Quality Query 101: Resumé for Readership | Publishing

A Quality Query Gets You a Job:
Write a Query That Says, “You Want to Hire Me”

You write a query letter to introduce a piece of your writing, hoping a publisher will produce and sell it. You may send a query directly to an editor who acts as a representative of his/her publishing house or to an agent. On your end, an agent is an employment specialist charged with getting you a job. For an editor, an agent is like a scout who lightens the editor’s load by bringing them “the best.” If we assume you want to publish your book and you can “sell” your book to an agent, the agent can sell your book and you to an editor. So, you will want to create the best query you can, one that will be among the best of the queries an agent receives.

An agent cannot guarantee a publisher will accept your work, but may streamline your effort. A good agent has a basic understanding of contract law, quality writing, and trends in readers’ tastes. More importantly, a good agent has built strong relationships with editors by referring writers to them that meet the desires and expectations of each one’s respective publishing house. If you want your work published, you want a good agent, a successful agent. Agents who want to succeed naturally want to work with writers who will succeed. If you don’t show an agent a quality query, they won’t want to work with you. However, if your query comes off as a good resumé, an agent will want to work with you because they see you have good potential for being “hired.”

A Quality Query Sustains Your Employment:
Write a Query That Says, “I’m Worth Checking Out”

To develop your skill at writing the best queries, begin by evaluating a query you have already written. You can measure a query’s quality within various frameworks. I prefer two, in particular. One of these methods for evaluating your query requires recognizing that an agent looks upon the query as a potential reader. To maximize the benefits of that recognition, you must understand that all communication, even that for entertainment, informs. Therefore, every author is a professor and every reader is a student. Every book is a course and every encounter builds the relationship between professor and student, author and reader. Your query introduces you as the professor and your book as the course.

Have you ever read a course catalog for continuing or community education? They are selling the school or community. They want your money. They want you to sign up for more than one course. They want you to think they are desirable and cool and they will help you be the same. Descriptions for courses, especially, are like reading vacation brochures. Your query is your course description. After all, those professors are not on salary. Neither are you. They usually get paid per course. Usually a school or whoever is sponsoring the course will cancel it if the course’s enrollment does not meet a pre-determined smallest class size. Furthermore, the “employer” often uses the number of students who actually show up for the course as part of their equation to calculate how much to pay the professor. So, guess what? You are not getting paid unless you convince people with your query that if they enroll in your “book,” you will lead them to a life-enriching destination.

Are you confused and wondering if you must set your story in Aruba or Jamaica? You think about some great books you’ve read and realize I must not mean that because I have no reason to lie to you. So, just what do I mean by “a life-enriching destination”? Every student who willfully approaches a course like this, one not required and for which she’s paying, wants to feel confident of growing; she wants to learn and enjoy herself doing it. Your students want your book to intrigue them, yet not reach too far past what they are capable of understanding. They want a sense of realism, a means to measure their progress, and reassurance they’ll be able to apply what they learn. Does your query convince your agent you offer these. Your students need to feel confident you will teach them and they aren’t spending their money on a course they are going to fail. Your agent as prospective reader is wondering these same things.

A Quality Query Assures You Get Paid:
Write a Query That Says, “I’m Worth Paying to Hear”

Your agent asks herself, consciously or not, a pivotal question when she reads your query. That important question is the one which decides if a prospective reader buys your book. So, the question is this, “if this topic interests me, is the author of this book who I want to pay to tell me more about it?” Many writers would like their work published, if for no other reason than, through their writing, to meet their own human need to connect with others. When we connect, we enrich our lives. We learn our experience is unique, but one to which others can relate. We also learn that our story is worth being heard. You are unique, worthwhile, important, and special. I know that because you have journeyed through this article with me. So go write a query that convinces others of the same, that convinces your agent people will pay to hear your story. The best way to get paid is to pay it forward.

Responsibility in the Blogosphere | Ethics

www.snopes.com

http://www.snopes.com (Photo credit: biggraham)

Recently, I came across a blog that quoted and commented on an article that has been widely circulated, mostly in email, but is full of misinformation.  I know bloggers aren’t professional journalists and do not belong to any ethical society.  However, discovering that a blogger may not realize the power of their words available online disappointed me.  That at least one reader questioned the report’s validity pleased me, though.  In my comment, I provided a link to the Snopes article referring to the report.

Snopes is one of a few online resources known to research without bias whether a reported fact is indeed the truth.   Most often, such services focus on the distribution of emails and the online publication of materials that are distributed en mass and have the ability to significantly sway person’s opinions and therefore behavior.  Sadly, when it comes to some very important matters such as the interpretation of research statistics, language, and literary work, the complexity of the necessary investigation and of the detail needed to accurately present results is far too involved for a service like Snopes to undertake.   In fact, often times, such is the topic of countless volumes and only the most dedicated and discerning reader can come close to an accurate assessment of the truth in what s/he is examining.

I respected the blog reader’s willingness to read what others write with a spirit of discernment.  Hopefully she does the same with what she hears.  If we are to be seekers, ministers and bearers of Truth, one important ingredient is doubt.  We are not to doubt the Truth, but rather what is presented to us as Truth until we can discern validity to the best of our ability through careful consideration of the motives of majority opinion, well-rounded study, dialogue with experts in their field, reasoned argument, and earnest prayer. God gave us brains and the Spirit to guide us for a reason.  Even well-intentioned persons are capable of great folly, whether by accident, lack of discipline in spiritual stewardship, or the misguided ignorance of spiritual immaturity.  We all have room to grow and we can best do so by exercising the “muscle” of our brain and practicing virtues for the development of our souls.

Aside from personal responsibility in such situations, I’ve been wondering as blogging becomes more popular, what if any measures should be in place to encourage accuracy in the report of “facts”?  How can we do so without infringing upon free speech?  Who would be responsible for regulating such?  I think we can all recognize the difference between slant versus lie.  Even if one source says, “General Smith strode to the mic,” another says, “walked to”, and a third says, “ambled up to,” they all agree on the fact that the General moved towards (apparently on his feet) and arrived at a specific microphone.  Mass dissemination of misinformation has the potential to create or prevent change in ways that have significant negative impact.  What responsibility do I have to help prevent such?

If you enjoyed this article, consider reading the following related post on this blog,  On Blind Faith.  Your comments on one or both are greatly appreciated.

