I love pizza, yoga and my Mom.

You cannot be on social media today without being reminded tomorrow is Mother’s Day in Canada. Like Christmas, Mother’s Day is not a day of celebration for everyone. For many it is a day of remembrance due to the loss of a mother, if not through death perhaps through estrangement. Sadly the reality of life is that days of celebration are not all-inclusive. Even those who are a mother themselves, or those who have a mother, may have reasons not to celebrate.

I do not take the fact I still have a mother for granted (she is nearing eighty, though without a doubt I know she’d rather I say she is just over seventy-five), but as I am reflecting upon Mother’s Day I realize I don’t think I’ve really ever told my Mom what it is I admire the most about her. Today is that day.

My Mom always told me when she finished high school she had only three choices of career: secretary, nurse, or teacher. She was not good at typing and did not want to work around blood, so her choice was obvious. Because there was a serious shortage of teachers when she graduated high school, she became as they were called back then – a “six week wonder”, attending summer school in preparation to teach a class right away in September. My Mom began teaching school in a small rural community in the late 1950s when she was just seventeen years old. She graduated high school at a young age because she had skipped a grade in school.

The fact that she took on the responsibility of teaching, and did the job well is amazing enough, but the fact she continued to do so for decades until her retirement in her mid-fifties makes it even more so. While teaching full-time she also completed her Bachelor of Education degree doing evening and summer school classes. Later in life when I discovered Mom was a life-long insomniac it boggled my mind to realize it had not been easy for her to get up early every school day, teach all day, make supper at home, then continue her own studies in the evening. She had, and continues to have incredible willpower. To me, that strength and perseverance is her most admirable characteristic.

Though some might say it was not so difficult (after all she only had one child of her own) Mom had her share of other worries during the span of her career. By the time I became a teenager, Mom had lost both her parents within a span of two years. Her Dad’s death was a long suffering one due to pancreatic cancer, and her Mom’s a sudden, unexpected one due to a smouldering house fire. Mom’s only sister (separated and with no children of her own) was diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer, surviving for years but often requiring emotional support especially during prolonged hospital stays. Mom never took a leave of absence during these difficult times but continued with her teaching responsibilities, filling familial ones in between.

Another example of Mom’s willpower was when she decided to quit smoking. She had started as a teenager. Remember, back then doctors didn’t even advise pregnant women to stop the habit, and they even smoked inside the medical clinics and hospitals. However, when it was discovered that smoking increased cancer risk, Mom signed up for a seven day smoking cessation workshop for seven consecutive nights. I was around eleven years old then; I still remember she was grumpy and short-tempered for a few days. She was successful though, she never smoked again.

Likewise, when the news reported butter was not good for you and caused high cholesterol – BOOM – Mom stopped eating butter. Mom was diagnosed with osteoporosis at quite a young age, in hindsight probably due to having undiagnosed celiac disease for years. Learning it was important to build bone density via weight-bearing exercise, she began to walk regularly and joined a Curves gym when it opened in her community. During inclement weather she walks indoors on the treadmill. Prior to Curves closing she had registered around 900 workouts, most done in her seventies. I know few people of ANY age who are so diligent with their exercise and nutrition habits as my Mom. When she decides to do something, she does it, period. Without a doubt her strong willpower has served her well. I want her to know it has not gone unobserved.

A few weeks ago I asked my Mom to read a story I’d written for a short story competition. After reading it she sent me an e-mail saying she “loved it”. I asked her to tell me what she loved about the story. It wasn’t enough for me just to hear she loved it, I wanted to know why. I wanted to know she actually loved it, and was not just saying that without reason (except for being my Mom).

We live in a world where the word “love” gets thrown around frequently. Don’t get me wrong, that IS a good thing. I love pizza and can tell you why. I already told you a few blogs ago why I love yoga. Telling someone we love them has extra meaning when we let them know exactly what it is we love about them. According to palliative care experts, at the end of life what people most want to know is that their life mattered, had some meaning, and that they were loved. I don’t think we should wait for the end of life.

I love you Mom. Now you also know one of the reasons why.

