F is For Forgiveness

As part of the Blogging A to Z Challenge this month, I’m going to post about things I love or that are important to me.

Pear tree, Texas Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Pear tree, Texas
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Forgiveness is important to me. When I was younger, I had a hard time forgiving myself for anything. I blew up the tiniest mistake in my head and made it into a really big deal. I thought I had to be perfect, and I’m not sure why. When I couldn’t be (and since perfection is impossible, that was often), I felt bad about myself. I always just figured everyone felt this way.

I held other people to unrealistic standards too. I remember that one person said something that set me off, and I figured that meant they didn’t care about me. If people didn’t say the right thing at the right time, then I thought they didn’t care. It took me years to realize that not caring and not being able to read my mind are two different things.

I don’t really believe in forgive and forget, not about what I do or about what others do to me. I think that forgetting is unrealistic and dangerous. Willfully forgetting says that I should give up part of me, and I think that all experiences, both good and bad, are important parts of me.

People say that you should “forget,” but what they really mean is that once you forgive, you should let go of what hurt you. I can let go, and still remember. Remembering doesn’t mean that I’m sitting around listening to The Cure, endlessly rehashing what happened. It just means that I’ve learned something from the experience. Or that I’m trying to learn.

I really believe that forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. To forgive means to let go of the hurt and pain. It means we’re flawed and imperfect, and that’s okay. It means realizing that other people are just as flawed and imperfect as we are. I’ve done and said things in my life that I wish I could take back, and I’ve been forgiven for them. Doing bad things doesn’t make me a bad person, and most of the time when I’ve done bad things, it was because I was hurting in some way myself. Holding onto grudges wouldn’t do me any good, and it wouldn’t do anyone else any good either.

It’s taken a long time for me to learn to forgive myself or others. Some days I have to re-learn it all over again. But it’s always worth the effort.

Life Lessons

On Wellness Wednesdays, I post about a topic related to wellness.

“I have learned silence form the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind, yet strange, I am ungrateful for those teachers.”

-Khalil Gibran

San Tan Mountain Regional Park, Arizona Photo Credit: Doree Weller

San Tan Mountain Regional Park, Arizona
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I believe that we’re all presented with the same lesson in life, over and over, until we learn it.  People and situations may annoy or upset us, but the truth is that everything can be a learning experience.

It’s difficult because we don’t get letter grades for these experiences.  No one marks up our experience with a red pen, showing us exactly what we need to improve.  Instead, we have to figure it out.

The best way to figure out how you’re doing in learning about something in particular is by how it makes you feel.  If it upsets, angers, frustrates, or makes you afraid, you may have more to learn from it.  The more intensely you feel, the more important the lesson.

People who won’t shut up irritate me.  They talk and talk, repeating themselves, and usually end up saying very little.  I recently had yet another encounter with one of these individuals.  He was a member of my writer’s critique group, and he gave good feedback, but it was buried within a speech to rival the length of War and Peace.  I tried to let him know, gently, that it was difficult for me to hear what he was trying to tell me when he repeated the same thing over and over.  I think I hurt his feelings, and soon after, he dropped out of the group.  I still feel bad about that, wondering if what I said made him want to leave.

I have two lessons to learn here.  I’m honestly not sure what the first lesson is; I’m still trying to figure it out.  Perhaps that I need to listen, even when I don’t want to?  Or perhaps how to give better feedback?  The second lesson is most definitely that the world doesn’t revolve around me, and if he chose to drop out of group, that was his choice, and I didn’t “cause” it.

If I insulted him, he could have spoken to me about it.  He could have ignored me or told me to go to hell.  I’m not responsible for the choices he made, and likely his choice to leave group didn’t have anything to do with me at all.

What lessons are you still working through?

