Here I am at my coffee shop, sipping on a non-fat latte with an extra shot, or moosed, as our local chain likes to call it.
The damn dog woke me up at 6:30am on a Saturday morning. Lucky for him, he raced out to relieve both his bowel and bladder. It’s the mornings he goes out to bark at the birds that I could just as easily cut him loose. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people who can effortlessly go back to sleep, and so like I said . . . here I am.
There was a time when I used this blog as therapy. I must have worked through several of my issues, because I just don’t seem to need it like I used to. This morning brought back memories of rising early,sneaking off for coffee and writing before Bubba wakes. And so it seemed only natural I should log in and click “Add Post” while the sun slides up in the sky.
A friend sent a note a week ago. Not electronically. She made it with real paper, with a hand-drawn fish on the front. She wrote a few words, not many. “How’s it going?” “What’s new?” but the card said so much more. It made me think about her. She lives on the coast, and fish are ever-present on her mind. Big fish. Like whales. Drawing a fish on a real paper card is so like something she would randomly do, eagerly dropping the envelope into a mailbox on the way to the rocky shore to look for shells, or jellyfish, or whatever the sea rolls in.
I can’t say for sure, but I imagine her finding the little oval cards with their matching envelopes at a humble second-hand shop or old-fashioned drug store. The price was right, and she knew she’d find some way to make someone’s day brighter; the thought of their smile involuntarily igniting one of her own. She has this crooked little grin when there’s something she’s thinking but not saying.
Perhaps she stared out over the waves when she decided what to do with the notecards, or maybe she was pulling weeds in the garden. But I know she spent some time contemplating. I know she thought about each person who would be on the other end while she drew. She undoubtedly laughed at her illustration of a fish swimming through the weeds. And she sent it anyway. Because that’s who she is.
And in this age of email and text messages, what kind of person does this random act of drawing a fish on a plain pink card and sending it in a matching envelope through the mail? It reminded me of how much I miss her unapologetically real and honest soul. If we asked her, she’d laugh and say she is quite unremarkable. And perhaps she’s right. Maybe we want to believe it takes a certain someone to make time for this simple deed. Maybe we’re afraid of learning that if we slow down for just a minute, we, too, hold the potential for honesty, love, following our dreams, and sending real paper notes through the mail.
This little card reminded me just a bit of who I want to be. When was the last time an email did that?
Peace . . .
Check out my friend’s Instagram Account to know her better:
First and foremost, I blog for therapy. Unlike a diary, it forces me to choose my words wisely. Where a diary will take any abuse you want to give, my public blog requires I treat my thoughts with respect. And in doing so, I find an appreciation for “life and all things peaceful, balanced, whole and precious.”
I blog for posterity. It’s something to leave behind. I don’t believe in a supernatural afterlife. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to hang around watching over my loved ones eternally. In a recent mishap, I accidentally and unavoidably caught a glimpse of all the pictures on the Rebel’s phone. Trust me when I say I don’t want to watch over them from above.
I blog to pass along a wisdom. Ancient cultures sat around the fire listening to lore from their elders. While I do have plenty of advice to share around the fire, most of it involves the perfect toasted marshmallow or the dangers of wielding hot pokers. Besides, who has time to sit around a fire listening to their elders anymore? Anything like that gets shared here as “Lore” for those who find it valuable enough to read.
I’m not sure at what age one becomes an elder, but I think I’m growing into it as gracefully as possible. That is, kicking and screaming, my brittle nails shredding on the door frame of old age. My daughter, the Romantic, reminded me that I once announced I was going to age naturally and embrace it — gray hair, wrinkles, and all. Yeah . . . I was thirty-something and knew nothing of disappearing collagen or finding coarse, white eyebrows reaching out like odd antennae over the tops of my bifocals. And so this thing of wisdom that comes with age is less of a gift than a purchase, dearly paid for with my declining condition.
