If We Were Having Coffee: End of June Edition

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Last week, I did my first “If We Were Having Coffee” post. You can see it here.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that . . .

  • I’m feeling a little more motivated than I did last week. I’ve relaxed the expectations I’ve placed on myself for how much should be accomplished in a week, and it’s made a big difference.
  • I’d tell you that new possibilities seem to be heading my way. Things to think about to ease the future transitions.
  • I’d tell you that I’m working on easing my insecurities about my ability to rise up to meet the challenges that these new possibilities bring my way. I’d talk about how I understand that it’s crazy to doubt myself, but that there’s an irrational part of me that hasn’t quite let go of that fear yet.
  • I’d tell you that my major focus is to bolster my self confidence so that I can grab these new opportunities by the horns.
  • I’d tell you that I’m a little disheartened by the fact that if this were any other summer since I’ve been in Taiwan, I would be beginning a few weeks in the US–still working on various projects for the university, but able to reconnect with friends and family–particularly, my parents, my daughter, and my grandson.
  • I’d tell you that I can’t believe June is on its last legs? I’d ask you where has the first half of the year gone?
  • I’d tell you I want to make the second half of the year count, but with much less stress than the first half of the year brought.
  • Finally, I’d tell you that I have plans to do some quilting this week, and that you should watch this space.

See you next week!  🙂

 

What about you? If we were having coffee, what you be talking about this week? Post in the comments below or do your own post and link back here.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Emoting about Emotions: SofC Saturday

I was reluctant to even start writing about this prompt. It’s a sensitive subject for me. Maybe it’s because I emote. I emote with feeling–with emotion. However, I’m not the only one who does it. Yet, there are many times when some of the people around me act as if I’m the only one that does. Sometimes, the people who most seem to go over the deep end about my emoting are the ones I’d just as soon avoid when something strikes them as significant.

The thing about my emotions is they are reactive. Something happens, I react, and then I move rather quickly into thinking mode. I come up with potential solutions or possibilities. I calm down. I don’t carry things with me for very long–at least, not in general. There is no one who wants to solve the dilemmas that brought about that emoting more than I do. I would prefer to have fewer feelings or to at least experience them less intensely.

I try to save the negative emoting for things that are important–people being disrespectful or demanding, for example. I am frustrated by people who call me emotional at the times when I am standing up for myself. Because the reality is, most of the time, I go along with things. I adjust, I adapt, I go with the flow. Sometimes, I do those things even after I’ve emoted a little about how I would appreciate some appreciation. Unfortunately, it seems the more I go with the flow, the more disrespect I encounter.

Not too many people complain about the positive emoting I do. Well, that’s not entirely true. People often appreciate my enthusiasm, my sense of humor, my optimistic attitude. But I think what the real “problem” is that I’m a little intense. When I’m enthusiastic, it’s contagious–usually. And if you feel like joining in, it takes a lot of energy. This isn’t always too much of a problem when the emoting is positive, but I think that maybe when it’s negative, some people are a little intimidated. Maybe, it’s a little scary. (Hopefully, not as scary as the photo on the right.)

Unfortunately, the times when I’m negatively emoting are the times when I most need people on my side. And well, you can imagine how well that goes. But after writing this post this morning, something happened this afternoon that kind of got me going. But I walked away. Totally. I mapped out how I would handle it. I emoted to myself. I didn’t bottle it up so much. I allowed myself to feel the things. I just didn’t share the feelings. And a moment came when I could let it go. I may not even emote to anyone else. I know that the person who triggered the feelings didn’t do it intentionally. By giving myself private emoting time, I came to a new discovery. Also, it helps knowing that this person always has my best interests at heart. Which is more than I can say about some of the other things that sometimes trigger my feelings.

Still, I’m trying to focus on the positive things, and bring all the feelings–the negative and the positive–into a better balance, to conserve my energy for the things that matter more than these moments of unexpected emoting.

