#Nobel Prize Winners 2017: Why we need scientists, peace activists, writers more than ever

#Nobel Prize Winners 2017:
Why we need scientists, peace activists, writers more than ever

Thanks to these scientists, researchers, activists and one writer, we can now enjoy advances and new inventions very soon in a variety of areas.
—With the “dumbing down” of the USA and many other places due to climate science-deniers, creationists and other cretins, we are indeed fortunate that scientific advancements are still being honored, supported and achieved around the world.
—Living in our current dystopian reality, we desperately need creative writers to help us understand where we went wrong and how to improve things before it’s too late.

This year, unfortunately, the winners were all men (big surprise, there) and one group. Check out their accomplishments!

2017 Nobel Prize Winners

  • Literature
    Kazuo Ishiguro: “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”

    Kazuo Ishiguro

    Kazuo Ishiguro is probably best known to USA citizens because he wrote the book, The Remains of the Day, which was turned into an award-winning movie (starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson) in the early 1990s. He refers to this process of creating Hopkins’ character and much more here, when he delivered his Nobel Lecture, “My Twentieth Century Evening – and Other Small Breakthroughs,” on 12/7/17 at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm. Watch/listen to it here: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2017/ishiguro-lecture.html
    Or, read it, here: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2017/ishiguro-lecture_en.html

    My favorite parts:

    I could suddenly see an exciting, freer way of composing my second novel; one that could produce richness on the page and offer inner movements impossible to capture on any screen. If I could go from one passage to the next according to the narrator’s thought associations and drifting memories, I could compose in something like the way an abstract painter might choose to place shapes and colours around a canvas. I could place a scene from two days ago right beside one from twenty years earlier, and ask the reader to ponder the relationship between the two. In such a way, I began to think, I might suggest the many layers of self-deception and denial that shrouded any person’s view of their own self and of their past.

    and, I can relate to this next part very strongly, myself:

    I should say here that I have, on a number of other occasions, learned crucial lessons from the voices of singers. I refer here less to the lyrics being sung, and more to the actual singing. As we know, a human voice in song is capable of expressing an unfathomably complex blend of feelings. Over the years, specific aspects of my writing have been influenced by, among others, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Emmylou Harris, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen, Gillian Welch and my friend and collaborator Stacey Kent. Catching something in their voices, I’ve said to myself: ‘Ah yes, that’s it. That’s what I need to capture in that scene. Something very close to that.’ Often it’s an emotion I can’t quite put into words, but there it is, in the singer’s voice, and now I’ve been given something to aim for.

    and, also:

    …all good stories, never mind how radical or traditional their mode of telling, had to contain relationships that are important to us; that move us, amuse us, anger us, surprise us….[I]n the end, stories are about one person saying to another: This is the way it feels to me. Can you understand what I’m saying? Does it also feel this way to you?

    Best of all, and making my own points so well:

    It’s hard to put the whole world to rights, but let us at least think about how we can prepare our own small corner of it, this corner of ‘literature’, where we read, write, publish, recommend, denounce and give awards to books. If we are to play an important role in this uncertain future, if we are to get the best from the writers of today and tomorrow, I believe we must become more diverse. I mean this in two particular senses.

    Firstly, we must widen our common literary world to include many more voices from beyond our comfort zones of the elite first world cultures. We must search more energetically to discover the gems from what remain today unknown literary cultures, whether the writers live in far away countries or within our own communities. Second: we must take great care not to set too narrowly or conservatively our definitions of what constitutes good literature. The next generation will come with all sorts of new, sometimes bewildering ways to tell important and wonderful stories. We must keep our minds open to them, especially regarding genre and form, so that we can nurture and celebrate the best of them. In a time of dangerously increasing division, we must listen. Good writing and good reading will break down barriers. We may even find a new idea, a great humane vision, around which to rally.

    Thank you, Kazuo Ishiguro, for your insights, emotional authenticity, creativity and ongoing contributions to our literary and emotional lives.

  • Peace
    International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN): “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”
    ICAN is needed more than ever, it seems. Sigh.
    Find out more, here: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2017/ican-facts.html

    ICAN logo

  • Physics
    Kip Thorne, Rainer Weiss, and Barry Barish: “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”
    Following up and proving one of Albert Einstein’s more “wacky” theories (about the existence of gravitational waves), these scientists and their teams have done some extraordinary work, here.

    Kip Thorne

    Rainer Weiss

    Barry Barish

  • Chemistry
    Jacques Dubochet, Richard Henderson, and Joachim Frank: “for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution”
    So, freeze stuff and we can see it better. Cool.

    Jacques Dubochet

    Richard Henderson

    Joachim Frank

  • The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel; Economic Sciences
    Richard Thaler: “for his contributions to behavioural economics”
    In addition to being brilliant and innovative, Thaler is very funny! Check out some of his humor, here: https://quotefancy.com/richard-thaler-quotes
    Like, “The assumption that everybody will figure out how much they have to save and then will just implement that plan is obviously preposterous.”
    And, “I’m all for empowerment and education, but the empirical evidence is that it doesn’t work. That’s why I say make it easy.”
    For sure, this: “I think the people who’ve been the most overconfident in our business in the last decade have been the people that called themselves risk managers.”
    My favorite: “When an economist says the evidence is ‘mixed,’ he or she means that theory says one thing and data says the opposite.”

    Richard Thaler

  • Physiology or Medicine
    Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael W. Young: “for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm”
    If it helps people sleep better, I’m all for it!

    Jeffrey C. Hall

    Michael Rosbash

    Michael W. Young

Get more info here:
https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/lists/year/?year=2017

All info, above, from: http://Nobelprize.org Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 11 Dec 2017.

2017 #MacArthur Fellows: 24 Creative, Genius, Unique Leaders Who Inspire

2017 #MacArthur Fellows: 24 Creative, Genius, Unique Leaders Who Inspire

Let’s celebrate extraordinary and amazing and beneficial and FUN people! I first heard about these annual awards when they were only about $200,000 and they were called “Genius Grants.” The stipend for the MacArthur Fellowship is currently set at $625,000, paid in quarterly installments over five years.

The cool thing about this award is that the group of people who nominate and select these individuals every year are ANONYMOUS and it is apparently impossible to discover their identities. This protects the process from corruption, one would hope.

Their FAQs page states: “All of the participants in the selection process—–nominators, evaluators, and selectors—–serve anonymously, and we keep their communications confidential. Anonymity protects them from being inundated with unsolicited requests. In addition, our experience shows that people readily provide frank impressions if they have an assurance that their responses will not be disseminated beyond the program staff and Selection Committee.”

I’ve heard that each recipient gets a phone call “out of the blue,” since they don’t even know they’re being considered, to announce that they are selected and about to receive one of our highest honors and a huge cash award.

The idea behind these awards is that the Fellows can then “quit their day jobs” or work less for money while living on the investments/cash they get/accumulate from this award. That award liberates Fellows to pursue their genius ideas even further! YEA!

There are three criteria for selection of Fellows:
—Exceptional creativity
—Promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments
—Potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

Again, from the FAQs: “The MacArthur Fellowship is designed to provide seed money for intellectual, social, and artistic endeavors. We believe that highly motivated, self-directed, and talented people are in the best position to decide how to allocate their time and resources. By adopting a ‘no strings attached’ policy, we provide the maximum freedom for the recipients to follow their creative vision, whether it is moving forward with their current activities, expanding the scope of their work, or embarking upon an entirely new endeavor. There are no restrictions on how the money can be spent, and we impose no reporting obligations.”

I also love that they make a concerted effort and usually succeed in finding obscure, diverse, interesting and helpful people to whom to give this important award each year. Check out the 2017 cohort!

Anybody a fan of the CMT TV series, Nashville, as I have been? One of the recurring roles has been being played in 2015-2017 by one of this year’s recipients, Rhiannon Giddens, a gifted “Singer, Instrumentalist, and Songwriter,” who won for: “Reclaiming African American contributions to folk and country music and bringing to light new connections between music from the past and the present.”

Sometimes, though, they do not pick the “thought-leader” in a particular area, but one who is using others’ work in new ways or places. I wish they’d give credit to the originators of this recipient’s work: Betsy Levy Paluck uses the thinking and program components of Community MattersSafe School Ambassadors program’s creators, Rick Phillips, John Linney and Chris Pack. I know this because I worked for/with them and helped write the book they created about their anti-bullying work over 10 years ago. Oh, well. Can’t win them all!

Spread the word! Read about these people and their projects to youth and adults to inspire us all to be better! There is no upper age limit on recipients, either!

This year’s recipients include artists/designers, social scientists/humanities scholars, physical scientists/mathematicians, writers, community leaders/ strategists/ activists, and more.

There are, as usual (2016 was an exception), fewer female (9) than male (15) recipients. Most are under 50 years old, but a few are older.

However, more than usual (15) are people of non-Caucasian/ non-Western European ethnicities. Click on this link for an interactive map showing each of the recipient’s place of birth or location at the time of their award: https://www.macfound.org/maps/2/

A few are academics or work in other large organizations, but most are independent owners/operators or work in small businesses or in the nonprofit sectors.

Want to know more? Check out these myth-busting responses: https://www.macfound.org/press/commentary/five-myths-about-macarthur-genius-grants/

2017 MacArthur Fellows: 24 Extraordinarily Creative People Who Inspire Us All

The MacArthur Foundation named the 2017 MacArthur Fellows this week (10/10/17). Fellows will each receive a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000, allowing recipients maximum freedom to follow their own creative visions.

“From transforming conditions for low-wage workers to identifying internet security vulnerabilities, from celebrating the African American string band tradition to designing resilient urban habitats, these new MacArthur Fellows bring their exceptional creativity to diverse people, places, and social challenges. Their work gives us reason for optimism and inspires us all.”

Visit the MacArthur Foundation website for Fellows’ bios and more info about each recipient as well as videos, the lists and descriptions/bios of previous years’ recipients, and the remaining FAQs/Answers:

https://www.macfound.org/programs/fellows/


Through Sept 30, 2017 is the time for #10Q ! “Reflect. React. Renew. Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.”

It’s not to late, and you don’t have to be Jewish or celebrate #Jewish High Holy Days (Rosh Hashona, Jewish New Year’s, and Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement”) to want to spend some time considering your life and your goals/accomplishments each year. I was raised Jewish, but I am a practicing #Buddhist.

It’s free! http://doyou10Q.com and #DoYou10Q are the connection points. This year is 10Q‘s 10-year anniversary, so many new events and giveaways are occurring. Check them out!

Check out any local Partners with 10Q: http://doyou10q.com/partners: Reach out to Josh Kanter, Reboot’s outreach and partnership manager, at josh @ rebooters DOT net or (go to the site for his phone number (in the USA)].<

You can still respond to all 10 Questions through September 30, online, and have them put into the "vault" for yourself for next year's reflections.

10Q: “Reflect. React. Renew. Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.”

The title and all the info, below, come from the 10Q site. Visit! Sign up! Do it!
http://doyou10q.com/

10 Days. 10 Questions.

“Answer one question per day [or more than one per day, if you have some to catch up on] in your own secret online 10Q space. Make your answers serious. Silly. Salacious. However you like. It’s your 10Q. When you’re finished, hit the magic button and your answers get sent to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping.

“One year later, the ‘vault’ will open and your answers will land back in your email inbox for private reflection.

“Want to keep them secret? Perfect. Want to share them, either anonymously or with attribution, with the wider 10Q community? You can do that, too.

“Next year, the whole process begins again. And the year after that, and the year after that.

“Do you 10Q? You should. If you have, already, enter the “giveaway” by sharing one or more experiences and using the hashtag, as directed:


Click hereto get your 10Q on.

10Q begins September 20, 2017, and goes for 10 days
http://doyou10q.com/


Here are some of my responses to the Questions, from 2016, 2015 and 2014:

2016

–Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

My Answer:

I had an up-close-and-personal experience with the American judicial and jury system and I was very disappointed and discouraged from it all. From the attorneys to the judges, the jurors to the laws: all crap, and not in favor of actual justice for the plaintiff, ever, as far as I could tell.
I was severely injured (and still recovering) in a trip-and-fall in a restaurant that was clearly liable and negligent, causing there to be obstacles in the path of a patron which a patron could not easily see. The jury actually agreed on that. However, due to archaic laws, lobbying by the insurance greedies and other mistakes in jurisprudence (which disallowed anyone from actually informing the jury how the “awards” they intended to go to me would be apportioned or the fact the restaurant owner would not pay a dime due to his having insurance), I got nothing, my lawyer was out $30K, and I owe many thousands of dollars to family and friends. I am grateful to all who have helped and continue to help me, but resentful and angry at the unfair outcome of my two+ years of misery.
I am an educated, white, older woman with intelligent and supportive friends and family. I can only shudder to imagine how this “justice” system grinds up those without support or resources and other people who are already on the short end of every stick.
USA justice isn’t.

–Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

My Answer:

The Marriage Equality Act’s being confirmed as the law of the USA by the Supreme Court was a giant step in the right direction for equal rights for all individuals regardless of sexual orientation. As a bisexual woman who eschewed marriage for many reasons, inequality being among them, I am glad to see people who want to get married being able to do.

2015

Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

My Answer:

I was able to reconnect with my meditation practice in March & May and again in early Sept. through instruction and connection with my spiritual teacher, Lama Drimed, after many false starts, attempts, painful absences and confusions as well as hurt feelings on my part.

So happy about all that!

Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

My Answer:

The upholding of Marriage Equality laws and the enforcing of them across the USA and in other countries feels like a giant victory.

Looser laws, releasing noncriminals from prison when their only “crime” is possession of marijuana, and eventual legalization of marijuana/cannabis use across the USA and other countries also seem imminent, due to the vast success (economic and social) of those places in which it is already legal and those changes have already occurred; another set of great victories.

I appreciate the egalitarians’ winning. I appreciate common sense’s prevailing. I appreciate nondiscrimination’s being enforced. Feels right and good.

Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? “Spiritual” can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

My Answer:

Due to a TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury] in April, 2014, I went from not being able to meditate for almost one year (after meditating consistently for over 42 years) to restoring my practice, slowly, bit by bit. Very grateful to my spiritual teacher, sangha and good fortune that this has been possible.

Returning to my practice is like coming home.

How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?

My Answer:

My meditation teacher reminded me that meditation practice in our tradition comes from our heart center, not our brain area. The Tibetans use a term that means “heart-mind” when talking about the mind.

My wish to improve myself and my practice is to keep it centered in my heart. “Meditation: it’s not what you think.”

2014

Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

My Answer:

Many science discoveries: proof of the multiverse, ability to teleport particles, invention of pre-tractor beam technology, getting paralyzed rats and others to walk, moving limbs and other things with just the mind: so much!

Very exciting, and all goes into research I use for The Spanners Series books!

What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?

My Answer:

Fear getting more unhealthy instead of more healthy over the next several years. Fear not getting my full meditation practice/brain function restored. Fear being unconnected to community/friends, no lover, no one close to me where I live.
Plan to keep exercising, eating better, reaching out to Buddhist and other groups (writers, Jews, work) to make friends.
Plan to stay in touch with my teacher.

What are your predictions for 2015?

My Answer:

Movement toward reducing and ending full-impact football, hockey, etc. (headers in soccer, e.g.), in youth and college sports.

More states’ legalizing marijuana.

More states’ ratifying gay marriage.

Proof of alien life on other planets.

How do you want to 10Q? It’s up to you!

Commemorating an Extraordinary Teacher and Person: Bill Heyde, who passed on 10/26/16

Celebrating an Extraordinary Teacher and Person:
Bill Heyde, R.I.P., 10/26/16, reported by the Ladue Education Foundation in St. Louis, MO, USA

bill-heyde
Mr. Heyde, circa 1973, courtesy of the Ladue Horton Watkins High School yearbooks, as published for his obituary in the St. Louis Post Dispatch

Dear Friends of Mr. Heyde,

I am saddened to share with you the news that our wonderful Mr. Heyde passed away on Wednesday. His health had recently been improving, and he was scheduled to return to his assisted living facility, but his life came to a close on October 26, 2016. As you all know, he had a life-changing impact on many of his students’, colleagues’, and friends’ lives.

Visitation will be on Sunday, October 30, from 2:00-6:00 p.m. at Bopp Chapel, 10610 Manchester Road in Kirkwood, MO.

The funeral service will be Monday, October 31 at 10:00 a.m. at Bopp Chapel.

Burial will be immediately following the service in Cape Girardeau.

Condolences may be sent to Bill’s sister: Adelaide Parsons and her husband Robert, 3120 Independence, Cape Girardeau, MO 63703.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to two of Bill’s favorite organizations:
Missouri Scholars Academy Development Fund
c/o Honors College
210 Lowry Hall
University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211

and

The Ladue Education Foundation
9703 Conway Road
St. Louis, MO 63124

Here is the link to the obituary in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/stltoday/obituary.aspx?n=william-albert-heyde-bill&pid=182178423&fhid=6378

For those of you who missed it the first time around, here is the link to the clever rap written and performed by 1972 alumnus Steve Levin to honor Mr. Heyde in 2015: https://youtu.be/tA5F3XdNcwI

As a grateful former student of Mr. Heyde’s, I’m so glad I was in St. Louis for the wonderful event honoring him as an amazing teacher and person in April, 2015!

Mr Heyde and students circa 1970
Mr. Bill Heyde and students, Ladue High School, circa 1970?

We had a BLAST!
Bill H and Bill W - Copy
Bill Heyde and Bill Weiss

Doug Cassel and Tom Newmark - Copy
Doug Cassel and Tom Newmark (sorry it’s blurry)

Jim McKelvy - Copy
Jim McKelvy and ??

Mark Zooie and Mr H mock debate - Copy
Mark Zooie (sp?) in mock debate

Randy Rubin mock debate - Copy
Randy Rubin in mock debate

Scott Anderson and Glenn Caplin - Copy
Scott Anderson and Glenn Caplin (former Debate captain)

Tripp Frolichstein mock debate - Copy
Tripp Frolichstein in mock debate

At the actual event, many people contributed to a large scrapbook and to the event’s festivities, including an amazing speech by former Missouri state debate champ, Neal Osherow, and an incredible original poem/rap, written and performed by former debater, Steve Levin https://youtu.be/tA5F3XdNcwI, and a mock debate (pictures, above) with many former debaters. So much fun! So much respect, admiration, love, re-connecting.

Mr. Heyde gave a prepared speech (but mostly from his memory!!) of the history of the debate team at Ladue Horton Watkins High School in St. Louis and that was fascinating. There were many former debaters and Speech competitors there (as I was, having won 4th place at the Missouri state level with my acting partner, Karen Raskin, in Duet Acting!), and students of Mr. Heyde’s. Excellent turnout: many had to be turned away due to fire code restrictions!

Thanks, Ladue Education Foundation organizers, for imagining, creating and hosting this excellent festival!

Here is my letter, sent to Mr. Heyde in 2012 and again in 2015 for this event:


Hi, Mr. Heyde,

I just found out how to contact you and wanted to thank you. You may not remember me, since you have had thousands of students, so let me jog your memory: I was then Sally Fleischmann (Jonathan’s next-younger sister) at Ladue High School (we have 2 younger sibs you may also have taught, Wendy [now, Ellen] and Lauri). I took your Advanced Composition class in 1970-71. I was one of the only students to get a “B+” on a first draft, while most received “D”s and “F”s. So, I suppose I can’t give you credit for ALL of my writing skills and abilities, but please, read on.

Another memory jog: One of the essays written for your class (about game-playing imagery in a short story by William James) was published in that year’s LHS creative writing journal. I then went on to torment Ms. Cannon in the Advanced Placement English class my senior year by never getting less than a “B” on any written paper, while acting up in her class a lot (I did win the vote [along with our class President, Andy Eder] for “Class Clown” in our yearbook’s “Senior Superlatives,” after all…).

Although I had been published, starting as a 4th-grader, in school and camp newsletters, for short stories, articles, poetry and songs, and again as a freshman, in Missouri Youth Writes, for a poem, prior to having your class, I felt that this essay’s being published was my first “adult” placement. As an actual adult, I have had short stories, poetry, articles, nonfiction books, songs and plays published and produced by others, and served as an editor/rewriter/proofreader for many publications.

In 2013, I became a blogger (Sally Ember, Ed.D., http://www.sallyember.com), and a self-published science-fiction author with Volume I, This Changes Everything, of The Spanners Series</strong>; in 2014, I added Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, and I hope to add Volume III, This Is/is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, in 2015 and seven more after that! In 2014, I began hosting my own talk show, conversations between authors, CHANGES, and I often think of you while talking to others about their writing. I also write reviews for Goodreads and Amazon, and while critiquing others’ books, your phrases about what constitutes “good” or “bad” writing often come to mind.

I credit you and want to thank you for modeling for me (and many others, I’m sure) how to teach and inspiring me to teach composition and writing to adolescents and young adults. I went on, after teaching elementary school and middle school language arts, to teach writing: for five summers at Upward Bound; for several years at three community colleges; for five years at two different universities; and, for six years in community education locales, including Corrections Education, in several states. While acquiring my Master’s and doctorate at UMASS/Amherst, I taught writing in Peter Elbow’s peer review process’ domain. I also have had occasional contract work as a researcher/ writer/ editor/ proofreader. I know that your recognition of my writing as “good” (a characterization you did not give out to many pieces) set me on this path.

I think of you often, as a great teacher and someone who inspired me to write more and to teach writing. Even 43 years later, I can picture you perfectly, gesticulating strongly, your necktie blowing about as you passionately enjoined us to become literary critics, not just essay-writers. “Literary criticism” was a foreign concept to me as a junior in high school, until your class. I had learned about symbolism, metaphor and allusion, even how to cite quotations. But, putting it all together analytically, originally, and interestingly? Never even crossed my mind, until you gave us your assignments.

