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In the woods near my house Photo Credit: Doree Weller

In the woods near my house
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

So, as you might be able to tell by the title, I’ve been having some trouble with multitasking.  I’m getting a lot written on my novel, and I’m almost done, which is super exciting to me.  However, I have not been blogging.  Or doing stuff in, you know, my real life.

I wrote a while ago about how I needed to go on a technology diet, to leave space for creativity in my head when I was being quiet and not occupying it with Candy Crush or checking Facebook.  I was somewhat successful with that.

I’ve found something my muse has liked recently, and that’s taking walks in the pool.  I’m always on the lookout for exercise I enjoy, and since I hate exercise, that doesn’t happen often.  I used to go on hikes with my brother, but since I moved out of Arizona, that doesn’t happen anymore.  :(  I hadn’t found anything to replace those weekly hikes, and I had put on a few pounds.  I tried walking at home, but I hate the humidity, and I hate feeling soaked in sweat.  I joined a gym that had cycling classes and yoga, and while I liked them, I got bored with them after awhile.  Then I broke my finger and couldn’t do yoga anymore, so I quit.

We have a neighborhood pool, and it’s hot here in Texas, so one morning, I decided to go out and walk the pool.  I walked for a half hour, and during that time, I had lots of ideas come to me.  My characters started speaking to me, and I came up with scenes that my book had been missing.  (The only problem is that I have to remember them when I get out of the pool.  Taking a pen and paper in with me doesn’t work that well.  Not that I tried it.)

I love that I’m super productive with my book and getting some exercise.  I just wish I was good at doing more than one thing at a time.

Opinions

Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Photo Credit: Doree Weller

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

-Marcus Aurelius

I recently witnessed an argument in my writer’s group between two people I respect tremendously.  They got into an argument because the critiquer was absolutely sure that they were right about their opinion on what they were critiquing.  The critiquee got understandably upset and insulted.  Unkind words were exchanged.

It’s important to keep perspective on things and remember that your truth is not everyone’s truth.  And while you’re entitled to your opinion, it’s best not to jam it down someone else’s throat.  Strong opinions make the world a more interesting and diverse place.  Being sure that your version of the truth is the “right” version does not add to the world; it subtracts.

Go forth and be kind this week.

“Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true.”
-Robert Brault

Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Photo Credit: Doree Weller

A guy tries to give money to a homeless man, and the man takes it, but then asks if the guy will just talk to him for a little while. The video made me tear up.  It’s true that people just want to connect with one another, and that’s more important than anything.  Take 3 minutes and watch the video.  And remember, whatever else you think of homeless people, they’re still just people at the core of it.

 A woman overhears a hurtful conversation between a mother and daughter about a plus sized tank top.  The woman buys the item in question, and her selfie goes viral.

Grey Muzzle Rescue is a rescue run by one man, set up to take in senior dogs who otherwise might not find a home. There’s an article, and a 13 minute video. Well worth watching to brighten your day.

A man overcomes homelessness by knitting bears.

A child confesses that he worries that people won’t like him because he’s gay, and he gets many responses from strangers reassuring him.  It’s nice to see people come together in acceptance and kindness.

Being Insensitive

Random spider, chilling in the woods near my house.  (Not a Black Widow) Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Random spider, chilling in the woods near my house. (Not a Black Widow)
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I’m insensitive.

No, really, I am.  Or at least, that’s what people tell me.

It’s just that I have really thick skin, most of the time.  It’s hard to insult me; you have to work at it.  As a result, I have to try to remember what others find hurtful, and I’m not always good at it.

Part of the reason I love Facebook is that it shows me what other people get upset about, and helps me to be more sensitive.

Part of the reason I hate Facebook is because it shows me what other people get upset about, and makes me wonder: WHY??

Case in point, a few months ago, people got upset because Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans made a joke during an interview for the Avengers that Black Widow (the fictional character, not to be confused with the real person, Scarlett Johansen), was a slut.  The interviewer asked them about “shipping” (potential relationships for those of you who don’t know the term) with Captain America, Hawkeye, and the Hulk.  Because we all know that if a woman is friendly with a man, she must want a relationship with him, right?  But I digress… They joked that she was a “slut” and a “whore.”

People got really upset about it, and of course, both actors apologized.

I have many thoughts about this, and no real conclusions.

