The Right to Write

I have a long To Do list that keeps growing. I have found it difficult to say No and volunteered my time for more things than usual. Plus I’m actively trying to promote the Author Academy I’m going to start with a business partner, Dawn. That was supposed to start February 6 but we postponed it to get more registrations, so what I would have done a month ago I’m working on now. I’m also on the board for my homeowner’s association (president, no less) and agreed to do two no-fee presentations in March. Uff-da!

So I have plenty I should be working on, and instead, I’m choosing to write this blog post and work on some other writing, too. It feels like a bit of an indulgence, a bit selfish. But really, I have the right to write. Unlike other entitlements that infringe on someone else, this is my decision about how to spend my time, and it is guilt-free (and calorie free, I might add!). Julia Cameron, author of The Right to Write, and The Artist’s Way, and other books, says so, too, so that’s more validation than I even need but I’m happy to have it.

permission-card.jpgPLUS, I found this old card in my desk! I used to give these out to staff when I was an administrator, to empower them, in a way, to take risks and to not wait for me all the time to say “okay” to something.

Why do we do this, this denial of the things we like to do? The floor needs cleaning, the dogs need walking, the bills need paying, the programs need development. And here I sit, happily clicking away on the keyboard for a change. It’s been weeks since I’ve worked on my book, and I’m embarrassed to tell you how long it’s been since I wrote in my journal.

Today is a good day for writing, just because I decided it is.  A writer should write. And  a dancer should dance, and a cook should cook, and a teacher should teach, and doers should do. Because doing is how we honor our being. I’m not saying we need to be doing all the time, busy for the sake of business. I’m saying that we should do what makes us feel good about who we are. We must take time for filling up. You know that saying, you never miss the water til the well runs dry? Okay, so if we don’t fill our well, we will also dry out, and we will miss ourselves and shrivel up.

Interestingly enough, I have trouble sometimes declaring myself to be a writer. Earlier this week I was having breakfast out with two of my friends. One had been commenting about my blog and how much she was enjoying it. The other wanted to know why she didn’t know about my blog. That lead to the first one encouraging me to do more writing. Then I got what she called the God Wink.

Another customer sitting a few booths away from our table overheard us and came over. She asked if we were writers, and my two friends immediately pointed at me and said, “She is.”  The woman said she had a story that needed to be told but this wasn’t the place to talk about it. She mentioned she has friends who are writers but she can’t tell them this story, and would I be interested in talking to her more? I gave her my card, and she left. Now, I don’t know if this is a common thing that happens to writers where other people either want to tell you their story or want you to help them write it. Either way, it felt really, really good to have others call me a writer, to accept that myself, and have the woman look at me with respect and interest. So call this a God Wink, or a sign, or whatever you want. I’m calling it good!

I have collected other people’s writing in the form of books, quotes, books, posters, and more books. The current situation involves 6 bookcases and 2 stacks bedside. I’ve discovered that it’s not just the physical object I’m collecting, and it’s not just the ideas I want to learn from, and it’s not just the sense of place that I can escape to. It is all that, but more than that, it’s validation that writing and writers matter. That writing is legitimate,  lending credibility and permission to myself to do what looks like nothing but is, in fact, a very good expression of who I am. Even if no one ever reads what I write – although you are proof that some of my writing gets read by people other than myself, and the magazines with my name in them are proof, too.

It’s my ego that gets in my way most times. She resists my writing, I think, when she suggests that I am wasting my time or when she discourages me to appreciate what I have written. I’m getting better at recognizing this, and when I do, I try to shift my thinking. It’s sometimes hard to remain faithful to what I believe in, what reflects my authentic self. I torment myself with fear that I am not producing any income, for example, and that I should go get a “real” job, and then I move into “fight or flight” mode. I start to live in the past, to worry about the future, and shove away the idea that I can be this person who creates through writing.

Today is that kind of day, though, when I feel the need to empty my thoughts and ideas onto the page so I have room for more of thoughts and ideas. Today I am ignoring Ego and honoring my Spirit. I am grateful for all the gifts I have been given, including the gift of connection with my Higher Self. I am going to tune in to a higher channel with better reception. I’m not blowing off reality; I am blowing off the Ego’s need for control. And that is freeing.

You, too, have this right to write…or to create, to fill your cup or your well, to share your gifts, to rise and shine. If you need me to help, I’ll be at my desk, writing away, lost in the wonderful possibilities ahead.

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Women of Letters

I wrote today, and that made it a good day. Not just another few hours at the keyboard this time. Not just a work plan, or replying to an email that required an explanation, nor this blog post.

I wrote a letter to a friend. Four pages, handwritten, blue ink on yellow paper, folded in thirds and then in half to fit inside a card I bought. letterShe will be pleased to get it, since most of our contact over the years has been phone calls or an infrequent visit. I wish I was getting a letter. I told her a secret. I’m excited for her!!

My mom used to be a big letter writer. She corresponded regularly by mail. I remember once she made some comment about being bored, and I suggested she write a letter to someone. Her reply was, “Well, I can’t. I don’t owe anyone a letter.”  Yeah, that would be bad, an insult that the other person had not responded quickly enough or had missed responding altogether. Anyway, I remember she would sometimes watch for the mail to see if she got anything that day, just as excited as a kid. It was her connection to something, someone outside our house. Fortunately, when I left home she wrote to me even if I hadn’t written back. I guess the rules can be bent for children, even if they are adults. Mostly she told me about the weather, occasionally some news from the Gazette, our local twice-weekly newspaper, and once in a while an update on a family member or neighbor I may or may not have known. So maybe I got my love of letters from her. She kept some of the letters I did manage to send her, and now that she is gone, I have them back. It’s a treat sometimes when I miss her to sit and reread them.

I still have three letters from my first husband, all written in the early stages of our courtship; my first love letters, more than 40 years ago. Even though we divorced, they are a reminder of young love and that although it didn’t end well, it started well enough!

