Tuesday, November 17, 2015

So, I just finished reading Scary Close by Donald Miller. The subtitle is "Dropping the act and finding true intimacy." It's taken me a few months and a lot of library renewals to finish the book, because I tend to be lazy about my non-fiction.  My roommate and I agree that we use our fiction as a form of escapism.  Reading non-fiction, especially books on bettering one-self, is like going to therapy.  Sometimes when we're in therapy and we don't like what is being uncovered, discussed, and felt, we quit.  It's even easier to close a book and walk away.  I knew the time had come for me to buckle down and finish the darn thing when I went to renew the last time and was denied because someone else is waiting for it.  So, I did what an upstanding citizen might do and finished it, knowing that the person who is to read it next is probably going to find it as amazing as I did.  

From the beginning, my mind told me, "This is a book to own so that I can re-read it again and again."  It's still pretty expensive online (and by expensive, I mean "full price".  This frugal girl RARELY pays full price for a book, but I might break down and do so.)

I can't remember how I first heard of the book.  It was online or in Time magazine or something.  I started reading it at the beginning of summertime, so now that I think about it, it's really time that I turn it in.  Sorry, fellow Library patrons!  

"Somebody once told me that we will never feel loved until we drop the act, until we're willing to show our true selves to the people around us."  
Easier said than done, Mr. Miller.  Show my true self?  What if I don't like my true self?  How will anyone love what I don't like?  It seems impossible.

In college I studied Human Communication.  I learned about the roles we play in our family units.  There is often a rebel, a nurturer, the comic, the worrier, etc.  We often play these same roles in our personal relationships.  Living our life outside the boundaries of these roles can be so uncomfortable, even if we don't like playing them anymore.

I am in therapy and have been for years, off and on.  Finding my truth, my voice, and expressing myself outside of the boundary of my various roles is scary as hell.  "They're not always going to like what they hear" is what I was told recently by my mentor.  Sure enough, a few days later, I was told by my son that I had changed, and not for the better, in his opinion.  Inside I thought, "because I'm standing my ground and didn't used to?" but kept silent, which further set him off.  

I have been the peace-maker.  The appeaser.  The person who does her best to "say the right things" so that those around me feel better about themselves.  Now, there is nothing wrong with this, unless the things I am saying are not holding to my inner truths. I also can't deny feeling resentful on the inside sometimes, because by not speaking my truth, it's not acknowledged, by myself or others. Becoming someone else, someone who speaks the truth, is terrifyingly scary for me.  The thought of hurting another person is one I shy away from.  I want to meld the best of all worlds.  I want to still be a kind person who loves others and does what I can for them, and also be a strong person who knows her own thoughts and can express them, even if it sometimes causes waves.  I want to learn to ride the waves, rather than paddle away from them in fright.  Bottom line . . . I don't want to be rejected.  I want to be loved and wanted and to feel like I matter for who I am, not just who I project myself to be for others.

"Can we really trust people to love us just as we are?  Nobody steps on a stage and gets a standing ovation for being human.  You have to sing or dance or something.  I think that's the difference between being loved and making people clap, though.  Love can't be earned, it can only be given. And it can only be exchanged by people who are completely true with each other."  This is from the author's intro.  He ends it with this:  "Applause is a quick fix.  And love is an acquired taste."

I know that this posting doesn't tell you much about this amazing book.  Trust me.  It's a keeper.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, October 12, 2015

October 12, 2015's reading from:

Honesty Requires Courage

It takes a lot of courage to be honest in a relationship.
 On the one hand we need to be real and authentic 

with another person, 

and on the other hand we're afraid that it may lead to 


It's important to understand and respect

 that conflict within yourself. 

 You can't expect yourself to go out and 

start telling the absolute truth to everyone every minute.

  That would be very frightening.  

You just try to work your way in that direction, 

understanding that it is very scary for part of you, 

and at the same time that if you don't express your truth 

you will sacrifice part of yourself in the relationship. 
Gradually, you will learn to start being more authentic.

What part of me is afraid to be truthful and why? 
Can I understand and respect that part

 while learning to be more open?

Today's reading spoke to my heart. 
This is an important subject to me.
Having trust in myself. 
Having others trust me.  
It's time for some contemplation and honesty in my conversations, starting with myself. 
This conversation is too private to have online, I'm afraid, but I'm going to keep on keeping on.

As I was searching for an image of the Meditation book I was quoting from, I found more from her that spoke to me. Perhaps they'll be good for you to read as well:

Every time you don't follow your inner 


you feel a loss of energy, 

loss of power, 

a sense 

of spiritual deadness

When I'm trusting and being myself as fully 

as possible, 

everything in my life

 reflects this

 by falling into place easily,

 often miraculously.

Our bodies 

communicate to us

 clearly and specifically,

 if we are willing to listen to them.

I'm not in too much of a pontification mood today, but it's been awhile since I've blogged and I was past due.

Thanks for listening.  Thanks for holding space for me.  You hold space in my heart as well.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

3 Months Later . . .

Probably once a day I think, "That would be funny or interesting or . . . for my blog" and that's about as far as it goes.  Today, however, I let the impulse build and grabbed the laptop bag from the truck, unpacking it outside on the deck of the ranch.

One of the things I thought about blogging about a few days ago was when, as I looked up while working in the orchard, I took a deep breath of gratitude for the beauty I beheld, and slid-skid-fell down a short terrace level in the garden.  I remember praying that I wouldn't hit my head or land on my back.  The long scrape of my shin and ankle barely registered.  I landed on my feet and decided I was done weeding for the day.  It was about to rain, anyway.  I don't know if this translates as a funny experience, but I've been laughing a little sardonically in my mind at how I should expect the unexpected, even in times of gratitude and thanksgiving.  ("Geez, God.  It was a prayer of gratitude!")

What spurred me to finally start writing with an actual keyboard at my fingertips, instead of just in my mind, was that I thought it would be interesting to really start looking at myself as analytically as possible.  I enjoy contemplating and truth-telling on virtual paper and sending it out into the world.