First off, is “slut” and “whore” really the worst thing a woman can be called?  We turn it into this big feminist thing, and while I don’t ever condone putting women (or anyone) down for personal choices like sexuality, if we refuse to be stigmatized by those words, we remove their power.  There’s no real equivalent word for men (at least not that I can think of).  Once upon a time, “bitch” was a put down for women too, but many women have usurped it and made it a power word.  I think it’s time to just start shrugging off stupid people who judge sexuality.  She’s a slut because she makes choices about her sex life that you don’t agree with?  Whatever.

Second, it’s a fictional character.  I mean, I get that the way we talk about and portray fictional characters really does impact how we think about real people.  I’m a writer, so I get it.  But, let’s assume that these are pretty nice guys.  They were joking around about a character in a movie, and probably didn’t think it was that big of a deal.  Actors aren’t writers, and I have to wonder if they like getting asked about how their characters think and interact as if they’re real people.  I never get tired of talking about characters like real people, but I don’t act; I write.

Third, why do we care so much about potential romantic involvements in movies?  I mean, if a man and a woman in a movie seem to really care about one another, people start speculating that there’s something romantic going on.  Men and women aren’t ever allowed to “just” be friends, as if friendship isn’t an important enough relationship to “just” be that.  I know we want our fictional characters to be happy, and that means that we want them in a fulfilling romantic relationship, but the fact is that people can be friendly without romantic interest.  And what is “flirting” anyway?  These days, manners and basic courtesy seem to be mistaken for flirting.

Fourth, the fact is that guys joke about women, saying things about them that they’d never say to them.  Women do it too.  When we sit around drinking our margaritas, we say things that we’d never want our significant others to hear.  And if they did, we’d want them to know we didn’t mean it.  Actors just happen to get much of what they say captured on film, so they’re not allowed to make jokes in questionable taste.  If they do, it’s a BIG DEAL.

Fifth, and this kind of ties on to my last point… people don’t mean everything they say.  If I had a camera on me every time something stupid popped out of my mouth, I’d probably have people protesting me.  It’s not that I mean what I say all the time; it’s just that sometimes the brain-mouth filter doesn’t engage in time and something comes out of my mouth that even mystifies me.  I’m like, “Where did that come from?  I wasn’t even thinking that!”  Or in the words of Adele, “Just ’cause I said it, it doesn’t mean that I meant it…”

We all say things, and we’re all insensitive sometimes.  I think it’s time for us to stop being so damn sensitive to what everyone says and does.  People do stupid things sometimes.  They say stupid things.  Let’s take the sting out of insults, and take back our power.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

If not allowing others to make me feel inferior makes me insensitive, so be it.  I can live with that.

That's nuts! Photo Credit: Doree Weller

That’s nuts!
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Dear Other Writers,

It seems like everyone who has anything to say these days says it in a public forum, whether that’s blogging or Facebook, or Twitter or self-publishing a book.

Through blog challenges, I’ve had an opportunity to read other people’s work, and it’s been a mixed experience.  Some of these blogs are hidden jewels that I wouldn’t have found if I weren’t doing blog challenges.  They’re well written, interesting, and I keep going back for more.

Other blogs have a ton of basic issues, jumping back and forth between present and past tense, poor grammar, and poor punctuation.  It’s to the writers of these blogs that I’m addressing myself.

Even if you don’t think I’m talking about you, I might be.  I’ve been there.  Early on, when I made the transition from writing for myself to trying to get things published, I thought it was going to be easy because I was “naturally” a writer.  Words just seemed to flow from my brain to paper, and I thought that every word I wrote was golden.

Um, no.

I wasn’t sure why I wasn’t getting published, so I decided to find an online critique website, and I started using Reviewfuse (which I think is now defunct as it won’t load).  I don’t remember what the first criticism I received was, but I do remember that it hurt.  It stung.  It was obviously wrong.

I almost decided not to bother with it anymore, and then my better judgement overcame my ego, and said, “You’re here, so why don’t you try taking their feedback?  You can keep an unchanged copy of your story in Word.”

Thank goodness my Better Judgement speaks to me sometimes.  After edits, that was the first story I ever got paid for.  It was only $50, but that’s a huge amount to someone who would have written that story anyway, for free.  And that also cemented it.  Listen to feedback = get paid.  Discard feedback = stuff sits unpublished on my computer.

