Friday, December 31, 2010

Word Wonder -- resolution

New Year's Eve 2010

1. The act of resolving or of reducing to a simpler form.  2. The state of being resolute; active fortitude; resoluteness.  3. The making of a resolve; also, the purpose or course resolved upon; a resolve; determination.  4. The separation of anything into its component parts.  5. A proposition offered to or adopted by an assembly. [from the Latin resolvere, made up of re-, meaning "again," and solvere, meaning "to loosen"] -- Funk & Wagnall's Canadian College Dictionary

"A New Year's Resolution is something that
goes in one year and out the other."
by Anonymous

New Year's Resolutions -- an effective tool for personal change or a pointless exercise in self-delusion...?

For thousands of years, people around the world have seen the beginning of a new year as a time of hope for the future. Even though the new year is considered to start on different dates, depending on the culture and calendar, it is often seen as the doorway to new possibilities.

I found it interesting to discover that the word "resolution" comes from an ancient word meaning "to loosen again." Loosen what? Maybe to loosen and let go of old problems and attitudes. In some cultures and times the custom has been to open the back door as the clock first strikes at midnight; this allows the old to get out. Then as the clock strikes for the twelfth time, the front door is opened, inviting in the newness of the new year. Other people eat one grape for each strike of the clock as New Year's Eve turns into the new day...thereby hoping for prosperity and good luck in the coming year.

I like the image these small actions invoke. They remind me of the kiss at midnight that is part of the tradition with which I grew up. Apparently, this practice grew from a custom of holding masked balls on New Year's Eve. Then, at the stroke of midnight, everyone would lift off their masks (representing the removal of evil spirits) and kiss, to admit kinder spirits and purify the new year.

So all this hope and forward-looking leads us back to the idea of New Year's Resolutions. Are they effective? Do people actually stick to them, and do their lives improve as a result? Well, according to some statistics I found, almost half of North American adults make one or more resolutions each year (not necessarily only on January 1). Of those, approximately half maintain the new change  for at least six months. Frankly, that's more than I expected.

What I do know is that people who make specific, conscious resolutions -- at any time -- are ten times more likely to reach those goals than people who don't. What's this about? It's about focussing on what you want and injecting your plan with positive thoughts, feelings, and actions. It's about slowing down the usual pace of life and reconsidering habitual patterns. It's about being willing to consider that change is possible...and then being willing to risk reaching away from the known and toward unfamiliar newness.

Though I have never been one to give much credence to New Year's Resolutions, I do believe strongly in hope and the power of conscious change. I doubt that I'll suddenly start making resolutions on January 1, but I am likely to continue being open to possibilities for change when that is right for me. And that might be at any moment of the year.

So for you, and for me, as this new year approaches, I hold out hope and belief that whatever we decide and pay attention to and invest in is what we will get.

Happy New Year & Happy Right Now!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Climb Every Mountain

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The other night I watched part of the 1965 movie, The Sound of Music. Its songs have provided me with several pleasant little earworms, such as Climb Ev'ry Mountain by Rodgers and Hammerstein. These words keep soaring through my mind:
Climb ev'ry mountain, ford ev'ry stream,
Follow ev'ry rainbow, 'til you find your dream.

A dream that will need all the love you can give,
Ev'ry day of your life, for as long as you live.

Climb ev'ry mountain, ford ev'ry stream.
Follow ev'ry mountain, 'til you find your dream.
After watching this movie, I reflected on its place in Western history and my own life. As a white, middle-class, post-war baby-boomer, I grew up with optimistic television and "nice" values. Despite being raised and abused by a war-veteran father who I now believe may have suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a nervous homemaker mother, I absorbed the hopeful ideals and views of my time and place. Walt Disney's "...and they lived happily ever after" sums up the ideal pretty well.

By the time I was a young teenager, which is when The Sound of Music film came out, I was a veteran of years of sexual abuse by several people. I needed hope badly. I needed something to believe in, some inspiration to pull me forward into adult life. Songs such as Climb Ev'ry Mountain and the film story that surrounded it provided some of that inspiration.

Somehow I found ways to believe in "happily ever after" for people in general (though not yet for myself). Through music and story, my own feelings were stirred. I came, so slowly, to believe that if I climbed the mountains in front of me I would find my dream. I certainly didn't consciously think in those terms, since I acted like a pretty normal teen, but hindsight reveals my young beliefs to me. I was an idealistic, painfully poetic adolescent and young woman.

But you know what? I recognize today that no matter how hokey those ideals (and the songs and movies that inspired them) may seem to some, they have helped me move forward. They have fueled my dreams. I'm finally old enough to be only slightly embarrassed by my enjoyment of sentimental, sweet stories and songs.

I'm finally old enough to see how music and story help me sing my own life.

What helps you sing your life? Who and what have inspired and shaped you? Make time to notice and savour those gifts. Sing your songs. Craft your dreams. Work out your own rhythm.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Excuses, Excuses...?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sometimes it's a little hard to tell the difference between making excuses (usually to diminish one's feelings of failure) and explaining oneself out of respect for another's feelings and perceptions.

Today's short little post is somewhere in the middle. I've been away from my blog for eleven days, which is too long. I have the usual string of reasons:
  • super busy with work
  • holiday preparations
  • unexpected events taking an unexpectedly long time to resolve
  • sickness
So, does anybody care why I've been away from my blog? I don't know. Does anybody notice? I don't know.

But in case you do, and because I do notice and care, I'm writing to say I'm still around. I know that bloggers sometimes lose energy for and interest in their blogs, or their lives simply move on to other pursuits. This little post is here to say that's not the situation with me. Life just really got crazy this fall, and I did my best to balance my obligations -- to others and myself. So I wrote fewer blog posts and did less of other activities I also enjoy in order to maintain the basics. And to sleep at night.

Do I feel like a failure for not keeping up with this blog lately? A tiny bit, yes. But I can live with that because I know it's not true. That's just an old feeling of insecurity rearing its nasty little head, which it does from time to time. Since I used to feel insecure quite often, I consider that to be good progress.