You opened me to a whole new intellectual world. I remember with intense clarity the exact moment when I first “got” what you were trying to convey, and understood (in a very basic way, but still, understood) how to construct a critique. I was astonished. It was as if you had been decrypting a code, helping us to begin using a secret language within English. I really was thrilled to be part of this new “club.”

Yes, I am a geek. I usually read over 250 books a year. Yes; I do. I have, since elementary school, been an avid reader. I was also an athlete: a runner, a cheerleader in 9th grade, a gymnast and field hockey player; also, I am a musician and singer/actor; and, in high school, I was “popular,” including having been elected/selected to that pinnacle for girls in that era, a cheerleader. This is to say to your students that these “identities” are not mutually exclusive: being inducted into the National Honor Society and having lots of friends happily co-exist in many, and I heartily encourage your students to cultivate both their brains and their hearts.You will help them, I’m sure.

I mainly wanted you to know what a great influence and help you were in my professional life, and what warm memories I have of your class. Never think your import was forgotten or unsung, even if we don’t find you to tell you: THANK YOU!

Best to you and your students, past, current and future. Write on!

Take care,

Sally (Fleischmann) Ember, Ed.D.


Do you have a teacher, coach or other mentor you’d like to thank? Start by commenting here and keep on sharing! #thankateacher

Mr Heyde and one student
Mr. Bill Heyde and student, Ladue High School, circa 1970?

10/2-10/11/16: 10Q: Reflect. React. Renew.: “Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.”

You don’t have to be Jewish or celebrate #Jewish High Holy Days (Rosh Hashona, Jewish New Year’s, and Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement”) to want to spend some time considering your life and your goals/accomplishments each year. I was raised Jewish, but I am a practicing #Buddhist.

It’s free! doyou10Q.com and #DoYou10Q are the connection points.

10Q: Reflect. React. Renew.: “Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.”

The title and all the info, below, come from the 10Q site. Visit! Sign up! Do it!
http://doyou10q.com/

10 Days. 10 Questions.
10-q-logo

Answer one question per day in your own secret online 10Q space. Make your answers serious. Silly. Salacious. However you like. It’s your 10Q. When you’re finished, hit the magic button and your answers get sent to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping.

One year later, the vault will open and your answers will land back in your email inbox for private reflection.

Want to keep them secret? Perfect. Want to share them, either anonymously or with attribution, with the wider 10Q community? You can do that, too.

Next year the whole process begins again. And the year after that, and the year after that.

Do you 10Q? You should.

doyou10q

Click hereto get your 10Q on.

10Q begins October 2nd, 2016

http://doyou10q.com/


Here are some of mine from 2015 and 2014:
2015

Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

Your Answer:

I was able to reconnect with my meditation practice in March & May and again in early Sept. through instruction and connection with my spiritual teacher, Lama Drimed, after many false starts, attempts, painful absences and confusions as well as hurt feelings on my part.

So happy about all that!

Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

Your Answer:

The upholding of Marriage Equality laws and the enforcing of them across the USA and in other countries feels like a giant victory.

Looser laws, releasing noncriminals from prison when their only “crime” is possession of marijuana, and eventual legalization of marijuana/cannabis use across the USA and other countries also seem imminent, due to the vast success (economic and social) of those places in which it is already legal and those changes have already occurred; another set of great victories.

I appreciate the egalitarians’ winning. I appreciate common sense’s prevailing. I appreciate nondiscrimination’s being enforced. Feels right and good.

Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? “Spiritual” can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

Your Answer:

Due to a TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury] in April, 2014, I went from not being able to meditate for almost one year (after meditating consistently for over 42 years) to restoring my practice, slowly, bit by bit. Very grateful to my spiritual teacher, sangha and good fortune that this has been possible.

Returning to my practice is like coming home.

How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?

Your Answer:

My meditation teacher reminded me that meditation practice in our tradition comes from our heart center, not our brain area. The Tibetans use a term that means “heart-mind” when talking about the mind.

My wish to improve myself and my practice is to keep it centered in my heart. “Meditation: it’s not what you think.”

2014
Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

Your Answer:

Many science discoveries: proof of the multiverse, ability to teleport particles, invention of pre-tractor beam technology, getting paralyzed rats and others to walk, moving limbs and other things with just the mind: so much!

Very exciting, and all goes into research I use for The Spanners Series books!

What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?

Your Answer:

Fear getting more unhealthy instead of more healthy over the next several years. Fear not getting my full meditation practice/brain function restored. Fear being unconnected to community/friends, no lover, no one close to me where I live.
Plan to keep exercising, eating better, reaching out to Buddhist and other groups (writers, Jews, work) to make friends.
Plan to stay in touch with my teacher.

What are your predictions for 2015?

Your Answer:

Movement toward reducing and ending full-impact football, hockey, etc. (headers in soccer, e.g.), in youth and college sports.

More states’ legalizing marijuana.

More states’ ratifying gay marriage.

Proof of alien life on other planets.

The Mixed Bag of Lessons from My Father

Those of you who read my blog somewhat often know that I don’t usually share anything very personal from my past unless it’s positive. However, this year, due to timing and other factors, I am changing that with this post. If you’re not interested in hearing about my somewhat traumatic childhood or long-deceased father, skip this post! If you are, read on.

If you’d like to leave comments, you are welcomed to do so below this post, on my site: http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1HM [If you leave comments anywhere else that this post may appear (when it’s reblogged or cross-posted), I probably won’t see them very soon, if at all.]

The Mixed Bag of Lessons from My Father

My father died in 1991 at the age I am right now: almost 62. It seemed young even then, when I was only 37. Now, it’s appalling.
Here he is at about the age I was when he died:

Ira 1959
Ira Fleischmann, age 30

Dad died of a massive heart attack while playing doubles indoor tennis. He “was dead before he hit the ground,” according to the three doctors he was playing with at the time. They know this because he fell face forward and hit his forehead but never put out his hands to catch himself in the fall.

Because he had always been a coward about his health and avoided doctors, he died from what was actually a treatable condition (blocked arteries). We found out later that he had been having chest pains for months prior to that and hadn’t done anything about them.

My three siblings (ages 26 – 38 at that time), my dad’s third wife (age 48) and elderly parents (90 and 91), his sister (57) and others in our family and his friends were shocked at his early demise. Understandably, some of us who knew that he had avoided the doctor’s exam and that his death was likely postponable were also angry.

Know this:

FACT: 200,000
At least 200,000 deaths from heart disease and stroke each year are preventable.

FACT: 6 in 10
More than half of preventable heart disease and stroke deaths happen to people under age 65.
from http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heartdisease-stroke/

We became even more frustrated with him when we found out what a mess he had left his financial affairs in and how much his third wife would have to do to clean it all up. Ironically, even though he had sold life and other insurance policies for most of his life, he had cashed in his latest life policy to get quick cash (he was always short on cash) and died without any insurance. He had not only had made no provisions for his demise, but left no Will, either.

We spend the first few days after his death in a haze of mourning but needing to make many decisions. We ended up arguing about basic stuff:
—should there be an autopsy?
—should he be buried (my observant Orthodox Jewish brother insisted on this) or cremated (the rest of us, including his wife, knew that this was what he had talked about wanting)?
—what to do with the chaos of his home office, files, obligations, etc.?
We worked most of it out, but found out some disturbing facts along the way.

We found hundreds of business cards with some other man’s name, which turned out to be our dad’s alias (a mash-up of his two deceased uncles’ first names). The false name of this business and a local address were on letterhead and there were a few other “clues.” We opened file drawers and a desk drawers and compared notes: our dad had had a secret, alter ego, including another “business” of some type, complete with a fake office nearby.

My sisters and I, in a whirlwind of semi-hysterical giddiness and grief, put on our trench coats (literally) and slunk around to peer into this office’s windows: practically empty. No one was there or appeared to have been recently, but his fake name was on the door. The desk and chair looked unused. Nothing else was in this small room: mail drop only. For what? We knew we’d never find out. This was 1991, before Al Gore gave us the full internet, before Google, etc., and we had no money to pay to investigate in ordinary ways, so the trail ended there.

fraud scrabble

It took almost a year for his wife to make sense of the rest, pay off his numerous debts, settle some lawsuits (he was the defendant or the plaintiff in several). Even though she didn’t have to, she decided to disburse from what was left to us, his three children. It wasn’t much, but we were grateful.

We found out a few years later that our dad had purchased some oil wells in Illinois in the 1970s (yes, there are some!), when we siblings each received a notice about being his beneficiaries: where did we want to have the checks sent? Yippee!? Again, not much, but something.

So much for his financial legacies.

What else did I get from my dad? It was definitely a mixed bag, just like his financial detritus.

Planning for Death
It is cruel and selfish to one’s descendents and mourners to leave one’s affairs unsettled. Since none of us knows when or how we will die and we all know that death and/or incapacitation can happen quite suddenly and unexpectedly, there is no excuse for leaving these things undone when one has children, spouses, property and/or businesses.

The deceased one’s lack of preparedness causes what is already difficult (grieving a sudden or unplanned-for death) to become complicated, making the grieving a longer and more arduous experience for all mourners. Unwinnable arguments, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and vying for power, money, possessions, property and decision-making victories can take up the time we should be spending in simple grief and storytelling amongst us.

no Will
image from http://news.mdl.com.au
Dying Intestate (without a Will)= BAD

Lessons: Prepare for your death NOW
Because of the mess my dad’s disorganized death left, my son’s father and I responded. We both immediately signed up for a small life insurance policy and wrote our Wills when we got back home (our son was 10 at that time). I made sure I signed up to be an organ donor. We wrote our “Living Wills” so others would know our wishes should one of us become incapacitated and we each assigned a healthcare “Power of Attorney.” I have continually updated these documents and my list of whom to contact and what to do in the event of my death and for the disposal of my remains, any service to be held, etc.

Swimming
Our dad taught me and my brother (13 months older than I, so we did most early learning together) to swim when we were three and four, something I always loved from then on. I trained to and became a lifeguard and swimming instructor as an older teen and ran several waterfronts at summer camps as an adult, training lifeguards and teaching swimming myself. I was fortunate to have had intermediate and advanced swimming lessons every summer while a camper and I appreciated passing those skills on to other campers as I got older.

I developed a love of all places watery and being in the water from my dad. I had many years of jobs at summer camps because our parents sent us to them every summer—starting with the same camp, Camp Hawthorn, which I’ve written about on this blog—that he had attended as a child!

LESSONS: Water Love
I still swim many times per week, right here in St. Louis where I grew up, at the same Jewish Community Center where he taught us to swim (but a recently constructed pool replaced the old one). Because I’ve had many injuries to both legs and my back, swimming is my main exercise.

I have loved and swum in dozens of lakes, several oceans and probably a hundred pools around the world.

DSCF0013
I am lovin’ my sister, Ellen’s, backyard pool in California, 2013

Abuse and Strength
Our father was often an angry, impatient, intolerant, mean and frustrated person. He had been raised with physical and verbal punishment and passed those horrible habits onto my brother and me (mostly just us two oldest kids, because our younger sisters are very much younger). Our father beat up on us regularly, usually for no legitimate reason (most abusers operate that way), e.g., the TV was “too loud,” we weren’t moving quickly enough, we said something he didn’t like, we were tussling with each other too much, etc.

Our dad also yelled at us and our mother a lot and called us all terrible names. He was both physically and emotionally abusive for all my childhood years. When we got older, he focused on hitting my brother but pulling my very long hair. When he got violent and was looking for a target—any target—, I would tell my little sisters to lock themselves in our bathroom. I’d stand between him and that door, letting him pull my hair and slap me to distract him from going after them.

As soon as I got my driver’s license, I’d take them with me rather than leave them at home with him and my mom, who was very ill a lot of my high school years and not much help. They tagged along to visit my friends as we went to movies or listened to music. I took them to play rehearsals and other activities to avoid having them be at home with no one to protect or supervise them.

Luckily, Dad started having tennis matches (and affairs, we found out later), and was mostly out of the house a lot by the time we were in high school. After one extremely violent episode on the eve of my brother’s leaving for college, my mom finally threw him out. It was the beginning of my senior year.

My ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) score is very high, mostly due to my father. A high ACE score has been connected to causes of a myriad of other physical and mental health problems well into adult life, some of which I do have.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) impact
from http://www.npr.org

LESSONS: Lemons into lemonade
I developed tremendous courage, intolerance for abuse, the ability to stand up to anyone, any time. After growing up with and surviving an abusive parent, I would never be intimidated by anyone else.

I vowed never to be like him in those areas. I went out of my way to practice meditation, get counseling and incorporate anger management techniques. I also learned to use many “positive discipline” methods while raising my own son and being a teacher of young people. As a master teacher, I supervised and trained dozens of others and helped them learn the positive discipline techniques I had honed.

I am proud to say that I have never hit my child (who is now 36) or any other child. Furthermore, I intervened whenever I witnessed physical abuse or when I saw that hitting was imminent in public or private places. I do not call children or teens derisive names, nor do I put up with anyone else’s doing it.

I was on the board for a local child abuse prevention task force. I learned and then taught creative conflict resolution techniques and mediation. I also taught parenting classes, mentoring many teen, bio, adoptive, foster and step-parents to help them become more positive and to curtail / end any incipient habits of abuse.

I became an advocate for those being abused. For example, I intervened once when I witnessed several police assaulting a teen and then testified at his trial to get his (bogus) charges dropped. After they falsely arrested me to try to intimidate me out of making a formal complaint against them, I filed a lawsuit which I won. Those assaulting officers were reprimanded and fired. That police department then changed the ways they trained, supervised and managed officers in the field from then on.

Music
My mom and both her siblings and her mom, my dad’s sister and many others in our family were amateur musicians of sorts, mostly piano players or singers. My dad had “flunked out of” his piano lessons, according to him, but he had a great, operatic tenor and loved to sing.

I grew to hate opera because of my associations of his abuse with his favorite music, but I began to play the piano and sing along with many songs and loved music from a very young age. Our dad took us to the symphony a few times (I usually feel asleep, though).

Because of my dad’s commitment to music education, my and my siblings’ love of music was educated (but I still do not like opera, hip-hop, twangy country, bluegrass, free jazz or rap). He paid for my and my sisters’ piano and my brother’s drum lessons and arranged for us to have his own piano teacher to teach me and my sisters for our first years.

Mrs. Rosenblum was ancient, to my young eyes (probably in her 60s!), and a harsh task mistress, but classically trained and very skilled. I became a gifted sight reader due to her tutelage. I won piano competitions and played complicated pieces in her annual recitals, from ages 9 – 16. From ages 16 – 18, I learned theory and improvisation from a different teacher, the talented Herb Drury, who also had his own quartet (my dad also paid for that).

Because of my accomplishments and talent, I was selected to be the accompanist for rehearsals and the annual school musicals in 11th and 12th grades (a great honor). I also sang and accompanied in several of the school choirs as a teen and in/for many community and women’s choruses as an adult.

After I graduated college, I used the small amount of money left to me by my great-grandmother to buy my first piano, one I kept and moved over a dozen times to five different states. I took piano lessons for one year during my first year as a teacher, since I lived alone and had time to practice.

I enjoyed being a paid or volunteer accompanist, musical director, piano teacher and chorus member for most of my adult life. I also have written more than a few songs, am mid-stream in writing a musical (still festering my my files…), performed in and musically directed/accompanied several musicals and cabaret shows and continue to enjoy teaching (rarely) and playing piano.

Closeup of a child's hands playing the piano. Horizontally framed shot.
from http://www.huffingtonpost.com

LESSONS: Music rocks!
Music is a connector: more than a few of my lovers were musicians and/or singers and so is my son, who also composes. His father also plays several instruments and so do many of my friends and all three of my siblings. Music is a language: when I have trouble expressing or finding meaning in some extreme or complicated emotional states, music helps me understand my own and others’ experiences.

Playing piano, especially sight reading, uses both “sides” of my brain. Putting my fingers on a keyboard my son sent me and making music have helped me in my recovery from a Traumatic Brain Injury (from about two years ago).

When my sisters and I get together, we often sing. My son and I have had a lot of fun with “kitchen opera” (the only kind of opera I like), improvising lyrics and melodies as we cook or clean together.


My dad’s later years and my early adult life
Having worked for decades with youth and families, parents and professionals who work with youth in a variety of capacities, both educational and therapeutic, I know that my negative experiences are not even close to “the worst.” I have heard so many horror stories that it puts the difficulties of my life into a proportional perspective. Some of my childhood memories are actually quite positive.

Sally Dad Jon 1955
I, our dad and my brother, 1955, Clayton, MO

At this point, I do not deny the problems my father and his problems caused us, but I have grown to appreciate and be grateful for the good things he did provide. I am resilient and stronger due to a lot of help from other adults and friends. I have developed enormous empathy and compassion for others’ pain. I understand many of the conflicts that arise between parents and children of all ages.

For most of my college and early adult years, my dad and I were estranged to a large extent. I didn’t see him very often and we almost never talked on the phone. My sisters were little when he moved out (6 and 11), so they had the whole divorced parents-visitation-dad’s girlfriends things to contend with that my brother and I never had to do since we were already in college when our parents’ divorce came through.

Occasionally, Dad would send me a check for some odd amount (he liked to round off his checkbook running total to all zeros) with no note. Sometimes I’d rip that up, even though I needed the money. I was angry and hurt, unwilling to connect solely over money.

He remarried twice. The first time was when my brother was in medical school and I had just graduated college. He skipped my graduation, but he invited me and my brother to join him and his new wife, with our current dates, at a resort in New England (where my brother and I were both in college) later that summer. I didn’t want to go, but my brother said we had to. That experience was very weird. We played a lot of tennis and ate too much food; that’s about all I remember. The wife was unremarkable.

On the few occasions I did go to St. Louis during their brief marriage, I remember Dad’s being almost the same as when I had lived with him: he was frequently yelling at this woman’s three kids, calling them names, being horrible. I was disgusted.

At one tense dinner, the oldest (a girl) had left the table in tears due to his name-calling. I followed her into the hallway and stood next to her as she cried. When she was a bit calmer, I told her (from the vantage point of my ripe old age of 22 to her 11) that he was a horrible man and that he had been horrible to me and my brother, too. I then said that I’d stand up for her and that she should call me if he ever hit her or her brothers.

I don’t know what I would have done about his abuse of her and her brothers at that time (I didn’t know about child abuse hotlines, if there even were any in Missouri in 1977), but I do know that I would have appreciated it if ANYONE in my family or among my parents’ friends had ever offered any of us an acknowledgement of his abusiveness, any emotional affirmation of the trauma we were suffering, any kind of lifeline like that; no one ever had.

Luckily for those kids, my dad and their mom divorced soon after that visit.

My brother and his wife had their first child in 1979, a year before we had Merlyn, and then they had another one about a year and half later and two more in the next seven years. Our middle sister had her first child in late 1989. Both my sister-in-law and I took had privately taken Dad aside early on and told him, in no uncertain terms, that if he ever yelled at or laid a hand in anger on any of our children, he’d never see them again. He must have believed us, because he never lost his temper with any of the grandchildren.

Throughout the 1980s, my dad loved his 6 grandkids and enjoyed spending time with them. He happened to be visiting when my son was just learning to walk: Merlyn ran/fell into my dad’s arms as he took his first independent steps in August, 1981. Precious.

For his third marriage in 1986, he married a woman with three daughters around my sisters’ ages who was the same age as Merlyn’s dad. That was creepy, but we liked her all right. We later found out that this wife was an active alcoholic who almost immediately went into recovery soon after they got married.

Because of his wife’s personal recovery work, in the last few years of our dad’s life he had begun his own therapeutic journey. He went to some Al-Anon meetings, read some books relevant, talked with her and others.

During her senior year, my youngest sister, Lauri, went to live with them “to get to know our dad better.” Our mom had also remarried a few years prior to that and she didn’t much like her husband or being the only child at home (my middle sister was finished with college and living in California by then), so those were her other motivating factors. She reported during and after that year (1984) that Dad was starting to develop some insights into his own issues and kept his temper better around these teens (only two, Lauri and her youngest, were living at home): no hitting and very little yelling.

I participated in peer counseling (Re-evaluation Counseling, known as “RC,” and then Co-Counseling) from 1979 – 1986 and then had about ten years of regular therapy, starting in 1986. I also kept meditating, attended many other rituals and personal growth workshops and generally began to understand, heal and assimilate the consequences of my childhood’s traumas.

Due to both of our being involved in personal growth work and the mellowing effect of his having grandchildren, my dad and I were finally—very tentatively—having a more connected, positive relationship. This was helped by my living in New Hampshire and his still being in Missouri (distance and very few visits were key).

Dad at Stern wedding 1989
Ira Fleischmann, age 59, at my sister, Lauri’s, wedding, 1988

In the summer of 1990, we were visiting Dad and his wife (as well as my mom and her husband and other family) in St. Louis. My brother and his family still lived there (he had been doing his medical residency at a local hospital). At my dad’s condo’s complex was an outdoor pool. Merlyn and his cousins were frolicking with my brother and Merlyn’s dad in the pool while my dad and I relaxed in the shade on chaise lounges, drying off after our swim.

Suddenly, my dad looked up from the book he was reading on co-dependency and family problems to say, in a surprised and completely unironic tone: “Oh my God! I grew up in a dysfunctional family! Do you have any idea what that’s like?”

I was so shocked at his lack of awareness, I almost lost my breath. But, I could see that he was authentically having this insight for the first time. I didn’t want to discourage him.

Using my most neutral tone, I responded mildly: “I think I have some idea, Dad.”

He nodded and went back to his book. That was one of our last conversations.

In January, 1991, both of his parents, then in their early 90’s, were celebrating their birthdays. The entire extended family gathered in St. Louis to honor them. Unexpectedly, our dad died about 7 weeks after that reunion, so we were very glad that we had had that time all together.

