Sunday, July 31, 2011

thoughts on a sunny Sunday

Speak Less by Laura Kimball (Trust 30 Prompt 9)

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know I. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • I once received a fortune cookie that read: “Speak less of your plans, you’ll get more done.” What’s one project that you’ve been sitting on and thinking about but haven’t made progress on? What’s stopping you? What would happen if you actually went for it and did it?
Shoot - this morning I had a great post idea, and I was so sure that it was so good I didn't bother making my usual notes, and ... well ... now it's gone and - again - I don't really want to respond to the prompt. 

Here's news though - I recently (thanks to STG's encouragement and role modeling) renewed the domain name for a project I started a year ago and then got distracted from. So after this Trust 30 round is over (21 more days/posts) you'll see a switch here as I focus on the project more and more. 

Thanks, Barry, for calling me on the 'not an entrepreneur' comment in yesterday's post - what's more accurate is that I've been afraid to really go for what I want since I don't want to fall on my face. Funny how infrequently I think 'yes, but what if I DON'T fall on my face?'

Sorry the last couple posts have felt really uninspired, but I would rather just keep posting and moving forward. It's good training. Also, I've been hanging out this weekend with my son and his girlfriend, who are visiting, and my parents, who are also in town, and there's been a lot of sun and wandering.

So ... that there would be my lame excuse for writing 'Meh'. I prefer to write 'Awesome' every post, but ... I'm working on it. It's one thing to write Awesome. And one thing to write regularly. And a whole big step up I'm working towards to do both. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

so anyway

Facing (and Fearing) by Dan Andrews (Trust 30 Prompt 8)

Greatness appeals to the future. If I can be firm enough to-day to do right, and scorn eyes, I must have done so much right before as to defend me now. Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances, and you always may. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Trusting intuition and making decisions based on it is the most important activity of the creative artist and entrepreneur. If you are facing (and fearing) a difficult life decision, ask yourself these three questions:
  • “What are the costs of inaction?” I find it can be helpful to fight fear with fear. Fears of acting are easily and immediately articulated by our “lizard brains” (thanks Seth) e.g. what if I fail? what if I look stupid? If you systematically and clearly list the main costs of inaction, they will generally overshadow your immediate fears.
  • “What kind of person do I want to be?” I’ve found this question to be extremely useful. I admire people who act bravely and decisively. I know the only way to join their ranks is to face decisions that scare me. By seeing my actions as a path to becoming something I admire, I am more likely to act and make the tough calls.
  • “In the event of failure, could I generate an alterative positive outcome?” Imagine yourself failing to an extreme. What could you learn or do in that situation to make it a positive experience? We are generally so committed to the results we seek at the outset of a task or project that we forget about all the incredible value and experience that comes from engaging the world proactively, learning, and improving our circumstances as we go along.
I'm having trouble relating to this prompt. I don't see myself as an entrepreneur, though I am trying to create some side projects by which I can support my dreams and spur on my financial situation. So the third question, in particular, doesn't seem to relate to me. 

I've spent a lot of time this week though thinking about the kind of person I want to be and trying to dig beyond my insecurity and fear to remember who I am. I know myself to be some pretty fine things - open, compassionate, generous, creative, adventurous. And I'm capable of being responsible for the less fine aspects of who I am - jealous, insecure, undisciplined, judgmental. 

So the truth is, I don't want to be someone else (and no, I don't think that's what the prompt is suggesting). All I want is to continue to cultivate the parts of me that serve me and - more importantly - the people around me best. Sometimes getting there requires a little hard looking at things I don't want to look at. And some hard conversations with the people I love. 

Being great and doing right really require only one thing - being me ... the loving, creative, adventurous me I'm here to be. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

the pissed off post - had to happen eventually

Dreams by Michael Rad (Trust 30 Prompt 7)

Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Write down your top three dreams. Now write down what’s holding you back from them. 
1. I dream of owning my own home - a spacious older home on a property that has room for a dog and a garden. And that's close to the ocean. A place full of light and charm. 

