BETH JANNERY

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Northern Virginia, United States
Beth Jannery is author of several non-fiction books. She teaches writing and communication at George Mason University. Beth is available for freelance writing & editing projects. Call: 860.798.2847 www.BethJannery.com

Simple Grace

Simple Grace
Simple Grace - Simple Miracles by Beth Jannery

Simple Grace - Living a Meaningful Life

Simple Grace - Living a Meaningful Life
Simple Grace - Living a Meaningful Life by Beth Jannery

Simple Grace Daily Joys by Beth Jannery

Daily Joys
By beth jannery

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Beth Jannery is no longer maintaining the Simple Grace blog. Please visit her website to stay in touch with Beth Jannery or email BethJannery@gmail.com or call (860)-798-2847.

Thank you!



Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fathers & Daughters



It's my father's memorial service and we are outdoors at Great Falls park. Dad didn't want anything fancy. He didn't want anything, as a matter of fact.  But my 7-year-old daughter asked if we could have a funeral for her Granddad, something like a goldfish burial comes to mind. 

How sweet & how wise we are as children. She has such an awareness about life (and death). Her tears flow out of her cheeks like streams. She feels things deeply whereas I keep too many layers of protection. Of what I'm protecting against, I'm never sure.

It's a brilliant day with sunshine and birds and trees blowing in a slight wind. Everyone present in the great outdoors on this glorious but sad day speaks from the heart. Some of us have written prayers, like Tess who finishes our service with The Penny Prayer. We all pass a 1962 penny around, it represents the year Dad and Mom married. I wonder how a woman goes on after losing her soul mate, married together 50 years, the absolute love of her life. We all gently touch the penny and hold it in our fingertips, and then it is tossed into the great waterfall. Back into the flow, Tess says. 

Others tell stories about fishing or walking the dogs to the river or about Dad's green thumb. He could plant anything and it would grow. Mom reads a poem she wrote for her only love, back in 1962. It is hard to watch her struggle through the tears to read the words on the yellowed paper. I admire the type, the font on the folded page, it is from an old typewriter. Poetic, after all the young couple met at work when Mom put in Dad's typewriter ribbon backward or upside down. I'm not sure exactly, stories have a way of changing and evolving and fading after so many decades. How I cling onto these stories now.

Then it is my turn. I decide to share an email exchange my father sent to me just two months before he died. 

I say thank you, Dad, and light a candle that burns until we are finished and Mom is the one to blow out the flame. I'm reminded of all the hand-written letters Dad and I wrote through the years, especially in the late 1980's and early 1990's when I was away at college or starting out on my career. All those pages of fatherly advice and words of wisdom. 

He was the smartest man I've ever known: a composer, a musician, a writer, a professor, an avid reader, a gardener, a loner, an intellectual, a critic, a complicated man, a nature lover...the only father I've known. 

He is the man who taught me to have the courage of my conviction. He also told me to let love in, when it came to me, I would know.

Here is what I read:

Arthur Armand Jannery
March 24, 1932 – July 29, 2012

May 22, 2012
 Hi Beth,
 I've just been reading a book and thought about you .... "Beth would like this, I said to myself - tell her about it!" If you haven't read The Art of Racing in The Rain, by Garth Stein, Get it! Love, Dad

May 23, 2012 
Page 162, last paragraph, is worth a reread .... and especially is page 160, paragraphs 2 and 3 .... what a great attitude!

Page 162 last graph:
It is not the end. She died that night. Her last breath took her soul, I saw it in my dream. I saw her soul leave her body as she exhaled and then she had no more needs, no more reason; she was released from her body, and, being released, she continued her journey elsewhere, high in the firmament where soul material gathers and plays out all the dreams and joys of which we temporal beings can barely conceive, all the things that are beyond our comprehension, but even so, are not beyond our attainment if we choose to attain them, and believe that we truly can. 

Page 160 graphs 2&3:
To live every day as if it has been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live. To feel the joy of life...to separate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we all encounter every day. To say I am alive, I am wonderful. I am. I am. That is something to aspire to...this is how I will live my life

And then I selected one more reading.
 
There should be no fear around death. Life and Death is about The Promise of Renewal.
A Poem I think Dad would have liked. The poet (Tagore) asks himself, “What will you give, when death knocks at your door?” His answer to me seems like something Dad would say. His answer displays the untroubled joy of someone who has risen above the fear surrounding death:

The fullness of life –
The sweet wine of autumn days and summer nights,
My little hoard gleaned through the years,
And hours rich with living.
That will be my gift
When death knocks at my door.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Finding Grace Again


