A Hell of a Year

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Well, friends, it's been a hell of a year, has it not?  We swore in a new president (may the powers that be keep him healthy, brave and clear-headed), trudged our way through the marshes of financial chaos and near collapse, saw a resurgence of environmental concern (can I get a hallelujah!), and gave up more of our young (and some old) to swine flu than we care to think about.  So here we are, at the end of the year, the end of a decade.  Many of us are standing very still, possibly in shock, wondering what in the hell that was all about.  Wow.  Hell of a year, my friends.  Hell of a year.

In microcosm, the people in my world, be they in my town or elsewhere, have seen more upheavals crammed into this one year than seems to be strictly normal.  I don't know what the astrologers or news casters will have to say to sum up 2009, but from what I've observed, it's been a long, hard haul all the way up the mountain.  Now we just need to remember why we came this way in the first place. 

There have been so many disappointments.  I have raged my own wars and found very little solace.  The cliché it's been an uphill battle is almost too weak to be truly apt.  I have seen people give up on life, give up on their dreams and their very own souls.  Thankfully, I have also seen people pushing and punching and cat-clawing their way out of their self-destructive holes, fighting for purchase, fighting for their figurative and sometimes literal lives.  The fighters have made me proud, so proud I've wanted to cheer right out loud (with tears in my eyes, aye).  The ones who seemed to have given up have left me with a deep sense of sorrow and pain, but they may find their way yet… they're still alive, and while one still breathes, there is always hope. 

So now, a sense of settling dust, a moment to catch our breath and reflect on what just happened. 

We're here.  We can say that much.  And many of us have fought the battle of our lives.  (So far.  It's never good to push Fate too far on that score.)

Of course, as a society, there's still much work to do.  There's always work to do to clean up after a big upheaval.  But at least the way is getting clearer.  What's next?  In simple terms – clean up our messes; learn the meanings of love thy neighbor, harm none, and whatever other tenants and morals you live by that will require you to stop and consider your next move before you make it; and know thyself.  It's time to refocus and renew our personal vows, those things we believe in beyond all else.  It's time to be true to what moves us and makes life worth living.  And to remember that while we still breathe, there's still hope.      

On that note, let’s raise our glasses and ring in the new decade.  To life.

Your Soul in Print

Friday, December 11, 2009


I've taken a bit of a break of late.  Life's been hectic and it's been easier to read the works of others than to use words of my own.  But hopefully my little mental reprieve is coming to an end. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm still reading, and plenty.  It's a happy addiction that I have no plans of curbing.  I've finally come to The Dark Tower, the final volume in Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, and it is every bit as enthralling as the rest.  Of course, having recently finished Song of Susannah (book VI of the series, ya' ken), I now understand more fully than ever before just how very personal this story is to King.  That realization (underlined, bolded and lit up with crimson neon) made my heart actually go out to this man whom I have never met but whose works I have been following for nigh on 17 years (not quite 19, but nearly, very nearly).  Because I get it.  At least I think I do.  I understand that these words we write, fictional or not, these are pieces of our souls, on paper and in print for the world to see and live vicariously through.  I get the compulsion – the feeling that you can't not write it down, write something, by the gods.  And I understand how painful the process can be – the mind-numbing task of getting it all out, of taking it from the concept that seemed to explode in your head one day down to written words on paper, and trying for all you're worth to get it perfect, to do the story justice, for God's sake.  All you can do is get the words down through your own fumbling human hands, filtered through your limited human experience and your never-completely-adequate vocabulary.  When it's big, when it matters to you, sitting down to the computer (or to the blank page with ink pen in hand) is like going to church or entering the sacred circle, performing your sacred duty, and giving thanks to your muse (or whatever you call the place where your inspiration comes from) while simultaneously hoping they picked the right schmuck to interpret this beautiful (or horrible or devastating or hilarious… in the end, they're all beautiful) tale. 

Sai King, if it's like this for you, if it is still, then I get it. 

And so I wander through my own wooded forest; a place strange and unfamiliar, where the landscape can change at a moment's notice and the light is tricky; the land of the unfinished story.  It's been slow going and may take another year yet just to get it all down, between the full time job and the mental dry spells, but what choice do I have?  As I said before, there's that compulsion, that inability to turn away from that fascinating shimmer that is your story, even when the going is hard and the visibility is nil.  It's got me, this one, so I'll keep plodding along until I find my way to the end. 

