, four!  Some are obviously more active than others, but each seems to have its own unique purpose, pardon the pun.  However, I have decided at least to consolidate by having them all on WordPress sites.  Therefore this blog, in its entirety, may now be found at:
Random Thoughts.  Hope to see you there and thanks for updating your bookmarks, etc.  Have a lovely day!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Thoughts on Writing and Publishing

As many of you know, I have just published my first novel, Dragon Riders, and I am close to publishing my first book of haiku.  I have also written my second novel, and will begin the process of revising and publishing that shortly.  I have been thinking a lot, therefore, about why I write and why it is important to me to publish what I write.

My thoughts have been further expanded and clarified as the result of some books I am reading.  I just finished reading Miss Buncle's Book  by D. E. Stevenson and I am currently over half-way through the sequel, Miss Buncle Married.  D. E. Stevenson was a Scottish author (1892-1973), first cousin to Robert Louis Stevenson, who began writing when she was 8 years old and published over forty light romantic novels, most of which are now out of print.

What has intrigued me the most with the novels featuring Miss Buncle is that Miss Buncle is a new writer, navigating the world of publishing and dealing with the consequences of writing first one and then a second best seller.  Miss Buncle begins writing in middle age during the depression because, as she told her publisher, her dividends were dwindling and she couldn't abide keeping chickens.  She writes about her village and the people in it, thinly disguising them with new names.  Miss Buncle has the ability to see inside people, get into their skins, and thus her characters are richly drawn and completely compelling.  Of course, when the books are published, those who are not favorably portrayed threaten libel and make life in the village very unpleasant and Miss Buncle, who wrote her books under the pseudonym of John Smith, lives in daily fear of exposure.  Eventually, as the first book ends just as Miss Buncle's second novel is published, Miss Buncle does have to leave the village and start anew.  She, of course, has married (hence the title of the second novel) and in fact marries her publisher.  She settles down in a new home, a new village, and a new life, determined never to write again.

Of course, events transpire so that once again Miss Buncle is in the throws of creativity.  She writes novels much the way I have, quickly, compulsively, doing nothing else until the words are down on paper.  Her third novel has just been written (at the point where I am in the second book) and her husband is thrilled.  It is her best yet, and he is sure that this will earn her even more money.  But when he mentions this, Miss Buncle is adamant that the book can never be published.  Her husband is dumbfounded and tries all sorts of ways to convince her otherwise, explaining that the characters can be changed so they won't be recognized and therefore Miss Buncle and her husband won't have to move again.  I don't know how things will turn out, but what struck me most was Miss Buncle's answer to her bewildered husband's understandable question.  If she hadn't intended to publish it, then why did she write it?  She answers that it was bursting in her head and she had to get it out onto the paper but now that it was out, no one else could read it, although she was very pleased that he liked it so much.

I thought then about why I write and why I am publishing what I write.  I totally get the writing in a whirlwind.  I finished the first draft of my first novel in twenty days and my second in twelve days.  I ate, drank, slept, etc. my novel and I couldn't stop writing.  Interruptions were annoying.  The words wouldn't stop.  I have friends who are writers, and very good writers, who say they work in a totally different way.  They write for two, three, four hours a day each and every day and then do other things.  They plan novels in detail and appear to write in a more organized fashion.  It obviously works for them as they make their livings writing books.

I seem to be more like Miss Buncle.  I didn't ever have to do it instead of keeping chickens, but like Miss Buncle, especially after her first novel is published so that economically she really doesn't need to write anymore,  the writing takes on a life of its own and I just have to get it down on paper.  Furthermore, for me, I need to see it completed in a published form.  I use the wonderful services at CreateSpace.com to help me self-publish my works because I want to see them in published form.  Oh, obviously I am thrilled when someone says they read my novel and loved it, and I hope that will continue.  But I needed to write the book and I needed to see it as a "real" book, a concrete object.  

My "Year of Haiku" is nearly ready to send off to CreateSpace for layout and design.  I was reading it yesterday, editing the 365 haiku, drawing doodles for each month, and it was clear that this book captures 2012 for me.  I remembered each scene I'd written about, each change in the seasons or my life.  I hope at least some of those haiku will resonate with others as well.  I hope others will enjoy it.  However, I am publishing it for me because I am compelled to do so.  Miss Buncle, at least half-way through the second book, is horrified at the thought of publishing her third novel.  For her, so far, it was enough just to get the novel written and out of her head, and that I do understand and I too have written many things that I also would never want to have published.  But there is something about the publishing process that allows me to revisit my work, revise my work, and then have a final completion of the process.  

