Posted in 500 Words On..., Life Writing, Writing in Freedom, Writing Samples

500 Words On….”Emotional Healing”

500 words On….Healing, physically or emotionally, (or both).

Healing has been a deeply personal experience, and one that has affected everything in my life – and shifted that life at the deepest levels.

I am not who I am, before I began, in the same way I am not who I would have been had I not been deeply and repeatedly wounded.

There are those who were in my life at the beginnings of my healing, who no longer are.  It was their assertion that my healing has made me someone they no longer like.

And that led me to deeper healing, because those who complained most bitterly against the “new me” (as though it is some unspoken but obvious crime to gather in my own life and shape it in a manner more pleasing to me, the one living it) were those who had caused a good deal of the wounding in the first place, in their mission to make me over into something more complacent and convenient, easily defined and manipulated, so that I could be some sort of temporary salve for the wounds they bear.

Once I saw that there were people in my life who tried, always with scorn, sometimes with psuedo-sweetness that never lasted, and sometimes with blatant and blistering hostility, to put me in my place and keep me there, I began to suspect their overtures and their criticisms had a purpose other than my greatest good.

And then I realized that the places these people wanted me to stay in were not places I chose for myself, but ones they had assigned me. Their objections have little, really, to do with me. Beneath the stabs at myself, my family, and our way of life is an anger that I dared to leave those places they had assigned me, to instead choose my own place.

While it is uncomfortable to realize that all your interactions with people you once cared for deeply are about the role you play in their lives, and not about person to person relating, it is also liberating.

It allows me to ask myself if I want relationships that are so rigidly defined, and by the other party, that don’t leave me any space or freedom to simply be myself, relating to another self.

I don’t. I’m not a fan of being cast into a role, and certainly not the rigid type that keeps someone else dominant and feeling free to put arbitrary conditions on the relationship, and to demand that I adhere to those conditions….

Moving away from those unhealthy and inequal connections was the beginning of truly healing, and of creating a new self that is more whole and undamaged than the one that went before. It has also made room in my life for real connection, and greater healing.

Posted in 500 Words On..., Life Writing, Writing Samples

500 Words On….”The Unpredictability of the Fallow Land…”

500 Words On…..The Unpredictability of the Fallow Land

~The unpredictability of the fallow land, left to wonder on its own, never failed to send her into fits of grins every year as July ducked her shoulder to the fortunes.~

How silly the whole business of planting seemed to her, the waiting, the backbending effort that so seldom seemed to carry any joy or delight for those who toiled at it.

How very different from life in the Huntlands.

And how very impoverished, to make one’s living from changing the nature of Aletris, stabbing at her, digging those damnable furrows into her skin; scarring her.

So the empty fields delighted her as they lay, and as the grass and weeds grew up in them, and the small wild things that were good to eat and challenging to Hunt returned to the little hollows and pockets the farmers never noticed….

And yet, out there, in the Huntlands, was food aplenty, without any need to alter Aletris – it was the food that was freely offered, but only to those who knew how to procure it. Food to Hunt, food to forage, food that filled all the needs of her body and her soul in ways this food, grown in the wounds of Aletris, could never do.

She wondered, once again, if there was some way to tell the Untribed, to encourage them to change their way of life, to live fully in peace with Aletris, and honor sima garo utterly, knowing that enough food was provided, without these efforts to be certain of it by damaging the planet herself.

Efforts which were, still, despite all their fanciful imaginings, dependent upon Aletris, and her nature.

No one could direct a planet; no one could force food from Aletris if she did not choose to offer it, and there would be an end to how much she would provide, if forced too often ….

She thought to mention it to Konii, and once she did, but Konii only looked at her with her purple and dreaming eyes, as though the words were in some other tongue – Tacivaarii, perhaps, and she could not understand – and then she had turned back to her Books….

