My Blog Motto

"Good judgement comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgement"

~Rita Mae Brown

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Creative Environment

I have not been very diligent about publishing these days, as you may have noticed. After deciding it was clearly time to get back into the groove and opening my WordPress page a headliner cleverly caught my eye. The title suggested something about finding the right "environment for writing", which has recently been a factor in my slacking productivity. Closer inspection reveled not a post about the physical or even emotional environment for writing, but instead some updates about recent changes in the blog formats.  Fine, okay, but not the serendipitous moment I had hoped for.

Environment and comfort have a substantial influence on both my desire and my ability to write.  If I'm at a computer, I'm much more productive using my laptop where I can move about, sit on my bed or slouch back in a recliner. I can even go sit on the porch and listen to the sounds of the neighborhood for inspiration. Sitting at a desk is not only physically uncomfortable, but feels  formal and constrained;  it feels like work.

Sometimes, the keyboard itself takes on a sense of sterility, a sanitized expression of the thoughts and feelings that demand a natural flow. I find this keyboard frigidity to be more common in my generation than in younger writers. People of my age group remember the pre-computer days when typing meant typing...on a typewriter; slow, laborious, prone to error, fading ribbon and sticking keys. Making corrections involved slapping a glob of noxious white-out on the misspelled word or slipping a small piece of correction paper in the carriage and typing over the error. By the time this process was complete, the creative train had left the station. There was also a good possibility the writer would be left with a somewhat disorienting buzz resulting from the inhalation of white out vapors.

Since my laptop has been in the "shop" undergoing repair, I have found myself spending more time writing by hand. I do journal by hand on an almost daily basis, my personal thoughts, dreams and out-of-the-blue moments of inspiration. Journaling in this way is a pleasant, almost meditative process. It is also somewhat liberating. Within the protected space of my own personal journal, filled with my sketches and doodles and random ideas, my thoughts flow freely and the words play on the page like happy children. Even my handwriting is reflective of my current mood, sometimes loose and flowing, sometimes small and cramped with frustration and uncertainty. Either way the process encourages an unrestrained pattern of ideas that easily takes on a life of its own.

A while back I was graced with the opportunity to be interviewed by Janet Riehl, poet, musician, storyteller and founder of  Riehl Life: Village Wisdom for the 21st Century In this interview I discussed my practice of  "word doodling" as I call it as a bit of fun which can alleviate the pressure of taking ones self and one's writing too seriously, therefore freeing the creative process.

I'm hopeful that having had a solid week of play, no pressure to produce blog posts or submit to some judgmental, finger shaking, inner critic I will return to a steady pattern of committed writing (and posting) with a fresh breath of inspiration.

What are other people's means of stimulating creativity and putting the fun back into your work?

Copyright 2011, Jennifer Hazard/Nanakoosa
Image courtesy of Relics and Collectibles

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

What Puts the Ape in Apricot?

"Whadda they got that I ain't got?....(all answer)  "Courage!"   The the Cowardly Lion's own  answer to his  rhetorical question is, of course, Courage. In case you've never seen the movie 'The Wizard of Oz" I would encourage you to stop reading, find, rent, borrow download  a copy using whatever it is you use to view media, make some popcorn and lose yourself in what is probably one of the few examples of The Archetypal  Heroes Journey whose protagonist is a 13-year-old girl.  So go away now if you haven't seen it because there's a spoiler on deck.

Gone? Okay. Are they all gone? ok.

Geez can you believe there are actually people who have not seen the Wizard of Oz?!  

Well, we will give them our support and acceptance when they come back, let's not make them feel embarrassed for not having incorporated one of the greatest films of all time into their schematic framework.

So, the rest of you know where I am headed with this thought. The Cowardly Lion, despite his panic attacks, tears and attempts at desertion was indeed the most Courageous of all the Seekers en route to Oz. Yes, he was terrified the entire time but, as a loved one recently reminded me, Courage is not the lack of Fear, but the act of going forward and doing what needs to be done in spite of the Fear.

As the Wizard presented the Cowardly Lion with his Medal of Bravery he expressed the same sentiment

"You have plenty of courage, I am sure," answered Oz. "All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty."

Upon realizing the risks he had endured and survived in the name of loyalty to Dorothy and the others, The Lion is able to grasp the key ingredient in the recipe for Courage...Confidence.  Not the boasting puffy chested, "put 'em up" posturing he had (unsuccessfully) displayed when first encountering his fellow travelers ; but a warm and humble confidence that enabled him as a decorated hero, to weep in plain view of the entire populace of The Emerald City as he said goodbye to Dorothy.

