Moving House … or Blog …

Hello there!

If you’re a follower of this writinglife101 blog you’ll notice in your reader that things have been transferred over to my site.  Life has been crazy and crazy is a good thing! It means change. I’m looking forward to keeping my posts and focus in one place from now on and I hope you continue to follow along on this journey.

Thanks for following!


Be the Bison

I’ve been teaching a course on Communication Skills. In the process I also took a course on teaching Communication Skills and was being mentored by a seasoned instructor.  It has been an extremely revealing experience and through the course for instructors, the experience with my mentor, and the process of actually delivering the course to my participants, I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve also learned some tactics for difficult conversations that, if I’d had a few years ago, may have changed the direction of my life.

One of the things that really struck me was the challenge to ‘Be the Bison.’

Have you ever noticed a group of cows standing together in the corner of a field?  Sometimes they’re so squished together it seems ridiculous.  I’ve wondered why this happened but never taken the time to figure it out.  What they’re doing is standing there, cowering in fear, trying to get away from something inevitable.  Even before a storm comes, they’ll gather together because they sense it. They’ll cower as far away from the storm as they think they can get (which, of course, doesn’t actually help them at all) and because they anticipate the storm and spend time fearing it, they end up experiencing the storm far longer than it even lasts.

This is how most of us are in our lives – be it with work, friends, family.  We know something uncomfortable, some storm, is going to happen or needs to happen and yet we essentially cower in a corner  – hoping it will go away. But it won’t just go away, and like the cows, we end up experiencing the stress of this problem far longer than necessary.  Maybe we stay up at night thinking about it, maybe we complain to our partner or friends but never actually face it and so we continually experience the stress and pain of this oncoming storm.

The Bison, however, experience the coming of a storm in a very different way. They also sense the storm but rather than cowering in fear, the Bison, knowing the storm is going to come no matter what, heads toward it.  Bison will march into the middle of a field, face the storm, get ready, and then walk right into it, because they know that if they’re standing up to the storm, walking toward it and not away, they’re going to be out of it quicker.  They get the feeling of fear over with. They not only make themselves ready for the inevitable, they invite it.

When I first heard this concept I definitely saw myself as a cow.  I could think of so many situations where I had some difficult conversation I should have had with someone and yet I put it off and put it off.  I stressed about it, I agonized over it, I talked to the people in my life about it until they became absolutely sick of the topic.  And that’s . . . well, it’s stupid, and pointless, and destructive.  It certainly didn’t solve any problems or help me get through a storm.  Really, in our lives that kind of behaviour tends to create more storms to deal with.

We need to be the bison and not cower away from the things that scare us or make us uncomfortable.  The storms of life will inevitably come, so why not face them?  And face them with strength, determination, and power.  Sure, it’ll feel uncomfortable at first, it may even be scary, but if we get comfortable with the feeling of being uncomfortable – that discomfort will begin to lessen.

This whole idea of being the bison can even apply to storms of our own making. Maybe we’ve determined there needs to be some change in our lives – a goal we’ve been wanting to conquer for a long time but just don’t take the steps needed, a habit or trait we know needs to be ripped out of our lives but we’re cowering in fear from the work that it will take and the emotional pain it may cause . . . maybe something we need to admit to or deal with, some scar from one of life’s previous storms.

So give it a try, BE THE BISON, and I will too.  If you happen to know me personally and see me cowering in a corner like a cow, I give you permission – give me a nudge and tell me to stand up straight, throw my shoulders back, and walk on out into the storm.

Image taken from Independent Lens “Facing the Storm: Story of the American Bison”, Colorado Public Television.”

Rolling out of bed

Brain scanning technology is quickly approachi...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The mind is a funny, funny thing.  So powerful, so intricate, and yet so very weak.  Strongly connected to that is this thing called resolve.  In theory, I have loads of resolve.  I have goals and dreams and things on my list of ‘to-do’s that are worthy and will improve my mind and my life.  In practice, most of the time I have squat.

