Saturday, March 30, 2013

Perfect Moment & Cover/Blurb Reveal

Perfect Moment:

One piece of mindfulness practice that I find challenging but fascinating is observing my emotions.  This morning I observed a heavy, grouchy feeling.  It’s the same feeling I get when I push, push, push and get very little move, move, move.  It’s a complex, conglomerate emotion made up of equal parts frustration, weariness, impatience and that snappy fearfulness you see in cornered animals.  I began mentally listing my physical sensations.  I always learn a lot about my mental and emotional life by paying attention to my body and I often discover phenomenological expressions of emotion that surprise and enlighten me.
Achy knees, tight jaw muscles, shallow breathing, itchy dry skin on my arms,  blurry vision.  Blurry vision?  Yup.  Blurry, fuzzy, obscured vision.
Ohhhhhh!  I delight in these minor epiphanies.
I cleaned my glasses.  Put my glasses back on my face.  The world, my feet, the needles on the spruce trees, moss in the yard; it all jumped into sharp focus.  I took a deep breath and sighed.  Relaxed.  Grouchy gone.  Perfect moment.

I have news, today.  I am nearly ready (aiming for April 2nd or 3rd) to upload my short memoir to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.  Here’s a sneak preview of my cover and the blurb.  By the way, I’ve discovered that blurb writing for oneself is an odd bit of mental torture.  Never before have I put so much time and energy into four sentences.  I’m sending out a special thanks to @PetSpeakArt for suggestions, support and encouragement during the blurbing process!

Originally written in a series of candid tweets, Head Buckets & Hashtags unfolds in tantalizing snippets of 140 characters or less.  In turns amusing and harrowing, this gritty recounting of a childhood in the Alaskan “bush” captures Ms. Peska’s spirit of resilience as she copes with poverty, illness and abuse.

Each day at noon, for 15 days in March 2013, Ms. Peska took to Twitter and shared her story with “tweeps”.  Now, in this short memoir, she’s sharing it with you! 

If you have any last minute suggestions for the cover or blurb, I welcome your input. 

P.S. I’m going to take tomorrow off from blogging but I’ll return on Monday.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Extra, Extra Sensory Perception

Perfect Moments:

Oh joy! I’ve just had a wonderful, delightful and perfect moment of fairly large proportions!

Prelude To A Perfect Moment: We share fence, in our back yard, with four different neighbors.  Two of these neighbors have dogs and one of the neighbors has two small yappy dogs that fence fight with all the dogs around them.  Jeb has, alas, picked up this nasty habit, though only with the two dogs that taught it to him.  As you can imagine, I DO NOT APPROVE!  The neighboring terrors are encouraged to behave in this fashion, but Jeb is not.  The trouble is, teaching a dog to stop fence fighting and come on command isn’t something I’ve ever done before (never lived with a fence before! J) and I’ve been finding it difficult.  Prevention is the most effective tactic but it’s hard to predict when the neighbors might let their dogs outside.  Once the disturbance starts, I attempt a voice recall then leap from the back porch in my bare or stocking clad feet (I always think about putting on shoes when the dog is in the back yard but never do it) and high tail it across snow and puddles to the scene of the canine crime.  Then, using my deepest and most resonant tone (and an occasional smack on the haunch), I escort Jeb back to the porch and inside the house.

Perfect Moment: Now, here’s the part that’s wonderful and delightful; are you ready?  Just now, a few minutes before I began writing this, a fence fighting ruckus broke out and my brilliant boy Jeb responded to my voice (after only about 10 seconds of me roaring in my faux deep voice), broke away from the encounter and CAME PRANCING BACK TO THE PORCH!!!

Well!  As you can imagine, the instant Jeb started towards me I dropped my roar and shifted to enthusiastic praise in my normal girlish tones, so by the time he arrived at the porch, Jeb was wagging and shimmying.  There was a hop in his gait & we greeted each other with unabashed joy!  And that, ladies, gentlemen and pups, was a thrill and undeniably perfect.

I’ve had several perfect moments in the last 24 hours, but there’s one other that I’m bursting to share with you.  Yesterday, a friend who’s been reading my blog (Hi, Babs!) called me to share her perfect moment.  I listened as Babs told me about her moment and I giggled, grinned and tried to hug her right through the phone!  I was, and still am, tickled pink!                                                           
If you have a perfect moment that you’d like to share, I welcome your comments and/or tweets!


Amazing Factoids:

You have a sixth sense, an extra sensory perception!  Not only that, you have a seventh sense, too!  Extra, extra sensory perception!  Yes, you really do.  No, I’m not yanking your chain and no, I’m not talking about the way that you always know when to show up at a friend’s house when there’s birthday cake. 

Vestibular Sense: Your vestibular system is in your ears.  I know; you thought those funny looking fleshy attachments to the sides of your head were just for hearing and fashion, but noooooo.  Actually, the vestibular system is in the inner ear, so it’s not really all that fashionable but there would be a lot more accidents on the Paris and New York catwalks without it.  Here’s what it does: your vestibular system allows you to perceive gravity, motion and your physical orientation.  Need a second to get your equilibrium?  You’re using your vestibular system!

Sense of Proprioception:  Say it five times, fast.  No, that doesn’t have anything to do with proprioception, I just think it’s a fun word that’s a bit tricky to say.  If you’ve ever had a basic neurological test, you’ve had your sense of proprioception tested.  Stand with your arms raised out from your sides so that they are parallel to the floor, close your eyes, point with both your index fingers and, bending your elbows, bring your index fingers together in front of you.  Did they touch?  Did they come close?  That is proprioception; it’s your sense of where each bit of your body is, that bit’s relative location to other bits and the speed and force with which that bit is (or isn’t) moving.    


Have a happy day!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Diagrams & Puppy Zooms

Yesterday, I shared with you how my out-of-control, negative thoughts contributed to my unhappiness and how I began my journey towards changing my thoughts. 

Here’s a nifty way to visualize the dynamic interplay between our thoughts, our actions and our feelings:


  • Our emotions are impacted by our thoughts and by our actions.
  • Our thoughts are impacted by our emotions and our actions.
  • Our actions are impacted by our emotions and by our thoughts.

The outside environment can also impact our emotions, thoughts and actions, but only when we let it.
Of course, we can, through our actions, impact our environement and we do all the time. We don't have full control, however, over what that impact will be.

Today, I challenge you to put this diagram to the test!

-First, try changing your emotions. You know, just decide you're going to go from feeling one emotion to feeling another emotion. :-) Good luck with that!
-Second, try changing your emotions by changing your actions. If you feel lonely, angry or sad, try singing and dancing along to some upbeat and happy music or read or watch a comedy. How does this work for you?
-Third, try changing your emotions by changing your thoughts. Lots of folks are familiar with the idea of affirmations but not everyone finds affirmations comfortable. This is where collecting perfect moments comes into play. Be alert; notice and think about any perfect moments that come your way.

These ideas and experiments are the basis for cognitive behavioral therapy which is simply a way of working with our thoughts and our behaviors to make our lives more enjoyable, effective and satisfying.

Today’s Perfect Moment Brought To You By Happy Dog Jeb!

This morning, Jeb invented a new game.  Here’s how it works, I stand at the foot of the stairs and heave his ball (yes, I throw like a girl so this is a big deal for me) into the upstairs hallway.  Jeb retrieves the ball, sits on the top step and drops the ball so that it bounces down each step until it reaches me.  I pick up the ball and we start from the top.  Today, we played this game for about 10 minutes until my husband came out of one of the upstairs rooms, at which point, Jeb tucked his butt, laid his ears back and broke the sound barrier flying up and down the stairs in a fit of puppy zooms.  Dale and I laughed, Jeb zoomed and life was filled with joy!

Facts to elicit Marvel:
Our autonomic nervous system (ANS) is what keeps our bodies running, second to second, day or night, year after year.  The ANS regulates all those automatic but vital functions that we rarely think about like digestion, circulation, breathing, blinking and more.  Although illness can impact the functionality of the ANS, most of us take for granted how much work our bodies do for us all the time. 

·         The “average” person’s heart beats about 3 million times over the course of a 70-year lifetime.  Let’s name our “average” person; we’ll call her Average Jill.

·         Average Jill will take about 600 million breaths during her 70 years, breathing a total of 75 million gallons of air in her lifetime.

·         Average Jill will blink about 250 million times in her life and her eyes will be closed from blinking (not from sleep) for over 5 years in total.