Kevin was not a traditional send-in-the-mail letter writer, but before we got married he used to email me almost every day. He lived an hour away, and phone calls still cost money. We both had jobs and kids with activities, so sometimes all we had was a few minutes here and there. Those were the days of local internet providers, too, so I don’t have access to those emails any longer. He gave me cards for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day (from the dogs), my birthday, our anniversary, and even Christmas. I kept many of them.  And I do have two voice mails I have saved from shortly before he died, both less than a half-minute of his voice asking me to call him when I had a minute. Still, there’s something about a letter… I wish I had even one from him.

My journal the first year after he died was almost all letters to him, telling him local news and about how I was feeling. He died unexpectedly, so this was my way to say all the things I didn’t get to say when he was here with me.  The letters were my way of not just processing his death but saying goodbye to him and the future I thought we were going to have together. The second year saw a slight shift. My journal became public with this blog, so my posts were more about him, not to him. This gave me a bit of distance, creating that space where I could prepare for not just a new life without him but a new me in that scenario.  And now I realize I write about me and my world, with an occasional mention of him. I can’t say the circle is complete, but it is the sign of the times; I’m healing and moving on.

An interesting thing about writing this letter today is that it gave me as much joy as I hope it gives my friend when she finds it in her mailbox. It validates me as a writer, too. I’m spending a lot of time at my desk on the computer lately. It felt good to have the slight weight of a pretty pen in my fingers as words flowed out. Time slowed down for a bit, and I still feel  relaxed, as if I had meditated a while.

She’ll wonder if it’s an Easter card (it’s not) or a very early birthday card (it’s not). But when she opens it and finds the letter, she’ll probably set it aside and make sure she has a fresh cup of coffee and uninterrupted time. That’s what I would do.

When is the last letter you wrote – that wasn’t a mass-produced Christmas Letter or a quick autograph on a $4.95 Hallmark card? I’ll bet you know someone who would love to get a letter in the mail. If you can’t think of anyone else, there’s always me!!

 

Love is blind

My fur baby Harley is around 12 years old. I adopted him as a rescue 3 months ago. Harley hair cutHe has no teeth, and was undernourished. He suffered from some stress, too, as evidenced by his lackluster and very thin coat of fur. Most problematic was the vet’s diagnosis that he was nearly blind, due to cataracts. I didn’t think it could be as bad as she suggested because he seemed fearless, jumping up onto my lap, hopping down off furniture, taking stairs without hesitation. There was the occasional drift to the side when we walked around the neighborhood, and once in a while, he turned a corner too short and bumped into a wall. I loved him anyway and was blind to the issue.

But it was happening a little more often lately. And then this morning, I had all the proof I needed. We were leaving the bedroom and heading downstairs. He was right behind me, as usual, or so I thought. I happened to glance to my right when I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye. chair landingOh My God!! Harley had walked over to the banister that overlooks the entryway foyer. It’s got to be about 10′ down. He thought it was the steps, I guess. He is pretty small at about 5#. He had his head and shoulder through the spindles and was ready to put his paw down on the first stair – which wasn’t there – so he would have flown instead of walked.

I screamed and lunged, and by the grace of God, I grabbed his back legs. He was ready to fly when I swooped him up into my arms and nearly suffocated him. He was shaking and so was I. He didn’t cry but I sure did.

An hour later I had measured the banisters, put dogs in crates, and took off on a mission. It felt good to have a strong purpose, even given the circumstances. I went to Habitat ReStore, but no chic ideas came to me. Ace Hardware had lumber butlanding (1) that was not what I wanted. Danny’s Glass wanted almost $80 for one piece of Plexiglass, and I needed two.  Home Depot had options! There was a young man named Mike who was more than happy to cut a stock piece of thin clear plastic (whatever version of Plexi they carry) for me. When I got home, I gave quick thanks to the Angels in the Hardware Department of Heaven and drilled holes in the plastic sheeting without cracking it. I fastened it to the spindles with zip ties, and Voila! I have a solution to the dog-through-the-railing problem.

Then I rearranged the three baby gates and gatesthe aluminum shelf I use as a barrier to the stairwell, top AND bottom now. It would be nice if they had doors so I wouldn’t have to step over … since I took a fall a few weeks ago when I misjudged the height of one of them. Yes, I know I could buy the door kind but let’s say it’s not a priority. I’d prefer to think I’m young enough and agile enough that this is not a necessity…yet.

Now that I am calmed down (meaning I ate healing cookies and cinnamon rolls), I also have Googled how to care for a blind dog. Step 1 is to admit there is a problem. (Sound familiar?)  The vet says it’s cataracts, which may be surgically corrected or at least improved, but $2500 and no guarantee. Step 2 is to help him  use his  other senses, like smell and sound and touch. It’s unlikely I’m going to put bells on my shoes or the other dogs so he can find us, but I will talk to him more.

In fact, there are a series of things to do, some of which will be easier to implement than others. For example, I like to rearrange my furniture, but the advice is to leave it be so that the dog can learn his patterns. Use textured rugs to alert the dog to doors and stairs. Put scented oils on the rug under his food bowl and on his bed so he can find them easier. These are some of the to-do things.

Then there are the don’t-do things. He is so tiny that I love to scoop him up and cuddle him. But since he can’t see me or maybe always hear me, I need to be careful to not startle him. And carrying him from place to place is also a no-no, since he can become disoriented if he doesn’t recognize where I’ve put him down.

What it means is that we both have to adapt. Which is so obvious. I can’t believe I have never thought of me having to do the adjusting. How selfish is that of me?  I have never had to accommodate anyone (or anything) like this.  There was the time my son broke his knee and was on crutches and in a brace, but all I had to do really was to pick UP the throw rugs on the floor so he wouldn’t trip. He was the one who had to manage getting around. Am I a bad mama?

I’ve been blind about a few things apparently. I have a new appreciation for those with limited or no sight and how they adapt. I also have a new respect for those who live with or care for the blind or deaf. It may or may not be a hardship but it certainly takes compassion and selflessness.

I am going to be grateful that all I had was a close call today, one that could be fixed easily enough. I will be better prepared if ever I have the chance to help someone who has found themselves in need of help or understanding.  There are all kinds of blindness, and it’s up to me to figure them out and overcome or adjust to my own.

