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Best Year Ever. Still.

Nothing like committing to do something in public to make you see your own flaws.

My best year isn’t done, and it’s still the best I’ve ever lived, and I’ve been busy living it. Eh, but I’ve been busy procrastinating about all sorts of things. Like posting here. Seems as soon as I give myself a rule it makes me want to break it. Makes me wonder if there’s an app that’ll impose deadlines that make you unable to post after a certain time. (I do this for my students on Blackboard, and as a fellow procrastinator, I understand the value of having a deadline with consequences.)

Some of the best things right now:

  • I’m rediscovering Jesus. And praying every day that it doesn’t turn me into an annoying conservative twat. I’d annoy myself. Gag me.
  • I am learning a lot about my absentminded habits. Thank God my husband is so laid-back. Couple days ago he said, smiling, “Honey, do you not like bending over?” I gave him a wtf look and he said, “When you lay something down, it stays there.” I–ah–well. That explains a lot. What amuses me is that now, because of that tiny, indulgent smile of his, I catch myself when I lay something down, and I remember that my actions affect someone else. And I don’t lay it down.
  • I am writing! I am noodling about scenes, I am plotting, I am creating characters I love, and I am regularly in my writing corner.
  • I am actively growing as a teacher. This semester I’m implementing a couple of tools I developed last semester and the feedback I’m getting from students is helping me to make them more user-friendly. (A worksheet on thesis statements and topic sentences, and an online workshop on developing a solid thesis.) Geeky, yes, but fun for me.

From Notes from the Universe:
“The absolute, most sure-fire way
of physically moving in the direction of
your dreams, on a day-to-day basis,
without messing with the “cursed hows,”
is living them, now, to any degree that you can.

And you can.

My dream is not only to write, but to create a space for others to explore writing, so I’m committing to starting a group for writers here where I live. Instead of waiting to move to somewhere green and cool (O! Vermont!) I’m going to do something now.

Funny. No one really cares what you can do, only what you do.



Shenpa revisited

I wrote a little about Shenpa in 2012, but I didn’t have a lot to say because, while I recognized it, I didn’t really understand it. I’m not sure I do now, but I’m going to write about it anyway. I’ll share the same quotes:

Shenpa is what Pema Chodron calls the hook. We each have different hooks but we all get hooked by attachment to outcomes, expectations, or regrets. It is emotionally painful and we suffer. Whatever the hook is, I have to let it go. I must remember that 100 years from now when I am dead and gone, it truly won’t matter. It won’t be important because all my actions will be in the past. Just as they are now while I am living, from moment to moment. Why hold on to the negativity? What matters now is being kind, forgiving and loving towards myself and others. ~ Loran Hills ♥

I was just telling myself this yesterday:  next year, it will not matter, these hurt feelings.  I will be over them because my perspective will have changed.  So why not fast-forward through the struggle and forgive NOW?  Trust that my perspective will eventually have more understanding, that even if I don’t have it now, it will come, and I will not have caused more damage with resentment and hurt? Why hold on to it? Why am I attached to the hurt?

I don’t know why I’m attached to hurt feelings. I’m less so now than ever, but still. I recognize that staying in that space is a choice, and all I have to do to get out of it is to ask myself how much I want to be happy.

Chodron writes,

Here is an everyday example of shenpa. Somebody says a mean word to you and then something in you tightens— that’s the shenpa. Then it starts to spiral into low self-esteem, or blaming them, or anger at them, denigrating yourself. And maybe if you have strong addictions, you just go right for your addiction to cover over the bad feeling that arose when that person said that mean word to you. This is a mean word that gets you, hooks you. Another mean word may not affect you but we’re talking about where it touches that sore place— that’s a shenpa. Someone criticizes you—they criticize your work, they criticize your appearance, they criticize your child— and, shenpa: almost co-arising.

Trying to root out shenpa is like trying to force a paradigm shift. You know you’re in a box, but you can’t find a seam to force your hand through.

It’s an irresistible itch. You get that your partner didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, and you get that in the grand scheme of things it’s insignificant, but those hurt feelings…they’re more comfortable than happiness and peace because they’re familiar. You know what to expect, and the hurt fits the paradigm of abandonment and neglect and disillusionment.

Never mind that it’s been YEARS since you were abandoned.

I think shenpa is like the old rusted bike that got leaned against a sapling and was left there for the tree to grow around.
bike-in-treeThe only way to dislodge that bike is with an axe and chainsaw, and then you destroy the tree.

In dislodging that hooking point, it’s necessary that some part of ourselves is destroyed, but it’s only the part that doesn’t serve for the good.

I became aware of the tightening during my various attempts to quit smoking. I was trying to figure out why I smoked, and I discovered that I did it to shut my mouth. Better to inhale poison than to say what I thought. I was afraid that if I quit smoking, I would offend everyone around me when I said what I thought.

I quit smoking over a year ago, and I’ve offended people and I frequently wish I was more skilled in diplomacy, but I’ve also learned that not speaking is my choice,not something I have to force myself to do.

I’ve given myself the same permission to speak that I gave my children.

You know how in movies when a mother is hiding from the enemy and she has her child tucked tightly against her, and her hand is on his mouth to keep him from crying out? I think that when Mama silenced me when I was little, in some ways it was for my protection.  This is how we do things in this family. We do not say what we think because it endangers us because the adults react. The tightening is both taught and embedded in us at an early age.

I will have to come back to this again.
I’m very interested in your thoughts about this shenpa….





Best Year Ever: Week 1

From Notes from the Universe:

This note requires action.

Why not let today mark the beginning
of the absolute happiest, most memorable
time of your life?

The power is yours.  Do something.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I’m embarking on my best year ever.
I’m listening to Darren Hardy, publisher of Success magazine, on CD, and I’m developing a list of 13 things I want to work on over the next twelve months, based on advice from Benjamin Franklin. Work on one thing per week, and nothing else.

By doing this, I will work on that one thing 4 times a year, improving myself in that area in greater strides than if I tried to work on all the areas at once.

Here’s Mr. Franklin’s list:

  • Temperance–Eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation.
  • Silence–Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  • Order–Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  • Resolution–Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  • Frugality–Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  • Industry–Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  • Sincerity–Use no harmful deceits; think innocently & justly, and if you speak, speak accordingly.
  • Justice–Wrong none by doing injuries, or emitting the benefits that are your duty.
  • Moderation–Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  • Cleanliness–Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths [sic], or habitation.
  • Tranquility–Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents uncommon of unavoidable.
  • Chastity–rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness [sic], weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  • Humility–Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

I’m still making my list, but I do know that this week I am working on focusing on the positive.  I have to do this because I tend to operate on the undropped shoe belief:  I brace myself for the worst.  Always.  I call it realism.

Truth: it’s

  • defeatism.
  • negativism.
  • dark.
  • faithless.
  • hopeless.

The fact that I call it realism is a sad testament to my paradigm.
Done with that.

So I have a new blue and gold bracelet that I’ll be wearing for the next 7 days, and when I look at it, I’ll consider:

  • Blue & gold=royal colors—>I am a child of the King.  A princess, you might say, although, really, I prefer Queen. But then I’d have to segue into fairytale ruminations about roles, and if I’m the Queen AND a child of the King, oh–that’s not good. And there I go again with the negative.  ha.
  • I choose what I focus on.       I. choose.
  • Realism = real, not negative.

My list, not in order:

  • Romans 8: 28–Focus on what is good.  Week 1.
  • Intimacy.
  • Order, as per Ben Franklin.
  • Tranquility, as per Ben Franklin.
  • Acceptance.  week 2.
  • Movement/body-consciousness
  • Ephesians 4:29–speak no evil.
  • Industry, as per Ben Franklin.
  • Generosity: time/attention/etc.
  • Resolution, as per Ben Franklin.
  • Attention to what I ingest.
  • Appreciation and praise.
  • Frugality, as per Ben Franklin.

Yes, each area requires its own bracelet. I’m okay with that.

BTW: it’s okay to start such a list any day you choose.  Darren Hardy says to make NOW your turning point.
Care to join me?






Extraordinary challenges = extraordinary gifts

From Notes from the Universe:

“If you understood the extraordinary gifts
that every single challenge in your life
makes possible, even inevitable,
you’d celebrate your challenges,
new and old alike, as the omens that they are
of new beginnings and spectacular change.”


“Raise your sights and broaden your steps.
Because doing one without the other
is the same as doing neither.”

I was advising a shooter on the range recently.  He’d been shooting at close range, and I’d moved his target to double the distance. I could tell by the set of his pistol that his sights weren’t properly aligned, and his shots would either hit the bottom of his target or they’d miss entirely.

He didn’t listen.
And he didn’t pass.
I have no idea where his shots went, actually, because they weren’t on the paper at all. What this means, I tell my students, is that you killed innocent babies.

*disclaimer: he didn’t actually kill innocent babies.
*disclaimer #2: I know all babies are innocent. I use the adjective for effect.

My point:
the farther away your target is, the higher you have to raise your sights.

But, as I tell my students, it’s best to practice small distances a LOT.
For example, I advise them to practice 50-100 rounds at 3-5 yards.  Because they can see the target more clearly at that range, it’s easier to correct how they’re squeezing the trigger or gripping the pistol and see an immediate effect on the target.
Once they’re hitting the target in a consistently small area, then they should move target back a couple of yards and practice with another 100 rounds, keeping in mind that the farther their target is, the more important their sight picture is.

Right now I’m doing all the close targets, and frankly, I don’t see a correlation between those and the move.  No, no, I know it’s there, but all I see are trees right now. Three months of trees.  Now where’s my compass….

Uncertainty and Inspiration

From Notes from the Universe:
At any point in one’s life, the greater the uncertainties they face, the greater their chances of hitting a major, life-changing “home run.”

I am learning how to embrace uncertainty, but I’ve had to approach this concept in baby steps. I tend to prefer the known, but not for a solid rational reason. I just feel like I have more control if I know what’s coming.

I am leaving everything I know to embark on a beautiful amazing life with the man I love this summer, and I am not doing well in the uncertainty department.  I haven’t changed residence since 1997, and I’ve lived in the same town since 1985.  I’m moving across the country to a fascinating city full of tons of things to do, I’ll be surrounded by his big, loving family, I’ll make new friends, and the only thing I can focus on is the fact that I don’t have a job yet.
This note from the Universe reminded me that I’m doing something enormous. So shut up and jump, sister. The water’s fine.

I’ve been feeling anxious, so I looked up ways to pull myself out of it, and I started here:  50 things you can control right now

And that leads me to the other part of today’s post:  Inspiration.

VIB: Very Inspiring Blogger

Yesterday, out of the blue in the most perfect way, I received a blogger award from fellow blogger, Mandy Eve-Barnett.
I’m going to pay it forward by introducing you to bloggers who inspire me.


The award requests the following rules are kept:

  • Display the award logo on your blog.
  • Link back to the person who nominated you.
  • State 7 things about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 bloggers for this award.
  • Notify those bloggers of the nomination by linking to one of their specific posts so that they get notified by ping back.

7 things about myself:

  1. I’ve been in a long-distance relationship for 9.5 years, and our relationship is stronger than most others I’ve seen.
  2. I’m marrying him this summer. 😀
  3. I’m a member of Romance Writers of America.
  4. I teach firearms classes.
  5. I’m genealogy geek and am working on several friends’ family trees in addition to my own.
  6. I’m a member of and I’ve given away over 8,000 books since 2004.
  7. I’m a perfume pig. I love them all. Current fave: Angel. And Opium. And Jessica McClintock.  And… right. Never mind. lol

15 bloggers whose blogs I nominate for the Very Inspiring Blog Award:

  1. Amanda Fox :  The Fur Files
  2. Devin Berglund
  3. Sarah La Rosa:  Her Strange Angels
  4. The Squeaky Robot
  5. Life in the Boomer Lane
  6. Helen Klebesadel: A Muse and Her Artist
  7. Fred Allen’s Old Time Radio
  8. Marc and Angel
  9. The Connectome
  10. 1000 Awesome Things
  11. The First 10 Pages
  12. People Triggers
  13. The Soulful Contrarian
  14. Clotilda Jamcracker
  15. The Tovarysh Connection





“[A] young man is being initiated… The initiator is on the left and his assistant is behind the groom. The youth is told to look in this metal bowl and he will see his own face, his own true face. However, the bowl is so concave inside that what he sees is not his own face but the distorted mask of old age, which the assistant holds up behind him. With a shock he is introduced to what our American Indians call the ‘long body’ – the whole body of life from birth to death.

“Now suppose one of his friends, before he went in there, had said to him, ‘Now look, this guy in there is going to have a bowl and he is going to tell you that you’re going to see your own face. You’re not! He’s got another fellow there who’s holding this mask thing up behind you so that what you will see is nothing more than a reflection.’ If this happened, there would be no initiation. There would be no shock. This is why mysteries are kept secret.

“An initiation is a shock. Birth is a shock; rebirth is a shock. All that is transformative must be experienced as if for the first time.”

– Joseph Campbell, Mythos I: The Shaping of Our Mythic Tradition, “On Being Human”‘

I don’t know why it’s never occurred to me that I have never chosen what has stretched me, what has made me stronger.  I’ve labored under the illusion that I had some control over it all my life, until last Thursday night.

There was no parting of the Red Sea, no Miracle Max. It was, in fact, a horrible evening.  I found out, last minute, that I’d have to do a job I felt ill-prepared for, and I’d have scant sleep, as well. I had to cram a bunch of range gear in my Jeep–guns, a table, protective gear for eyes and ears, ammo, targets and accessories, etc., and I had to drive two hours back to Imperial Valley.  And I was already exhausted.
Perhaps I would have been more gracious had I not been nervous about doing the job.
Maybe not.
As I reflected on how this would stretch me, I realized that I would never have volunteered to do the job. I also realized in that instant that I haven’t ever volunteered for things that scare me. I have to be shoved into growth.
It has to be a shock.