Now . . . that’s not an entirely fair thing to say.  I do succeed in following through with resolve at times, but I fail far more often than I succeed. Some of that probably comes from setting pretty high expectations for myself. A lot of that failure also stems from small simple moments of defeat.  From letting the little things that disappoint me about myself morph into huge feelings of inadequacy, or get so mixed up that I can’t decide what thing needs to be done, are worth doing – are more worth doing than relaxing ’cause I just seem tired and drained and I deserve to relax, right?  I’m a busy woman.  So when I do relax it often makes me feel guilty, and that guilt means that when a justified period of relaxation is over I feel even less capable of tackling those worthy or necessary endeavors  and when I do tackle them (usually the necessary ones) I don’t have the clarity of mind and focus that is needed to make me feel proud of a job well done.  A vicious, pernicious cycle develops.

This cycle has also affected my ability to write – both here and in other realms.  Some heart wounding feedback regarding my creative work has left me feeling incapable and overwhelmed at the task to feel capable again, the hours it would require – because what if I put in all that time and energy and I still don’t have what it takes?

Now, I realize this is largely silly.  Very few acknowledged writers didn’t experience tons of rejection before they became acknowledged . . . but it still hurts.

And when all those other little ‘failures’ group up with the big failures and I’m tired, cranky, and disappointed that I snap at the person closest to me – words coming out of my mouth before I even know they’ve been spoken – it’s hard to hold onto resolve.  Sometimes though, really, resolve is all we have.

My fiance replied to a text where I admitted the bad day I was having and how I felt like a failure – his reply was “be happy (if you want!)” – A wise but risky reply.  It reminded me of something I read  the other day – “when you wake up in the morning you can roll out of bed into a miserable day or you can leap out into a wonderful one – the choice is yours.”

Maybe that’s true, and if it is true it should also be true half way through.  I may have rolled into this day but I can choose to leap through the rest of it.

And you know the thing I like most about that image?  It allows for those moments when my resolve weakens.  Sometimes my leap will last longer and reach further than other times, but I’m not superman, I’m fully human so it’s okay and expected that I’ll come down from that leap at times, and when I do I have the opportunity to make the choice to leap again rather than give up and roll through the rest of my day.

Breathe in, breathe out

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s been a long time since I’ve written anything . . . and not just here – anywhere.  Well, anything I haven’t been obligated by a contract to write.  I’ve tried a few times here – only to ditch a half written post that felt forced.  I’ve opened my journal, I’ve tried to conjure up characters but I just couldn’t do it.  Part of it was certainly stress, a larger part of it was probably being too busy and occupied with other tasks and other matters to allow myself to be moved or inspired by anything else.  Well – the last of my major stresses of the past few months should be over with tomorrow and although I’m slightly nervous I won’t pass this test, which will create new stress – it’ll probably just be fine.  This knowledge, the knowledge that there’s probably nothing more I can do is helping me feel just a little bit lighter.

I thought to write earlier today though and still it seemed a daunting task.  Just a moment ago though I read a message in a newsletter for the Writer’s Federation I’m a member of.  The author was speaking about his or her own inability to write.  How with the life and energy of spring and summer words were just flowing but now, just as  the gardens are dead and bare, so too are his words.  He mentioned that rather than being disheartened by this he was seeing it as a time to breathe in the words, the ideas, the inspiration so that when he’s ready to write again he’ll have something to write.

I have three weeks stretching before me with very little work I’m obligated to do.  That means there are three weeks in which I’ll be able to let myself be inspired by words, by experiences, by nature (and feel no guilt connected to investing my time that way!)

Just the thought allowed me to write something new!

How will you make use of any holiday time you have off?  What will you let it add to your life?