Letting Go – poem by Joe Pfeffer

An adult seagull (Larus michahellis)

Image via Wikipedia

I’d like to introduce you to the poetry of Joe Pfeffer, a new friend I made at a poetry reading at Hartford Coffee Company in Saint Louis, MO.  I will be featuring more of Joe’s work in the days ahead while I continue on a break.

. . .

Letting Go

When it was
Over, she told him not to care
Because he’d seen it all before.

He’d heard her voice,
He’d seen her cry when she was sure
No one would look.

He said they all can
See the way you take that flute and
Make it into fire,

The way you hold the moon
In both your hands then
Let it float away as though

You never knew the terror in the
Seagull’s yawp of triumph.
Go now, she said, and do not

Think of me, but of your
Heart no longer empty,
And your soul no longer free.

                     ~ Joseph Pfeffer (copyright 2011)

Recovery Part 2: Pain, Pain Another Day; Misery Go Away – photo illustrated

God Cried for Me And Promised Relief

It WILL get better...

Sometimes I feel like I can’t stop crying and other times I feel like I feel so much that I just stop feeling altogether. I discovered a forum last night for chronic back pain. I’ve struggled with it for years, the cause never diagnosed. Although, I have to say, it’s taken a back seat to some of my other conditions, like Bipolar Depression, for one. I’m hurting emotionally a lot worse than physically right now. Last night, I was crying for both reasons.

A couple weekends ago, I wasn’t trusting myself to remain safe, realizing that the irrational obsessive thoughts of death running through my mind were increasing and were disproportionate to my current circumstances (well, suicidal thoughts are always disproportionate, but…you know.) I checked myself into an inpatient psych unit, but left before I really felt ready because the crappy beds intensified my back pain SO, SO MUCH. I didn’t expect to go there and suddenly feel better, but I couldn’t handle feeling worse. There and since, I haven’t been able to sleep more than a few hours a night despite a combo of two medications for pain and one for sleep.

Anyway, I discovered in the forum a man who I think experiences much more physical pain on a daily basis than I ever have. I read through a lot of what he’d written. He acknowledged his emotional struggle with horrible thoughts (like my own, I imagine) but the mention was minor in the midst of his recounting of the wildlife around him. I found myself uplifted by his vivid descriptions. I felt transported. His experiences came to life in my mind.

But I was even more encouraged by the spirit of this man who noticed and cared for the forest and it’s creatures around him. He reflects on a cute albino raccoon baby. In the midst of a winter storm, he describes putting out hay for the deer, seeing the fear in their eyes. He tells of spending four hours one night making rounds to feed the animals. He reminded me that the only way to push through pain is one moment at a time, being in the moment and looking for the beauty. He reminded me that being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely. Lying in bed, I only see a brick wall out my window. But I’ve seen the beauty of nature in the past and my mind can still be my retreat.

My grandpa and grandma lived out in the boonies next to the Rock River. I’d forgotten, when I’m hurting, I can escape to “The Camp” in my mind. I imagine the man who wrote in the forum about his life in the forest finds the same solace in the nature around him. I remember, too, how connected to everything I felt and how loved I felt there. Sadly, my grandfather shot himself, when I was thirteen, because of pain that doctors hypothesize was from a brain tumor (too much of his brain was gone for them to know). That still is the most profound thing, positive or negative, that has ever happened to me up to this point in my life.

For many years, what I perceived as him “giving up” was an excuse for me to do the same. I never told anyone how much I hurt inside until I was nineteen, ten years after the thought of ending my life first occurred to me. However, I came to realize the experience of my grandfather’s suicide, when combined with a few others later, as something to save me. You see, I never want MY suicide to be anyone’s excuse for giving up. I finally realized God didn’t give up on me; God kept holding onto me when I couldn’t hold on.

I try to explain to people that that’s part of the difference between religion and spirituality to me. Religion to me is the specifics of one’s beliefs and how you live out and cultivate them. Spirituality is the guts of faith, realizing I’m not the be all or end all; it’s about humility and relationship. So I decided I couldn’t give up on the Good Orderly Direction of existence that continued to value me as a part of itself; I couldn’t ever “give up” again if I hadn’t done my part. I have to ask myself in every moment of crisis, “Have I done absolutely everything I can to help myself?” I’ve never since that time been able to answer “yes”, so I survive one day at a time through even my darkest moments. It’s just sometimes I’m only hurting terribly, really sad, and even depressed. But other times, I become downright miserable. I don’t have to be miserable. So, again, just for today, I choose joy over misery.

Two Highway Haiku |poetry

country tech
Member “pdokey1365” on Flickr took the photo above near Bloomington, Illinois . I think it’s a great match for these two Haiku I wrote as a pair while driving north six hours midday through the mostly quiet, flat farm fields of Illinois, on my way to visit family. This is my first real attempt at haiku, so I’d love feedback.

Mine
Flat straight ribbon road
caramel chocolate cream
bordered gold and white

Alone
stretching far ahead
melting, expanding, shrinking
shadows left then right

~ Callisse J. De Terre
copyright 15 December 2010, last revised 6 September 2011

Doing Away with Welfare Rodents – perspective

This article was originally published July 6th of 2011 and is being republished as a foundation for an upcoming article. The illustration is a recent addition, a stock photo image combining photography and clip art to which I added the words then blended the coloring. Enjoy the article. Please share your opinions and be a part of the solution…

Have you heard that term, “welfare rodents”? It’s the most derogatory term I’ve heard to describe those, especially children, reliant on welfare. I heard someone mumble it as I walked with the two foster kids, for whom I help care, to our seats for the fireworks display last night. It implies such people are like rats – dirty, sneaky, robbing food, spreading disease, worthy of nothing more than laboratory experiments. Some express the same sentiment more subtly like 1996 Kansas House guest minister Rev. Joe Wright, who in the prayer to open the session (since referred to as The Prayer of Repentance and actually written by Rev. Bob Russel), stated  “We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.” I do empathize to a degree with the prayer’s sentiment; I agree there are people who abuse the welfare system. However, as stated, his words imply that all on welfare are lazy. This is not a new or infrequently held attitude. In fact, as the numbers on welfare rise due to our recent financial crisis, this espoused opinion reverberates far and wide. The foster kids are of course on welfare, but I won’t discuss them any further here. I, too, currently am on welfare. I can’t be sure whether the person who mumbled the term was referring to any of us, but it has given rise to things I’ve been wanting to say and haven’t yet. I am disabled, but I am not my disability. I am unemployed, but I am not lazy. I have tried repeatedly to work, even since first being on disability, and not only failed, but endangered my health even more by trying to do so. Some are forgiving of the disabled or displaced children on welfare, but reject the notion that others need it. In general, I disagree with this perspective. I could sit back and quietly accept that at least they’re not picking on me, but it’s just not in my nature.

