Category Archives: Lessons Learned

Four Books Of Impact.

Words of wisdom and wonder, which change lives…

Many of us – most of us – have a portion of our life filled with regret. Or worse…nothing.
The feeling of being empty? That is worse than the feeling of sorrow, whether for loss, for past decisions, past actions, or past words. We look for answers, from “someone”, or “something”, and may find a temporary shift in our mood or being.
A guru here, a life-coach there, a member of this or that church, a friend, an elder relative…we turn to any or all of them. We go to our medical practice, to a counseling service, a retreat, a clinic…we seek what we need in any or all of them. We distract ourselves from our real needs by filling the void with people in groups or clubs in which we have no real interest; we go on a shopping spree; we go on a drinking binge – alone, or with other people…we try to find what we’re looking for anywhere.

Does it work? Do any of them work?
Some do, whether by coincidence – a connection between the ‘source’ and our situation, or real effect. Some don’t – from a lack of connection between the ‘source’ and our situation, or lack of a real background of applied theory.
Me? I’ve not had a lifetime of settled emotions, nor of constant good health. I’ve had times when I’ve faced misery, misfortune and misjudgment. Having a vivid imagination hasn’t helped keep my head clear of disruptive thoughts (“stinking thinking”, as it is known in some circles). I’ve blame-shifted. I’ve grown my resentment by never expressing it to anyone who mattered. I’m guilty of having at times expected more than was possible of myself, and worse, of others in my life. I’ve chased my own ‘gurus’ of one type or another. Neh – hasn’t worked.

Time for a change! Time for a kick up the proverbial. And I have to be the one to do it! I got myself into this mess – and that being unknowingly, does not change who’s responsible for where I go to from here. I have to make the change – me, myself, on my own.
But…but where to start?
Books.  Why not? A one-off price, available at any time you need, the facility to return to earlier sessions and review what you’ve faced, learned, or wondered at. Portable. Permanent.  You can annotate them, highlight, turn corners down to mark great passages (hold that ‘gasp’, please – bear with me here… Oh, alright, you can tuck a card bookmark in them). And now, the question arises :: Which Books?

cover_King james BibleWell, the Holy Book is a start.
Christian or not, I’ve lugged my Bible with me wherever I’ve lived. Firstly a small version of only The Bible, now a fully annotated King James Version. I hear a quote, and check the whole Chapter. Maybe even that before and that after the one I’m reading.
Please take note: the Christian Bible is not the only Holy Book.
The Torah to those of the Jewish faith, and the Koran for those of the Muslin faith, are of equal significance to their people. All three religions are collectively known as the Faiths of The Book – and not for nothing.

For me, coming back to The Bible arose from a most unusual inspirational book. For my last year (to my shame) I had spent my non-learning moments at a Catholic Convent Girls’ Boarding School – as a “day girl” – denigrating the Catholic beliefs. This for the spiteful reason of denigrating the school, inadequate as it was. But the nuns (and my parents) had more patience (tolerance) than I had realized. I could not get myself expelled for any reason. So, because of my determination to “strike” during my whole last year of compulsory education, I never did qualify.
{Grumbles to self – “All that work for nothing!”

cover_Mr God This is AnnaThe book which brought me back to the Bible was an unusual one. A tale of a London dock-worker who late one night on the street befriends by accident a four-year old child. At home, his mother and the rest of the household discover the child has been a victim of physical abuse. She never leaves their home, but attaches herself to the writer.
He in turn is educating himself, and as the girl observes his gadgets being created and working, and as he observes her “way” of interacting with other dock-side people, and questioning Sunday Services and other people’s interaction, each helps the other come to understand life…and God.
Even in the sadness of the final scene, there is a moving message.
The book is Mister God, This Is Anna, by Fynn. Look for editions which include the Foreword written by the then Archbishop of Canterbury. This is the book which made me do more than drop in on the Bible, but read it – a continuing process.

