A bohemian antidote to drama and negative vibes

JOY

Last week my creative writing students were working from Julia Cameron’s book The Right to Write. After we read her chapter on the “drama” in our lives, we jumped into the initiation activity—finding an antidote to life’s drama that robs us from the freedom to enjoy our creativity.

Cameron suggested we spend thirty minutes composing a list of 100 things we love. Focusing on the positive raises our spirits. When we feel good, our productivity increases.

We had so much fun with the activity that one of my students suggested we transfer the list to our blogs. A list of 100 may be a bit much for our readers to sort through, so I suggested we focus on our Top Ten or Top Twenty.

My students inspired me to share my own list, so here it goes. I encourage you to add your own list to the comments, or maybe share a few comments about common interests we share.

Whatever the case, let’s take a moment to be thankful for the things we love.

MY LIST OF LOVES

Of course, God, family, and friends take top priority as the focus of the true definition of love, so my list includes the things that I love in a sense that they just make me happy. Happy is a good thing.

  1. In-depth conversations with my cat, Stevie Ray
  2. Going on road trips in my blue Mustang, named Elvis
  3. My close relationship with my Takamine guitar
  4. My telecaster, a guitar that changed everything
  5. Bohemian clothing, jewelry, and home furnishings
  6. Fire (candles, fireplaces, bonfires, campfires, performance art with fire and hula hoops)
  7. Candles with different scents for different moods
  8. Mosaics in rugs, jewelry, furniture, art
  9. Celtic music and art
  10. Spontaneous adventures to new places
  11. People watching
  12. Coffee shops
  13. Beale Street in Memphis
  14. Ghost walks and history tours
  15. Watching the sunrise
  16. Taking pictures of mushrooms
  17. Interpreting dreams
  18. The taste of lime
  19. Pumpkins (and pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin scones and pumpkin bread and pumpkin candles)
  20. Moonlight

Why do they do what they do?

why

Whenever Taylor Swift has a bad break up, she puts the poor guy in a song.

I taunt my friends and tell them to watch out. I won’t put them in a song; I’ll write a whole book about them.

Uh, wrong. I could never do that. I’m a keeper of secrets. I’d make a terrible member of the paparazzi. I don’t like intruding. I don’t like airing people’s dirty laundry. I live by the journalistic principal “Do no harm.”

But, yeah, if your path crosses mine, you might end up as a character (or part of a character) in one of my manuscripts, but I would never reveal the secret of your identity, not unless you wanted me to–or unless you are already famous. Then you’re fair game.

Right now I have two manuscripts under my belt, and, yes, I deliberately modeled the characters after people who have stepped into my life. Of course, the names have been changed to protect the innocent. And I doubt these people will ever know the influence they made.

I named one minor character after a server at Red Robin, and I don’t remember why. Maybe I liked his name. Maybe not. Maybe it was just because I was really hungry at the time, and Red Robin has the most amazing onion rings. I am a magnet, I draw stories from people, people I don’t know. Maybe he told a cool story.

One of my characters in one of my manuscripts is based on Little Richard, yes, THAT Little Richard. The famous one–thus, the revelation of his identity.

I don’t know why. I guess his humbleness and gentleness touched my life second hand. He met my parents and was so kind to them that I’ll never forget how pleased they were to tell the story.

And, yes, Little Richard, is one of those celebrities I have chosen to pursue. Notice I didn’t say stalk. He lives close to me, but he’s so far away. Other people run into him all the time. But I don’t. Why not me? Why not me?

Maybe I would scare him. I don’t know. I do believe people’s paths cross for a reason. Maybe they don’t cross for a reason. God wrote the story. He knows.

I love analyzing people. Every person has a story, and an enticing motive makes a great story.

I’m also into pop psychology. I stumbled upon a theory of  the German-American psychoanalyst Erich Fromm. It’s referred to as “character orientation.” Influenced by Freudian ideologies, Fromm asserted people have specific character traits which serve as powerful forces that guide their behavior and motive.

And people aren’t even consciously aware of them.

As a writer and a reader, I spend a great deal of time getting to know characters. I have to believe them in order to trust them. I have to trust them in order to like them. If I don’t like them, I won’t read the book. And, of course, if I don’t like my own characters, there’s no point in writing the story unless my protagonists win and the ones I don’t like get what’s coming to them. Is it okay to seek to revel in revenge if the plot is made up? I think so. I’m not vengeful in person.

But back to the personality analyses, psychologists have determined there are twenty-four character traits that fall under six categories, which are referred to as virtues. Four of these are nonproductive, the other two productive.

Remember if you are writing a book, you want to write it true, so you should make sure that your characters act true to their natures. If we go with Fromm’s research, our characters’ should fall within these parameters. If they do something uncharacteristic, then we should analyze their motives.