Dad and Sarah at grandparents BD 1991
At the last family reunion, January, 1991. Counter-clockwise, from bottom left: our youngest sister, Lauri Stern; Ira Fleischmann with his youngest granddaughter, Ellen’s oldest, Sarah Miranda Kneeland; Dad’s sister, our Aunt Nancy Levin; her middle child, cousin Hillary Levin.

#Buddhist #meditation Mini-#Retreat at Home: Report from the Homefront

#Buddhist #meditation Mini-#Retreat at Home: Report from the Homefront

May 27 – May 30, 2016, all-day, four-day mini-retreat at home: YIPPEE! Did it! First one since my TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury)/concussion/broken nose/hurt eyes in April, 2014; first one in St. Louis. [I called it a “mini” retreat because I usually did at least three weeks’ and up to 11 weeks’ retreat, prior to this.]

I offer this post as a description and explanation for newbies and the curious, but I do not discuss the details of my practice with anyone but my teacher and fellow practitioners.

SCHEDULE:
A typical meditation schedule consists of Tüns (meditation/practice sessions) segmented by meals, breaks, exercise, sleep and personal hygiene time. When we do individual retreats, often we set our own schedules. I modeled this summer’s mini-retreat schedule mostly on the same schedules I followed while on individual retreats at the main meditation center (Rigdzin Ling in northern California), and at my residences in Silver City, New Mexico, and Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and Hayward, California, 1999 – 2014.

Home Mini-Retreat Schedule 2016

3:30 – 4:15 AM— Wake up, ablutions, etc.
4:15 – 5:30 AM— First Tün (meditation/practice session)
5:30 – 6 AM— Breakfast
6 – 10:30 AM— Second Tün (with two ten-minute breaks)
10:30 – 11 AM— Lunch
11 AM – 12 PM— Third Tün
12 – 1 PM— Nap (during first third, usually; see below). Otherwise, Fourth Tün
1 – 3 PM— Exercise (swimming/driving to and from) with moving meditation for 35 minutes while swimming
3 – 5 PM— Fourth/Fifth Tün
5 – 5:30 PM— Dinner
5:30 – 8 PM– Fifth/Sixth Tün (with one ten-minute break)

Total meditation time: about 11-12 hours/day, so about 40 hours (I ended before dinner on May 30).

LOCATION:
When I was fortunate enough to be at RZL, I often sat on a cliff overlooking a pond, river and mountains in the distance, above the main buildings of the center. For other types of practices, meditators prefer or must be indoors or even in a cave or place of complete isolation and darkness for most of the time.

Many people doing the dzogchen Tibetan Vajrayana practice of awareness (rigpa) meditation, trek chöd, as I do, prefer to sit where we have an unbroken view of the sky.

man sunrise meditatiion
NOT what my home retreat looked like at all, this year

There aren’t many cliffs and sky views near where I now live, in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time driving to a spot at which there would be no food, no bathroom, no easy place for this mostly injured body to sit, and no place to swim. Hence, a home retreat. I could almost see the sky, sometimes. I could see trees, bushes, a street and parking lot. Didn’t matter at all. I wasn’t involved with any of it. We keep our eyes open for this type of meditation, but with a “soft focus,” not paying particular attention to anything while noticing everything.

living room retreat spot 2016
Where I did most of my sitting practice: on the living room couch, learning against these cushions on the left, looking out the glass doors of the patio/deck to the right.

WHAT WE DO and DO NOT DO:
We also hear, smell, feel everything. We are not “checked out,” if we are practicing successfully. We are fully awake while doing our practice, sitting in oneness—in awareness (rigpa, Tibetan)—as often as we are able. We return to this awareness every time our attention wanders. That is the practice of trek chöd (Tibetan), in the simplest terms.

For this type of meditation practice, in retreat, practitioners usually don’t recite mantras, pray (except at the beginning and end of each retreat or even each Tün, if we want), use our malas (Tibetan prayer beads on a string, predecessor of the Catholic’s rosary), chant, visualize, play ritual instruments, enact stories, light incense, fill/offer water bowls, open our shrines or speak. Our practice is stripped-down to sitting and breathing.

The entire retreat is usually conducted in strict silence, which means that we make no eye contact when we do encounter people and we do no talking, writing, reading, or any other communicating (when necessary, we use “functional speech” only). We put away and turn off all cell phones, computers, communication or writing/reading/viewing devices of all kinds. We don’t write letters or answer the phone unless we are in a longer retreat during which we must communicate with family, friends, colleagues, neighbors occasionally to reassure them we are all right or respond to something urgent.

When we are fortunate (and/or wealthy), we have someone to “serve” our retreat: they shop for, prepare and serve our meals, sometimes even cleaning up for us, leaving us free to meditate for more time each day. That is part of the wonderful service that active meditation centers often provide retreatants. Sometimes, though, during non-busy times, when I was at the center, I still had to cook and clean up after my own meals, but I didn’t have to shop.

For home retreats, I have to do it all myself. I manage that by cooking a great big pot of soup and another big amount of something I can dole out each day for my two main meals and then have something small (a bowl of cereal, e.g.) for dinner.

Eating lightly at night is important for me, anyway. During a sitting and silent retreat like this, unlike the more active ones, our appetites get smaller and smaller as the retreat progresses, so we need less food.

THE RETREAT COMMITMENT:
It is important to make a firm commitment to one’s retreat by scheduling the entire period in advance and sticking to it. It is also important to make a daily schedule and adhere to it. Many also maintain/take a vow of celibacy to maintain during retreat (no sex or sex acts); some do not.

We all abstain from intoxicants (recreational drugs, alcohol) during retreat. If we have taken Layperson’s Buddhist Vows (or Five Main Precepts), as I have, we also never get intoxicated/inebriated. I don’t drink or use drugs, anyway, but for many meditators, retreat boundaries include that they refrain from engaging in the use of these substances during retreat.

Even if we get sick, someone dies, and/or there are other seemingly significant events that occur, we strive not to break our retreat commitments. Unless it is to save our own or someone else’s life or involves getting medical care to restore our health so that we can practice better afterwards.

It is important to let our friends, family and neighbors know, especially if we are doing a home retreat, that we won’t be answering phones or responding to texts or emails, for example, during these times/these days so they don’t worry. That way, we prevent someone from getting “wrong view” about meditation/meditators (e.g., not understanding our commitment, they think we are rude, unkind, insensitive, unless we communicate to explain).

We do not waver from this commitment or break our silence for any reason. These commitments and guidelines are called “retreat boundaries.” At the risk of generating “static” and negativity for our next potential retreat, we do not leave the grounds of a closed retreat (the “cloister”) or end our retreat prematurely. Some teachers give dire warnings about practitioners’ breaking boundaries that will result in creating negative future retreat karma, but I don’t like responding to threats. I maintain commitments because I want to do it.

Making and keeping these commitments strengthen the practitioner’s practice foundation and create/maintain a strong “container” for successful meditation practice. I feel good when I keep my chosen boundaries.

This time (or for any other home retreats), I did not have a completely strict, cloistered retreat: just isn’t possible. I drive to and from the pool, shop on the the first day for food and cook when necessary (more often on longer retreats). I also responded to a few communications from people who didn’t know I was in retreat and/or to reschedule things I had forgotten to reschedule. But, mostly, I did keep the strict retreat boundaries and commitments.

THE RETREAT EXPERIENCE:
Buddhist teachers talk about the entire retreat’s span of time as being divided roughly into three parts: “getting in,” “being in” and “rising out.”

“Getting in” is the first third. During this, we acclimate to being on retreat, letting go (sometimes slowly, sometimes more readily) of our daily concerns, activities, personae, thoughts, obligations and settling in to the schedule.

We always “open” our retreat with setting our intention and reaffirming our motivation and with gratitude, with prayers and thanks to our teachers. Usually, other directions are given to us in advance by our teachers.

Sometimes, we make offerings and/or have a ritual feast and prayers (tsog). Sometimes we continue our daily practices for the first day or so. Sometimes we do some preparatory readings (from teachings, notes, books) to remind us of the practice we are about to engage in and how to approach it.

Frequently, a lot of tiredness manifests early in this first third. If so, it is recommended that we nap a lot, recovering from the stress and strife of our usual lives’ demands. The peace, quiet and low-key nature of retreat bring us to a recognition of how exhausted and depleted we have gotten. Extra sleep is then necessary to restore ourselves and to be able to practice better for the rest of the retreat.

The middle third is “being in.” By then, accustomed to the schedule, needing fewer or no naps, we are ready and eager to practice for each Tün. We know what we are doing, we are glad to be doing it, it’s working as well as it will. Depending upon how long this period is and how quickly we are able to dive in, we can get very deeply immersed or only partially, but this is the main part of our retreat’s practice time. Whatever signs of accomplishment we may get usually begin to show up in this portion.

The last third is “rising out.” Sometimes gradually, sometimes more quickly, our minds and bodies begin to leave the depths and rise to the surface, preparing us for returning to our daily lives. For longer retreats, we spend part of this time still in retreat and the last part of it again in practices of formal gratitude. We “close” on the last day with offerings and/or a ritual feast and prayers (tsog), and dedicate the merit (the blessings and benefits of our practice) to all beings.

For the last day/hours or so, we are actually not still in retreat, exactly, but beginning to engage again in the more “ordinary living” aspects (whatever we haven’t been doing and must return to, such as driving, doing laundry, talking/communicating again).

We often don’t realize how deeply we are “in” until we begin to “rise out.” When we have been in a strict retreat for more than a few days, this gradual “return to duties” is very important for safety and acclimating to ordinary life. Otherwise, we can get into serious trouble or even accidents if we go back too suddenly to our busy, complicated home lives and schedules.

WHAT’S NEXT?
We usually meet with our teachers during or after our retreats (when we are so lucky as to be able to do that), to “offer our retreat experience” to the Lama by telling him/her about our experiences, insights, possible signs of accomplishment and/or knowledge acquired/applied successfully. We also bring questions, problems, concerns and “stuckness” that occurred during our retreat to this same meeting (or whenever we next meet) so that we may request guidance and answers from our teachers.

Usually during these meetings or subsequent ones, we get instructions, guidance for the next period of our practice, assignments/options for reading and/or attending live or video teachings. We might even schedule our next retreat(s).

I didn’t get to meet with my teacher at the end of this retreat, but I did see him for a private interview just last month, so I feel very blessed.

HAVING A MEDITATION TEACHER:
Tibetan Buddhists stress the importance of meditating under the guidance of and with instruction from a qualified meditation teacher. I completely agree with this. It is not sufficient to talk with other meditators, read books, listen to teachings on video or audiotapes or in person and then put ourselves into retreat and get ourselves out and go back to our lives.

Without a teacher who is more experienced and qualified to teach and guide us to listen to our experiences and direct our practice, we are certainly running the risk of there being a lot we will miss, misunderstand, misinterpret or just plain get wrong.

There are many qualified teachers in many parts of the world, now. I have put live links to some of them, above, when listing my teachers or main center. There are listings of some centers in Buddhist magazines, websites and other places online.

If you are not lucky enough to have found a teacher with whom you work well or you don’t live close enough to any teachers or centers who host visiting teachers, keep looking/trying. It is well worth the effort.

Where are the Buddhists Around Here?
There are several centers who host qualified teachers in the St. Louis area and throughout the Midwest, of all Buddhist traditions. Very close to where I now live is a Tibetan Buddhist practice group that includes some people who have met some of my own teachers and who use some of the same practice texts that I do. There are two others groups that are “cousins” to my lineages/practices and some of those people have also met some of my teachers and share some practices with mine. Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche‘s main center, Katag Chöling, is about a six-hour drive from here, in Arkansas. These are listed, below:

Blue Lotus Dharma Center somewhat eclectic, mixed Tibetan Vajrayana and Chan (Chinese Zen) practices Blue Lotus Dharma Center
Do Ngak Chöling Tibetan Nyingma Vajrayana Buddhism http://dongakcholing.org/
Katag Chöling Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche‘s main center, https://katogcholing.com
Kagyu Droden Kunchab—Saint Louis, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, http://www.kdkstl.org

MY TEACHERS:
I am beyond-words grateful to my teachers.

Lama Drimed
My beloved Buddhist teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu (Lama Drimed), about 2012

Whatever I was able to accomplish from this mini-retreat or any other part of my practice was entirely due to the blessings, teachings, support and care from my dear teachers, particularly Lama Drimed and the late H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche (photos above and below), as well as my mom (in whose home I now live), other Lamas, especially Lama Shenphen Drolma and Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche, and sangha (spiritual community of fellow practitioners scattered now around the world) of meditating sisters and brothers: THANKS to you all!

Chagdud Rinpoche
the late His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, my first empowering lama and my teacher’s teacher, about 2001, and his Yangshi (designated and recognized reincarnation), about 2013

I dedicate the merit (benefits) of my retreat to all beings.

Happy Birthday to our Son, Merlyn T. Ember!

Today is the anniversary of the birth of our wonderful son, unnamed at the time and for 20 more days, was born. I became a mother and you became an actual human after swimming around in my imagination for many years and in my womb for nine months. SO GLAD!

bass cake
image from designrshub.com

So, later in May the year of his birth, our son became Merlyn Timli 0 Ember. We gave him in his name the middle figure of “0” (which is a zero, not the letter “O”) to be a placeholder, awaiting the day he might want to choose his own name. True to his independent and somewhat contrarian nature, when he decided what he wanted to do with his name, Merlyn deleted the zero.

“Merlyn” means “Child of the Light,” and “Of the Immortals.” We chose to give him the original Celtic spelling and used those meanings.

Merlyn, with his first initial “M,” is also “named after” two family relatives: his father’s father, Morton Briggs (alive at that time, following Protestant tradition), and my mother’s mother, Mildred Klein Cytron Bright (then deceased, following Jewish tradition).

“Timli” is a name his dad, Christopher R. Briggs Ember (or, now, Ember Briggs) created, and the definition of this invented name is “He who paints in the sky with his fingers.”

“Ember” is the name Christopher and I chose to take on, adding it to our own names so that Merlyn’s surname could be “Ember.” The Ember Days are the days of change, the two or three days before and after every Solstice and Equinox. This name seemed apt since having a child (our first and only) certainly began many days of change for Merlyn’s parents!

Cradleboard M C and I

Merlyn in the cradleboard Emmy Rainwalker made for him, with his parents, May, 1980

[NOTE: Laws in New Hampshire at the time dictated that unmarried women could only give our children our own surnames, and I had no wish to give Merlyn my birth name. So, we chose a new surname for our new family. Christopher and I were deliberately and consciously unmarried, calling ourselves “Partnered,” for several reasons: lesbians and gays could not marry at that time; women became men’s property in New Hampshire when married in 1980; and, we both were marriage-averse for individual/personal reasons.]

I am so grateful that Merlyn’s birth occurred intentionally (and quite fortunately) at our rented home in Stoddard, NH, attended by three lay midwives: Katie Schwerin, whose family lived as housemates of ours and are still our good friends; Emmy Rainwalker (Ianiello), who was a former housemate and good friend; and, Cindy Dunleavy, the “senior” midwife who had trained Katie and Emmy and became our good friend.

Midwives

Also in attendance or present soon after Merlyn’s arrival were other housemates and several good friends: Bill Whyte (Katie’s husband; thanks for the great black-and-white photos, Bill!), Mia Mason (six years old and Katie’s daughter), Emily Schwerin-Whyte (Katie and Bill’s daughter, born in the same house four months prior), Tashin and Toqueem Rainwalker Story Talbot (two months and almost five years old, Emmy and Medicine Story’s children), Dana Dunleavy (three years old, Cindy’s son), Nina (a friend of Katie’s whose surname escapes me), Pamela Faith Lerman (our friend and David’s sweetie), David Eisenberg (a current housemate of ours and a friend), and Zea Moore (family friend). Good thing we had a very large bedroom!

Merlyn and I 1981 cr

Merlyn and I, 1981

We personally knew and/or were related to a total of over twenty children born within one year of Merlyn. He has cousins one year older and one year younger than he is on both sides, and he was born into what felt like an exploding baby boom, a loosely-knit but connected network of families with children around his age. He grew up in collective households with housemates who often included other children and in close connection with several in particular with whom he is still close as adults. We had buying clubs (food co-ops’ predecessors) we belonged to in several towns nearby for collective purchasing of bulk, organic and healthy foods and supplies. We exchanged childcare, kids’ clothes and baby equipment, recipes, chores, tools and handiwork. We celebrated birthdays, weddings, holidays and other occasions at one another’s houses, often ours.

HappyBirthdayGuitar
image from handmademusicclubhouse.com

These other families and their children became our extended family which included children who were students at public and Waldorf schools as well as homeschoolers; Merlyn was all three at one point or another.

Many of these adults and children were/are musicians, as Merlyn is. Our diverse community also included storytellers, teachers, woodworkers, roofers, artists, singers, dancers, therapists, the aforementioned midwives, political activists and social change leaders, construction/building tradespeople, office workers, gardeners, writers, herbalists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, composers, actors, directors, nonprofit social service workers, playwrights, spiritual teachers and leaders, computer techies, farmers/maple syrup makers, publishers, business owners, bookkeepers, retail workers, restaurant workers and many more.

Our ethnic and religious origins included Jewish, Sufi, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic, Native American, atheist, British Isles/Western European, Chinese, African, Eastern European, and many more. We were/are lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, questioning, and unknown or unprovided.

Some of the places we lived right before and after Merlyn was born had no electricity or running water (or even walls). We played board and card games, invented and actual sports games. Most of us intentionally had no televisions or war toys. We put the non-TV-watching time to great use.

We READ a lot! We put on plays, played music, talked a lot with each other, rode bikes, ice skated, sledded, swam, cooked and did “kitchen opera,” made costumes, hiked, walked, repaired, recycled and re-used (long before it was required), spent time in Finnish/Dutch-type saunas and Native American sweat lodges, canned and preserved food and herbs, sang and drummed and worked in ever-changing configurations of children and adults together.

Merlyn, you have become an amazing adult: kind, compassionate, intelligent, capable, worthy of and earning respect and admiration from colleagues, employers, bandmates, friends and peers. I am very proud to be your mother!

I hope, on this anniversary of the day of your birth, in your first year since 1999 of living back in the town you spent most of your growing-up years, that you and your sweetie, Lauren, celebrate in multiple ways with friends and your dad. I wish for you to enjoy a great birthday and many more, healthy, happy and prosperous ones to come!

I love you! Thanks, again, for making me a mother!

S M and C at Jake and Sandys wedding

I, Merlyn and Christopher, 2013

MacArthur [Foundation] Announces [a year-long series of] Performances, Discussion to Celebrate 35 Years of Iconic Fellowship Program”

MacArthur [Foundation] Announces [a year-long series of] Performances, Discussion to Celebrate 35 Years of Iconic Fellowship Program”
https://www.macfound.org/press/press-releases/macarthur-announces-performances-discussion-celebrate-35-years-iconic-fellowship-program/#sthash.wuDoFQcB.dpuf

AND

Events Calendar
https://www.macfound.org/events/fellows35/?all=1

The-MacArthur-Fellowship-Program logo

These events are happening mostly in Chicago and on the East Coast (Washington, D.C., New York City), but will be broadcast/put online as well. Awesome! And, “Most of the events will be open to the public for free or at low cost.”

I have always been fascinated by and love seeing who gets these grants each year. I adore the entire secrecy of the process (no one knows, supposedly, who does the selecting, no one can be nominated, and no one can self-nominate). So, one day, my friends and I imagine, someone gets this phone call or email saying: You have been selected as a MacArthur Foundation Fellow for a “Genius Grant”! What an amazing thing to happen!

The panel chooses such an excellent variety of creative, intelligent, talented and skilled individuals, also. Each year, we can learn about their Fellows and meet jugglers, dancers, scientists, writers, playwrights, poets, musicians, choreographers, youth workers and other educators, environmentalists and activists of other types and whoever strikes their fancy all honored in this way. Usually they choose about 20 people from all around the country. Not all are young, not all are older; not all are men or women; not all are Caucasian. Fabulous.

The MacArthur Fellowship[s], called “genius grants” by the media, recognize[s] exceptionally creative individuals with a track record of achievement and the potential for significant contributions in the future.

Fellows each receive a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000, which comes with no stipulations or reporting requirements and allows recipients maximum freedom to follow their own creative visions. Since 1981, 942 people have been named MacArthur Fellows.

Fellows are selected through a rigorous process that has involved thousands of expert and anonymous nominators, evaluators, and selectors over the years.

The Foundation does not accept unsolicited nominations.

This year “is expected to include the following events as well as others to be announced later.