In the meantime, it’s probably safe to put the dog down now. It’s kind of hard to type with him on my lap and his paws tapping the wrong keys occasionally.  I will go read more on taking care of my nearly-blind dog. And if you see me in the store and I’ve forgotten to take off one of the bells on my shoe, just quietly point it out so I can stop jingling around.

Points of Reference

It started with winter weather

We had some winter weather here in Virginia last week. Depending on where you were, the snowfall was around 8″, give or take a few. Temperatures dropped to single digits. snow 2018Everything shut down for a few days, and I mean everything. Schools are still closed since there isn’t much in the way of  street-cleaning machinery and the busses can’t get around. My neighbor had frozen pipes in her house, and one of my own dogs refused to go outdoors for you-know-what.

I’m a Midwest girl, having grown up in Minnesota, and as an adult having spent many years in South Dakota.  I simply put on my Cuddleduds, which is “base clothing for layering” (also known as long underwear), heated up the apple cider and threw in some Sasha fireplaceRed Hots, flipped the switch to turn on the fireplace, and snuggled up with the dogs to do some reading while the crockpot cooked my Taterflower soup.  When I went out for fresh air, I wore a below-knee length down coat, gloves, a hat, and a scarf. And snow boots.  The wind only blew that first day, and after it stopped snowing a day later, the sky has been blue and the sun has been shining.

While many are complaining, I find it somewhat amusing. But that’s because my point of reference is different from theirs. People here are not used to cool temperatures, much less below-freezing days. They don’t have – or if they have it –  they don’t wear appropriate clothing.

It snowed last Thursday, and the weekend was when the cold front moved in. By Monday the temps were in the 40’s, yesterday they were about 50, and tomorrow is supposed to be in the mid-60’s.  I knew that the snow would melt soon enough and planned to save myself the strain of shoveling. But some neighborhood boys, probably freshly-minted teenagers, came around looking to make a few dollars.  shovelingWe’ve all heard about today’s kids and how lazy and self-centered they are, always plopped in front of a video game or growing a hunchback from bending over their cellphones. Here were three enterprising kids, willing to work for money, providing a needed service. I was more than happy to reward their spirit, their way of showing us that not all kids are hard to get a long with.  They wanted $30, which was $10 each, but all I had in my wallet was $29 – truly! Fortunately, I had just taken a pan of chocolate-chip cookies out of the oven, so we made a deal. In my experience, kids like food almost as much as they like money!

I can appreciate that swift shift to a milder winter, but for many here, it’s not soon enough. They haven’t lived through a winter that starts in October and ends in April, or one that has dropped 120″ of snow on you, or one where “snirt” is a real word (it’s dirt and snow that results from constant winds). They haven’t had to slice open a snow drift that is knee high and packed in like concrete where the garage meets the house. They probably have never climbed out a window to shovel their way to the front door . Yes, I have, so I know how bad it could have been and wasn’t.  It’s sort of like “you don’t miss the water til the well runs dry,” but not really. It’s more like you don’t know how good this is until you’ve survived a flizzard (yes, flood & blizzard) that forced you to sandbag your house during a snowfall.

I had lunch with some neighbors yesterday. Cabin fever had set in and most were anxious to get out. As we shared news from other neighbors who had gone south for the winter (ha!), I realized it’s not the just the weather that I view differently. My point of reference on many things is vastly different from theirs.

Innocent til proven guilty?

As you may know, my career was spent working for the judicial system. My views on true/false or good/bad or judgment or passion or blame or “rights” are all influenced by what I saw and heard and know.  It’s unfortunate that the court of public opinion seems to hold more sway than reality these days. Sensationalism sells, and with the proliferation of online instant access, waiting for the facts isn’t in vogue. I tend to stay out of the fray much of time, taking a wait-and-see approach, preferring to form my own opinions rather than have someone tell me “the way it is.” I have enough life experiences of my own now, and less of a need to rush to judgment, to get on the bandwagon too soon. Admittedly, I sometimes go days without checking the news at all. The advantage is that I don’t get depressed or desensitized by the headlines Usually there is better information (and thus a more complete story) by the time I check in.

Mishaps, setbacks, and tragedies

My point of reference (and my reactions today) for  medical emergencies, for example, is based on my experience as a parent, and since it takes a village, my quasi-parental role as an aunt and friend. There were broken bones,  car accidents, cuts caused by running into barbed wire fences and metal flashing sticking out of a well house cover, an axe that sliced open the top of a foot when chopping wood, and a successful suicide (but also some unsuccessful attempts), an accidental overdose, and a few DUIs. I know the difference between a mishap, a setback, and a tragedy.

Similarly, each death of a grandparent or cousin or uncle or friend built up my storehouse of experiences to call upon when my heart was bruised or broken. From failed relationships, to disappointment in  my parents or a boss, to the death of my husband and  even my dog, I have a place I can go to in my own little world and reflect on what else could have happened but didn’t.

Good stuff, too

Not all comparisons are bad, of course. There is good ice cream, and then there is real Italian gelato eaten on a cobblestone sidewalk in Florence. There is having an old Ford conversion van or upgrading to a brand new 5th wheel travel trailer. There is the ocean and the mountains. There is a karaoke in a bar that reveals a pleasant surprise, and professionals like Josh Groban or Miranda Lambert, but then there is the purest of joys when your kids video a roadtrip sing-a-long in the car on their way to Christmas vacation.

My point is, life is to be lived. If you do some living, your points of reference expand, making things more tolerable and enjoyable and meaningful. A week of winter weather becomes a few bonus days to clean out the closets or do some home cooking or have nothing better to do than read a book while snuggled with the dogs by the fire.

Live the good life

I say, bring it on!  I’d love to have a new perspective on what it’s like to live my tiny camper for a month or two, or to gain a sense of accomplishment from having traversed the back roads for a few thousand miles. DD FB page photoI think it’s when we are alone with our thoughts for a while that we can more fully appreciate not only the beauty around us but the goodness within us. I plan to do some more living this year. And so when you ask me what I think about something, I might just have to ask in reply, “compared to what?”