Perhaps there is a responsibility to share what has been so expensive to attain. Maybe I want to spare my children and readers the pain I’ve born. After all, the suffering of my children is two-fold; once for their pain and another for the remembrance of my own mistakes. Or maybe I just want to give you a shortcut, a life hack, so you can surpass where I have been and finish farther ahead. Whatever the reason, sharing lore is clearly a primal need, present since men acquired the ability to speak.
The elders of my youth have all passed away. They, too, shared the experience of their years. Some of it I remember, most of it has probably been forgotten. The truth is, I gained less of my wisdom in listening than I found in living. The toddler learns more from touching a hot oven than from being told it is hot. Riding a bicycle can only be mastered after falling. We learn to guard our heart once we know how deeply it can hurt.
I’m told there is occasionally wisdom in my words. If you find it here, it is yours. If you want to keep it, however, it’s going to cost you a couple of wrinkles and maybe a white antenna eyebrow. But I guarantee it will be worth it.
Who Am I is a popular ice-breaker game for groups. Each person goes about the room asking yes or no questions until they think they know whose name is pinned to their back.
This is a game we play all through life, testing different viewpoints and personalities, and continually asking the question, Who Am I?
Blogging is no different. Writers publish posts and seek feedback through likes and comments. We may start out thinking we are one type of blogger, but evolve to find out we are someone completely different.
I began blogging after writing an amusing story to a work friend. With just a little encouragement, she convinced me I should start a blog. The time was right for me to learn something new, try something gutsy. I had become disenchanted with life. Everything seemed rather pointless. So I began putting my thoughts on the internet and asked the brazen question, Who Am I?
As it turns out, this writing thing is a great therapy. Better than a journal, the public medium insists I keep my words in check with honesty, respect and kindness. As the tagline reads, I write about life and all things peaceful, balanced, whole and precious. For me, these are the segments of happiness which, when joined together, bring meaning and purpose. If I can make you laugh while doing all the above, it is most certainly the buttercream on my cake!
While I write for the therapy, for posterity, for love of the words, it is my sincerest hope that I motivate you to turn inward asking the question, “Who Am I?”
Yes. I wrote one post about my religious belief (or non-belief) and suddenly I’m a self-proclaimed expert. There were a couple of commenters who used words like “courage” and “guts.” These commenters are, as am I, the non-confrontational sort. However, in writing — as in battle — it is best to have a fair amount of strategic planning on hand to make up for wavering courage. For this I bring you Sun Tzu, who must be the most quoted strategist who ever lived. He speaks to those of us who struggle with conflict when he says,
“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”
I am, and always have been, one who goes with the flow and rolls with the punches. I don’t like to rock the boat or stir the pot. It is a commonly held myth to say that those of us who relate to the aforementioned clichés have no opinions. We do, we just prefer to stay out of the fight. We seek out those who agree with us, and voice our opinions there. If you are ready to pick up the mic, I have some suggestions for you, backed up by our old pal, Sun Tzu.
“Know yourself and you will win all battles.”
Spend time getting to know yourself. What are you “all about?” Come up with a mission statement. At work, we strive to “end hunger through community partnerships.” When there is a conflict or indecision, we defer to our mission. The answer is always in there somewhere. Is your mission to treat the planet with respect? to spread random kindness? to treat animals ethically? Once you have your mission, you have your backbone.
“You have to believe in yourself. ”
Spend time letting others know who you are. Publish posts on non-controversial subjects first. Let them hear the tone of your voice. Do you use humor? Are you straight-faced? Be yourself, and your spirit will come through. When you decide to speak out, they will hear you, and know that it is not some rhetoric you picked up on the internet.
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”
Write on your own experiences. There is nothing to contend if you are speaking about yourself. In March I posted Two Peas in a Very Small Pod prior to publishing Living in Sin, which was finally succeeded by My Spiritual Path and Creed in April. Using the word “I” instead of “people” or “everyone” makes it my story and the incontrovertible truth.
“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”
Don’t worry about commenters. You have already established your voice. Because you speak from a peaceful heart, those who are looking for a really ugly online argument mostly likely won’t comment anyway.
