Friday, December 27, 2013

Seven Ideas for Overcoming Writer's Block



 Do You Need Some Ideas for Overcoming Writer's Block?


Recently, I confronted the dreaded writing problem above. I was involved in a writing research project about autobiography that lasted nearly five years. During that time, I learned many things about myself as a writer and how to deal with my own resistance. What follows is a partial list of ideas to try when you are suffering from any kind of resistance that becomes a roadblock between you and your own writer's journey.

l. Don't give up, just give in. Sometimes you need to go ahead and leave the page for a while. Go for a walk. Get a snack. Sharpen pencils. Wash the dishes. Just remember to come back and try again.
2. Start writing - anything. Write in a journal anything that comes to mind. Write a list. When some ideas start coming for your writing project, simply shift to the writing about the project.
3. It's no big deal. Accept that everyone who writes gets stuck. You are not inadequate or abnormal.
4. Trick yourself. Say to yourself, "I will just write a few ideas here, maybe one page and then I'll stop." Often times, you start to feel like working once you get over the resistance (and it's all about resistance.
5. Read about your subject. Caution: Remember that your point is to get ideas or get inspired so put the reading material away or go back to your writing screen after you cull some worthy bits of info or inspiration.
6. Bribe yourself. Seriously! Promise yourself that you will give yourself whatever you yearn for (a hot bath, a delious dinner, a funny movie, etc.) and then do it. If you don't give yourself the treat, you will not believe yourself the next time!
7. Cure boredom. Play music that helps you write. Go someplace unfamiliar to write (Starbucks?). Write on the run (while in transit).

Okay, this is just a preliminary list...feel free to make your own.

More here:

Vision for writers: Writer's Tips

http://litreactor.com/columns/the-period-part-2-dot-dearth-postponing-the-period-on-purpose

Monday, December 23, 2013

Puerto Rican Celebrations: Travel and Food

Oasis feature: A Series of Local Views #2

Oasis meets El Morro as we continue being a tourist for the day in our own back yard...

Good morning and welcome to sunny El Morro. Did you know that Puerto Rico was under the Spanish flag for about 500 years until the United States came 100 years ago? Knowing that bit of information goes a long way in explaining the culture and attitudes of this beautiful island. El Morro was constructed on the protruding parts of the land surrounding the city to protect the island from invaders approaching by the sea, which explains why there is a wall going around much of the Old City (El Viejo San Juan).

There is an El Morro in nearby Cuba, too, and it is made in the same style and material.
El Morro in San Juan is actually called Fort San Felipe del Morro but not by anyone on the street. I have a little confession to make; this photo was taken a bit down the road from El Morro at another fort, Fort San Cristobal, though most tourist call all of these structures El Morro. I like this one because you can walk right into one of the garrettes and take a look at the framed sea.








Come inside with me and let's take a look
.


There is a mysterious story about one of these sentry boxes in San Cristobal, La Garita del Diablo (the Devil's Garrette). I must caution you: a legend circulates that says those who dare visit this most extremely situated and the first constructed lookout (1634) might mysteriously disappear. Though word on the street is that the only real disappearance was of a couple who escaped disapproval by way of the sea and left unimpeded to elope. (Oh, how dangerous and romantic!)



I'm feeling a bit hungry for lunch. Why don't we walk down the road and look for something to eat?

Or maybe, first, we could cool off with a piragua? These traditional iced syrups are quite refreshing. Look at the selection on the glass- Spanish and English are respectfully placed side by side. Agua Fria/Cold Water! I think I will have an anise flavored icy piragua.



Do you see the large solid block of ice inside the glass cart? The man is shaving it with a special tool, which he then scoops up the ice into a cone and pours flavored syrup all over the top.


I caution you to avoid the ajonjoli (sesame seed) except in your locally made candy.







If you're like me, you might find the grainy texture disturbing in your syrup. Of course, there are a lot of healthy and calming B vitamins in sesame seeds so it's your decision, entirely. The coco (coconut) flavored syrup is quite popular with the local residents.

For lunch, I would like to have a traditional pastelles with rice and beans. Pastelles are made from plantain and sometimes yucca root ground into a paste and filled with a spicy (but not hot) meat mixture. They are wrapped in banana leaf, tied with string and boiled for about an hour. It's a tasty meal all by itself but presents a problem for a real vegetarian. (Don't say it!) However, I have found several people who are willing to sell me a dozen garbanzo filled (chick peas), vegetable filled or sometimes soy filled pastilles. However, to be honest, I usually have to provide the textured vegetable protein meat substitute. (Okay, I will say it for you, I'm just a little bit weird.)