Moving on…with your help, please

This Solowingnow blog has been an integral part of my expression of grief and the healing that is ongoing. I started it just over two years ago, which was then one year since my husband Kevin passed away. I got that familiar advice: don’t make any major decisions for at least a year.  So I waited, and then one year to the day I quit my job and started a personal sabbatical to figure out the rest of my life.

That year turned into two, and now I have decided to declare my sabbatical official over and done. It’s the start of a new year and it seems the perfect time for a(nother) fresh start.  I never quite got that Flash of the Blinding Obvious about what my passion is, what I should be doing with my life, but I am definitely moving on. I have figured out what my next thing is, for now, which is to continue Solowingnow in some form, in addition to co-sponsoring an Author’Academy to learn and share what I am learning about writing, publishing, and selling myself as an author. An Information Meeting will be held next week, with the first of 8 classes to start in February.

Your support and encouragement has been amazing, and I am grateful for that. I think it must be a divine sign of some kind when what you do to help yourself ends up helping others. This blog was (is) my outlet for processing my grief, as well as saying out loud  my reflections on the changes going on in me and around my life . For example, it turns out that I had past, unresolved grief that needed to be dealt with, too, and I appreciate how fortunate  I am to have had this time to do that. I have learned a lot about who I am, why I am the way I am, what my default reactions tend to be, how to feel my feelings and let them go. Most of all, I have let go of the pieces of the old me and my old life, and I have opened myself up to the new me and the new normal.

With that in mind, I am asking for a favor, which is for you to help me figure out how else I might better help you.

Please take this short 2-minute survey to give me your ideas. Click here.  I will leave it open for one week, and on January 9 I will compile responses. Shortly after that, I will post my plans.

Thanks so much!

 

Yes? No? Maybe?!!

It MUST be true, since it is my own experience that not every “yes” is a good answer, and not every “no” is a bad answer. Tyes_no_maybe_white_dice_1600_clr_2630his  post is about the past month, during which I found myself distracted by opportunities, reminded by anniversaries, and presented with new partners. In the end, doors and windows keep opening  while I’ve been busy closing others.

When I left my job two years ago, it was my intent to take one year off of work to figure out what the rest of my life was going to be about. I didn’t know if it would really take a year, but that is what I thought I could afford..in terms of money but also in terms of social acceptability and self image. Ha! It actually took me two years but the doubts are now just fleeting thoughts. I’m ready to step off of the edge of this cliff and make some changes.

The month of November was the watershed. I had been wishy-washy about so many things over the past two years, trying to be open to new ideas, giving lip service to resistance about staying in my same old lane, yet keeping that safety net in place to the point it became my default Easy button. I dipped my toes in the water all summer long about going in a new direction, and now I’m jumping all in.  The “funny” thing is that my decision is finally the culmination of what I even said I would do two years ago but apparently was not committed to, writing a book about my grief experience.  I say “funny” because I have not felt much like laughing; in fact, have done a lot of crying and whining and wallowing and avoiding. This blog was my way of testing the idea.

So why now? Well, November is, first of all, the anniversary of when Kevin died. It’s also when his birthday was. His death created  an opening for me to once and for all give up the obligatory life I had been living (by choice, I admit freely), and live my bliss, so to speak. But I had no idea what that was. Or rather, I ignored the idea that I could really do what I had long fantasized about (at least subconsciously). That’s not the same to me as what I’m passionate about. I kind of hate that concept – find what you’re passionate about and do it! I was deceived into thinking it had to be ONE BIG THING that I was so ga-ga over that it was indisputable and very obvious what it was. But I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

Also, November brought me another crushing blow when my daughter was unable to carry out a pregnancy. It maybe sounds shameful because I have other grandchildren, but for some reason, this one grabbed hold of my heart in a way the others didn’t. I was considering – seriously considering – packing up and moving to the other coast to become the grandma I wasn’t yet. This loss also reinforced for me  (how many times do I need to be hit upside the head????) how fragile life is, what a short time we have on this Earth, and how imperative it is to do NOW whatever it is I can’t figure out I’m supposed to do. This was the first week of November.

Kevin died on November 23, but it was the Sunday before Thanksgiving. This year Sunday was the 19th, so I managed to now activate my sadness genes for an extra 4 days, and then keep the pity party going through his birthday on the 30th. By then Mercury went retrograde, making my life  shmush tightly until I burst out in anger, asking for some help to get clarity once and for all. Finally, I forced up some answers.

A woman I met more than year ago but whom I hadn’t followed through with on a book plan was open to meeting with me again. After a couple of meetings, I felt that it was time I took a risk and put myself out there for something different than the standard fare that is me. And she said yes! We are going to partner up on a project.

By now, you’re probably wondering what in the world I’m talking about? It’s books. Not just my book, although that is on the horizon. It’s how books get made, the road from writer to published author. I used to consider that among the things I kept with me from move to move to move were books on leadership and public speaking, so that must be my thing. What I failed to see is that I keep books, not just the leadership and speaking  kinds but all kinds of books: different genres, buying them here and there, giving them away as gifts, using my library card regularly.  I love to read. I love books. If I have a collection of anything, it’s books. Yes, I have a kindle, but I love the paper, the touch, the notes I make in the margins. All things books. I even know people who have written books. AND I had a conversation with another friend a while back about her idea to set up a publishing business with her sister.  Which is to say that all the dots have been floating around but I couldn’t connect them; until now.

I actually started writing my first book so long ago I can’t remember when, except that it was during the First Husband phase, which means probably 30-40 years ago. I only did two chapters but I still have it  tucked away. Written longhand on a legal pad of yellow paper. I have since had four articles printed in trade journals, the first back in 1988 or 1989, the most recent one this past summer. I’ve even been paid for some writing. So I’m already a writer aside from this blog, and legitimately published. But I want to know more. I want the peek behind the curtain. I want to explore the world of writing and publishing.

Today I was asked about what it is I do. Without forethought, I responded “I help people help themselves with their writing and public speaking.” And I finally felt like I knew who I was. It’s been a long time coming, this decision – or is it just an acknowledgement? I know now that this version of me has been here all along, just buried so far down under the roles of daughter, and mama, and wife..sister..friend..employee..