What's holding me back from that dream is a belief that house prices will never be reasonable again ... especially in the region where I live. And also my belief that I'm bad with money - I can bring it in but I can't manage it. Also, did I mention that my credit may  not be awesome and I don't know how to fix that. Ya. So no matter how much I make I won't have enough for a downpayment and for the size of mortgage payment that would be needed for the kind of home I want to have. Nothing flashy, just homey and welcoming with room for visitors. 

2. I dream of being a full-time creative writer. 

Sounds simple enough, right. What's holding me back - writing with discipline, needing a day job, not really understanding how the publishing world works. Not believing that I have what it takes (see discipline).  

3.  I dream of travelling far and wide ... often!  

What's holding me back is ... 

I'm sorry. This prompt sucks. I don't want to. I'm tired ... it's been an absolutely exhausting week and I just want someone to tell me I'm okay and I have a great life (both of which are true). I really don't want to think about what I don't have and why I don't have it. How about, in the simple and noble regions of my life, I obey my heart, love the people I love, and be grateful for the amazing life I have. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

wholly strange and new

Alternative Paths by Jonathan Fields (Trust 30 Post 6)

When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name; the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • The world buzzes about goals and visions. Focus. Create a vivid picture of exactly where you want to go. Dream big, then don’t let anything or anyone stop you. The problem, as Daniel Gilbert wrote in Stumbling Upon Happiness, is that we’re horrible at forecasting how we’ll really feel 10 or 20 years from now – once we’ve gotten what we dreamed of. Often, we get there only to say, “That’s not what I thought it would be,” and ask, “What now?” Ambition is good. Blind ambition is not. It blocks out not only distraction, but the many opportunities that might take you off course but that may also lead you in a new direction. Consistent daily action is only a virtue when bundled with a willingness to remain open to the unknown. In this exercise, look at your current quest and ask, “What alternative opportunities, interpretations and paths am I not seeing?” They’re always there, but you’ve got to choose to see them.
I love Jonathan Fields - I believe I've mentioned that before - so I was excited to see a prompt from him in the Trust 30 line-up. This also relates to a conversation I had recently with Miss Lady (who I have to find a new nickname for now that she's married ... hmm ... another time) - we were talking about my relationship and how much fun I'm having and speculating and she said, "but what about your dreams - this isn't what you said last year?"

The specific part of 'last year' that she was referring to was a visioning/planning workshop that we did with Jenn Ziebart of Empower Inquiry in which we dreamed as big as we could about our lives 20 years from now, and then worked backwards to 5 years and 1 year from now. It was a fabulous exercise - Jenn has some amazing tools that got us really thinking big - not pie in the sky big. More like who we really are big.

I dreamed, as I have since I was 17, of returning to Africa. It was all very Isek Dinesen with sweeping high plain vistas and giraffes loping through my back yard. There were fair doses of saving people from themselves and each other, and perhaps a dash or two of international recognition.

I don't mean to mock myself - it really is a dream I have to return to Africa and do work there that makes a difference. But the workshop happened in a certain specific place and time. A 'recently broke up with someone' time. A time when I thought life would be so much easier if I just stayed single forever, had someone Robert Redford-esque to fly in occasionally in his Piper Twin to visit, and then leave again without getting too much in the way - and preferably without giving me syphilis.

At the workshop, I could only have single girl dreams, because I was always going to be single.

At any given time, we can only see the paths we can see. And we can't even dream of, or think to look for, other paths until we're ready to see them. But there are also other truths - what is behind the Africa dream are some aspects of who I truly am - compassionate, wanting to make a difference in the world, a lover of travel and adventure. And all of those things are parts of me that can also be expressed with different iterations.

Curt taking some time out to teach his son Reace
about Ugandan wildlife
I'm not giving up on Africa. Like my amazing cousin, who is living his dream in Uganda, I will get back there. But like other living organisms, dreams can grow and change and make room for newness as well ... and I'm more than okay with that.