Now, what brought this post about…I am struggling with artist’s block. And I’ve been looking all around the wide, wonderful web, at blog, self-help and writers’ help sites, reading how other writers deal with this. If I’d saved everything I’d read, I’d fill an external hard-drive. Then, I found mention of firstly, “Morning Pages”, and then of a particular book. Reviews on Amazon, and blog posts describing and recommending it, led me to the author’s website. As soon as I read the website’s content, I shot back to Amazon, and purchased it.

cover_Artists WayIt is The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron. Mine is the 25th Anniversary Edition – that alone helped me decide it was worth a shot. When it arrived, I browsed the contents (read the T O C), and began with the Foreword and Introduction. There arose a glimmer of hope.
This is more than an artist’s self-help book. It is a life book! Ms. Cameron’s guide to self-examination is presented as weekly readings, with probing self-analysis, questions to ask oneself, and suggestions for finding the answers. Hers is the concept of “Morning Pages”, of which I’d begun written a few while awaiting delivery of her book—albeit not every morning.
The Artist’s Way applies to all the arts, design, and creativity in general—and writing is one of the creative arts. I began Week One, and within only two days discovered something important bout myself and my artistic efforts in the past. (I continued through the first week’s Tasks, and am writing this as part of the end-of-week Check In.)
My discovery about my past art attempts has led me to renew my interest in visual art. Which leads me to the fourth book of impact.

cover_Drawing With ChildrenThe fourth book? Back in the 90s, I was laid up recuperating for plastic surgery for metastatic melanoma. Well, not really “laid up” – being in that state was to wait for the late 2000s – but resting each day in a LazyBoy chair, leg raised. I had a book in a back room which I’d bought for using to teach drawing to children, but never at that point opened and read. I asked for it to be brought to me, and a pencil.   By reading through the beginner activities in Drawing With Children *, by Mona Brookes, and trying some of the tasks (drawing in the wide margins) I found I could draw. I drew a self-portrait, from my reflection in a nearby wall mirror. I drew a perfect drawing of my jacket which had been left for days draped from the back of a chair, in such a way that both the outer side (dark blue, with metal studs for fasteners) and the lining (a broad tartan) in view.
So confidant I felt after creating those drawings, I began using Brookes’ method in my Junior Primary classes, for three years. Moving on to HOD of the Intermediate division of a secondary school, I applied the techniques there as well.

Sadly, I decided to quit teaching. Nothing to do with the job—more to do with the ridiculous over assessment required under the most recently deployed new curricula.
Even more sadly, after graduating in IT, I “culled” my teaching books collection, and tossed the Brookes’ Drawing With Children.
But, since beginning to read The Artist’s Way, I have bought a later edition of Drawing With Children.
* (My first copy was the edition with a child’s drawing of an elephant on its cover.)

All four of these books have given me inspiration, understanding, and courage. I am so grateful to have all four beside my bed, to read and refer to regularly.
I would strongly recommend any of these as a “must have” in your book shelves.

Please, share your views on any one of these books, or any other book you have found inspiring to your artist.


2 people who gave me great advice

The first was my mother, Jocelyn (died in 1997).

When I was entering the teen years, she responded to me belly-aching about having to babysit for a couple who gave me the creeps. I had babysat for them once before (and I don’t believe I was paid – my mother was doing them a favour) and I was to sleep overnight on their couch. The four boys all went to bed readlily enough. I only had to remind them to keep their noise down else they wakened the baby, once.

When all was quiet, and the Untouchables episode had finished (now that dates me, yes?), I wrapped myself in the blanket and fell asleep, the couch being comfortable and I being rather naïve. I awoke twice that night to find the father of the house standing watching me sleep; the first time from the hallway door, the second from the end of the sofa.

But when I told mum I didn’t want to go back there, she said…
“When you have a job to do, get on with it”.  I did the babysitting job, but asked the father to drive me home, which he did in spite of being tipsy.

But I have applied that to every job I’ve done.

The second to give me advice – and a better piece of advice I’ve never had – was my father Willy (died c. 1987). We ran a family Dairy (corner store, similar to Abu’s Kwik-E-Mart in The Simpsons). I loved working there after high school. And i enjoyed working with him and with the other employees – including Marge (no, not Simpson).

One day I was so tired, I just wanted to sit out the back and read. I know I may have grumbled a bit.