“There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. ”
On your blog, you rule. It is quite possible that by writing something different, you will pick up a new reader. If you do get someone who comments disrespectfully, he or she has not spent the time getting to know you by reading your other posts. Remember you are the general in this war, and they are on your turf. You may choose to delete this comment, claiming victory with one simple click. Personally, I have never found the need to cut a comment from my blog.
“Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
Go ahead and look them in the eye. I urge you to face them one on one. Pull up your big-girl camo and prepare to take them down. You own the same right of expression as they. Use respect. This allows you to expect the same from them. Keep your words peaceful, and it becomes a one-way argument that paints them as rude and narrow-minded.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Remember your audience. Be mindful of the broad spectrum of people who might read your blog. In my life, there are friends, family, old schoolmates, neighbors, co-workers, and even unborn grandchildren who may someday read my words. While I have many supportive, encouraging commenters, there are hundreds of faceless followers who neither comment nor “like.” I like to write today as if I were going to meet each of them tomorrow.
Peace . . .
It is important to note that Sun Tzu may not have agreed with the way I interpreted his words for my use. In fact, it is most likely accurate to say he would not. As the most quoted source of strategic warfare, it’s one of those things he probably has to put up with a lot.
Sun Tzu (also rendered as Sun Zi) was a Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who lived in the Spring and Autumn Period of ancient China. The name he is best known by is actually an honorific which means “Master Sun”: His birth name was Sun Wu and he was known outside of his family by his courtesy name Changqing. He is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War, an extremely influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy. Sun Tzu has had a significant impact on Chinese and Asian history and culture, both as the author of The Art of War and as a legendary historical figure.
It was like walking into a room having forgotten why you went in. Life gets like that sometimes. You come to a place and all you see ahead of you is work, pain, and decline. Of course there would be good days, moments, funny stories. But there comes a point where colors are just words and everything looks grey.
Then one day I emailed a story to a friend. She really enjoyed it and asked if she could post it on her blog. She wondered if I had ever considered blogging. She thought I might be good at it. Maybe it was just the lure of something new, but I felt a thing I hadn’t felt for much too long. I felt excitement.
It’s been almost a year, which seems like a good time to reminisce, doesn’t it? That first post was frightening, and I’m not sure it’s gotten much easier. I put a little bit of myself out there on the internet every week, and wait to see if anyone else relates. The curious thing is that every week someone does.
Most of my posts include images. I dream in color, and to post without it would be deceiving. Whether I am using my Nikon Coolpix S220 or my Motorola Droid Razr, I like to illustrate my own story if I am able. Toting a camera has caused me to start looking for the things I’d forgotten were there.
Humans crave surprises. It’s what makes our heart soar when a melody changes key. It’s why we hop on a haunted hay ride. It’s why the best films don’t end like you thought they would. As I looked through my lens, wonderful surprises came into focus in the most routine of places.
There are friends I have met along the way. And I remind myself they are not real friends, but friends who know me only through what I share on the pages. Yet, when one of them shares some humor, I laugh. When one hurts, I shed tears. When there is bad news, I worry. If there is another definition of friendship, I do not know it.
Even more curious is this relationship I’ve reignited with myself. Like taking a step onto the yellow brick road, color seeped into ordinary things. Everyday tasks became metaphors. It took me only minutes to come up with the tag-line, “Seeking all things peaceful, balanced, whole and precious,” after deciding I needed one. Of course! It was not that these things did not exist. It was that I had failed to keep looking for them.
And this is the moment, after having forgotten, that I remembered why I had gone into the room.
I’ve sat down at my computer a few times, but nothing seems to come out write. (Pun intended)
My mind is busy on other, more physical things. Growing things. Organizing things. Reading things.
Along with organizing, comes throwing out things and finding things. The best finds yet are old photographs and old journals; specifically, those I wrote when my kids were little.
The first journal I started was as the one-year baby journal, full of firsts, was coming to completion for my oldest daughter.