BTW - if you have the ability, please support African Touch please do. The difference they are making in the lives of Ugandans is immeasurable. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

sunshine on a cloudy day

Change Your Thinking by Maryellen Smith (Trust 30 Prompt 5)

“If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • At any given point in time, you’re only one thought away from changing your thinking. What thought can you change today?
Oh my gosh ... really? This is today's prompt? Gah ... so ... okay ... funny story. I've totally been at the mercy of my thoughts all week ... longer than that, really. See the thing is, the thing I don't talk about that much. The thing I kinda just think I have to beast through and deal with and pretend isn't there. The thing that's as glaring as the giant zit on your chin that nobody mentions but everyone notices, is that I'm prone to depression. 

I was first diagnosed when I was 16 and awkward and chubby and on the outskirts socially and wanted a life a thousand miles away from where I was. And then when I was married to someone for the wrong reasons and felt trapped in a life I never wanted. And then when I ended that marriage and stepped out onto a tightrope of school and single parenting that seemed to have no net. And then when we moved to Victoria and I had my first real taste of poverty and a particularly nasty relationship. 

I like to think I was cured - 100% and forever - when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. And it, combined with doing a fair amount of personal development, did make a world of difference. For years. So many years that I had half convinced myself all those prior diagnoses were wrong. But then last year I turned my entire life upside down. And I was just adjusting to my new life and starting to regrow some margins when February happened. And then March. When the things I fear the most came out of the dark and lunged at us closer than I could stand. 

And, since then, every little incident has made a mockery of my pretended resilience. A tough conversation at work lays me out for days. The clutch going on my car seems insurmountable. Even the stack of dishes in the sink feels beyond managing. 

And yet, somehow, I thought no one really noticed. I thought I was doing a good job of pretending to be okay. Of smiling at least when people were looking right at me, and being as invisible as possible when I couldn't keep the profound sadness off my face. I hid out in safe places with someone who became my sunshine. And I tried to keep the pretense up. It's been exhausting - for him as well as me - but there have been so many moments when the sunshine got in that it's also been a bit magical. 

I can't do it anymore. Diva Moe, true friend that she is, came over last night. And she sat and listened. And she held me while I wept. And then she sat me up and said "you are not okay. You need help. This is not you. You are not this person." And then she did my dishes, bless her heart. And for some reason, just the fact that she saw it and named it and made me promise to do something about it turned things around. 

Sunshine suits me.
Not really around. I still cried most of the day. I'm still crying now as I write this. But I'm also waiting for a friend to pick me up and spend the night creating with me. And I made appointments today that will make the difference. And I told people who know now to watch for me. 

It's one things to change a thought when your mind is well and it's just a fleeting thought. It's tougher when your balance is off and the thought lingers and festers. But it's impossible when you can't even admit that the thought needs changing. 

I'm more grateful for Diva Moe and for Shiney - who called just before Moe arrived. And for all the support I have - than any of them will ever know. 

I guess it's time now to do something about creating my own sunshine. And maybe spreading some for others. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

my unmentionable dream

One Thing by Colin Wright (Trust 30 Prompt 4)

Do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Take a moment, step back from your concerns, and focus on one thing: You have one life to achieve everything you’ve ever wanted. Sounds simple, but when you really focus on it, let it seep into your consciousness, you realize you only have about 100 years to get every single thing you’ve ever wanted to do. No second chances. This is your only shot. Suddenly, this means you should have started yesterday. No more waiting for permission or resources to start. Today is the day you make the rest of your life happen. Write down one thing you’ve always wanted to do and how you will achieve that goal. Don’t be afraid to be very specific in how you’ll achieve it: once you start achieving, your goals will get bigger and your capability to meet them will grow.
I almost hate to say it. In fact, I'd promised myself a while ago that I wasn't going to say it again until I actually started taking action on it. But they are still there - in my dreams, and in my dreaming wakefulness. In my absent-minded stares out the window. In the quiet moments. Sometimes as I'm drifting off to sleep, so that I have to get up, turn on the light, and get them down on paper. 

They still expect me to tell their story as, apparently, only I can. In a short story series, or a novel. They don't care - they just want out into the world - Holly especially. She's always been waiting for me to tell you about growing up with her odd family. And her adventures ... she really wants you to know about her adventures: 
... She had noticed Alessandra’s dress first, the blue satin shimmering in the strobe. At first glance Holly suspected that someone that tall and over-the-top gorgeous was actually a transvestite, but brushing against her breast as they crossed paths on the dance floor, Holly laughed out loud at her own silly assumptions. Her laughter stopped Alessandra in her tracks and from there the most amazing evening Holly could remember unfolded ... 
So if there is one dream still gleaming in the heap of dreams I've cast aside like like toys on Boxing Day, that idea would be this story. 