·         The hair on Jill’s head grows about 6 inches each year and although many hairs will break and all will fall out every 3 to 7 years, she’ll grow 35 feet of hair during her lifetime.
Did you take my challenge? If so, what were your results?
Do you have a puppy zooom story to share?
Please feel free to comment!



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Collecting Perfect Moments

I began collecting perfect moments out of desperation about 17 years ago.  I’d been in therapy for several years and was working hard but still struggled almost every day.  I was sad, irritable and intensely self-critical.  Each evening at bedtime, I ruminated about my endless failures, shortcomings and imperfections.  I imagined that every incomplete project, snippy attitude and weeping fit spread out behind me like the wake of a boat, in far reaching waves of chaos.  Not only was I miserable, but I was convinced that I made other people miserable, too, just by being in their lives.

One night, as I snuffled into my blanket I decided that I needed to make a change.  I needed to change my brain. I decided to change what I was thinking.  Dwelling on negativity wasn’t inspiring me to become Mary Poppins (you know, “Practically perfect in every way”) and it wasn’t helping me rest peacefully through the night.  I determined that I needed to accept my terrible flaws and deliberately think about something else.  That night, I devised a new bedtime ritual for myself.  It was a three-part process:

1-      List ten perfect moments from my past

2-      List ten things I was looking forward to without reservation

3-      List ten things that were good, happy or worthy of gratitude in that very moment

Mentally listing these thirty positives was a tremendous challenge but integrating the practice into my nightly routine was not.  The rewards of going through this list each night were immediate.  I stopped crying myself to sleep, I slept better, and this ritual launched me into la-la land almost as fast as an IV drip of anesthesia!

Over the next year, I made other changes in my life that contributed to a MUCH happier Marcy; I started an anti-depressant medication, I adopted a dog and I moved.  That first step, though, that moment of epiphany when I realized that I had to actively change the way I used my brain; that was my first step down a new road of happy and it was the first step I took towards mindfulness practice.  With time and daily work, I began noticing more perfect moments and I became increasingly able to stay fully present and aware of what was wonderful in life as it was happening.

In an odd way, it doesn’t sound like much of a big deal to simply pay attention to what kind of good stuff is going on in life.  Our brains, however, have a powerful tendency to focus on the dangerous, negative, alarming and difficult stuff, it’s called Negativity Bias.  We process negative stimuli faster than positive stimuli, remember it more vividly and give it more weight or import than positive stimuli.  This quirk in our wiring has likely played a pretty big role in our survival, as a species.  It’s also impacted all of our various cultures.  I think that it’s been a powerful force in shaping modern media. 

Perhaps for some imaginary person who is born without any propensity towards depression (not to mention paranoia), who is raised in a family and community that is largely positive, validating and safe, Negativity Bias does not impact mental health.  For those of us living in a less than rosy-ideal reality, however, it poses a major barrier to happiness.

All these years later, noticing the positive has become far easier for me.  Still, it’s a deliberate practice that I must consciously engage in.  All too often, I find myself caught up in negativity and it takes awareness and self-discipline to disengage.

I’ve neglected this blog for nigh onto seven months.  Every time I wrote a potential post, I rejected it.  None of them sang to me.  They all felt wrong in one way or another.  Some of them were funny and some were serious.  Yesterday, I realized that each of them had negativity at their core.  And now, I’m glad that I didn’t publish those posts on this blog. But, it’s spring time and spring is famous for new leaves, so it’s a great time for me to turn over a new blogging leaf!  I am going to strive to post on this blog every day or two.  My aim is to keep my posts positive and I expect I’ll be sharing a lot of my perfect moments with all of you.

Here’s a perfect moment from today to get us started:

This morning as I prepared a meal to go in my crock-pot, I used my marble mortar and pestle to grind black peppercorns, sea salt and fresh garlic together and then to mix them into olive oil.  The aroma was succulent and I dipped my finger into the mix for a taste, spicy but not too hot and also marvelously earthy.  My tongue tingled and I bent over the mortar to inhale the delicious aroma before adding the blend to the crock-pot.  I closed my eyes and reveled in the lingering flavor and mouthwatering smell.

Facts to elicit marvel:

The average human adult is made up of about 7 octillion atoms! Yup, octillion is a real word, too. 

Every cell in your body carries 6 to 8 feet of DNA!
What do you do to stay positive and happy?  Have you collected any perfect moments today?
Please feel free to comment!