Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Free but not Cheap.....

I am astonishingly, unexpectedly free this summer! Turns out my major customer has to pull back its business and my partner jb is willing to work extra so I do not have to replace the work--probably not until September. Wow. I will spend the next two months (at least) writing: I'm still wrestling with my book proposal but I anticipate some modicum of success with it. And I have submitted one story and one poem to writing contests (is that the right word?). And I will take tiny but observable steps to plan and landscape our backyard. (We aim to create a sanctuary of sorts, just yards away from a major road but somehow a calm and kind space).
I can't believe my good fortune.

So I'm thinking tonight about how grateful I am and how much I'm benefiting from blogging. Sometimes I feel like I'm attending a private poetry reading or an art gallery opening night for Friday Illustrations. And from this comes an idea and offering:

I help people build businesses. I help them plan, develop, coordinate and market a variety of self-employment and small to midsize business ideas, from restaurants to artisian cooperatives, to real estate firms to technology consulting to disability management counseling. I also help people find their way to careers that matter and away from those that don't.

I can't say for how long, and I will not/cannot delve into therapy-related issues, but for now I am willing to use part of my blogsite to answer any career and/or business questions that may be helpful--a kind of Career Ann Landers. :) If I can't help, I won't try. But if my two cents can be of benefit to you or someone you know, I'll do my best.

It's an experiment, for reasons unknown, but for what's it's worth, the offer's now out there.


Friday, May 26, 2006

The (little yellow) Writing Prompt

Well, let's try it! It turns out there are already some very neat writing prompt groups (see Joy Eliz' comments below)--but in the humble tradition of the Big Yellow fellowship, the first week's prompt is:

Divine Justice

Write anything you'd like, as short or as long as you'd like, in whatever form you'd like, and post it on your blog by next Saturday, June 3rd. (Is Saturday is a good day overall?). Send along any ideas for future prompts and we're rocking...

ps. The Rules (no surprise): No apron wringing, just words

:) kj

Joy Eliz said...
There is a writing prompt group that just started called Sunday Scribblings that you should check out/participate and maybe get ideas to start another writing group. I see you write some wonderful poetry...check out Poetry Thursday which is open to everyone as well

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Live as though You Believe It

My years of counseling training pale beside this thoughtful observation from Nelson Mandella. I hope you will consider living from this perspective:

"Our worst fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be?..."


Monday, May 22, 2006

Feed a Starving Artist....

Hello anyone and everyone. I've had the good fortune to stumble onto several illustrator blogs, which appear to be part of a larger illustrator support network. The artwork and creativity is soulfully lovely and it makes me appreciate the gifts of the internet more than I ever thought I would.

If I've figured it out correctly, once a week is "Illustrator Friday", when someone chooses a topic and anyone who wants to responds to the topic prompt by designing and shareing his/her own illustration. The results are awesome. Check out any of the following blogs:
il mondo di gaia
christy beckwith

(By the way, I am not sufficiently computer-literate to make it easy for you to find or enter these blogs. So if you need to, go into my entry called "Work for Pay" and click on Michael O'Connell's comments. Once you're into his blog, you'll find many many cool illustrators.

check out the comments on these blogs as well. These are an appreciative and encouraging group of folks.

Perhaps you can see where I'm going with this. Is anyone interested in participating in a weekly writing prompt? This could be a word, topic, subject--anything, that we then write about in whatever form we wish. I'd hope it might be a variation of the big yellow prompts--a reason to write at least weekly and a reason to share.

Illustrator Friday generates dozens of wonderful feedback: priceless food for the soul.

I also wonder if some of these illustrators might like to check out our writing blogs as much as I've enjoyed checking out their creative work.

What'dya think?

:) kj

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Work for Pay

Too many people hate or endure their jobs. Since habit and fear are tough taskmasters, here's my two cents on the matter:

Work for pay
is not the way
to need
or lead
or heed
or plead.

Work for pay
can be ok
when you accept,
reject and

Work for pay
you might attest
is not the best,
without the zest,
even with the smallest

But since you still
must pay the bills,
plan refills,
fuel the tills, and
climb the hills

And work you must,
avoid the rust,
and dust,
mistrust and

Try instead
to work for joy
Use your head
and make your bed
Don't stay wed
when all is said.

