Heart, Soul, and Rough Edges — A Gypsy Journey of Words and Wonder

Archive for the tag “Michele”

Decide Now!

DecideNow-NextProjectI’m a sucker for “OOH! Shiny Things!!!” One of my favorite surfing sites is Lifehacker Australia — you can learn anything from the best description of why Java was a recent menace, and how to delete it from a variety of browsers (sort of works . . . ) to how to use a binder clips and duct tape to do almost anything. They also highlight new apps and special deals on apps. I’ve finally deleted the most addictive game I played incessantly (deleted it twice, actually), and found the most wonderful new Shiny Thing to help when I get into analysis paralysis.

As are many of us creative souls, I’m a very visual person; toss in easy distractibility, a short attention span, and a tendency to try to multi-task. Result? Too many times when I know I have so many things to do and can’t figure out what to tackle first, or how to get back on track. This spiffy new app makes it fun to want to see what’s next.

Decide Now! works on the iPad and iPhone. The wheels do spin, make noise if you want, can be edited and color coded. So far, I haven’t figured out how (or if) you can sync edits. I made up a few wheels on the iPad, and loaded the app on the iPhone, via the Mac, but didn’t get my changes. So, what you see are shots from the trusty iPad.

I started by creating a “master project list” wheel. As I go along, I’ll add in some more fun stuff to keep it interesting, but for now, I have nine choices of short tasks I can do. Even if I want to do one of these, I still have a hard time getting started. But, if I really pay attention, limit my action to a few minutes (like five to ten minutes), I can giggle my way through the choice.

DecideNow-PT-KneesFor almost all the Next Project choices, I’ve created a second wheel, with detailed choices of what to do when I land on one. For instance, “Playtime” may or may not have instructions (!), but “Exercise” and “Clean House” have routine tasks. “PM Post”, “Apollo’s Lyre”, “Trip”, and others have items I need to do to catch up/finish/move a project along.

Here’s my working version of , “TaCaMeFe”: a series of physical therapy exercises; instruction to go to the health club to work out, plus another nudge to go ride the stationary bicycle. Take my meds. Drink water. Go to bed!

If I’ve already done the one that shows up, I’ll spin again.

The act of thinking about choices, editing the wheels, and how to limit the time requirement so I would “do something” actually made me stop after a few cycles, as it were, put on my workout  clothes, and head for the gym.

The process of small bites also opened up my eyes to different ways to approach my workout. I need to build up my stamina and strength to do a lot of walking in a few months for a trip. I spent about 15 minutes on the air bike (big fan for a front tire, no settings, just make it go with arms and legs). Then I walked on the treadmill for another 15 minutes. Followed that with a third 15-minute segment on the regular stationary bike, and PT exercises and stretching for the final portion.

None of the pieces was overwhelming, and in a little over an hour, I had an interesting session, timed not by a clock, but by the music I listened to on the iPhone. Three longish songs per segment. Music I only listen to when working out.


Without spinning the wheel, I tackled one of the Daily/Weekly chores I procrastinate about — one of those that makes me drag my heels, cross my arms, pout, and pretend I’ll want to do it later. Right. After an intensifying level of avoidance anxiety, fear I’ll get some dreadful disease, and other flights of frantic thought, I end up handling it. At some point, I hope I realize how much time and energy is spent avoiding, and  under twenty minutes doing it.

This morning, without spinning the wheel, but thinking about it, I did my full a.m. routine before searching for coffee. This was after over  ten hours of sleep last night. I didn’t land on “Go To Bed!” but followed my body when it told me I was tired and could probably fall asleep if I tried at that point. It worked. For an insomniac, that’s a precious gift.

If nothing else, I did something I don’t do enough — I got out of my head and into my body yesterday. Exercised, sweated, stretched, groaned. Walked back and forth from my bedroom to the kitchen with the things I was hand washing; cleaned up when I was done. Washed my face, slathered lotions on it, flossed, hunkered down without trying to do it quietly — Hubby wasn’t asleep yet, and it wasn’t the middle of the night.

Today I’m at the computer, for now. Had a one-way argument with DropBox about an overload I couldn’t seem to fix. Came up with something that worked as the band-aid I needed, instead of continuing to try to make it do what I “know” it “should” do. Wrote this post; it ties in with my 2013 theme of TaCaMeFi — Take Care of Me First. Creating space for my body to move and my mind to be freed from all the shoulds circling, like planes  in limbo, waiting to land.

DecideNow-TripDecideNow- ALDecideNow-Chores


And now a few words about words . . .

