CDF: From Joyful to Creative

I head into each new year full of optimism and hope. I select my CDF’s based on the goals and dreams that spring out of that hopefulness.
But then?

But then…

But. Then.

The world as I know it topples, it slides off the rails, hits the skids, turns into the train wreck from hell. Expectations implode, pieces splinter and fly off, I grind to a complete stop. Immobilized. That’s what happened to me today. My daughter wants to- she chose to- live with her dad temporarily. My world is spinning in someone else’s orbit for a few months. My sister testified against me on her behalf- a complete, devastating betrayal. Her need to “help” translated to handing the explosives to the man who detonated our lives without looking back 11 years ago, instead of stepping up and taking temporary custody herself while we stabilized and re-established boundaries with a manipulative teen.

So I headed into the year, seeking and creating joy. My joy is gone. The profound, bereft sadness is overwhelming. As I sit staring at my journal, wondering how I can possibly find joy, I realize that for now, I can’t.

I simply can not.

What I CAN do is build a new environment for her to come home to, something to truly make this decision, this choice, temporary. And that will take creativity, a fresh approach to old/new goals and ideas. Outside the box thinking to change our finances and get up out of this mobile home park once and for all. Forward movement at breakneck speed: the twofold benefit is that it will leave no time to think and focus on my grief, and it will provide the lifestyle and the dreams that she and I have been dreaming for eleven years. Who wouldn’t want to come home to that? And when that happens, all JOY will return!

Comfort or Safety?

“Moving your comfort zone when the safety zone changes isn’t easy, but it’s better than being a victim.”
– Seth Godin, from The Icarus Deception

This book has opened my eyes to so many ideas that were rattling around in my brain, but which I had not articulated. For so many years, my dad and people from his generation encouraged me to get a good education in order to secure a well-paying, secure, “safe” job and a comfortable lifestyle. So I did. It hasn’t worked. Godin explains why in his discussion of the demise of the industrial system and the rise of the connection system.
I have always been creative, a renegade, thinking and working outside the box. Some of my industrial-minded bosses didn’t know what to do with me and would, ultimately, find a reason or excuse to “let me go.” I’ve never been fired, but I always knew when it was time to walk.
The quote at the beginning of this post helped me to understand why my career path has been so tumultuous. The “safety zone” that Godin refers to is the status quo, the industrial system that has existed in our country for over a century. This is the system we are all trained for: sit down, shut up, do what you’re told (over and over and over and over…) do your job efficiently, make the company a lot of money, and retire in comfort.
But with the advent of the technological era, a new economy has emerged which Godin calls the connection system. We can connect with millions of people around the world with a few keystrokes. We can no longer rely on the J-O-B providing a good, safe lifestyle. The “safety zone” has changed! As a result, we need to adjust our comfort zone to match the NEW safety zone, an economy where, in order to thrive, we must think for ourselves, risk failure, and create our best work- for ourselves, not the boss- in order to be “safe” and to succeed.
I, for one, am tired of being a victim of the old industrial regime. I have followed the rules only to find myself barely making it from one paycheck to the next, unable to purchase a home, unable to reliably maintain health insurance coverage, unable to retire, unable to create wealth for myself and my family. I will be a victim no more! That is what this blog and the accompanying writing career development are about for me. In the next few years, I vow to make the leap to create my BEST work, and share it with everyone I can connect with. I know the world is waiting for my contribution and there are people out there who need what I know and can offer. Be patient; God isn’t finished with me yet! And with His help and blessings, I know that my “comfort zone” will align with the new “safety zone,” allowing me to share my best work with the world.

Happy Birthday, Angelbug!

My incredible inspiration, my muse, my confidante, my friend: my daughter. You are fourteen today. How did that happen? I can’t imagine anything better than being your mother. You challenge me to be the best version of me that I can be. It has been the best kind of adventure to watch you grow to become the accomplished, talented, kind, smart, strong young woman you have become. I am so proud of who you are, your incredible heart and indominable spirit, Kimberly Margot. I love you to the moon and back… twice!


2018 CDF: FREE!!

Freedom can mean so many things, I don’t quite know where to start. I chose it as my first CDF (Core Desired Feeling) for 2018 because it was the first word that blazed into my mind. It came in as a hot glory, a wild firecracker of awareness, the burning sense that I hadn’t been truly free in a long time.

But it surprised me. I live in America, “the land of the free.” I am independent in many ways, living my life according to the choices that I have made. I cannot blame anyone else for the condition of my life. I don’t have a bad life, by any means. But I felt trapped in many aspects of my life. Trapped in a lifestyle, career, and reality that was too small; it pinched… like a vise grip. I felt that I had to make myself smaller, quieter, more invisible than even my introverted self was comfortable being.