In the mean time, I have my blog to make note of my observations.  In the future, I'll try to be more consistent with my reports.  I hope you don't get too impatient.  When the mind wanders, it sometimes takes the scenic route back.

Bereavement Leave

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I know it's been too long since I last checked in.  I'm sorry for that.  A lot of life has been lived since September, a lot experienced and a lot observed.  It's almost too much for one report, but I'll try.

October has come and gone.  I had all these grand ideas of what to write in this report; the season of change, the crossing over from life to death, from summer to autumn, all so symbolic.  There are so many perspectives to take on these concepts, the possibilities seemed endless.  But Fate laughed and decided it would be best for me to live these as reality rather than give me the peace and quiet to sit and ponder them as concepts this year.

The first big change came when I found out that I'd have to postpone the move I'd been planning for the end of the month.  This was due to unforeseen complications with the renovation of a bathroom.  An old lead pipe (something my father and uncle are convinced doesn't exist inside the borders of our great nation) was nicked in the process of tearing out the sub floor.  This accident lead to the discovery that said ancient pipe had been slowly eroding away and was now near the end of its considerably long life.  All of the plumbing underneath the bathroom would have to be completely replaced.  Tack on an additional $1000 to the overall cost of this project, and I say thankya.  (And, yes, for those of you that recognize that little turn of phrase, I am still neck-deep in The Dark Tower series, ¾ of the way through Wolves of the Calla, if ya' kennit.)

Now, what was slated to be a Halloween move has turned into a post-Thanksgiving move, and we reserve the right to push that deadline to Yuletide.  Originally, I had hoped to be most of the way settled in by the time the big holidays hit, but Fate laughs, and there you are.  Silly humans and their "plans".

Okay, so I'm not moving as soon as I wanted.  That's all right, I can ride this wave.  I'm sure it's for the best, in the grand scheme of things (of which, I admit, I see so very little).

Then, a few weeks ago, I had the whisper of a feeling that I really should go visit my grandfather.  He'd been in a nursing home for the past year because he lost the use of his legs and grandma isn't strong enough to turn him or help him if he falls out of bed and no one's around.  I mentioned my feeling aloud to my beloved as we drove along toward someplace insignificant.  To this my beloved replied that, of course, if I felt that way, I should certainly pay grandpa a visit.

As the story goes (as it always seems to go), I did not go visit him.  I was too busy and too tired and it never seemed the right time.  Then, two week ago, I found out from my father that grandpa had been admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.  But, he was on the upswing.  Grandpa had pulled out of the worst of it and they were talking about letting him go back to the home in a day or two.  Good.  There's still time, though that feeling of being almost to the end, that feeling of inevitability, never left me.  I simply covered it up with this band aid of good news from my Da'.

Four days ago (this would be five days after I received the prior news) my cell phone rang while I was at work.  It was from a number I didn't recognize, but I answered it because my son was always calling me from his friends' cell phones – I haven't gotten him his own yet.  It wasn't my son.  It was my father.  I had forgotten he'd got a new cell number that I hadn't programmed into my phone yet.  And, again, as the story always seems to go, as soon as I heard his voice, I knew.  Time had run out.  I had ignored my intuition just long enough to render its message useless, and now I would never see my grandfather again. 

Since then, life has been like wandering through patchy fog.  There are bouts of emotion when the fog clears and everything is vivid and too real.  Those are the hard moments.  And then there's another patch of fog where you find yourself standing there, stalk-still, staring the countertop, the desk, the wall, only, until you came to, you weren't really seeing the object you were staring at.  You were just… staring, lost in complicated thoughts or no thoughts at all, feeling directionless.  It's like shock, but I don't know if that's what it is.  Can shock come and go like that?  I don't know.

My job gave me bereavement leave.  I took it – all two days of it.  I wanted to use the time to be there to help my family.  I thought maybe I could help with the arrangements or calling people or some other important task.  But my grandparents had already planned for this and my own parents had been taking care of them for so long, they already had a strategy.  All the arrangements were made.  The calls were done.  There wasn't much left to do. 