The Sea of Words

Ink flows like river full of life
sometimes easy and smooth
dances over stones, around snags
follows stage direction
on cue, corps de ballet
pivot and bow in sync

Ink sticks, won’t flow
like drops lost in side eddies
circular moves, when they do “something”
otherwise stagnant
wait to be unblocked

Ink sits, bottled, waits
for someone to release
its energy,
splash outrageous thoughts
onto dead tree transformed
to half-human form,
sometimes able to stand
upright with proud spine

Ink bleeds the wounds
and pain, cleanses mind
and body, like leeches
still used to draw poisons
from the soul

Ink is the sea
nourishing, healing
when it isn’t
the water demon
whose kiss drowns


TaCaMiFi and Show Up At The Page

What Our Favorite Quotes Say

see footnote about this quote

I start each year with a combination of wistful yearning and a load of fractured freeze-frames from past experiences.  This year I ABSOLUTELY WILL / WILL NOT . . . and wonder if I’ll ever make the changes in my life that matter — and keep them safe.

Today, while riding an old-fashioned stationary bike with the giant front-tire fan, the kind that works on arm and leg power, the phrase “Show up at the page!” became wonderfully clear.

Just show up at the page, and watch what happens. The page is a metaphor for whatever you want in life. In this context, “the page” is our health club.

Instead of a detailed plan for how many minutes I want to ride the bike, or do PT exercises, or stretch — if I just “show up at the page (the Club)” I’m 100% more likely to actually let myself do something, instead of talk about doing it, or agonize about when to go, missing a class time, etc., and doing nothing. Well, not “nothing” — I spend a lot of time feeling frustrated and beating myself up for failing.

Show up at the page.

Mary wrote about FlyLady, who I think should receive a Nobel Prize for her contribution to preserving sanity; her concepts of Baby Steps, and letting go of perfectionism; and her sage saying, “You are not behind! Jump in and start where you are!”

Don’t try to catch up with, and do penance for, all the burdens in your life. You can only do what comes next, not what you woulda/ shoulda/ coulda/ done earlier.

I forget this constantly, keep trying to time-travel back to fix … something. Investing in the guilt, shame, let-down pain never magically makes it any different.

Show up at the page. Every page that means something to you. Clutter driving you nuts? Pick up that one item that triggers the immediate feeling. Put it away, throw it away, give it away. Just one thing. Now.

Listen to FlyLady and go shine your kitchen sink — another metaphor for creating and accomplishing a small task that you keep up with. Each room, each project, can have a “shiny sink” to represent something you keep sacred for yourself.

Show up at the page, and get your buns to the place you work out for your own health and clarity. The park, the Club, the pool. Your friend’s house so you can walk and talk.

Show up at the page, and let yourself type the words you need for your blog post, whether it means starting it on the iPad, waiting for your hubby to get his hair cut, while you are running errands.

I don’t remember where I found this one, but I love it. If you know, please tell me so I can credit it properly.

Show up at the page and clean and fill TWO of your favorite fountain pens (not the whole tribe of them) and sit down for a few moments to let your mind unload all it’s carrying around before you go to bed, or to do Morning Pages — regardless of what time of the day it is.

Show up at the page. Transition between tasks. Don’t resent the note you make to remind yourself where you left off in your manuscript edit. Jot down those last ideas in the margin of your poem-in-progress.

Embrace the radical idea that doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen are actually part of “fixing dinner”. I don’t know about you, but no matter how many times I’ve told myself I’d really prefer doing the dishes later, I carry them with me until they are done.

Like juggling an armload of packages, hunting for car keys, and holding on to an insistent 55 lb. Poodle’s leash as she discovers a squirrel invading her territory. Talk about focus!

This is a long way to introduce some of the practicalities, and drop at least part of the BS, of this year’s project: Take Care of Me First, or TaCaMeFi.

Each of the issues I raised in this post are important to me, as I slow down enough to hear what’s in my heart, and explore how to treat myself with the love, respect, honesty, and support I’d give to my best friend.

I believe we must constantly pay attention to what supports our inner and outer beauty, accept that sometimes saying NO is the kindest act, and allow into our lives what helps us thrive. No matter what our age, we can never over-learn this.

So, join me in the TaCaMeFi Club. Steep dues: be honest and loving to yourself. Meetings: every day, with yourself. Create your own support team of like-minded friends and future-friends who endeavor to treat themselves as precious treasures while extending the same to you. Be mindful of critical mass.

Make time and space for your Muse. Sometimes she needs to chill with you, refill her well, while you do the same with yours. And remember to be grateful for, and nurture, all that is good in your life.

(I’m  still not sure how to give appropriate credit for items copied from sites I visit. The opening quote came from, as best I can piece it together, this site:

What Our Fav. Quotes Say url

 If I have this wrong, please let me know and I’ll be glad to fix it. There were some marvelous sayings on the site.)

Apollo's Lyre is on indefinite hiatus

Dear Poets,

to create is to live
to breathe the essence
of what must be shared
to survive our feelings

For two years, I’ve used these lines to introduce “Poetry’s Heartbeat”, my column at Apollo’s Lyre e-zine. I still believe in these lines, a portion of a poem I first published in the Desert Woman Magazine in 2007.

