Saturday, February 28, 2009

Should I Hire That Personal Coach?

Because I certainly think I could use one. I’ve reached this point in my life where there are a few things I haven’t accomplished, that I would really like to see through to being a reality.

I have, in the past, written several articles on personal and business coaching. And always thought, as I was writing, how perhaps I should consider the possibility. But I’ve never pursued that thought any further.

One stumbling block being the money. When you’re not gushing in money it’s hard to justify paying someone to motivate you and help get your life back on the tracks. I always just flamboozle myself by saying “oh, just read some motivational articles and you’ll get it”.

Have I gotten it? Nope.

Second stumbling block: Will I find the right coach for me?

There are a lot of coaches out there. How do I choose? Someone locally so I actually see them? Or one by phone, two or three sessions to guide me with my choices in life so I get results?

Or…do I just call my sister…and then my mother…and then my strong and amazing friend Alice…go over my life goals with them, have them tell me that I CAN do all that and more??

My problem is that I’m stuck in this space and frustrated with being stuck and don’t know how to break through some of the barriers in my way. I finally have localized my dreams and goals and know what I want to do. And my timeline for reaching that point where I am living those dreams and goals is three years. Short time line, but one thing I don’t need any coach tell me is that I NEED to give myself deadlines…or it all flat lines and nothing gets done. And where I once would beat myself up when things didn’t get accomplished, I now can quite nicely get into a Zen state where it really doesn’t matter…I’m cool with it…yeah, whatever, next time I’ll try harder.

Rhonda Britten, the founder of the Fearless Living Institute.and a life coach for over 12 years, says that most clients are between 35 to 55 years of age and “at a crossroads, must make a decision and is sick of choosing out of safety and fear."

Understood. Many of my decisions are made out of fear for my financial security, such as my current ghostwriting project that forces me to write quality articles at the speed of a demon looking for that next tower of fire, articles that I would love to use for myself. I write so much in one week I barely have time to focus on anything else. But I keep telling myself it’s a short-term contract and the end result is a padded savings account that makes me feel secure every time I check the balance.

But is this a good decision for me? It’s definitely taking time away from writing my own articles that I NEED to write in order to prove my worth as a freelance writer.

Time management and procrastination. If I had to pin down two of the issues that prevent me from getting things accomplished, those would be it. I am unable to time manage. At work, at the job that I go to five days a week to pay the bills, I manage well. I’m getting paid by someone to do a job. It all falls apart when I get home. I need to make myself really understand that what I want, to write full time, is just as important and deserves to have quality time expended on it.

If procrastination were an art, I would have perfected it. If you fall into the procrastination category, you get it, and I don’t need to elaborate on it. If you’re not a procrastinator, you’ll never get it. To you, all us procrastinators are just a bunch of lazy time wasters. Reluctantly agreed.

I will seriously make the time this weekend to talk to myself about coaching, about how much I want to write and get paid for it, with no other jobs on the side that zap my energy.

Another motivating quote by Rhonda Britten, “Intention is living in the present, actively choosing the future while being aware that in each moment your state of mind is up to you”.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Freedom to Read

The week of February 22 to February 28 is the 25th annual Freedom to Read Week in Canada. Taking part in some way, no matter how small, is the perfect way to take a stand against censorship in this country. We each have the freedom of choice to read what we want…and we have no right to tell anyone else what not to read.

Some people were born with a silver spoon in their mouth. I was born with a golden book in my hands. Literature has been a part of my life long before I could ever read the words on the page. But I understood stories…my brother and I would climb into our parent’s bed and plead with our father to tell us a story. Which he did…spoken not in English but in German…fairy tales that stick with me to this day. My love of words was endless and has never been satisfied.

I don’t remember how old I was when I got my first public library card. But I do remember everything about that library. The location, the front door, the check-out desk at the back, the aisles…and exactly where the “Blue Fairy Book” by Andrew Lang sat on the shelf in the corner.

After all that, present to me the idea that books are actually banned…and I’m outraged. Oh I can understand why certain books are challenged and banned. I can understand why some parent may take offense to reading Maurice Sendak’s “In the Night Kitchen ”not because Mickey is baked into a cake but because he’s illustrated in three of those amazing pictures without any clothes on. Yes, naked toddlers are a threat to society. I get that. So don’t read this book to your child. Just don’t tell me I can’t. I read my own daughter this book and I’ve noticed she has no lingering effect after seeing Mickey naked. Yet Sendak’s book continually shows up on the list of challenged books.

