What are you reading?

Personally, I hate this question. I was reminded of this fact a few minutes ago while  reading a blog post giving advice to introverts attending writers conferences. One of the suggestions  was to ask what are you currently reading as a conversation opener.

Generally, I’m speechless when someone uses that question on me……. even when I am  in the middle of reading a book in a public place.

Not always, but most times, I’m enjoying the book and under the right circumstances would be excited about sharing why, in great detail. So why is this question a conversation killer for me?

The first thing that comes to mind is hype around what is considered to be a must-read book. Pretty much never, is how often anyone will  find me reading a critically acclaimed book. Filtering what I’m reading through this criteria robs me of words. I assume the asker will be expecting me to name some fabulous book. Maybe I assume wrongly…. I might need to give that some thought.

The reason I rarely read recommended books is because (in my mind) book critic’s  ratings are on the same scale as movie and fashion critics.  Their picks usually appeal to a niche market, not the mainstream. I march to the beat of my own drum. I like what I like and don’t spend time worrying about what’s trendy or popular. How’s that working out for me? Very well, I have to say.

The second filter has to do with time. When I hear the question, what are you reading, I feel like the answer should be along the lines of – this month we are reading ____

The thing is; most often the current book was started a few hours ago and in a few more hours it will be a different one. That’s just the way it is for me. Gobble, gobble. The only time a book lasts longer is when it doesn’t appeal and breaks are needed to help get me through it.

Maybe the last reason I’m reluctant to name a book is because I expect it will be a conversation stopper when you hear what I’m reading.

So, what am I currently reading? ……  Blog posts.

I’m taking a break, a new book will be starting shortly.

I have been reading awesome authors with amazing stories. Maybe I just need to get over my own insecurities and stand tall and proud about what I’m reading.


In this setting, I like telling you about books I’ve read. I’m still behind, so more are coming …. soon.

Happy reading!

Podcasts, vlogs, and blogs

Podcasts and live videos have been capturing my attention lately and I am hooked. There is something about live interaction that makes the dissemination of information so much more attractive – at least to me anyway.

Podcasts

Carey Nieuwhof is one of the podcasters I’ve been following lately.    http://careynieuwhof.com/mypodcast/

Carey’s specialty is leadership training and everything he does revolves around that.  He has the gift of finding interesting guests and insightful questions for his podcasts. Every one I’ve listened to so far has been worthwhile and inspiring; even more interesting  than the titles suggested to this non-leader type  person. I examine the subject title and wonder how it could relate to me. It’s a surprise to find there is always something to catch my interest and keep me listening. Most of the interviewees have recently written a book and that’s always part of the conversation as well.

Today’s podcast was to be about organizing your calendar in a way that would make it possible to accomplish a daunting list of tasks without spending mega hours in the office. This guest is a busy man with an overwhelming mountain of responsibility  but somehow he manages to streamline his day and get it all done.  They discussed his methods for a while and then switched to the topic of his new book. It’s called The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self Discovery, by guest Ian Morgan Cron. It’s based on an old psychological system with nine personality types. That’s a higher number than some of today’s more popular systems use, which makes it different before we even get started. They touched briefly on each of them in the hour long podcast. Carey had read the book and applied the test to himself so the informed discussion was enlightening.

The first order of business at the end of the podcast was to purchase my own  copy from Amazon. I’m always interested to see what I can learn about myself with any of these tools. I haven’t started reading the book yet but I’m sure I’ll be talking about it when I do.

Video Podcasts (Vlogs)

Anglican Unscripted is a video podcast/vlog I’ve been following for a year or so. They do a journalism show in live video. The subject is always news as it relates to the Anglican church and happens once or twice a week. I’m not Anglican, (although I am ecumenical –  does anyone even use that word anymore?) but I find their discussions interesting. It appeals to me because I like to have a feel for what is going on in the world.

There are three main participants in the show; Kevin Kallsun and George Conger in the US, (Connecticut and Florida) and Gavin Ashenden in the UK. The link to check them out is AnglicanTV Ministries – YouTube.

Gavin used to be chaplain to the Queen but parted ways with the Anglican Church over doctrinal issues. He is highly educated and has a wise way of expressing himself. George is an Episcopal priest and while he agrees with Gavin, most of the time, he has his own slant on things. I enjoy watching them discuss the issues of the day. Once in a while, we even hear interviews from Australia, Israel, Africa, or several other places.