I tell you this, because even if you think your writing is wonderful, it might not be.  I’m not going to make unsolicited comments on your writing style when visiting your blog because it seems rude.  It seems like visiting your house and mentioning the crumbs on the counter.  I’m just not going to do it.  But please, have someone other than your friends read your blog and give you feedback on your writing.  I’d be happy to do it if you ask.  Join a writers group through Meetup or online (I personally like Scribophile currently).  Ask a retired English teacher or another blogger.  Read articles about writing from Writer’s Digest or Query Shark.  Read Stephen King’s book, On Writing.

If you just want a place to put your thoughts, keep a journal or make your blog private.  I’m a huge advocate of just writing whatever you want in your journal, without worrying about grammar or punctuation or spelling.  But if you’re going to publish your work, even in a blog forum, please take it seriously.  Writing is a form of art, and it pains me to see you writing that way in a public setting.  If you, who calls yourself writer, don’t have a basic grasp of English language rules, then what hope do we have for everyone else?

Shall I just give up and understand that evry1 is guna rite lik dis?  (That hurt to type.  Forgive me.)

Fellow writers (and readers too), what do you think?  Am I being too dramatic, or do you agree that this is a problem?

My Technology Diet

Ladybird Johnson Botanical Gardens, Austin TX Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Ladybird Johnson Botanical Gardens, Austin TX
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I need to go on a diet.  A technology diet, that is.

I’m not going to claim that I’m leaving social media or anything crazy like that.  I’m not.

Technology isn’t inherently good or bad; it’s just a tool.  A hammer is just a tool.  It can be used to hammer in a nail, break a window, or as a murder weapon.  The hammer is just doing what you tell it to do.  Same with technology.  It can be a wonderful tool, but it can also be a horrible distraction.

I had some quiet time recently, where I was writing in my journal and just thinking.  My last published story happened in 2013.  2013!  Two years ago.  I had a prolific year for published stories in 2011, and I was wondering what happened.  I used to have tons of ideas, and then they dried up.

At first I thought it was my job.  I had a very stressful job for awhile, but I’m not at that job anymore.

Last night, I realized that it’s my love of technology that’s stopping the flow of ideas.

There was a time when I couldn’t imagine why I’d want a Smartphone.  This was probably in 2007.  I begrudgingly got my first Smartphone because we moved and I was lost all the time.  It was guaranteed GPS, and my husband really wanted me to get on board, so I did.  I’m not sure when my phone became permanently attached to me.  I take it into the bathroom.  It’s in my hand when I move around the house.  I use it in the grocery store (for more than just shopping lists).  I surf the internet or play games when I’m waiting in line.

And because of all this, I have no space in my head to just think and wonder and dream.  I realized that my ideas have “dried up” because I’m not giving them any space to grow.

So I’m going on a technology diet.  I’ll still surf the internet and use my laptop.  But I’m going to (try) to stop carrying my phone with me everywhere.  I’m going to try to put my phone down and look around when I’m in line.  I may actually go back to paper grocery lists, just to remove the temptation.

Have you ever gone on a technology diet?  Do you think it’s something you should do?

Roatan, Honduras Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Roatan, Honduras
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Last week, as I’m sure everyone knows, the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality.  I saw a lot of celebration on my news feed. There was also an article shared about a pastor who stated that he would set himself on fire if gay marriage was legalized, and many of the comments I saw were things like, “Has he done it yet?” “Fire! Fire!” and so on.

I feel bad for that pastor.  How much hatred does he have to have inside him for him to threaten to light himself on fire because of something that has nothing to do with him?  How much must he hate himself to make those statements? We’re a culture that’s easily angered.  We’re intolerant of his hatred and intolerance, and our knee-jerk reaction to such stupid statements (because yes, I think it’s stupid to light yourself on fire because other people now have more rights than they did a month ago) is to bring gasoline to his fire, to jump on the hatred bandwagon.

I’m not hitching a ride.

I get why it feels good to respond to his hatred and anger in kind, but it doesn’t do any of us any good.  From the time I was little, my parents told me “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” and no matter how much we pretty it up, that’s what the sentiment boils down to.  Righteous anger might feel good, but that doesn’t make it right.