Just today it was pointed out that two things I had said were at odds with each other.  All I could do was calmly agree but acknowledged the feelings that arise when I feel like I am being inconsistent or two-faced or just plain nuts. I know I didn't lie on purpose.   But wait a minute.  Wasn't it just me that let a friend know that I could use an evening of quiet and just 5 minutes after hanging up the phone had the thought that it would be fun to run over to the neighbor's to grab the dog and chat for a bit?
That's me.  Flip-flop, flip-flop.  Once, when I brought up that I was a Gemini, my son told me not to "blame my problems" on my sign.  Fair enough.  I am doing my best to be a person of my word.  I just wanna point out that sometimes I'm all over the place.  And I'm genuinely in those places when I'm there . . . whether it makes sense to others or not.

I am alone in on this property.  If I want to go for a run, I don't need to tell anyone.  If my roomie, Sal, were home, I'd let her know, because in my world, I like to "check-in" with people.  (Plus, if she were home and I were gone a long time, she'd know to come see if I'd been bitten by a snake or something.)  Yup.  I guess I equate "alone time" with the opportunity to make decisions, spontaneous or otherwise, without needing to communicate it with another person.  I love the people in my life, my sense of community and family, and I also enjoy when it's just me.  Is it possible to be both an introvert and an extrovert?  Flip-flop, flip-flop.

Through the bushes ahead of me, I can see the silent and beautiful lights of the 15 South.  We like to joke that our view of the freeway is beautiful and serene.  Not a lot of folks can say that.  I'd take a picture but it wouldn't do it justice.  There's a gorgeous bridge that spans the hills of the Bonsall/Valley Center area and the freeway slopes down under it.   Viewing it gives me great pleasure.

It's been three months to the day of my last posting.  Three is one of my favorite numbers, so I smiled when I saw the date.  I've missed babbling online.  I'll try not to be such a stranger.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

just keep breathing

when my heart is breaking, i keep breathing.

when i stop breathing, i remind myself to take another breath.

i have asked for prayer and it was given.

i was wanting some advice and the perfect person walked by my desk and had five minutes to talk to me.

when i cried it was comfortable and safe.

the voices in my head are all over the place, with a myriad of opinions about putting our beautiful and sparkling warrior of a son on meds today.

i have asked that we do bloodwork to check his vitamin and hormone levels.

his diet needs more variety and healthy items.  and he needs to take more of a part in preparing it.

should he be avoiding gluten like his mama does?

and God is in everything, including the meds, right?

"We are all given the choice of reacting negatively to the demands made on us or choosing to live abundantly.  attitude is all.  If you do not endow your life and your work with meaning, no one will ever be able to do it for you."  -april 4 simple abundance calendar

Theophanies are visible manifestations of Spirit.  We find them by looking for mystery in the mundane, seeing the Sacred in the ordinary. "  -april 9

"Try to glimpse everything you do, no matter how insignificant it may seem, as part of your authentic path to Wholeness and it shall become so."  -april 10

"Perfection leaves so little room for improvement; so little space for acceptance-or joy.  On the path we have chosen, progress is the simple pleasure to be savored."  -april 13

"Spirituality, simplicity, and serenity seem to be a sacred trinity; three divine qualities of the contented soul" -april 16

"Seeking order within means coming to grips with the craziness you've been too distracted to do anything about.  When we establish order within, external order will become a visible reality in our daily round." -april 18

"The search for authenticity is like living on a fault line; you never know when the earth is going to move beneath your feet." -april 22

Since coming back to work this week, I hadn't read through the daily calendar of wisdom penned by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  I perused them, typed in the ones that spoke to me, altering them slightly, as the theme was on making one's home a haven and I felt the meaning could be widened to help my soul in this moment.

Some might feel I shouldn't be sharing my private life and the details concerning our son online.  I get it.  But since I am willing to speak to any of you face-to-face about what I have shared so far, I'm going to take a chance and invite my loves to breathe with me and feel peace with me and know that when help is asked for and then proffered, it should not be turned away without further examination.

i have asked for someone to give me a hug and they are on their way.

i pulled some cards from the abundance pack and got flexibility, worthiness,
patience, practice and receptivity.

and i keep breathing.  and keep breathing.

thanks for listening.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Day of Silence Musings

Last Friday was A Day of Silence, sponsored by GLSEN.  http://www.glsen.org/

According to the site, "Thousands of students across the country will participate in the Day of Silence, an annual international event that brings attention to the anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment that is common in schools."  (LGBT=Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, for those of you not familiar with the term.)

Last year, the day before the event, a transgender student here at the high school brought in flyers and asked if we could post them in the Library.  I said it was no problem and did a little research on the subject.  After reading up on it, I decided to participate as well.

I started the challenging silent day with a note to myself, reminding me to not talk.  It's interesting how we communicate when we aren't using our voices, especially when it comes to waking teenagers for school.  I spent the day at school, with slips of paper explaining why I wasn't talking.  I went out of my way to track down a teacher who had given me a strange look when I didn't respond appropriately to her greeting.  I didn't want her to think I was stranger than she already did.

I blogged throughout the day but I don't think I ever posted it, for some reason.  What I remember the most was the feeling of disconnection I felt with those around me.  It started seeping into me a few hours into my workday and it just felt so damn lonely.  Perhaps that's the point of this day, to give folks an insider's point of view in the lives of people who feel silenced, unable to be their true selves.

How many of us, however, live our lives feeling like we can't really share our true thoughts, feelings and parts of our personality for fear of rejection or judgement?

On Good Friday of this year, one of our students took their own life via hanging.  Taylor (born Joshua), had been at this school since early Fall and I had watched her move from a solitary figure into one who was a part of a nice group of friends.  I talked her into trying a few library books, even though she was a very reluctant reader.  I felt she was very brave to be an openly transgender student on campus.  I knew it couldn't be easy.

When I heard that she had killed herself, my heart broke for her, her family, her friends, and the amazing staff here on campus that had supported her.  I became more distressed as I read posts on the local newspaper site and heard stories about the school being bashed by the local Gay/Lesbian/Transgender support groups.  Because of confidentiality, the staff here has not been able to share any information.  For those of you with any doubts, however, take my word when I say that the reasons Taylor decided to leave this life were not solely due to bullying here on campus.  She was very protected here.

As I read the headlines around the world regarding another "suicide because of bullying", and compare them with experiences I've had with my own son at school, I am constantly reminded that the stories are always much bigger than the news reports and much less cut and dry than the paperwork would infer.

