Lessons Learned + Health Update

Apologies to my readers for missing my regular Monday blog post and neglecting to let you know when I would be back. So here I am, back with a couple of lessons that I have learned recently and a health update.


Lesson #1: Never put off writing your blog post for “when you get home” from going into New York City because “when you get home” might well be past “when I should be asleep” and “when I am able to think clearly”.

Lesson #2: Working out in the morning truly makes you feel great and energized for the day!

I wanted to make sure I got my Monday workout in before my city trip because I knew I wouldn’t have time for it afterwards. I’m so glad I did! Hours later, I was still in an upbeat mood and energized about my day.

Lesson #3: Working out makes you stronger in ways that you might not normally perceive.

For my workout, I decided to go to an aqua fit class at my gym. Although trying to move quickly through water while holding weights is still extremely difficult, I found that the steps were easier. I also had more energy for longer and did not feel exhausted by the end of the class. I can only attribute this to the weight lifting workouts that I have added to my life.


Last month, I went for my first visit with a functional medicine doctor in NYC about my fibromyalgia. From our discussion, he recommended folic acid and B12 shots that were administered in his office, as well as thyroid medication and supplements. He called the custom medication to the pharmacy as I sat there. I also left with an order for bloodwork that was to be done two weeks before the followup.

In yesterday’s follow up, I told him the shots gave me a 3 day burst of energy until I had one alcoholic drink that set me back energy-wise. Then we went over the test results: low thyroid, which we knew; low morning cortisol; low Vitamin D; very low Vitamin C; low magnesium; and very low iron. He called in a higher dose of the current thryoid RX and wrote me an additional thyroid RX. Finally, he noticed an elevated peptide that could be indicative of bone loss/osteoporosis, so he’s going to check its values again with the next round of bloodwork.

After some discussion, he confirmed that I probably have Candida and suggested dietary means to starve it or he could write me an RX of diflucan. I couldn’t make up my mind, so he wrote me the RX so I could make up my mind. He also gave me an RX for another round of bloodwork so that we can see how his recommendations are working.   I have a followup with him towards the end of March.

I can only say that I hope restoring vitamins and minerals in my body will ease this chronic pain that I have lived with for over 5 years. I would like to feel lighthearted and free, but it’s nigh impossible when the gravity of pain pulls you down. The next time you meet someone who seems grouchy, consider that they might be suffering in ways that you cannot see and in ways that you cannot know.


Old Cat Meets New Trick

I am of the feline persuasion. Old cats can learn new tricks. My seventeen and a half year old cat Hunter learned he can get my mother to instantly give him treats and food. All he has to do is stand on his hind legs, balance himself against the kitchen chair that my mother is sitting in, and stroke both of her cheeks with his paws.

My new trick was this: Even when my head feels like it is going to implode from congestion and a high-powered antihistamine, I can still write stories. Yes! It’s true! I do not have to be running at maximum capacity to work on my writing.

I am shocked, I tell you. Simply shocked! Okay, well, maybe. Not really.

Recently, I have not been doing writing after morning pages and my blog. I have trouble concentrating and staying focused. This distractibility has been worsened by the medications I take for my fibromyalgia pain.

I am also a Facebook addict. I have been ignoring my self-designated rules for what activities I am to do during the day vs. during the evenings. I decided to make myself sit down and work on my story.

I tend to edit as I write, which can be a problem. Too much editing prevents me from moving forward with my story. I figure I will have to make multiple editing passes on my short story anyway. I have to remind myself not to get bogged down by minutia.

The perfectionist in me longs to find the perfect way to express a thought. Perfectionism has made me feel like I am never good enough. Enough is enough!

The one thing that has made me happier than I have ever been and less angry than ever is that I write. I am finally in the zone where I can tell what is a good decision vs. a bad decision. I am living in peace because of writing.

When I fail to stay focused, I pay the price by becoming even more distracted and do my writing less.

Back to focus.

Back to Self.

Back to writing. That is the only way forward for me.

Morning Writing Brain Tangents

Three pages of daily morning writing is not difficult to fill. If I am not thinking of anything in particular, I start with where I am, what I am doing, talking out my schedule, or about my kitties who are trying to get my attention.

I went through two and a half pages of this type of writing when a series of things I have scheduled for tonight flashed through my mind, followed by a flash of my father and one word: Gagutz. Gagutz (ga-goots) are squash. The actual word for Italian squash is cucuzza, but my parent’s regional Italian accent turns the hard ‘c’ sound into a soft ‘g’ sound and drops the final ‘a’.

When my parents used the word gagutz, they were really talking about the squash flowers. A regional Italian dish of my father’s is deep fried gagutz (squash flowers), which my mother made. The squash flowers were obtained from our backyard garden that my mother grew each year. Fried gagutz was one of my father’s favorite dishes.

How my mind went from thinking about what I’m doing tonight to thinking of my Dad and one of his favorite food dishes is a mental mystery. I must have been thinking about my father subconsciously when I paused to consider what I wanted to write next. I would never have predicted that.

The chasm between the conscious and subconscious parts of the brain fascinates me. Supposedly, our brains process thoughts of which we are not aware when are sleeping and when we are thinking about something else. My conscious mind had its rapid-fire dump of tonight’s tasks when my subconscious pushed my father and gagutz loudly to the surface. This mental tangent illustrates an unexpected benefit to writing daily: I am able to better understand one way that writers get their ideas.

The next type of writing I want to add to my morning writing is a 15-minute slot for timed creative writing. In past creative courses, the goal of the timed writing exercises was to include as many sense-bound details as possible. These exercises helped flex my creative writing muscle, and I wrote richer, more interesting stories.

Step by step, I am learning to create a writing routine that will help me turn 2014 into my  year of writing and writing better. I feel good about the process of making one small change, letting myself see how it feels, and then seeing how well (or not) that it is contributing to my writing goals. In all that I have done, this is the only trick I have ever learned that has helped me not get overwhelmed and move forward. 

Letter to the Editor of The Wendy Times

Dear Staff of The Wendy Times:

I read the article in your paper last week Wendy Won’t Write a Word, and I was aghast to find so numerous inaccuracies about the writer and her writing habits.

Your claim that Wendy was never a good writer is false. I have personally been in her presence when her teachers, family members, and friends have told her that she was always been a great writer. Most recently, I heard one of Wendy’s best friends from high school make that statement.

What does being a good or great writer mean anyway when the person is a child? I grant that possibly the writing was not writing material worthy of the Pulitzer Prize; however, Wendy was in 7th grade. She was learning. How about cutting her some slack? Keep your bitter criticism to yourself or direct it at an adult who, after years of writing, has made no progress. This certainly has not been the case with Wendy.

This blog and this letter are contrary to your article. I herein refer to https://playswithwords.wordpress.com as direct proof that Wendy has, in fact, written quite a few interesting words and told gripping tales, if only to and for herself.

The failure of a child to grow in a subject area  is not necessarily the fault of the child. Teachers should ignite the flame of learning inside their pupil’s souls. I understand this is no small task with plenty of variables; however, a teacher who grades a child’s papers should point out where the writing could be improved along with suggestions on how to do it. A teacher who marks a few errors with a grade and no explanation is a poor example of a teacher. Can you blame the child for thinking she could not write well?

Before you go blasting the author’s progress as an adult, please keep in mind that seemingly minor issues in the life of a child who was rarely encouraged to try new things, if at all, can be a stunning blow to that child’s further development. The purpose of childhood is to learn, to make mistakes, and to grow from those lessons. Without some encouragement to take risks, a highly sensitive child might return to her cocoon instead of reaching outside of her comfort zone. How can you blame her for that?

Dear editors, remember: The world is better off with kind words instead manufacturing lies with which to litter the literary landscape.


Wendy’s Inner Defense Team

(Written for Exercise #5 of Week 1 of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way).

My Waking Up Pages

In The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, she suggests writing every morning upon awakening. She calls them morning pages because they are to be done in the morning. I call them my Waking Up Pages because it will be waking up through my writing, which has meaning on more than one level.

In the Basic Tools chapter, Julia lists 10 Basic Principles that followers of the 12-week program are to read every morning. Item #6 reads:

The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.

I made two copies of the Basic Principles list. I put one inside my daily writing journal and one inside Julia’s book. I wanted to ensure that I would read the list before doing whatever writing I was doing. Number 6 in the list has been particularly poignant for me because I have refused to be creative for my entire life.

One of my first memories is playing with Barbie dolls with my friend, Kendall. She loved dolls, dressing them up, and pretending that Barbie and Ken were going on dates. I remember begrudgingly playing with the dolls because that is what my best friend loved to do, and I wanted to play with my best friend. I remember admonishing myself about not having anything to add, that I didn’t know what I was doing, and that I did not what to make the dolls do, either.

In a recovery inspired manner, the twelve chapters of The Artist’s Way help the reader address various blocks. Week 1 is about Recovering a Sense of Safety, an important base from which creative work springs. My morning pages writings have centered much on recreating that sense of safety and exploring ways in which I have refused my creative drive. Even if you do not believe that creativity is core to the nature of human beings, my refusal to follow a creative path has been counter to my own nature.

This morning, I did not write upon rising. I had some food and got ready to go to an aqua fit class. I arrived in the locker room only to realize I had no towel to dry myself off. I wanted to pout and go to Starbucks for a consoling snack, but I left my wallet at home. I came home, answered emails, and felt a rising panic in my stomach. I was conscious that I was putting off my writing. But why?

My husband and I came to work at the Bellerose Starbucks, and I began to write my daily writing. Although I had interesting dreams to write about, I ignored them to go to aqua fit class. When I sat to write, I could no longer remember them. I vaguely remember exploring themes of companionship and self-care, but the interesting details were gone.

