Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Shelley and Zoey’

The Gratitude Tree (with Some Writing Advice)

In Being Thankful, Gratitude Tree, Thanksgiving, Writing, Writing Advice on November 25, 2018 at 6:00 pm

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The Gratitude Tree is a great exercise to figure out what makes you thankful by placing leaves on the metal branches.

Each year, my family and I write on cutout leaves what we’re thankful for and put them on the Gratitude Tree.

The tradition, in its third year this year, is something we do at my mother’s assisted living facility during the Thanksgiving noon meal of the traditional fare of turkey, the sides and pumpkin pie. The volunteer director of activities greeted the 75 people in the room Nov. 22 and asked them to write down one thing but to choose something that isn’t obvious like family or friends. She gave us a half-hour while we started eating and then walked around the room holding up the Gratitude Tree, a metal centerpiece with wire branches, which we filled with the leaves.

I had to think, because my obvious ones are family, friends, writing and having a job. I also love coffee and had put that last year, along with my dog, Zoey, my apartment and my business, because we weren’t limited to just one leaf, and I took four of the leaves left in a small pile on our table.

Starting the Day with Gratitude

We started eating, and I couldn’t think of what to put that isn’t obvious. I thought about how I start my day—with running and drinking coffee—and how both give me energy as my happy kick starters.

I run to boost my metabolism and get rid of my pain—I have fibromyalgia—and I drink coffee for the caffeine rush and mental stimulation. In other words, I’m thankful I don’t have to take medication and can use exercise as treatment, and I have coffee to look forward to once I’m out the door and started with my day. Both serve as a form of motivation to get going and part of my going is writing.

My mom wrote, “The first sip of coffee in the morning,” saying she likes the taste and how it gets her going, too. My brother, Brian, put Mountain Dew, because that’s how he gets his energy boost. For my brother’s wife, it’s “Music and Movies.”

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My family poses in front of the Gratitude Tree. From left are my sister-in-law, Kim, my brother, Brian, my mother, Mary, and me, Shelley Widhalm of Shell’s Ink Services.

I saw from the activity that I have a deeper level of thankfulness—I, too, work on daily gratitude and repeating my list of things that give me a thankful pause.

Reflecting on what makes us thankful is incredibly important for positive mental health. Writing out that gratitude is helpful and a great reminder when negative thoughts interrupt and dampen the holidays or the start of a day. I like to run toward positivity full of energy, filling my writing cup.

If you like to write, what do you love about writing?

Thankful for Writing

Here are a few reasons I’m thankful for writing. Writing is a way to:

  • Have a hobby or job that results in a physical product.
  • Be creative, even for a few minutes or a few hours.
  • Express yourself and figure out what you really think or feel about something.
  • Make connections with memory or experiences that you might not otherwise make by thinking or talking.
  • Play around with words and language—it’s similar to a puzzle where you have to figure out what and how to write.
  • Improve your use of language and ability to effectively get your message across.
  • Tell stories and disappear into another world.

It’s interesting to see what you create out of the blank page, though intentional about your form, such as something short, like a blog or poem, to something spanning the length of a book. Writing is a process of discovery that also gives you a sense of accomplishment, just like running for a certain mile or time count. It’s a pleasure just like that first sip of coffee.

What parts of writing make you grateful that you love to write?

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The Work (and Poetry) of an Assisted Living Facility

In Community Poets, Poetry Readings, Writing Poetry on October 7, 2018 at 5:00 pm

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Shelley Widhalm reads some of her poetry at the “Good Work” poetry reading Sept. 23 at the Loveland Museum in Loveland, Colo.

Every time I visit my mother at her assisted living facility, I walk down the halls, feeling wonder at the corkboards filled with cutout magazine pages.

One of the residents, Deloros, considers it her job to fill the white walls with images of wildlife, birds, historic ruins and travel—and sometimes people at work. She cuts out the images, tapes them to construction paper and highlights the text, turning routine magazine articles into art, education and entertainment.