Despite my best intentions, I did not hold the Day of Silence this year, although I put up information in the Library and helped our ASB teacher gather information to support the students who held a silent lunch out in the main common area known as "The Bowl".  I just didn't feel that I had the tenacity to stick with it and wasn't up to feeling that pervading loneliness that I remember from last year.

We all deserve to be supported in our quest for a fulfilling life.  We are all here for a reason and if we don't know what that is, we can start by seeing how we can help another, and then getting in touch with something that stirs our inner passions.

RIP, Taylor Alesana.  I'm blessed to have known you and am sorry to say goodbye.

Thanks for listening.

There's quite a few pics of Taylor on the internet, but this is my favorite.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Feeling Grateful and Inspired

Although it's only 10:20 p.m., I'm beat.  I am resisting my delicious bed for a few, however, just to check in and let people, especially the ones I've talked to this weekend in person or on the phone, how much I feel loved, supported and honored in my life.  I feel connected to so many amazing people.  We are all on different paths and I am blessed that yours have crossed mine in this lifetime.   Even it it's a quick hug and a "how you doing?", it feeds my soul.

After a relatively mellow but productive week at the library, I had band practice with "Wildfire", a group of mostly locals who are working on a fun dance set.  Those four hours flew by.  I wasn't quite ready to go home when everyone else split, so I did a "first".  I went to the Pub and watched the band by myself.  I didn't need a beverage, in fact, wanted to stay alert and get home before I got too tired.  I sat a bit out of the way, and my ego wasn't even hurt when no-one approached me.  :)

Saturday, I got to do arts-and-crafts in the Library with some young students whose parents are taking English Language classes in the morning on the high school campus.  I am part of the "free childcare", though I am getting paid and have a partner in crime.  Neither of us consider ourselves very "crafty" but since we both hunger for efficiency and a low-drama environment, we're a pretty good team and I do have to admit that working out that creative muscle is a positive side benefit.

After the kiddies, I went to a friend's house to work on a song we're performing this Friday for an ordination.  I feel pretty special having my own piano accompanist.  Wednesday we'll dial it in as a group and my girls will harmonize with me.  Few things make me feel as good as I do when our voices intertwine and support each other.  After that I had a coffee with a friend and enjoyed delightful conversation and laughter.  It felt good.  Frankie and the Invisibles were playing at the local golf resort that evening.  I know them all personally and a fun group of us were there in support and to have a good time.  Mission accomplished.

I went a bit early to church today, as my friend Paul was playing an original piece for the 8:30 a.m. service.  It was a lovely song.  Then I got to be on stage with (almost) the whole group.  It really feels like home when I'm in that place with those people.

After services I had lunch with another friend and enjoyed being mentored and doing a friendship catch-up, I was inspired to consider the next steps in my endeavor to offer Organizing and Personal Assisting services to the local clientele.  I just finished my first Craig's List Ad, sent it off to be analyzed, and will work on flyers soon.  My areas of interest are with personal and professional spaces, helping the client move through piles, ideas, drawers, systems to "dial it in" and make it work for them.  My secret obsession is in kitchens, professional as well as private.  I think it would be awesome to work in a restaurant for a short-time and get paid to suggest streamline ideas, focusing on interpersonal and hospitality satisfaction.  

I walked around the Spring Art Show in downtown Fallbrook's Art Center, and enjoyed time in front of each piece.  It was quiet and I was in no rush.  Some of the colors simply overwhelmed me, they were so gorgeous.  There was one piece, of amazing birds on a great background that  I went back to admire several times.  I fantasized about how it would look over my fantasy fireplace in my fantasy house.

I guess I was inspired because as I chatted with my mom later on the phone, I pulled out a collage I had made a few years ago and used a bingo marker to paint red circles around the pictures, erasing the empty spaces and adding a more yummy and finished feel.  After it dried I put it on my wall.  The theme of this Vision Board is self-love and acceptance; continuing on this healthier relationship with myself and others.  Sometimes I feel wise and sometimes I need reminders.  These boards bring the unseen into the seen, I believe, and I really love working on them, for myself as well as for others.  Perhaps I could somehow invorporate the Vision Boards into my summer work with clients.  What better way to visualize what is wanted than ripping and tearing.  Creative mess is so invigorating.

Then I watched Sherlock Holmes (the Robert Downey Jr. version, part 1) with my roomie, pausing it to walk/sprint before the sun went down and the woods became a creepy backdrop for my childish and fearful imagination.  Then we finished the movie, along with more great conversation.

Here's part of the collage that I bingo-markered the heck out of.  
Ready for bed now.  Feeling happy and tired.
Thanks for listening.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

APA=Always Pleasant Amenity

Buddha Japan
Although I didn't take this photo, we visited here and climbed into the statue.  

I'm back and ready to check back in on my blog.  It was a whirlwind of a trip--10 days in Japan,   (8 really, with 2 days travel), plus 2 days of catching back up to PST.  The first night back I went to bed around 11 p.m., after traveling for 20 hours and being awake about 35.  I slept until 3:45 the next afternoon.  The next night I didn't go to sleep until after 2 a.m., woke to the alarm at 9:30, twelve hours later, I was wired.  It was 9:11 p.m. and my first alarm would wake me for work at 4:45 a.m. Good thing it was a light day scheduled for the Library.

I originally wrote that first paragraph a few days ago, but after getting frustrated with not being able to upload pics shot on my phone, then sent by an app to email, and then having little luck getting those photos to download so I could share them here, I gave up.  Time has passed, but tonight when I attempted the photo thing, I ran around in circles again.  I'll post some more . . . sometime . . . somehow.  :)

Japan was amazing, as I knew it would be.  Some things have changed in the 20 years since we visited last, like the amount of dogs on the street in parks, quite often in sweaters and some with accessories on their heads like barettes, etc. There were many more non-Japanese people out and about (way more).  But some things haven't changed, foremost the Japanese attention to detail and courtesy.

Businesses in Japan really focus on customer service and the appeal of the packaging.  It was rare that we didn't feel comfortable, unless we think back on some of the crowded subway or busses.  Personal space becomes a luxury.  My dad was also very focused on us having a great tourist experience.  We ate (a lot!) and saw the sights (many!) and the whole time he was our very gracious host.  This trip wouldn't have been possible without him and my step-mom, Miwako.  We will forever be indebted.  (They were quite the troopers, having visited Italy themselves right before our arrival!)