We all need a little encouragement now and then

It’s been an intense week.  An overwhelming week.  A stressful week. A week when I’ve felt like an impostor, like I’ve taken on more than I can handle, when my work has made me tired and burdened me with feeling inept.  I had moments when I wanted to cry, moments when I wanted to give up, moments when I ranted and railed (to myself and to my fella) about work, about expectations, about unclear guidelines.  This week has come on top of a month, although not nearly as busy, containing many moments of frustration and disillusionment. The majority of this week’s intensity and stress has come from a contract I’ve been working on, a project that, largely because of unclear expectations and delays, by the time it’s completed will probably have taken more than twice the time I anticipated, making my pay (by the hour) more than two times less. (And causing me to cancel a long weekend trip to visit my family.)

Last night, after putting in about 8 hours, after putting in about 13 hours the day before and who knows how many the days before that (actually, I do know – but I digress) I found myself sitting in front of my computer thinking “what am I doing! I should just get a normal job, 9-5 is where it’s at. I’m not cut out for this!”  For those of you who don’t know a little less than a year and a half ago I quit my job and decided to go into business for myself. It’s had its ups and its downs but I’ve survived, and even enjoyed it a lot of the time.  Yesterday though, it seemed like the whole endeavour was a failure . . . until I read a group email from a friend who has just launched her own blog, in preparation for a major life and career decision she’s on the road to making a reality.  At the end of this  email she sent a thank you and shout out to me – saying that my decision to step out by starting my own home business was the umph she needed to jump too.

Upon reading that I felt touched, and happy that my decision had helped her make hers – a decision I’m sure will lead her to not only success, but to making a positive impact on this world.  So I got to thinking, all jobs have hard days and though I’ve been coming across some projects that have their moments of misery I’ve also had some that I love and when doing them I basically feel like I’m getting paid for not even ‘working’.

I just have to stick it out, learn from some of the naive or misinformed choices I’ve made that have led to this kind of stress and make sure I let my interests and talents, more than a seemingly appealing pay cheque, determine the projects I take on in the future, trusting that eventually I’ll work up enough of a name for myself that I can primarily take the jobs I enjoy, the jobs that feel more like an extension of my interests, of myself, and not like labour.

Hopefully the next time I’m feeling overwhelmed I’ll remember this friend’s words and find inspiration from the choices she’s making in her life!


I’ve been thinking a lot about value lately.  It’s so subjective, and that’s a frustrating and a beautiful thing.  It’s beautiful because it allows us to make choices that would otherwise be considered impractical, unwise, foolhardy, indulgent and feel justified.  It’s frustrating because it can cause us stress, guilt, confusion about the choices we make.

A lot of the time we think of value in regards to money.  Is this outfit worth it?  This cheese?  This vacation? This gift? At times, I’ve let value, in relation to money, rule my life.  I’ve missed out on experiences with friends, I’ve missed out on wonderful meals, I’ve scrimped and sacrificed and suffered moments of regret (both from spending the money, and from not spending it!).  I’ve always been much more willing to spend money on what I could unequivocally consider an experience than a material or fleeing moment investment.  Over $4000 backpacking South East Asia with one of my best friends – she twisted my arm a bit and I think we could have done it for less if we’d researched more – but yes please! Twelve dollars for that appetizer that looks super good and that I’d really like to have and that I wish I had while everyone else is eating their delicious appetizer – sorry, can’t justify it when I know the meal I’m ordering will physically satisfy me.  And I don’t necessarily think either of these choices is a bad one or a good one – it depends on the value.  It takes conscious thought to think about value, and to think of it outside of the monetary cost.  Sometimes I’m sure I made the right choice about a meal, other times I recognize that my frugality – on that particular night, for whatever reason, made me feel cheap and envious and dampened the overall experience.

And that’s what value comes down to – experience.  And this goes for value that reaches far beyond any monetary concern. It’s about assessing our priorities, our desires, what aids our contentment and joy. Should I feel guilty about spending time researching something online that brings me joy, that will bring a loved one joy (even when I don’t have to figure out a certain gift right now) when there are dishes to be washed or there is work to be done – maybe, maybe not.