What I Learned in 2014

In Vancouver, Canada Photo Credit: Doree Weller

In Vancouver, Canada
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Odd numbered years tend to be better for me than even numbered years.  And while 2014 wasn’t awful, it wasn’t great either.  That being said, 2014 was full of learning experiences, and I have to be grateful for those.  Perhaps, like literary fiction, 2014 will be better in review than it was while living it.

I learned that I needed to remember how much I love poetry and quotes.  When I was a teenager, I kept a notebook where I dutifully copied poetry and quotes that I loved.  I still have that notebook somewhere.  As I got older, I started saving things I liked in folders in my email, and promptly forgot them.  For years, I’ve loved upcycled notebooks and bought them, but then didn’t write anything in them.  Well, I now have an awesome poetry and quotes book.  I copy things down and doodle in it.  Writing things I love in there is more immediate than saving them on my computer, and it feels more personal.

Journaling is fun and therapeutic.  I’ve been a sporadic journaler for a few years, and even when I was doing more of it, it was mostly stuff about what I did during the day; nothing exciting. Recently I turned my journal into a place where I jot down all my thoughts.  Things about stories, reflections on my day, positive things that people have said to me.  And you know what?  Just like that, not only do I enjoy journaling again, but I find that it’s a good way to process my day or my feelings on something.

Colored pens make everything better.  Okay, they don’t cure world hunger or addiction, but if I’m having a bad day, doodling in my journal in colored pens makes me smile.  It doesn’t matter if I can’t draw; as long as it’s in color, it looks great.

I learned that no matter how many friends I have, there’s always room for more.  I’m an introvert, so in my mind, I only need so many friends.  I mean, there’s only so much time in life.  Despite my intentions, I ended up making a new friend this year, someone who will undoubtedly be around for the rest of my life.

Books aren’t written; they’re rewritten.  I know this, but I still have to learn it over and over again.  I just have to keep editing until I get it right, and every time, it will be a little better than it was last time.  That’s okay.  The best things in life take time.

Criticism hurts, but it won’t kill me.  I joined a fantastic writer’s group, and got some feedback that really stung.  After I got over licking my wounds and eating 41 pints of ice cream, I took an objective look at the criticism I received.  Some of it, I still disagreed with, so I filed it away and decided not to edit anything based on that.  Other parts of the criticism were spot on, and I made some changes based on that.  Once I got over tripping on my own ego, I realized that I was presented with a unique opportunity to improve.

I strive to be a lifelong learner, and I’m very excited to see what’s going to happen in 2015.  What, if anything, did you learn in 2014?


What I Learned From NaNoWriMo

Photo credit: Doree Weller

Photo credit: Doree Weller

I joined NaNoWriMo about 4 years ago, and I’ve never “won.”

For those of you who don’t know it, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, and it challenges writers to complete a novel in the month of November.  It calls a novel 50,000 words, which is 1,667 words a day.

In the past four years, my commitment has varied, but I’ve tried to do it, and each time I’ve failed.

This year, I went into it determined to just get words on paper.  I wasn’t going to worry about whether or not they were good, but just go for quantity.  Some writers encourage this practice because just writing can be a key to creativity, and they say that it can override the self-consciousness that holds some writers back.

In past years, I haven’t been able to finish because I struggled over what to write.

You see, I have a problem with middles.  I do beginnings great, and endings well, but the middle gets me stuck.  I’m not the only writer with that problem.  I remember back when I attended a writer’s conference, they called it “Muddle in the Middle.”

I had written 15,000 words of this novel, and it wasn’t working.  I knew it was bad, and I didn’t like where the plot was going, but I decided to go with it, because the idea was just to get 50,000 words on paper in November.  It didn’t feel right to me, but I wanted to try it.

Then I went to a meeting of my writer’s group.  Another group member, who did not know I was doing NaNoWriMo mentioned that he was going to start submitting his finished novel to agents in December, because in reading agents’ blogs, they were inundated with garbage novels after NaNoWriMo.  The other group member made some disparaging comments about NaNoWriMo.