I am already a bit nervous about my second novel because it is even more autobiographical than my first, and I have some characters in the novel taken directly from real life.  I haven't started my revisions and I will, of course, rework things, but I had to write the story as a way of showing not only how my main character overcomes horrible odds, but how I also have survived and grown.  The novel is fiction, and in fact takes place in the same fantasy world as the first, but it is even more my story than the first.  I needed to write it.  I had to write it.  And I have to see it through to its birth in the real world.  Only time will tell how it will be received and whether it will be enjoyed by others or speak to others.  That is something I have no control over.  But my novel will fly for me and that, after all, is all any artist can do.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What I Learned This Week

My last post was about finding balance in my life, specifically around health issues.  I spent the entire Thanksgiving weekend reading with my fur friends and did not work on a single project--no quilting, no weaving, nothing.  And I discovered that this week went much more smoothly.  I started the week well on Tuesday.  (I should note that my work week is only three days long.)  Wednesday was long and I started to flag in energy.  Thursday was a busy juggling act in the morning and I was definitely fading, but it worked out well because my afternoon students cancelled, so I was done early.

What I have learned is that first, I really believe that I don't do a lot.  After all, I only work a couple hours here and a couple hours there.  But my therapist has helped me see the reality of my life.  First, I am always doing something.  I get home from Student Link and then snatch an hour or two of quilting time before I tutor the students who come to my home.  I don't move anywhere nearly as fast as I used to, but I keep moving, keep doing, never resting until evening.

Then, on the weekends, I have time to myself, which as an introvert, I truly need.  But again, I am doing, sometimes as much as eight hours of quilting in a day.  I don't stop until 5 or 6PM.  And I do that every day.  

I have always filled my waking hours with activities, for a variety of reasons from avoiding facing the fact that I was not being true to myself (much of my life) or because I felt lonely.  I could keep a bunch of demons away by just staying busy and distracted.  And I was accomplishing some really worthwhile things at the same time.  But it was only avoiding dealing with the real issues.

There are way too many folks who have to work seven days a week to put food on the table and that is just so wrong on so many levels.  There are more people who keep busy as I did as a way to run away from themselves.  But the truth is that we all need a balance in life between activities, be they work, chores, projects, whatever, and rest or down time.  Anything else is not healthy.

Each of us has many relationships of various kinds but the one that is the most important is our relationship with ourselves.  Other relationships will come and go, but as long as you are alive, you will always have yourself.  Furthermore, a healthy relationship with yourself is necessary for the health and well-being of all your other relationships.  I am just starting to learn this.  Self-care has to be the number one priority if we are going to live a full and happy life.

So, with this in mind, and having experienced the benefits in having some quality down time last weekend, I've tried to re-sort my life.  Again, my therapist pointed out that my job at Student Link and the extra tutoring I do is a high stress job.  Working with adolescents is always stressful, but working with high risk students is even more so.  And at Student Link we are working without any proper support from the school district, not because anyone is mean or doesn't want to help, but simply because there is no money for the support.  As so often happens, governments mandate all sorts of rules and requirements, but then they don't fund the programs to allow for those requirements to be met, and then they come in and audit with much yelling when the programs are unable to meet their requirements.

The clearest example in my life of this is the Student Link library.  As I've mentioned before, I donate heavily to Student Link to provide the books the students need.  I catalogue them and get them on the shelves and into the students' hands.  But I don't have time to enter them into a very outdated and badly conceived database.  My supervisor and I have discussed this and we have set up priorities which I personally think are valid.  Students will come first.  But I know that next spring or the one after, someone from Olympia will start yelling that our library database isn't properly done.  Well, I think it would take at least one if not two fulltime professionals to sort out the hodgepodge that we have now.  I certainly can't do it.  And I am a volunteer as well, which means the district has no funding to provide for either the books or the proper recording of them.  I have at least provided the books and if the state wants more, well, they'll have to figure out how to make that happen.  Both my supervisor and I are fine with our decision, but this is just one example of the lack of support for our efforts.  This naturally raises stress levels.

I keep saying that I "only" work two hours/day three days/week, but my therapist pointed out that that simply isn't true either.  I care deeply for these students and I hold them in my heart in and out of Student Link. I worry about them, plan for them, think about them. I often end up taking papers home to mark because I spent my two hours helping students.  I offer extra tutoring to both Student Link students and Vashon High students in my home.  I field the occasional e-mail or phone call.  And even if the students don't e-mail or call, I am "at the ready," so to speak.

And I love this job.  I find it rewarding beyond all expectations.  Seeing these students overcoming adversity and fighting for their dreams is incredibly heart-warming.  But it is also draining, and if I compound that by "sneaking in" quilting moments in between students, and so on, I run myself ragged.
I am nearly sixty-seven years old and I have some health issues as well.  So I need to work on better self-care, and I am far from the only person in this world needing this, but I can only work on myself.

I have decided that weekends are for recharging my batteries, not running them down further.  Taking time to snuggle with my pets and just relax with a good book works well for me.  Quilting is physically exhausting.  Weaving and writing are less so.  I started playing the piano last weekend and that was relaxing and not taxing.