But how does one go about taking 4 familial character sketches, a basic plot idea, 10000 current words (that's 1/4 to 1/10 of a novel, depending on how many of the words are keepable), and two year's inertia and turning it into a cohesive novel? Seems like if I knew that, I'd already be doing it. It's only July, so NaNoWriMo is too far away (and I think you're supposed to be starting from scratch for that). I follow a lot of writerly types on Twitter - so there's no shortage of support.

But apparently, according to 'experts' I also need time and routine and focus. It's harder for me to see how to accomplish those things ... I manage to write 500-1000 words on my blog in 30-60 minutes ... but we all know that 50,000 cohesive words is not 10 times that effort .... 

Okay. Here's what I'm going to say ... by the end of 2011 I will have written 60,000 words on this story, which would be at least enough for a first draft, if the story is told in that length. That's 50,000 words more in 5 months, 10,000 a month, 3,000 a week or about 1,000 words a day. Then I'll edit in January, flesh it out, and start submissions. I'll write 2 evenings a week. And sometimes on Sundays. And I'll just keep getting it done. I'm most excited about the momentum shift - that'll be exciting. :) 

That seems pretty doable for a dream I've refused to talk about for 6 months. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

surprise ... and truth ... and love

Surprise by Ashley Ambirge (Trust 30 Prompt 3)

I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Think of a time when you didn’t think you were capable of doing something, but then surprised yourself.  How will you surprise yourself this week?
When I first read this prompt, the things that came to mind felt like ancient memories - my trip to Ireland in 2008. Rock climbing in 2009. Both of those activities were inconceivable to the me I was before they happened, and then there I was kissing the Blarney Stone. Ringing the bell at the top of a climbing run. They were surprising, in a way. But not exactly deep and holy. 

And then today I remembered. Something much more recent. Much more scary. And much more firmly in the realm of something I didn't think I was capable of - I risked love. 

Anybody who's been around a while will undoubtedly think 'but she's in and out of relationships more frequently than most of us buy shoes' (buy more shoes, dammit, what are you doing!). But the truth is, it's been more than a decade since I actually risked anything. For ten years I've 'let men date me' - yes, my ego has been hurt when things eventually go awry - c'mon, how could dating an arrogant princess possibly lead to things going awry? And more than once I've said/thought/written 'if I can't make it work with someone like that, what chance have I got.' I've dated some wonderful men - and some total cretins - but always only if they were risk free. Only if I was the one with the power and they were the ones making the effort. Only if I was going to be the one to walk away. I was lazy. Scared and scarred too, but mostly lazy. It's a horrible thing to do to another person, but it was the only way I knew to be safe.    

But then this past winter I took myself to task. I wrote and wrote and wrote and cried and cursed and drank wine. I wrote letters to every man I've held back saying something to - the good and the bad. Most of them I burned. A couple of them I mailed. I wrote a letter to the man I hoped I'd meet. I started to focus on what would have me be ready to be someone's one and only. I admitted that no, I didn't want to die a reknowned spinster with a lifetime of adventures and achievements and no one to mourn her. I decided I wanted to be delightedly in love. I didn't talk about it much, I just set out to do it - to give myself heart & soul, not just body, to someone.  

And so I did. The truth is, that from our first conversation I knew he was different. That he'd challenge me. That he would stand for me and stand up to me and somehow keep me safe from myself. I sometimes wanted to run away - not from him - but from the risk of it. 

Like any adventure, there have been risks. I haven't always remembered to be a soul mate and not a princess. I haven't given as good as I've gotten. And for that I'm profoundly sorry. 

But the holiest truth is that yes, for once, I have loved. Truly and deeply and with my soft belly exposed. And I'm delighted - not just by the adventure, but to know that I'm capable of it. 