   Regan Concord had a chance to live two lives. One was the life she thought she was supposed to live. She made it all look good on the outside. The second was one she didn’t know, yet. This was her authentic life, the one no one else owned, where she could be whatever the hell she wanted. But this realness was buried down deep. Only hitting a complete rock bottom could force Regan to start digging for the life she was meant to live.
   There are major life events that define people, moments of clarity that mark time in a new way. For Regan, her moments of there-is-no-going-back were coming. She would wear them like tattoos: before and after.
   There would forever be before the affair and after the affair. Then there was before the accident and after the accident. Before the affair, Noah, Regan’s handsome husband, an Ivy-League-educated attorney, would kiss her goodbye in the mornings. Before the accident, Regan loved inhaling her 5-year-old daughters’ hair, especially in the morning in bed together after mixing with a night of sleep. The deep scent of bed-head and Johnson’s Baby Shampoo comforted Regan, she was grateful not to have to jump out of bed at dawn to rush Grace off to childcare. They were lazy together, those two girls, sometimes watching morning TV in bed together, rereading “The Giving Tree” for the umpteenth time or talking about the day to come. School days gave the girls a more organized routine and structure to the morning, but Noah got an earlier start to try to beat the traffic.
   “Bye sweets,” Noah said. Mornings flowed together, the days blended, it was a peaceful existence.
   “Bye babe,” she yawned and rolled over, pulling Grace’s warm body closer into hers. “Dinner at 6 o’clock. If you’re going to be late again, call first.” She grabs his hand. He stands over Regan and Grace by the side of the bed. His fingers are cold.
   Regan was well aware of Boston traffic. The big dig was complete but everyday traffic jams at rush hour were commonplace, at least for Noah they were. She could never figure out how her husband always made a meeting with a CEO or a CFO on time, but was chronically late for the dinner table. She’d set the table for three, inevitably pushing dinner back to 6:30 p.m. or 7 o’clock but Grace would get cranky and have to eat. Then the phone call would come, traffic was a bitch, or there was an accident or a late meeting was called. She knew the drill. She gave up asking questions. It was never her battle to win. She should be grateful she could stay home with Grace and the bills were paid. She should be more compassionate and understanding and grateful. The evening routines got predictable, even to a Kindergartener.
   “Traffic again?” Grace asked.
   “Yes, Daddy is in traffic.”
   Regan hugged Grace tighter.
   “Daddy said to give you this,” Regan gave Grace a big bear hug.
   “Pinch and skeeze?” Grace asked.
   “That’s right, a pinch and a squeeze,” her Mom answered smiling. Then she’d kiss the tip of her little nose and let out a “honk.”
   “Honky honk honk,” Grace erupted into giggles.
   Then bath time came, then stories, then a “night night sleep tight tight” and then a chilled glass of Chardonnay after the lights were out.
   Regan knew the life of an attorney’s wife. She knew what she signed up for. The less she questioned it the better. Still, the loneliness sometimes got the best of her. She stopped waiting up for Noah. She stopped expecting anything different. His dinner plates sat alone under Saran Wrap and the dimmed kitchen chandelier. She did away with making family plans on weekends. She began going through the motions. And all this was before the affair, or at least before she had proof of his betrayal.
   “Bye,” he called to her from the hallway. “Don’t wait up.”
   “Don’t wait up?” A sick knowing feeling welled up in her gut. She did what she could do to push down her fear. She suspected what was going on, but she couldn’t say for sure. Perhaps she wasn’t ready to know. Regan delighted in keeping up appearances. This made her feel safe, protected even. If it looked good on the outside then everything must be ok. It was all a farce, but it was the life she was willing to live, at least for now.
   Regan Concord was in her therapist’s office for the third time this week. She could tell a total stranger her pain. The therapist was paid to listen. Anyone closer she pushed away.
   “I knew his text was the final nail in the coffin,” Regan told the therapist she saw it coming. “I knew he might really love her,” Regan went on, “but I wasn’t ready for him to walk out the door.”
   “If anyone was going to decide to leave the marriage it should have been me,” Regan was angry. The text said, “U r right. I do luv her. Im leaving. Im sorry.”
   This was Regan, always trying to control everything, even her husband’s affair. Noah had told her in a text that he was in love with this other woman. Regan had seen the two of them together. If she hadn’t she may have been able to talk herself out of believing that there was actually another woman. All those nights Noah said he was working late. They were all lies.  
   He swore to her that he never saw this coming. He did admit to the affair, after he had been caught, but he insisted she meant nothing to him. In some small way, thinking the other woman meant nothing to Noah, except physical sex, was forgivable. Anyone could be tempted by sex; this rationale was weak but it was all Regan had. It’s just sex, she would tell herself. He didn’t love this other woman; it was just once. Regan churned these justifications around and around. They gave her temporary comfort.
   “It just happened,” he lied.
   “How does fucking another woman in our bed just happen,” Regan wanted to know.
   The words Noah texted Regan were drawn in her memory like stains of blood. He admitted he actually loved this other woman in a text. He planned to leave Regan for the other woman. Regan thought her worst nightmare had come true.
   “It’s like they are etched into my eyelids’” Regan told the therapist. “The only thing I see are these words,” Regan explained while grasping onto a drenched handful of tissues. “And then the sound of the metal, the screeching, the horns, the jolt,” she said crossing her arms. “I can’t see or hear anything else.”
   “I went through a red light at 40 miles per hour.” The police said she never slowed down. It was as if there was no intersection, no red light, and no danger whatsoever. 
   “Then what happens?” the therapist was gentle about the way she asked, pushing Regan to continue, to purge herself of the details. She has recounted the story, factually, over and over to police officers, but this was the first time her tears don’t stop falling. It was as if they will never stop and she will drown in them.
   “The truck slams into the passenger side and I hear the crush, I feel the wave. It’s so fast and it stops all at once. It’s supersonic and it’s paused.” Regan added, “I remember everything and nothing.”
   Regan was sobbing now, her eyes red and swollen and watery, her shirt wet from perspiration. She was shaking. “It’s important that you keep going,” the therapist pushed her to keep remembering.
   Regan continued, her voice cracking, she sounded almost-childlike herself. Her body was molding into a ball. Fetal position feels familiar to her. “I see Grace’s hair. It’s like a whip. It hits my cheek. She is being thrown from the backseat. I feel her skin and her arm, her delicate arm, as I reach for her with my hand. She slips out of my grasp.” Regan talked slowly, very slowly. She didn’t leave out any details. Regan is quiet for a few moments, then she opens her mouth, “She’s gone,” is all that comes out. “Grace is gone.”
   Later, after the therapist hands Regan a glass of water, she asked her to describe the rest of the scene. Regan closed her eyes and did as she was told. She’d been coming to see this therapist for a while now and she knew it’s important for her to heal.
   “Well,” Regan began, “Grace was alive one moment singing along to the music and gone the next.”
   “But what do you feel?” the therapist asked her.
   “I feel profound sadness and utter grief.” She thought back to the accident scene.  “Then I vomit when I see her mangled torso. I throw myself on her body and blood and parts. I recognize nothing.”
   “Then what?” the therapist won’t stop.
   “Jesus, isn’t this enough?” Regan was getting angry. She said she feels like dying. She said she should have died that day, not Grace. 
   “What do you feel?” the therapist interrupted, she was pushing for more.
   “I don’t know what I feel.” Regan was unwilling to dig deeper.
   “Tell me what you see,” the therapist kept at her.
   “What do I see?” Regan was confused, disoriented.
   “Yes, describe it. Describe what you see,” the therapist instructed.
   “My body is aching and I’m tangled and bruised. Glass is shattered.” Regan kept going. “What do I feel? Like nothing is ever going to be the same. I feel like I want to die. Like I should die.”
   “Good,” the therapist responded. “Keep going.”
   “What else? I guess I’m angry.” Regan grew quiet. “I’m confused why I’m still here.”
   “Why did God take Grace and not me?” Regan asked. It is more of a statement than a question. “And the world feels cruel. Like someone is playing a horrible joke. Like I’m going to wake up at any minute. Nothing makes sense.”
   “What else, Regan? What else?” the therapist asked over and over.
   “I can’t find Grace. I’m looking everywhere and calling her name. I’m screaming for her and she won’t answer me. Grace won’t answer me.” Regan goes silent.
   Then, a low guttural sound came from deep within Regan. It was a purely animalistic sound.
   “What else?” The therapist wouldn’t stop? “Regan! You were texting while you were driving. What else?”
   Regan dropped, she folded over. Her eyes were closed now, she was remembering and began to rock back and forth. She could barely breathe. Regan tried to describe the accident scene in more detail. She found Grace and crouched down over her daughter. She felt her blood and skin penetrate into her thin shirt. She tried to cover her dead daughter like a protective blanket.
   Time passed. It could be minutes or hours. Regan looked around at her. She saw Grace’s LL Bean flowery backpack a few feet away. She saw her fairy lunch bag and her Kindergarten papers and folders were blowing around in the street. Everything stopped. Regan was silent.
   “What is it?” the therapist tried one more time, in a more compassionate and sympathetic tone. “What is it?”
   “I smell her,” Regan whispered. She remembers burying her face in the crook of Grace’s neck, inhaling the scent of her hair.
   Then, getting louder, and rocking faster, Regan exhaled, “I can’t smell my daughter anymore.”

