Arts and Health, Sisters is devoted to exploring creative problem solving and coping strategies in our world, especially the links between artistic expression and personal and spiritual growth. It is also dedicated to honoring the value and power of women.

Search This Blog

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Brief Update

I just wanted to note that I had an article accepted on Helium, so I have earned my first dollar as a writer. It's not going to show up in my bank account for some time, but I thought it ought to have a place of honor on my blog. I hope to write here more soon as well.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Ironically I started this blog with some writings about looking for work, and now I myself am looking for a second job or business.

So far I've applied for a job with mental health care, have joined a medical writer's association, have started making crafts (but haven't been brave enough to try to sell them), have sold some things on eBay... I'm also going to try my hand at some public speaking which I enjoy and possibly continue with some content writing (on-line writing) as well. I'm simply trying to do something positive about my financial needs every day, even if it is a small something. It does help me feel a bit better than sitting and fretting.

Of course every solution brings its own challenges. Sometimes challenges are fun opportunities for growth and other time they are simply tiring. I am thankful that I live in an age which provides many different options for work. However I would be much more grateful if the economy was doing better, even if it meant fewer opportunities and challenges!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Princess Curse: Women Entwined Inexorably With Virtue

Recently I watched Tangled with my son and was struck by the following:

Loved the horse, or is it a dog, or what?

Loved the crazy long hair and how completely impossible everything was. Let's hear it for cartoon physics!

Three cheers for frying pans, even though I'm a Quaker!

I also thought it was a nice touch, at the start, to have a villainess who was primarily charming and manipulative as her form of aggression.

Ok, so the usual Disney Princess fare. And that's the problem. There's our Hero, who is, of course, tediously good-looking, healthy and as usual egotistical, callous, an unapologetic law-breaker and basically a no-good guy whose saving graces are being handsome, reckless, and arrogantly thoughtless. Enter our Princess who while agile (especially with the hair! Hey if mine could work as a prehensile limb, I'd never cut mine either!), creative, intelligent and deeply sensitive and caring, is also almost entirely unquestioning of authority, deeply into people-pleasing as her main source of protection (ok, she's decent with a frying pan, and don't forget her mighty chameleon side-kick) and otherwise is “as good as she is beautiful.”

By the end of the predictable if enjoyable tale, our hero has been saved by falling in love with our perfect princess (did I mention she's a size 2 soaking wet and dipped in batter?) which brings out all his finer qualities.

I have 2 objections: the first is that this plays into the myth that women are responsible for saving the world and every single man in it, one at a time, through being beautiful, good, and at most a bit whiny. The only “allowable faults” are vanity and intense emotions (excluding intense anger of course).

I want to see the other story, the one about the girl/young woman who is not “good” and who is redeemed. In thinking about this the only movie that comes to mind is “The Accused”, which is hardly appropriate for children. I found that movie deeply troubling due to the subject matter, but also refreshing, because the heroine was not a “nice girl”, or a “good girl”. Yet her bravery in confronting what was done to her through the legal system redeems her. She gets angry, she does “stupid” things, just like our “heroes”.

My second objection is the villainess. I get very tired of female villains, because they are portrayed exclusively as charming on the outside, yet totally evil on the inside. And there are so many of them. Male villains tend to be more complex and are portrayed more sympathetically. Such as the villain in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney version), However who can blame the women villains for being so shallow when the only powerful thing they feel they can do is steal youth, beauty or a wonderful singing voice. So what if I can turn people into toads, I'm not the “fairest of them all”, without which I don't have the power to seduce men and redeem them, therefore I am impotent. Can we please stop proving Freud was right? Or at least acknowledge that the lives of girls and women are more complex and worthy in their own right. And that it isn't a woman's job to “save” the man she loves (or any other man either).

