These hands

imageThese are the hands I raise to heaven
When I thank God for you.
These are the hands that will guard your heart,
Defend you,
Hold your face when I kiss you,
Wipe away your every tear,
Fold in prayer for you,
These are the hands.

This is part of a poem I wrote fourteen years ago, shortly after my first son was born. Unearthed today in the midst of a search for something else.

Lucid Nightmare

I have a recurring dream. In it, someone I love and should be able to trust does something horrible. The worst part is, this person thinks it’s fine and has no qualms about having done it. Moreover, s/he keeps talking and talking about it. Just won’t shut up.

I hate this dream.

Only last time I had it, about a week ago, the dream changed. Everything went as usual until the part where I normally wake up. This time, I stayed in it long enough to speak up for myself. I simply said, “This is wrong and it hurts me.” Usually in the dream, my mom sits by my refrigerator giving me a reproachful look. But this time when she turned to look at me, she wasn’t my mom. She was ME. Tears rolling down my cheeks, I smiled at myself.

I think the initial dream has to do with my lack of trust. I don’t feel I can count on those close to me to make wise, moral decisions. I cannot trust them to take my feelings into account. I see that maybe they don’t know any better, but it hurts just the same. And of course, dear old mom is standing by ready to disapprove.

But with the new twist, I feel like I stood up for myself. I said plainly that what was going on was harmful to me. I advocated for myself. The other person’s behavior didn’t change, but mine did. I woke up just as emotional as ever, but with a more positive charge to it because I had done something different. And instead of looking to my mother, I was looking to myself for approval.

It feels like a turning point.

My son has practiced lucid dreaming for over a year now. He gave me some pointers on how to know when I’m in the dream. He says while I’m awake I need to practice noticing something in the dream, so when I’m asleep and see the object, I can check my lucidity. His example was if I see a bird fly overhead, I can count my fingers. If I count only two fingers, I’ll know I’m dreaming. so I’ve been thinking about sticking my arm through the refrigerator door. If I can do it, I’ll know I’m in the dream.

So what will I say or do next time? I know I can’t change the other person’s behavior. I probably can’t change my own trust issues overnight, either. But what can I change?

What would you do? Have you ever tried to control your dreams or had a lucid dream? Did it work?

Daily prompt: Nightmare

10 ways to optimize Google searches

Recently an entrepreneur told me he needed to find one hundred pieces of quality content for his company’s new blog. 

“Piece of cake,” I said. 
“WHAT?!?” He was totally skeptical, which surprised me. I thought everyone knew how to do a google search. 
Anyway, he asked for a few pointers. I presented him with these 10 search term strategies. 
I’m happy to report he found the stellar content he was searching for. Maybe you’ll find what you’re looking for, too.
Before getting to the 10 strategies for better Google searches, make a list (mental or written) of what you hope to find. Writers’ lists should include genres, topics, poetry formats, word lengths, etc. My most recent search was for watercolors and included search terms related to paints, papers, and name brands of watercolor suppliers.
Two keys: Be general. Be specific. They sound like opposites, I know. But you’ve got to use terminology everyone in your field uses, AND get specific about which aspect of the industry you want more info about.
Then add the following:
1. Use words like best, top, five stars. 
2. Use superlatives in your field. If you’re searching for cleaning products, use search words like cleanest. Musician? Try rockin‘. (Fo realz.) 
3. Put 2015 in the search bar, or since it’s early in the year, 2014. Eliminate obsolete answers from outdated websites. 
4. Get specific. Looking for guitars? Use brand names like Fender or types like acoustic, bass, etc. 
5. Enter the name of a specific item + “review.” Benefit from others’ experiences by reading reviews. (Bonus: “review” is an especially handy search word for writers since so many literary journals have the word in their title!)
6. Type in “how to” + whatever you’re interested in. 
“How to dissect frog’s eye.” 
“How to clean grout.” 
“How to Coldplay Clocks bass line.” 
(Note: search terms DO NOT have to be complete sentences or even make sense. Google, or whichever search engine you’re using, looks for the words, not necessarily the order of the words. Also, fillers like “a” or “the” are unnecessary.)
7. Look for magazines, newspapers and journals related to your search. I often search “flash fiction villanelle horror journal submission” or such like. Not pretty, but it works.
8. Subscribe to relevant websites, blogs, podcasts. Links will be abundant. FOLLOW THE RABBIT.
9. Subscribe to newsletters. Read with an eye for new search terms, especially buzzwords specific to your topic. Our church recently latched onto the term “missional communities.” After a few titillating laughs with Punk, I searched the term and realized it’s a thing. A Christian thing. Who knew?
10. Speaking of knew. NEW. If vague search terms give you blah results, adding the word “new” can occasionally perk things up.
What are you searching for? How can I help you search smarter?

from zero to author in 40 years flat

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