There will be time for everything, but in smaller doses and with more attention being paid to me, my body, my mind, my psyche.  I have confronted many of my demons and I don't need to be frantically busy to avoid them.  I don't need to feel that who I am depends on what I do.  And if I take care of me and learn to value my relationship with myself, then everything else will fall into place.

I hope that everyone can find time for themselves, can practice good self-care.  If we all do this, our world will be a much better place for everyone.  Have a lovely day!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Too Much or Too Little?

Well, another month has snuck by without any posts.  It seems as if it is all I can do just to get through each day.  By last Wednesday, I was definitely not doing well on all levels, physical, emotional, and psychological, so I decided I would have a holiday break doing as little as possible.  I am never sure how to figure out how much is too much but by last Wednesday there was no doubt that there had been too much.

One of the biggest problems I find in dealing with chronic issues, especially chronic pain, is knowing when I should just kick myself in the backside, figuratively, and get on with things and when I should simply rest.  And my artistic temperament causes natural highs and lows as I work creatively.  Earlier this month, I wrote my second novel.  It just took off with me and it wrote itself in a flurry of days where I was writing 4-6 hours at a time.  I didn't feel tired (well until the end of each day's writing) and I ignored my pain and I was on an adrenaline high, thrilled with how the novel was just pouring out of me.  In twelve days I wrote 57,427 words and had a finished first draft.  Then the next day my first proof copy of my first novel arrived and that was another high which kept me going for a week or so as I worked on finding the few goofs and sending off my corrections.

In and around all this, I kept on with my tutoring and volunteering at Student Link.  But by last Wednesday I was more than ready for time off.  I have spent all of the Thanksgiving holiday break reading.  I read a five novel series by Patricia Wrede, The Lyra Novels, which I really enjoyed and then I started on a Robin Hobbs trilogy The Rain Wilds Chronicles, also wonderful.  I have thought about quilting.  I have thought about planning my book of haiku.  I have thought about revising my second novel.  But I have done none of that.  I have snuggled into my recliner and read with one or two cats in my lap and the dogs at my feet.

As I mentioned earlier, my innate artistic temperament means that I have a melancholic nature and I need to watch for the signs that indicate I am slipping into depression.  In addition, both Hashimoto's Thyroid Disorder and Fibromyalgia have depression as one of their main symptoms, and of course chronic pain also causes depression.

I worry that "doing nothing" could aggravate the situation.  I have always been a do-er and it is hard for me to be idle.  I had it drummed into me from an early age that it wasn't acceptable just to be; one always had to be doing.  For most of my life that has been possible, and indeed I think my various activities have helped in my battle with depression.

But now I'm not so sure where the line is between doing enough to keep the depression away and doing too much to cause the depression to worsen because my other health issues are being neglected.  So this weekend is going to be a test case.  I shall see if I am in better shape when I return to the "real world" on Tuesday as a result of my very restful five days.  I suspect my juggling act between too much and too little will continue for the remainder of my life, but I hope that with time I will be able to judge more easily where the line between the two lies on any given day.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

To Medicate or Not To Medicate

It has been too long since I've posted here but I've had to work just to get through each day, so extras, like a philosophical musing on this blog, had been set aside.  But I've had some helpful comments from friends about my current health situation which have given me pause and I decided to write my thoughts.

I suffer from a few chronic illness, specifically chronic sinusitis, Hashimoto's Thyroid Disorder and Fibromyalgia, which are tough to treat and tough to live with.  I have suffered with them for a long time, even though the Fibromyalgia was only diagnosed recently.  But I have lived with chronic pain for as long as I can remember, at least 20-25 years.  I have had constant headaches for much longer than that, since my college days over 45 years ago.

The result has been that I have learned to live with chronic pain.  It is just part of who I am and I have learned to adjust and work around it.  Some days that is much easier than others as the pain levels rise and fall, but I am never pain free.

And I was raised with a father who never allowed for any weaknesses, so I have, for better or worse, simply toughed my way through it all.  I take the occasional Tylenol or Advil, but for the most part I just get on with my life.

Living with constant pain does require a large expenditure of energy just to move.  And when I was younger, I had more energy (didn't we all!), so it wasn't such a big deal.  But now, especially with the thyroid auto-immune disorder, my energy levels are far from what they used to be.  So I am forced to learn to listen to my body, to find out where my limits are, to take care of myself and try not to overdo.  Some days this works better than others, but such is life.

Then earlier this week I managed to injure myself quilting (I know--this isn't supposed to be a hazardous activity), developing costochondritis, a condition where I have ripped the cartilage which joins my ribs to my sternum.  It is very painful and my doctor said it was made more painful because of the fibromyalgia.  It will take time to heal and meanwhile I am trying not to laugh, cough, sneeze, breathe deeply, etc.