And have I been making excuses in this post? Some would probably say so, but I don't feel like I have. I just felt it was respectful to clarify my status for those who check in with me here. So please keep coming around. I intend to.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Unplugged -- A Journalling Exercise

Friday, December 17, 2010

This morning I wanted to write a post, but I couldn't think of what to say. I try not to do a lot of blah, blah, blah on here; if I don't have something worth saying, I know it's okay to say nothing.

But...and blah, blah, blah. SO, to get unplugged, as it were, I started some free-flow writing, also called "stream of consciousness" writing. I've used and recommended this technique many times over the years.

In free-flow writing, you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and just start writing. You don't stop and fix mistakes or try to think of how to say something. You just write whatever comes to mind or heart, without letting the pen/fingers stop.

This simple writing technique clears away confusion and blockages so that clearer thoughts and feelings can surface. Here's what I free-flowed to get started on this post:
I can't seem to zero in on something to write today, but I want to write something, so I'm just going to get started and see what happens and maybe an idea will come to me as i get going even though it seems to be drivel, but now i'm getting an idea to write about a journalling exercise. Ahaaaaa! Got it.
And Bob's your uncle.

Free-flow writing is a useful device any time you feel stuck. Don't know what to write for a school paper? Start with free-flow writing. Can't figure out what you want in a troubled relationship? Free-flow. Just feeling lousy and don't know what's wrong? Set pen to paper and let the words flow until the stuck feeling passes into clarity and you get the Ahaaa! feeling I got at the end of my little free-flow above.

There are only two "rules" for stream of consciousness writing:
1. Don't plan.
2. Once you start writing, don't stop until you feel clearer.
This can take a few lines or several pages. Don't stop to fix mistakes. Don't worry about wording. Just write, write, write. It's amazing how well free-flow works to help us find the answers we already carry within.

Try free-flow. Get unplugged.

Friday, December 10, 2010

4 Helping Books

Friday, December 10, 2010

Here's a list of books you might find helpful for either holiday-giving or holiday-surviving:

It's So Hard to Love You -- Staying Sane When Your Loved One is Manipulative, Needy, Dishonest, or Addicted
(New Harbinger Publications. 2007)

This is an interactive book I wrote with my brother, Bill Klatte. Many have found it useful for understanding and improving troublesome relationships. Available from Chapters, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Schwartz Books, and Amazon, as well as many independent booksellers. Also available in Spanish and Polish.

Why Good People do Bad Things -- Understanding Our Darker Selves, by James Hollis, PhD.
(Gotham Books. 2007)

I've only started this one in the last week, but two good friends vouch for its deep, helpful concepts and its ability to help us work "toward the possibility of greater wholeness." (The quote from the back cover.) They both swear by everything Dr. Hollis writes. This is my first by him. It's very good so far.

I'm having trouble downloading the photos of the next two book covers, so I'll just list them here:
  • Little Ways to Keep Calm and Carry On (New Harbinger Publications. 2010) by Mark Reinecke. Available from Amazon and other stores. I haven't read this book, but I love the title because I think that many problems and many solutions come in "little ways." I also highly respect New Harbinger Publications.
  • Women Food and God (Scribner. 2010) by Geneen Roth. This book is sitting on my "hope to read soon" pile. It was placed there by my friend, Beth, who says it's wonderful.
Well, those are the books I want to offer up for the moment. I hope you find something useful in one or more of them.  

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Good Kind of Label

Friday, December 3, 2010

A number of years ago, an acquaintance told me that I had a gift for encouragement. I felt softly surprised by her observation and instantly delighted that she mentioned it, out loud, to me. At the same time, a quiet part of me shyly recognized the truth of her words.

I didn't know that I knew this about myself, but I felt so grateful to her for shining a flashlight of conscious awareness on that inner corner of me. I knew I liked saying positive things to people and offering to help out when I could. People expressed gratitude or happy surprise, and I felt as grateful and delighted at their reactions as I did when I made the offers in the first place.

I had enjoyed this circle of niceness, if you will, for as long as I could remember, but I never thought about it. It's just what I did, and I liked it. My acquaintance's label -- encourager -- brought an important part of myself into sharp focus -- with myself. I knew it matched my previous actions. I knew it matched how I felt inside.

Her comment was one of those things that is a surface surprise to hear
expressed but not a deep surprise to acknowledge. It was like the adage that a teacher's job is to show us what we already know.

This woman's label immediately, and over time, gave me a sense of clear self-knowledge, and it felt excellent. It still does. Being labeled in that way, having a word for that part of me, strengthened my sense of myself and what I'm about. It does not in any way describe my entire self; I think, act and feel in many ways, and they're not all desirable. But nothing I have ever done since that day in the late '80s has ever erased or undone my encourager-self completely.

That is a great, great gift.

This gift feeds itself. Encouraging others feels good. I know it's helpful to them, in however small or seemingly invisible a way. I know this because it's how I feel when someone encourages me. So I keep doing it, and being an encourager becomes a self-fulfilling trait. I feel better. You feel better. Win-Win. Very cool.

What deep inner truths about yourself have you been able to see in your lifetime? Whether the awareness grows gradually or jumps up in a millisecond is immaterial. What matters is that you do carry deep, lovely gifts, and whenever you find them you'll recognize them for the truths they are.

I rarely believe in or espouse guarantees, but here's one I say with no hesitation whatsoever: every single person carries deep, rich substantial Somethings within. Having a name for that trait helps strengthen and deepen and build it.

So often, the world teaches us not to brag, to be humble. Be nice. Don't show off. Well, these messages have some value, but they're confusing and not 100% accurate 100% of the time.
If it helps, keep in mind that the wonderful traits I'm talking about are gifts. Wherever they come from, it's in our power to accept and build on them. Name them. Help them grow. Have a good time with them. Use them.

You'll benefit, and so will everybody on whom you practice.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Word Wonder -- busy

Friday, November 26, 2010

Today's Word Wonder idea springs from how busy I have been in the past two weeks -- too busy to get even a short post on this blog of mine. It's been crazy, and I realized my lapse provides me with the perfect lead-in to today's post.

1. Actively engaged in something; occupied.  2. Filled with activity; never still.  3. Officiously active; meddling; prying.      And the verb form: To make busy; occupy (oneself). [from the Old English (before 1050) bysig, meaning "active"] -- Funk & Wagnall's Canadian College Dictionary

This is such a small, common word that it seemed almost pointless to discuss it. But then I thought of all that attaches to the concept of being busy, the stress and hubbub, the satisfaction and productivity. Like many things in which we humans engage, being busy can be good for us and not so good for us.

The word itself is very old. For a long time, keeping busy was not a good thing at all. Close to our modern term "busy-body," it implied that only a fool or a mischievous person was busy. Shakespeare put these words in the mouth of Hamlet in about 1600, as he lamented the dead Polonius' eavesdropping: Thou find'st to be too busy is some danger. Dangerous, indeed. Hamlet had just stabbed him.

In 1633, John Donne chided the sun in these lines:

     Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
     Why dost thou thus
Through windows and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers' season run?
     Saucy wretch, go chide
     Late school-boys or sour prentices...

It's possible that only the wealthy and the educated could afford to scorn physical effort, but rich and poor alike seem to have resented the unruly wretch whose nose poked into others' affairs.

A word cousin to busy is "business," which from about 950-1400 was used to express feelings of uneasiness, despair, and anxiety. Over time, the Puritans and others got hold of the word and turned both business and busyness into a virtue. Maybe it was a matter of the "common" folk turning the gentry's view on its ear in the same way that some women have flipped the meaning of "bitch" to mean a woman of power.

In any case, the Puritans started a trend that is entrenched in today's Western society. Check out these common expressions used in various times and places:
  • "Keeping busy?" -- a common greeting that implies you're happy and valuable if you are
  • busy as a bee -- used since before Chaucer wrote "For aye as busy as bees been they" in Canterbury Tales (1367)
  • busy as a bee in a treacle-pot -- used since 1923
  • busy as a one-armed paperhanger -- from a 1908 story by O. Henry: "Busy as a one-armed man with a nettle rash pasting on wall-paper."
  • busy -- a detective or policeman, from 1934
  • get busy -- in use since 1905
So, there you go. For a couple of weeks, I was as busy as a one-armed paperhanger with a nettle rash. It wasn't all stressful because I like my work, and I was helping plan my mother's 90th birthday party and then travelled to get to it.

But I have at times allowed my business and busyness to feel like a virtue, despite my not being any Puritan. At those times, I've often paid for my foolishness by getting sick, acting like a grouch, or doing a poor job...or all of the above.

I plan to keep this post in mind in the future whenever I feel like poking my nose into someone else's business OR being so busy I don't make time for renewing pursuits. There's no future in being a busy old fool like Donne's sun.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Living the Good Life

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What does it mean to you to live a good life? Does it mean having health, family? Friends and a job? What about fun and challenges, or time to relax and reflect? Freedom to choose, freedom to live in safety and well-being? Many people might say "yes" to some or all of these aspects of a good life, plus many more experiences and feelings that could be added to the list.

However, for some, such freedoms are a distant, even impossible dream, due to the confining, confounding nature of addiction. Addiction takes many, many forms and is not blocked by wealth, power, education, or physical aptitude.

In recognition of addiction's hold on millions of people, the National Aboriginal Addictions Awareness Week (NAAAW) campaign will run this year from November 14-20.

From the NAAAW website:
NAAAW wishes to "promote an addictions free lifestyle for communities, families and individuals by enabling communities to develop activities which increase knowledge and awareness of addictions and how addictions can be addressed.
We envision a NAAAW celebration every year that is grounded in the empowerment and capacity building of First Nation, Métis and Inuit individuals, families and organizations that will contribute to the creation of positive, safe healthy environments."
Canada's national campaign, National Addictions Awareness Week, runs from November 16-22. From the Minister of Health's message:

"The Government of Canada is pleased to recognize National Addictions Awareness Week. This is a chance for Canadians to enhance their understanding of substance abuse, and raise awareness for individuals suffering from addictions.
'Living the Good Life' is the theme of this year’s campaign, which highlights the importance of building and renewing positive relationships within our families, our communities, and our natural environment to promote good health and a life free of addiction.
What are you doing to learn about addictions? Do you understand? Support? Condemn? It's probable that most or all of us know someone who has an addiction to alcohol, other drugs, sex, food, work, gambling or something else.

I encourage you to think about what you can do next week, and in the weeks and months to come, to learn about and do something helpful to relieve addiction. Somehow, can be done.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Today is my mother's 90th birthday. She was born when the Roaring Twenties were born, and she grew as the Great Depression grew. The youngest of four children, my mother, Jayne, was a lively, adventurous child.

Jayne was -- and still is -- a gifted artist. Her paintings hang on various family member's walls. We enjoy her family portraits, still lifes, and scenes from family trips. We cuddle under the afghans she's knitted and laugh at old photos of us in the outfits she has sewn for us over the years.

She's real and normal. She wasn't always patient and didn't always give us what we wanted or needed. I definitely didn't always like her. But my mother did her best, and she has always stuck by us. She cooked and cleaned and led our scout packs. She sewed our costumes for Halloween and baked her delicious coffee cake every Christmas morning. Mom has always believed in her family, and that is a gift for which I will always be grateful.

Here's a poem she wrote to every family member in 1988, when she was only 78:
When I look at the future,
and a year soon to end,
I tried hard to think of
what message to send.

Each one of you runs through my
life like a song,
like music and words
as the years move along.

We have all laughed together,
we've ben happy and glad.
We've had shoulders to cry on
when things were so sad.