Now I’m using this venue to get the word out that Apollo’s Lyre is on indefinite publishing hiatus. I know some of our readers are waiting for word about poems they’ve submitted. and others are waiting for overdue publication dates. We’ve been scurrying behind-the-scenes, but have been unsuccessful resolving our problem. Below are details.

I’m emailing folks, but with over 400 on the list, it’ll take some time to reach everyone individually. While this door is closing temporarily — Lea shouted that out today — I want to encourage you to continue writing and submitting your work. Please let us know when and where you get published, so we can raise a glass of bubbly with you.

For those who are eagerly waiting your spot on the Poetic Muselings site, we will begin sharing those poems here in January.

Next month I’ll share more about my new project — TaCaMeFi (Take Care of Me First), which I believe will help unclutter our lives and our minds, so we can move forward to do what is most important to us.

The following is the heart of what I want to say to our poets and readers of “Poetry’s Heartbeat” at Apollo’s Lyre. I set this up as an auto-response to all new incoming messages while I work to contact individuals:

We are sad to announce that Apollo’s Lyre is going to continue its publication hiatus indefinitely. Unresolvable problems with the host, Tripod, have made it impossible to access or post to our site. Our publisher, Lea Schizas, has repeatedly contacted them; no one at Tripod has responded to her pleas to at least open the site so we can let our readers know what’s going on.

Efforts to create a new site and format for Apollo’s Lyre are underway, but we cannot in good conscience ask you to wait indefinitely. If you submitted poems and are awaiting word about them, consider this message as our way to wish you success with placing your work elsewhere. If we accepted your poems, and gave you an intended publication date, please accept our deep apologies that we will not be able to showcase them as intended.

We are releasing back to you all poems that have not been published; we would still appreciate you adding a note if you republish a poem that appeared in Apollo’s Lyre, identifying the issue and year you were part of our family. No new poems will be accepted nor will any already sent to us be held as backlog for the future. We hope they all find good homes in the poetry universe.

I would like to send each of you a personal message, thanking you for your support, respect for our ezine, and sharing your beauty with us. The logistics of contacting well over four hundred creative souls makes this too daunting, and I chose to start this way, with a general note, so you could begin sending out your work immediately to other publications.

It’s been my honor to serve as Poetry Editor for the past two-plus years. I’m awed by your talent, courage, and willingness to open up and say what must be said. I wish you all the best in your writing and other creative endeavors. I’d love to hear from you so I can read your poems as they appear elsewhere online or in print.

Thank you for your patience, too. I know this has been very stressful waiting to hear from us. It’s been quite stressful from this end also, as we’ve tried our best to figure out how to move forward. On behalf of Lea and the rest of the Apollo’s Lyre staff, we wish you a terrific holiday season, and a productive new year, full of health, love, and happiness.


(note: this was edited to remove some strange “links” that worked their way into the post; I have no idea why/how they got here, but hopefully, they are GONE for good now.)

Enhanced by Zemanta


I’m sharing a poem/holiday gift I came up with for a couple who are very dear to me.

During the past two years, my friends worked hard to dig themselves out of long-standing debt. Diligently, one decision at a time, they paid off credit cards and loans, and now own their cars outright — and paid off their mortgage. I’m incredibly proud of their courage and actions.

One of them is facing layoff after five years of increasingly complex job duties, and several “near-miss” shutdowns. No new angel seems ready to land to postpone closure of the company, and my dear friend is stressed to the max with the situation. Her husband knows they can get through this, and I do, too.

We talked about what they’ve done to fix their finances, and how their lives are now vs. three years ago. Health insurance continuation through COBRA* is possible — and must be done. Unemployment insurance should be a given, under the circumstances, while she’s looking for another position.

“But COBRA will take up almost all my unemployment!”

“Maybe, but you don’t have the outstanding bills to deal with now. You can make choices — good choices — don’t forget that.” I told her.

This got me thinking about our usual gift exchange — we both spend time and money looking for something unusual for the other; in fact, we have more fun with this particular giving than with anyone else.

So I decided I’d give them a POMEGRANATE this year. I explained what it was, and why I was doing it, and asked them to please follow these instructions, as a favor to all of us:


(POM for short: Peace Of Mind.)  




Take the money you were going to spend on your gifts to us, write a check to yourselves (don’t cash it), subtract it from the check register, and put it into a band aid box.

Label the box “COBRA VENOM” , and find some good symbols to put on the box.

Each week, add another check written to yourselves, and feed it to the COBRA box. Consider it as “spent money you no longer have”. Even $25 per week adds up.

If you get a cash-out of comp time or vacation, put at least half of it into the COBRA box, off the top.

Hubby and I will send you a check to feed to the COBRA. You can cash that one and either put the money in directly, or do it via another physical check.

This is the most precious gift you can give yourselves — and one we never had growing up. The stress of being on the edge of financial chaos played a huge part of our lives, and absolutely created the situation that led my father to run away from home and rejoin the Army when I was ten.

