A Tribute to Stephen Black of Fractured Faith Blog

Tonight I visit Stephen Black’s blog, Fractured Faith. As I wrote in my review of his bookThe Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square, I’ve known Mr. Black for a long time. We’re like those college students whose friends were friends, and found ourselves drawn to the same awkward punch bowl at those friends’ parties.

Stephen’s blog deals mostly with life issues and his observations and encouragements in dealing with them. He also promotes his book, has hosted some writing prompts, written rap-reminiscent poetry, and occasionally talks about marathons and running.

In tribute to an old friend, I give you my attempt to mimic a typical Stephen Black blog post:

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Has Life Ever Surprised You?

This morning en route to another working day, I was surprised to see into the back garden of a house I passed. I could see into their garden because the fence and tool shed were smashed in, done for. Debris from fence and shed, scattered tools, and the churned earth bore testament to what caused the damage, but whatever vehicle had done it was long gone.

I imagined the owners of the house coming out to the same scene as me. What if they only discovered their back part in pieces that morning? Would they feel the shock and surprise I did? How would they react to this unwelcome discovery?

Sometimes in my life I’ve felt like those owners, an unwitting party to unexpected disaster. I’ve written about some. My father’s death, for example. Failing to make the time I wished for on a run. Rejection e-mails or no response to my book queries.

At those times I did not react as would be best. I stood in shock at the damage. I turned to bad habits. I turned away from my wonderful, supportive family and toward shallow friends and the world’s attention. I gave up, and even granted power to the demons of OCD to tell me how wrong I was to try. I stood in the car tyre ruts in my back garden and despaired of any positive outcome.

But the old me is someone I don’t have to be anymore. I am not he. I can look over the scattered debris of my life and choose to act, instead. I don’t need to cry over broken wood and tools when I know I can pick up the pieces and move on.

Maybe cleanup will take time. I might need assistance from loved ones. I may need to seek professional help to repair the damage, to build a new fence and shed. It might take time or a few pints of honeycomb ice cream, but I won’t be alone to solve it.

We are masters of our lives, even when we do not feel like it. We may not be able to control whether something drives through our lives and leaves us in shock, but we can control our reactions. We can control what we do next. I know we can.

Have you ever had an unexpected event take you by surprise?

What did you do to recover and rebuild your life?

——

If you enjoyed my wee tribute, head over to Stephen’s blog and drop him a ‘Follow.’ The poor guy’s only got about 11,000 followers.

 

Photo Credit: Image by Thomas Schink from Pixabay
©2019 Chelsea Owens

The Cure for Depression: Don’t Skip What Works

We are very close to the end of our list of cures for depression. We’ve covered everything from connecting with a person to talking to a professional to medicating to exercising to last week’s post on mindfulness.

So… that pretty much makes you an expert now, right?

I’m going to take a really wild guess that you haven’t implemented any of these suggestions. Yes, I’m psychic. Or… I know this because I also haven’t moved from my lazy habits one titch. In fact, I’ve actually worsened in …um…. about half the areas.

My negative self-talkers are in process of lighting torches and hefting pitchforks. “You’re a failure!” They chant, preparing to run my motivation out of the forest forever.

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“Hold up there!” I reply. I’m actually not a failure. I even wrote about a new title for those with mental illness! We’re not failures. We’re HUMAN!

Instead of giving up, I’m going to brush forest moss from my coat and pick the leaves out of my hair. I’m fine. You’re fine. We’re all fine with -nevermind.

But no more slacking, fellow human. Sit up. Pick an item from the list. Close your eyes and point if you need to. Let’s see: you got “exercise.” That’s easy! Read the blog post I wrote and follow along with my simple step-by-step directions. I even kept it short just in case your attention span wanders like mine….

Where were we? Oh. Attention stuff. Yeah, so, if you could go ahead and pick one that would be great, mmmkay?

Just one. Do it and stop making excuses.

If you are more motivated than I and have already completed one or more of the suggestions, bravo! Pat yourself on the back and eat a bit of chocolate unless you’re reading this after 8 p.m. Get to bed at a reasonable time, and pick another idea to try tomorrow.

Pick another idea after that one.

And again.

The main idea is to try. I don’t even care if you stop after a bit; it’s the trying that matters. After simply trying a few, you are going to notice something important: what helps, and what’s not-so-helpful.

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Let’s say that aerobic exercise stressed you out more, yoga in the morning helped you want to keep working your crummy job, eating organic got really expensive, and your psychiatrist moved to another state. Which of these items needs to stay, class?

Don’t red marker them out of existence; this is more of an “edit the sentence to make it correct” exercise.

Cross out aerobic exercise stressed you out more, and write I will walk outside for half an hour at lunch. Change the yoga bit to a simple I love doing yoga before work. Organic got really expensive can now read Healthy foods don’t have to be organic; I’ll pick up some produce on sale and eat it with my meals. As to your psychiatrist? I’m going to ask around for a new psychiatrist, including asking mine for a good referral.

See how that works? Great! Homework time! Your assignment, due soon, is the following:

  1. Try! That’s all: try one of the cures for depression.
  2. Try another.
  3. Ditto, for about 12 more items.
  4. Look at what worked. Edit your observations in a positive manner.

Now for the most difficult part: DO what works.

Which, of course, is NOT difficult. We just make it that way. Change really isn’t the mountain we see it to be. Change is actually a few small steps to a shortcut we can’t see from the trailhead. That shortcut may require climbing gear and a sherpa, but it’s there and it’s possible.

You’re stronger than you think -but not invincible. Don’t get lazy by dropping the practices and routines that made your life more tolerable. That make your life happy.

Keep at it. You are worth it.

 

Photo Credits:
Vinicius Amano
Esther Tuttle

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

There is Hope in the Flame of Notre Dame

Is history really that important?

In answering this query for an online assignment back in college, I decided to play Devil’s Advocate. The teacher clearly wanted everyone to affirm that history was vital; it was a history course, after all. And, like little ducks in a line, all the students did.

If there is one thing I cannot consistently stand, it is following after all the little ducks.

No, I argued, history is not important. We don’t actually need it.

  1. No one learns from the past. The proof is in the repeated mistakes.
  2. Conditioned to luxury and entitlement, we behave as Huxley predicted and always seek for what is new.
  3. History is written by the victors or their fans, and is redacted and altered by current social climates. 1984 (George Orwell) proves that.

Though I did not make the following points, I could reasonably add two more for our modern times:

  1. We have a glut of information and lack time for the general public to ingest it. So, instead, most people only follow useless, instantaneous fluff.
  2. Technology has the capacity to 3-D print what we need, thus eliminating paltry ideas like stonemason or architect skills.

The online repartée with my professor ended unfavorably, by the way. He acknowledged all comments in a general, summarizing paragraph at the end of the week. He specifically mentioned “one student” who had argued this and that against his statement, said I’d referenced 1984 erroneously because it undermined my main point (it didn’t), and suggested I ought not to argue too far out lest I “find the branch cut off behind (me).”

I’m still sore that I had no way to post a counterargument.

That aside, I do not believe that history is not important nor that we ought not to learn it. Instead, I lament that most people do not respect history. Most do not seem to know its significance or beauty or work …until it is removed. Stolen. Ripped away. Burned.

This morning I had intended to write a different post. I thought to list my hectic schedule, thereby garnering a few commiserating comments and explaining my abysmal online presence. Instead, in catching up (somewhat) on blogs I follow, I read a very-well written piece about the recent Notre Dame catastrophe. The Feathered Rose, in “To human ingenuity,” described “both the stillness and the motion in (her) thinking” as she contemplated her feelings about history.

A friend of hers suggested that Our Lady will be rebuilt and will continue on as she has. Other buildings of historical significance have undergone changes and rebuilds, right?

“My friend, speaking through the words of Douglas Adams, is correct that, once rebuilt, the Cathedral will continue to serve its purpose. Architects, historians, engineers, builders – these people will no doubt admirably restore the ideaintentiondesign, and essence of the building. Tourists will continue to flock there. The faithful will continue to pray…”

So, really, what’s the big deal? Why was the horror of destruction not sated by the consolation of repair? Fortunately, she finds and gives us an answer:

“Human ingenuity isn’t only about intangible progress. It’s also about the evidence of our past.”

That is one sentence stolen -ripped, burned- from paragraphs she wrote of beautiful reminisces of history. Reminders of what the past means and why we need it. Pasting any more of her post would require at least half a page, but I highly encourage everyone to read it.

I love the voice she gave to my own unrest. I love the poetry of her memories.

If given a chance to state my enduring and authentic hope for history today, I would counter-argue my previously-stated points:

  1. We all learn from the past, though we may take a few revisits to retain what it taught.
  2. The flashy and new appeal to the young and inexperienced. Once they run out of money or solid chairs to sit upon, they will change to old and reliable.
  3. History may be written less-accurately, but all information must be taken with a pinch of salt. Assume bias, watch for author’s flavor and preference, and remember your own colored glasses.
  4. The general population will always grab at fluff; the important and durable information will endure.
  5. A handmade work is impressive and appreciated, and even a computer needs to be ‘taught’ the skills.