Making pastilles is a grassroots (and underground) business that thrives during the holiday season, yet those in the know can obtain them anytime of the year. Getting the best possible pastilles is all about maintaining your local connections.

What meal would be complete without a side of crunchy salty tostones? Tostones are large unripe plantain bananas, sliced thickly and fried of both sides until golden. They are served with salt, ketchup, and/or a bit of garlic.

Yum! Warning: these must be eaten fresh or not at all because they can get quite hard and dry. Tourist who eat dried out tostones are often perplexed and disappointed-what is all the fuss about?

[ Make your own! If you make these at home, cut thick slices diagonally, fry in oil for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan, flatten -I use the bottom of a plate- on a board, and firmly press down. Return the plantain disks to the hot oil. Lightly cook on each side again, remove and place on an absorbent towel. Cook just one large green plantain banana at a time, and serve immediately.

Note: If your plantain's are turning yellow, they do not make tasty tostones. Let them ripen, slice, and gently fry them - once on each side- in hot oil. These are called amarillos. Also, when looking for plantains in the States, go to Chinese grocery stores and/or look for "macho bananas" -a most curious name!]

For lunch or dinner, I can recommend an atmospheric restaurant in the Old City, Raices (Roots), which is know for its mofongo -mashed plantain filled with garlic spiced meat. The waitresses wear white traditional costumes with headdress, and serve on authentically folk dressed tables, complete with a wood and tin service. Two recommendations here: arrive before you are hungry and bring your credit card because service can be slow and the food pricey. That's okay-afterall, you are getting a taste of Puerto Rico from the past. Just drink a Pina Colada and enjoy the atmosphere. If you don't want to sit in an air conditioned space, you can eat outside, listen to old time Puerto Rican music and watch street life, which is always entertaining, if somewhat overwhelming.


I should clarify a point here, people still eat these traditional foods. Why just this morning, I had freshly made hot tostones with a sprinkle of sea salt crystals and a tiny bit of ketchup. I don't usually have tostones for breakfast, it's just that plantains are in season now. Yes, they are usually available all year, but locally grown freshly cut plantains are of the highest quality and flavor. So I can eat them for all three meals. (Soon avocados will be available, too! Puerto Rican sliced butter! Yum! ) Back on the subject-I'm just pointing out that those atmospheric costumes and, natural, but rough plate-ware are not commonly used anymore except as festive decoration at cultural activities.

Today, there is a blend of the old and new in food as with all things related to culture. For example, take the traditional El Noche San Juan festival, which is both formally and informally celebrated during the summer solstice, specifically on John the Baptists' birthday. (San Juan/St. John) This night is all things pagan and Catholic combined into a modern synergistic mix. If you can handle crowds and would love to throw yourself backward into the cleansing surf a few times-seven to be exact- come to San Juan on this night of its patron saint, and be blessed by Yemayá, the Ocean Mother or St. John (as you wish) with good fortune. The festivities continue for a week and I have participated three times over the years. Recently, the crowds, drinking and commercialization put me off but if you're up for too much excitement then I can only say, it's your party.

Another blend is in reggaetón music, touted as the real Puerto Rican music of today, I remain reserved. However, this group Calle 13, which means street 13, has an interesting sound when combined with the Puerto Rican favorite, the Panamanian (Harvard educated), Ruben Blades. You can see the barrio (community-er-'hood), La Perla (The Pearl) just below El Morro. As a matter of fact, it's right over the wall and next to the sea. I have been down as far as that atmospheric old graveyard (seen in the video), but probably tourists would not be welcomed inside the barrio.

Warning: these lyrics are not tourists friendly. Yes, it's true, we are said to be in the way. Listen carefully to these Spanish lyrics, which say tourists are blocking the view while they take pictures of the view. If like me, you don't particularly like reggaetón music, you should still take a look at this exceptional video. Ruben, you're worth it!




Just look at that sign: Oasis El Morro
Friends and bloggers, though we are finished with our Oasis at El Morro tour, I hesitate to overload your royal patience with more today. Next stop in our Tourist for the Day Oasis Feature-A Series of Local Views, absolutely must include some spectacular views of Puerto Rican nature. Don't you agree?