  • Public artist Rick Lowe will deliver a lecture on “Art in the Social Context” at Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service as part of the Mimi and Peter E. Haas Distinguished Visitor program (Stanford, CA, Feb. 4).
  • The College Art Association will host a discussion with photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier and public artist Rick Lowe as part of its 104th Annual Conference (Washington, DC, Feb. 5).
  • The Poetry Foundation will present the Chicago-based collective Every House Has a Door’s adaptation of a work by poet Jay Wright (Chicago, Feb. 20).
  • In conjunction with an exhibition of her work, the Whitney Museum of American Art will host a discussion with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras (New York City, Feb.).
  • Sixth & I, a historic synagogue and cultural event space, will present a panel discussion on immigration featuring writers Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Aleksandar Hemon and Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz (Washington, DC, March 7).
  • New York’s 92nd Street Y will present a panel discussion featuring MacArthur Fellows (New York, March).
  • Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry will host MacArthur Fellows for events marking National Robotics Week, including Jr. Science Cafes, a public conversation, and robotics demonstrations (Chicago, April 2).
  • The National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, in collaboration with the American Historical Association, will host a conference on “The Future of the African American Past,” featuring scholars, activists and historians, including several MacArthur Fellows (Washington, DC, May 19-21, 2016).
  • The Poetry Foundation will host a reading by poet and writer Alice Fulton (Chicago, May 24).
  • The Economic Club of Chicago will feature two conversation pairings with arts entrepreneur Claire Chase and music educator Aaron Dworkin as well as computational biologist John Novembre and historian Tara Zahra (Chicago, May 25).
  • Wingspread will host a public event featuring MacArthur Fellows working on issues of interest to the Johnson Foundation and the Racine community (Racine, Wisconsin, May).
  • The Chicago Humanities Festival will host a one-day series of programs highlighting the work of MacArthur Fellows (Chicago, May).
  • MacArthur Fellows will be featured in a plenary session at the annual convention of Americans for the Arts (Boston, June).
  • Orchestra conductor and MacArthur Fellow Marin Alsop is designing three free evenings of performances in conjunction with the Grant Park Music Festival that will showcase MacArthur Fellows working in music and science, including cellist Alisa Weilerstein, violinist Regina Carter, and composer Osvaldo Golijov (Chicago, July).
  • The Harris Theater will host a free, two-night dance performance series featuring curated works created by MacArthur Fellows, including Kyle Abraham, Merce Cunningham, Michelle Dorrance, Susan Marshall, Mark Morris, and Shen Wei (Chicago, Sept. 16 and 17 or 18).
  • The Chicago Humanities Festival will incorporate MacArthur Fellows into its regular annual programming (Chicago, Sept.).
  • The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will host two free public performances by MacArthur Fellows through its Millennium Stage series (Washington, DC, Oct.).
  • Conservation biologist Claire Kremen will speak at as part of the Women in Science series at The Field Museum (Chicago, Nov. 2).
  • Also during the year-long anniversary MacArthur Fellows will field questions from the public in Reddit ask-me-anything sessions and appear on other digital platforms.

Attend! View! Learn! Appreciate! Enjoy!

More info about the Fellows Eligibility, Criteria and Selection Process, from their website:

Criteria:
“There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

“The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. In keeping with this purpose, the Foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.

“Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a lifetime achievement award, but rather an investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential. Indeed, the purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.

“The Foundation does not require or expect specific products or reports from MacArthur Fellows and does not evaluate recipients’ creativity during the term of the fellowship. The MacArthur Fellowship is a “no strings attached” award in support of people, not projects. Each fellowship comes with a stipend of $625,000 to the recipient, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years.”

How Fellows are Chosen:
“Nominees are brought to the Program’s attention through a constantly changing pool of invited external nominators. The nominators are encouraged to nominate the most creative people they know within their field and beyond. They are chosen from as broad a range of fields and areas of interest as possible.

“Nominations are evaluated by an independent Selection Committee composed of about a dozen leaders in the arts, sciences, humanities professions, and for-profit and nonprofit communities. Each nomination is considered with respect to the program’s selection criteria, based on the nomination letter along with original works of the nominee and evaluations from other experts collected by the program staff.

“After a thorough, multi-step review, the Selection Committee makes its recommendations to the President and Board of Directors of the MacArthur Foundation. Announcement of the annual list is usually made in September. While there are no quotas or limits, typically 20 to 30 Fellows are selected each year. Since 1981, 942 people have been named MacArthur Fellows.

“Nominators, evaluators, and selectors all serve anonymously and their correspondence is kept confidential. This policy enables participants to provide their honest impressions independent of outside influence.

“The Fellows Program does not accept applications or unsolicited nominations.”

Eligibility:
“There are no restrictions on becoming a Fellow, except that nominees must be either residents or citizens of the United States, and must not hold elective office or advanced positions in government as defined by the statute.”

Part II of “A Reluctant Buddhist” by Sally Ember, Ed.D., Appears 11/13/15 on The Buddhist Door

Part II of “A Reluctant Buddhist” by Sally Ember, Ed.D., Appears 11/13/15 on The Buddhist Door

Find out how…:
“…did I end up becoming a devoted, long-term student of Nyingma-lineage Tibetan Buddhism, studying, practicing, and completing my Ngöndro (foundation practices) in two-and-a-half years (“as if my hair were on fire”) while in full-time graduate school, working full time, and raising my son?

“…did I go from being unwilling even to enter the teaching venue or shrine room to being eager and willing to help start and/or expand and also, sometimes, live in and be a cook, coordinator, board member, bookkeeper, umze (chant leader), stupa mantra roller/packer, and more for not one, but three Dharma centers (in Maine, New Mexico, and California)?

“… did I transition from not even talking to Wyn for ten years to having him as Lama Drimed (Padma Drimed Norbu) become my root lama and main, then sole, Dzogchen meditation teacher and practice and retreat guide?

“…did I come to learn Tibetan well enough to be able to read, write, speak, and translate?”

http://www.buddhistdoor.net/features/a-reluctant-buddhist-how-it-took-me-eight-years-to-start-practicing-in-this-life-part-ii


Missed Part I? Find it from September 4, 2015, at Buddhist Door
http://www.buddhistdoor.net/features/a-reluctant-buddhist-how-it-took-me-eight-years-to-start-practicing-in-this-life

10 Days. 10 Questions: #10Q

10 Days. 10 Questions.
10 Q logo

If you are Jewish or celebrate Jewish holidays, sunset on 9/13/15 began Rosh Hashonah, the #Jewish New Year: L’Shana Tovah (May you have a sweet and healthy New Year)!

Whether you observe Jewish holidays as a #Jew or Jewish ally or are interested in Jewish customs and new traditions, you may be interested in this new tradition, #10Q, for personal growth and reflection. The “10” refers to the 10 days that include the first day of the two-day Rosh Hashonah celebration and the Day of AtonementYom Kippur—September 22-23, on the other end.

There are many traditions associated with each of these holidays and the days between, but I do not practice them because I am not an observant Jew; I am a practicing #Buddhist. However, last year I found out about 10Q and really appreciated it. So, I did it in 2014 and I am doing it again this year.

Just a reminder: the 10Q site goes into lockdown at the end of Sunday, September 27th. You have till then to fill in your answers and send them to the Vault for safe-keeping. After that, you won’t be able to see the answers until next year–and if you don’t send them into the Vault, you won’t ever see them again. Once you submit, you can relax and look forward to the eve of Rosh Hashanah 2016, when your 2015 answers will be coming back to you.

I recently received my responses to last year’s questions, received earlier this week, as promised (see below for explanation of 10Q). It was fascinating to me to read what I had written because, as many of you know, I suffered a severe brain injury in April of 2014; last fall, I was still in very bad shape, mentally. I don’t even remember much about writing these responses much less what I wrote, so it was with great curiosity that I opened the reporting email with my responses inside.

These 10Q‘s 10 questions (one for each of the 10 days) are very personal; I do not choose to share my responses. But, I will say this: the exercise of responding is a great one, regardless of your religious affiliation.

Summary: I achieved many of the goals and aspirations I put out in my responses!

I heartily encourage each of you to visit this site and respond to the questions, starting on Rosh Hashonah, 2015, which is tomorrow, Sunday, 9/13/15. Read more about 10Q and then click on a link or two, below.

There are/were also live 10Q events happening in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco (see below) and perhaps elsewhere, or you could have one. Check these out!

May all beings benefit.

Answer one question per day in your own secret online 10Q space. Make your answers serious. Silly. Salacious. However you like. It’s your 10Q.

When you’re finished, hit the magic button and your answers get sent to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping.

One year later, the vault will open and your answers will land back in your email inbox for private reflection.

Want to keep them secret? Perfect. Want to share them, either anonymously or with attribution, with the wider 10Q community? You can do that too.

Next year, the whole process begins again. And the year after that, and the year after that.

Do you 10Q? You should.

Click here to get your 10Q on.

10Q began September 13th, 2015

10Q: Reflect. React. Renew.
Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.

10Q LINKS:
http://doyou10q.com/about
http://doyou10q.com/faq
http://blog.doyou10q.com/

10Q 2015 QUESTIONS (I plan to add one each of the 10 days):
“1. Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?”

“2. Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you’re especially proud of from this past year?”

“3. Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?”\

“4. Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?”

“5. Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? ‘Spiritual’ can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.”

“6. Describe one thing you’d like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?”

“7. How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?”

“8. Is there something (a person, a cause, an idea) that you want to investigate more fully in 2016?”

“9. What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?”

“10. When September 2016 rolls around and you receive your answers to your 10Q questions, how do you think you’ll feel? What do you think/hope might be different about your life and where you’re at as a result of thinking about and answering these questions?”

“BONUS Q: What are your predictions for 2016?”

10Q 2015 EVENTS:
San Francisco:
Ctrl + Alt + Del: Tashlique at Ocean Beach
Sept. 14, 2015, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Ocean Beach near Fulton (across from Beach Chalet)
FREE
https://www.facebook.com/events/1624398931151639/

Reset your system with our modern spin on a 600-year-old Rosh Hashanah ritual called tashlique. This custom of ridding ourselves of all our bad vuggum (karma) from the previous year and getting a fresh start for the new one is traditionally enacted by tossing bread into the ocean. Join us by the shore at Ocean Beach (near Fulton) for a brief, engaging ritual and joyful noise accompaniment from shofar* blowers, bag pipers, members of Jazz Mafia and the Ministers of Sound of the Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church. Bring stale bread to share and a shofar, if you have one, to blow along with some of San Francisco’s finest players. Enjoy our twist on the traditional sweet with s’mores and Rocky’s Fry Bread.

New York City

NYC 10 Q event Blank-Slate-Full-Plate-Final-9-2-15
September 23, 2015, 6 – 9 PM

Los Angeles
One Day Retreat in Topanga, CA: Reflect & Renew

10 Q Topanga Taste-of-the-East-Revised-2015
September 19, 2015, all day
Facilitated by Michael Kass & Zoe Gillis

Why I Started a LIVE Talk Show: *CHANGES* conversations between authors on Google+ Hangouts On Air (HOA) and YouTube

“Why I Started a LIVE Talk Show: CHANGES conversations between authors on Google+ Hangouts On Air (HOA) and YouTube”
originally posted on http://www.asidefromwriting.com on July 6, 2015

CHANGES Theme Image_3

In early April, 2014, I had just completed and uploaded Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, of my science-fiction/romance/ multiverse/ utopian/ paranormal (psi) ebooks in The Spanners Series for adults, New and Young Adults, and joined two new writers’ groups in the East Bay (one in Berkeley and one in Hayward, California, where I had been living), when I was in a terrible accident. The resulting broken nose has been healing fine and didn’t require surgery; the concussion has proven to be a lot more problematic.

For several months, it was as if I were in a fog. I wasn’t allowed to do any serious computer work, reading or thinking (I had been about halfway through Volume III, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, when I got hurt). Since I couldn’t wear my glasses without causing myself enormous pain (glasses would be sitting on the broken nose, right?), and I was overwhelmingly aphasic, exhausted, confused and injured, unable to process much, the respite from writing, reading and working seemed necessary. The accident had also caused extreme damage to my arms, hands, shoulders and upper back, so keyboarding wasn’t all that feasible, anyway. Plus, when I did type, I made more errors than words, typed very slowly (usually over 100 WPM; then, about 40 WPM, with numerous mistakes).

However, once the enforced hiatus was over, I still couldn’t return to my regular life. My memory was horrible, both short- and long-term. I couldn’t find words, or the right words, to speak or write. I no longer sounded as if I were drunk, but I was still extremely slower and less able, all around, than I had been prior to the brain injury. I usually function in the top 10 percent of intellectuals, with an extremely large vocabulary and many types of intelligence. I had been fortunate, up until the accident, to be a wide reader of many subjects, with both formal and informal education beyond the doctoral level and a larger variety of knowledge, experiences and insights than most people. Post-concussion, I was barely above-average and often, not even that.

Before the injury to my brain, I had been writing my fiction series quite quickly, often exceeding 2,000 words per day. My creativity seemed boundless, my energy matching it. Volume I’s first draft had been completed in under two months, and it was over 130,000 words. I had developed a spreadsheet to record my (very brief) notes on my series’ dozens of human, animal and alien characters, multiple timelines, overlapping realities, historical and future events and people, but most of the series’ details and plans had been in my brain which had been injured to the point of being severely compromised.

In July of last year, I discovered all I could create were short, nonfiction blog and other posts, and it took “forever” to finalize each one, since I typed sentences that were riddled with errors. Each post needed to be proofread multiple times. I could barely read others’ blogs and reblog/share, almost couldn’t read short pieces/stories.

Yes, after a few months I was improving and could do these with increasingly better understanding, but I still couldn’t return to my fiction series. My “executive functions” and “working memory” were still extremely low-performing due to the post-concussion syndrome I had been diagnosed with in June.

I wasn’t well enough to return to my “regular” life of work or writing, but I was well enough to be bored. Luckily, I had discovered Google+ the previous year. During the winter and spring of 2014, I had been attending Hangouts On Air (HOAs) somewhat regularly.

After my accident, watching videos was about the only thing I could do, since reading, writing and other glass-wearing activities were excluded. I attended and participated (when that was allowed) in many HOAs by leaving comments, questions, and interactions with others also viewing or presenting, on topics ranging from books, book marketing, authors, writing, marketing, social media, spirituality/meditation and more. I watched most on Google+, but they were also archived so I could watch those I missed on YouTube, where I found even more entertaining, informative videos. (Find me on Google+ as Sally Sue Ember)

I got into watching one HOA in particular, Lights, Camera, HOA!, run by an excellent trio of women: Meloney Hall, Rayne Dowell and Sheila Strover.

After I attended a few shows, Rayne read Volume I of my series and reached out to invite me onto the show to learn more about being in/on a HOA. The entire reason for this show’s existence is to help newbies (like me) get comfortable with the HOA format and technology, both on- and off-camera. I LOVED it! What a great service this show provides. THANK YOU! https://plus.google.com/u/0/+Bigupticksociallightscamerahoa/about

As a former actor/performer, being “on camera” wasn’t hard for me. As a writer/author, being able to interact with viewers LIVE was so much better than having readers I almost never hear from or meet. I was hooked on HOAs and wanted my own. I learned everything I could in the next several months, wondering if I’d be able to manage my own show.

What could I have a HOA about, exactly? There were an infinite number of choices. By then, I had been interviewed on several radio shows online and submitted many “author interview” posts to others’ websites, so I was familiar with that format and was beginning to feel it was somewhat overused. Frankly, and no offense to the current website(!), I find most author interviews to be awfully repetitive and, well, boring.

I did NOT want to interview authors, but I wanted to meet more authors and talk about writing as well as many other interesting topics. By the end of July, four months post-injury, I still couldn’t write for my series, but I was able to talk better and listen very well. I decided to launch in August and to have a show that I would want to watch.

Since I wanted to be around other writers and hear about their experiences, hoping to be entertained and inspired until my own writing would (hopefully) be accessible to me again, I posted on Twitter, Facebook groups and in general, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+ communities to invite authors to be guests on CHANGES conversations between authors. I also ranged around to those sites that posted award winners in science-fiction, particularly, and invited many of those authors on my show as well.

CHANGES YouTube Image_3 best

The response has been more than gratifying. I welcomed Dr. Shay West as my first guest for my August 6, 2014, premier Episode, with several more super authors scheduled to be on subsequent shows. Since then, with a few planned and even fewer unplanned exceptions, I have had an Episode each week. The live show airs three or four times per month (with one week off, to rest) on Wednesdays, 10 – 11 AM Eastern time, USA, and TODAY, August 5, 2015, I air my one-year anniversary show!

Amazing authors have been guests on CHANGES (http://goo.gl/1dbkZV on my website for full schedule of past and upcoming guests). I have had guests who joined me live and/or hail from France, Spain, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Canada, Israel, Guyana, and many states in the USA. The authors I have talked with enrich me weekly (and my viewers as well, I hope), writing in every fiction genre and including those who also write nonfiction, plays, screenplays and poetry.

Ethnically, my guests have been American mixed-Causasian, African-American, African-Jamaican, Spanish, English, Indian (continent, not tribe), Russian, Jewish, German, Norwegian, Israeli, Guyanan, Irish, and Greek (so far). Editors, publishers (magazine and book), and translators, with an age range, as of today, August 5, 2015, of 15 – 78 years old, are in my CHANGES guests club.

Our conversational topics list is too lengthy to include here, but has been exactly as I had planned: wide variety, high-level subject discussions that are informative, entertaining, insightful, funny and poignant. My guests and I share personal and professional stories, discuss books and writing, publishing and editing, book cover artists and much more.

I am quite happy to say that, as of August 5, 2015, CHANGES Episodes (now up to 37, http://goo.gl/1dbkZV on YouTube) have garnered audiences as large as over 1000 in one day, totalling over 3600 views, so far.

My YouTube channel went from having 2 to almost 50 subscribers. I now have over 3000 followers on Google+ and Facebook, each (although some are the same people, I’m sure), and over 5000 on Twitter. Pinterest followers’ number has quadrupled; so has LinkedIn’s.

I know these are small numbers compared to many, but I’m happy that my network is growing. We receive many compliments, positive comments and excellent questions for each CHANGES Episode from viewers who watch live or later, and more watch weekly.

Since starting CHANGES, I’m delighted to report that downloads of Volume I of my series, which is permafree since I uploaded Volume II (right before my accident), are steady. I do wish for better sales for Volume II, but I’ve heard a series has to have at least three books released “to really take off.”

What’s Next?
CROWDFUNDING to meet my Goals

—I wish to convert the *CHANGES* videocasts into podcasts, for those who prefer to listen-only, but the podcast hosting sites are not free.
—I also wish to pay for my next book covers,
—I need to buy better equipment for my home videocasts, and
—I must keep writing.

However, the concussion has severely limited my ability to work and I am in deep debt. If you’d like to help, http://www.patreon.com/sallyember has a video about my goals and rewards to donors in which I sing (really; not so well, but, hey; I’m not a professional singer!), and more information.

$4 gets you a free ebook; larger donations earn you deep discounts on professional editing, proofreading and writing tutor services, all of which can do well, despite the concussion.

Concussion Recovery News
As of May, 2015, I am back to writing new parts of Volumes III and IV! Slowly, much more laboriously, with an ongoing need for referrals to notes and dictionary, thesaurus and spell-check than remembering going on, but glad to be writing!

I wish I could open up my brain and retrieve the Spanners Series ideas that had been so accessible, so easily before the concussion and look them all over, but…

logoAuthorsDen

The network of authors, book bloggers, book marketers and other writers I have been developing over the last two years has blossomed into a group I can call upon for help, advice, and exchanges. That has proved amazingly gratifying as I trumpet my announcement, below, because many have stepped forward to play a role in this next phase.

Good news: I finished the Beta readers’ draft of Volume III, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, in late July! Five wonderful writers are reading it right now and will offer their sage wisdom on its improvements by late September. I then hope to be finished with the final proofed version no later than mid-October. I have already begun the cover design process with Aidana Willowraven, The Spanners Series‘ cover artist. The Cover Reveal is planned to occur on Alesha Escobar‘s site in late October. Pre-orders start 11/1/15 and the release of Volume III is scheduled for December 8, 2015!

Wish me luck!

How Else You Can Become Involved
Beta readers for upcoming draft of Volumes IV and reviewers of all Volumes welcomed! Contact me: sallyember@yahoo.com

Also, watch a few Episodes of CHANGES any time: http://goo.gl/6xjSKl Please comment on YouTube or go to the original G+ Event page for that Episode and comment/ask questions, get more info and links. I will respond!

Become/Refer a Guest! #Authors and #bloggers, especially those in sci-fi/speculative fiction, but not only those: learn more about and get yourself on CHANGES, and #Readers, recommend an #author to be scheduled as a guest.

OPENINGS 8/12/15 and later this fall! For more info, schedule and past/upcoming guests list, visit here: http://goo.gl/1dbkZV.

CHANGES Trailer Image_3

Also, I’ve invited former guests and others I appreciate to Guest Blog on Wednesdays, with excellent posts, so far! Check out the Guest Bloggers’ Hall of Fame on my site (see below) for previous and upcoming posts.

I strongly suggest you check out others’ HOAs as well: there are some great shows out there in Google+ land! Two good places to find them (and another great G+ community, User2User: LIVE!):
https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/101944073205735325459 for User2User-Live!
Http://www.hangouteventscalendar.com for the HOA Calendar

For updates about and links to available Volumes of The Spanners Series, me as an author, my own and guest blogger’s posts, Patreon and much more: http://www.sallyember.com has all links and info. Look up or to the right and scroll.


May all who are ill recover and all who are in pain find comfort.

Best to you all!

For #1000Speak for #Compassion: What Compassion Means to Me

Today is the second date of this year for bloggers and posters all over the world to join this growing movement, #1000Speak for #Compassion by posting a response to: “What does compassion mean to you?”

1000 Speak for Compassion 6-20-15

For #1000Speak for #Compassion: What Compassion Means to Me

1000 voices Compassion invitation


My first empowering Tibetan Buddhist teacher, the late His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, taught frequently on the topic of compassion because, as he said in every teaching I ever attended of his, motivation is the the most important part of anyone’s practice, with an emphasis on bodhicitta, “the awakened heart,” which means spontaneously emanating compassion. Compassionate motivation ought to be at the forefront of every thought, word, and action for everyone who has taken Refuge with a Buddhist teacher.

This is important because the surface Refuge vow, not to harm, does not seem to include any motivation or intention within it. Yet, it does; it must.

For Buddhists, to experience Compassion is to have the heartfelt wish to alleviate all other beings’ suffering, which we do as best we are able in every moment.

In contrast, to Love another is to put that being’s happiness (not temporary, mundane happiness, but ultimate, liberation-from-delusion-and-suffering-type-happiness) above our own.

There are pitfalls, especially for Westerners, which many Buddhist teachers explain and admonish us about.

—“Idiot compassion” is ill-advised. This type of response is reactive, gooey, “Awww” at a kitten video on YouTube feeling, or pity: not actual compassion at all. See above definition for a refresher. It also encourages the acceptance of what ought never to be accepted by being misguided as to what compassion entails. People who do harmful things must face the consequences. We can feel compassion toward them WHILE exacting appropriate measures to ensure they do no further harm.