And wouldn’t you know it? I have been sitting on a chance to do more court work. A proposal is  due tomorrow if I want to bid on the work, but I just can’t get excited about it. The money would be okay but it’s not all that great, and there are a few other detracting elements, like having to travel regularly, getting a supplemental business license, and giving up my rights to the final work product.  It’s an opportunity I would have jumped on in the past, but now I realize that while it’s something I could do, it’s not something I want to do. I’ve just learned this, too: Every “yes” is a “no” to something else. (Kevin Kruse, www.15TimeSecrets.com.)  I’m saying no to that proposal.

So November came and went, bringing with it old reminders and new lessons. Mercury went retrograde and brought with it some shade. Distractions tested my resolve, but opportunities helped me get clear on what I DO want, not just what I don’t want. It’s taken me two years of pushing, but I finally figured that out. And the time it has taken to do all this figuring was the gift from the grief I endured so I could learn to let go of the past, craft a new normal, and open myself to receiving the next part of my amazing life.

I’ll end with photos of two  vision boards I made for myself nearly a year ago, with the goal of manifesting my future – the one I couldn’t see, that I struggled to find. I couldn’t even interpret these then, but I can see now how they were showing me a way. I made 7 boards in about a one-week span, and all I was looking to include were things that resonated with me, even if they didn’t quite make sense. It’s  now crystal clear. visionboard2visionboard

 

 

 

Opening myself up further

I sometimes find it incredibly hard/difficult/challenging to acknowledge that I am enough. Just me. All by myself. I am enough. I am smart enough, kind enough, successful enough, generous enough, pretty enough, rich enough.   I have enough – money, time, education, resources, friendships, opportunities, things, ideas, food, work, love.  I do enough: volunteering, reading, resting, appreciating, cooking, talking, sharing, listening, thinking, cleaning, shopping, crying, laughing, learning.  So why do I keep trying so damn much to prove this to – of all people – myself??? It’s time to give myself a break; even I know that. So….

This past August I welcomed into my home a young Chinese woman who is here to work on her doctoral program at the local college.

Yawei halloween

Haloween decorating

Yawei is of the generation in China in which couples were only permitted to have one child, meaning she has lead the life of an only and somewhat spoiled girl in her small family.  She had never been to the United States before she came for school a few months ago. I have occasionally thought I was brave, but this woman is something else. Already I have learned much from her that I almost feel bad accepting the rent money!

Having her here has stopped me in my tracks to think about what I take for granted every day. I try to express gratitude daily, ever since I read somewhere this question: What if you woke up tomorrow and all you had was what you gave thanks for yesterday?  So anyway, I even had a gratitude challenge of sorts going on with my daughter for the past few months. Every day, we text each other 3 things we are grateful for. I try to stay away from just the material things, which  isn’t always easy.  Sometimes we mix it up and come  up with one thing we did well that day. That’s one way to remind ourselves that we are enough.  It’s similar to something else I read about recently called “praise work.” It has to do with when we seek approval outside ourselves, from others, which can border on neediness or co-dependency in the extreme.  If you Google “Praise work” it’s likely you’ll get results about praising others (especially employees), so why I haven’t heard of this or thought of it like this is just one more thing I am behind the times on, apparently.

Anyway, I am constantly reminded of how many things are great about my life, my house, my friends, my dogs, my community, my family, my country.  Yawei is like a child in some ways, full of  questions and unfiltered comments.  She is an industrious woman. She cooks all of her meals and takes them with her to school, meaning sometimes it’s late at night or early in the morning when she is clanging pots or the microwave is beeping. She is wide open to trying vegetables she has not seen before and can’t pronounce the names of.  Yawei cookingShe has been to every grocery store around to check out what each has to offer. She goes to the Outlet Mall several times a week. And she is diligent about her classes and homework, spending longs days at the college and signing up for tutors and taking recommended (but not required) English classes.

And she is learning about living with me, too. I recently had the opportunity to show her how I want the stove cleaned when she is done. Have you ever thought of how you explain something that seems so routine to you? Explaining why a shower needs to be cleaned when she says she  only uses clean water to wash with, or that scented aerosol spray doesn’t sanitize the toilet bowl, or that rugs can be “cleaned” by  shaking them out  or washing them. These  are just some of the things I have talked to her about.  Showing her what she does that is “teasing” to the dogs is another example of something I struggled with at first. Luckily, I didn’t have to teach her to drive but I have had to ask her to move her car that is parked too far into the road or in the middle of the driveway.

I am still at the laughing stage, as in “really?!??”  Sometimes it feels like I’m playing Scrabble and can’t come up with the right word because a letter is missing. I know she has good intentions and simply has not had to do these things before now. I love how open she is to learning, though, and it reminds me that I don’t know everything either. I imagine I would be in the same position if I were going to school in China and living with someone whose habits I did not understand.

About the time I wonder if I’m being played by her, I will hear her shout from upstairs, thanking me because the house looks so new and clean, and exclaiming how lucky she is to live here, and that she loves me…. I stop right in my thought and give thanks for her innocence and this chance for a do-over of sorts. A chance for me to let go of feelings of inadequacy, or of loneliness, or being taken advantage of. I am reminded that I have been given a place of honor to teach her what life is like in the USA that is not what you see on F-R-I-E-N-D-S on tv (which is where she learned her American “slanguage”). Whatever she tells her friends back in China will largely depend on what I have represented to her.

She has taught me to use chopsticks (I need more lessons), and to eat more vegetables, and to limit my sugar intake. She is a lesson in counting my blessings. She is an example of how joyful life is, and it’s not just limited to youth. She is curious, quirky, and competent at 27, a time when I was already a mother of 3 and acting all responsible all the time. It’s pretty cool that she is here to help me remember to be curious, quirky and competent today as well. We have a lot in common being two women on our own. Her life has changed dramatically in the past few months, as has mine in the past couple of years, and I daresay she is ahead of me in a few ways in accepting the changes and courting a positive future. poster (1)

It’s is freeing to open myself up as much as I have opened my home up, to let the love in, to share my day, to give of my blessings. I am so grateful for this opportunity, this detour from the plateau I had found myself on.  I have this sign on my desk, and it’s so spot on!