That's when I realized what a strange time it is, to be in your thirties.  My own parents are in their 50s and are still working too much and raising horses and taking care of their elders.  From that perspective, I'm still on the young end of the spectrum.  But from here, I have this feeling of responsibility, like I should be taking care of things, I should shoulder some of the weight when big stuff like this happens.  And then I find I'm not quite needed in that capacity yet. 

At first, this realization bothered me.  I felt useless and lost.  I kept these feelings to myself, however, and ported my energy into making breakfast muffins and date bars for the out-of-towners that would be populating my parents' home over the next several days.  The muffins and bars were whole grain things, a bit heavier than their white flour counterparts, and I wasn't sure anyone would like them.  But I had intended them to be real sustenance in the guise of comfort food and possibly an easy grab-n-go breakfast for the morning of the funeral.  It was the best I could come up with, given the circumstances, as I sat in the aftermath of my realization of how little was left to be done, staring at my kitchen counter through my current patch of fog, thinking, "What do people do for funerals?  … food.  They bring food."
I met with family members I hadn't seen in years and reacquainted myself with cousins I barely knew, since we had all grown up in different states.  I watched my father and his brothers and my grandmother grieve, and I did some grieving myself.  I had never seen my father sob before.  It broke whatever steel my brother and I thought we had.  And through it all, my perspective changed, as new wisdom will do to us now and then, and I found myself feeling grateful that there had been nothing more for me to do than to bake some well-intended muffins and talk and share with family.  It is not yet my time to take care of my family at large.  I'm still one of "the kids" and I my responsibility is to my own household.  My parents are still young and still strong and still taking care of business.  I am grateful for this, and I am also so proud of them, for the strength they've shown over these past several years as they took up the torch to care of their own parents when their parents needed them most.  It is through this example of honor and love that I and the rest of my generation learn to stand and be strong for the long haul.  Because of them, we will be able to take our turn when the time comes, and do the honorable thing – to be there for them and show them all the love and respect that they have earned.

So, again, I apologize for my recent bout of silence, but as you can see, the season of change wasn’t about to let me off the hook this year.  Of course, I’m still in the middle of it, but I’m hoping the worst of it has passed… for now.  But, if not, I’m sure there will be a reason.  Someone I once knew used to ask at times like this, “Well, did you learn anything, Dorothy?” (presumably referring to the Dorothy that found herself in Oz).  Yes.  I’ve learned to appreciate now.  The present is such a fleeting thing.

September Reading List

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Here is a short reading list to occupy your minds with as the seasons make their shift. These are transitional books that seem to me to have the appropriate vibe for moving from the end of trustworthy, nurturing summer into that mystical changeling, autumn. If you read any of these, I would love to hear your take on whichever landscape(s) you chose to wander into. Some of these stories are old friends that I know and remember well. Some I haven't read in years and should probably pay another visit to. But all of them are books that I remember with a sort of fascinated but uncomfortable fondness. Transitions are never easy.

Till We Have Faces
by C.S. Lewis: This is C.S. Lewis's adaptation of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, told from the perspective of Psyche's sister. A mere 324 pages, this achingly beautiful book is worth savoring every last syllable.

The Talisman
by Stephen King and Peter Straub: This is the story of Jack Sawyer, a unique individual capable of traveling between two worlds, and his quest to find the talisman that will save his mother's life. You will fall in love with the characters and be swept into an adventure to rival the quest for the Ring. Though quite a bit longer than my previous recommendation, it will keep you turning pages well into the night and wishing it would never end. It's no secret that I am a Stephen King fan, but this is, hands down, one of my all time favorites.