I know this review is overly serious for a silly and really rather fun film, but I'm tired of girls being shown that “they can have it all”, that, yes they are smart and strong and brave and can do everything Fred Astaire does, but in high heels and backwards... that isn't liberation, it's simply a less callous version of “put another log on the fire”.  (song by T. Glaser)

Put another log on the fire.
Cook me up some bacon and some beans.
And go out to the car and change the tyre.
Wash my socks and sew my old blue jeans.
Come on, baby, you can fill my pipe,
And then go fetch my slippers.
And boil me up another pot of tea.
Then put another log on the fire, babe,
And come and tell me why you're leaving me.

Now don't I let you wash the car on Sunday?
Don't I warn you when you're gettin fat?
Ain't I a-gonna take you fishin' with me someday?
Well, a man can't love a woman more than that.
Ain't I always nice to your kid sister?
Don't I take her driving every night?
So, sit here at my feet 'cos I like you when you're sweet,
And you know it ain't feminine to fight.

So, put another log on the fire.
Cook me up some bacon and some beans.
Go out to the car and lift it up and change the tyre.
Wash my socks and sew my old blue jeans.
Come on, baby, you can fill my pipe,
And then go fetch my slippers.
And boil me up another pot of tea.
Then put another log on the fire, babe,
And come and tell me why you're leaving me.

P.S. For the ultimate in the anti-heroine see http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/Storyteller.html Saki's classic “The Storyteller”.  

Rough Week

I had a rough week with lots of bad news which I won't go into. I did a bit of hiding in bed for a couple of days, but now I'm over that (for this moment) and ready to post. I have a few things I'm working on and hope to get them up today and tomorrow.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Teen Boy Devastated by Shake!!!

Today, a thirteen year old boy suffered from acute cognitive dysfunction after learning that he was not going to have his usual twice a week chocolate milk shake. This horrible mental attack was marked by irritability, distraction and sudden loss of all mathematical facility. As a consequence he was unable to complete his summer math homework.

The surprise arrival of cookies seemed to alleviate some of his symptoms and he was able to successfully work on his current math assignment and smile again. He  reflected thoughtfully on the unfinished summer math, "If I get all 102 out of 150 problems I did finish correct that will be about 70% and I'll still pass the assignment."

This was today's tempest in a teapot.

Somewhat longer meditation

Today I started a longer sitting meditation practice. Twenty minutes. It was amusing because at the end just when I couldn't make myself wait any longer, I opened my eyes to look at my timer just as the alarm rang. Ironic. Overall I felt very happy, when I wasn't bored. I also felt relaxed and constantly was distracted by 1001 worries, then brought my attention back to counting my breaths. It was interesting to notice that most of my worries and plans are things I've been worrying and planning for months, so it was really a bit much to be thinking that any of them were so important that twenty minutes would make any difference. Now, a scratchy throat? That's something that can't wait, cough, cough.

I'm happy I've been able to keep doing this and hope I will continue, or at least if I drop it, refocus and pick it up again.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mindfulness in Action

The last 10 days of meditation have been about combining mindfulness sitting meditation with mindfulness while engaged in activity. I continue to find meditation works better for me in the evening more so than in the morning, when I am more rushed. I suppose when or if I become more mindful the morning will also work just as well!

These are some activities I find I can use mindfulness and find a sense of peace in the moment:

-Washing the Dishes: The water, the soap, the bubbles. The visual and sensual aspects help me find this chore somewhat soothing. Being aware and curious about my thoughts, I have the urge to rush through. But is there really something more urgent than having clean dishes right at this moment? Am I berating myself for having delayed doing the chore? Am I expecting a certain outcome (this will take too long, for example)? It offers an opportunity to practice mindfulness and to get to know myself better, to observe myself with a gentle curiosity and then return to what I'm doing, and as a bonus have more clean dishes at the end.

-Knitting or Drawing: These activities also have a physical and a tactile focus. The pull of the yarn around the needles and my fingers, noticing how tight or lose I hold the yarn and the needles. Watching how I react when I make a mistake. In knitting I like noticing that I can take the stitches out when a stitch or a pattern doesn't work out, and start again. In drawing I can learn to alter what I've drawn into something a bit different than I had planned, or simply put my effort aside and start again. Life doesn't offer "do-overs" so frequently. Yet it is possible to shift my focus from the "mess-up" to gently start again. And also to keep in mind that the bigger pattern of life is not in my control.

