But Seriously, Folks

Just how serious has our fun become?

This article was published by 99E‘s Sep/Oct 2019 issue. The 99E is a Milwaukie Oregon-based arts and culture magazine not available online.

Walking on Bandon’s beach a few weeks ago, I noticed an octogenarian collecting rocks. They concentrated on the task with a vengeance, never looking up or to either side, and only pausing to drop their tiny treasures into one of several pockets located on their super-nifty, no-doubt-expensive, canvas vest. Not only did it sport eight pockets of different sizes and various toggles, clasps, and zippers, but it boasted a tool belt specially made for those must-have rockhound aids.

I couldn’t suss the beachcomber’s organizing system. One stone went here; a shell went there. Nimble fingers quickly unzipped or unbuttoned or unhooked, and as quickly re-closed, all without the vest-wearer even looking.

As I compared my woeful ensemble—faded jeans with rolled-up cuffs; twenty-year-old sandals; threadbare, oversized hoodie—to theirs, I felt envious. Wow. This person is a SERIOUS rockhound. Look at that gear! Then I stopped mid-squish. Is that not an oxymoron, ‘serious rockhound’? Isn’t rock collecting a hobby? Just how serious has our fun become?

We’re bombarded with ads: designer gear for the SERIOUS runner… for the SERIOUS hiker… SERIOUS cook… or even invalid (the SERIOUSLY ill). NaNoWriMo, the home of National Novel Writing Month and now marketing all year long, encourages would-be writers to buy mugs, T-shirts, and other paraphernalia to show how SERIOUS they are about writing. If you need a T-shirt as motivation, I would seriously question your desire to write at all.

Buying accoutrements for our interests and thus prove to ourselves we’re committed is one thing; but are we also hoping others will believe we’re serious? We might not even have to do anything if the neighbors can see our impressive collection of, say, cycles for every terrain, complete with matching helmets. These items require SERIOUS storage spaces. And a way to bring them with us on the vacays we might take—if we ever get time off, of course. Unfortunately, we must work seriously long hours to purchase, house, display, and insure these toys. No one can see how serious we are about boating, for example, if that boat lives in a storage shed fifty miles away.

It’s not just sports equipment, either. I’ve noticed cooking’s gotten way too SERIOUS. Time was you could buy a decent can opener or a set of measuring cups for a couple of bucks, but those days are gone. Weekend gourmets, who think they’ll create such masterpieces as pomegranate-rhubarb-cilantro chicken on a bed of lightly sautéed ants, have caused prices to skyrocket for the items we ordinary, actual-food-making folks use daily. Color-coordination, I assure you, has absolutely ZERO to do with yumminess. My granny baked for a living; how on earth did she manage with only those basic, non-ergonomic aluminum utensils? Horrors!

It’s scariest for parents, though. If you have children, you’ve experienced the crushing economics of “must-have” lessons, from music to clown school. Parents feel obligated to provide any number of pricy pursuits, with no idea whether their child will even like them. Lessons must be paid for, but so too the shoes; the costumes; the music books; the gas to get there—never mind the untold cost to the environment and dangerous health effects the stress of juggling work schedules, organizing carpools, and breathing exhaust fumes cause.

Who, then, promotes the questionable notion that those who plunge into debt to provide their offspring with a plethora of pursuits are better parents? The promoters are not on the front line of parenting, but marketing. It is not your child’s, but their own financial wellbeing that is uppermost, exploiting every parent’s fear of not providing the best possible childhood experience.

Your child might rather stay home with you. Take that opportunity. If you watch without judgment, you’ll witness firsthand what delights your child. Focus on that. (Be warned: they rarely choose activities you like, or lessons you wish you’d had. Children are individuals, not mini-versions of us.) You might not have to shell out for private lessons, either. Community centers are great places to get excellent classes for reasonable cost. Bartering is another viable option: what can you do that the ballet teacher can’t? (Maybe those color-coordinated kitchen doodads will come in handy after all!)

Marketers have succeeded in convincing us we’ll run like Usain Bolt or play tennis like Serena Williams if we buy a certain brand of shoes, or a NASA-designed racket. A racket’s involved, all right, but a different game altogether. Companies spend millions on brain research to learn how to target their ads to neuron-level, and 1-click systems have us ordering before our higher brain’s reasoning kicks in.

