Category Archives: writing

Author

At my table at the MN Authors Book Fair

I do love to read and although I’m not keeping up in the reviewing department I have been catching up on the stack of books sitting beside my chair.  As an author I have a great appreciation for readers.  I am delighted when people are interested in my books.  As a reader I am not a good friend to authors.

Perhaps it’s the introvert in me that makes me resistant to reaching out to the authors I admire.  I am well over the shyness I had as a child.  I’ve worked with the public.  I can talk to anyone if I have to.  I’m just not inclined to reach out first, even with my good friends.

I had the opportunity this weekend to be an author in public.  My writer’s group hosted a book fair.  I went and had a good time.  One of the other women in the group offered to share a table with me.  That made stepping away for a little break a lot easier.  It also encouraged me to have some conversation.  In that context, talking to other authors is interesting and easy.

I did a reading which was well attended.  I got a lot of questions both curious and contentious.  I find it amusing when people think I’m against them and try to challenge me.  I’ve come to a place in my life where I can stand pretty comfortably in my truth and not get defensive.  I have a calling.  I write from a point of view.  If you need me to have further credentials then I’m not your gal.

Some of the most delightful people I talked to were clearly extraverts.  I love getting caught up in that kind of energy and carried along for a short bit.  One of the women I spoke with writes about and advocates for women recovering from the sex trafficking industry.  I have no exposure or experience outside of the news so I was truly interested in hearing her story.

At the table next to us was an author who writes mysteries.  That’s not a genre I’m particularly attracted to as a reader.  It was fun to eavesdrop on her conversations as she sold her books and to talk to her as well.  I am intrigued and might have to check out her series.

There was a great variety of styles, genre’s, topics represented at the fair.  I managed to leave without buying a book, but it was really hard.  I have a few on my list for later, once I get to the bottom of my reading pile.

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Escape

It’s been a very busy week in the country.   Goodbye to our first black first family.  Hello to a new president followed by the largest protest ever launched in America.   In fact, protesting our new president and his anti-women, anti-civil rights agenda was a world wide event.

At times like these it can seem easier to just put your head in the sand.  To turn off, tune out and escape the madness that surrounds us.  Unfortunately, that kind of escapism historically leads to even worse problems, even more oppression.   There’s a reason the poem is popular:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Pastor Martin Niemoller

Still, even the most dedicated activists need a little break.  So we turn on the TV, we read a book, we go to the movies, or the theater   Time out can be mindless, but it can also be mind expanding.  Star Trek aired the first interracial kiss,  Will and Grace increased awareness and acceptance of the gay community.  Hamilton not only educates us on our history but examplifies colorblind casting and the actual immigrant experience that has made America what it is today.   Many people had never heard of Turing until The Imitation Game.  Even fewer were aware of the women – human computers – who helped put our men in space.       hidden-figures-poster

I got to see Hidden Figures this weekend.  What a remarkable piece of American history – good and bad.  This movie demonstrates some of the underlying complaints I hear about everything that happened this weekend.   This “separate and not anywhere near equal” is the America our president things was great.  This white feminism has no room for black women becomes blatantly apparent in historical context.  That “keep your head down and don’t cause trouble” doesn’t create change that needs to happen is obvious in hindsight.

Uppity women, demanding a place at the table, demanding to be heard plays better with a good screen writer.  But those women are still out there in our workplaces.  Angry black women may not have to find a colored bathroom, but that doesn’t mean they are welcomed when they come in, they’re almost as scary as transgendered women!  The education disparity continues to be enormous, resources available to white children are just “not in the budget” for children of color.  Is it any wonder resourceful kids will do anything to get ahead of the game?

This year I’m seeing a lot of reading challenges.   Lists to encourage people to use their escape time to expand their point of view.  So I’m also taking on a challenge.  I’m back reviewing books on lisaspiralreads. There are already 50 book reviews there, and I’m challenging myself to review another 50 this year.  I’m trying to tag and categorize to fit the reading challenge requirements I’ve been seeing.   Check it out!

Hope you use your escape wisely!