HEROS

The following are considering nonproductive orientation characteristics. Think character flaws or antagonist traits:

  • Receptive Orientation Characters
    Wait passively for others to provide them with things they need
    Want others to provide them with love and attention and are reluctant to give these things away
    Lose loved ones because they have a hard time talking about their feelings or troubles
    Have a hard time letting go of past issues
    See minor or trivial conflicts as a conflict to their security with a loved one
    Lack creativity–REALLY lack creativity
    Are quiet
    Have a difficult time making decisions
    Lack confidence in their own abilities
  • Exploitative Orientation Characters
    Take whatever they want when they want it
    Do whatever they can to get whatever they want
    Have no qualms about stealing or taking something from someone else, even if they have no real desire for it
    Manipulate others
    Hate those they manipulate but rely on them but also hate themselves
    Love to lead and live in the ruling class
  • Hoarding Orientation Characters
    Save whatever they have
    Hold back their opinions
    Hold back their feelings
    Hold back their possessions
    Grasp and refuse to let go of love, power, or other people’s time
    Desire order
  • Marketing Orientation Characters
    View themselves as commodities
    Think they can sell their themselves based on their good qualities
    Possess very few positive qualities
    Are typically empty souls
    Choose mates on a commodity basis
  • Necrophilia Orientation Characters
    Love death
    Possesses passion to tear apart living things
    Destroy for the sake of destruction
    See no hope

The following are considered productive orientation characteristics. Think protagonist traits or redeeming qualities of conflicting characters:

  • “The Person Without a Mask” Orientation Characters — (Fromm came up with this title.)
    Accept freedom
    Accept responsibility
    Come from a family that loves
    Prefer reason to rules
    Prefer freedom to conformity
    Have learned to become one with the world
    Love all

So how long did it take you to shift from your character to yourself? Stop. Don’t do it. The story is NOT ABOUT YOU! Likewise, as you are writing, remember that your character is not YOU, and your character’s motives aren’t necessarily the same as your own.

Let’s be honest. Did you ditch your character and start analyzing yourself? Yeah, me too.

I thought I had myself all figured out. But then I took an online test based on character orientation. The first test I took said I possessed “hoarding orientation.” Ouch. I do desire order. I don’t like letting go of people I love. I took another test, and it said I possessed “receptive orientation.” Worse–I’m quiet, passive, insecure, and non-creative. Non-creative? BIG TIME OUCH!

Who believes these test anyway?

My suggestion? Stick to using these tests–for now–to analyze your characters, not yourself. Otherwise, you’ll be drawn away from what matters right now–your writing. We writers are neurotic already. We don’t need anything else negative to self analyze.

Oh the crazy things we do.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE
Choose either your own character or a character from your favorite book. Take one of the tests below and answer each question as your character would answer it–not yourself. This exercise is great practice to help you see through the eyes of a character.

WORDS OF WISDOM
“I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts.”  ~  John Locke

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.”  ~ James 3:13

“If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.”  ~  Mother Teresa

MUSIC NOTES
“A long, long time ago / I can still remember how that music used to make me smile / And I knew if I had my chance / That I could make those people dance / And maybe they’d be happy for a while”

LOOK AND SEE SERENDIPITEE
Which of Erich Fromm’s Personality Orientations are you?
http://quizfarm.com/quizzes/new/DeanFS/which-of-erich-fromms-personality-orientations-are-you/

Fromm’s Orientation Test
http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/frommtest.html

FINAL THOUGHTS

ChickensMotives

How do I?

follow,your,heart,free,heart,love,quote,freed-3f29078a80bf0a4dac642d73cb7e5ea3_h_large

I have this idea for ____, but I don’t know how to get started.

Fill in the blank. What word comes to mind? Book? Story? Song? Magazine article?

I get this question all the time. As a people cheerleader, let me offer you a bit of advice. Realize you are not alone. Everyone who has ever felt the passion to create feels both the spark and the hesitation. It’s up to you, however, to decide how serious you are about your “idea.”

I didn’t realize I wanted to be a writer—or could be a writer—until my college professor asked to publish one of my papers in a professional journal. Even then, it wasn’t until years later that I started pursuing writing. Even then, it wasn’t until NOW that I finally realized that, yes, that idea to write CAN become a reality.

But it won’t be easy. Then again, nobody ever said it would be easy.

If you are REALLY serious about idea, read the Ten Rules for Getting Started and FOLLOW them.