—“Enabling” is not loving or compassionate action, yet putting others’ ultimate happiness above our own can sound like a recipe for co-dependence. The practitioner must be able to discern between aiding someone to attain some kind of superficial, temporary, mundane pleasures and assisting someone to gain ultimate, spiritual liberation: only the latter is the kind of happiness we strive to accomplish for/with others.

Pity is not compassion (see above). This is more complex than it may appear, however, because pity requires a hierarchy: “I am above you, I am better (off) than you, and therefore, I am in a position to judge, assess, and perhaps help you” and “I feel sorry for you (sympathy)” are those scripts.

—Contrast pity with actual compassion: “I feel with you (empathy). I have been and sometimes still/often are where you are now. We are more the same than different. When I am able to help you, I do so knowing that I, too, frequently need similar help.”

—Without compassion for oneself, it is impossible to feel genuine compassion for others. Self-compassion is not self-indulgence, however, and does not absolve one of taking responsibility, being accountable and striving to improve oneself at all times.

Compassion includes no “free pass.” Feeling compassion towards someone does mean we excuse or accept their every word, action or intention as wonderful. We can maintain our ability to evaluate others’ actions and work to prevent future harm WHILE we feel compassion for their situation and confusion. See above, for “idiot compassion.”

Meditation on exchanging-self-for-other is the key to experiencing spontaneous compassion for all beings. This means that we learn to see ourselves as the same as all other living beings: fundamentally wanting the same things and living in bodies unite us. At first, we pray to experience compassion for all, but usually, we feel compassion primarily for those we already care about and love. Therefore, in our practice, we state that we do feel compassion for all beings, even when we don’t. Eventually, with sufficient practice, we spontaneously feel nonjudgmental, evenly spread compassion for all beings, regardless of their status, condition, relationship to us, or location.

I have noticed a dramatic rise in my ability to feel compassion, even for the most heinous criminals, horribly harmful people, by remembering two things:
1. This being is merely trying to be happy, but because of karma and experiences, is completely confused as to how to achieve that and actually works against that goal, making their own misery and misery for others as well as bad karma.
2. This being and I are connected, as all beings are connected: somewhere, sometime, in some physical form or another, we have been/are each other’s mothers.

WORKS EVERY TIME.

I wish you all the best and may all beings benefit.

1000 Speak for Compassion

Johnson’s Shut-Ins: Jumping In with Fear, Enjoying the Ride

Johnsons Shut Ins title
(unknown person in this photo)

Johnson’s Shut-Ins: Jumping In with Fear, Enjoying the Ride

Some of my clearest memories, among my fondest and most thrilling times, are of the several visits I made while a teen and young adult to this amazing state park in central Missouri. I attended and then worked at several summer camps which made this wonderful location part of our overnight trip schedule, so I was privileged to go there again and again in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when the water was clean, the river was running high and the place was mostly undiscovered.

What is it? What makes it so special? From a scientific/geologic/historic standpoint, there are these facts:

The story of Johnson’s Shut-Ins starts over a billion years ago when the igneous rocks, pink granites and blue-gray rhyolites, were formed from volcanic activity.

Igneous rock is one formed from molten rock, magma, and other volcanic materials (e.g., ash deposits).
Granite rock (a type of igneous rock) is formed from magma that cooled below the earth’s surface and then was exposed later.
Rhyolite rock (another kind of igneous rock) is formed from magma and volcanic ash and debris flows that spewed out onto the earth’s surface and then cooled.

Above the park the East Fork of the Black River flows through a broader valley formed in dolomite bedrock. Then the river hits the more resistant igneous rock and the valley becomes narrow and steep-sided or “shut in.” Along the banks of the stream, look for the Ozark witch hazel which blooms in late winter and early spring.

http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places-go/natural-areas/johnsons-shut-ins

There are the natural beauty and sensory pleasures of the cool but not freezing water, the rushing but not crushing rapids, the clean and clear water, the variety of smells, sights and adventures to be experienced which you’d have to go there to know. But, here are some photos and a few stories to help you believe you were there with me.

For the Walkers
For the less adventurous, those who’d rather sunbathe than swim, the large rocks offer plenty of opportunities to lie around and enjoy others’ splashing and yelling without moving much. My friends and I would divide into groups: walkers, floaters, swimmers and jumpers. The walkers usually stopped out and sunbathed a lot and didn’t go as far down the river as the others. Many of them barely got wet. Personally, I didn’t see the point of being a walker, but some people just didn’t want to get wet.

Johnsons Shut Ins 6

For the Floaters
Floaters enjoyed the water but weren’t great with longer swims and had no interest in climbing and jumping in from higher and higher plateaus. They would use the rapids to shoot down little ladders into shallow pools, climb back up and do that or another section many times and stay in the central “shut-ins” area for hours, whopping, hollering, splashing and laughing. I’d join the floaters for a while, but I felt the need to move on to more exciting parts very soon.

Johnsons Shut Ins 9

The walkers and floaters could see parts of where the swimmers and jumpers were going, but not all. Mostly, these first two groups were less willing to go deep, go high, go far. Walkers and floaters still had a blast and probably had no care for or interest in what they were “missing” because what they were doing was incredibly fun and went on for many and varied sections of the shut-ins.

Johnsons Shut Ins 8

For the Swimmers
Some of us swimmers and jumpers would re-visit the shut-ins sections to hang out with our walker and floater friends, eat our lunches, warm up, talk, shoot down the rapids for a while, then swim further on again. We’d do this back-and-forth for hours.

Johnsons Shut Ins 7

If you can imagine the sounds of the rushing water, the shouts and laughter of the kids and teens, the sweet smells of the trees, water, flowers and plants, the beauty of the rocks and formations and the rush of excitement we’d feel, you have some of the sensory pleasures swimmers and floaters especially enjoyed.

Johnsons Shut Ins 3

We swimmers, though, just had to keep going. Beyond the shut-ins sections were three ever-larger and deeper pools, kind of like small lakes, culminating in the pool with the three jumping platforms. The feeling of being pushed and pulled around by the rapids in the shut-ins for hours was with us until we got to the third pool. By then, the calm, clear water of the first two pools had changed our vibrations and soothed our nerves.

For the Jumpers

Jumpers are swimmers who can conquer, or jump in with fear. Jumpers had to be strong, enduring swimmers who could tread water, go deep and surface, climb and jump in repeatedly (or at least once) without flagging because there were no lifeguards and no easy way to get rescued if a swimmer or jumper got exhausted.

Johnsons Shut Ins 5

Some swimmers came through all three pools just for the love of swimming and some came to watch the jumpers. Maybe they were revving up to jump, but many swimmers never did. Or, some jumped, but only from the lowest platform rock (about 6 feet above the water). There was an intermediate platform rock, which we estimated to be about 20 feet above the water, which many jumpers used but most never went higher.

Then, there was the highest jump, from a rock area that was about 40 feet above the water. It was also set kind of far back, so jumpers not only had to be brave enough to climb up (clambering up a narrow trail without steps which was very slippery and had no handholds), foolish enough to jump off from 40 feet high, but also, we had to be skillful enough to jump OUT in order to clear the jutting rocks beneath this platform area so that we would get to the water and not break a body part hitting the rocks first. There was a small area to take a few steps (but not run) before jumping, or jumpers could just propel our bodies forward and out as we jumped: that’s what most did.

NOTES: The first photo, below, which shows a human-made diving board, was not the way it was when I was there. There was no diving board. We had to jump out to avoid those rocks and had no help from an extending board.

Johnsons Shut Ins 1

I remember climbing up to the highest jumping area for the first time at the age of fourteen, thrilled and frightened in equal measure. When I got to the top, I was so scared I could only sit and watch as several other jumpershurled themselves off the cliff. I let kid after kid go ahead of me, not daring to take a turn.

I felt that I couldn’t do it. I was panting, sweating, shaking from fear. I looked at the climbing trail and knew I couldn’t climb back down, either. It was incredibly treacherous with sliding pebbles, shifting dirt and narrow rock formations that made it barely possible to go up and impossible to reverse direction. There would be no going down except by jumping.

Each jumper hooted and hollered, making it seem so fun, I just ached to do it. But I was immobilized by my terror, hunched down behind the jumping area, for about thirty minutes. Luckily, no one paid me any attention and I could be in my own world, contemplating my fate.

I was up there so long my swimming suit felt dry. Finally, there was no one else up there for a minute. I felt the urge come over me to DO IT. I stood up, my legs shaking. I crept to the edge of the cliff and looked down, checking the exact location of the jutting rocks that I’d only seen from below before. They jutted out REALLY FAR.

This photo shows the perspective of that highest jumping area as I remember it.

Johnsons Shut Ins 10

I was only 5′ tall. How would I propel myself out beyond them? I imagined breaking my arm or leg, hitting the rocks if I misjudged my jump.

No way. I could do this.

A big whoosh of internal courage rushed into me. Grabbing onto it before it could disappear, I took a few steps back, then raced forward and hurled myself OUT, bicycling my legs as I’d seen others do to get more distance beyond the rocks below me.

It seemed to take forever to reach the water. I had time to think about how long it was taking. But, no one had told me and I hadn’t bothered to notice that I needed to keep my arms and legs close to my body. I hit the water with a smack, my legs slightly open and my arms out to my sides. IT HURT LIKE HELL! My inner thighs were on fire and my inner arms felt as if I’d hit walls with them.

I sunk down further in the water than I wanted to, then frantically kicked to get back to the surface, blowing out water and gasping for breath when I broke clear, hurting all over.

I felt exhilarated! I HAD DONE IT! My friends and a few strangers around me cheered and hollered at me. As my head cleared and the aching subsided, I looked around, smiled, and held up one arm high above my head, fist clenched. YES!

Now that I knew I could do it and had learned that I needed to keep my body more like a pencil after I bicycled out, I was eager to do it again. So, I did.

Several times that day, several times the next day, I clambered up and immediately jumped from that highest point. I learned to love the fall, letting time stretch out. Knowing the entry wouldn’t hurt, that I could get my breath and come up just fine, made it that much more enjoyable.

For several years after that, on each visit, into my early twenties, I made my first jump with tremendous fear and enjoyed the rest. It was one of my favorite things EVER to do.

At each summer’s visit, for my first jump I had to climb up and then let several jumpers go first as I got myself psyched up to jump again. I never stopped being afraid of that height. I just kept cimbing up and jumping anyway, feeling the fear while enjoying the ride.

What Lies Beyond
The Black River goes on from the third pool, but we couldn’t swim or hike any further safely. Some of it looks like this, from above, which seems as if it would be a fun ride down the rapids, like the shut-ins that came before, except there was no way to get back by climbing back up or around and up, the way we did in the actual shut-ins sections.

Johnsons Shut Ins 2

If you ever want to go
First of all, make sure the Black River is running well: not too high (from flooding) and not too low (from drought). Second, plan to camp out in the park and stay a few days. You’ll love it that much. Bring your own everything; there’s nothing much nearby in the way of restaurants, stores, etc.

The MO State Parks page states:
“This natural area is within Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. The 2-mile Shut-Ins trail provides access to the natural area. Inquire at the park office about the hiking trail.
“To reach the park office: from the intersection of MO Highway 21 and MO Highway N north of Pilot Knob (Iron County) go west nearly 13 miles to the park entrance on the left (south). Follow the signs to the park office.
“Swimming is allowed in the shut-ins at your own risk.”
http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places-go/natural-areas/johnsons-shut-ins

“Kindness Chronicle” and “Elephant Journal”: Humans Sometimes Do Good

I grow weary of bad news, humans’ behaving atrociously and other direct hits to my ever-decreasing optimism. To counter the effects of the inevitable daily doses of ugly, I subscribe to two great sources of “humans sometimes do good”: The Kindness Chronicle at http://kindnesschronicle.com and
The Elephant Journal at http://elephantjournal.com

Unfortunately, my life is somewhat fast-paced and my priorities are often elsewhere, so instead of actually reading these daily posts and clicking on their links, I stockpile them in a folder. Just knowing they are there gives me comfort, and since I also subscribe/ LIKE their public pages on Facebook, I often see some of the individual link posts, anyway.

However, I mostly had no idea what actual uplifting stories are in this folder…until this week. So glad that I scheduled time to go through them to prepare this post.

From this stuffed inbox of good news (not the Christian “Good News” kind), I share some of these inspiring anecdotes with you all.

Enjoy! Subscribe! Do some good yourselves!

From The Kindness Chronicle:

KC-Logo-150px-Blue-Yellow

Most of the posts are stories describing individuals or organizations who have made considerable (but not necessarily extraordinary, given how many of them there are, now) efforts to demonstrate gratitude, kindness, helpfulness, volunteerism, respect, support, encouragement and other forms of caring to humans, animals and the environment. So many of them are similar, with the main distinction being location rather than activity, I decided not to list them here.

Please visit the above link, or the link below, for plenty of ideas, examples and even some research results on outcomes for “Paying it Forward,” teaching empathy and compassion, and other actions taken in the name of Kindness.

The Write Place: Not-So-Random Acts of Kindness site http://goo.gl/mWZ5nk recommends, among other sites: http://randomactsofkindness.org

Below is one of hundreds of images that heralds this excellent “movement”:

InspireKindnessQuote
image from http://www.cbizschool.com


From The Elephant Journal:

EJ logo

The Elephant Journal is an online ‘zine and site that provides updates, information and opinion articles (warning: most of these are junk science, “New Age” garbage, and “affirmations” that aren’t worth reading) on a variety of topics related to living “a more mindful life.” This open-ended mandate allows The Elephant Journal to surprise me often with their choices of topics, perspectives and data.

TEJ‘s pieces include multimedia formats that can feature humor, health, relationships, nutrition info/recipes, politics and edgy/radical points of view (with the aforementioned exceptions), pulled from a diverse group of commentators. I don’t always agree with or even like what is posted, but I appreciate the range of opinions, which can veer way over to “totally ‘woo-woo,’ New-Age junk science” to well-researched, documented, data-filled info pieces.

I appreciate this compilation enormously and respect the people who work there and write/ create/ collate/ curate for TEJ a lot. TEJ also posts excellent images (photographs, logos, infographics, memes) that are inspiring, beautiful and informative separately or to accompany an article.

Here are some of my favorite recent examples of their offerings, which arrive in emails entitled: “A Daily Gap in the Inbox of Your Mind,” steered by Waylon Lewis, editor-in-chief, host of Walk the Talk Show.

Evan Silverman opens his heart and explores how we can do the same in “Blow The Roof off Your Heart” (a piece that originally appeared in the Shambhala Times) http://goo.gl/ppT30e

—Great resources for businesspeople who wish to incorporate more mindfulness into their work lives are in “Waylon & Blake’s Best Mindful Business Books & Resources for Entrepreneurs,” in which Waylon Lewis wrote:

“This is a list that would have saved me years of my life, made me hundreds of thousands of dollars and spared me (and my team) hundreds of mistakes.” http://goo.gl/z9wbo9

—What about something eminently practical? Shoes that grow! Awesome! http://goo.gl/v5BJst

Waylon Lewis (the editor of TEJ) also bares his soul (sensing a theme, here, of my faves?), in “Thank You for Helping to Break My Heart,” that richly moved and helped me: http://goo.gl/Lj928K

Most tellingly, he starts with this subtitle: “I am sorry I loved you so badly.” I have a list of people I should say this to….Sigh.

The ending is also worth quoting in its entirety, in case you don’t click through:

May our relationships teach us. May we improve, instead of merely defending our confusion. May our intention be to be of benefit, and not merely to “get what we want.”

Life is hard, sometimes. Sometimes it’s rich and dear. If we want to take it easy, we should instead wish to be stronger, and more vulnerable.

May our love life be as full of grace as our spiritual path, our right livelihood, and our friendships and family relationships.

True love is defined by correct intention.

Thank you, Waylon.


My email program just informed me: “Your ‘Kindness and Good Deeds’ folder is now empty.” I’m glad to know it will surely be filling up again.

This Changes Everything Title-Sharing: Thanks, Naomi Klein! Your Best-Seller is Boosting my Sales!

This Changes Everything Title-Sharing: Thanks, Naomi Klein! Your Best-Seller is Boosting my Sales!

A book can have similar titles or the same title as numerous other books, since titles can’t be copy-protected or trademarked, usually. Has any of you had the experience of having a book’s success (or failure…) influence your book’s visibility and/or sales/downloads due to its having a similar or the same title?

Well-known researcher, feminist and author, Naomi Klein, released her best-selling book on climate change about one year after I released my first ebook, using This Changes Everything as her book’s title, which is identical to MY Volume I of The Spanners Series‘ title.

Look what is happening on Amazon (this is a screenshot of what follows my book’s reviews section on my TCE’s Amazon book page. Click to see a larger image):

Screenshot (14)

Here is her book’s cover:

TCE Naomi Klein
BORING, right? But, hey, it’s nonfiction, so what does anyone expect?

Here is mine (from the great artist/illustrator, Aidana Willowraven) http://willowraven-illustration.blogspot.com/:

This-Changes-Everything----web-and-ebooks
Which one would YOU rather read? Sci-fi/aliens, right?

Plus, hers costs money and MY Volume I is PERMAFREE!
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HFELTG8 
Smashwords link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/376197 all ebook formats, here.

The Spanners Series‘ Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, is only $3.99 and also available everywhere ebooks are sold.

Well, thanks, Naomi! I appreciate the blow-back!

Best of luck to you and me for our book sales!

Two in three weeks! “Versatile #Blogger #Award” also landed here!

versatile blogger award

Thanks, Inger D. Kenobi, upcoming guest for Episode 20 on 2/4/15 of CHANGES, and my sangha sister, for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award! I am so honored!

Here is her posting with all Inger’s nominations:
http://theviridescentconsumer.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/the-viridescent-consumer-receives-the-versatile-blogger-award-fist-pump-mandatory/

The rules are:

  • Show the award on your blog.
  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Share 7 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 blogs.
  • Link to your nominees’ blogs and let them know.

I am going to take the title of this award literally and nominate those whose blogs are versatile and fascinating (to me, of course):

Seven MORE things most people do not know about me…

  1. My first languages were Yiddish (no longer fluent, though) and English. I also speak/know Spanish as well as some Italian, German, French, Tibetan and Sanskrit.
  2. I won a competition and represented my school on the balance beam in 6th grade and continued to work the beam until I wrecked my ankle during a poorly spotted dismount in 10th grade. This injury prevented me from trying out for cheerleading as well, which greatly improved my intellectual and artistic lives and friendships.
  3. I have a negative physical reaction to roller coasters and anything mechanical that carries people to or across high places (ferris wheels, trams, ski lifts) which includes some acrophobia.
  4. I read about 1000 words/minute unless the text is very dense or complicated.
  5. I have some friends still in my life whom I’ve known since we were 5 years old. We are now 60.
  6. My first role in a play was in Kindergarten. I was cast as the rabbit. The day before the play, I sprained my ankle (not the same one as above), so my mother brought me to school in a red wagon (we lived across the street from the school) and I hopped my way through my part: best method acting ever.
  7. My grandmother (may she enjoy TV in the ether), my mother, and I have all spent way too much time watching a long-running USA soap opera, Days of Our Lives. Knowing this, one of my sort-of-stepchildren gave me a mug with the DOOL logo on it which I recently gifted to my mother.

First-Year Ebooks Author Stats: Sally Ember, Ed.D., and The Spanners Series

First-Year Ebooks Author Stats: Sally Ember, Ed.D., and The Spanners Series

Just completed my first full year (plus 11 days) as a published sci-fi/ romance ebooks author (2 pubs, Vol I, 12/19/13; Vol II, 6/9/14) in the 10-book The Spanners Series, on Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, nook and Kobo (and Smashwords’ affiliates).

Thanks to all my readers, fans, followers, reviewers and downloaders as well as friends, family and connections in the global authors and readers communities!

Overall Stats, 12/31/13 – 12/31/14:
AZ Author Rank, overall: 182,741 – 468,671
AZ Kindle ebooks, all Combined Rank: 295,000 – 313,420
AZ Sci-fi/Fantasy ebooks Combined Rank: 23,167 – 25,127
AZ Sci-fi ebooks Combined Rank: 11,687 – 12,645
AZ Romance ebooks Combined Rank: 27,206 – 29,043

Sales Ranks and Stats:
Vol I, This Changes Everything (released 12/19/13; permafree since April 1, 2014)

This-Changes-Everything----web-and-ebooks

figures for 12/20/13 – 12/31/14
Total Paid Sales: 85
Total Free Downloads: over 1,100 (figures for free DL not available from all sites)
AZ Sales Rank: 129,665 – 12,539
iBooks: unrated rank (not enough sales)
nook: 481,550 – 471,792
Kobo: 1,429 – 8,732

AZ Actual Sales: 61
AZ Free Downloads: 940
Smashwords Sales: 4
Smashwords Free DL: 45
iBooks Sales: 6
iBooks Free DL: 85
Kobo Sales: 13
Kobo Free DL: 60
Nook Sales: 1
Nook Free DL: 8

Vol II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever ($3.99, released 6/9/14)

final cover print

figures for 6/30/14 – 12/31/14 only
Total Paid Sales: 10
AZ Sales Rank: 480,464-1,559,867
iBooks: unrated rank (not enough sales)
nook: unrated rank (not enough sales)
Kobo Sales Rank: 4,836 – 5,223
AZ Sales: 6
Smashwords Sales: 3
Smashwords Free DL: 12
iBooks Sales: 0
Kobo Sales: 1
Nook Sales: 0

ALWAYS appreciating REVIEWERS for both/any Volumes, especially Volume II/the newest.
Ebooks free to reviewers in any ereader format via coupon on Smashwords.
Contact: sallyemberATyahooDOTcom

Look for Vol III, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, and
Vol IV, Changes in Attitude, Changes in Latitude, in 2015!

