Sunday, November 28, 2010

Stumble Upon

For those who have not yet discovered, I encourage you to check it out. You create an account and check off your interests. Based on those interests, when you hit the Stumble button, a random website will open. Oddly enough, though I recognize the "time waster" aspect of StumbleUpon, I've also found this method of web surfing to be extremely valuable. It's not "surfing" as much as it is "mining", and when you least expect it, you will unearth a real gem.


So this evening as I stumbled, I came across a wonderful blog post by a woman named Tia Peterson called  (and please click to read this!) Live What You Love: 50 Questions to Ask Yourself. What wonderful fodder for my journaling! And because I am desperate to find myself earning a living doing something I love, it is even more timely.

I'm going to have a go at this! Not only does it look productive and fun, it will also provide impetus for my journaling. At least 50 days worth, right? Actually more, because as I've reviewed these questions, what I've discovered is that there are often sub-questions for the main question.

Let's consider the first question:

1. How do you really feel about what you are doing right now at this exact moment?

Is this question literal? This exact moment? When I'm sitting in my room at my computer writing? Or is the question broader, embracing my life in general at this exact moment?

Well, let's have a go at it and see.

I am feeling guilty that I haven't gotten the bills paid and ready to mail yet. I am feeling great that I'm journaling and fulfilling my goal to write a minimum of 15-30 minutes a day. I am happy to have a warm home and furkids, and to hear my beloved husband watching TV in the living room. I'm missing my son so much it hurts. I'm wondering how soon my stepson will be leaving us for the next phase of his life journey. I'm thinking I really need to change out the cat litter and be sure my tote bag is packed for tomorrow. I'm dreading... seriously dreading... my return to work after a week off. (I traditionally take Thanksgiving week off, because, in my current job, it's necessary to my mental health and my ability to get anything done for Christmas.)

I hate my job. That's about as honest as I can get on that subject. I've never had a job that I flat out hated before, but I hate this one. I hate the stress, the chaotic atmosphere, and the fact that working at this location with this customer pool has tarnished my idealism and caused me to experience negative reactions I've never felt in any situation before this. I like the people with whom I work. They are pretty terrific. But the job itself... not so much. I am constantly on the look out for new opportunities, but my timing has been all off. I keep telling myself that everything happens for a reason and the right job will come at the right time for me and for my family. I'm starting to have trouble keeping that faith intact.

But the fact that I'm writing right now, and that I've managed to keep it up for almost a week now, every single day... I'm excited about that. Happy about that. Hopeful about that. I've not yet given up my dream of writing something of lasting impact before I depart this Earth for other realms.

And now another moment as passed, and I'm feeling the need to go open the back door and let my barking dogs in out of the cold!

On to the next moment...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shhhh... I'm cheating...

I got too wrapped up in enjoying the evening with my husband last night, and I didn't get in my 15 minutes of writing. I thought about it, but I really was very tired, and I just wanted to slip into bed and drift off to dreamland. So that's what I did.

It was an interesting night in dreamland. Before I woke up this morning, I was dreaming I was a teenager again, and, with a choral group, I was visiting the White House. We were IN the White House. Actually spending the night in the White House. I'd lost my purse, so what felt like hours and hours, I was going in and out of room (resembling dorm rooms), looking for my purse. I actually found myself in the Obamas' living quarters, and a room decorated for Christmas, with gifts under the tree. I remember thinking, "How is it possible that I have this much freedom wandering around the White House?"

I never did find my purse, but during the search, something fell on my right foot, nearly severing it about a third of the way down from the toes. I'd done some kind of basic binding on the foot... and I remember something about Super Glue (how convenient that it was handy!), but the pain was excruciating.

I woke up when it was morning at the White House, still not able to find my purse, but my last memory of the dream is looking at my foot, which was a real mess, and remembering how much it hurt.

In actuality, it wasn't the foot, per se, but the ankle that is painful. The ol' metal and bone combo not expanding and contracting at the same pace. I got to the point of limping yesterday, and usually getting off the foot and warming it up in bed helps, but it's still pretty darn sore.

I will spend part of today pondering the meaning of the lost purse. As everyone knows, a woman's purse really holds all the critical items she needs for life. This could get interesting.

Now I've spent 15 minutes writing, and I haven't opened my email yet, so when I respond to the inquiry about whether or not I got my minimum 15 minutes in, I can reply yes with a somewhat clear conscience. Right? 

This evening, I'm going to select a writing exercise to switch things up a bit.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

On Your Mark... Get Set... GO!

I may not be in the mood to write tonight, but a commitment is a commitment!

