Grateful for Others’ Stories

November has been called Gratitude Month. Happy Thanksgiving. Everyday.

Gratitude is my magic carpet to the present tense, to living this moment.  I have discovered that I can’t feel gratitude and fear at the same time.  Gratitude has, thus, served as good medicine.

Currently my moments are in Worcester, Massachusetts, a stay before traveling to a conference in Syracuse, NY.  I’m noticing some differences between eastern and western Americans.  For starters, our vowels and “r” sound different.  Assumptions about personal space, comfortable social space, and acceptable topics among strangers are different.  Yesterday, stories about a severe snow storm were shared for a long time, and I had nothing to contribute after living without snow for most of my life.

I am grateful to be able to meet people who are different from me, even if it takes me some time to understand a new word, a new pronunciation, a new idea or a new reference.  I would never know who I am, if I never met another.  How do I know what an American is, if I never visit another country or meet someone from somewhere else?  I would have never called myself a western American had I not met eastern Americans.  Every time I take time to listen to another or observe a new person, I learn something about myself.  I am and cannot be Susan without other humans.

And, as I listen and observe, I see past the differences.  We are always more alike than different.  As I listened to all the stories of how the severe snow storm affected lives and communities, I heard almost identical accounts of experiences I have had in disasters.  Instead of snow storms, I lived through the affects of earthquakes.  Regardless of the natural disaster, the community response, the individual difficulties and mutual concern, help and heroism was the same.

Regardless of the dialect or language, the stories are the same kind of expressions, arising from the same or similar human needs.  One of the greatest and most common need being the need to share, especially through telling our stories.  I hope to hear, see (through American Sign Language) and share many stories next week at a conference for professionals and parents struggling to educate and communicate with their d/Deaf and hard of hearing children.  We are not seeking specific knowledge and tools as much as the sharing.  If that were not true, there would be no face-face conferences.  We could simply send information from one machine to another’s machine.

We need stories and to share our stories.  Experience, it is said, is the best teacher.  Very probably it is the ONLY teacher.  Men did not stop smoking regardless of the facts, until the percentage of dying and deaf men was high enough that men saw it in an uncle or brother or friend.  Women’s smoking still increased until…..   We have to experience to learn or experience vicariously through someone close, through his or her story.  We go to conferences to confer, to bear with someone through his or her story.

We are our stories, and I am grateful for yours.  Your story shows me more of me, and how I am connected to you, and all of life.

The stories I can share  – The Boy Who Cried Wolf – accessible through many languages – and A Man Without Words, the book or the short documentary on a DVD, are yours.  Write me and send me your address and I will send them to you.

And, since you are writing me, be sure to tell me a story about yourself.

E-mail me for A Man Without Words/ The Boy Who Cried Wolf/ Annie’s Tales/ Princess and the Pea or….

Soon, I will leave for the east coast.  Before I do, I have time to send books and DVDs for any who want to explore opening their minds and hearts by experiencing ASL story telling in ASLTales – The Boy Who Cried Wolf, the one I wrote, with Aesop’s help, and four others.  Many have learned quite a bit of ASL, others have learned English or reading or, for little tykes, identification of emotions and empathy (opening the heart).

Visual language can teach us hearing people a lot.  Gifts of books and dvds await you.  No obligation – gifts – and, if you want to join me in the gift economy, give a gift to continue the gift giving, helping to buy more and send more to new parents, students and teachers who might not be able to afford them otherwise.

A Man Without Words book or short documentary (DVD) is also available for those of us who could use an inspiring story of someone beating the odds.

The four other books from ASLTales are Annie’s Tales, The Princess and the Pea, Rapunzel and The Tortoise and the Hare.  Let me know what you want, how many, for whom (if a present) and if you want me to sign the ones I wrote.

Write me, through this web site (contact page, above)or via old-fashioned SLOW mail (like slow food, slower living – try it): 3222 S. Sagle Rd., Sagle, Idaho 83860

I look forward to hearing from you.

Plans? What Plans? Life Unfolds as it Will

“Lordy, Lordy, Lordy,” she says to herself day after day, not wanting to burden her life and mind with more negative explicatives.

Hello, any who brave this site, after my long absence.  Life has moved me to a new plateau or canyon depending on how much dirt and fatigue is affecting my perspective.  Specifically, I have been moved to northern Idaho.  Yeah, I wondered where it was, also.  It’s that little rectangular bit between Montana and Washington, just below Canada.