Blog Struck Down By Internet Outage!!

I had a temporary set-back with my 30 day plan when lightning struck and I lost the internet for a few days. Now all is well after many frustrating attempts to get re-connected. Ultimately the cable guy came and put things to right. Tempest in a teapot story of the day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day 10

Today I didn't meditate until just now, when it is almost tomorrow. The focus was a body scan shifting from one part of the body to another repeatedly and paying attention to my breathing. This was extremely relaxing, perhaps in part because the day is over and I know I don't need to go anywhere, I can't really be late for anything, so that sort of distraction is much less. I also liked getting in touch with what sensations my body has been having which I have ignored during the day. I could tell that my sinuses are congested, that my lower back has a twinge on the right side. All these things which had been distant from my awareness. So often I ignore some mild to moderate problem whether physical or not, like a parent might ignore a whining child. However sometimes the child actually does have something to whine about, so it is worthwhile listening. Even just to acknowledge the fact that there is an ache or pain somewhere, without doing anything but noticing, something shifts.

I'm grateful for re-learning this and also that I've kept up with this practice.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day 9 sleepy again.

I didn't sleep well last night and thus most of my meditation was dozing. My focus was on breathing in something I wanted more of and breathing out something I wanted to let go of. So "Friends" in and "Resentment" out. And lots of zzzz's in between!

This underlines the need for a more regular schedule. I'm feeling more in balance, so I believe it will be easier to get back into a routine. It's like a routine can be a springboard for opportunities in life.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day 8

Today the focus of meditation was "scratch lip". The idea was to scratch my upper lip with my fingernail and then focus on the sensations and on my breath. What I notice when I focus on my breath is that it is difficult for me to let my breathing be, I keep wanting to judge it or control it. I wonder if that's just the human condition or if being asthmatic complicates the process? I guess that's why these meditations which offer something to focus on besides my breathing seem more relaxing to me. When I think about it though, I would usually never judge that I was feeling an itch too much, I simply decide to ignore it or notice it, scratch it or not scratch it. How is it that whatever the quality of my breath is, I  think it's too deep or too shallow, too fast or too slow? Interesting.

I was glad about meditating today, because I got very upset about an unexpected bill yesterday and stayed on edge, sulky and resentful (ok I'm still sulky and resentful) until this afternoon. Someone told me some jokes and that helped me lighten up a bit. You never know how much you might be helping someone in some way. Life is nice like that. Full of surprises, well I could have skipped the bill surprise, but not the rest.

Day 7, belated

Yesterday I did meditate. Hooray for Monday. The focus of the meditation was itches and tickles. I had overslept and had errands I had to do. Still it was relaxing and since it ended up being a tough day, meditating probably helped me cope somewhat more calmly than I would have otherwise.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Oops, Day 6

Yesterday I missed meditating. However I am now living under a newly shingled roof. It rained hard yesterday evening after it was finished and no leaks! Plus the house looks a bit more like someone cares about it. I could have meditated, just decided not to with all the banging and so on.

Today I went to Friend's Meeting and after I got home meditated again. If I'm troubled or tense I often bring something with me to Friend's Meeting for example today I brought some knitting and a book. I was quiet, listening expectantly for some of the time and the rest of the time I did some knitting and read a chapter of the book, then took a break back into waiting expectantly. What I like about Friend's Meeting is that sitting quietly in a group like that brings an intense feeling of peace to me, even when I'm troubled and remain troubled, it's like I'm troubled in a pool of calm.