Thanks to my amazing cover artist for The Spanners Series, Aidana Willowraven

logoAuthorsDen

#Book #Marketing Buzz Blog‘s post: Happy Thanksgiving Day, Books!

BookMarketingBuzzBlog‘s post: Happy Thanksgiving Day, Books!
Posted: 26 Nov 2014 10:45 AM PST

Brian Feinblum posted this on his site, Book Marketing Buzz Blog, which I highly recommend that you subscribe to if you are an #author.

Brian’s blog is “A unique blog dedicated to covering the worlds of book publishing and the news media, revealing creative ideas, practical strategies, interesting stories, and provocative opinions. Along the way, discover savvy but entertaining insights on book marketing, public relations, branding, and advertising from a veteran of two decades in the industry of book publishing publicity and marketing.”

buy-books-and-feel-good

image from http://sentidodelamaravilla.blogspot.com

I link to the full post here and quote a bit of it. Thanks, Brian!

Brian offered his own intro, then asked: “How can we spread the word about the power of books?

Here are some of his answers. Read his post for the entire, excellent list.

· Start by gifting [books] this holiday season.

· Read more books

· Serve as a literacy tutor to young kids or ESL adults

· Keep buying books – don’t settle for free ebooks

· Form a book group or join one

· Attend author signing and speaking events

· Donate more books to schools, libraries, and chairties.

· Discuss books with others. Don’t ask your friends if they saw the latest movie. Ask what they’re reading.

· Read to your kids and then discuss what was read. Learning becomes fun this way.

· Reproduce your favorite book covers, frame them – and hang them on your walls

Link to full post: http://bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com/2014/11/happy-thanksgiving-day-books.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Bookmarketingbuzzblog+%28BookMarketingBuzzBlog%29

Brian Feinblum can be found:
on Twitter @theprexpert
via email brianfeinblum@gmail.com.

His post is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2014

#Book #Marketing Buzz Blog’s post: Happy Thanksgiving Day, Books!

BookMarketingBuzzBlog‘s post: Happy Thanksgiving Day, Books!
Posted: 26 Nov 2014 10:45 AM PST

Brian Feinblum posted this on his site, Book Marketing Buzz Blog, which I highly recommend that you subscribe to if you are an #author.

Brian’s blog is “A unique blog dedicated to covering the worlds of book publishing and the news media, revealing creative ideas, practical strategies, interesting stories, and provocative opinions. Along the way, discover savvy but entertaining insights on book marketing, public relations, branding, and advertising from a veteran of two decades in the industry of book publishing publicity and marketing.”

buy-books-and-feel-good

image from http://sentidodelamaravilla.blogspot.com

I link to the full post here and quote a bit of it. Thanks, Brian!

Brian offered his own intro, then asked: “How can we spread the word about the power of books?

Here are some of his answers. Read his post for the entire, excellent list.

· Start by gifting [books] this holiday season.

· Read more books

· Serve as a literacy tutor to young kids or ESL adults

· Keep buying books – don’t settle for free ebooks

· Form a book group or join one

· Attend author signing and speaking events

· Donate more books to schools, libraries, and chairties.

· Discuss books with others. Don’t ask your friends if they saw the latest movie. Ask what they’re reading.

· Read to your kids and then discuss what was read. Learning becomes fun this way.

· Reproduce your favorite book covers, frame them – and hang them on your walls

Link to full post: http://bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com/2014/11/happy-thanksgiving-day-books.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Bookmarketingbuzzblog+%28BookMarketingBuzzBlog%29

Brian Feinblum can be found:
on Twitter @theprexpert
via email brianfeinblum@gmail.com.

His post is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2014

Reblogged: 34 Acts of #Kindness #Aliens Would Appreciate

“Suspended” coffee orders, free meals, conversations and empathy with those in need, assisting without being asked, thank-you notes, taking responsibility, rescues and generosity of all kinds are included in this post.

Just what we need to remind ourselves of what it CAN mean to be human.

Maybe the #aliens won’t keep ignoring us….

We ALWAYS have enough time to be kind.

Sorry note

from The Kindness Blog (link below)

Link to full article here, on The Kindness Blog:
http://kindnessblog.com/2014/11/03/34-examples-of-heart-warming-humanity/

5 Ways for #Giving 1% to Offset the Splurging Inspired by the Holidays

Immediately after Halloween (and in some cases, even before it came), commercials in both print and video outlets began the holiday onslaught. Many people do begin shopping this early for their gifts, requesting/making lists for what they want and having/attending parties at which enormous amounts of alcohol and food are consumed.

To counterbalance the ridiculous indulging that occurs in many households in the West over the next two months, I offer 5 Ways for #Giving 1% to Offset the Splurging Inspired by the Holidays.

Post this on your refrigerator or visor in your vehicle and DO THESE THINGS. Please.

  • 1. Donate 1% of what you spend in money For every gift you purchase online, from a vendor or in a store, make a point to put aside 1% of that amount paid for charity. 1%, for the math-challenged, is the amount you see when you move the decimal point over two places to the left: e.g., if it costs $100.00, you put aside $1.00; if it costs $5.00, you put aside 5 cents.
    At the end of your holiday season, add that all up and use the 1% you set aside to benefit the charity of your choice. Remember: libraries, pet shelters, homeless and other social service organizations, youth centers, food banks, clothing drives.

    piggy bank

    image from http://getbookedin.com

  • 2. Volunteer 1% of what you spend in time Keep a journal or online calendar/diary of all the time you spend (notating it in a minimum of fifteen-minute intervals, like a lawyer) celebrating, preparing for, decorating, creating or buying gifts, attending, preparing or cleaning up family meals for these holidays. The amount of time you devote to this “season” will probably amaze you, if you are honest and meticulous in your records. At the end of your holidays, add up all those quarter-hours and multiply by four: this equals how many hours, total, you gave to the holidays. Any time during or after your holiday season, schedule yourself to volunteer 1% (see above for math help) of those hours to benefit the charity, cause, family or event of your choice.

    Volunteering

    image from http://www.care2.com

  • 3. Pass on 1% of what you received in gifts Keep a list of what you received from others. Include holiday cards, presents, food, nights out, alcohol, vacation time, clothing, and other gifts for these holidays. If you have/know any, get kids/teens to do this, also. Consider estimating what each of these costs the giver or is worth in actual dollars. The amount of stuff you acquired may add up to many pages for some of you. At the end of your holidays, add up all those estimated amounts to show the dollar value of what you received from this season’s holidays.
    Find a way to pass on actual gifts (“re-gifting”) or gift cards in the amount of 1% (see No. 1 for math help) of that total value to benefit the charity, cause, family or individual of your choice.

    Toy box

    image from http://blog.turbotax.intuit.com

  • 4. Give up 1% of what you want Make or add to your growing list of what you want from others for the holidays. Include holiday cards, presents, food, nights out, alcohol, vacation time, clothing, and other gifts. Consider estimating what each of these would cost or is worth in actual dollars. The amount of stuff you want may add up to many pages for some of you. At the end of your holidays, add up all those estimated amounts to show the dollar value of what you wished to receive from this season’s holidays.
    Whether or not you received all that you wanted, find a way to pass on actual gifts (“re-gifting”) or gift cards in the amount of 1% (see No. 1 for math help) of that total value to benefit the charity, cause, family or individual of your choice.

    wish list

    image from http://www.thisisamericanrugby.com

  • 5. Demonstrate gratitude for at least 1% of what you have Count your blessings. Literally. Consider how to estimate what each of your privileges, benefits, friends, family, housing, employment, art, music, intelligence, abilities, skills, talents, knowledge, education, property and other possessions and all good fortune, including whatever health you enjoy, is worth in actual dollars. The number of ways you can be grateful should keep expanding. Be creative. Some blessings have no monetary value, but you can assign one, anyway. Make a list. Keep adding to it and placing dollar amounts next to each one that you can. At the end of your holidays, total all those estimated amounts to show the dollar value of what you already have this holiday season.
    Find creative ways to demonstrate your gratitude for 1% of the total value of what you already have (see No. 1 for math help) to benefit the charity, cause, family or individual of your choice.

    Giving heart

    image from http://www.empowher.com

    If you engage in these 5 offsetting actions, you will more thoroughly enjoy every part of the holiday season. I promise.

    Happy Holidays, Everyone!

    Happy Holidays

    image from http://www.smashingmagazine.com

5 Ways for #Giving 1% to Offset the Splurging Inspired by the Holidays

Immediately after Halloween (and in some cases, even before it came), commercials in both print and video outlets began the holiday onslaught. Many people do begin shopping this early for their gifts, requesting/making lists for what they want and having/attending parties at which enormous amounts of alcohol and food are consumed.

To counterbalance the ridiculous indulging that occurs in many households in the West over the next two months, I offer 5 Ways for #Giving 1% to Offset the Splurging Inspired by the Holidays.

Post this on your refrigerator or visor in your vehicle and DO THESE THINGS. Please.

  • 1. Donate 1% of what you spend in money For every gift you purchase online, from a vendor or in a store, make a point to put aside 1% of that amount paid for charity. 1%, for the math-challenged, is the amount you see when you move the decimal point over two places to the left: e.g., if it costs $100.00, you put aside $1.00; if it costs $5.00, you put aside 5 cents.
    At the end of your holiday season, add that all up and use the 1% you set aside to benefit the charity of your choice. Remember: libraries, pet shelters, homeless and other social service organizations, youth centers, food banks, clothing drives.

    piggy bank

    image from http://getbookedin.com

  • 2. Volunteer 1% of what you spend in time Keep a journal or online calendar/diary of all the time you spend (notating it in a minimum of fifteen-minute intervals, like a lawyer) celebrating, preparing for, decorating, creating or buying gifts, attending, preparing or cleaning up family meals for these holidays. The amount of time you devote to this “season” will probably amaze you, if you are honest and meticulous in your records. At the end of your holidays, add up all those quarter-hours and multiply by four: this equals how many hours, total, you gave to the holidays. Any time during or after your holiday season, schedule yourself to volunteer 1% (see above for math help) of those hours to benefit the charity, cause, family or event of your choice.

    Volunteering

    image from http://www.care2.com

  • 3. Pass on 1% of what you received in gifts Keep a list of what you received from others. Include holiday cards, presents, food, nights out, alcohol, vacation time, clothing, and other gifts for these holidays. If you have/know any, get kids/teens to do this, also. Consider estimating what each of these costs the giver or is worth in actual dollars. The amount of stuff you acquired may add up to many pages for some of you. At the end of your holidays, add up all those estimated amounts to show the dollar value of what you received from this season’s holidays.
    Find a way to pass on actual gifts (“re-gifting”) or gift cards in the amount of 1% (see No. 1 for math help) of that total value to benefit the charity, cause, family or individual of your choice.

    Toy box

    image from http://blog.turbotax.intuit.com

  • 4. Give up 1% of what you want Make or add to your growing list of what you want from others for the holidays. Include holiday cards, presents, food, nights out, alcohol, vacation time, clothing, and other gifts. Consider estimating what each of these would cost or is worth in actual dollars. The amount of stuff you want may add up to many pages for some of you. At the end of your holidays, add up all those estimated amounts to show the dollar value of what you wished to receive from this season’s holidays.
    Whether or not you received all that you wanted, find a way to pass on actual gifts (“re-gifting”) or gift cards in the amount of 1% (see No. 1 for math help) of that total value to benefit the charity, cause, family or individual of your choice.

    wish list

    image from http://www.thisisamericanrugby.com

  • 5. Demonstrate gratitude for at least 1% of what you have Count your blessings. Literally. Consider how to estimate what each of your privileges, benefits, friends, family, housing, employment, art, music, intelligence, abilities, skills, talents, knowledge, education, property and other possessions and all good fortune, including whatever health you enjoy, is worth in actual dollars. The number of ways you can be grateful should keep expanding. Be creative. Some blessings have no monetary value, but you can assign one, anyway. Make a list. Keep adding to it and placing dollar amounts next to each one that you can. At the end of your holidays, total all those estimated amounts to show the dollar value of what you already have this holiday season.
    Find creative ways to demonstrate your gratitude for 1% of the total value of what you already have (see No. 1 for math help) to benefit the charity, cause, family or individual of your choice.

    Giving heart

    image from http://www.empowher.com

    If you engage in these 5 offsetting actions, you will more thoroughly enjoy every part of the holiday season. I promise.

    Happy Holidays, Everyone!

    Happy Holidays

    image from http://www.smashingmagazine.com

10Q begins September 24th, 2014 (Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah)

10Q begins September 24th, 2014 (Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah)

rosh-hashanah-the-jewish-new-year-falls-on-the-hebrew-calendar-dates-2

image from: http://9pixs.com

“The ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur are commonly known as the ‘Days of Awe’ (Yamim Noraim) or the ‘Days of Repentance.’ This is a time for serious introspection, a time to consider the sins of the previous year and repent before Yom Kippur.”
from http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday3.htm

10 Days. 10 Questions.

http://doyou10q.com/

Whether you’re an observant Jew or not Jewish at all or don’t observe Jewish holidays for whatever reasons, this exercise/personal/spiritual practice is an excellent self-assessment/check-in tool to be used during the special ten days that are between the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This can be done online, but you can use it during those days or other days, offline or on, for whatever purposes you want, which I highly recommend.

Here is the way 10Q works:

10Q : Reflect. React. Renew.

Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.

  • 1) Answer one question per day in your own secret online 10Q space. Make your answers serious. Silly. Salacious. However you like. It’s your 10Q.
  • 2) When you’re finished, hit the button and your answers get sent to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping.
  • 3) One year later, the vault will open and your answers will land back in your email inbox for further private reflection.
  • 4) You may keep your responses secret or share them, either anonymously or with attribution, with the wider 10Q community.
  • 5) Next year, the whole process begins again. Could become an annual ritual even if you’re not an observant Jew.

Do you 10Q? Try it. You will like it.

And, in case you are observant and want to have Tashlich, the ceremonial casting away of “sins,” misdeeds, regrets, mistakes, which usually requires having some moving water nearby that you can go cast these symbolic negativities into during the first afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, you can do THAT online as well!

iTashlich
http://www.itashlich.com

May all beings benefit and have a better year than ever before. Blessings and sweetness to you all! L’Shana Tova!

10Q begins September 24th, 2014 (Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah)

10Q begins September 24th, 2014 (Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah)

rosh-hashanah-the-jewish-new-year-falls-on-the-hebrew-calendar-dates-2

image from: http://9pixs.com

“The ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur are commonly known as the ‘Days of Awe’ (Yamim Noraim) or the ‘Days of Repentance.’ This is a time for serious introspection, a time to consider the sins of the previous year and repent before Yom Kippur.”
from http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday3.htm

10 Days. 10 Questions.

http://doyou10q.com/

Whether you’re an observant Jew or not Jewish at all or don’t observe Jewish holidays for whatever reasons, this exercise/personal/spiritual practice is an excellent self-assessment/check-in tool to be used during the special ten days that are between the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This can be done online, but you can use it during those days or other days, offline or on, for whatever purposes you want, which I highly recommend.

Here is the way 10Q works:

10Q : Reflect. React. Renew.

Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.

  • 1) Answer one question per day in your own secret online 10Q space. Make your answers serious. Silly. Salacious. However you like. It’s your 10Q.
  • 2) When you’re finished, hit the button and your answers get sent to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping.
  • 3) One year later, the vault will open and your answers will land back in your email inbox for further private reflection.
  • 4) You may keep your responses secret or share them, either anonymously or with attribution, with the wider 10Q community.
  • 5) Next year, the whole process begins again. Could become an annual ritual even if you’re not an observant Jew.

Do you 10Q? Try it. You will like it.

And, in case you are observant and want to have Tashlich, the ceremonial casting away of “sins,” misdeeds, regrets, mistakes, which usually requires having some moving water nearby that you can go cast these symbolic negativities into during the first afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, you can do THAT online as well!

iTashlich
http://www.itashlich.com

May all beings benefit and have a better year than ever before. Blessings and sweetness to you all! L’Shana Tova!

Moving back “home” after living elsewhere for over 40 years

What does it mean, exactly, “home”? I left St. Louis County when I went to college. I have visited frequently because many relatives, including my mom, still live here, but have lived elsewhere since 1972.

When I told people I was coming to live here, people asked “How do you feel about moving back home?” How is a place I lived for only seventeen years over forty years ago “home”? It’s not even the same house.

Olivette house

I lived in a house very much like this one, 1959-1972.

I have been peripatetic in my adult life. I lived in Wisconsin (Madison, 1972-74) and Connecticut (several places in and near Bridgeport, 1974-76) during college. I then lived in every other state in New England for twenty-eight more years, from northern Vermont (St. Albans) in 1976 to southeastern Massachusetts (Westport Point) and Rhode Island (Tiverton) in 1977-78, to my longest stint anywhere (20 years) in southwestern New Hampshire, while living more than a dozen places there (New Ipswich, Sharon, Stoddard, Sullivan and East Sullivan, Nelson, then several places in Keene), ending with southwestern Maine (Saco) in 1998. After New England, southwestern New Mexico (Silver City) for 2 1/2 years, then several places in northern California (near San Francisco: two in Santa Rosa, then one each in Sebastopol, El Cerrito, Hayward) for twelve years.

City, country, suburb and small town: I’ve lived in them all. Now, back in St. Louis. Even in St. Louis, the longest I lived in one spot was our family’s house on Old Bonhomme Road (twelve years), which is the same number of years I lived in one collective/family house in Keene (Water Street).

Water Street likeness

Here is a similar house to the one we lived in on Water Street in Keene for twelve years.

A few times, towards the end of my twelve years in Keene, NH, upon returning from times away I’d feel a sense of coming home as we crossed the city limits’ sign. But, soon after, I moved away from there.

If longevity prevails as the criterion, which of these, then, is “home”?

My mom’s condo is not the “home” I spent my school years in, although this location is “in the neighborhood,” meaning, same school district [LADUE (derived from a French word for those who work for a Duke)]. BTW, LADUE is considered to be one of the best school districts in the USA and in the top 25 of the Midwest. Bragging on that.

572 Coeur de Royale

Now we live in a condo very much like ones in this building.

She now lives in CREVE COEUR (meaning “broken heart,” in French), along with many others from the “old neighborhood” (OLIVETTE, meaning “little Olive”). Not a big change, since this is about a ten minutes’ drive from Olivette.

Many of the landmarks, businesses and roads have changed, moved, been eliminated, but there are still some fixtures I recognize after over forty years. The old are populated/interspersed with the new, as everywhere.

The shell of a fast-food place about to be finished (“BIG BOY”) in which I had my first make-out sessions (with Eric) in 6th grade is now a grassy, flat field after having been two different fast-food restaurants. The bowling alley (NELSON BURTON LANES) where I learned to play pinball and to bowl (badly), and behind which I had my first kiss (from Bobby) is still there, but changed owners and names. The elementary school my siblings and I attended (CENTRAL SCHOOL, which we lived almost across the street from and used to treat as our personal playground) became an alternative high school soon after my youngest sibling went to junior high school.

What makes a place feel like “home”? Here is my test: How does it feel to return after I have been away? Does it seem that I am visiting or coming back?

For about twenty-five years, I considered Boston/Cambridge my hub. I had friends who went to college and then lived there. I took classes, saw clients, attended meetings, visited friends and went to events there often. Logan was the airport we used most often until Hartford’s and then Manchester’s grew. Beantown was the BIG CITY we would go to for those experiences. Cambridge was the intellectual/artsy center of existence. I also went to New York City from New Hampshire, but not as often or as easily (it was more than twice as far by car).

Whenever we’d drive to Boston, as our car crested the first hill that would give us a view of “The Pru” and the John Hancock buildings, my heart would lift. Exciting things happened here.

Boston skyline

The “Pru” and the John Hancock buildings in Boston.

I walked all around both Boston and Cambridge, had several lovers in and around there, used the T (subways/trains) and frequented cafes. I loved going there for many years. But, Boston was never “home.”

Flying or driving into St. Louis, I would look for the Arch as the landmark. But, seeing it, I never felt “Oh. Now I’m home.”

Arch

But, here, unlike many places I’ve lived since I left Keene, NH, I am recognized. After being “invisible” for about fifteen years, it is startling to be called out in public. Last week, while perusing the deli section at Whole Foods, “Sally Fleischmann!” reached my ears. A seemingly strange man called out to me, in surprise at seeing me; a classmate from my high school saw and knew me after not having seen me for many years. I went to a friend’s father’s funeral/shiva and many people there recognized me, called out my name, knew my father. I exercise at the local Jewish Community Center’s building and often know people there or they know me or knew my dad or know my mom or siblings. Does being known or recognized make one feel at home?

Maybe it’s that I just moved back to St. Louis about two weeks ago and I haven’t completely unpacked. I have had visits that lasted over a month here before this, living out of suitcases and drawers as I do now.

I think, as I told one friend, recently, once I pass the five-week mark (and I plan to be completely unpacked by then), I could realize that I now am not visiting and actually live here.

How much longer will it take to feel like “home”? Ask me in 2027.

home

#60for60 ENDS Today! 6/21 – 8/22/14

Read about my outcomes for #60for60, for my attempts to engage in acts of kindness and gratitude in the 60 days leading up to my 60th birthday.

Practice-deliberate-kindness-cartoon-final-cropped

image from ulovesomethingmore.com

Pick one or more and engage in them yourself, any time!

Quotation-John-Milton-gratitude-life-manners-experience-blessings-world-kindness-Meetville-Quotes-264505

image from meetville.com

Comment on my blog to wish me “Happy Birthday” and tell your stories on or after 8/22/14.