Once again, I have people suggesting various medicines which have worked for them or someone they know, etc.  And I appreciate the suggestions because you never know when something new will pop up.  But for the most part, I haven't learn anything new, and what I have found is that my body does not react "typically" to medications in general, and I am apt to suffer unpleasant side effects.  One friend just broke her foot and she is on pain meds and offered (not seriously) to share.  But pain meds don't agree with me.  I didn't take them even with numerous foot surgeries.  I'm glad they work for others, but it isn't my path.

I am also unwilling or very reluctant at best, to try something new, especially something that I would have to take for a significant period of time to find out a) if it works and b) what the right dosage should be.  I guess, having lived in pain for so long, that it is really a matter of the devil I know being better.  And my chronic illnesses don't have any cures, so anything I did do would have to be for the long haul.

I am grateful on most levels that I live alone, so I can schedule things as I see fit and if I am too tired to heat up an Amy's dinner in the oven and prefer having a sandwich for dinner, I can do that.  If I need to head for bed at 7PM, no one cares (although I will be so glad when the elections are over and people stop calling at 8 or 8:30, sometimes waking me for nothing).

So for those who find the medications helpful, I say wonderful!  I am happy they help.  But for me, I am content with the program my naturopath and I have worked out.  I do find homeopathic remedies very helpful.  And my sauna and my hot tub do help a lot with both my chronic sinusitis and my Fibromyalgia.  And when things flare up, it is usually a signal of too much stress in my life and I am working on recognizing that earlier and working to lessen stress.

There is no one answer obviously even for an individual.  One size doesn't fit all and situations change. But for the moment, I shall continue to muddle along as I have been for so many years.  I still manage to do all the things which are most important to me, even though I have to take them at a slower pace.  But that's ok.  I hope you, my readers, have found paths that work for you, for whatever situations you find yourselves in.  Have a great day!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New School Year

Today was the first day of school and I have paused to reflect on the summer.  As with most seasons, there have been wonderful moments, such as sharing Vashon's Strawberry Festival with my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter, and some not great moments, such as standing outside a locked door at the dermatologist for thirty minutes and then being barely able to walk. The summer has seen me trying to cope with some health issues as well. Finally, just ten days before school started, on Friday evening August 24th, I had to say goodbye to my dear sweet Sasha.  

She was 17 yrs. old and had valiantly battled aggressive oral cancer for 22 months, but finally, there were no more miracles to pull out of the hat, and it was time.  Her last two days were difficult and she definitely let me know that it was time to say goodbye.  It has been rough for all of us left behind.  As Dr. Nell, our wonderful vet, said at her next visit, as she was taking care of 4 of the remaining 5 of my fur friends (thanks to May Sarton for that term), "Who knew Sasha was the glue holding all the rest of us together!"

But Sasha's spirit lives on in all the many hearts that she touched and the morning after her death, when I went out to soak in my hot tub, I found the cutest little tree frog, and it touched my shattered heart.  The frog jumped into my hand and let me hold her and then I carefully put her on a neighboring plant so she would be safe from the opening and closing of the hot tub lid.

But the next morning, she was back under my hot tub lid and she has been there each and every morning since.  This morning I took her photo which I wanted to share as it seems to me that whether she was sent by Sasha's spirit or the universe at large or whatever, that this little frog is reminding me to treasure each and every moment and live life to the fullest, as Sasha did, until the end.

Then this morning, when I arrived at Student Link for my first day of the new school year, I was greeted with people standing outside and the blinds drawn because a hummingbird had strayed into our classroom.  No one could figure out a safe way to get the hummingbird to leave, and so we'd turned out the lights and put a bright red blanket on the bush right outside our door (next to the fuchsia where it loves to feed), but there was no shifting the poor hummingbird.  Finally, we had to get back to work, and so in a darkened room I started helping one of our new students and everyone kept watching the hummingbird.  After nearly an hour the student I was helping noticed that the hummingbird had fallen a short distance to the top of a small bookcase.  The student, with our encouragement, carefully cradled the exhausted hummingbird and took it outside to the flower box with the fuchsias.  We got some sugar water in a saucer to put right next to the hummingbird and it was amazing to see how our efforts were rewarded.  The little hummingbird drank a bit, flew over to the fuchsia and then eventually flew off to new adventures.

It seems to me that the natural world has held many lessons for us as this new school year begins and somehow, I think that we are off to a very good start for this year in our rescuing a hummingbird.  Our students are the non-traditional students, the ones taking their own paths, and generally, like our hummingbird, they fare well on their own course, but sometimes they too need a helping hand.