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Living Deliberately Much More Than Living Simply


What does it mean to live deliberately? 

According to the author of a new book beautifully titled Living Deliberately, Hrvoje Butkovic teaches us that deliberate living is about living life in such a way that one is aware of thoughts, actions, words. 

We also must be aware ultimately of the consequence of what is thought, said or done (see page 20 for a definition in the author's own words).

If you are still stumped, think of this lifestyle as thoughtful living or conscious living or even a state of being.

I'm sold. This is how I try to live - how blessed I feel to discover a book about my life philosophy. 


It can be a challenge for me to live this way while navigating the social norms of country clubs, hyper parents, over-packed kid schedules and an extremely expensive area outside of Washington, DC. 

I try to go against the grain to live more simply & to slow my children down rather than push them to do every activity under the sun, which often gets a second look. 

The other day a stay-at-home-Mom asked me why my daughters aren't going to more summer camps. As I write this blog, one of my daughters is a counselor at a camp for the week while the other is at a Brownie camp, hopefully outdoors digging in the dirt. 

Meanwhile, I have three appointments today and another chapter to edit. While I'm trying to fit it all in,  I always have to ask myself these questions: What's not enough? What's too much. Am I doing work I love? Are my children happy?

It is most important to me to connect with my girls, and with friends I love and care about on a daily basis. I have to trust my own inner gut and I say doing less is more. But that's just me. 

Finding a balance, for me, is living deliberately.

I'm thinking about summer right now, with fond memories of climbing trees, splashing in brooks and running around barefoot from morning 'til night. Driving through neighborhoods I already notice empty playscapes, deserted sandboxes and over-scheduled & frazzled Mom's. 

Slow down, I want to scream. But this book reminds me it isn't about judging others or pushing my core beliefs, but about living authentically.

Thank you Hrvoje for sending me an advanced review copy, I devoured it while sitting still in my backyard watching the leaves blow gently one June evening.