I've been grandmother, mother,
friend, sister and wife,
daughter, cousin and aunt, and
each day of my life...
Has been wrapped up with you,
and I'm happy to say
that we all have each other
every step of the way.
Happy Birthday, Mom! You run through my life like a song. I'm glad we've both lived long enough to sing together.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sticking My Neck Out

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Here's my brother, Bill, agreeing that keeping a blog might be a risky business...
When I started this blog about a year ago, I decided to try it for one year and see what happened. Would I enjoy writing it and keeping up with it? Would I be able to keep up with it? Would anybody come by, read, comment?
Well, I've discovered that I love blogging. The combination of writing for others and also for myself is turning out to be a pleasure I didn't expect. And despite dry spells and serious life challenges, I'm still here.

So today I decided to add a counter to the blog in order to see how many people stop by. Up to now, having a counter has felt like a risky thing to do -- as risky as starting the blog did last year. What if only ten people found me here? How awful would that feel? Yikes. Vulnerable.

But as my partner, Dan, reminded me today, I write because I love to write. I offer support and love and ideas because I love doing that, too. Several people have told me they really enjoy the blog, so why not stick my neck out and check the numbers? I blog because I love it and it's helping somebody, so whatever the numbers, I have no intention of stopping any time soon.

I keep learning ways to promote the blog so more people can benefit from and contribute to what I hope continues developing as a dialogue about healing, relationships, and personal growth. I appreciate the post suggestions I've been getting, and I'm always open to more.

So, join me here any time you like...we're all Number 1's, if you ask me. And if you want to help boost the numbers by telling your friends and family...excellent.
And here's Bill reassuring me it is worth the risk.

Just kidding. We were only fooling around at the photographer's
 and I've always wanted to find a way to use the silly pix.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Vote Tonight! Theo & Jaime -- Raising Awareness

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Theo Fleury and Jaimie Sale in the Battle of the Blades.
Yesterday I wrote about Theoren Fleury, a former member of the National Hockey League (NHL). His strong advocacy work to raise awareness about childhood sexual abuse and to change laws that affect it has lead to his participation in the Battle of the Blades.

Take a look at this information I copied from The Men's Project website:

The Men's Project is proud to be part of Battle of the Blades. We have been selected by Jamie Salé and Theo Fleury as their charity of choice.
So, go ahead. Watch the skating or simply vote for a pair of skaters who believe in helping survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Here's a situation where your vote really does matter.
Watch CBC on Sunday, October 24th at 8:00 p.m. ET to see their performance and keep them in the game! The Live Elimination will happen on Monday, October 25th at 8:00 p.m.

You can vote for Jamie and Theo a number of ways:

- Vote Online:
- Vote Via Phone: Dial 877-844-8158
- Vote Via Text: Please note that each text costs users 15 cents but all proceeds after carrier charges will go to the the charity. Text 58 to 777111

You can text 50 times per voting window, vote online 25 times per person, per hour, or vote by telephone an unlimited number of times.

Canadians can vote after the Sunday performance show from 7:00 p.m. ET to 2:00 a.m. ET.

Your vote matters! The winning pair donates $100,000 to their chosen charity and all other pairs win $25,000 to give to their chosen charity.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Theo Fleury on Sexual Abuse

Saturday, October 24, 2010

The other night I went to hear Theoren Fleury speak about his life. Theo played hockey in the National Hockey League (NHL) for a number of years, and he did speak briefly about that part of his life.

However, Theo spoke primarily about the devastating affect sexual abuse had on his life and the healing work he's done in recent years. Roaming calmly back and forth across the stage, Theo talked with confidence and, at times, intensity about his experiences of abuse, addiction, healing, and recovery.

From what I've read in his book and what I heard the other night, I would guess that for Theo, being sexually abused by his hockey coach was probably one of the worst betrayals he could have experienced. Theo had been passionate, determined, and intently focused on hockey as a boy. He spoke of how hockey filled his mind and life when he was young. So, to begin finding recognition and success in his beloved sport, and then to be sexually abused by his coach, must have sent that young boy reeling into confusion, terror, and despair.

These are common reactions to childhood sexual abuse, and Theo conveyed the impact of his experiences with power, honesty, and serenity -- evidence of the great amount of work he has done to help himself and to reach out to others.

I admire and commend Theo for speaking so openly and publicly about his struggles and his glories along the healing road. I appreciated the straightforward, real way in which he talked with the audience. His air of gratitude and comfort in his own skin felt real and natural. We could all have been sitting around his kitchen table having a cup of coffee together.

If you'd like to know more about Theo's powerful advocacy regarding sexual abuse, click here to check out his website, Read about his energetic work on behalf of other children who have been and are being sexually abused. On Theo's website you'll find links to several organizations, two of which I list here:
  • The Men's Project: "... a non-profit charitable men's counselling agency that has been providing services to men and their families since 1997. The Men's Project provides individual and couple counselling, as well as a specialized healing program for men who have experienced sexual or physical abuse as children, anger management, emotional intelligence, and fathering."
  • 1 in 6: "...To help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives. This includes providing resources for people who care about them."
If you were sexually abused as a child, perhaps reading Theo's book or checking out his website will help you. And I want to tell you:

It was not your fault. Period.
You don't have to carry your feelings & memories alone; help is available.
Unfortunately, many children get abused sexually, but healing is truly, absolutely possible.
Theo Fleury and I are two examples of that truth.

Please, ask someone for help. Read some books. Click here to read my other blog posts about sexual abuse. 
Life can be better.

 One of them  
I read Theo's book a few months ago

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Word Wonder -- listen

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Earlier this week, a friend asked me to write about the word "listen," saying she thought the Universe was telling her to do more of it. That seemed like a good idea, and two ideas came to me. First, I did my follow-the-bread-crumbs brainstorm about listening. I thought of phrases and words that have, or seem to have, something to do with listening :
  • Listen to your elders.
  • "Friends, Romans, countrymen...lend me your ear."
  • Listen to your heart. Listen to your body.
  • Stop, look, and listen before you cross the road.
  • Listen up, people!
  • Hearing is not necessarily the same as listening.
  • "Listen, my friends, and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere."
  • Listen to your father!
  • Mom, mom! Listen to this!!
  • Can't you ever listen to what I'm saying!?
  • sounds of silence
  • "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
  • list to starboard
  • enlist
  • listless
  • bucket list, shopping list, gratitude list, To Do list
These phrases from literature and everyday life stirred a range of images and feelings in me. My seventh grade teacher used to raise her voice over the din of our pre-adolescent cacophony and proclaim, "Listen up, people!" She was prone to pitching text books at the heads of those she felt had broken the rules, so we generally listened up pretty quickly.