Thursday, December 19, 2013





View from my Puerto Rican Oasis


Hi neighbors! Will you please excuse the resident of number 70 who has been out of town for a while? I want to share with you some of my everyday summer views of Puerto Rico. Many people think of Puerto Rico in a traditional somewhat nostalgic way, similar to this Sugar Cane painting that hangs on the walls of a local Old San Juan restaurant, Manolin Cafe but the reality is quite different.

~~~~~~~

Last week, I went to Old San Juan with Mr. Oasis where he is teaching for the summer and so much is happening at the Esquella Artes Plastica (Art School). The students have joined in with the University of Puerto Rico students to protest the government wide-budget cuts, and they are camped out on the lawn of El Morro. (Click here if you want to read an Oasis post about El Viejo San Juan.) What a lovely place to camp-even if it is illegal! I met my bff, Ms. D, for lunch at Manolin Cafe- a traditional Puerto Rican restaurant that locals frequent. I enjoyed the mofongo and Yaucono cafe served with hot milk. If you haven't tried Puerto Rican coffee, it's time to be adventurous. In my opinion, it is the best coffee in the world. Confession: When I visit state-side relatives, I find the unopened Christmas present coffee still in storage. Why is that? (My Michigan cousin, Tammy, says it's strong and they prefer coffee-tea! Her coffee drinking quirk is to mix instant chocolate into a cup of weak morning coffee, which apparently gives her more wake-up power.)

~~~~~~~


My friend, Ms. D, knows where to go and how to spend money wisely. She suggested lunch at the Manolin Cafe because it has the best local food at the most economical prices. However, the value is not a secret! We had to wait at the door for a few minutes to be seated. And of course we ran into a friend because Puerto Rico is small, and you run into friends everywhere. Deeply immersed in conversation with our former co-worker and now world traveling friend, Mr. G, we completely forgot to compete for our place in line. After noticing we were still not seated, I took the initiative to be the rude one and excused us from an extended talk about the political situation and policy at the University of Puerto Rico. Finally, we were seated and it was well worth the wait. The photo is a half serving of mofongo, served with white rice and a mixed salad. I recommend that you do not order the rice with mofongo. It's too heavy. What was my waiter thinking? I find that being a vegetarian in Puerto Rico is a challenge. Often perfectly nice servers will give me starch with starch served with a side of starch. My growing middle may be blamed on such eating experiences as these!

~~~~~~~~

Aside: Friends you have to try making mofongo. It's not too difficult as long as you have access to green plantains. Yes, you have to peel them with a knife, but it's worth it to try. Yes, they have to be sliced in one inch pieces, fried in oil until both sides are golden, and then briefly cooked again-but here is where you change your tostones to mofongo.


Place the fried plantain in a container and smash them with lightly roasted garlic until they are broken down into a nicely textured rounded pile. Flip unto a plate and serve with a little salad and Spanish olive oil. Delicious! (Click here if you want to try a more traditional recipe that includes meat.)


What I do differently in this recipe: I allow the plantains to get crisp so that when they are mashed, they continue to have texture. Also, I drop the garlic cloves in oil until they are a bit crunchy as well. Both of these changes make even the meat-eating Mr. enjoy the days when I serve his traditional food vegetarian style.


~~~~~~~~~~~ These Spanish looking baked clay tiles are on the floor of the Art School. Above them, an old picnic table on one side, and just behind the table, a scrap pile of boards and disgarded art projects. In spite of their neglect, I find the tile pattern beautifully arranged and pleasing to the eye. Doesn't it give you a feeling of another time? The art school is losing funding-drastically-and the students continue to work on their projects even though it feels as if the roof is caving in. It's a highly competive art school that produces students who can create in both the classical style art and more modern media, such as computer graphics. What a shame that art is the first to go when money is scarce.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blogland Neighbors, thank you for sharing a cup of cafe con leche and some traditional Puerto Rican food with me. If you want to borrow a cup of sugar, please stop by whenever you are near Blogland Lane # 70 -or if you prefer azucar mascabada o negra (cane or brown), come over to Oasis !



Reposted from Blogland Lane

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Writing and Walls: 7 Ideas for Overcoming Writer's Block


 Do You Need Some Ideas for Overcoming Writer's Block?


Recently, I confronted the dreaded writing problem above. I was involved in a writing research project about autobiography that lasted nearly five years. During that time, I learned many things about myself as a writer and how to deal with my own resistance. What follows is a partial list of ideas to try when you are suffering from any kind of resistance that becomes a roadblock between you and your own writer's journey.

l. Don't give up, just give in. Sometimes you need to go ahead and leave the page for a while. Go for a walk. Get a snack. Sharpen pencils. Wash the dishes. Just remember to come back and try again.
2. Start writing - anything. Write in a journal anything that comes to mind. Write a list. When some ideas start coming for your writing project, simply shift to the writing about the project.
3. It's no big deal. Accept that everyone who writes gets stuck. You are not inadequate or abnormal.
4. Trick yourself. Say to yourself, "I will just write a few ideas here, maybe one page and then I'll stop." Often times, you start to feel like working once you get over the resistance (and it's all about resistance.
5. Read about your subject. Caution: Remember that your point is to get ideas or get inspired so put the reading material away or go back to your writing screen after you cull some worthy bits of info or inspiration.
6. Bribe yourself. Seriously! Promise yourself that you will give yourself whatever you yearn for (a hot bath, a delious dinner, a funny movie, etc.) and then do it. If you don't give yourself the treat, you will not believe yourself the next time!
7. Cure boredom. Play music that helps you write. Go someplace unfamiliar to write (Starbucks?). Write on the run (while in transit).