Work and feel
keep it real,
Maybe heal,
Sometimes squeal,
and now and then
accept the deal.

When work and joy
combine—oh boy!
Time put in
where there’s a grin,
perhaps the sin
of an easy win,

So find the path
Let it last
Have a blast,
Make it fast
And in the doing
The joy is cast.


What a grand time we had in Colorado. Hannah's graduation was highlighted by an after-party at a pan Asian restaurant, where the most gorgeous and abundant platters of sushi came pouring forth! Maybe it was the color, but I will see those platters in my mind's eye forever more.

jb and I had our first "vacation" with Jess and Mike--traveling and gallavanting from Friday to Monday, through and over the Rockies. We four had total fun--easy going plans and pleasures, which probably surprised all of us. Mike calls us his mothers-in-laws, which is an accurate plural take on what is normally a singular distinction.

Cripple Creek was quite an experience. We stayed at the Imperial Hotel, opened in 1896, complete with a documented ghost and original oak furniture in all its glory. I should have known from the room rate of $ 60/night that it has not been upgraded since 1896. Truly--we could just as well have checked in a hundred years ago. It was dingy and past the peeling walls and lumpy bed, delightfully authentic.

jb and played the slots--to which I am squealingly addicted--it's a good thing I only go a couple of times a year--plus I stopped winning anything over a year ago and haven't found my lucky footing since. My exurburance in anticipating those jackpots that never came prevented us from joining jess and mike at the blackjack table, which also looked like a group of cowhands in 1896.

Cripple Creek has a population of 1500 people. Most of the homes are run down small victorians or arts and crafts bungalows. The partially toothless receptionist at the hotel told us with some disgust that housing prices have become out of sight, "You could buy a house for $ 3000 or $4000 but now it's $ 60,000." As I always do, I thought about what it would be like to live there--vast breathtaking land and mountains--I mean vast--and little else besides 25 or 30 little casinos and one grocery store. Folks told me the ride through the mountain to Colorado Springs is only one hour and 15 minutes--"no problem there".

jb had a half day's work in Boulder, so after the kids left for home, we drove there. Boulder is a planned community and home of the University of Colorado. It was pretty cool. I hung out at Starbucks, looked at upscale home furnishings, and as always migrated to the bookstores for the 3 hours jb worked. I made two notable purchases: I bought and read Natalie Goldberg's book on writing, Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life, which I highly recommend; and I stumbled onto a CD by folksingerPhil Ochs. In the 60's, though I was younger than most of his fans, I loved this guy. I knew the words to all his songs and belted them out in my little bedroom with the belief that I could indeed contribute to saving the world. Forty years later, with new definations on torture and phone taps and righteous zealots and a stupid stupid president misleading the country, I wonder deeply if the idealism of the 60's dormantly lives still? Including myself, we all seem concerned but quite passive about the state of the state.

So I am going to listen to Phil Ochs again--this time in the privacy of my car--to see what's still real and true for me.

I am now back home, marveling at the depth and volume of green trees and delighted to sit at my writing desk. I love to travel, I love to come home. It works out pretty well.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

How Can It Be?

I'm back from the Rocky Mountains and a great few days. Family. Friends. Health. Integrity. No work. The Lessons of the Five Balls are not lost on me.

Lately I've been thinking about serenity. How is it that one day is four-star, and another below horrible? It's not simply about circumstance. I can guess what a ZenMaster would say. But tonight I'm not interested in attainment. I'd rather roll in the slippery mud of confusing and endearing humanity. So here's my current thinking:

How can this be?
I am content and restless,
Fearless and concerned,
Simple and tangled—
All in the same body
In the same place
At the same time.

All at once
Reading the paper,
Surveying the yard,
Thinning the sprouts.
Working the phones and files
Each only in a small way—
No longer so much that
Survival overtakes
The little creative voice
That patiently whispers,
“It’s time, friend”

How can it be
That I don’t know about “good stress”—
The kind that overtakes
Even when it’s just about choosing a vacation
Or wall colors for a weary kitchen?

