Choppy Waters

DSC01405I’ve been on quite a roll with my memoir writing lately. But suddenly I’m in one of those places, where to move forward even more, means that I must build up my courage and reenter places and times that were cruel and heartbreaking. I’ve been in this situation numerous times in the past as I’ve gone back in time, processing the occasions that brought me to the place on which I stand today. It means remembering and feeling the way I did when both good and horrible things were happening in my life.

The good parts are no problem. Who wouldn’t be willing to revisit the births of their children? As physically painful as those happy occasions can be, they are times of celebration, bringing new life into the world and watching as tiny copies of ourselves take wing and find their own way.

It’s the heart wrenching times that can send me into hurtful funks. But I realize that in order to go where I’m headed, I must enter a roiling sea of emotions and make my way to the opposite shore, where I no longer have to hide from the things that made my life a living hell at times..

By revisiting those dark memories and arriving on the other side, I stand taller, unafraid, and grateful for the chance to move along into my new life. It is a rebirth in which I release myself from the tangle of horrifying events that left me stranded; a broken, needy person.

When I  enter the dark, I find the light and recognize where I am, knowing that I am not all that has happened to me. It is who I am becoming now that is important. It allows me to live each day with joy and forgiveness. It’s a place I never thought I’d find and I’m very grateful to have arrived here.

So this week, I’ll probably spend a few days procrastinating.  I’ll sharpen pencils, clean up the huge mess on my desk, and feel slightly depressed. I’ll listen to my inner critic who seems to think I’m useless and a horrible writer.  When I get tired of  her ranting about how useless I am, I’ll don my Super Woman cape, hold my breath and jump headlong into the mess of living.  I’ll arrive on the other shore with much less baggage, watching her as she tries to catch up with me, rowing a small, leaky boat across the choppy sea.  She’ll eventually make it and will try to torture me with her presence once again. But she’ll still be carrying her oars and hauling the little boat that holds all of her heavy stuff, behind her. I will be freshly bathed and ready to dive into the next waves that roll my way.  She’ll be screaming at me as I go, but I’ll reemerge on the other side once again, even lighter than I was before.

They Call Me Batty



There’s a gentle sweetness to this term for crazy: it conjures up an elderly woman pottering harmlessly about the garden, hair coming undone every which way, talking to herself (or the plants or the birds), oblivious to creatures of the human persuasion. It is closer to eccentric, or deeply peculiar, than to the harsher nuts, wacko, bonkers, or bats. It is not clear why bats (or nuts) are synonyms for crazy —considering that bats have radar, their flight is anything but. Still, before people knew about the radar, bat flight must have looked, well, nuts. Batty may derive from the phrase bats in the belfry, or from the name of the prominent English physician, William Battie (sometimes Batty), who wrote a Treatise on Madness in 1758, and advocated therapeutic asylums rather than prisons for the insane. –JS


A while back, as I was doing some writing, using Scrivener, I used the word “batty” and while looking for another word to use in its place, the above Word Note flashed up on the screen. I like that about Scrivener and only wish I could master the rest of the program. I’m not terribly computer savvy. I can’t even figure it out with “Scrivener For Dummies,” parked in front of me. So later this month I’ll be taking a class with a real human being so that I’ll be able to use the program for my further writing.

But back to where I was going with this wonderful note about the word “batty.”  My grand kids call me Batty, instead of Grandma, Nana, Ma maw, Granny, Gram, or any of the other names that are assigned to most grandmothers.

Zoe, almost thirteen now, started calling me Batty as soon as she started talking and then Noah, who will be ten next week, picked it up as well. I am now known to the entire family as Batty. Even my little nieces, Anya and Julia, call me Aunt Batty.

I don’t know what made Zoe pick that name for me, but I remember that when I found out that Lisa was pregnant, I was extremely happy. Besides asking for a healthy grand baby, there was one more wish I put out into the Universe: “I just don’t want to be called ‘Grandma.’ I’m way too young for that.” I guess the Universe heard me.

Zoe and me before my hair turned grey.

Zoe and me before my hair turned grey.

I was not in the room when Zoe was born, but  waiting out in the hallway, pacing back and forth, anxious because it had been a long and arduous labor, resulting in a C-section. Later I got the chance to hold eight pound plus, baby  Zoe.  She wasn’t one of those sleepy eyed newborns that just want to be fed and go back to sleep. She was wide-awake, seemingly noticing everything around her.  When she looked up into my eyes, I thought I heard her gasp, “I know you, but can’t remember from where.” Later on I began to think she recognized something very different about me and though we’d never met before, we were members of the same clan. When she christened me, Batty, I was sure of it. I think she is the only person who truly gets me.

And about that word note up above? Yes, I do potter about the garden, talking to the plants and the birds. I am getting elderly, but I’ve still got a whole lot of living to do. My dear neighbor, Harmon, is called “Gaga,” by her grandchildren. I often suggest we write a book entitled, “The Adventures of Batty and Gaga.” I think it would be a great kid’s book about grandmothers and how magical they can be. I would love to have purple hair in the book. And Harmon’s hair has to be fuchsia with yellow highlights! 🙂

June, 2013

June, 2013

P.S.  I just had the pleasure of spending the past week with both Zoe and Noah here in my home without their parents. It was a great time. We swam, saw movies, laughed, giggled, and even disagreed once or twice. I could relate to Noah being homesick. I clearly remember the painful days when I was a kid and was sent to spend time with my grandparents. I so wished I could make his pain go away.  On our last day together, while Noah went to see “Super Man,” with Uncle Mark and Granddaddy, Zoe and I went to lunch, had pedicures, and did some shopping.  When we got back into the car she said, “I’m soooo happy.  Thank you so much.”

It is to Zoe and Noah that I owe my thanks for stepping into my “Batty” world for a week and allowing me to observe life through their eyes. When Bill helped with a few extra dollars so that Noah could buy a book he wanted badly, he asked Bill to call me, so that Zoe and I might have the same deal.  He deeply believes in being fair, and doesn’t want his sister to lose out. I just love it!

P.P.S. Some may say I‘m a bit peculiar and a bit eccentric, but I’m far from crazy. Zoe is not yet “batty,” but one day, when she grows into the wild woman she’s destined to be, I’m sure she will be as batty as I am. But never crazy.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

P.P.P.S. After reading this Lisa reminded me that Zoe weighed in over ten pounds.  It was my son, Mark, who was 8+ pounds and his birth was also by C-section.  Must run in the family.



Bird Watching

RobinSitting in a public garden, under the shade of a garden house, I look up to see a robin sitting on the nest she built under the eaves just off to the left. I apparently do not disturb her, sitting only a few feet away.  Nor do the number of people who pass nearby or the Siamese cat that wanders in and out of the spent azaleas lining the edge of the brick walkway.

The robin is just sitting … her intent, I’m sure, is to keep her two or three heavenly blue eggs warm so that the babies growing inside of them will enter into the world in perfect health. She simply stares into space, occasionally moving her tail over the edge of the nest a bit, dropping a small black and white speck of feces. She then moves back in place over the eggs, continuing to sit in what I decide is the way the Buddha would sit had he been a bird.

I wonder what she is thinking about. Is she concentrating on her breath the way I do when I meditate, going with the ebb and flow of air in and out of my lungs? Is she listening to the songs of the other birds around her? Contemplating tiny movements in the eggs she is guarding with her life? Do birds actually think? Or do they simply follow the natural rhythms of life; ancient messages that send them from continent to continent in search of warmth and abundant food as the seasons change.

What made me choose this spot, on this particular bench to sit upon?  I was looking for a quiet place where I could contemplate my life, the day spreading out before me, and to receive those unspoken messages about where I will go next. Is there actually a destination I’m yearning for or shall I just move forward one or two steps and see where my legs take me? The question of “why” pops up every time another thought comes to mind, and the process stops dead in its tracks.

I take another deep breath, noticing how it feels as I slowly let it go. I wait a moment before inhaling again. Where will I go today and how will it be as the sun goes over the edge and the stars begin to appear?  Does it matter as long as I move? Or shall I sit beside the Robin, following her cue?

Unplugging Blocks With Insight Dialogue Practice

IMG_1135There’s a lot going on at the Rough House these days.  Along with trying to keep some sort of social life in tact and weeding the garden, the launch of my new website took much of my time. I felt anxious about getting it up, feeling I’d never understand the technological stuff behind it.  Thank goodness I had lots of help.

I’ve also been cranking away on my memoir. Most of the time I have a clear view of the road ahead but occasionally I get lost, winding down picturesque side streets, looking for the perfect beginning or ending for a story I’m particularly keen on. And when I write about the tough stuff, like my Mother’s last years of life, sometimes a thunderstorm is set off in my brain and I need to take a break.

In the past when that’s happened, I sat around bemoaning the fact that I didn’t feel like writing or revisiting the past. I’m a very happy person right now, living a tranquil life, and though I’ve dealt with most of my s%#t, I can sometimes find it uncomfortable to go back to a time that was particularly hard for me. But you can bet that I’ve always learned something new about myself in the process of visiting those dark days.

That’s what happened last week when I was trying to complete a chapter on the dynamics of my family of origin. I sat in front of the screen, rereading what I had already written. I couldn’t find a place to jump into a new thought or paragraph. And I was unable to find words to describe how I felt when I thought my world was falling apart, bit by tiny bit. All I wanted to do was take a nap, read a book or see a movie that would make me laugh or inspire me to go off on some new adventure to a place I’ve never been before.

So instead of sitting around fighting my lack of written words, I took action.  I went to see the movie, Francis Ha, about a young woman trying to figure out where in the world she belonged and with whom.  It was funny, and occasionally a bit depressing. But it was also about the serendipity of life and provided me with something I needed to be reminded of … that Francis would just have to trust that she would eventually find her path, by being open to whatever came her way. And so it is with me. This is a lesson that I often forget, as I try to control everything around me.

This past weekend, I did what felt like a spa weekend to me.  No, I didn’t get a facial or a massage or a pedicure.  I went to a one day Insight Dialogue Retreat taught by one of my favorite teachers who lives right here in Central Virginia, Sharon Beckman Brindley.

Insight Dialogue is a practice developed by Gregory Kramer, co-founder and president of the Metta Foundation, and author of INSIGHT DIALOGUE, The Interpersonal Path to Freedom. Sharon has studied with him. And this was my fourth one-day retreat with her.

If you go to the Foundation website you’ll read that, “Insight Dialogue is an interpersonal meditation practice. It brings the mindfulness and tranquility of silent meditation directly into our experience with other people. As humans, we are relational beings; as we begin to wake up, clarity and freedom can illuminate our relationships with others.”

And though it draws upon traditional Buddhist wisdom, it is not necessarily a Buddhist practice. People of any faith and belief system would find it useful in building more meaningful relationships with the people in their lives.

During Saturday’s retreat I partnered with another participant; someone I didn’t know well or at all. We sat facing each other, and with eyes closed, were led in a guided meditation, concentrating on our breath, the way our bodies felt, relaxing, pausing, and opening to the process. We were then given five or so minutes to silently contemplate our own generosity, something some of us rarely speak about because we’ve been taught that publicly showing that we are generous is bragging.

When the bell rang announcing the end of the contemplation, we opened our eyes. One of us became the speaker and the other became the listener. The speaker’s job was to tell the listener about his/or her generosity or lack thereof, pausing, relaxing and regrouping when the body felt a sudden tightness or discomfort.  The listener was to listen deeply without judgment to what was being said, noticing how her body was reacting. The roles would then be reversed. Further discussion can follow with the partners telling each other how it felt to talk about themselves and their kindness.

In the second half of the day we partnered with new people, this time working in groups of three. We continued our contemplation, this time about our virtues, another topic most of us rarely speak of. It was a freeing experience, especially for those of us who haven’t believed we have much goodness within us.

At the end of the day, we spoke to the entire group about what we had learned about ourselves and what new thoughts came our way. I can’t speak for everyone, but I left feeling relaxed and pampered.  What could possibly be better than being listened to deeply, without judgment.

During the retreat I came to the conclusion that this tweaking this practice would be helpful in my writing process, especially when I feel blocked and unable to forge ahead.  In taking a few minutes to relax and have an inner dialogue with myself instead of another person, concerning the difficulty of the situation I’m writing about, I’m now finding words, where  none existed before.

The weekend was topped off on Sunday by an hour and a half of Restorative Yoga, taught by another gifted instructor, Christine Davis. For me it was a perfect weekend and one I hope I’ll be able to participate in again sometime soon.

What about you? How would you spend a perfect weekend?

Good News!

IMG_0006Good news! My new website is getting closer to being finished and my memoir progresses.  Once my website is up, you’ll find out the title of my book and get to read Chapter One. Hopefully you’ll get a hint of what I’ve been up to and perhaps you’ll give me a push now and then, because you just can’t wait to read the rest.

I still struggle with time management, but I’ve come up with a new idea for my Sacred Writing Time, and so far it’s working perfectly.  Sunday through Thursday I’m out of bed by 6:30 AM. I walk the dogs, have breakfast and get some exercise … either more outdoor walking time or on my cross trainer.  Hopefully I’m done with that by 9 AM. Then I write until noon. There is no messing around on the Internet with twitter, Facebook, or email during that time.

I’m always trying to find new ways of staying on target because sooner or later something happens and I let it all go.  I’m hoping that this time it will last longer and keep me going until it’s done.

Should you insist on coming to visit on those mornings, you’ll most likely come upon a sweaty, smelly me, not really wanting to see you until after I’ve taken my shower and brushed my teeth properly … sometime after lunch.  Of course there will be exceptions … emergency visits to doctors or veterinarians or maybe a visitation with someone I adore and haven’t seen in a gazillion years.  All else gets put off until the afternoon and early evening hours.

Part of me wants to rebel; afraid it might miss something. It isn’t easy to keep my inner brat from trying to make trouble, but I’m serious about getting my book written and published. I feel great when I’m writing, and at the end of the day, my level of satisfaction for my work and myself goes way up on the charts if I stay on track. I feel as though I’ve accomplished something and I can relax, do something wild and crazy.

When I recently took ten days off from posting on my blog, I got an amazing amount of stuff done. I even found myself not checking email, Facebook, or Twitter as often as I had been.  I took time to take better care of myself and spent a bit more time preparing good, healthy food, and to read books that don’t necessarily have anything to do with writing, self-publishing or book promotion.

So as a way to give myself a bit more lee-way, starting next week, I’ll only be posting on my blog once a week, on Wednesdays.  That way I won’t get overwhelmed with all I have to do, and you, my readers, won’t get bored reading something that I wasn’t really into, just to keep you entertained.

What are you doing to keep yourself motivated and on target as you work on your creative projects?  Do you ever deny yourself time to keep going because you don’t feel like doing the work?  Do you have a stack of unfinished projects waiting for you to get back to them?