  1. Don’t dwell on things that are not meant to be. Why bother talking about your idea if you aren’t serious about pursuing it? Almost everyone has dreamed of getting  rich from writing the great American novel, but few people are willing to sacrifice to make it happen. This dream doesn’t come easy.
  2. Sacrifice is a real word, by the way.  We can all talk about writing, but bottom line, we have to do it. The task is not as easy as dreamers make it out to be. Only those who want it badly enough will finish what they start.
  3. Accept the fact that your first attempt is what it is—a first attempt. You may show potential, but still have a lot to learn. There is no room for arrogance for beginners. I have witnessed novices slam  seasoned writers for giving them an honest critique. Mission to write? Terminated. No one wants to help a know It all.
  4. Once you have accepted the fact you have a lot to learn, go learn! Start by reading EVERYTHING. Pay attention to the style. Don’t read for entertainment. Read to fill your mind with thoughts that may someday inspire you.
  5. Do not expect favors. Your chances of an editor handing you a publishing contract as a favor are about the same odds as Ellen or Oprah giving you a million bucks. Expect to pay your dues.
  6. Play up. When I played softball, I had the opportunity to play on the older girls’ team. What’s so important about that? I had to either keep up or sit on the bench. I certainly was not the star, but I had to opportunity to learn from people better than I was.
  7. Accept the fact that if you don’t write you will probably never be fully happy. Writers simply cannot NOT write. Recognize your passion and find ways to satisfy it.
  8. Start small. I hear many beginners complain about not getting paid. Again, expect to pay your dues before you can cash in on your talent. Your paycheck is called a BYLINE, your name in print by what you have written.
  9. Take it to the next level. There will come a time when, YES, you need to leave behind the free writing gigs. Otherwise, you will put all your time into efforts that will not pay off. Once you have a few clips (samples of your writing), you can move on to paying jobs.
  10. Pray. If it is meant to be, if it is your passion, if you cannot NOT do it, then God probably put the desire in your heart. Listen for answers, and then do what you have to do.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE
Be honest with yourself. If this idea is real, do something about it. If not, you don’t want to make the necessary sacrifices, move on to another hobby.

WORDS OF WISDOM
Follow your heart and raise your standards, or you’ll never get what you truly want or need.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

MUSIC NOTES

So give it your best, and don’t worry about what some may say / Follow your dreams. It’s really all that you can do. / And give it your best and remember that life is what you choose / Go on, follow your dreams and do it, follow your dreams and do it. / Follow your dreams and do what you love to do.  ~  “Follow Your Dreams” by Poco

LOOK AND SEE CYBER SERENDIPITEE
http://www.rachellegardner.com/2011/02/how-to-get-published/

FINAL THOUGHT

collide

Conundrum of creativity

creative life

A conundrum, dear friends, is a dilemma, or in more complicated terms, a “paradoxical insoluble,” a  “logical postulation that evades resolution.” I’ve been evading resolution as long as I can remember. A conundrum is what I am and a conundrum forever I shall be.

So may it be with you.

I can’t help but think of Jamaica Kincaid’s short story, “Girl,” when I think about my life. “Girl” is a very long monologue that is a very short story, and while it seems to be from the mother’s point of view, I can hear Girl’s voice, speaking the words like her mama and seeing herself as she thinks her mama sees her.

Do all people, especially creative people, in moments of doubt, see themselves like that? Like characters in somebody’s else’s story? Reading the prescribed script? Playing the expected role?

Like Girl, I know the rules, when to do what and where. But I don’t hear my voice. I hear somebody else’s monologue. Don’t sing benna. Don’t play like a boy. Don’t pick people’s flowers.

There’s a part of me that wants to push past my fears to break the rules and to spit into the wind. But my fears won’t let me. Thus, resolution I can never find.

When my daddy was a little boy, his dog, a family pet, turned on him. Turns out, the dog had rabies, and the little boy who became my father had to go through rounds of shots in his stomach. And because of that bad experience, both my daddy and my mama warned me about ALL the dangers in the world.

And I listened, taking every precaution to avoid ANYTHING that could cause me harm.

I continue to listen. I’m very, very cautious. But creative people have a spirit within them that’s like a tornado. How can you tell the wind not to roar? The sun not to shine? The flowers not to bloom?

I grew up on the outskirts of town near a stock market where animals were bought and sold. My greatest desire as a little kid was to own a horse, and when one escaped from the market, I believed destiny had brought it to my door, or in this case, my backyard.

I remember it so well. My mama was literally hiding behind a tarnished picket fence, holding back the neighbor boy she used to babysit, and screaming at me, “Get back! Stay away!” And I was trying to catch it. I saw no dangers, just a horse.

Even though they mean well, sometimes there are people in our lives who warn us to get back or to stay away from the very thing God made us to be. I’m not saying we should trust our impulses. I’m saying we needed to lean on our instincts and discernment.

So, dear creative people, especially those of you who have a heart that desperately desires to use your talents for a greater purpose, here are words of encouragement.YOU are a writer, a painter, a musician, or a poet, you CREATE. Put down the coloring book and connect the dots, and find yourself fresh canvas, a blank sheet of paper, or a new day, fresh with morning dew. Then do what you do. Don’t be afraid.

I am a teacher, and I am a learner. And I have spent most of my life learning the rules and following them. Here is what I know.