Feelings, oh, oh, oh, feelings!

This is a post about feelings and trusting my intuition. I give a few examples of not listening to myself, both in a personal situation with dog grooming yesterday and a business experience that still isn’t totally resolved. It all has a happy ending, though! 😉

I’m sitting here trying to type in that hunt-and-peck way, with one hand, and mostly one finger.  Sasha is on my lap and just does not want to get off of me. Yesterday was a bit traumatic for her…and me, too. It was grooming day for her and Harley. She has been quite needy since I picked her up from the groomer. Harley did just fine and has remained his usual self. But that cut is horrible. There is no other good way to say it.  And unfortunately, that goes for both of them.  The good news is that it has been a learning experience for me. I not only immediately started to trust my own non-tested clipping skills, but I know that I have grown and refined my ways of handling stress in a more productive way lately, which I am proud of.

Grooming 101 and 102 and 201.

I have combed Sasha almost every single night since I got her.  I have bathed her, cleaned her ears, clipped her nails. The vet clipped  a few  nails also when I took her in for shots 2 weeks ago. I have scissors-trimmed her eyes and tail area. It was the back and tummy I was worried about cutting or shaving, so I didn’t.  Harley has longer, silky, thin (sparse) hair, so I guessed a clippers was not the way to go with him, but scissors on his skinny legs intimidated me. I scoured Pinterest for pictures of cute Yorkie cuts and made up my mind what I wanted.  I thought the groomer could do that better than I could myself, but Geez-Louise, uneven, choppy cuts must be her specialty. Poor Harley; it will grow back, I promise!

Harley behaved just fine for the groomer, but Sasha apparently did not like her. Truth be told, neither did I – like her, I mean. I should have trusted myself  more. It’s highly unusual for me to make a snap judgment, but I had a feeling when I first talked to her on the phone, which became stronger when I met her yesterday and was solidified when she called me to pick them up. This must be my intuition at work, and I suppose I deserve what I got for not listening to it. It’s not fair to the dogs, though. Good thing they don’t have mirrors in their kennels!

Now, to be fair, when I got Sasha, I was told to expect possessive behavior from her, especially related to her toys. That has not been my experience with her at all. Not with me, Bo, Harley, or my friend Jackie and her dogs, or the neighbors we meet on the street. Once when she  escaped my fenced back, she was easily picked up and brought home without incident. So for the groomer to tell me a story of a somewhat mean dog who tried to bite her, well, I was very surprised.  Don’t worry, Sasha; Mama will figure out a way to clean it up for you.

Intuition at work

So back to my intuition. I heard it said a long time ago (I think it was Wayne Dyer, the motivational speaker) that prayer is you talking to God, and intuition is God talking to you. I have always wanted for the messages to be crystal clear – like a true “calling,” as when the phone rings  and there is a definite voice to be heard! But now I am finally recognizing my intuition for what it is, those sixth-sense feelings. Too bad it’s in retrospect, but I’m learning.

Feelings Run Amuck

A similar thing happened to me in quasi-work scenario recently. I volunteer for a local non-profit, membership-based organization. I have heard stories of the “leaders,” which I have discounted as gossip because that hasn’t been my own experience. But again, I ignored my intuition when I got a sour taste about a process being used for converting to a new way of doing business. I thought I could rise above the grumbling and do my own thing my way. Once, and I chalked it up to his having a bad day. Second time, I felt disrespected and said so. The response was that I was “curt” and should have tried harder. Third time, I was downright offended so called him on it and reported it. The response was I was being a tattle-tale! Do you believe this?!? Are we in junior high school??? But then, it still wasn’t over. Now the “leader” called to chew me out for “not staying in my lane.” Never mind that I had double checked, and I did exactly what I was supposed to do, so clearly she was trying to cover her tracks.  I started to get defensive, and anger kicked in, and then I almost gave it up for a minute. This was the apparent culture of the organization, and we all know how hard it is to change culture. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible.  I reminded myself that I was entitled to have my feelings (something I have learned through my grief process) and to express those feelings (something else I learned in my grief). And I also reminded myself that I have a lot of proven experience in turning around a bad situation.

Bad Leadership??

One of my business philosophies is this: There is no such thing as bad leadership. If it’s bad, it’s not leadership. Now I have finished this statement: It’s bad actors. Yes, I was dealing with a handful of bad actors, and I did not want to be in business with them. So I firmly told the director that I was not going to attend a meeting I was scheduled for. She hung up on me (proof of bad actor, right?).  I was then overwhelmed with all kinds of feelings (disbelief, disappointment, frustration, anger, self-doubt). So I did what any self-respecting woman would do; I vented to two other women, both of whom I highly respect and who know all the actors involved, good and bad. I wanted perspective in case I was being blind to my own piece of this bad-getting-worse situation. (They sided with me, in case you’re wondering.) (And yes, I also went shopping and got a really cute tea table for only $27!)

Personal Philosophy on Life

So in the midst of this, I thought about resigning entirely. But I have another philosophy that came into play here. This comes from Neale Donald Walsh, author of the Conversations with God series of books. He says, The only reason to do anything is as an expression of who you are. I believe in the organization and am committed to its purpose. I believe in the project I am working  on. The person who would be hurt if I walked away would be me. Who I am  (who I want to be known as) is a dedicated, honest person contributing to the improvement of communication and leadership in the world. This means I potentially have an opportunity to help the bad actor(s) improve as well. So I decided to wait it out a little longer.

Early the next morning,  the main bad actor called me with an apology. Which she unfortunately messed up with excuses. But at least she was trying, somehow, in her way. I felt a little vindicated, and I also felt sorry for her, wondering if I had ever done the same when I didn’t know better (and asking the Universe for forgiveness because it’s probable I have). I thanked her for calling, although I did not offer to rescind my objection and attend the meeting, which made me feel proud of myself. (You can teach someone how to treat you, and you can also teach them how not to treat you.)