Spending hard-earned cash (or worse, using a credit card so you’re still paying when your child turns 40) is not an indication of how serious you are. Question “put your money where your mouth is.” Actions speak louder than words or money.

Fun needn’t be so damn serious. If you want to run, don old sneakers and jog a few blocks. Do you like it? If you yearn to write, grab a pencil and paper. I assure you, no mug or t-shirt in the world writes novels; people write novels. (Good ones, anyway.) Want to play guitar? Borrow one and see how it feels. We’ve been trained to believe spending serious cash will force us into worthwhile activities; actually, it shows an underlying resistance to them. We always find a way to accomplish our highest priorities: no force required.

Take my beloved beachcombing. In Bandon, I wore no fancy vest. My bare hands scooped up treasures, rinsed them in the sea, and placed them in the pockets of my rolled-up jeans. My ancient Birks didn’t survive the watery adventure, but so what? I’ll go barefoot next time. The point is, I had fun. Seriously.

“Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto”

One of my fave Twilight Zone episodes is “The Lateness of the Hour.” An inventor and his wife are waited on hand and foot by robots who do everything for them, no backtalk. Their daughter, however, wants to get out and “do something with her life!” Alas, she must stay inside lest she betray the family secret. If the townspeople see the robots, everyone will want one. Then Daughter finds out her own robotic roots. Guess who was reprogrammed to fit in?

Humans are so messy, aren’t they? All those emotions…often late to important things like work…prone to illness (especially if they’re stuck in jobs they hate). Annoyingly (if you’re trying for mill/billionaire status), these humans want to be PAID for their mostly boring, sometimes dangerous work. They also insist employers put money aside so when they become too old or ill to work, they will STILL get paid. Imagine that! Not only do they want money for nothing (and their chicks for free) so they can buy life’s necessities, they want to accomplish items on their bucket list. Leisure pursuits, indeed. Ridiculous.

Moguls know employees comprise their biggest expense. Thus, they use all methods at their disposal to reduce the costs associated with the very persons whose efforts result in the mogul’s own wealth. Surely using robots would increase profits. Am I the only one worried about this?

Robot and AI technologies are developing at an alarming rate—alarming if you’re an average Josephine, anyway. Yet we’re aiding and abetting the perpetrators’ plans. We allow constant surveillance even Orwell couldn’t imagine. “Oh, it’s just marketing,” people say, but it’s not. AI developers need data on how we think and act so their robots will be truly lifelike. (Check out the Institute of Art and Ideas “The Case Against Reality.” IAI)

Think your job is safe from robotics? We’re not talking “Danger, danger, Will Robinson” models that fall somewhere between a vacuum cleaner and the Tin Man. Robots have come a long way, baby. Read Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last and see how far.

We’re told robots will mean more free time for us. Instead of driving ourselves, for instance, we can hop into a self-driving car. Think of all you can accomplish there!(?) But what if you’re a taxi or bus driver? And O, how handy it will be when you’re sick, to pop into a health clinic manned by robots—unless you’re a health care worker. True: as robots become commonplace, our free time will increase. But folks, we’ll have no money.

Case in point: When I was declared disabled, I was forced into taking Social Security. What a financial shock. But when you leave the game early, you leave with less money: the dreaded words “fixed income” describe it. Even those with a decent pension are discovering they don’t have enough for basics, let alone indulging their creative side. My “retired” friends all work, or are looking for work.

Meanwhile, government finds more ways to slash money from program budgets for housing, food, healthcare, and clean air and water. I can’t imagine it ever deciding to give people MORE money for nothing, let alone private corporations. Yet AI enthusiasts swear we’ll be free to pursue wants because needs will be met by robots: this idea wars with reality.

One reality is, we hasten the robots’ arrival every time we complain about not receiving PERFECT, SMILING, SPEEDY service from human customer service personnel. Only robots needn’t pretend they’re not bothered or offended. Only robots can be programmed to smile 24/7. And a boss never has to say to a robot, “Don’t bring your personal life to work.”

Employers may desire automatons, but we as consumers needn’t aid and abet them by requiring perfection of their staff—and what the hell is ‘perfect’ anyway? One person’s ‘perfect’ is another’s ‘disaster.’ It’s all a matter of perspective.