Okay, this is just a preliminary list...feel free to make your own.

More here:

Vision for writers: Writer's Tips

http://litreactor.com/columns/the-period-part-2-dot-dearth-postponing-the-period-on-purpose

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Feverish "Fish Pond" Mind


"Where are you going?" "What do you want?"

Chatting with a school of fish at the Sculpture Garden outside of the Museum of Art Puerto Rico (MAPR), I suddenly understood that all those worrisome thoughts were just "fish food" and nothing more.
RELAX!
Don't worry. Be happy...
http://youtu.be/yv-Fk1PwVeU

Thursday, November 14, 2013

San Juan, Puerto Rico: Walking Along the Old City Wall

Enjoying the ocean view from the wall of the Old City
photo credit - Wendell Villanueva

Quality Time 

If you are looking for a way to spend your holiday vacation and you live in Puerto Rico. I recommend that you try an exercise that I assign in my Travel in Literature class called "A Tourist for the Day." In this activity, you decide to role play and pretend to be a visitor to the island. You might be delighted to discover that everything becomes fresh when seen with new eyes. How many of us do not spend time enjoying our very own backyard? Imagine if you live on an island and forget to notice the deep blue of the water, the intense green of the foliage and the rich history of the Old City.

In the day pictured above, I took many photographs of the views as seen from the ancient wall. After a long walk around the entire city, my walking partner (Mr. Wendell) and I ate at Cafe Manolins. I had a substantial portion of Mofongo and salad for an extremely economical price. Later, I found an incredible Fernando Botero sclupture that I still dream of possessing.

"Yoga" Botero - on my wish list and priced at $2,500

It's true that when you live in a tourist destination, you should take time to look around but this is also true wherever you live.

See the beauty around us and make it real.

We should always ask ourselves the question,

"What can I appreciate in my own backyard?" 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Visiting Old San Juan



Puerto Rican Oasis
I want to share with you some of my everyday summer views of Puerto Rico. Many people think of Puerto Rico in a traditional somewhat nostalgic way, similar to this Sugar Cane painting that hangs on the walls of a local Old San Juan restaurant, Manolin Cafe but the reality is quite different.
~~~~~~~
 (Click here if you want to read an Oasis post about El Viejo San Juan.) What a lovely place to camp! I met Ms. D for lunch at Manolin Cafe- a traditional Puerto Rican restaurant frequented by city dwellers. I enjoyed the mofongo and Yaucono cafe served with hot milk.


If you haven't tried Puerto Rican coffee, it's time to be adventurous. In my opinion, it is the best coffee in the world. Confession: When I visit state-side relatives, I find my previously gifted coffee unopened and stored high on the shelves. 
~~~~~~~
My friend, Ms. D, knows where to go and how to spend money wisely. She suggested lunch at the Manolin Cafe because it has the best local food at the most economical prices. However, the value is not a secret! We had to wait at the door for a few minutes to be seated. And of course we ran into a friend because Puerto Rico is small, and you run into friends everywhere. Deeply immersed in conversation with our former co-worker and now world traveling friend Mr. G, we completely forgot to compete for our place in line. After noticing others who had arrived later than us being seated, I took the initiative  and excused us from the conversation. I was hungry!


