Monthly Archives: April 2011

Ditching the Critic

As some of you who are clever enough to read between the lines may have deduced, my recent posts addressing issues like self acceptance and such have at least partially been a reaction to my own frustration at not having been 100% true to my commitment to a daily blog post. I knew in the beginning that I was presenting myself with a challenge; and challenge is good, especially when it comes from within. I also knew that there was a good chance I was going to end up pissed off at myself for skipping a day or becoming too repetitive and so on. Some of us become quite well versed in the language of self criticism, a little Joan Rivers voice in our head ripping at us with catty commentary. Many of us do learn to overcome this self defeating habit, to silence the Joan in our brain and replace her with someone far more kind and forgiving. I think everyone, to some degree, has an inner critic, not to be confused with conscious. Our conscious is reasonable, she is the little Angel on our shoulder reminding us to think before we act. The Critic is more like the Devil on the other side. She rarely satisfied with one nasty comment. She nags and simmers and prods and goads until, “wow I screwed up” becomes “I can’t do anything right I may as well not even try”. That’s the kind of thinking that not only stagnates our creativity but, if unchecked, can lead us into some self destructive behaviors.
As you can tell I enjoy personifying moods, beliefs and thought patters. It makes it easier to identify when we are caught in their trap. So I’m not perfect, I may miss a post here and there, but if I do I’m going to tell Ms. Rivers to take a hike…after all she has much more important people to insult!
Have a wonderful weekend!

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard


Thursdays Thought-Complexity

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large; I contain multitudes.- Walt Whitman 

This is perhaps one of my most loved quotes.  Being unique, living on the edge of the mainstream has been a vital ingredient in this blog and in our lives. Perhaps it was feeling like an outsider in the first place that led us down our paths of adventure and mishap, or it was the adventure that created our outsider statuses. Either way we’ve all, at one time or another searched our soul in quest of Identity, and chances are we’ve tried on a few different costumes. I struggle to bring to light the complexities that lead Women like us into circumstances where we are judged, misunderstood and even outcast, my hope. is to bring some empathy and compassion to others who may have judged us harshly. I am so much more than the sum of all labels I could assign to myself. Mother, student, writer, social worker, alcoholic, depressed, chronic pain patient, punk, hippie, socialist, non-conformist, animal lover, gardener, masters degreed addict. So many contradictory labels. But that is truly the human nature isn’t it? To be complex? Even so it seems it is in human nature to attempt to fit people into snug little categories, to assign them a title that excludes all other possibility. Addict. How can an addict be a counselor??  Feminist? How can a feminist have empathy for a batterer?
Why do we cling to these narrow minded perceptions? In an answer, it’s easy; doing so requires little or no critical thinking or emotional process.
To quote my own words from a previous post:
 Self understanding and acceptance it’s an ongoing process, just like developing any other relationship. I believe it is well worth the effort, if we are to truly become the best and brightest we can be. 

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Am I in the Right Station?

I may well have asked myself that question the moment I slid out from between my mothers legs 52 years ago. I always seem to feel like I’m missing something, forgetting something, unable to focus and not quite sure what to do next.  The good news is, I now know I’m not alone.  True, I’ve had friends who described the same feeling, but for many of them it seems the means to adapt was within reach. Somehow the found that magic key that opens the door to a “normal” or “functional” life. In College they do more than just go to school, they belong to student associations and clubs. They establish relationships with Professors who invite them to their offices for coffee and provide them with shining references upon graduation. They go on to develop careers, relationships, buy homes, have insurance and cars and so on. They continue to feel lost or different or questioning, but they have the means to function within the model life that has been somehow agreed upon as the blueprint for the American Way. They are riding that train to nowhere but they’re on the train, they bought the ticket. Some people learn to ride the rails, to hop the train just as far as they need to go; and then there’s people like me, who did all the right things got our ticket, only to discover we’ve arrived at the wrong platform, or got there 25 minutes late. Some people may have even gotten aboard, only to be given the bums rush by some conductor for not following the rules.
Others encourage us, give us helpful tips, develop strategies for better organization etc. Generally they mean well and genuinely want to help; just as we want their suggestions to work for us. No wonder everyone, ourselves included, is surprised when that daily folder accordion file ends up with Mondays notes in Wednesdays folder along with a drawing given to us by the kid next door and  maybe a bill that was due two years ago. Most likely the folder is covered with phone numbers (whose number? we don’t know) doodles and coffee stains
Now, in my mid life, I’m discovering the comfort of sitting aside watching the train go by. I look up at the passengers and see that most of them are oblivious to the surroundings, captivated by the world being presented to them by their IPhones or Wall Street Journals; but at least one passenger is gazing wistfully out the window at the landscape. Our eyes meet, I smile and wave.
© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Pay it Forward Day