And personally, thanks to the lessons being taught to me by first Sasha, and then the tree frog, and finally the hummingbird, I have a lot to be thankful for.  I hope your September is off to a wonderful start as well. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Getting the Creative Juices Flowing

I have been stewing and stewing over the short (no more than 250 words) blurb for the back cover of my novel.  I wrote the novel and it is over 60,000 words, so writing 250 words about it should be walk in the park. Right? Wrong!  I have been working on it for much of the past week, on and off, and I have discovered something about the creative process, or at least my creative process.  It can't be rushed.  Ideas need time to percolate through my brain.  I need time to do nothing, or at least appear to do nothing.  I have spent much of the past week reading and puttering around the house, all the while giving occasional thoughts to the problem of the blurb.  I have written tentative drafts, worked on the drafts, disliked them all, and gone back to cleaning a pond or scooping litter boxes or whatever.

And then finally, last night as I was heading off to bed, the words just popped into my head!  I quickly raced back to the computer and wrote a whole new draft, from a very different starting point.  Oh, it was rough, but it was so much better (in my opinion at least) than anything I'd written so far that I went to bed a happy camper.  This morning I have just puttered around, coming back to re-read my draft every half hour or so, tweaking a word or phrase here and there, before doing laundry or having breakfast or tending the dogs.  And I think I have something now that I can live with.  As soon as I find that I have had several re-reads without any changes I will send it off to my publisher and feel very satisfied with myself.

I have done the same thing with quilting where I have just cogitated on various patterns and ideas, fabric and themes, without appearing to "go" anywhere, but suddenly it all falls into place.  I am not sure if this is what Brenda Ueland means by moodling when she says, "So you see, imagination needs moodling - long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering,"  but it is what I think she is getting at.  The subconscious keeps working on ideas even when or maybe even especially when, we relax and let our minds wander.

In our society which is very goal oriented, having down time where I am not getting anything particular done and where the day goes by with only apparently aimless puttering to show for it makes me feel as if the time has been wasted.  I need to be doing, or so I tell myself, but the older I get, the more I realize that my body as well as my mind needs down time and while I can work under pressure, I can't create under pressure.  The creative process depends on having the time and the ability to moodle, and that time spent in moodling is actually very productive, as counter-intuitive as that seems.  If you are interested in this concept, there is an e-course in August run by Fiona and Kaspa at Writing Our Way Home which is designed to help us find our creative process and develop the skill of moodling.

Now that my blurb is nearly done, I have quilt patterns to moodle on and then November is not that far away; I had better start moodling about my next novel so I am ready to hit the deck running when National Novel Writing Month returns.  What is your creative process?  How do you recharge your creative juices?  Are you a moodler?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Holiday Thoughts

Today in the United States many are out celebrating the birth of our nation with parades, much flag waving, barbecues, fireworks, etc.  The month of July contains three national holidays, Canada Day, Bastille Day and Independence Day, and marking such occasions is a part of what we as humans do.

But I would ask that we take a moment to reflect on all those who can't or aren't allowed to celebrate.  In the United States we proclaim that all are created free and equal, but the reality has always been much different.  In the beginning free and equal was only for white propertied males.  Over the years the qualifications have changed so that more are included, at least at some level.    But we are still far off the mark.  Women are still treated as second class citizens who earn less then men.  The GLBTQ (Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgendered/Queer) community cannot marry and in fact in many states must stay in the closet to keep a job.  Children go to bed hungry every night, denied the right to food and medical care.  And the list goes on and on.  We still have a very long way to go to meet the ideals set forth in the United States Constitution.

And what about those who feel entitled to more than equal rights?  There are wealthy people (not all, I hasten to add) who feel that they have a right not to pay their fair share of taxes.  There is Corporate America which feels entitled to grab anything it wants, raping, pillaging, and plundering with wanton disregard for anything other than their own profits.  And there is the mainstream media, determined that it knows what the viewing/listening/reading public needs to know and how this knowledge should be spoon fed to the masses.  These are just a few of the instances of the improper distribution of rights.

The United States is far from being alone in the unequal distribution of rights.  We rank 13th in most lists of countries by quality of life factors, so 12 nations are doing a better job and many others are doing a lesser job.  But I would like to see this emphasis on nations and boundaries abolished.  The bottom line is that our entire planet, the source of life for all creatures, is being cannibalized and each of us needs to stop and think about the health of our Mother Earth.  Endangered species certainly do not have equal rights, and they too deserve them as do all species.  We need to put the health of the planet above everything else, above profits, above nationalism, above so called progress.  If we don't, the planet will fight back and it will not be pretty.  We are already feeling the effects of global warming and it will only get worse.  We already have wars and acts of terrorism caused by the unequal distribution of rights and assets.  Selfishness, be it on the individual level or the national level, will destroy us all.

As humankind becomes more "advanced," so to speak, it seems to lose its connection to the earth and the remaining species.  Humans are not more important, more intelligent, more deserving than any other species.  We just think we are and we are the only species capable of carrying out mass destruction on every conceivable level.  It is time that we realized that we don't own this planet.  We have no more right to live here than do the birds in the trees or the fish in the oceans.  We need to work together to save all life.