As for what I'll do this week to surprise myself ... I can't rightly say right now. My heart is otherwise engaged, and my head is occupied. But come what may, I'm somehow both stronger and softer for having risked my heart. And I know that if I follow that heart, I will be 'safe at last.' 

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Fear by Lachlan Cotter (Trust 30 Prompt 2)

These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Is fear holding you back from living your fullest life and being truly self expressed? Put yourself in the shoes of the you who’s already lived your dream and write out the answers to the following: Is the insecurity you’re defending worth the dream you’ll never realize? or the love you’ll never venture? or the joy you’ll never feel? Will the blunder matter in 10 years? Or 10 weeks? Or 10 days? Or 10 minutes? Can you be happy being anything less than who you really are? Now Do. The Thing. You Fear.

I woke up this morning, weighted myself, and burst into tears. People are killing each other in random bursts of hatred in Norway. People in the Horn of Africa are collapsing from the weight of hunger & thirst, famine and drought. And I cried because every week I inch further from being who I want to be and having the body I want to have. I was so close in January - so proud and strong and confident. I could see my goals coming together. And then they started to recede. And I hate that it matters to me. The number on the scale is supposedly just a number on a scale - but every ounce away from my goal weight is also an ounce on the side of failure, of  never being enough (or, more accurately, of always being too much). Each and every ounce represents every other failure - and these days the failures so vastly outnumber the successes. 

Emerson is wrong - he assumes the voices that we hear in solitude are the ones the spur us on to greater selves. Not me. The voices that I hear in solitude taunt me. They play a seemingly unending scroll of losses. They name ever abandoned idea, every friend who has wandered away, every pound of flesh I've lost and regained since I was 13. And they name that vast unnameable fear that nothing will ever go differently. 

Mind you, I have other voices too - ones that encourage me. Ones that get inspired. They're just feeling a little worn out. Ignored, even. 

There's a saying I heard once - if the voices in my head were other people, my mom wouldn't let me be friends with them. I think I need that on a t-shirt. Or a tattoo. 

I guess I didn't really answer the questions in the prompt. The answer to all those questions is no - no the fear isn't worth abandoning the dream. No it won't matter in 10 years (though - honestly - there are some things I'm scared of that would still matter 10 years from now). And no, I can't be happy being anything less than me - but what if this chubby, floundering mess is really me? Who could be happy being that?

I'm (mostly) an extrovert. I get my best ideas out observing other people. I'm replenished and restored in the company of others. Emerson is wrong. The negative voices are wrong. And I'm heading out into society to prove it. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

imitation is suicide/divine idea

Divine Idea by Fabian Kruse (Trust 30 Prompt 1)

Imitation is Suicide. Insist on yourself; never imitate. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Write down in which areas of your life you have to overcome these suicidal tendencies of imitation, and how you can transform them into a newborn you – one that doesn’t hide its uniqueness, but thrives on it. There is a “divine idea which each of us represents” – which is yours?
Wow ... it's been tough for me to separate out the two thoughts here - suicide & divine idea - I guess I'm just struggling to see 'suicide' in a metaphysical sense ... There are days - like most of last week. And yesterday before STG picked me up (literally and psychic-ly) for the night. And on a hundred other cloudy days scuttling across the calendered skies of my past - when it simply is not okay to be me. That said, most of those days I'm also not interested in being someone else. Which leaves only the rather emo-kid answer of just disappearing. Which is also not an option. Most of those days I just keep on knowing they are fleeting.

It's apt that the first prompt I saved was one on suicide. It's a topic I've long pledged to speak openly about. And as often chickened-out on. This week there's a big gala event here in my town - a charity fundraiser with two aims: to support increased mental health services in the area and to help erase the stigma around mental health. Good looking former hockey players and their famous friends, and people from across the community spectrum pulling out their wallets in support. I said I'd be part of it. That I'd be interviewed. That I'd tell my story. And then I chickened out.

If I wasn't afraid to be me - if I didn't have the suicidal tendency of choking on my words and stories and experiences - maybe I'd be down shaking hands with famous people and sharing my story and making a difference for other people in our community.

