Category Archives: identity

Interview with Mari L. McCarthy

HYSWJP Bronze

Today I am happy to share an e-mail interview with Mari L. McCarthy.  It is all about the power of journaling!  Check it out below:

  1. Why did you decide to start journaling in the first place?

It was for physical therapy purposes only.  I had an MS episode where I lost most use of the right side of my body, and I needed to teach myself how to write with my left hand ASAP.

  1. When did you notice a connection between journaling and how you felt physically, spiritually, and mentally?

Right away.  I got started with Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, and the three stream-of-consciousness pages first thing every morning took me on a magical mystery tour.  I started hearing rhymes and started writing poetry for the first time in my life.  And, I started remembering things from my childhood 60 years ago and experiencing it as if it was happening right now.  I was able to process the events through the pages, became aware of how many erroneous thoughts and feelings I was carrying around in my body, and created new thoughts that reduced all kinds of mental, physical and spiritual stress.

  1. Who do you think could benefit most from journaling daily?

Everyone.  We all have had challenging childhoods where we just sucked in everything, including a lot of erroneous thoughts and feelings (I call them issues in our tissues). Journaling provides us the opportunity to understand the origins of our crazy thinking and shows us how to reframe our thought process.

  1. What advice would you give someone who is just starting on their journaling journey?

Journaling is about facing our fears, learning how to manage our negativity and inner critics, and reclaiming our power.  That is monumental behavior change.  Take it easy.  Journaling is about thinking with your heart and soul.  Our overanalytical head has been in change for so long she’s afraid of losing control.  My recommendation is to ask your journal a question and then free-write fast until you feel – my favorite 4 letter F word – like stopping.

  1. What do you think is the biggest roadblock for those who want to make journaling a daily habit and fail to do so?

We are our biggest roadblock.  We are experienced in self-sabotage and in having an unhealthy relationship with ourselves.  Fear has controlled us since forever, and it is scary and a lot of hard work to explore our inner world.  Plus, we were raised to think that alone time is so selfish.  It is a totally new experience to work through the pain and heal our wounds.

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  1. Do you prefer to handwrite or type your journal entries?  Which would you recommend to those new to journaling?

Pen to paper every day is the only way to get all the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health benefits that are available to you from journaling.  Jumping right in and freewriting is a good start.  Make sure you breathe and understand that your head (ego, inner critic, other voices…) will go crazy.  Writing fast will show them you are in charge.

  1. Why do you think journaling has such a profound effect on our lives and how we perceive ourselves?

 I don’t know.  I can only tell you that I have monumentally healed, grown and transformed myself thanks to journaling.  I live a compassionate (!) unconditional love-in with myself, and it grows every day.  In my first book, Journaling Power: How to Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live, I have results from scientific studies that are researching and monitoring this magical, mysterious self-healing process.

  1. Aside from journaling, how else do you think writing can help us lead better lives?

Writing is creative self-expression, and we have so much inside of us that we’ve been stuffing down for so long.  Writing is giving ourselves permission to be the truly talented (wild and crazy) person we are and share our brilliance with the world.

  1. What do you think we as writers can learn from our journaling patterns (i.e. the topics we keep coming back to time and time again)?

Besides the therapeutic value journaling has, it gives us great ideas for poetry, essays, characters for fiction writing.

  1. Aside from journaling, what advice would you give readers eager to live their best lives?

Carve out “ME” (self-care) time every day where you can just be with yourself.  We’re great doers and care takers and fixers and…. What we need to do is put ourselves first and work on reconnecting and staying connected to our true self every day.

Mari, thank you for sharing such great advice and insight with my readers!  Best of luck with the rest of your blog tour.

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Little Bo

Nickname

I love nicknames.  They play a big role in my family life, and frankly, it is how we show we love one another.  Some of my best and earliest memories involve various nicknames Grandpa Buttrick gave me as a child.  In fact, I distinctly remember him actually calling me by my given name when I was about 10 years old.  It stood out because he never called me Lindsey.  In fact, he called me everything but (see list below).  I thought I was in trouble!  Fortunately, I wasn’t.