 Finally, we were seated and it was well worth the wait. The photo is a half serving of mofongo, served with white rice and a mixed salad. I recommend that you do not order the rice with mofongo. It's too heavy. What was my waiter thinking? I find that being a vegetarian in Puerto Rico is a challenge. Often perfectly nice servers will give me starch with starch served with a side of starch. My growing middle may be blamed on such eating experiences as these!

~~~~~~~~
Aside: Friends you have to try making mofongo. It's not too difficult as long as you have access to green plantains. Yes, you have to peel them with a knife, but it's worth it to try. Yes, they have to be sliced in one inch pieces, fried in oil until both sides are golden, and then briefly cooked again-but here is where you change your tostones to mofongo.

Place the fried plantain in a container and smash them with lightly roasted garlic until they are broken down into a nicely textured rounded pile. Flip unto a plate and serve with a little salad and Spanish olive oil. Delicious! (Click here if you want to try a more traditional recipe that includes meat.)

What I do differently in this recipe: I allow the plantains to get crisp so that when they are mashed, they continue to have texture. Also, I drop the garlic cloves in oil until they are a bit crunchy as well. Both of these changes make even the meat-eating Mr. enjoy the days when I serve his traditional food vegetarian style.
~~~~~~~~~~~ These Spanish looking baked clay tiles are on the floor of the Art School. Above them, an old picnic table on one side, and just behind the table, a scrap pile of boards and disgarded art projects. In spite of their neglect, I find the tile pattern beautifully arranged and pleasing to the eye. Doesn't it give you a feeling of another time? The art school is losing funding-drastically-and the students continue to work on their projects even though it feels as if the roof is caving in. It's a highly competive art school that produces students who can create in both the classical style art and more modern media, such as computer graphics. What a shame that art is the first to go when money is scarce.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Portions of this were previously published on June 20, 2010 in this blog and at Bloglandlane.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Valuing Subtle Shifts - Color and Time

Oasis Exploration: Relationships in Color and Time

One recent Saturday at the Esquela Artes Placticas in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, I encountered the concept of color gradation. The painting exercise we practiced was to take a color and mix it with white or black until an ever lightening or deepening shade results. While mixing and studying the color change, I reflected on how color represents time and that the subtle color variations are like moments in life. Most of the time we are not aware of subtle shifts in color. Green is green. Red is red. Blue is blue. Time is like that too because we notice that it's the morning, afternoon, and night. However, when a color is mixed with white or black in varying degrees subtle shades become visible. It is clear that green is a myriad of possible greens. Red and blue are potentials of color in which to dive! Our awareness of time is similar to our awareness of color in that we don't usually remember the moment. Anyone who has practiced present moment awareness knows this shift in perception. If you've gone on a mindfulness retreat, you know what I mean. Even the slogan Just Breath is a focusing practice that brings you into yourself so that you become aware of the real moment.

I remember a practice that I learned from reading G. I. Gurdjieff that is called (self) remembering, which is at any moment you turn your attention back on yourself and realize something such as, "Hey, I'm here. I'm alive." It's a practice of noticing that you are in existence. This self-remembering changes your daily experience of time.  I have practiced this technique on and off for years but at one time I consciously dedicated my focus to self-remembering for many daily moments for several months. What I discovered is that it altered my perception of time and my feeling of a solid boundary between my body and the space around it. Most of us experience time and life in chunky ways that are carefully divided by daily (and seasonal) routine.  We break it up every day into pieces such as waking up, eating, going to work, exercising, and  sleeping. The routine defines how we experience time.

For most of us, it is only when an event occurs that breaks our daily pattern do we shift in our awareness of time. Consider an unexpected event to your normal routine; for example, the arrival of an out of town guest. Suddenly you find yourself actively engaged in lively conversation at a restaurant well into the evening. It's past your bedtime!  You're so engaged in the moment that you forget all about your routine and your strategy of life management that organizes life into predictable chunks of experience. These occurrences let you know that time and pattern are constructs that make your life manageable but also invisible.  Unconscious routine can obscure gradations of color. However, a person's ordinary engagement with time can shift by consciously practicing various techniques. To illustrate, the method of periodically focusing on your breath can help you become aware of time and thereby, shift your ability to see, know and engage in more subtle ways. Try the self-awareness exercise below and pace it to your ever slowing and deepening breath.

I am here. I breathe. I am filled. I am empty. Inhale. Exhale. A moment. A string of moments. I am in life. I am life. Breathe.



Certainly the experience of breathing is ordinary but the awareness of breathing is another thing altogether. Conscious breathing can deepen your contact with a non-ordinary experience of life. Just as color has degrees and shades within what is normally classified as GREEN; time has degrees and shades that are made visible by strategies of consciously remembering.

Each moment is a prism of quiet vibrancy.

People have asked me that [what is the experience of inner awareness] before, and I always feel that they expect to hear the dramatic account of some sudden miracle through which I suddenly became one with the universe. Of course nothing of the sort happened. My inner awareness was always there; though it took me time to feel it more and more clearly; and it equally took time to find words that would at all describe it.

~~ Krishnamurti.