None of us wants to be judged harshly and irrevocably for all-too-human behavior displayed in a particular moment. Do you operate better when someone stands over you, judging every keystroke or burger flip? Do you do your best when someone’s yelling at you? (If so, you’re in a minority.) I’m reminded of Keeping up Appearances’ Elizabeth, who so dreaded the summons to coffee with her judgmental neighbor Hyacinth, she invariably spilled or broke something.

To keep the robots at bay, we can stop expecting perfection—theirs or ours. Try this simple experiment: For one week, greet each person with a smile whose job it is to serve you, no matter whether your dog died that morning or you just received a speeding ticket. Notice how the employee reflects your expression, effortlessly. People cannot resist a heartfelt smile meant just for them.

Then, find something in every transaction to be grateful for and acknowledge it out loud. “Thank you for leaving room for milk.” “I love that there’s always a place to park my bike.” “Did you know you’re the only store whose restrooms are always clean? Thank you.”

I enjoy visiting places like Freddie’s (Fred Meyers, if you’re in Oregon) and noticing how, for example, the dairy manager, whose aisle sees more traffic than O’Hare, arranges her stock for easy reading: labels out and pulled right up to the rim. I’ll say, “How inviting your section looks!” Or I say to the guy cleaning up yet another spill on Aisle 7, “I appreciate how you always clean up messes right away.” He beams. Think how you feel when someone gives you an honest, unprompted compliment—especially when you were “just doing your job.”

If you go to a manager give kudos, not criticism. Employees get enough criticism, don’t worry. Only a robot could smile while cleaning shit from a restroom floor or making its hundredth soy latte of the day. Before you Yelp or criticize, exercise a bit of compassion.

Domo arigato, but you can keep your Roboto. I prefer flawed humans.

This article will appear in the January issue of 99E, a new Portland publication

Breaking News: Talk Not Cheap


by Jennifer Holland, NBN Reporter

Necessarily Brief News reported today that the cost of Talk, once so cheap it could be ignored, has risen to the point that an as-yet-unidentified number of persons have lost everything: relationships, businesses, employment, and worse yet, Hope.

Experts were focused on world markets and various stock indices and did not notice Talk, specifically the Self/Own sector, making its meteoric rise until the Speech Bubble burst. NBN learned that millions, if not billions, of people have been affected by Talk’s steep cost increase. Horizon’s CEO, in a rushed interview, blurted: “No one thought they needed budget. Our ads misleading, ‘free talk/text.’ World under illusion quantity better than quality. Must—”

Human thought/talk expert Byron Katie could not be contacted by phone or email, so this reporter read one of her books. Apparently, self-talk trumps any other form. Disparaging comments directed toward one’s self ultimately affect a person’s health, wealth, relationships, and even happiness levels. People belittle and minimize themselves with shocking frequency, and their Mind believes every word. More important, Mind influences Brain to organize what it believes are successful outcomes to those thoughts, known for decades as “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Fearless questioning of one’s self-talk is, according to Katie, the only sure way to dam the rising flood of negativity that causes untold suffering.

Katie restates older texts here. The Bible’s Proverbs 23:7 notes that as we think in our hearts, so are we. Abraham Lincoln, a man of few but excellent words, noticed people were about as happy as they’d made up their minds to be. Humankind might have noticed the signs of impending doom had they (a) acknowledged sooner that their cell phone bills did not, in fact, total $0.00, and (b) paid more attention to their Self/Own talk than their mobile devices.

Citizens are urged to stop wasting their cell phone’s “free” minutes and spend time freeing themselves via nurturing Self/Own talk.

How to Give Peace a Chance

I wondered why my mind could not rest after reading and responding to Jan’s comment on my last blog. At length I realized my mind’s machinations were providing me with the last chapter of the how-to book I’m presently writing (as yet untitled, but The Art of Poverty has been bandied about). Though I’m reluctant to release details of the book prior to its publication, my mind cannot rest until I share these more general thoughts with you today.

I was never a contestant for Miss America, but I know my answer to the question, ‘What is your dream,’ would have been — and still is: World Peace. “Can’t be done,” says nearly everyone. And if nearly everyone believes that, they’re absolutely right, for as my friend Jody says, “Perception is reality.” Until we can see something in as much detail as possible in our Mind’s Eye, we have but an infinitesimal chance of achieving it. (You can see my earlier blog, ‘I Can’t See That Ever Happening,’ for a fuller discussion of this phenomenon.) When it comes to World Peace then, it would take a very large number of people indeed to make that happen, right?