Well, somewhere along the line Mom picked up the nickname habit from her dad.  The latest nickname she gave me is “Little Bo.”  I love it.  My dad’s name is Bob (aka Bo), and I earned every bit of that nickname.  I am very much my father’s daughter.  When I feel strongly about something, people know.  So, in honor of my newest nickname, I decided to compile a list of nicknames I’ve been given over the years – and the people who gave them to me and the stories behind them.

Lindo – Perhaps my most common nickname, mostly used by Mom’s family and probably given to me by Grandpa Buttrick.  Bonus:  It means beautiful in Spanish, even if the masculine form.

Ed – Given to me by Grandpa Buttrick when I was a baby.  I have no idea.  Ed happened to be the name of his best friend.

Ankle Biter #3 – I am the third grandchild on the Buttrick side.  My cousin Abby bit my dad’s ankle when she was a toddler, and none of us lived it down.  Again, given by Grandpa Buttrick.

Rifle River Rat #1 – I am the oldest Russell child – and we are river rats.  Again, Grandpa Buttrick.

Lonzo – Only Dad can call me Lonzo.  Period.

Buckshot – Grandpa Reid gave me this nickname when I was an infant.

Gypsy – Grandpa Reid always called Grandma and I his gypsies.  I am still always on the go.

Sugarfoot – Grandma Reid somehow came up with this one.  Since she passed away in 2017, Mom decided to bring it back.

Rosie – Given to me by Grandma Reid due to my complexion.

Itchy – My brother Garrett gave me this nickname years ago.  I have no idea why.  I have taken to calling him Scratchy ala The Simpsons.

Little Bo – Given to me by Mom because I can channel my dad all too well at times.

Yes, I am loved!

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Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Carpe Diem

In the past, I’ve written Father’s Day pieces for and about Dad. In fact, I shared one of those old pieces with Mid-Michigan Writers at our last meeting. Through that process, I realized that I have a series of stories about my father, not a simple post of memories. That post contains kernels of several stories. In fact, as I read the piece Monday evening, other stories came to mind. It is now a piece I need to dissect, rework, and reorganize – among many other things. It might make a nice companion piece to Dad’s hunting stories when I finally get around to writing them.

So, today, I am not going to share stories about Dad. No. Instead, I am going to share the greatest lesson he ever taught me. My entire life, he taught me that life is short and that you must go after whatever it is you seek. He always did exactly what he wanted to do. It is time for me to do the same. I am not quite there yet, but I am on my way. Happy Father’s Day Dad!

 

Father's Day Canoe

Creativity

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I am a firm believer that everyone should have a creative outlet.  It may take some time to find what works for you, but it is so worth it in the end.  I discovered writing as my creative outlet at an early age, but then life got in the way, as it always does.  I hope this time I can make time for what matters.

As I have spent the last several weeks as a substitute teacher in a 4th grade classroom, I’ve enjoyed seeing just how passionate kids are about their hobbies.  I have budding writers, musicians, artists, and athletes in the classroom, not to mention scientists.  We had the best discussions about the US space shuttle program, astronauts, and basic animal genetics.  They are not afraid to ask great questions.  After a science lesson on the effects of long-term exposure to zero gravity on astronauts, one student asked me why we never returned to the moon after the 1969 moon landing.  A quick Google search later, we had our answers, which included the facts that politics largely got in the way and that NASA recently announced possible commercialization of space travel, including a possible return to the moon.  See article here.

I am left with just one question:  What do we do as educators between 4th grade and senior year of high school to suck the creativity out of students?  I like to believe things are changing for the better, but I still see way too much “busy,” mindless work being assigned, especially in middle school.  STEM programs are on the right track, but I do believe they need to include art, or STEAM, as well.  Still, that doesn’t cut it for everyone.  What about students who have no idea how to stick with something long enough to enjoy it?  How do we recognize and deal with the fact that many students are resistant to the idea that failure can help us learn and grow?  We inadvertently teach students that failure is to be avoided at all cost.  For better or worse, it is ingrained in our culture.  High stakes standardized testing anyone?  We need to teach students how to fail effectively:  how to move on and learn from our mistakes.  They need to know on a gut level that failure is inevitable.  We are meant to learn from it.