This week Anglican Unscripted/Anglican TV shared six videos that captured my interest enough  to watch all of them three times. The speakers were polished, knowledgeable, and inspiring; workshop leaders at an Anglican’s For Life Conference in Washington DC. The conference was in conjunction with a Right to Life march happening there that weekend.

The speakers did touch on the subject of abortion, but only one spoke to it in depth. The others spoke on topics like terminal illness and its affect on both the patient and the family; the needs  that stem from this hurting community and how they can be met. Up to ninety percent of a persons support systems fall away after cancer diagnosis, mostly because as a society we don’t know how to deal with the issue and tend to run away from it. The challenge from each speaker was to step up and learn what we can do to be there for these people in our lives. They talked about post abortion devastation and the grief process that is being endured hopelessly, in silence, and about bringing hope to the elderly – their life isn’t over, it still has meaning and purpose, if they look for it.

On the surface the subjects sound depressing but each speaker dealt with their segment in a way that brought hope for a better future.

I found the speakers compelling and know I will be contemplating their thoughts for some time to come. If you would like to hear more, the videos are on YouTube on the Anglican TV channel. It would be well worth your time if you have a heart for hurting people.

The speakers I liked the best were Georgette Forney, Rick Berge, David Bereit, Aveda King (related to Martin Luther King Jr.), Ryan T Anderson, and Cathie Young.

Blogs

Last but not least, I have been following Dr. Perry’s blog at  makeitultrapsychology.wordpress.com.  I recommend his site if you are looking for safe and helpful input in your life. Check out his bio for a clearer idea of what his site is all about.

This time it was an excellent and helpful post about empathy; but what really caught my attention was a comment on the post. A reader mentioned a book she found helpful, by Alan Alda, one of my favorite actors in the old Mash TV series.

Alan is an intelligent, educated, and well-read man interested in all things science. He hosted a science show for over a decade and has followed some of his own ideas with an obsession. Communication is dear to his heart and he’s put much effort into testing and understanding his ideas for improvement. Empathy forms a large part of his strategy for good communication and he has a light-hearted way of sharing serious information so that it sticks. He’s written a book called If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?  I’m half way through it and I have to tell you; he has a lot to say. This book is the literary equivalent of a well packed suitcase that must be sat on to be closed successfully.

Empathy is connection with another person. You learn how to notice what they are thinking and feeling. This takes communication, and relationships, to a whole new level. Empathy improves not only verbal exchanges but written ones as well. We can become better writers if we practice empathy. And practice is exactly what’s needed. the more we do it the better we become and our work will improve to show it.

If I understood you

There is so much more that could be said about each and every one of these examples but I wanted only to give you a taste, hoping you would explore these sites for yourself, and be enticed to follow them too.

Happy hunting.

 

 

 

Happy New Year

January 1st is a good day to wish all of you a very Happy New Year. May 2019 be kind to you, kinder than you expect it to be. And, may your travels bring you many great books in 2019.

Finding books to read is a challenge for me this week, all because the unthinkable happened on Christmas eve. My Kindle died with a broken screen.

It seems I crammed my constant companion into my purse one too many times. Imagine the shock and dismay to pull it out and see a frozen fragmented screen.   Just when I wanted to catch a few stolen reading moments too. It felt like the end of the world. Panic set in.

Of course, at that moment I didn’t know the problem was the screen. I thought maybe a reboot would resolve the issue. A half dozen attempts later and I had to admit defeat. Not ready to lose hope, I wondered if travelling in our cold winter weather was the cause, maybe a warm up would wake things up. With high expectations for a positive outcome,  I looked for the warmest spot I could find in a cool bedroom – under the covers with me. It was a sad moment, facing the truth of the death of my friend.

Did I ever mention I’m addicted?

The next question was how to replace it in a timely fashion. I wanted to walk into a store and walk out with a new one ready to read. I decided the best option was my most favored office supply store and I hurried over there at the first possible moment. I was crushed to find they didn’t carry Kindles. They used to.

You would think I would scurry home to figure out what to do next. Nope. I figured while I was there I should check out some other things I have been thinking about lately. After about a half hour of cruising up and down one section, thoughtfully reading all the labels, considering what they meant in relation to my needs – a clerk (who turned out to be the store manager) stopped to ask if I needed help. He didn’t know what he was getting into when he asked that question.

To make a long story short, he answered my many questions, listened to my many needs and this old lady walked out of the store having purchased a powerful gaming computer. I chuckle out loud every time I think of it. I love my new computer.

The need for greater power comes because I have started another blog, with a totally different slant, and some of my plans for it will require a capacity I don’t currently have in the computers I’ve been using.  I know I will tell you more about it once it’s ready to go public, in case you are interested.