Watership Down by Richard Adams: If you were forced to read this in school, you likely were loathe to pick it up and then were won over by the end of the first chapter. I was lucky enough to have this book recommended to me by a family member whose taste I trusted and respected, rather than a high school English teacher, so I came to this book with an open mind. Yes, this is a book whose entire cast is made up of rabbits. No, I would not consider this a children's book in any sense of the word. It is dark and powerful and at times terribly frightening. There are psychological twists and turns that are a little too disturbingly human for comfort. Just trust me on this one, you will not be disappointed.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig: This is one of those life-changing books that any sentient creature needs to read, and probably more than once. I won't lie to you, it gets rather heady at times and there are sections when you'll wonder if you should take a philosophy class to understand what the narrator is talking about. My advice is to keep reading. You'll get it. Just give yourself a chance. There is a solid storyline that's interesting enough to keep you moving through the heavier narratives, and every little piece of information you get as you go along is a piece in the overall puzzle. Don't be scared. I promise, you're smarter than you think. ;)

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson: This collection of short stories is by one of the most unique authors I've ever read. The title piece, The Lottery was first published in 1948 in The New Yorker and caused such an uproar that many people cancelled their subscriptions and the magazine received hate mail for months after. Since then, however, this little short story has received such critical acclaim as to render it a classic. In case you've never read The Lottery, I won't say much about it here. You really should read it "blind" (without knowing anything about it) for the first time. But I can tell you that Shirley Jackson is a master storyteller and has a tendency to write about deceptively simple scenarios that seem just slightly askew, like walking into a room where the floor is just barely slanted. The stories in this collection all have a kind of disquiet that you can't quite put your finger on that seems to me to be perfectly paired with this time of year; the way the light shifts and the days begin to wane and the certain something in the air that is truly only perceptible to the more subtle senses, primarily the sixth.

Summer's End

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


It’s the first day of September and, although I know that fall is still a few weeks off, I can already feel it coming. The air has changed, have you noticed? And the light is dimmer now, more like a warming glow, instead of the brash bright heat we’ve been subjected to for the last few months. Summer is finally starting to wind down.

When I turned the page on my calendar today, I was greeted by a gorgeous photo of aspen trees in Colorado showing off their golden autumn dress. Here in the Bible Belt, the time for donning our fall colors isn’t due for a good month or so, but the sight of that photo made me smile and dream of the gilded yawn of summer before it drifts off to sleep.

The air outside is a bit crisper than usual for this time of year, and I suppose that, too, has influenced my change-of-season musings. All the flurry of back-to-school madness has calmed and there’s a little more time to stop and think; and to plan, of course, because to be too idle, even now, is a grave mistake. This is the calm before the storm. This is the time to be meticulous and set things in order. The holidays are right around the corner, and they show no mercy to harried, unprepared humans running amok in their attempts to complete all the promises they’ve made to themselves.

I think this year I will breathe it in. I will make myself slow down and appreciate the change in the light, the subtle drifts of the temperatures from warm to cold. And this month, as I plan and sort and hustle away the summertime goodies and prepare for the colder months like a squirrel, I will say goodbye to summer properly for the first time in ages. I admit, it has never been my favorite season, bringing on bouts of complaining come July and August of too much heat, too many bugs, too much bright light. And, when it’s all said and done, I have always left it so rudely, working right along into fall and winter, with barely a glance at its passing. But summer warms the bones and ripens the fruit and it isn’t right what little appreciation I’ve shown. It’s time to make amends and give this sunny, bountiful season some credit before it’s gone. Perhaps summer and I will be on better terms next year if I do.

Journey Through The Waste Lands

Friday, August 21, 2009

Well, friends, I have decided to delve back into Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. It's been years since I left Roland and his friends sitting by a beach at the end of Book 2, The Drawing of the Three, and it's high time I met back up with them. I fell into King's dark and wonderous imaginings in my early teens and became a firmly dedicated fan halfway through the pages of the first book I picked up. My first King experience was It, followed closely by The Tommyknockers, which I finished weeks before the made-for-TV-movie came out. The Tommyknockers was my introduction to the shock of falling in love with a novel and then seeing its watered-down and sometimes completely altered interpretation in visual form. Suffice it to say, I spent a large chunk of the movie yelling at my television set, saying things like, “What the *&%^ do you mean you thought you lost her??!! You did lose her! She’s supposed to be DEAD!” And, for the record, yes, I had seen the movie version of It previously and loved it. The only explanation I have for this is that I saw the movie before I read the book. By the time I got the opportunity to read The Stand, unabridged, mind you, I remember being on an impromptu road trip taken under duress and sporting a magnificently congestion-heavy summer cold. By the end of the first chapter I was convinced that I would be responsible for the demise of the human race. Good times.