And don’t think that censorship and book banning is becoming any less of an occurrence. The Toronto District School Board is currently reviewing Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” after a parent complained that their child in grade 12 was reading the book in class. One single complaint that the book “has foul language, anti-Christian overtones, violence, and sexual degradation”. Atwood’s book often makes the challenged list yet is one of the most celebrated books by one of Canada’s most respected novelists and poets. It will be interesting to see what the Toronto District School Board does with this high profile complaint.

And one last comment, though it pains me to go there since I spend a fortune in this store and now need to re-evaluate my shopping plans in order to take a stand…Indigo Books. In July of 2006 you couldn’t find a copy of the June/July issue of the U.S. published magazine “Free Inquiry” at Indigo. Indigo’s senior vice president for procurement, Joel Silver, said that the missing edition of “Free Inquiry” was an oversight and Indigo would indeed sell the issue. However Tom Flynn, the editor of “Free Inquiry” had a little more to add. Earlier that week he had been told that Indigo wouldn’t be stocking the June/July issue…no reason offered. And that in the future, Indigo would examine future issues to see if it was suitable for sale in Canada.

The real reason for the non-appearance of the June/July issue? Blatant censorship. An essay within its covers by a Princeton professor Peter Singer titled, “The Freedom to Ridicule Religion-and Deny the Holocaust”. Which I encourage you to link to here and read for yourself. Personally….I liked what Singer had to say in his essay: “Freedom of speech is important, and it must include the freedom to say what everyone else believes to be false, and even what many people take to be offensive”.

And now go check out the Challenged Books List and pick up something controversial to read.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Story of Johnny Head-In-Air

As he trudg'd along to school,
It was always Johnny's rule
To be looking at the sky,
And the clouds that floated by;
But what just before him lay,
In his way,
Johnny never thought about;
So that every one cried out -
"Look at little Johnny there,
Little Johnny Head-In-Air!"
My mornings are on the sacred side. I don’t actually leave for work until just after 8, yet I like to get up at 6am. Go through the morning rituals…and have time for a cup of coffee in front of the computer. Sometimes I write…and lately that’s been happening a lot since I’ve got a ghostwriting job which, though it pays quite well and is ongoing for a couple more months, is very time consuming.

But sometimes, like this morning, I browse through a few of the blogs I follow. While reading one today, I had that “aha” moment, that brought back good memories of blogging. In my WP days, about two years ago, I would compose posts in my head as I walked or drove. I was always looking for something to write about…something of interest. I have to admit that my postings were often about personal nonsense however, when I looked back over the entire blog before shutting it down, there were some good entries there.

Writing is either in your soul…or it isn’t. And blogging is just another way to let the muse out. Before blogs became all the rage, writers wrote on paper…in diaries, on scraps of paper, in notebooks. Unless you handed someone your notebook and said, “here, read please”, your writing remained extremely private. Then along comes this incredible application…the blog. And suddenly…you can write…and others can read…or not, and you never have to see their facial expressions if they don’t get it, or they get it and disagree.

And even more satisfying is that you can click on your own little space on the Internet…and see your words. Your very own words. Your corner of the world where your creativity exists. I believe that when it comes to many of things I write, I’m a narcissist. I like to see the shape of letters…forming my thoughts…trailing along the page…weaving a tapestry into which is woven pieces of me.

I’m already falling back into that pattern of composing words in my head. Like "Hans Guck-in-die-Luft" …a German folktale by Heinrich Hoffman, where Hans walks while day dreaming and looking into the clouds, falling off the end of the pier in to the water, where ravenous fish are waiting to devour him.


Wenn der Hans zur Schule ging,
Stets sein Blick am Himmel hing.
Nach den Dächern, Wolken, Schwalben
Schaut er aufwärts allenthalben:
Vor die eignen Füße dicht,
Ja, da sah der Bursche nicht,
Also daß ein jeder ruft:
"Seht den Hans Guck-in-die-Luft !"

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ellipsis Obsessed ...

It’s true. If you’ve ever received an e-mail from me…or poetry. Or something written…you know how I often I use an ellipsis. I think my style of writing could be used to identify me in the event of an untimely disappearance.

“Aha….this one uses an ellipsis a total of nine times in just six sentences…must be her!”

I just happen to think that the ellipsis is the most important punctuation symbol we have.


From the Greek…a series of marks that indicate an intentional omission of phrase or word. Can also be used to finish off an unfinished thought, or at the end of a sentence, trailing off into silence.

Between sentences, three dots are used (…). At the end of a sentence the three dots should be followed by a period, for a total of four dots (….).

It got more complicated as I was reading the definition, all these rules and regulations for using dots...and I realized I’m not going to change the unofficial way I write anyway…so I’ll stick with my pattern.

I do love using ellipses…what a great way to fly along as you write…dipping and dotting without worrying about punctuation.

Dear Punctuation People,
I’m sorry I take liberty with the English language. I can write nice and grammatically and punctuationially precise when I have to. The ellipsis is one of my sources of rebellion. I have so few rebellious outlets in life. Please allow me this one indiscretion….

Sincerely and ellipsically yours.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dear Animal Rights People

We feed squirrels. A couple of black ones. One bushy tailed gray one. And we feed blue jays. The loud, noisy ones. And I know animal rights advocates or some other advocacy group will frown on this behavior… “do not feed the wild animals”…do not? But why? It’s only peanuts. Nothing else. Well, sometimes we throw in some pistachio nuts, but I’m not sure those are appreciated.

Our creatures now demand to be fed. The boldest are the black squirrels. Who have no fear of the cats who sit on the other side of the balcony door, tails swishing, making those chirping sounds cats make when they hunt. Blackie hops by, stops to pick up a peanut, and eats a mere few inches from the glass-enclosed-cats. When there are no nuts scattered on the balcony, he hops up on the round, ceramic tiled table…(which was a gift for my sister, for her wedding, circa 2003, from her friend, but she didn’t have room to take it to Atlanta when she moved there, so gave it to me for safekeeping and by now it surely must be mine?)…anyway….Blackie just sits on the table and looks in. Expectant. Imploring. Demanding. So we feed him.

Blue jays squawk quite loudly. If you’ve never heard them you could surf for “live sounds birds make”.

The whole menagerie is great entertainment for the cats, though the little one often sits about three feet from the action, hunkered down as though hiding in the brush on the wild plains.

I’m sorry animal rights people…but these are city creatures in Vancouver. Which means they don’t have to brave the wilds or the cold. And it’s just a peanuts.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Never Make Your Blog Accessible After Just One Posting

Ask for advice on blogs, and you get it: never make your blog accessible after just one posting. Wait a week so you have several postings ready for your readers.

Seriously? Are you kidding? I’ve just spent the last three weeks agonizing over a blog template. Not familiar with blogger, as my last one was WP, it took a while to get what I wanted. And I wanted to be slightly different, wanted it personalized and customized just a bit. But I didn’t want to pay for a custom blog to be built as I’m going to do that for my more professional one, which I’ll use to lure people to hire me for freelance writing.

So…I surfed…endlessly online for free templates…and tried a few:
  • the over-coloured one that, once finished, looked far too frilly and artsy for me
  • the dotted one, that I quite liked but that wouldn’t customize in blogger the way I wanted
  • the simple one to which I added a header of pencil crayons…but my daughter, when she saw it, was horrified
  • the one to which I added a nice floral orange header, but wouldn’t let me customize just part of the colour in the layout
  • and let’s not forget the one I really, really liked, the transparent one…that was missing closing tags everywhere and wouldn’t even load correctly
Frustrated beyond galore, I’m like “crap, okay, I’ll use one of the blogger templates that blogger actually offers when you set up your blog, and I’ll try different things and make it mine, and easy is better anyway since I’m already having time management issues”.

So here it is…the simple minima template, with a header from Delicious Designs that I like (daughter does not and says it looks scrapbooky and I don’t scrapbook). Don’t ask me how long it took to figure out how to pull the text in the header down so it was centered in the middle. Because it took a while. Not a programmer, but I like challenging code. And if I wasn’t having those time management issues, I’d play more and fiddle things around on here. Not promising I won’t anyway, so if you start reading this blog here and now, I apologize in advance for any experimentation that might happen.