Change

No one much likes change—unless it’s their idea.

When change involves fear, I tend to push back because I don’t think fear should ever be a factor in making a decision. I’ll do some digging until I feel comfortable that fear isn’t at the root.

People have been responding in all kinds of ways to the Covid-19 pandemic. We self-consciously bump elbows and back away. Try not to cringe when someone near us coughs or sneezes. Things have changed.

One woman became quite upset because I posted a picture on Facebook having fun teaching mahjong. She wanted to know how we could be smiling when the world was in such a state. (I forgive her. I’m sad for her.) Things have changed.

Like many people, our plans have changed. My husband and I were set to take a two-and-a-half week trip to South America, leaving  April 2nd. Although we had trip insurance, I can honestly tell you I was glad when the travel company canceled. Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay will have to wait.

Things have changed and this was nobody’s idea.

But then a friend sent me this. It was written by an Irishman just a few days ago. It’s a different look at change and the resiliency of people.

 

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Lockdown
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.”
-from Richard Hendrick (Brother Richard) in Ireland

March 13th 2020

How have the last couple of weeks changed your lives? Are you finding some joy and resiliency that surprises you?

It truly is all better with friends.

Story Words

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Once upon a time…

There. That’s it. That’s enough to get me to settle in for a warm hug of words.

Guess what type of story?

 

The mutilated body was found in an unusual place.

There. That’s it. That’s enough to get me to settle in for a roller coaster ride.

 

Bellowing steam, like fleeing ghosts, poured out of the sidewalk vents into the night.

There. That’s it. That’s enough to get me to settle in for an all-nighter.

 

She opened her laptop determined to find out exactly how her friend might have died.

There. That’s it. That’s enough to get me to settle in for an entertaining who-dunnit.

 

Got some story words that shine a light on what’s to come? Let’s play!

 

 

It’s all better with friends.

 

 

My Imperfect Life

This is not the place for me to whine. Every single person who’s reading this post has had some terrible days and stessful periods in their lives, and whatever I’m going through is not exceptional or special in any way. It’s just one of those pieces of time where it’s a little more difficult to find things to add to my Gratitude Journal.

Right now as I’m writing this, I’m listening to a news report about Veteran suicides. Point.

But still I’m whining.

I guess what I’m asking myself is when do we get real with each other? On Facebook (political posts notwithstanding) I see either fluffy perfect pictures of cute animals and perfect lives, or I see what seems to me to be sympathy-seekers. Facebook is probably not the place to seek authenticity.

Maybe it’s here.

So to my whinefest:  This afternoon, in the middle of all of the Stuff, I had to straighten some stupid billing errors out with our health insurance provider (I went from an individual plan to a Medicare/Senior Advantage plan), and make several appointments for tests with same provider. Routine tests (nothing dramatic) but I was on hold to the point of forgetting who I was calling and why. How come I can schedule certain appointments online, but if any kind of imaging is involved I have to call?

And I really, really, really had plans to get to the writing I wanted to do this afternoon to finally get the first draft of the book I’m ghostwriting taken care of by the end of THIS month (as opposed to my plans to have it finished by the end of LAST month—another story) so I could get back to my own manuscript. Between you and me, I’m missing my characters in the worst way. And to write fiction again? Oy.

Sorry. I’ve gone from whining to ranting. That’s one stop short of raving.

While I want to yell “F*** it” about twelve hundred times right now, I can also tell you that within a few hours, tomorrow at the latest (when you’re reading this) my optimist hat will have righted itself and I’ll be fine. Dont worry about me. I know how to take a breath.

But here’s where I am with my Mysteristas posts: I’ve decided not to fake it. I will not find a “safe” topic to write about when I’m feeling strongly about something else. From now on I’m going to be as authentic as I can be given the fact that I’m a human being who has a private side I didn’t know I had until recently.

But I’m all about being imperfect.

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And still and all and above so many things…

 

It’s all better with friends. Believe me, I’m grateful. And I’m still all over 2020 being an awesome year.