Thanksgiving is coming to a close. The food was terrific! Truly the best turkey I've ever turned out, and the pumpkin whoopee pies are incredible! (I remain frustrated that nobody here in Danville ever seems to have heard of whoopie pies of any type, so I've had to do a lot of explaining.)

I was still steeped in memories of Thanksgivings past, and it was hard to stay in the moment today. I kept going to other places, other times. The infamous Simpson clan Thanksgivings. Thinking about my brothers and their families. The nieces and nephews I don't really know at all, and that makes me sad. And being so far away from Mom, and not knowing when I'll see her next.

I'm left feeling at loose ends and as if the day is somehow incomplete.

But I am about to hit those online Black Friday sales, and tomorrow morning I'm meeting a friend for coffee. A new day! Preparations for Christmas will begin, and somehow, some way, I hope to make this a good one for the people I love.

Not a lot of writing, but I've done my time.

And now I'm going to SHOP!

Woo hoo!!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Thanksgiving Blues

My dad died 23 years ago this past October. He was all about family, and he loved the holiday season so much. From the gathering of the Simpson clan on Thanksgiving to the celebration and gift-giving of Christmas, Dad was in his element. 

We had a volatile relationship when I was young, from about the time I was 12 until I was well into my 20's. Though I am often prone to exaggeration, the word volatile in this case is putting the situation mildly. Dad and I had issues, and that may be fodder for another day's writing, but for today I will just say how grateful I am that we worked a lot of things out before he died.

Even after two decades, the holidays are inextricably tied to Dad. A lot has happened. Things that you think might alter my feelings. I had a baby, I got divorced, I relocated, I remarried, we raised three boys. I am far, far away from the Simpson clan. I have a new life. I love my life. I adore my husband and our boys. I've made incredible friends here. But I am homesick every day for my family and those dear, forever friends I left behind. I would love to pick up my life and move it all to New England. Ah, if wishes were fishes...

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. For the first time in 14 years (since I relocated and remarried), we will not be sharing the day with our good friends, the Summers family. They are on a road trip to pick up their eldest son from basic training, so this deviation from what has become tradition is completely understandable, but I'll miss it. And my son left home about a month ago. This is the first Thanksgiving he will not be with me. Since he was born. 

It just feels like a lot this year. And on top of all that, I keep having this bizarre thought. "I want my dad." Heck, I never even had that thought when he was ALIVE! Seriously! I spent so much time trying to separate myself from him, and then, as an adult, it just wasn't something that ever happened... me wanting my dad. I knew he was there. Right up 'til he died. And in the ensuing decades, I've missed him, but I've never had this persistent ache, this desire to see him, to be with him, to hug him. To let him know that NOW I understand. I understand so much that I didn't back then. I'm a grown woman. I've raised a child and had to be a grown-up about letting him go to follow his own path. I understand now how hard it is to do that. How much it hurts. 

God, it hurts.

I always thought I'd be a joyful empty-nester. And I think that time will come. But not now. Not yet. It's too soon. And it hurts. By February, when my younger stepson is probably departing for the Air Force, I can't even imagine how I'll feel.

I understand now why Dad was the way he was with me when I was a teenager. It was that parental overload of love and fear. It makes a parent do crazy things. Over protection. Attempts at control. Heh. None of it works in the end, and I always knew that, but I couldn't help but try, right?

I am so grateful... SO grateful for all the blessings in my life. My husband, my boys, Mom, my family and friends back east and here, my soulsisters, my friends, my furkids, the roof over my head, a job in times when jobs aren't easy to come by, and the feast I am able to prepare for my family tomorrow. I am grateful for the strength of my spirituality and my unwavering faith, for my creativity, for my appreciation of the simple things in life, like books to read and moonlit skies at which to gaze.

I don't want to follow all that with a but. But...

This year...

I want my Dad.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My On-Going Commitment to Honesty

I've been cast in the show A...My Name Will Always Be Alice. This is a show I've championed for two years now, so I was very excited when it was selected as part of the community theatre group's current season. Tonight was the second rehearsal and final song/dialog assignments were announced.

In the interest of the honesty I discussed in my last post, I will admit to being disappointed in my own assignments. No dialog of substance. None of the truly meaty songs for which I am vocally experienced and suited. Yes, I am disappointed.

I've spent the last few hours pondering this, and it's really not an ego issue. I really do know my abilities and my limitations, and where I can shine when provided the opportunity. What perplexes me most is that I don't understand the director's choices -- as they pertain to me and others.

That said, the bottom line is that I don't have to understand the director's choices. I just need to take what I've been given and do the best I can with it. 

Just watch me...

Monday, November 22, 2010

15 Minutes A Day

Could it really be this simple?

I was passing time this afternoon cruising the web via the addictive, when I stumbled across 

The premise is this:  It takes 21 days to develop (or break) a habit. On HabitForge, you type in the habit you want to develop. You are emailed daily with an inquiry about whether or not you met the goal for developing the habit the previous day. You click yes or no, and that's it. When you're feeling daring, you go to the website and check your stats. If you miss a single day, you have to start at day one again.

This is my first day one. The habit I am trying to enforce is to write 15-30 minutes a day. I did not specify what I would write, or in which journal or blog I would write. (I have three that I will tell you about.) Just that I would write 15-30 minutes a day.

I can do that, right? Just write. For 15 minutes a day. 

(I think I am going to LOVE this particular application of technology. It's like a gentle, personal nag! But without all the noise.)

I have three blogs/journals currently built and ready to fill. One is the one you are currently reading. I have another one in which I will do writing exercises from a few books from which I've blown off the dust -- THE ARTIST'S WAY and THE WRITER'S IDEA BOOK.  The third is dedicated to my son, and that one is currently private. I may start a fourth private journal for all those terrible, dark or deeply personal thoughts and feelings that I'm just not bold enough to express publicly. Yet.

One of the things I will strive for as a writer is openness and complete honesty. I wonder if that's even possibly when you've attached your name to the venue of expression. How honest can I be?

I was once accused of being "honest to the point of brutality." I will never forget that moment. All the details are etched in my memory so painfully, so sharply. It was during a counseling session with my ex-husband. He was late for the session. He arrived inebriated. I didn't want to go ahead with the session, but the counselor insisted. I was asked how I felt at that moment, about my soon-to-be-ex-husband's tardiness and condition, so I answered. I told them both that I was angry and disgusted. That I was tired of being told that I shouldn't be angry because "alcoholism is a disease." I was disgusted, by that point, with the very sight of the man. I didn't love him. In fact, I'd never been in love with him, and I told him repeatedly before we married that I'd only end up hurting him in the end. He didn't listen. He wore me down, with the help of friends and family on both sides. 

Oh, yes. It all came out in quite a torrent, but I never raised my voice. I spoke calmly and pointedly. I sat very still in the cushy chair, and I looked both of them in the eye while I spoke. I felt strong and empowered. The sun was setting and a ray of light was coming in the window at a slant across my hands, which were folded in my lap.

When I was done, a sudden and heavy silence fell in the room. Then he said it. The counselor said, "You know, Jeanne, there is such a thing as being too honest."

"Excuse me?," I said, my voice rising with emotion for the first time. "EXCUSE me? Are you suggesting that I lie? That I lie in a counseling session rather than tell the truth?"

I looked over at my ex-husband who appeared to be totally disengaged. (In fact, I am quite sure he doesn't remember the session at all, although it was our last.) 

The counselor then spoke the words that pinged around in my head like a bullet shot inside of a tank.

"You are honest to the point of brutality."

And there you have it. 

Before that day, which was over 16 years ago, I'd believed that complete honesty was a good and noble practice. I was stunned into silence. All I could think about was the brutality to which I'd been exposed. The brutality that comes from the gut of a wounded, angry man who sought oblivion in a Budweiser bottle, and why was that okay... and honesty not?

I got up and walked out, and that was that. When my ex-husband sobered up the next day, I told him I wasn't going back to the counselor with him. I reminded him that he almost didn't show up, and that when he did, he was drunk, and that it obviously wasn't doing either of us any good. I also told him about the comment equating the extent of my honesty to brutality. To his credit, he apologized and told me that I should always be honest, even if it did hurt, if what I was speaking was the truth. 

I felt a little better about it, but since then, I've spent a lot of time mulling over the nature of honesty. I still believe that honesty is the best and most noble route, but I also understand that one has to exercise care with honesty. Care with the time, the place, the circumstances in which it is expressed, as well as the intent with which it is expressed.

Sometimes silence... or even "a little white lie"... just may be the lesser of two evils.

And that is why there are some truths that will most likely remain tucked away in the safety of a private journal. I'll follow Mark Twain's example, and allow its release 100 years after my death. 

Ohmy! 34 minutes of writing! Fascinating where the mind takes you when you just let it go, huh?

Before I finish this post, I want to state that less than a year after that counseling session, my ex-husband put down the bottle and never picked it up again. He has been sober ever since. It wasn't what was needed to save the marriage, and we both grew to realize that we didn't really bring out the best in each other. We divorced more-or-less amicably, are still committed to the raising of our son, and both moved on in the love department. I learned a lot from my first marriage, including what I really want and need in a relationship, and found it, joyfully and thankfully, with my current husband. All is well!  

Now I must venture out into the unusually warm, stormy night to take the Pom out for a pee! That's about as real as it gets!