How could I live this many years
And believe the path lessens
When all is well?
How could I not know
That the jagged corners
Of life and love and lucky charms
Never settle altogether.

My life is one of those little glass snow balls,
I shake it and the tiny speck flakes
Flutter and fall upon the little figurine
That is me.

I really thought I would feel calm
When all else is calm.
And yet I wake some mornings
With the clueless questions
Of a sheltered person.
I look to a fine day and
Prepare for something less,
Just in case, afterall.

My self—hardly sheltered!
My life—all I could ever ask for or expect!
So how can it be
That I am still my petty and lost self
On too many days?
Searching—where?—for exactly what?
How can it be that I snap at Janet
For asking me to turn the volume down
And I stop writing for three days
Because the agent didn’t offer one kind word.

How can I let a 3 day weekend
Slip through my grateful fingers
While I bitch about the smallest detail
and inwardly brood about something
I don’t even recognize?

Is this the human composition?
Is there a DNA connection
That keeps me slightly off course
For some of the time?

I know about embracing the journey
And I’m not tangled by rushing the destination,
But I’m a ball of emotion
Leaning here, moving there
Wanting the core of me
To set the course
And calm the nerves.

Some days
I can tell you what to do
As surely as I guide myself
Along the certain wall
Of possibility and passion.

Then again, it has taken me all these years
To face the confusion
That comes from not knowing,
Really not knowing from one moment
To the next what I will do
Or not do.
I am wild in my innocence,
Accepting in varying degrees
That it’s up to me to show up.
After that, I can only guess.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Westward Bound

Time to head off to Colorado with my family to visit family. Our one-of-a-kind niece Hannah graduates from college on Saturday, and then we'll drive through the Rockies to Cripple Creek, where we'll play the slot machines in this once thriving, then ghostown of a gold mining town, and now again thriving community built around all these little casinos with their original wild west storefronts.

I like it out west--not as much as I like the ocean, but it brings out an Americana spirit in me.

Now that I'm better, I can say I've had a tough week. The book agent was pretty harsh with my book proposal. I'm not a wimp about criticism, but I do better with an occasional good word thrown into the mix. She had some clear and helpful suggestions, and it's not unusual to expect several re-writes before sending the proposal to publishers, but when I asked her what about the book she liked, all she could say is, "It's a publishable topic". Almost 70 pages of summaries and samples, and not one positive word or observation. After all the work, and some growing confidence in my ability to write something meaningful, I was surprised, then pissed, that she didn't speak to the "seedling" that I am.

I've thought about sending a query elsewhere--some folks are just not compatible and it's no-one's fault--but the delay in starting fresh is discouraging. Plus for some reason it seems important to stick this out, at least now. I took a few days, asked a few friends for advice, and today called ps the book agent. She knew I was upset and she spent some time telling me that her approach with me is "not personal....the book industry is all about rejection...the point is to get your book ready for an editor to like it... there will be time ahead when I give more compliments than criticism, but you still have alot of work to do first..."

This is a tricky tightrope: she knows what sells far better than I but I don't want to sell something that is not who I am or what I care about. So I need to keep my voice in all of this, even as I integrate her suggestions and comments.

I am going to revise the proposal and send it along again. The good news is that I am clearly motivated. I don't think I'll lose steam, which could so easily happen. I love writing. I want to be a writer. I want to walk into Barnes and Noble and say, "Hot damn--there's my book". (I hope this doesn't sound as pompous or self absorbed as it might...)

So I'm pushing forward and hoping for the best again. Here's hoping the hard knox will help me stretch and grow. And, if I find that I need to find another agent, or approach publishers myself, I trust that I will do just that. I'm going for it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Love Letter to Jessica

For those who may not know, I have been fortunate to be a part of Nerissa Nield's writing groups. On the very day I was writing this poem to my very very favorite (and only) daughter Jessica, Nerissa was giving birth to a daughter of her own. So here's to the fathomless blessings of daughters:

For Jessica

Take both eyes, both hands,
My legs and arms,
Even take the precious German clock
And every special book.