I once had a personal care attendant who assisted me for over a year and also relied on welfare to a degree. She was an honest, hard-working, God-loving woman with three very sweet boys, aged 11, 7 and 3. Her first husband abandoned her and her first son, providing no support. Her second husband worked a 36 hour split-shift in Dietary at a hospital. I won’t give you a full run-down of their expenses, but they were not frivolous in their spending. They simply could not make ends meet. She was only able to get 15 hours per week of work at just above minimum wage. She had been able to get more hours before her car broke down. Then, at one point, when she tried to fix a sliding closet door, she accidentally deeply cut and broke her foot. Can you believe she was forced to wait four hours for a couple friends to assist her home because she had no money to pay for crutches and the hospital would not loan them to her. When she informed her welfare case worker by phone that she would be off work by order of the doctor for at least three weeks, her worker’s response was only that she needed to provide a copy of a doctor’s note when she was released to work again and written verification of her wage and hours upon return. Two weeks later, due to receive her foodstamps for her kids, she got a letter that not only had her benefits not been increased (as one might have reasonably expected they would), but all assistance of any kind (including her kids’, one of whom has a heart condition, medical coverage) was cancelled because she had not provided written verification of her change in work status. It took 6 weeks for benefits to be reestablished, during which time she accrued an emergency room bill for her son and one for herself due to diabetic complications from an infection of her wounded foot.

Recently, she made the difficult decision to use money she saved up to go back to school for training in a related field she hopes will require less travel and give her better employment opportunity. However she had to limit the days she was available to work because she couldn’t handle working on the four days she went to school and needed to do homework. Now, her agency has told her they can’t accommodate her restricted time available and she has been without any hours for 3 weeks. She is diabetic but now can’t afford even emergency medication she does not qualify for medical coverage except as related to a pregnancy. After having to move due to her landlord’s failures to address poor living conditions resulted in her home being “condemned”, her kids’ new public schools were “fining” her daily because she couldn’t afford their required uniforms for the last month of school. She is being hounded by the hospital for payment on her bills, washes the family’s clothes in the bathtub, sold her furniture except for her kids’ beds, and is now without any phone line (despite hers nd her son’s medical conditions). She survives on will-power, grace, faith, and a strong commitment to the future of her children. Yes, she’s still alive, but can we call this “living”?

As for myself, even with the assistance of welfare, not all of my medications or medical treatments are covered and after paying shelter costs, I have only $250 per month for all other expenses combined. If I did not have federally and state-funded medical coverage at all, just my medications alone would cost over $2000/month. Unable to afford that, my conditions would deteriorate quickly, bringing me to a pre-mature death, perhaps first briefly forcing me into an institution if such were publicly funded. Is there another way? Sure; if we could all count on each other to support the weakest and most in need members of society without the need for a regulated system, we could indeed do away with welfare. However, we do have this system currently and when I did work, I paid into the system that now supports me and have moved past my initial shame in having to rely upon it. I’m sure I have by now drawn from it more than I put in, but believe me, if I could earn a wage, I would. Even of my meager income, I give charitably. Yet, I wish I could give more. And I contribute to society as best I can, helping to raise foster kids, for example and sharing my experience, strength and hope for the benefit of others. So, I wish people would quit trying to eliminate the system or bash people using it, but instead, listen to the people who know how it works first hand (those who administer it and those using it). We need to address the gaps and barriers in the system for the welfare of individuals and our society as a whole. It is a shame that those most in need of advocacy are often least able for health or financial reasons to advocate for themselves. So, I ask you, my readers who are capable, will you please be someone I can count on to support my wanting to be and do the best I can? Will you please join me in  promoting cooperative efforts and a positive outlook? Will you please quit looking for who or what to blame — or simply looking the other way — and look, instead for solutions?!

@mollyjayne40 |poetry

An intro to faceless me…25 Aug 11

@mollyjayne40
dedicated to Twitter

Often ill, away.  Some leave me;
some wait.  Tell me why.

I marvel.  A cosmos in mini
where the faceless love, hate,
live and die.

~ Callisse J. DeTerre

copyright 24 August 2011


Recovery Part 1: Breathing Well in Cape Cod – photo illustrated

No more wading in muck...

Recovery means a lot of things to a lot of people, but the general public seems to interpret “in recovery” as meaning “I used to be an active alcoholic/addict, but I’m no longer using.” Many would add “…and I work a Twelve-Step program.” Although I did use substances as a means of self-medicating for a time in my life, I’m blessed to have never become physically addicted. Recognizing my psychological addiction, I did begin my recovery in some of those groups. I’m grateful for the sponsor who helped me realize my addiction was to trying to escape. I’ve also been a part of “recovery” programs for mental health disorders (OCD, Bi-Polar Disorder, Major Depression). Not until recently have I let “recovery” as related to my physical health fall into the same category. With roughly 20 chronic medical condition, I’m often recovering from some bout of illness or flair-up of symptoms. However, for a very long time I was in denial about my declining health. It’s pretty hard to make progress on the path around the pond if you’re still unsuccessfully trying to wade through it. So “recovery” from my physical ailments overall means experiencing and working through the entire process of grieving my healthy self.

What I mean by recovery is something all are a part of at least for some length of time in their life. Recovery means regaining what is lost. Recovery is a process that requires active participation and what has been lost may or may not be due to our own intentions or actions, but it most certainly refers to our joie de vivre – our passion, our reason for being, our hopes, our dreams. Recovery requires honesty, willingness, open-mindedness, flexibility, patience, courage, and perseverance. My recovery is about regaining and reclaiming my reason for being. It’s about becoming the me I’m meant to be, about actively pursuing my full potential, whatever that might be. Stress, physical and emotional, is the biggest contributor to the demise of my health. I’m learning that recovery means making a lot of little, but difficult, changes. I’m exploring both the sources of and remedies for stress in my life. As time goes on, I hope to chronicle my discoveries and my progress.

Some years ago, after two malfunctions of equipment in my past home caused flooding, we simply could not get our recently heart-broken landlord to properly address the problems in a timely manner. At the same time, I was struggling as co-guardian with a frequently violent preteen boy. Moving just didn’t seem a manageable option. Mold set in under the carpet and climbed up the walls of our linen closet. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, an air filter shoved by a previous tenant into an air duct (not where it belonged and not visible from the air vents at either end of the duct) was collecting layer upon layer of dust and all that is a part of it. Ultimately, my already weakened immune system, inundated with allergens, was overwhelmed. I developed serious allergies to an indoor/outdoor mold, dust mites (that fed off dead skin cells), and both the dander and saliva of cats. Already having mild to moderate exercise-induce asthma, that condition worsened. In addition, I developed moderate to severe “regular” asthma. This was a hard blow to someone who at one time played sports year-round, someone who once walked 25 miles continuously, someone who loved to run and jump and play well into adulthood.

I’ll continue to tell you about my recovery in relation to my other conditions, but let me start with the allergies and asthma. We did move a few years ago into a duplex my former roommate decided to buy. Originally the top floor was reserved for a renter beside me, but realizing that the dust mites from her two dogs and a cat were causing repeated sinus headaches that interfered with my sleep and sometimes triggered migraines, I eventually had to move upstairs. My former roommate was by then my spouse and we could no longer consistently share a bed without abandoning the pets who’d become family too, not to mention withdrawing attention from a needy and destructive child who’d been neglected and abused by his biological parents. Even still, I was in denial. I’d move about too quickly, climb the stairs one too many times, take on a teenager on the basketball court at the close-by elementary, attempt coaching double-header youth soccer games, and continue to take no notice of air quality warnings. I would find myself desperately grasping for my inhaler. I drilled myself into the ground. My immune system was shot; I felt sick most of the time.

Progressing on a new path...

Recently, I returned from a vacation on Cape Cod. While I was there, I was very aware of the difference in my breathing. I could walk a few miles, even uphill without shortness of breath. The air there is unpolluted, moist and cool. No pets were shedding about me. I felt such immense freedom and energy. By the second day upon returning to our pet-filled home in a Midwestern metropolis, I was sluggish, headache-y, and struggling to breathe again. I’d for a long time found it difficult to remember my daily inhaler. Yet, before we left for vacation, I was having to use my rescue inhaler sometimes 3 times per day. Daily heat indexes of 115 and orange air quality were too much for me. Well, having tasted the freedom of breathing again, I made that daily inhaler a priority. My excuse before was that it didn’t fit in my med box and placing it on top often caused it to be lost when accidentally knocked aside. I’ve found a padded case, in which I now store both of my inhalers and a supply of emergency PRN medications, that holds its place well atop my med box. This method seems to be improving my compliance and the results are promising.

I’m putting forth other efforts too. I’ve begun to think, as well, how I might visit the Northeast Coast more regularly. Perhaps I could house-sit, but I’d still need funds to get there. Well, I don’t have all the answers yet. When I go for a PT initial assessment next week, I plan to inquire how best to build my endurance safely. I, also, was lucky enough to discover in a bookstore’s bargain bin a book detailing cardiovascular conditioning, core balance, and strengthening exercises using one of those big inflated balls. I’d learned some exercises before in PT, but had forgotten them and been unable to find anything but directions for strengthening exercises since. Now I’ve just got to get a pump for my ball. I’m moving in a new direction. I’m not doing the same old thing. I know I’m not a sports star anymore. I won’t shame myself for not being able to walk more than half of a block right now. However, I believe I can progress. I’m in recovery.

On Blind Faith

A Break in the Flurries: Blind No More

Whether one hold to a religious faith or not, most are familiar with the phrase “on blind faith”.  Some are absolute proponents of the necessity in some circumstances of believing in something without proof.  Some will believe nothing without proof.  I believe there is a middle ground.  Personally, I am a very spiritual person, so I’ll make no apologies for my belief in a Higher Power, but I won’t tell any one else what to believe or that they should.  I mean instead to remind everyone that whether by divine creation or a pure evolution without a firmly known origin, we have a brain and ought to use it.  I’m simultaneously annoyed by, amused by, frightened for, and disappointed in those who trust completely in the words of another without exploring or examining an issue for themselves – “the followers”.  Most often such feelings wash over me in reference to those led by charismatic, self-identified religious leaders, but I’ve experienced the same even in looking over comments on blogs and social sites.  I could write a whole separate article on such “leaders”, but I’ll refrain for the moment except tp say one thing.  Ignorance masquerading as intelligence is a dangerously contagious virus.  I believe followers sometimes just don’t know where to turn for or how to access information, but often times I think followers are simply afraid to take on the responsibility of making decisions for themselves because they must accept that they are then fully responsible for the consequences of those decisions and the actions or inaction that results.

Sometimes we must weigh all the factors and make very difficult choices.  THose choices are our own and we owe no one an explanation or an apology.  If you have any faith in a Higher Power, in “salvation”…a belief that involves seeking enlightenment…a basic belief that you are meant to grow and change…even a belief that you are a meant to be an active participant in the evolution of the human race, then you know that ultimately, YOU AND NO ONE ELSE is responsible for YOU.  Only YOU know what YOUR heart is telling YOU, and only YOU have lived YOUR life and intimately know YOU.  NO OTHER PERSON know YOU better than YOU.  So, what will YOU choose?  Will YOU choose what is true? what is best for YOU? what YOU know is right? what YOU have discovered for YOURSELF?  Or will YOU believe simply what someone else tells you they believe.  Choose to believe what you will, but remember that beliefs aren’t necessarily facts, no matter how assertively or intelligently they are declared.  If YOU choose to not investigate or think for YOURSELF, YOU are still making a choice and YOU are responsible for that choice.  Similarly, be prepared to know that YOUR words have the power to lead others astray if such persons are ignorant of how to access resources for their own investigation or are lacking in the mental capacity to make reasoned decisions.

Dealing with Fear: Walk; Don’t Run! – illustrated reflection

The painting illustrating this article is an original painting created by using a computer simulated oil brush and pen which were manipulated on the screen by moving my finger on a 1 1/2 inch by 3 1/2 inch touchpad.

