Write and Change the World

A replay of a post from 2015. Amidst all the unpredictability today, a few things are entirely within our control, and one of them is kindness. ❤
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JeffersonMost of us have days filled with small acts of kindness. We smile, kiss hurt elbows, throw tennis balls for our dogs. We pay for a coworker’s coffee and leave a big tip. We call a friend in need, chauffeur teenagers, cook a favorite meal, or pick up ice cream on the way home. These small invisible acts often go unacknowledged, but they travel around in overlapping circles, keep our lives balanced and relationships healthy. We see the results in strengthened bonds, deeper commitment, and abiding love.

87230b4a08df4def07bae73905d9319bBut what about those times when we don’t see the ripples? When we toss acts of kindness and compassion into a seemingly bottomless well of suffering and despair? When we perceive no reward for our efforts? When we don’t know if we’re making any lasting difference in our world at all? Some strangers we’ll meet face to face, but most we’ll never know. The poignant tales of their lives will play out in other neighborhoods, other cities, and other lands, unseen and unheard.

download (1)In our political landscape, acts of kindness and compassion are often labeled as weak, a waste of time and money, conciliatory, poor investments, and unpatriotic. In a culture that values money over lives, the manipulations are intense.

Yet, I would argue that when we ordinary folk commit small everyday deeds of kindness and compassion, the ripples are there even though invisible to our eyes and silent to our ears. Those random acts are cups of water that we pour down that deep, collective well. They blend and build, until over time, the bottomless well holds a limitless reservoir from which a garden grows. I have faith that no act of kindness or compassion is wasted, ever.

gandalf quoteI’m not really surprised that Gandalf sits up there with some of the greats when it comes to quotes regarding kindness. Does it matter that he’s a fictional character? Not really. Through Gandalf, Tolkien’s wisdom reached millions. Such is the power of the written word. Books can and do have the power to change the world…

 

Winter’s Creative Gift

image: pixabay

pixabay free images/ Anja Osenberg

The holidays come to a hectic close and my favorite time of year ambles in. Here in Oregon, if you gaze out the window at the January weather, you’ll find a misty, drippy, icy, foggy-soggy mess, at least through May. That gives me five whole months of lighter obligations and a complete lack of guilt for not “enjoying the weather.” In a climate boasting only four months of sunshine, the Vitamin D police are checking every household for us slackers.

For quite a few creative sorts, our pursuits get back-burnered by other more pressing responsibilities – jobs, violin lessons, soccer practice, staining the deck, grocery shopping, sorting socks…it’s amazing that anything in the world ever gets painted, composed, sculpted, or tapped out on the keyboard.

We, who aren’t independently wealthy or already famous, squeeze precious moments for inspiration from the cracks of our crowded lives. We hide in our cubbyholes, our converted attics, our bedrooms and garages. (Oh, I’ve written in the bathroom too). We rise before dawn with a steamy cup of coffee, kiss our lovers goodnight and stay up with the stars. A weekend alone isn’t a time for melancholy wishes; it’s a little taste of heaven with a neglected muse.

Creative time is sacred time, hours marked with inky conviction on the calendar that can’t be erased. As artists, we need to cultivate a belief in the importance of what we do, even when other duties jostle for our attention. We need to believe in the intrinsic value of our art, even when no paycheck arrives in the mail. We need to honor our creative calling and spirit of inspiration, even when the doubters tell us how nice it is we have a hobby to fill our free time!

In Oregon, the winter weather comes bearing the creative gift of unassigned hours. No matter where you live, dedicate a few empty squares of your calendar to nourish your creative soul and save the dates as you would for your child’s wedding. Be resolved.

Writing “The End”

Pixabay image

I imagine all artists – writers, painters, composers – come to a place in their work when they (in one form or another) jot down those two words: “The End.”

Naturally, the end of a first draft isn’t the END. There are months of rewrites and edits ahead. The collection of words I’ve tallied up on my laptop is still a work-in-progress.

But the story is done. The plot has wrapped up. The characters have completed their arcs and in some cases have died. Even my happy endings don’t come without pain, suffering, and loss. They are always bittersweet.

When I write “The End,” it’s emotional. As I scribble this post, days after penning that last line, my eyes gloss with feeling. And there’s no single reason.

“The End” comes with a sigh of relief and a wish to tell someone the powerful news. It’s a milestone. More than a year’s creative work coming to its conclusion.

But, for me, there’s also an odd sense of grief. I don’t know what to do with myself.  I’m restless. My sense of time shifts; my focus suddenly flutters away. I can’t sit, can’t move on. The story that consumed my thoughts and hours is over. The pressure to write, to capture my characters’ thoughts and hearts and sacrifices before they slip away, dissipates. I know the story now from the beginning to the end. The characters I have lived with and come to love have nothing more to say to me. They journey into their futures without me. Inside my head, I’m… alone.

Writing is, for many, an emotional undertaking. I’ve felt this way with every first draft.

I finished my first draft on November 18th with an additional 26,722 words. My NaNoWriMo challenge is done. I’m grieving.

And prepping for the less intense application of my craft.

Do you have any emotional reaction to writing “The End?” I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

The Cowboy in the Bedroom

Can you guess who this is?

I have a framed picture in my bedroom on a small table. It was drawn by a local artist, Kerri Boutwell, and I eagerly bought it several years ago.

Lately, on several occasions, I’ve noticed the portrait turned around and facing the wall. I’d turn it back, only to find it flipped around again several days later.

Finally, last week, I mentioned the odd ritual to my husband. “Have you been turning the picture around?”

“Yeah. I don’t like the cowboy staring at me while I’m in bed.”

“The cowboy?” I laughed. “That’s not a cowboy. It’s Mark Twain!”

Well, apparently it’s okay to have Mark Twain staring at him in bed because the drawing hasn’t moved.

Isn’t it a great picture? I never knew Twain was so handsome, even with the god-awful mustache.

In a pinch, your phone can read to you

Back in May, all of a sudden, I was going to be spending about 12 hours on the road every week shuttling between Oregon and Washington to care for my parents.  Add to that, the daily commutes between homes, appointments, and errands.

What better use of the time than to listen to books.

But I didn’t have Audible, didn’t have time to look up books, and didn’t have unlimited funds. AND I had a teetering pile of ebooks that I hadn’t read. Hmm…

Can I have my antique, cracked iPhone read to me?

The answer was YES.

The Pros:

1. I “read” a bunch of books that were languishing in my Kindle file.

2. A book doesn’t need to be an audiobook to listen to it.

3. I accessed the books through the Kindle App on the phone.

4. It’s easy to do (mostly).

5. The reading speed is adjustable.

6. Now I can listen to books while making dinner or weeding the garden or exercising. So, I’m “reading” more.

7. It doesn’t cost anything.

 

The Cons:

1. According to author/blogger Andrew Joyce, he wouldn’t wish the phone’s “robot voice” on his worst enemy.   iPhones don’t read with any inflection. It is, indeed, Siri reading to you in her droning monotone. I’ll admit, the first couple of books were tough, but my brain eventually compensated and started focusing on the story and characters despite robot-voice.

2. Siri messes up some words. “Putting” is pronounced like the golf stroke. “Tasting” rhymes with “lasting.” Forget hyphenated words – Siri doesn’t understand hyphens.

3. Siri doesn’t transition well through chapter or scene changes. She just barrels through them, which can be disorienting.

4. Poetry is impossible. Don’t even try it.

5. The iPhone has a problem activating the speech function, and it can take a lot of tries. It will also occasionally decide that it’s done after one page instead of flipping to the next.  Apparently, these issues have been a problem for years and Apple doesn’t care. I occasionally need to hard-reset or restart my phone, or both, to get it to read.

 

How to set up your iPhone for speech:

(If you don’t have an iPhone, I can’t help you, but the internet might! This is part of the accessibility function for visually impaired phone users, so I think most brands will have something similar.)

Click on the System icon.

Select General.

Select Accessibility.

Turn on Speech.

Open your Kindle app and select your book. Go to the first page you want to “read.”

Swipe down on the phone with two fingers (possibly multiple times, like 30).

If it works right, the phone will start reading to you, including flipping your pages.

If it doesn’t work, do a hard reset of your phone, restart your phone, or both. This is totally annoying but worth it in the end.

And don’t wrestle with any of this while driving. Pull over, please. 🙂

Happy Listening!

The parental saga continues.
I’m not sure when I’ll be back to blogging full-time but I’m looking forward to it.
In the meantime, I’m reading with Siri. ❤

A Blogging Hiatus

Right about now, I should be gearing up to post June’s speculative fiction prompt. I had a challenging image ready to go and couldn’t wait for the barrage of wonderful stories and poems.

But once again, my parents’ health challenges are requiring my undivided time.  Recent complications have meant I’m providing almost 24/7 care.  I’m just plain tuckered out, and though prompts and blogging are a major source of fun in my day, I need to step back until things stabilize. 

I have a few book reviews to share, and I will visit when I can, but I already know I’ll be scarce, at least for June.

On a lighter note, have a happy, peaceful, creative, and healthy month ahead! 

This pixabay image cracked me up. I couldn’t resist.

 

 

Reflecting on Mother’s Day

Four generations of women on Mother's Day, 30 yrs ago

Four generations of women on Mother’s Day, 36 yrs ago

A repost from last year, no less relevant today.

For several years, I had the great privilege of serving families in need. As part of my work, I was invited into homes and lives to guide, teach, nurture, and when I could, to gather baskets of memories brimming with new ways of being and believing in the world. At most, I accompanied mothers and children on their journeys for mere slivers of time, and yet in the collection of hours and days, I was witness to great suffering and love, desperation and hope.

Those who travel the helpers’ path are granted gifts. Not gifts wrapped in paper and laced with ribbon that we set on a windowsill and forget with time, but gifts that reside within us, that alter who we are and how we perceive our world.

We live in a time of divisiveness. Our politics shred our world, and unfiltered rhetoric spews like bile into the air, toxic with deception and blame. It is no wonder that we are losing our ability to listen and behold each other with open minds and compassionate hearts.

Struggling mothers and their children live everywhere: in the mountains of China, on the plains of Africa, in the arid lands of Iran, or simply around the corner. Across the globe, mothers touch small foreheads, peer into innocent eyes, and sing their children to sleep.  What would happen to our world if we became still and quiet and listened to those whispered songs?

The enduring gifts of a mother’s love have sustained children, families and communities through the centuries. They are timeless, borderless reminders of our common humanity and dreams of hope.

To mothers everywhere, I wish us a world of peace.