Pumping the brakes on perfectionism…

“The greatest mistake we make is living in constant fear that we will make one.” ~ John C. Maxwell ~

A little more on perfectionism today because it is why I avoided writing the last week or so. The avoidance began after being involved in a discussion about published books and famous authors.

The discussion started after a friend discovered a mistake in pronoun use in a New York Times best-selling novel. I mentioned I was surprised such a mistake had made it past the editors at a large reputable publishing house. All were in agreement.

The talk then turned to mistakes writers make. Another friend mentioned she is appalled when writers use “comma splices”. Everyone involved in the discussion then began to detail errors they have seen in published books. I stood silent.

As the group broke up for the evening, all I could think was: I do not know what a “comma splice” is, oh my God, and I think I’m a writer? I’m not a writer, or I would know what that is.

I drove home pondering if I should continue to write or give it up completely. To be honest, I was ready in that moment to swear off writing forever. (I had done so once before, after a grade 12 English class with a teacher who terrified me. That swearing off of writing lasted twenty years or more.)

This was also not the first time in more recent history I was having anxiety over my writing. I have Facebook “friends” who are published poets, authors, high school and college level English instructors, spoken word artists, lyricists, Ph. D university professors and creative writing instructors, journalists, and English literature majors. The thought has crossed my mind many times that my writing is not up to their standards, and absolutely I admit it is not.

(Even writing the previous sentence I am thinking: I used the word “that” again. Oh no. I am just proving my own point. Of course I am not a “real writer”.)

The next day a friend who is in my writing group phoned me.  I confessed the anxiety I was having because of what occurred the night before. She started laughing and assured me I probably DID know what a comma splice was, I just did not know it by that term. Thanks my friend, I needed to hear your encouraging words.

I took a deep breath; I realized as a reader it is not perfect grammar, punctuation, classic structure, or extensive vocabulary which catches my attention, rather it is authenticity. Granted there are certain standards to be upheld in writing, as in all communication, but I can be forgiving of writers who make some errors if what they have to tell me is authentic. If a piece of writing resonates with me I don’t care if it’s in the form of a cartoon with word bubbles and thought clouds, or a poem with no structure or rhyme.

If I can be forgiving of other writers making mistakes, so must I be forgiving of myself. Part of why I named this blog as I did is because I do want to be wanton, both playful and a bit reckless in my writing. Maybe all along I wanted to send a subliminal message to those seeking perfection in writing – this would not be the place to find it.

 

P.S. “A comma splice is the use of a comma to join two independent clauses. For example: It is nearly half past five, we cannot reach town before dark. Although acceptable in some languages and compulsory in others (e.g. Bulgarian or French), comma splices are usually considered style errors in English.”

the two “P” words….

Can you think of two words that start with “p” and fit together perfectly?

And no, all you innately sexual creatures, once again, I am not thinking of “that”. Remember, I told you before, this is not the place for sexually wanton writing, yet somehow ever since I said that, innuendo continues to appear.

The two seldom verbalized or admitted, but often practiced words, are the reason I have been away from my blog the last seventeen days. Of course I’m referring to procrastination and perfectionism. Usually when I am away from my blog for awhile it is because of one or the other, or both.

Recently I wrote a 2500 word short story for a timed international writing contest, NYC Midnight. One of my Underground Writing Cohort friends had tempted me to give it a whirl. I had a week to complete and submit the story after being assigned a genre, character, and a specific subject to be included.

Thanks to doing the story for the contest I became more self-aware. I discovered I can procrastinate perfectly. I never considered myself a perfectionist before. I now realized I was obviously wrong.

To be fair, the first three days I did have a migraine headache. Apparently people who have Sjogren’s are also prone to migraines at a more frequent rate than other migraine sufferers; hooray for us. Mine start by feeling like a vague sinus headache then build up to full frontal facial pain for three days. Needless to say pain encompassing my entire face is not conducive to my creative pursuits. So, right off the get go I was down to four days.

While I wasn’t sitting at my computer typing out my story I WAS doing what I do best – writing the story in my head. I told Mr. Wanton it would be extremely helpful to me if he, of technological expertise and mechanical invention, could possibly come up with something that could transcribe my thoughts automatically into a word document on my computer. You know, like verbal word transcription, but for my thoughts. He said “that is a bad, bad, idea.” What does he know? Oh yah, I usually tell him what I am thinking. Perhaps his opinion is of value in this instance.