Throughout our lives, we face times where our primitive urge to fly, fight or freeze kicks in. We are terrified. Sometimes we don’t know of what. Sometimes the fear is buried so deep, we don’t even realize we are afraid. Many, gasping for breath and reaching blindly into the dark, don’t even realize they’re running. Most often, when I’ve been afraid, I’ve tended toward flight. We think we are in danger and when we truly are in the bodily sense, these responses serve a purpose to protect us. And even when our bodies can’t escape danger, we have inborn ways of escaping mentally. However, whatever the reason, when we take flight in fear, we run full force toward nowhere and often in circles. Mentally, we escape to the desert of our soul where we slowly wither under the glaring sun of Truth. Some never find their way back.

I spent many years running away. I tried to self-medicate with alcohol and sniffing. I hid in a flurry of white lies, ashamed of minor mistakes. I ran to the arms of flattery, not believing in my own self-worth. I mumbled feeble complaints, assuming any request for help would be answered only with judgement. I got caught in a cycle of binging and starving to gain a false sense of control. I absorbed knowledge to avoid opinion. I had break-downs, collapsing into hospital care to avoid taking responsibility for helping myself. I tried over and over to drug myself into oblivion, an ultimate escape. Some roads I have barred myself from, but some are paths that I race down out of habit.

I have overextended myself to the point of serious illness, hoping beyond hope to prove that the walls of my personal limitations would somehow crumble under the force of sheer will. I have tried to save others because I felt powerless to save myself. I have sought perfection in rituals, unconvinced within my depths of my inherent adequacy. I have intellectualized to avoid feeling my emotions, certain they had the power to destroy me. Yet I’ve claimed ignorance when faced with the possibility of being wrong, or of making a “wrong” decision. While ready to collapse, having nearly exhausted my ability to cope, I’ve teased smiles and laughter from stoic professionals. These are my demons. Over-committing, rescuing, perfectionism, intellectualizing, fence-sitting and misplaced humor are still tendencies difficult to resist when panic sets my feet in motion.

Repeatedly, I’ve managed to find my way back, but I must be aware of those patterns of flight if I wish to chart my course toward more fertile ground. I must not only resist these tendencies, but counter them. I must proactively apply strategies which reduce the likelihood of the need to run. When anxiety inches into my heart, I soothe it with a side road jaunt. Instead of getting ready to run, I slow my pace. I talk to family, friends, my treatment team, and my Higher Power. I lose myself in the magic of music. I feel the beat, rewrite the words, sing at the top of my lungs. I read what uplifts me, inspires me. I write, sometimes for release or distraction, sometimes to increase my mindfulness of the present moment. And sometimes, sometimes I write to remind myself of what I’ve learned – where I’ve been and where I want to go. Today, I’d rather walk, walk the path that will get me somewhere. I know that, even if I’m not sure exactly where I want to go, if I want to arrive in a better place, I must heed the command “Walk; don’t run!”

I Listened to a Book Today – poem

Cover of "A Wind in the Door"

Cover of A Wind in the Door

I want to tell you that this poem is a true testimony to perseverance and friendship. I rewrote the poem 11 times with the help of generous and constructive feedback – not just on this poem, but my writing in general – from my forum friends at Poetry Here And Now As may be already apparent, I write much of my poetry under the pseudonym Callisse J. DeTerre. Besides, those special friends I’ve mentioned above, I’d like to dedicate this poem to all the people who helped instill in me a love of reading and those like my good friend and youth services regional librarian, Krista Rakers of Saint Louis Public Libraries, who aim to do the same with the young of today. Reading redefines reality! Read, read, read and use your library to save a few trees!

I Listened to a Book Today

From a volume my mother
bought for me, More Tell Me Why,
I learned, at eight, my cat
could be frozen by a centipede.
By ten, The Narnia collection complete,
I traveled through A Wind In the Door
to lose myself in the Tao Te Ching.
Then Again Maybe I Won’t
unlocked the mysteries of men
but it was just the seed.

Filled with my search for connection –
Scripture, Jung and Chemistry –
my prep school book bag weighed in at
thirty pounds, with texts alone.
At twenty, reality struck –
people kill trees to answer me!
Now, at forty, I can hardly breathe.
So, today, as if to atone,
I listened to a book,
but it didn’t speak to me.

~Callisse J. Land, copyright 25 April 2011, revised 27 June 2011

Downshifting from Overdrive: Accepting Myself

On most days, my appearance would give you no clue that I struggle with my physical and mental health.

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Occasionally, though, I can't hide my biology's battle against me.

Does anyone remember how in the “way back days” (a boy who I once had guardianship of used this to refer to my younger days), even in an automatic car, you drove in Drive sometimes and in Overdrive sometimes? The two weren’t synonymous. Well, no matter, I’m sure you can fathom what I mean. I keep trying to live my life in Overdrive with the Parking Break on. I don’t mean to. I don’t want to. I want to drive, but my health keeps applying the parking break, because I’ve been unwilling to downshift. I’ve been afraid. I’ve been thinking that if I downshifted, I’d be in Neutral and that wasn’t acceptable. You get pushed in Neutral. You get towed away in Neutral. Sometimes in Overdrive with the pedal to the metal and going nowhere because the Parking Break is on, I’ve thought shifting into Reverse was going to help me somehow, like when you rock a car to get yourself unstuck from an icy, three-foot high snowdrift (I grew up on the Chicago latitude). But it hasn’t ever worked because (unlike when I’m driving a car) I’m still in the habit of putting that pedal to the metal so I lurch backwards and slam myself into a tree trunk. Then I’m really going nowhere! All this to say, I don’t want to be lead-footed anymore in Overdrive or Reverse. It’s incredible how long it took me to realize why I wasn’t going anywhere or going so slowly.

Have you driven with your Parking Brake on? The first few times you try, your car holds you locked in place and you realize it. But, imagine the Driver’s Ed teacher keeps secretly setting it because he wants you to quit speeding. He knows you aren’t really in control when you are going so fast. We’ll suppose he’s tried to tell you in other ways, but you just weren’t getting it. It’s not necessarily your fault. It turns out he speaks with a heavy accent; you have to listen really, really hard to catch half of what he’s saying. Well, if he keeps setting it but you don’t know when, you keep pushing that pedal to the metal when you feel that drag. He means well, but sometimes you speed even worse because you anticipate the drag of the brake being on. You are in even less control than before. It’s a strain on you and the car. The brake starts to give. Eventually, when you do it, your car moves but my gosh, it’s like trying to push it uphill all alone! You get so frustrated. Everyone’s passing you by. You can’t get where you want to go. You want to give up, but you won’t. I mean, after all, at least you’re still moving. But inside your engine is burning hard, wearing down. Let’s just say, I’ve really been killing my engine!