I started reading The Dark Tower series within a year of having my mind blown by The Stand, and loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, that complicated and fickle lady, Life, got in my way and threw me some curves, causing an abandonment of this great work that I have no good excuse for. Therefore, I am now jumping back on that horse I rode in on. I have successfully re-read The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three and am now just about halfway through The Waste Lands, which, of course, is what I came to report on.

This leg of the gunslinger’s journey is quickly becoming my favorite thus far. The landscape is beautiful and terrible and the story is full of enough ka to quicken my breath and keep me turning the pages. The characters, as always, are living, breathing creatures that you can very nearly touch. King’s flair for the epic is wonderful to behold. And, my fellow sentients, I can confirm that this portrayal of the human spirit and the human psyche is nothing short of spot-on.

In this volume, Roland of Gilead says to his two companions, “The quickest way to learn about a new place is to know what it dreams of.” If the gunslinger is correct, then this dream, which ultimately comes from our world via Mr. King, shows our existence as a shadowy, magical place full of the yearning for truth and the unbreakable (though admittedly elastic and oft times crudely knotted) bonds of love. Of course, I am still wandering through this dream and things in Mr. King’s dreams are always apt to change. I’ll let you know if my mid-book impressions still hold true at its conclusion.

Weekly Observance

Friday, August 7, 2009


It’s been a good week, all in all, and I’m ready to start the weekend. There have been a lot of interesting things I’ve noticed and learned. Being alive in this realm is, as always, an interesting endeavor, and each thing I see or perceive is added to the collage of I. Here are this week’s findings.

1. The Power of Perception – It shouldn’t be news to anyone anymore – countless philosophers, psychologists and enlightened souls have told us this time and again, and yet, it seems that still people have no idea the power they have over their own world views. It is very simple – your life is what you believe it to be. It is up to you whether or not you enjoy being human and walking around on this plane of existence. So many tired old sayings could be quoted here – If life gives you lemons, make lemonade… Such clichés are the adages of our world. But what is truly amazing is that so few people seem to take them seriously. Why do we ask “why me?” Why are we so quick to lay blame for our troubles? There is no such thing as a bad life. There is only how you live it. It doesn’t take a saint to enjoy life when you hit some snags in the road. It only takes a shift in perspective. I have seen more miserable ‘privileged’ people than I care to think about. And I have met and known some positively sunny individuals that many would say got the wrong end of the stick. The difference was in their perception of what it was to be alive, and whether they recognized that they were alive at all. There are trials in every life, some big, some small, most of them immeasurable by any standard but the individual’s, but these do not have to make you bitter and resentful. There’s no need to ask “why is this happening to me?” It is, it will, and it has. It is life. And life is both blissful and painful, but without these extremes you couldn’t appreciate or respect either one. Next time around, if you don’t like it, stay home. But in the mean time, deal with it and be quiet. The rest of us are trying to learn something.

2. The Beauty of Being Alone – It’s good to be alone sometimes. To be alone with one’s own thoughts, when no one needs you, no one is talking, and you’re perfectly content to just be silent, existing in this moment of temporary freedom from aural, mental and physical connection to another. The feeling is incomparable. Try it some time. You may be surprised at just how much you’ve missed yourself.

3. Get Up Earlier – I am one of those snooze button people that get up at the last possible minute, but I have learned that this little habit is ruining my life. And I know why. It is very hard to have a positive outlook on your world when you’ve forced yourself to have to move ten times faster than is strictly natural as soon as you get out of bed. So I am teaching myself to get up earlier, whether I feel like it or not. By doing this, I will avoid being late, I will lower my chances of forgetting something on my way out the door, and the world will not look like such a cruel beast with all its sunlight and brash optimism. Maybe, with practice, I might start to enjoy mornings. Either way, the rest of humanity should not have to suffer just because I sabotaged my outlook before the day’s even begun.

4. The Haze Makes the Viewing Hard – No matter how hard I try to see clearly and understand my world and my existence, the viewing is never easy. There’s this haze, you see, created by my emotions and my preconceived notions. I have learned that we all have a haze, and the haze is thick. It is deceiving and tricky. I am learning to tread lightly and pause between steps, both hands out in front, in an attempt to navigate the confusion before making judgments or knee-jerk reactions. Most of the time it takes a second or third look before we can really know what we’re looking at. And even then, sometimes in the haze, things can change.