If I tried to talk to that pastor and met his hatred with more hatred, I pretty much guarantee he wouldn’t hear anything I had to say. If, however, I met his hatred with compassion, perhaps he would hear me.  Maybe not.  Maybe he would hear some part of what I had to say.  I can’t make others listen, but I’ve found that if I treat people with respect, it almost always has better results than treating them with disrespect.

There are a lot of people I don’t agree with.  There are opinions that offend me.  But if people respond to intolerance and offense with hatred, it just perpetuates more hatred.

It might be difficult, but I encourage you to remember that when someone is awful, your hatred won’t make them better, nicer, or more tolerant.  After all, nothing you can say will be worse than what they live with.  People who spread hatred have to live with themselves.  Treat them with kindness, because they’ve already sentenced themselves to life in a prison of hate.

Hello, and welcome to Feel Good Friday, where I focus on the positive things around us.

On the Apache Trail, Arizona Photo Credit: Doree Weller

On the Apache Trail, Arizona
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Blind cat and her human go on adventures.  This is a sweet story.

Preschool in Seattle visits a nursing home.  The kids perk up the elderly residents, and it’s good for the kids too.  I think this is wonderful, and I hope more places start doing this.

Police officer sings to a toddler to calm her after she’s involved in a car accident that killed the rest of her family.

Child opens a lemonade stand to pay for an iPad.  When a cop sees what she’s doing, he helps her reach her goal.

Dad and daughter do 39 Acts of Kindness for their birthdays.  What a nice way to celebrate.

Have a fabulous weekend!  And remember, be kinder than you need to, and focus on the good whenever you can.

Moonshyne on my shoulder, her favorite sleeping spot.

Moonshyne on my shoulder, her favorite sleeping spot.

I took a bit of a break from blogging.  Not on purpose.  It’s just that I couldn’t seem to get my head on straight.

My cat, Moonshyne, died on May 25.  She was 18-years-old, and I had her for almost half my life.

I’ve dealt with other pets dying of course, but none that had been such a constant companion.  For 18 years, she was there every time I came home.  She would curl up in my lap or on my shoulder when I sat down, and slept with me many nights.

I’ve dealt with human loved ones dying, but in those situations, my grief was never the most immediate.  It was always someone else whose need was greater, so I managed those much differently.

I thought I was prepared to lose her.  After all, 18-years-old is by far, the oldest cat I’ve ever had.  As people have said to try to be supportive, “That’s a long time for a cat.”  She obviously wasn’t the oldest cat in existence.  Some cats live to 20 or even 25, while others die much younger.

I wasn’t prepared for my level of grief or for the fog I went through afterward.  Being trained as a therapist, and having done work as a grief therapist, I know about it, of course.  I know that it’s a pretty typical grief reaction, which actually doesn’t make it any easier.  It wasn’t that I felt depressed or that I was tearful or anything like that.  I just literally couldn’t get motivated to do anything.  Or if I would get motivated, I’d get sidetracked.  Everything seemed to take much longer to do than it should have.

Then, on top of that, I broke my finger.  I was so irritated at first!  But as I’ve developed a 9 finger typing method, I’ve realized it’s not such a big deal after all.  It’s only a finger.

When I’m stressed out or upset, I read.  (I know, big shock, right?)  But I don’t read just anything; mostly I want to re-read.  I call them “comfort books” which I’d prefer to comfort foods any day.  This time around, I’ve been reading through JD Robb’s In Death series, starting from the beginning.  I realized that I started feeling better before I was aware that I had been feeling bad.

It’s always interesting when I live out lessons from therapy.  I knew that the magnitude of the loss doesn’t necessarily predict the reaction, and that when you don’t deal with other losses, sometimes they come back and hit you, forcing you to deal with them when you least expect them.  This time around, it was my turn to deal with something difficult, more difficult than I expected.  At least I knew what to do: treat myself kindly.  So that’s what I’ve been doing.  I treated myself kindly, and I think I (mostly) have my head on straight again.

Hello!  It’s Motivational Monday.  Here’s today’s quote.

Roosevelt Lake, Arizona Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Roosevelt Lake, Arizona
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

“We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep.”
-Earl Nightingale

I’m definitely happiest when I’m busy, but not busywork-busy, actual goal-directed, productive busy.  So as you start your week, when things seem tough, remind yourself of what goals you’re working toward.

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