 

Civil Rights

Today is a national day of recognition for the civil rights movement.   Here are some, perhaps less familiar excerpts from great speakers about civil rights:

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.  We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent  will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.  1963 is not an end, but a beginning.brand_bio_bio_martin-luther-king-jr-mini-biography_0_172243_sf_hd_768x432-16x9

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?”  We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.  We can never be satisfied  as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.  We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.  We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating for whites only.  We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.  No, no, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters  and righteousness like a mighty stream

From:  Martin Luther King – I have a dream

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

“Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.presidentobamancc

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

From: Barack Obama – A More Perfect Union

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
But a bird that stalks maya_branding-box
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
Maya Angelou – Caged Bird
Civil rights continue to be at issue in our country.  Let’s not just give lip service to a dream, but work towards ensuring that all people in this great land have opportunity, education, medical care, and a voice that is not silenced by corporate money.
Happy Martin Luther King Day

Author

resized_20161022_171951It’s been awhile since I’ve really felt like an author.  My first book is out of print.  The last few years I’ve been contributing to anthologies rather than writing on my own themes.  I’ve had a hard time making the space to work on my next book.  Life happens.

This past weekend, though, has been a writers week for me.   On Friday I attended Women of Words.   I’ve been a member of this amazingly supportive writers group for over a year, but I’ve had to miss meetings the last few months.  It’s great to feel “back on track.”

Then, as my regular readers know, I went to the Minnesota State University, Mankato Women and Spirituality Conference.  I spent most of the weekend vending my books (and the anthologies) and being “seen” as a writer.  I also gave a well attended workshop on Daily Practice (the next book).

my view for most of the weekend

my view for most of the weekend

There were some gems that dropped into my ears over the course of the weekend.   Some of them were immediately useful.  Others I’m still digesting.  I’ll share.

One of the Women of Words said that when you go to sell your books you need to have the expectation that they will sell.   Now that seems self evident, but I know I have set up vending with “Maybe I’ll sell a few books” in my head.  Not this time, and it made a significant difference in my sales.

The conference keynote speaker, Daisy Hernandez, talked about the power of memoir.  How when we share those personal stories we often find they are much bigger than we are.  In telling our own stories we tell a human story, a culture story, and there are at least elements of that story that belong in other people’s stories as well.  It’s hard for me to share those personal stories, but I know when I do my books are better for it.

My table was across from the artist who drew the cards in the Spirit of Archetypes divination deck.  I drew the Martyr card.   These cards carry “illuminated” and “shadow” meanings.  The shadow of the martyr is exactly what you think.  The illuminated archetype is about conviction and commitment to a purpose.   Like being an author and owning it.

Speaking about Daily Practice

Speaking about Daily Practice

When I speak about Daily Practice, and especially when I speak to women I have to address the issue of “How do I put myself first?”.  This comes across in a lot of ways.  It can be about time.  It can be about priorities.  It can be about reluctance to do self care.  It’s a very prevalent theme when I converse with people about their issues with Daily Practice and it’s certainly been one of my issues as well.

One of the suggestions I give to people who can’t seem to “do it for ourselves” is to dedicate the practice to the Divine.  Make your practice devotional, take a sacred vow to do the practice, add a gratitude component.  Essentially I recommend heightening the perceived value of the practice beyond just something we do for ourselves.

So… it finally occurs to me on the drive home to LISTEN to some of the things that come out of my own mouth.  What if marketing and promotion (the necessary and my least favorite parts of this job) were sacred service?  What if all marketing and promoting was about opening a channel for the Divine to inspire more people?   This one I’m still chewing on, but it tastes a whole lot better with this kind of seasoning.

Samhein/Halloween is New Year for Wiccans.  I’m feeling well packed for a new start.

Resolve

20160522_190956Resolve:  verb  with obj. ] settle or find a solution to (a problem, dispute, or contentious matter): the firm aims to resolve problems within 30 days.

The solution to the problem in the kitchen is clearly to do a remodel.

no obj. ] decide firmly on a course of action: [ with infinitive ] :  she resolved to call Dana as soon as she got home.

That means calling contractors and getting bids to take to the bank to get a loan.

chiefly Chemistry separate or cause to be separated into components.

Components:  Contractor, Banker, Clear the deed, Subordinate city loan, housing for Orion and I while the work goes on.

So far, so good.

Got some tomatoes caged

Got some tomatoes caged

• no obj. ] (of something seen at a distance) turn into a different form when seen more clearly: the orange glow resolved itself into four lanterns.

Contractors don’t want to waste their time writing up a bid on work that I 1. May not be able to afford or 2. May hire someone else for

The season is upon us and contractors already have work (with a GO) lined up.