A Room of One's Own

Wednesday, August 5, 2009



Ah, the writing life. To spend hours creating spectacular prose about interesting characters with grand adventures. To sit at a coffee shop, idly drinking your café mocha and daydreaming about your next big scene. You are completely immersed in the fictional world you have created, and nothing can take you away from it.

And then there’s writing for the rest of us, for the real world. If your life is anything like mine, you’re working a full time job, carting the kids back and forth to school and band practice and soccer, trying to figure out (at 6:30 in the evening) what to make for dinner while the washing machine is going and you’re yelling and Kaylie or Carson to pick up their rooms if they want any time to play Wii! You finally get the kiddies off to bed by 9:30 (if you’re lucky… and they really should have been in bed by 9…). Okay, you’ve got an hour, maybe an hour and a half to get some writing done if you want to get enough sleep tonight. You turn on your computer and sit and stare at a blank document, waiting for the words to come. But, for some reason, the only thing you can seem to think about is that Kaylie has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, so there goes your lunch hour. And did you call back that client? Did you mail that letter? Did you set out the meat to thaw for tomorrow night? The next thing you know, it’s 10:30 and you haven’t written a thing. You consider, in that moment, just hanging up your dreams. Life just doesn’t have room for you to be a writer.

What you need, friends and interested parties, is head space. You need to be able to shut out the mental clatter and walk into your mental writing room, that place where you are surrounded by nothing but the landscape of your current creative pursuit. Here are some tips that have helped me.


One of the biggest challenges to concentration comes in the form of what you hear. If you are a person who needs to block out the audio world around you in order to concentrate (or even if you just need something auditory to fixate on), here are some things you can do:

1. Music – Put on some head phones or crank the stereo to the preferred volume. Listen to music that puts you in the vibe of the mental landscape you’re trying to tap into. You can create a soundtrack on your mp3 player or computer that goes with your current story or scene. At the very least, choose music that fades nicely into your mental background. Unless you don’t mind constant commercial breaks and DJ chatter, I would recommend NOT tuning in your favorite radio station. Save the talk radio for those times when you’re looking for something else to talk about, not when you’re trying to form your own words.

2. White Noise – If music is too distracting or you can’t find the right kind, there’s always white noise. Turn on a fan or set your old TV set to static. This may also be a good time to start some clothes or dishes washing – you get some chores done and the appliances create a nice soothing whir for you to create by.

3. Cut Distractions – If possible, take the phone off the hook, turn off the TV (or go into a room where other family members aren’t watching TV) and let everyone know that it is writing time now, and you need to be left alone unless someone’s bleeding or something broke. Also, log off the Internet. This is no time to be checking e-mail or looking up that little factoid. If you come across some detail you need to check, write it down on a piece of paper and do your research later. Tell yourself you are writing now, nothing else. Not writing out character sheets or researching or plotting your story. There are other times for that. Not now.


Another way to get yourself in the zone, so to speak, is to be selective with what you see. Sure, you’ve got the four walls around you and the various items around your home, but you can choose certain inspirational pieces to focus on to make going from scattered to focused much easier.

1. Put up pictures or pieces of art, cut out of magazines or where ever you find them, around your writing area. If you find an image that strikes a particular chord with your story, keep it handy, either displayed in constant view in your writing area, or taped to the cover of the notebook you're working in so you can grab it whenever you need.

2. Choose a desktop that inspires you so that you’ll see it as soon as you turn on your computer.

3. Get away for awhile – If you’re blessed to have a long enough break that you can actually have a couple of hours to yourself, a change of scenery may be just what you need. Go to your favorite coffee shop, diner or a park if it’s nice outside. Take whatever inspirational elements you need (your mp3 player, that picture of the ocean, etc.) to get you in your groove.

Brain Storming

When it’s time to write, it’s time to write, but what about the rest of the time? Learn to take advantage of the little moments to brainstorm and develop what you’re working on.

1. Keep paper and working pen on hand at all times. You never know when an idea will hit you, but if you have something to write with, you’ll be ready.

