Saturday, January 30, 2010

Welcome to my new world

My church is participating in the movement A Complaint Free World, and will be hosting author Will Bowen as part of the event.

I'm all for this, because I hate a bunch of complaining. But wait, that's complaining.

I figure I'm not going to be very good at being a complaint free person, so I have decided to start my own movement. I'm calling it "A Control Free World".

So when someone I know is making a decision that I think is stupid, I'm not going to say a word. I can't control their actions, can I? And when someone I know needs a good talking to, I'm going to keep my mouth shut. Their internal dialog would probably drown me out anyway, right? When I ask my husband to help out with some little something at home or at work, and he does it the wrong way, I will not correct him. Nor will I go back and do it the right way; it'll just have to be wrong, okay?

Seriously though, I am really trying to keep my nose out of places it doesn't belong. I cannot control all the actions of the people in my life; I don't have to advise them when they haven't asked; and sometimes I'm just going to have to accept that their way isn't my way.

It's tough. And I'm not kidding. As a mother and bossy person, it takes all the will power I can muster to butt out. But I'm going to stay committed to my new movement. And when I'm butting out, there are a lot less people complaining about me, right? So in my own way, I'll be doing my part for a Complaint Free World.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


My husband and I, as most of you know, are in the construction business. Times are tough, but we've survived. There is a lot to be said for that, and I credit my husband's ability to market our company with our survival.

Lately, though, I've been feeling, well, miserly. Holding our money close and not giving as much to charity. Now I'm a person who has religiously (excuse the pun) given ten percent of everything we make to church, the Salvation Army, Food Bank, UMCOR, over the years. One particularly down year, even though we were living on our savings and much to my husband's chagrin, I continued to give ten percent. But towards the end of last year, I cut back on my donations.

When the earthquake hit Haiti, I knew I had to do something. I didn't really have the cash to give, so I charged a donation to my credit card. I figured even if I had to make a minimum payment over a few months, I should donate.

Since I made that donation, I have received two checks in the mail amounting to FIVE TIMES the amount of the donation. One check I was expecting, but the other was a refigured tax refund from the IRS from 2008, with interest.

Universe, are you trying to tell me something? Because you have my full attention now.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

On Fire

I apologize for taking so long to get back to you - I've thought about writing every day. Really.

Before I post anything else, I have to go back to my last post about writing. Specifically the part where I said, "We are on fire!" Because what I mean here is not that I get up every morning on fire to go to my desk and write fabulous short stories. This is absolutely not true. In fact, I would say, after being with all those writers at the workshop, that sitting down at the place where we write takes a great deal of willpower. Because, you see, we want to write, we are on fire with ideas, but we find all kinds of excuses to keep us from putting the ideas on paper.

One of the books that writer Peggy Payne mentioned in her blog and in the workshop is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. On our way to the beach and home again this weekend, I read this little gem out loud so my husband could enjoy it too. I want to urge every artist, writer, dreamer, idea person, every person who wants to do a thing in the worst way, to buy this book and read it.

What I like about the book is the way it pegs the resistance that we throw in the face of achieving our potential, and the way it defines those who will succeed in overcoming resistance ("professionals") versus those who won't ("amateurs"). This part is great. But my favorite idea in the book is that I am a vessel of my talent, that there is a muse or angel or Someone who has my back as I pursue my talent, and that I have been put on this earth to fully realize my artistic best.

After participating in the workshop and reading the Pressfield book, I feel reassured that I am doing some things right. And I am on fire with stories and characters and plots. I just need to look Resistance in the face, spit in his eye, and put my hands on the keyboard. I've got what it takes.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Aging, Writing, and Rock & Roll

Today is my birthday, and I've been celebrating in one form or another since Friday night. I think I'm entitled to a whole weekend at my age, don't you?

All week I've been receiving cards from friends and family. And today I've heard from them by phone. My brother's family sang (as did others) but he accompanied the singing on his guitar!

Friday night my husband's band, SPOT, played for a going-away party. There were more people than usual and the crowd was happy and dancing. Now you know that when I quit drinking, I quit dancing, but when Frank Gordon started in on the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" I had to shake a leg. And then the other leg started shaking and my arms joined in! It was a great night, but I only got four hours of sleep that night.

Yesterday, I went to a workshop facilitated by author Peggy Payne called, "Get Your Ganges On" and it was great. The title of the workshop came from Peggy's own India experience and her feeling that the river is her writing symbol, or the companion on her writing journey. I decided that mine would be a butterfly, a symbol that comes up often around my writing. A butterfly "takes off" in the same way that I would like my writing to do, and it is so beautiful that people often say, "Oooooh" or "Whoa, how gorgeous" in ways that I would like to hear them talk about my work! Here is a doodle I did of a dammed river:

A few of the tips that I got yesterday:

1. Drop the self-consciousness around my writing.
2. Continue to learn the craft of writing.
3. Manage my time in a way that enables me to think of my writing first instead of after "everything is done".
4. Keep my hands in the writing sandpile, touching base with my work often.
5. Connect with my higher power and see my writing as a collaboration between me and the Great Energy. (I loved this!)
6. Learn to recognize resistance in all its forms.