Deloros says she needs to finish her work before lunch as I stop to talk and let her pet my dog, Zoey, a long-haired miniature dachshund. I commiserate, because I know I would want the same thing in my retirement years—some sense of work and purpose. She tells me it helps her get up and going with her day.

“Some feel lost until they have work,” is a line from a poem that perfectly fits our weekly encounters.

Good Work! Poetry Reading

The poem is about life at an assisted living facility and one of 15 that poets read Sept. 23 at the seasonal poetry reading hosted by the Community Poets in Loveland, Colo.

The poetry reading, “Good Work!—A Post-Labor Day Celebration,” featured an open mike and the reading of poems focused on the autumnal equinox, work and going back to school. The poems were on subjects as varied as working in a mailroom, doing a long list of random jobs, going to a job interview, questioning choosing college over steady work, disliking repetitive factory tasks and seeing the act of pushing a pencil across the page as heavy work. My poems were about doing dishes and taking the trash to the trash room.

“It’s easy to get lost in your career,” was a line from one of the poems, and I related.

I find that working too much pushes out real life and fun if the hours become too many—and then I realize I need to work less to be a little more balanced. I wonder what I will do when I retire and how I’ll fill my days. Will I think I have to work, just like Deloros does? Will I be writing my novels and journaling because I believe it’s incredibly important? Will I be published and have “my work” continue bringing in money? Or will the work be something that gets me up to be doing something, anything, just as long as I keep busy?

One of the poems was about Bud, whose job is listening to stories—and it turns out Bud is a dog. Zoey’s jobs involve going on walks, doing tricks and offering comfort to her human companions and those she passes by, like Deloros. She stops to visit Deloros and listens to her stories about her work, wiggling her body at the excitement of being included. I always smile, fascinated by the Deloros’s artwork and the love she gives Zoey.

Taking Poetry Notes

During the poetry reading, I didn’t take very careful notes. I scribbled on tiny yellow and orange piece of papers with poems on them, writing on the back sides of “The Real Work,” by Wendell Berry and two copies of a poem by Gary Snyder, “Hay for Horses.” I forgot my work of being a journalist, absorbed in being a poet and a listener of poetry, marveling at the beauty of the lines and images the poets presented. In other words, I forgot to work.

“It was so much creativity and beauty and heart and soul put into versions of work,” said Lynn Kincanon, a member of the Community Poets, adding that the poets sharing their work was “a community gift.”

The Community Poets, a group of local poets and organizations that organizes poetry readings and workshops in Loveland, will hold the next seasonal reading Dec. 16 on Frosty Nights and the Pleasures of Winter, inspired by the poetry of Robert Frost, at the Loveland Museum. The poetry readings are held every season, and the workshops are held twice a year in April and August.

 

How to Train Your Writing (and Your Puppy)

In Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Discipline, Writing Motivation, Writing Tips on August 5, 2018 at 5:00 pm

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Zoey the Dachshund demonstrates Up as one of her obedience tricks.

Improving writing skills and training a puppy have some similarities.

I got Zoey, a long-haired miniature dachshund, nine years ago when she was nine weeks old. I started writing when I was eight or nine—short stories and cute poems—becoming serious about it in college.

With both, I had to train my puppy and I had to train my writing. Neither came naturally to me, so I had to become a student to learn the essentials and then become more proficient with practice.

Training Writing, Training a Puppy

I found that to do either well requires research, experience and knowledge—and, of course, patience. I read about a dozen books about dog training, dog behavior and the dachshund breed, and with writing, I read close to 50 books about the writing process and various elements of writing, along with two monthly magazines.

I took Zoey to puppy kindergarten and through intermediate training to provide her with skills in basic obedience. She received a certificate and had her photo taken with a mini-dog graduation cap.