There is probably more to do than I can afford and I have to prioritize.

This isn’t going to happen quickly.

The contractors who could do the work faster have larger teams/businesses and also larger prices.

The peony (and other perennials) need some attention!

The peony (and other perennials) need some attention!

Resolve: noun firm determination to do something: she received information that strengthened her resolve | she intended to stick to her initial resolve.

The only way this is going to happen is if I just keep plugging away at it.

Actually my whole life seems a little like this right now.  I put the gardening on hold, not knowing what will be torn up.  I can’t take it so I spent the weekend planting.  I’ve mostly got things in containers, so they could be moved.  But if this isn’t going to start until August I want tomatoes and basil!

The lawn has been mowed. That required having the tractor overhauled.  The blades needed sharpening and there was a nut that disappeared.

The hose has a huge hole in it.  It actually has for sometime.  I bought a new hose long enough ago I can’t remember.  I dug it out of the garage and hooked it up.  It actually reaches everything!  (Bonus, it doesn’t leak.)

Bills still need to be paid, and credit cards paid off – going back to the issues with the bank.  I need to find time to write, time to garden, time to tend to Orion, time out for myself.

It all comes down to resolve.

I still have a ways to go

I still have a ways to go

When the sun is shining and the breeze is keeping the bugs away I have to remember not to play hookey from my life.   I also have to remember to take a minute and appreciate the day.

I resolve to do both!

 

Definitions from the New Oxford American Dictionary

Back-up

This isn’t the post I was going to write today.  I was going to write about being outside.  I was going to write about enjoying a campfire.  I was going to write about going sailing.

Then I spilled a full mug of hot tea into my lap.

Besides worrying about getting burned and changing clothes and what a mess I made I also worried about what was in my lap.  My laptop.

I threw rice at it (because that’s what you do) but I didn’t have much in the house.  I’m not really eating rice since the bariatric surgery.  I went on my way and enjoyed the day on the water without thinking too much about it.

Monday morning, the time of reckoning.

It turns on, which is a good sign.  It seems like there’s a key stuck.  There’s all sorts of things being entered even when I’m not touching the keyboard.  When I try to type in something there are all kinds of extra characters.  I can’t log in.

I have my fingers crossed that there’s a piece of rice stuck under a key rather than the keyboard shorting out.  I’m afraid I’m not very hopeful about that.  So I have to think about what’s next.

My website designer is reading this shaking her head.  She pretty much tells me to back up every time we talk.  It didn’t come up yesterday, so this is the first time she’s hearing this story.

I recognize the importance of backing up.  I’ve done it now and again.  I don’t have an automatic set-up.  I don’t have a “system” where I back up every Friday (or whatever).  In fact, despite the regular reminders from my tech support I’m not really sure when I did my last back-up.

Not only am I unsure of when, I’m also not entirely sure of where.  There’s got to be a thumb drive somewhere in the house with my files and photos (at least from maybe 6 months ago?)  I’ve got a few thoughts about where it might be, but they’re tenuous at best.

Even if I find them I know I’m missing most of my latest book, photos that I’ve deleted from the phone and not shared on the web, and several recipes. I couldn’t say for sure what else, because my computer is the brains of this operation.

The stuff on the internet is redeemable, but it’s not in one place.  There’s no guarantee I can find it all or get it all back.  There’s a photo I’m particularly grateful I put on my phone under my parents’ number.  There’s another of Karina and my recent haircuts that if I didn’t share it on a blog may be lost forever.

So if I go to the genius bar today (you know they require you make appointments on line.  That’s a challenge when your computer is broken!) wish me luck.  And BACK-UP YOUR COMPUTER!

Procrastination

12969427_1087938171226430_1176227532_nThere’s a blog that’s been spinning around in my head for the past week.  It just won’t seem to come out.  I’ve had time to work at it, and have found plenty of other things to do instead.   I have tried to make it coalesce in my head, and have found myself dozing in my chair.

Now it’s Monday and I’ve got, nothing.  The problem with procrastination is that it adds stress to what’s usually already a stressful situation.  It anticipates things will get easier, but there is no basis in empiric evidence.

I’ve been putting off getting Orion a haircut.  I keep thinking it will be nice enough to walk.  Then it snows.  This week there are temps predicted in the 70’s.  (There are also temps predicted in the 30’s).  If I wait, will that happen on the day when I have time?  Will I feel up to it physically?  Will I have overbooked myself?