It is not a belief system, it is a way of living one day at a time. Some of us already live simply, but here we are encouraged and asked to dig deeper and take mindfulness a step further.

Why read this book:  


1) So you know you are not alone in your attempt to be authentic and ...

2) So you can continue to evaluate how you live with the mindful questions at the end of each chapter such as: 

What makes my life meaningful, purposeful, or fulfilling?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

This is an excerpt from the novel I'm writing called "Finding Grace Again." 


   “It’s like they are etched into my eyelids’” Regan told the therapist. “The only thing I see are these words,” Regan explained while grasping onto a drenched handful of tissues. “And then the sound of the metal, the screeching, the horns, the jolt,” she said crossing her arms. “I can’t see or hear anything else.”
   “I went through a red light at 40 miles per hour.” The police said she never slowed down. It was as if there was no intersection, no red light, and no danger whatsoever.  Just the words from the text.
   “Then what happens?” the therapist is gentle about the way she asks, probing Regan to continue, to purge herself of the details. She has recounted the story, factually, over and over to police officers, but this is the first time her tears don’t stop falling. It is as if they will never stop and she will drown in them.
   “The truck slams into the passenger side and I hear the crush, I feel the wave. It’s so fast and it stops all at once. It’s supersonic and it’s paused.” Regan adds, “I remember everything and nothing.”
   Regan is sobbing now, her eyes are red and swollen and watery, her shirt is wet from perspiration and she is shaking. “It’s important that you keep going,” the therapist pushes her to keep remembering.
   Regan continues, her voice cracking, she sounds almost-childlike herself. Her body is molding into a ball. Fetal position feels familiar to her. “I see Grace’s hair. It’s like a whip. It hits my cheek. She is being thrown from the backseat. I feel her skin and her arm, her delicate arm, as I reach for her with my hand. She slips out of my grasp.” Regan talks slowly, very slowly. She doesn’t leave out any details. Regan is quiet for a few moments, then she opens her mouth, “She’s gone,” is all that comes out. “Grace is gone.”

Monday, April 2, 2012

Finding Grace Again

Asking for help is hard to do. But I did it and an amazing editor, with 25 New York Times bestsellers under his belt, came to my rescue. Asking for (and getting) constructive criticism can be intimidating. Be careful what you wish for, Beth. I said this to myself many times during my recent writing journey.

The biggest lessons since asking an editor for help: be open to change and don't quit.

At one point my beloved editor (it can be a love/hate relationship if there is truth involved) told me, and I'll quote, "Sometimes being a good writer isn't enough." Ouch!

The story I wanted to tell in my novel "The Weekend at the Inn" all culminated during a weekend at an inn. But my editor had different ideas, and thankfully, I've listened.

Before throwing in the towel (which I have not yet done) I was open to his suggestions and more of a story began to unfold. He told me to find conflict for my main character, Regan, and to stop spinning around and around in thought and show her conflict through action.

What is beginning (and I stress beginning) to surface is a story with a beginning and a middle and an end, rather than one that was stuck (very stuck I must add). My new novel ideas look very little like my original ideas, which began several years ago.

This writer has evolved, the main character has changed and she encounters several conflicts with multiple layers - just like life.

My new novel is renamed and is now called "Finding Grace Again" and if I keep asking for help, keep telling the story, stay focused and face the fear, it may actually be a book one day.


I'm discovering that writing is a lot like life - if I'm willing to do the work, ask for help, listen with an open heart, not fight change - there is   g r a c e   to be found.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stopping is a Simple Grace

This guest blog comes from motivational speaker, success coach and friend Walt Hampton  He is author of Journeys on the Edge: Living a Life That Matters (Aloha 2011). Visit his website at www.walthampton.com

Imagine peace. - Yoko Ono

I arrived in pretty rough shape.

I had committed to coming every three months.

It had been nearly ten since I had been back.

In the intervening time, I had run 1000 training miles and two ultra-marathons; I had launched a new book and traveled around the country on a speaking tour; I had ramped up my professional coaching practice; managed my law firm; climbed on the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere; developed and launched a new product; and begun an intensive training program to hone and sharpen my coaching skills.

I was spanked. And not in a good way.

Yes, the guy who talks the game of groundedness was wrung out. Again.

They say we teach what we most need to know. So forgive me if I teach this one once again.

Regardless of whether we are introverts or extroverts, regardless of our religious or spiritual traditions, regardless of our roles, our professions, our commitments: every now and then we need to stop. Really stop. Completely stop.

Most of us have lives that are pretty crazy. And although busy has become a badge of honor, nearly 50% of us report feeling completely burned out at the end of every week.

We live for weekends and holidays. Thirsting for some down time.  But we’re addicted to our smartphones, tied to our computers, inundated with voicemails, deluged with emails; obsessed with status updates.

We are torn in a dozen different directions by the demands and expectations of our businesses and our professions often at the expense of our personal and family lives.

“Vacations,” when we take them, are often thinly veiled excuses for going back to work to “rest.”

We become like hamsters on a wheel that cannot stop.

We need to stop

- To renew our spirits
- To refresh our souls
- To listen to our hearts
- To hear the Still Small Voice that calls us to what truly matters
- To connect again with the ground, and the Ground of All Being.

We cannot be fully present to others if we do not nurture and care for ourselves. We cannot share our gifts with the world when we are fried. 