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This is part of a weekly prompt from: http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-2814/

Ten Things of Thankful: A Taiwan Coffee Edition

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you follow this blog at all, you know I’m crazy for coffee shops. You may even know I’m just crazy, but that can be our little secret.

During the last couple of years, I spent a fair amount of time at a coffee shop called Lovely Beans. The menu changed a couple of times during those two years, but the coffee was a constant–an excellent constant. A couple months back, Mina closed that shop to open a new pasta and coffee shop in Taoyuan City–two bus trips from me, and we finally tracked her down on Monday. As you can see in the picture at the left.

  1. I’m thankful for the reasonable taxi fares in Taiwan. In five years, I’ve never had a car, or worse, a scooter (motorcycle). Buses, walking, and taxis have served us well. For longer distances, there is a good train system throughout Taiwan and an MRT (subway) in Taipei.
  2. I’m thankful for the time my husband spent online tracking down how to find the new shop. He had even explored the bus routes that it would take to get us there. One downtown, and then another to the part of town where the shop was. His mapping and other investigation paid off. On Monday, after we took care of some errands downtown, he surprised me by suggesting that we visit the new shop. It turns out we were not far from it at all. A great diversion!
  3. We found the place without too much trouble, only to discover that it wouldn’t open for dinner until 5. In her new shop, she closes (like many such places) between lunch and dinner–in her case, between between 2:30 and 5:00. That might not sound like something to be thankful about, but I ended up at a 7-11 not TOO far away, sipping an iced latte while working on a project that wouldn’t have gotten started for another week or so.
  4. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter settling me in at 7-11 (no other real coffee shops in that particular area), he wandered the neighborhood to see what else was there. He also went to Mina’s shop at 5 to make sure she was actually there before having me walk back there. She was. Dave came to get me, and we headed over to the pasta shop (see photo on right).
  5. Mina greeted me with a huge smile and a hug and led us to a table. Here’s the fun part. My Chinese is pretty crappy, i.e. I can order iced coffee without sugar in Chinese and be understood (if I’m in a coffee shop, where it makes sense in context).  Mina’s English consists of “I don’t know,” and “I love you.” Which brings us to trying to order dinner.
  6. I am thankful that Mina has a basic idea of what we like to eat. We have a way of signaling shrimp by curling our pointer finger. Rice is shown with a little space between finger and thumb. Sauce could be selected  by colored lettering on the menu (at least for red–meat sauce and green–pesto). Dave wanted cream sauce and I was struggling to figure out that one, when Mina pointed to the white space between sections on the menu. Whew! Dinner ordered.  🙂
  7. I am grateful for the wonderful food and for the iced latte–don’t judge, I like my coffee. Mina makes a mean latte! She came and sat with us several times, as the shop was busy, but not crazy.
  8. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am grateful for Mina’s generosity in giving us an amazing discount on our dinner.
  9. I am grateful for her help in getting us home afterwards. We could catch a bus to the train station area of downtown and then take our regular bus home. Or take a taxi. We were leaning toward the taxi, as it had been kind of a long day at that point. Mina offered (through our unique form of communication) that she would help us get the cab and tell him where we were going. What she DIDN’T tell me is that she planned to slip the fare to the driver for our ride.
  10. I am grateful for this special friendship. It’s true that if we have something specific that has to be communicated, we need Google Translate or another person who can translate for us. But in spite of our spoken language barrier, we somehow manage to convey our care for one another. I may not be able to visit Mina’s new shop as often as I did the one in my neighborhood, but I will always treasure the times we do have together.

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And a TTofT (Ten Things of Thankful) HONORABLE MENTION TO Not a Punk Rocker. She often starts her list during times of insomnia and doesn’t always guarantee their readability. So when she changed her ways this week, she offered an item that we could use on our list. I had ten things already, but nice to know she offered this just in case: “I didn’t have to read insomnia dreck and got an early TToT post instead!”

 

Thank you to Lizzi at Considerings for setting this blog hop up every week.  If you want to join, go on over to link in and then check out what others are saying about their weeks too!