In spite of no Kindle, I left the store a happy camper.

At home I took the plunge and ordered a new Kindle online. It will show up in about a week. In the meantime, I do have the Kindle app on several devices so it’s not like I can’t read if I want to. Telling you about the latest books I’ve read has been the challenge. The app on the computer sorts differently and I’m lost. In the fruitless search I’ve also discovered I can read many books again, because I don’t remember reading them the first time. Good to know, when I am out of recent books appealing to me.

I am feeling pretty excited about the surprises 2019 could hold. I’m excited about new ventures already unfolding in my life. I have two major passions (more than that if I’m honest but only two to blog about – although I will admit that could change) one here about books and the new one. The new one is stretching me into unexpected first time areas.

There seems to be a general sense of positive expectancy about the future. I feel it but I’m also hearing other people talk about it. Talk that is encouraging us to take risks….. to be all that we can be. To live up to our potential. To dream, ignoring the naysayers.

The purchase of the new Kindle and the expensive new computer is evidence of my commitment to becoming more than I’ve ever been before.

I hope that many of you will hear the challenge too, to become more than you’ve ever been. I think the world needs us, more than ever, to stand up and do this.

That’s my challenge for 2019…. Dream big and go for it!


I will save books for the next post but will  still challenge you to keep reading! I am reading too.

All the best for 2019

Happy reading!

 

Exposed

Hours of enjoyment, that’s what was waiting for me in this boxed set. A Romantic Suspense collection.

Off the top, I have to say – I appreciated the clean-ness of these books. I find that when it’s less than clean (for me anyway) it’s like going to a party with a spot on the front of your favorite outfit …..  it takes the shine off the whole experience. I love an awesome,  distraction free, tale of mystery and intrigue.

These books were well written, with interesting characters, and a fresh slant on the idea behind the stories. I’m a fan of all three attributes but fresh slant is my favorite.

It seemed like before I knew it, I was finishing the last book. I’m a chain smoker when it comes to books. Finish one and light up another. I think I’ve mentioned I’m an addict.

I’m always sad when a story comes to an end. For a few seconds anyway.


Speaking of addictions: that reminds me……. of a idea I’d better save for the next post.


 

So….. back to books

Exposed

Exposed

A Boxed Set Book Bundle Collection of Romantic Suspense with seven great books

Hallowed Ground – Mary Alford …… Erin is devastated when Blake, her CIA partner, is killed in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan and she’s grateful to have the support of Blake’s best friend and fellow agent, Jax.  The team is sent to Afghanistan on a mission to find  Blake’s killers but it’s a set up. This realization set in when their unit was attacked and  none but two survived.  The details of their deployment could only have come from their superiors. With no idea who to trust, they carefully start digging and uncover more lies. Did Blake discover something he shouldn’t? Or was he part of something worth killing for? Working with Jax to find the truth has Erin realizing for the first time, Jax is a good man.

Fire – Lynette Bonner …. Kyra is a teacher by trade but helps out with manicure’s on the side. It’s a shock, on the first day of school, to see a new student in her class, looking much like a younger version of the good looking guy in her shop on Friday, the one who asked her out. Case Lexington is just as shocked to see Kyra and is living with fear she will blow his cover. He’s posing as a student, to help umcover the source of the drug supply killing local teenagers. Kyra wants to do her part in this search, motivated by the drug related death of her brother. Case is attempting to discourage her, afraid for her safety. A mere student has no credibility so, as a last resort,  he chooses to keep an eye on her by working with her. Not an easy thing to do. It’s been a very long time since he met a woman who could catch his interest, and she thinks he’s a student. The next shock is the source of the fatal drugs.

Jill Came Tumbling After – Lesley Ann McDaniel …. Jill Martin, a single mother of two, is looking for a job, after finding the courage sever ties with her alcoholic husband. Jobs are scarce but there is a new factory in town and, in spite of her obvious lack of skills, they hire her, effective immediately. Working to get the offices up and running she begins to see things that don’t seem quite right.  She is smarter than expected and  manages to figure out they are planning something that will be a hazard to the whole town, She’s torn between the need to tell and the need to keep her job. If they notice her discovery …. will she even live to tell?

Deadly Exposure – Lisa Phillips …. Bradley Harris comes home from deployment to discover his sister, a US Senator, has been abducted and the FBI suspect Alexis, her best friend and former aide. The whole town holds Alexis in contempt, but, knowing her as well as he does, Bradley has doubts about the accusations against her. Once he uncovers the truth behind her fall from grace, he wonders if any of them will survive the fallout.  Getting his sister back and saving Alexis too – seems like an impossible challenge.