And that's what really gets me ... I've long believed that the 'divine idea' that represents me is to support people in using language powerfully to tell their stories. And yet, even though I feel I have a way with words, I stop when it comes to sharing my story. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

and so it begins - Trust 30

Sometime mid-June I signed up for a writing challenge based on Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self Reliance. However, I knew at the time that I wasn't actually going to participate in the challenge right then. I had other things I wanted to write, and I was in the middle of learning that it's okay to rely on other people - which seemed a little contrary to the point of the project. 

However, the writing challenge is not called 'Self-reliance 30'; it's called 'Trust 30.' It's not about not needing anybody else, it's about listening to myself - I might have shushed that still small voice - and sometimes ranting raving voice - once too often, but it's still there ... waiting for me to listen.

The other hold up - I've never read RWE's Self Reliance, or anything else by him, apparently. In fact, when I signed up I thought they were talking about Henry David Throreau's Walden. So I took some time to brush up on my so-called 'American Renaissance' literature. I know I took a course in what we called simply '19th Century American Lit,' but all I can remember is being kicked out for giggling - long story - and pretending to read Moby Dick, and chatting with my grandma about the everlasting genius of Mark Twain. 

So, at long last, I'm ready. I have a library of 30 prompts stored up and will be writing one a day starting now. If you're interested in finding out more about the challenge or want to join in, prompts continue to be delivered (it was so popular they continued it beyond 30 days) and you can click the 'Trust 30' link in the side. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

love as fine as a flower's hair

'They' try to tell us that love is composed of grand gestures. Of dinners on gold rimmed plates. Of precious metals & stones, epic poetry, declarations shouted outside windows in the rain.

But this is what love is made of. A picture, snapped in a moment and sent in an email. Just because he saw it and thought of me This is love - bright as speckles, sparkling as bokeh, fine as a foxglove hair.

Click to see the full-size picture ... it's amazing!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

he's perfect

This has been sitting in my drafts for a while ... because I know what a private man my boy is. But this month I've had friend after friend after friend proudly exclaiming over their graduates, sharing their pictures on facebook, anticipating their departure for whatever's next. And I just wanted my turn.

You see, he's perfect - he was when he was born. Smooth skinned. Unwrinkled. Smiling. None of that redskinned miss-shapened head mess. He slept, until we got him home at least. And he spent much of his childhood trying to make sure his brother was safe, that I was okay. When I was in grad school, he asked if he could help by making dinner for us all ... as in the best lasagna I've ever eaten. He's still the most helpful person I know. He cares for everyone and everything. And he has the biggest heart in the world.

Some things have happened to my stunning golden boy. Some things that even a hard heart would struggle to forget. Things that a tender heart spends hours working out, swimming, hiking, running, to be stronger than. And he is stronger. He is stronger than all those things he should never have had to endure. And smarter. And most of all he's gentle and funny and intelligent. And as loving as ever.

I don't think he has any idea how brilliant he is. He knows that we talk about things other families don't. That we read more than many other people do. But I don't think he knows that he's actually brilliant - shining. Starlike. He makes things make sense to me that I otherwise struggle with. He has an amazing grasp of the abstract, and an incredible sense of perspective.

Despite years and years of fighting to succeed in a system that didn't work for him. Despite teachers that lied and worse, neglected. Despite loving learning and knowledge and having plans to share that. He quit. He tried to make it work, and one day, one teacher's idiotic comment was the last straw. He walked out in the middle of class and never went back.

He hasn't walked across a stage in a rented tux. He hasn't worn a cap and gown. He hasn't danced awkwardly with me to a song that made us both giggle. That's not a memory we share. But we do share something that to me is even more special.

This January, while he was alone at his grandparents' house, he got himself up and out the door early on a Saturday morning. He spend 8 hours writing 6 exams. And then he walked himself back home.
A month later we got the results. He did not just pass. He excelled. Every mark was outstanding. We hugged. And then we went out for BBQ. We ate an insane amount of pork to celebrate. Just the two of us. Just a quiet evening. It was perfect, and very him.