 

400 Words: Go! (Day 19 of the Writing 101 Blogging Challenge)

Prompt for June 26

Don’t Stop the Rockin’

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2On this free writing day, remember the words of author Anne Lamott: “I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.”

Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.

Even this post is a struggle. 400 words. One at a time, she said. OK, I can do it. But first: the words that come to mind as to the boring things I could write about. Use them as headings and explore the stuff inside this brain.

Motivation, Wasting Time, The Forest, First Steps.

MOTIVATION

I have almost forgotten what this is, let alone how or where to find it. My final exams have all been graded and recorded as of 36 hours ago. The last of the semester’s deadlines–finished. Of course, now there is summer camp to prep for and a few writing and research projects that need my attention, but overall, I finally have some breathing space. I have a list of things I’d like to accomplish. I even have a few things I’d like to do for fun.  Fun? Oh dear, have I forgotten about how or where to find that as well?

Luckily, last night I had the idea that maybe I should just jump in with the current prompt and catch up later (if at all). The last post I made for this challenge was for Day 4. Granted, it was only posted a few days ago (as I am not doing the challenge on the normal schedule), but my intention had been to “catch up.” So this morning, when I read this post for day 19,  it totally made sense to use jump right in and start clearing out all the nonsense that is knocking around in my brain about how time is getting away from me.  Which leads me to the next heading.

WASTING TIME

Anyone who knows me will not understand how this even shows up on my radar. The reality is that I take on way too much, more than any three people should do, and then I don’t give myself credit for what IS accomplished. I silently (usually) berate myself for what HASN’T been finished. Or what I had hoped to do but didn’t get to.

I have made tremendous strides in ONE area. When I DO take time to do something that might not be considered productive by my “doing compulsion” (Enneagram, Type 6, if you care), I don’t view that as a waste of time anymore. I do see things like doing Sudoku, napping, having coffee with friends, and similar activities for recharging my batteries. In fact, that is one of the big lessons I’ve learned in the past few months. No matter HOW busy I let myself get, I MUST take time out for recharging. The alternative is not pretty.

Still, I find myself a little frustrated lately because I now have a little breathing space, but I am not finding my way to the things that really enliven my soul: quilting, writing/blogging for fun, creative pursuits just for the fun of it.

THE FOREST

I’m not sure if this is unusual, but when it comes to trying to map out a daily journey, I can’t decide whether I should go for the forest OR the trees. I can see the forest. I can see the trees. OK, yes, there are too many trees that I focus on. But I have found that the moments of renewal give me lots of forest time. So my frustration comes in when I can’t bring my trees to blend into the forest very well. For me, I think that multi-tasking has really gotten in the way. In the days when multi-tasking was considered a good thing, I got pretty good at it. But I’ve seen the research, and I’ve lived the dream nightmare, and I’m really seeing–both in myself and in others–that multi-tasking keeps us from being fully present in the moment, AND it depletes the limited conscious attention we have to devote to the things we want to accomplish.

I realize that the task list I created for myself as summer began is a problem, not because those things can’t or shouldn’t be done at some point over the summer, but because I started scheduling them in such a way that the summer quickly became a huge case study in the pitfalls of multi-tasking. I took all the tasks and ideas, and started slotting them into the days and weeks and hours as if they were pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. There was no real prioritizing, just shove it all in. And that makes for a really messy forest. Clutter of the mind. As if physical clutter isn’t enough to derail the best of intentions, I’ve got way too much stuff banging around up there as well. No wonder, I couldn’t get excited about quilting or blogging or other fun activities.

While planning is good, I think I might be stuck in “over-planning mode.”  I didn’t just make a list of things I wanted to do this summer, I tried to shoehorn them all in to specific spots. A recipe for frustration. No wonder I have no motivation. The summer looks like a maze with no way out. And even though I have more freedom about which tasks I work on when, my over-planning was paralyzing me into feeling that summer was just like the rest of the year. The aha moment came when I realized that I need to create a summer that works for me, balanced with accomplishing important tasks and regular down time that restores me. Then I can use THAT model to ease myself back into the school year.