Merry Monday to Everyone,
As I was browsing through the numerous Facebook groups that have been grabbing my attention I came across this link to pay it forward day. I’d forgotten that this has become an actual annual event, but I remember my kids participating in High School.
Naturally we might think “Why don’t we do this all the time” or even “I have nothing to give”. To answer the first question, hopefully some of are doing this all the time, maybe we do and don’t even acknowledge it as such. Everyday acts of kindness are not uncommon, encouraging others to participate is almost unheard of. The most significant impact of asking others to pay it forward or do something kind for someone else, is not to draw attention to ourselves and how wonderful we are for doing nice things (although I believe it’s healthy to give ourselves a little pat on the back now and then) but rather to draw peoples attention away from themselves and direct it to another Human Being, or an animal. I frequently express my belief in the importance of Community (you may have noticed) Setting aside a day to actively call to attention the impact that simple acts of kindness present to a community increases our collective awareness of the quality of our community. We may find ourselves talking to a neighbor we’ve never spoken to, or a stranger in a grocery store and as a result we may learn something about that person, something we would never have known otherwise. We will have the chance to come out of our shells, the bubble we surround ourselves in and communicate. And, here’s the beautiful part, if we are not comfortable asking a stranger or even those we know to pay it forward, you will see on the website there are printable cards to be passed on to the person you offer your kindness to. These cards can be left anonymously taped to someones door or stuffed in their mailbox, on their desk at work etc.
To address the question “what can I do?” the answer is simple, anything. Any small act of kindness and consideration creates it’s own echo. Pick up some trash (I mean garbage, not a dude) in your neighborhood. If you have money slip some into the pocket of someone you know who doesn’t. Offer to lend a hand to an overworked co worker. The website has lots of ideas and suggestions but I also think it’s important for us as individuals to decide what is needed in our community.
The date for this event is Thursday, April 28
here’s a link to the website:
Pay It Forward Day

Go Forth and Be Nice!!!!

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Creating Community, it’s easier than you think!

“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day.”
Sally Koch

I browsed through many quotes before I found the one that perfectly embodied the essence of today’s message. I have no idea who Sally Koch is, I do hope she’s not related to the infamous Billionaire Koch brothers, although they could benefit from her advice!
When I think about building cooperative community I often look to the past, to the lives and stories of my Grandparents and theirs before them. Even 40 or 50 years ago it was common for neighbors to share resources, in fact it was often the center of social gatherings and yearly traditions. At harvest time people would can goods from their gardens, setting aside extras to trade with their friends and neighbors. Certain people or families were known for their specialty crops; Aunt Patty pickled green beans,Uncle Ray was a hunter and famed for his dried venison jerky. Maybe Mrs. Gough down the street canned jams and jellies and further down the road was a bee keeper with jars of golden sweetness. Neighborhood picnics and family reunions were often a free marketplace of sorts where homegrown products were traded among the community. These events not only ensured the distribution of resources but also provided an opportunity for families and neighbors to socialize. Community sharing was not exclusive to reunions or Harvest festivals. There were frequently ongoing gatherings where groups of neighbors convened for quilting parties or knitting circles, the good old “stitch ‘n bitch’ as my Grandmother used to say. If someone needed a certain type of button or print of fabric the community contributed resources to help one another with their projects. In my opinion, the ‘bitch’ element was probably equally as important as the ‘stitch’. The stitch created useful and often unique blankets, clothing and household items. The ‘bitch’, to speak freely with a familiar and trusted group of friends provided a welcome release for women who spent most of their day tending to the needs of a household and children.
Another common practice was the sharing of ‘hand me downs’. although it’s often a topic of wry humor, the youngest boy wearing his older sisters clothes or being the kid who was last in line in the family, it is only in recent years that lower income families could afford to buy newer clothes for their children. Prices have decreased significantly due to the expansion of stores like Walmart because as we all know, the products are made overseas in crowded factories by ex impoverished men, women and children who will work for next to nothing. As the prices have dropped so has the quality, few of those clothes would last long enough to be handed down. When my children were young I had a group of friends who had children within the same age range. We had developed a hand me down system of our own; that way my youngest, a boy, didn’t have to suffer the shame of wearing his older sisters clothes but instead inherited items from the neighbor boy who was a year older (and his mind, much cooler)
I realize that times have changed, that we have less time for such activities, but why is that? Is it perhaps because we spend so much time away from our families and communities employed by companies who have little or no connection to us as individuals? Perhaps the more we learn to do for ourselves as communities, to function in a spirit of mutual support and care, the more we can free ourselves from the the grip of a system that takes more from us than it gives in return.
Do you have friends, family or community that shares traditions and practices of a barter or freecycle/sharing economy? What survival tips have you learned throughout your experiences with hard times? It would be great to hear some stories!

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

>The Wheels in my Brain go Round and Round…

>Hello Everyone,
Well, here I am at about 2 and a half months after treatment. Just as while I was on treatment I’m avoiding calendar watching which invariably leads to obsession and distress. The obsession at this point in the journey becomes thay magical 6 month blood test, the generally agreed upon determination of whether this beast has been slain.
I’ve got to give myself credit for not devoting excessive time to wondering and worrying about it. This is becoming easier as I gradually start to feel better, less toxic, less like I’ve been awake for days in a row. Bits and pieces of Me are returning, in their own time and at their own pace. Today I ran up the stairs without becoming breathless; on treatment it was a struggle to even walk up the stairs. I still sleep a lot and experience brief episodes of sudden , unexplained malaise and apathy, but they seem to pass quickly.

My most dreaded fear was that my memory and thought processes would remain at the grinding halt they have been stalled in for the past year. I constantly surprise myself in conversation when I can actually remember the name of the movie I’m discussing or the author of a novel or a million other details that seemed to be lost in the fog forever. I still forget where I left my keys or the dogs leash or to do some little task I had wanted to complete, but that’s fairly typical for me anyway. I’ve always relied on to do lists to get things done   as long as I don’t lose the to do list!
I felt like an absolute genius when helping my son with a crossword puzzle the other day, the answers were just there. I remember hearing that games like crosswords are very good at keeping one’s mind sharp as we grow older. I suspect the same might apply to getting one’s mind back in working order after treatment. Just as we can strengthen our bodies by exercise, or running up the stairs, we can reawaken our brains by putting them to work. Does anyone else have hobbies or activities that get the wheels moving in your brain?

© 2011 Jennifer Hazard

More Thoughts on Community

Happy Wednesday Warriors, Wild Ones and Wanderers,

I’ve had a thing for alliteration lately..
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the Concept of Community these days. It may be partially in response to the collective sense of fear and uncertainty that is evident in our nation, and in many other parts of the world. Our government seems out of control,the wealthy are getting wealthier and the rest of us are losing resources on a daily basis. Many of feel that we are no longer being represented by those we elected; we are feeling like children, abandoned unsure of where to go for help.
And then there are the doomsday folks, the conspiracy theorists, the 2012ers who speak of immanent change, but offer little suggestion of what that change may look like. The only thing that seems certain is that those of us without money or substantial political influence (one in the same really) stand to be in for some difficult times at best. At worst we stand to lose many rights and freedoms that we have taken for granted for most of our lives.
I once quipped to a friend of mine that if our economy totally takes a dive and chaos ensues, poor folks, survivors and “disenfranchised” will be in a pretty good spot. We know how to navigate tough times, we know how to survive on very little money and we form tight friendships. Common suffering breeds unity in the best of us. Look at support groups. although all support groups have their problems and as any group work textbook will tell you, evolve through stages of difficulty, the beauty is that in the most circumstances there develops a mutual respect and accountability. If the group can remain focused on their common cause while honoring the uniqueness of the individual there emerges a unity that is rich with possibility
That kind of comraderie and acceptance is exactly what is needed right now. I’ve seen it happen; when our governor attempted to bust the Unions he exempted the Police and Firefighters, hoping to keep them “on his side” I’m certain he was somewhat taken aback when not only did they refuse to hop on his bandwagon, but actually joined the protests is large numbers and, I must say, in quite a grand presentation. One of the most “spin my world, never thought I’d live to see the day” moments came when a police officer announced loud and clear to the protesters in the state capitol that he was standing with the protesters; that he was upholding his vow to protect the citizens. As someone who grew up in the 60’s seeing police and National Guardsmen tear gassing, beating and even shooting protesters I was flabbergasted, and overjoyed.
We can no longer afford to be divided by class, labels, social status…we need each other. We need Community.
Next: ideas on building and sustaining community support. Stay tuned…

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard