Saturday, September 06, 2014

Fun with Words

Autocorrect can be hysterical. This isn’t news. What’s also fun, in a similar vein, is Voice-to-Text. Now Siri, or whatever helpful app your OS manifests as, can take matters into her own digital mitts.

 I've got some swell examples. One time I was with Sue, and we were hoping to get our mutual cousins to come out with us on a Friday night. I was texting cousin Brenda, to try and arrange things with her and her sister Di:

“Hi Brenda did Sue text you you want to get together tonight maybe die 2?”

But seriously, our plans were much low-key than, like, dying, I mean, come on, that’s morbid. Die? Die, what, Die Hard? Die Hard with a Vengeance? No, that’s #3, not 2. Oy!

Months later, we are together again, I’m texting, that is I’m dictating my text into my phone to my husband, I’m about to leave the cousins’ house, and am planning on driving Sue home. That’s SUE, with like and “S”. No “W”s, no “F”s. I don’t get it. But there you go:

“Leaving soon probably will be driving waffles home on the way.”

At least there was no mention of a violent end. Just breakfast. That I can take. 

And just this week, I’m answering a text from Robin. I’ve been helping her with some office work, a new software product to help schedule appointments and classes and other cool stuff. But we’ve been texting a lot. At this moment, I was getting ready to leave Children’s Hospital satellite in Lexington. Tom needed blood work, a little too fancy for our local hospital. 
Robin wondered if I was going to be working (in person) with her that day, so I was explaining, typing the text this time, but without benefit of ocular support. (I wasn’t wearing my glasses).

“I don't think so, but maybe smotheringday?”

“Smothering”? I mean, sure we had been texting a lot, but I wasn’t feeling smothered exactly. Maybe just a little blind.

And another convo with Robin the same day I think? This time in email. I had plans the following day, for a very small specific window of time with Judy. Judy of the “It’s been so Long, I Forgot What she Looked Like” realm. So, I could not work with Robin on this day either. So, like I said, I was emailing. But I was emailing with my phone, using good old Voice-to-Text:

“Alright, that will work. right now as far as I know I should be in class tomorrow, but I have to leave right after because I have an appointment with a cup and drink it,”

What I actually said was, I have an appointment up in Dracut. Don’t know why I said “appointment”, I should have maybe said “meeting” but I was Voice-to-Texting on the fly. Ironically, Judy and I had talked about having coffee together. So, I guess I did have an appointment with a ‘cup’, a big cup of crazy Voice-to-Broth Alphabet Soup!

Monday, September 01, 2014

Finding the Gratitude

All the discussions on Social Media about Gratitude caused me to pull this out of my Work In Progress. I have a lot more to say about the concept of finding thanks in all situations, and fostering positivity instead of glum attitudes - but I'll leave it with this for now.

The summer of 2009 was relatively quiet. This was good, very good, because the previous five months were not so good. All the complications of Tom’s disease seemed to show up at once, definitely unbidden. So, by August, Tom was feeling much better. The NG tube that was inserted in June was really helping. Not only was Tom able to put on some weight, his appetite improved for regular food as well.

At the end of the month, we were enjoying ourselves at our annual family reunion camping trip. We decided to let Tom have one night off from his tube feed, so he wouldn’t have to be anchored down by the pump. So while it was still light, he and a group of cousins were having a raucous game of wiffle ball. Then, Tom appeared back at our cabin, limping.

“I twisted my ankle, it really hurts.”
Nothing appeared broken; there was no horrible swelling or anything that needed serious medical attention. Tom rested for a bit by the campfire, and I promised ice to help with the discomfort, but soon he was off with his cousins again, just slowed down a little.

No big deal, right? Exactly right, but this memory is still SO vivid for me. While Tom was describing what happened, and wincing a little, an irrepressible thought kept bubbling up inside me, this is awesome! Yeah, it seems crazy. But I was actually thrilled with this injury. Thrilled!

My reaction surprised me at first, but it made sense. After months of watching Tom lying listlessly on a couch, or in a hospital bed, or halfheartedly going to school, this was a wonderful feeling to see him running around like a regular kid. To see him active enough to actually get hurt – what a wildly good feeling this was!