So wherever you are and whenever you celebrate your nation's glory, please remember those who can't celebrate.  As you wave your flag and cheer the parades, remember those who are missing.  And together let's see if we can't work together to make Mother Earth our first priority so that life is better for all.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

How Do You Handle Anger?

How do you handle anger, both your own and others?  Recently I have been made aware of a couple of places where angry lashings out have several damaged working relationships.  In one case in particular, a manager and an undermanager have each yet again lashed out loudly, publicly, and abusively toward staff members.  Of course this is extremely inappropriate and unprofessional and needless to say the office has an on-going morale problem which has been going on for so many years that many feel things will never change.  Tittle-tattle is encouraged.  Accusations are made and believed with no evidence. It is a very unhealthy environment to work in.  And unfortunately the situation is not that uncommon in our society.

I can sympathize with this situation because I too have been subjected to violent angry outbursts and I too have had false accusations leveled against me, accusations which cost me dearly, and for awhile, I was only angry and hurt.  But as time passed and I did a lot of introspection and owned my part in the problem, I also realized that the person who was spreading lies and stabbing me behind my back was doing it out of her own fears, jealousies and insecurities, whether she was actually aware of that or not.  Once I realized this, I felt pity not anger.  I began sending positive energy her way, wrapping her at least metaphorically, in my love.  I don't know that she will ever like me, but at least the open hostility is gone, and for that I am most grateful.  My shift has done even more to heal me, to help me know myself better, and to help me in other interactions.

I was reminded of my experience when I was thinking about the dreadful dust-up at the office mentioned above.  Yes the situation has been going on for years, and I can understand the anger and resentment around it.  But the cycle needs to be broken.  I don't think they will be getting in any consultants on dealing with anger, but what I have learned from my therapist is that when someone comes at you in anger, they are not rational and they are not listening.  And no matter how many times they say, "You, You, You" they are still really talking about themselves.  Realizing this helps even though it still feels horrible to be yelled at.  But the very best thing you can do is maintain a neutral expression and be silent.  The raging person won't hear a thing you say, and trying to explain or even apologize will only fuel the flames.  Getting defensive just enables their anger further and the problem keeps escalating.  The anger has to run its course, so just stay silent and allow the anger to run out.

When the person is finally done, then you want to say something neutral, a loving heartfelt honest comment, such as "I'm sorry you are having such a rough day," or whatever and then quietly and calmly walk away or return to your task, whatever is appropriate for the situation.  If the person demands a response, then answer as calmly as you possibly can that they have given you a lot to think about and you will get back to them later or tomorrow or whatever after you have had a chance to give their words thoughtful consideration.  Do not answer in the moment as it won't help and has every potential for re-igniting the situation.

And our natural inclination after being yelled at is to avoid that person at all costs, but I think the opposite is more effective.  Again, love is the only answer to anger that has any chance of succeeding, so giving a cheery greeting the next day, or just saying a pleasant hello or offering assistance when it is needed or whatever will go a long way toward healing.  You are by no means condoning their inappropriate behavior or enabling it in any way.  But you are remembering that the person who lashed out is a wounded puppy in one way or another and you are caring about the person, not the behavior.  This will certainly help heal you, and after all that is all you can really control.  But if enough people in this office start what I could call a "love-in" toward these difficult managers, I can't help but believe that it will make a difference to the entire work environment.  And think how surprised and bewildered the managers will be when people respond in love and compassion and don't just return anger for anger.  It will have a strong disarming effect, as I have discovered personally.

All the philosophies and religions past and present that I have looked into have all had something to say on this.  Personally, I like Snoopy's the best:  "A kiss on the nose turns anger aside," but there is Christianity's "turn the other cheek" or Buddha's "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned," and there are countless other examples.

I am grateful that anger is not my primary defense mechanism (I hide or try to become invisible which has its own problems), but for those who do use anger, I am told that taking time to think first as to how your words will be receive can help immensely (the old count to ten approach), because anyone exploding in anger is actually shooting themselves in the foot These people are not bad people, generally, but good people making horrible mistakes and they will have to do damage control down the road.  I have had my moments of lashing out and I know that for me nothing matched the pain of knowing how much my words hurt and the damage they caused and words can't be taken back.  They are very powerful and words of love and compassion are every bit as powerful if not more so than words of anger.

Issues surrounding anger are very difficult and it is hard for any of us not to react badly in whatever way we do that when we are triggered.  For me, it took a major incentive of not wanting to lose those I care most about.  Whether or not those in this office can find a motive powerful enough to help them find the strength and courage to change past behaviors and look at the larger picture is something that only time will tell, but personally, I hope for their sake that the "love-in" starts and takes hold.  Lives will be changed for the better, beginning with those doing the "love-in."