I heard other things that night that made me doubt myself.  Other group members had criticisms that hurt me personally.  Usually, I can take criticism without taking it personally (it took a LOT of practice, believe me), but on this particular night, I couldn’t separate it from myself.

I was sad that following week, and did a lot of soul searching.  I stopped working on my NaNoWriMo novel.  I even thought about giving up writing completely; it all felt kind of pointless.

But when I got over feeling sorry for myself, I started to look at some things with myself and my writing.

I’ve known for a long time that I’m not disciplined or organized in any aspect of my life, and I’ve used the excuse that “I’m creative” to get out of considering to do things differently.

I read a bunch of writer’s blogs and information from various sources.  I took notes on what I read and really thought about it.  I realized that I haven’t treated this process as if I’m serious about it.  I’ve done some of the work, but not enough.

NaNoWriMo is great for people struggling with self-doubt, who need to get practice getting words on paper.  I’ve read that you need 10,000 hours of practice to “master” anything.  NaNoWriMo can be helpful at getting some of those hours.

I’ve written 3 novels completely.  The first one wasn’t good.  The second was better.  The third will be publishable once it’s edited heavily.  I have seven unfinished novels.  When I counted them up and really thought about that number, I realized that there’s something wrong with my process.  I like the ideas of each of those novels, so why haven’t I finished them?  What happens is that I get an idea and get excited about it, then put words on paper without any clear idea of how I’m going to get from A to Z.  It’s less exciting when I need to get down to figuring out how the dots connect, so I move on to a different project.

One of my favorite quotes is:

“Amateurs wait for inspiration.  The rest of us just get up and go to work.”  -Chuck Close

I’ve been quoting that for years, but I’m not sure I ever really thought about what it meant.  Once I did that soul searching, I realized that my lack of discipline is a serious problem.  I saw myself waking up one day 10 years from now and looking at my dozens of unfinished novels, wondering why I’m no further along in my writing career than I was when I was 8 years old.

Something had to change.

As I said, I started reading, because that’s what writers do when stuck; they read.  And I journaled.  And talked to a friend.  Doing those three things helped me realize that I’ve been a lazy writer.  Because I’m good at it, I didn’t feel like I had to do any work on it.  And if I started novels and didn’t finish them, I just hadn’t found the right idea, right?


My major problem is that I don’t map out stories before I start.  I get an idea and I start them with no clear idea of where I’m going.  I like to let the characters lead, but letting the characters lead doesn’t mean that I don’t have to know what the path looks like and the destination.  Knowing the path doesn’t mean they can’t take the scenic route or choose the fork in the road; it just means that I have to have an idea of the direction they’re going in.

The question I had to ask myself was, “Why do I write?”  First and foremost, I write for myself.  I write because I love it, because I have stories to tell, and I want to tell them.  I want to know what happens next.  But I also would like to be published, mostly because I want to share my stories.  If I live until 100 and never get anything published, I’ll be disappointed, but I’ll probably still write.  I don’t know if I could stop if I tried.  🙂

I’ve always been a fan of Query Shark, as the query letter is my nemesis.  One of the things she says is that every word must be the right word.  Dean Koontz says something similar.  His writing process is to polish every page and examine every word until he moves on in the story.  I’ve been reading those two pieces of information for years, and I don’t think I ever really understood them.  As a writer, it is my responsibility to make sure the work says what I want it to say.

That disappointing week was difficult for me, but I’m proud of myself, that I was able to really look at what hurt me and learn from it.  When my first novel is finally being published, I know that I’m going to look back on that week and realize that was a turning point for me, and my taking a hard look at myself will be what makes it possible.

I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo, but I won something much more valuable.

Endings and Beginnings

by The TV Guy

UnknownAs we travel on the road of life there are many twists and turns. My life like many others has had fits and starts with little completion of major tasks. Today that all changed!

I crossed the stage and was congratulated for completing something that took a long time to complete. I graduated from college today after decades of trying one thing or the other I finally finished a major task that I have always wanted and today I hold in my hand a college degree.

The past couple of years have rekindled my desire to learn, grow and change. When one chapter ends another is set to begin. I look forward to my next level of education and learning what I am capable of completing when just enough pressure is placed upon me to force something good to come from the confrontation of my fears.

Viewing pick of the week: This is the End!!!

Starring Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill and James Franco along with a plethora of cameos like Rhianna and Channing Tatum….need I say more?

It is a weird and twisted apocalyptic story of faith and friendship;>


O is for Openness

IMG_0536I try to be open.  Open-minded, open to new experiences, open to learning.   I’ve learned a lot of things from the people in my life, and I thought I’d share them here.

From the TV Guy, I learned that you can learn at least one thing from anyone and everyone.  Pay attention.

From my husband, I learned that stereo instructions aren’t really hard to read.  And that everyone likes homemade cake.

From my grandmother, I learned that you can make anything into art.

From my grandfather, I learned that you’re never to old to learn, and if you own it, you should know how to use it.

From my mother, I learned that it’s important to live every day to the fullest.

From my father, I learned that everything tastes better when it’s cooked with love.

From my sister, I learned that it’s important to be careful what you say in the heat of anger because you never know if you’ll get the opportunity to say you’re sorry.  Also, you’re never to old or too poor to follow your dreams.

From my sister’s boyfriend, I learned to never stop trying.

From my brother, I learned that you never know someone else’s experience of the world unless you ask.  And even then, you may not get it.

*Note: I’m an only child and don’t have a brother or sister by blood, but they’re related to me by love, so it counts.

There’s Nothing Wrong With Staying Home

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  I’m a homebody; I admit it.  I’m perfectly content to sit in my back yard or curl up on my couch and read a book.  I leave the loud clubs and the smoky rooms to other people.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m missing out, but it always seems so much louder out in the big bad world.

I like new experiences.  I like to say I’ll try almost anything once.  The problem is that it doesn’t occur to me to seek out new experiences.  If I hear about something I’d like to try, I file it away in my brain under “To do.”  Sometimes I get around to it, sometimes not.

For the next two days, I’m going to be at a military culture training.  We’re going to be “immersed” in military culture for 32 hours.  Can I learn what it’s like to be in the military in 32 hours.  Um, no.  All I expect is a tiny taste of what those in the military experience.  I can pretty much guarantee that no one’s going to shoot at me and that nothing’s going to blow up.  At least, I hope not.

As someone in the human service field and as a writer, I think this experience is going to be invaluable.  I almost didn’t go.  I’m giving up two of my days off in order to go to a training, and I’d rather stay home.  As a person and as a writer, I try to push myself out of my comfort zone, because that’s how I learn.  As the time to start my training approaches, I’m both excited and resigned.  I’d still rather stay home for the next two days, but when I’m done with the training, I expect to have some new stories, new ideas, and a little more life experience.  That’s worth exchanging for two days of my weekend.

Free Learning

I am a Mac geek.  Well, okay, I’m just a plain old geek, but one who happens to love Macs.  I just learned one more thing that makes me warm and fuzzy.

Have you heard of iTunes U?  (Show of hands)  I hadn’t heard of them either, before today.  Apparently, they have tons of free courses online from major universities.  My husband is checking out programming classes, and I’m checking out some creative writing courses.  At some point, I’ll explore and maybe sit in on some classes just for fun.  Philosophy, sociology, psychology… the possibilities are endless.

I can brush up on my Spanish or learn more about the Beatles.  I love the Internet, and I love Apple.  I also love all these universities for giving away content like this.  Why are they doing it?  Probably because you can’t get a degree this way, but if you love to learn, who cares about the piece of paper?

If, for some reason, you don’t already have iTunes, you can download it free to a Mac or a PC.  The link is www.itunes.com