I am deeply grateful that I found a creative outlet that works for me.  I adored art classes as a child, but I have no ability to draw animals or people.  I am no painter either.  One of my greatest wishes is to have some musical ability.  Sadly, as much as I love music, I have none.  In searching for my creative outlet, I overlooked the obvious:  I am meant to be a writer.  Unfortunately, as a child, I always wanted to be more instead of embracing what I love and can reasonably do without embarrassing myself.  In fact, that is one of my greatest wishes for any of my students past, present, or future:  Find a creative outlet that makes you happy through good times and bad.

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Motherhood

Patsy Cline Quote

Mother’s Day will never not be emotional for me.  I am continuously torn between celebrating the wonderful women in my life who made me who I am today – not just Mom, but both my grandmas and Joyce, my childhood neighbor, babysitter, and essentially adopted grandmother – and struggling with my own path to motherhood.  All those women helped shape me morally, spiritually, and intellectually.

Mom, of course, continues to do so.  I still crave her advice.  I am so grateful for her friendship; her example, not only as a mother, but as a teacher, business woman, Christian; and her unconditional love.  All of it.  Somewhere along the path to adulthood, she also became my best friend.

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Mom, Dad, and I ~ 1983

In the past, I dreaded Mother’s Day.  Working retail in my 20s, strangers wishing me a “Happy Mother’s Day!” broke my heart and left me feeling empty.  They all meant well.  That’s the problem:  One never knows who is struggling with infertility, pregnancy, strained relationships, loss, etc.  For the longest time, I felt the same way at church on Mother’s Day, until I no longer did.  A simple acknowledgement that some struggle with a whole variety of issues relating to motherhood made all the difference.  Watching others grieve and acknowledge the loss of their own mothers made me realize that I am far from alone.

If I am completely honest with myself, recent events have made me question whether I do want to adopt, my only path to motherhood.  In fact, it is part of the reason why I have been so silent here lately.  Fortunately, my parents support me no matter what I decide, but what I wouldn’t give to be able to talk to my grandmas and Joyce right now.  I could use their advice and wisdom now more than ever.  All three would have something to say – all different – and force me to think of something I had overlooked.

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Grandma Reid and I ~ 1985

If I do decide not to adopt, the hardest part will be having to change my perception of myself.  I do not remember just how young I was at the time, but the first thing I remember wanting out of life is to be a mother.  Fortunately, that is the beautiful thing about all of this.  If I decide not to adopt, in many ways, I am still a mother.  I have a great relationship with my nephews and niece.  Spending time with my niece the other evening, she randomly told me that she wanted to come spend the night at my house.  It didn’t work out that evening, but a sleepover is in the works once school is out.  I want to be that aunt.  My niblings are finally reaching the ages where I can be that aunt.

As a teacher, I influence children every day.  I truly care for all my students, even if I am just their substitute teacher for a day or two.  It doesn’t matter.  So many students do not have much support at home.  As a teacher, I can put my maternal instincts to good use.  I can be the teacher that cheers them on at school.  I know for a fact that I have already made a difference.  I just need to step it up as I truly start my teaching career.

I may yet decide to adopt, but I need to give myself time and space to make that decision.  I finally concluded that it isn’t the end of the world if I do not.  When and if I do decide to adopt, I can say with certainty that I have thought of all possibilities and outcomes.  If it is meant to be, I know that my son or daughter is out there waiting for me.

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Mom and I ~ 1981

I’m a Fighter Not a Lover

Girl on Country Road

“I’m a fighter not a lover.” Well, that isn’t the case – I’m both, which I will get to in a minute – but there is a story behind this twisted saying that I wanted to share. It’s been on my mind lately. When Grandma Reid passed away in January 2017, an old childhood friend stopped by the funeral home to pay her respects. The two of us grew up together, and she worked with me and Grandma at the canoe livery for a summer or two. As we talked about Grandma, Melanie told me a story about her I’d never heard before. According to Mel, Grandma once said “I’m a fighter not a lover.” It struck Mel as so funny and out of character that she remembered it all those years later and thought to tell me. Knowing Grandma, a slip of the tongue became a memorable line.