She had wanted to tell Rachyl, because she thought that Rachyl would understand, and be able to help her know what was the best thing to say to the others. Rachyl was a healer, and worked with the natural plants, the sensates, the healing herbs, and the minerals. She valued the balance of nature in ways that most Untribed did not, and she also understood the world she lived in…

But, just when she thought she would, Rachyl had gotten herself with child – of a Tribed man, no less, which would infuriate Mother if she learned of it – and was all aglow and absorbed in the child to come, and the life she hoped to create, one that would span both worlds.

So Jeniah contented herself in honoring the furrows in her own way, in the long hours spent lying upon them, sunning herself, waiting, and taking, through her skills and as Aletris intended, her meals from the wounded place, and hoping it would offer some small healing.

Posted in Book Reviews, Life Writing, Writing Samples

Book Review- Time and the Art of Living

Time and the Art of Living by Robert Grudin

I almost didn’t read this book. At first, I was put off by what looked like a bevy of unrelated quotes….dry and pedantic and boring.  I tried to find a place to hook into the spirit of it, and couldn’t.

I am glad I gave it a second try.  It has opened me to a deeper, more fulfilling way of seeing time.

Each chapter was filled with snippets of thought (never more than a page and a half or so long; some only a couple of lines…..) organized around a central theme, all having to do with time –  in politics, in morality, and in other arenas.

A great deal of the book is spent in consideration of the highly mutable perception of time, and the manner in which many people place too huge an emphasis on the present, without due and relevant attention to past and future.

The book is one man’s lingering journey into the nature of time, how it affects him, how he chooses to use it; it is a treatise on the nature of time to man and to other beings, and how we are ruled by it or freed by it.

Robert Grudin

He quotes wise words, garnered from many centuries of time as humans reckon it, and offers some intriguing ideas – changing the way we measure time to reflect the metric system was my favorite – and perspectives I hadn’t considered.

He also said many things about the perceived nature of work and play, and the dichotomy that many people assume exists between the two.  He spends a good deal of time describing a sense of flow that has become much easier for me over the last few years, and which my children have never unlearned –  the delight of filling one’s life with productive endeavors one is passionate about –  the art of being busy, not to simply be busy and not accused of sloth, but to use one’s time –  one’s life – in ways that renew one from within, that make labor a pleasure.

Time, time, time....

He spends a considerable amount of time discussing a word he maintains is seldom used and even less often understood, in our modern American society –  renewal.  As he sees it, our frenetic speed doesn’t allow for times of rest and renewal, or for much of anything that isn’t scheduled.

Although I see little chance of many of his ideas – that metric time scale I mentioned above; erasing commutes  by creating living environs for workers on-site, and others that would require sweeping paradigm shifts across our culture – there are many concepts that can be individually enacted,  simply by choosing to see time and what it means in our own lives in a new, freer way.

This is sometimes as pedantic a book as I had feared (the author is a college professor, and sometimes that shows in a gently lecturing tone) but not nearly as often as I had originally suspected. It was a pleasant read, informative, and enriching.

Ratings: 1 to 5, 5 highest

Readability: 3; easy to read segments, making it easy to pause to consider.  Occasionally a bit dry for my taste.

Thought-provoking/Perception Shifting: 5; 
So many things to consider, ponder, attempt, and explore!

Credibility: 4; The author was very credible, and his belief in what he expresses is palpable throughout the book.

Overall Score: 4.  A very pleasant, intriguing,  inspiring, and informative.

Posted in Awards and Paying them Forward, Writing in Freedom, Writing Samples

Kreativity, Rewarded!

Kreatively Lovely!

I received this award from the delightful and inspiring Shah Wharton several weeks ago, as  Jim’s recovery from his motorcycle accident  had moved home from the hospital, and while I was also in the final stages of achieving my ROW80 goals.
I wanted to acknowledge Shah, and to say a big  THANKS! for the award, and pass it along, and did not find the time, energy, and focus  all together to do so before now.

Now, Jim is more and more able to do things he could before his accident – driving, working out, some mellow work on his truck and around the house and yard, getiing up and down without a great deal of pain, and generally having the endurance to get through a fairly normal day.

The first round of ROW80 is over, and my goals are complete.  I’ve drafted my goals for the next round, and am now tending to things laid aside during that more intense time.

Including accepting this award.

Here are the rules that go with it, and notations on how I dealt with each….

1.) Link back to the person who gave it to you! (See Above)

2.) Share 10 random facts about yourself!
  • I once crossed North America by train, nearly coast to coast, with $50 to my name, to take a job in a state where I knew no one.
  • Once, while canoeing through mangrove swamp in the Everglades, Jim and I hit an alligator, thinking it was a submerged log, until I saw its eye.
  • Frightened and angry alligators who think you are too big too dine on have a fearsome hissing roar……
  • On a similar topic, I can tell you from experience that fighting with your spouse in a canoe is neither fun nor productive.
Hello, Everglades gator!
  • I have had a great horned owl swoop only feet above my head, on the way home from waiting tables at the Old Faithful Inn.  Her wings sounded like whispered drumbeats.
  • I have seen a bald eagle rise up from the Firehole River with a fish arched in its talons, the water pouring off in sparkling rainbows.  It met my eyes, piercingly and without fear, and I was foever changed.
  • I have pulled mussels live off a jetty on the Oregon coast, and eaten them.
  • I once stabbed myself under the kneecap with the spine of an agave (century plant), while on a Grand Canyon hike.  It bled fiercely, and soon soaked my sock, and it hurt intensely.
Nature's bounty.
  • On the same hike, Jim and I had a fight and got separated (fighting on a hike is maybe worse than in a canoe; you can walk away from each other in fury).
  • It took so long to find each other again and reunite, that we ran out of water.  A thunderstorm came, and we drank and licked water off rocks.
Agave, or century plant. Gnarly thorns, great beauty.
3.) Pass on the award onto 7 other people!
4.) Follow the person that gave you this award-CHECK!

I followed her quite a while ago, because she is inspiring, fun, and very, very creative!
Nature's Power and Loveliness
Posted in 500 Words On..., Life Writing, Uncategorized, Writing Samples

500 Words On…..Living Life Without Regrets

This post was written for my dear sisterfriend, Sylvia Woodman, on a topic she chose, as part of my Facebook Writer Page 500 Words On…. giveaway, which celebrated the page’s first 50 fans.

Jim, at Congress Park in Saratoga Springs, summer 2010


500 Words On Living Life Without Regrets

Recently, a dear friend’s mother died.  She had only a few weeks’ warning.

More recently still, my husband was involved in a life-threatening motorcycle accident.  In the moment the officer knocked on our front door, our routine lives were turned upside-down.

Times like these stop us in our tracks, and narrow our scope to only what is right before us, what is too precious to ignore.

It’s when time, energy, and attention are fleeting and uncertain that our thoughts and hearts turn toward that upon which we place our highest value.

In more normal times, we tend to forget, to make the things of the moment our priority, and to ignore our quieter, deeper needs.

Tickle fest family fun!

We lose our depths, sometimes, and only see the surface of life.

But these times burn away all that, and leave us stripped to our cores.

If we pay attention not just in these bare-stripped moments, but for ALL our moments…

We might start asking ourselves the questions that really matter, the ones that, when we learn the answers, will allow us to steer ourselves toward a life lived without regret.

There’s very little chance that our most relevant questions will match –  we are each unique.

My own questions include:

  • If this is the last moment I will have with this person, will I remember it with joy, peace, sorrow, regret, pain, laughter, or a combination?
  • If  this were my last day alive, who would I choose to spend it with, and how?
  • Do the choices I am making truly reflect my nature and  purpose?
  • Am I doing everything I can to love my loved ones better?
  • Am I doing everything I can to treat myself lovingly, as well?
  • Am I surviving, spending each day just ticking things off my to-do list, and telling myself there is no time for my passions?
  • Am I living passionately, richly, deeply, fearlessly, and honestly?
Our Wedding Day, August 23, 1997

I ask, and answer myself honestly,  and consciously make more and more of my choices with intent:

  •  I intend to keep my life fresh and not stagnant.
  • I  intend to be living –  richly and fully and passionately – until the day I die.
  •  I intend to be an eccentric old lady that everyone looks at askance, but secretly wants to be near, or to be like, and who still isn’t what you would expect.
  • I intend to be vivid, and maybe even memorable…
  • I intend to spread joy, and love, and laughter, and to stay away from places and people where and with whom I can’t…
  • I intend to heal myself…
  • I intend to go deeper, see further….
  • I intend to think, and think some more.
  • …But most of all, to feel.  The good and the not so good.  The exhilarating and the terrifying, the infuriating and the soul-rendingly sorrowful.