I’m trying to get through my list of things “to do” without putting things off so long.  Inevitably something slips through.  I don’t get enough sleep and something falls off the list.  I get stuck in traffic and time runs short.  I am faced with something that HAS to be done RIGHT NOW and so the thing that’s been put off gets put off again.

What happens the most often is that I just plain forget.  I get so used to putting something off that it not only drops off the list, it drops off my radar.  This week that was Orion’s weekend program.  Orion at Samba

He loves going on Weekend Ventures.  They’ve changed their notification system for registering.  I no longer have a piece of paper lying around that I have to keep moving (and therefore am continually reminded).  I get an email and in less than a day it’s no longer on my screen.  Out of sight, out of mind.  I didn’t do it IMMEDIATELY and now I hope I’m not too late!

Paganicon Weekend

Still bad at selfless. Trying to find the next workshop

Still bad at the selfie. Trying to find the next workshop

It’s been a whirlwind of a weekend and it may take me a bit to come back into my regular routine.   Paganicon happened, which was fun and exciting. I did a presentation on Friday.   It was well attended and I got some very positive feedback.   I have to think it went well.

Ran into Sandy in the vendor room. I knew her from the Priestess Show on Blog talk Radio. We finally got to meet in person! (she took this one)

Ran into Sandy in the vendor room. I knew her from the Priestess Show on Blog talk Radio. We finally got to meet in person! (she took this one)

I spent plenty of time socializing on Friday.  This is a local convention, but it’s getting some buzz on the National scale.  Some of the guests and folks coming in from out-of-town are good friends.  It’s always nice to have the opportunity to touch base in person with those long distance relationships.

Saturday was our political district convention.  Both Orion and I were delegates.   This year Orion is excited about politics and I’m feeling fit enough to make it possible for him to participate at this level.  We struggle with accessibility in these venues.  On caucus night it was the crowds.  For the district convention it was the convention set up itself.

I don't have photos from the political convention but here's Orion at dinner with one of our long distance friends Crystal Blanton.

I don’t have photos from the political convention but here’s Orion at dinner with one of our long distance friends (and also from the Priestess Show) Crystal Blanton.

The building this district historically uses for its convention is technically ADA accessible.   There is a ramp and an elevator.  There are handicapped stalls in the bathrooms.   However the signage is horrible.

To make matters worse the convention was in the auditorium.   You may know most auditorium seating has a small designated area to accommodate wheelchairs.  Depending on the auditorium they may or may not have seating near them for companions.  But at a political convention the rules require that delegates sit in their precincts – not in the special seats on the other side of the room.

We found a spot in a little used aisle.   Little used because the door to that aisle was locked the entire day.  Every time we left we had to get someone to go around and let us back in.   The lighting was horrible.  I had eye fatigue and a burgeoning headache from trying to read the amendments.  Orion is legally blind.  He can read, but he needs good lighting.   I drained my cell phone battery using the flashlight.

I begged someone to take this for me. Not sure I've had my coffee yet!

I begged someone to take this for me. Not sure I’ve had my coffee yet!

In spite of being worn out we swung by Paganicon after the political convention.   It gave Orion a chance to visit with some of his friends.  He picked up a beautiful drum that he’s enjoying.   Orion has an inherent sense of rhythm and perfect pitch.

Sunday morning I was back at Paganicon to do a book signing.  It went pretty well for me after one of the organizers kindly found me a decent cup of coffee to get me through.  I spent the afternoon actually attending the convention, going to workshops and participating in rituals.

It was a good weekend.  I couldn’t have done so much, and at that pace, 3 years ago.   I am so grateful to be able to do these kinds of things again, and to be able to do them with Orion in tow.

Great panel on social justice and systemic issues!

Great panel on social justice and systemic issues (like accessibility)!

 

I was talking about my bariatric surgery and the outcomes with some folks I hadn’t seen for awhile.  These are people who have been in that internal debate about their own weight issues.  I said that I think part of my success is because I’m not focused on the weight or the numbers as much as I’m focused on the things I can do.

I can get down on the floor and up again.  I can go up and down the stairs.  I can walk from one end of the convention to the other and not sit down.  I can stand for my entire presentation and still manage to pack my stuff up when I’m done.  Gratitude keeps me on track.  Excitement about what I can do keeps me pushing to do more.