Enjoy! 6/21 – 8/22/14

60 BD

60 FOR 60:
60 ACTS OF KINDNESS AND GRATITUDE
FOR THE 60 DAYS PRECEDING MY 60TH BIRTHDAY

June 21, 2014 to 8/22/14

1. $
Give a very good tip. SEVERAL times.
2. $
Pay for someone’s gas. No opportunities (not enough extra funds)
3. $
Pay someone’s fees to foster a dog or cat from shelter. No opportunities (not enough extra funds)
4. $
Leave change in a vending machine. No opportunities (not near any machines)
5. –
Volunteer.
6. $
Donate a random amount of money to a homeless person. No opportunities where it would have been private.
7.
Open doors for people. SEVERAL times.
8.
Give genuine compliments to someone’s very unseen blogs. SEVERAL times.
9.
Donate supplies I don’t use. SEVERAL times: Turns out I’m moving!
10.
LetsSayThanks.com Didn’t do.
11. $
Give someone an umbrella: Brought an extra one on my cross-country move. Maybe my sister will use it!
12.
Let someone behind me go in front of me in a line. SEVERAL times.
13.
Clean a neighbor’s curb area or put their garbage cans back after pick-up. SEVERAL times.
14. $
Buy someone’s groceries in the checkout. No opportunities (not enough extra funds, but gave away a LOT of food during my move give-aways)
15. $
Pick up the tab for a random family/person. No opportunities (not enough extra funds, but gave away so many items to single parents and seniors during my move give-aways)
16. $
Buy some carry-out lunch and deliver it to a homeless person. Told story about this in previous post.
17.
Give compliments to people. Several times
18. $
Buy some toys a child might like and leave them on their porch. Gave to a parent, instead.
19.
Post about something useful to others.Several times, according to comments and thanks.
20. $
Go to the bank and deposit money into other’s account. No opportunities (not enough extra funds)
21. $
Pay off someone’s layaway at a store. No opportunities (not enough extra funds)
22. $
Cook lunch or dinner for someone I know and bring to them.Several times, served here rather than delivered.
23. $
Buy a college student’s textbook or lunch. No opportunities (not enough extra funds)
24.
Leave a thank -you note at every farmers’ market vendor’s stall. Thanked them orally, instead.
25.
Collect coupons and leave at laundromats. Didn’t do. Don’t collect coupons. 
26. –
Leave Buddhist magazines at homeless shelters. Donated them to someone who is working at organization that serves homeless youth and families, instead.
27.
Donate clothes, coats, shoes. SEVERAL times: Turns out I’m moving!
28. $
Reserve a coffee at coffee shop. I don’t go to coffee shops.
29.
Read someone’s writing and give constructive feedback, for free, even though I’m a professional editor. Several times.
30.
Send a thank-you note to every family member. Done by email and Facebook posts.
31.
Send a thank-you note to every friend. Done by email and Facebook posts.
32.
Offer to edit, rewrite, or help write something for someone for free. Did four+ times. Great responses.
33.
Respond to someone’s comments with positive statements in FB, LinkedIn, Google+ groups. Several times.
34.
Thank group moderators in above groups.Haven’t done all, but have done some.
35.
Tweet about someone else’s writing, music or art. Several times.
36.
RT or repost someone’s great quote. Several times.
37.
Vote up someone’s submission on Reddit, StumbleUpon, Youtube. Several times.
38.
Thank every cashier and waitron I can’t tip. Several times.
39.
Offer to help someone who seems to need help at stores, farmers’ market, library. Several times.
40.
Donate books to library book sale. Several times.
41. $
Donate food to food bank. Several times.
42.
Offer a ride to someone with burdens walking to the BART or bus. No opportunity.
43. $
Buy a BART ticket and give it away. No opportunities (haven’t been near BART)
44. $
Leave tips in tip jars even when I don’t buy anything. Tipped two people who usually don’t get tipped.
45. $
Donate to my spiritual teacher even when I don’t see him. Actually, got to see him. Wonderful.
46.
Get and give coupons for free ebooks to teachers. No opportunities. 
47.
Write positive reviews for books and rank them on Amazon. Several times.
48. $
Visit one church or temple per month and donate to charity tray/basket Didn’t do.
49.
Send thank-you notes to musicians, writers, artists whose work I appreciate Did a few.
50.
Send thank-you notes to teachers or their children/spouses. No opportunities.
51.
Scan then post/email photos from albums for friends, family and let them know. Several times.
52.
Make Youtube vids thanking writing support groups leaders/members and cover artist, Willowraven, reviewers and beta readers then post. Started CHANGES Hangout On Air 8/6 and do THANK-YOUs in every episode.
53. $
Pay someone’s parking meter. No opportunity (no meters around here).
54.
Compliment a parent on their parenting in public place. Done twice. Fabulous responses.
55.
Compliment/thank a public servant. Thanked some BART guards walking around the Farmers’ Market (near the BART).
56.
Write letter to editor thanking honest, dedicated local politicians. Wish I knew any around here.
57.
Blog about gratitude to my/one’s ancestors. Not done, yet.
58.
Share positive stories about people I knew who are now dead to their living descendants. Not done, yet.
59.
Thank Buddhist sangha members and/or support one’s retreat. Donated books, clothing, ritual items to retreatants/practitioners./strong>
60.

I LOVED doing 60 for 60, even though I didn’t get to them all, I did a lot more than 60 acts!

Find someone else whose birthday is today and wish them “Happy Birthday!” Do kind and generous acts of your own choosing, any day, every day.

https://sallyember.com/2014/06/20/60-for-60-60-acts-of-kindness-and-gratitude-for-the-60-days-preceding-my-60th-birthday/

My best Give-Away Story: Our Family Table becomes Ryan and Gina’s Family Table

As most of you know, I am moving cross-country this week and spent the last month giving away almost everything substantial I own. By the time I leave, I will have shipped only 5 cardboard boxes and filled just my car (including my sister and HER carry-on bag!).

My mid-Swis, Ellen, and I are driving (after she flies up from LA to Oakland) from northern California to St. Louis, MO, where I will live with our mom. I grew up about 10 minutes from where my mom now lives.

I have had the BEST time arranging for where my “stuff” would next live. Friends, family members and then, strangers arrived in a steady stream to peruse and take things almost every day for the last three weeks. This relinquishing has been poignant, fun, interesting and a bit strange. I actually like to watch “my” things walk out the door, one by one (or by the bag or box), quickly becoming someone else’s possessions.

One of the last things to go (and I wasn’t sure I’d get anyone to take it) was my 5′-round, plywood table and its iron stand, which lived outdoors for the last 18 months.

Please read these emails to find out its story, then look at the photos.

Life can be very sweet!

One bit of background:
After Gina and I emailed back and forth a few times, it was determined, based on all of our schedules, that Gina’s father and Ryan, Gina’s financé, would come to get the table on Friday, mid-day, two days before I left. Ryan and Gina are about to be married.

I told them a few things about the table as they circled it, preparing to move it. As Ryan and his father-in-law picked up the tabletop to carry it to the truck, I asked Ryan: “How are you going to use the table?”
Ryan told me: “We are going to use it for our wedding!”
I smiled and asked: “And then what?”
He replied: “Then, we’re going to keep using it!”

Yeah!

On Friday, August 15, 2014 9:53 PM, Ryan wrote:

Hi Sally,

My father and I got right to work on the table. I attached some photos of the finished top and primered legs.

We will take great care of the table for you.

Thanks again,
Ryan & Gina

I wrote back on Saturday, 8/16, at 7 AM:

Hi, Ryan and Gina,

This makes me so happy!

Thanks so much for taking care of, fixing up and bringing our family/community table which hosted, from 1982 – 2013, countless holiday, birthday, graduation and other rituals’ parties, costume-making and other crafts and arts projects, games’ and toys’ foundations, family meals, work project meetings, tutoring sessions and homework/homeschooling (this table was even featured in the local newspaper in Keene, NH, in 1986, showing my son and me playing an educational game during a homeschool lesson!) into your lives and ceremonies.

This table started out on Court Street in Keene, New Hampshire, in 1982, our family’s first collective households in Keene. It was mounted on a tall barrel that was temporarily filled with fabric; the top was made to be removable so the co-maker, Bonnie, who was doing many sewing projects, could utilize the fabric. We were low on storage space, so, there it was! We celebrated our son’s 2nd birthday and many others’ birthdays in the three years we lived on Court Street with several housemates. We had Thanksgivings, Chanukahs, Christmases and other parties there.

The table came with us in 1985 when we moved to Leverett Street and then in 1986 when we moved to Water Street, also in Keene. We stayed on Water Street for 12 years. During that time, both my son and I had two graduations, each (my master’s and doctorate; his 8th-grade and high school), dozens of birthdays of our families and others, up to 11 people around it for holidays and other parties.

The barrel eventually dried out/fell apart despite many years of repairing and re-circling it with extra metal bands, so Christopher found/made its 4-legged, removable iron stand.

A fledgling Assisted Living/Buddhist Center my then-partner and others started with me in Saco, Maine, received the table when we moved to it in 1998, but then we sold that and we then moved the table and this community to Silver City, New Mexico, in 1999.

The table then followed my peripatetic existence as I lived in five different houses (and it lived on one patio) in Silver City before finding its way with me to Santa Rosa, CA, in late 2001.

There the table was in storage above my housemate’s garage for almost five years. In late 2005, the table happily came out to live with me in Sebastopol, CA, where I used it well for about 8 years.

In late 2013, I had to leave Sebastopol, so the table again went into storage until early 2014, when I moved to Hayward. The table didn’t fit into my little Cherryland house, so it lived outside (that is the way it became so weathered and needed your great craftspersonship to refinish and restore it!). Living alone and not knowing anyone in Hayward, it didn’t get much use but I knew it was there.

So, here we are. I gave the table to you! May you and your loved ones get to enjoy this well-used table in good health and happiness for another 30 years or more!

I’m CC’ing this to: the makers of the table (our friend, Bonnie Insull and my son’s father, Christopher [please forward this, Christopher, to Bonnie]); our son, Merlyn; my mom and some friends and family who lived with and/or enjoyed the use of this table many times with us: they will also be made happy by this news!

I feel much better about leaving it “behind” knowing it’s in such good hands! I love this whole story, so I’m posting it on my blog, with your photos and others I have. http://www.sallyember.com/blog The story will appear Monday, 8/18.

Best to you,

Sally

Sally Ember, Ed.D.
nonprofit manager/educator
author, The Spanners Series

PHOTOS of the Table

Original Craig’s List Give-Away photo, August, 2014:

table

Before and After Refinishing, 2014

BEFORE:

table legs unfinished

table top unfinished

AFTER:

table top finished

table legs finished

I can #Meditate, Again! Ahhhh!

Good news! First time, since the fall that caused a broken nose and concussion on April 1, that I spontaneously dropped into meditative awareness/rigpa!

Dzogchen_A

image of DzoghchenAh” seed syllable for Rigpa from en.wikipedia.org

As some of you know, since the concussive injury to my brain, meditation was, at first, painful/impossible, then elusive/difficult and NOT recommended by the neurosurgeon (who commanded I REST my brain) (see earlier post on concussions’ effects on the brain regarding meditation and other effects from April).

This week I began returning to intentional meditation, slowly, in small sessions, coming up to the day (TODAY, 6/23/14) the doctor will (hopefully) clear me for all mental activities.

Reading a blog post in which the word “wisdom” appeared is what triggered the “ahh” moment! Thanks to fellow bloggers!

It’s like returning home. Tearfully happy today.

Rigpa3-225x300

image from http://www.artsyshark.com (Terri Lloyd): “Rigpa 3″

As I kept reading others’ posts and perusing online sites, every slightly related word or image seems to trigger the same spontaneous meditation response!

I feel a bit like Helen Keller in Patty Duke’s depiction of her in The Miracle Worker: after Helen first realizes that the finger spelling Annie Sullivan has been doing for so many weeks has meanings, Helen runs around touching things and people and returning to Annie, asking for the spelling/word that goes with each.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUV65sV8nu0

I’m in that dashing-around phase, testing my new meditative “chops.”

It’s a kind of ecstasy!

Heartfelt and many lifetimes of gratitude to my wonderful teachers, especially my root teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu.

Lama D laughing on throne

Lama Padma Drimed Norbu at Rigdzin Ling, 2008

May all beings benefit, may all of our precious our teachers’ lives be long, healthy and happy, benefiting all beings in all lifetimes.

#60for60: 60 ACTS OF #KINDNESS AND GRATITUDE– each of the days before my 60TH

#60for60: 60 ACTS OF #KINDNESS AND GRATITUDE– each of the days before my 60TH (birthday)
June 21, 2014 to 8/22/14

happy-60th-birthday-5-x-3-flag-3922-p

I may not do these in the order listed, but I do intend to do them by August 22. I plan to blog about any that merit mentioning. Otherwise, just assume the following are occurring, somehow. I hope this inspires YOU!

Those with a $ next to them require some money to be expended (not much, usually).
1. $
Give a very good tip
2. $
Pay for someone’s gas.
3. $
Pay someone’s fees to foster a dog or cat from shelter
4. $
Leave change in a vending machine
5.
Volunteer
6. $
Donate a random amount of money to a homeless person
7.
Open doors for people
8.
Give genuine compliments to someone’s very unseen blogs
9.
Donate supplies I don’t use
10. $
Donate to classrooms at local school.

support teachers

11. $
Give someone an umbrella
12.
Let someone behind me go in front of me in a line
13.
Clean a neighbor’s curb area or put their garbage cans back after pick-up
14. $
Buy someone’s groceries in the checkout or provide what someone on assistance is “missing” to complete a purchase
15. $
Pick up the tab for a random family/person
16. $
Buy some carry-out lunch and deliver it to a homeless person
17.
Give compliments to at least two people.
18. $
Buy some toys a child might like and leave them on their porch.
19.
Post about something useful to others
20. $
Go to the bank and deposit money into someone else’s account
21. $
Pay off someone’s layway at a store
22. $
Cook lunch for someone I know and bring to them
23. $
Buy a college student’s textbook or lunch

college textbooks

24.
Leave a thank -you note at farmers’ market vendor’s stall (or more than one)
25.
Collect coupons and leave at laundromats 
26.
Leave Buddhist magazines at homeless shelters
27.
Donate clothes, coats, shoes
28. $
Reserve a coffee at coffee shop
29.
Read someone’s writing and give constructive feedback
30.
Send a thank-you note to a family member (or more than one)
31.
Send a thank-you note to a friend (or more than one)
32.
Offer to edit, rewrite, or help write something for someone for free
33.
Respond to someone’s comments with positive statements in FB, LinkedIn, Google+ groups
34.
Thank group moderators in above groups
35.
Tweet about someone else’s writing, music or art

SUPPORT-INDIE-ART

36.
RT or repost someone’s great quote
37.
Vote up someone’s submission on Reddit, StumbleUpon, Youtube
38.
Thank every cashier and waitron I can’t tip
39.
Offer to help someone who seems to need help at stores, farmers’ market, library
40.
Donate books to library book sale
41. $
Donate food to food bank
42.
Offer a ride to someone with burdens walking to the BART or bus
43. $
Buy a BART (public transportation) ticket and give it away
44. $
Leave tips in tip jars even when I don’t buy anything
45. $
Donate to my spiritual teacher even when I don’t see him
46.
Get and give coupons for free ebooks to teachers 
47.
Write positive reviews for books and rank them on Amazon or businesses on YELP or other sites
48. $
Visit one church or temple per month and donate to charity tray/basket
49.
Send thank-you notes to musicians, writers, artists whose work I appreciate
50.
Send thank-you notes to teachers or their children/spouses
51.
Scan then post/email photos from albums for friends, family and let them know
52.
Make youtube vids thanking writing support groups leaders/members and cover artist, Willowraven, reviewers and beta readers, then post
53. $
Pay someone’s parking meter or give a hard-to-find space up to someone else

parking fairy
image from: http://offhandcomics.com

54.
Compliment a parent on their parenting in public place
55.
Compliment/thank a public servant in person or online
56.
Write letter to editor of local paper thanking honest, dedicated local politicians
57.
Blog about gratitude to my/one’s ancestors
58.
Share positive stories about people I knew who are now dead to their living descendants
59.
Thank Buddhist sangha members and/or support one’s retreat
60.

Find someone else whose birthday is today and wish them “Happy Birthday!”

60 BD

My #1980s #Computer Tutors: Thanks to Jaye Alper (sorely missed ) and Mario Cossa

This week is heralded as the 25th anniversary of the roll-out of the World Wide Web (now known as the #Internet) for laypeople’s use. In commemoration of that, I want to give a belated shout-out to my first computer teachers, one long-time friend, unfortunately the late and very sorely missed Jaye Alper, and my long-time friend, Mario Cossa. Both were early users, smart and talented people who “got it” years before most people.

Mario ran a nonprofit at the time called The Children’s Performing Arts Center (CPAC). For this, he had the use of a tiny, front-room “office” on the first floor of a 100-year-old Victorian mansion on Court Street in Keene, New Hampshire. He had acquired an Apple IIe and a printer.

apple2c.big

This beast took a long time to “boot up,” meaning, minutes. We’d turn it on, go do other things, come back and there it would be: green script, black/grey screen, blinking white cursor. No mouse. Instead, a DOS that required us to learn keyboard commands which Mario had posted on the wall and in a notebook. Floppy disks. No internet hook-up (hook-up to what?).

To see what we created, we had a dot matrix printer, loud and slow, that fed paper up through a slit in the bottom shelf of the new-fangled computer stand/desk or from the floor. It had to use specially designed computer paper that we had to pull out and separate at each perforated page ending and cut the edges off before using or it wouldn’t fit into manila file folders.

Dot matrix printer and paper

All files’ “back up” had to be done to the floppies, which Mario painstakingly labeled. IBM floppies and old Apples used very large, flexible diskettes that later became the harder, plastic diskettes that the “save” icon is modeled on.

With no other system for remembering, Mario invented and we kept a running log of each disk’s contents in a spiral notebook, with each disk’s name at the top of a page and its ever-increasing contents listed below, by file name and date updated (constantly changing). This was a system we continued to use through three more nonprofit incarnations and 15 more years!.

Floppy_disk_2009_G1

Meanwhile, Jaye was an early Apple adopter, also, and she had the first Macintosh I’d ever seen. In 1991, I got an LC because of her tutelage. I remember my many years of “tutoring” sessions with Jaye. I especially remember the earliest ones, in which she patiently and carefully tried to get me to understand “files,” “documents,” “folders,” “saving,” “save as,” “cut,” “paste,” “copy.” Without her help, all of Mario’s great notebooks would have gone for naught. Understanding needs to precede use. I was a slow learner in this area.

LC Mac

To “get” a file in the new world wide web to “live” on my computer’s hard drive, I had to learn a complicated FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and “write” the code language for it to download. To help me and because Jaye was very busy, I took workshops in Hypercard programming language, Filemaker Pro, Microsoft Works and then Word, databases and spreadsheets. Fifteen years later, I taught computer user classes to beginners, in a “great circle of life” moment.

Learning software programs for graphics in the days when there were no “snap to grid” options, all graphics had to be hand-drawn and positioned.This now seems hilarious, but then: what a pain. And, believe me, I am no artist.

The first time I decided to copy a file from a floppy disk to my hard drive, I didn’t know the “rule”: THE MOVING FILE WINS! Whatever is being dragged or introduced takes precedence over what it’s moved to when they have the same file name. Rookie mistake: I lost all my updates, edits and improvements. Lesson learned.

Very excited to have a “mouse” with my Mac LC and not have to remember (or look up) all the commands. But, I still use a lot of the keyboard commands (they haven’t changed much over the decades, luckily). Having “menus” was novel and exciting, a huge time-saver.

First modem: very loud, long time to get connected, many failures and restarts needed. Took minutes for one page to appear on the screen and often only part of it would appear. “Refresh” meant waiting many more minutes each time. Also, “surfing the web” took just a few minutes because besides American Online (AOL) and a few other locations, there were almost no pages to visit, yet. Individuals, businesses, government and other entities had no web presence.

original-mac-accessories

For grant-writing and research, I had to go physically, in person, and use the library’s no-circulating grants compendia, photocopy machines. I had to take notes, use snail mail and keep paper copies of what I sent or, amazingly (for the time), faxed. In the 1980s, fax machines were just beginning to appear in ordinary business offices and homes, using that thin, fragile paper.

When my 97-year-old grandfather was close to dying in 1998, we were talking about all the changes he’d witnessed. Suddenly, he said to me: “One thing I don’t understand: fax machines.” I laughed and said I didn’t understand them, either. Still don’t.

Thirty-one years after that Apple IIe, having worked on both PCs and Macs and now using a PC, being all over the internet with social media and research, uploading and downloading with relative ease, the days of rampant confusion, frustration, modem noises and waiting many minutes for a page to appear seem distantly in the past.

Gratitude to all the programmers, creators, builders, thinkers, teachers, leaders and early adopters, especially my friends, Jaye and Mario, for bringing me into the computer age. I hope you all enjoy the fruits of these people’s and your own tutors’/teachers’ labors as you read this post.

Thanks to Steve Jobs
image from blog.wefeelsecure.com

How Having a #Buddhist #Spiritual #Teacher Changes Me

Some of you may remember I began an at-home, mini-#retreat to study and practice in the #Tibetan #Vajrayana #Nyingma tradition of preliminary practices for #T’hödgal—the #Rushan exercises—with meditation, contemplation and study, in October, 2013. I planned to end this sequence by Tibetan New Year, Losar, March 2, 2014. I have written a few posts about some of these experiences and my reactions to them (the ones I’m allowed to publicize).

My spiritual teacher’s schedule is very full and it is often difficult to arrange to see him. Luckily, I found out yesterday that I was able to receive an appointment to see him February 26, which means my retreat ends in a week.

Immediately upon having the date and time for our next meeting confirmed (called an “interview” in this tradition), I could feel the familiar internal reactions that signal other responses that will occur over the next week, in anticipation and preparation for our meeting and my receiving the next teachings. Physically, I feel internal tremors, “butterflies,” flutters of fear and excitement in my mid-section and heart. My heart rate speeds up, my breathing gets shallow and I have to remind myself to take deeper breaths.