Why did I not write them and go to a later class? My unconscious mind was feeding me back the issues of creating my own safety net and truly taking care of myself. I refused to let myself learn. I refused to grow because an external, logical reason told me that I had something more important to do. Despite knowing there was an afternoon class, my decision to go to the morning class meant that my left brain refused to relinquish any control to satisfy the right. Half of my brain is the prison guard convinced anything not like itself is to be crushed to dust.

This has been the crux of my lifelong creative self-denial: Creativity cannot be defended as logical and practical enough to be respected. Why does my left brain contain such a self-effacing critic that seeks to deny and to destroy anything within my life that is not the same as itself, especially feelings, desires, and urges? As a recent observer, the realization is shocking.

I acknowledged today that I have not wanted to write upon waking because I am too fuzzy headed to think clearly. But maybe that is exactly what I need. I need to act before my rational brain is awake enough to interfere with the expression of my creativity. Using the I’m not awake enough excuse is similar to the I’m not feeling well excuse, the I don’t know what to write about excuse, the the cats won’t leave me alone to write excuse, and the I’m in pain today excuse. Because I have fibromylagia, I chronically experience pain despite taking pain meds.

I need to wake up through writing as my head gains clarity I open my eyes. I need to wake up to my discoveries of self, to my own ability to protect and nurture my self, and to wake up to my own life as it is and can be through creative endeavors.

I am waking up to my conscious and unconscious mind, to my creativity and spirituality, and to my excuses. By surrendering my refusal to create and my negative self-will, I wake up to my life as if sunshine were waking me up from a long, cloudy existence.

TED Talks Addiction: Sir Ken Robinson

Shoutout to one of the blogs I read, Flavorwire, for posting interesting articles on writing and education. I am not sure how I got around to watching Sir Ken Robinson on TED Talks Education on YouTube, but I have been having a delightful time. The intersection of learning, education, and creativity is a topic I love to explore. It helps when the speaker has a short laugh, sense of humor, and delivery akin to Eddie Izzard, my favorite comedian.

If the intersection of learning, education, and creativity is a topic that interests you, I recommend you watch these talks by Mr. Robinson’s:

  1. How Schools Kill Creativity
  2. Bring on the Learning Revolution
  3. Changing Education Paradigms
  4. How to Escape Education’s Death Valley

In his talks, Mr. Robinson makes a solid case that the development of the educational system in America arose during the Enlightenment in direct response to the needs of American industrialization during the 1800’s. Like a factory churning out widgets, we group our children in batches by age (i.e., their manufacturing date), move them along regardless of where they are individually, with an emphasis on only teaching skills that business rewards. On top of that, we undervalue our teachers, have had laws made that try to remove the variability in methods (i.e. standardization of testing, the No Child Left Behind Act), and fail to spark real learning and education in children. Instead, we treat them like their childhood is a disease from which they are suffering (i.e. identify them as suffering from ADHD) and drug the hell out of them.

I think I would have had more problems in elementary school if I had not been on phenobarbital, a barbiturate routinely given to treat epileptic seizures in children in the 1970’s, until I was 12 years old. I can only imagine that it made me less fidgety than other children possibly were feeling at the time. I learned to divert my energies into my studies and to getting good grades.

One of my first and enduring memories about my life was that I was not imaginative. I was not creative. I would never be as creative or as good in my creativity as “other people”. I was taught that building a life out of creativity was something you only did if you were not smart enough to do anything else in life. Isn’t that terrible?

What I wanted then and throughout my adult life has been to build a creative life. As an adult, I repeatedly turned away from myself, from what I wanted, from what I thought I wanted to do with my life, and away from creativity. I was determined to find a way to apply myself to an office job because that was where the stability and the money was.

It was also where the misery was, for me at least. I never wanted to work in an office. I could not imagine myself not working in an office. I never wanted to have bosses and be told what to do. I could never imagine that my own internal thoughts and desires were sufficient directive to do what I wanted. I waxed and waned between anxiety and terror. What if I wasn’t any good?

In the meantime, I threw myself at work. Force words, terms, actions, and knowledge into my head so that I could learn to do something practical. Dependable. Objective. So that no one would point at me and be able to say, “See what you did? You wasted your life! All that smarts and all you did was paint? All you did was write a work of fiction? Why are you wasting your time with unimportant things?” I imagined a person in my head, using my mother’s voice, or the voice or a sister, telling me I was wasting my time. If my time was a waste, I was a waste. If I was a waste, then I did not deserve to be here or do anything worthwhile, because what I thought was worthwhile was to be reviled.

I struggle with creative work. I struggle with writing. I have a story to edit that overwhelms me with all that needs to be done. I will attend to it because I have finally gotten it through my fortified skull the one lesson I earned through my own misery: that no amount of respect or money will make me happy. Only I can make me happy when I chose work that is meaningful to me. To create, to make, and to write are what I love more than anything else. If others  have made a life built on those things, then so can I.

I am not too late. I am here now. I have learned by rejecting the ideals of an educational system that teaches us only certain things that we love, that only certain people, matter. What we do, who we love, and how we treat each other are all things that matter deep within our selves.