Tail end of Florida, and home (for a while . . .)

I spent my last day in Florida, a place I have lived in and visited regularly since 1967, making discoveries, which is so cool.  Guess what? There are wild monkeys in Fort Lauderdale! It’s true! I saw one! I also saw countless iguanas lurking and slithering, fascinating to look at – baby dinosaurs! – but wreaking havoc on the defenseless ecosystem. Crazy.

Florida was my last stop on this two-month trip; my next flight takes me home to Hawaii. I’ll be happy to see family and friends of course, but the road lures me; I feel the tug to travel again even before finishing this trip. In the meantime, until I board anther plane (or maybe ship?), I’m going to treat my home state as the travel destination it is, play tourist, and blog about it.

Until then, aloha!

P.S. It was pointed out to me by a very clever person that while in Malta, I held a falcon . . . Get it? Maltese Falcon!

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Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Lisboetas are kind

I took a tumble this morning, right in the middle of a busy street. Lisbon’s roads and walkways are paved, oddly, with small squares of tile and marble, making them both slippery and uneven (see corroborating photo of the scene of my misery below). Boom, down I went! People rushed to help me, leading me off the road. A woman, cigarette dangling from her lips, used her kleenexes to mop the blood flowing from my elbow. A couple pointed to my glasses in the street. I turned to look just as a car smashed them, bending the frames. No matter how much I adjusted the frames, my vision was still blurry! When I thanked the couple who told me about them, they looked at me pityingly; I thought perhaps there was blood on my face. I trudged back to my hostel for a bandaging and my spare pair, and when I took off my glasses to try to do more adjusting, I discovered the lenses had been popped out. No wonder those people looked at me weirdly. No amount of frame adjustment was going to help me see better. The hostel folks patched me up, and off I went – gingerly! – just in time to catch my appointment with a walking tour company. As it happened, I was the only person to have booked this time slot, so it turned into my very own personal tour.

The friendly and knowledgeable guide led me through various neighborhoods, up and down the hilly city, pointing out things I would have otherwise missed. I tried ginjinha, sour cherry liquor. I had lunch (fig and Gorgonzola pizza) at a large and lively food court full of Portuguese specialties. And I wandered some more. And I think that’s it for today. My knee and elbow hurt. And I have a bottle of wine and a good fat book, The Little Friend.

Fun facts: Lisboetas are also know as Little Lettuces, and the symbol of Lisbon is a ship with two ravens.

Here are some photos (none from museums!):

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Please mentally insert photo of you on one of your best-ever kid days

I have previously alluded to the groovy creativity-boosting “course” I jumped into recently, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. It has been so fun to work through and has affected me positively on so many levels. I have discovered really surprising things about myself, and it has inspired me in ways I did not think possible. My recommendation: run and get it, and if the new-agey parts are hard for you (as they were for me) just keep going anyway.

Right, okay, the course addresses different topics in week-long segments and includes assignments. One of this week’s tasks was to note “childhood accomplishments.” This was a blast! It got me thinking about long ago events I rarely reflect on, such as:

Camper of the Week at Triple R Ranch
This was huge for me! After dinner the night before our parents were to collect us, my name was announced and I got called up to the stage to receive my award badge (!). Camper of the week, the entire week! The summer had begun spectacularly when I’d arrived at camp and discovered that I had been assigned to the coolest cabin tribe, The Rough Riders, so I was already in a blissful state of mind. Previous years I had been delegated to cabins so uncool their names have not survived the years, but they contained wimpy words like “pony” I am sure. Becoming a Rough Rider, well, that was about as perfect as it could get. Then, I learned I had been chosen above all the other campers, even my coolest of the cool fellow Rough Riders, as the best! I was in little kid summer camp heaven, and standing on that stage was the first moment I can remember feeling the joy of merited recognition. Big smile!

The Schiny School of Art
When I was 11 or so, I offered art lessons to neighborhood kids. I designed the classes, canvassed my Fort Lauderdale neighborhood for “students”, collected the fees, and held classes throughout the summer break. What I taught also has not survived the test of time; it is the joy of organization and management that sticks with me to this day. That and getting paid.