Maybe not. Journeys begin with one step, and world peace begins with one person. We must make peace with our own world, our inner world and immediate outer world, first. That’s why I’m writing the book, but I only realized its larger import today. If we individually can see how amazing and creative we are when facing our own budgets, for example, and we see the fruits of our non-violent efforts on our own behalf to love and accept ourselves as we are, the ripple effect will be remarkable in the best of ways — even to the elusive concept that is World Peace.

You know, I taught ESL for years. I often quizzed my students as to why they chose to learn English, and especially why they chose to pretty much forsake their own beautiful languages and cultures in favor of the upstart, American English. My Chinese students confided that their number one reason for coming here was to learn how to be creative. As far as English went, they knew more grammar than I did, but the Chinese knew that that was not enough for success as they envisioned it. They wanted our ingenuity, not our language per se. Unwittingly, we gave this to them and a hundred other cultures because we mistakenly believed all they were interested in was the money they could earn by learning English.

Imagine that! Here’s a country — China — with however many millions/billions of people (as I mentioned yesterday, facts are not my forte; I’m a mystic, for Pete’s sake!), who could take the U.S. over by simply sending over their strongest and bravest young people and killing or maiming us before we had a chance. (You younger folks won’t know that various Menaces were portrayed for earlier generations in just this way.) But this never happened. Why? Because they discovered creativity is stronger than the sword.

As Americans, we have forgotten that it is our ingenuity that made us a world power in the first place, and it is that aspect of us that other countries want for their citizens. Thus, they send their students to learn our “secret recipe,” if you will. They observe and learn and return to their home countries to teach others. Meanwhile, we use the bulk of our money and ingenuity devising ways to kill and torture people. We send our bravest and strongest overseas with that murderous technology, and, unbelievably, in the name of peacekeeping or peace. Has there ever been such a dangerous oxymoron?

Citizens in some countries backed away quite a while ago, while others are only doing so now. They see the truths we stubbornly refuse to acknowledge. One of them is that the country who proudly brings you such earth-shattering inventions as drones to deliver pizzas, fifty ways to cure your hemorrhoids, and robots that will clean up your dog’s poop, seemingly cannot come up with a creative alternative to war, let alone ensure healthcare as a basic right, or clean air, or pure drinking water for all its citizens, and not just the rich few. They watch in horror as their belief in our democracy crumbles. They know that Democracy is a bottom-up process and not a top-down one; how do we not see that? They watch us charge into various countries — often unasked; or worse, having caused the mess in the first place — with the best of intentions, but placing us further trillions in debt. (I’m reminded of the times others tried to “help” when they were doing anything but. I know I’ve said, “Please, if I get any more of your ‘help,’ we’re all doomed.” I wish the countries who feel that way about the USA would just tell us!)

Seriously, would you be given several hundred thousand dollars because you wanted to keep pests out of your and your neighbors’ gardens? “But I’m doing a really great thing!” you tell the loan officer. The bank, knowing you make $1,000 a month and have a credit rating of 500, just gives you an incredulous stare and calls security. None of us are allowed to spend money so irresponsibly as does our government. We must scrimp and save and budget till we feel like we have been through a war ourselves.

That’s why I’m writing the book, which focuses on a concrete method of living happily within your budget. What I only copped on to today was that the method works not only for individuals, but societies. If enough people realize that their ability to creatively control their lives (including their budgets) can be extrapolated to their fellow citizens, world peace could actually ensue. The reason I couldn’t stop thinking about yesterday’s blog was that I hadn’t realized I’d actually discovered a way to World Peace. That’s what I always wanted, yet thought I was being too idealistic and naive. (And you thought so, too, I know:D). Watch this space, folks; watch this space.

It takes courage to envision a new future, and a lot of creativity. Bombing the hell out of people and places is so 2016. I love the words from a Michael Franti song, a man who also believes things can change: “You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb the world to peace.” Amen, bro. I’m reminded, too, of a Vietnam-era poster that said, “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” These statements are meant to raise our consciousness and allow the creative process to begin: the imagining that John Lennon so beautifully articulated in his immortal song.

You can have peace in your lifetime, whether it’s world-wide or not. It really is up to you.