Then there's "listing to starboard." I know approximately zero about boats, but I think this phrase suggests rocking, rolling waves that violently tip seafaring vessels and their passengers sideways...maybe towards the starboard side? Anyway, to me listing has always meant stumbling or pitching at dangerous angles. I'll look it up in a minute to see if I'm in the right neighbourhood.

In any case, if listing has something to do with leaning, then listening could have something to do with leaning forward to pay close attention to another's words. And enlisting could have to do with coming forward to have one's name put on a list, perhaps a list of soldiers. So, now, to the dictionary...


1. To make conscious use of the sense of hearing; be attentive in order to hear. 2. To pay attention; give heed. 3. To be influenced or persuaded. [From the Old English word hlysnan, which was related to another Old English word hlyst, meaning "hearing."] -- Funk & Wagnall's Canadian College Dictionary

Well, it turns out I was way off base on the connection among listen, list, and enlist, though I was right about the meaning of "list." Ah, well...I had fun. In any case, I do like the words "conscious use of the sense of hearing" and being "attentive." To me this means listening with every part of ourselves so we can participate as fully as possible. Few of us are taught this skill, but it's well worth learning. In classes and workshops I teach, I talk about active listening in which the listener is as involved and aware as the speaker.

To me, active listening also means paying attention to my own inner voice and the voices of nature, mystery, and experience. To do this, I have to slow down and "smell the coffee."
Stop doing. Stop talking. Stop moving and planning. Just be. Here. Now. ...........Listen.
My second idea about this post was to listen to what others had to say about listening. So, I posted the question on my Facebook page the other day, and here's what several people had to say about listening:

Nature. Listening to nature. That is my tranquilizer. When my head is spinning, or even if I’m in a calm mood, I listen to nature. I remind myself to just sit, think for the moment, be in the moment.

It can be on my deck with my morning coffee, feeling the morning’s sun rays warming my skin. I close my eyes. It starts with the birds, listening to each one with their singing, chirping and cawing. Then the breeze, listening as it rustles the leaves on the trees. Bees pollinating the flowers. A dog barking in the distance. I focus on these, shutting out the rest of the world and give thanks that I am able to hear these little sounds.

It’s a pleasure denied by the unhearing. (My Grandfather became deaf in his later years and often wrote to me how he missed his hearing, especially the birds that visited his garden)
After six days of listening to the roar of an aircraft....I stood still this afternoon and listened to the wind. The sound is amazing.
I love the wind and all the melodies it creates.
i listened to my daughter's eyes...she spoke through with such wisdom and deep even though she can't talk, being only but 3 months old.....she really did talk volumes and i listened with all my heart!
A thought about listening. Listening is feedback and without feedback there is no course correction or appreciation. One thing that is certain is that if you are missing the feedback the feedback will usually become a little stronger or louder until hopefully you are listening.

When we practice the skill of listening, we are rewarded. When we share the gift of listening with others, they are rewarded, too. Thanks for asking, Ellen.
Wind and wisdom, birds and babies. Feedback to help with personal growth. I also love listening to the wind and the birds. I'm reminded that the inner calm which accompanies deep listening feeds me at many levels. I'm reminded of the strength and stillness being offered on the wind and in the eyes of infants who are still so close to the beginning of their time here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Connected -- a journal exercise

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Here's a writing exercise that can foster feelings of connectedness:
Sit in a quiet place with your computer or a notebook and pen. Write your response to each of the following:
  • Something I am.
  • Something I do.
  • Something I give.
  • Something I receive.
Now pay attention to where you are. Write about who might have walked where you walk, sat where you sit right now.

Listen to their voices. What is their message? Is there any connection between that message and what you are, what you do, what you give and receive?

Write or draw or doodle whatever comes to you.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Perfect 10

Sunday, October 10, 2010 ( -- and no mistake)

The other day I wrote a post thinking it was October 10. I'm not sure what calendar I was looking at, but it sure wasn't the right one.

So today is the tenth day of the tenth month of the tenth year in the century, and I just think things like that are neat. One time I woke up at 4:44 a.m. and had a powerful experience, and that time has stayed in my mind as special ever since.
My parents were married on 4-6-46, which makes it easy to remember their anniversary. I don't know if I was a numerologist in a former life or something, but numeric neatness is fun to me.

These little oddities make us more interesting, in my opinion. Sometimes others think we're weird because of them, but that's okay. They probably do something weird, too...which can make them more interesting, as well.

So take a look at yourself and those around you. What little quirks do you find? Do you find them to be annoying? Funny? Cool? I recommend enjoying the little oddities. They're the gag-candles that won't go out on the birthday cake, the whoopie in your cushion.

Have some fun! Grab onto your oddities and have a giggle. Life's too interesting to let it get boring.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Word Wonder -- depression

Friday, October 8, 2010

2. Low spirits or vitality; dejection; melancholy. 3. A low or depressed place or surface; a hollow. 7. A deep dejection of spirit characterized by withdrawal, lack of response to stimulation, etc.    [From the ancient Indo-European root per-, meaning "to strike." The word "depression" comes from "depress," which stems from the Old French depresser and the Latin deprimere: de- meaning "down" + primere meaning "to press."] -- Funk & Wagnall's Canadian College Dictionary and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition.

To press down. Dejection. Hollow. These words certainly describe depression. It can strike as if from nowhere, or it can follow terrible life events. The stricken person feels a weight pressing down on the chest. Emptiness and lethargy make even the simplest movements difficult. Staring into space or sleeping through the day can seem like the only available choices. Heaviness prevails.

When it feels like one's very life force has turned to sludge or, worse, vanished altogether, "doing" is out of reach. Existing is a challenge. Enduring best describes how the minutes and hours crawl by, and one's surroundings become irrelevant.