Dad said…
“If you have a job to do, find the fun in it, and do it well”.

Which led to, when stacking tinned goods on the shelves, Marge writing the price on each can, and rolling them one by one across the shop floor to me to stack. (Yes, writing prices with a felt pen dates me, too.) Customers had to get used to checking the floor for rolling cans every afternoon. We had some hilarious times in the shop.

And both pieces of advice have stuck with me all through my working life as an accountant’s clerk, teacher,  parent, and all the other twenty or so jobs I’ve done.

Others have given me advice, but both my parents’ advice have stuck with me.


This prompted by the Weekly Challenge at…

Who Needs a Dictionary? One Day, I Did!

Embarrassment Delayed, Thank Heavens…

Response to the Dictionary, Smictionary Daily Prompt at …

I’d always been a bit of a jokester (thanks, Dad), and meeting a fellow student at Teachers’ College who also appreciated the double entendre, and not only she, but meeting her in an English course taught by Pat, a drily ironic punster, that first year was a hoot.
Other students would wait for some wise-crack or other. Of special entertainment were the occasions when the three of us, in the midst of a lecture/discussion, would follow a tangent and chase every terrible pun we could fit into a chain of one-liners.

Because of this habit, I got away with an enormous GOTWK (goofup of the worst kind) simply because other students (another paper in the course) who knew me thought I’d made one of my usual bad puns. And it was bad, as I had not at that stage read every word in the dictionary*.
The discussion of the moment was aimed at making us rethink our motivation for wanting to be a teacher.
“What would you have chosen if not teaching?” was the topic.One girl stated she had thought of taking up penal psychology.

“I didn’t know you could study psychology about penises?!” I said, and thinking back, lord alone knows why.

Mass crack-up at my “joke” that wasn’t throughout the room (I Really Did think that was what she meant and Was Genuinely Surprised at her choice), and the would-be penal psychologist turned beet red, and shot me a filthy look.

Hours later, back at my flat, I realized she had Not meant “penile psychology”! Oh the shame! I kept my head down in every lecture the next day, and still snigger at myself for being so D-U-M-B!!!

* …still haven’t. Goof-ups continue, though thankfully more rarely these days

Screensavers and Facebook – working to overcome writer’s block

Overcoming Writer’s Block

Loving Deadlines



Screensavers and Facebook.

Believe it or not, they go together quite nicely, do Facebook and your screensaver.


We read down our Facebook page to see what our friends have Shared, and we click to see it at a larger size, and read the comments made back at its original home. Maybe we even Share it to another friend’s page



And if we like it, we right-mouse click and Save Image. Maybe we even keep all of them in a folder.



Well, I have been trawling all my Facebook friends’ pages and using Save Image 390363_188861601212562_1356699119_n
on every pic I like.

I save them into a particular file folder.
And now I’ve changed my computer’s screensaver to Photos from that particular file folder only,
and set it to change the pictures slowly (as some have a lot of reading to be done to get the best of the message).

If I’m sitting at the computer feeling glum, I can leave it to show me all the happy thoughts and motivators,
things to make me smile or even laugh out loud.



And on a good day suddenly I’ll be back into the mood to fire up the muse and get back to the writing.



Oh, That Could’ve Been Harsh (Daily Post)

Daily Prompt: Sad, but True

“Tell us about the harshest, most difficult to hear — but accurate — criticism you’ve ever received. Does it still apply?”

1970, and as a second-year teachers’ college student I’m on a week’s ‘section’ (a practical practice trial of teaching for real) at a local school, in a class of eleven-year olds.
I’d had a mildly wild first year – “wild” because as a kid from a small country town, on realizing no-one in the city knew my mum I could do what I liked, and I got high on the freedom to speak my mind; “mildly wild” because I didn’t get into drugs of any kind. In fact I’d rubbish those who did – quite loudly.

Anyway, back to that section. My goal was to plan, prep and teach a science lesson, while class teacher took notes, assessing my abilities (if any). My lesson was Geology – how rocks were formed. The Igneous, Sedimentary and Metamorphic, with a set of samples provided by the school and augmented by a collection of mine of semi-precious gem stones. Chunks of obsidian,  scoria and pumice; Crystals – rose quartz, amethyst, peridot and opal. The class were quite a high level of interest, as for a change there were enough samples of every type of rock that every child got to examine and describe more than one.