  • You have to know the rules and master them before you break them. That goes for writing fiction, non-fiction, or song. A novice who marches into the industry with a first-attempt “masterpiece” that breaks all the rules will get NOWHERE. Fact is, you have to pay your dues, earn some respect. Bottom line–leave the arrogance at the door and slip into your humility. You’re going to need it if you’re going to fulfill your heart’s desire.
  • Once you truly know your skill, then you can try something new. Then, and only then, should you attempt to color outside the lines or to change the rhyme scheme. Choose your own metaphor here. You’re the artist. You know what works for you.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE
Once you learn the skill and pay your dues, let go of your fear and try something new. This is the part where you have to hush the monologue in your mind so you can hear your own voice. You may fail miserably, but you may succeed.

Isn’t it worth taking a chance?

WORDS OF WISDOM
The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear.  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

MUSIC NOTES
“I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean. Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens. Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance. And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance. I hope you dance.” ~ “I Hope You Dance,” recorded by Lee Ann Womack, written by Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers

LOOK AND SEE CYBER SERENDIPITEE
http://kayedacus.com/2010/06/17/writing-tip-10-when-you-need-a-kick-in-the-pants/

FINAL THOUGHT

SPONTANEITY

Cleansing the toxins from our life

LET GO

Garbage in. Garbage out.

This little axiom was all the rage when computers first became common place in the workplace and schools.

Our minds are like computers too. Just think about all the information we take in during a day. We sift through most of it, kind of like how we sift through our mail. We toss the junk, lay aside the bills and other things we have to deal with. But then there is the personal stuff we hold in our hands and ponder what we’ll do with it.

This personal “correspondence” is like the people we allow into our lives.

Of course, we can’t shun all the negative people in the world, but we don’t have to open the door and invite them in for an extended stay. Face it. Some people are TOXIC to our emotional well being. I’m not saying they are bad people. I’m just saying some people aren’t good for us. They’re like food we have to avoid.

Take peanut butter for example. Overall, it’s a pretty cool, nutritious food. But for some folks, it’s deadly.

Writers, you have to take care of your emotional health. You don’t just work with your hands; you work with your hearts and your minds. When your heart is troubled and your mind is cluttered, you have too much garbage going in. And then garbage comes out.

Sometimes, however, the garbage piles up and blocks the writer from allowing anything out.

Then it’s time for a cleansing.

My goal in my life is to be a very transparent person. Very few adults know the real me. I don’t trust them. I smile and keep to myself.

I let down my guard around most of my students because many of them feel the way I do. They are just as scared of failing or getting hurt as I am. I understand their fear, so I try to create the most relaxed, non-stressful environment as possible. I want them to let down their guard, so I let down mine.

Some people are quite the opposite of toxic. They’re like good medicine. I want to be good medicine.

How do you know the difference, whether a person is poison or good medicine? Look at the effect that person has on you.

  • Toxic people will rob you of your energy, your passion, your goals, your dreams, your joy, your happiness, your confidence, your love. They keep you from becoming the person you want to be.
  • People who are the good medicine in your life will fuel your flame, feed your passion, help you reach your goals, believe in your dreams, make you happy, boost your confidence, help you fight your fears, and fill you with love and compassion. Good medicine makes you stronger and helps you become the person you were meant to be.

Writers, painters, poets, and musicians, God gave you your talent. Polish it until it shines. Just keep in mind how difficult maintenance can be if your defenses are down.

God is love and wants us to love all people. But we have to learn how to love ourselves before we can love others.

Too often, when we don’t know how to love ourselves, we look to others for the love we need, and sometimes the “others” are the toxic people we should avoid.

To make matters worse, when we don’t know how to be confident in who we are, we SEEK approval from other people, even GOOD people, and, sadly, because we take more than we can give, we become the TOXIC people others must avoid.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE
Find good medicine and allow it to make you a better person. Be the good medicine, and be the positive difference in somebody else’s life.

WORDS OF WISDOM
Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. ~ Marcel Proust

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

MUSIC NOTES
“So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key.”  ~The Eagles, “Already Gone”

LOOK AND SEE CYBER SERENDIPITEE
http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/151476-only-once-in-your-life-i-truly-believe-you-find

FINAL THOUGHT

people

My uncle was a horse

BB

I have one major rule I follow when I write:  Do no harm. It’s the first rule I teach my journalism students. As easy as it seems to keep, we all break it, though rarely intentionally. Words are powerful. Occasionally they get away from us.

So in keeping with my primary DO NO HARM rule, I hesitate to print this blog. But it’s a story that has stuck with me for decades. It deserves to be told, and I certainly mean no harm.

My earliest influence on me as a writer may have been my great uncle, Charlie Pat, a WW2 veteran. I was much too young to understand the complexities of my uncle’s condition. All I knew is that something happened to him in the war. I was told he was hit my shrapnel and suffered brain trauma. He was never the same.

Of course, I never knew him to be any other way.

My Uncle Charlie Pat thought he was Black Beauty.

Yes, I’m talking about the horse in Anna Sewell’s 1877 novel. I don’t remember how old I was at the time. I just remember I was horse crazy, and Black Beauty was my favorite book.