I go to Weston Priory nestled on a hill in the Green Mountains of Vermont with a centuries-old Benedictine tradition of hospitality and refuge. I go there to feel the ancient rhythms. I go there to soak in the silence, the stillness, the peace.  I go there to read and to write and reflect. I go there to walk the quiet roads, to sit in the Stone Chapel, to watch the afternoon light play on the hillsides, and to gaze at the stars in the inky blackness of the nights.

You don’t need to go to a monastery though. You can walk on a beach, hike in the mountains, sit by a brook, lay in a field.  You can nail plywood to your windows, pull your computer cord out of the wall, turn off your phone and sit on your sofa.

The point is to STOP.  Get quiet. Be still.

What my coaching clients seem to cry out for most is time management. Time, of course, can’t be managed. Time just is. We must manage ourselves. We are the only ones who can stop the wheel and step off.

Or you can crash and burn.

Stopping is a simple grace we give ourselves. We get to choose.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The problem with killing two birds with one stone

Need permission to waste some time today? You'll get it right here. I'm pleased to have writer Ann Hampton in the blog spotlight! Enjoy her work and feel free to view her blog.

My mother used to complain whenever I trotted up to my bedroom without taking the items she’d left for me on the stairs.  She’d complain again if I came back down without bringing the trash can she’d asked for, or the jacket I needed for school. Two trips were a waste.  Why not combine tasks to minimize the effort?  Inefficiency, in her mind,was a sin on par with smearing chocolate sauce on the new white couch, or punching the family dog.

So, I grew up believing that a well-lived life, the kind my mother would approve of, hinged on my ability to kill multiple birds with one stone.

I think about my arch nemisis–efficiency– a lot when I’m on a mountain.  Day in and day out, carrying one load up to a higher camp, going back down for another.  Breaking camp in the morning, setting it back up all over again at night.  Going up an unpleasantly steep slope, only to discover that we’re on the wrong route and we need go back down and  find another. The whole exercise seems wasteful.  A very poor use of time. A prime example of inadequate planning.

The problem with trying to be  efficient all the time is that it causes paralysis.  A simple action requires us to think about the other three or four things that could be done at the same time, which makes everything daunting,  Not good.  Especially for things like writing. It’s awfully hard to write a simple sentence when we’re considering all the jobs it should be accomplishing. And it’s awfully hard to feel like we’re worth the salt when we’ve tossed out two drafts already, and the third isn’t looking very good.  Do the job right the first time,  my mother always liked to say. ( I don’t suppose I need to mention here that my mother never wrote.)

I love Richard Bausch.  He’s a writer I follow on Facebook who I think should publish his status updates.   He says:

Just keep going. Say it all out and let it be wrong if it’s going to be wrong for awhile–take the blind alleys and the wrong turns that seem promising and then seem to wilt as you get into the third paragraph of them. That’s utterly normal and healthy and good. Down one of those blind alleys is a door that opens on the technicolor world of the novel you were born to write–and it’s why I’ve always loved that moment in THE WIZARD OF OZ when Dorothy opens that door on Munchkin Land. Seriously. Get the film and look at that: that’s us writers coming to the opening door, the one that gives forth the world of the book in brightness and color and, DAMN, one isn’t in Kansas anymore!

Bausch is inspiring because he gives us writer folks permission to take off with an idea and see where it goes.  To improvise, even when it takes us down a dead end.  Because eventually, eventually, we find where we’re supposed to be.  We say what we’ve always wanted to say.  It’s ok with Richard, I would guess, if we forget our jacket in the bedroom and have to go back to get it.

And this concept isn’t just freeing for writers.  It means that all of us humans get to waste our time on crappy jobs and reaalllllyyyy bad relationships. And we get to change our majors twelve times in college and even drop out for a year to hitch-hike across Europe.  Because nothing is really a waste.  Our mistakes–the ones that seem to have soaked up our precious time–are  just necessary steps in a long line of steps that get us to where we’re  meant to be. Mistakes mean we are trying new things.  We need to embrace mistakes because we learn from them.

So here’s a concept.  Forget efficiency, nasty bastard that it is. Go out and waste some energy and time.  In the end, it will all come out right.

Feel free to contact Ann directly. Or add her on Facebook. She is available for one-on-one mentoring.
Ann Hampton
46 Gildersleeve Ave.
Collinsville, CT 06022
860-559-8051

 To see more of Ann's work please visit  http://annsheybani.com

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Living Life with Purpose

Today two writer friends, Ann Hampton and Walt Hampton, reminded me how hard it is to write a book. Life is difficult, as M. Scott Peck claims in the first sentence of his bestseller. It's true. Sometimes life simply gets in the way of our "to do" list. Many people say they are going to do something and then don't. Or they tell you why they haven't gotten around to it.

I actually did write a book - several books. But I stopped "self-promoting" because I got sick of hearing myself talk. There is a fine line between narcissism and ego and self-promotion. I didn't want any part of it anymore. Writers like to write. Writers (at least this one) do not want to worry about branding and public relations and book promotion. Blah! Barf! But I was reminded today it is a necessary evil of what we do.

My Blogger friend said, "You can build it but they won't necessarily come" unless you tell them about it. Readers need to know your book it out there, she said. And she is right. This is the world we live in. Writing a book is hard. It takes courage to explore Truth. It takes time and passion and commitment. Many people say a lot of things. They are going to do this or that. They talk the talk rather than walk the walk.