FIRST STEPS

SO, new plan. Just make the list, so the items that need attention don’t get forgotten. Then, just walk away. For me, this is revolutionary. I don’t have to plan when each of those things is going to get down. Once I’ve written everything down, it’s there for me to look at any time I want to. All of the things I need to do are contained; they are no longer wandering around in my head, with me wondering if I’m going to forget something. But, I really don’t have to map out a time slot for each one of those items. It’s enough that they’re on the list.

WHAT?

WOW! It’s enough that they’re on the list. I don’t need to spend time arranging and rearranging them based on my frustration level and the other surprises life brings my way. I can just focus on a couple of things at a time. Create a reasonable schedule for THOSE things, and then go back to the list and choose the next things to focus on. A recovery process for an over-achieving multi-tasker.

The actual steps involve:

  1. Making the list
  2. Choosing the first 2 (or 3 at the most) tasks to focus on.
  3. Walk away from the rest of the list.
  4. Enjoy the breathing room.

I have the list. That was the first thing I did at the beginning of this period. I just didn’t stop with the list. I started plugging everything into a calendar. I missed the walk away part. I just have to extricate it from my attempts at calendering everything. Not too tough.

The two things I need to focus on first have emerged–as a result of a couple email exchanges this morning. I don’t have to force the process. It can actually be organic. The flexible third thing has also been identified.

The rest of the list can be put aside. (I’m still marveling at this.)

I have a feeling the next few days are going to be much more productive AND relaxing at the same time. I suspect my frustration will diminish as well.

 

THE EXTRA SURPRISE

I never would have expected to make it to the 400 words (with little editing) once, let alone three times.

Writing through my frustration helped me make some discoveries that were below the conscious level of my recent circular thinking. This resulted in breakthroughs and a potential plan.

I expected I would feel better after I got these feelings and thoughts written, but I had no idea that I would get to the end of it with a solid plan for changing my way of doing things.

When things seem frustrating and confusing, writing really is the best thing to do.

I’m moving again!  🙂

 

 

Lost, Not Found: Day 4 of the Writing 101 Blogging Challenge

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2Prompt for June 5

Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.

The process of moving out of the house where my children were finally raised and launched did not happen all at once. I left for graduate school after my daughter (the youngest) graduated from high school.  That was the first stage of moving. What we didn’t take to South Bend with us ended up in storage–with friends and relatives. My husband was a collector of sorts, and he was able to find storage homes for much of his stuff.

Not that I didn’t have stuff, I did. But after a few yard sales, I had scaled some stuff back. It was at that point in my life that I even thought I was going to “give up” quilting. Some lucky fabric lovers got deals on my fabric and my quilting books. We all know that quilting wasn’t lost forever at that point, so this post is about the loss of something else.

Somewhere in the process, however, I lost a black metal 3×5 file box–the extra long kind was nowhere to be found. It probably could hold at least 500 cards–not that it ever did, but the potential was there. If you haven’t noticed elsewhere, I really like index cards and their attendant paraphernalia. If you haven’t noticed, I’m better at hiding it than I realized.

As you might suspect, it wasn’t the loss of the file box itself that was terribly disappointing; such things can be easily replaced. But what was inside cannot be replaced. At least not in the form that held so much meaning. That card file was home to my collection of recipe cards. And while it’s true that I very rarely use recipe cards (or cookbooks anymore), that recipe file held something more precious than simple recipes–it held memories.

Let me give you a few examples:

  • When my sister, Cindy, and I were in high school, we started doing some baking. And we had a few recipes that were pretty standard. A killer brownie recipe, no-bake cookies, never-fail cake, and maybe something else. (You might notice I have no trouble remember the items with chocolate as the featured ingredient.) We had a typewriter in our bedroom, and we decided that we needed to have these recipes typed up for easy access. So she typed them.
  • My mother-in-law, Ann, was well known for her cooking. But two of my favorites were her home-made bread and her 1-2-3-4 cake. And yes, I can find those recipes in other places, I know. But at one point in time, she gave me those two recipes. They were written on sheets of white paper with blue lines from a writing tablet. The recipes continued on both sides of the page. They didn’t fit in the file box without folding, but I folded them both in quarters, and they fit just fine.
    My maternal grandmother

    My maternal grandmother

     

  • My maternal grandmother made awesome date nut bread. Luckily, she also gave several of us the recipe on an actual recipe card with some little artistic thing in the upper left hand corner. I can almost see the handwriting and the little orange-colored thing in the corner, but not enough to make out what it was up there. And who can forget the most important part of the instructions: START WITH A COLD OVEN!