Mentally, my mind starts racing around to gather up what I might want to ask, tell, find out in our meeting, which is always too short no matter how long it is. I keep a notebook and start writing down my questions and reactions to the practices during my retreat and always moreso in the days right before we meet. The time with my teacher is precious and I want to use every moment well.

Last night, I again have lucid dreams and more dreams that I remember. Lucid dreams are the kind that occur when I, as the dreamer, know I am dreaming during the dream, waking up to some extent while having the dream experiences and notice that I am awake. Remembered dreams are the ones that wake me up completely or that are with me when I first get up in the morning.

LucidDreaming
image from givnology.com

Sometimes I remember dreams from the night before at random moments during the day as well. In each of these dreams, lucid or remembered, I’m having some conversation or encounter with my teacher.

In my dreams, we are talking about my experiences in this retreat. Or, I am asking questions and he is teaching on some related subject. Or, we are walking, preparing food, washing vegetables or dishes, cleaning a room together.

I had a dream that we were swimming in the pond at our retreat center together at night. Somehow, we could both go underwater and still breathe, talk, and relate to each other for many minutes without difficulty, all the while the moon shone through the water, lighting us.

I dreamed we were in a hot tub together, naked but unembarrassed, talking about accomplishments and experiences in one type of meditation (often termed experiencing “naked awareness” in English translations).

Many times in the “ramp up” to a scheduled interview, I hear him talking to me in my sleep.His speaking voice wakes me up. He is instructing, explaining, teaching on a relevant topic but not one I have actually heard him talk about before in our actual encounters. Although it wakes me up, I try to go back into the dream to hear the rest of what he’s saying, but that never works. I lie there, recalling what he said and what I understand of it. When I have a pen and paper handy, I write down what I can remember.

Also in the days or weeks preceding a scheduled interview with my teacher, I am more keenly aware of my faults and flaws. I try to remember to bring compassion to my self-critique. I also notice any small progress signs I might have and note them down.

Chagdud Rinpoche
H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche and his reincarnation

Our teacher (his teacher and, for a while, mine), His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, often told us that there are several sure signs of progress to watch for which he offered in a series of questions to ask ourselves:

“Am I more patient?”
“Am I less angry?”
“Am I more kind?”
“Does compassion arise spontaneously within me?”
“Am I more generous?”

If the answers to any or most of these questions is “Yes,” then we can be assured that our practice is having good effects. If not, we need to adjust/rectify: our practice, our motivation, our commitment, our understanding.

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the spiritual teacher is said to hold the key to one’s heart. Opening the heart (or, in Tibetan terms, the heart/mind) is fundamental to becoming receptive to the spiritual practices and their impact on us, allowing us to change, inviting the methods to work within us without impediment.

A teacher may play many roles. The only limitations to the impact of a qualified teacher are in our own minds.

Teacher-Roles
image from http://www.unfetteredmind.org

The story of how I “found” my spiritual teacher is a bit unusual in that I knew him before he became a Lama. However, I hadn’t seen him in ten years, only talked with him twice on the phone, before coming to accept teachings from him in 1999 and decide with him if he could be my teacher. He had told me on the phone that people who knew him “before” had had difficulty accepting him as a teacher and was warning me that it might not work for us, either.

I told him that I had already had many dreams in which he IS my teacher and I was confident it would work. Secretly, though, I was nervous and a bit doubtful, myself. I knew what he meant because the first person I had considered as my teacher was also someone I had known before and things were very difficult for both of us.

The day the retreat started that June day in 1999, we were all gathered in the shrine room (large space for meditation practice and teachings), waiting for him to arrive. I had no idea how the retreat would be structured, what went on, even where he would sit. There were thrones in the front of the room, but I had a hard time imagining that he would actually sit on one. Because Rinpoche then lived in Brazil, Rinpoche’s picture was framed and occupied the highest throne, in the center. There was one on the right side of it that was empty.

There was a curtain, a drapery wall, separating the shrine room from the porch eating area. It rippled and a man entered. At first, I didn’t recognize him as the man I had known. His hair was down past his waist and flowed as he moved. Last time I’d seen him, his hair was barely to his ears.

Even more different was the way he moved. More startling and unexpected was that I felt my heart burst open. My eyes filled with tears. In total silence and surprise, half bowed along with everyone else, I stood there staring at him. There was a glow around him that I could not actually see with my physical eyes but which I could perceive nonetheless. He emanated peace, confidence, warmth.

My heart was pounding and the tears increased as I watched him glide smoothly across the room carrying a single, long-stemmed rose in one hand.

He walked up to the throne with Rinpoche’s framed face on it. Gently and reverently, with immense love that I could feel from across the room, Lama Drimed placed the rose in front of the picture. Then, he gracefully stepped back several paces and did three full-body prostrations in front of that throne, offering respect and devotion to his teacher. I felt his devotion as pinpricks in my heart and my tears flowed.

long stem red rose

He finished his prostrations and walked over to the empty throne. Climbing up onto it, I could feel the rightness of it: it was his seat, his rightful place.

As soon as he sat down, the room of about thirty students erupted in motion: everyone began prostrating to him as he had done to Rinpoche’s picture. I stood there, trembling. Up until then, despite having attended several teachings, one retreat and several empowerments with other teachers, including Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, when I had done prostrations, I hadn’t felt anything. I did them out of respect, but without my heart engaged.

This time, as I bent to the floor to join the others in this ritual, tears fell on the carpet and my heart felt as if it would burst. The English translation for the words to the prayer we say as we do the prostrations echoed in my mind with new meaning:

“From now until I reach the heart of enlightenment, I take refuge in the Lama, who is the Three Jewels.”
Not “the” Lama: THIS Lama. I felt gnosis resonating in me as I prostrated.

My devotion and dedication awakened that afternoon as it had on no other day in this lifetime, yet it felt as if I were coming home. I had found my teacher, my spiritual guide and friend, the key to my heart/mind. Right there, that day.

Now, almost fifteen years later, I am even more devoted, dedicated, grateful and certain of my good fortune to have Lama Padma Drimed Norbu as my teacher. He scares me, he amuses me, he teaches and guides me. We argue, we talk, we laugh, we discuss. Lama Drimed as a Lama represents the embodiment of enlightenment. As a man, puts kale into his juicer and talks to me about my being a new sci-fi author. He makes me cry in gratitude, frustration, discouragement and awe.

I stretch, I learn, I grow. So does he.

In other times and now, in Tibet, India, Burma, Nepal, many Buddhist students have (had) to endure much hardship, danger, long journeys and infrequent opportunities to be with their teachers. Sometimes only once in a lifetime are they physically in the same places; being able to have an interview is even rarer.

snow travel
image from http://www.ornotmagazine.com

I am so lucky that he is alive and teaching, willing to have me as a student. The grace, good karma, great coincidence of our living in the same geographic area after many years of living other places allow me to see him next week just by driving my car about ninety minutes on good roads.

May all beings benefit. May all find their spiritual teachers and meet with them in this and every lifetime.

Thank you for being the key to my heart/mind, Lama Drimed. May you have a long, healthy, wonderful life filled with benefit and happiness.

Lama Drimed
Lama Padma Drimed Norbu

25 Examples of Real-Life Superheroes That Rescued Others

I love reading about kindness, courage and compassion in action. Thanks for posting! I’m reposting!

Kindness Blog

A boy is pulled from beneath a collapsed wall at the Plaza Towers Elementary School, on May 20, 2013.
A boy is pulled from beneath a collapsed wall at the Plaza Towers Elementary School, on May 20, 2013.
Bijlee, the 58-year-old ailing elephant rescued by individuals and NGOs sometime back, Mumbai, India.
Bijlee, the 58-year-old ailing elephant rescued by individuals and NGOs sometime back, Mumbai, India.
Fisherman Gernot Quaschny rescues a deer from the floods near Schoenhausen, Germany, on June 12, 2013. Due to a broken dike on the Elbe River, several villages in the area were flooded.
Fisherman Gernot Quaschny rescues a deer from the floods near Schoenhausen, Germany, on June 12, 2013. Due to a broken dike on the Elbe River, several villages in the area were flooded.
Inmate firefighters prepare to battle the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, Calif., in August.
Inmate firefighters prepare to battle the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, Calif., in August.
Rescue workers carry a child who was rescued from the rubble at the site of a collapsed residential building in Mumbai, India, in September.
Rescue workers carry a child who was rescued from the rubble at the site of a collapsed residential building in Mumbai, India, in September.
Rescuers pull out a female survivor, Reshma, alive 16 days after a garment factory building collapsed in Bangladesh.
Rescuers pull out a female survivor, Reshma, alive 16 days after a garment factory building collapsed in Bangladesh.

squirrel

A man rescues a woman from her car on a flooded road in the Athens suburb of Chalandri in February.
A man rescues a woman from her car on a flooded road in the Athens suburb of Chalandri – 2013
Reddit user, ‘Hannernanner’, shared the photo above and wrote;      “Actually, I am in law enforcement. There were many dogs at this residence that were removed by animal control, but considering his disability and how full our animal stays, I knew he wouldn’t last long. So I took him to the vets… They cleaned him up- tested him for parvo and distemper, gave him his shots, wormed him and all… I brought him home, hes happy and I found a home for him w[ith] a friend who can better care for him and devote more time to his disability.”
Blind Pup saved from a meth lab
Reddit…

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5-month Blogaversary this Week: Stats & Questions

This week marks my 90th Post and my 5-month Blogaversary. I appreciate greatly how authors, artists, writers, editors and many creative people join together to help increase one another’s reach and visibility on FB, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Booklikes, Shelfari and increasingly, on Google+.

Here are my end-of-first-five-months’ stats and questions (mostly for other authors). Please leave responses to mine or add your own questions in the comments section on the WordPress or Tumblr blog post site. (You will have to sign in via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or your own WP or Tumblr account on these sites to comment.)

First, many thanks for the support and receptivity: on WordPress, my blog now has 50 followers (MY GOAL for 1/1/14!) and 12 on my Tumblr site (which has all cross-posts from the WP site), for a grand and wonderful total of 62 #FF who receive (and an unknown number who read) my posts.

I’m inviting guest bloggers this year.
QUESTION: Would you like to guest blog? (I am restricting guest blogging [for now] to followers of my blogs on WP or Tumblr: good reason to become a follower!)
Please let me know when and on what topic(s).
Topics on which I welcome guest posts: Buddhism, meditation, yoga, meditation retreats, having a spiritual teacher, the influence of your spiritual practice on your writing; writing, publishing, marketing our writing; or, any of the many topics I have already blogged about (read my past posts for hints!).

sallyember.com has gone from being “invisible” (no ranking at all) via ALEXA (Google’s ranking system) to being in the top 3.5 million websites worldwide in only five months.
QUESTION: How much does an ALEXA ranking mean, and what is your site ranked?

Concurrently, Twitter followers have grown from 7 in August to over 1700 this week (almost reached my randomly set goal of 2000 #FF by 1/1/14). @sallyemberedd finds me there. Special thanks to #ASMSG, the World Literary Cafe @worldlitcafe and Keith Fritz’ Author Megasheet on Google for such great contacts and networking opportunities which help build visibility and connections on Twitter. Due to cross-posting via Facebook, Pinterest and my blog, I don’t always post directly on Twitter, but I do have an active presence there.
QUESTION: How much do Twitter followers actually read further/click on Tweets’ links and which ones appeal most to you?

Also, my original Spanners Series page on Facebook now has over 450 LIKES (my modest goal for 1/1/14 was 200!) with many “LIKE for LIKE” events hosted on FB and contacts via Facebook groups, such as the Science-Fiction/Romance Brigade, the World Literary Cafe, Clean Indie Reads, Authors Social Media Support and many others, to offer THANKS for this amazing rise in connections on FB in recent weeks (at the beginning of December, my series page had fewer than 200 LIKES). I also have a lot more “friends” (as Sally Sue Fleischmann Ember) via these same networks and groups for writers/authors and science-fiction fans as well as those interested in Buddhism.
Question: What impact do FB LIKES have on an author’s visibility, in your opinion? If you are an author and your LIKES have risen lately, how exactly have you experienced a change in sales, interactions, or network invitations that you can attribute to this increase?

I am fairly new to having a series page on Google+ (3 weeks), so my Spanners Series page there only has 9 #FF. But, I (as Sally Sue Ember) have joined many groups and hope to increase the number of people in my circles and who follow the series page by connecting and networking more via these opportunities as well. Groups for writers/authors and science-fiction fans as well as those interested in Buddhism are my main ones here, too.
QUESTION: How do you use Google+ and what is your opinion of it?

On youtube, I now have 3 videos of me reading from or talking about The Spanners Series and particularly Volume I, This Changes Everything (about one/month) since October, 2013, but only a handful of viewers, so far.
QUESTION: If you are an author, do you have a book trailer or other writing-related videos on youtube? How successful has your video presence been for driving traffic to your books’ sites, for sales, for views?

Again, partly thanks to networking and support via #ASMSG, on Goodreads, This Changes Everything is getting 4- and 5-star reviews and ratings and moving up on many lists on Listopia. As a member of only about 12 months, my “friends” number has grown to over 650. I also joined some groups here as well.
QUESTION: How do you use Goodreads as a reader? What about as an author?

Since the release date (12/19/13) of This Changes Everything, the first ebook in the The Spanners Series, TCE has been moving erratically but promisingly through the sales rankings on Amazon, Kobo, Nook and Smashwords (don’t have rankings, yet, on iBooks). Many more reviewers are about to post their reviews over the next several weeks, which will help spread the word even more.

Examples: on Amazon, TCE has risen into the top 58,000 (out of 8 million) books on Amazon, and my author rank (so far) has risen to 89,000 (out of over 500,000).
On Kobo, TCE has moved up over 2000 other books in all Fiction and over 300 other books in Romance, Paranormal (through a mix-up, it’s not in Sci-fi, where it belongs) since it’s release date.
On nook, TCE has been in the top 500,000 overall (out of over 2 million books).
QUESTION: If you have published and sell ebooks in the last 12 months, what advice would you give to new ebook authors about these types of stats?

TCE is also on Shelfari, Booklikes and several independent sites (sites that post ebooks, reviews, author interviews and stories about indie books/authors). On http://www.sallyember.com, on the right of each page. Scroll down for live links.
QUESTION: What alternative sites feature you or your writing? What are your experiences with these? Do you do “blog hops,” “cover reveals,” cross-posting of other types? Advice?

The eleven Boards I have on Pinterest which I add to frequently, relate to my writing, the series, authors and music, locations and information connected to the series and my life. Started with NO followers in September; now have almost 70. sallyember is my Pinterest address (button to this on my website).
QUESTION: How do you use Pinterest? Experiences?

Through all these and other efforts and, again, much support from friends, family and colleagues/network members, including on LinkedIn, my KLOUT score has risen to over 61 (anything over 50 is considered good; over 65 is considered excellent).
QUESTION: What is your KLOUT score? How important do you think this ranking is for a new author?

I recently joined some LinkedIn groups for writers/authors and science-fiction fans as well as those interested in Buddhism. Since I’m so new to these (less than 1 month’s membership in most), not sure of the impact, yet.
QUESTION: What LinkedIn groups do you belong to/recommend and why?

Enough for now. Thanks for reading, responding, explaining, advising, recommending, warning, sharing. Best to you all!

Gratitude Day!

Today marks the completion of my first ebook’s official first Launch into retail sales. I have many to thank for helping this happen. Here is my SPEECH in written form.

thank-you_gratitude_maui

First, I want to tell my son, Merlyn Ember, how much I respect, love, and appreciate him. His insights, lexicography, tech assistance, re-posting on Facebook and support have been invaluable to me as an author and as a mom. THANK YOU, Merlyn! And, THANK YOU to his partner, Lauren Harrison, my newest family member and friend, for her support and wonderful warmth.

Then, my second-oldest niece, Sarah Miranda, deserves her own special mention. Sarah is my first and most reliable Beta reader, my website developer and maven, on-tap tech help and Facebook quality control “friend” who re-posts on Facebook and corrects my mistakes. Sarah has inspired, supported, amused and informed me continually. THANK YOU, SARAH!

Next, my sister, Ellen Fleischmann. Without her generosity and support, there would not be such an amazing book cover. She has also supported, encouraged, re-posted on Facebook, and inspired me and my writing in numerous ways, including being THE instigator and prime mover of this entire push to publication and marketing since I was laid off from a trad job this summer. THANK YOU, ELLEN!

Special thanks to my cover artist, Willowraven, for helping me understand and develop my cover design with feasible and affordable guidelines without losing my vision or missing my deadline by too much! Visit her site! Give her your business (but not when I need her!): willowraven-illustration.blogspot.com

Next, my youngest sibling, Lauri Fleischmann Stern, for her ongoing support, re-posting on Facebook, and encouragement, ideas, and laughter. She is currently reading my book and I eagerly await her comments. THANK YOU, LAURI!

My mom, Carole Harris, in spite of technical hurdles, continues to leap over them (or knock them down) to support and encourage my authorship. She has also been a great friend, on and off Facebook. THANK YOU, MOM!

My sister-in-law, Laura Weis Fleischmann, even more hampered yet determined to overcome technical obstacles, remains a staunch supporter and is about to be a new reader of my ebook. THANK YOU, LAURA!

My brother, Jonathan Fleischmann, while mostly quiet about it, has nevertheless been a support and help to me and I THANK YOU, JON!

My long-time friend (since 1978!), Mario Cossa, has been a supporter and cheerleader for my efforts. I expect his enjoyment and critique of my ebook to start floating over the oceans and airwaves via SKYPE from Bali any day, now. THANK YOU, MARIO!

My newer friend (since 2011), Diana Ruiz, who drove all the way from Sonoma to Hayward yesterday, my ebook launch day, just to celebrate, encourage and support me, also treated me to lunch and then proceeded to post on Facebook and her own org page to support my ebook’s visibility. THANK YOU, DIANA! Send support to Women’s Global Leadership Initiative, her org: http://www.wgli.org

My recently departed but never-forgotten, long-time friend, Jaye Alper, figures into this ebook and series as the inspiration for one of the characters. She was too ill when I was drafting this to read any versions of it, but we did talk about it before she passed and I know she’s laughing and critiquing away and sharing it with her librarian contacts from wherever she is now. THANK YOU, JAYE!

Thanks also to many other friends, family members and supporters, including but not limited to: Christopher Ember Briggs, David Garelick, Pema Lama, Jim Shucart, Edward Elbers, Pamela Faith Lerman Gluck, Katie Schwerin, Bill White, Sandra Mellander, Heidi Henkel, Diane Stolar, Edina Adler, Helen Perdue, Suzanne Yeomans, Jennifer Foltz, Jennifer O’Donnell, Wendy Boldizar, Bill Weiss, Randi Weiss, Leo Weissman, Jody Serkes, Pat Lenobel, Bonnie Mulliken; Jeff Kravin and Julia Wersema; Debbie and John Paggi; Don and Fatima Frazier; Jeremiah and Elijah Kneeland; Emily, Noah, Amanda and Jamie Stern; Malka, Yakov, Akiva and Shaya Fleischmann as well as Adina, Talia and Estey Fleischmann; Ron and Scott Cytron; David, Michael and Kathy Rosen; Hillary, David and Adrienne Levin; all my colleagues and friends on Goodreads, #ASMSG and other FB, LinkedIn and Google+ groups’ members.

Thanks to those on Twitter whom I follow and who follow me. Especially grateful for the Retweets! #FF @sallyemberedd

Very important thanks to those who offered and then posted Author Interviews and read pre-pub editions/wrote and posted reviews: Pippa Green and others at the Science-Fiction Romance Brigade; Andrea Barbosa; Debbie Brown/Amethyst Eyes; Skye Callahan; New Book Journal; Shah Wharton; Bits, Bytes and Books “owner” and new author-friend, Ria Stone, author of Gina’s Dream; Zach Tyo; Lynda Dietz; Janice G. Ross. Links to all of these are on this website: http://www.sallyember.com Look to the right and SCROLL!

Thanks to Will Wilson for inviting me to his radio interview show which will air live on BlogTalk Radio, 11 AM EST, Friday, December 27: http://blogtalkradio.com/indiebooks

Special thanks to my first pre-pub reader and reviewer, fellow sci-fi author, Mary Josephine O’Brien, and best of wishes to her on the publication of her ebook, Shared Skies.

Thanks to all the groups, sites, book clubs, librarians, independent bookstore operators online and in person, and bloggers who post, re-blog and support indie authors and indie books. I can’t possibly name you all, but I hope you know how much your support and help with increasing visibility mean to us authors, typing all alone and creating who knows what in our little writing caves.

Special thanks to the Fremont, Redwood Empire and Hayward, CA, writers’ groups for critiques, support, inspiration and opportunities to do public readings, and encouragement.

Very special thanks to Jordan Rosenfeld, author/editor/blogger, for her professional information, inspiration and energy for improving my writing and for revision after revision.

Thanks and a tip of the hat in amazement to Mark Coker, Ted Summerfield and the entire Smashwords team for all your support, great instructional guides and videos, tech support and encouragement for my becoming and many millions of others being able to become ebook authors.

Thanks to Author U, Judith Briles and the team and invited marketing mavens there, for great webinars and advice for authors/writers. Take advantage of their “Mentoring Mondays”! Free! http://authoru.org/

Last and certainly not least: my spiritual teacher and long-time (since 1983) friend, Lama Drimed (Alwyn Fischel), who is the inspiration for many themes and topics in this series and for one of the characters (guess which one?), has my heart-felt devotion and eternal gratitude for so much, including all of his teaching, support, guidance and encouragement for my spiritual and professional paths. THANK YOU, LAMA DRIMED!

May all beings benefit.