To make sure there isn’t slide, we practice those skills on a daily basis—commands like sit, down, stay, shake and come and walking on a leash. We, however, haven’t got past the treat effect—Zoey expects and requires a treat for each skill she demonstrates. For her shakes, she rapidly waves her paw as she tries to be patient. I touch it and give her what she wants.

We go on walks, and I learned that I shouldn’t pull her on her leash but patiently wait for her to understand what I want through treats and praises. I praise her when she walks and wait her out when she sniffs. I praise her when we return to walking. She gets a treat when we get home.

She especially likes it when people want to stop and give her attention—dogs are social animals and need to have comfort and routine.

How to Improve Writing, Dog Behavior

Here are a few things I learned about maintaining good behavior in a dog (and how it relates to writing):

  • Provide at least 30 minutes of exercise a day to keep the dog healthy and to release energy that when unused can result in poor behaviors (write at least once a week to keep up the routine and practice of writing; more if there is time).
  • Do obedience training to improve the dog’s mental stamina and prowess (do writing prompts, even for five minutes, to stimulate the mind and promote larger pieces of writing).
  • Do obedience training on a consistent basis to turn a dog’s good behaviors into a habit (write on a consistent basis, such as once a week, to turn that practice into a habit).
  • Offer regular playtimes, so the dog can build a relationship with you and also have fun (think of writing as a hobby and something that is for after work or playtime).
  • Pet the dog through belly rubs, head patting and massages to create an emotional bond (think of your writing as a relationship between you and your words).
  • Set the same time every night for bedtime, so that dogs have an expectation of when to settle down (write at the same time and in the same place to create an expectation that now is the time to write, even if the writing may not seem good or out of flow, or at least at first).

These are just a few ways to provide a pattern to let the dog (and your writing self) know what to expect, thereby establishing a good routine to follow. The result is a well-trained dog and a well-trained writer, eager to get to the work and fun of both.

Birthday Break from Blogging

In Birthday wishes, Birthdays, Blogging, Cute Dogs on April 30, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Today is my birthday, and it is the last day of National Poetry Month.

Someone told me I’m lucky to have my birthday during this special month. I agree, though I can’t remember how old I am.

To celebrate, I thought I’d take a break from writing and editing and spend the day with my cute puppy, Zoey. She’s nine, so she’s actually not a puppy. I just think of her that way because when she walks, she bounces.

Here are some pictures of Zoey the cutest dachshund ever, including one of her as a birthday girl!

Zoey opens some of her presents for her second birthday.  She gets to open presents for birthdays and Christmas holidays and typically gets treats, rawhide and a couple of toys.

Zoey hangs out with some of her toys, including her favorite stuffed bunny!

Zoey loves teddy bears that are her size, but has a toy box full of them from mini to extra large.

Valentine’s Day and a Writing Love

In Editing, Loving Writing, Uncategorized, Writing on February 14, 2018 at 2:00 pm

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Besides writing, Zoey the Cute Dachshund is another of my Valentine’s Day loves!

Valentine’s Day is about declaring your love for someone—or something.

It’s about cards, flowers and candy. But it also can be about other loves— a hobby, a passion or a job.

For me, my love is writing, and a close second is editing.

Here are a few things to love about writing:

  • Writing is a way to figure out what you really think or feel about something.
  • It’s a way to be creative.
  • It’s a way to play around with words and language.
  • It’s a way to improve your understanding of words and how to be concise with language and how to effectively get message across.
  • It’s a way to express yourself, using your intelligent and creative minds at the same time.
  • It’s a way to make connections with text, memory or experiences that you might not otherwise make by thinking or talking.
  • It’s a way to tell stories and disappear into another world, where you don’t see the page and can’t tell you’re writing.
  • It’s a way to be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do, going places and doing things you might not do otherwise.
  • And it’s interesting to find out what it is you created after spending a few minutes or hours on a story or essay. It’s a process of discovery.

Writing is an accomplishment:

Lastly, it gives you a sense of accomplishment after completing a story, meeting a word or time goal and finishing a novel or other large project.

In essence, it’s reciprocal, just like love, because you give your words and you get back a product, starting in rough draft form. But as you get to know each other even more, you develop a relationship, turning something rough into your perfect match.

Merry Christmas with Cute Puppy Photos

In Cute Dachshunds, Cute Dogs, Holiday Traditions, Holidays on December 24, 2017 at 6:00 pm

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Zoey chews her new Nylabone after opening her presents during a previous Christmas celebration.

Merry Christmas Eve and Merry Christmas! Today and tomorrow are days to celebrate and not think about writing, blogging or editing—unless you’re a journaler or impulse poem writer.

This week, I thought I’d share some photos of my family holiday traditions that, of course, include cute puppy photos of Zoey the Very Cute Dachshund. She just turned 9 on Dec. 20, so she loves treats, toys and attention, all T-type words!

My family and I used to open up stocking gifts on Christmas Eve and presents under the tree on Christmas Day. Now, we mainly trade gift cards and an occasional present. We get together at my mom’s assisted living place, eat the noon meal, talk and then open presents. Zoey gets her own presents, too, usually rawhide, treats, a new toy and a re-wrapped teddy bear. She opens her presents all on her own!

Have a Merry Christmas and happy holidays and happy however you cherish your traditions. Happy New 2018!

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Zoey opens her own presents during a previous Christmas celebration.

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Zoey seeks more presents for Christmas, because more is better!

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Zoey is tired from all of the Christmas fun!

The Writing Puppy Challenge (or getting yourself to write during the holidays

In Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Discipline, Writing Goals on December 10, 2017 at 6:00 pm

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Zoey the Cute Dachshund opens her presents every Christmas and wants more!

Every year, I write a Christmas letter, and every year, I wrap Christmas presents or put them in gift bags with fancy ribbon.

For the first task, I go it alone, but for the second, I have a little helper.

My helper is my miniature dachshund Zoey, who will be nine years on Dec. 20—I got her when she was nine weeks. She grabs at the wrapping paper and shreds it with her teeth, so after a couple of years of this, I came up with a plan—distraction. I gave her vet-approved rawhide that she could chew, while I wrapped presents, including hers of more rawhide, treats, toys and re-gifted teddy bears (she has too many!)

Distraction, especially if it becomes a daily occurrence, doesn’t help with retaining a writing routine. During the holidays, there are the holiday parties and dinners, family get-togethers, shopping, writing Christmas letters and other time-filling activities. Without balance, discipline and a plan, these activities can become a distraction from the main goal—keeping the writing momentum going.

Writing Routines

Here are a few ways to be disciplined in writing no matter the time of year:

  • Buy a planner or use a phone app for 2018 and schedule specific writing days.
  • Write daily, or at least a couple of times a week, selecting a specific time or place to write; i.e. keep office hours.
  • Clock in the hours you write, both for accountability and to acknowledge what you’ve accomplished and add up the hours every week or month and compare them over time.
  • Write for five or 10 minutes in between other activities, using a notebook that you always have with you. Those minutes will add up.
  • Write a writing action plan with goals for the year and check in every few weeks to mark your progress.
  • Take a writer’s retreat, even if it’s in your hometown, setting aside a weekend to focus on writing (maybe as a reward for surviving the holidays or just before everything gets busy).

The Writing Reward

Writing can be a reward once you get started as you mark progress toward your goals and reach those accomplishments, while also being able to engage in holiday fun. I like to see how many hours I spent on writing my novels, writing poetry and revising my work over the course of a year. I can tell when I’ve gotten distracted, and this year, I put in fewer hours, spending a great deal of time building my business.

But this holiday, I’m getting back on track and returning to my original goal of writing at least two times a week and fitting in writing whenever I can. That, to me, is a great present, just as is Zoey in her cute Christmas shirt with a bow in her ears!