Dead on Arrival – Angela Ruth Strong …. Peruvian Princess, Maritza Rosado and her father land in Washington DC and instead of the usual presidential welcome, they are  greeted with a gun battle that kills her father and his body guard and has Maritza running for her life. Hiding out in a soup kitchen is not going well, she’s been recognized by Levi Parker, fresh home from a mission trip to Peru where he learned of her.  Terrified to trust him, she does anyway, and venturing they discover someone has taken over her country. Not only that, they killed her father and want her dead. Devastation is finding out the betrayal is at the hands of someone they both trusted.

Termination Dust – Alana Terry …. Kimmie is afraid to move away from her abusive step father after the death of her mother. She is old enough to leave and make a new life for herself but she is afraid she would be forced leave her little brother behind, and he  would pay the price, in escalated abuse, for her actions. The family has lived in isolation and secrecy for so long, she can think of no one she can turn to for help.The local State Trooper suspects the truth of the situation and is trying to offer acceptable support,  encouraging Kimmie to leave before the abuse escalates. It happens, before her plans are in place, – she is forced to grab her little brother and run for her life.

For Love or Money – Virginia Vaughan …. Amy Sullivan left everything  behind with the lure of a family connection. When an aunt she didn’t know existed, contacted her  requesting a visit, it seemed like a dream come true. While finding a family connection is important to Amy, it’s not easy learning to love a stranger. Inadvertently she discovers there  is more to the situation than she has been led to believe. Her aunt has been hiding the fact she has terminal cancer. Amy was there for her mother and is determined she won’t be shut out now. Despite the growing closeness in those final days, it’s a shock for her to learn she has been left with a sizable inheritance. It’s an even greater shock to   discover someone wants it enough to kill her to get it.


‘Til next time – Happy Reading!

Here’s hoping you are also experiencing many hours of good reading. I don’t want to be the only one finding exquisite treasures, not when there are so many to be found.

 

Some things need to be talked about

I am convinced there are some things that need to be talked about. There could be a number of reasons for this. Maybe someone shares a similar experience and needs encouragement. Maybe  someone feels lumped in with the abusers and needs reassurance. Maybe someone has the false impression that all abused women hate men and need to know that’s not true. Or, maybe it’s just to help me figure out some things. It could be for any number of reasons that haven’t even occurred to me yet. Whatever the reason, I feel pretty confident there will be some good come out of a discussion.

This post is a continuation of some things I have shared recently, regarding men and my trust issues. Men have been both a blessing and a curse in my life. In spite of the good, I’m still left with trust issues that creep up on me in a way that makes no sense sometimes. Although, maybe it would make sense if I could uncover the old memories triggering these reactions and deal with them somehow.

Today was one of those days. My niece has the sweetest young husband and I met him for the first time. They stayed over night with me as they are travelling back to Western Canada, they were easy to have around. We found lots of interesting things to talk about, it was a great visit. In the morning though, when it was time for them to leave, it was awkward. I wanted to hug them both good bye but I just couldn’t bring myself to initiate a hug with him. I cannot explain to you why that was, there was just something holding me back.

I am still beating myself up over it.

He could have hugged me and I would have responded, but he didn’t know that.

This is an ongoing issue with me, it happens all the time with my son-in-law, whom I love dearly. I want to hug him like I do the rest of the family, but I just can’t. He could hug me but I sense he has some of the same trust issues I do. It seems we end up hugging with a look.

So, getting back to the initial thinking behind this new post.

There is a question I have been asking myself for the last couple of weeks – how can I have empathy and distrust all at the same time? It seems like it should one or the other. Black or white.

For a short while, I was worried there was something emotionally wrong with  me, and that was distressing because I didn’t want it to be true. The concern over this idea was quickly relieved when someone shared a video on Facebook about a five year old brother comforting his little sister. In a flash, it struck a deep cord with me. I realize I learned to love at a very early age, even while I was learning to distrust.

I am the oldest of three with two brothers. There are five years between the oldest and the youngest and there has always been a strong bond between us.  Until now I have never really questioned why that is. I can see that I need to start asking more questions.

When I was thirteen or fourteen, living with my grandparents, I was asked to babysit, briefly, for several families with young babies. These were people I had never met. At the time I wondered why they would consider me, but it didn’t occur to me to question why I felt like I could do the job. Now it occurs to me to ask the question.

