Thoughts on Notes from the Universe

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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.



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




7 things I’ve committed myself to for the new year

…and no, one of them is not an institution, thank you.

  • Ever since I viewed this video, I’ve been on the lookout for ways I can communicate to people how important they are in my life. I was blown away by the response of the kids that Angela Maiers refers to in her talk.  I encounter people daily who say or do something that changes my perspective or otherwise rocks my world.  Now I’m telling them so.
  • I’m going to trust myself more.  No more second-guessing decisions or kicking myself all day when I make a mistake.
  • I’m going to value my time more.
  • I’m going to take more risks, even if it means I may fail. I had to tell myself over and over that messing with the style sheet on this blog would not ruin anything; so far, so good.  Marc and Angel write, “The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done.” (I read that  here.) 
  • I’m going to write as much as I long to do.  Bye-bye, rigid rules, fear, and and writer’s block. To this end, I’ve downloaded Dr. Wicked’s Write or Dieapp, which gives me the willies. (I should clarify that saying goodbye to fear doesn’t mean I won’t feel it. I’m just going to work through the palpitations and cold sweats.)  I have three options while I write using this app:
    1. Gentle Mode: Distraction will result in a gentle, almost maternal, reminder to keep writing. (Waste of time)
    2. Normal Mode: Procrastination will result in annoying sounds played at me until I start writing again.  (like Pavlov’s Bell. Might work. )
    3. Kamikaze Mode: If I stop writing, Write or Die will start eating my words one by one until I start again. (Big Sir William willies. This will work.)  Give the online version a try. (The download is $10)
  • I’m going to get rid of things I’ve been holding on to out of fear, mainly:
    1. books:  they might stop printing them; I’ll never find this book again; I’ll forget I wanted to read it; my shelves will be bare.
    2. clothes:  I won’t have enough variety; I’ve loved this shirt so long; I’ll never find this color again.
    3. and CDs.  What if I want to listen to them one day? Never mind that I haven’t in ages. I might want to tomorrow.
      Truth:  I’m not trapped in the Handmaid’s Tale, I don’t need 9 million bookshelves, I need to change my style anyway, and I listen to enough music to keep me happy, and I don’t miss what I’m not listening to. Or not reading. Or not wearing.  Seriously. wtf.
  • I’m going to enjoy the process, whatever it entails. Whatever it takes. Hakuna matata.

Note 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.


How to be a legend

Note from the Universe:  A tip on legend making:  Always do what you most want to do, and do it your way.

This note reminds me of the quote:
Well-behaved women seldom make history.” ~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
In that case, well, shut up?! I’m already there.

What do you most want to do?

I want to express myself. (ok, that made me laugh. I have a blog, so that’s obvious.) I mean I want not just to write, but to paint. But I have this vivid image of what a painter looks like:     my mother.

Mama was a wildly talented painter and sculptress. Her paintings hang in libraries at Western Washington University and she had numerous showings.  Her long brown hair was often tipped with cerulean or burnt umber or yellow ochre because she never tied it back.  Turpentine. Palettes. Paint tubes. Easels.  All of it looms in my head when I look at a blank canvas.  It reminds me of her talent and I am stalled. I can’t use a brush correctly (seriously. It looks so easy, but the brushes never do what I tell them.)  When I paint I use my fingers, or a sponge, or a palette knife, anything but a damn brush.  I cannot draw a proper representation of anything to save my life. My bent is strictly abstract.

I have a beautiful 36×48 blank canvas hanging over my desk that I am afraid to ruin. I have it there to …coax me, I suppose.  It’s not working.
Mama…Mama was a columbine. And I am a dandelion.

…and dandelions are amazing.

  • They grow wherever they damn well please.
  • We make wishes on them,
  • and we divine whether someone loves us by holding one under our chins.
  • They help plants to crop more heavily,
  • and it’s believed that if they grow near fruit trees the fruit ripens more quickly.
  • You can make wine out of ’em,
  • or salad,
  • or tea.
  • Herbalists use it to treat liver ailments.
  • They’re used in pagan celebrations of springtime. (Beltane is my birthday, so I love this.)
  • Dandelions are a symbol of perseverance in the face of hardship,
  • and they are so ubiquitous that nearly anyone can picture one.
  • And have you heard of our Dandelion Universe? Look here and here.

"The dandelion is an excellent barometer, one of the commonest and most reliable. It is when the blooms have seeded and are in the fluffy, feathery condition that its weather prophet facilities come to the fore. In fine weather the ball extends to the full, but when rain approaches, it shuts like an umbrella. If the weather is inclined to be showery it keeps shut all the time, only opening when the danger from the wet is past." Source: "Camping For Boys," by H.W. Gibson

So ok, I can hang with being a dandelion.
I do everything else my way. Can’t hurt to suck it up and paint, too.