Color Gradations with 20 steps:  Complementary, Monochromatic, and Analogous Demonstrations


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Feeling Disappointed? Sleep it Off

CAT DREAMING OF FISH in OLD SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO


 Sculpture by Jorge Zeno: "LA NAVE DE LOS PINGUINOS"

Last Saturday after art class I had an undefinable and unsettled feeling. What is this about? I stopped at Treasures in Old San Juan to talk with the design connoisseur and shop owner, Sonia.  I told her how I felt disappointed with my art work that day and she asked me, "Are you getting a grade or something?" It made me realize that my standard for work has little to do with outside approval but more with inside resonance.
I think I was displeased because I failed to meet my own expectations, i.e., I didn't take risks. We were doing color studies and the idea of form and space was loosely addressed by four exercises.
My inspiration was blocked and I could only think of color rather than form.
Çolor moving all over the page...like water or a forest...
I painted backgrounds rather than a foreground images. What was that about? I worried that I wasn't being brave. Trust the process and not the product...go with it...sigh...

I love that "Bubbly" feeling and childlike sense of wonder that erases all sense of risk.
Here I am back to the page, brush in hand, ...armed with a little inspiration courtesy of Colbie Caillat :

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Old San Juan - Escuela de Artes Plasticas


Art for Everyone and Meow!







Just a little note to encourage you to visit this incredible art school. The fact that it was once an insane asylum just makes it all the more interesting!


The official description of the school informs the reader that the school was "once" and insane asylum,

"Our main campus is located in the 19th century Old Insane Asylum on the Moro Castle grounds."I wonder if there was a connection between the former and present clientele- all the cats and myself not excluded!!?  It's true that the cats around the school attend art class. Here's one who is just leaving her Basic Painting class.





Cat in ART Class

This orange kitty is on a break. Painting long hours can be so tiresome!








A tour of the "Escuela de Artes Plasticas,Viejo San Juan" can be viewed here:






See you after class!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Color Wheel: Spinning Wheels Must Go Round

REVISITING EARLY DREAMS







I had my first painting class last Saturday at the Escuela de Artes Plasticas de Puerto Rico

It was a class on color theory. I arrived for the first class two weeks ago and the start date was postponed until the next Saturday. I arrived on the next Saturday and discovered that the professor was absent. By the third class, I expected that we might not have class or maybe some other changes could occur. Perhaps the room location would be changed? (Ah, life in Puerto Rico!) It's okay though. I did not mind the changes because they gave me more time to become accustomed to the routine of driving to Old San Juan, which involves finding parking, figuring out how long it takes to walk to the classroom and of course (for me the essential information),  locating the nearest place to have a cup of coffee. More importantly, I had time to deal with the stress of revisiting the old dream of studying art. 

I'm in a period of life called "the redo" as in the common expression, "I want a do-over!" This "redo" does not include everything done in life (meaning regrets) but rather what was not done, which could also, but not necessarily, mean regrets. This understanding signifies that I realize that it's hard (if not impossible) to do everything in one life.


I highly recommend that you revisit your early dreams. At some point in life, I think everyone should take a look at the remaining memory-bits of their earlier choices (and their consequences) and try to re-construct them. Asking questions such as:

What did I decide? What were the consequences? 

What choices led to the life I am living now?  How would I like to shift the current direction of my life?


Periodically, we should give ourselves permission start again. In order to have a happy and satisifying life, it's essential to avoid heavy regrets about life decisions. It's so easy to say, "It's too late."  How many people look back and say, "I wanted to be an/a __________(artist, singer, dancer, musician, pilot, actor or?) and my __________ (parents, husband, school counselor, children, fear, logic, or?) made me choose _______(business, teaching, homemaking, and so on). We all make decisions that blame circumstances (such as the preceding) or ourselves and we accept that their direct consequences; however, we don't always know that, in fact, many times we did not decide. We delayed our decision so long that the choice no longer was visible.


We don't realize that not deciding is also a decision.


On a personal note, I don't think I'm alone when I say that many artistic people find themselves in non-artistic fields just because they did not choose. Certainly, we can argue that our creativity has been put to use in another "more practical" career; nevertheless, that earlier desire often demands our attention. It can still push retired people, for example, to take dance, voice, pottery, modeling class or to show up for an audition at the local community theater. What I'm suggesting is that this "foolish" behavior is worth it and nudging you to start now. Don't wait until you have the time. Further, this choice to actively engage the remnants of the earlier less encumbered  you, can awaken the memory of wonder, i.e., the ability to appreciate and experience unencumbered joy.