These three people are no longer part of my life, but the recipes in that file box were one of the ways I continued to feel connected to them after their deaths. Of course, I have other memories, and–in each of these three cases–I have something else from them.

  • There are other stories from that recipe box. Marie, our long-time neighbor and friend, gave me her recipe for hamburger soup. She had made it for me a couple of times, once after I had surgery. I loved that soup. It is not something I would typically make, but her soup was magical. And even though, I made it from her recipe, it was never as good as hers.

When I thought about writing about the loss of my recipe file, I knew some of the stories I would include. I hadn’t originally planned to put Marie’s story here. But I’m so glad I did. Our 22 years as neighbors didn’t end there. Every summer that I’ve gone back to Michigan, I’ve always included a visit to Marie’s kitchen, just like the old days when I went across the alley to visit. Writing this post reminds me that it’s time to check in with Marie. It’s crazy, because I really do think of her often, but she rarely hears from me. I am surprised how a simple thing like a recipe file holds so much more than recipes. Apparently, the loss of the file itself is not as tragic as it sometime seems; after all, I still have these memories even without the actual file. I still have the memories of the friendships, the connections, and the laughter that come with the preparation and sharing of food.

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As for the twist, I don’t know how this will fit into a serial post, but I’ll see how it goes when I get there.

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This post if part of the WordPress Writing 101 Blogging Challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_assignment/writing-101-day-four/

 

 

 

 

 

And the Beat Goes On: Day 3 of the Writing 101 Blog Challenge

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2Prompt for June 4.

Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

Today’s twist: You’ll commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward — are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.

 

Almost anything Carly Simon. Her is creative, energetic, and full of surprises. Here is one of my favorites, but with Carly, I swear I could just choose something at random, and it would be somewhere on my favorites list. All it takes is a playlist filled with Carly Simon to get my motivation going.

If I really want inspiration, I can go to almost anything by Playing for Change. I love how this organization has gathered musicians from around the world and created track after track of amazing music. The musicians, singers, and dancers on these videos often come from several countries around the world. I enjoy watching the text on the videos as the various musicians and groups are introduced. It is great fun just to see what far reaches of the world have been included in a specific song. Not only does this music motivate me, it actually elevates my mood. I can tell because I almost always catch myself smiling whenever I’m listening to their music. Here’s one of my favorites.

You might think that Careless Whisper by George Michael is an odd song in terms of motivational value. It’s a funny story involving an Italian style restaurant near my first Taiwan apartment, a proprietor who is as crazy as I am (and who has taught herself English), and a collection of CDs of all kinds of English music. I discovered this place after being in Taiwan for a couple of months. One day, I ventured the two-block walk to check it out for myself.

Going to a new restaurant in a foreign country is always an adventures. Will they have an English menu? If not, will they have a picture menu? Will someone be around who know enough English to help me? You get the idea. Well, it was the best thing I could have done, leading to an ongoing friendship with Yvonne. For the next 14 months, while I lived in that first apartment, I visited the shop two or even three times a week. In addition to the great food, I loved the music she played there. My first Christmas in Taiwan was easier to spend away from home because I could go have my dinner, grade papers, and listen to Christmas music.

I don’t know when it started, but Yvonne and I began singing along with some of the songs. Whitney Houston’s I will Always Love You is one that comes to mind. We’d get all theatrical about it and act like two crazy women–ok, maybe it wasn’t an act. But we had lots of fun. Not long after that, we starting doing some dancing. Careless Whisper by George Michael became “our song.” We danced and sang, even if the restaurant was full of customers (it was a small restaurant with a seating capacity of around 30, but still).