Bring Them Home

I had an entirely different topic in mind for this blog, a very upbeat look at the New Year, but the shutdown of our government presents such an amazing opportunity to change the world for the better, I could not resist proposing at least one option: Let’s take this chance to bring our children and grandchildren serving in the military home. Get them out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and a place most of us didn’t even realize our children were being killed — Yemen.*

Learning that the military leaders Stateside would not lose a penny in the shutdown and that war is considered absolutely the most vital task our country could be conducting, should not have been a surprise to me, but it was. What’s worse, our young people are over there without pay. Even worse, if any of them die, their families are not entitled to the death benefit. Don’t believe me? From ABC news yesterday, 19 January:

Additionally, families will not receive the $100,000 death benefit provided for fallen service members. That money can cover funeral costs and family travel. It also helps to bridge the sudden halt of once-regular paychecks that the deceased was receiving — paychecks that end immediately after the individual is killed.

During the 2013 shutdown, Congress worked to mitigate the shutdown’s effects on the Department of Defense by passing a bill allowing for the death benefits to continue. Another bill allowed service members and “essential” Department of Defense civilian personnel to be exempt from the pay freeze.

“Ah,” you say. “So they’ll be paid retroactively when the shutdown ends.” Um, no. ABC, whether intentionally or not, neglected to mention that (a) the bill allowing for death benefits to continue did not pass, and (b) it was a signed order by President Obama that authorized paying the past wages (but not the death benefit) to military and furloughed government personnel. In case you haven’t been paying attention, anything, but ANYTHING Obama did, Trump will not do. Do I need to repeat that? Anyone believing Trump will pay retroactive wages, let alone death benefits, to our troops overseas is suffering from a major delusion.

So, let’s bring our children home now. We need them, our strongest and bravest young people with a heartfelt desire to defend our constitution. The war against democracy is here. The terrorism of government leaders who champion money over human life is happening right here, right now. Trump and his cronies really thought the Democrats would back down, but that’s because they don’t understand those of us who value human life and dignity over unadulterated greed. This is not a partisan issue; it’s simply about being compassionate humans.

You probably are aware that the military has but few soldiers hailing from the upper class, and even fewer that have Senators or Representatives as parents or grandparents. In fact, it’s less than one percent overall. (There’s that 1%/99% thing again.) Trump and his cronies thus have no “heart investment” in paying or protecting our troops. Trump has lambasted our troops more than once for their lack of skill, bravery, and competence. (This alone should qualify him for impeachment.) Truly, Trump’s way is a dead end.

It’s up to us. Somebody please start up a “Bring Them Home” fund and get our kids out of there. I’d contribute, and I’ll bet you would, too. Let’s do it while they’re still alive. Mothers, fathers, extended families, the Nation; we want you, our fighting sons and daughters, to know WE NEED YOU HERE. You have not been abandoned by those who love you and respect what you’re doing over there. Leave the war, if it must continue, to the mercenaries and professional soldiers. Trump always said they should be the ones there anyway, so let’s let them at it.

Trump probably believes that blaming the shutdown on the Democrats will ensure more Republican wins in the upcoming elections, but he has gravely underestimated the American people. The 99%, those of us who are so happy the Democrats stood up for not only the Dreamers, but all of us, will return the favor by voting against Trump and anyone who supported his racist agenda.

Federal employees too, if they’re honest, realize their jobs came about largely because of the Democrats. And we ALL know it’s mainly warmongering, greedy-for-oil-and-power Republicans who got us into the wars in the first place. Trump is so out of touch with average Americans he believes we all, like he does, only want money and more money. He has no concept of serving our country, for he was never in the military. We all want to prosper, certainly, but not at the expense of our humanity. What does it matter if we “win” (what does that even mean? How will we know?) our various offshore wars against terrorism if there is nothing but racism, hatred, and poverty for our troops to come home to? Indeed, without action on our part, there may be no way to get them home at all, for the parents of the children fighting cannot afford to bring them back — alive or in a box. Trump will make sure they get no financial help, so it’s up to us.

Why can’t we turn at least one aspect of this nightmare into something positive? Can we bring them home? Which is more un-American: a whole-scale walking away from war; or a strutting, pompous President who keeps our strongest and bravest children in bloody arenas just to get his own way? The Democrats drew a line in the sand and stood up to this bully on our behalf. Democrat or Republican, let’s use this time to Bring Our Children Home.