As the day started, I began to notice that certain words came up over and over. And oddly enough, they all began with F. I thought of them as the f-words of writing: Fear, focus, flow, fire. I order them this way because they reflect the order of the writing process: First we are afraid to write, so we focus on the craft and lose our self-consciousness, soon our words begin to flow, and finally we are on fire!

If you ever have a chance to work with Peggy, take it. She wrings good stuff out of me, and leaves me worn out but motivated and excited to carry on.

This has been such a good birthday weekend that next year I may try for a birthday month! At my age, you know....

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Writing notes

On my desk is a box with beautiful letter-press thank you notes. I keep looking at it, wondering who I can send a thank you note to.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How I'm Thinking Now

In one of the current editions of The Sun Magazine, "The Dog-Eared Page" is a piece entitled, "The Question Holds the Lantern" and it really spoke to me.

My husband says he wants to read these two paragraphs from the essay every morning over his oatmeal because it reflects how he felt after his trip to Alaska:

If you could imagine the most incredible story ever, it would be less incredible than the story of being here. And the ironic thing is that the story is not a story, it is true. It takes us so long to see where we are. It takes us even longer to see who we are. This is why the greatest gift you could ever dream is a gift that you can only receive from one person. And that person is you yourself. Therefore, the most subversive invitation you could ever accept is the invitation to awaken to who you are and where you have landed....When your soul awakens, you begin to truly inherit your life. You leave the kingdom of fake surfaces, repetitive talk and weary roles and slip deeper into the true adventure of who you are and who you are called to become. The greatest friend of the soul is the unknown. Yet we are afraid of the unknown because it lies outside our vision and our control. We avoid it or quell it by filtering it through our protective barriers of domestication and control. The normal way never leads home.

Once you start to awaken, no one can ever claim you again for the old patterns. Now you realise how precious your time here is. You are no longer willing to squander your essence on undertakings that do not nourish your true self; your patience grows thin with tired talk and dead language. You see through the rosters of expectation which promise you safety and the confirmation of your outer identity. Now you are impatient for growth, willing to put yourself in the way of change. You want your work to become an expression of your gift. You want your relationship to voyage beyond the pallid frontiers to where the danger of transformation dwells. You want your God to be wild and to call you to where your destiny awaits.

In the past five years I have made some amazing changes in my life, changes I never thought possible. "Once you start to awaken, no one can ever claim you again for the old patterns." This sentence alone is earth-shaking in my new world.

I hope you'll take a moment to read the entire essay. And comment.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How I'm doing so far

I'm very happy with the way my 10-Minute Solution is going. I've varied it a little in that I now have to commit to thirty minutes of meditation, writing or exercising a day. I can do any combination of them, as long as the total time spent is the thirty minutes and I cover two of the three.

On Sunday night I sat at my desk with a calendar and set up a tentative schedule for the upcoming week. (I started in earnest on Monday since the weekend was totally lost to reading books.) I did twenty minutes of yoga and ten minutes of meditation. Tuesday I had my writing class, two hours, and then meditated for ten minutes. Today I spent all day revising a story, then had photography class for two hours. I will meditate for ten minutes.

The freedom to choose how I spend the minutes is important. I have a tendency to make rules for myself and then break them - not an admirable tendency, I know - but giving myself choices has motivated me. I may add acceptable things to the list later - my photography classes for instance or other sorts of "improvement behavior" - but for now I'm only going to count the initial three.

Many of the child-rearing books I read when my girls were young pointed out that giving children choices gave them power, and that when they felt powerful they made good choices. I'm reverting to that philosophy for myself, since deep down I tend to act like a rebellious child a lot of the time.

Anyone else want to weigh in on how their resolutions are going?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

So far...

So far, not much progress on my 10-minute solution. And the reason is that I have read two books already this year! I'm telling you the truth - two 400-page books. If that isn't a good reason not to write, exercise, and meditate, I don't know what is.

So of course, you want to know what I've been reading that has me forsaking my promises so early in the year. First, Mary Karr's new book, Lit, the story of her alcoholism and recovery. Karr is first and foremost a poet, and though her story brought to mind Anne Lamott's book, Traveling Mercies, it is written in a more poetic writing style, with less humor. I strongly identified with Karr's drinking habits, struggle to stay sober, and her search for a meaningful Higher Power.

The second book I read is a young adult novel entitled, The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. This book reminded me of a story I read years ago, "The Running Man" by Stephen King. The similarity is that it is a story set in the future where humans are pitted against one another to the death for the entertainment of society.

I have the sequel to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and the first book did end with a teaser....I guess the resolutions can wait one more day.