What is more valuable: securing extra jobs so I’ll have more available money, money which I may be able to spend to bring more joy to my life, or which may be spent on things that really won’t make a difference, or accepting that the work I’ve secured for the moment will cover my bills and deciding to instead spend what time I have left over to invest in myself and the people around me, even if it’s as simple as taking a bath.  It’s not possible to give a definitive answer – at least generally.  I think I’m learning though, that for each situation there is an answer that is at least the better one. I think the trick is to take a moment and ask, what do I really value? – and make a decision from there. And when we realize we’ve been making choices that don’t affect our true values (or what we want  to be our true values) we need to reassess our decision making.

In a language with so many words, we fall horribly short!

I’ve been thinking about love the last few days, the multitude of thoughts and emotions and actions and ways of understanding that one word. I’ve also been thinking about the dozens and dozens and dozens of people who’ve passed through my life that I could apply that word to – and yet for each person it means something different.  There are people in my life who I love but honestly don’t even like all that much.  There are people who I love but hardly really know – either because it’s been so long that I can’t with full confidence say I even know them anymore or because they are people I have met and loved or have had a blood connection to and loved but never really knew in the first place.

Then there are people who have been in my life for years, who support me, who laugh with me, who help me, who accept me and have accepted me throughout all the changes I’ve gone through to make me who I am today.  There are people who love me despite the fact that there are probably parts about me – decisions I’ve made, things I believe – that they don’t like at all.

There are a lot of good traits about me, a lot of things to love – but I recognize that there are also definitely some unlovable aspects, ways in which I could be better, less moody, less controlling. Like all of us, I’m a work in progress.  And like all of us, I have a multitude of people who love me despite that.

I sat in front of my computer for over an hour this morning trying to think of what to write.  I haven’t been writing much – or reading – because my time has been taken up with other matters. As a result, I haven’t been feeling creative energy and I haven’t felt inspired to write.  I have felt energy in other ways though – the past couple of weeks I’ve been shown amazing love.  From my fella, who has shown his love in a multitude of big and small ways, who has shown me patience, who has walked into my home-office on more than one occasion and wrapped his arms around me silently – knowing I’ve been stressed and feeling like I’m not balancing things the way I should.  From my friends who have taken the time out of their busy lives to offer their help, input, and expertise.  From my mother who has spent hours talking to me online and being a sounding board for ideas.

So often we see these small (or large) actions as just something people do, maybe ’cause it’s just something we do for those we love.  But it’s a lot more than that, and not something to be taken for granted.  If you’ve read this far do one more thing, will ya?  Take a moment and think about some of the people you love and some who love you.  Realize how fortunate you are, and maybe do something about it!

A Wizard’s Second Rule

In my previous post (which was awhile ago – it’s amazing how an engagement and trying to get wedding plans underway can steal your attention!) I discussed the Wizard’s First Rule from Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series.  Today I move onto the Second Rule. Just as the first had some pretty interesting implications for the average person in everyday life, so does the second.

“The Second Rule is that the greatest harm can result from the best intentions.  It sounds a paradox, but kindness and good intentions can be an insidious path to destruction. Sometimes doing what seems right is wrong and can cause harm.  The only counter to it is knowledge, wisdom, forethought, and understanding the First Rule.  Even then, that is not always enough.”

When Richard, the wizard in training, questions this rule, that kindness can be harmful, the wizard gives him some obvious examples: it may seem kind to give a child candy, but if we continue giving him candy and he stops eating good food we’ll actually be doing harm.  The child will become sick. Another example would be when a person breaks her leg and we bring her food, take care of her.  At first this is obvious kindness, but as the person starts to heal she finds it difficult to walk on that leg, painful even, so we keep bringing food and taking care of her.  The longer we do this, the more difficult it will seem for her to get up, to go through the pain of learning to walk again.  Eventually her legs will shrivel up and she’ll become bedridden indefinitely.  Our good intentions will have caused more harm than good.