Yvonne, George Michael, and this restaurant bring out a part of me that is usually hidden inside, and I love the way I feel when I’m dancing in Yvonne’s restaurant. Something else has happened as well. Now, whenever I hear that song, in whatever context, I’m always transported to a little restaurant in Taiwan where I’m singing and dancing and acting crazy. It inspires me to be myself and to remember the good times with friends I’ve made here in Taiwan.

 

As for the twist, I’m using the blog as a means of focusing on the daily practice of writing. It doesn’t mean that a blog post will result every day. But at least I’m writing and thinking about future writing ideas. I’m also working on new ideas for my writing classes–a nice mix of writing and exploration about writing, without having to stop to read and comment on essays.  🙂

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This post is part of the WordPress Writing 101 Blogging Challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_assignment/writing-101-day-three/

If We Were Having Coffee: My First Edition

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fun of blog land!

Diana at Part Time Monster introduced me to this feature that starts out, If We Were Having Coffee . . . ., where the idea is to have the kind of conversation you’d have over a cup of coffee or tea. She isn’t the first person to do this. In fact, I did a search and found all kinds of people involved. For example, one of Jamie’s coffee breaks can be found here.

This weekly feature, she is the one who introduced me to the idea. I love the conversational style of it. I love that it encourages the randomness I’m starting to embrace in my blogging. And I love that it’s related to coffee! So here I go!

If we were having coffee . . .

*I’d tell you that I’m nearly half-done with grading for exams. I’m a little disappointed in the quality of the writing on these exams, but at the same time, I understand. I’ve mentioned in other places that I think 18-week semesters are a tad too long. I think students just want to get through the essay writing task and move on to their other exams. I’m crazy to look for great writing in an exam situation. And as I’m always reminding them BEFORE the exam, this is about showing me that you understand the process of writing, not about creating some perfect product–which is impossible in 80 minutes (or ever).  haha

*I’d tell you that I managed to get in four days of walking this week, in spite of the heat and humidity. I like the new coffee shop I’ve found that sets me up for such walks three times a week.

*I’d tell you that I’m struggling with productivity a bit this week. Although when I look at what I’ve accomplished, it’s not that much of a downturn. Maybe I need to stop comparing it to the insane schedule of the last two months. I’m looking into strategies to balance the to-do list with real breathing space.

*I’d tell you that I am enjoying the blog challenge and the randomness of my blogging lately. And that this might actually be one of two posts today. The second post would be the one to make up for not posting on the challenge yesterday. Since I’m already two weeks behind, it might be a good idea to make a little more of an effort.

*I’d tell you that the people I have found in blog land have helped me in my attempt to find my voice. The comments I’ve been getting the last days (since I started posting again) have encouraged me to keep heading in this direction. I’m beginning to think that my life is very random right now. As I use the next year or so to sort things out in preparation for my move back to the US, I may discover a specific focus I want to take on. But for now, I just use the blog to respond to the randomness of life in general.

*I’d tell you that I finally found fabric for the mystery blog challenge (post to follow) and that I’ve cut said fabric into the pieces I need for the first clue. Clue #2 arrives on July 1. In the meantime, I’m organizing my summer quilting dream list. Did I mention that there will be a post to follow at some point?

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How about you? What would you like to share if we were having coffee or tea? Share in the comments below, or do your own post.  I’d love to hear from you!

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Aside

The Prompt for June 3

If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

Today’s twist: organize your post around the description of a setting.

The only thing easy about today’s (June 3rd’s) challenge is that I knew I didn’t have to include the twist. I’m not a fiction writer and have no desire to be one. I admire people who do it, but with all the things I have on my plate, both required and those of a creative nature, fiction is something I just don’t pursue. So without the twist, things should be easy–just start zooming.

