Art, Blogging, Creativity, Encouragement, Family, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Inspiration, poetry, Writing

Five Reasons to do a Year End Review

by Martina Rathgens, CC
by Martina Rathgens, CC

“Out with the old, in with the new.” I don’t like that saying for several reasons, mainly because many old things have value.

But, there is also truth to the phrase. Making room for the new is worthwhile.

A year end review (let’s give this an acronym: YER) is all about looking back. Not to criticize or judge yourself and not necessarily to reflect on what you accomplished but to look back and see what you did and did not do.

A YER applies to any facet of your life: writing, drawing, poetry, cooking, crafting, (insert passion here).

For me, it’s about reflecting on what I’ve done in my writing life.

Here are my reasons for doing a YER:

1. Discovery- If my writing life is contained in a garage, I envision stepping in and searching through the shelves, opening file cabinets, investigating boxes, and poking about the dark corners.

What did I actually do? Is it what I wanted to spend my time on? Did this satisfy me?

I find notes of support, several manuscript rejection emails, a writing conference receipt, a writing fellowship rejection, numerous blog posts, two books on writing craft, 15 fiction books, several poems and an acceptance letter into a mentorship program.

There’s some valuable stuff in that garage. There’s also some dog poop and pee.

2. Appreciation-Look over what you’ve done this past twelve months, close to 365 days, not with a critic’s eye, but with an awareness of what you’ve done.

Highlight some of your favorite sentences, poems, art. “Oh yeah, I did that,” you can say. Post these items on your bulletin board, computer, or wherever you can remind yourself that you did some good stuff-not that this was easy, but you worked at making good stuff. You persevered.

Appreciate the high points and not so favorite parts of your art. Tell yourself: “I took that risk, didn’t work out, but I learned something.”

Recognize that you committed to something. You pushed the envelope. You took action.

3. Motivation-Where did your motivation come from this past year? Are there common themes or images? Why do you think you delved into these areas this past year? Are you still driven to spend your passion on these areas? What inspires you now?

4. Service- Who did you help or what did you bring to light with your passion? Did you share information, resources, increase awareness, touch someone’s heart, or contribute to a community?

Could you do more? (That’s a loaded question, we know we can always do a bit more).

5. Gratitude-What are you thankful for?

I’m encouraged by your thoughtful blog post comments, for allowing me into your life for a glimpse of your world, for sharing your passion and helping me to fuel my own.

I’m amazed when someone subscribes to my blog, comments, or clicks “like.” Thank you for your time. I know it’s valuable.

Our passions are many times a solitary venture so I’m grateful to have a close knit group of writing friends-women who support, encourage, and critique my fiction writing and efforts.

I’m grateful for the patience my family shows me when they know I need quiet in the mornings, when I don’t answer texts or phone calls before 10 a.m., or when I’m spending time away from my home to write.

By going through this exercise, I found I could pat myself on the back (it’s really okay to do that), gently kick myself for wasting time (social media), and feel motivated to continue on with my writing.

I have big plans for 2015 and I’m excited to get started on new adventures.


What are your plans?



Encouragement, Forgiveness, Inspiration, poetry, Wisdom

A Promise To Myself

I Heart
I Heart

Most of the time.

When I make a mistake, that hurts someone, I remind myself that I need to make restitution.

Restitution is made by first apologizing, second by listening to the person when he or she explains how they feel, and then making it up to this person with a gesture. This is also the case for when I do some action that hurts myself, like a mistake I made or an opportunity I didn’t use.

It’s easy when there is a ‘good’ result, like when the apology is accepted or I forgive myself and move forward without regret.

But when an apology is not accepted, I have to remind myself-more than once-to let my expectation go, of how I want the other person to respond. Sometimes, I end up not loving me so much. I play that game of blaming myself, or the other person (It’s his/her issue), or excuse my behavior. Problem is that this deception shows up somewhere. Usually it’s in one of the loads we call “baggage.”

There is also a time to disengage. If you acknowledged what you did, apologized and tried to make up for hurting someone, or forgive yourself, then there is little more you can do except practice ‘self-love.’

This topic is beautifully illustrated by the wisdom in this poem by Sabra Bowers. She, like me, started the new year with creating an intention. My word is “Move.”  Her word is “Purge.”