The wizard then goes on to discuss the rule in less specific terms, “Good intentions, being kind, can encourage the lazy, and motivate sound minds to become indolent. The more help you give them, the more help they need. As long as your kindness is open-ended, they never gain discipline, dignity, or self-reliance. Your kindness impoverishes their humanity.”

These words really had me thinking.  I could see their truth in the small and the large and realized I had had some of these thoughts before.  I remember meeting 18-19 year old boys, their first year away from home, who didn’t know how to make their beds, do their laundry, or cook themselves a meal. Growing up in a household where my brothers and I were often responsible for these types of tasks at a young age, it shocked me that others weren’t.  I’m sure it was just a result of their parents trying to be kind, to take care of their babies, but they then ended up sending those babies – turned young men – out into the world without the basic skills to take care of themselves.  A minor example, that could be rectified easily by the boys finding people to teach them how to do these tasks or fumbling through to discovery themselves . . . but still.

The rule also has implications that are much more concerning.  Wisdom and forethought may have told these boy’s mothers that they would be doing a stronger service to their sons if they made sure they at least had these skills. But if the mothers didn’t think about it, what about our government?  How many people are on social assistance for an indefinite period of time – long past the point where they should be able to get out and find their own jobs?  How many of these same people then come to expect support, feel entitled to it, and raise children who have the same expectations and never become contributing members of society? Take it even further, and how many of these people are using that kind social assistance to support their drug or alcohol addictions – call me judgmental, say I’m unaware of the underlying issues, but I’ve met some of these people and seen the way they live – all in the name of kindness, compassion, and generosity.  Wouldn’t it be kinder to spend that money to enable these people to provide for themselves? To let go of their addictions? To overcome their fear of trying to make it on their own? (And yes, there are of course programs out there that do this – and kudos to them!)

The wizard talks about a similar scenario and questions where the fault lays.  Give a beggar a coin because he says he needs it to feed his family.  Now, rather than feeding his family the beggar uses it to get drunk.  In that state he kills someone.  Is it your fault?  Your intention was to help feed a family, but the route you chose to provide that help led to a death.  Could there have been another, wiser, way for you to provide help? He warns that violation of the second rule “can cause anything from discomfort, to disaster, to death.”

Think of your life, as I’ll think of mine.  Are there any ways in which you’re trying to be kind to someone, trying to give help, but really you’re causing harm? But really you’re enabling them to not be as competent, as capable, as able to survive in the world as they could be if you withheld some of that so-called kindness? Think of your own life – is there any way in which you’re letting someone do for you what you could do for yourself and thereby preventing yourself from being the person you could be? Even further – is there any way in which some of these good intentions are causing harm, or could lead to harmful consequences in the future?.  Don’t shun kindness, but be cautious  and thoughtful with what kindnesses you bestow.  Be a wise wizard 😉

A Wizard’s First Rule

White-haired and -bearded wizard with robes an...

White-haired and -bearded wizard with robes and hat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple months ago I posted about my new interest in fantasy – based on one of my brothers encouraging me to read his favourite fantasy series.  I’ve now gotten through the second book – an almost 1000 page delight and am taking a break before delving into the next . . . 10 of them I believe.  As well as having great characters, actors, and the type of writing that goes from character to character, leaving me frustrated that it’s another 80 pages before I get to find out what’s going on with so and so (but that is also a great trick to keep the reader reading), the book also poses some questions that I can take back to my life.

I’ll be careful not to drop too many (or any if I can) spoilers in consideration of those who may decide to pick the story up, but some of the things that have me thinking are the rules all wizard’s need to know and understand as they progress with their wizardry. I’ve only been introduced to the first two – but look forward to learning the rest.

The wizard’s first rule is simply that, “given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything . . . They will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they’re afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true . . . they can rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.”