But that is not what I want 2018 to feel like! No more! I am asking myself with each decision that I make, “how does this set me free? How does it contribute to freedom in my life and my choices?” And if it doesn’t set me free or contribute to my freedom, then a different choice must be made. I know this is all very vague, so here are 2 specific freedoms which I desire to cultivate this year:

  • Freedom to travel, often
  • Freedom to spend money on things that delight me and contribute to furthering feelings of freedom

Is there still academic freedom in community colleges?

Image result for textbooks

As I prepared to start this new semester, juggling composition classes at three different community colleges, I found myself asking this question. I guess it’s a good thing that it is the first time it has come up in the fifteen years that I’ve been bouncing around the local community colleges. But if I examine the issue closely, I realize that there has been a subtle shift all along.

When I began this phase, teaching at community colleges after ten years in K-12, the focus of the (largely unspoken) learning objectives was to align with university expectations, especially the state school systems (CSU and UC) in order to improve student preparation for transfer to universities.

But after No Child Left Behind legislation entered the K-12 system (around the time that I switched to college-level teaching), the conversation changed. As funding became more challenged in colleges, they discovered that if they aligned programs with the new K-12 programming focused on “learning objectives” and standardized remedial instruction, they could receive additional funding. So instead of looking forward asking, “how can we prepare more students for universities?” the colleges started looking back, asking, “how can we be more accessible to all high school grads?”

The shift created, in the words of best-selling author and entrepreneur, Seth Godin, “a race to the bottom.” Departments began standardizing curriculum, creating “approved, common-core” textbook lists and otherwise structuring and limiting instructor choice. Up until this semester, I’ve always had enough “wiggle room” to make it work. But just as the universities have issued a call to action to the community colleges to streamline and improve their student writing assessments and placement strategies, I have upgraded and raised the standards in my composition courses. I dumped the approved, required, expensive, useless 101/1A textbook in favor of an affordable, readable, interactive book about academic writing and added not one, but two, readers to every composition class – not approved traditional anthologies or collections, but actual college-level books. Two of my three colleges are totally supportive, but the third (and biggest) college is still trapped in the bureaucracy so common to NCLB- standard, required textbook from the list and only one reader, also from the list.

So what is an instructor who insists on academic freedom for herself and her students to do? The same thing I’ve always done: go rogue; turn renegade. So the bookstore won’t stock the second reader? Their loss! Students can get used copies from Amazon for less than half-price delivered in just two or three days. And students usually actually read these books instead of using them as coasters or paperweights.

Is assigning unapproved textbooks a deal-breaker? In most colleges, it won’t be. If it becomes a real issue, it’s probably not a college I want to teach for any longer anyway. But the fact that it is even a questions is disappointing.

Core Desired Feelings (CDFs) for 2018

Whew! SO glad 2017 is done and gone. Such a bust! I’ve tried to be all philosophical and gracious about it and find the blessings, lessons, and treasures of 2017, but all I come up with is, “Finally! Good riddance to bad rubbish!”

So instead of celebrating… anything… on the last day of 2017, we waited until January 1st to begin the grand adventure of 2018 in the Living Desert of Palm Desert, CA. Perfect weather, incredible animal exhibits, and amazing model trains. I AM going back later this year! I have never seen such majestic giraffes!

I think the secret is in the authentic savannah environment of their enclosure. And the cheetah; so regal, lounging under a tree! Wandering around among the animals and gardens of both North America and Africa gave me ample time to reflect on the CDFs I chose for 2018, and to try them out for a good fit. I have selected 5 CDFs this year. In 2018, I want to feel:

  • free
  • adventurous
  • abundant
  • joyful
  • sexy

Three of them are variations on years past. “adventurous” and “sexy” are new for 2018. Both come from the realization that menopause is approaching, challenging reality as I’ve known it up to this point. But I want to experience the new reality in a positive way, and I think those feelings will accomplish that.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll write about each of these CDFs, independent from the others, and explain how I foresee them developing this year. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what words, phrases, or feelings are significant to your new year, 2018! Let me know in the comments below, or in the comments on my FB page or on Twitter.

Damaged Strength

Ten days in the redneck, hillbilly town I spent my teen years in. What the hell was I thinking?!I left the town 33 years ago. I’ve been back to visit a grand whopping total of three times, yes, roughly once each decade since my escape. Thirty years away… not nearly long enough.

I’m fearful of losing my marriage to this lousy town. I can clearly see and feel the roots of some of the strongest, most audacious and courageous elements of myself and how they were formed by living in this town. I can clearly see and feel the roots of some of the most painful, damaged parts of myself and my identity and how they were formed by living in this town. Both; in equal measure.

After thirty years, I’m still that angry eighteen-year-old grappling with the damage and grasping at the strength, trying marginally successfully to integrate the two extremes.

My original solution is still the best: Run like hell, and never look back!

Living With a Loved One’s PTSD

Nightmares. Rage. Addictions. Avoidance behaviors. Paranoia. Hyper-vigilance.

These symptoms are the everyday realities of living with a loved one who has PTSD. For family members and friends who don’t have PTSD, it can be difficult to understand. PTSD symptoms can be triggered by a wide variety of things: sounds, situations, smells, even common words and phrases in everyday conversation. Family members and friends often trigger symptoms unknowingly, and find themselves receiving extreme anger and animosity with no idea why. Seemingly “normal” activities produce extreme anxiety and discomfort for someone with PTSD, which is confusing to those who have never experienced trauma.

So how does one cope with a loved one’s PTSD symptoms? How can one show compassion and still be physically and emotionally safe themselves? It can be a delicate balance. For starters, always always remember that the person is filtering everything through a PTSD-induced lens. To them, nothing is as simple, safe, and straight-forward as it seems to you. Everything is a potential threat. You can minimize the threat by preparing them ahead of time- scope out the environment, note important features like restrooms and escape routes, and be sure to secure seating in a corner or “back row” where no one can “sneak up” from behind. Always speak in a calm, low, controlled voice even when upset or angry. This will diffuse the possibility of an angry response. If violence or night terrors are an issue, consider learning some self-defense techniques and being careful not to turn your back on the person, even when sleeping. Though most PTSD sufferers would NEVER hurt their families or friends on purpose, if they slip into a dissociative fugue state or have violent nightmares and night terrors, they can become dangerously violent.

The most important thing to remember when dealing with a loved one’s PTSD is to remain loving and compassionate, always. Not always the easiest thing to do, compassion goes a long way to helping heal PTSD. Feeling that someone understands, or is at least trying to understand, helps the sufferer feel a little less “crazy.”
PTSD is real. It is debilitating. It is difficult. And it can be overcome.

For more help dealing with PTSD, watch for the August 2017 release of “Seeking God’s Healing of PTSD,” a Bible study and workbook.

From Hot Mess to Blessed, by Julie K. Gillies

I am in a season of my life in which I am a hot mess. Truly. Unfortunately, it is a season that has lasted… decades? Maybe, but certainly for YEARS! Enter, the new Bible Study by Julie K.Gillies, titled “From Hot Mess to Blessed: Hope to Propel Your Soul and the Promises that Change Everything.”

I spent the past few days “drinking in” chapter 1, savoring every drop of wisdom and insight. I’m working through this study slowly because I don’t want to miss a thing! I promise you, dear readers, that there will be many more posts about this study where I will share the incredible insights that I am receiving- because I just can’t help myself! Somebody finally “gets it!”

In the introduction, Gillies tells us that every woman experiences 2 struggles:

– to believe that we are who God says that we are

– to believe the stunning promises that God whispers to our hearts

We have accepted “lesser” versions of ourselves based on what we can perceive in our lives on this fallen Earth. We struggle to believe because so much of what we see appears to be the exact opposite of what God tells us He knows to be true, and what He promises to bring into fruition. Fortunately, Gillies provides us with verses from God’s word to remind us of how God sees us:

– beautiful (Song of Solomon 1:15)

– accepted (Ephesians 1:6)

– new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17)

– precious in His sight (Isaiah 43:4)

– really and unquestionably free (John 8:36)

– chosen (John 15:16)

Does that sound like a Hot Mess to you? Not to me either! I’m spending this weekend focusing on the verses above, memorizing and journaling, in order to know and believe the way that God sees me. Moving forward in this study, I look forward to seeing how God is going to heal this Hot Mess with His extravagant blessings.

Abundance in All Things

Read: Isaiah 54-55

I selected the word “abundance” as a focus for 2017 while reflecting on my financial reality and business resources. These two areas need a serious infusion of abundance.

Then I read Isaiah 54-55, which cracked my heart and my mind wide open to the possibilities! God offers and promises His people abundance in everything:

– children/family (54:1-3)

– protection and honor (54:4-8)

– peace (54:9-10)

– stronghold and  weaponry (54:11-17)

– physical necessities and money (55:1-2)

– international influence (55:3-5)

– physical and spiritual sustenance (55:6-13)

My favorite verse in these chapters is Isaiah 55:2, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.” God tells us to be delighted with abundance, not to struggle for it or feel guilty when we have it. This will be a new mindset for me.

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