After reading her poem it made me think all the stuff we carry with us, consciously or not. Her poem reminded me to go through my ‘baggage,’ throw stuff out, and move forward.

Broken Promise

self-love is letting go
of broken promises

promises I’ve made
and ones made to me

promises made with good intention
and ones made with no intention

broken promises are 
yesterday’s news

Written by,

Sabra Bowers

You can visit Sabra’s blog at Later, Ms. Slater.


Bullying, Forgiveness, Grace, Karen Klein, Max Sidorov, Parenting, Strong Women

How Strong is Karen Kline?

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times. That could be the title of Karen Klein’s week. The bus monitor (for over 23 years) was the subject of bullying, a viral YouTube video, talk shows, and a fundraising campaign. This 68 year old grandmother of eight did not use violence against the bullies, has shown grace and dignity in her responses, and evidenced a forgiving spirit. 

This is a strong woman. 

Four 7th grade boys, subjected Ms. Klein to a barrage of extremely graphic language, taunting her, poking at her, calling her names, for over ten minutes. In the video, she seems to try to ignore the taunts, but appears angry. The video isn’t linked here because that’s not the focus but I’m sure one could find it easily. 

When I viewed the video, my blood boiled and I had to turn it off within 5 minutes. I’ve heard worse (but then again I worked in a prison) so it wasn’t the language. What got me was these are middle grade kids who persisted in mistreating this woman, taking video, using her humiliation and tears to continue the barrage to another level. One comment referred to her son who committed suicide and said she should also. It was torturous.  

They are ‘hella lucky’ they didn’t pick on Madea….’hellerrrrr’

Karen Kline did not resort to violence although, “Oh yeah, there was a part of me, but it stayed in me. I wanted to slap, slap, slap…just wipe the snicker right off their faces, but you can’t do that. I didn’t.” The verbal abuse had her break down in tears. 

She did not report this to the school administrators and it appears neither did the bus driver or the other boys and girls on that bus. (Although one kid is shown leaving his seat and moving). What does this say about all of them? 

No one would have ever known of this incident; if one of the perpetrators hadn’t showed-off, and posted the video on Facebook and until someone eventually took it and posted it on YouTube. The audacity and arrogance of that kid. 

There have been numerous comments ranging from blaming the boys’ parents, the school they attend, the bus driver (for not stopping the bus) and some twisted comments that it’s Ms. Kline’s fault for tolerating the abuse and not smacking them (the boys) until doomsday. 

Some of the boys’ parents visited Ms. Klein and profusely apologized. That’s fine, but what about the boys? They haven’t as of yet, and that may be a good thing as Ms. Klein is not ready to see these boys yet. The boys and their families have now received nasty phone calls and threats to their safety. Which bothers Ms. Klein. “I didn’t like that.”

Ms. Klein does not want the boys to face criminal charges. “Community service…” would be a better idea. 

She said she is happy with the swift and strong community response against the verbal attack aboard an Upper New York School District bus. 

A 25 year old Toronto man, Max Sidorov set up a webpage titled “Let’s Give Karen the Bus Monitor a Vacation,” which is all slightly confusing to her. Mr. Sidorov himself was bullied after immigrating from the Ukraine at age nine.

“I think we can do something positive and spread light on this issue of bullying around the world,” he said. 

Given Karen’s character, she’ll probably give away some of the money from the fund. I wouldn’t doubt that she will help others before she takes that vacation-if she ever does. Hopefully, she’ll use these funds towards retirement, so she doesn’t have to work anymore.  

With YouTube views of over 2 million hits, appearances on the talk show circuit, media attention and the dignified responses of Ms. Klein that message will spread.  

Let’s hope. 

