A story of our pets as teachers

A recent post by fellow-blogger Steve Kenagy brought back poignant, important, consoling, and peaceful memories.

One beloved cat (Ginger) simply stopped showing up. We never knew what her life was like after the day she did not show up for dinner. This cat (an independent-thinking, fun, challenging, and loving manx) had “shown up” in our lives, at the start uninvited, but Continue reading “A story of our pets as teachers” »

Writing session after TwD – Part 1

At every TwD session, I make notes for writing I would like to do Right Away. I know I am not alone. Another group member and I have decided to plan on staying at the gracious space of Friends Philosophy and Tea after the TwD session to do some writing….. sometimes in silence…. right after the session.

Here is the emerging idea, and you are invited:

TwD proceeds from 1 until 2:30. We “break” from 2:30 to 2:45 or so to finish conversations, stretch, refill our tea, etc.

At 2:45 we gather near the fire, perhaps, or at the tables set up for teahouse guests, for an hour. We encourage each other by simply being together in that gracious space.

When I depart TwD and I get involved in “other projects,” I experience a delay before writing a draft of the “great idea” inspired by the TwD session. I want to capture the inspirations. I can see that my writing practice could include reserving Tuesday afternoon from 1 until 4 for the double benefit of the Tuesdays with Deborah session, followed immediately by an hour of writing.

Last Tuesday, my friend Sharon who was at TwD for the first time began to say, “I need to write about the day that…..” I said: “Simply tell me the story. I will capture it, and you will have a first draft to work with.”

Sharon and I enjoyed a chuckle, later, about the results, and we will reverse the process the next time that we are both at TwD – perhaps Tuesday May 29.

If you feel inspired by the TwD process and want to stay with other writers for one more cup of tea, please join us.  It will be a challenge to not chat the hour away, but we are Writers developing Writing Practices.  Wonderful things that we cannot even imagine will emerge from writing for an hour after TwD.

On June 4, I added a post called “Writing session after TwD Part 2”

Our weekly TwD Writers’ Conference

Yesterday’s session opened with the ritual passing of Deborah’s Chinese porcelain mirror into which we looked and said, “Mirror mirror in my hand, who was the leader of The Band?”

No wait. That wasn’t the question. That was my timid humorist identity making an appearance alongside the usually-out-front sincere-ist identity. Our actual ritual was to look ourselves in the eye and say, “My name is Liz and I am a writer.” (Sometimes I write new words, such as “sincere-ist;” I’ll bet other readers of this blog also have fun inventing words.)

I once posted that claiming my identity as writer has helped to unblock and animate some of my other identities that need to work together toward the common good of various projects and responsibilities.

Deborah, as a writer, writing coach, teacher, leader, guide, and generous-hearted person offers at our Tuesdays with Deborah sessions a seemingly limitless supply of techniques, such as the suggestion that we free-write. Every weekly session results in practical, useful, do-able writing inspiration. As Deborah says, “Authentic writing provokes.” It certainly does.

The weekly sessions remind me of writers’ workshops I have attended.

I have attended the four annual “Search for Meaning” Book Festivals at Seattle University. This year, I attended sessions by two poets, by a writer in the field of ethical leadership, and by a writer of many genres including humor. The festival takes place each March.

Recalling the surprising benefit obtained by this non-poet in a workshop led by poet Frances McCue, I wondered if she has scheduled any local workshops in the near future that I might recommend to TwD peeps.  I came upon a two-day writers’ conference offered by Whatcom Community College.

Weaving many threads together in this post, I am grateful for the weekly writers’ conference that TwD is for me (and I think for others). I value the experience, the relationships, and the writing encouragement. I note that my next opportunity to attend a McCue workshop would be at a $259 two-day workshop.  Wow!  That is a little “less” accessible in the commitments of time, driving, and money than the weekly TwD sessions that happen just up the street from my home, every week, accompanied by a reluctant but practical invitation to help cover the cost of the space by contributing something less than the cost of a movie ticket.

I am eager now to read everything that has transpired in this community space during the month of April.

Being Inspired

So, Deborah sends me an e-mail saying she can’t wait to see my fist post.  YIKES…you mean somebody might actually READ this?  What a concept.  Now I really have to come up with something good.  No pressure there, nope, none.

Deborah is just trying to be supportive and encourage me.  I know that.  She is not the one putting the pressure on me.  I am.

What is it, in us, that turns the kindest gesture from another into something that creates stress?   What purpose could this fulfill?

This is a major focus of my life’s work.  I sit across from people who have found themselves in more distress than they would like to be.  It’s my job to show them how they are doing it to themselves, then to help them do something that works better.  I love my work.

What I find over and over in my work is that what causes us the most pain is the judgment we place on ourselves.   We often don’t notice that the source of our judgment comes from within; we project it out onto others.  That’s what I did with Deborah’s e-mail.  I projected my own judgment onto her, onto anyone who might read what I write.  There isn’t anyone out there who will read what I write and judge it more harshly that I can.  Most people won’t even think to judge, they will just read and enjoy, or not.