I intend to live – without regret!

What questions help you kn0w if you are living well?  What does ‘living  well’ mean to you?  Do you know your purpose? Do you live with intent?   What would your regret-free life look like?

Posted in A Round of Words in 80 Days -2012, Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Life Writing, Marketing my Writing

ROW80 Round Two: “Eyes Scanning The Horizon”

I’m still in the process of absorbing what the my first ROW80 round meant to me,  and how it has affected the way I approach my writing goals.  I expect that the process will continue for quite some time.

I feel more ready to explore it in writing, though – and this seems a very good time and place to begin….

Since Round 1 ended, I have been busy, but in a somewhat more flowing and less driven way than was prevalent the last few weeks of the challenge.

I’ve been finishing up and getting around to bits and pieces and projects that I laid aside as I worked on attaining the last few goals:


  • I have posted my topics schedule for the Blogging From A to Z April Challengeand I am working on this post, although there are likely several more sessions to go before it’s completed.
  • I have the A and B posts in rough draft form.
  • I am in the process of claiming the  three blog awards bestowed on me during the course of the last round.
  • I have been setting up and gathering materials and ideas for the next round.

    Annalise and Gabriella, post plaster puppy making.....
  • I have finished two books, and begun a third.
  • We have, as a family, visited friends in an adjoining state, a trip meant to take place the weekend immediately following Jim’s accident. There was, of course, packing and unpacking at both ends, and much joyful chaos between….
  • I’ve written three 500 word blogposts – for a giveaway to celebrate my 50th fan of my Facebook writer page.
  • I have gathered and edited pictures, and made some collages.
  • I have written  my blogpost for this month’s Unschooling Blog Carnival.  I intend to go back and add more, as I work through these projects.
  • I have posted a book review, and have a rough draft of another.
  • I have downloaded Scrivener (thank you, Eden Mabee!), installed, read a little, and peeked timorously at it from a for-now safe distance (I tend to need to ease into these new technological tools).
  • I have cleared space on my hard drive, and Jim’s (prior to the arrival of my Sweet L’il Lenovo at the end of last November, I worked most often on Jim’s Panasonic Toughbook, and I have left too many files and programs he doesn’t use on it.  It’s a bit of a mission for me to clean it up for him as I am doing hometending on my own machine…..
  • I’ve printed up a couple of forms Jim has needed for accident-related stuff.
  • And, of course, there has been homtending and parenting and learning facilitation and just being together and shopping and and and….
Studying the effects of plaster....
The time since the last round ended has seemed to just flow as an easy, floating time of very mellow productivity…..with a few torrents of activity and emotion thrown in for seasoning.
I’ve taken a lot of time for enjoying myself.  I have relaxed.  I have sat in Sylvia’s sunny kitchen, and watched girls make and later paint plaster puppies, and watched boys make slime worms and sour ice cream…..There was time for conversation, and snuggles, and fun, and treasure hunting.  There was time to play outside while the weather was nice.  Time for hot showers and quite a bit of TV.  And yet, all of that up there got done, too…….And that may be the second coolest thing I have gotten from A Round of Words in 80 Days…
The certainty that it is indeed possible to write – a lot and well-  while still honoring my energy level, my needs and those of my family, having as much of a social life as I desire, and living a rich, joyous, and passionate life.  It is possible to set goals I truly wish to attain, and to move toward them, and attain them, even when life becomes incredibly complex.
And so, with that fact firmly in mind….