Back in the old days, we didn’t have Mindcraft or other computer programs to enhance our creativity. We had to rely on household ordinary stuff. My favorite “toy” was a black broom, the closest thing I had to a stick horse. And I rode it nonstop at my grandmother’s house, where, as you might guess, my Uncle Charlie Pat lived for a while.

I don’t think my parents or my aunts and uncles realized Charlie Pat thought he was a horse, but I did. I was too young to roll my eyes or criticize. I just sat down in the chair next to him in my grandparent’s itty bitty den, and I listened to all the stories he told of what it was like to be Black Beauty.

I never laughed. I had read the story at least a dozen times, and I knew every detail by heart. So did Charlie Pat. And when he told me the story, he told it in first person, just like the book. I sat enthralled. I knew my uncle wasn’t really a horse, but I bought into his reality, and I listened intently as he retold each chapter.

I always thanked him for sharing with me, and he smiled. There’s nothing more wonderful for an artist than to have an appreciative audience.

As odd as it may sound, Charlie Pat may have been the first person to inspire me to write. Although he didn’t write Black Beauty, his convincing personal narratives held me spellbound. He was able to quote every page verbatim.

As I grew older, I started to write. I became the characters in my stories. Today they’re bound in a three-prong folder, sitting on a bookshelf in my son’s room. He doesn’t even know they’re there. Maybe his children will find them someday and be inspired by their crazy grandmother who thought at age nine that she could be a writer, somewhat similar to my great uncle, thinking he was a horse.

If you think about it, all of us are quirky in our own way, and that’s what makes us so beautiful. We are works of art, but some of us are an acquired taste.

I was always perceived as that shy kid in class who never talked. I hated that stereotype. I’m not really shy. I just don’t talk much. In my decades here on earth I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve really opened up to.

But there’s a reason for that, I think. God gave me the gift of listening. God gave me acute hearing and sensitive (in)sight. I can see what others cannot. He also gave me the gift of storytelling.

I guess I am the only person in my family to interview a living, breathing Black Beauty proxy.

As I said, I was a major fan of Anna Sewell. Charlie Pat brought the book to life for me. And while his reality had been suspended long before I was born, I learned how to suspend my reality and to enjoy living in the moment whenever I took the time to be still and to listen to him. Charlie Pat pulled me into the story. For a short time in the den of my grandparents’ house, I talked to Black Beauty.

And I think that’s one reason I have been compelled to write ever since. Books let us live a thousand lives. Charlie Pat, for some reason, spent the last years of his life living as a horse.

Go ahead. Laugh. Life is funny. And frustrating. And tragic. But I’ll take funny over the other options any day.

What unusual occurrences in your life sparked your desire to write?

1000 Words, Take Two

1000 Words Take Two

A picture is worth a thousand words.

I have never been to the place where this picture was taken. More than anything this picture reminds me of a snapshot from a dream.

The cable car is ascending, so perhaps the passengers are making their way to their destination. The past looks deserted. The present is filled with motion, and the future is yet to come. How do I know? More steps. More climbing. More ascending. Upward. Onward.

Not there yet.

Dreams mean something to me. Sometimes I think my subconscious is talking to me. Sometimes I know God is speaking to me. The colors of my dreams offer clues to interpretation.

This photo is much like the mysterious dreams I’ve had. There isn’t much color, so I can’t decipher the good from the bad. When I dream in vivid color, I am at the peak of my creativity. When I dream in black and white, I feel as though an omen has lit upon me.

I’ve had three types of recurring dreams: my Idaho Customs House dreams, the bathroom dreams, and the cityscape dreams.

For a year or more, I used to dream of a Customs House in Idaho. Week after week. Day after day. And then the dreams stopped. To this day, I have no idea why I dreamed about this place. As far as I know, it does not exist. Why Idaho? Why a Customs House?

I’ve never been to Idaho. But the video that played in my mind was accurate. Beautiful. Well, as much of the Idaho scenery as I could see. In my dreams I was always on the inside looking outward—somewhat of a twist on the outside looking in scenario that might color most people’s dreams.

The Customs House itself was a busy place, lots of hustle bustle. It was old and wooden. I remember everything being brown, but it was a comforting shade of brown, warm, inviting. I always felt as though I had stepped back in time when I entered the Customs House. Truth be told, prior to having this dream, I really didn’t know what a Customs House was. I had to look it up.

A customs house, or custom house, is a building that houses the offices of government officials who process the paperwork for goods going in or out of a country.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a customs house. I passed by The Custom House in Salem, Massachusetts, and without knowing it, I have driven by the one on Broadway in Nashville at least a zillion times.

But the Customs House in my dreams looks nothing like what I’ve seen in pictures. And to this day I don’t know why I spent so many nights thinking about it.

As for the bathroom dreams, I’m embarrassed to say I still have them. But who wants to talk about bathroom dreams? Who wants to have bathroom dreams?

My bathroom dreams are always dark, as if I have walked into a partially lit room. But over and over—it’s never the SAME bathroom—I dream that I am in a bathroom in an abandoned building. It’s eerie. Nothing bad ever happens. I just find myself wandering in a cold place, looking for something. I never know what it is.

Psychologists would tell me that I am suppressing emotions that I need to release. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Not something I prefer to dwell on. Ewwww.

And then there is the cityscape dreams. These dreams are a combination of the Customs House and the bathroom dreams. I have traveled through New York City a couple of times at night. I remember riding on a multi-level bridge. I couldn’t see much around me as it was dark. I do remember seeing the water and the apartment buildings, side by side, one after another. I felt small in such a big space, scared, alone, as if danger I could not see was close by my side.

My cityscape dreams are similar to my New York City trips—dark, foreboding, mysterious. In these dreams I’m lost and looking for my way out. Sometimes I’m being chased.

When I look at the picture above, I feel as though I have stepped into a dream. I don’t know where I am. I don’t know the people. I can’t understand their emotions. As I look closely at the photo, I admire the mystique of the mosaic steps, but I can’t help but notice that the patterns of the rock resemble the scales of a snake.

The climb is so steep. How easy would it be to fall backwards and keep going?

Why is the cable car so narrow? Why are there only a few people outside it? Are they waiting to board? Could the cable car represent the passage from this life to the next? Could the people who are embracing be saying their final goodbyes?

A picture is truly worth a thousand words, but in this case it has inspired 834.

Need inspiration for your writing? Check out WordPress’s Weekly Writing Challenge. Let this photo inspire you to write a thousand words, more or less.

Six degrees of the blues vs. fifty shades of grey? I’ll take the blues.

square dance

A serendipitous life is like an “allemande left.”

In square dance terms, this call requires each dancer to take the other’s hand, making it easier to enter and exit the movement. Serendipitous dancers move freely in life, acknowledging that all things work together like an “allemande left” to allow them to take take hold of and to learn from the fortunate accidents they encounter.

A few weeks ago, I had a creative dream. When I woke up, song lyrics trickled in my head like a gentle stream. But one word  spewed forth like the spring–Celie.

Never heard it–at least, so I thought.

I wrote down the lyrics but changed the name to Cecilia, which is what I thought my mind was probably trying to dream. Hey, it worked for Paul Simon.

Of course, my OCD nature compelled me to research the name’s meaning. Historically, Cecilia was the patroness of music because when she was dying she sang to God. A little more research revealed the name’s meaning refers to “a way for the blind.” Hmm. Music? A way for the blind? Yes. And, of course, “blind” can be interpreted on a myriad of levels.

I was so pumped. What a very cool dream. But one thing kept nagging at me. I didn’t dream the name “Cecilia.” I dreamed “Celie.” Once again, I felt compelled to grasp the hand before me and examine the next clue to find out why I dreamed this song.

Turns out Celie is derived from Cecilia. I don’t want to give away my song ideas, but I wanted the song to have a Delta feel about it. As most of you know, I love, love, love the blues, so I built the song around a mysterious woman named Celie who could read people.

A little more research revealed the French origins of the name. Okay. Louisiana. That works. And according to my Internet “baby names” search, people with the name “Celie” are often great analyzers or mystics.

Perfect.

At this point, I had the whole song written with multiple layers of meaning. I thought I was finished, but then I found one more detail that put the icing on my joconde. (So, I’m trying to be clever here. Get it? For those of you who don’t know, a joconde is a French opera cake. It will make even more sense when you read the next couple of sentences.)

So here’s the missing link (literally) to today’s serendipitous story.

I’m a fan of the show Nashville. I serendipitously showed up at a taping and was an extra. I serendipitously met one of the stars at the Aerosmith concert. My favorite singer on the show is Clare Bowen, who plays Juliet. While I was creeping my Facebook newsfeed, I found a post from my favorite shop, the upscale Two Old Hippies in the REAL downtown Nashville.

(Sidebar:  I love Nashville, the city. I really like to visit  Two Old Hippies. It’s fun to browse for, not just merchandise, but also details and vibes for stories and songs.)

Back to story, the post revealed that Clare Bowen had just bought the last pair of Liberty fringe boots, the same pair of boots I admired but could not purchase. The Two Old Hippies post included a video clip of Clare wearing the boots on The View with Whoopie Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd.

I don’t always click on links, but, hey. I like Two Old Hippies. I like Clare Bowen. And I like the boots. I clicked on it.

(Another sidebar…I had the opportunity to interview Sherri Shepherd several years ago. What a lovely lady! Her presence in this story just makes me smile. Squirrel! Yes, I know. I’m a little spastic.)

Back to the story…again.

Anyway, when they interviewed Clare Bowen, the ladies of The View revealed that the beautifully Southern singer was actually from Australia.

AUSTRALIA?

And she was a trained opera singer. (Remember when I made the witty remark about the joconde?) Clare had to learn country. And she had to learn Southern.