Some do not survive the morass of depression. I don't know why. Some do, but I don't know why that is, either. What I do know is that during depression, a beautiful day feels like an insult and that after depression, similar beauty feels like a gift. Dispirited becomes re-spirited. I don't know why, but I have learned that "why?" is often a pointless, even damaging question.

I have heard some people say that during bad times their spirit left them. They lost their spirit, their connection with their Source. I haven't found that to be the case for me. I have definitely felt lost in empty, hollow depression; but for a long time, no matter how I've felt, I have believed that while we may forget about or lose the feeling of our Spirit, we cannot truly lose it, whatever "Spirit" may actually be. If we could lose it, how could it be Spirit? Just doesn't make sense to me.

However, depression does make it easier to forget. It makes it hard to care. Maybe the connection seems to be buried in sadness, grief, despair, or fear, but I do not believe Spirit can be lost. And if that's true, then no pit is actually bottomless, no darkness complete. My pits have sometimes felt enormous, and my dark times have been frightening, but I refuse to believe in their absoluteness.

I guess that's the point for me, once again. I have a choice in what I think and believe. I can, and do, apply logic and hope and emotion equally to the task. I look to my body to give me clues. One time I said to someone who was criticizing my beliefs, "Well, I could definitely be wrong. But I choose to spend my life following ideas that encourage me to be a better me."

I'm grateful that at tough times in my own life, heaviness has always passed back into brightness. I trust it will do so again, and I hope it will for you, too.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Word Wonder -- companion

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

1. one who accompanies another or others; a comrade; associate. [from the Middle English compainoun, which comes from the Old French compagnon, which comes from the Latin companio. The Latin word is thought to come from a Germanic word akin to the Goth (a German warring tribe) gahlaiba, companion or fellow soldier, which, in turn, comes from the Old High German galeipo, companion. Made from com, meaning "together" and panis, meaning "bread"] -- Funk & Wagnall's Canadian College Dictionary and Webster's Dictionary of Word Origins

Picture a group of people standing and seated in a circle. Vessels of wine and water, flour and cheese are in evidence. Laughter enlivens the scene with friendly conversation and teasing.

These companions could be sitting around a fire, their weapons at the ready and helmets scattered on the ground. Or they could be standing around a modern table, as ready with cutting board and knives as their predecessors were with sticks upon which to roast their meat and bread.

Mark, Lucas, Ashlee, Annie, Anthony

My companions this past weekend  welcomed me into their circle to enjoy gnocchi and chicken cutlets prepared by Anthony and Annie. My son and I, along with hosts Ashlee and Mark, learned how to knead the dough and then shape it by rolling it off a fork. We laughed a lot at each other's lumpy results (though Ashlee takes the prize for the best-ridged ones).

What prompted me to write this post was the companionable, relaxed feeling throughout all of Friday evening. Annie and Anthony took their time kneading and rolling the dough, trimming and coating the cutlets. No one was in a hurry, no one had to be somewhere else. Everyone's serene pace seeped into my weary bones and reached the core of me with nearly-forgotten softness and peace.

This group of friends demonstrated the exact meaning of the word "companion" -- that of breaking bread together. Though they haven't known each other for long, it looks like they're discovering fine friends in one another. They laugh and work and play together, in various combinations. On Friday, their mutual respect was evident in the kindness and appreciation shown in all sorts of ways.

Some of my warm appreciation probably comes from the stressed condition in which I arrived. But most of it comes from seeing and experiencing companionship in action Friday night and all weekend. It was wonderful to recharge my batteries in such good company, and I'm grateful.

To fully appreciate the depth of meaning in the word "companion," look at the list of modern words that are related through their ancient root, - (which means " to protect, feed"):
fodder, forage, fur, pabulum, food, feed, foster, pasture, antipasto, repast, pastor, pantry, companion, and company.
If you're reading this in a state of overload or even desperation, I encourage you to make time to recharge. Whether in solitude or with caring companions, whether breaking bread or not, please allow yourself the balm of deep relaxation. Be a companion to yourself and others.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

System Repair

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Last night I got set to do some prep for the courses I'm teaching, and I was feeling a little under the gun, as they say. I sat down, all ready to put in an hour before heading out to a meeting...and my laptop would not start. It had already not started twice before supper, so I'd turned it off to rest and rejuvenate itself. Apparently it didn't help. I was most unhappy.

So this morning, tired and cranky, I held my breath, crossed my fingers, and made a heartfelt request to the Computer Gods: "Please, please, let my laptop work this morning. I really need it." (Translation: I am feeling really needy right now.)

I got myself into the best attitude of belief and positive energy that I could muster. It was rather thin, but it was the best I could do. Opened the lid. Pushed the power button. Saw nothing but black. Again. still my heart...flashes of light blue, action in the idiot lights, and hope in my heart.

A dialogue box came up. It was called, "System Repair." Oh, blessed, blessed System Repair! I'd never seen such a thing before, but here it was, offering me hope. My little silver laptop began trying to repair itself. It made no promises, but it tried.

As the little blue bar scurried along its path, doing the best it could, I realized I already felt better just knowing my laptop had such a function. And -- personal-growth-cosmic-moment-alert -- I realized I have system repair functions, too.

My body forms scabs and scars when I have a cut. I don't have colds for longer than a week.

When I get too busy and feel pressured so that it's hard to sleep or smile or enjoy anything, my mind finds ways to cope and, in time, slow down. I don't stay utterly crazy eternally.

My emotions self-heal, too. I don't stay irritable or sad forever and ever. I look for and find reasons to be grateful when I'm down in the dumps. I believe in my friends and family most of the time, and this helps me move on from relationship glitches.

So, while my laptop did its thing, I did mine. I decided to notice and say thanks to the Computer and Cosmic Gods for system repair functions of all sorts. Which brings me to this blog post and feelings less stormy and grey than they were before.