What strikes me so funny and makes the entire thing so memorable is that I can easily see it going either way. It wouldn’t surprise me If Grandma intended to say she’s a fighter just to get a rise out of someone. She could tease mercilessly. Anyone who knew her knows she loved everyone. I am heavily biased, of course, but I cannot remember one instance in which she picked a fight. Instead, she loved on kids of all ages. Whether it putt-putt golf, a movie, or a trip to the mall arcade, she included everyone.

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But Grandma did fight too. She stuck up for herself when needed and forged her way as a business woman at a time when most women stayed at home. I consider that fighting. Some of her best advice included stick up for yourself. I think that is why this comes to mind now.

In fact, if I think about it for a minute, I can take it one step further: All of us – every one of us – needs to fight for the life we want to live. We need to fight for happiness and what we want out of life. I continue to struggle doing just that, but I am fighting. As much as I would love to give up, I won’t. I am made of sterner stuff – and I am far too stubborn.

Yellow Crocus

Place

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There is no escaping it.  This topic keeps rearing its ugly head.  Last night, we discussed it in book club.  Are people meant to be in a certain place?  You can find my take on the topic here. That question keeps haunting me.  What if somehow I missed my chance to be wherever it is I am supposed to be?

Am I supposed to live in Omer the rest of my life?  I wish there were a simple answer.  The reality is that there isn’t.  I love my family, I’ve always wanted to be a part of the canoe livery, and I enjoy spending my summers working there.  Yet, do I have what I need?  Frankly, the answer is no.  There are few people my age around, and those who are around are in a different stage of life.  With one notable exception, all are married and/or have families of their own.  It would be nice to at least have the possibility of dating in my future.

What are my alternatives?  None of them are good.  Either I deal with the issues before me and continue on this path, or I start over someplace new.  If I stay, a part of me will always be someplace else.  If I go, I would miss my family and the canoe livery.  At least in Omer I am needed and loved.

The truth is I am going nowhere.  The canoe livery and the Rifle River itself are too much a part of who I am.  I want to watch my niece and nephews grow up firsthand, and I want to be there for my parents as they get older.  None of that means that there aren’t sacrifices and complications that come with that decision.  None of it changes the love/hate relationship I have with Omer and Arenac County in general.

What saddens me is the reality of where I live.  Over the last two decades, so many people left not only Arenac County, but Michigan as well.  Many were left with no choice thanks to a one-state recession followed by the Great Recession.  I graduated in 1999, and due to the fact that so many classmates moved out of state, I doubt we will ever have a true class reunion.  Most Michigan State business students I graduated with in 2004 headed to Arizona or Texas, including me.  No one seems to care.  Few planned on helping their children create a life for themselves here during that time frame and the years that followed.

While we may be on the path to recovery, we are not there yet.  What bothers me is a general aura of denial that stubbornly resists any change.  Yes, I agree we need change, but we also need to keep what is working – and there are things that are working.  Unfortunately, we do not support those things.  So many people seem to want to change nothing or change everything at once.  Neither approach will work, but no one seems to address this.

What about businesses?  What are we doing to attract new ones?  Absolutely nothing I can see.  No, instead we keep piling on more unnecessary regulations that do nothing except add costs. Instead of making it easier for those just starting out to get started in a career, we make it next to impossible.  Today, we still tell high school seniors that a four year college degree should be the norm when we are setting them up for tens of thousands of dollars of debt before they even start their career.  It is wrong and needs to stop.  We need to attract more businesses and encourage trades. What about entrepreneurship?  Again, we do little to support those who wish to start their own business.  New businesses and new growth are exactly what we need, but they cannot survive if not supported.

I am angry.  I want to believe in my hometown and live here, but many times, it feels next to impossible.  If it weren’t for my family, I would have never looked back.  I am tired of feeling torn, and I am fed up with everything else about the area pushing me away.

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