We stayed in a couple of hotels on our journey to Kyoto and Hiroshima, and one of them was the APA.  It's a chain.  I didn't know what the letters stood for until one evening when I was compulsively reading the wrapping on the toilet paper roll.  There I found out that APA stood for Always Pleasant Amenity.  To me, that summed up Japan.  Doing their best to be honorable to their guests and offer pleasant amenities.

The room was cozy tiny and, my dad said, not as fancy as the price would suggest, but I found it fantastic.  There were all sorts of freebies in the bathroom, including hair bands and brushes.  I think the price reflected the fact that it happened to be Cherry Blossom week and Kyoto, the former capital of Japan, was full of folks who had come for the viewing.  Cherry Blossom week is a huge deal and now that I've experienced it, I can understand why.  The trees are gorgeous with white or pink blossoms, which show themselves at their best for only a few days, before they fall off like raindrops.  It is customary in Japan for families and friends to meet under the blossoming trees and eat and drink and be merry.  We saw a lot of examples of this.  Cute to see men in business suits spreading out blue tarps and waiting for their guests. 

Since I can't currently post one of my MANY cherry blossom shots. I will borrow from google images, just so that you can enjoy the beauty.  

We visited temples and shrines, had coffee in a surfer coffeehouse, rode the bullet train (twice) and had fun with the amusingly translated English.  ("Dog Whiz" was a four-story dog supply store, with the name in huge yellow letters.  There was also a "Womb" store.  I think it sold fancy clothing.)

We ate Mochi (a Japanese sweet) until we felt ourselves turning into rice, although Erik never got sick of it.  Jakob obsessed over his favorite dish, cold Soba noodles.  He could eat them a few times a day if given the chance.  I gave him my portion on the plane ride home.  I was ready for some chicken with sauce.  He just wanted more buckwheat noodles in sauce.  

The 10-hour flights should have been for sleeping, but with so many movies to choose from, I admit I did barely more than doze.  (I need to rent and re-watch "Men, Women and Children".  A very trippy movie about family life in these days of virtual connections.  The airline staff collected the earphones ten minutes before the movie was over.  I was bummed.  I watched "Wild", by Sheryl Strayed, and found it very good.  I had loved the book.  I also watched "Girl Gone".  Yikes.  "If I Stay" got some tears out of me.  Oh, and I watched a Johnny Depp documentary.  Couldn't resist.  Yum.

I missed blogging, missed the connection I feel when I'm sharing my thoughts and the feedback I get from my community.  I'll post more soon.  I promise.   

Thanks for listening.  Missed you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lent Days 34-35: Feeling Supported

"I'm so glad you moved in here." Sally told me this morning.  Wow. Those words filled me with happiness and gratitude.  My doubtful self had been wondering if she might want to get someone else in here, someone who could pay more rent.  "We're a great fit." she continued.  "The only thing better was if you had a penis and moved upstairs with me."  I told her I'd work on that. What a great way to start my day as I walked out the door to work, with a chuckle and a smile.

I've been told that I have an amazing support community.  It's true.  If you're reading this post, you're very likely a part of that group for me.  Family, friends, work peeps, church peeps, I am blessed with a whole bunch of people whom I love and love me back.  (There are a few people out there that I love and who are currently NOT loving me back, but that's ok.  Love and Light to them.)

I think part of the blessing of my community is that I genuinely want the people in my life (and everyone, for that matter) to live life to their fullest.  Happiness and bliss and smiles.  I know these aren't "practical" or "doable" all of the time, but it's my focus for myself and others.  And do you know what?  It comes right back at me.  People share their love and sympathy when I'm hurting and are happy for me when I am doing well.  I know that some decide early on in their lives that life isn't worth it, that they're just marking time until "their time" arrives.  Well, what's the point of that? Suffering isn't a gift from or to God.  Joy is.  

I have been getting ready for the upcoming flight to Japan (FRIDAY!!!), being a co-parent during a difficult time and getting distracted (Game of Thrones) so I haven't blogged as much as I was.  I don't know how often I'll be able to connect while overseas either, but I look forward to checking in as often as I can/want.

Today is day 35 of my Lent experience/experiment.  I'm glad I'll be "off the wagon" in time to enjoy some sake in Japan.  I'm also hoping to go with E to a Karaoke bar.  (I'm not saying I couldn't sing karaoke sober in a foreign country, but there's nothing like a little liquid courage.)  One of my funniest memories of the last time we visited (1995) was when we went to a place called the "One Shot" bar.  We didn't know what to order, so we get two shots of Wild Turkey.  (Why we ordered American Whiskey in Japan, I don't know.)  The bill came out to $24 for the shots.  We couldn't really believe it.  And we did, indeed, have only "one shot" while there.  

I have been grateful for the sobriety and the time to focus on my relationship to myself during this time.  My head's been in a pretty good space overall and I've had some interesting insights into beliefs about myself and my relationship to "altered states" and being around other people.  I really needed this time.  Thanks again for the suggestion, Rev.  

Here's some gems from this week's "Simple Abundance" calendar:

The Universe is not stingy.  We are.  Some of us have very stingy souls.  Perhaps not in how we treat others, but in how we treat ourselves.  Yet how can Spirit give more if our fists, hearts, and minds are clenched tight?

Today declare to the Universe that you are open to receiving all the abundance it's waiting patiently to bestow.  Each day offers us the opportunity to learn that as well as giving, it is blessed to receive with grace and a grateful heart.

The time has come for us to realize that until we work on increasing our self-esteem by loving ourselves in small ways, we can't begin changing ourselves for the better in big ways.

Whatever you are waiting for--peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of Simple Abundance--it will surely come, but only when you are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.  

It's been about a week since I have felt a release from anxiety.  It's a sensation that likes to live in my belly.  I know that I don't breathe as deeply when it is in residence.  I have to constantly confront the belief that if I don't focus on the "what if's", then I might very well be caught unprepared.  Well, I know better.  I really do.  Worrying on things that haven't happened can be like  prayer, says Rev,  a prayer that manifests in the "truth" of seeing life as hard, unfulfilling, surrounded by scarcity. Change my thinking, change my life, right?  So, with you as my witness, I will declare to the Universe that I am open to receiving all of the abundance that it is patiently waiting to bestow.  I know that any and all good coming to me is my birthright and does NOT take away from the birthright of others.

Thanks again to all of you who have posted, texted, e-mailed, called, messaged or supported me in person.  I am not alone and neither are you.  Underneath the layers of anxiety, fear, sadness and doubt is that Silent Watcher I keep mentioning.  Whether I forget about its presence or am able to breathe fully into acknowledging that it is there and it is constant, it is there and it is constant.

I'm going to end this post with a link to one of my favorite songs.  It's "Breathe" by Telepopmusik.  (If you like the song, I would highly suggest you create a Pandora station for this band.  There's some great techno-lounge music out there.)

Just Breathe
Just Believe
Another Day
Just Believe 
I'm used to it by now
Just Breathe

Thanks for listening.  
Love to you all.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lent: Days 31-33: Emotions

It's been a few days since I've posted.  Lying in bed on Friday night, I felt shell-shocked from emotions.  It's not easy being human, being a parent, being a person who is "overly" sensitive.

As transparent as I've strived to be with my blog, I do have my dignity and a sense of privacy.  When there are situations that are personal and I can't write about them without bringing a bunch of other people into the words, I either avoid the issue altogether or wait a bit to see how it will all settle before attempting to share.

Things are settling, but the dust is still swirling and some of the pieces have not yet landed.  One day at a time, right?  Five days to go until we board a plane for Tokyo, me, the man I am separated from, and our son.  We will spend 10 days with my dad and step-mom, visiting and traveling and living a dream we've had since Jake was born, which was to take him to visit the beautiful country of Japan.  I pray that the week ahead will be nothing more than a flurry of work and packing and marking off my checklist.

Yesterday's Oprah/Deepak was about emotions.  They advised that nothing is more intimate than our emotions.  The current of our feelings have a major influence on every choice we make and that it is vital that we heal and train our emotions to be reliable and trusted allies in order to support our success.  I am aware of my emotions, but I am not my emotions.  How does one train emotions?  Perhaps recognizing them as they come and go, but not becoming attached to them and letting them change as they need to?  If anyone has suggestions, let me know.  I have heard from quite a few people that their comments still aren't posting.  If this happens to you, feel free to send the comments to my e-mail which is listed to the right on the blog site.  Let me know if you'd like me to post for you.  I am sorry for the complications, but I always am hungry for feedback.

Emotions as reliable and trusted allies?  These are new thoughts for me.  Emotions have run my life for a long time . . . 43 years or so.  I don't want to become an unfeeling person.  I have always felt that my empathic personality has been one of my strongest traits.  The trick is to have healthy boundaries, however, and not let the weight of the world suck me into the abyss.  Or, when I find myself at the bottom of the black hole, to have faith that there are steps up and out, where I can breathe the fresh air of gratitude again.

Below my emotions and moment-by-moment activities is a Silent Watcher.  It is my Self.  We all have It, I believe.  It's the connection I have with all of life.  This awareness is the foundation on which my spirituality is based.  I forget about it for most of the day, and then I remember, and then I forget.  I know I've said this before, but since I forget so often, it's good to remind myself with the printed word.

I do not know how everything is going to turn out . . . not with our son, with my separated relationship, with my other family members, with my friends, with the rest of my life, however long I am  here in this body.  But the Self remains constant.  Being aware enables me to see past the possessions and the emotions and even the experiences, which so quickly turn into emotion-based memories.  In the meantime, however, I know that I am here for a reason.  Rev Guy says that we are here because Spirit was in need of a human experience to express Itself.  Well, that's an honor now, isn't it?

In the past few days, I have stood up for myself and my son, prayed for Spirit to show me if my Ego's voice was too loud (and got an answer within the hour), hugged, cried, told people how I felt, and faced the human emotions of shame and "not good enough".  Peace comes, peace goes.  Intentions are set, sometimes there is follow-through, and sometimes procrastination wins out.  Perhaps I should look at procrastination as a form of cowardice and practice being brave a little bit more.

For those of you who pray, I am asking for some prayer tonight.  Peace and joy and a sense of security; faith that "it'll all be ok" and bravery in my endeavors.   I'll send some love and light your way too.  Ready? Go.

Feel better?  I do.

Thanks for listening and participating with me along this journey.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lent Day 30: Divestment

 to dispossess of property, to strip away, rid, free 

(paraphrased from the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary)

From today's "Simple Abundance" calendar:

Once you search within for your own special gifts of Spirit, your material desires diminish.  
Your soul divests for you rather than your conscious mind.  

I had to look up "divest", although once I read the meaning, my mind thought of various sentences I've read in books, usually when someone gets something taken away from them, stripped.  This word used in a meditational thought seems more gentle, supporting the way to Wholeness.

I've been reading (and listening) to various books on the Tao Te Ching.  One of them is The Tao of an Uncluttered Life by Karen Hicks.  In the intro she speaks of the different seasons of our lives, how when we're young, very often we're all about the acquisitions.  As we move into our middle and older years, we tend to be drawn to getting rid of the stuff we worked so hard to accumulate.  

Moving out of the house which held all of my possessions has been an interesting experience.  I have been discovering which things mean the most to me.  (Please note I am talking about "things", not people or the animals. Leaving them behind has cracked my heart.)  When I was getting ready to move out, I obsessed over my books, taking them down to the garage, sorting and labeling boxes (Fiction, Non-Fiction, Children's), with *'s marking the boxes with the most dear to me.  Part of me wondered about this focused energy with the books, the majority of which are self-improvement.  I guess that answers my question.  They represent(ed) my quest for peace, wholeness and wisdom. The books I've owned since childhood invoked strong emotions in me.  I deliberately did my best to get rid of the ones which brought up pain and sadness.  (A beautifully illustrated copy of Alice in Wonderland was one of the books which I let go.  There is not one happy character in this book and the pictures had haunted me since I received it as a gift when I was about 8.)  There are still some books left behind at the house.  I'll bring them over eventually.  I guess I'm still claiming my spot there with them.  (Also, I have run out of bookcase space here.  If anyone local has a two-shelf bookcase they don't need, let me know.)

I have my eye on some of the art that still hangs there.  I am very much into the paintings that were done by people I know or local artists.  I wonder what I'll do about the boxes in the garage that hold high school memories like the one full of prom dresses or the ones with cards and ribbons.  Do I really want to store things that I'll look at once a decade?  Maybe the resident racoon has gotten into them and will save me the struggle of decision.

I like things to mean something, not just be pretty.  I know that meaning is something I assign to it.  I long ago learned that giving up something gifted to me doesn't mean I am rejecting the person who gave it.  E used to tease me because when Jake was a baby and we'd be visiting with friends or family, if they had gotten him an outfit, I'd be sure to dress him in it to show that I was appreciative. It means something when someone gives something to me.  They thought of me and put forth energy and effort.  Things evoke emotions.  Pictures even more so.  What do people do with family pictures after the family has broken up?  We're not so angry that we tore them up or burned them.  Will Jake want them when he grows up?  He's not very sentimental.  Quite a few of them are in a box in the band room.  I guess the decisions will come to us in time.

I look across the room to the table that has been cluttered since the December holidays.  Why haven't I taken care of this mess?  I brought a file box and folders home . . . and there they sit, the papers who want to be organized inside are scattered around.  What am I avoiding?  I do know myself well enough to know that if I have company over on Saturday, which was a discussion among myself and some friends last night, I'll clean that area up in a hurry.  But why don't I just do it for myself?

3/4 of my room looks great.  I make my bed daily, don't leave clothes lying around and am fantasizing about putting my books in alpha order.  It's that last 1/4 that is drawing too much of my energy away from flow.  I don't need a lot more in this room.  I had turned down E's offer of a tv and dvd player as I appreciated not having the distraction or "stuff".  If I wanted to watch a movie up here I could do it on my laptop.  But I've reconsidered as having a space in here for Jake to veg out seems like a good way to entice him over more often.  This is where I live now and if some more "stuff" paves a smoother way between me and my son, I will happily have a little more. 

Thanks for listening.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lent Day 29: Well, Einstein Said It . . .

What a great quote!  This morning when I opened the "Transform Your Life" app while still in my cozy bed, this is what I got.  Makes sense, right!?!  I believe in this wisdom wholeheartedly.  It's why I'm on this quest to "raise my vibration", to "change my thinking and change my life" and all the other themes I've been ranting on and on about.

So how does one go about changing their level of consciousness?  I guess first of all, we can accept that there are some things we can control and some things we can't.  The main thing we can change is ourselves and the way to start this is to be open to new knowledge!  Movies, books, music, conversation, "random" posters and events; the "answers" will start flowing our way if we just let them.

When folks respond to my ramblings and let me know about the synchronicity of their experiences with mine, I get a little tingle.  Our roads have converged, even for just a few steps.

Today at work the Library was closed again due to the testing schedule.  Once again I decided to plug into my laptop in the dark back room and listen to today's Oprah/Deepak meditation.  As the talking ended and the music for meditating started, I wondered how many more minutes lunch was.  I didn't have the schedule in front of me but I accepted that it would all work out.  As the meditation ended and I stood to leave the room, the bell ending lunch rang.  I smiled.  Of course!  I didn't worry about it, the nagging inner voice, which often signifies that I need to look further into an issue had accepted that the timing would be perfect and it was.

Here are some tidbits gleaned from today's meditation entitled: Success Frees Your Creativity

My creative Source brings me deep to the source of my thoughts, feelings and desires.  It is in this space that I create my present experience moment by moment.  Reconnecting to my inner self is the key to manifesting lifelong success.  I approach each moment with fresh eyes and an open heart, no longer defined by past pain or fears for the future.  The creative power behind all success is the primal creativity of Nature itself moving through me.  It is the power of my being to recreate the unique expression of life that is me at this present moment.  Being in touch with myself is the single biggest secret of success.

I am working with a friend who is coaching to develop and create work for myself over the summer; something that can carry on through the years.  I believe in my gifts of service to others in the form of organization.  As I was speaking about my ideas to an acquaintance this morning, he asked me if I had a business card, stating that I had "sold him" on my abilities to create personal systems for others. Cool!  Maybe I should get some of those cards made.  Why not?  (We had a bit of a laugh as I shared the messy table in my room that I've been avoiding.  Organize other . . . sure!  Organize myself . . . well, there often seems to be something else to do.  Ha ha.)

A few summers ago one of my Aunt's called me an "enabler" as I was helping her to pack up her house.  I took great offense to this and mustered my courage up enough to ask her about it.  I was so glad that I did as she explained that what she meant was that I was great at motivating her to get through tasks she had been dreading.  Ok.  I can live with that.  Finding out my true gifts and being open to the possibilities of using these gifts to make money sounds good to me.

Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lent Days 27 and 28: Just a Little Bit of Meditation Goes a Long Way . . .

This morning I awoke to then the news that our bank account was overdrawn.  This never feels good.  I'm glad I didn't know about it before going to sleep, but my dreams were a bit rocky so perhaps I knew it instinctively.

I carried around that feeling of unease all morning.

I had my alarm set to wake up early enough to listen to day 2 of the Oprah/Deepak meditation and even took my bath last night to shave off more time.  I didn't move very fast, though, and stayed in bed longer than I should have.  (It was just so warm and cozy!)  My backup meditation app wouldn't open quickly enough for my liking so I just set a 9 minute timer on my phone and did my best to bliss out in the quiet mind without falling asleep.

I rarely take a lunch break at work, but since the library was closed due to testing, I took my laptop to the quiet back room and logged on to today's meditational link.

The message was pretty simple: "Success Increases Love".  "I am here to bring more love into the world."  The Sanskrit mantra was "Aham Prema" which means, "I Am Love".

Deepak said that success is the ability to love and be loved.  I need to love myself on the road to success.  I invite love to flow through my heart.

"Find the seed of bliss within and follow it."  We were asked to focus on our passion.  My passion is service to others.  I know I fall short of this from time to time.  I have owed my mom some help at her place for WAY too long.  (Sorry, Mom!!!)  I fluctuate between wanting to help others and wanting to get the hell away from them. (Not directed at you, Mom.)  :)

Silence and solitude is bliss, but so is connection.

Yesterday's message was "Success is a Living Reality."  We were advised to view success not as an outer goal but to learn to experience it as an inner state of being that can be lived right now.  What is important to me?  Knowing this through self-awareness points my life in the right direction.
Again and again.

Today Deepak said to think about a person or memory in which we were filled with happiness.  I thought about a time last summer when Jake surprised me by taking me on a "gondola" ride around the patio area at church, whistling a song and using a pole to guide us.  He was fun and gentle and loving.  I think I was grinning like a dog who gets to stick her head out the car window.  Deepak said that these feelings/memories are our possessions and we can access them whenever we want to.

After the message follows about 15 minutes of quiet meditational music.  I breathe in and out, repeating the mantra and being nice but strict with my brain when it wants to jump to the "to do" list or other random thoughts.  I am happy to announce that once the meditation was over, the anxiety in my stomach was gone.  I'm glad I made the decision to "take a lunch" today.

Thanks for listening.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lent Day 26: Onwards and Upwards

I am happy to report that my spirits were pretty high today.  I awoke, only pushed the snooze button two or three times, and had a great time on stage today with the band at church.

Today also marked the end of a short phase in my life, as I received some of my things that had been at someone else's house for quite a while.  They are just things and I could have lived without them, but it felt good to have closure.  I put everything away, not dilly-dallying and leaving the task for later, extending uncomfortable feelings which come from things that end differently than we had hoped.

They say our best teachers are the ones who bring out the the parts of us that we don't necessarily like to face.  I have no regrets and send love and gratitude to this person who was a teacher to me.

I just finished watching "Olive Kitteridge", a 4-episode HBO mini-series starring Francis McDormand.  She also played the main female role in "Fargo", which I recently watched.  It's fun when unplanned themes play out.  She's a pretty sensational actor and the parts she played in these two productions couldn't be more dissimilar.

I am a huge fan of character dramas.  I don't need a bunch of action to keep me interested.  I am fascinated by people and watching them on the big screen is less messy than knowing them in real life.  Olive Kitteridge is quick and rude and pessimistic.  In contrast, her husband Henry, played by Richard Jenkins is so nice he seems like a vulnerable sap.  I am continuously interested in what makes couples tick.  So often I see all the reasons why they don't match up, whether on screen or right in front of me.  I guess they somehow balanced each other out.

This show isn't for folks looking for a "feel good" time, but her brash comments were amusing and even though I guarded my heart against falling for any of the characters, I am glad I spent some time in their world, for no other reason than to be grateful for mine.

Tomorrow starts a 21-Day Meditation with Oprah and Deepak.  It's my fourth or fifth time doing one with them and I'm looking forward to moving forward in my awareness practice.  The theme for this one is "Manifesting True Success".  If you're interested in checking it out, here's a link:

So, I'm about to call it a day.  I am grateful for my life's experiences and for the chance to share them with you.

Thanks for listening.

Lent Days 24/25: Acknowledge and Let Go. Rinse and Repeat.

I didn't post yesterday for a few reasons.  Mainly it was because I was upset and I don't like to react in public, or in general, when I'm upset.  Things tend to be said that can't be unsaid when the emotions run high.

Instead of getting it all out in my blog, since the matter was more of a private one, I decided to go for a walk/run with Gypsy, the cool old dog that lives here.  We went decently far.  I was mindful of her age and that her physical health isn't what it once was as well as my foot, which has been hurting since Fall of 2014 due to running in cheap shoes, I think.  I didn't want to overdue it for either of us. After making it quite a ways up a long hill, I decided it was time to head back.  As we walked down I started noticing the tiny wildflowers by the side of the road.  I knew then that I was finally getting out of my hurt headspace.  I became attentive to all the different types of flowers along the hill, stopping and looking at them close-up.  I find it soothing to look at nature.  It doesn't care if I'm having a good day or not, it's just existing for its own sake.  I like this perspective.

Image result for tiny purple wildflowers
As you can see, I didn't take this picture, but these beautiful flowers look like some of the ones I saw.

After taking a long, hot bath it was time for a movie and guacamole.  I re-watched Fargo, which I hadn't seen in a very long time.  Violent but funny and endearing, just like I had remembered.  I went to sleep with a calmer heart.

While in the tub, I read some more in the Untethered Soul book, dog-earring the bottom of several pages worth re-reading in the future.  I'd like to share a bit of it with you.

"As you grow spiritually, you will realize that your attempts to protect yourself from your problems actually create more problems.  If you attempt to arrange people, places, and things so they don't disturb you, it will begin to feel like life is against you.  ... This makes life a threat.  That's why you worry so much. ... The alternative is to decide not to fight with life.  You realize and accept that life is not under your control.  Life is continuously changing, and if you're trying to control it, you'll never be able to fully live it.  ... But once you've decided not to fight with life, you'll have to face the fear that is causing you to fight.  ... When you have fear inside of you, the events of life invariably stimulate it.  Like a rock thrown into water, the world with its continuous changes ripples in whatever is held within you.  ... Life creates situations that push you to your edges, all with the effect of removing what is blocked inside of you.  That which is blocked and buried within you forms the root of fear.  ... Fear is the cause of every problem.  ... Life is surrounding you with people and situations that stimulate growth.  ... You only have to be willing to open your heart in the face of anything and everything, and permit the purification process to take place." (abridged pps 115-117)

 I don't normally include such long quotes, but this stuff is important to me and I wanted to share it with you.  The book also talked about acknowledging when"stuff" comes up and practicing the "let go" right away.  The sooner the better.  So I did that a lot today.  When I felt irritation or sadness arise, I noticed it and breathed some space into it.  Sometimes it dissipated right away, sometimes it took longer, but it always moved on and made space for the next emotion, whether it be something I wanted to feel or something I was ready to let go again and as quickly as possible.

I am not so quick to let go of the "good" emotions, I've noticed.  I really like feeling them and want to cling, but I think it'd be good practice to acknowledge them, like all the rest, and then let them pass on through.  I think this'll bring more peace to me in general.

Tonight I made a decision that was quite unlike my old self.  There was an incident with Jake in which I foresaw his reaction and made a conscious decision not to play into it.  He was displeased with my actions and let me know.  The amount of "bother" I felt because of it was so much less than it would have been in the past, I am amazed.  He's in charge of his emotions and actions, as am I.  I am learning healthier boundaries and will go to sleep tonight feeling lighter than I might have even a few weeks ago.

For this I am grateful.  Very, very grateful.

Thanks for listening.  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lent Day 23: Mothers and Sons

Hello, All-

With the help of my computer whiz student, we've streamlined the Blog layout a bit.  It should be easier to see the red comment icon on the bottom.  I also changed the settings so that comments will post right away.  Hope this helps.

I had a bit of an emotional rollercoaster of a day.  Work was great.  I was happy to be there and felt purposeful as I strode about campus.  Karaoke in the Library at lunch was fun.  There were enough students who wanted to sing so that I didn't need to, although I had "Papa Don't Preach" (Madonna's version) in the queue in case there was a lull in participation.  My favorite part was when one student asked if he could dance instead of singing.  Why not?  He pulled up a favorite song and danced his booty off in front of about 75 students in various degrees of studying, socializing and watching.  I had a new girl as DJ and she took to her role very well.  It was great to see her full of confidence and in her element as she pulled up the requested songs for potential singers and enthusiastically filled in on the mic.

By the end of the work day I was dragging energetically and was thinking a nap might be in my near future.  Jake had plans to ride the bus to the Library so I didn't need to give him a ride home.  As I drove towards his school on my way home, I was reflecting on the lack of feeling I had toward the situation.  I didn't feel overjoyed about not having responsibility for him today and being able to rest if I wanted, but I didn't feel anything negative about it either until I drove by three school buses with students from his school.  Knowing he was probably on one of them and maybe had seen me drive by, my heart cracked and I had myself a cry.

When I gave up my activities in honor of Lent, I made a list of the things I wanted to be cautious about, things that might take up places in my life in a negative way.  Food and sleep are biggies on my list.  I haven't been lethargic but I have been eating more.  What I didn't consider ahead of time was how when I'm busy, I have less time for feelings.  Having an afternoon free suddenly felt overwhelming.  I threw a load of wash in the machine, made a snack and headed to bed.

One of the books I'm reading is The Talisman co-written by Stephen King and Peter Straub.  It came out in the 80s, I think, and I've been off and on with it since December.  I am very sensitive to books with boys as main characters.  I am very protective of them.  This story is about a 12-year-old boy who is on a quest to save his mother.  I probably shouldn't have picked this book to read this afternoon, but I did.  His horrible experiences at the hands of sadistic adults and mean peers didn't alleviate my mood.  I lay in bed about an hour, in that zone between sleep and wake before deciding I'd had enough.

I'm in charge of my emotions.  I get that.  It's just sometimes hard to move out of sadness, even, or especially, when it's hard to pinpoint the source.  I brushed my teeth, started a load of laundry, did a bunch of straightening and listened to really loud and heavy music.  I started a shuffle on my ipod which included The Bronx, Gallows, Bad Brains, Clutch, Quicksand, Transplants, and other fun stuff.  I turned it up extra loud and just let energy take over.  I got out of my funk and started cooking, feeling better as I went.  I had a few more emotional minutes after spotting a pan in the cupboard that reminded me of a pan at my old house.  I miss cooking in "my kitchen" with "my equipment".  I made a lot of meals there and left most of it behind for now.  I tried to get in touch with Jake, who had texted me earlier for permission to walk around town, but I didn't get a chance to talk to him on the phone.  I hope to connect with him tomorrow, watch the latest episode of The Walking Dead and maybe take the dogs to the park.

With dinner we watched "Philomena".  I knew it would make me cry.  This movie  is based on a true story about an Irish woman who is trying to track down the son taken from her when he was young by the nuns at an abbey for unwed mothers and sold to adoptive parents in America.  I got the movie from the Library about three weeks ago and wasn't sure I was ready for it, but it was an excellent movie and my tears were nothing outrageous.

Throughout the day I visualized water running under the door of self-imposed limitations and other situations over which I have little control.  It's become powerful in my mind and I look forward to seeing how Spirit will move in my life.  I let go and let God with a heart of gratitude.

I will end this post with some words from a Healing Card pulled from my deck.
Wellness is our natural state. Disease is an imposter.  Memories are clever imposters, making it appear that an experience or relationship cannot be healed.                             If you believe that, how can you heal your body or protect your health?                                        Replace imposters with a higher truth.

Ok.  I can do this.  And I think I might be up for a little more boyish adventure from The Talisman. One thing I know about King's books is that even though horrible stuff happens to his main characters, things generally turn out alright in the end.

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lent Day 22: I Should Be In Bed, But . . .

But I want to spend a few moments blogging.  I'm liking this habit of expressing myself.  I feel connected to the folks who are reading it and I imagine you as I sit here in my chair.  I send love and blessings.

A few folks mentioned to me that they tried to comment to my posts but didn't have any luck.  I will work on making this easier for ya'll, because I love the feedback and insights.  If anyone has experience with Blogger and knows how to do this, please let me know.  I will have one of my students look at it tomorrow.  She is amazing with this stuff.  I will also see about making the font bigger.  For now, I know if you click the tiny red "no comments" button on the bottom of each post, you can post through there, although it won't show up until I have waved my magic fairy wand.  I set the comments to filter through me first mainly so that I wouldn't miss any.  I must be honest, however, and also say that I'd like to read any comments before they are made public.  I guess this is part of my "need to control".  I can live with this aspect of myself for now.  :)

I'm going to keep this post short, as I am beat, but my mind has been chewing on something I heard today on the Dr. Dyer audio I mentioned previously.  The title of the book is Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life and it is based on Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching.  I can't remember right now which chapter it's from, but Dyer talks about the power of water.  It is strong enough to shape rock, yet one can't just grab it with a bare hand.  The idea behind the chapter is to stop swimming against the tide.  He says to let our dreams flow freely and picture the as of yet elusive ones as behind a closed door.  The door represents the reasons we've told ourselves why we don't deserve whatever the dream is.  (Examples would be abundance, a great relationship, whatever.)  Now picture the water getting through the door, however your imagination wants to see it.  I pictured the door as representing a belief I have against being financially abundant.  My limiting thoughts have been that I am a fraud, that no-one would want to pay me the money I want for the skill set that I have, that I wouldn't be responsible if I had a lot of money, etc.  I started picturing water seeping under that door.  I smile and feel powerful at this image.  What are the doors in your life?  What stands between you and your dreams?  Spend some time visualizing the water getting through that door, however that looks for you.  I will, too.

Neither of these images matched the one in my head, but they'll do.  They both felt good to me, especially the one where the water is pouring through, not just seeping.

Goodnight and thanks for listening and giving such great feedback.