Archive for category Life choices and personal development

A book round-up

Life in Motion

Anyone who knows me has to be aware that I read voraciously. My partner sometimes calls me ‘Wormie,’ since I’m such a bookworm. So, while it is always my intention to review the books I read, sometimes I’m plowing through them so rapidly that I just can’t take the time. I thought, instead of lengthy reviews, that I’d list some of the books I’ve read in the past few months, with a few comments about each of them, and why I picked them up.

I was wandering around our local Barnes and Noble and found myself drawn to the three for the price of two table. Well, okay, I’m always drawn to that table, but I don’t usually buy anything because I can never find three I want to read. But this time, I did. I’m already through the two memoirs:

I picked up Life in Motion: an unlikely Ballerina, by Misty Copeland, largely because my niece, Audrey Rachelle Stanley, started out in ballet. Audrey danced for two years with the Nashville Ballet’s second company, before switching to Contemporary Dance. She now lives in New York City, and dances with Teresa Fellion, among others. I was curious about the ballet world, and about the way a black woman has made it in what I know to be an extremely competitive and demanding profession. This inspiring book is partly about that, and partly about Ms. Copeland’s crazy childhood, and the wonderful people who inspired and helped her along the way. I could hardly put it down. Certainly, the chapters where she talks about dancing on injuries because she was afraid she’d lose her position confirmed my suspicions about the ballet world, but much of the book says that if we have enough passion, and we work hard enough (and maybe have that extra something special?), we can achieve greatness.

I also picked up What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Way Dogs Perceive the World, by Cat Warren. I enjoyed this book, even though it wasn’t quite what I expected: I thought there’d be a lot more science about how dogs and humans smells things, but it’s more about the training of dogs to become cadaver dogs, and testing of other species for that purpose. There’s enough of her personal story with her dog Solo to keep the story moving, and I learned some things about the use of dog-generated evidence, but my main take-away was that I shouldn’t feel bad that my two corgis don’t listen to my commands when they feel that they know better than I do.

I also picked up Freud’s Mistress, by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman, off the sale table while I was at B&N. This book is based upon what is known about Minna Bernays, the sister of Freud’s wife, and Freud’s relationship. I imagine that this book would be very  interesting, since Freud himself has been so influential, and I have enjoyed novels about Hemingway’s wife and Frank Lloyd Wright’s mistress. Also, Freud’s Mistress has received a fair amount of press. I’m sure that the authors did their research well, as they include many details about life in that time. For my taste, they are too caught up in the details, and the guilt that Minna feels, and the prose is stiff. Freud comes across as a horrible man, and I wonder why Minna would find him attractive. Perhaps he was awful, but it seems over-done. I plan to finish the book, but I keep picking up others instead. I think a lot more could have been done with this material to bring it to life.

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taking on too much

Are you someone who tries to do too much? I sure am. Lately I feel like one of those clowns who is trying to juggle so many objects that she can’t keep track of all of them. The balls, pins, and whatever other objects fly out into the audience, where they are forever lost.

I should know better, right? Years ago, I worked with a life coach who had me put an elephant on my desk. I forget exactly why an elephant, but it was supposed to remind me to do less. The elephant is still on my desk – 20150503_213823but to be honest I hardly ever look at it. It’s lovely and even has colorful pinwheels in it, but I ignore it! I just keep taking on as much, no more, than I can handle.

A discussion on facebook about signing up for an online writing course sparked this post and made me wonder if there’s a cure. More than likely, I won’t have time to finish this course. I’m already behind and we’re just finishing the first week. I have excuses, but I’m also realizing that I didn’t need to add anything else to my to-do list. It looked so delicious and it’s FREE! How can I resist, except that I have deadlines coming up quickly, and I’m trying to write and edit stories for an anthology of my own short stories, help market Mosaic, get in shape for the summer bicycling season, and then there’s the day job. Oh, and I’m trying to design a WEB site for my author stuff, and well, I think I’m seriously becoming embarrassed, so I’ll stop listing the huge amount of things I’ve taken on, all of which were derailed this weekend by social commitments.

The only defense I have is that every single one of these things is important to me. Very important. Life-giving and exciting and interesting and many other wonderful adjectives. I want to do it all. And I would, if only there were twice as many hours in each day. Unfortunately, something will fall through the cracks, and it’s up to me to decide what that will be. In my opinion, though, prioritize is a dirty word.

What about you? Leave me a comment, and I promise to respond.

 

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Bicycling with the Bend Bellas

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI tried something new yesterday – a local women’s cycling group. I’ve bicycled for years, from the time my father taught me how when I was six (and oh how I remember that first lesson. No training wheels in our family meant Dad had to hold up the bike while I wobbled around and figured out how to push the pedals and keep my balance). At times, I’ve been pretty serious about it. I’ve even done two centuries, although I’ve never raced. But I’ve usually ridden by myself, or with one or two other people.

Still, there’s a great group of women cyclists here in town, so I finally gave it a shot. There were ten of us of varying abilities on a short, rather level ride. We stopped frequently to let the slower ones catch up, which is a really sweet feature of this organization. No one gets left behind. If you have a flat, someone helps you out. What a concept!  We had one pretty inexperienced rider, so the rest of us spent quite a bit of time waiting for her (she made the whole ride and was smiling at the end!). While we waited, we chatted about our favorite rides and how often we go out, getting to know each other a little. Instead of being competitive, it was low-key and fun.

Putting together Mosaic was a bit like that: sharing common interests with a group of people, and making sure no one got left behind, while we all learned something. Plus we were smiling at the end (this time because it’s such a well-written book).

But that isn’t really what I want to talk about in this post. I was thinking a little bit tonight about who I write for, as in who do I have in mind when I write. I went to a talk by Ruth Ozeki this afternoon, and she said that she writes for herself. That doesn’t sound very collaborative, does it? Yet it works for her, as she’s won numerous awards for her novels, and the auditorium was packed with people who seemed to have all read her most recent book (it was the Bend Community Read this spring). And if I think about who I write for, it’s people like myself. People like the women I rode with today. How can I do otherwise?

I admire someone who can write a book for children, or for teenagers, when they’re no longer one themselves. But I’m not like that. I write what I want to read. I write to explore issues which concern me. Things such as what it means to be a woman with a career, how to find a calling in life, how to move past childhood wounds and find self-worth, or deal with a difficult relationship. Sometimes I explore larger issues such as poverty, cruelty, or environmental destruction. And occasionally, I just have some fun and play around with the world of magic and adventure while throwing in a dash of these other issues. Ruth Ozeki did say something interesting: she strives for a balance between tragedy and comedy. I like that concept. I hope I manage to do that.

How about you? When have you collaborated on something, or made sure no one got left behind? How did that work out? If you write, do you write for people like yourself, or for a different group? Please leave a comment and let me know.

And don’t forget that Mosaic, A Compilation of Creative Writing is still free. Click here to get your copy. And don’t forget to leave us an honest review!

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Computer craziness

What do you do when a computer crashes? Do you call the local computer guy, replace the machine, or start trying to fix the problem yourself?

This time around, I went with the latter. The crash was my fault, so I suppose that I felt guilty and responsible. I had done something almost embarrassingly stupid (so stupid that I’m not going to tell you what it was because, well, would you tell me if you wanted to download a free episode of a TV show and the site insisted you click on a suspicious link before it would let you and you knew it was a bad idea but you did it anyway and seconds later you knew for sure that it was a mistake but by then it was too late?)  which led to a virus or some other dastardly creature on our hard drive. Before we knew it, the windows system was corrupt and the machine wouldn’t load the operating system. I know, I know, for most of us this is already speaking a foreign language, so I apologize in advance. But this explains why I haven’t gotten much of anything else done for the past several weeks.cpu fan - good place to blow dust out

Anyway, after the machine wouldn’t do what it’s supposed to do and bring up that lovely blue screen, like an idiot – or rather a fool who has no idea what might happen – I dove in. As the laptop started up, it displayed an error message. I looked it up. Oh, I needed a certain file, did I? And I could create it on another computer, use that computer’s start-up disk (it actually came with one, unlike the messed up laptop). That file didn’t do the trick, though, so I started reading more stuff on the internet. I spent hours, trying one thing after another with no luck.

And then, hurrah! A friend said that her boyfriend, who lives halfway across the US from me, could help. I struck gold. Kind of. He sure knows his way around a computer, being an IT guy and having repaired many a sick machine like ours. He came up with a strategy. I don’t even want to tell you what he’s helped me go through, all from a distance. I made a few mistakes, he misunderstood a few things I said, I ordered a hard drive which turned out to be bad (I am returning it), and on and on.

Oh, yes, along the way I managed to disconnect the laptop’s power switch. It took two or three days just to figure out why the machine wouldn’t power up and then to come up with a fix for THAT mistake. I was so totally tempted to use the machine as a frisbee, but it’s a little too hard for my dogs to catch. So maybe it could be of some use out in the garden, perhaps holding the gate closed, or as something to kneel on while I weed?

We’re not done yet, but we’re closer. Close your eyes, because I’m going to speak geek for the rest of the paragraph. I figure that I’ve earned the right. I’ve moved all the photos and text files of note over to my Mac, and we’ve reinstalled not only an operating system which Steve put on an IOS file in dropbox for me to retrieve, but also all of the drivers for all of the little devices which the computer needs to run and they work. Every single one. Eek! Steve pretty well figured it all out from photos I took of the insides of the computer.

Okay, done with geek. You can read now. Steve deserves to receive a pile of gold, say about $10,000 worth, for all of the time he’s patiently spent leading me through the process. I wish it was finished, but I probably have to spend another day on the booger. But, as he says, we’re keeping it out of the landfill and saving money, if not time.

I’ve learned enough I could probably fix your computer, but please don’t ask.

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My Healing Process

Two weeks ago I posted a blog about my auto accident in which I promised to write a little more about my treatment and progress, hoping that you’ll find it interesting, and perhaps helpful, if you or someone you know gets in an accident. Just to recap, I was rear-ended two days before Christmas, 2012.

Until that last post, I hadn’t said much to anyone about being hurt, other than to my therapists. I’m sure that I mentioned it in passing to a few people, but, even then, I brushed it off. I pretended it was nothing, while, in truth, I was a mess. It’s only been lately that I’ve been wondering why I did that.

I’m not sure I know, other than that I didn’t want to lose business. As a massage therapist, I didn’t want people canceling their sessions with me in order to somehow protect me, or because they didn’t think their treatment would be up to snuff. And, oddly, I needed them to come in for my own sake. Giving to them gave me something outside of my injuries and pain to focus on. I rarely felt pain while I worked. After so many years, giving a massage is second nature. I check my troubles and concerns at the door and turn my attention on the person under my hands, with some focus on my body mechanics.

working girl on ball

A nice picture of a straight spine and pretty good posture: one of the goals of my therapy was to return my back to balance, with left and right sides level like this.
Thanks to EdwinP on Stock.Xchng for this photo of a woman’s back.

However, it wasn’t just my clients: I didn’t even tell many of my friends about my pain and mental confusion. Perhaps that’s my nature, to underplay my difficulties, to be brave, and to pretend everything is alright. I’m not sure. Perhaps I just needed to pretend to myself that my healing was on track, that every day was better than the last, but, again, I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t want people gushing over me and worrying.

Do you do that? Downplay or even hide your problems? Isn’t it human nature? Can you think of times when you’ve hidden your problems, or made them seem minor? Maybe it’s poverty, or an abusive spouse, and you worry people will think badly of you for your choices. Or, I don’t know, a drug issue, or something minor, even, such as an errand you forgot to run.

This is a little long for a blog post, but here are the details on my treatment and recovery:

First week

The day after the accident, I went to the chiropractor. Luckily, he was working Christmas Eve. At that point, I wanted to be checked, since I hadn’t gone to emergency. I still didn’t know how badly I was hurt. I had more pain than the previous evening, but still not a lot. Since I do massage from time to time on people who’ve been in accidents, I can attest that that isn’t unusual. Pain often doesn’t appear for days, if not weeks.

Anyway, he noted that my left shoulder was swollen, and my skeleton was twisted so that my ribs angled up on the right. I still thought the accident had been no big deal. I was shaken and tired, but I’d be better in a few weeks. If I’d only realized how badly I was injured, I wouldn’t have felt so optimistic! I know from treating clients that it’s really difficult to predict how much pain someone will experience, or how long it will take them to recover. I’ve seen people get better in six weeks after a bad accident while others are in pain a year later after a mild one. Still, I was in excellent physical condition. Surely, I’d be one of the ones who heal fast.

By Christmas Day, I was a mess: tired and disoriented, with increasing pain. I barely got out of bed long enough to finish the meal I’d started cooking the day before, open presents, and eat. I had to lay down, even though I didn’t sleep. Reading was out. I just laid there, feeling awful, while my friends went skiing.

Next two months

I had loads of Chiropractic care for the next few months. Massage and Acupuncture entered the picture after three weeks. Acupuncture was lovely, but boy were those first massage treatments painful! She claimed to be barely touching me, but I didn’t believe her. At that point, she was just trying to help decrease inflammation and get some circulation going, but I almost grew to hate her before things calmed down. She found painful spots in places I had no idea had been affected by the accident, like my left quad. Okay, so I had some knee pain, but it didn’t seem enough to justify the fire that shot through me when she worked on my thigh.

