Reading & Writing a Life

Carla Pineda's blog

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“Not simply visiting this world”:Sunset & the Owl

“Not simply visiting this world” is a line from Mary Oliver’s poem When Death Comes.  This last line of this poem resonated deep the morning I read it.  I want to stay awake.  I want to know what I want to do with “my one wild and precious life” (Mary Oliver) and how “to live the only life I have”.  (again, Mary Oliver)

Mary Oliver’s poetry inspires me, moves me, rattles my nerves somedays.  Her words vibrate a life energy, let me see things in ways otherwise unseen.  I am still wondering what drew me out to take a picture of the sunset the other evening.  I can see the edge of that time of day out the top of the kitchen window most evenings.  I just note it, go back to the stove or the sink and the sun sets.

But, this evening, something/someone moved me to grab the camera/phone and take several shots. Then and only then, almost as an afterthought, my eyes caught the tree branch and something more.  My first impression…a black garbage bag had blown into the spiny branches, still winter weather bare.

And, then, I saw her (I’ve decided she was a she) with a capital “S” saw her.  Was that really an owl?  Her head turned a slight turn and there were her two little ears, distinct as the sunset was orange and pink.  It was sunset and even though the sky was vivid colors the graying of twilight almost hid her.  She sat and sat, quiet and still, only once lifting herself to the next branch and then still again.

“Do not simply visit this world”….There are messengers, in places, and from voices we miss, right in front of us.  These voices are often quiet,  even silent, not loud, in your face, distracting voices of chaos or distortion.

Visit the world, awake and aware, of these different messengers (voices)….the sunset, the owl, the silence, the moon….

What do they have to say to you?  Who else speaks to you?

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Who Am I?


It is raining and cold on this Saturday afternoon.  Enjoying the stillness and only the sound of the rain I’m wandering through my journals from 2017.  This practice always reveals writings, wanderings, wonderings, questions I have forgotten I have spent time writing onto the page of my journal.

My birthday is in early January so not only is the calendar year coming to a close but a new year starts for me just a few days after the 31st of December.  My journal prompt on the 7th of June, the midpoint of the year, was, simply the word “who”.  I did “give” it a question mark so I suspect I had somewhat of an idea of where my wanderings, wonderings, and questions might lead.

So, here goes….

Who am I?  Who shaped me….parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends…..

Who knew me?  Who took me under a wing?  Influenced me?  So many helped raise me.  Yes, it takes, it took a village.

Who is my village?  Some I will never know.

How can anyone say they are cut out of just a piece of cloth, instead of claiming the rich and varied tapestry of the being they are?

Some of my siblings have been doing some family ancestry lately.  Some unknown “who’s”, a few threads so surprising none of us are sure how it weaves in.

There is an adoption.  There is  a strand of Jewish roots.  We are still not sure where they entwined themselves into our family tree.  So, again, I ask…

Who am I?  It seems the older I get the more there is to know about myself.  There are more layers, threads, strands of me, not tangled but placed into the pattern that only reveals itself in the ongoing weaving.

I am in this weaving, being woven through the years, my essence, my self, the deepest sense of me, being revealed in the mirror of ancestors, of my her/story,  pieces known,unknown, revealed, still being formed.

I find this both comforting and exciting as I close in on my 66th birthday in a few weeks. As they say, “More will be revealed.”


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Gathering Up the Year 2017

IMG_2197Beginning to gather up the year.  I can’t believe I put my hands on all my 2017 journals so quickly.  Often I’m on a hunt all over the house, on bookcases, in tote bags, or who knows where else to get them all in one place.  Soon I will begin to read back through them, highlighting, circling, indexing words, phrases, questions, quotes that leap off the page or that I want to forget I recorded.  It’s another piece of my writing ritual that connects my writing to my life, that helps me make sense of what sometimes feels like random ramblings over blank pages…grateful for my pen and paper and another year.

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Book Review: Hidden Treasure: How to Break Free of Five Patterns that Hide Your True Self by Alice McDowell, PhD.


This is an excellent read!  I was surprised by the amount of information in this book.  Psychology/self-help books often just skim the surface of a topic.  Or, they are too deep for the reader who wants hand-on practical ways of applying tools for growth.  Hidden Treasure: How to Break Free of Five Patterns that Hide Your True Self is hands-on and practical, not light reading yet so readable for the person on their own journey.  Alice McDowell walks her readers through the psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of the 5 character structures she identifies.  She uses questionnaires, cartoons, exercises, and personal narrative to aid in uncovering your true self.  She helps identify how various issues fit into one prominent pattern, often one that stems from an early childhood wound.  Her language is simple, her examples heart-felt as she guides you on a path of psychological growth that empowers healing and a “softening” of life-long patterns of coping that hide us from our true selves.

Dr. McDowell is a therapist, retreat leader, and co-founded Light on the Hill Retreat Center in Van Etten, New York.  She also developed the Hidden Treasure program, a three year training in spiritual and personal growth.  Formerly a professor of religious studies she now leads groups devoted to the inner journey.


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Book Review: Baffled by Love by Laurie Kahn

32445648  This was not an especially easy book to read yet I could not put it down.  Laurie Kahn is a pioneer in the field of trauma therapy and knows her topic well.  In Baffled by Love: Stories of the Lasting Impact of Childhood Trauma Inflicted by Loved Ones she tells the stories of her clients who experienced love in ways painful and traumatic.  Yet, they all still long for the “good” kind of love we all long for.  What makes this book different from others I have read about this topic is that Laurie has woven threads of her own story into the narrative.  Her knowledge of the topic (she founded the Womancare Counseling and Training Center in 1980), her deep connection and commitment to her clients, and the transparency of her own story makes for a powerful read.  Laurie has told these stories, adding to the ongoing body of work in this area, and she has told them from her heart.  This is rare in a book of this genre.  I highly recommend it.

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Morning Breaking

Not taken on an Easter Morning but I still see Easter here.  A Morning Breaking over Corpus Christi Bay.  I have seen this event more times than I can count.  Each sunrise is unique, each beautiful.  The water, the sky, the sun take my breath away and remind me to breath all in the same instant.  It is Resurrection, it is Beginning Again, It is All is Well.  Easter Blessings Abound.

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Do you reread your journals?

Do you reread your journals?  And, if you do why?


There are certain times when I find myself drawn to go back into the pages of a journal to see what I’ve written or to find a line to use as a prompt when I’m stuck for what to put on the blank page of today’s journal entry.

At the end of the year I go back through my journals for the previous 12 months.  I will often circle, underline, highlight entries that “jump” off the page.  It is a wandering through the musings of my mind to revisit, re/member, and remind myself of where I’ve been, who I am, and maybe even to get a glimpse of where I’m going.

I see a spiritual director on a monthly basis.  There have been times when I was a blank slate about what I wanted to address with her during our time together.  I go back through the previous month’s entries, underlining, circling, highlighting words that catch my eye or pull at my heart.  I mark things that draw out a question.  Those are the beginnings of our conversation.

One time I took those marked entries and typed them out, double spaced, poem like and read that to her.  It went from the circling, spiraling thought pattern my mind operates out of to having clarity of where I was in the middle of that messy place.

One of the books on my shelf is Harvesting Your Journals: Writing Tools to Enhance Your Growth & Creativity by Rosalie Deer Heart and Allison Strickland.  It’s a good resource, full of suggestions, on how to harvest, deepen, sow, and find hidden patterns in the line after line of written pages of a journal.  Because I think (and often write) in circular, spiral patterns a guide book is a welcome tool.

One other way I harvest is to only write on the right side page.  I leave the left side blank.  Yes, I go through a journal twice as fast.  That’s why I buy more than one at a time. I always have a blank one waiting on the shelf.  By leaving the left page blank I can go back and pull out those snippets, those underlined phrases, words or connections my mind makes.  In a way it helps me to put one or two of those spiraling, swirling thoughts over by itself and “begin again” from there.

So, wander around on those pages.  Remember, “not all who wander are lost.”.  Mark that journal up, use a guidebook if you need one to give you some direction.  Who knows what nuggets of gold you’ll find to start the next blank page.

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Book Review: Foy: On the Road to Lost by Gordon Atkinson


This was not a book that was on my to be read list.  That list is piled high of books on women’s memoir, women’s spirituality, poetry, and books on writing.  I was not drawn to read a book about a guy on the road to lost.

So, what can I say now that I have read the book?

Well,let’s just say once I started the book I could not put it down.  I was drawn to Foy’s journey, walking through his questions, searching for answers, trying to find his way.  I guess we all are a little bit lost and we don’t even know it.

I love Gordon’s simple, yet deep dialogue.  I love the transparency, the honesty, and the humanness of his character.  I love his sense of humor.

I can think of a few folks I will share this little gem with and I eagerly await the next book of Foy stories.

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Book Review: Running on Empty by Shelley Pernot

One of the topics I like to read about is mindfulness.  I have the books by the masters, the “gurus” on the subject, the names many of us associate with the topic.  I have them marked up and refer to them often.  But, what a surprise to find a book on the topic that was just a bit different to say the least.

Running on Empty: The Irreverent Guru’s Guide to Filling Up with Mindfulness  by Shelly Pernot is the first book on the topic that actually made me laugh out loud.  Shelly is a life coach, speaker, leadership development trainer, and founder of True North Development. (  Her “bio” says she is “dedicated to helping folks shake off the boring and blah and put on the passion and purpose.”

This book was such a fun read.  It made me laugh, it made me ponder, and it made me want to get out my pen and do the worksheets she provides throughout the book.

If you’re like me and can’t take a big chunk of time off to go “find yourself” or or consider yourself a “non-monk” check out this book.  It’s practical, provocative, it takes mindfulness out of the clouds and brings it down to earth level.  And, like I said, a fun read.  My copy is well marked up.  I’m anxious to dig back into it and see where it guides me.  I’ll keep you posted.

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List Making

The other morning I woke up at 4:30. This is too darn early, with my mind on warp speed, obsessing on things that have no need of being obsessed on. Yes, pondered on, wondered about, processed but not obsessed on. The stuff of life that needs dealing with doesn’t go away or change. The issue is with how we deal with it, how we approach it. If you breathe into it you stop the reactionary response. Then, make a list of “the stuff”. Making a list “lists” things in linear fashion, takes them out of the knots our minds make of them. A list will help untangle the whirl of thoughts whizzing through the gray matter.

Slow Down. Breathe in Peace. Breathe in Calm. Exhale the Tension, the Tightness.  Grab that journal and make that list.  It will help I promise.