Archive for December, 2009

More Valleys and Peaks

Another week of roller coaster riding. On Tuesday I drove to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for Christmas Eve dinner and the guy next to me in the parking lot said that I had a flat tire. (I’m one of those people who just hopes for the best when something feels or sounds weird with cars.) When I asked if he knew how to use the can of Fix a Flat I had in my trunk, he said ‘no,’ and drove off. So I was figuring it out for myself when another guy walked over and asked if I needed help.

We got the tire semi-inflated, then I limped to my car repair shop, where they put more air in it. They’d already patched it once, so they sent me to the tire store. The manager there showed me the large nail in the tire but assured me I could run my errands and that he’d call when he could work me in. So I went back to the grocery store and several other places. He called just as I finished eating lunch. He didn’t charge for the new tire, since the old one was still under warranty.

The next day I volunteered to wrap presents for a couple of hours at our wonderful, locally-owned Book People. I was working with two other members of the Texas Writers League who did not know how to wrap presents. I held out as long as I could, then my innate Virgo (a/k/a Judge Betty the perfectionist) piped up. The customers were all charming and patient, laughing as I showed my co-workers how to properly tape a package.

We’d gotten about $45 in donations for the Writers League when a man came back to pick up the 8 presents he’d left to be wrapped. I talked him out of using up all of our colored bows by demonstrating how to make one of those big ‘pull tab’ white ones. I asked if he was an engineer and he said as a matter of fact he was. Then he wrote us a check for $50.

Christmas was pleasant: nice food, good company. But remember the check my sister sent? Yesterday I went online to be sure it had cleared. You may not be surprised to read that there was no sign of it in my account and naturally the credit union was closed. I felt panic rising, so I did what I always do in these situations (unless my hands are otherwise engaged holding up a wobbling tree or squirting foam into a tire): an alternate handwriting session.

Dominant Hand: Do you think this is a sign that I should… well, what is it a sign of?

Alternate Hand: as always, watch the ‘shoulds’… not insurmountable and maybe not even a problem! don’t let this snafu mess up happiness, gratefulness, excitement you’ve been feeling.

Later in the day something told me to look online again. And there was the money, deposited into my savings, not checking, account. This was just after a heart-stopping event that involved my dogs, but I’ll save that story for another day. If you want a dog story right now, I just posted  Part 4 of Gerry and Mattie in Pages.

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Catastrophes and Kindnesses

Many of my alternate handwriting sessions are about what I perceive as mixed signals. My dominant hand diligently writes a list of all the things that have gone wrong. My alternate hand responds with something soothing (tragedy & adventures. time for new adventures. nice if not ‘tragic,’ but words are relative, as you know). Then it invariably asks me to make a list of the good things that have happened.

Two evenings ago my fully decorated, six-foot Christmas tree crashed onto my living room floor, taking several ornaments with it. The tree had been up for several days and I’d just put the skirt and some gifts under it, after vacuuming and putting away the ornament boxes.

It’s a noble fir so it weighed a ton. A friend had helped me get it in the stand and then decorated, but at this moment I was alone, desperately trying to hold it steady while I got the rest of the ornaments off. I had visions of my floor warping because of course the stand was full of water.

I got it stripped and lugged it out into the front yard, where I unceremoniously dumped it. Then I mopped up the water. I think the floor’s fine, but I was pretty freaked and very sad to see that one of my oldest ornaments, a little red polka-dotted glass bell, had smashed. When I say “old” I’m not kidding: we bought it in Germany in the 1950s.

Yesterday morning I woke up with a sore throat, which made me even grumpier, and a long ‘to do’ list. And everything that happened seemed to be trying to make me feel better. My postman took my package and said he’d mail it for me. He wouldn’t let me pay him. The guys where I bought the tree gave me a solid new stand, then one of them, whom I’ve known since 1985, came home with me, set the tree in the stand and patiently moved it until it was perfectly centered in the front window.

Still dressed in my long-john t-shirt and polar bear jacket, I dashed across town to a networking meeting that was perfect: soothing and low-key. There was an almost palpable feeling of peace in the room. After that I ran a couple of errands and each time I was shown great kindness. I came home to discover my dear sister had sent me a sorely-needed check and I’d gotten a present from my darling great-niece (who just turned 2). Plus five kinds of cookies.