2. Write down your stressors. If your head is full of your to-do list and things you’re worried about, you won’t have the ability to think creatively. You need your head space for your creative pursuits.

3. Brain storm while you:

- Exercise
- Take a walk
- Drive your morning and evening commute to work
- Do housework
- Before you go to sleep – sometimes the mind can come up with some pretty interesting material while you dream.

Whatever you do, don’t tell yourself it’s impossible, that you’re too stressed or you’re too busy. If this is important to you, it can be done. Don’t accept any other reality.

The Problem With Money

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I've been thinking a lot about money lately. I read a news story today about a guy who lives in a cave right here in the United States of America, has been doing so for a few years now, and doesn't work for a paycheck or owe anyone anything. He just... lives. I'm not saying I want to live in a cave, but I must admit I was inspired.

So, why do we feel so tied to this mystical method of exchange? We like what money can buy and feel that we NEED money to make us happy, healthy and whole. When we get bored or feel down, what do we do? We buy something - go see a movie, buy a new CD, get some new clothes that make us look the way we want to look. But how much of this do we really need? Obviously there are the basic essentials - healthy food, basic clothing, basic shelter, and necessary health care. These essentials are largely taken for granted here in this great nation of ours, essentials that a shamefully large portion of the human population that covers the globe go without. But, we go about our daily American lives, drinking our clean, nearly free tap water, or guzzling gallons of filtered or spring water that comes prepackaged in convenient little 20 oz. bottles that we either, if we are at all conscious of the impact we have on our world, recycle, or we throw in the trash to be shuffled off with the billions of other discarded food containers to the local land fill. Whatever, we (the consumer) never see it again, so what does it matter to us? But, back to money (before I get on my environmental soap box - there will be more of that later).

If we look at the amount of debt most of us carry, and then look at what we're actually spending, we will quickly begin to see (if we let ourselves - if we remain conscious) that we are using money like an emotional band-aid. There's no end to the madness. If I'm feeling depressed about how much money I've spent in the past month, what better way to cheer myself up than to buy myself a ticket to the movies or a nice dinner or maybe just a little thing... a cheap pair of earrings, a cheap book, a cheap candybar. Because there's plenty of 'cheap' to go around, isn't there? If I'm feeling good and want to celebrate I'll treat myself to a $5.00 latte and maybe a nice lunch. If I'm feeling frazzled and stressed about time and money and work and family life and everything else, well I'd better drive through for lunch because I don't have time for anything else. There's another $6 to $10 just for one person. And what if I don't actually have the money to pay for these things? Well... I've got plastic. I can charge my Visa or Mastercard and pay for it later... with interest... but whatever, because I got what I wanted NOW, and that's really the magic word in this society, isn't it? NOW.

So, I've decided to stop the madness and look for a better way to live. I know there's got to be one. I'm not claiming to know exactly how to get out of this downward instant gratification spiral yet - I think it has something to do with emotional awareness, a concept very dear to my heart. I've read a few books, considered their information, and put them back down again. But I think I might pick them back up. Because maybe I don't need that new ipod NOW. Maybe I can wait until I've saved up the money... and maybe by then I won't even want it anymore.

I'd like to recommend the following two books on the topic.

The first is "Your Money or Your Life" by Joe Dominguez, Vicki Robin and Monique Tilford. It's a very informative and refreshing book, and definitely worth the read for anyone still swimming in the economic flow and wishing they had a little more control and a little more choice.

The other is called "The Scavengers' Manifesto" by Anneli Rufus and Kristen Lawson. This one's good for anyone - whether you're participating in the economic flow or not. Full of economic and environmental philosophy, it will have you taking another look at the grand scheme of things and rethinking your place in it.

So, I'm going to start counting my pennies. The goal is to be more aware of my own spending habits and the impact that has on my life and my world. Can I be free of debt and free to lead the life I truly want instead of just "getting by"? Perhaps. At the very least, I can be more conscious.

Break Out the Exploding Snaps!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I told myself I wasn’t going to freak out, that I was going to be mature about this. After all, it’s just another day. But…. IT’S HERE! IT’S HERE! IT’S FINALLY HERE!!!!!!!