Sunday, May 6, 2012


I have been watching my cats this morning and I noticed a couple things.  First there was Sasha getting ready to get off the kitchen counter.    She is blind, or nearly so, and therefore understandably she moves carefully.  She was leaning over the edge obviously trying to figure out if there was a piece of cat furniture below her.  I could see that she would only have to drop about 4", but she couldn't and she was taking her time before deciding to launch herself off the counter.  It would be easy for someone watching her to think that she was skittish or scared, but in fact I know she is very brave to attempt this, especially in a home such as mine where things move constantly.  She is right to think twice because the furniture which was there yesterday might not be there today.  I try to keep things the same for her in the immediate vicinity of both the washer/dryer and the kitchen counter, but things do have to move from time to time, to do laundry or find fabric, and it doesn't always end up exactly where it was before.

Anyway, such was my observation of my brave Sasha.  Next I watched Thackeray dealing with my new desk which happens to have a glass top.  I have never had a glass top before and so Thackeray also has never seen one.  It has taken him several attempts before he finally trusted it enough to sit on it.  As I type this he is sitting next to me purring loudly but even so he isn't moving around a lot.  Again, I could say what a silly cat he is because he is bewildered by the glass, but instead, I find his investigations and final commitment to try it an evidence of his trust in me and his bravery.

This got me to think about the whole topic of bravery.  My dog Oliver is afraid of much of the world and it takes a lot to gain his trust, but the rewards are immense.  I am terrified by many things as well, as I know others are.  Most of us are probably unaware of the acts of bravery which go on around us every day.  And what seems easy to one of us, is very hard for another.  Thackeray thinks nothing about jumping on and off everything.  It is very easy for him.  But for Sasha, it is a challenge requiring a lot of faith and courage.  I suspect that Sasha would have no trouble with the glass since she can't see anyway.  She wouldn't see things below the surface of the desk and wonder as Thackeray does.

If we can just remember that what seems simple to one seems equally terrifying to another.  Having respect for others means understanding that our view of the world, our view of day to day events, is unique to us and that others have different views, equally true and valid, and understanding that we don't have a monopoly on truth is vital to living in peace and harmony.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Most Beautiful Thing

Today I'm taking part in the My Most Beautiful Thing Blogsplash to celebrate beautiful things - inspired by Fiona Robyn's new novel, The Most Beautiful Thing. Bloggers from all over the world are taking part and writing or posting pictures of their most beautiful things today. Find out more here and see everyone else's blog posts here.  I have found it difficult if not impossible to come up with one thing.  That is the problem with superlatives.  I could have listed my daughter or my son or my granddaughter or my pets or the lovely place I live, Vashon, WA, a wonderful supportive rural community, or my home or my yard or and the list goes on and on.  But I think what I find to be the most beautiful thing is the fact that I am healing and I've started learning the power of staying present, living in the moment, observing what is going on around me.  I am far from experienced in this, but I am improving so that I was thrilled to find a bumblebee drinking from a petunia yesterday on my way to my shower.  It is wonderful to stop and just listen to the frogs croaking or watch a hummingbird buzz by.  I have learned more about how to stop and focus, not to be worrying about the future or regretting the past, but just being present in a very real sense with each moment (or as many as I can manage) of the day.  It is a very new experience for me, but one that allows me to find lots of beauty at all sorts of levels in the wonderful world.  I can rejoice with my students or be glad for a stranger's help navigating the Metro bus system.  I can go out after dark and marvel at the slugs enjoying my purple walkway.  I can walk my dog Oliver, who is recovering from knee surgery, around the backyard and spot all sorts of new growth, patiently going wherever he wants at his slow speed and not rushing about.   My haiku spring from these moments where I really pay attention to what is going on and then try to capture it in poetry.  I find that writing the haiku helps me really see the moment, feel the moment, and capture the moment.  So I guess My Most Beautiful Thing is this moment in time:
three dogs sleeping
new growth
on the blue cedar

I just want to close by saying that I highly recommend "The Most Beautiful Thing" by Fiona Robyn.  The book is incredibly well written and beautiful with vibrant characters who ring true.  It is one of the best books I have read in a very long time, and I hope you can enjoy it also.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Share Your World Sunday--4/22

I just found a blog that has a "Share Your World Sunday" where each week Cee challenges us with four questions so we can get to know each other better.  This is my first time to participate, but here goes.

1.  How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
That is a very tough question to answer.  My body does seem to be feeling all of its 66 yrs., but my mind and outlook seem a lot younger.  That being said, I have learned a lot, especially in the last few years, and I wouldn't want to have to do that again so I think I'll just stay right where I am.  I know a lot of ages I wouldn't ever want to be again, and I think I'm fine right where I am, and yes, even if no one told me, I would know I am a senior citizen!