I ache when I think how little he knows how special he is. How amazing it is for someone to be brilliant and attractive and empathic and to care as fully as he does about other people and the earth. I don't know what I can do to help him learn to believe in himself. And in the meantime, I just want you all to know. He's perfect. Tuxless. And perfect.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Review

I finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo a while ago, but life being life I somehow didn't get around to the review. One of the things about being a bit of a book snob is that sometimes I resist reading really popular books. But, Dad recommended this one and I can't remember Dad ever steering me wrong in 43 years. He often recommends books I wouldn't normally read, but I've enjoyed every one. Of course my delay in reviewing means I've read a couple other books in the meantime and my opinions are not all that fresh or sharp. But, here we go ... 

View on Amazon
First off, I got thoroughly wrapped up in the tension and drama of this story - more the old guy (Mikael) than the girl (Lisbeth). It started slow, and then built and built. In fact, I am not sure that naming the series for Lisbeth is an accurate reflection of the stories, but maybe that balance changes in the further books. 

And, I didn't believe their relationship. In fact, I didn't believe a lot of the relationships in this story. The family was too cold, the lovers too dispassionate. I spent a lot of time pulled out by that - wondering if it was a 'Danish' thing, or a 'male writer' thing, or if something got lost in the translation. 

I do not read a lot of books in translation - and it took a bit of an adjustment to get into the flow of Larsson's style. I'm going to guess that Danish writers are more verbose than the average English writer. More verbose, and more fond of passive and complex sentences. Even so, the tension and action were taut. 

There are some scenes in this book that it was bad timing for me to read. I had to stop and pull myself away from certain plot points that were too close to home. I finally just skipped a couple pages as I didn't know how else to get through it. I can't say I've ever done that before, but the story was better than a single scene and worth the work around. 

I'm excited to finish the trilogy. I have The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest waiting on my shelf, and just need to remember to pick up The Girl Who Played with Fire the next time I'm at Russell Books. And, I'm looking forward to seeing the movies, but not until I'm finished the trilogy. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Handle with Care: Review

A couple weeks ago while I was having a girl getaway with UberCoach in Ladysmith I finished Jodi Picoult's Handle With Care. Part of me is disappointed with myself for not having the units of self-respect required to put down something that was so unredeemingly sentimental and made-for-tv movie predictable. 

I have an embarrassing love-hate relationship with Jodi Picoult, based solely on the two novels of hers I've read so far - My Sister's Keeper and now the ridiculously similar Handle with Care. What really bugs me is that I find these books completely un-put-downable - I expect better of myself! I have gasped and wept and laughed out loud with the characters. I've longed for the husband to reach out to the besieged wife. I've raged at the doctors and lawyers. And I've hated myself for being sucked into a puddle of treacle. 

View on Amazon
Handle With Care is about an average family - former single mom and older daughter whose lives have now happily merged with the upstanding and ridiculously good looking police officer. The much wanted younger daughter arrives - suddenly they are dealing with an extraordinary circumstance. The baby has osteogenesis imperfecta. Brittle bone disease. And the trite title suddenly comes into focus. 

Based on reading the back cover of the novel I could have timelined every major plot point in the rest of the story. Breaks and heartbreaks. Stress on the marriage. A law suit. Betrayals real and imagined. The older sister disappears while the family worries about the baby. Etc. 

And then I got to the last page. And read the final three paragraphs. And as I put the book down I thought 'Holy Shit! I didn't see that coming' ... I'm not being crass. That's exactly what I thought. 

And yet here I am, highly recommending that you read this book. Even though I felt manipulated. Even though it's unrelentingly predictably. Even though it's written so that you can actually picture the TV movie version (that cop is SO Kyle Chandler in uniform, and who wouldn't want to see that?). Even though there's not one thing about it that will require any heavy mental lifting. 

Read the book. Maybe just visit your dentist afterwards. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

at what cost?

I completed an interesting questionnaire this evening ... one that sparked some relatively deep and not entirely comfortable thoughts. The questionnaire began obviously enough given the topic (what would it take to live a life of passion), with exploring what my dreams are - something I've only recently again been able to even consider. 

It moved on to something that seemed, at first, only parenthetically related - "what does success look like to me?" I suppose that this answer was fairly firmly rooted in the world of dreams given that at this particular point, as good as life is, I don't really feel all that successful. 

