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I am a freelance, nonfiction writer who cares about the environment, individuality, creative expression, and simplicity. I'm glad you've found my blog, and I hope you'll join in the conversation by leaving a comment. Disagreements are allowed, even encouraged, but cruelty, vulgarity, and slander is not.

Mom's Guide to Avoiding Tears

August 2nd, 2013

Some days it exhausts me to see how many people want to fight and complain. It makes me want to cry.

It happens on newspaper blogs: An organization receives taxpayer money to continue their forward-thinking project. The Advocates for a Miserable Existence jump all over the reporter who wrote the story with harsh statements about the likelihood of failure and corruption.

It happens at business events: A profitable business explains how their new process saves money and waste. An Advocate for a Miserable Existence challenges their statement with pompous statistics and unfair scenarios.

It happens on roadways: A careful driver steps off the gas to add distance between his car and the one in front because there appears to be trouble ahead. An Advocate for a Miserable Existence driving behind him rides up close and stays there in intimidation.

It happens at public events. Audience members chatter about the nice day and how wonderful it is to have something special to do. An Advocate for a Miserable existence growls about the trek from the parking lot.

This sticker can be found attached to a friend's camping supplies. I can't honestly endorse zendik.org, but I can't argue with their philosophy either.

How should the reporter, the businessperson, the driver or the audience member respond? Turn the other cheek? Ignore the misers? Yell back? I don't have the answer, but I do have a two of my mother's common expressions to remember, and I say these to myself often:

1.) There will always be some people who spoil things for the rest of us.

2.) The only thing you can control is your attitude.

These words help me all the time. As a weary adult, you may have to repeat them a few times before you too can understand their usefulness, but I invite you to apply them when needed. And I support you--you Advocate for a Sunny Existence--as you plod along your path.

(p.s., Thanks Mom.)

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Finding contentment

July 19th, 2013

How many words do you think are online today? It's mesmerizing if you even try to guess. And I just added 17 more. Meanwhile, I prefer to finish the books I read; such satisfaction can never be achieved on the Internet.

Some things seem endless.

Even so, most messages online are remarkably unique (aside from the piracy), especially on blogs such as mine. That's why we writers keep releasing more. Every once in awhile, I find a post that articulates my own feelings in words I didn't--and maybe couldn't---form. I found one such case this morning, and instead of recreating what's already been produced, today I invite you to read the words from someone else.

Her name is Deanna Lynn Wulff. We've never met. A friend introduced me to this author's work, which comes to my screen from a distance of 2,900 miles. Thanks to the Internet and its unending word count, I am able to peek into the thoughts of a stranger who is apparently a like-minded individual. And therein is one of reading's most satisfying rewards, whether it is found upon completion of a book or while sampling the endless vista in cyberspace.

Here is the post:

Minerva's Moxie -- a Blog About Health, Hiking and Happiness.

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I've got the power

July 12th, 2013

It's funny how little things can set me off. One piece of bad news or one person's stupid action can create a tone that surrounds me for hours. Fortunately, the same is true for things that make my day.

Little, random things, such as a smile from a stranger or a note of appreciation from a friend or an email alert that one more person has subscribed to my mailing list. I can go from zero to sixty in just a few seconds.

I suppose it would be nice if I could block out all the bad feelings when they arrive and sustain all the good instead, but I can't. And it wouldn't be authentic. Who witnesses only bad or only good actions? Teenagers may think everything is horrendous and team coaches might point out only strengths, but perspective and reality are not the same thing. This is why I believe small occurrences, even in the presence of conflicting conditions (such as an uplifting smile in the midst of a tragically bad day) can have such lasting effects. They change the perspective.

Therefore, I CAN do something. I can be the creator of the little things that ring positive tones. I can smile, say thank you, and reach out and connect to people. To be able to shift someone's perspective is an immense power, when you think about it, a power we ALL have.

Any ideas for what you'd like to do with yours?

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Quiet Achieved

June 21st, 2013

In my last post I wrote about a desire for peace and quiet. Then, I took a weeklong vacation to a very quiet place: the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I had plenty of time to think about why it was I cherish the quiet so much. I found it wasn't about what I couldn't hear; it was about what I could.

My husband sometimes calls me Jaime - the character with robotic hearing in the old TV show, "The Bionic Women." Having spent a lifetime respecting and protecting my hearing around loud noises (such as concerts or machinery), I've preserved my ability to hear. This likely contributes to my sensitivity about which I wrote last week.

Plus, I listen. And having heard the silence before, I know what exists within it, and that makes me desperate for more.

So what are these sounds? Here are a few heard on my trip:

Foremost were the ones that rung in my ears, the loudest often coming from the birds. Scientists believe deep-forest birds and city birds avoid each other because the volume of their voices is not compatible. Whether this is true or not, I don't know. I did find that wilderness birds didn't need to shout. Even the Robin's late-day goodnight – one of the last and loudest, warm-season birdcalls from both backyard and backwoods each evening – was softer in this quiet place.

Then there was the sound of the trees. Without voices, they most certainly were not silent. The leaves of the paper birch had a certain rustle, which I often mistook for heavy rain or a waterfall. (In Colorado, my friend has a nickname for the Rocky Mountain's active leaves: Waving Aspens. The aspen flutters so easily and often, it appears to wave when you look at them.)

But the sound of pouring water wasn't just coming from the trees. Spring rain and snowmelt turned every ravine, gorge, and channel into a rush so loud, you could feel it in your chest.

Flume Brook in Dixville Notch

At Beaver Brook Falls near Colebrook.

For instance, we stopped for a picnic in Pinkham Notch along the Peabody River. My husband was cooking lunch at the table near the water while I wandered away to look at some flowers in a nearby field. At a distance of 80 feet, I couldn't shout loud enough for him to hear a single a word.

Away from the rustle and rush, quiet let me see things, too. There was life wandering between the trees, hidden from view. Bear, deer, moose, turkey, porcupine, beaver, bobcat, and more. My husband and I were on the move, making noise of our own as we hiked. As a result, we didn't spot much wildlife during our trip (not a single moose sighting to take home). But the sounds told us something was watching. The occasional crunch of a step or a whir of retreat reminded us we were never alone.

More abundant, though, were the sounds imagined, such as a mountain talking to a lake...

At the Willey House Site in Crawford Notch

or to a poet..

The view from Robert Frost's bedroom near Franconia notch.

to each other...

A view from Mount Washington including Wildcat ski area.

or to the sky.

A view from the Mount Washington summit.

And with the pleasantries came the dreaded sound of insects. The buzz of the black fly or mosquito was like a drill sergeant. It kept me moving, for standing still only made me easier to bite. However, during the entire trip, one insect proved to make the noisiest racket of all. Heard not in the White Mountains (thankfully) but along the edge of the Catskills in New York as we made our way home, the Periodical Cicada en masse could be heard above all road noise – windows closed, radio on.

And so we aimed for home. The volume increased with every mile toward man. The quiet of the wilderness was behind us; the vacation for my hearing was over. It was up to my brain now – with its remarkable ability to tune out or tune in – to keep me calm. Benefited by a six-day reminder of what to listen for, I'll find it easier, for a while, to block out the noise and make room for sound, now with bionic focus.

Then, when my strength runs low, I'll return to the woods to be recharged again.

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Quiet Please

June 6th, 2013

Beep...Beep...Beep...Beep.

Is it an alarm clock or a reversing trash truck that has pierced my silent morning?

How did all this noise start? I'll never know. The truck signal became necessary – I can guess – after some kid got run over by a commercial rig, and the authorities got together and said, “We must prevent this.” They came up with a universal safety symbol, always played as an E on the musical scale, always loud enough to be heard above a roaring diesel, always required on any work-related vehicle that might possibly run over a blind spot.

It’s just one of the many once-new, now-commonplace noises that fills our days and nights. There’s always more; there's never less. Noise, noise, noise, and noise. Car alarms, cell phone rings, seat belt reminders, fireworks on the final night of every carnival in the state.

But we can’t have festivities end without some sort of climax. We certainly can't have children crushed or vehicles stolen. So we add layer upon layer, stressing our internal sensors harder and harder until what? The sound of my emotional breakdown gets added to the mix? Is there any hope that quiet will come back to commonplace?

Will there be any places left where the alarms of natural voices and the climaxes of joyful singing can still be heard from the treetops? Where are the places where the human artificial is silenced so we can hear the rhythm of life again, a rhythm where nests are robbed but life continues; where rains come, waters flow, stars rise, soils crack, flowers blossom, and leaves unfurl? A place where humans intertwine, quietly, making sound only when warranted, instead of just because something could happen, something like a truck running over a kid or an adult showing up late for work, prevention of which only ever seems possible by adding a little more noise?

Beep...Beep...Beep...Beep...

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