July 6, 1987
I wrote in the introduction, “I cannot help but wonder who you are . . . You are my first child, the one I will learn the most about motherhood from. You will teach me more about life than I will ever teach you.”
On the next page, “I wanted to wait and begin this journal with your first birthday, but I couldn’t. I can’t resist a blank piece of paper!”
Remember when we needed paper to write?
“I’ve found such a friend in you. You’re my littlest buddy to take wherever we want to go. Soon you’ll have your own ideas and places to go. I hope I can be your buddy then, too.”
I’m not exactly accustomed to receiving awards . . .
There were a couple bowling trophies from my adolescent years:
And the Pinewood Derby Adult Division 2000 from the Boy Scouts:
The Girl Scout Leader awards:
Now, and with no warning, I have been nominated for the Liebster Award:
I am overwhelmed! However, as we all know, of those to whom much has been given, much is required. There are questions to answer, questions to ask, a thank you to write, and nominations to . . . um . . . nominate! And so with no further ado, I’d like to formally thank Lois from livingsimplyfree for presenting me with this nomination.
Lois asks that I answer eleven questions she has posed to her nominees:
Why do you blog?
I blog because I enjoy putting my random thoughts into words and editing them until I like the way they sound when read.
If you had more free time, how would you like to fill it?
First of all, I would take a nap, which would give me more energy to do all the things I say I’m too tired to do. I would read, hike, hang with my kids, cook, fix stuff, play with the dogs, organize my photos, write . . .
With the holidays fast approaching, what is your favorite/least favorite holiday and why?
What is not to love about Thanksgiving? Food, family, and no gift expectations to meet.
What is one place you would like to visit?
Hard to say . . . you won’t find it in a travel brochure. I like off-seasons, nearby sites and the unexpected — maybe even around the next corner! I won’t know where I want to visit until I’ve been there and seen it.
If you could meet anyone, in any time period who would it be?
I would like to meet Galileo and show him our science textbooks.
I love a good laugh, it makes even the worst days better. So what caught you off-guard and made you laugh recently?
At work the other day I accidentally called my cell phone while trying call a co-worker. I thought, “Who the heck is calling me, now?” The number looked familiar. Indeed, it looked like a number from my workplace. In fact . . . it looked like MY number! Then just as I looked at my desk phone, I heard in my headset my own cheerful voice, “Hello! You’ve reached the cell phone of Jean . . . ” Laughed so damned hard, I snorted!
If you had to choose, would you choose more money or more time?
As shallow as this sounds, I would take more money. I barely have enough money for the time I’ve already been given, so more time would just be more expensive, and lead to more anxiety. Wishing for more time is romantic, but I’m an incurable realist. There is no such thing as more time, but more money? Hand it over!
What is your biggest pet peeve?
I can’t stand know-it-alls — this includes the person who knows how I should eat, how everyone should vote, who knows what kind of person you are by the way you look, who knows how to raise your children . . . you know this person, and you can’t stand them either. Admit it.
What is your favorite low cost/no cost activity or hobby?
Being a very visual person, I love photography. It’s not a serious hobby. I have a digital camera and don’t do anything terribly creative with it. Photography slows me down and encourages me to look for things of beauty or interest that I would otherwise walk by.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
My best day begins early after a good night’s sleep, quietly watching the sun illuminate the landscape.
Since those of us in the northern hemisphere are moving towards winter, what is your favorite spot inside your home to spend time in?
If actions speak louder than words, it would be my living room where I read, write, watch movies and steal the occasional nap. BUT if I can get myself in bed early enough, I do take pleasure in the 15 to 30 minutes before I drift off, when the dogs are settled in, I am washed and brushed, the lights are low, with a good book in hand.
Pass it on:
This award also requires that I nominate bloggers who have 200 or less followers. Of those blogs I follow, only a few actually show the number of followers they have. I’m not sure who makes these rules, but I’ve seen some Liebsters say they have to list 5, others say 3 to 5, some 11. I will list my favorites of those who I think have 200 or less followers. Let’s see how long the list gets: