The Peter Principle–Reached

The Peter principle is a concept in management theory formulated by Laurence J. Peter and published in 1969. It states that the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and “managers rise to the level of their incompetence”. Text and illustration from Wikimedia.

An email arrived in my inbox yesterday, advising me of updates to WordPress that MUST be made and if said receiver of email hadn’t done so yet, click on this link.

That was the first step on the above stairway to chaos. I successfully deleted said email because I don’t click on ANY links in email and especially from people I don’t know.

But then, I went to WordPress and had a long chat, meaning a chat via text not voice, with an accommodating tech who said, “Hmmmm. That’s curious…” and proceeded to put me on hold while he checked it out. Didn’t come from WordPress, he came back to write. Just delete it as spam. But your email address is visible to anyone and perhaps I should buy Privacy. But my email address isn’t on my site, I said, and he went on to explain how some site or another has all these addresses listed, but I could buy Privacy from, oh, I don’t remember the name, something like BOTARMY (probably not but all in caps, but whoever processes my payment to Bluehost for hosting my site name) and said I could buy Privacy for my account there.

Now. Mind you, I’ve been on some kind of computerized communication since the late 1980s, let’s say more or less 1987, when I bought my beloved Smith Corona Portable Word Processor on some rare trip to the states and lugged it back through suspicious Mexican customs to sit on a desk, in front of a window, in my apartment in the Zona Rosa in Mexico City, only to lug it back to Washington D.C. in 1989, to lug it to Hawaii in 1992, to lug it to Georgia in 1993, to take it to Santa Fe in 1994, where I bought my first HP computer in 1995 and signed up for email, and the Smith Corona and its disks went into an overhead storage shelf in my little 600 square foot adobe in Santa Fe. I have become fairly adept at electronic communication in the meantime.

That’s probably more than you want to know and this is likely to become a really long post.

So anyway, I’ve been on a real computer with Windows and email and all that stuff since 1995 and I advanced up the stairway rather successfully. I do, in fact, have stored files from those first disks and even a machine to plug into current PC and read said disks. Maybe I had floppies, but I can’t remember and I don’t have any saved so maybe I didn’t. I do, however, have saved disks from the Smith Corona, and if anyone knows how to read said small disks, and I’ve looked, mercy, I’ve looked, let me know.

Anyway, back to yesterday. So. WordPress guy said contact my site name provider, in short. And I did, and had a realllllly long chat with said provider who used to host my website but now doesn’t but has to host my name because WordPress doesn’t have that ability yet…although I wish they would get it as it would simplify my life. At least it would have yesterday.

So at any rate, I advanced to the next step after very long chat, and since I rarely go to Bluehost except to re-sign up again to host my name (isn’t my name MINE???), I’d forgotten how to get there and what to do once I did. The chat person was patient. It was a long chat of me going back and forth trying to make sense of what I couldn’t do. Fortunately (although it didn’t feel fortunate at the time), I lost the connection to chat person and couldn’t retrieve it. But it went something like this:

Okay. Here’s the problem. church06 with new password doesn’t work. The old domain cotincarnation.org doesn’t exist anymore so I still can’t log in.

5:03:55 PM Anujna P can you login using : cotincarnation.org or janetsunderland.com

5:04:33 PM Janet Sunderland I don’t know. let me see.

5:04:51 PM Anujna P sure

5:08:35 PM Janet Sunderland I can get in and I can update information, but I can’t get to anything. It says the account was ended in 2012.

Anyway, this went on for a very long time before the chat dropped (and possibly, Anujina was really tired of answering my inane questions and stopped). However, I had managed to go in, change the password and log in name, signed up with Privacy (it’s a one click deal wouldn’t you know) and, oh, yes, updated the credit card info.

But I called anyway and spoke to a very kind and patient tech who walked me through what I’d done, set me up for automatic renewal, and reminded me how to get around on the BlueHost site.

And then I got off the phone, noted all information the the passcode book, and took a nap.

I have risen to the level of incompetence with computers, that much is obvious.

But I shall persevere. I mean, what am I going to do if I don’t? My history, if not in the stacks of journals I lug from place to place, is in computer files.

Whine. I guess I can whine. Not particularly charming or effective, but you have now, if you’ve reached this point, read the whine and possibly even absolved me. Maybe you’ve even laughed.

The end.

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A Memoir Class to Remember

Memoir and Personal Essay: Four Weeks: June 5 to June 26, 2017; Monday evenings, 6:30 P.M. Central Time

Have you thought about writing your memoir? Is there something bubbling inside that you really want to write about? Do you have an idea for a personal essay to submit for publication?

If you’re not sure, think about this question: What’s the most important thing that’s ever happened to you? Now. There’s a story!

You’ll learn to think about writing a personal essay or a book-length memoir like building a house, focusing on structure, situation, and story. Structure (the foundation and studs) – defines the beginning, middle, end, and time-line; Situation (the walls of each room) – describes what happens, along with characteristics of people, place, and sensory details, to build a picture in the reader’s mind and lift the words from the paper into another’s experience; Story (the color scheme, furniture, and decorations) – presents the writer’s experience and journey of self-discovery to create a reliable narrator for the reader. All of this comes together to bring the You alive so readers will live through you. Suitable for both experienced and emerging writers.

Participants will complete a manuscript of about 1,500 words to use as a stand-alone piece or the start of a longer manuscript. We’ll use a private Facebook page as a communication tool, and I’ll offer ideas or suggestions for your work in progress and do a comprehensive revision on your final piece. I’ll also give you suggestions on where you could publish a personal essay if you choose to and/or how to publish a manuscript on Amazon.

I’ll be teaching online live through Zoon and will send out a link each week for you to log in. It’s easy. All you need to do is download Zoon from the above link, create a log in and password, and when I send out the email reminder, just click on the link in the email at the designated time. It’s very easy to use. (https://zoom.us/feature). I suggest using Chrome for your platform, both for Zoon and for our Facebook work, as it allows greater mobility online. For example, you can upload a manuscript on Facebook using Chrome.

To register go to the Shati Arts webpage. And stop saving those great ideas on a spare envelope!

A former memoir workshop participant wrote: “As an instructor, Janet is engaging and direct, providing structured guidance and feedback while also encouraging my unique writing to emerge.” | “Most inspiring for me was how she emphasized the power of our personal stories: valuing, articulating, and writing our truths to share with others.

I’ll also be teaching Spiritual Writing in October so stay tuned for information on that later. You can check out the spiritual writing blurb on the Shanti Arts website below the memoir blurb.

Best wishes in your writing,

Janet

The Multiplicity of Pilgrimages

And I also do believe that we have this possibility of doing a pilgrimage every single day. Because a pilgrimage implies in meeting different people, in talking to strangers, in paying attention to the omens, and basically being open to life. And we leave our home to go to work, to go to school, and we have every single day this possibility, this chance of discovering something new. So the pilgrimage is not for the privileged one who can go to Spain, and to France, and walk this 500 miles, but to people who are open to life. A pilgrimage, at the end of the day, is basically get rid of things that you are used to and try something new.       Paul Coehlo

A friend turned me on to a podcast interview with Coehlo. Too late to listen, I was able to read the transcript.

I’ve been on a pilgrimage to clean the house, well, the upstairs. Basically, that was my try something new part. My husband cleaned the downstairs a few days ago. He got the kitchen, me the bathrooms and the office and the writing room. He managed the work in one day; I’m on day two with the writing room still to go.

I could whine a little, say all the stuff on shelves and layers of saved pieces of paper on the desk and the bookcases were harder than the kitchen where things all have their place, but I won’t.

In many ways, cleaning the upstairs is a sort of pilgrimage. I cleaned windows and floors, washed and put away the extra fleece blanket I keep on my side of the bed for cold nights, hand washed the rabbit wool socks and retired them for the season.

While we’ve had a lot of rain and chilly days, the sun is now out and growing warm. As I cleaned the little office window, I saw the purple iris are blooming in the back garden. The purple iris are often a topic in my blog posts. There’s one here, and another here, but if you simply put iris in my blog’s search box, there’s several. Seeing them reminds me of the pilgrimage involved in going home.

The office shelves are full of photos. Some of my husband and me, and that takes me on a journey in time, remembering when that photo was taken; another I took of my sister when I lived in Hawaii. There’s a little blue Chinese teapot with gold dragons my son gave me one Christmas, and a small silver kaleidoscope he gave me another year. And books, mercy are there books.

On the top shelf are the art books from when I was going to be a sculptor, forty years ago. The History of Art. That’s a big one. Downstairs, I still have a bust I sculpted from clay, made a cast of, and poured in molten something or another. It’s not metal, but it is heavy. I call her my Bedouin Woman.

The office also holds Cliff’s pilgrimages. One corner shelf, defying easy dusting, is filled on one level with hockey pucks, including one signed by Patrick Roy, my favorite goalie, one year, years ago, when we were in Denver. Another shelf is full of baseballs from various stadiums where he’s watched games.

A spring-cleaned room is a destination one can rejoice in. Yes, yes, I still have the writing room, which, if you could see it, is a little scary. Talk about pieces of paper and books! I am not a tidy writer.

Four floor to ceiling bookcases, filled, mind you, cover one wall and wrap around one corner. Another corner holds a antique built in corner shelf with frilly cut sides (it came with the house) and is filled, mostly, with stones and tiny collections from the places I’ve traveled. Another corner shelf, matching with frilly cut sides, is filled with books and one ceramic lady whose wide skirt is open at the sides for flowers. I painted it, once, so long ago I don’t know when except childhood, and there’s layers of papers and old manuscripts.

I have left this writing room for last. It will feel like 500 miles to Santiago de Compostela by the time I’ve finished, and I will surely feel virtuous.

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Enter Actor

Yesterday, in one of my alt-personalities, I spent the day being an actor. While seldom a topic in my writing, this gig deserved a post. However, unlike my younger friends, it didn’t occur to me to snap any photos on my cell phone; 1. because I was playing a senior; and 2. because I am a senior.

But truth is, I’ve rarely shot photos when I’m on a film shoot: there are cameras in so many directions, front, side, several movie cameras rolling and still shots shooting, it hardly seems necessary for more.

The coolest thing, (besides being able to work as a professional actor, which I have been since 1979, professional in that’s when I joined the Screen Actors Guild although I’d been a nonprofessional since grade school), was I learned about a really cool program being developed in Kansas.

My role was that of a rural Kansas woman with two morbidity diseases (meaning, I learned, two diseases that could lead to sudden death i.e. cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease) and who was some distance away from health care practitioners. She wasn’t Ma Kettle if that’s what you’re thinking. Rather, one of many people in Kansas, especially seniors, who often still live on their farms or in small towns with no hospital.

Here’s the program, developed by KU Med Center on the Kansas side of Kansas City: it teaches rural people how to use a digital tablet to contact a health care practitioner for regular, live checkups, including checking their medications, a nurse-practitioner trained in remote care to listen to complaints, address concerns, give dietary and exercise information, and a way to get help immediately. The company setting up this program with KU Med even provides a portable receiver and trains the seniors how to use the remarkably simple tablet.

The representative of the company told me they have also partnered with several smaller hospitals throughout Kansas.

With all the who-ha about the Affordable Health Care debate, this is a valuable digital outreach. I’m probably somewhat biased because K.U. Med is our health care provider and I appreciate their Complementary Medicine department (I don’t take meds and rely on complementary medicine).

Okay. Enough about them. Now about me :). As always, I had a great time. While I’ve worked on stage and did for many years, I much prefer working in film. There’s less drama. No one yells, you’re a team, everyone says thank you often, and voices are calm. I realize there are difficult film directors and crazy film actors, but I’ve not had that experience.

The other cool thing about yesterday was I learned they chose me for this woman struggling with her health for another reason: they’d seen my reel on my agent’s site. A reel, for those who don’t know, is a short film with clips from several of an actor’s projects.

So, since this is an intro to a piece of my life you probably know little about, here’s a link to my most recent reel on Talent Unlimited, my acting agency for years. When you click on that link, you’ll arrive at my home page; in the middle of the page, there’s a link that says DEMO REELS. Click on that. There’s four scenes from four different projects. You’ll notice I play old women often… or rather, always. One of my most favorite ever roles is the last one on this clip. Still makes me laugh.

And I’m still working. I will be the Judy Dench nobody’s ever heard of. Except you. And at the end of the day, like all working seniors, I was plumb tuckered out.

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…with a little help from my friends….

I’m a memorist who explores how personal history shapes our choices and how learning to accept and forgive failed choices leads to a more fulfilling life.

or

I’m a memorist who’s spent her life learning how to love and how to forgive herself and to keep a sense of humor as I mentor others in those skills.

 

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working with a book, Be The Gateway, by Dan Blank. A great book on marketing…(oh the dreaded word marketing).

His writing is easy to read and his challenges to look at the way we present out work are, well, challenging. For example, in writing a bio, which I’ve done and revised and done and revised over the years, beginning, of course, with my name and Janet Sunderland is a….and all that, Dan says not to. An eye-opening sentence: “Nine months after someone reads your book, what do you want them to think quietly in their heads about the world you have opened for them?”

I finally arrived at self-forgiveness.

That was in the Craft a Mission Statement chapter on page 39. That ten page chapter has taken me ten days to complete. After writing my bio, which took a long time, the above statements are what I crafted as my mission statement.

The thing is, it’s not just my life I write about. I write about my mother, family, land, and other people, so it seems the first is perhaps more effective overall. Maybe I need to add keeping a sense of humor to the first one?

Here’s where a little help from my friends comes in. What do you think of them? What ideas would either give you? And after reading the below bio, which I will insert into a query letter to agents, what do you think of it? I could really use some feedback and those of you who know my writing after all these years of reading it (thank you all so much), probably have a better handle than anyone.

So here ’tis…the bio. Please comment, give feedback, say whatever you think might help me, including “this confused me…” (I’ve heard that a lot with my various and varied pieces, so feel free.) One of the things Dan Blank wrote for an opening statement: “something that your ideal reader would read and say “YES! This!”

BIO:

Most of us struggle, at some level, in outgrowing childhood. We were too tall or too short, too loud or too quiet, too fat or too skinny, too argumentative or too passive, and sometimes abused physically, emotionally, or sexually. Sometimes parents divorced, or a parent or grandparent died, leaving us stunned and fearful. We call it trauma, but it’s a wound that’s won’t heal.

Written on the Reverse is a memoir to explore how childhood trauma led me on a journey of transformation to heal and learn who I am is enough. The journey taught me forgiveness for myself, my father, and my grandfather. I also learned how difficult it is to trust love and how rewarding.

My journey from Mexico to Washington D.C., to a healing community in Hawaii, to Georgia for family tasks, and finally to Santa Fe recounts how my destination was always written on the reverse of a crossroad sign in ink destined to remain invisible for an unspecified span of years. All I had was trust in the journey to connect my dreams to reality. Throughout my journey, beginning in Washington D.C., I dreamed of this man as I named him, who, in dreams, came to me when I was struggling, or just to check in, and whom I met in Santa Fe.

In short, the memoir offers hope. For over twenty years, I’ve helped others learn to trust their journey, practice forgiveness, see themselves as valuable, and heal leftover wounds. While I’ve changed the world one person at a time with one-on-one mentoring and in college public speaking and writing classes, this memoir will guide a wider audience.

I’ve earned a BFA and two graduate degrees, but I’ve written all my life, or rather from age eight in my first diary. My mother was a writer and my grandmother a poet. My childhood in Kansas filled itself with words and books. My first published poem was in a college literary magazine. Since then, I’ve published essays and poetry in many journals, and a collection of poetry, Written on the Reverse, by Finishing Line Press. As a memoirist, the most life-changing books were Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook (I began keeping a journal), Natalie Goldberg (most of hers), and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I no longer teach in college but I do lead writing workshops. My husband and I live in Kansas City in a 1924 built house. A Romare Bearden quote is taped to the window in front of my writing desk: Artists are like mice. They need old houses where they can roam around and nobody bothers them. I tend to wander around.

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Thanking you all, again, in advance. In many ways, you have been my gateway for years.

J.