Why did I feel confident I could comfort a crying baby or change a dirty diaper? Why did  Grandma have enough confidence to allow me to take the job? There were no babies in our life with her, any experience I had with them would have come from another time.

At this point, looking back on our family dynamics, I can see my mother pressing me into service with my youngest brother. I’m sure Grandma would have been aware of this fact. I have no memory of any of it, but then, I don’t remember a lot of things. It turned out I did indeed know how. I still do.

me and Jax may 2017 WPG

My youngest brother’s great grandson Jax. We’ve just met for the first time (a year ago). His mother took this picture.

There’s more….

Lately, I have been having conversations with my older brother about our life in the early years. He remembers some things I don’t (my mind has buried all of the painful parts) and hearing what he had to say tells me – life was even worse than I imagined. Among other things, he said Dad was not a nice man.

He told me a number of things about those days but there was one story that shook me.

It was about Dad driving on the railroad tracks running behind our property, he was playing chicken with oncoming trains. I had heard these stories for years  and used to laugh, thinking it was something my crazy risk taking father would do. What I didn’t  realize at the time – my brother was with him, scared out of his mind. That’s one of the reasons why Dad did it, it was his perverse way of trying to force this kid to grow some courage. It finally stopped  when my 10 year old brother made up his mind he wasn’t going to let his fear show anymore. I’m horrified Dad would do that to a kid.

We also talked about another time I do remember. It was Dad beating my brother with a piece of hose, in front of all of us. A tool was missing from his work shop and he was convinced it was my brother’s  fault. I can still remember the distress of watching this happen. I could never understand why Mom did nothing to stop it.

One thing I’ve learned, by first hand experience, boys suffer from abuse as deeply as girls. That is the genesis of my soft heart for men, surviving life alongside my brothers, recognizing the pain in their life.

My oldest brother is the reason I’ve left denial behind and have taken ownership of the abusive early years in my life. He adamantly insisted that I must, even if the memories were shadowy and I couldn’t remember the actual events. He wanted to know why I thought I would be the favoured one, to escape abuse.

All three of us have blocked painful memories, but deep inside, we will never forget.

Our story does have a happy ending in spite of the terrible years. All three of us have grown into well adjusted, productive, loving people. We’ve left behind the bitterness and rage. A miracle, really.

One thing I’ve loved about this process of discovery – the heavy load of old baggage seems to grow lighter with each breakthrough experience.

 

 

It’s complicated…but I feel better now

It really is complicated, and it’s causing discomfort – like a pebble in my shoe. The pebble moves around a bit and there are periods of relief, but lately it’s been sitting in a tender spot and doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to move on.

This latest state of discomfort started with a conversation back in December, just before I left on my winter road trip to British Columbia to spend Christmas with family.

I was telling a friend about some of the people I hoped to see along the way, including some of my work clients I’ve never met in person. I was startled by her quick response – but you are still married.

My instant reaction was an emotional – what’s that got to do with anything? I felt like I was being wrongly accused of something.

I haven’t been able to get this conversation out of my mind and it has become the proverbial pebble in my shoe.

There are two things troubling me about the conversation – the thought patterns behind her comment, and the trigger behind my reactive response.

My weak and ailing marriage fractured more than two decades ago and I have been on my own for at least half that time. The relationship is dead and buried. Divorce is not a reality only because I have been reluctant to address it, (the reasons behind that need to be explored, another day) so I am not sure why she thinks the lack of a divorce is a relevant issue.

Also, as I’ve shared in other posts, I have major trust issues with men and have been actively avoiding any chance of another relationship. My friend knows this too, so – where is her thinking coming from?

I feel bad about my reaction to her because it is not one she has ever seen from me. I expect she felt a little like she’d been punched. That’s the trouble with triggers, reactions to them are unpredictable and often painful to the person on the receiving end.

As I think about all of this, I am reminded of similar conversations with other people in other settings. Conversations that were distressingly perplexing because I couldn’t figure out the reasoning or motivation behind them. In every instance I felt like I was being wrongfully accused of something. And, in some cases the conversations became quite emotional.

Maybe that’s the trigger, feeling wrongfully accused. I will have to think some more on this, at a later date.

Now, after a week of letting all of these thoughts simmer, I expect my friend has moved on and forgotten all about this brief conversation, and I need to do the same.

The exercise of thinking and writing my way through this issue has been more than beneficial. The proverbial pebble in my shoe has ceased to be a bother. My original thoughts on this subject have been replaced by today’s much more coherent offering and I am left with new, and healing,  insights into both sides of the conversation.