Success, for me, isn't a balance book or a spreadsheet, or some framed parchments or even a really pretty office. The things that define my success - the things I actually truly care about and always hoped the other bits would help me get to - are not quite within reach yet. But at least I am able to identify what they are - freedom to write, the ability to contribute to others, happy successful children, a growing and mutually supportive relationship. A home that welcomes and rejuvenates guests. A body that reflects a level of self-care and balance. 

And then the came the kicker: What am I willing to give up in order to make my dreams a reality?

Wow. That's a biggie.

She'd always been a dreamer.
She just forgot, once in a while.
It had honestly never occurred to me that bringing my dreams to fruition might take something resembling sacrifice. A little hard work perhaps, but the actual giving up of something? Wow. 

The longer I looked, the more I realised that the answer was not one of mere time or money, though those might be part of the equation. 

To birth my dreams, I'd have to give up some things that I hold so closely they are almost a part of me - my fear of failing, for one. My need to know how it will all turn out. My lack of confidence. I'd have to give up being a teacher and allow someone to teach me. And most of all I'd have to give up the security of what is to get what might be.

If I could have my dreams for $10,000 and a month-long training - the 'sacrifices' of time and money - I'd likely hold them fairly cheaply. But, if in acquiring my dreams I also had to shave away the parts of myself that hold me back, how dear and worthwhile would they then be?

I hope we get the chance to find out.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

our everyday best

I has a lovely unscheduled conversation this morning. My friend and I were meant to be going to yoga, but somehow got the schedule wrong and ended up going for tea and snacks and sunshine instead. Not a bad trade, if you ask me. In the course of the conversation we started talking about parenting ... for both of us what works - or not - about our parents, and for me what I know - or not - as a parent. When I heard her talking about wanting something more with her dad, and their struggle moving from both wanting that to actually figuring out what 'that' would be, a few things really clicked for me. 

You see, I've met this friend's dad and seen them interact. And for anyone to think that her dad is anything less than enthralled with my friend just isn't consistent with how much he adores her. So I wondered, what's really missing. Clearly love is present. Clearly they have fun and have at least some common interests. I certainly don't mean to diminish my friend's experience in any way, and there are some things that need work with her dad, but focusing on that diminishes the good and suddenly love, fun, and connection aren't enough. But can't all children say that of their parents? 

Which of course got me thinking - and talking - about my parents. To many people, said friend included, my family looks like something of an ideal. I've always had both parents in my life, and actively, unitedly so. We speak and visit pretty regularly. There are no major unspoken issues, no big hidden secrets. A few habits that may not lead to openness (we're not overly big on talking about what's wrong, for instance, until it's REALLY wrong), but generally we are the picture perfect family. And yet, for much of my life, interacting with my family has left me wondering if I wasn't switched at birth. And sometimes the look on my parents' faces makes me think maybe they think the same thing. As much as my parents love me. As much as they are the epitome of support for both me and my BBs ... sometimes I want something ... well ... not more but somehow different. It's ungrateful, to be sure, but it's sometimes true. 

My BBs look far too much like me for anyone to ever believe they were switched at birth, but I don't imagine that's kept them from wondering/wishing/thiking they were at times. Their experience of being parented is clearly different than mine. They have not always had two loving, present parents - and I'm not pointing fingers at their father here. I've sometimes been so wrapped up in my struggle and my dreams that they've settled for leftovers of energy and attention. As their struggles have become more serious, I've blamed myself more, which also basically just takes energy away from supporting them. I fall down slippery slopes - I didn't love them enough. I didn't protect them enough. I was too laissez faire to set boundaries that would keep them safe. I trusted them before they were ready to stand on their own. And on and on. 

But I'm reminded, frequently lately, of a story my counselor told me the first day I went to see him ... I'll share the rest of it in another post but the punch line was that every day I've done my best. Whether some days that best was chipped, or fractured, or the wrong colour - every day I did my best. And I'm doing it still. 

I like to believe, since hearing the story, that the every day best is true of all parents. Some parents are undeserving of the term - neglectful, and even dangerous to their children, yes. But, for the most part, they are all doing their everyday best. And isn't that all we can ask of anyone ... even ourselves? 
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