Here are my goals, arranged in categories for this round:


  • Read at least as many books as the number of the month (4 in April ; 5 in May; 6 in June) from my bedroom To Be Read piles.
  • Read at least 3 articles a week from my To Be Read files on computer, and categorize those I choose to keep or share.
  • Read at least 5 blogposts a week (not including my own), and like, comment, and/or share as I am moved to.
  • Create flash fiction, short stories, dialogues, character sketches, alternate scenes, and poetry for  Chameleon’s Dish.  Wander cow trails, and learn these people and their lives more fully.
  • Pull material from 750 words posts not part of the Chameleon’s Dish first draft.  
  • Create essays, stories, and other pieces based upon these writings.
  • Find all chapters of Blood and Breath.  Input into Scrivener; possibly begin rewrite.
  • Finish father-in-law letter and send.
A new type of toe touch......

  •  Explore She Writes; Twitter: StoryDam; Pinterest; and LinkedIn .  Use, develop, evaluate, adjust.
  • Continue joining hops, fests, challenges, and other community blogging efforts.
  • Comment on and share blogs regularly; share my blogs as widely as seems feasible, and in diverse ways.
  • Do 3 guest posts and  host 3 guest bloggers this round.
  •  Submit at least 10 pieces of flash fiction or poetry this round.
  • Submit at least 5 essays or lists this round.
  • Continue submitting to hops, challenges, fests, etc.; at least 3 each month.
Two happily plastered girls!
  •  Organize all photos on hard drive/move to organized Picasa web albums or delete.
  • Learn how to watermark pictures.
  • Watermark all photos that appear on my blogs, and all those I post going forward; begin watermarking favorites not on blogs.
  •  Explore marketing articles on my Facebook Writer Page.
  • Add useful articles to my shanjeniah 
  • Marketing Articles page.
  • Use this information to help define my direction; adjust as needed.
Happy Plaster Zombies!
  •  Get Scrivener  downloaded; begin learning by inputting first an essay, and then Blood and Breath.
  • Use Twitter and Tweetdeck at least one day a week.  Learn more.
  • For WordPress, create a running list of questions; work on finding answers!
  • Begin learning about how to publish ebooks.
  • Learn what I can do with my domain name.
  • Begin research list/research for  Chameleon’s Dish second draft.
Just plastered.
  •  Edit all 2009 posts on  The Unfettered Life.  Consider layout and design changes.
  • Take clips from first Penzu notebook.
  • Input Blood and Breath and Chameleon’s Dish to Scivener.
  • Clean up computer downloads, documents, photos, and other clutter – move it or lose it!
  • Add JOY to every day!
  • Add movement to every day, too!
  • Add self-deorating to every week!
  • Add more of my passions to each day, in as many ways as I can manage.
  • Add all these for my beloved others, too!

Plastery joy! =D
Administrative Stuff:
  • Write and submit third quarter reports for both children.  These are due on June 1, 2012.
  • Cleanup email folders/organize, move, read, delete, act upon as needed.
  • Input two writing practice notebooks to Penzu.
  • Take critters to the vet; renew Corki’s dog licence.
  • Pay remaining balances for summer trips to Unschoolers Rock the Campground and Northeast Unschooling Conference.
Cleaning up......I love those two heads. =)
So, now I have a new set of goals.  As with the last round, they’re based on what I want to learn and do, so working on them will be not a chore but a joyful avocation.There’s a lot of variety here, so, whatever I’m in the mood for, I should be able to find something on this list to tickle that particular fancy….
I feel good about these goals, and how they will form the skeleton of my body of work over the next 80 days….I’m eager to delve in, and happy I have other projects and activities to keep me busy over the intervening few days, as the Round 2 countdown ticks down.
Before I go, I want to take a moment to acknowledge some of last rounds ROWers who have inspired, amused, informed, intrigued, and even become friends.  There’s no particular order here –  I love you all!
Washin' and a-grinnin'!
Rebecca J. Fleming (and Judgmental Dog,  of course!)
And, of course, my first friend, my syster, the one who tempted me into Simon and Garfunkel, Star Trek, a-ha, Middle Earth, and this challenge….who knows exactly scary and dysfunctional and un-nice I can be, and who loves me anyway. =)
I am sure there are a few of you who have slipped my mind….and more I will meet in the course of this round.Now, I gather myself, shake myself off, tidy up the matters-in-progress, and take a moment to look behind, at where I have come from. Then, I breathe deeply, until I am relaxed and flowing with the energy of my own soul, and look to the terrain ahead, the new, hazily beautiful horizon….
Early Springtime Tree.....