True Courage is more likely to debate than display, to sacrifice freely with no expectation of reward, and more at ease with weeping  than warfare.

Think of times you have faced your fears, soldiered on and emerged quietly triumphant yet forever changed.  Please, as always feel free to share a story if you'd like, and Soldier On Warriors of Wisdom!



© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Friday, May 20, 2011

More on Positive Thinking

First of all let me say I acknowledge that I did not follow up a day later as I'd said I would...therefore I will try to be more ambiguous in my promises (I'm sure most of my readers feel the irony in that statement).
Anyway, as I was contemplating Positive Thinking and other quick fix self help methods I realize that I must include the disclaimer that not everyone suffers from self-doubt, mistrust and a emotionally complicated childhood. For those people, I'm pretty certain these things can and do effectively improve their quality of life or at least their perception of their quality of life. But that's not who I write for. I write for the rest of us who have been damaged, abused, befuddled with mixed messages from those who we relied on to care for us; and for those of us who never were content to accept things at face value with no thought of a reality that differs from what is presented in mainstream culture.
Those of us who fall into that category have layers upon layers of developmental mishap to peel away and to lay the pieces out before us for examination. It's like performing an autopsy on your psyche. We visit different professionals to help us with this process and we walk away with more confusing misinformation than The Warren Commission.
We most likely conclude that we will never know which bullet killed our sense of self, but that there was indeed more than one lone gunman.
The purpose of this "autopsy' is not to identify the killers or the cause of death, but rather to examine how it is that we have internalized the messages of our perpetrators. As we begin to realize the nasty voices of self loathing and doom are not our own, but instead have been implanted (either willingly or unconsciously) by those who treated us as less than human, we can begin to release ownership of these toxic beliefs. It is not until these beliefs are returned to their rightful owners, that we can begin to truly believe that we are worth being safe, reasonably happy and secure.
© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Monday, May 16, 2011

Positive Thinking and other self help fumbles

For the past 20 years or so the quick fix self help gurus have placed a nauseating amount of emphasis on the application of "Positive Thought" as a cure all for all social problems. From overcoming  poverty to finding convenient parking spaces we are told to visualize our needs and to apply positive energy to these thoughts and we will be blessed with whatever it is that our little hearts desire. I realize this may seem to be a gross oversimplification and it probably is but truthfully for every one educator/life coach or mentor who truly understands the use of positive energy it seems there are 5 more who toss the notion around like little band aids hoping they will stick and take away all our owies. And if they don't stick it's probably because we did something wrong, we picked at it or maybe our skin wasn't clean enough for the band aid to adhere properly...or we just didn't really believe it would work.
Well of course it didn't work and here's why. Many of us don't believe it will work, not because we don't want it to, but because we've never been taught how to develop that velcro skin that picks up all the good stuff. We're more like teflon when it comes to positive energy. We do this because we have discovered time and time again that any thing good and comforting and healing that comes our way must certainly come at a cost and with some hidden agenda.
And therefore we do pick at the band aids, peeking to see if our wounds are indeed healing or if they are secretly festering and and growing beneath the veil of the band aid. We have a firmly entrenched sense of mistrust, well sealed within our teflon shell not because we want to but because at some time in our lives we had to. It kept us safe from the unpredictable and confusing gestures that have been handed us in the guise of love, only to reveal the narcissistic craving that was so well concealed in the pretty picture of love and concern. You can trap more flies with honey than with vinegar as my grandmother used to say, and any predator worth their salt knows that fact all to well. They rely upon the strategy as their primary method of entrapment. Then when things go wrong and we become hurt, we are soothed with the insidious plea that begs us to remember that it was all done to us out of love and dare we feel hurt or angry when someone was merely acting out of love and in the interest of our well being.
It should come as no surprise then that when some sweet talking agent of personal growth comes along telling us that we simply need to focus on the positive, if we don't immediately dismiss them from our lives, we may desperately want to believe them. We may even try to apply their suggestions, but we are unable to make it work.
And sadly many of us do try to make it work only to end up berating ourselves for our inability to follow the simple formula for happiness.
The bottom line is one cannot slap a bandage on a very well established wound with out first cleansing the the injury and removing any shards of emotional shrapnel that may be trapped within. Once we have done this we stand a good chance to benefit from certain applications of the Happy Band-aid Process.
 Stay tuned tomorrow for a follow up post to discuss cleansing the wounds and what and what not to expect from all those Happy Thoughts we can apply to keep them safe.