“You may say I’m a dreamer,” as the song goes, and that’s okay. “I’m not the only one,” either. Extraordinary times like these spark the kind of passion and creativeness that give those dreams a real chance of coming true. Let’s change the world!


*The war in Yemen we’ve heard virtually nothing about — even on MSNBC, which aired 5,000% more about Russia in the last six months than Yemen — is unconstitutional because it was undeclared. How much do you want to bet that this is the argument Trump will use to deny payment to all the troops, not just the ones serving there, when the Great Shutdown ends?


I Can’t See THAT Ever Happening…

I must share a delightful story. My daughter’s hubby applied for a job and they’re waiting for the answer. My daughter woke up and said to herself, “I’m going to see him [the prospective boss] today! I just know it!” She put on makeup and “dressed the part,” as it were, of the charming, intelligent, beautiful, well-clad wife of the Man for the Job. She walked into WholeFoods and even though she had been CERTAIN she would see him, she couldn’t believe her eyes when she did see him walking down one of the aisles. She tried to put herself in his way so she could speak to him, but that isn’t always the way of it. She did get to speak to him eventually, but the conversation was nothing like she’d imagined. Welcome to my world, dear daughter! Everything and anything you desire or imagine is out there, but you won’t see it until you are prepared to see it (or hear it, or believe it). And if you can see yourself, in detail, in a desired situation that aligns with your highest values and priorities, you will find yourself there. Why? Read on, Macduff…

This manifestation process works for situations you believe are “negative” as well as “positive.” (In my world, there are no poles; they are one, as a coin has two sides but cannot exist without one side). For example: the other day a friend of mine was cursing his slow computer. “I need a new one, but I don’t have the money,” he cried. I asked him, “In a perfect world, what computer would you get? What would it look like?” I couldn’t even get the questions out; the barrage of epithets against the DOS-POS on his lap swept them away before he could register what I was saying. He’s probably still cursing at it and still not getting the resuls he wants. You see, when you put that much energy into a situation, it will continue. It has to. You not only have to unearth how the current situation serves you (and it does in some way, or you would not continue to do it). You must also imagine a new scenario to replace the old one.

If he — or you — want a new laptop (or car, or job, or whatever), try closing your eyes, relaxing into a comfy chair or even your bed. Let your imagination loose. See exactly what you want; the more detailed you can make it, the better. Dress the part, as my daughter did for her WholeFoods adventure. Feel the keys under your fingers if a laptop is what you want. Have your mind’s eye watch as website after website opens speedily and you accomplish exactly what you want. I did this myself last night with my own laptop. It’s a beautiful piece of technology, but I was fighting with it. I took the advice I’m giving you here, and when I went back to it, everything flowed smoothly. Changed perspective; changed reality.

I’ve been doing it also with regard to writing. I tended to agonize DAILY about my lack of finances; I thought about little but budgeting, cutting corners, making do. My focus was usually on poverty, not abundance. After an inspiring webinar by Dr Demartini last week, the one I mentioned in my last blog, I changed my tactics once again. “Start with what you’re certain about,” he advised. “What do you have, right here/right now, to take the first step toward fulfilling your dream?” If you’re taking daily actions to fulfill what are your highest priorities, and choose those actions over the distractions which are keeping you stuck where you are, you will naturally be happier. (And even healthier; the stress from doing jobs that are not in line with your highest values causes diseases great and small.)

But what if, like me, you can’t automatically see yourself in a different situation? Despite my active imagination, I still feel I can’t see the big picture for myself, not really. I’m too old; I’m too poor; I’m too whatevs. That’s okay. I’ll start small, with a small enough dream that I can see myself in. There are days I don’t think anything has happened — I still haven’t seen the Big Picture, and it’s hard for me to see myself as that successful author, or as having more than a three-figure amount in my bank. But today I looked at my surroundings after talking with my daughter. Hmmm…look at what’s changed in this past week. Things I “needed” in order to write are now all in place: my son-in-law had brought over the rug for the living room. That meant I could move my writing desk from my chilly bedroom to a warmer spot, one from which I can still see the mountains when I write (which is why it was in the bedroom in the first place). I replaced the television-watching area with the writing desk. Now it takes effort to watch television, but it’s easy to write. I was substituting actions for distractions and wasn’t aware of the progress I’d made!