Northern Idaho is not what registers when I wake up in the morning as I have been living in a tent for two weeks.  Until my brain shifts into full waking mode, I stare at the blue and orange dome that I am under, and wonder where or, more often, why I am where I am.  Slowly, as I explore the area looking for a shower, laundromat, groceries and internet, I am beginning to see where I am: just north of Lake Cocollalla, east of Priest River, south of Sandpoint, and surrounded by national forests and lots of lakes.  My neighbors are wild turkeys, deer, eagles, quail, coyotes, cows (elk, cougar and bear have been reported, but not yet seen), my sister, her husband, and their gigantic black draft horses.

Why I am here is much less certain than the where.

My sister and I became friends a few months ago, after being estranged for a long while. I’m here because they invited me to join them and I agreed, wanting to celebrate having my childhood best friend back.  After two months of traveling, camping and saying good bye to many friends, family and what used to be my life, the “why” question keeps popping up.  In other words, my gut led me here, but has been silent ever since arriving.  I mean, couldn’t we celebrate sisterhood on skype?

Then again, life is always struggling, exploring, not knowing, and about chopping wood and carrying water. Whether fighting the boredom and frustration of a traffic jam in the city or carrying water, literally, in rural Idaho, it’s all about learning more patience, joy, love and peace, internal stuff that is not dependent on outside circumstances.  My job is to be patient, learn to love more, be peaceful – one with Idaho dirt, for starters – and find joy where ever I am, knowing that the wind storm will stop the tent from flapping, eventually, and that I don’t need to focus on what I don’t have, but appreciate the baby quail in the driveway.

In gratitude, joy, peace and love, which I seem to have more of since my hot shower at the local RV park, in spite of what I said about outside circumstance (Lordy, Lordy, Lordy, I am so human, and so reallllly grateful to have lost all the weight of that dirt I left in the shower drain!),

Susan, the old (too old for this?) homesteader of the wild west

Life on hold?

I might become a farm/horse ranch owner, farmer and/or gardener and/or tiny house builder, next month – gulp!  In the mean time, I’m hanging out with my partners, farmers-to-be, my sister and her husband, in some hot mobile home in an unknown part of Oregon, on the Oregon trail. We are wondering what to do, from hour to hour, while we wait, and wait, for escrow to close or fail or ?

Today, I decided to do something: write you all, whoever you are.  I have not given up my ideas and ideals relating to my book projects: creating community through sharing stories, and education for all ages through multi-lingual and multi-cultural story telling.  If you would like to know more, look around my web site or scroll down and read more, and/or are interested in books/DVDs, write me.

Also, if you know how to be a farmer, write me and let me know.

And, since I don’t know how to be a farmer, invite me to present or give a book talk or a workshop – ASL or ASL storytelling for literacy or language learning – write me.  I know how to do that.

And, enjoy this day.  Don’t wait for life to happen.  Make more life.

Stories, myths, legends: What Makes Us Human

We, humans, and, indeed, all of life, are interdependent – strands in a great web. We cannot achieve independence until we recognize our true Selves, the connected Self, as opposed to the little screaming, fear-driven, drama-loving little self, the ego.

Our stories, myths, legends and shared expressions connect us, remind us of connections and expand awareness of connection. We struggle to think of effective ways to turn not only to our friends, but those who distrust and dislike us, to recognize ourselves in everyone. Through our sharing and stories, through listening, we can connect, in spite of differences. We must, in order to grow more life on this planet.

We are our stories. Every language carries a collection of stories–a culture–a unique perspective. Storytelling’s power to connect people also teaches us about ourselves. We must work toward an inclusive society by bringing together stories from many languages, cultures, and through different senses and media. Our work is sharing and making new stories out of every person’s story, to complete our own story and ourselves.

Yes, and good story telling is not rushed. Good stories take time, not only in the making, but in the telling. Pauses are music in storytelling. Then there’s that “we” word. Rushing around is not a good state to be in, to be with people, to listen and learn new stories. Today let us practice avoiding that modern disease of dizzybizzy – moving too quickly and trying too hard to do too much. Recovery, reviving and re-creation involves slowing down, even stopping. If we pause and breathe, we invite more connection and life.

Today I am beginning a new life. Everyday we are given a new life. We can live more fully than yesterday, more connected, more ourselves with and through others, when we break from an old habit, an old thought, when we become independent of our conditioning and past. It is possible not to overeat, get drunk, ignore a friend or family member or zone out with a mouth-watering fantasy. Today, I will remind myself to be present, look people in the eye and listen, be conscious of my eating, drinking, talking, seeing, and this day will be richer each time I remember not to be a slave to immediate gratification. Today, I hope to enjoy a more independent me, free to grow more life.

If you would like to grow more life through more stories, scroll to previous posts for stories I could share with you. And, enjoy this day.