 

Preparing

What books do I pack?

What books do I pack?

I’m traveling again this week.  I’m going to present a workshop at Pantheacon.   Today I’m feeling just a little overwhelmed because there’s so much still to do!

I have arrangements for hotel and my flights are booked, but I’ve given no thought to getting back and forth from the airport.   I’ve got Orion covered and his meds sorted, but I still have to arrange his transportation and think about what else to put in his bag.

Karina will be staying with Orion for at least some of the time I’m gone.  I suppose that means rather than entirely emptying the refrigerator I should give some thought to what they might eat.   Do I trust that Karina will keep Minnie off of my bed or do I pack away the good blankets?

I know it's hard to say NO to this face!

I know it’s hard to say NO to this face!

Then there is my own packing!  Do I bring books to sell?  How many?  Which ones?  Can I do that and keep my luggage under the weight limits?  Packing for the workshop I’m presenting, and preparing for that, is its own little piece of extra, but exciting.

I’m sure some of my stress is because of what happened last year.  The workshop I’m giving is the one I was planning on doing then.  Having to cancel at the last-minute because of https://lisaspiral.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/a-big-wrench/ was more than a little discombobulating.  I’m grateful to be doing well, healthy and able to go back this year!

These are flowers near the hotel in San Jose from previous years visits. We won't see the like here until June!

These are flowers near the hotel in San Jose from previous years visits. We won’t see the like here until June!

It’s 11 F here and the temps are dropping.  The high today in San Jose is 77 F.   Packing and planning for what to wear on the plane is an interesting logistical dilemma.  I will definitely throw in a swimsuit!   I may have to pack a winter coat as well.  That depends a lot on how I get back and forth to the airport which puts me back at the beginning of this post.

I need to just breathe.   I need to remember I’ve done this before, I’ll do it again.  I need to trust that whatever decisions I make will be fine.  I need to remember that if I forget anything there’s a good chance there are stores in California.

See you at Pantheacon!

Past blogs about my experiences at Pantheacon:

https://lisaspiral.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/pantheacon-2014/

https://lisaspiral.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/california-2/

https://lisaspiral.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/california/

 

The Party’s Over

The party is over

The party is over

The holidays are over, at least for most of us, and it’s time to get back to the daily grind.  I suppose those New Year’s Resolutions are supposed to help with that.  All those good intentions with the opportunity to put them into play.   I don’t bother with them anymore.  They seem to just lead to great disappointment when, by February, I’ve forgotten them completely.

There are still leftovers in the fridge.  The last of the sweets are around the house.  The decorations get packed up this coming weekend.  It’s cold, and dark, and a little bit sad to see all the sparkle go away.  Resolutions don’t do it for me, but this is the time of year when I lean heavily on Daily

Decorations need to come down

Decorations need to come down

Practice.

Daily Practice can mean a lot of things.  A diet requires daily practice, as does an exercise program (or physical therapy).  Most spiritual systems encourage some sort of daily practice.  Writing, learning a new language, honing a skill all good candidates for daily practice.  And I’ve done them all, at least for a while.

When it’s dark, and a little depressing I use daily practice to “prime the pump”.   I find some very small thing that’s easy to do, even if I have to quick do it before I go to bed because I’ve forgotten or put it off all day.  Then I just commit to doing it.

Lately my daily practice has been making the bed.  This is not a hardship.  I have a duvet (and right now an extra blanket/bedspread).  There are no hospital corners involved.  All it takes is a quick tidy.  I can do it in less than a minute.  There is no excuse not to make my bed.  I just never did it before.

Thank you to those who followed and prayed on the Wounded Knee Anniversary!  Moving Forward in a Sacred Way certainly warrants Daily Practice!

Thank you to those who followed and prayed on the Wounded Knee Anniversary! Moving Forward in a Sacred Way certainly warrants Daily Practice!

This one small thing doesn’t seem like a spiritual practice.  It doesn’t look like much of anything, but it makes a huge difference in my day.  Every time I walk into my room and see my bed made it makes me smile.  It makes me feel special, like I care about myself.  It makes me want to be better at all the other things that need doing.

It does exactly what I’m looking for from Daily Practice at this time of year.  It gets me started on the right foot.  It sets me up for a productive day.  It primes the pump.

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