Our lives would have been quite different if our parents had a clue and could see the way out of it.  Not complaining about how we ended up, since both of us found the loves of our lives, but it’s still a spectre that haunts.

You’ve made such progress in the past two years. Embrace that and look at this as a time to stand back and creatively appreciate that you can handle this.  You have choices about the food you buy, what else you need now, and what could go on a wish list for next year.

You aren’t obligated to buy anything. You are responsible for taking care of yourselves emotionally, physically, and financially.

I’m very proud of what you’ve done — you are an inspiration to me to clean up parts of my life that drag me down. This includes projects that grab my attention, but not my full passion. Clutter I’m holding on to because I haven’t stepped back quietly enough to hear what’s in my heart.

Engaging in Retail Therapy or Hand-to-Mouth Eating Therapy hasn’t ever solved it for me, though heaven knows I’ve given it every opportunity!

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love / It’s the only thing we have just too little of . . .”

Please give yourselves this gift of love this year, and keep it in mind for future gift-giving.

I wish you peace, health, creativity, and much love.


PS: And to you, dear readers:

We’d be delighted to have you buy our books. However, this may be the time to swim upstream until you are more stable financially. Then go buy one for yourself, and one for a friend. Enjoy it without guilt. Pass the idea along.


The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances. For more info, see, among other sites, this one:

TaCaMeFiMo, NaNoWriMo, and Reality

I decided to start a new kind of “month” — “Take Care Of Me First” month, or TaCaMeFiMo (TAH-CAH-MEE-FEE-MO) — and invite everyone who reads this to join me. Details below, but first, a bit of background:

The idea was to do this concurrently with crazy November writing ambitions: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month); the November PAD (Poem A Day, through Poetic Asides) Chapbook Challenge; NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). Yes, I planned carefully how to be a NaNo Rebel, working in the various projects as adjunct to the new novel.

The paradox: do it all in support of my BIG GOAL — to step back from major projects I’ve handled with groups of writers and others, and take care of my own health and sanity needs FIRST:

– Establish functional sleep habits.
– Take my buns and the rest of my body to the health club five days per week and continue the healing process from my accident two years ago.
– Let go of the 25 lbs. I gained back.
– Work on strength and flexibility.
– Establish constructive eating patterns to reach and maintain a sane weight.
– Laugh and play more.
– Reduce my incessant worrying about the future, and second-guessing decisions from the past.
– Pace myself! Limit the time spent on writing projects, and fill the space with healthy stuff.
– Embrace and cherish what is wonderful in my life. Live in the “now”.

I began to plot this out in my “Never Forget Your Dreams” planner book (from Refuse To Choose, Barbara Sher’s amazing blueprint for “Scanners”). The ideas flowed and I realized I have ways of dealing with pieces of all of the projects I want to handle (or at least start) without having to dive fully into almost any of them. Yes, shamelessly, I would weave the silk into a net that surrounds me and this experiment in living what’s important:

1. Write my NaNoWriMo as a joint project with my husband; we did this in 2006; I won by completing 52,000 words within the time frame. He came up with the story idea, characters he wanted, plot and story line, and I wrote the book, adding scenes, all the words that made it to the page, massaging it when necessary.

So far this year, we’ve talked through the basic story line, have the title, main characters, villains, supporting cast, location, main story line and critical subtext identified. We know the triggering event, lots of possibilities for high and low points, and have a general idea of the ending. Like last time, Hubby’s imagination supplies most of this. I’ll throw in conflict, intrigue, twists, and whatever else strikes me during the writing phase.

In my NaNoRebel garb, I decided that the female main character would do a few more unscripted things during the month — write in her journal, plan out the portions of a book she’s writing about her travels, create a month of poems for another book she’s rewriting, and track her plan for gaining control of her life, one good step at a time — all while engaged in living the story being written.

2. 100 Words – a daily no-more-than-one-hundred-word piece, sharply focused, on one of my blogs: (2 posts) — on my scheduled posting day.

Gluten-Free Travel by Graf (4 posts) — long dormant and lonely.

RoadWriter (12 posts) – my blog the Tripod cyber-trolls destroyed a couple of years ago. I started a new version on wordpress a year ago with my domain name, and grappled with its purpose. Recently (when I let go of trying to know) I got a clear sense of what I want to do, and how I want to do it: use the 100 Words posts to sketch out, idea by idea, what I have, and what I need, to pull together Heart, Soul, And Rough Edges, my book of poems, prose, and pictures about our decade of living and traveling all over the US and Canada.

TaCaMeFiMo (12 posts) — the new one, not yet built, to track and share the journey to Finally Taking Care of Me First. I figured posts on this new blog would run a bit over 100 Words at the beginning, so this would give a word count cushion of a few hundred . . . maybe.

AHA! See? That’s 3,000 words right there!

3. Poem A Day (PAD) Challenge month. My MC will write poems, some may actually work in this NaNo novel. Most of the effort will focus on poems for the rewrite of my 2008 NaNo — The Guilt Ghost: Conversations With My Mother Now That She’s Dead — as a Novel in Verse.