If I censor what I write, to avoid another person’s judgment, I limit myself.  If I censor what I write to avoid my own judgment, I will completely stop myself.  How much of the time are you stopping yourself?  What is the self-judgment you are trying to avoid?  And, what would happen if you tried to see yourself from the perspective of the ones in your life that most support you?  How much of the judgment can you hold onto if you are seeing yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you?

I’ve just met Deborah.   From what I know so far, she loves to write and to share what others write.  I haven’t posted anything yet, so she has no idea what my writing “voice” sounds like, and she is curious.  In the way that I love to work with people to help them release the self-judgment, she loves to help inspire people to write.  So, when I took the first steps to be able to post something, she was pleased, and let me know.

Now, I have a choice.  I can succumb to my self-judgment and stop myself, or I can take a deep breath and face my self-judgment by posting something.  In facing it, I find the next best place to stretch myself to grow.  In this case, it is writing and posting.  What is it for you?

So, here you go Deborah.   Thanks for the inspiration.

Carla Camou, NLP Trainer and Personal Change work:  www.nlpinseattle.com

Stop Doing It or Start Charging For It

Wow! This empowering, liberating, affirming, respectful, and somewhat scary message dominated part of the March 27 TwD session. Karin Q was the good natured, curious, courageous, authentic, valuable expert whose knowledge base and practices were the subject of discussion. What a gift to the group that we could all hear, and hopefully learn, so much in the “laboratory” discussion around what is near and dear to her heart.

Later in the day, I felt a jolt! I have already established a market rate for the personal advocacy I have done with friends and family for twelve years! Some years ago, a young adult friend was hit by a car and sustained disabling injuries. She had no local family, and so our family simply said, “We are your family.” I was with her every day for a while, then intermittently for a long time. It was gift. It is simply “what we do in the world.”

But there came a time that she said, “You have always said it isn’t about money, but the reality is the responsible party has taken responsibility for this situation and I have received a check. You gave me the gift that you could give when I needed it, and I fear you will not allow me the same privilege.” I said, “My friend, of course I will accept a gift with gratitude. Just as you did. But this was never a marketplace transaction between us.” We did not discuss numbers, she simply wrote a check that represented value. And let’s just say that no one needed to fear getting in trouble with the I.R.S. over excess gift taxes, but….. the gift was sizable.

The details of that year have faded from my memory, but I knew our discussion yesterday applied to me in some way.  All afternoon I wondered, “what would be a market value for my expertise?” To my surprise, these events came back to me. I did the math in my head and called my friend saying, “I am so grateful for a gift you have given me that I never appreciated before right now. So I called you immediately. Remember the events of all those years ago? Well…. because of you, I can say to future clients, ‘my going rate is [a certain amount] per hour.’ ”

I came to TwD hoping to gain what I needed to simply write a blog that others might benefit. And that will happen. Soon. I have developed content and a blog name, acquired a domain name, and I depart today on what I regard on a WordPress learning retreat. I hope to have a blog to share with you next Tuesday.

I never imagined it might be the start of an income stream. It is not an income stream the family needs to keep the lights turned on, but value is value. The words “Stop Doing It or Start Charging” apply to me.


Being a force for good in the world is the aim of those who train in Aikido: the art of peace. How can a martial art increase peace in the world? It is the interdependence between training partners. No nage (nah-geh )without uke (oo-keh). Bringing energy, receiving and blending with it, and putting it out into the world for good. In Aikido, it looks like ending fights. Actually, when practiced well, it looks like preventing fights…. Sometimes it looks like “rondori” – multiple partners training together.

Peace. The “low level” peace of stopping, or not starting, a fight, the practice of which forms persons to be peace-hearted people. Peace requires strength, heart, courage, and diverse skills in the world.

Aikido derives from sword forms of martial arts. There is a lesson here for those of us whose art is the word.

Writing and speaking are art forms, like Aikido, that require interdependence between partners. Communication is a loop between two, or among more than two, people. Uke and Nage and Rondori…. The same concepts exist in the world of Aikido and in the world of words…. bringing energy, receiving and blending with it, putting it out into the world, sometimes with multiple people at a time.

Aikido is being an embodied force for good in the world. Writing and speaking provide the opportunity to be a voice for good in the world. A different kind of force for good in the world.

Masters of the sword honor their gift in the world by being careful to not cut people. Masters of the sword are careful when to use the sword… And how…. And where…. And why… And with whom.
Masters of the word honor their gift in the world by being careful not to cut people.
Being my kind of force for good — for peace — in the world is the combination of what words to use, where to use them, when to use them, how to use them,  with whom to use them, and why.

I am the aspiring word master whose life has been formed and informed by many forces, including a swordmaster named Jeff Sensei, his teacher named George Ledyard Sensei, and their many students, one of whom is my beloved son and teacher Carson.

What “A Short Aside” looked like on dashboard and inline

Stephen Magladry showed us, with lightning speed, what a WordPress “Aside” looks like. On my WordPress Dashboard,  when viewing all published posts, the item is tagged as an Aside. How intuitive. This moment allows me to practice, for the first time, inserting an image, because I grabbed a screen shot of what that aside looked like on my dashboard, and I am going to attempt to insert the dot-tiff file. I used the Upload/Insert button above the Bold and Italics toggles on the editing menu bar.