 

Snow: Random Thoughts

IMG_2507I love taking a beach vacay in February. February along Colorado’s Front Range is more brown than white. It’s a good time to take off to enjoy ocean breezes and collect seashells.

If I could order weather, I would request snow from the day after Thanksgiving (or maybe three days after so everyone could get home) until the day after Christmas. Then I’m done. Send the snow chef packing.

I love the quiet-peaceful-stillness a blanket of fresh snow spreads over my little corner of the world. Noise no longer has a place to bounce. It’s the biggest quiet I’ve ever experienced.

That satisfying crunch under my shoes when the powder compacts as I walk.

A friend of mine who lives nearby complains loudly and often about the snow. She and her husband are both retired, so I don’t understand why they don’t just move. But they don’t. In fact, they’re doing a huge remodel of their home and plan on staying. Maybe some people just have to have something to complain about.

I’m thrilled to not have to get out and drive to work—driving on the same streets as people who’ve just moved here and have no idea how to drive in the snow.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve hoped for a white Christmas. Not just snow on the ground, but big fat flakes falling. Like a snowglobe. We don’t get that very often. Usually I’m lucky to have a little snow on the ground.

It’s easy to see the footprints left behind by critters. I like to imagine I know exactly what kind of animal left the snow-markings. Tracker Peg.

Moonlight glittering on freshly fallen snow is nothing short of magical. It’s like snow fairies made their way threw and added just a bit more sparkle.

Sunlight glittering on any kind of snow is another side of the power of nature. Strong, dark sunglasses, anyone?

In Colorado, our snow is always white. Before it gets a chance to get dirty and brown, one of two things happen. In the Front Range (from Boulder through Denver down to Colorado Springs) it melts. In the high country (Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs) it snows again. It’s a rare site to see dirty snow here.

When it’s cold I wish it would snow. Now cold is something I’d be happy to do without. Except when I’m having a hot flash. Okay. Cold is fine, too.

Here’s listing of the states, ranked by how miserable their winters are. I love this: “Colorado has basically solved winter.”

How do you feel about snow, even if you live somewhere snow isn’t?

 

It’s all bettter with friends.

And So It Begins

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Let’s get right to it.

The holiday season can be stressful. Unless you completely Grinch-out for the next six weeks, there’s likely to be a day or two (or forty-something) that are challenging.

Here are some ideas to help maintain enough sanity so you’re less likely to require legal help (with nods to Keenan and Kait). I promise to avoid the obvious… exercising and saying no are givens, right?

  • Take a whiff of something citrusy. Studies show this can be a huge mood elevator. Dab a little lemon or orange essential oil on a handkerchief and keep it handy.

 

  • Work your hoku spot—that fleshy place between your index finger and thumb. If you apply firm pressure (I like to massage it) for 30 seconds, you can reduce stress and tension in your upper body.

 

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. —Sylvia Plath

 

  • Consider letting go of old customs and starting some new traditions. This can be especially important if your family has suffered loss through death or divorce or a relocation. Maybe you have friends in a similar situation and can begin something new together.

 

  • Honey is truly an elixer worth paying attention to. The darker the honey, the more positive impact it will have. I’m also told that if you can find local honey, it can help with any allergies you’re dealing with.

 

Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths. —Etty Hillesum

 

  • Unplug. Have you seen the commercial that’s curently running where the grandparents enforce a technology-free zone? Yeah, they use tech to get there, but it makes a point. I’m due for what I call a Pajama Day. Basically, I do as little as possible for the entire day and wrap myself up with a book. No makeup. Little cooking. No laundry. The only tech might be my Kindle.

 

  • Eat before you coffee. Studies have shown that caffeine on an empty stomach can cause blood sugar to spike which can lead to attention difficulties and irritability.

 

Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering. —A.A. Milne

 

  • Laugh like crazy. Your sanity might depend on it. Find a place that tickles your funny bone. (We have Becky, but she can’t be with us 24/7 and we should have backups.) Laughter centers us. It helps us let go of the strangling bits of stress that in the end really don’t matter.