My colleague, Margaret Fieland, wrote her NaNo last year as a scifi book, and did the PAD Challenge. Relocated, her NaNo, and Sand in the Desert, her book of thirty poems, were published this year. Is it inspiration or idea stealing to want to copy her success?

Figuring roughly 50 words/poem, times 30 days = 1500 words! Add that to “100 Words”, and the total word count for NaNo drops to about 45,500.

Time to schedule all of this into the calendar:

1. TaCaMeFiMo time first. Between the health club, breakfast, errands, and appointments, mornings are full. Hmm. Quality (and quantity) time with Hubby and Harlee the Wonder Poodle — a couple of hours per day, at least. More stretch and home PT time (up to one hour daily, broken into six ten-minute chunks). Go to bed by 10:30 pm; get at least eight hours of rest; prep time to make it happen = an extra 30 min in the evening.

2. Other commitments — previously-scheduled get-togethers with friends, postponed from Muse madness (4 evenings); two Oregon Ducks football games (my birthday present to hubby); two Oregon Ducks women’s volleyball games I promised to go to, after the Muse Conference was over; Open Mic Poetry Reading I’m helping with, as well as being a semi-featured reader (one afternoon and evening); Holiday Market Book Event where I’ll be signing copies of LIFELINES on the Sunday after Thanksgiving (prep, travel, set up, signing, breakdown = ten hours); monthly meetings I’ve invited others to attend, so must be there, too (four evenings).

Dropped out of the schedule — five other commitments, including a poetry workshop with the Oregon Poet Laureate, a memorial reading for those we’ve lost in the past couple of years; the Slam series I’d love to attend and try my hand at; the Third Saturday Reading Series, where I got my first break at open mic, and to launch LIFELINES. My Book Club, again.

3. Playing the numbers game . . . for writing:

– 20 days of intense NaNo writing = 2,300 words to reach 45,500. @ 500 wpm = 90 hrs = 4.5 hrs/NaNo writing session

– 20 days to write poems, playing catch-up a few times during the month; I always fall behind. Guesstimate @ 1 – 1.5 hr/poem = 30 – 45 hrs = 2 hrs/poetry writing session

– 10 days to write 30 posts for “100 Words”; I know I won’t do it daily. @ 45 min/post = 22 hrs = 2.2 hrs/blog writing session

This oh-so-sensible schedule = about 145 writing hours for the month = about 5 hrs/day, factored in a 30 day month. But, as you can see with 1 and 2 above, there aren’t a lot of days to spend 5 hrs on writing, let alone, all 30 days.

So, here I sit, two days late with my scheduled post for Poetic Muselings. I wrote a version of this a couple of weeks ago. Felt smug. Then squirmy. Then sighed.

TaCaMeFe won out — in order to take care of me first, much of the rest has to slide into December. I’ll keep my notes for the new site and post ideas, as well as what I do during this month; maybe before the end of November, I’ll get the domain name and capture a site. I love my idea of “100 Words” and hope to start that on Dec. 1, too.

I’ve been to the health club once, on Nov. 1, for my Tai Chi class. Today I have to go there to do my workout routine so personal trainer (who I hired for 30 minute sessions to get me going) won’t fire me next week. I promised us both I’d do it twice a week.

My Dragon voice-recognition program will get going a bit later today, to bring the first words of NaNo to the page. I’m four days behind. Same with Poems. NaNo takes priority for writing time, and I’ll get as much done as I can, working around it, for poems.

Now, after way too many words here, I will go downstairs to spend time with Hubby and Harlee. After I figure out what will thaw out in time for dinner. Forgot to factor that in!

Watch for another installment of this in a couple of weeks. Wish me luck, and think about what you can do to Take Care of Yourself First, starting now. Today. Really. Share your ideas and successes. We are all in this together . . . and I plan to add these words to my NaNo count, since I completely rewrote the post.




Devon Ellington and the Muse Online Writers Conference

Read more…

Douglas Adams Was Right

For the past several weeks, I’ve suffered computer meltdown — and I do mean I, personally, suffered from it. Seemed to do everything I could to not go with the flow (except bile, which ran freely through my system). Even my incredible Standard Poodle, Harlee, tuned in to my angst with a vengeance. By Saturday night, we were both howling at the moon most of the night.

What started as a bit of quirkiness grew into anarchy by my home devices. The iMac, recently upgraded to Mountain Lion, apparently decided it didn’t “do” wifi anymore, certainly not with the old D-Link router. If it stood its ground and absolutely refused to allow me internet access, or to network with the other computers in the house, I would have wrapped it up and taken it directly to the Computer Hospital.

It preferred to toy with me, like the cat it is. It would work “sometimes” for a few minutes; occasionally it did this when I first turned it on during the day. Then, obviously it was bored and checked out. The intermittent aspect drove me nuts. It loved to pretend we were buddies again, let me get into something important, and then — nothing. Pleading and threats were about as effective as you might expect.

The iMac also figured it had nothing in common with our five-year-old HP printer, either. Refused to acknowledge that a driver even existed that would allow them to work together. Nope. No way. I couldn’t check for updates, because — wait for it — guess who was not able to get online . . . ?

The Windows 7 laptop got in on the act. It, too, refused to communicate with the Mac. It did pretend it liked the printer, and spit out test page after test page when asked, but nothing else. So, if I needed eighteen original test pages, it would be happy to accommodate me.

As someone who straddles two worlds, Apple and Microsoft, I’m continuously pulled off balance. Documents created or updated on the Mac refuse to hold formatting when exported to Word. Spreadsheets designed for XLS will not open properly on the Mac unless uploaded or created on the laptop first, saved in DropBox, or (when it works) pulled from one to the other via the in-house network/wifi.

My husband’s old XP desktop was still functioning, probably best of anything, until we got our tech-person out; he fixed a lot, but put a password onto Len’s computer, which threw him out of whack.

It seems that my iMac has a faulty wifi card, which needs to be replaced — when I’ll have the “right time” to do it is a mystery. The D-Link fought a good fight, but had to be retired; failing eye-wire-circuit coordination gets to the best of them. The new router, a spiffy Air Express (I think) is sleek, and capable — but, in exquisite irony — can only function well right now to deal with wifi when it’s actually plugged in to the Mac. Um, a hard-wired wifi; I’m sure someone’s made a fortune on a joke about this already.

The laptop also seems to be answering to a higher authority than me — or Mr. Tech Man. He finally took it away with him to find out who’s the boss, telling it to ignore what it needs to do, and stop doing what it shouldn’t — like spitting out test pages.

Only the iPad behaved itself, relatively speaking, during this time. It opened most of the email (but not all of it); let me get into the internet much of the time, as the only sane device around here that at least thought it was supposed to be able to use the wifi system to do it. If only it could have accessed some of the material I desperately needed from the Mac. If it knew how to do that, it decided not to upset the Big Mac, so played dumb.

For the better part of these three weeks or so, I’ve tried all kinds of tricks to get into my documents to deal with crazy deadlines for the Muse Online Writers Conference next month, the next issue of Apollo’s Lyre, posts for this blog, and material pertaining to my car accident from almost two years ago. Time is running out on all of them. In order to use them, they have to be converted to Word or XLS, pulled into the laptop, and handled from there.

I’ve tried to see the humor in all of this, at least today, now that I’ve been able to get most of what I needed for the car accident paperwork at least. I can see a good country music song tangled in the lyrics, or the sixth volume in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy — imagine Arthur Dent, waking up one Thursday morning, knowing he hates Thursdays because everything goes wonky those days. Imagine he opens his front door and Deep Thought, the infamous computer, burps at him. Take it from there into absurdity.

So, Douglas Adams was right when he said, back around 1978, that the Earth is a giant computer, and white mice run experiments on humans all the time. If you don’t believe this, then give me a better explanation of the behavior exhibited around my house lately.  No prissy ideas about hardware and software. No, I want you to get to the heart of this thing.

And write about it in verse, any form you choose. (Hey, gang, what’s crazier than Limericks to deal with the absurd?)

Limericks — How It All Started For Me

Power of the Pen – Limericks

St. Paddy’s Day weekend 2009, I read my poems publicly for the first time at an open mic event. Terrified at exposing my babies to the harsh elements of public view. Even more terrified at the form I chose — limericks.

The Poetic Muselings were experimenting with different forms, and this was a huge stretch, but what better way to go all the way out on the limb?  Here’s what gave me strength to lead us on our journey. If political satire (especially in an election year) upset you, perhaps you want to skip this musing.

Power of the Pen

We need a new four-letter word
To deny this is simply absurd.
To say what we mean
and not be obscene —

The best way for the herds to be heard


Hooray for good old “uck”
One letter changes a duck
into something we find —
outrageous? sublime?

the epitome of our yucked-up old luck?


Politicians are so damn perverse
Campaigning should all be in verse
let rapier wits
expose all the twits

Then watch them go lurch in reverse


The elected have grandiose schemes
to fix economic machines
Trust us, they say
we work magic today

Naked Emperors with unraveled seams


Don’t worry, my darling, my honey
They’re only just stealing our money
They really don’t care
that they trade in despair —

Now tell me how that can’t be funny.


Savoring Form and Visibility

We welcome back Lisa Gentile — she’s more like family than a guest poster! Thank you, Lisa, for joining us again today. (Please read our earlier interview with Lisa, too:

Savoring Form and Visibility

One of the many uplifting themes that I notice every time I read through this Poetic Muselings blog is that of appreciating the world around us, with all of its tragic, glorious, epic, and everyday beauty.