Take my bank account,
All twenty photo albums,
My garden in August
And the miraculous April rain.

Take it all if you can promise.
I knew in the instant this would be so.
I’m in to any burning house,
On to a frigid raft at sea,
I’m ripping the mangled steel with my bare hands.

Anything, anything for this girl.
The edgeless corners of the truest love
And the endless reserve of cavernous protection
Surround this child who lives within and without,
This fantabulous kid with the crack up wit
And the tender expansive heart.

Take it all, whether you are a son-of-a-bitch
Or an evolving angel,
Whether the cost is temporary or forever,
Take it all, and then shelter this child
Through every molecular motion and moment.

She sits at a desk in Anyville
And she finds little bargains at the malls.
She eats salads at Bugaboo Creek and
On Sundays brings Sprite to her grandmother.
She is an anchor in an unsteady world.
She is hybrid fuel to those who love her.
She is a reason to push
And the forever foremost answer
To everything that could ever matter

Given the chance to love like this,
The price of my sightless limbless body
And wiped clean barren possessions
Amounts to nothing more than shiny pennies and
And effortless will.

That’s all. That’s everything.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Your Jittery Mind and Your Hopeful Heart

It must be about time that I took multiple gulps and put forth some of the material from "the book", currently titled Good Work! I mailed the book proposal to "the agent" this week. Two days later I expanded and read this "chapter" aloud in Nerissa's writing group. And now I am putting it on this blog. More and more I am sticking my neck out to be a "public" writer. I am doing this because writing passionately matters to me and I will not be snuffed out by fear. Which is the point of the chapter.

I look at it and my first thought is, "Way too long to read". My second thought is, "Probably pretty boring". It's not until I have identified a half dozen big and small reasons to step backwards that the voice of the heart says, "Maybe it will be helpful to someone..."

So here it is: Chapter 6: Your Jittery Mind and Your Hopeful Heart

Your heart pounds Your hands clench. Your jaw is locked shut.
Your head spins and your balance sways. Your legs buckle like
a wet banana, or worse. You are in full panic mode.

Scene 1: Are you facing a predator in a dark alley? Or an intruder at
the foot of your bed? Is a moving vehicle coming at you at 70 miles
an hour? Are you on the receiving end of a phone call that includes
the words “cancer” and “inoperable”? Or,

Scene 2: Are you preparing for that job interview? Or being introduced
to a blind date? Are you fighting rush hour traffic? Or presenting a
marketing plan to your boss?

These two scenes are night-and-day different. Can you tell?

I am intrigued by the ghosts in the closet. Psychological fear is not the same as actual danger, but it will feel that way unless you understand how fear works and how your mind reacts to it.
I hold myself personally accountable to explain this phenomenon with words that comfort, in a manner that helps and heals, from a second story balcony that exposes foolish fear for all that it is and all that it isn’t.

I know about fear as well any anyone. Its effects are particularly challenging for an optimist, which I am, and particularly restrictive for a pinpoint observer, which I also am. I can see the wild canvas of bad decisions I have made when I was afraid, as well the easier path when I venture forth with quiet trust.

So here’s something I know about fear.

First of all, it comes from the most rational of places: the mind. It’s true that your mind’s response to fear can protect you from grave harm, but it can also close you down and freeze
you shut.

Preparing for crises and creating contingency plans is useful in the concrete world of flying airplanes and repairing heart valves. But in your day-to-day life, the more you try to control events and bolster your protection against real or perceived hurts, the more fear begins to dominate how you live and what you decide. Your biological ancestors had to worry in the most basic of ways about surviving another day, another year, but when you do that, one minute after another, one day, one month after another, you step right out of the present moment.
back to the past or into the future.

The problem with moving backward or forward is that neither place is where you breathe, see, hear, smell, talk, feel, touch, or live. You exist only in this moment. It’s a tricky concept—harder even to do than understand—but this moment is really, truly all there is. If you and I were to die five minutes from now, in this room where we write and stretch, here we would be—
decent folks still stretching in this magical room.

Here’s what else I know.