Upon the end of the headache I should have been ready to type up my story, right? Wrong. For the next few days I proceeded to attack my long lost to-do list with a vengeance – the one that sits permanently on my desk, with items dating back to 1999, not all of which are crossed off yet.

Wow – more self-awareness – if I wanted to finally accomplish my least appealing tasks, the long overdue “leftovers” on my to-do list, all I had to do is commit myself to something I wanted to do even less, in this case the short story.

Perfect. I could put off the short story writing, not feeling guilty whatsoever, because I was getting lots of other stuff done. You know, important stuff – like organize my panties and socks, look up random symptoms via Google, watch Adele and Bruno Mars “Careoke” videos on YouTube repeatedly (okay, admittedly that wasn’t on my to-do list but in hindsight it should have been). I accidentally discovered the most seriously underrated motivational technique for overcoming procrastination ever.

So that brings me to this moment. How did I get over my procrastination to write a blog post today? Easy answer, the alternative was the now top priority item on my to-do list – personal income tax. Uh-huh, I definitely found what I can do perfectly every time.

fullsizerender-10

P.S. In case you are curious, I did complete the short story in eight hours on the seventh day, well before the midnight deadline.

No delusions of grandeur!

delusions of grandeur – a delusion (a false belief) that you are much greater and more powerful and influential than you really are

Although I am incredibly honored and excited to have some of my paintings and poems chosen for the InSight2 International Exhibition & Symposium, I do not suffer from any delusions of grandeur. In fact, I want people who go see my abstracts and read the poems that comprise my “Blue-Green Elixir” exhibit to think they can do it too. That was the whole point of my submission, that any artistic pursuit could have healing benefits for anyone suffering whether physically, mentally, or emotionally. I will be ecstatic if people see my art and decide “Hey, this looks pretty easy; if she said it helped her feel better, then I am going to give it a try too.”

“Blue-Green Elixir” is rough, amateur painting, as well as poems that are far from literary masterpieces. I have no delusions that they would be chosen for any other type of juried art show or literary anthology. It is however, my sincere hope that they may inspire others who suffer from illness or lack of well-being of any sort, to at least give art a try.

Here is a snippet about how “Blue-Green Elixir” came to be (from my submission):

Living in a rural area, hours away from a city, the option of attending a formal “Arts in Medicine” program, visiting a psychologist specializing in art therapy, or an “Artist in Residence” at a major hospital is usually not a viable option. At times the very nature of one’s illness may prohibit travel and engagement due to mobility issues, fatigue, concentration issues and so forth. For many patients not having ready access to arts / humanities programs presents a barrier to becoming engaged in experiences that could promote improved health and well-being.

It was my good fortune to stumble upon on-line writing classes through the University of Alberta Faculty of Extension that are taught by Reinekke Lengelle, a former writer in residence at the University of Alberta Hospital. The on-line delivery allows an individual to work on their projects when they feel best, ready to engage with their learning community. In addition to the discovery that the very act of writing itself is indeed “good medicine”, the creative writing courses allowed me the opportunity to develop on-going relationships with others not just coping with illness, but thriving creatively in spite of it!

“Blue-Green Elixir” was chosen as the title of my exhibit due to my recent experience at a weekend painting workshop given by artist Rose-Marie Cameron. It was an event open to the general public, and one that I had long hoped to participate in. On the second day of the workshop, one of the other participants asked me if I realized I was always using blue and green in my paintings. I told her I had tried the reds and yellows but they left me ill at ease; I craved blues and greens. I did not explain further. I had discovered that the blue – green colors as much as the creative process itself, were soothing and calming me, lessening my symptoms.

I have learned that the blank page or canvas can be witness to my anxiety, grief, and pain, lessening my symptoms and easing my mind. Colors can soothe, words can heal.

 "Blue-Green Elixir"

Painting above, “Blue-Green Elixir”, is actually not in the exhibit because the canvas was damaged. Thought I’d give you a peek of my work. Next post I will reveal a secret about my “technique” that may surprise you!