The reason I’d been talking to my daughter at all was that I’d written and produced a video book for my granddaughters for Christmas and I was waiting to hear if she had been able to access it. Again: I wrote a children’s book this week. Wow. All I did was start with what I had: I know I love to write. I have the space and time to write. I have a laptop. Maybe I’ll make money and maybe I won’t, but that’s not for me to worry about! MY job is to write, every day. Meditate and get inspiration, every day. Choose actions that fulfil my highest values and say no to distractions, no matter how pleasant, every day. When you’re clear, absolutely clear, about what you want, the Hows take care of themselves. They always do. Always.

What happened in WholeFoods for my daughter was not a miracle. She had seen the scenario in her mind’s eye, and she had dressed for the part because she was certain she would see him. That certainty coupled with highest-value intention is what does it. He might have been there every time she went to WholeFoods, but he wasn’t part of her highest value list until now. She couldn’t see him until…well…she could see him.

Whatever your or my dream may be, the chances that we will achieve them are very poor indeed if we can’t see ourselves doing it; if we can’t see it ever happening. True, we may not get it even if we visualize it in detail, but we are certainly stacking the odds in our favor. The point is, if we are engaged in highest-value priorities day in and day out; if we can see how our present situations serve us and be grateful for them; we’ll be happy even without the dream home or job. Strange but true.

It’s our choice. We’ve created the world we live in now. If we want another one, we need to see it in our mind’s eye first. The rest follows naturally. (And if you don’t believe me, I dare you to try it.)

Now go out there and have the best life ever!



Fatal Distractions

I’m back.

I’m back from the land of self-doubt, relentless emotional pain, buried resentments. I’m leaving the land of Let Me Tell You What To Do Because I Know Best. I’m leaving, in other words, the Land of Fatal Distractions.

I’ve journeyed right round the houses and have come back to myself; a kinder and gentler self. One who has integrated the traumas of the past and who is enthused about the Now. I must thank you for hanging in there with me for — what is it for some of you? 25, 35 years? It takes me a while, but I do get there in the end. And that, perhaps, is my strength.

Instead of trying to help you achieve your dreams, I can see now that I serve people best by becoming what you already knew I could be. I show my love best not by helping you out with daily tasks or giving gifts, but by honouring my own talents and foibles; by being happily honest with myself. (I’m really quite hysterical! I crack myself up when I watch how my brain works sometimes. I’m glad I can see the funny side of myself now.)

All the things I’ve complained about and worried over — nobody understands me; nobody listens to all my good advice vis-a-vis Byron Katie, or Demartini, or ZPN, or German New Medicine; you know what I mean. Well, I had an epiphany today that turned everything around. I put my own name in instead of yours, as in:

  • I don’t understand me.
  • I don’t support me.
  • I don’t follow what I know with deep certainty is true.*
  • I expect you to live in my values while ignoring them myself.

Wow. I think the one that got me the most though was recognising that what I thought was my strength — being able to see right through to your soul and to know what you could accomplish — was actually my most Fatal Distraction. Focusing on you means I don’t have to focus on myself. It’s the most well-intended distractions that are the most insidious.

No, my highest priority is to become my best self. When I was looking at you, I was looking in the mirror and didn’t even realise it. It was both extremely humbling and exalting to suddenly see the Jen you’ve always seen and supported. To see that I’m as wonderful as you are. You don’t need me to help you; you need me to just be me and let you get on with being you.

And so, I’ve come back to Jen. That enthusiastic, driven idealist and believer-in-dreams. Doing what has to be done to get there and using a bunch o’ creativity while I’m at it. I had Big Ideas and was going to Change the World. Well, I’ve still got Big Ideas, but now maybe I’ve got the wisdom to see I only needed to change my world to get them done. I’m ridding myself of the distractions that keep me from being the Real Me. Every single thing I do, I ask myself, “Distraction? or Action?” (Some are more difficult to shake than others, like coffee and crosswords in the morning! Gotta be able to incorporate those into the Action side of the table…)

As far as support goes, it has always been there, whether in your beautiful smiling faces on Skype, Hangouts, FaceTime, or WhatsApp; or your outpourings of love and encouragement by way of telephone, email, or cards. In my new, safe, peaceful, warm apartment, I’m going through the boxes of papers I’ve dragged from one side of the planet to the other, and I see all the things you’ve sent me. You’ll never know how much those — and you — mean to me. I’m glad I didn’t clear everything out before because I needed to see those things.