Well, I wrote about a topic that lights a fire within me - living life with purpose. I was told that I should be screaming this from the mountain top. And that is true. I should. Instead, I am on to the next project and I hardly look back.

I saw this gorgeous paperweight in a gift store today. It says: "The purpose of life is a life of purpose." For me, living a life of purpose is being a writer and telling stories, telling truths. I've been in some aspect of the field of communication since 1992. That's two decades! It is what I love to do - communicate! It is what I love to think about, teach about, speak about, write about and live.

Simple Grace book series by Beth Jannery
It should be no surprise that my second book was titled Simple Grace - Living a Meaningful Life. This book is all about living a life with purpose. Here's a snapshot of the book cover. Click the link if you want to buy it.

Living life with purpose and meaning IS something I know well and I do well and I should shout it from the mountain top. Back in my twenties my first book was titled Shut the Hell Up! I didn't shrink then to make people comfortable and I shouldn't hide my successes today. Neither should you. If you've worked hard for something, let your light shine.

Today I'll claim it and own it and shout it out.

What are you holding onto that you dare to claim? What passion is within you? Is there a book you've always wanted to write? Or a career move you've always wanted to make? Or a love interest you've always wanted to pursue? What is holding you back?

My writer friends, Ann and Walt, are also high-altitude mountain climbers. They motivate me in so many ways. Today they reminded me to own what I've worked so hard for all these years.

Climb up that mountain, walk that walk, shout it out. Don't let anything hold you back. And if you have some accomplishment that you are shy about sharing with the world, don't be. You've earned your seat. You've done the work. Share it with the world, perhaps there is someone who can benefit from your expertise.

Here's a link to my most recent book Simple Grace Simple Miracles if you are in the buying mood. How's that for self-promotion?! :)


Monday, August 29, 2011

So Long, Sweet Summer!

Kind of sad to see summer go. Summer romances begin for all kinds of reasons, but when all is said and done, they have one thing in common. They’re shooting stars, a spectacular moment of light in the heavens, fleeting glimpse of eternity, and in a flash they’re gone.
— The Notebook

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lazy Summer Days


"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
~ Anais Nin

Monday, March 28, 2011

Life is a State of Consciousness

And the Truth turns out to be nothing less than the amazing but undeniable fact that the whole outer world -whether it be the physical body, the common things of life, the winds and the rain, the clouds, the earth itself -is amenable to man's thought, and that he had dominion over it when he knows it.

...As thy days, so shall thy strength be which, in modern language, may be translated as thy thoughts so shall thy life be.

...If you could only love enough, you could be the most powerful person in the world.

...It is the food which you furnish to your mind that determines the whole character of your life.

...Life is a state of consciousness.

...Supply yourself with a mental equivalent, and the thing must come to you.

...You must not under any pretense allow your mind to dwell on any thought that is not positive, constructive, optimistic, kind.
 
source: Emmet Fox

Thursday, March 3, 2011

While You Are Here...What Kind of Person Do You Want To Be?

Things Mama Never Taught Me is a March 2011 guest blog written by Ann Sheybani Hampton. Ann studied Creative Writing at Harvard University but she has one of those rare brains that understands Chemistry too (undergraduate degree). To stalk Ann, you can track her down at http://site.annsheybani.com and http://www.easthillwriters.com

“He’s hypnotized you,” Mom said when I told her I was going to marry the Iranian and move to his country. “Do you have any idea how they treat women in Islamic countries?”

I regarded her through narrowed eyes because my mother, who considered Raman noodles foreign, had zero understanding of different cultures. She wasn’t as vocal as Dad with her prejudice, but she wasn’t far behind him on the redneck spectrum.

The heels of her miniature pumps clicked angrily across the linoleum as she cleared away the last half-eaten plate of beans and franks left on the counter, then shoved a loaf of WonderBread around like a pint-sized bully. “You just have to be different, don’t you? You just have to be a rebel.” Reaching under the sink, she took out a can of Lysol, sprayed the area in front of her with a misty burst of pine, and then slammed the can down.

It was right there, I suppose, as she drew her can of air freshener at the OK Corral, that I decided there was no going back on my position: the Iranian and his country were going to be the best things for me since the invention of air.

Contrary to what my mother believed, I wasn’t by nature audacious. If anything I was an aimless thing fueled by anger. A blind girl with a cane frothing at the mouth. Like so many young people, my sole driving force was to be unique, to be different from my folks.

Mom, the quintessential Good Girl from Kathryn, North Dakota. The rule follower. Who watched life safely from the sidelines. Who felt vindicated each time someone stuck his or her neck out and got slammed.

Dad, the angry farm boy. Who railed against the Coons, Kikes, and Slant Eyes. Who pined incessantly for the small town where he was from. Who, like his father before him, ate meat and potatoes, drank Schlitz, and smoked unfiltered Camels cigarettes.

The Iranian, a graduate student then, appeared to be everything my parents were not: exotic, adventurous, confident, and sophisticated. What I refused to see— thanks to my standoff with Mom, thanks to my insistence that I follow any path that my parents would not— was that he promised to be a lot of other things as well. It didn’t occur to me that someone who’d been raised in a tiny Iranian village might not be the best match for me. It didn’t dawn on me that a country famous for a hostage crisis, and an Islamic Revolution, and a dour Ayatollah, and an 8-year war with Iraq might offer “interesting” challenges.