I felt a bit hesitant, but I offered a healing balm, in the hopes that I could help her. I suggested she was trying to do too much herself, which was stressing her out, and that over-managing or trying to control this issue was something she would better off delegating. This way she wasn’t running herself ragged, and she could teach the others who had their fingers in this mess, a better way. She didn’t immediately accept that notion, but a half hour later, I got an email from someone else asking for a conference call to discuss this issue. At that point, my feelings were calm again, no longer unsettled and tense. How this plays out completely is yet to be seen.

When all is said and done…

It’s been crazy to feel so many feelings lately. A friend said it was due to a strong geomagnetic storm among the planets that has my energy scattered, which it may be. That doesn’t explain the lopsided look of my poor dogs, but by tomorrow, these stars should be back in alignment, and then I may attempt a corrective trim myself. How much worse could it get, right?

Feeling my feelings, letting them surface instead of trying to stuff them, acknowledging them, and airing them out, has been healing. I get stronger when I release them and make room for more sunshine and rainbows and doggie cuddles. I just hope it doesn’t take me as long to edit this post as it did to type it! Sasha is still comfy in my lap.

 

And life goes on…

How can it be that nearly another month has gone by since my last post? I have all the best intentions to post regularly, but things just get in the way. My writing falls by the wayside, which is unfortunate because I really enjoy and otherwise feel the benefit of being productive and contributory somehow. Naturally (ha!), I have some good reasons this time for the days between posts here.

Pack Animals

Some interesting changes have taken place in my life…which means I have changed as I navigate the transition time from of an “event” until I find the “new normal.”  As you know, I’ve been grieving the death of my 13-year-old beagle Buddy last June. More difficult than my own sense of loss has been watching the effect on my other fur-baby, Bo. He went into a doggie depression, not wanting to get off the bed or the couch, not wanting to even be near me, reducing his food intake, and showing a general lackluster attitude. It is so painful to watch this and feel helpless. It was like watching him slip away even though he was still right here. I scrambled to try several different ways to help him bounce back – and I should have known from my own experience that you can’t make anyone (even a dog) feel and express and “finish” their grieving and mourning. Treats, toys, walks, cuddles, petting, indulging.  I even tried to find another beagle to bring into our home, but strangely enough, all three of those attempts failed for one reason or another: someone else adopted the dog already, I felt no connection, the dog had health ISSUES I didn’t want to deal with, whatever….

Chloe a.k.a. Sasha

And then I got a call from a rescue operation I had put in an adoption application with about a young (2 year old) female Morkie who was available. As cute and playful as she was (is), she wasn’t going to be placed with a family with young children because she had shown some “aggression” tendencies when her toys were taken away from her. My first thought was, “why do you have to take her toys away?” But of course, children would. I said I would consider it. It happened that the current foster parents  had a death out of town and needed to leave, so would I be willing to foster her, introduce her to Bo, and see how she worked out in our own home…a trial run of sorts. And so Chloe (now Sasha) came to stay for a few days that turned into a week and now is permanent.

Bo

Bo wasn’t enamored, to say the least, but he didn’t act out either. Basically, he ignored her, even when she tried to engage him in play time. Ah, indifference; it’s as hard to observe as outright dislike or rejection. Sasha is a lap dog and loves to cuddle and kiss. A few nights after she was here, she jumped off my lap to go slurp some water. Like a flash, Bo was off the couch and onto my lap, where he has not EVER sat in 11 years, and he staked his claim for a full 45 minutes.  As if she had planned it and was now going to bask in her success, Sasha just went and laid on her blanket without protest. Bo hasn’t come back to sit on my lap again, so I guess he feels like he made his point and is okay with things now. They actually walk together quite companionably, but otherwise they mostly ignore each other in some kind of truce.

Well, I love having this little girl to bathe and fluff and comb out. (Beagles get bathed, but there is absolutely no grooming to be had.)  I bought her a few dresses and a new harness.  (Yes, Bo got a new harness and leash just because, too.) A new crate, a booster seat for her in the car, a few new toys. It felt so good to open myself up both as giver and receiver. Truth: I could do without all the licking of my hands and cheeks but we’re all  learning to live together in harmony.

Rascal a.k.a. Harley

Two weeks went by. Barely. Somehow between September 12 and 22, I agreed to foster another dog, a refugee as a result of  the Florida hurricanes. Transport was delayed, but on September 30, I finally greeted Rascal (now Harley) and offered him a safe haven until a new home could be arranged.  Can you say FOSTER FAILURE?? Yes, that would be me! A 12-year old, toothless, partially blind Yorkie stole a piece of my heart and wouldn’t give it back.  Today I signed the adoption agreement so we can be his furever home.

Three is a bit much sometimes, I’ll admit. The good news is that he shows enough spunk to deflect Sasha’s occasional attempts to spark some  interest out of Bo, and Bo has decided to step up and help me train these other two by showing off how to “sit” and to “come,” and to go potty outside.  I have made sure to let them all know Bo is still First Dog (even though I am the Alpha) by feeding him first, harnessing him up first when we get ready for a walk, and letting him be the one to sleep in bed with Mama. He seems to appreciate that, and he shows me so by looking to me for “good boy” signals and not fussing around the little ones when they get too close. His appetite has returned, as has his interest in what’s going on around him. The additional benefit is that I, too, have found more opportunities to laugh, to exercise, to engage with my neighbors when they see the Crazy Dog Lady coming, and to relax and enjoy the moments.

I was raised to be a wife and mother, and my last boy baby has been gone from home for 14 years. Next month it will be 3 years since Kevin died. I don’t mind “Solowingnow” these days; it fits me quite well.  But it also fits me to share my heart and my home again.

Yawei

But wait – there’s more!! Yes, folks, that’s right! In addition to the two new fur babies, 20171007_145127.jpgI have also opened my life up to a 27-year-old Chinese woman who is studying for her Ph.D. at the local University. Her name is Yawei, and I’ll introduce you to her in a future post. Let’s just say for now that I’m seeing some sides of me that have been dormant for too long. It is amazing to me the things  I have said yes to, even when I have been adamant about saying no more often.