The short solo meditation today focused on breath and the feeling of fingertips of one hand on fingertips of the opposite hand. My mind was all over the place as usual, but after a time I had some of the peaceful settled feeling, especially in my hands.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 5

Today I meditated to the incorrect guided meditation tape (or should I say MP3 file). It was very difficult to stay in a detached state of mind... because they delivered the stuff to fix my roof!!!! Right during meditation!!!

My not too sturdy roof of my little house started leaking after the amazing hail storms this Spring. So by tomorrow I should have a new roof and not find myself stepping into little puddles when I get home from work!!

I'm so happy and so grateful that insurance is helping to pay for it.

At any rate I was listening to sounds again today. And I did get myself calm enough to sit til the end of the meditation time before getting up to look through the blinds and see the roofing supplies on a trailer truck right outside the house!!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 4

I overslept. I meditated. But due to oversleeping couldn't blog til now.

The meditation was focusing on sounds today, which seemed easier than counting breaths. The main sound was the refrigerator running and after a minute or so sounded like music in some odd way. When my mini-meditation was over at 5 minutes I actually wanted to sit a bit longer, so I did, but not much longer as the obligations of the day were upon me.

I still tend to stay calmer during the day when I do even this little bit of meditation in the morning. Plus, it gives me more incentive to go to sleep earlier!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day 3

Well, I did it. Meditation. I'm counting breaths and usually find my mind wandering about doing something else around breath 5. When I do count up to 10 breaths, a small cheer leading troop arrives does a pyramid and a few throws and by the time the celebration is over I think I might be at breath 3, but I'm not sure so I start over at 1.

There seems to be a battle about this in my self. But at least it is a battle fought with humor and possibly some affection. I can imagine some teen-aged aspect thinking, "Ooo, if we sent in a troop of cheer-leaders when ever she manages to focus until 10 breaths, then she'll lose track for the next 'set' ". So maybe there should be a super-Westernized meditation book for weight-lifters... Ten Sets, 100 Reps ... Enlightenment!.

I suppose seeing and mocking the competitive process equals some type  of awareness.

The cheerleaders also reminded me of being at a youth camp, where I was asked to lead a group meditation. I was a bit puzzled that I was asked, but was enough of a ham to go for it. We all sat in a very large circle cross-legged or whatever lotus legged we were able to do. I quietly intoned what I thought a leader of a group meditation ought to say. It seemed, amazingly, to be going quite well. Then I opened my eyes because 3 of my friends (including my best friend) had been hiding behind a couch snickering and they started saying "Yams!" very loudly as in "YAAAAAAMMMMMMSSSS" with an upward lilt at the end. They were much like cats, expressions of smugness on their faces, meowing "yams". I was very annoyed with them, but, if memory serves, managed to keep my poise through what was now less of an ego trip and more a battle of wills. However a battle fought with humor and much affection.

 So in a sense I very happily have my old friends back, this time mocking me with cheerleaders instead of root vegetables. And I gently mock them back, using an imaginary can opener to open this imaginary can of cat food... or is it yams?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

29 (or is it 26?) Days of Meditation

OK, let's say second day of meditation and be more accurate. Since I am not counting on this being 30 days of eating on a dollar a day and then being done with it.

Today my short meditation on my breath did not involve sleeping, although perhaps there was some dozing. I was very occupied with solving problems in my life and seemed to come up with some brilliant ideas, which of course I don't remember clearly right now. I kept losing my place in counting my breaths and at times that even became a bit amusing. Unfortunately I didn't come up with any brilliant ideas on convincing everyone in Congress that raising the debt ceiling would be a most sensible thing to do. I'm sort of relying on the multi-national corporations to do that for me. Hey, that attitude got me through Y2K with flying colors!

I did notice yesterday that I was focusing more on one thing at a time and felt calmer about dealing with whatever crises came up in the day, more able to gently re-direct myself to whatever I'd started and finish that up before rushing off to the next crisis. I was a bit more focused on being kind to myself.

I do have to admit that even for the minimal effort the meditation was going to require that my adolescent self was sulky and somewhat resentful about the whole thing. However, like so much in life that attitude too did pass.