2.  What is the kindest thing anyone has done for you?
Again, this is tough, as I have experienced many kind acts along the way, but the greatest one I can think of currently is my friend Kay's willingness to come twice a day to help me give medicines and fluids to my sweet cat Sasha, which Kay has been doing since September, 2011!  If it weren't for Kay, I doubt that Sasha would still be with me, and she is now making enormous health gains and I treasure our time together, all thanks to Kay!

3.  What was your favorite childhood television program?
Gads, these aren't getting any easier are they.  I remember the Howdy Doody Show as one of my earliest favorites and then there was Leave it to Beaver and Donna Reed, and The Lone Ranger, and Gilligan's Island.  I guess that is enough.

4.  Which cooking utensil (other than the usual pots and pans etc) would you miss the most?
Ok, finally an easy one.  I don't cook so I probably wouldn't miss much.  It isn't a utensil, but I would miss my freezer as I keep a lot of Amy's frozen dinners on hand and I would miss my InstaHot as I make endless cups of tea and ramen that way.  I used to feel like a failure for not being a good cook, but now I just figure that with my limited energies, I'd rather do something else like writing or quilting so I don't worry about it.

You too can have fun with this if you visit Share Your World Sunday!  Have a lovely day and Happy Earth Day!  May we all be more careful of our delicate planet.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What Do You Believe?

I have just finished one book (Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins) and I am nearly done with another (Small Gods by Terry Pratchett), both of which have dealt with beliefs, specifically beliefs in a god or gods.  Both authors propose that gods exist because people believe in them and when people don't believe in them anymore, the gods disappear.  Tom Robbins uses the god Pan as an example and Terry Pratchett has a god named Om who has become a tortoise.

This got me thinking about the power of beliefs, and I have no intention of getting into religion, so no worries there dear readers, but these books have brought home yet again something that I have only discovered relatively recently as I work on my healing with a fantastic therapist, and that is that our beliefs are extremely powerful and in fact the beliefs construct our realities.  I know I have dealt with this topic before, but it is such a very important one and I don't feel as if I have personally fully comprehended it.

I do know that a lot of my own personal healing has been centered around restructuring my beliefs so that my reality is more reflective of who I really am.  I still fall into old patterns when triggered of believing that I lack any artistic talent or that I am the stupid one or that I am not worthy of anything and need to put everyone and everything else first, but for the most part, I have managed to restructure my beliefs so that I know which of these things are quite absurd and actually a part of my father's reality and which might work for me.

There is only one constant in this life and that is change.  I think it is important then from time to time to reassess what we believe so that we can see if it is still working for us, and if not, how we can change our beliefs to reflect the world and the reality we really want.  This is scary work as changing beliefs does destabilize our reality until a new paradigm can shift into place and become a part of us.  And I am no different from most in this, that it took getting to a very dark place to give me the incentive to go through the destabilization process.  We all need beliefs to shape our reality as I don't think that there is an absolute world or an absolute reality.  But we all need a belief system that helps us realize our full potential, which helps us navigate our world in a positive and healthy way.

Over and over again we see evidence of how our beliefs, for good or ill, can determine our lives.  Doctors have proven conclusively that patients with positive attitudes, those who believe they can be well again, have a much higher healing rate.  Beliefs hold the power of making self-fulfilling prophesies.  If I believe I will fail, then fail I will.  At that point I can then say, see I was right.  It becomes a vicious circle.

And whatever our beliefs are about anything, we can find evidence to prove we are right.  If, for instance, we say the world is a scary and nasty place, then we will focus on all the things that happen that support that belief, and ignore or forget the things that don't.  I know several folks who believe that life is shit (pardon my language) and then you die, and guess what, they can find tons of support for that belief.  I know others who believe that life is good and wonderful, and they also can find lots of support for their belief.  And these two opposite points of view can exist in basically the same environment, because the reality is that we attract what we believe in.

So it is time again for me to do a check-in on my beliefs.  I am still working at overcoming a lot of fears and on this glorious sunny weekend, I look outside and think, well, I could go for a walk.  But then the old fears surface.  It is safer to stay inside.  I might meet a mean dog or a nasty person  or I might fall if I go out.  These things have happened to me so the fears are not totally unfounded.  But the fact is that they haven't happened in a long time and not in this neighborhood.  So just maybe it is time to challenge my beliefs that people are scary.  Sure, some are, but most are not and even if someone does say something hurtful, it is probably more reflective of them than me and maybe they are just having a bad day or maybe their belief system is such that they feel they have to go through life defensively, getting in the first hit no matter what.  I don't know.  But I do know that I need to focus on changing my beliefs so that I don't attract the very thing I fear.

Now, as I look out my window on this gorgeous sunny day and watch myriad butterflies darting in and around my garden I realize that overall life is very good and very beautiful.  And whether I enjoy the beauty from inside or out, I can still be uplifted by the lovely space I am in and I am free to decide whether to quilt or to read or just maybe go for a walk.  The choice is mine; I need only believe that.  Have a super day wherever you are!