Be warned! Making the choice to revisit your lost dreams causes mental and emotional turmoil. For example, for the last few weeks  my nighttime dreams have been influenced by symbols of that earlier time in life (and the earlier me) where I changed from being a carefree idealist to a "poser" pragmatist. I choose the word "poser" because those who genuinely know me realize that I remain an idealist. You might say that I suffer from  a Pollyanna-ish optimism and try my hardest to keep her under cover. I'm a look for the silver-lining kind of person. Indeed, I force myself to squarely deal with the dreaded practical problems all of us encounter in ordinary life. It's fine. I have no problem with keeping my feet on the ground. However, I know that a real emotional/psychological breakthrough can be made by jumping out of an airplane- of course wearing a parachute! (I did that!) And if that experience was one of your early dreams, you don't actually have to jump out of an airplane but just engage the dream  and at least (below) play with a parachute (photo credit). Or maybe go zip-lining? (I want to do that!)


 


My homework assignment is met with some anxiety. Recreate (with acrylic paints) the color wheel using the three primary colors yellow, red, and blue (photo credit).






It has to be exactly 15 inches in diameter and "look pretty." How do I do that? Below is what the homework assignment should look like...





  Only, a reasoning and/or creative person must be aware that the brushed in and home-mixed colors might not behave! I am a novice but at least I'm choosing how to spin my wheels. I wonder what kind of dreams I will have tonight? 


"Spinning Wheels" by Blood, Sweat and Tears

What goes up must come down
spinning wheel got to go round
Talking about your troubles it's a crying sin
Ride a painted pony
Let the spinning wheel spin...







Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cats in Old San Juan

 Cats are everywhere!


Taking an early morning walk in Old San Juan last Saturday,  I noticed the cats on the sidewalk grooming and gently curious. I fell in love with a little kitten who wanted to chew on my big toe! When I reached down to play with her, she reached up and with two paws together, she grabbed hold of my glasses. Such a friendly kitten and so much trust towards a complete stranger! I worried about her safety. 

However, I discovered that caring local community has come together to help these cats. If you would like to read more I've posted two links below, which provide information about the cats in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Cats in Old San Juan

"The cats are a part of the Old San Juan experience, much like the cats and chickens that are a part of the Key West experience. Some of these cats are said to be descendants from the original cats that arrived on the ships when the first Spanish settlers came to the island. But the cats need help to stay healthy and alive. That is where the Save a Gato (Gato means cat in Spanish) organization comes into play."


Feral Cats in Old San Juan

"The problem is that cat populations will explode without intervention. Save a Gato  is a volunteer organization that manages the feral cats in Old San Juan by providing food and water. They also have a trap, neuter, and return (TNR) program, during which they also give necessary vaccinations." (Read more here.)

(Click on the title for more about this organization and how you can contribute.)



I'm Only a Cat

I'm only a cat,
and I stay in my place...
Up there on your chair,
on your bed or your face!

I'm only a cat,
and I don't finick much...
I'm happy with cream
and anchovies and such!
 

I'm only a cat,
and we'll get along fine...
As long as you know
I'm not yours... you're all mine!

Author Unknown

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Ends

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Ocean Park, Puerto Rico
Summer Ends --- yes...even in beautiful tropical Puerto Rico. Ah! Back to school!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Daily Writing Practice - Remembering Dreams

Remembering Dreams





Do you ever wonder how you can remember dreams? Lately, I've been reading Carl Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections and attempting to record my dreams every morning. If I can remember my dreams, I will have a view of the hidden me. I want to look into the parts of my personality that I hide from myself - risky business! I consider myself honest about my motives and practice self-witnessing. Maybe that sounds strange but those of you who are in some kind of meditation practice know that witnessing your thoughts and actions (without judging) can yield a tremendous amount of information about yourself. I am looking to find a creative energy source that will bring my writing alive with vitality. I've discovered other techniques to wake up the muse but I would like a more reliable routine that keeps me in touch with my imagination.


The goal is to wake up everyday, notice what in floating around in my mind and then immediately write down everything in my mind - take a "mental picture" as it were. Words, thoughts, images, sensations, songs and so on. I have discovered that I must notice my thoughts before I move from the bed. I cannot allow myself to talk or engage in any preliminary activity before I write or else I lose the thoughts. Some days I'm successful while others (like today) I get caught up in washing dishes, making coffee, preparing for the day and before I know it - the dreams are gone! What did I dream last night? What influenced my subconscious? Blank! My mind is unable to remember my dreams because I had too many intervening thoughts before I recorded my dreams such as - why hasn't anyone done the dishes in two days! It's a good thing I didn't cook dinner last night or else there would be more dishes. How can I get cooperation about cleaning the house? And then my mind goes analytical - Why are we so stuck in these social gender roles that I'm the one who breaks down and does the dishes first? It's enough to wipe out anyone's morning dreams! My thoughts are a giant eraser rubbing out the lightest dream pencil marks first but today, the entire page was all gone.