Thanks. Miigwetch. Merci. Gracias.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Checking in...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's hard to believe I haven't posted for a week. I've been planning two courses I'll be teaching this semester, and since I just got the resources last week, I'm fitting it all into one week. Busy but do-able. I'm looking forward to the teaching and want to be ready for Day 1. I'll be back soon with another post.

In the meantime, feel free to check out some of my earlier posts. You can do this in four ways:
  1. Look for a topic in the alphabetical list of labels on the right side of your screen. When you find one that interests you, click on it, and you'll be taken to that post.
  2. Type a topic or name in the Search box at the very top of the blog page. Then click Search.
  3. Click on a date in the Blog Archive section on the right side of your screen. From there you can choose a blog post title that appeals to you.
  4. Or, just meander down this page. Read whatever interests you, and then you can click on the Older Posts link at the bottom of the page, and you'll find lots more.
I hope you enjoy your little tour of my blog. I'd love it if you'd leave a comment after any post that interests or bothers you. Feedback is so great for bloggers and for blog followers. And writing out your thoughts might just be good for you, too.

Take care.

Monday, September 6, 2010

It wasn't your fault

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sometimes a message is short and simple:
If you were abused in any way as a child, it was not your fault.
Though abusers want child victims to feel guilty and ashamed, it is always the adult who is responsible for the abuse.

If you would like to read more of my posts about abuse or find other resources, click here and here.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Helping Books

Saturday, September 2, 2010

New Harbinger Publications is a publishing house in California. I value them not only because they published my first book (It's So Hard to Love You) but because they offer so many helpful resources.

Here's a list of a few of their new books from the past few months. Click on a title to go directly to its page on New Harbinger's website.
May you find something here to help you or someone you know.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Reinventing Ourselves

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Last week I had a chance to visit with my good high school friend, Sandi, and her husband, Terry Bunker. Since they live in Las Vegas, and I live in Canada, it's a treat to manage a visit once a year.

Terry and Sandi spent their working years as a marriage and family therapist (Terry) and an ESL teacher (Sandi). They combined those careers with raising six children and, somehow, maintaining several investment properties. On the eve of retirement, my friends found themselves in a new and challenging position -- that of accepting responsibility for raising four of their young grandchildren.

This has meant starting up again in the career department...and the personal energy department and the thoughts-about-their-future department. It has meant realigning their dreams with their reality. It has meant feeling at peace about this new direction of their lives, despite the challenges. Maybe because of the challenges. I respect my friends for taking this step with grace and clarity. I admire their positive outlook and the calm, loving care that is evidenced in these good natured children.

Sandi and Terry are reinventing themselves. Did they plan to? No. Are they finding benefits and blessings in their new life? Yes. And that is the point of my musings today.

It's so common for our plans to go awry -- job changes, having to move, death of a loved one, changing relationships, illness or injury, and more.

The unexpected happens because we can't predict everything around us; because we don't plan enough or we plan too much; because we change our minds; because we can't control other people; etc. But the unexpected parts of change do not have to be a problem or a struggle. Most of us need time (and maybe help) to adjust; that's human. But we can choose how we view change. We can choose to use it as a chance to reinvent ourselves.

My friends are doing this. I have done this. You probably have, too. Instead of focussing only on the losses that accompany change, we can focus on the gains. Think of it as a three-part process: 1) Evaluate the Change & the Losses  2) Focus on the Gains  3) Do Whatever You Can to Move Forward.

To use this process, ask yourself a few questions and answer them as thoroughly and deeply as you can. Writing and talking about the questions and your answers can help.

Evaluate the Change & the Losses
  • What is the change that has happened to me?
  • What will now be different as a result of the change?
  • What don't I like about the change/what do I lose because of it?
  • What could I do to accept the change and losses?
  • What gains can I see as a result of the change?

Focus on the Gains
  • What are all the gains I see now?
  • How do I feel about these gains?
  • What can I do to make the most of each gain?

Do Whatever You Can to Move Forward
  • Can I feel and express gratitude for what I had before the change?
  • Can I feel and express gratitude, even a tiny bit, for the change and for the gains I now see?
  • What actions will I take to make the most of each gain?

Change permeates life. We don't always anticipate or like those changes, but it is certainly in our power to pick ourselves up and move forward. So go ahead. Reinvent yourself, whether you consciously decide to make the change or it jumps up and bites you in the rear end.

Defeat may serve as well as victory
To shake the soul and let the glory out.

                            --Edwin Markham, 1852-1940

Friday, August 27, 2010

Meet a Lively, Helpful Blogger

Friday, August 27, 2010

Where I live, it takes nine or ten hours to catch a movie. The other day, three women friends and I decided to get off the rock and see how well Julia Roberts would bring off the movie Eat, Pray, Love. Two hours to drive to the city, about three hours for the movie, and two or three more for a meal and stops for errands and city-coffee, then two more hours to get home. Fun, but we sure don't do it very often.

One of the women I'd met only once, and I'm really glad I got to know her better on our movie jaunt. Why? Because Christine is a woman who knows  how to have fun, work hard and live her life in meaningful and positive ways. She's an ESL (English as a second language) teacher, a writer, mother and wife. And that's just the stuff I know about.

As we were getting acquainted, I learned that she has a blog, too -- actually two or three of them. Her main blog is called Random Thoughts and Musings from the Island -- Just a bunch of ramblings from a city girl gone country. Christine writes about her adjustments as she moved from Toronto to marry a beef farmer and live on a backroad of our beautiful island. She writes about her risk-laden pregnancy, the birth of their daughter three months early, and two months' worth of life in the NICU. She includes tasty recipes, too.

Everything I liked about Christine when we spent our movie day together comes through in her blog. She's real. She's lively and smart and funny. Without being a navel-gazer (which I certainly am at times), she manages to convey the challenges and the joys in her life in a straightforward way. Like many before her, she took on the major changes required to move from a big city to our small rural community...and she has done so with flare.