Unbeknown to me, back at TTC, someone had complained to my lead lecturer about my big mouth insulting idiots in class, and correcting lecturers in mid-lecture when they gave faulty information.

Section over, I had to go see the HOD Science, who apparently was my mentor for the year (though nobody had told me that!), about the success/failure of the science lesson. She commented favourably (IK & NZ English spelling) on the high level of student interest and enjoyment, the high level I’d insisted on in their descriptive writing “as a scientist”, my ability to gain full class participation. Then she told me of my poor planning (gather the samples, and talk to the class. No Goals, Aims  or Objectives, or Ratings Scale for assessing individual learning. Tut, tut.

I made some remark (as I was wont) how “a good teacher shouldn’t need to push paper; their job is to interact on an individual basis with each pupil according to their needs”

“But shouldn’t their needs be recorded/” she asked

“A good teacher should be observing every pupil’s behaviour and conversations, social interaction and working ability, and remembering them.”


An agreeable silence, but … a long silence. Then,

“You are readily vocal with your opinions.” A statement of her opinion, and true.

“Yes, i won’t take rubbish from anyone who is supposed to know what they’re talking about.”

“Do you know,” she said (was that a slight smile at the corners of her mouth?). “you’re like me, when I was your age. One day someone said to me something that applies equally to you,”

“Yes?” I asked, “what was that?”

“My professor said of me ‘One thing she does badly is suffer fools gladly’  You need to keep that in mind as you continue through your career. Oh, by the way, your section assignment –  I’ve graded it as an A-. Off you go – I’m sure your cronies will be waiting to share a cigarette or two with you.” and I was dismissed.

Her advice, that little jingle which had applied to her and now me, was intended as a criticism.

Such is the arrogance of youth, I took it as a compliment!

Does it still apply? Damn straight! I can be as critical as hell if faced with academics who teach subjects not students, with bureaucrats who make rules but don’t live with them, with young adults who whine “no one told us” or “I didn’t know”, after years of instruction at school re drug & alcohol abuse.

Just one little quote (and there are many just as succinct)…

“Those who will not reason, are bigots; those who cannot, are fools; and those who dare not, are slaves.” – – – Lord Byron

[Read more at ]

Objective vs Subjective Writing

Early in the Creative Writing Course I studied at Waiariki Institute (in Rotorua, NZ) one of our weekly exercises was to create a description of “a room” – firstly using an objective style, then a subjective style. Here are my two efforts. When you’ve read them through – tell me what Grade you’d give it for its effective meething of the brief, and why or why not you graded it as you did.

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

The Lounge, objectively described

This living room is obviously of “minimalist” decor, with plain cream walls. The architect of the whole house has been conservationist in style, using recycled Rimu beams to support the ceiling. The floor is of varnished particle board; all very plain and functional. The wood-burning fire in the corner is sparse of colour or decorative effects. The room receives sun from dawn to dusk, so it’s warm more often than not. The only decorative touches – the landlord has left a white fringed, red floral rug in the centre of the room, and curtains of muted pink green and gold in abstract patterns. The residents have hung bland oil paintings. The furniture is an eclectic mix of aged and modern – grey leather and black and chrome electronic gear.

(127 words)

The Lounge, subjectively shown

Every grey, leather seat in the room has someone from the family on it. Everyone’s attention is on the person to tell about what has been happening in busy lives so far apart. Someone gets up to put some logs in the fire-box. Two are standing by the CD racks, debating the merits of AC/DC over Mega Death. The cat is on the floor, making us laugh as she wrestles the fringing on the end of the brightly coloured rug. Almost drowning out the simultaneous conversations is a sudden rush of calls from the trees outside the window, and we all pause, remembering how Dad used to put bird feeders for Silver Eyes and Tuis in every garden he’d ever had. The room is ready for him to walk in at any moment, and we’re all light hearted here.

(139 words)

© Lynne McAnulty-Street, Rotorua NZ, 2010

Okay – Grade me!