Last night, after I wrote about all these kindnesses as AH suggested, it wrote, and your own kindnesses. And it listed them for me so I’d appreciate my own efforts. As for my lack of money, it wrote, does seem to come when least expected. The dreaded “e” word. AH always points that one out. A few weeks ago it wrote, don’t tie yourself to expectations. things may work out there but can’t control outcomes. can trust them though… fine to be hopeful: watch out for ‘expectant.’

I like the word “anticipate.” It’s less loaded. And for those of you reading the story about Gerry and Mattie and anticipating Part 3: I just posted it in Pages. I hope you enjoy reading from Gerry’s letters as much as I did. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo of her but I know she’d like this one of the deer and fawns she so loved.

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I have a friend I’ll call Lydia who runs a business that encourages people to cook healthy foods and sit down and eat together. She also has a young son and helps her husband manage two restaurants, so she’s always busy. Lydia is very generous and thoughtful and I treasure the rare times we can get together. Mostly we rely on emails.

I was intrigued when she sent me one that said,

“Used my AH in an exercise yesterday with a women’s group and had huge insight! Thanks for teaching me!”

We tried valiantly to get together but finally settled for a phone call. “I want to hear all about your alternate hand insight,” I reminded her. She said it happened while she was at a life coaching meeting. Her coach was leading the group in an exercise about finding their personal power.

Lydia had done this exercise “a bunch of times” and hadn’t had much luck. This time, though, she decided to try writing with her alternate hand.

“I got the most beautiful, surprising answers,” she told me. The words she wrote included surrender, grace, freedom and writing. She went on to say that she’s planning to write a book next year whose theme is that our bodies are a gift to us.

I’m coming to understand painfully slowly how surrendering can be powerful. This was brought home last week when I argued with someone about what I (a/k/a Judge Betty) thought was rude behavior. The argument escalated and so did my blood pressure. We were in a group (in public!) and I made everyone uncomfortable but by dang, I was right.

To quote an old Randy Newman song, It’s lonely at the top. And you can think you’re right and be way wrong.  So I apologized for my rudeness. It took a while to surrender the high ground I thought was mine, and I hope I wasn’t too late.

After I apologized, I came across the notes I’d written during my phone conversation with Lydia. Too bad I didn’t read it sooner. There’s much room for grace in my life.

Note for those of you following my story about Gerry and Mattie: I’ve just posted Part 2 in Pages.

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Many people have told me that when they die, they want to come back as one of my dogs. I inherited this trait from my father. His children often said he talked more to the dogs than he did to us. He kept up a steady stream of conversation with his dogs, who followed him everywhere and agreed with everything he said. Really, it’s hard to ask for more than that.

There’s a short story called “Schnoodles” on my website. It was published by the wonderful NPO Animal Trustees of Austin (www.animaltrustees.org). In the story I mention that the two little schnauzer/poodles I adopted through ATA were later joined by another dog named Mattie. I inherited Mattie from my friend Gerry.

Last year I sat down to write a story about Mattie. I’d thought it would be another short, light-hearted piece. Instead, it turned into a testament to Gerry, who for 10 years wrote me the most wonderful letters. As I started going through them to find details for my planned piece about Mattie, I realized there was a much bigger story to tell.

It took me quite a while to write it, because I wanted to do justice to an incredibly strong, funny woman and darling little Mattie. I love the way it turned out: as in all writing that’s close to the heart, at times it almost wrote itself.

Last week I was going through a particularly stressful period. As usual, I did an alternate handwriting session to help me put it in perspective. Very soothing, that perspective thing. My dominant hand wrote of how important it is for me to get input from clients and students. I was feeling frustrated because I hadn’t had a chance to do that lately and didn’t know the best way to go about it. I truly believe alternate handwriting can change us all for the better, and telling how it’s helped so many others makes my case that much stronger.

AH replied, Yes — need to get the word out to put the word out. Then, seemingly out of nowhere it added, Mattie story still not shared. good story. exceptional.

No false modesty: most of the story was written by Gerry, whose letters I quoted extensively. I’ve decided to serialize it. I’ve always wanted to do that, like in the old magazines. So if you go to Pages you’ll see Part 1: A torch is passed.

I hope you enjoy it. And I’m so grateful to my right brain for reminding me to share it.

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