But it wasn’t that easy. I started thinking about places I’ve been that I’d like to return to, like Philadelphia, Albuquerque, Seattle, Hong Kong, Beijing, Kyoto, San Francisco, and Chicago, for starters. Then I thought of the places I’d still like to visit–a long list that includes not just cities, but several countries–France, England, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, Portugal, and Sweden, to name just a few. I couldn’t choose just one, and then I realized it wasn’t a spot on a map that draws me, but a spot in my mind–a location that calls to the creative side of me.

I thought about a retreat house that I’ve returned to many times over the years, even though it’s been over 20 years since my last visit. I remember how I could pack for a weekend or a week and reconnect with that creative side. I thought about other places studios, classrooms, friends’ homes, hotel rooms–places that released my creative energy.

It would be nice to create such a space in my own home, but I run into snags whenever I try that. I mean, I can cut fabric and sew in my own space, but many of the other creative activities seem to elude me. I have a few suspicions about why that is, but I’ll save that speculation for now, because I’m still trying to locate my room with a view.

And then it hit me! My room with a view exists in every city in the world. Multiple times. Because for me, all I have to do is pack up things I want to work on and head to a coffee shop. That’s where I am now, in fact. I had been working on this post at home, but was struggling to get it finished. It started morphing into something else–a post for another day. I wanted to get a handle on THIS post, not start a few others. I also needed to grade a few exams–not too many, just enough to make some progress. So the exams and the Netbook got packed into my bag, and here I sit with my iced latte. This particular shop is narrow and long with tables for 2, tables for 4, and one for six. The tables have powder blue scalloped table cloths with glass tops to protect them.

Located in my hometown of Bay City, Michigan.

Located in my hometown of Bay City, Michigan.

But it’s not the physical things I see that make these coffee shops work for me. It’s the ambiance–that feeling of entering a world where anything is possible. The coffee doesn’t hurt, of course. But for me, it’s getting away from all the distractions that are part of working at home. The coffee shop I visited yesterday, and the one I’m working at tonight are in Taiwan. I’ve spent many hours in coffee shops in nearly every one of those places mentioned in the first paragraph. The picture at the left is one that is halfway around the world from Taiwan. It is probably one of the coffee shops I’ve spent the most cumulative time. I’ve done so much creative work there and spent many great hours with friends. If you’d like to read about some of my Brewtopia adventures, you can find them here.

Coffee shops have a lot of physical details in common, but it’s the unique details that set them apart from one another. For me, I settle into to the environment and relax, rather than focusing on the physical aspects of those rooms with a view. What I love about coffee shops is that they free me from the external view (which is often distracting) and allow me a view into my internal creative workings. Regardless of the surroundings, a coffee shop offers me a room where I can view myself, and the magic is that the view is ever changing.

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This is part of the WordPress Writing 101 Blogging Challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_assignment/writing-101-day-two/

A Room With a View: Day 2 of the Writing 101 Blogging Challenge

Better Late Than Never: Day 1 of the Writing 101 Blogging Challenge

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2The Prompt for June 2:

To get started, let’s loosen up. Let’s unlock the mind. Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write.

And for your first twist? Publish this stream-of-consciousness post on your blog.

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I can’t remember the last time when I lost my voice. Well, actually, it was a few weeks ago when I got a cold and sore throat. But I mean my writing voice. I thought I was just floundering because of deadlines and scheduling, but there was obviously more to it than that. In fact, when the Writing 101 Blog Challenge came along, I thought it was just the thing. I signed up and even found a writing partner to join with me. Surely, the accountability with another would help, right?  But it didn’t. I had every intention of starting these prompts on June 2, but it didn’t happen.

Initially, I blamed it on my schedule and the heavy pressure of the deadlines I was under. But the truth is I had already been doubting my voice. I had already failed–multiple times–at follow through. The reasons for my blog dying again don’t really matter. I’ve mentioned some of them in the past few days, and I’ve though about them extensively during my written silence, but it’s time to make a plan for reclaiming the voice. A few times, during my silence, I posted things that touched me, but they didn’t propel me into any writing.