Turns out Clare Bowen herself was having a serendipitous moment on the show.

She couldn’t tell her own story without revealing how a song about Whoopi Goldberg’s character, Miss Celie in  The Color Purple, changed her life.

(Sidebar Number Three…Miss Celie! My dream! Maybe I had buried that little detail far back in my brain and my subconscious was trying to help me dig it out. We can’t even comprehend how God designed our brains. We think we know so much.)

“Miss Celie’s Blues” opened the door to a new understanding of music for Clare Bowen. She found freedom in the blues. She loved the bluesy feel of the song.

The blues. Miss Celie’s blues. Sister Celie’s blues.  Of course! THE BLUES!

Clare Bowen’s first real taste of the blues change her life and brought her to Nashville. How serendipitous.

And, had  I not been sick for seven days with what I am sure is the plague, I would have never have had to leave work today to go to the doctor. And if I did not receive the dreaded shots, I would not have had to go home instead of back to work.

Because I came home when I did, I serendipitously read the Two Old Hippies / Bowen post as it was the first to pop up on my Facebook feed.

Now I know how Clare Bowen, Two Old Hippies, the show Nashville, Liberty fringe cowboy boots, Sherri Shepherd, Whoopi Goldberg, the plague, and THE BLUES worked together today to create my tailor-made serendipitous story.

“Allemande left” everyone.

 

Nothing to fear but fear itself

Pottery 2012 009

On a scale of 1-10, how afraid are you to try something new?

Oh, I’m sure most of you are quite courageous, but when it comes right down to it, if you really want to know how brave you are, measure your progress compared to your procrastination.

I have always been the artsy type. I got my first guitar at about age 12. As an elementary school student, I entered water color paintings in the country fair—and won. My all-time favorite class in high school was Mr. Jimmy “Grouch” Jones’ art class. I learned how to make pottery and to make torn-paper mosaics and to how sketch. I loved every minute of it. And you know I love to write and take photos.

But last year when I received a gift certificate to paint pottery, I was THRILLED, but I was scared. I wanted to paint, but I didn’t want to fail. So I put off going until I was sure I was ready. I waited and waited and waited until the day before the gift certificate expired. I went on my birthday. I figured it would be the PERFECT time to go.

I was so nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. I went by myself on my birthday, my personal vacation. (Well, after my dentist appointment.)

When I get nervous, I turn into a total geek-clutz-dork-goof ball. So when I pulled into the parking lot in front of the studio, I was extremely timid about parking. I pulled into a space, but then I wasn’t sure if I was in the handicapped spot, so I backed out. I got out and checked and changed my mind. Then I pulled back in. I got nervous again and pulled back out. Then I thought I had better be on the safe side, so I decided to back into a regular space behind me, so I did. But I parked crooked, so I got out and had to check the lines and pull back in again. It was insane.

By the time I worked up the courage to get out of the truck and go to the door, I was a nervous wreck.

I had wanted to go to the studio since the first day it opened. I imagined my pottery would be the most beautifully painted of the bunch. I have a knack. But when I actually stepped inside, I froze. I didn’t know what to do. There were children and adults of all ages doing their thing. And then there was me.

I explained to the young girl in charge that I was new and didn’t know what to do. She gave me the run down. Pick a piece, go to the paint station, sit down and paint. Easy enough.

Not.

I mean I am the queen of indecision. I didn’t know what to paint. A vase? A box? A picture frame? I chose a plate that was a triangle because it was shaped like a guitar pick, and I wanted a music themed piece. Perfect choice, so I thought.

I noticed everyone around me had water and a palette. I did not. I saw some water on a table. I took it. Later I would find out I stole someone else’s water. I played dumb. Well, I pretended to play dumb. I really was dumb.

And the table I chose had very few brushes, just big ole fat brushes. And there was no little palette. So I went to the young lady and explained my plight. She told me the palettes were at the paint station. Well, duh. My bad.

Then I sat there staring at the colors of paint. And sat there. And sat there. And sat there. Finally, the girl came over to me and whispered, “You know, you don’t have to wait on me to tell you that you can get the paint. You can go by yourself.”

I knew that. I just didn’t know what colors to chose. I wanted it to be PERFECT. I blushed and told her I was just having a hard time deciding. I finally moved to the paint station and began transporting bottles of paint to my table.

I was in trouble again. She came back. “Please don’t take the bottles to your table. Other customers have to use them. Just put the paint in your palette.”

Oh, why does life have to be so complicated?

When I started to paint, I realized that I could not draw a guitar on my plate with the big fat brushes. I had no choice. I had no pencil. I did the best I could.

Everything would have been fine except the two people next to me were apparently pottery painting experts. Penguins. SHE was painting a penguin on her plate, and SHE had a pencil to draw hers out first. Meticulous little lines. Step by step. HE watched her every move and applauded her technique. Me?I was slapping paint on left and right. I tried to paint notes, but they didn’t look right, so I painted over them.