Abuse, Encouragement, Forgiveness, POV, Victims of Penn State Scandal

VIctims of Penn State Scandal & Shift

Sometimes I hate to turn on the television news. Most of the time I’m going to hear about the violence, pain, and atrocities not only in other countries, but here, in the USA. Two days ago I said enough of the Penn State news. It’s already stirred up more feelings than I’ve felt for years, personal issues I’ve worked through but can be touched off by a saturation of feelings. My heart expanded around the victims of the Penn State scandal and my mind tried to get around how abuse like this continues.
It was in the avoidance of the T.V. news that I perused some blogs and I came across this article which struck me as simple in theory, but profoundly impactful in practice. It is about victims of abuse and the shift one can take in viewing atrocities like this and what we can do to help others.
It is written by Mel Pledger for Lovefraud Blog (link to entire article). 
Shift happens all the time – and when it does, boy it can knock us off balance can’t it?  Some of us have experienced more ‘shift’ than others. Some prolonged ‘shifty’ periods, and some shorter moments where the time may be less but the shift can be much more potent. 
We all deal with things in different ways. For many years now, I have believed in the notion that it’s not what happens to us that helps us grow, it’s how we choose to respond that makes the difference. It’s our responsibility; our ability to respond that determines whether or how soon we can find and welcome the gift in any given situation.
Billy Connolly Live In London
This weekend I was luck enough to see Billy Connolly live in London… I bought the ticket because seeing Billy live was on my bucket-list..
It was a wonderful experience. Not just because of his humour, but also because of a very serious message that Billy chose to share with the audience. Alan Yentob, …television producer, was interviewing him on stage,  encouraged Billy to talk about his childhood.  

It is a well documented but not often discussed story of abandonment, neglect and abuse – physical, sexual and emotional. It’s a story about abject poverty. It’s about survival – and ultimately it’s about the fulfilment of dreams.
Billy stood up at one point, clearly moved by his memories, and reached out to everyone in the theatre. 
“You may be surprised to learn” he told us “that there are many more people who have been through abuse than you might care to imagine. I’ll take a bet that if we asked every single member of this audience, the vast majority would understand what I am talking about”… 

The theatre went silent – as usual Billy had succeeded in shocking us. This time, though, it was not through his off-the-wall humour. This time it was because of his honesty. It was because of his willingness to share his story, and to reach out to others…
Alan asked how he had possibly managed to overcome such hardships. How he had managed to endure the pain and indignity of his childhood to become a man who brings so much joy to so many people. Billy’s voice cracked a little at this point. He drew himself up taller and spoke to us all again.
“I implore you – all of you – to embrace forgiveness” he explained, emotion clearly etched across his face “It works, it really does! It’s like getting rid of a whole sack full of heavy rocks that had been weighing you down. It’s wonderfully healing you know. It’s a marvellous experience. It frees you. And I recommend it – not just for anybody who has been through difficult times, but for all of us. For every single one of us”… 

He said how damaging it can be when the adults then compound their misery by giving the child an unconscious message that they can never get better.
“Oh, the poor child. That’s it, his/her life is now ruined. They’ll never be able to get over that. That person/situation has taken away any chance they had of living a normal life”
“Oh, I feel so sorry for you, you’ll never be able to love again” “I’ll bet you can never trust anyone now” “You must feel so stupid – you’re whole life is messed up!” 

Meant with the best of intention, messages like this (particularly to a child) can hold people in a mental prison. There may be no physical walls, but it doesn’t make it any easier to escape from the chains.
“Don’t tell the poor little b*****ds that they’re f*****d!” he cried, clenching his fists and gritting his teeth… 
“Tell them that they’ll get through it! Tell them there’s a way! Tell them that this will pass, that there’s always hope, that they’ve got the power within them to make things good! Tell them to dream, to keep hope alive and to feel good about themselves! I did it – so can anybody else!”
When Billy stopped, the applause started…the whole theatre gradually built in to a crescendo of people all clapping their hands and nodding their heads. Once again I had tears rolling down my cheeks – this time because I had been deeply moved…
It’s so true. When we believe we can, we do. When we know we’ll get through, we find a way. When we take one more step even when we think we can’t go any further, then miracles can occur. And when we encourage somebody else? Well, not only does it boost the other person, it gives us something positive at the same time.
So, yes, shift does happen. We all know that, and we all have plenty of it in our past and perhaps in our present as well… So I’d like to finish this I post with a phrase I read today.
“Perhaps there are some areas of your life that could now do with some nurturing and some fertilisation?” it read “Just remember that the manure of your past can help grow a more fruitful future. 
And with that last paragraph I took a deep breath and centered myself. This article, these moving words from Billy Connally, this shift, found it’s way to me this morning and for that I’m thankful.