Monday, August 1, 2011

30 days of meditation

I'm doing thirty days of meditation and am going to post on my experience. I'm old enough to have experimented with this in the past. I've never had a really regular practice before. I'm using material from the Morita School of Japanese Psychology, meaning that I've come from this with more of a desire to explore Japanese psychology techniques than meditation.

It turns out that they are about the same thing, with the Japanese Psychology being specifically oriented meditations and helpful for independent use as well as use with a counselor. I find it especially interesting that Morita Therapy as practiced in Japan is associated with a week alone in a "hospital room" (don't know exactly what that means), just to be by and with oneself. How often does that really happen in day to day life now, anything approaching that, with facebook, twitter and so on at our fingertips?

Anyway, today was actually day 4. The first few days involved reading, in which I kept thinking I hadn't read parts of the readings, or hadn't listened to parts of the lectures. Then I'd go back to the reading or the audio file and find out that I had listened or read and actually remembered what I had experienced. It was a perfect introduction to today, when I kept falling asleep.

Which taught me two possible truths. Maybe I need to get to sleep earlier. And I have very interesting dreams when I'm sitting trying to count my breaths.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wicked Lies

It wasn't a lie.

On that hilltop when you took my 6 year old hand in yours.
Saying, "My father said you were lying, but I believe you."

My heart swelled with tears and guilt,
That crazy story about the wicked parents hurting their children.
My heart swelled with hope. You heard me.

I know what it is to have one's truth trampled and denied.

Is that why I dare to trust to often?
If so, perhaps I can, one day,
Forgive myself for being too kind.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wikihow article

I wrote this wikihow a while ago. It shows my own personal take on affirmations... because "I am a caring person who wants people to admire my writing." Seriously comments appreciated.

How to Create an Affirmation List

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit
Using affirmations can be a good way to build up confidence and self-esteem, as well as guiding you towards changes in behavior and furthering your goals in life. This article will help you get started!


  1.  Gather your materials: you will need a notebook, pen or pencil, or use your computer. You may also want to have a book or other source of inspiration.
  2.  Think carefully about what you want your affirmations to help you accomplish. If you don't have clear ideas about this it will be difficult to impossible to create your affirmation list. As an example if you want to use affirmations to improve your health the focus might be very different than if you wish to improve your self-esteem.
  3.  If you want to make many changes in your life, narrow the scope down to two to three areas for use in your affirmations list.
  4.  Write down the one to three things you are going to use to focus your affirmations.
  5.  Research the areas (if you haven't already) of your focus. This research could be done through meditation, journaling, talking with a friend, reading, even watching TV. For example if I wanted to use affirmations to help with exercising more regularly I will get better results if I know more about what has been helpful for others in becoming more fit.
  6.  Start writing affirmations which you know have at least a smidgen of truth about them. In the exercise example this might be a place to start: I am willing to park farther from the store because I know even a little bit more exercise helps me toward my goal of better health.
  7.  The more concrete, detailed and specific your affirmations are, the better you can visualize them, the more effective they can be. So after you have 2  or 3 affirmations written, read them to yourself slowly, aloud, and then see how strongly you believe they are true, or at least sometimes are true.
  8.  Read your affirmations at least twice a day, each time try to think of how true they are to your actual behavior.
  9.  During your day be curious about adding something else to your list. For the exercise example this could be anything which might contribute to exercise, such as "I am a person who sometimes enjoys going for a walk", "Playing with my dog brings me joy."
  10.  Over time discard affirmations that do not appeal to you. As you become more confident about a behavior you may find that more global affirmations such as "I am a person who is committed to improving my health through exercise" ring true and are either super effective or are so true that they aren't even necessary.
  11.  The general principle is to make sure you start your affirmations with where you are now and who you are now, appreciating the good qualities you already have and the progress you have made without even being aware of it.


  • Do your best! Affirmations can be dangerous if you simply use them to criticize or beat yourself up.

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Create an Affirmation List.  All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.