I’ve got a lot of updating to do to my “About” page, but to put it briefly, I’ve got 20 chronic health conditions. I use to be an “overachiever”, but I’ve been disabled for many years now. I struggle with activities of daily living, but looking at me and even being around me for a day or two, you probably wouldn’t have a clue. I’ve been in various degrees of denial, not intellectually but emotionally for the most part. I still have found reasons to rejoice here and there, but I’m not happy and I know I’m the only one who can change that. I have the power to choose joy, but it is an “attitude in action” and my attitude, though positive, has been pretty stagnant. I’ve decided I’ve got to try downshifting from Overdrive to Drive. I had to trade in for an older model, one that has that option. So, I may not fit in at first. I don’t like that, but if it means I might start making some progress, it’ll be worth it. This past year – it’s been so hard! I realized I wasn’t going forward, no matter how cool my sports car life looked. I realized how burnt up my engine was. I realized shifting into Reverse didn’t help. I wanted people to pitch in and push. That didn’t work either. I’m so angry. As much as I hate being angry (I mean who really likes it), I’ve got to admit it. I’m angry I didn’t understand what my health problems were trying to tell me. But I’m not going to waste anymore time being angry at myself. Well, that’s probably not true; it’s a hard habit to break, but I, at least, am going to do something different too.

My downshifting is starting right here, with this blog. I’m sure sometimes I’ll still blog my philosophical musings or spiritual meditations or inspirational reflections or political rantings or artistic expressions, but here out this blog is foremost going to be a chronicle of my choice to live my life. That sounds so ordinary, but the key words in there are choice, live, and my. I reminded myself recently when I emotionally vomited an email to someone that my mind doesn’t process things well inside. If I’m going to write, it makes sense that I should use it to help myself, not just others. Often, I’ve shared the lessons I’ve learned but not the process of how I’ve learned them. I look over my blog and sometimes it just seems so stiff and formal, so unapproachable while inside I’m crying out for someone to not only approach but to hold me. Well, how can I ever face writer’s block again if my mind is always going. I’m not going to worry about getting things just right or being right. I’ve known for a long time I’m not “Super Molly,” but I wanted everyone else to think I was. Funny thing is it wasn’t because I needed people to see me as “Super” but because I needed them to see me and since I haven’t figured out who I am yet, I thought I had to show them me as “something”. I didn’t trust they could figure out who I was right along with me. Actually, I think I was a bit afraid they’d figure it out before me and I’d feel like I was being passed by. Hmm, the irony.

I truly believe God speaks through other people and I think it’s important to let people know when they are a vessel of Spirit’s voice in what they say or do. So, many people have contributed to this moment, this particular instant of awakening, but aside from my therapist Tina Marie Dale, LCSW, I want to thank a few special people who probably have no idea how they have touched me. Honestly i don’t know if I can explain except to say that their “being there” and/or genuineness is emboldening me to expose my Self, to love myself enough to slow down. I may have to add to this list as I remember people but here are the people off the top of my head right now…
Barb Efflandt, Rev. Kathleen Thomas, Frankey Landon, @aeTyree, @Read2Write10, @JillMarieinFL, @tetka, my friends at Poetry here And Now, Deborah Helm, Jill & Jo O’Brien, Lady Dawn, Alice Puckett, Jesleen92 (blog: 91 Odd Socks), “Bananas” Charity (blog: charityjh.com), and Wendy Holcolme (blog: Picnic with Ants: Living with Chronic Illnesses). Those names beginning with “@” are the Twitter usernames by which I know them. Many people on Twitter have blogs and I encourage you to check out these Tweeters and their blogs.

My Life in 6 Words

I will
relax
when I
know

Brilliant Moon – Series of 3 images

The following are three images created using computer graphics tools.

Peeking

Rising

Full

Nevermind the World – poem

How Do I Love Thee!

Image by charissa1066 via Flickr

Nevermind The World

You’ll call
Something has happened
I won’t ask
I’ll jump in the car, no coat
Every red light lasts too long

You’ll giggle
Something delights you
I won’t ask
I’ll follow your gaze to a caterpillar
Every little thing is cause to celebrate

You’ll knock
Your cheeks wet, eyes red
I won’t ask
Your sobs will drench my shoulder
The silence will be loud and long

You’ll laugh
Your belly bouncing with each breath
I won’t ask
Your eyes will bubble like champagne
That’s reason enough to celebrate

You’ll reach out
Eventually we all need help
You won’t ask
I’ll cast others aside, jump in
No professional could last as long

You’ll chuckle
Eventually we must choose humor
You won’t ask
I’ll wipe away the chocolate pie
No mess will negate what we celebrate

You’ll ask
Your arms weak, hands cold
I won’t mind
Your joy will be my agenda that day
Our time together may not be long

You’ll smile
Your eyes fixed on me, my face
I’ll smile too
You mean what you say in that way
Together another day, I’ll celebrate

You’ll wonder
Do I mean anything to the world?
Nevermind
You mean the world to me
I could never celebrate you too long