My attitude was a skoche better.

It didn’t really improve till I got into the groove at the range, but now I see how excellent this opportunity was for me.
Still prefer advance warning, though.



My 49th birthday is around the corner.
It’s making me take stock of how far I’ve come, what I’ve accomplished, and what really matters to me.
I realized recently that, although I am not where I want to be, it doesn’t mean I haven’t fully lived. This was a hard thing to digest because I struggle with not having flown.

But perhaps I have, for certainly my point of view is higher than it used to be.

These words from Paulo Coelho resonate in me:

Live the life you always wanted to live

by Paulo Coelho on February 6, 2013

avatar (2)

“Even if you were to study your own life in detail and relive each moment that you suffered, sweated and smiled beneath the sun, you would still never know exactly when you had been useful to someone else.

A life is never useless. Each soul that came down to Earth is here for a reason.

The people who really help others are not trying to be useful, but are simply leading a useful life.
They rarely give advice, but serve as an example.
Do one thing: live the life you always wanted to live.

Avoid criticising others and concentrate on fulfilling your dreams.
This may not seem very important to you, but God, who sees all, knows that the example you give is helping Him to improve the world. And each day, He will bestow more blessings upon it.”

Check out his blog, and be inspired and uplifted.

Things security officers may think of asking, but shouldn’t:


Do you have any sandwiches in your pocket?
This can be construed as inflammatory and invasive, and it is baffling to the hearer.  It is easy to ask this question on your 13th hour on your feet, but you must refrain.

Are you carrying any weapons of mass destruction?
Again, this is a baffling question, and after many hours is tempting to ask as a shortcut. Refrain.
Weapons of mass destruction are much larger than the average pocket.  And mothers typically point to their children, and say, “Yeah, right there.”

Would you like to dump your $6 cup of joe in the trash right here or walk a mile back to your car to put it there?This is construed as an unfriendly, snotty question, and could result in you wearing said expensive joe, or at the very least, having a very unhappy person in your face.  With spittle.

Legitimate questions prompt interesting responses, as well:

Any knives, guns, or weapons of any sort on your person?
Various answers include:

  • “What kind of person do you think I am!?”
  • “Of course not! Look at me!”
  • “No!  I have children!”
  • “No! I’m a woman!”
  • “No! I’m a mom!”
  • “I left them at home today.”
  • “Yeah, I got your gun right here.”
  • “I got these guns–”  kisses each bicep and flexes.
  • “Dang, honey,–” to husband –“better hand over your grenade.”


A Talent for Insatiability

I’m re-reading Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, this time with a close eye on her use of language.

Today I’m obsessing over this:

“We yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for insatiability?” (3-4)

I get the insatiability. In fact, the statement reminds me of John Twelve Hawks’ The Traveler, in which this world’s chief problem is never-ending desire.  My attention is snagged by the word talent.  Why does Atwood call this longing a talent?  Again, I get the innate quality.  I just don’t understand it being referred to as an ability, as though one were performing or creating something.





since the tree is on fire

Since the house is on fire, let us warm ourselves.- Italian Proverb


I’ve done that.  Been warmed by a fire that was not supposed to be.  One that was supposed to clear weeds in a tall palm tree that my then-husband never got around to pruning.  Naw, they weren’t weeds, but they looked like them, ok.  Horrid, twining, drooping grey branch-things that hung down from the palm leaves. Hideous.  They had to go.

Since we didn’t have a ladder that’d reach high enough, but some of the branches hung low enough for me to touch on my tiptoes, I fished a lighter out from the junk drawer, and with one flick started a slow crackling fire.  In mere seconds the fire fingered its way up the branch to the top where it fwooomped and made my heart clatter.

I realized then that the tree was about 15 feet max from the house and –oh, my–the window blinds were curling in the heat.  I heard thuds at my side, and looked down to see that two bare pigeons with smoking skin were at my feet. I’d totally forgotten that birdies lived in the tree.

We lived on a busy highway, and people could see the fire from far away–in no time a firetruck arrived on the scene and hosed it down.

I didn’t know palm trees burned so hot.

I dreamt once that my house burned down.  My reaction was muted; seems I ought to have felt despair at all I’d lost.  Or desperation to find anything of worth among the ruins, but I was aloof.  As far as I know, I didn’t light that fire.  Psychologically, of course I did.  And it was time to move on, to let go.

There’s a time for planting, and a time for burning the fields (here in Imperial Valley, at least.) Air quality notwithstanding, I’m all for field-burning.  I have been advised by my beloved that there is, however, never a time for pruning palm trees with fire.


Dorothy L. Sayer

I disagree.
Not all women are tamed by time and trouble.
But they do learn not to light fires they can’t control.