It occurs to me that the thoughts expressed by the other party in these conversations may have stemmed from the space they are in personally, and had little to do with me at all. Maybe I need to stop making everything about me. Maybe I need to pay more attention to the pain of others and give greater consideration to things going on in their lives.

The benefits of understanding have also been reinforced. Understanding why seems to take the heat out of certain thoughts and emotions and allows me to move on to a healthier place.

This has been a productive exercise. It looks like I will be doing it again soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harassment?

Two weeks ago, I got back from a 5,500 kilometre road trip. It was a lot of fun, at least it was from my point of view.

I live in the middle of Canada, there is a marker on the TransCanada Highway at a point west of me saying Longitudinal Centre of Canada to prove it. I was  planning to take a month and go as far as Vancouver Island on the West Coast.

I’m originally from British Columbia and have family and friends there. It’s a few years since I’ve been back and I had big plans to visit a lot of people, in a lot of places. The places part worked out.

The trip went surprising well, in spite of the fact it is winter in this cold and snowy land. There were a few rough spots along the way but they usually had more to do with wrong turns and trouble finding addresses.

Like in Regina Saskatchewan, the first night. I’d planned to go farther but major highway construction with detours made for confusion and the wasting of some hours. Thank goodness for cell phones and Google maps. My daughter bailed me out and figured out that I’d better go back to Regina for the night. The light of a new day, and a different angle, made all the difference and it was easy to find my way to Calgary Alberta.

I was excited to be stopping in Calgary for a few days, I was going to meet clients in person for the first time. It didn’t turn out quite like I expected but my time there still worked out well and I was looking forward to the return trip when I would spend another work week before heading home.

Armstrong, BC was the first stop on my continued journey. It’s famous for it’s Armstrong cheese, and Highland Grog flavoured coffee – at least in our house.  Roger’s Pass through the Rockies was interesting. I love the mountains in the winter. From there I went south to White Rock, via the Coquahalla Highway. The Coq, as it’s known locally, is a 6 lane highway through high mountains, with a speed limit of 120km. It was an icy trip, but at least it wasn’t the worst I’ve seen.

White Rock is a popular resort town on the ocean, south of Vancouver. It’s small in area but beautiful and fun to visit. Nothing else around it is small though, the growth since I was there last is amazing, the city is closing in.

While there, I also had the opportunity to make an overnight trip to Victoria, BC’s capital, to visit family. And as always, the ferry ride was beautiful, so was the city. If you enjoy travel I hope you will Google these places and see for yourself , you may even be tempted to visit one day.

The highlight of my trip was time spent with family and friends, I loved every moment.

Roger’s Pass is the usual way to get to Alberta so the return trip followed the same route.

While the trip itself was long and challenging, it wasn’t the biggest hurdle I had to face. The bigger hurdle was in the mental/emotional area. And it turned out surprisingly well.

I’ve mentioned before that I have major trust issues when it comes to men.

One of the side effects of my current lifestyle is the near complete lack of interaction with men. There are sightings now and again but not much else. Add to that the magnification of my trust issues caused by truths I’m facing on the journey to wellness and it’s double trouble. So, there were two parts to the angst I was feeling about the nearing end of this wellness journey, and the possible/probable interactions on my trip.

How in the world would I ever become comfortable around men again (since there are none anywhere in my life, except family), and how would it work to be out-and-about if I couldn’t manage it.  Then, the more immediate question – will my triggers make an in-person meeting awkward? We have a comfortable working relationship on the phone but I’m worried about seeing this client of mine in person.

As the days of the trip went on, my confidence grew, and I was ready to be more relaxed about things. I didn’t see Bill (not his real name) until the second week I was there. By now, it seemed like everywhere I went there were male people. It was like being thrown into the deep end of the pool…… and I found I could swim.

Bill was a major player in my second week there, as he arranged the use of one of their empty offices for me. Their office staff was four men and one woman. Out numbered everywhere. It was a comfortable stay and I think we parted with pleasant memories of the week. At least I did anyway. They were very kind.

Back home, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my experience and to think about the reasons for the confidence I’ve found.

I think the biggest change in me has been centered around the thought that I had to stop expecting men to change how they treated me. Instead, I needed to decide what I would or wouldn’t allow. The result of this process was a clear set of hard and fast boundaries, in my head, and it has been a freeing experience.

There is so much more that could be said, and maybe should be said, with all the conversation over sexual harassment these days.

For now I will just say this. There are many things we, as women, need to do to keep ourselves safe but the most important thing, I’ve found, is to have set boundaries. It has changed the way I act and react.

Predators are looking for the weak. Boundaries give us confidence, and with confidence we appear strong. When we appear strong, men tend to change direction and back off.

Boundaries have allowed me to lower my protective walls (the ones that keep everyone out) and it feels good.

 

A Listening Ear, Connection

There are several things I hope to talk about, in regard to the month long road trip I finished two days ago. The one foremost on my mind right now, has to do with conversations, and time spent, with several people I had never met before.

The first one was a man, a client I have been working with, from a distance, for a few weeks now. He is a self-professed Chatty Cathy, has gotten carried away in phone conversations a few times, and invariably said I don’t know why I am telling you all this as he shared about his job history, family, health, and whatever else came to mind in the moment.

This connection has been both interesting, and concerning because I have major trust issues with men, issues that have been growing steadily over the last decade or so as I face the deeply buried truth of my early life (a conversation for another day). It’s fairly easy to be relaxed hiding behind the anonymity of a telephone conversation but a face to face conversation is another story. Would my triggers create an awkward situation in the meeting I knew would happen soon?

Thankfully, he was as respectful and easy to talk to in person as he was on the phone. I felt relaxed and our conversation was honest and natural. He was still a Chatty Cathy and still had occasion to say – I don’t know why I am telling you all this. It would do my ego good if I had the idea he shared because he thought highly of me, but I knew that wasn’t it. I think the truth simply was – I was willing to listen.

The second person was the waitress in a Husky Restaurant. It was a small town on my way home and it was getting close to closing time when I stopped for lunch. There were several tables of local boys having coffee and the rest of the tables were empty. I took a seat at a table near them and after a time of quiet, their conversations returned to the easy relaxed way of friends. The seasoned waitress seemed to be the instigator of many conversations, that was her thing.

Usually I have my protective walls firmly in place and don’t easily engage in conversation but things have changed on this trip. As I went to the cash register to pay my bill I decided to attempt a few comments, to open the door a little, and what followed was a full on conversation about the town,  her family, jobs, commutes, and the first trip in 40 years to the next big city. We would have talked longer but she had to finish closing up.

The last person was the desk clerk when I stopped for the night. It seemed to be a slow night for her and she wanted to talk. We talked about her weight problem and all of her concerns, which were many, around that subject.  I learned a lot about her family and their health issues. We talked about living in the country while working in town and the things you have to do to make that work. The last subject we explored had to do with recycling and the inventiveness of her father in using everything and anything as building material. Other guests were looking for her attention several times and I finally took the opportunity to slip away, I had to go – if you catch my drift.  I came away from the conversation feeling bad, and I still do, because she obviously didn’t want me to leave, and seemed to feel deserted when I did.

I can relate to the way she feels. It is not often we find someone willing to take time to listen to us. Many of us seem to be starving with the need for a listening ear.

Then, there are two little people who come to mind in regard to connection. I’ve noticed their unique need many times over the years and make a special effort when I meet little ones. Probably because I remember being that age, somewhere in the buried memories.

The two little boys are 4 and 6. A great nephew and a grandson, visited in different towns. Eye contact seems to be the key to connection for kids, they don’t do deep conversations but have a need to know they have been seen. I had a good time connecting with both of them.

micah and I train track

He has my undivided attention while we are trying to give mommy space to get some things done. It was an unconventional layout for a train track but, hey, we were having fun. Pretty much everything in the room has a function, he remembers what it is all for and explained in detail as we explored one of the bins. The mattress behind him is his dual function trampoline/punching bag. Grandma got to hold the punching bag upright while he practiced his Ninja kicks and chops. It was a challenge but I managed to stay upright myself through it all.

Writers, and reading

To reach full potential, writers need to take reading seriously. This idea isn’t original with me. I am hearing the same thought from many different sources.

I seem to be fixated on promoting reading for writers and I think it is because the group of writers I hang out with show embers of interest about writing but only one or two give off  bright flames of  excitement or of strong motivation. We (as the steering committee) want to find a way to fan the embers and see them burst into flame.

We’ve brainstormed and come up with a few ideas we’d like to try.  Here’s one, sparked by the description of a book read this week by a member of our planning group. It was a book that drew her in to the story and made her forget about the mechanics of writing, even though that is usually the first thing she notices. We are going to encourage each member of the group to make a special effort this month to find a book like this for themselves.