Yes, friends, today is the day, the day thousands of people have been waiting months and months and, wait … a few more months… for – the American release of Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince in theaters across the country. And everywhere, Harry Potter fans, not least of all yours truly, are celebrating and all but bursting with anticipation. Of course, as fate would have it, yours truly will not be watching this most excellent of films until sometime this weekend. Sigh. Nevertheless, it is cause for excitement just knowing that at midnight tonight I could, if Fate were kinder and I so chose, if I had things my way (no singing, please), stand in line at my local theater, throw down my $8.50 and see the movie for the first time in its final and polished entirety. No more trolling the internet for any trailer or bit of HBP rumor info I can find. No more wringing of hands, watching the countdown to movie time and going, “Oh please, are we there yet?” No, friends. We have arrived.

So, in honor of this blessed event, I raise my butterbeer to JK Rowling, mastermind and seamstress of this incredible tail. And to Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, thanks for being a stand-up guy, Harry, with your moral fiber and your “saving people thing”. The world needs more Harry Potters – people who stand up for what they believe in and aren’t afraid to explore the possibilities. Today my blog is dedicated to you. Today we celebrate!

If you’re not a Harry Potter fan, sorry, I just couldn’t help it. In the immortal words of the great Arthur Weasley, “We can’t resist showing off when we get together.” If you are a Potter fan, you get it.

Now I leave you all with a little video that has been the source of hours of fascination and entertainment for many of my Potter-lovin’ friends.


Suck It Up

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Another day in paradise, and I gotta' say, the spark isn't really finding me lately. It's been much like swimming through mud and pushing myself to keep moving forward. Too much summer heat, too many things in the schedule to keep track of, too much clutter in the old noggin. Occasionally, I catch one of those little glimpses of... something... but it usually ends up being the mental equivalent of seeing what you're just sure was a great snowy owl soaring past, only to find it's a plastic grocery sack floating through the air. Ugh.

So, Muse, what gives? Are you taking a break? On strike? Did ya' think you might mention you were going to check out before you just left me hanging here? Oh, the frustration.

Of course, if I were talking to me (as, I suppose, I am) I would tell myself to grab a cup of coffee, throw on some Vast or some Coldplay (depending on how far into my no-inspiration-havin'-funk I am at the moment) and get to crackin'. Write something, sing along to the music, close your eyes and just zone out for awhile. But whatever you do, don't sit there and whine about how mentally clogged you feel. Suck it up. Your Self is waiting.

Yeah... that being said, I think I'm going to go take a walk now and bask in this July heat, see what speaks to me. Or maybe I'll just sit in the A/C and read. Half Blood Prince is coming out tomorrow, so I've got some Potter to re-catch up on. Mmm... iced tea and Potter... that just might be the perfect reset button.

Prelude: First Impressions

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I have called this little space "Notes from a Sentient Observer", and, being a sentient creature, I will attempt to use my consciousness conscientiously. I believe there is a big responsibility in being a free-thinking individual. How we choose to think and express ourselves adds or detracts from the human tapestry. We learn from each other, absorb each other's opinions and color our individual worlds often times with borrowed crayons. It is true that every living creature is unique in its essence, but none of us are independently us.

We are what we read, who we know, what we listen to and what we see. Our sensory diet is made up of the world around us, which is constantly consumed to feed the vast and endless universes within us. And yet, once the information is consumed, we have the opportunity to decide what to do with it. Do we adopt it as truth? File it under "Useless Information"? Do we reject it entirely? Or will we mull it over for awhile, running it through our impressively complex internal networks of checks and balances, translations and emotional impressions? And, once the information has been sorted and assimilated, how will it affect our daily life and our reactions to the next piece of information?

This is where conscience comes in. If we are to be responsible sentient beings, we must be willing to consider how our reactions and ravings might affect the person standing next to us. Or, indeed, how we might be affecting the greater human tapestry and the universe on which we depend.

It is in the spirit of conscientious consciousness that I will forge ahead, striving ever to be inspiring, entertaining and enlightening wherever possible. These will be musings from my own sentient mind, my human reaction to those things I perceive to be important or interesting. It will never be my intention to offend or disturb, only to share perspective and encourage conscious thought. I will trust you, my fellow sentient, to take responsibility for your own mind. Until the next impression...