Mental palaver! Jung uses that word as in to arrange a palaver to mean conversations  he has with the Africans at night. He wants to know if they have dreams and if they provide some kind of insight into their daily lives. He attributes their resistance to sharing their dreams with him as evidence of a lack of trust or "shyness." Jung even offered rewards - cigarettes, matches, and safety pins for sharing dreams but they wouldn't budge. I'm thinking that maybe they didn't remember their dreams because of too much palaver! I have been recording by dreams every morning for two weeks - let's see if some pattern emerges. I have a safety pin in my pocket for good luck.  Do you have any dream wisdom to offer? How do you remember your dreams?

(Also posted in Writers Rising)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Graduation 2013

  "Dr. Philos."



I have have been slowing working on my PhD for many years and finally, I can now say "I've finished!" I still don't quite believe it. This writing project has been an albatross around my neck for many years and has interfered with and/or influenced all sorts of other activities both work and personal. When someone would ask, "Can you work on this project with me?" or "What are you doing for the weekend?" I always thought, "I'm working on my dissertation."

The anvil-like weight of this unfinished project continually interfered with my freedom. I suddenly feel lighter (though I certainly weigh more!!) because now I can move on.

Oh happy me! On to the exercise mat!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Memories Re-visited

Memories Re-visited


Mother and Daughter 2009
Life is a surprise. It's full of forgetting and remembering but when you forget, you don't remember. Okay. Take that thought slowly. It is only when you remember that you realize that you forgot something. It's like that with most lost memories...they come rushing through your mind after some triggering moment. It is also possible to remember factual events, but still forget the accompanying feelings that those events entailed. So I ask myself: Do you remember if you don't feel the experience again? Lately, my memory is inundated with past experiences that come upon me, suddenly. And too, I'm aware of the feelings of another time. They sweep through my mind alive with the fragrant and bittersweet breeze...

Morning Memory

White lace flower curtain
Growing round and close.
Late morning heat, cooled,
Again the earth breathes sky.

Brushed by the damp and
Dead leaves, I walk.
Head-wind determined...
Old fears dry and peel off.

Oh memory wind, oh friend
I open the door to your
everything and all -in
this once-was breeze

Heavy stuck leaf-prints
Evaporate and crumble
Soil-rich with promise-
Newness yet to come.

Cynthia Pittmann
2009

~~~~~
What causes this upsurge of memory? It could be a certain age, or having time to reflect? Perhaps it is a combination of turbulence and slow thought all in the context of a relationship? I am a mother who has a daughter- and "we get along" my daughter would say. Lately, when the breeze of her life blows through mine, I remember what it was like to live many years ago. I don't mean that I experience what she experiences (though that happens too) I mean that I remember myself as a teenager. I think back on my own high school years and I remember what it felt like to be devoted, absorbed and swept away by another-in the "teen way"- which is not usually accessible to my ordinary task-oriented adult self. Lately, I surprise myself with tears when I listen to the uncomplicated music of Taylor Swift. Suddenly, I remember/realize the pain of early unrequited love when I hear this song (Don't judge me!!! :-) :

Letter to Sweet-Sixteen Me

Dearest young Miss C,

Going as you are into this life with
Anger, joy, loss, and hope swirling in
A kaleidoscope of poetry and dreams, riding on
a Ferris wheel, "Carousel" and "Brigadoon"
"June is busting out all over..." but

Michigan winters are cold...
Spring arrives early in Ohio...
It's a trip all night to reach down and
find a muse alive in the apple blossoms...

A wild but careful you, an
overfilled-lilac-purple-budding-in-vase you,
set on the mantle and likely to fall.
Oh, I would catch you if I could.

Still wild horses will buck and break that
country-roads-take-me-home innocence.
Should I tell you the secrets of your future?
The crystal ball has gone smoky.

You must have your time...uncomplicated
Drama with Romeo while you play Juliet or
A Christmas Pixi who sits on Santa
Claus's lap beaming over-bright
smiles into the camera.

Cynthia Pittmann
1950s Musical Playlist

"The old dreams were good dreams;
they didn't work out, but I'm glad I had them."

Robert James Waller, "The Bridges of Madison County"


~~~~~~

~~~~~~

Hey there, Cynthia (on the far left), how are you doing? It's been a long time; and, it's so nice to see you, again!








 
Post Script:

Thank you, blogger friends, for taking this trip down memory lane with me. I know we stayed up all night talking but the sun is rising and I feel renewed! xxoo

 (Note: Sections of this post are updated from 2009)