Nothing looked right, so I slapped on more paint. And more paint. And more paint. Good thing it dried quickly.

But SHE was really making me feel like that total geek-clutz-dork-goof ball I tried not to be. And HE, her date, boyfriend, or significant other, whatever, was critiquing her every brush stroke as if she were the next Van Gogh.

“Do you think my penguin’s foot is too close to the edge? Should I bring the other one down?” And he came back with some artsy, fartsy detailed description of what she could do with her brush. Yeah. Good thing she didn’t ask me.

I just slapped on more paint. When I finally did all I could do, I had to get out of there.

I wanted to exit gracefully, but I never do anything gracefully. My purse got caught on the chair, and I dragged it across the studio to the register. At least I didn’t break my plate.

The girl looked thankful I was leaving. “Christmas eve,” she said. “That’s when your piece will be ready.”

I hated to leave it, truth be told. Despite how ugly I felt my pitiful attempt at painting was, I had done my best. I hated to leave it in someone else’s hands.

But on Christmas eve, I traveled back to the Boro to pick it up. I prayed that I for once I would not make a spectacle of myself. Everything else had gone wrong during my first-time painting. When I got out of the truck, I was careful not to trip.

But there was one problem. I was so nervous about not coming across as a total doofus, I went into the wrong store—the painting store, not the pottery store. I was so confused. Nothing looked the same. And there wasn’t any pottery anywhere. Well, duh. At least the lady working there didn’t catch on to my faux pas. I covered myself and asked a genuine question that I really had been pondering for some time. When do painting classes begin?

I found my way to the pottery store, and without further incidence I picked up my piece. I had to face the same girl, but she was sweet and told me I wouldn’t be so nervous next time.

At least I didn’t drop my plate before I made it back home.

Sure, it’s not a masterpiece. The paint isn’t even, and the guitar looks as if a toddler painted it. But I accomplished something. I overcame my fear. I had a little fun.

So what is it that YOU are putting off? What are you afraid to try? I challenge you to take the first step for the new year.

Tell me about it.

Pottery 2012 004

These are a few pottery pieces I made from scratch when I was in high school

and during my first years teaching.

Pottery 2012 008Pottery 2012 007

Ones and twos

Alan Wake

I really wanted to post a blog on 12-12-12. I think the day would be quite nifty to commemorate with a scribble or two. It just didn’t work out.

At 12:12 on 12-12-12 I found myself in a Mexican restaurant with 18 crazed teenagers. But I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be. I love working with my students, and this mini field trip was a way to thank them for doing such a good job this semester, producing three issues despite the predictable unpredictable obstacles that always come our way.

There’s a feeling in the air that something ominous will occur 12-21-12. I’m not saying it will. I’m just saying that the feeling, like an aura, hovers about our people. That’s why I wanted 12-12-12 to be special. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could make a wish on such a special day and that wish were to come true?

There is no need to worry about 12-21-12 because whatever happens will be according to God’s plan. And wishes aren’t magical. They don’t always come true, except maybe for writers who can make anything happen in their books.

My wish, of course, has been for the last few years to be published. Oh, the ironies of life.

Last week I received an email that said I had a publicist who would set up book signings for my tiny little Christmas story in a Chicken Soup book. On the same day I received a rejection letter from the New York agent I met in Dallas.

Regardless of whether I am published, I am a writer. I can thank God for giving me that gift. I don’t doubt my abilities, even if I haven’t signed a contract yet. I do doubt whether I’m deserving. That’s up to God. Deserving may not have anything to do with publication. Purpose is what matters. Does my writing serve God’s purpose?

All I can do is keep plugging along.

The winter solstice is coming, the darkest day of the year—12-21-12.

We don’t know when the final day will come; nor are we supposed to know. It doesn’t matter.

We have our bucket lists, things we’d like to do before our final day here. But we probably won’t be able to do everything. Life lets us down. People let us down.

I like to write. I like to play music, but those things really don’t matter. God made me who I am. My one desire when it comes to goals is that I don’t lose the one gift God gave me that really matters. I do a pretty good job of loving people.

I guess that’s why I teach, although I don’t always like the profession of teaching in a public school.

When I care, I give my whole heart.

But people, the world, don’t always take what you offer. So it is with professions like teaching, nursing, counseling, etc. People and circumstances tear at our capacity to offer love.

I hope that I can keep my heart intact and not be overcome with bitterness and anger that shadow hurt and disappointment. I’ve always been a little childish, or childlike, one of the two. I like that about me. I love like a child, people and life. Most of the time I look in the mirror, and I see something I really don’t like, my body, my hair, my teeth, etc. But I’ve always liked my heart.

I’m not making an early New Year’s resolution. I’m making an “on the way to the end” resolution. Time is running out. Even if the sun rises again on 12-22-12, time is running out, if not for me, for someone else.

So my “on the way to the end” resolution, is to do the best job of expressing love that I can, through teaching, writing, playing guitar, or just living.

It’s all about purpose.