Lead the Way, Girl!
While in elementary school, one year I was chosen to be the first child to enter the auditorium door for the Christmas concert, holding a burning candle. While the audience sat gazing forward to the stage, silently waiting for the show to begin, we surprised them all by entering though the rear door in brilliant theatrical staging. But wait!  As the doors swung open, I took a deep breath and then led my classmates singing “Joy To The World” a cappella. I can still remember the whoosh of the crowd turning back to look at us and catch the action. Me! I did that! And I can’t even sing!

I thought of more, but now go on, your turn: dredge up those happy memories!

Aloha, and take care, folks!

Proust Questionnaire Question of the Day: Who are you favorite writers of fiction?

Oh, good god, did I not read through these questions before deciding to add them at the end of my posts? Couldn’t they have maybe narrowed it down to “your favorite English or American or African or Japanese or Indian or Russian or Australian writers? Living or long gone writers? I AM A CHRONIC READER, meaning my list would be several posts long! Sorry, copping out and going with a no-brainer: Shakespeare.

Questo è interessante!

In anticipation of my upcoming trip to Venice, I am devouring All Things Venetian, including reading histories, studying architecture, listening to novels (like Casanova, read by Benedict Cumberbatch, hubba hubba!), and watching movies set in that spectacular city.  Last night I watched a heist movie where the caper – surprise! – involves canal water. There was a funny line in it: at the moment the crime was to be set in action, the seasoned thief asked the up and coming robber how he was doing, and got the reply, “I’m fine.” But the old crook’s retort was “Fine stands for freaked out, insecure, neurotic and emotional.” Not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when I think of ‘fine’! That said, I think everyone has heard “Fine!” when things definitely weren’t, so A) I’m going to stop saying “fine” in that context, and B) I will wonder at it the next time I get that response! Similarly, I once read that “‘interesting’ is what Americans say when they don’t want to commit.” Aspiring to be a committed citizen of the world, I feel like a cheat everyone time say it!  That’s interesting!

K, another short entry: got to get back to writing my characters!

Take care, folks!

Proust Questionnaire Question of the Day: What is your favorite journey?

Hmmmm, another singular request! These are hard (but highly useful!). Once again, I cannot choose one, so here are three: stepping into a hot bath in my “soaking tub”; sitting on the right side of the plane when returning to Hawaii Island after a trip so I can see the Hamakua Coast out the window; and cruising Red Road south from Pohoiki.  Ideally in a Miata . . . with the top down . . .

FORGOT CAMERA IN CAR. IMAGINE PHOTO OF BEAUTIFUL WATERFALL HERE.

I had lots of fun today, not the least because it was spent with a friend who said to me, “You’re an awesome lady, Nancy!” at least seven times during the course of a two-hour talk-about-the-world hike to several gorgeous waterfalls. Folks, I cannot stress enough that if you don’t already have one, look for a kind and generous person to hang out with. It is such a joy to have another human being say kind things straight to your face over and over! To you who already have this person – or persons, you lucky dog! – treat her well, repay the kindness, and the world will heal, I am convinced. If anyone who reads this is thinking, “What? She doesn’t have a person like that in her life? Must be something wrong with her,” then how much nicer my friend was to overlook my shortcomings and try to make me feel good. And if anyone who reads this is thinking, “What? She doesn’t have a person like that in her life? That is so sad,” well, it’s true that I’ve spent too much time around not-kind people, but I’m obviously on the upswing!

Regardless, thank you my dear friend; it was a supreme pleasure spending time with you yesterday, and I wish you the best in everything you do. Keeping healing the world! You’re an awesome lady, Jeanne!

What’s up with “Schiny”?

Schiny is a nickname given to me years ago by a close friend. (It is also a replacement term for “awesome” for BrownCoats*. ) It got lengthened to SchinyGirl sometimes, which led to my beloved SchinyCar, may she RIP, although a better thought is that her parts were donated and are keeping another beloved Miata roaring down the road. I also have a SchinyCave (converted garage) and a SchinyPad tablet.

Just so you’ll know.

Short post today, cuz, ah, it’s Get Working on Novels Again Day.  Not even a Proust Questionnaire entry.

Just so you’ll know.

*see Firefly,  Joss Whedon

Wait, why did I start a blog???

One evening last week, honestly, I just all of a sudden thought “I’ll start a blog!” I had never, ever considered starting one before, nor did I have any idea how to do it, but a couple hours later SchinyDays.net was born. Amazing! Over the past week I have spent countless hours learning WordPress (thanks, WP folks, for the helpful support pages, and especially for using the guy with the awesome voice for the “Adding an ‘about me’ page” video; I’m melting!). I feel quite accomplished (of course, not as accomplished as the people who designed WordPress – well done, folks!), and a little proud. One of the best parts: I’m not feeling any “will anyone read it?” pangs. I’m just stoked to have done it by myself and to have a place to process ideas and get into the habit of writing, because I hereby announce to the universe that on May 18, 2015, I’ll resume working on novels I began years ago. Starting the blog has loosened up my hands and reminded me how pleasurable writing can be. It has also reminded me of the satisfying feelings of dedication, discipline, and diligence.  

So yeah, not writing the blog to address social injustice, change anyone’s views, or get you to buy something. I’m just warming up.

And as Cali Williams Yost is quoted, “I blog because I am.”

Take care, folks!

Proust Questionnaire Question of the Day: What is your idea of perfect earthly happiness?

Sunning myself on a deserted beach, running my hands through warm sand, a soft fresh breeze nuzzling my body, gentle waves lapping the shore, a bowl of fresh fruit waiting for me under a palm tree, no place to be other than here . . . Um, maybe toss in the WordPress audio guy talking to me with his voice like honey?

Feeling RED!

I’ve known it well – too well! – the searing, red-hot, eyes widening, sharp intake of breath signaling an attack of ANGER! Just thinking about past skirmishes knots my gut. YUCK. I logged many hours being angry; gladly I’ve also logged many hours examining and recovering from it. I examined it because I very much did not like the feeling of being not in control of myself; I kept looking because the insights I discovered about how my mind works were so gratifying. Some of the coolest and most helpful realizations included coming to understand the root of anger, something Pema Chodron labels as shenpa, or “getting hooked.” (For more on Pema’s exploration into anger, I whole-heartedly recommend her enlightening and engaging audiobook Don’t Bite the Hook: Finding Freedom from Anger Resentment and Other Destructive Emotions.)

But in this morning’s reading, I was exposed to a novel view of anger, and I like this very much, too. I’ve always considered anger a very, very bad thing, to be avoided, and if that’s not possible, to be worked through, examined, and always, always, to be kept in its deep and frightening black hole of sticky gunk. Furthermore I had only ever considered it as the result of something, the end. But this new view, as I understand it, posits anger as a helpful tool – the beginning of something bright and good. That’s news I can use!

Here’s more:
“Sloth, apathy, and despair are the enemy. Anger is not. Anger is our friend. Not a nice friend. Not a gentle friend. But a very, very loyal friend. It always tells us when we have been betrayed. It will always tell us when we have betrayed ourselves. It will always tell us that it is time to act in our own best interest. Anger is not the action itself. It is action’s invitation.”  Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, page 62

This view puts anger in the role as valuable guide, shining a strong clear light on what needs to be reckoned with, addressed, and solved. Not that the solution is automatically presented; anger is there as a bright flashing signal pointing directly at an area that needs attention, in an arms flailing, “Danger! Danger! Will Robinson!”, pay attention NOW sort of way. “Anger is a tool, not a master” Julia Cameron tells us.

Good stuff.

I wondered what sort of photograph to attach to the blog as anger is not something I normally photograph! I did have a lovely RED photo of a Saipan sunset though, but sunsets rarely make me angry, especially exquisite ones like this.  It’s good to balance things!

Proust Questionnaire Question of the Day: Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

Oh golly, another ‘est’ question! I have to pick one? That’s very hard, but Kostya Levin of Anna Karenina would definitely be a contender.  A decent, very human, and very flawed hero.

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think if only you try!” Dr. Seuss

Today’s topic, ladies and gentlemen, is creativity. I am currently reading a terrific book about this subject, so of course it is on my mind daily.

I had always thought of the word solely as it applies to the artistic world, but while (also currently) reading a biography of Einstein, I’ve expanded my view. Here’s a broader definition that is more Einstein-y:

Creativity is tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.

Einstein certainly was able to look at the world freshly, seeing possible realities other great thinkers could not comprehend.

And there are myriad creation stories explaining beginnings; Hawaiians have the epic Kumulipo. In fact, doesn’t every tribe or group or culture or even club have one? “This is how we started . . .”

On a much simpler scale, we can arrange pre-existing objects to create something brand new every day.

But I’ve also come to think of creativity as what’s happening around us and inside of us every second of every day without our effort or knowledge: change. Each moment is brand new, emerging, blossoming. Things have never come together in the exact same way as they are now . . . and now . . . and now, and they never will again. In fact, all we actually have is this moment . . . But I can’t swerve there right now: I’ll stick with just creativity tonight.

I certainly know that when I am in the process of creating, as in writing – or rather as in allowing a story to be written – I feel extremely good and excited and vibrant. My body even trembles when I’m way deep into things. Even when I merely cook or bake or garden, which I think of as simple forms of creatively, I get jazzed; I feel authentic. It’s quite powerful. And watching a live dance or music performance or theater production of other people’s creative expressions, well, it’s wonderful. Joyful. And deep: there are some pieces of music that cause me to weep each time I hear them.

What a pleasant way to spend an evening: hashing out an idea. Not momentous like Einstein’s “thought experiments” but exploring ideas and concepts is pleasurable all the same. I start somewhere and it leads here and there, the threads of connectivity snaking everywhere. Cool.

One last fun detail about creativity: I get to live in a place that is daily, obviously, and vigorously creating itself – the amazing Island of Hawaii!

Today’s takeaway: today while I sat in my car in the library parking lot finishing a smoothie I had just purchased, a car pulled in next to mine, and I saw that the driver was drinking a smoothie from the same shop, and I blurted out, “Hey!” The man startled, but when he saw that I was toasting him with my similar smoothie cup, he laughed, and then began to tell me how much he liked that store over all the other smoothie places he regularly visits as he works around the island. He said it was the best smoothie shop for so many reasons, emphasizing how much he enjoyed going there. Then, ridiculously, I said “Yeah, but the parking lot is a nightmare.” Then a moment later, I continued, “I can’t believe I just said such a negative thing when you were saying such positive things.” He laughed again and immediately replied, “If you’re talking to strangers, you’re doing the right thing.” What a nice guy, and I bet he’s right. If we always talked to strangers, maybe we’d blur all the us/them lines.

Proust Questionnaire Question of the Day: When and where were you happiest?

Looking for an “est” of anything does not sit well with me: it feels so limiting. I’d rather have quantity than quality! But I can clearly remember one extremely happy moment decades ago when I received a congratulations letter for a prestigious scholarship that included a travel grant. After reading the first line, I clutched the letter to my heart and shouted, “I’m going to Paris!” Man o man, it still feels awesome!

Busyness

When I decided to leave my job, I had all these ideas about how my life would be and go, and some of those ideas turned out as I expected, but not many, and not precisely as I expected, but I suppose that’s to be expected? Our imaginings and reality are nearly always (always?) quite different, n’est-ce pas? Some things turned out way better than I ever could have hoped, and then there have been all the surprises. A better-than-hoped-for example is that I did not expect so much happiness and contentment so soon, so yea for that. Fortunately, the surprises are mainly mundane concerns – no existential angst, or anything like that, thank goodness. Just normal everyday stuff I hadn’t considered. For instance, I now know how much I was addicted to and lucky to have the fine internet access I had at work. My home is in a rural area, with no decent internet available, so today I spent three hours at the public library downtown with all my devices spread about me, catching data and getting powered up. I admit, this may not seem like that big a deal, but not being able to look up or download something easily, instantly, has really altered my day-to-day processing of life! Additionally, I imagined I’d be saving all kinds of money not driving to work everyday; what I didn’t consider was that my electric bill would soar since I’m home turning things on constantly. Another thing that’s tripping me out is how little spare time I have! I’d envisioned lots of down/quiet time, but, ah, yeah, nope, that is not the case! Each day’s to-do list is so long that even my iPad calendar comments on it: “Tomorrow’s a really busy day. You’ve got 27 things scheduled!” Part of the busyness to be sure is because I’ve added several daily tasks, like writing Daily Pages (lots more on that later!) and sticking with my meditation practice, and those take chunks of time (and morning time at that, morning time having always been my most productive time). I’m also cooking up a storm, finishing long wished-for projects and learning new things (WordPress!), along with a daily exercise regimen (ah, lots more on that later too!). So, sounds dumb and duh, I know, but just in case you are as un-thorough as I was, take it from me and be prepared for everyday surprises should you too decide to overhaul your life.

Proust Questionnaire Question of the Day: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“In reality . . .”