I will learn the following additional details by trying them out. I wonder what would happen if I changed the “filters” on my dashboard. Right now, it is set to View All Categories. I wonder if this Aside and this comment are visible to all Tuesdays with Deborah participants. In conversation, an “aside” is usually to a subset of all people in a room, but that concept may not apply in WordPress. Maybe an Aside is a “type” of post.

The train of thought has now departed the station of “plain language” and is heading toward jargon, so I will stop now.

Thank you, Stephen. I look forward to taking your WordPress Dashboard seminar sometime, but I have a regular volunteer gig on Tuesday mornings so it will take some calendar juggling.


Turns out this is what the Aside looks like in the “thread” on the Tuesdays with Deborah home page, scrolling through content. I am playing with different materials in the art box of WP here – trying out features. Thanks for playing.

Benefit of bloggers’ group session

We discussed how to focus blog posts from the point of view of readers who come to “the web” with a question in mind – with search terms for a search engine. We want our blogs to be found by people who have….. what questions in mind?

I am trying to discover a name for my emerging blog, as described in a previous post.

After yesterday’s session (Tuesdays with Deborah on March 6, 2012) I realize I want my blog to be found by people with these questions in mind:

How can you evaluate the quality of senior living options?

Is there anything like Consumer Reports for senior living?

How do you know if your loved one’s senior living is actually any good?

What can I learn about [this event] that happened in senior living?

Are there any independent ratings of senior living?

How do residents and family advocate for quality service and quality care in senior living?

Now repeat those questions, substituting other words for “senior living.” Those other words would be nursing home, skilled nursing facility, assisted living, veterans’ home continuing care retirement community, and adult family home, because those are the terms used in Washington State.

Now I will ponder what those questions “in people’s minds” would sound like in SEO search terms.

Suggestions for Tuesday group meeting. Got some?

I have one suggestion for the “Tuesdays with Deborah” group meeting time. I know that “there is no such thing as a stupid question.” Whenever I have had the courage to give voice to a question, other people have had the same question and are pleased it was asked. Likewise, I am always willing to “put the first playing card on the table.” Other people might add playing cards that “cover mine up,” or “trump mine.” YAY! Or maybe we add metaphorical playing cards that complete a whole set of some type.

Being so new to the group – only since mid February 2012 – I feel it is “nervy” of me to “offer a suggestion” here. Please hear the invitation in this post. This group is exactly what I need. I have learned so much from reading contributors’ writing, and from hearing what meeting attendees’ say. I also believe that community members have privileges and responsibilities. I have “heard” Deborah’s invitation to us participants to help shape and add energy and value to the group process. I look forward to comments on this post that might indicate YOUR suggestions.

I have ONE suggestion. I feel it would be beneficial to begin every session with a planned, structured, “ice breaker.” Being “new,” I did not know the first names of everyone in the room, either at the beginning, or at the end, of today’s session. “What if” we were to begin sessions like this:

“We will go around the circle clockwise. Say your first name, and the name you use on the group’s blog, and answer this question. If you don’t have an answer to the question, simply say your name, and ‘pass.’ Here is the question for today. ”

Here is an ice breaker I have had fun with. Bring 20 pennies from, let’s say, the 1980s . Everyone takes a penny and then the question is “Tell us something from your life in that year.”

My friends, I am not saying this is a “good” idea, or a “good” suggestion; it is simply what I have to offer, at this time, in answer to what sounds to me like Deborah’s sincere desire for this group to feel like….. shared authorship/shaping of the group process. Please hear gratitude above all else, because that is what I feel “the most.”


How do I discover a name for a new blog?

Grateful for the space here that Deborah Drake has provided for not-so-reticent bloggers, I have drafted enough posts to have the confidence to think about launching my new blog on “a subject that is near and dear to my heart.” Which has become “a subject that I know something about.” The general topic area is “what the long term care experience is supposed to be like, vs. what many people are experiencing and putting up with.”

I do not claim to be “an expert.”

I am not a medical professional.

I am not a legal professional.

I am a loving friend and family member, an informed and caring citizen and consumer.

I like facts. I like objective information. I like informed opinions and well-developed arguments. But my heart is pretty loud, too, and will not be silenced and kept out of communication.

I am grateful for the ways my life has been enriched by being present with people whose lives have part of this landscape, either for a short while, or a long while.

I am a little outraged. I am a bit sad. I am hopeful. I believe that the energy and attention that has benefited rights in other arenas will benefit our beloved elders and disabled in long term care.

I wonder what would be an authentic and appropriate name for the blog that contains “that” voice? I will continue to ponder. Thoughts are welcome, even if those thoughts do not “sound like” a blog name.

Not every one of my posts in this space is on that topic. There were a couple other pieces of writing “I had to do,” and I published them here. When I am “blocked” by a little annoyance or outrage or sadness on any topic, … throwing it onto paper seems to get me unblocked. You may know the feeling. Thank you for reading.

Note: I return to this post to add that the March 6 session of Tuesdays with Deborah helps me toward an answer. I am grateful to all who were there.