Inspired by the Hope of Others

sign amidst the rubble at SOCMCC in Joplin MO

~~~To H O P E…
to Have an Optimistic Plan for Everything (for Eternity)~~~

Though I’m normally disinclined towards including what others have created in my blog, two things really inspired me recently and I wanted to share them to put my reflection in context. The first is a portion of a church’s email news I recently read. I’ve included an excerpt. The second was a link someone shared on Facebook. See further below. I, of course conclude with my comments.

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Pastor’s Corner

…Amazing things have been happening in Joplin as churches, businesses, and individuals begin to emerge from the massive piles of debris left by the F5 tornado. People who didn’t even know one another are joining together. People who may have not associated with one another are working together. Churches that didn’t support other churches are ministering together and to each other…

The barriers – real and imaginary – that have separated the people of Joplin have been razed in a mighty force of nature. Across that broad newly opened space, people are reaching out to one another and building community together. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. It’s a reminder of the courage of the human spirit. It’s a testament to the grace of God who can redeem anything – even total devastation brought on by such a powerful storm.

[A thought] expressed by several people was hope. Hope to sleep through the night. Hope to quit hearing the roaring of the tornado. Hope to find treasured possessions. Hope for insurance proceeds to purchase a car. Hope for an apartment or a home. Hope for a washer and dryer to launder the remaining clothing and donated clothing. Hope to always remember what is truly important, discovered when your world changes in six minutes. Hope to rebuild.

As I left …, I drove down Range Line Road a few blocks to the site of the Unity Church building that Spirit of Christ had called home for 15 years. I pulled into the driveway, rolled down my car windows, and looked around. I saw three things that really grabbed my attention: a newly planted garden where debris had stood during my visit on May 27; the angel statue standing nearby that lost its head in the tornado, repaired and whole again; and a sign that expressed so well what I felt in the hearts and minds of the people of Joplin… [The sign reads “Hope Grows Here” – photo above was part of this eMail News].

Rev Dr. Carol Trissell
Senior Pastor at MCCGSL ( mccgsl.org)

To read the whole article, follow this link to a copy of the entire newsletter eMail News MCCGSL

To donate to the church, who lost its home to the tornado (as did many of its members), follow the directions provided on the MCCGSL eMail News page you can access by clicking the link above.
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So the second bit of inspiration came from a Godtube.com video, Homeless Boy Wows Judges on Korea’s Got Talent

You’ll want to enjoy it yourself, but I’ll summarize a bit. The 22 year-old contestant was left at an orphanage at 3, ran away at 5 after being beaten, and  lived on his own on the streets selling gum and energy drinks for 10 years, sleeping on stairs and in public restrooms. He studied and tested out of elementary and middle schools, not attending a real school until high school. At some point in his youth, he was “sold” and while continuing to sell gum, but now in a night club, he was inspired by the sincerity of a singer onstage. He convincingly told the judges he was “not a good singer” and had had no formal training, but “like[d] to sing” before melting them and the audience with a richly voiced and heartfelt delivery of an Italian opera selection, “Nell Fantasia”, made famous in the movie, The Mission.

The English translation of the song: In my fantasy I see a fair world, where everyone lives in peace and honesty. I dream of a place to live that is always free, like a cloud that floats full of humanity in the depths of the soul.  In my fantasy I see a bright world where each night there is less darkness. I dream of spirits that are always free, like the cloud that floats. In my fantasy exists a warm wind that breathes into the city, like a friend. I dream of souls that are always free, like the cloud that floats, full of humanity in the depths of the soul.

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What struck me about both of these is the very real evidence of hope. Reverend Carol speaks of SOCMCC’s congregants expressions of hope, but some may look at this as an expression merely of their wishes and wants. In the video, the judges comment how they want the contestant, Sung Bong Choi, to be happy and comments on the video recognized the young man’s perseverence. I call your attention to the fact, though, that both of these stories show the spiritual fortitude and faith of people who survived and persevere because they chose to HOPE. The attitude of optimism towards our future can make all the difference in how well we are able to manage the worries, disappointments and heartaches of today. Optimism doesn’t guarantee success, but it certainly hurls us toward it. Meanwhile, any success achieved despite pessimism fails to be enjoyed. That is why I Hope…it is Because I Must. To not hope, to not have faith, is entirely too illogical to me. Hope allow us the opportunity to experience joy, in spite of sorrow and on top of happiness. Choose hope today. Find reason to rejoice.

On the Edge (Sur Le Bord) – image with poem (en français aussi)

The reader should understand that translation of poetry requires one to be less literal, less exact, in order to preserve implied meaning and artistic elements of sound and appearance. I have done my best to present here a poem that would be accepted as well-written by both an audience whose native language is English and one whose native language is French. However, I can promise neither.

[en anglais]

I dance
on the edge of night
like the flight
of Autumn leaves
begging
Let me rest
before Winter steals
away my breath

The music
of madness compels
I twist and turn
on toe til I bleed
on a stage
empty of all but me
dancing
in the dark

~Callisse J. DeTerre, copyright 10 October 1988, last revised 08 June 2011

[in French]

Je danse
sur le bord de la nuit
comme le fuite
des feuilles d’automne,
supplie,
Laissez-moi me reposer
avant l’hiver me vole
ma capacité à respirer

La musique
de ma folie me force
Je file et je me tords
sur la pointe des pieds
afin que je saigne
sur une scène, vide
sauf pour moi qui
est danse dans le nuit

~Callisse J. DeTerre, 10/10/88, rev 08/06/11

You CAN be Perfect!

Figure 20 from Charles Darwin's The Expression...

Image via Wikipedia

To affirm, simply put, is to add firmness to. To affirm yourself, therefore, is to add firmness to you and to your self, to strengthen both your definition of yourself and your very being. Start by affirming what is known truth – you are human. What does it mean to be human? A human is not all powerful. A human is not all knowing. A human is imperfect. A human feels. Emotions convey a message. Fear tells us we do not know something. Fear is  useful. Fear is normal. Fear is to be expected. We have no reason to fear fear. Likewise, we have no reason to act is if we are fearless or to avoid anything that might evoke fear. Doing so reflects a form of perfectionism. Do not be afraid to fail or to succeed. You can be perfect – perfectly human, perfectly you.
We are meant to strive toward perfection, but neither to reach it nor to expect to reach it. To have a different mindset is to challenge God, to believe we can be equal. To judge ourselves unworthy of God’s love and mercy reflects an expectation that we can be perfect. Thus we manifest our true sin, pride. In refusing God’s love and likewise refusing to love ourselves, God’s creation, we withdraw our trust in God alone. We again forget we are of God. We no longer clearly and consistently recognize God. We begin to fail to see the God in others, but rather see only the façade which their separation from God requires them to create. We, in turn, seek affection from them instead of the God within they are meant to manifest. Hence, God is no longer our first and only love. We lose our way. We separate ourselves even further from the source of our very being, the only Perfect, in whom when we are ultimately united we are perfected in love.
So quit trying to be perfect. When anxieties arise, recognize the feeling as a reminder that you are human, just as you are meant to be. Rejoice that you do not know everything because it is not your responsibility or your burden. Affirm that you not only have a right to be afraid, but that it is normal to fear. Yes, I say rejoice that you have been wonderfully made, that you are extraordinarily ordinary. Rejoice that you know God and that God’s strength is yours for the asking. Just for today, choose to be, strive to be perfectly human. Tell yourself, ” I am perfectly human, naturally flawed, extraordinarily ordinary, wonderfully unique. I am meant to feel and to fail, to find favor and forgiveness in the fullness of God, forever and the only the Perfector of Souls.”  AFFIRMATION: Just for today, I accept and rejoice that I am a human being, created and loveable just as I am.

Christ in your Eyes – illustrated quote

Note: I take credit only for this original quote. I did not create this image. I downloaded it from someone who was using it as a profile pic. That person also could not identify the source. I have only adjusted the coloring slightly and added the text of my own quote. It is not my intent to violate the artist’s rights. I simply could not resist using this image that so perfectly illustrated my quote. I would be greatly indebted to whoever could tell me the artist. The only clue is an apparent signature of “Lu” and perhaps the automatically-generated tags and links below. Thank you.

I Hope Because I Must

Spc. Jlynn Johnson (right), U.S. Army Health C...

Image via Wikipedia

God works in mysterious ways we cannot hope to understand, but it behooves us to remember that with God, nothing is impossible. Miracles are not just a thing of Biblical history. Neither are they simply beating tough odds. But such faith is borne out in our choice to hope. And when we choose to Have an Optimistic Plan for Everything (and for all Eternity), we naturally put forth the effort to cooperate as fully with God’s will as much as we are able. I recently visited my father who lives a state away from me. He told me he and his wife and my step-sister still pray God will heal me through the grace outpoured by Jesus the Christ. I always remind him that while it may not make sense to him or sometimes even me, I believe I bear the cross of my health problems for a reason and that God’s will may not be for me to be healed. My father nods his head , but I believe remains unconvinced. My father was a victim in an automobile accident. He wasn’t driving. He was hit by a truck while walking across a street. He’d just left work and as he took his last step onto the curb to reach the parking lot across the street, an overeager driver lurched forward into my Dad as the light turned green. Some of his injuries were termed the worst ever seen by the doctors where he was air-lifted. His pelvis was broke in half and folded into a 90 degree angle. He was told there was no chance he would walk again. However, that didn’t deter his determination. When the physical therapist would leave his room, he’d work a little harder, a little longer. He walks, albeit with a cane and pain, but he walks. He was shrunk 2-3” and he stoops over, but my dad, once 6’9” still towers over me physically and in my mind. My father chose to have hope. I admit that for many years I took his healing for granted, only marveling a bit at the story but not truly absorbing the magnificence of God’s glory at work.

painting by mollyjayne40, blog administrator, based on an image suggested by Zemanta on WordPress


I can relate many more examples of modern miracles, all personally known to me –some just as dramatic, some less, some more. For example, my cousin was diagnosed with sleep apnea and told how he’d have to wear a mask hooked up to a breathing machine the rest of his life. My cousin lost a significant amount of weight, got into better physical condition, learned better breathing techniques, and made adjustments to his environment. He no longer requires a machine and is on several less medications. My cousin said he never would have made the improvements he did if he hadn’t 1) accepted and used the machine which finally allowed him the physically and mentally restorative sleep  and the regulated schedule he needed to have the energy and organization to work towards goals and 2) chosen to have hope and to work steadily toward progress in his health in general with a chance at a pay-off some termed impossible. Another example and one which typifies the modern world’s response is that which occurred for a pastor at a church I formerly attended before moving. In brief, he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was being treated by a team of doctors at one of the most highly rated specialty cancer treatment centers in the world. Unfortunately, the cancer did not seem to be abating in response to any of the treatment. With plans for a visit cross-country, the pastor’s colleague and friend suggested he visit one of the other top cancer treatment centers which happened to be close to his destination. During his flight, while praying a preemptive thanksgiving for the “healing only the Good Lord can provide”, he noticed he was suddenly able to breathe better. Two days later, test results in hand and feeling confident that he had been healed, he arrived and began a new battery of tests. When the doctors at last descended upon him, they announced that he had no trace of cancer and had “obviously [been] misdiagnosed”. However they had no explanation for what may have caused all of the false positive readings on his test results as they had found no trace of any illness or injury in the chest, noting that his lungs and heart were easily that of someone 20 years his junior. I could continue with such stories, but I have one special one to tell.
full-body Positron Emissions Tomography
The following is the story that inspired this post. It is one that gave me chills when I first heard it and one that still does every time I retell it. In my younger years I spent several months discerning with a Catholic community of Benedictine Sisters. Ultimately, I did not become a part of the community but they’ve long held a special place in my heart. During my discernment period I worked with two vocation directors. On a visit last autumn I learned one of them had been diagnosed and was struggling with little response to intervention for an aggressive form of cancer with a low survival rate. I was saddened to see here subsisting on a liquid diet, as she could not keep down any solid food. Then, on another visit in February, I learned that this sweet woman of the “invisible habit” (that air of peace and example of righteous conduct that is far more visible and indicative of perpetual vows than any piece of cloth) had come to an agreement with her doctors to end treatment. For as many cancer patients will tell you, it is only the possibility of a cure that helps them to endure the suffering most cancer treatment produces. No cure could reasonably be expected for Sister F. And as my dear friend and the other once-vocation director said, “The doctors and she have done all they can. At this point all we can do is pray God blesses her with a miraculous healing if it is God’s will. We know it is possible and I know you will pray with us.” I did of course. All we could do was choose to have hope. This past month, on another visit, I noticed Sister F’s cheeks seemed more ruddy and her step seemed lighter. I asked Sister C, “So how is Sister F doing?” SIster C’s face brightened as she related the latest update. At a recent doctor’s visit, a PET scan plus four additional tests revealed not only that the cancer had not spread but that no trace of it remained. They had all been accused of colluding with God to put the doctors out of business. I cannot help but be encouraged and inspired, not only by the outcome of this story, but by the gracefulness with which this nun accepted God’s will, whatever it might be, moving as easily with serenity towards death as towards her life now continued. So, as Arthur Woolson says in recounting his personal story as the father of child diagnosed with Schizophrenia, “I hope because I must. For without faith, the dull sounds of existence would be too hollow to bear” (Goodbye, My Son – Copyright 1962)