It took awhile to recognize that moving to Iran had been a tactical error.

I'd disregarded the posted travel advisory at the entrance of the passport office:a big, yellow warning sign that said, in effect: Do not expect the U.S. State Department to rescue you if you are stupid enough to travel to Libya, Iran, or Syria. And the bearded customs official who relieved me of my American passport when I entered the country. I was, from that point on, officially an extension of my Iranian husband. I couldn’t get a job, leave the country, or God knows what else without receiving his written permission.

But then I spent the next five years wrestling with an army of invasive in-laws, a husband trapped between two worlds, and the requirements of an infamously restrictive culture. Instead of leading that promised life of high adventure—camping with Bedouins, exploring the tombs of Alexander the Great and Darius III— I spent my days alone, in a dumpy dorm room, with a baby and Frank, a six-inch cockroach that crawled out of my toilet.

I came to recognize the undeniable precariousness of the life I had chosen. I witnessed a whole host of women lose so much of what they loved—their homes, their kids, and their sanity. I spotted the setup for disaster in my own married life. What, I wondered, had ever allowed me to think, even for a minute, that trouble couldn’t befall me? My demise, I sensed, would come from out of nowhere, totally unpredictable. Like a rogue wave, a titanic force I’d be powerless to control.

A little wiser, a little worse for the wear, I eventually came home.

But what do you know when you’re young and dumb?

I was listening to a speech on TED recently in which JK Rowling , in a commencement address, said, “It is impossible to live and not fail unless you live so cautiously that you might as well have not lived at all. Then you fail by default.”

Of course I thought of my mother, who I judge to have failed at life by default. So afraid to make a mistake, she’d played it safe. Home alone watching reruns of Scrubs. Sewing on quilts. Playing dominos once a week. Wringing her hands as acquaintances buy the farm.

But I also thought of my daughter. Freshly graduated from college. Venturing out into the great big world. On her own. Making critical choices. Despite her having far more aim, far more purpose then I ever did at that stage in life, some of her plans don’t seem sensible from a mother's perspective. Living in Cairo on a grant, for instance, despite the Middle East implosion.

A chip off the old block, my daughter will wind up suffering because, as Rowling notes, it’s impossible to avoid. Being young and dumb, she has no way of measuring what she stands to lose. She has no idea what questions she ought to ask. There are some things she wasn't raised to understand.

And yes, now that I’m walking in my mother's moccasins, I empathize with her.

I often wonder if I’m still the same reckless girl of my youth. Not so much angry, now, as oblivious to consequence. Not so much experience-hungry, as blindly trusting. Willing to trot after my man into the unknown just because he sells it as a grand adventure, like it’s really no big deal. Willing to dismiss the evidence of danger—the best-selling books, the movies, the documentaries, the photo-spreads—that give pause to rational people.

Like finding myself on Mt. McKinley with Walt. Balanced on a knife’s edge. 3000-foot drops on either side. The wind whipping. Clothes snapping like a superhero’s cape. The burden of an 80-pound pack. Body quaking. Viscerally aware that, with one false move, I could plunge to my death. Wondering how the hell I got talked into doing something so downright dangerous.

Or taking scuba diving lessons instead of lying on the beach. Jumping into the ocean, way off shore, with a 25-year-old, French-speaking dive master. So laid back he probably eats marijuana for breakfast. Face to face with my biggest fear—a shark. Not only staying in the water, Jaws’ theme music playing, but swimming after the thing.

Who does shit like that?

It was on this beach, in between diving with hammerheads and questioning my motivation for doing so, that I opened up the book I’d brought, Little Bee . A gorgeous novel written by a Brit named Chris Cleave. The story of two women—a young African and an Englishwoman— whose lives collide on a Nigerian beach one fateful day.

I marveled at the book from a writer’s perspective— its structure, use of metaphor, spot on dialogue, and building of tension. (I just love the opening line: “Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl.”) Yet it was the English character that got me thinking some more about recklessness, motivation, failure, and the price of our mistakes.

Sarah has found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Married to a man she’s not sure she loves, dissatisfied with suburban life, questioning her career, armed with a pair of free airline tickets, she’d been too busy running from her troubles to consider the wisdom of her holiday destination. Too interested in escaping the mundane, and seeking the novel.

It should never have happened, of course, in the ordinary run of things. There are countries of the world, and regions of one’s own mind, where it is unwise to travel. I have always thought so, and I have always struck myself as a sensible woman. Independent of mind, but not recklessly so….Clever me, I went on holiday somewhere different. That season in Nigeria there was an oil war.

And like I had in Iran, it is only when Sarah faces a situation outside of her normal purview—coming face to face with two young African girls and the soldiers who want to kill them— that she recognizes how ill equipped she is to help herself, let alone anybody else. She is designed to handle the challenges of her home environment, not the incomprehensible circumstances she finds on some third-world beach.

But I didn’t understand. Three days earlier, just before we left for Heathrow, I had been standing on a bare concrete slab in our garden, asking Andrew exactly when the hell he planned to build his bloody glasshouse there. That was the biggest issue in my life—that glass house, or the lack of it…I was a modern woman and disappointment was something I understood better than fear.