Once the pain settled in, it was all on my left side, mainly lower ribs in the back and shoulder plus neck, an aggravating 6-7 out of 10, where ten is like being basted with burning oil. Ten is what I felt when I tried to play my flute. Forget skiing or bicycling! And absolutely forget taking a modern dance class, one of my great loves. No Vance Stance, either.

Unusual symptoms developed and what I did for them – March and April

After maybe two months, I realized that I couldn’t close my mouth properly. It’s impossible to recall the exact sequence of events now, but I had difficulty chewing, and developed a lisp because my teeth hit each other when I tried to speak. The chiropractic care, while it helped with my pain, and gradually moved my skeleton back into alignment, didn’t help with this weird issue. Oh, and I also had double vision and tinnitus, possibly from the concussion, but who knows. Anyway, I added a Cranial Osteopath to my care regime. I could hardly get anything done, because I was always running from one appointment to another!

Slowly, I improved. My bite went back to normal. I apparently stopped acting like I was wandering around in a fog sometime in April, at least according to people who weren’t me (I hadn’t realized that I was acting weird, but, hey, that’s the way it goes). My energy picked back up, and the pain decreased. The chiropractor slowly spaced all of my appointments out, from three times a week, to two, then one, then every two weeks. I started doing Vance Stance again and added Physical Therapy every two weeks. This is a pretty typical progression for post-accident, by the way.

Six months out and finally feeling better

It wasn’t until June or July that I had my first pain-free day (about six months after the accident). I didn’t realize how much pain I’d been in until it was gone (which is pretty normal—lots of people tell me that). I was able to extend my flute playing time, first from five minutes to ten and then twenty. I  tried bicycling, gave it up when it hurt too much, then tried it again with better luck. More and more pain-free days ensued.DIGITAL CAMERA

Long term

By September, when I’d used up my auto insurance, I felt good, although I still have a flare-up about once a week (at a low pain level). That’s one thing about whiplash – it tends to leave behind some scar tissue. I seem to still be getting better, though, so hopefully the tissue is still healing. As a massage devotee and fervent believer in its benefits, I continue with regular massages.

Oh, and I have a stretching sequence that I started doing every day as soon as I could, which gives me great relief.

Gratitude

Thanks to my therapists for all of their great work. I don’t know where I would be without them, but I doubt I’d be able to ski this winter, or dance, bicycle, etc. I’ve seen too many people who didn’t get such good treatment, coming in for massage years later and complaining that they’ve lived with pain ever since their accident.

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2013 – the year of recovery

Here’s to 2014! It’s started off well, at least compared to 2013. I’m almost pain-free, I’m writing better than ever, and things look good.

car crash

Obviously not mine because my Prius was busted up in the back, and it wasn’t quite this bad. Photo courtesy of stock111 at Stock.xchng

2013 started badly. I had been rear-ended on an icy road about a mile from home only a two days before Christmas. The lady in her old Land Cruiser hit the back of my Prius pretty hard, while I had my foot slammed into the brakes so I wouldn’t slide into the intersection myself. I had come to a very rocky stop, the ABS brakes doing their job, and was just catching my breath, waiting for a car to pass, when ca-bam!

Everything you’ve ever heard about slow motion during an accident is true. I remember when, years ago in graduate school, I was hit from behind while bicycling and flew through the air. It seemed like an eternity before I landed, an eternity during which I had time to contemplate many things, including my own likely death. This time, the same thing must have happened. It seemed to take forever for my torso to bend at the waist, my head to hit something, and for me to recoil back into a sitting position. It all seemed rather gentle, just like it did when I landed on my helmet and rolled so many years ago.

Even though I should have known better, I got out of the car, noted the nasty damage to the hatch and bumper, assured the woman who’d slammed her car into mine that I felt fine, exchanged information, and drove home. Why I didn’t get the name of at least one witness, I don’t know. I probably should have waited for a police person, but I felt okay. Luckily, with a rear-end collision at a stop sign, it’s obvious who is at fault.

By the time I got home, I had started to feel some of the injury. It still seemed minor, so I had dinner and went to bed. It wasn’t until the next morning that I knew I had torn something in my shoulder. I saw a chiropractor, who noticed the swelling, and told me to rest a lot. I went home and prepared as much as I could for Christmas dinner, filed a police report, and left a message for my insurance company, before I rested.

Christmas morning, the full result of being whacked hit. I could hardly stand. Exhaustion, nausea, headache and full body pain assailed me. The head stuff worried me the most. What if I had herniated something? I forced myself to finish the meal prep, do the Christmas deal with Albert and my friends, then fell into bed while they slept.

Needless to say, the beginning of 2013 rolled around with more pain, more post-concussion issues, and exhaustion tailing me everywhere. I had sessions with Dr. Vance Bonner, lots of massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy, and cranial osteopathy, and I can’t thank my healers enough. Slowly, I improved. Around April, much of the head weirdness and exhaustion cleared up, and mid-summer I started having pain-free days. Now, only a few minor symptoms remain.

I’ll write a post later on about this healing process. For now, I am so grateful to be through all of that. Hurray for 2014!

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Painting Class

For the past month – all of November – I participated in NaNoWriMo, a challenge to write 50,000 words in a single month. This challenge pretty well took up all of my time and energy, and now that it’s finished, and I have a very rough first draft of a novel, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with myself. I could have continued writing, but I really did need a break, not only to put paperwork and house in order, but to refill my creative well. I read a couple of novels, watched a couple of movies, and participated in a writing group via Skype, to which I provided the flash fiction piece below.  I noticed that one of my writing buddies, Alex Brantham, posted a nice little flash piece right after he finished NaNoWriMo, too. He’s a British guy, with a droll sense of humor. You can read his story here.

Now, here’s Painting Class. Please tell me what you think of it.

Painting Class

George was certain his wife was having an affair. She had a certain glow about her that spoke of only one thing: sex. And it certainly wasn’t sex with him. After fourteen years, their romantic life consisted of a quick kiss in the morning, another right before bed, and dutiful intercourse the last Friday of every month.

She’d been radiant ever since she’d taken that painting workshop in the summer, or had it been writing? She was always going to something; he couldn’t keep track. He was pretty sure she took the writing class last fall, then quilt-making during the spring, and finally painting, because she’d had paint in her hair half the summer. She must have hooked up with another painting student, but he hadn’t asked her about it, of course he hadn’t. What if she told the truth? Would that end their marriage?

Ελληνικά: Δελτία για αποδελτίωση και δελτιοθήκη

Ελληνικά: Δελτία για αποδελτίωση και δελτιοθήκη (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And what if she lied? He didn’t want to see the quick shift of her eyes to the right the way they always did when she tried to pretend she hadn’t cheated on her diet, or spent too much money on shoes.

Instead, he snuck a look at her computer any time she left it on. He figured out her password and read her email. He peeked at her cell phone. Once he even called a number that appeared frequently, but it turned out to be her friend Caroline. He tried to listen in on her conversations, sure Caroline was acting as go-between, but never heard anything suspicious.

All of his spying turned up nothing. He’d never realized what a master she was at deceit.

Finally, he could stand it no more. He took a vacation day without telling her. He pretended to head to work, but instead went to the coffee shop. He waited, watching the first snow of the winter dust the trees, until he knew she had left for her job at the bank, then returned home and began searching the house. If she was cheating on him, he would surely find some trace of it.

He rifled her stack of purses and went through her pockets, but he didn’t find anything suspicious. As far as he could tell, she hadn’t bought any new clothes in a long time, at least none that he could find. Perhaps she kept them all at her lover’s home. He turned green at the thought of her in a sexy negligee, a gift from this unknown painter.

One more pass through the house, he thought, and he would give up. He started in their bedroom, checked the kitchen, and went into the room she used for all of her projects. Her easel sat in the corner, covered with dust. There was nothing in the sewing box, or hidden under her stash of old buttons. Then he turned and saw it: a shoe box tucked far back on the top of the bookshelf. He brought the step-stool, and carefully lifted it down.

Inside, packed tightly together, was a stack of index cards and miscellaneous bits of paper. His feeling of triumph was accompanied by a sinking sensation in his stomach. He hauled his find to his office.

For over an hour, he sat at his desk, unsure whether or not he dared read the love notes. But he had to, didn’t he? He owed himself that much. Finally, he poured himself a drink from the bottle of scotch he hid in his safe and rarely touched. After gulping half the glass, he returned to his desk with the bottle to carefully examine each slip. When he finished, he sat back, puzzled. Every single note was in his wife’s handwriting. He lined them up across his desk in the order he’d taken them out of the box and read them. The third one said: ack hubbie and Car for faith in me, lib for research. The rest formed a coherent thread.

He smacked his forehead. His wife was planning a novel! Was that why she seemed so happy? Could something creative, having nothing to do with sex, cause her skin to look ten years younger?

Carefully putting the box back together and returning it to its hiding place, he wasn’t sure if he was relieved or disappointed, but at least he knew one thing: this evening, he would ask her why she was so happy. Perhaps she would confess to the novel and his agony could end.

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