Also, a sore ankle, this was something I could handle. Not to make light of orthopedic problems, but to me, this sort of injury was more black and white (or black and blue, if you will). Break or no break, tear or no tear. At that very moment, we were coming off of a real uncertain time with Tom. Even the month before, when he was listed for transplant, there were still questions. The black and white part was that he was going to need a new liver. But there were questions about his lowered blood count and other issues.

So this minor injury was really major in that it reinforced a sense of gratitude. I was thankful that I could have small moments like these; moments that made me confident I could handle the bigger issues ahead.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Getting Lost

It stinks when you lose your direction. I remember one time walking with my boys through a local state forest, and we got lost. It wasn’t an especially scary episode of wondering why we forgot extra layers, or snacks (or a whistle, or matches, or a foil blanket). But still, lost ain’t fun. We found our way eventually; luckily it was not a catastrophe.

How to Get from Here to There
Another time I was trying to meet some friends at a restaurant in an unfamiliar city. This was before cell phones and GPS. I tried to follow some loose verbal directions, and got horribly lost. I gave up trying to find the restaurant, and was now desperately looking for the highway back towards home, which was more difficult than I had anticipated. Obviously I lived to tell the tale, so there you go.

But sometimes getting lost ends up being a good thing. Challenges in navigation end up teaching you more about where you’ve been, which is not a bad lesson. My husband used to purposely get lost when we first moved to our town, just so he could learn the secret side roads and other hidden treasures.

More often though, the sensation of feeling adrift and disconnected is too unsettling. Adventure into the unknown is fine for Captain Kirk, but I know I could with a little less “...boldly going where no man has gone before”, and more “please follow highlighted route.” Getting lost makes me uncomfortable, damn it!

Added to my discomfort is the new and constant refrain that tells me in order to grow and succeed; I need to stretch outside my comfort zone. I need to push past my original boundaries of where I think my talent lies, towards projects that might not be that easy.

I agree wholeheartedly with this idea, but sometimes I don’t know if I can do it. When you are lost, you need certain tools like a compass, flashlight, and map. For the kind of disorientation I have been dealing with, the tool I need is confidence.

During most of December, and a good part of January, I’ve been down. Depressed. In a funk. Lost with a capital “Where the F#*k Am I?” The good part is that I could pretty much identify not only the actual depression, but the roots. It all made sense, which is quite heartening. I don’t mean to gloss over this too much because emotional issues, in all their manifestations, like depression – should be taken seriously. But this wasn’t that horrible.

 And this realization was effective, because I have been able to take a bit of an objective look at something that’s typically very subjective. And then make a plan. While I don’t have a map of where I’m going specifically, I do have some tools:
 Best Laid Plans

  1.    My brain
  2.    Trust in that brain, maybe?
  3.   A Mind-Map of where I’ve been, and where I am right now (seriously, this helps).
  4.    Nanakorobi yaoki – a Japanese Proverb that means loosely, to “fall seven, is to rise eight.” I’m going to fall again. And I’m going to have company. And we will all rise again.

Knowing you are part of a larger group of like-minded people is crazy good. I’ve got my family (and extended family), my friends, my church, I’ve got the network of the American Liver Foundation, and I’ve got the friends, colleagues and compatriots through the Copywriter CafĂ©.

It’s this last group that I am depending on more right now, because many of them are going through similar challenges. Some are further ahead, and some might be behind, but the sharing of ideas, successes and disappointments is simultaneously comforting and stimulating.

So, on we go. Meet me in the car.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Thrum: A Continuous Rhythmic Humming Sound

There’s this odd sound I’ve been hearing in the bathroom. For the last week or so I’ve been aware of this low bass-range sound. No water is being run, there’s no flushing. Honestly my first thought that the boys’ X-Box set up was too loud. Damn that sub-woofer! But see, first time I noticed it; it was 6:00 am. The house was still except for this subtle but distinctive thrum, in… the walls? The floorboards? I’m not sure of the source, all I know is that I have been hearing it every time I go in the first floor bathroom.

Weird thing is no one else has heard it. I don’t understand this. When I bring Dave or one of the boys in the bathroom, there’s silence. Embarrassing silence.

So – I’m wondering – is this all in my head?

::Checking::   Nope. Doesn’t feel like a psychotic break to me.

My natural inclination as a storyteller is to then get frustrated. WHY CAN’T I EXPLAIN THIS CORRECTLY!  WHY CAN’T I MAKE THEM HEAR IT TOO! Seriously, don’t we hate to not be able to convey something?

Getting the story right, having someone feel what you feel, making someone understand the complexity of a given situation, this is a crucial part of writing.

Because life is uncertain, and I could be waiting for a long time to have the stars and planets align, and I might never feel a full convergence, I can’t wait around any longer to move forward. So this last year I have been tackling one issue after another. Health stuff, work stuff, family stuff. And I know that everyone else does too, but I’ve had a lot of things piling up. Not bills or dirty laundry (those only pile up during Condition Orange/Red times.

Ultimate Writer's Retreat
My pile has been full of bigger stuff. I still have a backlog, but I’m taking action as often as I can. I’ve definitely refocused on writing. Not just writing, but writing for purpose. Got to try and tell the story the best way I can, and earn more money! I recently went to a writer’s retreat to learn how to best apply my talents. Fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about this. 

Another coolio thing I’ve been doing is to start yoga again. It’s very pleasant, except when it hurts, which is a good part of the time, but still it’s worth it. And I so want to get back to karate, I miss it. But my joints are still too fragile.

Neat thing though, yoga and karate have a lot in common. Both have a special mat for one thing, which actually is an accoutrement that is not even necessary to really practice either. But it’s a fun comparison, and I’m all about the fun. 

Also in karate and yoga (and this is true in other sports and arts too), you learn to approach breathing a different way. Weirdly, in my karate class, we would forget to actually, literally, breathe while doing certain things like performing a new kata (form), or during kumite (sparring). I know one of my weaknesses was during the “150 punches” exercise. 50 for power, 50 for technique, and 50 for speed, alternating with a partner, taking turns holding the bag after every 50.I’m fine on the first 100, but for the speed punches, I totally lose my breath. Ugh.

In yoga, it’s ALL about the breath. Of course we know the physiology, that inhaling and exhaling at the right times helps with muscle expansion, blood flow, etc. But focused deep breathing accomplishes something else. It prepares you for meditating.

What is meditating anyway? I know a teeny bit, hey, I read Eat, Pray Love. And a few years ago, I bought one of the Dummies books on meditation, I thought it might be a good thing for me. But I couldn’t focus enough to get past the first chapter! (And right there’s a lesson in irony, don’t ya think?) But I know the basic concept, if you can get yourself in a relaxed enough state, you can clear your mind and come away refreshed. That’s the very crudest and basic explanations, and I’ll add that the practice involves control. 

I won’t expound any further, because I won’t do the subject justice, that’s for sure. I do know that meditating is a way to let go of outside bullshit that distracts from proper awareness. It’s like that old joke when someone asks you NOT to think about a pink giraffe. Now there you go. Pink giraffe’s are leaping through your mind now, right? You’re welcome.

When you know you’re not supposed to think about anything consciously during meditation, it’s damn hard to do that. The mind keeps filling with such baloney. Even the important stuff “must donate to the food bank, must get flu shot” all those thoughts have to be banished. I have no clue how to do it and I really don’t try.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be accomplished. I’m just feeling too squirrely typically to be bothered. I’m realizing though, that learning to meditate could be a good and necessary thing.

Don’t we really want to be present when we need to be? Don’t we really need to cut out extra BS in our lives that don’t really count? I don’t mean carbs and soda, or designer purses and DVDs, I mean wasteful emotions and thought processes. 

Singular Focus
Another thing about meditating is the mantra. The word mantra has been diluted and manipulated to sometimes mean a slogan, a tag line, a motto, or an affirmation. But in meditating it’s meant to be a sound that produces a vibration, or a simple word that will give you a mental focal point. 

I know I want to have better and clearer intention not just when it comes to my work but in all aspects of my life. I’d like to be able to learn how to meditate, to take the practice of looking to that inner focal point, and then translate that power to laser focus on whatever else needs attention.

Too bad I can’t laser in on what’s causing that weird continuous rhythmic humming sound in my house. Like meditating, I haven’t figured it out. But I think, at least in my life, if not in my house plumbing, what I need to do is to find my mantra to focus on, I need to find my own thrum.