Thanks for hanging in there. I guess that’s what love is all about, isn’t it?


*Rob Brezsny, a favourite of mine and author of Pronoia, put this Sufi aphorism from his book on his site today: “You can’t be sure you are in possession of the truth unless a thousand people have called you a heretic.” So…I only have about 950 people left to piss off. 😉


The Sounds of Silence

I’m going off the grid. Trying the hermit lifestyle: no phone, no internet, no email. The tough part will be not hand writing letters, but if I stop buying stamps, you should be safe.

I’ve fancied myself as good with words, to the point that I even felt my words did good. But time after time, my words hurt those I love most. Since I don’t know how that happens, how words coming from deep love morph into poisoned arrows, I think it safer to stay away from words altogether for a while.

This experiment might turn out really well. Think of the guilt, shame, and sadness I’ll save — guilt over not contacting people for so long; guilt, shame, and sadness over what was said or written or received.

Perhaps in silence I will discover who I really am. All these years, I’ve defined myself with and through words. The non-verbal world is actually far larger; the scope to find a new vibrancy is immense. There’s a whole ‘nother Jen out there to discover. For now, my forays into the Silent World will still be based in Utah, but who knows where this adventure may take me?

Perhaps silence will accomplish more than the words ever could. Then you can invent your own happy stories about me, using your own words and not the ones I try to force on you.I hope you see me healthy, happy, and living closer to Mother Earth. I will always see you with love.

Okay, here I go…internet off in 10 seconds. Peace out.


I did it! I completed 54,750 words in 27 days and now have a nice fat first draft of the book I renamed Reinventing Grace when I was halfway through. In fact, it was way less than 27 days because I spent the first week of November moving into my new apartment, and quite a bit of time dealing with pneumonia. I’m delighted with meself, I must say.

Now comes the hard part: revising, editing, polishing. But that’s okay.

I think I can post a copy of the Winner’s Certificate on here, but if it doesn’t transfer over, you can see a copy on my wall at home once I get it printed!

See you soon.

Your fave writer and pesky mystic.


Melody, Unchained

Yesterday Katrisa, Cassidy, and I were in the car when Death Cab for Cutie’s song, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” came on. As one, the three of us — grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter — sang the whole song right through. Our clear voices floated from the car window into the shiny-clear day as we sang this poignant song that is a favorite with all three of us.  Of course, I had gotten one of the words wrong (‘departs’ instead of ’embarks’), but this is a trademark of mine. I don’t think there’s been a song yet that I didn’t get something wrong, but that’s part of the fun. I was gently and lovingly corrected during the instrumental bridge. What a magical few minutes!

You just can’t buy or prepare for moments like these, can you? Spontaneous, yet they only surface after thousands of mundane moments have happened. The pearl is an apt metaphor here, beginning its creation as a speck of irritating sand and becoming more beautiful as time goes on. That oyster never knows when its shell will be cracked open; the process continues until it does.

Special moments don’t necessarily need the physical presence of others. They can also accrue via such technology as Skype or Hangouts, but only once the foundation for those memory pearls has been laid through personal association, the kind that involves all five senses. If we’ve actually smelled and touched someone in addition to hearing, seeing, and speaking to them, our brains will register a Skype call in exactly the same way as if the person were there in the room with us. The same feel-good endorphins burst through the doors of perception; the same rise in serotonin levels occurs — you name it, your brain thinks it’s real, and it makes you feel happy.

So, if you decide to give Mother Earth a rest during the holidays; if you choose to cut your fossil fuel consumption so you can afford to buy from local vendors and support your community, you needn’t lose out on seeing family. Figure out how to use Skype if you haven’t yet. My fave is actually Google Hangouts because now you can video chat with anyone in the world who has a Gmail account, and the reception is very good. The point  is, there are options. Please find them and use them.

Death Cab for Cutie may not be one of your favorite groups and maybe you won’t be singing the same song we did. I highly doubt it! The Hollands have some strange and cherished rituals when it comes to song and dance. Find your own song, if that’s the kind of family and friends you have. Do what comes naturally when you’re in their company even if it’s (as a dear friend responded yesterday to my last blog) “dance naked and watch football!”

You needn’t wait for a certain calendar day to try this out, you know. Plans stifle spontaneity. Unchain your own melody and see what happens.