Be Safe,

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ziggy Part II

Life went on as it does, with Ziggy as my constant companion. several years ago I moved into a large lower flat and acquired a few more animal roommates. Ziggy who had always been strictly an indoor cat, became introduced the the Great Outdoors. As is often the case once someone gets a taste of the wild, they develop a craving for more adventure and freedom (I have several prior relationships to testify to this fact). After nearly five years in that apartment changes in circumstance made it necessary to move to a smaller, less expensive apartment. I was neck deep in the misery of Interferon/Ribavirin treatment and the entire moving process was extremely unpleasant, to put it nicely.
On the day of the move Ziggy was nowhere to be found. We weren't too worried, we figured we'd go back and look for him which we did, for a while. I became extremely ill and depressed after moving and much of that first month is lost to me. My kids made regular sojourns in search of Ziggy but with no luck. In my depressed and apathetic state, I finally resigned myself to the idea that this was just one more opportunity life was taking to kick me in the teeth and gave up all hope. Interferon does terrible things to one's mind, body and soul.
Then suddenly on Mother's Day, 6 months after moving and 3 months post treatment, I received a call from my former landlord saying he had seen "that big white cat sunning himself in the yard". The kids and I hopped into my daughters old grey Buick and started patrolling the alleys, creeping along looking like someone who was up to no good. Fortunately we were spared suspicion by the fact that the car is covered with stickers of hearts, flowers and Hello Kitty. Every blob of white caught my eye and while my daughter was chastising me for not wearing my glasses to go look for something, my son caught sight of Ziggy. He was, as we had often speculated, staked out at the "Cat Lady's" house at the end of the block. The Cat Lady herself, verified in her broken English that he had been living under her back porch all winter. I looked around the space and I could see she had provided him (and who knows how many other wandering cats) with food, blankets, toys and even a small water fountain. I thanked her profusely and she thanked me for coming back to find him. Total strangers until this moment we hugged each other and wished each other well. I promised to leave a large bag of cat food on her porch for getting Ziggy through the winter, which she politely declined and which I will provide anyway.
So here he is back home, fur matted and dirty, and in need of a good ear cleaning, but also fat and well fed..
I had pretty much resigned myself to the rational acceptance that he had passed on to the Happy Hunting Grounds, but here he is as I write, dozing atop of my crafts chest looking wise, somewhat crabby and full of secrets. My kind of guy.

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday Tribute-The Incredible Adventures of Ziggy

Mama Niki and Ziggy
The Relationships that fulfill and inspire us are not limited to the Human species, therefore today's tribute is in honor of one of my four legged inspirations, Ziggy. Here is his story:
Ziggy was born into a humble life; his parents were a bi-racial couple, his father a Ragdoll and his mother an alley cat known on the streets as Babycat. Some say Dank (dad) had married beneath his station, but as we know true love has no use for socioeconomic status and breeding. Dank and Babycat lived with their caretakers Niki and Greg, who in their own particular way defied social standards of rank and bloodline. The two couples lived in a modest studio apartment on Milwaukee's lower East side, before the investors and real estate moguls infiltrated the area brining high end shops and luxury condos.
As is the natural course of events when families are denied access to affordable health care, Babycat soon became pregnant. Niki had called to inform me of the joyous event at the halfway house where I was spending the better part of the year learning how to be a good girl by following 12 simple steps.
Soon after receiving the good news that Babycat was "with child', another call came in to announce that the Blessed Event had arrived and resulted in one very large fuzzy white kitten. Despite the joyous celebration, Mama Niki harbored concerns that there must be more kittens and feared they were trapped within Babycats maternal nest. Wrapping the young mother and her one kitten in a blanket Niki braved the fearsome January winds and paid a visit to the family vet, where she was assured that Babycat was indeed "empty". This fact greatly relieved Mama Niki as well as instilling a sense of reverence and awe in the one singular kitten who arrived only a few days after the Millennium..
 Ziggy was graced with royal titles of  Honor including Golden Child, The Millennial Cat and Chosen One; in addition to the revered surnames "Stardust" and "Marley".
Being the only child Ziggy was given free access to all eight nipples and feasted himself daily on his all-you-can-eat Lacto-buffet...and grew to impressive proportions.
One year later, when I returned to my hometown, having completed my stint at the Home for Wayward and Wanton Women, Niki was kind enough to allow Ziggy to become my roomate. At age 41 I had never lived alone and I welcomed the company.
Ziggy and I have been through good times, challenges, happy times, roommates, foster pets and lonely nights of crying and howling at the moon. After 911 he indulged me by lying by my side on the sofa, nested in a blanket while I stared blankly at the tv as the towers fell over again and again. When I had pneumonia and stayed huddled in my recliner so I could breathe when I fell asleep, he sat by my side giving me head butts of encouragement (or more likely demanding attention).
This, my friends is only the beginning of Ziggy's story. Tomorrow in chapter two we will revisit the Incredible Journey of Ziggy Lost and Found in a lesson of acceptance that is seasoned with Hope.
If you have an Animal Ally, please remember to take a moment to thank them for all they bring to our lives and communities.
Peace and Meow,

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothers Day

Me and Mom
I have heard from many sources that the "Original" intent of Mothers Day was a call for Peace. It is wonderful to have a day of breakfast in bed, reasonably well behaved children and maybe a gift or two. There is something to be said for a day where people reflect upon their mothers as real people with needs, feelings and individuality. Mothering can be difficult and demanding, there are those moments when only true unconditional love sustains us. It is because we have that kind of eternal, unbreakable bond with our children that the greatest Mothers Day gift ever would be to live in a world where no parent would ever need worry that one of their children would be lost to the senseless and brutal act of war.
Happy Mothers Day and Peace to all

Mother's Day Proclamation 1870

The first North American Mother’s Day was conceptualized with Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870. Despite having penned The Battle Hymn of the Republic 12 years earlier, Howe had become so distraught by the death and carnage of the Civil War that she called on Mother’s to come together and protest what she saw as the futility of their Sons killing the Sons of other Mothers. With the following, she called for an international Mother's Day celebrating peace and motherhood:
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears
Say firmly:

"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of 
charity, mercy and patience.

"We women of one country
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with 
Our own. It says, "Disarm, Disarm!"
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice!
Blood does not wipe out dishonor
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have of ten forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war.

Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions.
The great and general interests of peace.

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Thursday, May 5, 2011

There will be Dust

I love living in old houses… or do I? Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I have always lived in old houses and therefore that’s what I’m accustomed to? And then, do I really LOVE living in old houses, or do I just like the look and the feel o f old houses.

Let’s review some Jenny-history. I have, with only two exceptions that come to mind, always lived in old houses; and I have lived in a lot of houses/apartments.
There is a table of certainties that I have acclimated myself to accept
  • There will never be enough electrical outlets.
  • There will be a problem with the bathroom. Such problems may include leaking faucets or pipes, mold and a toilet that may or may not be able to flush (eat small meals)
  • It will be cold in the winter and stifling in the summer.
  • Windows may or may not open or stay open.
  • The peeling paint may or may not be hiding something containing lead.
  • Some dirt is so old it will never go away.
  • Mold is scary
  • Mold is genetically coded for survival under any condition.
  • Parts of the floor will be mismatched, peeling or may contain camouflaged nails or other stabby items on which you will stub your toe.
  • One of the bedrooms used to be a closet
  • Do not have visitors who are architects or practitioners of feng shui as guests, they will frighten you with their doomsday predictions of what your house will do to you.
  • There may or may not be a ghost, who may or may not be friendly.
  • There will be dust.

I’ve come to realize, as I looked around my room this morning (which probably used to be a closet) that maybe I really don’t like living in old houses. I have acclimated myself to the inconveniences and possible risks of these places so well that I have convinced myself that it’s my choice, my preference to do so. Doesn’t that sound familiar?  I knew a domestic violence counselor once who said “Even a pile of shit will become warm and comfy if you sit in it long enough” Some of us are so adept at adapting to our circumstances that we lose sight of any other possibilities. I have written previous posts discussing the ability we have to resist change. The habit we develop as a means of survival that restricts us from looking ahead, from considering options and making choices. What it really boils down to is taking charge of our own lives. The Victim mentality is an insidious trait. We think we are free because we have escaped an abusive partner or an addiction or poverty, but somewhere down the line we find ourselves unhappy with something in our lives that we have been taking for granted. As in my case we may have even convinced ourselves we actually choose the circumstance.
Having said that I have to concede that for someone with my income and several pets options are limited. I have realized however that limited does not equal non-existent, that somewhere in between the two points there exists the realm of possibility.
Most likely there is one certainty; there will be dust.


© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Monday, May 2, 2011

Muddled Monday...Love

I had been working on a post over the weekend, attempting to discuss
the topic of Love, specifically the   individual interpretation of  the concept of love
I seriously could not get through the post. I could not condense and formulate the concepts into words. Other than this:
Love is really quite simple.
People make love very complex.
The complexity arises from the perceived need to define love.
The desire to define love arises from our need to somehow have proof that love exists.
Linear, analytical scientific process cannot, possibly describe love.
That is why we have art, and music and why nature is filled with beauty.
These are all elements that are increasingly devalued in our culture.
Show some Love :)
© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard