All posts by Ann Riley

A writer writes about writing

Writer’s block prompted me to search for an idea for this week’s post. I turned to the poetry of Alberto Rios, 2013 Arizona poet laureate. In his poem An Instruction to Myself, I found my inspiration. Rios defined the task of a writer in the first line. His instruction suggests we “Shepherd the things of the world to the page.”

I love his word choice. The verb shepherd communicates such a gentle guidance. Now I can visualize gently guiding my thoughts into words. Thanks Alberto.

I met Alberto Rios last semester when he spoke here at GCC. He read the following poem. Perhaps sharing is the ultimate gift of a writer.

When Giving Is All We Have

Alberto Ríos 

One river gives
                                              Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

 

Gymtimidation

About 20 years ago, I experienced “Gymtimidation” as a member of a gym in Ohio. Buckeye Fitness, I believe was the name of the place. The owner was a professional body-builder. The equipment was top-of-the-line. My friend was a personal trainer and invited me to join so we could work out together.

In the beginning, I lacked any “Gymtimidation.” I was perfectly at home among the machines and mirrors. With my personal trainer friend, I felt part of the group. I didn’t realize I was in an exclusive environment for body builders. So I had to be told.

“You see those big guys over there? Stay out of their way. They’re friends of the owner. They’re professionals. And they’re on steroids. Which means they can be aggressive and they have no patience with non-professionals. Steroids can make you mean. And hungry. So just stay out of their way. Never hang around and wait for them to get done with a machine.”

So I learned. I learned that I needed to make myself small at the gym. I needed to be as invisible as possible. This place was not “all about me.” But at that time in my life, I was accustomed to being marginalized at home, at work, and now at the gym. I was used to being invisible, so all this was not a problem. I wasn’t offended. Inclusivity was not on my radar. I didn’t know any better.

Live and learn. Today, I do know better. I’m no longer OK with being invisible. And the attitude at my current gym is the total opposite of Gymtimidation.  Inclusivity is a core concept at the GCC Fitness Center. The GCC Fitness Center radiates inclusivity. The staff and members consist of a diverse mix of people. The employees welcome us, encourage us, and accept us regardless of our fitness level, natural ability, or campus status. I adore the diversity of our fitness center community. Individuals don’t need to yield to cliques. My workout is just as important as yours. Fitness opportunities are adapted to meet the needs of each individual. There is no one-size-fits-all fitness mentality. Check out the GCC Fitness Center and experience how it feels to stay fit without “Gymtimidation.”

 

The Big Picture

As another episode of 6 X 6 begins, it is appropriate that we start with the topic of inspiration. If given the opportunity, this idea can momentarily draw our focus away from today’s to-do list and inspire us to look at the Big Picture.

From the Circulation Desk in the GCC Library, I have an amazing view of the Big Picture. If I pay attention, I can watch a preview of the future parading in front of me. It usually begins when a student requests a textbook at the Circulation counter. This simple encounter inspires me to imagine how many people this student will help in the future. For a few seconds, I think about what career she might pursue. The positive effect of this individual’s efforts to study at GCC could someday benefit countless others.

If I expand this Big Picture idea, I realize I play an important role in the GCC cycle of student success. My college experience started at GCC and involved countless hours of homework here in the library. As a student, I was primarily focused on my daily to-do list of assignments. At the time, I did not realize the ideas and inspiration I was developing at GCC would eventually lead me back to work in this building. Now I am proud to be part of the GCC staff. Today on this side of the circulation desk, I have a different to-do list and a more expansive view of the Big Picture. From where I sit, there is no shortage of inspiration.

 

3 pounds of tofu between your ears

I love small books with big messages. Neuroscience, Buddhist thought, psychology, compassion, beauty, kindness…this book has it all. It’s organized in short, powerful chapters – each with a potent, instantly-usable message. Here are my random thoughts for today in random order…

Start with Chapter 2 and Chapter 17

Remember your GCC Library. We can get this book for you to check out.

Best Wishes to all the 6 x 6 writers. Thanks to all of you for sharing your stories and ideas.

 I believe: What is known must be shared, preferably for free…

 

Difficult daughters

On Children
 Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, 
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, 
and He bends you with His might 
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, 
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

I love this poem. It sums up a lot of what I’ve learned in my 24 years as a Mom. My daughter and I are totally opposite in most ways. Since she was small, she has never ceased to amaze me with her contrasting attitude and I’m sure she feels the same regarding my differing ideas. Before she was born, I could have never imagined how unmatched a mother and child could be regarding temperament. I had rose-colored dreams of us being warm and fuzzy best friends. Where I got that idea, I can’t imagine – since my mother and I were certainly opposites as well. Is there a pattern here???

So this poem seemed to provide some clarity to this mother-daughter mis-match. All this unlikeness is OK…Jennifer is allowed to be Jennifer… I am allowed to be me…and my mom was allowed to be mean… uh…I MEANT…was allowed to be her

Actually, I feel liberated by the lessons in this poem. I am so much more comfortable with our opposing attitudes and choices. I wish my mom could have read this poem too. But then, she would have hated it…and I guess that’s OK too…that was her style…

(We were supposed to write about difficult people, right?)

This post is for you Mom! I Love You and I miss you,

Your Difficult Daughter who is the mother of your difficult granddaughter…

Lesson for Today:

Difficult Daughters…Maybe it takes one to know one…

 

Countdown to Reality

Last evening, a chance of winning the Powerball lottery prompted my unrealistic of dream of “What would I do if…??? 45 minutes was all that stood between me and some unimaginable amount of cash. I told my husband, “Enjoy the next 45 minutes because our life is going to change at 8 o’clock.”

During those 45 minutes, I basked in the dreamy thoughts of my philanthropic calling…starting an organization to fund the charity work of others. I imagined myself sitting at a board room table listening to the enthusiastic ideas of concerned people who want to make the world a better place. Wow…just think of the ripple effect…this is going to be awesome…

45 minutes later, the reality buzzer rang as the winning lottery numbers failed to appear on my ticket. OK. Whatever. It’s fun to dream.

My take away: What we dream today can create our reality tomorrow. Maybe yesterday’s dream is moving me toward explicit action to make a positive difference today and in the future. Maybe the lottery dream was just a warm-up for my real philanthropic future.

 

Collective Reckoning

I love Oprah and as usual, she hit it right on the head. I just re-read a January article from her magazine and it spoke to my heart. Oprah is my virtual mentor. I adopted her as my role model back in the 80’s. Oprah was the first person to send me a positive, uplifting message that changed my life. I’ve loved her ever since and adore her life’s work and attitude.

Today, I’d like to share some great lines from this recent article. By sharing her inspiration, I feel the joy of her words over and over again. Oprah gives me hope for the future. Here is a sample of her recent message to me:

Regarding our nation today – “We’re losing what it means to be civilized. We’re losing respect for lives other than our own.”

Now here’s the hopeful part of the message – “Everyday acts of goodwill and consciousness are what’s needed to restore our collective broken soul. Only a deep collective reckoning can bring us back from the brink.”

Don’t underestimate your power.

It takes only one candle to light a whole room of darkness.”

I agree that we need this “collective reckoning.” However, we can only control what we do as individuals. All we can do is add our own individual effort to the collective reckoning and hope that the ripple effect expands these intentions. “Be a balm of peace in a troubled land.” Thanks Oprah. You always know what I need to hear.

FYI – The Oprah Magazine is now available at the GCC Library for your reading pleasure. Stop in and say Hi and enjoy being surrounded by tens of thousands of books!

 

Wanna Dance?

Do you see yourself? Would you feel welcome in this group?

Diversity: Being invited to the party.

Inclusivity: Being asked to dance

(My invented definitions based on the words of Verna Myers)


While reading-up on the topic of inclusivity, I came upon the words of two of my favorite people, Thich Nhat Hanh and Oprah. Here are some insights regarding the term inclusivity.

Thich Nhat Hanh described inclusivity with the verbs “accept and embrace.” This embrace idea connects with Verna Myers’ thought of dancing…close, personal, human…This made me think that inclusivity means not just letting someone in the door, but giving them a hug too. Also, these words suggest close, concrete actions and not just a “nice, far away idea.”

In a 2016 Time interview, Oprah revealed that she had dropped the word diversity from her vocabulary in favor of inclusion. She offered this reasoning, “the word that most articulates what we’re looking for is what we want to be: included. It’s to have a seat at the table where the decisions are being made.”

So, when you hear about the term inclusivity- think of asking someone to dance. Think about parties you’ve attended. The people on the dance floor usually seem to be having the most fun.  

 

Flying Books Deliver Daily Inspiration

This is my reality: All day…every day, books fly through the library and ultimately land in my hands. It’s as if these items take flight from the book stacks and land right on my desk… This experience of coming into direct contact with countless, random books every day inspires me tremendously. I wish I could track how much I’ve grown and learned, professionally and personally, since I joined the GCC Library family. Working in Access Services at an academic library is certainly a dream come true for a bookworm like me. A sample of our library’s extensive collection materializes each day. On every horizontal surface, books perch patiently, inviting me to take a closer look.

The written word speaks to my soul. Spoken words are fine, but reading words on a page transcends an auditory experience. Silent and deep, books change my life, one sentence at a time. Each book feels like a stepping stone. Or maybe more like shells on the beach…I ignore most, but certain gems capture my attention. In the same way, some books go unnoticed while others introduce me to a perfectly-timed message with lasting effects. It’s magical actually.

Momentary, random encounters can yield deep thoughts.
Recently I found the words of Octavia Butler and Brian Bilston.  In the library, inspiration is just a page away…

Refugees by Brian Bilston

They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way

          (now read from bottom to top)

 


 

6X6 continued…

Since this is the final post for this round of 6X6, the next step is on my mind. How do I continue this writing challenge? How can I stay motivated to continue writing for an audience?

For now, I will continue to read the blogs of other writers and strive to respond to their work. Below is my comment to Jonas Ellison’s daily post with a link to his blog. His writing inspires me to keep writing. It’s a great cycle for me…read…write…read…write…

View at Medium.com

Jonas,

Your words are not lofty drivel. And you’re never boring. I love your line Good writing comes from friction in daily life. To take it further, good writing also comes from pain in daily life, and humor in daily life and courage, and failure and uncertainty and the raw humanity in daily life.

Your line inspires me to draw ideas from daily life for my writing. I think I get caught up trying to express amazing new insights that will blow my readers away when really I just need to offer a small human connection. Because that’s what blows me away…when another writer perfectly expresses how I feel. I am always amazed and overjoyed when a total stranger and fellow writer “hits it right on the head” and brings clarity to my situation. Jonas you do this on a daily basis.

Thanks for sharing your work.

________________________________________________________________________

*******So, to all the GCC 6X6 writers- please share with me your recommendations for your favorite blogs that focus on writing, or art, or creativity, or any writing that spreads a positive, empowering message.  I believe in that ripple effect I wrote about last week.