It hits me every time even though I shouldn’t be surprised by it. After all, that’s what writers and other artists do, right? They grasp an inspiration and artfully shape it into a piece of creative work so that they may reflect upon it, move on from it, and/or share it with the rest of us. But what really goes on? I suspect there are some answers lurking in around this blog.

Through focus on form we assemble a collection of sensorial, intellectual, and emotional experiences and string them together in a pleasing poetic form. Very often the new configuration gives us insight into the events or imaginings that we selected.

The resultant poem tells us something about ourselves, the characters portrayed, or the moment captured. The selection might seem random at first, the configuration unremarkable. A subtle change could shift the whole message. This is our creative hand at work, we trust that we have made the right selections for this particular piece and we follow them to their conclusion.

When we make visible what we have seen we create something tangible out of our interpretation. It matters that we create a unit of meaning, and beauty, that we can share with others. This is a powerful way to connect with each other. It creates the potential for a dialog.

We may be sharing a joy, a sorrow, or a casual rumination. The important point is that we are sharing, we are saying “I was there and I saw/ heard/ did/ felt/ thought this.” We are inviting others to enjoy our art, experience the meaning give it, and then to create their own meaning.

When we create, whether by focusing on form or making an idea visible, we are making an impression that holds personal value less abstract and more real in the world—we are shaping its meaning so that we may share it and appreciate it in our lives, so that we may savor it.

Research shows that this making and expression of meaning from our experiences contributes to our satisfaction in life. How do you give form and visibility to your experiences? How do you savor life?

Lisa Gentile, M.S. is a professional life coach. You can read more about her practice at

Lisa Gentile, Mentor and Moxie Maverick

We’re delighted to spend some time today with
Lisa Gentile,
the “Moxie Maverick”,
career coach, writer, poet, creative artist,
and mentor to
the Poetic Muselings.

 Michele: Well, Lisa, we’ve had a bit of history since meeting in cyberspace at the October 2007 Muse Online Writers Conference. So much has changed for all of us! Your poetry workshop in 2008 was so powerful, it literally burned out your internet connection on that last day of chats. As I tap-danced my way through a room full of writers from all over the world, we decided to let you know what we were taking back with us from the intense week. Last November, Lifelines was published, the culmination of our efforts following the workshop.

 Did you ever think we’d be having this conversation, in this way, and this time?

Lisa: I had no idea what I was starting when I signed into that first workshop. I never expected that we would later meet up in various states. Now it makes perfect sense that  we are writing to each other, with each other, and in one another’s spaces.

 What do you think helped us succeed when so many drop by the wayside?

It seemed to me that you all immediately appreciated the potential of your sharing. Our workshop exercises asked you to step back and really listen to your work, yourselves, and each other. But you trusted each other, or at least wanted the possible outcomes enough to take risks together.

 We learned so much from you — what might we have taught you in return?

I was humbled to hold an early version of your manuscript, which would eventually become Lifelines, in my hands. It was the culmination of your shared perseverance and vulnerability. I was grateful to have witnessed its creation, even from afar. You taught me to remain open-minded with respect to what others may achieve.

As you know, I see connections in even the not-so-obvious places. When people “take root” in each others’ lives, all kinds of things are possible.

For me, connection has always meant to witness another person, to see, acknowledge and respect what’s important to them. I like how Dr. Brené Brown defines connection as ‘the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when  they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.’ I find her use of the word ‘sustenance’ compelling. It seems like an important part of the connection between the Poetic Muselings that became Lifelines.

Tell us about Moxie Mavericks — how does one “become” one? And why should one?

Moxie Mavericks is the name of my company, my professional life coaching practice. Moxie means gumption, derring-do, etc. But for me it’s a family value with which I was raised. I come from several generations of people who stand by their principles, whether they make us heroes, antiheroes, or observers. We enjoy each other’s stories. And those stories don’t even have to be spectacular, as long as they are real. We simply witness each other’s moxie when we see it. So people with similar values tend to feel at home here.

Mavericks are the sorts who get very serious about creating personal meaning in their lives. They are, by definition, out on the very edge of the frontier. It’s important to note that the landscape might be internal. People have special needs when they shift to maverick mode. It gets lonely out/in there. Very often others in their lives don’t see the singular vision that a maverick might have or initially understand the actions he or she chooses. So in coaching we build a space where mavericks can get customized support and feel safe to experiment with ideas.

We all have access to moxie and can be a maverick. It’s in there.

I know you are passionate about the concept of transition in an individual’s life. What does this mean to you? What are you seeing that’s so exciting?

People usually expect life coaching to be about defining their dreams, about setting and reaching goals, and about overcoming challenges like procrastination. Indeed, these are some of the tactical aspects of the work we do in coaching. But what I see over and over in my clients is a desire to make meaning out of a transition, to understand what’s being lost and gained by moving. In some cases, if we rush into goal setting we miss the opportunity to slow down and reflect. Forced goals lack authenticity. They are burdensome rather than enriching. Giving clients space and time for this reflection has deepened and enlivened the experiences my clients and I share.