Why do we walk the halls of the past? Sometimes it is merely to feel the echoing footsteps of the people who came before. Wouldn’t you wish for the same, of those who will come after?

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How has the destruction of Notre Dame touched you? Is the past important enough to retain what we may for the future?

—————-

Here is what I wrote last week. I intend to take the remainder of the week in stride, as I really am quite busy:
Wednesday, April 10: Spent a happy reminiscence discussing children’s picture books with “Picture Books Are Always in Season.

Thursday, April 11: “The Cure for Depression: Get Some Sleep!,” another suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.

Friday, April 12: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Everyone who entered!

Saturday, April 13: Announced the 22nd Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is an acrostic of the person you detest. PLEASE ENTER!

Sunday, April 14: “In The Beginning, There Was Distraction,” in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt.

Slipped in a tongue-in-cheek poem titled, “(Real) Life Advice.

Monday, April 15: A book quote from Something Wicked This Way Comes. I am slowly, very slowly getting through this one.

Tuesday, April 16: “Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety.”

Also, posted, “Mental Illness Really Sucks” over at JES’ site.

Wednesday, April 17: Today.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. I wrote “Religion in the Home” and a fantastic poem titled, “A House(work) at War.”

I’ve a part-time job writing stuff for Kids Are the Worst‘s blog now; and publish scintillating works like “10 Actually Easy Easter Crafts for Kids.” I intend to keep things real and funny over there.
Speaking of writing jobs, I see that one of my vacuum reviews is online and it’s not even the re-write DumbFace demanded. Funny world.

 

Photo Credit:
Maxime Naillon

Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety

At first quite nervous, Wil found a surprising level of obscurity behind the words of her story. Her audience helped as well; gasping at Carl’s stupidity, glaring at the incompetent office secretary, leaning forward when she told of reading the internet story, then bursting out in laughter at poor Carl’s panic and intentional pants-dropping.

Even Hope giggled, a sweet chirping noise that Wil suspected Hope rarely voiced.

Not everyone laughed; to her side, Stephen appeared shocked. He almost looked as though he had been the one who spilled chemicals on half his group and then exposed himself in mistake.

Reagan noticed his discomfort. “Relax, Stevie,” she drawled. She wiped at her eyes.

“Stephen,” Stephen mumbled in correction as he glanced down at his chocolate cupcake wrapper.

She laughed a snort. “No shit, Sherlock.”

“Reagan,” Hope said.

The outspoken girl turned to the much smaller, meeker one. Their eyes met before Reagan lowered hers. “Sorry, Stephen.”

Wil nearly choked. Again.

“Thanks, Reagan,” Derek said. “Hope.” He smiled. Wil realized Derek smiled to help others calm down; she wished it had that effect on her.

“So…” Art began. Most shifted to face his direction. “Why’re we meeting today?”

All eyes flitted to Derek. “Welll,” their leader answered, “Stephen and I have been talking more about our group-‘

And the name, I hope,” Reagan interjected.

“Sure,” Derek acknowledged, blinking. His confusion cleared, and he continued, “Um, so we’ve talked about why we got together as a group anyway….” His voice cracked a bit and he swallowed. His gaze shifted around the group. Reagan made a rude gesture, which startled him into a shocked expression, then a genuine smile. “Ha! Thanks, Reagan. Thing is, I think we ought to actually do something with this group.”

Stephen nodded but the others’ expressions ranged from wary to (in Wil’s case) blank.

“You mean….” his main heckler said, “…like the Girl Scouts?”

This time, even Stephen laughed.

“Actually, Reagan,” Derek said, “That’s not so far off…”

 

Continued from Eighty-Nine.
Keep reading to Ninety-One.

 

Want to start at the very beginning? It’s a very good place to start.

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Nine

“Well,” Reagan greeted Wil, “It’s about time!”

Wil glanced around the blue table’s occupants in confusion but realized none of them seemed upset. In fact, several were smiling. Art laughed outright. Compared to Reagan’s laugh of earlier, his sounded from a well of authentic joy. “Relax, Wil,” he said. “No one’s mad.”

Wil tried to relax, but Reagan looked the way she’d sounded: mad at her. To Reagan’s right, Hope still smiled kindly. To Hope‘s right, Derek also smiled. Wil felt something flutter inside her and glanced in the safer direction of her clutched tray of food.

“Sorry,” she mumbled. She couldn’t help it.

Art rose and headed to another table. “You’re fine.” He grabbed a yellow chair. Carrying it and setting it between his chair and Stephen’s, he turned to Reagan and mouthed, Knock it off! Reagan rolled her eyes in response and continued the serious study of consuming her sack lunch. To Wil, Art turned halfway and gestured for her to sit. She did, sliding her food carefully onto the crowded surface.

“Maybe we’ll send Hope next time,” Derek teased.

Reagan snorted.

“You already had Hope deliver the note,” Stephen stated. His lunch was finished and he was in process of eating his dessert. Bits of chocolate cake clung to his fingertips and lip. “Did that fail?”

Reagan snorted again. “Didn’t you hear?”

“No. Hear what?”

The dramatic girl fixed him with a look. “About this morning?”

Stephen glanced around the table. The rest of his friends appeared bemused, though Wil appeared very interested in her chicken-like gravy. He shook his head in the negative, the gesture making him look like a nervous owl.

“Well!” Reagan began, in a tone of conspiracy, “This morning, right after Wil discovered her note, Ol’ Dr. L. decided to change things up in class.” She took a drink from her water bottle. Swallowed. She leaned forward a bit, then sat back up. “Actually, I think Wil should tell it.”

Wil gagged on her soggy green beans. Startled, Stephen observed Wil’s coughing and then smacked her on the back. Wil managed to wave him off and regain composure. “I…” she began, “I know Hope was there.”

The shy girl gave Wil a half-smile. “I was.” Wil sighed in relief. “But,” Hope added, “Dr. L. was in front of my view when I heard the yell.” Wil’s former optimism died.

“Yell?” Stephen asked. “Who yelled? Wil yelled?”

“No,” Wil said. “Well -maybe yes.” Everyone stared at her. She blushed. She didn’t know how she’d been talked into this but saw she couldn’t back out now. “Carl Hurn yelled. His frien- Harry yelled. That girl probably did, too.” She stirred at her stale rice with a bandaged hand. “You see: she’d just gotten our supplies from the closet and set them on her desk. Carl said something like, ‘I know what to do,’ before heading over and tripping or something and crashing right into her…”

 

Continued from Eighty-Eight.
Keep reading to Ninety.

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Two

Wil used Dr. Lombard’s momentary distraction to enter the classroom and move to a seat near the front. She told herself she would sneak; she even thought the phrase, slipped into her seat. In actual practice and true to form, however, her entrance was more distracting than any lecture on acids and bases.

Still, she might have avoided detection if she hadn’t stepped on two people’s feet. She certainly would have avoided attention if she’d been more silent. But even a nearsighted, absentminded science enthusiast notices when a desk falls over.

“Ms. Windows,” Dr. L. said, turning and speaking over a background of laughter. He squinted at Wil’s blushing figure through his thick glasses. “Chemistry begins when the bell indicates, and not one Planck more.” He wagged a stern finger in a direction somewhere to the right of her as Wil hastily set the furniture to rights and sat upon the chair.

Dr. L. nodded a definite scowl to the girl on Wil’s left and turned back to puzzle over his notes on the board. They were barely legible to Wil and most of the class, yet seemed clear enough to help their teacher regain his train of thought.

“Water is not completely zero, of course,” he continued, and shot what he thought was a commiserating look back over his shoulder. “Buuut, some say it’s close enough to put it there. Really, though, nothing is absolute zero because of contaminants and outside influences…”

As he droned, Wil settled into her seat. Her face still felt hot and she tried to keep her head low. She dragged her backpack around to her side, on the floor, and opened it. If she didn’t take notes, she knew, she hadn’t much chance of passing Chemistry this term.

“…Like soap, bleach, and liquid drain cleaner…”

Wil rifled around the dark cavity of her backpack. She withdrew a notebook, and was very surprised to find it was her Chemistry one. It even had a pen shoved in the rings. She yanked the pen free, flipped to a mostly-blank page, and began sketching a pH scale similar to the one on the board.

“No, Mr. Urn, you would not survive drinking drain cleaner. Chemicals and solutions at the far end of the scale cause irreparable damage to tissue…”

Not a bad idea, Wil considered, For Carl, anyway. She doodled a bit in her margin, then noticed some text showing through the page. She flipped her notes over to see what was behind them. Somehow, there lay a green page with dots and lines in half-box and part-triangle shapes: a coded message.

Wil felt eyes on the back of her head, but knew better than to look. That Hope! She really was sneaky. How the small, quiet, shadow of a girl slipped the paper into her notebook, Wil would never guess; and therefore didn’t try to.

Keeping an eye on Dr. L.’s flapping-arm explanations and her own interpretations of them before her, Wil slowly unfolded the green paper. She picked up her pen and started drawing a codex diagram at the bottom.

She wondered what message The Talented Teenagers (name still a work in progress) had sent her. She couldn’t wait to find out.

 

Continued from Eighty-One.
Keep reading to Eighty-Three.