Challenge – go to the library and sample as many books as you need to to find one that totally captures your interest. Before check out, read a bit to see if they seem like good possibilities and add only the good possibilities to the pile you are going  to take home. Make that a big pile. At home – if a book doesn’t totally capture your interest within a short time, move on to the next one. Keep doing this until you find one you can’t put down. If nothing in this pile does this for you, go back to the library for a new supply. Keep doing this until you find the book. This may sound too simple to be bothered with but trust me, it’s not always that easy to find a book like this. It is possible though, There are some amazing ones out there and we want to help you find them.

Now that you’ve found this captivating book. Stop and examine the way it feels, then consciously commit it to memory, as a measure for all of the books you will be reading soon.  If you already know this feeling, you are ahead of the game, and the search for qualifying books will go faster.

If you are serious about writing, you need to be serious about reading, and if you are serious about reading , you need to be serious about what you read.

Reading time is precious, you can’t afford to spend it reading books that don’t measure up to the new standard. I mean, you could, but not if you seriously want to write. I find myself following this rule more and more, now that life holds more for me than just reading, as a pain killer.

Reading only those books meeting the new standard will reset the internal measure for your own writing. As you write, and read aloud what you have written, you will view it all with new eyes and there will be a noticeable difference in your work.

You will be influenced and inspired in a new way. And hopefully the flame of your interest and passion will be burning brightly.


Some books for you

The Nick Kismet AdventuresThe Nick Kismet Adventures Volume 1 – Sean Ellis… I’ve read the first book, the Shroud of Heaven, it is a middle eastern adventure involving historical artifacts and struggles for possession. It was a good story but it was like an action movie, full of car chases and gun fights. I was telling my grandsons about the book, that there were too many chases for my liking. My son-in-law thought it sounded like a pretty good book. This is one for the guys!

 

The Inn at Ocean's Edge  A Sunset Cove Novel – The Inn at Ocean’s Edge book 1 – Colleen Coble …. When Claire makes a visit to the luxury hotel in a beautiful resort town, repressed memories begin to surface. Claire disappeared from her 4th birthday party at the hotel, reappearing at the same hotel a year later, and no one knew where she had been. She didn’t even know she had been missing and her parents seem to be discouraging her from remembering. Her friend Luke’s mother also disappeared that weekend. There must be a connection somehow.

Mermaid Moon  A Sunset Cove Novel – Mermaid Moon book 2 – Colleen Coble …. Mallory hasn’t been back to her hometown in fifteen years but when her dad dies on his mail route she has to go back. Kevin, the local game warden, is warily helping her solve her dad’s murder, Mallory broke his heart the day she left.

Twilight at Blueberry Barrens  A Sunset Cove Novel – Twilight at Blueberry Barrens book 3 – Colleen Coble …. Kate has shouldered the responsibility of her families blueberry farm but when the crop fails she has to look for a new way to make ends meet. Renting out their cabin when Drake and his nieces show up looking for a place seems like a solution to her dilemma. It’s even better when he needs a nanny for the girls while he spends time looking for his brother’s killer. Life would be good for Kate except someone seems to be stalking her.

Winter's Secret  Northern Intrigue – Winter’s Secret book 1 – Lyn Cote …. Someone is vandalizing during a record winter, targeting empty homes of senior citizens. Wendy, their public health nurse, is always the one to discover the break ins and seems to be the common thread between all of them. Rod is the new sheriff in town and the opposition to his appointment is not helping his investigation. It seems this town has secrets.

Seek Me with All Your Heart  A Land of Canaan Novel – Seek Me with All Your Heart book 1 – Beth Wiseman …. Why would the Amish move to Colorado leaving their friends and family behind. For Emily and her family the reason is personal. They are trying to start over after her devastating attack. David’s family has moved for reasons he doesn’t understand and he wants to find a way to go back to the home he loved. An attraction blooms between Emily and David but they each have a secret that makes a future seem impossible for them.

Finding Love at the Oregon Coast  Finding Love At the Oregon Coast – a romantic novella collection – Angela Ruth Strong, Christina Coreyell, Heather Woodhaven, Lisa Phillips ….. when a wedding is cancelled, three bridesmaids and a runaway bride contemplate the true meaning of love in four related novels.

Untangled Michele PillarUntangled: The Truth will set you free – Michele Pillar …. The personal story of a successful singing career derailed by tragedy and bad choices, and how facing the truth of her life and choices, gave her a second chance at a career and more. Truth brought freedom to the tangled mess that was her life.