Since the very beginning of time, the human mind has been hardwired to warn of impending danger. The warning comes through screeching physical alarms: rapid heartbeat, profound sweating, imaginable lightheadedness, increased adrenaline, sometimes even unnatural strength and courage.

What has changed since the very beginning of time is that most often in the 21st century, real life “dangers” are mostly psychological, not physical: the unexpected layoff, the broken heart, the fear of the dark--but get this!--your mind doesn’t know the difference. In the world of DNA hardwiring, danger is danger, and unless you understand that the difference between psychological fear and true threat, you will probably react to any of these symptoms as if you are in a fight for your life. Except you aren’t, because a blind date or a new job interview is not in the same class as facing a frothing hostile tiger or feeling a knife at your throat.

So unless you actively intervene, here’s what happens as you prepare for that blind date or job interview: your reved-up mind kicks into high gear, preparing, planning, and anticipating every step you take and every step you even think about taking. In high alert, it triggers what’s commonly called the ‘fight or flight’ response--You mobilize in an instant and you either tightly stand and defend yourself, or run like hell.

The good news is that in dire terrifying circumstances, you will try every means possible to shield yourself from harm—sometimes even through supernatural strength or courage that you didn’t know you had. But the bad news is that your mind’s focus on safety, facts, and guarantees can overreact to normal events and that can limit your possibilities and smother your movement. When it comes to the decisions of life, the very thought of moving to a new location or readying for a job interview can send you into full alert mode. From your mind’s perspective, the unknown is the enemy.

Here’s something else I know.

You’ve got to find a way to convince your mind that things are ok. This is a problem because your mind can’t hear you very well when it’s searching so quickly for facts and solutions. You experience this as racing—a mind that never stops. When the facts aren’t clear, it resists taking any steps or making making any decisions without them. It is the nature of the conscious rational mind to doubt. The problem here is that you never decide with absolute certainty when you decide with your head, because there are always at least two sides to every argument.

There are only two ways you are going to be able to overcome the strict rationality and overprotection of your mind: you either need to quiet it (meditation? physical exercise? Prayer?) or re-assure it (“It’s ok, mind, we’re going to try something new, but I promise I will check with you before making a final decision”).

If you have any doubts about any of this, Dr. Herbert Benson of the Mind and Body Institute in Boston has empirically proven that reason works better when emotions are present—you see sharper and more accurately when your emotions are engaged. The truth is you really can’t see an object or a situation clearly unless you have some emotional involvement with it.This probably contradicts what you’ve been taught since childhood, which is that reason and logic are far more trustworthy than faith or emotion or intuition.

This brings me to your Hopeful heart.

Don Juan asks,
"Does this path have heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t,
it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other
doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey: as long as you follow it, you are
one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong;
the other weakens you." --Don Juan, as written by Carlos Castenada

Your mind wants facts and assurances. Your heart wants passion and purpose. Your mind looks at information and possibilities along a straight line. Your heart swirls and soars and glides, unencumbered in a cloudless sky.

Fear has its place, but when you let it replace the wisdom of your heart, you lose your way. The trick is to be able to bypass your mind, which worries about everything, long enough to allow the voice of your heart—your feelings, your emotions, your faith, and your intuition—to at least, at length, be heard.

Your mind asks the hard questions, for which there are no true advance answers. No liife is linear. Your mind thinks things through, objectively weighing options, measuring, calculating, estimating, anticipating.

Your heart on the other hand asks tender questions, considers feelings and relationships. Your heart asks what feels right.

Here’s a final thing I know.

Making the “right” decision is actually impossible —you can’t know with certainty that you have the information you need no matter when or what you decide. There is no one decision you will ever make in your lifetime that comes with an advance guarantee. Once you accept this fact, you can approach the decisions you make from a place that includes and soothes your jittery mind but also refuses to diminish and disregard your hopeful heart. You can proceed knowing you did your best at the time, allowing your mind and heart room to breathe. It usually takes both of them to get it right.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Thought for the Day

Don't ask yourself what the world needs;
Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that.
Because what the world needs is people who come alive.

Harold Whitman