As Annalise, almost 8,  so aptly said, last night, “I’m made of bravery…….and water.”

I lower my hand, and step forward, into that new vista.

What vistas await the other ROWers? Find out here!


Posted in Book Reviews, Life Writing, Marketing my Writing, Uncategorized, Writing Samples

Book Review #3 – The Last Child in the Woods

The Last Child in the Woods – Saving our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder  by Richard Louv

I found this book interesting and informative.  I  heartily agree that nature is something too seldom considered, in our current American culture, and that something intrinsically vital to our physical, mental, and emotional health is endangered because of that lack.

I enjoyed reading about peoples’ experiences with nature as children and adults; programs designed to help kids who haven’t had natural experiences to learn about the wilder world; and the positive, restorative qualities of nature that are beginning to be well-documented in studies.

The character and place descriptions and  were rich and telling, and I liked the way the author referred to his own life, as a child and as a parent….it personalized the entire book for me.

I thought that many of the questions  regarding how children are to learn how to live in the natural world if they never have the opportunity to do so; and some of the thoughts about the dangers that lie in wait in a world where children do not know nature, to be pointed and urgent.

The author rails against children not having the requisite time or freedom to simply be in wild places, to use natural resources to create shelters, take their food, bring water…..

And yet, as so many mainstream writers do, he misses an enormous elephant sititng right in the midst of his book.

Author Richard Louv

I did find the either/or and all-or-nothing of the author’s perspective troubling…..he seems to have decided that technology is an inescapable trap, and must be kept largely away from children, because kids who use technological devices won’t be also deeply connected to the natural world.

It isn’t that way. Kids with freedom for both, can choose either, neither, or both.

This seems to me to invalidate a lot of the other panics he seems to have, and makes him a little less credible to me.  He seems to be thrashing around, wasting huge amounts of energy to solve a problem, but to be blind to one simple solution –  free children from compulsory schooling, and they will have many more hours each week to spend in nature –  and those who are so inclined, will, even if they also love enjoying the latest technological advances.

And what seems to be missing altogether is an awareness that school sucks a child’s hours away, that the “nature programming”, conceived and administered by adults, really does not allow for children to make their OWN discoveries, in their own ways and in their own times…

I will admit to personal prejudice.  The children in this house, who are not required to attend school and do not choose to, who love technology (one more than the other, but both fully embrace it), also spend many hours in natural pursuits.  One of them breathes nature; it is her single greatest passion at this point in her life.

While we support this passion, we do not attempt to direct it.  We offer opportunities, we support fort building and bug collecting and birdfeeding.  We go for walks and hikes and we camp.

We don’t put an agenda on it.  We simply enjoy the natural world, each in our own ways, and together in various assortments.

And we tour places we might never see, learn about species alien to our local ecosystems, because we have access to technology that makes our world wider.

Overall, I found the book to spend more time in propagandizing an attitude than in actually  focusing on how to get nature back into the hearts and souls of every American…and so it struck my more as a rant than a serious effort to study a problem from every possible angle, and offer solutions that consider all aspects of the problem.

Ratings:  1 to 5; 1 as lowest.

Readabilty: 4; very easy to read

Thought/Perspective  Provoking: 3; I was opened to new insights and issues while reading.

Credibility: 3;  The author ignored the idea that school does not need to be part of a child’s life, and that learning about nature doesn’t need programs as much as it does time in natural surroundings.

Overall rating: 3.  A good book, thought-provoking, and with some fairly large blind spots.