The problem is, and this is what you don’t get when you’re young, or reckless, some mistakes have too big a price tag associated with them. Some mistakes just can’t be taken back. Some mistakes change everything. And generally not for the good. Half naked on a beach before a band of murderers, a hair’s breadth from being gang raped, Sarah considers, for the first time, the precariousness of the position she’s placed herself in.

I was wearing a very small green bikini. I will say that again and maybe I will begin to understand it myself. In the contested area of an African country in the middle of a three-way oil war, because there was a beach next to the war, because the state tourist board had mail-merged tickets for that beach…I was wearing a very small green bandeau biking from Hermes. It occurred to me, as I stood there with my arms crossed over my tits, that I had freeloaded myself to annihilation.

I was talking about these ideas, what point I wanted to make, on my morning run with Walt. The notion of recklessness versus adventurousness, of playing it safe versus being plain dumb, of failure by default versus failure by experiment. About the stupid mistakes that have damaged us the most. And we agreed that the thing about life is that none of us gets away unscathed. We all suffer loss. We all fail. We all get betrayed. We all betray. We all die.

Some of us plummet from a mountaintop.

Or get eaten by a shark.

Some of us die in a car accident, like one of Walt’s friends, out on Route 44.

It comes down to this one question: While you’re here, what kind of person do you want to be? Knowing that no matter what you do, no matter how well you hide, you’re eventually going to get nailed?

Sara is changed by her horrific encounter in Africa. The woman who flew off on holiday is not the same one who returns. Such is the way with all good novels. Such is the way of life.

My experience in Iran, as troubling as much of it was, provided me a priceless education. It changed who I was. I grew up. I made life-long friends. I discovered my strengths. I faced my weaknesses. I found the courage to take the car keys of my life back, to take charge of my self.

Not so different from climbing mountains, and diving in the ocean. Lots of discomfort mixed with incredible beauty. Had I stayed home where it was “safe,” I wouldn’t be this woman I am today. To not evolve into someone different by the time I'm sixty will mean I have failed.

What would I choose for my own identity-seeking daughter? A life of safety like her Grandmother? To never learn who she is by trial?

Or one in which she takes on the Arab world half-cocked? To risk God knows what?

The answer is obvious for someone like me.

We shall not cease from exploration.
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. - T.S. Eliot



Saturday, February 12, 2011

12 Signs of a Spiritual Awakening

1. An increased tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.

2. Frequent attacks of smiling.

3. Feelings of being connected with others and nature.

4. Frequent overwhelming episodes of appreciation.

5. A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than from fears based on past experience.

6. An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.

7. A loss of ability to worry.

8. A loss of interest in conflict.

9. A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.

10. A loss of interest in judging others.

11. A loss of interest in judging self.

12. Gaining the ability to love

without expecting anything in return.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, New You?


I dislike when people try to reinvent themselves at the new year. My suggestion is to throw out the big resolutions list and forget trying to turn yourself into someone new.

My advice is to be the best that you already are - be your best self.

It's a new year, which means this is a great time to reflect about the all aspects of your life.

Here's one way: divide your life into different aspects and then create the whole. This is how I like to break it down: physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional and social. Simple, right? I think so. Maybe it'll work for you.

This is how it works for me. Maybe it'll help you to take your fragmented self and shift things around to create a better whole. I believe if we focus our thought and intention, then we are able to focus our action and outcome. Take care of all the little details, focus positive thought and watch the grace that takes place.

Physical - the obvious. Exercise and well-being. Your health. I like Yoga and walks. I like the water and the beach and the sounds of waves. Balance and health. Fresh air and taking care of my body. This means eating real food - not sugar or processed food. This is the intention, knowing we will fail and pick ourselves back up and do the very best we can, taking it a day at a time.

Intellectual - doing the work I love. It is my belief that we must do work we are passionate about and the money will come. We are always cared for. Do the work you feel called to do. I need to be involved in projects that I believe in. What fuels your desires? For me it is writing and books and communication and media. I also want to profit from my work and I embrace the financial aspect of my work. Ask for what you are worth. Don't be afraid to set your standards high. If you are willing to do the work you will make a difference. If you have ten years or more experience in a field then you are considered an expert in that area; someone needs your expertise. Get paid for your intellectual endeavors. Stop giving away your time for free. You've worked hard - reap the rewards.

Spiritual - Meditation and prayer. Quieting the mind. For me this means a daily practice with a dose of nature. Reading is a big part of my spiritual life. Conversations with friends. Deep and rigorous honesty. Listening. If I am in a good place, I always hear what I need to hear. Helping another. Find your place of grace. Try to do it daily.


Emotional - Making sure your needs get met. Getting off balance happens quickly. Be what you need first - take care of yourself first - then there is room for more. Don't look to others to fill emotional needs....take care of yourself. Love yourself first. No one else is going to complete you.

Social - Have fun. Make time for friends. Create space for those you love (or could love). Throw a little romance and spice into your life. For me I want something real. Casual conversations are fine, but I have no desire to waste time, so small talk has no place in my life. As for dating and romance - I want it all - the courting, the romance, the sparks, the passion. Won't settle for less.

What does your new year look like? This isn't a new you, but a new year and in this new year you can ask for what you deserve. You can create the life you want. Or, focus your thoughts and allow a positive life to create you.