What amazing flower are you?

The power of noticing

December 23’s Note from the Universe:  Who would have ever thought that you would see, feel, and intuitively know so much that others completely miss?  You’ve changed absolutely everything.

Ten+ years ago, I couldn’t think of a single person who could say that I was special to her/him.  I don’t mean romantically. I mean in the sense that it mattered to anyone that I got up in the morning, that my existence was not just important, but crucial. I don’t remember precisely why I was in that space, but I remember the blackness, and I remember having enough sense to reach out to close friends. (Here’s a terrific post about crawling out of the hole.)

I had lunch with one of them, and when I told her what I was struggling with, she was so shocked that tears sprang to her eyes.
That image has stayed with me because her surprise was genuine, and I think that’s what made me realize my perspective was skewed.
I was beyond tears, myself.  My despair was edged with a curious, baffled detachment:  Why couldn’t I name anyone who could say that I was special?  And why did it matter so much?  I hated that need, and I hated myself for being pathetic.

Lately I’ve been studying metaphors and human needs,  for both my writing and my personal growth.  I don’t want to be stuck focusing all my energy on fulfilling the two core human needs (certainty and significance) to the detriment of the other four, which I wrote about in my last post.
I’ve picked up several books on metaphors:

David Grove is particularly important because it is he who came up with the concept of “clean language”–language which is free from your own metaphors and which reflects those of the person you are listening to.  It’s a therapeutic tool, but the use of clean language can transform anyone’s listening skills. I’m finding Sullivan and Rees’ book to be more helpful than Grove’s because of the practical applications they suggest.

For example, they present two of twelve core questions of Clean Language in Chapter One:

  • (And) What kind of X (is that X)?
  • (And) Is there anything else about X?

They explain that “the X in the question refers to a word or phrase the speaker has used” and the question ‘What kind of X?’ invites them to ‘zoom in’ on the specific details, while ‘Anything else about X?’ can help them ‘zoom out’ to the wider context or to focus on other details about ‘X'” (2).  Then they share this anecdote for illustration:

A mother who had just learned some Clean Language picked up her daughter Jenny from school.  When Jenny showed her a picture of a house she had drawn, Mum asked, “What kind of house is that house?”, “And is there anything else about that house?” and so on. What resulted was one of the longest after-school conversations they’d ever enjoyed.  The next day after school, Jenny demanded, “Ask me some more questions, Mummy!” (2-3)

The purpose of using Clean Language is to strip your own metaphors and assumptions out of the discourse so that you can truly hear the other person. I’m reading this book and practicing on myself so I can discover my own metaphors, and so I can flesh out my characters.

I’ve also been assessing how I can better meet my own six core human needs. (This post is good, too.)  Ten years ago I was focusing on significance; today I’m learning about how I can meet my need for certainty and contribution.  Certainty, for me, means I keep my schedule from being blowtorched by others’ urgent needs.  It means I have a list of the 6 most important things I need to accomplish each day (I don’t know what the deal is with the number 6) and that I have a specific plan in place for each of my long-term goals. These things make me feel like I have some measure of control in my unpredictable uproarious life.

My need to contribute, I’m finding, is complex. I thought it was a simple matter of giving things to people: books, clothes, food. But giving away thousands of books hasn’t met that need the way connecting with people does. (Read about why I give away books here.)  I watched a brief TED talk this morning that showed me a way I can contribute:  You Matter  I hope it inspires you, too.

It’s all good

Thank you, Mike Dooley. Once more your gentle advice via Notes from the Universe has upended my perspective and made me serene and thankful.

Dooley’s flip calendar has this note:  Sometimes difficult people are placed on your path so that you can be reminded of what you may have once put others through.  In all cases, you both thought it was a good idea to meet up this time, for reasons that will one day make perfect sense. ~The Universe

When I read that, I thought, “NFW.”

I have spent the last two weeks or so navigating through various peoples’ schedules, and I was craptastically inconvenienced by one person who took vacation during a time when work exploded.  This person is crucial to getting things done in a timely manner–there are things only he can do.  When I complained to him when he got back, he said, “hehehe.”  Scowl.

But that Note has been marinating, and today I see its truth.  I can remember taking desperately needed time off during a time that inconvenienced others.  Any time would have been inconvenient, and there was no way to foresee complications. He couldn’t have known, either.

So I’m serene, and genuinely glad for him. I get the giggle, too.

Nobody died. Work got done.