In the novel, the wizards use this as an intricate part of working their magic, at times the magic is little more than this knowledge – people believe they’re being controlled by magic when really they’re being controlled by someone else’s wits.  Now, the ellipses in that passage are where I took out the wizard saying ‘people are stupid.’  I took it out because, although that is true, sometimes there’s more than stupidity at work.  Sometimes, as it says, we believe a lie because we want to believe – sometimes it’s about faith, or hope, or – as he mentions – fear, deep fear, rather than just stupidity.

I think it’s that wanting to believe a lie, or fearing the truth of lie, and so believing it is what messes us up.  Think of the person who is told they’re stupid, unworthy, not enough . . . they believe these things.  Not because they want to, but because they’re so afraid they may be truth, that some unnamed part of of them takes over, telling them they are in fact truth.  On the other side, think of that woman who stays with the man everyone tells her is no good, simply because he tells her he’ll change, they’re meant for each other, she’s the only one who can help him be better, everyone else just doesn’t understand.  She wants it to be true, needs it to be true, because if it isn’t what does that say about how she’s been living her life? and so she believes.

Go further down into the rule and if we haven’t found ourselves in the first two parts, we can probably find ourselves in the next.   “People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true.”  I know I’ve found myself there.  There were things I had believed so truly, so firmly – and at last I had to come to doubt the truth of their validity.  I wonder how much more is out there, how much I firmly believe that deserves to be assessed – that I need to figure out for myself to know whether they are things of truth (at least as far as I or anyone else can define truth), or things I just believe to be true because I was told so.

Going further still, I wonder how often I am still faced with a lie, believe it to be truth, and so am blind to being able to tell the difference.  I try to believe the best of people, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and have often believed words when repeated actions have shown me different.  I feel that I am outgrowing this . . .  which makes me both sad and proud.  I want to believe the best in people.  I want to trust that the people around me are well-meaning, and honest, and people I can believe.  But after years of having friend after friend consistently let me down, take advantage of me and show through various small actions that they were not actually the friend I’d believed them to be, the friend I tried to be toward them, I’ve had to realize that I can not always choose to believe the best in people. (I’m happy to say that the friends I currently have, and let remain in my life for the long term are people I can believe).

Knowing and fully understanding the wizard’s first rule has two purposes for the skilled wizard.  The first is to be able to use this rule to work his magic upon others (hopefully for the greater good, but this is not always the case.)  It’s a part of the rule I’ll probably try to avoid. . .though I suspect I may end up using it on my future children a time or two – only for the greater good of course!  The second reason is to be aware, so the wizard never lets the rule be used against himself.  This is the reason why I’m holding onto this rule.  People try to use it all the time.  Hopefully, I won’t find myself the witless victim again. And hopefully now, neither will you!

Visit sometime in the next week to hear about the Wizard’s Second Rule – I found it even more thought provoking!

So art goes to art

I came across this piece today.  I wrote it a couple years ago at a spoken word workshop at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.  Our group assignment was to choose a painting or display and each create something based on it. I liked the idea of using art to create art.

Inspired by Carol Hoorn Fraser’s Couple I -1971

Couple I

Couple I (Photo credit: nichameleon)

My heart grew when I thought of you
Reached the innermost spaces of thought.

Blind I follow.
Mute you stand.

Your mind the catalyst,
My soul the seed.

Roots that stretch
Sprouts that flower
Away from you my lifeblood goes
Ever deeper, ever higher
Toward you, we mingle
Just below the horizon.

Where no eyes witness
Our innermost parts entangle:
Ever stronger
Ever brighter
Ever one.

The sky a channel
For freedom, thought

The earth a refuge
Where, when I hold the shears
And you the knife that at any moment could sever

I pause

As your hand stops

I’m reminded
All that is outer is transient.

A passing cloud is the threat
Until a sky’s water covers us
And roots
Beautiful and strong
Grow more so
With what we thought for a fleeting moment could destroy
Grow more so
Blossoming into the iridescent frenzy

Of you
Of me
Of us.


Blind to all that shears


Under a hazy, yet constant sky