 

  • For some reason, mango keeps showing up as a happy thing. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a fresh mango, jarred or canned, or a mango pie. I think at this point, we don’t look a gift mango pie in the mouth. We take it in our mouth.

 

Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way. —Douglas Pagels

 

  • Giving a massage can be more beneficial than receiving one. Hello? Got a partner? Indulge.

 

  • Make sure and get some sunlight. If you live in a place like Alaska (waving to Keenan) you might need one of those artifical sunlight machines. Otherwise, get outside or figure out a way to sit by a bright window.

 

For fast-acting relief try slowing down. —Lily Tomlin

 

And finally:

Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down. —Natalie Goldberg

 

 

What have you found that helps you move from stress to relaxation? Does it work during the holidays? Or do you just close your eyes and basically hold your breath for the next forty or so days?

 

It’s all better with friends.

Accessorwhat?

 

It’s 4:07 in the morning. I know this because I steal a peak at my magenta colored plastic travel alarm (there’s a term you don’t hear these days) stowed in the drawer next to my side of the bed.

“Okay,” I say to myself. “This might be a good time to think of something to write about for my Mysteristas post.”

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My eyes open again. It’s 4:30. I think I have The Most Brilliant Idea Ever. Having been in this place before—sure I couldn’t possibly forget such a stunning concept—and then waking up a couple of hours later with only a hazy recollection, I grab paper and pen and record the basic info.

“Accessorizing” I write boldly at the top of the page. I tell myself I’ll check spelling later.

We accessorize ourselves, our homes. Our cars. (I add this for Tom Burns or any other straight man out there who might read our blog. Or women who happen to be car-buffs. And yes, Tom, I’m assuming. And gay male readers, I’m assuming. I know this is stereotyping and wrong on so many levels and opens me up for challenges that would be completely valid and deserved. But it’s 4-fricking-thirty in the morning. And I’m trying to be honest here.)

What about our books? I write with confidence.

Do we accessorize our stories with our worlds—geography or weather or decade? Do we accessorize our characters with unique personality traits or physical attributes?

Just like backstory, there’s a danger that we’ll over-accessorize or under-accessorize. Or choose the absolutely worst accessories possible.

Now, as I look at this Most Brilliant Idea Ever, I understand and appreciate the act of not writing things down at 4:30 in the morning.

Hazy is often the best way to remember my Most Brilliant Ideas.

 

It’s all better with friends. (And yes, I’ve reset the clock.)

 

Character Diversity—Should You?

 

 

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If I wrote a story and everyone in it was just like me, it would be um… boring. Even to me.

Writers know this, being the smart and savvy readers we are.

Instead, we write stories populated with individuals who are not only different from us, but different from each other. We work to understand their multi-dimensional personalities and to portray the most interesting bits of them in our fiction.

Male authors write female characters and female authors create male characters. Timothy Hallinan perfectly captures a ten-year old girl in his Poke Rafferty series. If Arthur Golden’s name wasn’t so prominently displayed on the cover of Memoirs of a Geisha, I would’ve sworn a woman had penned it.

Still, I’m sure there are plenty of examples of writers getting it wrong.

Interestingly, Hallinan’s series is set in Thailand, and Golden’s world was Japan. These two authors not only jumped gender and generational attitudes, but cultural and ethnic ones as well.

There’s some debate about whether that’s a wise thing for an author to do. Should a white woman even attempt to write about someone of color? Curiously, the negative assumptions seem to be directed toward white authors, not the other way around. Or maybe, it’s just where my attention is naturally pulled.

To me, it comes down to one word: Sensitivity. Promoting stereotypes is worse than using clichés. To me, it falls into the racist, or homophobic, or just plain ignorant category.

It’s also important to get input from people who are intimately familiar with the culture, the race, the sexual orientation, of a character you’re creating.

Having said that, I probably won’t ask for any input from White Supremecists about the characters I’m creating. But then, I’m not sure the word “sensitivity” is part of their world. Is that wrong of me?

Where do you fall in this debate? Does it matter? Do you care?