Luckily, the last few days have produced a couple of posts. And yesterday, I started this stream of consciousness at the coffee shop as a way of recommitting to my blog and my intention to participate in the blog challenge. So what if I’m a couple weeks behind. I’m here now, and I’m going to write and see where it takes me.  I need this place where I can stop judging whether or not I’ve lost my voice and just start writing again.

I admit to a kind of theme envy when authors and entrepreneurs and hobbyists have blogs that have a clear focus. I know they work hard to make it happen that way. But I’ve stopped looking for a niche right now. I just want to get back to writing and posting regularly. For now, that means nearly daily–because I can. And when it goes back to less often, that will be ok too.

admin-ajax.phpI have made so many plans for blog posts, but I’m done planning for a while. Follow the prompts. See where they lead. As I’ve looked at some of the prompts, I can feel stories open up from my past. Not stories to explain the present. I’m not looking for reasons, excuses, or explanation. I’m looking to recapture a few memories that intrigue me. They won’t be accurate. Seen through the lens of time from a different perspective, and knowing that I only had the ability to choose a few details to notice even then. The prompts will encourage me to explore ideas and scenarios that I wouldn’t normally do, but that will help me find my way to my voice again.

I can add other things that come up, whether from past lists or new ideas that pop up. The point is that the frozen ideas may now actually be thawing. I’m going to go with the flow.

 

 

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This is part of the Writing 101: Building a Blogging Habit Challenge: Day 1

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_assignment/writing-101-day-one/

 

 

Moving Toward Wholeness, Shaman Style

About a week ago, I found this image the Facebook page of one of my friends, Susan Frank. I was struck by the simplicity and the power of these questions, and the easiest way to save it for myself was to share it on my Facebook page.

shaman

The source for this image is Liora’s website, which you can find at http://www.twinflame1111.com

 

This message needed to be saved because over the last several weeks, I had found myself slipping into a cavern of deep frustration. I was able to keep the despair at bay–most of the time, but it was always nearby, threatening to join in. I kept working on projects and deadlines, but there was no joy in the normal day-to-day interactions with students that inspired me or reassured me that the efforts were effective. Occasionally, there would be some extraordinary moments where I actually got away from the desk and the classroom, but they were few. They renewed me momentarily, but they lost the cumulative effect that such encounters have had in the past.

This was my frame of mind then, when I encountered this message. I didn’t have to go beyond these four questions to recognize why I was so out-of-balance. The original four questions got my attention:

  1. When did you stop dancing?
  2. When did you stop singing?
  3. When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
  4. When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

I stopped all of these things when I felt like I had no time. I had plans to do a blog piece about dancing, but that was months ago now. It also had become necessary to stop going to Curves until the doctor cleared me to return. I could still be occasionally enchanted by stories, but it was harder for stories to reach my soul, and I stopped telling my own stories. As a result, my blog became lifeless. And silence lost all its sweetness as anxiety and its endless chatter took up lodging in my mind.

As much as these questions got my attention, I knew I needed to make them even more personal. I needed to create a list of questions that would guide me back to a sense of wholeness. A reminder that there are some activities that are necessary and not optional. By framing the questions in such a way, I could plot a path back to myself. I created a list of personalized questions:

 

  1. When did you stop making music?
  2. When did you stop quilting?
  3. When did you stop sharing your stories?
  4. When did you stop finding comfort in the small moments of beauty and sweetness?

In the couple of days since I created my own questions, there has been a shift. A summer quilting project will be revealed tomorrow. I’ve started blogging again, with more of a focus on stories, including a story about my future blog. I am set up to return to Curves in August. In the meantime, I’ve started walking to a coffee shop that is quite a bit farther than the local shops. The walking is the beginning of putting movement back into my life, while also giving me a source of new things to notice and appreciate. And a few times a week, the coffee shop provides a change of scenery that boosts my creative output.

At the moment, much of the stress has been eased, at least temporarily. I can now focus my energy on creative healing while accomplishing the tasks on my list in a more balanced way. Life is looking a lot brighter.