As we talked recently, I envisioned transition as trying to figure out what you need to put in your backpack for a journey — and more importantly, what you must take out and leave out in order to make a transition. That’s the hard part — letting go of what only weighs you down. Any guidance on this? 

We often don’t know that we are entering the journey of a transition when it begins. Sometimes we realize we are far from “home” only when we feel lost. Something has changed but we don’t know what. We also might not know where we are going next. So it can be tricky to pack in advance. Either way, it helps to have a stash of compassion, for oneself and for others. We are all doing the best we can. We need to be patient with ourselves. This is how we can safely look at what’s holding us down. I won’t pretend that it’s easy work. The second handy item is appreciation for ourselves and others. I work with clients on spotting signature strengths–the ones that offer us the most pleasure and personal meaning when expressed. They make for an internal compass of sorts, one that can be recalibrated as interests change.

Where are you going with projects and other aspects of your life these days? 

People have been asking for retreats so I’m working that out. I understand more fully now how they might be of service. This fall two plays that my husband, Nick, and I wrote will be performed at the San Francisco Fringe Festival. Our program is called “Weird Romance”. We have a wonderful director, cast, and crew bringing our characters to life. It’s quite a treat to have others see your imagination walking and talking under the lights. We love hearing the audience laugh.

And what about your future? What’s coming up? 

I am exploring the vulnerability of stillness. It’s a wild ride.

You can’t get away from here without a few words about one of the strangest boat stories I’ve heard in years — and I’m a (somewhat) experienced sailor!

What is the project that made you take to the seas, what’s happening with it now, and where do you see it going?

You are talking about Spirit of the Sea, a new youth sailing program for which I volunteer. This year we acquired a very special boat as our flagship, S/V Ocean Watch. In February we splashed her, cleaned her up, and sailed her from Anacortes, WA, to San Francisco, CA.

We take youth sailing on the San Francisco Bay at not cost to them. Just participating in the sailing of a boat and experiencing the marine environment can be powerful to our youth. But we’re taking it a step further by offering activities that incorporate experiential education, citizen science, and service learning to connect these kids with critical thinking, mentors, and possible career paths. We hope to instill these young sailors with a sense of agency that will transfer to other domains.

“No one makes that trip at that time by choice.” 

That’s exactly what half a dozen insurance agents said.

Why did you do it?

I no longer know why we delivered the boat at that time. To get it done, I suppose. I did it because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sail with an incredible group of experienced and moxie-rich sailors, some of whom had become my dear friends. I did it because I had earned it. We had worked hard to get the program to that point and sharing this adventure was a celebration. Also, I was ready for a new way to access information about myself in the world. This is the point of the adventure coaching that I do with some of my clients. This adventure was an opportunity for me to exercise different strengths outside of my daily routine.

Any highlights?

I witnessed first-hand the value of a “game-face” in sailing leadership. It keeps everyone calm and focused. There were many perfect moments. There was a perfect hour of a perfect afternoon. I felt secure with my fellow crew so I was free to marvel at the ever-changing shapes of the waves, patterns of the bubbles, and colors of the waters. And I had some chocolate. I think I felt deeply myself and connected at the same time. But I find that the more I try to look back at these moments squarely, the more they seem to shimmer and dissolve. They are prismatic.

So my work now is to remember how these moments felt and stay open to those sensations in the future.

Was this a transitional journey for you?

It offered key moments in a larger transition. The engine died one morning at dawn, just before a shift change. So everyone was up, exhausted, and busy. While others tracked the problem and rebuilt parts I stayed on watch alone at the helm. We had no wind so we were especially vulnerable. Even once we started moving again, my job was relatively simple: monitor the radar, watch for hazards, make course adjustments, and scan the horizon through the binoculars. But I was absolutely satisfied. I loved that no one checked on me. As the sun came up I studied the beautiful sky and coastline and faced the notion that I had fulfilled, in one way or another, just about every promise that I had made to myself as a kid. I decided to not even review the list, to just let it all be. Now I’m shifting my focus from doing to being.

They say you never return from a journey to the same place. 

When I left I was thrilled that I didn’t know when I would return. I don’t think I’ve quite yet returned. I am practicing patience and expressing my curiosity.

Your websites are as eclectic as you are, Lisa — so much more to talk about at a later date! 

Glad to see that Spirit of the Sea is a recognized 501 tax-exempt Public Charity  — which means that donations not only go to a very good cause, but are tax deductible. I encourage our readers to look at this site and consider a donation to the worthy cause. (Hint: the price of a couple of lattes could help float the boat.):

Your theater production is a hoot! How I’d love to be in San Francisco on Sept. 8, 9, 11 or 14 to see “Weird Romance”:

Thank you so much for joining us today! As always, we appreciate your generosity of spirit, wisdom, humor, and that sense of connection we cherish. Good luck with all your adventures.

Thanks, Michele. My pleasure, and I look forward to sharing more soon.

To learn more about what Lisa does, check out:

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