What it all means:

My loss three years ago when Kevin died has uncovered other unfinished grief that I am now embracing. My doubts about my future have slowly vanished as I’ve identified and focused on the priorities in my life. Recognizing that I have options and making deliberate choices has become more than an academic exercise of making lists of pros and cons; there is a knowing-in-my-heart confidence that has come from taking time to make meaning, not just take things at face value or be superficial in the effort so I can “just” move on with my life. My discomfort with not having answers all the time has given way to the fun and excitement of discovery – like opening a gift that turns out to be a part of me I had forgotten. The level of understanding I have about how I got the way I am, who I am when I’m alone, what’s truly more and most important, is all a fascinating journey. I feel myself being more generous, more focused, more satisfied because the Me I am is more whole now. The dues I have paid to get to this place have been extraordinarily, outrageously high, and I am grateful to my Higher Power that I recognize myself now.

So, yes, life goes on.  I’m living proof.

 

So, you’re single again??

No, as a matter of fact, I am not. I probably shouldn’t be offended, but I am, a little.  To most people there are two statuses: single or married. Divorced and widowed each connote the lack of a spouse, but that doesn’t have to mean one is single. In fact, when I was divorced, I had three children at home, ages 7-15, and the youngest was still at home (age 17) when I remarried. Sure, I dated in those 10 years, but I was only unmarried, not single. No one with children at home is single, IMHO. I was most definitely in a relationship with them, and if you don’t know, raising teenagers is a time consuming and highly prioritized activity, not to mention financially challenging. I did it willingly then, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but really? No, I was most definitely NOT single.

My actual singlehood up until now was short-lived and lacking in experience. I graduated high school at the end of May of 1976, and was off to US Army Basic Training in early August that same year. Uncle Sam took over where my parents left off. But even if you consider that I was unattached and otherwise available for a romantic relationship, by February of 1977 I was pregnant, and in April I was married.

So marriage #1, three babies, divorce, parenting, and then remarriage in 2002 until his death in 2014. It’s only the past almost-3 years I would consider myself single again, although I still have those 3 kids and a handful of grandchildren. And the dogs. It’s been 41 years since I was so footloose and fancy-free.

But an interesting lunch conversation today with someone who I had not met before had me even rethinking that. She asked me about my life these days, and there was I was again, tearing up over my salad. Two years and 10 months, and I’m still prone to crying. Here’s the thing she said, though, that made so much sense to me. She said that I was still in a relationship with my husband. Which is completely right; I am. I talk to him all the time. I feel his presence every now and then, sometimes stronger than others. I’m mostly okay about this, but I do have times when I very much miss him being physically present, and it is those times when I get angry at him.

You might remember when I couldn’t get the BBQ grill hooked up because the valve was overtightened. Well, a similar thing happened last Saturday, and I’m still feeling these feelings. I decided rather spontaneously (yay, Me!) to go camping. I made a reservation, started packing, made arrangements for mail pickup, watered the house plants, and headed off to the hitch up the camper.  But no-can-do. No power on the tongue jack to raise the camper to set it on the ball hitch. I assumed it was a battery issue, even though I had connected the electrical cord to the car. I left the car run for about 15 minutes, thinking I would at least get a flicker of juice. Nada. So plan A didn’t work; I was on to Plan B: You Tube it. I learned where the manual override was, and I tried that. Except I didn’t have the physical strength (nor the desire) to do this up, down (to hook it up), then up, down (at the campground), then up, down (hook it up to come home), and up, down to store it again at the RV lot. And I wasn’t even sure it was the battery that was the problem.

Plan C was to catch one of my neighbors (the male kind) to verify it was a battery issue and help me figure out if I should replace the battery. Neither one I would be comfortable asking were home. So Plan D was a call to a local friend to see if I could borrow her husband, but I got voicemail. On to Plan E, call my brother and cry. Usually when we talk and I have a problem, I tell him he is not supposed to fix my problem; he is supposed to agree with and commiserate with me. This time in between tears, I asked for advice. But as we got started talking, friend with husband called back, so I hung up on my brother and called the husband, who willingly agreed to come over. Then I called back my brother to tell him I thought I had a work-around for now. He gave me a few options to consider, including going to his shed to get another battery. The problem with that is he lives about 1200 miles away, give or take a few hundred miles.

Tom came over, he zippity-do-dah twirled the manual override thingy, and I was hooked up in a few minutes. By which time the damn electric tongue jack was powered up..enough!  He agreed it was probably battery issue, and since I have a battery charger, suggested I bring it along on my trip and hook up the battery before I prepare to leave again to go home. 

Once he left, I cried again, mad that I couldn’t do it myself, and therefore must be weak and inadequate and incompetent, and mad that Kevin wasn’t here to take care of this. If he was here, the battery probably would have been already in the garage being trickle-charged until needed anyway, thus avoiding this kind of problem in the first place.

So yes, when I was describing this scenario to Marilen today, and she said I was still in a relationship with Kevin, she was absolutely right. Do you ever feel that way? I guess that’s why “breaking up is hard to do.” At least then the person is probably still around somewhere so you can choose to call him or not when the car dies and you need it pushed off the street or have a flat tire (yes, been there, done that with ex-husband; now I am a AAA member).

The reality is that I may have been standing alone in the RV lot for a while, fuming while watching the guy on You Tube show me where the manual override was), but I did have neighbors I was willing to ask if they had been home, I have a friend whose husband was willing to help, I have a brother who was only a phone call away, and I have a friend who met me at the campground to set up the camper in case the jack (and/or battery) failed again. We are only as alone as we want to be, and only as unmarried as we feel. I may have wanted someone else to be all those people at once, but he’s not of the physical world any longer. And I suppose I could have asked him to use his energy to power that battery for me so I could just hit the retract/extract switch on the jack, but I didn’t think of that. That he maybe could have done. Even if I did not know anyone else to ask, there are people I could have asked that I just didn’t know yet.

Bottom line, I’m Solowingnow….solo, widowed, single, all mixed up, for now. I’m actually okay with that status; I wish it was an official option on government forms. And when it stops raining, I’m going to disconnect the battery and put it on the charger for a while….