If you'd like to hear from another passionate Manitoulin Island resident, a young woman who loves family and friends, then check out Christine's blog: Random Thoughts and Musings from the Island -- Just a bunch of ramblings from a city girl gone country.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Word Wonder -- serendipity

Monday, August 23, 2010

The faculty of happening upon fortunate discoveries when not in search of them. -- Funk & Wagnall's Canadian College Dictionary

"Serendipity" is one of my favourite words to say and one of my favourite surprises to encounter. It moves around in my mouth and my life in such wonderful ways. Until I decided to write about it here, I'd assumed the word was related somehow to "serene" or "serenade," but it isn't.

It was actually coined and then written for the first time by Horace Walpole in 1754. In a letter to Horace Mann, Walpole described his new word and where he got the idea for it. He told Mann about a 16th Century Persian story called The Three Princes of Serendip in which the king sent his royal sons on a journey. Along the way the brothers "were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”

The word has proven so useful and descriptive of common experience that it has been absorbed into many languages. I've experienced serendipity many times myself, and I love the feeling!

One thing I like about Walpole's original definition is that it included not only a happy accident but sagacity, which means "shrewdness and wisdom." That adds a dimension to serendipity I hadn't thought of before.

The happy accident part means that when I'm headed toward a destination with some, or no, goal in mind, I might happen upon unexpected bonuses or brand new discoveries.

The sagacity part means that I would use wisdom and good judgment to string together the factors I already understand with the unexpected treasure.

Here's a small example: One time I was making potato salad and realized, after everything was ready and company was coming and I couldn't get to the store, that I didn't have enough mayonnaise. Groan... But then I saw some plain yogurt in the fridge and thought I'd try that. The sagacity part of this homely event was reasoning that since yogurt and mayo are both creamy white substances, the yogurt might be a decent substitute. The happy accident part was that the combination tasted great and was lower in fat than it would have been if I'd used only mayonnaise. Serendipity!

A bigger example: I was once asked to facilitate a micro-employment program. The job offer came at a good time for me, and I was looking forward to doing the work. The happy accident part came when I learned that I'd be co-facilitating with a former colleague I really liked and respected. The sagacity part came after the end of the program when I evaluated a number of factors and accepted the opportunity to expand our great working relationship into a personal relationship that is still solid and happy ten years later. Marvelous serendipity!

Look around you. Open your heart and mind to serendipity -- happy accidents blended with wisdom and good judgment. Notice and be grateful for all the lovely happenings that are possible for you.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Don't Abandon Yourself

Saturday, August 14, 2010

First I apologize to my followers and random-finders for taking so long between posts this month! If you're still checking back, I want to tell you how much I appreciate that. And of course, I hope you'll continue.

Today I want to talk about something I learned this morning from a wonderful young friend of mine, Kerry. We were talking about relationships and personal choices and other good stuff. She used an expression I'd never heard but instantly loved: Don't abandon yourself.

We often hear recommendations like: Take care of yourself. Listen to your inner voice. I say things like that to myself and others, so I obviously believe in such concepts. But "don't abandon yourself"?

Here are some ways I see this affirmation playing out for me:
  • When I'm feeling intimidated by another person, I can remind myself that we are both equally loved, loving and lovable. I can choose whatever I need to to lovingly act on that reminder.
  • If I feel like I have less value than another person, I don't have to give in to that fearful belief. I don't need to give up on myself or give in to old thinking.
  • Sometimes I feel tempted to copy the way someone else does something, even though it doesn't feel right to me. By not abandoning myself in that situation, I would remember to trust my own ways and feelings first. Then, if the other person's method can provide a useful example, I may choose to follow it or adapt it, but not because he or she is better than I am.
I have a feeling that as time goes along this new saying will deepen for me and show up in useful ways. I hope it does for you, too.

Monday, August 2, 2010

It'll Come Out Okay

Monday, August 2, 2010

This weekend has been a busy and fun one because our house was filled with visiting family members -- lots of laughs, conversations, walks and outings. During one of those conversations with my brother-in-law, we moved into the territory of family relationships and other close ties, as he and I like to do. We discussed ways in which tensions can build and explode as well as some less hurtful ways of dealing with those tensions.

Having published a book about difficult close relationships, I sometimes unconsciously (and often consciously) expect myself to respond in the best possible ways at all times and in all situations. As if I know what's best. As if anyone could do that, even if they did know what's best.

So talking with my brother-in-law did, as it usually does, enlighten and lighten me. Here's how he did it this time.

We were talking about a troublesome situation with some people we know, a situation that's been going up and down for quite a while. What happens sometimes affects the two of us directly and sometimes doesn't, but it's generally difficult to witness. At one point he said to me, "It'll come out okay." My immediate internal reaction was, Don't think so.

After a while he talked some more about his optimistic opinion and, fortunately, I was able to hear him with a more open heart and mind this time. It felt like a little tiny door opened up inside me, and I was able to let go of the pessimism that had crept into my thinking. I felt better, and though I have no idea if he's right or not -- it might or might not come out okay -- something of value happened there.

I was reminded that even though I am generally a positive, hopeful, helpful person, I make negative judgements against others. I sometimes assume I know how things should turn out and what people should do or stop doing. Finally recognizing that I don't know all the factors or what's in other people's hearts and minds, I became more able to let go of the outcome.

Stuff like this is great (even though I don't like it when it's happening), because it gives me opportunities to walk my talk, which strengthens my own emotional and attitudinal "muscles." My talk often revolves around people's struggles with relationships and with ourselves. I advocate open-mindedness and open-heartedness and letting go of what we can't control. I co-wrote a book called It's So Hard to Love You -- Staying Sane When Your Loved One is Manipulative, Needy, Dishonest, or Addicted, so if what I write and talk about means anything, I'd better be willing to apply it in my own life.

My brother-in-law's gentle words helped me to do that this morning. I was reminded that it will, in fact, come out okay...even if I don't like or control the outcome. I hope it means greater happiness for unhappy people and clearer thinking in muddy situations, but that's not mine to decide. I can choose, and I do, to enjoy my renewed freedom from resentment and a desire to control others. That enjoyment, in turn, frees me to enjoy my day, mentally get off somebody else's case, and do the best I can for now.

Now, that's walking my talk. Thanks, Bro.